Stop Spamming Me!

It has been disheartening to discover that blogs are just as big a target for spammers as email.  When we got to the airport in San Francisco, I eagerly checked my blog for new comments and found there were four – all spam.  So far, the spam seems to fall into one of two categories.  The first is advertising, usually for some blog related application.  MAKE A GUARANTEED $1000/MO ON YOUR BLOG USING PRODUCT X!!!  The wording often borders on insulting, as if I must be a total idiot for not buying/using Product X.  The second category is more insidious.  It consists of a fairly generic comment – “This is really interesting information” – accompanied by a link to some website.  In one case it was an Australian escort company.

Apparently there is a large number of people who make money by autoblogging.  They post fairly generic or re-used content on hundreds of blogsites and make money by generating a high volume of click-throughs to other sites that pay them some small amount for each person they bring in.  I’m probably not explaining it very accurately because I have no interest in understanding how any of it works.  I write these posts for myself and a very small audience of friends and family that have some interest in what I’m writing about.

I value real comments highly.  Right now the spam comments I’ve received actually outnumber the real ones.  I have the site configured so that the first time a reader comments it requires my approval before it shows up on the site.  Any subsequent comments from the same person (using the same screen name) will post immediately.  So the spam will never show up on the site.  If I start getting a large number of spam comments I may need to do something more automated, but right now it’s manageable.  So please, take the time to comment on any post that strikes a chord with you.  I will be happy if my real comments start outnumbering the spam ones.

Here are two more photos from our trip to Sonoma.  I like the contrast between the decay of the dock and the growth represented by the flowers.

Yes, I am Crazy

So, we landed in Minneapolis at 6 AM after our trip to Sonoma.  This gave us slightly over 24 hours to do laundry, go through the mail, catch-up on email, bring Tim’s car in for service and re-pack for our trip to Chicago.  Plus, I squeezed in a massage and a facial.  Which, seriously, is more of a necessity than a luxury at this point.  We talked about powering through and not taking a nap in the morning, but neither one of us had really slept on the plane and let’s face it, we’re not that young anymore.  So we slept for about 3 hours after dropping Indy at the dealership.

Everything got done and I even managed to write two of my Sonoma posts.  For those of you catching up after the fact, you will notice that the dates on the posts match the dates I wrote about.  This is a bit of a cheat.  I got some feedback about my early posts being a little confusing because the dates I wrote about didn’t match the date of the post.  So I am changing the post date to keep the two in alignment.

Yes, going to this many races is sort of exhausting.  And yes, some people (including my mom) think I am crazy for doing it.

It’s totally worth it.

Blue October

My obsession with Blue October started innocently enough.  I heard the song “Hate Me” on XM and it felt like a punch in the stomach.  I can’t say that I related to the meaning of the song in a literal way (not having personal experience with drug addiction) but something about the incredible emotional pain being expressed touched a nerve.  I suppose a psychologist would have a field day with that.  At any rate, it was enough to make me go out and buy the album without hearing any of the other songs on it.  I ended up loving every single song on Foiled, so I went online and purchased  Blue October’s 3 previous studio albums.  Plus a live CD and concert DVD.

I started reading about the band and checking their tour dates online.  On October 13, 2007, my husband and I saw them perform live for the first time at the Myth.  It was amazing.  They are a heavy touring band with a very dedicated fan base and their live performances are mesmerizing.  At the show I ran into Jill’s daughter-in-law Carolyn.  It turned out that her brother was a huge fan and had introduced her and Dan (Jill’s son) to the band.  It was one of those wild coincidences that make you realize how small the world is sometimes.  Every time I mention to someone that Blue October is my favorite band, I get a blank look.  They just aren’t widely known.  And here I was a show, running into a family member.

That show marked a high point just before a very dark time in my family.  Four days later Jill died.

Blue October spent the majority of 2008 working on a new album, so we didn’t get an opportunity to see them that year.  Approaching Normal came out in March 2009 and they went on tour to promote the new album.  From mid May through mid June we saw them at the Rave in Milwaukee, First Avenue and the Hub in Fargo.  The shows were all great but a little “Groundhog Day” since they did every single song from the new album in order and only included a few older songs at the end.  The photo at top is of me with Jeremy Furstenfeld (drummer) after their show at the Rave.  One of the many really cool things about the band is that they will come out and meet fans after the shows, as long as you’re willing to hang out long enough.  So I have photos with each of the band members.  Plus an autographed t-shirt.  Yes, I’m a groupie and no, I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I don’t understand it but I embrace it.  We all have our obsessions and this one is fairly harmless.

I started thinking about my history with Blue October recently because I just purchased tickets to see them at the Rave in Milwaukee again.  Wisconsin has banned smoking in bars and the band is doing more of a mix of old and new material, so it should be an even better show than last year.  The date is October 7th.  I’ll be thinking about Jill.

Modern Art (July 30)

I went to the Walker last week with my mom.  I  had promised her a mom/daughter day as a way to thank her for looking after our house while we have been traveling.  And for doing unplanned favors like receiving large boxes of wine from UPS.  The intent was for her to decide what we would do, but she’s not very good at making decisions.  (She will be the first to admit this – I have to help her decide what to order when we go to a restaurant)  I am not a big fan of modern art (that’s an understatement) but I love the sculpture garden and the restaurant gets great reviews.  Plus I haven’t been there since the Walker completed its big expansion 5 years ago.  In fact, the last time I remember going was to a Picasso exhibit when I was in high school.  I figured it was about time to give them another chance.

Bad idea.

