Friday, May 27, 2011

Tick... tick... tick...

Is it just me, or does the clock REALLY start dragging at about 3:00 in the afternoon on the Friday before a long holiday weekend?

I'm beginning to think that time actually slows down incrementally in direct proportion to the relativity of the length of the holiday weekend and the proximity of the predetermined hour appointed for the cessation of work immediately preceding it... or some sort of scientific mumbo jumbo like that. Of course, I'm guessing it would be hard to prove, but there sure seems to be a lot of anecdotal evidence to support the theory.

Or maybe I'm just in need of a nice, long weekend. How 'bout you?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

On Your Toes!

Certain events are taking place in the sports world that I am no longer allowed to comment on, due to my husband's suspicions that my last comments about it jinxed things. Recent activity, however, has led me to believe that I am NOT the jinx, but as a safety measure I will continue to maintain a "no comment" policy about the current status of the involved parties in their ongoing athletic contest. At least until after tomorrow night, and maybe longer. (But I will be wearing blue in support of one of the aforementioned parties.)

So... since I can't comment on those goings-on, I thought I'd share something really cool with you. While I was looking for an anniversary gift for my husband a few weeks ago, I found a company that will make metal casts of your pets' paws. Bronze is the traditional 8th anniversary gift, so this was perfect! Check out these cool paw casts! I HAD to get one for myself, too!

If you'd like to have your own pet's paw cast, you can order from the nice folks at Pets-Paws. The web address is Tracy and Eddie will craft a gorgeous keepsake for you at a very reasonable price. It's not just for dogs, either... they've got some cool photos on their site of other prints they've done. Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom!

They can cast the paws in bronze, brass, copper or aluminum. They'll send you a kit to take your pet's paw impression (or you can make the "dough" yourself and send it... there's a recipe on the site), and when they get it back, they'll cast it in the metal of your choice. You can get an inscription on the back, and an optional hole for hanging. We had our dog's name engraved, which is probably what most people do. (Yes, we named him after hockey legend Hobey Baker.)

Hobey approves!
So now, even when Hobey is gone (which I hope is a LOOOONG time from now), I can still hold his little toes. Well... they're not so little anymore, but I remember when they were! And I'll have them forever now.

Maybe it's just me, but I think these pet paws some of the coolest bits of artistry available for purchase on tha interwebz!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Here's to your health! (And mine!)

Almost every year about this time, my employer changes our health insurance. They do this because almost every year, our premiums increase drastically. It seems like every year, our health insurance costs go up while our coverage goes down. It's a pain in the arse to change insurance every year, but I know the company is doing it to try and save us all a little money.

It got really interesting this year... our new plan, which takes effect soon, cuts our premiums by about half of what our previous plan was. Sounds good, right? Hold on to your cough syrup there, Charlie... the premiums are cut in half, yes, but the deductible more than doubled. From a $1500 deductible (which was pretty freakin' high already) to a $5000 deductible! Once we reach the total $5000 deductible amount, our plan will cover 80% of medical costs incurred. We'll have to cover the other 20%, up to another $950 out of pocket. After THAT, our plan covers expenses at 100% (as long as we stay in-network). So the total combined deductible and out-of-pocket is $5950 for SINGLE coverage. Yikes!!

Fortunately, my employer is generously going to cover a large part of the deductible for us.They'll cover the first $1100 and, if necessary, the second $2500. Each employee will pick up the $1400 in between, plus the $950 max out-of-pocket after the total deductible is met. That's on top of the monthly premiums.

Thanks to my employer kicking in such a generous amount, it's not a bad deal, as long as you only need individual coverage. We considered adding coverage for my husband... He's currently on COBRA until he's eligible for coverage at his new job, which won't be for several months. The premium to cover us both is about the same as what he pays for COBRA, but the deductible would jump to $10,000. Even with the $3600 my employer covers, we'd be screwed if one of us had a major medical issue. The little bit of accessible savings we have would be nearly wiped out. So it seems to make more sense for him to stick with COBRA for now. (His healthcare plan is good, and has a much lower deductible.)

