Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Courtney the Curdmudgeon; Or, "Hey, Kids! Stop Touching My Rocks!"

As I telecommuter, I often work from the luxury of my living room couch.  Our living room is in the front of the house, and the couch is right next to a big window that overlooks our street.  I have a prime view of our front lawn, parkway, and all the neighborhood shenanigans. 

Our parkway (aka the strip of land between the street and the sidewalk) used to be a frightening mess of ivy.  It was disgusting and infested by who-knows-what.  We had the ivy removed and replaced with small white river pebbles.  

The neighborhood children, ages 2-7, are fascinated with the pebbles in front of my house.  They stop, stare, touch, scatter, kick, manhandle and steal my pebbles.  Overall, it does not matter.  The pebbles are in good condition and the parkway looks attractive, no matter how many children stop and steal.  Besides, childhood is such a precious, fleeting moment and children should be encouraged to enjoy nature and the wonders of the world.

But it still bugs the hell out of me.

I love children, but whenever I see a child crouching before my pebbles, I cringe.  I stop whatever I am doing and watch through the blinds.  I have to resist the urge to run outside and shout something like, "Hey you kid!  Get away from my rocks!" 

My reaction baffles me.  I sat on a crowded bus in Paris and exchanged silly faces with a Parisian five-year-old.  I worked at a summer day camp for four years not for the easy riches but because it was fun.  Once, in a hotel room in D.C., I let my best friend's baby sleep on top of me for over an hour, even though my need to use the bathroom was dire.  I just love children so much.

Except when they are stealing my freaking rocks.  STOP.  STEALING.  MY.  ROCKS.  Hey, kids, if you like my pebbles so much, I have an idea: grow up; get a job; and buy your own freaking rocks.  Seriously, you probably already have an iPhone, a video game system and a robot slave.  Must you steal my pebbles as well? 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Unsolicited Advice for Brides-to-Be: You Have to Send A Thank You Note ASAP, End of Discussion

Last summer, Nathan and I had our wedding, and it was just wonderful.  Now that I have planned a wedding and reception, I have opinions.  Lots of opinions.  I've decided to write a series of blog posts to immortalize my opinions. 

I'm writing these blog posts for my baby sister (who I call Spucky - it's a long story).  Someday, Spucky will get married.  And I will want to go into "Annoying Overly Opinionated Big Sister" mode and tell her everything I know about weddings.  But instead of making her listen to my inane ramblings, I will just tell her, "Hey, Spucky, I wrote some blog posts about weddings."  Then I can send her the link to the posts, and she can pretend she read and valued all my opinions.  It's a win-win: I get to share my opinions, and my little sister does not actually have to listen to them.   (Hey, Spucky: you're welcome).

First up: thank you notes.

Spucky, you have to send thank you notes ASAP.  I've heard some "etiquette experts" say that thank you notes just need to be sent within a year of the wedding.  This is bullshit.  Some lazy asshole bride made this rule up years ago to make herself feel better.

Don't be a lazy asshole bride.  Thank you notes must be sent within one month of receipt of the gift. 

These days, most gifts are delivered to your front door.  You need to send a thank you note so the gift giver knows the gift was not lost in the mail or stolen.  For example, I have not received a thank you note for a gift I sent to a bride and groom ten months ago, and I have no idea what happened.  I feel rude asking "hey, did you ever get that gift I sent you."   So, instead, I assume they are rude effers.  Seriously, I spent $100 on a gift - they need to take two minutes to send a card. 

If you have to write 100 thank you notes in one sitting, it's an overwhelming pain in the ass.  But your gifts will arrive on a rolling basis.  If you send out the thank you notes as the gifts arrive, then you will only have to write a few at a time.  Just keep your stationary, stamps and address labels in an easily accessible spot and make a habit of sending out thank you notes every two weeks.  You will be a Thank You Note Rock Star and everyone will think you are incredibly thoughtful and courteous.

Have fun with the thank you notes.  After my shower, I had to write about 25 thank you notes in one sitting (that was a pain in the ass).  I used Yoda thank you notes for some good friends who would appreciate the Star Wars humor. 

Make the decision early on to stay on top of the thank you notes, and they will never feel like a burden.  (Except after your shower, but a glass of wine and some Yoda thank you notes will ease that burden quickly).

Friday, January 27, 2012

Some Thoughts on Boring Books And The Game of Thrones Series

I love to read.  I used to force myself to finish every novel I started even if, after a few chapters, I hated the book and had no interest in how it ended.  Case in point: Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow.  A trusted friend insisted it was "significant" and "excellent."  These are my thoughts on Gravity's Rainbow: (1) I did not like it; (2) in fact, I hated it; (3) but I read all 700+ pages just because my friend had recommended it; and (4) I am no longer friends with that person.   

