Thursday, December 30, 2004

This week's homework -- Kitty Wishes

Me again. The furry one on the right.


That's me and NZ.  She's all dressed up for our holiday card photo.  I don't do the dressing up.  I mean, really, I can't possibly be any cuter than I already am, right?  (That's what she tells me, anyway.  I'm the cutest kitten witten in the whole house!  What's a house?) 

ANYWAY, she's handed the whole journal thing to me again, because Scalzi's homework asks what New Year's Resolution she'd make for me, and which one I'd make for her.

We're overachievers over here, so I actually have two of each.

NZ's resolutions for me are:  (1) Stop "teeth play" (i.e. biting); and (2) Become more of a lap cat.  Yeah right.  Like that's going to happen.

My resolutions for NZ are:  (1)  Play with me (with the GOOD toys) a half hour EVERY NIGHT; and (2) Sleep with the door open so's I can come in!

You just watch.  I'm gonna make it happen.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Adventures in Refueling

My car tells me that it has less than a quarter tank of gas, so I figure I should stop and get some.

Actually, I was well under a quarter tank yesterday, but it was raining and all.  Tonight, we've had a brief respite, so there was no reason to not stop at the ol' Mobil on the way home and gas up.

I pull up.  There's nobody at the pump, so I drive up to the front pump.  I wave my little magic gas-chargey thing at the sensor and the pump comes to life.  It asks for my zip code.  I supply it.  I press "enter."  The indicator lights beneath the three types of fuel start blinking waiting for my selection.  I push the button for mid-grade and reach for the actual pump to begin fueling.

It isn't there.  No pump, no hose, nothing.  The read-out is all excited about giving me fuel (which I've now paid for) but there is no way to actually get it into my car.

I cancel the transaction.  Get back in my car.  Back up a few feet to the pump behind.  The flourescent light on this pump is flickering slightly, but it appears to be in good working order.  I check in advance -- there is, indeed, a pump here.  I run through the routine:  wave pass at sensor; type in zip code; press enter; push the button for mid-grade; reach for the...  I push the button for mid-grade.  I PUSH THE DAMN BUTTON.  Nothing.  The pump is non-responsive.

Back in the car -- drive to the next pump over. I finally get some fuel.

Man, you'd think the guy in the little booth would put up cones or something, to stop people from pulling up to the two broken pumps.  Maybe he enjoys watching people try to use the worthless equipment.  While I was fueling, I saw the next poor sucker drive up to the pump-less pump, and watched how long it took him to figure it out. 

It was kinda funny.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Damn Fortune Cookie

For the first time, I got a fortune cookie I didn't like.

Saturday night.  It read:  "You will soon find out how fortunate you really are."

And this morning, I'm reading about the upwards of 33,000 dead (with that number expected to rise over 50,000), 250,000 homeless and 1,000,000 displaced after the earthquake and tsunamis in the Indian Ocean.

I read about the relief efforts -- that are getting packages of clean water, food, "plastic sheeting for shelters," and "emergency latrine plates" out to thousands of people who, all of a sudden, found themselves with nothing.

And here I sit, in my nice warm bed, in my nice warm home, with my nice full fridge and my fully functioning bathroom (and my big worry is going outside and driving to work in the rain), and I thought "Damn.  I know how fortunate I really am."

Relief organizations are listed here.  Donate now. 

Monday, December 27, 2004

Wanna feel old?

I decided that (rather than do everything else I had to do) I would take today to clean out my closet.  (The theory being that once I cleaned the closet, I'd have room to put all the junk I'll have when I clean every place else.)

And, as I do every time I clean the closet, I found the box of Barbie dolls I saved from when I was a kid.  But I didn't just have Barbies, I also had "Dawn Dolls."  They were Barbie-type dolls, but much smaller.  They were pretty rare -- compared to Barbies anyway -- and we always figured they'd be worth something someday.

(According to a quick scan on eBay, given their condition, I could maybe eke out twenty bucks for the set.)

But what really killed me about them are their hip, happenin' 1970s fashions.  Check 'em out.


(Sorry about the paw in the picture.  For some reason, Jasmine found them irresistable.)  Pretty snazzy, huh?  I can't believe I grew up thinking this was the ideal of style.  (And don't overlook the blue eye shadow that's built in on several of the dolls.)  Absolutely charming!

And for those of you not quite old enough to remember Dawn dolls, I offer the following trip down memory lane...

Yep.  5 1/4 inch disks.  These, boys and girls, are the reason we used to call them "floppies."  Because (unlike the 3 1/2 inch models that came after), they were actually floppy.  And I saved all of these disks from my Apple IIe computer because I knew I'd need them later.  (Particular that one on the left.  That's Apple Writer II.  A word processing program that was itself less than 110 KB.  My copy of Microsoft Word snorts in its general direction.)

I used to save these old disks thinking that, like my mom's old 45 rpm records, they'd be fun for the next generation to play.  Of course, the difference is, I still have a machine that can play 45's.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Kitty in the kitchen

Because she's cute.


This was my lunch yesterday, aka, "the before picture."

I bought it at the cafeteria at work.  We have a "hot lunch counter," a "grill guy," and a "sandwich guy."  Usually, I get lunch from the grill guy -- a chicken sandwich or mushroom burger.  But there's generally fries that come with that, so I've tried going to the hot lunch counter instead, thinking that maybe I'd get a healthier meal.

Ha.  The hot lunch counter is clearly operating on the "quantity rather than quality" theory of food service.  That there box of spaghetti (plus garlic bread) clocked in at around $5.00.  Five bucks for what was probably three servings of spaghetti.  Seriously.  I should have chipped in with some co-workers and shared a box.

Don't believe me?  Here's the "after" picture. 

That would be after I'd eaten my fill.  I'd pretty much just picked the meatballs out of it, and there were still meatballs left.  Not to mention, y'know, all the pasta.

And the hot lunch counter guy wonders why he always runs out of food at around 12:45.

Monday, December 20, 2004

How tired am I?

Sometimes, when I'm tired at work, I play a game of Solitaire.  It's a little test of how alert I am.  I mean, if I'm so tired I miss the fact that the red eight sitting there ought to be on the black nine, there's something wrong.  I'll usually spot it eventually, and then I'll be, "Dude, how long was that red eight sitting there?  I'm pretty out of it."

So, I started playing solitaire a few minutes ago.  And the VERY FIRST move I made was to move that black ace over onto the red two.

Had to be at least ten moves later when I thought, "Wait a minute."

I need a serious nap.



Saturday, December 18, 2004

Homework: The gift of popularity

For this week's homework, Scalzi asks:

Weekend Assignment #39: Tell us about the toy you had to have for the holidays when you were a kid, only to find out it was kinda disappointing once you had it.

There was never really a toy I had to have.  My parents taught me, at a pretty early age, to be skeptical of commercials, so I knew that the dancing Barbie wasn't really going to dance around the living room of her own volition.  Being cynical about advertising was very nearly a game we'd play -- when we'd see an ad, I'd try to guess how the words in the ad -- while technically true -- were describing something much less desirable than they implied (much like reading personal ads today).

But there was one thing I absolutely had to have.  It wasn't a toy (and it wasn't for the holidays), but boy, I wanted it something wicked:  designer jeans.  Man, if only I could ditch these embarassing Toughskins and walk around Junior High with Vidal Sassoon's name on my butt -- my humdrum existence would fade and I would instantly be part of the Popular Kids.  My pants were keeping me down

My mother refused.  Absolutely refused.  In her mind, having Gloria Vanderbilt's name on your back pocket branded you as stupid enough to dump twice as much money for a pair of jeans, and she was having no part of it.  When we went school-clothes shopping, it was back to Sears for me.  I even offered to pay the difference -- she could just give me the cost of the no-name jeans, and I'd pay the rest out of my babysitting money.  (To this day, I think she should have accepted the offer.)  But, no.  No kid of hers was going to waste money on these things.

And then... one day, a family friend took me school-clothes shopping.  And she bought me (gasp) Chemin de Fer cordoruys.  OK, they weren't jeans and they didn't have a top designer's name scrawled on the back -- but they came from a designer and you could tell because they had a little train on the button.

I showed that button to everyone at school.  (Yes!  Yes!  Look at my fly!  See how I'm wearing designer pants!)  And the people who were my friends anyway thought it was really cool that I had a pair of designer cords.  And the popular kids who'd ignored me before kept right on ignoring me. 

Lesson learned.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

My Double Life

Ever feel like you're living in two different worlds?  On the same day?

Today, for lunch, I had turkey with all the trimmings, served on lovely china by a nice man in a uniform who pulled out my chair for me and asked if he could get me a beverage.

