Monday, October 29, 2007
When we purchased Bobby's new phone we signed up for AT&T's DSL service. It was cheaper than what we were currently paying for Time Warner's cable internet, and it was going to give us a $75 rebate on his phone.
We received the box in the mail shortly after, but didn't get around to switching out the equipment until about 2 weeks ago. Since then, we;ve noticed the service is unstable, inconsistent, and poor. This DSL was supposed to be relatively on par with our cable internet, but it was clearly inferior.
Luckily I had yet to cancel my account with Time Warner, making it easy to simply cancel AT&T. Not only was the girl I cancelled with the most competant person I've dealt with in the company, but it was a very easy process with no hoops. She asked the reason I was cancelling, but never tried to talk me out of it.
Seems like AT&T would do much better if there services and the rest of their customer service were that high of quality.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
The alarm clock in my bedroom has some nifty features - it automatically resets the alarm for the next weekday the moment I turn it off, it displays the date as well as the time - you can program 2 different alarms and say which days of the week you want it to go off, and it automatically changes with Daylight Savings.
That last bit is great... except that Congress moved the end of Daylight Savings one week. So this morning, when I woke up, my alarm clock read 8:45am. I'd been up late the last two nights, and woke at 10am yesterday, so I was impressed that I hadn't slept in too late again. Bobby and I got up, and true to form, were quickly in front of our respective computers checking emails and reading news bits. I looked up and it was about 10:30am. Wow, I didn't realize I'd been sitting here so long!
Then I walked into the bedroom to get dressed, and the alarm clock read just after 9:30am. Then I remembered last year when Gma thought she'd gone insane for the same reason.
Congress extending DST was really annoying - and still is. Last year the computers at work all reacted differently depending on which had run automatic updates. Some changed the times of appointments in Outlook, some sent emails that appeared to arrive an hour in the future... Now my bedroom alarm clock is not the only smart clock - my car also reset the time early this morning. So now I have to reset clocks twice, or remember to convert the time all week.
I'll be glad when/if they change it back - I want my birthday present back.
Here's a synopsis of the plot I pulled from RottenTomatoes.com:
Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor) is a resident of a seemingly utopian but contained facility in the mid-21st century. Like all of the inhabitants of this carefully controlled environment, Lincoln hopes to be chosen to go to the "The Island"—reportedly the last uncontaminated spot on the planet—until he makes a terrible discovery that everything about his existence is a lie…and that he is actually more valuable dead than alive. Together with a beautiful fellow resident named Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlett Johansson), Lincoln makes a daring escape to the outside world he's never known. Now, with the forces of the institute that once housed them relentlessly hunting them down, Lincoln and Jordan engage in a desperate race for their lives.
OK, I'll try to reference that so as not to give anything away.
I was very disappointed by this film. It had a strong premise, and to be honest, if you are looking for a movie with great over-the-top unbelievable action sequences and the strength of plot isn't that important - then this is a great film. Like Michael Bay's other films - Armageddon, The Rock, Bad Boys II (I can't comment on Transformers, haven't seen it yet) - The Island has a lot of big, explosive action sequences. Much of which is just flat out impossible - these kids would be dead for sure. But the plot is full of holes.
Some of it was just silly little stuff - like that no one checked Johansson's character for weapons when the elite private security guys (including former Navy SEALS and other badasses) finally capture her. Or early on when they put one of the other utopian residents down, they do so in an unnecessarily painful way. If you are going to kill someone through an IV - make them overdose on Morphine or something, there is no reason they need to go through all that. In the context of the scene it makes absolutely no sense. Vets treat our animals more humanely than that.
I wish I could elaborate on all the holes without giving the premise of the movie away, but lets just say there is a bit of a conspiracy, and there is no possible way you could pull an operation like that off without being exposed just based on the number of employees necessary to maintain it. We are talking janitors, doctors, lunch ladies... thousands. And not in some third world country, but in the middle of Arizona or something.
The sad thing is that it started out strong, and had real potential. But as the story line tried to evolve, it really just unraveled.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
But the more I think about it, the more I find myself thinking of reasons I shouldn't go. Besides, Jessica should be working - parties like this are a great opportunity to make a lot of tips - not hanging out with us. Do we want to drive all the way out so we can hang out at a bar when we are already this tired? Or should we go out another night when we can actually hang out.
I think we will stay home.
I'm getting old, aren't I?
Last night she had a Halloween party, and Bobby and I decided to go - along with his brother and some other friends. Since we all went to the same high school (at one point at least) it was likely going to be a bit of a reunion. Sure enough, we were all able to catch up with old friends and have some fun in the meantime.
