Sunday, December 31, 2006

Auld Lang Syne

Happy New Year to you and yours! I hope 2007 is wonderful for all of you.

Have a safe evening and please, designate a driver if you are going to be drinking.
Micro$erf

I'm typing to you from Internet Explorer 7, the latest in browsing technology from Microsoft. I usually use Mozilla, but Mozilla seems to be buggy today and I haven't figured out why and haven't yet decided to go the re-installation process. So I decided to try IE7 which I installed weeks ago when it was first pushed down to my computer.

So far so good. I like the inclusion of tabbed browsing. There's something about tabs: once you've gotten them, you'll never go back. I did have some problems with plugins and IE7 at work, but I have more control over fixing them at home than I do there. So far though, I haven't had any problems and it looks like the plugins I had before are working with this latest version. Even with the tabs though, I don't think I'll use IE much over Mozilla. I am assuming IE, with its 90 percent market share is much more vulnerable to security breaches.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Not a victory

I'm really torn over the execution of Saddam Hussein. Some of you know that I'm morally opposed to the death penalty because it's not reversible. Innocent people have been executed, I have no doubt, and some people (guilty or not) have suffered greatly during their executions. The former reason hardly applies to Saddam. The man was evil, truly a butcher and he visited great atrocity upon his people -- none of this is in doubt.

Saddam's obvious guilt and evilness however doesn't make execution right, especially given the US' blatant complicity in the matter. And really, what good does his execution do for this world? Nothing. Iraq is still in flames, with no solution in sight. Saddam's execution will be merely a footnote in this last year or so, a gruesome way to end 2006. Meanwhile, Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds will continue to battle each other and our men and women in uniform will be caught in the middle.

At this point, Saddam had little to no influence on events on the ground so I'm sure people figured this 69-year old sad sack version of the dictator was dispensable. At least we didn't go through the farce of putting him on trial for every single on of his atrocities and then giving him 12 death penalties. Saddam's reign of terror and his spectre as a leader is finally over, but this execution is not a turning point, and it's certainly NOT something to celebrate or claim as a victory. Instead, I have no doubt that terrorists will use Saddam's execution as yet another reason to wage war on the West.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Scrooge

I never thought there'd come a day when I'd want Tom DeLay speaking for the Republicans, but holy cow, I'd take the Hammer any day over this Virgil Goode who is possibly the very worst possible example of what America stands for. I guess he missed the whole "Give me your tired, give me your poor" indoctrination and was conveniently sick on the day the First Amendment was discussed in class. I'm just amazed at how gracefully Ellison is handling the whole situation, but it somehow doesn't seem right that a guy born and raised in the States and who ran on a platform for improving healthcare is taking a whole lot of heat for actions committed by people who aren't him. Talk about scapegoatin'. And what's even worse, there are a whole lot of people who agree with Goode's comments in the blogosphere. Ugh. Merry Christmas indeed.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Thumbity thumb thumb

I have the world's worst hangnail on my left thumb and it's very insistent about reminding me that it's there. So today, I wrapped a band-aid around it and suddenly, I lost the use of my thumb. It's amazing how hard it is to do simple tasks such as opening a bag of coffee when your thumb is incapacitated by nothing more than a band-aid. No wonder we were able to overtake monkeys as the kings (and queens) of the planets. Can we hear it for the opposable thumbs?

Meanwhile, speaking of evolutionary advances, a virgin komodo dragon is expecting.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Pretty

NBC has a free download of "O Holy Night" over here. It was performed on an ep of "Studio 60" last week and performed by musicians from New Orleans. Unfortunately the episode isn't available legally online.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Cool ideas

I used the Cell Phone Lot of Sweat Sock City's international airport this evening while I was waiting to pick up a friend. I'd seen signs on previous trips and I was always like, "What's up with the Cell Phone Lot?" I finally learned on my last trip that it's a gigantic parking lot where you can go and park for free and wait for the person you're picking up to call you, thus eliminating the endless circling (a nightmare at big international airports) or actually parking your car and making the long haul to the terminal.

So this evening, I pulled in to the cell phone lot for the first time ever and took my place with about 30 to 40 other vehicles. At the far end of the lot was a little vending machine hut so you could get food if you needed to. Some people were walking around, including a father with his little boy who was wearing little sneakers with red lights on it. That was really fun to watch. Every now and then, a car would start up, its headlights streaking across the lot, and then it would pull out. I thought it was incredibly cute, because each departure from the lot signified an arrival.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

LotD

The link between vegetarianism and high IQs. Pretty cool.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The war on Christmas

Apparently the War on Christmas is over now that Wal-Mart is no longer saying "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings" or whatever other innocuous phrase they were using. I'm all for wars ending, though the 'War on Christmas', mythical as it is, isn't the one I'm really that interested in in ending, but that's another post for another day. The point is, the War is over and we should all be dancing in the streets or something.

The thing is, I will wish people "Merry Christmas" all day long if that's what they want to hear. I have no problem if people wish me a "Merry Christmas". My issue is that the same people who insist on "Merry Christmas," who are upset at the very mention of "Seasons Greetings" or "Happy Holidays", don't seem to want to give that respect to those of us who might have different holidays that are just as important to us as Christmas is to them. My guess is these same people would totally flip out if a Muslim wished them a "Happy Ramadan". But hey, who cares about equality when the War on Christmas is over? I say, bring on the eggnog and your best Christmas shoes. There's going to be some partyin' now.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Pay it forward

My resolution for this year is to be a nicer driver. I mean, I don't think I'm a mean driver and road rage isn't something I experience (though I have been a victim once) but I do occasionally get impatient and once in a while, cut people off because I'm in a rush. So for the last couple of weeks, I've been trying to be nicer. I've been slowing down and letting people merge into traffic. What I'm learning though is that my actions are so foreign to people that they often don't get the hint, even when I blink my lights at them. They'll just sit there and eventually it gets to the point where I just give up. But still, I'm making the effort. My hope is that someone will remember that I let them in and they'll pass the favor on to someone else. Anything to make driving in Sweat Sock City a less miserable experience!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Is this thing on?

Blogger has been less than reliable for the last few weeks and since I didn't have much of importance to say, I've been unmotivated to actually mess with it. Then, despite the fact Blogger has been cranky, last week I decided to migrate to the new version of the software and see what happens. I finally got the email confirmation that the blog was successfully migrated this morning. I still haven't figured out what all the new features are and the interface looks the same to me (which is nice for those of us who adjust slowly to change), but I wanted to go ahead and post to see how this thing worked. You know me -- anything new, shiny and techie, I'm on it. Cross your fingers that this migration means a new era of stability for the blog...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Be careful what you wish for

I was reading the reviews for "The Sims: Deluxe Edition" on amazon.com because I was curious about the game and contemplating buying a cheap version of it. I've been playing "Civilization III" for years now and I wanted something new and shiny to play with, and so I thought, "Hmmm... Sims." Anyway, this review cracked me up. I'm still interested in the game, but it seems like it'd be huge investment of time. Maybe I'll settle on world domination instead in "Civilization III." No more Ms. Nice Guy!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Huh

One of these days, I'll post all the blog posts from my drafts folder. Holy cow, I had no idea that there were so many posts that I'd written, thought better of, and clicked 'save' instead of 'publish'. Or maybe, I'll just hold out for the contract for my bestselling novel titled "If I Were Going to Hit Publish, This Is What The Post Would Say". After all, the Top Sekrit stuff has to remain Top Sekrit so I can sell many, many copies because we bloggers don't have many confessions to keep to ourselves.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

the sky is falling

South Africa becomes the fifth country to legalize gay marriage. I didn't see that one coming and I was very surprised to see Spain among those that have legalized gay marriage as well. Canada, Belgium and the Netherlands are no surprise, but SPAIN? Maybe there is hope that a segment of the US population will finally wake up and realize they are treating their fellow Americans as second-class citizens. It ties my brain in knots just to figure out how on earth the marriage of two same sex people can in any way be detrimental to me or anyone I know. I've said it before and I'll say it again: you can't blame the death of the institution of marriage on people who legally cannot get married.

So way to go, South Africa! Ten years ago, you were persona non grata at the international dining table and now, you, the country with the least equality in the world, are showing the world, including countries that declared more than 200 years ago that "all men are created equal" just how far you've come to treat everyone fairly.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I guess that's why they call them the blues

Today at the gym, I was reading Glamour magazine while biking to the sonorous tones of Katie Couric in Amman. I was thumbing through the magazine filled with things I'm not really interested in such as designer purses and make-up and thinking, "I really want to give these models a sandwich" when I saw an article about 'dating down'. Estatic over an article that wouldn't require an investment of money or time spent in the bathroom painting my face when I could be sleeping, I started reading.

