end of summer?

I just realized that today is the last day of August. And this is Labor Day weekend - thus marking the end of summer. Where did you go, sweet summer? I feel like you were hardly in my life at all this year. I have discovered that summers as an adult do not hold the same magical quality they did as a child.

Summer conjures up memories of playing outside, riding bikes around the neighborhood, swimming, chasing the ice cream truck, and having watermelon-seed-spitting contests. This summer, I fell short of those activities: I went outside if necessary (much cooler inside my house in the air conditioning), my bike hasn't left the garage once, I did do some swimming (though most would call it 'sitting') in a kiddie pool in my backyard, why bother chasing an ice cream truck when it is so easily accessible in the freezer (and does not come in the shape of a frog, as lil bro used to order from the ice cream truck), and I have yet to locate a watermelon with seeds - I think they genetically engineered them to extinction!

As a last hurrah (and belated welcome?) for summer, I will be in Tahoe attending the 3rd annual camping extravaganza with friends. Flashlight tag is on the docket for our monthly 'game night' activity, which probably will turn into Liars Dice or Poker at the picnic table, but perhaps simply the thought of a silly kid's game will revive the spirit of summer.


marketing plans

Awards for the best & worst marketing plans I have seen recently:

The 2nd floor of the building I work in is starting their "Get Fit" club - a takeoff on the Biggest Loser contest. They laid the foundation for their club signup next week by having a bake sale this week to benefit the American Heart Association.

Quizno's sign on the corner: "Get toasty". My car read 129 degrees when I got in it after work yesterday.


article 10.03

When we moved to our new neighborhood in December, we knew we were going to have problems with the strict association rules for our "community". Really, we should have known better just by the word "community"... what happened to the good old fashioned word "neighborhood"? Not trendy enough? Not fancy enough? I know... neighborhood evokes the thoughts of families on front lawns and kids playing in the street, while community means a service to handle your front lawn and a security guard driving around the streets.

Our first citation arrived within a month of moving in to our home. We were actually kind of amused - we knew we were going to get letters, and our suspicion was proven true quite quickly. To avoid a reputation on the most wanted list of outlaws in suburbia, we remedied our mistake promptly. Scout climbed up the ladder and painted our satellite dish to match the color of the gutters. Yes, that was the violation: the satellite dish must match the gutters. Not the house - that would be tacky. We covered up that horribly offensive shade of light grey and erased all reference to DIRECTV
, lest anyone know which brand of satellite service we have at our house. Might bring down home values in the area.

Here is a summary of the ensuing notices:

April 19, 2007

Dear Homeowners,

Thank you for the recent submittal of your backyard shade trellis plan. The Committee approved your plan with the following conditions:

  • Shade structure must be painted to match your house wall color.

Thank you for your cooperation.

The Stepford Association


May 31, 2007

Dear Homeowners,

In our ongoing effort to uphold the standards of the community, Association representatives routinely patrol the community to identify potential violations of these restrictions. During a routine patrol (coincidentally right after you submitted plans), a representative observed the following at your residence:

  • A pot farm
  • Babies held dangling out a third story window
  • Dog fighting in the backyard
  • White shade structure installed in the backyard without approval. Please paint to match the color of your exterior wall.

Can't you people read and follow instructions? We already sent you a letter about this extremely urgent matter!

The Stepford Association


July 2, 2007

Dear Homeowners,

Don't you check your mail? We have sent two notices informing you of your violation of Article 10.03.

Do you have any idea how you are impacting those around you by having that white shade structure in your backyard? Every day when the security guard turns around on your dead end street, he is offended by the gleaming white color of your shade structure. He is now out on disability undergoing psychiatric treatment.

Failure to correct or respond to this alleged violation may result in a written complaint filed with the President of the United States. This is your final notice before we will issue a fine for noncompliance.

The Stepford Association


August 13, 2007

Dear Homeowners,

Thank you for painting your shade structure, but the entire structure needs to be painted the exterior wall color, not just the lame-ass paint job you did by painting the section that we can see from the street. If someone were to jump the fence to your property, we need to ensure that the aesthetics of your entire shade structure will be in accordance with our color palette as they trespass on your property.

This is your final notice (for real this time) before we will issue a fine for noncompliance.

The Stepford Association


Fine, fine, fine! We will paint our stupid shade structure. Even though all the other houses in the neighborhood have white shade structures. But you can't see theirs from the street, noooooooooo.... just from the running trails that are located throughout our "community". I am sure that the amount of people driving on our dead end street is much higher than the amount of people using the running trails, so I can understand why you singled us out from the hundreds of other houses.

