Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina - revisited

I just can't keep watching the videos of the destruction and flooding in the gulf coast area. Its addictive. I stayed up until midnight last night (a school night) flipping from CNN to MSN to Nightline, to Primetime - any station offering information about what was going on.

I feel so badly for the people, many of whom were poor to begin with, who've now lost everything. Everything. Wedding photos, children's artwork, grandma's heirloom, that special love letter. All those irreplacable things that help keep the memories of loved ones close. God bless them all. And please give to charities like the Red Cross who are working hard to help provide the basic necessities like food and drinking water to these people who have absolutely nothing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


I'm in utter shock over the destruction and force of hurricane Katrina.

My heart goes out to all those affected in New Orleans, Gulfport, Biloxi, and their surrounding areas.

Friday, August 26, 2005


The other day as I was driving to work I heard a car commercial on the radio advertise "6 year or 60,000 mile powertrain warantee". At first thought, that sounds pretty impressive. But then I started thinking about what exactly is covered under that warantee.

The wording was "powertrain warantee". Therefore, if your muffler falls off, your transmission is shot, or your brakes fail - you know, the kind of things that really happen to people - the warantee does you absolutely no good.

"Powertrain warantee". Indeed, the only thing covered under that warantee is the powertrain. When was the last time you heard a co-worker say "Yeah, I was late to the office this morning cuz I had to drop my car off at the shop... powertrain problem." Never? Me either. In fact, I don't think I've ever, EVER heard anyone complain that their powertrain had gone out on them. So, essentially the "6 year or 60,000 mile powertrain warantee" is a warantee you'll never need. It just sounds good on a commercial.

We're heading to the beach after work today. Hope my powertrain is okay.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Weight loss tip # 143

Don't order 'Value Meals'

If you're like me, you may really be trying to eat right and lose some weight, but when it comes to lunchtime, you find yourself at a loss. Especially when I have limited time, I find myself only able to pick up something quick from a fast food place.

Its tempting to just order one of those 'Value Meals'. You get some kind of burger or sandwich, a large order of french fries and a large soda. Its so convenient, you only need say "I'll have a number one please." Honestly, its more food than most people need for lunch, but they usually price them so they are only a few cents more than buying smaller items a la carte. I must confess to have fallen for the 'Value Meal' on many occasions.

But I have found that I feel better about eating in a fast food place if I avoid the 'Value Meal' and just order a reasonably sized lunch. A small burger or sandwich, a small french fries, and a small soda will probably cost only a few cents less than the 'Value Meal', but I will not be tempted to eat more than I should. Another option available when ordering a la carte is to skip those delicious but fattening french fries all together. Sometimes I'll order a small cheeseburger, a 4-piece chicken nuggets and a small soda. I imagine there is more nutritional value and less fat in the 4 chicken nuggets than in the french fries, but I'm not positive of that.

Also, have you ever been in a fast food place and seen some 'limited time offer' you'd like to try, such as a peach flavored milkshake? Well, if you order a la carte and skip the french fries you can feel better about occasionally indulging in a 'limited time' peach shake.

Those french fries are good though...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

What's in a name?

An acquaintance recently told me that he found out information about new people he'd met by doing a Google search on their name. My first thought, of course, was how difficult it would be to sort through all the information and know which person to attribute it to. I mean, there are hundreds and possibly thousands of people with the same name. That's why the credit bureau uses social security numbers in addition to names.

So, for kicks I decided to do a Google search on my own name. I put in my first and last name (no middle name or initial) and I was astounded to see that the search located over 7 million websites with my name on them! Then I began looking at some of the pages.

One of the men who shares my name is an 'Employee Performance Expert'. In fact, he has an entire business/company with our name in its title. He's taken our name and placed dot com after it for his impressive website.

Another who shares my name is the founder and manager of a record label. He's written songs for and performed with several indy bands. He's produced albums for other bands, and also does solo stuff. He also has a graphic design company headquartered in the same town where I live!

