Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Force Is With Him on His Daily Commute

I've seen some fun license plates lately on the road. Two more parrothead plates:
  • A1ASOU
And this one, which made me wonder what the guy's motivation was. Big Star Wars fan? Writer of fan fiction? Does he look like Harrison Ford 30 years ago? It was:
  • H4N SOLO
Pretty sweet.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Company Picnic

Last week, my office held its annual picnic at an offsite location featuring games, music, line dancing lessons (!), rock-wall climbing, and assorted odd snacks. Initially, I looked for the old standby, hot dogs, but finding none, I picked up some chicken strips. At the first bite, I knew I'd made a mistake. I spit the limp, damp bite of chicken into a napkin, rinsed my mouth with some Amstel, and hit up the snack line once again. This time, I chose the mini corn dogs -- believe it or not, the least dubious snack there. They were cold, and oddly sweet, but edible.

I wandered up to the midway with some colleagues, won a stuffed parrot and consumed a funnel cake and half an ice cream cone. I hit the picture booth with a random colleague and headed back to the picnic patio, the only place alcohol was allowed. There I found my colleague Tammy, who was complaining about the lack of hot dogs amid the snack offerings. She told me she'd actually seen a bunch of hot dogs and had asked for one, but she'd been turned away. "These are for the hot-dog-eating contest," she was told. No matter what she said, they wouldn't hand one over.

Tammy said she was considering entering the hot-dog-eating contest and eating just one hot dog, perhaps requesting some mustard and sauerkraut before the start of the event. Once she'd eaten a single dog, she'd throw in the towel. She decided against it, but several other colleagues took the challenge and signed up, their type-A competitive juices clearly flowing. And it wasn't about the prize itself -- a mere $100. It was about winning, pure and simple.

The contest was about to begin, so we found good spots and settled in for the five-minute event, an orgy of encased-meat consumption. Some competitors dunked their buns in cups of water, taking a page from world-class hot-dog-eating champions (see "How to Win a Hot Dog Eating Contest"). Others just doggedly bit and chewed, bit and chewed.

When it ended, the colleague most-well-known for his cutthroat competitive tendencies had won. Another colleague ran to the portapotties to vomit. The organizers offered up the leftover hot dogs to the spectators.

NOBODY took one. Tammy and I agreed we didn't want a hot dog anymore.

Maybe not ever.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

In the End, the Odds Remained the Same


Yesterday I went for another monitoring appointment, and the doctor determined that I just wasn't going to be ovulating this month. She said sometimes that happens with Clomid, and she said my regular doctor might want to increase the dosage. I noted that I already ovulated normally on my own, so I didn't think increasing the dosage would be useful. She said sometimes you just don't ovulate anyway. And she sent me on my way, telling me to call on my next Day 1.

I admit I wasn't looking forward to another two weeks of progesterone and the associated side effects. In fact, I was dreading it. So I'm actually kind of relieved that I don't have to go through that again this month.

But I'm done with the medicated cycles. The whole point of them was to increase the odds of a pregnancy each month by giving me meds to ensure my left ovary ovulated each time (that's the attached one). This is based on the assumption that someone with my condition starts with half the chance of a person with normal girl parts. Well, I did 4 medicated cycles. And two of them were canceled. 50%. My chances remained exactly the same.

Seriously, screw this. I'm not doing another one. I'm taking a few months off to do some crazy "Eastern medicine" herb treatments recommended by my acupuncturist. Why not? It couldn't possibly screw me up as much as the meds I've been on. It'll probably make me healthier, because the treatments include diet changes that involve copious vegetable consumption. In the fall I'll head back to the doctor if we haven't had luck on our own and if they have some new ideas.

Your Happily Drug-Free Pal

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Commuters Look for New Options in the Face of $3.75 a Gallon

This morning, inspired by record-high gas prices, Steve headed to the park-n-ride to take the 7:08 a.m. 18P express Metro bus to the Pentagon.

He wasn't the only one to have this idea.

According to Steve, the crowd of people waiting for various buses was much, much bigger than usual. This may have been due to the fact that the park-n-ride's slug line had approximately 100 people waiting in it, causing many others who normally would have slugged to walk over to the bus stop instead. Typically there are no more than 15-20 people waiting in this slug line. The ratio of sluggers to drivers has clearly been thrown out of balance.

(Note for those from out of town: A slug line is a line of people waiting to get a free ride in the car of a person who wants to drive in the HOV lanes, which require 2 or 3 riders in each car. Slugging is free, and it's great if you don't mind getting a ride with a random stranger.)

When the 18P arrived, it was already half-full -- an unusual state. Steve boarded the bus, grabbed one of the last seats, and watched the bus become standing room only as it made its next stop on Old Keene Mill Road. By the time the last rider boarded, it was wall-to-wall people. And even for those sitting down, it was tight -- grown men are typically about 25% wider than the seats.

