Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Scientific Illiteracy

And here's me with a comment that's too long.  (Man, how did we ever journal when we were limited to 2000 characters per entry?)

Scalzi has an entry here about the "scientific illiteracy" of our country.  And it isn't pretty.  In the comments, our pal monponsett left the following comment:

>>As long as you know not to jump in fire or play the radio in the tub, science is overrated.

Look at 99% of the jobs people have in the USA. How many truly involve the need to know the chemical symbol for silver? How many need to know what temp water boils at? Is there any future practical use for dissecting a frog?

Science was overemphasized in school because we feared that the Russians could hit us with missiles before our bombers could get to them. You can look it up.

Watch this....

"Hey, Stacey.... what's a molecule?"

"Who cares?"<<

I got all riled up about this and tried to leave a comment in reply, but I got overly wordy in my riled-ness, so I'm moving the comment to an entry over here.  It says: 

I hope you folks like monponsett are joking.  If there's one thing that's even scarier than the amount of US citizens who are ignorant about science, it's that some of them are CELEBRATING that ignorance rather than being secretly ashamed and doing something about it.

As the article quoted by Scalzi points out, the "inability to understand basic scientific concepts undermines [the] ability to take part in the democratic process."  In other words -- no, you might not need to know what a molecule is in order to perform your daily job, but you CERTAINLY need to know it to participate rationally in political debate and to cast an informed vote on critical issues. 

To take just one little (huge) example, I have a very hard time dealing with the religious folks who believe "intelligent design" (i.e. creationism) should be taught in schools as an "alternate theory" to evolution.  But if you don't even take the time to understand the science behind evolution, how do you expect to have an even borderline intelligent discussion about this?

Peoplewho don't have a clue as to DNA might have a hard time joining a discussion about cloning (or doing their civic duty on a jury); people who don't understand radiation might have a hard time joining a reasoned debate about nuclear power and weapons. 

Not to mention that we damn well BETTER raise a new generation of scientists -- not to "beat the Russians" in the Cold War -- but to, oh, I don't know, SAVE LIVES.  Compare the tsunami with hurricane Katrina.  Thousands and thousands of people got the heck out of Katrina's devastating path because:  (1) scientists were able to predict where the hurricane was going; (2) people were "hooked up" to enough technology (thanks, science!) to instantly communicate the message to evacuate; and (3) science provided the means (cars, busses, bridges, roads) for them to quickly move away.  Think of all the lives that could have been spared if we'd had a good tsunami-warning system set up, phones and radios to get the message out, and quick means to flee.

Ignorance is never a good thing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Damn again

I can't 'blog anything other than Katrina right now.  Sure, I have vague inclinations of talking about my custom-ordered jeans; or my cat peeing on my comforter (the discovery of which prompted me to say, for the first time in my life, "Oh you did not just"); or even the fact that I just used the word "blog" as a verb with a direct object -- but they all pale in comparison.

I mean, in my last entry, I was all concerned about the Potential Worst Case Scenario.  And when I woke up the next morning and learned that the levees had held and the death toll was in double-digits, I was relieved that it was nowhere near as bad as I'd feared, and I even felt a little silly for getting all worked up over it.

And then today -- the levee broke, 80% of New Orleans is underwater, the whole city is uninhabitable, there's no drinking water, there won't be power for at least a month, there's no communications, and everyone is so busy rescuing people from their rooftops they just have to leave the dead bodies where they find them. 

I like to think of myself as a person who is moved by tragedy wherever it occurs -- that when there's loss of life on the other side of the planet, it is just as devastating as loss of life here.  And I do believe that.  I even thought the Mississippi politician who called Katrina "our tsunami" was laying it on a bit thick, as the loss of life here was nowhere near as catastrophic as the loss in the tsunami. 

And yet, I can't get past the fact that this is the first time in my lifetime that I've ever had to get my brain around the destruction of an entire American city

I've never been to New Orleans.  I've always wanted to see it, and I even toyed with going a few years ago.  And it's gone now.  Thank God so many people got out in time and we're mostly talking about a loss of property.  But it's a whole city.  I'm speechless.

