Sunday, July 29, 2007

Not to Worry

Aw, thanks guys.

No need to be concerned about my work or any overspending.

As for the former, I'm actually throwing myself into my work with quite a bit of gusto.  A good portion of my job involves -- how to put this delicately? -- throwing the book at idiots.  I'm finding that throwing the book at idiots is extremely therapeutic.  Besides, seeing as my job is conveniently located not at my condo, I'm happy to be there.  My boss, also, is very sympathetic -- indeed, he's "feeling my pain" a bit too much, as he's facing a special assessment of his own in the amount of (you might want to sit down for this) $45,000.  So we're sorta hatin' condo life together.

No fears of overspending, either.  I've strictly limited the amount I've dedicated to Project Buy Happiness -- an amount I can well-afford to put to the use -- and I'm not going over, no matter what.  Indeed, I found something I think I'd like to do with the cash (check it out) but it's about a two-hour drive away and I'm trying to figure out how to keep it in budget without having to drive both ways in the same day.  Hotels in the area are wicked expensive, especially on weekends (and I don't want to take off from work as I am having too much fun there) so I'm trying to to investigate alternative transportation.  Amtrak runs a train, but I'm not sure the times will work.  Further updates as they occur.

I did, however, spend One Whole Dollar on the project yesterday.  I was a Petco picking up anti-hairball treats for Jasmine (you do not want to run out of anti-hairball treats) and the nice lady at Petco asked if I wanted to donate a buck to their pet fostering/adoption program.  It seemed a good way to start off Project Buy Happiness, so I gave 'em a dollar.  And felt very happy about it.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The First Step is to Recognize that You Have a Problem

In ten short days, I appear to have lost my ability to cope with the aforementioned stress.

Most of this has to do with recent developments in my lack-of-living-room.

We had an HOA meeting on Wednesday.  Here is the sum total of progress made on my living room in the month since the last meeting:

Drywall was put over both holes in my ceiling. 

Here's what's so remarkable about this particular piece of progress: 

The drywall has to be removed.  See, one of the holes actually failed the water test, so they should have left it open for further testing after further remediation was done.  And the leak that had been causing the problem in the other hole?  They didn't water test it after the last series of repairs.  So they need to rip out the drywall and water test -- THEN (hopefully) put the drywall back.

Yes, we've actually moved backwards in the efforts to put my living room back together.

I went to the HOA meeting to find this out -- as the management company representative had not answered either of my two emails on the subject.  The first email had been asking her, when she said she was going to have the contractor "partially" reinstall my drywall, exactly which "part" he was supposed to reinstall.  The second email had followed the reinstallation of my drywall, saying, "Dude, he totally drywalled up both holes.  Was he supposed to do that?"  You can see, now, where answering those emails might have been a good thing.  So, when I went to the meeting and asked, "what is going on with my unit?" she first answered, "I don't know."

Yeah, that's gonna put me in a happy frame of mind.

And it was only when I pressed her on it that she finally remembered they'd never water-tested over the second hole, so realized they needed to take that drywall out.

The meeting went downhill from there.  Our monthly dues are going to go up (to about $500 a month!) -- which will make it harder to sell my unit.  There's going to be a special assessment, in the general neighborhood of $5000 per unit -- which will also negatively impact marketability (not to mention that, of course, any buyer will make me pay the entire assessment as part of the deal).  Oh, and they might paint the building -- which would postpone marketing my condo a couple more months, while they get their act together, since I can't very well have people come to look at the unit while it's mid-repaint.

When our HOA president said that he figured the homeowners would easily agree to a $5000 assessment because the units are worth $500,000 (so that's only 1 percent of value), I nearly had kittens.

(Yes, condos out here are in that outrageously high price vicinity.  This is because I live in Southern California.  Depending on where you live, equivalent prices could be as low as, like, 1/3 of that.  Or lower.)

But, anyway, my kitten-having was caused by the fact that, the last time I'd tried to sell the unit, I was hoping for a price in the $500,000 neighborhood, but offers were coming in at more like $460,000 because our dues were so high -- so kicking up the dues and adding a special assessment could only serve to lower the selling price of these units in the foreseeable future.  So what it was looking like on Wednesday is that they're keeping me here and there's no way I can sell the place and I don't even have my living room back to live in it myself

I am not coping well with this.

