Wednesday, February 25, 2009


That’s the only way I can even attempt to spell the noise I am making with my snot factory of a nose. I am constantly blowing my nose with tissues laced with Vicks Vap-o-rub. My nose now is raw and sore from all the action. All day long I’ve been on the verge of a sneeze that no amount of staring at the sun will trigger. Pure torture. Oh, and couple that with a failed attempt at a nap in the car at lunch, and just call me Mrs. Grumpypants.

But on an unrelated note I got an email from Todd today:

Todd: You’ll never guess where I am right now.

Beej: Um, where?

Todd: I am at the liquor store waiting for Dan Akroyd.

Beej: Of course you are. Where else would you be?

One of Todd’s co-workers had heard that Dan Akroyd put out a brand of vodka, and he’s on a promotional tour that stopped in Providence. Todd and his co-worker waited in line and ended up with three bottles signed by Dan Akroyd. The vodka, Crystal Head, comes in skull shaped bottles. But our skulls have a signature with a vague “D” and an “A” scrawled on them.

Perhaps when the snot factory closes, and I can actually taste things again, I’ll try it.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Tussionex Haze

Every year I get a nasty cough. It makes me sound like I've been smoking 7 packs a day, despite the fact that I've never smoked a cigarette in my life. It keeps me awake at night, it keeps Todd awake at night. It makes strangers cower and cover their mouth and nose. It lasts for weeks, even months if left untreated. There is nothing available over the counter that can even touch it. The only thing that works is a wonder drug called Tussionex.

Tussionex is only available by prescription, and the "do not operate anything remotely resembling machinery" warning on the label should be taken very seriously. In other words, this liquid gold will mess your shit up.

There was a time, years ago, when I took it before I went to work. I had just started working for the gigantic insurance company, and caught my semi-annual-chronic-cough about five minutes after I started. I didn't feel comfortable taking a sick day so soon after starting the new job. I took a swig of Tussionex before I left the house, then a few hours later I fell asleep in a meeting. Feel asleep. Dozed off. I was leaning over my notepad resting my head on my left hand. The hand covered my eyes from everyone else sitting at the table. I felt my head bob, and I started awake. I looked around the room, completely paranoid that others knew that I had dozed off. They didn't appear to. I rubbed my eyes and tried once again to focus on the meeting, as my brain felt like it was replaced with styrofoam.

Today I stayed home from work with a fever, the cough, and an unbearable headache that can only be explained as my skull must have been left in the dryer for just a bit too long. I keep a stash of Tussionex on hand for the times when the cough acts up again, and when I feel it coming on I'll do a shot of it before I go to sleep.

But never in the morning.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Access Denied

In my career so far I’ve had relatively unrestricted access to the Internet while at work. Sure the porn sites were blocked, but I’ve enjoyed freedom online while at work. Using the Internet has always been a release for me. When I have some down time I’ll browse my favorite blogs, I’ll buy presents for my nieces and nephews, and I’ll check in on my bank account every so often—usually before heading for the store at lunch.

Recently the Internet access at work has become restricted and monitored. I cannot access most of the sites that used to serve as a pleasant distraction. I understand why it’s been blocked. It’s their network; they can do whatever the hell they want to do with it. But it still kinda sucks nonetheless. I am annoyed, even though really I have no right to be annoyed. But I also feel, just a little bit, like I am being watched and that they don’t trust me. I am sure that’s not the case, after all they trust me to work with their clients—which is a much bigger deal than access to the Internet. Still, I am being very careful about where I go on the Internet, and how long I spend on it, knowing that every click is logged somewhere. Every page view categorized. Every scroll recorded. How much would it suck to go home and say, “Yeah, I got fired for spending too much time on the Internet today. Sorry, darling.” The endless love and spousal support would definitely wear a little thin after a stunt like that, I imagine.

So, my bloggy friends, I haven’t been commenting that much on your blogs anymore. I am now reading you all at night. But I don’t really want to spend too much time on the Internet at home. I’d rather be doing things like going to get tacos like we did last night, and cuddling with my man and my doggies.

I will update you when I can, once I get a few slabs of marble, a hammer and a chisel.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New England Aquarium Dive

Back when I owned the dive shop I got involved with all the local dive clubs. We volunteered at their events, held meetings at the shop, and kept on top of all club goings-on. One of the first things we did when we bought the shop was to host the Frozen Fin Dive on New Year's Day. We provided a free heated tent, free chowder, burgers and coffee, and blared tunes all day long. We gave out free T-shirts, we held a raffle. We entered the RI dive world with a splash.

