Friday, November 05, 2010
I came home at a decent hour for me: 8:30. I was wiped tonight, and Mike has been sick with URC (upper respiratory crud) so no walk, and dinner tonight was tuna melts on sourdough toast.
Thursday, November 04, 2010
What do I want? I'm trying to figure that out. Tonight I was talking to Mike about it, and I said, "Well, there are two things that I absolutely want: a steam shower and a bidet." I thought about it for a moment and added, "And of course, a fireplace..."
I prowl IKEA, trying to imagine if I really could live in 762 square feet of space. I think the answer is YES. When I was younger (i.e., in my 40's) I thought I'd stay in this house forever. I love this house, but I no longer want to stay here. This is a wonderful house for a family, but not for a woman on her own. I used to think I wanted to keep it so the kids could always come home for visits, but I've decided that's a poor reason to stay here, plus, it's exhausting, playing hostess all by yourself!
I'm ready for a change, and I'm ready to downsize. I don't think I'm the only one. Architects and builders of America, are you listening? I don't think so. I find these wonderful living spaces that are under 1000 square feet at IKEA, but they don't exactly abound in the real estate section of the NY Times, or anyplace else I've looked. There are lots of little tiny houses filled with tiny rooms; that's not what I'm talking about.
Take one of those houses and gut it. Raise the ceilings, so it's open and light. Rip out the wall to wall carpeting and put in hardwood and stone. Make the doorways wide, so they can accommodate a wheelchair, if it comes to that. In the bathroom(s), install a bidet and a steam shower, complete with a bench and old fart bars: Note: in addition to feeling like HEAVEN, 20 minutes in a steam shower uses about 7 gallons of water. In the kitchen, I want gas to cook on, and stone counter tops. I want a patio where I can have pots of flowers. There should either be public transportation near by or the place must be within walking distance of grocery stores, etc., because the day will come when I can no longer drive (and since I currently drive 25,000 miles a year, that's a day I look forward to!). And oh yes, ideally, this place should be near at least one of my four children...
That's what I'm looking for. Does it exist?
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Back home at a little after 1AM we sat around in the kitchen and ate delicious, leftover-from-last-night cold lemon chicken, followed by slices of a Granny Smith apple and a little white stilton with apricot and mango. Then I said goodnight to Mike and took a long, hot bath with nice scent added to the water, and now I'm writing rather than sleep because I have to go back in in a couple of hours.
Here's to finding a job I can do anytime, anyplace, so long as I have a laptop.
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
On to happier things. Mike has been living with me since late July and I'm happy to say he's a really good influence, in so many ways. I now have an iPhone, and what's more, I know how to use it. Since he's arrived, I hardly watch any TV (I've seen all the Law and Order reruns anyway) although I have to admit the two of us do watch lots of movies, which we then endlessly analyze...I've FINALLY perfected a frozen strawberry margarita, and managed to do so without buying one of those $350 margaritaville machines...except for the margaritas, I'm eating healthier...we do a brisk walk on one of three routes (short, medium and long) through the neighborhood every night (we've only missed 2 nights since we started)...and I'm beginning to think seriously about leaving Dallas. All of which is GOOD...
Monday, November 01, 2010
Listen, you dweeby bean counter, I've been a permanent employee now for almost 4 years. In that time, although my caseload has increased by almost 50%, I've never submitted a single late report (this is a big deal at the company where I work). Furthermore, I've taken on many additional responsibilities since I started, some of which have been assigned to me, others that I've initiated, e.g., I created a training manual, complete with screen shots, that's now used internationally to train new employees on our pharma database, and I'm expected to keep it current. Yet I haven't received a raise or a promotion, or even an overall EE (exceeds expectations - word is that management doesn't like anyone to receive that rating, because an employee receiving that rating might expect some sort of financial reward, e.g., a raise or promotion). And so I'm still working at the same grade at which I was hired, as are those employees hired at the same time as me whose idea of work is pretty much to show up for 8 hours a day, period. Furthermore, in spite of my putting time and effort, twice a year, into writing these performance reviews, I have yet to have a one-on-one or to receive any sort of feedback on the work I'm doing from anyone who's supervised me. I'd say writing these is sort of like pennies down a well, except that I know someone reads them, because we get them back to redo if what we've written falls short of the rah-rah spirit with which they're supposed to be filled...so once again, I'm writing and submitting mine, but oh, what a colossal waste of time.
