On the Naming of Me

My name is pretty unusual, in and of that I’ve been challenged by telemarketers, customer service people, and baristas alike that “That can’t be your name” or “What’s your real name?” (As if the sort of person who gives out a fake name would abruptly turn around and provide a real one). My name is in fact Bobbie, although legally it is Roberta; the only people who call me Roberta are telemarketers, teachers, and attorneys.

Per Wolfram Alpha, fewer than 200 people each year are given the name Bobbie (as a given female name – and yes it does say it assumes Bobbie is female). Less than 1 in 3331 people have the name, and the most common age for a person with the name Bobbie is 76 years. (Roberta clocks in at much the same, with 1 in 1823 people having the name and the common age is 57 years).

So it’s safe to say “Bobbie” is an unusual name, and that is that.

Over the years my name has been mangled quite a bit, from the masculine “Bobby” to the alternative female “Bobbi”. I also oftentimes get the email typo of one more o, one less b; for the most part I choose to ignore these and hope the sender goes away. That said, I wasn’t really particularly particular about how people spelled my name (with the exception of that last) until I read Freakonomics.

Freakonomics has a pretty good chapter on Correlation vs. Causality, particularly around naming conventions. The main anecdote is about a man who named his sons Winner and Loser, and the indication that the son named Loser had an extremely successful life, whilst the son named Winner had an extremely unsuccessful one. There is no causality in naming. However it also had a second anecdote, and a study, around names given to female children. Specifically, names that one would associate with strippers.

The idea was thus: if I name my daughter, say, “Bambi” or “Sugar” or something like that, am I dooming her to life on the pole? The short answer is no, you are not. By virtue of naming your daughter anything like that (there is a third indication of a daughter named Temptress who indeed had a pretty name-similar life) you are not going to ensure she ends up with a job whose uniform consists of two ounces of elastic and slightly more than that of glitter. But there’s still a good chance it will happen. Why? Because the parent who names their kid something like that is also probably not going to make sure she gets home in time for a curfew, or is getting her homework done. It’s the correlation – the fact that a parent who names their kid something like that isn’t likely to be hammering on the grades – rather than the causality that drives the preponderance of “Crystals” and the like to the pasties.

As part of this chapter in Freakonomics, there is a list of the top 10 names found amongst strippers at time of publication. The name “Bobbi” – with an “I” – is on that list. The name “Bobbi” with an “I” has a common age of 39. That means those Bobbi’s were born in 1975 or thereabouts, and Freakonomics was published in 2005, with data from studies probably the year previous, and so I think it’s entirely reasonable that their stripper population was about 29 at the time.

Since reading that I’ve made it a point to educate people on the value of the “e”. I don’t look good in glitter.

Hot Yoga: Confessions of a Reluctant Convert

I had spent probably six years wanting to look down my nose at hot yoga, with all of its purported smelliness, its special gear, its special words (Namaste, indeed), and the trendiness of yoga pants that you could or couldn’t see through. How could it be real exercise when it’s just extrapolated stretching? How can anyone take it seriously in that gear? Then I took up cycling and the gear argument went out the door. After you shamelessly go to the Safeway in clippie shoes and chamois-padded bike shorts, any sense of dignity in costume is gone.

The kicker for me was about a six months ago when my dad told me he had taken up yoga and it did wonders for his back.

I have inherited many things from my father, good and bad. I am stubborn, I can be very black and white, I am very plain-spoken. I dislike mayonnaise, I can be extremely pragmatic, and my knees and back are increasingly problematic. I didn’t get the piano playing skills, but I got the good hair and straight teeth. When I got to my mid thirties we started comparing knee injuries, back injuries, and what color of therapy bands we were using.

