Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Well, I have now proven myself capable of home ownership.  Not only did I dispose of the yukky dead cockroach, I installed two smoke detectors all by myself.

(I wuv my power drill.)

Well ... that blows

So, I come online to post about my attempt to install smoke detectors.  (Which was stymied by the fact that I don't have a ladder, and can't reach the ceiling standing on my tallest stable piece of furniture.  But, in moving said piece of furniture, I discovered a big ol' nasty dead cockroach.  About the only good thing I could say about it was that it was dead.  But it was way larger in size than anything I'd be willing to pick up with a wad of Kleenex -- no matter how many tissues.  I ended up picking it up with an old washcloth, and tossing both dead roach and washcloth into the trash compactor.  Saying "Ew! Ew! Ew!" all the while.)

ANYWAY, I come online to post about this and discover (courtesy a banner ad) that AOL Journals is closing down, and that we'll have until Halloween to migrate someplace -- and, of course, AOL-J hasn't yet figured out how to migrate journals (a fact which should surprise no one as they'd never figured out how to back them up all these years).

I guess I'll have to figure out what to do, exactly, with this thing.  I'd hate to let it disappear into the ether altogether -- if anything, it's a pretty good diary (particularly a travel diary) of the last five years, and I'd rather not lose that.  But I admit that I've had long periods of dead time journal-wise (when work gets ahead of me, or when I'm helping with the LA Drama Critics Circle awards show, which I'll be doing again this year), and while I know I've got some family, friends, casual readers, and even a few lurkers out there, it also seems apparent that this journal isn't exactly, y'know, filling a void that would otherwise exist on the web.

And it also may be time to (finally) leave AOL altogether.  I'm currently posting from a desktop computer I bought last fall, and this here computer is my first computer since the internet that does not have the AOL software on it.  I just use AOL for web-based email and for keeping this journal.  I've got plenty other email accounts (well, four, at current count, but with yahoo and gmail there's plenty other options, and that's not counting the 8 accounts I can get from my ISP).  So perhaps it's time to put a "change of address memo" on my signature line, and complete my migration from AOL.

Much to think about over the next few weeks.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Yard Sale

Friday night, I went to the storage cage and filled my vehicle (small-sized SUV) full of crap.  A coffee table with a wobbly leg; a floor-to-ceiling cat tree; old sheets; some unused gifts (both received and never given); some crap I got off the internet in "mystery bag" purchases; some old suitcases; and a pile of candles.  (I have a cat.  Open flames are a no-no in my home.)  Also a box full of "possibly Victorian stuff I bought off eBay that could conceivably be worth something."

Saturday morning, bright and early, I head off to my friend's house for the yard sale.  Set up everything on the yard.  (The coffee table was useful for this.)  She had way more stuff than I had.  (Also, her parents drove by and donated substantially more stuff to the cause.)

Didn't take long for our first customer to show up.  She asked how much for a backpack.  This was a brand new backpack, never worn by a human back.  I thought I should at least get $3 for it, so I said $5, anticipating a haggle.  She says "Too expensive" and clicks her tongue at me for my greedy, greedy ways.  She turns to my friend and asks how much for a sweater.  My friend says "fifty cents."  She walks off with two sweaters. 

I change my strategy -- this isn't the Possibly Victorian Stuff That Might Be Worth Something crowd.  I slide that box out of view.  (Actually, my friend's mother turns out to be interested in it, and I'll probably end up selling her the lot.)

I eventually unload the backpack for $2.  I get $5 for an old carry-on bag, and (in what was clearly my best sale of the day) $10 for the cat tree.  I am thrilled that I don't have to take that back to storage.  Once I turn my corner of the world into my very own "dollar store," things fly off the coffee table -- all of the candles go (some for even two dollars), and some of the unwanted "mystery bag" stuff goes, too. 

A couple hours in and, now that I've had some yard sale experience, I decide to go get more crap -- now that I know how this thing works.  I debate between going home and going to the storage cage, and ultimately choose home.  I come back to the sale with several tote bags stuffed with more "mystery bag" stuff, earrings that scream "1980s," and a few other random small items.

The earrings are a big hit, and I sell three pair immediately.

We eventually packed up around 2:00 p.m.  I'd taken in about $50; my friend about $130.  We decide to try again the next day -- and she's got more friends coming (who will take up another spot on the lawn) -- a few more and we'll be a "swap meet" rather than a yard sale!

Saturday night I go to the storage cage and bring back three bags full of clothes.  I go through all the pockets, then sort the clothes into bags by price (50 cents, $1, and $2).  (I also make big signs announcing the prices, but everyone will ask me the prices anyway.)

