Month: March 2011

Traveling for Fun and Profit

This week, I will be at SeaTac four times. Two for business, two for pleasure, with a scant 20 hours between the two trips. I like to travel, I work for a travel company (the number one in the world!), so this is all good.

However, every time I get to the airport I am reminded of the hassle factor involved in travel. I like to arrive with tons of time (having been the historical benefactress of gate changes combined with extra long security lines resulting in a fugitive-like run experience through LAX) and park myself at Anthony’s, Starbucks, or the nearest wifi-enabled bar experience.

To that end, fellow travelers, isn’t it time we had a code of conduct at the airport? Something like this:

  • If you’re meandering down the terminal, be my guest. How about you do it to the RIGHT of the terminal, so those of us who know exactly where we are going and have a set schedule in mind can get there? I walk through a terminal like I’m walking in NYC, the faster and more efficiently I get where I’m going, the happier I am (and the happier those who have to deal with me are).
  • Once you’ve retrieved your boarding pass from the machine, you can move away from the machine to discuss with your spouse/child/associate what the next steps are/who is hungry/who has to go to the bathroom. That conversation does not have to happen in front of the boarding pass machine.  Especially when there is a line.
  • Don’t “tsk” at me because I’m over 21 and can head into the bar while you have to wait for a table in the restaurant.
  • Yes, that is the restroom line. A couple of flights just landed and the novelty of a bathroom stall with twice as much room as the one on the plane is attractive. You don’t need to check with all 12 of us if we are really in line. Yes, we really are in line.
  • Yes, airlines will try to upsell you at every turn. They will offer you five more inches of legroom for $50, they will offer to check your bags for $25, they will offer you an express lane for $35. They’re trying to make money. Some of us will pay them for the convenience. Skwawking about it loudly will not make them stop.
  • Be prepared when you hit the security line. At SeaTac, you need your ticket and your ID when you see your first TSA agent (the one before the machines, at the desk). Then put your ticket and ID away, you won’t need your ID out again (unless you hit the bar) and you won’t need your ticket until you board.
  • In the security line, you must remove your shoes, your laptop gets its own box/bin, your jacket has to come off, and your toiletries fit into a quart size Ziploc that is taken out of your luggage and visible to the TSA agent. They don’t make the rules, and we all have to follow them.
  • Yes they have backscatter machines. They occasionally use them. Figure out what you want to do about that *before* you hit the line.
  • They will card you at the bar. They will card you if you look 20 or if you look 80. It’s part and parcel of the deal. The waiter/tress may not like it if you kiss him/her.
  • Travelling with kids can make your travel more of a hassle, and non-kid travelers should recognize that. Don’t complain loudly about the family with kids. Get in another line. And if it’s a single parent (Mom or Dad — Mom’s aren’t given magical powers or anything), offer to help if you want things to go faster.
  • The overhead compartment will fit 3-4 bags, and yes that means wheels out. If you have two bags, it’s not nice to put BOTH in the overhead compartment. One above, and one below, kids.
  • Your flight attendant doesn’t have magical powers and if it’s a cashless cabin she likely can’t break your $20. Nor can she tell you, mid-beverage-service, about your connecting flight. She has 300 passengers she shares with two other people, and that includes the beverage service, meals, prep, teardown, and oh, safety. Be nice.
  • Anytime anyone does something nice for you, say Thank You. It’s surprising how many people take vacation and take vacation from manners.
  • People in the middle seat are the least comfortable. If you’re in the window, you’re likely the most (having a wall to rest against and no cart bumping your elbow. Therefore, the window seat takes the armrest closest to the window, and the middle seat takes the other one, and the aisle seat takes the armrest farthest from the aisle.
  • You can take your shoes off. But please leave your socks on. Feet smell.
  • Someone frantically typing on their laptop, or having ear buds in and reading/listening to music, or sleeping, does not want to make friends. Someone talking to you does. Don’t be offended either way. People are people.
  • When the light goes off and you take your seatbelt off, you *could* jump up and start grabbing your stuff. Or you could wait the 20 minutes for the 30 rows in front of you to disembark. Why not be comfortable? And no, they can’t really go any faster.
  • The flight attendant who has taken care of you and 300 others is saying goodbye. So is the pilot. Say Thank You.
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Multitasking

I remember explaining, sometime in the last few months, that I enjoy multitasking and that I’m good at it. The person I patiently explained this to replied that I was likely some sort of dopamine junkie, and, citing a New York Times article, suggested I wasn’t as multitasking as I thought I was.

