Teppanyaki Woo-Woo!

Oh, yeah! PvPonline! I used to read the strip a lot more consistently. I should try and get that set up in Google Reader, I had it when I was reading via Bloglines.

This reminds me of a wacky experience we had at our favorite sushi-teppanyaki joint, Kampai (which is conveniently located close to O’Hare, visitors stranded at the airport!). They have a very large location, with the floaty-boat sushi bar at the left hand end (with its own entrance) and the steakhouse/”hibachi place” restaurant at the right hand. They actually had two full-size dining rooms on the main restaurant side, one of which has now been converted over to a more expensive “Asian Fusion” style restaurant. But about 3 or 4 years ago, my husband David and I managed to eat in both dining rooms in the same evening.

Our friend Steve wasn’t with us for this memorable dining experience; it’s kind of become legendary in the telling and re-telling in our small circle of friends and it’s hard to separate fact from embroidery. But the gist was this: we decided to eat on the steakhouse side and were seated in due course. The restaurant had just done a big remodel on that end of the eatery, and it was all freshly redecorated and repainted, with fancy new fans over each cooking surface to deal with all the smoke and vapors that result from doing stir-fry on big, flat, hot cooktops. There were even silk flowers wound around the brand-new fire retardant-spraying nozzles situated at each corner of each table-sized griddle – and there were probably 8 or more full-size tables in the main room, each seating 8 people.

All the tables were full that night, with chefs cutting and slicing and making salt shakers go clackety-clackety, and doing the flaming volcano/smoking choo-choo trick. They were clearly competing with each other, showing off to see who could get their volcanoes to flame up higher and higher. And that’s where the problem lay, because they weren’t used to the new smoke units. Just because they were actually “hoodless,” without a low-hanging flange around the fans, didn’t mean that the fire-detection sensors were thus farther away from the surface of the cooktops. No, the new units must have been more sensitive, to make up for the increased distance between the peak of each Onion Volcano and the intake grille of the smoke fan.

Fwoosh! Fwoosh! The crowd was loving it at each table as the flames reached eyebrow-endangering heights. Several tables were at roughly the same point in the meal, so there was some serious competition, and the guests were egging them on with shouts, laughter, and yes, people overdoing the jocularity and making with the “woo-woo!”

Which is when the fire alarm went off.

And then the fire-retardant foam sprayed out of the delicately flowered nozzles from the table at Ground Zero, and from several of the other nearby tables around it. It went all over partially sliced, diced, grilled food, including some sad little Onion Volcanoes. And all over the unfortunate chefs, and their guests. Oh, calamity!

We were a couple of tables away, toward the door, so our foam-nozzles never went off, and we were just going through the “fried rice” part where the chef does the tricks with the egg on his spatula.

Everything stopped and we waited to see what would happen next. Nobody ran for the exits or anything, there was just this crowd sound that was a combination of dismay (people whose food and clothing got doused) and hilarity (people whose food and clothing were unscathed).

The fire department came, made us move outside for formality’s sake (it was darn cold) and then waved us back in when they determined there was no fire, once the smoke cleared.

The amazing thing was that the restaurant had enough room in the secondary dining room (which they used for overflow or catered parties, I guess) for everyone to pick up their drinks and move in (although the heat wasn’t turned up and it was really cold at first). The crew brought out fresh set-ups for everybody’s dinner orders and within about 10 or 15 minutes of moving over, the chefs were starting everybody’s dinners. Everyone got free drinks in the meantime. The manager, rather than tearing his hair out and firing the flamebug(s) on the spot, remained calm and philosophical, even laughing at the absurdity of his situation, as he had a huge mess to deal with in his brand-new main dining room. It was all very organized and there was very little chaos.

Everyone left smiling and talking about the experience, and I’m sure lots of people told their friends about how the new dining room at Kampai got… “seasoned.” So they probably made up for it within a week or so. And every time we go back, we make with the “woo-woo” and watch to see how high the volcano flames go.

MIA from Blogaria, lost in Second Life

Yes, I’ve been remiss. Yes, I’ve been up late a lot. The steep learning curve has been leveling off, though, and I may even watch television tonight (tomorrow for sure, because Torchwood is on).

Some things going on in my life that don’t require logging on:

Last week at Holy Moly, we celebrated All Saints with great music, and a moving and joyful (and very wet) baptism. St Nicholas has a font that’s more like a wading pool, it looks like this when not actually in use:

Bishop's Visit to St Nicholas 12-3-2006 12-27-11 PM 1427x2048

This is from last year’s Bishop’s Visitation with Bp. Victor Scantlebury, the assistant in the Diocese of Chicago. Father Steve is to his left.

We baptised Jon Kessler, though I didn’t take pictures as I was busy singing. It was really nice, because for the long part of the baptismal service that the congregations repeats the same response over and over, we actually sang a line from the hymn we’d just sung a few minutes before. Although Mary, the choir dominatrix, didn’t want us all to walk over and gather at the font with everyone else, because she’s always thinking about the performance, we all did go over and be part of it. She was concerned that we’d miss a cue or get scattered and not sound good.

