Friday, December 31, 2010

Bollywood Hero Flash Mob in Times Square

Dancing in the streets

What if Bollywood dancers showed up in the middle of NYC? Such a fun video (though obviously staged as a marketing tool -- not spontaneous as a 'flash mob' ought to be).

Couponing

As much as I enjoy saving money, I don't particularly care for or use coupons that often. I've found, for the most part, coupons don't apply for the food items I buy -- namely fresh veggies and some bulk goods -- and the store brands are generally just as good and are cheaper without the coupon. Every now and then, I make an attempt to coupon, like I did this morning. I took a pair of scissors to the weekly P&G saver and cut out about 30 coupons. I know I'm probably not going to buy any of the items for the coupons I cut, but it makes me feel like I'm making an effort. Especially since we now have a goal of saving at least 50 cents a week or $2/month to cover the cost of the Sunday Sweat Sock City Chronicle.

I have, however, started using Groupon on occasion. So far I've bought three of the Groupons, all to restaurants. The restaurants are all ones we like or want to try and most of them were purchased for 50% off, i.e. spend $20 to get $40. What we found however is that we overspent in order to collect the full value of the Groupon. So a dinner at a posh Mexican restaurant would have cost us about $35 before the Groupon (excluding my margarita), but because we had to spend $40 in order to get the $20 off, we got dessert (which we split). I should note in this particular instance the Groupon did not include alcohol.

Another Groupon we used, we went $10 over the value -- $10 for a $20 Groupon. Again, it was another deal where we were $5 short and we ended up ordering some sodas and an appetizer to make up the difference. Overspent and overate. We're concerned we might have the same issue with another Groupon we bought, another $10 for $20 deal; this is for a restaurant where typically we spend about $13 for our meal -- a noodle bowl, a sandwich, egg rolls, and two drinks (yes, it's super cheap). So now we'll have to find another $7 to claim the full value of the Groupon.

The best way, I think, to look at a Groupon is that it's a discount of a certain amount before the final bill. We haven't managed to get to the 50% savings advertised, but we would have saved if we didn't have to over order. As a result, we're being very stingy with our Groupon purchases. There are some that look like great deals, such as $50 to get $150 off a new mattress at Matress Firm, but they also lock you into that store and that purchase. It might be better off just waiting for the sale to come around.

I should also note some people are GREAT at couponing; I'm in owe of their skill. I think it makes a lot of sense IF you're going to buy those particular products anyway. In our case, it hasn't really paid off at all simply because we don't buy very many processed foods outside of whole wheat pasta and the occasional rice or couscous mix. We primarily buy store brands and buy the veggies and fruits that are on sale during the week. We also stock up when there's a big sale. When Dannon yogurt was $10 for 10 -- the usual price being anywhere from $2.06 to $2.75 -- we stocked up. We have A LOT of yogurt containers to recycle!

I'm going to keep attempting to try the couponing thing, give it a fair shake. So far though, our 50 cent/week subscription to the newspaper hasn't paid for itself at all as advertised. As each week ticks by, we have to save 50 cents more to recoup the "investment." On the upside, I like to read it, so maybe it's worth that much for the enjoyment.
Hmmm

My niece, who is only five years old, has more blog posts than me. Like, a lot more. I haven't been very dilligent about keeping this up. Mea culpa.

Monday, December 27, 2010

LotD

Interesting article: Income Inequality and the 'Superstar Effect'. I'm a big fan of capitalism but there are some downsides to it. I think this article summarizes it well.

CAPITALISM relies on inequality. Like differences in other prices, pay disparities steer resources — in this case, people — to where they would be most productively employed.
[...] Ultimately, the question is this: How much inequality is necessary? It is true that the nation grew quite fast as inequality soared over the last three decades. Since 1980, the country’s gross domestic product per person has increased about 69 percent, even as the share of income accruing to the richest 1 percent of the population jumped to 36 percent from 22 percent. But the economy grew even faster — 83 percent per capita — from 1951 to 1980, when inequality declined when measured as the share of national income going to the very top of the population.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Hmmm

Now that the tax compromise has passed, I expect to see lots and lots of hiring in first quarter 2011. Now that the 'uncertainty' is over (and let's be real, did anyone honestly think Congress would let the Bush tax cuts expire?), there should be no more excuses on why companies aren't hiring.
LotD

Vanity Fair had an interesting article, The Simple Solution to America's Unemployment Problem. It caught my attention because I've been thinking lately, is Big Business really good for you and me? I haven't completely formulated my thoughts on the subject because I can see the pro and cons of the equation, but I can tell you think: hiring people and paying them a liveable wage cuts in profits.

Profits are what are important to companies. They want to make money and so if they can't make their sales, they cut their spending. People are among the easiest assets to let go. And my great fear these days is that with businesses doing more with less, the incentive to hire is so low. I mean, if they've got someone who can do the job of three people, that's a cost savings to the company and an improved bottomline. Who's going to go through the expense of hiring when you don't need to?

Anyway, it's an interesting rant and much to think about. We think Big Business is good for America, for us the little people, but is Big Business making their decisions with America in mind?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

LotD II: the Bernie video

LotD

Which I had seen this -- Bernie Sanders' "filibuster". My favorite socialist speaks! I don't think it'll make a difference, but I'm glad he got his eight hours in the limelight (albeit C-SPAN). Here's copy of the speech and PolitiFact checks here.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

This is post 2,500

One of the things about traveling a lot, you gain a new found appreciation for your own bed. Also, I've noticed the "break in" time for a hotel bed has gone from 2 days to 0 for me. I've always been famous for being able to sleep anywhere at anytime, but hotels stymied me. I couldn't find a comfortable place in the bed for at least the first two nights (if I was there for that long) and by the time I got comfortable, it was time to pack up and leave.

What intrigues me is this idea that you can now BUY the hotel's bed and linens (and towels, furniture, bath amenities, etc). I swear, there are now catalogs in the rooms selling "the experience" of hotel living and believe you me, that while it's tempting, it's certainly not cheap. Both hotels I stayed in the last two weeks -- major luxury chains -- were charging upwards of $1200 for the mattress and box-spring set. That was before the $60+ price tag on the sheet set. No wonder the beds are so comfortable!

Amenities are also getting quite high class in hotels. You get Pantene and Neutrogena, but also weird stuff like barley shampoo and quinoa lotion. I had no idea. Some hotels provide toothpaste and mouthwash, others provide slippers to walk around in. A couple had robes available and at least one sold animal print pajamas. I've taken advantage of all except the animal print pajamas, of course. That was just... odd.

Hotels also have curiously overpriced breakfasts. If you're lucky, a cup of coffee will only set you back $5. That's including the tax, the 20% gratuity, and the service charge. A bagel with cream cheese at a recent hotel set me back $9. That was before the coffee, by the way. And then there's room service... The same meal in the restaurant versus room service has quite the delta in cost. There's something antisocial about room service, some might argue, but with a bed like they provide, so much more comfortable than ye olde staid dining room.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Post 2499

I know, I've been away a long time. I wish I had a good reason why, but none really. Just... lots of time in hotels and airplanes and all that good stuff. It doesn't leave a lot of time to just ruminate or catch up on things. On the upside, I'm getting upgraded to first class on airplanes more often now. I'll think of something better for the next post -- lucky 2500.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I feel your pain

Or more appropriately, I miss Bill Clinton. Check out his two interviews on the Daily Show. He gets it and he has solution. Obama, are you listening?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Bill Clinton Extended Interview Pt. 1
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Bill Clinton Extended Interview Pt. 2
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party
LotD

Interesting article on the current tax debate here: Five points to keep in mind as Congress debates the Bush tax cuts.
Beautiful nightmare

So it's been years since I worked in newspapers, but last night I dreamed I was working at a specialty trade paper -- electronics, a subject I know minimal about -- and that I was a one woman-show and it was my first day on the job. Deadline was approaching and an editor approached me and said I needed to come up with a cover story and layout. The dream then consisted of me running around frantically trying to figure out what story I could come up with 10 minutes and how I could use the layout to minimize word count. I don't know how the whole thing resolved. My dream did include me talking to my manager about some ideas, but whether any of them were accepted, I don't know.

