Work and Play

Back at work after a somewhat-fragmented work week last week, I managed to get everything done (or contented myself with what I was able to get done) for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day…

I had to work to the bitter end on Christmas Eve, after getting off early a couple of days in a row, but still I managed to fly home, put up the tree, decorate it, and wrap the gadgetty little gifts I’d gotten for the small number of family members that came over on Christmas Day. I didn’t make pancakes, as we already had plenty of food out (got a really good spiral-cut ham at Dominick’s, they had it on sale).

Because it’s been snowy and icy all week, I haven’t been wearing my orthotics, and finally paid for it on Friday because all the standing and singing on Thursday put me through such a workout that I was one big ache the next day.

The rest of the weekend was spend lying around, or doing stuff online learning how to make stuff to sell on Second Life. I’ll go into more, mind-numbingly boring detail on my SL blog later, but even if I don’t break even selling stuff, I figured out how to fund my monthly “virtual land” fees from a reloadable incentive card that I have from work.

For instance, a couple of bookings on the incentive program translates to about a dollar, or approximately $L275. That’s about as much as my weekly “paid Resident” stipend. Not too shabby.

David is home this week, doing upgrades, and I’m stuck at work for the duration until New Year’s Day. We’ll celebrate a Newfie New Year’s Eve (earlier time zone in Newfoundland means we all go home early) and the next day we’ll be down at David’s parents’ place.

And after that, the long boring months of winter ensue until at least April. Whee!

The Legendary Week From Hell Is Not Over Yet

@dropdeadchris, this post’s for you! Thanks for the kick in the butt. It is indeed high time I got back to REAL blogging and not just Tweeting, Google-sharing, or posting del.icio.us links here at Blogula Rasa.

My team at work has been decimated by whatever bug is going around the office; my supervisor noted on Tuesday that we were going to have a “legendary” week.

There’s a slight chance there could be one of us at work tomorrow on my team: me. But only if my only other healthy team-mate has some emergency problem with her mom, who’s had some health problems lately. We’ve been joking all week about our not-very-wonderful, really-quite-awful “legendary” week, and it would really make a better story if there was one heroic l’il travel agent struggling to keep up. But more than likely, there will be two of us to open at 7am, and two of us to close at 5pm. It’s going to be a long day.

Here’s the setup: Friday of last week, one teammate went out sick, probably with the flu. We knew Monday we’d be down 2, because another teammate had scheduled that day off for a long weekend. But when I got in, we were down 4, because a third member of our little working group was ALSO out sick, and the fourth was dealing with an ill family member who’d been hospitalized in the middle of the night (nothing to do with flu, but serious).

When I walked in, there was only one person, the only other “early shift” agent. The phone lines were backed up to hell and gone, and it stayed that way almost the entire day. Miraculously, things eased up toward the end, we caught up on tasks that we handle via queues and email, and there were no “whammies” at the end (calls that come in late enough that you’re held over after closing time to finish up). Our supervisor congratulated us both on getting through the day and said something about how it was going to be a legendary day.

Well, it’s already shaping up to be a week of legendary, even epic proportions of suck.

Tuesday, we were eventually up by two; one sicko was in, but not feeling all that well, and my former team leader/now teammate was in, after getting her relative settled with tests at the hospital. But we should have been up by three; turned out that my newest “teamie” got sick over the weekend, and her nice Monday off turned out to be just the first of 4 sick days this week. But the miracle held; at the end of the day, in spite of all, we were caught up and had nothing pending at Blessed Logoff time. Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, we were briefly cheered by the sight of our original sicko, who hadn’t seen the doctor yet, was still sick, and was sent home until he was clear of The Pestilence. Le sigh, we were back to… (counts on fingers)… 4 including me. That night, another lucky Blessed Logoff, and I got out in plenty of time for my Wednesday night ritual of Sierra Turkey and soup at Panera before choir practice. But then I got stuck in the most baffling traffic jam I’d seen in a while; ALL directions, ALL arterials, all jammed up and barely moving. I got to the restaurant in time to hang out with my iPhone reading and sharing via Google Reader, but had to gobble my food to get to St Nick’s in time.

