Archive | April, 2008

yuck

30 Apr

I know that not all of my readers are in the MA/RI area (and therefore are not as cool as I), but if you ever find yourself in the North Attleboro, MA area, do not go to Bella Vista restaurant on Elm Street.  And if you do, for the love of God, don’t get the scallops.  That is, unless you want food poisoning that knocks you on your ass for three days.  I won’t bother you with the gory details, but just share with you that I’m running out of ideas for carbs that settle, and carbs are my second favorite food group (after salt).  Today’s menu: bagel, crackers, PB cookie, pastina.  Not a veggie in sight.  As ideal as that sounds, it gets boring.  I don’t even want to eat.  Now that’s a real sign I’m sick.

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House Hunting: Month 4 and Counting

29 Apr

Since I know you’ve all been hanging on the edge of your seats, I thought I’d give you an update on the house hunting, by highlighting some of my less than favorites:

  • The 2 bed, 1.5 bath condo with carpet in the kitchen.  And the bathroom.  Granted, it was a very nice carpet, new, and not shaggy, but still:  Doesn’t carpet in those areas scream for mold & yuck?  I don’t even want carpet in my living room, for the love of Jimmy.
  • The open house I went to last weekend where the homeowner left her bras drying in the bathroom.  Wouldn’t that be something you’d thing about moving before strangers came to visit?
  • Also, if you’re going to take the time to light a candle before a showing, wouldn’t you also consider emptying the trash can full of cigarette butts & ashes?
  • I refuse to buy a home where I’m afraid to go into the basement.
  • The houses with slanted ceilings in the second floor bathrooms.  I’m not really awake until 10 am, even on a workday.  I’d be willing to bet I’d knock myself unconscious on day 2 of home ownership coming out of the shower.  Then someone would have to rescue me while I’m naked, which is like my worst nightmare. 
  • What does “spacious” bedroom mean to you?  To me, it means you can fit a little more that a queen sized bed.  Like a nightstand or two.
  • If I’m going to have a full master math, its got to have a shower.  I’m not schlepping downstairs to shower every morning.  “But, Julie, you said full…shouldn’t that mean it has a shower?”  Not if it has a bath tub…with a slanted ceiling so you can’t even add a shower head.
  • The adorable home with the Farmer’s porch and great deck — and two high voltage power lines in the backyard.
  • Today we saw a home in a lovely neighborhood at a reasonable price.  The catch?  You can’t actually move in, because it doesn’t have a functioning septic system.  And, while it has an attached garage, you have no way to get from the house to the garage without going outside.   Why? 

To top it all off, I can’t get us on to Property Virgins, House Hunters or Sleep on It, and I haven’t heard back from Hidden Potential.  Life is sad here in my little buyer’s market.

New Page!

27 Apr

I just added a page on What I’m Reading (stolen lovingly from Melanie).  Since my new commute allows me to read for almost an hour each day, I’m getting a ton of good books in.  Reading is a hobby I’ve always loved as a kid, but sorely neglected in my adulthood, so I’m happy to have time back in my life for it.  Feel free to suggest books — no heavy ones, please!  It hurts my shoulder 🙂

wikiHow of the Week: How to Get out of Work

27 Apr

How to Get out of Work (when You’re Already There)

Do not attempt this, unless you are willing to risk the consequences. Otherwise, enjoy your day off.

Steps

  1. The best, and most believable way to get off work early is this:
  2. Using your cell phone, call your work phone, and pick up.   (Oooh, tricky)
  3. Turn your cell phone off as soon as you answer your work phone, otherwise you’ll just waste your minutes.  (Yes, because if you’re going to be lazy, you might as well be cheap too)
  4. Answer the phone as you normally would, but say “O.K.” a lot, and sound really concerned, end the conversation (which should be around 2 minutes long) by saying “I’ll be right over/there” or something along those lines.  (This probably only works in cubeville)
  5. Walk pretty quickly to your boss, and tell him/her that your mom/dad/kid/wife/husband needs you.   (It might seem fishy if you say it like that: “Boss, my mom/dad/kid/wife/husband needs me.”  I suggest just using on.  You can thank me later for that tip).
  6. If they ask why, say desperately that you don’t know, but you’re really worried. start to leave, and say that you’re not sure when you’ll be back, but will call him/her with more details.   (Crying might help here as well).

 

Tips

  • Act really worried
  • Run out
  • Don’t get detailed
  • Tell them that you’ll probably not pick up your home or cell phone, but to call if they need serious help.