I'd ordered two costumes having only seen them online - Rainbow Brite and a Pirate Wench.
I was really excited about the Rainbow Brite costume - I loved the show as a kid, and like the Care Bears, She-Ra, My Little Pony, and Fraggle Rock, it still holds a special place in my heart.
When the costumes arrived on Thursday, I became more and more excited - I even got a light up wand.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
I had a good day today. Some coworkers took me out for lunch, I heard from old friends and family I don't hear from often. After work I drove out to Bobby's parents' house and we had dinner and ice cream cake. I stopped and chatted with my parents and my brother, and then visited a high school friend. I came home to more friends. A good day.
View Larger Map
I can see where the nearby fire has spread and see that some friends are still quite safe, as is my work. As usual on Thursdays, I am driving out to Norco today via the 261-241 toll roads. I admit I'm a little surprised to see that they are still open, but a coworker of mine uses them every workday and he says they are still safe.
Another coworker was telling me today that you can see some of the flames from his apartment, but that the fire still has a considerable way to go before it would reach him.
Thankfully the winds have calmed down the last couple of days, and I can see from the maps that the firefighters are gradually bringing some of the fires into the "contained" category. I'm guessing the sky won't clear up for a couple of weeks, but things are slowly coming under control.
There is a rather interesting article in Wikipedia on the California Wildfires of October 2007. It discusses the suspected causes, the estimated damage, and the evacuations, and compares the current fires to other notable California wildfires.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
In a large pot over medium heat:
2 tbsp. Butter
Salt and Pepper
5 sprigs Thyme
1 medium White Onion - chopped
an equal amount of chopped Celery - use the tips so you get the leaves too
3 drops of Hot Sauce - like Tapatio - or a tiny bit of Cayenne Pepper
Cook until the veggies start to soften - about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle and stir in 2 spoonfuls of Flour - about 2 tbsp - and cook a minute or two longer.
Add 1 pint of Heavy Whipping Cream and 1-14 oz. can of Chicken Stock. Bring to a bubble and add in 2 cans of clams (6 or 6.5 oz., with juice - do not drain) and about 1 cup of chopped Potato. I usually use one small red potato, but I ran out the other day and only had baby sweet potatoes and yams, so I went with a half cup of each - very good.
Bring back to a bubble, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
I have friends near fires in San Diego, Santiago Canyon, Temecula, Lake Arrowhead... just hoping everyone stays safe.
This is a map of the fire closest to us:
I work just off Jamboree just south of the 405 near the airport, so I'm a decent distance from the Santiago Fire, but I tell you driving to work this morning it looked like I was driving straight for it. The sky was blue off to the sides of this massive cloud of smoke. The area around the airport is just a big cloud - it is grey and smoky and you can feel it in your lungs.
In a pan over medium heat:
Some Olive Oil - not sure how much, maybe 1 1/2 tbsp.
Salt and Pepper
2 or 3 cloves Crushed Garlic
1/2 medium White Onion, chopped into small peices
Couple sprigs each of Marjoram and Oregano
Heat and stir until the onions are translucent, then add in 1 can (I think it was 12 oz.) of Diced Tomatoes (drain first!). When it starts to bubble lower the heat to a simmer and let it cook until your pasta is ready - I used bow tie.
Topped with grated Pecorino Cheese - but you could use Parmesan or Romano. A little lighter than normal spaghetti sauce.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
I love sunshine, I love the rain, I even like the snow, but I can't enjoy the wind.
The wind doesn't gently warm your skin, you can't splash in wind puddles, you can't throw windballs at people or build windmen. It just messes up my hair, throws debris in my face, tosses my car around, and causes the traffic to suck that much more. I suddenly require lotion and extra chapstick and am constantly thirsty.
Yesterday the wind was intense. We were at Bobby's parents' and at time it sounded like the wind would just pick up the entire house. Driving home through the canyon, if you closed your eyes it would sound like hail - but it was dust. When we got home, Lucas, who had been cooped up inside all day, was anxious to go outside. I let him out, and he immediately wanted back in. In the back yard the table with the umbrella had been picked up and thrown across the yard into our chiminea, which was now done for.
Today it is not just windy - it is hot. There are something like 12 wildfires raging throughout Southern California right now flanking us on what seems like all sides- one of which is not too far from my work. I hear the one in San Diego is possibly their worst on record, besting the wildfires in 2003.
View Larger Map
I remember those fires. Walking out of my house in Anaheim it looked like it had snowed lightly on my car, you could see the ash in the air and the sky was a gloomy grey. And it smelled - not like burning wood, but like burnt wood. I remember the sky looking like that for at least a week.
