Monday, November 29, 2010

NZ's Crazy Wacky Reward Trip...

... is now set in stone.  Which is more than we can say for my driveway.  Remember these guys?  Contractor One has now come up with a bid of $7,750 to redo the driveway in concrete with the brick border.  Interestingly, Contractor Three had bid $5,900 just for concrete and said it would be an additional two grand for the brickwork, whereas Contractor Two wouldn't bid it at all, but said doing it in concrete would be about $6000.  In other words, all my bids are in happy alignment.  This damn thing will cost about $6000 in concrete, or $8000 with concrete and bricks.  Or... Contractor One will just dig up and reset the one "trip hazard" line of bricks for $600, and I postpone tearing up my driveway for another year or so (depending on how fast the roots of the mulberry tree grow).  Tempting, really.  I generally like fixing stuff once and for all, rather than a stopgap measures, but if I'm going to put $6000 into my house, there are higher priority items.  (Like, say, curtains.  Maybe a carpet.)

(And the $200 I just paid to fix my trash compactor...  And the $600 a new circulation pump will cost me.  Yes, I know, we thought we had a cheap solution to that problem.  We did, until we discovered that the current circulation pump -- albeit the wrong one in the first place -- actually needs to be replaced.  Why?  Don't ask.  It's too stupid for words, really.*)

On to the reward trip, though, the planning of which is Way More Fun.  I mentioned thinking about making it more wacky the other night -- this because that there new Spider-Man musical just had its first preview last night in New York, and it sounds all kinds of interesting.  Now, being as I'm a critic type in L.A., I generally don't fly to New York for theatre trips anymore -- I just wait for shows to come to me.  But this Spider-Man thing has some 27 aerial stunts in it, so is somewhat site-specific.  In other words, if I'm going to see this as intended -- whether it's the most awesome thing ever or a sixty-five million dollar train wreck -- I should find a way to get my butt to New York.  And I should be able to accomplish that as part of this trip -- as you can fly from NY to London cheaper than you can fly from LA to London, and the difference should more than cover a cheap one-way between NY and LA.

I will not bore you with the many, many hours I spent almost getting this trip to work for exactly the same price as I had before.  (I came dangerously close a few times, but then the last leg would shoot up $150 for no reason ... or else I'd make it work, but then I'd arrive in London the day I had tickets to a dramatic play, and I always want something musical and/or funny that first night to defeat the jetlag.)  Four successive brainstorms and some date juggling later, and I ended up wiping out my frequent flier miles (thank you, Citibank credit cards that give AAdvantage miles) and getting the whole thing in Business Class for a couple hundred bucks in taxes and fees.  Now that, my friends, is a sweet reward.  :)

Better get back to the whole "sleep well, work well, lose weight" plan, in order to deserve this.

*OK, you can ask.  See, my idiot contractor installed a continuous circulation pump, which, as previously discussed, was bad for the health of my tankless water heater.  (It was also a "for indoor use only" pump -- when I complained, he built a box around it.  Why the hell the home inspector didn't fail him for that, I'll never know.)  ANYWAY, one plumber said he'd yank the pump and replace it with an on-demand pump for something like... I forget, $1200 maybe?  I thought this was way too high, so called THIS plumber to bid it.  He said, why bother with that when you can just install a $20 timer on the pump, so it (at least) isn't pumping 24/7?  This seemed reasonable -- the warranty on my tankless is already blown by the circulation pump, but a timer would greatly reduce further wear and tear.  BUT, when the plumber was out here, I mentioned that the circulation pump seems to be taking an awful long time to, well, circulate.  That it takes about 2 minutes for me to get hot water in the shower.  So we ran a test -- I unplugged the circ. pump, waited a couple hours, and then he came over to plug it back in and see how long it took for me to get hot water.  When he came to plug it back in, he said, "Well, first, we've gotta open this valve," and opened a partially-closed valve on the intake to the circ pump.  I said I'd never closed it.  He stared at me.  He then asked me how hot the circ pump was when I pulled the plug.  Answer: really, really hot.  He plugged it back in and discovered it took a couple minutes to get hot water with the pump on.  Add it all up to get ... are you ready? ... the circulation pump is burnt out because it wasn't getting enough water through it.  Opening the freakin' valve drastically improved my hot water pressure (which had been lousy ever since the contractor did the initial installation) and now sent enough hot water through the circ pump that it might actually work -- but a year and a half of grinding with insufficient fluid in there killed the pump.

