Thursday, March 31, 2005

The end

Terri Schiavo died today and I don't feel sad at all; in fact, I feel nothing but relief that finally, finally this sorry spectacle is over and that Terri Schiavo is at peace. My detachment over Terri's death is not a question of heartlessness as without a personal connection to Terri, any emotion I profess to feel could be correctly construed as insincere. Any condolence I offer would be of the most perfunctory and automatic nature, rendering any words worthless.

I look at pictures of mourners throwing themselves upon the manicured lawns of the Woodside Hospice Facility and I wonder at the profoundness of their grief for a woman they never knew in life, yet feel like she's one of their own. There's an emotional distance they've managed to cross, but it's one that seems next to impossible to me. Whether it's genuine grief at the passing of one woman -- when such drama and death plays out every single day in every single state -- or whether this show of grief is really concealing disappointment over a 'defeat' for the anti-abortion forces. I find the latter more understandable and honest than the former, but I understand why the confusion exists.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Randomosity

The real excitement is over in jemima's blog, but I also couldn't let the month of March come to an end without bringing you the giant page of Peeps links. My personal favorite has always been the Peep Research Institute. And if Peeps don't whet the appetite, how about breakfast?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Your taxpayer dollars at work

Head's up credit for the following goes to Jessica, but Virginians who didn't know it, Governor Warner is a poet! Check out his commemoration on the occasion of his signing House Bill 2579:

I took some grief for my nudist park pun.
But resist I cannot on this one.
I will sign this bill,
more or less of free will.
But I can't do it without having some fun.

We have a state dog and a fish and a bird.
And of the fossil I’m sure you have heard.
So why not a bat?
What's wrong with that?
The state beverage is no more absurd.

Upon my signature now it appears,
The designation will now last for years.
I'll spare you the Latin
If you're seeking the bat in
A guidebook, it's the one with big ears.

I think our bat's up to the test.
If you doubt it, just ask Adam West.
He was TV's Bruce Wayne --
the caped crusader's real name --
and could 'Zap!' and 'Kapow!' with the best.


The poem and summary of the bill can be found here. Now, to find out what a big eared bat looks like...

Monday, March 28, 2005

The sound and the fury

On Friday, the scariest storm ever rolled into town. It's that time of year when the skies literally explode with sound and color. Tornadoes are common as are marvelous thunder storms and sheets and sheets of heavy rain. I have, however, never seen a storm such as the one we experienced on Friday. Golf ball size hail pounded the windows, the wind stripped the fresh spring leaves off the trees, and it grew so dark that it was impossible to see more than a few feet outside. All of this was accompanied by rain that hit the house at an angle, thanks to powerful gusts of wind. It was truly one of those humbling, Mother Nature moments -- her reminder that despite our advances in science and technology, she is still in charge.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Guest observation

Today's blog comes to you courtesy of S., who wanted to know what was up with the 14-year old posing in the wild flowers alongside of the state highways. For those of you not in the know, someone many, many years ago decided that beautifying the state was in order. So thousands and thousands of taxpayers' dollars go to planting wildflowers along all major roadways in the state. This time of the year, it's actually very pleasant to drive, because of the abundance of color and the reminder of how fresh and alive spring is.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure it's a state requirement for all parents to pull the car over to the side of the road, take all children under the age of say, five, and plop them down in the middle of a wildflower field and take their picture. The results of Junior surrounded by daisies, Indian paint brushes and black-eyed Susans are pretty cute, actually. I agree with S., though; some of the cuteness factor is lost, once the baby fat melts away and the wildflowers are ankle high, rather than brushing the tip of a baby's chin.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

So, right

Have you ever gone out and then come home, looked in the mirror and thought, "Oh my God, I didn't just out in public looking like that?"

Please, please, please say yes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The numbers speak

Here's an interesting study on blogging. The media is hung up on blogging as the next wave, but it doesn't take into account that most blogs don't have an audience and most bloggers don't have the discipline to keep one up. Blogging can be like a job. Some days, it's easy to come up with a topic, other days it's like, "Eh, let me just throw up a link."