Choir went well, by the way, and we’re working on Christmas music, of course. Yours truly got tapped to sing like a li’l angel in a short section of one piece with our newest soprano, a funny and acerbic woman named Cindy G. We’ll see if I continue to be allowed to sing like a l’il angel, as both Cindy G and I noted that our halos are held up by our cute l’il devil horns. It was a fun end to the day, as we all laughed a lot and got a lot of work done. The bishop’s visitation is Sunday Dec. 6, St Nicholas’ Day, and we’re planning on a lot of music for every Sunday in Advent in addition to the Christmas Eve musical blowout we’re hatching.

Anyway, that brings us up to today.

Thursday, today, Original Sicko was out and being implored to see a doctor or nurse and quit farting around with over-the-counter remedies. He’s being stubborn and is trying to tough it out, which is just asking for more trouble. I don’t expect he’ll be in tomorrow, either. And we were back down to three, because the other two sickos were still out.

It was a busy enough day, with a lot of emails and queued records (they come from the client’s online booking tool) to process in addition to calls coming in steadily all day. I volunteered to sit on the email inbox, which mostly yielded file attachments that get turned into booking shells, mostly for recruits. I guess it’s a positive sign that we’re seeing a big spike in “interviewees,” for freedom and LOLs! But handling the bookings takes a lot of extra steps, and the travelers are usually unsure of what they need at first, although very pleasant to talk to for the most part. Things went steadily enough, but got piled up at the end of the day. Meanwhile, the air quality in the office was terrible – not only my usual complaint about scented hair stuff and perfume, but also there was a controlled burn at the nearby forest preserve, and a lot of the smoky air made it into the building. Yep, lovely day. And then it worked out that I and the other lone “closer” got late hits on records in the queues, so we got out about half an hour late.

Tomorrow: will be horrible. Because there will just be two of us, me and my fellow closer – as the only other person that wasn’t out at all this week is taking tomorrow, Monday, and Tuesday off.

Oh boy! Tomorrow will be a legendary, epic, architecturally significant Tower of Suckitude! Because due to the way our schedules worked out, I’ll go in and open with my former leader at 7am, we’ll take staggered but long lunches probably, and then we’ll both close. And then as soon as Blessed Logoff finally comes, I’ll go downstairs, work out if I feel like it, and then meet my husband David for some carbonized ruminant protein (and quite possibly wine for me, YAAAY!).

That pretty much covers the week as far as work goes. Home and its entertainmental charms is a whole other post, as is workout-related stuff.

So thanks to Chris, that’s my week, all documented and written up tidy-like.

Maybe now I’ll get around to tweeting that haiku that occured to me on my way to work one morning this week… maybe.

Time and Doing Things

March 7
March is the homeowner’s month.
It is time to put away the snow shovel,
but not yet time to get out the lawnmower.

For the first time in… probably a year or more, the dining room table is cleared off as a friend is coming over so David can take a look at his laptop. The stuff that was on there was a mish-mosh of things that Timmy sent me from Mom’s house; I’ve successfully ignored them all this time because I’d unpacked them with the vague idea of organizing, sorting, and tossing junk and only got 3/4 through the task. It wasn’t especially painful looking at the things, but I tended to get lost in remembrance.

But the occasional visitor can do wonders for lack of motivation here at Chez Gique, and so not only is the table cleared off, but the console table in the living room has been tidied, dusted, and rearranged (though not the lower shelf) and the coffee table has also been cleared of clutter (framed pictures, junk) and dusted.

I moved some of Mom’s tchotchkes onto my desk with yet another vague idea: actually paying more attention to them now and then. Mom had a funny little calendar thing that she got as a table favor at a luncheon years ago that someone made that has a little quote or aphorism for every day of the year, and Mom had kind of used it as a rotating reminder of birthdays, anniversaries, her weight, and funny little notes. Just this morning, my husband David asked me if he should put the snowblower away for the season (fold the handle, shove it under the workbench) and I said I thought we’d get one more big storm. Even though yesterday was unseasonably warm – more than 60F – and we had a big booming rainstorm last night and today, my instinct was to assume that winter isn’t quite done screwing us over here in the Midwest.

And then when I was going through the Mom stuff and looked at her little date thing for today, there it was: her commentary on the changing season. It appears likely that it may be time after all to put away the snow shovel, at least according to this conveniently timed little message from Mom.

She may be trying to tell me to keep the house in its newly less-cluttered state, too, but let’s not get carried away here.