We start again bright and early on Sunday -- as most of our traffic was early on Saturday -- and we'd kind of forgotten about church.  So we got very few people until about 11:00, when folks were done praying for the morning.  We put up signs that said "New stuff!"

The "New stuff!" did, indeed, sell.  A lot of my clothes went (oddly, all of the $1 clothes -- only a few in each of the other prices); and the couple that joined the yard sale on Sunday unloaded about $100 worth of stuff (mostly duplicate wedding gifts, maternity stuff, and newborn stuff). 

When all was said and done, we'd each earned about $100 for our crap -- not bad for stuff we would otherwise donate to Goodwill or Out of the Closet or something (which is pretty much where the leftovers will end up anyway).

Between Saturday and Sunday, it sorta started to concern me as to "what to do with the money."  I mean, $50 is, like, what? a tank of gas?  And, y'know, this was stuff that was previously destined for charity donation, so spending it on me didn't seem really right either.

Sunday morning (while waiting around for customers) we were sitting around, talkin' politics (which was convenient as we're all supporting the same dude).  I pondered maybe donating the proceeds to the Obama campaign -- we even joked about putting up "Yard Sale for Obama" signs, but then we weren't really sure of the politics of our prospective buyers, and we didn't want to turn anyone off.  But I liked the idea, on principle.

The thing that nagged me, a bit, was that, y'know, Obama doesn't really need my hundred bucks.  (OK, yes, sure, I know, he does -- in the sense that his campaign is based in part on a ton of small contributions.)  But $100 isn't going to make a difference in this election -- and when I give money, I like to feel like it's making an impact.  (Which is why I often give to Donors Choose and Kiva.)

The solution to my donation problem manifested itself Sunday afternoon, when I was walking to a theatre and passed a "Vote No on Prop 8" sign.  Proposition 8 is a ballot initiative to, basically, overturn the California Supreme Court's decision legalizing gay marriage in California.  Polling has been close (actually, recent polling says the proposition will be defeated, but there's reason to believe people are lying to the pollsters so as not to appear prejudiced), and I'm thinking my contribution could actually help.  And the issue is important to me -- both because I don't want to see my gay friends' marriages declared invalid, and because I very much would like to live in a State that enshrines equality, rather than discrimination, in our Constitution. 

So, there you have it -- turns out I had a Yard Sale for Gay Marriage.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Circus School Dividends

My morning at Circus School had an after-effect.

(Well, I'm looking for trapeze places in LA -- there are a few, but that's not the immediate after-effect.)

The immediate after-effect is that I bought some replacement juggling balls when I was there.  (My old juggling balls -- juggling bean-bag-balls actually -- had deflated from age and lack of use.)  My old juggling skills had similarly deteriorated.  I was doing that over-throwing thing where I had to walk to keep up with my juggling.  And I could barely make six throws before they got too far ahead of me.

Six throws, by the way, is how my old juggling book technically defined a "juggle."  Because if you make six throws, the balls end up exactly where they started, and you've completed a circuit.  (Three balls, two hands -- you do the math.)  (It called three throws a "jug.")  Anyway, because of this, I consider six throws (and catches, obviously) actually juggling, while less than six is still "working on it."

So, since I've been back, I've practiced a bit.  (On those days when I don't do DDR for my exercise.)  First day, I had a lot of chasing balls around the room, but once hit 12 throws.  (I still think in multiples of 6.)  Next time (a few days later), I hit 12 a bit more and got 24 once or twice.

Today, I hit 36 a couple times, while 24 was hit multiple times, and 12 was downright commonplace.  I think this legitimately counts as actually juggling again.  Not to mention, the overthrowing has gone way down -- when hitting 36, I might take one or two steps, but generally stay in place.  Go me.

I am again (well, I say again, but you would have to have been reading me for, like, five years to have read it before) amazed at how quickly the body can pick up a skill through repetition.  (Yes, I know, this was re-learning rather than learning, but it still holds.)  I mean, I totally sucked at P.E. all through school, and never really saw any improvement in my abilities except what would naturally come with getting older.  But, basically, when we started the two-week unit on tennis, my serves would be about as crappy on Day 10 as they were on Day 1.  But now, with juggling (and, five years ago, with figure skating), I practice something and I get better.  And what's really remarkable about this is that I don't see anything mental to it.  Which is to say, I don't catch myself consciously thinking, "hey, if you turn your hand a little, you won't be throwing way the hell over there."  But some part of my brain -- the part below conscious decisionmaking -- is able to make these miniscule adjustments just from practicing (and, apparently, doing it wrong) long enough.

And since I never really experienced this growing up, I still find it astonishing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Seriously, how crappy is yard sale crap?

A friend is having a yard sale and offered me some space to join in.

