Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ergonomically Challenged

Well, my new office is taking shape.  My bookshelves are in position, my cable modem and wireless router are hooked up, and the previous homeowners left behind a little glass-topped table that will look good with a couple of chairs at the "client" end of the room.  My former dining room table is now pretending to be a desk.  The only thing I lack is a decent desk chair.

The desk chair I had before was just about worn out and probably responsible for my recent attack of bursitis, so at the moment I'm sitting on an antique oak dining room chair.  It works fine as a dining room chair but leaves a lot to be desired as a desk chair.  Even with a cushion it isn't very comfortable for long-term sitting, and the height is just a little too low in relation to the table for computer work.  The angle of my hands and wrists is just begging for an attack of carpal tunnel syndrome.

So, the hunt for a new desk chair is on.  I need something comfortable and adjustable that looks good with the rest of my furniture and won't cost the national debt.  I want a cushioned seat and lumbar support and probably arm rests, too.  I've been checking the websites of the local office furniture stores and have only seen a few possibilities.  I guess I'll have to go test-sit a few to see how they feel.  Too bad I can't take my desk along to check the height.

"A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier. That is why Chippendale is famous." ~Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Carnivores to the Max

This week Barry had cataract surgery on his second eye and I once again provided his transportation.  To thank me, he took me to lunch at Fogo de Chao in Scottsdale.

Fogo is a much sleeker and more upscale version of Tucanos, the churrascaria we ate at in Albuquerque last year.  The burgundy walls, metal and art glass chandeliers, and servers in stylized gaucho costumes lend the restaurant a definite air of elegance, and the salad bar included grilled red peppers, beautiful plump asparagus in vinaigrette, smoked salmon, manchego cheese, and a version of tabouli as well as the expected greens and olives.  Here, too, the servers constantly circulated with freshly grilled meats on skewers, but the selection was heavily weighted toward various cuts of steak.  Side dishes that come with every meal include cheese bread, fried polenta, garlic mashed potatoes, and caramelized bananas.  The polenta was a little too salty for my taste but everything else I tried was excellent; the medium-rare baby lamb chops were particularly divine.  Even with small portions of everything we were unable to try all 15 of the meat selections, let alone the desserts.

The prices are more upscale as well.  Tucanos charges a base price of $13.95 for lunch and $20.95 for dinner; at Fogo de Chao, lunch is $28.50 and dinner $46.50 before drinks and dessert, putting it into the "special occasion" category for us.  Still, I will definitely go back, even if just for the salad bar ($19.50 by itself) and the ambiance.

"Click here to see the How to Fogo experience" ~

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Inner Tubing

One of the problems of living with my parents has been a steady, insidious weight gain.  My mother cooks many of the same things I do but without the emphasis on cutting fat and calories.  Instead of putting butter or peanut butter on toast, she slathers on both.  She serves the toast with rather than instead of cold cereal.  Her portion sizes are not outrageous, but a mere extra 100 calories a day translates into 10 pounds of weight a year.  After unpacking my scale today I realized that I must have been eating about 300 additional calories per day because I've put on 10 pounds in four months.

To be honest, today's weigh-in was not the first sign that my waistline has literally been expanding.  A few weeks ago I was typing away at my computer when I noticed that my elbows were resting on something other than the arms of my chair.  It was the dreaded muffin top, or love handles, or spare tire - whatever you want to call it, it was those extra 10 pounds in a ring around my middle.

Always before when I've gained extra weight it's been evenly distributed all over my body.  I had been deluding myself that my weight was fairly stable because my pants have not been getting (much) tighter.  Alas, this is apparently yet another unwelcome sign that my body's estrogen level is sinking rapidly, never to return.

Now that I've more or less moved into my new place (more on the angst this has involved later) I can cut back on my caloric intake and, with any luck, get rid of the excess baggage as quickly as I put it on.  If not, well, I suppose I can indulge in the local pastime of inner tubing down the Salt River without even having to rent the equipment.

"A fat stomach never breeds fine thoughts. " ~St. Jerome

Friday, July 22, 2011

Looking for the Door into Winter

One of my favorite books when I was growing up was The Door into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein, which is (more or less) about time travel.  The title comes from one of the habits of the narrator's cat, Pete.  Pete and his human once lived in a house with many external doors.  When Pete wanted to go outside, he would stand in front of a door and meow until Staff opened it.  If the weather was inclement, however, he would refuse to venture out, going instead to the next door and meowing there.  This continued until they had visited all the doors at least once.  The narrator's theory was that Pete thought one of the doors must surely be the door into summer, and he wasn't going to settle for anything less.

