Category Archives: Friends

I’m back!

Well, remember me?

I’d been staring at my site for quite some time, dissatisfied at it and how I’ve neglected it. But I also didn’t want to go back to feeling a bit burdened by posting so much, often late at night, wrestling with this pretty bad program I bought which promised (ha!) to make editing one’s blog easier but which wound up making a terrible mess of things, and looking a bit silly with all the gratuitous male flesh. So expect my updates to be shorter and there to be less men involved. I won’t say none of them though – perish the thought!

When last I left you we were discussing the Real Housewives of New York and their disasterous trip to Marrakech. I think that was when the rot set in which led to half of the cast (including my favourite, Alex) being fired. We went through a full season of New Jersey with hot sexy Joe Gorga, and we’ve started in on Beverly Hills and Atlanta. I’m watching Beverly Hills but only fitfully. See, I got so many good books for Christmas or for myself that I find I don’t have a lot of desire to watch my DVR’d episodes. I will try to get caught up on Beverly Hills and I will possibly be more dilligent with Orange County, but I think I’ll give New York and Atlanta a (continuing) miss.

Since the summer when my last post was posted I’ve had a lot of good times. C and I went to beautiful Litchfield, SC, for a week of pool-lying-beside and couch-lazing-on and not much else. We really enjoyed it. If anyone wants I’ll post a picture of the house and such. In October we took another mini-break to Bethlehem, PA, and started on our Christmas shopping. (See, last year we did nothing at all for Christmas and we were both a little depressed so this year we put up a beautiful tree and lots of decorations and had family over and it was 100% better. And we had Bubble Lights!)

In November for my birthday we went to Tucson, AZ, to meet Ryan Hickmott whom some of you will know from an episode of Morgan Spurlock’s show 30 Days. To refresh your memory you can go check out the first post I made about him. We’ve gone from being Facebook friends to what I hope is ‘real’ friends; he has shared various very personal good news and bad times with me. It was really good to meet him and his lovely wife Angela. We went to Tombstone where I fired a pistol for the first time in my life. I thought it was great! We had dinner together – it was his anniversary weekend and we visited him at his home. We also enjoyed some of the sights of the Tuscon area and some great restaurants too. I’ll try to upload a few pics from it if anyone would care to see them.

So what’s on my mind now?

  • The state of national and international affairs. Which basically suck. We’re all broke and going to China for money. Obama is looking less and less viable unless this recession ends and people can get back to work.
  • My weight. Please see my other blog for more on that.

What’s on your mind?

Now the gentleman whose torso is above is model Michael Horta, an American who moved to Brazil when he was 11 years old. Here he is, head on. 

Michael Horta, shirtless, with a knowing look
He knows what YOU want
 
Sure looks like he does!

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Filed under Cute Guys, Family, Friends, Fun and Relaxation

Returns, Absences, and Changes

Well, as you can see the ‘weight loss’ page is back. Mainly shamefacedly because I wanted to publicize my losing this week. 🙂

In other developments, I’ve not got plantar fasciitis but a simple bursitis behind my heel. The doctor gave me an injection of cortisone and it will supposedly clear right up. Well, I hope so. At least I do feel some improvement already. He wants me to ice it every evening and lay off the walking until it is resolved (all cleared up, I guess).

Went to Panera in Laurel for lunch and ran into my mum and dad and it was really nice. I had a fairly sensible lunch too. Since I can’t walk I have to be extra careful about intake.

The other thing the doctor told me was that I am very very slightly anemic and he wants me to take a Vitamin B-12 supplement. My red blood cell count is 3.97 million/microliter, and it should be higher than 4.20. My hematocrit (the proportion of blood volume that is occupied by red blood cells) is 38.0%; should be 38.5% or higher. My MCH (mean corpuscular hemoglobin) is 33.6 picograms/cell; should be no more than 33.0 pg/cell. I am however, not iron-deficient, and he doesn’t seem to think any further intervention beyond 500 micrograms of B-12 is needed.

Other than that a good day, nothing much to report from work. I’m not sure but I’m guessing I didn’t get the job I interviewed for last week, but that’s okay. I know I did the best I knew how. On to researching other options, eh? I mean I’m so vital I was out until 12:30 and nobody even knew I wasn’t there (I called into my boss but she was out too). If I wasn’t so honest I could save a bit of leave time and say to disregard my phone message and that I had been there all along but that would be wrong.

n505055131_453043_7285Tonight I was facebooking with my facebook friend Reynaldo Gouws from South Africa. He has some  strong opinions on the place and all of them are based on facts. (He’s also a real gym bunny, click and see him grow, and a DJ, and an industrial psychologist.) He’s complaining that youtube where he posts his videos is restricting him and has cut way back on the views he gets. Please, if you have time, go and see his channel on youtube and discover his opinions. Even if you don’t like them you will have to admit that he backs them up and holds them sincerely.

Would anyone like the names of the other youtubers I subscribe to?

I’m going to try to get to bed early tonight. I’ll probably have nobody photographing me, unlike Mr. Rodrigues does (oh, and I’m tired of old Nick so I’ve changed the masthead a bit).

Gilmar Rodrigues 09_01g

Gilmar Rodrigues 09_03g Gilmar Rodrigues 09_04g Gilmar Rodrigues 09_05g

Gilmar Rodrigues 09_06g Gilmar Rodrigues 09_07g Gilmar Rodrigues 09_08g

Gilmar Rodrigues 09_02g

(Yes, those eyes are green)

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Filed under Cute Guys, Family, Friends, Work

Upsan Downs

Well, it’s been my share of both since we last met up, you the great Internet and me. Mostly down.

Friday (shall we start there?)

Friday was a strange day. It started off quite normal actually, even though I was a little bummed that we wouldn’t be meeting up with our friends for dinner. However. Halfway or so through the day I got this horrible feeling of sadness and … well … self-pity wash over me. My poor facebook and M&G Forum friend J.d.H. was the person on whom I fixated this feeling – he’s young, brainy, and really handsome, and I decided that he was “better” than me somehow. So I “defriended’ him on facebook and sat around feeling very gloomy with myself. I’m sure I was an utter pain to all around me. I did perk up when we went to my mum and dad’s house for our niece R’s birthday celebration.