And that was good, because it went smoothly, with no gaffes, and we all thought to bring hymnals with us so we could sing the next hymn without scrambling for books. And we instinctively stood in a clump in front of the pool, mostly so we could see, but partly so we could share hymnals and the sheet with the adapted baptismal service (I think it was taken from the New Zealand Prayer Book, which has very nice modern, poetic language.

Jon wore a baptismal garment that looked like one of the spare white cassock-albs, and Fr. Steve climbed in to the pool with him, stole and all. Steve had hitched up the stole with his cincture in a way that looked almost monastic, in order to keep the Coronation-pattern embroidery and colored tassles from getting ruined. There was dipping from the fountain first with a big cut-glass bowl, blessing the waters in the fountain and thus the pool that they empty into, and then they had their wading party. Actually, we were all invited to take shoes off and climb in if we liked, but the only ones that took him up on it were Ethan and Mary Ann, who are both in discernment for the clergy. The rest of us on the periphery dabbled our fingers in the water as Jon was getting… absolutely drenched three times with bowlsful of cold pool water. I actually heard him gasp, but in a gleeful way.

Jon is an interesting guy – he is Jewish and told Steve beforehand that he felt that being baptised was not an either/or proposition, but more like being both/and. This was incorporated into Steve’s sermon, which will eventually be posted at the church website. Jon is a sweet guy – he and his partner (yes, remember we’re all about the inclusivity at St Nick’s) have an adopted daughter who’s a great kid (she was a big help at the big rummage sale last summer, sorting clothes for donation).

Work-wise, I am no longer allowed to access the internet at work during the times I’m supposed to be logged in unless it’s for work-related  reasons… thus, my job is interfering with my blogging career. Even for those times when there are not calls coming in, and I’m caught up on both international records and hotel groups, and I’m on top of the various queues I work. I expect very soon I’ll be cross-trained on another account, frankly, and I’m not looking forward to it. I only hope it’s an easy one that doesn’t require that I do…limos and car service ::shudder::

So I can’t even browse news stories and bookmark them with del.icio.us to my heart’s content, either. Grrr.  This has resulted in my taking shorter lunches downstairs, in order to hustle back up to my desk to have at least a half-hour’s worth of reading news and so on, not such a bad thing in itself. But it’s annoying, although I recognize the reasons for it, as network-wide there were huge problems with excessive bandwidth use. At least I wasn’t playing games, shopping, or gambling… but yeah, I’ve gone cold turkey, and being caught looking at non-work-related websites during my “logged in and available” times is grounds for counseling, with termination a distinct possibility for anyone stupid enough to try it again while in the doghouse.

At least I’ve been able to be a lot more productive – there’s probably some damn correlation there, dammit.
Dammit, dammit, dammit.

There’s some hot new update to my reservations system that I’ve been trained on. The demo made it look all sexy and shiny, but as soon as I completed and was clamoring for it to be initialized on my set, I was told “Oh, there are problems… there’s a patch so it will function with some of the other esssential tools, but it’s not working right. Don’t hold your breath.”

Well, dammit. Amongst other things, the new hotness res system includes integrated travel-information browsing and a lot of other bells and whistles that make it look like that rarity in “upgrades,” an actual improvement over the previous technology. Typically, it’s not ready for prime time.

Speaking of prime time, Halloween was a lot of fun at the office. Our team’s theme was “Saturday Night Live,” and I was “Samurai Travel Agent.” Took my wooden bokken to work and all. There are pictures, but I don’t have the link and it probably wouldn’t be appropriate to post it here: it might be hazardous for my continued employment to put innocuous fun pictures of people dressed up as Hamburglers and Darth Brooks and It’s Pat! on my personal blog, as the site identifies my company, my office site, and the names of some of the unusual suspects.

In more home-related news:

We got new rain gutters installed! Yay!!! They’re really nice looking and come with leaf guards. No more listening to the water overflowing from the second floor corner right by the bedroom and hitting the patio (and the Weber grill, uncovered) on long, sleepless rainy nights. They’re a nice rusty red, the guys even put in the cuts and bends so the water flows into two of my rain barrels. I forgot to ask them to do the one for the third barrel, as I’ve never set that one up, it’s just placed upside-down behind the bushes on the outside corner of the house, ready for next year. The gutters are seriously heavy-duty, which means we are now about to enter a period of ten years’ drought according to my husband David. We’ve had or will have had other seasonal work done, too. Next week, the chimney sweep comes. Sadly, he’ll probably be gone by the time I get home from work, but David will tell me if he wears a top hat (probably not). I have to remember to tell David to be sure and shake his hand for good luck.

We got (or rather, David got) a new HD TiVo this week, and he’s been happily tinkering away with it. It’s got a bigger hard drive and two tuners, so we can actually record two programs at once, and watch either one. This is nice, because several of the shows we watch actually conflict with each other, so that we no longer have to set preferences to capture second showings (when available) or wait until one or the other goes into reruns. There was some sort of dire technical problem this morning, however, involving a network card. It may or may not involve a trip to Buy Mart.

