Thursday, October 23, 2008

Vote now!

The great travel website TripAdvisor is giving away 1 million dollars! They have selected 5 great causes and are asking the public to vote for the recipient of the money. Follow this link to vote for your choice of either Conservation International, Doctors Without Borders, National Geographic Society, The Nature Conservancy, or Save the Children. As of this moment, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, my pick, is in the lead with 39% of the vote!! Visit TripAdvisor to make your voice heard and to learn more about each of these great causes.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Would you like fries with that?

There is a massive billboard near my house advertising the no-scalpel vasectomy. This would not be that interesting, except that next to the photo of the doctor is this frightening statistic: Over 17,000 vasectomies performed! Yes, that's correct, that's seventeen thousand, for those of you driving quickly and doubting your reading skills. By the same guy. The picture shows a young-ish looking doctor, with very dark, thick shiny hair and equally dark eyebrows. Is this guy some kind of vasectomy machine or something? What exactly is a no-scalpel vasectomy and, more to the point, does it even work? I'm sure it's not too hard to do six million vasectomies if you don't do them correctly, right? I decided to look in to this bizarre phenomenon and got the scoop from his website. Apparently the guy isn't as young as his picture suggests, and he has been practicing locally for 25 years. That math is a bit more reasonable, but still. 17,025 vasectomies since 1983? That's 681 per year on average, although it probably increased over time as he became more successful. As it turns out, the procedure only takes...get ready...10-15 minutes (!!), so it's not that crazy to do 13 per week on average. In fact, now that I really look at the numbers, even if it takes 20 minutes, that's only about 4 hours of his time each week. Still, at over 17,000 procedures, it sure does give new meaning to the term "churn and burn". Eek!


Monday, October 20, 2008

And the winner is...

I know you've been waiting with bated breath to find out which of the road signs is a fake. So hold on to your hats, people...the impostor is indeed the one in the center. That is a photo from a trip we took to California two years ago. We were driving around in Sausalito, one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, and I was imagining that I lived there. I was thinking about how I would be drinking my coffee each morning overlooking the water, wearing those Himalayan knit booties with the tassels on them, and writing in my journal. OK, I don't do any of that except drink coffee, but it felt right for some reason. There was the sign, and at first we thought it was real until Jon pulled over and he got out of the car for a closer look. Someone had added the hat and guitar to a regular sign using black electrical tape. It was so funny that Sara wanted a picture. If you look closely, I think you can even see the Himalayan booties...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Speed humps? I beg your pardon?!

When I moved to Florida from New England, I noticed that some of the road sign terminology differed from what I was used to. In New England, the signs read Speed Bumps. In Florida, Speed Humps. Three years later, this is still funny to me. Apparently this term is used in the UK as well, and this got me thinking about what other amusing signs we might find on our home exchange adventures in Europe. So let's see how good the rest of you are: which one of these signs is a fake?

Leave your answers in the comments!


Yesterday I got an email from Ståle, our Norwegian home exchanger, telling me that he and the family were going on a short vacation to Latvia. Huh? This stuck me as particularly strange, as Latvia isn't know for its tourism, at least not to Americans. I told him so, and it he promised to give me the full report when they return. In the meantime, I decided to check Latvia out and apparently I am not the only one who thinks vacationing in Latvia is strange, as there is a website called YouWon'tBelieveIt that extols its virtues. Maybe the website should be called You Wouldn't Have Believed It - it just seems a bit more positive. Apparently some of the cows in Latvia are blue (the color not the emotion) from drinking water from the Baltic sea, and all you have to do to become a werewolf is to get naked at exactly midnight and then run backwards through a tree root that's been formed into a loop. It sounds pretty good to me, and I definitely wouldn't have believed it.

image: TAVA

Old, old, old!