To sum up:  I need a new circulation pump because my idiot contractor didn't open the valve all the way.  Now, I know damn well that this was his fault, not anyone else's, because nobody has touched the valve since he did and I was complaining about the hot water pressure way back then.  But I also know damn well he can go into court and say, "Of course I left the valve open; the meter reader must have jostled it," and I'll have nothing.  Annoyed.  Annoyed.  Annoyed.

Yes, must think about Crazy Wacky Funtime trip.  This makes me less annoyed.  :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Odds & Ends

1.  The storage solution is, apparently, a mid-size storage box (larger than a shoebox -- think: boot box) which I just emptied of other things.  It'll take the movie and theater tickets, the cassette tapes, and few other memory-type things I'm not ready to dispose of yet.  The Newark Airport fridge magnet, however, has to go.

2.  Holiday list drafted.  Exercised this morning as well.  This completes my Shit I Have To Do This Weekend requirements.  Go me.  Tomorrow promises to be exciting, too, as I apparently broke my trash compactor today, so I'll spend the morning waiting for the Kenmore repair guy.  While doing a big pile of work I'd much rather do at the office (but, on the plus side, at least I have it here so I can wait for the Kenmore guy).

3.  Good thing, too, as I just thought of a way to make "NZ's crazy wacky reward trip" even more crazy and wacky.  And it even appears to be doable.  (Something tells me that when I get home from the theatre tonight, I'll be playing internet travel agent for several more hours.) 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Junk ... or memories?

Did a couple more boxes today (and exercised -- should probably get started on the holiday shopping list).  

I had a bit of a brainstorm on the books this morning -- right around when I struck a couple books from Hebrew School.  Because, I mean, I can't throw them out -- there's probably some sort of religious prohibition against it -- but I have no need for them to take up space, either.  So, while I put out one box to be filled with "junk," I put out another box for "book junk" and a third for "electronic junk."  They'll all go away by some combination of junk hauler, donation, e-waste recycling, and/or yard sale.  So, I unpacked with a new enthusiastic spirit today -- saving the few items I actually want, and more or less "sorting" all the rest.

And the question isn't so much why I brought this stuff over from the condo (rather than throwing it out over there) but how it ended up at my condo to begin with.  I found my old 64-color box of crayons (with the built-in sharpener in the back).  I bought the condo in '95.  I haven't used crayons since ... what? the '70s?  Yet the crayolas found their way into storage in my condo -- coming out to surprise me now in my new home.  I'm forty-freakin'-two; I think it's time to let the crayons go.

I then found my old "School Memories" book, which my mom filled with all sorts of info through my Elementary School years.  It was in a ziplock with various other goodies, like the little door-knocker that had been on my bedroom door when I was growing up.  I put it next to my Baby book with the vague goal of finding a place for both of them later.

And then I found the horseshoe with my name on it.  I'm pretty sure it was on my wall growing up.  In Maryland.  I moved to California when I was 8.  How the hell did that horseshoe end up with me now?

(It was a tough call whether to keep or toss the horseshoe.  The deciding factor was that my name was written on it in such a way that you'd have to hang the horseshoe like an upside-down "U" to read it.  But everybody knows that if you hang it that way, all the luck will run out.  So, I figured that the luck must be long-since expended by now, and tossed it.)

I did keep, though, a series of four cassette tapes.  I can't tell you exactly when they date back to, but I'm going to guess college.  I used to send cassettes back and forth with a good friend when we were at school in different cities.  (By the time I was in Law School, I think we'd upgraded to computer disks.)  I couldn't throw the tapes out.  I just saw her the other day -- she and her husband came out for her annual Thanksgiving visit.  One of these days, we'll have to sit down and listen to them.  There should probably be wine involved.  

But I did throw a lot more out.  Including two old cell phones.  (And when you read that, realize that I kept two more old cell phones, so I've been hanging on to these for a very long time.)  I threw out an old answering machine, a few old landlines, an old handheld, and an old ... well, I think it was trying to pass for a laptop at the time.  Some math books.  Some law books.  