I'd like to think I didn't miss the deadline as past performance implies I wouldn't have. But past performance also would indicate that I wouldn't have sat on my hands and been surprised by the task and deadline at hand. I should note that while working at newspapers was a blast and I learned a lot, it was long hours and a rather stressful environment come deadline. I'm grateful for the experience but certainly don't miss it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

LotD

File under "wow"; The Portland Press Herald apologizes for publishing a picture of Muslims celebrating the end of Eid on Sept. 11. The comments are mostly heartening.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

LotD x4

It's the Sarah!Roundup. First, the scathing profile in Vanity Fair: Sarah Palin: The Sound and the Fury Politics. Follow that up with more on the infamous shopping spree. And finally, Sarah's Amazing Race. And of course, Palinisms.Enjoy.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The billionaire Koch brothers’ war against Obama: newyorker.com

LotD

Not that many people would care, given Obama's approval ratings, but I found this fascinating -- the millions poured into various causes supported by Obama. From healthcare to environmental regulation, their money has been there. And everything they support supports their business. Fascinating profile in the New Yorker. Take a look if you have time. Regardless of what side of the political spectrum you're on, it's always good to know where the money trail stars and ends.

The billionaire Koch brothers' war against Obama

Saturday, August 28, 2010

"Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?": America's misguided culture of overwork

LotD II

Interesting article. It's always good fun to tease Europeans about their extensive vacations, how parts of the Continent just seem to flee in the summer months to cooler climes, but really, would you want four weeks or more of paid vacation? I know *I* would. Anyway, so this was an interesting interview to read. Were You Born on the Wrong Continent? America's misguided culture of overwork
Newsies

We got awesome news today when we went to see the apartment folks about our lease. They let us know that our neighbors "could not renew and will be moving out." Hooray! Our neighbors have been a drunk party in our side for nearly the year we've lived here. We're actually convinced they only come home Friday and Saturday because Sunday through Thursday they're quiet as cockroaches. Come Friday night though, WHOO HOO! PAHR-TEE-TIME!

Our place is not that far from the new hip strip to get alcohol here in Sweat Sock City. We think that's the attraction for our neighbors because they clearly entertain every weekend (music comes on around 9:30 pm and goes on until midnight or later) and then go out afterwards. Once, on our way to the gym at 9 in the morning, we actually saw them coming home from wherever it was they were partying. And they were talking about going out again by lunchtime. J and I looked at each other and groaned and then decided to run lots of miles so for sure we'd sleep through whatever ruckus they made that night.

We thought about moving but we really like the location. It's perfect for both of our commutes and it's in the neighborhood we'd eventually like to buy in. We also frequent the local businesses in the area and chain restaurants take a back seat to locally owned places. In other words, it's great for now except for the neighbors of doom. We happily renewed because we now know we will be able to enjoy weekend nights without the pounding bass and random shouting. We do, however, feel bad for these guys' future neighbors.
LotD

I think it's important to be prepared for a job interview. That means wearing the right (appropriate) clothes, completely researching the company (including using google news for any new developments, and having at least three questions about the company and/or job already prepared. Here's a link to help with the last bit. The 10 Best Questions to Ask at a Job Interview. It goes without saying that if you're going to ask a question about the company, try to avoid obvious ones like what the company does or where it's headquartered. Your research should have already revealed the answer to those questions. A safe bet? "Where do you see the company in five years?" As always, in a first interview, stay away from salary, benefits, etc., type questions.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Groupon

We're trying our first Groupon experience tonight. I bought a $20 gift certificate to a restaurant we've been interested in trying for a while for the price of $10. So theoretically, it's a "buy one, get one free" deal, or a 50% deal. That's if we stay in the $20 range (which, btw, doesn't include tip or tax, and this particular deal doesn't include alcohol). Now if we spend an additional $10 for $30 worth of food, then we go over and our savings decrease accordingly. By then, I'll have $20 and our savings will be $10, or about 33 percent. If I spend an additional $30 on a $40 bill, then the savings decrease again. All in all, we'll see how it goes tonight. Luckily, this isn't an expensive place, so I think we'll probably spend an extra $5 or so on tax and tip. I'm just curious as to how these things work so I thought this would be a good one to try. If anyone else has tried and liked, let me know!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

LotD

Interesting opinion piece: Five Reasons to Stop Worrying About Home Prices. On the flip side, Is Housing Still a Good Investment?
On a lighter note

I keep meaning to update the sidebar on this blog, but I never do. Maybe this weekend... lots of computer activities planned so maybe I'll have the discipline to a) stay away from Facebook games, b) update all the software on the computer, and c) finishing the blog transfer from the seema.org domain.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying a nice crisp buzz off this wine, a green wine from Portugal. It's sweet, crisp, and I actually felt refreshed. Most of the time, wine just makes my mouth dry out and then I sneeze. A lot (I blame the tannins). But this wine was genuinely delightful and I like the price -- as low as $4.49 -- a lot. So if you're looking for something with a little bit of a sparkle, this might be a good one to try.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

LotD

I was planning to stay away from politics a bit, but I found this article on Roger Ailes, the founder of Fox News, fascinating. Check out The Dark Genius of Fox News. Honestly, I think everyone on Fox News looks like they've eaten something bad and are suffering from perpetual heartburn. Must take a lot of energy to stay that chronically angry all. the. time. (I can't say anything about Keith Olbermann because I don't get MSNBC but I suspect he must also be suffering the ill effects of dyspesia).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Happy Birthday, 19th Amendment!

Happy Birthday, 19th Amendment (And thanks to Harry T. Burns mom). Reading the stories of the women's suffrage movement reminds me that progress takes time (in this case, more than 70 years) and guts.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

LotD II

The anatomy of a firestorm. How a project in Manhattan went from basically being ignored and in a couple of instances, supported by the very people who are now attacking it. Intriguing. How the ground zero mosque fear mongering began.
LotD

I had another post planned for tonight, but a headache is preventing clarity of thought and a rogue mouse (read: laptop touchpad) is making words and letters move around on their own volition. All this to say, I'm pointing you to reason.com, which is an interesting news magazine. I haven't decided what I think of it yet, just that I'm intrigued. I think it's libertarian, but not quite sure yet. There are some articles I'd consider socially conservative and others that would be liberal. Most of all, it's rational and in this crazy summer, rational is good.

Friday, August 13, 2010

News blues

Our local station -- which once featured an adorable but utterly useless weather dog named Radar -- is reporting on mailboxes that were installed backwards. You have to feel for the poor field reporter spending time interviewing people about their mailbox confusion and investigating WHAT HAPPENED TO HAVE MAILBOXES INSTALLED BACKWARDS (you just know she never anticipated this kind of story when she went to J-school or maybe she's grateful that she's not standing in the surf in the middle of a hurricane; mailboxes are, after all, less dangerous).

After the three-minute story concluded (featuring lots of people parking, getting out of their cars, and mailing letters and letting the reporter know they were confused), the anchors went on their Facebook page and started reading viewer comments (which, btw, is the new "thing" for this news station. Highly annoying as no one is as witty or funny as they think they are on Facebook).

Backwards mailboxes. Hard hitting stuff. It's right up there with the breaking news story from a few years ago about how filthy movie theaters are. And oh, wait! After their commercial break, they're coming back with a story about a dog in a wheelchair... I have no words.
LotD

Scanning for reviews of "Eat Pray Love", I came across this one in Vanity Fair. It's quite amusing and not your usual paint by the numbers review. Enjoy.
Uh oh

Obama supports the Muslim community center/mosque near Ground Zero. My Magic 8 Ball tells me all hell is going to break out now.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

LotD

I found the following paragraph in Judge Walker's ruling hilarious:

Proponents also point to harm resulting from “a cloud of uncertainty” surrounding the validity of marriages performed after judgment is entered but before proponents’ appeal is resolved. Doc #705 at 10. Proponents have not, however, alleged that any of them seek to wed a same-sex
spouse.


Poor Prop 8 supporters. It seems they might have been able to make a better case for themselves if they insinuated they wanted to marry someone of the same sex and in which case, "the cloud of uncertainty" would have certainly caused them harm.

I also found the Judge's thoughts on whether the Prop 8 supporters even have standing to bring an appeal interesting. The real defendents are Schwarznegger and Brown, but they couldn't be bothered to show up (in fact, are actively siding with the plaintiffs), so now the B-team is taking the ball and trying to run with it. If the Prop 8 supporters weren't so annoyingly self-righteous and illogical, I'd actually feel sorry for them.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Take this job and shove it!