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
When I got back to Dallas I began researching mattresses. This is not an easy thing to do, because mattress manufacturers rename identical products for each different store that sells them. I don't know of any other commodity for which this is done, but for mattresses it's perfectly legal. I knew from personal experience that the result is confusion for the buyer, but I didn't realize until I began looking into it that this is also the purpose of the practice: to confuse the buyer, so that you can't find the lowest price for any particular model. I know that this sounds like a paranoid delusion, but it's a fact.
It wasn't always this way. Ironically, the practice came about after trade laws were passed in the 1970's prohibiting manufacturers from setting a price floor (a minimum sales price) for mattresses. Although the goal was to help consumers by keeping prices competitive and therefore low, the result has been the opposite. A proliferation of discount mattress showrooms opened up after these laws were passed, selling mattresses for prices that were often considerably lower than department stores. In response, department stores negotiated with mattress manufacturers to provide "exclusive" department store models. That doesn't sound so bad, until you realize that the thing that makes these models exclusive is usually very minor: it might be something as insignificant as the color of the ticking, or the pattern of the stitching, or there may be a few more or less coils, etc. But no salesperson will tell you that, and the result is that in 2010, each mattress company manufactures a few different mattresses that are then marketed with dozens of different names, making it impossible for consumers to compare prices and get the best deal. This practice is a manufacturers dream, and it's now so widespread that even discount stores carry models that are exclusive to them.
As if that weren't enough, the price of mattresses, like everything else, have risen astronomically. Google "most expensive mattress" and you'll find the Vividus by Hastens for...drum roll...$59,750.00. That's right; by the time you add tax and shipping, over $60,000 for a mattress. Seriously? Of course, I wasn't looking at the Vividus. In fact, I decided after sleeping on the sleep number mattress that I didn't want an innerspring mattress at all, but I have a king size bed, and king size sleep number mattresses, manufactured by either Select Comfort or their parent company, Comfortaire, ran anywhere from $1100 to over $3000.
Two of my brothers have Tempurpedic mattresses and love them, so I decided I'd also check out memory foam mattresses. A couple of weeks ago, I went to Brookstone's at NorthPark where I spent a very relaxing half-hour on two Tempurpedic models (15 minutes on each). Both of them felt wonderful, but the price for a king size ran from $1700 (mattress only)/$2200 (mattress and foundation) to $4,000 (mattress only)/$4500 (mattress and foundation). A boatload of money!
12 years ago I spent a boatload of money on the mattress and box springs I'm now replacing: a top of the line Serta pillowtop. It came with with a 20-year-warranty but that didn't keep it from sagging, beginning at about year 8. Sagging in year 8 isn't covered under the warranty (of course) but suppose the mattress had a manufacturing defect...what would be covered? With Serta, I'd be responsible for 1/10 the dealer retail price times the number of years used. I paid $1200 for the mattress and box springs set, so multiply $120 x 8 years...under the warranty, I'd be responsible for $960 plus shipping costs...some warranty, huh? It's similar for other manufacturers, e.g., the Select Comfort Sleep Number bed has a 20-year limited warranty. If your bed fails in the first 2 years, you're in luck: replacement is totally covered. However, after that, the consumer is responsible for paying 20% of the retail cost plus 4% for each year since purchase. So if you paid $2000 and the pump failed in year 6, your out-of-pocket cost to get the mattress fixed under the 20-year warranty would be $880, plus shipping and handling (of course).