After Gravity's Rainbow, I adopted a new philosophy about my leisure reading: (1) I will only read fiction that I actually want to read; and (2) if the book sucks, I don't have to finish it.  I'm not an English professor, literary critic or publisher of avant garde literature.  There's no reason I should ever suffer through a misanthropic-existential-groundbreaking-tome.  (Unless the tome is written by a loved one - in which case, I will carefully weigh how much I love the author). 

Last summer, I started reading the Game of Throne fantasy series.  I devoured Book One (720 pages), Book Two (1040 pages) and Book Three (1216 pages).  I thought I had found a series that could fill the void in my heart left by Harry Potter.

I started Book Four (1104 pages) in the fall.  It was slow and disappointing, but I persevered because I loved the first three books so much. 

After I finished Book Four, I was angry at the book's editors.  The book was slow, boring and far too long.  Look, I've read and loved plenty of long books, but if you are going to publish a book that is more than a thousand pages long, it still needs to be interesting.  In fact, a 1000+ page book needs to be extra interesting in order to justify the time investment.  I realize the Game of Thrones series is popular and has been turned into a snazzy HBO series, but that doesn't mean the publisher gets to publish a boring bloated book.  Book Four should have been 500 or 600 pages, tops.  Instead, I slogged my way through 1104 pages of a snoozefest because the first three books were so damn good.

I started Book Five (1040 pages) in December.  From the beginning, I resented the book, the author, the editors and the criminal waste of paper (even though I was reading an electronic version!)  I kept trying to push through the book, but it felt like a homework assignment for my least favorite class. 

Around the 300 page mark, I broke up with the book.  As a fantasy novel, it's the book's job to keep my attention; it's not my job to stay interested in the book.  I used to feel like a failure when I stopped reading a book, but now I realize that I'm not the failure: the book/author/editor/publisher are the ones who have failed. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Franken-Toe Update: It's Time For My Toe To Stop Being Such A Diva

Last week, I had toenail surgery and my podiatrist removed an ingrown toenail (as described here).  I feel like a wimp saying I had "surgery," but apparently that's the official name for the procedure. 

Next week, I have a follow-up appointment.  Until then, I am supposed to soak my toe for fifteen minutes in a bath of lukewarm water and Epsom salts TWICE a day.  Then, I have to dry my foot and rub the recovering toe with a cotton ball to help the dead skin cells flake away; slather the toe with ointment; and then rebandage my toe with gauze.

For the first few days, I enjoyed the ritual of tending to my toe.  But it's been nine days, and seriously, I need my toe to stop being such a diva.

I soak my toe in the bathroom.  I am a very talented spiller, and I don't want a bowl of water sloshing all over the living room floor.  But this means I am trapped in the bathroom for fifteen minutes and I can't get anything done.  I realize that it's just fifteen minutes, but in the morning, when you are ready to start your day, fifteen minutes feels like an eternity.  And then, yippee, I get to do it all over again in the evening.

It's time for my toe to man up and heal already.  And why am I coddling it?  It decided to misbehave and get itself an ingrown nail, and now I'm supposed to give it two daily spa treatments?  The toe should be punished.  Instead of soaking it in Epsom salts, I should be whispering the word "amputation" and painting the toenail black so the other toes know that's the bad toe.  I should be soaking and massaging the nine good toes, not lavishing extra attention on my rogue Franken-toe.  

I think its time for Western medicine to adopt a new philosophy towards ingrown toenails.  Sometimes, the stick is more effective than the carrot.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Take Down Your Christmas Decorations! Immediately! If Not Sooner!

Every neighborhood has that house.  The house that has a car parked on the lawn, a pile of junk in the driveway, broken windows, and a tarp that has been on the roof since the 80s.  When those neighbors put up their Christmas decorations, you know Santa's plastic butt will still be sticking out of the chimney in July.

But this year, an egregious number of houses in my neighborhood are still decorated for Christmas.  Houses with well-manicured lawns and freshly painted shutters are still decorated as if it's December 24th.  PEOPLE, IT'S LATE JANUARY PUT AWAY YOUR DECORATIONS ALREADY.

I am willing to overlook the houses that leave up a strand of Christmas lights all year.  It does not matter how carefully you put away the lights: little demons will sneak into your garage and tie the strands into knots.  And putting up the lights is a dangerous task which can result in back injuries and/or divorce.  If a family decides to avoid these liabilities by keeping up the lights all year, more power to them.

