Saturday, June 25, 2011

Thank You, New York...

... for making California look bad.


Back when I was in Law School, if you wanted to see the forefront of where the law was headed, you'd look to California (and, oddly, New Jersey).  While the courts of California are still in the business of doing their cutting-edge thing, the people of California took a giant step backwards, and now the legislature of New York showed us up.

The New York legislature passed marriage equality; the California legislature can't even pass a budget.  Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Still, I'm happy for my gay friends for this particular success.  Actually, I'm pretty much just happy for New Yorkers (and, to a degree, Americans in general), regardless of orientation.  This is a civil rights victory, and we should all be celebrating the elimination of a discriminatory law.  I do believe there is only one way this issue will ultimately be resolved, and the sooner we get there, the better.

(I still challenge anyone to give me a legitimate argument against gay marriage that does not involve imposing their own personal religious beliefs on everyone else.  Remember civil marriage is not religious marriage.  While a religious leader may "solemnize" a civil marriage; the legal institution is itself purely civil.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Finally! The photo saga ends

Yes.  Well.  That was exciting.

Getting the photos fixed took three trips to the place, a phone call and an email, but, thanks to the help of a manager who was as frustrated with the lab as I was, we finally got it.

Clearly, I prefer the one on the right.  (And/or bottom.)  While it is the same photo, I think the shiny reflection off my glasses makes my eyes look better.  And, bonus, they did some good 'shopping over there next to my right eye, so that you look through my glasses and see hair, rather than extra face.

They also did the colorizing they'd promised on the casual looking one, which now looks like this:

I went with the grey background basically because the red wall looked totally fake, so I wanted to force it more into the background since, hey, it's all about me.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Jamie Oliver Would Be So Proud

At Costco, I bought, like, 12 chicken breasts, and a ton of corn, potatos, and fruit.

I came home and realized I'd have to cook it.  (Well, not the fruit.  Although I did spend about a half hour decapitating three pounds of strawberries.)

I stared at the chicken breasts.  For some reason, it was about 9:30 when the staring commenced.  (Oh, right, spent an hour on the Verizon website trying to find a way to give them more money.  You'd think they'd be more user-friendly when the issue comes down to "gee, I'd like to pay for higher speed DSL.  Sigh.)

So.  Contemplated today's packet of two chicken breasts.  In wanting to prepare them quickly, I remembered that I'd bought some of them Ziplock Microwave Steam Bags.  They claim to work with poultry.  Chicken is poultry.

I also have a lemon (I have lots -- I have a tree).  And, come to think of it, some rosemary.  Rosemary lemon chicken.  That sounds like food, right?

(I am ashamed to admit that, although I purchased the rosemary about two years ago, I haven't yet opened it.)

I take the plastic cap off the rosemary, and take a few lemon slices.  Put chicken in bag.  Put lemon slices on chicken.  Sprinkle with rosemary, as though I know what I'm doing.

Cook for about 6 1/2 minutes in the microwave.  What comes out is cooked chicken.  Smelling like rosemary.  And it's sorta soaking in lemon juice.  I take it out of the bag and taste it.

It's juicy as hell.  Not even tasteless.  

I'm very pleased with myself.

So ... Costco

As per usual, I walk into Costco expecting to buy one thing (eyeglasses) and leave with ... rather more.

My local Costco (and, perhaps, all Costcos) has discontinued frameless glasses.  Apparently, they're sick of the damn things breaking on everyone.  So, as I did at Lenscrafters, I picked out a pair of "close enough" half-frames.  As it turned out, the best looking ones were the house brand, so the frame was a whopping $40.  They hooked me up with the same lightweight brown Transitions lenses, with the same two week waiting period (actually, perhaps a bit less), and the whole thing totalled out to about half what Lenscrafters wanted to charge.  And I'll probably get at least $75 of that back (perhaps more) once I submit a claim to my insurance (which, apparently, they're authorized for).  So, yay.

And then I proceeded to walk around Costco.  I stopped for the $1 hotdog for sustenance, and attacked.  Two hours later and I was packing my car with three hundred and forty-three dollars worth of stuff.  And no one purchase was more than $30.  So, I mean, I got a lot of stuff.

After a while, I was sort of shopping in a daze.  By the time I hit the non-prescription drug aisle, I was just mumbling things like, "Ooo, Advil," and throwing a box in my cart.  

