Happy New Year!

Headed to a party over at sagefool and head chica's house tonight. She's been prepping since yesterday for this year's theme---fondue! I've got to get moving today so I can get there by 9pm, but I hope you all have a happy and *safe* New Year's Eve and a very happy New Year.

My resolution this year is strategically planned. I am going to make better choices. Instead of getting all specific and saying I'm going to quit smoking, excercise regularly, eat better, etc, I'm going to just commmit to making better choices so it's harder to break my resolution. That way I can stick with my resolution longer and perhaps turn it into a lifestyle instead of a resolution.

We'll see how it works.... Usually, I make very specific resolutions but when I break them, I never go back. I'm hoping this year will be different.

Any resolutions for you this year?


WSOP Tournament of Champions on New Year's Eve

If you are a fan of poker, you might want to set your DVR/VCR to record the re-run of the World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions scheduled for this Saturday night from 7-10pm on ESPN2. According to the WSOP webpage about the TOC, the show was taped November 6-8, 2005 and combined the top 20 point earners from each circuit tournament with the final table from the 2005 WSOP main event.

I saw it when it ran originally on Christmas Eve, but if you missed it, you should check it out. Participants include

Steve Dannenmann (second place in this year's main event)
Phil Hellmuth ("I can dodge bullets, baby...")
Mike "The Mouth" Matusow (he's *fabulous*)
Hoyt "Cowboy" Corkins (he wore earplugs for almost the whole tournament---smart man)

I did see an article that said some players were inserted into the tournament at the request of the sponsor, Pepsi. Apparently, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Phil Hellmuth (ha!) didn't qualify but were allowed to enter the tournament anyway.
Pro player Daniel Negreanu perhaps put it best in his November 6 blog: "All three of those men had a chance to qualify just like you, but didn't make the cut. Ah, but that's ok, they let them in anyway."

In order to avoid similar controversy at next year's TOC, Harrah's has already issued a statement reserving the right to offer 6 sponsor's exemptions.
I say, just be up front: don't claim it's a tournament of those who qualify by certain rules. Just say it's *mostly* qualifiers with a few others who are getting bids based on their lifetime careers.

Lies don't help

If you hadn't heard, about a week ago, a story broke that a young man at UMass was visited by two HSA agents because he requested "The Little Red Book" by Chairman Mao. Guess what? It's was all a hoax by some college student---new variation on "the dog ate it," I guess.
The UMass Dartmouth student who claimed to have been visited by Homeland Security agents over his request for "The Little Red Book" by Mao Zedong has admitted to making up the entire story.

The 22-year-old student tearfully admitted he made the story up to his history professor, Dr. Brian Glyn Williams, and his parents, after being confronted with the inconsistencies in his account.


For more than an hour on Thursday, he spoke of two visits from Homeland Security over his inter-library loan request for the 1965, Peking Press version of "Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung," which is the book's official title.

His basic tale remained the same: The book was on a government watch list, and his loan request had triggered a visit from an agent who was seeking to "tame" reading of particular books. He said he saw a long list of such books.


During the whole episode, the professors said that while they wanted to protect the student from the media that were flooding their voice mails and e-mail boxes seeking comment and information, they also wanted to know: Was the story true?

"I grew skeptical of this story, as did Bob, considering the ramifications," Dr. Williams said yesterday. "I spent the last five days avoiding work, and the international media, and rest, trying to get names and dates and facts. My investigation eventually took me to his house, where I began to investigate family matters. I eventually found out the whole thing had been invented, and I'm happy to report that it's safe to borrow books."


Merry Christmas

Christmas Day and I got exactly what I wanted: I slept in 'til 1pm. Haven't done that in years. Thanks, Santa.

Hope you all had a great Christmas. My favorite gift so far has been the fuzzy warm blankey my mom gave me last weekend when we celebrated our Christmas.

What was your favorite gift?


There's an upside to everything

I've been on vacation this entire week. I was quite excited to get some time off. And then---I got the flu. Visited a friend (who shall remain nameless) who has a bunch of kids and he *told* me before bringing the nephew over that they had been sick that week. No problem!

