Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Some thoughts for you to have

A few things:
  • My pal over at j.m.b. had a link to this which I thought was interesting since I'm somewhat presidentially wavering. It's a survey that aligns your views to those of the candidates. Interesting. And no, I'm not telling you who was my winner according to this survey. Wouldn't you love to know?
  • Heard a spot on the radio about China and the need to push and shove and elbow your way into the subway. The reporter said that while you are on the platform a Chinese announcement is telling you to be courteous and allow others off before you get on, but if you did that you'd never get on at all. Add that to the things I've heard and read about life in the Chinese countryside and I don't think the words "bucolic" and "pastoral" must exist in that language. I get stressed just thinking about it.
  • While I was running into the grocery store during a downpour the other day, I was reminding myself of how good we have it here in this country. Some people have to make a life-threatening journey to the market only wait for hours for a few loaves of bread and then go home to no electricity, no running water and no end of that life in sight. We don't know what inconvienence is like here. Say whatever you want about the politics and policies of this country, it's darned easy livin'. I feel fortunate for that.
  • Our main computer is having a little virus problem and since I'm as technologically sound as an 8-track tape, I took it to the Geek Squad. Let me first say, my congratulations to the person who came up with their schtick. (If you don't know, they are "agents" and act all FBI-ish, even calling their counter area their precinct, which is funny to me. I guess when they first opened they had to add some color to their cars because they looked too close to official in black and white. I must say I'd fall over laughing, however, if real FBI agents started driving VW Beetles.) Anyway, they have been nothing but helpful and even though I was there for 1 and 1/2 hours today (with two kids in tow no less) I left feeling fine. So they are doing something right. They charge an arm and a leg and have that super-annoying understaffing thing at times wherein your agent is talking to people on the phone and you and filling out some other person's paperwork simultaneously, but somehow I wasn't totally angry, which that kind of stuff usually makes me. Maybe I'm getting to be more Zen than I thought. (With regard to the two kids along with me thing: I had TONS of snacks and we went to Best Buy's home theatre section and watched movie clips for about an hour. Good work, Best Buy. You and Gymboree win the easy-to-shop-here-with-kids award.) That's all on that.
  • Which leads me to why there are no pictures forthcoming. I don't have the right program on this machine and won't be installing it because I don't know how. So there.
  • Volvo, on the other hand, is not on my good list as far as the overall company goes. We bought our car 4 yrs ago basically because of the Volvo safety record and I really do love it. It's spacious, drives nice, super-easy with car seats, the kids sit far enough away that they can't poke each other, etc. But the airbag went bad, so we took it in to the dealer. In mid-December. First we were told there was a nation-wide back order on airbags. From the company who prides themselves on safety, that seemed a little odd. But after two weeks of driving around my death trap (isn't it funny, not so many years ago there were no airbags, now I consider them as necessary as tires...), the part came in and I took in my car so they could "pop it in", as my service advisor said. Right. Should have known, first he came out to tell me it'd be a different color (huh?) than the rest of our interior (it'd be tan, our interior is grey), then he came to tell me it wouldn't fit at all. So he got me a rental car which was two door and smelled like a New Jersey bar (translation: very smokey). It was great fun putting two car seats in that puppy. So the next day we took that back and got a 4 door with less smoke smell. We've now had the rental for two weeks and the part just came in and they discovered we need.... another part. Which will add $500 to our bill. So, all in all, good times in the transportation department. The car should be done tomorrow. But then again, I've heard that before.
  • With regard to the above mentioned issue, did you know a car manufacturer does not have to provide parts to their car after it is 10 years old? So if in 3 years our airbag goes bad, Volvo can say, "Sorry. We don't make that any more," and we get to decide whether to (a) sell our car to another sucker with no airbag, (2) drive a car with no airbag, or (3) donate or otherwise junk and otherwise perfectly working car because Volvo doesn't want to keep their cars on the road. Weird.

That's more of my thoughts than you really needed, but I'm just here to share. Hope you are all well and not needing to swim around town like we are.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Travel fun

We're back! And we survived, all of us, a huge trip. Some observations regarding international travel:

*Five-year-olds can find the "how to jump down the inflatable ramp when your plan lands gently and in one piece in an emergency" pamphlet endlessly interesting. I think #1 spent almost as much time with this information as she did with books.

