Saturday, July 31, 2004

Some trip pictures

I've been hesitant to post any more trip pictures. The reason is that I have only been able to edit them on the laptop PC. I think the laptop shows pictures a little brighter than they appear on a regular screen, so I've wanted to wait until I could hook up the desktop screen to this computer. Still, it has been a few weeks since the trip, and I still haven't done that. So, for now, I'll just throw a couple of shots out there and hope they look okay.

This is Heaven's Peak in Glacier National Park (in Montana)...

And this is a shot of sunset over Flathead Lake (also in Montana)...

Friday, July 30, 2004

A night out with The Blogger Boys

Doesn't he look serious and reserved? Okay, but this is Patrick in VT on a train. This is not to be confused with Patrick in Manhattan at a bar. The latter is a much more dangerous creature, especially to one's liver!

Last night, Marc and I finally joined in one of the nights out on the town, and, to borrow a line from a favorite movie, "It’s twue! It’s twue!" No, I didn’t have an intimate moment with Cleavon Little. Rather, I’m talking about my old friend Patrick. Yes, kids, as suggested by others, he is the quintessential devil in these matters, at least when it comes to his ability to pour alcoholic beverages into his friends. ;)

Yes, last night, Marc and I decided to ignore our work-related fatigue and head into Manhattan to join The Blogger Boys at The Townhouse for drinks. We had a great time and finally got to meet some of the wonderful guys whom we had previously known only through their blogs and occasional e-mails.

The night ended around 10:30pm—this, on the Patrick scale of nights out, rates as a premature end to the night (or, putting it another way, Patrick suffered from drinkus interruptus). For those of us who had to go to work this morning and don’t possess Patrick’s ability to drink the night away and still go to work in the morning, this was late enough. Fortunately, Greg joined us toward the end of the drinking and was helpful in dragging his drunken hubby out of there.

Fortunately for me, I drove in, so I had an excuse not to drink. Everyone else, however, fell victim to Patrick the Drink Pusher (hereinafter, “PDP”). PDP, who was quite generous in buying rounds of drinks, was quite aggressive in making sure his friends had a great time (great time translating into getting plastered). Marc had a great time, and it’s not so bad for me to have the man I sleep with go home drunk (after almost nine years, I’ll take any help I can get!). ;) Marc was, however, somewhat the worse for wear this morning!

For a fair chunk of the evening, I joined MAK in his retreat to the bar in the basement, keeping him company while he hid from the evil PDP (last seen setting up shots on the upstairs bar and insisting that everyone have yet another round). Also keeping us company was Charlie the bartender. Charlie was downright droolworthy (<--like that word? I just made it up!). He’s also a nice guy, and that’s always a lovely combination.

Speaking of MAK, he is as charming as can be. Before I ever got there, Marc was on the phone to me (we headed in separately, as I had a late meeting at work)--Marc had to tell me (in addition to PDP working very hard to get him drunk) that I was going to love MAK. He was right! MAK is wonderful. He’s funny and sweet. K. is a lucky man!

Another wonderful guy we got to meet is Byrne. He’s very down-to-earth, and he's funny, too. The strangest thing is that he’s single. Now, he doesn’t look like Dean Cain, but how many of us do? (I sure don't!) Even so, he’s a nice looking guy. More importantly, he’s a great guy in the ways that really count. Is the gay dating world too shallow to have some smart boys going after this lovely man? I don’t think so!-—someone with some brains, go grab this nice rugby boy before you miss your chance!

We met several other bloggers, but, lacking all of their blog URLs (and afraid I’ll forget someone!), I won’t list them here. Suffice it to say, they are a lovely group of people. Even though it’s hard for us to get into Manhattan for some of these events, especially when we have to work the next morning, we can’t wait for our next chance to hit the town with The Blogger Boys.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Damn Constitutional term limit

As I sit here watching Bill Clinton, I can't help but wish he could do as FDR did and keep running. I'm hopeful that John Kerry and John Edwards will run W and Mr. Halliburton out of town. Even so, Bill Clinton is terrific. He's a sensible moderate, a great communicator, and he loves a good blowjob. My kind of guy! ;)

Oh well, I guess I'll have to be satisfied if those religious zealot-coddling, right-wing corrupt bastards get thrown out of the White House, especially since a Democratic win this year may prevent a major swing in the makeup of the Supreme Court. The Kerry-Edwards ticket has my support, but I do miss President Clinton!

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Another busy weekend

Sorry for being so irresponsible. I know my legions of fans are staying up late tonight, waiting to find out what I did this weekend. So I should have posted something sooner!

Well, here's the bottom line: lots of chores. Yes, again. In this lovely picture, snapped with my cell phone camera, Jeff and Marc are examining boxes at Staples. We needed to get boxes, so we could pack up more stuff. We're trying to figure out what to save (from my Mom's and grandmother's), what to sell at a garage sale and what to trash.

Added to this, we had the huge excitement of grocery shopping, watering the lawn and doing laundry. Oh yeah, one other bit of excitement: one of the dogs got sick, and I got to clean it up. Such fun!

