Thursday, April 29, 2010

A quickie

So, I went to get my mammogram this morning.  Got caught in traffic, so I ended up there about 15 minutes late, technically missing my appointment.  I apologized profusely and said with a smile, "I hope you can squeeze me in."


Monday, April 26, 2010

Greetings from Arizona

Here I sit, cooling my heels in the Sky Harbor Airport.  Over the years, I've logged quite a few hours in lovely PHX ("world's friendliest airport" -- which translates into "Free Wi-Fi," so I'm down with that) -- I remember a particularly annoying few hours as I shlepped all around this place trying to find an actual Native American thingie to bring back as a gift -- as opposed to all the cheap, fake, knock-off, Native American-style crap offered for sale in "All Things Phoenix" or whatever the hell they call the souvenir shops on this side of Security.

This evening, however, I'm planted at a computer charging station (also free) waiting for my flight, which has been delayed by about an hour.  (And grabbing a bite to eat is out because -- having just been dropped off by my parents -- I've been well-fed.)  I came here for a weekend with the folks, to celebrate my dad's birthday.  (For which they took me to a lovely resort in Sedona.  I know.  Makes no sense to me, either, but I'm not arguing with Free Weekend at a Lovely Resort in Sedona.)  

There were massages and facials and horseback riding (with dad), and a massive buffet brunch, and tasty eats all around (well, except for that crappy sports bar we stopped at on the way to resort -- which didn't even have the Suns game on -- seriously, a sports bar in Arizona not playing the Suns game -- and that same level of thought that went into their program selections also applied to purchasing food for the kitchen) and peeks through a really nifty telescope.

Note on the really nifty telescope.  The resort had "stargazing" one night, and, after dinner, my folks went out for a peek at the telescope, but I stayed in the car and waited for them because it was too effing cold and my throat was starting to hurt.  Next day, we stopped by Safeway on the way back to the resort so I could pick up a yogurt for breakfast the next morning.  And when we pull into the parking lot, there's some commotion in the parking lot behind us.  It's the same dude with a telescope that was at the resort the night before -- this night doing free viewing from the Safeway parking lot.  So this time (warmer weather), I queued up, climbed the ladder and took a peek through the scope -- it was aimed right at Saturn and I could clearly see the little round planet and its rings -- the rings looked almost like a vertical line from this angle, but it was totally cool, so I'm glad that fate put me in the path of Telescope Guy a second time.

Resort itself -- Enchantment -- was quite lovely.  Although I'd read some reviews of them that were pretty negative, and one said something about asking the desk for a DVD player.

As it turned out, we needed to ask the desk for a DVD player (I'd brought a DVD of our Awards show I wanted to show my parents).  So, the folks at the desk (who could not have been more accommodating) said they'd put a DVD player in my room.

We go back to the room.  They'd put one of those old TV/VCR/DVD player combo units on the desk in my room.  

Problem:  There's no outlet anywhere near the desk.  (Which, when you think of it, is pretty unhelpful desk-wise.)  The nearest outlet was over on the counter where the coffee maker was, and no matter how we turned the TV, the cord wouldn't reach.  And the TV was too big to fit on the counter itself.  So, you know, thanks for that DVD player.

We called the desk, explained the problem, and asked for an extension cord.

About 20 minutes later, two maintenance guys knock on my door with an extension cord.  It's big and thick and hugely insulated.

And the prongs are horizontal, rather than vertical.  The TV won't plug into it, and it won't plug into the wall.  So, that's out, too.

I went into "I will not be deterred" mode, and noticed the coffee table was actually a chest, which looked tough enough to take the weight of the TV.  I hauled the chest over right next to the counter; we put the TV on the chest; and plugged it in.  It worked!

The remote didn't.

So, we spent the next couple hours trying to watch the highlights of the DVD -- with no Fast Forward, Rewind, Pause, Menu, or Select (only Skip Forward, Skip Back, Stop and Play were on the actual TV).  It wasn't ideal, but it worked.  (But, at least I understand why that reviewer who had asked for a DVD player gave the place a negative review.)

Overall, it was a lovely weekend -- pleasant escape from work and petty daily annoyances, and some nice "bonding time" with the folks.

