30 January 2009

Detox | Staying Strong

It's actually easier when you tell people. When people know, they remind you.They might not mean to, but there are moments when you're not eating (not even thinking about food) when people mention the detox. That's less than helpful. But there are other incidents when people will bring treats and keep them from you. There are people who want you to succeed, even though they might not agree with what you do. Those people will keep you (if you're me) from cheating. It's different when you know people are watching.

29 January 2009

Time To Reset

I started my fourth detox today. I'm planning a 12 day stint, with eight days without food. I am allowing myself to cut the eight days to six, if I feel I really need it. I'm using the M'lis Detoxification Kit, which is what I used the first time I did a detox. It's similar to the Master Cleanse, but does not include any salt or cayenne pepper. It's two days without protein, dairy, refined sugar, refined flour, alcohol or caffeine. That's followed by at least three (in this case 8) days of a distilled water, lemon juice and maple syrup mixture. I'm also taking fiber, detoxification, and cleansing pills. I end with two days exactly like the first, then reintroduce whatever I want into my diet.

Today ended up being a less than ideal day to start, because we had a Lunar New Year potluck at work. The food all looked and smelled delicious, but I sat at my desk and ate a lot of fruit. I've done the detox in Fargo, Vegas, and now San Francisco. So far the reactions have been as different as the weather.

In Fargo I remember it being an adventure. My friends (Heather & Heather) witnessed it with me. We talked about it and learned how it felt together. They didn't do it, but they asked a lot of questions. In Vegas there were what can only be described as "haters." My friends wanted me to eat. It sounds like a good thing, but I was trying not to eat. I mean they didn't bring me to buffets or sabotage me me unattended pizzas. But I got guff everyday. In San Francisco, it seems no one is surprised. People have heard about it (or at least of the Master Cleanse) and are relieved there's no cayenne pepper involved. I've never used it, but it seems to be heinous. Mostly everyone wished me luck and asked me to keep them up to date on my feelings.

Of course there's the why. Ultimately yes, I am doing this to lose weight. But not in the way it may first appear. I don't expect to lose 40 pounds of fat doing this. I do think this will help me stay focused. I'll have almost two weeks to get over cravings and give my liver a break. The liver (if you didn't know) is solely responsible for belly fat. My liver has a lot of work to do. It's also doing double duty, breaking down the food my gallbladder can't. Lemon juice is good for the liver, and promotes cleanliness. The detox will keep my liver fresh and hopefully stimulate it that much more when I get back to eating. Also, my skin has not been clear since I moved here. And I just can't have that.

Day one went well. I had all the fruit I wanted and plain popcorn. My only issue was the caffeine headache. I meant to not have coffee this week in order to prepare. But I forgot. So today hurt. Tomorrow will be better.

The 90 Day Challenge

I'm issuing a 90 day challenge to myself, effective today. I originally planned to issue an 100 day challenge, but life got in the way. I'll give you a piece of my reasoning.

CNN is constantly reminding me President Obama has 100 days to bring about the change he advertised during the campaign. The 100 days countdown is admittedly a media invention - another open, or animation telling your brain to perk up, pay attention, and turn your head toward the TV. It's also a way to let political news junkies ease back into reality.

We've counted down to Inauguration Day and up on Election Day. We've waited hours between primaries and gotten by with punditry between debates. We've been counting for two years and now the political season is over. We're going back to the boring business of being at war, having obese children, and detrimental climate change. Sure we've added a recession, but it's not the same as having 15 presidential candidates. So we have one last fix. One final countdown to news that's "nothing spectacular" and "mostly bad:" the first 100 days of the Obama Administration. There are 90 days left and I've decided to take some of the pressure for myself.

Media invention or not, President Obama is doing as much as he can as fast as he can. do it He's capped salaries, funded family planning in other countries, signed a directive to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and ordered government agencies to be more open to the media. I bet he's also spent time with his family and been to the gym. What have you done in the last ten days? What have I accomplished? The answer (for me anyway) is nothing worth noting. The next 90 days will be different.

Barack Obama is one man. The things he accomplishes are things one person (with a full staff and super secret Blackberry) can get done. He's working to bring the country to the best place it can be. In my case, I only have control over my life. But I see no reason why I can't do the same.

I'm setting out to get my "house in order." I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I do have criteria. My tasks for the next 90 days must be for the greater good of my person, relationship, household, professional development, finances - the overall good of Danie. I plan to start small to test the waters. The point is to better the world that revolves within my control. If Barack Obama can help me, the least I can do is help myself.

27 January 2009

Forced Identity Theft?

I think a postal mishap is affecting my credit. If this turns out to be true, it will forever damage my perception of the USPS as one of the most effective government agencies.

I received a call (on my cell phone) Friday afternoon from a Bank of America representative. She said she was calling about collection on the account belonging to the late "Someone Else." This "Someone Else" has my same last name and first initial. More than that, "Someone Else" and I shared an apartment complex back in Las Vegas. Still, I didn't ever know "Someone Else" existed, until I moved to San Francisco.

Jesse and I forwarded our mail before we left Vegas. A month later (maybe less), we started getting mail for "Someone Else." The bills and magazines had forwarding stickers on them, which I removed. That's how I learned we shared an apartment complex. I put the mail (without the sticker) back in the outgoing mail. Eventually, it all came back with new forwarding stickers.

I figured the bar codes printed on the bottom were to blame. I blacked them out, took off the stickers, and put the letters back in the mail. And I went to Vegas.

One thing had nothing to do with the other. I was in Vegas for Halloween, and to run some errands. But those errands brought to a post office, where I asked about "Someone Else's" mail. The man behind the counter told me to just keep sending it back. Back in San Francisco, "Someone Else's" mail was coming back for the third time. Some of it was starting to look abused. And the USPS stepped up efforts to thwart my mail return operation.

