Monthly Archives: February 2010

Size does matter

My phone is dying. I am sorry to see it go, it has been a great little phone. I have thoroughly enjoyed its company for two full years, now. It has been reliable, and grew with me through my introduction to and then obsession with texting. Though its keys cracked, it kept going strong. But now, with the space key barely functioning, its time has finally come. Let us all bow our heads in a moment of silence for this brave gadget.

The Sony Ericsson w580i

OK, enough of that.

Now, on to the new.

I am slightly in love with this phone:

HTC Tilt2

It is a freaking computer. It is a smart phone, with e-mail and such, but it also lets me work on word documents and the like…and such capability would be verrrrrrrrry nice for Companions. All of that capability would be very nice! It has a full qwerty keyboard with giant keys, a big, beautiful screen which also works in portrait or landscape as a touch screen (also with qwerty keyboards), a calendar that will alert you to appointments (SO NICE FOR COMPANIONS!). I want this phone.I want this phone a lot.

The only problem, it’s not a “little” phone like the last one. It’s a monster. The same size as the iPhone. So too big for my jeans pocket (where I carry my phone now). It fits in most coat pockets…but there are these seasons called “spring” and “summer,” not to mention “indoors.” It works in a purse..but..when I’m doing a lot of things like working or dog training I don’t carry my purse. My waistline is already naturally expanding, I don’t need to help it out with a big phone on a “belt” clip.

So how the heck would I carry it??


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Wednesday I woke up with a bit of a stuffy nose, figured allergies.

Thursday I woke up with a very stuffy nose, and my voice half gone. I went in to work because I figured I had to. It is NOT smiled upon to take sick days. People admire those who don’t or “are too busy” to take them. So I exposed everyone at work an felt horribly guilty the whole time. But I still figured this was just a couple day thing. I “never” get *really* sick. Then I went home and taught the first class with dogs for a group of students. I felt so bad that even dog training didn’t leave me happy.

Friday I could barely breath and had no voice. At all. As in me trying to yell resulted in nothing but air. I stayed home from work. I tried to sleep. I tried to get better. It didn’t work.It was my hubby’s birthday. I tried to make the day happy for him when he got home at about 9:30PM. But he spent his birthday taking care of me. And all of my conversations with him were via word document. We also had volunteered to run some science events on Saturday, and since I was feeling bad he helped me finish getting ready for mine. Until 3AM. Long after I was in bed.

Saturday was a bit better, had some voice back, as long as I didn’t mind pain. Which was good because I was running the darn events. It was a LOT of fun but also very hard on my body, and again, horrible guilt for exposing all the kids. OH WELL. Came home, he napped a couple hours, we went to his birthday part. Exposing all of our friends. Who were awesome and sweet and included me in stuff even though I was a walking germ fest. I hope to god none of them got sick. We played games and “talked” and played Rock Band until after 2AM. Which was way later than I should have/wanted to stay out..but it was my hubby’s birthday…and I didn’t want to cut it off for him.

Woke up this morning sickest I’ve been yet. I feel so bad I just want to cry. Did nothing all day but sit and sleep. The hubby is taking great care of me. But still. I have no sick leave left at work. And I know it would be frowned upon to stay home. But I think I’m going to have to….because right now I could not drive a car, not enough of me is “here.” Designing structures so no one gets killed? Maybe not the best idea.

I hope to god I’m better before Wednesday, when I have two  more classes. Because this is not the kind of thing where I can just get a sub for the classes. And I can’t push them back a week, because I have other classes starting. So I don’t know what I’d do. The only other time I’ve had to do this I offered my students a free private lesson on anything they wanted…but none of them actually took me up on it. So I just felt guilty. UGH.

I hate being sick :-( Glad I’m not a mom yet. That would be hard. Another thing you can’t just get a sub for…

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Writer’s Workshop – Craft Time!

Today I’m going to participate in Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop, which gives a handful of prompts to bloggers. Helps us come up with bloggy ideas and meet other bloggers – always good since I am constantly looking for new blogs to follow and, being a new blogger, am shameless about connecting to people to trick them over here!

Today’s prompt: Craft time!

Recently one of my best buds, we’ll call her Hot Momma, had her first baby. She loves using slings and wraps to carry her ADORABLE little boy around, but she doesn’t have to many. And I love to sew. Poifect!

So when planning to head out and visit her, I offered to make her a baby carrier of some kind. We eventually settled on a modified mei tai called a Frankenkozy. The versatility (front, back, or side wearing) and broad straps to distribute the weight of the little angel appealed to me. So off I went to the fabric store!

Once there it was quite nice thing about the Frankenkozy is you can use fabric of any kind on the outside, including cotton or flannel prints. The strength is in other layers. And of course, once at the store, I was completely overwhelmed by the abundance of choices. What if I picked a pattern she hated? I mean, she was getting a custom-made carrier, but shouldn’t she have some say in the colors? She’s going to be wearing it around all the time! Eek! I circled the store, grabbing things I thought were possible..and ended up with over 12 bolts of good candidates.

Enter brilliant plan.

I lined them up on top of each other in three stacks…and with three clicks of my camera phone and some quick thumb-typing the choices were on their way to Hot Momma! (And no, I didn’t mind the strange looks I was getting at all. People should understand the gravity of such choices.) She wrote back and told me she liked the idea of camo, but that the specific print I had was a bit odd and looked nothing like her husband’s camo. Living on base this would, of course, drive her insane. (I am anal-retentive. I tend towards friends who are, too.) So I circled the store again..and again..and again..taking pictures of every bolt or scrap of camo I could find. Finally we settled on one that looked pretty good, and with a bit more chatting to select the base material I had my fabrics!

Next came the cutting and sewing. It was an interesting undertaking, because I had never sewed pleats before. Lots of trial and error there! Lots of pleating, ironing out the pleats, making them go the other way, ironing them back out, making them go the first way again… After I got that figured out it was just a quick trip ’round with the machine, and the Frankenkozy was born!