And, unfortunately, another hour to kill in the Phoenix Airport. 

Friday, April 23, 2010


Sometimes, I oversleep.

OK, I damn near always oversleep, but that involves hitting the snooze button a lot and reluctantly getting up when the clock-radio goes on for the umpteenth time.

But sometimes, I remain asleep when the radio is blaring.  And my mind, in a desperate attempt to remain asleep, tries valiantly to integrate the radio into my dream.

I first noticed this phenomenon when I was a kid, dreaming I was at Magic Mountain, and -- for some reason -- Rick Dees magically appeared and started talking to us.  (And I woke up when I thought, "What the hell is Rick Dees doing here?)

This morning, after I hit the snooze a few times, I fell back asleep (again) and stayed there.  The alarm went off and I -- while still asleep -- dreamt that the alarm went off.  (I even had a -- false -- memory that someone -- my aunt, for some reason -- had come in previously and hit the snooze, saying, "We should let her sleep.")  So I reached to hit snooze and shut the alarm off.  And it wouldn't go off.  "Two Tickets to Paradise" is blaring over the radio and I can't turn it off.  I reach for the off button and hit it repeatedly -- won't go off.  I get up, get on my hands and knees behind my nightstand, and unplug the radio.  Eddie Money is still singing.  I open the radio and check for back-up batteries.  There are empty battery slots.  I keep staring at this unplugged battery-less radio and can't figure out how music is still coming out of it.  I walk out into the living room (my aunt is there -- she was visiting) and I'm about to share with her this bizarre miracle of home electronics when I finally wake the hell up just as the song ends.   

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I Did A Racist Thing

I did a racist thing the other day, and it is pissing me off.

I am a theatre critic.  As a general rule, I do not give standing ovations.  This is largely because, as a critic, I do not want to tip my hand.  I don't want someone thinking, "Yes!  The critic gave us a standing O!  She loves our show!" only to find that my review is less than a rave.  I'll applaud your work, sure, but if you want to know what I thought of it, read my review.

(OK, yes, there are exceptions.  Sometimes a show is just so damn good that I am impelled out of my seat in a rush of emotion.  While, as a matter of philosophy, I tend to think that that is the only situation in which a standing ovation should be given, I understand that, as far as the public is concerned, the standard is somewhat lower.)

In any event, as a rule I don't stand.  If anyone asks me why, I explain that I'm a critic.

OK, here's the picture:  I'm a person of whiteness.  I'm seeing a play about racism in America.  It's what you might call a racially-charged piece.  The cast is mostly African-American, as is the audience.

The play ends.  The audience stands.

I stand too.

I know damn well that I am standing because I don't want the African-Americans in the audience to believe that I'm remaining seated because I'm opposed to the message of the play.  Basically, I'm afraid that they'll see me: (1) being white and (2) sitting there, and leap to the conclusion that those two facts have a causal relationship.

I hate myself for doing this.  Because, I mean, I'm making an assumption that the black audience will make an assumption about me because of my whiteness.  I don't think, "eh, they'll think I'm a critic," or "they'll think I've hurt my foot," or "they'll think I've hated the play."  I immediately go to, "they'll think I'm a racist."

Which is, of course, a totally racist thought I'm having -- as I'm assuming something about the rest of the audience based on their own color. 


But the thing of it is -- while I'm really annoyed with myself for having this racist thought and for acting on it, there's still a sizeable part of me that says my action was the prudent thing to do, because even if most of the black audience would not have reacted in the way I feared they would, there probably were some people there who would have, and why piss them off (and let them think badly of me) if it could be avoided by just going along with the herd and standing up?

So I basically sold out my principles (against standing) in exchange for not irritating some random black person who I am (on a racial basis) assuming is thinking negative thoughts (on a racial basis) about me.

Yeah -- on reflection, probably not cool.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Really? In 2010?

Just called a business with an inquiry about a possible, oh, birthday party there.  They called me back.  And they told me about some of the information, and then asked, "Do you have an email address?"

