Friday, December 29, 2006

All is Not Happy in Roomba-land

You're supposed to clean your Roomba every three days.

(They do not mention this in the promotional materials.)

But after every three uses, you're supposed to dump the bin, remove the brushes, clean the brushes, take the ends off the brushes, remove whatever has wrapped itself around the ends of the brushes, give the whole thing a once-over, and slap it all back together.

The advantage of the "Easy Clean Brush" that comes in the Roomba For Pets model is becoming more and more apparent.

ANYWAY, I have two kinds of carpet in my place.  The "good stuff" -- which is the green carpet in my bedroom (which I bought a number of years ago) and the, er, "less good stuff" -- which is the beige carpet everywhere else (which I bought a couple of months ago, with the intent of selling the place).  Now, the good stuff is what I really have to clean each morning, because Jasmine's litter box is inside the master bathroom and she trails litter all over the green carpet.  (And if any of it happens to get out to the beige carpet, well, it's beige.)

Two days ago, I figure I might as well Roomba the second bedroom/office.  It's been a while since it has been vacuumed, so I thought I'd let Roomba at it.

This was the first time Roomba malfunctioned.  He made an "uh-oh" beep and then made five more beeps.  I checked this against the manual -- it meant something was blocking his "cliff sensors."  It appears that the cheaper carpet sheds fuzz and (continuing with the whole anthropomorphizing of the Roomba) it appears that Roomba got some of it up his nose.  So, I cleaned the sensor and sent Roomba back on his merry way.

A few minutes later, I caught him, um... there's no way to put this delicately.  You know the track the closet door slides on?  He was humping it.  I kid you not.  He'd apparently gotten one of his wheels caught in there, but rather than beep out for assistance, he just sat there rocking back and forth, with his little disc-shaped body rising and falling against the track.  He finally got himself out of there, and I couldn't help asking, "Was it good for you?"

That was two days ago.  I've been running him just in the bedroom since.  This morning was day three of the three-day cleaning cycle, so I figured I'd clean him out after work tonight.  As per usual, I set him to cleaning the bedroom while I showered and got ready for work.

When I got out of the shower, I found him sitting in the middle of the carpeted section of my bathroom.  Not cleaning, just sitting.  And all around him -- maybe a dozen pieces of carpet fuzz from the beige carpet.  I don't know if he farted them out or what -- but he clearly must have noticed he was making the carpet dirtier rather than cleaner, seeing as he stopped on his own and just sat there waiting for instruction.

So I hauled him into the kitchen (near the trash), flipped him over, and did a superficial cleaning.  His brushes were COATED with beige carpet fuzz.  And when I took one of the brushes out the clean it, the little end cap piece fell off.  Into the trash.

So, here's me -- upside-down Roomba balanced on my kitchen counter (dropping litter all over it), shirt covered in carpet fuzz, going digging through my trash to find a tiny little yellow cap so I can put my Roomba back together.

And this is supposed to be a great big time-saver.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Uh, um, well, this is embarassing

See, for the past week or so, I've been looking for the Victoria's Secret gift card I'd ordered for my sister.  I've looked everywhere.  I couldn't find the damn thing, and I eventually just bought a replacement one at the store, so I could give it to her on Christmas.

And every time I went looking for it, I'd think, "Where did I put that?  I know I received it."  And I'd think, "I would've put it in the closet with all the other presents."  And I looked high and low for it.  I pulled everything off the closet shelves and looked behind, thinking maybe the gift card & envelope they'd sent had maybe slipped behind the shelving.

And, of course, when I'd come across the flat, vaguely calendar-shaped thing, I'd think, "That's the 'Lost' calendar" and just move right on past it.  Never even thinking that the return address of "VSD" might have been, oh, significant.

Yeah, right.  So when I get the 'Lost' calendar at work today and realize that the parcel in my closet cannot, in fact, be the 'Lost' calendar, I pull the parcel off the shelf, see the "VSD" and think, "Oh.... crap."

I'd never even opened it.  (It all rushes back to me now.)  When it came, I had realized that it was the gift card for my sister, so I correctly put it in my closet with all the other presents (thinking it was safer remaining in its original packaging rather than as a loose card).  My mistake, obviously, was in completely forgetting this and instead thinking it must be the 'Lost' calendar.

So, now, besides having a spare 'Lost' calendar on my hands, I now have a second Victoria's Secret gift card.  Anyone up for a gift exchange?

The Mystery Parcel

When I order stuff from Amazon, I generally have it shipped to my office.  This bypasses the annoying back and forth with UPS over whether they can get into my building and safely leave items in front of my door.

A couple weeks ago, I ordered some gifts from Amazon.  There was a book for one friend, and a "Lost" calendar for another.

And the day after I placed this order, the intended recipient of the "Lost" calendar reminded me of our "no gifts" agreement.  Uh-oh.

A couple days later, I received a couple parcels at work.  One was vaguely book-shaped, and, upon further investigation, it revealed the book I'd purchased.  The other was flat and calendar-shaped.  I figure it must be the "Lost" calendar.  Since I'm in no hurry to wrap this gift and hand it out, I take it home in its nice cardboard packaging, and store it in my closet with all other presents.

Today, I came back into the office after the holidays and found an amazon flat parcel on my desk.  I wasn't expecting anything else from Amazon, so opened it, confused.  The contents:  the "Lost" calendar.  It even had the invoice in it, so I knew that this was, in fact, the "Lost" calendar I'd ordered a couple weeks ago, and not some other "Lost" calendar that coincidentally showed up on my desk.

Which leads to the question:  What strange flat, vaguely calendar-shaped item has been spending the last ten days in my closet? 

Thursday, December 21, 2006

From the "Time = Money" Files

A friend was recently explaining to me the Technology Adoption Curve.  Looks like this:

I generally pick up new technology somewhere around Early Adopters or Early Majority.  Actually, I generally pick it up right before it becomes so commonplace that the price really goes down.  Yeah, I remember my first digital camera.  Weighed a few pounds, had a tiny screen, and "megapixel" was still a dream.  And it cost, like, $300!

(Could be worse.  I coulda been one of those "innovators" who invested in a Laserdisc machine.  But the "early adopters" never went for it and it never ended up as the alternative to VHS they'd been hoping for.)

But, yeah, I like being a bit ahead of the herd.

Which leads us to my latest jump into new tech, the robot vacuum.  Or, more precisely, the Roomba For Pets.  Honestly, I never would've even considered being the first person I knew with a robot vacuum, but I'd read about the low-end models dropping substantially in price (like, a remanufactured basic model for $110) and I started thinking that the fifteen minutes I spend each and every morning Swiffer Carpet Flick-ing the tracked kitty litter off the carpet is perhaps worth the investment in new tech.  And when I discovered the Roomba for Pets (with the easy-to-remove-and-clean brush, so you're not trying to unwind cat hair from all sorts of important robot vacuum bits), well, it called out my name.

I've had it for a couple days now and must admit he's a cool little piece of tech.  (I call it "he."  You are apparently encouraged to personalize your Roomba, as the messages on it are written in first person.  You know, like, "Clean my brushes regularly."  There's a problem with such personification though.  When it does something you don't want it to do, you have a tendency to yell at it.  And then you're like, "Um, idiot, you just yelled at a vacuum.")

It comes with "virtual walls," which are little objects you put beside doorways that give off "don't go here" rays.  The Roomba sees the rays and backs off from the room.  In theory.  The manuals say to put the virtual wall on the outside of the doorway, so that the Roomba will clean all the way up to it.

I don't want the Roomba vacuuming in my kitchen.  This is because the cat food (and water dish) are on the kitchen floor, and I don't especially need the Roomba plowing into either item.  (He "sees" things by plowing right into them, then backing off, turning a bit, and changing direction to go around them.  Tough little bugger.  The impacts are fine when he's hitting sturdy things like a chair leg, but a little too strong on lighter objects.  He tends to move my bathroom scale an inch or so before realizing he has to go around it.)  So, I put a virtual wall inside the entryway to the kitchen, thinking Roomba will just clean on down the hallway and not go in the kitchen.

So, here's Roomba, jauntily bouncing off walls and cleaning his way through my condo.  As he comes down the hallway, he approaches the kitchen, recognizes the virtual wall, and bounces back.  (So far so good.)  Then he moves a little farther on, and vacuums right on up to the virtual wall.  Problem:  The hallway is carpeted, the kitchen is not.  When Roomba vacuums up to the virtual wall, he leans off the carpet and partway into the kitchen.  At which point, gravity takes over, and Roomba tumbles right through the virtual wall into the kitchen.

