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The Best Video Game Ever

Last night I had a dream of the best video game ever. So here it is. Copyright 2010, Me.

You and 7 others are trapped on an abandoned colony on a distant planet that is about to explode. You all missed the boat for different reasons. You have 5 hours until the planet explodes.

What you need to do in your 5 hours on the planet is gather together all of the equipment you will need to build escape devices for everyone to get off the planet. There are several catches, the biggest being that the 5 hours is ONLY enough time to bust your ass gathering materials, assembling devices, and oh yeah maybe winning the heart of your beloved. If done at a fast enough pace, you will only have 10 minutes to spare before the planet explodes. So the whole premise of the game is that you are playing it with the knowledge that you will have to play it 100 times, and the characters are going to die 99 of them.

The other catches: there are five different escape devices you can build. Each holds 1-3 people. (You don't need to build all of them to win.) Some people cannot make the journey alone. Others can only fly with only certain other people on the three-year voyage home without murdering the other. So you not only have to figure out how to get your team of random strangers to cooperate and build ships, but you have to determine who can make those journeys together. You also need to gather enough resources to survive... MREs, food, maybe some books to prevent insanity.

In Quebec City

Here we are in Quebec City.. had I thought it through I probably wouldn't have scheduled back-to-back travel. But it was the only time this summer I could book days off at work, and I had to do it back in early May. The four hour drive was mostly uneventful, except right at the end when the GPS couldn't exactly position us because the narrow streets were too close together.

When I booked the hotel online, the pictures showed a warmly decorated room with old European charm. When we went upstairs to our room, the elevator was full of drywall scraps, and several rooms on the 3rd floor were under construction. Our room was recently renovated.. no charm, instead is was cold and masculine.. black and white decor, sharp angles, ultra-modern design. It was missing a lot of things that would have made it somewhat comfortable: a place to hang the hand towel, a spot to put your shampoo bottle in the shower, real conditioner, a vanity, a "do not disturb" door hanger. A lot of little touches that would have made the room more liveable. Oh yes, and it had a woefully underpowered dual-flush toilet that was already plugged up when we got there. They worked on it while we ventured out, but the next day (today) it stopped working again. Also, the mattress is the hardest, most uncomfortable hotel mattress I have ever had the misfortune to "sleep" on. I had to wake up and rotate every hour. I finally woke up at 4 nearly in tears because I hurt more than when I went to bed.

So we got moved downstairs, to an unrenovated room. The paint is worn, but the colors are warm and welcoming. It has all of those little touches. There is a place in the shower for shampoo. Still no conditioner, same hard mattress, but the toilet works GREAT! :)

Later I'll write about the things we're actually getting up to.

Chicago: A Summary

I was supposed to go on this conference trip with a coworker, but at the last minute she had to cancel and we couldn't find anyone else to replace her. So off I went alone to Chicago. The flight out on Sunday was uneventful, and I caught a shuttle to my hotel, the Westin on Michigan Ave. I had an awful travel headache and was groggy from the Dramamine, so I decided to just get room service that night and stay in. The prices were high, and tack on a $5 delivery fee, pre-added 20% gratuity, and a 12% rooms & meals tax and you can imagine how on just soup, salad and a sandwich I went waay over my $35/day meal allowance.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Chicago, northern Michigan Ave is called "The Magnificent Mile" for all of the shopping options. Nordstroms, Nieman Marcus, Bloomingdales, American Girl, bebe, Gucci, etc. etc. Monday morning I set out 10 blocks south to the 4-story Gap, hoping for some good finds on maternity clothing. Disappointingly, the maternity section was no bigger than the one back home, nor do they have any different sizes. So I'll still have to order my pants online. I crossed the street and started shopping my way back towards the hotel. I found a Hello Kitty store, which was super awesome. I got a little hat, booty & mitten set for 0-6mos. I then decided just before 11 that I was HUNGRY so at the next crosswalk I looked around for a spot to eat. I looked left down a side street and saw the word "cafe" on an awning so I headed towards it. There was a small crowd forming, which seemed to be a good sign. I saw soup & salad for 8.99 on the menu so I decided to hang around with the crowd and see what the fuss was about. Unbeknownst to me I had stumbled upon one of the most recommended restaurants in the area - the Grand Lux Cafe. The food was excellent, and they sat me on a booth on the 2nd floor overlooking Michigan Ave. The interior was amazing. And I was able to order a box of fresh-baked cookies with my entree and it arrived with my check for me to take home. However, during the rest at the cafe my whole abdomen started to hurt, so I decided not to continue shopping and just head back to the room. I called my Dr's office and they said it was probably just round ligament pain and some pulled muscles. All of my muscles and joints and ligaments are particularly stretchy right now.