I think it turned out pretty good:

Hot Momma and her adorable baby in the Frankenkozy

I love her adorable son’s head poking out over the top of the carrier since the head flap is turned down. So inquisitive!

She reports that it’s quite comfy to wear, and she likes it ’cause if her baby falls asleep she can comfortably stand or sit without disturbing him. Win-win!

It was purty darn easy to make, even easier if you aren’t the perfectionist I am, so if you’re looking for a baby gift try this one out!


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How do you find a therapist???

I feel stuck where I am.

I desperately want to go into counseling, to get more control over my life and my self. I’m tired of being reliant on a pill to get me through the day, and to keep me from being a danger to myself. If that’s all it was, I would learn to deal, but I also want to have kids soon, and you cannot be on my meds while you are pregnant/nursing. So I need to discover a way to cope without them, to at least get to the point I’m at now while off the drugs.

I also just want the experience of therapy. Talking things out helps me. But there are very few people I trust enough in life to talk to, and there’s only so many times they can listen to the same thing. And, while I greatly appreciate all that they DO listen, I feel like someone who actually does therapy (well) does more than listen, they help you process more quickly and give you tools to do so. I want those tools.

My problem is, how on earth do I find a therapist? There are SO MANY bad ones out there, as I’ve learned from other people’s blogs (for example…) and from the experiences of people I know.

My current doctors are all downtown, largely because while I live 30 minutes North of it (in no traffic, which happens so often around here) I work in downtown. But I don’t want to find a psychologist down here because my goal is to get to the point that I can go off meds and have kids…and quit work. At which point we’ll probably move farther North for the hubby’s job. And I know with depression it’s hard to get yourself to care enough to do what you know you need to. When I’m down it’s hard to convince myself to swallow a little pill in my hand with a glass of water in the other. A 30 minute drive and expensive parking? Not happening. However, when I’ve tentatively asked my doctors down here, none of them know anyone up North. So no doctor referral.

I know very few people in the North end, none of whom are in therapy or know someone in therapy or have kids in therapy (not that a child psychologist would do me any good…well..depending who you ask ;-). So no referral from a current patient.

For some reason psychologists and therapists put NO INFO about themselves online. I would like to find someone who has knowledge of the things I’m facing. I would also like to find someone whose theraputic technique is not “try harder.” I blame myself enough for the physical and chemical damage in my brain without a “professional” blaming me, too. And I already can completely shut down if I’m afraid someone is judging me, something I am obsessive about. I do not need a “professional” who I feel is judgmental.

I take that back. I found one great website where therapists will put up some info about themselves, their approach, what their main specialties and secondary specialties are. Unfortunately, virtually none of them are covered by my insurance, because insurance companies are a pain in the @$$ to deal with. And while my sweet, wonderful, supportive hubby is willing to pay for appointments completely out of pocket…we’re trying to save money and the appointments are ridiculously expensive and it seems silly to me when there ARE doctors who the insurance will pay for in full. So that website has basically confirmed for me that 80-90% of therapists would not be a good fit for me (even of the ones who seem great for someone else).

So basically, the only option I see is to pick someone blind. Off a list the insurance company provides.

And that terrifies me.

I do not want to go to a bad therapist. And, from what I hear and have seen, there are far more bad than good. So it will likely be multiple blind picks before I can find someone who 1) knows what they’re doing and 2) I can trust and talk with. And I know myself. A single off-handed comment that I think might be negative can send me into a downward spiral for days.  A bad experience with someone I pretty much have to trust and talk with (in order to see if they’re a good fit) will be very hard for me to get over.

I’m scared to move forward. But I’m tired of being stuck where I am.

Anyone out there have any advice on finding someone good???


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Operation GSC

The head of my division at work (basically the president of our company-within-a-company) puts out an order form for girl scout cookies every year on behalf of his daughter. Now when I was a little girl and my dad was a manager in his company and I asked him to take in the order form for my Campfire Girls whatever-we-were-selling-that-year, he always said no, because it would unfairly pressure his employees. To which I can now say, bull-hockey! The way most of us view it, this way we can buy girl scout cookies AND suck up to the boss, all in one fell swoop!

In short, I will admit it: I bought girl scout cookies. But it’s not because I’m weak. It’s because I’m focusing on job advancement.

Doesn’t that sound better?

Anyway, he put the form out and I thought to my self, “Self, do you want some girl scout cookies?” To which my self loudly answered, “YES!” “Alright,” I said to my self, “How many shall we get?” “Well,” said my self to me, “There are two kinds of cookies we like…and they’re some of the only non-chocolate specialty/really delcious cookies that come out all year, so how ’bout two boxes of each? I mean…how ’bout 2 boxes of each, that would look good to your boss!.” “You make a very good point, self,” I said. “I wonder if the hubby would like any?” The hubby assured me that there were two types of cookies that he really liked, too. “Well,” I thought to my self, I can’t buy me two boxes each and him one! Better get two boxes of each for him, too.” To which my self nodded seriously. So I ordered.

Fast forward several weeks. The cookies have come in. And unlike last year, when our awesome receptionist offered to deliver them to all of us at our desks (she sadly left for Arizona, no more cookie deliveries), yesterday my boss sent out an e-mail letting us know they were in and telling us to stop by his desk and pick them up, while dropping off our check.

Well crap.

My office is on the 4th and 5th floor of a high rise building. I work on the 5th floor. My boss works waaaaay down on the 4th floor. Down a set of wooden stairs which reverberate quite loudly when one is wearing heels, letting the whole office know I HAVE ARRIVED! Also, living in the Puget Sound, everyone is a hippy pretty health-conscious.

Now, I have 8 boxes of cookies waiting for me downstairs. EIGHT. That is a towering stack of girl scout cookie boxes. Getting them up to my desk un-remarked will take careful planning and execution.

So I waited.

Aaaaall day yesterday…

Most of today….

And finally, at 3:45 today, I struck! While downstairs helping a coworker, I glanced at my boss’s cube and noticed he wasn’t there. Not only that, much of the office was gone for the day! I’d already made my loud entrance down the stairs, and it was awhile ago. Perfect!

