Monday, January 30, 2006

Puppy Mill Tragedy

In Belle Prairie Minnesota, a "dog kennel" (aka a puppy mill) has been approved. (See links for articles.)

In a nutshell this is an operation for 600 small dogs to live in barely livable conditions. It was approved have no one living on the premises to care for the animals. This amazes me. Are people really that ignorant that they think that 600 dogs will be able to care for themselves? I don't know anyone that would have even one dog live on its own for any duration. No one will be there if there's a medical emergency, birthing complication, or despite the fact that dogs crave companionship and interaction.

Who are these people that think it's ok for dogs to be kept in small kennels without exercise or fresh food/water only to live out their lives to breed in these terrible conditions?! It's mind blowing to think that there's people out there that lack all compassion for other living beings. It makes me sick.

In addition to the cruel conditions, the "kennel" has plans to de-bark the dogs to prevent noise pollution. This entails:

"going down a dog's throat with a sharp debarking instrument and tearing apart it's vocal cords by removing chunks of flesh. The debarking tool is an elongated device, with serrated edges. The dog is under general anesthesia as the Vet reaches down it's throat tearing out chunks of vocal cords and tossing them in the bucket or the floor. This process is repeated over and over. The dog's head then must be kept facing down off the table to allow blood to drain and avoid drowning, despite an ET tube. Upon recovery, the dog drools, coughs up blood and sadly tries to bark. They are sent home the next day on tranquilizers to prevent barking which will cause scar tissue and enable the dogs to once again vocalize as they should."

I am incredulous that this proposal passed. I can't believe that it's not against animal rights yet. So many people are outraged, and have a right to be heard. If these articles had ANY affect on you, please sign the petition, and spread the word. It literally takes 15 seconds to complete online.

PLEASE help out the puppies that can't help themselves by signing the petition below.

Stop the Puppymill in Morrison County, Minnesota

Friday, January 27, 2006

Larry Has Been Found!

Well, I finally got a hold of Larry. I'm sure you all were losing sleep about it, so don't worry, lessons have been scheduled. I have to take off work, but that's the least of my worries.

For the time being, I feel the crabby beast has been contained. My apologies for all those who have felt its wrath the other day. It's ugly head will not rear in the near future.... hopefully.

My Arctic Apartment

After another weary day filled with turmoil, I return to my apartment only to find that it's only slightly warmer than an igloo in winter.


So for the fourth, (yes fourth!) time this winter our heater has kicked the dust. In my pleasant state which has consumed me for the past few days, I pick up the
phone to leave a cheery message on their voice mail. My roomie was gone, so I gave myself the liberty to free speech.

I kept my tone stern without sounding snotty or belligerent, but I stated my
case. My message consisted of reminding them that it has been the fourth time our heat has been fixed this winter, including emergency maintenance, and someone was just in our apartment twice this week. I then proceeded to say that if they had no intention of fixing the heating problem that they should let us know immediately so we can start looking elsewhere. I then thanked them and asked them to get back to us as soon as possible. I think that's a reasonable message under the circumstances. After I hung up, I high-tailed it out of our ice box.

I got a call this morning from my roomie. Apparently, the manager of our little complex came over personally this morning at 7:45 am. (My roomie isn't on a morning schedule.) There were two of them, and they walked around our apartment and apologized that it wasn't fixed. They also made reference to the fact that our thermostat was probably broken... I'm sorry friends, but when you have to sit around in a
parka and Uggs, it's not because you're under the impression that it's 58 degrees, it's because it really is 58 degrees.

While management was talking to my roomie, it came up that I sounded irate in my message (hmmm imagine that). So, my roomie undercuts me and says that I get upset a lot and that I was just really worked up. Then he goes on to say that it's not such a big deal, it's just a bit uncomfortable. There goes our leverage! This is the first time that management has personally intervened with our heating problem, and then my roomie goes and says that it's just a bit uncomfortable?! Maybe it's just a little uncomfortable for a
Tauntaun, but for those of us without arctic fur, it's unbearable.

Strike two with the roomie. One more and....

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Where is Larry?!?!

Well, I've been trying to get a hold of my voice lesson teacher, Larry, for almost a week now, but to no avail. No word on where he is, his voice mail doesn't make reference to his potential where-abouts, so I'm at a loss.

