Monday, April 30, 2007

Welcome to the Containment Zone

The construction guys showed up today -- bright and early at 8:05 -- to begin taking apart my water-damaged ceiling and walls.

Interesting factoid:  Any time people are dealing with water damage, they must act as though it is contaminated with toxic mold.  Sorta like how medical folk (and police) must act as though anyone's blood has AIDS, and just take all protective measures.

Which is why a good chunk of my living room looks like a scene from Outbreak -- it's separated off with plastic from floor to ceiling.  And there's a little doorway and a vestibule and a second doorway so that none of the (potentially) mold-filled air can escape when someone is going in or out.  I'm told they wear supersuits when they're in there -- conveniently, I'm working at home tomorrow so should get photographic evidence.  (No pics tonight -- I'm waiting till I get more daylight in there.) 

Near as I can tell from peeking through the semi-transparent plastic, they've taken out two sizeable chunks of ceiling, and a little bit of wall.  They may have taken more wall -- it's hard to tell exactly.  They've also got a big tube -- sort of like the dryer vent, except about a foot in diameter, venting out an opening in the plastic and through an open window out to my patio.  I do not know whether that is an intake or an outflow vent -- in the absence of such knowledge, I decided not to open my patio door for ventilation.

And the place needs ventilation.  Smells ucky.  I am hoping that it is simply the delightful scent of newly unrolled plastic, rather than the equally pleasant aroma of newly-opened water-damaged ceiling.  In any event, I am now covering my mouth and nose with a piece of fabric when I go in that part of the house.  Never thought I'd say these words, but I should've picked up one of them surgical masks at the drug store.

Construction guys said, this morning, that they'd finish the destruction and cleaning in my unit today, and then let their magic air cleaning machine do whatever voodoo it do for 24 hours, so the mold guy could come on Wednesday and test some air samples. 

When I came home, I found a note on my door saying they needed to come back to my unit for 2 or 3 hours tomorrow to finish with cleaning the inside of my walls.  Day One and the contractor is already behind on the time estimate.  Color me surprised.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Cheap PJs

I've been journalling a lot about expensive purchases lately.  Time for a cost-saving tip.

I don't buy pajamas or nightshirts.  Instead, I go to Old Navy, find their 100% cotton t-shirts (selling for $6.50) and buy an XXL one.  Instant nightshirt, for under $10.

....if only I could've gotten out of the mall without seeing the "snowglobe sale" at the Disney Store.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

I'm in Love with the Fuller Brush Man

Clicking channels, around one in the morning, looking for something that will make me go to sleep.  It hit upon the Fuller Brush Hour on HSN, and I'm thinking, "what could possibly be more sleep-inducing than Fuller Brush Hour on HSN?"

First, I have to say the shopper in me was intrigued.  These do seem to be useful, quality brushes at a reasonable price. 

Then again, I don't really see myself standing above my shower drain, jamming that thin little brush in there, and bringing it back up covered with hair.  I mean, yeah, shower drain maintenance is probably being overlooked in my home.  But, really, it's amazing that I manage to keep the laundry done and the floor Roomba'd.  Baby steps, people.

But then, I saw him.  No, that's not correct.  I don't give a damn what the Fuller Brush Man looks like (but I'm guessing he is not, in fact, a hunka burnin' love).  I heard him.  I don't know what sort of bizarre chemical reaction goes on in my brain, but there's a teensy weensy percentage of the people on this planet that have a voice that sends happy little endorphins streaming through my system, and damn if the Fuller Brush Man ain't one of them.  I'm actually contemplating recording Fuller Brush Hour next week, so's I can listen to it before falling asleep whenever I need a little pick me up.

Besides.  What's sexier than a man who knows how to clean a lint trap?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Add REI to the list...


We've already discussed the mismatched shoes, the baggy swimsuit, and the incorrectly sized fleece pull-over

Today, I got my order from REI.  I had ordered:  a water bottle, fleece gloves, some midweight long underwear bottoms and some heavyweight long underwear bottoms.

OK, right away, I'll admit that the heavyweight long underwear bottoms were not what I'd meant to order.  I was aiming for just some nice heavyweight fleece pants.  But I can likely make use of heavyweight long underwear bottoms, so, y'know, ok.

The box arrived. 

The water bottle looks good.

The gloves fit.

The heavyweight long underwear bottoms fit.

....yes!  All we need is for the midweight long underwear bottoms to fit, and I won't have to return anything.  I reach into the box and pull out ...

... another pair of heavyweight long underwear bottoms.

I kid you not.

I take a closer look at the receipt, where, clear as day, I ordered both midweight and heavyweight bottoms.  I see, however, where someone has -- for some totally inexplicable reason -- added in pen the number "2" next to the heavyweight long undewear bottoms.  As if they knew they were putting two of that item in the box, even though they clearly knew that is not what I'd ordered.