So when my dad said yoga really helped him with his back, I listened. I didn’t march right down to the gym to go try a class, because that would take actual effort, but I did listen. And then I did attend a class at the gym and it was pretty much everything you think of when you think of “hot yoga”: a 15×15 room filled with various bodies in yoga-esque clothing, a calming instructor, seventeen or twenty painful poses, everyone dripping sweat, and I could tell who was a fan of garlic and/or cheese. It wasn’t awful but it wasn’t great.

I left yoga to its own devices; I didn’t look down my nose at it but I assured myself it was not for me.

My best friend and I were chatting a couple of months ago and, as I pointed out the new Hot Yoga place just down the hill from me, she pointed out she had been going and she found it better than meditation to calm her mind. As someone who also suffers from chronic insomnia, this sounded like a good idea. The new place had a deal: 6 classes for $10 in two weeks. For the price of three lattes I could scientifically test the benefits of yoga! That this coincided with the last week of my old job, and a week off, made for an excellent test bed. And so I signed up.

It’s been a month now. I haven’t had back pain in that time. I have had only two (2) nights of insomnia. I am inelegant in class, I am not the lean-and-limber yoga Barbie; then again there are many in my class who are not. I have seen progress in my flexibility and balance, but frankly, the fact that my back doesn’t routinely go out, and that I can run again without pain in my knees, is selling point enough.

Then there are the personalities: I try to go every Thursday night (for a variety of reasons) but it seems I’m of a minority with a regular schedule. In six weeks of attendance I have seen maybe one or two people in any two classes, the rest of the cast members change out regularly. There are a couple of yoga Barbies — and they know it — but hats off to them because not only do they look it, but they can do that one pose where you balance on the ball of one foot while in lotus with your hands up. Or the other one where you fold yourself in half, and bend over (I think it’s called “sleeping eagle” but for me it’s called “impossible”). Then there was Tatooed Yoga Jesus: a man who looked like the Oxford-Christian Jesus picture but in yoga pants, no shirt, and tattoos all over his arms, back, and chest. Again, the inclination is to mentally tease him, but Yoga Jesus knew his stuff too. Even the inflated, gym-rat-football-player-looking-dude could get some of the more difficult versions.  And then there’s plenty of people like me: not quite with-it, but improving; dripping sweat and forcing muscles to do things they aren’t used to, secure in the knowledge of a pain-free back and a good night’s sleep.

That is worth any amount of self-imposed awkwardness.

Editing

As part of that non-work, non-home, non-PTA poo I previously referenced, I’m knee-deep in documents: big documents, little documents, documents that climb on rocks. Documents that must be scanned, annotated, pdf’d, and emailed. As a result of this — which, I must note, has lasted four weeks now and shows zero signs of letting up — I have learned many things:

1. People who have presumably gone through enough college to acquire a JD are still susceptible to amazingly huge gaffes in grammar, logic, and facts. This is not my person, but someone else’s person, and the fact that this person makes as much as he does makes me weep for the MFA’s of the world. Those sorts of leaps of logic/creative spellings should reside firmly with unicorns, fairies, and unpronounceable pseudo-worlds.

2. My boyfriend’s bulimic cat can immediately sense these, and will puke in disgust (I’d totally join her, but the carpet cleaner couldn’t handle it).

3. The household HP Scanner will lovingly scan each document as an INDIVIDUAL jpeg, to be hand-converted to pdf, and oh you have to rotate them 180 degrees (sure, you could try to feed your documents 180 degrees differently — and discover the HP Scanner then becomes bulimic of its own accord).

4. There is no easy (read: free) software for annotation, so I must send my [descriptive noun redacted] a detailed, bulleted email about the scanned documents. She loves this (at slightly under $300 an hour), but it goes against my norm of power-point “SmartArt”, and I end up involuntarily twitching.

5. The household Scanner is not on the network (still), and so I must do the weird braille method of re-attaching its USB connection to the male person’s machine.

6. Waiting for the aforementioned household scanner will cause you to read your Facebook feed with more interest than you have had in a few weeks, and you will therefore discover Wil Wheaton Collating, making your mind both euphoric and in danger of its own personal Warp Core Breach.