Uh, yeah.  (Actually, I'd been pretty ticked I had to call them in the first place -- but they didn't have an email address for their Event Coordinator on their website.  And the phone number was wrong.  But still.)

You are asking me if I have an email address?  (Yeah.  About 7 in regular circulation, and another 3 on a cyclical basis.)

Made me wonder at what point in technological evolution people stopped asking, "Do you have a telephone?" and started just asking for the number.

Look, if you ride the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters at Disneyland (which, btw, I do recommend), at the end of the ride, you'll find little kiosks where you can type in your email address and have your Astro Blasting photograph e'd to yourself for posterity (or facebook posting, whatever).  What I'm saying here is that Disneyland assumes you have an email address, and has done so for quite some time.  I really think we might have turned the corner on this one.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I May Actually Need a Travel Agent

I haven't used a travel agent ... well, no, I take that back -- I briefly used one unsuccessfully ... but, basically, I haven't used a travel agent since the internet made it possible to become one's own travel agent.  Find and book my own damn flights, hotels, adventures ... that's the way I like it.

(Man, I really have to get the photos up from last year's trip.)

This year's trip is just starting to come together.  I've obtained some vague ideas of dates, so I started checking flights.

It isn't going entirely well.

The plan, more or less, is:

LAX to Dublin (stay for about a week)
Dublin to London (stay for about another week)
London to LAX


Not so much.

My first line of attack is American Airlines.  They are always my first line of attack, as that's where I collect my miles.

The American Airlines website wants upwards of $2000 for this itinerary.  This strikes me as odd.  So does the fact that they plan that middle flight -- the Dublin to London one -- as Dublin to Madrid, and Madrid to London.

Think that through for a second.  Here's a map of Western Europe, if you need it.

Further research indicated that American wanted something in the $1000 neighborhood for the trans-atlantic flights, and a quick look at Orbitz said I could do Dublin to Heathrow for, like, $60.

(Interestingly, American could not discover the $60 Dublin to Heathrow flight, even when I asked it to "search all airlines.")

Of course, what I'd really like is to be able to use miles and fly Business Class.  That's 50,000 miles each way.  

Except it isn't available for any of the dates I want.  But if I move my departure three days this way and my return two days the other way and ... yeah, that'll be 100,000 miles.  Or I could stick with the dates I actually want and it would be 200,000 miles.  (And if you're used to using miles on American, you'll know that is all kinds of insane.)

OK, Business Class on miles is out.  Back to Economy for money.  Of course, if I'm going to pay for it, I'm not limited to American.  I should check all airlines.

I check all airlines.  Orbitz can put this whole thing together for about $1000.

And then there's that little voice in my head that reminds of the concept of "Premium Economy" -- that class somewhere between coach and business, offered by some (but not all) airlines.

I find Premium Economy on British Air and Virgin Atlantic.  Both of these work much better if you just fly them round trip to London, and book your own cheapy London to Dublin round trip.  Not a problem.  I just have to create my own connection at Heathrow.  I'll likely have to leave time to clear customs, just in case, but it's do-able.

Then I come home.  I get my mail.  I find a "Save the Date" card for my cousin's kid's Bat-Mitzvah.  In Florida.  On, more or less, the day I'm planning to come back.

I run it through Orbitz, just for kicks ...
LAX to Dublin to London to Fort Lauderdale to LAX.  It prices it -- economy class straight through -- for $1400.

But...  most of those route the London to Lauderdale part through New York, and if I'm going New York to Lauderdale, I like a cheap flight on JetBlue... which isn't on Orbitz.  And I'm still interested in premium economy for the long hauls, but Orbitz doesn't list those.

And I have this awful feeling that what I'm ultimately going to end up ticketing is a New York to London round trip in premium economy (on one airline) and attach to that a round trip London to Dublin (a second airline), a one-way New York to Lauderdale (JetBlue, our third airline), and, if I'm really lucky, a bizarre open-leg round trip LA to New York; Lauderdale to LA thing from a fourth airline, which won't ask too many questions.

Something tells me that checking my bags straight through is going to be totally impossible.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Birthday Ponderings Cont'd

(My mom, bless her, emailed to ask why 42 is the answer to the ultimate question.  Then she told me on the phone that she, in fact, remembered and felt silly for sending the email.  Yes, people, my mother has got geek cred.)