I just gave up on tonight's unpacking because I found the Ziplock full of movie ticket stubs.  I'd been collecting ticket stubs since Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  I apparently stopped at X-Men: The Last Stand.  That's upwards of 20 years of movie ticket stubs.  There was a time when I could look at a ticket stub and remember where I saw the movie and who I saw it with.  They were little memory triggers.  And now, my thought is just, "Really?  I saw X-Men: The Last Stand?"  I've got a similar box of theatre ticket stubs -- although it's even harder for them to trigger memories, as the stubs back in the early '80s didn't list the show titles.  So, now I've got to figure out what I saw in row CC in 1986.  (I do, actually.  But that one was special.)  But I stopped collecting theatre ticket stubs when I became a critic (and started collecting press kits instead -- I've got filing cabinets for them).  So, do I toss the old tickets?  Do I throw out my proof that I saw Springsteen in '85?  Or do I find a place for the Ziplock of ticket stubs?

The decision was apparently too much for me to make.  I'm postponing it until tomorrow.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Go me!

Apparently, this motivation thing is good for me.

Exercise -- check
Put stuff from temporary storage into wall unit -- complete
Unpack at least one box -- unpacked three boxes (all with books, many of which found homes in the wall unit, and/or the shelving where I'd been temporarily storing stuff that belonged in the wall unit).

I do, however, own too much junk.  I mean, really -- what the hell am I supposed to do with the box of 5 1/4  inch disks?  (Not just 3 1/2s, mind, 5 1/4s.  Back when floppies were actually floppy.)  Hell, we're talking about something I haven't even had the hardware to access for over 20 years.  D'you think that maybe it's time to just take a pair of scissors to them?  And I can't really think of anything else to do with the nice plastic storage box for them, either.  I guess I never threw it out because it's a perfectly good plastic storage box, but, damn, I've only got so much room in my garage, ya know?

And the books.  I know I'm in trouble when I'm sorting my books, and I've got categories of:
Books I didn't like;
Books I never intend to read; and
Books I'm so embarrassed I even own, I intend to shelve them behind other books.

This may be why I've procrastinated about unpacking for so long.  Everything that hasn't been unpacked is, pretty much by definition, something I haven't really missed not having over the past 18 months.  So, with each box, it's a new discovery of something I forgot I had, very likely don't need, and have to figure out a place for in the unlikely event I may want it in the future.  Either that, or it goes in a "yard sale" or "junk" pile.

Well... I still have the rest of the weekend, more boxes, and a holiday list to do.  :)

I promise.

And I'm putting it here out in public so I'll have to do it.

Item One:  Exercise Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Item Two:  Actually move stuff from its "temporary storage" into the wall unit I had installed in, what? February?
Item Three:  Unpack at least one box (from when I moved in a year and half ago).
Item Four:  Commence creation of the (dreaded) Holiday Shopping list.

(Oh, and speaking of Item Four, if you're someone I exchange holiday presents with, and you, like me, are of the Jewish persuasion, what say we agree to move Hanukkah down a few weeks?  Because, damn, I am so not ready for that one to start in less than a week.)

Bottom line:  I've got three whole days with, near as I can tell, nothing that must be done.  (I finished my take-home work on Wednesday, and no obligations other than a musical on Sunday night -- unless the neighbors require the neighborhood holiday decorations go out this weekend.)  I've taken the firstest step in giving myself my reward for getting shit done, so now I damn well better get the aforementioned shit accomplished.

Updates to follow.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving Memory

From the posts below, you can clearly see I've got a lot to be thankful for.  My family, my friends, my purry little princess...  my job which supports my theatre habit, my re-elected boss, my house which needs a new driveway... my local theatre critic gig (which also supports my theatre habit), the internet (which makes the previously impossible possible)... the coolness of my country (which I often overlook when we're being dicks to each other)... modern technology in general, good health, and all the tremendous things humans can achieve when we're at our best.

So, yes, I am all kinds of thankful for the awesomeness in my life.  I'm sometimes afraid that even blogging about it will in some way tempt fate, but I think it's generally a good idea to acknowledge that all the good shit one has isn't simply a matter of desert - for to do so would be implying that those without are somehow fully responsible (which I refuse to believe, especially when you're talking about things like health or being born into poverty or a country of limited opportunity).  So whether one wants to attribute the good things in one's life to a Supreme Being, the machinations of the universe in general, or a very, very lucky confluence of circumstances (of birth, genetics, choices, and a whole lot of being in the right place at the right time), I am, in fact, quite grateful, and send my thanks out generally to the forces responsible.