Trouble in Paradise

Trouble in paradise: Cash-strapped tourists avoid Hawaii – USATODAY.com

LAHAINA, Maui — Every winter, scores of humpback whales trade the Gulf of Alaska for a few months of breeding, birthing and basking in Hawaii — a follow-the-sun migration that fuels much of the tourism industry in this former 19th-century whaling town.

But while the marine giants are returning right on schedule this year, their cash-strapped human admirers are not. And the effect of that absence is, “in a four-letter word, ugly,” says Bill Seidl, a boat captain who peddles whale-watch trips on the Lahaina waterfront.

We seem to have fallen into a fair deal at our condo in the Poipu Beach area, and there are certainly empty storefronts in tourist-ready towns like Hanapepe, the “home of Lilo and Stitch.” We went there to do a little geocaching today and have lunch after browsing the galleries. The business loop that goes through “Historic Hanapepe” had a distinctly sad air, although there were some wonderful things to see and buy in a number of charming galleries. We were greeted by owners warmly, if rather wistfully; one thing we haven’t seen is a lot of tour buses full of retirees and travelers from Japan and other countries. We’ve seen a couple of small vans, but that’s about it.

It seems like Hanapepe would be an ideal place for a bus tour to stop for lunch; we had delicious sandwiches at the Hanapepe Cafe’ and Bakery, a lovely large lunchroom that had local art and crafts for sale, a small stage for the occasional musical performance, and really nice ambiance. The owner there also spoke warmly to us and I hope that she and her staff continue to do well feeding tasty, healthy food to travelers. They seemed to be doing a pretty good business when we left. The waiter, on seeing how much we liked the hibiscus herbal iced tea, put some in “to-go” cups for us unasked, which was wonderful to have along as we went to the geocache site near the Swinging Bridge, though not so wonderful to try to hang on to while crossing said bridge. Still, it was a short but hot hike to the spot, as the red dirt of the trail seems to really hang on to heat and pump it out as you walk along.

Time to figure out something to eat. More, much more, later.

Kohola Kama’aina

We went on Captain Andy’s Na Pali Adventure cruise yesterday – billed as a snorkel trip, but too rough to actually go in. But we were happy to see all the dolphins (spinner and bottlenose) and whales.

kohola-kamaaina

I didn’t get very many good fluke shots, but I’m happy with this one. I have another one that’s more suitable for researchers who identify individual whales by the unique patterns on the undersides of their tails.

The day started VERY early, but not horribly early. We just had to be about 30 minutes down the road before 7:15 am, which is not too unreasonable. Like most mornings here, it was cloudy and actually raining gently, but our experience at the North Shore the day before taught us that the weather often clears in the afternoon, especialy if you go “around the corner” of the island.

We found the office of Captain Andy’s down in the Ele’ele Harbor, also known as Port Allen, which probably was a lot busier during WWII and the height of the sugar days. Like many places in the Hawaiian Islands, there’s a slightly raffish air to industrial buildings, but Andy’s office was in a brand-new complex, across from the Red Dirt Shirt factory, which seemed to be working noisily.

A crowd of adventurers in various kinds of sun/fun/rain/swim togs waited to be escorted down to the boat by the lovely crewmember, Stephanie, who was completely encased in foul-weather gear except for her tanned, shapely legs. Off we went down to the slip, along a pier criss-crossed with old donkey rail lines from the days when more cargo moved in and out of there. The boat was an attractive catamaran, captained not by Andy but by one of his other captains (Bernard).

We met up with a few companions for the day, Jennifer from Michigan and Nigel and Caroline from Yorkshire, and had great fun laughing and talking while we motored up around the point by the missile range station and on to the wild cliffs of the Na Pali coast. It was quite rough but the weather was clearing, so we tended to stay in the cabin and watch ahead through the forward windows.

At one point a number of people were seated on the two “trampolines” strung between the hulls, getting plenty of fresh air. Even though they’d been warned they’d get wet, they were betting that that just meant a little spray now and then. Invigorating, right? No, more like irrigating. A few good solid waves came up from in front and in the final indignity, from below, thoroughly drenching everybody from all sides. Fortunately for them, they couldn’t hear us laughing hysterically at their plight.