Take this job and shove it!

A Hong Kong news station has kindly provided a re-enactment of the JetBlue incident.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Seriously lame

I usually have high respect for the Christian Science Monitor, but I can't believe they published an article like this one. Okay, maybe I can see it -- looking for opposing opinions, and may be even a fresh take, and this is seriously one of the weirdest spins I've seen on the issue. In Gay marriage: Why Judge Walker got Proposition 8 ruling wrong, the author argues: Marriage is not about couples or lovers – it’s about the physical and moral integrity of women. When a woman’s sexuality is involved, human communities must deal with a malign force that an individual woman and her family cannot control or protect. WTF? The author then goes on to conclude, "[...] most of us who prefer to leave marriage (with all its defects) as it is are not concerned with homosexuality at all. We are merely voicing a sensible desire to preserve an institution that recognizes and protects the special status of women. If marriage becomes a legislative courtesy available to everyone, like a key to the city, it will be women who will lose."

This argument, so charmingly chauvinistic, is laughable in every way. "Special status of women"? Really? That's what this whole thing has been about? After reading this opinion, I feel like I ought to be standing on a marble pedastal or something like that, with a plaque, maybe some safety glass and someone nice to come and dust me off every now and then just in case a spec of dirt hurts me. It's an insulting argument in every way and makes no sense; we're in 2010, after all, and we women seem to have come far ahead in our abilities that three of us sit on the Supreme Court, a woman was a credible candidate for president, and one serves as Speaker of the House. Those are just the headlines. There are awesome women -- some of whom are (gasp!) single -- making extraordinary contributions every single day, seemingly unaware of their "special status". It's insulting in this day and age to read something like this. I'm surprised the CSMonitor allowed the author to get away with such a lazy argument. If you think it's okay to discriminate and create a whole second class citizenry, at least put in the time to come up with an justification that doesn't sound so atavistically patronizing.
Computer update

Today, we took the old computer (with J's old hard drive installed in it), the monitor, keyboard and mouse to the Salvation Army and donated it. With J's old hard drive in it now, it works -- just needs to be reformatted etc., and I figure it'll be a good machine for someone who is looking for very basic applications. We assured the Salvation Army that it was in working condition and hopefully they can find someone who can make use of it. I also thought it might be good to take apart and rebuild for a computer technology training class. Either way, it felt better to take the computer to the Salvation Army than to the electronics recycling center. It was easier to part with my old "buddy", knowing there was a possibility of another life for it out there. The electronics recycling center would have meant an inglorious end in a Chinese landfill for a trusty machine.

I've begun the slow process of transferring documents to the new computer from a collection of back-up CDs and also from the laptop, where most of my pictures from recent travels are stored. On the upside, it looks like the damage from the hard drive failure is minimal. In other words, I didn't lose as much as I thought I had and I do have documents going all the way back to 2003 saved here and there. So that's the good news. I also have some of my iTunes backed up, but not all of it. So hopefully I can pull the music off the iPod itself. As soon as I get everything situated, I'm looking forward to doing two things I haven't done in a while: writing and editing! So much easier on the desktop than the laptop, that's for sure!
More on the Mosque controversy

This time from Fareed Zakaria:

If there is going to be a reformist movement in Islam, it is going to emerge from places like the proposed institute. We should be encouraging groups like the one behind this project, not demonizing them.

The entire editorial is here

Also, a history lesson for Newt over here.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Deep thoughts

I worry when the rights of the minority are determined by the majority. It's for that reason I'm excited that the gay marriage ban was overturned in CA today. We have to watch that slippery slope where we intentionally deprive members of our society rights on the flimsiest of premises. We can't be a free society if we are oppressing others, no matter the reason behind it. If you read the original transcript of the trial, you'll find just how weak the defendants' case truly was.

On the same topic, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is my new hero for his spirited defense of the mosque/community center two blocks away from Ground Zero. To be honest, I don't have a horse in this race. I'm not Muslim and I have no personal connection to 9/11* or NYC. What concerned me was the idea that we would act to restrict the religious freedom of a group without any real basis other than bigotry and fear and whipping up a frenzy around the issue (I'm looking at you, Gingrich, and yes, you too, Sarah Palin, and oh wait, Pat Robertson, you don't get off either). Once you say it's okay to deny a mosque that location, you say it's okay to deny any religion any location based on an abstraction. Bloomberg says it best:

Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question - should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here. This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions, or favor one over another.

For more reading, here is a profile on the Iman behind the mosque. It's worth a read because honestly, didn't know anything about him, and when I read the profile, I thought, we keep wanting Islamic leaders to speak out against terrorism, and here's someone who is, and this is how we treat him?

The thing is, if you attempt (and succeed) to deprive people of their Constitutional rights, as was done in CA and as being advocated in NYC, you automatically make it easier -- and even justifiable -- to do it over and over again. To me, that's incredibly scary, because it's only a matter of time before it comes back to bite you in the butt.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Updating

I forgot how long it takes to get your computer exactly the way you like it, with all the files and shortcuts and bookmarks, etc. So far, I've added some of my favorite software like Mozilla, Photoshop, Dreamweaver and of course, Civilization 4, but I've yet to transfer over some of my files. I backed up irregularly so I may be missing a document here or there so I'm going back to my oldest back-up, circa 2006 (there might be one from 2004 or thereabouts, but I didn't label the CD with anything more descriptive than 'Backup'). So getting those docs transferred over will be quite the interesting task. I'm hoping that for the most part everything is here.

And for those of you wondering (or not, as the case may be), I got a Dell Studio XPS 8100. I'm starting to navigate Windows 7 Home Premium (miss me my XP; don't know if Office XP will work on Windows 7. Anyone know?). All in all, no compatibility issues yet except McAfee doesn't like ZoneAlarm. That's okay; I don't particularly like McAfee so it'll be gone as soon as my free trial is up. Avast, I found, works so much better.
Deep thoughts

I can't believe that a singer as talented as Martina McBride couldn't come up with a better ditty for her Sunny-D commercial than the repetitious "Shine on, shine on..." No matter how melodious your singing voice, it still sounds lazy.
LoTD

The NYTimes had an interesting editorial in today's edition on the current economic situation. You can read it here. I like it because it basically lays out the facts without all the wavy hand movement sky is falling prose. It's scary stuff. We went from surpluses in the Clinton era to deficits in the Bush era, which was then exacerbated by Obama. Then you have the 40% of the budget -- entitlements -- that are just impossible to deal with in a logical way, the tax cuts that decrease revenue, and the persistent joblessness that means extending unemployment. I sense tax increases in our future but don't just blame Obama. W had a lot to do with it as well.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

New computer!

Typing at you from a new, awesome computer. I'm still in the process of setting it up but looking forward to zoomin' along and not plodding painfully through. It's just amazing how far computer technology has come in the last decade since I bought the previous machine. I'm pretty psyched right now.

Once I get all of my documents reloaded and software squared away, I'll start making much needed updates to my website. I know it's kind of a mess but haven't been able to do anything with it since my previous computer sadly passed away. (I'm still a bit sorrowful, btw, as I sit in my office, staring down at the carcass of the old computer and thinking of all the things we did it to coax it back to life. It was a good machine for me).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Yum

Soft foods I have eaten in the last few days:

*Buttermilk
*Plain yogurt
*Vanilla ice-cream
*Cherry ice-cream
*Chocolate cake
*Crepes with Nutella
*Stuffing
*Grandmother's Soft Peanut Butter cookies (Which are NOT as soft as advertised; not recommended, btw, if you're looking for a 'soft' snack).
*Apple sauce
*Fried mozzerella cheese

I visited the dentist today and the verdict is I'm healing very nicely. Hopefully by next week, all will be back to normal.

Monday, July 26, 2010

LotD

The NY Times has an intriguing article in its most recent Sunday magazine that explores what the new social media means for privacy and how difficult it is becoming to control one's image online. It's a thoughtful analysis but no real solutions. Worth a read over here.
The loss of wisdom, part 2

So far so good. Other than the fever, my worst symptom has really been itchy gums. I'm SO desperate to scratch the back of my mouth. That's not a good thing though, so I must be patient. I've been told the itchiness is a sign of healing. I guess I'd rather itch than have a dull throbbing pain in my jaw.