(That includes you, Mom & Dad.)

Er... that was supposed to be the short preamble... I think I got caught up in it.  The meat of this post was intended to be a memory of Thanksgiving 1991.  Living in Philadelphia, clerking for a federal court judge.  Took a train down to Maryland to spend Thanksgiving with various relatives who live in the area.  Someone (a Great Aunt, can't remember which) forgot to make gravy for the turkey -- a fact which a cousin and I still joke about to this day.  ("Hmm.  This turkey's a little dry.  If only there were a moist tasty substance one could put on it that would make it go down easier.")

1991, though.  That's significant.  I'd taken the California Bar Exam in July, so, of course, every single person I'm related to had to ask me if I'd passed the Bar yet.

Annoying.  Results were out, but this was pre-internet, so there was no way to find out.  The call-in lines wouldn't open until later.  My result, in fact, was very likely sitting in my mailbox in Philadelphia -- but I was in Maryland, so just didn't know.  (The result had originally been scheduled to be mailed to my parents' house in California.  I made various phone calls and sent in a form to change this.  I knew that I could deal with the possibility of failing the Bar -- the one thing I could not deal with was having my mother call me to tell me I'd failed.  Even now, I can imagine her sympathetic "Oh, Sharon" coming down the phone line.  It was probably the fear of that, more than any adverse career consequences, that made my study my ass off that summer.)

ANYWAY, results back in my mailbox in Philadelphia -- me surrounded by curious relatives a couple States away.  I'd been really good about Not Freaking Out about waiting for the results for the nearly four months since the exam, but the combination of knowing that the results now actually existed and everyone asking me if I'd heard yet was driving me up the wall.  But I put it behind me and did my best to enjoy the dry turkey.

A friend drove me to the train station.  (My family had been trying to fix me up with him.  Just ran into him the other day at my cousin's kid's Bat Mitzvah.  He's now married with 3 kids.  Time -- wow.)  I was not the best travelling companion.  Especially when he got lost and couldn't find the entrance to the train station.  I mean, we could see the station, and my train was leaving in just a few minutes, but he couldn't actually get from the road we were on to the station.  I'd been pretty good all night, but if he didn't get me to the station soon, I was going to explode.  (I believe I may have politely said, "Look, I've been pretty good all night, but if you don't get me to the station soon, I'm going to explode."  Come to think of it, it wasn't so politely said.  I may have dropped the F-bomb in that sentence.  Twice.)  Fear, I think, motivated him to new heights of navigation, and I made my train.

The rest, of course, is history.  Got home that night, ran to my mailbox, found the great big envelope from the California State Bar.  The great big envelope had a little pouch on the front with a big "Open This First" arrow which leads you to the letter that begins with "We are pleased to inform you..."  Ahhh.  Relief.  Excitement.  Desire to call all my relatives and tell them.  The first person I shared the happy news with?  The doorman at the Ben Franklin House apartments.

(Man, I am so thankful for that letter.)

I believe the word in question is "Squeee."

Yeah, OK, I've been all mysterious about this reward thingy I've been planning for myself, and it isn't all that mysterious (particularly as about half my friends know I've been trying to put this together), but, basically, I'm planning to go to London in the Spring.

Now, me planning to go to London is not insanely unusual.  Me planning to go to London this coming Spring is -- because I've sorta just got back from there, and will be dropping by again in July as part of a family vacation.  And me getting to London twice in a twelve-month period is unusual ... three times in a twelve-month period is kind of insane.

(But, but, but ... I really want to go in the Spring.  Like most of my trips out there, it's scheduled because there's a play I want to see, and said play is only running the Spring.  (And there are other less high-brow things I'd like to see too.  No doubt the latter will still be running when I'm there with my parents in July, but there are other things I'd like to take my parents to, and I realize there are only so many things that they'll put up with for me.)

So, add up at least two things I want to attend in London in March, a bunch of things I didn't get to do when I was there in September, cheap(ish) Spring airfares, the fact that I have a real bear of a thing at work to get done in February, and well, the whole thing starts to look downright irresistible.  

