Monday, December 31, 2007

times flies when ... um, time just flies

We headed over to Stew Leonard’s so we could get some shrimp for dinner—but they’d closed at 8 p.m. We already had salad made from last night (a chopped salad, made the same way my sister and brother-in-law makes it, which is chopping everything up into small cubes and small pieces. We used mescaline mix, apples, strawberries, tomatoes, yellow squash, cucumber, celery, and walnuts for this batch, and got some good ginger dressing at Whole Foods—it was great) and needed some protein to go along with it. We were surprised it was closed, but just laughed. What else could we do? Should’ve gone earlier, but I was wrapped up in recoding some store pages on one of the ecommerce sites and didn’t want to stop in the middle.

On the way home, the guy driving in front of us was either drunk or a really bad driver. Just reinforced why I much prefer not going out to celebrate the new year. I did the Times Square thing four or five times when I lived in Manhattan many, many moons ago, but the thought of doing that now makes me break into a cold sweat.

I couldn’t bear the thought of hot dogs for dinner, not on New Year’s Eve, so we decided on pizza from John’s Best, and Stanley went to get it. Good decision—it’s the best pizza around here by far. We settled in and watch a PBS show about Second City, Law & Order, the news, then the countdown to the clock. Dick Clark seems to be doing better than he was last year. We kissed when the ball dropped, and watched the fireworks from First Night in Westport which we could see clearly out our window—I didn’t even have to get up from the sofa to watch them! Much warmer, too.

Last year was not a great year for us. My cousin Keith died way too young of liver cancer, Stanley had to get his valve replaced again due to endocarditis, lost half a kidney to a blood clot, and more major surgery on his leg and a couple of months of recuperating. My mom was definitively diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. Kate was hit by an idiot in his car while riding her bike to work. Stanley and I both got sick during vacation and it took me more than a month to get over whatever the hell I got. We had to tap equity in our house to cover lost income and pay for a new furnace. And other things happened to loved ones that made me worry even though I know there’s nothing I can do about anything. I’m still not over it all—it will be a little while longer, I think, until I get my sense of equilibrium back.

This year, I hope, will be better. For everyone.

My first goal of the new year is to clean the house, which has gotten way out of control. So I’m going to check my email and then go to bed so I can start the cleaning process when I get up (after coffee and reading the paper!) My life always seems so much more manageable when the house is clean.

posted by lee on 12/31/07 at 10:00 PM

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Friday, December 28, 2007

catalogs, forests of catalogs

We rarely go to a mall or even to the big box stores. We’re Costco members, but don’t go there very often, either. About the only stores we go to more than once a month are grocery stores and Walgreen’s (and even Walgreen’s might be a once-every-two-months trip). Home Depot is the exception—mostly because Stanley gets what he needs there for his non-tech support, non-web work.

So the bulk of our non-grocery shopping is done online. All the places we shop online have very good, detailed websites. We don’t need catalogs. We don’t use them to shop, and we certainly never order over the telephone. I do realize that retailers wouldn’t send them if they weren’t money makers, But we don’t want them, and it’s always been really difficult to opt out of them. We received, at last count, 28 catalogs we don’t want. And it wouldn’t even be so bad if they came once or twice a year, but some of them seem to come weekly or biweekly—way too many trees dying to show me pictures of crap I neither need nor can afford (not if we want to pay our mortgage off in ten years!)

So I was thrilled to read about a site that offers a way to opt out of getting catalogs by selecting the catalog and entering your customer number, and within a couple of months the shiny paper torrent is supposed to stop. The site is called Catalog Choice and is a non-profit organization: “Catalog Choice is a sponsored project of the Ecology Center. It is endorsed by the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Resources Defense Council, and funded by the Overbrook Foundation, the Merck Family Fund, and the Kendeda Fund.”