*Our kids are great plane sleepers. I, on the other hand, must concentrate with all my might to keep the plane afloat. So I don't get much sleep (duh--don't want that plane to crash).

*I am embarrassingly, oh-so-Americanly monolingual. Europe is so not. I know a few phrases from my stint in college German, and usefully used it to ask, "Sprechen sie English?" Each time, I could use my own language and someone else had to adjust. I loved the multi-lingual announcements in Zurich and Frankfurt, and we were likewise amused at the airport workers shouting at arriving passengers in English when we arrived in Philadelphia. Our favorite: "Please make sure to have your boarding pass with your passport. If someone near you doesn't understand what I'm saying, please make sure they do." Um, okay.

*Swiss health care is reasonably priced. At least for treating a double ear infection (#1). A doctor visit, antibiotics, ear drops, and nasal spray came to about $55.

*Another language observation: There is something downright funny about Disney experienced via French. Blanch-neige et les Sept Nains just doesn't have the same ring as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, does it? But another sign of English's inroads as an international second language: the "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience" ride/show was in English. If you spoke French, you had to listen via headphones. In your. own. country.

*We have officially consumed enough (very good) cheese to meet our family's per-capita consumption for the year, thanks.

*Jet lag is miserable coming home. Yes, I made mac n cheese for two kids, two early a.m.s in a row. As in 3:30. Yawwwn.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Life after holidays

So, to play catch-up...
  • Our holidays were nice, filled with family (his and mine, minus prrrof since they are galavanting about Switzerland). Unfortunately, DH's grandpa died a few days before Christmas which was sad for us, but I have to say, I don't know if I've ever known anyone ready-er than he was. At 95 yrs old, he was tired and his old body didn't allow him to do many of the things he once loved. Most of his friends and peers are gone, of course, so there aren't that many around to remember with him. But he loved his kids, his grandkids, his great-grandkids and his great-great-grandkids. He never got old and sour, at least that I saw. We'll miss him.
  • After torrential rainfall (and as a former Pacific Northwesterner, my use of "torrential" is highly qualified), our playroom got somewhat flooded. DH has fixed and is still fixing it, thankfully, but we're moved out of that space for a few more days. Which meant toys that used to be in that room are now spread out over our 1200 square feet, added to which is the new Christmas loot. Yikes. I take some comfort in knowing whoever decides to break into our house will surely break bones trying to navigate around the Lincoln Logs, hotwheels, train tracks and other things. And it would be a real disappointment to subsequently find out that they are the most valuable things in the house.
  • Boy #1 has very odd hearing capabilities. I was shouting at him from one room away that dinner was ready and his reply five minutes later was "I couldn't hear you". My husband suggested I pick up a certain treat for the boys on my way home from an errand and this same boy, who was playing on the other side of the house, heard him.
  • News media annoys me. After Hillary Clinton's (note to reader: I'm not saying you should or shouldn't like her or vote for her or campaign for her, this is just a point of interest I'm kindly sharing with you) loss in Iowa, they declared her campaign as "floundering" and then after New Hampshire, she's once again "the front runner". That was quick. How can any campaign flounder after losing Iowa when there are approximately 49 more states to go (depending on whether one is counting Michigan and Florida because of their pushing up their primary dates and the DNC saying now they won't count, which I don't understand, but anyway.)? I just wish there were no 24 hour news channels because they have to make up news just to have something interesting to say.
  • My new pet peeve (which is quite petty, compared to greater social ills, but is my pet peeve of the day nonetheless): Mispronouncing common words in common ways. Like the guy at the car repair shop who was making an appointment for "Mondee, or Tuesdee if that works for you." Erk. "DAY!," I wanted to scream, "Mon-DAY!!" It's like saying nekkid or crik when the words are clearly phonetically driven to be pronounced naked (no short e sound comes from a) or creek (no short i sound comes fro 'ee'). Stop the madness and start reading people.
  • I had a long phone conversation with a friend from our old town, and may I say it was just what I needed. Thanks, M! There's nothing like catching up with an old friend and remembering just why she's so great and why you want to stay in touch. It was almost as good as a night of Mexican food and then listening to David Sedaris...

Since nothing else of interest is going on in my life, I'll think about posting a picture or two in the next few days. How's that for committment.