Of course, since I'll be coughing up several grand for the new driveway, and I have no real justification for doing this, it's totally on the cheap, so I'm shopping cheapo hotels and B&Bs (although not this cheap), and also trying to keep the reward element of it going by making myself do all the stuff I have to do before I go.

But tickets to the play just went on sale.  Well, they went on sale in what passes for "today," when you're dealing with an internet box office in a time zone 8 hours ahead of you.  I was planning to (somewhat against my will, but within the range of my own bad habits) stay up as late as 2:00 a.m., checking the website every hour or so.  Tickets weren't yet on sale just after midnight, but I happened to be poking around their website for another 15 minutes and suddenly noticed that they were.  This was a very happy thing -- got my ticket shortly after they became available, and I didn't have to wait another hour to find out that they were, in fact, available.

But I got my ticket!  (Squeee!)  Which means I'll be going to London!  (Re-squeee!)

(Now... to book the cheapo flight...)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

ContractorFest 2010

As of yesterday, I'd lined up 3 driveway guys and a plumber to come bid the driveway and the continuing plumbing issues respectively.

And now, the results:

Let's get the plumber out of the way.  He had a cheap cheap solution to the problem, although he recommended coming back next week and running further tests to diagnose if there's anything else wrong he can fix.  I like the cheap cheap solution, and the idea of further testing.  We'll call him back after Thanksgiving.

On to the driveway, then.  I've got a concrete driveway with a few ribbons of bricks running across.  Tree roots are pushing up one of the brick ribbons, and causing cracks in the concrete.  I need folks to bid both:  (a) repairing the brick ribbon; (b) replacing the whole damn driveway.

Contractor One:  Came on time.  Took a zillion measurements.  Will provide a bid for replacing the brick ribbon and another bid for replacing the driveway (brick ribbons included).  He agreed that replacing the brick ribbon wouldn't really solve the problem but is more of a stopgap measure.  The problem is that picking up the bricks themselves won't get at the tree roots -- we'd have to demolish quite a bit of the driveway to get to the roots and cut them back.  If he replaces the driveway, he'd be able to get at the roots.  The full replacment bid will be for replacing the driveway with brick ribbons (pretty much to the same pattern as I have now) -- and will also include replacing all the bricks around the edge of the driveway (which are on their sides, and form a 1/2-brick high retaining wall for the landscaping).  He measured every inch of this thing, and will get a bid to me over the weekend.

Contractor Two:  I had doubts about Contractor Two to begin with, as he was the only one who didn't respond to my initial email within 24 hours.  When he finally did respond, he asked for both my address and directions to my house -- which seemed a little odd as I generally expect contractors to know how to use google maps by now.  Then, this morning, he emailed again, asking for my phone number.  He called to discuss the job with me and said, in so many words, that he wouldn't bid replacing the bricks and didn't want me wasting his time having him out here unless I was prepared to pay for an entire new driveway.  I told him that whether I replaced the driveway would depend on the bids.  He said (sight-unseen) that your regular all-American standard driveway would run at least $6000 to replace (making me think that mine would cost more, as it curves 90 degrees to make it to the garage) and again wanted me to commit to spending that much before he came out.  I told him (again) that replacement was definitely a viable option, but I wouldn't make a decision until I got all the bids.  He told me that he'd come out by 1:00 today and would call before coming -- and that if he doesn't call, he's not coming.  It's now 1:30.  Clearly, he doesn't want this job.

Contractor Three:  Showed up early.  Told me honestly that he wouldn't bid replacing the bricks alone because it's too small a job and he'd want way too much money for it.  Suggested I get a handyman if I want to go that route.  Told me the most economical replacement solution would be to replace the driveway with colored concrete (no bricks) and that he'd score the concrete in a diamond pattern.  When I asked about the brick border, he said he'd leave it, and would tidy it up for me.  Took two measurements, whipped out a calculator, and handed me a written estimate for $5900.  (Said that if he did the brickwork, it would go up to about $8000.  Like I'm going to pay an extra two grand for bricks.)

I think the lesson to be learned here is that Contractor Two is a jerk.  It's looking pretty likely that either Contractor One or Contractor Three is going to get the job ... and for the ballpark $6000 figure that Contractor Two wanted me to agree upon before deigning to come out and give me an estimate.  There's a lesson here someplace.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Because I'm four...