The Post Office took a few of the abused magazines, put forwarding stickers on them, and wrapped them in plastic. It also put bar code stickers on top of my crossed-out bar codes, and added more forwarding stickers. It got to the point where I was throwing some things away, about which I felt really guilty. So I consulted Brenden (America's Hottest Husband) and he recommended I talk to my mail carrier. I bundled what I had, wrote a note and never saw another piece of forwarded mail for "Someone Else." But it was too late,

The USPS tells certain groups when their mail is forwarded. By the time I stopped the forwarded mail, addresses had been changed. Mail was addressed to "Someone Else" in our apartment. I found no way around that, and three months after we moved in, we moved again.

I don't know when "Someone Else" died. I don't know how long it took for the bill collectors to link my cell phone number to his Las Vegas address. But it has been done. And so far at least Bank of America believes I have some connection to his debt. "Someone Else" also has the same last name and first initial as my brother (Derek), to whose debt I actually am connected. This could really confusing.

25 January 2009

Showdown At The Underground

As much as I knew I had to do it, I did not want to fight management at Optical Underground. Yes, it was an OU employee's mistake that cost me an extra $172, but I felt partially responsible. I've been wearing glasses since I was 3, and contacts since I was 15 or so. Shouldn't I have realized the prescriptions are not the same? Maybe. But it was never my job to know that. It was hers. And my money shouldn't be used to make up for that.

I decided to write a letter to the owner once I got my new glasses. I saw no reason to give anyone there reason not to like me while they still had my vision in their hands. Some people don't take criticism well. My glasses were supposed to be ready ten working days after I ordered them.Construction only took three days the first time around, so by day nine, I had convinced myself of a conspiracy to keep my glasses long enough to make me forget my complaint. I went into OU on a Saturday, both to check on my glasses and hopefully lodge my complaint without having to type it up and make copies of my supporting documentation. Neither mission was accomplished.

The OU employee responsible was the only one there. She's friendly and not a manager. I really didn't want to ask her about it at all - because she might have tried to save face. Then I would have had to be that customer, bringing up the same problem more than once. Plus my glasses weren't ready.

I went back Thursday (days after someone called me) with the intention of speaking to a manager. I did not feel like writing a letter. Optical Underground is not a chain or a corporation, there's just one store. I couldn't expect to hide behind words and expect a check in the mail. Aside from that, the idea of a letter was daunting. I wanted to convey my being - that I'm not the type of person who agrees to something then tries to change the terms. I wanted to explain I honestly did not know about the different prescriptions and that (while it may have been an honest mistake on her part) I cannot live with less than perfection for my eyes. I put it upon myself to say a lot in that letter, and as a result couldn't bring myself to write anything at all. So I settled for settling face to face, with someone who had not been directly involved.

I spotted two managers and the OU employee in question when I went into the store. Eventually she was the one who helped me. She got my glasses for me and went on a search for an authentic J.F. Rey case, which I did not have before. She was helpful and efficient. But I was there to potentially get her in trouble. I did not abandon my mission.

It was time to face my foe. I told her I paid for the lenses twice and would like a refund. She looked at the prescriptions and said "I should have caught that." She called a manager over, showed him the two prescriptions, and the decided to issue a refund over what they were calling a "doctor redo." There was no such redo, but I got my $172 back anyway. No hard feelings. No embarrassing moments. And one nifty case.

Proof that everything is linked: someone called me about an Emmy submission. It would fantastic to win another one, and I think those involved deserve to win. Plus -- look how happy it makes my parents. There was just the matter of cost. Yes, it costs money to ask to be considered for a nomination. Specifically $180. I just so happen to have about that much ready to spend. My boots are going to have to wait.

24 January 2009

I blog. The World Responds.

I moved slowly through my list of errands Saturday, saving laundry for late afternoon to avoid any crowd. That idea blew up in face - apparently a lot of people like to avoid crowds. However, while leaving my apartment to get clothes from the dryer, I was stopped.
"Oh wow. Do you live here?"
She was walking with her boyfriend and their two dogs, and she was Black. She introduced herself and said she had never seen me before. I told her I was new to the neighborhood. She officially welcomed me with a handshake, asked me my name, introduced me to her dogs, her boyfriend, and gave me her address. All because she saw me leaving an apartment building with a laundry basket. I feel like she gets her share of stares as well.

I don't mean to imply I don't like my neighborhood, because I do. I love the apartment and the location. I don't feel like anyone's hostile toward me and I feel like a lot of people go out of their way to tell me (polite) things using hand gestures. Things like "that dryer is all yours," or "forget the line, the first person who throws produce on the scale gets the service." I just really don't like feeling like a freak show. Being different gets tiresome. The only Black girl in her class. The only Black girl at her job. The only Black girl in the neighborhood. It adds a bit of pressure you know. I could do something to shape the opinions about all of my ilk who come after me.

Jesse says it's that we're in an actual neighborhood, where people know each other. He says not to worry about it and that it'll go away with time. We'll see.

For now, I'll be on the lookout for the couple with the dogs. They live near our favorite coffee shop. So I'm sure we'll see them from time to time.

23 January 2009

Asians & Spaniards | Common Denominator

Research has shown both people from Spain and people from China love to stare at Black people. Being alone in San Francisco has taken me back to my days in Spain, when I first encountered open gawking. It angered me off then and infuriates me more now.

Then, I partly understood. There were very few Black people in Spain. There were a few Africans, but they were mostly hookers and beggars. And the reality is Black people typically don't travel abroad. Other Black girls in my program had the same experience. One was spit on, so her experience was clearly worse. I was just watched. And took to staring back. I had open staring contests with passersby. If that meant turning around and walking backwards, so be it.

Now it's back and it's more annoying because I knew this would happen. I did not want to live in Chinatown (or in any neighborhood where the people are all the same) because I don't like people staring at me. But our apartment is perfect and at first everything was fine, which makes me that much angrier now.

No one stared when I walked with Jesse. I was likely dismissed as a tourist with my Anglo Escort. He's back home now though and I'm left to tower over everyone in Chinatown by myself. The gawking has commenced. We're talking open mouth, head turning stares. I have started staring back with my head titled, walking backwards when I must. I smile at the kids, old ladies, and old men -- who aren't always staring at my face.

More than that, I know they know all about me. I had to talk to my mail carrier. I waited for her outside of my building.