I have a lot of crap.  Most of it is in storage.  It has dawned on me that I'm paying $100 a month to store this stuff when, on the happy day when I actually get a house, I'll probably just throw 90% of it away.  So, I thought, "yeah, yard sale."

And then I thought, "would anyone actually buy this stuff?"

I mean, the coffee table with a wonky leg is functional, although I strongly recommend against sitting on it.  The floor-to-ceiling cat tree (yeah, that'll set up nice in a yard, without a ceiling to brace it) is also functional, but clearly scratched to death.  Bookshelves that lean to the right.  Old suitcases (from before wheels).  Ladies' suits that scream "1980s" (ah, purple and fuschia with giant shoulder pads).  An old shower curtain (and I saved this why?).  I'm almost embarrassed to sell this stuff, because that would be admitting that, right up until it went into storage, I actually used it in its present condition.

Lord, I'd have to put prices on it, too.  I think my corner of the yard sale might be the "99 cent store."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I'll Say It

(Because I'm probably the only one who will.) 

In the three-hour snooze-fest that was this year's Emmy Awards, the one result that I was really quite pleased about is that Zeljko Ivanek picked up an Emmy for Supporting Actor in a Drama.  For Damages.  (And I've never even watched Damages.  Probably would have if I'd known he had a good juicy part in it, but, y'know, Glenn Close has just a smidge more name recognition, so she's the one in all the ads.)

Here's the thing -- Ivanek is one of those actors who has been in everything.  (Seriously.  Check him out on imdb if you don't believe me.)  And he's always solid.  But he's always in the background, doing solid work in the supporting parts, while other actors are out there in front in the flashy roles.  I first noticed him in Homicide (which, ironically, I just mentioned the other day).  He had a recurring role as the prosecuting attorney -- he'd show up every now and then to tell the guys whether they had enough evidence, but he wasn't involved in any of the real juicy stuff like interrogating suspects.  And then the writers of the show actually wrote a plot around him.  (IIRC, his character was getting married and his fiancee got murdered).  And all of a sudden, we actually paid attention to him -- this character who was always just around the periphery of the show was finally in the spotlight -- and Ivanek delivered the goods.

And then he goes on to do solid work in supporting but not flashy roles in a bunch of other shows (recurring in Oz and 24, and a load of one-offs).  He's been on Broadway, too.  I saw him a brilliant play called The Pillowman, in which (not surprisingly) he was chillingly good in what one might call a thankless role.  (The show, broadly speaking, is about a police interrogation of a writer.  Ivanek played the "other" cop.) 

And now he's got an Emmy.  He's potentially the one winner from tonight's show whose career can seriously be helped by this.  It's gotta increase his name recognition, and maybe we'll start seeing him get roles where he's somewhere higher than the third name below the title.  I've known he's been this good for about a decade now; glad to see the rest of the world is finally catching on.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Elementary Differential Geometry

Was chatting with some college students who are having difficulty with classes -- finding a class to be too difficult, questioning their major (and therefore life plan), and all that stuff.

I been there.

The monster in question was Elementary Differential Geometry.  (Yes, they had the nerve to call it "Elementary."  Like this is the easy Differential Geometry.)  The first day of class, the professor drew some figure on the board and then told us to try to envision it moving in a 4th dimension.  Great.  I have enough trouble seeing a 3-dimensional figure on a 2-dimensional blackboard, and now you want me to what? move it through time?

I went to the Professor during office hours and asked for help.  He gave me some.  Talked with me for some time.  I apparently gave him the right answers because he encouragingly said, "See, you're getting this."  I was not getting this.  He recommended a tutor.  I met with the tutor.  We talked even longer.  Hours later, I got through the first homework assignment.

It was around this time that I realized I could work my butt off for the rest of the term and, if I was lucky, I'd end up with a "C."  This would totally kill my GPA, but at least I'd be able to say I didn't quit.

Screw that.  I dropped the course.  It wasn't a prerequisite for graduation -- just one of three different courses I could take to meet a particular requirement.  I switched to Logic & Set Theory and did much better.  (Fairly easy A; I ended up writing an Honors Thesis in the subject; and I got to spend some time with classmates pondering the problems of navigation when you're travelling faster than the speed of light -- because by the time you see that Interstellar Road Block, you've already hit it.)

In retrospect, I guess I was lucky that this wasn't my first Upper Division Math course.  Had it been, I probably would've considered whether my inability to succeed in Differential Geometry meant that I wasn't cut out for Math.  But, by that time, I already knew that I could kick ass in Math.  This problem was of a rather narrower scope.  It was just this course -- and the issue was whether I stuck with it or admitted failure.

As I explained to the college students I was discussing this with the other day, I'd always been very good academically.  And while I'd experienced failure on a pretty regular basis when it came to athletics, I'd never before hit a brick wall in a class.  And I think it says something about who I was at the time that I neither forced myself to climb over that wall nor walked away from the wall.  I walked around the wall.

