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Hooray for SmartPak!

So, every now and then you have a customer service experience so far outside the norm that it's worth sharing. Here's mine.

Sophie has been so itchy, and it doesn't seem to be fleas. I decided to try some hypo-allergenic food for her. I've had good experiences with SmartPak, so I went there and ordered up some fancy dog food and some K9 Advantix. (They always have good prices on flea preventatives). I clicked the big red, "Submit your order, only click this once!" button, and..... it timed out. DOH! No idea if my order went through.

So I called their 800 number.

Shock #1: A human immediately answered.
Shock #2: She already knew my name (I have ordered from them before, my phone is in the DB!)
Shock #3: She already had my order pulled up.

It hadn't gone through, so she re-entered my credit card info (which hadn't been saved) and submitted it. Took less than five minutes!

It shouldn't be so remarkable when things work the way they are supposed to!

It begins...

Clem in the crib
Ah, yes, the cats are already looking forward to sucking out the baby's breath.

22 weeks

22 weeks
Originally uploaded by sclatter
I have endeavored not to bore everyone with gory pregnancy details, but there has been some call for tummy pictures. So here you go! Yeah, it kind of freaks me out that there's another person living in there right now. There are a few more.

An Only-In-Baltimore news story

Attack of the Belt Bandit. Sorry the website is super annoying, but the story is irresistible. :-)

Hi from Heathrow

So I'm in Heathrow, and I've just spent 5 pounds on an hour of wireless. I sort of felt required since Mom subsidized this fancy new iPhone for me. It's cool, I'm not going to lie. I'm getting used to typing on it, too. Slowly...

Some thoughts:

Flying internationally just highlights how miserable domestic flights are.
England is clearly not the US when seen from the air. No baseball diamonds.
The terminal here is full of very chi-chi shops. Who buys this stuff?
I disapprove of airports that rely heavily on buses to unload planes.
I hate not knowing my gate number.

I might should find some food...


Today was my fifth lesson in my return to riding. One thing I like about this facility is that they seem to mix up their lessons. My last two lessons have been outside of the ring--one in the cross-country field and one on trails. The trail ride was complete with cantering (really, at least a hand-gallop), water crossing, and jumping small logs that blocked the trail. For a show-ring rider like me it was almost too much!

Today we were back in the ring, rather to my relief! My horse was Ace. I asked Javier, our instructor, how the horse is (I've yet to ride the same horse twice). He told me that Ace was about as good as it gets. Excellent. Off we went to warm up.

Javier told us to warm up on our own, and he would critique. I started Ace in a little trot and started to feel him out. I found him right away a little fussy, sensitive. Not a bad thing, necessarily. So I started to ask a bit more of him and he started to come on the bit a little for me. Great! Would he leg yield? Yes he would. So I sat the trot (not bad) and asked for a little shoulder-in, then pushed him out of it into a little more forward trot. He was getting quite nice, actually, though occasionally he would get a little testy. I imagined I was asking him to work harder than he preferred to.

So Javier called us in, and started answering some individual questions. After helping another girl with her canter, he sent me out to the rail by myself to trot. I didn't quite understand what he was asking me to do (sometimes his accent is hard to understand) so I just went out and tried to put together a nice trot. Come to find out, he was using me as an example to the other students for "what to do". I can't even remember all the nice things he said I was doing--I sort of thought to myself, "yeah, I guess I was doing that" but it was sort of subconscious. My riding brain is returning! Also he specifically complimented my sitting trot.

And then he let me canter jumps! I have always been terrible and trotting jumps. It was such a relief to canter them. I was allowed to jump more jumps than anyone else--even the water jump! And my eye still works! w00t!

OK, that was alright. I guess horses are still pretty ok. :-)

stupid shower

In our eensy weensy bathroom we have this pod-style shower enclosure that's been kind of a pain from day one. It's not properly leveled so water pools in the corner, the floor has soft spots in it, and despite lots of extra caulking it leaks like crazy out the bottom of the door. All that got worse a couple of months ago when the floor actually developed a crack. I patched it up with marine sealant--ugly, but so far effective. And so we've been shopping around for a way to replace this nightmare.

Yesterday we happened to stumble across the same actual product on the Lowe's website. Curious, I checked out the reviews. They were the worst reviews of any product I've ever seen on the internet. Every single reviewer had the same problems we've had--leaking and cracking, soft spots in the floor. Many had cracking within just a few months of installing the shower. I started feeling pretty lucky that the thing lasted us for two whole years.

I think I want to redo it as a tile surround. I guess we'll see.

Back in the saddle

In "why didn't I do this sooner" news, I went for a riding lesson today, nearly five years after my last one. It was harder and easier than I expected. The instructor was pretty complimentary, and I do feel that it's just going to be a matter of getting the muscles back. I'm hoping to be in fighting form by the end of the summer.

Seriously, why didn't I do this sooner? Having just gotten a wild hair this morning and done it, I really haven't any clue. I just took the first google hit and went. The barn is fine, standard school barn, the school horses are in good shape. The stalls seemed pretty clean. The place was awash with teenaged girls, as one would expect. They didn't seem to go in for any exotic tack like some school barns I could think of. I think it will be a fine place to get going again.

I guess the few times I've thought about riding again, I thought I'd have to call around, I'd have to find the right place, I'd have to work out a budget, blah blah blah. Today I decided not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and I just went. The cost isn't so bad. I will have to cut back in other areas, but it's not huge.

I just feel great now. I feel more myself than I have in ages. Energized and optimistic. I really hope a little equine therapy will improve my general attitude and help me power through work!

Synchrotron humour

Yeah, I said humour.

Actually, only 9 beamlines is lousy if that's true. NSLS has dozens.

An excessively eventful trip to BNL.

I get a sense of foreboding every time I turn down the insurance on a rental car. It was particularly keen when I picked up the car on Tuesday night. I had a little mental conversation with myself about it. I hadn't been in an accident for over ten years, there was no reason to suspect that I'd be in one in the next two days. Besides, my insurance covers rentals.

Pretty heavy-handed foreshadowing, right?

I debated about driving the maybe one mile from the dorm to the beam-line Wednesday morning, but I reasoned that having the car might be the difference in getting away to have lunch or not. Also, I had to check in at the admin building and get the parking permit, so it would be better to have the car there.

I signaled and slowed down to make the left turn into the admin building. A car comes up on my left side and slams into the left front fender.


I have no idea what the woman was trying to do. I didn't really talk to her. I felt kind of bad for her actually. She called her husband, and he showed up and yelled at her a lot in Chinese. The police came. I called my insurance, and the rental car company. It was complicated. I called the beam-line staff to say I would be late.

Serendipitously, I happened to have rented from Enterprise. Enterprise has an office at BNL. Enterprise actually has an office in the admin building at BNL. That would be the admin building where I was going to check in, and where the wrecked car was now sitting. I didn't have to worry about the tow truck, or waiting for an Enterprise rep to come do a damage report. I just walked into the building, talked to the rep, showed him the car and handed over the keys.

The rest of the trip was ok. It was not the smoothest time at the beam-line. The samples were really sticking in the sample holder. My shoulders were aching from loading and unloading samples. By the time I was walking back to the dorm at 11 pm I really wished I had a car. BNL is very, very dark at night.

I finished early today so I headed over to the student and post-doc lounge to wait until it was time to leave. I knew I was supposed to have access to it, but I'd never been there before. It. Is. Awesome. Pool table, ping-pong, Foosball, big screen TV, comfy sofas. But, most importantly, Massage Chair. A good one. Oh My. My poor aching shoulders thanked heaven.