Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fitness and Media Updates

Just have to brag a bit, I am being SO good about exercising that even my WiiFit is complimenting me :-)
(couldn't be a marketing ploy; it must be sincere kudos to ME, right?)

Lately I have been watching DVDs while I exercise -- I do my usual yoga warm-ups, then I do "free step" or "free run" where the WiiFit still monitors my activity, but I can watch whatever I want to on the TV.

So far, I have watched all of season 1 of Grey's Anatomy, and now I am starting on season 1 of House. Yeah, I know, I'm a sucker for medical shows.

Both of these are series I have caught a few episodes here and there of, but have never followed. Man, is it FUN to learn the background behind the characters' development as I watch these early episodes!

It's also fascinating to see what elements of real medicine and real hospital procedures they are willing to give up in order to make the shows more compelling or interesting. My favorite so far in Grey's is how nurses are portrayed. (After working as a hospital nurse, I guess I am a little sensitive to this.) In one episode the nurses are all so uninformed that when a patient's heart stops, they all stand around (and there are way too many in the room) and say to the intern who is on his very first day of work, "what do you want to do???" Yet in a later episode they manage to convincingly explain to another intern, on about her 3rd day of work, how to crack another heart-stopping patient's chest open to manually reach in and pull out a giant clot. Uh-huh, I saw that kind of inconsistency daily amongst my nursing colleagues.

Then there was the time that they wondered who had done a surgery 5 years earlier. First off, no patient in for the type of problems this patient had, would be admitted without all their hospital records coming with them. But even if they weren't... In TV-Land, a super-busy intern walks down to the medical records office (which is about the size of my bedroom, for a huge teaching hospital), finds it unstaffed, starts poking around in file cabinets, and lo-and-behold finds the historical file in a cardboard box on top of a bookshelf.

Uh-huh, right. In reality, a computer request would be made down to the huge and super-busy medical records department, and the professionals would track down the file and have it delivered, the department would never be unstaffed at a hospital that size, and they would NEVER EVER EVER let a doctor - much less an intern - into their file rooms.

So I am having a TINY bit of difficulty ignoring all that kind of stuff and focusing on the story lines. But I am committed to the task, and if I work hard at it, I manage to enjoy it.

See? Truly something for me to brag about!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Am I alone here?

Does anyone else have this problem? And if so, can you give me hints on how to avoid it?

I have been SOOOOOOO good - I get up early every morning and do my WiiFit. I do a combination of yoga, strength, and cardio. I work up a sweat. I feel the burn. It's so great.

Then I go up and shower. Nice, cool shower. Ahhhhhhhh.

Then I get dressed, and start to dry my hair. With a hair dryer. Which makes me so sweaty it's almost as if I didn't shower in the first place. My hair dryer doesn't have a "cool" air option. If I let my hair air dry, it looks goofy. If I get back in the shower to rinse off the sweat I am back at square one.

Tips? Or I am just doomed to be sweaty all summer long?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Great Minnesota Get-Together, Day 1

Yesterday the boys & I went to the State Fair for Round 1 of the fun. We plan on going again on Friday, and I may well go a third time over the weekend while they are with their Dad.

Some of these pictures were taken expressly for my Mom, who is not attending the fair this year for the first time in I don't know how long. So the boar (with his stats) and the mini-donuts are really for her! This lamb was born early yesterday morning, she was one of triplets born to her mom, and they were featured on the KARE-11 6:00 news last night!
These baby pigs were just a few hours old, too. I could have stayed a lot longer in the Miracle of Birth Center but the boys don't care for the "freshness" of the births ... so they dragged me out!

One of the main reasons we went to the Fair yesterday is that the Jefferson Marching Band was playing ... my alma mater! They led the 2:00 parade with the same drum cadences, music, and enthusiasm that I remember from my time in the band 30 years ago. (am I *really* that old??? Yikes.)One of Ben's good friends is in the band this year. Here he is!
And here is that ol' fat pig. Or, I guess, Boar is his proper name.
Does he look like a "Squeaky" to you?

Tom Thumb Donuts ... ahh, a Fair staple. We did think they had decreased in quality a titch since last year. Will probably have to try them again on Friday to make sure we didn't just get an aberrant bag.
After the parade we joined the marcher and his family, plus my nephew Conor (who works at the 'All you can drink MILK' booth) and wandered the streets.
Great fun was had by all!

