Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Oh ... Poop

Today, one of my coworkers gave me a holiday present.

And I thought, "oh crap, I don't have a present for her."

And I thought, "I should have a present for her. We definitely exchange gifts for the holidays. How could I possibly have omitted her from my list?"

Didn't have my list on me, though.

Went online. Went through my Amazon purchases ... nope, nothing for her.


Spent about an hour online ordering emergency presents for her. ("Shit! What do I buy? What do I buy?") Finally found something. I'll get it on the 24th. Not ideal; but, hey, it's a present.

Came home. Looked at handwritten shopping list.

She's on it. There's a gift written next to it. Which I had purchased from an online merchant other than Amazon. (Which is to say, I'd had a brilliant idea of a gift for her, and had actually hunted it down and found it.) On December 15th! But I don't have the gift yet.

Checked the order status online and it said, "paid." Yeah, I know I paid for it. On the 15th. Where's the damn gift?

Sigh. Purchased two presents for her and the first one (the right one) will probably come too late anyway. So I either give her the last-minute, not-so-perfect-for-her present (and then save the perfect one for what? next year? I can't even remember a week ago; what makes me think I'll remember a whole year?), or give her the perfect one late, and she'll think I didn't buy it until after she gave me a present. Which is so not true.


Saturday, December 20, 2008


WTF happened to my Global Warming?

Friday, December 19, 2008


Currently watching last week's episode of "House." (Thank you, USA, for those reruns, seeing as I have no DVR or VCR at this apartment.) I'm only half watching it, because I'm doing some work at the same time.

The Joseph Bell reference was cute enough, but Wilson's rambling story on Irene Adler being the one that got away? I just jerked my head up and started laughing out loud.

I do appreciate how nicely they're playing up the Sherlock Holmes references -- especially since they made absolutely no mention in the first season. I realize I'm overthinking this, but I can't help but wonder if Wilson was knowingly making a Sherlock Holmes reference (which apparently went right over the heads of House's team), or if Wilson was just randomly picking a name (and it was only the writers that were throwing in the reference). Either way: freakin' hilarious.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

And ... we begin again

The sellers rejected my offer.

This is cool. I pretty much expected them to do so. I was offering them a price about 10% below the comps, because I'd need to remodel the kitchen and do some work in the bathrooms before the place would be, y'know, good. Fact is, I had previously intended to offer them exactly the value of the comps -- until I got a closer look at the kitchen and master bathroom. (I hadn't been able to view the master bathroom in its entirety when I first looked at the house -- largely because the toilet was leaking all over the floor at the time.)

In any event, I'm not particularly unhappy or angry that they rejected my offer. I'm, as the kids would say, "down with that."

What I am angry about is that the rejection was transmitted to my real estate agent with the cheerful little note from their real estate agent reading, "My Clients suggested that your clients search for real estate that is more in their price range as an offer [17%] less than list price is very insulting. I tend to agree with them."

Numerous responses went through my head on this, several of them inappropriate for polite conversation.

You have to realize that this house has been on the market for seven months, and the sellers have already dropped the price four times, resulting in a price nearly 25% lower than their initial price. The listing price is still a solid 10% higher than the comps (and that's without knowing whether the comps actually need kitchen remodels). Indeed, two houses in the neighborhood came on the market recently and each one got an offer in less than a week, because they were priced correctly. This house is still sitting there after seven months. A perceptive seller (or one with a realistic agent) might start asking, "What is wrong with my house? Is my listing price too high? Is it a combination of the two?"

Instead, these sellers think their house is still worth a ton of money, and that the problem is with me (or, more precisely, my finances).

I believe the term I'm looking for is "Bite me."

I sent my agent the following in response: "And, your client suggests that their clients keep their opinions to themselves, wishes them luck in getting their price in a declining market, and promises not to say 'I told you so,' when they inevitably drop their price yet again." (That last bit is a complete and utter lie.)

OK, nobody remind me of anyone I forgot

Every night for the past, oh, two weeks or so, has been at least partially spent in the following endeavor:

1. Look at holiday shopping list.
2. Randomly select a name on it.
3. Check to see if they have an Amazon wishlist.
4. Upon discovering that they don't, randomly search Amazon until a good gift idea strikes.
5. Purchase said gift.
6. Feel really good about knocking another name off the list until...
7. Remember another name that wasn't on the list, but should have been.

I've been pretty much treading water on the shopping -- always countering progress with the addition of someone else. Well, enough of that. Tonight, I bought five more gifts. I've only got one name left (and that should be do-able -- tomorrow). Holiday shopping officially nearly finished. Yay.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pure schadenfreude

A few days ago, I left the office to grab some lunch. (It was lunchtime. It seemed reasonable.) I walked over to the crosswalk. There was a dude already waiting at the crosswalk. I assumed he'd already pressed the little button, so I just stood there, waiting for the light to change.

A woman walks up. Waits with us for about 3 seconds. Starts to cross against the light.

She gets about two-thirds of the way across the crosswalk when we hear, over a bullhorn, "Ma'am, you're going to have to come over here."

A motorcycle cop -- he'd been parked just inside a parking structure on the other side of the street. In total plain view, although I'd failed to see him. Clearly, the woman had, too.

She keeps crossing. Cop says, "Yes, you, Ma'am."

She goes over and he starts questioning her on her jaywalking proclivities. The light changes. I cross. As I approach, I hear the cop talking about how she could've been hit by a car. I avert my eyes. I go into the fast food joint. Place my order. Pay for my food. Wait for my food. Get my food. Leave the fast food joint.

The woman is still there talking to the cop. While I'm waiting for the light to change, I hear him saying, "You saw there were two other people waiting...."

I don't know if he ultimately gave her a ticket, but I do admit to taking a certain amount of joy in the fact that she got caught.

They Did Not Actually Laugh

Been a bit quiet in posting lately, as there's this house I've been considering putting in an offer on.

(On which I've been considering making an offer. Whatever.)

Of course, the first time I saw the house, it seemed like the most awesome-ist house ever.

I went back to look at the house a bit more critically, and it seemed like, with a kitchen remodel, and moving one itty bitty non-load bearing wall (... and maybe putting an extra door in over here, and making this a walk-in closet, and ...), it would be really good. In the sense of: yeah, I could see myself living there for the next 40 or 50 years.

But since it would require work, the amount of I'd be willing to offer dropped substantially. I mean, there's only so much money I have to put towards a house, and if a bunch of that money has to go to a contractor to get the house right, that's less money I can spend on the house itself.

So, I pondered. I talked it over with friends. I contacted the house's neighbor and talked it over with them.

Everything seemed OK, so I put in an offer. For, like, 20% less than the listing price (which itself had gone down 20% from when they'd first listed it). And it was a "take it or leave it" sort of offer. I'm not going to negotiate this price upward. But, if they accept it, they'll be rid of the house they've been trying to unload for more than half a year.

My agent just presented the offer to their agent. She called back to report that the seller's agent did not laugh, or even throw her out of the office. That's a good sign.

And now: we wait.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

U can do better

Got a phishing email today from someone claiming to be the IRS.

Actually, they're claiming to be "Internal Revenue Service Inc.," as though an agency of the federal government is incorporated.

That was probably the first thing that tipped me off that it was fake. Well, besides the fact that the IRS would have no reason to email me. Or to email me about a refund. And certainly not to email me about a refund under section 501(c)(3) -- because, last I checked, I am not a registered non-profit organization.

But the bit that cracked me up was the sentence that began, "If u don't receive your refund within 6 business days..."

I don't know what's funnier -- that they think "u" is now acceptable in formal writing, or that they think the IRS would promise anything in six business days.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Convo with MCI

The highlight of my call with MCI went something like this:

"I cancelled my service as of November 6, and you've billed me for service through the 20th."

"Yes, Ma'am. We bill for a full month of service."

"So you're saying that you billed me for two weeks that I didn't have the service??"

"That's correct, Ma'am."

"And this seems right to you? To bill for time I didn't have your service?"


"All right. Whatever. Just as long as I never get another bill from you again."

"Yes, Ma'am. This is your last bill."

"OK. Thanks."

"May I ask you why you're leaving MCI?"


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Helpful Insurance Company

It is AMAZING how helpful your insurance company can be when you suggest they may have been overcharged.

I believe I mentioned this before, but when I came back from Mexico, I had an unfortunate little bout with La Tourista. I went to the doctor, he gave me the magic antibiotics, I got well. The End.