Conventional wisdom suggests 'dating down' is going for someone who isn't on the same level as you -- educationally, professional, whatever -- but the article (written by a guy!) suggests that 'dating down' means you're with someone who isn't treating you the way you deserve to be treated. 'Dating down' means you're settling for someone who doesn't really see you or understand what you need. I thought that that was a pretty cool idea. I mean, how many times do we make a list of criteria, hold it up to a person and say, "Check, check, check," and overlook the fact that they have a completely lousy personality and treat you like crap? Maybe basic humanity and consideration ought to be the only check box needed. Life's too short to 'date down'.

I really need to read Glamour more.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Once upon a fantasy

A friend and I were discussing recently just how much easier our love lives would be if we were in a Bollywood movie. For one thing, we'd have beautiful and colorful clothes that we could change into at a moment's notice* and regardless of wind, snow or humidity, we'd have shampoo-comercial quality hair ALL THE TIME. We'd be able to declare sing poetically of our love for each other in sonorous voices during spontaneous trips to really exotic places. But most of all, in Bollywood, true love is held in deep respect by the parties involved and if you don't hear from the object of your affections, it's probably because he's been languishing in jail for 22 years to protect your honor. There are always complications and obstacles on the path to true love in Bollywood, but nothing that cannot be danced through resolved in three hours. In real life, we all come to our senses sooner or later, but it's never as pretty as Bollywood, and the happy endings are never quite so guaranteed.

*My all time favorite Bollywood music video.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Good eatin'

Don't remember if I posted this recipe here before, but I just finished whipping up a batch for about 50 people, and thought, "Hmmm, maybe I should blog it..." In other words, I'm devoid of any other content, thanks to a wonderful Thanksgiving lunch. And to give credit where credit is due, this is from Jeanne Lemlin's "Simple Vegetarian Pleasures", which I highly recommend.

Mediterranean Rice Salad

Serves 4 as main course

2 1/2 - 3 cups cooked white rice
1 (16 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed well and drained
3/4 cup finely diced feta cheese
2/3 cup diced roasted red peppers
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill or 2 tsps dried
3 scallions, thinly sliced

The Dressing

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 garlic gloves
black pepper
salt
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Combine the rice, chickpease, feta cheese, peppers, parsley, dill and scallions in a large bowl and toss well

2. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously. Pour the dressing on the rice mixture and mix thoroughly. Let sit at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours before serving. Serve at room temperature.

--

Hope you all had a good holiday!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gobble gobble

Just wanted to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving and safe travels if you are taking to the friendly skies or roadtripping it.
LotD

I think my friend was messing with me when he sent me a link to a Dickensian version of the Christmas Shoes video in an attempt to cheer me up. Well, gee, thanks, now I'm completely and thoroughly depressed. And because misery loves company and it's the season of sharing and giving and giving and sharing, I share and give this video to you. With love, of course.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Memory lane

Probably only of interest to the Trek fanficcers out there -- readers and writers both -- a rec thread on TrekBBS more than a year ago. Some good recommendations in there, among, um, other things.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Overheard

"Do you know how hard it is to put pantyhose on a dead woman?"

Friday, November 17, 2006

Christmas shoes!

And it's not even December yet! I swear to God, Christmas is earlier every year. There used to be a sacred line one did not cross until the Friday after Thanksgiving. That's when the wreaths and lights went up and the shopping for the tree commenced. Christmas carols before Thanksgiving was unheard of. And yet, this year, the department stores started putting out their red and gold finery before Halloween and horrors of horrors, today I heard the dreaded "Christmas Shoes" on the radio.

And after years of ranting about "Christmas Shoes", I have a confession to make, and you have to forgive me, excuse me, because I was weak, and I had just come from the gym and you know what it's like when your stomach is imploding in on itself because it's starving and your muscles are all tingly because you've beaten them into submission. You know this feeling, you know it makes you weak, and the fact is, I FELL for the stupid carol. So there I am, driving along my beautiful tree-covered street and feeling this unfamiliar lump forming in my throat, this dryness in my throat, and just maybe, just maybe, my contact lenses are feeling a little moist.

I changed the radio station after a minute or two, but I'm quite haunted by this experience, mystified even. It's kind of like those "Little House on the Prairie" eps that are so over the top that they've landed on the other side and yet you still cry. You still cry because it's like this escalation that grabs you by the heart strings and just won't let go even though you have every right in the world to protest because your emotions are dragged through the wringer for no earthly good reason. I'm still a firm believer that there are certain things that are easy to 'feel' and people -- songwriters, poets, writers -- fall back on those crutches every single time because let's face it, who isn't going to be moved somewhat by the image of a poor little child trying to do right by his momma on her (potentially) last Christmas on earth?

I might have fallen for it this time, but I see through you, "Christmas Shoes" and your treacly maudlin story. You got me this once, but never again, because in the end Lori summed up the carol the best: "Ewww..."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Back in ye olde ice age...

Okay, so maybe not so far back, about 30,000 years, give or take a thousand, how about that? Anyway, I have a soft spot for Neanderthals as I feel they are highly misunderstood and get a bum rap, despite the fact they were probably a lot more civilized, cultured and caring than we ever give them credit for. So I'm always excited when there are new developments in Neanderthal research and here's the latest. Still no word on whether humans of the homo sapien variety and Neanderthals ever cross-bred, but apparently our DNAs are pretty similar to each other. Pretty cool.
All I want for Christmas...*

Microwave egg boiler! Thanks, Jemima, for the head's up!

* For newcomers to the blog, here's why this is the best possible gift for me.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lost in translation

I've been listening to Sarah McLachlan's* CD, "Afterglow," pretty much every day in the car, mostly because I can't stand morning radio which is really a contest on just how RAUNCHY you can be before 8 am. Anyway, I've been listening to the CD and in particular, two songs -- number 5 and 8. Number five is my favorite, though I 'feel' number eight more closely (and no, I don't know their actual names, well, not number 8's anyway).

Anyway, the other day, I was humming along with number five to the refrain which I thought went something like this: "I'm a dreamer, waiting to happen, waiting for someone to come wake me out of my trance..." And I thought, how cool. How very very cool, this idea of a dreamer waiting to happen, it's just filled with possibilities. It's John Lennon's world just a nudge away from bursting into a reality of blue skies, hills scattered with daisies, all in a world where the lions kiss the hares good night. And the more I thought about those lyrics, the more I loved them, and the more I listened. Number 8 soon was relegated to a one-time spin on the CD player, while number 5 got to go around at least twice, if not being charmed into a third time.

Well, the other day I actually went and looked up the lyrics to number 5, which I now know is called "Trainwreck." The actual lyrics are: "Cause I'm a train wreck waiting to happen, waiting for someone to come pick me up off the tracks."

::sigh::

I miss my adorably deluded Sleeping Beauty bursting with hope and anticipation. Fairy tales don't usually have imagery that quite possibly end in a pile of blood and bones because in the end, when the sun is low in the sky, Prince Charming always rides up on his magnificent steed to save the day**.

I'm scared to find out what the real lyrics are to number 8. I think for now, the title and lyrics are going to remain a mystery to me. Sometimes, it's better not to know.

* Also known as 'she who launched a thousand songfics'.
** One of these days, the princess is going to save the day. You just wait and see.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

My heart is drenched in wine

I've been thinking a lot about feelings, or specifically the way you feel when someone treats you a certain way. I think sometimes there's a disconnect between the way someone thinks they're treating you and the way you feel. For a long time, I used to push those feelings away, like if I felt hurt or marginalized, that it didn't matter and that I was just being judgmental and difficult.

Now I realize that feelings are feelings; you feel a certain way (good or bad) because of something someone did to you or said to you and it's not a multiple choice test -- there's no 'wrong' or 'right' feeling. People say and act certain ways, whether consciously or not, to send you a signal of some kind. Sometimes, they aren't even aware of what they're doing, but the end result is the same -- you feel *something*. There's a saying: "People might forget what you said or did, but they'll never forget how they made you feel."

There are a couple of situations in my RL right now that I'm not feeling so good about. The people involved might think they are doing/have done the right thing, but their motivations don't change the way their actions made me feel (even if I could rationalize it and believe me, I've been much effort into trying). In one case, I'm actively working at trying to change my situation for the better because I do have some element of control and I do know things could be worse. Much worse.

The other situation, I have nothing except for the residual feeling and as much as I don't want to, I know I need to walk away and not look back. This will be my third clean break this year, and that makes me incredibly sad (and at least question my ability to judge people). But at least I'm getting smarter and recognizing that I deserve to be treated in a certain way and am not willing to put up with less.
Pentagoner!

