Friday, August 31, 2007

Return to the Stepford Spa

Last year, my dad really generously took me to this great spa out in Tucson.  (I journalled about it starting here and dubbed the place The Stepford Spa in the following entry.)  And, when all was said and done, it's about a year later, I've lost 25 pounds and kept it off -- and that's all due to spending 2 hours with a Nutritionist at the spa.  So, Dad offered to take me again this year for a refresher -- seeing as we both wanted to see the Nutritionist again to update our eating plans -- and I was all for it.

So, I flew in to Phoenix last night, had dinner with my folks, and stayed overnight at their place.  We were off at 9:00 this morning, and arrived here three years later, without even a rest stop.  (At first, Dad turned on the radio to get traffic reports, but it was a talk radio station that catered to his political leanings -- which are rather different from mine -- and we ultimately turned off the radio, avoided politics by unspoken agreement, and settled in for conversation focusing more on areas of common ground.)

After lunch, we met with our program advisors and nurse educators.  I didn't get much from the program advisor as, since I'd already been here, I pretty much knew what I was up for.  After discussion my ankle history with the nurse educator (and telling her I'd brought a couple small ankle braces with me for athletic activity), she prohibited me from hiking, which I was really choked up about ...

... that was sarcasm, in case it didn't translate.  I haven't exercised at all in the past year -- with the exception of the stuff I did on vacation in Alaska -- and one of their four mile hikes would kill me.  And that's just from a cardio/endurance standpoint.  I haven't been to the gym or even walked around the block, and I'm still going through the trial and error process of determining which of my shoes set my ankle off (apparently, the sandals I wore down here are now in the "bad shoe" column) so putting my ankle through the stress of a hike is simply out of the question.

We checked in our rooms -- we're next door to each other this time -- and Dad rested a bit while I went for a (short) walk around the grounds to reorient myself.  Also, I wanted to try out my heart rate monitor which I'd just bought offa Amazon.  (One of the things the fitness physiologist taught me last year is that the heart rate monitors on exercise machines blow.)  I attached the monitor to myself and was immediately fascinated by it.  The nurse had taken my pulse after I'd been sitting there talking to her for 20 minutes, and it was around 80.  Strapped this thing on myself while unpacking and it was hovering around 110.  Walking pushed it to 120, walking with a spring in my step and I was at 135.  And stayed there for awhile, even after I'd stopped walking.  This is fun.  I'm gonna strap this thing on myself and try the elliptical machine tomorrow -- see if I can't figure out my target heart rate the way the fitness physiologist did it last time. 

At dinner, I had this tasty lemongrass chicken -- which was really funny because when I looked up last year's entry to link to it, I discovered I'd had the same chicken.  Dessert was notable, though -- a "Banana Changa" -- a banana wrapped in dough with cinnamon and heated; drizzled with chocolate sauce.  Mmmm.  And only 175 calories.

Current bug bite count:  four.  Three are in a very itchy grouping around my wrist.  Just thought I'd share.

ANYWAY, after dinner, there really weren't any lectures we were interested in, so Dad went back to his room to read, and I thought I'd go try out one of the pools.  (Even though it's dark, it's still over 90 degrees out here.)  Went to a pool and I was the only person there.  This was the pool with underwater treadmills in it, so I gave one a try for a half mile.  I figured it was as "no-impact" on my ankle as I was going to get, but at least it had me working my cardio for 12 minutes, and that was a start.  Then I took advantage of the fairly awesome fact that I was alone in this great big pool all by myself, so I floated around on my back, watching the stars, randomly pondering my place in the universe, and generally marvelling at the fact that, although this place is full to capacity this weekend, I could actually spend a quiet, calming evening in a pool and feel like there was nobody around for miles.

And how was Disneyland anyway?

Disneyland was great.  OK, yeah, hot as hell (except when I was hoping my clothes would dry), but attendance was pretty low.  Lines were short, people were having fun -- and, with proper use of the FastPass system I kept myself out of long hot lines all morning.

I started off with a ten minute line at Buzz Lightyear Astro-Blasters.  I dig Buzz Lightyear Astro-Blasters.  It's sorta like a point and shoot video game, although you're riding in your little vehicle through the area with all the targets.  (You aren't necessarily shooting moving targets, but since you're moving, the net result is the same.)  I've never scored over 100,000 on the game.  OK, there was this one time that the ride stopped while I was in it, but the targets kept functioning, so I kept shooting until my score hit over a million and rolled over back to zero.  But, other than that, I've never crossed 100,000.