Except it wasn't. Today I get the Explanation of Benefits from my office visit, and it indicates a charge of $585 for the appointment, for which I am allegedly responsible for some $300.

Insert skeptical eyebrow raise here.

It was an office visit, I paid my $20 copay -- where'd the extra $300 come from?

Upon closer examination, my EOB indicates two charges: one for "Office visit" and one for "Surgery."

Surgery? I think I would have remembered surgery.

I called Anthem, my insurer, to see what the hell my doctor charged them for. After about four minutes on the damn computerized system, I finally get a live human being.

"I need an explanation of the statement you sent."

"You need us to send you an Explanation of Benefits?"

"No, I have my Explanation of Benefits -- I need you to explain something on it."

Specifically, what's this "surgery" charge for? She couldn't tell me. She could give me the magic code number used for the procedure (which was already on the EOB in front of me) but couldn't tell me what it was for. (I'm guessing this was some sort of patient confidentiality thing, although it seemed a little odd as I am the patient.)

I tried again a different way. "OK, let me put it like this: I have no idea what this was for. I don't recall any surgery"

She asked the purpose of my appointment. I said, "I was sick. I went in. He prescribed me some antibiotics. I left. No surgery at all. Nothing remotely intrusive. The entire interaction took place across the room."

The light dawns on my Anthem rep. She scans the code sheet, and while she doesn't actually tell me what the surgery code was for, I hear her mutter something about "lesions." (Lesions??) She asks if I have my doctor's phone number. I assume this means she's going to tell me to call the doctor and I said, "No, but I can look it up."

She finds the number. Then she calls it. I am amazed. She doesn't tell me to call them; doesn't even say she'll call them and get back to me. She calls them while I'm on the line.

Less than five minutes later, she reports the happy news that the doctor's office agrees that there was no "procedure," and that they'll be sending a corrected statement.

Next up: why did MCI send me a phone bill covering the period after I'd closed my account?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Officially Frustrated

AOL journals used to have a feature at the top -- which I never used -- which allowed you to answer "how I'm feeling" at the top of every entry. I'm feeling frustrated.

Found a house I quite liked on Sunday. Not only that, it is conceivable that I could afford it. (Shock.) Rarely have these two concepts existed in the same house.

Planned with my agent to see the house again Monday night. Was bringing a friend to look it over, too. There were about three things I needed to do before putting in an offer. I needed to get another look at the master bathroom; I wanted to find the A/C unit and water heater; and I wanted to speak to the next-door neighbor (with whom the house more or less shares a driveway) to make sure they were nice, sane individuals that didn't torture kittens.

Got there a bit late (if I buy the house, I'll definitely need to figure out a faster way to get there) -- at around 6:30. Looked at bathroom (check); found A/C and water heater (check again); and basically took my time to get a closer look at everything. Of course, it wasn't as shiny perfect as it had seemed on my first walk-through, but it was still a really good house. Was all set to meet the neighbor and -- if that went well -- write an offer. Would've done it right there, too, assuming my agent had brought the paperwork.

So, on the way out, I said I wanted to meet the neighbor. Agent said she'd seen the neighbor while she was waiting for me to get there. "Perfect," I thought. "Did you tell her I wanted to speak with her for a few minutes?" No, says my agent. She was unpacking her car and looked like she didn't want to be bothered. "OK," think I, "let's go knock on the door." Agent said no. It was a little after 7:00. Too late to knock, now. They might be eating dinner; wouldn't want to disturb them. If you want to talk to the neighbor, she said, we should do that on the weekend.

Really, really annoyed.

Agent says she'll talk to me tomorrow about the house. I express my frustration by saying she should talk to me on Saturday, because I'm not putting in an offer until I meet the neighbor. (And I thought she freakin' knew that.)

I come home and stew over this. I have a meeting Saturday morning, which I can't miss. Of course, we have no idea what the neighbor's schedule is. She could have a meeting Saturday, too. Or even be taking a vacation. It isn't like we can make an appointment to meet the neighbor. We'll have to show up on Saturday and hope she's there. Oh man, I haven't even put an offer in on the place yet and I'm already stalking the neighbor.

It continues to annoy that my agent saw the woman last night. How freakin' hard would it have been to say, "Excuse me; I have a client who is interested in buying the house next door. Do you mind if I bring her by for a few minutes to talk about the neighborhood?" Seriously.

And now I sit around waiting till Saturday, wondering if someone else is going to put an offer in on the house in the meantime, and thinking that there's no guarantee we'll even see the neighbor on Saturday.

Damn it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Auction my weight

My scale is apparently an auctioneer.

Last night, I hopped on before bed. It said: 136.

And I think, "136??!!! That is WAY not right. I was 120 this morning."

I get off the scale. I get back on the scale. It now offers 126.

I get off the scale. I get back on the scale. It now offers 121.

I figured I could probably keep going until I weighed less than 100 pounds, but decided to stop the bidding at 121.

.... and to buy a new scale.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Was this beta tested? With, like, people?

I bought some Arrowhead bottled water. In their "eco-shape" half-liter bottles. These bottles claim to use 30% less plastic than normal half-liter bottles.

Which sounds good for the environment.

Except, this is what happens every time I open the aforementioned eco-shape bottles: The caps are, y'know, tightly attached, like a good water bottle cap should be. So you need to grip the bottle tightly in order to get a good grip and twist the cap off.

This operation can be performed fairly simply with a normal, bad-for-the-environment water bottle. But the eco-shape bottle is made of a thin, flimsy plastic. So, when you grip it (to take the cap off) it squeezes inward. You then remove the cap and, since you are pressing the bottle inward, water gushes up and out the top of the bottle.

Every. Freakin. Time.

So you waste the water you spill from the bottle. Not to mention the paper towels you use to clean it up, and to dry your hands.

All tolled, I think the eco-shape bottle is, at best, a wash for the environment.

It does make you wonder whether, in all the testing as to whether a thinner water bottle could hold the water, sit on shelves, and be sold to consumers, they ever bothered to have some consumers actually open them.


Today I did something I swore I'd never do.

I drove backwards on a one-way street.

And while I was looking around madly for any lurking cops, and realizing that I would have no way out of any possible ticket, and thinking that the points on my license would have been way not worth the time I'd save by not just driving around the block ... I still put the car in Backwards and went for it.

(I am so weak.)

Friday, November 28, 2008

On Black Friday

I'm happy I sold my condo. I think I've mentioned that before. :)

And I'm OK with cooling my heels in this apartment while I'm waiting to find the right to house.

And I'm totally OK with taking advantage of Black Friday sales in order to buy gifts for my friends and family.

What annoys me is that I can't take advantage of any of the sales to buy stuff for me. All sorts of deals on home electronics and home improvement stuff -- some of which I'm sure I'm going to want -- but no idea of which stuff I'll want, because I don't know what home it will go into. And I really can't get much other random stuff for myself, because I've got no real place to put more stuff. Basically, I need to postpone Black Friday until I have a new place. (Anyone think the retailers will go for this?)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

On Thanksgiving

Yesterday, I was going to write the standard "things I'm thankful for" Thanksgiving entry, but it just wouldn't write.

This morning, I finally realized why that was -- the attacks in Mumbai.

It's hard to sit here, counting my blessings -- taking a moment to note that, even setting aside our current economic downturn, this is still a totally amazing awesome country in which I live -- when I am reading about people who hate us so much they're taking hostages and particularly looking for people with US and UK passports.

There is so much to be thankful for ... and there's also so much work yet to be done.

Peace to all.

Monday, November 24, 2008


The cat made a break for it.

As long as I've been at this new place, she hasn't greeted me at the door when I come home. Yesterday, she did; so I thought we might be back at the point where she stands near the door and I have to make sure she doesn't get out.

I had maintenance come to the apartment today, and made a point of telling them to look out for the cat.

They did. I came home today, and I saw the cat right inside the door.

Then I saw her right outside the door.

That's right -- I was so concerned about the maintenance guy not letting her out, I let her out.

I'm one of those people who really tries to be rational in a crisis, so I made a point of grabbing my keys before I ran after her.

She ran down the hall one way. She ran down the hall the other way. Much running.

I ran after her calling, "Jasmine!" This did not work; she just ran more.

I stood still and did that little clicking noise you do with your tongue to get a cat to come. She actually responded. (This is shocking, truly.) I picked her up.