We slowed first to see some turtles, but they were so close to the side that I couldn’t get them framed right, as I had the long lens on. Soon enough, we slowed down to see something… which turned out to be DOLPHINS!!! YAAAY!!!

dolphins

There were whales there too – but the dolphins were doing everything they could to get our attention, including slapping their tails with a light clapping sound, as in “Hey! Lookit meee! Don’t look at the stupid big whale, silly humans! I’M the star of the show!” There were even little pups. So cute. Here’s an example of interspecies friendship:

whale-and-dolphin-pals

This shows a Pacific Humpback whale swimming on the surface with his (or her) head out of the water, with a spinner dolphin riding the bow wave. This is cropped down a lot and I used a telephoto, but they were pretty close to the boat. The legal limit the boat may approach is 100 yards, but quite often the animals encroach on their own so you get the thrilling close-in experience now and then.

spinner

Yeah, these guys were having a blast. The whales were more active while they were around. Nigel joked that we were on the human tour for the cetacean tourists.

This guy was getting pretty big air.

air-spinner

Yeah, they were having big fun.

This is about the only usable picture for whale researchers, I’ll be uploading this one to Flickr first.

fluke-off-kauai-missle-range-18feb09

I didn’t take any pictures of the Na Pali cliffs because the sun was right behind them and the lighting wasn’t going to be good for me, and also I would have had to change lenses and possibly miss a wildlife shot. David stayed with a single lens that’s kind of intermediate between my short lens and my long lens – he could get better wide shots and closeups but not zoom quite as far as I could. He’s already updated his blog banner with one of his shots…

When we got off the boat, we headed back home feeling tired even though we hadn’t snorkeled – it was so bouncy that just maintaining balance against the railings when we were photographing was quite a workout for the entire body. We lounged for a while drinking ginger-mint iced tea that I made, and then went out for a few groceries and sundries. For dinner, we marinated some chicken breasts in thick teriyaki sauce, Maui onion, lime juice, POG, and ginger, and then grilled them. Had rice and locally grown green beans. YUM. Also Kaua’i Ale. YUM.

Today: late start, obviously. Going out geocaching and looking for “treasure” left by a friend of ours who was on the island week before last.

Singapore Style Noodle: Seven Luck NOM NOM NOM

We order from this Chinese restaurant that’s about the only one in the area that will deliver. It’s a little hole-in-the-wall kind of place that doesn’t really have seating beyond maybe a couple of small tables. It’s a takeout/delivery place, but we were delighted to find that what they don’t expend on ambiance, they put into the food.

The poor guy that delivers for them knows our address by heart, and tonight being so cold I made him come inside to finalize payment – usually he stands outside the door and we watch to make sure Rileycat doesn’t get too curious about the open entryway. He was absurdly grateful to come in for a couple of minutes, so he’s probably been delivering all evening.

We tend to stick to the same few favorites; David likes shrimp with lobster sauce, and I’m generally having Happy Family Chow Fun because I like the tender noodles and the savory gravory. But tonight I’m having Singapore Style Noodle, which is just spicy enough to be what I call “authoritative” without being overpowering or even imperialistic. I felt the need to pack a little interior heat, if you get my drift.

See their website at Seven Luck Restaurant. It’s a little wacky, with animated graphics on the splash page, but kind of endearingly so. They’re in a strip mall on Roselle Road in Schaumburg, right behind some outlier chain restaurant – Taco Bell? They’re well worth a try if you’re in their delivery area.

Big Red Snow Beast

big-red-snow-beast

Last night’s snow (or as I originally typo-ed, slow), dumped only about 4 inches on suburban streets in the area, but the traffic was horrendous and there were enough minor accidents to put corks in all the bottlenecks. And due to the way the east-west arterials around here are blocked by large tracts of parkland or shopping malls, there’s only a few ways to get between work and home. If there’s bad weather, or traffic, everything gets choked off at one of two places.

I started out pissed, as I had a late “hit” call where someone needed an exchange ticket issued by the end of the day, and there were technical problems getting it done. I call down curses and imprecations on high-mileage status travelers who upgrade themselves before the new ticket issues! But I was able to get through to an airline res agent (miraculously; it’s an airline that outsources a lot of calls to India)
and downgrade the traveler. Heh, that’ll teach them not to mess with their records… I felt very unsympathetic.

