Wednesday, July 31, 2013

This one is hard to write about

I’m attending training this week in Seattle – it’s offered by a company I greatly respect and the training itself is quite good. However, yesterday, we covered the Milgram experiment in detail (it’s applicable to the class). If you are not familiar with this experiment, you should read the linked page.

I struggled a lot with this part of the training. Years ago, while an undergraduate at KU, I took an honors Intro to Psychology class (the benefits of it being an honors course meant our class size was only about 35 instead of 200, and we had an excellent full professor teaching the class). The class requirements included participating in three psychology research programs or experiments. I guess the grad students were chronically short of willing test subjects. So I signed up for my three studies.

One of them was a rerunning of Milgram’s experiment. I showed up, signed in and the briefing started. As soon as the researcher told me the details, I said I wouldn’t participate. Now that sounds quite easy to do, right? But in fact the pressure brought to bear was fairly intense, plus I am by nature a rules follower and needed to participate in these three projects. My children were in elementary school so my participation needed to fit around my family requirements. This project was one of very few that fit my schedule.

But I didn’t do the experiment. As I recall, I got pretty heated with them in my refusal. Then they told me no shocks would be administered and begged me not to tell anyone else about the project. And I haven’t, not for 20 years, not until yesterday when it was all brought back up.

I’m not sure why this is still so disturbing for me. I didn’t participate, I didn’t (fake) shock anyone yet I’m sitting in my hotel room feeling utterly compelled to write this all down and get it out of my head, and still feeling the horror and absolute certainty that I could not and would not participate no matter what. And I don’t remember at all what the other two projects were.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I don't get it

Unless you live under a rock, then you know that a new royal baby was born yesterday. Depending on your point of view, you're either entertained and/or find this news interesting or you are wondering what the hubbub is about.

Or you may fall into the third camp, the one that disapproves of those who followed this birth. Maybe you even posted something about the poor or the needy (especially the poor, needy babies) around the world as your comment about the royal birth.

But the thing is, being interested in something frivolous like the Prince of Cambridge's birth doesn't mean we now do less for those in need. And I'm not sure why that parallel is drawn. There's no cosmic equation that says if I find this baby interesting, I therefore do nothing and care not at all for other babies who weren't born into such well off families.

So please, if you are one who posts these snarky reminders -- help me understand why you do it. What's the goal?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The return of monorail cat

He's melting into the couch.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Why do you work out?

Kent and I were talking last night, just recapping our day, and I asked him how his workout that morning had been. Fine, he said. Well as fine as a workout can be.

I was curious about that, so I asked him if he enjoyed working out. Long story not so long, no he doesn't. What's more, he never has. He likes the results but dislikes doing the actual workout. I asked him if that were true when he trained and ran in a marathon. Yes, he said. He didn't like training for that either. He did it because he wanted to have run a marathon.

I have to say, if I didn't like working out, I wouldn't do it. I know myself. There are things that would be good for me to do (wash my face before I go to bed, for example) and I don't want to, so I don't. In the same way, while I know foods like spinach and kale are really good for me, those foods will never pass my lips. I do, however, like working out. I like the challenge, I like being able to do more, more effectively and (in the case of running) to do it faster.

What about you? If you work out, why do you do it? Do you enjoy the process itself, or are you more like Kent and only in it for the results? If you're only in it for the results, how do you stay motivated to do something you dislike doing? I'm really curious.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The rest of the story

When I'm driving to work or out for a run, I'll see things or people as I pass by. But I never know why those people or things are there, what happened that they should be there. And I always kind of wonder about that (and then I make up stories about them).

For example, I almost always see a very fit older man, probably in his late 60s but incredibly fit, running east along 103rd Street when I drive to work. I mean he just flies over the hills and I've decided that he's probably an ultra marathon runner.

This morning on my run, I saw bits of broken mirror, then a piece of car chrome (not enough there to tell what it had been), then a side mirror and then a bit of broken off utility pole. OK so someone had an accident but maybe not very bad, and instead of calling it in, the driver just drove off without that side mirror.