I am a rational person.  I really am.  Very grounded.  The one time in my life that I experienced real, irrational panic, there was this oddly detached sane voice in my head thinking, "Wow.  That's what irrational panic look like."  Ever since the meeting Wednesday night, the voice in my head has been saying, "Wow.  This is what Stress Management Issues looks like."  I mean, I've actually been walking around with tears at the verge of escaping my eyes for two entire days

My rational self is addressing the problem with a two-pronged attack. The first is that I need a plan to try to change the issues causing me stress.  So far, I'm thinking I'll vote against the special assessment.  This might actually work -- our HOA president believes that they won't get enough people coming to the meeting to ratify the assessment, so he knows that every vote will count.  He assumes (he said as much) that he can count on my vote because I know we need the money.  I do.  But he knows I need my living room back.  No living room; no vote.  Perhaps a month-long delay in imposing the assessment (when they have to send out letters to get enough people to approve it by mail) might prompt the board to, y'know, take my concerns about the delay in my living room a little more seriously.  I may even get the owners of the other affected units to join me on this.  So far, there has been nothing we could do to get the HOA Board and the management company to light a fire under the contractor -- we can't withhold our monthly dues or anything -- but now, they want something from us, and we can hold our "yes" votes hostage until we get what we want.  Petty, but the idea makes me feel like I'm doing something to address the problem, which helps the stress a bit.

The second Stress Management Tool I'm planning to use is the well-loved American technique of spending myself into a happier frame of mind.  (Let's really test this money-can't-buy-happiness thing.)  I'm going about it somewhat rationally.  I've put aside a pile of money, which I intend to waste completely frivolously on Stuff That Makes Me Happy.  Not sure how yet.  Might buy every item on my amazon wish list.  Might go to a spa for a whole day.  Might overnight at Disneyland.  Might go for a tandem skydive.  Dunno.  Even just thinking about how to go about spending myself happy is helping a little bit.  But I know I need to do something rather sizeable to create the necessary attitude change.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I'm calling FIVE times

OK, everybody remember this dress?

I'd bought it for my cousin's wedding in Baltimore.  I had a bit of a problem with it.  Because the dress has a very low cut back whereas my bra strap ran ... not so low.

When I picked up the dress, I walked from one end of the mall to the other, trying to find the appropriate bra.  My only choices were some bizarre straps you attach to the hooks in back of your bra and then cross around your waist -- or something that was just the front half of a bra that would stay on with either adhesive or suction or some space-age polymer or whatever (none of which substances were something I actually wanted to put on my chest).  I didn't buy any of them.  I figured I'd be able to go online and find a backless bra.

Amazingly, I could not.  The only backless bras they've got out there are with the crissy-cross straps or the half-bras.  I searched the internet over and over and over and was really frustrated by the fact I couldn't find a bra that did this.  Surely, I thought, we've got the technology for a low-back bra.

I ended up buying the criss-cross straps.  When I was getting dressed for the wedding, I attached the damn things to my bra as directed.  Sure enough it lowered the straps enough for the back of the bra to not show.  On the other hand, it also pulled the sides of the bra so much that they ballooned out the front of the dress.  I tried it every which way and I ultimately ended up with two choices:  back of bra shows across back of dress or sides of bra show from front of dress.  I went braless and didn't dance at the wedding.

So, imagine my surprise when, tonight, I just happen to leave my TV on American Inventor and I see that one of their inventors has made the damn backless bra I was so desperate for.  It's ingenious.  It's one of those little half-bras, but rather than staying on with some form of glue-like substance (thereby fighting gravity all night), it has real live actual straps that go around your shoulders.  From the front -- looks like a totally normal bra.  From the back -- two little straps going over your shoulders and going back under your armpits.  Perfect.  Beautiful.  She's even made prototypes for all different cup sizes -- including fuller-figured gals.  Sign me up.

There are four judges on the panel.  The three men were questioning the inventor on whether she'd conducted enough market research on whether women would want to buy this bra.  The woman on the panel was not so negative.  Dude -- if you're a woman who has ever tried to buy a backless bra, you want to buy this product.

To my great surprise (perhaps because some of the other inventions kinda blew), they put the bra through to the final three!  It's up to us to vote for the winner.

