Archive | March, 2015

Travelogue: Aloha!

30 Mar

Aloha from Oahu!

You’ve probably gathered that I work for a pretty spectacular company and am one of the few people who can say that I love my job and mean it. I realize you probably want to stab me, so I’ll just add fuel to the fire: one of the perks of working for my organization is use of a beach house in Hawaii.

Not too shabby right?

Which is how Alan and I found ourselves at DCA at seven o’clock Friday morning, checking in for a flight to Oahu by way of Seattle. And how – a mere 19 hours later – we were standing at the luggage carousel in Honolulu, watching as a lone bag made its victory lap, my own bag no where to be seen.

I was trying to reassure myself  when a representative from Alaska Air approached. “Are you Alison?” I nodded. “Your bag is on the next flight arriving from Seattle, which gets in in two hours.”

I wanted to cry. It was 8:30pm Hawaii time, which meant that in my world, it was 2:30am. I hadn’t slept on the flight and was deliriously tired. Alan wisely persuaded me against having the airline deliver the bag to us in the morning. “You’ll sleep better with your own clothes and toothpaste,” he argued.

Finally, I acquiesced, so we headed to Waikiki to burn an hour while waiting for my bag to arrive. Waikiki was low on my list of places to see, so I was completely fine knocking it out while I was tired and just needed to kill a bit of time. Check. I’m fine if we never go back.

Two hours later, we retrieved my bag (yay!) and were bound for the North Shore, where we’d made reservations in Haleiwa via AirBNB. Although I was so tired I wanted to stab someone at the time, it probably was the best thing for reseting our clocks and shaking jet lag. We crashed at midnight and got a solid eight hours in – and have been running on Hawaiian time ever since.

Lesson: Thank You, Alaska Airlines for losing (then quickly finding!) my luggage.

Well, it probably didn’t hurt that our lodging was right on the Ali’i Beach. It’s hard to wake up angry when you’re looking out over the Pacific.

Next up: What to do on a rainy day on Oahu?


Turns out, it DOES flow downhill.

24 Mar

pithypants toilet

My week started with a 9am call informing me that my toilet had overflowed and flooded the unit below mine with smelly poo water.

Before the sentence was even out of the property manager’s mouth Monday morning, I’d packed up my desk, donned my jacket and was out the door, sprinting (more like fast walking while gasping) home to see how messed up my bathroom was.

As it turns out, in an interesting twist, my neighbors are both dramatic and lazy. I say that because when I arrived home (fearing a flood of epic proportions) my bathroom looked totally normal – as in, just as I’d left it, right down to the hand-scrubbed floor tiles.

When I called the property manager back, confused, he said, “False alarm. While their bathroom DID get drenched with poo water today, apparently they’ve had a stain growing on their ceiling for the last few months, so it’s not a flood situation.”

Let’s pause for a quick poll. If you noticed a growing stain on your ceiling would you:

  1. Call the property manager ASAP?
  2. Run upstairs and let your neighbor know?
  3. Do nothing for months, until poo flooded your bathroom?


So here I was, learning that I had a plumbing (and drywalling) issue on my hands just as I’m about to head out of town for vacation. I may or may not have mildly lost my shit (both figuratively and literally, given the circumstances) for a few minutes.

Once I regrouped, I hopped into action, calling a plumber, alerting my insurance company, and tracking down contact information for someone below me who had a key to the unit and could coordinate with contractors for repairs.

So the plumber came out and quickly diagnosed the problem as a worn down wax seal. He repaired it quickly (if not inexpensively) and asked if I’d had any other issues with the toilet.

“Um, no…” I responded, somewhat confused. “What other kind of issues?”

“Ever have to use the plunger?” he asked. “That’s an American Standard toilet and those things are known for being problematic. They usually require a lot of plunging, especially in buildings where the water pressure might not be so good.”

Ah. “Actually, no,” I told him. “In the five years I’ve lived here, I’ve never used a plunger.”

And then – because I don’t know when to stop – I said, “Which is kind of ironic because growing up I needed a plunger so often that my parents bought one just for me and wrote my name on the handle.”