We are not amused.  We will share our lack of amusement with our local REI store sometime this weekend.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Have begun receiving packages -- all the crap I've been buying off the internet lately.

You already know the swimsuit was a raging failure.  As was the flannel half-zip pullover I bought at the same time.  "What could possibly be wrong with a flannel half-zip pullover?" you ask.  Too big.  This is particularly annoying because I used their size charts.  Seriously.  I stood here with a measuring tape and took all my measurements and compared them to the chart and bought the size they said I should buy.  Yo!  Lands End!  Here's an idea:  If you're gonna have size charts, maybe your stuff should be, oh, I don't know, true to the measurements in your size charts.  I'm just sayin'

An unfortunate problem with the Trail Running Shoes, which also arrived today.  Right shoe fit great.  Left shoe was really, really, really tight.  Now, the one-foot-slightly-bigger-than-the-other thing is not completely unknown to me -- but I'd thought it was my right foot which was the bigger one.  Held the shoes up to each other sole to sole.  Left shoe noticeably shorter than right shoe.  Yeah.  They'll be going back.

The socks I bought from Sierra Trading Post seemed fine, but, y'know, they're socks.  (And, actually, I only tried on the one pair when I was trying out the trail running shoes.  I'm just going to assume the rest of the socks actually fit.  Because who the hell tries on socks?)

So there's lots of returning in my future.  The convenience of shopping online is substantially lessened when you've gotta spend the weekend driving around returning all this stuff.

The Great Camera Dilemma of '07 -- Solved!

Man.  I have been driving my friends crazy trying to decide between digital cameras.  In one corner, the Pentax W30 (the slightly better newer version of the Pentax WP that Wil recommended).  In the other, the Olympus Stylus SW 770.  The Olympus is better than the Pentax in nearly every way.  It's also $100 more.

Both are waterproof cameras, which is one of the things I'm looking for in a camera.  My old camera was waterproof, and I loved being able to take that with me kayaking or on other adventures that might involve it getting splashed.  The Olympus, though, is waterproof to a depth of, like, 10 meters.  Also crush-proof, drop-proof, and all-around beat-the-crap-out-of-it proof.  Hell, I could take that sucker whitewater rafting and just clip it to my wetsuit without worry.  But did I mention the whole $100 more expensive thing?

I am usually very decisive.  With this, I had great difficulty.  I made a great big chart, comparison-shopping not only the cameras, but also their accessories (as the batteries and storage cards are different on the cameras).  I also read tons of reader reviews.

My ultimate conclusion was that I'd buy the Pentax ... if it was made by Olympus.  I am not here to bad mouth the fine folks at Pentax (and, certainly, a personal recommendation from Wil weighed in its favor) -- but I read an awful lot of reviews about the Pentax failing and Pentax customer service being crap -- while the Olympus scored very high across the board.

I considered the Olympus's younger-brother, which was not as waterproof (but still pretty waterproof), and cheaper -- but it got horrible reviews for user-unfriendliness, so I quickly knocked this off the list.

I pondered for another day.  Kept looking for cheaper deals on the Olympus.  It's more camera than I need, but if I can bring the price down lower, I could maybe justify the purchase. 

While deal-shopping, I came across Olympus's trade-in program.  Basically, you send them your old camera and proof you bought an Olympus, and they'll send you a small check (depending on the street value of your old camera).  I was thinking, hey, maybe I could knock another $20 or $40 off the Olympus's price with this program.  (Heck, someone is selling my old camera model on eBay now, and the bids are up to $61.  Of course, that one actually comes with its batteries, and I still can't find the batteries for mine.)

I went to Olympus's trade-in estimator and typed in my camera's specs.  Was treated to the cheerful information that my camera has no trade-in value.  Harsh.  (I wasn't entirely surprised -- other trade-in estimators have said my current laptop has no trade-in value either.)

But.  While the Olympus website was busy dissing my camera, I discovered something about Olympus cameras in general.  The entire Stylus line is "all-weather."  It ain't waterproof, but you can take pics in the rain or snow, and it can get splashed on with no problems.

Hmmm.  The other day Peggy had suggested I consider how often I'd actually take the camera kayaking, and I replied that I'd put it in potential splash situations pretty often.  But there aren't a whole ton of times that I'd want to take the damn thing actually underwater.

Which basically meant that the entire Stylus line was open to me, without having to get the extra-special-rugged model.

Another half hour of comparing features, reading reviews (with particular attention to how well the all-weatherness held up) and comparison shopping, and I found the Stylus for me with all the right features. 

For a few bucks less than the Pentax.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Verdict On The Virtual Model

Lands' End has a "Virtual Model" on their website.  The idea is that you can type in your measurements and it will show you how their clothes look on you.

That's the idea, anyway.

Last week, I realized I needed a new swimsuit (what with dropping about 3 sizes from my last swimsuit purchase).  Lands' End has a huge swimsuit selection, so I figure I'll try there.  And I start by trying a bunch of swimsuits on my virtual model.