I nonchalantly stroll into his cube and glance at the order form. Yup. Definitely 8 boxes. No one may know I’m here now, but it’s a loooong, exposed walk back to my cube. So the brilliant part of my brain kicks in. Only take 4! That’s still a lot, but not unreasonable, especially if I explain some are for the hubby. Glancing around, I carefully pull out four boxes and saunter up the stairs, Mission Impossible theme song playing in my head.

I make it back to my desk, heart racing, safely unseen! Well, I think, that went well, why not go get the others? Besides, we’re supposed to cross our name off the order form when we take them, I don’t want him to notice a discrepency in his cookie amounts and start asking uncomfortable questions. So I pound down the stairs (nonchalantly, I assure you) back to his cube, check in hand. I write out the check, drop it in the envelope, and grab my remaining four boxes, and casually return to my desk. Success!

BUT WAIT! Now I have 8 boxes of cookies sitting at my desk! There’s no way I can get them all home tonight, and even if there was, there’s still time before I have to leave and some very tease-happy coworkers nearby! My cubical is totally exposed, the space under my desk is clearly visible, my bookshelf is clearly visible, there are no corners to tuck things behind! Where can I put them??

Looking around my cubicle in a panic, I seize on a solution.

My brilliant solution

(sorry it’s sideways…)

This is the only space in my office that can be closed off.

I am a genius. A genius full of delicious cookies.

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There’s no such thing as a free lunch

My biggest pet peeve at my job is the “optional” training lunches they hold FREQUENTLY. They bill them as being “optional” and “for your own enrichment,” but in reality, especially for young engineers, they are mandatory. When I first started I naively took the higher-ups at their word, and tried not going to some of the lunches, but they found me and told me I needed to be there. Well, no, that they would “like” me to be there. You know. If I chose.

There are so many reasons this bothers me.

First, I hate lectures. I hate them. I hate attending them. I had a really hard time in lecture-based classes in college because typically they move slowly and it’s hard to devote focus for that long when I’m bored. I never choose to go to lectures on anything, even though there were a bunch around my school, because it’s just not worth it! I’d MUCH rather read about it than listen to a lecture. I have a friend who’s a dog trainer who loves to learn more about the field through instructional videos. I go towards instructional books, videos are just difficult for me because, for all intents and purposes, they’re lectures. Now if my company wanted to tell me I had to read a report on something, great, no problem, happy to do it. But sitting there for a lecture? NO!

Second, it’s engineers giving these lectures, people. Now, I’m lucky in that my company focuses on hiring personable people, so the people I work with are in general really nice and good at casual conversation. But engineers are not typically the types of people who have a natural gift for standing up and talking to a crowd. So these lunchtime training sessions tend to be veeeeery booooooring. Even if the topic is good. I can only listen to someone read a powerpoint slide full of text, restating each sentence after they read it, for so long.

Third, JUST BE STRAIGHT ABOUT IT. These sessions are not optional. They are required. So just SAY that. When I was getting interviewed they told me about the optional lunches. I thought, great, if there’s a topic I need to know more about, I can go learn. But it’s probably not a “benefit” (as they pitched it) that I’ll use often. Same thing during my first day introduction to the office. But then when the time comes…nope, you have to be there. Now, if that’s the case just SAY it’s the case. But don’t tell me it’s a “benefit” I get of working here.

Fourth, part of why they say it’s a “benefit” is the “free lunch” they provide. Here’s what I say: 1) It’s not free. I have to sit through your lecture. 2) I get no say on what it is. Serving dry turkey sandwiches is not worth 1.5 hours of my time. Often there is nothing worth eating (by my standards) provided. This is not a benefit.

Fifth, something funny happened. Something that ended my patience with the lunchtime session “benefit.” When I first started, the company would pay for half of the lunch session. So half was my time, half was the company’s. It was still frustrating, because I didn’t used to take a lunch at all, but the sessions were usually only 45 min to MAYBE an hour, so that wasn’t too bad. But then, the recession hit (darn you, recession!). And someone in my office went to the higher-ups and suggested that they could save money by no longer paying for half of the training sessions (Thanks diligent employee! You’re lucky I don’t know who you are). Which they of course thought was a GREAT idea! Funny thing, though…once the company no longer paid for our sessions they got longer..and longer…and more frequent. Now sessions are always at least an hour and a half. Of MY TIME. I do take a lunch now, but it’s 30 minutes. So that’s an extra hour that I have to stay at work. And, since I am in this “session” through my lunch, it basically means I work 9.5 hours straight with NO BREAK (I do not do well without breaks). So on days like today, which is the last sunny day projected for at least a week, causing me to come in early so I could get home before sunset so I could work on rally obedience with my puppy outside (there’s nowhere well-lit nearby I can go), now I can’t get home before sunset. ’cause I have to stay an extra hour. ARGH.

Related to that, the notice for this “benefit” is getting shorter. We used to have an awesome secretary who at the beginning of every month sent out an e-mail with the dates of everything happening in the month. There were usually one or two training sessions, and I knew when they were so I could plan. Then she left. And the new girl is very nice..but not as organized. Now we’re lucky to get a weeks notice. A few weeks ago we were told on Thursday there would be a lunch session the next day. FRIDAY. They made us stay late on a Friday with no warning! ARGH!!

Part of my frustration, I know, is that I do not care about the topics. Don’t get me wrong, I love structural engineering. But I love it because of the math. Not because of the coolness of how ships are supplied with power while berthed. Or the fascinating topic of why concrete works the way it does. Or because I find the idea of a project that we’ve done interesting. Or ANYTHING AT ALL that civil engineers do. I like the math. The calculations. And the problem solving. And, to clarify, DOING those things, not hearing about them.

(I wish when I was in school someone had told me to decide what to study based on what I would go to lectures on. Because I would go to lectures on dog training. I was planning on going to an entire weekend FULL of lectures on dog training, until I decided it was too expensive and cancelled (darn economy!). And that’s saying something, given my feelings on lectures. But I don’t ENJOY learning about engineering. So why did I study it??)