Now, let's not screw this one up like last time -- when that woman who invented that ladies' room bathroom companion thing didn't win and has been stuck in ABC-has-the-exclusive-rights-to-develop-her-product-but-hasn't-been-developing-it hell.  Dudes -- well, Dudettes -- the women of America need this bra.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

This week's homework

Scalzi asks:

Actually, my IE is really slow right now, and I'm only posting this 'cause John seems to need more responses to prove to his corporate masters that we still need him around here to help support the AOL-J community -- and we do -- so I'm just gonna sum up.  Scalzi asks:  bacon or TV.  Which is to say, if you could only have one, which would it be?

It would so be TV.

And, no, this isn't a cheat because I keep kosher and can't eat bacon or anything.

In fact, my parents cheerfully tell the story of this one time, when I was really young, and we went to an all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch buffet at a really nice restaurant, and I pretty much picked up the whole tray of bacon and poured it on my plate (to the dismay of the staff).  Must've eaten an entire pig that morning.

So, I mean, I'm totally down with eating bacon in concept.

In fact, though, I don't eat it all that much.  Like, a slice or two every coupla months, if that.  Whereas TV is pretty much a daily constant companion.  Would I give up bacon to keep all my favorite prime time programming (and my late-night fake news)?  Absolutely.

I'd have to pause if you were asking the same question about, say, chocolate.  Or ice cream.  But the fact is, when I started this "new eating plan" (not a "diet"), I gave up other foods I thought I was pretty attached to (like, say, Coke -- I had about a 2 can/day habit) and it wasn't all that hard and I don't miss them.  I venture I could say I could give up any food item long before I'd give up my idiot box.  Or my slightly-less-than idiot box (computer) for that matter.

Monday, July 23, 2007

That's a Lot of Cat

I adore my cat.  I really do.

Lately, she's started sleeping on my bed with me.  This is very sweet, and I quite like it.  Usually, she curls up in a little ball on the edge of my bed.  She's very polite about it, too.  She won't jump up on the bed until I tap on the covers, giving her permission to jump up.  (Although, if I don't do that, she'll just sit there on the floor, meowing until I tap on the covers, so maybe it isn't all that polite.)

But last night, ten pounds of cat managed to stretch herself across a queen sized bed in such a way that there nearly wasn't room for me in there.  Sometimes it amazes me how she can curl up into a little ball about 10 inches in diameter -- but can still stretch out wide enough (paws to tail) to damn near evict me from my own bed.

International Book Club

Well, I did it.  I finished reading the 7th Harry Potter book and (rather more impressively) managed to do it before some random idiot online spoiled it for me.

It was also just kinda fun reading what everyone else was reading.  I mean, sometimes L.A. does this citywide "One City, One Book" thing -- but it never rises to level of pop culture phenomenon like this did.  Get this:  Saturday, around 1:00 (conveniently less than 5 minutes after I'd finished a review I had to write), my mail carrier buzzed me down to the gate to say, in heavily-accented English, "I have a package for you.  Harry Potter."  Like she ever calls for any other package.  But, this, well, she just knows that the recipient is, y'know, waiting for it.

Read straight on until 1:00 in the morning, and then finished it off today (before heading off to theatre for a matinee).  That, too, was cutting it close -- I told myself I'd stop reading at 1:00 (the show was at 3:00) and I ended up hitting the Epilogue at, like, 1:07.  I was all set to give up and hop in the shower, but when I realized that there were quite a few blank pages at the end (so the Epilogue was only, like, 4 pages long), I figured I'd just get the job done.

At the end of the matinee, when the actors came out for their bows, two of them were holding copies of the book, pretending they were reading it.  It was good for a laugh, but there was also truth to it.  I mean, they hadn't just got those books as a joke -- I imagine they were reading 'em backstage.

Had another show at night today -- met a friend at the theatre.  He'd read the damn thing yesterday, too.  ("Breathed it," he said.)  As I was driving away from the theatre, I realized I had a question about the book's ending.  My friend was just walking down the sidewalk to his car, so I pulled over and asked him.

And while I did, it was the absolute certainty that many other people were having the same conversation at the same time.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


OK.  Remember how Alaska Airlines totally jerked me around on the whole flight-to-Ketchikan thing?

When I got home, I sent their Customer Service Department a very lengthy and peeved letter requesting reimbursement for the Juneau hotel.  (Heck, I may have even demanded reimbursement.  That's how peeved I was.)