By now, you should know by that I really, really, really love the Daily Show and it's primarily because of segments like this. Bye, bye, bye, Donny! Move fast or the door's gonna hit you on the way out.*



* Yes, I know I'm late with the clip, but not figuring out how to get the show to play on Comedy Central, I have to wait until they show up on YouTube. And really, Jon Stewart is always funny, except for maybe when he's hosting the Oscars. But still. Watch.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veteran's Day

Dan Froomkin over at the Washington Post posted an excerpt from a new anthology called "Operation Homecoming" over here and I was touched by the soldier's point of view. This essay was written by Sgt. Sharon D. Allen. Note: profanity alert, but I think it's necessary, and I think it's worth reading.

"Everyone says they are supporting us, but sometimes it seems that civilians have no idea about who soldiers really are. This, too, we all agreed on, that people back home have no concept of what troops go through. We're not robotic killing machines. We're regular Americans, just doing our jobs. This war has really tapped the National Guard, so the average soldier out here could be your mechanic or your plumber. Maybe your dentist. Or the girl at the cash register. I think we're all pretty proud of what we do, and, at heart, we're all patriotic. But we're not brainwashed, and we have differing opinions."

Thank you to our men and women in uniform for all you've done and for all you do.

Friday, November 10, 2006

LotD

Hilarious. Panera Bread thinks a burrito is a sandwich. Uh... no.
QotD

"Tomorrow, you’re all going to wake up in a brave new world, where the constitution gets trampled by an army of terrorist clones created in a stem-cell research lab run by homosexual doctors who sterilize their instruments over burning American flags, where tax-and-spend Democrats take all your hard-earned money and use it to buy electric cars for National Public Radio and teach evolution to illegal immigrants. And everybody’s high!"

-- Colbert Report

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Night, lift up the shades

For those of you who don't know, I went to Europe alone this past October. I went alone because I really wanted a vacation and because there was something I needed to know, I couldn't wait until a friend was available to go with me. I did a lot of research ahead of time and I've been to Europe many times so I had no problem in terms of knowing how I'd get around and what it'd be like there. What I was uncompletely unprepared for was the kindess of strangers.

I met a lot of wonderful people while I was in Germany and Czech Republic. I remember people telling me before I went that they were afraid that I would get hurt -- not physically, but emotionally -- and that there would be no one to help me when/if that happened. After all, here at home where it's safe, I have an extensive support system and wonderful friends and family who would drop pretty much everything to give me a hand and a shoulder when/if I needed it. Over there, I'd be alone.

I won't lie and say that emotionally, it was all wine and roses. I had one bad day when honestly, I had no idea whether I was coming or going and whether I had made a horrible mistake in flying overseas in the first place. I was on a tram in Prague, it was dark, no one spoke English, and I was completely lost. That morning, I'd left Berlin and felt completely lost and emotional because I was in a train station by myself and feeling like a fool. And I did what I always do when I feel out of control: I cried.

Two bathroom attendants who don't speak English comforted me. They were so sweet and they didn't even take the full 80 cents from me (the charge to use the bathroom). They were just the first of many wonderful people I met. On the train to Prague, I shared a compartment with five women who were on their way to Dresden for vacation. They offered me some of their baked goods; I declined because I wasn't hungry, but I thought it was sweet. After Dresden, two Germans and an Austrian entered the compartment, and we had a nice conversation for the rest of the way. When I arrived in Prague, it was 4:30 in the afternoon. I got on the tram as directed and then I was lost.

I kept riding the tram with a wary eye towards the darkening sky. I asked someone if I was going the right way and he said no, I needed to get off and go the other way. So I did. And I realized that this too was not correct. So I asked another woman and she said I needed to get off at the next stop, take another tram to another stop and then walk to my hotel. She was sweet enough to get off with me at a stop a couple past her own and walk me to the platform before taking off. However, her directions didn't make sense to me. Finally, I just got a taxi and after some hijinks there, I got to my hotel a little after 7 pm in the evening.

In my vacation memory, this weepy, stressful Friday doesn't exist.

Saturday morning, I met a wonderful Indian family with a 21-month old daughter. They invited me to spend the day with them, even inviting me back to their rental apartment for dinner. They then walked me back to my hotel. It was a really nice day. The next day, I went on a guided tour and spent most of my time with a British couple who were just as into pashmina shopping as I was. On Monday, I met a Slovenian woman who was also alone and we ended up spending the day together. We had tea with an Irish mother and daughter and then lunch with a Bosnian woman. All in all, it was a very nice, international experience. And the best part of it is, the next time I visit Eastern Europe, I already have friends and places to stay.

So if anyone is planning to go on vacation and is scared to go alone, I say, go for it. I say go for it and have a good time. You're your own boss, you can make your own schedule, and you can do what you like. And what I discovered during my time in Prague, I was never alone. I met amazing people who were happy and generous to spend their time with me. If I had gone with friends, as I always do, I would have never met these people, and I would have been the poorer for it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Woo hooo!

Can I just say how wonderful it was to wake up this morning and know that we were no longer under one party rule? And then this late Diwali/early Christmas continued with the resignation of Rumsfeld (six years too late, but whatever). And Nancy Pelosi as the first female speaker is just the cherry on top of a very satisfying sundae.

ETA: This day keeps getting better. Democrats take the Senate.

Dems, don't mess this up for us, okay?
Confidential Aside

Robby, I tried to email you back twice at your work address, but it bounced. I'm not ignoring you, honest! I'll try to call you this weekend or email me from another address that will work. Mucho gracias.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election day

Vote! And remember, the status quo is what got us into this mess in the first place. Saying the same thing over and over again isn't a plan. Staying the course isn't a plan. Unwillingness to change, listen or readjust according to new information isn't leadership.

Fifty-one percent of the country got it wrong (I'm sorry) in 2004. Today's the day to say enough is enough and that we want oversight in government and that we're not a religious theocracy governed by a bunch of hypocrites.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Hee

Jon Stewart has fun at John Kerry's expense, but along the way, makes a good point.

Election day

I voted by mail yesterday and for the most part, I went Democrat. I voted for the independent for governor because I can't stand our current governor and his main challenger I'm not terribly impressed with either. Generally, I vote a straight Democrat ticket, with the occasional vote for an independent candidate. If there is only a Republican or Libertarian candidate, I don't vote at all in that category. I was dismayed to see on our ballot this year that there were only Republicans and Libertarians running for judicial positions. Gah.

In the eight years I've lived in Very Red State (tm), no one I've ever voted for has won. Never. And yet, every time an election rolls around, I diligently fill out my ballot, stuff it into its carrier envelope, put two stamps on it, and off I go. I like to think I'm part of that little bit of blue oasis in the middle of the state, the metaphorical middle finger to the rest of the state.

But. Yes. Despite the fact it doesn't count, I did vote. You should too. This Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Friday, November 03, 2006

How could I forget?

I just woke up from jetlag and realized that it's November! Which means it's time for the annual writing torture fest called National Novel Writing Month. That's right. In the month of November, you can join thousands of other insane people and attempt to write a novel -- that's 50,000 words, people, or something like 1,667 words a day.

In this venture, it's quantity that matters, not quality, and this is evidenced by the fact I've done it three times -- finished twice -- and I've not looked at any of the three works since because I'm quite frankly terrified of what is in them. I do know one of my characters once went on a mad baking spree because I was utterly at a loss as to what I could do to get to the magic 1,667 number for the night. How does one fix several paragraphs describing the merits of chocolate chip cookie recipes? I ask you.

I haven't done NaNo in a couple of years, but it's one of those experiences that I think everyone should try once. It's really quite freeing and if you do finish, it's very much an accomplishment to be proud of, even if you can't show it to anyone. So, go go go!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Autumn in Prague

Europe -- Berlin and Prague 079
Europe -- Berlin and Prague 079,
originally uploaded by seemag.
The Church of St. Lawrence on Petøín Hill in Prague. In the background, you can see the city of Prague, and the river Vlata.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Home sweet home

Pictures from the trip soon to follow. Right now, I'm thinking bed. I have been awake for 24 hours.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

QotD

"Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will."

-- George Bernard Shaw

Friday, October 13, 2006

Isn't it ironic?

Sara Evans, a singer I never heard of until she appeared on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars",* has filed for divorce and the divorce papers are filled with ugly Jeri Ryanesque accusations. While it's never good news to hear someone's getting divorced (hey, we liberals don't like it much either!), I find this particular one especially ironic given Tom DeLay's endorsement of Ms. Evans for "[representing] good American values".

*No, I don't actually watch the show. I find it dull after the first two minutes, the hosts annoying, and I'd rather be dancing than watching other people dance. Even stars.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Goodness

Today, I was at Walgreens near my apartment, when I walked by a homeless guy. He was the saddest homeless guy I'd seen in a while, and there are a lot of homeless people here in Sweat Sock City, especially in downtown where I walk by them -- without looking or acknowledging -- on a regular basis. But to see one here at Walgreens was a surprise, because I live in an extremely affluent area that's closely patroled. I picked up a few items and made my way to the battery section which is right near the cash register. The homeless guy was standing there, fiddling at the refrigerator that held all the Red Bulls. A well-dressed guy, maybe around my age, asked the homeless guy, "Are you in line, sir?" The 'sir' struck me instantly, but then the batteries caught my eye again -- alkaline or lithium? -- and I forgot about both the well-dressed guy and the homeless guy until I turned around and saw the homeless guy standing there, drinking his Red Bull.