But that doesn't mean you can leave a three foot Santa statue on your front porch all year.  And yes, red is the color of both Christmas and Valentine's Day, but Cupid is not interested in the plastic candy canes lining yor driveway.  PUT THE CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS AWAY.  If you have the time and energy to put the decorations out after Thanksgiving, then surely you can find a way to put them away no later than January 15th.  That's right, I am giving you until January 15th to put the decorations away.  I believe I am being very reasonable, even generous, with the January 15 deadline.  If you want to procrastinate for two full weeks after the ball drops at Times Square, have at it.  I will not judge you. 

But, if your lights are up after January 15, that is a Christmas Decorations FOUL and you will be cited by the Christmas Decorations Police.  Now, put your stockings and Christmas trees away before I get really mad. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tom Cruise: Why Did You Have to Jump On That Couch?

I recently saw Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol in IMAX.  It was a highly entertaining action film.  I'm so glad I saw it on the massive IMAX screen.  There were beautiful shots of Russia and Budapest (it felt like a National Geographic special at times); and the IMAX screen and sound system really shined during the action sequences.

But I didn't really care about seeing the movie.  I was perfectly willing to see it, but only after seeing the new Sherlock Holmes movie, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  If Mission Impossible had left theaters before I had a chance to see it, I would not have even noticed.

I blame Tom Cruise.

In May 2005, Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah's couch while declaring his love for Katie Holmes.  I don't follow celebrity gossip, but it was impossible to ignore the couch-jumping incident.  It creeped me out.

This is a shame, because (a) Tom Cruise can really act and (b) Tom Cruise tends to pick good scripts.  If he's in a movie, my involuntary reaction should be "I want to see that!"  But ever since the jumping-on-the-couch incident, I have the opposite reaction.  

Since Tom turned Oprah's couch into a trampoline, I've only seen two of his new releases, Valkyrie and MI.  Both were excellent. Valkyrie made me think about movies, history and storytelling for days.  MI was the ideal action film.  For these movies alone, I should be able to overlook Tom's crazy couch past.

But I'm not there yet.  Maybe I just need more time to heal.  In the meantime, I will just have to keep reminding myself that Tom Cruise the Couch Jumper is different and separate from Tom Cruise the Actor.

Why did he have to jump on that couch??

Monday, January 23, 2012

Important Driving Tip: Green Means Go

If you drive a car, then you presumably know the basic traffic rules.  And if you know the basic traffic rules, then you know that when the traffic signal changes from "red" to "green," that means it is time to ACCELERATE your vehicle and resume driving.

Right?  People do know this rule, right?  Because lately, I have been stuck behind a shocking number of drivers who just do not want to GO when the light turns green.  I don't want to overreact, but PEOPLE WHEN THE LIGHT TURNS GREEN, THAT MEANS IT IS TIME TO DRIVE YOUR FREAKING CAR, WHAT DO YOU WANT, AN ENGRAVED INVITATION TO CROSS THE INTERSECTION?  HOLY CRAP JUST MOVE YOUR FOOT FROM THE BRAKE TO THE ACCELERATOR AND DRIVE ALREADY.

(Excuse me, I need a drink).

I understand that sometimes there are reasons to ignore the green light: e.g. there's an approaching ambulance or fire truck; someone is still in the crosswalk; you just spotted Elvis across the street and you are too stunned to drive.

The following, however, are not valid reasons to hesitate when the light turns green:
  • You just need to finish typing the text message you are sending your boyfriend/paramour/best friend/boss/etc.
  • You do not like being the first car in the intersection, so you are waiting for someone else to take the initiative.
  • You can't remember which color means "go" - green?  yellow?  both at the same time?
If you are the lead car waiting at a red light, you have a serious responsibility: when the light turns green, you must accelerate as soon as it is safe to do so. 

Maybe you are just out for a leisurely drive.  Maybe you just like to do things are your own pace, and "your own pace" happens to be "really slowly."  Okay, I hear you.  I'm listening.  But guess what?  I DON'T CARE. 

If you are the lead car, and you wait an unreasonably long amount of time before accelerating, guess what happens?  Someone behind you, who should have made the light, doesn't.  And because you, Princess Slowpoke, failed in your moral responsibilities as a driver, that poor car behind you is going to get stuck sitting through another red light.

Forget speeding tickets.  I think the police should be authorized to issue "unnecessary delay at a green light" tickets.   

Friday, January 20, 2012

Wild Hog Hunting?

Do you have a gmail account?  Have you noticed the ads that appear in your inbox?  (Of course you have - they are impossible to ignore).

Have you noticed how the ads are related to the content of the emails you send?  Usually, I can see the connection between the ads and my emails.  When I was emailing about my wedding, I was bombarded with ads for wedding planners and florists.  When my friends email about their babies, I get ads for diapers and nannies.  

But sometimes, the ads make no sense.