Here in the Phoenix area we've been suffering the same high temperatures as the eastern half of the country, although our humidity, thank goodness, is much lower.  Our noontime critter watching has dwindled to almost nothing as all the intelligent birds and beasts indulge in siestas during the hottest part of the day.  One critter still up and about, however, is my cat Rusty.

The day after we moved in with my parents Rusty discovered their screened back porch, an excellent spot from which to plot mayhem on quail and rabbits.  She prefers to go out there several times a day, which is fine with me, except...

...since the temperature hit 100 she's been going out and in and out and in and out and in until one of us gives up in disgust.  Apparently she can't believe it's really that hot out.  Well, neither can I and I'm not wearing a heavy fur coat.  Unlike Heinlein's Pete, she's not convinced that the next door over is the door into summer; instead, she seems to believe that if she glares at me balefully enough I can cool off the porch between one visit and the next.  She's not taking my failure lightly; I can almost see her thinking, "What kind of useless lackey are you?  I'm seriously thinking of trading you in for a model with temperature control and tuna on demand features."

Our new house has a screened back porch, too, and I'm expecting the same rounds of in and out there.  Still, winter is coming in just a few months, and then she'll be complaining that I didn't open the door into summer.

"Then he would stay indoors until hydraulic pressure utterly forced him outside.  When he returned the ice in his pads would sound like little clogs on the wooden floor and he would glare at me and refuse to purr until he had chewed it all out...whereupon he would forgive me until the next time.

"But he never gave up his search for the Door into Summer."

~Robert A. Heinlein, The Door into Summer

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Seance Cooking

The book club I belong to has its next meeting a week from tonight, so I was relieved when my copy of the book we're going to discuss finally arrived from Amazon on Monday. I just finished reading it.

All of us are supposed to bring suggestions for the next book to each meeting, and we vote on which candidate to read next. The club is full of people who are (in my sister Sue's words) in "the helping professions," so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that this month's book is The Kitchen Daughter, a novel by Jael McHenry about a women with Asperger's syndrome.

The member who suggested the book told us that the protagonist used cooking as a way to shield herself from and cope with the outside world.  This bald description, however, does not do the novel justice.  Ginny, the main character, doesn't just use cooking to deal with the land of the living.  At the start of the book she discovers she can summon ghosts by cooking their recipes.  Her parents have just died, so she uses her discovery to try to solve the family mysteries they left behind.

Ginny is farther down the road toward autism than the Asperger's sufferer I lived with, but her reluctance to look others in the face, her sudden obsessions and equally sudden lack of interest, and her emotional overreaction to things that others wouldn't even notice were eerily familiar.  If the author isn't actually close to someone with Asperger's, she has done her research.  The book goes far beyond merely uncovering the quirks of Asperger behavior, though.  The language, particularly when Ginny cooks or thinks about cooking, is rich and evocative; I could almost smell the food she put together.  At times the book's exploration of how family members hurt each other most when they are trying their hardest to help was acutely painful, and even when it's not the tension and uncertainty Ginny feels as she fights her sister's attempts to sell the family home and move Ginny out (for her own good, of course) left me pretty tense myself.  I can't say much about the ending without giving it away, but it seemed both surprising and right.

I had intended to read this book and then donate it to charity, but I liked it so well that I'm making a permanent place for it on my bookshelves - and not just for the delicious recipes it contains.

[Amanda:]"I want to talk about your problem."...
[Ginny: ]"I don't have a problem."
"You do."
"I have a personality.  That's what I have."
~Jael McHenry, The Kitchen Daughter

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Save Our Sanity

You've probably heard by now that a study presented today at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in France says inactivity and depression are the two biggest contributors to Alzheimer's in the United States.  In a way this is a double whammy because depression contributes to inactivity and vice versa.

I was particularly interested in this study because both sides of my family have had many members who lived very long lives but were seriously affected by dementia in their later years. Any hope that I won't have to worry about this myself was quashed when my mother was recently diagnosed with short-term memory loss.  Sadly, she is allergic to the medication that might delay any further deterioration.  Her condition is one reason I'm moving closer to my parents.