But the main thing

But the main thing that bothered me was my horrible heel pain. See (yippee) my nasty stasis ulcer has all healed but now I have a more painful thing – what feels like plantar fasciitis in my left foot. What it means is that I can’t go four or five steps without shooting pains in my foot and the resultant change in my gait means my back and hip hurts on that side as well.

So Saturday I went to the gym, full of optimism and managed a measly, a pathetic, a shameful 15 minutes before I succumbed to pain. Then that evening we were scheduled to go to our friends over on Kent Island, to swim in their pool and to have one of their great dinners and hang out. But I bailed at the last minute because I frankly didn’t feel up to it; I was uncomfortable at the idea of being in such pain and thereby being a pain. Of course, I bailed after they’d set aside dinner for us all so I felt awful and the way I bailed made my friend think I was upset with her so I felt worse, and finally, near tears, called her up very late to make sure she knew I felt dreadful and that I hoped we’d be invited back. I fully understand it won’t be next weekend; she’s got a family barbecue and C & I want to get away for a drive.

That evening, I decided to watch the second disk of The Grafters and broke our expen$ive DVD player. I fell against it while the disk drawer was open and now it won’t switch DVDs or release them and so last night I felt lower than a ball of worm excrement.

Sunday

Today C and I have been very lazy but I needed the prolonged hugging. Tomorrow I will go to the doc’s about the fasciitis, and I need to do a few errands on the way back from the docs (a new lock for the gym, assuming I’m allowed back, gel inserts for my shoes). I expect I’ll be referred to a podiatrist again and I expect I’ll have to get a very painful cortisone jab into my heel and then get measured for orthotics. 😦

But I’m keeping my chin up

I’m hoping that tomorrow will be a better day and that Dr. A. will be able to tell me what’s wrong, what to do, and how he can stop the pain.

Listening to L’Aquila E Il Condor from the album “Stilelibero” by Eros Ramazzotti. And considering today’s Handsome Hunk of Home Improvement, Marc Bartolomeo. Italian, handsome, self-effacing, charming, and skilled with his hands, he’s an electrician and carpenter and model, he was on “In a Fix” (I repeat – that show was like soft-core porn for me) and now ‘Save My Bath” on HGTV. Mmmm he’s got lovely classic looks and he’s quite funny.

The first set of shots are kinda arty from his own website (click on the thumbnails to make Mr. B bigger):

02 04 05 06 09 12 14 15 20 35

Then there are the others on the web…like this NSFW one, infamous among Bartolomeo’s fans. 🙂 Or like this actually quite sweet one:

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(Lucky bottle!)

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Filed under Cute Guys, Exercise, Family, Friends, Health

Too Short Again, Naturally

Once again, the weekend is over and once again it seems to be over before it really started. This was quite an odd week – it started off so with the best of news and ended with a bang and a boom.

I can’t go too deply into the best of news, but it was good and for the first time in quite a while I heard a dear person giggle again. 🙂

After guzzling the past week, I only gained 0.4 of a pound. God help me this week. My WW records contains nothing but breakfasts. 😦 I need help to keep counting every day this week. I get so … lazy? I mean, I even have a great web application on my iPhone so what’s my excuse?

Exercise wasn’t so hot either. Or it was because the gym was like a steam bath, but I wasn’t there every evening. What I’d like to know is why, after I decide not to go, do I always wish I were going? Friday evening I didn’t go, and as I drove off Fort Meade I drove past the gym and really wished I could go in and work out.

The Bang

Friday was a social whirl (comparatively speaking). We had a hail and farewell at work. I was at the back and didn’t want to use my camera’s flash, so the pictures of my office’s actual welcome didn’t “come out,” but I did manage to get this shot of one of our more handsome Soldiers, and the welcoming of another. The handsome Soldier is actually a really nice guy. He always chats to me and at least pretends to be interested in what I have to say, and as he wants to be a history teacher when he gets out, he’s interesting to listen to.

Handsome SoldierWelcoming to a Handsome Soldier

The Boom

After that we went over the Bay Bridge to our friends on Kent Island. There was quite a bit of drama and the first half of the evening was very unpleasant indeed. I’m sure that things have blown over by now, but we will suffice it to say that I’m very disappointed in my Godson, even if he’s apologized to his parents (but not to me for delaying my meal). I feel bad because I’m sort of responsible for his moral upbringing but I’m also certain I am totally not up to the challenge of directing him any better than his parents and teachers. His world view continues to be nihilistic, he seems to be indifferent, nearly aggressively so, to any consequence or his future, and like everybody of his age he knows everything. I wouldn’t mind; it’s typical but (a) some of his behaviour is self-destructive and (b) when it gets out of hand it’s very selfish and self-centered. I don’t like it at all. I don’t like it when he hurts my friends; if he weren’t their son I’d have nothing to do with him at all.

We did discuss that he does question authority whereas when I was his age, I didn’t. I did what I was told maybe too much, but I did. I was told to read pages 50-150 in the text book, and I did. I was told to study and take the test, and I did. I do admire people with drive and the ability to take risks, but sometimes they wind up poor. I wasn’t as much afraid of poverty as of (having to do) manual labour; I knew I couldn’t possibly handle it – I wasn’t physically strong enough and didn’t like the idea of being outside in all weathers. I knew I couldn’t hack it but that I could as an ‘office worker.’ Now I wish I’d pursued my real dreams rather than building the career I have; but I try not to think too much about that. My job is not something I enjoy. It pays the bills. that’s all. I try also not to think too much about how sometimes I feel like the doors on my ability to change anything are closing or have closed. Do you think that the doors are real or that we make them for ourselves in our minds. I used to think I’d like to go to law school but that never worked out. I wish I could make a living with what is my natural talent and fervent interest.