My virtual model looks pretty hot in one suit, so I figure I'll get that one.

And then I get a little worried, because I then saw a picture of the swimsuit on a live human being (i.e. their catalog model) and the suit looked totally different.  All baggy in places and stuff.  I looked back at the virtual model and, y'know, she filled it out. 

I decided to give it a shot.  If it doesn't fit, I can always return it (at my local Sears). 

Swimsuit arrived today.  I tried it on.  It fit...

.... like it fit the catalog model.  Very bunchy and baggy.  Not at all like how it looked on the virtual model.  I am so taking this sucker back this weekend.

I then decided to try an experiment on the virtual model.  (An experiment I should have tried before I ordered this thing.)  I started messing with her dimensions.  I made her weigh 90 pounds and look totally flat-chested (like the catalog model).  I put the swimsuit back on her.  She looked great in it -- not at all like how the model actually looked wearing the swimsuit.

Further messing around with the virtual model's weight and shape convinced me that all clothes always fit the same on the virtual model.  If she weighs more, they make the clothes look a little wider, but the fit is always the same -- perfect.  In my case, whoever made the image of the swimsuit that they stretch and shrink to fit the virtual model made it a really nice slim-fitting image. 

Unfortunately, that ain't this swimsuit.

Sigh.  Serious limitations to the Virtual Model technology.  What we really need is a virtualmodel that actually shows you stuff like your big ol' butt hanging out the back of the swimsuit.  Now that would be useful.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Valerie Ruth Cooper

Some weeks ago, Scalzi did a weekend assignment asking everyone what their pen name would be.  It brought back memories.

When I was a kid, I took piano lessons (on the now-recently-rained-upon piano).  And I did recitals, and tested to pass to different levels, and all that other stuff kids do when they're playing an instrument but have no real talent at it.

And one year, my teacher taught me how to play grace notes.  You hit two keys simultaneous and then quickly lift your finger off one, leaving the other one down.  The first note is only there for a tic, while the other one lingers.  It's a different sound, and I was enamored by it.  I practiced it tons.  Same thing with trills -- when you really quickly alternate between two notes next to each other.  Trills and grace notes over and over again.  Must have driven my parents nuts.  Finally, I put a few grace notes after a few trills and whamm-o, I wrote my first piece of music.  Must've been all of a half-page long, but, hey, there it was.

My piano teacher (and/or my mother) thought I should enter this into some sort of kids' songwriting competition.  They thought my half-page of music might be better if I wrote another song to go with it.  Maybe it would be part of a suite?  Now I had to compose on demand.  I called the grace note/trill piece "School Bus," and then threw something together called, if I recall correctly, "Taxi Cab."

To submit them in the competition, I had to copy them over neatly on blank sheet music.  And I had to put a pen name on them -- as the competition was judged anonymously.  I thought about it really hard and named myself "Valerie Cooper."  No real reason.  I'd always thought Valerie was a pretty name, and Cooper seemed a fairly straightforward last name (that people would have no difficulty pronouncing or spelling, unlike my real name).  My father, upon hearing my nom de plume, commented that it didn't sound particularly Jewish, at which point I threw Ruth in as a middle name.  Valerie Ruth Cooper.  Probably used more ink signing the music than it took writing "Taxi Cab."

Somewhere, in a storage box in the back of my closet, I have the feedback "Ms. Cooper" received from the panel of judges.  Lotsof "Good first try; keep writing!" sorts of things.  And one judge inexplicably singled out "Taxi Cab" for praise, thinking that one had been my quality composition.  (Even though it didn't have any trills or grace notes at all!)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Question for the camera-buyers out there

OK, so like, assume that after hours of research, you find the digital camera you want to buy.  (And, yes, then you find the charger for your old camera's batteries, but have now convinced yourself that camera is obsolete, given all the stuff you were looking at, so you figure you'll buy the new one anyway.)

And then you want to find the best price for it.

Now, you could do something sensible like comparing prices on the camera.  But all the stores offer different packages -- in which they throw various and sundry crap in with the camera.  (Indeed, I reckon this is where they make their real money, as I'm guessing the great bulk of the crap is off-brand stuff they get for cheap.)

Leading to the question:  what crap should one buy for one's camera?  Extra memory cards?  (One big card?  Lotsa little ones?)  Camera case?  Back-up battery?  Cute little foldy-tripod?  Lens cleany kit?  Which of this stuff will I actually need (and use) and which is a waste of cash?

And, more to the point, should I try to get a camera bundled with all this stuff, or am I better off buying the camera separately and choosing exactly the stuff I want and going with name-brand purveyors?

(The fact that today's Woot is two 512 MB SD cards for $5.99 is sorta bringing the question to the fore.)

What? Me? Blogging?

