Thursday, November 29, 2007

Where's the Kitty?

My cat likes to play "chase me around the house."

She goes somewhere just slightly out of my view and meows like crazy.  When I get up and go to her (as I will, eventually, as the meowing gets more and more insistent) she gleefully runs someplace.  I chase her.  She often stops, just to make sure I'm still following.  And as soon as I reach out to touch her ... she bolts off again.  Sometimes, it's kinda hard to find her, especially when she's run the chase into a room where the lights aren't on.  The other day, I chased her into the bedroom.  She usually waits on the opposite side of the bed, until I walk around and spot her there -- then she runs off under the bed and out the open door.  This time, she did not go out the door.  I looked everywhere, until I spotted this -- the view from under my bed.

Yes, she's hiding using the world-famous "If I can't see you, you can't see me" technique.

Here's the "with flash" version:

I'm under ur bed; gardin' ur supplies?

Because I Know You Wanted to See This

Yes.  This is what a chemical burn looks like.

No, that's not lipstick smeared above my lip.  That's burn.  Actually, it's burn coated with Neosporin-a-year-past-its-expiration-date, but, y'know, any port in a storm. 

Burns hurt.

Next entry is way more cheerful.

Not Exactly the Look I was Going For

I started off this morning using a facial hair remover product.  (Oh come on.  It isn't TMI.  All us brunettes do it.)  I have used said facial hair remover product regularly for the last 20 years or so.

Applied it for 8 minutes as per usual.

Felt all tingly, like it's working.

Removed it with a damp Kleenex and ... Ow!  It burns!  It burns!


Put on the "post removal skin soothing cream" and ... it still burns!!  Yipes!

I admire my look in the mirror.  OK, sure, my upper lip is hair free, but you sort of don't notice that as you are distracted by the redness and swelling.

I look at the package insert which cheerfully suggests that, if irritation occurs, I am to remove the product immediately (that ship has already sailed, friend), apply a cold compress and seek medical attention.

Am now typing one-handed while holding a cold compress to my face.

Yesterday, my mother asked me, "Have you ever had a day where everything you tried to do went wrong?"  I might just.

The Benefit of My Wisdom

Two grocery tips for you:

Tip One: Yoplait Yogurt Whips taste like dessert.

I mean it.  I eat a lowfat Yoplait every morning for breakfast.  One day, when I was shopping for my week's worth of yogurt, they were out of white chocolate raspberry lowfat, so I figured I'd experiment with the raspberry Whip.  (Fewer calories but a touch more fat.)  The consistency is sorta mousse-like (and sorta not) but, seriously, it tastes like dessert.  At least the raspberry and strawberry ones do.  But if you're looking for a berry-tasting light fluffy treat, suck one of these puppies down.

Tip Two:  As 100 calorie bags of microwave butter-flavored popcorn go, Pop Secret is the best, Orville Redenbacher is a reasonable second, and Jolly Time blows.

Sadly, the store was out of Pop Secret (they had the Kettle Corn and Homestyle flavors, neither of which is to my liking) so I figured I'd buy the other two brands and compare.  I started with the Jolly Time, which I actually had to salt, it was so tasteless.  Thought I was eating styrofoam packing peanuts.  The Orville was substantially better.  (Anything edible would have been substantially better.)  Didn't have quite the yum factor of the Pop Secret, but each kernel seemed to have at least a touch of flavor to it -- unlike the Jolly Time, which had a lot of flavor, although most of it was left lining the bag rather than attached to the popcorn.

Bonus Tip:  Check those expiration dates.  Nearly walked out of the store today with some mushroom salad with a "sell by" of two days ago.

Completely random aside to my sister:  Whole Foods has pre-cut packaged jicama.  Man, that took me back.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Contractor was Not Hit by a Bus

He had just decided not to show.

He didn't return the consultant's calls all day, and instead left a message at about 4:55 (after which he was, of course, completely unreachable) saying something about a crew's truck breaking down and being overbooked and he'll be out 9:00 a.m. the following morning.  (I think the key word in that sentence is "overbooked."  Yep, he decided not to come.)  This was a bit problematic as the leak detection people were also due out the following morning at 9:00 a.m.  And we didn't get word from the contractor in time to cancel them.