So I finally have an affordable healthcare plan... as long as I don't ever need to really use it! Normal preventive care (annual exams, well-woman exams, mammograms) is covered 100% before the deductible, so there's no problem as long as I stay healthy. But what if I get a breast cancer diagnosis? Or slip and fall in the bathtub and break my leg or something? If not for my employer's financial contributions toward the deductible, it would be hard to cough up the money to meet that deductible all at once. And it would be even harder if we had family coverage with double the deductible. How do people with families afford health care these days? It's ridiculous. And it ain't like the insurance companies and health care corporations aren't making money hand over fist.

A lot of people may disagree with me, but I think this country is in DESPERATE need of healthcare and/or insurance reform. I don't know what the best way to go about it is... I'm not familiar with every detail, but the attempts at reform that have been debated in Congress seem flawed. And because our broken two-party system can't seem to do anything but bicker and fight, nothing meaningful gets done. Nobody wants to compromise, and it's the working class that gets shafted time and again. There's gotta be SOMETHING that can be done to ease the skyrocketing costs of medical care and insurance, isn't there? People shouldn't have to go broke to either get coverage or get treated, or both.

Fingers crossed that whatever plan my husband ends up with is a decent and affordable one. I'm just grateful (and very lucky!) that I have an employer who is generous enough to help cover a lot the costs for MY coverage. But here's hoping neither of us gets a major diagnosis, or gets hit by a truck, or succumbs to an illness that requires even a short hospital stay. It could really put a pinch on our finances!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It's Getting Pretty Hairy....

I promise this is not going to become a hockey blog (not that there's anything wrong with that). But as a former recreational player and a former Lightning season ticket holder, hockey has been at the forefront lately with the home team in the Eastern Conference finals. What a game last night, eh? Sure, it was a disappointing loss, but the frequent end-to-end action was great fun to watch! I'm no expert, but the Bolts seemed to collapse in the second period, leading to five (count 'em, FIVE!) Boston goals in that period alone! Our boys in blue seemed to be scrambling a lot... looked like they were on a penalty kill for much of the time, even when they weren't. Despite closing the gap, they still came up short, losing Game Two 5-6. Back home tomorrow night for Game Three, and hopefully they'll settle down and win it. I know some of you readers have tickets, so be sure and cheer really loud for me!

Now, what's your opinion of the playoff beard? Seems the tradition started with the Islanders in the 80's, and has since spread through the NHL and beyond. Some of the guys look good sportin' the facial fuzz, others should maybe just break out the Barbasol and scrape it off before they embarrass themselves further. Although from a spectator's perspective, the raggedy ones can be very entertaining to look at. All in all, I think it's a pretty fun tradition. In fact, I'm thinking of participating by not shaving my legs until the Bolts are out of the playoffs! (Hmmmm... maybe not.)

Playoff beard hat available
You can always get a fake one... the folks at Beardo have a knitted hat/beard combo available, with a foldaway beard. Even comes in Tampa Bay Lightning colors (though they call it Toronto colors). Probably a bit too warm for this area though. Maybe we should start a new playoff tradition here that's better suited for warm spring weather... any suggestions?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thunder, Lightning and Giant Evil Toads

We had a couple storms move through our area yesterday and early this morning. Unlike the recent tornado-spawning storms in other parts of the country, we suffered no major damage. Just had some potted plants and patio furniture blown over, and our tomato plants took a beating. We didn't even have TOO many lightning strikes.

The Lightning DID strike hard in Boston last night though, as the Bolts played hard to a decisive win over the Bruins in Game One of the NHL Eastern Conference finals! It was a fun game to watch... unless you're a Boston fan. Gotta say, Tampa Bay's new owner, Jeff Vinik, seems truly committed to this team and this area. He's brought credibility back to the franchise, especially with the hiring of the great Steve Yzerman as general manager. In turn, in what seems to have been a genius move, Yzerman brought in new head coach Guy Boucher, who previously had only one year of experience as a pro coach in the AHL. Together, they've managed to bring out the dormant potential of the team. Can they win the Stanley Cup this year? Only time will tell, but they've definitely been playing like serious contenders. One game at a time, boys... We'll be watching and rooting for ya!