It seems that gas prices, combined with ever-higher prices for a Metro train ride and the $4.50 cost of parking at the Franconia-Springfield Metro (vs. the ample free parking at the Rolling Valley Park-n-Ride) have finally driven many of us just outside the Beltway to full-on bus transportation. The Metro itself has always been a financial boondoggle for us, costing more than the price of driving to work and parking in a garage, even including gas prices. Plus, it has always been faster to drive. Steve still took the Metro train at times, because he likes to read on the train. But the express bus at $3 -- not to mention the slugline for free -- these are ways you can save serious time and money. And it looks like the secret's out.

But it won't work for everyone. We live in West Springfield and I work in Herndon -- a 21-mile trail of tears through more than 20 traffic lights -- so there are no viable public transportation options for my commute. And there are no good carpool options for me, either. It's costing us over $50 to fill up my small SUV (a Toyota RAV4) every 5 days or so. Steve's Camry may get far better mileage -- or so we think. I love my little truck, even though it only gets about 22.3 mpg (the stated mileage of 24 city/27 highway is pure fiction). It has all my commuting-pacification stuff in it. The XM is all hooked up. A little case of bottled water is in the back. My maps are positioned in various pockets, easily accessible for shortcuts if needed. I've got Advil in the center console and always have a snack in there just in case. My RAV4 features my college alumni license plate holder and my little jade rear-view mirror bauble. But in the interest of financial savings, I'm being banished to the soulless Camry for a one-week test run.

At least the Camry has a sunroof.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pour Your Misery Down on I-66

I took one of my lengthy back routes to the Fairfax County Parkway this morning to avoid the flooding that so often causes massive backups on that little-known but much-abused highway that never makes the cut for the traffic reports unless the asphalt catches fire or something on it actually explodes. Tooling along in the continued downpour and listening to XM, I cranked up the opening strains of Garbage's "I'm Only Happy When It Rains," an apropos song for this morning.

As I made my way across the I-66 overpass, I looked down and deeply pitied the thousands of people pointed east but sitting at a complete stop -- it looked much worse than usual. At the very moment I glanced down at the traffic jam, over my radio came the lyrics: "pour your misery down on me."


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Some Things Are Just Out of Your Control

Today at work I saw a presentation by Al Haynes, captain of United Flight 232, which crashed in 1989 in Sioux City, Iowa. Captain Haynes detailed 45 minutes in the air during which he and his co-pilots desperately tried to maneuver their crippled plane toward an airport after a design flaw caused engine #2, on the tail, to break off and spray shrapnel across the rear of the plane, slicing through key hydraulic mechanisms. The pilots flew the plane using nothing but the throttles on the two remaining engines. In the end, the plane crash-landed in a corn field at the Sioux City Airport. Miraculously, 185 of the 296 people aboard the plane survived.

Later, investigators tried to recreate the crew's flight and landing under the same conditions, and were unable to do so. Captain Haynes detailed conversations he had with DC-10 experts who said that the breakdown that occurred was impossible, as was flying the plane if that breakdown *did* occur. The captain said it was because of a few factors -- luck, communications, preparation, execution, and cooperation -- that so many of the passengers survived. And luck was #1.

Then, Captain Haynes moved beyond the standard disaster story into the personal. He said he gives these talks because it helps him heal, even 19 years later. He told us that his family has had its share of losses, with the sudden loss of his wife, the death of his son in a motorcycle accident, and a close call with his daughter, who needed a bone marrow transplant. He said the biggest lesson he learned is that some things are just out of your control. And in the end, you have to just keep going and live your life.


Monday was my one-year blog anniversary. For some reason, my thoughts turned to my Mother's Day post last year, when I wondered if I'd have reason to celebrate this year. Then I found out 10 days later that that pregnancy, my second, had ended. So there will be no celebration for me this time. I'll still call my mom like I do every year. I'm sure Steve will call his. And who knows what next year will bring.

One of the areas my job touches on is risk management, and perception is a major issue. No matter what the statistics are for the likelihood of a given event, humans tend to believe that if something has never happened, it never will (until 2005, few really believed a hurricane could devastate New Orleans), and we also tend to believe that the most recent disaster is extremely likely (prepping like crazy for hurricanes after Katrina). I guess that's what I'm doing here, too -- thinking that I'll never be able to get the job done, and that the same pregnancy disaster will happen again and again.

I know it's only been a few months on the fertility drugs, but it seems like a long time. I hate taking the hormones. I hate that one of the hormones mimics the symptoms of pregnancy. I hate that I'm bloated and my chest is too big. I hate having to insert suppositories twice a day starting on Day 9. I hate having bright green discharge and having to wear a pantyliner 2/3 of the month. I hate that some friends cut me out of their lives when they got pregnant, or when they hit the second trimester. I hate that I can't make firm plans to go out of town until I know when my Day 1 is.

I want to just say screw this whole thing. It's completely out of my control.

But in the end, I have to just keep going and live my life.