In a Training

Looks like they've unblocked Typepad from the district computers... I'm in an "internet literacy" training right now. It's a credit! We've been plusing and minusing searches. We have not been alt-tabbing. There is no Firefox. The person next to me thinks that's funny. Okay, I have to stop typing now. I have to go to Wal-Mart and get some chocolate. Assuming we're getting out soon. Are we? Aew we? I have nothing to say. (I think that's clear.) OKTHXBYE.

17 March 2006 |

Previously: Between the Ones


Between the Ones

The hamreport is overdue. It's like when you don't write to a friend for ages and then you can't write because there's so much catching up and apologizing and grim knowledge that you'll likely be this remiss again, except I also have the guilt of not taking traditional-with-candle onesie photos of over half of our hamster population these last six weeks. Blame a combination of laziness and lingering remorse over never taking Barnard's twosie photos last year because I had the flu... last weekend was the one-year anniversary of him and Snout leaving. I'd say I miss them, but that seems selfish. All small friends go to the best places when they leave.

And now, the dutiful update!

Maudine is an old girl, but she is still a girl. For some reason she ignores the sand bath unless her hamitat is 100% fresh. She runs most nights, sleeping hammock-style in the wheel in-between. She likes corn and isn't much for the snuggling. She likes to pee in cardboard toilet paper tubes, so I hear her going scritch-scritch-scritch afterward like she can cover it up. Maudine is at least 14 months.

Henry is, of course, a marshmallow and lives in the marshmallow bin with two of his half-dozen sons. When you're wondering where some of the young ones get their sense of humour, look to Henry. He still tussles and runs and takes a great interest in the hand, being curious about the world and not threatened at all by the smell of other hamsters. Henry is at least 14 months.

Hammond has become a true brother to Helix and Owl. The other day I witnessed him and his two younger opal roommates all come out of Ambrosia's old pumpkin, one by one, and the thought of all three of these sizable lads conked out for a nap together was almost too much cuteness for me. I think he's drinking less, but I'm not sure. He's not always first for seeds anymore, and he's rumply, and he's at least 13 months.

Janet's fur is growing back! I switched her from the usually popular Kay-Tee Soft Sorbent to some Carefresh Ultra and her tummy is fuzzing up nicely again after many months. For one who supposedly gave up running in the wheel or walking normally, she can climb the bars and scoot up to her loft, although usually she stays in her little television, producing segments that traditional media fails to touch. Sweet and soft, that's Janet, who is at least 13 months.

Almond is our largest marshmallow and not at all an angry snowball, despite the amusing comments on Flickr. Being a chef, he does most of the shopping and meal planning (usually resulting in a nice seed medley with some fresh vegetables), and I always take care to consult his good opinion before choosing a buffet. He is quiet and not one to run immediately to the hand, but he is kind and happy once he makes it there. Almond turns one this week.

Toss is, of course, the other McHenry living with his father. We have many fine wheelers, but Toss remains one of the most constant, and he is still small enough to be tossed from a wheel, with the fact that he never is just proving his skills. The wheeling takes up a lot of his time, so I try not to have hurt feelings when he chooses to keep running instead of paying me any mind, but he is a polite boy and curious, and he trusts the hand on those rare occasions that it seems more interesting that the wheel. Toss turns one this week.

Tumble remains the other half of the Toss 'n Tumble set, even though he lives in the old Annie Daffodil place up the road (and on the endtable). Tumble's wheel is the Snowflake wheel, the wheel that would keep me up whenever I finally turned out the bedroom light and shut up, as Snowflake used to put it. Perhaps one day I'll get around to changing it for something quieter, for it's usually Tumble's vroom vroom vroom that limits my prized in-the-bed sleep to 3-hour naps. Poor Tumble, he pees like the Ganges and accepts a soaked existence, and it's a blue moon when he'll come to the hand, although he'll eat from it without complaint if that's how it has to be. As with Toss, the wheeling is everything. The wheeling, and the ducky bottle. He was skeptical at first, but now it's his favourite. All water tastes better with a rubber duck in it. Tumble turns one this week.

Feta is possibly our most handsome white hamster. I can't say he's the cutest or most sweet-faced, for he still has the look of a shiny, dear pig to him sometimes, but he has a certain look that would make him a sure thing with the casting agencies, right down to a Harrison Ford-like imperfection near his nose. We often refer to him as Lord Feta, so noble is his bearing. Lately he's been bulking up and sitting pensively on the log, welcome to callers, but still demanding a single nip before any conversation can take place. Once abused by the now-repentant Tumble, hence the nickname "Feta Notchear," there will perhaps always be trust issues, but after that little identification bite he is always go for smooches and scurries. Ranch Feta Clarkson turns one this week.

Elizabeth Joy may or may not be a marshmallow - this was debated earlier in the week. Can girls be marshmallows? We're not sure, and frankly? She's never going to tell. Elizabeth Joy is, of course, one half of the highly secretive pair of Henry and Maudine's first set of daughters, the other half being Sparrow (see below). Elizabeth Joy is a smooth, soft white with large, watchful eyes. Still waters and all that, for there's clearly more to this one than anyone's telling. She who used to adore Janet, she who helped raise her little brothers and sisters, she who comes shyly to the hand to sit quietly and take in the world but, more usually, sleeps tightly in a ball against her sister, two peapods in a wheel, always together. Elizabeth Joy is one of the most mysterious hamsters, and she turns one this week.

Sparrow, soulmate to Elizabeth Joy and just as commonly called Dart, is going to be nippy until the day she dies, and probably even thereafter. Little Sparrow, the only opal in a whole shoebox of white hamsters, must have suffered quite a few curious pokes in her early days for being different. That, and she and Elizabeth Joy were separated from Maudine far too young. Or maybe I'm just making co-dependent excuses for her freaking savage bites. She doesn't completely mean it, I'm sure. I mean, yes, she likes to bite things (and yes, I regularly examine her teeth), but she also likes to be petted and picked up and other things that hurt me a lot. This is one reason Elizabeth Joy doesn't get half the petting she should - the hand is always on the run from Sparrow's pert demands. But Sparrow tries to be sweet despite this bad habit, and she takes good care of her sister, and I dread the day either one leaves because we've never had such a bonded pair. Dart turns one this week.

Helix is, as the famous inscription reads, your friend, and time isn't changing that. He's an all-around good guy and reliable for sugar and cuddling. He's full-out darker than his siblings these days, perhaps out of solidarity with Hammond. He's just that thoughtful. If life is kind and keeps our cheery fellow safe, Helix will turn one next month.

Owl becomes softer and rounder by the day, making me wonder if I need to start etching tracking lines on my bottles of conditioner. Maybe it's the fourteen sand baths he takes each day; few love a spastic churn in the sand as much as our Owl, even when he's whipped the bowls (they have two!) down to little other than a few grains and a lot of wishful thinking. Owl may never be as forthcoming as his popular brother Helix, but he's always game for time in the hand and as many kisses as you have to offer. Owl turns one next month.

Milkdrop, proving to be Owl's sister, is delighted with the recent return of the sand bath to the triplet's hamitat. They used their last one, along with every available nook and pouch, to amass such a seed collection that all wheels were raised by several inches due to their millet landfills. Milkdrop is extra white these days thanks to the bath, and like her sisters (well, her litter-sisters), the hand is one of the most exciting events of the day. Milkdrop turns one next month.

Bode has a little white spot on her nose. I hope it isn't a scuffle-wound or a fungus or something vet-trippy or miserable because it's been great being able to tell Bode and Coal apart without interacting then thinking hard, nowadays changing my mind a few times before being 95% sure who is whom. (Darn that Coal for becoming more outgoing as Bode became more homey.) Like her sisters, all of them, Bode is an industrious seed archiver and, like the other two of the triplets, she finds swinging from sleeves to be great fun. She doesn't like to get involved in Milkdrop and Coal's business, but she'll hold her own if she wants them out of the wheel when it's time to run. Bode turns one next month.

Coal is now the one without the spot, the one who used to wheeze and think twice before getting in the hand. All of the triplets are vocal chitterers, but the wheezing is more rare. Coal likes wheels and hands and seed collecting and putting back all the seeds after the stupid hand moves them and squabbling of sand and other property rights. She's more likely to sleep with Milkdrop than alone or with Bode, but whenever I decide something like that, they all switch places. Coal, like the other two girls, giggles on behalf of all of us. She turns one next month.

Peter is our fine young hamster whose birthday is celebrated with Henry and Maudine's youngest, although we didn't get him until August. Back then he was cynical and kept to himself, but today he's one of our sweetest. It's a pleasure to wake from sleep and look across the room only to find Peter watching me, waiting for me to get up and deliver kisses and conversation. He always takes a taxi (one of the hand-shaped ones) from his slide to his seed dish, even when he's so eager that he's already at the bottom. It's our thing. Peter is large and soft and light and completely trusting, and he turns one next month.

Holly sleeps all day, like a traditional hamster. Unlike the others, he doesn't come running for seeds. It's like the already full seed dish is good enough, or something. Holly likes to sleep in his little house rather exclusively, waking up to vigorously wheel and play his fall-over game, patent pending. The fall-over game involves Holly running up to the almost empty loft and falling on his back. Over and over. He loves it. Sometimes he wiggles, like he's in the sand bath, but mostly he falls and falls and falls and gets so happy you almost have to take the day off work to stay up all night and cheer him on. His bottom-regions are still "not right," and if he didn't have a "dust ruffle" I don't think you could sex him, but he seems well other than being a little more sleepy and docile than we usually see around these parts. (The other day someone didn't fasten his door properly at bedtime and it came open, but in the morning he was zonked out as always in his house... whatever his story is of that night, it must remain untold.) Holly is at least four months old.

Patricia is rarely called that. She is almost always "Patricia-mouse" on account of her big ears and her complete lack of obedience. "Don't run at warp speed around the apartment, Patricia-mouse," I say, but it takes planning, skill, and a certain amount of foolish wand-waving to keep Patricia in authorized territory. She runs, she scamps, she will be up your arm and in your hair and down your back faster than you can scold, but she has developed a slight case OCD - or O seed D - where she must immediately pouch all new seeds and take them to her silo, so it is possible to pet on Patricia without first strapping her into a GPS tracking band. (Possible, but still not recommended.) Patricia is still small, and she is at least almost three-and-a-half months old.

In other news, I'm exhausted, having woken from a bad dream. Half of my lesson plans have to be redone on the fly tomorrow due to unforeseen issues. Mike's mom is having surgery in a few minutes that should be routine, but wouldn't you feel guilty if you thought of it like that then something happened? I've signed up for more training this week, now at the last minute, and I can't seem to get enough sleep to finish grading, and here comes the end of the quarter. Also, I accidentally spent $10 on chocolate pudding at Whole Foods - DON'T ASK!

I'm going to try for a few more hours - last night I woke up, saw I had ten minutes left until the alarm, and I was so glad for those ten minutes that I didn't regret getting up at all. Stupid half-full glass.

15 March 2006 |



Overrated: Zagat's, Cook's Illustrated, and the Roundtable Buffet

Finally, after waiting a few months for Cook's Illustrated to reinstate the "my account" section of their site, what with their database of personal user information having been hacked (what with CI being the losers that they are and storing credit card information for all site subscribers, but not the store shoppers; god forbid they risk losing a sale by asking you re-enter it manually when renewing), I see that my membership ran out today and was not auto-renewed. Thank goodness.

I thought it might be one of those that auto-renewed, hence CI's (old, pre-hacking) policy of saving the credit card data, and for months I've been trying to see when that might happen and how I could cancel it online, which I couldn't, what with the "my account" feature being disabled after the hackattack. So, hooray for them doing something right, even though they didn't tell me that my membership was expiring, so zero points for marketing savvy. Maybe they know their site sucks.

Okay, it doesn't suck. CI is a venerable entity, much revered by the cooking populace. Maybe that's why I'm being extra harsh with a perfectly okay site - that alleged Libran urge to balance and whatnot.
 
What do people see in CooksIllustrated.com? The product reviews often sample from a strangely evasive selection. (Like, let's try 10 variants from brand C, one each from brands A and D, and let's leave out brand B altogether. I exaggerate, but.) The recipes? No better than what's for free at Epicurious (where readers' comments are often instructive), and you'll get better food science for making informed choices by cruising archived Good Eats transcripts. The equipment reviews? Ancient, missing many key items, and too often based in a reality that is not the average person's kitchen.

(For example, Cook's Illustrated hates non-stick cookware. Just hates it. They do grudgingly dabble in non-stick a few times, but I can't tell you how many reviews I read where it was dismissed entirely because you can't properly do browning with non-stick. So, good luck comparison shopping with CI if you're a non-stick heathen. I mean, I'm glad I learned why non-stick is the devil, and I think it's right that CI tries to get us all to use the best cookware possible, but given that non-stick is a prevalent evil, can it at least be thoroughly tested and discussed with caveats rather than beating us with the shame stick for considering it?)

I'm not saying CI is useless. It's definitely a fine site if you have $25 that will expire if you don't spend it online by midnight. It does contain some answers to your possible queries about recipes and products, and it delivers them in a straightforward format. I concede that CI is full of smart people who at least articulate their reasoning well in reviews - no mere thumbs up/thumbs down - allowing the reader to make up his or her own mind. (That said, there's no excuse for many - most? - of their so-called "definitive" recipes.) I'd recommend site memebrship to anyone with money to burn and weak google-fu.

Now let's cheese off whoever's left. What the freak is up with the Zagat guides?

I could weep, I'm so glad I didn't pay for Zagat's 2006 Las Vegas guide. Wow. God bless the library.

Zagat's has great marketing. Without ever seeing one, I'd come to believe that they were the reliable, authoritative source for dining out in a city. Again, wow. So not true.

I'm not saying I disagree with their ratings. But what are their ratings, really? Just numbers stuck above a pile of quotations that makes me think I'm at a bad experimental poetry reading. (This is surely the reason you can't look inside the book at Amazon.com.)

Here's my version of a Zagat-style review for the Excalibur champagne brunch buffet, where I went a few weeks ago, and by the way, don't do that. The numbers are for food, decor, and service, with 16 being the minimum for "good," and the dollar-figure is the average price.

The Round Table Buffet
12     11     16     $15
You may feel "confused, irritated, and hungry" after you "pay then slowly queue through the main buffet line" before "being allowed to sit," and "please disregard" the "menu marquee" located "by the cashier" because you can "rest assured" that there "is no vegetable lasagna" or "a third" of the other items advertised. While it's "interesting" and a "welcome change" that customers are allowed to "retrieve their own beverages," and the "hot chocolate option" is "tasty," be aware that the "free champagne" is "reminiscent of spicy NyQuil." Furthermore, you will "need a line-cutting strategy" to get a "mostly unwanted second plate," what with all the "diners who just paid and haven't been allowed to sit yet" forming the "mandatory solid wall" around the "main buffet" with its "tolerable scrambled eggs and biscuit" selections.

Actually, I provided far too much relief from Zagat's signature "strung together quotations" style. The point is that, while it's unique and perhaps even commendable that Zagat shows that their statements come from "real" patrons, it's really no more than a standard blurb with some numbers and distracting punctuation. Why would service get a 16? Food a 12? Decor an 11? Because that's how the people vote. Why did they vote that way? You just don't know. Who are the people? The ones who signed up for a free membership at Zagat.com and clicked the buttons of their choice.

Zagat's is not a comprehensive listing, either. For example, it's missing several key buffets. (Luxor? Excalibur? Love or hate them, they're big players for the tourist crowd. Wynn? Other Wynn restaurants are featured, such as Daniel Boulud, so it wasn't a matter of deadlines. And mon dieu, who are the three people who'd disagree with Wynn being coronated the new buffet emperor?) Why bother with Zagat's if you have the Vegas.com Dining Guide and a printer? Or any number of other sites?

Zagat's has its purpose if you want the convenience of a slender bound book featuring several often-unsupported opinions on several of a city's restaurants. Honestly, I don't knock it for being handy when the alternative is standing in the middle of an intersection looking dumbly up and down the Strip, trying to gauge what might be tasty and in your price range. It's smaller than, say, a Fodor's or a Frommer's, and you get more than one perspective.

But the Chicago Tribune must be enjoying their free copy when they call it "the people's choice empire" (emphasis mine), and Newhouse Syndicate (Who? The first Google result is to Zagat.) is surely running its hands through the hair of the paid blonde under the table when they claim the Z-guides are "the most up-to-date, comprehensive, and reliable guides ever published."

So there you have it. CooksIllustrated.com is overrated. Zagat's is overrated. And everything you've heard about the Roundtable Buffet at the Excalibur is probably true. (Plates from the Roundtable featured below - click for more information.)

Sad Plate #1 Sad Plate #2 Sad Plate #3

13 March 2006 |

Previously: REOvisited


REOvisited

I'd like to tell you all about the REO Speedwagon show, and why I had to leave early (but at least near the end), and how good the good parts were, and how fun some of the audience was, and what kind of gossip was gleaned and what kinds of songs were played (especially the surprisingly accessible "stuff from the new album"), and all that foddery wealth, but it's not a place I can go until I've reached the part in my head that can be stuffed to write the Hilton and complain about their security, the security that lets total assholes abuse (physically and verbally) people in the front row, lets said assholes stand in front of them (and bring their friends), lets total assholes record the whole show on their cell phone (when others had been asked to stop), and tells me "the band wants it that way" (completely misunderstanding the situation) when I try to explain what's happening.

While said assholes were most certainly cocksuckers, I guess the term might be more literal than I usually mean. It's the only explanation this former fan can conjure.

Suffice to say I left that show, early, reeking of said assholes spilled drinks, slightly paranoid about being physically assaulted if I stayed, and never wanting to go to a concert again. Wow. Call me over-sensitive, but at least I fight the people who suck. (I just never expected to have it move beyond words.) And I know this is just a teaser-rant, but I really don't want to get into it because the details get me all riled up/sad. First I'll do the proper thing of sending a real (!) letter to the Hilton to let them know how disappointed I am in how this was handled. Like they care.

But I'm not going to see REO Speedwagon again - why risk encountering this jerk again? (After all, there were plenty of the same people there from the Green Valley Ranch show.) Which is a great pity, as they're an excellent live band - very solid, very reliable, very fun. I only know their hits and I still enjoy it.

Anyway. Before the show, things were great. After work I stopped at the Tix 4 Tonight booth across from the Stardust and got half-price admission for the Star Trek Experience. T4T is a must-use resource for things like STE, Madame Tussaud's, and shows where you're open-minded on seating choices. (Often they even have Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man Group, or Broadway items like Avenue Q for around 10-20% off, and everything else is usually half-off.)

This was a wise move, and it gave me a chance to park in front of the remains of the late La Concha. (Designed by the same man who did a bunch of the spacy Los Angeles stuff in the mid-20th century. Oh, and the guy was black. Like it matters. Apparently it matters to some of my students, who think I don't showcase enough black authors. We're doing Tolk*en and fantasy all quarter and we're supposed to wedge some black fantasy authors in for the sake of it? Apparently it's not good enough for them to choose whichever fantasy authors they like for their novel presentations. No, I need to spend a whole month - February - discussing the "African-American" role in fantasy. Which, as I always say, leaves out the Brits and French and Aussies and so forth, if they're going to make me use that term, which they think is global. I'm not the one who made the mostly-dead white men the mainstream in this genre. I'm the one who encourages the independent reading. It's getting to where I don't even care if some of these students can read and write - I just want them to stop for a moment and think.)

(Stupid disclaimer: of course I care if they can read and write. They'll be out in the world next year and, if they can't wrap their heads around why some darker-skinned person in Scotland doesn't want to be called "African-American," then at least they need the skills to fake intelligence via effective  paragraph construction and being able to read the instructions for cleaning the Slurpee machine.)

(I'm probably still in a bad mood from last night. Sorry. And most of my students are quite clever, funny, and bound for great things should they apply themselves. But what blog doesn't focus on the bad apples and squeaky wheels? Conflict is the soul of entertainment, be it the writer's or the reader's, I'm sure.)

It was fun seeing La Concha, although I didn't have my camera with me. I also squinted when driving down Paradise and was able to see more remains of Wet 'n Wild. With the fourth Turnberry Tower nearing completion, this won't last. As I drove down one side street, I noted that the old Silver City Casino sign is still up and hiding behind chain link and construction. I should get a photo of that. Furthermore, I went down Riviera (St? Blvd? Ave?) for the first time and saw that the old Algiers Motel/Casino area isn't completely a dirt lot. Amidst the construction and ruin is a sad white building with funny-shaped windows. The battered sign says something about discount perfume, but I cocked my head, slowed down, and thought, "That looks like a church. Wedding Chapel?" Or maybe I even said it out loud - I get rather verbal when alone in the car, sometimes.

I looked at this 360 of the Algiers from its final days and, yes, check out that steeple - it was a wedding chapel, wasn't it? (You have to scroll right until you see the sign advertising Souvenirs, Kodak Film, Cameras, Batteries. Now look just to the left of it. See? Hey - I was just able to zoom in - it has a wedding chapel sign! I was right! This would all be more impressive if you could see the state of the building today; I was mildly clever to figure it out at the time, I tell you. And yes, you can see the El Rancho in the 360 as well. By the way, Turnberry has not fixed the sign yet.)

Mike and I did the STE five years ago when it was just the Klingons. They've since added the Borg and - whoa - it's terrific. It's so good, I can't even tell you anything about it, lest I spoil it. I'll just say that there was genuine pushing and scuttling on the audience's part at one point, we were all so nervous. Super fun. It's not a motion simulator, either, if you're like Mike and get headaches/nausea from those. I think it helps that the crew is very in character for the Borg Invasion, whereas the Klingon Encounter has (alas) become rather campy, which is too bad for those going for the first time, but entertaining for me since I'd done it before. (Other patrons in the lift made similar comments.) We had a good group for the KE, though, and we took our responsibility at the very end very seriously. (Which I can't talk about, and if you've been, you know why.)

The Buffet at the Hilton is decent for the price, my price being the appreciated 25%-off discount for locals. (So, about $13 for Friday night din-dins.) I'd give the fare points for distinction in two areas: first, complimentary beer and wine, and second, the citrus jicama salad. The former was just interesting. (I don't really like most beer or wine, but I took a glass of rosé and swished a few mouthfuls just to say I tried it. Eh.) The citrus jicama salad, however, was original and spicy-delightful; I've never had anything like it before - a keeper.

The rest of the buffet selection was blah for vegetarians and possibly even non-veggies, but the food that was there was good. The baked potatoes seemed to be rolled in coarse salt and pepper and were perfectly soft inside. The cheese tortellini was a nice comfort food. The dessert selection is inventive - so many attractive little tarts and mousses that I'm afraid I probably had a bite of each, and the Hilton doesn't stint on quality mix-ins for the soft serve (Butterfingers, Oreos, and nasty things like gummy bears that Mike inexplicably and unapologetically likes).

And the rest of my night involved either the show or recovering from it, so that's all I have to say about that. Now I'm watching out the window for the snow (SNOW!) that's supposed to hit the valley today (In MARCH! On touristy NASCAR weekend! The one year anniversary of my trip to Primm when Snout and Barnard left. March!) and thinking I need to pick up the hundredy-billion books my ambitious fingers requested for the library in preparation for grad school this summer. (Assuming I get in to Cal State, but I did think this was the one superpower a summa cum laude paper-bearer could wield. I hope.) Amongst the books is this year's Zagat guide to Vegas, so I'll probably spend the rest of the afternoon mentally shopping through that, eventually tossing it across the room (as I'm wont to do with disappointing books) when I remember that I only go to buffets.

12 March 2006 |

Previously: Say Your Pronouns!


Say Your Pronouns!

I'm watching the Oscars right now, something I haven't done in years, not since the first time Billy Crystal presented, perhaps. The reasons for this are, I'm sure, quite obvious in these cynical times.

Nicole Kidman is on right now, using her Australian accent and blue fairy hair.

We're opening with Best Supporting Actor? Really? Did we always?