50th Anniversary Party

And here are my parents now :-) And the family (Katie wasn't there, she had to be at college for move-in day as she is an RA.) (I don't know why these photos all of a sudden are so grainy ...????)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Golden Anniversary

Today is my parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary. Their Golden Day! It has been such a joy to spend the day with them, reminiscing and laughing ... Tomorrow my brother and I are hosting a dinner for them, and the guests will be the majority of the people who were in their wedding party. Not a big group, but it should be a fun one.

They got married in Minneapolis; they were just 19 & 20 years old. They honeymooned in Duluth - their love affair with the North Shore has always been there - but came home a couple of days early because my mom was homesick!

They moved 16 times, lived in 6 states and 3 countries, owned 10 houses and built 2 (plus a cabin), and have travelled to 43 countries ... so far! Their lives together have been filled with love and a lot of laughter.

Congratulations, Mom and Dad!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Another Keeper

I have a new hero. Or maybe I should say he's an inspiration. Or maybe this video is just motivational, or touching. Or could be I am just a sap.

Whatever, I have watched it four times today and each time I tear up. So of course I want you to all have the opportunity to cry, too, or maybe to snort and say I am **way** too sentimental or just plain silly.

I don't even care! I love this, and I hope you will too. Just click here and see why I say Matt Harding should be the official United States Ambassador to the world. (and let me know in the comments if you got teary-eyed, too!)

Thanks, SME!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Opening this week ....

What a great summer! Olympics AND the Fair!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A note for all you married folks ...

Next weekend is my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. I am in charge of putting together some sort of display with photographs of them through the years.

Do you know how many pictures we have of the two of them together - just the two of them - in our boxes and boxes and albums and scrapbooks covering 50 years? About 7.

One of them was always TAKING the picture.

So get into the habit of having someone take photos of you and your spouse. Your children will thank you when it's your 50th wedding anniversary and one of them is trying to put together a photographic display.
History was made tonight.
Made me cry.
Colby was worried about me.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Olympic Notes

I can't even post the picture here. This link will take you there.

It's not enough that we are seemingly getting 24/7 women's beach volleyball. Now they have cheerleaders.

Eww, eww and more eww.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Treat for Me!

It's been a while since I went yarn-shopping. It's good for what ails ya, don't'cha know.

This shop, Borealis Yarns, is in St. Paul near Midway. I had never been there before but thought I would take advantage of being in St. Paul for 3 hours with time on my hands while Ty had a class at the Science Museum.

It's a GREAT store. Three rooms of yarn ... one room is almost completely devoted to clearance yarn and SOCK YARN. My own personal kryptonite.
Everything I bought - which really isn't very much, you have to agree - is for gifts. So really, I am being altruistic and generous. The fact that I was salivating and really holding myself back from touching every skein in the store - that is just not important here.

I was thinking of others.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Photoshop Opp

Hey all -- if you have Photoshop on your computer, I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend taking Jessica Sprague's "Up and Running" online class - and it's even better now as she is offering it as "self-paced" which means you can putter through it however quickly or slowly you want to.

You may remember when I took it a while ago ... I did a couple of way cool layouts, like this, and this, and then never finished the class as I just got too busy. But the cool thing about Jessica's classes are that once you register, you have access to the materials forever.

So one of these days I will go back to the lessons and go through them all again.

But - seriously folks - this class is the best deal online. Give it to yourself as a treat.

Olympic Notes

OK, I have already stated that I am, and have always been, a huge fan of the Olympics. That said ... I can definitively say there has NEVER been as much coverage of women's beach volleyball as the executives at NBC seem to think we need this year.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The best house on the block

Wow, I wish I had had this house growing up, or had built a house like this when my boys were small. See more pictures and read about it here.

Olympic Notes

I was moved to tears while eating lunch today.

And yes, the boys thought I was pretty weird. But they kind of got it, too.

In the men's individual kayak race, the tiny nation of Togo won their very first Olympic medal. Not first for this year. First EVER.

Imagine. Being the athlete - Benjamin Boukpeti - who brings the first medal ever to your homeland. Imagine being in Togo, watching with bated breath. I talked of getting up off my bed to cheer for the US Men's swimming team the other day - but that was the US swimming team, which wins medals ALL. THE. TIME.

This was a historical moment. Ben said "That guy will be a hero at home." Understatement. This guy will be a national treasure. This guy will be the inspiration to athletes from tiny countries all over the world. This guy surely made his mother cry. This guy made THIS mother cry.

I do so love the Olympics.