The storms yesterday and last night also may have been responsible for unleashing a treacherous menace in our backyard. While our dog and I were relaxing on the patio with the Sunday paper, I noticed movement by the fence out of the corner of my eye. I looked over to see a GIANT EVIL TOAD! No, seriously. It was a poisonous Giant Toad, also known as a Cane Toad or Marine Toad. Formerly known scientifically as Bufo marinus, now scientifically known as Rhinella marina, which sounds like some kind of sinus infection. These things are big and nasty! They also secrete a toxic substance that can kill pets, so I was really hoping our dog (who has a penchant for chasing lizards and frogs) wouldn't see it before my husband could distract him and get him inside. As soon as he was safely in the house, I grabbed a broom and the battle with the Giant Evil Toad commenced, with me pushing and flipping the slimy enemy toward the gate.

He did NOT go quietly. And yes, he secreted lots of the toxic ooze they're famous for. It's gross. It looks like sticky iced coffee, and unless something else was wafting in on the breeze, it smells bad too! I dueled the offensive thing out the gate and to the edge of yard, and was planning to go further when my husband came out and said, "Don't kill it! If you push it into the road it will get run over!" Now, maybe it's just me, but when faced with the choice of preserving my beloved dog's health and safety, or showing mercy to a nasty poisonous toad, I'm gonna choose my dog every time! I cannot believe my husband seemed to be feeling sorry for the toad! But to "compromise", I scooted the vile creature all the way across the road, where it hopped through a puddle and proceeded into someone else's yard. At least I don't think they have pets. Personally, if the thing hadn't been so big and fat and prehistorically gross, I probably would have left it in the middle of the street, got in the car and run over it myself.

I hope it's not over there in the neighbor's yard, plotting its revenge.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Do you feel lucky, punk?

So... Friday the 13th. How did it get such a bad rap? I've never had a problem with a Friday the 13th. In fact, they usually seem to be pretty good days for me. (Although I think that may be just because they're Fridays.) But since I was curious and this is the only Friday the 13th for 2011, I did a little Googling. Lots of theories out there on why Friday the 13th is considered unlucky, none having to do with that Jason guy that lives near Camp Crystal Lake (**chee chee chee **haah haah haah).

The fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, which I think is just a bunch of random letters put together that translates to "silly superstition". And it's really a combination of the fear of the number 13 (triskaidekaphobia) and the fear of Fridays. What?? Fear of Fridays?? Who doesn't love Friday? It's the start of the weekend! I hate to say it, but lot of those fears stem from early Christians. They came to fear Fridays for lots of reasons... Jesus being crucified on a Friday is a big one. But then why do they call it GOOD Friday? I read that Friday was execution day in pagan Rome, and many pre-Christian cultures observed Friday as a holy day, so naturally the Christians veered away from it.

As for the number 13, you've got 13 people at the Last Supper. Not too lucky for the guest of honor. Before that, the Vikings believed that Loki crashed a dinner party in Valhalla, making himself the uninvited 13th guest, and stirred up a mess of trouble. When civilization was moving from female- to male-dominated, the number 13 was associated with the 13 lunar (and menstrual) cycles in a year... you know the guys don't like THAT! And so the theory is that the number 13 was purposely vilified by males during the shift. (I think it's time to shift back to a female-dominated world!) But not every culture considers 13 unlucky. The ancient Egyptians and Chinese considered it lucky. And think about this... there are 13 weeks in each season. Pretty nifty, eh?

Friday the 13th as an unlucky day has its own jumbled history, including a disputed fact about King Phillip ordering the arrest of all the Knights Templar on Friday, October 13th, 1307 in an attempt to bring and end to the group. But here's the interesting thing... not much attention was paid to Friday the 13th as an unlucky day until the late 1800s.

Like I said, there are lots of thoeries out there. If you'd like to learn more about it, you can read more here, and here, and maybe here. Or just do a Google search.

In the meantime, just enjoy your Friday! Oh... and take a look at Saturn in the sky tonight. It will be the bright dot closest to the moon. (Link for diagram on EarthSky. Might take a minute to load the sound clip.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cuteness Overload!

Feeling stressed? Here's something that might help. Some of you already know about it, but for those who don't, the third (and final) litter of Shiba Inu pups is now on the famous Shiba Inu Puppy Cam site....

These little dudes (and dudettes) will be one month old on Saturday. It just doesn't get any cuter! And the owners (affectionately known as Mr. Feet and Mrs. Shoes or Mrs. Mary Janes) are excellent puppy parents. They're so gentle and loving with the "kids". It's fun to watch the puppies interact with them when they're in the shot. Heck, it's fun to watch the puppies just sleeping! (But wait until they get riled up and start the horseplay!)