So the leak detection guys come out Friday morning and, sure enough, can't do any sort of water testing because the contractor hadn't plastered up any of the work.  (Funny thing about water testing -- it's really hard to water test a wall for water tightness when the wall isn't there.)  Yeah, so they went home without doing anything, and we rescheduled them for Wednesday.

At around 1:30 (which is apparently the "contractor" definition of 9:00 a.m.), the contractor's guys show up to replaster the wall on my balcony (and a similar one on the balcony leaking into my living room).  The guys do a fine job replastering the wall.  Let me be perfectly clear with this -- I have no quibble with their plastering abilities.

They left without putting the outlet cover on.

You may recall -- I certainly did -- that the outlet was the reason we tore up the wall in the first place.  It was leaking in the general vicinity of the outlet and we'd hired this contractor to remove the old outlet, replace it with a nice, new waterproof one (which we'd already purchased and had sitting right out there for him) and seal it real good with silicone.  While the contractor had convinced us that opening up the wall was also prudent for stopping the leak, this didn't mean that his guys could leave without putting the outlet cover on.  You know, the thing they were originally hired to do.

I pointed this out to the contractor's guys.  They were plasterers, not outlet cover putter-onners.  I deduced this from the fact that the guy ... oh, let's make it multiple choice:

(a)  did not have a screwdriver, so put the outlet cover on with a knife.
(b)  put the outlet cover on backwards
(c)  seated the outlet cover awkwardly on its gasket, so that the gasket was half covering the place where you plug stuff in
(d)  re-installed the old, leaking outlet cover, rather than putting on the nice, new waterproof one.

Yes, kids, all of the above.

I had kittens.  I'd been, all things considered, remarkably even-tempered about things to this point, but honestly.  I walk out on my balcony and see the old outlet cover back on, backwards, with gasket sticking out, and knife marks around the screws, and ... given the choice between bursting into tears and letting loose with an expletive-laced tirade, I'm somewhat proud to admit I chose the latter course.

The consultant made a few phone calls, the contractor's guy borrowed a screwdriver from me, and next thing we knew, he had the right outlet cover on. 

Now, obviously, if the man comes to the job without a screwdriver, he surely didn't bring silicone sealant.

Thereafter, the contractor (of course) failed to respond to Monday's phone calls asking him to come out and silicone the damn outlet.  (Why would he?  If he's that overbooked, there's no reason to take some of his precious time for a five minute job.  Which would have already been completed had he sent out his guys with the right stuff.)  So our consultant drove to Target, bought a tube of silicone, and slathered it all around the outlet.  It isn't the prettiest job, but I am long past caring.  On Wednesday, it passed the water test!!!

Put the champagne back in the fridge.

The balcony upstairs failed.  That would be the balcony leaking into my living room.  The leak that made me take my condo off the market in the Spring, and which is preventing me from re-listing it now -- still exists.  The consultant got on the phone to the company that resurfaced the deck, and asked politely to speak to their "troubleshooter" guy.  He asked (and I will have to remember this for when I'm the person making this phone call) "not for the supervisor you send out when a customer complains about a job, but for the guy you send out when nobody else can figure out what's causing the leak."  Apparently, there is such a guy.  Said guy called us back that afternoon, and has an appointment to come out on Tuesday to diagnose the problem and plan a solution.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thunk Thunk Thunk

That's my head against the wall.  Metaphorically.

Upon reconsideration, I no longer think I like this contractor.

Around 2:30 yesterday, with the new waterproofing installed in my now torn-up balcony wall, the contractor called it a day, saying he'd be back today to plaster up the wall and install a waterproof box around the electrical outlet.

Long story less long:  He didn't come.  He didn't call, either.  We have a consultant managing this project who called him no less than five times throughout the day.  Never picked up.  Never called back.  He's MIA and the project is half-done.

The leak detection company had already been scheduled to come out tomorrow -- so they're going to water test as much as they can.  (They can water test the new waterproofing.  They cannot water test the area around the electrical outlet because the outlet is exposed and Duh.)

Now, OK, there's a chance that the contractor got hit by a bus or something.  In which case I'll feel really bad for calling him all sorts of new and exciting names.  But, barring that, I remain convinced that he's a poopyhead.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Vacation Day

I am taking a vacation day today.

I hadn't planned to.  In fact, I actually went to work this morning.  But the construction consultant called to say the contractor wanted to get in my unit, and I came home to supervise.