I know, I know. You're saying, "Why can't my life be as exciting as the one Jess leads?" Ah, that's a tough one. It's not easy to have this much fun in one life! ;)

By the way, anyone who has some spare time on the weekend and would like to help pack, clean or move things, let me know! We can't afford to pay you, but we'll feed you and serve drinks at the end of the day! :)

Friday, July 23, 2004

Who says Americans don't know good nutrition?

From those paragons of good nutrition, Krispy Kreme, comes a set of drinks that show how screwed up things are in the world of American nutrition far better than any Big Mac ever could. I mean, at least a Big Mac has beef, lettuce, etc. (or, to be more specific, for those of us who may remember the jingle, two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun). At least it offers some nutritional value.

These drinks, on the other hand, offer nothing redeeming that I can discern. I mean, I've certainly done poorly at watching my own nutrtion. I need to lose a ton of weight...but I never went nuts about junk food. When I ate too much, it tended to be real food; that, and luck (and genetics, I suppose), may be why I haven't suffered ill effects from being overweight so far. (Now I just have to knock off the weight before it catches up with me, but I digress...)

So the people at Krispy Kreme think it's a good idea to offer a drink with 160 grams of carbohydrates??? Yes, 740 calories and 160 grams of carbs in one 20 ounce drink (that being the 20 ounce "Double Chocolate").

You don't have to be dieting to be taken aback by this, I would think.

The icing on the cake, so to speak, is this: "Wednesday's announcement sent Krispy Kreme shares up as much as 3 percent in early trading." So I guess Wall Street sees the merit to selling Americans crap.

When Marc and I visited France, it was nothing but wonderful fresh food every day. Even the little sidewalk cafes had nice, fresh food. My personal opinion about the low heart attack rate in France is that the main reason is the 51 weeks of vacation they get each year (I might be exaggerating that number just a bit), but the lack of the crap that the American food industry throws at us constantly can't hurt them. Personally, I'd rather have a ready supply of farm-fresh vegetables like they have. Apparently, marketing studies helped our mega-corporations decide that we don't want that.

It's working!!!

For the past few months, I've been dieting. We're doing a semi-Atkins thing. It's low carb, but we make sure we have veggies, fruit, fiber, etc., so it's not hard-core Atkins. (We think this is a healthier approach.) Marc has been dieting with me, even though he has very little to lose. He had a little extra around the middle when we started, but I'm the one who really needs to lose.

So, before our trip a few weeks ago, I went to visit my doctor. He's a top-flight doctor and a good person all in one (a tough combination to find!). Being the nice guy that he is, I can pop in and visit him if I'm in the neighborhood. So I did, and, on my way out, I used the nice, accurate super-duper electronic doctor's scale there.

Today, I had my annual physical exam, and the one thing I was worried about was whether I had lost weight.

Let me back up a moment, for a little history of the diet. For the first month or two, it was quite clear I was losing. Some old pants that hadn't fit in quite a while suddenly fit. Also, a new suit that had fit perfectly (custom suits are so nice!) was a couple of inches too big.

More recently, I haven't been sure if it was working. I mean, the new suit was still too loose, but it's hard to tell how many inches too loose. As for other clothes, I thought I could tell a difference, but things change slowly.

So today was a big day. How would it go? Well, the doctor told me I was in wonderful health. Blood pressure: 118/80. Okay. My heart, lungs, etc., sounded perfect. Good. My liver was the right size (probably because I keep missing Patrick's drinking adventures). Yes, everything was good, but I really wanted to know one thing... had I lost weight? Had the diet gone well enough that the few times we were bad on our trip wouldn't be enough to throw it all off?

Well, I would have settled for being down a couple of pounds. Instead, I found that I had lost 9 pounds in the last 3-4 weeks. I am soooooo happy! It's really working!

There's no reason it shouldn't. Still, seeing the proof of it has made my day. :)

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

A sad day

In the past week, we lost one of our employees. I don't mean he quit--I mean "lost" in the most permanent sense.

He was one of our hospital security officers. He was a retired New York City police officer who survived 20 years of NYC during the days when it had a high crime rate. He worked all those years without getting hurt.

Following his retirement, he worked a few part-time jobs. One of them was with us. Another was as a Bay Constable, one day a week, for one of the small towns further east on Long Island. Bay Constables aren't supposed to be in great danger, although any peace officer's job can involve going in harm's way.

So Richard Brooks wasn't actually patrolling the bay on a boat last Friday. Rather, he was on dry land when he saw someone driving erratically. He pursued the driver to the driver's home. When they got there, the man he was chasing ran inside. Officer Brooks remained outside and called for backup, not knowing that the man had grabbed a shotgun he had in his house. The man shot Officer Brooks and then came out of the house and proceeded to run over his body. Another officer arrived and shot the criminal to death, but the damage was done. Officer Brooks lay dead.