"Hi, I have a question about a letter I shuld have received but didn't."
"You're in #4 right?"

I did not tell her my name. I doubt she knows the other neighbors - they're not home at 2PM. The only person who is usually home (I'm usually at the gym) is the Chinese lady on the bottom floor.

It's frustrating and very disappointing. I wanted very much to believe Chinatown was not Spain, that the mentality between a country and a neighborhood were different. When we moved in, I asked Jen (my first Asian friend) how to not be perceived as a threat in Chinatown. She told me to be friendly. And I thought that was working. It's not.
Update: Jesse says he gets stared at as well, when he's on his way to work. How rude.

21 January 2009

The Battle Within

We have a new president. And I worked hard to tell people he was there. I thought the swearing in was going to be at 8AM Pacific. Someone said that and I believed them, even though I had the official schedule in my inbox the entire time. So this morning I was ready (at 8) to watch the words and feel the emotion. But once I saw the important players were still traveling, I had two options. I could have stayed and watched, or scurried to work with hopes of not missing anything. I checked my email and headed out the door.

I got to work in plenty of time to see that the deed was done, and then I had to get to work. I can't begin to explain all that needed to be done. Just understand that there are extra special, (self-imposed) higher standards for media on special occasions. Standards are generally high, but on days when members of the media are allowed to be among the people, I think they put more of themselves into their work. It becomes more personal and therefore more difficult to get right.

Usually we humble media workers have time in between these occasions. There are two years between political races, for example, and you've seen what your local stations do for that. Things have been different lately though, because the political candidates went at it for nearly two years. The campaign brought them to battleground states repeatedly, quintupling the expected number of special occasions. We in the media are tired. Tuesday, it got physical.

I came home from work, washed my hands and saw this. There is blood in my eyeball. I did not panic, this has happened before. The last time was when I was in college. I called my parents and my dad drove 5 hours after work to take me to an ER. The doctor (from what I remember) said it would just go away. I called my dad Tuesday night (in light of the new blight) and he remembered something similar. Both my mom and my dad understood today would be a day for a bleeding eye. That means a lot, since they're still surprised I work holidays.

For now I plan to keep one on the other, and both eyes on the lookout for more of these special occasions.

20 January 2009

"Mission Accomplished"

I saw this sometime after election day and took the picture. I almost forgot about it, until I was going through my phone Monday night. I like the message it sends, even though I do not think of Abraham Lincoln as a hero. I think for Lincoln abolition was a side effect of the war he wanted to wage. Still, who doesn't love a fist bump?

19 January 2009

Kids Aplenty

There are a lot of children in my life. None of which are mine, all of which affect me. They're all adorable, have unique personalities and have so far kept me from even thinking about any kids of my own. Let me introduce you to my favorite bundles of joy.

This is Jarred. He'll be my 3rd brother, once he's done brewing. He's due in May to my dad & Deva. I've only met Deva over the phone but she seems lovely. It's the first time I've caught my dad humming on the phone. And she's closer to his age than to mine. That's a big step.

Deva first thought to not know the sex of the baby, then decided she did not want all greens and yellows at her shower. But wanting to know is not always enough. My dad the 2nd to last ultrasound showed the baby waving, sticking out his tongue, and with his legs closed. No matter how they poked on the outside of his inner bubble, he kept his secret safe. I'm not sure, but I think they went in while he was asleep and took his picture.

Jarred will be younger than his nephew Donnell. I know. Feel free to take a minute to let that compute. Donnell is my brother's baby, and will be my first nephew. He's just about done and is due in February to Derek and Sianneh. I haven't met Sianneh and have only talked to her once on the phone. I am choosing to reserve my judgments until we can talk sister to baby-mama. I will keep you posted.

Donnell does not like the cold. If he doesn't move within the womb, someone touches his outer bubble with something cold. He will move away -- as much as space allows. There was a shower in his honor this past weekend, where I took a good step toward spoiling him. I hope to see him in April.

Donnell already has a guardian in Dayana. You should be familiar with Dayana (see: past adventures) but if you're not, she's the baby my mom & Vicki adopted three years ago. She's quite the character, as my mom would say. She already talks to Donnell and plays games with him. My brother says she calls him her baby. Dayana is very smart. Here's part of our conversation from Monday:
"Danie. I'm having surgery."
"Oh. Why?"

"They're going to take to take the two things in my throat and my adenoids."

"And then are you going to eat ice cream?"
"I don't like ice cream."
"What do you like?"
"I like snacks."

"What kind of snacks?"

"I like Scooby Snacks."
"Oh okay. Well after your surgery, I hope you get lots of Scooby Snacks."

"I will."

She's having her tonsils & adenoids removed. When was the last time you heard a three year old says "adenoids?" I rest my case.

Dayana also enjoys hanging out with Ty'yier. He's my 2nd brother (yes, from another mother) and he lives in North Carolina. We talk on the phone less often than we should, mostly about cartoons. We both watch Ben 10, Chowder, and The Misadventures of Flapjack. Ty's clever, but doesn't like school. He's really funny though, and visits Dayana & Derek when he spends the summers with my dad.

I was in college when Ty was born. I didn't even meet him until I left for a semester in Spain. It's difficult to have a sibling that doesn't grow up with you. When he was younger, we couldn't really talk on the phone. Now that we can have real conversations, I realize I don't know how he lives. I mean yes, he goes to school, plays, and avoids homework like 8 year olds are wont to do. But we don't have the shared memories I have with Derek, and I find I want to apologize for that when I talk to Ty. He understands things differently though. He's never known Derek and I to live with our mom and dad. And I'm glad for that, because I don't want him to feel like an outsider.

Jarred will have different situation entirely. My dad and Deva are not planning on living together, at least not that I've been told. My dad fully admits to keeping things from me though in order to keep me from telling you. Selfish? Possibly. I may be even more absent for Jarred's formative years. I'm 27 years older than my brother and I live a whole country away.