As I headed west towards home, I puttered along at about 5 miles an hour. It took about 30 minutes just to get to where I could turn off my “bottleneck” route to an alternate street that avoided the worst of the traffic. Then I had to navigate around some other obstacles, cut through a high-school parking lot to an outlet to residential streets that I knew of, and finally got back to a more direct route home. It turned out that my zig-zagging didn’t really save me much time, but it did give me a sense of accomplishment since I was moving rather than sitting in a jam-up.

David texted his location a couple of times… he started an hour before I did because he’s farther away, and it took him all of 3 hours to get home. I beat him home by about half an hour and had started using the Big Red Snow Beast on the driveway. It was still snowing pretty heavily and I had all my snow
gear on; boots, gloves, long down coat, muffler around my ears and face, fleece jingle hat with ear flaps, and had the faux-fur trimmed hood up as well. I was seriously rocking the Arctic look.

Of course, David had to take a picture. Fear the Beast!

(It is left up to the discretion of the reader to decide which is meant, the machine or the operator.)

I’ve recently gotten sucked into the time warp that is Twitter and was monitoring a few locals who complained of 3 and 4-hour commutes. It was particularly bad in the north suburbs, where there was more snow, no plows, no salting, and nothing but side streets and minor arterials that were all completely backed up.

I’m currently writing this at work in Wordpad while waiting for a call with my “ears” on, with the plan of sending the text to myself and updating at home. This is my first full week sitting with my new team, and I’m comfortably settled in with my new work-mates. I kept much more to myself on my former team,
partly because I’d formerly held a position that was between line agents and the previous team leader, and I was not popular because I was responsible for quality control at one time and was gathering data about error rates for each agent. That was years ago, but I sensed there was still some lingering… not resentment, but reserve. I wasn’t entirely to be trusted, I guess, and I didn’t bother to try to overcompensate by bringing in a lot of treats or being very social with everyone else. I don’t have this
baggage with the new team, and as it happens I work with a former team leader who stepped back to agent level whose company I enjoy. And I work with people who make me laugh and enjoy being here. It’s a pleasant change from my previous “anti-social” stance to actually chat with my neighbors.
There are minor drawbacks to the move, of course – there always are. But the compensations are: great coffee (they bring in their own bags of it and keep it in a thermos at one of the desks) and great cameraderie. It’s nice. Also, I’m closer to a window now that I don’t have to be hopping up and down
printing and faxing forms to hotels, and I have a view that looks along a tollway towards Chicago.

Currently, traffic is flowing. But don’t ask me to do constant updates. I will say that there’s snow on all the rooftops and the sky is a solid grey. Visibility is probably only a mile or two, and I don’t think we’re
on the flight path today because I don’t hear planes overhead. This may or may not be a good thing.

It’s kind of slow today. I haven’t taken that many calls. One of my mates from my former team and I send IMs to each other with questions and comments now and then, as we back each other up and she’s not physically located in the office. Now and then she sends funny emoticons and animated
GIFs.

I call this one “ZOMG! I’m In Crazy Town!”

crazy-town

It’s animated in the original format so that the background wobbles up and down, but I didn’t save it that way. My office mate sends me a lot of wacky crap like this. Most of them involve animals or weird cartoons expressing extreme agitation. I think there’s an underlying theme…

It helps to pass the time chatting, of course, but sending IMs is also dead useful when you can’t reach someone by phone, but they’re logged in to the messaging network. To ask questions like “WTF can’t these people put in the right format???” Both of us are crabby, perfectionists when it comes to formats, and unsociable; this makes us ideal IM partners.

Later, after lunch….

I continue to see more and more small signs of the bad economy. There are empty “big-box” stores on my way home, there are empty offices in my building at work, and just now I got waylaid by my hairdresser lady who said that they’re closing the hair salon downstairs. They needed to increase their visibility, and had lost a lot of regular clients because so many companies here pulled out and went away. It’s not a ghost building, but the trend is not an upward one. Anyway, she stopped me to give me a business card with the new address and phone number. They merged with another salon in the area and there are a couple of locations, but the closer one is farther to the east of me.

It may be that once they’re moved, I’ll get my hair done on choir nights, as I have about 90 minutes
to kill between the end of the day and choir, and this new location is not far out of the way to Holy Moly. So it could work out that I could keep going to Evelyn, because I like her and she’s willing to give me a simple, unfussy cut. And she likes long hair, which is a plus: some hair stylists are always on about “this long hair drags your face down.”

