Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Just Weight a Minute!

my home gym
A neighbor of mine works out at the same facility as me, and he is very proud of the fact that he has lost 66 pounds over the course of a year. He said that he modified his diet some, but mostly it is due to the fact that he walks on the treadmill 30 minutes a day. I am happy for him that he has lost the weight, but here is the thing. Every time I see him he asks me if I have been to the gym that day, and proceeds to tell me that I need to be going 7 days a week. Now, I did not ask for his opinion, nor do I want it. Who is he to imply that I am so heavy that I need to work out 7 days per week?

Yesterday I was walking the dog and he was driving by in his car. He rolled down his window and true to form, inquired as to whether or not I had worked out that day. Indeed I had my butt kicked by my small group trainer that morning, so I answered in the affirmative. In fact, I told him, I have been going to the gym 4 days a week in addition to walking the dog every day. Was that enough for him? Oh, no..."You need to be on the treadmill seven days a week Kim!"

Where does this guy get off? And how can I politely tell him to shove off?

Love thy neighbor as thyself, but choose your neighborhood.
-- Louise Beal

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What a Zoo!

Saturday Jim and I went to a family picnic at the St. Louis Zoo, courtesy of the general contractor on the new sea lion exhibit. All of the subcontractors who worked on the project were invited to bring their families for the day. We arrived a little after 8:00 a.m. while it was still fairly cool outside. We were given special brown arm bands, which allowed us to get into the paid activities at the zoo and also into the lunch tent. Having the band was great because normally we don't go into any parts of the zoo that charge an entry fee.

Sea lion exhibit
We began the morning at the sea lion exhibit, because we knew how crowded it would get later in the day. It is so awesome! First of all the new outdoor area is so much nicer than what they had before. But the indoor water tunnel is just great! It was fun to listen to the exclamations of the little kids. They also have a huge glass wall outside where you can watch the sea lions as well.

After seeing the sea lions, we passed some time in the flight cage while waiting for the 4D motion simulator ride to open at 9:00. The plant material in the flight cage sure has grown since it was remodeled back in 1996.

Happy Feet, the motion simulator, was another one of the attractions we were allowed to enter for no charge, so we decided to see what that was all about. There were only two other people in there with us, and I think it would be more fun when filled so you could catch the excitement of everyone else. We still had a good time as our seats twisted and turned, wind blew in our faces, and things touched our ankles and the back of our heads. And there was some water spraying in our faces at times as well as we watched the movie.

Next up we rode the carousel and then stopped in to see the penguins. One of the little devils took his flipper and sprayed me right in the face. Let alone having the stinky water dripping from my hair, my mascara immediately began to run into my eyes and down my face. Of course I had no tissues in my camera bag, so we had to beg a food vendor for some napkins to try and repair the damage. I had been a little worried about having b.o. since it was getting so hot out. No worries - I simply smelled like rotting fish instead!

Since I had already had a close encounter of the smelly kind with ocean dwelling creatures, we went to the stingray pool next. You can put your hand in their holding tanks and touch them on their backs. There are sharks in there as well, but you are only supposed to touch them if they touch you first. The smaller stingrays felt kind of slimy, but the big ones felt like velvet. They also have a separate pool for baby stingrays, where you could look but not touch. Those little suckers are really fast swimmers!

We then entered the children's zoo, and found this guy sunning himself on the rocks. He certainly was very content. After that it was time for the sea lion show. Our assigned time was 11:00, and we were told to be there 30 minutes early. They had reserved an area for our group at this show and the 1:30 show, but those seats would be released 10 minutes before the show began. I was grateful we got the first show before it got too hot, and getting to the seats early ensured that we got a place in the shade.
I have not been to a sea lion show in years, and this one was pretty good.

 The show finished up in time for us to head to the food tent, where they had a buffet lunch set up for us. Everything was quite tasty, which is hard to pull off when you are feeding a large group of people - especially outside.