Holding tight, I took her for a little walk down the hallway so she could see what she was missing. Much squirming on her part. Couldn't tell if she wanted me to let her go so she could run, or if she didn't like outside and wanted to go back in. I didn't want to find this out the hard way, so went back in the apartment, closed the door, and let her go. And now she's really normal, as though nothing ever happened.

(Cat freaked me OUT.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

And this makes sense HOW?

When I left my condo, I had to terminate my cable service. "Had to" might be a bit of a stretch. I used to actually like my cable company, but, of late, the idea of leaving them had been a bit more ... anticipated. (Had something to do with their actual admission that they wouldn't do anything to fix my crappy modem service until four people in my building called -- three apparently being insufficient to warrant repairs.)

In any event, they told me to return my equipment after service stopped. I did this, the next weekend.

(And, let's note, they told me to return it to their location in the next city over, even though subsequent research indicated that they had a place in my city.)

That was about a week ago.

Today I get my final bill. For $633. Apparently, they slam an "unreturned equipment" charge on your bill they day you terminate service, and then send the bill out immediately. Which says "past due" on it, even though, y'know, it isn't.

I called them (from inside the post office, the second I opened the bill) and asked for an explanation of the $633. Five minutes later, the employee admits that, yeah, they have my equipment. And I don't owe $633. In fact, Charter (for that is the cable company in question) actually owes me about $30, as they bill for the full month in advance.

Are you ready for the kicker? She tells me I'll get my $30 in about eight weeks.

And I say "Eight weeks??"

And she says, yes, they have to go through the Payable Department, and that takes some time.

Apparently, they can tell you that you owe them $633 past due within 24 hours of terminating service, but if they owe you a lousy $30, they'll sit on it for eight weeks. Yeah, try sitting on a check you owe them for eight weeks ("I'm sorry; it takes that long for my Payables Department to cut a check") and see how understanding they are.

Yeah, so sad to be leaving my cable company.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lemme Be All Lawerly For A Minute

OK, so the California Supreme Court agreed to hear the cases challenging the validity of Prop 8. And folks are wondering exactly what basis there could be to challenge Prop 8.

I read some of the submissions to the court (they're out there on the court's website for your own persual) and have a bit of a handle on it. In some ways, it's awful technical (in which case any decision by the court overturning Prop 8 might be seen as the court being all activist and using legal technicalities to override the will of the people). But in other ways, it's downright fundamental.

The idea, basically, is that -- according to the California Constitution itself -- the Constitution can be amended by a simple majority vote of the people on an initiative measure, but if it's going to be revised, you need a two-thirds vote of the Legislature first.

The big question -- and the one to which I have no idea how the court is going to rule -- is whether Prop 8 constitutes an amendment or a revision.

But here's how the argument goes: the Supreme Court has determined that the existing Equal Protection clause protects against unequal treatment of gays and lesbians when it comes to marriage. Prop 8 revises that, saying that the Equal Protection clause no longer means what it used to mean. And that's just too fundamental of a change to be handled as an amendment. Because it radically undermines the existing constitution.

Or, let me put it more concretely. The latest estimates regarding California's demographic breakdown say that non-Hispanic white people are only about 43% of the population. So, let's suppose that someone decides to put on the next ballot the constitutional amendment that non-Hispanic white people have to pay twice as much in taxes as they used to, while everyone else pays nothing. And the 57% of the population that would not have to pay taxes under that deal thinks it's a brilliant idea, so the initiative passes.

And the white people who all of a sudden have to pay double taxes would say, "Dude, this is a TOTAL violation of Equal Protection -- what with treating us unequally with respect to the tax burden simply because of the color of our skin." And the folks who passed the initiative would say, "Tough darts; we amended the Equal Protection clause to not apply to you guys when it comes to taxes."

And the white people would say, "What the hell is the point of having an Equal Protection clause if it can be overridden by a simple majority vote?"

And that's basically the argument. Like I said, I don't know whether it's going to fly -- but the issues that it raises involve an awful lot more than whether gay marriage should be permitted in California -- it's really about who gets to make the final call on the meaning of the constitution, and how easily fundamental rights can be taken away.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bailout for the Auto Industry??

Y'know, I'm all about getting this economy back on track, but anecdotal evidence gives me a gut-level "No" on the idea of an auto industry bailout.

And this is why.

A few years ago, when I was shopping for a car, gas prices were (what we then believed was) high, and people wanted to buy hybrids faster than they could make them.

And I was interested in the Ford Escape Hybrid, and I went to my local Ford dealer for a test drive.

My local Ford dealer did, indeed, have an Escape Hybrid on the lot. So I went to check it out.

As all new cars do, the Escape Hybrid had a sticker on it, on which was the sticker price.

But there was also a piece of paper taped to the window next to the sticker, and the paper said: "+$10,000."

And I looked at the salesman standing next to me, and asked for an explanation of the additional $10,000. And he replied, "Because we can."

So when someone asks if I'm in favor of a government bailout for the auto industry because nobody is buying cars in these tough times, I think back to my local Ford dealer's decision to increase the price on its hybrids by an additional $10,000 because the market would pay it. And my knee-jerk reaction is: "Live by the free market, die by the free market. Bastards."

Litter Hog!

My cat uses a relatively hard to find kitty litter.

This wasn't exactly intentional. When I adopted her from a box outside the grocery store, I went in the grocery store and bought a litter box and a bag of Cedar Fresh Scoop -- a flushable clumping litter. Since that time, that store has stopped carrying Cedar Fresh Scoop, but I found it at a different market. Since there's no point changing a litter my cat actually uses, I make it a point to get my litter at this other market.

And, also, because I am a nice human being, who realizes that this litter is fairly hard to find, I make it a point not to buy them out. I'll only buy one bag at a time -- I'll buy a second bag only if there's at least two left on the shelf. Because, y'know, I know what a litter emergency looks like, and I don't want to be responsible for leaving someone else in that situation if I can help it.

So, we're running a little low on litter this week (largely because the bag burst a hole in it when I was moving it from the condo to the apartment), so I stopped off at the store to buy a new bag.

They were out!

Sometimes they have some hidden in back, so I asked the nearby employee stacking product if they happened to have any Cedar Fresh Scoop in back.

He said they didn't. He said there's this one lady who comes in every month and buys all the bags they have. (And that's all she buys.) Said that when she came in before, she took everything from the shelf and the stockroom in back. Wench walked off with ten bags of litter.

Dude did not seem too open to my suggestion that, in future, they place a "Maximum of Three Bags" limit on litter purchases. He did say that they were going to start ordering more so that they didn't run out -- but I'm sure that she'd buy twenty if that's how many they had. I think it's time to start lying about how much litter they have in the stockroom, so that the rest of us don't end up with our cats standing there sadly with their little paws crossed.

(Well, no, that's not what they'd do. They'd express their displeasure with the lack of litter by urinating elsewhere. And you know that isn't gonna be pretty.)

From now on, though, no more Ms. Nice Cat Owner. Next time they have litter in stock (tomorrow, actually) I'm buying two bags, and making sure I always have a spare.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Escrow closed!

No longer have title to the condo.

Big pile of money wired to my account.

Much joy!


(Yup, Lori. I sold the condo. Mostly.)

There's this pesky little quirk about recording the documents (and closing escrow). The Los Angeles County recorder is a bit of a stickler for having the entire trust deed recorded. Seems my escrow company transmitted only the first two of three pages, leaving out the signature page. The county recorder -- noticing that the pages said "1 of 3" and "2 of 3" on them -- rejected the document for lack of "3 of 3." Especially since the third page was a signature page.

Escrow found the missing document but was unable to file yesterday.

I was really annoyed by this. Really really annoyed. I shot off an email to my agent which was a masterpiece of passive/aggressive writing -- as the frustration of still not being rid of the condo on top of having packed for 14 hours the day before, and paying the movers overtime to be sure to be out by close of escrow -- put me in that place where I'm simultaneously angry and on the verge of tears. Particularly because I couldn't understand why they couldn't refile the documents on the same day -- as they found the missing page before 10:00 a.m.

I ultimately found the county recorder's website which explained that, when documents are filed by a messenger or third party, they actually have to be submitted the day before and then get picked up the next day. So my escrow had sent the wrong documents on Monday (Tuesday being a holiday) and got them rejected when they went to pick them up Wednesday morning, and resubmitted Wednesday for a Thursday pick up.

OK, fine. Made sense. Still annoyed at the escrow for not proofreading their damn documents. Real estate agent had the good sense to tell the escrow guy to call me because (well, I expect the conversation went something like, "she's really pissed off"). He called and attempted to placate me with (a) apologies; (b) an extra $100; and (c) telling me he'd already paid off my mortgage.