Having read the original study that the article was based on — don’t get me wrong, I like the NYT as much as anyone, even if their paywall can be rendered #fail by a 14 year old and his 4 lines of code — I both agree and disagree.

Yes, the “high” one gets from multitasking is a result of dopamine and the checklist mentality. You can also get other hormonal highs from equally “productive” sources: sex (or a hug, if you’re female) releases oxytocin (not oxycontin, that you have to get from your doctor). Exercise releases endorphins. Hormones aren’t really bad things, it’s the regulating of them that is required.

Having sensitivity to caffeine and a disinclination to consume enough alcohol to render me useless, as well as the physical limitation on how many hugs I will allow my personal space bubble to accommodate, dopamine is all I’ve got left. I can release it by shopping, or playing online scrabble, or working.

A lot.

Lately, however, I’ve been privileged (if that’s the word) to work with others who *cannot* multitask effectively. These folks do not necessarily work in my company — or even in my field, technically — but they are folks I have to deal with on a semiregular basis for the various projects I have on my Very Large Checklist. It has brought to my attention the severe need for Multitasking Etiquette, which I hereby present to you in rough draft.

1. It is understood that if you’re dialing in for a conference call, you may pause to take notes and so forth. It’s a good idea to put yourself on MUTE when you do — or when you are chewing, or swallowing, or chatting with your neighbor, etc. Putting the conference call on HOLD, however, results in us all hearing your hold music. Please don’t do that. We’ll send you notes if you’re that busy.

2. It is understood that if you’re dialing in for a conference call, and you missed something due to multitasking, that all you have to do is say, “Sorry, I missed that. Can you rephrase that?”. We know you missed it, that’s fine, and you give us the option to rephrase. Lovely. Do not, however, say, “Um, what do you mean, exactly?” It leaves us in the position of guessing that you actually missed it, but somehow you’re blaming us.

3. It’s really, really rude to paraphrase in explanation for someone else. That is something they should be able to do for themselves.

4. Also topping the rude list? Arriving to the con call 5-10 minutes late and asking everyone to check in and/or rehash what was covered. Double rude if you’re the one who called the meeting.

5. Sending an email reply one week TO THE DAY after the due date and then wondering why your feedback wasn’t used and/or taken into account? Not ok.

6. Asking people to work the weekend and/or check in on their holiday, and then not doing so, PARTICULARLY if you’re on the same level as they are, is not ok.

7. Asking people to work the weekend and then extending the deadline but not telling anyone until Monday morning is also poor form.

8. Sending multiple email missives about the project in a given day, each with updates over the last one, instead of one nice coherent email (per day, or even per TWO days), sucks.

9. Sending meeting announcements for when my calendar already has an appointment also sucks. There’s space there and I’m available from 6am-10pm PDT. You should be able to find *something*.

10. It’s good to have an agenda. It is even better if you follow it.

Please Give Me Money

When I write to ask you about donating for the upcoming 5k run (May 1st) for the American Lung Association, I fully expect you to think to yourself, well, yeah, sure, but what have they done for me? And maybe you don’t smoke and have never had a black spot found on your lung in an X-ray, and you don’t have asthma and your lungs are free and clear. And that is awesome. But the ALA needs to raise $130k for this event, and thus far they’ve got about $33k.

