Friday, April 20, 2012

Out of Body Experience?

Dear Body,

I don't know where you came from, but are you sure you belong to me? I mean, I went away for 3 weeks in March and except for once, didn't do any running. Before I left, I could do 3 miles.

Then I come home, and I do a 4-mile run. Do 3 days of weight training, a walk in the woods and some intervals. This week I did a 5-mile run. Just because I felt good at the time and wanted to see if I could do it. And I did. With almost no pain. What is up with that?

How far do you intend to go? I hope you don't want to do a marathon someday. The brain has no intentions of ever doing that long of a run.

Keep it up though--I'm not complaining. I'm just a bit dumbfounded.

Your pal,

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What's this Blog of Which You Speak?

Dear Readers,

You're still here? You're that committed?

Well, thanks. And yet, I disappoint. No posting. Disappearing to the other side of the world and not even writing you a postcard--what's up with that??

I don't really know. My brain's been full.

It's true. I did go to the other side of the world for a couple of weeks. I'm an instructor for the WFTDA's Officiating Clinics, so I went to Auckland, New Zealand, and the Gold Coast in Australia to teach Non-Skating Officiating to a bunch of awesome Kiwis and Aussies. The training clinics were so much fun--I get to talk about officiating and draw on a big white board and help people become excellent. I can't wait to get to do it again during some of the U.S. clinics this summer.

I'd never been to either country before, so everything was new and exciting and on the wrong side of the road but also still in English. I ate kumara, feijoas and Lamingtons. I drank ginger beer and some local brews. I also had some amazing fish and chips.....and a not so amazing meat pie. I indulged in kangaroo and wagyu beef. I had delicious local yogurt and managed to fit some giant Easter eggs into my suitcase.

I didn't just eat though. I hiked in the bush of New Zealand and flung a huge piece of seaweed around the beach. I tooled around the streets of Auckland. I biked along the riverfront path in Brisbane. My fellow clinic instructors and I saw glowworms and did a rainforest hike in Australia. I also went up to Lady Elliot Island and petted a giant sea turtle while snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef (being able to write a sentence like that about my life is both amazingly and obnoxiously cool--thanks for indulging me).

I've been home for about two weeks now and am probably over the jet lag--been feeling wobbly at times, and I'm not sure if it's jet lag or seasonal allergies. I'm still unpacking/picking up from my bags exploding all over my office. I find random receipts, new A4 folders, international power converters, an Australian cell phone and Kit Kat Chunky3 bars everywhere I look. I'm slowly changing from international jet setter to your average slob who might soon be mistaken for a hoarder.

So, am I back to blogging full time? We'll see. I've been doing a lot of derby stuff and a lot of business/formal-type writing. My creative side needs a bit of a workout--and by "bit," I mean my creative side is probably 75 lbs. overweight and has become a borderline diabetic mouthbreather. It needs some help. I've been doing the whole weight loss thing for some time though, so I know that it's one day at a time and that baby steps are in order to make some lasting change. These last few posts are just some of those baby steps.

Will I be able to take the creative weight off? Stay tuned!

Your pal,

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tis the Season? Pt. II

Dear Neighbors,

I feel like we had this conversation last year. I've tried to hold on and not complain, but I just can't take it anymore.

Your flowering tree is full of beautiful flowers. That means it's OK to take down the Christmas garland still wound around the pillars on your front porch.


It's OK.

Don't make me come over and do it myself.

Thanks so much!

Your pal,

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tis the Season?

Dear Microbrewers,

I know we're all excited to get winter behind us (though it was pretty mild here in my neck of the woods), but we just had the Spring Equinox. Why is summer beer already in the stores and on tap?

Don't get me wrong. Summer beer season is my favorite, but I was pretty shocked to not be able to get the Sam Adams Alpine Spring Seasonal at the beginning of April (beginning of April). I had to settle for the Sam Summer, which I like, but I like to look forward to it in April and May, not drink it.

I might blame you for global warming. Releasing seasonal beers too early causes global warming.

Sounds good, no?

Your pal,

Monday, February 27, 2012

Oh, Monday

Dear Readers,

A little over a week ago, I dropped off my sports watch at a local jewelers to have the battery replaced. Though the place offers battery replacement while you wait, he was busy with another customer, so I offered to come back the next day. This, of course, has turned into something like 10 days.

Today I was determined to go pick it up, so even though I'm a bit behind on work, I walked the 20-25 minutes down to the jewelry store. Five feet before I got to the door, I realized the place was closed on Mondays.