Monday night we checked in for the conference. Sign some paperwork, get my schedule, and my free backpack. Then I went to the mall next door to a little Italian place and picked up a hot sandwich for dinner, and called it a night. However, as I was trying to sleep I noticed that the wet spot in the carpet that was there when I checked in was still damp, and starting to smell like mildew. Combined with the quease-inducing herky-jerky elevator, I decided to ask for a different room on a lower floor. The staff was very accomodating, and Tuesday afternoon I was moved to a room on the 7th floor (instead of 20) .. much better since the conference was on floors 2 & 3. Dinner was more room service. The lunch door prize was a 12mp digital camera. Breakfasts and lunches were free at the conference, but I had to have something to eat before 7:30 since I was waking up at 6 and earlier.. le bebe does not want to wait for morning food. Same thing with needing morning and afternoon snacks.. so I grabbed a pastry bag from the Starbucks and every morning at breakfast I grabbed extra bagels and pastries to last me the rest of the day and snuck them in.

Wednesday at breakfast I picked up a lunch buddy. We ate breakfast and lunch together every day. The lunch door prize was an iPod Touch. Dinner that night was from Food Life in Water Tower Plaza -- a California roll and mixed veggies with dip. I also used the breakfast door-hanger to order breakfast for the next morning. All you have to do is fill it out and hang it on the door before midnight.

Thursday my breakfast arrived a few minutes early (6:25) and it had enough pastries to last me that day and the next morning. My lunch buddy found other lunch buddies, so I became the fifth wheel. She and I were going to go to the conveniently-located Cheesecake Factory for dinner that night, but her other buddies wanted to go back to the Grand Lux Cafe .. which I wasn't willing to walk that far. The lunch door prize was a Wii. Dinner was Cheesecake Factory takeout (with a slice of key lime cheesecake, mmm).

Friday was leftover pastries for first breakfast. For second breakfast, they had French Toast. There was a big vat of amber liquid with a sign that said "Warm Vermont Maple Syrup." I tasted it. Mrs. Butterworth's. I shook my name badge (which lists where you're from) at everyone around me and proclaimed loudly that as a Vermonter I was insulted that they would put out fake syrup and say it's real. I was HIGHLY tempted to go back up to the buffet lines and scratch out the words "Vermont maple" but I decided not to cause trouble. The lunch door prize was a year subscription to the software company's online training site. They had Pomp & Circumstance playing quietly on an endless loop in the foyer where they were handing out completion certificates.. it made me feel sorry for the staff that had to sit out there all day and listen to it for seven hours. Dinner was more Food Life .. a small salad, chicken noodle soup, and another California Roll. I set my alarm for 4:30 so that I could catch the 6 am airport shuttle and settle any issues with the bill (I knew there was one coming because at lunch everyone who was checking out early mentioned that they were charged for Internet access even though it was supposed to be free).

At 3am, I awoke to loud talking in the hall in front of my door. They weren't stopping, and the doors did nothing to deaden the noise. I opened the door and stared bleary-eyed at the 3 or 4 frat boys standing right in front of my door jabbering away. "Guys, these doors aren't soundproof. Take it down the hall or go to bed or something." Their response? "Awwwwwwww man!!" Not I'm sorry or anything. So they did take it into a room (I was at the end of the hall where four doors were right around each other) but then for the next hour I tried to go to sleep while they were banging around and screaming FUUUUUUCCCCCKKKKK SHIIIIIIIIITT FUCK YOU MAN at the top of their lungs. The way it was unfolding I seriously thought they were cutting off each others fingers or recreating fight club. I called Security. Two minutes later, I heard their door being knocked on... then glorious silence for the rest of the 20 minutes I had to pretend to sleep before the alarm went off.

As expected I had an errant Internet charge on my bill that needed to be cleaned up. While I sat in the lobby waiting for the O'Hare shuttle, the Midway shuttle came. The driver said to me "you know if you want a shuttle before 6 you need to call." "Um .. I'm just waiting for the regular 6am shuttle." "Oh... well, I already radioed back to the station and they're sending a shuttle for you." Um okay thanks. So at 5:50 I got on a packed shuttle (it services 6 hotels, ours is always the last stop) and had to squeeze my fat pregnant ass into the waaaay back in the last seat. The estimated-45-minute ride which I timed my whole morning on was in fact 20 minutes tops. So I was Very Early to the airport. I sat in the terminal for 2.5 hours. Our plane boarded late, then after settling in for a few minutes we all watched as the captain left the cockpit and went back into the airport. Hmmmm. Turns out there was a giant stormfront along our path and they were calculating a revised route around and above it, which required fuel recalculations. Then we had to wait for more fuel to be delivered. Finally, 20 minutes late we pushed back from the gate. And a warning light came on so we had to get towed back in. 15 minutes later the captain radioed that he was going to deplane everyone because they didn't know how long it would take. 10 minutes later it was fixed, without deplaning. My Dramamine had long since kicked in, so instead of being a nervous wreck about mechanical issues I just napped. The plane ride was pretty miserable in that the seats were as hard as wooden benches, and being in front of the exit row we couldn't recline.