Heads straight for the water dish.  ("Noooo!" I yell.  Like he hears me.)  Plows right into it, splashing a bit of water on himself.  He keeps going in the kitchen, but seems confused.  I think he recognizes he shouldn't be in here, but now he's on the other side of the virtual wall, so (as far as he's concerned) he's stuck in here.  I pick him up like a wayward kitten (unlike a kitten, he stops moving the second you pick him up), pat him dry, move the virtual wall to the other side of the doorway, and reset him down in the hallway, pushing his little power button and letting him go.  Poor little confused guy.

This morning, however, he was absolutely perfect.  I set up the virtual wall right outside my bedroom door, powered him up, and went about my business of showering and getting ready for work.  About 45 minutes later, he had driven himself back onto his little charging station, having removed every stray bit of litter and cat fur from the floor -- and I was ready to go to work. 

I'm keeping him.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Cake... in a second

My neighbor baked a chocolate cake.  She invited me over for a piece.  I had to run to my place to get some fruit to give her, and I said I'd be right down.

I open the door.  I see the cat barf.

My cat has, to this point, studiously avoided barfing on my new carpet.  She's barfed on the old carpet, the glass end table, the tile entry hall, and the little plastic mat I keep her food on.  But today -- the new carpet.

I go into the cabinet and reach for the top shelf where I store the cat barf carpet cleaner.  I have several different bottles.  I go for bottle #1.  Spray on stain, it says, and then blot ten minutes later.

I spray it on the cat barf.  I kill time.  I look for a dry towel to blot it.  All my rags are in the washing machine.  I forgot to put them in the dryer a few days ago, so they're still a bit damp.  I use one on the carpet and then throw it back in the washing machine, thinking I'll definitely have to wash those rags again.

More importantly, though, the stain is still there -- just moved around a bit.  I go for bottle #2.  Bottle #2 proudly announces "no blotting required."  This is good, given the rag situation.  The details aren't as promising -- I'm supposed to spray it and then "agitate with fingertips."  This translates roughly into "stick my fingers in cat barf."  Mmm, love to.

I spray.  I agitate.  I wash my hands.  I look at the stain.  Faded somewhat, but still there.  I'm thinking now that I really ought to call my neighbor and tell her I'm gonna be late for cake, but think I'll go a second shot on bottle #2.  I spray.  I agitate with fingertips (yuk!) and wash my hands again.  Thoroughly.

Stain is faded somewhat, but still there.  I've still got bottle #3.  It doesn't have much left in it, but it looks like good stuff.  Unlike the others, it is totally toxic -- you're supposed to use in a well-ventilated area and all that.  Says that all I have to do is spray it and the stain will go away all by itself.  I spray.  I go back into the cabinet to put this stuff away back where I found it. 

At which point, I knock bottle #2 ontothe ground.  I'm not sure where it fell, but I see the spray bottle top a few feet away.  This means the bottle is open somewhere.  I turn around.  There it is.  Dumping carpet cleaner on the floor.

(Well, if you're gonna spill something, ...)

I take more damp rags out of the washer and throw them on the spill.  It dawns on me that damp is probably not the best way to go for absorbancy.  I finally get this cleaned up and return to the cat barf.  Definitely fading.  Still damp.  The bottle had said to wait until it dries completely before reapplying -- and since I've doused the carpet with everything this side of Clorox, it will take some time to dry.

I figure I should turn on the fan in the nearby bathroom, what with the fumes being toxic and all.  I turn it on and hear some bizarre noise.  I trace the noise to one of the lights in the ceiling.  I think maybe the light bulb is screwed in funny (how did that happen?) and I go get a stool and stand on it and readjust the light bulb so the sound stops.

Given the night I've been having, it dawns on me that climbing on anything is probably not a good idea, but I manage to survive it.

I really need that cake.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

.... and back to square one

The buyers backed out.

Apparently, the reason they'd wanted to close so fast was that their landlord wanted them out by the end of the year.  Landlord was planning to sell the building or convert to condos or something, so gave everyone notice.

So, after I counter-offered with the middle of January, they went back to their landlord and said, "Hey, could we have another two weeks?"

And the landlord said, "Y'know, I'm not selling.  And I'm not letting you out of your lease.  So you're stuck here through August."

And when this information finally trickles down to me, I'm thinking, "OK.  Good to know."  Probably would've been better if their landlord had let them know about this before they started making offers and stuff. 

So, I'm a little disappointed.  But also pleased that we went through this little journey.  I'd been getting really depressed that nobody was making any offers on the place, so it made me feel much better to know that there are people out there who are willing to meet my price on my condo.  Now I just have to find someone who isn't, y'know, stuck in a one-year lease.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Well, at least I found the cat barf

Still nothing on my counteroffer.  Unofficial channels suggest that the buyers are, in fact, still interested in the property, and that they're trying to figure out the lastest possible day when they can close escrow for it to work for them.

Hey, um, buyers?  If you're out there?  I can be out in a week if you pay me enough.  I'm just sayin.  Time equals money and all that.  :)

On the bright side, I did find Jasmine's other little present for me before I left for work this morning.  In the entryway.  The tile is sort of beige-colored, so it was easy to miss.

What's worse than finding cat barf on the floor?

Not finding cat barf on the floor.

This morning, just as my alarm goes off, I hear what I think is a clicking noise.  Is this Jasmine playing with the new clicking toy I just bought her?  No, this is Jasmine's insides doing a reverse on her food.  I know this because I see a little pile of cat barf next to her by my bedroom door.

She walks out of the bedroom.  I immediately hear the clicking noise again.

I hit the snooze for a bit, and finally haul myself out of bed 45 minutes later.  I'm going to clean up the cat barf (obviously).  Want to find the other pile so I know what I'm dealing with (and whether she nailed the new carpet).  Check the hallway:  no barf.  The guest bathroom:  barf free.  The office:  nada.  I'm pretty sure she didn't get all the way to the living room or kitchen, but I check there, too.  Still no barf.

I see her curled up.  "Honey?" I ask, sweetly, "Where's the cat barf?"

She is, of course, unhelpful on this count.

I retrace my steps (watching very carefully where I'm putting my feet).  There's gotta be barf in this house someplace -- and in case the buyers want to come over again, it would be a real good idea to find it.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

In position at the starting line...

Yesterday, at the office, the phone rings.  It's my real estate agent.

"Do you time to talk?"

"If it's something good, yes."

"We got an offer on your condo."

Yes, I think I can find the time.

She tells me the price of the offer (which is in a range we can work with), that the buyer is already pre-qualified, various and sundry other information, and it all sounds good but I sense a "however" coming.  I almost hold my breath waiting for it.  And then...

.... "they want a 21-day escrow."


21 days.  I got the offer on the 6th.  Assuming we reached an agreement within a few days, that would be ... that would be out by New Year's.

My agent is still talking.  She's trying to arrange a time we can meet and go over the offer but I'm still trying to deal with the reality-shift that comes with the idea that a prospective buyer would like to wrap this whole thing up before the end of December.  I tell the agent "I need a moment to ..."  I'm about to say "wrap my brain around this," but that doesn't quite express my level of gobsmackedness.  I instead say, "... soil myself."

She suggests that maybe she could ask the buyers' agent if they're really glued to taking title by the end of the year (like maybe for some sort of accounting reason) and if they'd be willing to give me a couple weeks rent-free thereafter.  (I mean, I always knew that by putting my condo on the market before looking to buy a house, that there'd be a good chance that I'd have to move into an apartment in the interim.  But I'd been envisioning a 60-day escrow in which I'd have an actual chance to find a house.  Not to mention a little more time than three weeks to pack up my life and relocate it.)  This seems reasonable to me.  We plan to meet later that night.

My agent comes over that night.  She said the buyers weren't too keen on letting me keep possession after title changes (which is totally reasonable -- and not to mention all karmically correct since when I'd bought this place, the seller wanted, like, two days to get his shit together, and I was all, "No -- you get my money; I get the keys.") -- er, anyway, they want possession with title, but she doesn't think they're absolutely wedded to the 21-day escrow thing and would probably go for just closing later.

Armed with this knowledge, we draft up a counteroffer.  Small increase in price and another two weeks for closing.  (Five weeks.  I can do five weeks.  Five weeks gives me a coupla weeks to try to find a house, and, if not, a little more lead-time on getting into a rental.)  We submit the counteroffer.

This morning, when I get to work, I find out the buyer (well, the wife half of the buyer) wanted to come by my place again this morning.  Cool.  (Glad I took the extra time to vacuum before work.)  I therefore expect a response to the counteroffer, like, by lunch.




