Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Clothes shopping

Clothes shopping doesn't come easy for me. It's something I really, really hate to do. Nothing ever fits, and if it does, I can't afford it.

Except for a couple of tank tops I ordered online and some underwear I picked up a Wal-Mart while browsing for picture frames, I haven't bought anything new to wear since I graduated from Quinnipiac and my friends from Sweden came to visit. In fact, Albie pointed out the other day that the majority of my wardrobe now consists of office giveaways and souvenirs (T-shirs can be acquired in many ways...)

Hopeful, I sprang out of bed filled with joy this morning and announced I would go shopping before Albie's planned family Costco trip. "If I leave now, that'll give me at least an hour at the mall," I said, thinking this would be plenty of time to find something new, cheap and black to wear to a wedding this weekend.

I didn't realize I never learned how to navigate large clothing stores. After trying five outfits at the Swedish H&M that were all several sizes too small, I headed over to Macy's thinking a big store must have more to choose from.

Wrong. I got lost. I found myself wandering aimlessly between tiny leather jackets and skirts that looked like head bands. A large make-up counter separated me from the other end of the store, and I glanced through the glass displays to see beyond - into the land of, perhaps, some larger sizes. I noticed a sign saying "women" near a fitting room and crossed over. When I got closer, I realized its said "petites" underneath.

"What the heck?" I said, then spun around in a circle to see if there were any un-petite sizes within sight. A black skirt with tiny white lace flowers seemed promising. It was on sale, too! When I picked it up, it said "extra large," despite the "14" printed on the hanger. I pulled out the price sticker... "petite extra large," it said. What? Doesn't "petite" mean "small"?

I ran back and forth between different sections of the store, finally realizing that everything is organized by designer - not by item, pattern, size, price or any other category that would make more sense to the shopper. I therefore spotted at least 10 racks with sale signs on them, only to realize as I got closer that all items on the rack were too small or too expensive.

Two white-collared shirts finally called my name at $13 each, and I spent the next five minutes trying to find a cash register. There were none.

My hour was up and I had to meet Albie for more urgent purchases. After 50 hot dogs, frozen fruits, Eggo waffles, snack packs and 100 granola bars had been purchased and unloaded at home, I ventured out again. This time, I went straight to the two stores I am familiar with: Old Navy and Kohl's. In two hours, I found everything I needed.

Except, of course, what I was really looking for. I still have nothing to wear to the wedding Saturday.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Big E

Went to The Big E last weekend - the Eastern States Exposition. Bought maple sugar candy, ate a baked potato and rode the Polar Express. The 12-day event ended yesterday.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Remembering two great stadiums

You know I don't care much about politics. I don't care much about sports either. But when it's an end of an era for two New York baseball teams, I feel obligated to blog about it.

The New York Yankees and the New York Mets have both played their final games at Yankee and Shea stadiums, respectively. Two magnificent new buildings are already under way - a new Yankee Stadium to replace the 1923 building in the Bronx, and Citi Field to replace the 1964 Shea Stadium in Queens.

Neither team finished the season as they would have hoped - no playoffs to speak of - and it was just as sad to watch the Yankees beat the Orioles for the last time last week in the "house that (Babe) Ruth built" as it was to see the Mets lose to the Marlins tonight in the former home of the New York Jets.

I've been to plenty of games at Yankee Stadium. When I worked as an au-pair, it was common practice to visit the ballpark several times a month - especially in the early fall before the playoffs - with Mike and his friends. We would show up (at least) an hour before the game to watch the batting practice - the kids always hoping to catch a ball or get an autograph. A few times we would also stay after the game to line up for autographs near the home team's exit.

I was so mad at the players one year because about 20 kids were waiting in line for autographs, and not one single Yankee even acknowledged them. Noses in the air, they all walked straight to a waiting bus and got on. The visiting team members, however, did their best to sign some shirts, cards or arms before they were rushed away by their manager.

That's when I stopped being a Yankee fan. And since I met Albie, it's all about the Mets. For his birthday in 2005, I took him to a game as a surprise. The Mets beat St. Louis in the quickest game we've ever seen - about 2 hours. The following year, we went again. We were treated to a four-hour game, and then I think we got lost on our way home. We enjoyed overpriced hot dogs and beer just as much as being in the Pentax box seats (don't ask).