Sunday on my run, I saw a crumpled up empty Marlboro pack, the kind with the gold label. I immediately judged the smoker for being a litter bug, and then felt entirely justified less than half a block later when I saw the discarded cigarette butt. Jerk.

Another day on another run, I saw the front face cover from a cell phone. It wasn't from an iPhone, it was pretty clearly from a very inexpensive clam shell model, so then I felt sorry for the person because maybe that was the only cell phone they could afford.

And yard sale/garage sale/estate sale signs. My goodness there are lots of those in KC. How on earth do people end up with so much junk and who on earth buys their crap?

Oh and the real estate signs. There's a really nice house on my running route, sits on a lake and is probably a cool half a million, no wait I was wrong. I just looked it up. It's $1.5 million, has four bedrooms and five bathrooms and is just over 5k square feet. It's been for sale since we moved into our house. This spring I saw a sign for a graduation party in their yard so my story about the sellers is that they're now empty nesters and have no need for this enormous house. No wait, maybe they want to move to some more exotic location. Hmm I can see that I need to develop this story line a little more.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Fit Bit Flex after two weeks

The verdict: I love it.

You might remember that I did a compare & contrast with the Jawbone UP. Here's some updated results:
  • I wasn't sure which sync process I would end up liking better, the Fit Bit (which automatically syncs to your computer, and has to be manually synced to the phone app but only certain phones are supported -- mine is) or the Jawbone UP, which syncs to the phone (only certain supported phones) but only by plugging in the jack. Now, just over two weeks later I prefer the Fit Bit sync process.
  • Putting the Fit Bit into sleep mode is still slightly hit or miss. I'm not sure if there's something in the way I tap or what but sometimes I have to try a couple of times to get the Fit Bit into the sleep mode. 
Fit Bit also sends you emails when you hit goals (like getting 10k steps in a day) and also a weekly summary of your progress. You can tap the band and the lights blink to indicate how many steps you've gone so far that day. When you do hit your 10k steps, the arm band buzzes and does a cool light display to let you know you did it. I am a little surprised at how motivating it is to get those badges or check the online dashboard for my progress.  I think you can set it to buzz if you haven't moved in a while, although I haven't done that (yet).

Finally, here's a picture I completely forgot to post on the compare & contrast post:

Fit Bit is black and on the left;
Jawbone UP is blue and on the right.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

I was fearless then

The first thing I ever sewed was a sleeveless jumper with a zipper in the back and decorative trim down the front. My mother had signed me up for a sewing class, five or six group lessons I believe, and I was 10 years old. The next thing I sewed was a straight dress, again sleeveless – this time with no zipper but it did have a sash at the waist. I was 16 and did it in one night. In fact I was in such a hurry, I used Stitch Witchery for the hem, something I will not use any more.

And from there, things took off and I was pretty much fearless. I made myself tops, and dresses and even a two piece swim suit. I was very proud of that suit because I’d had to add quite a bit of material to the bra portions. I was sort of nervous about that, only because I’d never altered a pattern before but it turned out OK.

I sewed most of my maternity clothes for both pregnancies and made a winter coat, a hat, countless tops, dresses, curtains and pajamas for my sons. But somewhere along the way, I lost my fearless ways. Darts began to intimidate me, I got very nervous about whether or not I could actually make whatever it was I was making. So I drifted over to more crafts-oriented projects – like bags.

But yesterday something changed for me. I bought a blouse pattern that’s pretty fitted (four darts in front, two in back!!). And I made it from fabric I had on hand. I’m pleased to say it fits and I like it, I really like it. (By the way, I think the reason the pattern is called young is because it's cut a little on the shorter side. Since I'm short waisted, that works out well for me.)

So next up, I’m going to sew a dress. The bodice is pretty fitted on this one too, with the princess seams I whined about in 2011. Hopefully I won’t screw it up. Even if I do, at least I’m trying.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Flip flops and me

So if we're connected on Facebook, then you know I complained about flip flops yesterday, how I wanted a pair that didn't hurt my feet. I guess I should have been more explicit about what I meant by hurting my feet -- because actually, they don't hurt my feet. At least not in the conventional sense.