I tore out all the tomato plants and pepper plants last Sunday – it was a lovely, brisk fall day and the colors were still pretty. The strawberry plants, rosemary, and a drastically cut-back purple basil remain to overwinter. The compost bins have been put to bed for the season.

This morning, there was frost heavy enought to look like snow, according to David. It’s gone now, though.

Thursday night, I was wearing my spiffy new pajamas, which feature a sushi theme. David asked what I wanted to do for dinner Friday, stopped himsel, and pointed to my PJs. “That’s what I want!” he said.

Heh.  So we went to Kampai last night, and I had my favorite things, NOM NOM NOM.

We’ll be getting together with family a lot this fall – Hanukkah comes early, and there will be a couple of Thanksgiving gatherings. We just visited David’s folks last week, and met a couple that they’ve recently gotten acquainted (or re-acquainted) with. As we’re science fiction fans, and this couple are into SF conventions (book-related, mostly), my mom-in-law thought we might like to meet them. It was an interesting evening. And it was the last time we’ll have to take a somewhat convoluted route to get to their house; an extension to a much more direct tollway route will open up on Monday, yay! And tomorrow, there’s a big bike-ride event on the new extension, with up to 9,000 riders expected on the “$9 billion bike-path” (for a day). We probably won’t be participating, as the weather is likely to be bad, but we’re really happy about the much more direct and easy to follow route to David’s parents’ place.

More later. Since I’ve been a good kid and updated the church blog as well as this one, it’s time I logged in to SL for more inventory management in a bit. Inventory is kind of the big weakness in Second Life; big inventories can cause problems, and organizing them makes life much easier in the secondary sense.

I attended a “class” last night that didn’t go well on this topic, because the whole thing was based on the folder structure that the previous version of SL used, and there is no longer a way to get into the inventory folder while offline… this caused great consternation to the guy leading the class, which was held in a goofy “skybox” where passing “clouds” kept obscuring the view. He had a ginormous “powerpoint” presentation screen in front, and was showing all the nice ways to work offline on your inventory… and his method was outdated for at least half of the “attendees.” This was hosted by the Free Dove group, and frankly, although I give them props for enthusiasm, their constant IMs and notices about classes get to be kind of annoyingly like spam. And really, it’s all about steering virtual eyeballs to the Palomma store, and its large (and admittedly well stocked) freebie section. Hence the name.

Actually, for tutorials, the official Linden one was much more useful just now, even though it was slightly distracting listening to a male Linden employee talking as the video showed his attractive female avatar moving around various spots working with inventory items. Still, it gave me a lot of information I didn’t have, and was much easier to follow than an online, inworld class like Free Dove offers. For one thing, nobody was almost naked (last night’s class was conducted in a Mature area, and one of the group leaders was comfortable enough with her sexuality to sit in wearing nothing but a skimpy lilac slave-girl outfit, with everything above and below on show if you happened to be standing anywhere in a wide area to her left or right.

I bet she spells “library” correctly, too.

Maybe I need to think about departing that group, that’s the second class I’ve attended where things didn’t go as planned and it was hard to follow the presentation.  Also, the dress code is a little advanced for my taste. ::grin::


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)
I feel as if I’ve broken the surface of a deep, still pool – I’ve been submerged in the latest and last book in the Harry Potter series, and a few minutes ago I read the last chapters, the last paragraphs, the last words, the last page. And now I’m breathing deeply and taking a look around me for the first time in a while.

It’s not that I’ve spent the entire weekend with my nose buried in a book – I did end up spending some time at the rummage sale yesterday at Holy Moly, which was very successful, and in spite of my freaking out over missing one deadline for print classified ads, the turnout the first morning was greater than it’s ever been in the history of St Nick’s, apparently. And I’m relieved and happy for the committee that put in so much hard physical work gathering stuff and figuring out how to store it, that their hard work didn’t result in a disappointingly small number of bargain-hunters (who were there waiting with clutching claws for the opening on Friday morning in their hordes, thank God). I ended up going over after the concrete guys laid the driveway, and stood around helping out where I could and packing up unsold stuff for donation or storage for next year’s sale. Also, I’ve got several big garbage bags’ worth of summer clothes that we’re donating to a work-friend for a Haitian orphanage charity that she supports.

So last night, we went out to dinner at Kampai, because we’d missed out on sushi before a few nights previously, and on the way back David teased me that there was no need to stop anywhere for any old…book. Teased me that it would be sold out, teased me that we should stop at a Christian family bookstore, that sort of thing. And then we stopped at Borders, and there weren’t any crowds because that was over and done with, and walked in the door to see a long table set up with about 3 dozen neatly stacked copies of “Deathly Hallows,” and also on the table was a box of tissues, ready for use by sobbing fans who no doubt had plopped themselves down and started reading.

I’m always sorry to see the ends of things I care deeply about – it may sound strange, but much of my adult life has been lived mostly inside my head, in beloved books and favorite shows and movies. I have my “real” life, and my “not-real” life, and every now and then, something new and different and enthralling is discovered that dominates my “not-real” life, or at least has a kind of “time-share” with the other enthusiasms that have become a part of my “not-real” life.