I let him off the hook for this, even though (a) he's still a moron for missing the third page; (b) $100 way doesn't cover the overtime I paid the movers; and (c) paying off my mortgage was most likely a huge violation of his escrow instructions. If I was the buyer, I'd be pretty ticked for giving $80,000 to the seller's credit until such time as the deed in my favor had been recorded. I also imagined a vast legal quagmire if, for some reason, we don't close this deal.

Wish me luck for today. Damn thing better record now; I cancelled my insurance on the property as of this morning, so if it happens to burn down, I'd really like it to be owned by someone who is not me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Holy crap! I've got a lot of stuff.


It's actually misleading -- one thinks I have less stuff than the vast quantity of stuff that I do, in fact, have.

I think it's because I've "hidden" all my stuff. I mean, I've got one storage cage full of stuff; and then there's the stuff I brought over to the apartment -- so that stuff isn't even there anymore. But then there's also the fact that, while I had the condo on the market, I hid a lot of my stuff in drawers and closets and such -- so that the place didn't look cluttered.

It took two professional movers -- with me helping -- fourteen hours to box it all up and load it in the truck. That's not even counting taking it to storage tomorrow. (Which will cost me even more money -- over tonight's time-and-a-half -- but it's my own stupid fault, because I couldn't take tomorrow off because I'm really behind at work. Which, by the way, means that I will finish the thing I'm working on in half the time, so I really could have taken tomorrow off. I digress.) FOURTEEN HOURS. The moving guy totally overestimated the amount of boxes we'd need and we used every box. In addition to a bunch of things I was able to put in their original boxes (I saved original boxes for all my electronics, and most of the snowglobes). I haven't seen the total yet, but I think it's close to eighty. Eighty!

This is what happens when you live someplace for 16 years. Stuff just ... accumulates.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Very Unfortunate Discovery About My New Place

Things you don't want to learn the hard way: the snooze button on the alarm clock is broken.

I innocently smacked that thing this morning, hoping for the extra standard 8-12 minutes of sleep. Twenty minutes later, I wake up of my own accord, and the clock radio still hasn't gone back on.

The really sad part is -- I'm not going to replace the alarm clock. I think that if I actually wake up when my alarm clock goes off, I might show up at work on time a bit more often.

Happy news: it took about 24 hours, but that cat started using the box tonight (yay!) and even ate supper. I'm very relieved. 24 hours is a very long time to not ... put anything in one end or out the other. She's still a bit skittish, but is exploring our new environs and seems a lot more comfortable. And I went back to the condo and brought her basket, which I'd forgotten yesterday. She likes to curl up in it a lot, so I thought she'd feel better with her comfy basket. Maybe it'll get her out from under the bed tonight.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dear Jasmine,

Hey kitty,

Could you do me the honor of urinating in your new box?

I know you're freaked about the move. I realize it's been a number of years since you've even been outside, and here's me springing a whole new location on you. I've got your same food (barely touched) and your same bowls, though. And some really nifty toys to cheer you up.

Perhaps now was not the best time to change cat box styles on you. The litter inside is the same stuff you've happily peed and pooped in for years, though. (And it's a nice new bag of it.) And I even took off the lid in case you're finding that uncomfortable in some way. But the oval-shaped box fits better in here, and the high sides will hopefully reduce the amount of litter tracked all ovet the new place. You know, the new place with the hefty security deposit. And the rule about "no pets who aren't housebroken."

It's not that I think you've peed someplace else. (I likely would have known by now if you did.) But you've been here about 14 hours so it's probably time that you pee someplace, and I'd feel an awful lot better leaving for the office if I had evidence that you're acclimated enough to be left alone.

Thanks, baby. Wuv you.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

They have no desk

The furnished corporate apartment into which I am moving has no desk.

How can it have no desk?

Hotel rooms have desks. Corporate travellers need desks.

And yet, this morning, when I came by to check out my new home and start unloading: deskless.

They even have a cable modem. It's wedged in the entertainment center next to the TV. It reaches as far as the coffee table (although if you do that, you have a tripping hazard). No desk. I check the unit a second time just be sure it isn't hiding someplace. It isn't. The place is desk-free.

This is a bit of a problem as I'd planned on bringing by desktop computer. They tend to require desks.

I first considered rearranging the furniture and repurposing the dining room table into a desk. (I can't just leave it where it is, the ethernet cable won't reach.) So I dragged the dining room table within range of the modem, but that's no good. Can't sit on the sofa and comfortably reach the dining room table. And if I move a dining room chair in there, it renders the sofa completely useless. (Can't move the sofa where the dining room table used to be. Well, I could, but it won't face anything but the wall. The entertainment center is too heavy to even turn, much less move.)

Considered bringing the laptop instead. Rejected this for a number of reasons. (Need printer. Need to do substantial writing. Want the dvd player in my desktop.) Next considered bringing the desktop and a wireless router, and just setting up camp on the dining room table. Rejected that too. My wireless router slows down my signal something wicked. AND I'm planning on using my internet connection for my phone (via magicjack) and I don't need my phone depending on a dodgy signal.

Wondered if I could cram my desk in the back of my S.U.V. ...

Resolved: bring the desktop anyway. Set it on the coffee table, and type with the keyboard in my lap. Not ideal, but the goal here is workable, not ideal.


I'm sure that went poorly

They say that you can check in to corporate housing with nothing but your toothbrush.

Or, in my case, a toothbrush, a litter box, and a cat.

This is, in fact, a vicious lie.

I don't know if any of you (beyond my sister -- I know she's done it) have ever packed to temporarily live someplace else for "at least a month, most likely more," but it's not a really a science -- it's guesswork.

I'll be checking in to corporate housing with (at current count) two duffel bags, a suitcase, two medium-sized boxes (one labelled "kitchen," and the other labelled "desk"), two file boxes (two for "bathroom," one with all my critics circle stuff for the year (we have to do nominations soon), and one half-full of DVDs and books, so I can keep myself entertained -- as if my life will somehow be less busy when I'm living a mile away), computer, monitor, printer, litter box, litter, new scratching post, and cat.

Ooo, and this stapler. I should probably take the stapler.

The suitcase packing was particularly difficult given that, although it's November now, it's been over 80 degrees. So, while I'd like to be able pack for only one season (hopefully, it won't be that long till I find a house), I've really got to have pretty much all climates covered.

I had this theory, though. My theory was that if I took stuff out of my closet still on the hangers, and laid it all flat in the duffel bag, if I stuffed the bag tight enough, everything would stay on its hangers even when I stood the bag up on its side. I'll let you know how that goes tomorrow -- I haven't had the heart to stand the bag up yet. Besides, the cat is sitting on it. She usually gets a little upset when I'm packing because she doesn't like me to go away. I don't know what she thinks with three suitcases and six boxes. Especially since she saw me put her toys in one of the boxes. ("Dude, it's fine if you go, but leave the little mice.")

Although, honestly, the most depressing thought about this whole process (besides knowing with certainty that I'm doing it wrong, and will have simultaneously overpacked and underpacked in all sorts of ways) is the fact that I'll have to do it again. The next time, I'm sure, will be better, because I'll be packing up for a house, in which I intend to live for, y'know, ever. But the fact that I'm going someplace temporary, so really shouldn't get too settled in -- while, at the same time, I have to get settled enough to live for upwards of a month -- is surprisingly frustrating.

I'm happy about moving out of the condo. I've been trying to do this for years, and packing to leave here feels right. It's just the idea that I'm still not done with moving yet that is putting the rain cloud over my parade.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

So very much to do ...

.... which is why, of course, I'm blogging, rather than doing it.

Escrow is set to close on my condo on Wednesday. The buyers approved everything on their final walk-through and signed their loan documents. I've given escrow the deed. So, as long as escrow doesn't, y'know, run off the deed and the money, things are looking pretty good.

I hate counting my chickens and all, and I knock wood everytime I say something about escrow closing, but I also have to plan for the, shall we say, expected eventuality that, come Wednesday, this very nice couple will have title to my condo and I'll have a big pile of money.

I'll also have no place to live.

I've spent quite a bit of time trying to find one of those furnished corporate apartments to live in, since I need something on an I-don't-know-how-long-I'll-be-there basis. There are tons of such corporate apartments in Pasadena, and I'd figured that, with the economy the way it is, I could probably get a good rate on one.