Like Lucy Van Pelt once said, "Happiness is a warm puppy." In my opinion, truer words were never spoken.

Enjoy the fluffy, cuddly melt-your-heart sweetness.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Mom Rocks!

Mom and me in the early days.
Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there.... no matter how many legs or what kind of critters your "kids" are!

Special shout out to my own mom. Was (is) she the perfect mother? Not by a long shot. (She might disagree with me on that point just to be ornery. Orneriness DOES run in the family.) But to be fair, her kids were (are) far from perfect children! Mom had to make some tough choices in life, including the decision to become a single mother with preteen kids. That's a hard age for TWO parents to deal with, and my mom struggled alone through our unruly adolescence with varying degrees of effectiveness, success and failure. We certainly didn't make it easy for her, and sure... maybe she could have handled some things differently, but she did the best the she could. And she was there.

And ya know what? She kept a decent roof over our heads. She made sure we always had food to eat (even if we didn't like the dinner menu sometimes.... Sukiyaki? Super yucky!). She clothed us as fashionably as her small budget would allow. She got us medical treatment when were sick or did something stupid and got injured (which was luckily not often). She emphasized the importance of education, although we didn't always value that advice. Despite limited disposable income, she occasionally found ways to provide us with extras like a beach vacation, or a special treat now and then. Naturally, as teenagers, I'm sure we didn't appreciate everything she did for us then.

Mom also had some hard knocks in life after we left home... she's been through some incredibly difficult times, and she's survived them. A lesser woman may have crumbled and fallen apart, and I'm sure there were days when she probably wanted to do just that. But she managed to pick up the pieces and carry on. (The family ornery streak has served her well, I think!) I'm proud to be her daughter. And I'm really glad that she's been enjoying some well-deserved happiness these past 15 years or so, and is in good health and spirits!

I love you, Mom! Thanks for everything you've given me... tangible and intangible. You ROCK!!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Shopping was not entirely a pleasure...

Well...okay, it wasn't bad except for one thing. I was in my neighborhood Publix today (arguably one of the worst Publix stores in the area, in my opinion), and aside from the usual mediocre quality of the produce, my shopping experience was okay. Then I got to the yogurt aisle, where I thought I'd take advantage of a sale they had on one brand of Greek yogurt. Amazingly, they had all four flavors in stock, so I decided to try one of each. Now, imagine my dismay when every single container of the honey flavor turned out to be out of date. Mind you, today is May 7th.... every single one was dated May 03 2011, except for one which was dated April 17 2011!!! WTF?? EVERY SINGLE ONE was out of date! The other flavors were fine. So, I grabbed a hand basket, loaded it with all the expired honey flavored containers, and strode up to the customer service counter where I found the manager. I explained the situation to her, and told her it seemed pretty bad that they'd spend the time to put the sale price tag on the shelf (on May 5) without checking the dates on the stock. She thanked me and said she'd take care of it.

A few minutes later, as I was shopping in another section of the store, she approached me to let me know she had taken care of it. She said it wasn't her department, but she talked to someone in that department, and said that they just got the shipment from the warehouse yesterday and it was put on the shelf. Really? I didn't tell her what a lame-ass excuse I thought that was, but I asked her why nobody bothered to check the dates before they put it on the shelf. She said usually it's not an issue when it comes from the warehouse. Well... I'm not sure I buy that explanation in the first place, and even it DID come from the warehouse already expired, why WOULDN'T someone check the dates before stocking it on the shelves? Is it just me, or is that inexcusably poor quality control?

Other than the lameness of the excuse, I have no problem with how the issue was handled. The manager was cordial at all times, found me to follow up and let me know what happened and offer me a rain check, and thanked me for letting them know. And an employee from that department came to be with a new box of the honey flavor in hand, and asked if I still wanted any. (I'm a sucker for the honey flavor, so of course I took one.) I'll still shop at Publix... I love their bakery department, and their prices are usually better than other area grocery stores. I'm just not a big fan of my closest store. Actually not a big fan of any of the locations near us. My favorite Publix is near my office. I'll often go on my lunch hour and do some grocery shopping there. It's a smaller store, I think, but the staff there is super friendly. Even if I'm in a bad mood when I get there, inevitably I leave with a smile thanks to them. I only wish every Publix was like that!

