Sunday, December 9, 2007

Snow, part 2

So was Bliss reading my blog? (Google Analytics says no.) They've come out with a new range of their body butter called "Snow Wonder." It claims to be "infused with the fresh fragrance of just-fallen flakes." Nice alliteration, Blissworld, but I tried it at Sephora yesterday, and it doesn't come close. Perhaps if you freeze it first? Snow doesn't have a smell at room temperature because, of course, it doesn't exist.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Fatty bananas?

Now that there is a Trader Joe's on College, I stop in spontaneously just because I can.

Found myself staring at the non-dairy frozen desserts wondering if they were any good. I once had a colleague who, no matter what I complained of, said, "Eat a banana." It's a great place to start. So, rather than picking a soysicle, I was considering the chocolate-covered bananas on a stick. A woman pushed past me to grab a box, so I stopped her to ask if they really were good or just weird. She said she loved them.

And they are really good. You feel healthy because you're eating a banana -- and they use ripe bananas, so they have flavor -- plus you have the treat of a little bit of chocolate.

Yum. How bad for you could this be? Can I have another? Two bananas are better than one, right?

Then the shock of reading the nutrition information. One hundred sixty calories and 3.5 grams of saturated fat -- 18% of the %DV. What's in that chocolate? As I slowly work my way through the box (I can't throw them out, right?), I wonder if I can just find some good chocolate and make them myself.

Hah! Not with chocolate! A bar of Scharffenberger 70% has 7g of saturated fat.

Or am I being unreasonable here? It's not like I look at other food labels -- maybe this is the healthiest thing I eat?

Sunday, December 2, 2007


"Through the years, I have learned that there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration."

-- Steve Martin (New Yorker 11/29/07)

Beautiful women

Found on Paper Cuts. The list of the 90 women is here. The music is Bach’s Sarabande from Suite No. 1 in G major for solo cello (BWV 1007), performed by Yo-Yo Ma, which at this moment seems like the loveliest music I've ever heard.

I find myself wanting to say more, to put my reactions into words, but I keep deleting them because they don't do it justice.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

MTV shoes

On Sunday there was an article in the SF Chronicle about MBT shoes. Of course, now I am sitting here in a pair. Perhaps I should call this blog "Synthetic Footwear"?

The article made it seem like these are magic shoes. They firm your butt, tone your legs and abs, solve your back and knee problems, cause you to lose weight, give you good posture, and are incredibly comfortable in the process. So I went online, Zappos of course, and researched them for a long time, bought a pair. They didn't fit (these things run really small), so, at 4:30 PM on Monday I ordered another -- and they arrived on Tuesday. We love Zappos.

The reviews in Zappos were out of this world, and now I know why. They are sooooo comfortable. Teetering on them is really fun. And they're ugly as all getout: They've got these huge, weird soles -- it's a little like wearing platform shoes with squishy heels (hence the negative heel). Since they're rockered, you roll heel-toe really easily, which is how the good posture thing happens. Hey, this is California where you can wear anything you like. So maybe I'll wear them with a suit.

I have to be careful not to just roll to my toes and walk on them (really defeating their purpose). I'm a toe-walker. My mother used to express concern to the doctor, who expressed concern in turn, that I didn't walk normally, that something was wrong with me. Of course, when the doctor said, "Let me watch you walk across the floor," I walked with my whole foot they way they did. I passed the intelligence test.

My toe walking was a solo source of shame until I lived in Toronto and noticed my friend Emily walking on her toes. She told me it was a sign of genius. I knew I got something right with that intelligence test. Now I share Emily's diagnosis with all my friends with toe-walking kids.

Quick quiz: what were those initials again? MTB? A gasoline additive (really, MTBE). MVP? They're going to have to change the name.

... no, they've done something even smarter. They sponsored links that come up if you google MTB.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


I haven’t smelled the snow in years. You don't even know that snow has a smell until you've lived with it and been apart from it (geographically, seasonally). We know the smell of rain, the acoustics of a wet day -- snow has them, too, in a quiet, lovely way.

Arriving to 25 degree Fahrenheit weather in Colorado, the connection between the smell of snow and memory, both sentimentally and practically, returned.