It can take about ten weeks to process your catalog opt out, and you can keep track of what you’ve opted out of and even reverse the decision if you’re so inclined. We’ve dumped 28 catalogs so far and are looking forward to being relatively catalog-free as of mid-February. What I like about the site is that it’s an opt-in program for merchants as well, and for each merchant listed a corresponding website link is provided. I would much rather get email from the companies I buy from than catalogs—emails don’t have to be gathered up and tied up and put out with the recycling. Check it out!

posted by lee on 12/28/07 at 10:34 AM

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse

Because the mouse was dead. Twitch doing his duty as a good guest. This one was a bit messier than most though: he must’ve hit the mousie’s jugular because there was blood all over the landing—on Maureen’s freshly painted walls. While Maureen was pleased to get rid of a mouse, she wasn’t pleased with the new color scheme. Jeff cleaned it up though, and gave the mouse a decent burial. Twitch was full of himself all day.

And it was a good Christmas too! More later when I’m not so tired. (click to enlarge)

Twitch cat claims another victim on Christmas 2007

posted by lee on 12/25/07 at 08:43 PM

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

ok, i’m a sucker for classic carols

And I like Gregorian chants as well and a lot of liturgical music. Even though I’m one of them wicked atheists (gasp!) Love Handel’s “Messiah,” the “Ave Maria,” the “Little Drummer Boy,” and, most of all, “Silent Night.” Not too crazy about non-religious Christmas songs with the exception of “White Christmas” sung ONLY by Bing Crosby or Andy Williams. But back to “Silent Night.” Found it on iTunes tonight—still setting up my new computer—working on the nice-to-have stuff now that most of the need-to-have stuff is done.

But not just any version of “Silent Night.” No, a version by Fredo Viola, a singer I tracked down after hearing his “Sad Song” on “CSI: Miami.”  “Sad Song” wasn’t available for purchase anywhere at the time (it is now, sort of, from a European site) so I fear I drove up Fredo’s bandwidth playing the song over and over. It was supposed to be on iTunes, but never showed up there. Fredo couldn’t really tell me what the problem was with iTunes not loading it because he didn’t know, but he did tell me that he signed with Because, a French label, which will release his first EP next month. I hope. On vinyl and digitally, I think.

Fredo’s version of “Silent Night” blew me away, so I bought it, then headed to his myspace page to catch up on what’s happening with him. And found this video:

Pretty amazing, eh? Nils Christian Fossdal sings the bass notes (Fredo is the guy on the right.)

I’m glad that things are moving along for him. I lost track of what was happening with Fredo’s music, sort of, when Stanley got so sick last May. I think I listened so obsessively to “Sad Song” for the couple of months before Stanley went to the emergency room because, I believe, it was speaking to the “something is wrong” feeling I couldn’t shake, but at the time couldn’t identify, either. Then, afterwards, I couldn’t listen to it for a while, not until October or so—Stanley’s second near-death experience shredded me and “Sad Song” was unbearable. Now I can listen to it a lot again and I’m very much looking forward to paying for it. I’m really glad I could listen to it when I needed it so much. (Yes, I know, a lot of Fredo Viola’s music is strange—but I love it.)

I’m sitting in my new chair as I write this. Very weird this afternoon: I reached for a pen the cat knocked to the floor and my office chair made this weird noise and suddenly I was sitting on a 30° angle. My left butt cheek was higher than my right butt cheek. Very uncomfortable. Knew I had to get to Staples before it closed to buy a replacement and was worried that Stanley wouldn’t get home in time to help me decide what to get. He’s been working like crazy this week—everybody wants stuff done in time for Christmas and they wait until the last possible minute ... we go through this every year, twice a year, before Thanksgiving and then Christmas. Anyway, he made it, and we ended up going to two Staples because the one up the street had a good supply of crap chairs, one decent floor model I liked that I would have taken if the maximum they were going to give me off wasn’t a stinking 5%. For a beat-up, discontinued floor model! Five percent off of $300 was a joke, so we headed for the Staples near Home Depot (which was our second destination for the evening, anyway).

