Thursday, February 15, 2007
up, up and AWAY!!!
Well, I've only had about 3 hours of sleep and now I am up and getting ready to head off to California. I had actually set my alarm to allow myself to get 4 hours of sleep but my brain just seems to be all revved up and refused to rest (coz there ain't NOTHIN' more exciting than a sales conference!!). I'm going to have to sleep on the plane or in the airport between flights. I am hoping the weather that has been belting us and much of the north eastern States hasn't screwed up the flights too badly... I know the Chicago airport (where I am connecting through) was closed down the other day. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Anyway, most of my (over)packing is done, I'm just going to hit the shower to wake up a little, grab some breakfast and await the cab at 5:30am. *yAWn*
Be good while I'm gone everyone!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Snow Day = Valentine's Day!

Ah yes, snow in Toronto. Not too often we get a load of it like we have overnight, but today it's sight to behold! (click on the image for a larger picture.... that's the view of Yonge Street from my balcony... usually you can see a tiny CN Tower off in the distance, but not today!)

I was in a race to get home from out of town yesterday in order to beat the storm that was rolling in. I was successful, but barely! Soon after I got home the snow began... and has been going for over 12 hours now. Apparently it is to continue for much of the day but I am promised that it will end by the evening... and it had better, I have a 7am flight to catch tomorrow morning! If ever I needed a trip to California, this is it!

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Monday, February 12, 2007
this n that
Here I am sitting in a hotel room in a small town called Brockville (or "Brockvegas", as I like to call it. makes me feel more glam when I call it that). It's about a three hour drive from my home and I stopped and worked at 3 stores along the way. Tomorrow I will get up, work at another store, and then head home. Some people wonder how I can do so much driving, but to me it beats sitting in a cubicle all day staring at a computer. It was a beautiful sunny day and I had a great day at work. I'm told, however, that the weather is taking a nasty turn tonight and I might have a rough drive home. Such is life on the road.

Anyway..... a few random thoughts I've had of late....

- last week during a few snow storms, birds started showing up on the balcony of my apartment. I make note of it because it's actually quite unusual, as I have not had a lot of visitors of the feathered variety. Perhaps they don't like hanging out 8 floors up?
What actually amazed me was that on one of the chillier days two black birds (starlings?) appeared on my balcony looking quite cold. I stood with my jaw dropped as I watched these two birds proceed to spend the next five minutes eating snow. Eating snow!!! I gotta say, I have seen plenty of nature up close over the years, especially up north where there's plenty of both birds AND snow, and I have never in all my years seen birds eat snow. Ya learn something new everyday.

- I was watching an Israeli film on tv the other day, called Walk On Water. It was pretty good and hearing all that Hebrew and seeing the scenery from Israel made me miss it. *sigh* And the Israeli actor in it, Lior Ashkenazi, is a total cutie. *swoon*

- Ok, I know I'm late in discussing this, but I feel really bad that Anna Nicole Smith died. I don't care what you thought of the girl (and believe me, I didn't ever pay attention to news or talk of her) it's still absolutely tragic that she died. She left behind a baby who will never know her mother or brother, and that is simply saddening. But I gotta say.. enough already with the crazy news coverage. Entertainment Tonight, you're the worst offender. Do you really need like, THREE, different correspondants in three different locations to cover all the latest updates? Really now. Give it a rest and stop circling like vultures, it's in such bad taste.

- I don't know about the rest of you but I have been riveted by the story of the NASA astronaut gone loopy (does that make me a hippocate after the Anna Nicole comments?). It just goes to show you it doesn't matter if you're from the ghetto or if you're Harvard educated..... you can go crazy just the same. Love can make ya do some dumb things, and I think kidnapping your competition for a man certainly qualifies. I hope this woman gets some serious help.... she clearly needs it.

- Ok, WHAT is going on with the guy who shot a snokeler because he thought the guy in the water was a nutria?? (a nutria is something akin to a muskrat or beaver. I've never heard of them, truth be told) Apparently some 60 year old guy saw fit to pack some methamphetamine, marijuana and a .22 caliber rifle to go hunting.. resulting in a shot to the face for the unlucky sap who evidently resmbles a water rodent if one happens to be under the influence. Guns and drugs are bad, kids!