I also have uneven mouth opening. The right side of my mouth isn't as amiable to opening as the left side, so it creates an odd situation when it comes to eating. I have a new appreciation for soft foods.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The loss of wisdom

I'm a bad blogger. Finally figured out what was up with blogger and then I took off. I actually had to travel out of the country for business and the morning after I returned, I dragged my jet-lagged self to the dentist and had the thing done that I've been dreading all the years of my life: wisdom teeth extraction. All four teeth are now gone.

I ended opting for the optional sedation for I don't remember much and apparently went on a soliquoy on the merits of a new grocery store in our neighborhood. I think I felt some tugging, some smashing, but for the most part, while I was awake, I was blissfully unaware. The aftermath hasn't been as bad as I feared. Well, Saturday morning was less than fun but not for reasons I thought.

For the most part, pain has been minimal. In fact, I felt nothing on the left side of my face, prompting me to ask whether anything had been done on that side. I felt some tightness in my right side and some minor pain that radiated down the front side of my neck. My doctor prescribed an antibiotic and two pain prescriptions -- ibuprofen and Tylenol plus codeine. I took pain pills that first day and not since. The pain really hasn't been that bad -- my gums just feel really, really itchy and like there's stuff back there, pieces of peanuts or the like.

What was surprising was the fever. It started the evening of the surgery and I just figured I was cramping up after spending 10 hours the previous day on an airplane and then lying on the sofa all day. By the time Saturday early morning came around, I was absolutely miserable. I couldn't figure out if I was hot or cold, my body ached, my head was splitting, and I was woefully nauseous. My temperature registered at 101.6 at the highest.

J called the dentist at 7:30 am and he assured us that this was normal, though everything we read online seemed to imply otherwise. Around 8:30 am Saturday, my fever broke in a particularly grotesque manner that I hope won't lead to further complications (read: dry socket). I spent the rest of the day on the sofa, recovering and by early afternoon, my temperature was normal. I tried solid foods -- crepes with nutella -- for dinner and that was good, though quite the chore to chew. My right jaw just doesn't seem to want to open for me.

Today for a special family occasion, I chomped slowly through two slices of pizza (try chewing pizza only on the fronts of your teeth -- it's highly inefficient) and even eating cake was not fun. Tonight, I think I'm giving up on solid food because even though it was delicious, I don't think I'm up for making that effort again. Luckily, I have some celery and potato soup made from last week that was frozen especially for this occasion and there's plenty of ice-cream and yogurt in the refrigerator.

All in all, this experience isn't anything close to the horror stories I've heard people tell and for that, I'm grateful. I think it'll still be about a week before I can eat normally again, but I'm doing my "jaw excercises" and rinsing now with salt water so hopefully I'm speeding the recovery along nicely.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

LotD

On the Fourth of July, I wanted to post the text of the Declaration of Independence. You can read the whole thing here. I took the opportunity to read it for the first time and I'm ashamed to say that I never actually had read it before or if I had, didn't remember anything past the famous preamble. If you get it chance, read it; it's enlightening. The list of grievances are long and surprising, especially in light of today's political climate.

Parenting is apparently no fun. You can read about it here. That's not to say people don't love children, it's more than they don't enjoy the act of parenting. It's a fine distinction. On the same subject, why more women are remaining childless.

The Quiet Hell of 10 Years of Novel Writing and who do you write like? are the two writing links for this week.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Test, Test, part 2

I found the workaround -- it's annoying but useful. I'm posting it here in case anyone else is having the same problem with blogger. Basically, blogger keeps "loading" in the input window, which makes it impossible to type anything at all. If you're having this problem (and I was having it on two separate laptops, though running the same browser), then when you get stuck on the "loading" new post screen, hit "Save now," and then go to "Edit post." You'll be able to type just fine in the "Edit post" screen. It's only the "new posts" that don't seem to be working (at least for me).
Test, test

My being offline has been inadvertant and actually rather annoying as blogger hasn't been allowing to me to post since at least the 4th of July and I have a lot to say! This may be the first of a couple of test posts as I may have found a workaround Blogger's weirdness.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

LotD 2

It's easier to find a job when you have one, the old adage goes, but for some companies, if you want to work there, you better already be employed. Check out this job posting by The People Place in Angleton, TX. I'm guessing the People Place is a staffing agency, which makes it even more crazy that they would write "Client will not consider/review anyone not currently employed regardless of the reason..." in their posting. I don't know how widespread this is, but it's definitely a cause for concern.
LotD

It's an oldie, but you can find the script for Yahoo!'s 1,500-employee layoff here.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

LotD

Imagining a Liberal Court is a rather high-brow analysis of conservative versus progressive thinking and how it has evolved over the years. The title, I think, is misleading because it's not really imagining what a liberal court would be like; it's more a look at various landmark Supreme Court cases over the years and the contradictions between conservative and progressive thinking upon the actual case outcomes.

Today, we are moving toward a contemporary version of this debate between liberals and conservatives about what we need to fear most — an overreaching state or unconstrained market forces. The positions in this debate today are not identical to what they were three-quarters of a century ago, but there are important similarities. Progressives today view regulation as the necessary response to the market failures that led to the present economic crisis. Many conservatives fear that taking regulation too far will cripple the possibilities of economic recovery and long-term growth.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Prep time

The last few days have been a little intense in terms of cramming. Not for an exam, but for interviews. I've been fortune to land several interviews recently and so I've spent some of my free evening time just getting ready.

Things I like to do to prep for an interview:
* Research the company by reading the website, rereading the job description, checking out recent PR, and doing a google search to see if anything comes up. I'll also checked LinkedIn to see who works at the company. If they're given any presentations or papers lately, I'll review one or two of those, maybe even print it out and take it with me to the interview so I have something to read while waiting in the lobby.

* Get my resume printed on nice paper. I usually go to Office Depot and make 5 to 10 copies on the heavier cotton paper. It's been rare that I've actually had to give an interviewer a copy of my resume, but I like to have it. Also, it's good to be able to pull it out and review it at the same time as the interviewer. Honestly, I wrote my resume, but I can't always remember off the top of my head what's on it.

* Prep my questions. My rule of thumb is always to ask three questions at every interview. I don't have a good reason for the number, it's just what I've always done and in general, has been successful. In order to have three questions to ask, I brainstorm and write down at least 10. I've found that the majority of those get answered during the actual interview, but if my list is long enough, I'll be able to get at least 3 questions in.

My go-to questions are as follows. In fact, I think I've used this list pretty consistently over the last 5-7 years, and the questions have worked pretty well. Keep in mind, these are the 'general' questions -- I like to have at least one or two questions written down ahead of time regarding the job in question.

1. What do you expect the person who is in this position to accomplish in the first three months? First six months? Nine months?

2. How do you measure success?

3. What is the toughest challenge facing the person in this position?

4. What percent of the time will this person be expected to travel?

5. What skills do you think are the most critical to be successful in this position?

6. How would you describe a typical day in this position?

7. What is the management organizational structure?

8. How many people are in the team? What groups will the person in this position be expected to interact with?

The remainder of my brainstormed 10 questions usually have to do with the job posting itself. These questions give me a good idea of the pace of the organization and how the manager works. I never ask about salary, vacation, or other benefits on the first interview. During the second interview, the benefits usually come up for discussion and I may have a question or two at that time.

Most people advise not disclosing salary information. I gave up this tactic a while ago and now I just tell the employer up front what my current salary is and what my expectations are for a switch. I've usually been in a situation where I'm switching from one job to another, so it's never been a problem. I also don't fudge the salary number or do a range; it's super easy for HR to check if you fudged your salary and it might be grounds to rescind an offer in the future.

In general, it has never hurt me to reveal my salary expectations ahead of time. Could I have done better if I didn't? Sure. But I've never been disappointed in the results. Also, because what I do has such a wide range of salary based on experience level and education, I found it best to let people know where I'm at the beginning of the process or fairly early on. It definitely has thrown me out of the running for a couple of jobs but I don't think that's a bad thing.