This time the sky is a gloomy grey and again hot, but you can't see the ash in the air because the wind is blowing it all so hard. The dry heat from the fires that the winds are blowing around has permeated my building - not long ago I was complaining about the freezing temperatures in my office... now I am baking. The air is not just dry, but I feel like I'm sitting next to a campfire with the smoke in my face. It makes me tired and my head hurt.
I feel bad for those trying to put the fires out. With this wind efforts must seem futile. I worry that the traffic home will be that much worse now that some of the toll roads are blocked off. I hope this all clears up soon.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Tuesday is my first nephew's fourth birthday, so we got together this afternoon to celebrate.
When we arrived, Malachy was busy investigating the inside of a police car. When he escaped he had big hugs for everyone. He's a happy, energetic kid, and he was clearly having a good time. There were squirt guns and water balloons, and water bottles that became the weapon of choice for some. We had hot dogs and hamburgers, and it seemed like everyone had a good time.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Again - AT&T sucks.
In one of those large flat pans with a lid over medium high heat, throw in:
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
2 tbsp. of Butter
3 cloves Garlic, crushed
a few shakes of an Italian Seasoning Mix
Melt down and add in 1/2 cup each White Rice (I usually use Jasmine, but you could use any white rice) and Orzo pasta. Brown the rice/pasta mixture stirring frequently. When it starts turning brown (you don't want it too dark, just think of the pilaf you like), add in a splash of White Wine - just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.
When the wine is cooked off, add in about 2 cups of Chicken Broth. Stir it around, cover, and reduce heat to low. When it looks like the moisture is all cooked in check to see if it is too hard - and if so add in some water or more chicken broth. When the pilaf is soft enough - serve.
Sometimes I like to add some onions or shallots and mushrooms. If I do I'll cook them a bit before adding in the rice and pasta and will use a little more butter as the veggies seem to soak some of it up.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
In my 16 oz. travel mug:
1 tea bag (if you are patient and let it steep properly, you shouldn't ever need 2 tea bags unless you are making more than this)
Fill 2/3 of the way with hot water and let it steep for a few minutes (if using a spicy tea, make sure to take the bag out after a few minutes - otherwise you'll want to water it down later)
1 packet of Splenda
Fill the rest of the way with milk
It's tasty, give it a try.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
They guy at the AT&T store said that they didn't have any other 8525 in stock, but that they now have the AT&T Tilt. We'd never heard of it, but apparently it was the next generation of the 8525 - now including GPS - and had been out for a whopping four days. They didn't have one available that day, but were expecting deliveries all week. He had one that we could play around with and suggested we call back the next day to see if they had received any.
We called back every day, and on Wednesday they had one in stock. So at the end of the day we went back down to the store. It was becoming dangerously close to the end of our 30 day exchange period, and we wanted to make sure we had a good phone.
When we explained the situation to the salesperson, we were informed that the Tilt was only available for new customers - and not available for exchange. Something about how they are only receiving a few units.
But I've signed a new contract - doesn't this qualify me? No - it's only for new customers.
"So what you are saying, is that current AT&T subscribers that are looking to enter a new contract cannot get this phone. It's only available if you are actually signing up a new number."
The rep called around to other stores in the area to see if they had a Tilt available for exchange. I tried to explain to him that I wanted him to find a Tilt period. He should not be indicating that it was "for exchange" because if they did not find us a Tilt - I was cancelling outright.
To be fair, I was irritated with AT&T before I walked into the store for a number of reasons:
- When my grandmother had died, I went through the process of changing all the house bills into my name. My grandfather is in a nursing home, and I am now officially paying rent, so it didn't make sense to keep anything in his name. I had no trouble switching any of the bills except for the phone bill - with AT&T. The first time I called, it went fine. But then the bills kept coming to my grandfather. I called back and was told that even though I had a confirmation number - they were in the middle of switching from "the old" AT&T to "the new" AT&T. Since I was with "the old" AT&T, anything I did with them was for naught.
- So then I needed to make the switch with "the new" AT&T. Even though I had all the required information - account number, last bill, his social security number, date of birth, drivers license, mother's maiden name - they wouldn't make the switch without actually speaking to him. As if they would even know it was him. Because their customer service hours are essentially during my work hours, I would have to take time out of work to go down to the nursing home and make a call so that he could talk to them.
- We have AT&T DSL at my work. I'd called a few months back to see what my options were to upgrade the line - we were looking at installing a MS Exchange Server and needed a faster connection. I had talked with the rep at length regarding the different options and pricing. When I called Tuesday to make the desired upgrade, I was informed that my current bandwidth was the fastest available in my area. Then why did the rep bother giving me pricing for all those plans if I can't even sign up for it. I would have researched other broadband options for my Cap Ex proposal.