And I think the experience was, in its way, good for me.  It's good that I knew what it felt like to hit a brick wall where I wasn't expecting one.  And it's also good that I chose an alternative way to meet my goal with substantially less difficulty.  Because knowing that I didn't have to climb over the wall to get where I was going ended up giving me a sort of safety net for the next time I hit one -- and that gave me the confidence to actually go over the damn thing.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I'm Only Gonna Say This Once

(and we shall never speak of it again)

When I went to Alaska, and flew into Ketchikan, and had to take the ferry to get into the city, I thought, "Damn, they could really use a bridge here."

Best TV Show Ever?

I was asked this the other night -- which TV show do I think is the best ever.

There was a condition on the question, though.  Had to be a TV show that retained its high level of quality until it cashed in -- so no "Twin Peaks before it jumped the shark" sort of answers.  This turned out to be extremely difficult to answer, because I had to admit that most shows that I really loved (Northern Exposure, for example) had a substantial drop off in quality near the end.  (Anyone else remember when Paul Provenza came in as the new doctor?  Yeah, I'd wiped it from my memory, too.)  I'm tempted to go with Homicide, but, even there, I'm fudging a bit because it did run on just a touch longer than it should have, even though the ending itself was totally excellent.

Ultimately:  Six Feet Under.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Photo Set -- Geeks Only

OK, yes, not only did I go to the Doctor Who exhibition, I took pictures.

(And, because I'm an idiot, I had the flash off.  I realized this about halfway through, but did not go back and retake the early photos.)

So ... it's pretty dark, but the first picture I really wanted at the exhibition was a picture of me under this sign:

That says, "Please mind your head."  A good, what? two feet above me?  Who do they expect to attend this thing?  Cybermen? 

And here we have ... me and the one and only exhibit my mom will "get."

(And, y'know, when I had my friend take the picture, I was staring at the angel and just would ... not ... blink.)

OK, so, continuing the sign theme, I took a picture of these signs outside the "Dalek Encounter."

Don't go in if you're pregnant?  Or have a heart condition?  It's a freakin' dalek exhibit at a Doctor Who exhibition!  It's for kids!  Don't you think that's just a bit of an overstatement as warning signs go?

So, we walk in, and there's this dalek, sorta hiding behind some crates.  And we're looking around for the big red button in front of it, because lots of things in the exhibition had big red buttons in front of them, and you'd push the button to make the exhibit activate.  (Some of them didn't work.  The button in front of the angel didn't do anything.  But the button in front of K-9 made his lights go on and his ears waggle.)  So I'm standing there with my friend and bemoaning the absence of the big red button and laughing at how ridiculous the warning signs are for a lousy dalek hiding behind a crate, and then (with no warning) the dalek starts screaming at us and elevating, and I scream like a little girl. 

Then, of course, we laugh ourselves silly and I snap pictures of the levitating dalek.

Photo Set -- Circus School!

OK, here's human pyramid class (or whatever they called it).  There were 8 people in our group, while most of your pyramids require 7 or 9.  Here we are in a 7-person formation.  That's me on the top row, far right.

And in the 9-person formation with only 8.  Our instructor joined us as the 9th, but then nobody was available to take pictures.

And then, there was flying trapeze class ...

(Oh yeah, look at the awesome toe-point I have.)  The woman holding my camera only shot from head-on, rather than the side, so you can't quite see the whole swinging thing.  But still.

Now, that nice lady in the bright blue pants is holding on to ropes attached to the (very tight) harness around my waist.  She says to let go of the trapeze at just the right point, at which time she slows (but doesn't entirely control) your descent down to the mat, when you're supposed to land "on your two feet."  I was favoring my ankle and subconsciously decided to let my other ankle take all the weight of the landing.  This is the predictable result:

Kerri Strug, I am not.

To my surprise, the woman holding my camera did take a shot of me on the tightrope, and here, I appreciate the angle she got, because you can't quite see for certain that the annoying teacher is holding my left hand.

And finally, on the trapeze, one dude in our group, um, began to lose his sweatpants.  We all, of course, ran for our cameras.  I am told that this is, in fact, the essence of British comedy.

(And when I went back in the (ladies') changing room after the whole experience, and we were all laughing about how good-natured he had been about the Trousers Incident, I took off my shirt and discovered that my sports bra had completely unzipped itself.  Apparently, circus class has a little-known tendency to separate you from your clothing.)

Photo Set -- Santa Barbara

Ahh, finally got some time to upload the pictures.

First, some photos of my awesome room at the bed & breakfast in Santa Barbara:

That's the pretty bed; the pretty jacuzzi-tub and, to the right ...