Gordy (a voice from the past -- re-hi!) asks why the heck I'm blogging so much lately.  Two reasons:

1.  I always blog my trips, and I've been in pre-trip mode this weekend, so it seemed natural.

2.  The question isn't so much why I'm blogging of late -- the question is why I haven't blogged much in the past months/years.  And that's been because I've had too much on my mind that's not bloggable.  I mean, I got rules I live by -- which is that if there's anyone on the planet who shouldn't read what I'm blogging, don't blog it.  Now, I know that there's very little chance the folks who shouldn't read what I'm blogging actually read my blog -- but I just don't want to risk that sort of thing biting me in the butt.  This leaves several topics totally off-limits.  Like:  (1) everything I've gone through with offers on the condo (wouldn't want a buyer seeing me talk about them during negotiations); (2) everything about houses I see (wouldn't want a seller to know I'm interested); (3) my job (self-explanatory); (4) the LA Drama Critics Circle Awards (definitely wouldn't want anyone in the theatrical community stumbling upon how that particular sausage gets made); (5) a rather unusual argument I've had with a friend (also self-explanatory).  And these are the things that happen to have been on my mind of late.

Sometimes I've thought about blogging something else just for the sake of blogging -- keeping the Informal Writing Muscles in practice and also not losing (by lack of updates) whoever might still be reading me.  This doesn't really work.  If I force the writing, there's nothing of use for anyone to read. 

So, to sum up:  I guess I'm in a bit of a happier place now.  Not that I've been in a bad place or anything -- I just haven't been in a particular bloggable place.  Hopefully, that's changed.

P.S.  Ironically, I was just off buying some socks (to go with the trail running shoes) on when Gordy was over here recommending the site.

P.P.S.  Took a bit of research, actually, to make sure you're supposed to wear socks with trail running shoes.  I think it's a negative on the trail running shoes that are made for running in water as well as off-road -- but I've definitely seen pictures of people wearing socks with the regular ones.  Not to mention, some companies actually make "trail running socks."  Of course they do.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Internet Impulse Buying

I must say, the internet has totally mastered the art of product placement for impulse buying.  I mean, I know that stores do it all the time -- placing products near the check-out stand so that you think, "Oh, hey, I should grab me one of them" on your way out, even if you never intended to buy one when you walked into the store.

I've seen cheap attempts at product placement on the internet before.  Omaha Steaks, I think, gives you one of those "Hey!  Why not add-on these great deals?" after you hit the "checkout" button.  Which I've always found a little obvious, if not downright annoying.  No, I already ordered what I want.  Give me my damn Enter Payment Info screen.

And then ... someone tipped me off to woot.  Woot offers one deal a day ... until it's sold out (or the day is over).  Then you have to check their site the next day (midnight central -- conveniently 10:00 Pacific) to see what the next product is.  Largely tech/geeky stuff.  (Sometimes I have to research the day's woot, because I have no idea what the item does.)  But the prices are good.  And every once in awhile they have a "woot-off" -- when rather than running one deal a day -- they run one deal at a time, and put up a new deal once the last deal has sold out.  During a woot-off, I found myself obsessively checking their website every few minutes, to see if the last deal was gone yet and the next one posted.

And woot also links to other, similar, websites, which is how I met the nice folks at  Steepandcheap is, apparently, owned by -- and they run a woot-off style site (just keep replacing the deal when the last one sells out) that sells outdoorsy clothes and gear.

I might have mentioned I'm planning this Alaska cruise thingie, right?

So, here's me, glued to the computer, maniacally refreshing to see what the next deal is.  I knew it would only be a matter of time before I ordered something from them. 

It was about two days.  It would have been sooner, but I'm short, and most of their clothing does not come in "petite" sizes -- meaning that arms are too long in jackets and legs are too long in pants.  But I could tell the prices were good, so I kept checking.  Which might explain my purchase of trail running shoes.

OK, let's be clear here.  I do not run trails, nor do I foresee myself running on a trail anytime soon.  So I can't really imagine a circumstance in which I would have walked into a store and said, "Gee, I need me some trail running shoes."

But when I saw the trail running shoes on steepandcheap yesterday, a few facts ran through my head:  (1)  They are in my size; (2)  They are good for outdoorsy terrain, and I will find myself outdoors with no real alternative to my hiking boots; (3)  This model says it stops pronation, and I tend to pronate; (4)  Excellent reviews for these shoes and people say they're so comfy they wear them indoors; (5)  Damn, that's a good price.

So, now there's a pair of trail running shoes winging their way toward me.