Of course there's Derek, who is my 1st brother. He's not technically a child, but there are moments when I have doubts. He's grown up considerably though, since he found out he has a mouth to feed. It's been a good transition and I am proud of him. I haven't seen him

I hope you were able to follow the shortest branches of my family tree. All you really need to know is I'm the oldest, Derek has a child, Ty watches all the best cartoons, Dayana is 3 going on 17, Donnell prefers warm weather, and Jarred is a secret keeper.

16 January 2009

A Lesson To Television Media

I've lived in the frozen heartland, where my new car didn't start because the engine fluids were frozen. I've also lived in the desert, where I've burned my hands on a scorched steering wheel. I've seen all sorts of weather extremes and I am here today with a message to the media: winter is not news in the Midwest.

I spent three winters in Fargo. Those winters taught me the meaning of the word and I don't think I complained once. It snows in winter. It gets cold and things freeze. Still -- people live. They go to work, take their kids to school, go the the gym, get groceries and run errands. I get annoyed when people say "I just can't imagine living like that." I want to say "you already do." People in the Upper Midwest, or in Upstate New York, or New England are people. And they're probably nicer than you.

Sure there are inconveniences, like new cars that have to be towed to a garage for thawing. That's nothing a block heater can't fix. There are perks as well, like bringing the car around so some teenager can load your groceries in the trunk. There are the typical problems that come with snow, like waiting for snowplows. But even that isn't as serious when you live in a place where people know how to drive in the snow.

I'm highly miffed at media coverage this winter. It's cold where it's supposed to be cold. This is a view of New York City, courtesy of Angie, who I met in the 5th grade. It's cold in NYC, just as it should be. It's also as cold as it should be in the Midwest. What makes that newsworthy? I feel like the media are treating the Midwest like a freak show in a fishbowl. "Look honey, it snowed. But they keep living there." Maybe the secret is not in how they "survive" the winter, but in what they get in exchange. Beautiful summers (with temperatures that can hit or top 100 degrees), lush greenery, and good quality of life. As the saying goes: "40 below keeps the riff-raff out."

Furthermore, you can not convey cold through a television screen. You can not make me feel the difference between 5 and -25, especially if I've grown up in one of those places that stares at Fargo as if it were the edge of the world. You can't describe how the air stops your breathing because it's too cold when it hits your lungs, or what it's like to breathe through a scarf and break off the ice that forms in the shape of your mouth. No static shot describes the quiet that comes after a snow storm, when everything is blanketed and peaceful. You, media, can't give me that. What you can give me, is a grown man hammering a nail with a banana.
You should be bringing me things of note, like snow in Las Vegas or a drought in Northern California. The media should be discussing the 70's in San Francisco. That's just not normal. Even the below zero temperatures heading southeast are out of atypical. But for North Dakota, Minnesota and New England -- this is winter. You don't have to like it. You don't have to live there. And you don't have to tell me it's anything more.

15 January 2009

SF DMV (iii)

Once verified, I finally got a number. That's right, all that just to get a number. I had to write a few sentences saying I will give my plates back to Nevada. I'm not sure if I will though, they do have my name on them. I ordered new plates and asked for them when my number was called.
"Did you get a postcard? We send a postcard when they come."


"Well then they're not here."

"Can you check? I don't live anywhere near here, and it would be great if they were ready."
She stood up, took a few steps, and turned.
"When did you order them"

"A month ago."
And she finally went. That last part was a lie. I only ordered them two weeks ago at the most. But they can't really take eight weeks. And she only asked so she would have a reason to not walk the 20 feet to check. No. My vanity plates are not ready.

Then came the tallying. I knew I was going to be penalized because (while doing so to her face) I did not lie on my registration form. I told the DMV I've been here since September. I did so knowing I was going to be fined. I thought to lie. My father would have told to do so. My boyfriend would have too. I even filled out a form with falsified dates. But for some reason, I went back and filled out a form with the right dates. My honesty cost me an extra $73. The woman couldn't believe my honesty but I told her it was still just a little more than what I would have paid in Vegas anyway. She told me the state needs the money anyway. And she's right.

At this rate, California will not make payroll come March. Judges have been told to expect IOUs for paychecks and the same may come in lieu of state income tax returns. For the lady at the DMV, it means two unpaid days, every month, for the next 18 months. She said she needs her job and all of her hours and that she's not sure what she's going to do. So I hope my $73 helped.

14 January 2009

SF DMV (ii)

I was told to go get my car and bring it closer for "Vehicle Verification." I pulled up behind another woman being verified and started checking my email. I also had my windows down, which allowed me to hear:

"It says Nevada."


"Yeah she's from Nevada."

I kept typing. I wanted it to be clear that I was sitting in my car minding my own business and that they should do the same. But my hints were not obvious, and one of the three started talking even louder, to make sure I heard him.

"I used to stay in Nevada. I was in Vegas for two years. I was over at 95 and Durango. But I had to get out."
I asked why. I did not look at him (as I was now typing a play by play for Kate) I just asked why.
"The money wasn't flowing like it used to."
What he should have said was "I'm a moron." That fool had four properties, all with Adjustable Rate Mortgages. He said he was paying $1200 a month (at some point) for a four bedroom house, and that the mortgage tripled. Even worse, I think he was a construction worker. In Vegas, that once meant living high on the hog and now means poverty forced relocation.

He went on, explaining what he did and did not like about Vegas. He asked me where I used to live. I told him. He then explained the 215 Beltway to me as if I hadn't told him I lived there. He asked me how I liked San Francisco and eventually ran out of things to say. Meanwhile the Vehicle Verification is still going on in front of me and the woman is digging in her trunk. What does this state want from it's drivers?
"My friend from Vegas might have a pen you can borrow."
Never in my life have I ever wanted to say "No you didn't" as much as I did then. The Foreclosure Fool offered a pen of mine to a friend who had missed the whole exchange. The friend was confused, but the FF sent him to my window to ask. I opened my bag and told him I only had a pink pen. He was clearly to macho for that. Plus I'm not even sure the DMV accepts pink ink.