I even ended up buying their crappy tasting energy drink -- this because the nice man gave me a free bottle of it and it actually gave me enough energy to make my way through the rest of the store.  Getting through Costco actually requires quite a bit of energy, so I thought it was a pretty good energy drink.

The Last Straw

I haven't bought glasses at Lenscrafters in years.  I had an unfortunate customer service issue with them years ago, so switched to my local optician.  Who takes my insurance and everything.  

The problem is that the glasses I bought from my local optician crapped out on me after just about a year.  Twice.

And it's a somewhat urgent matter that I get new ones.  The frame on my current glasses is so bent out of shape, I get headaches every night.  (Not from a bad prescription, from the shitty frames.)  So, I'm in something of a hurry, and I figure that the sooner I get new specs ("about an hour") the better.

So, I scared up a copy of my prescription (Thank you, Doctor Velez, for checking the "good for two years" box) and headed over to the shopping mall after work, to try Lenscrafters again.  (I purposely chose this branch because it was not the one I had the customer service issue with, all those years ago.  And this one couldn't even find me in their computer, so I know there wasn't a "dick with this customer" note flagged on my account.)

OK.  So, here's me with my prescription, at about 6:30.  First thing I notice is that I can't get frameless glasses here.  My prescription is too strong.  Other places will give me frameless glasses, but not Lenscrafters.  Whatever.  I can get the half-frames.  They don't look all that bad.

Takes about 45 minutes to find decent half-frames.  They aren't exactly what I want (and they aren't frameless) but they'll do.  They're also something like $240.  But they have a 40% off sticker.

Fine.  I sit down with my Lenscrafters Associate to buy them.

She's new.  She keeps having to run over to her manager (or the guys in the lab) to ask questions, but I'm cool with that.  New people gotta learn some time.  I put on my encouraging face and laugh with her when she can't make the computer do what it's supposed to do.

She types in my info, my scrip, and the frame info.  She gives me the 30% AAA discount.  She uses this weird digital camera thingie to take my picture so the frames will align perfectly on my face.  This takes a great deal of time, as it's new to Lenscrafters, and therefore does not want to behave.  I discover this new tech with her.

She asks me what type of lenses I want.  I tell her to tell me about the different types they have (go on, make a sale) and she can't entirely do this.  Somehow, she muddles through, and we manage to select the Featherwates (whatever) with normal AR, and brown transitions.  

The whole thing is over $400 -- inclusive of the 30% discount.


It is at this point that the Sales Associate informs me that their lab closes at 8:00 (even though the mall closes at 9:00) so, since it is now 7:30, they won't be able to get my glasses until tomorrow.

Let's review:  $400 for glasses I don't even like, and now they won't be ready until tomorrow?  Sheesh.  I am annoyed, but resigned.  (It's late enough for my current frames to be starting on their headache again.)

Reviewing the order, I ask if the AAA discount is on top of the 40% frame discount.

She had missed the "40% off" sticker on the frames.

Turns out she can't stack discounts.  But the 40% sticker would apply to the frames and lenses, and she knows that 40% off is, as a general rule, better than 30% off.  She'll delete the AAA discount and go with the 40% off.

She can't delete it without redoing the whole order (with the digital photo and all the rest).  Eventually, the manager has the bright idea of whipping out a calculator, figuring the difference, and just applying it as a "manager's discount" at the end of the sale.

We're under $400 now.  I still can't figure out why I am being charged BOTH for photo coating for the lenses AND for Transitions (as Transitions IS a photo coating).  Sales Associate can't figure it out either.  Manager says "That's just the way we bill it."  Whatever.

Sales Associate is at the stage where she prints out the ticket.  She disappears into the lab for five, ten minutes.  Returns to inform me that "the brown Transitions are a special order; we'll have them for you in seven to ten business days."

I make the "Pardon me?" face.

She says they have the grey ones in stock.  Of course, that would look pretty stupid on copper frames.

OK, let me review:  
- These are glasses I don't really like
- You won't take my insurance
- I have to pay nearly $400
- AND you can't get them for two weeks??

I apologize to the new sales associate profusely, and cancel the order.

Screw it.  I'm going to Costco.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


The photos did not come out exactly as planned.  There were four I was supposed to get, and I had to give them back two to redo ... and, now that I got the disk home, I realize that they need to re-do a third one as well.  Bless 'em, though, they took them back, no questions asked, and said they'd redo them.  Which is a good thing.