In general, I don't like to play games, I like to be honest and up front, and I like to be uber-prepared. So far so good. I'll keep you posted on how all this plays out.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

LotD

I was googling Direct Buy "just because" and came across a bunch of sites panning the site. I have no experience with the business at all, just curiosity because they are running soooo many ads on television right now. I did find this article from Consumer Reports, which I feel is a pretty reputable source. Per Consumer Reports , you'd have to spend at least $20,000 to recoup your membership fee (which is around $5k). The other thing is, you get a one-time shot at it: show up for the open house and cough up the membership fee or you can never return. Sounds kinda dire to me. Also, Consumer Reports says it's not possible to return items, cancel orders, or even terminate your membership. Definitely sounds like a scam to me and I think I'll pass on this one.
Utopia

When I'm President of the World -- president, because it sounds more benevolent than "dictator" and I do intend to be benevolent -- I plan to enact legislation that will:

* Make it mandatory to return your shopping cart to the little shopping cart stalls in the middle of the parking lot. No more of this leaving the cart anywhere for the vissicitudes of wind to take it away and crash into someone else's car. No more leaving the cart in the middle of a perfectly good spot that makes it unable for anyone else to use. No more blocking someone else in "just because".

* The yield sign will be used correctly, that is, one will stop when one is merging into traffic. A yield sign is essentially a stop sign when moving into traffic, yet it's an oft-ignored sign. It's almost like yield means "go fast, dang it, and heck with anyone who is coming up behind me." Yield. It's the right thing to do.

* Blinkers will be used so everyone around the car in question will know where it's going. And while I'm ranting about blinkers, outlawing left turns from the right lane will be a step in the right direction (I know this last one sounds intuitive, but you'd be amazed at how many times drivers in Sweat Sock City suddenly realize they need to make this left turn while they're in the right lane and they make it, never mind that they nearly get t-boned by the people in the left lane who never saw the turn coming).

* You'll be able to select which channels you want in a cable package so you don't have to buy the whole package, just the ones you want to watch.

I'm sure I'll have other legislation to implement but this is a nice start.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

How to write a misleading headline

Dr. Dre Loses Round In Death Row Court Battle. When I first saw this headline, I thought, "What? Dr. Dre on death row? What? How? Where? Is this another Dr. Dre?" Turns out I can step down from red alert; Death Row is the name of a record label. Some of you may have already known that. But for those of us who were unaware, definitely this headline is unclear. I'm not sure what the spacing/character count constraints were on this headline but I think "Dr. Drew loses in record label court battle" would be a more clear headline as to what's actually going on.
LotD, part 2

I read a lot of HR blogs these days, looking for that magic winning formula that will propel me into my dream job at my dream company and where I'll totally be able to put my rock star moves to good use. I've recommended Ask a Manager before as a good source of advice and things not to do (or to do!) and I think it's a great blog to read. Today I found Punk Rock HR, which is chock full of good ideas and advice but rather snarky in its delivery. Which I love, because I'm all about the snark. And also, it reminds me not to take this situation too seriously (okay, so I am taking my situation seriously, but at least I'm *laughing* when I'm reading interview advice).
LotD

You should totally apologize to BP, if you haven't already. And when you're done that, you can check out the death of the desktop computer.

Friday, June 18, 2010

LotD, double the fun edition

This analysis on what we learned from Tony and Joe amused me greatly.

And writers, what's your narrative rest stop? Mine is food, descriptions thereof, but this article says one of the more popular ones involves the barking dog in the distance.

And bonus: The cheapskate next door. I think describing pennypinchers as "heroes" is a bit much though. Okay, a lot much.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

LotD, BP edition

A bunch of links today. I've been meaning to weigh in on the oil spill, but haven't had a chance to do so. The always observant Dana Milbank describes what happened when Tony Haywardwent to Washington. Anne Applebaum talks about how the oil spill isn't Obama's Katrina. The NY Times talks about a five-decade old spill in Nigeria here. And Joe Barton got his "shakedown" comment from a GOP memo. Slate takes on the WSJ's review of Obama's speech here. And what would be a post about energy without Sarah Palin?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

LotD

I found this website, Adventures in Fake Meat, which reviews a variety of meat substitutes. The writer has a good sense of humor and attitude towards trying all of these products. It was kind of fun to check out the reviews and compare them to my own perceptions. I am intrigued by the Gimme Lean sausage; another friend recently recommended it and now this site is giving it an A+, so on my next grocery trip, I'll pick it up. We definitely disagreed on the Morningstar buffalo chik'n wings though, as I really like them (though the assessment of spiciness is indeed true). Anyway, fun site for those of you who enjoy fake meat and a good pointer for those of you thinking about trying some.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

LotD

Interesting article on Rwanada's national health care plan here. Not much offered for what $2/person/year, but what minimal services they do offer seem to be paying some dividends. Rwanda's come a long away since its genocide days.
Sweet dreams or beautiful nightmare

Lately I've been having "exam" dreams. You know, the ones when you're rushing late into a classroom on the day of a final exam or you forgot your homework and the teacher berates you in front of the class?

Last night, I dreamt that I had an assignment due and I showed up with a 3-page paper on some subject unknown but it had the random exclamation, "I'm going home!" in the middle of the text. I think there might have been charts too, but it's a bit foggy. In my dream, the teacher was collecting the papers from all my classmates and they all had these the thick piles of paper to hand in, with lots of supporting documents and evidence. They all pointed to my three-page paper and laughed. I panicked and somehow managed to find more paper in my class binder, attached it to the paper, and turned the whole mess in. I woke up then so I have no idea how this all turned out. I'd like to think I got an A.

I don't know what these dreams mean. I have been thinking about taking a class or two to hone my skills for this competitive job market, but that's a rather vague connection. My stress level is actually very low, the lowest it has been in a couple of years (aside from that whole job situation, but that's another story entirely). So I'm at a loss really as to why I'm suddenly sitting in a classroom, scrambling. One thing for sure, the dream does make me grateful though that most of my formal schooling is behind me.

Monday, June 14, 2010

LotD

I can't remember if I've pointed y'all to I Will Teach You To Be Rich. This is a PF blog in a different vein; written by an Indian-American, Ramit Sethi, the blog focuses on defining value, negotiating skills, boosting earning power, automating finances and saving for what you want. I like this blog because it's different than most blogs about frugality or personal finance; no recipes for making your own detergent and not a big emphasis on clipping coupons. It's probably the only PF blog you'll read that makes the argument that buying a new car isn't necessarily a bad thing or if you want a $28,000 wedding, go for it. Frankly, it's a breath of fresh air.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

LotD

The NYTimes published an interesting article, In Sweden, Men Can Have It All. This is a pro/con (mostly pro) analysis of Sweden's leave policies and their effect on the working world and gender equality. I found it fascinating (and attractive!).

Sweden had already gone further than many countries have now in relieving working mothers: Children had access to highly subsidized preschools from 12 months and grandparents were offered state-sponsored elderly care. The parent on leave got almost a full salary for a year before returning to a guaranteed job, and both could work six-hour days until children entered school. Female employment rates and birth rates had surged to be among the highest in the developed world.

The question to wrestle with is whether paying nearly 50 percent of your income in taxes to get what Sweden would be worth it. The article seems to imply that Sweden does have it together in terms of economy and productivity, but I think there would be extremely stiff resistance in the US to implement any kind of policy like this here.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Worst case

I hate looking for a job. It's mind-numbing, pedantic, and can be overwhelming, depressing, stressful, and agitating.Plus, as a job hunter these days, the power is with the employer. So that makes it even harder. The employer can let you go at-will (my state is at-will employment) and they can hire you at will.

Lately though, I've seen people who never saw it coming being let go from their jobs. To be honest, if you'd asked me if those people would be let go, I would have said no. That's why it's so important to always have a resume at ready, to constantly check what's out there -- even when you have no intention of looking for another job -- "just in case."

The best time to negotiate a new position is when you have one. We don't always have the luxury of picking our own timing, but if you have an inkling that things might not go as well as you'd like at your company, it's time to start writing/reviewing/updating the resume and sign-up for alerts at some job hunting sites like monster.com or careerbuilder.com.

The thing is, looking for a job is free (well, except for the time investment), and just because you're looking doesn't mean that a) you'll get an interview or b) you'll get an offer. And even if you get an interview, it doesn't mean you have to go and just because you get an offer, doesn't mean you have to accept (though I think if you get to this last step in the process, you should have a fairly good idea at the last interview as to whether you want to proceed or not; it's only fair to let the hiring manager know your interest level).