Does anyone else remember that TV movie in the early '80s called "Special Bulletin"?  It was a "War of the Worlds" style thing ... fiction presented as though it were real news reports ... about terrorists who threaten to detonate a nuclear bomb inCharleston.  I've been thinking about that today.  In the movie, they do, in fact, detonate the bomb, rendering Charleston uninhabitable (or a great big pile of rubble -- I saw this thing 22 years ago, it's hard to recall).  The thing is, at the end of the movie, they show a little bit of the aftermath -- all of the death and destruction and loss of life, and loss of homes.  But what I think I recall from this -- and, in fact, what my mind kept going back to today -- was that it also ended with life going on.  I mean, here was this big, huge, incomprehensible loss of a city, but once that was reported, the newscasters moved on to the "in other news" segment of the show. 

It seemed kind of heartless and chilling at the time, but I'm taking an odd sort of comfort in it now.  Even in the face of the most overwhelming loss, life goes on.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Can't Sleep

It's hard for me to go to sleep tonight.  I'm watching old sitcoms on Nick-at-Nite, and flipping to CNN during each commercial break.  CNN doesn't have much to say about hurricane Katrina, but they're saying it anyway.  Pictures -- from earlier in the day -- of clogged highways travelling in a single direction (away) and soggy newscasters shouting over the din of the winds.  The hurricane hasn't hit yet, but the preparation is itself the big story.

And I know that I'll go to sleep to one world, and wake up to another one.

One, perhaps, without New Orleans.

Which is to say, if the worst case scenario hits, we're talking about: massive flooding; buildings collapsing in the winds; windows, trees and cars flying around; many low-rise buildings completely destroyed; and the whole place without power and (potable) water for weeks.  And up to as many as 50,000 dead. 


The last time I felt like this was during (well, immediately after) the Northridge Earthquake.  It hit around 4:30 in the morning, and even out in Pasadena there was a good deal of shaking.  My first thought after an earthquake ends is:  where was it centered?  Once you get over the initial shock of it all, you want for the earthquake to have been centered directly beneath you.  Because the farther away it was, the stronger it was, and the more damage it caused.  So I turned on the TV to get preliminary reports on the center of this thing.

I turned on the TV before local newscasters got their acts together.  Most were showing their overnight programming and it took a few minutes for them to put someone on camera and start putting things together.  It took way too long for this to happen.  (I joked to myself that I could walk to CalTech faster and get the information.)  But eventually, a local station put a newsguy on, and the newsguy ran the camera around their office (in Burbank, I think), and I could see the sort of damage caused there -- big file boxes fell off shelves.

And I knew nothing that heavy had fallen off my shelves, so I knew Burbank was closer to the center of this thing than I was. 

And then phone calls started pouring into the station, and the newsguy (who probably wasn't a newsguy at all, but whoever happened to be in the station at the time) started reporting what I had already figured out -- that this was big.

I watched for about an hour.  By that time, they'd gotten a camera out to a bit of the Santa Monica freeway that had collapsed.  They showed a view from underneath the freeway, where there was a concrete pier reinforced with metal rods inside it, and the pier had collapsed to the point where you could see the metal rods within all bent like spaghetti.

And this was pretty much the only picture of the destruction that the TV reporters could get their hands on, so they kept coming back to it.

And I kept thinking -- this wasn't the center of this earthquake.  There's a lot more damage farther north and we don't know what it is.

And the news wasn't coming fast enough.  After watching for an hour or so (and reaching my family by phone and confirming we were all alive), I realized I would just have to go to sleep and wait for the news to sort itself out.  And I turned off the TV and went to sleep, knowing that I would wake up to a world with a hell of a lot more destruction than one little freeway pier collapsing.

And that's how I feel now.  Of course, the difference is, with the earthquake, the destruction had already happened (we just didn't know the scope of it), while with Katrina, we know it's coming, but it hasn't yet hit. 

But still, I'm going to sleep with the same sort of dread.  Even with the best case scenario (CNN just downgraded Katrina to a category 4), I still know the world I wake up to tomorrow is going to be an awful lot worse than the world I'm going to sleep in tonight.  And I guess I'm thinking that by postponing going to sleep, I can somehow stave off the inevitable.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

This week's homework: The Wannas

For this week's homework, Scalzi asks:

Weekend Assignment #74: Forget about the things you need -- Tell us about something you want. Preferably something useless and/or expensive. In other words: Toys! Something fun and/or sparkly and/or indulgent that you don't already have but wouldn't mind getting, if someone were offering.

Extra Credit: Do you really think getting that toy would make you happier?

As you may have noticed (see the entry right beneath this one), I've got bathrooms on my mind.  What with the leak from the bathroom upstairs, the hole in my ceiling to investigate it, the damage done to the wallpaper from the aforementioned items, and the, er, mold, I'm definitely going to need some new drywall and a paint job. 