Today was his funeral. He leaves a wife and two kids. If you want to contribute to a fund for his family, e-mail me. The Security Department is taking up a collection, and I'll be glad to share contact info for our Security Director.

Monday, July 19, 2004

When pigs fly

While visiting our psychiatric division today (not to check in as a patient, although that is tempting), I saw a sign in the administrative offices that said the staff was told by those of us in senior management that they'd see raises "when pigs fly." Right near the sign, hanging from the ceiling, was what you see in the picture. Gotta love employees who can keep their senses of humor! :)

(Photo courtesy of my cell phone's itty bitty camera, in case anyone's wondering if I walk around with a camera at all times) ;)

Sunday, July 18, 2004

I finally did it

I've been into photography for as long as I can remember. I held off on making the move to digital for several years. Finally, I bought a digital SLR earlier this year. Since then, I haven't used my film cameras. So, today I shot digital pictures of my 35mm and medium format equipment, wrote descriptions and listed all of it on Ebay.

I know--big deal. Well, it is for me. Aside from overcoming procrastination, it was a big step moving to digital. Actually parting with all of my film equipment feels like it really seals the deal. No going back.

So now I just have to see if I get decent offers. It's great equipment, so I sure hope it pulls in good money.

(If anyone's interested, I think this will list all of it: jess466 Items for Sale)

Saturday, July 17, 2004

If I knew then what I know now...

Today, we spent more time clearing out my grandmother's and mother's homes. At my Mom's, we found some old photos. While going through them, I found a picture of myself (on a county parks pass, of all things) and was floored by how cute I was. I'll put it this way: I would have done me!

Yes, yes, I know how unbelievably narcissistic that sounds. The sad thing is, I'm just aging and obese now... but I was wowed by that picture. I really didn't think I was at all good looking back then.

Now I know why one of the cute girls asked me to the prom--being an idiot, I declined. Not that girls were ever really my thing, but it could have been fun. Setting that aside, if I had realized that others might find me attractive, I could have had more fun with the boys! I did have fun with one boy (with a great body and lots of stamina), over quite a nice span of time during those years, and I guess I should be glad for that. Actually, I was very happy for that!

Still, I had no idea! When I showed Marc the picture, he said, "Yes, TTB, you were very cute!" He then added, "you still are," but that's either 1) love talking, or 2) him trying to keep me happy. :)

I then said, "if I had a clue how to hook up back then, I could have been getting laid all the time!" With that, he rolled his eyes and went back to what he was doing.

Since it was the early-to-mid 80s, it's probably best that I wasn't more promiscuous, given the new and not-well-understood threat arriving on the scene when I was in high school.

I guess things may happen for a reason, after all. Even so, the picture was really quite an eye-opener for me!

Friday, July 16, 2004

Are the producers of CSI insane?

This afternoon, I was catching up on today's news (just to see if W started any more unnecessary wars) on CNN's website when I noticed this article: Reports: 'CSI' actors fired.

So, with great concern, I clicked on the article.  So who did they fire?  Jorja Fox and George Eads!  I like Jorja and George as actors.  More importantly, I was about to propose to George!  (No one tell Marc!)  ;)
George Eads?  Okay, I've since heard that the reason they let him go was--surprise, surprise--because he wanted more money.  Yeah, and?  How much could he demand?  Whatever it is, pay it!  Or are the producers blind?  How can they possibly let that gorgeous man slip between their fingers (in the figure of speech sense, not in another way that I can easily envision!)?
They must be completely insane!

Who the #%@! changed Blogger?

And why?  I just learned how to enter what I want the way I want.  Now I log into the "Blogger Dashboard" to find that it works differently.  If this keeps up, I may have to learn some basic HTML coding and do it myself (what a thought!).

Thursday, July 15, 2004

A room with a view

The view from my office took a turn for the better today.  Normally, being in a nice suburban area, I can enjoy a view of the trees, grass, birds, squirrels, etc.
Today, I saw that one of the houses behind us was undergoing some construction.  This construction apparently required the presence of a large, well-built man with a great chest and no need for a shirt.
Yes, the view was lovely today!  :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Busy at work, but no work at home tonight... Hurray!

Well, today was another fun day at work. Aside from fun with the unions and the previously mentioned headaches, we're facing our Joint Commission survey in six weeks. For those of you not familiar with the Joint Commission (or its full name, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations), take my word for it that it strikes fear into the hearts of hospital managers nationwide. The Joint Commission, or JCAHO (usually pronounced "Jay-Co" by those terrified souls suffering with its requirements), sets standards for healthcare organizations and conducts a full "survey" every three years. The survey checks all manner of things, from employees following proper procedures to policies being updated to cleanliness and functionality of facilites/equipment to the completeness of employee records.

Needless to say, anyone facing a JCAHO survey scrambles to get everything ready. Why don't we prepare in advance, you ask? Oh, we do. At my old place, we started a year in advance and still had to scramble to get things set as the surveyors were doing there work. The standards they set are simply that strict. Really, no one can meet them all...not all the time, at least. I don't really object, however, as they keep hospitals (and other healthcare organizations) on their toes. If they didn't face these surveys and the inspections by other agencies (like the State Department of Health), who knows what would happen. Some people in healthcare have as lax an attitude as the slugs in other industries, but we have the added charm of being able to easily kill people. So I am glad for the existence of JCAHO.

