Friday, January 28, 2005

I'm Quitting Smoking This Weekend

Okay, this is it. I am quitting smoking for the third and final time. I started smoking when I was about 12. However, I didn't smoke on a daily basis until I was in college. With smokers as roommates, someone was always smoking. My dad found out when I was 19 and my mom when I was 20. My sisters both smoke, as does my father.

This is the third serious attempt and the final one. The first time I quit, I used the patch and quit from June to October. I allowed myself to slide back. Working at the university, a lot of students smoked, so it was something I could use to build a connection. Plus, my best friend came in for a weekend of recovery after her breakup with this nasty boyfriend of hers. I would call it sympathy smoking. Smoking again wasn't anyone's fault but mine. Second time I quit was last year. I had Zyban for 3 months, the patch for about a month and fiddled with an on-line support group. I quit from December 2004 until June 2005 (almost 7 months). I somehow thought I could be a social smoker. I don't know what I was thinking. And my rapid descent into smoking occurred again.

But, this time there is no going back until I'm 70 years old.

Why is this time different? First, my doctor says if I don't quit before I turn 35 she is not prescribing me any more birth control pills. That's a little more than 4 years away from. Secondly, I am feeling crappy. I've gained 10 pounds since last year. I checked out the weight charts -- I was 10 pounds less at this exact time of year last year. This prescription (Zyban) is supposed to also help you lose weight. I am tired a lot. Third, it's cold outside. It's 11 degrees Fahrenheit today. Since I can't smoke in my office or my house, that puts me out in the weather and it's bitter. Fourth, I just don't want to be a smoker any more. I feel like my clothes smell, my car smells, and my breath smells. I've been coughing up a little phloem. (I know that it is disgusting, but if I can't be honest here where can I be.) I also don't feel the relaxation any more. I feel anxious about finding a place to smoke everywhere I go. It's just not worth it.

So, my official quit day is Sunday. I started my Zyban as I was supposed to. (I am a bit annoyed that the pharmacist didn't give me the booklet that I know comes with the box. Hopefully, my memory served me well.) I have the patches. I've told my family and friends. Tomorrow, I clean out the car. Wipe down the windshield and windows on the inside. I am also dropping off a ton of dry cleaning tomorrow and "febreezing" everything I wear. My sisters have quit -- one because she's pregnant. My dad is cutting back and attempting to quit.

So, please send positive vibes my way. I am always happy for more assistance.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Update on Fridge Situation

Well, I had to order a new fridge. My sister brought her five day cooler over and we filled it with everyone salvageable from the refrigerator and freezer. I gave her some stuff to refreeze. I put the cooler outside since it's all of six degrees today.

I then called my dad to talk refrigerators. Of course, another problem. Nothing decent will fit. I wanted a fridge with energy star rating and with ice and water in it. I measured and remeasured every inch of the space available. We discussed the fact that only a side-by-side would work because there's so little space in that kitchen. Dad finally found one fridge that would fit. I have no idea how they are going to get it into the kitchen or get the old one out. It's crazy. But for $40, the company will remove my old fridge and install my new one. Money well spent.

One up side to all this, my aunt offered to buy the fridge as a birthday present. So, at least, it's not going to cost me anything. She's very generous. And I really appreciate it. I had no idea where I was going to come up with $500.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Bad luck is raining down on me...

Once again, I wonder if there is some evil plot in the universe out to get me. The past 2 days have reminded me that I have absolutely no control over so many things in my life.

First bad item...I stumbled out of bed at 6:45 a.m. (I am not a morning person!) I fumble for my glasses. I then went into the kitchen to feed Duchess (my cat). She is on scheduled feedings at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Good thing I wore the glasses. There-next to her bowl-is this puddle of water. It looked strange. And I looked up to the ceiling - no leak. I examined the dishwasher area - too far away. So, I shrugged it off. Maybe W, the roomie, dropped a couple of ice cube and didn't realize it. I dropped some towels on top of the puddle and left for work. No idea.

Well ladies and gentleman, that wasn't it. I arrived home last evening with a few bags from the grocery. Fifty dollars worth of groceries -- most refrigerated and frozen items, including ice cream. I glance into the kitchen only to discover the puddle is back. I move the cat's dishes and feed her first. I know it's crazy to deal with her first, but it keeps her occupied. I note the slight reddish tint to the water and it's closeness to the freezer. I began to mumble to myself that this could not possibly be happening. Yet, it did.

The freezer had almost completely defrosted itself and the refrigerator wasn't very cold. The pounds of pork chops and salmon I just bought earlier this month at costs - defrosted. Ice cream - soft. And of course, I had the groceries that I just bought. So, I clean up the water with towels. I open the freezer and wiped out the blood. (Those so-called "freezer bags" are crap. They should not have leaked.) Then, I called my parents to ask about how to know if the fridge was completely shot or not. I also inquired about Dad's discount on refrigerators. Mom asked what had in the fridge and said that all those pork chops had to be cooked. They cannot be refrozen.