I recognize that a lot of smaller companies do things like this…but they put it in the light of training. In the light of a requirement. They’re honest about what they’re doing. And they don’t start to take advantage of their employees after cutting their benefits (i.e. extending the time of the sessions after making it fully our time).

Be honest. Be honorable. And I’ll be quiet and suck it up.

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The up-side of early darkness

This afternoon/evening the hubby and I re-seeded a strip of dirt in our yard that used to be a stone path. See, we have a very interesting backyard. When we first moved in, you stepped out the backdoor and were on the patio. Walk across that and you’re on a stone path. The path led to a bridge which went over a ditch. Yes, a ditch. Full of…dirt. And weeds. And the previous year’s leaves from the MASSIVE tree that hangs over the ditch. Anyhoo, the bridge led to the other side of the ditch, where there was a teeny-tiny stretch of dirt before the fence (maybe 1′-6″ wide? Maybe?) that you could tight-rope-walk along. It was very cute and quaint (when viewed from the house), and we were kind of excited by the uniqueness of it when we moved in. Heck, we had no little kids, we can handle a ditch!

But here’s the thing: The bridge was falling apart. When we first moved in it seemed a little weak, but we figured we could maybe shore it up a bit if needed. We’re both engineers! Yeeeah, not so much. See, the bridge was made of wood, and it rains a lot here in the Puget Sound. And did I mention the huge tree? So the bridge was in the shade and the water didn’t evaporate. From junior-high science (do they even teach science in junior high anymore, or is it another victim of budget cuts?) we know that if you leave wood in water it rots, and if you leave nails in a moist environment they rust. So within a few months of moving in, if you walked across the bridge it was totally sound until you got..oh…right about over the deepest part of the ditch, and then one entire side would collapse from its supports. Reeeeeal safe. And of course, the bridge was so cool that EVERYONE who came to our house would instantly go to it and start walking across, leading to me running after them screaming, “STOP!!” So we ripped it out before someone could sue us. It was kind of scary how easily it came out…the hubby pulled off the handrail on one entire side in about 20 seconds just by rocking it. We didn’t need a single saw, just pull and the thing fell apart in our hands. *shudder*

Of course, that project finished, we now had a nice stone path leading to an empty ditch. (Have I mentioned NOTHING will grow in this ditch? The ground is solid clay! And it is HUGE. I plant more ground cover every year in the hope that by the time we sell the house it will look somewhat less dirt-and-weed-y.) Not so cool. So we ripped out the path. Amazing how heavy garbage cans full of rocks can be!

But once the path was gone, we were left with two little sections of grass, separated by a strip of dirt that’s 1-2″ lower than all the dirt around it. We are not increasing the home’s value here. I left it for the rest of the summer/fall/winter and hoped the grass would grow on its own to cover the strip of dirt. I mean, heck, the grass grows into all my other little areas where I have other plants and edging to keep OUT the grass! But noooo, not into the nice, inviting strip of dirt I left open for it!

So today, while it’s still late enough in winter/early enough in spring that we are getting rain, I went out and bought 4 bags of dirt, 1 bag of fertilizer, and 5 lbs of grass seed. The hubby and I spent the afternoon spreading out the new dirt, which must have magical growing crystals in it for what it cost, chopping up the layer of clay underneath the new dirt, mixing in the fertilizer, pretending that the dirt we added actually brought the level of that ground up to even with the clay around it, and then adding grass seed heavily to the strip of dirt and more lightly across our whole lawn. See, I have not a darn clue what kind of grass is currently in my yard, so I bought a special “mixture” of seeds that supposedly grow well in the Pacific NW (I’ll show them!). But then I didn’t want a strip of grass that looks different from all the patchy grass around it! So I sprinkled seed all over my existing lawn, hoping some will take root and grow to help the new grass camoflauge. We’ll see.

As we’re working the sun is setting, and we finish up soon after it’s dark (the yard is very poorly lit, it’s hard to work once the sun is gone). I head inside figuring it’s probably around 8, I’ll have a bit of time to grab some food and head to bed. Look at the clock.



So, of course, I used the extra time to blog.

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The Olympics are far as I’m concerned

Well, today was the last day of Olympic fun. We finished it all off with one final event: men’s curling.

Swedes Curling

Now, when we first bought our tickets, we thought we were going to be on the side again like we were at the women’s session, towards one end of the ice, but with a decent view. Turns out we were waaaaaaay off to the side past the end of the ice and had this view:

It was a lovely view of..the crowd

This view was ESPECIALLY cool since the US was playing on the closest lane, so I couldn’t see their game at all half the time, and hardly at all the other half (depending which way they were going). So close to half of the way through the session, the hubby scouted us some new seats and we moved. It was the early morning session and Canada wasn’t in it, so it wasn’t COMPLETELY full. We ended up with this view:

Muuuuuch better

Which was totally different than our view of the woman’s game and really quite cool. It led to the opportunity to get some really fun shots like these:

The US men curling

The Swedes curling back at us...with the US anxiously looking on

Curling is a GREAT sport if you like heinies. Just go to a game of the opposite gender and sit on one end

Have I mentioned I really enjoy sports photography? It’s a fun challenge trying to catch action as it happens, not to mention expressions/emotion. I also enjoy looking back through the photos I got after the game and getting another view of what was going on. Makes me jealous of sports photographers with their fancy cameras and picture-editing software. This is the real life, baby, single shot, crappy vantage point, no editing. Hard core!

Some of the teams that were curling this morning were…

Team USA

Team Germany

Team China

aaaaaand…..wait for it….

Team Fancy-Pants! I mean..Team Norway!

I think I spot a new fashion trend coming on!!! They seemed like really nice guys, at one point the stands started chanting “Nor-way! Nor-way! Nor-way!” and they turned around and waved. No one does that!