But the plane finally touched down, and I groggily made my way to the door to see my lovely husband holding an ice-cold bottle of water for me. We came home and I slept on the couch for what seemed like an eternity. I could barely hold my head up. Good old Dramamine, combined with a week of sleep issues. I will sleep well tonight!!

I Don't Even Know Where to Begin...

Last week was INSANE. Three doctors' appointments, two blood draws, cousins in from out of town, and my sister's wedding. I was (and still am) recovering from a cold that prevented me from sleeping for a week (I swear I was beginning to suffer from auditory hallucinations). Not to mention a marathon work week, which set up an entire summer of being overbooked at work. I'm tired just thinking about it.

But the wedding was fun (though tiring) and hanging out with my favorite cousins for four days was a blast. We had dinner, hung out, went to Ben & Jerry's, played cards, and caught up. I wish they didn't live halfway across the country, they're awesome people.

Lots and lots and lots of wedding pictures to sort through. Hubby & I took lots of pictures (she didn't hire a photographer, so everyone pitched in), and I collected the photos from my cousin as well as my parents' friend and now I'm going through them with a fine-tooth comb to see which to upload to Flickr and which to put in the final album (my wedding gift to them is a bound, printed book).

Now, if I can just stop these half-sneezes that never quite develop into real sneezes and just leave my face feeling tingly...

Plan B From Outer Space

Conceiving the embryos was the one thing we could do. It was the one aspect of pregnancy we at least did not need any help with. But now it appears that I've stopped ovulating. Shit.

Apparently it's faster to make an appointment with my doctor and visit him in the office than it is to leave a voicemail with his nurse and wait for someone to call me back. My insurance may not like this method, but frankly they'll have to take it up with his office if they have a problem with it.

I've been stressed out and fatigued all week, but the fatigue, it turns out, was a cold incubating away. Last night on my way to the grocery store my throat started to hurt. This morning it was worse so I decided to be responsible and stay home and not infect my coworkers. It turns out that that was a fantastic decision. Around lunchtime the sun came out, and the birds came to the feeder. I got the dishes done, I've been relaxing all day, photographing finches, making crafts, cooking a very healthy lunch, and test-driving the dog's bike basket. If my throat and head didn't hurt, this would be a perfect day. My activities, my pace, and plenty of sunshine. My mood has lifted!

The next step with the baby journey is now probably going to be Clomid. I'll probably get bloated and miserable, and the likelihood of multiples rises dramatically. But if I end up having twins, to be honest I might actually prefer that. I won't have to worry about conceiving and carrying two pregnancies. My appointment is on Monday so we should see what that will hold.

Life Is Sh*t and Then You Die

I'm happy to be in an entirely pissy mood. I'm hoping that my desire to go back to bed and murder anyone who tries to disrupt me is what I've come to call "PMS-2" and means that Aunt Flo will visit tomorrow. I hate Aunt Flo.

The source of my schizophrenia is this: Aunt Flo's visit means that I've ovulated. Ovulation means I can get pregnant. No Aunt Flo, no babies. And given that I haven't been able to have babies successfully so far, the thought of my ovulation ceasing is like a shot to the head. If I stopped ovulating, I would seriously go crazy. I don't need one more thing to go wrong.

Unfortunately, Aunt Flo's visits as of late have been increasingly more distant; instead of visiting every four weeks like clockwork, it's been more like 5 weeks now. That doesn't just happen for no reason, and it's freaking me out. On her 'scheduled' day of appearance, I will have PMS, but no Aunt Flo. Then a week later I will have PMS again and there she is. But if this month she doesn't show up at all then ... then I'm in trouble.

All the pep talks in the world can't bring me up today, I'm a wreck. I'm hoping that the mood I'm in today just means the "usual" will happen tomorrow and all will be at least semi-right with the world again. Otherwise this mood will set in permanently. Self-loathing is only good when it's the lead-up to good news.