I think I like this contractor.  I like him because he appears to be getting to the bottom of the problem.  With a jackhammer.  While previous non-destructive investigation into the leak on my balcony has resulted in a determination that the outlet is leaking -- despite the massive amount of silicon sealant around the outlet -- this dude has decided that the only way we're really going to find out what is leaking is to rip out the outlet and chip out all the stucco around it until an obvious source of leakage appears.  He's been at it for about an hour and finally said "I think I found the problem."  Which is, of course, not where anyone ELSE thought the problem was -- but seeing as he was actually able to confirm his hypothesis by showing me the torn paper (inside my wall) where the water was able to get through, he gets my vote.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Short list of things I never thought I'd get excited about

A grocery store.

They opened up a new Whole Foods right near me and, honestly, my first thought was that I ought to go back with a camera to illustrate this blog entry.

Well, no.  That was my second thought.  My first thought was "can I live here?"

I have never been in a grocery store like this.  While riding on the escalator (more about this in a minute) the woman standing in front of me turned around and said, "It's like Disneyland!" 

Well, the parking lot certainly is.  It has underground parking.  The first level is the complimentary valet.  Beneath that is self-parking, and they've got employees in bright orange vests at every turn, directing you to the next available spot.

You take an elevator up to the store.  The store has two levels, which are connected by escalator.  This seemed odd to me.  Wouldn't you need an elevator (and a big, huge one at that) so you can bring your shopping cart from one level to the other?  No.  You don't.  The escalator does it.  Now, I was told (by the "Disneyland" lady) that these things are common in Chicago and other cities, but this was a piece of technology I have never seen.  Next to the escalator is a secondary escalator for shopping carts.  There's a track in it that grabs your shopping cart, holds it perfectly level, and rides it next to you (at the same speed as the regular escalator) so it meets you at your destination.  People were so amazed by this, they were running empty carts in it just to watch it go.

I went to the store because I needed something for dinner and didn't want to cook.  A friend (who had been to this store on Opening Day) suggested I check it out, because they have a lot of prepared foods.

A lot.  Of prepared foods.

Actually, the second floor is sort of like a food court.  They call it a restaurant as they have tables for eating.  In addition to (and this is just off the top of my head) -- a salad bar, they have a prepared salads bar, an antipasto bar, a mediterranean food bar, an olive bar, and a dessert bar.  That's the cold ones.  Also: multiple soup bars, a seafood bar, a rotisserie chicken bar (also smoked chicken), a carvery, a pizza bar, and an Asian food bar. 

Did I mention the Chocolate and Gelato station?

And that'sjust prepared foods.  Other unusual departments include a wine lounge, a roasting station (where they are roasting all different kinds of nuts), something to do with hot vegetables (I didn't really dwell), freshly made jams and spreads, freshly made salsa, dispensers of dried fruits and nuts, a whole gluten-free section, and a room marked "Massage."

It opened just this week, and I was so totally not the only one walking around slack-jawed, unable to comprehend this glorious bounty that had just moved in across the street from the place where I have my storage cage.

Gotta go.  Leftovers are calling.  (In this case:  some salad, pre-packaged pomegranate seeds, and some siu mai.)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

What "E" is the language in which I am speaking to you?

No, it's not a trick question.

You ever notice how game shows dumb down a bit when they've got celebrities on?  Actually, the level of dumbing down varies.  Jeopardy gets easier, but not outrageously so.  Who Wants to Be A Millionaire makes it damn near impossible not to get at least $32,000 for your charity.

Which brings us to The Weakest Link, my current Doctor Who obsession, and the wonder that is YouTube. 

The latest Doctor Who DVD release comes with bonus materials that include a little pre-show green room activity from when the cast was on The Weakest Link (in Britain, of course).  And the gang all seemed genuinely nervous that they'd go out there and come off as idiots.  Now, I've occasionally watched British Weakest Link on BBC America, and the questions do seem somewhat difficult.  They're not uniformly difficult, but there is definitely a risk that you can get saddled with two really hard questions in a single round, which will make you look like pretty bad, compared to the rest of the contestants.  So, I thought, OK, the cast has cause to be a little concerned.

Until I cranked it up on YouTube, and actually saw the questions.