All my snow habits came back. You have to walk differently in cold weather. Starting from the bottom: rather than heel-toe, or whatever the normal walking pattern is, you walk with a sort of a shuffle, placing your foot flat on the ice and taking that fraction of a second to know you aren’t going to fall before putting your whole weight on it. Experienced snow walkers don’t even notice that hesitation. And then, as you walk on the ice (looking to make sure you tread where it’s been pre-churned by others and not onto perfectly smooth ice) you listen and feel for that satisfying crack. When you crack the ice under your feet, you know you’ve mastered it, that it is giving way and providing you traction, rather than pushing back and making you slip.

Because you are shuffling, you’re working from your knees rather than your hips. In fact, your hips and upper body stay as still as they can be in order to reduce the number of variables in the physics experiment that is walking on slippery ground. Your arms move a little – because they have to in order to give you a little more speed and balance – and the only sound you hear in this muffled world, aside from the crunching of ice under your feet, is the swish-swish of your jacket sleeves as they rub against your sides.

The upper body is unmoving for reasons other than physics. We keep our heads perfectly still when we walk because our scarves are wrapped around our lower faces. If you move your head in a normal way (who even notices what’s normal until you’re cold?), you shake off the protection of the scarf.

(Having had problems with lack of flexibility in my neck and with my hip flexors, having been told that I walk too stiffly, I wonder if it is a legacy of all this snow walking.)

When you walk out into the cold, your glasses start to get cold and feel stiff, almost frozen to your skin. Or maybe as the moisture is sucked out of your skin (a sensation of instant aging, as if created by computer graphics) it freezes to your glasses. Because you’ve got a scarf wrapped around your lower face, the steam of your breath shoots upwards, fogging your glasses.

Sometimes your eyes water. Certainly, your nose runs. Another unforgettable aspect of snow walking: even as you keep your head still so as not to lose the carefully-arranged coverage of the scarf, your nose is running, creating a cold, wet spot on the scarf sitting right in the middle of your face and chin.

There is nothing that beats that moment when you’ve been inside, having put on your coat and hat and scarf and gloves and only then running around trying to find your keys or something you forgot to take … and then, overheated, you step outside. The freshness of the air gives you a rush of exhilaration. The smell of snow fills your head, clears it, presents your mind with images of white and clean and fresh and cold.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Traveling with a laptop

OK, so I'm new to this laptop thing. I've never understood why people would want to stay so connected. Now I get it. My lovely Apple MacBook is so much fun and so fast and is so good at finding me networks that I'm addicted to being online. I'm seeking out excuses to be connected. At my uncle's? Poached a neighbor's unprotected wireless network. At the hotel? Best Western has free wireless -- a great, fast connection.

In the Oakland airport yesterday I sprung the $8.00 for 24 hours of internet service. It was a new persona for me to try on, huddling near one of those scarce airport plugs, not wasting my battery, getting online. I even wrote a useful email. I felt a bit smug, with my sleek white MacBook and its cool power supply/cord plugging in next to a guy huddling over his black Windows laptop with his big clunky power supply. Like an Apple commercial.

Even better was on the plane. The wonderful United representative, Eunice, gave me an Economy Plus exit row seat, and it turns out I had the whole row to myself. Plugged into my iTunes and rocked out to Our Lady Peace while messing with my work spreadsheet. I felt like the hippest road warrior ever.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monday is the new Sunday

Veterans Day observed: it's a holiday, at least for me, today.

Discussion at the Rockridge Cafe this morning. They handed me the specials menu, with daily specials on one side and weekend specials (including pumpkin waffle) on the other.

Waitress delivers coffee.
Me, holding the menu up and gesturing at the weekend specials side: "Is it the weekend?"
Waitress: "No, it's Monday."
Me: "I understand. But does it count as the weekend?"
Waitress: "No, the weekend ends on Sunday."

It took several rounds of who's-on-first to get her to understand that I wasn't just asking because I didn't know it was Monday or that Monday is not part of the weekend. Expectations of consciousness seem very low in our part of the world at times. And indeed we were able to order a pumpkin waffle from the weekend menu on a Monday.

Supporting the troops has to go beyond putting a yellow magnet on your car

This morning on NPR there were two stories that had the same core issue: the Bush administration has abrogated its responsibility to take care of its citizens -- but neither pointed a finger. The first, on Aqua Dots and the fact that they are made in China and elute GHB when swallowed by children, is yet another story about how the underfunded (and under-missioned) CPSC isn't doing anything related to C, P, or S.