Don't believe me?  Here's a couple shots which I hope someday to refer to as the "before" pictures:

Lovely, innit? 

So, fixing up this area is something I need.  But looking around at all the cool things you can do to your bathroom has definitely given me a case of the wants.  I mean, sure, repairing all this would be nice, but wouldn't it be even nicer if I put in, oh, a ten-jet body spa multi-shower-head shower?  With footbath?  Or a seven-thousand dollar whirlpool bath with water-jet back massage?

As for the extra credit question, do I really think getting this would make me happier?  Ask me again when I'm immersing myself in all that hydro-luxury.  Pool boy!  More champagne please.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Joys of Home Ownership

I live in a condo.  On the second floor of a three-story building.

My condo has two bathrooms.

There's a problem in the guest bathroom -- specifically, a leak from the condo upstairs.  It has taken us months, a hole in my ceiling, and two different plumbers to finally find the cause of the leak.  I've got to say, right now, that my upstairs neighbor has been really cool about this and has wanted to get to the bottom of this as much as I have.  Especially because both of us have a bathroom that is out of service.  Her -- because they've torn up her floor; me -- because they put a hole in my ceiling through which water occasionally comes.  (At least the hole is right over my bathtub, so we aren't destroying the carpet or anything.)  Yesterday, she had some people out to do repairs.  I heard this awful racket coming from upstairs.  I peeked up into the hole and saw a face.  That's right -- they've gone so far into her floor that we can now pass notes to each other through our bathrooms. 

And did I mention the mold?  The water that's been coming through the hole in my ceiling has created some mold on the drywall around the edge of my tub enclosure.  As a rule, I'm not generally particular about having my bathroom all sparkling clean, disinfected and sanitized, but I do like to think I'll be cleaner coming out of the shower than I was when I went in.  So the guest bathroom is off-limits for the time being.

Which leaves me with the master bathroom.  Where I found Jasmine (my cat) when I came home last night.  She was sitting on the edge of the tub, staring with great intensity at the faucet fixture.  More precisely, at the water dribbling out of the handle, kinda like a little fountain.  Ah, cats and their fascination with gurgling water.  I tried tightening the handle, but it only made the water pour out faster.

Which is why I'm not at work right now, and am instead sitting at home, waiting for a plumber.

Help me.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Sometimes The Movie Deserves It

One of my favorite online time-killers is to read review snippets at Rotten Tomatoes.  (Rotten Tomatoes is that website that tells you what percentage of movie critics thought a movie was good (fresh) or bad (rotten).  And it has a one-sentence snippet from every review.)  And what I like best is reading the snippets from pans.

I'm a bit of theatre critic myself, and I never give reviews like this.  Probably because it's easier to be mean to a movie than it is to be to a play; I mean, with a play, you've actually spent two hours breathing the same air as these people.  When you mock a bad movie, you're insulting folks you've never met.  It gives you a certain degree of freedom.

But, man, I love reading them.  Of the five movies coming out this weekend (well, the five that made it to their front page) two got "fresh" ratings and three got "rotten."  And one of those was so rotten that only 3 percent of the critics thought it was good.  So, let's click on through to a see a sample of what Rotten Tomatoes' critics thought of Supercross: The Movie.  A few of choice excerpts are:

Angel Cohn of TV Guide's Movie Guide says:
"Director Steve Boyum's loud, down-and-dirty ride through the world of Supercross motorcycle racing comes to a screeching halt for its many pit stops for Hollywood cliches."

Elizabeth Weitzman of New York Daily News describes it as:
"A film whose level of imagination can be discerned right from its title."

David Foucher of Edge Boston sums it up with:
"Dumb as dirt."

Mark Olsen at LA Weekly comes up with:
"When huge chunks of character development and narrative exposition are relegated to a track announcer’s running commentary, it can never be a good sign."

And MaryAnn Johanson, Flick Filosopher scores with:
"And then came Supercross: The Movie, the long-anticipated filmic adaptation of Shakespeare's lost play..."

And if you think those are good, take a look at the jabs reserved for Dukes of Hazzard, several of which left me chortling away ("If this is how Bo and Luke translate to the big screen, I’d hate to see the movie versions of Coy and Vance." From Jeffrey Westhoff, Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, IL).)