We ended up selling the shop, but we still help out the New England Aquarium Dive Club, which operates out of Boston. Every fall they run an event at which divers can hunt for rare fish species and donate them to the Aquarium. The Club runs the event, they do the food and raffle thing too.

Last fall Todd and I attended the event, and put down a bid for a dive in the New England Aquarium in Boston. We bid prohibitively high, figuring that we'd either win or we'd help the club raise money for the Aquarium. We managed to accomplish both.

On Saturday we went on the dive.

We dove with a 450 lb sea turtle named Myrtle the Turtle. There were also sand sharks, moray eels, and a nurse shark. But what was particularly great about diving the NE Aquarium was that we were given permission to touch the animals. I scratched the back of Myrtle's neck. I ran my hands down the sides of the sharks as they swam by. I played with Myrtle's fins. I pet the big nurse shark as it dozed on the bottom. I looked out at the little kids who stood with their mouths hanging open watching us.

I've dove the tank at Epcot. I've dove the tank at the Georgia Aquarium too. But this dive, in this little 200,000 gallon tank, was the best of them.

This is Todd, making his dream of diving the tank come true.

This is me, the monkey in the zoo, flirting with the audience.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Operation Windy Liberty

Todd and I have a ceiling fan over our bed. He prefers to run the fan while we sleep, while I whine, “It’s too windy! Turn it down!” Todd’s preferred speed on the fan also creates a dog hair tornado, which is especially annoying because I coat my lips in Chapstick before I fall asleep every night.

This morning I was lying in bed, and had an earth-shattering revelation about the fan. My side of the bed is directly under the fan, while Todd’s side is not. I brought up this point to Todd:

Beej: Hey, tonight when we get home we need to move the bed a few clicks to the east.

Todd: Clicks? Honey, it’s not the Pyon Yang Peninsula, it’s our bedroom.

Beej: Well, I figured that if I spoke all tactical-like, then you’d be more excited about moving the bed. I figure we could put that black stuff on our faces, and we could commando crawl into the bedroom. When you get home tonight, get out the walkie talkies from the basement. We could totally be like “OK, push! Over!”

Todd: I am stoked now! Let’s call it “Operation Windy Liberty!”


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Call Center Bomb Squad

I’ve never worked in a call center. I’ve temped as a receptionist here and there, but have never had the occasion to answer the phone at work for extended periods of time. Until now. At work we’re experiencing a very high call volume for a client who has mandated that all its employees attend the event that we are putting on for them. Each employee must call to make an appointment so that they may attend this event. As a result we are getting flooded with calls from this client, whose events are being held over dozens of locations. As you can imagine this is an administrative pain in the butt.

The word “mandatory” has quite rightly gone sideways up the ass of just about every employee of this client. Every morning my shift answering the phone is 8-12:30. For four and a half hours every day I am fielding calls from irritated employees who demand to know why attendance to this event is mandatory, and they are largely unsatisfied with my answer of “I cannot speak to the policies of your employer. I recommend you ask your supervisor or your human resources representative. Now, what time would you like your appointment?” I’ve had callers threatening legal action “I have contacted my attorney, you have no right to tell me that I have to go to this thing.” I wish my answer could be “Well, you go right ahead and sue my employer. What will you gain from it? An inflated invoice from your lawyer? We’re not forcing you to go your boss is, dumbass!”

My daily shifts on the phone will end on March 4th. It’s only Feb 12th now. I am getting a bit frayed around the edges. But my smiley, sing-songy voice rings through every single morning trying to perk up the callers. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

I’ve learned a thing or two about defusing these people on the phone over the last few days. “I can certainly understand your frustration. How may I help you with this right now?” is something that I’ve said over and over for the last week. Surprisingly, that’s taken the callers down a notch, and they are more agreeable after that. I had a “gentleman” chew my ear off yesterday in his disgruntlement, and I stopped the timer on his bomb with an “OK, my name is Beej. Call me later on today at this extension. I will sit here with you and find a time for you to attend that will suit your schedule, and you can take as much time as you need. Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out…” He grumpily hung up on me. I logged off the phones to go to the ladies room. On my way back I passed a co-worker’s desk. She said that the “gentleman” called back, and asked her to apologize to me for him. He said “She was very nice to me and all I did was give her a hard time. I feel bad about that. I know it wasn’t her fault.” I hope he’ll take me up on my offer now, as I feel better about helping him out. The urge to call him a jackass has subsided. Somewhat.