Go figure.

I guess it's good that I needed the walk.

Your pal,

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Short People Like Donuts Too

Dear Dunkin' Donuts,

I realize you're all about the coffee now, but do you have to line your countertops with coffee machines and coffee displays? Do you realize that they block the view of the donuts, the product that's actually a part of your name?

I don't drink coffee. When I go to Dunkin' Donuts (which is surprisingly a lot, given that before I moved to Massachusetts, I didn't have much of a Dunkin' habit. Now I go at least a few times a month), I'm going for a donut or a bagel. Problem is, because I'm 5'4", if I'm standing in line, all the coffee-related stuff blocks my view of the donuts and bagels. I often can't make a selection until I'm actually at the register, and at that point, the cashiers are hurrying me along because they want to get the line moving as fast as possible.

On Monday, I was in a store where the donut sightlines were so bad, I had to ask, "Do you have crullers?" because I couldn't see them at all. For the record, this was an outlet with crullers, which was a great bonus, but the customer experience was so frustrating and so unsatisfying that I don't know if I want to go back there.

In fact, I often will think that a donut would be a good snack. However, I'll opt against it because if I don't know what donut I want, I don't want to deal with the stress that ordering entails. Isn't there a way you can showcase the donuts, yet still have enough counter space for all the coffee makers? It'd certainly make me want to run to Dunkin' more often.

Thanks for listening.
Your pal,

Friday, February 17, 2012

Postcard from the Ether Dome

The "Mass" in "Mass. General Hospital" stands for "Massachusetts," though it could stand for "Massively confusing," since it's one of those really old hospitals that has a bunch of additions, with none of them really labelled well, making it really hard to find anything and necessitating a well-staffed information desk.

Recently, the Boy took the day off for a doctor's appointment, so we decided to head to the Ether Dome, where anesthesia was first successfully used in an operation. The dome is the operating theater where it happened, and the hospital now has it set up as a museum that you can visit. During business hours. When there aren't any meetings in there. Not that they'd tell you the schedule or anything.

This is, of course, what happened when we visited. Once we actually found the right entrance that would eventually lead us to the right building and got to the Ether Dome, there was a meeting going on (that I sort of walked into, since the door was open, and it certainly felt a little bit "tour guidey" to me). Dome off-limits to the general public.

One would think the visit was a failure, but not really. We did get to poke through the random tiny museum behind the operating room that you entered through a Jill-sized door, which meant the Boy had to pretty much double in half to get through it. This, of course, is a phenomenon I haven't experienced since we went to Japan, so I was pleased.

The museum contained random examining chairs and tables, none of which were labelled, so you didn't know what the heck you were even looking at--it kind of felt like they cleaned out old Dr. Morton's office in the 1980s and decided just to shove the contents back there. It also contained the wedding clothes of J. Masson Warren, who got married on April 30, 1839. Warren, I learned as I was writing this, since the few faded information panels along one wall were too boring to read and I don't have extensive knowledge of medical history, performed the first nose job and also developed surgeries for closing cleft palates. How his wedding clothes ended up framed and tucked behind an old operating theater in a hospital is a mystery.

Even though the museum took all of five minutes to look at, I was strangely transfixed. "This is a bizarre little museum," I said to the Boy.

"I know. And it's probably full of germs! Germs from a thousand years ago that they don't know how to cure anymore!"

I opened up a drawer on an examining table. The Boy got disgusted. "Don't touch anything! You're like a little kid!"

For the record, the drawer contained a used rubber glove.

To make it feel like we totally didn't waste the afternoon, we looked at all the (unlabeled) pictures lining the stairwells and flipped through the guest books. Although we'll have to go back to see the main attraction, the whole experience felt like this entry:

3 cheers for the either [sic] !!! :-) :-) :-) 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What, Who Me? Yes, You!

Dear Doctor-Waiting-Room Jerk who's complaining about the long wait,

Thanks for letting us all know you're really important because it's 9:40 and you have a 10:00 call and are upset because haven't gotten in to see the doctor yet.

I know you're dealing with a he-said, she-said kind of thing. The nurse says you were 25 minutes late for your 8:45 appointment; you claim you got here before 9:00. The point is though that you were late.

Haven't you tuned in to any of the problems in health care over the past decade (or more) that talks about how little time doctors have for individual appointments? If you're even 10 minutes late, you've pretty much missed your time slot. You want a same day appointment? Wait it out, buddy. Since you've wasted their time (and their dime), you're now at their mercy. Suck it up.