Maybe I really ought to contact that career counsellor my personal trainer recommended.

Maybe I ought to stop thinking about what might have been if. If I’d stayed in and grown up in England. If I’d been able to major in what I wanted to instead of business. The only thing I keep thinking is that I don’t know if I’d have met C if I were different. And that’s what keeps me happy with my memories and not too inclined to question my decision. Because and I’m not trying to be rude, nobody’s got as good a partner/husband/lover as I do. Nobody.

Saturday was very productive. I mailed off a ‘care package’ of a comic book and some Reeses peanut butter cups to a friend in South Africa. We also pulled our credit cards out of our safe deposit box so we could use them. See, because of the financial crisis, banks and creditors are trying to reduce the amount of credit they’ve extended so they’re going around and cancelling and closing credit card accounts that haven’t been used recently. We’ve had a couple now close; sometimes without any notice. This wouldn’t seem bad, until you remember that your credit score, and therefore the interest you pay on any loan, is based in part on your debt to credit ratio. If your credit is lowered because you’ve not used a card and the issuing bank closes, your ratio gets worse (despite no particular change in your spending or paying off habits) and you pay more. It may not be fair but there it is. So we hauled them out and used them for lunch and the aforementioned extortionate shipping fees.

(We went to lunch at Noodles Corner in Columbia which I found delicious. It was odd though; I ordered what looked good to me and C ordered what looked good to him and when our dishes arrived, I didn’t like mine and he didn’t like his but we swapped them and each enjoyed the other’s.)

We also checked out the new Apple lap tops in the Apple Store in Columbia at the mall. I don’t really think I need a new one but I can see where C does, so we may ‘move’ on one sometime this year, probably after Snow Leopard comes out. Also looked at the new iPhone 3GS which looks cool but which I can live without for a while until AT&T improves the offer it has for upgrading. I cannot see spending a grand on getting a bit faster processor and a movie camera.

Finally we “swung by” (drove quite a way) to the Whole Foods market in Silver Spring, and got some semi-yummy King’s Island blue cheese (from Australia) and some really yummy Vermont cheddar. One of the benefits of having knee arthritis is that I can park in “gimpy” parking places which is good there because the parking lot on weekends is always jammed full to distraction. I am glad to report they’ve widened the aisles and it wasn’t quite the maddening mob inside that it was in the parking lot. I may have to start going more often for bits and pieces. I don’t see shopping only there, but they do have some nice treats and things.

Neither a Bang or A Boom

Today all I did was sit around and then I watched a really good movie you should watch. It’s called No Regret and it’s from Korea and it’s about a horribly tortured love story in Seoul between a poor orphan turned rent-boy and a shy rich guy being pressured into marriage by a ruthless family. But this description doesn’t do it justice so go check it out. C cooked a delicious steak dinner. Yum!

Bang a BoomerBoomerang

Yes, we’re back to our theme, after the drama. The answer to the cliff hanger question you never even tried to answer is Jason Cameron, from While You Were Out, Building the Man Cave and Desperate Landscapes. He’s hunky, he’s built, he’s much better looking in motion than in a picture, for some reason. Here he is in various guises including showing you a set of abs you could replace your clothes washer with…click on the tiny pics to see him bulge and grow before your very eyes….

JCBig

JC-CowboyJCGymJCSerious

And because this is indeed a multi-media weblog, here’s a few videos of Jason, pulling on his wood pole…

…getting a shirtless scrub-down at a soapy carwash…

…and working on the blog cabin and its man cave….

(Who’d like to see him in his very own mancave?)

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Filed under Apple, Computers, Culture, Cute Guys, Exercise, Friends, Hardware, Health, Work

Across the Miles

Yes, we’ve been across the miles, from here to Washington (State) and back. That’s why there’ve been no blog posts of late, but ah hah! I’m going to rectify that.

Day One (sorry, no oats for Doris)

Last Thursday at Godawfulearly in the morning we took the Super Shuttle to BWI to fly to Seattle. Imagine our surprise when we got there and found out the damned flight had been canceled. We were somewhat displeased, as you can imagine. However, we were rerouted (via Dallas instead of Chicago) and suffered only a “small” delay. Which however, knocked out much possibility of sight-seeing in Seattle that afternoon, but allowed me to claim one more state, even if only for an airport layover. Here is a picture of irrigated fields in Texas, the Dallas airport and snow covered mountains between there and Seattle:

Crop irrigation in TexasDallasSnow covered mountains

We got to Seattle and checked in and realized just how tired we were. I napped and then instead of going downtown to see the city by night, we had a a pizza delivered and went to bed after consuming it. Driving in we got a sight of the Seattle skyline:

Seattle Skyline

Day Two (still no oats for old Doris)

Up and at ’em early for breakfast (still amazed at how nice people were – so different from the Kings and Queens of ‘Tude we get around here) and then downtown to the Space Needle to look out over Seattle (all are thumbnails so click to make them bigger):

The Space NeedleSpace NoodleBronze sculptures in the parking lotMusic MuseumMusic Museum from aboveDowntown Seattle with the monorail tracksDowntown from upaboveCruise ships waiting in the harbour

Then we hopped the monorail downtown and a city bus (they’re free in downtown Seattle!) to Pike Place market. I could have wandered around downtown all day. Unlike Baltimore or Washington, people still go downtown to shop, socialize, dine, gather, just like in Europe. It makes a difference – Seattle was so clean and neat and tidy and safe-feeling. I felt right at home (the grey skies and damp wind may have helped!). After wandering around the market we stopped for tea and crumpets at a little cafe and made our way back to the rental car:

AngloAm on the MonorailAnd Waiting for a BusPike PlaceIn the MarketFlower sellersRachel the famous pigThe variety and freshness were impressiveWe didn't see any flying fishRiding the monorail; that's Nordstrom's first store

From there we left the urban delights of Seattle, wishing we could stay a bit longer, and drove down a somewhat crowded I-5 past Tacoma and Olympia to Kelso, WA, where we were to stay the night. I discovered that the Oregon coast was only an hour away so we decided that rather than spend another evening in the hotel room dining on delivery pizza we’d go exploring. It was dark-ish and gloomy and foggy but we had a good time, crossed into Oregon and drove down US30 through Astoria (where The Goonies and Free Willy, among others, were filmed), a charming port town on the Columbia River, all steep streets and Finnish workers’ halls (ah, the memories of Finland), to Seaside, where C braved the cold winds and flying mist to snap a few pictures of the Pacific. (My plantar fasciitis was and is acting up and I didn’t care to make it worse climbing all over the sand). We came back through Astoria again (there aren’t many roads out there!) and had dinner at a fish and chips place. Far too much fish! But good.

