Tuesday, December 30, 2008

LotD

As the year draws to a close, it's always good to get a retrospective on things that made our jaws drop. I especially liked the article on "Dumbest Moments in Business 2008," especially the part when the auto CEOs returned to Washington DC in hybrids. What's that they say about first impressions again? Zzzzz....

Sunday, December 28, 2008

LotD

By Saying Yes, WaMu Built Empire on Shaky Loans. To wit:
As a supervisor at a Washington Mutual mortgage processing center, John D. Parsons was accustomed to seeing baby sitters claiming salaries worthy of college presidents, and schoolteachers with incomes rivaling stockbrokers’. He rarely questioned them. A real estate frenzy was under way and WaMu, as his bank was known, was all about saying yes.

Yet even by WaMu’s relaxed standards, one mortgage four years ago raised eyebrows. The borrower was claiming a six-figure income and an unusual profession: mariachi singer.

Mr. Parsons could not verify the singer’s income, so he had him photographed in front of his home dressed in his mariachi outfit. The photo went into a WaMu file. Approved.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

All's well that ends well

iTunes responded to me yesterday. Cheers to Jody for actually taking the time to understand the issue. I still haven't addressed the double-charge for the soundtrack yet, but one thing at a time.


Hello Seema,

It is my understanding that you are missing two songs from your Mamma Mia soundtrack and you would like to get them back. I can certainly understand your concern over this matter. My name is Jody and it will be my pleasure to look into this for you today.

I've checked your account and due to your order being older than 60 days, I'm unable to place your two missing songs back into your download queue. As a way of apologizing for this situation, and the inconvenience that this has caused, I'd like to offer you 2 free song credits to be used on the iTunes Store.

When you next sign in with this account, the song credits will appear by your account name (in the upper-right section of the iTunes Store). The next individual song you buy from the iTunes Store will use one of your song credits instead of your primary form of payment (until all credits have been used or have expired). Please note that song credits cannot be used for purchasing songs that are listed as "Album Only."

If you don't see your credits, refresh your account information by signing out and back in to the iTunes Store. You can find both "Sign Out" and "Sign In" within the pull-down "Store" menu.

Thank you for being part of the iTunes Store Community, Seema. It is important to me that your issues are resolved to your satisfaction. If you have any further questions, please feel free to reply to this email. We strive to make everyone's experience here as pleasant as possible.

Sincerely,

Jody
iTunes Store Customer Support

PLEASE NOTE: I'm working Mon, Tues, & Sat from 10:30 am - 9:00 pm this week.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to assist you. You may receive an AppleCare survey email; any feedback you provide would be greatly appreciated

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bad iTunes, no biscuit!

How is this for customer support?

I sent this form to the iTunes store this morning for two songs -- "I Have a Dream" and "Thank You For the Music" -- reporting that while I had purchased the entire "Mamma Mia!" soundtrack, these two songs did not download and were not available anywhere on my computer, nor could I download them without having to pay again. My question to them was, could I get the two missing songs? I didn't ask for a refund -- only what I paid for (and I think iTunes may have charged me twice for the soundtrack, but that's another issue entirely).

Here's the form I sent in (from the iTunes site itself); I sent the exact same form for "I Have a Dream" as well (incriminating information removed to protect yours truly):

Customer First Name : Seema
Customer Last Name : XXXXXXX
email : XXXXXXXXX
Web Order # : XXXXXXXX
Support Subject : I didn't receive this song
Sub Issue : Incomplete download
Comments : iTunes Account Name: XXXXXXXX
Platform : XXXXXXXXX
Song Name : Thank You for the Music
Comments:
I purchased the entire Mamma Mia soundtrack and this is one of two songs I did not receive. The other songs all downloaded just fine.


Here's the entirely unhelpful response from Apple (in duplicate):

Dear Seema,

Your request for a refund for "Thank You for the Music" was carefully considered; however, according to the iTunes Store Terms of Sale, all purchases made on the iTunes Store are ineligible for refund. This policy matches Apple's refund policies and provides protection for copyrighted materials.

You can review the iTunes Store Terms of Sale for more information:

http://www.apple.com/legal/itunes/us/sales.html

Sincerely,

Kate
iTunes Store Customer Support
http://www.apple.com/support/itunes/ww/


Well, Kate, I hope you get a big fat piece of coal in your stocking because gee whiz, how carefully did you consider my request when your response and my issue have nothing in common? And at this point, I'm out $2.11 ($11.98 total) and still no songs.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Miss me?

I'm back! I've been traveling a lot in the last month and so clearly, was not blogging. But I'm back now. I was in India for about 2 1/2 weeks and before that was in the Northeast. I'm now back for at least the near future -- no travel plans forthcoming. It is nice to put away my suitcases for at least a month and not have to worry about them. What's funny is that I've come back and realized that the holidays are here. I didn't even THINK about the holidays when I was in India, so now I'm feeling a little anxious. I guess there's always next year.

I will blog about the India trip shortly as there is much to say.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Things that make you go hmmm...

Does the title of the new James Bond movie make any sense? No one says things like "I need a Quantum of Solace." I guess it's a sexier title than "A Little Bit of Comfort."

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Withdrawal

Anyone else miss the election? It's like Tuesday night happened and now it's like, okay, what next? No more stupid remarks? No more wardrobe issues? No more "he said, she said"? Whatever will all the pundits do? And more importantly, will we ever see the CNN hologram again? I suppose January is the next moment of excitement...
The world's most boring blog

I'm officially the most boring person on the planet. I spent my Friday evening checking out J's new apartment and then I fell asleep at nine in the evening. And now it's Saturday morning and I'm taking a break from such fun stuff as cleaning out the microwave, cleaning the kitchen, laundry, mopping, etc. Sometimes I wonder if other people my age are this boring. But as J and I were discussing, maybe it's not so much we're boring as that we are so out of the going out and partying mode and that we're more into the get things done. Funny how that switch flips.

On the upside, I've been listening to Evita on CD and it's been fun. It's been so long since I've listened to an entire musical from start to finish and it's made the house cleaning go by so much better. I'm going to run out and do some errands here in a minute. Maybe get some writing/editing done this afternoon if I'm really efficient, and also (of course) a run on the treadmill.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Update

Still having a problem with Obama and still contemplating writing Hillary in. At the same time, I'm just awed at the sentiment of "blue" sweeping the country. It's like we've gone far enough to the right in the last eight disastrous years and people have had enough. I'm not going to take an Obama victory for granted; I've been disappointed before. But I am looking forward to election night more than usual. It'll be awesome if for the first time in 10 years, I actually vote for someone -- anyone -- who wins.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

LotD

Interesting -- 10 Reasons You're Not Rich. The car one has always been obvious to me, but there are other reasons in there that I never thought about. Worth reading in these tough times. Also, all the money you've lost? Where did it go?.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

This One is voting for That One

I have decided, in the aftermath of Monday night's debate, to vote for Obama and for the first time since Hillary lost the primary, I'm 100 percent certain of my decision. I've been swaying back and forth, but I was dismayed by McCain's choice of Sarah Palin, who is way too conservative and inexperienced, and I've been stunned by McCain's recent behavior on the campaign. His decision to "suspend" his campaign to go back to Washington to push the bailout, which then failed, just seemed nothing short of a stunt and ill-advised. It didn't work for me. But the deciding moment was in the debate, when I felt McCain spent more time attacking Obama than telling me what he was going to do as president.

See, here's the deal. As far as I can tell, the economy is in shambles, we're fighting two unwinnable wars, health care is becoming more expensive, and social security needs some kind of reform. These are the issues that matter to me. I don't care that McCain was involved in the Keating scandal. I don't care that Obama attended a fund raiser held by a reformed domestic terrorist 13 years ago when said terror attacks occurred when Obama was 8. That's the past, and I don't see how either of these two "guilt by association" issues help me or any other American *today*.