 

 Warnings

  • Do not attempt more than once a year at the most.   (And do not come back the next day with a tan)
  • If anybody finds out, you will be in huge trouble, and may even be fired.  (Especially if your boss sees you on tv catching a fly ball at the Cubbies game)
  • Do NOT say that somebody died!   (This causes wicked bad karma)

 

Things You’ll Need

  • 2 phones
  • a sensitive boss
  • acting skills

Marathon Monday

20 Apr

When Patriot’s Day  2007 began, I truly didn’t think it could have been any worse. I hadn’t slept all night. Instead, I listened to the howling wind, pouring rain, chairs sliding on the balcony, tree branches falling, and thought: the world is ending, and I have to run 26.2 miles in it.

Being in Boston was like being in a hurricane. The wind literally pushed you sideways, along with the stinging rain. I’ve never worn that many clothes: tights, windpants, J’s warm ups, two shirts under a sweatshirt, all topped off with the $9.95 rain suit I scored at Target. I was my own personal sauna.

I could have used my own personal port a potty. I have a nervous stomach. I must have braved the elements 10 times before I hit the starting line, including at least once when I feared my worst nightmare would come true: that the Port-a-Potty would tip over with me in it, and one trip on the bus to Hopkinton (which was a nice diversion from the uber annoying ultra marathoner yapping my ear off). The guy manning the portajohns at the gym in Hopkinton was always happy to see me return.

The wait that morning was unbearable. I wanted nothing to do with anyone. I moved between being so excited and psyched, to being petrified (the latter was usually followed by a port a john visit). I tried to eat, drink, stretch, listen to music. It didn’t help.

The thing that did help was that when we paraded out of the gym to head towards the starting line, it was barely raining. Great. Now I could focus on running a marathon, not being impaled by a flying tree branch or soaking to death. Easy Peasy.

The start was anticlimactic, to say the least. We trekked through Hopkinton, sidestepping trash bags and clothes strewn everywhere, and tried to find our holding corrals. There was no anthem, no flyover, no message from the Governor. The first wave starters got all that glory. We got “And they’re off!” with a starter gun pop about 1/2 mile before we could even see the starting line (oh, the irony: walking almost a mile before you can run a marathon).

Finally: the staring line. A quick check of the clock told us we started 15 minutes after the gun went off, plus 30 minutes after the first wave. Meaning we would have to subtract 45 minutes from each time clock we saw. Which made my head hurt.

Despite the less that ideal conditions, there were people everywhere. Cheering, yelling, holding signs, kids wanting high fives, soldiers in uniform. Even in the smaller towns, there they were. Holding out food and water, ringing cowbells, calling out people’s names. I saw a woman meet her friend around mile 13, both of them crying, so happy to see each other, so happy to be in that moment. I was choked up by the amount of support these strangers gave. Where were they when I was trudging through 20 miles in the snow?

On we went, keeping a pretty good 10 minute per mile pace. Walking a bit through water stations, to suck down GU, to use the port a potty (again). I had friends at mile 10 with orange slices and a camera, ran through the tunnel of screaming, schreeching, kiss giving women at Wellesley College, and saw my Red Cross volunteer boss and wife at mile 16.

I was on top of the world. I felt good. I hadn’t pulled anything, cramped anything, chafed anything. I was finishing. I could have just ran a halfer if I wanted to quit at mile 13. The weather was windy and rainy at times, but it felt like paradise compared that morning. I saw a sign that said “Jack Bauer wouldn’t quit now.” Damn right I wasn’t going to.

Then came the hills.

The hills weren’t as physically hard as they were mentally draining. I ran lots of hills in training, I knew where they were on the course, I knew Heartbreak Hill’s name had little to do with how hard it was to climb. But I had mentally prepared myself for the fact that, once the hills were over, the race almost was as well.

And so I climbed them. I run hills a bit faster than my college roommate/running buddy/person who talked me into this whole thing, Michelle, so I’d walk at the top, catch my breath and wait for her. I saw a sign halfway up the second one that said “Pain is temporary, pride is forever” and again got choked up. It was the two year anniversary of my grandfather’s death, and I thought of him as I reached the top of Heartbreak Hill.

I did it. I couldn’t believe it. A nice easy 5 mile jaunt through the streets of Boston, and on to my medal and beer at the finish. That would be nothing compared to the 21 I had just completed, right?

Wrong.

Worst.Five.Miles.Ever. Everything hurt. I was thirsty, yet my belly was sloshing with water. It hurt more to walk than to run, but we had to do it, about once every mile at the end. I was hot, and had to take off the shirt under my windbreaker, which required repinning my number. It was all pain, stubborness, and desire to eat and drink something other than gatorade or GU at that point.

You can see the Citgo sign and Hancock tower for miles. It means nothing until you’re on top of them. And soon we were. The Sox game had been delayed, and we knew they won (Thanks to the fans along the way), so the timing was perfect to run through Kenmore Square, hundreds of fans screaming, one mile to go.