Bridge to OregonWelcome to OregonThrough the forestsPea flowers grew in abundanceCold, wet Oregon coastAstoria, OregonDamp Astoria's damp docksOur restaurant for the eveningMuch too much fish

Day Three (how sad, Ms. D.)A-Duck-from-Maryland

Leaving the parking lot we saw this – an old Citroën 2CV (aka a ‘Duck’) which I’d not seen since my days in Germany, and guess what? It had Maryland plates of all things. Just think of the odds against us seeing it. Somebody from our state drove this tiny little car all the way across the country to wind up in this non-descript town on this particular day for us to see. If you own this car in question – please tell me what you were doing and how you got there – it has to be a fascinating story.

From that vision we were off to see Mount Saint Helens, through the fog and rain. The ride up along WA 504, Spirit Lake Highway, is very dramatic once you pass the little villages up – you can still see the silted up river beds and blasted trees. The road’s been improved since the eruption in 1980 and has some impressive bridges. The visitors’ center at Johnston Ridge was very well done; there were explanations of the eruption, the pyroclastic flow, the lateral blast, the ash fall, and a great movie that gave a real sense of what it was like to see. I’d have liked to learn more about what the ash falling was like but I did appreciate the rest of the insights. We got to pick up all the different types of rock that can be created, feather-light pumice stone to glassy obsidian – it’s so hard that surgical instruments can be made from it and they never lose their edge, which can be smoother and finer than steel can be made. All in all it was a fascinating time even if I don’t have impressive pictures of the blast crater and growing dome to show you.

WA SR 504Bridge along Spirit Lake Highway to Mt. St. HelensAt Johnston ObservatoryTrees were either vaporized or flattenedYou can see how thick the ash isRivers have cut paths through the feet upon feet of ashA lake whose level was raised in the blastShe's out there, somewhere

Leaving Mt. St. Helens we drove quite a way nearly back to Seattle and on up WA SR 18 to I-90 through the Snoqualmie Pass, which we couldn’t see due to the rain, and over the ‘rain shadow line.’ It was amazing; one moment it was wet and drippy and foggy and the next it was dry and sunny and nearly arid. We got off I-90 and drove up through the Wenatchee National Forest to Leavenworth, a German-themed town full to the brim with touristy but charming shops and restaurants and performing artists and artisans. We walked from the hotel into town and picked a lovely little restaurant, the Andreas Keller, for Wiener Schnitzel with Spätzle – while most German Gasthäuser don’t have fiddlers wandering about, everything else was very authentic, the pale pine furniture, the Münchener Hofbräu adverts, the Bavarian paintings on the outside and inside of the place. Walking back we took our time window shopping and enjoying the lights of the town. It was so cool and pleasant and honestly I didn’t want the evening to end:

At last, the turn off from I-5!Wetly through the mountainsWenatchee National ForestSo blinking gorgeous, fresh, and cool - heavenIm KellerBavarian PaintingLeavenworth eveningChristmassy lights in LeavenworthStreets in the evening

Day Four (Doris has given up the ghost)

After a breakfast in a Danish bakery (rather good turnovers) we wandered around Leavenworth’s tiny downtown. If (a) we were driving home and (b) hadn’t gotten a bit frustrated at the decorative dust-catchers and tchotchkes around the house and (c) didn’t have some German and Russian things already we’d have spent up a storm. We did go into an Australian store but it was trying too hard and too full of touristy things that C cringed at. But the day was so relaxing and nice; we sat under the shade of a big oak tree and listened to the oom-pah-pah band and watched the world go by.

After Bratwurst at what amounted to an Imbiß (mmm good) we hopped into the car and crossed central Washington to Spokane and my friend CB’s house. Now once we descended from the hills, we entered a strange land of rocky hills and riverside cliffs, unlike anything I’d ever seen before. This was amazing to me and I wish I could have stayed. However, that soon transitioned to a rather boring flat area, before the road hilled up again approaching Spokane. We met CB at his comic book shop where C bought a comic for me to send to a South African guy I know. (Should have mailed it off today, darn it!) At his house we met his lovely wife and two charming children and caught up and chatted. They served us a lovely dinner and we retired early. It was so great to see CB again; I’d last seen him when he was still in the Army, stationed in Böblingen, Germany, in April of 1985. We tried to remember old friends’ and coworkers’ names (SGT Frater, Annette somebody, Ann Gloninger, Lynn somebody) and reminisced quite a bit. C was so nice sitting there listening to what had to be for him somewhat boring:

Leavenworth morningBreakfastFront Street in L'worthTown centerThe rooves of LeavenworthPainted housesFront StreetMaypole and hotelWindow boxUnder the spreading oak treeP6070177Darkish rocks and scrubDarkish rocks and scrubThe Columbia RiverFlat boring central WashingtonApproaching Spokane

Day Five (nothing from Doris)

Up for coffee and breakfast and off so as not to be a burden to CB or his family. We drove out from Spokane to Idaho, and then just over the border into Montana. That adds two more states! Coffee/lunch-ish in Coeur d’Alene, ID, which is stunningly beautiful. You’ll have to take my word for it as I have no pics. Sorry. 🙂 Back to the comic book store so C could do a little shopping for himself, then out to dinner with CB+family for Italian. Before we could go out, though, we had to stop and admire his giant cock. It’s quite a cock. He decorates it for the holidays and seasons; if I had a big cock like that I’d do the same. Are you tired of the cheesy double entendres yet? I am. Later on we were up quite late chatting. CB’s missus is very easy to get along with. And, if you’re in the Spokane area, look for her delicious and beautiful shimmering and delicate chocolates to be in better stores soon. She kindly shared some with us and they were delicious. The white ones with the opalescent effect were ethereally beautiful. Nearly too good to eat.