Earlier this week, I received a letter of apology.  Today, I received a reimbursement check.


They still treated me rotten at the airport, but their make-things-better team is definitely on the ball.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


The book will not get finished.

The one I'm trying to read before I get the Harry Potter book on Saturday.

This book, in fact.

Finished, it won't be.  At least, not before Saturday.

After clocking myself at around 45 pages to the hour, I had to face facts.  I've still got more than 5 hours of reading left, and (unless I happen to take off work tomorrow) no chance on earth that I'll have 5 hours to read.  Not when I have a show to see tomorrow night, and the review to write on Friday.  (Not to mention, y'know, a new Doctor Who episode Friday night.  And the mail is piling up.  And I didn't even wash the dishes in the sink.  And maybe I could keep the floor vacuumed if I'd take a half hour and clean the Roomba.  And it's a woot-off.)  So, yeah, book not finished.

I hope I'll at least stop at a good stopping poing, and remember who the hell everyone is when I pick it up again.

Ironically, I will have a very similar problem when the Harry Potter book shows up -- as, with the rather obvious exception of a couple of very key plot points that happened at the end of the most recent book, I hardly remember where I last left everyone in that universe.  Had even been hoping to catch the current movie before the book came out so I'd at least be reminded of Book Five.  Ah well.  I hope I'm not supposed to remember who the heck everyone at the Ministry of Magic is -- could never keep them straight anyway.  (You know what I remember about reading Book Six?  I remember reading some character's name right there in Chapter One, and thinking, "Man, I know I've read that name somewhere before, but hell if I know who it is.")

I'm basically a one-book-at-a-time type of gal.  I do my job the same way.  I usually work on three or four cases each month -- and by the time the month is over, I'll go back and read the stuff I wrote on the first case, and won't remember it.  ("I wrote that?  How very brilliant of me.")

So, the gang from Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself is going to have to go some for me to remember them.  I'm down with that, though.  I understand that this is the first book of a series and I won't get the second for some time, so I'll be playing this game again (the first book is only available in the US in hardcover -- I'd picked up the paperback in London 'cause I like taking a chance on new authors).  Wonder if they'll change the book much for the US release.  They'll probably revise all the references to one's "arse."

Funny -- the little voice in my head that does the narration (and, thank you, kindergarten, for teaching me to read aloud in my head) reads in American English rather than English English, and it always trips over the "arse"s.  The rest of it reads fine in American.  (Harry Potter used to read fine in American, too.  But now that the characters are so intertwined with the actors who play them, the little voice in my head actually goes with those actors' voices.  I mean, sometimes, you can just hear Alan Rickman being all Snapey.)

I can better report on The Blade Itself once I've finished reading it.  I can give you that it's well-written and has the advantage of (at least) three protagonists (and we get into the heads of each of them).  I'm still not entirely clear on what it's about, though.  Took the first half of the book to establish each character, where they are in the path of life, and what they'd like to get out of it -- and, right about halfway into the book, we're finally getting their paths to cross, so maybe something a little more traditionally plot-like is going to appear.  And it's funny -- not "ha ha" funny like Pratchett, but more of a dark funny.  Out of the three main characters, the one who is the least likeable isn't the barbarian or the guy who tortures people for a living.  Twisted.  I dig it.

Background Stress

I'm under a lot of background stress now.

That's the stress that's different from "how am I going to get all my work done this month?" stress, or "geez, now I'm going to have to appeal my health plan's denial of my claim for one lousy pill" stress (I'm sure they denied it just figuring that I wouldn't go to the trouble of the appeal for $30 -- they may be right), or even getting this book read before Friday ... or any one of a number of other immediate causes of stress.

It's largely the (apparently) neverending stress caused by my condo not being on the market.  I pulled the listing back in, what? March? and I was sure I'd have the repairs done and have the place back on the market by June.  It's July and I'm afraid to report there is no actual end in sight.  OK, sure, they cleaned the mold (back in May) and plugged some of the leaks.  And I just had the balcony resurfaced.  And the balcony just passed its final water test, as did the balcony above me.  (So they're going to put my walls back together and I can re-list in a week, right?  Wrong.)  The exterior stucco walls have again failed the water test.  While we can patch those areas, our management company representative thinks the walls are just going to keep failing water tests and we might as well just, um, restucco/paint the whole building.  That's a major expense (for which we don't have the money) and will probably take months just to set up.  So, right now, my living room is still half covered in plastic; there are two major holes in my ceiling (which will get really ugly if it happens to rain); the Homeowners Association is doing the math on how much to Specially Assess us for the repairs; and now there's a possible major repainting between me and having my living room back.