I realize your call was probably earth-shattering, but since you screwed up their schedule, you can wait until 9:36 to get fit in. If it's important to you to see the doctor, your call can wait.

Oh, and since you're scheduling your follow-up appointment for first thing in the morning, how about setting your alarm now so that you can get there on time and not mess up the day. Again.

Please and thank you.

Your pal,

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Most Unwelcome Trend

Dear Readers,

Yesterday the Boy went to Miami for a work conference (seeing as how it got really cold here in Massachusetts yesterday, I don't pity him). Normally I don't mind him being gone for a few days--I get to watch bad TV and eat pizza and stay up way too late (actually, that last part is not such a good thing....I'd prefer to get more sleep, to be honest).

However, we seem to have a trend of "when one goes away, shit goes south" at the old apartment, and frankly, this is one trend I do not want to keep up with.

The first time was last year--I went away, and when I came back, we discovered we had mice. Then he went away right after that, and we really had a mouse problem that I was stuck dealing with (listening to mousetraps go off all night isn't pleasant).

Then this fall, I went away a lot, and the mice came back, and the Boy had to deal with some pretty disgusting stuff. You could say the Boy was lonely, and the mice wanted to play and keep him company, but he would beg to differ.

Now the Boy's gone again, and our water heater broke. Just when I tried to take a shower. Great. Plus I have a stack of dishes to wash.

The only good thing about this that because we rent, the several hundred dollars it will take to replace the water heater won't be coming out of our pockets.

Well, it's time to get out the stock pots (or at least the clean one) and start warming water the old-fashioned way. I can't sit around and wait for the plumber to show up. Gotta keep moving on.

Your pal,

Friday, February 10, 2012

What Happens When the Tortoise Goes Broke?

Dear USPS,

I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I didn't get around to sending out my Christmas cards this year. True, my contribution is only a drop in the bucket compared to your overall mail volume, but I'm sure there were plenty of other people like me, who just said, "Screw it. Not going to spend the time writing out cards this year."

Of course, that didn't help your bottom line, which is driven in part by first-class mail. If the category of people who decide to stop sending regular mail grows, then you're going to continue to be in real trouble.

Hopefully what will help you is the growing movement to send snail mail, and a bunch of writers are getting in on the act too. I'd read about Mary Robinette Kowal's challenge for February at the beginning of the month (basically, send a piece of first class correspondence every day of the month that the post office delivers), and I thought it was a great idea. So great, that I've only managed to send out two letters.

Yes, two. And it's February 10th. That means I owe seven letters/postcards. Hopefully for your sake, others are doing better than I am in this endeavor, but I promise to send out a few more pieces of mail this month.

What's great about this project is that I'm starting to remember the joys of letter writing. One of my friends who I wrote called me up, and we had a really nice conversation that otherwise wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for the letter. He told me how cool it was to receive an actual letter in the mail. Hear that? Snail mail is still hip and cool, even if it's one of the slowest forms of communication!

I'm working on it, USPS. I don't want you to keep hemorrhaging money, and one of the ways to stop that is for me to keep buying stamps and sending mail. And set the trend for others to do so--and we all know how I'm a massive trendsetter in the world at large. Still, I'm putting it out there, and hopefully more people will pick it up and run with it.

Your pal,

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Don't Take Dieting Advice at the Blood Bank

Dear Readers,

Yesterday, I donated platelets for the first time. It's something I've been meaning to do for a while--several months ago, I got a letter from the Red Cross basically saying that after doing scans of the blood I've donated (I try to donate blood regularly), my platelets were pretty freaking awesome, and it'd be helpful if I donated some.

I put the letter aside, always meaning to get back to them. You know how that goes. A few weeks ago, they called, and that's when I signed up.

Donating platelets is a two-hour process, during which blood gets drawn, the platelets are separated out, and the blood's put back into you, along with some saline. Honestly, part of the appeal of doing it was being forced to sit for two hours and not be on a computer. Yes, I still had screen time because I watched a movie ("Away We Go"), but it was a nice forced break. And, you know, I'm helping people.

However, donating platelets and blood doesn't necessarily do a diet good. I'm still plodding along in my quest to shed pounds, and it doesn't help me mentally to have the technician tell me, "You don't look like you weigh x!" Thanks. I do hide the weight well, but that's part of the problem I have--I feel like I look thinner than the scale says.

Later in the donation process, the technician asked if I wanted any water. "Sure, I'll have some water," I replied.

