Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Roosting With the Dead

Update for you on Shit Mountain. It seems that either the NYC pigeon housing market is just as tight as the human one, or pigeons are not all that fussed about ritual burial. This isn’t the greatest picture, but if you look closely you can see the pigeon that has been ‘napping’ on the right side, unmoved for over 11 days now, and a new SM resident on the upper left.
In an unrelated story, I made it back to NYC after 5 days in Raleigh. I am glad to be home. I saw my parents, sister, brother-in-law and two nieces. This year I gave the girls a Wii and many rounds of Wii bowling and Hanna Montana World Tour were subsequently played. I am happy to report that low-tech is still alive and well. Santa brought the girls each a Slinky and I think those coils were the hit of Christmas. Certainly no toy garnered more attention. I gave my parents and sister & brother-in-law a Flip video camera so look for them all up on You Tube any minute.

Everyone else got a Kiva gift certificate. Kiva is a micro-loan organization that allows members to lend directly to small opportunities in the developing world. The entrepreneur then pays back the loan and you can relend to another opportunity. I think this supports growth and is more likely to make a long term difference than traditional aid, which often begets the need for more aid. Check it out.

I’m presently reading the Elegance of the Hedgehog. So far I would give it just an *okay* rating. It’s a bit of a slow starter with tons of allusions to Japanese films I haven’t seen and Russian novels I haven’t read. In short, it seems to be a bit culturally snobby and I’m more of a Philistine, so maybe I’m just not the target audience. I’ll finish it out just the same and let you know if it picks up.

I’m 23 days into 31 days with no alcohol. It has been pretty easy, though I did really want a glass of red wine when I went to Frankie’s recently with Keri and being around my family was a bit of a struggle. Still, so far I would say that 31 days without alcohol has been much easier than the times recently I’ve tried to go a month with no meat (one success, one failure), but New Year’s Eve tomorrow may present a special challenge. Maybe I’ll take my flask (Blomus) full of water to seem like I’m participating.

Given that not drinking for a month was pretty easy so far, and looking for more of a test, I think I’ll try this 100 push up challenge that Jesse told me about. I'm just getting started and so far I’ve only taken the first test (30) but you if you really have an unnatural level of interest in the details of my life you can track my progress here . Sorry about that, but it’s only through public scrutiny that I’ll motivate myself to complete this. Lynn & Robbie have a friend named Andre that is performing a similar challenge, but with Chin-ups. I think he is a mad man. I am envious of his drive and I will not be picking any fights with him.

I have declared off season cross training offically underway. I've been running again and getting back into 7 minute abs. Some of Ambush is meeting on Saturday for a run, pushups, abs, throwing session and it will be good to shaek off some cobwebs.

Any and all theories on why I’ve had a splitting headache for the past week or so are welcome. I thought it was a gas leak in 29, but my head also hurt the whole time I was in Raleigh and I think they have an electric stove so there must be some other reason. I am trying to cut out caffeine to see if that helps. (No Makers Mark, No Coffee, No Meat? What else is there...? I hardly recognize myself.)

Last night my headache was super bad (railroad spike in the forehead bad) after the viewing of Slumdog Millionaire, which, conversely, was super good. GO SEE IT. It’s an impossible love story and a comment on urban slums. It reminded me a bit of The Usual Suspects and the child actors are incredible.

Speaking of 29 (scroll up, I was. Transitions are hard), no one told Stefan Slywotzky about the economic downturn. He’s raising my rent 8%. I love 29 but in this market rents should be stable or perhaps giving back some of the gains of recent years, (like everyone else) so perhaps it is finally time to move. We’ll see. The thought of packing and getting a truck makes my stomach turn.

It seems my Eagles were just waiting for me to disown them again, to prove to me that they deserved my love. It worked. I am so excited to be in the playoffs. I can’t really explain how we lost to Dallas in week 2 and scored only 3 points against the hapless Redskins in week 16 and then somehow laid 44 points on a Cowboys team that had everything to play for in week 17, but I don’t really care. This weekend takes the Eagles to the dome in Minnesota and I will be yelling at my TV all game.