For dinner, I had 3/4 of a slice of pizza, and I gave the rest to a homeless guy who was begging for the crust.

Strange, strange world(s).



And ditto for the hair products

Remember what I said about not knowing who gave me the phone?

Ditto for the great hair products that arrived yesterday with no indication of who had sent them.

I think I've discovered a flaw in the otherwise splendid wish list process.

Whoever you are, thanks for making my hair all moisturized and manageable!



Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Memo to Jonathan on "Amazing Race"

Do not shove your wife.

Now, that should really be the end of it.  I mean, it's pretty much a bright line that you don't cross.  Shoving wives -- don't do it.  But, just in case you're going to come up with some situation in which it may be acceptable to shove one's wife (like, say, out of the way of an uncoming train), let me clarify.

Do not shove your wife IN ANGER.


Do not shove your wife in anger because one other couple got ahead of you, WHEN YOUR WIFE WAS TRYING TO PREVENT YOUR STUFF FROM GETTING STOLEN

Do not shove your wife in anger because one other couple got ahead of you, when your wife was trying to prevent your stuff from getting stolen AND SHE'S CRYING.

Do not shove your wife in anger because one other couple got ahead of you, when your wife was trying to prevent your stuff from getting stolen and she's crying, ON NATIONAL TELEVISION.

Ya freakin' moron.



Monday, December 13, 2004

Thanks for the phone (?)

aka Bah Humbug, Part 2

There was a cordless phone on my Amazon wish list.  (I really needed one.  My old cordless dropped dead a few weeks ago.)

Someone bought me the cordless phone.

It didn't come from Amazon, though -- it was sent from a third-party vendor who sold via Amazon.

Which is all well and good -- excepting, if it were from Amazon, it would have told me who it was from, something which my pals at TechDepot didn't feel inclined to do.

I'm really hoping the mystery phone-giver just happens to read my journal. 

Whoever you are, thank you!  (And please identify yourself.)



You don't get women

So, this morning, my morning DJ promises to tell us about the most romantic thing EVER.

Turns out to be this story about a marine who was injured in Iraq, and the doctors were going to cut off his wedding ring, and he tells them to cut off his finger instead.  And here's the DJ telling the story, saying, "OK, ladies, you can tear up now," and how this blows away any other romantic gesture any other guy would make.

And I thought, Look, I understand the guy was under a lot of stress, and he loves his wife, and I certainly wouldn't want to tell him he did the wrong thing now that's he's cut off his finger and all.... BUT that is the stupidest thing I've ever heard.  The only part that makes me want to cry is that this guy was idiotic enough to think his wife would rather have him save a thing rather than a part of himself.  (He's only 19, which explains a lot, I think.)

Look, a wedding rings means A LOT.  It is very likely the most symbolic item a man owns.  But, when you get right down to it, it is just a THING.  It's a lump of metal.  (It isn't like it's a ring that has magical powers or anything.)  It's a hunk of gold that can be easily replaced.  As opposed to your finger, which is, y'know, your finger.  You can't replace that.  It's a part of you.  When you end up making the hard decisions, preserving yourself should always be more important than preserving a mere thing.

Am I wrong here? 

Saturday, December 11, 2004

This week's homework: Holiday Characters

This week, Scalzi asks us:

>>Weekend Assignment #38: It's the Holidays! Create your own festive Holiday Character and give him, her or it at least one seasonally appropriate magical ability (or use its native traits and skills to save the holiday season).<<

To which request, I cheerfully supply:

Toasty, Burny, Crispy, Flamey, Blazey, Scorchy, Smoldery and Mendel -- the Hanukkah Fire Safety Bears!

They're cute!  They're cuddly!  They're available at Temple Gift Shops near you!

And they're starring in their Very Own Animated Holiday Special!

Tune in to the ABC Family Channel (at 8:00/7:00 central & mountain) on the first night of Hanukkah to see what happens when the Goldberg family leaves their lit menorah unattended.  When Puffball, their curious kitten, knocks the menorah to the ground, scattering lit candles everywhere, little Carol Goldberg's collection of stuffed animal bears magically come to life and save the day!

Be sure to stay tuned for an important discussion of fire safety tips from Crispy -- followed by a great big Hanukkah Bear Hanukkah Party!  (YAY!)

The makers of the Hanukkah bears have issued the following statement in response to certain recent allegations in the press.  "We have no comment on the sexual orientation of 'Flamey.'  All viewers are invited to interpret Flamey's hug with Smoldery in their own way."

Thursday, December 9, 2004

Bah freakin Humbug (Part 1)

I say Part 1 as I have the awful feeling this will be the first in a series.

Wanted to buy some small gifts for some women I work with.

Found the Yves Rocher stuff at  Looked to fit the bill.

Bought $12 worth of the stuff (4 little $3 items -- figured I'd give two items each to each of the women).  $5 for shipping, but what the hell.  At least the gift is taken care of.

This was DECEMBER 1.

This morning, I get an email dated DECEMBER 8 saying they're refunding $6 because half of the items weren't in stock when they received the order.  They're mailing the rest of it.

How nice.  I'm supposed to want $6 worth of stuff (two half-presents) for $5 in shipping.  I think not.  I called them up to cancel the whole order.  Ten freakin' minutes on hold.  Then, "We can't cancel the order because we've already shipped it.  If you really don't want it, just refuse delivery."

I can't do that, ma'am.  It is being shipped to my office where the mail room will accept it.

"Just write RETURN TO SENDER on it and drop it back in the mail."

Will do.  Wonder if I'll ever see my $11 again. 


Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Tales From eBay

I'm planning a sort of Victorian Tea Christmas Party Thing, and I wanted to buy some actual pieces of Victorian Crap with which to decorate.  (Or give away to the folks who win the Parlour games.) 

I thought I'd find some Victorian Crap cheap on eBay, and eBay did not disappoint me on this count.  My one rule was that I wouldn't spend more than $5 for an item, and I managed to find all manner of Victorian spoons, mugs, photos, calling card trays and the like -- all for under $5.

(Well, OK, we do need to have a chat with some of these eBayers about when the Victorian era actually was.  Victoria reigned from 1839 to 1901.  So when your listing calls an item "Victorian" and then you say it was made in 1920, well, you might want to rethink that.)

So.  Lots of Victorian Crap.  And I kept getting outbid.  Not by those evil people who use eSnipe or other services to snag items by automated bidding during the last few seconds of an auction.  No, I was outbid by nice, honest people who were up front about outbidding me several hours before the auctions closed.

I lost fourteen auctions in a row.  Some I lost fair and square -- like to someone who wanted to pay $17 for something I would only go $5 for.  Others broke my heart -- like the spoon that went for $1.95 when I'd bid only $1.50.

And then, over the weekend, my luck changed.  I had about 12 auctions ending on Saturday, and I won nine of them.  All for $5 or less.  (One for 95 cents!)  As we speak, I have all sorts of Victorian Crap winging its way to me via every possible shipping method that exists.

And today there was ... the dress.

When I invited people to my Victorian Tea party, several of them asked if they should come in costume.  I hadn't thought about it at the time, but, y'know, when am I going to turn down an opportunity to dress up?  I went back to eBay to see if I could find Victorian clothes.

(Aside to eBay sellers:  No, you cannot claim your dress is Renaissance and Victorian.  Several hundred years apart.  Look it up.)

There are some genuine article real live left-in-the-attic-someplace Victorian dresses for sale on eBay.  After perusing a few of the ads, I quickly discarded the idea of purchasing one.  Reason:  corsets.  The damn things were made for a 19-inch waist.  Sorry, but no.

On the other hand, there are loads of reproductions.  For this, I can thank the Civil War re-enactors.  (Civil War:  1861-1865.  Conveniently located smack dab in the middle of Victoria's reign, although a few thousand miles away.  But fashions were remarkably similar.)  So, seamstresses all over the place make these lovely Victorian dresses and sell them to Civil War re-enactors and (and here's a term I just learned) members of the Single Action Shooting Society.

I found a dress.  The measurements appear to fit my measurements (no corset required).  It had a buy-it-now price of $175, which was ridiculous, but an opening bid of $40.  I checked what similar dresses were going for, and figured I had a good shot of getting it for under $100.  $80, if I was lucky.  And since I was really just buying this on a total lark, I was hoping for lucky.

The $40 bid had been placed by a new user (she had eBay feedback of zero).  Newbie.  I have nothing against newbies (we were all there once), but I did want this dress, and hoped I could predict a newbie's behavior enough to get it for my price.

Newbie had bid $40, and there were still a couple days left to the auction.  I wanted to put a bid in there for two reasons.  First, because I'm polite, and wanted newbie to know she actually had competition.  Second, because there was a reserve price on the dress, and newbie hadn't hit it yet.  I put in a bid of $60, to see if I could trip the reserve.