We have now purchased a paint sprayer, and many cans of beige paint to cover up the ill-fated white color on our shade structure. Don't worry, soon all will be beige again, and the Stepford Association can move on to more important issues, like world peace ensuring that no potted plant in the front yard is more than 4 feet high.


flesh/flush update

Since my rant last week, I have been keeping diligent records of all the catch phrases used to excess in my own personal Office Space. To paint a mental picture, I have been sitting in my meetings and training sessions with a scorecard to accurately count the overused lingo. Don’t worry – I’m not obvious - you would need a secret decoder ring to understand my methodology. Yes, exactly the same exercise I did in Junior High when we would keep track of the repetitious words teachers would say. Here is the tally for the past 2 weeks:
flesh – 16
flush – 6
unrecognizable flesh/flush – 4
out of the box – 1
outside the box – 2
vetted (or vet) – 7

I was giving Scout a status report earlier this week on my cutting edge research, and he had never heard "vet/vetted" used as anything other than a veterinarian. Turns out he wasn’t too far off in his confusion.

Per Wikipedia: To vet was originally a horse-racing term, referring to the requirement that a horse be checked for health and soundness by a veterinarian before being allowed to race. Thus, it has taken the general meaning "to check".

Thank goodness for Wikipedia. How did we survive back in the day where you had to remember your question all day and find it in the old fashioned encyclopedia? Or, worse yet, go to the library and search microfiche? Oy, I must be old - that is the second time today I have said "back in the day".


high def... in real life!

I survived the dive trip! I was not eaten by sharks, and thankfully, didn't see one the whole time... phew!

The Channel Islands are a beautiful, rugged, natural location. As we pulled up alongside the first island (Anacapa), I was struck by the beautiful shades of brown and gold, and the steep terrain along the coastline. Strangely enough, I felt as if I were in an episode of Planet Earth (one of the best TV shows ever). I could just picture the camera panning in from above on the coastline, zooming in on the waves crashing into the rocks... wait... what? I am living REAL LIFE - OUTSIDE - IN NATURE... and I am imagining I am in a TV show? Is that wrong? I feel like that is wrong...

The other dive boats anchored at Anacapa said that the diving was terrible, so our captain changed course for the second island, Santa Cruz. (Can you hear Sigourney Weaver narrating: Santa Cruz island is home to the highest peaks of all the islands, and boasts a vast variety of flora, fauna and geology)... sorry, real life... right.

After stepping off the back of the boat into the water, we started descending. I was not as nervous as I thought I would be, but honestly, still a bit nervous. I mean, who knows what is down there? Great white sharks (Helllllooooo... have you seen Jaws? Not that we were at the Jersey Shore, but still... And on a less scary note, that crazy cartoon Jabberjaws has a ridiculous tune that will get stuck in your head for days!), Loch Ness monster (maybe Nessie left his/her station in Scotland and took up residency in the Pacific Ocean), any number of animals or legends could be waiting underwater for me to arrive as their next meal - you never know! However, when we reached the abyss, the small, spiky sea urchins seemed my only dangers, and hell if I was going to touch them! I had no idea if they were actually spiky, or filled with poisonous venom, or just looked spiky. I was not risking it! [Editor's note: after research on Wikipedia, it seems that they are not poisonous, but are spiky to the touch.]

I stayed close to Scout - so close that I was constantly running into him, and every time, he would turn around and look at me and ask if I was ok. I am still surprised that he didn't turn around and knock me upside the head with the amount of times I ran into him. Rest assured, if something brushed up against my leg, I would have screamed (not that you would have been able to hear it) and used half my air panicking about what scary monster (or speck of seaweed) was going to tear me to smithereens.

All in all, a great trip, and I would absolutely do it again. We saw some really cool stuff: sea urchins, Garibaldi (the fish who had the honor of being the one whose name I decided to learn this trip - Scout figured even a non-scientist like me could identify it easily, with its bright orange color and resemblance to a giant goldfish), rock fish, other fish, kelp (which I did not, thankfully, get stuck in), sea cucumbers (of varying man-boasting sizes), huge crabs, and two octopus! octopuses? octopi? octopodes? Strangely enough, all are valid words. Granted, some more acceptable than others (the last two were not acceptable per spellcheck), but all legit - now you have learned something today. Might come in handy if you are ever on Jeopardy, or more realistically, Hollywood Squares.

