My Collected Tweets on Moby Dick

Read Moby-Dick in the second half of 2009 and tweeted as I went. Blogged about the experience here and  my collected tweets are below in reverse order:

Playing w WordPress: New blog, theme, widgets. Tried 2 connect 2 FB profile: Moby-Dick Book v Kindle http://tinyurl.com/yzflm2r 12:10 PM Dec 23rd, 2009 via TweetDeck

“the odorous cedar chips of the wrecks danced round and round, like grated nutmeg in a swiftly stirred bowl of punch” #MobyDick #Melville 9:32 AM Oct 31st, 2009 via TweetDeck

“And I only am escaped alone to tell thee” I thought last 3 chapters & Epilogue would take longest. We gulped em in bed this am #MobyDick 9:30 AM Oct 31st, 2009 via TweetDeck

Continue reading “My Collected Tweets on Moby Dick”

Comcast Customer Service – NOT!

All I wanted was to change my automatic billing for my account. Some companies make you mail or fax them a form with a cancelled check but I haven’t got my new checks yet. Comcast lets you do it on-line, yay!

So I login to my account, I fill out the digits, I press return and wait indifferently for the confirmation. I did NOT wait with bated breath because, really, how long could it take? I got back a blank pop-up, that’s all. WTF! No problemo, I will just use that handy dandy Ask Comcast feature…no wait that’s some sort of artificial intelligence LISA-like program that is not addressing my problem. I know,  I’ll use that live chat thing–that’s worked well in the past!

Live chat does not go well:

Baldoza: What services are you currently subscribe to?

Me: I don’t know. Why is that important? I’m just trying to change my billing.

Baldoza: Because I need to know if the account you are using is the right account that would work. May I also have the email account you are using to log in.

Me: myemail@mypreferredemailsystem.net

Baldoza: We’ve found the cause of the problem. Since the merge of comcast.com and comcast.net, subscribers who have internet service from Comcast get to have a comcast.net account. This has been system generated and will be your official log in to all your Comcast information.

Me: Ok I don’t get that. I was able to login. I was able to request a change in billing. I just never got a confirmation.

Baldoza: That’s exactly the problem. Since the email you are using is no longer the official log in, either you are not able to log in or your (sic) not able to make additional changes.

I have Comcast for high speed internet, pretty happy with that, but I get my email elsewhere, have for years, don’t want to change and have to freakin’ notify everyone, thanks! And the web site never gave me a clue what was happening. Picture me, getting…annoyed.]

Continue reading “Comcast Customer Service – NOT!”

Packing Score: Jan 2010, Boston, Business, 3 days

This short blog will be used to document how well I packed for a given trip. Title will follow the pattern above: Date, Loc, Reason, Length. Then I will score how well I did.

What did I forget? What did I bring that I didn’t use? What did I use that I loved having with me? Maybe this will lead to greater efficiency, maybe it will just be a laugh.

Forgot:
Alarm clock. No biggie, figure out the hotel clock and also set the iPhone alarm. Since I don’t really know how to work the hotel clock I have to sit up and turn on the light to find the snooze button. Since the iPhone is across the room, I have to GET up and go over there. OK fine, I’m awake! Maybe I’ll ditch the alarm from my packing list. Maybe I’ll make a packing list.

Didn’t Bring: Stealth entry. I didn’t bring a robe. I never bring a robe. Even a travel robe seems overkill when you are trying to pack light. But my room was cold and I didn’t want to run the noisy heater so it would have been nice to have something other than my raincoat to wear. But I don’t think I’ll get in the habit of bringing one with me.

Didn’t Use:
Workout gear including very bulky running shoes. Just couldn’t get it together. But hope springs eternal so I’ll probably keep bringing the stuff. I have used them in the past, pinky swear!

Used, Loved
I love my iGo cord and tips. So much saved space. When Powermat offers 1 and 2 pod travel mats, I may have to change.

My iPhone TomTom app helped us get to and from the restaurant we went to for a team dinner.  Handy!

Packing Score: 80 (out of 100) Totally subjective.

Note: I am not being paid by anyone to pimp their products. I’m just sayin’ so you can gauge my credibility and just in case and companies wanted to ask. To which I would say no. Most likely.

Side by Side: Moby-Dick Book v Kindle

This summer my husband suggested a reading project for the family (me, him and the then 10 year old son): Let’s read Moby-Dick! I know! You’re wondering why you didn’t think of that! Well maybe you aren’t from some crazed reading obsessed family nor are you an ex-English major.  But we are! Except the 11 year old may be a future ex-English major.