Olympic Notes

MSNBC shows the Olympics, too, in addition to mainstream NBC. I don't usually watch this channel. The commentators are clearly used to presenting to a different demographic than the one I fit into.

Speaking of a Japanese male gymnast: "Just look at those arm muscles. He's ... He's ... Well, he's SCARY strong."

Speaking of a kayaker: "Look at him go! He's going CRAZY fast."

Yeah, that's how I am used to hearing Olympic athletes described.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympic Fever!

I have always been an Olympic nut. I have so many memories of watching the events every four years (I am still not entirely happy about the switch to the every two years' rotation of winter and summer. I know it makes the Olympics come more often, but there is something magical about having all the events happening in one calendar year ...) and I measure some portions of my life based on the Olympics. For example, I know I was living in Norway during the Games as I remember being in a pretty high-powered business meeting one day and noticed everyone getting slightly fidgety until the man running the meeting said, as he pulled a television set into the conference room, "I hope no one minds if we stop our meeting to watch 'our girls.'" The Norwegian women's cross-country ski relay team was favored to win the gold, and the entire country stopped everything - including big, important business meetings - to watch. And they did win the gold.

Then there was the summer games 12 years ago when Ben was a toddler. He and I and my mom sat down in the family room watching gymnastics, and every time a gymnast finished a routine, you know the stance - feet planted firmly together, back arched, arms triumphantly in the air - well, little 18 month old Ben would do that, too!

So I am thrilled to be watching the games again this week. And this year will be remembered forever as the time the Olympics were in the place my friends just moved to, and because I have a "3-degree" link to the star gymnast of the year, Shawn Johnson.

1. I am friends with another Shawn Johnson, a resident of Bloomington

2. My Shawn Johnson is married to Patrick Johnson.

3. Patrick Johnson is gymnast Shawn Johnson's first cousin.

So that makes me PRACTICALLY family, and I feel the closeness every time I see her perform!

And then last night I was whooping in my bedroom, after just having said good night to the boys (and they came running to my room to see what was happening) as the men's 100m freestyle swimming relay happened. If you missed it, it's worth finding somewhere online to watch. The announcers were saying, before the race started, that the Americans would win the silver in this event, as there was just no way they could pull off a win over the French team, the favorites to win. The French team was quoted as saying "We're going to SMASH the Americans - it's what we came here to do!" And ... yes, the magic of the Olympic Spirit came through, and the silver underdogs came from behind in a truly yell-at-your-tv kind of moment, and with 8/100 of one second to spare, the American team won.

THIS is why I love the Olympics.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hillmans Arrived!

I just spent some time instant messaging with Carla, they have arrived safely and are starting to unpack and explore their new neighborhood. Folks from the school have brought over all the necessities to make do until their belongings arrive, and other than the weather -- terrifically hot and humid -- all is going great!

I am having such fun watching the Olympics, knowing the Hillmans are right there (somewhere) in Beijing, too! I am planning on visiting them while they are there, so it's really nice to get to see so much of their new home right here on my television.

Carla said she would blog and post pictures ASAP. For now I am just so happy to have heard that they made it safely!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Computer Game Whiz!

Ben took an advanced computer game development class at the Science Museum this week. The students created a game using the MIT tool Scratch. So I am told ... this is all foreign to me.

Ben's game can be found here.

I keep falling in the water, though I did manage to win once. The directions are in the Program Notes, which on my screen are way at the lower right corner. On the screen he developed the game on, the notes showed up at the top. Look for them to learn how to play!

I am quite impressed!

Hillmans on the MOVE!

Right this very minute, the Hillman family is on an airplane heading to Beijing. They left Minnesota this morning, had a brief layover in Chicago, and now are en route to the far East. It was so terrific to have them here this summer, and it was not as hard to say goodbye this time as it was when they left for Tanzania - probably because they will be back here more often on home leave over the next three years.

I expect it will be a while before Carla starts blogging again from their new home. They arrive on Saturday, have Sunday to start settling (living out of suitcases as their shipment of belongings won't arrive for 8-10 weeks) and then Monday morning Mark starts work. A week later Carla starts her job, and the kids start school.

They have an apartment already (or townhouse, maybe?) which is just a short walk from a grocery store which stocks a lot of American foods. There is also a Domino's and a Starbucks, so they will be able to live on pizza and coffee for the first few days if need be!