What's even worse is that steepandcheap has now prompted me to impulse buy stuff from other websites.  Example:  Steepandcheap puts up a pair of sunglasses.  I can't buy those sunglasses, because I wear regular eyeglasses.  But it reminds me that I've wanted a pair of clip-on sunglasses for months.  Now, last time I tried to get clip-ons, the folks at lenscrafters said I'd need to buy new eyeglasses (in that they come in matched sets) and my prescription is out of date so I'd have to go to my opthalmologist and get a new 'scrip (or have him rewrite the old one and fax it to them) and I've never gotten around to doing this.  But now, I get the brilliant idea to search the internet for some clip-ons, which leads me to  They sell clip-on shades in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Indeed, they make you measure your eyeglass lenses in millimeters so they can match the exact size.  (Ever try measuring your eyeglass lenses in millimeters?  You obviously have to take your glasses off.  In which case, you can't freakin' read the difference between 27 and 28 millimeters -- 'cause if you could, you wouldn't need the damn glasses in the first place.)  Sure enough, I found a pair in something remarkably close to my size (or, at least, close to what I thought my size was).  Now, normally, I'm very cautious about buying stuff from websites that don't come with a reputable recommendation -- and I'd sorta found these guys from their paid ad on amazon.  But, to my absolute delight, they accept PayPal, so I didn't have to risk giving a stranger my credit card info.

So, now there's some clip-on sunglasses also winging their way to me.

Steepandcheap's got a backpack up now.  Wonder what that's going to make me buy.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


You ever read stuff that talks about someone petting a cat "absently"?  Y'know, sorta like "Blofeld absently stroked the white fluffy cat in his lap."  (Younger readers may replace "Blofeld" with "Dr. Evil" and "white fluffy" with "hairless.")

I've had Jasmine for going on four years now.  Let me tell you:  there is no petting this cat absently.  I think it's just part of the demanding I-must-be-the-center-of-attention quality of cats, but petting Jasmine is something you've sorta got to devote some attention to.  (If for no other than reason, to move your hand quickly when she threatens to bite.)  Honestly, she's been snuggling with me in bed the past few nights, but even then, it's a very conscious: pet, pet, pet, pet, pet, pet ... ok, I'm done.  If I even try to leave my hand out of the covers just lazily wrapped around the cat, she'll nip at my fingers. 

That's my cat:  petting her is an all or nothing proposition.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Cameras and Rain Pants and Rain

Camera -- Wil has a point -- I should just see if I have a driver for my digital camera (or if one magically downloads, as they tend to do).  Of course, my real problem isn't that I can't find the disk -- I know where the disk probably is.  My real problem is that I lost the batteries and charger.  (I can find the batteries and charger for a digital camera I bought, like, ten years ago.  It has one whole Megapixel resolution and is bigger than a VHS tape -- and my computer fails to recognize it -- but at least I can charge the damn NiCads.)  Anyway, I'm going to have to investigate buying some new batteries (these were them nickel-metal-hydride ones -- I don't even know if those are still state of the art rechargables).  Seeing as Sony no longer makes my camera or my batteries, I have a feeling this is going to end with my buying a new camera.  I lie.  It will end when, after I've bought a new camera, I find the batteries and charger.

(Oh, and no, my sister (and her husband) aren't coming on the Alaska trip.  My sister prefers to vacation in places more like Hawaii.)

Rain Pants -- they fit!  Hooray!  (This was one of my diet goals.)  Those damn pants which I bought a couple years ago (right around when I bought the camera, come to think of it) that I haven't been able to get into since.  I am very happy about this.  (My ski pants, however, which I bought back when I was 25 pounds heavier -- not so much.  What with the suspenders, I look like a clown in them.) 

Rain.  OK, so, remember how I took my condo off the market because there's this crack in my ceiling and it's more serious than we thought so they have to patch the roof and rip out my walls and solve the leak and all that other stuff?  Well, it rained today.  And the crack in my ceiling split.  And rain came in.  On the piano.  (I discovered this tonight while trying on my activewear.  I took pictures.  Film camera.)  Phone call to some neighbors to act as witnesses and help me move (and dry) the piano (no water got inside, thank goodness).  Phone call to Management Company Emergency Line and boy, did my rep call me RIGHT BACK -- promising someone would be out tomorrow to put a temporary fix on that thing so it stops raining in my living room.  She suggested I tape some plastic on the ceiling in the meantime -- but my ceilings are kinda high and I can't reach it even standing on a chair.  It stopped raining (so far) and I just put a big trash bag on the carpet right UNDER the split in the ceiling and I'll just hope that'll take care of things until the contractor can get out here tomorrow.

I should get some sleep -- who knows how early she'll have some guy show up at my door with duct tape and a tarp.

Good Lord, I'm blogging about Sanjaya

I meant to write this last night, but AOL was being uncooperative.

Here's the thing:  I expect American Idol ratings to go down, now that Sanjaya has been voted off.

This is not because I think Sanjaya has a huge fan base who will all leave in disgust after their star has been booted.  American Idol (like many other reality shows) works on a model where people get kicked off regularly, and this generally does not impact their ratings in a negative manner. 

But I do think that a lot of people have been watching just waiting for Sanjaya to be booted, and now that he's gone, the show lacks a certain ...