In this "
connected era", it's rather bothersome to not be able to connect to someone. At the very least, I think it's common courtesy to your dependents to let them know if you hitch-hiked to the Mexican border, or if you pulled a Dave Chappelle. What happened to notification? Especially when everyone in the world can be contacted through 4 different e-mails, cell phones, home phones, PDA's, letters, voice mail, and word of mouth!

Maybe I'm just exerting my nervous tension due to upcoming auditions unto poor Larry, or maybe I'm just crabby. In any case, he has duties as an instructor to those he instructs! Where are you Larry?! People are relying on your for their sanity!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Apple Avid

I can hardly contain myself! The new Apple computers have come out. They are now equipped with the Intel Duo Core processors, and to top it all off, they came out with the updated iWork, iLife, iTunes, and QuickTime. Could anything be better? I think not!

These fine goodies will make appearances on the seventh of February. However, you can order through the Apple website earlier. Get 'em while they're hot folks! Apples for sale!

Monday, January 23, 2006

#1 Cruise Spokesperson

Let me tell you my friends, I had an amazing time on the cruise! I don't think I could ever go back to the old way of vacationing, planning what to do, looking for restaurants, hotels, etc. They take care of everything for you, and everyone has a pleasant demeanor! If you're bored, there's 8 things for you to do at any given time. If you're hungry, there's always many places to eat, or receive complimentary room service. It's fabulous to have so many things to do, but not feel bad if you don't want to do any of it! Cruising is the way to go.

Now I'm back here in the real world, and it's the pits. I'm swamped at
work, and I still haven't really unpacked. My suitcases are "unpacked", but really they just vomited all over my room, and I haven't started to clean up the aftermath. Another day, another time.... maybe.

We had long days of
traveling, but it was worth it. We boarded early on Thursday, and had a great welcome buffet. Everyone was still pretty tired, and anxious to get settled in from a long trip the day before. We met up with Cathy (she flew from Chicago) and got our bags, unpacked, walked around. (It seems like that day was forever ago, I don't even really remember what we did.) Oh, we had a drill, that was fun walking around in fabulous orange life jackets... hot. Our rooms were a lot more spacious than I thought they would be. Cathy and I had an interior room (aka a cave), but it had ample storage and space. Everyone else had a balcony room. They were beautiful, and had an extra bench, but I liked the interior rooms layout better. Even if you did wake up to pitch darkness every morning. It was like time was non-existent in our sunless room.

For our days at sea, we ate a lot, explored the ship and had a strict regimen of at least 3 morning
hours of sun on the Lido deck. It was a rough life, but eating a huge breakfast tires you out, so it's a good thing we had to lay in the sun for a morning nap. That's pretty much how all our days at sea went. Got up, ate breakfast, sun-napped, ate lunch, walked around, ate ice cream, went to an activity, ate more ice cream, more activities, ate second lunch, more activities, happy hour, 5-course dinner, went to a show, went to bed. It was a gruelling schedule, but we managed to stick to it, and come on, with 24-hours a day ice cream, how can you go wrong?

Our first port was on the island of
St. Maarten. It was a beautiful island with many beaches. We had registered for a snorkeling tour around a shipwreck, but found out (the minute we were supposed to leave) that it was cancelled. There had been storms that week, and the water was too churned up to see anything. Bummer, but my lungs were saved. So, we spent the day on the beach and walked around to different shops (spending far more than we should have), and enjoyed the great weather.

Our next stop was
Barbados. We went on a long excursion that took us around the entire island. We saw plantations, a mahogany carving farm, and the rum distillery. It was really interesting to see the island in its entirety. Unfortunately, I was pumped full of motion sickness pills and was narcoleptic on the ride home.

Our final port was
Martinique. It was a beautiful island. We took a catamaran around the island to a bat cave, but it was too rough to take the boat inside (thank goodness!). Then we headed over to a black sand beach where we got to snorkel (with gear of questionable hygiene, blech). The water was really murky and we couldn't see anything in the water, so we scraped the gear and just swam to shore. They stopped about a half-mile away from the beach, it was quite a haul! We body surfed and enjoyed the soft black sand, then took a dingy back to the catamaran. We had a nice long ride back to the docks, so Cathy and I sat out on the netting in the front, and looked in the water, but saw nothing. It was so beautiful, and really neat to be lying on a net with only the water beneath you, and the quiet wind blowing in the sails. This port of call was my favorite.

