Thursday, March 27, 2014

Does anybody really know what time it is?

So, the other weekend, I had something really weird happen. (I know! You're thinking..."something weird happened to you, Marianne?  Impossible!") But it did.

My friend, Dr. J, has spent the last year in New Zealand.  She's been back since November, but with my business travel, her setting up her new practice and visiting her family and spending time with her snuggle-bunny, we haven't had much time to catch up.  So we decided to have a girls' getaway...just the two of us.  It was still a little too cold for the when I suggested that we go to Jackson, MS to their famous St. Patty's day parade, she was all in.

The St. Patty's day parade in Jackson is something that everyone should experience.  Statistics I've read say that approximately 65,000 attend the St. Patty's parade.  It is big, big fun, believe me.
Me n' the good doctor, toasting our arrival.

We stayed at what used to be the King's Court it's a Hilton Garden Inn.  We had a great stay Friday night, and a good time at the parade the next day. Hopefully I can get another more elaborate post on our actual trip...but this post is about the weird thing that happened.
After the parade, we ended many people do, at Hal & Mal's.  We were incredibly lucky and scored a table.  We had just settled in and ordered a beer when a young man approached us and asked if he and a friend could share the table.
We had seen this fellow around and about our hotel over the past day & a half...and so was SO freakin' crowded, it would have been a shame to waste the half of a table we weren't using.
Anyway, he goes and gets his friend...who turns out to be a really nice, pleasant, entertaining older fellow.  Here's a couple of pictures of him:

Picture courtesy of Marianne's iPhone

Picture courtesy of Marianne's iPhone

We chatted for awhile...he asked what we did (Doctor and Engineer) and then several questions about our careers.  He told us that the young friend he was with was in town and was working on the production of a Lifetime reality show being shot in Jackson (Bring It!).  We thought that was all very cool.  And plausible...we'd seen the young guy, Kevin, with a group of folks that could certainly be a "crew" of some sort.  The older guy (he'd already introduced himself as "Danny") told us that he was retired.
By and by, we asked him what he was retired from & he told us that he used to be the drummer for Chicago.  Wow!  We were VERY impressed.  He regaled us with many tales once we started pressing for them...but he in no way acted bragg-y or anything.  Throughout the evening, several groups of people that worked with Kevin stopped in...all of them hugging Danny's neck and introducing him to people they knew.
We asked Danny how he ended up in Jackson, Mississippi and  he told us that he had spent the last few years of his life living in Costa Rica...he had decided after his wife's death that he wanted to make a 3 month tour via train from Los Angeles to New York.  He said that about a month ago, during this trek across our nation, he had a mild stroke about an hour outside of Jackson.  He was taken to Jackson and treated and had been encouraged to take a sojourn for awhile before resuming his travels. Danny insisted on paying for our check, and caught a ride back to the hotel with us.  He'd been walking all day, it was raining, he was recovering from a stroke, so sure...
Once we got back to the hotel, I went up, changed clothes and came back down to the lobby.  Danny was sitting in the lobby, looking very unwell as a lady took his pulse (turns out she was a nurse).  An ambulance had been called and several of the staff were scurrying around...getting him a glass of water...checking on the status of the ambulance, etc.  Just listening to them I could tell that he indeed HAD been a guest at the hotel for several weeks and everyone liked him....everyone was, like me, a little impressed that here he was...someone sort-of famous.  They repeated his name SEVERAL times in my hearing...Danny Seraphine.
But here's the thing...when Dr.J and I traveled back the next day, I had the opportunity to actually look up "Danny" from the band Chicago...and yes, Danny Seraphine was the drummer for Chicago.  He was also playing a gig in Scotsdale, Arizona on the same weekend that we'd met "Danny" the recovering stroke victim in Jackson, MS.
Here are some Internet images I found of Danny Seraphine:

Picture courtesy of

I think the only thing authentic about the Danny I met was the Kangol he was sporting.

So, I'm confused.  If you're going to pretend to be somebody...why pick the ex-drummer from a pretty good band from 30 years ago?  And why not have your details right (Danny Seraphine never lived in Costa Rica and is 65; our guy talked endlessly about Costa Rica and repeatedly told us he was 70).
I still have an interesting story to tell...just one with a very perplexing ending.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Snail mail

Text to my sister's husband last night:

Hi, D. It's me...your birthday card. Just sittin on the counter with my friend, the Yankee candle...where I've been for nearly 2 months now. I don't know what is wrong with your idiot sister-in-law that she can't remember to buy a freaking stamp to mail me with. She even went to the post office last Tuesday to mail some scholarship packets off. She didn't remember she needed stamps until she came home and threw her keys down on me...again. Well, sorry I'm not with you yet. Maybe some day, some how, I will find my way to you.
P.S. Gift card says "Hi!"