I am thinking back on all the times I’ve called someone working in a call center and have been inexcusably bitchy to them. I’ve bawled out the woman answering the phone at the credit card company. I’ve chewed the ear off the person answering the phone at the car insurance place or the cable company for one of their inexcusable injustices that they have committed against me.

Really, my behavior was inexcusable. The way I acted was the injustice. I am on the receiving end of inexcusable behavior right now, for 4.5 hours per day, and it is exhausting. And all I want to say is “OK, your employer sucks. I get it. But you don’t need to yell at me about it. I don’t have anything to do with your employer. I am not part of some diabolical plot to screw up your day. So shut your fricken trap and let’s get you scheduled so I can talk to one of your asshole co-workers next.” But instead I say “I am sorry you’re frustrated. But really, I am just setting up the appointments. You need to ask your boss those questions. I do not have that information.”

I’ve heard that same line when I called that toll-free number about my credit card bill, or my cable service. And I think I’ll be cooler about it next time I hear it.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Abuse of Power

Yesterday morning I pulled out of our driveway onto our pin-straight street. Everyone speeds on our street. I speed on our street. The limit’s 45, I usually do somewhere around 55-60.

But yesterday morning as I pulled out onto the street a RI State Trooper was cruising along in the same direction as I. When I pulled out he was far enough away, so I wasn’t entering traffic right in front of him. Within seconds he was on my tail as the needle on my speedometer hovered between 40 and 45.

He instantly lost his patience and passed me. He crossed the solid double yellow lines that indicate a no passing zone. He didn’t signal. He didn’t flip on his flashing lights or turn on the siren. All I heard was the whoosh of his cruiser as he passed my Jeep. We were in a no passing zone because we were on a hill. He passed anyway.

A moment after he passed me the hill leveled out and I saw a car coming the other way. Had the cop passed me just a few seconds later, I would have had to stop and serve as a witness for a head-on collision caused by an impatient state trooper engaged in a moving violation.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Impromptu, Surprising, Awesome

Todd and I had a long weekend last weekend. Here it is Tuesday and I am still recovering from not being at work on Friday. I reluctantly went to work yesterday, and I am still not quite ready to get back into the groove of going to work.

On Friday we headed to the boat to do a bit of work. This winter Sabine’s getting a face lift:

  1. The woodwork is getting scraped and sanded down to the bare wood, and will get varnished.
  2. The top of the cabin is getting painted. Our boat will no longer be classified as a 90 mile boat (looks good from 90 miles away) and instead will look hot.
  3. We’re getting new hardware put on that will make using the sails easier, and just about eliminate the possibility of losing a finger when coiling ropes around the winches.
    The radar system, formerly only decorative, will be functional. There will be a wire that will run from the radar dome to the display that will actually make the radar system serve its purpose.
  4. Years ago we bought an anchor windlass, and for one reason or another we haven’t installed it. This handy device will pull the anchor up for us. Our current windlass, otherwise known as my husband, is starting to get worn out.

Once these repairs are made, living on the boat will be a lot more comfortable. It will no longer rain inside our boat, and onto our bed. We will be able to see other boats in the fog. We will be able to anchor easier, which will make travelling cheaper as well—as anchoring for a night is free. What’s even better is that the professionals are doing 99% of this work. There will be no all-nighters at the marina with this project. There will be no asphyxiation on propane heat this winter. There will be no running back to the marina at a million o’clock every night to swap out the propane canisters. Life is good.

On Saturday my brother Kaz and his family came to see the boat. On the back of our boat we have dinghy davits, that are largely decorative as well. The purpose of the davits is to lift the dinghy out of the water while we’re underway. This will cut down on the drag and make the boat sail just a bit faster, in addition to keeping the bottom of the dinghy from soaking in the water and getting slimy. So Kaz, the super awesome machinist, will re-fabricate the davits so that they will be functional.

After we had lunch we said to Kaz and my sister-in-law Melissa, “OK, we’re keeping the kids. You can go home now. We’ll see you tomorrow.” They laid rubber in the parking lot, reveling in the possibilities of a night of freedom. The kids rubbed their hands together, considering the possibilities of a night away from their parents. We played indoor mini-golf. We baked a quantity of cookies that can only be quantified as obnoxious. We played shoot-em-up video games, we ate pizza. We made sundaes with way too much whipped cream, we watched a movie, we soaked in the hot tub while Maggie and Hali dared each other to get out and roll in the snow. (They both did.)

Sunday morning we drove to Connecticut to return the three scoundrels, er, kids. We exposed them to the unseemly life of no parental rules, then sent them back to their parents as any aunt and uncle worth their salt would do. Then we headed to my dad’s house to celebrate his 71st birthday.