The main problem arose from a bit of over-enthusiastic photoshopping.  The deal was, of course, that they'd spiff up the pics and make them look all perfect and professional and stuff.  The problem was this:  as I mentioned yesterday, all the pics had my glasses on.  And, what with flash photography and all, there was a certain glare on my glasses.  I actually liked the glare.  It put a light source in the pictures and made the specs look all shiny.  They took out the glare.  What I didn't realize is what happens when they take out the glare:

Oh look!  It's my eyes, looking in two different directions.

The glare is going back in.

There's something else wrong with this picture.  You probably can't notice it, but it jumped out at me and reminded me of the other humorous incident which happened during my photo session:

 I had a hangnail and was bleeding.  They didn't have a band-aid or anything, so while Daisy was doing my makeover, I sat there with a paper towel wrapped around my hand, doing my best not to bleed on my white shirt.  I was pretty cautious in most photos to hide this finger, so that the dried blood wouldn't show up in the pics.  I was told they'd "take it out in post," but I bet their editor guy didn't even see it.

The next picture is (as far as I know) the only one they don't have to fix.  I think I could've gotten the pose a little better my own self, but I think it's kinda playful (and the soles of those shoes are never going to be so photo-worthy again):

(See?  Total That Girl hair.)

This other one is close to right ... they were supposed to do something funky with the background and didn't do it.  Which is cool and all, except I actually paid for it, so I've gotta call them tomorrow and ask them to fix that one too.  But the picture is a much less girly shot, and rather more representative of how I normally look, so I like it:

OK, no, I don't normally straighten my hair, wear too much makeup, and lean artistically in the shadows against a fake brick wall. But compared to the retro dress, saddle shoes, pearls, and rhinestone headband, it's totally me.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Photo Session

Had me a groupon for some photos at a local makeover/photo session place, so I went a week ago.

The real problem with an experience like this one is that the whole thing was so damn hilarious, I wanted to document it in photographs for y'all, but the photos are, like, $50 a pop, and they weren't included in my groupon package.  (No, the package that included a bunch of photos came up on groupon yesterday.  Lovely.)  So, I mean, I can tell you all about it, but I only ordered a couple pics, so you really can't see the fun of the whole experience.

I had photos done at one of these places before (actually, it was the same place, but under prior ownership).  It was spontaneous at the time, so I didn't come prepared with "three complete outfits," as they recommend -- I just walked in from the mall and modelled whatever spare dresses they had hanging around.  (The photo I eventually purchased was taken with me wearing a dress several sizes too small.  It was totally unzipped in the back.)  So, this time, I was totally prepared -- three complete outfits, including shoes and jewelry.

So, after I haul my suitcase in there (ok, just a garment bag and backpack), I plop myself down in the makeover chair.  My makeup artist (Daisy, I think) asked me how I want my makeup.  I'm about to stare at her blankly (um, tidy?) when inspiration strikes and I say, "What are my choices?"  She says, "natural, evening, or somewhere in between."  I say "natural" and make a mental note to ask for "multiple choice" the next time I get an open-ended question I don't know the answer to.

I spend the next half-hour silently chuckling to myself over the fact that Daisy's version of "natural" makeup is about twice as heavy as what I put on for "evening."  (Hell, it's twice as much as I put on when I'm going on stage at an awards show, and I know the lighting is going to wash me out.)

Daisy's mistake -- the mistake that probably cost this operation a photo purchase or two -- is what she did with my hair.  To be fair, I gave Daisy totally free rein here.  I was getting my hair cut the next day, so she could do whatever the hell she wanted.  She suggested straightening it; I was down with that.  She then suggested "putting a curl at the bottom, like a 1970s style."  I was not down with that.  Actually, one of my outfits was a '50s thing, and I didn't want to mix eras.  I pointed this out to Daisy.  She assured me that the curl would be subtle and it would work.

Well, you'll see the results.  If I had bangs, it would be just like Marlo Thomas.

So, with my face heavily painted and my hair all That Girled, I'm handed off from Daisy to Michael, the photographer.  I'm wearing Outfit Number One -- the casual thing.  Jeans and a white shirt.  Nothing particularly exciting.  Michael takes a collection of photos -- some with my glasses and some without.

Oddly -- really, really oddly -- I will end up preferring the pictures with the glasses.  I don't know if this is just a quirk of how the photos turned out, or if I'm actually, y'know, more comfortable with my look when I'm wearing specs.  Either way, this is a change from, like, every other photo I've ever taken.