Case in point, this ad recently appeared in my inbox: 

It's an ad for free wild hog hunting in Texas.  Because apparently, based on my email traffic, Google thinks I'm the sort of person who wants to go to Texas to hunt wild hogs. 

I don't think I can point out all the problems with this scenario, but I'll try:
  • This is an ad to go HUNTING.  Now, I might go hunting for the perfect pair of jeans or a new purse, but hunting for wild animals?  That will never happen.
  • But, if I were to go hunting, I would go hunting for a small animal, like a squirrel, a sparrow or a beetle.  I would not go hunting for a HOG.
  • But, if I had to go hunting for a hog, I would try to track down the tamed hog with the gimp leg that got out of its pen.  You know, the sort of friendly hog that likes to cuddle with humans.  But a WILD pig with tusks and foam at the mouth?  I'd rather go to Wal-mart on Black Friday.
  • But, if I woke up tomorrow and decided that I really need to go hunting for wild hogs, I would sign up for a very posh expedition.  I'm talking about the Four Seasons version of wild hog hunting.  I'm not going on some FREE trip with One-Eyed Bob and Crazy Harry.  A free wild hog hunting trip sounds like the premise for a horror movie.
  • Finally, the trip is in TEXAS.  Look, if Disneyland decided to set up a wild hog hunting attraction behind the Small World castle, I might be interested.  Or, if Bloomingdales decided to sponsor wild hog hunting trips in its Manhattan store, that might be cool.  But Texas?  As in, the state that is Most Likely To Secede In the Next Five Years?  How stupid do I look?
For future reference, I am not interested in any free wild hog hunting trips in Texas. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Perils of Organizer's High

I am a messy person who likes things to be tidy and organized.  Yes, I realize I'm the definition of "oxymoron."  Why do you think you need a "moron" to spell the word?

In my house, it's always time for spring cleaning.  There's always a closet or cupboard in dire need of a good purging.  And, once a closet or cupboard has been purged, it's only a matter of time before Courtney's Second Law of Messiness kicks in: I'm good at organizing and tidying a messy space; but I am terrible at keeping a tidy and organized space clean.

Most recently, the space where we store all of our bathroom/medicine supplies reached the breaking point.  It was no longer possible to find the Nyquil or a freaking band-aid.  It took ninety minutes, but I conquered and organized the mess.  (In the process, I found a package of allergy medication that had expired in 2002.  Shameful). 

When I was done, I had Organizer's High, which is like runner's high but without the sweat.  I felt energized and ready to conquer any mess.  I wanted to keep that satisfying feeling of organizing a messy space.  What should I organize next?  The garage?  The basement?  I can organize anything!

Fortunately, I've had Organizer's High before and I am familiar with its symptoms - and consequences.  Although Organizer's High feels good, it is actually a dangerous condition that should be recognized as a temporary psychological disorder.  The high you get from organizing and purging a messy space makes you want to keep organizing and purge more crap.  But if you purge too much during a 24 hour period, mistakes get made.

Learn from my mistakes.  I have donated bags of old clothes that were ready to go to Goodwill and then, while flying on endorphines/hormones/whatever, I decided to reckon with my shoes.  Yes, the Mountain of Shoes needed to be tamed.  But I razed the mountain into a sand castle and many good pairs of shoes were lost.

Excuse me while I take a moment to mourn my lost shoes.  Oh, my black Uggs with the little black gemstones!  So impractical and stupid for a woman who lives in Southern California; and yet, so wonderful and cozy and warm for running errands on a chilly day.  Black Uggs, I don't know where you are, but I hope someone is treating you well.   

The next time you embark on a spring cleaning project, please, beware the perils of Organizer's High.  It might feel good to purge while you are in the moment, but eventually, you will regret recycling your great-grandmother's wedding album.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Check out my Franken-toe:

About two months ago, my big toe started to bother me.  The toe felt a little sensitive and tender.  Sometimes, if I went on a long walk and wore the wrong shoes, it hurt.  The toe was a little red and the toenail looked irritated, but I decided to ignore the situation.  I have a tendency to overreact to injuries, and I did not want my inner hypochondriac to get the upper hand.

But last week, my toe developed a new symptom.  I'll spare you the gory details, but let's just say it involves the word "ooze." Said oozing got my attention. 

Yesterday, I had an appointment with a podiatrist.  I felt like such a wimp because the toe did not look that bad.  I even apologized to the nurse as he set me up in my room!  The podiatrist was probably going to laugh at my toe and tell me to stop being a hypochondriac.

Instead, the podiatrist said I had an ingrown toenail and the infected nail had to be removed.  Yay!  Hallelujah!  Validation!  I was not overreacting.  The toe needed medical attention! 