So, at Disneyland, I hit 91,900 on my first ride.  They have photos for free at the end with your score on them, but my photo didn't turn out so I don't have photographic evidence of this.

I thought maybe I should have a do-over and see if I couldn't hit 100,000.  Came out a bit worse -- but at least I got the photo.

Well, poop.

When I got out, the line was only 5 minutes, so I thought I'd give myself one last try.

Partway during the ride, it temporarily stopped.  I kept shooting things, but I kept an eye on my score.  While the ride was stopped, I racked up about 20,000 points.

Which led to this final score photo:

Close enough!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I Should Have Figured

If you go to Disneyland,
and you ride the Grizzly River Run at California Adventure
around 4:00 p.m.,
and your raft hits one of those geysers so everyone gets totally drenched,
and you have soaked jeans,
and if, even after trying your best to stand around in the sun to dry them out, they're still wet when you want to leave the park,
and if you decide to buy some sweatpants so you're not driving home in wet jeans,
and if you end up buying men's shorts instead, since the sweatpants are too long for someone of your height,
and if you don't change into the shorts while you're in the park, because you didn't shave your legs as you hadn't planned on displaying them,
and if you decide you'll just change in the car,
and if your car is parked in that monstrous huge parking structure,
and if, after you hike back to your car, you see no other human beings around,
and if you decide to take your bra off, because that's still kinda soggy too,
and if you do that while standing outside your car because it's easier to do the remove-it-through-your-sleeve thing if you've got a lot of room to more around,
and if you then go into the backseat of your car wearing jeans, and come out wearing shorts,
and if you then plop your braless, man-short-wearing self behind the steering wheel ...

... don't be surprised when the Disney Parking Lot Assistance van drives up beside you, because apparently they were watching.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Over on Scott Adams's blog, there's a story about giving money to someone in need.  Or who might just be a scammer.  Sadly, it's often hard to tell.  And also sadly, the more people tend to get scammed (or think that they were), the less likely they are to give to people who really need it.

Got me thinking about my own "policies" when people ask me for money on the street.

As a rule, I'll only give whatever is in my pocket.  I won't take out my wallet for anyone.  I might trust you enough to give you a buck, but I'll still distrust you enough not to be flashing around a couple twenties and some credit cards.

I never give so much that it would matter to me whether you're lying or telling the truth.  I mean, ok, obviously, I'd prefer not to be taken.  But I'm never going to give you an amount of money that would make me scream, cry, and tear out my hair if I later find out I was had. 

So, yeah, I give sometimes and I decline to give sometimes. 

I've never regretted giving.

I've once regretted the decision not to give.

Philadelphia.  1991.  I lived in an apartment in Center City (a coupla blocks from the Liberty Bell).  Rainstorm.  Dusk.  Walking home from work.  About a block and half from my door, I came across a panhandler.  Standing in a doorway, under an awning half-protecting her from the rain.  Wet.  Shivering.  Dirty.  Holding out a cup with change in it, wordlessly asking the passers-by to add to it.  It's getting late and there are few people still on the streets.  Obviously, she is there because she has no place else to go.  Without breaking stride, I reach into my pocket and give her whatever change I have.  She thanks me profusely, saying that nobody else would stop.

To this day, I regret not giving her my umbrella.

A Modest Proposal

OK, so Nicole Richie gets sentenced to jail for 4 days and she gets released in 82 minutes due to jail overcrowding.  Doesn't even see the inside of a cell.

Fine.  I understand that overcrowding requires them to release people with short misdemeanor sentences in an insanely short period of time.

(The reason, by the way, is because the jails are full of people waiting for trial on felonies.  Once they've been convicted, they go to prison.  Prison and jail -- not the same thing.)

ANYWAY, here's my thinking.  If you're going to have to let them out of jail in a number of minutes, that's fine.  But let's make sure that time is memorable.  I say, if you can't make them stay overnight, at least make them stay long enough to have to use the bathroom once.  That's right.  Do your business on a public crapper (of questionable cleanliness) with every misdemeanant and pretrial detainee in your dorm looking on, use your ration of toilet paper and jail issue soap, and then you can leave.

It'd be a little more humiliating than posing for the mugshot, no?