Yeah, it's one of those days.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

When the tofu gets going

Today's scheduled blog entry has been pre-empted by late breaking bloggity: I ventured into the kitchen this evening. In the fine tradition of charcoal pancakes and exploding eggs, welcome to another edition of "In the Kitchen with Seema."

This particular edition starts with your over confident chef, yours truly. Yours truly had a good cooking night Saturday when she whipped up Spanish rice (from scratch, not a box, thankyouverymuch) and corn/tomato/black bean quesadillas. Emboldened by that success, I decided not to warm up the frozen pizza, and instead, marinate tofu and have that for dinner. I cubed the tofu, and then marinated it in a hodgepotch marinade of: honey, ginger soy sauce, peanut oil, a bit of Greek salad dressing and a touch of balsamic vinegar (hey, Lori is the one who said to improvise!).

Around the time I was marinating the tofu cubes, S. called up and asked, based on an earlier conversation, if I still wanted mac and cheese for dinner. Feeling very good about my tofu cubes I said, no, no, no need to run to the grocery store; tofu it was. I was even patient, letting the tofu sit for the full hour (mind you, I'm the one who always cooks on HIGH, because why cook on low or medium if you can cut the time in HALF by cooking on HIGH?). All went well. I dumped the tofu cubes into the pan, set it in the oven and turned on the broiler.

All was well with the world and "American Idol" when I started hearing these little popping noises. After a few minutes, I got off my beloved futon and went to investigate. The tofu was popping, sizzling, crackling, and generally having just way more fun than any food stuff in a broiler ought to be having. I figured I should stir up the tofu, make sure it got broiled all good and even. So I grabbed my oven mitts (the same mitts, btw, from this incident) and a pot holder and reached in to grab the pan.

That's when the stand-off began. For some reason, I was absolutely terrified of the dancing, sizzling and generally having a good time tofu. I stared at it and it just kind of bubbled. Finally, I took a deep breath, heaved the pan out, and SPLAT. The pan slipped out of my hand, crashed down on the oven door, and there was tofu everywhere. The worse part of it, that marinade had honey in it!

Anyway, with a huge mess in the oven and on the floor and the surrounding cabinets, what's a girl to do but eat what's left of the tofu (it was good, btw), and watch "The Amazing Race"? After the show was over, I went back and tackled the oven, which had thankfully cooled down by that point (I'd also taken the liberty of dousing it liberally with Fantastik during one of the commercial breaks). I have no doubt, like in the egg story, I will be discovering tofu in weird places for months to come.

Tofu might look like all washed-out and wiggly -- y'know the wallflower of basic food staples? -- but the truth of the matter is, you just don't mess with the tofu when it's having a good time.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Stupid people

Every now and then I'm just blown away by people, I mean, absolutely blown away in the sense of "What the hell are you thinking?" And then the lightbulb comes out and it's that realization of "Oh, you're acting that way because you aren't thinking." Today, inconsideration came in threes within the space of 30 minutes and within a 30 square area.

It started with a cell phone. I had gone down to the gym, armed with my headphones, and had just gotten on the treadmill and switched the television to VH-1's documentary on "Shortest Celebrity Marriages evah" (and while you'd think Britney would be in the top three, you'd be wrong). Two treadmills over, a girl was talking about her dinner plans. Very loudly. So loudly that she was overpowering not only my earphones, but also VH-1. Which made me think a) if you can talk that loudly and coherently while on the treadmill, you aren't working out hard enough and b) SHUT UP. I felt vindicated when the girl on the treadmill (also wearing earphones and watching TV) next to mine kept giving Cell Phone Chick dirty looks.

Cell Phone Chick had barely hung up when someone brought in a DOG. A DOG. In a carrier. I don't know who that person is, but I think it's cruel, CRUEL, to keep a cute little dog in a little box and I don't EVEN LIKE DOGS. And wouldn't you know, the dog started barking. Non-stop high pitched breathless barking. Cell Phone Chick looked annoyed. Another girl -- whom I've nicknamed Iron Woman and when not at the gym (which is rare), lives down the hall from me -- gave up on her sit-ups and left. NEVER that girl ever left the gym before me.