Michael sends me off to change, and I put on my cocktail dress.  I say "my cocktail dress" as it's the only one I own.  I just bought it, and I'm quite pleased with it -- both because it was cheap as all hell, and because it fits me like a glove.  Nice, slimming, low cut... you get the idea.  I brought this as Outfit Number Two because I actually wanted to show y'all a picture of it.  Michael poses me standing around, leaning against a column, whatever.  He then asks me to sit on the ground (not the easiest thing in a tight skirt, but I manage).  Then to walk my arms forward.  I have an unfortunate Little Miss Sunshine flashback, and say, "So... this would be the cleavage shot?"  Michael says, "You got me," and snaps the picture.  

Michael will later attempt to convince me to buy the cleavage shot.  I tell him I don't think my parents would be interested in it.  Michael thinks it would be a mistake to let it go.  I actually give the picture an objective evaluation before ditching it -- the problem is, it's a lousy smile and my hair is hanging wrong.  I realize that nobody will be looking at my smile, but I ditch the photo anyway.  (Sorry, guys -- it ain't worth the $50.)

The difficult choice was the picture he took after the cleavage shot.  At this point, he had my lie down on a sofa and he took the shot from above.  In posing me, he suggested I let me hair pool behind me and run my fingers through it.  (He did not add "seductively," but I figured that out all by myself.)  I laugh.  I tell Michael that this is clearly a natural position, and that this is, in fact, how I lie on the couch when I'm watching TV all the time.  And then I think, silently, "well, I guess it depends what I'm watching.  Hmmm, wonder when Thor is coming out on DVD..."  I start laughing.  Right then, Michael snaps the picture. 

This is frustrating because -- what with the lovely effects gravity has one your face when you're lying down, and the fact that it was my only genuine smile in the entire photo session -- it was actually the best shot of my face that he got.  The downside, obviously, is that even if we cropped it, I'm still lying in a puddle of my hair, running my fingers through it.  It hurt to let this one go; it really did.  I make a mental note to try to amuse myself into genuine laughter in future photography sessions.

Onward to the Outfit Number Three.  They'd suggested I bring "something casual, something dressy, and something fun."  I'm sure everyone has different definitions of "fun" here, but I like to think I gave Michael a bit of a challenge with my '50s retro outfit.  (I've actually been putting this together for months -- once I got the dress and the crinoline, it took a couple months to find the shoes, and I didn't find the socks until just that day.  I even picked up a little rhinestone headband that morning just because.)  Michael managed a variety of cute poses for this one, and I picked a couple of these up, which will be shared with you fine people.

(I'm told the pictures are in -- I'll try to pick them up after work tomorrow.)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

X-Men: First Class

I happily report adoring X-Men: First Class.  As superhero movies go, it ranks dangerously close to the original Iron Man -- in that it's really good as a just plain movie, which happens to go all superhero on you as the plot requires.  

(I should admit here that I honestly don't give a crap about whether it was faithful to the comic books.  My experience with X-Men is limited to seeing the other movies (once each, when they came out) and remembering ... well, remembering just enough about them for me to think this one fits seamlessly into the set, and to laugh at all appropriate references.)

But it does a fantastic job of establishing the relationship between Charles Xavier and Erik (soon-to-be Magneto) -- a relationship which I can only describe as "complex," and good for them, really, for going into that level of grey in a big summer action movie.

I can't entirely describe what was so terrific about it without being really, really spoilery, so I'll just be all sorts of obtuse and say that, a couple times in the movie, there's a really clunky piece of dialogue, which made me think, "Wow, that's a really clunky piece of dialogue."  But, ultimately, there's a third piece of clunky dialogue, which is simultaneously the most wrong thing that could possibly be said at that moment, and also the most right one.  The movie hinges on it, really.  And, in retrospect, it made me forgive the earlier badly-written lines, because you almost needed a small trail of bad lines in the movie, so that the ultimate one didn't sound like it was coming completely from left field.  Very neatly done.

My audience applauded at the end of the movie.  Most of us stayed through the credits, too, as we've been trained to expect a post-credits scene.  There wasn't one -- and, during the credits, I was questioning if there would be.  The film was so complete as it was, I couldn't think of anywhere else they could go with it.  

Yeah.  Likin' me some X-Men.