All of which left me thinking I didn't want to spend a boatload of money on a mattress this time around. But what were my alternatives? Here's a great site where I read a lot about mattresses: Sleeplikethedead.com. The first thing I discovered at this site is that memory foam mattresses have the highest consumer comfort rating: 81%. This is followed by an 80% comfort rating for air beds, 79% for water beds, 78% for latex, 66% for futons and 61% for innersprings (!!!). The site has received and sorted over 9,000 consumer reviews on mattress types, and provides a breakdown of how many reviewers responded for each type of mattress, e.g., 4476 for memory foam, but just 253 for water beds, so 79% of 253 water bed users rated water beds as comfortable.
The site also provides comfort ratings by mattress brand, and mattress type is listed after mattress brand. I spent hours looking up memory foam mattresses on the internet using this table, and in doing so, I read about off gassing, defined as the evaporation of volatile chemicals in non-metallic materials at normal atmospheric pressure. The chemicals used in making memory foam are, for the most part, petroleum based, and those chemicals, and some of the fire retarding agents (e.g., PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers), emit fumes that can cause reactions in people with chemical sensitivities. Off gassing occurs with all mattress types, including innerspring mattresses.
I looked at and read about mattresses sold at a number of places, including Costco, Sam's, Walmart, and Overstock.com as well as mattresses sold only online, and I read endless customer reviews of individual mattresses. As expected, reading the reviews confirmed that no mattress is right for every person. For example, although 87% of Tempurpedic customers love their mattresses, 13% do not, and some of the 13% who don't love Tempurpedics really hate them! I learned that no matter what the cost, most mattresses can be expected to last without noticeable deterioration for about half the warranty, ergo, 5 years for a mattress with a 10-year-warranty; 8 to 12 years for a mattress with a 20-year-warranty.
So what did I end up buying? And where did I buy it, and how much did it cost? To be continued...
Monday, July 05, 2010
If you're not an IKEA-ite (and I really wasn't until we finally got a huge IKEA store in Frisco a few years ago), IKEA is a Swedish store that was founded in 1943 by a 17-year-old Swedish kid who had a part time job in a furniture store and realized there was money to be made by flat packing. The name is an acronym derived from his name (Ingvar Kamprad), the farm he lived on (Elmtaryd) and his home parish (Agunnaryd in Småland, South Sweden).
IKEA also sells some Swedish foods. Happily, there's no lutefisk (cod prepared in lye; the main dish every Christmas when I was growing up) but sadly, there's no lefse either. There are always fresh cinnamon rolls that smell like heaven when you walk into the store, and there are also surprisingly good frozen meatballs (I usually keep a bag in the freezer and often nuke a few for breakfast), lingonberries, gingersnaps, fish candy...(just kidding about the fish candy).
I went to IKEA because, having completed my research on mattresses (I'm going with Bed-In-A-Box), I decided to follow their advice on keeping the cost down by getting the box springs locally, ergo, IKEA. They have decent box springs at reasonable prices, so I’ll probably buy them there…but what would a trip to Ikea be without checking out the Poäng Chair? (Per Google translator, Poäng means "point", as in score.) The Poäng chair is a bent, beech wood chair with a fabric seat. It’s incredibly comfortable, and has a bit of bounce to it. I love this chair. I don't own one, but only because I don't have anyplace to put one. I’ve wanted one since I first sat in one, and every time I go to IKEA I spend some time sitting in a Poäng chair, trying to figure out where I could put one.
Well, today when I went to IKEA, I bought one…for WIGGLE!