Well we’ve had reading projects before and very successful ones. When he was several years younger he wanted to see the Lord of the Rings movies that his friends had seen. I had (stubbornly) never read the books but had seen snippets of what looked like scary movies my husband kept watching. So the project/deal was: read a book, watch a movie. And we all read the books one by one and, upon finishing, watched the movie. Turns out I was being stubborn for nothing they are perfectly great books that don’t turn everyone into a raving fanatic and we thought the movies were very well done and had great discussions on how the movies varied from the books and why they might do so. But I digress.

Back to Moby-Dick. Turns out I had never read that one either, it remained on my long list of books I should have  and will read one day when I have time, maybe.  We began reading in the Summer of 2009, my husband and I taking turns reading a chapter or so a night to my son. We hadn’t read to him since he was a wee lad, so he really enjoyed the evening ritual. Immediately I realized something…this Herman Melville dude…very funny guy! Had to turn to my husband from time to time and ask…did he really just say what *I* think he said?!?!! And so he did. We found this to be a great family project and a very interesting and funny book.   Love to quote him:  “Though man loved his fellow, yet man is a money-making animal, which propensity too often interferes with his benevolence

As it turns out my husband read this book back in college and still has the paperback, a Norton Critical Edition, for which he paid $2.40. And as it turns out I have a Kindle I bought earlier this year $299 and a copy of Moby-Dick on it that I got from Feedbooks $0.  So, if we read downstairs, we used the book; if we did extra reading upstairs in the morning, we used the Kindle. Or if I’m was traveling and had to read on my own to keep up with them (they refused to wait for me to get back), I read the Kindle. This has given me the opportunity to compare the experience of reading a book on the kindle side by side with reading an actual physical book. So I thought I’d share the experience.

First, the physical book (pBook). It’s pretty cool that we still have this book since its been er, um, forty years or so since my husband was in college. That you could buy a book this great for $2.40 (used) at the college bookstore is a nice flashback. The book is A Norton Critical Edition titled Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, edited by Harrison Hayford and Hershel Parker (2nd edition available new from Amazon for $15.19). Nice cover illustration, table of contents, forward, maps, text, text history, variants and emendations, reviews and letters by Melville, Analogues and Sources, Criticisms and Bibliography…along with underlines, circles and margin notes by my husband, the ex-English major. The book which has a copyright of 1967,  weighed 698g (a little over 1.5 lbs) and measured 8″ x 5″ x 1.5″–the font is relatively small but I could not tell you the exact size or font face…see picture below for comparison with Kindle though.

The  eBook I got from Feedbooks at no cost. The ebook itself weighed nothing but the Kindle weighs 294g (about 10.2 ounces) and doesn’t increase in weight as you add books. The dimensions are 8″ x 5.3″ x 1/3″.  I should point out that the screen is 6″ diagonal or 4.5″ x 3.5″ so the screen IS smaller than the page.

However, there are 6 different font sizes available and you can change anytime you want.  I’m usually on size 4 and the book looks to be somewhere between 3 and 4.

The Feedbooks edition of Moby-Dick includes a biography (from Wikipedia), navigable table of contents, links to additional books available (from Feedbooks) by Melville, the text (including the Etymology) and recommendations with links to other books you might like from Feedbooks. Feedbooks does let you download wirelessly a large number of public domain books–books whose copyrights have expired–lots of classics as well as self-published books, newspapers, blogs, etc. Amazon also offers lots of free, public domain books that download wirelessly to your Kindle. The advantage of using Amazon is that it will keep track of your books (even the free ones) and keep them in your archive so you can redownload them if you delete them or you can download them to your Kindle app on the iPhone or PC (and soon Mac and Blackberry).

So what is it like to read Moby-Dick on paper vs ebook? Pretty much the same with some minor differences. I really like the explanatory footnotes in the book; the ebook has a few of those but they are mixed in with the text.  eBooks can do footnotes as links but this particular free book doesn’t do so. I also like the idea of the text and critical essays but found I didn’t read many of them in the pBook. I really liked being able to move my cursor to an unfamiliar word and look it up on the Kindle–not all words were available but many were and often these were ones not explained in the pBook footnotes. The solution I took was to purchase a separate Shmoop Moby-Dick study guide for 99 cents. I would read a chapter or two then open up the study guide for a chapter summary and analysis. Actually the study guide included an overview, discusions on why you should care about this book, what the title and ending mean, literary devices, book summary, plot overview, plot analysis, character analysis, roles, and cues and themes and quote analysis. For me, this was VERY fun indeed–must be the ex-English major in me. I always read the chapter summaries AFTER reading the chapter. It reminded me of what I had read (good if I were studying for school and good because I forget things easily) and sometimes pointed out things I had missed. Occasionally the chapter summaries of some Schmoop guides have seemed to contain errors…but for the most part they are spot on. They actually now have a Moby-Dick: Complete Text with Integrated Study Guide from Shmoop which I prefer so I don’t have to switch back and forth. This is available for the Kindle for $2.39 so that is how Amazon got me to pay money by adding value to something I could have gotten for free.