IdahoA pass in the pouring rainMontanaIdaho againWallace, Idaho, drips in the rainMy friend's comic book storeMe, my old friend, and his giant cock

Day Six (Doris will never be seen again) and really, unwanted Day Seven

Flying is fun, but as my friend DRS pointed out, air travel isn’t. Because of storms back east, our flight from Spokane to Salt Lake was delayed, and our flight from Salt Lake to BWI was delayed even more. Basically, after saying a reluctant goodbye to CB and realizing it sucks that we’re so far apart, we were travelling until 3 am (EDT). It was grueling. I mean, no one thing was particularly exhausting, the flights were mostly uneventful but all the waiting was a bit much, and getting in to the deserted (except for us long suffering travelers) at nearly the same time we’d been dropped off on the first day of our trip was not planned. We couldn’t possibly get to work the next day and I think were were asleep until something like noon. We did on the trip get to see the Great Salt Lake (interesting, not all that gorgeous) and the Wasatch Front in Utah (another state!). I really would like to get to Utah one day and see the Front and Bryce Canyon and all the strange otherworldly geography in the southern part of the state:

The Great Salt LakeMaking a CPK Thai pizza last and lastIf you look closely you'll see our 2 and a half hour delayTired and bleary past midnight on the planeBWI sure is deserted at night, and rightly so!

Oh, yeah, forgot to mention. C & I didn’t sit together from SLC to BWI. He got to sit next to two interesting, friendly, chatty, fascinating (and rather good looking) musicians who make up an electronic band called “Aligning Minds” – I’d like to go see them. I got sat next to a Mr. Grumpy who glared at whatever book he was reading the whole time (and refused to trade with C so we could sit together). Also, we had to take a very expensive taxi because Super Shuttle stops running at 1 am. Next time I’m parking at the airport…except maybe not because I do like the car to be in the driveway. Anyway, thanks very much to CB and his family for a wonderful visit and I can tell anyone who’s not been there, Washington is a beautiful state.

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Filed under Friends, Fun and Relaxation

Well, I Had Class

Yes, I did, or rather the class had me. I was a bit out of the loop at a two-day course on “Position Management” in DC so I’ve not blogged or had many blog-worthy moments for the last two days. It was kinda interesting but a bit fluffy, if you know what I mean. I did get a few useful tools to use in analyzing how federal position descriptions can be dovetailed into the mission. And how bloody much verbiage they have. It was interesting but I was amazed at how unstructured other departments are compared to the Defense Department. I don’t know how they do their planning and budgeting and structuring, but it seems more ad hoc than the (somewhat) elaborate systems we use. Here’s an example of how the Army structures itself – it’s a big, but quite incomprehensible, chart. (Army Force Management Model Chart)

Weigh in Monday showed a big big loss of 0.4 of a pound.Well, they do say not to rush it.

This is going to be a startlingly mundane post. I am glad to report I have calmed down a lot on an issue which had really been bothering me of late. One of the parties involved explained some things that had mystified me and made me tense and angry and sad. I’m still sad and angry, but in a different way. Again, please everyone, remember you mum and dad never had an instruction booklet and parenting always looks easier from the outside. And today’s world seems so full of dangers and behaviors that I never really knew of, but then I was a timid kid, with my BIG SECRET, and I figured it didn’t matter what I did, just what I got caught at. Which ruled out a lot of risks, because risks risked me getting caught. I was too determined to have fun despite everything (once I broke out of my shell), but safely, which is why I sometimes react only with shock and horror (not awe) at the things that ‘kids today’ do and consider doable.

A book you should read

You should read “My Stroke of Insight.” (And visit the web page too.) It’s by a brain scientist who had a stroke and remained able to analyse the immediate symptoms she went through and what parts of her brain were injured, what circuits were shut off, and how that affected her life. The left (analytical and linear) side was shut down and she experienced great inner peace, just by paying attention only to the right side, and she says that this Nirvana is inside all of us, without (and this is what I liked) either denigrating her intellect and individualism, or using wispy lofty phrases about spiritual insights. Apparently compassion and love and the eternal flow and forgiveness and that feeling of being at one with all things that mystics go on about are not myths, or gifts of this or that magic sky being, but part of our chemical and neurological endowment, part of what is necessary for us to survive. I guess you could say it is a gift but it’s given to everyone, because it’s right there in half your cerebral cortex. You can map it. It’s not necessary to undertake esoteric spiritual disciplines (although some practices are helpful) or subscribe to any particular guru to get it. It’s yours by right.

I’m going to try her techniques for both managing the ‘internal chatter’ which so often for me is critical and demoralizing and hostile to myself, turning it to my service rather than my disservice, and sometimes silencing it, stopping the stories that the left side loves to weave (and has to, to enable us to make sense of the world when we are missing information) to experience the right side. One thing she mentioned that stuck in my brain was the idea that emotions hold major sway for only 90 seconds, and that after that, we choose to continue them. We can decide if we want to hang on to emotions we don’t like, such as anger or resentment or fear. If we honor them and their place in our minds, and allow them to flood our circuitry with their emotional messages we can just let them flow away again. They do perform a motivating function; anger is not bad if it spurs you to action, but it is not necessary to dwell in it. Obviously if there is a present danger fear is motivating and good but I wonder how much I fear that really isn’t dangerous. How many terrible things did I lay awake in fear of, did I genuinely suffer, that either didn’t happen, or did happen but I’ve mostly forgotten them. It’s a really good book. You should read it. I borrowed it from my dad but I’m going to buy a copy for myself. If you want, you could do the same or I’ll lend it to you.