Here’s another one of those stories that I think helps to answer the question, “Why do the terrorist
hate us?”

Today’s Fun fact: 12 – The number of shirts I own with 55 on the back.

This is a bit dated, but here's a pic I took in the Fiji airport and meant to show you back in July but I lost track of it.

Keep that in mind. Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I could be the Jane Goodall of pigeons…

So much more happens in my life when I get to work in town for a few days. It is great to be home in NYC.

I went to see The Wrestler (Aronofsky's new film) last night. Though it seems to draw its inspiration from the 1999 documentary, Beyond the Mat it somehow makes the story more real, by turning it into fiction. The film is intense. I had to watch several scenes through parted fingers with my hands pressed over my eyes. I would strongly recommend the film. The set and so many tiny costume details nail the desperate mood perfectly. Look for the duct tape patches on his vest to increase throughout the film. The van and trailer are depressing enough in a single shot to capture the mood of the entire film. (Todd Berry, who I once accidentally bought a beer for and subsequently, took said beer away from, turns in a spot-on performance of a prick supervisor.) I think you pretty much know the plot if you’ve seen a single trailer, and I won’t give anything more away, but I found Randy/Robin to be everyman, struggling to make our way in the world as who we wish we were, while being confronted at every turn with who we actually are, and while we wait for whatever means we use of earning a living to destroy us and leave us broken and hopeless. Merry Christmas.

In other news, I gave blood yesterday. Don’t forget to make an appointment as blood banks need you this time of year more than any other. I wanted to ask the Phlebotomist about the training course he’d had taken to be certified to draw blood in New York State (It’s a three week course that you can complete in 3 consecutive weekends and I’m considering as a test to gather some input about myself as to whether I could survive nursing school) but I thought he might mistake my curiosity about the course as concerns about his proficiency and I didn’t want to pry or seem rude while he had a huge needle in my arm.

Also draining my very lifeblood these days: the Philadelphia Eagles. I am actually jealous of Detroit Lions fans. At least they knew what was happening early on and didn’t waste all season to have their heart broken by a team that could only muster 3 points in a game against the anemic Redskins with the entire season on the line. The game made me sick. I guess we just don’t deserve to go the playoffs. I don’t know what my second team will be; I’ll hope the playoffs are just cancelled, like the year baseball went on strike. If that doesn’t workout, it’s likely that I’ll throw my support behind anyone playing the New York Gnats.
After that terrible Eagle loss, where they teased out hope until the very last second, I did not drown my sorrows, as would typically be my custom. I’m conducting a little experiment to take 31 days off from drinking. A search of this blog for the keyword ‘hangover’ yields 10 hits, and there are certainly others I haven’t even felt well enough to whine about, which is probably a bit more than recommended. To see if things are better sans hangover, I’m taking a 31 day hiatus from alcohol. I’m 16 days in and so far, so good. No major revelations or changes. One thing I have learned is that what I thought was being ‘hungover’ is actually the sensation of ‘waking up’. I wake up with a headache and a stomach ache every day. I think my body has an adverse reaction to morning. And to beeping. I hate beeping.

Not sure if this is a side effect from the ‘break’ or if I was briefly possessed by an alien life form, but I made soup the other day. A whole pot of it. Celery. Tomatoes. Carrots. Corn. Garlic. Pasta. Oregano. It was good. I don’t expect it to happen again.