I was very calm and relaxed for the procedure.  The doctor gave me three or four shots to numb the toe.  Then, he started to remove the toenail and SON OF A BITCH IT REALLY HURT.  But, I was determined to be mature, so I just winced.

The doctor, however, noticed my "wince."  (Okay, it was more like an "overdramatic grimace meant to get the doctor's attention.")  He asked if I was feeling "pain or pressure."  When I said it was quite painful, he said, "Why aren't you hollering and kicking?  You need another shot."  As he gave me another dose of something, he explained that sometimes the infection resists the numbing agent.  (I'm sure he used a medical term, but I wasn't paying close attention seeing as he was sticking me with a needle and I don't like needles especially ones that are being stuck into my body).   

The podiatrist started the procedure a second time, and again, HOLY CRAP IT REALLY HURT.  The doctor decided to give the numbing agents a few more minutes to take effect.  So I sat and waited (and started to sweat profusely from fear).  The anticipation mae it feel like I was waiting for an amputation.   

Finally, it was time for Take Three, and this time, I just felt a slight pressure.  The podiatrist worked his magic, and now I have a heavily bandaged Franken-toe.  I am under doctor's orders to rest my toe and eat lots of ice cream.  (Well, he didn't say anything about ice cream, but I'm sure that was just an oversight). 

Yay for Franken-toe!  It makes me look like a total bad ass. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Happy 305th Birthday, Benjamin Franklin!

Benjamin Franklin was born 305 years ago today - sort of.  He was actually born on January 6, 1705, but then the entire calendar was overhauled and his birthay was moved to January 17, 1706.  How unsettling would it be to have your date of birth changed? 

For his birthday, I tried to get my favorite founding father a card... but Hallmark does not seem to make any cards to mark a historical figure's 305th birthday.  I don't understand.  Hallmark makes cards to mark every possible occasion (including some holidays that Hallmark invented itself) - shouldn't there be specialty birthday cards for the founding fathers? 

Instead of a card, I will wish Old Ben "many happy returns!" right here on my blog.  (I'm sure Ben F. would have been a prolific blogger if he lived until the present day, so this is fitting - in a weird way).


Monday, January 16, 2012

Concerns and Apprehensions: The BBQ Lighter Edition

This post is about this thingee:

I'm not certain what it's proper name is - heck, I don't even know if it has a name - but let's call it "the BBQ Igniter."  If you pull the trigger, a flame ignites from the end of the black tube.  It's basically the mother of all matches.  I use it to light candles because I'm lazy that way.

This particular BBQ Igniter is dead.  When I shake it, I can hear some fluid sloshing around, and if I pull the trigger, it smells like smoke; but it no longer produces a flame. 

So what am I supposed to do with it?

Obviously, it's garbage.  I'm not going to bronze or frame the dead BBQ Igniter.  But how do I get rid of it? 

I'm not trying to be cute or clever.  I know that garbage goes in the garbage can.  But although broken, the BBQ Igniter was designed for one purpose: to start fires.  It still emits a little smoke when I pull the trigger.  I'm not putting this thing in my trash can!  What if it starts to work again?  Oh sure, it's broken now, but my broken hair dryer recently came back from the dead.  Maybe this is a zombie BBQ Igniter, and it will awaken when I bury it in the trash can. Then, what if the the weight of the garbage forces the trigger down, thereby sparking a flame?  I could burn down the entire neighborhood!

I guess I could wait until trash day and then quickly toss the Zombie BBQ Igniter in the trash can when I hear the garbage truck.  Then, the BBQ Igniter would never have a chance to ignite my trash.

But the guilt would destroy me.

I would always wonder: where is the BBQ Igniter?  Buried in a landfill?  Is it really safe?

Then, if a fire starts in a landfill, I will know that the BBQ Igniter is to blame.  And knowing my luck, the BBQ Igniter won't spark some tiny flame that is easily managed with a fire extinguisher.  It will create an inferno that captures the nation's attention, forces thousands to evacuate, and threatens a wildlife sanctuary for baby pandas. 

There will be an inquiry, and the fire investigator will gravely announce that the fire of the century was started by a broken BBQ Igniter.  The fire investigator will hold up the evil device, and though it is charred and melted, I will recognize it immediately.  No one will be able to trace the BBQ Igniter back to me, but I'll come forward and be sentenced to a lifetime in a federal security prison.


I cannot be haunted by these possibilities.  So, instead of throwing out the BBQ Igniter, I will stash it in our garage's darkest corner.  Someday, we will sell this house and move.  When we move, I'll "forget" to pack the BBQ Igniter.  Muhahaha!  Let the future owners of my house figure out how to deal with the damn thing.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Telecommuting Confession: The UPS Truck

I have two confessions to make.