I picked Obama because he seems less erratic than McCain, and unlike McCain, Obama occasionally did give a concrete answer at Monday's debate. Obama seemed to get it, unlike McCain who spent all his time (weirdly) wandering around the stage. And honestly, I'm a little horrified at some of these rallies that are going on where attendees are yelling "Kill [Obama]!" and "Down boy!" and that McCain and Palin do nothing to stifle their supporters' comments. It's really very disgusting and I can't believe we're seeing this in America, today, and that two candidates for the two highest offices in the lands are saying, by their silence, that it's okay.

I'm not saying either of these candidates are perfect, but I really though McCain would not resort to such mud-slinging.* I had a lot of respect for him just a few months ago because I did think after what happened to him in 2000 -- a definite victim of the Karl Rove attack machine -- that he would be more dignified. But no. And without concrete answers to anything, and Palin's nonsensical answers and clear lack of experience, it's impossible for me to even think anymore of voting for McCain.

Obama it is.

Not that Obama is blameless on the negative ad side, but only 34 percent of his ads last week were negative, while McCain's were nearly 100 percent. This tells me more about McCain than it does about Obama. Overall, the negative ad split is 73 percent McCain and 61 percent Obama. .
Bank bust

It's only a loss if you pull your money out of the stock market and/or mutual funds. You lock in the loss that you're seeing on paper. At some point in the future, the stock market will eventually go up. Short-term money, okay, you may want to consider locking in the loss and putting it into a CD or FDIC-insured money-market, but if you're in it for the long haul like yours truly, make no sudden moves.* What goes down will eventually go up and vice-versa. It's the way of things.

Follow advice at your own risk; I'm not a financial planner

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Lessons from a hurricane

1. If you sleep in a walk-in closet, chances are, you'll sleep through the whole thing and wonder what everyone was talking about. And then you feel a little miffed because you did indeed miss the whole thing.

2. Three days without water is a long time.

3. Twelve days without power means you learn how to fumble around in the dark really well. Even now, I can walk around my apartment without the lights on just about perfectly. And oh yeah -- you remember to move things out of the way so you don't inadvertently step on them.

4. When you're without internet or satellite television for fifteen days, you feel disconnected. There's a world out there that's functioning and somehow you're not a part of it.

5. Twenty days without functioning traffic lights is really very scary.

6. Lines for gas get really, really, really long. It's best if you top off before the hurricane. Especially since they ration it afterwards. And string yellow police tape around the gas station. Did I mention the lines are really long?

7. Lines for fresh coffee at the gas station are also really long, but oh so worth the wait.

8. It's amazing how much you don't know about the world when the only source of news is the radio and all they can tell you is what FEMA is or isn't doing. They don't tell you what you really want to know which is when is life going to be normal again?

9. People do some insanely stupid things after being cooped up for 24 hours and with no electricity, water or internet, like jump into flooded street ways from bridges, never mind that there might be snakes, alligators, downed power lines, gasoline, dead bodies and other icky stuff in that water. Don't be stupid.

10. It is possible to forget how to turn your television on.

11. Cupcakes make hurricanes better. I recommend buying cupcakes to anyone in a similar situation.

12. Rechargeable electronics are great until you realize you can't recharge them when they die.

13. There's no such thing as customer service in the aftermath. It doesn't matter if you don't want fruit with your Belgian waffle, you're going to get it. And dang it, you will enjoy that waffle because it's the first hot meal you've had in five days.

14. When the lights go out, all the people come out. They come out to sit on balconies, on doorsteps. They talk, they drink beer, they play cards, they read books, and listen to music. When the lights come back on, they all disappear.

15. Calling your land line multiple times to see if the answering machine will answer doesn't make the power come on any faster.

16. Also, stalking the electric company trucks and kidnapping the nice landman who came down from Canada to turn the lights back on for you doesn't help either.

17. I was just kidding on number 16.

18. Really.

19. It feels really good when the water comes back on. Even when it's cold. Because it means you can pull the plug on the water in the bathtub, which starts to take on a funky aroma on day 3. Even if you did clean it out with bleach beforehand. It also means you can take showers again. And believe you me, by day 3, you are smelling a wee bit funky.

20. Somehow, you get through.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Thrifty Tips

You can buy special boot stretchers/standers at Bed, Bath & Beyond for $10 that will keep your knee-high boots from flopping over or cracking or creasing or you can do what I did -- take the cardboard roll from wrapping paper or paper towels and stick that in your boots. Voila. Cheap and easy fix for floppy boots!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

After the storm

Hurricane Ike 093
Hurricane Ike 093,
originally uploaded by seemag.

Friday, September 12, 2008

LotD

Factcheck.org -- good source to check to see who is really telling the truth and who's not during this election season. Though I don't hold out much hope -- people still think Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

LotD

That this was coming was nothing short of obvious: these countries are building their economies on $100/barrels of oil so if demand falls, their only option is reduce production. OPEC decides to curb overproduction. And no, offshore drilling is not the answer.

Monday, September 08, 2008

LotD

The Anti-Wedding -- When two intrepid women set out to slay the Wedding Industrial Complex, things get complicated fast.

If you need a login for Washington Post, go here.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

LotD

The Vanishing Republican Voter

Measured by money income, Washington qualifies as one the most unequal cities in the United States. Yet these two very different halves of a single city do share at least one thing. They vote the same way: Democratic. And in this, we are not alone. As a general rule, the more unequal a place is, the more Democratic; the more equal, the more Republican. The gap between rich and poor in Washington is nearly twice as great as in strongly Republican Charlotte, N.C.; and more than twice as great as in Republican-leaning Phoenix, Fort Worth, Indianapolis and Anaheim.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Hee!

A visitor from another planet who dropped in on the Republican campaign at this point would very likely assume that the presidential nominee was a guy who had spent his life as a prisoner of war until he was released just in time to pick Sarah Palin for vice president.


and

He’s been a military man or a senator for virtually all of his adult life, and listening to him talk, you get the definite impression that the two great threats of the 21st century are Islamic extremism and the appropriations committee.


Link: McCain's Grizzly Problem.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

LotD

I'm taking a break from all things Palin-related because I've found something BSG-related -- What the frak?. Great picture of Katee Sackhoff. Anyone want to write 500 words on what she's thinking or looking at? You know you want to...

Monday, September 01, 2008

Um... Wow?

Sarah Palin's daughter is pregnant. As of 40 minutes ago.
Ummm...

Ironically, right after I wrote my pro-choice statement (below), I stumbled across a couple of entries at the liberal blog, Daily Kos about Sarah Palin and whether this baby is even hers. I don't usually subscribe to conspiracy theories, but the pictures are kind of telling...

Sarah Palin is NOT the mother

BabyGate: Explosive New Details

I did think it was weird when I heard the story about Palin flying from Texas to Alaska to give birth after her water broke because I thought once that happened, you had to get the baby out. Having never had a baby before, I figured maybe I was mistaken and a woman who had had four would know what she was doing. Or maybe the incident had been exagerrated and her water didn't really break or whatever. All sorts of stuff. Anyway, consume this theory with a grain of salt as all items from political blogs must be; I'm assuming if this was really a cover-up and Palin's daughter Sarah is really the mother, it will eventually all come out. Too many people in the know to keep it quiet for long, and I'm sure the McCain campaign vetted her properly as well.

So weird. So Desperate Housewives.
Pro choice

There's been some "interesting" comments in liberal circles about Sarah Palin and her decision to have a baby with a Down's Syndrome at her age. Some of the comments have been a little... well, they're the type of comments that give all of us pro-choicers a bad name. Those of you who know me know I'm very pro-choice, but that doesn't mean that I think that abortion is the answer or the right thing to do. Personally, I follow the Hillary school of thought, the one that got her ridiculed way back when, but abortion should be legal, safe, and most of all rare. There are ways to accomplish the last -- education, contraception, better access to health care and support systems, adoption, etc -- but there are times when there is no choice for any number of reasons and that's where I believe the option of legal and safe needs to come into play.

I don't think we can all quite have a looking glass into why women (and men and families) make the choices they make. We don't know individual circumstances or philosophies or issues. We have no idea what leads to the decision to abort a pregnancy. It's never quite so simple as opponents would like to think, and outlawing abortion, mho, isn't going to lead to the ultimate goal of a rare practice.

Sarah Palin made the right decision for her family, for herself. She walked the talk, and she made a choice. And that's really what pro-choice is all about. There shouldn't be any judgment about her decision, either positive or negative; it is what it is. It's key to remember what is right for one person isn't necessarily right for another and unless we're intimately involved in all aspects and are ready to shoulder whatever duty comes when we get our way, I think it's best to let people make the decisions that are best for them -- especially when that decision doesn't affect me or you personally. That's what being pro-choice is all about. It's not pro-abortion, like people would like to make one think, it's about letting people make decisions. And hopefully, as we become a more supportive and educated society, those decisions will start to fall on the rare side of the spectrum.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hole in my head

I get headaches. A lot. I would say on any given day, I have a headache. Sometimes it's just a mild reminder of "Don't get too complacent; I'm *here*" and other times, it's a full out frontal lobe assault. I don't get too worked up about my full head headaches (for lack of a better scientific term) since those are usually tension-related and will go away with a couple of painkillers, but I do get concerned when the headache is behind my right eye. I know that when it starts behind my right eye, it's going to stick around for a while and no amount of dosing with Advil or Excedrin and any other number of remedies is going to make it go away. Every now and then, these "right eye" headaches burst into migraines.

I can count my recent migraines (last five years) on one hand, primarily because I'm so used to these headaches, that I only keep track of the really bad ones. These are the ones when I can't get up without feeling dizzy, where light and noise are painful, and when I need to throw-up. And yes, nothing makes them go away except for time and patience. Thinking, eating, moving, reading, driving, writing -- all of those things are impossible when I have a migraine. I'm usually curled in a fetal position on my bed, blinds closed, covers over my head. Once, I ended up spending an hour on the floor of my bathroom, dry-heaving. That was the worst one ever. And like I said, I'm pretty lucky. I think I've had about 5 of these total in the last five years, and I've gotten much better at controlling/anticipating these types of headaches and learning how to treat them.

I would have to say the same about the "right eye" headaches, which probably happen once or twice a month. They used to happen with much greater frequency, but again, I'm learning to anticipate them, and distinguish them from other headaches which might be related to hormones or tension or dehydration or hang-overs. I can still function with "right eye" headaches, but at a much slower pace. I can tolerate external stimuli well with these headaches. Driving or sitting in a car is just painful though, and I'm generally nauseous. I sometimes have a hangover effect from these headaches -- I think of it as a "shadow" that lingers for another day or so afterwards. It's not really a headache, but more of a dullness in my head that reminds me of what came before.

I envy people who tell me that they don't ever get headaches. I had one person tell me that "headaches were all in my head" and I was like, "Um, *yes*." The thing is, I don't want headaches at all. I carry Advil with me at all times, drink lots of water, try to stay on a consistent schedule, and keep caffeine consumption to a minimal (2 cups/day in the morning). I try to avoid my triggers -- like alcohol (yes, I barely drink anymore) and lack of sleep or dehydration -- but 32 years of experience have taught me that headaches are just a part of Being Seema (tm).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

More distraction

My uncle recommended Hayley Westenra to me some time ago and today, once again instead of writing, I went to find her on YouTube and came across this song -- "Beat of Your Heart." Very pretty. Apparently Hayley is also a member of the Celtic Woman group, which shows up on PBS every now. Also very pretty music. And actually, I think there was a Celtic Thunder -- the male version of Celtic Woman -- not too long ago. I'll have to go look up their videos as well.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Distraction

I'm supposed to be writing, but instead I find myself watching YouTube. And I found this video of Andrea Bocelli and Dulce Pontes performing "O Mare e Tu." Really gorgeous and haunting. Dulce's voice is really quite different and memorable.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hillary

I watched Hillary's speech tonight and really, really, really wished I was watching her accept the nomination instead. I've been torn since she stopped her campaign and conceded to Obama. On the one hand, I haven't really changed my mind about Obama, but on the other hand, I don't think I could bring myself to vote for McCain. I've contemplated voting for McCain, trying to find if there is anything we agree on, and with one exception -- McCain's stance on torture -- there's really nothing he stands for that will cause me to switch party allegiance. Right now, I'd like to write Hillary in on the ballot, since pigs will probably fly before Obama wins my state, so that could be a good compromise, but there's something to be said about being well-behaved and loyal and recognizing that there's nothing gained from petulant actions.

Hillary made good point in her speech when she asked why we were "in it." The campaign wasn't about her, but it was about America, and what we see as the key issues facing the country. I had more faith in Hillary's ability to develop a universal health care plan, for example, but I know McCain won't do it at all, so that leaves Obama as the candidate who is more likely to take actions on the issues I believe in strongly. For those of you Hillary supporters thinking of voting for McCain instead of Obama, remember that we have a Supreme Court that's one justice away from overturning Roe v. Wade, and that the international situation is tenuous; that we need universal health care and alternative energy policies, gay rights and women's rights, that we need to do something about the two wars started (and hopefully, not start anymore), and that at the end of the day, the Republicans have turned this country into a big mess. McCain isn't going to be the one able to mop it up since he'll continue the same policies implemented by the Bush administration and look where that got us.

I'm having a hard time accepting Obama, and I'm not thrilled at all about Biden, but at the end of the day, I'm a Democrat, and I don't want to see another Republican in the White House. As a Red State dweller, my vote doesn't necessarily count for electoral votes, but maybe as a statement on unity, I can bring myself to check the box next to Obama's name. We'll see. I'm still not ready to remove the Hillary sign from my car and replace it with Obama paraphernalia. Maybe when I can do that, I can take the next step in voting for him. Baby steps...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Writing prompts

I found this writing prompts website the other day and it actually helped me get out a 250+ word story that's growing quite large by the day. I just needed some help to get back into the groove. I wanted to take a writing class this fall, but I think my travel schedule is too hectic to contemplate the possibility in a cost-effective way. So I'll put that off until the spring and see how it goes with the writing prompt exercises.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

It's not Everest

But K-2 is a mountain to be feared as well, and actually might be just as difficult if not more to climb than Everest. To wit, 9 climbers are known dead on the mountain.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Does Your Mama Know?

You can find the complete soundtrack for Mamma Mia! on YouTube. I'd advise skipping any with massive amounts of Pierce Brosnan singing. It's not... pretty. But the rest of the album is just so much fun. Can't stop playing it in the background. All the songs can be found here. No movie video available yet -- just 30 second clips here and there -- but it's really the music that's most fun. The rest is just window dressing.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Oooh fun!

I loved "Mamma Mia!" I only know a couple of ABBA songs like "Dancing Queen" and "Winner Takes All", but the theme song is the one I really liked. So I went and found it on YouTube. Just so catchy and danceable. If you haven't seen the movie yet, I highly recommend it. It's just fun, silly, but fun, but sometimes you need that in your life, y'know?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

LotD

10 Bank Breaking Money Myths -- interesting article. I've heard of a lot of these lately, especially those about home ownership versus renting and the ability to deduct mortgage. It's only been recently through my own home-search that I've realized that those were myths in fact, and that renting is by far the better option for me. Also, the carrying a balance to maintain credit score? Amazing how many times I've heard that one as well. The only thing carrying a balance does for you is rack up the interest so that you're financing that Starbucks latte for years and years.

Friday, July 25, 2008

XF

Forget the critics -- if you're a fan, you'll like, if not love, the movie. Seriously. It's good, nearly everything I was hoping for. No spoilers. Just go. Take it from a fan girl. It's pure fun and nostalgia and even a bit scary all nicely wrapped up with Easter Eggs for fun.

And oh -- here's a link to Rebecca Traister's essay on Scully. Must read.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Countdown

Forty-seven hours from now, I'll be at the movie theater. It'll just be so nice to spend time with Mulder and Scully again and see what they've been up to. So yes, definitely excited for the movie.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Grammar Lady

The woeful misuse of the apostrophe drives me absolutely bonkers. It's nails on a chalkboard to me to see someone write you're when they really mean your or vice versa. Who's versus whose is another good one, but I cut people some slack on that one because it's way more confusing than the previous example. More recently, I don't like the practice of adding an apostrophe to make dates plural such 1960's; I always think that something ought to belong to 1960 when I see that. Also, abbreviations with random apostrophes -- such as SAT's instead of SATs. Since so many people do these things with apostrophes, I decided to do a bit of research and find out what the actual rules are.

Turns out, I'm mostly right. The apostrophe for dates and plural abbreviations can be accepted in some places by some people, but the more proper way is to omit the apostrophe in cases of plural abbreviations and dates unless there's the potential to cause some confusion such as multiple A's -- so it's A's, not As or if there is punctuation (ex: periods) within the abbreviation. A good write-up on the rules are here. Here's another post on the same subject. And there's apparently an Apostrophe Protection Society, complete with examples of apostrophe abuse.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Holy crap

Have you heard about this? You know, it's one thing to be anti-abortion, but anti-contraception?

"[...] Department of Health and Human Services draft provided to Reuters this week carries a broad definition of abortion as any procedures, including prescription drugs, "that result in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation*."


* emphasis mine

Friday, July 18, 2008

Things that make you go hmmm

Anyone else notice AT&T's DSL connection slowing down right around the time they raised the prices another $5? I'm a little aggravated because when I started out, the connection was much faster at $14.99 and then they raised it to $19.99 and now it's $24.99 -- just six months after the $5 raise to $19.99. I'm paying $10 more for slower service! I am *so* an undelighted customer.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Nostalgia

I'm going on a road trip this weekend, so of course I was updating my iPod and came across an old Celine Dion song -- "Water From the Moon" -- that I was really fond of when I was in high school. So on the spur of the moment, I splurged the $1.06 and got the song. Turns out I still really like it. What I noticed is that Celine's voice seemed so much more pure back then -- less affected and overly styled than it is today. Incidentally, I think the same about Sarah Brightman's songs. The songs from 15 years or so ago are much more rich and vibrant, and these days, Sarah's voice is a lot more thready and breathless -- still beautiful, but you notice it more when you take a trip down memory lane. Anyway, here's a video of Celine's "Water From the Moon"; it actually sounds like it's underwater, but it's a great song.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Yikes

This link about commercial fishing and how fish are treated is deeply disturbing. Today someone told me crabs are also boiled alive and they flail violently as the water gets warmer; to me this is a response to a stimuli they perceive as threatening and dangerous -- I'd call it at least *fear* if not pain. It seems impossible to me that these animals don't suffer. They do, maybe in a different way than humans, but still they suffer.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Ick

Today I learned fish is filleted alive. I can't tell if they were messing with me or not, but it was deeply disturbing and I'm not even an animal lover. Ugh. Now I'm so glad I've never had fish.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Diabolical

Whoever thought clam shell packages were the bee's knees, or whatever, wasn't thinking of me, the consumer buying the product instead of the clam shell package. I hate these things. I mean, no two are the same, there's no easy, intuitive way to pull these things apart, and I'm reduced to stabbing the thing with my blunt scissors and knives (I'm so not using Calphalon knives on these things, no thank you). Not to mention, it was incredibly frustrating on Thursday afternoon when I purchased your run of the mill CAT 5 cable at Walgreens and then spent a good 20 minutes trying to extricate said cable out of the packaging.

The frustration was on top of stress because there was a very specific, work-related, thus deadline-orientated, reason I needed the CAT 5 cable and so I was running up against the clock as well. Seriously, clam shell packaging is the worst invention ever -- you can see the product, but darn you if you think you're actually going to get to it -- and not at all consumer-friendly, and dangerous too, if you think about it. I eventually got the CAT-5 cable out after basically cutting the thing apart from this way and that way and I was able to have my meeting after all, but it's a CAT-5 cable; airports have less security than this thing!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

LotD

I still haven't received my stimulus payment, which is insult added to injury, since I didn't get a refund (wah!) either. But I was amused at how people are spending their stimulus payments. Mine, which I haven't received, has already been spent on a new starter and battery for my car, and the leftover went to an oil change and my recent excursion to Calgary. I don't think this is what W had in mind.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tacky LotD?

Is it just me or is this article about wedding registries super tacky? To wit: For some reason (or lack of reasoning), many brides think they need a place setting, glassware, and appliances from several different shops. And when they receive the gifts and know they won't use them, they feel guilty for returning them. The fact of the matter is that you can't keep every gift, and you're really not expected to. Don't feel bad about making returns. Everyone does it. How about this -- don't register for stuff you don't need so your guests don't waste their time buying something you won't use?

Friday, June 20, 2008

More Oil & Gas stuff

I read this article last week in Calgary called "The Cost of the Next Barrel of Oil." The article is now only pay-per-view and/or available through google cache, but the really interesting part of the article is here. It talks about where oil companies are going to look for the next barrel, the issues, struggles, successes, and results of it, and some of the trends going on. Example:

"Cost of technology in the Gulf of Mexico: The added depth adds to the cost. While it costs around $1-million (U.S.) a day to hire a rig to explore in shallow water, Chevron is spending about $1.6-million a day for a deep-water drill ship to work on its Tahiti prospect; it costs around $200-million to drill a single well in the area. Analysts estimate that to produce a barrel of crude from the ultradeep area would cost above $50 a barrel."

It's definitely worth a read, but click fast -- who knows when it will turn into pay-per-view only.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More pictures

I'm in the process of uploading all of my pictures from my trip to Calgary last week. There are a lot of them and it took me a long time to go through them all -- I think 300 total, and only a fraction of those are getting uploaded. Okay, maybe half. That's the good and bad thing about digital cameras with a 1 gig memory card with capacity for 2700 pictures. I can take as many pictures as I want and only keep the ones I like, but then I have like a gazillion pictures and many of them are the same as others, but from different angles, or more "artistic" or sometimes they are victims to shaky hands, so I often take multiple shots "just to make sure." Then I have to decide which of two identical pictures is the better of the two. Decisions, decisions.

As an FYI -- some of the pictures posted on this blog will probably disappear due to limitations on the Flickr account where they live. So if you see broken pictures, that's why. The Calgary pictures are taking up all the room in my account now.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Lake Moraine, Alberta, Canada

Isn't it just gorgeous? Incidentally, seconds after I snapped this picture, it started to snow.


calgary trip 169

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Shattered illusion

It just occurred to me -- that title sounds a whole lot like a Lifetime movie coming to a television screen near you, probably starring Tori Spelling and Melissa Gilbert and maybe even Melissa Joan Hart as a bonus. That being said, this isn't a post about a Lifetime movie or even about any of those actresses. Instead, it's about David Copperfield and how he flies* -- see film complete with cartoon re-enactment below. The actual video of him flying, which is completely shmoopy and Lifetime-esque, is here. I've got nothin' when it comes to the mullet. Like I said, shattered illusion.


Find more Magic Tricks videos


* I cannot possibly allow the very obvious grammatical error in the video title to invade my blog

Monday, June 09, 2008

Three nutty things that happened today

1. Someone suggested reducing demand for gasoline by cutting the USPS' service from six days to five

2. In my salsa aerobics class, a woman was texting while shuffling her feet and shaking her hips

3. My dentist gave me a bottle of champagne

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Hearts and Hopes

Even though it was expected and inevitable, it was still very hard to watch Hillary Clinton suspend her campaign today.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Hooray!

The latest "high gasoline price" spin has been the drop in truck and SUV sales. I'm happy to hear this. No one needs a Hummer to go grocery shopping. And no, I don't feel sympathy because people are paying $100+ to fill up those things because low gas prices are what encouraged people to shift to the suburbs and buy gas guzzlers, thus increasing our consumption rate here in the US. So that's the upside of high gas prices -- people are shifting their behaviors and thinking about conserving and to an extent, environmentalism. Problem is, we've been there done, that before, and succeeded in bringing prices so low that people forgot about being held hostage to OPEC. Let's hope that doesn't happen again.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Spaghetti with "meat" sauce

This isn't the most exotic recipe around, but it's super easy and tasty to make, and fits three key categories: vegetable, grain, and protein. Well, the vegetable is a little stretch, but I'm counting the tomato sauce (which comes out of a jar) as a vegetable. Nothing here was homemade and I whipped this dinner up in about 15 minutes and it was perfectly proportioned and satisfying. I love that in a meal.

I started off by thawing two veggie burgers, broken into halves, in a frying pan on the stove. I used Morningstar mushroom lover's burgers, but any burger will do. Meanwhile, I was also boiling water on another burger for the pasta.

spaghetti & burgers 020


After the burgers were mostly thawed through, I removed them from heat and chopped them up into bite size chunks.

spaghetti & burgers 032


I put the chunks of veggie burger back into the frying pan and then added the tomato sauce. The tomato sauce came out of a jar, and for those of you interested in the details, I like the Classico brand and this time around, I used Sweet Basil sauce. One of these days I'll make my own tomato sauce, but certainly not on a weekday and definitely not after a tough workout when I'm absolutely famished! I let the tomato sauce and chunks of veggie burger simmer about 4-5 minutes while I finished draining the pasta. Doesn't this look yummy?

spaghetti & burgers 033


And finally, after the pasta was drained, I poured the warm sauce over the pasta, and enjoyed myself a rather quick, tasty, and healthy meal. Not inexpensive, because veggie burgers aren't really that cheap anymore -- about $4 for a package of four now -- but still, this meal probably cost me about $3, which is still cheaper than going out to eat, which is what I would have done in the past when I was starving after a workout. Much better for the waistline and the wallet!

spaghetti & burgers 040

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

LotD

Interesting post on renting versus buying: Why We Rent. I came across the link at The Simple Dollar which is a "frugal" blog I check in with now and then. The NY Times also has another buy versus rent story today:
As Home Prices Drop Low Enough, a Committed Renter Decides to Buy
. I just find it interesting that after years of advocating home ownership as the Bestest Investment Ever, people are actually saying, "Hey, wait a minute..." I shall feel vindicated when I write my landlord a check on June 1.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Defeat

I've given up explaining the economics of high gas prices to people. Truth be told, I'm not an apologist for the oil and gas industry, even though that's what's been keeping me gainfully employed for the last five years, but there are many things the industry does that I don't approve of, but price manipulation isn't one of them. Price manipulation is what people come up with when they are unwilling to face the plain and simple truth -- consumption is coming to bite us all in the butt. You combine consumption with any number of geopolitical factors (Hello Iraq! Hello weak US dollar! etc) and the price of oil is going up and it's going to keep going up. I think we're going to see $4 gasoline in the next 2-3 weeks easily, if not by the end of the Memorial Day weekend. I think it's going to keep going up all summer and no gas tax holiday is going to stop it.

I find it fascinating that ordinarily intelligent people just refuse to believer or understand in the concept of supply and demand. I find it amazing that they believe that oil prices are US-centric rather than existing in a global market where the US is no longer the prominent, influential player it once was. I think people refuse to understand because it's difficult, it's complicated, and they don't want to have to make sacrifices. It reminds me a lot of that book -- "What's the Matter with Kansas?" -- where the GOP made in-roads in Kansas by focusing on a "simple" issue: abortion. It was easier for people to focus on abortion rather than the economic issues and as a result, Kansas went red, when in truth, going blue is probably best for most people there. That's how I feel these days when I'm trying to explain the new oil economy -- people could understand, but they don't want to, especially since the explanation invariably means some kind of sacrifice on their part.

So I've decided to stop explaining because it takes too much effort and no one really cares about complex situations that have no easy answers. If people really want to understand, they will make an effort. But most people like the idea of price manipulation -- even though it's patently false -- because it's simple to understand, even if there is no basis in reality. "Price manipulation" is a great bandwagon for politicians to pander and it allows people to shift "blame" to the oil companies, rather than focusing on why they're driving 80 mph in a Hummer in an urban area that looks nothing like a war zone.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Looky, looky

Frontline has a new Everest film! And it looks like you can watch it online as well, which is great, because I'm rarely home in time to watch Frontline here in Sweat Sock City. There can never be too much Everest!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Color me unsurprised

The Duggars are going to be twenty strong soon as baby number 18 is on the way. I saw the announcement on the Today show this morning, and honestly, I could have predicted it. They teased the "big announcement" for the first hour and it was too much to hope that the Duggars had decided to start their own football team or joined the Peace Corps or opened a swimsuit store. What is astonishing is that the pregnancy is only six weeks along. I know the Duggars are old pros at this, but announcing a pregnancy at six weeks on national television? I dunno about that. But as a friend commented, it shouldn't be that surprising; babies, lots of babies, are the Duggar family business.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Yum

I'm losing my battle with the ants, I'm very tired due to lots of extracurricular activities, and the mercury is rising. But, all is well because I have discovered Tofutti Cuties. I've always wanted to try these, but my usual grocery store doesn't carry them, and my back-up grocery store doesn't either. But tonight I went to a third grocery store that has a ton of vegan food and found the chocolate Cuties. Really good, and honestly, if I didn't know they were vegan, I would have assumed they were real ice-cream. The price point is steep though, especially when you compare these to regular dairy ice cream sandwiches, and while they were good, they weren't as satisfying as my fruit bars, not to mention that at 130 calories per snack bar, I might as well eat the real dairy version. But all in all, very pleased -- these things are goooood.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Yikes

Some of the most expensive gasoline in the world is in Sierra Leone. Cost is somewhere in the neighborhood of $18 plus a gallon. My mind boggles at the very idea that it could cost $180 to fill my Corolla or a total of $720/month.

I looked up Sierra Leone in the CIA Factbook because all I know about the country is the blood diamond thing and civil war thing and that I believe it's in western Africa. Literacy rate is 35.1 percent (US = 99 percent). The country's a constitutional democracy, which surprised me because I was sure it was a dictatorship of some kind as 70 percent of its population lives below the poverty line (12 percent in the US). Sierra Leone's GDP is $4.83 billion (US = $13.86 trillion) but it has a higher growth rate than the US -- 6.8 percent versus 2.2 percent -- but then Sierra Leone has to deal with an inflation rate of 12 percent versus 2.7 percent in the US.

In 2007, Sierra Leone's GDP per capita was approximately $800 -- or about the amount it would cost to fuel a Corolla for one month. Comparatively, the US GDP per capita is $46,000, which is very close to the average income for an American family. In Sierra Leone, the average income is $200. You put all that together and look at $18 plus a gallon and then you think about what it might cost to feed a family on $200/year and just... wow.

We've got it good.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The gasoline tax holiday

I've seen mention of a gasoline tax holiday here and there, and seriously, it's one of the lamest political moves ever. Today, taxes over all make up 13 percent of a gallon of gasoline; crude itself is 72 percent. Back in January of 2000, taxes (federal, local and state) made up 32.1 percent of the price of a gallon of gasoline and crude was 47.1 percent. The world price for crude back in January of 2000 was between $23 and $25. In April of 2008, the price has ranged between $103.46 to $118.53/barrel (ignore the hijinks during the day -- it's the closing price that matters). In January of 2000, the average price for a gallon of gasoline was $1.50.

If you look at January of 2000, we paid approximately 48 cents per gallon in taxes. Average price in April of 2008 is $3.50, and we pay approximately 45.5 cents per gallon in overall taxes. Federal taxes -- which is what the gasoline tax holiday is all about -- are 18.4 cents* per gallon so the rest of the 45.5 cents goes to local and state taxes. You slice out the 18.4 cents and you drop the price of gasoline to around $3.32 for about 3 minutes, because the fundamental problem still remains -- the price of crude is what's going up, not the taxes which are a fixed cost (not to mention it would be politically unpopular to raise taxes on gasoline, even though personally, I think it might be a smart idea).

The proposed federal gas tax holiday would go from Memorial Day to Labor Day, which is approximately four months. Indulge me and pretend for a moment that the price of crude doesn't go up during the driving season. So someone like me with a fuel-efficient vehicle and a 10-gallon tank who fills up four times a month would save somewhere around $30 for the duration of the gas tax holiday. I can save that much by just eliminating two dinners out a month or heck, just waking up early enough so I don't take the toll road to work. And note from the exercise above -- it's the price of crude that's causing the pain, not the taxes. And crude's going to keep on going up and up unless we change our behavior, and that's not going to happen at all.

The taxes go to a highway fund that helps with road construction. When you have no funds, you have no road construction. When you have no road construction, you lose jobs. We don't want to lose jobs so we have to make up that shortfall *somewhere* and guess where the money comes from? Ding ding ding if you guessed China or some other foreign entity. The US is so deep in debt right now that China et al essentially owns our collective butt and that doesn't help with the value of the dollar.

So, in a nutshell, the gas tax holiday is stupid because:

1. In the grand scheme of things, most drivers won't be saving that much money to make a significant difference in their economic situation

2. Reducing the price of gasoline through government intervention will not change behaviors; instead, a reduction will influence people to drive *more*, thus driving up the price once again, essentially negating whatever savings might have been gained through the gas tax holiday

3. The US has to borrow money to finance this hare-brain scheme, which means we, as a nation, we're even deeper in debt and while I'm no economist, I'm pretty sure that doesn't help with the weak US dollar

I want to point out that crude is priced in dollars and for every 10 percent decrease in the value of the dollar, crude rises $4. I haven't figured out the exact way our debt figures into the devaluation of the dollar -- I only know how it impacts my daily life. What we need is a stronger dollar, less consumption on our parts, and then maybe we'll see a meaningful impact in the price of fuel. But the gas tax holiday, now that's just stupid pandering by politicians -- including *my* candidate -- who really want to be president.

Taxes on diesel are approximately 24.4 cents, so if you're driving a diesel vehicle you'll save around $40 for the gas tax holiday
Ants

The ants have migrated from my kitchen to my bathroom. They are attacking my mouthwash. Unbelievable.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Holy guacamole!

I'm having an avocado renaissance, which started with avocado sushi, and then this weekend, I decided to make guacamole. Guacamole is pretty easy to make and it can be as complicated as you want it to be. My uncle, world famous guacamole maker and keeper of the top sekrit family recipe passed down for generations, told me that simpler is better. Accordingly, my guacamole had just a few ingredients: avocados, green onions, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, and for flavor, red pepper flakes, fresh lime & lemon juice, salt and pepper.

veggie for avocados


Cutting avocados is a newly acquired skill for me. I cut them from the top and then all around the equator of the avocado. If I do it correctly, it doesn't turn into a big mess, and I can actually pop the avocado open and see the pit nestled on one half and a nice round indentation on the other half.

Gazpacho soup 058


I mashed the avocado with a soup ladle (for lack of a better mashing tool) and then mixed in diced cherry tomatoes, sliced scallions, chopped cilantro, and mixed it all together. I then sprinkled the whole thing with lots and lots of fresh lemon and lime juice and then added salt and pepper to taste. I didn't have chili peppers, so I used red pepper flakes sparingly to add that bit of spiciness. The end result was served with organic corn tortilla chips. Yum!


guacomole and chips

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Headlines

The story about the polygamists' kids has started to bother me greatly in recent days as events have unfolded. Maybe the polygamists are winning their PR campaign with me, but I do feel horrible for these mothers who are so very obviously victims twice over and then with their children who are being ushered into foster care and clearly may have some development/adjustment issues and may not understand what's happening to them or why. I feel especially bad for underage mothers who might have already given birth to children. These women are being sent to foster care. Are they being sent there with their kids? It's like they're being punished for something that's really not their fault.

I just can't shake the feeling that the wrong people are paying the price here and I just don't understand how the state can go in and wholesale remove children from households without a) knowing who the parents are, b) which parents, if any, are abusive, and c)which children, if any, are being abused. I'd like to hear from the men who are clearly the ones wielding the power in this situation about how they feel. I heard some rumors that some of them have already left Texas and gone elsewhere to escape the law. Which makes me feel even more strongly for the mothers who have been abandoned and little hope of seeing their kids again.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Gazpacho soup

It's that time of year when the taste buds start yearning for something fresh and tangy, and this soup from Spain is a perfect starter or a side for any meal. I've always loved gazpacho, even though it seems weird to eat a soup cold. But this one is just perfect. I've sampled several different gazpachos over the last few weeks as the weather has gotten warmer and finally today decided to try it myself. In the past, I've made it using tomato juice as a short-cut, but today, I decided to go as authentic as possible and make it from scratch and selected a wide variety of delicious veggies to go into the soup. The only one I omitted was celery (by accident) but I had plenty of other veggies from red peppers to cucumber to flavor this soup.

Gazpacho soup 008


I chopped everything pretty roughly -- it was all going into the blender anyway. I added plenty of onion (white & green both), green pepper, red pepper, cucumber, and lots and lots of tomatoes -- 7 or 8, if I recall correctly. I then transferred it to a glass pan so I could season it properly. I squeezed fresh lemon juice on the veggies, and then drizzled everything with red wine vinegar and olive oil. I also added salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.


Gazpacho soup 015


Once I had stirred and mixed everything to my satisfaction, it was into the blender with the mixture! I used both the grind and puree settings. Gazpacho should be mildly chunky. If it looks like pico de gallo, it's way too chunky. Smooth like a tomato soup is way too pureed. There should be some texture to the soup, but not enough to actually have to chew or bite down on a piece. I had to experiment with a few settings before I got it to the right consistency.

Gazpacho soup 024


Once you have blended to the right consistency, transfer it into an appropriate container, and then chill in the fridge for 2-3 hours prior to serving. The longer you leave it chilling, the better the flavors will mesh together. You can top this soup with the avocado salsa I described in this post, tortilla chips, or croutons and green onions, as I did. In some versions of this soup, you can even add ice chunks for a little more textures and to get the soup really cold. This soup will make a great accompaniment to the southwest quesadillas or even your traditional grilled cheese sandwich.

Bon appetite!

Gazpacho soup 037

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

LotD

Other women will appreciate this letter to Always, chastising them for the oh so lame and clearly misguided "Have a Happy Period" marketing campaign.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Southwest quesadillas

For Sunday brunch today, I made Southwest-style quesadillas with avocado salsa. It was a pretty tasty and filling lunch, which surprised me because I didn't really put much filling into the quesadillas, but I think the black beans and whole wheat tortillas helped tame the hunger pains for a good four to five hours after eating. These are incredibly easy to make and just really good and simple. For the filling, I used roasted red peppers, corn (thawed), black beans (thoroughly rinsed), green onions, and spinach (cut very finely), with a sprinkle each of salt, pepper, and red pepper.

Southwest quesadillas filling


I had two pans going on the cook top, one a Calphalon which didn't require any grease, and the other a plain stainless steel which I learned the hard way required a spray of Pam or something similar. I usually warm the pan up first before putting the tortilla on it and then I sprinkle about a teaspoon of Cheddar cheese and then spoon the filling on there. I then sprinkle a little bit more Cheddar cheese on top of the filling, and put the other tortilla on top. After about 3-4 minutes, I flip to cook the other side.

Quesadillas cooking...


The avocado salsa is super easy. Just slice an avocado, add diced tomatoes, and sprinkle the whole thing with fresh citrus -- either lime or lemon to keep the avocado from browning -- and serve. This is definitely one of those meals that tastes wonderful warm, but it will work cold as well, maybe with a gazpacho soup? Hmmm... I think I have my next project.

southwest quesadillas

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The tax man cometh

So I'm finally finished my taxes and now it's a question of just getting everything addressed and mailed off (certified, of course). Some people have been surprised that I've waited this long to mail my taxes, but here's the deal -- I owe Uncle Sam money, and I'm in no hurry to turn it over to him. I did my taxes back in January, discovered the sad truth, and have been sitting tight ever since. Of course, there's the thought that if I owe taxes, that means I've had income this year. Still, that's minor consolation when it comes to actually paying up.

I did learn something new while doing my taxes. I've always taken advantage of a particular tax "savings" strategy for the last few years and I've always thought I've made a smart financial move. Well, come to learn this year, I've been an idiot and a fiscal nicompoop. In a nutshell, to save $1 in taxes, I had to spend $7 and the net loss to me is $6. If I went to any thinking adult on the street and said, "Hey, if you gave me $7, you could save $1 on your taxes, how about it?", the any thinking adult on the street would laugh in my face and walk away. I should note that the $7 that I "gave away" for every $1 wasn't for the purpose of owning tangible property, so I'm essentially out assets all for a measly savings; I'd have come out ahead if I'd just taken the tax hit. Clearly, I won't be doing this again next year. Live and learn, I guess.

I think the same thing is true about a house about how you get a break for the mortgage, and I haven't done the math, but I think it's the same concept as my "learnings" above. Yes, homeowners get a tax deduction, but it's something like you have to pay $1 to get 33 cents back on your taxes. I mean, it's better than not getting the 33 cents back and if you're going to buy the house anyway, then it's moot and maybe even a bonus, depending on your circumstances. But the more I think about it, the tax arguments for buying a house seem kind of nicompoopish.* There's an interesting article here that basically says depending on your house, location, equity, etc., the tax benefits of a mortgage payment can vary. With my luck, I'll be the couple in Akron, OH, who get absolutely no tax benefit from owning a home.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

RL update

I started a new job on Monday and it's been busy and I haven't had time to blog when I come home, just because it's been kind of intense and I've been tired. Which is funny because I didn't have time to blog when I was house hunting and once I stopped that, I was blogging all the time. I'm hoping things settle down soon and I'll have more time to say things.

And oh! I filled up my tank for the first time in more than a week on Tuesday evening and I calculated during my experimental "hyper-miling" phase I got nearly 37 miles to the gallon (36.575 for those of you into precision). My Corolla gets 30-32 mpg on the highway and 25-28 mpg in the city. So yes, driving slower (when it was safe) and cruising to stop signs and traffic lights does work and saves gas.

That is all.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

LotD

Mochi ice-cream -- I love this stuff. The sticky chewy outer shell and the yummy cool and rich ice-cream inside. I've only had it a couple of times and today I was elated to discover a nearby restaurant (walking distance!) has it on their menu. So far I've tried green tea, red bean, strawberry, and Kona coffee. I've also had lychee ones. The mango flavor is the only one I haven't tried. The green tea is by far my favorite. These things are fairly expensive as ice-cream goes so I found a recipe online for a day when I'm feeling pretty ambitious.
Techity

I've been aggravated with SeaMonkey ever since I upgraded from the last legit version of Mozilla. First, there was the minor issue of it erasing/losing all of my email (5-6 years worth!) and since then, it's been slow as rocks and just not as stable a client as Mozilla. I miss Mozilla :-(.

My latest problem concerns email -- namely email sent via SMTP. The email downloads from my web server just fine, but when I respond and go to click "send", I get two error messages. Eventually I'm able to send the email by jumping through a couple of hoops, namely going back into account settings, switching between "Default" and "AT&T" SMTP servers (which is stupid, because in this case, they are one and the same) and then making sure no other email window is open. Once this is done, I can sometimes hit send and actually have the email go.

I've been checking all of my settings and passwords and ports, and I still haven't figured out what the issue is. I don't know whether the culprit is AT&T -- though they eventually let me send the email -- or SeaMonkey, or some combination of both. I'd like to like the blame for the whole mess on SeaMonkey's doorstep though. The fact if I shut down all email except the one I want to send tells me that it is most probably a software issue rather than AT&T being difficult. I'm trying to test another SMTP server, but that's causing me another load of problems.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Dinner is served!

The "after"(math) to the before shot.

The rice is the "lime rice" mentioned in gratuitous Chipotle post here. The recipe is pretty simple -- boil water, and then add lots of lime, cilantro, green onions, salt, pepper, and rice. Voila. A rather tasty rice dish to go along with the tofu.

The tofu was marinated in lemon juice and herbs with the veggies for two days. I then baked it at 450 F for 15 minutes and then let it sit. The tops of the tofu were nicely brown, but the rest of it remained a little soft. I'm going to have to work on that a bit.

All in all, I would say this entire meal took 45 minutes to make, and that includes prep. The tofu dish I pre-assembled on Sunday afternoon so all I had to do today was pop it into the oven. I also had plenty of leftovers, so that makes lunch at work pretty easy this week.

Now that's yummy!

I'm waiting for my veggie tofu bake to cook, and in the meantime, I generated this:

My Chipotle Burrito:

Chipotle Fan.com


Which is really making me feel like I ought to say heck to the healthy veggie tofu bake, jump in my car, and drive to Chipotle and order one up. Clearly, I need to work on will power and resolve.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Dinner in Athens, anyone?

I promised T'Other Liz a picture of tonight's dinner, which is not to be confused with the tofu bake from the other night. This is a Greek couscous salad, with a side of spinach salad, and then I quartered a lemon and also a lime to add a little bit of tang to the salad. I also had a small tablespoon of hummus on the side, just for a little bit of texture and protein.


The couscous veggies included green scallions, tomatoes, olives, and cucumbers. Other ingredients included plain feta cheese and instead of using plain olive oil, I used about 20 ml of lemon olive oil for seasoning. As always, I skipped the salt and pepper.

The spinach salad is pretty self-explanatory. Just a few spinach leaves, some diced tomatoes, and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese. So, who wants to come to my house for dinner?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Before

Today, I prepped a lemon herb tofu bake with veggies. Right now, I'm at the 50 percent complete mark. It will spend the rest of today and most of Monday in the fridge, before heading into the oven for Tuesday evening dinner. Jemima suggested I post a "before" picture, so you all can see how my food looks BEFORE it explodes.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

LotD

Can you survive on $21 worth of food per week per person? The governor of Oregon decided to give it a go.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Today

It's been a Dateline kind of day. Film available offline.

In other news, a combination of super saturated SHOUT, bleach, Woolite, and Ajax dish soap can mostly get red wine spatter out of a white sweater.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Experiment

So I have to eat my words from yesterday as I decided to try traffic wave experiment aka "traffic jam reduction". I was convinced it wouldn't work in Sweat Sock City because honestly, whether it's a car or real estate, every free space in this city must be occupied; no two molecules of oxygen may flit and float without hindrance. I intentionally left about 15 seconds between my car and the car in front of me; my driver's ed teachers would be so proud. So I drove the speed limit, all the while maintaining the space. The space never really disappeared. It got smaller sometimes as I got closer to the traffic, but it never was less than 6 to 7 seconds in size. For the first time in months, I didn't need to apply my brakes at all on my commute home.

What fascinated me most was the fact this space was rarely taken advantage of by other drivers on the road. Even an 18-wheeler in the lane next to me didn't seem interested even though he could have easily fit. On the 25 miles to downtown, I saw maybe 5-6 cars take advantage of the open space and for the most part, they came from the lane on the right. It's as if the wide open space scared the other drivers; we're so used to being a culture where we try to jam as much as possible into a tight space that this concept of a 15-second space was foreign.

Of course this is all unscientific, based on one trial, and traffic for these past two weeks in Sweat Sock City has been light. I will continue to experiment and monitor. If this is indeed a true phenomena, then... WOW. Never (well, almost never) get stuck in traffic again.

LotD: Here's the article on the guy who got something like 150 miles to the gallon. King of the Hypermilers.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

More for less

I'm intrigued by this concept of hypermiling -- getting the most possible out of a gallon of gasoline. I read a story over the weekend where one guy got something like 150 miles per gallon, which completely blows my 32 miles per gallon right out of the water. Of course, he probably takes 80 million hours to get to work, and some of the techniques are not safe on a 70 mph (ha!) interstate, but I've been attempting some when it seems feasible, such as cruising to a red light or letting my foot off the gas on a "potential" slope. Since I drive about 50 miles RT a day, even a 10 percent reduction would be of benefit to me. I haven't tried reducing traffic jams yet, but boy if that works...*

* It's a fact that here in Sweat Sock City any open space, regardless of its size, will be immediately filled with a vehicle. If the vehicle is larger than the space, then tough cookies to the vehicle just to its rear. Passing on the right is also acceptable when a space immediately opens up, especially if it means crossing across four lanes of traffic at 80 mph.

Monday, March 24, 2008

DT redux

I'm fast (and scarily) becoming a Discount Tire groupie. I ended up having to go there after work because my car was vibrating and shaking so violently on the interstate that I was genuninely concerned about safety. It had been vibrating at over 60-65 mph on my way home yesterday and then this morning, the threshold dropped to the 55 to 60 mph. I called Discount Tire to see if they could get me in at lunch time but their wait time was about 90 minutes. I figured I'd put it off until tomorrow or the weekend.

Well, on the way home, the shimmy and vibration grew fierce enough that I became concerned. I was confused too because Discount Tire had told me that they had rebalanced my tires on Saturday but the last time this had happened, it was a balancing issue. I was really hoping it wasn't anything more severe. There was a Discount Tire on my way home, so I got there around 5:15 pm and they were able to get my car in and out in just over an hour. Apparently, the tires were out of balance. Weird. Anyway, once I got back on the highway, I floored it to 70 mph, a speed I rarely hit in my decade-old Corolla, and there was just the very slightest vibration. So problem (mostly) fixed, and again, at no charge.

But yeah, I've been to Discount Tire three times in four weeks. They're probably going to start flagging me as a problem customer. Shessh.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Nostalgia

I was reading old comments from previous ASC Awards and the trip down memory lane was fun. So many stories, so many great writers, so much enthusiasm, interest and *fun*. I miss that. What was scary though was I don't remember half the stories I wrote and that appeared in the Awards. I saw some comments for one of my stories and I was like, "Huh? I wrote that?" Reading the comments though made me more motivated to actually write something. We'll see. Maybe I'll go back and find some of those old stories I read comments about; after all this time, it'll be new (probably scary) to me!
Customer service

I don't think I can adequately express in this blog just how much, just HOW MUCH, I heart Discount Tire. Seriously, the service is awesome, quality is great, and you can trust these guys to make a problem right -- even when it's not THEIR problem. I've had two recent experiences with Discount Tire that pretty much sealed the deal for me. The first was when I needed to get my tires balanced. Three of my Frankestein tires are from Discount and the other is from Firestone. So I fully expected that Discount would give me the three tires I'd bought from them for free and I'd have to pay the rebalancing on the fourth. They gave me all four tires for free. Awesome and unexpected.

The second story came today. My car -- 10 years old! -- failed the state safety inspection (but hey, it passed the emissions tests no problem, so... yeah?) and so I needed to get a brake job in order to pass. So I took the car in, got the brake job done, and then the techs there told me there was something wrong with the lug nuts and then the studs and the threads and all those scary things techs tell you and you think, "OH MY GOD, I AM GOING TO DIE WHEN I GET ON THE HIGHWAY." So I went back to Discount Tire because they were the last ones to deal with my tires. I told them nicely (I've learned my lesson re yelling at mechanics; more on that in another bloggity) that I trusted their opinion, the brake job people scared me, could they check out my lug nuts, studs and threads? Anyway, when I called them back later, they told me not only were they replacing my lug nuts, they were ordering them from another store (hooray?). I got my car well before the 2 pm time they told me and not only that, they didn't charge me for the new lug nuts, even though I have no idea where the problem (if any) originated. Also, they rebalanced my tires and put air in them. For free.

The best part was when I offered to pay for the lug nuts and they said no. I said, are you sure? And the response? "Yes, just come back and see us again."

I heart Discount Tire.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

3 am

So no two clocks in my life have the same time. The variation is as little as 5 minutes and as much as 40 minutes. Currently, the clock in my car is correct because my dad changed it and it's throwing me off my game a little bit. I look at the time and it's actually the right time and I lack the comfort of the 23 minute "buffer" that used to be there. Any day now, I'm going to change the time on my VCR so I don't have to subtract 3 minutes from the beginning time of a show and add 3 minutes to the end. You'd think it'd be easier to just have the right time. I've completely given up on my microwave clock and I don't set it anymore. I have two wrist watches and one of them has the right time and the other doesn't. I don't know which is which. I'm not usually late though.

My alarm clock is the biggest problem child. I have no idea how many minutes fast it is. I think it's somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 minutes. I set it fast when I changed jobs last summer because my commute, time wise, is now 3 times longer and to get there on time, I'd have to leave my apartment at the same time I used to wake up to get to my previous job. But I have this thing -- I don't believe in waking up before 7 am, an irony you realize when I tell you the second alarm on my clock is set for 3:30 am, the time I wake up to go to the airport. But anyway, my normal alarm goes off now at "6:30 am" and then I proceed to hit snooze until the clock reaches "7:00 am". That's when I roll out of bed, and start to get ready for work. Yesterday, I looked down at one of my two wrist watches and realized it was only 6:40 am and I'd already been up for 30 minutes. Some fictions only go so far.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Out of this world

I was reading my favorite vegan blog today -- Vegan Yum Yum -- mostly because I love looking at the pictures -- food Pr0n at its best -- and I stumbled on this recipe which I know the Trek-minded of you will be greatly amused by. In all seriousness though, this version of hasperat looks amazing and I can't wait to try it out. Now I'm curious as to how a vegan site will deal with gagh!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Say what?

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: North Central
 

"North Central" is what professional linguists call the Minnesota accent. If you saw "Fargo" you probably didn't think the characters sounded very out of the ordinary. Outsiders probably mistake you for a Canadian a lot.

The West
 
Boston
 
The Midland
 
Philadelphia
 
The Inland North
 
The South
 
The Northeast
 
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz
Back 2 Good

I saw Matchbox Twenty in concert not too long ago and I was thrilled to hear my favorite song live (g). And of course, I must share it with all of you :-).



One of these days, I'll get back to real blogging. It's just so hard these days after spending so much time on the computer at work to want to come home and log on. I solemnly swear to try and do better.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Gas prices

The US government has one of the best websites out there on energy issues and prices. Check out this link to learn what the price of a gallon of gas is composed of. It's pretty easy to read and understand. The bottom line is, if we see $70/barrel any time soon, I'll be surprised. It wasn't too long ago that I thought $50/barrel as the ceiling was crazy. Now I'm anticipating $110/barrel in the not-so-distance future. My concern is demand destruction if we see $105-$115 range for more than 6 months and the effect on the world economy. My suggestion? When you get your tax rebate, bank it or pay down debt. Don't spend it on things you don't need. The two things might not seem related to you, but the higher those prices go, the more likely it is our economy is going to slow down even more than it already has.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Listen up, Texas

Here's the deal -- it feels *damn* good to be relevant for the first time since LBJ. It feels so awesome to know that on March 4, the primary matters, the voters matter, and Democrats can come out of hiding. It feels so good to see all the Hillary signs, and even the Obama ones. It means it's a good time to be a Democrat. That's the first part, the awesome part of the deal -- being relevant in Texas again.

The second part, that's not the so awesome part. That's the part where some of you are choosing Obama. Obama with his minuscule experience, his health care plan that doesn't cover everyone, and his inane idea to bomb Pakistan to get bin Laden. We've already suffered through amateur hour in the White House for the last 7 years; Texas, do we really want to go through that again?

There's not much daylight between the two. You cut through the rhetoric and you see two candidates who are remarkably the same -- talented, accomplished, passionate. It's great that we have such a choice. But don't vote for Obama because he's not Clinton. Don't vote for Obama because you find yourself drifting away on his words (because God knows, I do find him memorizing). Don't vote for Obama because you think the idea of hope is the only thing that can get America through. Don't vote for Obama because he was right about Iraq at a time when he didn't have the obligation to make a decision about Iraq. These are all words and promises. You have a better choice, Texas, so choose it.

Choose someone who has 35 years of experience, who knows world leaders by name and has visited parts of the world currently in trouble. Pick someone who has made health care a personal crusade and who is going to promote what is core liberal value -- universal health care for everyone. Pick someone who is more pragmatic, who has been (surprisingly) able to work with some of the most conservative members of congress and get legislation passed. Pick someone who isn't new, shiny, and isn't the world's great orator. Pick someone who is going to roll up her sleeves and get to work for us on day one.

Think hard about who you're voting for on Tuesday. Think about the difference between words and actions. Think about what means to have less than four years of experience at the national level and compare that to 35 years. Experience means something. We've already gone seven years with a "change candidate" and a "uniter not a divider" candidate. Let's not do that again.

So on Tuesday, Texas, make the right choice and vote and caucus for Hillary Clinton.