I feel pretty good about most of the risk factors identified in the study.  I never smoked.  I don't have diabetes.  My weight and my blood pressure are under control.  I have a master's degree and keep on learning new things.  I must admit, though, that I haven't been exactly the blue bird of happiness for the past couple of years, and the worse I feel, the less I exercise.

I occasionally used to joke that I would lose my mind if I spent the rest of my life with Barry.  Apparently I was more right than I knew.

"Depression is rage spread thin." ~George Santayana

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Fungus Among Us

One of the perils of life in the Phoenix area is Coccidioides immitis, a nasty fungus that grows in the soil here.  As a fungus, it reproduces via spores, hardy little devils that are naturally resistant to extremes of heat and cold and can remain viable for long periods of time.  The spores are relatively harmless while they remain on the ground, but if they become airborne they can be inhaled and cause a potentially life-threatening disease called Valley Fever.

Many people who contract Valley Fever have no symptoms.  Others feel as if they've contracted the flu.  Still others develop severe health problems that may include pneumonia, meningitis, damage to the bones, or even death.

Right now this is a serious concern because our area is experiencing a series of severe dust storms, or haboobs.  We had another one tonight.  After the giant haboob earlier this month, one expert predicted that up to 40% of the people who breathed in its dust could contract Valley Fever.  I don't imagine the storm tonight was any healthier.

No vaccine is available for Valley Fever, but it can be treated with anti-fungal medication if diagnosed in time.  I imagine I'm not the only Arizona resident who will be breathing uneasily for the next few weeks and ready to run to the doctor at the first sign of a cough.

“A dry cough is the trumpeter of death.” ~French Proverb

Friday, July 15, 2011

At The End Of My (Electronic) Tether

After hearing the story of my so-far fruitless job search, a friend of mine in real estate has hired me for a temporary website maintenance job.  She has a number of domains plus a blog, and she's unhappy with the person who was handling the design and update work.  I'm thrilled because for a while at least it will be a lot of work for a decent price.  The only drawback?  Skype.  She loves Skype, and she wants her designer to be at her Skyply beck and call pretty much all day long and possibly into the evening.

I have a plethora of email accounts for various reasons, all of them linked, and I regularly use Yahoo! IM to communicate with others.  These technologies don't seem to me to be the electronic equivalent of a choke chain collar and leash; Skype does.  Why?  I'm not really sure.  Maybe it's because of the real-time video.  I can be working in my jammies with my hair standing on end and communicate with clients via IM without anyone knowing, but if I have to be available on live video immediately after breakfast some of the pleasure and convenience of working at home will definitely be lost.  I'm also used to arranging my own schedule; if I need to go grocery shopping in the middle of the day I will, and then make up the time at night.  If I do that in the future I will be temporarily AWOL from Skype, which could be a problem.  I need to discuss these issues with her to be sure that I retain at least some flexibility - the main reason I became an independent contractor in the first place.

I'm a little ashamed to be carping about this when two days ago I would have been grovelingly  grateful for a job washing dogs at PetSmart, but the sale of our house closed today and I am temporarily flush with cash.  I keep reminding myself that most of the money will drain out of my account again next Friday when (I hope) I buy my replacement home.  I need to knuckle down and get to work, Skype or no Skype.  If it gets too annoying, maybe I can claim that my laptop camera isn't working, or adopt Dilbert's strategy of holding a hand puppet of my professional self in front of my bleary early-morning face.

"On my fourth day of telecommuting I realize that clothes are totally unnecessary." ~Dilbert

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Growing Up Funny

Since life has been a little stressful lately, I cheered myself up by checking out Childhood by Bill Cosby from the library.

I was expecting something full of tall tales and grossly exaggerated stories but Childhood seems to be a fairly realistic autobiography about growing up in the projects of Philadelphia, roughly from the ages of 10 to 13.  Cosby is pretty blunt about topics such as his father's drinking, but he manages to make stories like those about sharing a bed with his incontinent little brother and his mother's attempt to cure him of asthma via voodoo really funny.  The friends who were staples of his comedy routines and cartoons, Fat Albert et al, are featured characters; the tale of the Halloween night they threw a bedspread over a small car, picked it up, and ran off with it is hysterical, as are their attempts to ingratiate themselves with the opposite sex.  Cosby also inserts anecdotes about his own children (4 girls and a boy); if he was ever the recipient of The Mother's Curse ("I hope you grow up to have children just like you!"), it appears to have landed right on target.

