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random musings of a crazy cat lady

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Blogging on a plane

I’m on my flight back to San Jose. I don’t have enough battery power on my laptop to blog about my visit with Sheila, so I’ll do that later. Instead, I’ll use this time to blog about random stuff.
What I forgot: My iPod and shoes that don’t give me blisters
What I lost: My boss’ copy of Scientific American, which he lent me after he finished reading it.
What I didn’t lose: my bladder infection ;-(
What I probably gained: several pounds – the food was good and abundant
What I bought: 1 pair of running shoes, two types of band aids, one issue of Scientific American, lots of cranberry juice (see above) and one issue of More magazine.
What I missed: T and my cats.
What I didn’t miss: having to think about all those annoying energy sucking distractions like refinancing my mortgage, etc.

Cattle-car: Man, this plane has some really small seats. It’s not just me. I’ve got the shortest legs on the planet and even I don’t have enough leg room if the seat in front of me is reclined. Granted, I’m probably noticing it more due to my knee, but it’s still tight quarters. I was in the exit rows on the flights out here so I didn’t notice it then.
The one good thing is that they’re actually enforcing some rules regarding carry-on bags. It’s about time. I’m sick of people crowding the bins so much that I can’t even get my small duffel bag in there. I just wish the airlines didn’t also start charging for checked bags.

More magazine: More is a women’s magazine geared to the over 40 crowd. I can’t decide if I like it or not. Since I’ve started reading a lot of feminist blogs, I’ve lost my interest in reading stupid fashion and women’s magazines on airplanes and in the bathtub. I just read a lot more cooking magazines. Sadly, the airport newsstand didn’t carry “Bitch” magazine so I bought a copy of More. Anyway, More lacks a lot of the annoying anti-feminist shit common in Cosmo or Allure and the kid-centric articles of other women’s magazines. It has some good articles, but it’s definitely geared towards wealthy white women, so it annoys me too. (I admit, I read it occasionally since my mom’s neighbor subscribes and then passes her old copies along to my mom.) If I lose my job, maybe I should start my own magazine. It will be called “Old Biddy”, of course.

Knee report: My knee is doing ok. I was worried, since the visit to the physical therapist had done a number on it and then lots of sitting on the airplane and at the conference didn’t help. It wouldn’t have done well if we had tried to do the hike that we planned on – the trail was covered in snow and mud. Sheila could’ve done it but it would’ve been too much for me. We walked about eight miles of flat trails yesterday and the knee felt fine. That’s about six or seven miles more than I’ve walked since I had the surgery, so I was happy. I used my hiking poles and I think it helped a lot. I am looking forward to trying my new running shoes – they feel really good and I think I may be able to start doing a little bit of running this week.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Buffet report: Greektown Casino, Detroit

Buffet report is a new and probably infrequent feature in which I review the buffets of the world.
I was raised by two Michiganders and they trained me well in Midwestern buffet appreciation. So well, in fact, that even though I am on a business trip and therefore have an expense account, I opted to go test the Greektown Casino buffet tonight. As a precaution against buffet stomach, I took a Pepcid. You would think that since I've been hanging out at the conference eating large expense account meals with my boss, I wouldn't have an appetite for the buffet. Wrong. I was so full from big dinners with appetizers/dessert that I did not eat very much today. When 7 pm rolled around I was hungry, and I also wanted to control how much food I got so that I would not finish stuff just because it was in front of me. I also didn't want to deal with hovering waiters, and needed an excuse to go see the Tic Tac Toe chicken again.
The casino, and the buffet, were very busy. There was a long, movie theatre style line for the buffet. It was moving slow so I chatted with the people in line near me. The told me that the buffet was OK at its current price ($10) but wasn't $20, which is what it used to cost. They also told me more about the tic tac toe chicken. If the chicken picks first, she always wins. If you pick first, you have a chance of winning. If she lays an egg while she should be playing tic tac toe with you, you get $100. Anyway, it was sort of entertaining to hang out in the line and people watch. Everyone was in a good mood, probably because they were about to hit the buffet.
Eventually, the line moved and I paid and got seated. The buffet itself was pretty old school - there was some Chinese, Mexican, Italian, and Greek food, as well as a salad bar and the usual buffet staples of ham, roast beef, mac' n cheese, etc.
Anyway, it wasn't as fancy as a Vegas buffet or an Asian seafood buffet, but the food was pretty fresh and tasty. I stuck with the American buffet classics on the first pass. On the second pass, I tried the potstickers and the garlic eggplant from the Chinese food area. It wasn't fancy but it tasted good, and I am definitely picky about my eggplant. I didn't eat too much and I don't have buffet stomach, which is more than I could say about some other meals I've eaten this week. My parents would definitely like it.
After the buffet, I played the slot machine and video blackjack. I started with $20, and won about $25 on the "Wheel of Fortune" slot machine. Yes, I was there gambling with the other old biddies. I then proceeded to lose $15 of my profits at video blackjack. I went back to the Wheel of Fortune slots and got back up to a $35 profit. I played the slots for a while but cashed out when I was $20 ahead.
There was even a slot machine called "Buffet Madness", or something like that. I didn't try it, but I probably should have;-) But then again, it's probably best to apply the same philosophy to slot machines as I do to the buffet, and not feel compelled to try everything!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Chick-tac-toe/SAE conference, Day 1