At the very least it’s inspirational how she took a devastating injury to her mind, that left her at first unable to speak or understand, to read or walk, and not only survived, but mined the experience for insights into the care and treatment of stroke victims (she lists what she needed and what was and wasn’t helpful) in addition to her more universally applicable findings.

Phew, Back Down to Earth

Yes, for our inspirational eye candy (and insight into AngloAm’s world) here are two pictures that I hope you will like.

The first is of Danny, who sells me my morning latte at a chain coffee place of which which I’m sure you can guess the name. He’s super friendly to customers in addition to being cute as a button. I did feel awfully embarrassed taking this picture. He’s going to have a daughter this spring. I think he could be a model with some work.

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And for a really inspirational image here’s Roman the Czech after winning at Beijing (I think). Imagine how it felt to work and train and compete in front of a world wide crowd and succeed. I think in that moment he was right-brained after all the left-brained planning. Just imagine how he feels, the smoothness of the shirt, the warm sweatiness of his heaving chest, the ripples of his muscle….Ed: AngloAm meant how he feels on the inside, not what it would feel like to feel Mr. Šebrle. Your editor apologizes for his getting carried away with himself but is sure the gentle reader understands.)

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(Czech him out – yes, you knew I would say that at some point, didn’t you?)

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Halfway Through

We’re halfway through the weekend and it’s been an eventful one. Friday was a big glum. I lazed off working out which was a big mistake. However, our regularly scheduled activity, dinner with friends, was cancelled and that always throws me off. I don’t ‘do’ change. However, I put the time to good use, watching TV . I did catch up on one of the episodes of Chuck on my DVR, as well as this past week’s Real Housewives of New York. I do love me my Housewives. If anyone’s interested, I comment on them on Friends of Reality TV.  I think they’re fun. But oh, did I overeat, in a spirit of rebelliousness, at the crack chicken joint. Thing is they have great fried rice, but I keep ‘forgetting’ that they put rice under the carne asado, so that’s a double starch whammy. Oh, and the left-over cake at work didn’t help. I hate it when people bring in cake like they did for the day before’s going away luncheon. And this was good cake too with proper butter cream icing, not that fluffy coloured Cool Whip. I love it but I hate it. I’m glad it’s all gone.

Today dawned, I guess, early. Not bright because it’s been dull and rainy all day. C and I went to Panera for brekkies, another bit of a mistake as I had one of their breakfast souflées which are full of fat. Notice a pattern here? I went off to the gym to work out, pretty eager actually, but when I got there I couldn’t find my water bottle. Rather than risk a cramp, I basically lazed off with some good reason and came back to Panera where C was waiting.

We had a…discussion…about some issues, and it wasn’t all that pretty for a while, but we got back to our usual loving selves in pretty good time. I’m so glad because I really feel desolate inside when I squabble with him. And this one was a bit longer than usual. 😦 At least it wasn’t in public.

Then it was off to one of three garden centers to get some plants for around the garden. C loves gardening and I love the results. Bob is proving his worth daily. C’s feet were muddy as heck from the first place (Patuxent Nursery) in Bowie, Maryland, and the new rubber floor mats work like champs – when the weather gets warmer we’ll just pop them out and hose them off. The only fly in the ointment is that the pins keeping them in place are a bit delicate so we’ve to be careful putting them in and taking them out. The plants he bought there (candytufts and…something) fit in the back and the rubber mat there would have kept things tidy or at least cleanable if they tipped.

Then through the back roads (Patuxent Bridge Road if you’re local) to snobbier Homestead Gardens in well-heeled Davidsonville, Maryland. There are some huge homes in Davidsonville; the median price is about $330,000, which means that half of the houses there cost more. It’s sort of faux-farm country, with horsey type people looking down out of gigantic windows onto their massive lots, and hoping the maid will come soon so they don’t have to clean the whole place themselves. Homestead’s prices are easily twice Patuxent’s, but they have a bigger selection (by a tiny bit) and a non-gardeners’ parking area (a small coffee shop).

We had lunch in Crofton at a new kebab house. It’s okaaay, but I’m not in a hurry to go back. The servings are small, the kofta kebab was overly spiced and the whole thing has repeated on me since.

We’ve never found a place to rival Espiokababs. Back story: ‘Gourmet Shish Kebab’ in Laurel was run by an Iraqi couple and it is fantastic. The food is oh so good, the servings generous, the selection enormous. Mmmmm it was a treat! However, that whacky Iraqi was recently arrested and pled guilty to being an undisclosed agent for the government of Saddam Hussein, and facilitated shady meetings of Iraqi officials, which may have taken place at the table next to us (although I never noticed). So I’m on the horns of a dilemma.

On the one hand, I should boycott the place because, well, he was an enemy spy. And my dad says, though I’ve been unable to verify, that some of the information could have been used in attacks on Army bases here in the US (like where I work) since he apparently went to Fort Belvoir to ‘sneak around.’ I wonder though – he was excessively fat and immobile working the register; I don’t think I ever saw him move.

On the other hand, as somebody on urban spoon pointed out, espionage kinda lends an air of authenticity to a Middle Eastern restaurant. And of course, his wife owns the place and he pled guilty in a plea bargain. If he gets deported back to Baghdad (ironic, huh?) I guess it will close. That’s supposed to happen quite soon. So we shall see. But the food really was good.

From there across the county and through Laurel (stopping at the Sports Authority to buy a new water bottle and some new shoes for C) to Behnke’s Nursery in Beltsville. It’s a sort of mid-range place, but it’s got an awfully loyal following.