Well, turns out that the economy being the way it is means that the corporate apartments are full out here. Apparently, with the collapse of Indymac bank, hordes of consultants descended on Pasadena, and got all the corporate housing. Seriously. Two corporate housing companies could find nothing available; and a third could give me a place starting on the 25th. A fourth had a place available but it was really, really pricey.

It was so pricey, I started looking for other alternatives. The other alternatives turned out to be: (a) a corporate studio apartment a substantial distance away, which would kick my commute time up to at least 45 minutes each way, and put me far away from my friends, grocery store, and life in general; and (b) a local "Extended Stay Hotel," which was not inexpensive by any means, but was right next to the freeway (not in a good way), and if online reviews were any guide, was a disgusting rat trap with mold in the bathrooms and stains on the sheets.

I took a look at my "estimated closing statement" from the condo sale, and decided that maybe I could use a little bit of the aforementioned big pile of money to pay the additional rent expense of living in the Pasadena furnished corporate apartment. Throwing myself on the mercy of their account rep, I actually got a bit of a discount on it -- which is really impressive, given that it's the only available corporate apartment in Pasadena, so someone totally gets a gold star in customer service for that.

I have the apartment starting tomorrow. Movers are coming on Tuesday (conveniently, I get the day off, so I can be here with them) to box up all my stuff and put it in storage.

Two days ago I got a PO Box, so my mail will be accessible wherever I happen to be living.

Yesterday, I called everyone who sends me bills (or money) I gave them my change of addy info. I also turned off my utilities as of Thursday.

Today I start packing; tomorrow I move me and the cat into the corporate apartment. Seemed wise to do that on a weekend so I can spend some time with her while she's getting acclimated to the new digs. (Anticipate never seeing my "pet security deposit" again, but hoping for the best. And putting the cat on a weekly claw-clipping schedule, with daily anti-hairball treats.)

I've far passed the point of hope hope hoping this escrow will close, and am now at the point of having to act on the assumption that it will. Which is pretty cool.

Monday, November 3, 2008

An Open Note to President-Elect Obama

Well done. A decisive victory. Yes, you did.

And, if I may, I just want to give you a few words of advice for the job you will soon be taking on:

Don't screw it up.

And I mean this not so much in a policy way (although, yes, it would be nice if just once, when a party takes control of the White House and both houses of Congress, the party doesn't go off the deep end with an agenda advanced by party radicals, rather than a more moderate approach), I mean it in a more intangible way.

You've run on hope. It looks pretty stupid when I see it on the screen, but, in a lot of ways, it's true. People voted for you because they genuinely believed that you're different; that you're capable of leading this country in a better direction; that you're not just another Washington politician. You've galvanized the youth, and many of my own generation, in a way I've never actually seen before.

Let me put it this way: I was born in 1968. My political awareness pretty much started with Nixon's resignation. And from then on, it has never been in fashion to really like the government and the dude heading up the Executive Branch. Whether the President has been a Republican or a Democrat, cynicism has been the preferred attitude toward the man in the oval office. And you've managed to undo that -- to get people to actually feel positive about you and our nation's future. "The Audacity of Hope" indeed.

Now the problem is -- that's one hell of a campaign promise to deliver on.

We've been screwed on this once before. Bill Clinton gave my generation a glimmer of hope that he was actually one of us -- when he campaigned on MTV, played his sax on Arsenio Hall's show, and admitted smoking pot. But he quashed that hope -- long before he started hitting on externs -- as early as when he signed his first bill into law as President. Because he wasn't "Bill" anymore; he was "William Jefferson Clinton" -- and that was when I first realized that I'd been played, and that Bill was just some character he'd used to get my vote.

People believe in you, Barack (can I call you Barack?) -- and you've encouraged that, with rousing speeches and "Yes we can." It's pretty remarkable, when you think about it, that you've actually got otherwise cynical people believing in government, especially given the fairly crappy situation in which this country finds itself. But now that you've done that, it is vitally important that you deliver. It isn't just about getting the economy out of the dumpster, getting a decent exit strategy on the war in Iraq, finding alternative sources of energy, and dealing with looming foreign policy crises (although, of course, that would be nice). It's about the fact that you've got a nation's faith in you and in the idea that if we vote the right person into office, that person will act honorably and decently, and be someone we can actually be proud to call our President.

And if you betray that belief, Lord only knows when any of us will ever try hoping again.

Do not screw this up.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Can we have the election already? Please?

Now that my condo is in escrow (YAY!) I need to find a house to buy. This should be easy, with the economy where it is. It isn't.

And, even more surprising, over the past few weeks, there have been no new listings in my area. Nada.

My real estate agent thinks that things will pick up again after the election, but that, right now, everyone is in waiting mode.

I think she's right. I'm not entirely sure what sort of thought process would lead to the idea of "well, I need to sell my house, but let's not post the listing until after the election," but I just have this gut feeling that she's right. There's this almost national "holding your breath" going on right now. For Obama supporters, I think it's that the election seems to be pretty much in our grasp, and we're just hoping that nothing screws it up between now and Tuesday night. For McCain supporters, it's probably more a matter of hoping that the polls are wrong (a not necessarily unreasonable belief) and that there will be an upset. But either way, I think we all just want to know what's going to happen with this country already. There may be some immediate economic effects after the election -- could be that the stock market will pick up if investors feel as though the electorate made the right decision. But, basically, I think we all just want it to be resolved, so we can move on with our lives.

I'm certainly noticing that I'm getting snippier of late. Indeed, I'm almost like I was when waiting for Bar Exam results. Sure, I was fine shortly after the exam, but as we approached that weekend when I knew the results would arrive in my mailbox, I got a little touchy. The day before, I was nearly ripping heads off (especially when people would innocently ask if I passed yet) -- and, that afternoon, when I knew that the results were in my mailbox at home but I couldn't get to it, I was pretty much a basket case. I'm feeling that same ramping out right now -- I just can't bring myself to focus on anything except wanting to know the election results.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Few Words About Prop 8

Apparently, I still have the urge to be political in this 'blog (which I so rarely do), so I might as well get this one off my chest.

To review: The California Supreme Court recently interpreted the Equal Protection guarantee of the California Constitution to require that California extend the (state) right of marriage to homosexuals.

Proposition 8 seeks to overturn that decision by writing into the State Constitution that marriage in this state is reserved for heterosexuals.

Or, putting it another way, Prop 8 wants to pretty much put an asterisk next to California's guarantee of Equal Protection, with a little footnote that says, "except for gay people."

I am against this for a whole variety of reasons. Mostly because I can't think of any reason why my gay friends who are lucky enough to have found someone with whom they want to spend the rest of their lives shouldn't be allowed to have that relationship recognized by law like everyone else's. And also because I have yet to hear a reason why they should not be permitted to do so that isn't grounded in personal religious beliefs, and individual religious beliefs are not really a legitimate basis for state legislation.

But I'm not posting to here to argue in favor of gay marriage right now. I'm posting here to argue against Prop 8 -- and that really is a different argument.

See, we've been taught (as a matter of history) that there have been times when people -- often at great personal risk to themselves -- stood up to protect a victimized minority against a majority. And we've also been taught to admire these folks -- the abolitionists who helped run the underground railroad; the "righteous among nations" who helped save Jews from the holocaust; the white South Africans who stood up against apartheid.

(Yes, you're going to say that we're not enslaving homosexuals, or exterminating them, or segregating their communities. And you're right. And that's not my point.)

My point is, when I learned about these good people, I wondered, "If the situation ever arose, would I be like them?" Would I have the good sense to resist society's peer pressure, to realize that the status quo is wrong, and to come down on the side that history would eventually determine was obviously correct? Would I have had the foresight to know that slavery is wrong, or would I have sat happily on my plantation like everyone else, thinking that that's just the way it is, and that obviously you can't treat slaves like, y'know, people? And even if I knew it, would I have had the courage to act on it, and stand up against a society aligned against me, to side with the people who needed to be sided with?

And it recently hit me that this is that situation. I honestly never imagined that it would happen in my lifetime, in my country, but here it is. Prop 8 is trying to constitutionalize discrimination. Whether we personally approve of gay marriage or not, we should all oppose this. This is the "majority" trying to take away the rights of a minority group, and we should all be insanely vigilant against that sort of thing -- even if only because we should all understand that we may sometime find ourselves in a minority, and we'd want that same protection for ourselves.