I call my agent around 2:00.  She's got a call in to the buyers' agent but has heard....Nothing.

I try to focus on my job but it isn't easy.  Half of me has already jumped into the mindset of "ok, we've got less than five weeks to get a house or move into a temporary rental" and I'm ready for it -- but that really won't happen until we've got an actual signed agreement to sell this place.  I didn't think there was anything unreasonable in the counteroffer so couldn't figure why it wasn't immediately accepted, with cautious celebrations (contingent on the inspections...) to follow.

Before I leave work, around 6:30, I check my home answering machine.  Message from agent.  Apparently Mr. Buyer -- actually, Dr. Buyer -- was in surgery all day.  He and the Mrs. will go over the counteroffer tonight.

Oh.  Well that's good.  Can't blame the man for fixing people.

I'll just quietly go nuts in the corner over here, while I wait to hear from you tomorrow.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Laughing Alone

I don't think this has ever happened to me before.  I was sitting in a theatre, watching a play, I heard a funny line, I laughed out loud -- and immediately noticed I was the only person laughing.

First time.  Honest.  I can understand why it rarely happens.  I'm generally a pretty quiet laugher.  In fact, usually, if I'm laughing out loud at a play, it isn't because the line struck me as so funny I just had to laugh -- it's more of that laughter that comes from the fact everyone around me is laughing, and the line seems funny enough, and hey, why not just add a little chuckle to the general audience response.  If something really is so funny and so unexpected that it actually compels audible laughter to burst forth from me, it has always been funny enough to get that same sound from at least some other people in the audience.

Not Saturday night.  I was seeing this play (the name of which I'll just keep to myself, 'cause it's based on a book, and to even begin to tell this right sort of spoils the book, and you might read it someday...) so, ok, here's the thing about the play:  it has an element of science fiction to it, but you don't really know that going in.  In fact, the science fictiony bit comes as something of a surprise, if you're not familiar with the book.  So, I mean, it isn't in the advertising or anything.  They aren't marketing this thing directly to science fiction geeks.

OK, here's me, in the theatre.  Seats about 50.  I'm there on the show's closing night -- right away I'm figuring a lot of people in the audience are friends and family of cast and crew.  Others are just folks who've come to see the show.  Everyone seems to be having a good time at the show -- laughing in the appropriate places.  Actually, I don't laugh once.  I smile a lot, but nothing is all that funny.

End of the play.  The science fictiony bit gets revealed and it turns out there's a time machine involved.  They're going to try to use the time machine to save the world (or whatever).  "They," in this case, refers to three guys:  the dude who owns the time machine; the protagonist who figured out he had a time machine; and the sidekick, who still isn't persuaded that the machine, in fact, travels through time.  Time Machine Owner and Protagonist start discussing exactly what they have to do in order to make the time machine do whatever it has to do to save the world.  Sidekick pipes in with:  "Can we reverse the polarity of the neutron flow through the flux capacitor?"

I am, instantly, beside myself with laughter.  Actually, the "through the flux capacitor" bit was totally gratuitous; they had me at "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow."  I start laughing.

I instantly stop laughing as I notice I'm the only one enjoying this.  I've silenced myself, but now I'm still shaking with the funny of it.  I stamp my foot a few times just to get it at all out and the play moves on to its conclusion.

I spend the rest of the evening wondering if I truly was the only science fiction geek in the audience.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Oh yeah, that's professional

Turns out, I helped my boss write an article for a trade magazine, and they need photos of us to run with it.  My boss has a picture on file.  (Hell, he's got one on the wall, too.)

I, on the other hand, not so much.

Yesterday, I found out they needed the picture.  I had to deliver it today.  This gave me limited options.

When I got home from work last night, I was not exactly at my photogenic best.  It would be a total waste of time, I figured, to shower and do my hair at 9:00 p.m. to take a picture when I could take the picture this morning on my way to work.  Being all freshly showered and stuff.

It seemed like a good plan at the time.

So, I get out of the shower, put all sorts of "product" in my hair, throw on a nice blouse and a suit jacket (didn't need the skirt -- it's only a headshot) and got ready to take the picture.

I have a plethora of digital cameras to choose from.  I grab my main camera.  It's only 2.0 megapixels, but I like to travel with it because it's waterproof.  ANYWAY, I stand in the hallway, aim the camera in the vague direction of my head, and take a picture.

The camera turns off.  I turn it on again, look at the photo, delete the photo, aim the camera back at my head (with what I hope is slightly better aim) and take another picture.  Turns out I hadn't recharged the batteries on this thing, so now it was determined to shut off every time the flash went off. 

It wouldn't matter if I could just get a decent picture.  But I couldn't. 

The following is -- I kid you not -- one of the better ones:

Seriously.  You should see the lovely shots right up my nostrils.

Apparently, my arms are not long enough to do this properly.  I can't find a decent surface on which to put the camera (to do this on time-delay) and the cat has not yet mastered photography.

I give up on this camera.  I switch to the one built-in on my laptop.  Here, I can stand in front of a wall, hold my laptop in front of me, watch the image on the screen, and snag the photo when it actually looks right.  It's a perfect plan.

This was not the right time to discover the camera built-in on my laptop is broken.  Nothin' but blackness and static on the screen.  (I thought, "hmm, adjust the brightness."  Then it was whiteness and static.)

I only have one camera left.  A tiny little pocket camera about the size of ... the size of one of them new ipod shuffles.  It is very limited in what it can do -- but one thing it can do that the other camera can't is hook up to my PC and show me the picture on the screen.  The problem here is that its cord is very, very short, so I have to be very near my PC to take the picture.  If I take the picture sitting at my desk, you get a shot of the whole room behind me.

I curl up on the floor, wedging myself against the side of the sofa, where there's nothing but wall behind me.  Aim the camera at myself.  I've got a reasonably good angle on the screen, and from here, the photo doesn't look bad.

Until I actually open it up and take a look at it.

I mean, it's definitely an improvement.  But, y'know, flyaway hair, shiny white nose, and not exactly the smile I'm going for.

I give up.  I've run out of cameras.  I go back on the computer and look for anything where I can safely crop out my face.  I find one ... it's seven years old and I certainly can't use the original, but if I turn it into greyscale it looks just about ... right.

In case you were wondering, I would have serious copyright issues if I used the original:


Friday, November 24, 2006

Famous Last Words

I'm supposed to see my friend Tammy today.  But, with having a cold, we're not real sure that's going to happen.  I spoke to her on the phone last night, and we decided we'd talk this morning.  I told her that I could probably pump myself full of drugs and nobody would know that I'm sick, but it was up to her if she wanted to be around my possibly contagious self.

I had forgotten this adorable little quirk of mine that developed about ten years ago.  About one in three of my colds now include a couple days of laryngitis.

I do not know why this is.  (A stroll through webmd -- to check on the status of contagiousness -- suggests this is probably because I avoid nighttime decongestants early in the cold process unless I'm really really badly congested.  They tend to completely dry out my sinuses to the point of it getting painful, so I try to avoid overmedication.  But, apparently, this can send the, er, mucus, down into one's larynx.  Live and learn, huh?)

So, as of late last night -- no voice at all.  This weirded out the cat something fierce, as I usually talk encouragingly to her quite a bit.  (You know, "good girl!" when she happens to use the box in my presence -- that sort of thing.)  I whispered at her, but it isn't quite the same.  (I know this will come as a shock, but I don't think the cat actually understands my words.)

Got a decent night's sleep and I have a little voice left.  I don't know whether it's going to desert me again today.  The only way to find out is to use it, and I'd like to wait until Tammy calls before I make the foray into polysyllabic dialogue.  (I actually contemplated sending a text message explaining the situation, but since I've been capable of grunting this morning, we'll give words a shot.  She's pretty bright, Tammy is, and will likely catch on after a fairly raspy, "Hello.")

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Good News/Bad News

The good news is:  I'm off jury duty.

The bad news is:  I'm home sick.

The ironic news is:  the former has nothing to do with the latter.

Was supposed to show up for jury duty on Wednesday morning.  Woke up sick.  I saw this coming.  I was kinda sick on Tuesday.  And I thought, "OK, I don't want to get sick -- but if I have to get sick, could I at least get sick on Wednesday to get out of jury duty?"  Seems that I, in fact, could.  Woke up sick on Wednesday.  No way I'm going in -- well, not true.  I could go in.  I could drug myself silly and drive the four miles to the courthouse, then infect everyone in the courtroom.  But, really, I would've called in sick to work, so I figured I should call in sick to jury duty.