Monday, August 27, 2007

I Bet Some of You Already Knew This

I was amazingly ticked off today.  Amazingly.  Really, really ticked off.  Things with the condo kinda exploded in a big, huge way.  It is conceivable that this will turn out to have been a good thing, in that a lot of stuff got aired and maybe progress will be made.  But, for most of today, there was a surprisingly large list of people I was really annoyed at.

Or, as I put it when I walked into the office, "OK, who is going to be on the receiving end of my wrath today?"

Now, there was a part of today when I was too pissed to work.  I couldn't focus on my work because I was so steamed at the latest email I'd received, or taking time to post my reply, or checking my email awaiting what damn well should have been an apology in reply to my own brilliant missive.

But once the too-pissed-to-work passed, I was actually really good at the whole throwing-myself-into-my-work thing.  (And it wasn't even the part of my work where I get to point out to idiots exactly why they're being idiots -- a part of my job I quite enjoy under any circumstances).  This was just standard research stuff.  And I was so into it, I actually went and looked something up around 6:30, rather than just giving up and going home.

And then ... when I got home ... I sat down at the computer and started on something I should've done back in April, and I've just been dreading it.  But I spent about 3 hours doing it, and I was so focused on getting it done (and listening to Wife-Swap in the background -- I may have to rethink participating in "Talk Like A Pirate Day" after that one) that I completely ignored my general pissed-off-itude.  Time just flew by.

Damn.  I hate that I'm more productive when I'm angry.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

It had to be done

I had a list of about ten things to do today.  I got one of them done.

This wasn't due to oversleeping or playing too long on the internet or anything else.

It was because it took all day to do it.

The task was:  pay bills.

Actually, no.  The task was "tidy bills."

Here's the thing.  Back in November, when I first put my condo on the market, I cleaned it all up.  Spotless.  This included my desk.  I hid the contents of my desk in a cabinet.  If I was going to pay bills, I took my three-stacked-boxes (think "in," "out" and "whatever else") and put them on my desk.  Then I'd dig out the checkbook from the other cabinet in which it was hidden.  And the letter opener and calculator from the third place.  (Return address labels and stamps tend to run off on me, and are generally kept in my desk at the office, since I mail everything from work anyway.)

This method worked fairly well, although I'd only go through the process every three weeks or so, which usually resulted in my paying a bill or two by phone in order to avoid it being late.

In March, I took the condo off the market and could live like a slob again.  Everything went back on my desk.

In April, the mold remediation people came in and took apart my living room ceiling.  Since my desk was in the "containment zone," I had to come up with a new way to deal with the contents of the desk.  Since the whole process was supposed to take less than a month, I developed a temporary solution.  Basically, everything went back into its cabinets.  But what was different about it this time was that -- since I had to get all my furniture out of the containment zone -- I couldn't even open one of the cabinets, as it was blocked by my dining room table.  So, the temporary solution was just to throw incoming bills on my coffee table.  Every week, I'd whip out my checkbook and pay them.  No muss, no fuss.  Balancing the checkbook would have to wait until later, when I could spread out with all the paperwork.  Ditto checking off all the receipts on my credit card bill -- I'd pretty much just give them the once-over and make sure I generally recognized the charges, while the bigpile of receipts continued to grow.

Well, today, it all had to be dealt with.  My stack of credit card receipts got sorted into chronological order (going back to April) and then checked off against the already-paid bills.

And then I took the checking account statements and prepared to balance my checkbook back to April. 

Except when I looked in the check register, it didn't have any little check-marks next to anything since November.

This was puzzling.

I moved the dining room table, broke into the cabinet I hadn't been in since April, and discovered that, yes, I had unreconciled bank statements in there dating back to December.

That's right:  Nine months of bank statements waiting for my attention.  And crammed into a little box -- grocery store receipts (the only place I use debiting from my checking account) also dating back to November. 

And several hours later, I can report -- and it amazed the heck out of me -- that I actually had all of my grocery store receipts.  And now they're all accounted for in my checking account.

Including a meal break, it took me ten hours to deal with all my bills and bank statements.  But for now:  a clean coffee table occupied by an October bill and my current credit card receipts.  Hurrah.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

So good and so, so bad.

First, some unfinished business.   zcatzmeow1 asks why you can't use ammonia to clean the litter box.  Y'know, I'm not too sure.  I googled it but couldn't find confirmation of it.  What I'd heard (somewhere) was that cat urine has ammonia in it (that part is true) so that it isn't such a hot idea to put that scent in the cat box, as the cat might then refuse to go there thinking it is someone else's box.  Like I said, I can't find confirmation of it, so I might just be making stuff up.