And the beauty part here is that we can do the right thing without risk. We don't have to hide anyone in our attic, lie to the police, or suffer acts of violence because we're publicly standing up for the oppressed minority. We can do this simply, and quietly, in the privacy of the voting booth. Just by voting "no."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

And, in case anyone else needs a brain wipe after that last post


This is all three of our dolphins leaping right in front of us. (The four of us and the two trainers.)

Again, I stress how awesomely cool it was for us to have three dolphins. When I went back later for zip-lining, we met near the pool, and I saw ten guests there with two dolphins. So we totally lucked out in terms of dolphin to human ratio.

This one is me "dancing" with Nemo. It's one of those pictures where you feel really stupid and awkward in the pose, but it makes a really good snap. Perhaps because Nemo seems so into it.

And hugging Nemo. You gotta hug your dolphin.

And feeding Nemo. I actually got to feed him twice because, the first time, I fed him before they snapped the picture. Something about being about a foot away from the open mouth (with all those tooth) expectantly waiting for a fish makes you want to drop that fish in there immediately.

After this picture, they gave my friend a fish and told her to feed Nemo, and she did exactly the same thing.

Favorite picture. Right here.

That there is the Zen of the Belly Ride.

They did not have any decent pictures of me riding the zip lines. This does not suprise me. It is the third time I've been zip lining, and none of the photos have ever turned out splendidly.

This time, they had many pictures of the other people riding the zip lines, but somehow missed me. They took a bunch of pictures of me on the "Tarzan rope," but since I agreed to spin all the way across, it's just me, with my knees bent, in a blur, with the scenery behind me substantially more blurred.

So, this was the only picture I bought (and since it manages to really highlight my butt, you can imagine how lousy the others were). It's me rappelling down the line at the end of the course.

The Vacation That Keeps on Giving

Apparently, I brought back an additional souvenir from Mexico. A little bacterial stowaway in my digestive system.

I don't know why this surprised me, exactly. I'm certainly not the first person to come back from Mexico with this particular malady. What I did not know, however, is that it can't be cured with the usual stuff one takes to deal with these symptoms. One needs a prescription antibiotic.

Keeping things really exciting, one actually needs the prescription antibiotic to which I am allergic. My doctor was just about to write the prescription for it when I reminded him of this fact. ("Can't believe I forgot that," he says, "You're my only patient with this allergy.") This sent him out of the exam room and into his office for a little research.

Ah, there's nothing like presenting a challenge to your medical professional.

Took him a good fifteen minutes to come up with "plan B" and the assurance that there's no indication of cross-allergies between this drug and the one to which I had reacted badly. I'm actually pretty lucky in this regard, as this here other antibiotic is fairly new and is supposed to be even better than the standard treatment.

I very nearly asked why, if it is better, it isn't the "go to" antibiotic. I didn't ask. I got my answer at the pharmacy, in the form of a $45 copay. My doctor, bless his heart, wrote the prescription for the generic version of the drug, but this one is so new that it isn't generic yet -- meaning that I have to have the brand name version, and my health plan (in its attempt to steer me toward generic alternatives) charges me $45 for it.

(If I'd had the foresight to ask my doctor for a letter documenting the necessity of this drug over the other, I could submit it to my health plan and, if approved, could get a $15 refund. My health plan has also made the refund amount just small enough that the expense in time and effort of entering the "appeal process" and getting one's doctor to write the necessary letter outweighs the amount of the refund. Sneaky little bastards, aren't they?)

So, now I have this shiny new top-of-the-line antibiotic, to kick the ass of my run-of-the-mill Mexican bacteria. Hopefully, the little bug won't stand a chance.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Most Amazing Thing About Mexico

... I did not gain weight.

This is truly amazing. Especially when you understand the quantity of crap I consumed, compared to what I eat normally.

Normally, I eat one container of yogurt for breakfast, a lowfat six-inch Subway sandwich and apple slices for lunch, a piece of string cheese and fruit for a snack, and a salad or four-ounces of meat and some fruit and veggies for dinner. I'm allowed 300 "discretionary calories" to blow on desserts and munchies and stuff.

At the resort, my breakfast consisted of pancakes or french toast (with butter and syrup), some yummy sweet pastry thing that looked like a dough bow-tie dusted in powdered sugar, scrambled eggs with mushrooms, and some fruit. Lunch was a hamburger or hotdog with fries. And I'm not even talking about good all-beef hamburgers and hotdogs. These just gave the impression of once having been near beef. And while dinner varied every night, some things were the same. The meat was always in a heavy sauce (which I never really understood, as the buffet always had 8 different sauces on it, but nothing sauce-less for you to put them on). The rice was always swimming in butter, except on "Oriental Night," when it was fried. (The beans, of course, were always refried.) The "steamed vegetables" had been steamed in a vat of butter. The breads were always served with butter (I don't think there was margarine in the place). All the cakes were soaked in alcohol, except the ones soaked in butter and alcohol. And if you were feeling decaffeinated soda-wise (which I was), your only choice was full-force Sprite, so there's 100 calories right there.

It sorta reminded me of how people cooked maybe thirty or forty years ago, when a "healthy meal" was all about having one item from each of the four food groups, and nobody paid any attention to calories or fat or anything pesky like that.

And did I mention that, during those two hours when (gasp) there was no food out, my friend and I kept ourselves going with creme-filled cookies and candy?)

And I did not gain weight.

This irks me a bit. Don't get me wrong, I am extremely happy that falling off the wagon did not cost me anything. But, a coupla years ago, I had my weight down to [insert cool number here] and (thanks to other vacations), it has moved up about 5 or 10 pounds, and even though I'm eating exactly what I ate the first time I lost this weight (and exercising exactly as little as I did then), I can't seem to lose it again. But when I pig out in Puerto Vallarta, the weight stays the same.

So I say to myself, "Self, what was different about Puerto Vallarta?" And I come up with three answers.

First, it was hot. It was really, really hot. Perhaps I actually needed the extra caloric intake to function because the sun was just sucking all the life out of me.

Second, I slept. Lots. Sometimes as much as ten hours. While, normally, it isn't unusual for me to get between 5 and 6 hours.

(Between these two items, I am totally understanding the whole siesta thing.)

Third, I was stress-free. Sure, there were small e-mail crises, but I didn't really realize how stress-free I was until around 3:00 today when I again became stressed. Work was being stressy, theatre critic stuff was being stressy, and the world was just, y'know, pissing me off. Whereas in Mexico, I was swimming with dolphins.

Conclusion: More sleep + less stress = weight loss.

Now. How to test this hypothesis... I think I need some dolphins.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Last day in Mexico

Beach. Sit. Lounge chair. Cabana. Drink. Sunset.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Zipping through the trees

My friend had initially wanted to go zip-lining in Mexico. Then, some people told her that zip-lining in Mexico wasn´t the safest thing on earth, so we thought we´d give it a pass. But when we were doing the dolphin thing (three dolphins for four of us!) the folks we were with said they´d gone zip-lining with this company earlier in the week, and that it was really safe. Double safety lines, helmets (one zip-lining company we saw on the net did not have helmets in the photos) and a bunch of guides all focused on safety. I was convinced, but my friend decided to sit this one out.

So, at 1:00 this afternoon, I was piled in a jeep with 11 other people, for a one hour ride up into the mountains for zip-lining.

Nearly got car sick in the jeep, but started staring the floor, and that got me there ok. Once we got in and suited up (with safety briefing) we went up into the trees.

The dudes we did the dolphins with advised that you should bring a change of clothes if zip-lining. I did not follow this advice as I didn´t understand it. Once I was up in the trees, I understood it. It´s hot and humid up there, and within about 5 minutes, I was drenched with sweat. Quite literally. My clothes were soggy. My eyeglasses were fogging up. I was rolling up my sleeves, and joking that maybe I ought to just zip naked.

The zip lines were TERRIFIC, though. Including one long one (maned Big Papa) that was 660 feet. We couldn´t even see the end of it before we went.

Near the end was a "tarzan swing" -- although it wasn´t just a rope -- we were hooked on just like with a zip line -- and some of us spun all the way over. They asked if I waned to spin, I said maybe. They said "maybe means yes" and I went for it -- spinning across a river. Too fun!

Shortly thereafter, one of the guides reached over and did something with my shirt -- apparently one of my buttons (yes, that one) had undone itself, and Lucas was the only one who noticed. (Not any of the women, of course.) Guess I nearly WAS zip-lining naked.