So me and the little man went over on Saturday and Sunday night I missed the last possible poker night of the year because I got sick. I have an embarrassing tendency (not for me---for others) to speak too graphically about this kind of thing. All I'm going to say is this: make sure you have a trash can in your bathroom.

Trust me. That's all I'm going to say. My gift to you....

I was kinda bummed about being sick and all, but several people said "At least you were off work already."

True enough. I could have missed out on basically a whole week of work (and pay if I didn't have the time off available to use).

Here's to all the upsides you can find this season when traveling, visiting, eating, and celebrating.


Winter Day

Today was Winter Day at work. For each season, we have a day. Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. We all bring in food (that vary slightly with season) and everyone orders food from some seasonally-themed place and we sit around a huge table in a hallway and eat and talk and have a fabulous time. And eat we do. Just some of the items feasted on today:

Round #1
  • quiche (which I missed---gotta be quick)
  • butter braids (cinnamon and cream cheese)
  • rice crispie treat shaped in the seasonal theme (this time was a wonderful wreath with green sprinkles and a red licorce bow
  • box of bagels from Panera and 3 kinds of cream cheese
  • assorted olives
  • scones
  • some sort of poppyseed bread
Round #2
  • layered taco salad dip with corn chips
  • veggies and dip
  • chocoloate fondue with marshmallows, cookies, graham crackers, and assorted fruit
  • assorted nuts
  • fabulous brie, extra sharp NY white cheddar cheese, and havarti with assorted crackers
Round #3
  • slice of Papa Del's pepperoni and mushroom pizza (7 of us went in on a pizza)
  • chile rellenos
  • brownies
  • cookies
  • bread pudding in little cupcake things
  • cherry cheesecake
  • little peanut butter ball-things dipped in chocolate
  • veggie pizza (made with *green* broccoli and onions, *red* peppers, and *white* cream cheese with a little ranch thrown in)
Round #4
  • peppermint ice cream

There was more, but I can't fight through the food coma to remember. I cannot say I sampled everything. I can say that I tried....

We also do a secret santa thing at work with a $10 maximum. We all take turns opening the presents after eating the main course and before the dessert run. I got the cutest little snowman box with some orange and blue rubber bracelets inside that say stuff like "OSKEE WOW WOW" and the like. Lots of laughter and good food and good company. Over *half* of the people who opened their gifts said something like "someone has been watching me" or "I *just* said I wanted this." And a jar of pickles was given as an inside joke.

I'd explain the joke, but I'd have a lot of explaining to do about the recipient first, so that's gonna have to wait for another day.


Insomnia strikes

I can't sleep tonight. I've had some tea. I've tried watching the boob tube. I've tried music. I've tried getting up and surfing the web (this would be attempt number two). I've tried to lie there and wish myself to sleep.

*Eight* hours ago I was tired.

Now I'm just awake.

Any good home remedies to suggest?


Sports and politics

Found a couple of tidbits at the same place: Illiniboard.

First, the sports. After a 12-page thread all about IB slang (that's short for Illiniboard), a comprehensive list of IB slang has been compiled. I expect to hear these terms thrown into your basketball discussion henceforth.

Second, the politics. There is also a forum called The Deuce. It's an anything goes type of forum. In that forum there is a 5-page thread on Tookie Williams' recent execution. Most of the threads about Williams I've seen on messageboards are barely two pages. Interesting that a sports site would have a longer discussion.


Sam Seder vs. Bob Knight on CNN

Sam Seder of AAR's Majority Report was on CNN with Robert Knight from the Culture and Family Institute with the Concerned Women of America (Beverly LaHaye's group).

Video courtesy Crooks and Liars.

Oh yah, and the Concerned Women of America wishes you a Merry Christmas.


Better not let Mr. Knight see the card sent out by Bush. I hear from a reliable source it was a holiday card with a Crawford, TX postmark.

A good Monday

After ordering what turned out to be a beautiful arrangement of pink lilies, roses, and snapdragon from Rick Orr's today, a friend and I had lunch at the Esquire today. I hadn't eaten there in a while and I noticed they had expanded their menu (probably for a while now) to include a salad bar, pizza, and new appetizers. Fabulous. I dig that place. Something about it screams Champaign. We would have eaten at Radio Maria, but we forgot they are closed on Mondays.