I'm pathetic.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

This n' That

THIS is a broken Waterford water goblet, pattern: Maeve.  The pattern is retired because OF COURSE IT IS.

THAT (below) is Maxx, the prime suspect in the misconduct that lead to the breaking of the water goblet. 


THIS is Maxx checking the calendar, apparently to see when the shipment was made.

THAT (below) is the $99.95 replacement goblet from

And THIS is where my crystal has lived for the last 24 years without mishap...

The current theory is that a moth or some other kind of bug got in...and in an attempt to protect his family from whatever vile disease or toxin the insect was certainly equipped to deliver, Maxx scaled the china hutch to reach his enemy.
And now he knows he can. So he does...ever vigilant, he checks the ceiling above the hutch ever so often.
Now I need a place to move it out of potential harms way.  And THAT is what I am about to go do.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hotel hell

I am spoiled.  I don't deny it.  I even readily admit it.  One particular area of my rottenness is travel accommodations.  My company lets me stay in anything that will let us have a government rate and is under per diem.   These days, that is practically anything.  My favorite places are Country Inn & Suites, Hamptons, Hiltons and Marriots.  Each of these franchises tries to top the other one when it comes to the comfort of their guests...particularly when it comes to how comfy their beds are.

Well, as it happened, when I went to book rooms for us in Tuscaloosa for Panhellinic Day (the monkey is planning on rushing in the fall), none of my usual stand-bys had any vacancies (there was a marathon being held that weekend as well).  In fact, the only thing I could find that still had a non-smoking vacancy was a Super 8.

Now, I was prepared for the experience to be slightly more economical than my usual.  However, our stay ended up being, well, pretty horrific.
Pulling into the Super 8 parking lot, it looked mostly innocuous...nothing too fancy...but not too ramshackle either. 

Something I didn't catch right away????  Notice the bottom row of windows?  Yes, the first floor was half-way underground.  Good news during a tornado, I suppose, but it was weird being below street level...kind of like Lavern and Shirley.  And it had a funny smell...not exactly moldy...kind of what you would imagine an earthworm would smell like. 

This was the lovely view out of our window. I kind of had to stand on tip toe to even see out. Of course the view got better at night: 

That's when the pretty lights from the TRAVELING CARNIVAL right up the bank from us would brighten the night sky. I didn't get any audio, so I can't share with you the sounds we enjoyed from our room...the clanking of the poorly bolted together rides...the screams of the people riding the poorly bolted together rides and the music blaring from each ride and booth...all happening concurrently. 
Not that there was any real danger of Jeff or I getting any sleep whatsoever.  For one thing, the mattress appeared to be about 75 years old.  It groaned and and made dying-spring sounds whenever we shifted our weight.
It was also squished down at the head by about 3 inches.
We are used to sleeping in a bed with an elevated head (Jeff has a hiatal hernia and this helps his heartburn issues).  The Super 8 bed was like the antithesis of our bed at home.  I felt like I was standing on my head.
Also?  I was afraid to get under the covers.  I have walked this earth for 44 years without suffering a bed bug bite, and I intend to keep it that way, I assure you.

We had rented a separate room for the girls (my niece is starting at Alabama next year as well, and met us down there).  They at least were on the non-carnival side of the building.  Plus, teenagers can practically fall asleep standing up, so they did alright.

Neither Jeff nor I got much sleep at all.  Even after I went to the front desk to get us two extra pillows to make up for the mattress lean (I had to show my drivers license to the guy at the desk before he gave me the pillows).

That made for a long, long day the next day when had to sit through the parent's portion of Panhellinic Day. (The girls' portion was all about the wonderful, happy, fun time you have as a Greek.  Ours was all about how much it's gonna cost you.  It is not cheap.)

So, lesson well learned.  Book early and pay the extra for anything going on in T-town.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

International Women's Day

So a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine, who works for another company out here on our job site, asked me if I would be the keynote speaker at their company's International Women's Day luncheon they were planning to hold on March 6th (actual IWD is March 8th...but that was a Saturday).