Confession One: I can identify the sound of my neighborhood's UPS truck with 100% accuracy.  I know the sound of that engine better than I know the sound of my own breathing.  Once I hear the UPS engine, I can immediately discern whether the truck is (a) speeding down the street towards its next delivery or (b) making a stop on my block.  If the truck is stopping, I can predict, with 95% accuracy, whether or not the UPS guy is delivering a package to my house.  

Now it is time for my second and truly pathetic confession...

Confession Two: A moment before I started typing this blog entry, I heard the UPS truck stop in front of my house.  Then, I heard the tell-tale thud of a package being left at my doorstop.  I am so excited.  I LOVE PACKAGES FROM UPS!!! I want to open the door and claim my package NOW, but I am forcing myself to wait five minutes because I am a mature adult with an exciting and interesting life.  But really, I can't stand the idea that I'm sitting here, on my leather chair, and the package is out there, shivering on the front porch. 

If I'm going to be completely honest, I must confess that I am only writing this blog entry to help myself pass the time before I am allowed to retrieve the newly delivered cardboard box.

Yay!  Time to get my new box!  I hope it's from Amazon!

And I've reached a new low. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Oops, I Bought It Again

Have you ever been at the store, and you see something, like Ziploc bags, and you think, "Oh, we need more Ziploc bags, I better stock up."  So you buy three boxes of Ziploc bags, and when you get home, you discover there are already four boxes of Ziploc bags in the cupboard. 

Then, three weeks later, you are the store and again, you spot the Ziploc bags.  You think, "Oh, we need more Ziploc bags, I better stock up."  So you buy four more boxes of Ziploc bags, and now, as far as plastic baggies are concerned, you are set until the end of time.

This happens to me at least two or three times a year.  Last summer, it was sunblock.  If you looked in our bathroom cabinet, you would assume we are preparing for a three-year sojourn to the equator. 

Recently, it's been cough drops.  I can't stop buying cough drops.  I'm like Pavlov's dog - when I see a display of cough drops, I feel compelled to buy a few bags.  Nathan and I could have whooping cough for the rest of 2012, and we will only begin to make a dent in our cough drop supply.

Who needs sunblock? 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Caffeine Withdrawal: It's Like Having the Flu

If I ever write my memoirs, a long chapter will be devoted to my tortured relationship with caffeine.  I first became addicted to caffeine in high school thanks to a Pepsi machine located near my locker.  Since then, I have quit and then become readdicted to caffeine at least a dozen times.

Last summer, before I got married, I controlled my addiction and was down to one can of diet soda every morning.  During our honeymoon, I stayed clean.  Who needs caffeine in Maui?  Then, we returned to Pasadena and normal life.  Things went to hell in a hand basket.

By December, I was imbibing at least 100 ounces of diet soda every day.  (Probably more).  I know, from experience, that when I am living a caffeine-free lifestyle, I glow with energy and health.  Caffeine-free Courtney is a much better person than Caffeinated Courtney.  For example, when I'm consuming too much caffeine, I suffer from debilitating periods and PMS.  When I'm clean, the PMS disappears.  

There are two ways to quit caffeine: cold turkey or gradually.  I am not brave enough for the cold turkey approach, so I cut back to 24 ounces of diet soda every day.  In a couple of weeks, when my body has adjusted to the caffeine reduction, I'll start to wean myself, ounce by ounce.  By the end of February, I should be decaffeinated.

But right now, things completely suck.

Even though I'm still consuming a significant amount of caffeine, my body is going through some serious freaking caffeine withdrawal.  It feels like I'm getting the flu.  I have body aches and I'm exhausted, as if I ran a marathon without a day of training.  I am dehydrated, as if I've been crawling through a desert for days.  Two nights ago, I woke up at 3 a.m. in a cold sweat and for about five minutes, all color drained from my face. 

I have had some headaches, but miraculously, they are manageable. 

This article about caffeine withdrawal has been uber-comforting.  In the comments, readers post about their symptoms, including depression, fatigue, body aches, upset stomachs, joint pain, restless legs, fevers, and nausea.  When I woke up at 3 a.m. and felt like I was going to die, I read through the comments of the article and confirmed this is just caffeine withdrawal, which sucks, but no need to go to the ER. 

Right now, I am suffering, but my physical ailments are actually encouraging.  If the caffeine withdrawal makes me feel this crappy, then what the hell was the caffeine doing to my body?  I'm excited for the morning that I wake up and do not need a single sip of the poison.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Breakfast at Clocker's Corner

We had breakfast this weekend at Clocker's Corner at the Santa Anita racetrack.  It's like two activities for the price of one: (1) you get to have a relatively nice restaurant breakfast; and (2) it's a trip to the racetrack, minus the betting. 