And we rappelled at the end. (I have a pic of that.) Never done that before, and also WAY FUN.

Not so fun was the jeep ride back -- where I kept my lunch (by staring straight at the floor) but the little kid next to me didn´t. Barfed right over the edge of the jeep. Poor kid. But ... other than nearly getting, you know, barfed on, it was a terrific day.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


We went swimming with dolphins today! Yay!!

I acted like I was about 7 years old when we were waiting for our "briefing." We were sitting on some wooden benches facing forward -- but behind us was the pool with the dolphins in it. They were jumping and practicing tricks and generally doing everything the trainers wanted in order to get some yummy fish. Right there. In the pool. Where we were going to be. Bouncy! Bouncy! Bouncy!

We were with Vallarta Adventures. Said company has a great big pool (filled with ocean water) and a bunch of dolphins that were pretty much born in captivity. Very friendly, socialized dolphins. (Dolphins who had grown quite accustomed to getting fish several times a day and not having to hunt for it. Dolphins who were more than happy to play with humans for a half hour.)

They run two dolphin programs. Actually, we took the cheaper one, which turned out to be the best. See, the more expensive program is "limited to groups of 10." The cheaper one, as it happened, had only four people signed up for it. So there were four of us and four dolphins. Seriously. We pretty much each had our own dolphin. (Well, until one of our dolphins decided she´d rather eat fish, so we were left with three.)

We pet dolphins. We kissed and hugged dolphins. We had a "belly swim" -- and there were so few of us, we each had TWO belly swims. And dancing with dolphins. And feeding dolphins. And massaging dolphins. And tickling them under their flippers, which they love, just like my cat does.

Then, of course, we purchased the photos of all of the aforementioned dolphin activities. The dolphin swim was actually quite reasonably priced -- which they make up for with the cost of the photos. I shit you not -- I paid MORE for dolphin photos than I did for actually doing the stuff that got photographed. (You will see all my nice, pretty dolphin pix as soon as I get back. My uploading options here are quite limited.)

YAY! Huge smile! Dolphins rock!

Samba Vallarta

We´re staying at a hotel called Samba Vallarta.

Longtime readers of my blog may recall that I´ve ended up here on a bit of a fluke -- I bid on a one-week vacation package at a silent auction. Normally, I research the hell out of a place before I book a stay there. Here, all I had was a small color brochure.

The place isn´t bad. Indeed, in some ways, the small color brochure didn´t do it justice, as it has some picture postcard views. The place is on the beach (well, a stairway UP from the beach), so it has gorgeous ocean views. There are also three pools, zillions of deck chairs around them, palm trees, and well-manicured topiary as well. (We walked by an odd shaped tree the other day, and I burst out with "smiley face!" as, indeed, the tree had been cut to look like one.) It´s a very pretty hotel.

And, as we learned quite by accident, if you leave a gratuity for the housekeeper (or, as we did, if you happen to leave a buck out on the dresser), she will leave you your towels folded in some cute towel origami figure. First day it was a bath towel and a hand towel folded into an elephant. Second day, we got a bath towel, bath mat, and hand towel all together in the shape of a little doll, leaning up against my pillow. Way cute, and worth the buck.

The downside is ... well, the food, really. It´s an all-inclusive resort, with buffet meals every night. Breakfast is good (once we discovered the lady making eggs over in the corner). Lunches consist of hamburgers, hotdogs and fries ... and, when I bit into my first hamburger, I had a flashback to school lunch burgers. It had that same not-quite-beef taste that comes from patties bought in boxes of a thousand. Dinners are hit or miss -- every night is a different menu and some are clearly better than others. I read a review on TripAdvisor that said Mexican Night kinda blows -- I wouldn´t have believed it if I hadn´t seen it, but, indeed, the hotel in Mexico kinda sucks at making Mexican food.

They also promise activities -- including free kayak rentals. Of course, the waves are very high here and someone with my vast experience kayaking in the ocean (i.e. flipped my kayak the one time I tried to come back to shore among waves) isn´t going anywhere near them. So, even though the "all-inclusive" resort includes kayaks, we´re planning a day trip to some secluded bay someplace where the water is safer for such water sports.

But, for lying by the pool and lazing around? This place rocks.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Juan -- Happiest Man in Mexico

And I´ve only got 9 minutes to tell you about Juan.

Our first day here, we took a sort of "Introduction to Puerto Vallarta" tour, which piled us all into an air-conditioned bus, took us into the city, gave us a walk around the historic Church, took us to a store where we could get "the best prices on good silver" (which is code for "kickback for the tour company"), a small square where merchants were selling more, uh... crappy goods (kickback also, we´re pretty sure) and then drove us way into the mountains where we had lovely views of the city, drove through a very poor town (to see the "other side of Puerto Vallarta") and eventually met Juan.

Juan works at what was, for some, the raïson d´être of this tour. Juan works at a Tequila factory.

Not a big place. Up in the mountains. Sort of a giant carport in which there are various vats, barrels, and stills. The first distillation of a batch of tequila is not drinkable (being ethanol or something) so they use it to hose down the place. Which gives it a nice alcoholy smell before you even step inside.

Juan takes pride in his work. He tells us all about how Tequila is made. He tells us how to tell good tequila from bad tequila. He tells us how to tell girl agave plants from boy agave plants. He tells us how many bottles of tequila we can take back to our respective countries without violating Customs regulations.

And he has samples. About 6 shots per person, to taste various tequilas. I stopped after the second. Juan says we should never drink alone, so drank with the group on all 6.

Juan drank my unconsumed third shot, too -- as we should never waste tequila.

And after our tour group left, another group came in, giving Juan another opportunity to proudly show off his tequila-making operation, and to continue to get toasted with the tourists.

This repeats all day long.

Juan loves his job.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Greetings from Puerto Vallarta. (Where my "all inclusive" resort charges a peso per minute for the internet, so I´ve got to type fast.)

Travel tip for Puerto Vallarta -- and, honestly, why this isn´t in Wikipedia I´ll never know -- the little weasels who try to sell you time shares are IN THE FREAKIN AIRPORT. They are, in fact, licensed by the freakin airport.

I explain: We get off the plane. We go through immigration. We go through customs (where, due to an amusing miscommunication, the agent thought my friend was smuggling a chicken in her luggage), and then "Welcome to Puerto Vallarta!"

I pre-booked transportation to the hotel. I had a receipt that told me to look for "Timon Tours." Once we exit customs, there´s guys standing there, wearing airport badges, asking you what tour company you are looking for. I say Timon Tours. He says "This way" and takes us over to a lady at the counter. She asks to see my reservation. I give it to her. She says the bus will come in 20 minutes and will be a 45 minute ride to the hotel, because it will have many stops on the way. In the meantime, she offers to give us valuable information such as where to get money exchanged, and what tours to take.

I eventually notice that she is wearing a badge that says "Paradise Village" on it (not "Timon Tours.") I also am very concerned that she has taken custody of my reservation. My friend (who was not wearing her glasses) did not catch on to this as quickly as I did, so kept asking questions about different tours to take.

The lady is missing a brochure for one of the tours. She starts looking for a piece of paper to write the number on. I tell her to use the back of my reservation. This guarantees that she has to give it back to us. Ha.

Eventually, Paradise Village lady swoops in for the kill. All the tours we want add up to $500, but if we agree to sit through a 1-hour no pressure (right) sales presentation at Paradise Village, she´ll do it for $200. Um, no. We start to walk away (reservation now in hand).

She´ll throw in massages for each of us. Still no.

She tries wheedling instead. She´s on commission. She knows we´ll sign up with SOMEONE for a time share presentation later in our trip -- can´t we please go with her since she gave us all this valuable information? No a third time.

We leave that room and enter the actual airport. The guy from Timon Tours has been waiting there for us. With a car, that takes us directly to our hotel. (No stops. No 45 minutes.)

Apparently, we got off easy. With some of the guests, she convinces them to take her "free taxi" instead of the "45 minute bus ride" -- and, not surprisingly, the taxi just HAPPENS to deliver you to Paradise Village.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My Last Name

Just got a call from someone asking for "Sue [insert my last name here]." I told her I'm not Sue, but she has the last name right. I don't know any Sue [my last name]. Odds are that we're related, but not in any way that I know. My last name is, you might say, on the uncommon side. It isn't unique, but it isn't one you come across every day. My uncle once engaged in a geneology project -- hunting down everyone he could find on the internet with our last name, and seeing if he could find the common ancestor. He couldn't; but if I recall it correctly, he managed to trace us all to about three separate branches -- he just couldn't find a way to connect those three branches.