I called the courtroom to which I had been assigned.  They weren't in.  I left a message.

I was supposed to be there at 9:00.  By 8:40, they still hadn't called back, and I was still in my pjs.  I figured I should call again.  If they wanted me there, I'd need at least fifteen minutes to put on a pair of sweats and drive over.

I called.  The person on the other end of the phone asked what I wanted.  I explained I'm a juror assigned to their courtroom and I'm sick.  I wanted to know what she wanted me to do.  She wanted to me on hold.  (I could do that.)

She comes back about five long minutes later.  Asks my name again.  I give it to her.  Says, "You're at home now?"  Yep.  Says, "In Pasadena?"  Right again.  Says, "And there's no way you can come in?"  I sigh.  "I guess I could come in if you want, but I'm sick."  (I didn't think this was a very difficult concept to get one's brain around.)  She then says, "Well, the judge told me to tell you that the case has resolved, so your jury obligation is complete." 

Now, under normal circumstances, the preceeding sentence would have been cause for the dance of joy.  (Indeed, when I passed the news on to my boss, he said I made his whole weekend.)  But I was a little peeved that I was getting the third degree before she passed this info on to me.  Like, was she testing to see if I was really sick?  Would I have an immediate recovery upon learning jury duty was over?  And what's up with the whole asking-me-if-I-can-come-in thing if she knows that the case has already settled?  (Did she want me to get up off my couch and spread my germs all over the courthouse just so I could go into the courtroom and listen to the judge thank me for my willingness to serve?)

On the other hand, my boss (after celebrating the fact that I would not be off on jury duty for six weeks) asked how I was spending my Wednesday.  I told him that I was sick at home, but I had brought some work home that I was getting a start on.  And he, bless his heart, said, "You just worry about getting well."

So, yeah, my boss.  Something I'm thankful for.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Well, I thought it was funny

OK, this is probably going to take longer to set up than it's worth, but it gave me a great big laugh this morning, and I've been giggling at it for the rest of the day.

I've been watching the new Doctor Who ("new Who" to its friends) on the SciFi channel.  Damned entertaining.  It's a British series, so we're a bit behind on getting it in the US.  The season two DVD is not available until January in the US.  But it is available in the UK in just a couple days.  And I just happen to have a code-free DVD player (which enables me to watch DVDs from other countries).  And I might just deserve a treat within a couple days ...

... I'll probably know on Wednesday.  I got called for jury duty last week and I'm part of panel that will go through jury selection on Wednesday.  A panel for a 30-day trial.  That's 30 court days, people -- six weeks.  And with time off for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we're looking at a trial that might run into freakin' January.  I am not happy about this.  So, I've decided that, if I get stuck on this jury, I'll treat myself to the British release of the season two new Who DVD.

Naturally, this involved looking for said item on Amazon's UK site.  Which led me to the whole "Doctor Who store" on Amazon's UK site.  Because, really, what's a shiny new version of a cult favorite TV show without calendars, action figures, and all sorts of other merchandise?

Which brings us to the sonic screwdriver.  For which I must explain a teensy bit about Doctor Who.  The protagonist is a dude from another planet, who books around the space/time continuum in a space/time machine, having various and sundry adventures.  (Mostly involving aliens who conveniently speak with British accents, and a surprising number of visits to London throughout the ages.  Funny, really, I don't think I ever noticed how odd it was that the space aliens coming to Earth always landed in America until I started watching a series produced in another country.)  He's from a race they call "Time Lords" -- again, the show is British, they can call themselves Lords without it sounding nearly as pretentious as when Michael Flatley does it.

Now, the Doctor (as he's called) isn't the sort who goes around shooting and/or sleeping with every alien he encounters.  He's more of a thinker than a fighter -- more of a Sam Beckett than a Captain Kirk -- and his main tool of choice is the "sonic screwdriver."  When activated, a pretty blue light comes out of it, capable of opening any lock he's got to get through, or sealing up any lock behind him (when the evil aliens are on the other side of the door).  It's actually quite the multi-purpose tool -- sort of a space-age Swiss Army Knife.  And, occasionally, it can be used as a weapon, although not a real blow-big-holes-in-the-bad-guys sort of thing.  (Leading to one memorable encounter wherein the Doctor and a space cowboy type were standing back-to-back, trying to fend off a group of approaching baddies.  The space cowboy takes out his great big sonic blaster gun, and leans over his shoulder to ask the Doctor what type of big ol' sonic weapon he's got -- hopefully rattling off the names of big sonic shoot-'em-ups.  The Doctor looks at his sonic screwdriver and says, rather defensively, "Look, it's sonic, ok?")

All right then.  Here's me, poking through the Doctor Who store on 

They've got the Electronic Sonic Screwdriver, which is a pen that writes in UV ink that reveals when you turn on the blue light.  They've got another model that just lights up the room with its eerie blue light.  Both perfectly acceptable merchandise tie-ins.

....and then they've got ...

The Sonic Screwdriver Ultimate Bath Gift Set

I kid you not.  Load it up with "bath fizzers" which you then shoot out.  "Finish your Dr Who bath experience by washing with the Intergalactic Cleansing Agent."  And, what tops it all off is the slogan:  "become a bathroom Time Lord!"

Friday, November 10, 2006


So, last year, I had this really cool idea.  What if I take one of those days like Columbus Day (which I get off, but not everyone does) and go to some massive Outlet Mall and do all my Christmas shopping before the rush? 

I tried it last year.  It was a remarkable success.  Although I didn't finish all my holiday shopping, I got a good lead on it and was able to complete the rest on the internet.

Totally forgot about it when Columbus Day rolled around this year.  But today was Veterans Day!

There's an outlet mall about an hour's drive from here.  Got myself a real cheap hotel room (their rate included dinner and breakfast) and drove out there last night.  Got a good night sleep, woke up bright and early, had my free eggs and fruit, and was at the outlet mall ten minutes before it opened.

Dude, I parked right next to the wheelchair spots.  That's how early I got there.

Had a list of names.  No real ideas for presents.  Just names.  And there were two things I wanted to buy for myself.  Just two.  (Last time, I got a little carried away on the shopping-for-myself front, so limits seemed in order.)  I needed to buy some sort of shoes that I could wear in the rain and still wear the ankle brace (flat boots that lace up) and maybe, if I'm really good, a dress.  I'm getting kinda tired of wearing my two "one-size slimmer" dresses to the theatre, and, besides, I need something with sleeves as winter is coming up.

My mother says I am a good gift-shopper.  I am not.  I never know what to get people.  The only strategy I can use is to walk into every store (even stores I think I have no interest in) and scope the place out -- in the hopes that some item that I see will trigger a thought with respect to some person on my list.  (Often, the item won't be the right gift, but it will make me think of the right gift -- which I'll then buy online, now that I know what I'm looking for.)  The one exception is that I don't walk into every clothing store -- unless I'm planning on getting someone a particular clothing item, I really don't do it.  (Ihave enough trouble buying clothes for myself -- way too much pressure to figure out someone else's size and style.)  But, even with clothing stores eliminated, walking through a massive outlet mall store by store is gonna take some time.

About eight hours, as it turned out.

Very slow going at the beginning.  The third store I walked into ("Cost Plus World Imports") did not trigger any thoughts for any names on my list -- but, it triggered thoughts for about six people I'd accidentally omitted from the list.  Great.  My list is expanding and I still haven't bought anything.

And the walk-into-nearly-every-store-and-let-it-just-wash-over-me thing did pay off in a couple of unexpected ways.  Pretty early on, I walked through a store selling quartz jewelry and rain sticks and various touchy feely items, and I saw something that would be really ideal for a friend of mine.  Except it was a rather heavy item.  I bought it, and the woman at the counter promised to hide it back there for me until I came by to pick it up later.

By about the third shoe warehouse store (apparently no shoe brands have their own stores now -- it's all those warehouse-type places), I scored a pair of low, flat, black, lace-up, guaranteed waterproof, Timberland boots.  They're ugly, but who am I to complain?  It isn't like I'll be wearing them with skirts or anything.  The damn things were reasonably priced and now the stupid ankle brace won't get soggy in the rain.

Almost halfway through the mall, I found some stuff for some folks at work.  By now, I'm balancing four bags of presents and one bag of Timberlands and I figure I'm never getting through this mall hauling all this stuff -- but, of course, I'm at the farthest possible point for hauling it all back to my car.  It's about now that I see the SmartCarte stand.  You know, like those rental luggage carts you see at airports.  This is a fairly slim cart (so it can get through narrow aisles) with a huge, industrial strength bag hanging off it.  For three bucks.  It irks me to pay three bucks for this, but I need it.  I can even go back and pick up those rocks from the touchy feely place...