$60 did not meet the reserve, but it did reveal that newbie had actually bid $55.  (I assume here that we're all familiar with eBay's bidding system where you put in your maximum bid, and it bids the increments for you, up to your maximum, as necessary.)  So, newbie was willing to bid $55 for the dress, but didn't want to test the reserveany more than that.

Well, actually, I wasn't too happy about doing it either.  The auction still had a couple days to go.  If the seller had a $100 reserve, newbie could have the damn dress.

Reluctantly, I put in a bid of $65.  I was rewarded with a "Reserve Met."  And a good thing, too.  (Would've felt pretty stupid if I'd stopped at $60 and didn't get the dress because I wasn't willing to go another $5.)

So, now that I'd tripped the reserve, all that was left was to keep newbie out of it.

I woke up this morning to see newbie had bid $66.  Giving notice that she's still in it, I reckon.  I typed in $67 -- to find out if newbie had actually given eBay a higher maximum bid than that.  She hadn't.  I was high bidder at $67.

Bidding on the dress was set to end tonight around 9:45.  I made a point of being home and at my computer -- something I hadn't done for any of the other auctions.  I had a feeling newbie was going to put in a bid just a couple minutes before the auction was ending, and I wanted to outbid her.

Two minutes before the auction ended and I'm still high bidder at $67.  Was newbie really letting it go for a buck more than her last bid?  My screen said yes, but my mind said no.  With less than two minutes to go, I told eBay I was going to up my maximum bid.

And it made me log in again.  Damn!  I was timing this kinda close and I thought I'd already been logged in.  I threw my password at it and got the bid screen.

And wouldn't you know it?  In the time it took me to log in, newbie had gotten in there, as the bid screen was now telling me that the high bid on the dress was $68.

How high do I go?  I mean, you could always type in something that you know will outbid the other person (like $500), but what if she's done that too?  Someone will end up WAY overpaying for the item, and it could be you.  You've got to go high enough to outbid them, but never more than you're actually willing to pay.

I've probably only got time for one bid, so I have to get it right.  I hesitate over the keyboard.  She's new, so has probably put in a max bid at a nice round number.  $70 is too low, since we were at $67 all day.  I bet she's gone $75, so I go slightly higher.

eBay rewards me with a message that I'm the high bidder at $76.  There's actually 45 seconds left in which newbie can outbid me if she wants to, but she does not -- either she didn't want to go any higher, or she couldn't figure out how high she had to go within the remaining time.

Dress is mine for $76.  Hee.

The funny thing is ... after my party's over, I might just put the dress back up on eBay.  :)

Monday, December 6, 2004

How Wussy Am I?

Went to Disneyland on Saturday.  Since I didn't want to be carrying stuff all around the park, I locked my purse in the trunk of my car, taking only my wallet and cell phone.

I put the two items in the two front pockets of my jeans.  My not-incredibly-baggy jeans.

As the day progressed, the tops of my thighs started hurting.  I figured this was because I kept pushing up against wallet and phone with each step (and when sitting down) and decided I should, perhaps, remove said items and carry them separately.  This I did.

That was SATURDAY.  It's MONDAY now and my thighs are still sore.  As though walking with those incredibly heavy few-ounce weights was too much of a workout for my pitiful legs.

Oh the shame of it all.

Saturday, December 4, 2004

Modesty, surely

For this week's homework, Scalzi asks us to look deep inside ourselves and answer:

Weekend Assignment #37: We all know what our best personal quality is. What's your second-best personal quality?

Extra Credit: Note a personal quality you wish you had more of.

Dude.  That's a tough one.  I usually don't go about listing my personal best qualities.

Now that I think about it, though, being a person of the single female persuasion, I frequently list qualities that I look for in a possible future partner.  And when I think about the qualities on that list, one does sorta leap to mind as a quality which I possess, but wouldn't want to put in the top line of the personal ad, so to speak:

I'm responsible.  Which is to say, I'm a freakin' grown-up.  Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm silly and goofy and playful, and I enjoyed Buffy, the Vampire Slayer rather more than someone who had already graduated college probably should.  But I also have a job -- no, a career, and I take it damn seriously.  (I also feed the cat and clean her little box every night.)  When I take on a task, you can count on me to actually do it

Extra Credit:  I wish I had more cheerful optimism.  I know some people go through life with lots of laughter, and can make even the least pleasant situation fun.  Now, me?  I'm quick with the witty retort and heavy on the sarcasm and irony, but not so much with the glass-half-full-ness.  I could use a little more of that.

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Boo on eBay

Anyone else remember when eBay was cool?  You'd go online, find some neat thing you wanted that someone was selling out of their attic, bid on it, and get it for a song.

Now, its all little shops and "view my other items."  eBay is populated by a bazillion private little businesses all of which allegedly have 99% positive feedback.  (Really, now.  Are THAT many private little businesses THAT well-loved, or could it possibly be that some of these folks are, oh, I don't know, kicking up their feedback?)

And the bidding!  Whatever happened to my sweet, friendly little bidding?  Now it's all about pouncing in at the very last second and outbidding the other guy.  I've bid on TEN items this week and lost every single one of them -- usually within the last few minutes.  (I just got outbid on an 11th.  Lovely.)

The amount of time I have wasted on this is truly, truly depressing.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Continuing Adventures of Kitten Bunnyfoot

[Voice over] From out of the Old West comes Kitten Bunnyfoot!  Protector of the unprotected, chaser of small beams of light, destroyer of weak-willed cat toys, she's Kitten Bunnyfoot!  Loyal to a fault, precious to the max, totally insane for about four minutes a day, she's Kitten Bunnyfoot!

Today's Adventure:  The Unexpected Surprise and the Unfortunate Event Which Followed.

Take it away, Kitten Bunnyfoot!

Yeah, ok, so, the other night, I barfed on the living room floor.  In three puddles of varying size.  My human noticed it the next morning when she got up to feed me.  She cleaned it up with a bunch of Kitty Mess Wipes, moaned a little about being late for work, showered, and left for the day.  Totally forgetting to feed me!  This sucks.  Whine, whine, whine.

That's it for Today's Adventure.  Join us next week for another thrilling episode!

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Homework: Money, money, money

For this week's homework, Scalzi asks:

Weekend Assignment #36: I have a mug on my desk with $70.65 in change in it. What should I do with the money? The only unacceptable answer is "give it to me." Honestly. You can do better.

Extra Credit: If you've got a picture of your own loose change storage device, show it.

To which I respond:  $70.65, is that all

I have rather a lot of change, in various stages of rolledness.  Here's the change I've already rolled -- there's $87.50 of it, and it's only pennies, nickels and dimes.  (I've sold several rolls of quarters to my boss -- she gave them to her daughter for the coin-operated washing machines at college.)

I've also got coins that are partially sorted and waiting to be rolled (pennies in one jar, quarters in another -- the nickels and dimes are still partying together) ...

and, finally, the containers that haven't been sorted yet.  This assignment surprised me on this one, as I had the taller container in plain view on my shelf, but I found the stouter one when I was taking out the rolled coins to take pictures.

(That's, of course, just the stuff at home.  I also have a coffee mug about half-full of quarters, and a tin two-thirds full of unsorted other coinage, at work.)

As you might have noticed, I don't spend my change.

When I was in college, I needed to save my coins for laundry (the washers took quarters and the dryers took dimes -- I ended up filling my pockets with nickels whenever I went out and gave a few to the homeless people who'd ask for money).  By the time I was out of school, saving my change was a habit, and I then decided to make a conscious decision to never spend change and save up that money for charity.  (It's really easy to get in the habit of always paying with bills and saving the change.  It makes your wallet lighter, too.)

Once I made this decision, however, the two sticking points have always been rolling it (I hate giving up nearly 10% to Coinstar) and figuring out which charity should get it.

As it turns out, I now know what I'm going to do with my change this time around.  I doubt this will help John with his dilemma, but I'm happy to share my current project...

Last year at about this time, I was on vacation in Fiji.  One of the things I noticed there was how astonishingly expensive books were.  I mean, there was a paperback copy of the first Harry Potter book in the hotel gift shop (which wasn't the cheapest place to buy stuff on the island, but still) for, like, over $20.  Thinking about it, it made some level of sense -- I mean, they don't have a publishing house anywhere on Fiji, and probably have to ship everything over from Australia.

On my trip, we visited one little island and met the locals.  They were extremely poor, but very nice and welcoming.  And spoke English.  And I thought, "Damn.  My mom used to teach elementary school.  I bet just one of her classes would have enough gently-used copies of Harry Potter to give one to every kid on this island." 