- I'm in the mood for travel. Possible locations: Colorado (to see one of the girls I bunked with during my 3 month stay in Israel), Iowa (to see a girl that was in my French class), North Carolina (to see My Big Gay Daddy), or to England to see a dear friend of mine who once lived in Canada (and South Africa and Israel... this chap gets around!). I think money might be the dictating factor as I would ideally like to knuckle down and pay off some debts this year.

- I am still in love with my mini-tramopline, thanks for asking. And I am seeing fanatastic results! As I said before, if you have ever thought about getting one I strongly encourage you to give it a try! It's fun AND it's good for ya!

- I got not one, not two, but THREE new pairs of eye glasses. Found me a place that has a 3 for 1 deal and took advantage. Perhaps when I'm feeling ambitious I will dig out my camera and model them for you. That will also give you a chance to see my giant curly 'fro hair as well.

- ok, how unhappy am I that Blogger forced me to switch over to their new version? Not happy at all, is the answer. I don't like being forced into anything, thank you very much. I will blog how I see fit. ... er... and apparently that means seeing fit to blog as Blogger would like me to. One day I *will* move this blog, damnit!

That's it for me.... I'm gearing up to head to California at the crack of dawn on Thursday. Yeeha Costa Mesa!

Sunday, February 04, 2007
a kitten needs your help!

Well, here I am returning a favour.

My longtime readers will remember that in Aug/Sept of 2005 I had a pitstop in Budapest on my way to Israel. Upon reading my blog and seeing that I would be in her neighborhood, a kindly fellow blogger whom I had never met, offered to meet me at the airport and take me on a tour of the city. She patiently took me to all the tourist sites where I took pictures and frolicked with unbridled tourist passion, and then we had dinner; I had a 12 hour layover and it was well spent thanks to Noorster. I had the time of my life and it was definitely a highlight of my trip. If not for the kindness of a stranger I would not have toured Budapest!

Now I would like to return the favour by drawing some attention to her call for help. Noorster has since moved to Israel and while settling in has taken in a stray kitten (there are oh-so-many in Israel) and named him Marzipan. This kitten desperately needed a home and Noorster gave him one. However, the new addition has had a severe and extremely adverse reaction to his vaccines and it has turned cancerous (read the whole story here and here). The poor dear is now undergoing all kinds of tests and is running around with one of those terrible cones on his head and 12 or so stiches on his haunch. The bills are racking up and Noorster is in need of some financial assistance.

I have kicked in some money and hopefully you can too! Every little bit helps, folks... so please chip in a couple of bucks if you can; just head over to her blog and click the PayPal donation button at the top right. Even if you don't have a PayPal account you can still use a credit card, so don't be shy! Help save a kitty's life!

prepare to be Bzzed!
Alright, so we all know that bloggers are good for spreading the word about everything from news to favourite new computer games, right? Well allow me to fill you out on something that's got me buzzing these days.... but first, a little background!

A few months ago I got an email from a friend I spent time with in Israel in 2005, and the email was offering for me to sign up for a website called BzzAgent. It's basically a site set up to help spread the word about new products and services. You can sign up as an agent, fill in a little information about your interests and likes and then you will be offered campaigns based on the information and surveys you have filled out. Mine were very much geared towards computer stuff and music.

I was soon invited to join a campaign involving AOL Radio (in MY case, AOL Radio Canada) due to my avid interest in music. At first I was unsure whether or not I wanted to join because I am inclined to avoid all things AOL. When I first went on the website to test out the music I was happy to see that it did not require me to sign up to listen, I could just click on the radio button and pick a station. Nice! Eventually however, I did choose to sign up as it allowed me to customize the stations so my favourites were at the top of the list. And what a list of stations it is!

There are a WIDE variety of stations to choose from, anything from 80's tunes (3 different stations, in fact!) to classical, hip-hop, country, jazz/blues, metal, kids, comedy, dance and more! There are even specialty stations.... all Pearl Jam or Green Day, for instance. I immediately got into having AOL Radio playing in the background all the time while I sat at my computer... or even when I was cooking or getting ready for work. As a person who has music going on in the background at all times this was perfect. It was like having a radio station playing stuff I like without all the annoying commercials! I *hate* commercials!

