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Archive for May, 2008

Italian? Yeah, right

I actually studied Italian. I took a few semesters of it in college, lived in Florence for a semester, and even managed to pass (just barely) a graduate-school-level language exam in Italian as my foreign language requirement.

But don’t get the idea that I remember any Italian; because I do not. Really. I can barely place an order for wine and pasta at a restaurant, and culinary Italian is common knowledge. Just keep in mind that I haven’t been to Italy since 1993, and I haven’t studied any Italian since 1997. That’s over 10 years of cumulative, degenerative forgetting. So I’m not buying the encouraging words of my peers who suggest: “oh, it will all come back to you easily once you’re immersed in the culture again.” Let’s just say that I seriously doubt it.

Therefore, I will not be even pretending to know any Italian when I go over there in a month or so. Instead, I’ll just be another one of the stupid, spoiled Americans, who act as though everyone speaks American. And if they don’t, they really should. Perhaps if I just speak a few decibels louder, slower, and do more charades with my hands… yeah, that will work, won’t it?

Oooh, I have an idea. How about I wrap myself in maple-leaves? Then maybe I’ll get away with my ignorance without the ugly American stigma. Eh?

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The Allstate Ad That Has Me Thinking

In the back of Fortune Magazine this month, there is an Allstate ad with a cartoon image of a gray-haired woman with a leg chain connected to an attache case. The text of the ad begins:

“The number of women over 65 who are still working has increased by more than a third in the past ten years. Why are retirement-age women increasingly chained to their jobs? Well, women live longer than men, so their retirement savings have to stretch farther. Women earn less – 77 cents for every dollar a man earns – so they save less. And they work fewer years – the average women spends 11 years out of the workforce caring for children or elderly parents.” They go on to promote active financial participation, utilization of 401Ks, and Spousal IRAs.

Wow, good advertising… it really got me thinking. I’m already concerned about having enough money for/during retirement, and this ad brought that set of concerns forth even more forcefully.

 
Saved by a Smoker

Tonight, I got locked out of my apartment on the balcony. At night. No key. No phone. No shoes. I was in pjs. I had nothing useful. I was cold and scared and miserable.

I had that awful, sinking feeling in my gut. You know, that rush of adrenaline that makes you think “oh, shit! how in the hell am I going to get out of this mess?”

Well, for the first time ever, I’ve been happy to be living by a really active Alcoholics Anonymous meeting location. There are people coming and going a good chunk of the night, and they loiter outside smoking. Michael recounted some of these characters in his Meet My Neighbors post.

Anyway, I was able to call down and get the attention of someone named Daniel. He graciously walked over to the apartment and called the emergency contact number for the landlord, who came into the apartment and unlocked the door to the balcony. The whole ordeal only lasted 20 minutes total, but it felt like an eternity. Apparently, I am not the first person that this has ever happened to. The landlord said it happens a few times a year.

I can only say that I was mortified. I was really, really wondering what sort of Macguiver trick I was going to have to play to break into my own apartment. Thank goodness for the smokers! Long live the smokers!

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Facebook in Real Life = Funny

This is a really funny video:
YouTube Link

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Three Men In A Boat, To Say Nothing of the Dog

In case you think that I like everything I read, I’ll blog about a book that I can’t rave about. I didn’t really like Three Men In A Boat. This book was heralded as a classic and a prime example of British humor. I found it while perusing a bookshelf of modern classics that included the likes of Italo Calvino and F Scott Fitzgerald. So, perhaps my expectations were out of whack… but I swear that I kept turning the pages searching for whatever it was that made smarter people than me think that this book was so great. I never found it.

That said, there are some cute quips, such as the following:
“It is not that I object to the work, mind you; I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”

Three Men in a Boat: (To Say Nothing of the Dog) (Dover Value Editions) Three Men in a Boat: (To Say Nothing of the Dog) (Dover Value Editions) by Jerome K. Jerome

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RIP

My oldest brother, Russell Wallauer, died today. He was 26 years and one day older than me. May he rest in peace.

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Total Nerd

I just finished watching every episode of Star Trek Voyager – all seven seasons. Next is Deep Space 9 (173 episodes).