The Harry Potter books are kids’ books for everyone, because they reach the essential child that lives in every adult. They won’t appeal to everyone, but they will appeal more to people for whom imagination is an important part of their inner life.

I can’t really speak to the criticisms that “Harry Potter is Satanic” or any of that “occult” claptrap. I can’t cite chapter and verse, but I’ll tell you one thing: the values in Harry Potter, and the underlying themes, are familiar to anyone who’s read Holy Scripture, but they’re subtly changed. The entire series is centered on the eternal struggle between Good and Evil, that the weak and the downtrodden should be protected from tyrants, and that self-sacrifice for the sake of others is the highest and most powerful act of Good.
In church today, the Old Testament reading was from Amos, a simple man who last week was a simple herdsman and dresser of sycamore trees, and this week was asked again by the Lord:

This is what the Lord GOD showed me– a basket of summer fruit. He said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.”

A simple guy, who was called to do great things, who would much rather have been back taking care of his sheep and his sycamore trees, was Amos. Also, he was kind of a plodder and a bit literal, if you ask me, but solid and worthy in the end. I realized tonight in reading that the Neville Longbottom character was a bit like old Amos – he really was only good at Herbology, but found unknown and unguessed reserves of leadership and resolve and ability as the books progressed.

There are other characters whose motivations and deeds could be pretty successfully compared and contrasted with Bible figures, and also with mythical heroes, too.

No spoilers here, though. David’s been given the book now that I’ve finished it, and he’s already nose-deep in it and occasionally chuckling or muttering “Hmm! that’s interesting…” as he goes. He’s only just started it. As soon as he’s finished, we’ll have to get together with Steve to discuss the details in the book – it’s not so much that loose ends are tidied up, as that the hidden interconnections between everything that went before are finally revealed.

There are underlying themes that I want to sink my teeth into and worry a bit… the ones about tyranny and groupthink and how fear can make an enemy seem more powerful and all-knowing than they really are, and how that fear can be exploited by a cynical few in order to stay in power.

And I may just have to re-read all the books again in order now. Which I’m sure was Ms. Rowling’s intent from Page One, Book One.

Non-Stop Activity Weekend

It was another wild whirl of social events for us this weekend. No, really. Friday, we went out for sushi at Kampai, a local favorite kind of place. It’s the kind of place that really floats our boats when we want a lot of good sushi fast, or relatively fast. We’ve been going there for 10 years now, and it’s one of those places where we don’t even have to communicate in complete sentences – or with words, even. Sometimes, all that is necessary to indicate a desire for sushi is an arm, extended in expectation that it’ll be twisted. Friday night my husband David and I actually agreed in advance to go out for dinner, but “soosh” was the arm-twisted determination of where and what we we would eat.

Saturday was a big day – we had a gift to buy for a niece who graduated from high school, Melissa. There’s a lot more I could say under cover of a password, since there’s a lot of family stuff involved, but we’re happy for Melissa and proud of her. She was in a special program up until a few months ago, when there were a lot of changes and stresses, and she ended up in a good situation in a group home. The nice thing was that she still went through the graduation ceremony yesterday, along with one other classmate from her program and all the rest of the other kids from her senior class.


We were stumped for a gift, but ended up giving her a “memory kit” in a tote box with disposable cameras, photo albums to filll, some older prints we had from a lot of family gatherings, a journal, pens, and so on. We wavered on getting a more souped-up camera but decided to see how she does with the disposables – she also got a DVD player Saturday, so a simple digital camera was not out of the question – but nobody makes a truly “simple point and shoot” digital camera anymore. Other than the single use ones, of course. We were in a bit of a panic, and I’d looked at dozens of “simple” digital cameras online before we decided to keep it simple and get her disposables, and turn it into a theme gift.

We plan on going to visit her periodically with our own cameras (she’s living several hours away now) and take her for photo safaris. She really does like taking pictures and doing photo albums, so the gift we’re actually giving is that of time – we hope to spend more of it with her now that she’s settled and has a routine. She has a job and is very proud of her paycheck; her face lit up when I asked her “how much was your paycheck again?” That got a bigger smile than asking her about her graduation ceremony. The exciting thing was that we were able to buy everything at Target in just under 90 minutes, get home and put the things together in the tote (including 8 disposable Kodak cameras with flash), put stick-on letters on the lid, and wrap everything. I also included a fabric-colored photobox to hold prints until she gets around to putting them in albums. The photo box just had a band of the wrapping paper around it so the whole thing looked very cute and colorful.

The party was fun but we stayed longer than we should have – it was an open house and we were there until the end, practically. It was a nice time though, and the funny part was we found that David’s parents were taking Melissa to see Shenandoah at the Marriott Lincolnshire Sunday, and we have season tickets and were going to be there, too. And as today was David’s birthday, we were already planning on getting together with our friends Steve, Earle, and Sandy for our regular “dinner and a catch-up” after the show (it’s a 5pm matinee). So we made reservations for nine instead of for six people (Steve was bringing another friend of ours on his extra ticket, Jim).