The last thing we wanted to do before heading home was to ride the train. I think the last train ride we took there was with my brother and his kids quite a few years ago. It almost made me want to go to Six Flags. Almost. All in all, we had a great time, and everyone who worked on the new exhibit should be very proud of the way it turned out.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The 1976 Summer Olympics

Olympic Park Montreal
While we were in Montreal we took the Metro out to Olympic Park, site of the 1976 Summer Olympic Games. The whole complex lacks a grand entrance, and the remaining buildings and property appear worn out and tired. Which got me thinking about how old the park really is - those games were 36 years ago! I was going into my junior year at Iowa State and Jim was not yet my fiance, though we had been dating since freshman year. Can that really be 36 years ago? I guess the lines and cracks in the concrete at Olympic Park match the ones that have appeared on my face during the same time period.

Biodome, Montreal
Pan Am Games, Montreal
We decided to tour of a couple of the buildings, and we learned how much money the city of Montreal lost hosting the games ($1.5 billion) - a debt that was finally paid off in 2006, primarily through a tobacco tax! Can you imagine? I hope they never decide to try to have the Olympics in my town. Of course the murder rate around here would probably keep us out of contention anyway. It was nice to see that they have re-purposed a few of the buildings. We tried to get into the Biodome, which houses an indoor zoo, but the line wrapped around the building several times and we decided we didn't want to see it that bad. The Junior Pan Am games were taking place in the stadium, so we watched a water polo match for awhile and imagined ourselves at the games in London.

At the end of our tour the guide informed us that the Olympic torch was lit, if we wanted to go see it. The only time they light it is when Olympic games are taking place, so it seemed like kind of a big deal. After hiking around for a bit we finally located the torch, which was somewhat diminutive in size. It was very hard to see the flame, but I managed to catch a picture of it with a tree as a backdrop. Not too impressive, but hey, this may be as close as I ever get to anything Olympic. Let the games begin...

Olympic Park, Montreal
Olympic Torch, Montreal

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Security Breach

As I intimated in the last post, my trip home from Canada was rather exciting. All six of us arrived at the airport at the same time since Jill and I were only leaving thirty minutes after the rest of our group. Canada international travel is somewhat interesting as you have to clear customs there before heading into the United States. That was fine with me as Jill and I only had 50 minutes to make our connecting flight in Chicago, which would have left no time to go through customs there. Jill and I checked in with the AA agent at the counter, using Ted's credit card to check the two bags. We figured since we were arriving in St. Louis before the guys, we could go ahead and collect the luggage while waiting for them to arrive. The agent gave us the receipt for the luggage and then our boarding passes. Next stop was with an employee of the airport, who scans the boarding passes and advises you about how many checked bags you have listed. First clue that something was awry is that the gal told Ted he had checked one bag, which he had not. Jim was advised the same thing. Jill and I, however, were told we had checked no bags. In looking at the baggage claim receipt, we saw that the AA agent had checked the bags through LaGuardia with Ted. I am assuming that was because we used his credit card, so she just attached it to his ticket. A minor inconvenience, but no biggie. Rather than go back out and try to correct this, we just let it go. But alas that was not all the AA agent had screwed up.

When we arrived at the next employee who would scan our boarding passes before sending us on the customs area, Jill was ahead of me in line. She had just gone through when I happened to glance at my boarding pass to make sure I gave him the one from Montreal to Chicago, and not the one from Chicago to St. Louis. My boarding pass said James Wolterman on it! Jill's said Ted Spaid! So not only had the agent sent our bags to New York, she was sending Jill and me there too! It is important to note that both Jim and Ted had gone through these same two airport employees, and nothing sent up a red flag to them that four boarding passes had been issued in the names of only two people. It would have been interesting to me to see how far I could have gotten with the incorrect boarding pass. Since the custom agent looked at my Chicago to St. Louis boarding pass and didn't say anything, I am thinking he would not have noticed either. I think the only time they would have seen that anything was wrong is when they determined that Jill and I had the same seats as Ted and Jim.