Just so that you understand the depth of my insanity when it comes to the modern Star Trek series, let’s recount:

  • Voyager – 171 episodes
  • What was I saying about not having much time for things that are irrelevant? Hmmm… guess I have spent an inordinate amount of time for this irrelevant activity!

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    Folk Music vs. Broadway Musical

    I went with my friend Bruce to the Northwest Music Festival today. There were several different types of folk music, lots of busking, and lots of patchouli in the air. Let’s just put it this way: this is not my scene. I was forced into folk music as a kid, and I have very few warm and fuzzy feelings about hammered dulcimer-based music. Still, it was fun hanging out and people watching. It takes all kinds!

    After the folk music fiasco, I went to see the touring broadway production of High School Musical. It was fantastic: so heartwarming! There was a totally fun vibe in the theatre: lots of happy tweener girls playing hand-clapping games during intermission. It seemed like the most of the audience was dressed in pink; really cute.


    High School Musical

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    Ooh, that book looks interesting

    I just read a review for the book: Fatal Mis-conceptions; The Struggle to Control World Population. I am very interested in reading this one. It is written by a historian from Columbia, so that’s (check 1), and it is written by someone who struggles with this topic being that he’s from a big family (check 2). Yeah, my interest is piqued. But the book is just released and still too expensive. I’ll probably wait a few months.

    Excerpt from The Economist review (in case you don’t get the online edition):
    “When…Mr Connelly began his own book on population growth, he still thought of the topic as a way to offer a broader understanding of world security. He ended up writing a very different—and angry—book, one about people who looked at the human race reproducing itself and saw what a gardener sees when looking at a prize plant: something to be encouraged to bloom in some places and pruned in others.”

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    On Truth

    This is a short, pithy, philosophy book argues that truth isn’t necessarily some objective, external thing. Rather, it is a personal mechanism for conceptualizing reality in a way that is fundamental to self-knowledge, and distinctions of self from other (I/Not I). Thus, every person (even liars) are intrinsically concerned with truth and all human societal endeavors require some common reference to truth in order to function.

    I read this book about a month ago, but I’m finally getting around to the review, so I can only say that this is the main message of the book that stuck with me. Other people might get something different/more out of it.

    On Truth On Truth by Harry G. Frankfurt

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    Einstein’s Dream

    Over the weekend, I read a very interesting book that was a gift from a colleague of mine a while back and I finally got around to reading it. Despite the title, it is not at all scientific. It’s poetic, and a little philosophical in that the author plays with the different human postures towards conceiving of time.

    My favorite chapter of the (short) book relates to time being sticky. Here’s an excerpt:
    “A spinster sees the face of the young man who loved her in the mirror of her bedroom, on the ceiling of the bakery, on the surface of the lake, in the sky.
    The tragedy of this world is that no one is happy, whether stuck in a time of pain or of joy. The tragedy of this world is that everyone is alone. For a life in the past cannot be shared with the present. Each person who gets stuck in time gets stuck alone.”

    Einstein's Dreams Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman

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    Planning Forward

    I’ve found that the best way to keep positive is to plan for the future. The short term future, the interim future, the distant future. Ideally, it should all be coherent with my ultimate ambitions for living a good life, but sometimes keeping a positive outlook takes tactical planning and is not particularly strategic at all.

    Characterizing all the mundane activities that constitute a life as either “strategic” or “tactical” is a fairly new practice for me. I’ve only been doing it for about half a year now, but have found that it works pretty well. When something can’t be characterized as either, then it is irrelevant — and I don’t spend much time with irrelevant activities. As it turns out, a lot of what I do can be rationalized / characterized as part of a strategic goal or tactical action.

    For example, recently, I’ve spent a little bit of time recently planning a couple of events:

    • a little Indiana Jones event for this weekend, which may, or may not come together. I really should have sent out the invitations earlier, so it might not work out. But it is a fun project, and is a strategic move for attempting to cement some friendships in this town.
    • I am finally booking the European vacation tickets (for the Greek cruise with Mom). This is tactical, but somewhat fun, and I’m taking care of mom while she takes care of my brother, which is helpful.
    • I’m helping to plan a presentation at an upcoming conference (I’m an assistant presenter.) This is actually a strategic move that will help me raise my profile professionally within the group.