I have ridiculously thin and bony feet. They're narrow (especially in the heels), with long toes and fairly high arches. They taper down to nothing from the arch to where my toes join my feet. Fortunately I wear a common size (7 1/2 to be exact) and I know the brands of regular shoes that run narrow.

But flip flops come in whole sizes. That's a problem right there because I can't wear an 8 and a 7 generally won't have enough length for my toes. Plus flip flops almost always have too much room where the thong joins the shoe bed so my feet and toes have to work really hard to keep the sandal on my foot.

I've been wearing a pair of Clarks flip flops that I got in Hilo a couple of years ago when I was there for work (similar to these). But remember the high arches I mentioned. Well all of a sudden that strap is bugging the top of my foot, actually left a bruise the last time I wore them. I have no idea why that happened but it did and so now I'm looking at my flip flops with sorrow. And I'm shopping around for a proper flip flop that works for my strange feet.

For what it's worth, I was curious about the idea that flip flops are bad for your feet. And I guess they are, if you have flat feet or bad balance or are diabetic or can't really feel your feet. None of those apply to me and I love wearing flip flops so I'm going to keep looking.

Friday, July 12, 2013

So maybe I do have some Irish ancestors

When Kent and I toured the Jameson Distillery, toward the end of the exhibit there was a board containing the names of the coopers and the nicknames they ended up getting. I figured Kent's last name would be there, or his paternal grandmother's name (Ahern, definitely Irish) but they weren't. Instead and to my surprise, I saw the name Jordan.

My older son is named Jordan which in and of itself doesn't mean much. But he's named after my grandfather, who was in turn named after his grandmother -- that was his grandmother's maiden name. So who knows . . . maybe somewhere in the European mutt mix that is me, a thread of Irish DNA lurks.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

He thinks he's little

But he's not.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

No room

This is how the cats think the bed should be every night: full of them with just a bit of room for me. Sorry, Kent, no room for you.

Yes, of course there's room for Kent. He just shoves them out of the way and they huff off for a bit before they come back and try their land grabbing ways again. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Snippets from Ireland

Our cabbie from the airport pretty much took us on the scenic aka expensive route (we figured that out when the trip back to the airport took less than half the time). But he also told us about places we should check out that we hadn't put on our list. And he told us about hurling, one of the national sports in Ireland. So I think of him as a paid tour guide.

I always find people watching to be quite good while traveling and this trip was no different. On the outbound flight, the couple sitting across the aisle from us made for interesting viewing. First, they hung all over each other in the gate area. Keep in mind, when I say hanging on, I don't mean an arm draped around each other. I mean full body contact in the gate house. Plus they changed into pajamas for the trip before take off. I could see that on other, longer international trips but by the time dinner gets served and cleared away, you've only got a couple more hours until you land. Changing into PJs in the tiny airplane bathroom and then back again into street clothes just isn't worth the effort to me. Obviously they thought otherwise.

While clearing immigration, we noticed a young, maybe early 20s couple from the U.S. one of whom wore a cheesy "Kiss me, I might be Irish" tee shirt, and the other wore something similar although the slogan (thankfully) escapes me now. Why, why, why would you wear a tee shirt like that? Even while walking the dog??

As we checked into our hotel (which Kent handles because he's the one with the loyalty program there), I stood back for a bit and then moved up by him. The woman at the desk immediately quit making any eye contact with him and only spoke to me the rest of the time. I wondered if it were a cultural thing; she was either from China or Korea. I couldn't entirely place her accent and couldn't read that part of her name badge that said where she's from.