(Well, of course she does.  We've been sharing Algebra problems for about 30 years now.)

OK, where was I?  Making a small bit of progress on the birthday front.  A friend came up with a good idea except it happens to involve seeing a movie.  And the big movies that come out around my birthday are the third Twilight movie and everything the studios have so little faith in that they're willing to release them opposite the third Twilight movie.  (OK, OK... the latest Adam Sandler vehicle and the Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz action comedy.  And while I appreciate that both of these films are aiming for a demographic that's rather closer to my own, neither one commands the sort of interest as, say, Iron Man 2.)  So, I either trash the idea, or move my birthday up a month or so to sometime more convenient

I Guess That's Theft (or not)

Trash day!

Yesterday, I wheeled my trash cans to the curb like a good little homeowner -- all three of them:  garbage, recycling, and lawn waste.

This morning, on my way to work, I noticed the absence of trash cans by my curb.  (Whereas a curb a few houses away seemed to have a few too many trash cans.  Could not identify mine as part of the group gathered over there, though.  I do know my trash cans' magic code number off-hand, and I was too rushed to get to the office to investigate.)

Came home.  No trash cans.  Not in front of my house, or on the side.  (My housekeeper came today.  She usually adds the trash to the cans, and then puts them back on the side of the house.  Today she just left a garbage bag full of trash on the ground next to my house.  Splendid.  That'll be nice during the rains.  And when the stray animals come a-wandering.)

Have sent a rather annoyed email to the Keeper Of The Community E-mail List.  (I don't know why I expect her to answer -- she's been unable to answer my messages before.)  Still, if she circulates it, I'm willing to offer a brief amnesty -- return my trash cans by Wednesday, no questions asked.  Otherwise, I've got to call the City to get new ones, and actually make a police report for garbage can theft.

I am so not amused. 

UPDATE:  Yay!  Not theft.  RAIN.  My trash cans did, in fact, make a break for it overnight, as did many other trash cans in the neighborhood.  All of which ran in the general direction of downhill, thanks to last night's rainstorm.  Keeper Of The Community E-mail List not only realized that this is what happened, but made contact with the neighbor at the bottom of the hill, who reported that he did have two cans that didn't belong to him, and he noticed a third at the next house over.  (That was my smaller trash can -- it apparently couldn't run as far as the others.)  He left those two out for me to pick up, but the next neighbor over actually took my can in with his family's, leading to me politely knocking on his door at quarter to eight and saying, "Hi.  I live a few houses up.  You wouldn't happen to have seen a spare trash can, would you?"  He was very nice and said he took good care of it for me, and I promised not to leave my trash cans next to the curb when it rains overnight anymore.

It's a new variant on the "walk of shame," trudging uphill pulling your trash cans behind you.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cheap-ass Lightbulbs

I have mentioned this on several occasions, but, still, WHAT FREAKIN' BRAND OF CHEAP-ASS LIGHTBULBS DID THE PREVIOUS OWNERS OF THIS HOUSE USE?

I've been here for about a year, and while I haven't yet replaced every bulb in the house, I'm well on my way to that laudable goal.  And it seems that, with at least half of the bulbs in the house, changing the bulb does not simply require a ladder and a new bulb, but a ladder, a new bulb, a pair of needle-nose pliers, eye protection, and a broom to sweep up.

In other words, they break off at the base.

In my lifetime, prior to moving in, I've had to do this a grand total of once.  (And I tried a potato.  And it didn't work.)  Now, it's a regular occurrence.  (Today it happened with a canister light.  Extra fun.  At least it was the one over the sink, so the mess was largely contained.)

The old bulbs aren't labelled, so I can't figure out what brand to blame, but they're a lighter weight than your standard GE Soft Whites, and they're clearly of a subpar quality.  