Another is a professional rugby player in Australia. Another is a professional portrait, wedding, and exhibit photographer. Another is an award-winning stage director. Another is a research associate professor at Northwestern University. Another is a member of Ireland's leading political party. Another is a real estate agent in Ohio. But possibly the most eerie is another guy with my name who loves to sing jazz standards as I do. Only this guy put dot org after our name for his website, and he actually has a career singing jazz. For me it is a hobby.

I didn't look through all 7 million websites, but I did look at about 100 and didn't see any that actually were about me. Even my blog didn't show up because I have intentionally left out my last name. I guess if I ever want to become famous I have a lot of work to do.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Ack!!! No air...

Friday evening when I came home from work I noticed the family room seemed awfully warm. Then I noticed an oscillating fan, turned on full-blast, sitting on the ottoman. Not a good sign, I thought to myself.

After my customary "Hello... I'm home" Joe came from the kitchen and sighed heavily. "The air conditioner's broken." "Oh no!" I replied. "The outside unit runs but nothing's coming out of the vents, and its hot as hell in here" he reported. "I called 5 different places before I could get someone to come out here tomorrow. He'll be here between 1 and 4."

Well, I was impressed that Joe had the presence of mind to begin calling someone before 5:00 on a Friday afternoon, rather than waiting for me to get home at 6:15. Turns out the first 4 places he called said the earliest they could get here was Tues or Wed. We'd have died.

Fortunately, we had plans to be out of the house on Fri night, so it wasn't too bad. I went to a wedding shower for our friends Michael and Jamie downtown. It was fun, and I met some really nice people. Joe had come home with a bad headache, had tried to take a nap but it was too hot, so he decided to go to his mom's house where the air conditioning would be plentiful.

I got home from the party about 11:45 and we talked until midnight. We decided to sleep in the guest bedroom on the main floor, rather than in our bedroom upstairs, since it was just totally intolerable up there. The problem: the guest bedroom has my old full size bed in it, and we are used to sleeping in a queen. Neither Joe nor I would ever be mistaken for petite, so we knew it would be a challenge to sleep in the full size bed, with no air conditioning.

We set up both fans on chairs, pointed directly at the bed, and eventually got to sleep. But it was a restless night for both of us, as every movement we made awakened the other. Plus, being so warm, we didn't like our skin touching each other, which was nearly impossible in the small bed.

Then next morning we planned how we'd survive until the a/c guy arrived. We certainly weren't going to be cooking breakfast, that was for sure. We quickly dressed and got into the car and turned on the a/c. We just sat there for a few minutes and reveled in the luxury of coolness. Then we just drove around, trying to think of someplace to eat breakfast that has a/c and not a long wait. We ended up at the Capitol City Brewing Company.

Over breakfast/lunch we talked about how we had just recently been talking about spending a little money to have some home improvements done: a new kitchen floor, some electrical updating, etc. We sighed as we imagined the money for those things being given to the air conditioner repair guy.

After a few little stops, we headed back to the house. We decided to wait for the repair man in the basement - the only place we could stand to be by that time of the day. Fortunately he arrived shortly after 1:00. He found that the control board (kind of like the 'brains' of the heating-a/c unit) had gone bad. It would cost $515. to replace it. Unfortunately, he did not have one for our brand on his truck. He would have to order it.

He must have seen the mixed look of horror and shock on my face as I thought about being in the house without airconditioning for 3-4 days, so he asked me if I'd like him to temporarily bypass the control board with the wiring so that the a/c would run. I excited replied "Yes, please!"

So Mon or Tues he will call us to let us know that the control board has come in and will make an appointment to replace it. Until then, the outside unit still turns itself on and off as normal, just the inside fan/blower does not turn off. No biggie. I can live with that.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Weight loss tip # 127

Eat at Subway.