Let me put it this way.  I didn't watch American Idol 3.  And I didn't watch because I happened to catch Fantasia's audition, and Simon said something like, "You're the first person I've seen who doesn't need this show.  You'd be a star without it."  And I thought, "Well, ok, she's gonna win.  That's the end of that."

The same thing is going on with Melinda.  Oh sure, at first, they started to make it look like it'd be a competition between Melinda and Lakisha -- but (after a sterling beginning) Lakisha has wavered quite a bit.  (I even noticed last week they were trying to build up Jordin -- so that she'd be a possible legitimate contender in the audience's mind.)  Let's face it, Melinda overwhelming the competition week after week until such time as she is crowned the winner isn't exactly exciting television.

But what is exciting television -- if we can't be moved by wondering who is going to win -- is wondering how long someone who should be kicked off sticks around.  (Kind of like why I kept tuning in to the first Survivor, week after week, waiting for them to kick Richard off.)  "Will Sanjaya go this week?" is good television.  It might be annoying to the people who think this is a true singing competition and wish Sanjaya wasn't there -- but I bet the producers were secretly digging it, seeing as it was actually making people tune in and care about "American Idol" in what is otherwise a boring season.

As much as Simon was overjoyed to see him go -- I bet he won't be as when next week's ratings come out.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I Should Really Update That

Andy asks if I've made it to New Zealand yet.  In fact, I have -- about three and a half years ago.  It dawns on me that the description of my journal as "the ramblings of a 35-year-old wussy girl who somehow got it into her head to plan a relatively adventurey vacation in New Zealand" is a bit out of date.  Seeing as I'm pushing 39 now.

The link, for anyone who wants to read up on the adventure of November 2003, began around here:

Warning:  This was back when AOL had really strict character-limits for journal entries, so I had to write the journal about a paragraph at a time.  It was also back when I used (I know -- hard to believe) a film camera.  So I didn't have any of the pictures when I wrote the original entries.  So then I did a completely different set of journal entries summarizing the trip in photos.  That starts here:

I took a moment re-reading some of that stuff.  Funny how so many things haven't changed all that much in the intervening few years.  I'm still messing around with the weak ankle ligament.  I'm still trying to get in shape (although, this time, because of all the time I've spent in the aircast, I'm doing it all by diet rather than exercise).  And, as it happens, I'm planning yet another adventurey vacation. 

If all goes according to plan ... (and, if it doesn't, I bought travel insurance) ... I'll be going on an Alaska cruise in about ... damn, a bit more than a month.  (I might want to look into that whole exercise thing.)  This trip is going to be rather different than most of my other vacations, in that I'm not going alone.  My folks are joining me on this one.

We hadn't really done much planning for this one (other than, y'know, paying the cruise company big piles of money -- because they let you pay them a slightly less big pile if you pay in advance) -- and then, all of a sudden, I realized we needed to book our shore excursions in advance, so we spent a bunch of time looking at internet brochures, calling each other comparing notes, and, ultimately, having a very silly three-way phone call with the cruise company.  I say "very silly" because, apparently, my folks do not have conference calling on their phone, which would explain why mom was on the phone with the cruise company and on the cell phone with me, trying to coordinate.  We've booked a whole passel of amazing activities (oddly, we were pretty much interested in the same stuff -- my mom even wanted to do the "zip line adventure") which should be insanely fun.

This time, I'll have a digital camera with me -- and if I get my act together (and can find the software that came with it), I'll be able to download pics to my laptop every night and journal with photos on a regular basis.  Of course, internet access is a bit pricey from the boat (probably no more than the extortionate prices I paid in London), so if the connection ain't zippy enough, I might have to leave the photos till later again.

Anyway, that's the plan. know, I packed up all my cold-weather gear when I was cleaning my closet to make the place look nicer for buyers.  So, now my condo is off the market and half the clothes I need for this trip are (I kid you not) in a wardrobe box in the very back of my storage cage, with the words, "Note to self: don't go skiing" written on it in black magic marker.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

My Cat Wuvs Me. Ask me how I know.

I just found out that she threw up while I was away.

Every day.

(I so totally owe my friend who was watching her.  Come to think of it, I may need a new cat-sitter.)

Monday, April 9, 2007

There's News ... and There's People Who Blog About News

Look, I realize I'm not in any position to actually complain about AOL anymore.  I mean, it's free.  You get what you pay for.

And yet ... I want to know if I'm the only one who is annoyed by this:

I'm lookin' at the AOL Welcome Screen as it rotates through various headlines.  I'll click on a headline of interest expecting to be connected to a news report of the story related to said headline.  Instead, I am linked to a blog discussing the bit of news.

This annoys me.

Hey, I like blogs.  (It'd be pretty silly for me to complain about blogs on my own blog now, wouldn't it?)  But I don't want to get my news from a blog.  I want to get my news from a ... y'know ... news source.  If I want commentary on the news, then I'll search out a blog.