Let me put this in prospective -- I'm replacing them with CFLs that I bought in bulk at Costco, and they're of a way higher quality. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Birthday Party Planning Continued

Thanks for the input.  Janiece, in particular, made me think.  Because, I mean, I do like parties where I'm able to hang out with my guests -- the problem is that I don't think a backyard barbecue would do that.  The few times I've actually hosted a party at my home, I've been stuck in the kitchen (or, at the housewarming, alternating between the kitchen and giving tours) and didn't really get a chance to speak with at least half my guests.  I think that's one of the many things I liked about the party on the Curlew, I actually got to just hang and relax with everyone.

But how to duplicate this without chartering another boat?  I think it does have to be away from my house -- because if it's in my house, I have to be all hosty (and keeping an eye on the cat not getting out) and can't just have fun.  

Was toying with the idea of a party at Build-A-Bear (they give you a discount if you Build your Bears for charity donation) and food at the Nestle Toll House Cafe.  Of course, this is (yet) another one of those where they ask the average age of your party guests when you're making the reservation -- so, again, I may be aiming to bring my celebration to a location which doesn't normally aim at my particular demographic.

Still, it's awfully hard to find a place to take a group of grown-ups that is: (a) fun; and (b) not all about vast quantities of alcohol consumption. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Reason #48 Why You Should Do Your Tax Return

Did my tax returns this weekend.  This is generally a fairly painless process, due to decent(ish) record keeping on my part and the fine folks who make TurboTax.

Perhaps the most difficult part of my return this year was calculating my property tax payments.  Because, since I bought the house in 2009, I've been treated to:  my usual tax bill; a supplemental tax bill; and a second supplemental tax bill.  And besides that, I need to figure out the property taxes I paid for the property through escrow.  This required finding my escrow closing statement.

No problem, I know exactly where that is.  (More or less.)  Found the pile of Documents Pertaining To Buying the House, which I haven't looked at since I moved in and said, "this would be a good place to keep all this stuff."  Found the estimated escrow statement.  Found the good faith estimate on the loan.  Found my deed and deed of trust.  Where the hell is ... oh, it must be here, in this little envelope from the escrow company . . . 

. . . with a check in it.


Now, folks who know me really well (I'm sure my mother is laughing as she reads this) know I have something of a reputation for not making bank deposits promptly.  My paycheck goes right in via direct deposit, so I generally save up those 30-cent dividend checks and $10 rebate checks until I've got a goodly-sized stack to make it worth my while to queue up at Wells Fargo and hand 'em all in.

The refund from the escrow company was, er, rather more substantial than 30 cents.  It is, very clearly, the largest check I've ever failed to deposit.  It was an amount of money that made me think, "How could I not notice this was missing?" 

I contacted escrow and asked them to reissue it (as this one was long past its "void after 180 days" date).  I was rather relieved to discover they hadn't gone bankrupt in the interim, and would, indeed, re-give me my money.

I'll be going to the bank the next day.

A Quick Story for Kate

So, I'm watching the Dancing with the Stars results show, and Kate Gosselin remarks that she's proud of herself for how she danced last night.  Gave herself really high scores, in her head.

Y'know, when I did my second (adult) figure skating competition, my coach told me that I had to buy the videotape.  I bought the videotape.  I watched the videotape.  I never did another competition.

Think about it.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Birthday, mine

So, the cat is seven more-or-less now, which means I'm sneaking up on 42.

Want to do something for this birthday as it's a sort-of special one.  I mean, 42 -- the answer to the ultimate question.  I need to mark this day with something significant.

(Not as impressive/expensive as my 40th party.  That was a once-in-a-decade sort of thing.  But I do want something fun.) 

This is causing a great deal of frustration-face over here, because I can't seem to find something that will satisfy me and simultaneously not exclude half my friends due to expense or physical-activity-level or whatever.

I had a good idea.  I really did, but the idea slipped out from under me the day after I had it.  See, Disneyland was running this promotion where if you do a day of charity work at one of, like, a zillion charities, they give you a free ticket.  And I thought, well, that is the perfect way to get in touch with the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything -- do some charity work and then party like you're 8.  I was gonna select a good (not-too-physically demanding) charity thing, and ask my friends to sign up for it, and then pick a day we'd all go to Disneyland -- with, of course, the idea that anyone not wanting to do a Saturday of charity work could just buy a damn ticket and join us for the fun.