7. All of those people? Who you kinda told but didn’t really about the poo, and the stress, and the non-eating-sleeping-and-general-bowel-dysfunction (oh, wait, TMI)? They totally meant it when they said they were pulling for you, as evidenced by the forty-two customized email messages through various media inquiring as to status of poo and whether poo was in fact, gone.

For the record:

The poo is kinda gone…the stench lingers… and after October 19th I’ll officially hope the fan has kicked in. Really could’ve used a courtesy flush, but it didn’t happen.

In other news, it’s 16 days to my birthday, can I get a pony?

Black Friday

No, I didn’t go shopping. I worked. I worked yesterday too.

I’ll work tomorrow and Sunday. All of this is most unfortunate because I had a series of conference calls and email round-robins with folks as early as July, and yet no one figured out until about a week ago that *something* needed to be done, and apparently it’s me with a huge S on my chest, for “Super” or “Something” or “Silly”, because I’m doing it. By “it” I mean cramming about 7 days worth of work into a 3-day period.

In honor of this momentous occasion, and the fact that by virtue of working I completely missed the two things I was going to purchase on Black Friday (1, I’m in Arizona; 2, the online sales I was after were apparently on Eastern Standard Time and I just finished working for the day. It’s 11pm local), I give you optimism.

Or pessimism.

This all started with a fridge. I’m at my parents house in Scottsdale, Arizona, where they have two refrigerators. One in the kitchen, and one in an anteroom. This isn’t uncommon but what *is* is that both fridges are completely stocked. My mother could be Mormon if she wanted to be; the secondary fridge is stocked with flours and cereals and spare juice and all kinds of things. As we played Tetris to get the Thanksgiving leftovers put away, I remarked that most people’s fridges are only half-full.

Which started, in my head, all of the ways people look at things. I want you to know that between this and distributing a 10-figure sum I stayed up late last night with insomnia.

  • Optimist: the glass is half full.
  • Pessimist: the glass is half empty.
  • Realist: it’s a glass of water.
  • Engineer: the glass is too big for the water it contains.
  • Project Manager: we overspec’d the glass, just in case.
  • My counterpart in Europe: Over here, we say it differently, and we’ve been drinking longer.
  • My counterpart in Asia Pacific: Our glasses are a bit more engineered than yours, you may want to stick with yours.
  • QA Tester: hey, look, you told us to drink from it, but there is no use case for measuring how much water is in there.
  • UAT Tester: so, just the one glass, then?
  • End User: damn, it would’ve been great if the glass was pink.
  • Trader Joe’s Employee: you know, I have a glass just like this at home, and I like to fill it with…
  • My son’s Principal: I’ve been meaning to talk to you about the glass and its contents…
  • My son: well, you see, I tried to make the glass out of Legos, but it couldn’t hold enough water, which is why there’s only what you see there, and if IronMan/Tony Stark made it, it would have had this cool gun on it…
  • My stepmother: you should drink more water.
  • My mother: that glass should be filled with wine.
  • My dog: if the glass has water in it maybe she’ll go to the kitchen to put more water in it and bring me bacon.
  • My postmaster: Are you sure this is your glass? (In reference to the question marks I often get appearing on letters to not-necessarily-me-but-people-I-traffic-mail-for)
  • My stick-shift driving instructor: The important thing to note about the glass is how it sounds different as you drink from it.
  • My best friend: I’m with your mom on the wine thing.
  • My boyfriend: I’m with your best friend on that. Well, not *with* her, I mean honey, I’m really with you, and whatever you want is fine with me. It’s your glass and I support your choices.
  • My boss: Water, huh? You may want to switch that to coffee after this next meeting.
  • My skip level: Can I get a 3-or-4 slide deck, nothing big, with a complete analysis of the glass?
  • TSA Agent: put the glass on the belt, walk through here, and yes there may be less water by the time we’re done.
  • Alton Brown: Water is two hydrogens bonded to an oxygen at a 112 degree covalent bond angle, which explains why it boils/freezes/makes a good base/etc… blah blah blah science meets yummy food.
  • Virtuous Person at Work: is that all the water you’re drinking? I have this 128 ounce BHA free stainless bottle that I tote while riding the bus and bringing in my lunch when not riding my bike the 25 miles in.

and lastly, I give you my father:

  • Drink the goddamn glass of water already.