–>To cut to the chase and donate without reading all kinds of interesting facts as well as the stunts I’m willing to pull to get you to donate, go here: http://action.lungusa.org/site/TR/RunWalk/ALAMP_Mountain_Pacific?px=4415558&pg=personal&fr_id=2590 

 The American Lung Association is around for more than just research. The local ALA provides the following programs *in addition* to funding treatments and research for cures for diseases such as lung cancer, lung disease, COPD, and asthma:

  • Teens Against Tobacco Use – a peer teaching tobacco prevention program. The ALA trains staff to work with high school students on the health hazards of tobacco use. These adults then recruit and train high school students to serve as role models and teach children in elementary schools about why it’s not “cool” to start smoking.
  • Master Home Environmentalist – a FREE program for anyone who lives in King County – with a simple phone call, our highly trained staff will come to your home and assess the hidden dangers and quality of your indoor air.
  • Lung Help Line – a FREE program for anyone to use, call 1-800-LUNG-USA and be connected immediately with a Respiratory Therapist, whom you can ask questions about your lung health.
  • Freedom From Smoking – considered one of the most successful smoking cessation programs out there; our staff and resources will help you quit for good.

Interesting thing to note: More people who have never smoked die from lung cancer than people do from AIDS, liver cancer, or ovarian cancer. And Lung Cancer kills 160,000 people annually – more people than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined.

Now, I’m wracking my brain trying to figure out how to get you to donate. Thus far I’ve given you the option of semi-permanently marking my body with a henna tattoo (to be done April 28 on the Expedia Bellevue campus, by a professional), and that did bring quite a few of you in.

If it’s not enough incentive to see your design etched in henna on my person for 30 days, how’s this? Each person who donates $25 or more enters into a raffle for a PAIR OF RUNNING SHOES, from Super Jock N Jill, valued up to $100. You heard me.  Running Shoes. (Folks who have already donated are in the running – pun intended).

You can donate here: http://action.lungusa.org/site/TR/RunWalk/ALAMP_Mountain_Pacific?px=4415558&pg=personal&fr_id=2590

Lo Fidelity

I weigh X-3. In order for me to be healthy, I need to weigh X-22. (I was at X two weeks ago).

Having lost 22 pounds (or more) on several occasions — 5 major ones that I can think of, none of them pregnancy related — I know exactly how to do this. The problem is, however, that when I try to lose 22 pounds at 37 years of age, it is significantly different from when I lost 22 pounds at 18. Or 23. Or 27. My body does not react the way it used to.

At 18, I came back from Australia (6 month student exchange) and weighed 37 more pounds than what I had when I left for it. (I had actually just got done losing 15 pounds BEFORE I left). It took about six months, going to the gym maybe twice a week, taking the occasional walk, and eating smaller portions. That was it. Done.

At 23, I was a newlywed looking at my wedding photos, and particularly the rehearsal dinner ones. I had gained about 23 pounds. I remember crying on the floor of my Oceanside apartment, my then husband helplessly watching. I started walking 4 times per week, cut back on the food, and it was off in about 4 months.

At 27, we had just moved up to Washington. That 23 pounds came back. (Do you see a pattern here? Big change = big eating). I joined a gym and ate Slim Fast for breakfast, Lean Cuisine for lunch, and frankly whatever I damn well wanted for dinner. In about 5 months it was gone.

At 32 I was charged with losing 30 pounds, by my doctor. I was in Grad School, my son was a very active toddler and then preschooler, I rarely saw my then husband (he worked nights, I was working full-time and in the aforementioned school). We had friends staying with us who knew cooking and wine, and so I ate and ate. When I got to the doctor she diagnosed me as pre-diabetic, and told me to knock it off. She handed me a 1320 calorie diet, and I had to weigh everything. I also had to work out at least 4 times per week, for at least 30 minutes, and I had to break a sweat. In about six months the weight was off.

Then I got divorced.

Interestingly, the weight didn’t pile on with the divorce. Therefore, it isn’t necessarily negative things that drive my weight gain, but it is big change. Here I sit, with a couple of more Big Changes coming my way (nope, not yet, only 2 more months and then I can talk about it) and I’ve known about the Big Changes for about four months now. Four months of Big Change eating = I am now back to where I oughtn’t be.