"Are you in line?" I asked, and I didn't add the 'sir', but then it's rare I call anyone 'sir', except for maybe upper management. The homeless guy shook his head. He was dressed in worn, faded clothing that probably hadn't been washed in months, if not years. He was old, maybe in his late 60s or early 70s. His glasses were battered, and one lense was covered with duct tape. He wore some kind of cape over all of his clothes. He was mumbling, was clearly not all together. I think his hair was grey-white, but I'm not entirely sure. I'm ashamed to say I didn't look at him too closely.

The well-dressed guy was in front of me at the register and he was asking the cashier for some cigarettes. I remember thinking, "How disgusting. Such a cute guy, obviously professional, and ugh, cigarettes." And then he was fiddling with the Snickers bars display -- 2 for $1 -- on the counter. The cashier asked if he wanted them, and he said yes. When she moved to put them in his bag, he shook his head and pointed his finger at the homeless guy. He swiped his credit card, took his cigarettes and left.

When I got to the cash register, I stared at the two Snickers bars. The cashier was ringing up my stuff -- boring stuff like toilet paper, contact lense solution, batteries, shampoo -- but each item cost more than the Red Bull the homeless guy was drinking. I remembered then an incident a few months back when a co-worker and I were out to lunch. We'd gone to Papa John's and bought personal sized pizzas -- about $5 each. A homeless guy had somehow made his way down into the tunnels and he asked us if we could buy him lunch. We ignored him and went and sat down. I felt awful later on, because really, what was $2.50 each to us? And he wasn't asking us for anything more than a pizza and if we bought him lunch, we would know he wasn't spending the money on drugs or alcohol. And yet, we said no. To his face.

I looked back at the homeless guy and he was clutching a wad of bills in his fist. He was clearly going to pay for the Red Bull. I looked back at the Snickers bars and then told the cashier I would pay for the homeless guy's Red Bull. Maybe he could use the $2 for something more substantial to eat, I thought, but really, I was thinking about the guy who had asked me to buy him lunch and I had said no. Guilt can be an awfully powerful motivator.

Kate Walsh, the actress, once said in an interview that there's a difference between being kind and being nice, and the difference is compassion. Anyone can be nice, Kate Walsh said, but not everyone can be kind. The guy standing in front of me in line was a true example of being kind. His actions were quiet, deliberate, and he wasn't doing anything more than recognizing that someone else had a need that he could fulfil. And more than that, he showed respect, and that's something money just can't buy.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Vid!

I'm always blathering on about bloggers and the media, and now I've found this older clip of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert talk about this very important topic. Click to watch.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Rec

Are you watching "Battlestar Galactica"? I mean the *new* one, not the one from the early '80s (which Lori has been going through over in her blog). If not, you're missing the best show on television. So seriously, get thee to a television set tuned to Scifi at 9 pm EST/8 pm CST on Friday evenings.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Cents sense

Yesterday at the mall someone tried to sell me a nail spa package from Dead Sea Secrets for $35. I think most of you must have had a run in with these people -- they're the ones who want to file your nails and rave about how much your nails shine after they're through with them? Anyway, I politely declined, because I know me -- a $35 product is pretty much going to go to waste because I have about a 3-day attention span when it comes to things like this.

Well, today I was at Target to pick up some things for my trip, and what do I find in the travel-size section? A nail buffer for $0.99, complete with a side to file your nail edge, a second side to remove ridges, a third side to smooth your nails, and the fourth side to shine said nails. I decided to pick it up just for fun and see how it compared to the $35 thing (which, to be fair, included the buffer, some lotion and cuticle oil). Well, I'm here to report -- I can't tell the difference between the $35 nail and the $0.99 nail. So ladies, if you're looking for a nail buffer, try the travel-size aisle at your local Target and skip the Dead Sea Secrets version.

The other thing I figured out today was that women's socks are way more expensive than men's socks. At Target, you can get one pair of women's knee highs for either $2.99 or $3.99, depending on the brand. I'm just looking for basic black socks, but not trouser socks because I want something warmer and less slippery than those for the trip. So I went over to the men's section and found a package of 3 pairs of men's dress socks in basic black for $5.99 -- a savings of $3 to $6 depending on how you look at it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

LotD

Woman who blames "Extreme Makeover" for sister's suicide settles case. I always thought this show was reprehensible, even with its touchy-feely reveal at the end. I'm not sure that I'd blame a suicide on the show (or lack thereof), but I do think that it was an emotional rollercoaster and people were forced to say things they weren't ordinarily going to say all for the sake of good television. Long after the episode airs, the families are left with the things they said and no touchy feel clapping end scene is going to make up for all the awful things you said before. It's really a very sad story.

Also freaky: Remember the Taliban? They're back!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Ugh

My AC doesn't seem to be working. It's 90 degrees in my apartment and the ceiling fan in the living room doesn't have any effect here in the office. Wah!
Download of the Day

Today's music recommendation is provided by ::drumroll:: my mother! She sent me this link (right click to save to your computer) to "How Could Anyone" by Shaina Noll from the album Songs for the Inner Child. Very pretty and calming, probably good for yoga practice.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Trend?

Remember the Very Special LOTD from the other day? Well apparently, some parents in Utah kidnapped their daughter in order to prevent her from getting married. No word yet on what Special Issues (tm) prompted this devoted parental action. Apparently, the bride and groom did eventually get married three days later.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Giggle

Florida Girl is obnoxious when she is making fun of my long emails. She has been laughing with barely a pause to breathe for nearly 15 20 minutes. Now I'm going forever be self-conscious about my emails. Geez louise. With friends like this...
Hurrah!

I am completely and totally obnoxious when I'm right. I'm just sayin'.
Huh

My previous survey is definitely very skewed the more I think about it because I'm guessing most of you found this blog because of some connection to writing -- either my fanfiction or from the Story Exchange -- or because you know me in RL which means you have a contractual obligation to read every word (especially if you are my mother), regardless of pictures and music. So in general, my guess is we as a crowd are pre-disposed to long emails -- either receiving or writing -- and we enjoy them. And I guess if you needed pictures and music, you'd have stopped reading this blog long ago (g).

Anyway, I thought this was a really good example of bias in survey/research. Stuff like this happens all the time, which is why things like "New" Coke go wildly wrong or why you can't take online polls as representative because they aren't randomly sampled enough.

Still behind on all my email. Again, my apologies.

Monday, October 02, 2006

My answers

I'm on hold with the credit card company right now, so I thought I'd play fair and answer my own survey and also give you some motivation as to why I asked the questions I did. Thanks to everyone who answered (your answers made me smile), and a big welcome to Matt, a friend of Harry!

1. I usually don't return 'missed calls' if there isn't a message, unless it's one of two or three people, one of which includes my mother. I figure if it's important, the person will leave a message. If not, they will call again. The reason I asked was because I get 'missed calls' both on my cell and my work phone and I never know quite what the right thing to do is.

2. I totally believe thank you notes are absolutely necessary and should be mailed the next day at the latest. Obviously, there are occasions where it's impossible to get all the thank you notes out that quickly, but I do think gift receiving requires a note of thanks. I ask this because my best friend and I were debating this and she doesn't believe thank you notes are necessary, especially if you thank the person in, um, person. I just didn't know if I was in the minority,

3. I love writing and getting long emails. I love reading them and I love knowing that someone took time to write me such a long email. I especially love emails that paint a picture for me. I ask this because my best friend told me that my emails are too long and that when I write long emails, I'm putting pressure on the person who's receiving them to read and respond.

4. When it comes to email, I generally respond within the week, unless it's short in which case I respond pretty much immediately when I get it. I'm pretty good about responding to long emails within a day or two as well. It really depends on whether I logon or not that evening and what email account the email went to. I don't check all accounts every night so emails do tend to ferment if they went to one of the step-children accounts.

5. I like pictures, provided they are thumbnails, on blogs, but I don't require them. Maybe it's because I'm mostly on the Internet for the reading aspect -- stories, news, blogs -- and so I find that pictures and music distract me from my overall goal, which is either frothy entertainment or intelligence gathering. Plus, I find music slow and annoying because 9 times out of 10, I'm not going to like the song in question. Again I ask because aforementioned Best Friend (wow, she's coming up a lot) said she prefers blogs with pictures and music to one like mine which is 98 percent text.