I Did What I Should Have Done

This weekend we had my older sister's bridal shower at my house. It went off without a hitch. With the beautiful weather we opened up all the doors and windows and enjoyed it to the fullest. I, of course, ate many things I shouldn't have. I started off being good, but I cannot resist cocktail weenies, nor can I resist cake. And the fact that I made three pints of ice cream also should have flagged that this was going to be a calorically challenging day. I tried to get as many people to take home food as possible, but everyone wanted to leave temptation behind. Good for them. Unfortunately I live there, I can't leave temptation behind unless I throw it out. I did not throw out the extra cake, I ate that. I did not throw out the leftover cocktail weenies, I ate those for dinner last night. And unfortunately I did not throw out the extra maple ice cream. I did toss the extra lasagna, and the extra rolls though. And good little me kept the veggies. I threw out all remaining temptations last night, including the leftover vanilla custard ice cream, so delicious .. so very bad for me. This is why I don't make sweets very often, it's hard for me to discard my own handywork.

I notice now that when I go on a sugar binge, I wake up the next day feeling really really hungry. When the cats woke me up at 5:30 this morning, I felt starving. But I'm back to being good, so I just had my high-protein breakfast shake. (PB, yogurt, and banana.) To it, this time I added chia seeds. They've got the same benefits as flaxseed, plus some extras (thank you Canadian television for teaching me something new this weekend). And yes, it's that same ch-ch-ch-chia! I could wet these down and rub them on a terra cotta head if I wanted to and it would sprout a green fro.

And, though I had to fight with myself to do it, I biked into work for the first time this year. It was cold and dreary out this morning, but it should be a toasty 85 this afternoon for the ride home (bleh!!). Got to start making up for the weekend long sugar binge. My new bike is definitely nicer than my old bike though, I didn't feel as exhausted this time when I rode in, despite my being totally out of shape. It helps to not have your brakes constantly semi-engaged and rubbing on the tires. Though .. I do need to resolve this lack of a water bottle holder.

Success??

Is Schwarzbein finally paying off? I've lost five pounds over the last two weeks. I think the secret of Schwarzbein is that most people don't realize they're eating fewer calories because calorie counting isn't emphasized; but when you eat according to this plan you secretly are cutting. And yes you're eating good foods that your body wants. But I've been eating full-fat dairies, lots of eggs, etc etc. Things I couldn't have with Weight Watchers. I'm also supposed to stay away from wheat gluten for the first 3 months but I've decided that is basically impossible unless I'm willing to fork over half my income on expensive gluten-free foods. I still struggle with the inconvenience of this plan, but I strongly believe that food is not made in a laboratory or a factory. It might be cooked and packaged in a factory, but it shouldn't be made there. I'm hoping weight loss will come more readily now that the weather's warming up. When it hits 60 I'm heading back to the rail trail. And I might commute by bike next week. Everyone's on vacation so if I arrive disheveled and sweaty (and late) no one will notice.

EDIT: Oh I forgot to mention ... I gained 5 lbs when I first started this diet. So really I've only broken even at this point. So .. huzzah for breaking even!

Whether the Weather...

Maybe I can ride my new bike this weekend? Maybe? Please??

Bike! Yay!

I bought a new bike today. We went in to get my old bike fixed at Old Spokes Home and decided to see what they had for used bikes upstairs. Hubby said "If you find something that really speaks to you, get it." The first few bikes that the bike kid (man I'm getting so old he was probably 20 and I feel like he was 10.. I'm not that much older than he is but seeing his baby face I sure felt like it!) pulled down were pretty blah. One was black and the paint was nicked, the other was something else equally uninspiring. Basically the same thing I already had - a dinged up old men's bike. Then he pulled down a shiny mint green bike. Also similar to what I had, but newer and prettier. Then I saw a pearl-white bike hanging across the aisle and asked to look at that. It was BEAUTIFUL. And it had a U-frame, not a crotch bar (I do not know the technical terms for these things). The design of the bike allowed me to sit more upright, which I was interested in because on long rides last year my forearms and wrists hurt. The seat was soft as a cloud, and when I sat down on it I think the room sparkled a little, and not from blood pressure either, the good kind of sparkle. Yes, the mint green of the other bike was pretty and had a familiar style but the angelic choir that sung when I looked at the pearl bike was pretty convincing. So we traded in Old Yeller. AND I got a bell, which I really really wanted.

I also wanted a basket for the front that I can put the dog in, but for some reason Hubby doesn't think it's a good idea. I personally think the dog would love it, he likes sticking his head out the car window and he likes being with us. So .. I have a pretty new bike that I can't wait to ride it around. However.. it's supposed to rain for the next five days. So we'll see about that.