I'll be taking bets on whether my housewarming party (for when I eventually move) will happen before my 40th birthday party (next June). 

Of course, it isn't just the building that's causing background stress.  I am outrageously behind on my theatre reviews -- to the point where it is background stress rather than short-term stress, in that I should be seeing two or three shows every week from now until the end of the year.

Both of my computers are showing signs of demise in the foreseeable future.  I haven't done anything about this -- mostly because I'm trying to save cash for the house, but also because I just won't know the set-up that I'll want once I'm in a new house, and I'd like to wait until I have a house, if at all possible.  Still, it means putting up with temperamental computers and/or the constant fear that one or both of them will just drop dead on me unexpectedly.

I've been fairly accepting of the high level of background stress -- although, as probably could be expected -- it has manifested itself in disproportionate reactions to the occasional additional stressor (the "last straw" as it were).  But I've noticed my fuse is getting a little shorter on other things.  Like, I haven't been able to really balance my checkbook in months because I haven't actually had use of my desk since they opened up my ceiling.  I sort of put together a temporary method for dealing with bills (important incoming mail on my coffee table, checkbook hiding in a living room cabinet), but, as time stretches on, I'm becoming less and less able to deal.

I'm hugging the cat a lot more, but I'm afraid I'm putting too much pressure on her, as well.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Read, read, read, read, read

I may have made a tactical error.

What with four separate flights to Baltimore and back, I took a book with me.

A fairly "chunky" read.  It's about 550 pages and the font is reasonably small.  Which is to say, it isn't the sort of page-turner you could get through in a single sitting.  Or, as it turns out, four sittings.  But that's probably because both travel days started really early in the morning, so I kept napping on the plane, whenever I could.

Point is, I'm about 150 pages in as of right now.  It's good.  I'm enjoying it. 

The new Harry Potter book will be conveniently delivered to my door on Saturday (as it will be delivered to the doors of everyone else who pre-ordered on Amazon). 

I don't want to have to put this book down in order to pick up that one, but with that one being An Event Of (Popular) Cultural Significance, I'm going to want to start it ASAP.

Which means that somewhere between now and then, I've gotta find upwards of 7 hours to finish this thing.

(And still keep up with work, and reviewing, and email, and cleaning the condo, and playing with the cat, and all that other stuff that I generally spend my waking hours engaged in.)

Hmmm.  A challenge.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The thing is...

First things first -- Wil comments on my valet story below, suggesting that maybe the dude just ignored me because he thought I was going to take my bag out of the trunk and thereby deprive him of a tip.  Nope.  He had deserted me long before I took the bag out.  And, in fact, when I had not yet taken it out, the other valet guys were standing a few feet away chatting, and not one of them made a move toward me to help with the bag -- until the one of them asked if I needed help, and he seemed sorta put out by even having to ask.  Like I was taking him away from his morning coffee by, y'know, needing a valet.

Now, on to more recent events.

I'm 39.

Did I mention I'm 39?

OK.  I don't want to make a big deal out of this (and I'm sure my mom will read this and think this is all revealing and stuff, when it really isn't) -- but here's the thing.  I know the wedding is all about the bride, and seeing as I'm the groom's cousin she doesn't even know who the hell I am or have any reason to have the slightest thought about my feelings.  That said -- it is awkward enough being the only unmarried person sitting at the "cousins table," -- is it really necessary for the wedding bandleader to threaten to individually call me up by name to stand with the other six single women in the room (all of whom were bridesmaids, and the bride's friends, and probably half my age) for the bouquet toss? 

I mean seriously.  At this point in my life, either I'm single by choice, so respect it; or I'm single not by choice, in which case I don't really need my singlehood to be pointed out in the middle of someone else's wedding.  (As it happens, it's a little bit of both.  But still.)  It's all well and good to do that with a bunch of giggling 20-somethings who are friends of the bride.  It's even ok to just generally call the single females up and leave it to us whether we want to participate in this particular ritual.  But to actually try to humiliate the 39-year-old into participating?