I'm at the SAE conference in Detroit. That's 'Society of Automotive Engineers'. Yep. It's very different from the chemistry conferences I've attended. Everyone is wearing suits, except for me and a few other random people wearing blazers. There are lots of nifty looking cars in the Exposition Hall, hybrids, CNG and fuel cell cars, etc. There are even a couple of hybrid Hummers. They have very big batteries. The cutaway cars are particularly cool.
Arnold Schwartzenegger was supposed to speak at the opening ceremonies. I waited around for a while then wandered out for coffee. When I came back he still hadn't arrived. I left to go to the talks, so I missed the speech when he finally did show up. No great loss.
My knee had been bugging me. The physical therapy last week did a number on it and now all this sitting in non-adjustable chairs hasn't been good for it. Hopefully they'll have tables at the training class tomorrow.
My boss and I went to dinner with one of our collaborators from Dow. We wandered through the Greektown Casino after dinner. It was mostly nondescript, but there was a long line of people waiting for something. I assumed they were waiting for the buffet, but in fact they were waiting for their chance to play tic-tac-toe against a white hen named Ginger. Chick-tac-toe, get it?!?! Ginger was scratching away at the wall. Her competitors would enter their picks on a computer touch screen next to her cage, and she'd peck out her response.
We watched a few games. Ginger won all of them. They didn't mention whether Ginger would be sent to be on the buffet if she lost too many games.
The bath is calling me again. Hopefully tonight I'll be able to fall asleep at a reasonable hour. More from the SAE conference tomorrow.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

In Detroit

I'm in Detroit now. I'm here for a conference and training class.. I'm still on California time and just got back from dinner, so there's no way I'm going to be able to sleep any time soon, so I'll blog.
The flights were ok. There was a screaming toddler in the seat behind me on the flight from Chicago to Detroit. She was not a happy baby. She screamed for most of the flight and then the whole time at the baggage claim area. (Sheila - that's what you heard in the background when you called! Now you know why I wasn't so talkative.)
My boss is here too. He's in the hotel room across from me, so I guess I won't be having any wild parties in my room. Oh well. We had dinner at a Greek restaurant. It was very good but there was way too much food. I did enjoy watching the flaming dessert with the "OPA"-exclaiming waiter. He had lung capacity similar to the Mexican soccer announcers ("Gooooooooooaaaaaaalllllllllllll!!!!!)
After the conference is done I'm going to visit Sheila. Yay! It was weird packing because I had to bring dressy work clothes for the conference and hiking gear for next weekend. I ran out of space so there's not much in between. The hotel website didn't mention a workout room (although they do have one), so I didn't bring my swimsuit or running shoes. Oh well. Well, the bathtub is calling me now - I'll write more later.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Week 4