"We've got water, juice, and ginger ale," she said.

I hesitated. Well, if you're going to offer juice.....I ended up asking for cranberry juice.

She brought me two little cans of juice, along with two cookie bars. Then she brought the basket of salty snacks. "You can have whatever you want!"

I can have whatever I want? Platelet donation lets me? Right on! Being a person with a weight problem who thinks that donating platelets will also instantly suck the fat right out of you, I asked for some pretzels. The technician tried to push bags of popcorn and Cheez-Its on me too, but I had to draw the line somewhere.

After donating, I had a hankering for a bagel with cream cheese, so I wandered around downtown Boston until I found a Bruegger's. Had my bagel. Had my cream cheese. Had some hot chocolate. Hey, I'm thinking, at this point I need to listen to my body and feed it what it's asking for. Besides, no strenuous exercise or heavy lifting after donation!

Unfortunately, after the bagel, I felt the need for some kind of iron replenishment, and I seriously thought I was going to have to get a McDonald's cheeseburger, which would essentially have been a first dinner at that point. Granted, I wouldn't eat a second dinner until after that night's roller derby scrimmage, but the idea of putting so much food in my body didn't thrill me.

Luckily, I found a fruit stand and got a banana, which tided me over until I was able to finish the night with a huge bowl of chili smothered with cheese, or as I like to think, "protein and calcium."

Net weight loss on the day: + 2 pounds.

Oh well. Today's a new day. I can revel in the warm fuzzies that I helped some people with my platelets and get back on track.

Your pal,

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Straw that Might Break Me

Dear Readers,

There are few things that would cause me to divorce the Boy, but I think I have found the one that could be most threatening to our marriage: Doomsday Preppers.

This is a new show on the National Geographic channel that "explores the lives of otherwise ordinary Americans who are preparing for the end of the world as we know it." After watching glimpses of this show--to which the Boy eagerly watched--I wouldn't really call them "ordinary." No, these people all have a little bit of crazy in them.

Now, I love all sorts of reality TV, but the combo of Hoarders + Extreme Couponers + Doomsday Fanatics is a little too much for me to bear. Especially since the Boy has some survivalist tendencies to begin with. Sure, I can understand preparing for things--having a car emergency kit, having canned goods on hand in case it storms/snows and you can't get out of the house for a little while, having some water in case of a hurricane--but I draw the line at stockpiling 50,000 lbs. of food and acquiring an old school bus so you have an additional "house" in which to live. That's a totally different kind of preparedness--one that's prepping you for a lot of mental health treatments.

Luckily, we're not all that outdoorsy. It's really hard to find ice for your cocktails in the middle of the woods, so we tend to stay close to civilization. However, that doesn't stop the Boy from talking about getting a compound in the middle of nowhere and going off the grid after he's had a bad day at work. With a show that exposes other people who feel like this and are doing something about it, I worry that he thinks we should start preparing for a oil crisis or financial collapse or massive earthquake too.

Besides, he doesn't need "Doomsday Preppers" to teach him methods of getting through a disaster. He should just watch "Survivor" for that.

Your pal,

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

DVR Update

Dear Readers,

I'm cleaning off the DVR tonight. I vaguely remember a New Year's resolution about getting the DVR emptied. How am I doing?

Well, I'm at something like 56% empty. Not bad, not great. I'm making progress, though seriously, that's only helped by the fact that somehow the DVR erased a bunch of movies I'd taped and had never been in the mood to watch.

Finding out that I'd lost "Donnie Brasco" and "Zoolander" and "Up," was a little disappointing, so I've been on a bit of a crusade to work on the backlog that's still on the DVR. Unfortunately, I've got several episodes of "Glee" and "30 Rock" to burn through, and it's up against "Top Chef" and "Project Runway" and new seasons of "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race."

And I've got a stack of books to read.

Perhaps I should be a little more judicious with the delete button.

Your pal,

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Stuff I'm Saying to The Boy

Dateline: Super Bowl Sunday, 2012

Me: I think after every time NBC shows Eli Manning, they should cut to Peyton Manning.

The Boy: Are you kidding?! Peyton Manning's not there! He's at home sitting on his couch, watching it on his big screen TV.

Me: At least Peyton Manning has a couch and a big screen TV. (beat) Why can't you be more like Peyton Manning?!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Idea Overload

Dear Readers,

I've got kind of an Andy Rooney vibe going on at the moment, mainly due to the fact that I received one of my regular e-newsletters from Better Homes & Gardens proudly proclaiming "124 DIY Decorating Ideas."