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Things were relatively quiet in the TV room last night, so I was actually able to enjoy watching part of the Lightning playoff game. What a game, too! Someone must have called shenanigans, cuz the whole team went home and got their brooms. (Bonus points if you know that reference.) Swept the Caps in four!! Wheeeee!

So today, a friend of mine emailed me one of the funniest hockey jokes I've ever heard....

A guy walks in to a bar and the bartender says "What will you have?" 
The guy replies "I'll have an Ovechkin please." 
The bartender asks "What's that?" and the guy says, "A White Russian without a Cup!"

I'm guessing the folks in DC probably don't find it as hysterical as I do.

As for the Lightning, it's on to the Conference finals. Good luck, Bolts!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Still Undecided

I still haven't decided what this blog will be, and whether or not I will keep it anonymous. Not really a big deal, but I'm uncomfortable putting a lot of personal info out there on tha interwebz. You never know who might be looking, or who might take advantage of that info. And besides all that, who the heck wants to know what I'm doing day to day? It's not like I lead an overly exciting life! (Although it HAS been interesting, and my past IS oh-so-lightly checkered.) It's not nearly as interesting as our pals' over at the 730 Days in Penang blog ( Now THAT day to day stuff is actually interesting and fun to read!

I will tell you this, though.... I'd be watching a hockey playoff game right now except my husband is watching it and I can't be in the same room with him while the game is on. He shrieks expletives at the TV with venomous passion, and it just sets me on edge. It's not the language I object to... I've got quite a potty mouth of my own... it's the overwhelming negativity and vehemence with which his expletives are uttered. It's very unattractive. Maybe I have some hippy tendencies, but I just can't stand it. I'm trying to be a positive person and keep my personal space as peaceful as I can. (I deal with enough stress at work.) So I usually end up wandering off to another room and find something else to do. The dog doesn't like it either. Makes him nervous, all that yelling. And really, I just think it's stupid. Why scream at the TV when they can't hear you, your wife doesn't want to hear you, and it doesn't change anything? Why not just take a deep breath and let the bad calls, bad plays and bad attitude go? Find another way to release that pent up aggression.

At least I can usually tell how the game is going. :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

The End of a Road...

I woke up this morning and saw on the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by US Special Forces (Navy Seals, I think). Finally, after nearly 10 years, something of a conclusion. Is anyone REALLY surprised that they found him living in luxury in a palatial mansion in Pakistan? Or that it was only about 100 yards away from a Pakistani military academy? Is it just me, or does Pakistan seem like one of those two-faced "friends" that you never really want to turn your back on? Maybe they were clueless... maybe.

I'm not sure how to feel about some of the celebrating in the streets I've seen on news videos. On the one hand, the orchestrator of the mass murder of thousands of people on 9/11 has been eliminated, and that's a good thing. According to reports, it was clear that he did not intend to be taken alive. I have absolutely no qualms about the end he met. But I just don't think that this is a time for jubilation and dancing in the streets. That's the kind of thing I expect to see from the other side when they down one of our planes, or bomb one of our buildings... I always hope that as Americans, we can be better than that. I'm also wondering what kind of retaliation we can expect from Al Qaeda and/or other terrorist groups. The radical extremists are not rational, and don't appear to want anything other than the extermination of the West and all we stand for. But then, most radical extremists are like that, regardless of what religion or other credo they believe in. Why can't the human race just accept each other's differences and agree to disagree? Why do things have to get violent so often, especially over religion? ESPECIALLY when the basic underlying concept of all the major religions I'm vaguely familiar with (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism) is to respect your fellow man and treat him as you want to be treated? Mankind is not so kind.

I heard a caller on the radio today say something to the effect that it's sort of a waste of time to be fighting a "war on terror", because war just increases terror and fuels hatred. And that statement rings true, but what CAN we do to end terrorism? I haven't a clue. Hopefully someday we'll figure it out. For now, at least one of the worst instigators of hatred and terror in the world is no longer a threat. Unfortunately, I'm afraid there's probably no shortage of other people who aspire to take his place. Heaven (whatever kind you believe in) help us all.