I was floored when I realized that Maureen McCormick, Marcia of The Brady Bunch, is 52 years old. 52 years old! Sorry, but I am not really able to wrap my brain around how old she is...or, more honestly, how old I am! Her tell-all memoir, Here's the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice, is out today and reveals her history of drug addiction, bulimia, and a series of bad relationships, including her attraction to Barry Williams (Greg Brady). He really got around - Williams also had a brief relationship with Florence Henderson, who played his mother on the show. Eek.

photo: ABC

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Momager = Change!

Surprising news that you can't miss!!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Going under the knife?

Earlier this week I had an appointment with the dermatologist for a routine skin cancer screening, and was surprised when the PA (Physician's Assistant, like a Nurse Practitioner with more schooling) came in and didn't introduce himself or anything, just started in on the exam. I happened to know he was a PA because I saw the practitioner profile on the website, and normally I don't mind seeing a PA so it wasn't a big deal to me. He found a few areas of suspicion, as he called them, and as we were discussing whether to biopsy them, he said that some dermatologists would take a less aggressive approach, but he prefers to do the biopsy. Doesn't this sort of imply that he is also a dermatologist? It was on my leg so I let him do it, sort of in the same theory that you don't want your doctor to start your IV because although they can do it, they don't ever do it and therefore don't do it well. Let the nurse or the phlebotomist do it. So I didn't really care that this guy did a small biopsy on my leg but when he told me that he needed to do two additional ones on my face (!!), I wasn't sure I still wanted to go along with the plan. He seemed put off by my questions about how much of a scar would be visible, and said there wouldn't be any real way to predict until he did the procedure, but it would be just a small scar. Just two small scars, actually...on my face! What do you think? Should I let him do the procedure, should I ask for an actual doctor at the same practice, or should I go elsewhere entirely?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Home exchange shopping...

I was thinking about that funny TV commercial with the woman with the extra steering wheel who forces the guy off the road (I know you all saw it because I posted it a few days ago) and it made me think about our British home exchangers. He was concerned about driving in the US, and hadn't taken his host car out for a spin. It's a convertible and a great car to mess around with but he was uneasy because we drive on the opposite side of the road. At least the convertible they have is an automatic transmission. I just realized that their car, the one we will be using, is a stick shift and normally that's not a problem for us but we will have to shift with the opposite hand! Hmmm, I'm not sure how much I am loving that idea. I totally get his uneasiness, and realized that all of our exchangers might be nervous driving around in a new place, even if not on a new side of the road or with a different body part. So, we ordered a portable GPS for our car that we will be leaving for our guests. No, Mom, they're not going to steal it!
cartoon: Bill Junk

Monday, October 6, 2008

Trust me, you'll be humming this all day long!

Watch the whole just gets better and better!

Cracking myself up...

Sadly, this will keep me occupied for much too long. Too funny!

Home exchange: I heart Geordies

On Saturday night we drove about 80 miles west of our house to meet our future home exchangers from northern England. They were on their first trip to the States, on a home exchange near enough to our place that I thought it would be interesting to get together for dinner. I have to admit that I was nervous about meeting people that I had only traded a few emails with, and it's uncharacteristic of me to invite them to dinner. I have no idea why I suggested it. So we drove up to to the home they are exchanging, which made it even weirder since it's not even their place but also sort of cool so we could see what the house looked like. This particular house is small, what realtors would call quaint, and its affluent area and charming guest cottage make it a desirable home for exchange. I knew that the swappers have young grandchildren, so I thought this would be like an evening with someone's grandparents, all proper and polite with the kids bribed with candy to keep them quiet. I thought I was going for tea with the Queen. I was totally wrong. These people were amazingly young in both their appearances and in their spirit, and after a few awkward minutes of introduction we settled in for an evening of laughs and great companionship. They enchanted us with stories of home exchanges across Europe and shared tips and advice for us as first timers. It seems the people from this particular region of northern England are called Geordies, known for their friendly nature and hospitality, and I can't think of better people to show us the ropes.
photo: BBC