I'm really digging this whole reward idea.  It's just that it's totally frivolous and I have absolutely no justification for it.  This is turning out to be part of its charm.  Because, apparently, once I get my hands on an idea for something totally frivolous, I totally want it and won't let go.

(And maybe, if I continue to properly look at it as a reward, it will motivate me to do all that stuff I'm trying to do.)

But, to be fair to, oh, my wallet, I think I should at least find out how much fixing the driveway is going to cost.  I've got three contractors coming over tomorrow to bid the driveway (some only minutes apart -- it'll be a wonder if I don't end up with a bidding war in my front yard) and a plumber to bid the water heater circulation pump for good measure.  (Yeah, being a homeowner is fun.)  But I figured I'd work at home tomorrow (brought a big pile of work home), so I lined up a pre-Thanksgiving contractor-fest.

So.  More news when I find out how much a new driveway is.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Lori commented below that my boss is great.  He is, actually.  I'm mighty pleased he got re-elected.

He is, though, one of those people who is pretty darned easy to work for, because as long as you get the work done in a timely manner, he doesn't particularly care how you do it, where you do it, which hours you spend doing it, or whether you're professionally attired when you do it.  I think the working world would be a better place if more bosses were like this -- but I realize that we do have some flexibility in our particular little corner of the world, in that we don't have anything annoying like clients to deal with, so he can pretty much set his own rules.

The attempt to get more sleep/get more shit done has been going fairly well -- have been getting to work in the general vicinity of 9:30 and leaving in the 6:00ish neighborhood, and have focussed a lot more on productivity, with the result of actually producing work product, so I reckon that's all good.

FORCED myself to do stuff around the house today.  (Finally registered a stupid VAT-refund card online so that I won't get back-charged 10 dollars for a purchase in Ireland ... I've been procrastinating on that one ever since I got back.)  But I did that, and other things too (laundry!  bought cat litter!  sent emails to contractors to bid the crack in my driveway!) largely by promising myself a reward if I do everything I've got to get done.

.... it's a fairly big reward.  I think I might have to lose five pounds and unpack some of those boxes (more than a year since I've moved in) if I'm really going to deserve it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day Off

I asked my boss if I could take today off "for no good reason."

(Sometimes honesty is best.)

Boss was cool about this.  (I make a point to time these little discussions correctly -- generally, right after I've finished a project.  Ideally, one I'm particularly proud of.)

So, today, I spent my day off standing on Fairfax Avenue.  For five hours.

Which was really cool because:
(1)  I was with a friend;
(2)  We talked with some like-minded strangers; and
(3)  At the end of said five hours, (following a well-needed bathroom break), we got to see a taping of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

Tonight's show, in fact.

The Doctor Who special, as it were.  With Matt Smith as the guest.

(So, yeah, me and about 104 other geeks who were able to take the day off.)

There were some amusing mixed signals between the information the audience services people sent to us and the thought-processes of the show's producers.  The audience services people  -- via a special e-mail -- told us they were looking for huge Doctor Who fans, which encouraged some to, er, express their fandom in their attire, as it were.

(Yes, I wore a bow tie.  Shut up.  Bow ties are cool.)

The producers then proceeded to wig, because they were afraid we were more of a Doctor Who audience than a Craig Ferguson audience.  Many of us were both.

(He's a good part of the reason getting to bed by midnight is often such a challenge.)

So, anyway, we're all in line, and then the audience services people tell us about the producers' concern, and the next thing we know they're pulling people out of line and asking them to change what they're wearing.  So people wearing Doctor Who T-shirts were covering them with jackets, or putting on other shirts.  There was some dude in full Eleventh Doctor get up -- perfect copies of Matt Smith's shirt, bow tie, and jacket.  (Probably suspenders, too; I didn't see.)

They make him take his bow tie off.  So, by the time we're going through security, dude has lost his tie, opened his shirt a bit, and just seems like a regular guy in a tweed jacket.

They did not confiscate my bow tie.  (Nor did they do anything about the woman dressed like Amy.  I actually think they didn't know.  Certainly, the guys manning the metal detectors didn't know what to make of all the sonic screwdrivers people were bringing in.  But, seriously, we'd been encouraged by that earlier e-mail.)  Still, some people were asking me how I managed to get my bow tie in there when they made the other guy take his off.  (Probably because mine could pass for "a fashion choice.")