... the pretty fireplace, in front of which I dried my kayak-dumped clothes.

Also from Santa Barbara, I give you the view from the launch site from which I did not do a tandem paraglide.  (Stupid misbehaving wind.)  Although when I took the photo, I thought we would be launching.

That field of white is clouds.

In Sacramento this week (for my job), we had a class on weapons, and a few people randomly drawn from the class were taken on a field trip to the firing range, and given a chance to fire various handguns and rifles.  I didn't get selected, but some of my friends were.  In the van to the airport this morning, they were telling us about the experience.  One of them, who'd never held a gun before, commented about how the experience really got her heart pumping.  She didn't like it.  She volunteered that, "some people really like that adrenaline rush, but I'm not an adrenaline junkie at all."  The rest of the van nodded and made noises of agreement.  I was strangely silent.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Almost as Good as Forgetting My Passport

I have to go to Sacramento for my job.  I booked the travel through the travel agent my office uses.  I filled out their internet form, and they sent me a reservation.  Flying from Burbank to Sacramento at 8:30 tomorrow morning.

I printed out the reservation -- I kid you not -- on July 24.  It has been sitting on my desk for months.

It is now after 1:00 in the morning the night before I depart.  I'm a bit of a procrastinator, so I'm packing now.  I decide to check-in online, so I go to the airline's website and type in my locator number.

It tells me I can check in for my flight tomorrow morning at 8:30.

From Sacramento to Burbank.

I take a good look at my reservation.  Yep -- it's backwards.  Would've looked pretty stupid at Burbank airport tomorrow trying to catch this flight.

I'm now on hold with the travel agent's emergency service line, trying to fix this.  (The recording says that, due to Hurricane Ike, they're overloaded with calls, and I should only stay on the line if it's a real emergency.  If not, I should call during business hours on Monday.  This gives me pause.  I mean, it's not a real emergency.  Then again, business hours on Monday would be too late to do anything about it.  I've decided to stay on hold.)


They fixed it!  Now I'm on the right flight!

(The agent tries to give me my new flight number, at which time I have to say, "Hold on a second; my cat stole my pencil."  She finds this cute.  That's very sweet of her; I'd find it to be further evidence that I'm a freakin' moron.)

This makes two things in a row that I very nearly screwed up outrageously badly.  Three if you count paying my insurance bill.  (It's due on Tuesday.  Which explains why, at around 11:00 p.m., I was driving out to the (fairly deserted and slightly creepy) AAA office, as I know they have a payment lock box in their parking lot.)  I should definitely get more sleep on a regular basis.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

At Least It Wasn't The Fridge

(Oh please, not the fridge.)

So, after (I'm sure) annoying my downstairs neighbor with a half hour of DDR, I put a frozen dinner in the microwave, got a plate ready, went into the living room and turned on the TV.

I said ... I turned on the TV.

Turn.  On.  Dammit.

The cable box goes on; the TV does not.

I assume the problem is the remote, and try to turn on the TV the old fashioned way (i.e. the power button).  Nada.

I assume the problem is the A/C.  I make sure the TV is plugged in to the power strip.  It is.

I assume the problem is the power strip.  I unplug the TV from the strip, divert the cord, and plug it directly into the wall.  No dice.

I assume the TV is broken.

Dammit.  The TV is broken.

I haven't had the TV for that long.  (I can't quite pin down how long -- no, no, wait, I can.  I bought it when I was dating that guy, and I remember taking that guy to that show, and if I google for the review ... July 02.  Damn thing is six years old.  Surely, a TV is supposed to last more than that.)  Still, I'd planned on replacing it when I bought a new house.  Because I bought the TV back in the time when nifty flat-panel TVs were too expensive, so I bought the compromise:  a flat screen.  But it's still a standard TV, with a big fat ass.  A huge ass, in fact.  I pretty much need a miner's helmet and a canary every time I go back there and hook up a new component.  So I planned to, y'know, leap into the world of pretty flat panel TVs, once I had a new house.  Because I'd then know the size of the wall I wanted to put it on.

Except the TV broke now

I know there are many people out there who can function without television.  I am not one of them.  I have two other TVs, and neither one is really going to hold me until the happy day when I move into a new place.  One has been dying for years -- makes an annoying buzzing sound regularly -- and I use it only for hooking up the Playstation.  The other is a relatively small TV in my bedroom.  My bedroom, people!  I can't eat dinner in there! 

I solvef the problem tonight by eating dinner in front of the computer.  While reading buyers' guides for new TVs.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Brief Geeky Aside

OK, I wanted a Doctor Who action figure.  Not just any old Doctor Who action figure.  I wanted an action figure of The Master -- the Doctor's nemesis.  A friend had gotten one at ComicCon and showed it to me and I was totally envious and thought, "Hey, I could get one in London."