I finally got an autograph from a New York Yankee for my boy Mike. This story has nothing to do with either stadium, but I figured I can brag about my encounter here anyway. On a college trip to Washington, D.C., with our student newspaper group, we stopped our van to fill up gas in White Plains. Right next to us, Bernie Williams pulled up in a black sports car and started pumping his own gas (most rich people use full-service stations so they don't have to leave their cars).

Of course, I would have never recognized him unless our adviser, Don, said "isn't that Bernie Williams?" I rushed out of the car, notepad in hand, and asked him to sign his name. He gladly obliged, then he smiled and waved at the other students in the van - all too amazed to say a word.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The first presidential debate - UPDATED

I'm surprisingly uniterested in politics.

Four years ago, I won a prize at an election party for correctly predicting that George W. Bush would win (and guessing how many states he would take and what they were), but when there's no prizes involved, I care less about politics than the average journalist. (More than the average American, though, I would say).

Despite this, I watched about a half hour of the first presidential debate on Friday night at work. It felt like the right thing to do.

Had Hillary been the Democratic candidate, perhaps I would have paid more attention to the race. I've never really warmed up to Barack Obama. When my grandmother asked me last year who I thought was going to be the next president, if it would be Hill-A-Ryh or "that O-Ha-Ma," I told her John McCain would probably win. "Mac what?" she said (but in Swedish, of course).

I just have this feeling at the pit of my stomach that this country will never vote for a black man who is young, well-educated, well-spoken and has great ideas. It is much safer to stick to what you know. And Hillary had too much baggage - even to win the Democratic ticket.

McCain isn't Bush. People want to compare the two to no end, but they are - after all - different people. "He's a Republican," I told my grandma, "but this country needs change, and whoever it is, it isn't Bush, and that'll help a lot."

That was, of course, until McCain picked the young, beautiful "hockey mom" from Alaska as his VP. While I'd like to see a woman try to run this country, Sarah Palin is not the one. I don't think anyone is ready for THAT.
UPDATE: Watch the Saturday Night Live version of this debate.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Five items in my freezer:
Bread, Swedish meatballs, ice cream, fruit and chicken

Five items in my closet:
Suitcases, shoes, sweaters, dirt and dust bunnies

Five items in my bathroom:
Tissues, Clorox wipes, shampoo, nail clippers and towels

Five people I challenge:
Kristen D., Sarah S., Walt, Carmen and A.B.

Matt Damon is my hero

Yet another reason to like Matt Damon.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

How Sweden solved its bank crisis - UPDATED

According to this article in the New York Times, the U.S. has a lot to learn from a similar bank crisis in Sweden in the early 1990s.

Fixed the link to the story, I think.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

No child left behind

A 4-year-old boy was left alone at a train station in Lund, Sweden. His family were flying to Iraq from Copenhagen, but when they got on the train, he somehow fell behind and was left on the platform.

When the parents turned to the ticked-collector and pleaded for the operators to open the train doors, they refused. "The doors will not open until the next stop," the conductor said.

"We cannot see that we did anything wrong," a train company spokeswoman told Aftonbladet. "We were following protocol."

The driver of the train said in a statement through the company that he would have "obviously" stopped the train if he knew a little boy had been left behind," but this was not communicated to him.

A 5-year-old boy in New York City somehow got on the wrong school bus the other day. The first-grader - who was supposed to be walked next-door to an after-school program - told his mother he had gotten on the bus because a school aide told him to. He got off 2 miles from home - all alone - until another parent saw him and brought him back to school.

"Our driver tells us protocol was followed," a bus company spokeswoman said. "No child was left alone."

The driver has been suspended without pay; Education officials would not say if the school aide was disciplined. An Education Department spokeswoman said the agency launched an investigation after the school notified it of the incident. Two DOE representatives even went to the school the next day to monitor dismissal.

In Sweden, the family is claiming discrimination. The cold reception they got from the train staff was due to the family's foreign descent, the father said. The case is under investigation by the Ombudsman for Ethnic Discrimination.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Big Scoop

It wasn't a true scoop, because our competition had it, too. The same day we did. But it's the biggest story I've been involved with since I started in Torrington, with the possible exception of the Avon Mountain crash in 2005 - a 20-car pileup that resulted in four deaths.

Through a Freedom of Information request that was about to go to a hearing in Hartford, our newspaper finally obtained 650 pages of documents relating to an internal investigation into the conduct of a Torrington police officer and two civilian dispatchers. All three resigned at the beginning of the summer.

We found out why.

Check it out.