Other differences are those that people have noted in other locations…the feel and smell of the book; the images with color, maps are more readable vs. weight/size/convenience.  Underlines and notes in physical vs. electronic form (like the look of pBooks better; the convenience of eBooks better) And this morning I was reminded another difference: had to find the physical book this morning so I could take a photo of it–it was lurking in one of many overfull bookcases–and had to find it on my Kindle (page forward til it shows up on my list or I could have searched for it).

In Conclusion

Which one do I prefer? Books! In any form they are fabulous and I am glad to have them in physical or electronic form or both. There really is no contest here, I hope both will continue to prosper.

The Savvy Traveler: What’s in my wallet?

The savvy traveler empties her purse of all unnecessary credit and department store cards but DOESN’T lose her drivers license before going through security.

On a recent trip from Denver to Boston, *I* was THAT savvy traveler. I travel a lot. With people who are also savvy travelers. I carefully packed everything I could possibly need(1). I carefully moved only the most essential items to my “travel purse(2).” The thinking is why take that Costco card when I’m not GOING to Costco on this business trip. Or any other card when I really don’t want to lose it and have to try and figure out how to replace it.

For a domestic trip, all you need for a picture ID is your driver’s license, so that is all I had. When traveling internationally I bring my passport, plus many copies of my passport strewn throughout my purse, luggage and laptop bag–just in case. I also bring my driver’s license because I need it to, well, DRIVE to the airport. But for domestic travel, having efficiently unpacked my travel purse, just the driver’s license.

I got to the airport in plenty of time, making sure I had no pressure that might tempt me to speed(3), and cleverly took out my preprinted (at home) boarding pass and my drivers license in preparation for a quick trip through security via the premier passenger line (told you I traveled a lot). But then…I saw the travel gadget store I’ve always been interested in but never taken the time to stop into…just before security. Since I was so early, I popped over there and browsed and found some awesome cool travel gadgets I felt I must buy and so I did. But when I picked up my boarding pass from the counter…there was NO DRIVERS LICENSE to be seen.

I immediately searched my person, my purse, my surroundings…repeatedly..zip zero nada zilch. Then to the airport information counter where they could call lost and found…ditto. Panic and sweat. They wont let you through security without a picture ID and my home and passport were a 140 mile roundtrip away and my flight in less than two hours. But I was advised to go through security line anyway and ask the nice TSA people if anyone had turned it in there. Amazingly the line monitor let me in so I could talk to TSA. The nice TSA lady called over a nice TSA guy. No, no one had turned in the license but if I could just step over here…. At a nice little desk they asked me repeatedly if I had ANY other picture ID with me…a Costco card, a student ID, a work ID…nope nothing says I–little Miss Efficiency. So they had me fill out an affidavit swearing who I was and where I lived. They called someone–who? I don’t know–the FBI, Homeland Security? They answered a lot of questions about how no, I really didn’t have any other form of picture ID (they weren’t impressed with my credit cards, insurance cards, or business cards. They asked for the last four digits of….my home phone number. That surprised me. They asked if I’d lived at any other addresses in my current neighborhood. I had! And I remembered the address, amazingly. And…eventually they stamped my boarding pass and let me in. I did not know they could do that.

Although they explained that I could get on the plane coming back the same way, luckily Mr. savvy traveler was joining me later in the week and I called home sheepishly to ask if he would bring my passport. I wonder if I had had my photocopy of my passport if it would have worked as an alternate picture ID? Repeated called to the airport lost and found yielded no joy, but midway through my trip, my husband called me to tell me the airport had called and they had found my license. I never learned where but…HOORAY! I was told I could pick it on my return trip. The return flight arrived after the normal business hours of the lost and found department but I arranged to call the people on duty and have them come down and hand it to me after a small wait. Thanks much to whoever found it and turned it in and to the lost and found folks and other airport personnel who rescued me.

Of course this did put a bite into my model of efficiency, carry-on bag only, everything arranged in advance savvy travelerness. But then that stuff never seems to be without its Murphy’s Law moments. About which, more later.

1) The myth of packing perfectly is one that falls apart easily. I can, and may, chronicle things I forgot to pack and things I packed but did not use.  But a savvy traveler’s grasp should exceed their reach, or that’s what check-in is for.

