Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Now That's a Public Bathroom

But is charging five pounds enough to keep it nice?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It's Like Ivory, Only Made Out of Harriet

I'm not sure how I feel about this.

Should I be disappointed that I don't have any wisdom teeth? (I never had any--I'm very highly evolved.) Or should I just be glad that no one will be wearing my bone as jewelry?

Friday, December 01, 2006

It's Official

I'm no longer part of the prime demographic. I can't remember where it begins and ends, but I'm fairly certain that, at the ripe old age of 35, I've been booted.

There was a period in my life where I was watching adult TV shows when other people my age were watching "Blossom" or whatever else they had for kids my age. My favorite show got canceled. Every single time.

When "Friends" came out, I liked it, so I was pretty sure it would be canceled. After all, lots smarter shows got canned, and I had liked those, too. But it didn't get canceled, and that's when I realized that I had become a part of the prime demographic--that my age (and therefore my presumed disposable income) meant that my opinion mattered just a little bit more than usual for a very brief period of time.

I know the market is thick with medical mysteries right now, and that "House" is a tough show to beat. I know that most people will probably only allocate one hour to the medical mystery in their weekly TV viewing, and to those people I say, "Of course you must choose `House.'"

And next to House, Stanley Tucci's character (whose name I didn't even have a chance to learn) was barely abrasive enough to warrant mention. But I was still pretty enamored of the show. And when I read of its cancelation yesterday, I realized that my time in the prime demographic is over.

I'm pretty sure after 35 you enter the category of "people who have lots of responsibilities to go with their money and therefore can't be as easily persuaded to part with huge wads of cash for largely irrelevant items." This means we get to sit back and pray that eventually some network will program the equivalent of "Murder She Wrote" in an attempt to win market share by courting the less desirable spenders in the TV audience.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to order some brochures on old folks homes.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

DirecTV is a Gateway Drug

This afternoon I have accomplished the improbable. I have successfully persuaded my DirecTV to stop trying to sell me porn. I'm a geek (I'll pause to let the shock wash over you) and I watch Star Trek. Not all the time (I've seen them all, so there'd be no point in that), but I still enjoy a trek fix from time to time. There's a channel on my DirecTV lineup that specializes in Star Trek. Or at least it used to.

Nowadays when I turn to that channel, I get a lascivious invitation to order a whole lot of porn. I'm not sure how I feel about porn. I know some men who respect women and also happen to consume a whole lot of porn, but frankly, if all other factors are equal, I prefer my men porn-free. Not that I've been given a choice (and all the other factors are so rarely equal).

But I do know that if I have to choose between Star Trek and porn, I'd really rather have the Star Trek. The answer was one of those high-tech solutions that guys go to college for a million years to figure out ("unplug it and then plug it back in"). And my DirecTV is porn free.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I Miss the Lunch Lady

The lunch lady in my college knew the name of every single student. She would use your name every time you came in for a meal. When we went back for reunions, she still knew our names. I have often thought that memory experts should study her. I bet it would be profitable.

But no longer. Now we're just going to fingerprint students and debit their lunch accounts automatically. Big Brother wants your lunch money.

I watch way too much crime tv, so I can't help but wonder who else might be leveraging that gigantic database o' fingerprints (the reason, by the way, that if this happened at my college I'd expect to see a heavily used "opt out" program and perhaps a protest).

Not that it's even a given that they'll manage to store the data in a way that makes it useful for anything but collecting for Tuesday's mystery meat. My company has a biometric scan of my face, and lord knows we spend all day every day trying to get them to do efficient things with their information. The day they manage to do anything useful with my biometric data is the day we all start living in some kind of post-apocalyptic Keanu Reeves movie. (No, not that one. Probably Johnny Mnemonic.)

Anyway, peace out, Sheila. I miss you.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Knicker Vicar

Okay. I'm normally a careful reader, but when I first saw this story, my imagination just took off. I thought the vicar was taking orders and actually buying the ladies their knickers. As an agnostic, this gave me a special thrill. ("Hey, vicar, could you pop over to Frederick's of Hollywood and get me some thongs while you're in town? Yeah, the string bikinis--none of those granny panties you got me last time. Ta!") It was like a tarts and vicars party only better!

As it turns out, he is merely organizing excursions for the purpose of purchasing knickers. Very wise, vicar. After all, the appearance of impropriety is often as bad as the real thing.

I'll come out of the knicker drawer. I've fallen into the habit of buying underwear to cheer myself up. If I were ever truly happy, I'm sure the stock in my underwear drawer would be the first thing to suffer. I think this is a stupendous public service. I know he's not feeding the hungry, but really--this is a community service event I can get behind.

And by the way, for those keeping score, this is another BBC News story with a suspiciously good name--the Vicar's name is Rev Husband.


So this article is bad news for those of us who slave away at a chip plant, although as a carpet-dweller I'd be willing to bet I'm a lot better off than the folks who actually make the company go.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

So many questions...

The Supreme Court also refused to consider whether a Texas law making it a crime to promote sex toys shaped like sexual organs is unconstitutional.

What kind of sting operation is this? Is Texas all out of other crime? If so, shouldn't they be cruising the nation with a "lessons learned" Power Point?

It's illegal to "promote" the toys? Is it okay to manufacture them and own them? And the law only covers toys shaped like sex organs? So do the rubber duckie vibrator or the magic bullet have the Texas seal of approval? (Is there a Texas seal of approval for sex toys? Because I think there might be a market for t-shirts.) Is the idea that you can do what you want in the privacy of your own home as long as we can't deduce, from rifling your nightstand drawer, what you think of as a complete package?

We do all know that we can't tell that from a woman's vibrator, right? I mean, the rabbit is still one of the most popular ones on the market, and it's pink and features oscillating pearls. I think I speak for a fairly large percentage of women when I say we aren't hoping you'll be wearing pearls when your jockeys come off, and oscillating pearls are a wee bit over-the-top. I'm all for a constantly-evolving definition of masculinity, but unless you're Eddie Izzard, you probably want to steer clear of that presentation.

Maybe the point of the law is to protect your husband from feeling inadequate? Would that mean that the point of the law is that ignorance is bliss? ("What's wrong with my wife having a rubber duckie? What? She likes baths, man.")

Also, does the law mean that promoting this to the police officer would have been okay?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Obesity Is Someone Else

Apparently someone took a bathroom scale out on the streets of London and introduced four men to the concept that they were obese. Their reactions are spectacular. They all deny that they're obese. Not one of them thinks the Body Mass Index might have a point. Three of them happily pose for photos to prove they're not obese, one of them with a cheeseburger in his hand.

Now, I'm not saying they look morbidly obese. Most of them look fine. And nobody's saying the BMI is perfect. It's a universal rule of thumb, and as such it's probably going to be wrong once in a while. And hell, the article says that Brad Pitt is overweight according to his BMI. Whatever we may think of Brad, I don't think any of us want to accept that assessment.

But the wholesale denial was fascinating to me. Had they gone out on the street and weighed women, I wonder what the women would have said? My guess is that many of them would have agreed.

I still remember the day I discovered that I was obese. (I've been a healthy weight for 3 or 4 years now. But that first shock sticks with you.) So I can't say I don't identify with these men. And my coworkers were right behind me in my denial. They said, "Katy, there's no way you're obese." The big-boned argument? Yeah, we tried that. We found a test that used your wrist as a measure of your frame size and then adjusted your target weight accordingly. I was still obese.

But never in my life did it occur to me to publicly revile the BMI while holding a cheeseburger. I love the cheeseburger. That's some serious moxie.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Ah, Television, Source of So Much Happiness

I always wanted to watch Dead Like Me, but unfortunately it was originally broadcast on one of them thar premium channels, and I, gentle reader, am an extraordinary cheapskate. Besides, I'm such a telly addict that I can find plenty to occupy my time without HBO.

So when SciFi started broadcasting Dead Like Me, I had my Tivo sign me up. Which leads me to my question.

Is it wrong, d'you suppose, that the romping reapers in the opening credits fill me with a warm satisfaction? Seriously, it's like a burning conviction that all's right with the world. Is it just me?

Of course it is. I knew that.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Wow. Wonder What I'd Be Like Without It

Scientists (British scientists, naturally) have proven that a daily cuppa helps people recover faster from stress.

I love having an addiction that's encouraged by clinical studies.

You know what else I love? The researcher's name is Professor Steptoe. I mean, it's just too perfect, isn't it?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Behold, The Personal Shopper

I never thought I would use the services of a personal shopper. I didn't think I was that kind of girl. There are just certain things you know you'll never attain in life. You know Annette Bening in "The American President," how she can dance gracefully at state functions and make clever jokes in French? Yeah, I'm not that kind of girl, either. I'm not a trophy girlfriend. I'm not a singer (I lipsynch "Happy Birthday"). I'm not the kind of girl you want behind the wheel of a bus that has to go more than 50 miles per hour. I'm not the girl who has the perfect comeback (the perfect comeback comes to me years later).

Besides, I'm a woman, and women like shopping, right? I mean, don't we? Well, okay, yes. I like shopping for certain things--the things I always buy. Funny how that works out. If you send me shopping, I'll shop for what I like, and I'll come home with the same things I've always bought. I have six pairs of jeans and forty t-shirts. It was time to call in the professionals.

Fortunately, Macy's has such professionals. For free. Yes, really. I grant you, these are not the kind of people who are going to make you undress in front of a 360-degree mirror and tear you down so they can build you up. But they are going to help you find something that makes you look fabulous, and it makes more sense than you might think.