If you're like me, you can do a half-way decent job sticking to your diet when you're at home. You can fill your fridge with fresh fruit and cram your cupboards with crackers and cookies (the low-fat ones of course). Yes all those little tricks that work about half the time when you're at home. But eventually you have to leave the house.

I've found it most vexing to really want to stay on my diet at lunch time, but find no reasonable lunch options. Then I tried Subway.

At Subway you can get a 6 inch sub on any one of about 97 choices of breads, with at least 382 different toppings. You could eat lunch there every day for 18 years and never have the exact same sandwich twice. After all, variety IS the spice of life.

Plus, many are very sensible for the weight-conscious. First off, they don't give you a whole hell-of-a-lot of meat or cheese, so there's just so many calories and grams of fat you can get from bread and veggies. But I've found the sandwiches to be just the right amount of food so I don't leave there feeling stuffed and sleepy when I need to get back to work.

And here's the REALLY important thing for me: the veggies are fresh and are not treated with any chemicals to make them look fresh when they aren't. One of the reasons I am unable to eat those 'healthy alternative' salads at fast food restaurants is because most of them use chemicals to make the veggies look fresh, but give me stomach cramps and diarrhea. Yeah. Not fun when you've eaten that for lunch and then have to go back to work for the rest of the afternoon. But Subway's veggies are not treated with any of those chemicals, so I can have them pile on all the lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers - you name it - onto my sub and not feel bad later.

And if that weren't enough, the Subway near my office gives you a little stamp for your card, so that after purchasing 8 6-inch subs, you get one free. How do you like that? A bargain that helps you stay on your diet!

Stay tuned for more weight loss tips...

Monday, August 08, 2005

A social weekend

We didn't go to the beach this past weekend. Since we'd been the last 2 weekends in a row, we decided to stay home and connect with some of our friends.

Friday evening we went to Silver Spring to have dinner and hang out with our friends Justine and Liz. Joe & Justine used to work together many years ago, and became good friends and then roommates. Joe actually arranged for Justine and Liz to meet! They lived with us for a little over a year when we moved into our first house together. It really helped us to have that extra money, and it helped them save to buy a house of there own.

We ate dinner at the Austin Grill, which happens to be a favorite of Joe's. The food was good and our waitress was fun too. However, we ate too much and felt absolutely stuffed by the time we rolled out of there. Then we went for a little walk around the new 'Downtown' area of Silver Spring. Lots of restaurants, stores, and a movie theatre are there now, giving Silver Springers and their guests lots of choices. Then we went back to Justine & Liz's house and talked for several hours. I couldn't believe it was midnight before we left!

Saturday we slept in (my vice), did some laundry and a little house cleaning. I also got my hair cut. Then we headed down to Woodbridge to have dinner at our friend Robert & Liz's place. Robert was a roommate of mine in the mid 80s, and Liz was a friend of mine even before that. Robert & Liz first married other people, but years later both became free and finally connected. They got married (to each other) about a year ago.

We'd never been to their place before, and it was almost a bit of deja-vu when we walked into their condo. Their color scheme of dark purple and khaki is the same as our bedroom! I keep paint chips in my wallet so that I can match them to accessories when shopping, so I pulled out the chips and held them up to their walls. We all got a laugh out of that!

We had cocktails and a delicious dinner followed by desert, then watch a movie. Rob & Liz have the biggest flat panel TV I have ever seen in my life: 52 inches of TV hanging on the wall. Oh, and did I mention that its high definition? The picture quality was amazing! We watched "Phantom of the Opera". I didn't expect it to be very good, as often movies made from books and plays seem to take unnecessary 'creative license' and stray from the original plot and details. However, this was almost word for word and scene for scene the way I remember from seeing it on Broadway and from listening to the original soundtrack. We all liked it very much. Even Joe, who always claims not to like Andrew Lloyd-Webber, liked it. As I told him, with "Phantom of the Opera" you have to see it to fully understand and appreciate it. Just listening to the songs without having seen the play or movie isn't enough. At nearly midnight, we headed back home.