Finally it was time for my vehicle to be verified. I didn't have to go into the trunk, just open the hood. And the guy making the demands did not offer to help. He did though walk me through it. Jesse is in charge of looking under the hood and of dipping sticks and what not. I buy the snacks. So I should not have been surprised when I could not find the bar that props up the hood. I was surprised at how hot the hood had gotten from one drive on a sunny day. Although looking back, I had been idling in case the FF tried to get in and I had to run him down. I paid less attention to the search for the prop bar as my hand started to sizzle. The DMV guy was the first to find it, stealthily planted on the actual hood and not on the car.

13 January 2009

SF DMV (i)

I registered my car Monday. I still had it from Saturday morning (one day I hope to recount that tale) and drove it work. I was feeling fortuitous, since I had used a parking meter all morning and did not get a ticket. I set out to get a smog check. Unlike Vegas, smog stands are not plotted in random parking lots around town. As far as I can tell, they're actually hidden. I found one by driving along a busy road for a long time, then asking a random gas station attendant. And I think I know why. What goes for $20 in Las Vegas, goes for $59.95 in San Francisco. Smog stands out in the open might be attacked. I got the same pokes, sniffs, and random form for three times as much money and not nearly as much convenience. It didn't take long though, and since all had gone well, I decided to go to the DMV. It was 2:30 or so on a Monday afternoon. And my luck ran out.

There is only one DMV in San Francisco, while there are several in Las Vegas Initially I assumed that could only be because the San Francisco DMV moved like a well oiled machine, churning out newly licensed drivers and registered vehicles at a fervent pace. I was wrong, by a lot.

The SF DMV had ample parking, which is unheard of in this city . I walked in and stood in the first line I saw. There was a sign above reading "Start Here," which I thought was helpful. I got out my paperwork and I waited. I saw the security guard make a woman leave because she was eating. I think it was a set up though - there's a hot dog stand less than 15 feet from the door. I saw an older woman wearing overalls, a brightly colored shirt, a brightly colored hat, and bright make up staring at the floor as if she were about to fall asleep. She was also wearing headphones and is apparently a big Jennifer Hudson fan. It was loud. I listened as the girl in front of me applied for asylum, even though she's legally allowed to stay indefinitely. Don't ask me what that's about. And then it was my turn. And the man sent me to another line at the other side of the building. It too read "Start Here," and was specifically for registration. It too had a long line and after seeing no way around it, I counted my first 20 minutes as a loss. Once I finally got to the counter, things got a little weird.

12 January 2009

Standing Still To See Where I'm Going

I accomplished nothing this weekend, and I really think that was exactly what I needed. Typically I cram as much as possible into both weekdays and Saturdays. The end result is that I'm usually exhausted by bed time and have no desire for anything fun. I save the fun for Sundays, when I'm usually just lazy. Or for Saturdays, when Jesse pushes me to do something I end up really enjoying. Clearly I'm a mess.
Jesse left this weekend. He had to make an emergency trip back to the Midwest and we don't know when he'll be back. I planned to busy myself to the point of exhaustion with the hopes of barely noticing his absence when I went to sleep. Instead I put forth little effort and was therefore able to stay up late. I could have taken fulfilling steps toward accomplishing any of our goals. But I didn't know where to begin. I was paralyzed by the possibilities.
We're planning to do a lot of camping and hiking this year. REI is having a clearance sale and I could have picked up a few needed supplies. I chose not to though, because the rest of our camping stuff is in Vegas, and I want to use our storage space wisely, and because it seemed silly to buy camping supplies when we don't have furniture.
I could have gone to Ikea, and searched for a number of household items we're missing. But for what I was willing to spend, I was not going to finish any area. So I decided not to try. We didn't have enough laundry, nothing needed major cleaning, and I am not excited about the next book on my reading list. So I turned to Hulu.
I watched TV all weekend. I saw the premieres of Monk & Psych. I watched an episode of House I missed earlier this season. I watched six episodes of The Office, and all the webisodes. I watched a Fantasy Series called Legend of the Seeker, mostly because it only had 8 episodes or so. No, I do not recommend it. I also watched most of the first season of The Riches, which I can now remove from the Netflix queue. I also caught up on my favorite cartoons, and watched part of the Ben 10 live-action movie. I didn't read, write, exercise, or really eat. I cleaned a little and made a very detailed goal list for this week. It was a very strange weekend for me. I did nothing. And I don't feel at all guilty. So unlike myself.
The result is I'm a little more clear headed. I realize we can't do it all, and to try will keep us from doing anything. If we spend the time and money outfitting ourselves for backpacking, and getting all the kitchen gadgets we want, and building a home (with paint and sophisticated window treatments), and focusing on fitness -- when will we actually be able to camp or cook or entertain or be as healthy as we want to be? On top of that, when will we be able to read or write or travel? I don't want to spend our youth preparing and not doing. Don't get me wrong, I can do nothing without preparing. But maybe we don't want to want to get a couch that would make it easier for us to watch TV when we could put that money toward a trip. Until we're sure, I'm not going to go too far in any direction. That's the best preparation I can do. And I'm okay with that.

08 January 2009

No Sir, I Don't Like It

Two writers from two blogs I follow recently named things they don't like. I like to know what irks people. It keeps me in their good graces. I have one friends who can't stand it when people refer to "pasta" as "noodles." She just can't take it, and she feels very strongly about that. I have another friend who does not like the "p word" commonly used to refer to women's underwear. It's not a bad word, but she really doesn't like it. So I don't say it around her. In the last two weeks, I've seen several things that irk me, things that make me want to scream, rant, rave, and pontificate. The list is growing. I decided to get it out, before I explode on a stranger.

Signs Reading "ATM Machine"
One such sign makes me shake my head. Several of them (as I am finding in this city) make me want to scream. "ATM" stands for Automated Teller Machine. "ATM Machine" reads "Automated Teller Machine Machine." Who thought that was a good idea? It's ridiculous and infuriating.

Angry Accosters, or Indignant Indigents
The next time someone who bothers me gets annoyed with my obvious annoyance, the situation may escalate. Jesse and I stopped to get gas in Fresno recently. As we got out of the car, a woman approached and started to ask for money. She stopped and waited when she saw I was tangled in all the typical passenger-seat, road trip garbage. Once I got out, she got closer, and asked for a "nickledimeorquarter." I gave her a curt "no."