I’m currently using an iPhone App called “Myfitnesspal“, which has an online counterpart, and is free. I log everything I eat and it tells me where I’m at during the course of the day not only calorically, but nutritionally. For example: I have learned that one (1) Rainbow Sprinkle Top Pot Doughnut is 2/5 of an entire day’s caloric intake. I have learned that 4 cups of salad (which gets me full) is about 1/12th of a day’s caloric intake. I have learned that white wine is calorically “cheaper” than red, and that on days where I’m “good” the scale will not necessarily be kind to me the next day, but on days where I’m “bad” it will not necessarily be mean, either. (A recent evening that included steak and wine resulted in the scale telling me I had lost a pound. A recent evening that included all of 4 cups of lettuce and some vinaigrette resulted in the scale telling me I added a half pound. It’s vexing.)

I also have fitness requirements, having learned that I need to be committed to an event in order to keep me honest. The difficulty in this lay in my schedule: I have an active boy child, who participates in Karate, Boy Scouts, and Baseball. Somehow the stars have aligned so that Saturday rides now conflict with Saturday games, and Tuesday spin conflicts with Tuesday games. I’ll still do the STP, though. I may do it slowly and I may hurt like hell the next day, but I’m on for it.

It would be really, truly fantastic to just take it off and leave it off.

Heads Will Roll

Today was my first day back at work (officially, technically I was working from home and through most of the weekend and yes I have spreadsheets and powerpoints to prove it) since The Incident. On Thursday I had taken lunch with me to work, only to have totally forgotten that I had a lunch date. Ergo, lunch was saved to the fridge. After all, we have nice fridges at work, and my lunch was in nice Tupperware, and it was in SMALL Tupperware, stashed in the back. I would eat my mixed veggies and gnocchi on Friday.

Well, I wasn’t in the office on Friday, or Monday, but still, as an accompaniment to the Large Salad of Dieting I was to eat today, leftover gnocchi was sounding pretty darned good.

Yeah too bad.

Twice a month, the Fridge Elves clean out the fridge. To my mind that means they clean out anything obviously dead or growing mold. But apparently it includes 3 day old gnocchi, for the gnocchi was nowhere to be seen.

I am now at work, having eaten my Large Salad of Dieting, and according to myfitnesspal that means I’ve consumed all of 86 calories. It is totally not my fault, then, that I am headed down to Cafe Ladro and will eat an entire cheesecake.

You’ve been warned.

A Good Dog

My dog died Thursday night. It wasn’t like I expected.

Let me explain:

My second *real* job (after Dairy Queen) was working in a vet clinic. On the first day of work, a man came in with a shiny, happy black lab, who was to be put down. On the last day of work, a little boy came in with a shoebox with his dead pet rabbit.

In my time at that job, I was present at the euthanasia of probably 100 pets. I had to do other horrible things, too (have you ever given a cat an enema? Do you know that their claws can go through leather gloves?). It was the smelliest, messiest, and emotionally hardest job I ever had. Whenever I’m in a job I think is miserable (no, not my current one) I remember that one.

So I know what to expect clinically when it is time. I know, logically, that when an animal refuses food over a period of days it is ready to go. I know that as cancer spreads and ravages the body, that internal bleeding is likely, that organs will shut down. I know this is painful and I know that dogs especially will put a bright face on it for as long as they absolutely can.

I didn’t know it from the dog owner perspective until Thursday. Thursday morning I left for work and she was placidly chewing a new tennis ball (favorite past time) and had eyed her food (she hadn’t eaten for a day but I put bacon in there and she was smelling it). Thursday afternoon I came home and she didn’t get up. She looked at me, but didn’t get up. She didn’t want her ball. She didn’t eat anything. She refused raw steak. And so I called the vet, and they had me check her gums, and I knew it was bad and they confirmed it.

Here is the thing about your dog (or cat, or beloved pet of any kind) dying: you don’t get to choose. No matter how prepared you think you are, no matter how long you have known this day would come (she was diagnosed seven months ago), you are not ready when it does. You always think you have a few more days. After it happens, you feel guilt: you should have taken her to the park more. You should have gone on more walks. You should have played rope more. If only you knew it was going to be *that* day, you would have made everything leading up to it perfect.