"Looking" is not a commitment to do anything. It's a step towards securing your own future and perhaps gaining a modicum of power. Okay, maybe not so much the last, but you get what I mean. I always feel better when I'm in action, like I'm doing *something* to make sure I'm taking care of me.

The employers have all the power now, so the only thing we can do is keep our eyes open and our ears to the ground and keep renewing our network, letting people know casually that you're looking or you have some interest in case they hear of something. Regardless, it's important to understand what the job market in your field looks like, to understand how qualifications may or may not be changing, and to just get out there the minute you hear a hint of trouble.

Easier said than done, I know. I've been floating on the longest river in Egypt for a while now just because. But time is ticking and since I very much prefer to be employed than not, it's time to get back out there.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Computer update

So I froze the hard drive. Well, before I did that, I dropped it from 2 to 3 feet on to the carpet. It landed with a nice thud, which I consider payback for the downstairs party hearty folks. Unfortunately, the drop didn't jolt the motor into action so into the freezer the hard drive went. It spent a day in there, hopefully thinking about what it had done and hopefully forgiving me for hitting the power button prematurely. But alas, the freezing technique did not work either. Now there's only one thing left to do -- take the drive apart and transfer the heads into a working hard drive. Surgery will probably commence this weekend.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Semi good news

So far nothing has really worked to get my computer up and running. This afternoon, we headed to the local tech store and picked up an adapter for the hard drive. I removed the hard drive from my computer and hooked it up to J's laptop. Nothing. The drive did spin up but there was no recognition. Disconnected it and tried another hard drive from another desktop. That one not only spun up, the laptop also recognized it and we were able to access the files. When we tried hooking up my hard drive up again, it refused to power on. So now we're going with the last ditch resort of putting it in the freezer to see if that will help.

The upside of all of this is I did find a back-up from August of last year. I checked that disk and the good news is I did have presence of mind to back up all of my iTunes music (also available on my iPod), all of my stories, resumes, and tax information to the CD. I've probably lost some data and email, but eh. What can I do? I just need to be more dilligent about backing up, especially given the age of the computer. But the story I was worried about -- the sequel to Fugue in Blue Minor -- is indeed on my disk so WHEW! (of course, I haven't worked on it since March 2009, but at least I don't have to start on it from scratch).

Oh and it goes without saying that there will be no website updates until I figure out what to do about the software etc. I'm using J's laptop for now, but at some point, I'm going to have to get another solution.
LotD

20 Worst Charities in America -- worth looking at. "Worst", however, seems kind of a harsh term though -- I'm thinking "inefficient" would probably be a better term.

Seems like everyone and their brother has a charity these days and I personally never know who's legit and who's not. I do have my favorite, but every now and then, smaller ones catch my eye for one reason or another. Luckily, none of mine are on this list.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

RiP

So after 9 years, or more precisely, eight years and 10 months, my beloved Dell Dimension 2100 has given up the ghost (or so I think). I got impatient with the computer yesterday when it hung up uploading photos and hit the power off button. Big mistake. Now the computer refuses to boot or recognize the hard drive. I'm hoping this is just a temper tantrum, nothing serious, but if it is, I'm kind of wondering how to get my data off the hard drive. My last back-up was in August of 2009 (I know, I know), but I haven't created many new files since then. I'm most worried about my next story in the "Lines in the Sand" series and my resume/job checklist spreadsheet.

I was planning to get a new computer in August but it looks like I'll need to get one sooner rather than later. Sadness.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Head's up

I'm pretty sure everyone is going to migrate to blogspot already has done so, but definitely check your old web server when you're done (if you were ftp'ing to your own site like I was). Apparently, when you migrate, blogger dumps a whole bunch of crap onto your server, and in my case, it increased the amount of server space I was using by 169 mb. Which is nutty when you think that this website, blog and fanfic together, and my mail only make up about 106 mb. Blogger's back-up caused me to go over on my space and as a result, my host is charging me for overusage. It's so annoying. I'm currently downloading the back-up files and deleting them off the server so I can avoid the extra fees in June. So, for those of you who are/have migrated, double-check your old digs. There might be a little surprise for you there (but I hope not!).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

LotD

Sorry, another link of the day, but it's a good one, I promise! Answered! Life's 25 Toughest Questions. Still no answer to "why?" though.

I keep composing blog entries in my head while on the treadmill (when you're running in place for 30 minutes plus, you think of many, many things). The thing is, by the time I come home, I'm way too tired to commit words to the screen. That's the awesome thing about running, by the way -- I sleep straight through the night. So I apologize for the lack of creative and innovative content lately, but I can't promise to do better in the near future.

Friday, May 14, 2010

LotD

What would you cut from the federal budget? Eric Cantor gives you the opportunity to vote, "American Idol" style, at YouCut.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

LotD

I'm a big fan of some of the social nets provided to citizens in the EU, but even I was shocked by some of the spending in Greece. Retirement at age 40? Bonuses for showing up to work on time? For using a computer? Wowzers. Five Areas of Greece budget waste. No wonder people are protesting in the streets; these are tough perks to have to give up.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Privacy, schmrivacy

FYI. A new site, spokeo.com, could be considered similar to a traditional phonebook, except that in addition to your address and phone number, it also features such personal goodies such as your approx credit score, home value, income, age, etc. It even displays pictures you may have put on Facebook or other such sites. You can remove yourself by first searching for yourself on their site to find the URL of your page, copying the URL, then going to the privacy link on the bottom of their home page to open another window with a form that will allow you to remove yourself.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Disease o' the Week

So I'm a big baby when it comes to any kind of physical discomfort. I don't like pain and I don't like when I have as much as hangnail. There are times when I think I have a great threshold for pain, such as when I'm curled up in a whimpering ball on the sofa because of migraine pain (I didn't say I was graceful about it), but let's be honest -- no one would ever describe me as stoic and quiet when it comes to suffering, no matter how minimal.

As of late, or rather as of the last 6 months, I've been experiencing what can only be called a major stomach ache. It's been occasionally debilitating and has all the nasty symptoms one might assume one might have when one is suffering a 6-month stomach ache. The worse symptom was the fact I could not eat without instan pain. Chomp food, swallow, stomach erupts into a big ball of flaming gas; it was like there was an exploding sun in my belly. But as stoic and quiet as I wasn't being, I still refused to go to the doctor. I mean, it's a STOMACH ACHE and I so have my pride; I didn't want to be known as the wimp who shuffled off to the doctor for something so... trivial.

Finally, last week the pain got to me. I had a tough time eating, the pain had traveled to my back, I felt like I was having a heart attack, and it was just miserable. After a bunch of tests, which included testing for George the Amoeba, I was diagnosed with (ta da!) gastritis. Which, by the way, is totally not sexy, but is a lot better than all the other options my doctor casually tossed my way. "You might have an infected gall bladder," he said, "or pancreatitis, and while we're in the neighborhood, we'd better check out your liver as well." He also mentioned the dreaded "U" word -- ulcer -- and the possbility of an amoeba or similar single celled organism.

So after getting all of those possible diagnoses and being totally afraid I'd have the one I can't spell (pancreatitis) or grossed out by a worm in my stomach, it was a relief to learn I simply had gastritis, which with the help of many, many pills, will eventually go away without any need for surgery or anything too crazy. The pills have their own side effects -- I'm now a burping/hiccoughing machine -- but the stomach pain and heart burn are starting to dissipate. I should start to feel better in about 4 to 8 weeks and am currently researching changes to my diet to avoid this from happening again. I never want to be on this many prescriptions (3) again if I can help it. Because of this, I'm slowly cutting back on my caffeine intake; those who know me in Real Life(tm), be afraid, be very afraid.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Paper paper

So much for a paper-less world. I've got a small forest in my guest room. What's crazy is that I trashed and shredded paper back in October/November in anticipation for the move and then I did the same again back in February. What does it tell you that even after all that, I still filled two bags with paper? All this paper, btw, is the paper that came in the move, not additions in the six months since. I still haven't started shredding yet. Quite frankly, it's overwhelming.