The pans are so darn fun to read -- and Rotten Tomatoes does all the work for you, collecting the best little excerpts --  I actually look forward to the release of bad movies, so I can get a good laugh over what happens when the nation's critics are let loose on a real stinker.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The World of Entertainment

1.  Did you watch Queer Eye for the Straight Guy this week?  They did that Danny guy from The Apprentice.  (The dude who wore lots of polyester and made up songs at inappropriate times.)  He was preparing this charity launch event so the ol' Fab 5 came to help him out.  And, to come full circle on the Reality TV crossover, they brought him back to Trump's boardroom so Trump could be all approving of his transformation.  That's the set up.  My point:  If you were Danny, and you've just done this great big charity launch party, and you're sitting there in Donald Trump's boardroom, with lots of cameras filming you both for television, and Trump is heaping praise on you for how great you are, why do you not take this opportunity to ask him how much he'd like to contribute?

2.  And speaking of Queer Eye, what is up with that show this season?  They seem to be focussing on just blowing their budget on something really exciting for the straight guy, rather than tidying him up and making him all presentable.  Some of these events (like the one with the High School students) are really touching and all, but, guys, you're falling down on the job.  Your task is to clean up the clueless heterosexuals.  You haven't finished yet.  Trust me, they're still out there.  I can give you several phone numbers...

3.  I see on AOL news that Pierce Brosnan will no longer be James Bond.  I wonder why I actually care about this as I haven't even seen all of his Bond films.  Because they kinda blow.  It wasn't his fault; it's more like...  I almost get the feeling that we, as a whole, have more or less outgrown Bond as we knew him in the good old days.  I think what's called for is a radical reimagining of the franchise.  Hell, it worked for Batman.

4.  I am annoyed that the rest of the world isn't as enamored with the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake as I am.  (Last week, more people saw Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo.  I fear for the future.)  I was as skeptical as anyone going in.  I mean, I'd loved the Gene Wilder version, didn't see any reason for a remake, and was concerned by the previews.  Because, come on, Johnny Depp looked like a girl.  But as soon as he did that entrance scene in front of the chocolate factory, I totally got what he was doing.  I mean, he's playing a guy who has actually sequestered himself inside a factory for the past fifteen years, so he's got a total disconnect with the way normal human beings interact.  (Which may be why so many people are reminded of Michael Jackson when they see it.)  It's brilliant.  I will own the DVD.

5.  I had a song (REM's "These Days") stuck in my head.  For weeks.  I'd put it on an infinite loop on my ipod and just listen for, like, hours.  Finally, I found another song I kinda liked (Counting Crows' "Angels of the Silences").  Did it kick "These Days" out of the endless repeat zone in my head?  No.  Now I just alternate between the two of them.  Help me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I have HOW MUCH new mail?

It's been some time since I've last a journalled a complaint about AOL....

I don't have AOL at work, but I check my email by going to  When you log in the new screen, it shows a little mailbox and the number of "new mail"s in it.  If the mailbox is empty, it'll show a zero.

I have six screen names.  It works fine for five of them.  For the sixth, it wouldn't show anything next to the little mailbox.  Whether there was mail in there or not, it wouldn't show ANY number (not even a zero).

Today, I logged into with that screen name.  As it turns out, there was no mail in my box.

Guess how much mail it said I have.

It said "-2."

Honest.  I had negative mail.  Did this mean I owed two people some messages?  Or was it that I'd received two pieces of spam and it was AOL's way of telling me it had deleted them unread?

Can't wait to see what it'll say tomorrow.  Maybe I'll have π mail.  Or maybe i.  That'd be fun.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

This week's homework: The Great Debate

For this week's homework, Scalzi asks:

Which is better -- cake or pie? Explain your reasoning. Will you choose the moist sponginess and frosting-topped goodness of cake? Or will you side with those flaky crust-adoring, fruit-filling fanatics of the pie nation? You must choose one -- and only one! No trying to suggest that Boston Creme Pie is really kind of like a cake, or how cheesecake is actually not unlike a pie. Take a stand! Be true to your pastry orientation!

Extra Credit: Having chosen cake or pie, now admit your favorite variety of the dessert you did not choose. So if you chose cake, tell us your favorite pie. Prefer pie? Tell us your favorite cake.

I am my father's daughter, so... Pie.  Pie, pie, pie!  It's got fruit in it so it's healthy and everything.  (And you can put ice cream on top to get your RDA of calcium.  I'm telling you.  It's totally good for you.)  Speaking of which, what the heck happened to Baker's Square's fresh raspberry pie?  Their website says it's "seasonal," but I haven't been able to hit the right season in years.  That was some good pie.  [/drool]

Extra credit:  Easy.  Warm chocolate lava cake (again accompanied by ice cream).  Actually, the lava itself isn't mandatory -- generally, I'm pretty happy with anything in the warm chocolate cake family with something hot fudge-like around to melt the ice cream.