Barking Dog gave up and settled down around the same time I was leaving. And that's when I ran into the third and final act of stupidity. Four guys -- two of them with beer bottles -- were coming into the gym. Where the rules specifically say NO ALCOHOL. One of the guys without beer said to the other two, "Oh, you can't come in. They don't allow drinks." And then they laughed and went in anyway. In the brief instance our paths crossed -- the two beer drinkers stood aside for me when I came out -- I fervently wished I could shoot laser beams out of my eyes and incinerate their beer bottles.

Instead, I tell ye, Internet, be ye not so stupid and for the record, I don't care what's for dinner, when dinner is going to be served and who's going to be there unless I've got an invitation. Just don't invite the dog. Or the rule flaunting beer drinkers.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Help is on the way

Here's a site I wish I'd known about even a few months ago: badbossology.com. There are lots of bad bosses out there, yo.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

How to make my day

I stopped in at Einstein's Bagels this morning around breakfast to pick up a bagel for lunch. I got into line and was just staring at the selection of bagels when the guy behind the counter asked if he could help me. I said, "Well, I want a bagel..." and then a seriously long pause followed. They didn't have an onion or garlic bagel -- my two favorites -- and nothing else was jumping out at me. So I said to the guy apologetically, "I'm sorry, it's early, and I seem to have lost any ability to make a decision."
He just smiled and said, "Well, I'm here until one o'clock, so you have plenty of time."

By the way, I ended up with an asagio cheese bagel with garden veggie cream cheese :-)

Friday, March 18, 2005

Playing God

Terri Schiavo's feeding tube has been removed and I've been ambivalent about it, at best. This is one of those intensely personal experiences, something that is happening to a family and should not be appropriated by politicians or others with agendas that are not necessarily in the best interests of the patient.

I find the machinations of the federal government reprehensible. The federal government has no right to interfere in cases like this, none at all, and the precedent such interference sets is incredibly frightening to those of us who choose to make our own decisions about our own health care.

I think it's easy to make generalizations, I think it's easy to believe one side over another, and to see what you want to see -- a cause you can embrace. In the end, though, Terri Schiavo doesn't belong to any of us, nor do we have the right to make any decisions for her because most of us have never met her when she was a vibrant woman and they have not encountered her now. The truth of her condition is not truly known to to the vast majority of us. For that reason, the decision on whether she should live rests solely with those who are closest to her. Everyone else -- and I'm talking to YOU, Tom DeLay -- needs to butt out.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Shades of grey

The law is stepping in the Terri Schiavo case. I wish I could formulate a coherent opinion about this one, but I can't. It's brutal on both sides, and it's a slippery slope: do you allow euthanesia and under what conditions and who is authorized to make that decision? The truth is, only about 20 percent of Americans have living wills, but I'd be curious to see who would choose to live the way Terri Schiavo has been 'living' for the last 15 years. I also want to know who would choose to have the state or federal government making decisions about their health care.

I also find an incredible hypocrisy in this case. While conservatives are doing their best to trim entitlement programs like Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security,their concern seems more focused on those who are not born and those who are near the end of their lives, while the rest of us have to keep on keeping on, dealing with increasing costs of health care -- even when employed and heaven help you with those premiums if you aren't. The schism was clearly illustrated to me yesterday on a conservative blog where a poster was trying to organize support for Terri's cause. Yet in another posting, the same commentator said she didn't support any 'free' health care plans; what would she say if she knew Terri's cost could total up to $80,000 a year and was borne primarily by the taxpayers? What then?

Don't get me wrong -- the question of life or death cannot be reduced to a financial equation and I'm very much conflicted on whether Terri's feeding tube should be removed. If her parents are willing to assume the responsibility of caring for her, then that's what should happen. If their belief and faith is so strong that she can recover, that a miracle is in the offing, then perhaps the tube should not be removed; perhaps the taxpayers and lawmakers, who have fought so hard for Terri, will see $80,000/year for the rest of Terri's life as a good investment. I'm not necessarily sure I'm one of them as that money could be used to help someone who has a treatable afflication and a chance of living a fulfilling life if given treatment, but has no money to pay. But then again, I also find something repungnant about starving and dehydrating someone to death; perhaps there's some comfort that Terri has no cerebral cortex, that perhaps she won't feel anything at all. But like so many things in this case, we simply do not know.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