If I went looking for something myself--say, a pair of pants that aren't jeans--here's how it would go down:
  1. Pick out 20 pairs of pants.
  2. Try them all on. Even though they are all the same size, some don't come up over the knee.
  3. Cry. Consider liposuction or crash dieting. Resolve to hit the gym.
  4. Go buy something easier to pick out, like underwear or a nightgown, or, better yet, another t-shirt.
With the personal shopper, it's more like this:
  1. Personal shopper presents a rack of whatever you said you were looking for in colors you said you liked.
  2. Personal shopper offers you champagne.
  3. You try on clothes and new things appear based on what fits and what you like.
  4. You have so many choices that you have to weed things out to fit your budget.
Did you notice that there was no crying? The whole thing was a very positive experience. I did not have to feel like I was some kind of freak--like no one makes pants for me because my thighs are misshapen in some new and awful way that scientists might need to study. The whole thing took three hours (if I had been more disciplined it could have been an hour), and I barely exceeded my budget.

Karen, my personal shopper, was warm and friendly and made me feel very comfortable. She brought me many items that were on sale. I got a lot for what I spent, and I feel terrific about everything I bought. I typically buy things one at a time in discount stores, and I'm sure the thrill of the hunt will be irresistible. But there is definitely something to be said for this kind of thing. Everything's up to date. Everything goes together. You can make choices to fill a certain gap in your wardrobe or to match something you have already. And you're not wandering through the store where you can run into another pair of jeans or another t-shirt--your whole trip is goal-oriented, so you're not distracted and can't fall back into your rut. It's not for everybody, but I loved it. I'll definitely go back when I can.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


You know how I spent yesterday hacking away at my front yard? I worked four hours in the morning, then I went out and did another hour in the evening, and then this morning I went out and raked and swept and made things pretty out there. I was feeling like pretty hot stuff. My father's bringing a saw when he comes for Thanksgiving, and then I'll be able to take care of the last two or three things.

Today I went and did some errands, then I got my mail from Saturday. And what do you suppose I have? A nastygram from the HOA. I know, they could not possibly have known on Friday when they sent the nastygram that I was going to spend all day Saturday doing yardwork. But here's the kicker. The nastygram isn't even ABOUT the front yard. It's about the back yard.

So I went out and spent four hours back there, doing what I could. I doubt it meets their requirements for "aesthetically pleasing" but it's at least obvious that I have made a good faith effort. I have ten days to fix it before they fine me, but I can't do anything else without buying equipment, so I'm thinking of just hiring someone to come and finish it. I know they'll overcharge me, but it will be worth it not to dick around with the HOA any more, especially since I'm so tired that I want to die, and I now have three bags of garbage that won't fit into my dumpster, which is already full of thorny bougainvillea refuse.

On the plus side, I'm sure I'll sleep well tonight. On the minus side, my laundry is not done, and I have a 6 a.m. flight tomorrow.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


I live in a townhouse, and in the front of my townhouse there is a plot approximately 18' x 5', which contains some plants. Five. Five plants. Since one of them is a tree and two are hideously invasive, it's quite the nonstop battle out there. Darwin in action, all competition, all the time. Come one, come all! Bring shears.

The population out front is:

1. Some kind of desert sage, clinging to life in a corner and trying not to mix it up with the more aggressive types.
2. One grapefruit tree, which is kind of like the big unpopular kid on the playground. No one's ever going to beat the crap out of him behind the gym, because he's bigger than they are, but "failure to thrive" is his middle name.
3. Some thorny ivy kind of thing with variegated leaves.
4. One dominant, alpha bougainvillea that spends its days kicking everyone else's ass and leering at the neighbors' dog.
5. One henchman bougainvillea that causes the occasional bit of trouble.

The alpha bougainvillea scares the crap out of me. I only went out there this morning to try to knock some sense into it because frankly, the neighbors' dog has enough to worry about and also the flowery crown of the alpha bougainvillea was increasingly visible from my bedroom at the top of the house, so I was afraid it might kill me while I slept. Earlier this year, the alpha bougainvillea tried to stage a coup by blocking the path to the house entirely. I had to hack my way out of the house one morning with a hedge trimmer. Since then, there's been an uneasy detente.

I've been going out there two or three times a week and hacking halfheartedly at this plant or that one, trying to make some sense of the mess my neglect has wrought, but now it was time for serious progress. I resolved to go out there and fill up my dumpster. I felt bad for the neighbors and bad for the grapefruit tree. Armed only with a hand clipper (having made as much progress as I dared with the hedge trimmer), I gloved up and went to work.

Bougainvillea is amazing. First of all, I come from New Mexico, where it actually gets cold, and where if you want a bougainvillea to live, you have to bring it inside in fall and tend to it with a blanket and hot cocoa and gentle encouragement. Not here, boy. Here the suckers grow no matter what you do. You could do ANYTHING to it, and in a year it'd be leering down at you saying, "you thought you could get rid of me? Never!" And then it would laugh like a Bond villain. Over and over today I'd pick some innocuous-looking, slender branch, and I'd think, "Well, this looks like it's headed for the grapefruit tree--I'll just head it off at the pass." I'd cut it off at the plant and then pull--and a branch ten or twelve feet high would emerge from the top of the grapefruit tree, forcing me to hack away at the thing until it fit into the dumpster.

It has been four hours. I have blisters all over my hands. I have scratches everywhere, including my scalp. And there is still one giant alpha bougainvillea stump that's hanging from the grapefruit tree because it is so tangled up way at the top of the canopy that I can't pull it down without a ladder, which I don't have. But that's okay. It can dangle there as a reminder to the alpha bougainvillea not to overreach its bounds again. (And tomorrow, when the leaves have gone limp, it might give up its hold on the tree for me.) There is little more I can do without a saw and a pole trimmer. But sunlight can now penetrate to the floor of the garden (and can I just say, yeeeeuck--that's tomorrow's project).

Oh, and what do you know? There's a sixth plant out there. Hidden in the shade of the alpha bougainvillea was a trumpet vine. As God is my witness, that trumpet vine is going to get a chance to shine. Never again will the alpha bougainvillea kick our asses, trumpet vine. But grow fast, because the grapefruit tree looks like it's getting ornery.

Friday, September 22, 2006

I guess this means no more smiling Bob ads

This is a terrible story about a company that defrauded Americans of millions of dollars, and that's awful, truly. Especially considering that the ads were some of the most memorable ads on television without annoying the everloving bjeezus out of you. Well, at least, they didn't annoy me. Smiling Bob and his 1950's neighborhood cracked me up. And I selfishly enjoyed them, supposing that consumers everywhere were smart enough to know that if there were a genuine naturopathic remedy for whatever it is Bob has (impotence? locker-room anxiety?) it would be front page news.

(Also, it would probably kill you or cause cancer, because, ya know, everything that's good for you now is something that doctors will be warning you about in ten years, with the possible exceptions of fruit, vegetables, and exercise.)

Of course, those were some pretty glossy ads, so I guess I was kind of naive. Clearly they were making enough money to trump a lot of legitimate products--like the battery-operated "light bulb" or the magic broom--in the advertising department.

It was a brazen operation, and it's clearly good that these folks are off the streets. Too bad they didn't use their powers for good, because there are a lot of commercials out there that make me everlastingly grateful for my Tivo remote.

It's like ending a bad relationship that gave you a certain dirty satisfaction. Goodbye, Bob. You were a liar and a scoundrel, but I'll miss you.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Great Ways to Fire Employees

Instant Messenger
>RU Free?
U bet ur a$$ UR.

Set up meetings with all of your employees. The subject of the meeting should be something like, "Company Reorg." People who accept the meetings get to stay. People who decline them (because they "have work to do") should be canned immediately.

The "Thousand Rumors" Method
Spread rumors for ten or twelve months that employees are going to be fired, but that you've hired consultants to tell you exactly how to go about it. Eventually, you won't be able to stop the attrition--and you won't even have to do anything! Make sure they clean out their cubes.

Randomize Your Management
Fire half your managers and promote the other half. Allow no discernible policy to govern which managers get the axe--firings and promotions should befall a mix of incompetents and brilliant managers. Be sure that at least one manager who gets promoted has a history of HR violations. Again, attrition will work for you. Bonus: up-and-coming managers with fresh new ideas leave first.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Don't Do It!

Don't stop ANYWHERE on your way home from a business trip at 7:30. You're tired. You're frustrated. You're in a dangerous mood.

This is how you end up with a trunkful of novels and comfort food. This is how you end up with a Christopher Moore novel, despite the fact that you've repeatedly refused to be seduced by those colorful, spirited covers. This is how you end up with a Mary Janice Davidson novel, in the ultimate triumph of hope over experience (because the last vampire book that you bought was a real non-starter--no humor, no eroticism, nothing fun at all).

This, in short, is how you end up eating gorgonzola gnocchi and tandoori naan in front of "Project Runway."

It's too late for me. Save yourself!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Spain is Anti-Waif

Spain has banned rail-thin models from catwalks at Madrid fashion week. Models with a body mass index under 18 won't get to walk. (18.5 is the low end of the healthy range as determined by the UN.) Designers have until Monday let out their seams--fashion week in Madrid starts September 18. See there? "Project Runway" prepares designers for those last-minute challenges they'll face in real life.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The "Virtual Face-to-Face"

I missed my corporate shuttle flight this morning. I'll be doing penance for a while, but for now the main consequence is that I am attending a face-to-face virtually.