Bite me.

Friday, July 13, 2007

On the Road Again

Posting from Baltimore, where I've come for my cousin's wedding (where I'll try out the new dress).

I had to get up at 4:30 in the morning (which wouldn't have been so bad except I went to bed at 1:30) and had to change planes in Dallas, and both my flights were a little bit delayed, but I ended up making it here ok, and that's not what I'm ticked about.

Here's what I'm ticked about.  I used the valet parking at the airport.  (This because the self-parking adds up to another 45 minutes to my travel time waiting for the damn shuttle, and when I'm only gone for two days, the price differential ain't that much.)  So, I pull up into the valet parking area.  There are a few rows of cars that have backed up -- which is to say, the customers have already been dealt with -- their cars are just sitting there waiting for the valet dudes to park them.  So the valet dudes wave me over to start a new column of cars.  I pull up.  There's about four valet dudes standing there.  One of them starts walking around my car to check to see if there's any damage that he has to mark on the little ticket.  Since I'm in a hurry, I get out of my car and go around back to take my suitcase out, rather than waiting for valet guy to do it.  I figure he'll give me my ticket while I'm standing at the back of my car, and I'll be on my way.

Except valet guy has disappeared.  By the time I'm standing at the back of my car, valet guy has gone over to the car that pulled in behind me and is talking to that guy through his window, taking down his information.  I'm standing there -- with one hand on my suitcase still in the back of my car -- staring at "my" employee, who has just flagrantly blown me off to deal with the guy behind me. 

The other three valet guys are just standing there, oblivious.  One of them asks me if I need help taking my suitcase out.  "No," I say, "but I thought that guy was helping me."  One of the other valet dudes then takes the hint, walks over to me, and starts filling out a little ticket for me (for the second time).  Apologetically, he says, "I thought someone else was helping you."  "Yeah," I say, "So did I."

I understand how certain rules of etiquette and politeness are considered outdated, but I honestly can't figure how someone in the customer service line of work can just overlook the first customer in line and serve whomever the heck he wants.

Monday, July 9, 2007

One for the folks who wear glasses

I've worn glasses all my life.  Pretty much since birth.  (And, boy, reading the chart was a challenge before I could, y'know, read.)  And today I did something I've never done in my life. 

I hit myself in the eye with my glasses.

I want to be clear here.  This wasn't, like, being real drunk and trying to put my glasses on and missing.  This was, sitting here, playing Freecell, somehow smacking my eyeglasses with my palm, and pushing the lens right up against my eye.  And, remarkably, my reflexes were so slow, I didn't even manage to close my eye before the impact.

Brilliant, eh?

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Somebody owes me a weekend

It dawns on me, around Wednesday, that I am way, way, way, way behind at work.

I don't get this behind.  Like, ever.  There is a solution:  I can work all weekend.

I don't like this solution.  I'm also way behind in terms of being a theatre critic.  (I'm supposed to see a certain number of shows per year and I am nowhere near where I should be by July.)  For a moment or two, I actually debated whether to see a bunch of shows this weekend or do my job.

My job won.  Obviously.  My job pays me; being a critic is for fun and for free.  I promised my boss that I would never let being a critic interfere with my work and I have to hold true to that -- even on those rare occasions when my work bleeds over into critic-ing time.  So, I brought a ton of work home to just plow through over the weekend.

Friday night, I worked.  I took a break around 9:00 to go over a friend's house for a few hours.  It's a good friend who has been going through a particularly unpleasant course of chemotherapy, and whenever she's feeling good enough to want company, I find the time.

Came home around 11 and (as is my way), I needed to watch TV for an hour or so to unwind before bed.  I watched crap.  Absolute crap.  Like, reruns of game shows crap.  Around midnight, I was about to turn in, when I figured I'd channel surf.  Stupidest thing.  (I've noticed my Dad does it, too, though, so maybe it's genetic.)  You're about to turn off the TV and go to sleep, but you check all the channels just to make sure there's nothing on any of them that you absolutely have to watch.  It's really ridiculous.

Except, this time, for the first time in, like, ever, there was actually something on that I absolutely had to watch.  Those weasels over at the Sci-Fi channel had finally decided to air the third season of (new) Dr. Who, and hadn't told me about it.  (At least USA sends an email whenever Monk starts a new season.)  And what's worse -- they started the first episode at 11:30!  I'd spent a half hour watching I've Got a Secret when I could've been watching the first half hour of an episode I've been waiting to see for, like, six months. 