The games were very different than the women’s games we saw. In those 4 matches, 2 games went to an 11th end and 2 went all they way through the 10th. In this game, one team conceded after 7 ends, one conceded after 8 ends, once conceded during the 10th end, and the last was an EXTREMELY close game that went all the way to the last stone in the 11th end. Guess which game went to 11? Did you guess? Didja? The USA vs. Sweden! Atta-boys! They actually managed to beat Sweden, a much better team, in the 11th end with the very.last.stone. And it only WENT to 11 ends after the judge had to bring out the fancy-shmancy measuring device because it was so hard to tell whose stone was closer. It was extremely exciting, with an ideal crowd: people for both the US and Sweden who were VERY into it but still VERY polite. I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

The stones. I think they're cool-looking.

So that was a very positive, very exciting way to end our Olympic experience! On the walk back we were talking, and we realized that we went to five events: Canadian hockey, US hockey, women’s curling (w/US), men’s curling (w/US) and figure skating. Of the four events with the US we saw, the US won 3 of them! Very fun! The hubby also went to speed skating and another US hockey game, and the US won both of those, too! Guess we’re good luck.

On the way back, as I was sweating in the hot sun, I had the hubby snap a picture:

Proof there was snow!

See? It WAS a winter Olympics! Look at all that snow! No, no, look up, in the mountains. Now squint a bit. It’s at the veeeery top. And it’s hard to see with how bright it is. OK, got it? Snow! Winter! Please ignore the clear blue skies, clearly visible sunshine, green grass, and fully-leafed trees. They are irrelevant.

Here’s the thing. Most of my knowledge of the winter Olympics pre-trip came from Cool Runnings. So when I thought “winter Olympics” I thought something like this:

Now, my ability to regulate body temperature is only slightly better than that of a lizard, so I naturally packed two jackets, a sweater, long sleeves, fuzzy socks, long pants, gloves, etc. etc. etc. And then proceeded to sweat non-stop the whole trip. Of course, to avoid dealing with parking, Vancouver basically shut down all streets and parking near the venues so everyone had to use public transit. The hubby was thrilled! He loves that stuff! I consider it annoying and a waste of my time to walk out of my way, stand in line, pack onto a vehicle, ride a ways, get off, possibly repeat the process, and then walk back to where I wanted to end up, but it did make sense for the games. Except for the whole heat thing. It was warm for walking! Once you got INTO the venues which were kept freezing (literally) for the sake of the ice, you needed a jacket (one. not two. for the record)..but during the 15+ minute walk to get there, not so much. Luckily I have a very loving, whipped, supportive hubby who volunteers to do stuff for me all the time like carrying my extra clothing so I don’t pass out and/or sit down and refuse to walk any further (all joking aside, I really do appreciate this. He’s very good to me and my lack of energy). So it worked out. But geeze! Not what I was expecting for a WINTER Olympics!

On the up side, if I had to pick a week to take off work and actually FEEL the sunshine instead of just staring at it through windows, this was a good one! I’m not really complaining about the was a bit odd…but it was also quite nice to get to experience!!

After the games, back in the car and down south through the border crossing and home. It went something like this:

Well…like that anyway.

It’s so good to be home. With my glorious bed. I’m sorry, dear mattress. I will never speak ill of you again. And my PUPPY! Who is currently laying next to me on my bed, sleeping off his exhaustion at playing non-stop with his human and canine friends down the street for 5 days straight. He was very very VERY excited to see us when we got back, and wanted to play and play and play and play and check that everything was exactly the same and play and play and then he collapsed. We’ll see if he’s recovered tomorrow :-)

I had a great time at the Olympics, somewhat to my surprise, and I’m almost sad that they’re over! I mean..I heard something about the Olympics and next week, but that can’t be right ’cause I know I have to be at work. So *shrug* I guess someone has their information wrong. I’m sure they’re on TV somewhere, but who does that? I’ll just stick with my happy memories.

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Hockey, FIGURE SKATING, more hockey

Days 3 and 4 of the Olympics (as measured by our trip, the only period of time where I care) have been quite fun! We started out yesterday at a hockey game. Guess who was playing?

There were a few fans for one country in the stands

That’s right, the Americans were playing! Which means, again, it really doesn’t matter who the other team was. We’ll just call them, “the enemy.” It was really cool that 2 of the 3 hockey games I got to see involved the Canadians (home team) and Americans (my team!).

One really interesting thing about this game was that it was WOMEN’S hockey.

See? Women!

I’ve gotta admit, when we were getting tickets, I was not too jazzed about the women’s games. We had tickets because my hubby wanted to see some (and they cost waaaay less than men’s games). But I discovered something: I prefer women’s hockey!

More women playing with skillz

I made the same discovery in basketball (my university’s only real sport). Women’s games are just more fun to watch. They tend to play together more, their fundamentals are better, and they’re more controlled. And in hockey (international rules, at least) there’s no body checking or slamming players into the boards, so when players rush for a puck they are much more in control and stop before they hit each other, and then instead of a dog-pile of guys shoving each other into the glass and blindly feeling for the puck between their legs, they can actually…play. We could only stay for two periods of this game, because then we had to run to our next event, but the two periods were so much more enjoyable than my previous time at men’s hockey that I actually wanted to stay and watch a third! I guess my sports rule from my last post only applies to men’s sports. So my summary: good basic skills make up for the lack of body slamming or dunking.

Gotta agree with the Amazonians on this one.

Moving on to the most important event of the entire Olympics: FIGURE SKATING!

Low ranked skater jumping. I hadn't started taking notes yet, don't remember who this was.

Let’s hit some highlights, shall we?

(I’m going to assume all you nice people in my computer are as in love with figure skating as I am, and talk about it at great length with lots and lots of pictures taken by yours truly. If you’re not, you can still oooooh and aaaaah over my mad picture taking skills. If you don’t even want to do that then who needs you you can scroll past this section, to where the photos are no longer of figure skaters.)

One of my first favorites was from Sweden.

Adrian Schultheiss having escaped his straightjacket

He started his program as if he was in a straight jacket, and acted a bit stereotypically insane throughout. Maybe not the most politically correct, but it was very unique and engaging! And to add to the fun, he included music from Duck Hunt, Insane in the Brain, and…wait for it….the “House” theme song!! I love House. I think it’s something about the sarcasm and not giving a damn that appeals to know…since it’s so unlike me.