My company is so used to dealing with each other at a distance that we have a special name for meetings where you are physically in the same room as the other people at the meeting. They are face-to-faces. Remind you of online dating? It's kinda like that, only the other people in the work face-to-face will reliably be there. Unless they're me. But that's another story.

So this is my opportunity to see a whole bunch of people I work with all the time but never actually see. And instead I'm attending from my dining room table. They're in the room eating truffles and cookies and getting actual meaningful social interaction. I'm at home, dialed into a bridge and hooked into NetMeeting and wondering what I can eat for lunch.

In my relentless pursuit of saving money, my household of one has moved to a just-in-time food acquisition model. I wasn't planning to be here today. So I have...milk, cheese, flour, and tequila. I'm thinking I may need to run to the store. If I bought eggs I could make popovers. Hot popovers and cheese are just about the best lunch on earth.

I know what you're thinking. But I'm saving the tequila for the weekend.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

An Ideal Boyfriend

Dating is rough.

No, really. I know this isn't news, but every once in a while, something reminds us of the essential truths of life.

Just ask my acquaintance whose boyfriend got rip-roaring drunk this weekend, picked a fight, and came home and peed all over the sofa.

I have to say, I would never have considered this when gazing out the window, compiling a mental list of traits my ideal boyfriend should or shouldn't have. My list is pretty general. I'm lookin' for someone reasonably solvent, reasonably responsible, and entirely non-violent. There are some other essential traits--intelligence, a sense of humor, a sexy voice. And yes, okay, I'm partial to someone who makes me crazy hot. But it would never have occurred to me to sigh dreamily and add, "And you know what else would be great? If he never peed on furniture."

Now, we know. You leave that off the list at your peril.

Just goes to show that when you're gathering requirements, it never pays to overlook the bleedin' obvious.

And by the way, the dating scene in Phoenix is SO bad. How bad is it, I hear you ask. The dating scene in Phoenix is SO bad that peeing all over someone's sofa isn't even a dumpable offense.

Do you hear me, world? The dating scene here is so bad that, officially, someone who pees all over your sofa is still considered a catch.

What's that I hear? I'll tell you what it isn't. It isn't the sound of someone urinating on my sofa. Sometimes there are compensations for being single.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Saving Grace

I established a goal a while back of trying to save roughly a quarter of my take-home pay by the end of the year. Originally, I was just saving for a trip, but then sometime around the middle of the year I decided that it was time to come up with that "safety net" that everyone keeps talking about, just in case I get laid off or pull some crazy, blockheaded maneuver. I have substantial savings, but they're not the sort of thing that would help me out in an emergency. They're squirreled away in "don't touch this" accounts that I really don't intend to pilfer.

I already had a savings account, and I was already siphoning off regular amounts from checking into savings, in that whole "pay yourself first" strategy. But the problem with the pay yourself first strategy is that you can't pay yourself nearly enough. You're constantly worried that you'll have to come up with some extra cash (what if my electric bill is $150--I do live in Arizona, you know). So you don't "pay yourself first" nearly enough to come up with a quarter of your take-home pay by December. Well, I wasn't.

The obvious solution was to pay myself not only first, but last as well. And in order to have anything to pay myself at the end of the month, that meant a budget. I suck at budgeting. I used to be good at it, but then I had a marital experience where I got out of the habit of writing everything down. (Did you know that writing down what you spend makes you a shrill harpy? Yeah, me neither.) I've never really picked the habit back up again for more than a few months.

I have, however, worked in finance for far too long. So I started a chart. Here was my proposed spending (i.e., everything left in my bank account), and here was my stretch goal for saving (the amount I'd have to save every month to have the right amount at the end of the year). Finally, here was the gap between what I'd already saved and my goal. What ingenuity could I employ to move money from the proposed spending pile to the proposed saving pile? Watching my money in a sort of ad-hoc budget could get me close--some months closer than others. Getting the rest of the way to the desired figure required a little more grifting.

Over the last few months I have sold things, traded things, tracked down money people owed me (there is one of these left, but it's a humiliating experience, and I'm avoiding it), traded in a gym membership for a treadmill, and canceled my massage membership (this is like leaving the mafia, I kid you not--I think I had to threaten to leave a horse's head in someone's bed). I have stopped using my long-distance account. I have changed (but not eliminated) my cell phone package. I have started checking out books from the library, and I have been saving all my change. I have taken out a credit card that gives me cash back on various purchases. I have turned my thermostat up to 80. (I'm freezing all the time, so this is not as bad as it sounds. I'll turn it down when you come over. Honest.)

I have not started cooking for myself. There are limits, people. No one should ever have to eat things I cook. (Unless it's a breakfast casserole. My breakfast casseroles don't suck.)

Right now I'm on track to get to 92% of my goal by December. I thought I'd start throwing out info on some of the good deals I've found, in case anyone else was in the mood for saving some cash.

Blockbuster Video is running a promotion where if you rent a movie, they give you a card good for a free month of rent-by-mail membership (street value, $18). You get as many DVD's as you can cram into a month, three at a time, for free. You also get coupons for in-store rentals. You owe nothing if you cancel within a month. They ask for your credit card, but theoretically they won't charge it until you lose a DVD or until your "free" period expires. Cancel after a month and spend nothing. Alternatively, keep the membership if it meets your needs and you rent more than four videos a month (otherwise you're better off renting from the store). I plan to use this mercilessly to catch up on "Oz," which I recently discovered on DVD. I really want to know what happens next, but $4 for 2-3 episodes is as devastating to my current budget as a crack addiction.

ING Direct is offering a sweet deal on their savings accounts. Open an account and they give you $25 to help you along. Do you really want to open one? Ask me to refer you--then I get $10 and you get $25. Pressure your friends to open accounts. Pssst! Save money! Everybody's doing it! And the account pays 4.35% interest. My bank was giving me less than 1%. ING Direct is particularly good for the computer-savvy--everything can be done electronically, and they have more robust security than my regular financial institution, which has been in the news in recent months. To get $25, use code D256P while opening your account (or e-mail me and I'll refer you, then I get $10--come on, you know you wanna). To get $10 for referring a friend, open your own account first, then click on the megaphone at the bottom of your "View My Account" screen--the one that says, "Earn $$$, Refer a Friend."

That's it for now. I'll probably review the new credit card at some point. My mother has made money on cashback credit cards, but I'm still skeptical. We'll see.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Genius for Sale

Don Hertzfeldt, the delightfully morbid and sinfully cynical animator behind such sweet, sweet madness as "Billy's Balloon" and "Ah, L'Amour," has finally managed to put together a DVD, now available for pre-order. The DVD will also include "Lily and Jim." If you want to see a short film depicting the horrors of dating, look no further. I laughed until I cried.

A warning, Don's website admits that the DVD will also likely include "intrusive trailers for other DVD's you are not even remotely interested in." Having purchased other animation DVD's for the express purpose of viewing Don's work, I will just say that this may not be as funny as it sounds. Some of the intrusive ads and trailers on those previous DVD's made me want to stick a fork in my own eye. Seriously. I vividly remember the sensation of blood vessels throbbing in my temples, willing my heart to explode. "I just want to watch `Lily and Jim!' For the love of all that is holy, stop making me watch the fast car in the incredibly loud commercial!"

That said, Don Hertzfeldt's humor is just what the doctor ordered for many modern ailments, including heartbreak, career discontent, and general malaise.

Not Only Are Kids Reading...

they're reading carefully. Persnickety readers caught an error in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Are you ready for this? Hermione gets top results in 11 subjects, even though she's only taking 10.

Where were these readers in my English 102 class? When I was teaching, you could ask them a question about the book that made it clear they hadn't even read the cover of the book, let alone paid close attention to its contents.

Then again, I must admit, Fields of Writing is not exactly Harry Potter.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

No Really, I'll Read Something Else Someday

It's just that my mother has sent me the collected works of Kathy Reichs, so I'm having a gluttonous attack of read-rage and working my way headlong through them. Reichs was just on NPR last week, and it's wonderful to be able to follow up an interview like that by reading her work from one end to the other. I may take a brief vacation or two, because maggotty bodies and knife marks and disembowelments could get a bit glum after a while. But they really are very good.

I also, on the recommendation of a friend, read Jeffrey Deaver's The Twelfth Card. It wasn't bad. I have to say the fake-out (we solved the mystery--oh, wait, no we didn't) loses some of its edge when you know there are still 150 pages left of the book--the author is sort of forced to tip his hand a little. But the characters were interesting, the story moved quickly (despite its length), and it was a fun read. The only thing that's missing, for me, is the eager desire to read more. I finished the Deaver book feeling satisfied, but I greatly prefer the rare "instant convert" sensation--the feeling that a book was so good I'd like to read every word the author's ever put on paper. That's the greedy addiction that keeps me reading--I'm always looking for that high.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Flattery Will Get You Anywhere

I had to get up at 3:00 yesterday to catch my 6:00 flight to California (just to make sure I could get through security in time--although actually, at 5 a.m. the line was moving along pretty swiftly). For someone who used to wake up at 4 every morning to work out before work, I didn't handle the 3 a.m. wake-up call very well.

I duly caffeinated myself and even brought a giant sweatshirt (the leading cause of grouchy Katies on airplanes is that they're cold), but I was pretty sure I was fighting a losing battle.

But then the universe smiled on me.

First, an airport security guard told me I had a nice smile. This was clearly a lie, because even with caffeine, I'm not a very chipper human early in the morning. Still, I appreciate the effort. It's not like he has an ongoing relationship with me. If he feels moved, he can lie to me if he wants.