Childhood is humorous and nostalgic, and almost sure to provide you with at least one wince about your own pre-adolescent follies.

"I never once said I was bored; children began to be bored only in July of 1963." ~Bill Cosby, Childhood

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Googling My Past

I've complained about my poor memory before, but I think it's hit a new low.

The last two weeks I have been deluged by forms related to the sale of our current house and the purchase of my future home.  One of them required me to list all the places I've lived during the last 10 years.  I could go back to 2002 (the year Tom and I moved to Arizona), but the address of our last apartment in New York was a total blank.

Having a touch of OCD, I do of course have records from those years, neatly filed and indexed in a plastic bin with a lid.  One problem: that bin and all its relatives are buried in the huge heap of stuff in my super-sized storage unit, awaiting transit to my new home.  I can't even estimate how much time I would need to excavate the information - not to mention muscle power that I probably don't have.

My first thought was to call my former landlord.  Unfortunately I can only remember his first name - Russell.  His last name is buried in the same tub as the apartment address.

Next I tried a couple of the people search websites on the Internet.  They obligingly told me that I had lived in Brooklyn during the pertinent time period, but they didn't know the street address, either.

I finally tried Google Maps, reasoning that if I could see a map I could at least find the name of the street, and sure enough, the second I saw the neighborhood map I remembered that we had lived on Berkeley Place.  Berkeley is a very short street so I typed in a street number more or less at random, and Google not only pointed to the address on the map, it also showed me a thumbnail photo of the building.  My  first guess was too far west, so I worked my way up the street until I arrived at my former home.

Most Brooklyn brownstones look very similar, but this one was obviously ours.  Russell's cement lions still crouch on the front stoop.  The plaque proclaiming the house was built in 1875 is still fastened next to the front door.  The gas light is still eternally burning in the tiny front courtyard.  And...the house number is stenciled in gold script on the exterior door.

Of course I remember this sort of information for about half an hour at the max, but that was long enough to fill out the necessary form, and having found it once, I know how to do it again should I face a similar crisis in the future.  Better living through technology!

“It's surprising how much of memory is built around things unnoticed at the time” ~Barbara Kingsolver

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Uncertaintly Principle

Excuse me, I feel a whine coming on...

Last week I interviewed for a position with a local department store. One of the questions the HR person asked me was "What can make change easier to take?" Given all the change going on around me at present, I almost said, "You tell ME, lady, I'd really like to know," but held my tongue. Her answer was that good information helps reduce the uncertainty inherent in change and makes it easy to handle. That's true, but it's of no use to those of us on the receiving end of big changes with no way to access the information that would reduce our uncertainty. Right now, for instance...

...the school for which I teach online is undergoing an internal reorganization and hardly a day goes by without at least one more email dictating immediate adoption of a major procedural change.  This is pretty scary because we are evaluated on adherence to policy, which at the moment seems written on water.  Whatever happened to the concept of advance notice? other employer recently moved to a new location that doesn't have a place for me to sit, so I'm working entirely from home for them, and my workflow is drying up because out of sight apparently DOES mean out of mind.  What are they planning for the future - theirs and mine?  Inquiring minds want to know.  I've been looking for more part-time work but maybe I need to start searching for a full-time position instead.

...the closing on our house is the end of this week and I still don't know whether I have anywhere else to move to. The closing on the house I'm trying to buy is scheduled for July 22 but I'm still waiting to hear whether the sellers will fix the hail-damaged roof. If not, I'm going to have to cancel the transaction and start all over.  More looking at houses, another inspection to pay for, another month of living with my parents.  Sigh. cat is again refusing to eat and losing weight. Her blood tests earlier this year showed she doesn't have diabetes or hyperactivity. I don't want to watch her waste away, but I can't afford to board her with the vet and have her fattened via IV.

I'm ready myself for a transfusion of some uncertainty-reducing information. Even better if it turns out to be POSITIVE uncertainty-reducing information.

Breathing deeply now and practicing thinking OM...