So, we contacted the school and it turns out they're always looking for charitable things for the kids to do -- and they think a book drive for Fiji would be great.  And I contacted the cruise company who took me to the little island in the first place, and they said that if I sent the books to their main office in Nadi, they would take the books out to the island. 

The one sticking point seems to be the same one that keeps books so expensive in Fiji in the first place -- the cost of shipping books to Fiji.  Shipping heavy boxes of books out there isn't cheap.

But I bet I could send a lot of books with all my spare change.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Only Because I've Been Asked. Twice.

Yes, Jews celebrate Thanksgiving.

(As a rule of thumb, if the holiday has nothing to do with Jesus, we're good with it.)

(Besides.  It's an eating holiday.  Who doesn't like an eating holiday?)


Am I the only one who is way not excited about the Seinfeld DVDs?

You might think I should be.  I watched the show regularly when it was on -- but I was a little late to the party, so watching the first and second seasons on DVD would probably fill in a few gaps.

But the fact is, I lost interest in the show after the last episode.  In a huge way.

I mean, here's me, tuning in to the antics of these four people on a weekly basis -- and then the show, in its last episode, makes a point of pointing out what lousy self-centered people they are.  And I thought, "You know what?  You're right.  Why am I wasting my time watching these losers?"  I mean, there's no point in quoting lines from the show when you're quoting lines from jerks.  And why should I feel sympathetic to them when they get themselves in trouble when, now that I think about it, they pretty much deserve what they get?

Prior to the final episode, I had enjoyed tuning in every week -- whether the show was new or in reruns.  But after that, I never watched it again.  Not in syndication, not ever.

I've never known a show to so clearly kill itself for me in a single episode.  Perhaps Jerry & the gang felt like it was necessary to point out to the audience that we'd been watching characters who were really just terrible people -- but it had the effect of chiding us, the viewers, for actually enjoying it.  Result:  an instant case of the "I don't care"s.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Bad Techno Day

Y'ever have a bad technology day? 

I'm not talking about the electric razor attacking you like in that Twilight Zone episode.  I just mean one of those days where every freakin' dial and meter is letting you down.

This happened to me on Friday.

Thursday night, I turned my cell phone off before bed.  Woke up Friday morning, turned the phone on, and it gave me the "low battery" alert.  Impossible.  The damn thing was showing a near-full charge when I shut it off the night before.

And then I got in my car to go to work -- and had half a tank of gas.  This, too, was weird, as I'd have sworn it was only a quarter tank when I left it last.  I'm not really complaining about extra gas, but how did it get there?  Did someone just GIVE me an extra quarter tank of gas for no reason?  Or were my dials messing with me?

And the worst thing of all -- when I turned on my ipod to continue my random stroll through every track I have, instead of picking up where I'd left off halfway through, it started all over again at song 1 of a brand new shuffle.  ARGH.

Not the day to operate heavy equipment, that's for sure.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Thank you, thank you very much

This week's assignment:

Weekend Assignment #35: Tell us something you should be thankful for -- but that you're usually not. After all, it's easy to be thankful for all the things you know you should be thankful for: Your family and friends, your home, the good things that come from living wherever (and whenever) you do. So try stretching a little and think about something that you're thankful for that you usually don't think much about at all. It can be serious or silly; it's up to you. You just have to be genuinely thankful for it -- once it comes to mind.

I'm thankful to Al Gore for inventing the internet.  Kidding!  Although I am certainly thankful for the invention.

But, when you get right down to it, as much as I love the internet (and I truly, truly do), I think I am even more thankful for, um, feminine protection.  And I'm not talkin' stun guns, people.

Hmm, I wonder which one is more likely to make Scalzi's list...

Huffy Kitty

The past few days, Jasmine has been extremely clingy before I go to bed.  I normally close the bedroom door and sleep by myself, while she goes off on her merry kitten way and does whatever she does (sleep a little, hunt down the treats I've hidden for her, and run psychotically around my apartment a few times). It's a good arrangement.

Every night, as I approach the bedroom door to let myself in, I am the victim of a "drive-by catting."  Jasmine comes tearing down the hallway and jumps in my direction -- sometimes managing to tap my thigh with her soft little paws -- and then keeps right on running.

But lately, she's been staying after the drive-by.  She circles through my legs and brushes up against my ankles.  An impromptu petting session doesn't make her leave.  She really, really wants to be let in the bedroom at night.

I've been petting her and loving her and talking sweetly to her and locking her out.  The other night, she wasn't falling for it.  I eventually had to throw a toy down the hall and let her scamper after it.  When she was down there, I sneaked into my bedroom.  I felt horribly guilty about this.  Jas had been so excited when I threw the toy -- she thought we were going to play!  And I was just distracting her so I could slip away.  Mean, mean human.

So, last night, I played with her a lot, and gave her extra treats.  And then I thought:  why not let the sweet purry little princess stay in the bedroom at night?  All she seems to do when I'm in there anyway is curl up under the bed.  Where's the harm in the aforementioned curling if I happen to be in there sleeping?  (Besides, she's gotten past her previous tendency to attack my water glass.)  It's been a while since I tried letting her in, and she REALLY wanted in, and she's so cute, and so sweet, and has the cutest little pink paws, and I just love it when she's all joyful and ...

When I hid the treats for her to find, I took one and placed it in plain view on my bedroom floor, and left the door open for her.  It was as engraved an invitation as I could come up with.  Jasmine couldn't believe it.  She was cautious at first, and kept peeking around the corner to see if I was really letting her in the bedroom at night.  When I spoke encouragingly to her, she dove under the bed, thinking she was hiding where I couldn't get her.  I said, "That's fine, baby.  You can stay there."

Well, lemme tell you.  Although she takes no interest in me when I'm awake, apparently a sleeping (or nearly sleeping) human is extremely fascinating.  During the first hour, I was twice awakened by little paw sounds near my head -- I opened my eyes and was staring right at kitty nostrils.  Things calmed a little after that -- and while I'm sure I got SOME amoung of sleep, cat action had me awake and looking at the clock on nearly an hourly basis.

She got under the blankets with me.  She's been playing on (or under) my bed for more than a year, and has always been afraid to go under the covers -- even when I lift them invitingly.  But not last night.  Last night, I was minding my own business when all of a sudden I was awakened by kitty whiskers tickling my thigh.  I love the warm little ball of fur all curled up next to me, but it's hard to sleep when, with every breath she takes, the little whiskers gently scratch up and down.

At about 5:30, she was back outside the bed, clawing the mattress.  "Jasmine, no."  Claw, claw, claw.  "Jasmine, NO!"  Claw, claw, claw.  Two hours till my alarm goes off.  I think about how valuable two hours of interrupted sleep are.  I pick her up -- wriggling -- and set her outside the door, and close it.  Go back to sleep for what I HOPE is two solid hours of snoozing, but (dammit) my nose is congested and it's hard to fall asleep.  I eventually get an hour or so.

7:30 alarm.  I open the door to let Jasmine in for our morning pet-fest.  She doesn't come.  I call out.  She doesn't come.  I peek out the door.  She's stretched out in the hallway, just a few feet away.  Staring.  Sulking.  Extremely peeved. 

Yeah, her and me both.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Radio Me

Funny that John Scalzi would have his random mix entry, seeing as I've been doing the random mix to end all random mixes for the past week or so.

See, I listen to, basically, two kinds of music:  showtunes and silly 80s hits.  Sure, there's the occasional Beatles CD in there, and an unusual amount of REM -- but, other than that, it's pretty much Broadway and "Walking on Sunshine."

To keep my head from flying off because of the mood swings, I generally have two playlists I switch between -- a "showtunes" list (which has showtunes, the occasional movie soundtrack, and an occasional "pop" song your parents would swing dance to); and an "upbeat" list (largely 80s hits, some rock, and one or two showtunes that are too perky for the showtunes list).  These lists are, of course, comprised of the Greatest Hits of My iPod.  There's LOTS more tunes on there -- complete albums and all that.  But I generally just pull up one of the two playlists and let the iPod shuffle through my favorite tracks.

A week ago Monday, I accidentally hit "play" without selecting a playlist.  The iPod cranked up some random song of the 720 in my music library.  I kinda liked it.  Well, of course I would.  With one or two unfortunate exceptions, everything on the iPod is there because I wanted the whole album.  So I don't have anything against the tracks I usually don't listen to.  I let it play.  I let the next track play.  And the next one.

We're about 8 days into the experiment and I'm on track 347 ("A Part of That" from "The Last Five Years").  I'm nearly halfway through and I plan to finish the whole set.  While I'm listening, I'm keeping notes on which tracks I want to add to the playlists and put into more regular rotation.  This because I'm a totally anal Type-A personality.  (Duh.)