Just received an invitation for my 20-year High School Reunion.

Conveniently, I will be out of town that weekend, so I don't have to decide whether to attend.

I'd be leaning towards "no" anyway.  Conventional wisdom seems to be that your 20th reunion isn't any fun, as everyone is still trying to impress everyone else with whatever it is that they've accomplished -- and the damn things don't get any fun until at least your 30th.

I also just happen to carry around some "reunion baggage."

See, it all dates back to Elementary School.  I didn't have the best experience in 5th and 6th grade.  I wasn't what you'd call really into the whole "playground" side of things.  I lacked hand-eye coordination, and didn't have the strength to serve a volleyball over the net.  I was behind the curve when compared with other students my age -- but since I'd skipped a grade (due to academics), I was even farther behind my classmates physically.  So, playground time for my class generally involved me losing every game of handball we played (unless I happened to be lucky enough to play against Yi-Jin, a girl who was even less adept than I was), the rest of the class laughing at me and making me cry, which of course led to them mocking me for crying, which led to me crying even more.

It was around this time that I started keeping a list of people who I planned to ruin financially when I got older.  Or, alternatively, I had visions of meeting the class bullies again some twenty years down the road, when I'd get to say those five magic words:  "Will the defendant please rise...."

Anyway, fifth and six grades were something of a daily cry-fest for me, even though I did have several friends in my class, and was even voted "Most Intelligent" by my fifth grade classmates.  (Kids are weird.  "Uh, yeah, we hate her and we love making her cry, but we gotta admit she's smart.")

A few years later ... we were probably in Junior High, although I don't recall exactly ... one of my friends from Elementary School called and told me that our sixth grade class was having a reunion.  She told me about it; she didn't invite me.  Because, y'know, I wasn't invited.  (Me and Yi-Jin were the only ones omitted from the guest list.)  And my friend said, "I told them you'd changed, and you were cool now, but they wouldn't listen."

And I was really hurt by that.  And I cried because these kids weren't even willing to give me a freakin' chance.  And then I cried again out of frustration because these kids still had the power to make me cry.  (And then my daydreams turned to me dressing up like a tough biker chick--I'm not even sure I knew what a tough biker chick looked like--and crashing the reunion.)

And I thought about it.  And I thought about it some more.  And I thought about my friend who'd said, "I told them you'd changed, and you were cool now."  And then I realized, I don't want to have anything to do with these people until you're telling me that they've changed.  And that if my so-called friend couldn't see that, I needed some new friends.

So, no, I don't want to go to my High School reunion where it's all about everyone showing everyone else that they're cool now.  I'll wait until the reunion when everyone actually is.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Jon Stewart can keep the desk.

I've been quite ticked about the new Daily Show set.  Y'know, what with the couch being gone.  I miss the couch.  Gave the show a nice, friendly, informal feel. 

Or so I thought.

Watched The Daily Show tonight and couldn't help but notice how much friendlier the desk is for a disabled guest.  Dude just wheeled right on up to the desk.  No awkward  rearranging of furniture so he could park beside the couch; no having the guest transfer to the couch during a commercial break.  Just entered and sat at the desk like everyone else.

OK, fine.  In the interest of accessibility, I withdraw my protest.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Can you tell I went on another blind date?

See, here's the thing:

I love my job.  I'm good at it.  I take pride in being good at it.  I work late, if I have to, because I get the work done.  It's what I do.

At the same time, I believe in "fun."  I have an annual pass to Disneyland and I'm not afraid to use it.  I've spent too much money on concert tickets.  I have a snowglobe collection.  I have toys and games and little doohickeys that do fun things.  And (despite the whole jeans thing) I still enjoy warm chocolate cake with ice cream on top. 

What I'm trying to say here is that I'm something of a "work hard, play hard" type of gal.  Totally grounded and responsible when it comes to work; happy to be totally frivolous when it doesn't.  Thrilled to pieces that I get paid enough for the former to be able to afford the latter.