Then I got to California, and I got a cabdriver who felt compelled to flirt with me the whole way to the office. He said only 1% of the women in the United States were as nice as I was. His opinion was based on the following facts, gleaned during our brief acquaintance:

1. I rarely drink.
2. I don't smoke.
3. I talk to taxi drivers named Ahmed.

It's nice to know I come up to someone's expectations. A rave review from Ahmed the taxi driver (his real name, or at least, the one on his card) may not get me a raise, but on a day when you've gotten up at 3 a.m., it's surprisingly comforting.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Continuing Story...

My HOA sent me two nastygrams this week. One said, "Weeds have been noted on your property." I looked around for a while and finally found a teeny row of crabgrass (seriously--I should publish a picture--my patio is paved, so weeds are not really an issue) growing directly inside my back gate. Fair enough. The other said, "Items are being stored on your property."

Now, I have a townhouse. It's not like I can have a car on blocks on my front lawn. This one took me a while, and in the end it was only a guess. Because if you call, I've learned from experience, they have NO idea what they meant. (As an ex-employee of a property management company, I'd advise them to invest in a camera--you'll have a record if someone's confused, and you can use it as evidence if you take legal action. Except, of course, that any judge would look at most of the things they complain about and, mindful of the massive check he writes to his own HOA every month, dismiss the case without further ado.)

After twenty minutes of investigation I concluded that they either meant my garbage and recycling containers (stored out of view behind my high wall, just the way 99.9% of the other people in my complex store theirs--everyone but those nuts who keep them in the garage) or a lawn chair on my downstairs patio that I don't often use and which was gathering dust. I threw the lawn chair away, as a sacrifice to the mysterious but demanding HOA gods. Wish me luck.

Meanwhile on Thursday I "weeded" (i.e., threw out the row of crab grass and the lawn chair) and also trimmed back my hedges in the front, and then I wheeled my garbage bin out to the curb. This is an event for me. I can only wheel the garbage to the curb if I'm working from home on Thursday, because if your garbage is out there after "dusk" (the sun doesn't even have to be down) I get a nastygram--a different kind of nastygram that threatens me with a fine. So generally, I don't even bother to put the garbage out when I go to work, because the stress of making sure I'm back before dusk isn't worth it, and as a single person who doesn't cook my garbage doesn't need to go out every week anyway. I was feeling mighty productive when all of this was done by 6:30, but I was really stoked about being able to get the garbage picked up.

Imagine my horror when, after a late meeting and a subsequent leisurely dinner with a glass of wine, I sauntered out to get the mail and discovered that I had forgotten to take my garbage bin back to its hidey hole. Normally I go straight out after I hear the truck, but yesterday I was in a phone meeting, so I didn't want to step away. I know it's my fault, and I know I forgot. But really, this doesn't strike me as reckless behavior that's injuring others in my community (we all forget--a lot--when I went out there were six other wheelie bins at the curb on my way to the mailbox). I'm not implying that the HOA has it out for me--they're nothing if not fair. But it seems like an odd thing to focus on, and it seems like an ureasonable deadline.

Yeah, that's gonna cost me.

And in response to the person who suggested I attend a meeting, let me say that I took you up on your suggestion. I went to a meeting. The other residents who showed up there were crazy--no, really, like "I wear a foil hat to ward off alien mind rays" crazy. I kind of wonder if they were crazy when they moved here. Although I will admit that probably makes the HOA's life difficult, I won't hesitate to point out that I work with plenty of crazy people, too. I just never thought of arbitrarily fining them.

Hmmmmm. Now there's an idea.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Because it is AWESOME

You must visit this blog right away, because it's hysterical. Or maybe just to former English majors? No, surely not.

In other news, I fell down in the parking lot at my building yesterday. No, really. Because, you know, your day isn't really bad until you've skinned a palm in front of coworkers.

For those who are less clutzy than I, let me inform you that there are different kinds of falling down (while sober--the types of falling while drunk are too numerous to explore here).

Falling Down in Private
This is where you fall in, say, the privacy of your own home. You know, like when you forget how many steps there are in the flight of stairs you use every single day and somehow manage to fall down the stairs in your very own house. This is bad, but at least you have control over how embarrassing it is.

Falling Down in Public--Mild
Mild, you ask? As in, no broken bones? Ah, no. I can tell you're a coordinated person. Uncoordinated people know what I'm talking about. I'm talking about falling down in front of strangers. It's bad, and they giggle and whisper, but you will probably never see them again. And even if they remember you for the rest of their lives, they probably won't be able to pick you out of a lineup. It could be worse. To wit:

Falling Down in Public--Severe
I'm talking falling down in front of people you know. Not friends. Not people you might leave something to if you died. Not them. The other people. Like, say, coworkers. People you have to see all the time, but whom you haven't seen drunk. Yeah. Good times.

Bodily injury only factors in as an exacerbating condition. And then you get extra points as follows.

- Add 5 bonus humiliation points for bodily injury which rends clothing.

- Add 10 bonus humiliation points for bodily injury which requires local medical attention (e.g., from a school nurse).

- Add 20 bonus points for bodily injury which requires transport to a medical facility.

- Add 100 bonus points for bodily injury which requires transport to a medical facility and where you have to explain to a medical professional that you fell under "X" humiliating circumstances, while not intoxicated.

- Add 300 bonus points if your medical professional cheers and says he won the pool.

Until you get a severe public fall with 300 bonus points, don't mess with me. No, seriously. Sometimes the ER has a pool for dumbest injury. It can evidently be quite profitable.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Hey, Orange Juice Has Vitamins!

I'm aware that it may be...unconventional, say, to pour yourself a mimosa and call it dinner. Breakfast, sure, but dinner, well, that requires an explanation. To wit:

1. I have a meeting that begins at 10:00.
2. It was 7:00 and I'd been working for 12 hours.
3. Somehow the Italian leftovers in my fridge weren't calling to me.
4. I opened the champagne on Saturday morning. This is pretty much its last day.

The only decent thing to do is to get at least one more glass of champagne out of that bottle. But I have a meeting, so I can't just drink myself into a coma (which takes less alcohol than you might think). Plus I'm still hungry, and I really do need something of nutritional value.

And that's why I'm having a mimosa and watching "The Closer" before I go back to my spreadsheet of a thousand cells. Hey, that makes it a 13-hour day instead of a 14-hour one.

A Meeting of Many Meetings

Today I went to a meeting where one faction of a project wanted another faction of the project to modify their work habits so that the first faction wouldn't have to go crazy or, you know, read minds.

The project manager offered to have a sort of summit meeting between the two groups and draft an agreement. This is the standard solution in my organization. You draft an agreement. Nothing changes, but at least wronged parties have a piece of paper they can wave dramatically when they're whinging about how wretched their lives are.

In this case, the wronged party said she frankly couldn't stand seeing another meeting for this project on her calendar.

The project manager suggested that maybe they could meet to talk about the excessive meetings.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Many Apologies...

For the fact that I haven't written. I know no one cares, but I have this obsessive personality, so I feel guilty anyway.

Suffice it to say that it's been a very bad week. (And now you say, "How bad was it?")

It was SO bad that I am sitting on my sofa on a Friday night watching George Hamilton and Mariella Frostrup on "The Kumars at No. 42." I love this show anyway--I love Sanjeev Bhaskar, and I love the gentle dysfunction of the Kumars. But tonight I'm watching with the aid of (non-prescription, non-acetaminophen) painkillers and red wine, and I think I even love George Hamilton.

There may be some inebriated text messaging later this evening for which I cannot be held morally responsible. Or, you know, I may just pass out. Either way, my neck, which was so painful earlier today that I lay on the sofa fighting the impulse to sob every time I had to draw breath, is feeling much, much better.

More later, including further description of my malady (it's G-rated, honest).

But I won't write now, because if I did, my topics would include:

A comprehensive criticism of Blockbuster Video's shelving system, including the reasons why Psycho is not a "drama" if you also have a "horror" section, at least, not if the horror section includes other non-supernatural horror films, e.g., "The Boston Strangler."

Praise for my local Italian restaurant, which gave me lasagna in TEN MINUTES because I was in pain and they felt sorry for me. (Allow me to assure you that this was before the wine.)

Praise for peanut butter M&M's which may be the best M&M's on the planet, and which don't get nearly enough recognition.

Commentary on blogger's spellchecker, which doesn't know a lot of the words I want to use but which can spell acetaminophen without any difficulty. (It doesn't know the word "blog," but really, I think its vocabulary is only about 800 words, so that's hardly surprising. But acetaminophen? Really?)

Yeah, see? That's why I'm not writing. So adieu until I recover enough to engage some sort of filter.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Ah, Satisfaction

Well, first of all, I re-read Armistead Maupin's The Night Listener, the better to see the "subtle" differences between the book and the film. It was a fun read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I need not have bothered, because the differences between the movie and its source material are pretty much WRIT LARGE. I dragged a friend to the movie and we were, I kid you not, half the audience. I was puzzled by the thriller angle--I'm astonished that the travesty of misleading thousands of people isn't drama enough to fill a movie, but whatever. It wasn't at all what I expected. (New York???? I know Maupin has every right to leave San Francisco, but I find it dislocating. And of course, all humor had to go to make it a thriller... I missed it desperately.) But it was fine.