A much better selection (the one I really want costs $500—more like an arm chair on wheels than a desk chair!) and I found one for $100 (on sale, $50 off), a cushiony micro suede number that 1) will be covered with animal fur in about eight more hours and 2) will start looking like a shag rug pretty soon as Twitch sharpens his claws in it a couple of hundred more times. But it’s very comfortable—I liked my old chair and that model is still available, but I like having a headrest. Stanley says I will fall asleep more, be asleep all afternoon. Maybe.

What got me is the Staples clerk tried to sell me a three-year warranty on a $100 chair.

I think I’ll go to bed now—maybe by the time I get up the music files will have all transferred to my new computer. Then tomorrow I’ve gotta find my iPod, which I stashed somewhere to keep it safe while we were away, just where oh where ...

posted by lee on 12/20/07 at 12:37 AM

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

setting up is such a pain

After many mishaps, I finally got my new Tecra A9 laptop from Toshiba. About a week ago. And I need it—my old Toshiba is 3.5 years old and so sludgy it slows me down. I have to wait so long for it to load programs or webpages that it feels like dollars are just slipping away.

So am I using my new machine yet? Not quite. It just blows me away how many things I need to set up. I should just bite the bullet and switch them to make my new one my primary and retrieve stuff from the old one as needed, but I want to organize things right on my new one so it’s taking me too long. I’ve loaded all my graphics programs and web programs (you know, PhotoShop, InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Flash, TopStyle, CuteFTP ... ) and the bookkeeping program (crappy QuickBooks)—now I need to move over my email and my calendar, bookmarks, the wireless mouse and keyboard, install AVG ... then reconfigure the backup and this and that ... and all the stuff I might need (no, maybe I’ll just archive that.) Oh, and the fonts. All the login settings for all the websites I work on, both in CuteFTP and Dreamweaver. It’s like I’m moving my office from one building to another.

So this afternoon I worked on Christmas stuff—getting those things out that need to be mailed tomorrow.

The weekend has been pretty quiet so far for us, except for the fireworks Saturday night to celebrate the wedding of Harvey Weinstein and Georgiana Chapman over in Westport. The fireworks were loud—we’ve gotta be about three or four miles from the wedding site—and Ginger turned into mush as usual. We shoveled out from the Thursday storm ok, and today Stanley dug the end of the driveway out from today’s nor’easter, which is mostly slush here. Most of my family is getting slammed with snow in the Detroit area—they’re supposed to get a foot. And I still haven’t heard from a friend in the St. Louis area which was hit with that ice storm last week and about 8 inches of snow this weekend. I’ll try to call him tomorrow.

I guess I should get back to configuring this. I keep getting caught up in the photo gallery at http://www.wunderground.com—some pretty amazing photos of the weather. What I love is you can see them from all over the world.

And here is one of Slink hanging out on Stanley’s monitor—he spent a good deal of time trying to catch the cursor (click photo to enlarge):

image

Wow, this computer is fast! That inspires me to finish the setup!

posted by lee on 12/16/07 at 02:26 PM

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

we found a good restaurant

Saturday was Stanley’s birthday (he’s 57 now, whoa!). We had a quiet day and then come evening I took him out to dinner. We decided to try Bond, an Asian fusion restaurant that recently sent out a mailing. Without the mailing, I wouldn’t even had known it existed. Bond is at 250 Westport Avenue in Norwalk. Before it was Bond, it was Kai Fusion, and before that, it was a super crappy Chinese buffet. I went to the buffet just once and the only way I would’ve gone back is if that was the last place I could get to for food and I was so starved I was nothing but skin and bones (which would take about a year to happen if I stopped eating tomorrow ... ).

Never knew it changed to Kai Fusion. You can’t see the front of the restaurant from the Post Road (Westport Ave. here) because it’s in a strip mall located behind the Goodyear (or Goodrich or whatever it is) and they never advertised in any way that reached me (I would’ve noticed sushi being offered practically next door!) Anyway, we’d decided before we left the house that if it gave us an icky vibe, we’d hit the door.