And it is this balance that seems to be so hard to find in straight single males in my age group.  Frequently, I meet guys who are solidly into the playing hard camp, but don't balance this out with a good solid job.  Perhaps this is because I have the misfortune to be seeking a relationship in the Los Angeles area -- but a very high percentage of the guys I meet are waiting tables or doing other temporary work while they're trying to sell their screenplay.  I need to be clear on this.  I'm not looking for a guy with a career because I want him to take care of me.  I'm looking for a guy with a career because I have one.  Which is to say that caring about my job is a significant part of my personality, and I don't match well with someone who is this side of 35 and still isn't settled.

And then there's the other side of the coin -- guys who are so solidly into their work that they don't believe in fun.  The sort of guy who seems uncomfortable if he's not wearing a tie.  The guy who doesn't even own a television set, and to whom I'd have to justify my penchant for Reality TV.  You know the type of person I'm talking about here.  Grown-ups, without the soft chewy childhood bit on the inside.

It's generally one or the other -- I'm having quite a difficult time finding someone with the same balance I have.  And so ... more blind dates for me.

Sunday, August 7, 2005

Me & My Big Fat Butt

I've noticed, of late, that the hummingbird-like metabolism of my youth has slowed down a bit, and weight has been gathering around various portions of my person.

I've treated this development with a certain amount of scientific curiosity, as I've been lucky enough to not really have to deal with the whole weight-gain thing in the past.  But, coming into my "mid-to-late" thirties (as I expect I'll be calling them right up to 39 1/2), weight gain seems to be the natural result of eating french fries everyday and not going to the gym (who knew?).  And I've learned where I store the extra pounds, as it were.

I appear to have what can politely be referred to as an "hourglass" shape.  Meaning that my spare weight collects itself around the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, rather than the Equator.  And while the gains in the Northern regions have been greeted with appreciation by certain males of the species (especially those in Construction), the more Southern increases have caused a little difficulty.

To wit:  I can't buy jeans.

I spent a rather frustrating afternoon at the mall, confirming this with "Jeans consultants" at several different stores.  These are the stores that come up with a bazillion different cuts of jeans "to fit every body."  So I'm standing there with a pair of low-rise, boot-cut, curvy body, short height jeans in what purport to be my size, and, well, there's a bit of a problem.

My butt is three sizes larger than my waist.  Honestly.  I am so not making this up.  If I put on some jeans large enough to fit my caboose, I can fit two fists comfortably in the space left between me and the waistband.  This isn't the sort of problem that can be solved with a belt; the damn things would just bunch up underneath it.

I can conceive of four solutions:

1.  Eat myself silly until my waist is proportionate to the rest of me.  This one does have the advantage of simplicity.  More french fries ought to do it.  But it is lacking in terms of, y'know, health.

2.  Diet and exercise until the rest of me is proportionate to my waist.  This one sounds good on paper, but requires substantial effort on my part.  Not to mention quite a bit of time.  So it's a long term proposition at best.  In the meantime, I still need to clothe myself.

3.  Custom made jeans.  My good pals at Lands' End promise custom jeans made to order to fit any butt.  (So does Target, by the way, and for a lot less money too.  Except, right now, their custom jeans are temporarily unavailable, so it doesn't do me a whole lot of good.)  The one downside with ordering custom jeans is that it takes three to four weeks for them to make up your individual pair of jeans -- and if you got one of your measurements (or "body types") wrong, it'll take another three to four weeks to re-do them.  ("What size pants do you normally wear?" It asks.  How the hell am I supposed to answer that?  I wear three different sizes!  That's why I'm custom-ordering, ya doink.)

4.  Buy more skirts.  Ah, skirts.  Big flowy ones that fit at the waist and just flare out everywhere else.  They're so forgiving.  My poor salesgirl at The Gap was so flummoxed by her inability to find a pair of jeans for me, she cheered right up when I found a skirt that fit.  (And was on sale.  So I was cheerful too.)

So, let's see what happens when my custom jeans arrive.  Of course, by then, I could be a size smaller.  (Or a size larger.)  The adventure begins.

Friday, August 5, 2005

This week's homework: Advice Not Taken

For this week's homework, (the vacationing) Scalzi asks:

Weekend Assignment #71: Recount the best piece of advice you were ever given... that you didn't take at the time.

Extra Credit:
Here in Scotland (where I am) they have a dish called haggis, "normally made with the following ingredients: sheep's heart, liver, and lungs (or "lights"), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock and traditionally boiled in the animal's stomach for several hours." Want some?

I'm glad you asked (not about the haggis, the other thing) as I've been thinking about journalling this particular piece of advice for some time.  And the advice was:  Read Biographies.