On the way home I swung by Starbucks for a latte and (more of the pattern) an expresso fat bomb brownie. Home to a nap, from six to nine. So far, unsurprisingly, I’ve not felt hungry for dinner. Which is good since I don’t have the points for it! I daren’t have any snacks tonight, not even my usual Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich. I’ve only myself to blame though. This posting things on the web is really working to keep me if not honest, then at least partially so.

But all is not beer and skittles

So let’s all keep the parents of the world in our prayers and thoughts. They’ve a tough job and no instruction booklet.

Today’s eye candy

Is Cowboy Matus Valent. I don’t think there are many cowboys in Slovakia so he’s adapted well to his new surroundings:

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(I’d definitely save a horse, wouldn’t you?)

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Back

Back to work, back to routine, back to reality. Not that that’s always so bad.

Ringing it in

I had the best New Years I’ve had in ages, perhaps because it was so low key. C & I went to our good friends’ house and from there to a nice Italian restaurant. Back at their place, we had a nice time, a sedate bottle of champers, and some nice conversation. We didn’t stay late mostly because it’s a 48 mile drive back across the bay from Kent Island, Maryland, where they live.

Since Then

Well since then we’ve done very little, except now that the new year’s here, and getting going, we’re a lot more busy. I guess that’s a good thing. Mum and dad are in Florida for their peregrination annual, although whether or not they eventually move there is up in the air. If the cold damp of today, and the threats of icing tonight are a harbinger of a cold wet winter, I can’t blame then for moving; could you?

Dinner last night at a really nice Peruvian chicken house, I swear they put crack in their roast pollo a la brasa. Mmmm yuca too. For the Friday night gathering we splurged on AYCE Korean barbecue (Ill Mee) in Annandale; bulgogi, kalbi, ddukbogi, jon, sushi, all delicious. I love Korean food. I must get around to making budaejigae some day. Yeah, yeah, I know – I’ve been saying that for ages.

But It is Really Cold Outside

Do you think Chris Evans could melt you like he did this ice?

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Yeah, yeah, I know – crappy segue. That’s what comes from being tired, cranky, and sometimes, being me is enough. Ah well. I did 60 minutes on the treadmill, I am (trying) to download some more episodes of ‘The Real Housewives of Orange County’ (God I envy them their weather, but not the raccoon eyes (Vicky) or the leathery skin, immobile bo-toxed eyebrows and fat collagen lips (all of ’em).) (I bet they’d envy my winning ways with parenthetical remarks (don’t you think?).)

And Introducing

Our newest ‘mini’ obsession although model Matus Valent, from Slovakia, is hardly a tiny bite of a bloke. Here he is in a tribute to James Bond, in honor, I guess of “Quantum of Solace” or something. Who cares, right – he’d give anyone a view to a thrill...click on the thumbnails to make our big boy even bigger! enjoy the full set of shots at full size because I can’t figure out how to make them thumbnails.

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(Excuse the cheezy quote from the picture source and who’d like to blow his…bubble?)

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On the Down Curve

Yes, on the down curve from the Christmas crazies. Christmas Day at my brother and sister-in-law’s house was actually pretty good. I’m terribly shy and she had her brother (and wife and two kids) and her other brother, plus her parents and mine; there were a lot of people I didn’t know. That normally spells trouble and social awkwardness – yes even at 43 I am not gracious and at ease with people I don’t pc250081know. I’m always jealous of people who are, but there you go. S-I-L’s brother ‘I’ was a lot of fun to talk to (and cute in a fur-bally goofy kind of way) and her even-younger brother ‘R’ was also okay to talk to but perhaps a bit reserved. Or stand-offish. I guess when you’re 26 it’s not much fun to be sat next to an old fat fairy, but he was pleasant enough. I’m a bit jealous of ‘I’ as he works in a field that interests me greatly – environmental way finding.

The dinner was nice, but my brother had to go to the Emergency Pediatric Center with my niece who was feeling poorly but all turned out well in the end. Here’s a picture of her with my S-I-L preparing the repast.

Boxing Day we got together at my parents house for a substitute Christmas. It was okay. This was the day when we exchanged presents.

How was your loot? I got some great movies, a really good book about one of my favourite artists, Piet Mondrian, a lovely hand-crocheted blanket and some really good gift cards, among other things. I hope that everyone I gave to was pleased. I had the most fun shopping for my niece and nephew. If you’re guessing from my lack of enthusiasm that I was not, well, enthusiastic about this Christmas, you’re right. The bright points were seeing my family, meeting my S-I-L’s family and spending not one but two parties with friends. It’s people that count, really. Although I do have to admit, C & I are shopping around for a digital photo frame! (Any suggestions?)

Back to Work

pa240007And Monday’s Weight Watcher’s weigh in. I skipped last week’s. Bad move. I gained three pounds in two weeks. Yikes. I didn’t go tonight (scared I’d make a fool of myself, etc., etc., etc., the same old BS story) but I’d better go tomorrow evening. After all, the sweat and eye candy are calling, no? Work was interesting. Our birthday boy, CH, here, is ‘in pb170063charge’ but even he couldn’t stop an operation order I wrote from being plagiarized shamelessly by another command, and sloppily too (they didn’t even change a thing, including my freaking name and contact details). I reported it and can’t wait to see what will happen next. Speaking of happenings at Fort Meade, here’s a shot from fall of when a dignitary (we think President Bush) visited the base, landing on the parade field outside my office building (and kicking everyone out of their parking lots). It might have been Dick Chaney, too, but none of the Secret Service agents seemed to get their faces blown off and we weren’t sucked into the molten heart of hell, so it probably wasn’t. Who do you think it was? It’s still the lovely, quiet “interweek” when we have little or no adult supervision (shhh don’t tell CH who thinks he’s got some power or other). The only downside is that come a week from today (Monday) management will be back with all the bright ideas they’ve cooked up at home, away from the office and reality, and we will have to gently, respectfully, kindly, explain to them how useless they are. Oh for patience. Or for infinite sick leave!