With six weeks until our survey, we're getting into high gear. There will be lots of late nights and weekend meetings. Such is life. I just hope we make it through relatively intact.

On a happier note, I didn't bring home work tonight. Instead, Marc and I are watching a classic film I never managed to see. We're watching A Streetcar Named Desire.

I must say, I never knew Marlon Brando had been such a hottie! Holy cow! I only knew the older Brando. From The Godfather to the troubles of his son, Christian, to being a punch line for the jokes of comedians, that's the Marlon Brando I knew.

The Marlon Brando I am now seeing on my TV screen is a totally different Marlon Brando. He's an unmitigated babe. Makes you think what the passage of time can do to a man.

Oh, dear. That's a scary thought. Well, I guess I'd better just enjoy the good years while I can! :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

One man show

One of these days, I really have to land a job in a place that is properly staffed and fiscally healthy.

Don't get me wrong. I work with some good people. Of course, there are some not-so-good ones, too, but the real problem is a lack of skilled staff in my department.

For anyone who reads this and doesn't know what I do, I will give the short version: I'm the Human Resources Director of a hospital on Long Island. (That's as short as I can make it!)

Now, a proper size for an HR Department would be one HR person for each 100 employees the hospital has. In healthcare, we usually work short--the statistics say a more common ratio is 0.7 HR people per 100 employees.

We have about 1,500 employees in the hospital, so that means I should have, even going by the lower healthcare average, about 10 or 11 HR staff members. The usual approach is to have trained, skilled HR people filling all, or at least most, of the slots.

So what do I have? I have 3.5 clerical staff members and a temp who is working to get my file room in order. A couple of the clerical employees have some brains, but they don't have HR experience. At least one shows promise for learning the business, but none of this really helps me right now.

This is an especially big problem, since I have multiple sets of union negotiations going on.

I took a vacation a week or two ago--as you can see from my early blog entries--and they kept calling me. I can't blame them, as they were in over their heads on many things. Despite these calls, the place still managed to blow up repeatedly while I was away.

The senior management now feels even more that I am indispensable to the operation. As flattering as that may sound, it sucks. Take my advice, never be indispensable! No one should be, as the role sucks.

Of course, no one really is. If I got hit by a truck, someone would be found to fill the role. Still, even transient indispensability is an albatross around one's neck.

So here I sit, having just finished my work for the day. It's pushing 10pm, and I just got done. Not a good thing! The only positive thing is that my laptop computer let me do much of the work while sitting on the couch at home. It beats sitting in the office, but having some skilled staff to do some of this work for me would be a heck of a lot better.

I'm pushing the top management at the hospital to let me hire some people. So far, I got permission to hire an assistant director, and I found one who seemed quite good. Then she went through about a week and a half with us and ran for the hills. I should have seen that coming, when she told me I was too good for the place. I guess most of us think highly of ourselves, so if she thought I was too good for the place, then it stood to reason that she was too good for it as well. To be fair, healthcare is a bitch of an industry, and I'm sure she can find an easier job for as much or more money somewhere else. I just wish she'd made that decision before starting with me. It would have been easier!

The battle for more staff goes on, but the hospital is always barely breaking even financially. Sadly, that's better than 70% of the hospitals in New York, but most of those others are not-for-profit (we're "proprietary"). The NFPs have more financial leeway than us.

Anyhow, I am going to keep pushing to hire more staff. In the meantime, I need a nap!

Monday, July 12, 2004

Am I a good husband or what? :)

August 17th is Marc's birthday (and will also be our 9th anniversary). Each year, I try to get him something nice, especially since the day has dual significance.

Recently, he has been complaining that his pillow is no good. It is too old and uncomfortable. So I told him to meet me at Fortunoff's today after work. I bought him a couple of down pillows and told him that they'd be his birthday present. We agreed that this year's expenses (with the house remodeling, the recent trip, etc.) would preclude an extravagant present (although Marc said he was hoping for something more exciting than pillows--no matter how much fun they can be when he's perched on them). :)

Well, I really didn't think pillows were much of a gift, either, but Marc seemed to believe he'd have to settle for them this year.

I asked him to pick up dinner on his way home, so I'd have a few minutes here before he arrived. That was all I needed to prepare.

When he walked in, he was soaked, as it started pouring on the way home. He wasn't happy, so he reluctantly went along with my saying I had a surprise for him and walking him into the bedroom to reveal the pillows propped on the bed. I pointed and said, "there's your present." I then handed him a bag and said, "here, this goes with it." He looked puzzled and peered into the bag, finding some add-ons from the Apple store. Then the look changed on his face, and he started moving the pillows to find this.