Now I'm back in the land of ice and cold. Booo! Whatever happened to the days of relaxing in the sun? Or the 75 degree "chilly" days? Or the 5 course meals with a wait-staff of 3? I'm sad to say that those days are now gone my friends. This is a sad day for all of us cruisers. :-(

Monday, January 09, 2006

A Much Needed Vacation... From Vacation

I finally get the vacation from all the vacations that I need. I leave at 7am on Wednesday with Carnival Cruise's 'Legend' for the ocean blue. I can't wait. I packed last night, and I hope I have everything. I had a near heart attack when I almost forgot my bathing suit. That would've been my luck. Since I had 3 days to think about it, while frantically trying to get everything done before I leave, I realized my mistake, and corrected it.

Packing is a very time consuming and stressful activity for the obsessive compulsive. Although, I think with 5 hours of neatly folding and contemplating weight issues, I have successfully packed a
suitcase. I chose an expandable suitcase for the anticipated messy packaging on the way home. It's hard to know what will fall to the bottom of your suitcase. You don't want your heavy things, like shoes and bottles, to fall and plough through your lighter and neatly folded (and categorized) shirts. It will probably be rummaged through at the airport, it always is, but hopefully they will be kind enough to leave it as they found it.

We had our cruise-planning
meeting on Friday night with all the ladies. It's going to be a great group dynamic. Everyone's a little sassy with a good sense of humor. Let the good times roll, along with copious amounts of rum! We decided what we wanted to do at each port, and surprisingly we agreed on almost everything.

We're going to
snorkel at our first port in St. Martaan. I'm scared to death that I'm going to drown by inhaling water through the little tube they expect you to breath out of, but that's not going to stop me. Our second port is Barbados, and I'm going on a tour of a rum distillery, a mahogany carving shop, and a plantation. This little excursion has it all, I'm very excited... for the rum. Then our last port is Martinique, where we will go on a party cruise to cap off our week. There's going to be "live calypso music, dancing, and bottomless rum". What could be better?!

I'm getting really excited to head off to distant islands to relax in the sun. I'll be thinking of all you vitamin D deficient people with sadness while I'm soaking up the rays, but I don't I'll lose sleep over it. Ciao! I'll be back in a couple of weeks!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Packing Anxiety

Is there such a thing as packing anxiety? I think I may have a severe case of it. I'm already anxious about packing for my cruise next Wednesday. I think it could be a branch off of my OCD. I like to have everything just so. I've never been on a cruise before, and I'm not so worried about that, it'll be fine, I'm worried about packing!

I usually always forget something that seems so vital to my
survival at the time: sunglasses, sunscreen, a third pair of white sandals... the list goes on and on. I also seem to pack everything that I think I should wear, but realize upon arrival that I never wear the things I packed. Which leaves me longing for my other clothes that are neatly tucked away in a far away closet.

I'm determined not to do that this time. I have a game plan this time. I won't bring a suitcase of shoes (as I did for Colorado), I will only bring my 5 most commonly worn shoes. I will only bring clothes that I know fit, I will leave my "someday I'll fit into these again" clothes at home (as I did in Italy). I won't forget my unders (as I did in Colorado), and I will bring enough to last me the entire trip. I will have all of my toiletries especially my toothbrush (which I failed to remember in Texas). I will bring sunscreen (forgotten in Costa Rica), so I won't have burned eyelids...again.

If I can abide by these few rules, I think I'll be ok. I also run into the difficulty of
suitcase size. I usually pick one that fits everything perfectly. I neatly fold, there's never any wrinkles, and it's a perfect amount of space. However, on the return trip when everything needs to be washed anyway, I usually don't fold as neatly and I have to jam the suitcase closed. Is there a way to compensate for this dilemma? Too big and I risk my clothes doing more tumbling than Kerri Strug. Too small and I won't be able to buy anything there or fit all of my junk less folded.

I realize this is a sad sad thing to be posting about, but it's a grave concern. Does anyone have this sort of angst while they prepare for a trip? Do I need to join a support group? Who has time?! I need 3 whole days to pack. But if I pack too early, the creases set. Yikes! I'm at it again!