He paused, then laughed, then said, “Good for you.”


I think the only way that exchange could’ve ended more awkwardly is if he’d offered a high-five.

Also? In hindsight, how did my Crohn’s go 37 years without being diagnosed? I’m pretty sure I’m the only person I know who had her own plunger before hitting high school.

And yes, you don’t have to say it… Alan is a lucky, lucky man.


Tidbit: Les Mis + Yoga

22 Mar

Image Source:

In my 10 years regularly practicing yoga, today was a first: I was kicked in the head by the guy on the mat in front of me as we lifted up into Warrior 3. 

All righty then. Here’s to new experiences!

Tattooed (in 100 point cursive font) on his left leg was a quote from Les Mis:

To love another person is to see the face of God.


And now he knows what you see when you kick another person: My Face. Slightly less serene than that of God.

Can’t wait to see what he has tattooed on his right leg in our next class.

March? Oh, it’s mad all right.

22 Mar

Image Source:

Quick poll: how many of you experienced bandwidth issues at your office this week because colleagues were busy streaming March Madness games to their desks on Thursday and Friday? 

Just curious, because the media claims the NCAA hoops tournament is a huge productivity killer at work, but I’m always booked solidly on calls all day, so I’m curious to know who, exactly, has time to watch a basketball game (or ten) while they’re on the clock?

I partially answered this question on a small scale when Alan showed up at my place Friday night and asked if I’d seen the Michigan State game. Apparently he’d managed to stream and watch it in his office while doing some project work.

And he was frustrated on two counts: first, because the internet had been sluggish because everyone at his law firm had been doing the same thing (allegedly), and second, because he missed the last 20 minutes of the game because he had to attend a meeting in someone else’s office.

Rough times in the legal profession.

Image Source: might not watch the games, but I do watch my bracket standings in our office pool. Ever since I won the first March Madness pool I participated in (organized by my social studies classmate in ninth grade), I’ve been hooked. The same strategy that brought me that win continues to serve me fairly well as an adult: I pick the team names that include letters I like (example: x, v, z, q).

As a result, I’m big on Gonzaga, Xavier, Villanova – and I picked Arizona as a longer-shot to win it this year.

You may laugh at that logic, but I’m currently in third place out of 19 and my best score still makes me a contender. Also? I’ve heard of crazier ways of choosing teams – like going based on which mascot would likely win in a fight.

Actually, the folks at Five Thirty Eight have taken this one step further and modeled a few different scenarios and the likelihood of that approach providing you a win. Here are a few of their examples:

Mascot Most Likely to Win in A Fight – Final Four

Midwest: Hampton University Pirates

West: Texas Southern University Tigers

East: Michigan State University Spartans

South: Iowa State Cyclones

Championship game: Pirates vs. Cyclones

Winner: Iowa State Cyclones


Cuteness Final Four 

Midwest: Northeastern University Huskies (No. 14 seed, <1 percent)

West: University of Wisconsin Badgers (No. 1 seed, 33 percent)

East: U.C. Irvine Anteaters (No. 13 seed, <1 percent)

South: Gonzaga Bulldogs (No. 2 seed, 24 percent)

Championship game: Badgers vs. Bulldogs

Winner: University of Wisconsin Badgers

Sorry, but I’m not clear on how a badger or an anteater are even eligible to participate in a “cuteness” bowl. Have the folks creating this bracket ever googled the animals they’re choosing? In case they (or you) haven’t, here’s a look at the badger:

Image Source: Google Images

So I’m going to have to disqualify the Badgers. Same for the anteaters, though I do enjoy saying any word that has “teat” hidden in it. Maybe – as it turns out – I’m not mature enough to pick my own bracket in the first place. Whatever… GO SHOCKERS!


[UPDATE: I am no longer in third place. I am now basically in last, thanks to the Villanova upset. Feel free to ignore my advice on team-picking.]

There was no Kool Aid to drink.