Yes, IKEA now has a Poäng chair for kids…for LITTLE kids! Happily, it comes in a flat pack, which is perfect, because I’ll be mailing it to Fairfax in a couple of weeks.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
- a TERRIFIC son-in-law
- a WONDERFUL son
- a DEVOTED brother
- a FANTASTIC brother-in-law
- a LOVING husband
- and a DOTING Dad
Friday, June 25, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
Sunday, June 06, 2010
Monday, May 31, 2010
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Then I discovered The Annotated Alice, (first published in 1960). If you haven't read it, this book is every geek/trivia lover's idea of heaven. Gardner was an expert on Lewis Carroll, and often described as a kindred spirit. In The Annotated Alice, he explains where Carroll was going (or coming from): the riddles, jokes and literary references as well as the context in which much of the book was written. In the first few pages, when Alice speculates, "I wonder if I shall fall right through the earth!"...here's the beginning of Gardner's footnote: In Carroll's day there was considerable popular speculation about what would happen if one fell through a hole that went straight through the center of the earth. Plutarch had asked the question and many famous thinkers, including Francis Bacon and Voltaire, had argued about it. Galileo (Dialogo dei Massimi Sistemi Giornata Seconda, Florence edition of 1842, Vol. 1, pages 251-52) gave the correct answer: the object would fall with increasing speed but decreasing acceleration, until it reached the center of the earth, at which spot it's acceleration would be zero. Thereafter it would slow down in speed, with increasing deceleration, until it reached the opening at the other end. Then it would fall back again. By ignoring air resistance and the coriolis force resulting from the earth's rotation (unless the hole ran from pole to pole), the object would oscillate back and forth forever. Air resistance of course would eventually bring it to rest at the earth's center. The interested reader should consult "A Hole through the Earth," by the French astronomer Camille Flammarion, in The Strand Magazine, Vol. 28 (1909), page 348, if only to look at the lurid illustrations." I'll concede there are readers to whom that footnote doesn't sing, but I'm not one of them. It sang to me; from that point on I was hooked on Gardner, who even translates Jabberwocky ("Twas brillig, and the slithy toves..." Bryllg (derived from the verb to bryl or broil), "the time of broiling dinner, i.e., the close of the afternoon..."
As if that weren't enough, Gardner was also an outspoken foe of pseudoscience, writing columns for The Skeptical Inquirer. He was a terrific writer, and a terrific man. If you haven't read The Annotated Alice, check it out. He will be missed.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
I need to start making some real time to undo that tension build-up, but that's so much easier said than done.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Sunday, April 04, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Friday, March 05, 2010
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Friday, February 26, 2010
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Monday, February 15, 2010
This happened last week, when I went back to the gym for the first time in a LONG time. Getting ready to go, I dug around in my closet until I found my gym bag, abandoned in a corner where it was sadly covered in dust and looking the worse for wear. I pulled it out and still lying inside, after all this time, (reminding me a little creepily of the childhood poem by Eugene Field that begins, "The little toy dog is covered in dust...") I found my clipboard with my charts of sets and reps for when I lift (yeah, I'm totally OCD at the gym). I also found my lifting gloves; half a dozen laminated guest passes; a black nylon Gap fanny pack that contained an ancient chap stick, some spare change, a comb and some AA batteries in various pockets and...the reason for the AA batteries...my portable CD player, still in its Case Logic case, complete with some CD's for working out, the best of which were The Pretenders Last of the Independents and Tina Turner's What's Love Got to Do With It.
Well, I may be out of it, but even I knew that I couldn't go into a gym in 2010 with a portable CD player strapped to my body...not unless I were wearing a sweatshirt with DORK printed in big, black letters across my chest...so I left it behind. Somehow, I managed to have a good workout on the elliptical cross trainer despite the lack of personal music. But the experience made me realize that I need to get up to speed, so to speak, on what options are available for listening to music these days...and here's where I had a real Rip Van Winkle experience. I knew about MP3 players and iPods, sort of...well, it would be more accurate to say that I knew that they exist, in the same way that you might be aware that people go to the Galapagos, without having actually been to the Galapagos yourself. But that is all that I knew, that such things existed; I really had no idea of how they worked.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
The snow is melting; there's still quite a bit left on grassy areas, but no trace of the magic that was there when I woke two days ago. It's time to look forward to spring, so when I went to Central Market and saw one of my favorite harbingers of spring, pussy willows, I bought a bunch, and for Valentine's Day, a bunch of pink tulips too. This was money well spent: I smile every time I walk into my kitchen and see them.
A lot of women (and most of the men I know) hate Valentine's Day. It's sort of an odd day. It's supposed to be a day when lovers express their love for each other. I think that everyone who celebrates it with that in mind enjoys Valentine's Day; but for many people, Valentine's Day has become a day when men give gifts to women, and women give...well, whatever the gift inspires them to give, I guess. That's more than a little twisted.