So Saturday had already been chock-full of stuff, and Sunday was no different. In the morning, yes, church. But also, church annual meeting. And anticipating that the person who normally takes minutes would not be there (Betsy, the clerk, is moving to Texas for veterinary school soon), I was ready with laptop and notebook to take the minutes. It went fast – only an hour and 15 minutes – but then there was no financial statement since the new treasurer recently had emergency surgery. We’ll get to that later, but we’re in good shape at the moment.

We had to vote on a number of items, but most interestingly, we’re taking a bunch of functions that had been all on the Bishop’s Committee plate and spun them out to the congregation. It may sound all corporate-speak, but there will now be 4 teams that cover the 4 main “bullet points” of our focus as laid out on the OneBreadOneBody website. Everyone was invited to sign up for one or two teams that were doing the things that most interested them – whether it’s “welcoming” or “nurturing” or “giving” or “inviting.” These four teams relate to churchy concepts but rather than saying “stewardship” or “membership” or “pastoral care” Steve and the executive committee came up with these concepts.

New addition – is still being discussed by the diocesan Bishop’s and Trustees. They move very slowly but we are still hopeful of getting ground broken this summer. There are ideas afoot for beautifying the outside of the existing building with nice landscaping and possibly a memory garden. We have a goal of doubling membership within 5-7 years and we need the space, and need to increase our spiritual curb appeal, I guess. Having come from a now-closed church that presented its back wall to the street, disinviting visitors by having access up a narrow sidewalk that went only to the parking lot, I have to agree with the notion of making our building and ourselves more open and welcoming to visitors.

Name – there was substantial consensus toward changing the name of our church completely! There are 3 top choices, and we’re pretty much evenly divided between the three for now.

Frankly, I’m stumped on the third one. I know the first two don’t sound very Episcopalian, but at least there’s 170 Episcopal churches named “Good Shepherd.” OBOB is derived from a pretty much Catholic hymnal that St Nicholas uses, and many of the parishioners are former Catholics. But many of us are former Lutherans and Congregationalists too, so there. At least my reading tells me that St Mary Magdalene is often depicted with long, flowing red hair (yay) because this was artistic shorthand for a sinful, promiscuous woman (erk!! Not that again). We’ll decide later about the new name.

After the meeting let out, I visited with people for a while, brought home some delicious gazpacho soup for David, and kicked around for a bit. Then it was time to see Shenandoah. I’m pretty much in agreement with the reviewer in that linked article – it’s a good show, very though-provoking, and David Hess as rugged individualist and paterfamilias Charlie Anderson is powerful in the role. But there are no “sing on your way out the door” songs – nothing sticks in your mind, although the scenes and emotion do. There are more reviews here.

Then all nine of us met up at Big Bowl on Milwaukee for dinner, and we had a chance to see Melissa one last time before she went home with her grandma and grandpa. They only had her for a night and then had to leave early to meet up with the staff from Melissa’s group home, at a halfway point.

She was still glowing about her big day, and also showing off her new watch, which she bought with her own money. She had a new purse, too. She’s grown up a lot in the last few months and her future is pretty secure. So we’re happy about that.

Happy birthday to David! We uncelebrated today by having a nice salad with chicken and some orange/ginger/miso salad dressing. Yum. After all the hoopla, it was nice to take it easy.

Garden note: it rained a lot this weekend, and when I checked on the tomato plant, it’s growing like crazy. I’m not going to go nuts and try to raise “$64 Tomato” but maybe an 89¢ tomato cage is called for.

Things Done and Left Undone

It’s been a busy week at work and at home and at church. I’ve gotten through a ton of work at work, done not so much work as a lot of thinking at home, and did some interesting new things at church.

Saturday, didn’t do too much – I was thinking a lot about family members near and far, hoping for the best for one person in particular. Schlepped around and relaxed, otherwise. Much playing with the cat. David went in to work for the whole day, leaving me to my own devices.

Sunday started out with a big last-minute rush to church, and I arrived late and heard about it from the choir mistress, you can be sure. I’ve been in the habit of attending both services, as I think I’ve probably mentioned; last Sunday was no exception. The early service was well attended – surprisingly so! That’s one of the things that I’ve somewhat-surreptitiously been monitoring; it’s not an “us and them” thing, it’s that I’m hoping that there’s good attendance at the early, moreformal service because people are getting what they need out of it.

And some Sundays, attendance at the early service is really sparse, so that I was a little concerned that eventually it would be decided to combine into one, contemporary service. But this last Sunday, there was a good crowd – better than I’d seen in a long time back at Holy Innocents. It was a mixture of old Holy Innocents people and some St Nick’s people, plus a few visitors (one was apparently a friend of a young woman in the choir). The choir had a good showing, and the music we’d been working off paid offwell. As Jill and I kicked back and forth previously, some contemporary music is very bad, but some is quite singable, and Sunday’s music was actually quite enjoyable. Lent at St Nicks-with-the-Holy-Innocents is interesting, because grey panels block some of the windows, and 3 big panels are hung floor-to-ceiling between the main sanctuary and the baptistery, literallyblocking us from that symbol of hope and redemption and resurrection. The chairs are all set up to face inward, which reinforces the psychological inwardness that Lent can be. Apparently, at Holy Week the chairs get re-set again in a cruciform pattern, with the altar table (which is movable, obviously) in the middle. Plans are for 4 of us choir members to chant the Exultet from four different points in the sanctuary.