We walked across the street after lunch and picked up some chocolate treats for our recovering friend and some *delicious* gingerbread cookies from Persimmons Grocery. They were 2 for $1. Found a few other yummies there so I might have to stop back by there this week.

Then I got to hold a newborn baby.... Pretty good day overall.


Cigars all around!

Miss Mina arrived on Saturday, December 10th. I got the phone call this morning, but since it was so early, I assumed it was the nephew begging to play in the snow and I didn't answer it.

Miss Mina's mommy sounded hoarse and happy. The only detail I know as of now is that she was 21 inches long. I hope to visit them all sometime today and get more details.

Oh yah, and I want to sniff little Miss Mina's head.

Weirdest part? Cor may have won her own baby pool.

A mother always knows....


Winter musings

Sorry to be so lackadaisical with posting lately. Between work and the other project I ranted about earlier (which is *not* a work situation as some might have thought) and the usual end-of-year tasks, I've been swamped.

Another thing that has been taking up quite a bit of time is my house. I don't own a house, I rent the first floor of an old house. I love it. It has the best woodwork around the doors and windows and baseboards and has a sunroom with glass and wood doors and pocket doors which are supposed to block off the living room from what was once the dining room (it's now my bedroom). I rarely have to run the air conditioner in the summer because I have lots of windows and ceiling fans and trees that shade the house. I'm also in a little dip in the city, so it's cooler here all summer long.

However, the winters in this house are tough. It's a forced-air system and with all the drafts and air leaks, the furnace runs a lot. And, since my furnace runs on natural gas, I'm really worried about the gas bill which I'm sure is about to arrive any day now.

I've sealed up the windows in the sunroom and bedroom with removable caulk. I've sealed up the windows in the living room with plastic. I've tried to seal up the back door with rugs and towels. But still, the drafty air comes through. Unfortunately, I don't think I can fully seal off the house. It's a brick foundation and brick exterior (covered with siding now) but the mortar is old and cracking, so there are gaps everywhere. And since the walls are plaster, they are ice-cold to the touch all the time.

The *worst* part of the winter is the northwest corner of my house. Obviously, there is a gap somewhere in the outer brick and/or the inner wall because a nice breeze blows through my bathroom. That's what's in the northwest corner of my house. And more disappointing is the fact that my shower and the water pipes to it are in that corner as well. And since the shower stall sits smack up next to the pipes and the draft, I can't caulk it or seal it. I've shoved towels and foam back in there to try and stop the breeze all to no avail. My pipes freeze every night and I'm in there every morning with my hair dryer thawing them out so I can shower.

I can't complain, really. Other than this (and a few other tidbits), I love living here. I rationalize the cold by knowing it's only 3 months out of the year and with the savings in electricity I receive in the warmer months, it should even out, but right now, with my cold feet and cold fingers, the thought isn't very comforting.

I'm loving the snow, however. It seems to quiet the world down. And, other than people who obviously don't know how to drive cautiously in the ice and snow, I don't mind the added winter flavor. It makes everything so beautiful. Even a trash can looks pretty covered in snow, but the trees and bushes and wonderful holiday lights on the houses are stunning.

I'm hoping it will warm up enough this afternoon to play outside with the nephew. He called me a bit ago and his agenda for the day is:

shovel snow into a pile
build snowmen
make snow angels
have a snow fight

Course, he can't do it til I get over there, so....


The Annoying Thing: Crazy Frog

First off, who makes these things?

And secondly, why do I and others I know feel compelled to share them?

Crazy Frog: available in ringtones and other merchandise *just* in time for Christmas.



The Cost of War

Someone sent me a link recently to the National Priorities Project's Cost of War page. THe website has some interesting databases you can search. "Turning Data into Action" is the subtitle of the website and the Cost of War numbers really illuminate how messed up our priorities are right now.

As of today, for what the US is spending on war, we could have:
  • fully funded global anti-hunger efforts for 9 years.
  • fully funded world-wide AIDS programs for 22 years.
  • built 2,015,921 additional housing units.
  • hired 3,880,048 additional public school teachers for one year.
  • provided 10,853,721 students four-year scholarships at public universities.
What kind of world would this be if over the past four years if we had instead spent the money in the above directions? 2 million housing units? Katrina situation might have been markedly different. 10 million get scholarships to college? A leg up the economic ladder for those who can't afford it. Close to 4 million teachers? Imagine how our school districts might look now.