I also read a mystery that I really enjoyed. I've been resisting reading Kathy Reichs forever now. I watch "Bones," and I'm not ashamed to admit it. It's funny, the characters are all charming, and it's a good show. And everyone keeps telling me, oh, you'd love the books. Well, that makes me want to run for the hills. You have all this pressure to love the books, and people always tell you you're going to love things and you're just stunned sometimes by the things people recommend. As Holly Golightly says about the earrings men give her, "the mind reels." Someone told me that I would love Candace Bushnell, and her work occasionally gives me the dry heaves. So, I was skeptical.

I also retain more than a little skepticism about the mystery genre. I enjoy mysteries on television and in film, but the novels often leave me cold. Apart from Val McDermid's books, which I'd read if they were illegal, no detective has really lit my fire since Inspector Morse. Character development so often follows predictable marching orders (oh, the detective, so conflicted, so alone, so prone to post-traumatic stress disorder, so traditionally in the throes of addiction). Not that I'm slamming tradition--most of the time when you look at something good, you can see its roots going back at least a century--but I just find that most mysteries feel lifeless. If I want that kind of mental exercise, I'll go do a puzzle. Half of a good mystery is a good character, so either fork one over or send me to Web Sudoku.

And Tempe Brennan is conflicted and a recovering addict (named Temperance, naturally). She doesn't appear traumatized in the book (on "Bones" she does have a past trauma that she's handily sublimated into superachievement) and she's definitely not alone. Again, I find her working relationships far more erotic than the alleged eroticism I found in the vampire genre. I was also pleased to see that the book doesn't want anything to do with her television character's annoying ignorance of pop culture.

As for addiction, I'm now addicted to Kathy Reichs. I guess I'll have to pay my library fine, because I can't afford to pay for all her books, and I probably can't wait until I find them all for fifty cents.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Woman and Her Shoes

This article answered a lot of questions I've had for a long time about women and shoes. Like, how many shoes does the average woman have? Exactly how freakish am I? Apparently I'm common (50% of women in the survey have more than 30 pairs of shoes) as opposed to freakish (only 8% have more than 100).

Of course, I'm still a freak, because most of my shoes do not have any "Cinderella" factor. At least a third of my shoes are tennis shoes, and probably half of those are Chuck Taylors. Another third are sensible flats (what my friend calls "sturdy brown shoes") and only a third are heels (most only 1-2 inches).

I do not think that I would EVER let a man CARRY me because I couldn't walk in my shoes. I mean, I just can't imagine letting that happen. Unless I got caught out having to walk a mile or two after a fancy night out due to some kind of public transportation shutdown/hostage situation, I'm generally wearing shoes that don't cripple me.

According to this article, 55% of men have had to carry a woman because her shoes hurt her widdle feet. I want more data. Do the men like this? Does it make them feel like knights in shining armor, or are they just thinking women are kinda stupid? How many times has it happened? Does any man let it happen more than once? Because that's either some serious patience or a disorder. Do they size up a girl's shoes when they ask her out, and if so, do they look for teetery heels or for a girl who can get home from dinner on her own two feet?

Ultimately, I think it would be sexier if the girl wears the tall heels and can still walk (and preferably run or kick your ass) in them. But then again, I never thought foot-binding was sexy, either. What do I know?

I was recently explaining to someone that I used to wear 3-inch heels. I did this partly because I'm short, and partly because my then-husband was tall. But even the comfy Aerosoles hurt eventually, so when I got home I'd take them off while I deactivated the burglar alarm--and not move them. After about four months of tripping over the shoes on his way in the door, the man took one and hurled it at my favorite picture, breaking the glass. He then cried and said that he was a horrible person.

So when I look at a 3" heel, I don't really see a Cinderella-style affirmation of the feminine mystique. I sort of think of them as uncomfortable little homewreckers. It's just me, isn't it? Yeah, I thought so.

Ain't No Paradigm Shift Wide Enough

Naturally, during my meeting, I IM'd a buddy at work to tell him about the rooster crashing our phone meeting. He asked me whose rooster it was, and I theorized that it might belong to (or at least live near) the lady phoning in from the Philippines. I said that now my mental note card for the Philippines reads, "Contains giant spiders, some people obsessed with racecar driving, and possibly roosters."

He knows I've refused to go camping on the grounds that there are bugs out there in nature, so he advised me to hie myself off to the Philippines, there to conquer my fear of insects by communing with their giant spiders. (Later I shared his theory with some of the other women in the meeting, and we engaged in a lively debate over whether the spiders would eat the roosters or the roosters would eat the spiders--my money is on the spiders, personally.) My colleague's assertion was that it would be a paradigm shift that would alter my life for the better (possibly enabling me to go camping).

Let me tell you right now, ain't no paradigm shift wide enough to make a dinner-plate-sized spider okay with me.

But the rooster--he's all right. I hope he comes to more of our meetings in the future.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I Want One

So I'm in my third phone meeting of the day (my tenth hour of meetings), and this woman is giving a presentation, and there is a rooster crowing in the background. Repeatedly.

I know I'm supposed to be culturally sophisticated and that it's not supposed to be funny. But I am laughing SO hard.

IM's are flying among people who are listening to the presentation. We all want our very own crowing rooster.

Friday, August 04, 2006

When Helicopters Are a Good Thing

I fell asleep early this morning to the sound of helicopters circling overhead, and I was pretty sure that I'd wake up to a news story about another shooting. But as it turns out, they think they have the shooters. One down, one to go. Way to go, law enforcement! You guys can wake me up at one in the morning with a helicopter any time.

Manhunt in the Neighborhood

Lest anyone should think I was just joking about the serial killers, there's been a helicopter circling my house with a spotlight for about half an hour now. It woke me up. I can only imagine what I'm going to see in the paper tomorrow.

Virtual Reality

So, mostly for reasons I won't go into, this has not been my favorite week at work. It hasn't been my worst week, not by a long shot. It just hasn't been very good.

I know I mentioned before that I don't actually work near a lot of the people that I collaborate with. Some of them are in other offices, lots are in different states, and still others are in different countries. This leads to a certain amount of innovation when it comes to things that co-located coworkers take for granted. We use software called NetMeeting a lot, which, as I mentioned earlier, allows us to see live changes to a document we're working on. One friend used to tell me that he didn't ever close NetMeeting. "I don't call my grandma without NetMeeting. You want to know how I'm doing, Grandma? Here's a spreadsheet. See?"

Tonight a friend and I had one of the rarer remote collaboration experiences. We held a virtual happy hour. You see, her week has been particularly crappy too, for many of the same reasons mine has been crappy plus a few ultra-crappy extras. And we were both working from home. At 5 she announced that she was getting herself a glass of wine. I got myself a beer and we had ourselves a nice four-hour chat ranging over our project, our boss, marriage, divorce, religion and literature. (She likes Edith Wharton. I think I'll recommend the Rebecca Goldstein to her and see if my theory is correct.)

It was really refreshing. All virtual collaboration should go so smoothly. Yo, remote colleague! Cheers!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Advantages of Working from Home

Well, it finally happened. My mother, who does not live in Phoenix, finally heard about our serial rapist, the Baseline Killer. Every time something like this happens in my area, I hold my breath and hope it doesn't make the national news, but the last time she phoned me, my mother let me know how worried she was.

I told her I'm safe because I often work from home. The Baseline Killer (police tell us) seems to be an opportunist. But people who work from home provide relatively few opportunities--when you're hooked up to a phone and typing on a computer for ten hours a day, the stats are on your side. You're not walking to your car late at night. You're not stopping at a dimly lit business on your way home. You're just pulling off your headset, saving your last Excel spreadsheet, and then walking to the fridge for a beer.

Working from home is big in our company, particularly in departments where no two people occupy the same office. Our meetings tend to start with the question "Who's in the office today?" followed by a long silence. The only reason it matters who's in the office is that we use software to share documents and watch someone "drive," that is, have the document open on their screen and modify the file according to the work we do in the meeting. The software gets cranky if the "host" (who can be different from the driver) is working from home.

I know a lot of people who wouldn't work from home even if they could, but I have to be honest, I dig it. For one thing, if you're working ten hours a day, you can get an hour of your personal life back by not commuting. You also save a lot of time and money on things like lunch--you can have a healthy salad, and it costs you less and you don't have to stand in line or keep it in an office refrigerator or buy it a special tupperware container. For another thing, you save money on gas--a trivial savings in the past, but lately it's adding up. And I also get to delete a lot of the messages the state sends out about pollution advisories--I'm already doing everything I can by not driving.

Plus I can wear pajamas. I love my pajamas.

On the downside, you tend to get a little behind socially. No one ever just grabs you for an unplanned lunch outing when you're at home (although if you're on the ten-hour-phone-meeting plan, there's precious little chance of that happening anyway). You're never going to meet your true love at work (I'll pause to let my unarticulated skepticism wash over you). Also I wear out my slippers a lot faster than I used to. Yeah. Not much of a down side, really.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Well, at least it's a different kind of disappointing.

The Mind-Body Problem turned out to be a really satisfying book in some ways. It's nice to know I can still catch a reference to Kant's categories of perception. And it was nice to read a book that turned so clearly on a philosophical problem, rather than having to make one up myself. Some books do tend to make you do all the heavy lifting of making them meaningful, and this book doesn't have that problem at all.

But the end is disappointing. Disappointing in a way that's worthy of a Nick Hornby heroine (perhaps you hadn't heard--men are worth redeeming, but women should just surrender to resignation and consider it an honor--at least Goldstein doesn't disciminate) or an Edith Wharton novel. If you love Edith Wharton, well, I gotta tell you, this book is spectacular. Go buy it--the Mind-Body Problem by Rebecca Goldstein. But I spent 250 pages with this woman. I listened to characters debate the comparative merits of philosophy and math in dialogue that sounded like a vocabulary test (evidently Princeton folks talk like slangless foreigners). That's fine--that's her given topic, as James would say (in a proof-like argument that Goldstein must appreciate). I just hate that we put in all that work for this ending. I'm not saying I wanted her to win the big game for Princeton in the last 30 seconds. But surely there's some space between Edith Wharton and Rudy that someone could explore.