BOBF

As per my post from yesterday re Bloghercon -- I don't disagree the need for visibility is one reason that some women blog and their needs, as a whole, are probably different than your average paranoid blogger (like yours truly) who feels the less publicity the better. If women can benefit by getting together and exchange contacts and technology and tips, I'm all for it. I'm just not convinced there's an actual problem that's on the same level of say, other problems facing women in this world like the right to manage their own reproductive health or getting equal pay for equal work.

In the end, my jaded view probably stems from all the hype about blogging, about it being the next great thing in information, and as a promotional marketing tool. How much power do bloggers really have? Not that much, I think, but with the media attention, it's easy to attribute way more power to pixelated words and enter the Brave New World with ideas on how to re-invent the wheel.

But don't mind me. I'm just a former journalist and blogger since 2001 with a hint of BOFQ underlying all of that. What do you call the blogger equivalent of BOFQ anyway? BOBQ?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Points to ponder

After all the recent discussion about feminism, you'd think I'd be more in accordance with Maureen Dowd's shrill rant about the need for more female columnists. And then there's the propose bloghercon. Maybe I got all discussed out when it came to feminism, but somehow I can't get myself up all wound up about either issue. Two of my favorite columnists -- Ellen Goodman and Anna Quindlan -- are women and I don't read any blogs written by men*. Frankly, I'm more concerned about women in the workplace and the glass ceiling and how to juggle family life with career and higher education than I am about whether women in the blogosphere have enough visibility or not.

* It's just coincidence, not any feminism man-hating principle, that I don't have any male blogs on my reading list. The answer to your question is quite simple: most men don't blog about anything I am remotely interested in.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Poem of the Day

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

-- Robert Frost

Sunday, March 13, 2005

What I'm watching

I thought, since most of you who read this blog are either here for the fandom or are my mother (hi, Mom!), so since there's been so little fannish stuff around, I thought I'd talk a little bit about a couple of my favorite shows and why I think you should drop everything and watch them too.

  1. The Amazing Race -- Every time I tell someone to watch this show, invariably the response is "I hate reality television" or "I don't approve of shows like that." "The Amazing Race" is, however, different from the reality shows that have given the genre a bad name (ie "Paradise Island," "Hot or Not"; the survivors like "Survivor," "The Apprentice" etc., are really quite good). In "The Amazing Race", pairs of contestants with a pre-existing relationship race around the world in 30 days. Along the way, they have to perform stunts native to the part of the world they are in, and somehow navigate through foreign countries without knowing the language.

    The contestants' relationships are also tested, and this is what I like the best about this show. Having spent two months traveling through Europe with someone, I can really identify as to how relationships evolve and change -- either for the better or for the worse -- as you face the stress of not only the *travel* portion of the race, but also the fact that the first team to the finish line gets $1 million. The show is really well put-together and has amazing scenary. Until last season's "TAR", I had no idea just how lush Senegal was, nor did I realize just how gorgeous Iceland was in its ice blue beauty. Check it on CBS, 9 pm CST, on Tuesdays. It's the next best thing to actually globe-trotting yourself.

  2. Without a Trace -- this show always took a backseat to ER the first couple years it was on; I'd only watch it if ER was being especially annoying or was a repeat. This season, I've been sucked into the show and have barely given ER -- a show I watched faithfully from its very first ep back in 1994 -- a second look. At first glance, "Without a Trace" looks like every other crime drama on television, but it's different in its ending: you don't know whether the missing person is alive or dead, whether he or she is a victim or not. There's always a hope that there will be a happy ending and sometimes there is, sometimes there isn't.