I'm gonna post a list of ten tracks it played in a row -- but before I do, I want to point out that I have issues with exactly how representative this thing is.  I took down a list of 10 and was surprised to find two tracks by the same band.  I took a second list of 10, and there were two tracks from the same Broadway musical.  (And there had been a third track from that show in the first 10.  Meaning that in 20 songs out of 720, it selected THREE tracks from the same show.)  And, of course, even in that 20, there was a LOT of stuff that wasn't represented at all.  So, I mean, while this IS a snapshot of ten songs that randomly came up on my iPod, it isn't exactly a representative sample of the music I listen to.

And it is...

1. Painting Her Portrait -- Jane Eyre (that'd be a musical)
2. Hazy Shade of Winter -- The Bangles (that's a cover.  I have the Simon & Garfunkel original, too.)
3. Treat Me Right -- Pat Benatar (love that one -- especially when I'm at the gym.  Nothing like sweatin' to Pat Benatar)
4.  I Landed on Him -- Floyd Collins (that's another musical -- about a guy trapped in a cave)
5.  You Don't Know This Man -- Parade (a musical -- about Leo Frank, the Jewish guy that got lynched in Atlanta for killing little Mary Phagan, a girl who worked in his pencil factory.  Man, I listen to some upbeat musicals.)
6.  Pirate Jenny -- Kurt Weill:  The Centennial Celebration (well, ok, but it's FROM a musical -- Threepenny Opera.  I think I have four different recordings of Pirate Jenny, so this track probably IS representative)
7.  No Good Deed -- Wicked (musical -- based on the book of the same name, you know the one, about the Wicked Witch of the West)
8.  Pity the Child -- Chess (and that would be a ... musical!)
9.  Angels of the Silences -- Counting Crows
10.  Good Time -- Counting Crows

While I won't give you the second list, I will mention that it included, "I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today" from "Avenue Q."  That show has the BEST song titles.

Monday, November 15, 2004

That's odd.

So, Friday night, I saw a play.

(That part wasn't odd.  Y'know, what with me being a theatre critic and all.)

After the show is over, I stand up to leave, and my knee starts hurting.  Not the usual tightness from having been sitting for awhile, but actual pain.  You know, like how it would feel if you fell on your knee.  (Exactly how it would feel if you fell on your knee.  I used to ice skate, you know.)  I went home and elevated it and put ice on it and dealt with it just how I would have if there had been an actual injury, although there wasn't one.  (I'm certain I would have remembered falling on my knee.)

Next day, totally normal.  Right as rain.  I even went on a walking tour that morning and there was no problem at all.  Chalked it up to Random Weird Pain and forgot about it.

Cut to Sunday.  I'm getting dressed.  I put on a skirt and it strikes me that flat shoes would be a bad idea.  I slip on my boots (nice heel) and head on out.  To the theatre.

And it's like a replay of Friday.  I didn't do much walking -- just sitting there in the theatre.  And my knee started hurting again.  Thinking back, I'd been wearing some shoes with heels on Friday, too.  Seems like there's something about wearing a high heel that whacks my knee out of alignment and causes pain.

That's my story and I'm sticking with it.  And if anyone even thinks the word "arthritis" in my direction, I'm lopping off heads.


Sunday, November 14, 2004

This Week's Homework -- The Living Room Concert

Better late than never, I present my answer to this week's homework, in which Scalzi asks:

Weekend Assignment #33: You can have any person, past or present, sing any song for you that you want. What is the song, and who is singing it for you?

Extra credit: Name a singer you wish you could sing like, but can't. So that means even those of you with excellent voices have to pick someone you can't sing like.

All righty then.  It's something of a two-parter, as I couldn't really decide.  I mean, my favorite singer in the whole wide world is an Australian musical theatre type named Anthony Warlow, about whom I drooled in an entry last year.  (He's really, really good.  Pull up this link to his "Jekyll & Hyde" on Amazon and listen to the sample from, say, track 2.)  So my first thought is that I'd want Anthony Warlow to sing for me -- and, frankly, I don't care what, although I'd lean toward something Sondheim-y.

And then I thought -- well, that's all well and good, but if I had one person come into my living room and perform for me, it would have to be...  well, did you know that Hugh Jackman won a Tony this year for a musical called "The Boy from Oz" in which he played Peter Allen?  And he did a great big booty-shaking finale of "I Go to Rio"?  You put Hugh Jackman in my living room performing "I Go to Rio" and I don't think I'd stop smiling for weeks.

As for the extra credit, I, um, can't sing.  It's horrible for someone who loves musical theatre as much as I do.  I would love to be able to perform, but I completely lack the ability.  But when I sing along with recordings in the privacy of my own car, I prefer the great big songs and imagine I have a great big voice.  So, I think I'd like to sing like someone like Cher -- she might not be so hot at the delicate interpretive moments, but that girl can belt.

Thanks and "Hi"

Firstly, a big thanks to Anna for plugging me in her journal.  And also a thanks to everyone who dropped by because of the aforementioned plug.  Thanks for visiting.  Feel free to poke around.  I love company.

I also appreciate all of the comments (sympathetic and, er, gently mocking) regarding my unfortunate hair growth situation.  (Hormones?!  You say it's hormones?  But, but, but ... I shouldn't be producing the type of hormone that puts hair on your chin.  Isn't that one usually, y'know, confined to folks with a Y-chromosone?)

The entries around here aren't always like that (my next post -- the answer to this week's assignment -- is gonna be a little obscure), but, rest assured, I'm certain some other embarassing moment is waiting just around the corner for your reading pleasure.  :)



Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Bearded Lady

All right.  I'll admit it.

Every once in a while, we delicate female types occasionally will sprout a hair upon our chins.

A single, lonely little hair.

We pluck it out before anyone notices.

The other day, while washing my face before bed, I noticed such a hair. 

It was about two-and-half inches long.

No, it wasn't the cat's.  It was clearly growing out of my chin.  And, given its length, it must have been at it for a long time.

This concerned me.  Have I been walking around with this big old hair sticking out of my chin for the past six months?  (Have all of my close friends been too polite to mention it?)  Lord, it must've been there during the job interview.  "Gee, she seems like a good worker, but did you notice that huge hair growing from her chin?"  "Give her the job, and try to slip her a pair of tweezers."

Oh man.  I'm dying of shame just thinking about it.  I have therefore chosen to believe that, in violation of everything I know about the science of hair growth, the damn thing just sprung up overnight.  (It was probably stress related.)  That's right.  I had the follicular equivalent of "Jack and the Beanstalk" on my face. 

Yes.  It was magic.  Yuh-huh.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

On the Road This Morning

As I'm driving down the freeway this morning, I feel something itching at the front of my neck.  I reach my hand in there to scratch and find the tag of my sweater.  In the front.

I am wearing my sweater backwards.


I need to turn it around.

I figure I can do this while driving.  I pull my left arm out of the sleeve.  I reach it out the bottom of the sweater so's I can still steer.  I then pull my right arm out of my sleeve.  I grab my sweater and prepare to swivel it around 180 degrees when...

...I see the motorcycle cop.

Real quick, I pull the sweater down.  My arms are still coming out the bottom and the sleeves are fluttering around with no arms in them, but I'm trying to act as normal as possible.  As though everyone drives with their elbows pinned to their waist and their hands poking out the bottom of their shirt.

The cop continues on his way without incident.  As soon as traffic backed up, I took both hands off the wheel, swiveled my sweater and jammed my arms into the proper sleeves.  By the time I was finished, traffic had already started moving.

But not in my lane.

The car in front of me wasn't moving.

I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure the driver was watching me in his rear-view mirror.


Reason #12 Why I Miss My Old Boss

My old boss was a person of the female persuasion, while my new boss is not.

Thus, my new boss will not accept the following excuse:

"Sorry I was late, but my boots made this outfit look slutty, so I had to hunt down a clean pair of nylons."





I Wuv My Bed

I do.  I wuv it so much, I try to extend my time in it.  Every morning, when I wake up, I let the cat in, and she jumps on the bed for a morning pet-fest.  Then I reach into the nightstand, take out my laptop, toss it on the bed, and do my morning e-mail check.  (Usually the cat is in my arms at this point, kneading on my arm.  She chose to curl up on the other side of the bed today, which freed up my arms to type this entry.)

The whole process is about an extra half hour in bed.  It's not sleep; it's just me snuggled under the warm cozy blankets, listening to the radio and enjoying the pleasures of cat and modern technology. 

No wonder I'm always late for work.

Monday, November 8, 2004

Oh. My.

Er, I just poked around the internet on tire separations.