Trick or Treat!

Halloween has recently had to tie with Thanksgiving for my personal favorite holiday, but up until then was the absolute fave. ‘Tis awesome. You get to dress up as someone else, you get to eat candy, you get to give other children candy and hand them back to their parents. And you get to do things to your front yard that involve bones and dead plants and it looks good.

This year I optioned not to do my traditional Halloween party — the personal party will be at Maris Farms in their Haunted Woods, and that’s all good and I will blather about that maybe after I actually go. To get my costume fetish on, though, I participated in our floor’s Halloween Contests.

That’s right. FLOOR. As in some 70-odd people on one of the 15 floors of Expedia got together under a common goal: beat the pants off of the other 14 floors for prizes and notoriety. And that’s right: Contests! The two up for grabs were for best kids activity and best decorations. Originally intending to do haunted pirate-age, we switched gears to Haunted Alice in Wonderland.

I give you a chance, dear readers, to guess who put herself into knee socks, a blonde wig, and a black headband.

If you guessed yours truly, you are correct. Much to my everlasting chagrin, I put my most charming sweet innocent shy naive and unassuming self forward and got in Alice character for three hours yesterday. But this didn’t start yesterday.

Four weeks ago a small band of folks got together and charmed some cash from the higher-ups on the floor. (My higher up is the most awesome, by 250%). We committeed up and figured out games and theme and who could bring what. As the weeks crept by we had images in our head of the new Alice in Wonderland’s tea party (complete with Mad Hatter): a small pile of books in the corner of a long table, with mismatched linens and dishes, and of course, haunted items. (Did your Wonderland Tea Party include severed fingers, a skull, and some prepackaged brains? no?).  Large paper mushrooms (and 3-d ones, with the help of redecorated umbrellas), trees, flowers, bats, spiders, a small graveyard, a castle, and a red mountain circled the periphery. The movie and soundtrack to Alice in Wonderland played in the room, Jabberwocky was written on the whiteboard, and Cupcake Royale donated 200 miniature cupcakes as an exit gift. Everyone brought in mismatched chairs, we spread spanish moss over the floor (plastic first!), and developed puzzle pieces and games (bean bag toss, find the coin in the pool, and “fishing”) for small children to play in order to get to the Grand Prize — a conference room table piled with candy and the Mad Hatter.

We didn’t win.

I think.

Here’s my quandary: we didn’t win, we didn’t even place, and I honestly do not know how that is possible (we checked out other floors and agree there was only 1 that was better). Even the lady running the event isn’t sure how it’s possible. Every parent and child who walked through that room had their jaw drop, were amazed at the depth of detail, and thrilled that not only did the kids have interactive games but little prizes along the way. People, I had parents requesting me to be in pictures with their kids. I had kids and parents saying “This is just like Disneyland!”.  So yes, we didn’t win the contest.

But I haven’t seen the folks on my floor this excited about anything in a long, long time. We started decorating Thursday night at 2pm, folks got in early on a Friday to help decorate in the morning. We had volunteers for the games stations, people bringing in their GOOD dishes from home just to lend authenticity. The level of excitement and happiness and *care* on the floor was beyond anything I’ve experienced in my six plus years here.

I am personally proud of our floor.

And in my opinion, we *did* win. So there.

Squeak

Ah, Billy. We hardly knew ye’.

Last night I had the dubious pleasure of seeing Mr. Corrigan musically masturbate at the SODO Showbox. Before that, let’s talk food.