How dare she lie in wait at a gas station. How dare she come up to me almost before I'm even out of the car to ask me for money. Did she care that I really had to use the restroom? Did she care that I was cold and irritated because this was the second gas station we tried?

She asked again. "You don't have a "nickledimeORquarter?" I went from curt, to snippy, and said no.

"Well you don't have to get nasty about it."

"I'm not being nasty." But I wanted to show how nasty I can get. I wanted to ask her who she was and why she - standing near a gas pump begging weary travelers for money on a Sunday night - felt she was in a position to tell me how to behave.

Fast forward a week or so, and I was walking home from work. Some older man on the street said something to me that I didn't hear. I looked at him, gave him a "I-respect-your-age" smile, and kept walking. And he got huffy.

"You don't have to walk faster just because I'm talking to you."

First of all, I didn't walk faster, I had just gotten to the top of the hill, and extra efforts translated into extra speed. Secondly, I might not want a lecherous man talking to me or thinking I have any interest in him whatsoever. Don't tell me how I should be, or what I should do. You just mind your business. Harrumph.

Joe The Plumber
Joe the plumber is a moron. I never once doubted that, but his interview with CNN's John Roberts proved it. The interview is here, and my favorite part is at 3:27. Joe clearly thought he could get in Sarah Palin's Nordstrom's Pantsuit, and when that failed, he decided to talk smack about John McCain. Now that no one's paying attention to John, Joe is going to Israel. He's going to report on the Average Jewish Joes, as their country obliterates Gaza.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say Joe doesn't know too much about this conflict. I'm going to also say he won't be next to Anderson Cooper on the border with Gaza. I don't know what Joe's function will be, other than to make a mockery of actual journalists. I hope they pay him enough to pay his taxes.

06 January 2009

The $172 Oversight

I'm not proud to admit it, but I got caught in the underbelly of "flex" spending. When I got to San Francisco, I thought I was due for immediate surgery. So when the HR representative asked me if I wanted to set aside money for medical expenses, I thought it was a perfect opportunity. I also thought I had a year to spend it. I was wrong. I did not have a year. I had the year. It wasn't until the payroll deductions did I realize I was committed to spending $1000 on medical supplies in three months. Fortunately, I was born to spend. I filled a sweater box with all sorts of medical supplies, and then some. I also bought two pairs of glasses.

The first pair is multi-colored and has what Jesse calls "racing stripes." They were designed by J.F. Rey and I got them at Optical Underground. I like them because they compliment my face. They're also bold and remarkable. Jesse thinks they're too much. Personally, I think he suffers from 20/20 vision. He thinks glasses have to be all business and can be only a little fun, but not cool. He wants me to look like a professional, so people stop treating me like a child. I say professionals can be fun, and that those with the lowest expectations of me have only themselves to blame.

The second pair is a basic black, with a clear outline. They were designed by Ralph Lauren and I got them at For Eyes. Jesse didn't comment on them at all upon first glance (mostly because I was screaming about spinach) but he says he loves them. I picked up the second pair today, then had to return the first pair because a prescription is not a prescription.

Let's go back (quickly) to when I left Vegas. I had a year's worth of contact lenses, and a typed out prescription signed by my optometrist. That's the same prescription I handed to the woman at Optical Underground when I decided on the fun frames. A week later, I was seeing in style. A week after that, I handed the same prescription to Eillen at For Eyes and she said: "This is not right. This is a prescription for contact lenses." I told her it was the only prescription I had. She informed me every optometrist must give an exam for glasses while they give one for contacts. All she had to do was call, get a consent form for me to sign, and they would fax my prescription for eyeglasses - which I now know is not the same as it is for contacts. Today I picked up the new glasses and the difference was... well it was as plain as the glasses on my face. The fun glasses had the wrong prescription, etched on custom lenses.

Back to Optical Underground I went, with the proper prescription. I explained the issue to Woman B, who I have seen there but who did not take my initial order. Woman A (who did take my order) was there and on a personal phone call. I showed the dueling prescriptions to Woman B and she was confused, because my contact prescription was weaker than my eyeglass prescription. She thought it should be the other way around and asked Woman A. Woman A said no, the eyeglasses are stronger than the glasses. She then pointed to the eyeglass prescription and said: "This is for glasses, the other one is for contacts." She was so authoritative about it, I became angry.

The difference is easy to find. A contact lens prescription has a measurement for your cornea. An eyeglass prescription doesn't. Woman A knows this. Still, she failed to notice it when I first ordered. Woman B felt bad for me, I could see it on her face. I had to buy new lenses. Not only are they shaped specifically for my frames, but one eye is legally blind, the other is twice as strong. I can't get lenses off any imaginary shelf. Woman wrote out my order and gave me the web site coupon discount. Still, the lenses were $172. And just like that I was out of a pair of knee-high, square-toed, wedge-heeled boots.

I'm not satisfied with the resolution. Typically the person at fault should be the person who pays. Woman A should have noticed just as soon as Eillen did. But shouldn't I also take responsibility for not knowing the ins and outs of my eyeballs? I should have realized there was a different prescription for different lenses. But thinking back, I don't know how I could have. Someone wasted time making custom frames no one will be able to use. I paid for those lenses, and they will never serve me. Woman A made a mistake and she had no repercussions. No sir. I don't like it. It put me in a bad mood. And things (on the first day of my 2009) got worse from there.

05 January 2009

2009: Let's Do This

Today I officially start 2009. I don't typically operate within my own calendar, but I also don't see a point to starting any resolutions before my birthday. Three days into every new year, there are no calories, no limits, and no work. It would therefore (in my opinion) be silly to crack down for two days only to indulge as much as possible and start again. Taking a self-imposed break between years also gives me a chance to name my goals, and consider realistic ways to meet them. This year, I have decided to rely on you (yes you) to keep me in line.