I remember, in elementary school, the teacher kept a great big chart on the wall with each student's name on it, and you would get to put a star next to your name for each book you read.  The class got to choose which color to assign to each genre of book, and we unanimously decided on gray for the biographies, as we thought biographies deserved the dullest color we could come up with.

Of course, that was when I was a kid, who was so eager to let my own imagination run wild on fiction, it never dawned on me that other people had actually lived lives which were well beyond anything I could have imagined.  But I'd thought all biographies were dry histories that began with "So-and-so was born in a small log cabin," and was unwilling to consider the possibility that I could find someone else's story to be interesting, much less inspiring.

Extra Credit:  I spent a few days in Scotland (Edinburgh) about a decade ago, and my friend and I both agreed we'd be willing to try a bite of haggis.  In the spirit of adventure and all that.  The problem was that you couldn't get a trial size portion of haggis; you had to buy the whole stomach-full, and neither of us thought we'd actually like it enough to go for a second bite.  I imagine restaurants in Scotland (and, indeed, everywhere you find busloads of tourists) might do a good business dealing in "sampler plates of local delicacies" (ideally, accompanied by samples of local beverages).  Because I think everyone would like to say they've tried it.

Thursday, August 4, 2005

End of the FedEx Fiasco

Came home to find my box o' shoes (courtesy FedEx) right outside my door.

Right next to (as it happened) a box of food from Omaha Steaks, which had been sent UPS.

While I'll never actually know how the shoes made it inside my gate this time (since we're now working on the assumption FedEx doesn't have a key), it appears that the only reason my FedEx parcel made it to the door was because there was a UPS parcel being delivered here as well.

I'm not asking.  I'm just wearing my new shoes while I eat some steak.  Hooray!

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Oops (FedEx Saga Part Three)

It, er, appears that perhaps I may owe FedEx an apology.

At dinner tonight, I found out that one of my neighbors had found the FedEx tags outside the gate, and (thinking she would help) had moved them inside to my mailbox.  I'm not clear on the details, but she may also have moved them back outside before FedEx arrived.

In other words, here's me thinking the FedEx rep is getting inside the gate, leaving tags on my mailbox, yet refusing to follow the instructions to come upstairs and leave the package outside my door -- while the FedEx rep is standing outside the gate, reading my directions to come in and leave the package, and thinking I'm a total idiot for telling her to leave the package inside, when she's clearly locked out front in the "unsecure location."

Dammit all to hell for making sense.

Anyone Know Where the Nearest Small Claims Court is?

Part two of the FedEx saga reported on yesterday...

This morning, before I went to work, I verified that my two tags (signed; asking them to leave all packages by my door; and waiving all liability should someone decide to break into my gated complex, sneak up to my doorway, and steal two pairs of size 5 shoes) were still on the mailbox, along with the yellow post-it note confirming same.

Come home.  No tags on mailbox. 

Come to door.  No box of shoes by door.

Hmm.  Did they deliver the shoes and someone really did steal them?  Boy, that'd be pretty ironic, huh?  What are the odds?

I check the tracking number online and find that they returned the shipment to FedEx again, noting a third delivery attempt was cancelled because the customer (that's me) was unavailable to sign for it.

I call FedEx.  I am told that the delivery person did not leave the package because he decided it was an unsafe location.  I can pick up the package at their facility in downtown LA or they'll return it to the sender tomorrow.

(Here's what I think:  I think "decided it was an unsafe location" is code for "wants to get revenge because I complained about him yesterday.")

I ask why, if it was an "unsafe location," did he TWICE leave tags saying that if I signed the tag, he'd leave the package.  I also asked what was so freakin' unsafe about a gated complex.  I further asked why it was unsafe today, when it hasn't been unsafe for the past ten years that I have lived here and received packages, on my doorstep, from FedEx, all the damn time.

I was told I could pick the package up at their facility in downtown LA or they will return it to the sender tomorrow.

I asked to speak to a supervisor.

("Asked to speak to a supervisor" is understood by FedEx to mean "Please put me on hold for ten minutes, playing annoying soft rock until my brain dribbles out my ear.")

Ten minutes later, I didn't get the supervisor.  I got the same customer service rep who said she could get a supervisor to transfer the package to their Pasadena (my city) location and I could pick it up there.  Tomorrow night.

I asked to speak to someone with the authority to actually get the package to my door tomorrow.  Which is Thursday, by the way.  When the parcel was supposed to have been delivered Monday.  (Thanks, Zappos, for the free overnight shipping.  Had you just gone with UPS, I'd have my shoes already.)