Il Terazzo Carmine in Pioneer Square is tucked away behind first (you won’t find it if you’re looking for it on first, okay?) and, walking in, you have the feeling of someone being admitted into a very rarified world. A world of old looking dishes, tucked-away tables, and hand-penciled reservations. The waitstaff is there in a very ubiquitous and yet unobtrusive manner, and the menu is full of “oh but I LOVE that” items. You will have finally (after agonizing minutes) decide on what you want… until the waiter/tress comes with the specials of the day. Que indecision.

Everything was wonderful. Everything. The wine, the food, the dessert! But the height of awesomeness was not only delivered by the food and ambience, but the people watching.

Watching people is a very very fun past time of mine. In this case, several people arrived at several tables with several potential backstories. There were the aged trophy wives (doing quite well, thank you), and the buzzing socialites. It should not surprise me in the least to learn that million dollar business deals, or marriages, were contrived there. I, in my simple Gap Jeans and shirt, did not feel out of place. Nor would I in say, a DKNY suit or a BCBG dress. Food and ambience — both five star.

Hooterville was the next destination: aside from a stellar vodka tonic (which you could have lit on fire) and the ability to use leftover glassware to build some engineering feats (which made some people around me nervous, but hey if you can’t stand it move on bub) no comment. Peoplewatching: yes. Good booze: yes.

We got to the Showbox perfectly in time to watch Billy (aka “the Smashing Pumpkins”, with him as the only Pumpkin) on the stage. I will give him this: he didn’t have a hissy fit (or not much) and did finish an entire set. His bassist is crazy cute and talented, the drummer wasn’t half bad either. But after a relatively strong start, and after some declarations that he was in fact my own personal Jesus Christ, I got a little tired. After he kept stressing which music was “new” vs “not new” (something most of us could figure out, thanks, Bill) I got a little more tired. Entertaining vignettes included a dig at Courtney Love (a small riff of a Hole song and a statement about “classics” — it was cold, yo!) , the Asian Snooki-wannabe who needed physical help standing, the two guidos outside the club who were hitting on my friend (appropriately, as Ms.Krieant is hot) and failing horribly (appropriately, because their combined IQ was less than a bag of Chee-tos), and the towncar ride home with a very understanding driver (as in, OMG thank you for rescuing us from said Guidos who all but wanted our social security numbers).

Note to Guidos: when you tell me not to “judge” and I ask why using “judgement” is a bad thing, be prepared for an anthropological discussion on “judgement” vs. “rationalization” vs. “instinct”. Or prepare to shut up. We just exited a Smashing Pumpkins show, don’t bait me intellectually unless you are armed.

The Alex Hotel

Ok, so, moving on: time to (finally) review my last hotel stay. I’ve been reviewing hotels on my other blog, which is all well and good, but at this point there’s no real reason to keep it on the down-low. I work for a travel company: get over it.

The Alex was set up for me by one of our local gurus based on the very basic requirements I had of a hotel: it needed to have a gym (that was back before the triathlon) and it needed to be relatively close to the office. At ten blocks and complete with cardio bikes, it fit the bill.

First impression: Swanky, narrow storefront, done in that tasteful Western-Faux-Asian Minimalism you see pretty much everywhere (e.g., lots of beige with dark/black wood, a single orchid in an interesting clear vase, etc.). Right next to a restaurant that looks decent, done in the same style (yes, they work together). Friendly staff (at the cab, at the door, behind the desk, at the elevator).

The room in question was on the 27th floor (yeah!) with a view of other tall buildings. As it was a suite, the separate dining area (again with the minimalism) had one eccentric (and appreciated) flourish: five (5) each Starburst candies on each of four place settings. If you are doing the math and come up with 20 Starburst candies, you are correct. If you further figure out that I had just got off a 6 hour flight and hadn’t eaten anything since a sad little bagel earlier that morning, this was good news. Fifteen (15) Starburst candies later, I went and unpacked in the separate bedroom.