Except with SmartCartes, you gotta rent the first one in line.  And the first one in line has a whole bunch of, like, rock salt (that's what it looks like, anyway) in the bottom of the bag.  No way I'm subjecting my delicate purchases to that.  I stand around for awhile hoping someone else will rent that first cart (leaving me the clean one behind it) but there are no takers.  I slog on.

I continue around the next corner into another store.  It's a shop that has all sorts of T-shirts, and sweatshirts emblazoned with logos from various colleges.  Now, my friend Peg went to UC Berkeley and her husband went to UCLA.  Thought I might get them some good-natured rivally type items. 

OK, Peg, if you're reading -- this store sucks.  For men, they've got college T-shirts, and college long-sleeve T-shirts, and college sweatshirts, and college fleece, and college sweatpants ...  And for women, they've got T-shirts that say, "I'm a virgin, but this is an old T-shirt."  Um, guys?  Women started going to college, like, years ago.

So I walk out of there feeling all discriminated against, and I walk right into ... another SmartCarte rack.  And there's some guy there with a free cart, just sorta staring at it.  I'm not clear on why this is (maybe he was trying to return his cart to the wrong end of the rack) -- but he's complaining that there's this loose cart off the rack and I'm all, "Hey, let me take that off your hands."  Woo-hoo!  Free cart!  I gently pile my purchases in the bag -- it's not even half-full -- and head on out with a spring in my step.

It was around here that, after several annoying false starts in warehouse-style clothing stores, I finally found a dress!  Off the freakin' rack.  (Size 8 -- no tummy panel!)  It's black and it's long-sleeved, and it fits, and I actually look kinda slim in it.  I admire my profile in the changing room mirror for a good long time, and buy it.  I also tried on ... in what I was certain was overconfidence ... a straight skirt.  (I can hear the gasps.)  I've been wearing flared skirts for, like, three years, due to the aforementioned big fat ass.  (Hell, long before the weight gain that led to the weight loss ... I been only wearing flare skirts.)  So, here's me trying on a straight skirt.  And it fits.  (OK, it was a size larger than the flared dress -- but there will be no raining on this parade.)  Very exciting.  Nice black wool straight skirt.  Can wear it to all sorts of theatre events.  (Just not in the rain.  I'm tellin' you -- them boots are ugly.)  Even bought a really cute jacket that I can wear with both skirt and dress.  Amazingly pleased with myself and my very first clothing purchase since I got on this diet, I move on.

After a lunch break (salad, of course -- nothing motivates you to keep to the diet like looking good), I got back on the gift bandwagon.  Ended up getting seven more presents (and only one was for someone I added to the list when I saw the item) and hauled my now heaping cart back over to the touchy feely store to pick up those rocks.  Left the mall at 6:00 -- exactly eight hours after I'd begun -- having acquired twelve gifts and the two things I wanted for me.

.... and, hopefully, I can avoid the mall scene until January.

Quick Updates

So, Wil asks:

How goes the condo-selling / house-buying venture?

Any return of the pukies since her majesty went off the special diet?

And how in heck are you doing with the awards banquet?

(By the way, Wil, are you still journalling?  Ain't been receiving none of those updates from your 'blog of late.)

To answer:

1.  Slowly but, hopefully, surely.  Things were pretty dead around here for about ten days or so (no agents coming to see the place), so we dropped the price, punched up the listing, and scheduled an open house for this Sunday.

I am, apparently, a smart ass.  (Yeah, I know.  Came as a shock to me, too.)  My agent called me up to check in, and I was complaining about the lack of activity around here.  Said, "It's vewy, vewy qwiet."

So then, of course, I added, "...I'm hunting wabbits."

Silence comes down the phone at me.  She asks me to repeat what I said, "Er... never mind."

2.  Not so much, but I wouldn't want to tempt fate by even discussing it.  Actually, the special diet (for my Purry Little Princess) was not so much to prevent the cat barf, but to prevent the "inappropriate urination."  Cat barf happens.  I think it may be happening less because Jasmine has finally gotten to the point where she actually likes being brushed.  Cats are creatures of habit so we've gotten into the routine of sitting down on the couch for a brushing as soon as I get home every day.  She loves it.  Jumps on the couch waiting for me when I walk in -- even meowing at me to get a move on if I happen to stop at the phone to check my messages or something.  I don't care.  More hair on the brush means less hair in the kitty digestive system.

Have I ever told you guys my theory on cat insides?  I've discovered that a fairly good (although not foolproof) predictor of kitty barf is if, um, if I don't see any cat poop in the box the night before.  No cat poop at night puts me on "cat barf watch" the next morning.  So I figure the inside of the cat is this great big tube running from one end to the other -- if something can't go out one way ...

3.  Ah, the Awards ... Now, I do not discuss the Awards here -- for fear anything I say may come back to haunt me in the real world.  I was going to say something like "we may have a location," but even that is tipping my hand.  Oy.

4.  OK, you didn't ask, but I need to give a quick diet update -- it'll make the next entry make more sense.  Here's the thing.  Ever since I've put on the weight, I've been wearing the same seven pairs of pants (four jeans, three khakis) over and over again.  This because they are Land's End Custom Clothing (i.e. custom made to fit my big fat ass).  There's also a couple of dresses in the rotation -- but they're not regular dresses, they're "one-size-slimmer" dresses that have a built-in slimming panel (I believe the word they're avoiding is "girdle") underneath the dress.  I would call them my "fat girl" dresses, but, actually, I've got a couple other dresses (big, roomy numbers) that go by that name.  Anyway, that's been my wardrobe for some time.  Conveniently, the pants (particularly the khakis) are sliding down as the weight comes off.  I haven't bought any new clothes yet.  This because -- well, I don't want to invest in new, smaller clothes until I know the size I'm going to settle at.  (Hopefully, I'm still in transition.)  Also because I haven't been exercising -- I've only been dieting.  This means the weight has come off (about sixteen pounds! yay!) but my body has totally been left to its own devices as to where to take the weight from.  Which has resulted in certain parts of me slimming at a different rate than others.  A few weeks ago, I was in the mall and thought I'd see if I could fit my butt into a pair of Size 10 jeans.  The good news was:  I could!  The mixed blessing was:  my waist was a Size 6.  So, I mean, it's back to the Custom Jeans for me.  (I could order another pair in my new size -- but it'll take six weeks to get here...)

Monday, November 6, 2006

Arsenio Hall

Do you remember Arsenio Hall?  Used to have that late-night talk show?  Audience in the "dog pound" would bark at him? 

Eh, you had to be there.

And this one time, he had Eddie Murphy on the show.  And although the Arsenio Hall Show was much more of an entertainment show than a political show (Arsenio was not exactly the Jon Stewart of his time), Arsenio asked Eddie about voting in the upcoming election.  And Eddie said he didn't vote.

Eddie's excuse for not voting was that elections are all fixed anyway and your vote doesn't matter (an excuse that sounds rather more plausible now than it used to -- Arsenio was off the air long before hanging chads and Diebold machines).  And Arsenio did not let him get away with it -- told him that he was a role model for a lot of young people and he should encourage them to vote, rather than modelling a cynical attitude that would just perpetuate under-voting by the young African-American demographic.

Good for him for standing up to Eddie Murphy -- who was both a friend of his and a much bigger star -- on national TV.  Boo to Eddie Murphy for not giving a damn.

I gained a lot of respect for Arsenio Hall that day.  Woof!  Woof!  Woof!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

And let me be the first to wish you...


Seems I found the world calendar I was wondering about.  The folks at Earth Calendar keep track of whatever people are celebrating.  (Oddly enough, they seem to have omitted Botswana Day.  Nobody's perfect.)

But when I looked up tomorrow -- that being October 29th, I am told that, in addition to it being National Youth Day in Liberia, and Creole Day in Dominica, it is also International Internet Day.  International -- so's we can all celebrate it.  (Do not confuse with International Internet free day, which is supposed to be the last Sunday in January.  The URL for that site doesn't work anymore.  Probably not supposed to.)  I can't find any websites at all for International Internet Day (beyond some clipart), so I'm thinking we're left to our own devices to figure out how to best celebrate.  Perhaps by participating in some e-commerce or interactive gaming.  Or maybe we should be focussing on the international aspect -- so now would be a good time to email folks in another country.