First of all, it was raining/drizzling the day we went so we quickly walked through just a small part of the sculpture garden.  Enough for me to be impressed by how much it’s matured but not enough to really enjoy it.  Second, it was FREEZING cold in all of the galleries.  I get that you need to keep the art climate controlled, but refrigerated?  My poor mom had a sweater on and was still miserable.  I felt like I was in a meat locker.  Third, modern art sucks.  Really, really sucks.

I put art into one of three categories:

Stuff I like.  It may or may not be great, but I would hang it on my wall if I could afford it.  Monet, Rembrandt, Van Gogh in the unaffordable category.  Robert Ransom, Edie Abnet, Barbara Gurwitz in the affordable category.  (I have paintings from all 3 – Google them if you want an inside look at my personal taste)

Stuff I appreciate.  I recognize the talent that created it, but I wouldn’t hang it on my wall.  Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Jasper Johns.  Lots of lesser known artists that I couldn’t name.  Of course this is just personal taste, like music or interior design.  I don’t expect everything in a museum to appeal to me personally, but I can still appreciate the artistry behind the work.

Crap.  The kind of stuff that only seems to be art to galleries and art history majors.  A white canvas with words spelled out in masking tape.  An arrangement of junky clocks in a corner.  A plastic ice cream soda cup.  I don’t think video qualifies as art even when you fill 9 screens with it.  Damien Hirst does a lot of stuff that I don’t think qualifies as art.  Hey, if you want a cow that’s been severed in half and preserved in formaldehyde in your living room, go ahead.  But don’t call it art.

Unfortunately, a large part of the Walker’s collection falls squarely into category three.  So I don’t think I’ll be going there again except to visit the sculpture garden and eat in the restaurant.  Which is awesome.

First Impressions

I really LOVE not having to get up at 5:15 AM anymore.  I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve needed to set an alarm clock in the last 2 months (mostly travel related) and I’ve never slept past the time it was set to go off.  I usually go to bed between 10:30 and 11 PM and I usually wake up between 7 and 8 AM.  Go ahead and hate me for that.  I think I’m still working off some long term sleep deprivation.

Our travel schedule has been a little intense since I retired.  My husband and I had the privilege of being able to purchase Target Chip Ganassi team credentials for the 2010 racing season and we’re trying to attend as many races as possible this year.  (For more information on the Indy Racing League, check out http://www.indycar.com/ or   http://www.ganassi.com/)  We missed a few at the beginning of the season, but have been to every race since the beginning of June.  I’ll try to do a short post of each of the races as part of my “catch-up” blogging.

I don’t feel like I’ve had a lot of real free time so far.  A big part of that is the travel, especially when you consider the amount of planning that goes into it.  I’ve made 14 hotel reservations so far this year.  I’ve also had a fair amount of financial stuff to sort through.  I’m certainly feeling less stressed and doing things at a more leisurely pace, rather than feeling like I have to cram so much into every day.

I made my first ever lasagna.  It wasn’t a total disaster but it certainly wasn’t worth the ridiculous amount of time and effort I put into it.  I think I like the idea of cooking more than the actual cooking.  I’m hoping to get better but I don’t think I will ever be really good at it.  My idea of the perfect recipe is one with 6 ingredients or less that takes no more than 30 minutes to make, has no more than 500 calories per serving and is low in sodium and fat.  Did I mention it needs to taste good too?  I have about 3 recipes that meet all of the criteria, if I can expand it to 30 I will be overjoyed.

I haven’t spent a lot of time on photography yet, although I am getting some things posted on my website.  I am not impressed with the photo album capability on the site but at least I’m getting something out there.  For anyone who missed my retirement slide show, most of the photos will be on the site in one of the folders.

Oops, I think it’s time for bed.

So Now, What?

On May 28th, ten days before my 46th birthday and less than a month before what would have been my 24th anniversary with Target Corporation, I “retired.”  I use the word retired because I did not leave to take another job, nor do I intend to ever work in a traditional job again.  In the spirit of that intent, my director and HR were kind enough to throw me a really classy and very fun retirement party.  With cake.  (I use the quotation marks around the word retired because the government doesn’t officially recognize retirement before the age of 55.  So consider it sort of a CYA, if you will.)

When I announced my retirement, I received one of two reactions from people.  The first was along the lines of “I hate you/I’m so jealous” and the second was some variation of “Take me with you.”    So I think it’s fair to say that the idea of a really early retirement appeals to a lot of people.  Of course it leads to an obvious question – what next?  This blog is part of the answer.  I would never have made the time to do something like this while I was working.  I also have a lot of ambitious travel plans and the desire to do a lot more with my photography.  That feels like enough for the short term.  Maybe in a year or so I’ll need something else.  Or maybe not.

It’s About Time

When I retired from Target on May 28th, I left behind a promise to start blogging and posting photos online so people could follow me vicariously.  (Something a surprisingly large number of people have expressed interest in doing)  So here it is nine weeks later and I am finally starting to fulfill that promise.  Not that I haven’t been busy in the mean time.  (More on that in future posts)  Since I’m new to this, I’m not sure how often I will be posting but will try for something more than weekly and less than daily.  I guess it will largely depend on how often I feel I have something thought-provoking, interesting or at least mildly amusing to say.  I will get a few posts under my belt before I send out notice that Just Jacque has gone live, so there will be a relative flurry of activity for the next few days.

Before I really get started, I have to thank my husband, BFF and relentlessly patient technical support person (aka Tim) for building this site as a gift to me and for coming up with a really cool name for it.  If you are wondering about the name, ask a fan of Will and Grace.