On we went, one thing on my mind: the finish. We turned up Hereford Street, the crowds 4-5 deep. Up a little hill and onto Boylston.

This was it. I could see the balloons, the finish line right under them. The crowd screamed & cheered the entire way. I saw J on the sidelines, screaming and jumping up and down, and I managed to look back and wave as he took a picture. I saw my friends from mile 10, and just before the finish, Michelle’s mom and sister.

Then it was there. The finish. In under 5 hours. My feet hit the timing mat, and I dropped to a walk. In my own little world, I could hardly believe I did it.  I didn’t cry, I didn’t even really smile.  I knew what I just did, but I kind of couldn’t believe it.  After months of training, hours of waiting, and 5 hours of running, it was over. 

Michelle & I went to the VIP tent (our invitational entries were VIP, which got us some nice little extras), where someone was nice enough to take the chip off my shoe and place a medal around my neck, along with an aluminum foil blanket. We retrieved our bags and sat outside planning our next move on a bench we were sure we’d ever get off of. The wind howled between the buildings, our faces were covered in salt, and we were exhausted, but elated.  I don’t think we even had any water or Gatorade, we just called & texted friends, tried to stay warm, and sat in a bit of shock.

I found J, changed into clean clothes and my new marathon jacket (happy that I had earned the right to wear it by crossing that finish line, and not wasting another $90 by not finishing), put the medal back around my neck, and went outside to the cheers of my college friends and husband. We spent the rest of the afternoon drinking beers and eating a burger, and I’ve never been so happy or tired or proud in my life.  Despite the training, the nerves, the doubts and the pain, I would do it all over again for that moment few have: crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

wikiHow of the Week

17 Apr

As much as this pains me to post, it was the featured wikiHow.  My apologies to my pals at TAC.

How to Get Rid of Junk Mail

Is your mailbox running over, full of stuff you don’t want? Junk mail wastes tremendous amounts of paper. It also piles up on your table, wastes your time, and competes for your attention. With a small investment of time, you can stop the flow at its source. Here’s how.

Steps

  1. Write to the mail preference service (US) or the Mailing preference service (UK). These do-not-mail lists are maintained by the major marketing associations that maintain and distribute the major mailing lists, but they do work. The US mail preference service will charge you one dollar ($1) to add your name to their opt-out list.
  2. Get rid of credit card solicitations in the US, by phoning 1-888-5 OPT OUT (or 1-888-567-8688). It is an automated number. Listen to the options carefully. It’s well worth calling — the opt-out is good for 5 years, or you can request to be permanently removed from their lists. This one phone call tells all four major credit reporting agencies to stop sending credit card offers. You can also make the request (5-year and permanent) using their online form.
  3. Call your credit card companies and ask them to stop sending you cash advance checks. Even if they come (conveniently) with your bill each month, cash advances usually start accruing interest immediately, so it’s not a good idea to use them. If you do receive them and don’t plan to use them, you should destroy them.
  4. Call individual catalog companies and ask them to remove you from their mailing lists. Sometimes it will be the same toll-free number that you would call to make an order; sometimes it will be a separate “customer service” number. Look around on the back cover and the order form. Occasionally, the customer service people will ask why you want to be removed. Simply explain that you are not interested in the products offered. Do have the catalog, or at least the mailing label from it handy when you call. Often they will request a tracking number or other code printed there.

  5. Go after individual senders. Some items are sent in such bulk that they go to every resident on a postal route. These are addressed to “Resident,” “Our Friends At,” or some variant. Your postal carrier cannot, by law, determine what you consider “junk mail”. All “resident” mail must be delivered as addressed. You must contact individual mailers to have your address removed from their database. Look around on mailers for return addresses and phone numbers. Here are quick links to some common ones.
    • America Online: phone 1-800-605-4297.
    • ADVO (responsible for the blobs of sales circulars and the little card with the missing children): Follow the link.
    • Val-Pak coupons: follow the link.
    • Publisher’s Clearinghouse: phone 1-800-645-9242 or email mailto:service@pchmail.com with your full address and instructions to remove from mailing list.
    • American Family Sweepstakes: phone 1-800-237-2400.
    • Pennysaver or Potpurri: phone 1-800-422-4116 and leave a detailed message with the full address, including ZIP code, as it appears on the mailer.
  6. Stop all mail not addressed to you:
    • If you are getting first class mail for a former resident, you can write Return to Sender/Not at this address on the envelope and drop that envelope right in the mail box.
    • If you are getting bulk mail for a former resident, you may have to follow the above steps.
  7. Place a sign by your mailbox that reads “No Free Papers”:
    • Free Papers are another form of junk mail that often plagues our front lawns. Many of the people who deliver free papers will simply stop once the resident has placed a sign near their mailbox that that reads “No Free Papers”.