So at this point I'm becoming a little irate with AT&T Customer Service policy. I can see the reasoning behind reserving a new phone for new contracts - it assures a conitnued income stream - but not only for new customers. This tells me that AT&T does not value their current customers.
I tried my best to be assertive without making the reps feel like I was attacking them. I know Bobby thought I was being aggressive. I explained that I did not want to be involved with a company with such poor customer service and was ready to cancel not only this contract, but the other two wireless accounts, home phone, and DSL that I have with them. We had just signed up for the DSL and had not yet cancelled our cable internet. I could easily switch the phone to Vonage, and Sprint had called recently offering to pay our cancellation fees with AT&T for the wireless accounts.
Now the manager finally becomes involved. He tries to smooth things over. He offers to have AT&T send us a Tilt in the mail - then have us bring in and return the 8525.
I should not have to go through all this to purchase a phone. I should not have to fight with a company to subscribe to their service or purchase their product. We may still leave AT&T and just eBay the phone. We'll see if they improve at all.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
In a pan over medium high heat, mix together the following:
2 tbsp. Butter
2-3 cloves of Garlic, crushed
1 Red Bell Pepper, 1/2 Medium Onion, and about 6 Medium Mushrooms all chopped up in bite size peices
2 sprigs each Oregano and Marjoram
Salt and Pepper
Cook these for 7-8 minutes until the veggies start to break down. Then add in about 1/4 cup dry White Wine of your choice. Cook a few minutes longer, then add in 1/4 cup of Heavy Cream. At this point you could also add in some shrimp or bits of (already cooked) chicken. Cook a few minutes longer, then stir in some chopped Basil - about 10 good size leaves.
Serve over pasta of your choice. I like using shells or other pastas that hold the sauce. Top with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese if you like. It's fairly rich, so I would recommend having it with something light, liked baked chicken and salad.
But alas, I had to get up eventually, and come in to work...
Monday, October 15, 2007
Preheated the oven to 350°F
I put the Roast Beef in a pot, and poured the leftover French Onion Soup on top - it just covered the meat - and threw it on the stove on medium-high heat.
I cut a wedge out of the side of the Hoagie Rolls so they opened up, but were still in one peice, layed two slices of Provolone on each roll so the inside was completely covered, and put that in the oven. Checked on it periodically, and pulled it out when the cheese looked melted.
By this time the meat/soup was bubbling. I used some tongs to pull out the meat along with some of the onions from the soup and piled it on the rolls. When all the meat was gone, I scooped out two bowls of soup from the remainder.
When I was done I had two French Dip style sandwiches that didn't require any dipping - the meat was juicy and warm, the cheese was melted, and the bread held the juice without being too soggy. The soup was still tasty, and we threw some bits of Havarti cheese on top. Tasty and body-warming - it was lovely! I think next time I'll throw some mushrooms in the meat/soup too - that would have been good on the sandwich.
Working in an office of mostly men means that the "desirable" temperature for the office is about 8°-10° cooler than I would like it to be. Today it was 61° outside, and I'm pretty sure it was only 4° warmer in here - I think 65° is the default. Me - I like 72°-75° the best.
But I'm outnumbered - so I will wind up sitting here in my overcoat, clutching my cup of green tea, waiting for the end of the day when I can get home to my jammies.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
I got all dressed up - I should have taken a picture I looked so good. We hadn't eaten yet, figuring this was taking place at a restaurant and there would be food. When we got out of the car in the parking lot across the street we could hear the oom-pa-pa band playing, and the chanting. I could see the smoke from a grill. It sounded like it would be a really good time.
Then we discovered there was a line.
I realize it was a little naive to think that there wouldn't be a line, but we just hadn't thought about it. We peaked near the front of the line and discovered there was a $15 cover. Umm.... that's kinda steep, does it cover food? I sent a text message to find out.
Then we took a look at the length of the line. It was ridiculous - would take at least an hour, if not two. It looked as though they were letting people in as others were leaving, and though people were leaving regularly, it would still take forever.
We had not expected this. I was not interested in paying $30 just to get inside and then overpay for drinks and food. We are in the middle of starting a new business, and trying our best to be frugal, and have been doing very well so far. So we decided to forego this particular event, and come again another year. Went home and made dinner instead.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Every year on her birthday, Nana meets up with her brothers and their wives at the chicken restaurant at Knotts Berry Farm. We went to pick her up and she was really excited - started telling us stories about her brothers. Bobby's cousin was also going to make it out.