I messed with the controls inside the fridge. I put it on the coldest settings. Realizing the front grate on the bottom was loose, I sat down on the floor to reattach it. That's when I noticed that there was a lot of nasty dust stuff accumulated under there. So, I check my "how-to" books on refrigerators. As usual, they aren't real helpful. However, two of them talked about maintaining the fridge by cleaning the coils twice a year. Who knew? So, I reached under there and pulled the majority of the dust out from under there. So, now what to do now? I lean against the freezer -- I can hear the whizzing of the motor. The fan is on. I have no idea if these are bad or good things.

I pulled out all the pork chops I could see and proceeded to bake 8 of them. Then, I removed all the magnets, papers, and assorted junk off the fridge. I moved the fridge around to clean the floor underneath. Then, I got the cooler out, filled it with ice and put the most expensive items in the cooler and set it outside. Since it was below 30 degrees last night, I figured the ice wouldn't melt.

I checked on the fridge when I got up this morning. The ice cubes in the freezer have refrozen. So, it's working again. But for how long - I have no idea. And why it defrosted - I have no idea. So, now the dilemma, do I buy a new fridge or just pray this one makes it another two years? I was planning to replace the entire kitchen, including all of the appliances in two years. I think I am just going to commit now to a new one. But, how annoying.

Second bad luck item ... I keep a small badge holder on my desk. I usually have some change and my badge in it. Sometimes, I throw a dollar or two in there for sodas. Yesterday, I went to the ATM and withdrew $40. I spent about $6 on lunch and put the change back in it. I then forgot to put the money in my wallet. I didn't realize it until I had left the office. When I arrived this morning, the money was gone. This means someone between yesterday afternoon and this morning came into my cube, looked inside the badge holder, and stole $34 from me. How freaky.

So, now I am waiting for the proverbial other shoe to fall. Bad luck always comes in threes. What is next? I am almost scared to find out.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Movie Reviews - "National Treasure"

I saw "National Treasure" over the weekend. Good flick.

Important to note: If you work in D.C. for the federal government, you will be irritated by some of the inconsistencies. Things you know would never happen in D.C. But, it isn't too bad.

It's more Indiana Jones than anything else. Not a deep movie. Don't try to think about it too much or it will annoy you to death. But, it's a grand adventure.

It has just a shake of romance. And some funny parts.

I would recommend it. 3 out of 5 stars.

Inauguration 2005 - How Ridiculous!

Inauguration 2005 is simply the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. Bush talks a good game about terrorists and spending the tax payer's money wisely, but it's all talk.

So, the inauguration is going to cost the District government @$14 million in security. While all the past presidents have covered these costs, this administration is saying - "no, you pay for it." They actually told them to take it out of the Homeland Security funding they received last year. Now, for some reason, the administration doesn't understand that this funding was already set aside for other projects. Protecting people and the city for a bunch of parties for three days seems to be a waste of their funds when they could be making real, significant changes to District security.

And did you have any idea of the incidential costs that noone ever talks about. All non-essential federal employees are getting a holiday on Thursday -- that costs about $63 million dollars (correction from 1/2 million) alone. This means that many contractors and other people who work with the federal employees are off that day, too. More lost income.

Traffic is another annoying side effect of this inaugaration. The streets are going to be a mess. They are actually starting some of the closings tonight (two days before). They are practically closing the downtown area of the district to all non-residents and non-VIPs.

And why are we having these parties? They have been cancelled before. One president cancelled because of a death in his family. And now more than ever the parties seem extravagant and unnecessary. He won - swear him in again and let's move on. Why do they have to have another inauguration for the same man? I say at this point if you win a second term, you don't get an inauguration with all the trappings.

Especially now. With the tsunami, the Iraqi war and all the other hardships in the world, now would be a good time to show reverence, to show empathy, and to show the world we are serious people. To waste time and money on these events annoys me to death. Why can't we just get on the business of running this country? Does he not have enough to do?

I swear it's going to be a long four years.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Works sucks....

I almost fear typing this here, but I know my team lead doesn't know computers well enough to ever figure this out.

I swear she makes me crazy. I have been on vacation for two weeks. I left her with all the paperwork. I come back and she has looked at barely half of it.

She waits to the last minute to get it done and then martyrs herself with "I didn't even have lunch today." Well whoopee for you. It annoys the crap out of me.

I know she has dyslexia and I know she doesn't enjoy reading. But it is a part of the job and if she wants to be nitpick about the paperwork, then she needs to do some of it herself.

It's even worse when we are down to the wire. Because then she wants to do it together. I can't stand it when she wants to go over things together. Really that means she wants to stand over my shoulder and watch me type it. Then, while we are doing it, she hyms & haws about what she wants. "What do you think," she says. What I finally usually end up saying is "I really don't care. I just want it done." By the time she gets around to anything, I feel I've been forever on it and I'm tired of waiting. I just want to chain her to her desk and make her work on the paperwork.

It's frustrating. We have a very important class we are teaching tomorrow, using a new room, new software and new manuals. We've never taught this material before and I personally would have liked more time to prepare. Instead I spent my day helping her do to same damn report that we do every two months. Now, mind you that I updated it before I left, so my sections have been ready for weeks. Is there a reason she didn't work on this while I was gone? I have not a clue. Of course, she's the martyr, so she's going to work on her sections of the class at home. Again, whoopee for her.