Onward then.

In the continuing progress of Project Buy Happiness, I ponied up the $35 for the third DVD of Torchwood, the Doctor Who spinoff that I managed to watch the first two-thirds of, without realizing there was a third DVD available.

It had four episodes on it.  First one was great.  I mean really great.  Probably the best of the series.  Very pleased with it.  Felt good about my $35 investment in happiness.

Second episode was pretty solid, too.  Not, y'know, outstandingly great, but quality.  No problems there.

Sat down last night to watch the last two (sort of a two-parter for the season finale).  First half was again very good.  Inches away from being awesome.  Quite satisfactory.  Moments of greatness.

Around this point, I was thinking that, as a courtesy to anyone who might be interested ... and who happens to have BBC America ... I'd sort of journal a little Torchwood primer.  I mean, it is a spinoff, and while it stands quite well on its own (and may appeal to a broader audience than Doctor Who), it wouldn't kill you to know a few things going in.

And then I watched the season finale.  Great build up.  You know, one of those very-bad-things-are-happening-but-something-outrageously-worse-is-going-to-happen-real-soon sorts of things, where you then get to watch your heroes get out of an impossibly bad situation.  (Or leave them there cliffhanger-style until season two starts up.)

And then the outrageously worse thing actually happened.

And I laughed.

Honest to goodness laughter.  I mean, it was such an astonishingly, stunningly, laughably bad way to go.  I damn near took the DVD out of my machine to make sure I was watching the right show.  I certainly had to take a moment to say, "Oh you did not just" at the television.

I can't exactly say the show jumped the shark -- as it was never really steadily behind the shark to start with -- but, at the same time, I can't remember any other time that I've watched a television program go so badly off track (and in such a big way, too).

So, now, I'm still sorta recommending you watch Torchwood.  Just, y'know, be prepared to be gobsmacked by phenomenal script misfire of the season finale.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Time Equals Money

As I get older, I am more and more aware of the Time = Money equation -- and I'm also preferring to spend the money rather than the time.  Man, when I was younger, time was I totally would've worked a couple hours for 10 bucks.  Hell, I'd gladly spend a whole evening babysitting someone's kids for a buck an hour.  Now, priorities have changed.

Illustration:  I have a cat.  She uses a litter box.  She uses a clumping, scoopable, flushable litter.  This means that, every night, I scoop out (and flush) her deposits into the box.  As it is a clumping litter, all liquid deposits turn into little clumps, and they too can be flushed.  It isn't perfect, though.  Sometimes a clump will only partially clump, and you'll ultimately end up with little bits of, well, used litter remaining in the box.  Or there will be a clump or two that attaches itself to the bottom of the box and can't be completely removed.

Because of this, the box needs to be completely cleaned every coupla months.  One must dump the contents of the box into a big plastic bag and send it down the trash chute.  One must then scrub the inside of the box, removing any of the clumps stuck to the bottom of the box.  Usually, wearing rubber gloves is advised.  Oh, and one can't use a cleanser with ammonia, or anything else that might make the cat not want to use the box anymore.  Elbow grease is best.  After one scrubs the box clean, one must dry it out, then fill it with new litter.  Then one must clean the heck out of the sponge and dish cloth, because, y'know, they've touched the inside of a used cat box.  The whole process is probably done in less than an hour.

Or, I could just buy a new box at Petco for ten bucks.

You may now congratulate Jasmine on her brand new cat box.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Home Electronics Update

I *should* be able to get the PCTV to Go thing to work correctly.  I emailed Pinnacle support (just as Wil suggested, although I'd already done it) and they (finally) emailed me directions for what appears to be a firmware update that will fix the problem.

I have uncharacteristic faith that it actually will fix the problem, because when I googled the name of the file they told me to download, I picked up some message boards where people experiencing the very same problem were given the very same advice and they said it immediately worked.  Interestingly enough, these folks were also experiencing another problem with remotely controlling their DVRs, which I am experiencing too, but did not report to customer service.  (Pressing the "A" button works, but doesn't do what "A" is supposed to do.  This is apparently because it is reading "A" as "C.")  So, yes, it looks like customer service may have actually given me the correct fix first time out.  If they have done so, it will have been a first in my dealings with email support folk.