The second, about Steve Kraft, an Iraq veteran who cannot get job, was an intimate story of one vet as told mostly in his own words. NPR kept it small, but the gaps between the lines, the places where a bigger story can be read, were big enough to drive the world's largest economy through. Kraft said, in effect "I've just had greatest leadership training you can get, and no one seems to find value in that."

The first thing that sits between the lines is the GI Bill. We have one now, the Montgomery GI Bill, but it's not the same as the original. People coming back from war need a way to reenter nonmilitary society, a way to wrap a familiar coating around the foreignness of their military experience, and a plan that sends them to school is one way to provide that. We already struggle with the education of our citizens and are becoming a dumber and dumber country. Why not invest in education at least for veterans, enabling them to benefit intellectually and at the same time look more "normal" to those who didn't serve?

The original GI Bill of Rights educated 7.8 million of 16 million World War II veterans. It also provided nearly 2.4 million home loans for them. If we ask people to serve, then we need to serve them in turn.

Related to the GI Bill is another reentry activity: career services support. I'm sure if I started googling I'd find an agency that provides such services for veterans. Sadly, I'm sure it's underfunded as well as understaffed. But this is the most important service related to war: what's the point of having it if you end up with a lot of miserable, unemployed veterans who are not participants in the peace? Veterans should receive the best career services that can be provided. Plus they actually could contribute quite substantially to business leadership and the economy.

Part of this is employer education; individual veterans can educate prospective employers about their experience (and Steve Kraft actually explains its value well). But why should individual veterans have to do all the work themselves? There should be an employer education program about the value (and challenges) of hiring veterans. Right now, it's almost as if they are analogous to felons: recently returned from an alternate society, and therefore perceived as unemployable.

One key area that employers would need to understand is the respect issue. Kraft talked about how he did not feel respect from his manager and that he resented the work he was given, that it showed disrespect for his skills. People in the military work in a field of trust that is beyond what we experience as civilians: they must trust others totally, and thus in turn be totally trustworthy, in order to survive. To reenter a culture where trust and respect are not immediately given is going to be tough for everyone. Employers need to know that they must express trust in veterans (which can make even menial jobs more palatable), and veterans need to be prepared (via coaching) for situations where respect takes a multiplicity of forms and may not be immediate.

The second item is the economy, stupid. The Iraq war is ruining our economy. Veterans are returning to an environment where the economy is shrinking, where there are fewer jobs. Bush is getting us coming and going: sending people to war, wrecking the economy, not providing jobs when they return. The next president is going to have to have a major veterans reentry plan, or this will become not just unnerving but politically ugly.

And then it becomes small again. I kept thinking, "How many employers are listening to this?" I'm sure that's what NPR hoped would happen: that perhaps the story would change employers' views of veterans. My first thought is that we at my university need to beef up career services for veterans. Can someone hire a veteran to provide advising specifically to them? Can we create a separate business to advise veterans? There's a business opportunity. And then I went, whoops, I am an employer. I just hired four people. I am responsible for hiring a veteran.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Listening is an act of love

On NPR this morning I heard that StoryCorps is publishing a book called, "Listening is an Act of Love." I am not a big fan of StoryCorps (sweet but annoying), but the title struck me. Do you feel that gap, that feeling like, "This person is supposed to love me but doesn't seem to?" I bet it's because they're not really listening. How do you make someone listen? By listening first, I suppose.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The secret Cheney impeachment vote

Another Cheney secret revealed!

News sources do not seem to be reporting that a vote on a bill to impeach Cheney occurred in the House of Representatives today. So I guess you heard it here first. I flipped on my TV and happened to surf across CSPAN, which showed people milling around the House floor and a caption, "Vote to table impeachment of Vice-President Cheney." It was high drama of the Robert's Rules variety, the kind of procedural details I like best. When I turned it on, the vote was very close, and I was outraged that even with a Democratic House we couldn't keep this bill alive. And then I noticed: the Democrats were voting for tabling, and the Republicans wanted to keep the bill alive. What was in that cough syrup I took?

It goes even further through the looking-glass. Our favorite Clevelander, Dennis Kucinich, had somehow snuck this bill onto the floor of the House this morning. Got it through the metal detectors and everything. He moved to impeach Cheney for misleading us into Iraq and for possibly considering misleading us into Iran. Not even for, say, flouting the rule of law.