He'd been wanting a Titanium Powerbook, but, when I shopped at the Apple Store in Roosevelt Field, they told me it had been replaced. I know my man and his needs, so I had a discussion with one of the helpful Apple folks and made my selection. :)

I have a happy hubby tonight (and that's a good thing)!

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Your Dog of the Day

Here we see Dodger. He's the youngest of our three dogs. In this picture, we find him by the front door, sulking. His Uncle Jeff (that would be our friend who dogsat for us and then stayed on for a few days after we got back from our trip) had just left.

When Jeff left, Dodger stood up on the storm door to look out. He cried as Jeff pulled away and then spent a fair amount of time by the door, waiting for him to come back. Dodger's pretty good at dealing with life's ups and downs (he lived a very hard life before he adopted us, but that's a story for another day). Even so, when he bonds to someone, he gets upset when they leave. Our daily comings and goings are reasons for joy and sadness for Mr. D. That's just the kind of guy he is, and we're lucky he chose to join our happy family.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

A full and satisfying day

We spent much of the day running errands and doing chores, but I feel satisfied with all we accomplished.

This morning, we went to Great Neck to clean things out of my grandmother's apartment and wrap other items up for shipment to relatives. My grandmother passed away in February, and I'm the executor of the estate. So I get to coordinate all of this fun and more. Marc, Jeff, my brother, Charlie, and his wife, Trisha, joined us to help with the tasks. Charlie and Trisha also brought their one year old son, Owen (a very cute nephew, if you ask me!), and Rudy, their Jack Russell terrier. Owen and Rudy were less help than the others, but they did add fun to the event.

We got a lot done this morning. Then Marc, Jeff and I headed to Chili's to get lunch. Marc and I were able to get diet-friendly items there, so we were happy. Our plan was to go see Fahrenheit 9/11 after that, but we thought better of it. Not that we don't want to see it, because we do (along with seeing the departure of W from the White House). No, instead we decided that we could get better things done today.

So we went to Fortunoff's in Westbury, so Marc could check out some grills to give out as contest prizes where he works. Then we decided to go to the Blackman Plumbing showroom in Hicksville to pick out more fixtures for our house remodeling. (By the way, I'm thinking of starting a petition drive to get Blackman to change their name. It's the 21st century. The least they can do is change to "Blackperson Plumbing", right?)

So we filled in more of the holes in our list of needs for the new house. It's all going to cost a fortune, but the house is going to be fabulous when it's done! As our contractor said yesterday, "the way you're gutting it, it's going to be like you have a new house." Actually, that would be a new house with great fixtures, features, etc.

We're going to gut the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms, gut the kitchen, move walls upstairs to make more bedroom space, install central air, replace the entire heating system, insulate (and heat/cool) the enclosed patio to make it year-round, etc., etc., etc. All of this, together with the landscaping we've done, and the house (which already was bigger than our current one--and on a bigger piece of land), and we're going to have a great place to live when everything's done.

In today's outing, I found the six foot soaking tub I want for the master bathroom. We also found a great set of shower fixtures, with a large overhead "rain" shower head, an adjustable, removable (to be hand-held) second head that goes on the wall, plus multiple body sprays to be installed in the wall. I may never leave the master bath!

Together with so many other things (like the granite counters in the kitchen, the double oven, the six high-output burners of the cooktop), I'm worried about the cost and excited about the possibilities.

Anyhow, as I said before, I think we'll have a wonderful home when we're done (not that the current one is terrible, but this will be better!). Of course, we'll have to have lots of our fabulous friends come over when it's done! :)

So now we're back home. We made steaks for dinner (great filet mignon from Stew Leonard's), and now Marc is putting the finishing touches on home-made low-carb ice cream. I know, low-carb ice cream?? Yup. It's very low-carb, and it's fabulous. Of course, with Marc making it, it's likely to be fabulous. The boy can cook!

Friday, July 09, 2004

A few drinks, and the singing begins again! :)

Well, tonight we went over to what will eventually be our home (long story for another entry, but we'll be selling our house and moving). Anyhow, we were there to meet with our general contractor. After two hours of further planning (we've met with him a number of times over all the work we're doing), we headed back here to our current home.

Once we got here, out came the drink shaker. Our friend Jeff (mentioned previously) joined Marc in multiple martinis. I'm not in a drinking mood, so I didn't partake. Well, the boys are having a good ole time.

Somehow, we got on the topic of all-time favorite bands. I said I liked The Beatles. Yeah, I know, nothing too unusual there.

Well, neither Jeff nor Marc named a single band. Rather, they said it would be hard to choose one. At that, they rattled one off at a time and began singing favorite songs from the band of the moment.

I was also advised that the number of members of the band with whom one wanted to have sex should have a bearing on where the band ranks. I didn't know this rule, or I probably would have voted differently.

Oh well. Next time I'll have a better understanding of the rules! :)

Now that is a cool mom!

While I have very few readers compared to MAK (so he's unlikely to gain any readership from this entry), I must tip my hat to one of the funniest sets of blog entries I've seen in a while. First, he posts a laugh-out-loud funny list of things about himself. Then he posts a response from his very cool, very funny mother. Just great!