I work well (maybe even the best) under pressure, with a deadline, and with repercussions. But I can come up with all kinds of acceptable excuses when I'm the only one holding myself accountable. Most of the time I don't even consider my rationalizations to be excuses. I simply explain all the other things I did that kept me from whatever had been my "main" priority. I've learned a lot though, namely how to repeat mistakes.

I have had the same resolutions for as long as I've been making resolutions. Every year I promise to lose weight and save money. And to a point, I've accomplished those goals. But I'm ready to be done with them, because I now have other goals.

So with you as my witnesses, here is what I will accomplish in 2009.

I will cut my credit card debt in half. I've had credit cards since I was 18. I think (now that I'm all of 27) I can live without them. I'm testing this theory by freezing my only two credit cards. I put them back to back (or cvn to cvn) in a bag of water first thing New Year's Day. After two days I couldn't see the numbers. Technically yes, I could get the account numbers. But I do not know the expiration date or cvn for either card. This means I have to have an emergency fund, because I don't think it's advisable to microwave them out.

I'm going to achieve and maintain physical health. This means losing 40 pounds of fat and gaining 10 pounds of muscle. No, it's not to much. No, it will not be easy. Yes, I know what I need to do. And it's about time I just did it. I started losing weight a little more than two years ago. I'm ready to be done.

I will read 50 books this year. Jesse and I stopped at City Lights Bookstore a few weeks ago. It's a well known place and I should be glad it's so close. But once we were there, I felt ashamed. Book stores used to inspire me. They made me want to write and read and write some more. I had been excited about the words I had yet to learn and the stories I had yet to hear. But that night I was overwhelmed with the realization I won't get to them all, and that I may not even get to most of them. And I was ashamed that I hadn't even tried. I did a lot in 2008, but I did not read. I regret that and will work to fix it.

I'm willing to read anything, and am taking all recommendations. I've already read Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows this year. It was a re-read, but it's good book. Jesse insists I read The 4-Hour Workweek, and I'll do it even though I don't want to. I have low expectations from Tim Ferriss, and I think he has low expectations from his readers. Kudos to him though for compiling (what I expect to be) common sense ideas that do not pertain to my career. I'll do it for Jesse, because he really wants me to read it. And he's been asking for more than year.

04 January 2009

Celebrating 27

My 27th Birthday was the first birthday Jesse and I spent alone. I actually think it was the least attended birthday party of my whole life and it was perfect. When I was in school, my birthday was during Christmas break, so I always had friends and family with me. The same was true for college. By the time my first birthday in Fargo came, I had already met Jesse. His friends were my friends and everyone likes a good birthday party. We hadn't made friends by the time my first Vegas birthday came, but I had friends come from Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Texas to help me celebrate. After that, I had two years with good friends. But this year it was just us. On top of that, I didn't have a plan. I didn't know what I wanted to do. Jesse was zero help with his "whatever you want" mantra.

I got up early, and made a grand plan that would have taken us to the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marina. The plan was on hold though, until after a trip to the farmers' market at the Embarcadero. It was the most organized farmers' market I had ever visited, a few of the vendors even took debit / credit cards. There were meats, cheeses, fish, jellies, honey, and of course fresh fruit, vegetables, and spices. There were even tent restaurants, where people had lined up for coffee and pancakes to enjoy while they walked and shopped.

I bought Ollalieberry jam. I had never heard of it, and the woman selling it did not at all explain ollalieberries, but I tasted it, and I liked it. So I bought it. On the way home, Jesse (and his parents) took me shopping. I got work out clothes, some shirts, and a dress. It's my first dress since the Emmy's and it was a lot easier to find. I saw it on the rack and knew I would like it on me. That is a rarity.

Shopping showed us it was too cold to be on a bridge over water, and Plan A was scraped. Plan B though turned out to be delicious. I made pancakes and we lounged. I read and Jesse started making dinner plans. He took me to Franchino's. It's an intimate Italian restaurant in the neighborhood next door. It's run by a family, with the father greeting guests, the mother making pasta and serving food, and the daughters waitressing. The food was amazing, but Jesse didn't let me take any pictures of it. I also got 0 pipctures of the restaurant, or of me and my beau inside the restaurant. If you come to town though, we'll take you there. If you like Italian food, you'll love Franchino's.

We walked down to Union Square for dessert at the Cheesecake Factory. The Cheesecake Factory, like a lot of other stupid things in this city, is located in Macy's. The Union Square Macy's has been a disappointment to me on several occasions. I will not mar my birthday reveling by detailing it, but good things do not come out of that monstronsity. The Cheesecake Factory was packed, and even though we were only there for dessert, we couldn't even find a seat at the bar. So we got our cheesecake to go and took the trolley home. It was a delicious end to a a fun day. And I thank my darling Jesse for making it happen.

03 January 2009

I Love Birthdays. You Should Too.

Brian Allen asked me to be a guest writer on his blog. Brian is now an anchor, but we worked together when he was a reporter in Las Vegas. When I think "Brian Allen," I think "G-Sting." Now he's a main anchor with his own blog, and (as of January 1st) I am officially among the contributors. It was exciting to be asked. And since it's timely, I'm sharing with you what Brian has already shared with his readers.

I Love Birthdays. You Should Too.

Hi. My name is Danie and I'll be piloting this plane for the next few minutes. Please take a moment to locate your nearest exit, keeping it mind it may be behind you.

When Brian first asked me to contribute to his blog, I think my reaction was opposite from that of most other guest bloggers. I have a lot to say, and I think it's all interesting. Instead of asking 'what should I write,' I had an almost instant list of things not to write. I didn't want to write about the economy, or the election (or the inauguration), or the weather. I don't want to be introduced to strangers while ranting about rude people, dumb people, or parents who let their daughters dress seven years older than they are. Don't get me wrong, I have strong opinions about all of the above. But we've just met. And those seem like "second date" topics.

I did want to be timely though, and I told myself I'd write about New Year's Resolutions, and why none of us should have them. I thought about it, formed my argument, and never typed a word. I took the idea to my closest advisor (Kathryn), who agreed it was a good idea, then gave me one better. Ladies and gentlemen: I love birthdays. You should too.