Alright, alright... so it all seems to be good to be true, right? Well, allow me to share the good and bad of it all and then you be the judge. Let me make some comparisons for you...

When I first started listening to music online (via streaming "radio" stations) I began with Yahoo! Music. It was too bad as it allowed you to rate the songs you like. 0 to 5 stars, which is nice because it's not so black and white; sometimes you like a song but you don't *love* it. This also 'taught' Yahoo what you liked and could adjust what went on your playlist by taking off things you didn't like and suggesting new stuff that you might like. So why did I stop using it? First of all, the sound quality was awful (unless you paid for an upgrade, which I didn't want to do). Also, the free version subjected you to commercials, and plenty of them. Did I mention I hate commericals? It also had a feature that allowed you to skip a song you didn't like, but only so many times an hour. This became frustrating if they played songs you didn't want to hear and you used up all your skips for that hour to get past them. Over time it became clear that certain new bands had paid to get some airtime and that turned me off Yahoo for good.

Then there was Pandora (which I told you about in Jan 2006, much like I'm telling you about AOL radio now!) This is a innovative concept in which a program has been created to break down songs to their basic elements and catalogue them based on those elements. This is great because then when you enter in the songs and groups you like the program can break down those songs, compare them to songs with similar melodies or beats, and suggest other music you might like. You can create different stations you like based on the names of a few groups you have submitted for each stations and they will play those groups and others with similar backgrounds. If you don't like what they have suggested you can give it a thumbs down and they will note that in the programming (which makes it a little black and white for my liking.. I prefer a rating system, not a simply thumbs up or down). Very much a program for those looking to find new music they might not have heard before. The drawbacks? Well, the sound quality is great but it has a similar setup to Yahoo, in that you can only skip "x" number of songs in an hour. This is again frustrating if you have to waste your skips on stuff they have suggested just to get to a band you have actually requested. I definitely got the feeling there were bands being showcased which took away from the grassroots feeling the website is trying to portray. Overall, I liked it far better than Yahoo music...

Then along came AOL Radio. As I said, I love it... but that's not to say that it doesn't have cons of it's own. While you *can* customize your stations if you sign up, it means you can only "preset" your top 5 favourite stations. This is a pain in the butt because there are SO many stations to sift through to find what you like. Gee, it's tough when you complain about having too much selection, hunh?

It also seems to have a definite rotation or playlist of songs.... because of my extensive playing of the radio for weeks on end I started to hear repeats of songs. Not too often, but I could hear the same song 2 or 3 times in a 30 hour period. Also, and most peculiarly, when a song is playing there is a spot in the 'radio window' that lets you know what's "Coming Up"... and it lists two groups that are next in rotation. Or are they? Sometimes the next song isn't either of the two promised which is a bit frustrating when you waited on that station to hear a group rather than switch stations (case in point: I have the radio on now and it said that coming up was The Cure and Talk Talk.... then it played the Psychedelic Furs. I like the group so it's no big deal, but hey, it's not what you said was coming up!). Oh, and one last gripe? I can't play AOL Radio on my Firefox browser... I have use Internet Explorer! Ack!!

Anyway, I leave it to you to try and I recommend you do. It has all kinds of awesome music to choose from, fantastic sound quality. And no, AOL won't install nasty stuff on your computer (I looked into it a bit before I signed up..... I'm a bit paranoid of spyware).

Let me know what you think, what stations you like, what you think the good bad and ugly of it are.... Oh, and you can thank me later! *wink*

Saturday, February 03, 2007
girl, where HAVE you been??
That was me disappearing again. Seems to happen with more frequency these days....
It would appear to be a combination of a couple of rough weeks in my personal life (you can thank my cousin who keeps coming here after my asking him not to for the lack of details as to what was going on with me) and I am having trouble maintaining motivation for blogging (hell, I'm not even really reading other blogs either!). I have been wondering if it's something I should let go of or not; if it becomes work one should stop, right? I leave it to you to tell me when it's time to put the lame horse down.