We were surprised—it didn’t give us a bad vibe at all, quite the opposite. Very pleasant decor, walls woven with strips of steel or some other metal, panels, a hibachi room off to one side. Minimally decorated for Christmas (which I liked very much—I’m ready to take an Uzi to those monstrous blow-up lawn decorations). Tables, booths, some large circular booths, and the hibachi room. We were seated at a booth, which was roomy and comfortable. Lots of staff, very pleasant to us.

We asked the waitress to recommend a couple of appetizers, and she suggested the pork dumplings and the Thai crab cake. The pork dumplings were served on a bed of mushrooms and a wonderful sauce, maybe peanut-based? I’m not sure—but it was as far from your typical friend dumpling as you can get. The filling was light and it wasn’t the least bit greasy. And the presentation was pretty—arranged like the chef cared about the food. The crab cake was equally good—you could taste the chili—it was one of several flavors and in no way overwhelmed the crab. The crab cakes were served with a small salad with an excellent dressing (again, the chili flavor was there, but again, not overwhelming). So far, really good.

Stanley ordered Spicy Mango Shrimp, with mango, jicama, bell pepper, vermicelli, and a Thai herb sauce. He loved it. I’d been craving sushi for oh, two months or so, so that’s what I ordered, the selection with nine pieces of sushi and a tuna roll. Absolutely fresh, the rice was perfectly done—I was so happy. Both meals looked beautiful when they were served. Again, like the chef cares. I love the dinnerware. And the waitress quietly gave us forks for the appetizers and Stanley’s meal—a nice touch. I don’t use chopsticks often enough anymore to be comfortable with them.

While we were eating I noticed a waiter serving what looked like a softball on fire to someone. It turned out to be fried ice cream. This is what they served Stanley for his dessert when I mentioned that it was his birthday—it was impressive, batter-covered bananas and a huge scoop of ice cream served aflame. After the staff sang Happy Birthday, he was to blow out the ice cream. He said it was great—and it was the first time he’d ever had fried ice cream. I ordered a key lime tart, which was served with a small scoop of coconut ice cream. The tart filling was good though the crust tasted a little like defrosted cardboard—but the coconut ice cream was great. it was served with a green apple, not sauce, but more like a syrup (I forget what this is called—coulis, maybe?) along with a raspberry syrup/coulis. Again, beautifully presented. The waitress recommended a chocolate dessert—next time, that’s what I’ll get.

So, we’re thrilled that the restaurant is so good. We normally don’t order appetizers or desserts but it was a special occasion, so ... the bill wasn’t too bad, about $70 (adult beverages not included—we don’t drink, which saves us a LOT of money!) And the place does takeout—we can call in the order and run over and pick it up. I just wish the place would get busy—I want them to survive and thrive. I liked the staff we spoke with. The only negative thing I have to say, really, is that it can get pretty noisy, mainly because of the hibachi room, but it stopped bugging me pretty fast. I think all the metal walls and strips magnify the noise. But outside of that, it was a very enjoyable evening.

Afterwards, we stopped at Stew Leonards to get some birthday cake. Which we were too full to eat tonight, but I insisted we get it anyway (I haven’t had birthday cake for my birthday since I can’t remember when—maybe next year ... I’ll start asking for one about a week in advance, that should give Stanley enough time ... !) Then home to watch “Murder by the Book” on Court TV and read the paper, etc. A very nice day, I think. I hope Stanley really does like the shirts and sweater I gave him (he asked for more RAM for his computer—I gave that to him as soon as it arrived from Crucial—why let it sit around?)

Sunday I’ll continue Christmas shopping (I think I’m about a third done, and have figured out about half the what, which is the hardest part), setting up my new laptop, and getting some odds and ends done for work.  Next week will be really busy, lots to do for work: more store skins, two websites, billing ... just glad I work at home because we’re supposed to have two or three nasty icy days coming up.

Am I jealous of my parents, who are now down in Panama City Beach? Oh yeah.

posted by lee on 12/08/07 at 09:17 PM

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