Now, there are places in London where one could acquire said action figure.  (Toys R Us, for example.)  But I knew I'd be going to the exhibition on my way to the airport, and I knew there'd be a shop at the end of the exhibition, and that seemed like the best place to get my Master action figure.

Except they were out of it.  Apparently, they'd had thousands of kids through the exhibit/shop over the weekend, and they'd been cleaned out.

Shopgirl tells me there's another shop I can go to that stocks the action figure.  (It's not a doll!  It's an action figure!)  I've actually got enough time to do this and still do everything else before the flight leaves.  I go back on the underground and head to the shop.

I do not see the Action Figure I have come back into London for.  I ask the guy behind the desk (who looks like he intentionally tries to look like Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons) if they have any.  He says they do not.  I mutter, "Damn kids."  He says, "Yeah, they buy all the stuff up and keep it from serious collectors like us." 

I look at his face and he's dead serious.  I smile in appreciation of the sympathy.

Serious collectors.  Snort.

Neuron Pong

I have this mental image that, when the human brain is firing on all cylinders (as it were), you've got little neurons just sending signals all over the place.  Little electric charges just going off all over the place, full of energy.

And then there's me, when I haven't had much sleep, and all that activity is replaced by a single neuron slowly travelling around in there, like a game of pong.

That would be this morning -- which (seeing as London is 8 hours ahead) started off an insanely long time ago...

Actually, it started last night, when I was packing, and (and I truly have no excuse for this) ended up watching some Bollywood musical on the BBC.  (I'd never actually seen one of them, and I was curious.)  But the damn thing kept going till 2:30, and it's hard to pack and read subtitles at the time.  So I was kinda up, y'know, late.

Woke up at 7:30.  I was meeting a friend at 10:00.  Here's the plan:  Out of hotel room by 8:30; taxi to Paddington Station by 9:00; buy cat-sitting friend the Paddington Bear she'd asked for; leave bags at Left Luggage; grab some eats; take underground to place where meeting friend, arriving a good 15 minutes early. (OK, we're meeting at the Doctor Who exhibition.  Shut up.)

Here's how it actually went down:  Out of hotel room by 8:45 (that's OK; I had extra time built in the plan); in taxi to Paddington ... when about 5 minutes outside of Paddington, my one functioning neuron pipes up and says, "You left your passport in the hotel safe."  I ask the taxi driver to turn around.  ("Are you sure it isn't in your bag?"  I'm sure.  I know where it is.  It's in the safe I didn't open.)  Much cursing on my part.  Back to hotel, get passport (hey! my camera was in the safe too!), back to Paddington.

OK, now I'm late.  Now, it's 9:30, I have no Paddington Bear, and there's a line at the Left Luggage place. 

I amend the plan.  Move Bear purchase to later.  It'll still work.  More or less.  I dump my luggage and get the train to the Doctor Who exhibition all of 10 minutes before 10.  At about 10:05, the train reaches a stop and the pre-recorded voice says "Exit here for the exhibition."  And my neuron says, "No, I think you'd be better off waiting for the next stop.  I'm pretty sure we read that.  Someplace.  About a week ago."  I decide to trust my neuron.  Turns out it is correct; the second stop drops me right at the door of the exhibition.  (Yay!)  Where my friend has been waiting.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

When Accents Go Bad

Anyone ever wonder why American productions of Shakespeare's plays are often performed with fake British accents?  I can understand it with the histories, sure, but why would you put on a British accent for Hamlet?  They're in Denmark, for crying out loud.

This thought struck me last night when watching a (largely entertaining) new musical of Zorro.  Anyway, this thing is set in early Los Angeles, and while some of the performers put on Spanish accents, others don't.  So they're speaking in their usual "unaccented" speech.  Which, since I'm in London, is what we Americans would refer to as "British accents."

It's seriously hard to overlook.  I mean, the villain of the piece is called "Ramon," and they put the accent on the first syllable, rather than the second.  Damn near burst out laughing the first time I heard it -- sounded like the guy was named after a cup of noodles. 

Bottom line though (she says, as the internet cafe in which she is typing has decided to close ten minutes early) is that if I have to sit here and accept British "unaccented" language for Spaniards in Los Angeles, the world damn well start accepting American "unaccented" language for Shakespeare.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Yes, there will be pictures

(But, of course, I left my card reader at home.)

Yeah, the aforementioned trapeze is located at The Circus Space, which has a four hour(ish) Introduction ot Circus Skills class.

Started with a 30 minute warm-up that nearly killed me.  (I was doing fine until the bit where we were running around in a circle, and then she'd yell something out and we'd have to drop a palm to the floor, or jump in the air or something.  I was pretty wiped after that.)  Of course, they promised that the warm-up was the most difficult part of the day -- which it turned out to be.