First of all, an update on what's going on with the new kitty (if you are just joining us you may wish to scroll down a few entries to catch up). The newest addition to our family, Dexter has adapted quite well to his new home though he still has a wild streak in him (he was rescued from a cat colony). While he likes to be around people, still he runs when someone first enters a room (he comes out a short time later, but it's an instinct that is slow to leave him) and he is still not good with large open spaces if anyone is around. However, as I said, when you drag him out from under the bed he *does* enjoy a good cuddle and loves to be brushed.

The really remarkable part has been the bonding between new kitty and old kitty, Isaac. Isaac eventually got over his hissing and began to tolerate sharing space. Now it's just a crazy love affair as Dexter looks up to his new big brother with the greatest of admiration and love. When Isaac walks down the hall Dexter is glued to his side. He loves to run his head under Isaac's chin and as soon as Isaac sits down Dexter curls up with him. It is the most heart warming sight to behold and Isaac has really helped Dexter come out of his shell. They sleep and play together and it has been truly wonderful to see Dexter find a friend and for Isaac to be young again (he's 11 yrs old).

Let's see... what else? work has been crazy busy and has kept me on the move, as usual. I'm happy because we are finally hiring another person, so part of my territory will be split off. *whew* This will mean a little less driving for me, which will allow me to focus on a smaller territory. I'm excited. I also had my first review as I cleared the 1 year anniversary on the job and it was a glowing review. They like me, they really like me! *wink* Sounds like my boss has plans for me which is nice.. helps keep me motivated.

We finally got some snow here in Toronto which makes me happy. I love big crazy snow storms and we got a good one today. The snow has been received with mixed reviews... some people in the city were content with a brown, muddy, rainy winter while others were looking for a snowy winter. Count me in on the snow! The bigger the flakes the better, as far as I'm concerned! Though I have to say, my desires conflicts with the job and snow isn't exactly the ideal condition in which to be driving.

What else?

Ah yes, my latest obsession..... my mini-trampoline. Oh how I love you sweet, sweet rebounder! I bought it a couple of days ago and I'm so excited about it because I have finally found a form of exercise that I like! Who knew such a thing existed?? Hey, if it's good enough for getting NASA astronauts in shape it's good enough for me!

I have it set up in front of the tv so that every time there's a commercial I get up and do some jumpin' jacks, jogging or twists until my show comes back on. Actually, that's the theory but I gotta tell ya, it's HARD WORK, folks!! 3 minutes is my max at this point before I'm fully prepared to curl up on the floor and die. However, it's great because I can go and jump around for a few minutes tons of times throughout the day (and I do!). It's easy on the joints and I don't find my muscles are stiff and sore the next day (though I don't know why not, the burning in my thighs makes me want to beg for mercy after a few minutes of jogging rigorously on the spot). All going well I'm going to work up to longer and longer rounds on it... I shall get to ten minutes if it kills me!

Anyway, I guess we'll see if I stick with it, but as it stands this is the most optimistic I've felt about any attempt to get into shape. Them crazy experts are right... it's all about finding the activity you like. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for something new. It's an amazing cardiovascular and calorie burning workout and it's easy on the joints, since it's low impact. The one I bought was only $36 so it's well worth a try!

I also invested in an unspeakable amount of money on groceries. I have been eating like a (healthy!) queen for the last few days and I'm feeling good. I gotta get this bod in shape for Feb 15th! I am heading down to California for a week; last year it was San Antonio for sales meetings, this year it's Costa Mesa. A co-worker and I are going down a couple of days early in order to have a mini vacation and explore the area since they really don't let us see the light of day much at these sales meetings. While I appreciate that they pick somewhere warm to hold them every year, what's the point if we don't ever get to take a side tour?

Right, so, the plan is to lose a little of this "buddha belly" in time to sport a bathing suit in California. Just a few little pounds, is that so much to ask?? Winter pudge along with my pastey white skin will have me standing out as a Canadian in a big way, so anything I can do to blend in a little better is good. Perhaps I need to bleach my hair blonde?
Shyeah, right.

Can anyone explain to me why it is on my Firefox browser I can't see my title banner for my blog? Or my comments? Or my Haloscan and Site Meter buttons? those four items have all disappeared for reasons unknown.... and only when I look at it on Firefox, not IE!