Monday, December 27, 2010

Airport Parenting

The stormy weather last week left thousands of passengers stranded. Delays due to the icy conditions in Moscow have even caused riots at the airport. These days with delays, cancellations, extra fees and security checks the word airport rarely congers soothing thoughts especially when kids are throw into the mix. However, while I waited for my flight out of Grand Forks, ND which was delayed for an hour and half due to engine failure(!), I did see overhear some very unexpected words from an extremely well composed parent.

Sitting behind me in the airport lobby was an antsy young boy, maybe 7 or 8 years old and his mom. To calm the boy down she said in the most calming voice, "how you respond to situations like this really speaks to your character." Wow, really??? To a 7-year-old? Does he know what the word character means?

At first I couldn't believe what I had heard but what took place next was even more shocking. The boy stopped fidgeting immediately and never spoke another word. Whatever that woman did she need to go file a patent, write a book and have a TV show about it.

Later on I did see the family holding their passports so we know they weren't just utilizing local country principles... If that boy didn't get the message it sure did leave a memorable impression on me.

Personality can be inherited, morales can be taught, opinions can be swayed, moods can be influenced but character is built over time. Apparently it's never too early to start or too late to catch up. Building a character and leaving a legacy all sound like things of the past. Just how often do we individuals think about that nowadays? What about our corporations?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Morning

The town is completely covered by ice and snow. It's really quiet beautiful. Following my weekend tradition, I put on another episode of the Deadliest Catch and cleaned up my kitchen. I'll be flying to Indiana this afternoon to spend sometime with my parents next week. There's plenty of food for the kitties and Kim is going to come check on them next week. I brought out their kitty tree and toys. I'm miss these little guys but it'll be nice to see my folks and have a break from work and this place...

Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tires Comes to Those Who Wait (or has a Chevy)

In case anyone's wondering, I did eventually get the two new front tires installed on my bug. The guys at the first local shop I stopped in didn't look very motivated and told me they're booked until next year. I was appreciative to have gotten an appointment at Firestone. The guys there were very professional and told me it should only take a half hour of so. I didn't care how long it took as long as they get the tires on. I've only been waiting for a whole month!

Still, when I took my car there during my lunch break I waited as if one of my cats was being operated on and not sure if he's going to come out alive. Every time someone walked through the shop doors I would nervously look over to expect them to tell me they can't work on the bug or some piece of tool was missing. No one ever came for me and I waited for a good hour and half. Finally, one of the guys said, "we're just doing the balancing now. It should be ready soon." I didn't allow my relieve to set in until I actually saw the tires on the car.

I look forward to getting a new car next summer but I have a feeling it's not going to be a Ford or a Chevy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Tire a Day, Accidents are Just a Slip Away!

Only here can I get experiences like this. For a month I have been planning and waiting for a set of two new front tires. Even though the original set barely has over 25K miles on it, the fact I've never rotated them made the tires unfit to plow through the snow. When the right size tires were finally came in stock yesterday I was relieved to get them just in time for the big snowstorm. Well, little did I know I was counting the tires before they were put on!

I've never knew how difficult it is to work on a VW until I moved to this town. First I couldn't find anyone to change the oil, then the mechanics couldn't figure out how to check the air filters and now no luck on getting the old tires off! The guys called me into the shop and asked for the "tool kit" that came with the car. Since I've never seen such tool kit before the only logical place to look for it would be around the spare tires. In my attempt to weight down the back wheels I have the tiny trunk stuffed with 60 pounds of kitty litter and a ten pound turkey (it was on sale during Thanksgiving and I couldn't turn down a turkey for $5). The shop guys had no interest to take my stuff out of the trunk so they told me to come back the next day to see their "tire expert." In the meantime I had applied for a Walmart credit card and had to spend $100 on the same day to qualify for promotions. I ended up walking out with ONE tire on my front seat. As I slowly crawled my way home through blizzard conditions I was frustrated but couldn't help but to laugh at the absurdity of the whole thing.

So here I am again at Walmart, after work, thinking I can finally have two new front tires! Well, damn it, not so fast again! I pull right up to the drive through and the guys didn't really care to see me again. One of the ones from the day before asked if I had found the tool kit. My blood pressure instantly raised through the roof. "You were suppose to have looked around the spare tire for the tool kit. Did you look for it?" I snapped back. Then he said, "You have lots of stuff in your trunk." This is just crazy because if you've ever seen the inside of a trunk on a bug you would know it's not possible to stuff much in there. "Could you have just moved the things out of the trunk?" I asked impatiently. "No, we can't remove any personal belongs from the vehicle." Man, that totally pushed me over the edge. "Could you at least have told me that yesterday? I could have just walked over and took the stuff out myself!"