Speaking of Landings

Please watch this as you consider the daily dose of news about the ‘humanitarian situation’ in Gaza. Imagine it were your children playing at a school event when an air-raid like drill goes off and they have to run for their lives. Now imagine the world told you that your country doing anything at all to defend you and your little ones from this was an act of condemnable cruelty. That you, essentially, should put up with it, more, that you should trust the people doing this to you. Would you? Would you care one tinker’s dam what the rest of the world said when your kids were under missile attack?

Phew, We Need to Change the Mood

If only because nobody’s shelling us at the moment. What might lift our spirits is our current obsession, Mr. Chris Evans himself. Here he is in a sort of reverse of the shot from Christmas, still needing to be unwrapped, slowly (it’s too nice a job to rush):

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And Not to Forget Rafael Calomeni

Who’s apparently stepped, shivering and dripping, from the pool and is towelling himself off for us…

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(He is definitely ready for his close-up)

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This is Getting Ridiculous!

A whole bloody week, and what’s more, one in which I had some, a great deal even of free time.

Honestly. You all will start thinking I have dropped off the ends of the earth.

Events!

Not many during the week; boss out most of it, back only Thursday. The First Army Division East Christmas Social was that evening, but I didn’t go. I just never seem to fit in in those kinds of things, and sort of sit, awkwardly, without knowing what to say. Plus it was pot-luck and volunteers to clean up afterwards were sought. Not my idea of a jolly evening. The next day was very quiet around the office, as everyone was out, except me and one co-worker, who left at noon. I got some work done, generally in preparation for my micromanaging boss tomorrow.

pentax_me_superNow, C’s work involves irregular hours and he’d been late (11:30 pm) on Wednesday, and early (out the door before seven) on Thursday, and late Thursday too, so by Friday I was really dragging…we decided not to go out with the chums that evening, and I was in bed by seven and out like a light by seven oh five. Oh my. Saturday we did some errands, including stopping off by my parents house. My dad is ‘downsizing’ and was giving me an old camera – a Pentax ME Super, with three lenses and all sorts of extras (no flash though; bummer). I love digital photography but there’s something so appealing about the mechanical goodness, the whirrs and thunks and gearing and chunkiness of an old-fashioned honest machine like a 35-mm SLR. Heck I still love that 1957 Voightlander for its heft, as much as I love my pocket Olympus digital for its convenience. Yes waiting for the films back from the shop is murder but there you go. Sometimes, anachronism must be embraced, don’t you think?

After that we zipped across the bay bridge to K&D’s house for their Christmas party. It was lovely, even if we did wind up staying until three in the morning. Eeep! We didn’t bring our presents to exchange which may have been a mistake in the end; we got such lovely things from our friends. KW’s brother and sister in law even gave us a set of toasting flutes for our wedding present, engraved with our names and everything. I was quite touched and taken aback by their kindness; by everyone’s kindness. KW hand crocheted us matching blankets for our Christmas and K&D gave us a Bodum borosilicate glass insulated caraffe – I love the Bodum line – the double layers insulate everything so well, that you don’t have to preheat for hot liquids or chill for cold. And the glass is so smooth to the touch. Our friend CK gave us a wonderful coffee press, timer and coffee set which is great as press coffee is really the best flavour for non-expresso coffee. Somehow the flavour of the beans gets really nicely extracted in a press. Yummy. And my Godson gave me a Kitkat bar. See, when he was a babe in arms, I bought him a kitkat bar and for the longest time that was all he would eat. 🙂 Awwww. He’s a good kid. Mostly.

Upcoming Events!

Well, Christmas is coming up, that’s clear. I wish I could feel about it now the way I did when I was a young ‘un. I used to have such trouble dropping off to sleep Christmas Eve. It seemed as if all in the world that was new and exciting and fun was about to burst forth and it was so frustrating that I had to sleep and wait for it. Wait? Sleep? When Santa Claus was going to come into my house, when we were to have a brush with magic and dreams – my parents wanted me to sleep??!!?? Then, when I was old enough, I’d wake up so early, before dawn, and go downstairs to where the tree was, miraculously surrounded by all these presents, in shiny wrapping, so perfect, so still, so pregnant with all the goodies and secrets that were about to burst forth as soon as they were opened. I’d turn on the tree lights and sit, so still that I could hear the little switches at the base of each bulb make it’s delicate tiny almost inaudible sound as it illuminated or extinguished its light above, dancing from burst to bust as if by a secret choreography that served only to highlight the restrained perfection of all that life, all that magic, held inside by sheets of paper. Everything was perfect at that point for me and I’d sit, hushed, awed, at the sight. Of course, once you opened the present, you had the toy to play with, or the book to read, or the cassette (yes!) to listen to, but before the paper was ripped aside, there could be anything there, and that anticipation, that cataloguing of all the possibilities, that quivering just before the knowledge that would open one door and shut all the others, was something I always wanted to hold on to, just quietly, just by myself.

Now I know how the presents get there, how the decisions about what to buy are made according to an internal budget, sometimes in rushed frustration, sometimes, better, in considered thoughtfulness, but when you know, there’s no mystery. I know how they are wrapped, and that on one, terribly grown up level, it’s pointless for me to give C a gift as our money is pooled and he could probably find something better himself, that it’s silly to wrap something Christmas eve when it’s just going to be ripped apart in a few hours, I know all that, and I am glad to be grown up and able to give, rather than receive presents, able to decide, rather than wait to see what was decided, but still…the best gift would be to be five or six again, and hear perfection in the muted chink of electric lights and see a million futures in the reflections in the wrapping paper and ribbons.

That would be the best gift. But if you want to see my amazon gift list, there are some good consolation prizes you could give me.  Tee hee!

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Speaking of Unwrapping

Our obsession Chris here is half-unwrapped (in a shot from ‘The Fantastic Four’); who’d like to finish the job? Meanwhile, these shots of Rafael Calomeni, still enjoying a lovely time in warm Brasil, should help those of us in the chilly mid-Atlantic, or the frozen parts of the country, stay toasty.

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(Don’t they both heat you up?)

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