That's the real difference.  I mean, if I get a news story off of Reuters or AP, I can expect it to be a more or less objective description of the facts.  Sure, I don't expect all news outlets to be completely objective.  Heck, if I get a news story off Fox News, I know that I can expect it to lean a bit to the right.  But I know that in advance, if I choose to get my news off of Fox.

The thing about blogs is: you don't know what you're getting.  You know you're most likely not getting any attempt to objectively set out the facts.  You're likely getting an editorial -- the opinion of the blogger -- on the news story.  Which, again, I want to stress is all well and good.  The problem here is that when I click on a headline on the AOL welcome screen, I'm expecting news, so I get annoyed when it links me to some blogger's editorial

Too many times, I've clicked on a link expecting to get a news story and instead I get a blog coming from a point of view so divergent from mine I close the link in disgust before I finish reading said blogger's attempt to convert me to his or her way of thought.  Other times, I'm linked to a blog that is just really poorly written.  And in nearly every case, if you happen to make it to the end of the article, you're treated to comments -- and if the story is on a topic that is anywhere near controversial, the comments are likely to be invective-filled rants I'm ashamed to have on my computer screen.

So, here's the thing.  AOL, if you actually want me to keep using you for a source of news (which, of course, involves clicking through and seeing lots of ads and stuff), stop linking to blogs as though they were news reports.  Or, at the very least, clearly identify when a link is to a blog before we click it.  Is that too much to ask?

Friday, April 6, 2007

Condo for Sale -- Sometime this Summer

In all the excitement, I forgot to keep you updated on the efforts to sell my condo.

OK.  Here's what happened.  There was a buyer interested in the condo.  (That's a good thing.)  She came back and saw it, like, three times.  Finally, she drafts up an offer.

The offer is low.  Very, very low.

See, I have in mind a selling price.  I know this is a good selling price, because the two other offers I had -- which fell through for unrelated reasons -- were both in the neighborhood of that price.

This offer was thirty thousand dollars less.

Much laughter on my part. 

Excepting ...

The offer had come in on a Saturday.  The day before, a repair dude had been out to the building, to estimate repairs to a few units, due to water damage.  We're still not entirely sure whether the problem is a leak on the roof or unsealed electrical outlets on the balconies.  Some of the damage in one of the units downstairs might have been caused by the unsealed outlet on my balcony, so they brought the repair dude up to my unit.  As long as he was there, they showed him a water stain on my ceiling (which I had previously reported, and been told to just paint over, on the theory that it was caused by really heavy rains and wouldn't recur).  Repair dude was "concerned" about the water stain on my ceiling.  Saw evidence of "ponding."  Followed the water stain and saw another one near the floor.  Concluded that I had water damage inside the walls.  Recommended removing several of my walls (and ceiling), drying 'em out, conducting water testing, testing for mold, remediating as necessary, and putting the whole thing back together again.  The process would take three weeks, once begun.  And it wouldn't be begun until the homeowners association confirmed that any problems with roof and/or unsealed outlets had been taken care of.

All of a sudden, my unit was one of the water damaged ones.

I made a counter-offer.  I disclosed everything -- although I was careful to point out that, while all of these repairs would be a pain in the butt to whoever was living here at the time, the actual expense would not fall on the unit-owner, as this was a homeowners association problem.  (And if, by some freak of nature, it wasn't an association problem, it was a problem caused by the unit above me, and they'd be responsible for the repairs.)

Still.  A pain in the butt is a pain in the butt.  Being the kind, generous, thoughtful individual that I am, I lowered my mental selling price $5,000 to compensate for the pain in the butt factor, and submitted that as a counter-offer.  A "don't counter a lower price at me" counter-offer.

They countered a lower price at me.  Ten thousand dollars lower.  In case you were keeping track, that's now $15,000 lower than what had been "my price."  Their theory (as explained by their agent when submitting the counter) was that they'd accept the pain in the butt, but wanted $10,000 for it.  (Yes, I thought, but you don't realize that I've already offered you $5,000 for it.)

I thought about accepting their counter.  I really, really did.  I actually considered it.  Because, yeah, I'd be happy to be out of here before they take out my walls.  And also because I had recently seen a house that I'd pretty much fallen in love with. 

I made phone calls.  I found out exactly how much it would cost to pay off my mortgage and exactly how much I would walk away with (after closing costs and commissions) if I took this offer.  I checked interest rates on new mortgages to see if I could afford the house I was in love with.  I consulted with the Bank Of Mom And Dad.

Long story less long:  I could do it.  I could accept this offer and (most likely) afford to buy the house.

And yet:  I couldn't do it.  These buyers were taking advantage of me -- trying to get my condo for a bargain basement price, based on the coincidental circumstance that I'd just found out about these necessary repairs.  I mean, I'd had two other people willing to buy the place for $15,000 more, so I know that I'm not being unreasonable on price here.  And I know these people were trying to screw me.