Dudette, I come from a long line of horse-faced people; there’s only so much you can do with a chin-length pageboy or an unnecessary (and damaging) body wave perm. Evelyn is happy to keep my hair long.  Done.

Actually, with short hair, I look a lot like Mr Crazy Town, especially without makeup. Let’s not go there.

Today’s weather has gradually cleared – the clouds that were overhead this morning are gone, replaced by mostly blue sky and fairly bright sun. It makes for some pretty shadows and contrast where the light is coming across the trees from the forest preserve across the way. By the time I leave, though, it’ll be dark. And I’ll be on my way to choir practice, so I won’t be home tonight until after 8pm.

For music this year at Holy Moly, we’re doing a modified “Lessons and Carols” format for Christmas Eve – for the later service at 9pm, that is. I’m not part of the earlier Family Service, thank GOD. It conflicts with work, anyway, as I’m scheduled to work until 5pm on the 24th. Bleh.

Anyway, the music will be good and lovely and I hope it puts people in the right headspace. One is especially good, as it’s not one of those standards you always hear: it’s called “What Sweeter Music” by John Rutter. It’s gorgeous, with floating harmonies that shimmer. Even with our few, poor voices, it sounds good. We’ll have some “ringers” on the night, though, so it’ll be even better.

Some of the other pieces will be effective – some are kind of required favorites, but a few are nice arrangements that aren’t just the plain vanilla versions sung from the choir book. One of the traditions at St Nicholas is for people to bring little bells to ring, so there’s something for that as well. We’ll have something for every taste, high class singin,’ low-class ringin,’ everybody join in on the chor-e-us.

On my mind in the news: the sheer gobsmackery of Rod Blagojevich’s hair, and the special hairbrush called “the football” that was carried by an aide, ready for any photo or video opportunity. It’s going to be what used to be called a “mare’s nest” of countercharges, questions about members of the impeachment committee’s own “favors and perks” for friends and family, and will turn out to be a giant waste of everybody’s time. Blago reportedly is defiant and claims he’s done nothing wrong; impeachment proceedings were being floated around the General Assembly months ago because he was seen as incompetent and an obstacle to the legislative process, not because of any of Fitzgerald’s charges. Still, they add spice, all those recordings of Blago (and his wife) dropping the F-bomb. I keep an eye on the news via the iPhone while waiting for calls.

Nearing the end of the day here, finally; the number of calls picked up and the afternoon went faster than the morning. Time is weird that way.

I’ll get grumped at at choir, because I was sick last Wednesday and still not feeling great Sunday, so I’ve missed 2 practices AND a Sunday, le horreur! but it’s never a good idea to run around in sub-freezing weather with a cold. In my experience, it just leads to the cold going into a sinus infection or bronchitis, so I’ll take the dirty looks in my direction, because I got over the cold without further ado (or catarrh).

UPDATE: Made it home safely after choir practice. We sounded awful, not sure why. I think it was because Mary decided to rearrange us and we were “upside-down” musically (or more likely, sideways) and hearing a different blend. Also, it was time for Mary’s annual Christmas Hissy… the stress of the season gets to her, especially when we’re not sounding good after months of work (and after sounding much better in our previous configuration).

Also, my friend Kevin reminded me via Facebook of the very funny “conversation between Rahm and Blago” that was posted at dKos the other day. Heh. This is the best part of this CLEVERLY SATIRICAL PARODY.

BLAGO: What if I appoint Valerie, what if she takes it?

EMANUEL: What do you want me to say? We’d appreciate it, I’m not gonna fucking kiss your ring over it.

BLAGO: “Appreciate it”? Come on, this is a Senate seat we’re talking about. It’s worth a fuck of a lot more than appreciation.

EMANUEL: You asked us for a list, we gave you a fucking list, you want to make your own list then make your own fucking list. [Raising voice] But if you’re asking for anything else from me, or Barack, or Valerie, then you can fucking stop talking right now Rod.

BLAGO: Wait a sec there Rahm. Wait just a fucking minute. Who are you to talk to me like that? I fucking made you.

EMANUEL: You made me? You made me? Tell me you’re fucking joking.