18 Mar

I’ve been doing a lot of yoga lately. It’s one of my new year’s resolutions. Last year, in my quest to swim 50 miles, I got a bit lazy about yoga since I didn’t have a regular studio. And while people claim that swimming is a great whole body exercise, I found that I lost strength and muscle tone that I’d built in yoga. So this year, when it came time to choose between a gym membership (for pool access) or a yoga studio (for, well, yoga), I decided to spend the money on yoga.

I know, some of you are scratching your heads asking why the two are mutually exclusive. Two reasons: time and money. Satisfied?

To help kick off my recommitment to yoga, my friend Betsy and I went on a yoga retreat at Yogaville in February. Yogaville is an ashram on 800 acres of wooded land outside Charlottesville, Virginia. If you google it, you might become a bit worried that it’s possibly a cult. I’ll admit – that was one of my concerns as we headed into a weekend.

It didn’t help that when we arrived, the people greeting us were all wearing white flowy clothes and had names like Chandrani and Vishnu, despite the fact that they looked like they were probably originally baptized as Mary and John. While we had an option to sleep in the “dorm,” we opted for a private room and private bath. The only wall decorations in our room were a photo of the late Swami G, founder of both the ashram and the integral yoga movement in the United States, and the ashram’s symbol, which looked like this:

Yogaville Symbol

Yogaville Symbol

At first, these decorations did little to convince me we weren’t about to become indoctrinated into a cult. But as the weekend went on, I began to realize that if Swami G had been a politician, his platform would have focused on creating peace among all world religions.

Cult concerns aside, the weekend-long immersion was a great way to kick-off my yoga commitment. We rose at 5:30 for a 45 minute meditation led by a monk, then attended a 90 minute Hatha yoga practice followed by breakfast in the communal dining room. A hike to the LOTUS shrine, then lunch. Then a yoga nidra practice before dinner, followed by satsang, which is their Saturday night celebration.

A word about satsang:

Imagine a small auditorium with three musicians on stage, all in flowy white robes. For the next 45 minutes, they will play variations on the same song while singing chants in a call-and-response format. The chants are based on the Hare Krishna mantra, so you revisit your cult fears and wonder if you are surrounded by Hare Krishnas.

Then you wonder what that means and realize your knowledge on this entire subject is a bit vague. Are Hare Krishnas are the bald people who hand out poppies at airports and drive little cars? Or are those Shriners? Are Shriners associated with a circus, or have you made that up? Have you made up the bit about little cars? Are the poppies handed out by people honoring dead soldiers?

As your head begins to explode from all you do not know, you realize that behind you, some of the younger members of the audience (guys in their 20s) who presumably live at Yogaville year-round, have become so moved by the chanting and music that they can’t contain themselves. They are dancing, running and kicking up their heels in a way that seems a bit over the top. You want to be happy for their joy, but instead you think, “These guys just need a beer.”

To help pass the time, you sing along, realizing that you can subtly change the words for your own amusement, which will explain your Sunday night tweet: “Spent the weekend at an ashram. My main take-away is that when chanting Hari Om you can say, ‘Hidey Hole’ instead without people noticing.”

A word about meals:

The cafeteria featured only vegetarian and vegan meals. The volunteers in the kitchen did a good job pulling together meals that provided a good variety – as an example: borscht, sautéed kale, lentils, vegetable curry, fresh fruit and a salad bar. However, we quickly learned that if you don’t arrive right at the start of the meal, odds were good that the best items would be heavily picked over.

When I say “best items” I’m actually talking about potatoes. Rosemary potatoes for breakfast and cinnamon sweet potatoes for lunch? All cleaned out by the time we arrived. And that’s when I knew beyond a doubt that I couldn’t live communally. I’m fine honoring the quiet hours from 10pm to 8am. I’ll even chant with you on Saturday nights. And I won’t whine about giving up meat or wine. But taunt me with something I’m actually excited to eat – and demolish it before I get a portion? We are done.

funny Hare Krishna

Sunday we wrapped up with another Hatha practice before hitting the road and returning to DC. It was a nice escape from the city, but I won’t be packing my bags and changing my name to Ganesh any time soon.