So, anyway, there was a good-sized crowd at the early service. I sat in on the adult discussion of other religions for a while, and then the choir had a short confab before the second service with a couple more members that came for that service. So, I stayed for the second one.

Monday, work was nuts. Also, I was sick with a nasty cough that I feared would become whooping cough, just like last year. I covered for another groups agent who was out all week, and I had a lot of different bases to cover – air groups (which started out with a moderate “bang” but which petered out by midweek), and hotel groups (which are always my beat, but February is my busiest month, and March has a lot of groups too). In addition to which, there are certain people who know to ask for meby name for international bookings, even though this week I wasn’t officially on the international desk, so I had to work those in when I could.

After work, I attended a meeting of local ONE campaign volunteers. I had only been lurking on their Yahoo group, but the local organizer is pretty dynamic and focused on getting more people on board, and there had been some “can’t we have some meetings in the suburbs? The city is too faaaaaar” comments. It was on my way home, so I went. It was interesting. I had no idea how focused some people were. I picked up a few extra ONE white wristbands and stickers and things, and promised to mention it at churchand see if anyone else is interested in getting more involved. It’s a big deal at high levels – our own PB ++Katherine is pushing the Millennium Development Goals – so I think I’ll give it a whirl.

And then there’s my current millstone, the “helpers” in a certain distant city. I’m riding herd on them more than ever – its a source of great frustration to me, and to my leader, and to her manager, and on up the line. These guys are handing a number of our calls while our own agents are farmed out on other accounts up here while the Great Re-Education Project continues. They were trained, quickly, over the phone, and at the beginning it sounded like they’d be able to handle it. But it seems that almost as quicklyas these people would be trained, go through a breaking-in period where they made a lot of mistakes, and got to where they were almost competent – emphasis on “almost” – and then they’d be pulled off our account, and put on another one. And they’d be replaced by a completely green, wet-behind-the-ears newbie who couldn’t even use the reservation system very well. We kind of lost track who was “on” and “off” our account – for several weeks, their team leader never bother to let us know who was cyclingin and out, so my emails to the “helper group” were going to people no longer on our “team,” or even no longer with the company. Many of them were temps who had no commitment to the company, let alone to doing a good job. My leader and I were caught flat-footed, because we weren’t told how the leader in the other city was choosing to cycle her temps in and out. It just seemed like my leader was constantly having to schedule conference calls to train new “helpers.”

Then everything blew up – the travelers had figured out after a couple of weeks that some agents were in the other city, and the regular agents were still in our city, and they started complaining about problems, messed up reservations, and big errors. The errors were expensive, and they started piling up. Then one agent in particular started showing up in the customer service reports – giving out erroneous information, refusing to take reservations if the caller had not gone online before to “claim” their profileso that it’s visible in the new ID/booking system. More emails, trying to encourage better performance. I had to start keeping a log of minor errors, and major errors are being logged elsewhere. All the “helpers” had to start sending all their records to a QC queue, but I know damn well that most of them don’t bother. The one guy got fired, because his errors were egregious, he stubbornly refused to follow procedures designed to minimize errors and maximize accuracy, and he took WAY too many shortcuts. I gotreally tired of fixing his records when they wouldn’t pass the auto-file finishing/accuracy software, too. The “helpers” are a continuing pain in my ass.

I ended up with PADS laundry duty this week, too – I totally forgot last week, and the coordinator covered for me. That was embarassing! But she asked if I could cover this week because she hadn’t been able to find anyone else, so that turned out okay.

Tuesday was more of the same, but not as horrible as Monday. As well as covering the normal bases, I was also covering for one of my fellow support/lead agents, so I had a lot of crap to wade through – ground through a lot of queues fixing things, and filed a customer service request for a really bizarre ticketing error, which of course was caused by a helper. I started to make some headway against all the different things I was watching, and just kept plugging away. That night, I stopped offat the PADS shelter church to pick up the dirty laundry. Was hoping for a light load, but ended up hauling 9 big blue bags of SOILED LAUNDRY!! HOSPITAL!! out to the RAV, using the completely crap laundry cart someone made. It’s designed so that if you pile more than one layer of bags on, they fall off the front or sides. And there’s an elevator, in which the cart just barely fits, and in which I almost don’t fit unless I squeeze against the side rail thing the cart has. I piled the bags as best I could, and droveoff home, very late. By daylight, the SOILED LAUNDRY!! HOSPITAL!! warnings printed on the bags are even more noticeable. I wonder what other drivers think when they see the SOILED!! LAUNDRY!!mobile drive by. I did a little tidying at home before bed, since Wednesday would be a late night, too.