Next notable was the USA’s Jeremy Abbott.

Jeremy Abbott flying!

I am told by my sports-crazy hubby that Abbott actually won the US competition to earn the right to go to the Olympics..but he came into the long program in 15th place. Ouch. And then he fell a few times. Which, to be fair, was a theme of the night. In the first two groups (12 skaters) I think maybe 2 landed their first jump. I am not kidding. It was painful. Anyway, he ended up in..from my notes…8th? Which is not bad, but he was clearly disappointed in himself. He just couldn’t get it together here. I felt bad for him, I hate seeing the obvious pain of a talented athlete who knows he just did far from his best and blew his shot. So let’s move on to something happier!

How about…PIRATES???

The honorable pirate Javier Fernandez

Yes, he did. Javier Fernandiez, of Spain, dressed as a pirate and skated to the music from Pirates of the Caribbean. Complete with drunken footwork in which it looked like he was going to fall. He does a great impression of a drunk man. Makes you wonder about how he rehearsed…

Patrick Chan, from Canada, also stole my heart, skating to music from “Phantom of the Opera.”

Patrick Chan jumping. Not belly flopping. Promise.

I love Phantom. Love it. Grew up with it. Have seen it live three times (though the first I was pretty young and don’t remember much of). Own the original broadway score. This. Was. Awesome.

Next skater of note…Evan Lysacek.

Evan Lysacek doing something beautifully

Sound familiar? At all? Name tugging at your memory? Maybe because this, my friends, is the Olympic gold medalist. For the United States.

Aaaaw yeah.

His program was BEAUTIFUL. Did not fall once. Did not wobble. Everything flowed. His flew across the ice but made it look so effortless. I didn’t get many pictures, because I was so enraptured, which is rare. Just GORGEOUS.

However, after him, there were still 5 skaters to go…

Next up: Nobunari Oda of Japan.

Nobunari Oda aka Charlie Chaplain

He skated to a collection of music from Charlie Chaplain films, and had the outfit and mannerisms to match. It was a really cute program, but also impressive. Again, a program that flowed together, every jump landed…..until one. When he fell HARD. And then got up and looked like he was limping. He called for the music to stop. What happened? When he landed, the lace on his skate broke. So his skate moved out from under his foot. He could barely move ’cause it was so loose. He had to go run to the side and get a new lace (who knew figure skaters got time outs? Not me!) and then to come back on and restart. He completed his program flawlessly and it was beautiful…but unfortunately the pause and the fall really hurt him. He came in to the long program in fourth, serious possibility for a medal. Ended in fifth. That would be hard when it was largely due to a fluke accident out of your control.

Next is your favorite skater and mine….Johnny Weird!

Johnny Weird

In all of the official programs and information they forgot the “d” in his last name. Odd. Anyway, he skated to “Fallen Angel,” and his costume was designed to match. I think he looks like a fallen angel, don’t you?

Can't you see the fallen angel?

His program was beautiful. Another one. They weren’t all, promise, I’m leaving out the boring ones. But the crowd LOVED him. He got a standing ovation. Then his score came out and it was really quite low. He ended up 6th. That was the only time in the whole night the crowd booed, and they did long and loud! Weird took it well, though, smiled and waved and left. My guess is his program wasn’t too technically difficult, even if artistically it was beautiful.

And last but not and in my opinion least, Evgeni Plushenko!

This was all of the artistry he showed in the whole program right here

He had a lot of beautiful jumps in his program. The first two he barely landed, but he didn’t fall. I thought he had way more jumps than anyone else, because, especially at first, it felt like that was all he was doing! There was no artistry, it was just slowly moving across the ice, jump, slowly move a few yards, jump, over and over. By 2 minutes he stopped jumping as much..and I don’t even remember what he did do. It was not beautiful. It was..cold. Very pretty jumps. But it’s not Ice Jumping. It’s Figure Skating. And his program had no soul. He lost by one point, and the stands went WILD! The crowd definitely favored Lysacek!

The really sad thing is that Plushenko was kind of an ass about getting silver. For example, here’s a picture of Lysacek getting his flowers after receiving his gold medal.

Getting the gold!

He looks so happy! He’s smiling and engaging the woman! Now look at Plushenko. He looks PISSED. And he was. He didn’t hang around on the ice with the other two, he took off his medal as soon as he got off the ice in full view of the crowd. Afterwards he made several disparaging comments about Lysacek, saying he didn’t really deserve the gold because he didn’t do a certain jump, and that the judges only gave it to him because Plushenko already had one. *rolls eyes* Oh please. I understand that right after skating he could look kind of upset on the ice. Even wanting to leave quickly. You just had some hard news, and now you’re in front of the world. But going out and making those comments? That’s just unexcusably rude to me. Grrr. Luckily Lysacek is taking it well, though it sucks for him that rather than getting excited coverage of the US finally winning a men’s figure skating gold again, he’s just getting asked over and over what he thinks about Plushenko’s comments. I wish the media would stop focusing on the whiny brat throwing a temper tantrum! But hey, that’s what the masses like…

Moving on, the medals ceremony was really cool.

The flags rising at the medals ceremony. They were brought in by the Mounties standing below them.

Hearing the national anthem was quite moving.

::UPDATE:: So evidently I did a GREAT job recording the medals ceremony, because the IOC itself ordered YouTube to take it down. I had no idea I had so much talent!

I just find it extremely cool that we got to go to one medals ceremony, and it was one the US got gold at! So exciting.

The medalists!

Afterwards we left..and…funny story…at the base of our section was a figure skater signing autographs and taking pictures with fans! As we came down the stairs, the hubby (allegedly) heard several people say, “It’s Patrick Chan!” So of course, he turned to me and a Canadian skater we’d been sitting by and chatting with and said, “It’s Patrick Chan!” Loudly. So we go down to get our picture taken with him and ask him to sign our tickets. He smiles for our picture, and then as he’s signing our tickets, I decide to say something to him. But I know nothing about this guy and would not be able to identify him in any circumstance. Plus he doesn’t really look like a “Chan.” So I decide to keep it generic, and say, “I loved watching you skate. Your music was beautiful.” OK? If it was Patrick Chan, true! If not, it could be accepted as intended for that guy. Then the hubby chimes in, “Yeah, we’re big Phantom fans!” *facepalm* I glance at him, but he looks confident, so I shrug it off and look back at the skater…who is signing a name that does NOT look like “Patrick Chan.” Yeeeeah. Does this look like a “Chan” to you?