Forget the whole "thank goodness I wasn't majorly inconvenienced" thing.  Seems I was incredibly lucky that I did not, in fact, lose control of my car when the tire separated on the freeway.


Thank you, Fate

Around 4:00 today, I realized I had a couple more hours of reading to do at work.  I went to the vending machines to buy a Coke, figuring I'd need it to get through the work.

By the time I returned to my desk with my 75-cent Coke, I decided I was a total idiot.  I could just take that work HOME at read it from my sofa.  Where I could have all the Coke I want, a cute kitten nearby, and a raging fire in the fireplace.  Not to mention avoiding all the traffic -- which looked to be bad as it was threatening rain.

So, I put the Coke in the conference room fridge, packed up, and drove home.

On the freeway, five miles or so from home, my car starts vibrating.  Bouncing a bit at every revolution of the tires, as if I have a flat.  It starts softly, but at freeway speeds, it gets pretty intense.

Intense enough that I think I ought to stop off at a service station once I get off the freeway.

I keep going, and, as the vibrating continues, I start to wonder whether cruising along at 60 miles an hour isn't such a hot idea under these conditions.  The car doesn't seem to really ENJOY these speeds, and I'm thinking I ought to, y'know, humor it.

I pull over into the slow lane and tool along just around 50.  I'm about 3 miles from home.  I wonder if I ought to punch my hazard lights, drop to about 30, and inch my way off the nearest offramp.

I'm just about to go for the hazard lights when I hear a POP from my tire.  I grab the wheel really tight waiting for the inevitable spin-out from a blown tire, but my car keeps going straight.  Just with lots more vibrating.  And a very soft ringing metal sound, as if my hubcap or wheel is actually INVOLVED in the driving process now.

I get the heck off the freeway, pull over at the nearest curb, and inspect my tires.

Look, I'll be the first to admit I don't know all that much about cars.  But I *do* know the difference between a flat tire and a non-flat tire, and, well, this tire wasn't flat. 

I even poked at it a little.  Looked normal.

I get back in the car and get back on the freeway.  I continue the two miles to my exit with no further incident, and pull into the gas station.

Gas station guy asks if he can help.  Why yes, he can.  My car feels like I'm driving on a flat, but the tire isn't flat.  He takes it for a test cruise around the block.  We're barely out of the driveway when he says, "You've got a separated tire."  This, I'm told, is what happens when the rubber on your tire just splits.  I need a new tire.

Gas station guy sends me to Discount Tire Center just down the street.  Tire Center Guy charges me about $72 for a new tire installed while I wait.  He says there's just enough time for him to replace the tire before they close at 6:00. 

I sit in his waiting room, doing my reading for work.  And I think about what a phenomenally GOOD thing it was that I left work early today.  Imagine how much more fun this would have been if my tire had separated after dark, while driving in the rain, and I hadn't diagnosed it until long after the Tire Center had closed.  The mind boggles. 

Sunday, November 7, 2004

Fool Me Once, Shame on You; Fool Me Twice...

Saw the preview for the next Star Wars movie, and damn if it wasn't all that and a tub of popcorn.  Looked like it had everything I wanted in the movie -- good plot, really awesome battle sequences, lots of action, lots of pathos, and James Earl Jones (who I hope will take over relatively early in the movie, rather than having a final now-he's-Darth-Vader cameo).

I'm trying not to get excited about it, though.  I mean, I liked the previews for the other prequels well enough, and those films kinda, y'know, blew.  I've got to keep reminding myself that just because Lucas can snip together two and half minutes of movie to make an exciting trailer, doesn't mean the other ninety-five minutes of movie won't be dominated by Jar-Jar Binks or the worst romantic dialogue in filmmaking history.  Heck, for all I know, it could be Jar-Jar Binks delivering the bad romantic dialogue.

Based on track record, I have to assume this movie is going to be just as bad as the others, until I hear otherwise.

But my inner geek is still psyched.

Saturday, November 6, 2004

This week's homework -- I'm the boss

I was very tempted to skip this week's homework assignment.  I've been holding my tongue on a lot of political-type things because I like to think of my journal as a happy friendly place for childhood stories and kitten pictures.  But, y'know, what the heck.  This is what I think.  Dissenting comments are always welcome -- but remember, if you don't keep it civil, I have the delete button and I'm not afraid to use it.

This week's assignment, then...

Weekend Assignment #32: Congratulations! The American People have elected you President -- for one day. You are allowed to make one Executive Order. What is it? What can you do with your executive order? Why, anything you want (which is a little more power than the real President gets) I was going to make the proviso that your executive order can't run contrary to the US Constitution or any major Supreme Court decision in the last 30 years or so, but you know what? Most of you are grownups. I'm going to make the assumption that you can handle supreme executive power responsibly. So, no limits. You make the call.

Extra Credit: The Presidential Medal of Freedom is America's highest civilian honor. Give it to someone.

My one and only executive order would be the following six words:

"America is not a Christian nation."

By this I mean to address the recent disturbing trend of politicians (and citizens) to seek to govern this country by their interpretation of the Bible.  I am of the opinion that there is absolutely no place for that sort of thing in this country.  The document that we should be looking to for guidance is the Constitution, not the Bible.

I don't mean to say anything against Christianity or Christians.  One of the founding premises of this country is religious freedom, and I'm all for it.  I'm a big supporter of faith and I heartily respect the people who choose to live their lives as they believe God would have them do so.  But there's a big difference between that and trying to impose one's own religiously-based moral or ethical judgments on the rest of the country, and I'm having none of the latter. 

I used to think such an executive order would not be necessary.  I mean, the First Amendment is pretty clear about Congress making no law establishing a religion.  But it appears that certain folks in power (and others with political clout) are starting to think that Congress can legislate from the point of view of a particular Biblical interpretation.  That's not what our country is about.  There's a little principle in there about protection from tyranny of the majority -- and even when it is a well-meaning, faith-based majority that truly believes in the righteousness of its position, that majority has just got to suck it up and "live and let live."

In practice, what my executive order means is religious-based decision-making should have no place in legislation, judicial decisions or judicial appointments.  You want to argue against abortion, or gay marriage, or stem-cell research?  Fine, be my guest.  You want to argue your religious objections to these things while discussing them with friends, family and strangers on AOL-J?  Knock yourself out.  I would never dream of restricting anyone's speech, religious-based or no.  But when Congress gets down to actually making laws about these things, arguments based on religious authority have no place in the debate, and should carry no weight.

As for the extra credit, I would give the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Gavin Newsom.  The Medal of Freedom was given to Rosa Parks in 1996, for sparking the civil rights movement by an act of civil disobedience.  I hope that, someday, our nation looks back on what Mayor Newsom did for gay marriage the same way.

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

The Long-Awaited Pumpkin Photo

And the equally long-awaited pumpkin story.

I hadn't carved a pumpkin in years.  I think the last time I carved a pumpkin was, um, when I didn't carve it.  One year, when I was, oh, in junior high, I had a sleep-over party just after Halloween.  And all my friends had our sleeping bags stretched out in the living room, and we all got in the bags and went to sleep.

And, in the middle of the night, we heard something.  Something weird.  Something ... deflating.  In the darkness, I reached my hand over to a nearby shelf and felt something wet.  I screamed.  Turns out an uncarved pumpkin -- leftover from Halloween -- was giving up the ghost then and there.  It had sprung a leak and begun oozing out the bottom.  Scared the bejeezus out of us.  And it was pretty gross, too.

I don't think I carved a pumpkin since then.  There have been major improvements in pumpkin-carving technology in the interim.  My last jack-o-lantern had triangle eyes and a smile with three teeth.  (And my dad had to carve the round part of the smile.)  Now, kids use stencils and pumpkin-carving knives and end up making silhouettes of rock stars.

This year, I downloaded a stencil.  I still didn't have a pumpkin-carving knife, but I did have knives of different widths and other kitchen tools at my disposal.  And the product of my efforts ......

That's a cat, in case you can't tell.  I blame the photo and not my carving skills.  I tried to take the picture in the dark, so you could see the creepy orange glow in its eyes, but my camera has a very enthusiastic flash (and by the time I realized the problem, I'd already, um, tossed the pumpkin).

STILL, I am inordinately proud of it.  For my very first grown-up pumpkin, it's not bad.

Things I Am Peeved About This Morning -- Part Two

(The non-election part.)

1.  Last night, I tried to post a photo of my pumpkin to the journal.  Couldn't do it.  AOL said I could not access FTP.  Peeved.

2.  This morning, I heard that "Big Ol' Jet Airliner" song, and they just skipped the record at the naughty word.  I heard "funky [click] going down in the city."  Very peeved.