I can't wait to read all about their new adventures!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Big arts day yesterday

Yesterday I was an audience member for a large number of hours. In the afternoon I went to see Brideshead Revisited, the film being advertised for "intelligent viewers." Then last night I saw the new musical Little House on the Prairie at the Guthrie.

Brideshead was a fascinating film. I had never seen the older movie, or read the book, so I really didn't know the story at all. I saw commercials showing an old English manor, and that it starred Emma Thompson. Enough for me. In case you are as ignorant as I was, I'll fill you in on the gist of the storyline. Charles meets a young man at Oxford on his first day there, a young man who is as different from Charles as could possibly be. Sebastian is from a rich family of nobility, whereas Charles lives with his father in a small flat near Paddington Station in London. Sebastian befriends Charles, and takes him to his family manor, Brideshead, and the rest of the movie is the unfolding story of how Charles becomes involved with Sebastian and his family over the course of ten years.

The drama of the story comes in the relationships the family members have with one another and within themselves. The struggles Sebastian and his siblings have, the sheer force of their mother's love, the search for happiness his father undertakes - all are presented with bold, stark frankness that made me really ponder the situations even as I watched to see what happened next. I found myself wondering how I would have handled each situation, imagining taking on each character in turn, and aching for the turmoil they went through. The movie (and, I suppose the original novel) does an amazing job of allowing you to identify with each character, becoming aware of the good and the bad, and the complexity inherent in life with strong beliefs.

I highly recommend it.

Then in the evening I went to the Guthrie. A good friend of mine took me to a Guthrie production a year or so ago, and that visit reminded me how much I love the theater, and how much I missed it. This year I bought a season ticket series for 8 performances. Little House was the first.

I almost did something unheard of. I almost left at intermission.

It's not that it was a bad play. It was cute. The actors did fine jobs. The young women playing Laura and Mary had incredible voices and it was a joy to hear them in duets. Melissa Gilbert plays Ma and it was thrilling to see her on the stage. Her voice is clearly not her greatest strength, but she held her own. Nellie Oleson stole the show with her trademark mop of golden curls (based on the tv actress) and the actor playing Almanzo was easy on the eyes.

But the musical itself was, well, just boring. None of the songs were toe-tappers, I can't imagine anyone left humming any of the tunes. The story was fine if you are as familiar with the books as I am, and I am pretty sure most of the audience members were, but they condensed so much into a 2 1/2 hour performance that there was really no room for any depth or character development. If you walked in as cluelessly as I walked into Brideshead, I can't imagine you would have enjoyed it. And since I knew how it ended, I really did contemplate leaving at intermission. Sitting home reading with the dogs was just more enticing-sounding. But I did stay, and the second half was mildly better than the first, so I didn't regret it. Much.

My favorite part of the entire performance was when they were portraying a horse race and the entire cast stood in back as the audience for the race. At one point they all acted in slow motion, and it was marvelous - absolutely perfectly done, from the oldest man to the youngest girl, they all moved in perfect synchronicity until you believed you were watching a slow-motion film. That impressed the heck out of me.

But that, really, disappointingly, was it. So I don't recommend this one.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Techie Wannabe

Yesterday I bought an iPod.

Just the shuffle, with the smallest memory. It will hold 240 songs and I was quite sure I don't even know that many.

Sure enough, I don't. First off, it took me way longer than I am willing to admit to figure out how to hook the thing up to my computer and get it so that it was ready to get things downloaded onto it. But e-v-e-n-t-u-a-l-l-y I figured it out (if you take out the half-hour I had to MOVE AWAY FROM THE IPOD to avoid screaming at it and smashing it with my fist, well, then it didn't take that long. I mean, probably not a world-record in slowness or anything) and then I got ready to load up all my favorite songs.

First off, three ABBA songs. After seeing Mamma Mia, no surprise there. Then there are a couple other songs I remembered from American Idol that I wanted. Then Footloose, as I cannot sit still to that song, and I want all these songs to be the kinds that make me smile and FEEL GOOD.

Then .... I was stuck.

I searched on a few band names I could think of (how pathetic is it that this was really, really tough for me??) and in the end, after over 90 minutes of trying to find music, I now have 11 - yes, ELEVEN - songs on my iPod.

Yeah, I'm a music guru alright.

Friday, August 01, 2008

This just in ...

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Friday it has held meetings with U.S. store managers warning them of issues that could arise if Democrats win power and pass a law that would make it easier for workers to unionize, but stressed it was not telling workers how to vote.

Phew. We wouldn't want anyone to think this company has control issues.

(full article by clicking here.)

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