That said, Edith Wharton is a pretty awesome novelist. And I do know at least one woman who would be crazy about this book. It's highbrow enough for her over-Austened sensibilities and gloomy enough to be "worthwhile" (because in this woman's mind, Jane Austen's only flaw is that the patriarchy convinced her to have all those damn happy endings). I may have to put it in the mail.

This is terrible. It's a good book, honest. I would never want to discourage anyone from reading it. But it's exactly the opposite of the feeling you have when your dieting friend eyes the brownie at a restaurant. You know that it's your duty to push her toward the good-for-you-and-very-tasty salad, but you just want to give her the damn brownie.

This book is really, really good. It's just...well, it's the salad.

Dammit. Don't they publish any brownies any more?

In honor of the Night Listener being made into a movie, that's my next book. I've already read it, and it is the kind of book I want more of. It's the kind of book that lets your hot drinks get cold and your cold drinks get warm, and I still think about the questions it poses years after I put it down. I'm a little nervous about the movie (they seem to be marketing it as a thriller, which surprises me), but the book is mine forever.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

So Many Disappointing Books...

So you probably knew this already, but the Laurell K. Hamilton book was a crushing disappointment. And the bar was really quite low, because all I was looking for was a reasonably suspenseful little ball of fluff to get me through the moments between when I brushed my teeth and when I fell asleep.

It's billed as an erotic vampire thriller. It was neither erotic nor thrilling. There were vampires, as advertised. Only one was a decent character, and he spent the last two thirds of the book literally locked in a box waiting to be rescued by our relentlessly independent heroine. Lots of men are interested in her, but they all bore her because she's so busy not needing anyone, so clearly the only dude with any shot is the dude in the box, which was pretty much a non-starter if you're looking for eroticism with any character-based heft to it.

The "eroticism" billing seems to rely on combining violence, non-consensual vampiric activity (don't make me go into it--there are rules and levels and it's just not worth it), and sex. Maybe my eroto-meter is down, but violent sex doesn't seem erotic to me, and neither does non-consensual anything. It's just violence. And although I'm sure there's some raw feminist empowerment going on, I just found myself having a serious attention span problem.

I'm aware that this is the first in a long and illustrious series of allegedly erotic vampire thrillers, but I look at any good mystery series where the detective fails to have sex with his/her sharp and attractive but unavailable partner/coroner/profiler, and I think there's room for a lot of eroticism that doesn't spoil your character arc and doesn't involve sexual violence. Robin McKinley's Sunshine was a much more satisfying erotic vampire thriller that would be a great first book in a series--pity she doesn't write enough to keep me from straying into the novels of folks like Hamilton.

As an antidote I read Thomas Harris's Red Dragon, a thriller that's actually thrilling, and where the sex knows it's not erotic. Sometime last year I found myself watching the movie with renewed interest (the new one, not the old one--the one with Edward Norton and Ralph Fiennes). There was something about watching a really decent man being taken in by a predator that I found comforting, and something about Will Graham's one-victim-to-another pep talk to Reba that just charmed me to the core. I was pleased to find the pep talk in the book, although precious little else that I enjoyed about the film was in it--a good film brings someone's interpretation to the book, so I wasn't really surprised.

Even knowing the outline of the plot, it's still a decent thriller--no attention deficit disorder while I was reading that--and all of the characters were a lot more lively than Hamilton's. And after way too much Law & Order and Without a Trace, it was nice to meet some victims who didn't have dirty little secrets. Seems like everyone who's the victim of a crime on television is hiding some illegal and/or unsavory activity from the NYPD or the FBI. Harris's victims are just cheery families with pets whose mothers save money by continuing to wear their damaged pantyhose. Of course, that was back in 1981. Maybe victims have gone downhill since then.

And again, I was really hoping to stumble on a whole series of books that would be satisfying without being demanding. Harris is up to what, four books? Ah, well.

So I'm back on the wagon, ready to put in the time on some potentially demanding fiction. My next choice is Rebecca Goldstein's The Mind-Body Problem. I read her Properties of Light last year and loved it, despite its leisurely pace and for its philosophical bent. I'm no mathematician (her books love math--I keep encouraging my cousin to read them, but she never seems to), but the philosophy is something I appreciate, and at least I'm sure the book will reward my attention. We'll see...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hell's Kitchen Too Annoying to Watch

I'll continue watching it, because I have some annoying form of OCD that doesn't let me quit things--put down a book I'm not enjoying, for example (note the foreshadowing) or give up on a movie in the middle. But I have to say, I don't want any of these people to have a restaurant. I don't even want them to have a voice. In fact, if we could just duct-tape their mouths shut for the remaining challenges, that would be great.

I'm tired of Keith imitating slot machines. The actual slot machines are already annoying, but his rendition is like fingernails on a chalk board. I do wonder just how often he does this versus how many times the editors just cut this in to liquefy my brain. Editors, if it's you, mission accomplished. No more. Uncle.

I'm tired of Virginia's airhead routine. Seriously. How many times have you just wanted to ball gag her over the last two episodes? Ten? A dozen? Every time she opens her mouth? In the interests of full disclosure, I know I sound exactly the same after a glass of wine. My question is, where is she getting all the wine, because she seems to be like that all the time.

Sara. Oh my God. Sara. Points for the Vader impersonation, and points for not being a backstabber. (She'll stab you through the heart while you're watching, thank you very much--otherwise she'd miss the look in your eyes.) But every time she manifests delight at someone else's mistake, I just want to see lightning strike her down. As such, she's probably the best qualified person to run a big ol' snooty restaurant.

Maybe the winner should just stay in Hell's Kitchen, where the clientele seems bent on proving the assertion that "hell is other people." Does anyone else think these people are INSANE? I mean, as Hell's Kitchen diners, you do understand that you're the willing pawns in a reality TV show. As such, you should, oh, I don't know, bring some crackers in your tiny-ass purse. Maybe come prepared to drink your weight in alcohol. I would not suggest throwing food in the kitchen, which pretty much guarantees you'll go home hungry.

Maybe they offer them extra money for obscene and/or pissy behavior? Or maybe some hapless production assistant is in charge of actually trolling through LA's enormous stock of very annoying people for the cream of the crop and then offering them dinner at Hell's Kitchen?

Whatever. I hope this is the last season of this program, so that Chef Ramsay can go back to filming "Kitchen Nightmares" (where no one is EVER this annoying, not even the woman who wanted to put peanut butter on salmon). I have a production note or two on that show, too. (Do we really need to see Gordon without his shirt in every episode? I know I don't. Not that there's anything actively wrong with him--it's not like he has a third arm or anything--but it seems to demonstrate a kind of hubris that's less, um, visually stunning than his usual egomania.) But the imperfections of "Kitchen Nightmares" are infrequent and endearing. I'd take it over "Hell's Kitchen" any day.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Meetingfest 2006

So this week I have 35 hours of meetings on my calendar. No, wait, that’s not the good part. That’s 35 hours of meetings plus two whole days of SAP training and an additional day of less-crucial but kind of important preparation for the SAP training. Yeah. On top of the 35 hours of meetings. This isn't typical, but that was precious little consolation as I called in to my 6 a.m. (although I have to say, that was a very pleasant meeting, as meetings go).

The other day a friend of mine complained about how his meeting schedule was so insane that he wasn’t going to be able to eat lunch. I was all, dude, your company lets you eat lunch? Where do I get an application?

The thing is, my company would love for me to eat lunch. They’d like for me to eat lunch and work out and achieve Work-Life Balance. Alas, they’re also evaluating me on the basis of my accomplishments, which currently require that I attend the 35 hours of meetings. Oh, and I should also be producing something that looks like actual work. Heaven only knows when I’ll be getting that done. Probably on Friday, which is freakishly clear of meetings despite my outrageously overscheduled week (because all of my meetings require the attendance of people in Israel).

For those doing the math at home, first, you clearly need to achieve some Work-Life Balance of your own. Second, some of my meetings start at 6 (a.m.) or end at 7 (p.m.), so if you're assuming 8 hours in a day, dream on. Also, many of the meetings conflict with other meetings, so I’ll probably end up attending the first hour of this hour and a half long meeting in order to attend the first hour and a half of this two hour meeting, which I’ll leave early to attend another hour long meeting in its entirety. If you see what I mean.

Meanwhile, I try (try is the key word here) to read two or three books a week. This week that might just drive me crazy. So this week my reading is going to include something really, really trashy. No, really--it's so shameful that I hesitate to share it with you. It's a Laurell K. Hamilton novel. And I might really really like it, because I doubt I'll have a single critical faculty online by the time I read it--if it's more interesting than a change impact assessment or a baseline data assessment, I'm expecting to be enthralled by it.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Check This Out

Well, okay, it's kinda long. And if you don't know what I mean when I say, "Damn You, Berlanti!" then you probably shouldn't read it. But the upshot is this. The fine folks at Television Without Pity (the best website ever, go to it now) have finally gotten an actual interview with Greg Berlanti, the creator and executive producer of a show called "Everwood." "Everwood" was one of the best recaps on TWOP until the show's cancelation (the last episode aired earlier this year). The interview as a whole is probably only interesting to fans of "Everwood," TWOP, and AB Chao (one of TWOP's star recappers).