(Not only that, but the people on the message board seem to have discovered a work-around for the problem -- so if the download doesn't work, I can just use the tinfoil and rubber cement version.)

Meantime, when I came home from work last night, I noticed my Roomba was missing.  I'd left it cleaning the bedroom when I left in the morning, and it was not parked in its little docking station like it should be.

Where did it go?

It couldn't have gotten far.

Checked all over the floor and ultimately discovered it hiding under my bed, where it had managed to wedge itself under the bed frame.  Poor little thing was blinking its red "help me" light.  Once I dislodged it, it sang its pitiful "battery low, please recharge me" song.  Poor widdle thing.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Installing the New Toy!

OK, so, I bought the Pinnacle PCTV to Go as a nice little treat for myself.  The box allows you to watch, and control, your television remotely from the internet.  The really cool bit about it is that you can control the DVR bit, too -- so I can watch previously recorded programs anytime -- and anywhere -- I want.

It arrived today, so I planned to set it up.

Here's what you need to know -- I have a fairly large TV, but it isn't a flat panel.  It has a huge butt.  It sits on a corner unit made especially for it.  Since it is in the corner -- and very heavy -- it is hard to get behind.  I can push it around on the shelf, but can't lift it.  Under the TV are four shelves, currently home to, in this order:  VCR, Cable Box, DVD Player, Second VCR.  Each one has various cords connecting it to the rest (and to a power strip behind the TV).  There are holes between the shelves located uncomfortably near the back of the entertainment center, through which all the cords have to go.

Setting up the Pinnacle TV to Go has all of 5 steps to it:

1.  Plug it in.

2.  Take the composite cable and run it from the "out from cable box" to the "in" part of the Pinnacle TV to Go.

3.  Hook up the IR Blaster.

4.  Get the damn thing on your wireless network.

5.  Install the software and configure away.

Easy as pie.

Step One:  Plug it in.

Since it will need to access the world wirelessly, I can't put it on one of the shelves under the TV.  Luckily, the entertainment center isn't JUST the corner part, but also has some shelves on either side of the TV.  I clear off some space to the left and set up the PCTV to Go on it.  I drag the power cord through the pre-drilled hole in the side of the shelving so that I can plug it in the power strip.  Problem:  there's only one slot left on the power strip and this AC adapter is WAY too big to fit in just one slot.

The nearest outlet in the room is on the other side of the TV.  I clear that shelf and move the PCTV to Go over there.  (Pulling the cord back through the hole in the wall.)  I set it on the shelf.  I reach the power cord over to the outlet.  It won't reach.

I go back over to the first position again.  I decide that I don't really need that second VCR.  I unplug it, reorganize the plugs on the power strip so that two open spaces are next to each other, plug the PCTV to Go in (running the cord, yet again, through the hole in the wall) and have FINALLY mastered step one.

Step Two:  Take the composite cable and run it from the "out from cable box" to the "in" part of the Pinnacle TV to Go.

Actually, I luck out on this. 

Sort of.

I mean, the advantage is that my cable box/DVR thingie actually HAS an "out" place for composite cable.  If it didn't, I'd have to use two sets of composite cables and insert the PCTV to Go between the cable box and the TV.  Considering how astonishingly difficult it is to get behind my TV with a cable, I think of this as something best to be avoided.

So.  Grab the composite cable.  Attach it to back of PCTV to Go.  Send it through hole in the wall.  Send it through hole behind TV, aim it down through the shelf with the VCR, and then on down to the cable bo--

It isn't long enough.  The composite cable won't make it.

It will make it to the first shelf.  All I have to do is swap the VCR with the cable box.

Of course, each of these items has various cables attached to it -- which will need to be swapped through that hole between the shelves.

There's nothing else for it.  I detach two cables from the VCR.  I shove them through the hole.  I set the VCR aside.  Then, I grab the cable box.  It has way more cables stuck to it.  Concerned that I might forget which cable goes where, I immediately move the cable box to the higher shelf, and detach/reattach the cables one at a time.  One piece of coaxial cable; then another piece of coax; then ...

... a composite cable.

What's odd about this composite cable is that, when I detach it, it falls loose.  The other end wasn't attached to anything.  And it'slong.

It dawns on me, at this point, that I could undo everything I've just done, put it all back where it started, and just use this piece of composite cable that was already hooked up to the "out" bit of my cable box.  But, y'know, I'm more than halfway there.  I might as well finish.