6. I actually had a post written about the social networking site, MySpace.com, and one of these days, I'll get around to publishing. That site scares me more than anything else online and it pretty much takes a lot to scare me online. Maybe it's because it's been in the news so much, or maybe it's the fact you have all of these people in one space who can easily be found. I dunno. Plus, the web purist in me doesn't necessarily care for templates etc. I like designing my own sites thankyouoverymuch. And just for the record, none of the Seemas on MySpace listed as residing in Sweat Sock City are me.

7. This actually happened to me at dinner on Thursday. I was blatantly cut and at first, I thought it was a mistake, the woman was just talking to her friend, but no. I didn't say anything, but I wish I had.

8. Baseball! Because the season is over, I was curious to see who was following, who cared about who was playing, etc. I think most of you know who I was rooting for and now that we're no longer in the mix, I'll go with the Cardinals over the Mets.

9. I think it should be dutch on the first date. Because honestly, as my brother says, a first date is only to find out if you want a second date. And if you don't think there's going to be a second date, it seems kind of poor to make the guy pay up. Plus, I like the fact that I can pay my own way and it releases me out of any further obligation.

10. Why do people treat parking garages like the Indy Speedway? I mean, seriously. It's like a gauntlet of people, tight corners, two way traffic, and parked cars, and yet, there they are, roaring past at 20 miles an hour. Crazy stuff.

This was fun.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Survey says

And this, dear readers, is where I ask for your feedback. I have some burning, important questions on my mind, and I'm just curious as to what the consensus is. I will tell you my opinions after you tell me yours. How about that?

1. If someone calls you, but doesn't leave a message, do you need to call them back? (This is assuming you have caller ID and can tell that you missed a phone call).

2. Are thank you notes necessary when you receive a gift?

3. How long is too long for an email? Or better yet, do you like receiving long emails? Do you feel pressure to respond if it's a long email?

4. By the same token, how long do you take to respond to an email? Same day? Couple days? Couple weeks? Couple months? Couple years?

5. Do you need pictures/music on a blog to make it interesting or are just text entries okay?

6. How do you feel about MySpace?

7. If someone cuts you in line, do you say something?

8. Cardinals or Mets? Another team?

9. On a first date, who pays?

10. Your pet peeve of the day.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Idea

When I was out at a cafe this afternoon discussing the changing online world and the good things about the networks getting in line with streaming their shows, my friend asked me about blogs. I mentioned a few blogs that I like to read and that's when I came up with my idea. I'd be curious to see how a politically conservative blog and a politically liberal blog covered the same story. Right now, I can look at the news and I can see which stories, say, Michelle Malkin will get all het up about, and I can see the ones Daily Kos will get fired up about. Rarely will you see coverage on both blogs on the same topic.

To me, this is the major issue with blogs. Bloggers like to think they're a check on the media, but hello, they're not. They are biased, they look for the information to support their point of view, and they don't have any reason to look at the other side of the story. This is why Daily Kos and Michelle Malkin will only give you their spin on the story and only cover events/stories that are in their best interests and their readership's interest (?). It's not the truth in any shape or form -- only one version of it. The truth is somewhere in between, but you only can get it at if you can put both coverages side by side and figure out what's what.

I also think that people stick to what they're comfortable with. This is something I've said before, but I do think it's true that people don't want to be challenged, don't want to read something that they're in conflict with, and don't want to feel the pressure to re-evaulate where they stand. I'm totally guilty of this too, I admit it. But I don't think reading blogs of one particular persuasion is the way to go. Of course you're going to become a more diehard liberal/conservative if that's all the information you're getting -- you're not going to see anything else.

In the last election, a friend told me he was surprised John Kerry had lost because he was convinced that there was no way because of all the blogs he'd been reading. I was incredulous. Hadn't he been paying attention to the media that said Kerry was trailing? Losing was always a very possible and realistic option, but my friend never saw it coming because he never ventured out beyond the liberal blogs.

Anyway, I think it'd be an interesting project -- put conflicting points of views together, with all necessary linkage. Unfortunately, I don't necessarily have the time for it, so it'll just be one of those "nice to have" ideas for now.

Link of the Day: Newsweek prints two different covers -- one for International audiences, one for domestic --, as if Annie Lebovitz is more of concern to the majority of Americans than the possible and very real resurgence of the Taliban. In Newsweek's somewhat defense, I did get the Annie Lebovitz issue in the mail today and the Afghanistan story is the top story in the magazine, but you wouldn't know such hard-hitting news was inside because of the cover (which includes three golden-curled cherubs).
Weekend LotD

Actual content is still in draft form, but I thought the writers amongst us would be interested in this article about Peter Quinn from AP: Author Does Things Old Fashioned Way. Wow. I can't remember the last thing, other than taking notes and jotting down phone messages, that I've actually written in longhand. My wrists hurt just thinking about it, and my left hand -- which invariably gets smeared with ink when I write -- is already eyeing the soap dispenser.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Update!

No, I haven't been ignoring the blog; blogger's just been refusing to publish. Bad blogger! No biscuit! Though in general, I realize I've been a bad blogger, especially a bad liberal blogger, but there's no way on earth I can update multiple times a day during the work week. I marvel at people who can -- do they not have jobs?

As I alluded to previously, things have been a little hectic lately and October is going to be super busy. I don't mind though. I like it when things are busy and I don't sit around wondering what I'm going to do next. It's been a little quiet on that front for the last couple of months. It's funny -- six months ago, I felt like I was living out of a suitcase I was traveling so much, and now the only thing I pack and unpack is my gym bag. I'm getting a rather serious case of wanderlust.

I also realized that there are a bunch of emails that I have not answered that are especially about this blog. I'm really sorry if you emailed me and I didn't respond. I don't log on every night and I can forget to check all email accounts (I have about six -- I know, SCARY). If there is something to respond to in those emails, I promise I'll get to them this weekend.

This is all.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

LotD

The History of Lace in Belgium

Lacemaking is an industry which nowadays employs about one thousand lace workers, all of them ladies aged between fifty and ninety years of age. Do not expect to find lace factories in Brussels or Bruges, they do not exist.

Monday, September 25, 2006

This thing you call love, she smiles way too much

I was really excited when I heard the broadcast networks were going to offer free limited ad-supported streams of some of their shows online. I thought, Finally! Freedom from the VCR! Freedom from schedules! Freedom from deciding between "Grey's" and "CSI". I mean, I've had that freedom for the past year, but it wasn't exactly legal, and I was hoping this would be the end of that. So now, about a week into the new television season, I've had an opportunity to sample a little bit of each network's officerings, and here are my ratings of their online streaming capabilities.

ABC
Full episodes are available here. Shows offered include ABC's biggest hits including "Grey's Anatomy", "Desperate Housewives", "Lost" and a couple of their new offerings for this season, including "The Nine" and "Knights of Prosperity" and "Ugly Betty". I found ABC's interface to be pretty easy to use. No download required and there was no real confusion on where to go the full-length episode (ABC advertises on their front page). The quality -- sound and picture -- of the video was also decent on the small screen. As far as I can tell, the entire video is available in one viewing and not split into multiple parts. I couldn't test ABC's full-screen version because as they helpfully noted, my bandwidth is below optimal levels tonight (you need at least 850 kbs to watch full screen comfortably). The video was a little choppy, but that is also probably because of my bandwidth issues tonight. I also liked the basic uncluttered nature of the ABC interface. There aren't thirty other things trying to vie for your attention on the page, unlike my next review -- NBC.

NBC
NBC has limited offerings. It's basically offering shortened versions or recaps of some of their older shows, and full episodes of their new shows, including the critically acclaimed "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." I believe the full episodes of the new shows are limited -- meaning only 4 to 8 episodes total will be available and then you'll probably have to get them from iTunes or, um, other methods. You can access their player here. The clips are available towards the bottom of the page. Like ABC, NBC doesn't require any downloads to watch their videos. However, NBC's player is incredibly cluttered with ads for other shows and products, and their video is a little confusing. For "Studio 60", the show is split into 5 parts, and you have to click on each part to watch it. Also, the quality isn't that great. I hear rumors that NBC is going to offer a better quality version of their videos in coming weeks, but right now, I prefer to catch NBC's shows on television.

CBS
CBS' site is essentially a disaster. Or so I say because I have yet to be able to watch anything on their site. When it comes to offerings, CBS has 13 of their hit shows available here -- including all flavors of CSI. They also have video extras and interviews with cast and crew members (something ABC also offers). CBS, however, requires plug-ins for their player to work -- whether it's WMP, Real, or Flash, I couldn't tell you; I've been prompted for all three, and even after loading all three, I haven't gotten a single episode to play. I'll keep trying and hope to offer an update in the future. Right now though, despite being the most developed and having their own original programming, CBS is the worst of the three. ETA: I did, after 30 minutes, get the CBS player to work. It requires Real Player. Quality of video is decent in the small screen, and CBS, like ABC, also offers a big screen version -- quality is more iffy there. The small screen player is busy, kind of like NBC, but the full screen version will take up your entire screen and essentially eliminate any ads/promotions.