I actually missed the next ten minutes of it while I searched my program guide for the next week, to see if they'd be rerunning it.  They would not.  They would, however, be running the next episode at 1:00 a.m.

I set the DVR to record whatever was left of the first episode, and the second -- which I'd anticipated to be a largely futile act as I'd most likely be watching them anyway.  And I did -- although, to my credit, I was actually getting ready for bed during the second one.

Saturday morning, I woke up bright and early because I had a monthly Critics Circle meeting.  Went to meeting.  (Amazingly, arrived on time.)  On the way home, I stopped at the store for some groceries.  Got home.  Worked.  Worked some more.  Kept right on working.  Had the good sense to stop around 11:00, unwind, re-watch that second Dr. Who episode giving it my undivided attention, and go to sleep.

Except the smoke alarm went off around 11:00.  Not in my condo -- in the whole building.  We all came out of our units to check for fire.  There are a few vacant units and I have keys to one of them.  And there's a lock box with keys to another one that I happen to have the combo for.  So, the Fire Department drives up (our alarm system automatically calls them) to find me and the President of the HOA Board standing in front of the building aiming a flashlight at the lock box trying to get the keys to a vacant unit so we can make sure it isn't on fire.  We check all the units, figure that an alarm went off because someone had been painting, and go our separate ways.  Which, for me, was back to the TV, and bed.

Woke up this morning ...  well, I first woke up this morning around 7:30 when the cat decided to do that insane thing where they run around the house for no reason and my bed happened to be in her path.  So I was awakened by my cat doing a drive-by.  I went back to sleep for about an hour, but then had to get up because I was meeting a friend for breakfast.  (There's this restaurant we love to eat at -- but there's always a huge line on the weekend.  They open at 10:30 and we try to get in line by 10:00 so we'll be sure to get a table when they open.)  After breakfast, I stopped off at the mall (to buy the appropriate bra for the dress I bought for the wedding this weekend, and to get a wedding present) and headed home.

Where I discover that my cat, my purry little princess, my precious wecious, the sweetest widdle kitten ... has been walking around my condo all morning with some, er, uh ... OK, cats poo in a box, which is great, but they can't exactly wipe themselves.  And they got a lot of fur back there.  And, every so often, something gets stuck in the fur.  So I have to pick up the cat in one hand, grab a wad of paper towels in the other, and take care of business. 

I am so not having children.

Once that's taken care of (and I clean a place on the carpet where she must have sat) I get down to work.  And more work.  And even more work.  I finish at 5:45.  I'm about to head out for dinner (a reward for a job well done) but I figure I'll check my email first.  At which point I discover that the law student working for us has just emailed me a draft of what she's been working on, so of course I print it out, pick up my red pen, and do some more work.

I'm just about finished at 7:15 when the aforementioned friend calls to ask if I've had dinner yet.  As a matter of fact, I haven't.  We head out for some eats.  I get back around 9:00, put a load of laundry in, and get ready to enjoy my weekend free time.  All two hours of it.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Fly on the Wall

There is a fly on the wall in the ladies' room at work.

I'm not talking in metaphor here; it's an actual fly.

Actually, it looks a bit smaller than a fly.  Perhaps it's a gnat.

I've been able to examine it closely because, well, I believe it is deceased.  It's on the wall of the first stall, just sitting there on the ceramic tile.  It's at about eye-height.  I reckon it didn't just expire sitting there perched on the wall -- someone must have smashed it.  But not hard enough to, well, leave gnat innards on the wall.  And certainly not hard enough to make it come off the wall. 

It's been there for weeks.

We've got cleaning folks who come in and clean the bathroom every night.  They clean the toilets, restock the supplies, and wash the floors.  I guess removing dead insects from the walls is outside their job description.

I haven't removed it because ... well, because I didn't remove it when I first saw it.  I mean, when I first saw the dead gnat on the wall, I figured, "Hey!  Dead gnat.  Someone will clean that up tonight."  But nobody did.  And the next day, when I saw it again, I thought, "Y'know, if I clean that off now, someone will wonder why I didn't just clean it off yesterday."

Apparently, the same thing went through the minds of the cleaning staff.