His story is that some of the ladies recommended me...but the truth of it is that I was probably deemed the easiest to talk into doing it.  Kind of like Mikey with the Life cereal.  Anyway, I was told that Classic on Noble would probably be catering it, and that there would be bread pudding.  It is a well known fact that I could be led off of a cliff with Classic's bread I agreed. (As it turns out, McCallister's catered...and although the food was tasty enough, it was no Classic bread pudding.  I was LIED TO.)
(No, Robie, I will not let it go.)

A-hem...anyway...when I sat down to write myself some talking points, I came away realizing how much things have changed in just the time I have been in the workplace.

My first "real" job was in 1989 when I was still in college, but already had my associate's degree and was able to work as a designer/drafter.  I completed my Bachelor's in 1993 and started for-real working as a bona fide engineer.  Somehow, I landed my first job as a Mechanical engineer in the foundry/steel industry.  If I had TRIED to find a more male-centric, good-ole-boy atmosphere, I couldn't had done it on a bet.

I will never forget the first American Foundry Society golf tournament I attended.  I worked for Vulcan Engineering at the time and our president was acting president that year for we were hosting the tournament.  I was helping out at the hospitality tent.  As the afternoon wore on, and the beer flowed, an older gentleman sauntered over to me and introduced himself to me as one of the retired AFS presidents...and he told me, "You know, back in my day, the only way you'd've been allowed in here is if you were gonna jump out of a cake for us."

And I think he meant that as a compliment...'cause back then I WAS quite the cute young thing.  I kind of wanted to go into something similar to the Dr. Evil rant ("I didn't attend 4 years of evil medical school to be called a Mr.") but refrained.  Instead I just smiled and poured the old codger another beer, and gave him a free Vulcan engineering key fob.  You pick your battles, and I wasn't like I was going to ever be working with this guy.

Now, 20-25 years later, I can't IMAGINE anyone saying something like that to me...partially, 'cause I no longer look like anything that anybody wants to see jumping out of a cake...but also because I don't see much of that kind of attitude anymore.  I am surrounded by strong, assertive, and immensely capable professional women every day at my job.  My senior Division manager is a woman. Half of my own staff are women.  And there isn't a single person of the male persuasion that I know that doesn't respect them.  Maybe that isn't the case everywhere....I'm sure there are still pockets of resistance out there...and I'm sure some industries are harder than others for women to work in...

But I work in a VERY engineering/tech heavy industry (the Chem Demil program....we're destroying WW II era chemical weapons in accordance with international treaty)  and a very fair share of the subject matter experts I work with are women.  I once heard one of the site project managers talking about the workforce at our work site in Alabama... he said, "The guys there are some of the strongest, most capable people in the program......they have to be, the women there kill and eat the weak ones."

We've come a long way, baby.

Monday, March 3, 2014


Sometimes I look around me and positively cringe at how lazy our society has become.  Now, don't get me wrong...I'm all for rest and relaxation...eating, drinking and being merry and all that...AFTER you've done something meaningful with yourself and have earned your R&R.  A balance, if you will.

But over the past several years, I have noticed a growing trend of products out on the market that can only appeal to the portion of our population afflicted by LTS* (lazy turd syndrome).  Examples:

- For those of us afraid to touch our own toilets: the toilet wand thingy...holding the end of a wand, you click the other end onto a scrubbing head...swish it around in the toilet and then "click" discard the head into the trash.

-Tubs of mashed potatoes that SAY they are made from potato flakes...because the potato flakes were too hard to use?  I don't get it.

-The new insurance commercials that make fun of losers who actually waste 15 MINUTES getting insurance quotes, when they can deliver quotes in 7 1/2 minutes.  Really?  Is that where we are?

Sadly, it appears that we ARE in the throes of a LTS epidemic.  I was absolutely flabbergasted when I saw this in my grocery store this weekend:

Yes.  Pot-sized pasta for those out there who cannot manage to break their own spaghetti in half.  I can only interpret this as the harbinger of doom that it clearly is.  Is this the signal that we have reached some sort of event horizon of sorriness and will now hopelessly spiral into the black hole abyss of ultimate sloth?
Or is there still hope?  Can we still hope to shuck off the mantle of LTS, cast aside our containers of pre-sliced onions and peppers, firmly grasp our cleaning brushes and actually scrub our own showers clean?
I beseech each of something today...something that you don't particularly love doing...but do it anyway...with your own two hands.
Cut up your own fruit.  Skewer your own kebabs.  At least, for the LOVE. OF. GOD. break your own pasta to fit your pot.

*LTS: Lazy Turd Syndrome is a phrase first coined by my friend (and the big boss-man over the location where I work), Tim G.  It's the perfect description...and I have to give credit where it is due.