I'm watching because last night I saw Capote. First, kudos to South Coast and all affiliated cinemas for reversing their draconian "no credit cards" policy. Green Valley Ranch is still my casino, where this weekend I spent $15 getting 154 points (x3 = 462!) so I will get presents and mystery cash all summer, so its theatre gets preferential treatment, but South Coast (George Clooney just won for Syriana) has a beautiful concession stand. Beautiful.

None of this queueing up to place an order. You go grab what you want, from shelves or fridges or heat lamps or the cheerful popcorn attendants (which includes kettle corn!) then take it to a cashier to pay. No more standing behind a family of eight changing their order six times. Inspired, I tell you. Plus, you don't have to have the usual garbage, there's a built-in Starbucks/ice creamery, so you can have your double chai latte, or two scoops of mint chocolate chip ice cream, or a strawberry milkshake, or a slice of cheesecake, and so on. Yes, the bottled water is still almost four bucks, but you can also get lemon-flavoured. Yum.

I decided to go for something different, choosing soft pretzel bites with nacho cheese petrochemical dip plus Red Vines. I don't know, there's just something so Capote about red licorice. And I never buy candy (Ben Stiller just came on in his jammies) at the movies, the markup being way too obvious for ordinary fare, but last night I looked at my four-dollar water and said screw it, and then purchased the nastiest, gluiest red licorice on the planet. Twizzlers, people! I needed Twizzlers!

(Ha, Stiller was funny. I'm sure he'll need defending later, though.)

However, I was undercharged (which I only realized later, or I would have said something, really, honest), so one of those items only cost a dollar, so I don't feel too bad. And now I have nasty red licorice leftover for when Hoffman wins for Capote, which he must. How anyone could make that caricature of a man both dimensional and watchable is a marvel. The whole movie was expertly paced, cut, filmed... (Who just won? Oh, Wallace and Gromit. Good. Corpse Bride was nice but samey.)

The previews looked great, too. I forget how old I was when I realized that previews often match the (what is Naomi Watts wearing?) film. (Ooo Dolly Parton! Oh my god, she's bones! Bones! She has old lady legs. And is the sound muddied up or what? Do you think she's really a lesbian?) Of course, now I don't remember what any of the previews were for... but they looked smarter than the average bear. (Which is good, because this broadcast is sucking the IQ right out of my eyes. Don't those pillars look like a blend of buttery caramel and chocolate? Is Keira Knightley sitting with Jack Nicholson? Do the Academy people make you sit in a certain seat, or can you change seats with your date? Do celebs try to sit together or do they try to use their less famous partners as a buffer? Or does the Academy?)

I should confess that I've never read In Cold Blood. This movie might be the final push I need to get the New Yorker DVD set, though. (Where they use Capote's work in the example screenshots, funnily enough.) But only if I finish half of this summer's grad school reading by the end of Spring Break. That's my carrot. No, I'm not accepted yet, but I'm hoping that a 4.0 undergraduate and graduate GPA plus a valid credit card will outweigh the increasingly-embarrassing-upon-reflection admission essay. (Ha ha on Stewart's pretend Scientology rant. Ooo - Luke and Owen Wilsons. They're so hot right now.) I really want to take this Ancient Maya course, for one thing.

But first I must read. No, first I must lay out this week's lesson plans and wash the hot chocolate out of my hair and rinse the dust out of the crock pot, where it's been idle for four weeks (since you were too tactful to ask). I should also finish the French memo board that's been nearly done for almost as long, a trial-by-pins path covering the carpet in the meantime. And here's Jennifer Aniston. She was in one of the previews last night. She's everywhere! Good for her. Oh, Geisha will surely win. Lots of good contenders, though. Hmm. HA! Told you it would be Geisha. Okay, I'm gone, GO HOFFMAN.

Update!

Here we go... wow, I'm surprised they selected that clip for Capote. Heh. Haven't seen Hustle and Flow (but I was amused by Stewart's comments on the Scorcese/whatever that band was score - yes, I'm just a terrible, no doubt racist, person for not liking the music), Brokeback..., ah - Joachim, and I haven't even heard of this last movie. Interesting.

So no, I'm not qualified to judge, but I still want Hoffman.

YAY! DONE!

Is he going to cry? Cry, Philip Seymour Hoffman, you just go ahead and cry. Or babble. There you go. Oh - his mom - how sweet. He is going to cry. Or not. Okay, I'll cry for him. Wheeee!

06 March 2006 |



My Kicks are *Gotten*!

First, nasty backwards V-day Sex Pistols wave to FedEx - you just left the package at my door? In an apartment complex?

Fine, now I have my (generic, Sanrio-less, practical, tax deductible) thumb drive (did you know it's my first thumb drive?), but more importantly, I got my copy of Route 66 Lost and Found: Ruins and Relics Revisited, a carrot in my current rephotography obsession.

WOW! Wow. I love this book. I'm just on page nine - only two photos plus the introduction into it - and I can't even look at it right now because I keep getting so excited and then I can't read fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. (And I'm a fast reader.)

The author, Russell Olsen, did the same thing I'm currently doing with the eBay postcards (find, rephotograph, marvel), but of course he didn't have the benefit of eBay, at least not for most of his research period. I'm already miserable that publishing constraints trimmed his collection of photos from 400 to 75. Maybe he has some of the leftovers on the book's website? I don't know - I'm too excited to look!

What is up with me? I'm glad I'm not nineteen - I'd have to parse these feelings into a past life as a trucker.

Didn't Depeche Mode cover the Route 66 song? Tickets go on sale for them tomorrow but, $150? No. Not even with my driver's ed moolah.

Oh yeah, guess who is getting certified to teach driver's ed and gets three graduate credits for it and doesn't have to pay for the classes and gets paid for time spent going to the classes? Me! It's me! (You guessed right.) And this is just classroom instruction, not getting in the car or anything. Because that would never happen. It was one thing to drive around Michigan backroads and announce to your DE teacher that we should "pretend we're British!" (as you suddenly jam the wheel left), but I don't think I want to be physically present when teenagers are practicing taxi-dodging techniques.

But you know where would be a good place to try all that? All that and a milkshake? Yeah.

04 March 2006 |



Get Your OCD Shots Young

You know what just bothered me as a kid? Not full-on conniption-bother, just tilt-the-mental-frame  askew kind of bother.

It was how they billed the actresses playing Carrie on Little House on the Prairie. Arrrgh! Arrrgh! At last I can scream! Carrie would run (and fall) across the field, and across the screen it would read, in softened saloon-type, LINDSAY SIDNEY GREENBUSH.

But there were two actresses playing that character! Linsdsay Greenbush and, yes, Sidney Greenbush! And once I knew that - and I'm sure I was only 7 or 8 or so - I had to let part of my backbrain puzzle over that caption every. single. time. And I watched that show every. single. week. Some part of my head was always checking to see if all along I'd missed a dash, a slash, maybe even a line break with AND centered between the names, and I'd almost rather have accepted having overlooked such a thing than to keep being presented with LINDSAY SIDNEY GREENBUSH, an entity who, week after week, did not exist.

And ohmygod they never changed that intro, did they? Here I am stuck on channel 41 tonight, watching one of those non-canonical episodes where Ma owns a cafe or whatever, and Laura's having a baby and they still have the same opening sequence where Laura's in flat pink gingham with her girlhood braids bouncing behind her.

(And would they really have let her teach while she was pregnant? Laura's doing the benevolent schoolmarm thing right now - ha! lies! - whilst wearing an amazingly white frontier maternity blouse that billows over her skirt. I want to see her feet - are those swollen ankles laced into the standard leather-pinch boots? Oh good grief - I forgot about Nancy. And Cassandra. I think this is when I stopped watching, back in the day. And still they mock me with the LINDSAY SIDNEY GREENBUSH.)

Lindsey and Sidney have a website. As far as I can tell, they fail to address the crediting issue, although possibly it is the single most popular topic in their Yahoo! group. But I am not joining to find out. Whatever the reason, it will not repair years of discomfort.

But I hope they don't fix it on the DVD.

02 March 2006 |

Previously: Snap-schmappy


Snap-schmappy

Add me to the list of Flickrites whose photos have been short-listed (not my term) for inclusion in a  Schmap city guide.

The sample guide I downloaded is cute, possibly even novel and immersive, but I can't help but wonder if some of us were selected for no greater reason than a clever effort to build buzz. The Vegas photos they selected were hardly my finest. In fact, some were quite crap, while the one below was completely ignored.

Ballytunnel

(Yeah, it could use some cropping, but still.)

When the guide comes out on the 22nd, we the Schmap-tapped who were brave enough to permit use of the photos (and hope no third party rights are being violated, which looks awfully grey from here) shall find out whether our photos were used (or whether it was just us).

02 March 2006 |



Featherfacts, Featherheads

Today, the coolest thing I have learned is that, okay, you know the chick who plays Linda in The Wedding Singer? The girl Robbie is supposed to marry who dumps him and wears his Van Halen shirt and all that?

Okay. That girl? She is the same girl who plays Chloe, the one Ross sleeps with when he and Rachel take a break.

Wow! No?

Well, I thought so.

Today, being the 10:45th hour, I faxed my payment authorization form to Cal State so I can drop out of I MEAN TRANSFER I SAID TRANSFER DO YOU KNOW WHAT MY UNDERGRADUATE GPA WAS OF COURSE I SAID TRANSFER I AM NOT A LOSER I AM transferring out of UNLV to get into their (CSU's) program instead.

All seven thousand of my transcripts miraculously arrived, so now it's really just a matter of seeing whether they'll tolerate my desperately sad essay written almost entirely last night after I decided to apply after all, and after taking the day off of work.

(It was not a good weekend. First there was this whole aborted workshop thing, and then a very misguided trip to the movies where I was constantly pulling icy wet balls of tissue out of my nose, for then there was the whole two days of freezing/fever/oblivion brought on by some bug, hence the extremely uncharacteristic day off, none of which matters now that I'm well and appreciative of life again, hence the decision to write then submit an essay that is, believe it or not, despite all of these commas and whatnots here, actually well-written, but that is probably way too experimental and barely clinging to the letter of the essay guidelines, let alone the spirit.)

I'm having so much fun with postcrossing. If you're not doing it, you're a dork. Or content with other hobbies. You decide. Today I received cards from Australia (an "official" card) and Kansas (an "unofficial" card where postcrossing members "tag" each other and send cards with a certain theme, such as the moon or water). I'm putting photos of my received cards on Flickr here. (I still need to add today's haul and yesterday's card from Finland. ScaryShari, I'm not photo'ing your card because it's your photo - LOL! I did try to find it online so I could link, though - you should add it to your photostream!)

I have spare postcards at the moment. If you want a postcard, send me your address, offer good for the first ten people, and no, I'm not going to harvest/sell your particulars or come to your house. Odds are I'm going to lose your address and hope you forgot about the card, and I'm only coming to your house if you've stocked it with talented rock stars who, after years of listening to the post-Maharishi Beatles, have accidentally encountered enlightenment and are now looking to embrace a more Rubenesque muse.

Really, I'm a poor groupie these days, what with being so relaxed and pleased with the weather and covered in exciting books that I'm actually finding moments to spend with Mike that aren't all about panicking over sleep deprivation. (Which I've simply learned to embrace. Four hours tonight? Sweet! I'm going to wake up every hour just to reassure myself that this good news is true! Not kidding.)

However, this did not stop me from enlisting Mike to procure my tickets for Blue Oyster Cult. He had to do it because I was supposedly at that workshop, but oh god, don't even start. I completely trusted his skills, seeing as how he just scored sixth row for Split Enz at Burswood, which is all in Perth, so don't even bother following along. And of course he came through with front row, almost center, which is even better than I did on Monday when I got the Air Supply tickets - front row, just left of center.

I can name three songs by BOC and hum two, and I know four songs by AS, which means I can hum one. (Snark!) So, I don't know if these will be festive outings; I just know that, what with all the professional development workshops and shows and concerts, I'm actually having to consult a calendar before making decisions these days.

And yet here I am, tonight, watching I Love the 70s, reading whatever tumbles past when I shift the blanket, munching tacos, and delivering nose sugar at regular intervals to the wheeling populace. Nice. And, if you'd seen the poor hammies flopped out this weekend, fur curling with the heat as I shivered in crappy "new and improved" store brand NyQuil dreams, you'd not begrudge me a bit of it.

01 March 2006 |

Previously: What Locals Do


What Locals Do

I'm making the mistake right now of reading some old alt.vacation.las-vegas posts, the mistake being that the posts are too old for me to join the conversation with prissy, indignant offerings. Frustration!

Okay, here's the deal:

LAS VEGAS LOCALS DO SO DO "THE TOURISTY CRAP."

Now, I've only been here 13 months, and I'm a happy-go-lucky person who always does "the touristy crap," even when I'm living in a pop 60k city in Texas or a pop 10k village in Michigan. So we all know I don't count.

True, I've had a few locals with more tenure tell me that "people who live here don't do (insert tourist activity)." A few locals. All of whom were my students and therefore aren't old enough to do half the tourist activities they claim no one is doing.

Normal mileage variances aside, anyone who tells you that "real Las Vegans don't (go to such-and-such attraction or eat at such-and-such place or gamble or drive over the Dam)" is either posturing or isn't much fun and wouldn't play mini-golf in the middle of Kansas, if you know what I mean.

Real Las Vegans do go to the Forum Shops. To the fine dining nosheries. To Mt. Charleston. To Red Rock Canyon. To the casinos. To the buffets. To Cirque du Soleil.

And yes, my god, we do go to the Strip. We do. We really do. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

It's just that we do other things in other places, too. (Much the same way those Kansans don't play mini-golf every night.)

And gambling? Don't let anyone tell you the "real" locals don't gamble, either. We've got video poker (and smokers!) in our grocery stores. We queue up for the local-wooing casino come-ons of free pies and fleece pullovers. Station Casinos hasn't become a Fortune 100 darling because people from Ohio are canceling their king-sizes at the MGM and hiking out for a stay in Henderson instead.

Oh yes, we're out there, amongst you. We hear you wondering which bus to take, and we hope you don't mind if we butt in with some suggestions. (Although some of us could really do without the hour spent convincing you that it's the right bus. Listen, you're already downtown on the edge of Fremont Street - any bus you take is an improvement.)

This reminds me: not all locals are in love with downtown. It's not "more authentic." It's fun and different from the Strip-proper and historically interesting, but the Fremont Street Experience is not your grandpappy's Vega$, and the local old timers who gamble under the neon canopy are there because they live seven blocks away and don't quite trust driving in the highway traffic around Sam's Town.

(I better add that as often as I give downtown a hard time, I do really like it. It took awhile, but then it took me almost twenty years to go from hating Las Vegas with a uniquely sour passion to choosing it over every other city in this country as the place I want to live. Anyway, there are certainly worse areas than that section of Fremont, and the bits of casinos like the old Pioneer Club that you can see from behind the FSE do deserve respect, but that whole "REAL locals go downtown, not to the Bellagio fountains" is just hooey. This is not a town populated entirely by elderly gentlemen in shiny slacks, okay?)

Our rant is drawing to a close now, and I will part with the reminder that this is only a public service announcement, and you can believe whatever you choose about Las Vegas locals. Whatever makes you happy. That's all we locals want to do - make you happy. You and, specifically, your disposable income. Or even your rent money - it's all good. Know that we're out there, probably three seats away on a 20-line Sea Monkeys slot, and we've totally got your back on the bus-thing.

25 February 2006 |

Previously: Pepsi Blues


Pepsi Blues

These are the Pepsi days. These are the inexplicable soft shards of living when you've had a satisfying six periods of schoolmarming at work and you're pretty well rested and nothing scary is on the horizon (although you do owe CSU an application essay, pronto) and the hammies are amusing and there's lots of Xena and Coupling and Good Eats on the pseudo-Tivo,

and

yet...

you order mediocre pizza and Pepsi - GAG! PEPSI! AND CAFFEINE! EW! - and look forward to it, because no way are you going out again today.

Which you'll explain later (summer? next year?), and you're just blogging about it now because it will be funny whenever you can get around to writing more.

(You really should hit "draft" instead of "publish" now, but you're afraid you'll forget about it if you file this post with all the unseen midnight rambles on sex, racism, mental health, politics, and laundry.)

24 February 2006 |



Thank You for Your Prayers

Thanks to, I'm sure, the virtual novenas of everyone who read the bunny post, I do not have a bunny. I don't even have first birthday photos for Henry, Maudine, Janet, and Hammond, but that's another story. (Namely, I remember how Barnard's didn't get a party this time last year because I had the flu, and getting out the birthday stuff makes me miss him. Luckily, HMJH weren't expecting any fuss.)

You should take pride, Internet Reader, in your strong mojo, for Mike looked at the Bonnie Spring Ranch photos and even he was convinced we should have at least two soft, grey-speckled bunnies. I think he also added something about how impractical this would be and how bad the cabbage and carrots smell a few days later, but I wasn't listening to that part. All I can hear is BUNNYBUNNYBUNNY and s o f t s o f t s o f t. If you've ever had to buy chocolate pudding at 9 p.m., you understand. Don't tell me about the rabbits, George, or I'll be searching back issues of Martha Stewart Living for custom-embroidered hutches.

Eager Bunnies

Gimme

Rabbit Snack

Brown-Spotted Bunny

Bonnie Springs Ranch slideshow

22 February 2006 |

Previously: Blue Diamond POBs


Blue Diamond POBs

About ten minutes from my home in Las Vegas (or unincorporated Clark County land, if you want to be exact), is the town of Blue Diamond, a village you pass on your way into Red Rock Canyon (from the south).

I popped into the town to mail my postcrossing cards and happened to notice the PO boxes. And then I noticed them harder - whoa! This is what POBs looked like when I was little! How could I have forgotten?

But I had - I had totally forgotten. This really took me back. I've been thinking about getting a POB again, and now I just don't think I could I could settle for one of those cold grey steel boxes. It's not like Blue Diamond is more than a couple of minutes further than my closest PO (we're postally neglected here in the southwest part of town), but it is in a completely opposite direction from work, errands, etc. Still...

And don't you just love the windows that let you know if mail is in there? I'd completely forgotten about that part.

21 February 2006 |



Remove These Wanton Carrots

Please gather in the prayer that I will be stopped before I can buy a bunny. A beautiful bunny, warm and so lovely to hold, with soft grey spots and calm ears. Bunnybunnybunnybunnybunny!

Photos from today's excursion to Bonnie Springs Ranch and bunny-addled petting zoo to appear as soon as I finish uploading last week's photos of the Bellagio fountains and the Fremont Street Experience.

No, I'm serious. The hammies don't need the competition. PRAY HARDER.

19 February 2006 |

Previously: Passing Facts


Passing Facts

In the peace of warm basmati rice ten minutes away and Hammond's wee-garden now tidied into the bin (think sprouts), I'm in a reflective mood. A few thoughts:

Mike, despite being raised a simple atheist (e.g. religion wasn't protested, just naturally absent), loves the song "One Day at a Time." Not the Valerie Bertenelli (sp) theme song, but the one that rings out, "one day at a time... SWEET JESUS!" (So do I, actually, but in the time it's taken me to type this, WinAmp has moved on to Peter Gabriel.) I just find it amusing when he sings happy songs about other people's gods.

Mind you, it's just as much fun as when he accidentally sings "my sweet Satan" under his breath at work, a tune he picked up when looking into some alleged backward-masking... (If he were a more complicated man, I'd worry.)

Me, I keep singing John Waite's live version of "Valentine." (Thanks Wouter.) You can't get a new copy from Amazon, but the album is at iTunes. Did I mention that I was paying $1.99 per episode at iTunes to catch up on Lost? But now I have DVR and my clicky finger is powered by rainbows to match the baskets of daisies my life has become. (I swear it is a total coincidence that the first thing I recorded was a Bad English video... that I just paid $1.99 to see at iTunes.)

Another fact is that Mike and I got each other the same thing for Valentine's Day. [And here is where I got up to eat my rice and never finished this post and left it in draft mode for two days before remembering it. Oops. Short story shorter: In addition to our GMTA moment, I went for a bit extra and also gave Mike a copy of Fools Rush In - which he has now watched twice. Definitely underrated.]

17 February 2006 |



Rubens at the Gugg-Her

Whatever you may think of the Venetian, its Guggenheim-Hermitage museum is exquisitely kind to local educators. Tonight was freebie night for teachers wishing to see the Rubens exhibit, and the warm smiles from sign-in sheet to gift shop were almost as good as Peter Paul's paintings.

I always forget how much I like the Venetian. There's this interesting moment when you leave the parking garage elevators to curve around into the property, where the airless air and modern walkway makes me feel like I'm in a deserted hallway in an international airport circa about 1982. It even smells like it. If you've flown enough, which doesn't even have to be much, you know what I mean.

I also forget how insulated the property is. Everywhere else, even the Luxor or the Bellagio or name anything, you're aware of nearby exits. The Venetian keeps you close. It drops the velvet curtain behind you. It is, I suppose, less concerned with inviting in the outsiders as keeping in the insiders.

So, I am not a fan of Rubens. Obviously no fat woman worth her buttered Twinkie rejects his graces, but whenever I've seen his or his famous student's work in person (such exposure being pretty much limited to a one-off month's holiday in Spain), it suffers by comparison to other artists. You cannot put Bosch on the same museum floor and expect to sell me on the Baroque. It's very hard to trick me into Catholic pastels.

However, the exhibit was great, and mostly because the docent tour was excellent. The 45 minutes in four rooms flew by, and I would've done it all again with the other docent, but I really wanted a chocolate egg cream. (Which I did not have, in the end, but that's another story.)

Normally I'm totally opposed to guided tours - have we not all been scarred by the herding experience - but here it worked. I learned mucho, such as why it's the Guggenheim-Hermitage (because it features collections from the Guggenheim, the Hermitage, and some other place - all pieces that might otherwise have to sit in storage), how many masterpieces were produced by teams instead of individuals (all done in a studio system where, say, Rubens is Quentin Tarantino and he hires people to erect is his vision, especially people who are masters in just feet, just background fruit bowls, just strategically draped veils, etc.), and what's really going on with Marc Antony's sword in this painting (by Jacob Jordaens, not Rubens, incidentally).

I'm still not a Rubens fan, but it was a fun outing. We (the beloved teachers) got 25% off in the gift shop, so I stocked up on arty postcards for postcrossing; two of my cards have already arrived to their designees - check out the one I sent to Bootje in The Netherlands. (And what was waiting for me when I got home? A right-purty Valcard from Scary Shari featuring one of her own photos - THANK YOU!)

I also used that shopping discount to get two books that I will not look up on Amazon lest the price be half what a paid, even with a quarter off. One focuses on Vegas in the 50s with a kitschy, emphemeratic layout, and the other is a "then and now" book that captures some of what I've been trying to do (well, thinking about trying to do) by photographing the same locations shown on old-old Vegas postcards from the same distance, angle, etc.

Now to read said book whilst cracking open a bev and soaking in the pleasures of the DVR. You've just no idea what a boon to existence it is to have 80 hours of Xena standing by.

16 February 2006 |



El Rancho Rides Again!

Look left. Just another blurry photo from the top of a double-decker bus cruising down the Las Vegas Strip, no?

NO!

In 2000, the El Rancho casino, once upon a time the Thunderbird and later renamed in semi-homage to the burned-down El Rancho Vegas (think distinctive windmill) across the street (where the ground in the vacant lot allegedly still smells of the fire, 50 years later), was demolished.

I don't know when Turnberry Place, the first of several eyesore condos going up on the Strip, covered up the old El Rancho sign, but El Rancho's been an unknown entity to Vegas newcomers for some time. This past summer I stood whole minutes under the Turnberry sign, watching the canvas flutter, desperate to see a little peek of the old El Rancho underneath. It's an armchair archaeologist thing.

Now here we are in February, and last night I hopped on "The Deuce" for the first time to go downtown. Save a quick drive-by, I haven't been downtown in five years, not since I was a tourist. Not because I hate downtown, but because I'd hate to be caught near downtown at night with a car problem. I'm just an unrepentant snob that way.

So, I was on the upper deck, the thrill having worn off twenty minutes earlier and the possibility of a flat tire near Olympic Gardens looking better and better as we inched up the Strip in Saturday night traffic. And I looked up. I looked up, and for one second everything was almost-normal. No. No. Something's off. Something's... whoa.