There are 365 days in a typical year. There is only one day dedicated to you. On your birthday you are another year older and you should appreciate that. I see no reason to bemoan making it another year. When I hear people complaining about age, I want to ask them if they'd rather be dead. That's really the only alternative.

A birthday is your own personal marker. Wherever you are is the result of the journey that started when you were born. It's a day for one and all to appreciate you, and whatever it is you've contributed to the world. Birthdays are a big deal. So what if you didn't cure cancer in the 364 days prior.

I get my love of birthdays from my parents. Both have tendencies to enjoy extra attention. I learned early on that birthdays are special. My brother and I went to private school, and wore uniforms. But we could wear whatever we wanted on our birthdays - as long as it was over the top and fancy.

Not all birthdays were great. One year my mother was rude to my father and said she didn't want to spend his birthday with him. We were already dressed up and on our way to dinner at the time. I'll never forget it. My father was sad on his birthday and I thought it was the most terrible thing ever.

Then there was the year I went to work on my birthday (there was only one) and was suspended. There were lies involved, as well as manipulation and eavesdropping. Still, it resulted in my being suspended on my birthday. I was angry that birthday and almost forgot to celebrate myself. Almost.

I'm not afraid of living, of learning something everyday that brings me closer to the person I want to be. Every January 3rd, you'll find me smiling. I'll eat the foods I shouldn't and drink the beverages I normally wouldn't. I'll listen to my parents sing to me over the phone and I'll believe that everything that happens that day is happening just as it should. On that day, I'll believe the world is celebrating me. And I'll be right, because you're always right on your birthday.

02 January 2009

2008: The Lost Stories (ii)

Christmas Day 2008:

I had to work Christmas Day, so Jesse volunteered to cook. Yes, there were plenty of left overs, but it's not like there was anything else to do. Jesse's decided to make Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo, with homemade Alfredo Sauce. I prefer not to be around when he cooks (you would not believe the things he says are my fault) so I was glad to be at work. Also there was a breakfast buffet there and I don't need more than one excuse to eat.

I came home to find Jesse stirring intently. He said the whole thing was actually pretty easy, and he wasn't sweating or swearing, so I believed him. The sauce was delicious. He also used fresh pasta, which made a noticeable difference. While I ate, he made a blueberry dessert that may have been more to keep me away from his cookie bars than for my own treat. Either way, the dessert was delicious and I was stuffed.

Jesse and I then went up on the roof. This is Christmas in San Francisco. It's not like any place I've ever lived. It's colder than Vegas, hotter than Fargo, not as crisp as East Stroudsburg, and not as sloshy as Brooklyn. This is where we live, and part of how we spent our first San Franciscan Christmas.

After we ate (and Jesse refused to let me nap so he could get his own shut eye) we went to the movies. Jesse had been really excited to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. He was clearly not the only one. There was a horribly long line outside theater #5. There were a lot of grumbles and complaints, despite it being Christmas, and despite the fact that everyone there knew movie theaters were among the only places open Christmas night. Jesse was particularly impatient. He was pacing, huffing, walking in and out of line, and even standing on his tippie toes to see if the line was moving. I tried to tell him to calm down and that just got him more agitated. So I asked him: did Santa shoot you in the face?
I was referring to the story of the guy who dressed up like Santa and went to Christmas party to kill people. He rang the doorbell and an eight year old girl answered, as was part of this family's tradition. He shot her in the face. She didn't die, but she's 8. Now she's likely in an emotional tailspin. The story bothers me deeply. I promised to would never forget it and to think about it whenever I think I have a problem.
So Jesse was pouting over waiting in line. But he had not been shot in the face. He didn't see the point I was trying to make, and continued to sulk. I stayed quiet. Of course we eventually saw the movie and all was well.

01 January 2009

2008: The Lost Stories

I'd like to start 2009 by revisiting the past, specifically the last week of 2008. So much happened since I first touched beef. It all went by in a blur, and I did not have a minute to share it. But I did take plenty of pictures. I've uploaded and captioned, and am ready to bring you up to speed.

Christmas Eve 2008 (ii)

I spent Tuesday (Christmas Eve Eve) night doing prep work. I had grand plans for my dinner presentation and I refused to get overwhelmed. I did as much as I could before my bed time and spent Christmas Eve morning sharing my plan with everyone at work. I also asked for suggestions - everyone from moms to vegetarians had a chance to opine. After work I searched high and low for dinner buns, because Jesse likes buns. I tried to find the brand his mother uses, but they were not at the grocery store. That left me with too many options. I opted for Chinatown and hoped for the best.

I took my simmering rump roast out of the fridge, mixed the gravy, and plopped it in the oven. All was going as planned, until Jesse called to say he was getting out of work two hours early. That only gave me an hour to finish the roast, make the garlic butter, chicken, potatoes, peas, and cookie bars. It also gave me no hope of preparing the spread and having the rump laid out as a centerpiece surprise. For lack of a better word, I was crestfallen. In those times I text Kate.

Kate suggested I ask Jesse to be late.

I did.

He said he was going to get wine and that it might take three hours for him to do so.

The party was back on, minus the panic. I made my garlic butter, mashed my potatoes and kept the kitchen tidy in the interim. I also watched the rump very closely. After an hour and 20 minutes, it started looking tough, which was exactly what I was told to avoid. I took it out and started cutting into it. Everything I saw was brown. It was supposed to be pink. I cut deeper, more brown. I stabbed the middle (the rump dribbled in protest) and saw a tinge of pink. I considered the rump a failure and got to the making of the chicken.

There was no elaborate display for Jesse, but he was still surprised at my efforts. He said the rump was garlicky but otherwise good. I was back on top. The rolls were a bust. One was sweet and Jesse ended up eating part of the wrapper. The other was actually filled with some pork concoction. Dinner and dessert were both fantastic though. We tore through presents while we were still nibbling. Then, as Jesse crawled into bed, he said "now I know why we always open presents after we clean up the food. There's just no incentive." I had forgotten about that rule, and he had let me. but he was right. There was no incentive, and we took a nap.