The breakfast seating is right next to the racetrack.  It is quite a scene.  I don't know what is more interesting to watch: the horses or the people.  The horses race around the track, alone or in pairs.  They gallop, canter, trot, walk and move at every speed in between.  I could watch the horses for hours. 

As for the breakfast crowd, there are jockeys, trainers, owners, reporters and professional gamblers.  The jockeys are so small, and they wear their riding helmets even when they are mingling with the trainers and owners.  As for everyone else, there are a lot of interesting mustaches and hats.  Some people are dressed up, as if the Kentucky Derby is running that day; more people are grisled and look like they have led hard, hard lives.

This past Saturday morning, it was foggy.  Usually, the San Gabriel Mountains watch over the racetrack, but the fog concealed the mountains entirely.  Horses are beautiful to watch, and Nathan gave me a Flip video camera for Christmas - so I filmed some footage.  If you want to experience breakfast at Clocker's Corner, just pour yourself a cup of coffee, fry some bacon and watch the video on repeat.  (The video is just 25 seconds long, so you will probably have it memorized by your third sip of coffee).

Monday, January 9, 2012

Update: My Danish Neighbor

As I mentioned in this post last November, we have new neighbors and the new neighbors have a Great Dane.

The only thing that separates my backyard from the Great Dane's is an old white picket fence.  When she first arrived, the Great Dane would charge the fence whenever I went outside.  I was concerned the Great Dane would eventually break through the fence and maul me.

Well, the Great Dane has been my neighbor for just over two months now and things are worse than I could have imagined: the dog ignores me.

That's right.  The Great Dane ignores me.  When I go outside, my existence does not even register on her doggy radar.  It doesn't matter what I'm doing.  I could be training circus cats to jump through a hoop or constructing a tower from raw steaks.  The Great Dane would not even bother to look in my direction.

The dog thinks I'm boring.

I miss the good old days, when she barked frantically and charged towards the fence whenever I stepped outside.  Back then, we had rapport.  It wasn't a particularly harmonious rapport, but at least it was something. 

Now, I'm invisible.  Inconsequential.  When I got outside, I hopefully pause, hoping the Great Dane will at least give me the courtesy of a "woof."   I think I'm in the middle of a psychological war with a dog - and the dog is kicking my ass. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Let's Talk About The Center Pivot

Have you ever looked out an airplane window and noticed circular fields of crops?  These fields result from center-pivot irrigation.

If you are from the Midwest, or have family in the Midwest, or studied agriculture at any point in your life, you can probably skip this blog entry.  Otherwise, I would like to introduce the center pivot:

Look at that monster!  It's the uber-lawn sprinkler.  If only I had one of these things when I was a summer camp counselor.  In the top photograph, you are looking at the front of the center pivot.  The far end stays in place and supplies water to the rest of the system.  The front and middle sections move on wheels; and as the wheels move, the enter contraption pivots in a big slow circle and shoots out water, thereby irrigating a circlular field of crops.  

Any questions?  Well, don't ask me - I'm not an irrigation expert.  But I still think the center pivot is pretty cool. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Perpetual Journal

Last year, I made a "perpetual journal."  Every day of the year has its own index card.  For the first year, it's basically a regular journal.  (Except instead of an attractive notebook, you have an unwieldy stack of notecards).  But after the first year, it's M-A-G-I-C.  At the end of the day, you don't just write your journal entry - you also read the entries for prior years.  It's fun to see how similar and dissimilar the entries can be. 

For example, my entry for July 23, 2011 is: "We got married!!! And had a WONDERFUL wedding!"  My entry for July 23, 2012 will obviously be a little different (as fun as our wedding was, we're not about to make it an annual tradition). 

I followed this excellent tutorial on Design*Sponge to make my journal.  My journal is not very pretty, but it gets the job done:

Someday I'll get a proper box for my journal; and if I'm feeling super ambitious, I'll make dividers for each month.  But for now, the point is just taking a moment every night to jot down one or two highlights from the day. 

Confession: sometimes, I slack with my perpetual journal.  Four or five days pass and I realize, "Crap!  My journal!"  But I managed to write an entry for every day in 2011.   And I'm so glad I did because I love flipping through the index cards and glancing at random entries.

For example, here's a fun memory that I had completely forgotten from January 4, 2011: "I heard Bob Newhart's piece on XM about baseball, and then played it for Nathan on YouTube."  There's no way I would recall a detail like this on my own.

Poor February 29th!  It's still waiting for an entry.  Don't worry, February 29: 2012 is your date with destiny.  (And then we'll see you again in 2016). 