But what's fascinating about TWOP in general and about this interview in particular is that it shows that what sports fans have always believed is ACTUALLY TRUE for TV fans. You know how that adorable lunk on your sofa thinks his favorite team knows whether or not he's watching their games, and how he fantasizes that they actually yearn for and attend to the advice he dispenses in the privacy of his own home? Well, this interview and other recent incidents show TV writers, producers, and stars DO care. No, really. It's not an imaginary relationship. Berlanti admits that writers and producers watch the boards, that they admire the staff at TWOP, and that they interact with their audience partly by writing with this particular audience in mind (a shout-out here, a considered plot-line there).

This is a proud era of entertainment. Dickens wrote serials that were, make no mistake, the equivalent of "Lost" in their day. But I don't think anyone's ever proved that he listened in on readers' reactions in an effort to decide whether or not to kill little Nell. Dickens and his contemporary, Wilkie Collins, were the masters of serial entertainment. (Collins' mantra, "Make 'em laugh, make 'em cry, make 'em wait" should be on a lucite cube in the office of EVERY television producer.) And I bet if you'd given them the internet and a message board, they would have been all over this kind of audience interaction like white on rice.

My interest in the interaction between viewers and the trade has been building steadily in recent years. Perhaps one extreme is a series like "Lost," which is actively courting the online attention of its audience with websites not only for the program, but for its fictional companies (Oceanic Air, the Hanso Foundation) and people (Charlie's band, Driveshaft). For the really motivated fan, "Lost" has supplied an alternate reality game called "The Lost Experience." Followers of the game get a sort of off-season minidrama played out in websites and blogs--it doesn't further the action being told in the main storyline, so viewers who just stick with the ABC broadcasts aren't being left out. But it fosters speculation about the island, the Hanso Foundation, the Dharma Initiative, and other peripheral aspects of the main drama. Although there is a communal element to the "Lost" multimedia effort (fans trade clues in internet forums and create their own websites devoted to the program) and there's no shortage of creativity, I'd argue that this is really just a marketing campaign aimed at creating and rewarding die-hard "Lost" fans. (As Berlanti points out in the interview with AB Chao, die-hard fans are good for business--they give you a little muscle with the network.)

The "Rescue Me" dynamic is more authentic. The interaction between the creative talent behind the show and the fans is immediate, raw, and genuine. And it's definitely two-way communication. Earlier this summer, "Rescue Me" aired one of its "very special" episodes featuring a scene that looked, to a lot of people, like a rape. As soon as the thing was broadcast, message boards were furiously debating whether or not Tommy had raped his soon-to-be-ex-wife, Janet. After a while "Rescue Me" co-creator Peter Tolan spoke out on the TWOP message board to clarify the show's intention (essentially, he said they didn't mean to depict a rape, just one incidentally-sexual dimension of a relationship that is dysfunctional across all its dimensions--summaries of the interaction are here and here). Whether Denis Leary is finding out that yes, fans actually did notice when he sported a World Series ring in one episode or Peter Tolan is striking glancing blows for authorial intention, fans and the show's creators are definitely communicating.

"Lost" is just controlling its fans--sure, it's giving them more of what they want, but it tells them where to go next and what to do when they get there. Maybe there's some other interaction I'm not privy to, but the creative folks at "Lost" seem pretty firmly in the driver's seat--which is very much in keeping with the program, which I firmly believe will not give up its secrets one second before the series finale. "Rescue Me" has a candid and spontaneous relationship with its fans that likewise mirrors its program's creative spirit, which values raw, chaotic drama over orderly arcs and acts.

While both of those types of audience engagement interest me, TWOP's Berlanti interview showed me a level of audience interaction that I fantasized about but never really expected to see in action. Berlanti says his writers combed through the TWOP forums and courted the satisfaction (narrative satisfaction, which involves a lot of frustration) of these fans with a zeal that he sometimes had to hold in check. He admits to being baffled when viewers rejected a character who embodied their age-inappropriate crush on the handsome-but-far-too-young Everwood character, Ephram. He admits that characters use "lingo" popularized on TWOP's boards, and even that AB Chao's husband is immortalized by having an offscreen character named after him. It's not a choose-your-own-adventure novel (thank goodness) but it is a genuine and (apparently) a mutually respectful interaction.

And I hope it lasts. It pays to give fans what they want. (Go ahead. Google "Snakes on a Plane." I dare you.)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

New York Minute

Most of the very tiny readership of this blog already knows the highlights of my trip to New York, in which I saw just enough to discover that I definitely need to go back again and again. So I'll just do a few headlines--the ones that won't spoil the update for certain humans who don't answer their phones.

Central Park Really Quite Large
I'm sure this surprises no one, and believe me, I was prepared. But I was really, really sure that I was cutting straight through it, you see, to get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My Plan was to hit the Met, and then if I hadn't succumbed to the overwhelming nature of New York, I'd hit the Natural History Museum on the way back to my hotel. I freely admit that this was folly of a type that only overtakes tourists, because clearly it would take many moons to see either museum and doing both in one day is obviously insane, but I'm just lettin' ya know, that was the Plan.

Sadly, the Plan sort of fell apart when, an hour or so after entering the park, I became a little tired of being lost. I knew I was lost roughly five minutes into my excursion, but I had been ambling around in a "this is a pleasant, green place" sort of way, and I hadn't been too put out about it. But at some point I found a map that showed just how hell and gone I was from the Met, and I started to enjoy my vacation a wee bit less. I got my bearings and tried to strike out in a goal-oriented way, but alas, the park is not congenial to the goal-oriented, and after a while I was just tired and sweaty. It was at this point that I passed a bench where there were three separate groups of people with open guidebooks, and so I ambled over and said, "This must be where they put the lost people. Mind if I join you?" A man gestured to me that I should have a seat.

He and I looked idly at the runners, bikers, rollerbladers and speedwalkers coursing past for a while, and eventually we struck up a conversation. It turned out that he was here on business from Germany, where he worked at a software company. (I asked, but it wasn't SAP. It was another company whose products I'm familiar with, but the name of the company meant nothing whatsoever to me.) We talked about sports, about our favorite leisure activities, about the absurd American system of vacation time (giving our employees what Europeans believe to be an unbelievably puny amount of vacation time, which the employees then leave on the table, arguing that they can't afford to do anything spectacular anyway or that it would be too painful to catch up when they get back to work), and about New York.

Then we spent about an hour talking about nothing in particular, but trying to shore up my companion's stock of idiomatic English. Sadly for him, a lot of my idiom is stuck circa 1950, but hey, dated American idiom with a German accent is pretty damn charming, so I think he'll do okay. His favorite phrase, in case you're interested, was that someone had "bigger fish to fry." I'm sure that when he gets home he'll be talking about fatter clams to roast or something like that, but again, he can always fall back on that beery German charm.

Oh, and then I turned around and practically ran smack into the Met. Victory!

New York Cab Drivers Fail to Dish Out the Crazy
Don't get me wrong, I'm immensely grateful. I was all set for a crazy motherfucker of a cab driver, and Sanjeev was sweet, sane, and personable. I would never, ever assume that he was a representational sample, but he was damn nice. He got me to my date on time, he was immensely indulgent of my first-date-in-way-too-long jitters ("You look very nice"), and he gave me bonus tour guide information ("This is the West Village. All these men are gay."), and the best ever thumbnail review of the city ("I came here eighteen years ago from India. I've been driving a cab all that time. This is a wonderful city--you'll see everything. I really love it here. This is a good time to be here because during the summer, everybody leaves on the weekend. Now it's just you"). I tipped him an obscene amount and told him it was partly for getting me to my date on time and partly for not being crazy. We were old friends by that time, and I guarantee you absolutely that he did not take it the wrong way.

Thanks, Sanjeev. And don't worry, your daughter will love MIT.

I Was Scared of the Subway for Nothing
Well, not for nothing. I mean, it is public transportation. If you ride public transportation enough, you will see and experience some things you wish you hadn't. But on top of my totally reasonable fear of running into someone who wanted to masturbate next to me or steal my handbag, I had a paranoia that I wouldn't be able to navigate the subway. I'm not sure why I thought this. I've figured out the BART and the London Underground. And compared to the arcane zone system of the London Underground, where you have to stand there and figure out how many times you want to go outside of Zones 1 and 2 on your trip to London, and then do a quickie financial analysis in your head to tell you whether you should just buy the travelcard that covers additional zones or whether you should buy your restricted zone travelcard and then supplement it with one-time tube tickets for those trips outside your Zone, the MTA's "don't think, just pay me $2" system is pretty easy on the tourist brain.

I did have the pleasure of riding in a car with no air conditioning during a heat wave. I could have moved, and I know it. And my guidebook said I'd be safer in a full car. But to be perfectly honest, that car was like an oven, and no one was moving, except to mop sweat off their brow--they didn't look especially threatening. And the neighboring cars were crammed with people who were only marginally less sweaty, and there I would have been pressed right up against a stranger's armpit. So I rode with my little band of sweaty companions, and if I'm honest, they're the real reason I stayed. It was like a psychology experiment--what kind of people stay in the hot car, and what is their reward? I'm not sure what kind of people we were (although we certainly shared a warped and heat-addled sense of humor by the end of my journey), but our reward was a total suspension of the suspicious and guarded behavior typical of public transport.