THE EL RANCHO! IT LIVES!

Something has happened to one side of the Turnberry sign, and we can see the El Rancho waving from the grave, perhaps even fooling hundreds of tourists into asking, "what's that?"

It should be noted that no one else on the bus shared my enthusiasm, but that's because I was the only fun person there. I'm just saying.

It's like, as I said to Mike, looking at the Venetian and suddenly seeing a bit of the old Sands poking up through the roof. Maybe even rising from the water, forcing the gondolas to paddle around. ("That would be cool!" he said. Well, yeah, but this is cool, too. It is!)

Anyway, I'm always a little extra-fascinated by the El Rancho because of this story. And also because I'm a geek. But not so much of a geek that I stayed up until sunrise to take a properly clear daylight picture. Although, you know, it's not even noon on Sunday, and I bet they don't manage to get it covered back up today...

13 February 2006 |

Previously: Back to the Show


Back to the Show

Mike just phoned from his long-awaited (three weeks!) specialist appointment. The connection was lousy, plus he had to use his rare indoor voice, being at the doc's and all. I couldn't make out much.

His tumor, though benign, has to come out. Like, now. They want to do it next week, but no openings are available, so it will be the week after. (You know, right before he returns to university to finish his last leg of that tour.)

All I know at the moment is that it won't be the scary peel-your-face-back kind of surgery. However, any surgery involving poking around the skull is generally unwelcome.

I'm not pleased about it. He's less pleased about it. At least it's not a malignant brain tumor, the kind people mention when they're casually throwing out worse-case scenarios. But you can look on the bright side of what we've got here all day and still not be pleased about it.

Is it me, or did Australia just stand up and scramble 100 light years away? And my sceptre still stretches short of a few thousand dollars, and a few days off. Tie the cheery ribbons of impotence a little tighter, now.

More when I know more.

Update: (ten after midnight)

First doctor (specialist, friendly guy): This has to come out, period. Now. It's the osteoma to end all osteomas. Very simple operation.

Second doctor (ENT guy, cranky bastard): I don't think this is causing your headaches. If you have it taken out, your face could be numb for life, definitely will be scarred, depressed in forehead (etc.).  You should see a neurologist.

(Doctor leaves room. Comes back.)

Second doctor (ENT guy): Then again, the first doctor says it should come out, and (based on other things) I think it is causing your pain.  Never mind the neurologist. (But that doesn't mean you should have the surgery.)

***
I'll skip the whole part where the second doctor then wouldn't advise him, refused to discuss any relationship with eye problems, and generally kept flip-flopping. Mike's spewing. ("What did he do, go search Wikipedia then come back in the room with a new opinion?")

End result: Mike is currently putting off the surgery for three months, but he's going to talk to the first doctor on Monday about what the second doctor said. So, more then.

10 February 2006 |

Previously: Postcrossing

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Postcrossing

Forget yesterday's crushes, today I'm madly wiggling my giggling fingers at Postcrossing.com.

This is just way cool. Remember when I said I was going to collect postcards? This led to all kinds of fun and brow furrowing on eBay last night as I tried to figure out what I wanted. (The universal question in small scale.) What do I want?

There's a big re-photographing trend that seems especially centered around San Francisco. (See this book.) Vegas seems to bring the same vibe out in people: you may be looking at the Wynn or the Venetian, but you're still driving on Desert Inn or Sands.

I started looking at the old Vegas postcards. Remember that fleeting period when Joe Brown owned (or "owned") Benny Binion's Horseshoe casino? Well, I didn't, but postcards like this (erroneously dated, by the way) reminded me that things weren't always like this. Not that I ever saw that, because by the time Mike and I visited Binion's the thrill was, literally, gone, something you'd know about if I ever got around to just posting my trip report already and not mucking around with editing. God knows we barely proofread this version.

(As always, please don't buy it. If you really care, someday I will get it all posted.)

And then today, as I detoured around a sense of slow traffic at I-15 and Sahara (completely not verified by the traffic report twenty minutes later), which road do I cross? Joe W. Brown!  There's a
street named after this guy, but how many people know who he is? That his name spent several years above the glittering horseshoe in its heyday?

And who was Swenson? Because Swenson is the street that becomes Joe W. Brown - here, in a town where you can often follow a side-street all the way from one side of the valley to another without changing names.

[We interrupt this blog entry to wonder where the hell the FedEx guy is. Thank you.]

See, it's stuff like this that makes me feel local. (And that screams "get a life," I'm sure. See last post for GaL bitterness and a flashback to the time when I was optimistic that I'd see the FedEx truck today. That DVR has been on the truck since 7:10 a.m.)

And how did I reach this place of pittypatpat research and discovery? Via postcards. And eBay. Because, you know, I've been thinking about how you could save a bunch of eBay auction images and never actually buy anything. Save them, re-photograph them, decorate with them. Just not pay $5 plus shipping for any of them. (Although I'm not sure re-photographing works well in Vegas: every before and after photo doesn't account for the twenty significant stages inbetween. Even  Silverbird-Thunderbird-El Rancho-Not Starship Orion-Not Countryland USA-Turnberry Place is more than a then and now. I was thinking today, as I drove past the sadly boarded Boardwalk - clown head peeking over the wall - that Las Vegans are pretty good about not complaining when landmarks fall - so to speak. Complaining would be like marrying Robin Williams then asking him to shave his arms.)

But back to postcards. I'm still hot to collect them, and somewhere in my throe-clicks last night I found postcrossing.com. Woo-ee! It's like Where's George, BookCrossing, 1000 Journals, and every pen pal fantasy I had when I was eleven ("get lots of mail from lots of people without the guilt of never replying soon enough") rolled into a buttered corn tortilla and smothered in chopped onions and green sauce. I am so hungry right now, and this Trader Joe's creamy corn soup with peppers isn't working. And where is the FedEx guy?

Postcrossing is a postcard exchange. You sign up. You share a little about yourself (if you like). You request an address. You get the address with a unique ID and a little info on the recipient (if they were forthcoming, and most are). You send a postcard to that person, not neglecting to write the ID on it. You can say anything on the postcard. And, hey, it's a postcard. It's small. Friendliness without a big commitment.

The recipient gets the postcard and logs the ID into the site. Yay! Now you've proven that you're a good participant, and for every card you send (that the person logs), you will get a card. Funfunfun, yes?

You're allowed to request five addresses at a time. I got my five and it seems the scriptythingie likes to make this as global as possible. I'm writing to people in The Netherlands, Tasmania, New Zealand (twice - it seems to love NZ, going by the map), and Brittany. Mon dieu - what if the guy in Brittany knows the pen pal there that I abandoned when I was 12? He could! Bretagne is not big! What was her name, anyway?

(P.S. to Mike: I remembered my Swedish pen pal's name. It was Josef. I'll stop calling him Sven now.)

There's even a postcrossing group on Flickr. Now you know it has arrived.

So, tonight I'm writing postcards and affixing two 39-cent stamps to each because I'm too lazy to buy special 75-cent stamps, and the United States Postal Service knows this. Mike and I are debating whether to send a Paris LV card to the French fellow. Yes? No? We currently favour "No." I need to go out to the Canyon this weekend to get some non-neon cards. One hates to send people something they can see on the Travel channel almost 24/7.

Not that I can watch it. FedEx: Where Are You?!

08 February 2006 |


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Cultivating Poinsettias, Aloe, and Indifference

"Get a life."

I. hate. those. three. words.

Try to tell someone about 43 Things?

"Get a life."

Talk about how you successfully forced the cable company into not making you pay for days without service?

"Get a life."

Take a pro-active diplomatic stance in strained office politics by lightly commenting on how the major tensions seem to have passed and we all get along pretty well, all things considered?

"Shari... get a life."

I don't know what this life is that I'm supposed to have. One where I complain without conceding? One where I read about trends in the paper instead of having a go in the sandbox myself?

One where Cox Cable cancels my online order for their DVR service because I have to return the old unit before I can get the DVR unit, all of which has to be handled via FedEx, shipping all the way from the other side of town, meaning I'm without access to service for a couple of days, which isn't emotionally trying (I go days if not weeks without turning on the TV - hence the splurge on the DVR), but should I have to pay for service while I wait for converter units to be driven back and forth by FedEx? No. No blogger worth their ripped bag of chips could let that one go, although they surely could tell it much better.

I don't have my perfect life, but I have a life I like, and it's frickin' insulting to be told otherwise unless someone's truly just teasing. Grumblegrumblegrumble.

[Four ranty paragraphs deleted here.]

So, I'm not getting TiVo because you need a land line to set it up. (Sez TiVo. Some disagree. I've no urge to try to hack the TiVo experience, though.) Somewhere on their website TiVo notes that many people may only have cell phones, and it tells those people to remember that you only need the land line once. I don't know how that makes a difference. If you don't have a land line, you really don't have one. No way am I going to deal with the phone company to get service for one month so I can set up TiVo.

Cox Cable (not a company I'd recommend if I still lived in Victoria, but in Las Vegas they're pretty efficient and don't jerk you around half as much as they did to me in Texas, any incidents relayed in this post aside) has DVR service. No DVRs with DVD burners, but still.

Cox Cable offers DVR service for $9.95/month. Not "as low as" - it's really $9.95. Until you get to checkout, then it says $14.41. You email. They tell you it's for the service plus unit rental. (Note: you can't order service without the unit.)

Fair enough. You sign up. You choose self-installation because that's only $9.95. (Really $9.95.) Shipping of the unit is free. (Do they try to do the pricing psych-out just for the sake of it?) You're given a "first month total" of $24.36. Okay.

Then they cancel your order and do all of the stuff above. After waiting on the line, then leaving a message as instructed, then not having your call returned, then emailing, you are told you can now order the unit, which will be FedExed overnight from across town, and you can return the old unit after receiving the new one. (Again, via FedEx, because dropping it off on the way home from work might be weird, I guess.)

You re-send your order. It goes through. The confirmation comes. It reminds you that your first month total will be $32.31.

You email Cox.
You say you ordered the $9.95 special.
You say you understand why the price is really $14.41.
You say you understand why your first month will be $24.36, plus any tax/surcharges/fees, what with the installation fee.

What you don't understand, you say, is where the extra $7.95 comes from. You get a hundred bucks worth of digital cable and high-speed internet each month already, and those taxes and fees aren't this much.

Cox replies. Cox says:

"The monthly rate of $14.41 covers the price for the DVR equipment, remote and service for a customer who currently does not subscribe to the DVR service.

"Per your online order confirmation, it states, 'Prices do not reflect applicable fees, taxes or surcharges for any existing Cox services.'"

Cox signs off. You shake your fist at the first paragraph: "I know that! I know why it's $14.41!"

You boggle at the second paragraph. What does this mean - there's a 30-odd-percent tax/surcharge/fee on just the DVR? Every month? While not surprising (hello? it's the cable company), why won't they explain where it comes from? How can the fees for this one "$9.95" service be more than the rest of the whole cable bill?

Of course I'll pounce if it's in error. Standing up to shoddy customer service is what puts the raisins in my blog cookie.

Meanwhile, I suppose I'll... I'll...
get a life.

Just as soon as the FedEx truck gets here.

08 February 2006 |

Previously: Crush Alert

Comments

MegaZone

All TiVo's manufactured since last fall don't need a POTS line at all - they started shipping with them software 7.2 or better, which supports Network Guided Setup.

And even if you somehow got an older unit, you can take it anywhere with a phone line for the initial setup calls. Force a couple of connections until it upgrades to 7.2.1, and then bring it home.

If you did go with a TiVo, I'd recommend the lifetime subscription - better value.

Shari

Bleh - then why does TiVo lie (lie! lie!) on their website? Sniffle...

Wow, per the older unit, I just realized that I can't think of anywhere to go to hook up with a regular phone line save bothering some shopkeeper or hopping a plane to Texas to see my parents - talk about living in the future. Ish.

Unfortunately, I've sat here for the last six hours waiting for my FedEx delivery of the DVR from Cox. Poised, not going out to eat, not getting the mail, not running errands, not listening to music lest I not hear the door. The package was put on the truck at 7 a.m., so surely any moment, right?

No. At 9pm the FedEx site updated to show that delivery was attempted at 8:53 but the resident "wasn't available." I understand why the driver didn't wait 45 seconds for someone to drive by (and open the apartment gates), but 8:53 pm? Who delivers at 8:53 pm after Christmas?

Now I'm hungry, TV-less, needing to get up for work in seven hours, and wondering whether I'll get to do it all again tomorrow. All that, and now I find out that TiVo lies? Oh, this DVR revolution is already breaking my heart!

Scary Shari

If you want a chance to say "Shari, get a life" rather than having it said to you, check out my list at http://www.oakmeade.com/favewords ;)

Then again, as a kindred spirit, writer and wordsmith, you're probably the LEAST likely to laugh at my list! (Damn, there goes my alliteration again! *giggle*)

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Crush Alert

For the next twenty minutes I am having a crush on the following websites:

ThreadBared.com
[via MF]
So many gem-posts beyond those mentioned on MetaFilter. Here, try this one.

LogoRIP.com
[via TB]
I am particularly touched by the condolence page for the NASA Worm. My god, I never even realized it was gone.

07 February 2006 |

Previously: Bamdamnit!

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Bamdamnit!

That click. That BAM! That sudden understanding, skinnied from years of add-up hobbies, that a new interest is coming - I got it.

It just happened. Like, 30 seconds ago. I was looking at this guy's photos and thought, "I should collect postcards."

And damnit - bamdamnit - if it didn't "take" right then and there. I'm going to collect postcards. I'm going to scrapbook them as souvenirs of my imagination. I'm going to take them into school and let the Creative Writing kids flesh them out. I'm going to, inevitably, PayPal dollar after dollar to eBay sellers for postcards I once might've bought for a few nickels, myself.

In other news, guess who woke up at some point in the night (on the sofa) and went to sleep in the real bed? Guess who - as WE'VE ALWAYS SUSPECTED - didn't hear her alarm? Guess who overslept and managed to get dressed, scrubbed, and across the valley - normally an 18-minute morning drive if heading out early - in twenty-eight minutes?

It was me! All of my sleep anxieties came true! True!

Well, not all, because I was "only" fifteen minutes late to work (late to work!) and, more importantly, was not caught. And I had a rather nice day, what with being well-rested.

Then I got some Del Taco on the way home; this was after waiting in line 30 minutes to use the self-serve machine at the post office then going to the library to ask which book I supposedly hadn't returned, according to the website, because it says "unnamed paperback." Come to find out all paperbacks are called "unnamed" in the system. They also don't incur late fees.

But, if you don't bring them back, you can't reserve books or extend your due dates, and that's no good. I was told to donate a new paperback - any paperback - and the receipt, and they would lift the black mark from my account. I thought that was fair (although I'm 90% sure I returned everything), and I made much conversation about this and that, which means I asked all kinds of questions (I love library science and management), and me asking questions usually seems to make people think I'm questioning something - I think - and so a nearby librarian told my librarian (or are they just check-out chicks? do the ones who scan your books have degrees? why are there no self-checkout machines in the otherwise mighty LV library system?) to just take the paperback off my record. Which was generous, and I thanked them, but I think they were too worn out from my happy jabbering to enjoy the moment.

Yeah, so, I went to Del Taco for the first time - it's rather nasty. I've been kind of off WW for several days. I'm going back on, I really am, I just got caught up in some buffets and mudslides and, really, you don't want to hear about it. Look how small this font is - proof that there's no need to burden you with the details. I've made/invented some 3-bean mango mushroom chile and will eat that for dinner this week instead of dried out processed cheese quesadillas, I really will. See if I don't.

Saw Fun with Dick and Jane last night. It was fine enough. I barely remember the original. The Enron message, much as I embraced it, was a little clumsy at the end. By the way, Suncoast cinemas in Las Vegas don't accept credit cards. And they have no buy-your-own kiosk, at least not at the one at South Coast. Is that not odd? Really odd? They're an extremely popular chain here, too. They even have swipers on their check-out monitors, but it's Suncoast's policy not to take credit cards, although they do plan to have kiosks in the future. What is Robert Redford thinking? Oh, wait, that's Sundance.

I'd planned to see Capote, but I had better things to do when the single matinee showtime came around. However, now that I know they depict Harper Lee in it, I'd like to see it. I'm going to have the CW students watch part of Bre*kfast at Tiff*ny's tomorrow and Wednesday then rewrite the end on Thursday. SHOCKING CONFESSION: Like George Costanza, I've never read all of the book or seen all of the movie, but I know at least one of the students will get the Seinfeld reference. And me, I'll get a bunch of endings, personally uncolored by loyalty to the true one.

In more movie logging, I caught Nanny McPhee while killing time before the Howard Jones show. (By the way, Boulder Station's buffet is okay for lunch - they have grilled cheese! novel! - but South Coast's Sunday dinner buffet is as bland as the rest of the casino.) While McPhee was wholly  predictable, I still enjoyed it. Colin Firth + Emma Thompson + period costume = sure success.

And there was this great kite-flying scene, and I asked Mike, "did you fly kites when you were little?" And of course we both did, but neither one of us ever had much success. In fact, we remember having to run a lot to get the thing to almost stay up. And neither of us has ever even seen the classic diamond-kites with the tail full of bows, such as you always see in children's book illustrations (and in Nanny McPhee) - we both had the nylon/plastic wingspan ones.

So we got all excited about flying kites someday, really standing still and holding the bar and watching the kite play up there, but before the click, the BAM!, could settle on me, I talked about stringing one of those disposable digital video cameras up to our someday-kite, and how we could have video of us running underneath (now we're back to running) and the skyline and wouldn't it be cool? It would. But sometimes the future is very tiring, so I said we had to put it in the backs of our minds for later. There is enough pining already.

And now I will use some of my tax refund to shop for old postcards. I did my taxes on Saturday despite the TurboTax site refusing to let me free-file as soon as it found out I was a returning customer. This has happened before, hence having to create three IDs there in the past four years of filing online. I'm so confident in my retentive record-keeping and fiscal honesty that I almost welcome an audit: I'm sure they'd find me an even bigger number for the refund check. Oh, and remind me not to spend so much on classroom supplies this year. You're only allowed to deduct $250, and I thought I'd spent about $500... try $850. Ow. Damn those markers, glue sticks, DVDs, and curriculum guides. Maybe this postcard would be suitable?

07 February 2006 |


Comments

Scary Shari

It probably won't surprise you to hear that I collect postcards featuring historic oak trees, past and present, from thoughout the U.S. and the world.

It might surprise you, however, if you saw my collection -- even I can't believe how many postcards people have printed about oak trees, including cool info about them on the back! :) Talk about an eBay addiction! If not for that website, I probably would only have 10% of my collection.

I think I'll have to blog about this some time, because some of the oak trees are truly amazing, either due to their great age, great size, or some very unusual historical thing that happened at or near them.

BTW, if you email me your snail mail address, I'll mail you a postcard or two, just for fun! NOT of my cherished oaks, but of some trees and flowers I photographed myself and had printed up as glossy postcards. I have more than I could sell, so I figure I might as well enjoy sending them to other people who might also enjoy them. :)

Shari

:)

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Then He Eats Your Head

Front row center for REO Speedwagon... AGAIN!

Left the Howard Jones show last night during intermission. There's probably more to say about that, but I think the word "intermission" says it all. Otherwise, HJ seemed like a nice man, and leaving had nothing to do with the drunk who slipped into the seat next to me and started saying, "I'm going to kill you dead. Just wait and see."

05 February 2006 |

Previously: The Warmth of Vinyl

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The Warmth of Vinyl

I was late to the compact disc revolution because the marketing made me sick. "Sure, it costs three times as much and requires new equipment, but it will be cheap-as-chips once everyone gets one, and the sound quality is SO GOOD!"

I was stubborn as the horror stories came of bad CDs muddied up by the rush of production. I wanted Digital Audio Tape to take over: it was backwards compatible with cassettes, and by all accounts sounded better. It also would piss off cubicle-packs of marketeers.

I finally gave in when a boyfriend presented me with Anything by The Damned plus a Discman. "Welcome to the 1990s," he said, as we ushered out 1994. (Not the only thing we ushered out: that he gave me a disc he already had in his own collection was quite telling.)

I still never bought many CDs, despite enjoying them for their convenience and (with reasonable care) durability, because the little suckers never dropped down in price, did they? But that's a rant
already well-covered here over the years.

As a philistine who listens to 128kbps mp3s with few complaints, a CD ought to be quality enough for my ears. I'm not an audiophile. I don't have an isolation booth where I swim specially-curved Q-tips into my ears before placing the diamond needle down on "The Look of Love."

However.

I was in the car recently, listening to a homemade John Waite/Babys CD that comes almost entirely from ripped CDs. One of the first vinyl LPs I converted was The Babys' Broken Heart, but over the years I've replaced my "personal copy" mp3s with other people's rips. Not because I lusted for the CD versions but because sometimes I was too lazy to grab my own rips when switching computers or hard drives or what have yous.

My Babys record has a thunk-thunk, thunk-thunk in the quiet of the song's start, reminding me of that total anticipation you could only get from listening to music that required standing up and carefully lifting then adjusting the needle if you wanted to hear it again.

Young people, would you stand up and move the needle for 50-cent? For Kelly Clarkson? Would you?

Anyway, "Isn't It Time" came on, and I smiled a little: thunk-thunk, thunk-thunk. Faint, but enough to notice after the sterility between every other song.

And then I heard it.

Depth.

I have no more synaesthesia than the average creative person, but I could feel a snug velvet plummet and rise with each note. Falling in love was the last thing I had on my mind... Forget watching Winamp visualizations - this was like riding one. Holding you is a warmth that I thought I could never find...

Raggedy samples, waxy ears, boxy sound system, and vinyl is still better. CDs are so nice and easy that somewhere along the way I just forgot what I settled for, that's all.

Vinyl is dark-rich: it sticky-coats you with quarter-notes and dusts you in powdery tempo. Vinyl is an utter pain and far from perfect, but it has something digital media still doesn't: sound aching down your neck isn't found in the clarity of a master reproduction; it's in those fragile grooves, that dust-pushing friction. It's read by rock, not by laser.

03 February 2006 |

Previously: How Wide This Gap

Comments

Scary Shari

Jeez woman! You go on a blogging spree right when I go on a lazy jag! *grin* I hate when I fall behind reading my favourite blogs (and yours is definitely one of 'em), because then I get all anxious about catching up. I don't know WHY I get anxious, but I just do.

Anyway, I just wanted to share a quick thought on vinyl. I remember when CDs first came out, I actually felt somewhat disdainful! I thought they were an insult to the classicness of vinyl records, and it took quite some time before I caved in and bought a CD player. I think it was when we stopped having "record stores" and started having "music stores" instead.

Ah, memories. I bet my piles o' vinyl are probably worth quite a bit these days -- at least some of them! Others may be worth nothing to anyone but me. :)

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How Wide This Gap

You know that musician who was killed?
Last month it was the anniversary?

John L*nnon?

Yeah! Yeah, last month? On the day?
I baked a cake.
I did.
I had a party.
To celebrate the death of the WORST musician ever.
I'm just so glad THAT BAND can't make any more rotten music.

The Beatl*s?

Yeah! I'm just so glad he's dead.
Thank god someone killed him and put an end to that.

(Carefully neutral shaming voice)
It's hard to imagine advocating that a person be slain because somebody doesn't like their music.

(beat)

Well, I'm not glad he's dead.
I'm just glad the music is over.

(beat)
(turns to a fellow student)

Worst band ever! I baked a CAKE!

01 February 2006 |


Comments

Heather in Allentown

And this, THIS is what's wrong with today's youth.

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S-h-o-pee-pee-ing. We're shopping. (And reading.)

We need a sniglet for that proud/peaceful moment when you memorize a new credit card number... and the three-digit security code on the back.

For example, I've been using my Disney Visa card for a few years, which pretty much paid for my three trips to Disneyland plus meals plus most souvenirs. (Leaving "just" hotel and gas. Heh.) But now, suspecting that after one trip to see the made-over Pirates ride next summer I'll be on Disney-hiatus, I use my new Amazon Visa. Instead of Disney dollars, I rack up Amazon gift certificates.

