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.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Yuh yuh

I hate housework. No, I mean, I totally loathe hate despise housework. And it's not just the usual housework -- cooking, laundry, bathroom cleaning -- it's the insidious housework. The stealth housework. The housework I didn't know I had to do until it's staring me in the face, TAUNTING me, and DARING me, to ignore it for yet another day/week/month/year. Stealth housework. You know what I'm talking about. It's the little jobs, the things you didn't know you had to do until you open up the dryer and discover clothes in there that have been tumbled dry god only knows how many days/weeks/months/years ago. Or the dinner napkins that need to be ironed and folded and put away. Or the collection of bags that somehow escapes from behind cabinet doors and blow across the living room until suddenly, it's like I'm a two-legged cactus surrounded by plastic tumbleweed in my own living room.

Stealth housecleaning is evil. It's the moment when you discover that taking out the trash isn't going to be a 30-second job, but rather a 5 minute thing because there is some kind of weird brown goop growing on the side of your trash can. Other stealth tasks that I'm pointedly ignoring at the moment: the pile of receipts by the shredder that need to be shredded. There's the stack of dry cleaning that's just not going to walk itself over to the dry cleaners no matter how much and how hard I will them to. Shoes seem to sneak out of the closet when I'm not looking so when I come home, I trip over them (remember, most days I'm wearing heels of 3" or higher) and then I'm forced -- FORCED -- to put them away before I can do anything else. The ironing board -- the IKEA one that by most rights should come with a Swedish ironing boy -- never quite makes it back into the laundry room except when I have company because for some reason, wrinkles never, ever go away, no matter how high you put the heat. I am, without doubt, an ironing fool, but most days, you can't tell. Thank God dry-cleaning is $1.18 per regular garment.

Most days, I just drop my various bags on the floor, my keys slide across the kitchen counter and I slump in the recliner and reach for the remote control. Bare minimum, I think, bare minimum so I don't get evicted. But sooner, rather than later, something steathily will catch my eye, I'll feel guilty, turn off the television, and take a feather duster to me my faux plant because there's nothing sadder than formerly proud silk wilting under the weight of accumulated dust.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Tech update

This primarily affects those of you who have been receiving this blog via email. Due to the mostly defunct status of bloglet, I have transferred the email feed to FeedBlitz. All of your email addresses were imported into FeedBlitz (in other words, no need to re-subscribe), and the service, in theory, should resume starting tomorrow evening. The emails will come from FeedBlitz@FeedBlitz.com and the subject line will include the title I give to the post and [FeedBlitz] so you'll know exactly where it's coming from.

As with bloglet, there's no charge for this service and your email addresses will not be sold or given away if you subscribe to this blog's email feed. If you have any other questions about the switch to FeedBlitz, the FAQ is over here or feel free to email me. Just as an FYI, while the email feed has changed, all others -- Atom, RSSify, and Livejournal -- remain the same. Thus concludes today's geek posting.

Pretty in yellow

Pretty in Yellow

camping trip 040
camping trip 040,
originally uploaded by seemag.
There's a severe drought in the Hill Country to the point that there are now boat docks surrounded by grass rather than water. There is little in the way of greenery in the region, but I did come across this spot of color clinging to a fence at a winery.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Link Round-Up

In lieu of actual content:

What to Do When You Can't Win an Argument. I've done some of these myself. I'm not proud, but in the interests of full disclosure I should tell you my sins.

George Allen is stupid. It's the only explanation. And really, he might have gotten away with 'macaca' but the "Welcome to America" comment was so incredibly out of line and one of these days I'll talk about the time someone else said something similar to me. Maybe.

Wait, Aren't You Scared? -- Essay about terrorism.

I find myself biting my tongue a lot lately, not saying stuff when usually I'd be all over the person, their argument, poking holes like no one's business (obviously, I can be insufferable). I find that it's too much trouble, especially when I realize the people in question know they're wrong -- they're just going through the motions of side-stepping the truth and creating alternative realities where their version of truth reigns supreme. Most of the time, they're looking at me for a pat on the back and because I can't go along with what they're saying, I just smile and nod. So much easier than hurting their feelings and saying, "You do realize that's never going to work, do you?"

Monday, August 14, 2006

Put your hands together for...

Left Handers Day 2006! I can't believe I'm a day late to this most important celebration that celebrates the 10 percent of us who are in our right minds. Or something like that. Anyway, here are some fellow left-handed people.
Tech victory

My television remote control has been on a slow death march since last week. I thought, at first, that it was a battery issue, especially since it immediately started responding when I changed the batteries. But, last night, it started balking again, REFUSING to change the channel, INCREASE OR DECREASE the volume, or any such thing that is in its contract. I was faced with the possibility that my television remote was clicking its last.