Little annoyances

I just noticed that the post time on my blog is off. In fact, it's off by three hours, as if Blogger thinks I'm on the west coast. Now, I was in the Pacific time zone when I set it up, but I certainly wouldn't have told it to use PDT for my blog (assuming it even asked when I set it up--I don't recall). My computer has EDT set, so it wouldn't be that.

I guess I'll just have to poke around the "Blogger Dashboard" and see how to fix this. If it isn't one thing...

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Tonight's dinner being prepared--gotta love when the barbecue really gets rolling and every move of a burger causes flames to shoot up.

I got a semi-reprieve

Today was my first day at work after a lovely vacation. The fact that my job didn't let me get away completely (via the cell phone and one visit to the office yesterday) really didn't help me ease back into things. In fact, it was just downright depressing to go back to the office.

Not helping was the fact that we were scheduled to have negotiations with the NYS Nurses Association today. Actually, today (until late at night) and tomorrow. Ick. So I really wasn't looking forward to this being my welcome back to work.

Fortunately, I got home around 7:30 this evening. The union wasn't happy with what we had to tell them, so they had to regroup. Also, we had to do some number crunching, so the session didn't go late into the night.

So here I am, it's 9pm, and I am about to head out back to barbecue dinner. Yes, it's late, but we often eat late. It's not healthy, but it happens a lot.

So, at least I can enjoy some unhealthy burgers and hot dogs this evening. That's a good thing. :)

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

So how gay are we?

Our friend Jeff stayed at our house and took care of our dogs while we were away. After our return, last night, he stayed and will enjoy our hospitality until this weekend.

So how gay are we? Well, we didn't see anything of particular interest on TV tonight, so we tuned to Dish Network's "SIRIUS Broadway's Best" channel and have been singing along for, oh, about two hours now to a variety of Broadway tunes. I feel like I'm having a gay pride event right here in my living room! :)

One of our first stops in Glacier National Park, Montana, was at a roadside overlook. It gave us a lovely view of this river. Needless to say, it's impressive (particularly for someone like me who once almost got killed in a rafting accident). Anyhow, it's pretty to look at! For a couple more, go here. Just click on the pictures--you don't have to sign in or anything.

Things get better

Well, the office had me on the phone again today, even though this was supposed to be my last day of vacation.

I don't do well sitting and waiting for things to happen when I know there are problems, so I went in to the office for a little while. I think things are calmed down a bit now. While that's good, the flip side is that I don't want to be "indispensable". That's just not a good role, no matter how it sounds. I need to beef up the skilled staff working for me, but the place is having such tight times financially that they don't want to spend on new people.

I should have at least 10 (better yet, more like 15) fully trained, skilled HR people working for me, based on the total number of employees at the hospital. Instead, I have three clerical employees and a temp. It's not a good thing. I told the top folks that I'd keep things together on the cheap for as long as I could, but it's really reaching the breaking point (a concern I expressed to my boss in no uncertain terms today).

On the bright side, I'm still enjoying memories of the vacation and enjoyed telling some folks at work about the fun we had. Later, I'll try to find time to sort through more of the pictures from the trip. Of course, I'll happily share some of them!

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

I haven't even landed in NY yet, but...

I turned on my cell phone once I got to DFW, only to find a voicemail message from work. Apparently, my cracked staff (no, not "crack staff"--I did mean cracked) was entirely incapable of keeping things together in my absence. While it's nice to be needed, this bunch makes me feel way too needed.

A contractual increase was scheduled to take effect this week. So, before I left, I checked with them, repeatedly, to make sure they'd done everything necessary to get it entered. So what happened? Well, either they're even more incompetent than I realized or they know what they're doing but blew it off.

So, gentle reader, why don't I fire them all? Believe me, the thought has occurred. Thing is, I tend to give people as many chances to succeed as I can. I don't like firing anyone.

On the other hand, I have trained them, I have helped them, I have gotten them outside help. It's to the point that my boss, who helped place some of these people in HR before I ever started there, is seeing my point that there is a time to cut one's losses.

See? I told you my blog would be more fun while I was on vacation! sigh Anyhow, I'm already doing damage control, and I'm not even within a thousand miles of New York yet. It's not that I can't fix this mess. It's just infuriating that I have to, after having hand-held these people for so long.

Okay, time to go for more airborne torture now.

Dragging our asses home

Air travel has become savage. This is nothing new. The glory days of air travel were over decades ago.

No longer is it a big deal. The classiness is gone. Instead, passengers are cattle to be herded into and out of semi-clean planes.

Marc and I used miles for this trip and were able to fly first class. One would think that would be very nice. Think again! It's nothing special. I do remember when first class used to be something special--and I longed for when I had the frequent flyer miles to make it to the front of the cabin. Nowadays, there's hardly a point.

So here we sit in Dallas-Fort Worth airport, the airport so big that taxiing to the terminal takes longer than most flights. I'm enjoying the respite from the airplane, but a direct flight would have been nicer. Alas, since I was using miles, I had fewer flight choices than normal. Among those flights, none were non-stop.