So, should you ever find yourself out in nature enjoying the real life scenery and majestic beauty of Planet Earth, be sure to capture a bit of it for yourself in High Def. And don't forget the mental Tivo feature so you can watch it again and again in your mind.


70 and sunny...

Headed down to the beach in SoCal (near Ventura) this weekend. While packing, I decided to check the weather. Scout laughed at me and said, "Why bother?" Here is the 7-day forecast:

sunny 72
sunny 71
sunny 69
sunny 71
sunny 71
sunny 70
sunny 70

... we might not be home for a while.


happy birthday... now get to work!

Not to brag, but... (get ready for ensuing bragging)... I found the best birthday present ever! Perfect for relaxing, enjoying the outdoors, spending time with loved ones... what more could a birthday celebrator want?

The husband has been talking about getting a hammock for years. So, since he is turning 30, and might need to rest his weary bones every now and again, I thought he deserved to finally have a hammock in the backyard.

The catch is (there's always a catch - ask Yossarian), we don't have any trees in our backyard. And when I say "no trees", I don't mean, "no trees big enough to hang a hammock on", I mean "NO TREES."

Before you throw up your hands in disgust at my obliviousness to the simple solution, I am aware of the crafty hammock stands. In fact, we had one when I was younger. Which is why I did not get one now. I believe the word "stand" means: for your safety, please STAND to the side of this thing - if you attempt to board, you will promptly be ejected from either side of the hammock. Granted, that may have had something to do with the younger brother and sister, and our violation of the directions advising against roughhousing, swinging like we were on a fair ride (without the tickets and height above the plywood measuring stick required for preboarding), and the fun associated with flipping someone out of the hammock (and by someone, I mean someone else - it was always fun as the flipper... not so fun as the flippee).

Even when the siblings were not around, it was always difficult to get into the hammock stand... you had to stand in the middle - the EXACT middle - and delicately lower yourself onto the hammock, then put one leg in - stabilize - scoot in a bit - don't drop the book - grab the rope with your hand and pull yourself in a bit more... raise the other leg off the ground - wobble, wobble - scoot in more - hear the stand rattle because it is never on level ground - flop in entirely... heave a giant sigh of relief. Relax for 7 minutes before realizing you have to go to the bathroom. Damn.

So, because we (I mean, he) wants to hang the hammock from posts, his birthday present was a generous gift of relaxation. As soon as he measures, digs the holes, sets the posts in concrete, inserts the hooks, and puts up the hammock. So, as soon as he gets to work, we will both be able to enjoy his birthday hammock! Oh, did I mention that it is a 2-person hammock? I am such a giver.


mixed message

No less than 7 people at work made this comment to me: "You look nice today."

I said thank you to the first three, and was feeling good about myself. My outfit was pretty nice... it even would have met the sister's approval, as it was attacked by the long-lost iron. I did put it on all wrinkly at first, but decided that while I don't believe in ironing my t-shirts like little sis, I could spare 5 minutes of my morning, and iron nice clothes... and who knows? I might not have gotten all the so-called compliments if I hadn't ironed.

By the fourth comment, I started wondering, "Do I look like shit the rest of the time?" After the sixth comment, I started to get self-conscious.

Don't worry, I'll wear jeans tomorrow (unironed, of course) and be back to my normal, apparently crappy-looking self.


ice capades

Ice cubes on the floor. Again. Why is it that every time I attempt to pull ice cubes out of the ice cube box I drop one on the floor? EVERY TIME.

I reach in and grab the first handful - success! They all made it into the glass safely. Confidence inspires me to reach in and grab another handful... I will foil those ice cubes this time... extracting my frozen loot, I bring them towards the glass. As soon as my wrist crosses the freezer threshold, the bunch gets rowdy, shape shifting in my hand, and one rogue cube slips away to the floor.

Disappointment always follows. Well, sometimes disappointment, sometimes pissedoffedness. The thing is, I REALLY think that every time I tempt fate with the cubes, I will win. It is mind boggling how such a simple task can best me time and time again.

It does not seem to matter if I am retrieving one cube, or a gaggle of cubes, there is always a casualty on the floor. Sometimes they taunt me by splitting as they hit the ground, forcing me to search for an unknown amount of cube shards. Sometimes they hit the bottom of the cabinets, ricocheting and ending up in a distant land (read: living room). Sometimes I pretend I don't hear them, and let nature take its course... melting and evaporating. Hoping that no one slips on their remains in the meantime.

patient, patient, patient

Many Christmas's ago, when Scout was just a wee Scout, he uttered a now famous family quote...