I don't know about you, but I'm tired of the trend of media companies throwing tons of information your way, in an attempt to be all things to all people. If I even was into DIY decorating (and if you've seen my home, I clearly should turn in my woman card because it's obvious decorating is really not my forte), I don't want to sift through 124 different projects, which are probably on 124 different web pages so that I'll see 124+ different ads.

BHG is not the only culprit. I also hate the cooking-related e-newsletters that contain 50 chicken recipes so that I can "quickly" choose something for dinner tonight! By the time I look through those 50 recipes, dinner might have been close to done. How about picking five that work with different kinds of dietary restrictions (low-carb, dairy/gluten-free, etc.) and showing me those? Then next week, send me another five? I'm really more apt to browse them then.

This is all really just a lament for what appears to be the dying art of editing. The "more is better" mantra keeps pervading everyone's thought process just when nobody seems to have the time to do anything. Oh, I understand the need to sell ad space and make money off your website, but when you're shoving so much information down my throat that I won't even open your e-newsletter or read your article, that's a lost cause and a waste of a company's money too.

But if they still don't understand, I can write up an article called "27 Tips for Editing Your Information." I've just got to sell some ad space first.

Your pal,

Monday, January 23, 2012

Nominee for Best Day of the Year

Dear Readers,

One for the records: Last Friday was The Day.

The Day is the most important day of winter. I never know when it will happen, but when it does, nothing could make me happier.

I'm talking about the day when I first notice that the days are getting longer. The day when I know that spring and summer--!-- are officially going to come and that it will get warmer. This is especially meaningful because I work in a drafty home office that's located directly above a stairwell. That whole scientific concept about bridges icing faster also applies in my house. The Day gives me hope that my work environment will once again be pleasant and not reliant on fuel oil and a space heater.

Most evenings I walk to the commuter rail to meet the Boy when he's coming home from work. The two-mile round trip gets me out of the house and gives me a little bit of exercise. I usually leave the house about 5:25 in order to meet him on time. In winter, it's usually a more difficult trek--it's dark, cold and sometimes icy/snowy; I'm wearing a dark coat; cars don't necessarily see me (though in Massachusetts, that's the norm). But when The Day comes, it's the start to the end of all of that for another year.

On Friday, I walked outside to go to the train station, and I saw it: The faintest hints of blue and orange far on the western horizon. It didn't last long--maybe five minutes at best--but it was there. And it's just a harbinger of days to come.

Therefore, I'd like to nominate The Day for Best Day of the Year. Some people might say Christmas is the best day of the year, or Mother's Day, or the First Day of School. I think The Day is right up there with them and worthy of such recognition.

Your pal,

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fun with Buttermilk

Dear Readers,

The other week I was at the grocery store, and thinking it would be nice to make some whoopie pies, I picked up a quart of buttermilk.

A couple of days later, I was at a different grocery store, and I thought it would be nice to make some whoopie pies, so I bought a quart of buttermilk.

A couple of days after that, I was digging through the fridge and discovered that I had two quarts of buttermilk.


My whoopie pie recipe only calls for a 1/2 cup, so I'm used to never really finishing a full quart of buttermilk in the first place. But I hated the idea of wasting nearly two quarts of buttermilk, so I decided to go on a bit of a rampage.

This week, by the time both quarts expired, I managed to make:

  • 1 batch of buttermilk biscuits (very flat)
  • 1 batch of mac & cheese (which is not the world's best, but it's sufficient for my lunches)
  • 2 batches of scones (fruit, chocolate chip)
  • 3 batches of whoopie pies
And I used all but probably a 1/2 cup or so of buttermilk. Not bad. Though if you can use buttermilk a day or two beyond its sell-by day, I may have the chance to make something else this weekend. Then I'm declaring a buttermilk moratorium.

Your pal,

Monday, January 16, 2012

Why Don't You Use It?

Dear Overzealous Product Reviewers (including normanj.moxey),

We all know that the Internet has made shopping a lot easier. Don't know if you're going to like a product? Check out the user reviews! Give your star rating! Speak your piece! Tell the world how they should or shouldn't buy said product/use said service/go to said restaurant!

However, reviews are only good if you actually use said product or service.

I was looking around for some compression software on CNET today, and I thought I'd check out the user reviews for one item, since it got high star ratings. Only 3 reviews, one of which didn't comment, one of which was helpful, and the other--by the above normanj.moxey--which said, "I have only just downloaded this software? Not used yet".