We had four different "Circus Skills" to learn.  The first was ... I forget what it was called, but it was basically a bunch of sit back-to-back-with-three-other-people-link-arms-and-push-yourselves-up business, followed by building some human pyramids.  (There will be photos of this.)  There was much laughter and (thankfully) not much falling down.

Second was "flying trapeze."  I'd been a bit afraid that they'd make us do a basic catch (after all, they made the people on Amazing Race do that), but all we actually did was grab the trapeze and swing around on it.  (There will be photos of this, too.)  Much safety equipment was involved -- and I think the person with the hardest job at the whole place was the woman on the other end of the pulley attached to our safety harnesses, as she had to hold each person's weight in a controlled descent when we dropped from the trapeze.  This was terrific fun though -- scariest part was climbing the stupid ladder.  Second scariest part was reaching for the trapeze.  Once you grabbed it and stepped off though:  totally excellent experience.

Third skill was juggling, which was also good fun, largely because I already know how to juggle.  But I haven't done it in a long time, and have apparently gone back to my old habits of throwing slightly forward.  Which basically means that, if I'm going to keep juggling, I'm going to be walking forward as I do it.  Our instructor told me to try to stop walking if I could, but NOT to stop juggling -- he'd rather I get the practice of keeping the balls in the air.  The end result was eight of us standing in a Circle, with two experienced jugglers next to each other trying to learn how to juggle together, five people trying to get the whole juggling thing down (and making a few good throws before the bean bag balls hit the ground), and me as the Travelling Juggler, walking around through the Circle (and often dangerously close to other people) while I tried to keep up with where I kept throwing the balls.

Fourth skill was tightrope walking, about which the least said the better.  OK, I'll say four things.  First thing:  this instructor wasn't nearly as good as the others.  Second thing:  at one point she made me go first -- I am not good at going first (I am terrific at going second, but I need to see someone else do it first).  Third thing:  There was one other person in our group who fell off the (about a foot-high) tightrope as much as I did, and she, too, had just flown in from America.  She very generously suggested that, after flying, the whole inner ear/balance thing was out of whack, which may have explained why we sucked.  I'm not sure about the science of this, but I am willing to accept it.  Fourth thing:  The teacher, rather annoyingly grabbed my hand and walked me across the rope (while she'd let everyone else hop back on and keep trying themselves, even after numerous falls).  My last time across the damn thing, I said, "you can let go now" and managed all of about four steps unaided to the final platform, which, when all is said and done, I consider some sort of success.  There will be no pictures of this.  Actually, nobody in our group took tightrope photos, which should give you some idea of exactly how ridiculous we looked even when successfully walking across it. 

Totally, TOTALLY fun morning.  Although, when I was sitting on the underground train heading back to the hotel, I started noticing the muscles I didn't even know I HAD felt sore.  Serious workout.  So I followed this up with tea and scones and did not feel the least bit guilty about it.  :)

Two words:

Flying.  Trapeze.

Friday, September 5, 2008

I slept. On the plane.

I am amazed by this, as I've only been able to do it recently, and even then, not for very long.  But after watching Ocean's 13 on the tiny little screen (same way I watched Ocean's 12), I put on my eye shades, reclined my seat all of 4 inches, thought I sat there for about 45 minutes -- and the next thing I heard was "we're beginning our initial descent into Heathrow."  I probably slept for 6 hours.  Much joy.

I needed the sleep.  That's an understatement -- I'd had about 4 hours the night before, and had been up too late all week.  And there was much to do upon my arrival.

- Outrace everyone on the plane to Immigration

- Wait in very long line at Immigration (because I couldn't outrace people from other planes).

- Get allowed in country.  (The agent asked how long I was staying.  I said until Monday.  He actually looked at his watch.)

- Get bags.

- Go to high-speed train station.

- (Miss train by a minute.)

- Get next train to London

- Leave bags at Left Baggage.  (This is where I discovered the only flaw in my otherwise perfect plan.  Left Baggage at Paddington Station closes at 11:00 p.m.  I really needed a 24 hour Left Baggage.)

- Take underground to other rail station.

- It is 4:52.  I need to make a 5:00 train to meet a friend in Warwickshire.  The ticket machine refuses to read my credit card and I end up having to wait in line for an agent.  By the time I get my ticket, it is 4:58.  I run for the train.  The train is at a far platform.  I run and jump on.  A couple jumps on after me, asking, "Is this the train to Birmingham?"  Winded, I catch my breath and say, "I have no idea."  Train leaves.  (It does, indeed, go to Birmingham.)