And as of today I can say (con mucho gusto) that my brain has memorized the new card number, and Mickey's sixteen digits are crumbling around the synaptic edges. It's a good feeling. It's an "I can buy this without getting off the sofa feeling." (And since my laptop is as far from wireless as it gets, it's really for the health of the machine that I try to avoid lifting it and its many, many cords more than is necessary. Truly. Also, I'm just lazy.)

Amazon is having a 4-books-for-3 sale, you know. You have to choose from a list of under-$10 books, but it's a huge list. I know - I looked at all 250 pages of ~20 items each. And then I started over again. Then I passed out. This is why I didn't lose any weight this week: book-shopping exhaustion instead of invigorating bike pedaling. And also spending all of my weekly bonus points on cookies, I'm sure.

And so, I bought:

  • Holidays on Ice - a little late in the season, but I can read Sedaris all day, and this one's always out at the library. I have visions of reading it aloud as an annual Christmas event. Who ever suspected we would praise dysfunction over plum pudding?
  • Winesburg, Ohio - I'm still an English major on the inside, damnit. (No, no word yet on whether the district will accept CSU's HUX degree, and I now have about 30 days to get all of my transcripts and apps and essays in. Why is it that all of the places where I have zero or one credit are the places that charge ten bucks per transcript, and I need two from each institution?)
  • The Novice's Tale - a medieval nun who solves mysteries? That's what I'd be if time travel were just a smidge more accommodating! I hope it's either a little lighthearted or else rich in escapist details. If not, it's one for the class library. (And therefore a write-off, yes? Yeah, right, like I didn't reach my deductible limit for the next five years already...)
  • On Writing - Stephen King's advice/memoir. This one really is for school. I have an ill-gotten PDF, and I've skimmed it from the library, but I'm determined to give it a proper read then use it with the students. Or at least display it prominently, making me look hip and committed. It's also all part of my plan to someday have so many resources for teaching that every day isn't a mad panic to get to the one working photocopier before school starts.

And then I had to get more. God, I love shopping for books. It makes me believe that someday I will buy a house and settle down and be able to stack shelf after shelf with these little friends. No more looking at books as yet another future heavy box to transport, an impractical burden easily replaced by one-offs to the library. (Insert your own "library = bordello" and "bookshelf = marriage" analogy here.) Someday.

So, I also grabbed Gone by Martin Roper. Some years ago I read an excerpt from this book, before it was published, in The New Yorker. Oooo! (I said.) It reads like Roddy Doyle! (I'm always thinking that Doyle is one of my favourite authors, but have I finished Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha? No. Have I finished The Woman Who Walked into Doors? I can't even remember. And have I started A Star Called Henry? Not at all, and I've no plans to even try Rory and Ita, but for the sake of the Barrytown Trilogy, Doyle's still in my top ten.)

Roper appears to have disappeared off the planet, but I still have such a good impression from that New Yorker story, so many years later, that passing up his book, now bargain-priced at $3.90, would be against the whirls of the universe.

I've been reading a bunch of Laurie Notaro lately. I find her so engaging that I may never write another sentence - she's doing a fine job on behalf of "idiot girls" everywhere. Alas, none of her stuff is in the 4-for-3 showcase, but looking for it did cause me to stumble upon The Thong Also Rises. (Alas, not there, either.) Since I've decided to (privately, without academic sanction, in my own hallowed fantasy halls that comprise Shari's Inner University and Dwarf Hamster Barber College) study travel literature, this one was a must. Yes, I bought a book that was not on sale, can be purchased from Half.com for less, can be taken from the library for nothing, and that I might not read again. AND IT FELT GREAT! Click it, baby, click it!

In fact, I got so excited that I also threw the first book in this series, Sand in My Bra and Other Misadventures, into the cart. If both go well, I'll get Whose Panties Are These? for a treat.

And finally, The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. (How do you say his name? Is it like the Euripedes-pants joke?) I loved that movie. I like reading about things set in Michigan, as I once was. I saw his newer book come up on the 4-for-3 list and got to clicking and, again, like Roper, it's a matter of faith. And, like Sand and Thong, it's a matter of squealing over buying shiny new books.

Because I really do believe that someday my five (FIVE! I now have FIVE! Well, three minus one gone one day per week plus two that only come one day per week plus one pending) student aides will do all the gruntwork, and everything will be planned more than 12 hours in advance, and I will also stop accidentally assigning erotic fiction for independent reading projects, I'm taking this reading thing even further and taking advantage of some of the good magazine deals available from this eBay seller.

eBay for magazines - who knew? (AskMeFi did, and bless them.) I'm thinking I'll renew my Martha Stewart Living subscription ($13.78 versus $28) from him, add on two years of Bon Appetit plus two years of Gourmet for $13.98 (compared to $48!), and get back into the good graces (although they can be so annoying) of Vegetarian Times for $6.48 for three years. Three years! At these prices, maybe I should look into something for the classroom.

(Or give back some massive CW stories so I don't feel bad about all this non-student reading. I'm almost not looking forward to June - it means I'll have to eventually finish marking! And of course I'm too jagged from a 4.5 nap to mark now. Next year will be better. Just let me survive the next 80 working days plus exams. And let the students survive, too - this morning I went Breakfast Club on some kid who now has to read an extra story, no - write an extra essay, due Friday, no - due Thursday, now with lost participation points, no - now worth half of the other paper grade. I'm pretty sure I was five seconds away from the "You just bought yourself another Saturday" line.)

31 January 2006 |


Comments

Scary Shari

So between Bath & Body Works, and Amazon.com's book division, you're like a giddy kid in a candy store, eh? ;D

If you opened up your own biz, would it be the Bath, Body & Book Boutique? Despite its overzealous alliteration, I actually think that's kind of a cool name. I'd sure shop there! :)

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Now, If It Were Plaster...

For reasons beyond explanation, once in awhile I remember that eBay seller bonbon22 is Pamela Des Barres. You know, Pamela Des Barres. (Check out her six-inch lion.)

30 January 2006 |


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Jones Watermelon Soda: Smart or Not?

My love of Coca Cola's Chinese equivalent to Fanta, "Smart," and the "Smart Watermelon" flavour in particular has been amply well documented elsewhere. Perhaps when Mike does his annual blog update he'll talk about the disappointment that is Sour Watermelon Fanta. Sickly, disgusting. Likewise, I tried some micropop watermelon soda a year or two ago only to find it wan and wanting.

Even though it's a joy to live only ten minutes + parking + crossing-the-Strip away from entire yardlengths of my choice of international Coke product, complete with souvenir loopy plastic hookah bottle, it's just not the same as my dream of sipping SW as the melon saints intended, which is to say in small, comfortable sips a la the former Ice Station Cool at Epcot.

So, this week I was often at the Albertson's off College Drive in Henderson, where - I'll tell you - the plastic bags in the self-checkout lanes stick together like you wouldn't believe what. I wholly suspect frumpy checkout girls of boogering them up in order to better ensure their jobs. And guess what they had at Albertson's?

Well, they had a lot of things, including the hardest bagels on the planet six feet away from the most delicious bread I've had in month's: sheepherder's bread. And what they also had was one lonely 4-pack of Jones Watermelon Soda.

Oh, and plenty of the diet Hansen's with Splenda, which I've taken to chugging like a frat boy with something to prove. Kiwi Strawberry! Tangerine Lime! Black Cherry! Ginger Ale! Creamy Root Beer, oh god yes. Tastes like fruity swill, but until I remember to remember to remember to get some water bottles... (My living room really isn't set up for drinking out of glasses unless you're indifferent to carpet spots.)

I've been in the far eastern part of Henderson so much because I was in training there, training that equals one college credit. See, after much sleuthing (no, really, they bury this stuff), I found a jazillion 15-hours-in-three-days one-grad-credit-from-SUU classes available through a partnership with the school district, classes that count toward salary advancement without being limited (like the regular district professional development courses) to only six per salary step. (You need sixteen credits per salary step.)

Yeah! So, even if Human Resources doesn't approve Cal State's HUX master's program, I can still sign my soul away in concentrated bursts every couple of weeks and bump up the scale before next year. (And I can do it again the next year, but then I'll need that master's to go any further.) Between that, the annual experience increase, and a rare 4% raise, my salary will go up $4k next year. I'm telling you this so you'll have time to submit those grant proposals. (Please note that all requests for money must be accompanied by a $45 non-refundable reading fee.)

Anyway, that's entirely pleasing, and I got SO MUCH out of the training this week. It made me want to set up a new blog just about teaching experiences... or at least (officially) reinstate categories in this blog. (Typepad needs to get with the program and use tags a la Flickr/Technorati.) The workshop was all about analytic/holistic scoring, which I've used before, but I've never had so many juicy rubrics to sport with. The training was led by two women who read the state proficiency exams, and did you know that Stephen King wouldn't let Nevada use anything from On Writing for the exam because he wants his work only to be read for pleasure? (Should I feel bad for giving the kids "The Jaunt" last year? They loved it, at least.)

So that's why I was in the part of Henderson you pass through on the way to Boulder City, on the way to the Dam, on the way to Arizona. (I wonder how long it would take me to walk to Arizona from my apartment. Eight hours? Is there a way through the mountains other than walking on the freeway? Do we have our own hidden Moria?)

And why is going to many different classes 3-4 times a week a few times a month better than taking a steady weekly class at UNLV? No 20-page papers? No trying to stay awake in the equivalent of a board room meeting as opposed to doing hands-on stuff, like scoring papers in under thirty seconds (and feeling proud when your students make everyone else laugh - a FIVE for voice!)?

I was rather tired last night, though, and had four points left to spend. What to do? You have to eat your points; you can't let your body mope down to the wrong metabolism demographic.

Four points. One cookie and a point left over? Two cookies and spend two of my 31.5 remaining weekly points? If only I hadn't foolishly had the (absolutely delicious and all natural) mango lemonade earlier - I would have had nine points and easier choices! (But oh the mango lemonade was worth it.)

And then I remembered: I own Jones Watermelon Soda.

Two points for a whole bottle, even. Yeah! Let's do it!

Verdict? Pretty decent stuff. The sweetness is fleeting, the tartness peripheral. It gets even better as you drink. Would buy again. A+.

But, ya know what? It has caffeine. Caffeine! The devil's swizzle stick!

So I don't know. Maybe Smart Watermelon has caffeine, too. And when the excitement of heading toward a salary leap wanes, perhaps Jones Watermelon Soda will be just the thing to get me up and out of bed for another Saturday in the company of the mixed bag that is English teachers. (How can leaving the comma out before the and in a list of things be preferred? Acceptable, sure, but PREFERRED?!)

29 January 2006 |

Previously: Meme of Lies

Comments

Scary Shari

You're lucky you can tolerate the stuff they put in diet soda, like NutraSweet and Splenda. If I eat or drink something made with with artificial sweeteners, well... let's just say they "don't agree with me"! *grin* *blush*

Anyway, is the watermelon soda you're talking about the same stuff you kept recommending I try when I was in Las Vegas last fall? I'm too lazy to look back in the comments of my blog, but I think you were extolling a place called Coke World? (Too bad I never made it out of Aladdin! Mainly that was due to inclement weather and Aladdin's far-ness from most other things).

BTW, it's good to hear you're still doing the Weight Watchers thing. I know from my friends' and my cousin's experiences that it can get tedious sometimes, and tempting to "cheat", but I truly think you'll do well. :) And even if you do go over your points, at least you're still on the program. No one's perfect, and everyone is capable of losing at least some weight with W.W., cheating or not! (My pep talk for the day)

BTW, can you believe I'm selling the majority of goodies I bought at Bath & Body Works and The Body Shop? I'm keeping some, but I knew when I went on my spree that most would go on the auction block. The in-store prices were just too low not to buy with the aim of making a good eBay profit, now that the aforementioned goodies are unavailable. ;) It's all about supply and demand! (And hopefully it's not about me shooting myself in the foot!)

Shari

Splenda I can hack. With NutraSweet I actually feel the poison entering my brain and making my strongest cells weep...

Smart Watermelon is the soda of choice (from Coke World aka Everything Coke or somesuch). Jones Watermelon Soda is what you drink when you can't get SW. :)

I used my hot choc shampoo/body wash this week - which was totally defeated by the boring smell of the conditioner that followed. Oh well! I will just live vicariously through your eBay sensibility!

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Meme of Lies

ScaryShari has her 69 Meme (cough) going here. I'm going to steal it and lie on half of the questions. Which half? Wouldn't you like to know!

Well, no, you probably aren't fussed either way, so why not lie and make it more fun for me? There ya go.

1. Initials:
SDRMS, RofM

2. Name someone with the same birthday as you.
Carrot Top

3. Where was your first kiss?
on the big toe

4. For or against same sex marriage?
Marry whomever you like. See if I care. I'm not bitter. MUCH.

5. Are you homophobic?
Back in the day - back in Austin - I got sick and quit my job and didn't go out much except to sometimes get food from the gas station or to wash my nightgown there on the hood of my car using the air/water hoses, blah blah blah, and one day this person shows up at the door in stressed-out stretch pants and wants to know if her one-armed son can make some money mowing my lawn. But first she apologizes for me because she "knows" I'm "homophobic." You know, (she said), afraid to leave the house.

But if we go with the traditional definition of homophobic, then no. Unless we're talking about gay zombies.

6. Are you bisexual?
   Nuh-uh. I tried to be cool and froody about that, and I've always said I would never shut the door on true love, whatever the packaging, but I'm one of the few females who doesn't sit around talking up Angelina Jolie.

7. Do you believe in God?
   Not spelled like that.

8. How many U.S. States have you been to?
   This many: AL, AZ, AR, CA, DE, FL, IL, IN, KY, MD, MI, MO, NV, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, TN, TX, VI. I left out womb/infant trips. I'm going to add UT to the list as soon as I finish spending all of my Saturdays in training. Did you know that St. George is the second-largest growing metropolis in this country? And it's right by Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park?

9. How many U.S. States have you lived in?
   Fiveish: TX, IL, NY, MI, NV. Once I spent a summer at fat camp in CA while my parents were moving.

10. Have you ever lived outside of The U.S.?
   Yes - Hungary (Budapest) and St. Lucia.

11. Name something you like physically about yourself.
My hair is nothing but split ends, but it's more fun this way. (What's so bad about split ends, anyway?) I also like the grey-flecked rings around my eyes, but I'm probably the only one who's noticed them.

12. Something non-physical you like about yourself.
I'm a good speller. I have a feeling age will take this away from me.

13. What's your mom's first name?
   Alessandra

14. What is your dream car?
   My paid-for, generally clean car, but with a new fuel filter that's recommended for my car and not the filter I bought at Jiffy Lube.

15. If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?
   Teleport? First class? I need to know more. The answer is probably still the Bull Creek suburb of Perth, Western Australia.

16. Have you ever had someone of the opposite sex sleep over?
   No

17. What happened to question 17?

It's caught in a time-share demonstration.

18. Do you download music?
   No

19. How many illegal things have you done?
   In this state? Countless incidences of accidental speeding, perhaps. Other than stealing, painting, and replacing traffic cones, I can't think of anything that isn't car-related. Even the warrant for my arrest in California is for having tinted windows.

20. Where would you want to go on a first date?
   Some place conducive to walking and nibbling.

21. Would you date the person who posted this before you?
See #6.

22. Has anyone ever sang or played for you personally?
   A student sang for me. She sang that "smile, though your heart is breaking" song. Hmm. Why, I wonder?

23. Ever been kissed under fireworks?
   Yes.

24. Do you like president Bush?
   More than I'd like President Cheney, less than I'd like President Me.

25. Have you ever bungee jumped?
   That will never happen.

26. Have you ever whitewater rafted?
   No, but Kevin Bacon doesn't scare me.

27. Has anyone ten years older than you ever hit on you?
   This one time? At pagan camp? My longish-time boyfriend and I had just broken up, right? And there was this guy. He was, like, 49. Maybe 48. He was older than my dad! I was 22. Or 23. Maybe 21. Yeah, and this guy? His name was Chris, but he used a Sufi name because he was way into the Sufi dancing. He was a physicist. And/or also unemployed. Once he was sort of in this cult that went around picking apples for people just to prove there are still nice people in the world. Anyway, he totally hit on me. He even offered me something that the ex-boyfriend had never offered. With a point-blank "no need to reciprocate" clause attached. I was impressed, but... Later, before I left, I gave him a roll of toilet paper from my camping stash because he "really had to take a shit" and had forgotten his own.

28. Ignore.
   OK.

29. Have you met a real redneck?
   Yes.

30. Are you racist?
   Yes.

31. What song are you listening to right now?
   I just opened WinAmp and am, it seems, listening to Steve Jones' "Raining in My Heart."

32. What is your current favorite song?
   "Things We Said Today"

33. What was the last movie you watched?
   Toy Story 2

34. Why do you hate question 34?
Because I hate freedom.

35. Where was the last place you went besides your house?
   Ghost Bar at the Palms

36. Have you ever seriously vandalized someone else's property?
   How serious is "seriously"? I had an ex-boyfriend who had a shirt from his not-really-ex-enough-wife. It got ripped. I don't know how. (Seriously.) (No, not the witty usage of "seriously.") I sort of encouraged it to rip further. (Seriously.)

37. Have you ever hit someone of the opposite sex?
   I used to have the Elaine-from-Seinfeld GET OUT! thing down, but I've worked on checking it since working around young people. I find that even playfully smacking people upside the head is apparently frowned upon.

39. What's the first thing you notice about the opposite sex?
   Whether they're smiling.

40. Do you like yourself?
   Yes. I'm boring and bored and am almost completely indifferent about whether I live another five years or fifty (as long as the hamsters and fish are okay), but me and I have our share of laughs and good times.

41. What do you usually order from Starbucks?
   I have never ordered anything from Starbucks.

42. and 43. What used to be on the site of questions 42 and 43?
Opal mines.

44. Say something totally random about yourself.
I'm afraid of contact lenses.

45. Do you have an iPod?
   I have seven of various models (G4 most recent) networked together, painted chili pepper-red, and hanging over Patricia's bed like a mobile.

46. Has anyone ever said you looked like a celebrity?
   120 pounds ago, a different ex-boyfriend thought I had an uncanny Sherilyn Fenn quality. Definitely a lone gunman theory.

47. What's your dad's name?
   Chuck

48. Do you have braces?
   Nevah. But someday the back right wisdom tooth will fall out of my mouth and the days of having the only perfect teenage teeth in my social circle shall pass into folklore.

49. Are you comfortable with your height?
   It grew on me.

50. Do you like someone right now?
   Yes.

51. How tall are you?
   5' 10"

52. Do you speak any other language other than English?
   Shelta. It's just a few words, but I do speak them.

53. and 54?
   No.

55. Have you ever ridden in a limo?
   No.

56. Has anyone you were really close to passed away?
   Yes. I would feel bad for lying on this one.

57. Do you watch MTV?
   This is a trick question. MTV hasn't existed in years. I'm pretty sure it was killed by Whitney Houston and a crowd of paid sailors.

58. What's something that really annoys you?
   When people get the wrong idea about me even when I don't lie on memes.

59. What are some things you really like?
   adventuring, peanut butter-flavoured cereal, when the students are excited to tell me something, air conditioning

60. Do you like Michael Jackson?
   Thriller, baby

61. Can you dance?
   I was a dance minor once, only because my university didn't offer it as a major.

62. Have you ever surfed?
   No.

63. Do you know how to pump gas?
   This isn't Joisey. I can pump 87, 89, and 91 octane and click the dealiebobbie so you don't have to hold the spigotthingie.

64. Do you drive?
   Yes, despite having little of it.

65. What's the latest you have ever stayed out?
  Until late the next afternoon? I remember one time at Julie's house in Houston... drove there from Austin, stayed the night with her and Wendy, shot lots of incriminating video, participated in a desperate clock-watch the next morning as we waited for a pizza place to open, inhaled the delivery, hit the road home.

66. Have you ever thought that you were honestly going to die?
   Yes.

67. Were you ever rushed by an ambulance into the emergency room?
   No. I've never received any health services at a hospital. I went to a late-night clinic once because my throat had been slowly closing all day. I couldn't talk and had to keep spitting the accumulating drool into a paper bag. Luckily my boyfriend at the time was scheduled to come over as I was too sick to walk (mono). I sure was a pretty girl, slobbering and grunting so.

68. Have you ever been dared to do something you didn't want to do?
  No. When in doubt of your preteen friends, pick "Truth," "Promise," or "Repeat."

69. What's your favorite state to live in?
  Nevada, so far. No one here but tourists and  mountains and old nuclear testing grounds. I like it.

Even the lies are surrounded in lies - I really only lied 12 13  times.

26 January 2006 |


Comments

Scary Shari

Now you're confusing me! LOL Did you really lie 13 times, or is that a lie as well? I did read a couple answers that were strongly suspect of lie-age, but not 13 of 'em! Speaking of which, that's a baker's dozen! Which reminds me that I've been craving a home-baked batch of chocolate chip cookies -- too bad I can't do THAT in a crockpot. I'll have to buy refrigerated Pillsbury dough instead. ;) Or maybe Toll House dough. One or the other will likely be on sale at Safeway this week!

But I digress in a fit of verbiage true to the character of our shared first name. (Only this time I actually did it on purpose, rather than the other times when I ramble and don't even realize it until I'm done. *giggle*)

Anyway, I'm glad you did this meme, because I never tire of reading people's answers to them. Seriously. I don't "tag" people for memes, though, because a few folks got a little annoyed the first (and last) time I did that. So, I just post my answers and encourage anyone to participate who wants to. :) And lies or no lies, I definitely learned some new things about you. That's always cool.

P.S. Did anything in my meme shock you?

Shari

Not a thing shocked me - although much amused me. :) Is that shocking? HMmmm!

Okay, some hints: my initials were a lie, I don't share a birthday with Carrot Top, and the first kiss I remember was either the forehead (Mom, crib) or the cheek (Allen on the Kindergarten playground).

I've never lived outside the US, although when I was a teenager I used to try to count the week spent in London while we were moving a few miles down the road in Texas. Ha!

People of the opposite sex have slept over... although we'll keep the meaning of that verb deliciously vague.

My mom's name isn't Alessandra - that's her eBay ID. I don't know what happened to question 17. I do download music.

#34 is a total lie, but I'm sure I'm a racist - in the sense that I think about racial differences in a culture that would ideally be colour-blind, but I don't think one race is any better than another.

I've never been to the Palms. I'm scared Paris Hilton will be there.

I'm actually 5'6". There have never been any opal mines in this meme, that I know of, and as for Lie Number 13... well... we'll just have to leave a little mystery alive!

Heather in Allentown

But...Scary Shari, you *CAN* make cookies in a crock pot!! I haven't done it, but I have a recipe. I think it turns out to be a round brick of 'cookie' that you slice....


Scary Shari

Heather, I'd love to check out your recipe if it's not too much trouble. :) I can't imagine making a cookie (even one large circular one) in a crockpot! It seems cookies would need an oven to truly "bake".

When you have a chance, you can email me at shari516 at oakmeade dot com -- or if Shari sees this comment first, perhaps she can forward my request on to you. Thanks much! :)

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Liking It Slow and Easy

I've been waiting four days to make this post, four days of "I'll reinstall Photoshop any minute now so I can tweak the photos first," and now I've still not sorted out Pshop (don't you hate it when trials expire and you have to swing from the rigging into the bowels of the operating system registry?), but you're getting the unprocessed photos anyway, because I'm half-assed like that.

It was on Saturday (a fine Saturday in the desert winter, the last Saturday of my first year in Las Vegas) that I saw this post at the overly-derivatively-titled but otherwise awesome Slashfood. And it just hit me: I need a crock pot.

It was some other Saturday, not so fine but full of holiday pep, in 1979, I think, or even 1983, or at least somewhere inbetween when my mother asked for a crock pot for Christmas. You would think that, in a family of three, where one of the members is under (or barely over) the age of 13 and another is the gift recipient and therefore out of the loop, we would all have been coordinated enough for my mother to avoid receiving one crock pot from her daughter and another crock pot from her husband. That's a lot of crock.