Sunday we slept in (again), then headed out for breakfast (brunch?) at Bob & Edith's diner. Unfortunately there was no place to park and we could see a line of people waiting to be seated so we decided to abandon that idea. We made a few stops (read: window-shopped) and then had an early lunch at CiCi's pizza. We picked up an engagement party gift for our friends Michael & Jamie's engagement party this coming Friday. I did some more laundry and then we got ready to meet our friends Gene & Tracy for dinner.

We used to spend a lot of time with Gene & Tracy. They were the ones who got us familiar with the Rehoboth Beach area. We used to go up there off-season and stay in one of Tracy's client's houses and go shopping at the outlets. Joe & I would always try to get a walk on the boardwalk each morning. Gene & Tracy live nearby us, but we haven't seen them in quite a while because Gene decided to go back to school while continuing to work full time. He takes classes over the internet, which actually involve more work than in-person classes because there is no lecturing or class discussion. To learn anything you have to do a lot more reading and writing of papers, so their social schedule has been severely curtailed for a good while. So we were happy to have the chance to hang out with them again. We had dinner at the Lone Star steakhouse, which is a place we never go without them. We got caught up on the happenings in each other's lives and had a very nice visit with them.

It was really fun to hang out with old friends this past weekend. It made me feel really blessed to have such good friends.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The quest for a signature cocktail

I've written before about our friends Michael and Jamie, who are getting married in MA in Sept. Last weekend they came with me and Joe to the beach.

Several times throughout the weekend I asked them about some of the details of their wedding and reception, and other times the details just came out in regular conversation. One of the things on their 'to do' list was to find dressy black shoes to wear with their tuxedos. We were able to cross that off the list this weekend with a trip to the Rehoboth outlet centers.

Another item on their 'to do' list was to come up with a signature cocktail. Rather than having a full bar at their reception, they've decided on wine, beer, and a signature cocktail. It'll be simpler than trying to guess how much of all the different kinds of booze they'll need, plus the idea of a signature cocktail just sounds special.

Jamie had the idea of taking an existing cocktail and changing or adding a key ingredient to make 'The Michael and Jamie cocktail'. Since Mojitos are the new Cosmos, they thought a mojito with a twist might be fun. Thus began our quest for 'The Michael and Jamie Mojito'.

So at dinner Saturday night (at Fish On), we decided that the four of us would each order a mojito with some other ingredient thrown in. We'd sample each drink several times and then vote on our favorite. Our waitress was sure the bartender wouldn't mind. And as you'd expect, this idea was right up my alley.

We ordered a mojito with Chamboard, which came out a beautiful blush color, a mojito with watermelon liqueur, which came out an odd, aquarium green color, a mojito with peach schnapps, which was almost clear, and a mojito with pineapple juice, which came out a cloudy, pale yellow.

We all tried each drink, and all had different but strong first impressions. Michael couldn't taste the watermelon at all, but it was Jamie's favorite. Joe hated the one with the peach schnapps, but I loved it. Michael liked the one with the Chamboard, but Jamie didn't care for it. I hated the one with the pineapple juice, but that was Joe's favorite.

The more I drank of the mojito with the peach schnapps, the more I thought I'd discovered 'The Mark Mojito'. The mixture of the mint, sugar, lime juice, white rum and peach schnapps was so refreshing, and went down so smoothly. I suggested that the waitress tell the bartender to begin offering people 'The Mark Mojito' if any were unsure what to drink.

I don't think we ever came to a consensus on what would finally become 'The Michael and Jamie cocktail'. Perhaps we'll have to try this type of outing again, altering a different cocktail four different ways, to finally know when we've got it. Or, maybe Michael and Jamie will just get tired (or drunk) and simply serve vodka and cranberry juice (also known as a Cape Cod) since they're getting married in MA. Wouldn't that be cheeky...