Just as I shook my head in disbelief, the "tire expert" said, "we can't work on your car anyways because our hydraulic system is down. It's been down since yesterday." Oh, WTF!!! Then guy went on trying to explain to me the mechanics of the thing. I allowed him get his words out but I was not in the mood to listen. Clearly I was getting very upset so being the smarter guy in the dumb bunch he did what any sales associates would do, call a manager.

A few minutes later, a small group had assembled in the auto department: managers, shop guys and a couple strangers. I explained the frustration I incurred by coming to Walmart FIVE times in ONE month for TWO tires and still can't seem get anything done! The hydraulic system isn't going to get fixed until late January and I can't wait any longer. The guy from the day before was called in to verify my complain. "What did you tell her yesterday?" asked the manager. "I told her to come back today because we didn't have the tool kit." "Why didn't you tell her about our system being down?" "I don't know." I think it didn't take too long before the managers figured out what I was dealing with...indifference and poor service. As a gesture to salvage customer relations the manager offered me a discount on the second tire to cover extra expenses I will have to pay to get them installed elsewhere in town. It wasn't much but still better than nothing.

So one month and five visits later, I now have two brand new tires sitting inside of my car doing me absolutely no good! I just can't believe this is happening. With extremely limited options around town, it's not like I can just pack up and go to another shop down the street! This IS the inconvenient truth! Employment here comes at a price!!! Tomorrow is another day; another day to try to get two new tires put on the bug!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cold And Norwegian

This is my second weekend of watching the Deadliest Catch marathon on Netflix. By now the show for me has transformed from a mere distraction to get through the boring weekend to an obsession! For the short time I had basic cable at the corporate apartment I occasionally watched the show when it was on but never thought that I'd actually turn into an avid fan! Captain Sig is actually a very likable character, not in a warm and fuzzy kind of way but more like a rational and stern parent who you eventually comes to love and respect. Season 3 is by far the best one I've watched so far. The ending episode when the captain gave the young greenhorn the the NW jacket off his back was so moving I teared up like a 13-year-old girl watching the Titanic. Now with the Kindle in hand there's nothing stopping me for the "one-click" impulse purchase of the Captain Sig's bestseller: North by Northwestern! Now I'm tempted to buy souvenirs on their website. The "Norwegian Way" appeals would be perfect for this town! Maybe that's why I enjoy the show: cold and Norwegian, just like here! This is just sickening.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Too Distracted to Read

You can always tell a person by the kind of books he has. I've always loved to see my shelves full of books I've collected since high school. Many of them can be traced back to the little used book store on Monroe Ave. The move wore me down and with majority of the my bookshelves destroyed I finally gave in and got a Kindle.

When it arrived on Thursday night I was so frustrated that I couldn't get the wifi to work I almost sent it straight back. After hearing and reading all the glorious reviews I was initially disappointed by the user interface. The menu options are limited and commands are not intuitive. After fidgeting with it for a couple of days I'm finally warming up to the little thing. Kind like people, you've got to accept it for what it is: a simple reading device with a very readable screen. If you're looking for more bells and whistles go straight for an ipad.

Unfortunately it didn't take me long to be completely addicted to word games on my new Kindle! I've got the Shuffle Row, Scrabbles and Every Word downloaded and I spend a good portion of my day trying to beat my own scores on the "Shuffle Row." The game shows seven letters one at a time in a row and the player must try make up the longest word to score points before the first letter expires and the new letters come up. The game lasts about 10-15 minutes and my competitive side finds it totally addictive. It's so bad that I even took it to the gym with me today and played a game of scrabbles on the treadmill. It took me a mile to complete the game. Maybe with enough practice I can run and play scrabble at the same time and get 1.5 miles in a game? Or maybe I can speed up my game to three quarter of a mile's time? Is it wrong to have a kindle and not read books on it???

The river has been frozen for quite sometime now. The ice fishing village is up and snowmobiles are everywhere. On the way back from the gym I snapped a picture from the riverbank.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Frozen Shut

Winter is well on its way now. With day time temperature dipping to 15 below and -31 windchill factor I have no reason to go outside other than getting the minimum essentials from the grocery store. I feel pretty good having stocked up on frozen tofu and all sorts of sauces I got from Minneapolis. The temperature is so harsh now that my even my door and windows are frozen from the inside! Thankfully heat is included in the rent here otherwise I'd have a real difficult time to pay to stay warm all winter.