The hubby and me with David Pelletier

No. No it doesn’t. Turns out it was famous Canadian pairs figure skater, David Pelletier. He wasn’t skating in these Olympics, he’s now an analyst, and he stopped by to visit fans. Remember the scandal a few years ago that led to the change in how figure skating is scored? He was one of the skaters involved in the debacle. He and his partner won silver, and after the insanity, were awarded a dual-gold medal. So a cool guy nonetheless! time…maybe my sports-nut of a hubby will stay to generic complements. (Love you, hubby!)

Today, just one event: Men’s hockey.

You can tell it's men's hockey because they're fighting like little boys

It was a good game, though it definitely felt a loooot longer than the women’s game of yesterday. It was close and well-played on both sides. Sweden vs. Belarus, so there weren’t many crazy fans for one side or another, the crowd was cheering for a good game.

See? Bell-a-roos!

Perhaps most importantly, I got some great pictures. Games go faster with a camera in hand!

You think you're stopping me? Stop..THIS!

I never knew hockey players were so sweet! Look! They're hugging!

The goalie WAS a tall drink of water ...mmmm...

Right after a shot on goal: "Where'd the puck go?"

You just try and stop me!

The game was fun and restored my faith in men’s hockey…somewhat. Definitely enjoyable. Maybe not worth the unorthodox amount of walking/ascending/descending/walking/ascending/walking/ascending required to get to our seats, but once there, a good time!

It has been so amazing to be at these games and see actual Olympic athletes both in their element and outside of it! Just one more event tomorrow, curling, unless we decide to go to another women’s hockey game. We’ll see. We ended up not going to Colbert this morning because 1) I wanted to sleep and 2) I didn’t want to stand in the mud as part of a giant crowd of thousands for a minimum of 3 hours. I’ll watch it next week :-) So we’ll see how the energy level is tomorrow. I can tell you this: I cannot wait to be back to my BED where I can actually SLEEP (blessed sleep, I have missed you!) and my PUPPY!!! But this trip has been so fun, I haven’t even missed him much. And that’s saying something!

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Guess where I aaaaaaaam!?

Vancouver is decked out!

Yup! The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games!

It’s been pretty darn cool so far (even if we are paying an obscene amount of money to stay in some guy’s apartment where his mattress is, for all intents and purposes, a sheet of rock, so I am sleep-walking the whole time). Yesterday on our way to our first event we stopped and saw some public art.

"We, Illuminated"

See, notice how in Canada the public art actually looks like…art? Don’t worry, I was weirded out, too. But hey, I decided I could use some illumination!

So as I said, we were on the way to our first event: hockey. Well, my first event. The hubby/sports fan is going to some events without me so we can both be extra happy. The game? Canada vs. the enemy. Oh yeah. In the lottery where we got our tickets we were lucky enough to get the Canada game! Which means there were a lot of VERY EXCITED fans there! It also means who the other team was doesn’t matter much at all, because there was no one in the stands rooting for them anyway.

See? Hockey!

I don’t believe this was the first puck drop, but what do I know? All I’m sure of is that at the beginning of the game, a puck was dropped just like this. After that I pretty much lost it. There was lots of skating back and forth and screaming. (For a great explanation of the rules of hockey see Jen’s post explaining them over at Cake Wrecks)

OK, I have a husband who’s a hockey nut, so I do get the basics of the game, and it was pretty fun to watch…but I am a firm believer in the theory that most sports could be VASTLY improved if their length was cut to 2/3 of what it currently is. Hockey? Really, it only needs 2 periods! Baseball? Think how much less mind-numbing 6 innings would be instead of 9! (And for the record, I like baseball. I simply canNOT take 3-4 hours of it. Uh-uh.) Football? Let’s be honest, anything to cut down on the length of a football game would be an improvement! Ladies, can I get some support?!?

Post-hockey we got on the sky train to head downtown to the vastly-overpriced-but-official-Olympics-store where they are happy to sell teeny-tiny stuffed animals for $25, white long-sleeved-t-shirts for $33, and jackets for >$300. Buy some Olympic spirit! (I am addicted to shopping and still had way too much fun). The important part of this story, though, is that on the way, when we got on the train, we realized that literally inches away was the entire German short track team! How cool is that?? I think that is my favorite part of being here, randomly running into OLYMPIC ATHLETES on the street! They seemed like really nice guys.

Hot German short track athlete

3/4 German short track athletes in the train station. We did not stalk them. Much.

Now, I know that all the women out there rank sports in order from hottest guys to least-hot. (No? Just me? Well….moving on….) For example, baseball is waaaaay at the bottom of my list. What about that sport encourages players to grow beer bellies? Soccer, up near the top. Normally- proportioned all-around athletic attractive guys. Well, running into the short track team may have convinced me to rearrange my ordering ’cause their ranking just skyrocketed! Yes? You with me!? *swoon*

And finally, today, on to curling! Now curling is just cool. It’s all think-y but still athletic-y and team-y and everyone has VERY VERY GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP. I was amazed to see that of the 4 games we were watching (4 go on at a time) an official never once had to take to the ice. The teams play based on the honor system, more or less. When a stone is out, yours or the other teams, someone kicks it out of the way. No arguing or making sure our watching to ensure the other team doesn’t screw you. Because they don’t. At the completion of an end, when the scoring occurs, the players look at the lay out of the stones, quickly agree on who won and how many points they got, and signal to the official’s table. I even saw one critical end where it was EXTREMELY close deciding who won not only the end but the match, and it only took a minute of discussion, the teams agreed, and no one threw a fit or got angry. After being surrounded by obnoxious sports fans all weekend (more on this in a minute) I was extra-super impressed by this!