Of course, says the customer service rep, I have to agree that if the package gets stolen, I waive all liability.  I nearly explode at the rep, pointing out that this was exactly what I agreed to when I signed the doortags.  (Do they not know what their fine print says?  I do.  I read it.  When I signed it.  Twice.)

I say that what I really want is for someone to explain to me why my apartment is all of a sudden unsafe for a delivery.  The customer service rep then admits that there isn't a supervisor I can talk to now, but she'll have someone call me tomorrow to explain it.

I burst into tears and wonder if it's worth the effort to sue them for negligent infliction of emotional distress.  It isn't.  Sadly, you can't sue someone for stupidity.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

The FedEx Follies

I live in a gated complex, with about 20 units in it.  If you're going to leave a package (or a door tag) for me, you really have three choices of where to leave it.  Some parcel deliverers will leave it inside the gate, near (or on top of) all of our mailboxes.  The more determined will walk up to my unit, and leave it right outside my door.  The less enthusiastic won't even open the front gate, and will just leave it outside.

This raises all sorts of problems.  Sure, I'll see a parcel if it is left in any of these locations, as I walk by them all to get into my unit.  The problem arises when the delivery person won't deliver the parcel without a signature, and leaves a tag for me to sign.  I'll sign the tag and leave it exactly where I found it.  But the delivery person who comes the next day might not be looking there for the tag.

This happened when FedEx was trying to deliver, of all things, an empty box.  I had ordered a laptop, which turned out to be defective, and the manufacturer told FedEx to drop off a FedEx box (y'know, not even folded up boxlike -- just flattened) so I could return the computer in it.  They wouldn't leave it without a signature.  (Why?  I have no idea.)  I never did find the first or second door tags.  But I found the third one -- the one saying they've given up making attempts to deliver the box -- on the ground under our mailboxes.  I called FedEx to holler at them.  Also to put on file my deep desire that they just leave all damn parcels outside my door.

Never did get the empty box.  (Ended up UPS'ing the damn thing back to amazon, rather than FedEx'ing it to the manufacturer.)  But, the next few times I ordered stuff to be FedEx'd, it magically appeared on the first day they tried to deliver it, whether I was there to sign for it or not.

Saturday night, I ordered some shoes from Zappos.  Zappos has free (regular) shipping.  They also have a practice of sometimes upgrading you to free overnight shipping.  They did that with my order.  Told me it would be FedEx'd and I'd get it Monday.  Okay!  They're white shoes.  I'll wear a beige skirt to work on Monday and save the white one for Tuesday, when I can try out my new white shoes.

Came home from work on Monday.  No shoes.  A door tag.  Stuck on my mailbox, just inside the gate.  Now, since I know that door tags have previously fallen off the mailbox, I decide to not even remove the tag in order to sign it.  So that I don't de-sticky it or anything.  I take out a pen and sign on the line.  I also fill out the back of the form (no mean feat, while it is still stuck to my mailbox), to give my consent for packages to be left without a signature in perpetuity.

This morning, before work, I checked the mailboxes to make sure the tag was still there.  It was. 

Went to work.  Came home.

OK, who thinks I'm wearing my nice new white shoes right now?

Who thinks there was a second door tag left someplace different?

Who thinks the first tag fell off or otherwise disappeared, only to be replaced by a second tag?

You're all wrong.  The second tag was left on top of the first one.  Stuck right there on top of my signature on the first tag was a second tag requesting my signature.

I called FedEx and asked, not entirely politely, exactly how many signatures it would take to get my shoes.  He put a note in the computer for my parcel to be left at my door.  I asked him if I should sign the second tag too.  He replied, "Couldn't hurt."

On my mailbox is now a cute little stack consisting of two door tags, signed front and back, and a little yellow post-it note reading, "I signed it!"  Perhaps four signatures, a bright yellow note, and a memo in their computer will get me my damn shoes.

Monday, August 1, 2005

Pet Peeve #762

There ought to be a law that before you are allowed to be a newscaster or elected official, you must be able to properly pronouce the word "nuclear."

Quick Question

OK, like, suppose you dated someone.  And suppose you broke it off with them.  And suppose that, like, a year or so later, they emailed you.  And you emailed them back all friendly-like, and you communicated for maybe a week or so, but you let them know that, like, you weren't interested in getting back together with them.  And the emailing stopped.

Would it be weird for them to call you again?  Like, about, a year later?

Just checking.  Hypothetically.