I now set forth the first round questions from the Doctor Who cast's appearance on The Weakest Link.  You will note there are only nine questions, because everyone got their question right, and they banked the full five thousand pounds.

1.  In Astronomy, the Earth takes one year to orbit which celestial body?
2.  In Relationships, an instant attraction to another person is usually known as "Love at first" what?
3. What "E" is the name of the language in which I am speaking to you?
4.  In the acting profession, it is often said that one should never work with children or what? [This asked to the person standing next to the robotic dog.]
5.  On treasure maps, which letter of the alphabet traditionally marks "the spot"?
6.  In sporting physiques, who usually weighs more, a jockey or a sumo wrestler?
7.  Because of a faulty circuit, the Doctor's TARDIS is usually stuck in the form of telephone box, previously used by which of the emergency services?  [Trust me.  That's an insanely easy Doctor Who question.  It'd be like asking William Shatner what color shirt Captain Kirk usually wore.]
8.  In Math, what is 10 plus 50?
9.  When the Cybermen were revived in 2006, what was their battle cry, "Control," "Alt" or "Delete"? [Again, insanely easy Doctor Who question.  The multiple choice actually makes it funny.]

After the entire cast completed these questions, thereby proving themselves not to be drooling idiots, the audience actually applauded.

And then I realized that, yes, the cast had a right to be nervous backstage.  Because, I mean, it's one thing if you happen to miss a question that a normal human being, watching from their living room, might get wrong.  But if you don't know the Earth revolves around the sun, or that "X marks the spot," it's a moment of stupidity you will never, ever live down.

Can lolcats be far behind?

OK, I finally gave in and made one of them motivational posters.

Something tells me this might become a new hobby.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Having reactivated my Netflix account, I spent this evening watching one of those movies everyone can't believe I haven't seen.  Y'know, filling in the holes in my film-seeing history, as it were.

So, I sat down and watched Terry Gilliam's Brazil.

And then I watched it again, with the director's commentary on.  Just to make sure I hadn't missed anything.

Interesting experience, that -- listening to a director ramble on for two hours about his film.  I've only listened to directors' commentaries two other times, I think -- Peter Jackson on Lord of the Rings, and Gore Verbinski on Pirates of the Caribbean.  The two could not have been more different.  Jackson knew exactly what he wanted for every shot, and his commentary was pretty much insight on how he created it.  Verbinski's commentary made it sound like his approach to directing was very seat-of-his-pants, and the commentary was largely his own expressions of surprise that things turned out as well as they did.  Gilliam's commentary is somewhere between the two.  On the one hand, Brazil is definitely his film made from his vision (I particularly liked the bit where he said that, because of his background in animation, he storyboarded a lot of the shots) -- but he also made clear that there's always room in his films for on-set inspiration, so points out a few things that ended up in the film without having been on those storyboards. 

Of course, unlike the others, Gilliam's commentary also made it very clear that he sees himself as a Hollywood outsider and is totally happy to tell every studio executive, critic, and unhappy audience member to go jump -- as he's going to make the movies he wants to make.  Which isn't always going to be a money-making proposition.  And I can respect that -- and it's the right attitude to have when you want to see a film that is more like "art" -- which is to say, you want to see the ideas the artist has chosen to express in the way the artist has chosen to express them, whether you agree with them or not.  It's art that makes you think.  Challenges you.  Makes you uncomfortable.  All that stuff.  (Of course, sometimes, I just want to be entertained, which is when I'll go see a movie where some hot guys blow stuff up.  I'm a woman of many moods.)

I digress.  One of the really interesting bits in the director's commentary (which was made in 1996) is that Gilliam says that people were saying to him that Brazil was ahead of its time and that it is relevant now (i.e. 1996) -- while he'd thought it was just as relevant when he made it (1985). 

Which was really quite curious as I would have said it is more relevant now. 
There was this one bit in the commentary when Gilliam said something about how the government (in the film) needed the fear of terrorism to justify its continued use of torture as an interrogation technique -- and I nearly choked on my tea.  Because, y'know, regardless of where you actually stand on these things, you'd have to be living under a rock to have missed similar discussions in the media today -- only they're talking about the United States, not some fictional totalitarian regime that exists only in Gilliam's twisted head.

I guess the fact that everyone seems to see Brazil as timely is what, in fact, makes it one of those classic films everyone says you ought to see.  Either that, or it says something really scary about society.