Okay, I've had enough of this! "Scotty! Is that damned transporter fixed yet?!"

So we made it through our last day in Seattle. We went to Pioneer Square, the one tourist attraction we hadn't visited. Yawn

This evening, we dragged the camera out to the Space Needle. I didn't get any pictures the other night, when we went for dinner. So I felt compelled to go try to get some good night shots. (Anyone can do this in the day--the night shots are the fun ones.)

After an enjoyable photographic outing (as in trip, not, "Hey world, I'm a gay photographer!"), we came back to the Sorrento and headed to their lovely fireside lounge for cocktails. While there, Marc got what may be his best Bloody Mary ever. They spiced it with a local mix called Demitris Bloody Mary Seasoning. To this, they added a stalk of pickled asparagus from Hogue Farms. Yes, it was quite the drink.

Now it's time to pack our bags and prepare for the trip home. Vacation is nice, but I'm ready to be in my home. The stress of work awaits, but that is countered with three loveable piles of fur who will be excited to see us return. All in all, not a bad trade.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Okay, we're done with Seattle

I had no idea how dull this town is. If we had any idea it was like this, we'd have stayed in Portland.

Once you've seen Pike Place Market and the Space Needle, you're pretty well done. Go ahead, ask the concierge at your hotel for suggestions. "Did you go to the Space Needle?" "Oh yeah." "Did you go to the top of it? The view's really spectacular." "Uh huh. Did that. Nice view." 'Cause we don't have tall buildings in New York, so this was a real novelty. "Well, Pike Place Market is terrific." Terrific is definitely a subjective term, but, to be polite... "Yes, we went there yesterday, and now we're looking for something else to do." "Hmmm."

We even took out the guide books to try to find something. No luck.

Well, one possibility. They have an aquarium, and we'll probably run down there. Heaven knows, we've never seen fish before.

Of course, if you ask a local or consult Seattle propaganda on this subject, you'll be told what you're missing. This aquarium features sea life of the Pacific Northwest! Great. This I need to see. I've been eating sea life of the Pacific Northwest all week. I feel very little need to see what it looks like before it's grilled and drizzled in a white wine butter!

A shot from our visit to Seattle's Pike Place Market. For more shots, go here. Click on the "Slideshow" on the right to run through the pictures/descriptions.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Seattle and Pike Place Market

Today, we rode around Seattle a bit by car, and we walked all through the Pike Place Market. One's presence there all but announces, "I'm a tourist," or so it would seem.

It's nice, but it's nothing that hasn't been done elsewhere, in one way or another. Lots of little shops, and lots of street performers--like one might see at this time of year in San Francisco, Baltimore, etc., etc.

Seattle is a lovely city, but I think Portland has it beat, as far as we're concerned. Seattle is arguably more modern and busier, but that may be exactly why we liked Portland more. Portland had lots of trees, tons of parks, and an atmosphere that conveyed a palpable message... "slow down."

So we're enjoying Seattle, but we're already longing to return to Portland... and we shall. The only question is when. Barring a lottery win (as mentioned previously), it will have to wait until we can spare the time and money to come back.

A stop along the way, the Blue Heron Cheese Company. We stopped and sampled cheese, just as a fun thing to do along the way. Neither of us was a big fan of Brie, but the stuff the made there was wonderful. So much so that we placed an order for delivery to us when we get back home. They have smoked brie, plain brie, herb & garlic brie, and pepper brie. My favorite was the smoked brie, but all of it was good!

A shot of the Oregon Coast

Cape Meares Lighthouse on the Oregon Coast

Now why can't I win the lottery?

I don't come from a wealthy family, and neither does Marc. We do okay, but we certainly need to work to keep living a decent life. So reflecting on last night's trip to the Space Needle, I can't help but lament my lack of a personal fortune. :)

When we drove in, having put a full 2,000 miles on our rental car in the past six days, we told the valet to keep it nearby so we could head back out to dinner at the Space Needle. It was nice enough to be using valet parking!

Then I asked the lady at the front desk about parking at the Space Needle, explaining that we had dinner reservations, to which she replied, "Why don't you take the Town Car?" Town Car? Hmmm. This can't be free. "That sounds like a good idea," said I. "How much does it cost?" To which she replied with the lovely phrase, "it's free for our guests." Woo-hoo! "Oh, that's very nice. I think we'll do that," at which point she told me to contact the Concierge to arrange the trip.

I definitely could get used to living like this. The problem is that I'd be bankrupt pretty fast, if I had to spend what we've been spending every day on this trip. So why can't I win the lottery? Is that so much to ask?

Seattle's Space Needle

A trip to the Space Needle was always part of the plan for our Seattle visit, but I must admit that I didn't expect to be impressed. After all, I'm a New Yorker, raised with trips to the Empire State Building and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. So how big a deal is the Space Needle? Yes, it looks neat, a relic of the era when space flight was something new and amazing (okay, it's still pretty amazing), but I didn't expect to be too impressed by it.