BLAGO: No no no, you listen to me shit-face. You see this list I got, the names motherfucking Obama fucking wants for the Senate. I just ripped it in two. How you like that? Oops, Harris just dropped it in the shredder. Harris?

HARRIS (muffled): Yes sir?

BLAGO: Did you just drop that list in the shredder?

[Whirring, shredder noise]

HARRIS (muffled): I did.

EMANUEL: Do you have me on fucking speakerphone?

BLAGO: It’s in the shredder, Rahm. The list is bye bye.

EMANUEL: Hold on a sec — you got me on fucking speakerphone? Who the fuck do you think I am?

BLAGO: Who are you Rahm? Who are you? You’re shit, you hear me? Don’t come back to Chicago Rahm, it’s not your town any more.

EMANUEL: Pick up the phone Rod.

Also also, more holiday-themed “heh.”

funny pictures of cats with captions

Meson Sabika: Flamenco Holiday Party

We went to the holiday party last night for David’s office. In recent years, it’s been an enjoyable enough affair, especially after they stopped booking the DJ nobody liked… but the experience we had was somewhat beyond our wildest expectations of a nice evening.

Meson Sabika was the setting, a large mansion in Naperville, which is one of the few Chicago suburbs with a sense of its own history. First settled in 1811, it’s set in gently rolling country, with a vibrant and architecturally appealing downtown, with public space and art everywhere. We drove down after work, and I was in my typically grumpy “I HATE GETTING DRESSED UP” frame of mind on the way. All that changed as soon as we walked in the door.

The Willoway Mansion was built in 1847 and sits on a pristine four-acre estate near downtown Naperville. After a meticulous renovation that brought back the mansion’s original charm as well as added modern conveniences to the restaurant, Meson Sabika opened it’s doors in 1990.

It goes without question, that the restaurant offers an unmatched dining experience. Guests can dine indoors and enjoy the grace and charm reminiscent of a European Villa or can choose to sit outdoors on the terrace while enjoying the ultimate alfresco experience underneath 150-year-old oak trees which cover the estate.

Guests will find that each item on the menu offers a taste of Spain. Whether it’s enjoying hot and cold tapas, sangria, an entrée or a vintage wine – there’s always a pleasant combination of exceptional food, friendly service, and unique atmosphere where family and friendship can live life in celebration.

The entrance is the original foyer of the mansion, with a sense of rooms and people and festive celebration taking place in rooms all over the house. The hall was gorgeously decorated, with a beautiful old wooden staircase leading to the second floor. We checked in with the staff and they took our coats away. We were ushered through lace curtains separating the former front parlor from the hall, where familar faces told us we’d found the right room. We were a few minutes late, and the drinks service had just started. Handsome waiters moved smoothly through the room, distributing glasses of wine and cocktails (open bar). It was a lovely old room, with 4 long dining tables set for dinner, in two rows with a central aisle. We filled it, with each department tending to keep to itself. So at our table, we were the Dev people, and the Sales people (always a boisterous bunch) were the next table down.

The first appetizers came out, a couple of variations on potato salad; each table got two big platters to pass down each side, serving ourselves family-style. The hot appetizers, same drill.

And then a guitarist began to play, another set of lace curtains separating the parlor from the big bar area were opened, and the flamenco dancer began to stamp out her passionate rhythms. The old wood floor was perfect for her snapping, gunshot-loud steps.

It was an extra-special evening, with a wonderful holiday mood set by the beautiful old home, the decor, and the family-style seating. I’d definitely like to return.

The food was amazing – also, they had Spanish beers and wines. My husband David’s co-conspirator had been to Spain and was really pleased to find Spanish beer on the bar list. It seemed like conversation flowed more easily at this party than at previous years’ shindigs; something about the antique-y, homelike setting put us all at ease. Even those of us spouses (or spices) who only see these people once a year.

David even won a gift card, well done. If you check the link, you’ll see the holiday menu choices for groups. We had the third option, which was plenty of food (although rather heavy on the dairy, and light on vegan choices).

I was stupid not to bring my iPhone. I thought I would be tempted to play with it “when I got bored.” That would not have been the case, and I could have gotten some decent shots of the hall and the dining room.

David took the picture of the dancer. The lighting was not optimal but this pose came out pretty well.

Via Meson Sabika’s Holiday Menu