Sunday night I found myself passed out on the couch at 8:00, barely to keep my eyes open. Monday morning I pressed the snooze button at least a dozen times.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009


There is something about blowing off work in the afternoon to go to the zoo. Today, Todd and I went on a private tour of the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence, RI. Though we try to visit the zoo at least twice per year, we still managed to see and do things at the zoo that we hadn't seen before.

The Roger Williams Zoo was established in 1872, and is one of the oldest zoos in the US. It's home to many rare creatures, one of which I had seen today for the first time--the American Burying Beetle. This beetle is nearly extinct, and the conservationists are working to restore the beetle's populationby breeding them at the zoo and releasing them into the wild. We got the chance to see where the beetles are being raised and to learn about how their population is now thriving on Nantucket Island.

Also on our tour today we were given the opportunity to feed the elephants and giraffes. We held pieces of pears, green beans and oranges and they were sucked from our hands by Katie, a 24 year old elephant. It's a strange sensation, as there are 80,000 muscles in the elephant's trunk. The tip of the trunk extends to enclose the piece of food as it sucks to hold the food into place. Then the trunk carries the food to the mouth. The food is held in place by the suction and by the amazing muscle control the animal has in its trunk, which surprised me. While I know that there are no teeth in an elephant's trunk, I expected there would be some in there that would help her hold onto the food. She stretched the ends of the trunk over my hands to make sure that she captured the food. We played tug with her, and she gently pulled onto the food until she managed to free it from my hands. To give you an idea of the control they have with their trunk, the zookeeper told us that the elephants have been known to unscrew bolts in their pens with their trunks. Imagine unscrewing a bolt with your nose.

Todd is feeding and petting Katie. You can see how she closed his fingers into the end of her trunk. It didn't hurt, it just felt strange.

This is Xiang, an endangered red panda. The zoo is currently looking for a mate for this panda to help perpetuate the species. I would love to see those babies, I mean, look at that face.

This is Kenya, a baby giraffe born in late December. Kenya's mom and dad, Sukari and Griffin, are in the pen with her. There is another pregnant giraffe in the pen as well, who will give birth soon.

This is Sukari, Kenya's mom. Todd is feeding her some romaine lettuce here.

Katie's teeth. If you look closely inside her mouth, above her tongue, you'll see two rows of molars on either eide.

Camels in the sun. I wonder how these desert animals are coping with the snow.

Kenya sitting. She awkwardly lowered herself over her gangly legs, and clumsily flopped onto the floor. Adorable.

Beej feeding Sukari. Griffin, the darker giraffe, is on the left. They drool. A lot. I should have brought an umbrella.

Flamingoes in the snow. How weird does that look?

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009


I used to exercise in the mornings before work. I remember when I was 25 I went to the gym and did some crazy toning with weights class twice per week at 6 AM, a kick boxing class on Fridays, and step on the other days, then I caught the 8 AM train to work. Then I left that job, moved from that town, and I’d still get up at 5:30-6 and jog or walk, depending on the time of year, before I had to be in to work.

Then I started a job that expected me to show up at 8. To get there on time I need to leave my house at 7:30, by latest 7:40. I found excuse after excuse for not getting up to exercise at in the mornings. Really, it’s no different than what I did when I was 25. I got up at 5:30-5:40, threw on my gym clothes, drove to the gym and went to the 6:00 class. I still had somewhere I had to be at 8:00. How is my schedule any different now than it was then?

Really it’s not.

It’s just that I’ve gotten lazy. I’ve gotten too comfortable in my warm bed. I’ve gotten into the habit of going to bed too late. I thought to myself that maybe I am just not a morning exerciser anymore. I started to exercise when I got home from work. I typically get home at 5:30, if I do not run errands on the way home. And then the excuses pipe up again. “But I went to the store, and now it’s 6:30, I don’t want to exercise then…” or “But it’s Friday night. Do I really want to get sweaty on a Friday night? And what if Todd calls me and wants to meet me out for dinner?” or “Sure, let’s grab a beer after work…” and that turns into, “There’s no way in hell I am exercising now,” when I get home.

My used-to-be daily exercise regimen turned into once or twice per week. Then I talked to my sister last week. My sister has 4 kids, and she is a hot tamale.

What's her secret?

There is no secret. She gets her butt out of bed every morning and goes for a jog before the kids have to get to school and she has to get to work.

If she can do it, so can I. I am now back on morning exercise. And I feel terrific.

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