Wednesday did indeed turn out to be an incredibly long day. Work was busy, busy, busy. However, I got out more or less on time, and drove the soiled!laundry!mobile to St Nick’s for the Wednesday night choir practice, which was superceded/preceded by a Lenten program with a Labyrinth walk. Now THAT was neat. I got there just in time to join everyone for a short prayer and then we all grabbed bowls and plates and dug in to a very nice little soup-and-side dish potluck. Greeted people warmly, asit had already been a stressful week what with concern for the one family member and dealing with the “helper” idiots at work. So seeing my church friends in the middle of the week was a break from all that. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised at the turnout – there were at least 30 or 40 people there! I’m so used to coming to midweek events and its the same 8 to 10 people… it was just a welcome change. After supper, we turned to the Labyrinth. St Nick’s owns a very large, canvas one that comes in 3 piecesthat are stuck together somehow at the edges – I think it must be with Velcro strips – and the labyrinth is painted in dark purple paint. It looks like a commercial one, as I saw a logo printed on the underside of one piece when they broke it down afterwards. Mary Ann had placed candles all around, and there were two candles on standards placed on either side of the entrance point. After a preliminary explanation, we were invited to begin when we were ready.

It was a very interesting experience. I’ve walked labyrinths before that were more like art installations, but I made a conscious effort to be quiet in my thoughts and concentrate on breathing, and as I walked I tried to think just one word at a time on the things that concern me – a loved one, peace, health, my family, our community, our “sad divisions” in the Episcopal/Anglican world, and after a while, the universe. About halfway through, after passing through the center, I started thinking about planets,moons and stars, all dancing gravely and ponderously through the cosmos, and how we were emulating that dance. Sometimes I would be walking alongside someone in another track, and other times we’d turn away, only to meet up again later. It was very calming. Mary Ann had some Gregorian chant going, and that was the only sound, other than the shush-shush sounds of stockinged feet brushing against the canvas as we walked.

Afterwards, I put my coat on and walked up to the choir mistress. “Are we having practice?” I asked naively, as I hoped to drop off the soiledl!laundry! at the hospital down the street. Oh, boy. You bet – 90 more minutes. We sang, listened to a few rants about the amount of music we still needed to learn, and sang some more. We found out that Betsy, the girl with the amazing voice, got a veterinary internship in Houston in June, so we’re losing her. The choir mistress was not pleased. Heh! I like her – her nameis Mary – but she’s always going off on something. I keep thinking she’ll calm down when she gets her paws on the new organ.

Got out of there at 930pm, debating with myself whether I should stop so late to try to swap the laundry out. I decided to swing in and see if I could get it done, because if I couldn’t, I’d have to get it done somehow Thursday, because that’s kind of the deadline. So, in I went. I left the soiled!laundry!hospital! bags at the bottom of the ramp, where it’s out of the weather (I’ve been told to do that numerous times before) and just as before, there was no cart or anyone around to help me carry the new, shrinkwrappedsheet/blanket/towel sets out to the car. So all 23 sets had to be schlepped, four at a time. There was no hope of the church still being open, so off home I went. Tidied a tiny bit more, as the cleaning ladies come in every other Thursday.

Thursday started off fairly successfully; due to my schedule and the location of the PADS church, I was able to drop off the clean laundry sets in the morning before work. This has the added benefit of being able to say “good morning” to people who were there to start things off in the church day care – it’s a much cheerier place in the morning than it is at night, when all the activity (AA meetings and such) are in a different part of the building. Got to work, and guess what? I was coveringfor my team leader, too. So more things to keep an eye on, more errors to log, more hotel groups to set up (including a couple using a very slick online process, I quite liked that), more records that needed direct-billed hotels and forms of payment, more corporate pilot car-and-hotel reservations booked, more questions answered, more stuff dealt with, and still made headway. Pretty much all week, I’ve been satisfied that I’ve well and truly earned my pay. Still trying to make time to design a form to be usedon the client’s intranet to set up small hotel groups, that may have to be done this weekend at home. I’m trying to swing a deal where all small hotel groups would have to be set up via emailed requests, at least for the initial inquiry. The calls I get at random times of the day really derail me. For dinner, we made a delicious but spicy curry using the last of this brand of curry powder that I got at Meijer. Have to blog the adapted recipe later, but the brand is Sharwood’s Hot Indian Curry Powder, andit also calls for Sharwood’s (or any brand) Major Grey Mango Chutney. Mmmm. We adapt it by adding a bit more tomato sauce, and also potatoes and carrots. Went upstairs early and took a shower and listened to my spacy iPod music before bed.