The O family started the morning opening a few presents, then took a break for breakfast. Little Scout was done eating, and ready to go back to tearing wrapping paper. The adult Os were content sitting around chatting, as they had been through a few gift openings in their day. Little Scout stood before them ready to reunite with the red and green clad boxes and declared, "I have been patient, patient, patient."

This quote is truly representative of his personality now that he is all grown. He has an abounding amount of patience, as exemplified by our outing on Friday.

Scout is an experienced scuba diver, while I am a recreational vacation diver. Certified - yes. Comfortable swimming in warm clear water where you can practically see as far as you can on land - yes. Will I watch Discovery Channel's "Shark Week" specials - no. (Even though they are in HD and I generally watch anything in HD).

For Scout's 30th (yikes!) birthday, we are going scuba diving at the Channel Islands. Water is cold - as in, you need a full body wetsuit, including hood, to go underwater. Since I have never had the pleasure (that doesn't seem like an appropriate word?) of diving in a full wetsuit, and I haven't been diving in 4 years, Scout decided we should do a test dive. (Note to others: not nearly as fun as a 'test drive' for a new car). Have I mentioned how he likes to be prepared? So, we rented gear (for me, as he seemingly has every scuba contraption known to man) and headed out to the lake.

After encasing my body in neoprene (20 minutes), and waddling down the hill to the lake, impersonating the new, equal opportunity Michelin woman (15 minutes), I was ready to go! Except that I was nervous... really nervous. And Scout knew this. But I said nothing, for if I said it out loud, then it would be 'out there'.

We swam out from the shore, buoy in tow, and he sent the anchor down to the ocean depths of... um, 27 feet. He instructed me to follow the rope down to the bottom, and we would run through the drills he prepped me for earlier. I reminded him for the 37th time that he was not to leave my side, as I realized on my swim out that visibility in the lake was all of 6 feet.

I tried to sink (how hard can it be to sink?), and after a few attempts, I ended up right back where I started - floating on the surface. Scout patiently waited a few feet down for me to attempt the 'jackknife' dive technique (good thing I had lots of practice on the diving boards when I was younger). And don't think I made up that technique on my own - he had already suggested it in case I couldn't sink on my own. Again, prepared.

We sank (okay, he sank - I fought my way down) to the bottom. It is a strange sensation being underwater with the surface out of sight, air funnelling through an apparatus that I do not understand (science is not one of my strengths). Stay calm, stay calm. Don't use all the air panicking. I wanted to practice my calming yoga breathing, but that requires breathing through the nose, and mine was currently trapped inside my mask with no access to air. So, I improvised with deep breathing through the mouth... hoping I wouldn't use up all my air in the process.

Throughout all 22 minutes (is that all?) of the test dive, Scout was patient, patient, patient. He demonstrated each drill first, then pointed to me to repeat. At first, I just shook my head no, as I was still trying to breathe. He didn't flinch. Didn't point at me again, didn't cross his arms, didn't push it. He just repeated the drill again. Finally, when I was ready, I repeated his movements (not as smooth), and gave the OK sign.

He wrote notes to me (on his underwater board, with an underwater pencil) suggesting technique improvements, to which I replied: I'm trying, but I (insert option: don't like not being able to see/have to use my arms/don't like not having air). With every response that I countered, he just nodded his head in understanding, and waited in case I wanted to try again.

In the silence underwater (aside from my heavy breathing), I was reminded of one of the many reasons why I love him... patience is a virtue.


flush this

If I hear the phrase, "we need to flush this out" one more time, I am going to march the head belonging to the mouth that uttered the phrase to the bathroom, and FLUSH it down the toilet. Every time I hear it, I want to jump up and scream, "FLESH, people, FLESH".

I hate catch phrases at work. Don't try to impress me with your superfluous buzz words. That nonsense won't work on me. ESPECIALLY if you use it incorrectly!

I can withstand "out of the box," only because I can look at the speaker and laugh (silently, of course) as if they were standing there in pegged jeans, an Esprit sweatshirt and a side ponytail. I'm not saying I never wore that (it was one of my favorite outfits), but it certainly isn't in my closet today. Nor will you ever hear me utter "out of the box" (unless I actually mean I am taking something out of the box... for real).

Also, do not ask me if I have any "free cycles" - it makes me think of tampons.

post note: apparently this topic is much funnier if you actually work in an office. especially if said office has TPS reports.