Oh, you're helpful, Norman. How'd you come up with a 4-star rating?

Granted, maybe that review was plant or a robot or something else, but this is not an isolated incident. How many times have you looked for reviews, only to find garbage, and that's what pushed you over the edge to take up online product reviewing as a hobby yourself?

Let's make our reviews better, people. Because I don't want to have to start reviewing products myself.

Your pal,

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Threshold Phrases: Useful Warning Device?

Dear Readers,

Yesterday I realized that I've pretty much acquired a threshold phrase, something you say when you've had enough and if you're going to have to deal with much more stupidity, everyone in the general vicinity is going to get it.

Bill Cosby's wife has a threshold phrase, which he describes in one of my favorite Cosby routines, "The Same Thing Happens Every Night":

In the past I often quoted a comedian whose name I can't remember, who said that she was "up to here," ostensibly also holding her hand up to someplace on her body (I usually would signal somewhere around my eyes). "When I'm full, you're in trouble." Or something like that. 

Now it seems like I've developed my own saying. Like many things, it just happened organically, and over the last few months, there have been a few events where it's the only thing I wanted to say. I'd give myself points for creativity, but my phrase unfortunately involves both swears and breaking a Commandment, so I'm not exactly proud. I just thought I'd let you know, in case you happened to be near me if it pops out of my mouth.

My threshold phrase first came up this fall during tournament season. At South Centrals, I started getting sick. I developed a bad cough, so I started taking the Dayquil/Nyquil combination. By Day 3, being a Hackety Ann really started working my nerves, so a mess of tiny things that irritated me became a large pile of nonsense, and if anyone did anything remotely off, I just wanted to snap, "I SWEAR TO FUCKING GOD!" and then tell said person how to get it together.

For the record, I didn't really have many problems at South Centrals, so how I came up with this phrase is beyond me. It could've been dealing with things for the tournament that was to come. It could've been a side effect of Dayquil, one of which is possible "excitability," but taking the Lord's name in vain doesn't appear on that list. And speaking of taking the Lord's name in vain, if you consider this action to be lightly throwing His name around, but I reserve this phrase for times of utmost gravitas, am I really breaking a commandment? [Don't answer that.]

I did make it through the tournament without tearing anyone's head off, and then it was on to Indianapolis, where, because my cold wasn't getting better,  I continued with my Dayquil/Nyquil treatment program. In fact, at North Centrals, you could tell which laptop on the dais was mine just by locating the ever-present bottles of diet Coke and Dayquil, both of which I chugged at regular intervals. By this point, I'd long given up using the little plastic cup that came with the cold medicine and figured that self-dosing was a better way to quench the cough.

I'm not going to lie: Heading up a tournament can be a little stressful. Even though North Centrals was pretty organized, problems still cropped up. By the end of Day 2, I was on my 4th printer; I'd had to painstakingly go through paperwork to figure out why an error occurred; and I had had to make some tough staffing decisions. Around 2 AM when I opened up my laptop to finish populating some spreadsheets for the last day's paperwork, I was about out of patience. 

Then I checked my e-mail and had one from the Head Ref of my next tournament. The tournament that was a month away. This e-mail was a response I was cc:'d on that was asking about staffing in terms of a marketing task that had to happen (later I found out this hadn't happened well at North Centrals, which was mostly my fault, but on the other hand, I didn't know I was supposed to do said task in the first place. Still, I'm sure the marketing person was pretty much at a similar threshold point with me).

Anyway, the Head Ref innocently responded that he and I would be working on assignments early in the week and we would have them finalized by the beginning of the next week.

When I read that, I lost it. And I lost it in either the best or worst way possible: By replying to said Head Ref. Early in the next week?! As in day after the tournament?! I was still traveling! I was heading up to the Region to visit the family and wouldn't get back to Boston until extremely late on Wednesday! Not to mention that I was still sick--and had probably contaminated two entire officiating staffs--and all I wanted to do was sleep and not start almost every sentence with, "I SWEAR TO FUCKING GOD," illustrated with examples--to apparently prove that I may have been delirious at that point. 

After hitting "send," I shut it down for the night. I was at the point where the spreadsheet cells were swimming in front of my eyes, and I could no longer put numbers in alphabetical order [standard practice: It's kind of like arranging numbers by the Dewey Decimal system, since usually officials say them digit by digit instead of whole number form]. Better to get a little bit of sleep and crank out the paperwork in the morning than to stay up and do it incorrectly.

Come morning, my inbox held a directive:
Deep breath.