The kitties are in hibernation mode now, barely moving and constantly snuggled up to stay warm. They are very cute. I try to get them some daily exercise with the laser light.

The entire weekend was spent watching the Deadliest Catch marathon. Season 1 and 2 done, now onto season 3. Alaskan crab business is hard and dangerous work. According to the show salt ocean water freezes 27 1/2*F and the sea fogs up at 14*F and the coldest windchill called out on the show in the middle of January on the Baring Sea was -25*F. The crab cages and the entire boat can be covered under a thick sheet of ice from the ocean spray. It's hard to watch fishermen perish in the ocean yet there's something strangely satisfying and calming to watch people working in extremely cold conditions. It reminds me that at least I'm staying toasty and dry inside.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Open House

The Elf said "the best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear."
Since this place is already cold like North Pole why not go all the way out for Christmas? Decorated Christmas trees are going up everywhere in the building. Today the company had a grand open house that was advertised in all local news media to welcome everyone in the surrounding community to visit. This special annual event took place in the company auditorium accompanied by the music and cookies. Even though my Christmas carol repertory prior to this month has been pretty much limited to Jingle Bells and We Wish You A Merry Christmas, there was nothing stopping me from getting paid regular work hours to rehearse for and perform at the all day long open house.

I wouldn't call myself a good singer but I have participated in the chorus in both high school and college. Eastman also had an annual holiday sing in the main lobby, which I found to be very enjoyable (and we were only singing about peace on earth). Today's performance was easily the most unique and complex one I've ever experienced.
First of all, we sang five 30-minute sets from 10am to 3pm (starting on each hour and the last one at 2:30). I've never spent so much time praising the Lord in my whole life. Most other religious songs I've had to sing before were typically in Latin so they didn't sound so absurd. And besides, having studied it for three years in high school I really enjoy Latin. I think if I do this once a year I can almost qualify myself as a good Christian.
In additional to the chorus there were also four soloists with ear pieces! We had a professional sound system. REALLY? Are you serious? Shouldn't people be doing moonwalk with that kind of equipment?
Instead of repeating one set of songs five times we did FIVE DIFFERENT sets. All the songs were selected from a company-approved Christmas song book (for copyright reasons, but NOT to be politically correct). And since this town has the highest Norwegian population per capital outside of Norway we had to add a Norwegian song as well! Wow, I am totally beefing up my Christmas song repertory!
To make things more complicated, only selected verses were sung for each song and sometimes the chorus alternates with the soloists. None of this is would be out of the norm if it was under any other circumstances and if we had more time to rehearse. We sang according to an excel spreadsheet detailing the song, the page#, the verses, who sings what, etc. Frankly, no part of today's event would be considered "normal" if we were anywhere else!

To keep all the singers on their toes we had to alternate between half hour of singing and half hour of working. Not sure if this makes a lot of sense considering it takes some people ten minutes just to walk back to their desk. It was kind nice at first but towards the end I was actually exhausted. During my first semester at Eastman I saw a girl faint at a rehearsal and dropped straight down to the floor. Ever since then I was always paranoid about falling off the stands. This afternoon was the worst. I became fidgety towards the end and started to move my legs around to make sure my knees are not locked for me to fall on my face. I was really relieved when it was all over.

The decoration in the large auditorium was really quite impressive with three huge Christmas trees, a handful of smaller trees, a big fake glowing fireplace, a life-size creepy fake Santa, a wall of Christmas stockings for the contest and fancy holiday centerpieces with candles on every table. All the ceiling lights were dimmed leaving only the candles and spot lights on the walls. For a moment I really felt as if I was singing about witchcraft at Hogwarts School in Harry Potter. It was just like that one scene when the chorus sang at the beginning of the school year!

Life is all about experiences. Today was definitely a special one that you won't find anywhere else.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

1/8 Way There

It's been three months since I wore high heels (and twenty more to go!). In a building where my office is a quarter mile from my boss's and I'm always running late it's probably for the best that I always have flats on now. The only difficulty was that I had to buy all new pants to fit my new 3-inch shorter figure. No more skirts in the office but with 20 below wind chill I've got no desire to expose any part of my skin. The cold becomes really painfully when the temperature dips below zero. When the wind picks up it's impossible to be outside. Even though the move was a total disaster and I'm still sorting through the boxes I am glad to be settled into my own place with the kitties.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Winter Frost

View from my windows:

Looks delicious. Feels like 20 below.