I finish.  Cable box relocated.  VCR relocated.  VCR cables reattached -- and one of them is really short so it takes a long time for me to screw it in there with my arm shoved way to the back of the shelf and doing this by feel. 

I turn everything back on and am thrilled to find that I still have cable TV on my TV.

I now hook up the composite cable from the cable box to the PCTV to Go.  It makes it, but just barely

(You realize you're getting the condensed version of this, right?)

Step Three:  Hook up the IR Blaster.

OK, this actually works.  That's because it's easy.  I just have to plug this into the back of the PCTV to Go and aim the other end of it in the general vicinity of my cable box.  (It's the thing that acts like a remote control for the cable box.)

Step Four:  Get the damn thing on your wireless network.

I turn on my computer.  I have my wireless network set up to only let in particular wireless things that I recognize -- in this case, my laptop is pretty much the extent of it.  I ask my router to scan around for other wireless things.  It's supposed to see the PCTV to Go, and let me add it.

It doesn't.

I have to type the PCTV to Go in by MAC address manually.  I find this on the bottom of the PCTV to Go.  I type it in my router control panel.  My router cheerfully tells me that it will gladly let this thing access the network.  It also points out that said item is not, in fact, accessing the network.

I face facts.  The composite cable was so short that in order to make the connection, I had to slide the PCTV to Go fairly far back into its shelving unit.  Where it is surrounded by wood and not likely to get much of a signal.

I have to switch to that longer piece of composite cable.

Back behind the TV, through the holes -- out with the short cable, in with the long. 

Now I can move the PCTV to Go much further out on the shelf, and my network can find it.

Step Five:  Install the software and configure away.

I install the software, from its CD, on my PC.  It then wants to download a newer version of the software, which takes about 20 minutes. 

Then, it tries to configure the PCTV to Go.  It can't find it.

Why the heck not?

Seems that the PCTV to Go must be configured from a PC with a wireless adapter.  Since my desktop is joined to my wireless router via an ethernet cable, this won't work.  I have to use my laptop.

I install the software on my laptop.  It does the upgrade-for-twenty-minutes thing again. 

Then it updates the firmware in the PCTV to Go. 

Holy cow!  I'm in!

(I feel like I'm breaking in to the Pentagon or something.)

It then runs all sorts of tests.  Makes sure the IR blaster works by changing channels on my TV, that sort of thing.  All of these things work flawlessly.

Until the bit where I'm supposed to adjust the color and contrast on the picture on my screen, and there is no picture on my screen.


The PCTV to Go is clearly working, but it isn't getting any data.  The obvious culprit is the ol' composite cable.  It dawns on me that maybe I had this cable just sitting there because it wasn't working.  I look for another piece of composite cable somewhere in my home -- I grab the cable off the back of the TV in my office, but that one is actually a few inches shorter than the one the PCTV to Go came with.  I put that one back.  I decide to go back behind the cable box and make sure all the connections are tight.

The connections are tight.  They are, however, connected to the wrong place.  They're in the "in" slots on the cable box, rather than the "out" slots.  I relocate to the right place.  Still nothing on the screen.


I am out of ideas.

But wait!  It's on the screen now.  There's a bit of a delay (I guess the signal takes some time to go wirelessly to my router and then back to the laptop), but there's TV!  On my computer!


The irony of it all.

I am now, as we speak, watching previously DVR'd programming on my computer.  This is way cool, and is, in fact, what I'd planned for with this system.

There is a bit of a downside, however.  My particular brand of DVR lists the previously recorded programs if you hit the "List" key.

The PCTV to Go does not appear to have a "List" button.

If I actually walk over to my TV and hit "List" on the cable box (or the remote control), I get the list of recorded programs -- and that list (with a short time delay) will show up on my PC screen, enabling me to select one, watch it, finish watching it, watch another, etc.  But unless I've actually been near enough to my TV to hit "List," I can't get the list on my PC to watch any prerecorded stuff.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Peep Show is Over!

On Friday, the contractor, in a gesture of goodwill, put the vertical blinds back up over my sliding glass door.

See, when the contractor made the holes in my ceiling (to clean out the mold and find the cause of the leaks), he set up a "containment zone" (read: big area sectioned off with floor to ceiling plastic sheeting) around half my living room.  Including a small corner of my sliding glass door.  And, in order to make the zone completely contained (which was necessary when they were cleaning the mold out), the removed my vertical blinds so they could tape the plastic to the glass door.