Finish the day strong.

We'll make this happen without any major freakouts.

I took the deep breath. And instantly felt better, which was good because right then I was discovering that I would be getting printer #5, so the zen moment helped. But not to the point where I didn't also offhandedly comment to my current Head Ref that I'd like to start every sentence with my threshold phrase. To which he replied that he knew exactly what I meant. Still, we did finish the day strong. And I didn't need to freak out--especially at anyone in particular, so it was a win-win.

One might think this is something I just would use in a roller derby sense, but at Champs, I didn't feel I got to that point. Sure, I had some massive issues with our scoreboard setup, but that was the one big problem of the weekend. One that I probably showed way too much frustration about, but at least I didn't have many other problems that piled onto that to make me want to swear (to fucking God. In all caps). [It may also have helped that Champs has 5 fewer bouts than a Regional and only 2 bouts on the last day vs. 5, so there's not as much to do on Day 3.]

And it's not stress + sickness either, because I've hit my threshold point at the voting polls, and I've been perfectly healthy for both elections I've worked. I've started Election Judging in my town, and while I love this gig, the long day (6:30 AM to ~8:30 PM, depending on how quickly you can close up shop) and the different personalities have a way of quickly breaking me down so that by the end of the night, I can no longer deal with small talk and being in close proximity to a lot of people (I work alone, you know); I can no longer deal with elderly people who may cling to doing a position they can no longer focus on by 6 PM; and I SWEAR TO FUCKING GOD, I can't deal with the desire to overstep boundaries in what we can and cannot do in the hour before the polls close if it's not busy.

Last night, after a long day working a poorly attended special election, I explained my threshold phrase to the Boy, mostly as a PSA, which I'm also now telling you. I consider myself a fairly patient person (I can probably get some references, if you'd like), but I'm now aware that even I have a breaking point, and everyone probably needs to be in on what that point is. At least it's one that identifies itself so that we can all prepare for what might happen in case I actually blow.

Your, for the time being, mellow pal,

Thursday, January 5, 2012

How Much Do You Need?

Quote of the day: "As long as you're no longer living in a garage and shitting in a popcorn tin ---- how much money do you fucking need????"

My friend Missy sent me an e-mail complaining about the new stars of "Celebrity Apprentice." Not that she watches the show (though I sometimes do), but she was procrastinating, saw the list and then marveled at how Botoxed and/or Photoshopped everyone looked....and why in the world was Adam Carolla stooping to do this show.

I responded that he probably needed the money to maintain his lifestyle, not to mention his little business venture of having his own broadcast studio.

Missy then responded with the above quote, which has had me chuckling ever since.

Money's been a hot topic around the house lately, since it's time to talk to my accountant. Did I make more money this year over last? Yes, but that's still not saying much in the grand scheme of things. I did make more than my first job out of college, which is progress, though if you think a file clerk racks in the big bucks, you'd be sorely mistaken. 

Still, my business is improving, and I'm fairly content with this year's results, considering the effort I put in. Would I like to make more money? Well, sure. There are a ton of things I want to do and buy, and I need money for them. However, I'm not living in a garage, and I'm not shitting in a popcorn tin, so even though my income isn't the greatest, I think I'm probably doing OK in the grand scheme of things. I would like to not live in an apartment and shit in a low-grade bathroom though, so that means it's time to look for more work. Mr. Trump, are you casting?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

While I Was Away

Dear Readers,

Oh, it's been a WHILE, hasn't it?

In my office, I have a shelf next to my desk, and on it I tape pictures and a calendar and other reminders that I need to quickly reference. As I pulled off these three things that I don't need for 2012, I realized they pretty much sum up the last half of 2011:

First off, we have a Field Notes calendar. I love Field Notes (I prefer them to Moleskines), and with one of my orders, they included this handy one-page calendar. It was the perfect calendar when I needed to quickly find a day and date. This year I ordered a special page-a-month Field Notes calendar, which is nice, but I miss the simplicity of the one-pager.

Next, there's a Boston Derby Dames 2011 schedule. Sure, derby occupied a lot of time in 2011, since I served my league as Head NSO (Non-Skating Official) and Officiating Committee Co-Head. Our July bout turned into a 4-bouts-in-3-days spectacular, which meant some extra work. I spent a chunk of that month (and August) catching up on writing NSO evaluations toward WFTDA Certification.