Mom, always sunny-sided in such matters, was delighted and over the years would reassure me that it was my crock pot she was using, and that she really was still glad to have two. I never saw her use both at once, but maybe the idea of being wealthy in crock pots was gift enough.

Really, I should be focusing on the fact that my Dad went out and bought Mom something that wasn't jewelry or flowers or her favourite kind of chocolate milk from the grocery store. I mean, something from her list. When was the last time Mom had a list? Did Dad ever have a list? Wasn't I buying the crock pot on the same Lakeside mall trip when I saw Todd K. from school and he said hi and I said hi and we were both out of context and just ourselves in the real world and it was nice? I think so.

And that was my whole experience with crock pots. Crock pots make pot roasts. Even as a pre-vegetarian I hated pot roast. (If the meat wasn't so pink it'd make your gums itch, it wasn't worth my time.) No more thinking about crock pots.

And then I saw that Slashfood post and knew I had to have a slow cooker. A slow cooker does all the work for you! A slow cooker has a hot meal waiting when you get home! A slow cooker would mean never having to get up off the sofa twice within the same hour - once to bring water to a boil and once to dump something in the boiling water. I must have a slow cooker!

So, of course I got one. The person who once blew $8.75 on popcorn and soda per movie trip could toss $19.99+tax at Target to take a chance on exactly the type of appliance likely to eventually stay in the cupboard 363 days per year. I chose Rival's cheapest model available that wasn't attractively - but clashingly - fire engine red, having dimissed their "SmartPot" after reading bad reviews and then spending my Bed, Bath, and Beyond discount flier on already-on-sale creamy flannel sheets with pillowcases instead.

But before that, being such an informed consumer, I went to the library and checked out a copy of Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker. I sat in the car, perusing it for a good three minutes before green-lighting the quest to find the crock. True, the book made a point of saying, "you can't just dump a bunch of veggies in the pot and expect it turn out well," but I could overlook that when faced with a recipe for chive-flecked cornbread dumplings.

After deciding on the cooker (which is probably not exactly the one linked above because the Target in Henderson on Sunset is ancient and dusty), I went to Trader Joe's and bought forty bags of groceries for a nickel - that's how cheap they are. I may be exaggerating, but it's amazing that you can buy a can of organic beans there for 89 cents when non-organic beans at Von's/Albertson's/Smith's are often twice as much. (Yes, I'm a bad person for buying canned beans, but I wanted to cook NOW.) I love Trader Joe's and I totally blame their ready-to-eat and hopelessly delicious "vineyard's lunch" (roll, green grapes, red grapes, brie, cheddar, some other cheese, walnuts, apple) for my "only" losing 1.75 pounds last week, even though I stayed within points, even though three choc chunk pecan cookies per day definitely violates the spirit of the WW law while remaining within the letter.

Below is the crock pot with a stack of canned tomatoes and beans. Again, sorry about the lack of sharpening and such. I did play with custom white balance - and after reading this tutorial I'm not sure I'll ever use automatic white balance again.

The New Stockpot

Yeah, mine doesn't have that "warm" setting. That's okay. I tell myself I'm getting paid an extra ten bucks (the money saved on the cheaper model) to nuke my food once in awhile.

Too bad the photos are a little blurry (no flash!), otherwise you could read the recipe for chive-flecked cornbread dumplings as-conveniently-made-in-a-crock-pot in the photo below and try it out. I didn't have that privilege because it ended up looking like a sure points violater. Instead, I made the three-bean chili, as seen simmering below.

Three-Bean Chili without Chive-Flecked Cornmeal Dumplings

Alas, I forgot to buy either chiles or chili powder. I had to use half of a foil packet of "taco seasoning" that came with some long-ago packet of taco shells. Don't do that.

Dinner, All Week

And here we are, six hours later. This crock pot thing is worth it as an aromatherapeutic device alone. I was so inspired by the scent of lightly bubbling vegetables that I manually conjured a pot of slightly sticky basmati rice. The result is 12 points of easy-peasy "needs salt and more seasoning but otherwise fine" healthy and hearty food. SUCCESS!

Even though this venture was bland, I've eaten little else for the past three days; there's no denying the convenience. And the aforementioned library book is full of intriguing recipes (including a "blueberry and peach tumble" - IGNORE! IGNORE!) - black beans with mango and spices, anyone?

And then there's the part where dumping veggies and onions and legumes into the cauldron crock pot, unsure of what will come out, makes me feel like I'm casting food spells. Truly, anything that will make fresh and wholesome food without me having to babysit it IS magic!

25 January 2006 |


Comments

Heather in Allentown

I love our crockpot. If you like split pea soup, that's SOUPer (egad, did I really just type that?) easy. Chop an onion, some carrots, some celery, toss into crock/cauldron. Add bag of split peas. (Rinse 'em first) Add 7ish cups of water/veggie broth. Salt and pepper. Set on low, cast spell, come back 8 hours later.

I usually make it with a smoked ham hock in there, but that doesn't sit well with non meat eaters. :)

Have fun!

Scary Shari

Your chili photos looked very yummy! And I loved the last paragraph of this entry. It was the perfect closure! :)

The feature writer in me always appreciates a creative and memorable wrap-up, even though in my newsapaper journalism classes we were always told to just "end" a news story with no closure. Then again, I now do just features with no news at all, and I've moved up to magazines from newspapers, so nyah! on those classes. ;)

Anyhoo, congrats on your new crockpot. I hope you get a lot of yummy use out of it. They're so handy, I don't know why I don't use ours more. We have one, but for some reason it's always something I keep "meaning to use". We even have a cool crockery cookbook (yes, I love alliteration).

One of my goals for the new year is to cook/bake more and increase my confidence in that area, and so far January's off to a better start than I thought. :) I think while I have the momentum going, I'll try the crockpot too!

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Consuming is All Consuming

You know what? I've been ignoring 43 Things for so long because I thought it was the same thing as 43 Folders. The past yearish-plus of being out of the internet biz has been wonderful for my eyes but hell on my early adopter status. 43 Folders is one person's productivity blog. 43 Things, along with 43 Places and All Consuming, is a rabidly addictive social networking tool.

Not that I'm into the meet 'n greet... I just like that satisfying feeling of creating an inventory of everything I've done, read, tasted, watched, and so on in my life while conjuring a plan for everything I want to do, read, taste, watch, and on and on and on.

This is my 43 Things profile showing what I'm doing and what I've done. (If there's one flaw in 43 Things, it's that the same activity is sometimes expressed 43 different ways, and it's hard to choose between the version with the best grammar and the version with the most camaraderie.)

And this is my 43 Places profile showing where I've been and where I'm going. But best of all is the All Consuming profile incorporating all three of the sites. Amazon owns the lot of them... just like it will own all of us, and being a good 21st century American-based member of Western Civilization, I'm loving it.

[I'm also entirely too jazzed about eating 1.5 cups of Barbara's Peanut Butter Puffins along with .25 cup of organic soy milk today. Entirely.]

13 January 2006 |


Comments

Scary Shari

"...it's hard to choose between the version with the best grammar and the version with the most camaraderie."

Alas, this was my same problem at 43 Things! ;( However, in almost every case, I ended up going with the way I worded the goals myself.

Whether grammatical or not, at times my goals were simply worded so UNUSUALLY that no one else matched them! *chuckle* Well, at least not when I first entered them. By now, I'm sure half a million people or so have seen my goals in the ever-changing word stream, and perhaps made them their own. (I've also gotten 2 "cheers" as well; not bad for a brand-new 43-Thinger!)

Donna Meager

Hi Shari - just wanted to drop you a quick note and tell you that Nonna received the plant. I do not know if you knew it was Dad's favorite so the thought was very kind. Thank you again and we miss you. Take Care - Donna for Nonna ( she is standing here beside me ).

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Marge vs. Academia and Money and Sanity

Just when I thought I might not even try to go to grad school this semester. Just when I thought I'd, at best, get one more class here then transfer to California State's online program, I get something in the mail yesterday telling me I've been given some sort of grant. Where'd that come from? Is someone funding my dwarf hamster happiness studies at last? (Oh, wait, it's just because I'm classified as poorer than the average bear.)

After, literally, 40 tries to remember my school webmail password, I finally got there. No explanation for the grant was in the inbox, though. Then, after - again, literally - 50 tries to remember my financial aid password (including having to sleep on it), I finally got there as well. No explanation again, just the expected blurb saying (essentially), "HEY! You can't have any of this money because you're not enrolled for full-time like you indicated on your FAFSA!" Which, I learned last semester, meant, "you can't have *as much* money, but you can still have a whole bunch."

(By the way, if anyone remembers my Jones Soda password, please let me know. I don't want to find the CD with the email it may be on. As for not remembering these other passwords, all I can say is that switching hard drives can mean long drinks at the Lethe.)

But that money last semester was for student loans. I don't want any more student loans. I want this grant. But I don't want to take more than one class. More than one class will kill me. I'm in zero classes right now and not getting enough done. If the classes were online, that would be different. It's the showing up during bedtime after a long day where I probably haven't eaten for 12 hours and not either jerking myself awake or just staring while other people make lively intellectual points that's the problem. But if someone is willing to give me - just give me - $1750 (the current grant amount) to take, say, two classes - should I do it? Can I do it? Will they give me anything to take one class? Can I even hack one class?

Of course the schedule on the site is down right now so I can't see if they magically added some online class that I could handle. I suppose I could use this waiting time to read some essays.

P.S. A few days ago I finished Briar Rose by Robert Coover. I liked the Amazon review titled "Tedious, Boring, Brilliant?" Yes! Like that reviewer, I never want to read this book again. But I probably shall, of my own free will, read it several more times.

P.P.S. Last night "Tix 4 Tonight" (one of the many last-minute half-off ticket booths in town)
had discount tickets for Cirque du Soleil, Celine Dion (which is more of a CdS-type show than a concert, so forgiveable), and Blue Man Group. And on a Saturday! Oh, and Rita Rudner. Anyway, I'd never seen that before. They were all only $10 off instead of half price, but it's good to know.

P.P.P.S. I went to two different B&BWs, not the ones I hit for the sale before, and can now officially say I'm DONE. I will never need moisturizer or pedicure supplies or lip gloss again. I'm not even sure when I ever needed lip gloss in the first place. I completed my Pure Simplicity balm collection by getting the fig which then got me the PS cocoa body butter free, also completing that collection, except for the lychee because I didn't like it. But I've been jonesing for the fig every since one day last week when I used my fig body wash and scrub and remembered how much I like it. Especially the scrub - it's the best scrub I've ever had. But you can't follow a fig bath with a lemon meringue or sea salt moisturizer - you just can't. So, anyway, don't let me ever go back, at least not until the next semi-annual 75%-off buy-whatever-get-it-free extravaganza in June.

P.P.P.P.S. You know how there are "foodies" now? I think I'm becoming a "bathie."

P.P.P.P.P.S. Went to the Green Valley Ranch buffet and it was better than the new Sunset buffet but not as good as the old Sunset buffet, unless you're really hot for Mongolian BBQ. They did have a well-designed taco bar, but the creamy pesto sauce was only mediocre. Also, we need strict laws regarding children making their own plates at buffets. TONGS, kiddies. TONGS.

09 January 2006 |


Comments

Scary Shari

Regarding your BIG FIG purchase from B&BW -- would that be a Smyrna, Calimyrna, Kadota, Mission or Turkey fig? *giggle*

For some reason, the word "fig" has always struck me as extremely amusing. It looks funny, and sounds funny aloud as well. It even made it to my Favourite Words List! (http://www.oakmeade.com/favewords )

Ah, don't mind me -- I'm just a crazy wordsmith! ;D

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The One Where Everyone is Shocked

Two a.m. and home from forcing myself to do the out and about - had the rare chance to walk through The District at the stroke of midnight, not a soul in sight, just me and shopfronts and twinkling trees followed by a view of the Strip from on-distant-high.

But this post isn't about that. This post is about how I hated The Time Traveler's Wife so much that I couldn't finish it. This was some months ago, and everytime someone shouts it out as a KNOWN MUST READ I get all apoplectic and make inner blog posts about how ordinary I thought it was.

And another thing? WTF with naming the protagonist Claire, the same name as the main character in the other jillion-selling time travel romance, the Outlander series? Which, it goes without saying, came first. (Not that I'm a fan of those books anymore, either. That Claire turned into some supernaturally perfect being whose very amazingness caused all other characters to crumple before her blazing halo by about Book 3 or so.)

Since everyone else on the planet loves this book, I hope you're shocked now. Some people post photos of their third nipple; I just share my non-reading lists.

I wish I hadn't stopped logging all of the books I read or read at - I knew I'd come to regret that. Ditto movies. Now I can't reflect on what I'd have people read instead of TTTW. Honestly, I'd probably recommend it - everyone else seems to like it, after all. But is fuath liom e, just so you know.

08 January 2006 |

Previously: Pater Pater

Comments

Scary Shari

Why am I not surprised that you too have read the Outlander series? ;)

I used to be somewhat obsessed with historical fiction/romance novels, especially those set in 17th and/or 18th century Scotland. Which, of course, means the Outlander series was a PERFECT match! Alas, I never finished book 3. I still have it, though. (From what I recall, you're right about Claire and her hyperbolic heroism.)

Although I'm not really "into" that genre so much anymore, I must admit that Jamie Fraser is still VERY high on my Most Desirable Fictional Character list! *grin*

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Pater Pater

My grandfather passed away today. One might think it would be most appropriate to write some tasteful, Poppy-centered memoir that does not mention Prada or icewine or the other kind of whine about how I've been home X hours/days/whatever and haven't finished (started) any grading, but one would be wrong. I've tried that dignified form of doting on my grandfather before and he would just get us right back into a sassier place. For him, I'll be myself and ramble. The one thing he never made fun of was my ability to write a long letter. Quite the opposite.

My grandfather's name was Howard Barker Adams. Here he is on my genealogy site. Boy, I am having trouble with my left arrow key. And, like, I need that key to write - without CTRL-LEFTARROW you've no idea what crap I'd have to type. You know those jokes about things going belly up the day they go out of warranty? That's this key! Damn you, Dell, and your lack of fourth-year warranties!

The genealogy link still has the old site format. Oops. Apparently my scripty thing that makes all of those static pages (from a delimited text file, if you will) is missing a direction or two. Sorry, Poppy, for your page being all green and photos out of bounds and stuff. I'd fix it, but I'm in the process of changing it to a wiki. And by "process" I mean "making vague summer plans."

Everything's tizzy now and I'm not even in the heart of it, 1500 miles away and with my grandmother and all of my family.  I feel bad for them. I'm okay because... I'm just that way. I know he had a happy life. I don't think anyone leaves us when they leave.

I keep popping in and out of this window to discuss flowers with Dad via instant messages. Meanwhile, my other grandmother just called me on Skype to talk about it. This is not how they did it back in 1450, I tell you whut.

Now it's actually Saturday. I'm shumbling around the house, avoid reading essays but not letting myself have any fun until it's done. I'm wondering why the apartment keeps getting messy so quickly. I'm hoping the two new hamsters are happy even though I won't let them date. (And let's not start on Patricia getting out of the playpen. The playpen! It's a long story. They're both a long story. And I feel bad that I've had two new hamsters for a week - they came with poor Sprinkle - and haven't gushed or even taken many photos.)

Jethro Tull's "Coronach" is on. I could stand about fifty more songs like this. Go download it. They won't mind.

I don't care how convenient it is; I don't like the look of the new bridge being constructed across Hoover Dam.

So, does Amazon pay attention to how quickly you click through your Gold Box offers? Because,  Amazon? Amazon? I am NEVER going to want a Prada ANYthing. Ever. In fact, I'm never even going to want a purse, so please stop showing me Prada bags. You are never going to make the sale. Oh, and take another memo: I've been using A9 for almost a week, trying to get the discount reinstated, and not only is my discount not there but A9 is definitely not growing on me. I love the concept. I love the way you can check a different box and - BAM! - instant results filtered so prettily. I don't love the way Google still beats you for web searching. But I still heart you, Amazon. We'll work it out.

Maybe I wasn't signed in to A9.com. Oops.

Bah. I'm tired and hungry and tired of eating what's in the house, which right now is waffles, vegetarian smoked sausage, and three kinds of popcorn in a tin. Yesterday I baked a potato in the microwave by pressing the BAKED POTATO button. Oh my god. It worked! I have been, like, the only idiot on the planet who can't bake a potato for years and years, only rarely finding an acceptable method and never able to duplicate it. (I'm picky about my potatoes.) Foil, fork poking, oil, cellophane... tried it all. And now I discover that putting the potato in a dish and pressing a button is all it takes. It's like the future, baby!

However, I'm not in the mood for potatoes.

Know what might be nice right now? Icewine. I clicked on an ad for Wine.com's sale (see, proof that people click) and, while searching for the mighty special but rather elusive Stone's Ginger Wine, I found Inniskillen. Despite owning Wine for Dummies (gift from Mom) and rather nice wine glasses (ditto), I've never done much in the pursuit of appreciating wine. I do love that scene from French Kiss when Kevin Kline shows Meg Ryan his boyhood box of scented herbs so she can taste the lavendar and rosemary and such in her wine.

I guess I aborted my wine education for a couple of reasons. First, standing around the laminated kitchen in Victoria swilling wine wasn't really fun. I did write a little on the site about the wines I tried, while still drinking them (hic!), but that was pre-blog so who knows where it is... Tape backup? Ew. Second, Mike doesn't drink and isn't comfortable with me drinking. I don't care enough about drinking to make him uncomfortable, so there you have it. Except he's mellowed out over the years, and I do like to drink when it means trying something new or something good, so sometimes I drink. The creamy draught Guinness in the bottle with the widget? Shudderingly brilliant. Mike doesn't believe people drink booze for the taste (I do agree that most beer is nasty), but then he's never had a Truffles Bel Air. (Chocolate liqueur with club soda - like a fizzy YooHoo)

That icewine review speaks of "an enchanting integration of fresh tropical fruits, mango, litchi, apricot and papaya with intermingling layers of buckwheat honey and ginger." Gimme. But it's eighty bucks. Maybe next Christmas.

My grandfather didn't drink. He was diabetic for a long time. My grandmother made him sweets using Splenda. She is known for her fried fruit pies, the kind Bobby Hill likes.

Today the following sounds good: movies, buffet, bookstore, Red Rock Canyon, Strip, total scrubdown and great paper tossout of apartment, the Elvis museum, the next disc of Charmed, oxygen bars, icewine bars, online role-playing games where you drink icewine with elves, and going out to see what kinds of mega-boozemarts we have here in Vegas so I can get some icewine or at least beloved ginger wine under the pretense of raising a glass to my grandfather.

What will actually happen: I will go hide in bed with The New Yorker until enough of the day has passed that there's no point in grading because most of the day is shot. Then I will go to Wal-Mart to get some water bottles for the new hamsters, stopping for Subway or Little Caesars or Baja Fresh or this month's Red Pan flavour at Cold Stone (not on their website yet - for shame!) or some other kind of food very quickly made by other people. Then Mike will be up so we'll spend another evening reading Wikipedia to one another. Last night we were watching the stabilized version of the Zapruder (world of difference), and I completely solved the JFK assassination for several seconds before I remembered a key detail that I'm currently too embarrassed to admit.

Did I ever tell the story of my mom and the magazine? How a stack of magazines were delivered to the drugstore where she worked (in Hurst, part of the Dallas-Fort Worth area) right after the assassination (same day, I think?) that covered the event. She took one home. The next day, they (I think it was different people than the ones from the day before, not certain) came back and took the magazines away. They asked her who bought them and were disgruntled when she "couldn't remember" who got her copy.

She never found anything unusual in the magazine other than the time of death was off by about an hour. (But in which direction?) She and my dad thought the magazine would perhaps be collectible one day. They kept it in a trunk of sentimental stuff which, of course, was lost in a move. We are a family known by our moving losses. In this case it was the move from Rochester, New York to Sterling Heights, Michigan, all done by professional movers, and it was the only thing stolen. Sorry, I just put in italics and bold to add to the drama. :)

Now playing: I've been raising up my hands, drive another nail in, where those angels, when you need them? (Tori Amos - "Crucify") It makes me think of that joke Neil makes on The Young Ones, the one about crucifixion being a poor way to kill yourself because you can never get the last nail in.

My grandfather would not have liked that joke at all.

Oh! Ohohoh! OMG! Guess what I got to do yesterday? Guessguessguessguessguess!!! The planets shifted to just the right spots and I got to ask Mike if he ever had a henway when he was growing up. And he said... gasp... "What's a henway?" And I died with pleasure. All my life I've waited to get to make that joke.

I'll just leave out the whole part where he thought I said "Hemingway."

I am such a girl.

The Gender Genie agrees.

I'm going out after all, I think.

Bye, Poppy.

07 January 2006 |


Comments

Scary Shari

I'm sorry to hear about your grandpa. However, it sounds like he had a great life. (It also sounds like he had a great personality!) You're lucky you had him for so long, and still have your grandma. I never knew my paternal grandparents at all. My maternal grandpa died when I was 10 or 11; I remember him well. My maternal grandma died when I was in my mid-20s -- the last of that generation. :(

Anyway, enough downer talk! As always, I enjoyed reading your ramblings. :) I was especially intrigued by the Icewine, which I've never heard of before. I rarely drink wine and don't know much about it. I basically only like fruity light chardonnays and sweetish dessert wines. Your Icewine sounds really tempting! (So does its name).

I got a good chuckle out of your Gender Genie link. I pasted in two different blog entries; first the Genie said I was male, then it said I was female. Then I pasted in two of my freelance magazine features, and again: in one, I was male and in the other I was female! As a tie-breaker, I pasted in one of my feature-y gardening columns. MALE!! So, there you have it. All along, I always thought I tended to write in a frilly, flowery, female style (and have been told as much by several people, including my boyfriend *grin*). But, according to the Genie's algorithm, I'm not a girl at all! LOL (So much for algorithms -- this just proves there's no substitute for human interaction).

Speaking of which, too bad we're not citymates, because if we were, I'd call you up or knock on your door so you couldn't hide with the New Yorker all day! :D We'd go check out the last of the Las Vegas Bath & Body Works semi-annual sale (guess what Tutti Dolci yummies I found today?) Then we could eat at The Aladdin Spice Market buffet I never tried in October because I ran out of dough. Then we could raise a glass to your Poppy at Fat Tuesday, the daiquiri bar where Biff the journalist-turned-drink-pourer tried to get me inebriated! (heehee) And last, I could show you my secret to winning big on the Bucks Ahoy nickel slot!

Happy day,
Shari

P.S. So what IS a "henway"?

Shari

No no no - you have to say, "What's a henway?"

And I say "a couple of pounds."

:)

(And then I try to restrain myself from spending twenty minutes googling the average weight of the hen.)

(Or worry that you're thinking, "two pounds sterling for a hen?")

Meanwhile - you mean you never heard that joke?! Wow - maybe it's so old it's new again...

Thanks for the well wishes re Poppy and threats of merriment. :) (But I *like* the New Yorker! It's the grading that seems to be overwhelming me.) I'm now fed, bathed (Tutti Dolci Lemon Meringue), and have cuddled assorted hams - and now I'm *really* going out. (Damnit!)

Scary Shari

OOPS! *blush* I have indeed heard that joke, now that you mention it. I got very little sleep last night and had a busy day today, which is probably why nothing clicked in my mind when I read the "henway" thing. :)

Anyway, I'm glad you went out for some merriment. I look forward to reading later about where you went. Hopefully you didn't cave in like I did and visit B&BW again. I ended up with a bargain buy on several more Tutti Dolci lip glosses, both the fruity ones and the sweet treat ones! I'm so WEAK! ;)

I'm also a terrible procrastinator, so I suspect I know how you feel about the paper grading hanging over your head. :( I hate that feeling. I hope you get them done soon, and that it goes better than you expected! I don't make New Year's "resolutions", per se, but I do intend to get better organized in '06 -- or at least give it the ol' college try!

Have a good rest of the weekend,
Shari

Heather in Allentown

Shari,
So sorry to hear about your grandfather. If I had any icewine, I'd raise a glass to him (and to you, for such a lovely tribute!)

I have to "weigh in" on the henway joke. I LOVED that joke - and it's one of my dad's all time faves. That and the one that goes something like

"Look at that herd of cows"
Heard of cows? Of course I've heard of cows.

No, I mean a cow HERD.


What do I care if a cow heard? I haven't said anything to be ashamed of!

Har har har....

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Clicking for Nickels at Red Rock Canyon

iStockPhoto.com: I'm extremely late to the party, but les bonnes temps are already roulezing, baby. If you're selling (as opposed to buying) photos, think of it like an upscale, professional version of Flickr where one can also make money. (Four nickels a download! That'll cover my omnibus fare all the way to the nickelodeon arcade!)

Seriously, it's a really neat site with an interesting, instructive community. Even if I never snap a single photo anyone will want to buy, which seems quite likely at this point, it's the new pink on my daily read circuit.

To get approved, you have to pass a quiz (hint: photos of the Sydney Opera House are not allowed) and upload three samples of your work, 1600x1200 minimum. (This is unfortunate - I have a number of 1728x1152 photos that might be useful for stock, but they're not acceptable despite having more pixels. Hrm.)

The first time I submitted my application, I went with these three shots (except in higher res and with a little Photoshop tweaking) from Red Rock Canyon:

The iStock inspectors asked to see more variety since the photos all covered a similar subject. Hmmm... having only just changed my camera settings to "as honking huge as possible," I don't have much to offer. So I kept "Colours Change" in the application and substituted these two for the others:

They wrote back to say the emu was fine but that they wanted to "see something else" instead of the chocolate ("Foiled Delights"). No word on whether it was a focus problem, usefulness problem, etc. Hmmmmmm.

So I went out and took some photos just for stock purposes. I didn't like any of them. Well, I did like one close-up of my tachometer, but it didn't seem quite right. (And it wasn't - it has since been rejected.) I thought this one of a water fountain tap, taken at the zoo the other day, might be useful to somebody's project, but I didn't like it enough to submit it. (And it also has since been rejected, so I can at least be happy about my instincts.)

Mike convinced me to send in one of a sponge in a sink, but after Pshopping it for awhile I was still unhappy with some glare coming off the porcelein. I decided to send in another, plainer pic of the sponge.

It was accepted! Yay! I'm an "approved" photographer!

So, I uploaded nine photos, two of which have been rejected (as noted above), and one of which has been approved so far - the Strata Against Sky that was in my initial application. Here's its own link on the iStockPhoto site.

Now I've shared some of my RRC photos without making the RRC trip report. Oops. Okay, here's the deal: Red Rock Canyon is great. It's not far from the Strip, you can motor right up to "good spots," there are trails for people of all athletic dispositions, and you can't begin to see a fraction of it in one day. It's also loaded with ancient petroglyphs and pictograms - how fascinating is that?

I bought an annual pass ($20 - individual visits are $5 each) and can't wait to spend the next several years exploring the whole darn place. (I recommend this site if you're planning a visit.)

With such optimistic plans in mind, I created a new Flickr set just for the canyon: view the slideshow here.

Oh, and next time, no matter what the signs say, I'm going be like everyone else and pet the wild burros. Did you know you can adopt them?

Spurned

03 January 2006 |

Previously: Darker People

Comments

Scary Shari

Shari - I liked all of those photos, including the rejected ones. For what it's worth! :) In truth I've always thought you were a good photographer, especially when it comes to close-ups. (Have you considered going into the hamster portrait biz?)

Anyhoo, it sounds like iStockPhoto is rather particular. I have a feeling I'll be similarly frustrated, not only because I suspect they'll reject some of my all-time faves, but I also suspect some of my faves will not be high enough dpi, even if they are good megapixel-wise.

I can up the ante a bit in Photoshop, though. Recently, in fact, I got some pix accepted by a magazine because I took the original 72 dpi's and made 'em 150 dpi -- the most I could do in Photoshop without making it obvious, and the least the mag would accept. I had hoped they could accompany a freelance feature I wrote, because if you supply the pix as well as the text, you get extra money!! ;D

I'll let you know how my iStockPhoto adventures (or misadventures) go. At least the editors give you multiple chances to submit pix, right?

Shari

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Darker People

It's okay for me to blog because I just woke up from a nap and can't possibly do any grading/planning until I'm more awake. (Uh-huh.) That's why this is an unscheduled topic (inspired by re-clicking through Without Sanctuary) and not one of two promised trip reports.

Okay, here's the thing. I will call you what you want to be called so long as it's not personally offensive to me. So, if you want to be called African-American, no problem. I won't even do what I'd do with any other person who called themselves *-American, which is to say I'd let my rabid  genealogist personality come out and ask lots of questions about how you've traced your family to * and so forth.

But, on my own, I'm more likely to say "black." I know you're not black. I know I'm not white. But the only way to do this perfectly is to lift the eyedropper tool out of Photoshop and start calling everyone by their RGB numbers. (That would be fun. I'd calibrate off a mole and make everyone's head tilt sideways.)

So, the students and I were reading a book by Agatha Christie a few months ago, featuring born-and-bred British characters.

Student: "Miss, is this character African-American?"

Me: "No, he's British."

Student: "Yeah, but I mean..."

And they couldn't think of how to rephrase it. It was fun - I like watching them think. (And I like being around people who are in the habit of letting other people see them think. Letting people see you think can be a bonding experience... or it can get you quickly dismissed as weak by some oaf who has no faith in the outcome.)

The character, by the way, wasn't black. He was a "person of colour," but all that tells you (in my book) is that he wasn't an albino (and even then). I don't know how "person of colour" ever got to be a serious term for "people who aren't ruddy or pale or light golden" when we've always had people saying that "black" has negative connotations (sinister, dark, night, etc.), which means it is equally unfair to give people a label with positive connotations (bright, colourful, interesting) and imply that everyone else is devoid of these things. Me, I'm white and wear black all day and I'm still a person of colour.

I think the only way around all of this (and I know I'm not the first to start a sentence this way) is to talk about people with lighter skin and darker skin, then of course have it be understood that everything is relative, and maybe we can all brush up on our similes and say things like, "lighter skinned, like a baby seal that has rolled in its own pee-pee" or "darker skinned, like crushed Oreo crumbs at the bottom of what you thought was a new bag." As always, George Hamilton will remain a problem.

01 January 2006 |


Comments

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Phantom Chicken McNuggets

Moving on for a moment, a recent issue of The New Yorker had a short story by Rebecca Curtis that I kind of liked. It's called "Twenty Grand" (link is to a cached copy). I'm mentioning it because it takes place in 1979, but a significant even in the story is when the narrator wants/eats some Chicken McNuggets. Wait! I thought. McNuggets? In 1979?

While McNuggets were suggested in 1979 then "quickly invented" (according to Wikipedia), they were not (again, same source) introduced until 1983. Ha! I was right. And Ms. Curtis is wrong. And Ms. Curtis wrote an interesting piece of short fiction that was published by The New Yorker, so I guess we're even.

As a result of looking that up, I was surprised to find out there is something called a McNugget Number. It's part of "recreational mathematics," and yes, I was even more surprised to learn there is a concept out there called "recreational mathematics." How horrifying. (Read: intimidating.) This is why I will never teach math and should quit my bellyaching about having 150 essays to grade.

All of this prompted me to search for my earliest McNugget memory. I know I had them in my late pre-teensish period, but we didn't go to McDonald's very often. Not because it was a special treat or because we were health freaks (although I'm not sure I could have ever foreseen an adult life where almost every meal is either made by someone else or comes from a plastic container), but because Dad made such great hamburgers that we couldn't understand why people would eat that stuff. Even today, when I settle for all kinds of limp, tasteless food in the name of convenience, I still can't fathom it. Eightteen years of vegetarianism and I still think a "proper" hamburger is at least an inch thick. (See, I really was more insufferable and intolerant as a meat eater, I swear.)

Okay, so my earliest real McNugget memory is when I was about 16 and we lived in Sugar Land or Alief or bothish - these being southwestern 'burbs of Houston. I took dance class about a hundred thousand times per week, and I could have Taco Bell or McDonald's while I waited between classes. So, lots of honey mustard memories there. Until I started just taking the cash to Target across the street and buying sacks of (newly released?) Chewy Chips Ahoy, which I stashed in my bag with all the leotards and changes of shoes. (Tap, ballet, aerobics, and jazz for street wear.) So, clearly McNuggets do make you fat and make you exercise less. Interesting!

31 December 2005 |

Previously: Sprinkle of Lamb

Comments

Scary Shari

Speaking of fast food chix nugget memories, do you (or does anyone) remember "Kentucky Nuggets"? They were, obviously, from KFC.

They also happened to be the BEST nuggets I've ever eaten from any fast food restaurant. I loved everything about them, which is probably why they were discontinued many years ago and never brought back. :( I enjoy KFC Crispy Strips and Popcorn Chicken, but I still miss the Kentucky Nuggets.

Shari

P.S. Happy New Year! :)

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Sprinkle of Lamb

Sprinkle of Lamb

Well, little lamb, I only knew you for two hours. And half of that I wasn't even home. And a quarter of that was in the car, where I did admire your jumping, but most of our lifetime of memories took place in the thirty minutes I watched you hug that Milkbone and eat like it was your first meal ever. Or, I guess, your last.

Even though I loved you very much (love is love, no matter how long the growing season), you certainly put one over on me! I drove almost an hour, in traffic, on the side of town I almost never visit, to see what the little pet shop going out of business had in the way of hammies.

I didn't pick you out. I didn't pick you out at all. You came out of a big brown bundle and leapt onto my hand. Then up my arm. Where you tinkled happily. In fact, your name was Sprinkle all the way
home. (I threw out your box.)

I kept trying to reach around you and you kept finding new ways to be first. When I went to the car to get the box, you didn't settle down like the others. You waited.

"Well," I said. "Looks like I'll have three, then." (I'd already picked out two... your sister? your Mom?) And I shrugged because, you know and I know and all the little hamsters know, it's not like the humans ever get to decide these things.

I got you all settled and went out to get an expansion kit for Snowflake's old Crittertrail. You would have liked Snowflake. She was a platinum argente, like you. Unless you were a mottled argente. Or a mottled beige. Or a platinum beige. I just knew you'd be pretty when we got you fattened up and stopped your bottom from running. And now all those golden wisps in your snowy fur will be my memory - the camera doesn't do them justice.

I say you would have liked Snowflake but... I guess you're with her now.

So I went out for the expansion kit, but they were out. But I saw this little pink paper mushroom house with white polkadots and I knew you'd love it. I got it just for you, you see, but then I came home and you were gone. And now Patricia is running all over the thing and I guess we'll never tell her why she got such a perfect nook.

Anyway, Lamb or Sprinkle, I wish I'd gotten to know you. I admit I'd already given some thought to your departure - you were just so little and not quite well! - but I'd hoped we'd have more time together. Later, I hope.

Take care, cotton fluff. Kiss kiss.

31 December 2005 |


Comments

Jme

Oh I'm so sorry to hear about Sprinkle/Lamb's passing, Shari; yet happy at the same time because you got to know such a precious little thing. I'm losing my only hamster tomorrow - I'm moving to Australia and those nitwits don't allow hammies there, so she'll still be left in Singapore. *sigh*

Btw, I hopped over after seeing Sprinkle/Lamb on your Flickr stream. :)

Scary Shari

I too am sorry to hear about your hammie's passing. :( I somehow missed this blog entry when reading/replying to the others, and now I feel bad. Hopefully you're doing ok.

I really admire you (sincerely) for having hamsters, despite their short lifespans (though hopefully never as short as Sprinkle/Lamb's!) The main reason I no longer have pet rats is because I loved them so much that I couldn't stand losing them in less than 3 years each. You have both my sympathy and my empathy! *hugs*

Happy New Year,
Shari

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Southern Nevada Zoo? No.

I don't want to have two negative posts in a row. I have so many good things to say and here I am laying on the downer syrup like it's zero carbs and fat free. But, I think it's best to get all the unhappy stuff over with quickly.

Alrighty. Las Vegas has a zoo. Did you know that? They have a website. From this site you may get the impression, what with all the exciting eco-tour hype and talk of annual passes, that you should visit.

You should not visit. Or maybe you should, because otherwise the sad animals will face even worse fates. I don't know. I like zoos. I'm not one of those people who thinks zoos are a flawed concept. Animal Kingdom, while not so much a zoo as a place of wonder, if my favourite Disney park. But I will tell you that - in my opinion (I know you know what blogs are about and therefore rightfully assume everything here is my opinion, but less internet-savvy people who read unpopular reviews of their work online tend to threaten litigation, so let's go ahead and use the short words now) - the Southern Nevada Zoo is a miserable place.

I don't think you need to do much more than a drive-by to figure this out.

Nevada Zoo Entrance

But I'm an optimist. (No, really.) I went in. I paid seven dollars. (On my Visa, which required carbons and other antique credit card processes that some of you youngsters might not have experienced before. This could be the highlight of your trip.) I noticed the prominent "NO REFUNDS" sign. I went in.

Let me tell you what the zoo really is. It's a glorified peacock farm with many beautiful chickens. Normally I would certainly pay seven dollars to see happy peacocks and run-amok chickens. If this is what you're into, then boy will you be excited.

Golden Chicken

Peacock Pair

Unfortunately, I'm reminded of a story my great-grandfather would tell. See, Nanny and Popo had all girls. First Aunt Leta. Then Aunt Ivy. Then Aunt Delilah. Then Aunt Bo. Then Aunt Madge.

But then, just before my grandmother, along came Uncle Buddy! A boy! But, as my great-grandfather would say, "yes, but I had to take another girl, too." And that was Aunt Jean, Uncle Buddy's twin.

Isn't that kind of a funny-but-dysfunctional story? I was just looking for an excuse to tell it, because it doesn't quite fit my point. My point is that yes, the Southern Nevada Zoo has cute peacocks. But you have to take a sad tiger (amongst many others), too.

In the Stir

You know what I didn't know? That there are still zoos out there full of concrete and chainlink and cages? Remember when I was less-than-impressed with the San Antonio Zoo? (Take my word for it - I don't want to hunt down the link then fix all of the images that are probably now broken.) That was nothing. THIS is a sad zoo.

I know people will write in and talk about how it's all the goodness of volunteers and not enough money and the river otters and lions and such would all be tinned merchandise at the International Market if not for this zoo.

I don't care. Those are wretched retro-habitats. Those are sad animals. Whatever great plans are in the works (not that I saw any mention of great plans), that doesn't change how the animals are living today.

We have gorgeous, high profile, compassionately constructed animal exhibits up and down the Strip, some for less money (or even free). We don't need this place.

The emu knows. Look into the emu's eyes. There you go.

Emu Sensibilities

31 December 2005 |


Comments

Heather in Allentown

Oh, man, Shari. That place is a heartbreak. I went to a zoo like that in Mexico once, and thought "this could never happen in the US." Apparently, it can. Ugh. I want to cry just looking at that poor tiger. Yuck. On STRAW! STRAW!!!

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Sunset Station Buffet = A Sure Miss

I would like to show you some blurry, perfunctory photos to back up my opening statement, that the all-new, all-remolded Sunset Station Buffet was possibly the most worthless buffet experience I have had in Las Vegas so far, but that would mean knocking this photo off the top of my pile at Flickr:

The Liqueurs

And that's not happening. Maybe later I'll add "Boring Plate #1" when I finally get around to uploading the canyon photos. (In other news, the latest Disneyland photos are up and I WILL type that trip report. The need to finish, or even start, grading papers before break is over is compelling me towards outside projects faster than ever.)

Update: photos added. See bottom of this post.

The first, and largest, problem with the new Sunset Station Buffet? The Ticket System.

Here's how it worked with me and with every other disgruntled person in line behind me. You show up at 6:35 p.m. The line is long. There's a greeter-guy named Tony. He tells people, "hey, go up to this desk and get a ticket. That way you can go off, gamble, relax, not stand in line, maybe win the MegaBucks, and then come back at the designated time and we'll put you in line."

You, along with a similarly starving but "tis better to sit at the blackjack machine for an hour and play the same 15 cents over and over than stand here" swarm of others, get a ticket. It says to come back at 7:20 to 7:30.

You know the casino just wants you to gamble, but that's okay, because you'll not have to wait in line. Tony said you wouldn't have to wait in line, and you believe Tony.

You come back at 7:20. Remember when Tony said he'd put you in line? Did you think he was going to put you in a special line? A shorter line? A place in the line that's near the front?

No, Tony waves you to the end of the line.

More ticket-holders arrive. Soon there is an entire chorus behind you, not in any kind of harmony, asking "What the ****?"

Or worse. You politely lean across the ropes.

You: "Tony, what's the difference between taking a ticket and simply coming back an hour later when there are fewer people?"

Tony: "This way you can relax and don't have to stand in line."

You: "Are you saying that where I'm standing now is where I would have been standing if I'd gotten in line an hour ago?"

Tony: "Yes!"

You look around. You don't recognize any of the people in line from an hour ago. The family behind  you is timing the wait - apparently they were told they'd only have to wait 10 minutes if they took a ticket and came back later.

Forty minutes later, you're at the cashier's desk.

You: "How long have you had this ticket system?"

Betty, the Friendly Cashier: "Since Monday, when we re-opened."

You: "And what has customer response been like?" (You're proud of your low-key survey-taker tone here.)

Betty, the Ruefully Laughing Cashier: "Not good."

And then there's the whole part where we waited in line for ages before being told, "oh, come wait over here, the two lines are supposed to merge" and other minor poor-line-management stuff that isn't worth typing.

Now, all of the above is useful information for anyone who does not have the juice, be it a Chairman-level slot card or a handicapped placard, to jump the line. As far as the meal itself is concerned, I can only comment for two audiences, the Vegetarians and the Dessert Eaters. Oh, and the service, we all care about that. So let's start there.

My Server

My server was nice. I asked for a root beer and a glass of ice water and promptly received both. When my root beer was empty, she immediately asked if I would like another. "Not just now," I replied, "I think I'll be sticking to water from here on out."

Soon the water was gone, too, but no more refills came after that. Not even when came by to take my empty plate right after I put down the fork. Not even when she was standing nine feet away, surveying the room. Not even when I desperately made child-like obnoxious slurping noises with my straw to get to the last of the water due to some food being inadequately labeled. (Which I don't want to talk about. Suffice to say that "quesadilla" implies "ordinary cheese quesadilla," not "ordinary cheese quesadilla with a few chunks of chicken here and there." I can't believe even meat-eaters would like that.)

Make of it what you will. My server was perfectly fine... until I needed something.

But you'll be proud of me. Yes, I did the lame thing and tipped more than 10% for buffet, BUT, this time I only tipped 12% - two bucks on a $16 meal. Normally I'd tip three (18ish%) because I have weird/stupid guilt about being a party of one, and it feels off to ever tip less than 15%, even when it is buffet. So this is progress.

Vegetarian Dining

I don't criticize a buffet for not having vegetarian choices. You can't please everyone, and unless it's called "Vegetarian Buffet Extraordinaire" then I don't feel like I'm owed anything. Instead, I just report about vegetarian options as an FYI.

And I hope that this gentle attitude makes some of the meat eaters who were smirking four paragraphs up now feel kind of bad. Ha!

Okay, here's the deal. I'm not a vegan. (I eat dairy, although I'm getting to where it's all organic/family farm/cage-free/etc. at home, so I can't say I won't someday become a vegan diner when out and about. Which would be rotten, really, since I love cheese. But maybe I've indulged enough in factory farm suffering for this lifetime. I don't know. We'll save my philosophical food angst for another day. I sense gagging in the peanut gallery force.)

So, my perspective is from the "no meat" type of vegetarianism, which can be quite novel in a world full of people who routinely say, "I'm a vegetarian, but I eat chicken and fish." Which, by the way, pretty much translates to "I'm a loser who is trying to come across as meaningfully hip in a society  where vegetarianism has been mainstream for years. I'd change my astrological sign to something cooler if I thought I could get away with it." I'm just saying.

Right, well, after all that, the veg report is that Sunset Station is boring. They don't mean to be, I don't think, but in practice they are. Gone is the lovely pasta primavera platter. Now it's two types of plain pasta and four sauces. (Three of which contain meat - you're stuck with Alfredo.) Several types of veg-friendly pizza are listed on the signs, but every trip to the counter was met the same three or four kinds of pizza over and over, one of which was meatless.

The enchiladas have meat. The beans and rice may or may not have meat - I chose to pretend they didn't, but it was hard to tell. (The Mexican station, meanwhile, is an organizational mess, with everyone going back and forth to get various condiments that they didn't know they'd need until they got further down the line.) The roasted vegetables smelled like they were in roast beef juice, so I didn't bother. Ditto the button mushrooms. All of the Asian station, save the rice (I think), is for meat-eaters only.

However, other than the selection being reduced from what it used to be, there are options. Vegetarians can eat here and may be quite happy doing so. I found the food to be mostly bland, but some items were nice, so it's a personal call.

But keep in mind the other problem of some dishes not being replaced quickly enough - find something you like, and you may keep coming back to an empty steam hole in the serving line instead of a refill. (And those steam holes really burn when you're reaching over them. There's a loopy lawsuit waiting to happen.)

Overall reactions:

  • cheese pizza with an olive and maybe a green pepper on it (cardboard crust but otherwise okay)
  • mozzarella balls with tomato (nice)
  • ambrosia (nice)
  • potatoes au gratin (very orange and congealed)
  • mashed potatoes (really good, with butter and some unidentified tartness)
  • penne pasta with Alfredo sauce (super bland)
  • squash and sage ravioli (I only know what this was because I read about it somewhere - on the sign it said "stuffed shells" - this was yummy but was covered in white sauce that just didn't blend well with it, and normally I like Alfredo/white-type sauces.)
  • green beans (eh)
  • tomato/olive salad (unusually greasy)
  • "quesadilla" (no comment)
  • refried beans (eh)
  • Spanish rice (eh)
  • salad (decent selection of toppings, especially if you happen to spy the pretty ones in little jars between the mini-bagels and blueberry muffins, which was completely demonstrative of the ongoing condiment-misplacement issues suffered by the buffet... oh, and there is more than one kind of lettuce)

Dessert?

Yes, it's there, hidden away at the end of the line. The one place where just about every patron goes, and therefore a huge snotball of congestion as everyone tries to crowd the now tiny selection of shelves against the wall. Good luck if you even see the copycat gelato display, what with overflow coming from the "standards" on each side, soft-serve on the left and pie/cake on the right.

In the middle, similarly buried, are a couple of cylindrical holes, where you might find nut toppings or somesuch. However, one of them  quite surprisingly holds bread pudding. It's not bad, if you happen to see it.

Gone is the rootbeer float station. The cookies on top of the shelves aren't visible to anyone over five foot five. (I'm five-six and got tired of hopping up to try to see what was in the baskets.) Making guests reach for pieces of pie with tongs (instead of pre-plated slices) results in endless mangled pieces in the display plus not a few people looking for some place to wipe their whipped cream fingers. There are some attractive cakes, but the press of the crowd makes deliberation difficult.

SUMMARY

No, I won't be going back. Sixteen bucks for the above? If I want buffet, I'll throw a few more dollars on the pile and go where it's done right. Or take a few off and go to Golden Corral, where I'll at least get some yeast rolls with my mediocrity.

Without the possibility of buffet dancing around each (often weekly) visit to Sunset Station, even if I seldom act on it, and with the reality of the utter stupidity of "the ticket," I don't see me making many more trips to that part of Henderson.

I'll just go to the newly opened and closer South Coast when I want to go to the movies. The casino there is overly rectangular and brown, and the people aren't as friendly, but Sunset Station really offended me with their overt P.T. Barnum "take a ticket" experience.

Or maybe I'll go to Green Valley Ranch - it's extremely pretty even if the slots never feel as loose, and the movie theatre is decent. Sure, it's a Station property, but I won't hold Sunset's insults against the rest of the flock.