    The show also makes excellent use of flashbacks and digs deep to find out what exactly is going on with the missing person. I also enjoy the subtle character interactions between the five-member team led by Jack Malone; there's no anvil falling on the viewer's head. Hints about the characters, their personalities, their family, their likes and dislikes are sprinkled throughout the season. Especially riveting is the dynamic between Jack, Samantha and Martin; how that 'love triangle' has been playing out all season has really gotten my attention. "Without a Trace" is also one of the best acted shows I've seen in a long time, and it's especially amazing when you learn three out of five of the actors aren't even from the US and the one with the best New York accent -- Marianne Jean-Baptiste -- is from the UK. Tune in on Thursdays on CBS, 10 pm EST.

You know you want to.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Thought

Today was the kind of day that if you could put your arms around weather, you'd totally want to hug it and never, ever let it go. The day was THAT spectacular.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Things that make you go hmmm

Tim Bray talks about why blogging is good. I disagree with most of his statements, especially with numbers 1, 2, 3 and 10. But it may be just a perspective thing; if you are a subject matter expert in your field and that's what you're blogging about, then yes, pointing to your blog is probably a good thing. I can hardly imagine, in regards to number 3, how I'd bring that up to my boss.

"Hey, google me! My site is number one*=!"

"Cool, what keywords?"

"Uh... Seema unbound*?"

You see how badly this conversation could turn out, don't you?

And number 10 is really a crapshoot; most bloggers don't have an audience of size enough to actually matter to one's career. The fired bloggers get their audience after they get fired. I'm glad someone can see how blogging would be good for one's career, but me, I prefer to keep my head down.

*For less Net Nanny offensive search terms -- such as 'Trek fanfic', 'X-Files fanfic', 'JAG fanfic'e etc -- the site comes up in spots 2 to 4 on google; still, not quite promotion-worthy key words.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

It takes more than spoonful of sugar

Tonight's blog entry is brought to you by the computer in the apartment's front office because my Internet connection at home is dead. How dead, I do not know, but I am hoping the network Gods bring it back online tonight. How hard can it be for Ma Bell to keep an entire city's phone lines functioning and numbers working, hmmm?

That being said, the apartment's computer has Net Nanny on it. Which is rather annoying considering I deal with a Net Nanny at work and then to come home, and there, there she is again! And Net Nanny is no Mary Poppins; like the work Net Nanny, she decides to block off sites that are decidedly not ############* or reprehensible in anyway. The annoying thing then is even after Net Nanny has wagged her finger at you, she won't let you leave the offending site. So you're stuck on a half-downloaded page (in this case, Dooce), with a beepy Net Nanny and if you click "okay", she goes away for the second it takes to continue downloading the page Net Nanny doesn't want you on anyway. You say, "Well, then, close the window." I would do that but because Net Nanny's warning keeps popping up on the still downloading page, it's impossible. Hence, this awful, awful vicious loop. I can't get off the page Net Nanny hates because Net Nanny won't let me; talk about mixed messages.

Net Nanny's insistent and incessant beeping combined with the ISP's annoying 5-note chime and "Thank you for your patience, we'll get to you shortly" repeated at thirty-second intervals, has slowly eaten away at any remaining sane brain cells I may have when it comes to technology. If you don't hear from me, it's because I've done away with Net Nanny and run off to South America; I hear the weather's great there this time of year.

* Word censored by Net Nanny; I'll give you a hint -- it starts with a P, is followed by an O, has an R in there, and an N, and ends with the word 'graphic'. I'm not actually sure whether the word is censored on your screen, but just in case. Obviously, Net Nanny means business.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Cooking with water

Back in college, one of my prized possessions was my rice cooker. We weren't, technically, supposed to have any cooking type things in our dorm rooms, but that didn't stop my roommate Sam and I from accumulating enough to have our own little kitchen beneath our beds. Along with the rice cooker, we also had a coffee maker, a plug-in kettle, a toaster oven, and not one, but two mini fridges. We didn't have a microwave, but there were enough people around who did, and there was also one in the kitchen in the lounge. Incidentally, once I burned a bag of popcorn in the kitchen microwave and then stood beneath the fire alarm. Two minutes later, campus security -- which could never be found when actual crimes were going on, such as who was actually responsible for the weekly smashing of the front lounge windows -- were circling my bag of popcorn with suspicion.