Well, I was wrong. It's just neat! Marc and I went there for dinner tonight. We'd read varying reviews of it--some just bad and others good (like AAA's three diamonds). On the way there, the driver (we used the hotel's car service) told us it has gotten much better recently. Of course, we would pay for the view, as it's a revolving restaurant at the top of the needle, but the driver assured us that the food was quite good as well.

Fortunately, he was right. The food was fine, and the view was exquisite. The final touch was an ice cream sundae we split that they serve "space age" style. It shows up in a sort of double-boiler dish, used so they can put water and dry ice in the bottom. Your sundae is placed on the table, and it quickly covers the table with a dry ice-fueled carbon dioxide fog. It's really a cute trick. The bill was rather high, but I don't regret the visit--it was fun!

More of Mount Hood, Portland, Puna, etc.

So we're back in Seattle. Gotta love the Sorrento Hotel. We've managed to pick really good places this time. We stayed here Sunday night, before heading for Montana, and we came back to staff who said, "welcome back," greeting us like old friends. Added to that was a "welcome back" note from the Managing Director, with his phone number in case we need anything--along with a bottle of wine and some chocolate truffles. So much for the diet today! :)

I told you we went back to Mount Hood and promised to explain why. So, here goes... Before our first visit to Mount Hood, my last pictures had been in somewhat low-light conditions. (The non-photographically inclined are probably dozing off about now, so I'll make this as quick as I can...) I had set the ASA/ISO to 1000 for the prior pictures. When I shot Hood the first time, it was at this setting. The pictures were good, but they'd never stand up to enlargement. So we went back--yes, we're insane.

This time, we actually went up the mountain (not to the summit, of course). We went to Timberline Lodge, at 6,000 feet elevation, and it was a heck of a hike!

Okay, so we drove, but it was still fun. While 6,000 feet may seem high, Mount Hood rises to 11,235 feet, so there's still a lot above you when you get to the lodge. Also, from that elevation, it's clear that this isn't just a mountain. No, it's a volcano. The color of the soil on its slopes look like the remnants of a volcano. Also, for those of us who were earth science geeks, the exposed rock in the area also tells you a volcano was at work. Of course, Hood hasn't erupted for many years, although any of the volcanoes in the Cascades has the potential--remember Mount St. Helens in 1980? Also, I understand that Hood has occasionally rumbled underfoot and vented steam.

After our visit to the lodge, we went back down and then found a lovely vantage point for some photos. Much to Marc's concern, I took our Ford Taurus off road for a bit. It survived the trip intact--if it hadn't, well, I guess the Hertz people would have been mad at me. In any event, our little off-road adventure gave us an even better angle for shots, and I managed to avoid driving into a nearby river of mountain runoff when I turned us around on a tight dirt track to get back out of there.

After this, we headed back to Portland to see Puna, our massage therapist (mentioned below). That, followed by dinner at Jake's (picture below) capped off a busy day.

More to come, but that's enough for now!

Saturday, July 03, 2004

We went back to Mount Hood to get more pictures. "Why?" is a slightly longer story I will share shortly (much to the boredom of everyone, I'm sure). In the meantime, here's a shot from our return to the mountain.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Jake's, where we had such a nice seafood dinner

Another lovely day of vacation

It's hard not to enjoy vacation days, but it's possible. So I'm always happy to have had a full, fun day.

Marc and I made our way from Spokane to Portland, stopping on the way to admire Mount Hood. They do make these hills big out here! I'd venture to say they have a few feet on the Catskills! ;)

The bonus was turning around after admiring Mt. Hood, to be confronted with another huge mountain in the distance. After a moment of, "hey, what's that one?," we studied our map and decided it had to be Mount St. Helens. It was the side that didn't get blown out in the eruption, so it didn't look too unusual, but there it was.

After we arrived at the Heathman Hotel, we met our wonderful massage therapist, Puna. He gave us massages the likes of which we've never had before--and we get massage therapy at home. Then this wonderful man gave us dinner advice before going on his way. If you're going to be in Portland and want the massage of a lifetime, send me an e-mail. I'll be happy to provide Puna's contact information.

So we got to enjoy a fine meal at Jake's, a local seafood establishment of long standing. We began our meal by sharing an appetizer of fried calamari with three dipping sauces: cocktail sauce, sherry wine & horseradish orange zest marmalade. As unusual as that last one sounds, I can tell you it was all wonderful.

Then Marc and I each had salmon--he had a grilled Chinook salmon, while I had a stuffed salmon. We followed this by a large step away from our diets, ordering flan and banana cream pie for dessert. We shared each other's dessert, and it was the perfect end to the meal.

As a final treat, I found the neon sign outside of Jake's to be nice enough to warrant a photo, so that will be posted on a moment. :)

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Thanks, Matt!

My thanks to Matt for helping me work out some initial problems with inserting links into the blog.

A shot from Glacier National Park in Montana Posted by Hello