2) Travel purse is a black vertical microfiber security purse kind of like this one at Magellan’s. Slings over body under a jacket and masquerades as NOT a third item besides my rolling luggage and laptop backpack.

3) Thanks police guys for ticketing me for speeding because the speed limit drops abruptly from 65 to 35 just before parking and yes, I was a bit rushed to make my flight. This has made my life hell since my travel schedule has prevented me from appearing in court….argh!

Livin’ La Vida Gluten and Dairy Free

Try avoiding wheat and dairy for a few days, she said. It’ll be good for you, she said. She is the acupuncturist I went to seeking relief from back pain about 2 months ago. Besides acupuncture and “cupping” (look that up in your Funk and Wagnall’s) she also advises on nutrition. After asking me what I typically ate, she noted that I consumed a lot of wheat and dairy. I had just discovered the bliss contained in full fat Greek Gods honey flavored dairy, was a dedicated cappuccino drinker and an avid pizzaiola, so not surprising. Wheat and dairy are associated with inflammation and may play a role in your back pain, she said.

Ok, I’ll bite. At this point I’m trying everything in phase one of treatment for lingering back pain before I move on to phase two which involves an injection of slow, long acting steroids into the back (Epidural Steroid Injection). I have nothing against modern medicine and am confident my pain management Dr. will do a good, safe job of it, but still….let’s just hold off a bit on the poking of the me with big needles, shall we?

Thus began the gluten-free, dairy-free lifestyle. It started with a period of adjustment wherein I realized several times after the fact that, d’oh! that has wheat in it. I talked to a few people and got a few pointers and started looking and thinking more closely about what I was eating. Found some stuff that didn’t taste so good and some stuff that was DEElicious (Outside the Breadbox chocolate chip cookies, for one).  Had a few cranky moments (ok, hours) when, working late, starving and with a few errands ahead of me, I couldn’t just drive through the Wendy’s and get a burger or grab a slice of pizza at the Costco.

Outside the Breadbox, a Colorado Springs company, is dedicated to gluten free baked goods and they have quite a few good substitutes like their Brown Rice Bread. Toasted, with peanut butter and jam, it is a wonder.  I have reacquainted myself with rice noodles and, luckily, my husband is a great cook and up for a challenge. We learned how to cook and love brown rice as a side dish or with a little almond mile and raisins, a good dessert. I’ve upped the servings of veggies and fruit.  This regime cuts out a lot of options and generally wipes out the dessert menu, which has an upside. I am fiercely triumphant when I point out that meat, potatoes and dark chocolate have neither wheat nor dairy.

There are tough moments though. Monday night is our Pasta and Prosciutto night tradition, and now I cannot participate easily. Either I fix something else entirely or substitute wheat free pasta. So far I have found only tolerable substitutes. Sometimes the home chef (aka spouse) finds it easier to pop a pizza in the oven and directs me to the freezer for some gluten-free boxed dinner. Sometimes I am signed up to provide grilled pizza at the company picnic even though I can’t eat any. I will have to learn to make a gluten free dough and find some good cheese-free toppings. Sometimes the place I am eating does not have very good options–a sandwich bar and a salad bar with cream-based dressings and a dessert table where everything has wheat, dairy or wheat AND dairy except the fresh fruit salad. Nothing against fresh fruit but I wanted a decadent dessert–the best I could do was add maraschino cherries and colored sprinkles from the ice cream bar.  The hardest test ever was when they brought freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and milk around in the first class cabin. I managed, but just barely.

I bought a couple of paperback gluten-free cookbooks but I have to eliminate all the options that call for dairy. I’ve begun amassing the gluten free flours and other baking aids like xanthan gum but I haven’t quite put it together to try. I DID make an almond flour orange cake recipe I found on the recipe after reading about the Starbucks gluten-free brouhaha. It was pretty tasty but came out a bit too moist and, like Starbucks, developed mold before we could finish it all.  More to come!

After one particularly disheartening set of meals on a business trip, I came home to find a phone message from my Dr’s office with my annual exam lab results. The nurse sounded VERY happy with my labs–all good stats, in normal range and mentioned a cholesterol level of 169. This was down from last year’s 224 so a very good, unexpected result. I have to assume it is related to the regime.