The paper keeps coming. The new arrivals congregate on top of the dining room table, just a pure mess due to the last 6 weeks of just dumping and going. Some stuff is easy to trash -- catalogs, mail flyers, advertisements, mail for other people who used to live here -- but then there's the grey area like credit card applications and somewhat interesting information that you're not sure whether to save or trash. So it all just sits on the dining room table trusting that someday someone will come and figure out what's what. Someday has finally come and it's just kind of an unfun way to spend a lovely Sunday afternoon.
Reading Room

I'm having a wee bit of a Scarlet Pimpernel renaissance, spurred by the discovery of the 1999 A&E miniseries. "The Scarlet Pimpernel" is the swashbuckling tale of a foppish English aristocrat, who by day is the 1800s version of a metrosexual, and who by night is a Batman-esque hero who rescues French aristocrats from Mme La Guillotine. His wife, whom he doesn't trust, is a former French actress, Marguerite St. Just. He's also joined by a band of 19 gentlemen, including Marguerite's brother, Armand, who aid and abet his adventures which include near escapes, a duel or three, and cunning disguises.

While I find the 1982 movie with Jane Seymour and Anthony Andrews to be much more enjoyable and witty, the miniseries has its own particular charm (though I think Elizabeth McGovern is a bit miscast as Marguerite) and is definitely worth watching. The miniseries as well as the 1982 movie is available on Netflix. I also found pretty much the entire 1982 movie on YouTube, broken in 15 or 16 10 minute clips.

I also found a treasure trove of e-texts here; not fanfiction, mind you, but actual written material from the author. Most of these texts were written quite early in the 1900s and I was unaware of just how much original source material existed for this original Batman. I'm looking forward to digging in and enjoying.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Oh the irony

BP named finalist for pollution prevention award. BP, btw, is the company responsible for the corroded pipeline in Alaska that shutdown supply for a summer due to problems and also for the massive explosion in Texas City that killed 11 or 12 people about 5 or 6 years ago. BP's got some 'splainin' to do.
LotD

I had a little anxiety today when I read this blog about job hoppers making terrible employees. I 'fess, I'm a job hopper. I worked for Very Big Insurance Company for four years and since then, I have't held a job for more than 2 1/2 years. I move for different reasons, but if I look back over my experience, I have no regrets because I picked up a lot of new skills, experience, valuable connections, and other intangibles. I long for stability, for the job that is The One(tm), but it hasn't happened yet.

I do think my experiences bring more to the table today than it would have five years ago and that's directly attributable to my job hopping. Also the idea of "loyalty" when working is so 1960s/1970s; nearly every place I have worked except for Very Big Publishing Company have had layoffs while I was there. So don't talk to me about loyalty when I've got bills to pay. And the reason I can job hop is because I have good references and skills that people are willing to hire. When I find the right fit (hopefully soon!), I will stop. So I was very pleased to read a rebuttal to the initial blog posting here that was more in line with my perspective on the subject.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

LotD

Yum! The 50 Best Restaurants in the World. Have you eaten at any of them? Incidentally, it's kind of annoying how most news resources have sharing buttons for Twitter or Facebook or Stumbleit(?), but not for blogger. With recent Facebook changes, I'm reluctant to share any links or "like" any links because I don't know who is going to see it or how some of these organizations are going to use the information. Of course, it seems kind of funny to care about it when I'm here blogging away...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Welcome!

I gave in and followed the path of least resistance and chose to go with Blogspot. I spent the last several weeks investigating several options, including WordPress and Tumblr. I really liked Wordpress and Tumblr had some cool features, but at the end of the day, I wanted to have control/ownership over my files even if they were hosted somewhere other than my own domain. There's a good possibility when RL settles down somewhat I will migrate this blog back to my domain and blogger allows you to import/export your data. Also, I was feeling kind of lazy about learning a new interface and so going over to blogspot allowed me to keep the interface I've been using since 2001.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

LotD

The Funniest Protest Signs. There are some really good ones in here, and not all are what you might expect.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

FB Meme

"Meme" might not be the right word for it, but there is a trend on Facebook right now where people take a particular status posting and replicate it as theirs. This usually take the form of "I appreciate my mother/daughter/father/son/goldfish/car and if you do too, post this in your status." Lately, they've become more militant with some adding, "93 percent of people won't dare to post this; will you be brave enough?" And I say, BS.

First of all, the number is arbitrary. Was there a market study done to prove that 93 percent of people truly had issues with whatever the status had to the point they didn't want to replicate it in their status? Or is it more the case that people like me aren't interested in regurgitating canned Hallmark-esque statuses? Second, the inherent dare is kind of silly; a copy and pasting into Facebook status isnt' a singular act of courage in anyway and most of these meme-thingies are inane and sacchrine enough that you're actually going to offend anyone at all (though some people are, admittedly, easily offended).

I find these types of status updates annoying because they are redundant, ineffective, and useless. Of course, you could say the same about most status updates (and I'm not excluding my own either), but these are especially conversation stoppers. There's really no response required, other than perhaps imitation, and even if there is a response, how many times can you possibly read and respond to the same status? I imagine the motivation behind such redundant statuses has everything to do with accumulating a certain level of support, but to what end? And wouldn't it be more meaningful to write your own words of appreciation rather than copying something? I'm guessing 98 percent of you aren't brave enough to answer.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

LotD

Came across this site while searching for blogger alternatives: Clients from Hell. My favorite, posted on April 3, 2010:

Client: “Make the numbers in our phone number capitalized to stand out more”

Me: “That’s not possible…”

Client: “Just hold the SHIFT key and type our phone number!”
Moving tips

Here's a post on migrating to WordPress from blogger, which is what I'm leaning towards right now. Just as an FYI, there might be an "intermediate" step before the final URL change. A lot going on in RL right now so unfortunately, this hasn't been a priority and I'm feeling curiously unmotivated to figure out how to actually do all of the things I need to do to migrate the blog prior to May 1. So my current plan is just to back-up this one and then maybe use a different service for a couple of months until I figure out what the final solution is going to be. I just need time to think!

Friday, April 16, 2010

I'd like to teach the world to spell

The Flawed Language of Protest; hilarious misspellings at Tea Party protests. In general, I think it's a sign of a lackadaisical attitude towards grammar and spelling. In so many different venues, I see just atrocious attitudes towards grammar, but no overwhelming attitude to impress on people that knowing the difference between then/than and you/your/you're is important nor do people seem to care to get it right.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Update

Still running around like a crazy person. I haven't had a chance to decide what to do with this blog come May 1, which is the date blogger ftp ends. I'm probably going to go with a temporary solution and then tackle Wordpress at a later date. Watch this space for the new URL.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Dilemma

I don't typically post politics or respond to politics I disagree with on Facebook. As someone eloquently put it (you know who you are ;-)), Facebook is for fun. At the same time, I scroll by lots of non-fun posts, including some with misinformation of the "if you go to New Orleans, you'll get kidnapped and your organs harvested" type. Usually I ignore them but today I couldn't stop myself and posted a rebuttal of the snopes.com type. Now I feel all guilty, but come on people! Before linking/posting, please, please, please check snopes.com before emailing/posting.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

LotD

I thought some of you would be amused by this - "The Most Ridiculous 'Very Special' Episodes ever"; view clips and summaries here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

LotD

Hillary has always been my girl, but I'm increasingly impressed by Nancy Pelosi. What she has done, how she has done it, is nothing short of impressive. She knew what she wanted, she stuck by her principles, and she worked tirelessly to get it done, even when it seemed that defeat was certain.

In her way stood a series of obstacles that would give most normal people a migraine so intractable that insurance companies would deem it a pre-existing condition. There was Bart Stupak and his faction of anti-abortion Democrats. There was the equally large bloc of pro-choice lawmakers who threatened to revolt if Stupak's demands for restrictions on insurance coverage of abortions prevailed. There were the unions, livid at the idea that the House might entrench the Senate's tax on high-cost health plans. There was Dennis Kucinich. Each week seemed to bring an explanation of some obscure parliamentary manoeuvre that had been proposed and proved impossible.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A subtle distinction

Communism is a political/economic system and socialism is an economic system. Here is a decent essay on the subject.

The core belief of all socialists is that human beings thrive or die depending on their social relations. As such, socialists believe that our actions are shaped by our social structures, not by an inherent human nature or individual choices. [...] The core belief of all socialists is that human beings thrive or die depending on their social relations. As such, socialists believe that our actions are shaped by our social structures, not by an inherent human nature or individual choices. [...] Communists ... advocated an all-powerful state, in which a central government wields total control over its people - the economy, the media, industry, education, etc. This is contrary to many socialists who believe that control of these things should belong to people on a de-centralized local level, rather than a centralized national level.
Oh well

It may be time to retire this machine; it's too slow for even the job hunting websites. Which makes an already unfun process that much more so. I'm curiously attached to this computer though; we've been through a lot of words together, not to mention lots of job searching. Maybe a little bit more memory could do the trick...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Verklempt

House Approves Health Overhaul. Just wow. I never thought this day would come. Unbelievable. Amazing.
LotD

Should you buy or rent? -- good question given the current state of the economy and the "deals" that might exist out there.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pins and needles

I've been eagerly following the votes for the health care reform bill, scheduled to be voted on tomorrow. I've got my fingers crossed that it will pass. I'm also concerned that the move to repeal it will start on Monday. It's exciting, daunting, terrifying and while nothing will happen until 2014 at the earliest, I can't believe we're actually seeing some progress on this front. It's imperfect (I wanted a public option, but alas) but it's a step in the right direction. People with pre-existing conditions (acne to cancer) will no longer have to worry about being denied and in this age of recession, people who lose their jobs won't be burdened by COBRA payments or such high premiums that they forgo health insurance (my COBRA payment, btw, was quoted at $590/month just for me; I imagine a family of 4 would be much, much higher).

Friday, March 19, 2010

LotD version HCR

The healthcare bill: 10 things you need to know. This is a pretty good briefing on what is actually in the 2,700-page bill.
LotD

I should have been looking for a job but ended up spending too much time reading this blog and got exposed to things like a gigantic baby tattoo on a parental arm and a placenta shake for the first post-partum meal (REALLY? People do this????) and all sorts of craziness (mostly grammatically incorrect) related to kids (I need to know about pink poop why?), belly casts, and "push" gifts, all courtesy of Facebook.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

LotD

Why you've never really heard the 'Moonlight Sonata'. This intrigued me because I played "Moonlight Sonata" at my very last piano recital and believe you me, I heard it a lot that year. I may have even had a professional tape recording of it for inspiration (yes, this was in the days BEFORE CD players). So I found this article intriguing but especially cool are the sound files that showcase the difference between modern pianos and those from the classical/romantic eras; that sound is distinctly different. I'm ashamed to admit that I prefer the more modern sounding pianos, but it could also be that's what happens when you spend six months with a piece of music.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

March Madness

I know nothing about college basketball (my university had its heyday back in the '90s and I haven't paid attention since graduating) but I decided to throw my $5 into the ring and enter a bracket in the fantasy league tournmanent. At one point I had Vermont winning over Syracuse (sentimentality over practicality) but then my competitive spirit took over and I switched it (J kindly explained to me that the #16 seed, *Vermont, this year), has never ever ever beaten the #1 seed, aka Syracuse). I've chosen Duke to win the whole thing. At one point I had Ohio State playing Duke in the national championship, but I think I've got Syracuse in that spot now. I think conventional wisdom says Kentucky is going to win the whole thing, but I kinda like the idea of Duke.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

LotD

Bollywood soars to Hollywood. I wasn't a fan of "My Name is Khan" (*great* soundtrack, though) but "Kite" sounds pretty interesting. In general, it's awesome that Bollywood movies are becoming more accessible here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy (belated) New Year

Where I was on December 31, 2009

LotD

I don't post or frequent the group any more (Real Life(tm) interference, unfortunately), but today's plug is for the good folks and good writing over at alt.startrek.creative which is where I got my start in fanfiction and where I met some good friends. So if you're a Trek fan, if you are looking for that sense of community, and want to experience the full range of creative output, this is the place for you.

On a somewhat related note, I finally have my computer up and running! Hooray! It's been in a box since in the move due to a lack of a computer desk, but after coming back to the States, a solution was found, and a couple weeks later, the computer was set up. It's SO good to have all of my files back and all of my software (including AIM! I can chat again!), and of course, rough drafts from God only knows when. Maybe something will spark...
Tofu tip

I started freezing tofu by chance; I had three blocks of tofu in my fridge back in December and as I was leaving the country for a month, I didn't want them to go bad in my absence. I put them in the freezer and crossed my fingers, hoping for the best. Fast forward more than a month and I thawed the tofu out in the fridge. The consistency had definitely changed; the tofu was a little drier, more chewy. What was interesting though is that after freezing/thawing, the tofu absorbed marinades much, much better, and as a result, became more flavorable. Also, it was easier to get the moisture out of the block and hence, it would fry up more quickly in the wok. So if you're a tofu eater, I definitely recommend trying the freezing technique and see how it works for you. The only downside is that it takes a LONG time to thaw the tofu in the fridge; a warm water bath is a good option if you need it more quickly than that.
Bagging it

I recently started bringing my own bags to stores because a) my cupboards were overflowing with plastic bags and b) frequent trade show attendance gets you lots of high quality cloth bags. I've been wanting to use my own bags for a long time now but I always forgot to bring the bags. Sometimes I'd bring the bags and then leave them in the car.

Anyway, I found out that Target will refund you a nickle for every bag you bring. It doesn't sound like a lot but I shop at Target a lot, mayb 2-3 times a month. It probably totals about 10 bags a month and so I'd save 50 cents per month or $6/year. So far my grocery store (Safeway) doesn't refund for plastic bags but other grocery stores do. I figure I could probably save about $20/year by using my own bags, help the environment, and cut down on the plastic bag clutter in my house. It doesn't sound like a lot but with a job situation in jeopardy, every little bit helps.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

LotD

Is the runaway Prius the next balloon boy hoax? I thought this story was a bit crazy when it came out because the guy refused to put his Prius in neutral when the emergency worker told him to. Plus, I just didn't see how he was able to try and unstick the accelerator pedal with his hand while driving; he'd practically have to duck below the steering wheel to do so. The story could be true, but it's really odd. All of the other sudden acceleration stories (most of which have unhappy endings) ended quite quickly. This was a 20-minute joyride. Something's rotten in Denmark, that's for sure.
Uh oh...

Blogger will be cutting off FTP access to blogs not hosted on their custom domains or blogspot on May 1 (or thereabouts). I don't want to move to their custom domain because it would mean splitting up this website and that doesn't make any sense. I'm not planning to give up the blog because while I'm inconsistent and infrequent these days, I do still enjoy having this forum. So I'm looking for a new solution. WordPress is one I'm investigating but if anyone knows of an FTP access blogging software similar to Blogger, please let me know; I'd prefer to make the transition as painlessly as possible.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Associate by John Grisham

I like John Grisham novels in the sense you know what you're going to get -- a story based around some aspect of the law, some kind of intrigue, thinly sketched characters, and liberal use of words like "goons". Grisham is short on details and descriptions and the suspension of disbelief is a requirement. But still, the books are quick and easy to read and that's why I come back to Grisham every now and then. I like familiarity.

However, "The Associate" is possibly one of the worst books Grisham has ever written. It starts out well. Kyle, a law student, is accosted by some "goons" (Grishma's favorite bad guy descriptor) with some incriminating evidence and blackmail him into taking an offer at a high power NYC law firm. So far so good, right? Well, the story actually falls apart right there as the evidence against Kyle is flimsy, at best, and the set-up and expectation of some moral outrage is woefully missing. However, if you buy this premise and keep reading, there are hints here and there that Something Big (tm) is coming and yet it never comes. Instead, the entire storyline collapses and it's almost as if Grisham looked up from his computer, saw his deadline was in 10 minutes and slapped "The end" on it. I actually went over to Amazon.com to read what others had to say about the ending as I thought maybe I'd missed something. Fortunately for me and unfortunately for the book, the majority found the ending wholly unsatisfying; the only way it works is if Grisham has a sequel planned. Unfortunately, Kyle and his friends are not interesting or likeable enough to follow for a second outing.

The flatness of the ending and the utter laziness surrounding it is baffling; after nearly two decades of storytelling, Grisham should know better. There's nothing more disappointing than investing hours into a book and having it turn out this way, especially when there are glimmers are excitement and suspense. In fact, his early offering, "The Firm", is a much more compelling and mature book than this one; I recommend reading that one instead.