Best selection: In theory, CBS
Easiest to watch: ABC
Best quality: ABC (when at 850 kbs or better)

It's definitely technology in its infancy, but I like the idea of the networks getting with the future, rather than trying to avoid it. ABC and NBC provide quick, low maintenance access to their programming, which is awesome if you just have a few minutes and don't want to wait for a download. Their episodes, in theory, are available the next day after broadcast and none of them feature commercials of any length -- maybe a 15 to 30 second deal at the very beginning. It's a quick fix for people like me who miss lots of shows, but don't have the patience to sit wait for a download. Purists who care about video and sound quality aren't going to like this option very much.

Note: When I say ABC and NBC don't require plug-ins for their player, it means *I* didn't require anything. YMMV. Also, broadband is required. ABC will caution you if you're not at a high enough speed for optimal viewing. Also, if you use a pop-up blocker you'll have to turn it off or allow for pop-ups on the networks' site. Also, I looked at all sites using both Mozilla and IE and whatever difficulties I encountered in one, I encountered with the other. I do have to say I was pleasantly surprised that these sites were not IE-only.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Who decides?

The Mad Chatters flagged this story about parents who kidnapped their pregnant teenage daughter and were intending to take her to New York for an abortion a few days ago, but I'm only getting to blog about it now. I deem this a 'Very Special Story' because all in one efficient and tidy bundle, we have: Kidnapping! Abortion! Race! Parental-child strife! Violence! Prison! Women's rights! Super Stupid People!

Seriously. Incredibly special.

But not to be flip, the thing that's missing from all of these stories is that the mother-to-be is 19 years and can't be forced to have an abortion by her parents. That's the wonderful thing about choice (which unfortunately, is too often equated with pro-abortion). If this girl doesn't want an abortion, no doctor is going to give her one because her parents want her to. That's *her* choice and as an adult, her parents don't actually have control over what she does anymore. It does make me wonder about an alternative scenario I've never thought about before.

Most states require underage girls to get parental consent prior to an abortion, unless there are mitigating circumstances and they can get a judge to consent. But what if the parents want the child to have an abortion and the child does not want one? Then what? Who prevails in this case -- the parents or the child? My understanding in the first scenario is parents say no, then the girl has to have the baby. But what if the parents say yes and the girl says no, then what? Does she have to have the abortion regardless of her own wishes? I'm guessing 'no', but again that would be a 'choice' issue, but it would also create the contradictory issue that the parental oversight would be overruled and isn't parental oversight how anti-choice people want to erode abortion rights?

That's the story, mho, the idea that parents only have a say when it's against abortion, but not for -- not the Jerry Springer craziness of unkempt parents with a Hitleresque last name throwing their grown daughter into a car and taking her over state lines to force her to get an abortion.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Lily's dancing on the table

I just had a smackdown with my dentist. I mean, I know you're not supposed to pick fights with people who have bright shiny objects pointed at your mouth, but there's a principle at stake, mainly when I ask for a cleaning, I should get one, yes? There should not be an extra charge for one, yes? Because isn't that what insurance is for? And don't go on about the coffee stains on my teeth when all I care about is whether I have cavities or not. I mean, SERIOUSLY.

Anyway, I did call my insurance company, complained loudly and profusely (the place had no parking, for God's sake! I had to ask to get my teeth brushed! The dentist didn't speak English! These are MINIMAL qualifications!). So the end result is I'm getting a new dentist and they will allow me to get another cleaning at no extra charge now, rather than waiting another six months. Gah. To say I'm not happy would be an UNDERSTATEMENT OF EPIC PROPORTIONS.

But what does make me happy, though, is discovering -- and I can't believe how long it took me to discover this -- that Jon Stewart is on YouTube. Here is the clip of the ever impressive and inspiring Bill Clinton, but there are tons of really funny ones on there too. Skip the Gillian Anderson one though. Sometimes, stars are best as their character -- pretty, shiny, nice kitty kind of thing, best not to scrape away at the facade, y'know?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

LotD

When you read this article by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, it's hard to believe how things in Iraq aren't quite going our way [/sarcasm]. Scary, scary. Howard Kurtz has the media round-up on the article over here.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

LotD

The WSJ has an article on fanfiction here. The WSJ!

However: Increasingly, audiences have become used to watching videos posted by other users on sites such as YouTube and MySpace. Reading fiction online is another extention of this trend.

Fanfiction has been around way longer than YouTube and MySpace, which are recent addictions (the former which I enjoy, the latter which I avoid).

Many stories take the form of prequels, imagining the back stories of central characters. Crossover fantasies also have long been a key element of fan fiction, pairing characters from different books or shows.

I would argue with the word 'many'. Yes, there are prequels, but there also codas ("episode finishers"), missing scenes, sequels, stand alones, PWPs, vignettes, drabbles and filks.

Unfortunately, the link to the most popular fanfiction on the 'net is only available to subscribers and I stopped with the WSJ after graduate school. I'm just curious how they characterize 'popular' because even within fandoms, you have 'ships, genres, etc.

Obviously the issues in this piece make it even more clear how hard it is to explain fandom and fanfiction to people who aren't part of it (and as Jemima points out, even we don't always understand it), and no matter how much the media wants to generalize, that's an impossibility because fandom is a fervent, talented, diverse and noisy group of people who form a community that changes and evolves with source material, fanon and discussion. There's no "one size fits all" and frankly, we like it that way.
These are a few of my favorite things

A few years ago, a good friend of mine from college was in town on business, so of course, we hung out and road-tripped all over the state. At the time, one of my favorite CDs -- Sarah Brightman -- was in my car's CD player. He was very patient and didn't mind that I had it on repeat pretty much the entire time he was here. The same friend returned a few months later and was dismayed! horrified! aghast! to discover the SAME CD in my car's CD player. On our roadtrip down to the Big City to the Southeast, he insisted the CD had to go. "No more," he said, "I can't take any more Sarah Brightman."

So here's the thing. I like music, but there is some music I LOVE and has never, ever gotten tired of. I've had the same CD in my alarm clock for the last... 18 months or so. Yes, that's right, I get up to the same song every single day. I've had the same CD in the stereo in the living room for at least the last few weeks. The car's CD player gets a little more change because I go on some long drives and depending on how long the original CD's been in the player, I may have already heard that CD 80 million times and it's time for a change. The thing is, once I change a CD, chances are, that CD will stay until my next long roadtrip. I'm nothing, if not consistent.

Anyway, here are some of my all-time favorite CDs, the ones I've not yet tired of, despite having them for years. I recommend these whole-heartedly :-)
  • Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos -- A friend lent this to me during my first semester at college, and I made a tape of the CD. Later, I wore the tape out and ended up buying the CD. More than 10 years later, this is still one of my favorite CDs and I never get tired of it because it's just so raw, emotional, and lyrically beautiful.
  • Made in England by Elton John -- Strangely, my favorite songs on the CD are not the ones that made the radio, but rather the more haunting "Belfast", poignant "Latitude", and the sweetly romantic "Please". This is just another CD that the more I hear it, the more I get out of it, and every playing is like I'm hearing it for the first time.
  • Time to Say Good Bye by Sarah Brightman -- I own every one of Sarah Brightman's releases, but this is one of my favorites, and I think it's the richest and soaring of all of the releases. It starts with the absolute gorgeous and romantic "Time to Say Good Bye (Con te se partiro)", her duet with Andrea Bocelli. My favorite, however, would be the passionate "Just Show Me How to Love You", performed with Jose Cura.
  • Cieli di Toscana by Andrea Bocelli -- I have several of Bocelli's CDs, but this one is my favorite, because it's so much more dramatic than the others. I love music that ebs and flows, that rises and falls, and the first few tracks of this CD do exactly that. His duet with Helena on "L'Abitudine" is one of my favorites.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Anxiety, anxiety

Because I've never met a molehole I haven't wanted to turn into a mountain, I was very happy to see a book called The Worry Cure: Seven Steps to Stop Worry From Stopping You by Robert Leahy, PhD during my weekly trip to the library. Dale Carnegie tried to help me sometime ago, but we parted company at chapter 3, not because Mr. Carnegie wasn't truly trying, but because I'm impatient and want to stop worrying NOW (as my mother said once, I'm not happy unless I'm worrying about *something*). So when I saw that I could be cured in just seven steps, I thought, "Why the heck not?"

I've made it through the first six steps so far, but I only did the excercises in the second chapter. The rest, I'm just reading along and nodding. After 16 years of higher education, I'm pretty much done with the homework aspect of stuff. It's one of the reasons why I decided to leave the foreign language at Local Prestigious University because two nights of classes and homework... I just want to have fun, people!