But instead of pushing our luck, we went back out to the same AA agent, not bothering to wait in the long line again. I figured since she screwed up we shouldn't be penalized for it. When I pointed out her error she said, "Oh really? I just figured since you were traveling as a group it wouldn't matter." You didn't think it would matter that you put the boarding passes not only in the wrong name, but on the wrong flight?!? She tore up the incorrect passes and gave us new ones. We proceeded without further incident through customs and down to our gate. Coincidentally, our flight was leaving from the same gate as the flight to New York so we were able to sit in the gate area together.

Their flight ended up being delayed, which meant that our flight got moved to a new gate. It didn't matter as the plane we were waiting for was also delayed. By the time it deplaned and we were allowed on, our connecting time in Chicago had shrunk to ten minutes. Of course we fretted about this on the plane and our flight attendant had absolutely no sympathy for our plight. I was keeping my fingers crossed that the new flight would depart from the same concourse we would arrive at. But that was not to be - we arrived at the end of H and the St. Louis flight was departing from the end of G. Having barely made our 40 minute connection through the same configuration on the way to Montreal, I figured we were just out of luck.

When we landed we pleaded with fellow passengers to allow us to get off first (we were in the 10th row so that helped), and most of them were very kind. One other man from our flight was headed the same direction. We took off, running like O.J. Simpson through the airport. I didn't run for long as the blisters on my feet quickly let me know they were having none of that. I did walk very fast though, keeping Jill and the flip-flap of her flip-flops in my sights. As we neared the gate they were just beginning to call the names of the standby passengers. I am sure three of them were cursing the fact that we showed up just in the nick of time. We had middle seats, one behind the other, near the back of the plane. I plopped in my seat, for all the world sounding like one of the contestants on The Biggest Loser. I was just hoping I didn't smell like a homeless person. Just as I was beginning to breathe a little easier, a ruckus began across the aisle.

That side of the plane had only two seats per row, while my side had three. An older man was sitting in the window seat, but the aisle seat was empty. The flight attendant noticed, and was going to put someone in the seat. The man told her she could not, as he had purchased both the seats. Assuming he meant someone was still coming, she proceeded to place the other standby passengers in empty seats. When the aisle seat remained empty, she asked the man about it. "I tried to tell the AA people inside the terminal that I bought the seat for my granddaughter, but her dad picked her up in Chicago and she wasn't finishing the last leg of the trip with me. But they didn't want to hear about it."

"So she isn't joining you?"

He glared at her. "Didn't I just say that?!?"

"Then I am going to put someone in this seat."

"The hell you are! I paid for that seat and no one else is going to sit in it!" The attendant went to the front of the plane and came back with three other attendants, and the poor woman who had been sold the aisle seat. I said to the woman next to me, "Man, I would hate to be the poor person they sit next to him." "I know, he is going to take it out on her", she replied.

The attendants explained to him that his granddaughter was a no-show, and as such they could resell the seat. He told them they could go ahead and sell it - after they gave him his money back. This was something he would have to take up with AA, they told him. They said if he had put both tickets in his own name, then he could have taken both seats. (That would not have worked out well for his granddaughter, now would it?) By now the copilot was joining the fray, as the man told them it was a bunch of shit that they could sell the seat twice, and this is why they are going out of business since they don't treat their customer right. Finally he was advised that he could either get off the plane and talk to AA inside the terminal, or he could sit down and be quiet, but they WERE putting someone in the seat next to him. He wisely chose to stay in his seat, and the woman sat down beside him. To his credit, he turned to her and said, "Nothing against you ma'am. They sold this seat twice and that just makes me so damn mad!"

The remainder of the flight was blessedly quiet, and we arrived in St. Louis right on time. And I guess I got some good blogging material out of all the excitement.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

O Canada!