Venting extemporaneously

I'm agitated. Don't ask me why, I don't know. I'm just aggravated, irritated, annoyed, and bit strung right now. And what's driving me nuts is I can't put my finger on the reason. Snarky people, who normally would simply irritate me or cause me to mock them, have led me to get a tad pissy lately.

I try not to get overly emotional about things. A friend once said about me, "Have you *ever* seen her get mad?" (I *do* get mad, which is the origin of the Gamera nickname, but that's another post for another day.) Disagreement doesn't tick me off usually, it just makes me want to find a resolution.

But, after a blow-up recently among people I work with on a project, I finally stepped in and blew my stack. I've been biting my tongue for weeks, maybe months. And maybe that's the real root of agitation. I watched a interpersonal situation get out of hand for some time now, and instead of stepping in earlier, I tried to wait it out. I felt like stepping in and trying to mediate or to calm things down or to clarify what people were looking for in the exchange would have caused more conflict than good, so I left it to them to try and work out. These people need no advocates, I thought, and who am *I* to insert myself into the exchange.

Unfortunately, it ended up in one of the people involved removing themselves from the project completely. And now the fallout has begun and I'm pissed. I want to bitch and moan---after the fact. And *because* I said nothing before, I feel like I really *shouldn't* say anything now. And now, because I did blow my stack, I've started an exchange that I don't think I can participate in.

Part of my problem is that I don't like hypocrisy or any two-facedness (is that a word?) in relationships. Tell me the truth straight to my face, or leave me the hell alone. And in the interpersonal conflict I was telling you about, I believe there to be some ulterior motives at work. I saw:
  • someone proposed for addition to the group
  • certain group members were not "enthusiastic" to add said person
  • the proposed person was voted in despite concerns
  • the new member is brought into a small, tight bunch of folks who are directing a project
  • previously concerned members begin to act in a way that makes me question their motives
And there's the rub. It's my opinion. I can't point to a specific intent among a certain set of people to run the new guy out. But I see the new member's ideas and suggestions and actions continually questioned (in what looks vaguely like sandbagging). And I see indignation when the new member questions any of the ideas or actions of the previously-mentioned "unenthusiastic" members. And it isn't the questioning of actions that bothers me---trust me, I and the people I work with fully believe in fleshing out everything fully. It's the only way to look at something from all angles. Everyone has to be heard. Try to get a close to a consensus as you can.

It's the double-standard that ticks me off and, to me, shows the interpersonal problems cropping up in the group. Why are you questioning my actions? (Who do you think you are?) Why are you doing X? (Who do you think you are?) It's trolling, plain and simply. It's someone trying to irritate and instigate through the backdoor.

In this case, it apparently suceeded. And not just on the member it was intended to annoy. I'm angry at these group members. I'm angry at myself. I'm angry that something I've worked so hard and care about so much is now in shambles. I'm angry that petty squabbles and interpersonal bullsh*t (mine included) is mucking up the work on bigger and more important things. And now I'm angry that I can't really do anything to solve this issue because I *don't* want to work out of anger.

So, I guess I'm just irritated in general because I'm stewing on this whole thing rather than acting on it.

I guess I do know why I'm irritated after all....


Volunteers for a Better America and IBEW presents...

...the new Wal-Mart movie. A friend at work told me her husband's union was showing the film. I believe this is an announcement for that screening.
Volunteers for a Better America and IBEW will host a free showing of the Wal-Mart film, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, produced by Brave New Films on December 16, 2005, at 6:30 at the union hall 2901 N. Mattis in Champaign, Illinois. Refreshments will be available before the film and a panel of speakers will host a question and answer session immediately after. Speakers will include Mike Herbert of IBEW, Professor Ron Peters of the University of Illinois, Larraine Cowart, and other community leaders from local churches and government (to be updated as invited speakers are confirmed).
If I get any updates, I'll post them here. Mark your calendars if you missed the showings around town the week the film premiered. More info and links for the film are here.