Felt bad for the caller; apparently she was friends with Sue some twenty years ago, and was trying to reconnect. As I think my phone book listing is "S [my last name]," it certainly was a reasonable guess.

Got me thinking about the frequency with which I run across people with my name. Which is: generally not (unless I'm at a family reunion). But I have this theory that there's one of us in every industry. My friends who went to Monroe High School asked if my Dad taught History there. (No.) My opthalmologist asked if my Dad was an eye doctor too. (No.) When I worked as an usher at a movie theatre, the projectionist asked if my Dad was a projectionist. (Nope again.) And, to my knowledge, I'm not related to any of those people.

I am both a lawyer and a theatre critic. I am not the first in either line of work. When I was in Law School, a friend came across a business card of a lawyer with my name (my first name, too!) at some coffee shop. I called the lawyer; she'd just won a case and took me to lunch. (She then fixed me up with her brother, on the theory that if we got married, I wouldn't really have to decide whether to take his last name or keep my own.) And there's another theatre writer in Los Angeles with my last name. For a while, some publicists thought we were the same person. (One knows we're two, but thinks we live at the same place, and sends me mail addressed to both of us.) When I explained to one publicist that we weren't (to my knowledge) related, she sat us together so we could meet. Couldn't find the common ancestor there, either, but it was nice to put a face to the name.

My name. My Dad's name. My grandfather's name. I don't think I'd ever change it -- if the opportunity were to present itself. It's who I am, and who my grandfather was. It's on my diplomas and on the deed to my condo (which I just signed and notarized -- and hopefully will be replacing, soon, with a deed to a house). But it's my branch of the family. It's my grandfather coming to America from Eastern Europe. It's him working a shit job to provide for his family. It's my father going to college and working hard to make a better life for his family. It's him sending me to Law School so I can have it even easier. It's my own accomplishments -- not standing alone, but considered as simply a continuation of theirs -- the product of their efforts and the current result of their drive. My place in my own family history.

And, someday, I hope that some kid in one of the other branches of the family, is asked if they're related to "the lawyer" or "the theatre critic" -- and they'll say no, having never even heard of me. But they'll know that I'm out of there, making another mark for the name.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Catnip Banana

A friend at work gave me a banana-shaped toy filled with catnip for my cat.

And now, for your amusement, my interpretation of Jasmine's thought-processes upon being presented with the catnip banana....

What are you waving in front of me? Yes, I can see that it's a toy, but it's a big toy. I don't like big toys. I like little toys that I can bat around. Does this look like something I can bat around? No. Then why would I play with it? OK, fine. I shall humor you by smelling the toy, then I will walk away with my tail in the air expressing my indifferen--


Let me sniff that again.

OMG! OMG! OMG! I have to have that! Give me the banana! Yes! Give it to me now! Now, human! Now!

Ha Ha! I've got it! The banana is mine! I'm queen of the world! I'm the best cat ever! I am so awesome! I can do anything! I can bounce off the walls! Look at me! Bouncing off the walls!

But how to get more of this delightful aroma? Perhaps if I rip into the banana, its catnippy goodness will spill out all over me and I can frolic in its leaves until I pass out -- and then happily spend the next few days picking little bits out of my fur.

But. I. Can't. Get. It. Open.

Perhaps if I hold it in my rear paws and then rip it with my teeth? Yes, yes, that's it. Kick more! Kick more! Rip more!

Hmmm. This is made of sturdy stuff. I shall continue ripping at it.


Those dozens of holes I've made in it with my teeth? That gets me even closer to the stuff inside! Smell it now! Oh yes! Bliss! I must rub myself all over with this toy! Then I can carry its joyous scent with me wherever I go! Think of the power! Oh yes! YES!!

I wuv you, banana.

What's that I hear in the distance? I know that sound. That's human laughter. Didn't I know a human once? I think I might have. Doesn't matter now. I have the banana!!!!

Quick Update

It may, actually, be easy.

The thing in the inspection report that I've got to get the HOA to take care of? The HOA already intends to take care of.

And my agent agreed to take care of the rest of it when I'm in Mexico on vacation. (Did I mention I'm going to Mexico?)

:::Fingers Crossed:::

Monday, October 13, 2008

And on the home selling/buying front

The home inspector came by this week and reported that my condo is largely "satisfactory."

Who knew?

Of course, there is a small list of items in which it is not satisfactory, for which I'll have to have a handyman out, and the air conditioning guy, and potentially an electrician. My immediate thought is to call all these people and have them out.

My second thought is to tell my real estate agent to call all these people and have them out.

I like my second thought better.

And, because it is never easy, one of the things the inspector found is something that it's the HOA's responsibility to fix. And the buyers want me to notify the HOA of the problem and ask them to repair it before close of escrow. (Depending on how one parses that sentence, I have already satisfied my obligation by notifying the HOA and asking them to repair it -- since it is prior to close of escrow. I'm guessing that's not what they had in mind.) But, yet again, I'm potentially in a situation where my ability to close the deal depends on something beyond my control -- basically, the HOA getting something repaired. Now, to be fair, the particular problem sounds to me like (a) something easy to repair; and (b) something the HOA would probably be happy to fix once alerted to the problem. (And I note that two other units recently sold in this building -- why didn't their inspectors notice this?) But, given past experience, I anticipate passing the info on to the HOA, and having them say, "We looked at it, and we don't see anything wrong with it." Or any one of a number of different responses that are not, "yeah, sure, we'll have that done next week."

Sigh. Stress. Sigh.


Hit the mall at 10:00 a.m.

Left the mall at 7:30 p.m.

This is not sane.

Around 3:00, I called home to check my messages, and found a "early fraud alert" from my credit card company. "Yes, yes, it's me. I did that. Yes, that one too. Yes, they're all me." I never complain when Citibank flags suspicious activity, but they do seem to be getting more suspicious lately. This is my third annual Columbus Day shopping trip to this mall, and they never flagged it before -- and I spent way more money the other times.

Yeah, the trip wasn't entirely successful -- I managed only about five Christmas presents. But I bought about 11 things for me, so it wasn't a total loss. :)

Two blog-worthy events --

1. In Cost Plus World Market, they carry a Kosher Teriyaki Sauce. The label says .... (anyone? anyone?) "Soy Vey."

2. Wandering in Bed Bath & Beyond -- and I mean wandering. Bed Bath & Beyond is at about the three-quarter point in my journey through the mall. While I've recently been fired up by lunch, I'm still starting to fade, and the synapses aren't firing as quickly as I'd like. So, I'm wandering in Bed Bath & Beyond, and a dude stops me and says, "Are you married to Scott?"

"Um, no. Sorry." (Continue pushing shopping cart.)

"You look really familiar."

He does not look familiar to me. But, y'know, synapses firing slowly. I give him the benefit of the doubt. I am certain, however, that I'm not married to Scott. I'd remember something like marriage.

"Are you married at all?"

I say "No," before my brain starts waving the red flag that says, "Who tries to pick up women in Bed Bath & Beyond??"

"You're very beautiful."

I smile and say "thanks," because that's what we do as reflex. This, however, knocks me back into consciousness. Don't get me wrong here, the following is not low self-esteem talking. I am not beautiful today. I am, to be sure, capable of beautiful. Today, however, I'm not even close. Jeans. Sweatshirt (with, I noticed later, lunch stain on it). Hair pulled back in a scrunchie. No make-up to speak of. Eyes looking vaguely in different directions. Lips so chapped they hurt. Objective evaluation comes up with: No; not remotely beautiful. He's giving you a line.

He holds out his hand and says, "I'm Steve."
I shake it and say, "I'm Sarah."

(I'm not really Sarah. I'm sorta Sarah. It's an 80% lie.)

I give him a wave and start walking off to shop.

He goes on. "Do you live around here?"

Ha. My brain really wants to say, "Dude, you are SO wasting your time," but instead I just say, "No; I've just come down here for my annual holiday shopping." He doesn't take Geographical Inconvenience for "no" and presses, "What do you like to do for fun?" (My brain says, "I'm not sure; but getting picked up in Bed Bath & Beyond is not on the list.) I smile and laugh and say, "I've really got to get back to shopping" and head on off into the store.

I don't look back. I don't listen back either, but I thought I might've head him say something about how totally rude I was.

(Why, exactly? Because I didn't want to try out the mattresses with you??)