Those of you who know me, know one of my favorite features of my beloved apartment is ‘Shit Mountain’. Two pigeon nests outside a window near my apartment that appear to have been built up out of decades of piled up pigeon waste. No other nesting material is visible. What an innovative use of materials to build a safe place to rear your young! I check the nests every day when I go in and out of the apartment. I’ve seen many generations hatch. I have never before seen what is happening now. There seems to be a perished pigeon on the right side of the ‘duplex’. He’s been slumped over, head hanging down low for days now. Maybe he got into some rat baited food and flew home before the poison kicked in. What I find so strange is that other pigeons seem to come and go from the ‘nest’ with little regard of this apparent detail. You would think they might find settling in next to a corpse, well... unsettling, but they don’t seem bothered at all. I’m excited about seeing this other end of the life cycle, since I’ve seen the beginning of the story so many times. I’m curious what will become of the dead pigeon. From where he is, wind wouldn’t blow him out, so it’s fairly likely he’ll just be absorbed into the nest and the next generation will hatch literally on top of him!

A quick check of the New York City weather tells me this: It’s presently 30 degrees and the High for today is 29, the Low is 26. Tomorrow’s projected low is 40, with a projected high of 49. Can anyone tell me how this is possible? If it’s 30 now, shouldn’t the high for today be at least 30? And if the high for today is 30 and the low for tomorrow is 40, then is the temperature going to jump from 30 to 40 at 12:01 AM? This infuriates me. Get it straight meteorologist!

Tomorrow I fly to Raleigh to see the nieces, my parents, sister and brother-in-law. Here’s hoping we have an ambulance free holiday (for once). Deck the Halls.

Friday, December 19, 2008

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly...

Happy Holidays 2008! I hope this annual holiday letter finds you well.

2008 was a ‘Tale of Two Hemispheres’ for me with the first half still in Australia and the second half back home in NYC.

I’m still working for Accenture, now in my 10th year (can that be possible?) and now a Senior Manager. This year I’ve worked in Melbourne for Telstra, in Dallas for AT&T and in Minneapolis (where I am now) for Best Buy. In between Telstra and AT&T, this August, I got the opportunity to teach a new joiner school for a few weeks in St. Charles, Illinois and that was a great change of pace.

I started 2008 on a trip to Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa. It was an incredible trip. (I’ve done the scouting now, so do let me know if you want to join in on my return trip to SA for the 2010 world cup.) I enjoyed safaris in the Pilanesburg National Park, gambling at Sun City, climbing Table Mountain and touring Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned.

While South Africa was the most beautiful place I have ever been, the striking beauty was paired with unavoidable scenes of struggle and inequity. Millions of people live in Townships in abject poverty with few opportunities and little hope. Shacks like the ones below stretch for miles in all directions. It was a sobering reminder throughout my trip how lucky I am.

African wildlife isn’t fairing much better with continual reduction in habitat pushing many species to the brink of extinction. Outside of Cape Town, I visited a Cheetah rescue. While orphan cheetahs raised in captivity cannot be reintroduced into the wild, the funds raised from tourist attractions like this one (below) are used for conservation efforts. This cheetah was impossibly soft and shockingly, painfully beautiful. Being close to it was one of the highlights of the year.

In March I went to Rimini, Italy for the Paganello World Beach Ultimate Championships. I had a blast with my team, D-Rex. It was cold and rainy and we partied pretty hard. I think we finished 9th overall but none of us could still count to 9 when it was all said and done.

Back in Australia, the ultimate continued as I played a second season with the top women’s team from Melbourne, Sporting Team Box Althetico United. In April, I road-tripped to the Australian National Ultimate Championships in Coffs Harbor with my pal Lauren. Team Box is an incredible group of women and girls and we bring an irreverence to ultimate that is sorely needed.
Team Box (I’m in the very middle.)

All over the landscape of Australia there are these big tourist attractions like "The Big Banana" pictured below. They are hokey, quaint and a lot of fun, not unlike Australia itself.