Which was all well and good when this process was supposed to last a week or two.

We're into the fourth month now -- during which time my vertical blinds have been camped out on my floor, and nothing has been covering the sliding glass door.

This has wreaked havoc with my electric bill, as the air conditioner has to work extra hard to keep the room cool when there's big east-facing glass panels with nothing covering them.

Also, I've been flashing the neighbors. 

For the first couple weeks, I'd cover myself up when running across the hall to get to the shower.  (Yes, I use the guest shower rather than the one in the master bathroom.  I remodelled the guest bathroom and the shower in there has them body spray jets.)  After awhile, it just became too much trouble -- so I'd just streak across the hallway.

I figure if anyone went to the trouble of training some sort of observational device on my window, such that they'd look in, through the living room and down the hall, for the few seconds that I'd be visible flying across the hallway au naturel -- hey, they're welcome to the view.

But on Friday, the contractor dropped by, visiting each unit, and discussing with us what still has to be done.  He still can't put my ceiling back together as they haven't stopped the leaking yet.  But I asked if he could at least put the blinds back up, and he obliged, right then and there.

Sorry, Pasadena. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

How Many People Hate You?

I'm watching Without Prejudice, a show on Game Show Network that is more sociological experiment than game show.  The idea is that there are five people (the contestants), one of whom will win $25,000.  Then there are five other people (the panel) who will decide which one of them gets the money.  The panel eliminates people one by one, after learning a little bit about them.  The first one has to be eliminated based on a short introduction (name, age, appearance, home city).  After that, they learn a bit more (education, family life, job) and continue to narrow down the field.

One of the contestants this week is gay.  When this came out in the second round, two of the five panel members immediately expressed disapproval.  (They also expressed some fairly ignorant beliefs about homosexuals, but let's not go there right now.)  And it just sorta hit me -- like I hadn't noticed it before -- that, given this (not-exactly-random) sample of humanity, two out of five of them are instantly going to hate a homosexual just because he's guy.

It brought to mind an instance in High School, when we were talking about racism, and one of the Black students said that whenever she walks into a room, she knows that a certain percentage of the people in the room are going to hate her just for who she is.  She doesn't know who they are -- racists don't often clearly identify themselves -- but she knows she's got to deal with that every time she walks into a new situation. 

And it just hit me that, yeah, it's pretty much the same for gay people (although a person's orientation isn't necessarily as obvious as a person's racial background).  But gay men and lesbians just sorta have to deal with the fact that a certain percentage of people they meet -- given this TV show, probably a fairly high percentage -- are just gonna hate them for who they are.

I'm fairly lucky in that the culture in which I find myself living finds me -- at least on the surface -- to be relatively acceptable.  (You gotta really know me before you hate me.)  I've come across a little bit of hate based on my Jewishness, but it's been such a rare occurrence that I don't anticipate it in any social situation. 

But it's certainly depressing -- and extremely disappointing to me -- to reflect on how many Americans must have come to expect to be hated.

Monday, August 6, 2007

A Quick Little Controversial Post

A news headline on AOL reads:

"Students Killed Execution-Style"

Beneath it, it says:

"Lined Up Against Wall and Shot"

And beneath that:

"Victims Had No Criminal Records"

It's that last one that gives me pause.  I mean, when you tell me that students were killed execution-style (as opposed to, say, suspected mob members or drug dealers), I'm not likely to leap to the conclusion that they must have, y'know, had it coming.  I'm going to assume they're perfectly innocent victims of a perfectly horrible crime.  Because they're students

And I ask (politely, without any accusation at all) if perhaps maybe this bit about having no criminal records was included because the photos of the victims accompanying this story showed three African American teenagers.  And I wonder if the same disclaimer would have been included if the accompanying photo was of three white teens who (like the photos of the victims in this instance) have no gang tattoos or any other outward signs of potential criminal involvement.

And I go on to wonder that if the "No Criminal Records" statement was, in fact, inserted because of the race of the victims, was it inserted because of a racial prejudice of the writer of the article, or because of the writer's presumption that the article's readers hold that prejudice (and, whether the readers, in fact, do).

Either way, it feels ugly.

Unless, of course, there was nothing racial at all behind the inclusion of the subheadline, in which case, what does it say about me that I see racism where it doesn't exist?

Dodged the (really unpleasant) bullet

I eat at Souplantation often.