I'm killing time until I have to head out to go meet Judy for some dinner and shopping. Anyway, it's been four weeks since my surgery. The knee is still slowly getting better, but either I'm behind schedule or had selective hearing on how fast it would heal. I have to keep reminding myself that the doctor said it wouldn't completely heal until 3 months. I hope I didn't slow down my recovery by going back to work sooner than recommended.
Stairs continue to be my nemesis. It's getting better but I can still feel it going upstairs and downstairs. On a better note, I no longer have the pain in the back of the knee that I used to feel from the injury. I can also kick when I swim or jog a few steps. That wasn't possible last week. I still haven't worked out two days in a row, though. I'm starting to feel like a big fat slug.
I went walking on uneven terrain last weekend. The milder ups and downs were nowhere near as bad as stairs, fortunately. I felt pretty good.
I have to be more careful with shoes these days. Shoes that felt OK before now tweak the knee in weird ways. I've stuck with the ones that work, but don't have anything suitable for the conference next week. Hopefully I will be able to find a good pair tonight.
Postscript: I went to the physical therapist today. She told me to stay away from stairs for now and said that if I strain it that will slow down the healing. I wish my doctor had told me that a few weeks ago. So I'm back to the one-legged stair climbing for now.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Trendification of Chemists

I'm a chemist. We're not a particularly trendy group of folks, although we do throw good parties and many of us are also good cooks. Many of us have mastered the art of homebrewing or winemaking, as well. It's hard to be considered cool when so many people hated high school chemistry. Anyway, a funny thing has happened in the last year or so. I started seeing commercials with chemists (or actors praying chemists) in them. It used to be that the only time I'd see ads featuring chemists, it was in the American Chemical Society magazine, and the ads were aimed at other chemists. But nowadays, when I'm watching tv the next thing I know there's an ad featuring someone in a lab coat, with pictures of molecules or chemical equations on the whiteboard behind them. They're talking about global warming, electric cars or biomass. It seems like Dow, Exxon and Chevron have all hired the same ad agency for their PR campaigns. I keep waiting to see someone I know in the ads, but I suspect they're actors.
I wonder if the general public knows that these ads are about chemistry. I suspect that many people don't make the connection, and they think the people in the ads are physicists, biologists, or engineers. Or maybe they just assume that it's 'science' and don't think about it more than that. But yeah, it's chemistry. A lot of those 'green' jobs that President Obama keeps talking about are chemistry too. It's everywhere. It always has been.

Two weeks and counting

It's been almost three weeks since my knee surgery. I'm walking around more or less normally. For the most part, I don't have to think about how I step, but going up and down stairs is still a challenge and running is still painful. (Not that I've gone running, but the phone rang when I was outside so I ran to get it.) As I do more stuff, sometimes the knee makes its' presence known, which makes it feel like I'm backsliding. I just have to remind myself that I'm doing a lot more now. I did my first 'mostly in lab' day on Thursday. By the end of the day it felt really good to get off my feet.
I'm off of the vicodin. I was taking one pill at night up until two weeks after the surgery. The first few nights were hard. I'd wake up with a vague feeling of discomfort. The knee didn't exactly hurt, but the leg was achy and I couldn't quite get comfortable. I'm over that, I think. We'll see what happens once I start exercising.
I had my post-op appointment last Monday. Everything is healing up well, but the doctor saw a lot of arthritis in the knee. He advised me not to play soccer. I'm going to miss it a lot, but it's not worth it. I know my other knee is actually the worse one, arthritis-wise. I can still run, if I want. Most of the damage was on the outside of the knee, and running mainly impacts the inside. I'm glad I didn't get told to stop walking/hiking. I can start exercising in a day or two. I'm very glad about that. My legs look like jello now. I'm visiting Sheila in 3 weeks. We had initially planed on backpacking but with only two weeks to get in shape, that was probably unrealistic. The doctor said the knee will take about three months to heal completely, and during that time there will be times when it will twinge or hurt, and not to get too worried about it if it's just an occasional thing.
We had our monthly girls' night out happy hour on Thursday. This one featured $2 drinks and an amusing encounter with some of T's buddies at the bar. Debbie was there. She had lots of tales of soccer drama. That's drama of the 'adults acting completely immature' sort. Granted, Debbie seems to attract more than her share of it, for reasons that I can't quite figure out. Nonetheless, it did help to make me feel a little bit better about not being able to play soccer. I don't miss that aspect of it. It's probably worth a blog of its' own sometime, but if you've played rec league sports or witnessed obnoxious parents at kids' sports, you may know what I mea