Then you start to see them everywhere, and nowhere. You come home and the house is cold and there is no one to greet you. You go to shower and there is no large malamute laying across the bathmat. There is no hopeful person in the kitchen on the offchance you were going to cook bacon and she’d totally pick up anything you “accidentally” dropped. There is no sound of the dog door slapping against its sides as she goes in and out. There’s no pawprints on your floor, there are no dog toys mangled beyond recognition in various corners. You leave the house and there is no one to say goodbye to. You see other dogs and you think, “mine was so much better”. You look up your street and remember that you don’t get to go for walks anymore, you see the stash of “dog bags” for those walks and remind yourself you should donate those.

You avoid certain aisles at Target and Safeway. You can’t avoid them at Trader Joes, because it isn’t a whole aisle, but you do your damnedest not to look.

When you’re away from home for a long stretch, you remind yourself that you don’t have to rush home. Why? There’s no one there anymore. And you feel bad for yourself, and for them.

I don’t know how long this lasts. There’s nothing out there to show or tell you. I do realize death is inevitable and it happens to all of us.

But it’s a bitch.

I Made My Goal: Have You Made Yours?

Donate here: http://action.lungusa.org/site/TR/RunWalk/ALAMP_Mountain_Pacific?px=4415558&pg=personal&fr_id=2590

Yes, my individual goal was $500, and yes, I’m currently above $900. This has been due to the amazing awesomeness of those who have donated. One generous lady in particular, in honor of her father, is having the Budweiser logo tattooed on my bicep. I may just put one on each side, that’s how awesome her story was.

This is a gentle reminder, along with the tax man and the Rides of March, that donations are tax-deductible. So if you’re looking at your return for 2010 and saying, hmm… I could totally have used a break: consider donating.

In other news, I have purchased running shoes, I’m getting better at the PT, and I definitely have osteoarthritis in my knees. This is not surgery-requiring, merely some shots and some life changes. I am to lose 20 pounds. Since I found out I have lost two.

Say It Ain’t So, Joe

It has been just over 72 hours since my last PT appointment, and I’m over the psychological moment and can now type about it.

Well, no. It isn’t that bad. I’m headed into my fourth appointment tomorrow, and I am getting the hang of what I have to do: check in, do my “warm up” exercises (which are something of a cross between pilates, ballroom dancing, and the modified shopping cart), “massage” my IT bands (twang!), and then have someone mess with them and then some iontophoresis  (that electrode thingy). Easy-peasy, yes?

Look, all of that is just ducky– the pilates-cum-ballroom dancing is fun –but that IT band messing that someone else does? That is sheer hell.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please meet Joe. Joe was the purveyor of hell on Monday.

Joe is likely my age, because he totally caught my Top Gun reference (he called me Maverick, I told him “negative Ghostrider the pattern is full”). Joe looks like that tennis pro at the club that will totally teach you tennis and take it easy on you and you totally know he’s taking it easy on you.

Joe has sharp elbows. I know this, because part of physical therapy for twangy IT bands? Is to rub them out. With an elbow. Laterally.

This feels something akin to someone giving you a very deep bruise, very slowly, along the outside of your thighbone. After about 2-3 minutes on each side, you are very certain of two things: 1, you don’t ever want to do that again, and 2, that you will be black and blue in seconds.

Joe knows how to not leave marks, which is why we are hoping Joe never breaks out a bar of soap and a sock.

The other negative side of PT (as of late) is because I’m allergic to the leukotape, I have to wait until my skin heals to work out in any way that challenges my knees. So, no Cyntergy, no pilates, no spin class, no running. I am left, essentially, with swimming. Swimming is good — aside from the semi-permanent eau de chlorine that lingers after a session — but it’s gear (and time) intensive. I mean, to get a good 500 calories burned, you go to one (1) 45 minute spin class and you’re done.  You can run some errands in your gym gear, and then shower at home. To get a good 500 calories burned swimming, you need to swim for about an hour, and you must shower before getting into the pool, and then you need to uber-shower when getting out of the pool. Unless you want to soak your car in that same eau de chlorine (there was a time that I did that, to my old ’81 Volvo), you shower at the gym, which necessitates waiting on others who shower at the gym, including small children.  Total time at gym, 2 hours.

All of this, and the Run/Walk/Limp is now officially 8 weeks away, and the STP is about 15. Nervous, me?

No. 🙂