 

 Tips

  • It’s a good idea to perform the first two steps even if you don’t do the rest. They will stop the greatest amount of mail with the smallest investment of time. Besides, having credit card offers sitting in your mailbox invites identity theft. If you do decide someday to apply for a credit card, they’re not hard to find even without the junk mail.
  • Avoid placing your address on surveys, raffles, and product warranty cards. If you do write your address or phone number, write alongside it something like, “Please do not sell or distribute my information, nor add to mailing lists.”
  • When filling out forms online, read privacy policies and watch for opt-out boxes.
  • Mail-order businesses, especially printing houses that print checks, return address labels, and other stationery, often send other mail and sell the addresses of their customers. If you order from one of these places, clearly state your preference.
  • If you’re curious about how junk mail spreads, intentionally misspell a name on a survey form or something of that nature. You’ll get more junk mail, not less, but it’s a simple experiment to see who’s sharing your information. Keep a record of which misspelling you have given to which company, lest you forget.
  • It’s generally not necessary to send in warranty cards or “register” a warranty for the warranty to be valid, regardless of what the card may imply.
  • If you do receive junk mail, do one of two things about it. Recycle it immediately, or call or write somebody about getting off the list.
  • Keep a recycling bin or trash can by your mailbox or wherever you sort mail.
  • Recognize that most companies sending direct mail are happy to take disinterested people off their lists. It costs them money to send you a thick, shiny catalog.
  • You may be told that it could take a couple of mailing cycles for mail to stop coming. This is a standard disclaimer you should take at face value.
  • If you are too busy to do the above steps yourself, you can take a shortcut by hiring a service to do them for you. A service like greendimes.com will remove your name and others in your household from direct mail lists, unsolicited credit card offers, as well as the catalogs that you selectively choose to unsubscribe from. They will revisit the direct mailers to keep you off the lists and plant a tree for you every month. The cost of a Green Dimes membership is a dime a day or $36/year.
  • Request your name be eliminated from the county tax database. Many companies target specific areas based on neighborhood subdivisions or home values. By making your information confidential in the county and state databases you may eliminate quite a bit of junk mail.

 

 Warnings

  • You shouldn’t have to spend money to get rid of junk mail. The junk mail removal kits you may see for sale generally don’t offer anything you can’t do on your own.
  • Sending junk mail back in the reply envelope may feel good, but it is not a particularly effective way to get off mailing lists. It is better simply to request to be removed.
  • Don’t be rude to the person who answers the phone, even if you’re mad about receiving something. He or she is paid to answer the phone (and is generally paid very little). This person is not personally responsible for your receiving it. But do, if necessary, be persistent, in addition to being kind.
  • Any offer that looks too good to be true, probably is. If something seems fishy, read the fine print, research it carefully, or simply pass it by. You may not really have won a million dollars, even if the magazine ordering materials make it seem as though you have.
  • Always make sure the mail “is” junk.

 

 

Tips for Baseball Viewing at Fenway

12 Apr

J & I went to Home Game #2 on Wednesday night.  The good news was, there was beer and we were at the game.  The bad news was everything else.  Like the cold and the fact the Sox lost.  But, there was beer! 

In case any of you are lucky enough to one day take me to a game at Fenway, I’ve come up with some basic tips everyone should follow to make my viewing experience (and yours!) more pleasurable.

1) Take off your freaking hat for the National Anthem.  Yes, ladies, that means you too.  You wanted equal rights, you got ’em.  That means you take off your hat even if your hair will be messed up for 5 minutes.  And if its one of those stupid ass pink hats, you can just leave it off.  And toss it in the trash.

2) Hot chocolate does not warm you up like beer does.  Neither does eating ice cream out of one of those plastic caps.  Beer (at $7.25/pc) is the most expensive option here, but so worth it.

3) You’re no fun unless you sing “Sweet Caroline” in the eighth.  Loudly, off key, and with all of the made up words included.  Therefore, J is no fun.  He’s lucky I married him after I found out he hates this tradition.

4) Its okay if you drop your peanut shells in your beer.  I highly encourage it!  Makes the beer taste better.  Mmmm…salt.  Dropping a chicken finger in your beer is not okay.

5) If you have the bladder of a hampster, get an aisle seat.

6) Speaking of seats, if you’re in the park, you bought one (or a standing room spot).  Sit there.  Don’t stand in the aisle looking for an empty seat, only to get kicked out when the person who owns that seat returns to it.

7) Fenway Frank = good.  Footlong = better.  Monster Dog = gross.  Seriously.  I love a good hot dog just as much as the next fat kid, but the monster dog is too much “meat.”

8) Its okay to leave in the 8th when you’re losing, its cold, and you have to work the next day.  Really.

 

PS — The spellchecker is back!  My prayers have been answered!