My television is nearly 10 years old. My parents got me the set for my 21st birthday. I was going to be living by myself for the first time in snowy, cold Amherst, MA for the winter session -- no roommates, no nearby friends -- and my parents decided a television was the thing to chase away those December and January lonely nights. The television has been through a lot since our first winter together. It spent a summer in an non-air conditioned loft storage space in South Hadley (my friend, Bean, still hasn't forgiven me for this particular thing), and then it summered in Boston (without me -- our first prolonged separation; we missed each other desperately), and then it was UPS'd back to me sometime in the fall of 1998. The television was fine, but the remote control was missing its back, exposing its battery innards for all the world to see.

I started investigating replacement remotes yesterday and was horrified to discover just how expensive these things could be. For $229, the remote better well cook me dinner too! Whatever happened to simple clickers? I found a generic remote that claimed to work on all Sharp televisions manufactured since 1988, but that cost $30, and then the actual replacement for my current remote was $29.99 -- kind of high for a 10-year old remote that operates nothing but a 10-year old television. For $29.99, I expect more out of my remote -- at least turn on my 12-year old stereo. I'm just sayin'.

I have two allegedly universal remotes -- one of the DVD player, the other for the VCR -- and even though I'd failed in the past to figure out how they connect to my television, I decided to give it the good old girl try one more time, especially after my brother suggested reading the manuals (apparently just pointing the so-called 'universal' remotes at the television and willing it to turn on the television or violently jabbing at the buttons isn't the way it's done). I found the manual for my VCR fairly quickly, as well as the one for my television (10 years old! Two states! Six cities! And I still have the manual! Miracles of miracles!).

It took me forever to understand the instructions in the VCR manual on programming the remote and I did do the violent, ungraceful jabbing at buttons, and pointing at the television, just *willing* it to work (despite the fact I've already acknowledged willpower and 'mind over matter' has nothing to do with getting an intricate combination of circuits and wires to work, but I'm nothing if not optimistically stubborn). And... nothing. Finally, on the fifth or sixth try, I finally got the right combination and now, ladies and gents, I declare victory. My VCR remote now beautifully operates my television, doing everything from turning it on to raising and lowering the volume. I love technology. I think.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

LotD

Jill Carroll speaks. This story has always felt very personal because I actually knew Jill -- she was a reporter at the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, which is where I also got my start in journalism. IIRC, we only shared the newsroom for a year (my senior year; I was the Arts & Living editor and a night editor. Jill was on the news desk), but during that year she covered some of the big stories on campus, including a major SGA scandal. She also worked with a couple of my closest friends on the newspaper staff and when one of those friends showed up on the "Today Show" to talk about Jill, the situation became real for the first time and I thought, "Oh this can't be happening." But it did, and now in her own words, it's possible to know how she survived.
A little night music

Here's a sample of what's on my current playlist. These *.mp3s are available for the next seven days only and then they go poof!*

The Riddle by Five for Fighting -- absolutely gorgeous, beautiful melody, and I love the chorus: "There's a reason for the world, you and I." Very sweet. I can see this being a staple of weddings in the future, perhaps for a mother & son dance.

Full of Grace by Sarah McLachlan -- No one does melancholy as poetically as Sarah McLachlan. The lyrics "I know I could love you much better than this" get me every time because it reminds me so much of the relationship that could have been and that I still bleed over.

99 Luftballons by Nena (German version) -- This song was very popular when we were living in in Germany. It's infectious, catchy, but more than that, it was a commentary about the Cold War. You can read more about that here.

Angel of the Morning by Juice Newton -- The morning after has never sounded quite so forgiving, understanding and vibrant as it does Juice Newton style. I've always loved this song, even before I knew what it was all about (g).

Happy listening!

* Just an FYI -- I will not be sharing these files again after the download links expire.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Wondering

What part of 'compact car parking only' do SUV owners not understand?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Hee!

You can review milk on Amazon and 344 'people' did. It's hilarious. Sample review:

Oh Milk!
Is there nothing in this world more shiny?
Afire with such glinting glow.
What is more glinting than Mookoo?
Folly! Banish the thought.
Did he smile his work to see, Milkman?
I gulp and invite my soul!
Milk is like Rainbows.


This is right up there with the time Amazon was selling 'clean underwear' on its site (With apologies to all of you: I wish I could find my blog entry with the screen shot in it).

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Are you nobody too?

Emily Dickinson, the recluse of Amherst, was always one of my favorite poets. Strangely, despite being in Amherst for four years, I never did visit her house and actually, now that I think about it, I don't actually know where it was. I guess I just figured it was a house, a structure filled with things, whereas what I admired and enjoyed were the words she left behind. For today, I've picked a different poem than the usual Emily Dickinson poems I trot out because it's nice to showcase something that's perhaps not quite as well known as I'm nobody! Who are you? and Because I could not stop for Death.


HEART, we will forget him!
You and I, to-night!
You may forget the warmth he gave,
I will forget the light.

When you have done, pray tell me,
That I my thoughts may dim;
Haste! lest while you’re lagging,
I may remember him!


-- Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, August 01, 2006