Oh, and if you are up for some naughty reading, click on the pdfs on the bottom to see the chats these people exchanged with each other - while on duty, using police messaging systems - for several months.
(BTW, the picture above is MY front page of The Register Citizen featured on NBC30 news - it's not plagiarism if I take a picture of them taking a picture of something I did, right? :-)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Swede at bat

Albie and I went to the batting cages in Winsted yesterday. Even though I have no idea how to get into the proper batting position or why the elbow should be at such an awkward angle, I enjoy swinging the metal bat at things that fly in my direction.

Most of the time, if I hit a yellow rubber softball, it bounces into the ground since I have a tendency of hitting things from above. Sometimes, I even run towards the ball, thinking that this will make it easier for me to hit it sooner - before it hits me.

Today I'm sore. I realized that I must have used my entire body when swinging at those flying objects - even my left butt cheek is hurting. It's a good thing I never worked on the torso rotation at the gym on Sunday - I got plenty a workout on Monday of those muscles.

(The photos are from last year at the batting cages, but I was wearing pretty much the same thing and looked just as silly. The only difference is that it was daylight out when we went yesterday).

Monday, September 15, 2008

Excused from jury duty

"You have been excused from jury service under the above-referenced Juror I.D. because you are not a citizen of the U.S. A notice confirming this should be received at your CT address within a week to ten days."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Getting called for jury duty

It happens to everyone here. Inevitable, it had to happen to me.

When I saw the return address on the letter, I knew. "Jury Administration" can only mean one thing: I'm being called for jury duty.

I laughed out loud.

"Most Connecticut residents who experience our state court system will do so as jurors," according to the state's judicial web site. "More than 550,000 individuals are randomly selected each year from source lists obtained from the State Departments of Motor Vehicles, Labor and Revenue services as well as the central voter registry of the Secretary of the State. Of the total number of individuals summoned each year, about 110,000 will serve. More than 80 percent will complete their service in one day."

Aha, I thought. I must have been added to the system when I got my new state ID card. But then I flipped the letter over. It had my old address from Bethany. Strange.

I logged in to get myself disqualified, checking the box "I am not a U.S. Citizen," although I could have also selected "I claim previous service withint the past three years," "I am 70 years of age or older," "I do not speak or understand English," "I was convicted of a felony in the past 7 years," "I am a member of the General Assembly and the General Assembly is in session" or "I am Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Comptroller, Attorney General, Judge of Superior, Appellate, Supreme, Probate or Federal Court, or Family Support Magistrate."

Of course, I wanted to say I am the governor of Connecticut, but Albie agreed nobody would really believe me, and M. Jodi Rell would probably get mad at me and sue me for criminal impersonation.

Everyone always tries to get disqualified, mainly because it is such an inconvenience to be in court by 8 a.m. and then wait and wait and wait. Sometimes you get chosen for a big trial, sometimes you get sent home. Apparently there are hundreds of people just waiting around in each courthouse every day, because you never know when a defendant opts for jury trial. Then, jury selection can begin immediately.

Judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys interview prospective jurors to find out if they might be biased against the suspect in any way. Several jurors are then excused, and new ones are chosen.

"Jury Service is one of the cornerstones of a free society," this fancy brochure tells me. "By supporting their employees through jury service, employers are helping to preserve the right to a jury trial for all citizens."

Mainly, the brochure tells us that you have the right to skip work to attend jury duty, and your employer must still pay you. "You cannot be dismissed from your job or disciplined for serving jury duty," it confidently promises.

Still curious as to how they chose me - a non-citizen - I continued browsing the judicial site.

"Names are randomly chosen every year," it says. "Every year your name has an equal chance of being selected and you could receive a jury summons every year. Only persons aged 70 or older who choose not to serve and disabled individuals who have provided a letter from a licensed physician indicating that they are permanently unable to serve jury duty may be permanently disqualified. There are no other permanent records of disqualification or hardship excuses granted, so you must ask to be disqualified each time you receive a summons."

Boy, do I have many years to look forward to...

Friday, September 12, 2008

My 'promotion'

I've been upset for the past few days. Read this article, and I'm sure you'll understand.

Those of you who know me well know that this isn't what I wanted. However, I'll make it work somehow.

With my 'new' responsibilities, I'll be more involved with the web site. If you can, please check it out as often as possible. The more hits we get, the better it'll look for me. You don't have to read anything, just click around a bit if you have time. I need all the help I can get!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

I wanna go outside, Mommy. NOW!!!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Our new IKEA bed

This is our new IKEA Malm bed. Well, it would be, if we had all the parts that are supposed to come with it. What you see here is the Malm head board, plus my old box spring and mattress sitting on the floor. Looks, nice, doesn't it?