And everyone else who uses stall number one.

I mean, that thing was there before I left for Alaska.  When I came back, I was shocked to find it still stuck to the wall.

Now I think it's almost like a science experiment -- let's see how long it takes before the dead gnat falls off the wall.  Either that, or it's a test of wills to see who will weaken first and wipe off the gnat.

It's not gonna be me.  I'll use another stall before I crack under the pressure.

Day Off

As days off go, this was a pretty good one. 

Slept in, but not too long.

Walked to the movies.  This isn't as impressive as it sounds, as there's a movie theater about three blocks away.  Still, it was over 90 degrees, so I should get a little credit for exercising under less-than-ideal circumstances. 

Saw the Die Hard film.  I haven't seen a movie in months, and it seemed like some nice, brainless entertainment.  I was actually pretty pleased with it, although part of that might have been the novelty of seeing a movie.  Fun watching Bruce Willis and the "I'm a Mac" guy kick some ass, although one of the least-believable sequences was a bit laughable.  Also a nice character in McClane's daughter, who got laughs or cheers with every one of her (very few) lines.  Actress will probably get a bit more work because of this.

Had dinner with a friend, which was nice.  We weren't really up for being particularly picnicky, but we went to a nice restaurant and had good supper.

Came back, watched a little TV, and I baked brownies.  While we were waiting for them to cool, we heard fireworks from outside, and went out on my balcony and watched them.  I used to never be able to see fireworks from my balcony, but, earlier this year, my downstairs neighbor removed the tree that had been blocking my view.  It was kinda nice that the very same neighbor was the friend who was hanging out at my place, so she got to experience the view that she was responsible for.

And that's about it.  I have lots of stuff to do around the house (and probably stuff to do outside it, too) but I figured it was a good idea to spend the holiday like an actual holiday and just spend the day enjoying life.

Monday, July 2, 2007

REALLY hard-boiled eggs

I'm supposed to have "afternoon protein" -- usually some string cheese or a hard-boiled egg.  I've had about a month worth of string cheese, so I thought I'd boil up a dozen eggs tonight.

I still use a cookbook for this. 

Don't laugh.  I don't boil eggs very often and I keep forgetting how long I'm supposed to boil them for.  Joy of Cooking says 12-17 minutes (that's 10-15 for hard-boiled, plus 2 since they're right out of the fridge).

I put my eggs in the pot.  I cover with cold water.  Now, Joy of Cooking says to cook over medium heat till you get a boil, then drop them down to a simmer for that 12-17 minutes.  I put over medium heat.  I'm about to set the timer, but I think, "No, I'll wait until they've reached a boil before I do that."  Joy of Cooking also advises to "plunge the eggs into cold water" after they're done to arrest further cooking and prevent that grey ring from appearing on the outside of the yolk.  I put a plastic bowl in the sink, so I'm prepared to fill it with cold water and plunge the eggs in.

I sit down.  I've got bills to pay.  I pay a lot of bills. 

The dryer buzzes.  It's been going for about an hour.  I reset it for another half hour and ...

Oh damn.  The eggs.  I never even dropped them to simmer.  They've been boiling away over a medium heat since ... gee, was that two episodes of M*A*S*H

I remove the eggs from the heat.  Still boiling.  While I'm pretty sure the grey yolk ship has already sailed, I plunge the eggs into cold water to, you know, stop any further further cooking.

I honestly can't wait to taste one.  I'm wondering whether I've ruined an entire dozen eggs, or if boiling them for an hour results in still-edible eggs.

I peel one.  I can already see that the outside of the yolk has gone grey -- it's so dark, I can see it through the egg white.  But it tastes pretty normal.  Still warm (still cooking, I assume), but tasty.

I do not appear to be experiencing any ill effects. 

Then again, if I find myself needing another dose of Pepto-Bismol, I'm prepared.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

WARNING: This post references bathroom bodily functions

OK, so, um, yeah.

There's no way to put this delicately.

Here's the thing.  It took me about 20 minutes looking at health websites online, reading about all sorts of horrible things that my, um, symptomology could have been caused by, until I stumbled upon the real source of the problem.

And, now, I think that if I was manufacturing Pepto-Bismol, I would put on the outside of the package, in big, 24-point red letters:

Warning:  Don't freak out.  May make your poo black.