3.  Welcome screen advertising on AOL?!!  I can't read my mail without seeing the Ford Commercial (and hunting for the "close" button in tiny type at the bottom of the screen).  Look, the banner ads and pop-ups are irritating enough, but you do NOT mess with a woman's morning email check.  Amazingly peeved.  I've seen the TV ads.  AOL says that they listen if any member has an idea for how to make the internet better.  OK, here's an idea -- LET ME READ MY MAIL WITHOUT HAVING TO CLICK THROUGH AN AD!

Things I Am Peeved About This Morning -- Part One

To be clear -- I am disappointed in, not peeved about, the election results.  I would have very much (very very much) liked to have seen a different result.  I'm, in fact, very nervous, in a lot of ways, for the direction in which this country is going.  But, again, not peeved.  People voted, the votes were counted, we've got a result.  I believe in the system, and take some level of comfort in the fact that it worked.

There are things I am peeved about, however.

-I'm peeved that after all of the attempts of MTV, Michael Moore, and the "Vote or Die" campaign, all things considered, the number of 18-24 year-olds who voted is about the same as it was last time.

-I'm peeved that my political party did not nominate an electable candidate.  I blame Iowa.

-No, really.  I'm not so much peeved at the electoral vote system -- what I'm peeved at is the PRIMARY system.  Specifically, the non-simultaneous-primary system, by which people in just a few states are given an inordinate amount of power over deciding who the parties will actually run.

-I'm peeved at the exit polls, which predicted results before voting had closed in some states.  And were extraodinarily wrong.

-I'm also peeved at the pre-vote polls.  A few years ago, we had a proposition on the California ballot -- can't remember what it was -- might have been the one to eliminate affirmative action.  Pre-election polls said it was a dead heat, too close to call.  (Ditto the exit polls.)  But when we actually voted, it won by a landslide.  The talking heads concluded that people lied to pollsters -- they were too embarassed to admit they were voting for the option that was considered "politically incorrect."  But in the privacy of the voting booth, they voted for it.  Where was the lesson learned from this?  I am peeved that the pollsters are still relying on the old paradigms and not trying to account for the fact that people tend to lie when they're voting for what appears to be an unpopular option.  (And if they can't account for it, they ought to just give the heck up.)

Monday, November 1, 2004

This Space for Whining

So, this day was my first day with my new boss (my old boss inconveniently retiring).  It was going pretty well -- despite the rather large amount of work he gave me -- until about 4:30 when I kind of, um, accidentally deleted the entire document I'd been working on all day. 

Took me a little bit of time to recreate it.  Ended up not going home until about 8:00.

Logged on and tried a journal entry (about my Halloween and the cool pumpkin I carved).  Midway through, my hand skipped, hit a bizarre key combination, and ended up not only deleting the entry but also disconnecting me from AOL entirely.

Came online again, frustrated, to write this entry.  Got a few lines into it when the phone rang.  Picked up the phone.  Computer went to sleep.  By the time I hung up, I came back on to finish the entry.  AOL appeared to be connected, but when I tried to do anything, I got a Host Not Responding error.

Screw it.  I'm going to sleep.

Friday, October 29, 2004

In Praise of Childhood Snacks

My snack of choice:  pretzels.

I nosh on pretzels very nearly 24/7.  I keep a bag in my desk drawer for when I get a craving at work.  I can hardly watch television without them.  They're the perfect fat-free treat.

I have always eaten pretzels.  My parents started me on 'em young.  One of my earliest memories is sitting in the back of the car on some sort of road trip, clutching my bag of pretzels.  Mmm, salty snacks.

So, it shouldn't surprise you to know that whenever I stop off at the store for a few emergency items, I always pick up a bag of pretzels.  I've tried many brands, and can generally rank them (the store brands are better than most name brands; the Snyder's of Hanover are preferable to Rold Gold). 

A couple weeks ago, I was in need of a few emergency grocery items, so I stopped off at a grocery store -- a different chain from where I do my usual shopping.  And there I saw them:  Laura Scudders Pretzels.

Memories I never knew I had came flooding back.  Laura Scudders was "my brand" when I was a kid.  I grew up with them.  I fell in love with pretzels with them.  I was extremely peeved when our local store stopped carrying them and I had to switch to Tem-Tees (another one I don't think you can find anymore).  They were the best mini-twist pretzels.  The perfect pretzel-to-salt ratio.  I bought a bag, for old time's sake.

I ate it in two sittings.  And since then, I don't think a day has gone by that I haven't thought about them.  I've got to go back to that store and buy them out!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

This Week's Homework -- Morbid Poetry

For this week's homework, Scalzi gives us another reader suggested assignment (and we know those are all brilliant, right)?

>>This week's Weekend Assignment is another reader suggestion, this time from isckwootton, and just in time for Halloween:

Write your own, preferably rhyming, epitaph.  For example,

Here lies Jed,
He fell out of bed.<<

Okey doke.

Here doesn't lie the body of Sharon
She died while trying something darin'
Rode a zorb down a real steep hill
Wanted to stop but she never will

Sorry and Thanks

Sorry the updates have been a little thin lately.  Seems that since I got back from vacation, I've been too busy living life to write about it.  (I assume everyone else who keeps a journal has been there at one time or another.)  Blah blah, cat's still cute, blah.

But before I write anything else, I wanted to thank John for using my idea for a weekend assignment last week and also thank everyone who responded to it.  I've been clicking links like nobody's business since it went up, and it's been a real stroll down TV Memory Lane for me.  I guess I've watched an awful lot of TV in my time, because nearly every one of the replies has made me think, "Oh yeah!  I remember that one!"  So, thanks for that.

(Besides, y'know, my thanks for actually playing.  Because it would really stink to propose a weekend assignment and have, like, two people answer it.  Not like I'm all about comment-counting or anything.  But there are certain situations -- and this is one of them -- where you really want to hear something other than crickets.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Cruising and Politics Don't Mix

One final note about the cruise.  The final morning, when we had our last breakfast together, several passengers were wearing George W. Bush pins.  The pins had been absent during the cruise.  Indeed, all political pins, buttons, T-shirts... even talk was simply not there.  It was as though we all followed some unwritten rule about not going there and making the rest of the week uncomfortable (as you know it would be if the 80-some people on the boat divided themselves into partisan camps).  As it was, all we had going was some good old-fashioned rivalries over the pennant races.  Cool.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Homework: Good Old Television

Well, of course, I have to take a break from the travel journal in order to answer this week's weekend assignment.  Especially since, y'know, it's the one I submitted.

>>"With the upcoming New Fall TV Line-Up, I get to thinking about the last Golden Age of Television (whenever the heck THAT was).

"Assignment:  What gone, but not forgotten, TV series do you miss the most?

Extra Credit:
  If you had to be on a game show or reality show, which one would it be?"<<

Well, I did have a show in mind when I submitted this one.  Homicide:  Life on the Street.  It was, without a doubt, the best thing on television.  A brilliant show, with multi-dimensional characters -- all of the heroes had flaws -- that wasn't afraid to tackle difficult subjects with the depth they deserved.  The cast was a highly talented ensemble, although Andre Braugher stood out in the character of Frank Pembleton, a searingly intelligent detective who could talk you into confessing a crime you didn't commit.  Whenever anyone starts calling television the "idiot box," I play them a tape of one of my favorite episodes -- to show how much value television can have (and still be entertaining as all get-out.)

I also had an answer in mind for the extra credit.  I've actually auditioned for two shows in my lifetime.  When I was in junior high school, I auditioned for Teen Week on Wheel of Fortune.  (Made it to the callback stage, but did not get further.)  And just a few months ago, I found myself in a studio doing an audition video for, um, a spinoff of a highly successful reality show -- the spinoff being called, Queer Eye for the Straight Girl.  I didn't get on that one either.  While somewhat disappointed that I would not be getting a free personal and home makeover, I prefer to think of it as a positive thing that there were other people who needed the style assistance of the gay community more than I do.



Trip Journal -- Day Seven

15 Oct. 2004

Ack!  There's a man outside my window!

OK, here's the thing.  My cabin window faces, y'know, outdoors.  Generally, river.  (This was the view this morning.)

And, conversely, if you happen to be outside, you have to be pretty much up against the window to see anything inside.  And seeing as there's no, y'know, walkway outside my window (unless we're docked or something), I've taken to changing with the window open.  I mean, who am I going to flash?  Some salmon?

So, after our 2-hour kayak (which was great -- more on that below), I come back to my cabin to change.

I'm tucking my shirt into my jeans, preparing to zip up, when Pete, the bosun, pops his head in and says "Hi!" through my open window.  He's walking on this little rail (here, let my get a photo)

That thin grey thing along the side of the ship.  He's walking on that.