But the guy who took his off didn't actually put it in his car or anything.  It came in with him.  At some point during the taping, he puts it back on.

He does not get thrown out.

Instead, he ends up on television.

Because while the show's producers might not have been thrilled about someone in the audience dressed like the Doctor, Matt Smith noticed, and pointed it out during the interview with Craig.  The producers had no choice but to -- at the end of the show -- go back for a pick-up shot of the dude in his full get-up.  This struck me as, in some way, righting the universe.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


OK, here's the thing.  

There have been some, er, issues with weight loss around here, and I'm not talking about the cat.

I was holding steady but, annoyingly, not really losing weight, even though I was working out every damn morning.   (And the food was largely under control.)

The problem was that getting exercise and eating right was not, in fact, sufficient for weight loss.  Putting things another way, I was exercising every morning, with no excuses at all.  (Because I knew, quite correctly, that if I allowed an excuse, I'd quickly stop exercising altogether.)  The problem was, hauling ass out of bed to get on the elliptical at 7:00 isn't entirely productive when I only got to bed at 2:00 to begin with.  Even 45 minutes of exercise (which is what I was up to) doesn't really do shit on five hours of sleep.

So, I started looking at weight loss more as a matter of overall health -- which isn't just a balance of eating right and exercise, but more of a three-legged stool with sleep thrown in there.

OK, a four-legged chair, if we toss in less stress.

I'm sure there are more factors, but I'm going to stop before my metaphor turns into a spider.

And the interesting thing -- for me, anyway, is that all of those things can click into place if I get control of one thing:  time management.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm pretty good at balancing important things like getting all my work done and my bills paid and all that.  But I'm substantially less good at figuring how much time to allocate to things like playing on the internet or staring at the TV with a cat on my lap.  (And I know that I have to allow some time for that.  At one point, shortly after Law School, I had this brilliant plan of not wasting a second -- if I was going to watch TV, I should at least be ironing, or doing cross-stitch, or something.  This plan lasted a couple weeks, max.  There's a place in my life for time-wasting, I just have to limit it.)

The problem seems to be that I've been doing a bunch of my time-wasting at work.

See -- here's how things normally work:  I plan to get to work at 9:30.  I fail, and get there around 10:00 or even 10:30.  Co-workers come by and we shoot the breeze.  I get an email, and I stop and answer it.  (Idiots call and I talk to them.)  When I finish reading a case, I treat myselt to a little web-surfing.  I stay at my desk through lunch.  And because there hasn't been a whole lot of work getting done, I end up sticking around the office till about 7:00 or 7:30.  I get home after 8:00.  Eat dinner, feed cat, watch TV, surf web, watch TV, unwind.  The unwinding part of the day takes at least a couple hours.  Then, I get to sleep around 1:00, and wonder why I have trouble getting to work at 9:30 the next morning.

So, a couple weeks ago, I started trying to get my butt in bed by midnight.  A good start.

Then, last week, I started trying to get to work at 9:30 (which required speeding up my morning routine) and actually working.  I mean, really, really working.  I'd read the e-mails but not answer then.  I told coworkers I was on a rush and couldn't really talk.  Hung up on the idiots calling.

Result:  I could leave by 5:30, with more done than I normally would when I stay as late at 7:30.  (Hell, I could even take a lunch break, and use that time to talk with my coworkers.)  It's like I bought myself two more hours.  I could get home early, do my unwinding, spare a little time for wasting, and still get to bed by midnight.

Small progress -- I only started on Tuesday of last week, and I had Thursday off -- but for three days, I just about got it right.

(If I make this work for another week, I'll put the exercise back in there.)

The plan still needs work, though -- I haven't quite figured out how to balance weekends.  I had a nice big weekend with nothing to do (the meeting on Saturday got cancelled and everything).  It would've been a good time to pay bills, do laundry, do annoying paperwork (get my VAT refund from Ireland), and maybe even put some books in the wall unit I had built-in months ago.  What did I do instead?  Spent Saturday on the internet, and on the couch, with the cat.  Didn't do a damn thing on Saturday, and then rushed to get the most important things done today.