The rice-cooker, I learned, didn't just cook rice. If you were patient enough, you could also boil a can of soup or make spaghetti. This was very convenient in casa Seema and Sam, as going down to the kitchen with an armful of pots and pans was a pain. My usual MO was to put the soup in the rice cooker, run off and take a shower, and by the time I came back, 30 minutes later, it was usually done. The pasta would take longer -- maybe 30 to 40 minutes to boil -- but still, it was so much better than say, DC food.

That being said, as much as I loved my rice cooker, there's no way I could possibly talk about them for two hours. Yet another reason to fear Fidel Castro.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Drive by blog

From the world of unsolicited advice: mothers speak. Some of these stories are funny, some sad, and some will just have you picking your jaw up off the ground.

Monday, March 07, 2005

How you got here

I'm always amused by my stats (unless you're a livecam! Then I want no part of you! I don't care how fun you are, Miriam!). But here is a rundown of some of the search terms people use to find this blog:

  • Sidney Lindsey Greenbush -- this is a favorite. I had NO idea just how much interest there were in the twins who played Carrie on "Little House on the Prairie" until I blogged about them.
  • Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen -- I blogged about these media moguls once -- once! -- in the spring of 2001 and since then, people keep coming; I'm afraid they must be sorely, sorely disappointed when instead finding dirt on gossip-worthy blond rich girls, they get me. Sorry!
  • IKEA -- believe it or not, I'm not the only one who has trouble putting together IKEA furniture as my logs bear testament that there are many, many people out there searching for a way to assemble their flat furniture into something they can use. I feel your pain!
  • How to put a futon together -- Uh... see above.

Other search terms that come up usually have to do with 'royal' subjects: The Reluctant Queen, Jean Plaidy, Plantagenets, and Royal Blood; amazingly, Star Trek hardly comes up at all.

Confidential to Kite Runner readers: Don't pass go, don't collect $200, just read the book already.

Confidential to blogger Clorox MBA: yes, an MBA program will make a blogger out of you, but stay away from the Clorox! You're paying good money for the stuff they're putting into your brain!

Confidential to google searcher: Sarah Jessica Parker weighs a lot less than either you or me. Unless you're five. In which case, you have permission to weigh less than SJP.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

A question of stone tablets

The Supreme Court is currently hearing the case on whether the Ten Commandments can be displayed in public/govermental buildings. I don't *like* the idea of Ten Commandments codified on governmental property, but I don't necessarily *mind* it. What I do mind is the inherent idea that one religious tradition is better than others, that there is only one way to God, and that everyone *must* fall in line behind Christian theology, which leads to my main objection to religion public areas. It seems to me such displays are meant for Christianity and the promotion of that religion alone; no other religions can or will be tolerated.

I'm all for the Ten Commandments on display if equal space and weight can be given to the Koran, the Gita, and the Talmud. I'm all for prayer in public space if Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Catholics are allowed to have their voices and religious traditions heard. If that happens -- and I'm certainly not holding my breath! -- then sign me up as a supporter of public display of the Ten Commandments. Until then, I'm going to have to be a firm supporter of the separation of church and state.

Links of the day were kindly provided by Liz Logan. The Ten Commandments and the legal tradition and who knew there were so many different versions of the Ten Commandments?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Yipppeee!

The Tax Man cometh but he giveth. In other words, I buckled down and did my taxes this morning. Also, I worked some more on the turn of the century HTML on my site. I think the entire VOY directory has been re-done. And oh! I cooked! And other than curry splattering all over my stove due to over-enthuasiastic boiling, there was no disaster where dinner was concerned. Yes, good feelings all around :-)

Friday, March 04, 2005

In the darkness, the trees are full of starlight

I saw one of my favorite musicals Thursday night, "Les Miserables". "Les Mis" is one of those overpowering, overwrought orchestral productions with lots of singing and dying, but not a whole lot of dancing. And it's got angst, plenty of it, but it's still good enough to bring people in the audience both to their feet and to tears. I didn't cry this time, mostly because it was past 11 pm, thus way past my bedtime and for God's sake, would Jean Valjean hurry up and die already?