I was driving along on the freeway, checking out the cars I was passing (well, I wasn't on my cell phone - so I needed some form of entertainment), when I spotted a cute new VW bug with the license plate XXXXIV. I instantly became a contestant on Bumper Stumpers, and attempted to decipher the code...

I wondered, does she mean 44 in roman numerals? But then I remembered that 40 would be XL, as the rule of roman numerals limits you from using more than 3 consecutive numerals. Then, maybe she means Triple X 14. I have become addicted to the show To Catch a Predator, so you can imagine the first thought that popped into my head. I almost called Chris Hansen, from Dateline NBC (come on, have you ever heard him say his name without the "Dateline NBC" part following it?) to have him check out the driver of this car. Since I couldn't figure it out in the 4.7 seconds it took me to get up next to the car, I thought I would take a glimpse of the driver, and perhaps that would yield the clue I needed to solve the riddle.

Strangely enough, it was a 50-something year old woman with a beehive hairdo. This completely threw me off... she was too young to have a beehive hairdo as the original style. Did she pick it up after the rage faded? Is she trying to "bring it back"? Why would someone have such big hair and a small car?

I never did figure out what she was trying to say on that elusive bumper stumper. What baffles me most of all is that this woman spent extra money on a custom license plate, and it just isn't clear what it means! I think she should ask for her money back (or perhaps think of a more obvious license plate).


party planning addiction

The husband (Scout) is away this weekend at a bachelor party.

Earlier this week, I was asking him where it was (he said he could tell me but he would have to kill me - in reality, he had no idea), how much it cost, who was going, etc. After the third time I asked, he gave me the stank eye and said "really, you know me - do you think i know any of these details?" Of course he wouldn't. In fact, when I said something on Thursday morning (after he found out the cost) about how I thought that was a pretty good price for 2 nights at a house in Tahoe, he looked surprised and blurted, "TWO nights?"

I happen to be friends with RunnerGirl, wife of RonR, who is in charge of organizing (by default). Here is a recap of my IM conversation with her on Thursday prior to the bach party:

RunnerGirl: RonR just said, everyone bring up a 12 pack or whatever you want to drink and they'll have to figure out food up there
me: maybe i will send some food w/ Scout
me: costco chips, muffins, etc.

me: i am def going to send food w/ Scout even though he will roll his eyes at me like a 5yr old
RunnerGirl: they should just bbq that's what i told RonR, there will be time to go to the store and buy crap
me: yeah. is there a bbq there?
RunnerGirl: i think so
me: and is anyone going to be there fri for dinner... ahhhh... stop! i am not planning... i just cant help it.

RunnerGirl: ha! yeah let them screw up i mean figure it out on their own.

blah, blah, other stuff…

me: so, i just asked Scout if he wanted anything in particular at costco, and his response was beer and vodka. sigh.....

RunnerGirl: ha! RonR has a 12 pack, first and only thing he's packed.
me: nice. do you know what kind?
RunnerGirl: of beer?
me: yes **thinking: i'll make sure i get a different kind, for variety
me: ahhhhhhh......... i cant stop planning! make it stop.
RunnerGirl: stop planning
me: i am making a costco list in red pen right now...
RunnerGirl: STOP! it's not your party
me: i know... hmph...


outsmarted by a printer

In the process of trying to be eco-friendly (and compensate for my gas guzzling SUV), I attempted to use the advanced settings on our fancy shmancy printer at work to save paper. I had a 3 page document that I needed 10 copies of, and instead of just printing single sided, I thought I would print double sided. So, I selected “10 copies”, “2-sided” and “staple”. What I got was: all the pages double sided… with no break… so page 1 and 2 were on the first sheet of paper, then page 3 and page 1 on the next sheet of paper. WTF? And at the end, one giant staple! Grrr….

Try again… little bit different result, but still nothing I could use. So, after 2 tries printing, a variety of copying techniques, I finally ended up with what I wanted in the first place: a 3 page document on 2 pieces of paper – 10 copies. With a staple in each copy. Granted, the staples were not always in the right place, but they were there.

So, the moral of the story is that when you are printing to a machine that is larger than you are (I mean that literally… the thing is huge!), don’t try to save paper… you will use 90 pieces of paper trying to get your desired result of 20 pages. But, I did recycle my plastic soda bottle today, so I am even, right?

And the most frustrating part of all is that I AM tech savvy! Sigh…

So, if you see me out in a field with a humongo printer and a baseball bat, call Michael and Samir - I am sure they will be happy to join me. (cue: Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta)