Saturday, December 29, 2007

LotD II

Americans may know that the death penalty's not working. They just don't care enough to insist that something be done about it.

Link: Capital Opportunity
Nostalgia

AOL shuts down Netscape. ::sniff:: My very first browser...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Failed states

We (Lori, jemima, and yours truly) were discussing "failed democracies", ie Pakistan, and our conversation reminded me of this list of failed states that had been published in the year. There are few surprises in the first 30 or so, but things start to get more interesting as you move down the rankings. Pakistan is ranked 12th as a failed state (Sudan is number 1 and Iraq is second), while the United States is hovering at 160. Norway is the least failed state, ranked 177th. I was surprised to see Venezuela at 74 -- somehow, with Chavez's antics, I'd expected it to be lower on the list, rather than neighbors with Israel, at number 75. This list also shows how little of the world I know. The Solomon Islands (where?) is ranked in the top 30 (why?) as a failed state. Some of these other countries -- Central African Republican -- are a big blob of confusion to me. I would point out that most of the countries towards the bottom of the rankings were the colonizers and the failed states, for the most part, were colonized at some point in the last 50-60 years.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Money trail

I was looking at some Perry Homes, but will cross them off my list in light of this piece of information from the AP:

According to Federal Election Commission records, ClubForGrowth.net received $200,000 this month from Bob Perry, a Houston homebuilder who in 2004 pumped nearly $4.5 million into the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth to pay for unsubstantiated ads that questioned Kerry's Vietnam service.

Full story is here.
I definitely don't want any of my dollars going towards defeating Democrats, that's for sure!
LotD

The Shakespearean Authorship Question

Monday, December 24, 2007

On the road with Seema

I've been discombobulated lately, which is why you haven't heard much from me. In the last 10 days, I've been in 6 different cities -- one of them twice. My suitcase has taken up residence on the living room floor and I don't know what's in it anymore. I vaguely recall throwing sweaters and turtlenecks in one day, and then replacing all of those with t-shirts, only to learn my destination had temperatures in the 30s and 40s. Frequent flyer miles are building, as is my toiletry collection. You'd think after all of this, I'd get the TSA rules down, but no -- last week I forgot the little baggie and got my toothpaste tossed out. Yes, I was one of *those* people.

I've run out of steam, basically. I've got a few days off now and I might write, but mostly I want to figure out if Shakespeare was actually Shakespeare or someone else. I also have a couple of book reviews to put out, and some major cleaning/organizing/tidying to do. I really just want to spend one whole day lounging around, not having anywhere to be, or any baggies to organize or think about whether I need a sweater or a short-sleeve blouse. I might even (gasp) watch some television and if I'm really, really lucky, I'll catch a movie. But mostly, I just want to relax.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The switch

It scares me just how motivated people here in Very Red State are so willing to pull the switch and end someone's life. I understand the arguments for the death penalty -- deterrence, the ultimate punishment for heinous crimes, the cost of keeping someone locked up for life, etc, etc. In fact, there was even a time in my life when I half-heartedly supported the death penalty, but that was also because I lived in a state where it was never used (and in fact, I just realized my home state only has the federal death penalty). It's easy to have a blood thirst when you don't realize what's going on in terms of fair trials, DNA evidence that's overlooked/ignored, witnesses who are unreliable, lawyers who are incompetent, etc. When I moved to Very Red State, I didn't understand why people weren't willing to wait 30 days to reconsider evidence. If the evidence proves the person is guilty, fine, but if not? Then what? My main opposition for the death penalty is that it is IRREVERSIBLE.

You can convict someone wrongly (and it happens every day), sentence them to jail, and whoops, they're innocent, so you set them free. Yes, they've lost time, they've lost opportunities, etc., but at least they have a chance at a normal life. With the Death Penalty, if the person is innocent, then there's nothing you can do once the drug cocktail is administered. I don't have an issue with 'cruel and unusual' (I wonder how 'cruel and unusual' stacks up to how most of the victims die), but I do have an issue with the fact that innocent people may have been executed. To me, all of the other reasons FOR the death penalty are invalidated on the basis that mistakes do and have happened. I can't support, in good conscience, a system that is so imperfect that its consequences are irreversible.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Playtime!

What's your Traveler IQ? I got to level 7 and a score of 236,030 points. Ironically, I missed Venice by about 200 km, but got within 5 km of the Doge's Palace. In my second go around, I got to level 8 and 285,528 points. Those random island nations, most commonly populated by the cast of "Survivor" just kill me. Anyway, it's fun; certainly beats the chores I'm supposed to be doing!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Holiday

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow's 'Black Friday' and all those glossy sales flyers make it look awfully tempting. But I've decided to celebrate Buy Nothing Day. Even the bargain hunter in me can't be tempted to venture out into the cold, dark morning for a $199 laptop computer or the $79 8.1 megapixel camera. I was nearly tempted for the Elmo chair, but decided online was the way to go. Nothing good can come of Black Friday, so my credit card and I shall stay home and celebrate having that much less stuff.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Chariots of smoldering embers

So I've taken up running. This has been a slow jog in progress since probably mid to late September. Today, I successfully finished 2.5 miles in 31 minutes, and my one mile time was 11 minutes; not too shabby. I'm definitely feeling stronger and my stamina is there, but fatigue and I are now best friends. I sleep awesomely, deep and hard, through the night, and honestly, when I come home, my futon is my favorite place to rest my weary legs. My original goal was to hit 5 miles by Dec. 9. I don't think that's going to happen, but I am getting close to my goal of a 10 minute mile. I think 3 miles at a 12-minute mile average pace will, however, be very doable by goal date. I'll just stagger and limp my way through the last 2 miles.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

LotD

I really like looking at the pictures on this website. The cupcakes are particularly mouth-watering, but so far, my only action has been drooling. Baking season is coming on us and I'm contemplating going the Kraft Food & Family route. It's more realistic for one pot cookers like yours truly. I especially recommend the chocolate mousse recipe; I substituted a really nice dark chocolate for the Toblerone, used low-fat whip cream, and garnished with raspberries per the pictures and it was scrumptious and done in the advertised 5 minutes.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Books

I just finished P is for Peril by Sue Grafton. I still don't know what happened at the end and that's totally aggravating because dangit, I like my mysteries tied up with a nice little bow. Open-ended endings, those are best left for 'literary mainstream' novels. In general, the book was not the best of the Alphabet series. It was slow, plodding, and just over-burdened with Grafton's key eye for detail. I mean, seriously, the woman describes EVERYTHING, right down to what Kinsey bought at a grocery store. Unless it's a plot point that leads to the killer, I'm not interested in Kinsey's eggs and bread. Add to that a random subplot that had NO bearing on the main story and was a little hard to swallow, and I was left cold.

I do, however, think Grafton's gift is really in her descriptions, rather than her plot pacing. She can describe the heck of out anything and so her scenes and characters are very vivid. But the problem is, we have all of these details and no emotional resonance. It makes it very hard to care about any of the characters. The murder victim himself was merely a footnote to the whole elaborate set-up. It was as if Grafton had 80 million subplots and tangents she wanted to go off into and then decided in the last 3 chapters to pick up the pace and then... nothing. It was as if Grafton got tired, lost track of her 80 million subplots and decided to pack it in. I can only hope that these story threads are meant to be picked up in the next Alphabet book. But as it is, given the density of this one, not sure I'll remember or even care.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

LotD

freerice.com/ -- donate rice and improve your vocab at the same time. I'm feeling a little fiesty about the challenge here. I warn you though -- it can be addictive.
These twists and turns of fate

I don't listen to music much anymore except on my commute to and fro. It amuses me because I used to have my headphones glued to my ears and I never thought there'd come a day when I didn't know everything there was to know about the Top 40 chart. Now that I'm in the car a lot more, I do know more of what's out there, but still nothing like when I was a teenager.

One of the songs I really like is Pink's "Who Knew?" It's one of those songs that just really encapsulates a certain sentiment, one that I didn't even know I had, but then then song comes along and it's like "OMG, you too?" Pretty much anything, starting back with by Rob Thomas has that same effect on me. Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats" amuses me greatly even if I can't identify it with at all; I think it's "you go girl!" element that I like the best.

Most music just plays in the background, but there are other songs that I think if I were to put together a soundtrack of my life, they'd be included as lyrical descriptors, putting both emotional distance and solidarity together in one 3 1/2 minute bundle.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Funny LotD

Hat tip to Lori for pointing me to this latest case of plagiarism. The comments are hilarious. The author in question (Lanaia? Mary? Jane?), whose agent is casting spells and lawsuits left and right, has a Yahoogroup over here. Funny, funny.
If you're on this list, I need your email address

Pretty please send an email to the Top Sekrit Addy (tm):

T'Other Liz
Alex Voy
Jerie
Busy Bee (work address)
jemima
Tracy
Sarah K (aka munchkin's mom)

Everyone else, I believe I have your email address saved in my Yahoo! address book.
Out of practice

I finally got around to upgrading my browser so I'm now blogging at you from SeaMonkey. But I also am so out of practice that I forgot to back-up my files. Okay, maybe not so much 'forgot' as relied on Mozilla's past track record of not writing over my files. Well, note to the wise: BACK UP YOUR FILES. I have lost every email sent to the Top Sekrit address since 2001 ::sniff:: including email addresses. Which means, if you've emailed me very recently and I didn't email you back, well, chances are you won't be seeing a response to that email. I'm actually more concerned about the email addresses since there are some people whose email I don't know by heart and not sure how I'm going to deal with those.

On the plug side, as related to last night's blog entry, I did lose some of those emails that I wanted desperately to delete and forget about, but couldn't, and now as fate has it...

If anyone has any idea of where my email might have disappeared to during the installation process, I'd love your input.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Letters never sent

I was thinking about an email I never responded to. It's been a while, and I don't know why it just stuck in my brain now. At the time, I was just floored by the contact because it had been so long -- more than 2 years -- since the last communication and I was finally getting to this 'good' place in my life where pieces were starting to fall back into place and make sense again, and then this email. A couple days later, another email came from someone else who hadn't been a particularly bright spot in my life and I thought, "Good grief, just pile on."

I made a polite but reserved and rather abrupt response to both emails and didn't respond to any further emails. There was, after all, so much I could say, so much I *wanted* to say, so much I wanted to *know* and maybe even some questions I wanted to ask. But in the end, I realized, it didn't matter. The past is the past, and how you treat people at the moment you walk out of their lives, well, that resonates for a long time. In fact, I think about it, because I was similarly harsh to someone else about 18 months ago and I still feel badly about it.

I've been thinking about those unanswered emails, contemplating responding, but what's the point? In many ways, re-initiating contact, even for the sake of the apology, is selfish. The people who wrote to me had no idea where I was in my life, what I was feeling, or even what I had 'suffered' as a consequence of the minefields they left behind. Maybe they felt better by coming back into my life, I don't know, but I certainly didn't. Suddenly, here they were, reigniting memories I had firmly tucked away -- not forgotten, certainly, but I had learned to live with them. If I respond, or even if I send the apology that I so desperately want to send, it's not the thing to do. Sometimes, not hitting 'send' is the hardest thing to do.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

More pictures

Budapest trip 013
Budapest trip 013,
originally uploaded by seemag.
The view from Buda Castle; the parliament building is in the background and that's the Danube River between the trees and the shore.
For the best

I really, really wanted to respond to an entry about yoga on a conservative blog but couldn't figure out how to register. It's probably all for the best, because those blogs are not really for lefties, and I'm not sure -- even though I intended to be completely respectful to their opinion -- that they would have been respectful of mine. If I posted there, I'd probably have to, in Addison's words, special-order myself a thicker skin. And as much as I'd like to have said something (especially in response to someone's thoughtful question), I don't think partisan blogs are really intended for the free flow discourse of information and learning. They really are just one big echo chamber. I really need to stop reading this last partisan blog on my list. It doesn't do me any good, especially since a) I can't respond when I want to be and b) my input wouldn't be valued anyway.*

* I find this rather ironic, as the readers on the blog say liberals are especially hateful. I'd like to challenge that assertion, but maybe I'll just have a margarita instead.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Home away from home

Budapest trip 055
Budapest trip 055,
originally uploaded by seemag.
This was our cabin in Budapest. It was a fully functional 6-person cabin, including kitchen, dining area, living room, and a nice patio out front with deck furniture. Of course, it was a little cold to sit outside and we usually left every morning by 8 am and came back well after 10 pm, so there was no sitting outside. In the background, you can see the leaves have changed color. It really was very nice and peaceful out here in the middle of nowhere. I really enjoyed it and could totally live there.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Fisherman's Wharf

Budapest trip 026
Budapest trip 026,
originally uploaded by seemag.
This lovely walkway is part of the Budapest Castle. They charge admission to walk along the walls, so I snapped this picture from the free part of the castle (all the while being solicited by women selling 'handmade' embroidered tablecloths).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Budapest trip 060
Budapest trip 060,
originally uploaded by seemag.
One of the highlights of the trip was visiting Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. In general, I found people in Bratislava to be extremely friendly and helpful. The old town was charming and easy to get around, and the food was delicious. The city sits right on the Danube and the bridges are architecturally interesting and modern. Overlooking the Danube is the medieval castle of Bratislava. I took this photo of the castle from the New Bridge. It's really quite lovely, and the hike up to the top of the hill is definitely worth it for the wonderful views.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Home sweet home

So I'm home again, and while it's nice to be sleeping in my own bed again after being away for 10 days, it's also a little bit of a letdown, because I had a super marvelous vacation. For those of you not in the know, in the past week or so, I visited Budapest, Bratislava (Slovakia) and Vienna. All three cities were amazing and I had a great time. Bratislava, especially, was a very pleasant surprise -- not at all crowded, relatively inexpensive (given the plunging dollar, which made Vienna and London really painful), and the people there were extremely friendly, and more importantly, lots of vegetarian food!

I managed to do the entire week in about $1500*, which was my budget. I was concerned given the weakness of the dollar, but managed to mitigate the damage by eating pretty cheaply, buying few souveniers, taking public transport instead of private tours as I have in the past, and only going inside of a couple of castles, and skipping museums and churches entirely (many churches now charge admission to go inside -- anywhere from $2 to $10 depending on the church). I bought a 3-day pass for metro in Budapest and that worked great, especially given how freakish Control is about checking tickets there. In Vienna and Bratislava, I mostly walked, though I did buy the occasional metro ticket when the cold or my feet defeated me.

I actually stayed in a couple of four star hotels in Budapest and Vienna, courtesy of Priceline. I highly recommend using Priceline for booking your hotels. I was absolutely stymied while making my hotel bookings because I couldn't quite figure out where to stay, how much to pay, currency conversions etc, etc., and ended up on Priceline. The result was getting two Marriotts for $120/night each, when the going rate in Vienna was $250 a night and in Budapest, $400. Both hotels were located in the city centers, and in Budapest, the hotel was sitting right on the Danube, with a gorgeous view of the Castle and Citadel. There is no way I would have been able to stay in such hotels without Priceline.

As for Bratislava, I stayed in the Hotel Kjev, which to put it kindly, was a dump (the ceiling in the bathroom was literally falling, the sheets and pillows were frayed, there was no shower curtain on the tub, and I had some doubts on when it had last been cleaned, and the whole place reeked a little bit of Nair). However, the Hotel Kjev was right next to the Old Town and had a great breakfast included, so that helped a little bit. Plus, after staying at the Kjev, I really, really appreciated the Marriotts. :-)

All in all, this was one of my favorite vacations of all time. It was very relaxing, lots of fun, and I consumed lots and lots of chocolate, including the famous Sacher Torte at the Hotel Sacher in Vienna. I didn't think about work once, and that was really good for the trip, but rather discombobulating when I came home because it was like, "Okay, now where did I leave off again?"

My camera died during the Bratislava leg of the trip, so I'm not sure when I'll have pictures to post. I'm hoping it's just a question of having the wrong batteries for the camera and all will be resolved when I get the correct ones. That probably won't happen until this coming weekend when I'm more awake. I'll post some of the highlights of the trip tomorrow.

* Includes hotels, airfare, all transportation including trains, boats, taxis, buses and trams, food and drink, admissions, and souvenier shopping

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hello world!

Just wanted to say hello. Full blog entry detailing the last week will appear probably Sunday or Monday evening. Type at you then.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The L word

I took this quiz to find out who I should support in the 2008 election. I thought my answers on the quiz put me middle of the road in terms of political leanings and that my likely candidates would be either Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama. Imagine my surprise when my first time through, my candidate turned out to be Mike Gravel, former Alaska Senator. I have never even heard of him. Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama were in my third tier of candidates, which I found really odd. Then I took the quiz again and my candidate this time around was Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel was second. Again, Clinton and Obama didn't even register in my top two tiers.

Maybe it's time to come to grips with the fact that I am indeed super liberal leftwing. Not sure why I'm reluctant to admit it; maybe because it's that I live in Very Red State, and don't want to stick out like a sore thumb, or maybe I'm just in denial. Still, no good reason to continue denying my leftiness (right down to my handedness!) so as of today, I'm officially disclaiming my claim that I'm a moderate Democrat and declare myself ultra leftwing liberal and goshdarnit, it feels good to admit it.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Woe!

I'm blogging at you from IE because Mozilla crashed this evening and while I was trying to resurrect the browser made out of awesome, I was stunned to learn that the Mozilla suite's last release was in 2006 and ::sniff:: has now been entirely replaced by Thunderbird and Firefox. It's sad because I've been Mozilla-ing forever and I'm wary of these new!improved animals. Maybe in a couple of weeks, I'll switch over. It's not good to run around with old software...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Race for the Cure

This weekend, I participated in the Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure. It was my first 5K in literally years, and possibly the first time I was attempting to run 3 miles since probably high school when I was a competitive distance runner on a nationally ranked cross country team. Put in that perspective, the fact I huffed and puffed my way through the 5K is really a little bit embarassing.

The race was amazingly emotional. You get to the starting line and there are all of these people who have "In memory of" and "In celebration of" signs pinned to their backs. There are survivors running too. The statistics are sobering. But despite the emotional context of the race, it was also amazing to see that in Sweat Sock City, which is not known for being athletic, that something like 30,000 people showed up. I was a last minute registrant for the noncompetitive run, and my bib was in the 14,000s.

My goal was to be able to run 2 miles at the race. The course went right by my place and my goal was to be ablt to run to my street. This, I felt, would be a stretch, because the most I've run recently is one mile. My mile time is about 12 minutes right now, again kind of sad when I think about to high school when my mile time was around 7 minutes. So my secondary goal was to finish the 3.1 miles in 40 minutes. I was pretty sure that was doable. After all, I knew I could walk 3 miles with no problem.

The skies opened up just before the race and we all got completely drenched. This turned out to be a good thing actually as it was quite warm and the rain cooled us all down. The rain stopped during the run so that was nice. There were people cheering for us all the way and police officers had blocked off all the streets so that this ocean of human support could just roll its way to the finish line. It was actually pretty amazing to see just how many people had come to participate.

I felt really good at first mile and pushed to the second mile, and I was still feeling pretty good, except for the acknowledgment my knees aren't as young as they once were. I had a little trouble with the one gradual slope on the course, again embarassing considering I was a pretty good hill runner back in high school. I switched to the grass on the side of the road for the remainder of the course, and that helped out with the knees. The third mile was rough and I can't say my run was much faster than most people's walks, but hey, I didn't stop! I'm happy to report that I crossed the finish line at the 40-minute mark, running the entire way. (In high school, I did a 5K in around 22 minutes).

There's a 5-miler in December that I'm going to shoot for now. My goal for that is to run the 3 miles without looking like I'm about to pass out on the side of the road. I originally was going to try to drop my mile time to 10 minutes, but now my goal is longevity. I think the mile time will come as I keep working at it. After all, a month ago, I couldn't even run a mile, let alone finish a 5K. So all in all, it was a very good experience for a very good cause.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Hooray for Alex!

I got a lovely postcard today from our intrepid hiker, Alex, who spent the month of September tackling Kilimanjaro, which is completely awesome. She's gotten closer to the top of the world than anyone else I know and it's a super-human effort. Congrats, Alex -- 17,000 feet is an amazing feat worthy of many margaritas and poolboys (and girls!) galore! Check out Alex's blog over here for the full detail of her trip to Africa and Kilimanjaro.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Snip, snip

I cut off all my hair. My head feels about 10 pounds lighter. I'm not sure what to do with the new, shorter look, which now that it has dried, makes it appear that a giant bush with unruly branches is attached to my neck. The good thing is my hair grows back very, very quickly.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Books

I'm nearly finished with Reading Lolita in Tehran and it's been a slow, infuriating read, I have to say. It's a rather pedantic, plodding memoir (I'd rather call it a 'lecture') juxtoposing Iranian society from the Revolution through the Iraq-Iran War to the time the author finally leaves the country. Interwoven throughout are long expositions about novels including "Lolita" and "Pride and Prejudice" and of course, the trial of "The Great Gatsby". All of this would be interesting if the book didn't rely so much on the fact the reader must have read all the novels referenced. Without that frame of reference, it really felt like I'd come to English class without reading the homework assignment.

I wanted to know more about the women in the memoir and how they felt about the changes and how they were coping. That was the infuriating part. The author could touch on emotions, could often delicately elicit a certain feeling, and then she would drop it like a hot potato without exploring it. For instance, she talks about not wanting to wear the veil, which is fine, but tell us why. There are so many instances like this whether the author will make an emotional statement but never takes it all the way through to its final conclusion. The isolationism in which she couches her opinions and feelings makes it hard to really get into the book and absorb what points the author is trying to make.

Because of the 'lecture' format of the novel and the way it jumps from situation to situation, it's really hard to get a sense of anyone except for the narrator. The women in her class are simply women who have endured, but you never get a sense of who they are, what they want, and what moves them or what they need. Every now and then, there's a tragic episode that happens to one of these women, and the emotion is definitely felt, but is immediately forgotten in the next chapter because there doesn't really seem to be a desire on the author's part to somehow pull these women together and present a coherent picture of what is happening to them. Instead, to make her point, Nafisi will go on about a novel, usually Nabokov, who makes entirely too many appearances, comparing it to the current situation. That works if the reader has actually read the novels in question. In my case, I'd only read one -- Pride & Prejudice -- and because the women in the book club were simply footnotes, I'd lost all ability to distinguish one from the other by the end of the 300 some odd pages.

The book is well-written, though the paragraph formats are funky and quotations are optional and seemingly used at whim; it's very strange and can be hard to follow every now and then, not to mention highly annoying. Plus there are weird shifts of time, tense, location, and heck, people who were in one paragraph have phased themselves out of the next. Getting through this book is not necessarily so much hard as it's an act of brute force.

There are some great insights in the book (I did find the author's take on the format of "Pride and Prejudice" interesting) but you never quite feel anything about anything that actually happens in it because it's written about in such a measured, professorial tone. For me, that was most disappointing thing. In a time like this, I really wanted to understand more, and instead, I came away feeling like I'd just been in a semester-long English class than just happened to be taught in Tehran.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

LotD

You can find anything on E-Bay! Belgium, for instance.

Newsflash: Women are making more money than men in NYC and it's impacting their dating lives. Not necessarily news -- I have several female friends who make more money than their significant others, but they seem to be doing okay; it's the sign of the times. This paragraph is kind of funny: So as not to flaunt her own salary, Lori Weiss, a 29-year-old lawyer in Manhattan, has found herself clipping price tags off expensive clothes she buys on shopping binges, or hiding shopping bags in the closet just so men she was dating would not see them lying around and feel threatened by her spending power.

My take is, if the guy you're dating is THAT sensitive and you have to hide THAT much from him, it's not going to work out. Plus, doesn't the whole thing just reek of stalkerism? As if the guy you're dating is going to paw through your bags and your closet to see just how much you paid for stuff? Please. That'd be grounds for walking papers.

You can calculate your carbon footprint here. I'm more than twice the national average. I do take issue with the car size though because I drive a small car and a four door sedan can be twice the size of my car and get a lot worse mileage. Of course, now I'm just sounding defensive (g). I've set a goal for myself to recycle more, but I haven't been doing a good job of it. Recycling here in Red State isn't a priority and so it's actually kind of difficult to do it. There is a recycling center near me, so maybe I should try and get my act together. Still feeling defensive though...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Jetsetter

So last week I went to the East Coast and returned, all in less than 24 hours. It was a crazy trip, fast and furious, but everything went well and I was very relieved to be back home after what can be, by all accounts, termed a successful trip. I just find it amazing that 8 pm in the evening on Tuesday I was standing in the rental car lot at the Philadelphia Airport and by 8 pm the next evening, I was walking through the garage at Sweat Sock City's airport looking for my own car. The funniest thing was just how many people on my return flight had flown to Philly the day before as well and most of them had taken the later non-stop flight. Ah technology. You can be gone and back before anyone even notices...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Keeping house

I heard or read somewhere recently that if something will take you less than 20 seconds to do, you should do it right away. So I tried it one day and unwittingly, in less than an hour, I had most of my place cleaned up. I've been going by that philosophy pretty much every day now and the big pay off came this weekend when I was sitting on my futon trying to figure out what in the heck chores I needed to take care of. Usually a good chunk of every weekend is devoted to taking care of things I didn't do during the week. Yet, this weekend, I found myself curiously free of mundane things like putting away my work clothes or folding laundry or emptying the sink of dishes. All of those things had already been accomplished and I was left with my usual weekend chores of bathroom cleaning and shopping. It was an awesome feeling.

The other thing I'm working on right now is cleaning my closet. I've gone on a couple of shopping sprees lately to replace and update my outdated wardrobe. My new job requires a more professional look and I've also been working out hard and with enough watchings of "What Not To Wear", I also know how to dress myself. The end result is that I have to donate older clothes to make room for the new (good-bye high-waisted, elastic pants! (g)). My problem comes out of a sense of loyalty. There are things hanging in my closet that just look old and tired and I haven't worn them in forever. But they have nostalgic effect for me and even though I know the chances of wearing them are next to nothing, I can't bear to part with them.

For instance, I have a skirt hanging in my closet that I bought just before starting my job at Very Big Insurance Company. Hem lines were much shorter 10 years ago than they are now, and the skirt is high waisted. The material is black rayon with speckles of tan all over it it, so it isn't the most pretty thing around. I wore it recently and it wasn't particularly flattering, yet I can't bring myself to part it with it. The other candidate for dismal is a pretty green cordoroy jumper that is too precious for words and I still love it, even though I acquired it back in college. Again, the hem length is way too short for someone in the three decade of life. Still, can't part with it. I have a tank top from college that I keep thinking I'll wear, but with new styles today, the shirt isn't long enough to reach the tops of my low-rise pants, so I can't wear it or I'll be flashing people all day long. Yet, it still hangs, somehow earning reprieve after reprieve. Too bad the 20-second rule isn't as effective on my closet as it is on the rest of my house.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

LotD

I'm starting to think the only thing Larry Craig is truly guilty of is indecisiveness which in turns leads to stupid and hasty decisions. His inability to excercise judgment of any kind is possibly the best reason why he should NOT be in Congress.
Seema a go go

One of the hardest parts of the new job is getting used to the commute. This is the longest commute I've ever had. Combine that with the fact Sweat Sock City highways give me a nervous breakdown every 32 seconds, I'm not necessarily the happiest camper first thing in the morning or right at quitting time. Today, it took me an hour and fifteen minutes to get home. And keep in mind, this is going against traffic. Of course, today was special circumstances -- a truck had overturned on the overpass near my exit and hence, the entire freeway had been shut down to clear out the mess. I didn't hear any mention of injuries, so that's a Good Thing (tm).

I detoured prior to my exit, otherwise I'm pretty sure I still wouldn't be home. The alternate route is much less trafficked and one I use when the weather is bad (read: torrential downpours with zero visibility and street flooding what you might call a daily occurance here in Sweat Sock City this year). This route also takes me through one of the poorer sections of town. It's an odd juxtaposition -- dilapidated houses held together by paint and willpower, yards overgrown with weeds, the road a patchwork of different colored asphalt because no one cares enough to redo it against the soaring silver and glass skyline of one of the country's largest cities. In this neighborhood, time seems to stand still.

Dogs languidly creep across the street, pausing to check both ways. Once, I saw a dog standing on the low roof of a back yard cottage. People cross the street, slowly, and anywhere they wish to; crosswalks don't seem to mean a thing here. Every other block has a lot overgrown with weeds. There are many abandoned buildings with black signs with "For Sale" printed on them in red block letters. The billboards are all in Spanish and promote local health care clinics and the community college. The cars parked on the street and in driveways are late models, usually Fords or Chevys, their color dulled by a coat of dust. There's only one metro bus line that runs through this area and the bus is always full. Occasionally I see a taxi drive through, but I've never seen one stop. One auto repair shop seems to have given into its surroundings and graffited its own walls with a list of services available. It's the only business open on this three mile stretch of road.

There's a yellow apartment house (complex?) that gets me every time. There are two buildings, and one of them looks like it has been condemned. The windows and doors have been boarded up. The other one is open for living, yet the windows are broken, the doors to the staircase are perpetually open revealing rickety stairs and the yard is littered with trash. There are always people sitting outside of this house, no matter the weather, and occasionally they have beer. There are always children in the group. Once, I drove by and saw Sweat Sock City's finest in the yard. They had two of the teenagers facedown on the ground, and one of the cops had his gun drawn. In three months of driving through this neighborhood, that's the only time I've seen the cops.

This must have been a pretty area once. I see the echoes of history as I get closer to downtown. There are buildings that look at home in an episode of "Little House on the Praire", there's an old church, a rundown general store building, and all around, this lush, lush greenery courtesy of this summer's crazy weather. But it's as if the whole area has given up and boarded up these beautiful old buildings, letting the elements take their toll on structure and foundation. Somehow, the financial success of Sweat Sock City and its enormous growth in the last five years haven't filtered down to this neighborhood. Soon, the investors will move in and tear down these feeble structures, essentially evicting the current residents. And as much as I want this area to be cleaned up, brought back to life, I can't help but wonder what will happen to the people who live there when the change comes.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sunday not so blue

I can't believe the weekend is 66 percent finished. I shouldn't be dismayed, because I got a lot done, including finishing that story I've been belly-aching about for MONTHS. I finished it this morning and parts of it fell immediately into place and other parts that have been bugging me were 'easily' rectified. It's as if I had to put it aside for a while, let it ferment, and then go off and do a whole lot of reading just to remind myself how it's done. In fact, I think the break was good for me because I'd fallen into a rut, was making the same stylistic choices and using some of the same phrasing over and over again. I'm not saying I didn't do that here, but I do think I approached it with a somewhat different mindset because I've been away so long.

I also think my summer of reading was a good way to ease back in. I was able to see what worked for writers and what doesn't work. Plus, I was exposed to different styles of writing, different genres, different cultures and different tonal qualities. All of that helps shape my approach. The lack of exposure and laziness got me into my old pattern and yes, it worked for a while, but it was kind of like writing the same story over and over again. The feel was always the same, the characterizations, the moods, etc. I'm not necessarily saying that's gone this time around, but I'm more aware and I think that's important. Hopefully I can keep this momentum going.

I finally tackled those pesky house chores that just never seem to go away. What's up with the sink NEVER being completely empty of dishes? What about the laundry that never seems to be done? It's like I empty the sink and do dishes and turn around and lo behold, gotta do it again. Oh well. If this is the worst problem I have to deal with, I'll take it!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Three day weekend

It's the end of summer as we know it and wow, what a summer it's been. I closed one chapter of this summer by turning in all of my paperwork to the court this afternoon. I dropped my car off for an oil change and then walked the two blocks to the court. It was pretty warm, and I was feeling a little sore, since I had already worked out for 90 minutes this morning. I had to wait in line, but I felt happy because it was like FINALLY, I can put this all behind me and look at me being more than 30 days in front of the deadline.

Anyway, I got my stuff into the court clerk and was dismayed to learn that my 'receipt' is only that I've completed and turned the necessary paperwork in to dismiss my ticket. My ticket hasn't been dismissed and I STILL have to wait for the judge. The good thing is my deadline was Oct. 9 so if I don't hear anything via snail mail, I have plenty of time to call in and check before my Next Very Big Vacation (tm).

I continue to read my way through the summer. I already talked about Harry Potter and Khaled Hosseni's latest book. The Middle East theme continues as I most recently picked up "Reading Lolita in Tehran"; it's all about books forbidden in Iran, mostly concerning books I've never read. Now I know how "The Great Gatsby" ends. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I also finished Bob Woodward's biography of Hillary Clinton called "A Woman in Charge." Next on my list is "Gods and Generals" by Jeff Schaara. I also finished "Snowflower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See and "Cold Sassy Tree" by Olive Ann Burns, both for my book club. "A Confederacy of Dunces" is on my immediate reading list as well and I'm waiting for a bunch of books at the library.

All in all, a pretty decent summer. I've settled into the new job pretty well after a couple of months of stress and mental gymnastics. The commute and early hours are getting better, but I do miss the proximity of downtown and the pure joy I felt wandering through the narrow streets and gazing up at towers of glass and steel. My social life has gotten a little out of control with nearly something going on every weekend and several nights a week. Of course, I'm happy about that in the best possible way after several years of sulking on my futon. Finally, I am seeing some SERIOUS muscle definition. All those hours in the gym are paying off big time. I love the fact that when my arm stops moving, so do my triceps, biceps, and every thing else that used to jiggle. All in all, it's been a great summer and I'm sad to see it end.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

LotD

This morning on the 'Today' show, Matt Lauer asked his panelists -- I think Tucker Carlson was one of them -- if there was a double standard re Republicans getting caught with their pants down and asked to resign and the MSM making a big deal over it. I nearly spit coffee all over my television. Here's the deal, and I don't know why Matt Lauer doesn't get it. IF YOU CLAIM YOU REPRESENT THE PARTY OF "FAMILY VALUES" AND BELIEVE IN "TRADITIONAL" INSTITUTIONS THAT INCLUDE MARRIAGE AND EXCLUDE THE POSSIBILITY OF INFIDELITY, THEN DON'T PLAY FOOTSIES IN THE MEN'S ROOM AND BLAME THE MEDIA FOR MAKING A BIG DEAL OF THE FACT THAT NOT ONLY MIGHT YOU BE A BIG HYPOCRITE, YOU MAY ALSO HAVE REALLY BAD JUDGMENT (I mean, an airport BATHROOM? Seriously?).

Whew.

I feel better.

LotD: The last line is the best. "A Senator's Wide Stance"

Monday, August 20, 2007

Reading corner

I've been reading a lot lately, and last night, I finished Khaled Hoessini's A Thousand Splendid Suns. This was possibly the roughest read I've had in a long time -- just emotional (and at odd times too), poignant, depressing, horrific, and every now and then a moment of hope. The story follows two women through pre-revolutionary Afghanistan through the fall of the Taliban (the current resurgence is barely a blip on the radar) and what their lives and circumstances were. If even 1 percent of what happens to these women is based in reality, it's already too much. There was a part of me wondering about my own comfortable life when halfway around the world, these women are being physically and emotionally and mentally tortured and treated as prisoners. It's possibly the most disheartening book I've ever read and Hoessini's prose -- stark but poignant (he has mastered the art of putting the right details at the right moments and skipping over what doesn't matter) -- manages to cut right to the emotional heart of the story. I can't say I enjoyed the book, but I couldn't put it down.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

LotD

Stole this link from my brother:

The Wrong Lessons of Iraq, but it's semi-related to the previous post on this subject, so I thought I'd go wild and crazy and post TWO entries today. Lori, you'd probably enjoy the link since it's more a psychological analysis of the different attitudes about the war.
No time machine

I was watching "The Daily Show" last night and also a few nights ago, when Bill Kristol was on. Jon Stewart was pounding both Kristol and last night's guest, Stephen F. Hayes, pretty hard on the Iraq War, but what I especially liked about yesterday's conversation is that Stewart actually brought up the issue of patriotism and if you're against the war, somehow you're a traitor and hurting morale. The full transcript of yesterday's show is over here or you can always watch it on Comedy Central if you'd like (I personally find their media player horrible).

Here's the thing. The supporters of the war have framed it so elegantly in black and white. Black and white is easy, it doesn't require nuance. It's either A or it's B. There's no in between and you don't have to hurt your head with shades of gray. Easy, easy. So if you're against the war, then you want the terrorists to win and if you want a plan of action, then you're supporting the terrorists. If you want the troops to come home becaus standing between two sides intent on killing each other isn't a long-term viable strategy then you're a defeatist. Add it all up together and somehow you're unAmerican and unpatriotic, which all adds up to the 't' word: Traitor.

See, the conservatives have gotten really good at the name calling. They've gotten good at framing the debate and setting up the sides. They've got a huge grassroots support system on radio and internet and all they do is pick at you little by little until suddenly it's tiresome to bang your head up against "YOU MAKE NO FREAKING SENSE AND YOU HAVEN'T IN YEARS" brickwall.

The thing is, it doesn't matter if the antiwar people are defeatist, unAmerican, unpatriotic, or Benedict Arnold. Those are just adjectives, they don't mean a dang thing. It's the conservatives who got us into the freaking mess and they don't seem like they have a plan to get us out. That's why they get so upset when we ask questions. That's why they don't believe in accountability. 'Stay the course' wasn't a winning strategy for the first George Bush, but apparently old habits die hard. Maybe it's time we reframe the debate from the antiwar side: "We made a mistake, we want to fix it in the best possible way for America, and how can we do that in a way that minimizes casualities -- civilian and military, Iraqi and American -- in the best possible way?"

Rhetoric is easy, but it's not a solution. So while I'm leaning very strongly towards Hillary Clinton, honestly, I'd vote for the first person who puts forward a strategy that makes sense, is actionable, but more importantly, doesn't involve playground-style name calling.

Monday, August 13, 2007

LotD

Interesting article about Padilla and the possible effects of alleged US torture over here. But what really caught my attention was this phrase: "In 2002, the Justice Department produced a "torture" memo stating that victims would have to experience pain equivalent to organ failure to prove torture." Just. Wow.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Why does it always go

That I figure out what ails my story and how to fix it when I'm in the least possible position to fix it? I've been contemplating my latest disaster and deciding with uncharacteristic zeal that I want to resurrect it and fix it, whatever the quality, so I can at least have a recent accomplishment of "I wrote something! Hooray!" So the first problem was the de-evolution of narrative and description and dialogue into paragraphs of serial events told to you, the hapless reader.

I realize now that the paragraphs are important because they are the guideposts to the story's action. It's not necessarily the content of the paragraphs that is the problem but more the way I've related the story. A few 'telling' moments here and there sprinkled through a story isn't the kiss of death. An entire third of the story is. Now that I realize the exact issue, I also have some idea of how to fix it. At some point (meaning the future, not tonight, because lately I seem to excel at procrastinating), I will turn my paragraphs into something that cannot be advertised as a cure for insomnia.
Testing

Blogger has been refusing to publish lately. Bad Blogger, no biscuit!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

History lessons

I've always associated what's happening in Iraq today with more recent genocidal civil wars such as Bosnia and Kosovo as they are fresh in recent history and have some of the same characteristics: ethnics groups forced together into a country by a strong-fisted leader. Remove that force and lo and behold, the country falls apart and people who formerly called themselves friends and family are at each other's throats. But Fred Kaplan over at Slate points out another parallel which I'd never noticed before -- India in 1947 and Iraq today. The article is here. It pains me to say it -- because I want nothing more than for the troops to come home -- but Bush ignored one lesson of history and now we can't possibly ignore another. They've got to stay there until somehow any potential consequence of withdrawal is mitigated.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Womyn

Newsweek has an interesting series called "On Faith" in which they discuss various religious questions from different viewpoints. Today, the question was: "Are physicians' primary obligations to their patients or their religious convictions?"

I found the following paragraph in this viewpoint cut right to what has always bothered me about these so called 'conscience' laws so succinctly:

It should be noted that virtually all of the assertions of a
"right of conscience" by physicians and pharmacists are directed against women and women’s exercise of their right to choice about their reproductive capacity. These physicians and pharmacists are asserting that their private conscience is superior that to that of women. Yet it should be obvious that women also have a right to exercise conscience in regard to their own private medical issues.


And also, here's an interesting perspective from the ever interesting Anna Quindlan. If abortion is a crime, then what's the punishment? How Much Jail Time for Women Who Have Abortions?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A long time gone

So I'm back, which is kind of what I said in my last post, and it's kind of misleading because I was never really gone. I felt like taking a hiatus from the internet for any number of reasons last week, though I was online a lot this weekend as I was taking a defensive driving course online (6 hours!) in order to get my speeding ticket dismissed. I'm pretty happy to say that at this point, I'm just waiting for paperwork to make its way to me so I can get the entire thing dismissed. I have until October 9th to file all the paperwork with the court, but really, I just want it over with. New developments make me think things are going to get a lot busier from here on out and the last thing I want to worry about is Sweat Sock City's finest showing up at my door to haul me off to the slammer because I forgot to take my course and file the paperwork. For the record, I'm happy to report that I did receive 100 percent on the final exam, though my record through the course was less than stellar -- somewhere around a 94.

I'm feeling out of practice. Hopefully I'll have something more interesting next time.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Back!

Hello, all, I'm back. I am finished the book and since I have no way of discussing it here without spoiling it, all I will say is that the 7 straight hours I spent reading the book were very enjoyable. Your mileage may vary.

I feel like I've missed a lot in the last few days. It was just Harry Potter that's been taking up my time, but I've been out and about. I'm supposed to be working on my story but somehow I don't seem that motivated to do something about my summary paragraphs and I feel very much like cheating and just saying "the end". But then I think, if JK Rowling did that, we readers would feel totally gypped. Not, btw, am I insinuating in any way that JK Rowling and I have anything in common except for maybe a love of coffee houses.

So how about you? Have you read the book? Was it worth the wait? The anticipation? And please, out of consideration, no spoilers.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Offline

Beginning tomorrow evening, I shall be offline. Well, offline as much as I can be. I'm hoping against hope that I will NOT be spoiled for Harry Potter and one of the only ways to assure that is to stay off the computer and not read the newspapers or watch television. As it is, the New York Times has already published a review of the book, and spoilers are everywhere. Some media outlets are better than others when it comes to this kind of stuff, but I don't want to take the chance.

I will get the book on Monday (hopefully) and it's gonna be a sprint reading session. So I'll see you guys when I'm done reading!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Interesting...

I find this comment thread between the liberals and conservatives very interesting, if not a wee bit frightening. I'm amazed MikeB hung in there as long as he did (the 'liberal' voice) and he made some inappropriate comments, mho, but I also find it scary how many people still believe that Iraq and Al-Qaeda had ties to each other pre-9/11. The misinformation is disheartening, truly is.

The saddest part of this whole comment thread is that there really is no room for polite discourse. You question George Bush, and your Americanism is questioned. Of course, it's a conservative blog, so I suppose it should be expected; I have no doubt a liberal blog would flay a conservative for showing up on that blog with the opposing viewpoint. It's for that reason that I'm not a big fan of either politically conservative/liberal blogs. They pick their talking points that'll appeal best to their audience and cherry-pick the stories that'll support their viewpoint and don't bother ever saying "Oops, I was wrong that time" or post a story that might, just might, give another point of view. I'm not a big fan of the name-calling that goes on on either of these blogs. I know it makes for colorful reading, but it's just aggravating and disrespectful, mho.

I also believe political blogs do a major disservice to their readers, who don't get the whole story because they're too busy getting their news from either Michelle Malkin or Daily Kos. Conservatives will argue that they need blogs because the MSM has been leading them astray, but I'd argue that the bloggers have been leading readers astray (liberal & conservative both). These blogs subsist on a population of angry people of both political persuasions who are so incredibly convinced of their viewpoint that the minute that viewpoint is threatened, they have no choice but to attack. It's so very sad.

*Please, Kosvo wasn't so much an invasion as an intervention and many years late too. Gee whiz, people.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Writer's block

It's not so much that I have writer's block -- I have lots of ideas and phrases running through my head at all times -- but that I despise editing with a passion. I mean, I really, really, really, really hate editing. There was a time when I didn't mind it, when I actually looked forward to the process, but now, it just grates on my nerves big time and the only way to avoid this necessary evil is to not write at all or do what I've been doing lately -- edit as I go along. Those of you who have been there done that know that the 'editing as you go along' process is not the wisest because it turns you, the writer, into an automatic self-critic and once you start second-guessing yourself, the story is not going to get off the ground.

I have a story that started off really well, even included some dialogue, but the last half of it is nothing but paragraphs of writing right to the anti-climatic end of the story; and yes, it reads as tediously as it sounds. The lazy in me is tempted to just leave it at that and slap a "the end" on it so I can move on to the next project which will be infinitely splashier and more exciting, but the critic in me is wagging her finger and saying, "Now, now, now, don't cut corners." What to do, what to do? In the end, quality's got to win over getting something done quickly, because if I'm not proud of it, then there's no point in sharing it with the world, right? So back I go to flesh out my lackluster endings and add in dialogue and detail and bring my sketchy paragraphs to life so my settings and characters 'pop'.

That doesn't change the fact I still hate editing.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Car talk

Here in Sweat Sock City, it's become a rage to have valet parking at restaurants, upscale ones and the not so upscale ones. It actually makes me a little crazy because I can park my own car -- an act I engage in at least four times a day. And then I show up at this restaurant and I have to give my keys to some guy I've known for about 2 seconds and trust them to park my car for me. It especially aggravates me when the restaurant in question has a huge parking lot -- such as the newest, hip spot just down the street from me. Huge parking lot and it's all valet. And not free valet either.

I don't get it. Is this some service that people really need? I understand in cases where the weather is bad or parking is hard to find, but in places with their own lots? I don't get it. It especially irritates me because most of these places, you'll spend at least $15/person for dinner, probably closer to $30, and then you have to also pay the guy to do something you can do yourself. Depending on the place, you're lucky if you can get by with $5 to the valet. It's just like a local big movie theatre complex here -- they charge you $3 to park there.

I no longer frequent places with valet parking or if they do have valet parking, I check around to see if I can park on the street. In a couple of cases, the weather was so bad and the only option was valet, I drove out and went to another restaurant entirely. Needless to say, I also don't go to the movie theatre where you have to pay to park (another movie theatre in downtown where you do have to pay to park, validates your parking ticket for you, so it's all good).

I bet valet parking adds some kind of 'status' to a restaurant and probably attracts a up-scale crowd. I'd really like to see some studies on it, because I'm pretty sure I'm not the only who is aggravated by this particular growing trend. I'm also curious to know how many people choose not to go somewhere because you have to pay for parking.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Pretty as a lady bird

RiP, Lady Bird Johnson. The legacy she left this country might seem simple, but could hardly be considered trivial.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sweet dreams

Spend the night at IKEA! Can you imagine? It reminds me of that time in high school -- I'm pretty sure it was senior year -- when someone thought it'd be a great idea to have a class sleepover in the gym. You can imagine that no one got any sleep at all that night. I remember lying in my sleeping bag, debating the meaning of life with my friends as the shadows danced themselves into weird shapes on the cinder block walls. Things get kind of trippy in a high school gym at 3 am in the morning and when you're 18 and think you know everything there is to know.

Anyway, I have a hard time thinking about spending more than an hour at IKEA, let alone an entire evening, but if they'd throw in the flight to Oslo along with the bedsheets and bathrobe, I'd totally be up for it.
Semantics, schemantics

I realized I used the word 'megalith' in this post in regards to the upcoming release of the last Harry Potter novel. I really meant the word 'juggernaut'. I'm eagerly looking forward to the book, even though I have very little memory of what happened in the last one, or even the five books preceeding it. I'm not a huge Harry Potter fan, probably pretty low on the scale, but I love the idea of being part of a huge reading community and devouring a book voraciously in a way that I haven't since, say, high school. These days, I tend to go at a very languid pace of about 3-6 pages a night if I'm lucky, and every now and then, I'll spend about 30 minutes reading.

But Harry Potter, well, that's a force of nature to be reckoned with and my speed will be dictated by the fact I don't want to be spoiled at all as to what happens and hence, I will need to read quickly to avoid from finding out the ending before I get there myself. This means I'll have to quarantine myself from all forms of media (::sniff::, Today Show), and maybe even people... In preparation, I've been trying to up my reading pace to about 10 pages an evening. We'll see how it goes. Since this will be a quiet weekend with no plans, I might spend a big chunk of time building my reading 'muscles', so I'll be game-ready when the book comes out next week...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Shakespeare had the right idea

Apparently that judge in DC who is suing some drycleaners over a pair of pants to the tune of $54 million isn't giving up, even though his case was dismissed a couple weeks ago. The whole thing is ridiculous and you got to feel for the poor drycleaners who have, literally, been taken to the cleaners with this case. There's defense fund for these guys over here, so they can keep up with this increasingly nutty litigatious judge without losing their shirts. Really, with all the stuff that's going on in the world, I can't believe this guy is going absolutely ape**** over a pair of pants.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Pop Culture

Reading: Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Movie watching: A Very Long Engagement starring Audrey Tatou
Television watching: What Not to Wear
Listening: Wide Open Spaces by the Dixie Chicks

I've been reading a lot lately and these are some of the other titles I've read and do recommend:

Return From Troy by Lindsey Clarke
One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding by Rebecca Mead
I Love You, Nice to Meet You by Lori Gottleib and Kevin Bleyer
Four Queens by Nancy Bazelon Goldstone

I've checked out a lot of books from the library, but I read so slowly these days -- about a book every two weeks -- that the number of titles I started and not finished is immensely long. I am, however, greatly enjoying "The Inheritance of Loss", which is unexpected. Next on my list is Resolute by Martin Sandler and Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns, but of course, that's without taking the megalith that's Harry Potter into consideration.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Rain, rain, go away

It's been raining non-stop for weeks now and it can stop at any time. There's this funky smell hanging over the city (hence my endearing name for it) because the storm drains are backing up pretty quickly and the drainage ditches that criss-cross the city overflowed their banks today. Fun all around. I'm watching a line of storms right now coming up from the south and whether it comes here or turns northward, it doesn't really matter. It's soggy no matter where you go.

I steered clear of any water on the streets on my way home from work today. I had to detour a lot because so many roads and intersections were under water, but that's okay. I had a high water experience about 10 days ago and I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown right there and then in the middle of a flood intersection. I got through it and pulled into a parking lot to wait it out, but once is enough for me. It's not worth the risk -- not to me, not to my car, not to anyone around me. Waiting*, as far as I know, has never killed anyone. But yet, I keep seeing truck after truck going into water that's at least as high as their grills. It's mystifying to me.

*for high water to recede, that is

Monday, July 02, 2007

Wasabi!

So the other night, outside of a local sushi restaurant, I'm introduced to this woman. She looks vaguely familiar, her name is vaguely familiar, but it takes me a few minutes to figure out -- well, actually, I have to ask her, "So what do you do?" And even before she opens her mouth to respond, I had a sudden vision of torrential grey sheets of rain, cars stalled out beneath a gray overpass, and this woman knee-deep in water, cowering beneath an umbrella. It's in this moment of soggy clarity, I realize she's a journalist for the local NBC affiliate. "You're the one who's always standing in the rain when it floods!" I exclaim. "Oh gosh, I always feel so bad for you."