Lest you think I'm completely heartless, I did get a bit emotional when I saw "Les Mis" the first time. Picture it: London, September 1999. FG and I were suffering from jet-lag something fierce as well as a remarkable aptitude for misplacing ourselves. Six hours off the plane and we walked out of the Piccadilly Circus station and into a production of "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Unabridged." There's nothing more English than tea and William Shakespeare, but in this case, the cast of the William Shakespeare oeuvre was played by four American guys in bad wigs and togas and who, somehow and very convincingly, managed to reduce "Hamlet" to a single scream. Take that, Mel Gibson.

The next day, we decided to watch a musical and FG picked "Les Mis." We had lovely seats and I was on a high when we emerged from the theater eight hours and 26 minutes later (yes, "Les Mis" is *really* the longest musical in the history of musical theatre; let's just be glad Schonberg and friends didn't decide to set "War and Peace" to music). It was after midnight and while the theatre area was hopping, I felt uncertain about traveling this late back to the hotel. I suggested a cab. FG called me a wimp and while I'm totally not ashamed of my wimpiness, I succumbed; when in London, do as the Brits do and look to the right when crossing the street and take the underground.

We arrived at our station -- Baywater -- with little incident and the fun -- a term I use very, very loosely -- began when we couldn't find our hotel. We recalled the hotel had only been a few blocks away from the station and we thought we'd come from the left but nothing looked familiar, so we went the other way and ended back at Baywater.

Mystified, we started tackling the side streets and I freaked when I saw a large park across the street. "We're gonna get mugged," I told FG. "I'm never ever going to fulfill my dream of stalking Henry VIII's ghost because we're going to die right here." FG, however, is not one for dramatic declarations. She marched into the only store still open (ignoring my comments about how late-night convenience stores are perfect targets for hold-ups, even in the civilized and refined UK) and asked for directions, while I bought chocolate bars and water for FG and myself. If life as we knew it was going to end, I was damned if it was going to be on an empty stomach and parched throat.

We ended up finding our hotel about fifteen minutes later in one of those "duh" moments, realizing we'd been only a block or so away the entire hour we'd spent looking and at one point, had just been around the corner, but because of the darkness, hadn't noticed the street we were on didn't actually dead-end, but made a gentle jog to the right. The moral of the story is always, always walk to the end of the street and look both ways. I was ever so relieved when we finally boarded the creaky elevator and walked down the creaky hallway to our tiny hotel room.

The next morning, we decided to visit Kensington Palace -- home of the late Princess Diana and other royals -- as we heard it was in the neighborhood. The way FG and I tackled London, you'd think we were men; we didn't believe in actually asking for directions *before* heading somewhere. We had this thinking that if there is a subway, then how hard can it really be to get anywhere, especially when there's a stop called 'Kensington'? It's not like Sweat Sock City where road names change or highway exits are moved on a whim or are under construction (or sinking into the swamp, but that's another story entirely).

We got on the train at Baywater, rode a couple of stops, got off, changed trains, and then got off. FG needed to take a picture for her underground/bus pass so we came out of the Kensington station, walked a couple blocks to our left in search of a photo studio and ended up in front of the Baywater station. Yes, indeed, we traveled 15 minutes by underground and switched trains just to end up two blocks from our starting station. And then we discovered Kensington Palace was the 'park' we'd found the night before, where I'd been convinced we were going to get mugged. Getting mugged by a member of the Royal Family -- now there's a story worth passing on to the grandkids.

Even though the American version of "Les Mis" is also eight hours and 26 minutes long, it's super comforting at that hour of night to know exactly where you parked and more importantly, how to get to your bed with minimal drama.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Rated NC-17

My logs have been inudated with 'referrer spam' in the last two months or so with about a gazillion links to porn (free! nude! camfun!), mortgage financing, jewelery sales, auctions, and the funniest (at least to me): sites selling software to spam people's referrer logs. Can you say 'busted'?

When the 'referrer spam' first popped up, I was rather curious as to why a site dedicated to Paris Hilton being nekkid 24/7 would link to my decidedly PG-13 site. Especially since I don't really like Paris Hilton when she wear clothes, let alone when she's nekkid and frolicking. And then came the fun cams -- all with names like miriam.camfun.com or anastasia.camfun.com -- and if you're thinking of clicking, don't. Seriously. Your eyes will bleed and your innocence, what's left of it after watching "Desperate Housewives" and "Something About Mary", will just completely vanish.