What have I learned so far:

  • I can turn down bread, pasta and other wheat products
  • I can turn down milk and other dairy products
  • Trying to do both gluten AND dairy-free is more than twice as hard as either one of those
  • Gluten-free substitutes for wheat products are quite expensive
  • Cooking gluten-free substitutes takes special flour, baking powder, etc and requires something new: Xanthan gum

Back to Back: Sleep Off

On twitter more, on Facebook some, I have lightly tracked the progress of my attempt to use mattress modification as a method of addressing persistent back pain. And why not? I’ve tried NSAIDs, adjustments, massages, physical therapy and acupuncture. All have helped some, none have proved the magic pill to save the day. Why not try a new mattress? After all I’ve hated my mattress since we bought it…it is too firm for me, just right for the loved one.

So I embarked on a quest to try out the Tempurpedic vs. the Sleep Number mattress systems AT THE SAME TIME. My sister-in-law swears by the Tempurpedic, the bionic woman swears by the Sleep Number. Pretty even odds there. My accupuncturist highly recommended the Bragada mattresses which are very like the Tempurpedic but do not have the 90 day in home trial. And Tempurpedic would have it that memory foam does not a tempurpedic make. So I rounded up the loved one and a hunting we did go. Found a Tempurpedic model we liked, found a Sleep Number we liked. Ordered the Sleep Number for our master bed on a 30 day trial, paid $59 for shipping, set it up ourselves. Ordered a Tempurpedic for our guest bed for a $90 day trial, delivery and installation free. Advantage Tempurpedic: longer trial, free delivery and setup.

I tweeted and facebooked about my sleep off  to amuse myself and friends and immediately was contacted by two tweeters from Sleep Comfort (company that sells Sleep Number beds) wishing me well. Later I tweeted that Sleep Number beds were on sale for this weekend and hey why couldn’t I benefit by that sale in the midst of my trial. I was immediately assured that I could simply call the number and they would price match.  Never heard a word about nuthin on Tempurpedic and they never go on sale. Advantage: Sleep Number on social media and sales incentives.

Initial impressions: First Tempurpedic sales guy was a jerk; wouldn’t buy ice from him in a desert; 2nd Tempurpedic sales person very mellow and accomodating; maybe too low key. First Sleep Number sales person, good; Second one: better yet, and impressive store gadgetry to show you the improvement in your pressure points is a sell to the geek in me. Setting up the Sleep Number mattress was an interesting exercise but it all came together as per the instructions.  Not sure I could ever get it back in the box if I needed to send it back. And I’d have to pay to send it back. Tempurpedic promised to pick it up for free. Tempurpedic mattress was much taller than I imagined but mattress covers and sheets these days cover a wide range of mattress sizes. Yes, oh yes, the Tempurpedic emitted odors for the first 3-5 days. But leaving the windows open as much as possible, that ended quickly. Advantage: Pretty close; but sales edge to Sleep Number.

But at the end of the day it’s about comfort on relief from back pain. While neither mattress has cured my back pain, they both provide some relief from the aches and pains associated with whatever is going on with my back. But my back seems to feel a touch worse waking up on Tempurpedic than on Sleep Number.  Advantage: Sleep Number

There are some other considerations, some more important than others. Cost is a factor. Both mattresses are way more expensive than any mattress we have ever owned.  I understand that some higher end traditional “spring-loaded” mattresses are approaching this price point as well, but I haven’t investigated. That said I wouldn’t consider spending this much if I didn’t feel it was worth it. In the models I chose, the Tempurpedic ends up, with my sales discount on the Sleep Number, being $700 more. Of course I could have chosen different models of either line and paid less, and generally I’m still getting used to the idea of spending this much but …Slight Advantage: Sleep Number

Family consensus: Fuggedabout it, this is MY back we’re talking about…oh wait..yes OK if the loved one really hated the mattress it could cause marital discord and we don’t want that. He prefers for the Sleep Number over the Tempurpedic over concern that the Tempurpedic would get too hot. Well his back is fine and tolerates a wide range of mattresses but he does sleep hotter than me. While I am shivering under meager thin sheets and blankets as the nights cool down, he is on top of all covers and still complaining about the heat. That said the young one has taken an inexplicable shine to the Tempurpedic even going much easier on my initial obnoxious salesperson than I did and isn’t pleased not to have a full vote. Yeah well, he’s 10, his back is young and pain-free and he isn’t footing this bill. Advantage: Sleep Number

The -net-net: We are sticking with the Sleep Number over the Tempurpedic. Why? Ability to adjust firmness on each side of bed, cost, sales experience and sales follow-up; slightly better improvement of back pain. That’s how it played out for me. For anyone else though…your mileage may vary. I know a number of people who swear by the Tempurpedic and if it works for you and it alleviates back pain better and you can afford the model you choose, then who am I to say otherwise. It was interesting to try both mattresses at the same time but I don’t know if anyone else would sign up for that.

Nonetheless: The Quest for Back Pain Relief Continues….