OK, let’s get this over with: hotel rooms in New York are small. They just are. They have to be fit into buildings that were made with smaller rooms and there’s only so much an architect can do with that. So the “suite” itself was probably 200 square feet, maybe slightly larger, but they used the space exceptionally well. The bedroom had another tv (there was one in the living/dining room) and the bathroom had one as well. The only way you could practically watch tv in the bathroom though was to be sitting perpendicular in the bathtub, which doesn’t strike me as either comfortable or a good idea. I don’t sit in hotel bathtubs for the same reason I take off the comforter cover in hotels — I don’t care how clean it looks, I know it’s not. I digress…

Second impression: After going to an event for the evening I got back to the hotel when it was dark out, and the view had much improved — lots of little lights in lots of little windows, and anyone wishing to play voyeur was treated with a view of an executive sitting by himself at a ten person conference table, working until what turned out to be 11:30. I know this because I worked until midnight, as I was referencing my computer clock (PST) and not the local time (no clocks anywhere in the main room, anyway).  Having a kitchenette equipped with the usual mini-bar accoutrements as well as real dishes and cookware was great — if you want to cook. When I’m working I don’t want to cook, but made a mental note that the cookware itself was quite nice.

The three times I went to the gym, it was manned by a nice guy sitting next to a rack of towels and headsets (towels so you can sweat onto something other than the machine, headsets so you can take advantage of the individual tv’s in front of each machine). There are at least 2 treadmills, 2 elliptical machines, and a cardio bike (there may be more than one, I was half asleep most of the time).

The Toiletries: Now, on the other blog I have a rating system for hotels based entirely on toiletries. This is important, because if you think about it, toiletries tell you a lot about a hotel:

  • How do they see themselves?- a hotel with a simple bar of soap and shampoo is validating it’s utilitarian existence: you’re not staying here for the hotel, you’re staying here because you can’t stay anywhere else.
  • How much cash they spend on the “little” things? – hotel-branded toiletries are fine, but they’re an X factor. Now if they’ve partnered with a spa, they’ve paid a bit more for the toiletries
  • How lavish are they with said little things? – some places want to give you the impression of reckless and relentless luxury: replacing toiletries daily, even if it is evident that you have only used a little bit (or none at all) of the previous day’s provisions.
  • What do they think it likely that a guest will need, and/or want, that they haven’t packed? – I get a kick out of places where they include something like bath salts or mouthwash or face lotion (separate from hand and body lotion).

The tag I gave the toiletry rating was based on gasoline (hey, I coined it five years ago) with your Motel 6 single-use bar soap and purportedly conditioning shampoo equivalent to “Leaded”. Your separate shampoo and conditioner hotels? That’s Regular. Separate shampoo, conditioner, and lotion is for a “Plus” gasoline rating; although I don’t know anyone who actually buys that gas. You either buy the super high-octane or regular. Supreme is a hotel that has everything “Plus” has, and an item (or two) that they use to differentiate themselves (bath salts, mouthwash, vanity kit). And racing fuel? That’s reserved for the hotel that has *everything* — bath salts and mouthwash and a shoe polish kit and reusable sewing kit etc. etc. etc.

The Alex is, I’m happy to say, “Supreme”. They have *good* shampoo and conditioner, and the bath gel makes you smell like Fruit Loops (a bonus in a hot, humid, smelly city). They didn’t overdo it on the replenishment, either — the pattern seems to be every other day.

Internet is $15/day and there’s a hotel use service fee thing of $1.50 per day that’s beyond the usual Room Charge and occupancy tax. Room service is available from the restaurant downstairs near the entrance (hi, Riingo!). I did eat there on my last day, the food is good and frankly not as expensive as you would expect for that kind of food in NYC.

Verdict: I’d definitely go back. Especially on the company dime 🙂