And then I got a few e-mails with regards to the last scrap of paper: The WFTDA Big 5 Tournament schedule. I love tournament season. You get to work with the best of the best officials from all over during a three-day tournament, and it's a great learning experience. With an afterparty. That might or might not involve a mechanical bull.

Last year I did Easterns and Championships, and this year I applied to work Easterns (in Baltimore), North Centrals (my old region, and since it was in Indianapolis, that was close enough for a visit to the parents), and Championships (in Denver). You'll note that these tournaments are all in the fall--well, the application process starts much earlier than that. Officials need to apply by June, they're vetted, and after a couple of months, you find out if you're in.

Tournaments involve a ton of organization and structure, but on the officiating side, the top dog is the Tournament Head Ref (THR), which is an elected position. Each tourney has a THR, and this person selects a Tournament Head NSO (THNSO), 3 Crew Head Referees (CHR), and 3 referee crews. The THNSO staffs the 3 NSO crews.

Near the end of July, I got an invitation to be a CHNSO for Easterns. I was excited because it was a good opportunity to expand my skills and learn some tournament crew management.

The next day, I got an invitation to be the THNSO. For Championships. Championships!

A few days after that, I got an invitation to be the THNSO for North Centrals.

WTF?!! I mean, I know I'm a good NSO and I'm organized and everything, but really? A CH and two THs? It was unbelievable.

And then South Centrals needed some extra NSOs, so I applied for that and got another CH position.

Needless to say, I was busy. Staffing two tournaments kept me up late for probably a week (on top of which, I had a regular home bout to deal with). For August and September, I flip-flopped between dealing with wrapping up the end of my league's season and organizing the two tourneys, both of which involved many more late nights (the Boy was both angry and amazed that I could go to bed at 3 AM and wake up at 7, full of energy). Before I knew it, it was time to travel.

Easterns was good -- my first time as a CH, and I was nervous as all get out. As a CH, you also work a position, and at Easterns I was a Penalty Wrangler, which is a pretty involved position, trying to help Penalty Trackers capture the penalties refs call as quickly as possible. This can be a pretty physical position, and I discovered that I did better if I warmed up before the bout (usually NSOs stand or sit...Wranglers have to move). The final bout was so fast that it just about killed me--it was like I had to do rounds of shuffles for an hour, with a 10 minute break at half time, during which I sat on the ground and sweated profusely.

My crew at Easterns did really well, though I tend to think that's more based on their talent than my leadership. Let's just say it was a massive learning experience for me, one that I really appreciate getting.

The next trip was South Centrals and North Centrals, a two-week trip. I had business in Indy as well, so I flew from Kansas City directly to Indianapolis and worked for the few days between tourneys to produce this article and hang out with this client.

South Centrals was awesome. I had another solid crew, and I did much better as a CH. Sometimes tourneys can be really magical. You never know what will make them that way, but this year South Centrals was pretty magical for me. I met so many great people, and the venue, hotel, and after-tourney food options were within walking distance, which is a massive plus.

That's not to say that the last two tourneys were not good--on the contrary, they were great, but it's different when you're a TH and don't work actual bouts. You prep paperwork, observe, and do general management. This, I happily discovered, is also a great job. It's a lot of work (and I mean, a lot of work), but it's so incredibly rewarding. At North Centrals, NSOs rocked positions in ways I didn't know they could be rocked. At Champs so many NSOs brought their A+ game that my jaw dropped more than once at the quality of work I saw. It inspired me so much [and the amazing thing is that no one notices it -- sure, if an NSO screws up, you notice it, but we blend into the background so much that nobody's looking at the really amazing work we can do].

Anyhow, the tourneys didn't really end in November. Once Champs was over, I still had to write evaluations. 111 of them, which is close to, if not actually the most evals someone was expected to write for tournaments this year. One might think, well why bother? Well, the certification process is important to me, and it's really hard for NSOs to get evaluations, which are an essential component of an application. It took me until after Christmas to finish it all, but I'm done, and now it's on to 2012.

So, what does the new year have in store for me? Well, in terms of work, things are going well, but I need to hustle to make it better. And blog more, of course. I'm no longer my derby league's Officiating Committee Co-Head, but I am now a WFTDA Officiating Clinic Instructor. So much change. It's sometimes it's hard to say good-bye to the old positions [I was pretty sad when Big 5 season ended, which is a nice way of saying I bawled like a baby], but the new doors that are starting to open seem to be really exciting to walk through. I just hope they prove to be that way.

I hope 2011 ended well for you too and that you have good prospects for this year. More soon--and by soon, I don't mean March.

Your pal,