I'm thinking of submitting this photo to IKEA's "Best Advice for New Shoppers" contest. On the entry form it will say: "Please note that even if the store specifically asks you to make sure you remembered to pick up all three boxes that go with one item, and you actually DO remember to pick up all three boxes, plus you pick up two additional boxes in the self-serve area to make sure you have ALL the required pieces of an item, you may in fact be missing some necessary items like hardware or instructions."

Of course, the customer service helpers will then apologize from the bottom of their hearts on the phone. Then they will tell you that the instructions are available right on IKEA's web site, which of course doesn't help the least bit, since they forgot to provide you will all the hardware - screws, nuts, bolts, z-shaped tools and wooden plugs. Which is why your bed now sits on the floor, while pieces of your old one are stuffed into the back of the garage.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Kitchen updates

We've painted the insides of about half of our cabinets,
and I moved my tea and tea cups to a new spot.
They finally get their own cabinet! YAY!

The doors are back up on some cabinets,
while we are holding off on others. They
are all done (for the upper part of the kitchen),
but since we are repainting the walls, it's easier
to leave some off until the walls are done.

And this is what I look like when wearing
all my safety gear! I just hate breathing in
saw dust, and I cannot stand when it
gets stuck to my glasses.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Scary bugs

Today I got home and Albie said "you have to come look at this! It's a bug too big even for Sophie."

On our window facing the backyard sat a praying mantis (bönsyrsa), about 4 inches tall (10 cm). It's the biggest bug I've ever seen.

"Does it fly?" I asked, cautiously, while backing up a bit on our deck.

"Oh yeah," Albie replied, walking closer to inspect it.

I ran back inside to get my camera. Then I decided I better take the pictures from the inside... I am not too fond of bugs, especially not those that fly. But with a glass wall between us, I could study the little critter intimately.

The praying mantis got its name because it looks like it is saying a prayer when in the right position. Its little claws are clasped together, and with its wings folded up, its back gives an appearance of a little robe or cloak.

They eat insects and sometimes even lizards and rodents, and they are experts at camouflage. The mantises are also known for their sexual cannibalism, where the female eats the male after (or even during) their sexual acts - starting by biting off the male's head.

Nice little creatures, in other words.

I thought living on a farm for three years prepared me for most types of bugs - beetles, crickets, mites, ticks and fleas. I was wrong. This is the scariest flying thing I've ever seen in real life. For now, I'm staying as far away from it as I can, with my doors and windows shut tight.

Lazy week

This has been a lazy week for me.

I haven't worked at my second job, I haven't done any home improvement projects, and I haven't been blogging. It's been nice.

Last weekend, I spent most of my time in my pajamas. A few drinks on Sunday (including my first taste of absinthe), then movies and ice cream on Monday. On Tuesday, season four of "The Office" came out on DVD, and Albie and I have seen six episodes so far.

It's all in preparation for what's to come. Next week will be the first week for Albie at his new job. He's excited, of course. I'm mostly scared. No more carpooling on Tuesdays, no more dinners together at the office, and no more help laying out pages. From now on, I'm on my own.

What makes it even harder is that our editor also left this week. Now it's just me, the sports editor and another copy editor putting the paper out seven days a week. But wait, did I mention I also have to do a 20-page tab each week?

If you know anyone who likes to copy edit and is great at page design, please have them contact me. I could sure use the help!

Monday, September 1, 2008

The beauty of chick flicks

I wonder why chick flicks always make me cry. They suceed every time, and I know they will - that's why I watch them.

On some level I can identify with every single miserable girl, and I combine my own hopes and expectations with their greatest wish.

There something so passionate about that longing - the one you felt when you were in your early teenage years - like nothing else matters in the world. All that matters is here and now, and the longing MUST be dealt with immediately. The chick flicks I watch remind me of those days.

Not that I would ever want to be a teenager again. It was too emotional.

I recently came across some short stories I wrote when I was growing up. Very early on, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I had this small, black travel typewriter and I used to sit at the kitchen table, spread out my notes and write for hours.

It was all about love - unanswered feelings and longing. It was about loneliness and emptiness.

Now, it's embarassing to read. It's even more embarassing when I think of how I used to make copies and hand them out to all my friends. Perhaps the better pieces will one day be featured on this blog.