Still, it's a start.  I'm on track to get to sleep by midnight tonight, so, hopefully, I can keep good work hours again.  I've really GOT to get this right.  

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Laziest Thing Ever

I'd ordered two things from Amazon -- shipped by different carriers.  One arrived this morning.

I took a shower.  I got out of the shower.  I wondered if the other one arrived yet.

I went online to see if it had.

It had.  Now I'm going to walk all the way over to the front door to get it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Veterans Day!

So... you folks served the country with honor, and I get to sleep in on a Thursday.  I'm not quite sure how that happened.  (Before my boss, a Navy vet, left yesterday, I wished him a Happy Veterans Day.  He wished me one, too, which, again, seemed a bit odd.  Well, I mean, I s'pose he'd wish me a Happy Veterans Day in the same sense he'd wish me a Good Morning, but it struck me kind of like it would be if he wished me a Happy Fathers Day.  Superficially nice, but oddly inapplicable.)

Was pleased to see John Oliver wearing a poppy on last night's Daily Show.  I was once offered one for sale when I happened to be in England in November, and had no idea what it meant, why everyone was wearing one, and why some dude was trying to get me to buy one.  I wish he'd explained.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


How can it know?

My desktop computer has been operating a bit slow as of late.  I define "as of late" loosely, as in "over the past few months or so."  I've done some stuff to speed it up -- defragged the hard drive, installed Tune-Up Utilities, got rid of useless startup programs -- but it's still being a bit lethargic.  And then there's the annoying fact that Outlook got so buggy I switched to Thunderbird (I'm OK with that, but I still chalk up "buggy Outlook" against the computer), and I started to ask myself just how old this thing is anyway, and if I'm due for getting me a new one.

My account at Dell showed nothing for the past two years, (which I knew already as my McAfee subscription just ended, and I'm pretty sure I was on at least the three-year plan).

So, as long as I was on the Dell website, I thought I'd price out a new machine.  Just for kicks.  Research purposes only.  I certainly wasn't going to buy it.  (In fact, all that I really learned from the Dell website is that: (1) I need to do a lot of objective research into specs; and (2) Dell loads just as much crapware into its machines as ever.)

So, I shut it down and go to work.  (I don't even save the sample specs I ran.)

I come home from the office and crank up the computer.  

It won't boot.

I turn it off and on again.

It still won't boot.

I turn it off and on again and do the whole F2 thing.  Many things I don't understand show up on the screen, and by a combination of guesswork and luck, I get the computer to boot.

This cannot be coincidence.  It had to know I was researching its possible replacement.

Great.  Now I've got a testy computer here, working against me.

Edited to add:  Yeah, and it wouldn't even post this entry the first time I tried.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The promised Halloween photos

Not only is my Halloween costume a bit hard to "get," it also ain't easy to photograph.  (Although that may have something to do with the set-up of my house and the fact that there isn't a full-length mirror a sufficient distance from a piece of furniture.)

I digress.  A friend took this lovely shot of me in costume:

I know.  It looks suspiciously like me wearing jeans and a T-shirt with a something slung over my shoulder.  But there was a lot more effort involved in putting this together.  Note how the pattern of said thing over my shoulder is carried over in body paint on my arm.  And in fabric paint down the other sleeve and the leg of my jeans.  (Hours, people.)

See ... here's a close-up of the sleeve:

(There was actually a bit of an unfortunate error here.  I painted the jeans one night and the shirt the next.  On Halloween, I painted my arm before the trick-or-treaters came and then, after they left, dressed myself in the jeans and T-shirt, before running off to a Halloween party.  I carefully pulled the shirt on over my head and discovered I had it on backwards.  Yep, I painted the wrong sleeve.  What was supposed to happen is that the paint on my arm continues right up the sleeve.  Yeah.  Nice effect kinda ruined there.)

ANYWAY, your mission is to figure out what the hell I was trying to be here.

Hint:  The theme was "Myths and Legends."

In other Halloween photography, I bring you Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who I purchased so that the trick-or-treaters wouldn't trip over the loose bricks in my driveway.

Cost me $30, which is substantially less than I'll have to pay to get the driveway resurfaced.  Admittedly, a stopgap measure at best, but none of the children (or parents) took a dive, so it was well-spent.