See?  Good idea.

Disneyland cancelled it the very next day.  Apparently, they'd reached their goal of a million volunteers/free tickets, so were pulling the plug on new sign-ups.

And while I've looked at tons of other ideas (none of which had the elegance of that one), I still can't find something that feels right.  I mean, there's indoor skydiving ($50 per person and the experience is over in minutes), indoor electric go-kart racing (also $45 per person, pay extra for pizza, and I'm not sure I trust anyone who offers indoor electric go-kart racing Bar-Mitzvahs), renting out a sweet old-fashioned bowling alley (potentially the cheapest alternative as it isn't based on the number of people).  Have also looked at just going to Dave & Busters or Mini-Golf (when their "party packages" include a hot dog and a reference to "the birthday child," perhaps I'm looking at the wrong place).

I even considered having a backyard barbecue.  (Although I am now in possession of a backyard, I would have to acquire a barbecue.  And foldy chairs.  Perhaps a whole patio set.)

(In the course of looking for the right event, I've come up with the total perfect birthday present for a friend of mine (really, it's perfect) but the fact that I'd have to take off a day of work to do it prevents it from being a good idea for me to ask all my friends to participate in).

Little help from the blogosphere?   

Memo to Kate Gosselin

(OK, yeah, I watch Dancing with the Stars.  Wanna make something of it?)

You are no Heather Mills.

I know.  Wouldn't have thought it.  Heather Mills shows up on DWTS with one of the most hated public personas out there.  And she ended up making us actually like her.  She had a terrific attitude.  She was sweet.  Humble.  Friendly.  Willingly accepting criticism.  Ready to try anything with a smile on her face.  Now, whether this is actually who she was (or if she is, in reality, a scheming bitch) doesn't entirely matter.  The point is:  she went out there and put a shine on her image.

Then there's you.  Frankly, Kate, I've been on your side in the whole split-up with Jon thing.  I used to watch your show, and always thought you were a great mom, and really held things together.  Sure, Jon was more laid-back, but when you're running a household with eight kids, someone's got to establish some order, and you seemed to make sure everyone got the attention they needed.  So, way to go, there.

And two dances into Dancing with the Stars and I'm starting to think that maybe what we saw on TLC wasn't the real Kate and maybe, just maybe, Jon is the one who is being treated unfairly by the media here.

What I'm trying to say is that you're doing absolutely nothing for your cause.  And it has nothing to do with the fact that you kinda suck as a dancer.  (Which you do.)  Here's the thing, though:  you're not on the show to be a brilliant dancer; you're on the show to get some good press, and you're not going to accomplish it along the current path.

Here's what you need to do:

Step One:   Lose the hair extensions.  They make you look like a grown-up version of those kids on Toddlers & Tiaras.  You've said that you're doing this for all the moms out there -- stop trying to look like a fashion model and go back to looking like the pretty, real, mom that you are.

Step Two:  Acknowledge that you suck as a dancer.  Admit it to your partner; admit it to the judges -- and, damn it, admit it to yourself.  You're not going to win.  But we're not going to let you outlast Buzz Aldrin unless you have an attitude adjustment.  (And, yes, he sucks worse than you.  But he's happy to be there and voters like joy.)  So treat the experience as one where -- unlike your home -- you don't know everything.  Just take advantage of the chance to learn to dance with these people and have as much fun as you can.

Step Three:  Try to suck slightly less.  Listen to your partner.  Listen to the judges.  Watch the videos of your performances.  Here's a tip:  when you're unsure of your steps, you're not fooling anyone by doing them really small.  All eyes are on you anyway.  Go BIG.  If you go outrageously wrong, go outrageously wrong BIG.  Leave it to your world champion partner to change his steps and cover for you.  That's his job.

Step Four:  Be nice.  Look, I don't know if all the "diva" rumors I've been reading are true, but let's just put it this way:  There are plenty of people way more famous than you who they could've signed to be on the show instead of you.  Recognize this -- when you're not dancing, be humble, be generous, be complimentary and sweet as sugar.  I don't care if it's all fake. 

I'd much rather see fake kindness than fake hair.