Our server at dinner Friday made Kent's night when she introduced him to an Old Fashion with a different sort of twist. He gets frustrated with the way Old Fashions are made here in the U.S. because they'll often be made with water or soda water, and that's not a true Old Fashion. Hers was a proper one but with a bit of maraschino cherry juice and a cherry in it. And the cherry wasn't one of those gross, unnaturally red ones either. In fact, we will need to find a good source going forward because Kent really enjoyed that drink.

We were milling around in the gate house Sunday waiting for our plane from Atlanta back to Kansas City, I got in one of those small flyby conversations with another passenger who was boarding the plane at the gate before ours. He was an older gentleman and when he found out we'd just spent the weekend in Ireland, he got so excited. He kept telling his wife, "Hey! We can do that too! I've always wanted to go to Ireland!"

I hope he gets there.

Monday, July 8, 2013


What fun – and in an unusual twist for us, we had absolutely amazing weather. In fact, Dublin experienced a tiny heat wave while we were there. It was so sunny that even I got a bit of sunburn. I never expected to get sunburned in Ireland.

So here’s my travelogue run down:


  • Hop On/Hop Off (HOHO) bus passes: cheaper if you buy in advance and we had, and the passes are good for two days. You get narration about the sites you pass, either by the bus driver or by tape (we far preferred the bus driver narration) . 
  • James Joyce’s house: Walked there and didn’t feel at all interested in going inside. 
  • The Writers Museum: Well worth seeing and it covered James Joyce too. It’s in one of the Jamison’s former houses (I forget which one and the museum website doesn’t say) and although I majored in English as an undergraduate, I had either forgotten or never realized how many famous authors came from Ireland. In the first room, there’s a description that says something about the country being very small and not heavily populated yet it’s over-represented with such important, influential authors.
  • O’Neil’s Bar: We had lunch there, just sandwiches and potato salad, which was probably the best potato salad I've ever had in my life. 
  • Killmainham Gaol: If you ever go to Dublin, make this site a priority. We learned so much about the Irish struggle for independence and also a lot about ordinary living during the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s well worth the time and money. 

Water in our room;
the name amused me

Beautiful stairway at The Writers Museum
Happy Kent at lunch

  • Jamison Distillery tour (I'd link it but it will make you enter your birthday to show you're of age; you can Google it if you're interested in more information): We opted not to tour Guinness but figured we should at least do this one. Although no distillery operates there any more, they do a good job with the exhibits and information about how the distilling takes place. Bonus for me, I got selected to be one of the “tasters” at the end (the only woman I might add), which was a lot of fun.
  • The Bank: We didn’t have much time to grab lunch so we took the recommendation from our hotel and stopped here. The building is beautiful inside, which you can see on the website. As a side bonus, our bartender learned from us that what the Irish call rocket is what we call arugula. He was glad to know that because he said he gets asked all the time. 
  • Historic Walking Tour of Dublin: Oh my goodness, this was amazing. The tour filled in any gaps over what we’d learned at Killmainham. Our tour guide, Donal, is a PhD student at National University of Ireland (1930s Dublin, I asked) and was clearly passionate about the history and about sharing it. Our tour lasted half an hour longer than the website said it would and no one grumbled. 
  • Temple Bar: Well to be honest, we avoided Temple Bar on the advice of our first cabbie and the historical tour guide – except Donal did say on the one end of Temple Bar, we could find bars that weren’t tourist traps. So we had dinner at Porterhouse and I don’t think we saw any American tourists. 

Only woman and only American!

Loin of Bacon (Kent's dinner)

We ran out of time and weren’t able to see The Book of Kells (although we saw two reproductions, one at The Writers Museum and one at The Bank where we had lunch) and we couldn’t really tour all of Trinity as we’d hoped to. But we saw a lot and had a really wonderful time.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Kiss me, I'm Irish

OK, I'm not Irish. But I am going to Ireland tonight.

Kent and I are heading out for another one of our Crazy Trips™. We're going to Dublin for the weekend. Got a packed couple of days with all the sights we want to see but the best part is I get Kent all to myself for the next four days.