Here's the golden question: Living in Las Vegas as I do (or near it, as most of us - including almost all of "the Strip" - technically do), why should I visit Sunset Station when I have so many other options available - options that even people who've never been to Las Vegas can name?

Boring Plate 1 Boring Plate 2 Boring Plate 3
click photos for enlarged versions and to see notes

31 December 2005 |


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The Beautiful Damage Report

I slept on the sofa last night so I wouldn't rest well enough to sleep in and blow off the Bath and Body Works semi-annual sale. Some people might advise an alarm clock, but I'd really like to avoid taking that thing out of the closet until break is over.

(I'm sure that when I do look for it, it will be missing. I keep losing stuff! This isn't like me! Recently I lost, and recovered with not a little drama, my ring, my pressed penny with Mike from Monsters Inc. on it, and my car, the last of which deserves its own humiliating post. Yesterday I upturned what I thought was an Incredibly Tidy and Well-Organized Apartment in a search for my checkbook, which is at this moment still at large. I'm also still missing a Netflix sleeve and both pairs of scissors, but that's fixable, whereas rent is due this weekend and one hates to start a new batch of checks. Quicken will frown. Mike says he's reported his checkbook lost and not had to pay a stop payment fine on each individual check - anyone know if this is the case at Wells Fargo? But it has to be somewhere! Normally I only take it out once a month, but I just had to get tangled up in a tempting cookie dough fundraiser at school... yes, we're sending unbaked cookie lumps from the inner city on a field trip to my stomach - isn't that nice?)

ANYWAY. Today has been a great day, starting with waking up and hotfooting it to Henderson to be there just after the doors at Bath and Body Works opened. (No, not the one in Henderson by Target. No, not the one in Henderson in the Galleria. The one in Henderson by Sunset Station. Yes, the one by the Galleria. Yes, I too wonder why we have B&BW's right across the street from each other. Cue Starbucks/Mighty Wind joke.)

Without much more ado, since this morning seems days away what with having gone hiking this afternoon then gotten the oil changed (all of which is so healthy/productive that I can't possibly feel bad for not grading or planning tonight, no way, no how, right?), I present...

B&BW LOOT - DECEMBER 2005 EDITION

  • Pure Simplicity body butters in pumpkin, aloe vera, and delicious brazil nut. Five bucks each, down from $12. When I did the sale this summer I focused on face care and liberating as much Tutti Dolci Cinnamon Frosting merch as I could justify. This trip I went for the moisturizers. Partially because I am getting leathery again and need to be tempted to balm it up, and partially because there wasn't much else I wanted. (The scrubs and kits that were marked down in the "pre-sale" on the website yesterday either aren't on sale or aren't as deeply discounted today.)
  •  

  • True Blue pedicure products, also for five dollars apiece, namely the Mega Mint Foot Soak (originally $15), the Toe the Line Foot Scrub (with crushed walnut shells! - originally $15), and the very necessary Heel of Approval Cracked Heel Treatment (again, originally $15). Even though I suspect that the True Blue line's true value isn't much above its sale price, I had to have something to give me faith in fixing my heels. Having dry, pitted heels is no fun in Vegas. British tourists frequently drop to their knees and start making charcoal rubbings. And those people are such bad tippers.
  •  

  • I'm not a huge fan of the Breathe line - the products seem to lose their top notes quickly, leaving you (well, me) with the generic base goop smell - but when I smelled the "Calm" Deep Nourishment Body Cream, I was swept up into some memory that I can only barely remember, and I could hardly let the key go, even with its $10 price (originally $16.50). I don't know what or when this mixture of "deeply hydrating shea butter" and "lotus blossom fragrance" is triggering, but at least the jar is pretty. (For some reason the website shows a beige jar. It's actually cerulean blue.)
  •  

  • Oh, the bummer that was the paucity of Les Couvent des Minimes offerings! Only the lotions were on sale. (Oh, and the soaps, but I can't deal with soap - this would require  finding a perfect soap dish and so far this hasn't worked out. Believe me, I've got a bucket of Primal Elements soaps nervously fretting in the wings over this.) I love the shea/honey line, so I got the Honey & Shea Moisturizing Body Milk. Eight dollars, originally $16. I don't quite regret it now - the need to moisturize isn't going to go away - but this is another product that should normally be under ten dollars. I do believe in paying more for quality products, that's why I go to the sale at all, but much of B&BW seems overpriced, and some of these new lines (e.g. True Blue) aren't "pretty" enough to be forgiven for aesthetic reasons.
  •  

  • I did get one holiday item, but it's not on the site. It is the gift 3-pack of Egg Nog, Gingerbread, and Chocolate "products," where "products" stands for "bubble bath / shower gel / shampoo" all in one. Normally I don't trust combo items, but 40% discount + egg nog scent = !!!.
  •  

  • And finally, THE TRIUMPH! The raison d'comprar. (That's Franish or Spench for "I don't remember the French verb for 'to shop.') All of the Tutti Dolci moisturizing souffles are almost half off at $10 each! All of them, even the ones not marked down on the website. Hooray! And not only did I get to add Creme Brulee to my existing collection (of Lemon Meringue and Cinnamon Frosting), but I got my new fave, Apple Torta, the last one they had in stock, and for some reason it was only $9.50. (Oops, I just remembered that I forgot to check these two to make sure they were never opened, a necessary step with any purchase at B&BW, I'm afraid. Oh well. Doesn't matter. Apple Torta souffle for $9.50! Surely a sign of its imminent discontinuance.)

So, it was fun with a capital "0% APR on my Amazon Visa until April," and I'd like to thank ScaryShari again for reminding me of the sale. Maybe it's been twenty years since my last visit to a hair salon and I've never had a professional manicure, but damnit if I won't be soft-skinned and lightly fragrant. Some fat women overcompensate with shoes - me, I shall be known by my irresistible brazil nut elbows and my fetching creme brulee knees...

28 December 2005 |

Previously: The HUX of It

Comments

ScaryShari

Hopefully by now you received my email confessional about my own B&BW spree! *grin* You're the only person to get so many details, because I'm now so backlogged in my blog that I know I won't confess as much THERE! So enjoy your inside information. ;) BTW, I did end up going to The Body Shop as well, after all. Not nearly as big a sale, though.

Anyway, I'm off to breakfast. So far my only blog update now is about my mega-buy of the year: a LAPTOP! (Kinda like your "Baby, that's a $700 camera.") But I'll blog more soon, confession included. ;D I hope you and the hammies have been having a good week, and that your New Year Eve is fun and safe as well!

Shari

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The HUX of It

Whereas I'm enjoying doing little but reading and reading and reading (Narnia, Bill Maher, various popular light novels such as Diana Lively is Falling Down and The Perils of Sisterhood, non-fiction demi-ex-po-zays - so spelled because I can't be bothered to make the accent - on Disneyland, outdated Dave Barry, good-for-you Oprahesque stuff, an iffy anthology of short Gothic fiction , a few cookbooks, not to mention the audio books and a little Al Franken and a lot of "remastered" Ariel, plus the appropriately sleep-inducing Briar Rose), the following To Do list is getting more pushy by the hour:

  • Grade a jillion essays turned in right before break (because I'm an idiot)
  • Prepare to grade a jillion more essays before the end of the semester because I gave the students an option to turn in their essay after the break if they added various stuff to it (because I'm an idiot)
  • Come up with lesson plans for the next few weeks and figure out which stories need to be photocopied for 100+ students on short notice (because I'm an idiot)
  • Write four midterms to be submitted to my boss for approval upon return from break. And they have to be so enormous that the students don't have time to finish them because it's murder trying to get everyone to stare at the walls after their exams are done while the last few people finish (because I'm an idiot).

Note: I'm not really an idiot. Just a doofus.

I don't want to think about it. I would never say I'm in the wrong job... just that I wish I were better in math. Teaching math seems to be all lecture and facts and endless practicing via worksheets. With English, I feel like we have to go on some kind of literature or writing safari-rama every day, complete with sing-a-longs and props and....

...ooowwwww my head hurts. I'm beginning to salivate at the thought of my lit classes getting booted for our new regime next year. Then I can teach things with textbooks! And there will be enough books for everyone! I can be "lame" and say things like, "read chapter 11 and answer the questions at the end." Oh, swoon.

But that's next year.

Anyway. I've decided that I'm going to do the once-laughable and apply for summer term at University of California D. Hills and finish my grad work there. Which is to say online, through their external Humanities degree program. No more jerking awake every two minutes in a face-to-face class. It means writing a thesis, but I'll live.

Well, not quite, I've signed up for one more UniNevLasVeg class, for Spring. I'll probably drop it. I should take the $500+ to the casino instead, really, and save us all some time. (But not to the new South Coast casino because a) it's really ugly, b) the staff is indifferent at best, and c) I lost $13 there today as part of my Boxing Day Driveabout, and they didn't give me a t-shirt when I signed up for the slot club card because apparently I joined the affiliated Barbary Coast's club many years ago, and never mind that I've never done more than walk through BC, pausing for a few minutes to admire Big Elvis.)

It's just that it's the one class I've been looking forward to since I first decided to go to UniNevLasVeg. And, I can transfer it. Who knows - maybe this semester my whole attitude will change. It looks like this professor doesn't grade on participation, so if I'm nearly-dead in class but still doing the reading and thinking, perhaps I'll be just fine. But I'll apply to HUX anyway - it's "only" a matter of writing one more ill-afforded check then gathering the one billion required transcripts. It's "only" a huge slap in the face to every hoop I jumped through for over a year to prepare for UniNevLasVeg.

Mutter.

Anyway, this post has a point (!) and the point is that I must have the New Year's Resolution spirit because I'm being optimistic enough to 1) acknowledge that I'm hiding in terror from my angry inches of paperwork and planning, and 2) publicly woot about my new plan for finishing (or even getting past the quarter-past mark) grad school.

I suspect it will all end in chocolate. Rather win-win, I suppose...

27 December 2005 |

Previously: Merry Christmas

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Merry Christmas

Seasons greetings to everyone who reads this. This is more or less my favourite time of the year - all optimism and melancholy and feasting and suspense - I love it!

And speaking of suspense, Mike outdid himself this year by getting me something I've wanted for, oh, about eight years, a pretty little waffle iron! Furthermore, I had zero clue that's what I was getting... I've had various waffle irons on and off the wishlist for so many years that I'd forgotten it was there. But then on Friday I came home from Whole Foods and started lamenting not getting any pancake mix and why hadn't I ever gotten around to buying a waffle maker? There was a very short silence on the other end of Skype, completely unremarkable other than it was taking up the space where I usually expect Mike to be saying "mm hmm." And in that instant... I knew! Or thought I knew....

...and later, when I realized that his present couldn't be a DVD or book (because he had gone through a third party), I was 95% sure. Yipyipyip! I couldn't stop giggling, and had to beg Mike to distract me from mentally scrolling through my wishlist, and all the while he was yelling, "honey, STOP!" which made me giggle more...

So on Saturday I crawled off the sofa, where I've been wallowing in the luxury of reading ever since coming back from Disneyland (see, I fooled you again, faithful readers, and have already gone and returned), and bought some "accessories," namely three kinds of waffle mix suitable for what I hoped would be a griddle of justice awaiting me under the wrapping paper. (If you get that reference and it makes you laugh, you're my kind of person.)

And YES - it was indeed a waffle iron, and I was so happy to be right and to be so surprised. And the waffles are delicious but photos will have to come later. The only problem with the new camera is that it's so fast that you end up taking five billion more photos than you ever did before. Witness yesterday when I took 778 photos of the hamsters. That's more photos than I took at Disneyland. It takes time to cull through these things. (I've not even gotten the first third of D'land up on Flickr.)

However, I do have handy a photo of what Secret Santa gave me - HOORAY FOR SECRET SANTA! He broke the chain of bad-Santa'ing! He also spent too much money on me - naughty, generous fellow - but I won't complain because I'm too happy. I've never read the Narnia books before, and now I have all of them - this is an English lit geek's dream. (I did see the movie while at Disney and thought it was great, although some of the allegory felt a little too obvious. Maybe that wouldn't have been the case if I hadn't known about it.)

Anyway, thank you Secret Santa! Thank you very much! Below is a photo featuring the Narnia box set along with some holiday plush (recently and hastily used to decorate my classroom), some impressive pins made by some special students at our school, and the wrapped package that once held my wonderful waffle-heart maker.

Festiloot

And yes, I did get some things for myself. Namely a set of "retro" cocoa from Disneyland plus two handpainted cups from Anthropologie (on sale for $4 from $14) and a big, blank, velvet-covered book titled "The Contessa's Diary" by "Gabriella Luna," also from Anthropologie and also on sale ($14 from $22). I haven't had a blank book in so long, and this one is so BIG and has such a fun cover - I can't wait to fill it up. Maybe that's where I'll put all of the things I can't quite bring myself to say here. (So, yeah, if you decide to break in, leave the electronics alone and go straight for the purple book to find out just exactly what I think about so-and-so!)

The cocoa, when blended with ice and organic non-homogenized milk-in-a-glass-bottle, makes a heavenly YooHoo concoction, by the way. Here it all is:

de Moi

I really wanted this post to share Happy Hamidays from the little furred ones, but I'm torn whether to have one post full of slow-loading images or one reasonable post and another post full of slow-loading images. Hm. What the heck, it's Christmas, let's all crowd in at once!

And so, Merry Hammas to one and all from...

Bode in the Cottage
Bode

Coal - What Is This?
Coal

Elizabeth Joy Tucked In
Elizabeth Joy

Feta Invincible
Feta

Wakening the Hammond
Hammond
who should not have been woken

Helix Follows Footsteps
Helix

Janet in the Walnut Field
Janet

Maudine Climber
Maudine
who isn't fooled by the fleecy veil

Milkdrop Peeps
Milkdrop

Marshmallow Jam
Toss, Almond, and Henry

Tumble Will Crack the Case
Tumble

Sparrow Greets the Reindeer
Sparrow

Peter on the Housetop Click Click Click
Peter

and

Owl with Santa Bear
Owl

~HO HO HO~

26 December 2005 |


Comments

Scary Shari

"Have a Merry Shari Christmas"! ;) I know, it's corny, and you don't even pronounce your name like I do, but I couldn't resist singing it anyway. Mainly because it sounds like your Christmas was, indeed, very merry!

I'm so glad that your Secret Santa not only didn't flake, but splurged and got you the whole Narnia set. That's very cool - you deserve it! :) I only read 3 of the books when I was younger: "The Lion, The Witch...", "The Magician's Nephew" and I forgot the other. It sounds like Mike's waffley gift was also a big hit.

It's just as well you snuck to Disneyland and back without a northerly side trip, because I was sick with a nasty virus since last Thursday and only yesterday broke the fever. :( So it's a good thing I didn't persuade you to come up here to the Bay Area, as I couldn't have played cheerful tour guide after all. Anyhoo, I hope you had a blast as usual at Disneyland. :) I look forward to seeing more of your pix at Flickr.

Speaking of pix, your hamsters are SO CUTE!! I kept scrolling up and down in this blog entry, looking at them. I was going to comment on which pix were my favourites, but then I gave up, because you made it too hard! ;D However, I do have a "caption" suggestion for all the pix in which the hammies are interacting with the festive gingerbread house. I can totally imagine them squeaking: "What? This thing isn't edible? I want my money back!!" *giggle*

Here's to a New Year that's just as happy as Christmas was!
- Shari

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The 12ish Days Before Christmas

So, I commented in another post about how I screwed up the gift-giving this year and everything ended up lame and inadequate, but maybe it's only compared to how it was supposed to be.

Mom and Dad

Yes, I really did send them a fruitcake. But it wasn't just any fruitcake - it was an Assumption Abbey cake, made by Trappist monks in Missouri. Furthermore, my mother likes fruitcake, so lay off.

This is not the part where you write in and tell me but-but-but Collin Street Bakery has the best fruitcake in the world! The best, Shari, the best!

Look, I lived in Texas for 19 years and I hated fruitcake for every one of them, all thanks to the Lone Star State's strange devotion to CSB. Then I tasted some properly boozy cake a year or two ago and thought, "now, hold on, maybe there's a reason people eat fruitcake." It wasn't great - I think it came from Wal-Mart, so there you go: for some of us, Wal-Mart has tastier fruitcakes than the inexplicably-much-revered CSB.

Of course, it's all a matter of personal taste. I'm just saying that if you don't like fruitcake, perhaps it's because you haven't been paired with your true soulcake yet. An article from Cook's Illustrated concurs, but that link is members only. Actually, I don't know why I'm linking to CI - they're bafflingly overrated, too, often ignoring major brands or possibilities in their tasting labs, and they've got a real hate-on for non-stick pans, ignoring the fact that not all of us need non-stick for meals that require perfect browning. Anyway, some excerpts from the article:

"For our tasting, we ordered fruitcakes from five popular sources--Assumption Abbey, Butterfield Farms, Collin Street Bakery, Gethsemani Farms, and Harry and David--all of which have been selling fruitcake for more than 80 years. (Then CI discusses how people who like traditional fruitcake like Assumption Abbey best, and those who like their fruitcakes to be as non-fc as possible like Butterfield Farms.)

"Assumption Abbey Fruitcake, baked by Trappist monks in Ava, Missouri, weighs 2 pounds and comes in a tin. [...] This fruitcake received more first-place votes than any other we sampled, largely because no one element was overpowering. The liquor (rum), spices, and fruit all worked well together.

"Collins Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas, has been baking fruitcake since 1896. [...] One of only two fruitcakes in our sample that did not include liquor in its ingredients, it was by far the nuttiest, with pecans making up more than 27 percent of its weight. Tasters who like pecans liked the cake; those who don't found the nutty confection bland and lacking in interest. It was uniformly criticized for its large quantity of red and green glacéed cherries; seasonal though they may be, these bright colors struck tasters as "alarmingly" artificial."

Mike says, "but I like the green cherries." I agree - much as I detest CSB cake, they shouldn't be counted off for festive green cherries. And maybe their cake wouldn't be so bad (to me, where "bad" = "dry and flavourless") if it had a nice whiskey sauce. My mom made a wonderful whiskey sauce one year which led to a wonderful picture, but I don't have a scanner anymore so I can't share it. Maybe I'll do the pathetic "take a photo of a photo" thing and tell the story later.

But anyway - how did Mom and Dad like it? I don't know. Dad never types more than one word in chat if he can help it (and yet he keeps the phone line tied up so this is what we're left with), but he typed good words, at least. "Nice" and "we like" come to mind. Which could all be a lie. We'll never know. But getting a fruitcake baked in an abbey by monks surely sets the seasonal mood, whether you like the taste or not, and that's the point.

I couldn't think of what else to get my parents. Other than cash or crown jewels, I can think of no tangible item on the planet they don't already have or would only resent as their new home is already bursting with worldly goods from years of living in larger spaces. So (and here I'm banking on them not reading the site), I got them gift cards for two restaurants and one hair salon. Which they will probably also resent since they don't even do presents or cards anymore, if I interpret current family policy correctly. Present-buying was always Mom's thing, and now that she can't drive... But I wanted to give them something, this being the first Christmas where I have lived so far away that I need one of those fancy aeroplanes to see them. We'll see.

Mike

Mike didn't get anything with green cherries. If it were easier to shop online in Australia, maybe he would have, but it isn't easy at all. I could send him flowers, get him a book from Dymock's, or buy him a DVD. That's about it. Anything else has to be mailed from out of country. Here's how things went down this year:

  1. I got this great idea for something I wanted to make for Mike.
  2. I started making it.
  3. I needed to "order some parts," which I planned to do and have ready for a marathon creativity session over Thanksgiving.
  4. I got sick, then sick again, and I never seemed to sleep, and the last thing I had was enough sparkle and whimsy to accomplish either part of #3.
  5. I was really disappointed.
  6. Meanwhile, I had decided to get Mike some DVDs of my three favourite Christmas movies to go with the gift.
  7. However, one of them - the one I really thought he needed to have - wasn't available at EzyDVD, the place for buying DVDs online in Australia.
  8. But then it suddenly it was! It was special order and required two weeks' notice. I planned my ordering time accordingly.
  9. And then it was no longer available.
  10. And I said, "screw it, I'll get the DVDs here with my free Amazon two-day shipping and put them in with the homemade gift, that way I can wrap them and everything." (Yes, Mike can play NTSC Region 1 DVDs on his computer's DVD player. P.S. Regional encoding is archaic; how much longer do we have to put up with this? Who hasn't hacked their DVD player to accept all regions? Okay, I haven't, but I will if I ever need to.)
  11. So I ordered them.
  12. Except then I didn't make the gift.
  13. Around this time, I saw that HMV is now online in Australia, and The Movie was there!
  14. So I ordered the first two movies from EzyDVD (less expensive) and the third movie from HMV, and I told Mike about how he was just getting what were supposed to be side dishes for Christmas because I failed to create the stunning main course.
  15. Mike, being Mike, assured me that all would be well.
  16. I bummed around EzyDVD again, trying to find something that Mike would like as opposed to something I just wanted to share because I liked it.
  17. AHA!
  18. I placed another order with EzyDVD. I mean, it wasn't a brilliant choice, but at least I know he sort of wants to see it.
  19. The other DVDs arrived. Now I had a set and he had a set.
  20. I had Mike open them early, because the whole point is that they're movies meant to establish a Christmasy mood. If you wait until Christmas to open them, the season is already over.
  21. Result: Mike is happy, but I still wish I'd done the homemade thing. It's on the burner.

You may be wondering which three movies I thought Mike just had to have for Christmas. They are three of my favourites that I don't think I can ever get through the holidays without, and every year I have been appalled that Mike hasn't seen them, especially the first one. They are:

I know - can you believe he never saw Miracle on 34th Street?! I tried to watch it with him last night, but I was sleepy and we were having this weird thing that always happens: no matter how much we synch our DVD play, Mike's copy always runs ahead of mine, and he keeps having to pause so I can catch up, which he takes stoically but I get annoyed on his behalf. Does the PAL format play movies faster than NTSC? This is just so bizarre, and it's been happening for years, and even letting me get a little ahead does little to prevent it.

It's just as well that I fell asleep, because you know that scene where Santa starts talking to the Dutch girl? I can't remember the last time I made it through that part without crying big girly sobs. She's an orphan at Christmastime, with no one to talk to, until Sinterklaas surprises everyone by bursting out into Dutch. Wow! As he shares a traditional tune with the now-delighted young girl. we finally have proof that the whole world is going to be okay. And where is that girl now? I bet she heads a major company that finds jobs and fleece blankets for the homeless.

(Luckily, the scene cuts away before she asks uncomfortable questions about Zwarte Piet or any of Father Christmas' other discomforting companions.)

Anyway, Mike watched it whike I was asleep and liked it, so everyone's happy. This is twice now I've foisted black and white on him (he recently saw Ed Wood), and he's survived both events gracefully. Maybe watching "Lost," with all of its B/W symbolism, has helped. (Did you see how back in November the winning Irish lottery numbers were 4 8 15 16 23 24? Ooo.)

Secret Santa

My Secret Santa victim will have received her gift by now, so hopefully she'll be pleased. (She hasn't blogged for over a month, but I have great faith in Amazon's two-day shipping.) My Secret Santa hasn't made his or her move yet - ooo, the anticipation! I know because I make Mike look at my wishlist to see if anything has shifted to the "purchased" side other than what he is giving me. (I'm not allowed to look at the list, even with holiday filtering on. This is Mike's annual foray into laying down the law, and of course it's, like, totally hot.)

And when I say "ooo, the anticipation!" re my Santa, it's really on two levels. On the first level: "ooo, the anticipation - I can't wait to find out what Santa decides to get!" I put all kinds of things I want on my list this year, so I'm genuinely excited to see what happens. I don't know what to "root" for - it's all good.

Then, on the other, darker, moldier level: "ooo, the anticipation - I wonder if I will be burned again and get NOTHING because 50% of the time my Santas have abused the wonderful Secret Santa system!" See, Paul McGrath (2003 offender) and Angry Snatch (2001 offender) have left long scars. If I have to spend the drive to California next week playing "How to Speak Dutch" CDs just to get my Christmas spirit back, I'm not going to be happy. And neither will Pere Fouettard, the butcher who murdered three children and now, in atonement, follows St. Nicholas everywhere to help threaten the Naughty List contenders with switches. (I guess we do have it good in America, with only lumps of coal to worry about. At least you can draw with it!)