I need help.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Java Tampering

I headed into work today to start my daily routine of gulping down at least 3 mugs of coffee. I go into the sacred coffee area, and I start to pump the usually office's bitter caffeinated-sludge (that they try to pass off as coffee), when I smell an aroma.

It started out rather pleasant. I peered into my mug and notice it's not the usual ebony muck I force down. Then the smell hits me, like a
sumo wrestler on crack. It's amaretto hazelnut coffee. It smells ok, what could be the big deal? I grab my mug and head back to the land of cubicles.

I start in on the forever piling work load and set my coffee aside. As I'm sitting in my non-ventilated cube, I start to feel
queasy. The evil coffee was continually emitting a sickeningly sweet odor. I of course procrastinate quitting my work until the last possible second. I couldn't take it any longer, it was either the coffee or fresh air. I emptied that mug faster than a rain cloud in April. It was just sick.

Who makes coffee like that? Isn't coffee supposed to be for enjoyment? a caffeine high? a sugar high? for ingestion? Good gracious people! Choose one additive and stick to it! I prefer
caffeine straight up.

The worst part? Nobody liked it. It sat in the regular coffee urn for the ENTIRE day. No coffee for Rachel.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Vacation Needed From the Vacation

I could really get used to having 4 day weekends with 3 days of work. Maybe that's how things out to be. I would like some more vacation to recuperate from all the vacation that I just had. Everyone has to do the vacation visits with everyone whom you haven't seen in at least a week, but does everyone have time to just veg out?

Whatever happened to the good old days of
bumming around? Back in the good old days of my youth, I used to lounge around all the time. Now, when I really need to (in order to minimize my icy hot usage), I can't seem to find the time! Maybe we all need to pencil in some much needed personal time.

Filled with other obligations and time restraint, I find myself looking at an open night as an opportunity to schedule in more things, when really all I want to do is
primp and relax. Maybe it's the guilt of having a free night, and knowing that I could be doing other things. If I have more than a couple of hours, I think: Well, I haven't seen so-and-so in a while, I should give them a call. Or... If I fit in another night of teaching, I could almost fit in all the lessons needed during my vacation. Or... I should really be doing - 'fill in the blank' because I said I would four score and seven years ago.

In any case, it's going to be my New Years resolution to take one evening a week for just myself. I shan't be bothered by anyone or anything. I will take a stand for lying down! I will see this through to the end!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

To bring in the New Year, I thought I'd dig up some helpful quotes and sites, and let you choose your poison. Enjoy, and have a great New Year!

Some quotes to inspire you in the New Year:

Youth is when you're allowed to stay up late on New Year's Eve. Middle age is when you're forced to. ~Bill Vaughn
-- Does this mean I'm middle aged at 23?

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves. ~Bill Vaughan
-- I don't think I know a true pessimist then...

Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man. ~Benjamin Franklin
-- How very true. I hope each year I'm a better... man?

Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. ~Hal Borland
-- Agreed. Life is like a fine wine, it gets better with age.

The proper behavior all through the holiday season is to be drunk. This drunkenness culminates on New Year's Eve, when you get so drunk you kiss the person you're married to. ~P.J. O'Rourke
-- Talk about wild celebrations!

New Year's Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. ~Mark Twain
-- Truer words were never spoken.

We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day. ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce
-- I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

Other tidbits of need-to-know information for the New Year:

Hangover Helpers: Beyond Sheep Eyes
-- from the NY Times online

-- from the Pioneer Press online

New Years
-- definition by Wikipedia... in case you didn't know what is was...

New Year's resolution
-- Wikipedia pulls through again. I like that in the definition is says "many resolutions go unachieved and are often broken fairly shortly after they are set" the definition itself is even pessimistic. Does anyone keep their New Year's resolution any more?

Countdown to New Years
-- Who knew about the additional leap second? I surely didn't.

New Years Around the World
-- a neat site with pictures. Oooo pretty-pie!

Resolution Solutions
-- by the perfect woman, Martha Stewart.

So, armed with this valuable knowledge, I hope all of you have a great year. Make it better than the last, and look back with no regrets. Happy New Year!