So, Pete's walking on this rail alongside the boat, bringing some kayaks over to the starboard side, and he just pops in and says hi.  Scared the scat out of me (as we've taken to saying).

So.  Kayaking.  Last day.  Puget Island.  Two hours.  My partner is Kelly, one of the "adult daughter" passengers.  She's really fun -- she likes getting ahead of the other kayaks; she grew up around a lake so knows a bit about paddling (and birds, which we're seeing a lot of) AND she brought along a bag of peanut M&M's for a sugar rush/protein break right when we needed it.

We saw a couple of great blue herons, a speck-in-a-tree which I'm told was a bald eagle, and various other birds.

The kayaking was through a shallow waterway through some untamed greenery (our guide, Chris, said other passengers told him it reminded them of the Everglades).  We ended up going through single file, and Kelly and I took a position right behind Chris.  At one point, a tree fallen in the water blocked Chris's boat. He pushed a branch out of the way and went through.  We followed with a little difficulty -- not as smoothly as Chris, but we made it through.

Chris had to go back, though, to help some of the other boats, and he told us to just go on ahead.  (Best.  Guide.  Ever.)  So here's me & Kelly, scouting out our own path.  So cool, being in front -- like you're the only boat out there in this serene natural environment.

We'd paddle some, then just coast -- to listen for birds, sneak up on one for a photo op, or just make sure the other paddlers didn't get too far behind.

Chris had been my guide the other day -- when I was with Jack.  I mentioned he told us some stuff about running in shallow water and how to turn really quick with the paddles (and not the rudder).  Like I said, I'm a quick study.  Today, we reached a patch of really shallow water.  Chris just goes, "It's really shallow here," and right away, Kelly and I are all up with the rudder and steering with the paddles.  So we're through with no problem -- and one other boat gets out easy with us.  So here's us, back out in good water, hanging out, snapping pics with the other boat, and I look back and see Chris at the shallow part helping each of the other boats get through.  Oh yeah.  Kelly and I rock.

The duration was good, too.  Actually, I'm no more wiped from the 2-hour paddle with Kelly than I was from the one-hour "showtune cruise" the other day.  I'm more recovered from the hike, had a better stroke (several, actually) and a good strong partner.  The last 15 minutes or so back to the boat were tiring, but if we'd come in after only an hour, I would have been extremely disappointed.

That it, I think -- the last "adventure" of the adventure cruise.  The rest is just lots of cruising -- to the mouth of the Coumbia and then back to Portland, the Captain's dinner (I'm planning to wear a casual cotton dress and hiking boots) and whatever Scrabble games Gerde can talk people into. 

It's been a blast.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Trip Journal -- Day Six, Second Entry

14 Oct. 2004, later

We signed up for our last kayaking session (tomorrow morning) after dinner.

My first session was an hour and a half.  After that, I only signed up for one-hour paddles because I was so wiped from the hike.  (Had I not hiked, I was all set to go for 2 hours and maybe work up to 3 on the last session.)  Today, I am exhausted from rafting, but it's a different, good kind of exhaustion.

I look at the sign-up for 1 hour kayaking (my pal Jack has already put his name down).  I also indecisively peek at the 2 hour.

Kristina, our guide, holds the 2-hour sign-up sheet and says, "C'mon, I know you can do it."  I reply, "Last time I listened to you, I ended up hiking up a mountain."  Her retort:  "You did it, right?"

I have half a mind to say, "That's not the point," but, given a split-second to think about it, I think it probably is.  I pick up the pen and sign up for 2-hour kayaking first thing tomorrow morning.

(I am so getting a massage when I get back to L.A.)

Trip Journal -- Day Six

14 Oct. 2004

OK.  I love rafting.  Love it, love it, love it.

That's me on the left, in the sun.

Today, rafting the White Salmon river in Washington.  A class 3-4 with one (count it, one) class 5 rapid.  Perfect for me, really, as I was just about ready to try out the class 5 experience but didn't want to jump into a big old "expert" river.

This was great.  Before we went over the 12-foot waterfall, our guide (a grandmother of 2) pulled us over, re-inflated the raft, and made surea ll our ducks were in a row (in this case, the photographer and the rescue team).  Better safe than swimming and all that.

I was quite proud of myself -- I may be one of the weaker kayakers on the ship, but I'm a good strong paddler when it comes to rafting.  And I'm also pleased to report I was the first one back in position ready to paddle when the guide yelled for us to get back up (from our official positions of cowering in the raft for going over the waterfall).  I'm guessing that if everyone had gotten up and was ready to paddle, we wouldn't have run on that rock.  Ah well -- minor setback.  Nobody got thrown from the boat (and no injuries of any kind) which makes it a good trip by my reckoning. 

Well, that and the "I rafted over a 12-foot waterfall!  Woo-hoo!" thing.

Trip Journal -- Day Five, Fifth (and final) entry

13 Oct. 2004

I now give you, in terms you will understand, the average age of our passengers.

Tonight, we had movie night.  A list of films was offered, and a group of passengers (largely of the female persuasion) made the decision. 

Our passengers overwhelmingly voted for The Princess Bride.  Even when another choice was Pirates of the Caribbean.

That's the age of the women on this boat.

Trip Journal -- Day Five, Fourth Entry

13 Oct. 2004 (still)

I am retiring from Scrabble.

Yesterday, a fellow passenger peer pressured me into a game.  I'm a fair player at best.  I haven't had a game of Scrabble since before Law School; I don't have a list of a hundred 2-letter words at my fingertips; and whenever I did play, it was always the friendly type of game where there were no challenges and you could look in the dictionary whenever you damn well pleased.

This here, on the other hand, was by-the-rules, go-on-and-challenge-me-if-you-don't-think-it's-a-word Scrabble, and I was in over my head.

I actually didn't do so bad, losing by something like ten points.  And this only because:  I had good tiles; I got a very lucky play; and there was a third person in the game.  My main competition, a passenger named Gerde, is someone who I could never beat one-on-one.  But the third person kept opening spaces on the board and leaving plays I could take advantage of -- which Gerde never would have given me.

So, really, it was not the slaughter it should have been.  Several of the other passengers (including Andrew, of monopod fame) gave me a good-natured ribbing for losing to someone whose language isn't English -- but, really, I considered myself lucky to lose with dignity.

Besides, my game improved just by playing with Gerde, and I told her so.  When you're playing friendly Scrabble, like I used to, you just play your tiles -- you don't try to screw the other guy.  Gerde played offense and defense.  And she worked them multiplier squares.

One thing I'll say for me -- I'm a quick study.  Gerde found me this morning and wanted another game.  This time, we had two other players (thank goodness).  I had reasonably good tiles, some extraordinary luck and, ultimately, the best Scrabble game of my life.  I also had a close, yet decisive, victory.

Gerde asked for another game and I demurred.  I shook her hand, happy to have come out of things with a split decision, and "retired" from the game for the duration of the cruise.

Funny enough, I ended up having a couple meals with Gerde and her husband.  They're a nice couple and have been almost surprisingly friendly.  I felt like I'd passed some sort of test once Gerde found me a worthy Scrabble opponent.

Ultimately, the Scrabble was a good thing.  I'd dreaded playing Gerde at first -- because I hate appearing ignorant and (having watched her play) I was pretty sure I wouldn't come out in the best light if we played.  But I ended up finding out that underneath her competitive exterior, she's really quite a nice, warm person who I'm looking forward to spending more time with.

Just not over a Scrabble board.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Trip Journal -- Day Five, Third Entry

I guess I wrote a lot on Day Five.

13 Oct. 2004

"This cookie is broken.  It's not good enough to serve to the guests," I overheard the crewmember say as she walked off eagerly with two cookie halves in her hand (on their way to her mouth).

Took me back to when I work concessions at a local movie theater and some of the staff would "waste" candy.  Which is to say, should there happen to be anything wrong with some candy -- like a torn wrapper, broken bar or smushed edge -- something that rendered the candy unfit for sale but still suitable for human consumption, the candy would be taken in back, accounted for on the inventory as "waste," and disposed of however the staff saw fit.

Given this policy -- and the fact that our employee discount did not, in fact, apply to candy -- it wasn't long before the crew started "wasting" candy whenever they got a sweet tooth. Management caught on and instituted a policy whereby a manager had to see all "wasted" candy and approve it as genuinely unsellable before we could officially "waste" it.  This, in turn, led to such practices as restocking the candy shelf by taking aim from 20 or 30 feet away and pitching the candy toward the shelf.  The results were, of course, too battered to be sold and thus were approved as "waste." 

Management only succeeded in putting an end to hazardous candy chucking games when the policy became:  all wasted candy must be turned in to management for management to dispose of.  No point in "accidentally" breaking a candy bar for your manager to eat.