In any event, Happy International Internet Day y'all.  And many more.

Cemetery Traffic

Went to the theatre tonight.  (I do that.  It's that whole critic thing.)  Theatre in question was on Santa Monica Boulevard, about a mile and half off the freeway.

I hit the off-ramp with a good 20 minutes to go before the show.  The fact that I had to wait for the light at the end of the ramp to go through three cycles before I even got off the freeway suggested that I might have a little trouble making it.

I'd left a little early -- figuring that, y'know, Hollywood on a Saturday night might be a bit crowded.  I was envisioning some pre-Halloween weekend parties at the various clubs that line Santa Monica -- but the theatre was really before I'd hit the club area, so I figured I'd be ok.

Traffic inched down Santa Monica for the first mile -- until I saw what the hold-up was.  Cops standing in the middle of the street directing traffic.  TONS of pedestrians waiting around to cross the street.  A few in costumes; most not.  Many with small children -- clearly, this was not your Hollywood Party crowd.

And they were all heading to ... the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  Oh!  Dia De Los Muertos!  ("Merde," I thought, mixing my languages.)  You gotta remember when you live in such a multi-cultural mecca as Los Angeles, to keep an eye on the world calendar.  (Y'know -- someone ought to make one of those.  A calendar that lists all the holidays celebrated everywhere.  'cause, I mean, it'd be fun knowing it's Botswana Day.)  (I thought I was making that up -- Botswana Day.  But I googled it.  September 30.  Now you know.)

I digress.  If'n you wanna learn more about Dia De Los Muertos, here's the website for the event I peeked at while waiting for traffic to crawl across the street.  Says here that Hollywood Forever Cemetery is the only cemetery in the country that opens its gates for a Dia De Los Muertos celebration, and from the looks of the images in their gallery, they really go all out.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Yogurt Guy Must Go!

I have a container of yogurt for breakfast every morning.  Yoplait.  (I am partial to the Harvest Peach and Blackberry Harvest, but Strawberry and Raspberry are also in my regular rotation.) 

I bring one to work every day.  Sometimes I forget, and I have to buy one at work.  This is a little annoying as the cafeteria at work charges rather more, but at least I get my Yoplait.

Until a couple weeks ago.  The cafeteria stopped carrying Yoplait.  I forgot my yogurt and had to chose between two other brands.  And I'm not talking Dannon or some other normal yogurt.  I'm talking "Driftwood Dairy" and "Yonson."  No, I hadn't heard of them either.

I bought the Driftwood Dairy (strawberry).  It was a larger container than the Yoplait and cost less -- which made me suspicious from the start.

I tried a spoonful.  Kinda gross.  It wasn't nearly as creamy as Yoplait and it certainly didn't taste as good.  I managed to get through about a 1/3 of it before I just tossed it.

I remembered my Yoplait every day since.  Until today.  (When I, for no known reason, remembered to pack my lunch and my water, but didn't throw a yogurt in there.)  So, I went to the cafeteria.  Same choices.  I picked up a Yonson (peach) and hoped for the best.  When the cafeteria lady was ringing me up, I complained about the lack of Yoplait.  She said they had a new supplier who didn't carry Yoplait.  I told her to deman Yoplait, because this stuff was crap.  She asked if I'd tried the other one.  I conceded that the Driftwood was crap, and I was trying the Yonson today (with reservations).  She said they were trying to work something out to get Yoplait back.  I left, hoping that I had done my part to spur on the revolution.

Now, the Yonson is "fruit on the bottom."  So I expected to open the container and see yogurt, then have to stir up the fruit.  (I can do that.)  I take the lid off and it's ... words fail me.  Separated.  Orange in color.  Watery with curds in it.  I show it to a co-worker.  "They don't really expect me to eat this crap, do they?"  She looks at it and gives me the "I'm not gonna eat it" face.  I take a closer look at the container.  Expiration date:  October 13.  That would be, y'know thirteen days ago.

I go back to the cafeteria.  Find the same cafeteria lady.  Point out that the Yonson she sold me is two weeks old.  She can't believe it.  Says it was just delivered on Tuesday.  She gives me my money back and I run off to my office while she hurries off to check the remaining Yonsons on the shelf.  I can only hope this little error will go on the new supplier's record.  Ha.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Time for Another Weight Loss Entry

First, some good news:  I've improved one more notch on my belt.  Yay.

I've been asked if I have any particular weigh loss goals.  I have three.  I have no idea how far apart they are -- in fact, they might be the same.

First, I have a number in mind.  See, up until a couple years ago, I was gaining weight, but in a fairly steady, go-from-a-size-4-to-a-size-6-over-a-couple-of-years sort of way, that seemed to just be the product of growing older and perhaps eating too many french fries.  (And that was pretty much how I'd control it, too -- by cutting down on my french fries.)  But then, I started on a medication with the unfortunate side effects of increased appetite and increased lethargy, and all of a sudden, I put on something in the nature of 20 pounds in about six weeks.  Once I got my dosage straightened out, the weight sorta "plateaued," but I hadn't really been able to make it go back down until I went to that lifestyle health spa place with my dad.

So ... knock on wood ... I been losing weight ever since.  People have been noticing.  I forgot my Building ID at work the other day, so I had to go through the metal detector.  They made me take my belt off and my pants slid down to my hips -- it's a great feeling when the Court Security Officer says, "Wow!  You lost a lot of weight!"

Where was I?  Oh yeah, goals.  There's three.  The first is, I remember the actual number of pounds that the nurse got when she weighed me in at the doctor's office the day I got prescribed the medication that caused the weight gain.  That's a numerical goal, and I'm somewhere between 4 and 6 pounds away from it.  (As I've said before, my scale is not a model of accuracy.)

My second goal, which may be near that first one (I'm not sure) is that I want my rain pants to fit.  Back in October of 2004, I bought a pair of $100 rain pants.  This was astonishingly expensive, but in 2004, I was thinking, "Hey, I'll be this size for the rest of my life; I might as well spend a little more and get the high quality rain pants I can use forever."  Yeah.  Right.  Last time I tried, I couldn't get the damn things on -- nor could I put on the (also pricey) midweight fleece pants I'd bought to wear under them.  When I boxed up all my clothes that didn't fit for Goodwill, I saved the fleece pants and the rain pants -- because they weren't that tight and the idea I might be able to wear them again wasn't totally out of the question.... and because they were so darned expensive, I couldn't bear to let them go without trying to fit into them again.  As for approaching that goal, I haven't tried on the rain pants yet, but the fleece pants can, technically, be placed upon my person and zipped all the way.  (Side zippers.  Velcro closures above them.)  I say "technically" because they don't quite have the roominess that one expects is fleece pants, but I'm thinking that they may, at some point in the foreseeable future.  (Hopefully by next May, which is when I'm going on a vacation that will require them again.)

Which sorta leads us to the third weight loss goal.  I am, more or less, pretty content with the current eating plan.  It allows me to have a reasonable amount of snacks and desserts, so I don't feel like I'm starving myself or anything.  I hope that I can keep it up indefinitely -- the idea being that it wasn't intended as a short-term "diet," but as a long-term "new approach to food."  So the third weight loss goal is to pretty much keep losing weight until I plateau on this meal plan.  (When my ankle gets better, I'll be able to add exercise back into the mix -- but for now, all weight loss over here is food-related.)  I have no idea where that will be.  For all I know, in six pounds I'll stop losing weight and my rain pants would fit -- which would mean that all three weight-loss goals are the same.  Who knows?  I'll just have to wait and find out what a healthy weight for me turns out to be.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Oh yeah, THAT's why

So, last night, I'm minding my own business, eating dinner, watching Lost, and wondering (yet again) whether selling my condo and buying a house won't turn out to be a huge mistake.  I mean, it'll cost me more in the monthly payment (largely because of the major increase in property taxes) and I haven't really taken into consideration how many other expenses come with home ownership (gardener, increased utility bills... geez, I'll have to pay for garbage service...)  I know this is all perfectly normal home-buying jitters, but I'm still doing it anyway.  So I'm sitting there thinking about how my condo is perfectly fine, and I've got some friends here, and why do I want to leave them, and ...

... and then I hear it.  From the unit above mine.  Bedsprings.  Squeaking.  Loudly.  Slowly at first, then faster, Faster, FASTER!!!  I have to pause the TV because it's really hard to concentrate on Lost at this point. Maybe moving isn't such a bad idea after all.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Ms. Perfect and Her Invisible Cat

What with college and dorms and post-college apartments and all that stuff, I've moved a lot.  But I haven't lived in a home that was being shown for sale since I was eight years old and we sold our house in Maryland and moved to California.