This May, I made a trip back to the US for my sister Lynn’s 40th birthday. (Man Lynn, you are really getting up there!) Another reason for that trip was to attend my friend and Ambush teammate Jennifer Christenson’s wedding to Brian (Chip) Stout in North Carolina. They had a beautiful ceremony and we all had a wonderful time. Here is me as a bridesmaid on the far left:

In July, I left Australia and moved back to NYC and back into my East Village apartment. I had a great time while I was in Melbourne and I’ll miss all the friends I made there. There was a fun ultimate pick-up game send off my last day there, which was the perfect way to say farewell. I spent a few days in Fiji on the way home. Fiji was beautiful, but by that point I was impatient to get back to the city. I’ve really enjoyed being back home and getting reacquainted with the best city in the world. I’d say my favorite thing about being home is good places to get brunch.

As soon as I got back home I synced up with my NY Ultimate team, Ambush. This year we played tournaments in Ottawa, Vermont, Santa Cruz, outside of Boston and also qualified for the UPA national championship in Sarasota, Florida in October:

We finished up in 14th place and had a great time at the big dance. (I’m in the middle.)

With 2008 drawing to a close, I got the chance to spend Thanksgiving in Myersville, Maryland. Again I was surrounded by animals, but this time slightly less exotic ones: 2 parents, 2 dogs, 2 cats (not pictured), 2 horses (not pictured) and 2 “mini” horses.
We had a feast for twenty (divided by only 3) and I spent some time with my parents and all the animals. My dad and I caught a Wizards game as well. (Thanks to all of you who continue to ask about my nieces Kate & Lindy. Both are doing just great and spent Thanksgiving at Disney World with their parents.)

That’s about it. Look forward to next year’s letter when I’ll tell you about all my antics 2009. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

mild update on my 'life'

Greetings. What can I tell you?

I am pretty much finished with my holiday shopping. The only thing left is that I have been looking for US Senate vacancies on eBay. There are a couple of seats I have my eye on so I guess we’ll see how the bidding goes at the last minute.

Also, if you haven’t finished your holiday shopping yet, Jesse suggests this item, which is truly appropriate for anyone, and has a low carbon footprint.

It will shock no one to report that Minneapolis was cold. Work was work. I am back working in NY for now and won’t have to go back to Minneapolis until January. I didn’t do or see anything while I was there, save the inside of my hotel room and my client’s corporate headquarters. I did not even visit Camp Snoopy in the Mall of Americas. Mostly the cold suppresses any and all exploration urges but not having a car dampens my roaming around as well.

Last weekend Chip & Jen were in town visiting but I barely got to see them as they had a whirlwind schedule and I was quite busy as well. We had the Ambush end of season banquet and it was great to see everyone, eat waaay too much and shake it to our favorites. We are really a dance troupe that plays ultimate to cross-train.

Last weekend I also went to a Knicks game at the garden to see my (ex)boyfriend AI with his new team the Pistons and it really did not work out. (Abysmal no-name Knicks prevail.) I am hoping it is a timing thing and that he has not jumped the shark.

Stephen has offered this comment on AI as a means of explanation. Scroll down for Allen.

The Eagles also beat the Giants which was an unexpected source of much joy.

Other than work and watching sports things have been pretty quiet. Ultimate is in the off season and my hamstring is appreciating that.

The only other major update for me is that I have joined this decade and purchased an iPhone (Leroy). I love him. It is the best thing that has happened to my life in years. I compulsively download apps for it (I love Lux Touch and Around Me). The e-mail interface is better that the one on my laptop. There’s basically nothing he can’t do as far as I can tell. Airport delays are just more time to surf, mail, play games and listen to audio. I’m a happy-camper.

This coming weekend should be busy with some visitors in town from Australia and a holiday brunch. MNF is my birds hosting the Browns which they absolutely must win and are completely capable of losing. I’ll be yelling at the TV with my hands over my eyes, like any Philly fan.

For Christmas I’ll be in Raleigh with my nieces, the Gupton girls. I am looking forward to seeing them and they are looking forward to Santa’s arrival. I have been running queries against the naughty/nice database and it seems they are both in good shape.

It’s almost time to draft this year’s holiday letter. In order to be prepared, be sure check out last year’s letter.