“Certainty is the mother of quiet and repose, and uncertainty the cause of variance and contentions.” ~Edward Coke

Saturday, July 9, 2011

One Cat, Two Cats?

All of my cats have been rescued cats.  Some came directly from the Humane Society or a rescue organization that took homeless cats off the streets.  Others came from friends who for one reason or another could no longer keep them.  For the most part I've limited myself to one cat at a time, but it hasn't been easy - once I walk into a shelter and find myself surrounded by orphaned animals, I want to take them all home.

Recently one of my sister's co-workers has been under pressure to get rid of her cat.  It seems her husband has developed a violent allergy to poor Jasmine.  Unfortunately, no one has stepped forward to adopt her, so she may be headed for the local Humane Society.  This is bad news.  According to my sister, who is a cat adoption volunteer for them, they are currently overloaded with cats (they've been running sales on them), and any additional animals who are dropped off there may be put to death.

Jasmine's owner has been trying to convince me that Rusty needs a younger companion.  I was resisting pretty well until she sent me this picture (it's the one that was taken when Jasmine was at the Humane Society before):

I weakened enough to say that if she hasn't found Jasmine another owner by the time I'm in my new home, I will introduce her to Rusty and see if they get along.

Of course I don't need a second cat, and Rusty will probably be highly insulted by the prospect of sharing her space, but look at those big blue eyes - how can I say no to them?

"There is, incidently, no way of talking about cats that enables one to come off as a sane person." ~Dan Greenberg

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Shocked on the Fourth of July

The movie we watched on the Fourth of July was A Shock to the System, based on a novel by Simon Brett and starring Michael Caine.  The film was released in 1990 and I don't recall seeing any ads for it back then, but I've never been a huge Michael Caine fan so I just might not having been paying attention.  Having seen it once, though, I plan to watch it again in the not-too-distant future.

Caine plays Graham Marshall, a corporate executive suffering from a midlife crisis.  His personal life is burdened by debt and a whining, snobbish wife (Swoozie Kurtz at her finest), and he's just been passed over for an important promotion at work.  The faulty electrical system in his McMansion suggests a nearly foolproof way to eliminate his wife, and once he does so his life takes a turn for the better.  He retrenches by moving to a New York City apartment and starts an affair with an attractive co-worker who's been admiring him from afar (Elizabeth McGovern).  Now if only he could get rid of the ruthless, smarmy jerk who landed the promotion he should have had...

The first half of this film was hilarious, but the second half was decidedly less so.  Initally we are all sorry for Graham, the nice guy who finishes last, and after listening to his wife for less than half an hour I would almost have been willing to murder her myself.  Somewhere in mid-movie, though, Caine's character first morphs into one of the corporate sharks he's always detested and then surpasses them in ruthlessness.  One cannot help but fear that McGovern's character won't make it through the affair alive.

As I said, I've never been a Michael Caine fan, but I was impressed by the way he made Graham a believable character all the way through his transition from Mr. Nice Guy to Mr. Hyde.  The supporting cast was also very fine, particularly Kurtz, McGovern, and Peter Riegert, the underling who leapfrogs over Graham on the corporate ladder, and the murder scenarios were very ingenious.  Note to self: stay away from light fixtures with dangling electrical tape.

"Climbing the corporate ladder can be murder." ~tagline for A Shock to the System

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Humongous Haboob

It was like something out of a science fiction movie - a roiling blanket of dust about 5000 feet high and 60 miles wide, engulfing most of the Phoenix area and bringing traffic in the air and on the ground to a standstill.  It was the brown version of the "black blizzards" that smothered the Midwest in the 1930's.  It knocked out power for thousands of people and closed Sky Harbor Airport for over an hour yesterday.  We have dust storms here on a regular basis, but even our meteorologists were awed by this one.  On video it looked like The Haboob That Ate Arizona. 

Southwestern dust storms are named after the haboobs in the Middle East; the name is from an Arabic word meaning "strong wind," and the storms certainly have that.  Last night's monster was moving around 50 miles an hour.  Fast-moving haboobs are one reason carports went out of fashion around here; leave your vehicle outside during one of these storms and the paint can be sand-blasted right off.