If you're curious how we pick our Crazy Trip™ destinations, we need to be able to get there with only one plane change. That's about the only criteria. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Eyes, part 2

Remember the allergic reaction I had about six-seven weeks ago? With the zombie-like swelling and fiery red inner lids?

Well my eyes flared slightly over the weekend. Thankfully, they didn't swell up this time, but my inner lower lids turned fiery red in spots again. I tossed the offending products, got new products for sensitive eyes and hoped for the best.

And they are better. Yesterday I showed Kent how much they had improved. He was horrified, but not by the red parts. No, he was alarmed by the pale parts on the inner lids.You see, he's a red head who doesn't tan and his inner lids are always pretty red looking. So to him, my eyes looked kind of normal, except where they actually were normal . . .

He and I have such different coloring -- he's pink and I'm yellow. In fact, he's so pink he makes me look jaundiced. But this is the first time our color differences led him to think I actually had an infection.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Room with a view

Kent's rented some lenses for our trip this Thursday. He likes to rent before he buys, and given how expensive camera lenses can be, I heartily approve. For this trip, he's got a wide angle among others and he's been running around taking lots of pictures with it.

Normally I'm not all that fond of wide angle lens photos but I like this one and thought it showed how open our living room is.

Click the photo for a bigger version.

We'll never put curtains on the windows flanking the fireplace. That view is just too beautiful even when the trees have no leaves.

Monday, July 1, 2013

I have a theory

I don't think I have asthma. There, I said it.

I think my lung issues over the last couple of years are a result of previous lung—well, let's say damage for lack of a better word. You see, I was exposed to second hand smoke as a small child (thankfully all parents quit by the time I was eight or so) and then again as a young adult while serving in the Army. That Army exposure was particularly pervasive and extreme. Plus I also had a lot of childhood illnesses like bronchitis.

I think that I inadvertently kept my lungs strong by playing wind instruments, especially the oboe, being a vocalist and running for so many years. I think that conditioning continued even after my music career was over because I kept running.That lung strength is why I never had any problems until the last three years.

After the first flood, almost four years ago, I was still running but I was also getting exposed to a whole lot of construction debris. Drywall dust was everywhere and that stuff will clog even the best lungs. Then just a couple of months after the flood but before all the reconstruction was done, I got a job in New Hampshire which meant I no longer had the time to run because of my incredibly long commute. Coincidentally, I had my first round of compromised breathing that year.

When we had more water damage from the frozen pipe that burst, the second round of reconstruction was not as extreme as the first but still all our floors had to be replaced, along with some drywall in our bedroom. That's when I had my second round of compromised breathing.

And finally after the third pipe leak and reconstruction, I left the state and visited my sister during reconstruction. I dodged that bullet only to move to Kansas City for my current job . . . in a building undergoing renovations while we work in the building. Last summer was particularly bad as my work environment was filled with new carpet fibers, drywall dust and concrete dust. Things got pretty bad with my breathing that third time.

The particulate matter in the building mostly settled down by around November/December and I've had a chance to reflect on my symptoms and experiences. See, I didn't ever wheeze. I only coughed (unproductively I might add) and felt like I couldn't get enough air.

So I made a couple of changes – I haven't used a maintenance inhaler or a fast acting inhaler since the end of March. And I'm running regularly again, three times a week for about a mile and a half. My ultimate goal is a two and a half mile route, mostly because I get really bored if I run more than that, and also I don't have enough time to run further in the mornings.

I've seen progress already. At first, I was horribly winded and it would be more accurate to call what I was doing a walk with some trotting in it. Now I'm reliably running the whole thing, including the long hill in the second half (70 foot elevation gain in less than half a mile). Best of all, I recover quickly and I'm not coughing at the end.

Next step for me is to talk with my PCP about getting that diagnosis removed from my records. I think I have a good case for it -- even at my worst just over a year ago, the lung function tests at a Boston hospital showed just in the normal range. Low, yes, but still normal. If I need to go through another round of those tests again, I will. In fact, I'd almost welcome it just to be able to say (truthfully) that I don't have asthma.

Happy trails!