At least I didn't say, "Wow, you look really different without your raincoat and floppy rain hat..."

Sunday, July 01, 2007

What's going on

So it's been a rather eventful week. I returned from a business trip to Philadelphia late one night after being delayed on the Philly tarmack for 2 hours. It was hot, hot, hot in Philly that day and when people from the deep south say it's hot, well, you know it's got to be hot. So I was not quite awake the next morning when I drove into work and got caught in a very strategically placed speed trap just half a mile from my apartment. Most excellent.

So I'm sitting there at the side of the road, fuming and wondering just how it was after four years of driving down this road, how did I not know the speed limit was not 40 mph, but rather 30 mph? The cop wasn't that nice to me either. He not only handed me a doozy of a speeding ticket (12 miles over the speed limit will cost you $188 here in Sweat Sock City), but I was also the lucky recipient of not one, but TWO citations, that in total add up to another $350. Luckily, one of the citations -- proof of financial responsibility -- I'll be able to get knocked off. The insurance card in my car expired in May and I'd neglected to replace it with the new one. So that's easily taken care of. The second citation, well, that's going to be interesting to deal with.

I never changed my driver's license address when I moved to Sweat Sock City four years ago nor when I was in Ye Olde University Towne six years ago. Instead, I put the parental units' address on my license, deciding that until I figured out where this tumbleweed was going to land, I wanted to have a permanent address. Well, the cop didn't buy that explanation and gave me a stern lecture: "You're not a child anymore, you don't need to rely on your parents." Methinks someone doesn't have a good relationship with his parental units.

Anyway, I went online to DPS to change my address and found out that my current address is way too long for the address bar and there's just nothing I can do about that, short of going to DPS in person (I'll call in the morning to find out what's what). So now I'm not sure what to do. My court date is on July 20th, which means I have 20 days to procure a new license to show to the judge and hopefully get my $100 fine on that waived. Except that it takes 15 to 20 working days to get a new license, which means if I can't do it online, I'm out of luck. ::sigh::

As for the speeding ticket, I've decided to accept responsibility and plead guilty/no contest (I was, after all, speeding) and petition to take a driver's education course. It'll still cost me some change, but if I successfully complete it (and this will be my third* time through, so I have no doubt I will pass it), then I avoid having this ticket on my license and no points will be added to my driving record -- which is very important to me, because I do have a clean driving record (no accidents in the past 6 years, one speeding ticket five years ago).

The lessons here are:
* Don't speed
* Make sure you have an up to date insurance card in your car
* Make sure your license address matches your insurance card

The first time I took it was for the insurance discount; we get 10 percent off our insurance premiums on successful completion.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Music!

This is my favorite Dixie Chicks' song:



Enjoy!
Oops, I did it again

I bought a $320 suit for $54 at Macy's. And it's a classic style in charcoal gray, a quality brand, so nothing weird about it. Amazing. I needed a blazer and Ann Taylor had one on sale for $60 that was okay, but then I went to Macy's and the whole suit -- the only one left in my size -- was on sale for $60 and then I had them knock down the price 10 percent because it was missing a button (I can reattach it myself). Not bad, not bad at all. I love being a bargain hunter :-)

Monday, June 18, 2007

2000

Unintentionally, the Barak Obama post was number 2000. This is post number 2001. The management apologizes for the uncoolness of the 2000th post, as it was totally intended to be hot AND cool at the same time. But alas, righteous indignation took over and voila, Barak Obama is the proud, proud recipient 2000th post. Bah humbug.
Makes no cents

Phooey on Senator Obama, who has lost my support (tepid as it was) for the primary season (is it over yet?). I'd been shifting between Obama and Hilary Clinton for some time now and have been leaning more towards Clinton, but this latest memo of his smearing Indian Americans just about killed any pre-nomination support I might have had for him. I have no idea what he (or someone in his campaign) was thinking. In my non-scientific research, Indian Americans are well-off, educated, are leaders in a variety of fields, but more importantly, they vote Democrat. A lot. Maybe Indian Americans aren't a huge population so Obama wasn't worried about ticking us off, but still... Incredibly stupid and so now the next time the Obama campaign calls me looking for a donation, I'll remind them that I'm an Indian American and they don't seem to want MY support. My checkbook is CLOSED.

The worst part is though, if he gets the Democratic nod, I've got no choice but to support him. Of course, I can vote, just not give money. Grrr. IDIOT.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Milestone

This blog is coming up on its 2000th post. Which, I think, is amazing, because that means I've had 2000 things to say. Actually, if you know me in RL, you know I have a lot more than 2000 things to say and sometimes I say them all at once, and often times without any preamble. Sometimes, I think it's awful because people aren't living in my head. Imagine how much I could say if people were living in my head and were actually *with* me, conversationally-speaking. Of course, that could lead to all sorts of very strange conversations too (my friend Andrew once observed that sometimes my conversations were disjointed because I would just start talking about the thing I was thinking about and just expect everyone else to be RIGHT THERE with me).

The point is, I've been talking in RL and talking on this blog to the point of 2000 posts. About what, I couldn't quite tell you, and frankly, I'm scared to go back and read what some of the other 1,997 posts are. I used to think the blog would make a great diary and I'd go back and fondly recall good times I was writing about and all of the wacky, crazy ideas and opinions I held, but I don't because I'm not sure the tone of the blog and the subject matter always matches what's going on in my head or what I'm feeling, so it's not even an accurate representation of what was.

So watch for it, the 2000th post coming some day soon. It's gonna be hot. No pressure or anything...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Confessional...

Also, don't tell the "Sex and the City" girls, but I'm wearing a scrunchie right now, and by gosh darn it, my big hair and I LOVE it. (I think I may have even sewn my own scrunchie way back in the days when they were popular. However, as enamored with scrunchies as I am, I never did fall for the blue eye-shadow/leg warmer/leotard/big bangs look. There is some comfort there...).
To the Internet Gods...

Forgive me, for I have snarked...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Internet!

Oh Internet, my Internet! How I have missed you!

For those of you not in the know, sometime last week (Monday most probably), my phone line died. Dead, dead, dead. No landline, no Internet. It was a sad situation, especially when I realized I was getting very close to using up all of my anytime minutes on my cell phone and then learning it would take nearly a WEEK for AT&T to come out and repair the line. In the meantime, my phone would ring endlessly, even if I picked it up, but no one could hear me on the other end nor would my answering machine pick up. It was highly frustrating.

So, I'm back now, well back as long as AT&T will keep my phone line operating. I do believe this is the second time in four years that my landline has gone out like that, but the last time, I think the repair guy was out in 24 hours. Seriously, my jaw hit the floor when I found out that they couldn't get someone out here before the 11th. The good thing is, they've promised to credit my account for the length of the outage.

Now, to get to all those emails, blogs, and other various things I have missed over the past week...

Saturday, June 02, 2007

What's that again?

I really don't like the phrase "The more you spend, the more you save". Huh? It doesn't make any sense. Say you can buy one shirt for $5 and you can buy two shirts for $8 or three shirts for $12. You can say it's a good deal ONLY IF you actually need three shirts. Otherwise, if you go for the $8 -- spend more to save more -- you actually spend $3 more than you otherwise planned to and if you go for the three shirts, then you've spent $7 more than you planned to. You didn't actually save money; you spent more. You just got what you were looking for for less, but in more quantity and my guess is that most people don't actually need the quantity necessary to 'save more'.

My cable company just sent me a letter that said if I bought one of their packages for $56, I would actually be saving money. Which makes no sense because my current package cost me... $0. And it's even more nonsensical because I don't have time for 160 channels and so in theory, if I 'saved' by buying their $56 package, I'd actually be paying more because out of those 160 channels, I'd probably watch less than a quarter, so I'd be paying more for the channels I was actually watching (I have a whole theory on 'cost per use' which I'll tell you about another time). So it makes no sense. They try to package it as savings, but it's really not. If you're not going to use it, it's not a savings.
Up, up and away

I have this crazy idea that you ought to be able to fly anywhere in the country for $250 or less. More than a few times, I've managed to head east for under $200 and once even got to Boston for $150 round trip. One of my favorite tools is on My Yahoo! which allows you to track flights to your favorite destinations and gives you a good idea of what the going rate is for a flight.

I've also started using farecast.com, which is essentially a forecast for airfares. It's a good guide since it shows you a trend, but I have yet to make a decision based on what farecast.com says. I also like checking what Southwest offers to a particular market because they tend to be the low-cost leaders in some, but not all markets. If you live in a hub city for an airline, chances are that airline will be the cheapest and most likely non-stop service to whereever it is you want to go.