Nana's brothers were quite entertaining. For the first 15 minutes or so the boys and their wives chatted about college football - who's team was doing well, the rankings, we-were-just-beat-by-so-and-so. Conversation ran anywhere from that to acting (Bobby's cousin was recently an extra on Grey's Anatomy, and one of the wives was a member of SAG back in the day), to rocks (one of the brothers is a rockhound, he even had some in his pocket that he gave us).
Lunch was lovely, and I caved at the end and ordered a slice of boysenberry pie. I only had a few bites, but I brought the rest home to have with some vanilla ice cream later. Nana had a scoop each of vanilla and boysenbery ice cream with a happy birthday candle.
I was really glad I took the day off, and Nana was really glad I could make it...
Thursday, October 11, 2007
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
“Travel is fatal to prejudice.”
“Speech is conveniently located midway between thought and action, where it often substitutes for both.”
-John Andrew Holmes
“If you won’t go into the tiger’s lair, how can you catch the cubs?”
-Han Dynasty Proverb
“A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship.”
-John D. Rockefeller
“My theory on housework is, if the item doesn't multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you?”
“I take it we are all in complete agreement on the subject here ... Then, I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting, to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.”
-Alfred P. Sloan, Jr.
“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
“A risk tamed is a reward captured.”
“We need a system that grounds all students in pleasure, beauty and wonder. It is the best way to create citizens who are awakened not only to their humanity, but to the human enterprise that they inherit and will – for good or ill – perpetuate.”
“The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously.”
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
But the weather has been turning cooler and I wanted soup. I cound this recipe on The Food Network and tried it out. I halved the recipe, and strayed a bit - I used all beef broth instead of chicken stock and veal stock, twice as much thyme, and I left out the crouons and cheese. Next time I'll use half the amount of onion called for - I don't know if the onions I used were too big (about softball size), but I wound up adding another 4 cups of broth. It wound up taking longer than expected since the onions were really juicy and took forever to reduce, but it was delicious.
French Onion Soup
Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2003
Show: Emeril Live
Episode: Bistro Cooking
6 tablespoons butter 8 medium size onions, sliced thinly
4 thyme sprigs, leaves stripped
1/2 cup sherry
4 cups brown chicken stock
2 cups veal stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
French bread croutons
2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, add butter and melt over medium heat. Add the onions and lower the heat to medium low. Add the thyme leaves and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions start to turn golden brown, about 25 minutes. Add the sherry and cook until the sherry is almost completely evaporated and the onions are brown, about 15 minutes.
Add the stocks and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Ladle the soup into 8 oven-proof soup bowls. Place the soup bowls on a sheet pan. Place the croutons on top of the soup, to cover. Top each bowl with 1/2 cup grated cheese. Place in the oven and cook until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly, about 10 minutes.
Friday, October 5, 2007
I think it's important in this day and age to recognize what is a healthy, practical, attainable body image. We should try to eat well and stay active, but still recognize that it is unlikely we will acheive that airbrushed physique.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Monday, October 1, 2007
I know it's still warm outside, and fall has only just begun, but I can't help getting a little excited. The beginning of a new season is always exciting, especially when the temperatures promise to turn around. I start thinking of waking up in the morning to hear the rain coming down, or curling up on the couch in my pajamas, wrapped in a blanket, reading a book or watching a DVD with a fire in the fireplace, or spending time with my family for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
By the time March rolls around, I'm sure I'll be longing for the day I can finally pull my skirts back out of the closet, but for now, I'm excited to pull out my coats and scarves.
To this end, I hold M&M duels.
Taking two candies between my thumb and forefinger, I apply pressure, squeezing them together until one of them cracks and splinters. That is the "loser," and I eat the inferior one immediately. The winner gets to go another round. I have found that, in general, the brown and red M&Ms are tougher, and the newer blue ones are genetically inferior. I have hypothesized that the blue M&Ms as a race cannot survive long in the intense theatre of competition that is the modern candy and snack-food world. Occasionally I will get a mutation, a candy that is misshapen, or pointier, or flatter than the rest. Almost invariably this proves to be a weakness, but on very rare occasions it gives the candy extra strength. In this way, the species continues to adapt to its environment.
When I reach the end of the pack, I am left with one M&M, the strongest of the herd. Since it would make no sense to eat this one as well, I pack it neatly in an envelope and send it to M&M Mars, A Division of Mars, Inc., Hackettstown, NJ 17840-1503 USA, along with a 3x5 card reading:"Please use this M&M for breeding purposes."This week they wrote back to thank me, and sent me a coupon for a free 1/2 pound bag of plain M&Ms. I consider this "grant money." I have set aside the weekend for a grand tournament. From a field of hundreds, we will discover the True Champion.