Jim and his partner had a business trip to Montreal last week, so the wives tagged along. Because the lighting representative who was paying for the trip for the guys booked their flights, Jill and I had to take care of our travel arrangements separately. We were able to get on the same flights as them going out, which meant traveling from here to Chicago and then on to Montreal. Coming home they were flying through LaGuardia and Jill and I had to go through Chicago again. More on that later...

St. Joseph's
The lighting conference put us up at a hotel in downtown Montreal, and it was a great place to stay. When we arrived on Thursday we met up with everyone else in the bar for cocktails before loading up onto a bus to go to the lighting manufacturer's plant outside of town. We learned about their lighting fixtures and had a nice dinner there. Friday the guys headed off to an all day seminar so Jill and I took the hotel courtesy car (nice!) up to Oratory St. Joseph's, which is located on the top of a large hill. It has over 100 stairs to climb to get to the top. (If you are really into it, you climb on your knees so that you feel the pain and suffering of Christ.) No knee pads were provided, so we walked the steps instead. The gardens contain large statues of the Stations of the Cross, and you can also tour the basilica. It was strangely stark inside compared to other basilicas I have visited. Unfortunately the day was pretty gray so my pictures are not as good as I would have liked.

Stations of the Cross
The basilica

After all the walking and trudging up and down stairs, we found a fun little cafe in the area and stopped to have lunch. From there we walked to Mount Royal, which is a park said to be larger than Central Park and designed by the same landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted. While they tell you that St. Joseph's is located in Mount Royal, that is a filthy lie. I wish I would have worn a pedometer so that I would know how many miles we actually walked to get to the park. It was a hilly road as well, so the next day in addition to blisters on my feet, my calves and shins were killing me. So much for thinking I am in shape. Anyway we walked to the overlook pavilion in the park, which is the highest point in Montreal. I'm told you can see all the way to the United States from there. I wouldn't know as the sky was so socked in I could barely see the river. The building on the grounds was pretty cool, and offered a welcome place to sit down. Following our stop we still had to hike through the park and then head down a couple hundred steps to get back to the street level and find our way to the hotel. On the plus side, it waited until we were nearly back before it began to rain.

The pavilion at Mount Royal

View from the lookout at Mount Royal

That evening the lighting company took us on a dinner river cruise. Again the view of the Montreal lights from the river is probably outstanding - unfortunately it was pouring down rain on our three hour tour. The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed...Not really, but we all sang the song anyway. Thank goodness for the glass covering. We stayed nice and dry once we were on board, and it was a fun trip anyway.

On Saturday we had an open day so the four of us along with the lighting rep and her husband toured Old Montreal. We took the Metro, which was pretty fun. They have what is called the Underground City, which is essentially a huge mall underground since their winters can be pretty harsh. Old Montreal is really interesting due to its history. Notre Dame Cathedral is beautiful and we very much enjoyed seeing all the old architecture. You definitely felt like you were in another country at that point. In case all the French didn't make you feel that way earlier. We wrapped up the day at a French Bistro, which was amazing. Sunday we headed back to the U.S. The trip home had its share of excitement, and I'll write about that in my next post.
Notre Dame

Montreal City Hall

Our Lady of the Harbor

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Egg-citing Stuff!

Have you ever had a double yolk egg? When we were kids it was always fun when mom would crack open a double yolker while making breakfast. Most double yolk eggs are laid by young hens. Sometimes the hen releases two yolks in quick succession and both yolks are trapped in a single shell. Supposedly the odds of getting an egg with a double yolk are one in one thousand. So imagine my surprise when I was making breakfast last weekend and found this!

Three double yolk eggs
And then the next morning I got this! All the eggs were from the same carton.

Two double yolk eggs
I hard boiled the remainder of the eggs in the box, and each and every one of them had a double yolk. So ten of the twelve eggs in the carton had two yolks.

Hard boiled double yolk egg

People keep telling me that I should go and buy a lottery ticket. I have been entering the KSDK 17 iPads in 17 Days contest to no avail, so my luck is not transferring over there. For more egg laying fun, check out this website.

Another hard boiled double yolk egg