Also, a site called 'formula42' has nothing to do with cars.

Just so you know.

I'm trying to get my logs offline or at least password-protected to prevent the spamming, but in the meantime, I've updated my .htaccess file with the following code, that hopefully will stop some of the more 'interesting' referrer spam. The problem with this particular method versus the making my logs unavailable to the public is that I have to continually update it whenever a new porn fantasy shows up.

I saw that a lot of people were into the 'rewrite' command for the .htaccess but jemima pointed out that that would slow Apache down, especially when you start compiling a long list of blocked referrers. I also didn't block IP addresses; I figure they're kind of like email addresses and disposable. Anyway, below is a partial response to the referrer spam problem. Other people have posted blacklists of domains to block, but I'm starting to agree with j that probably the best thing to do is to take the logs offline permanently, thus depriving the spammers of their google-validation.

SetEnvIfNoCase Referer ".*milf-xxx-action.*" ref_spam=1
SetEnvIfNoCase Referer ".*mortgagerefinancingtoday.*" ref_spam=1
SetEnvIfNoCase Referer ".*onlyrealityporn.*" ref_spam=1
SetEnvIfNoCase Referer ".*sex3k.*" ref_spam=1
SetEnvIfNoCase Referer ".*formula42.*" ref_spam=1
SetEnvIfNoCase Referer ".*onlyrealityporn.*" ref_spam=1
SetEnvIfNoCase Referer ".*skin-care-companies.*" ref_spam=1
SetEnvIfNoCase Referer ".*upspiral.*" ref_spam=1
SetEnvIfNoCase Referer ".*female-porno-stars.*" ref_spam=1

< LIMIT GET POST >
order allow,deny
deny from env=ref_spam
allow from all
< /LIMIT >

'onlyrealityporn' makes me laugh; what is it otherwise? Cartoon characters? On second thought, I don't want to know.

Note: Remove the spaces in the < LIMIT > < /LIMIT > tags for this to work.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

One sure thing

I'm like the last person in America who hasn't done her taxes. I'm not actually tax-phobic, just procrastinatory. I really like the idea of running right up against a deadline and there are still six weeks to go until April 15. No sweat.

I'm also an old-fashioned tax girl; I do my taxes out by hand and that means I have to find the perfect pencil. Not just any pencil will do. I need to have one with a nice, big eraser and plenty of lead in the barrel, because not only do I do the dang thing by hand, I also make duplicate copies by hand, which makes me think I'd have done great in that time before the Guttenberg press. Also, I don't believe in e-filing (except for that year when I was so poor HR Block e-filed for me for free) and no direct deposit; there's just an indescrible feeling when you hold a crisp, clean Treasury check in your hands.

This year though, I'm thinking about actually starting sometime before 11:59 on April 14th. In fact, this weekend. I'm just getting so excited about spending a Saturday or Sunday afternoon with the 1040 and Schedules A, B, and D. I can hardly stand it. And I'm even more glad that this year, we get to deduct our sales tax paid in. It actually makes me laugh when I read the 1040 book and it says, "Gather up your receipts and figure out how much sales tax you paid in 2004." Uh, I am doing so well in kicking my paper accumulating habit that while other people might be pissed off about paying taxes, I'm more pissed off that Uncle Sam is enabling one of my Really Bad Habits (tm).

But seriously, who saves 365 days worth of receipts? And if anyone does, and if they are organized and patient enough to add up all those pennies, I don't want to hear about it. Nope.

Links o' the day: Fangirls should know that starting your own church won't save you from the Tax Man and if you do business with a naked person in Utah, you're gonna get taxed.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The new lexicon

Mouse potato -- the on-line wired generation's answer to the couch potato

Percussive maintenance -- the fine art of whacking an electronic device to get it work again

404 -- someone who is clueless

Ohnosecond -- the miniscule fraction of time in which you realize that you've just made a BIG mistake (eg. accidentally sent emails that were never supposed to leave the inbox)