- I arrive at 6:30.  (You see that Left Baggage Closing at 11:00 problem?)  I call my friend (as I hadn't been able to call in advance and tell her what train I'd be on.)  She picks me up in 10 minutes.

- She takes me back to her house.  Cooks me a plate of pasta.  We talk while I toss back food (and briefly say hi to her husband and kids).  By 8:00, we had to leave for the train station, so I'd get on the 8:15.  (The next train out would return me at 10:35, an underground ride away from Paddington.  If it was even 10 minutes late, I'd be totally screwed.)

- Returned to London, trying not to think about spending twice as long on trains as my visit with my friend.  Underground to Paddington; luggage redeemed.  Taxi to hotel.

- Check in hotel.  Room on 2nd floor.  Noisy street noise outside my window.  I call to the desk and ask to be moved.  He puts me on hold, then tells me he has no spare rooms.  I am annoyed, but figure I'm stuck.  I use the restroom.  (This will be the second flaw in my otherwise perfect plan.)  I go downstairs in the hopes of wheedling another room out of him  in person.  He then says, "Have you used the room?"  I admit having peed.  He then says there's nothing he can do.

- LIAR!  I point out that I hadn't used the room when I'd called down and he'd said there were no more rooms, and only used it when he told me I was stuck here.  Now, apparently, there WERE rooms I could switch to, but I can't have them because my behind has touched their perfectly sanitized toilet seat.  (I would ask to speak to the manager at this point, but, rather annoyingly, he IS the manager.)  He tells me the street noise is coming from a bar, and they have to close soon, so it'll get quiet once everyone goes home.  I point out that it will be this noisy again tomorrow.  He agrees and says he'll move me tomorrow.  I should leave all my stuff packed up in my room when I leave in the morning, and they'll put me someplace else.  He promises to put a note in the system.  I'm dubious, but go with it.

- I also buy an hour of internet access, so I can make some use of the time while waiting for the bar to empty (and not unpacking).  It's about midnight now.  I can still hear drunk people yelling outside my window, but hopefully the exhaustion will cancel that out.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

P.S. Saturday plans made

(That would be the Saturday plans that required a phone call to the UK, which I was trying to make on my MagicJack to save a few bucks.  Which is why I was dealing with Tech Support at such an inhuman hour.)

ANYWAY, the choice has been made, and it's none of those three things -- or even Dickens World (shudder).  It'll make for a good story and, just to freak out my parents a teensy bit, I'm certain it'll require a waiver of liability.

Death to Magic Jack Tech Support

Let's just say it's 3:30 a.m. and after about a half hour, they finally admitted they "need to work on this on [their] end."  Ya think?

Favorite part of the "live chat" discussion was when they "escalated" me to a second level of support and, after a few minutes of silence, the second level guy comes on and says, "Hell, Sharon."

And I says "Hell, indeed."

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Saturday Lack of Plans

I still can't decide what to do in and about London on Saturday.  Am accepting input on the following three selections.

Item One: Eurostar to Paris.
Advantages: Um, it's Paris. Never been.
Disadvantages: Very long day (starts at about 5:30 a.m., and I'm flying in the day before and taking a train out to a friend once I get in, so I will be well and truly wiped).  Expensive.  (Train itself is upwards of $300).  It's too late to book an escorted tour, so would have to make my way with a map and whatever French I remember from two semesters twenty years ago.  (Ou ce trouve le ... Eurostar?)

Item Two: Cheap tour to Canterbury and Leeds Castle.
Advantages: Never been. Probably cheapest choice of the three.  (About $80)  Am promised jousting at Leeds.  Potentially will get back to London in time for a show (although whether one can have dinner before is subject to debate).
Disadvantages: Have never really WANTED to go there. Still ambivalent. Supposed to be raining.

Item Three: Bounce down hill in big plastic ball. (Zorbing at Spheremania.)
Advantages: I like bouncing down hills in big plastic balls. Also, the whole process takes no more than four hours (including travel time out to the location of said big plastic ball), so would have time to do other things in London.
Disadvantages: Supposed to be raining.  Costs substantially more than I paid to bounce down a hill in a big plastic ball in New Zealand.  (About $80, plus travel costs.)

Thoughts? (I love travelling alone, but sometimes it's hard to make up your mind.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I Swear I Thought This Was a Joke

Am going to London this weekend.  (Yes, I know.  Just got back from Santa Barbara.  It's sort of a two-quick-vacation month rather than one long one.  Just worked out that way.)  ANYWAY, I am trying (with increasing levels of frustration) to find a day-trip to take on Saturday and I stumbled upon ... well ... this.

Be sure to check out the map, which proclaims that #8 is "Rest Rooms -- For our visitors' comfort without the squalor of Victorian hygiene."

Were the damn thing in London, I'd actually go.  Because, seriously, this needs to be seen.