Friday Slept like a LOG last night. I seem to have gotten over the pestilence I brought into the office; I didn’t bother to take any Nyquil last night, either. Woke up with weird dreams connected to whatever NPR’s Morning Edition was covering, and also with stuff about fundraising (it’s spring pledge season). Busy all day, but productively. Got three hotel groups set up for future invoicing – meaning, I built itineraries for each person, added a lot of formats via a “replay” feature that the”new hotness” reservation completely LACKS, so hurray for old skool, and rode herd on the newbies in the far distant city. Their leader is now a) pregnant and out sick a lot and b) getting ready to go for a week’s training on the “new hotness” reservation system so she can be their office’s champion. Honey, we have 3 such champions in our office, and she’s got a lot of catching up to do. Almost picked up the phone to call one agent because he Would. Not. Re-Store. The. Damn. Airfare which had changed. He justkept sending it back to the file-finishing program without correcting, and without actually reading my “please re-store fare” remarks, although he was documenting “Fixed” every time. Not the brightest bulb there – I sent it back to him for correction 3 times, finally did it myself the third time, he stored the OLD fare somehow over my new lower one, and I re-stored it AGAIN with “DO NOT TOUCH RECORD – STORING LOWER FARE” in the QC remarks. For some reason, he just could not figure it out – I think he’s gotan old version of the software, actually. None of them are technically savvy, and their leader isn’t all that expert in the systems, either.

David and I had discussed making teriyaki chicken with rice. On my way out the door from work, however, I started thinking “I wish we could put off the chicken until tomorrow night, I kind of want to go out.” When I walked in, David said “I don’t really feel like cooking chicken, let’s go out for sushi.”

“GET OUTTA MY BRAIN!” I shouted. “NO, I LIKE IT IN HERE, IT’S ALL WARM AND SQUOOSHY,” he hollered. So I put my rain jacket on, instead of the leather one I wore this morning, and we went out into a rainy but warm night.

Mmmm. Sushi. We went to Kampai, where they’re about to begin some renovations. They’ve upgraded the sushi counter, removed the old “sneeze hoods” over the floating boats, and they’ll probably build newer, more attractive glass hoods/shelves over the stainless steel water channel that so charmingly floats our sushi boats in an endless circle. After our return, David played around with a new lens, taking pictures of the cat. Aw! we love Riley!

Tomorrow David’s going in to work again, and I’m going to start gathering my gear for an upcoming trip to be described in more detail after our return. Also, printing some pictures to cheer my family member, who needs a little extra support. And if it’s not too rainy, clear out the old china from the back of my car and take it over to the dealership to have some spark-plug-wire-cap-doohingus-thingy installed, as the part is now in stock. The car can be left, as the dealership is walkable.But I have to remember to pick it up before they close, as they are not open Sundays.

Sunday – might be getting together with David’s parents, not sure. Getting to choir practice before the early service will be awfully damn early (and dark!) with Daily Savings Time coming on early. Must remember to reset clocks. Must remember to reset clocks. Hope computers don’t blow up. Hope computers don’t blow up.

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Well, CRAP

I missed my session with the personal trainer at the workplace healthclub this morning! For some reason, even though it was on my online calendar, I had it in my head that it was an evening appointment, not a morning one.

Well, crap. I emailed my apologies to my trainer, Natalie. She’s a good kid. Very young, very small, very eager to get several women fit. Each one of us nearly twice her size. Most of the others in my group missed the last nutrition meeting due to schedule constraints – tomorrow I have to remember to have a meeting changed so that I don’t miss it.

Not that I’m really doing everything with my nutritional stuff… DDtB’s ***Dave’s good advice aside, I haven’t been counting calories or keeping a food diary. However, we have actually made a lot of positive changes just in the last two weeks, in line with some of the guidelines Natalie gave me last week.

I used to drink a lot of Sprite around the house, and was formerly used to having a can or two of Pepsi at work. No more; I didn’t have any soda at all last week, aside from a can or two over the weekend. Pretty good, and I don’t really miss it. Instead, I’ve been trying to drink more water, or various kinds of hot and iced teas.

I’ve been eating a lot more salads. Sunday night we kind of went overboard on the salad – I found a really great ginger-honey Japanese style salad dressing and we had salad with baked chicken breast. It was so good, we had seconds, kind of got a little pour-happy, and nearly killed the bottle. Next time, more sparing with that stuff. We’re used to the way they slather it on at Japanese steakhouses like Benihana and our local favorite, Kampai. Mmm, good stuff. I checked the label before buying it,
and it was the only one that didn’t have any corn syrup in it, It’s thick, tasty, and it’s made by a company called Makoto. I think I got it at the Dom’s on Higgie-baby (we never call it “Higgins Road.” It’s “Higgie-baby.”) Damn, I have to get more of this stuff. Anyway, in addition to mixed greens, we threw on some walnuts, some dried cranberries, sliced sweet onions, and I sprinkled the last of some seasoned
crumbled feta cheese. Mmm.

Also, at work I’ve been hitting the salad bar instead of the hot-greasy-dish line. And today, I actually brought in my lunch – leftover tofu stirfry that we made last night, using a modified version of a tangy sauce recipe I found online. Garlic always helps, you know. And a good quality teriyaki sauce, which also includes garlic. Not to mention some Nakano rice vinegar, also including garlic.

Mmm. Gaaaaarlic.

Yeah, we’re eating better. I’m eating more beans (beware, ye downwinders). This workout program is a great way to get back into shape, though. I can tell my muscle tone is improved. I’ve lost just a couple of pounds, though. More time needed for best results.

I feel more energy, and I feel good. Except for feeling bad about missing my appointment this morning, of course.