Like, at least twice a week often.

I figured I'd go tonight, after work.

I pull in the parking lot, get my little ticket, and see a sign saying "Souplantation is closed."

Takes me a few minutes to circle back around to the guy in the little booth (so I can leave the parking lot) and I ask him -- as I'm sure everyone else has -- why Souplantation is closed.

"A few people got food poisoning" he says.

That's a good reason.

I followed up on the internet.  Says my local news story "at least 30 customers got sick" after eating there over a three day period in late July.  Local news adds, "the infection has been identified as shigellosis, which causes severe diarrhea."

I followed up shigellosis on wikipedia, and found this cheerful entry.  It's one of your bacterial infections which is (as they delicately put it) "transmitted via the fecal-oral route" -- which loosely translates into "which one of you morons didn't wash your hands after pooping?"  Local news says the Souplanation "voluntarily closed, pending an investigation to track down the source of the bacteria."  Ya think?

Saturday, August 4, 2007


A while back, when I took the Warner Bros. backlot tour, I got a lesson in commercials.

A network (or show producers, I can't even remember which) doesn't sell commercials show by show.  They package them.  So, like, while everyone might want to buy commercial time in Grey's Anatomy, they won't be allowed to unless they also buy commercials in The Nine or whatever else bottoms out the ratings list.

This ran through my head last night, while I was watching ESPN.  Because, if it weren't for packaging, I can't imagine why I saw a commercial for "The Scooter Store" (geared toward mobility-impaired seniors on Medicare) during the X Games.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Project Buy Happiness Update

Well, the Santa Barbara portion of Project Buy Happiness has hit a bit of a snag.  I'm not sure whether this is because I mentioned throwing myself into my work -- but my work has decided to throw itself back on me.  It appears that I will spend this entire weekend buried in work.

I don't mind.  I've rarely had to work weekends for this job; when I do, I can do it at home; and there's a really good reason for me to do it this time.  So, no big.  But it does mean that, with the exception of a Drama Critics Circle meeting I can't get out of, I'll be pretty much hibernating in my condo with a big pile of transcript until Monday morning.  (If I'm really, really productive, I may allow myself a movie Saturday night.  Maybe.)  This will, however, mean I won't see any plays this weekend, so I'll be spending most other weekends in August playing catch-up with my six-shows-per-month obligation.  Which means I won't be able to take a whole weekend off to go to Santa Barbara, and if I do it at all, it'll have to be drive-up-early-and-drive-home-late all in one day.

On the other hand, I've made my first actual purchase in the attempt to buy myself happy.

One of these.  For them what's too lazy to click, that's a Pinnacle PCTV to Go HD Wireless ... thingie.  Which is a competitor of a Slingbox.  For them what don't know what a Slingbox is -- it's a device what takes the signal from your, say, cable box or DVR and slings it over to the internet, where you can watch (and control) it on any internet-connected PC.

Now, I'd been jonesing for a Slingbox for some time, but it was one of those purchases I decided to put off until I bought a new house -- largely because my current condo is not easily configured for a Slingbox.  Basically, you need your PC pretty much sitting next to your cable box to make this sucker work.  It can be done wirelessly, but one has to invest in additional equipment to accomplish this (either those plug-in adaptor things or a ... bridge, I think the term is.)  So I thought I'd hold off onthe Slingbox until I got a new house in which I might decide to put a cable box on the TV in my office -- or put a desk near the main TV -- or something else that might solve the problem.

And then, my pals on Woot came up with this Pinnacle PCTV to Go jobbie last night.  And while the Pinnacle item has all sorts of features to recommend it, the big one for me is that it (allegedly) just joins up with your wireless network.  In other words, I have everything I need for this sucker to work right out of the box on my current configuration.  And it would actually enable me to watch cable TV on my PC -- which would be quite nice, as all I've got in the office now is an old TV that buzzes strangely and tunes with rabbit ears.

AND the little bugger normally costs around $250, but Woot (in its one-day, one-item way) had it for $150, and I was all over it like ... Paris Hilton a Y-chromosome.

So ... Santa Barbara is up in the air -- but ... new toy!  new toy!

Dental Floss Conspiracy

You ever notice that the more you use dental floss -- the more those little spaces between your teeth expand -- the more you get stuff caught in there -- the more you need dental floss?

Pretty nifty for a product to make you need to use it more.  Kinda like crack.