I've also been using kayak and sidestep.com to get an idea. These are aggregate search engines that pull results from a variety of sources including the big guys at Travelocity, Expedia, Hot Wire, and a whole host of others. The good thing is, you put in one search and you get a whole lot of answers back. It saves you time and money.

Other tricks:
* Try to fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
* For international travel, book 6 to 8 weeks out
* For domestic travel, book 4-6 weeks out
* Try other nearby airports (within a 90-minute radius from your location, otherwise I'm not sure the savings are worth the hassle).

Airfares can change on a day to day basis. When I went to Philadelphia recently, the ticket price on a Friday was $350 and the following Saturday, the same flight had dropped to $176. I checked back on Tuesday and it was at $212 and four days later, it was at $165. So you never know. Just keep checking as your trip comes closer and when you see something you're willing to pay, just take it. The airfare may go up and it may come down. The key is to do your research ahead of time to make sure you're getting the best possible deal.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Oooh!

Video about Everest on YouTube!

ETA: They have a website!
LotD

I was looking for information on Burger King's whopper -- are they actually flame broiled or is it marketing speak? -- and came across this essay on echeat.com. Just wow. I can't imagine someone actually printing this off and turning it into a teacher. It reads nothing like 'professionally written' and makes gross generalizations and doesn't includes sources, not to mention if I can find it on google, a teacher can find it on google and that'll hurt a whole lot more than just writing the dang paper yourself.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

LotD

I just tested my brain here and I'm apparently in possession of a brain that's average, which doesn't really help the ego or sense of superiority much, but okay. The attention test got me but I did pretty decent on the other two tests. However, in the interests of preserving my fragile sense of self, I'm not posting my scores here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sniff

Florida Girl has gone home after 5 days of wonderful visit, and she has left me with a fridge full of chocolate. It's a little scary just how much chocolate there is in my fridge. I mean, I knew she loved chocolate, but to her, it's as necessary to life as water and air. All of my mother!approved foods seemed to be hiding in the back of the fridge as part of the non-chocolate protection program. I'll rescue them in the morning.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

FanLib

Apparently fanlib.com is the latest controversy brewing in fandom. I don't plan at all to participate because I feel a wee bit uneasy over the fact money is being made on fanfiction and that's just... infringement. But the site creator answered questions over here, for those of you who may want more information. Note how many times he uses the term 'postive agent of change' or some variation thereof. Needless to say, the tone and content of his interview didn't sway me, a ficcer of more than a decade, and I doubt it'll sway much of the old guard either, especially those of us who remember the C&D letters of the 1990s or who don't see fanfiction as a commercial transaction (feedback wars aside) or particularly in need of validation from higher ups (i.e., the actual producers of media content). Thanks, but no thanks.
I bet you didn't know that...

once I was on the guest list for a Playboy party. I didn't go (principled stance) so I have nothing to report, but once, I was on the list.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Back!

I have returned, though I think as always, I need a vacation from my vacation. For those of you not in the know, I went to Philadelphia for a friend's wedding this past weekend. It was a blast and I had a great time reconnecting with all my friends from college. It was almost as if no time had passed though, it was a bit freaky for one friend to greet me, "Hey, I haven't seen you in a decade." (I corrected him -- nine years, not a decade). The wedding was great, lots of fun, and at some point, I'll have pictures of the meal, as it was very fancy and elaborate and I couldn't resist taking pictures. I'm a little nutty that way. But among friends, that's okay.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Offline

I know I owe some of you RL people phone calls and emails, but believe you me, the last five days have been really crazy. I'm taking some time away from the internets, but I will see you on the other side of the weekend.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Uh...

Flags at half-mast for Jerry Falwell? Seriously?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Electric blurr

So I got my electric bill today and it was for a (wait for it) a whopping $6.70. I'd gotten a notice a couple weeks back that said my rates were dropping by 10 percent, but this wasn't a 10 percent drop; this was an 80 percent drop. Also, $6.70 implied I'd barely used any electricity at all for the last month, which I knew was incorrect. My refrigerator must cost at least $6.70, not to mention the dishwasher, the microwave, the washer and dryer (which sorta works), my various fans, the television, the computer... It turns out I'm the beneficiary of a $25 credit for reasons unbeknownst to me, so my joy at managing to conserve electricity to the point of ridiculousness was short lived.

Still, I'm going to try to get through the month of May without turning on the AC. I'm really tempted to turn it on tonight, but I'm going to try the ceiling fan again. I current have my small fan going in the office and two of my windows are open and I'm quite comfortable, but if it weren't for the fan and the windows, there would be absolutely no moving air in my apartment.

Ah summer.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

LotD

Here's a list of the what to eat and what not to eat at major restaurant chains. It's a little scary when you look at the calorie counts on some popular items and realize that that one item takes up half of your calorie allocation for the day (average person needs about 2200 calories a day) or in the case of the Colossal Burger at Ruby Tuesday's -- you eat one of those and you can maybe have a piece of celery and a cup of yogurt for the rest of the day. Scary, scary.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Surfacing

So I've been in and out of the blogosphere for the last few weeks and so I thought I owed just a tiny bit of an explanation. I was interviewing for a job and it was a pretty intense process and so a lot of my online time was spent preparing and researching for the interview and then taking an online test (3 hours!).

Once I accepted their offer, I decided to lie low during my background check. This blog is full of all sorts of things that people may or may not find offensive, so I decided to keep my fingers mostly silent or talk about things like salsa, which I'm pretty sure offends no one. I'm happy to report that I've gotten smarter since I first started blogging, but I just wanted to make sure I said nothing controversial here while people were actively looking into me.

Anyway, all is well, and I passed all of the interviews (10 in total), tests (2, including a drug test), and the background check. I gave my notice to my current company yesterday and I will be starting a new job next month. I'm really excited about the opportunity. Nervous too, of course, but excited, because I think I'll really have the chance to contribute to the new company, but also expand my own abilities.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Shopping

I went dress shopping, or more accurately, I went on a scavanger hunt for the perfect dress on Saturday. It took me six hours, and I went to every single store in my area (including three Ann Taylors, two Ann Taylor Lofts), including the one mall I hate with a passion, and then at my wit's end, I went to a mall futher away before I found the perfect dress.

Here's what I was looking for in a dress (and keep in mind that a nice dress starts around $69 these days and I was looking for a nice dress):

  • A lining was absolutely necessary
  • A high neckline
  • Skirt needed to at least come within an inch of the knees, if not longer
  • The material couldn't look old or faded; an unbelievable number of dresses looked liked they'd already been through the washer/dryer 80 times before being put out for sale
  • Should be appropriate for work, either alone or combined with a sweater or jacket
  • Not terribly trendy; if I'm going to buy a dress that costs $69 or more, I'd want to wear it more than one season. I'm nutty that way.
  • And note that even though I said a nice dress costs $69 or more, I didn't want to spend that much. I'm cheap that way.

I was indiscriminate about color, though I wasn't too keen on yellow, which seems to be the color of the season, or white, since I already have a white eyelet sundress for the season (I'm also not sure on wearing white to a wedding, which is why I wanted a new dress). I also wanted a dress that would just look nice and elegant and stylish in a classic way. I wanted nothing to do with the plunging V-necklines I saw a lot of or the slinky body-hugging LBDs that were curiously lacking in a lining.

Florida Girl said my expectations for a dress were too high and that sometimes you do have to suck it up and buy a $150 dress. But I stuck to my guns, and the end result was a dress that fit every one of my criteria. Needless to say, by the time I got home Saturday evening, I was dead tired, and I'll be happy to take a nice long break from the shopping malls, but I'm really happy with the dress and glad I did go through all of that because I have no buyer's remorse. All of this to say: define expectations and then hold out for what you want because it's well worth it if you don't have to settle.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Salsa, salsa

Since the last post was about salsa, I thought I'd post this recipe for a salsa I tried this weekend -- Avocado and Corn Salsa. It's pretty simple to make, very colorful, and just pure yum. It made a great complement to the bean & corn filling for my burritos (in a wheat tortilla). Plus, it's just another one of those great recipes that tastes wonderful but requires very little effort to please.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Two out of three tasters...

Here's an interesting article on jarred salsas. I really like Pace picante sauce, and Tostitos has a fairly decent one. I do like some of the gourmet salsas -- especially anything made with black beans and corn -- but they tend to be pricey and found only in boutique type stores which is no fun when you're a discount shopper likes yours truly. Anyway, for those of you who love salsa, it's a fun article.

Incidentally, making salsa is super easy. Take a tomato, take an onion, take a pinch of chilis, a handful of cilantro, and cut it all up, and mix it in with some lime juice. You can blend it to your degree of chunkiness. If you leave it as is, it makes a refreshing pico de gallo for a hot summer day.