I love my perpetual journal and if you have ever flirted with the idea of keeping a diary, I highly recommend this method.  You can make it while watching a movie, and then it only takes seconds to scrawl an entry at the end of the day. 

p.s. You can even make the calendar as you go.  Who says you have to stamp all the dates in advance?  And who says you even have to stamp the dates at all?  The perpetual calendar will work just as well if you just handwrite the date yourself.

The Rose Parade Floats, Part Two

This house made from flowers makes me inexplicably happy.
p.s. I can't even begin to draw a house that looks this good.  My
drawing skills reached their peak in second grade.

Check out the detail on the lamb. 

For my next car, I want a trolley made from flowers.

How do the flowers look so fresh for so long?  These
flowers look better than the living flowers in my garden.

Elephants for my mother-in-law.

Heart be still: a float with a diagram of the Metamorphosis Cycle. 

A painting of a flower made from ... flowers.

This float is an ad for a Power Rangers video game.On the one hand,
it's a Power Rangers float, so I must hate it.  On the other hand, it's
an enormous robot made from flowers - and so I love it.

I emailed this photo to my Trekkie husband, who
was at work.  His response is too nerdy to reprint. 

This is the float for the Rose Parade Queen and her court.  I
think the Queen and her attendees should sit on the float during the
post-parade viewing.  C'mon, show some commitment to your craft.

Check out the glass of lemonade!  With ice cubes!  Awesome!

BIG crowds, and everyone is trying to pose with the floats. I
tried to respect the cameras but still ruined at least 50 portraits.

The End.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Skip the Parade; Admire the Floats

I like all of the elements of the parade, especially the bands and floats, but the whole parade experience sucks.  You have to arrive early if you want a good view; but no matter how early you arrive, someone will block your view.  Vendors are selling vuvuzelas, aka the devil's favorite musical instrument, so you get to spend the entire day listening to the sounds of a dying elephant.  And if you have to go to the bathroom, may God have mercy on your soul.

Wouldn't it make much more sense for the parade to just stay in one place for a few hours?  Then, you could see and listen to everything at your own pace, just like at a museum.   

After the Rose Parade, the floats are displayed for 1.5 days at the end of the parade route.  It's like an outdoor museum, and it eliminates the evils of actually attending the Rose Parade.  I walked over this morning and discovered that if you subtract the vuvuzelas, I actually love the Rose Parade floats.  

I love dinosaurs, so this is my favorite float.  End of discussion.

I was a Girl Scout, and the Girl Scout float makes
 me want to earn another merit badge.
 Volunteers wearing white suits and red ties guard the floats.  I know
what you are thinking and I agree: I need to dress like this every day.

My internet connection is acting like it's 1997, so I'll post more photos later.  

Scenes from Nebraska, the December 2011 Edition

Five years ago, I did not give much thought to the Midwest and rural America.  I knew the West Coast well because I have lived almost my entire life in Los Angeles.  I knew the East Coast well because my mother is from New York and I went to college in New England.  But the Midwest?  That was just a big chunk of land in between LAX and JFK.  From the airplane, it looked pretty boring.  

Five years ago, if you had asked me if I would ever visit Nebraska, I would have shrugged.  And if you had asked me whether I would visit rural Nebraska during the dead of winter, I would have laughed hysterically.  

Then I met my husband, who grew up in a town of 1,600 in rural Nebraska, and now I have visited his home state four times - including three December trips!

Every December, Nebraska looks different.  In 2009, there was a blizzard and snow.  It was like we had stepped into the movie Fargo.  In 2010, there was less snow but the landscape still looked like a Christmas card.   

For Christmas 2011, I was prepared for Artic temperatures... and then my gloves, scarf and hat spent the entire trip in the rental car.  During the day, the temperatures were in the 50s and I just needed a sweatshirt to stay warm.  Almost all the snow had melted.  Let me tell you about the un-snowy Nebraska countryside: it's beautiful and the roads are safe.  From now on, I'm dreaming of a brown Christmas.  

Random Countryside View as we drove through Nebraska.

More Random Countryside while driving.

Sunset at the family ranch.
Farm cats at the family ranch.
Sign for a steakhouse where we had dinner.

I was told we could have breakfast here - or the gas station.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Ah, The Rose Parade

My neighborhood is under siege.  The Rose Parade route passes within a block of my house, so my neighborhood is a parking lot for the parade.  The situation is pretty bleak.  For example, I hope the owner of this car is not planning to leave the parade early:   

I walked over and watched the parade for about three minutes - and those are three minutes of my life that I will never get back.   

As a Pasadena resident who can hear the Rose Parade from her living room, I feel like I am morally obligated to love the pageantry.  But I must be missing a Parade Lovers Gene, because I just can't get excited about a a rocket ship made from daffodils.  Sorry, Pasadena - I love you, but your parade is pretty lame.