I don't remember how long the house was on the market with prospective buyers coming by.  I do remember, though, that my parents had this little phrase to describe the mode our family was in.  And that was, "Mr. and Mrs. Perfect and Their Invisible Children."  Because, y'know, Mr. & Mrs. Perfect certainly don't leave a mess in the bathroom.  And invisible kids' beds are neatly made and their clothes are always in the hamper.  So, during the time our house was on the market, mom and dad would remind us that we had to keep the place looking perfectly neat and tidy by referring to the family as "Mr. & Mrs. Perfect and Their Invisible Children."

Fast forward some thirty years and my condo is on the market -- has been for one whole week.  And during this week, I have spent every morning: folding my bath towel and hanging it neatly on the bar; hiding my shampoo and other bath stuff in a drawer (bought a little plastic bin for it); vacuuming the litter from around the litter box (just bought a Swiffer Carpet Flick because I'm sick of daily vacuuming); sweeping the litter near the litter box (that cat can sure track litter); opening all the blinds; cleaning off the kitchen counter; and otherwise making the place look like it's not really lived in....

.... or lived in by Ms. Perfect and Her Invisible Cat

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Monday, I had the day off.  Columbus Day.

My real estate agent was hosting a "broker caravan" in my condo (when about a dozen brokers come by to check it out) so I needed to be out of there.

So I went to Disneyland.  I'd just renewed my Annual Pass, so, you know, I have to go a bunch of times to make the investment worth it.

They have this one place in California Adventure where you go into a small auditorium and some dude stands on the stage and tells you all about animation.  For awhile, it was a real live actual animator, who would draw something while he talked to you.  Later, they changed it to where there was just some film running where a Disney character (Mushu, from Mulan) does this introduction to animation.  He exchanges a couple lines with a live human being who claims to be an animator, but the live human being could really be anyone in a Disney outfit, as all he has to do is stand there and feed Mushu his cues.

Well they've finally changed the attraction into what it always should have been, which is where they pass out paper and pencils and teach you how to draw a Disney character.  And it's real basic follow-the-steps, draw-a-circle-here sort of stuff, and by the time 20 minutes have passed, you walk out with your very own more-or-less recognizable attempt at a Disney character.  I here proudly display my Donald Duck.

Yeah, I don't think the animators have anything to be afraid of either.  But it was a really fun thing to do, and the kids and grown-ups were totally into it, which is what Disneyland is all about.

The other new thing they've added is the Jedi Training Academy.  It's over in Tomorrowland, on the stage where they used to have a Buzz Lightyear show.  I actually ran over there a few minutes late, so I missed the beginning, but it was pretty easy to figure out what had happened.

There were about 20 kids gathered on the raised stage -- each one wearing a brown Padawan robe over his or her street clothes.  And holding a plastic "training" lightsaber.  They had apparently all been taught a lightsaber combination, which I subsequently came to know by heart (left shoulder, right shoulder, left leg, duck!, left leg again, right leg, go for the head).  There's this Jedi master guy on stage who apparently taught them, and a second Jedi master lady who is standing right below him in front of the stage.

OK, so, right around the time I get there, the kids have all memorized the combination, and then "Dark Side of the Force" music comes on and two stormtroopers run in.  Then the center of the stage lifts up revealing a platform with Darth Vader in it.  (Uh-oh.)  Vader starts saying ... well, he starts saying some classic pre-recorded Darth Vader lines.  I don't think they even bothered getting James Earl Jones to record them, they just used stuff from the movies.  So Vader's saying all this stuff to the kids about joining him over on the Dark Side.  And Jedi master guy tells Vader that he better leave 'cause they've got these, like, 20 well-trained Jedi warriors here so Vader is outnumbered.  So then Vader says something else ominous and pre-recorded, and Darth Maul comes out to join him.

OK, now the fun starts.  Vader is on stage; Maul is in front of the stage, right below him.  Jedi master guy on stage; Jedi master lady right below him.  Then they call over the kids, two at a time.  One kid stands in front of Vader, another one stands in front of Maul, and they do the little light-saber fight they'd been taught (with Jedi master guy calling out each move, in case they forget).  And after each set of kids successfully does battle, the audience just goes crazy applauding them.

So this one kid goes up to fight Vader, and he reaches down to "Activate" his lightsaber.  (This basically involves flicking it so that the telescoping "blade" appears.)  And the kid drops his saber on the ground.  Jedi master guy looks up at the audience, waves his hand slowly and goes, "You saw nothing."  Ah, we saw nothing, yes. 

I totally gotta hand it to the guys playing Darth Vader and Darth Maul, because they managed to set up the blows for the kids to parry no matter how fast or slow the kid was.  And, at one point, the stormtroopers starting approaching, as if they were gonna help Vader fight the kid, so the kid pushes his hands out in their direction ("Force push," says Jedi master guy) and the stormtroopers promptly fall backward with perfect timing.

The whole thing was just brilliant -- and I bet there were a lot of adults out there who wish they'd been able to battle Darth Vader too.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Without Looking, Tell Me What Kind of Drawer Pulls You Have

.... that question was on my mind for about a half hour while I was in Target today.  I couldn't, for the life of me, remember what kind of drawer pulls I had in my bedroom.  But let's go back a bit and find out how I ended up there.

Today was Yom Kippur.  I, being a person of Jewishness, went to temple.  I also, being a person of soon-to-be-putting-her-condo-on-the-market-ness, had the cleaning lady come by to give the place a good once-over before I list the property.

Got home from services and the cleaning lady was still there.  Odd, as she's usually gone by then, but she was still cleaning.  (I have, totally, the bestest cleaning lady.)  I wanted to change out of my "temple attire" into something more comfortable, but, since she was still there, I kept the dress on.

Started rearranging knick-knacks on a shelf when she called me into the bedroom.  There was a small problem.  When she picked up my floor lamp to vacuum under it, the damn thing broke off its stand.

Cleaning lady was pretty upset about this, but, y'know, accidents happen.  Besides, the lamp was probably 10 years old; it totally lived out its useful life.  I told her not to worry, picked up the lamp, and headed downstairs with it.

I planned to throw it in the dumpster in the garage.  I could not do this because the dumpster was not in the garage.  Today was trash day, and someone had moved the overloaded dumpster to the street.  (I knew it was overloaded because, all over the garage floor, I saw pieces of glass from something I'd thrown out the other night.  I swept 'em up and went back to contemplating the lamp.)

I could take it to Goodwill, I figured.  Only needs some glue or a brace or something to put it back on its stand.  Still works.

Felt a little guilty about going to Goodwill just to ditch a broken lamp, so I went into my storage cage to see what else I could give them.  Hmmm, my old printer and scanner.  Won't be needing them.  Put the old printer and scanner in the back of my car, along with the lamp.  (Dress now covered in dust.  Oh well.)  Headed off to Goodwill.

Goodwill lady took the printer and scanner (and "miscellaneous bag of stuff" which I'd labelled for Goodwill a few years ago and had no freakin' idea what was in it -- turned out my old knife block was in there.  Let this be a lesson to you -- no reaching around in strange bags when you might come out holding a chef's knife.) -- anyway, she takes the printer, scanner, and bag, and then takes one look at the lamp and says, "We can't take that."

And I think, "Damn; she discovered my ruse to dump the busted lamp."

But that isn't it.  She didn't even notice it was broken; she said they don't accept that model.  She thinks Salvation Army might take it; they're just down the street.  She adds, "If I took it; I'd just dump it."

And I think, "That's ok with me."  So I tell her to go ahead and dump it.

She says her dumpster is full.  Says there's a dumpster at the end of the mini-mall.  ("But you didn't hear it from me.") 

Which is how I ended up, still wearing a lovely black dress, surreptitiously tossing a broken floor lamp into a dumpster behind a mini-mall.

Wiped my hands (tried not to wipe them on the dress) and went to Target to buy a new lamp -- as I don't think the Master Bedroom shows really well in the dark.

Took about 20 minutes of wandering aimlessly through Target before I found the lamp section.  (They are constantly reorganizing that store.  Can't find anything.)  And I see floor lamps there.  A nice, inexpensive lamp.  Available in several different colors: Black (no); maple with brushed nickel (no); brass (maybe?); or antiqued brass (uh-oh).

I know my bedroom set is wood, and would look nice with the maple.  (Might even be maple.)  But I know there's no brushed nickel in the bedroom.  What the hell are my drawer pulls?  Brass?  Antiqued brass?  Shoot.  I can't remember. 