So, yeah, anticipation abounds, which is exactly what I want to experience this time of the year. Anticipation of a little Amazon loot, a bit of snow (the ski resort just opened for the year here, something to keep in mind if you come to Vegas and run out of nickels), some hot chocolate, and everyone in a good mood, relaxed and smiling. (If we had peace on earth, what would we blog about?)

All that, and Katherine Hepburn as Queen Eleanor saying, "I even made poor Louis take me on Crusade. How's that for blasphemy? I dressed my maids as Amazons and rode bare-breasted halfway to Damascus. Louis had a seizure and I damn near died of windburn... but the troops were dazzled."

19 December 2005 |


Comments

Scary Shari

I was about to excitedly ask "What drive to California next week"? but then my medium-term memory kicked in and I remembered you're going to Disneyland for Christmas. :)

Sounds fun; hopefully there will be good weather for you, and not many crowds. Did you indulge in the 3-day tourist trap pass? (Err... I mean the 3-day park pass?)

I wish I lived in SoCal instead of NorCal so we could attempt a meeting of the [Shari] minds, since it didn't work out the other month in LV. I don't suppose your Calif foray will take any sidetrips up to the Bay Area, eh? :) If it did, I'd love to play tour guide! I mean that sincerely. (There's a lot more to the area than seafood in San Francisco, silicon chips in San Jose and surfer dudes in Santa Cruz!)

Shari

P.S. Sorry your Secret Santa is lagging. :( There isn't much more time to shop! Hopefully he/she will get on the ball! I noticed the number of items on my wish list dropped by one, but I didn't see WHAT was missing. I put my hand/arm over the screen, in case one of the missing items was near the top of my list. I'm sure I looked pretty lame - but at least I didn't spoil the surprise! (LOL)

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No, I'm a *Delighted* Duck

I am a duck! That's what the MAD magazine game used to say. "You are a duck! Act like one. If you are a good duck, lose all your money." Or something like that. Or was it "You are rock!" Yes, it was definitely rock. Not duck. I used to live for the "you are a rock" card. And I really loved that game.

But today I am a duck, and I'm pretty sure I've typed enough plain text so that the opening screen of this site doesn't just display HTML. (Come to think of it, I may have fixed that problem awhile back. Hm. I don't know - I may be a duck but I'll always be a rock, too.)

duck

Found in many lakes and ponds, ducks are a common site the world over. Known for their famous quack, ducks tend to congregate in flocks or go off on their own in pairs.  As a duck, you may seem friendly at times but will not hesitate to bite if someone is bothering you. Your love for travel and your ability to swim are some reasons why you are a duck.

Absolutely!

I was almost a Frog or a Bear Cub. I am least like a Puppy or a Groundhog.

What are you?

via Squirrelly Shari

18 December 2005 |


Comments

Scary Shari

If I have to take a break from being Scary Shari, then Squirrelly Shari it is! ;) I was amused at how most of the squirrel description sounded like me. (Not all, but most!)

Plus I've become something of a squirrel-watcher, as they moved into my tree-loaded townhouse complex a few years ago and have been multiplying since. (Mostly grays and a few blacks, the latter being more aggressive. I don't know why!)

BTW, since you actually took the Cute Animal Quiz, would you mind posting a comment in my blog with your results? :) It's the easiest way for me to see everyone's results in one place. (You don't have to quote the whole duck thing, as my friend Nicole the duck already did that.) I just love to see how people turn out in these quizzes. Simple mind; simple pleasures, eh? Or rather, squirrelly mind! *smirk*

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Whispers of a Hard New Love

I put it off, I put it off, and then I did it. My god, I did it.

I finally installed the new hard drive. Okay, for anyone else who's waffling over saving a bunch of money by purchasing a "bare drive" versus getting an easy-to-pop-in flavour - my advice is "get the bare drive." Installation is not that hard.

I used to be really macho about hardware. I liked the feeling of command one gets from stripping down a system, massaging a motherboard, and shuffling it all back together again, ideally in an embarrassingly short period of time. Maybe I liked it because when I first got a DOS machine I would freak out if anyone took me out of the shell. WHAT IS THAT FLASHING C-COLON-BRACKET? NO, DON'T TYPE ANYTHING! IT'S ONLY SUPPOSED TO RUN WORDPERFECT! STOP! STOP! (Wait, you have games and BBS software? Tell me more.)'

So, once I got over that, I had my case off every other day. I was always moving around disk drives (boy did I feel buff with a 5.25 and a 3.5!) and changing cards and replacing cables and wondering why I was the only person on earth with SIPP chips, but that's another story. Replace a hard drive? EASY-PEASY!

But I won't pretend I ever really liked messing with hard drives. The stupid rails. The stupid screws. The stupid cables that never seem to quite stretch. The stupid jumper settings. The stupid "no, I'm the master, you're the slave drive! No, you're the slave drive!" conversations. The stupid reinstallation of Windows with the stupid re-authenticating of Windows with (recently) the stupid five billion absolutely critical system updates for Windows that must be downloaded and installed before roaming gangs of malicious pings find your vulnerable machine. And, of course, the stupid files you think you've backed up somewhere convenient but... shyeah... right.

So it'd been a few years since I've had to install or replace a hard drive, and I'd never done it on a laptop. The idea of installing a "bare drive" spooked me. I had this idea of squicking around with tiny little screws and rails and, basically, everything that was annoying about hardware from ten years ago, except in miniature size and jumbo frustration formats. I don't know why I didn't give time + advances in technology the benefit of the doubt; maybe because Dell does sometimes make you rip out the motherboard for what should be rather simple procedures. But this is not one of those times.

No, replacing a hard drive on a Dell Insprion 8200 (yeah, "old," but very good) is a piece of angel food cake!

  1. Unscrew the HD "capsule" and pull it out of the computer. (one screw)
  2. Unscrew the HD proper from its capsule, pop out, place aside. (four screws)
  3. Remove the rectangular pin cover from the old drive and place it on the pins of the new drive. (in this case, the exact same place)
  4. Pop the new drive into the capsule and reattach the screws.
  5. Push the HD capsule back into the computer.

Admittedly, I screwed up number three a little. I'm just too rough (plus lately sick, exhausted, and impatient), and for the first time in my life I bent some pins. The shame! Luckily they were the pins on the old drive, and I didn't bend them much. Probably only enough to kill it, but it was on the verge of death since July, anyway. It'd gotten to where I couldn't reboot the computer (the odds of coaxing it back on within an hour if at all were slim), I couldn't go into Windows Explorer (twenty minutes to change directories?), and everything else was just slow.

Now everything's fast! My new drive is 7200rpm (as opposed to the 5400rpm downgrade I settled for when buying the computer three years ago). My new drive is 80 gig (as opposed to the 40 gig that was always nearly full). New new drive is quiet (but then the old drive was probably this quiet back in the day). My new drive is cold (so far, the legendarily noisy Inspiron 8200 fan has come on very rarely). My new drive is an Hitachi Travelstar TK100, and so far I highly recommend it. And I highly don't recommend spending an extra hundred bucks or so for a drive to already come in the capsule with the pin cover in place.

For all the "bleh" associated with starting over with a new drive, assuming you really do start from scratch and don't ghost/etc., it's really nice to have this fresh canvas, free of the artifacts of a jillion removals and installations.

So, despite a runny nose and sinus headache and an oppressive but unrealized-while-convalescing-yet-again-stupid-student-germs need to clean up a very messy house and a just as messy car, and despite not yet knowing if there will be any maddening Skype sound issues (Mike's having a post-all-day-cricket nap), I'm extremely pleased to have finally gotten around to this. Now that I can turn the laptop off, I can actually take it places again!

P.S. Another nice thing about fresh HD starts is that you get around to updating your apps and trying new things. Wow, Firefox 1.5 kicks the snot out of whichever version I had on the old drive, and I already loved that version. I've also switched to the "Pluto" theme by the guy who made my previously beloved "Neptune." Nice.

18 December 2005 |

Previously: 7 Things

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7 Things

I'm stealing the 7 Things Meme from You Know Who. I might even steal some of her answers. Ooo - the ethical crossroads churned by the availability of copy and paste!

One query, though: Why doesn't the 7 Things Meme have seven questions? I'm going to add one!

7 things I say most often

  • "I mean..."
  • "Why?"
  • "yeah" (common variant: "yeah!")
  • "Who's a little Tumblekins?"
  • "I HAVE TO SLEEP! Oh my God! This is how people are reprogrammed by small Asian governments! No one is supposed to be sleep-deprived for three months! I MUST SLEEP! I'm going to die!"
  • "I'll be right back." / "Sorry I was so long."
  • "Can you go to Wikipedia for me?"

7 things I'd like to do before I die

  • finally become fluent in some other language
  • get down to a normal (read: athletically uninhibited) weight
  • become an astrophysicist
  • become a better teacher
  • take over two dozen breathtaking photographs
  • remember everything (pleasant) that I don't realize I've forgotten
  • see my boyfriend again

7 things I can do

  • charm children by teaching them how to make those paper dolls that are all holding hands in one long line (you'd be shocked to know the number of kids who can't do this!)
  • count very quickly by threes
  • find places with only one quick consultation of the map at the start of the journey
  • get passionate about stuff, especially if research is involved (I got terribly excited over Dietrich von Choltitz just this week)
  • professionally forge a signature (because Dad used to make signature plates for banking equipment)
  • write good letters
  • tame, befriend, and make happy dwarf hamsters

7 things I cannot do

  • play any sport that has its own footwear
  • sit comfortably in a coach airline seat
  • draw on the right side of my brain
  • trig, calculus, and other maths that come after geometry in high school
  • fly a plane
  • present a research paper to my peers (I can present my own ideas or the research of others, or I can present both to the prof, and I can present anything online, but this one combo eludes me)
  • feed other people using only ingredients, recipes, and the oven

7 things that attract me to the opposite sex

    Someone who...

  • ...is quick-witted and has an (essentially) benevolent sense of humour.
  • ...enjoys thinking/pondering.
  • ...is playful.
  • ...is open-minded (even if reluctantly so).
  • ...has chest hair.
  • ...loves animals.
  • ...can honestly laugh at himself.

7 celebrity crushes

7 traits you admire or respect in 7 specific people or groups (BONUS QUESTION!)

  • Mom: for her sense of silliness
  • Dad: for his interest in new information
  • Mike: for his having been in a bad mood only once in the eight-plus years I've known him, and even that was kind of half-assed
  • Students: for trusting a teacher who is clearly such a flake, and a deliberate flake, at that
  • Extended Family: for not taking my irregular communication personally
  • Boss: for believing that if 38 of your 39 kids are on task, you don't base your evaulation on the 39th kid
  • Co-workers: for not being so bored/inbred that they start "talking smack" about me, even when they say they do

16 December 2005 |


Comments

Scary Shari

Hello from "You Know Who"! ;) I don't think anyone's referred to me that way before, but I like it. (I, on the other hand, have referred to plenty of others that way). *chuckle*

Anyway, thank you for "stealing" the 7 Things Meme. I love how there are always new and interesting things to learn about people by seeing their answers to memes and such.

I especially identify with your answers of taking over two dozen breathtaking photographs ("what I want to do before I die"); writing good letters and befriending hamsters ("things I can do" - altho I'd have to substitute pet rats for hamsters); playing sports, sitting in a coach airline seat and doing any higher math ("things I can't do"); and just about everything for what attracts you to the opposite sex - especially chest hair! ;D Altho I have to add leg hair too. There's not much that turns me off worse than a man with "smooth" legs! :[ Oh, speaking of men, I see we share one of the SAME crushes: Simon LeBon!

BTW, I really like the 7th question that you added to the meme. And you're right -- it's kind of ironic and short-sighted that a "7 Things Meme" would have only 6 questions.

Happy day, and thanks for your recent comment in my blog. :) Yours are always among the best!

Shari

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Feedburner is the Feckin' Devil

Sometimes I think I will do my doctoral work in modern (as in "quite modern, as opposed to what I teach my own students, where we seem to be stuck in 1956") Irish literature. This notion suggests that some days I think I will finish my master's, or even get past the first third of it. Hooray for me and my exhaustion-based optimism.

Until then, I can't really pull off "feckin'" convincingly, but I think it works okay in the title of a post. There's a sort of implied-air-quotes-if-necessary vibe.

Yeah, so I just want to have a quick word with all of you people who THINK you're offering syndication because you have some gobbity account with FeedBurner that makes lots of bitty icons saying "subscribe via Bloglines!" (gag gag) or "add me to My Yahoo!" (hurl).

There are only a billion-jillionish different newsreaders out there, and you folks are trying to take us back to the "Best Viewed in Some Browser 3.0" era. Make a freakin-feckin direct link to your feed, will you? Feedburner's "Universal Subscription Whatever" is hooey. Using Feedburner to make your feed just tells me that you don't actually care about syndication, and I'm suspicious of all bloggers who dismiss the one thing that is probably still bringing me to their blog.

(I really have no other way to read one hundred blogs/craiglists/flickr categories per day in a timely manner, and that's just my essential list.)

So, because I can't seem to guess the XML file for a really terrific site, I'm not going to read it. Do you see what happens? Do you see? (Now getting headers in alt.newspaper.rub.shame.) And I'm not going to change feed readers for the same reason that I didn't switch to IE until the Internet was backwashed with so much incompetent design that IE was the only way to breathe. (To this day I feel dirty about it. Bless you, Firefox.)

Actually, probably I will switch feed readers, as it looks like there are possibly even more interesting options than Sage out there now, much as I love Sage for loading real pages and not just cruddy excerpts of posts or mandatory vanilla versions of sites. But that doesn't let anyone off the hook - if you're using Feedburner, please provide real XML links, not the Gatesian "let us try to think for you" loops of pulled hair. Do it now, chop chop, before I send someone around to confiscate your paid-for copy of Frontpage or perhaps your tiny collection of animated mailbox GIFs that open and shut, open and shut, open and shut.

I'm cranky whenever they hold Thursday on a Wednesday, but please do consider the advantages of a truly universal syndication link. Thank you.)

15 December 2005 |


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Dance, Secret Santas, Dance!

At about 54 minutes past the eleventh hour, Secret Santa once more became a reality.

Actually, at 11:54 I got the message telling me who my Secret Santa was. At 11:57 I got the message saying, "oops, you're one of 50 'lucky' people who received the wrong message, but don't worry, that's not your Santa." Then at 12:04 I became a Secret Santa, and thank goodness, because it's not like I've managed to buy anything anybody likes so far in this shopping season. This is my last chance!

I only have two units to shop for (one boyfriend unit and one parental unit combo), and I've stuffed both up with either heartfelt lameness (for the parents, who have everything they need and aren't giving presents themselves and seldom leave the house except to hit the cafeteria, and never use any of the presents I give them, so I finally gave up) or heartfelt mediocrity (for Mike, who was supposed to get a wonderful homemade gift, but somebody seems to spend her weekends sleeping and recovering from her still-kinda-new teaching career, and now it's cutting it too close for global priority mail). So, getting some stranger something they want is my one chance to do this right.

And I assume my own Secret Santa is out there reading this, and to kind sir or madam, I shall say the following right now:

  • Thank you!
  • Sorry that my front page takes awhile to load. The excessive Flickr linking has become laggy. I've become one of those people who forces too many 75x75 random photos upon visitors rather than provide engaging word-based content. Maybe I should fix that. Or maybe I should pretend it's a photoblog with bonus text.
  • I hope there is something in my six "available" items priced $15 and under on the wishlist from which you'll enjoy choosing. It's always nice when you can relate a little to the gift you are giving, I think. Me, I'm going to be pleased with any of them - you can't go wrong!
  • Thank you! (remix)

Now, as for my own victim, I won't link to her site until after the hols, but here are her three items of desire (she is apparently more decisive than I am):

  1. Only the Ring Finger Knows - ships in 24 hours - paperback story of two schoolgirls with anime artwork
  2. Harry Potter 2006 Goblet of Fire calendar - ships in 6 to 11 days
  3. Socrates in Love - ships in 24 hours - new hardcover with no description

Hm. Well, #2 would have been my first choice. I'm a Potter fan, and calendars are something you can enjoy all year. But, sometimes the fun of Secret Santa is exploring gifts that you've never heard of or never would have given.

For example, I'm not an anime fan (Kimba memories aside), so #1 would be new territory. Mike could spend the rest of the season taunting, "You supported someone's anime habit! You supported someone's anime habit!" Except that's not how Mike taunts. Actually, Mike doesn't really taunt. Wow, I really wish Australia had an Amazon branch so I could easily get him something better that doesn't come with "can't be shipped out of the country" warning labels. Now I feel bad. Let's leave Option #1 behind.

I think #3 is the best bet. It's hardcover, for one thing, which feels more festive. And the cover almost has a snowy floral design. I think I like it because it's mysterious. What is it about?! Is it the real Socrates?! Is he really in love?! See, this is clearly the most intriguing gift.

I have often based my non-Secret Santa-shopping around the Amazon Super Saver shipping deal. You know, where if you spend $25, it ships for free. If the person I was buying for wanted something for $15, I might think, "Well, I can spend $5 on shipping... or I can spend $10 on another present for this person and not pay shipping, so it's really like spending only $5 more, and maybe the person would rather have two presents than have one present that was gift-wrapped."

Unfortunately, I have yet to get a Secret Santa person whose wishlist has allowed me to easily tip the scale in their favour, and this year is no exception. My person's wishlist of Amazon items (as opposed to Target or Art.com items) is rather small (in fact, that's pretty much it above), so maximizing their pleasure via Super Saver Shipping isn't going to work. Unless I also foist something upon them that they didn't ask for - now that's a fun possibility, too. Spirit of sharing and all that. Here, have your desired Japanese book and... a nice set of unsolicited windchimes!

Well, c'mon, it would be unexpected, especially if she's the "cheating" type who peeps to see what's been purchased before it arrives. So maybe I will do that. Or probably I won't - I'd hate to give (yet another) somebody something they hate, even if they also got something they wanted.

It's nice to consider these options, though, because it keeps me from having to get up off the sofa and start grading until midnight tonight and redoing lesson plans in the new style the boss wants, which is what I really need to do. And just typing them here on the blog takes up even more time - hooray for procrastination!

Anyway, clearly I'm having fun with the Secret Santa'ing, so mission accomplished. (I hope my own Secret Santa - pity we can't abbreviate that to SS without feeling weird - is also having a good time and not thinking, "wow, she likes boring stuff, what a sad shopping experience for me.")

For no particular reason, a Summary of (Thinkblank.com) Secret Santaness from years past (i.e. a chance to link to some other people to read, since this post is over and it's Sunday and I really do once again have two feet of papers to grade by tomorrow and not nearly enough chocolate to get past the first inch)

YearGaveReceived
2004 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for Cathy Splendid Slippers from ... argh, when I thanked him, it was before I knew who he was, so I didn't link him. Now I'm cross. I promise I will do better by this year's Santa. Anyway, this was a great book, so thanks again, "nice man who took great photos of sunsets that I know are somewhere on Flickr." Wait, no, found him!
2003 Amelie for Umi Nothing, because my Secret Santa was some guy who sent me an email on Christmas saying he forgot to check his email, then didn't want to send something to close to the holidays ("because it could get lost in the post"), and that he would send something the second week of January, but then he didn't. I'd link to any of his three websites and do the Amish-style shaming thing, but they've all gone belly-up, it seems.
2002 NO! for Aaron The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath from ... yikes, that was the year Secret Santa had us find out via the website and I didn't save a copy. It was a cool guy with an interesting blog probably now buried in bookmark archives. Sniff. Sorry, cool guy. I'm still reading (and enjoying) the book.
2001 Innocence and Despair for Denise Nothing, because my Secret Santa was an angst-ridden teenager who couldn't be bothered. Her site was "Angry Snatch" (dot org), which probably says it all.

Okay, now I shall grade! (Just after this episode of Lost.)

12 December 2005 |

Previously: Paging Lane Meyer

Comments

Scary Shari

And here I thought *I* was gleeful about finally getting my Secret Santa recipient's name! And I thought *I* would be the first to blog about it. But alas, my namesake has beaten me on both counts. ;)

But that's OK! I wouldn't have known about the gift exchange at all if not for you. And I am very excited and grateful for that! I love the Secret Santa concept and am glad I can do it online, since I no longer work in an office where I can do it.

If you'll excuse me now, I'm going to ramble about Secret Santa myself. :) Drop by my blog in a few hours and you'll see what I've said about it, and my gift recipient. (My blog entries miss your wise and witty comments! *hint hint*)

Happy day!
Shari

P.S. I wonder if it's too late to add Electronic Battleship to my wish list? *grin*

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Paging Lane Meyer

Because Howard Jones has a weblog, and because I have a weblog and a camera, and because I was mocked when I tried to have HoJo hair [warning: rm file] 21 years ago (damn unruly waves), and because no one is to blame, not even for overplayed Top 40 hits of the same title, I'll be right up front (except kind of to the side and back a row) for Mr. Jones when he comes to town in February.

Another concert! I'm actually becoming one of those people who "goes to concerts and such." It's like being 18 and buying an Astroworld [RIP] season pass all over again.

(I'm still weirded out that I can't remember whether I saw Depeche Mode there or not. Or ever. How do you forget whether you saw Depeche Mode? Then who did I see OMD open for? Please switch the Aricept valve to ON.)

10 December 2005 |


Comments

Scary Shari

I vividly remember seeing Depeche Mode in concert, and with whom, and where, but I can't recall WHEN! *chuckle* It was during one of their U.S. tours a few years ago; that's all I know. I never saw them in the 1980s, but it was like 80s all over again at that show! The same goes for when I saw Duran Duran 1 or 2 years ago -- pure bliss for this nostalgic new wave wannabee! *grin*

On a completely different topic, have you received the name and wish list info of your randomly assigned Secret Santa partner yet? Supposedly the site was supposed to email everyone on Dec. 10, but here it is the 10th, and I've received nothing. :( I actually think that waiting until the 10th to do this is on the late side anyway, and now if they are further delayed... well... I just hope all is OK, because as you know, I love this concept! :) Please let me know when/if you've gotten your Secret Santa recipient's info. Thanks!

Shari

Shari

Looks like the Santas will be swapped at 8 pm PST - can't wait can't wait can't wait!

Depeche Mode would have been late 80s, around the time of "Personal Jesus." I'll have to find an old tour schedule somewhere (now there's a database that needs to be made) and see if they played Astroworld around that time. Still - it's sad that I can't remember the SHOW! Then again, those summers of sitting in the general admission "chigger" seats on the lawn are kind of a blur...

Duran Duran - I saw them in the mid-90s when they had Warren whatshisface filling in. I remember my (former) best friend had seen them around 1987ish(?) and said Simon was kind of a smug jerk. I was so shocked - how could she say that about our beloved Simon?! Should he be punished for his confident mannerisms and sexy countenance? Traitorbitch!

And then I saw them and was, like, oh... yeah... ick. He did seem sleazy. But that was a stadium show - now that they're doing smaller venues (and aren't on the immediate rebound from their heyday) I'd go see them anytime. Yeow baby!

Scary Shari

Simon was my fave too! ;) And John was runner-up. However, I never knew anyone who had any comments about their true personalities -- we always admired them from afar. Being teens in the 80s, I won't even begin to say what "Durannies" I and some of my friends were!

Anyhoo, the show I attended 1 or 2 years ago was a HUGE stadium show, and was very cool, but I'd truly love to see them in a smaller venue. Hey, next time (or if) they play Vegas, let me know! Maybe I can scrape up the money to plan a mini trip around it! :) I definitely won't stay at The Aladdin next time - beautiful but too costly.

Shari

P.S. Thanks for the update on the Secret Santas. Nothing in my email yet, but I'll check tomorrow.

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Hamsters

  CRUISE REPORTS  
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Carnival Spirit (2011)
Carnival Splendor (2011)
Norwegian Pearl to Alaska (2012)