One of the teams, I mean, parties, moved to table it (news is so slim I can't figure out who, but either one makes a good story); the Republicans, halfway through the voting process, decided to vote for impeachment just to mess with everyone (love that impish party), and the Democrats, after some orderly votes-on-whether-to-vote, finally shuttled it into the House Judiciary Committee to prevent having to have an instant debate and, well, vote.

It does restore my faith a bit that a representative can actually bring a bill to the floor and surprise people.

Hot fuzz is too warm

And you thought I was joking about spa slippers.

If you've ever been to a spa, you'll know that they dress you in a fluffy white robe and a pair of white one-size "scuff" slippers. Well named, because you have to sort of shuffle in them to keep them on -- which, if you have had a great spa treatment, is all your legs are able to do anyway. Just as hotels and spas now sell the white robes in order to capture the money they were losing from flat-out theft, spa slippers are now for sale.

I am delighted to find that neither my Google dictionary widget nor lists "spa slipper" as an entry. Therefore, I can stake my claim to providing the first definition ever, in the history of humanity.

A spa slipper, in its basic, Platonic glory:

  • Is a flat slipper made of terry cloth or microfiber (to absorb water or lotions)
  • Has a rubber bottom (so you won't slip if there's some water from the sauna on the floor)
  • Is slip-on (so you don't have to ruin your manicure or use any more than the minimum number of muscles to get them on)
  • Is snow white.

If you look at Nordstrom or Zappos, you'll see that the envelope has been massaged on this. Spa slippers now come in shapes that include thong, which does not seem like it would be spa comfortable; the color range has expanded to include pastel pink and blue. I can't wait for the moment when the fashion establishment decides that spa slippers that look like cotton candy are not calming but annoying.

But, hey, who doesn't want to walk around the apartment picking up kleenex in slippers that make you feel like you're in a spa?

Today you can find me at this other end of the sexy spectrum, not in tall leather boots with two-inch heels but in fuzzy square white spa slippers, just arrived from Zappos and Nordstrom. The genesis of this experiment was that I needed tights, and if I also purchased shoes from Nordstrom I would receive free shipping. Spend $40, save $5, who could resist? So after much research I bought white Acorn spa slippers.

I stuck with impractical, ultimately decadent white. I originally broke the rules: the slippers I bought are not for spas because they're like soft loafers and you have to use your finger to get your heels into them. And then I discovered something critically important: all that microfiber wrapped around your foot is really, really, really warm. That is not a cool cloud you're walking on.

So from Zappos today came my alternative, the white Acorn spa slide, which makes my foot look flat and square and fuzzy, and which is like walking on a cloud, plus my toes can breathe. They are like wearing angel shoes, so lovely, and I want to wear them all the time. Walking from living room to bedroom is not doing it for me. Interestingly, Acorn seems to lightly scent their slippers with a subtle, vague, inoffensive spalike smell. Intending to evoke that part of your memory associated with pampering.

Monday, November 5, 2007

A Proper Boot

So what is the proper fit for a boot? I just received my very first pair of dress boots from Zappos, having ordered them at 5:00 on Saturday night (so miraculous, as always), and I have no idea if they fit properly. They feel comfortable enough in the foot part; a little loose in the ankle; a little tight at the top. Most importantly, do they come up high enough on my leg?

I am extraordinarily late to the boot-wearing world because I thought this very expensive fashion would disappear quickly. I looked at people in lovely skirts and then boots that left a gap between the top of the boot and the bottom of the skirt and thought, "Knee high socks in seventh grade at girls' school." Personal experience. Alternatively, I thought, "Go-go dancer." Which, when I was six, I wanted to be, of course.

I think Lorelei Gilmore/Lauren Graham of "Gilmore Girls" convinced me that I should own boots. She always looked so good. Admittedly, she wore extroardinarily high spike heels: a suburban woman's Carrie Bradshaw. And if I decide to model my style after Lorelei, whose complete series is already in syndication on ABC Family, then I'm still dressing in the past. Then again, it would bring me much closer to the present than I am now.

So here I am in a lovely pair of boots, rather sexy, actually. But are they right? Has the six hours of online research (plus trying on my boss' boots right in her office) really finally paid off, and I can move on to obsessing about something else? Or should I buy a few more pairs and take advantage of Zappos' lovely perfect service?

Coming soon: spa slippers.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Type, not speak

The name of this blog should be "Results of Laryngitis and a Discount at the Apple Store." I have no voice today. I can't live without being able to express myself in words, and this lovely new MacBook is doing the trick.