I can't even remember their shape.  I stand there in Target, trying to envision my bedroom furniture.  I pull at an imaginary drawer -- is it a knob?  Is it a bar?  Is it one of them flappy bars?  (I don't think it's a flappy bar -- I don't remember the sound of them flapping back.)  I try to picture the dresser or the nightstand, and I can't get anywhere with it.  I'm sure I look like an idiot standing there in the Floor Lamps aisle, reaching out my hand to pull an imaginary knob or bar pull, but nothing feels right.

I buy the brass one and hope.

Come home and discover that, yes!  My drawer pulls are brass.  But ... well .. that's odd.  Why haven't I notice that before?

My dresser has the little flappy bar-pulls on it.  My matching nightstand has knobs.  Honest to goodness -- I bought this bedroom set three years ago -- it was the first matching set of furniture I ever bought -- and the pulls on the nightstand are completely different from the pulls on the dresser.

Oh great.  Something else to fix.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Mary McCarthy's Memorial Service

I'm packing up a bunch of my books, so that my shelves will look less overstuffed when I'm showing my condo.  I thought it best to pack up my law books, in particular.  Thought I might get a better price if the buyers don't figure I'm a lawyer.  ;)

And in the middle of my law books, I found a thin little booklet, from the 1990 Memorial Service for Mary Abigail McCarthy.

She was a Clinical Professor at my law school -- which means she led some of the law school's clinical programs, where students represented clients under her supervision.  I didn't take her class.  I never even knew the woman.  But when she died, at only 41, of pancreatic cancer, I attended the memorial service in our law school auditorium.

I don't remember many of the speakers, but one of them has stayed with me these sixteen years.  Martha Flanders (whose name I credit here, since I'm about to quote her) was a close friend of Mary's, and a fellow student when Mary was in law school.  She told the following story (conveniently reprinted in the booklet):

Mary was the epitome of a person who, to use the European expression, is comfortable within her own skin.  I remember an introductory class in federal income tax, our 'favorite' course.  Our earnest young Professor Rollins was lecturing on the method of determining federal tax.  He was droning on and on about gross income, exemptions, adjusted gross income, deductions, and applicable tax rates, and simultaneously illustrating his lecture on the blackboard with an elaborate and incomprehensible calculation.

All at once, a voice in the middle distance intoned, 'Halt!'

Professor Rollins turned around, and Mary said, 'You lost me.'

Professor Rollins turned back to the blackboard, leaned down, and started going through his calculations from the bottom.  'Now, where did I lose you?  Here?' and he pointed to the bottom-most figure.

'No,' came the reply.

'Here?' He pointed to the next figure.

'No,' came the reply.

'Here?' he asked, hopefully.

And each time the reply was 'No, further back.'

Finally, Mary took pity on the young professor and said dryly, 'Perhaps you should begin at the beginning.'

Mary was sure enough of her intelligence to know that if she wasn't learning, it wasn't being taught.

I kid you not -- I have remembered (and even recounted) this story for sixteen years.  I remember it whenever I feel clueless when someone is explaining something to me -- and I think about Mary McCarthy and scrape up the confidence to say, "You lost me."

It's a little unusual, I guess, to be guided in life by a remembrance of someone I never knew.  Then again, maybe that's just a teensy bit of what a memorial service is supposed to do.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The NEXT thing I'm insanely proud of



The TV Show Meme

I rarely do memes around here, but I saw this one over at The Daily Snooze and just had to play:

The instructions are simple: change the color and/or boldface the shows you've watched at least three complete episodes of, and Bold and Italicize a show if you're certain you've seen every episode of it. You can add up to three shows to the list, but keep them in alphabetical order.


3rd Rock from the Sun

7th Heaven


Aeon Flux


Alfred Hitchcock Presents



Alien Nation

Allo Allo

American Idol/Pop Idol/Canadian Idol/Australian Idol

America's Next Top Model/Germany's Next Top Model


Arrested Development

Babylon 5

Babylon 5: CrusadeBattlestar


Battlestar Galactica (the old one)

Battlestar Galactica (the new one)



Beauty & the Beast

Beavis & Butthead

The Ben Stiller Show

Beverly Hills 90210




Bosom Buddies

Boston Legal

Boy Meets World

Brady Bunch

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Bug Juice

Chappelle's Show

Charlie's Angels



China Beach


Commander in Chief


Cowboy Bebop

Crossing Jordan


CSI: Miami


Curb Your Enthusiasm


Dancing with the Stars

Danny Phantom

Dark Angel

Dark Skies

Davinci's Inquest

Dawson's Creek

Dead Like Me

Deadliest Catch


Degrassi: The Next Generation

Designing Women

Desperate Housewives

Dharma & Greg

Diff'rent Strokes

Doctor Who (new Who)

Doctor Who (series 1-26)


Due South

Dungeons and Dragons


Earth 2

Earth - Final Conflict





Escape From Planet Earth


Everybody Loves Raymond

Facts of Life

Falcon Crest

Family Guy

Family Ties

Fantasy Island


Fawlty Towers



Flamingo Road



Full House


Get Smart

Gilligan's Island

Gilmore Girls

Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.

Green Wing

Grey's Anatomy

Growing Pains


Happy Days

Head of the Class



Hill Street Blues

Hogan's Heroes

Home Improvement

Homicide: Life on the Street


I Dream of Jeannie

I Love Lucy

Invader Zim


Iron Chef (Japan)

Iron Chef (USA)






John Doe

Kath and Kim

Knight Rider

Knots Landing

La Femme Nikita

LA Law


Laverne and Shirley

Law & Order

Law & Order: Criminal Intent

Law & Order: SVU

Little House on the Prairie

Lizzie McGuire

Logan's Run

Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman


Lost in Space

Love, American Style



Magnum P.I.

Malcolm in the Middle

Married...With Children

Melrose Place

Miami Vice


Mission Impossible



Mork & Mindy

Murphy Brown

My Family

My Favorite Martian

My Life as a Dog

My Mother the Car

My So-Called Life

My Three Sons

My Two Dads

Mysterious Cities of Gold


Night Court


Northern Exposure


One Tree Hill


Parker Lewis Can't Lose

Perfect Strangers

Perry Mason

Picket Fences

Pirates of Darkwater


Power Rangers

Prison Break


Project Blue Book ("Project UFO" in UK)

Project Runway


Quantum Leap

Queer As Folk (US)

Queer asFolk (British)

Queer Eye For The Straight Guy


Remington Steele

Rescue Me

Road Rules




Samurai Jack

Sanford & Son

Saved by the Bell

Scarecrow and Mrs. King

Scooby-Doo Where Are You?



Sex and the City

Six Feet Under


Slings and Arrows


Small Wonder

So Weird

Sonny Spoon

South Park

Space 1999


Spongebob Squarepants

Sports Night

Square Pegs

St. Elsewhere

Star Trek

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Star Trek: Voyager

Star Trek: Enterprise

Stargate Atlantis

Stargate SG-1






Teen Titans


That Girl

That 70's Show

That's So Raven

The 4400

The Addams Family

The Andy Griffith Show

The A-Team

The Avengers

The Beverly Hillbillies

The Bionic Woman

The Book of Daniel

The Colbert Report

The Cosby Show

The Daily Show

The Dead Zone

The Dick Van Dyke Show

The Dukes of Hazard

The Ed Sullivan Show

The Flintstones

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

The Golden Girls

The Greatest American Hero

The Jetsons

The L Word

The Love Boat

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

The Mighty Boosh

The Monkees

The Munsters

The Mythbusters

The O.C.

The Office (UK)

The Office (US)

The Outer Limits

The Pretender

The Prisoner

The Real World

The Shield

The Simpsons

The Six Million Dollar Man

The Sopranos

The Suite Life of Zack and Cody

The Twilight Zone

The Waltons

The West Wing

The Wild Wild West

The Wonder Years

The X-Files

Third Watch


Three's Company

Top Gear

Twin Peaks

Twitch City

Upstairs, Downstairs


Veronica Mars


What Not To Wear (US)

What Not To Wear (UK)

Whose Line is it Anyway? (US)

Whose Line is it Anyway? (UK)


Will & Grace


Wonder Woman

Xena: Warrior Princess

Young Hercules

If you wish to play along -- and if you're reading this, consider yourself so challenged -- the easiest way to do so is to copy the list above to TypePad or NotePad so that the boldface or italicized formatting will not copy with it, then you can adjust as necessary on your own blog.

Y'know, what I found downright scary about this is how many hours I must have spent watching TV.