There is nothing to make me hate sports quite like sports fans. Seriously, why do people have to be such @$$holes about a team of people they don’t even know personally and the team’s victory or loss which they HAD NO PART IN? Not to mention just the general disregard for anyone else as long as they’re cheering for their team. I’m talking about the guy who spilled his beer on me at the hockey game (I don’t drink, and the smell of beer makes me sick, so double ugh) when he decided to do the wave with both hands and a full glass, and then after seeing he did never said a thing. Or the group of Canadians who stormed in on the German short track team while they were getting interviewed on the train and yelled “CANADA! CANADA! CANADA!” while banging around to drown out the Germans. To their credit, the Germans were extremely nice about it (which I’m sure added to their hotness total to me) and just kind of waited calmly until they were done, and after they left kind of said “Thanks” (in German) and moved right along. But seriously, people! Or the Canadians who, at curling today, cheered every time the Japanese made a mistake. Now a few things about this: I hate cheering for other teams’ mistakes in any event, but it is ESPECIALLY rude in curling. It is just not done. There were vocal fans there for all 8 of the teams playing, and not one of the other 7 teams had fans who ever cheered when their opponent made a mistake. Not.a.single.person. See, in other sports, if your opponent screws up, at least your team might have led to it to some extent. A guy airballs a shot in basketball? Your team could have been playing great D so he had to take a less-than-ideal shot. Someone drops a pass in football? He could have been so well-covered he just couldn’t get into good position. But there is no such correlation in curling, especially what these people were cheering. Curling is turn-based, so if a team misses a shot, there is nothing the other team did to cause it. Yes, their previous positioning could have been good, but you cheer when they set up that positioning. The actual shot that missed was in no way caused to miss by your team. So you are ONLY cheering for the other team’s failure. It’s just bad taste and it was REALLY annoying me. Especially since the cheers for Japan’s mistakes were just as loud as the cheers for Canada’s good plays, and the fans even cheered the few simple mistakes Japan made (that every team makes) that were in no way even affected by Canada’s positioning. UGH!

OK. Tangent over.

Anyway, seeing the curling was really cool! Four games going on at once, so there was always something to watch, and usually an end nearing completion. For those who don’t know, curling consists of 10 ends. At the completion of each end, the game is scored. A team has four players, a captain (who does the set-up and yelling) and three others. There are 8 stones per end, each player throws two stones. The stones are slid down the ice, aimed at a giant bulls eye on the far end of the ice. Two players move ahead of the sliding stone sweeping at the ice to melt it and effect the speed and direction of the stone. If a stone goes past the target or hits a bumper, it’s out of play. At the completion of an end, the team with the stone closest to the center of the bulls eye wins. They get one point for that stone, and one point for each other stone closer to the center of the bulls eye than the other team’s closest stone which is at least partially on the bulls eye.

For more explanation, see the really cool pics below:

3 of the 4 members of the womens US curling team

Team Canada sweeping after releasing a stone

Isn’t the pose they go into to throw, cool? There are variations, but they all look so graceful!

Teams Canada, Sweden, and USA getting ready to throw or throwing their stones

All four members of Team China sweeping frantically!

It is not common to see all four team members sweeping. In fact, we didn’t even know it was allowed, because it so rarely happens!

Team Germany bringing in their last stone of the end

You can see one team member crouching; she was giving direction on aim and when to sweep or stop. The other two are letting the stone glide into position, sweeping done. The US player is watching, but resting because she probably won’t get a chance to sweep for this stone (as she would if it crossed the half-way point of the bulls eye). The US had one more stone after this. If the end was completed with the stones where they’re shown, the US would have won the end (see the yellow stone close to the center?) and gotten one, or possibly two points. It’s hard to tell if the next closest stone is red or yellow from the angle.

The Japanese team watches the Canadian team consult with their coach during a time out. This was the final end and VERY close.

Two Japanese players sweep furiously while the thrower watches.

After curling we headed out to Granville Island where there’s a big public market. We had some delicious lunch, and then my hubby got me a souvenir of our trip. You have to understand, I am not a things-with-city/event-names-on-them souvenir person. I prefer getting an object that someone looking at wouldn’t know was a souvenir, but that I know was and that reminds me of the trip and makes me happy every time I see it. A few years ago on my birthday my hubby set up a fun challenge that involved exploring Pike Place Market, and at the end I got a “fabulous prize” which consisted of anything from the market I wanted. I chose a mat with three small paintings of chinook salmon. To this day, every time I see that painting, I get happy and remember the fun present/celebration. So for my souvenir from the games I didn’t get anything olympic-related, I got this photograph:

"Arctic Sleep"

I LOVE this photo for so many reasons, but the reason I picked this above all of the other AMAZING photographs the woman had was that “circle-fox” reminded me of “circle-Toby,” as my husband and I call our puppy when he’s in that position. It’s something he didn’t do until he was older, and we find it very endearing, and I just loved seeing an arctic fox doing it, too! The photograph is from Keay Wildlife photographers. They have so many incredible photographs, go and check them out! None of their photos are photoshopped or use flash, and the family who takes the photographs really do go out for about 1/4 of the year and live in the wild on shoots. What they capture is incredible.

So that’s it for my first two days here! Been lots of fun, and lots still to come! Tomorrow we’re going to try to get up early and go to a taping of The Colbert Show. Colbert got his fans to support the US speed skating team when their sponsor declared bankruptcy and dropped them, so they invited him out as an official member of the team. He’s technically like a “sports psychologist” or something. Then the TV station covering the Olympics (NBC? ABC? one of those letter ones…) also asked him to come be one of their official reporters on the US speed skating team! So he’s up here having fun, and I’m excited to possibly get the chance to see his show, though I have no idea how they decide who gets in and who doesn’t and I’m not lining up at o-dark-thirty for the privilege!  Tomorrow we also have a womens hockey game (US-someone) and…wait for it…FIGURE SKATING! We’re watching the mens long program and I am SUPER SUPER SUPER excited :-D

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