But, my job is not my life. It does not define me. I don't get paid to work at home and therefore I don't. I have plenty of things to keep me busy in my own life. I can wing it for class.

I just am so annoyed with her.

Work sucks, but I'll always have Paris!

I hate work sometimes.

I am going to try to keep my vacation glow.

Paris 2005 - Bonne Annee. Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Paris for New Year's Eve

I spent New Year's Eve in Paris, France. What a city. Paris is beautiful. The people are friendly. The food was superb. I enjoyed myself.

So, if you have never been there, here's a few observations --

Tourists -- I wonder if these people look in the mirror and think how silly they look. With their big cameras around their necks and their guidebooks always out, they are just begging to be made fun and robbed. I can't believe how easy most of them were to spot.

It was interesting to watch people and try to figure out where they were from. Sometimes, it was too easy. I ran into the "Ugly American" tourist at the Moulin Rouge. She and her family had been seated at a decent table and she is yelling halfway across the place at the waiter that they weren't happy with their seats. First, they were good seats. Second, she couldn't get up and find someone to talk to. She was a bit ridiculous.

Another American couple I ended up talking with were asking my friend and I about seeing things in Paris. We urged them to get the Museum Pass. They said "we aren't museum people." They didn't intend to see any museums in Paris, not even the Louve. I was a bit appalled. I don't think they will get any idea of what Paris is like without seeing some museums. I don't know what they planned to see and do in Paris if they didn't see some museums. I urged them to at least check out the Rodin Museum and the Pantheon, along with Notre Dame and St. Chappelle, all of which are part of the pass.

Couples -- Is there something in the water there? Everywhere we went, there were couples making out. And it wasn't a quick peck on the cheek. It was as if everyone was wanting to recreate that Robert Dussiane (sp?) photo.

Porn vs. Art -- At the Pompidou, there was a photogragh called "F**k" or something like that. Let's just say there is no way for a person to ever see themselves like this naturally. It was a shot from the bottom up, let's just say. It was just over the line for me. I didn't find it interesting or sensual. I found it vulgar. I would not want any child of mine (if I had any) to see it. For adults, it definitely was a conversation piece.

However, the Rodin Museum provided a multitude of sculptures that showed such sensuality. They were love and passion. "The Eternal Idol" left me breathless and I just kept going back to it. It was so full of life. The passion exuded from the sculpture just made you to study every curve of the two bodies, every hair on their heads, and the lines of the legs. I truly was moved.

Museums -- Paris has done an amazing job of insuring that each museum houses the appropriate art. For example, the Picasso Museum building feels like Picasso, with its odd shaped hallways and rooms. Not a huge fan, but I did enjoy his cat sculpture. The Museum of Medieval Art has a castle feel to it, with the guard walls to protect it. The Unicorn tapestries kept here are just beautiful. The Pompidou is very modern with all its infrastructure (water, air, etc...) on the outside. D'Orsay is housed in an old railway station which is truly beautiful. It has a good collection, allowing you to get a feel for an artist.

The Louve -- Supposedly the most intimidating (and as a result the most avoided) museum in the world. It was big and at first may seem intimidating. However, I spent about 4 hours there and felt I saw everything I needed to see. I am not a "museum person" - in that I don't understand a lot of art terms and have no real art appreciation background. But, I know what I like and what moves me. I enjoy sculpture as a medium above all else, so I focused on the major sculptures. I did see the Mona Lisa -- a most disappointing experience. It's much smaller than I expected. I actually saw another DaVinci painting, which I felt the woman was even more mysterious than the Mona Lisa. The Hermaphidite reclining sculpture was also interesting. I would suggest that everyone see part of the Louve -- it is an amazing collection of art.

The museums overall do a great job with tourists. Most offer these information boards in several languages that tell you about the exhibit. I found them extremely useful.

New Year's in Paris -- Fireworks and festivities were fun. However, everything is ferme (closed) on the first. Many restaurants aren't even open. This made things difficult. I would definitely recommend either arriving the day before, partying hard and sleeping most of the day or leaving on the first, rather than planning a holiday with that day in the middle.

What May Surprise Americans about Paris - The food and seats on Air France are actually good. The hotel rooms are smaller than in the U.S. You can also get rooms with single beds. There is what Americans would consider porn on the hotel channels. Every shop and restaurant you will normally be greeted with Bonjour (hello). The waiters are not overly attentive. They leave you in peace and don't rush you through your meal. However, sometimes that mean you have to wave them down when you need something helpful. Lots of dishes come with eggs -- read carefully. People do throw trash on the ground and Parisians don't always clean up after their dogs. However the street cleaners are very efficient. There will be people on the metro and in the metro stations with guitars, violins and other musical instruments asking for money. The metro is not difficult to take and it is very cheap. They do allow dogs on the metro and in restaurants. Around the holidays always check with concierge about what is open before trooping across town. The Moulin Rouge is a great show, but the girls are topless. It is not vulgar, it's almost as if it doesn't matter.

Overall, I highly recommend Paris as a place to visit. I know I will be going back during the spring or summer sometime in the future just to see the beautiful gardens.