Much deliberating later, I make a counteroffer.  You will note that our prices were $10,000 apart.  I offer to split the difference.  There's a certain logic to this.  They'd said they'd wanted $10,000 to compensate for the pain in the butt factor -- I am actually offering them $10,000 less than "my price."  I expect them to accept this offer.

They do not accept it.  They accept my price, but only on condition that, prior to close of escrow (30 days from acceptance of the offer), I make sure all necessary repairs have been performed (by a licensed contractor, etc.)  My agent reads this to me over the phone and I tell her to stop reading before she's even finished.  Obviously, this is impossible.  Repairs are going to be done by the association, and only in sequence (i.e., after they've fixed the roof and the outlets).  I can't guarantee repairs will be completed by any time, and even I could, there's no way I'd accept $10,000 less under those circumstances.  I tell my agent to tell them the offer is rejected with no counter.  (I might have told her this in slightly more colorful terms.)

I also pulled the listing.  There's no point in trying to sell the unit now, given that I know these repairs have to be conducted.  Because, boy, won't the unit show nicely when there are no walls in the living room!

The silver lining to this particular cloud was that I was able to go back to living like a slob, which really helped during those last few days leading up to the Awards.  So much easier to do all this stuff with three notebooks, dozens of folders, and a coupla economy-sized boxes of envelopes strewn about my office, rather than tidily keeping all this stuff stacked in the closet and accessing it only on an as-needed basis.

The Association got a couple bids for the repairs, and at the last meeting (the day after the Awards -- when I was supposed to be packing for London), accepted one.  The balcony outlets will be fixed next week.  Still don't have a start date for the major repairs to the units, as we're waiting on the roof repair.

I anticipate re-listing around June.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Sudafed High

Went to work on Monday.  I was not, you know, healthy enough to go to work, but there was something important going down in the morning, so I pumped myself full of meds (Sudafed Cold & Cough) and went in.

(Somewhat annoyingly, I had my best hair day in, like, two weeks.  I hadn't been able to let my hair air dry in London, so it had been blow-dried flat and frizzy for the whole trip.  Back in LA, I finally got all my curls back.  With a vengeance.)

I came to work carrying a box of Kleenex.  Gave my boss the cheerful news that I was sick.  (It's sometimes hard for people to tell when you're suitably drugged.  I mean, listening to my own voice, I think I sounded somewhat congested, but I guess it didn't sound that way to outsiders.)  Told the boss he had me for the morning -- or, more precisely, "until the Sudafed wears off."  My boss (who gained several cool points on Monday) rescheduled an afternoon meeting to the morning so that I could participate and still make it home before I disintegrated into a big pile of used tissue.

My cat has been taking good care of me -- staying in the same room I'm in and dropping by my lap for frequent doses of Kitty Love.  The other day, she did the nicest thing a cat can possibly do for a human -- she threw up in her food bowl!  Honestly.  Not even a drop on the mat.  Is that the best or what?

Sunday, April 1, 2007

World's Stupidest Conversation

Got a lot done on Friday -- unpacked, did a bunch of laundry, got out to the grocery store, bought some Passover food, got a massage, bought a present for Peggy's baby shower (on Sunday).  Came home and crashed on the sofa.  Stayed up until 2:00 a.m. for absolutely no reason (wasn't jet lag -- I was tired and could have gone to sleep).  Started feeling perhaps a little unwell.

Saturday confirmed the unwell feeling.  Thought I'd try my tried-and-true method for pushing the illness straight through to the "breaks into a cold" phase as fast as possible.  Many, many, many, many fluids.  (a.k.a., "let's pee the germies out")  This has worked for me a few times, but it isn't something I can bet on.  I'd hoped that if I got out of the achy (possibly feverish) phase into the feel-fine-but-sound-horrible phase, I'd be able to make it to my sister's for pre-Passover dinner tonight, and drop by Peggy's baby shower to drop off the present (without allowing my germies anywhere near her pregnant self).

Woke up this morning knowing that this plan had not quite been successful.  Still felt achy and ooky.  Called sister to cancel on dinner; called Peggy to cancel on shower.

My mother called me a few hours later to express regret that I would not be attending the family dinner tonight at my sister's.  (My lack of attendance is particularly annoying seeing as I got sick over Thanksgiving, so missed that one too.  Actually, I wonder if they thought my call was an April Fool's prank.) 

Anyway, I now recount the conversation I had with my mom:

Mom:  What's wrong?

Me:  I'm sick.

Mom:  Did you get sick in London?

Me:  No.  I got sick here.

Mom:  But all that running around London, did that catch up with you?

Me:  No.  I got sick here.

There.  A true conversational classic.  Of course, it doesn't matter at all where I got sick or why I got sick.  Only that I did, in fact, get sick.

Bring on the Nyquil!

P.S.  Hi Pam!  I'm in Los Angeles, which might explain the 10-hour flight from London.