    These tasks are keeping me busy thinking about the future… and that’s a good thing. Now you know my little trick… scary huh? But I don’t usually bite and I’m fairly normal in public!

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    Bro Update

    My brother is on the mend. He’s out of the coma, and is somewhat responsive, though apparently the effects of the malady and coma are somewhat akin to a stroke. Turns out that the main culprit was his low thyroid… a lack of sufficient medication so much so that his body started shutting down vital functions. Specifically, in his case, his body stopped converting ammonia into urea and pushed him into a coma. Anyway, things are a bit better now. He’s definitely got a long recovery, and he may never fully recover to the point that he can go back to work.

    The early symptoms of low thyroid disorder include a general sense of lethargy (which I refer to as “brain fog”), memory problems, and sensitivity to cold. Thyroid disorders are also closely correlated to high cholesterol.

    Update: 6:45 pm: He’s back in ICU. His condition is worsening again.

    Update: He developed a rare blood complication, and they are going to try to treat it with chemotherapy.

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    Not like the Smith’s song

    I received word today that my oldest brother is in a coma. It’s serious.

    I don’t have a lot of details, but it may have been precipitated from the lack of quality control and regulation on prescription drugs in Mexico. You see, he is down in Arizona near the border and was crossing the border to fill prescriptions at a lower cost.

    I don’t know what will happen. I come from a big family, I’m number 11 of 11. This brother is 26 years older than me (60). Keep your fingers crossed.

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    Grandfathering In?

    Getting grandfathered into a new certification program seems so civilized and professional, but to date I haven’t been eligible. Now, however I think that I am actually eligible for the new “CGEIT” certification backed by ISACA. It stands for “Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT.”

    Filling out the required paperwork will be no picnic, but it should be easier than sitting for another one of ISACA’s mind-bending exams (this is the certification body behind the CISA.) The bigger problem with getting grandfathered into the program is that it costs a pretty penny. So I’ll see if my work wants to pay for it, since I sure don’t.

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    New Cards

    I just ordered some personal contact cards from Moo.com.
    I was on the receiving end of one of those little minicards recently and I thought it was absolutely adorable. So I picked some of my nicest landscape and flower photos for the front-of-the-card images.

    I can’t wait till they arrive. :)

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    Currently Playing

    I’m listening to Sinatra today. Specifically: Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams from the Songs for Young Lovers CD.
    You Tube Video

    Songs for Young Lovers/Swing Easy Songs for Young Lovers/Swing Easy by Frank Sinatra

    “Just remember that sunshine always follows the rain.
    So wrap your troubles in dreams, and dream all your troubles away.
    Your castles may tumble, that’s fate after all, life’s really funny that way.
    But no need to grumble, smile as they fall, weren’t you king for a day?
    Just remember that sunshine always follows the rain.
    So wrap your troubles in dreams, and dream all your troubles away.”

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    New cut & color

    In part, I have been growing my hair out in Seattle because I hadn’t found a hairstylist that I trusted enough to “give me a new style.” And it was beginning to look awful.

    So I took a chance yesterday with a new stylist at a local Bellevue salon and like the results. In case you can’t tell from the photo, there’s some bold red and blonde highlights… and it was cut to the length of my shortest layer. I still intend to grow it out a bit – especially the bangs, which had been previously mangled by a previous $12 hair joint.

    Lura's new hairstyle

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    The Song In My Head

    Alllllll day, I’ve been humming American Boy by Estelle and Kayne.

    “Take me on a trip, I’d like to go someday…. I really want to kick it with you. You’ll be my American boy. “

    “Dress smart like a London bloke.. before he speak, his suit bespoke.”

    YouTube link

    Smile.

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    On Mommyhood

    On Saturday, I hung out with the very pregnant Kelli and Dillon. Today, I met up with Debbie, Matt & their 2 kids, who were up from Ojai, CA.

    The result of back-to-back nuclear family sessions left me a bit unsettled. The whole mommie thing still scares the crap out of me.

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    Seattle Cafe Culture

    There is one thing that I absolutely love about Seattle: the cafes on Saturday. Everybody is out and about, latte and laptop in hand. And, since most of the coffee shops here are independent, the music is definitely non-corporate.

    So, I love hanging out in a coffee shop on Sat afternoon.

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