Anyway, but what I liked about this book (homework aside) is the Seven Rules of Highly Worried People. Does this sound like you or someone you know? It certainly sounds like me.
  1. If something bad could happen -- if you can simply imagine it -- it is your responsibility to worry about it.
  2. Don't accept any uncertainty -- you need to know for sure.
  3. Treat all of your negative thoughts as if they are really tue.
  4. Anything bad that could happen is a reflection of who you are as a person.
  5. Failure is unacceptable.
  6. Get rid of any negative feelings immediately.
  7. Treat everything like an emergency.


Leahy later writes, "If you are a chronic worrier, then the following will seem familiar to you":
  1. You believe that gaining certainty will reduce your risk of harm
  2. You seek reassurance to gain more confidence
  3. You demand more information
  4. You wait indefinitely to take action
  5. You feel you need to know for sure
  6. If you don't know it for sure, then you conclude it's going to turn out badly
  7. Even when you seem to have a solution in hand, you ask if it will absolutely, definitely solve everything. If it doesn't, you reject it.
  8. You keep worrying in order to find the absolutely perfect answer that will eliminate uncertainty
  9. Uncertainty is equated with treat, lack of control, mistakes, and regret.


I'm guilty, very much so, of the first five, and to a lesser degree the rest of them. The funny thing is, I wait indefinitely to take action because I'm so busy looking for information and then I get overwhelmed by the amount of information and then suddenly I make this sudden move because I can't stand the uncertainity of not knowing what I'm going to do. And then I regret the sudden move because did I check everything a million times? Did I consider all possibilities? Did I consult everyone and everything I should have?

My trip to Europe is a perfect example. I spent weeks looking at airfares, how much a Eurorail ticket was going to cost, looking at various hostels and hotels, and examining the areas around the cities I was going to. I jotted down various timetables that would work for me (I didn't want to end up in a foreign city late in the afternoon, didn't want to leave said foreign city too early in the morning). I called three travel agents, had them all map out different itineraries for me, tweaking each one a little bit. Suddenly I had so much information that I had NO idea what I was going to do. I was making myself crazy and everyone around me crazy too. You have NO idea how much angst just booking a plane ticket was. And even when I had decided to book the trip, once I was on the phone with the travel agent who was offering the best deal, I was suddenly wondering if I was doing the right thing, if there wasn't at least one more agency I should have called...

It's amazing the travel agent didn't hang up on me.

In the end I put the deposit down and I had 10 days to make final payment after that and those 10 days, I went back and forth. I looked at new information (I KNOW!), and started second guessing my decision. Could I get a cheaper hotel? Cheaper flight? Was I staying too long? Different days? At one point, I was ready to cancel the whole thing and surrender my $100 deposit to the travel agency and book a whole 'nother trip. In the end, I just ended up sticking with what I'd booked. I was tired, everyone around me was tired. My brother said to me, "You've worked hard enough that you don't have to budget and travel on the cheap anymore."

Another friend said, "You're going to Europe! Who cares how much it costs?" In the end, I had to concede they were right -- I had a budget, the trip was falling within that budget, and other than the road trip I took with my parents last December, I haven't been on vacation in four years; I've barely been out of the state, let alone out of the country. And after some of the stuff that's happened in the last three years, the fact is, I *deserve* a good trip done right.

I've stopped looking at travel sites now, except for trip advice type things and suggested activities while in Berlin and Prague. No more visits to Travelocity or Hotels.com. I'm no longer checking out airfares. I had to go cold turkey otherwise I'd drive myself absolutely crazy. No amount of information will ever be enough because it will never tell me what I need to know: that everything will be okay and this is the best you can do.

* Just to clarify: I'm not endorsing this book; it's just something I picked up and parts of it, I could really identify with. I have no idea if the techniques listed in the book actually work.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Pretty

I really like the use of music on television shows to set the mood, and it's also how I found one of my all time favorite songs -- "The Promise" -- by Tracy Chapman. Last night, I heard the hauntingly beautiful "Bring on the Wonder" by Susan Enan at the end of "Bones"; if you're interested, you can hear a copy of the song here. There's a link for download but that's just a tease, and apparently the song won't be available for purchase until the end of the year. Wah! But in all seriousness, it's a beautiful song, she has a wonderful voice, and I'm looking forward to when the album comes out, if this song is any indication of quality.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

LotD

MSNBC has a really good article here on the different between freecreditreport.com and annualcreditreport.com. It's the latter you want, not the first one, and since we're all entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the three bureaus (get one every four months for free; note, your credit score isn't included -- you'll have to pay extra for that), make sure you go to annualcreditreport.com. Anyway, I highly recommend the MSNBC story because it really breaks down what's what and the things to look out for when it comes to requesting your credit report.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sunday, September 10, 2006

9/11

I can't believe there are CBS affiliates that won't play tonight's airing of 9/11, the documentary shot by two French filmmakers because of the profanity in the film. I'm further amazed that a conservative organization is protesting this film since 9/11 is the conservatives' rallying cry.

This is an unbelievable documentary, the only one from Ground Zero shot as events are happening, and I believe the historical context of the situation should be all the reason necessary to justify the profanity. I actually have this film on tape -- it is very difficult to watch, I will allow -- because it's a valuable historical document. It is not for entertainment, but for context and history. It's not for all audiences and it's very disturbing (well, what part of 9/11 wasn't?), but if you haven't yet had a chance to see it, I highly recommend it as a factual alternative to ABC's 'docudrama'.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

LotD the second

PDA users (including yours truly), be aware: 'Blackberry Thumb' increasingly common.
Body pump

Last night, I left a party around midnight because I have a weightlifting class first thing in the morning. When I explained this, a couple of the other girls looked absolutely horror-stricken. One asked how much I lifted and I 'fessed that my arms are still rather weak and depending on the muscle -- shoulder, chest, tricep, bicep -- I could lift between 10 to 20 pounds, but I could leg press 120 pounds. One girl said, "Wow, that's a lot. Aren't you afraid of becoming muscular?"

I get that reaction a lot when people -- mostly women -- find out that I lift at least twice a week. The first question is invariably about whether I'm going to turn into a bodybuilder. The short answer is no. In order to actually turn myself into a mean and fierce bodybuilder, I'd have to lift more than two hours a week, change my diet to eradicate all fat, and get hopped up on a handful of steroids -- none of which is likely. If there's one misconception I'd really, really like to eradicate (okay, there are a dozen, but right now, it's just this one), it's that women lifting weights will turn into hulks of muscle; it's a biological impossibility. However, what will happen is that lifting twice a week will help me gain tone, build muscle, strengthen bones, and help me burn more calories while I'm sitting, help prevent osteoporosis, strengthen ligaments and tendons, and much, much more.

I like the feeling of being toned, of knowing that when I stop waving my arm at someone, my tricep doesn't continue to jiggle after the action is through. I also like the easy goal-setting that comes with lifting weights. I never quite work hard enough on aerobic activities and it's hard to maintain a particular goal for 30 minutes, but with weights, I know exactly how much I lifted last week, how many reps I did, and what I'm aiming for this week. Of course, I admit, sometimes I choose strength training over aerobic activity (with the exception of biking, which is recommended by my physical therapist), but a lot of that also has to do with an ailing right hip and a "don't look at me wrong or I'll rupture" left Achilles tendon which rules out pretty much all aerobic activity except for the aforementioned biking.

I should also mention that in any workout program, variety is key, and upping resistance/speed is also necessary. Your muscles get used to a particular excercise or workout after a while and the benefits from that activity eventually dwindle. To ensure one gets the maximum benefit out of any workout program, it's necessary to mix it up and 'trick' your muscles so they don't get stuck in a rut. Alternate aerobic activity with weight lifting and yoga, for instance, or concentrate on a different body part every day of the week. The key is not to let your body get 'bored' with what it's doing and to constantly up the time, the reps, the resistance, etc.

LotD: Weight Training for Women

Friday, September 08, 2006

9/11

On Monday, CNN will be re-broadcasting its coverage of 9/11 on CNN Pipeline. I actually have a chunk of that coverage on videotape (which has been carefully labeled and put away, never to be watched again) because I'd actually set my VCR that morning to tape "Little House on the Prairie", which was then interrupted by CNN's coverage. It is amazing footage, and if you haven't seen it, Aaron Brown's raw emotion is something to be witnessed.

I won't be watching, however, nor will I be watching ABC's controversial docudrama. It's an important day, but I was there, and I don't need any of this media blitz to remind me how I felt that day. I'd like my memories of that day, of my emotions to be untainted.