Today the carwashes in town were jammed with people whose cars had been "haboobed."  A local radio station is offering a prize to the person who sends in the photo of the dirtiest car.  Buildings and patio furniture are wearing a layer of grime and tree branches are down everywhere.  Grit in your air conditioner, anyone?  Fortunately our neighborhood was just touched by the edge of the storm; I had to wash my car but it didn't look like a movable sand dune.

Needless to say, anyone with dust, mold, or pollen allergies is miserable here today.  I really can't believe that doctors used to send asthma sufferers to Arizona because the air was supposedly better here.  Maybe they were just trying to get rid of the patients they perceived as whiners.

"It takes a real storm in the average person's life to make him realize how much worrying he has done over the squalls." ~Bruce Barton

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Rockets' Red (and gold and green and blue) Glare

Yesterday Barry and I had a last small party at our house.  I cleaned and rearranged the items that haven't yet been packed so the public areas looked presentable; Barry bought and cooked the bratwurst.  We invited my parents and our friends Rich and Pat.  After dinner we watched a Netflix movie and then drove out near the Surprise stadium to watch the fireworks.

I've loved public fireworks displays since I was a small child in South Dakota.  Back then the fireworks at the fairgrounds were beautiful but sparse; they were shot off one at a time and the oohing and aahing had to die down before the next one went up.  Since then I've been privileged to see Fourth of July fireworks from a boat on Lake George, on the Mall in Washington DC, at a couple of Pops concerts in Boston, and of course from several rooftops in New York City.  Once my co-workers and I spent the evening of the Fourth on the roof of our office building in Brooklyn where we could see the fireworks going off simultaneously on the East River, the Hudson River, and Staten Island.  I particularly adore the multicolored bursts like giant dandelions gone to seed, even though they're a little old-fashioned.  The only fireworks I don't really care for are the ones that sound like a cannon shot and don't produce any pretty sparks.  What's the point - deafening the audience?

The most recent fireworks display is always the best, though.  The one last night closed with a burst of mid-air smiley faces - the perfect end to a nice evening.

My father says that it's hypocritical for us to celebrate Independence Day because his family fought on the wrong side of the American Revolution and had to hide out in Canada for about a hundred years afterward.  My feeling is that we've been solid American citizens now for four generations, so why not relax and enjoy the fireworks?

"You may be a redneck if... your lifetime goal is to own a fireworks stand. " ~Jeff Foxworthy

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Working the Second Shift

I know people who spend their nights in a rich and varied dreamland.   They vacation in exotic spots, they have long conversations with dead friends and relatives, they fly without benefit of airplane or parachute.  Not me.  I go to bed, go to sleep, and wake up seven hours later after a night of apparent oblivion.  Unless...

...I have an anxiety dream.

In an anxiety dream, I am supposed to complete some fairly simple but important task, and if I don't do it correctly, Bad Things will happen.  I am supposed to turn off all the lights in the house in a very specific pattern, and when I can't complete the pattern, the house burns down.  I am supposed to close an important valve, and when I fail to do so, I cause an enormous flood.  I've had dreams where I was responsible for the end of life as we know it (the planet exploded and it was All My Fault).  I call them anxiety dreams because I feel anxious throughout - first mildly anxious, then very anxious, then frantic, and finally (when disaster is inevitable) overwhelmingly guilty but resigned.  When I finally wake up I'm as exhausted as if I had actually spent the whole night racing from light switch to light switch, making and burning cookies, or trying to match endless pair of socks.

I'm not certain just what triggers these dreams.  Sometimes I'm pretty sure they are my subconscious prodding me to do something I've been putting off.  Others may be caused by anxiety from my waking life leaking over into my dreams.  Many of them, though, have no apparent source.  I can go for years without an anxiety dream and then be visited by them every night for weeks on end.  Perhaps the most annoying part about them is that at the beginning of the dream I often recognize the task I must do is nonsense, but then about halfway through I'm sucked in and convinced that, oh yes, this is REAL.

Lately I've been working on websites in my dreams, and when I screw up the program code I bring the entire Internet to its knees.  I assume this is related to the job-hunting I've been doing.  Too bad I don't have this power in my waking life - I might be able to make a living as a blackmailing hacker.

"While many hackers have the knowledge, skills, and tools to attack computer systems, they generally lack the motivation to cause violence or severe economic or social harm. " ~Dorothy Denning