LotD: How conservatives got Coulterized. ::shudder::

Sunday, September 03, 2006

LotD

Lockheed has been selected to build the shuttle replacement. Very cool. I had no idea that there were actually plans in place to start replacing the current fleet with something else.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

LotD 2

Wow, I'm a blogging fool today (g). I guess that's what you get when you are trying to get through on an international phone call that refuses -- REFUSES -- to go through. Bedtime has come and gone (and I'm getting close to being a Crankypants), but I'm determined -- DETERMINED -- to get through.

What, you didn't know I was so demanding?

Anyway, here's a literary tale of suspense and revenge that's quite clever. Though, I'm feeling quite uneducated because I'd never heard of John Betjeman before today. Also literary in scope, you can now download classic e-books on google. Yeah for google!
Small steps

I put the deposit down on my Europe trip today. I'm leaving Oct. 22 and returning Oct. 31. I'll be spending four nights in Berlin and four nights in Prague. I tried to work Dresden in there, but alas -- couldn't get it work, at least not within a price that would work in my budget. My passport has arrived so now I'm free to move around the world. I'm pretty excited. This is the first time I'm traveling internationally solo and while I'm freaked out about, I think this will be a great confidence booster and I'm already excited about planning out the trip and looking at the various tours offered. Plus, I haven't been outside of the United States -- not even Mexico or Canada -- since 2002, and I think it's good every now and then to leave the country and see how the rest of the world lives.

The other thing about traveling solo on a package that has guided tours in the morning and lots of free time in the afternoons and evenings is that I will get a chance to meet more local people and not stay confined to a group of Americans. When I was in France on my study abroad, it was most valuable when I was trying to learn more about the French, to understand their culture, customs and language. It wasn't easy and sometimes it was downright irritating, but things changed rapidly for the better when they realized I was making an honest effort. It's amazing just what one bonjour accompanied by a smile will do for customer service.

So yeah, I'm kind of freaked out, but I'm looking forward to this adventure. It's been a long-time wanted, a long-time coming, and a wonderful way to cap off the year of being 30 (and also to celebrate a couple of other things, which I cannot really talk about here).
LotD

Katie's insta makeover. Only 14 days until a new day on "Today"! If nothing else, I'll be totally glad for that catchy ditty to be off the airwaves.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

LotD

Betrayed by a cell phone. Yes, I know, slim pickings, but it's late and the wine has rushed to my head, and my limbs are feeling heavy. In other words, bed time. But this article is pretty interesting, especially if you're like me and have a collection of old cell phones just lying around.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Decisions, Decisions

I hate making decisions, almost as much as I hate housework. I hate making decisions because I'm constantly wondering if I'm making the right one and then when I do finally make a decision, I second-guess it to death. The crazy part of all this is, I rarely second-guess the decisions I make in a professional setting; I save all the craziness for my personal life.

To give an example, back when I was a freshman in college, I applied for transfer admission to the University of Virginia. I got in, and then began the angst and I mean, a serious summerful of angst to the point that the head lifeguard at the pool I was working at actually got on the PA system one evening and intoned gravely, "UMASS or UVA? UMASS or UVA?" After much back and forth, listing of pros and cons of going or staying, I was making myself and everyone around me crazy. My patient dad shelled out the deposit to UVA and to give me more time, paid tuition at UMASS as well. I finally decided that I should go to UVA based on a very simple decision: I wrote two letters of withdrawal, put them in envelopes, closed my eyes, and picked one. The letter was UMASS. I put it in the mail that day.

After I withdrew from UMASS, I broke the news to my 'old' UMASS roommate and introduced myself to my new roommate at UVA. My dad paid the UVA tuition and we made preparations to travel down to Charlottesville. A few days before we were supposed to leave, I realized I couldn't do it. I couldn't leave the great friends I'd made at UMASS and I didn't want to give up the job I'd just been hired for: assistant Arts & Living editor. I frantically called UMASS and thanks to the bureaucratic jungle that is Whitmore, they hadn't processed my withdrawal, nor had I lost my housing (my roommate, on the other hand, had made other arrangements). I begged them to rip up the envelope, and pretend they'd never gotten it. Then I called UVA and officially withdrew from there. Somewhere along the line, my dad got the second tuition back that he'd paid, and off I went blithely to UMASS, where I finished four full years.

I tell this story still to illustrate two points: 1) I can't make a decision and 2) my dad paid tuition at TWO universities so I could have more time to actually make the decision that was best for me. Now tell me, how many dads would do that, huh? I mean, *seriously*.

To this day, I wonder what would have happened if I'd gone to UVA instead of staying at UMASS. While I wonder, I don't regret staying at UMASS at all. UMASS was an awesome experience, I met great people, had a blast, and the experiences that I picked up there helped me land my very first job with Very Big Insurance Company. Not to mention, by staying at UMASS, I was able to earn two degrees -- a BA and a BBA -- in four years. I wouldn't have been able to have done that if I transferred to UVA and lost nearly half of my earned credits; I would have been lucky to receive my BBA in four years, let alone a BA as a bonus.

The thing is, since I was 19 years old, my decision making skills haven't improved that much. I'm often stymied by either the abundance of information or the lack thereof. I always want more time, and then suddenly it's crunch time and I make a snap decision. More often than not, my decisions are made emotionally, but I'd like to think there's a logical and intelligent component to all this because 9 times out of 10, the decisions I've made have been the right ones and somehow, I've got to trust in that. Everytime I come to a fork in the road, I ask myself (in the immortal words of Dale Carnegie), "What is the worst possible thing that can happen if I do A? What is the worst possible thing that can happen if I do B?" And I realize that usually the worst possible thing is nothing that I can't handle.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Link of the Day

I think I've posted this before, but The Fainter reminded me of it last night and so here's the link again as a refresher: The Cost of the War in Iraq.

Honestly, it makes me crazy that I was so against this war in the first place, that I didn't even vote for George W. Bush, and now I'm stuck not only with paying the tab, but also with the dismay and horror I feel at looking events on the ground. Nothing is going to bring back the 40,000 to 45,000 Iraqi civillians that have been killed or the nearly 3,000 US soldiers who have been killed, and for all that, what have we gained? Secretary Rice says it's the birth of the new Middle East, but is it really a Middle East we want? One where America is pretty much hated, where our actions are active recruitment posters for Al-Qaeda?

I simply cannot understand, how anyone with a sense of history, can even think we're safer today than we were before 9/11. Perhaps in terms of air safety, but please. AQ's terrorists are like mushrooms -- one of them gets lopped off, and there are more than a dozen to take his or her place and as long as we refuse to look and attempt to fix the underlying problems that contribute to terrorism, (not Cheney or Bush though, please -- they've 'fixed' enough) and if we never try to talk to the people directly sponsoring terrorism (hello Syria, Iran), we're never going to win this battle with guns and bombs. They've got more people on their side willing to die for the promise of 72 virgins in heaven than we can even imagine. As someone on Slashdot said long ago: "The beauty... of a war on an abstract concept is that the concept never surrenders and the war never ends..."

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Unreal

There was a shooting earlier this week at my brother's former elementary school and his second grade teacher, Mary Alicia Shanks, was one of the two murdered that day. It's just incredibly shocking news.
Career women

Forbes had an article very recently titled "Don't Marry Career Women". The original article is gone, replaced with this one. What an aggravating article. I'm sure there are plenty of people -- men and women both -- who were happy to see such a coherent statement supporting the "keep 'em barefoot and in the kitchen" nostalgia, but for career women like me, it's nothing short of dismaying, especially since the article puts the brunt of guilt for the demise of 'traditional' marriage on women.

Please.

Last I checked, there are two people involved in every relationship and regardless of the decisions people make on who works (or doesn't), who stays home (or doesn't), there's more to a failed marriage than just a woman who happens to choose work outside of the home. The thing I hate about articles like this is that it totally lets the man off the hook (men work long hours too!) and ignores the fact that by becoming better educated, by creating a resume of accomplishment, women are more independent and better able to support themselves than ever before. We don't need to settle when it comes to choosing a husband or depend on that same husband to hand us cash so we can buy groceries.

Oh wait... maybe that's what people are so pissed off about -- that we women simply aren't going to sit around and be doormats anymore.
A really bad idea

"Survivor" is dividing the teams by race. I'm already less interested in this season now. I'm all about gimmicks and hooks and the idea of making things fresh and interesting, but c'mon.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Link round-up

Poor Pluto. Longtime readers know I'm a sucker for the underdog, so of course I was rooting for Pluto to maintain its planetary status. This humorous NY Times op ed says it best.

It always gets me just how disproportionately poor women are affected by funding and laws when it comes to their health. Slate has a story about how the price of birth control has gone up for poor women here. On the other hand, the 'morning after' pill is now available without prescription. You win some, you lose some.

Grey's Anatomy's fans, you can find the season preview here. Kind of grainy and way too short for my impatient tastes (what is *up* with ABC's incredibly long previews for everything *except* GA?), but it's the most I've seen out there.