We had lots of space to stretch out. And we were really entertained by the people who took one step onto the car and then turned around and left. (The expressions on their faces were priceless, and also, if they stepped in far enough, cold air from outside got carried in with them. It was good.) There was a little group of spirited women with projection that would be the envy of Aretha Franklin. They'd shout, "It's a HOT CAR!" every time someone thought about coming onto the car. There was a guy across from me wearing a haircut that will NEVER be out of place at my college, no matter how long it exists, accessorized with Chuck Taylors, jeans, and a dress shirt (instant endearment alert) who I thought might pass out. But he didn't. There was a woman wearing a Sari who said she'd rather have space than air conditioning, and there was a man sitting near her who couldn't believe we weren't getting off the car, but who never switched cars himself. I liked them. We had a good time in our hot car.

I Have Kick-Ass Airport Karma
The day I left is the day La Guardia had power outages, causing tons of flights to be canceled and, as my friend who flew out of JFK later in the day found out, massive overflow of air traffic in and out of JFK. But I left early in the day and got to watch the miserable airport people on the news as my plane took me home, happy but exhausted.

When my friend Holly and I used to visit London, we would gird our loins for a couple of days of nonstop entertainment and tourism. And every time we got back on the train to Colchester, we would look at each other and know, without a doubt, that London had kicked our asses. New York didn't really kick my ass, but then, I'm not twenty any more, either, so it didn't have quite the opportunity that London had. I didn't make a list of 30 things to do every single day, and the mishap in Central Park pretty much put an end to my overambitious tourist schedule. But I definitely didn't get enough of it, and I really did love it.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

An Unknown London Book Dealer

I know it's not technically his thing, but I like to think Aziraphale's cocoa is getting cold tonight.

Do You Suffer From Short-Term Memory Loss?

I admit it. I got dragged kicking and screaming into the world of reality TV. I didn't want to enjoy it, but it won me over, and there are certain shows I'll do my best not to miss. Since I have a Tivo, my best is pretty good.

But here's the deal. I'm not a moron. And despite appearances to the contrary (co-workers, please hold your heckling until the end) I have hardly any short-term memory damage. So I don't need to see the same damn clip four hundred and thirty-seven times. Seriously. We saw it two minutes ago before we went to commercial. Those of us with Tivo saw it three b-boop's ago. I swear to you, I can remember the snarky comment. It may not be immortal, but it'll stick with me for a few minutes.

Even when we're not seeing the same actual clip, we're being drilled like slow children with laminated flashcards. Let's just look, as an example, at the instructions for the challenge on Project Runway. First, Heidi tells them what the challenge is, and we see their reactions. Then we get clips of a couple of the contestants, all of whom say something like, "When Heidi told me that the challenge was x, I instantly knew that I wanted to do y." By the time they start sewing, we've heard four or five variations on the instructions for the challenge--and it doesn't stop there, because someone helpfully summarizes the challenge as they explain their design process. By the time we get to about variation number six, I'm thinking, can I test out of this?

I understand that part of the nature of reality TV is that we want to catch the attention of the random channel-surfers, and I know we need to relentlessly recap every ephemeral moment of reality so they can catch up, but the deja-vu is getting to me. I can only hope that the editorial theory is that as we progress through the season, viewers become more familiar with the premise and then we can stop hitting them over the head with it every twenty seconds.

Of course, that hope has not been gratified by "Hell's Kitchen," which still has to recap everything in a "Dune"-style voiceover after every commercial break. Everyone who's seen "Dune" knows instinctively that unless you are certifiably brilliant, voiceover is the editor's crutch. When the footage you've been given lacks crucial exposition, or when there is no feasible way to cut from one shot to another--when, in short, it sucks so bad that you can't make it hang together into a coherent story to save your life, you have two choices. One is to reshoot (which I think we're still pretending reality TV doesn't do). The other is voiceover. "Hell's Kitchen," not to insult the program, is not nearly as complicated as "Dune," so why they use voiceover is beyond me, apart from the fact that they obviously think their audience has the collective IQ of a lima bean. Actually, writing your show so it could be understood by a particularly stupid lima bean may be the leading cause of voiceover in America. I'll have to look into it.

Editors, reality TV can make you stars. I beseech you, use your powers for good. I have a secret weapon, and I'm not afraid to use it. Closed captioning shows up perfectly when I fast-forward my Tivo, enabling me to skip a clip whenever I feel like it. Right now I can watch an episode of Project Runway in about 30 minutes. When you get to 20 (half as much content as an ordinary hour of TV), you're out.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Evil Hand

Horror humor fans take note, on Thursday TNT rebroadcasts the episode of "Angel" where Lindsay gets his evil hand. I don't know if the writers remembered the old Hammer Horror films, but the evil hand is a terrific homage to these and other horror classics. If you loved things like "The Skull" or "The Scars of Dracula," this funny little thriller is calling you. And if you didn't, well, you missed out, and this episode of Angel is as close as you'll get until you can hie yourself to the video store and rent something starring Peter Cushing or Vincent Price.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Man of Steel

I confess, I have a bit of a soft spot for Superman. I grew up on the TV series and the Christopher Reeve movie. I quite enjoy the shared fiction we've all decided to adopt that glasses are a disguise that will protect your secret identity from investigative journalists. I miss the phone booth.

But wow, this new movie is...long. Really. Long in a way that left me time to wonder if maybe the Fab Five wouldn't have time to drop in for a quick intervention. (I would pay good money to see Kyan do away with that spit curl. I can see him now, kicking back and watching Sup get ready for his big date, sipping a photogenic cocktail and saying, "See, this is why I told him to always start applying the product from the back." When Lex Luthor has better hair than your hero, that's not a good sign.)

And I understand that Lois needed some updating. Uncle Bonsai did a great song about what Lois would have done if she'd known Clark was Superman. I really love that song, because Lois strikes me as sort of shallow. Motherhood alleviates that somewhat in this film, but really, I ended up feeling pretty sorry for the poor idiot who's stuck with her (poor James Marsden, second-best-man in two comic movies this summer). Superman, meanwhile, gets to fly off into space and be manly, having dodged more than one bullet by the end of the film.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Horror of the HOA

My Homeowner's Association bites the big one. I won't even talk about things in the not-too-distant past, because they really have been much better lately. But in the past month I have received:

A nastygram for leaving a garbage or recycling receptacle out after dusk or putting it out before dusk.
A notice saying they're going to turn my water off to perform repairs (twice).
A notice saying my community is going to be messy and noisy while they overhaul our landscaping.
A bill for $30 for a new gate opener after my antiquated gate card finally surrendered to the Arizona heat.
A gate opener (it doesn't work).
A whole newsletter full of fussy admonitions to clean up after our pets, not feed the pigeons, etc.

I'm waiting for a nastygram they're probably wording with a lawyer now--something about how my overgrown trumpet vine is taking on a life of its own and now leers hungrily at the neighbor's dog.

I've never gone to an HOA meeting, because I don't want to draw their ire. Better that their bitchy little edicts should continue to be about people like me generally rather than targeting me in particular. But when I leave, I'm going to ask for an accounting of what they've done with the princely sum I award them every month, just for being them. It's a lucrative gig.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Shower Wars

Yesterday I went out with my friend and helped him pick up tile, a new duvet, new artwork, and new outdoor chaise lounges for his new place. The new place is shaping up to be pretty snazzy, and one of the chaise lounges is for me, to lure me to central Phoenix from my tropical oasis in Mesa.

If "tropical oasis" and "Mesa" are not concepts that go together in your mind, you are not alone. It costs me a small fortune in dues to a tyrannical HOA to live next to a pond that is dyed--yes, dyed--an otherworldly shade of blue-green. It may be a grubby little unsustainable oasis, but it's mine for a sum of money so large that I am embarrassed to disclose it.

Since he's actively buying furniture to attract my company, it seemed rude to complain about the things he hasn't done around my place. Like the upstairs shower that hasn't worked in three months. Or the upstairs sink that now emits a reassuring gurgle only half an hour after I've gone to bed to let me know that the two tablespoons of water with which I rinsed my toothbrush have finally gone down the drain. My friend is not under the slightest, most tenuous obligation to fix these things. Still, he promised, and they are getting annoying. So I might have mentioned them until I saw his shower.

He JUST moved into this place, and the shower in the master bathroom developed mold. Contractors came to apply some kind of mold cure to the shower, and now there is a gracious waiting period to see if the mold reasserts itself. My friend, who is occasionally prone to exaggeration, told me his shower was "essentially gone." I opened the door to the bathroom expecting a loose tile or two, and instead I found myself looking at what's under all that tile, fiberglass, and porcelain that we normally associate with the word "shower." It was shocking--a little like finding out all the steps between a cow grazing in a field and your styrofoam package of steak.

So I've decided two things. One, I will try the scary percussive liquid plumber thingy that I purchased for the benefit of my upstairs sink. I am really, really scared of my sink, but after the scary percussive thing has discharged, one of us will be the other one's bitch. I may have to phone someone just so they can call 911 while I give that a whirl, but I will do it on my own, before things start to actively climb out of the drain and try to kill me in my sleep. And two, I'll just keep showering downstairs for a while. At least until his shower is fixed. Because let's face it, I have NO problems compared to a man whose shower is not just naked, but stripped to the bone.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Now That's an Entrepreneur

No doubt the next big fund-raising move will be auctioning off the role of groom.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Anonymous Lawyer

I took my eye off the Anonymous Lawyer blog for a while, and was pleased to discover that it's lately been kicked into high gear pending the forthcoming release of the Anonymous Lawyer book. I'm not sure if it's funny to everyone, but I worked at a big international law firm for a while, and let me assure you that if you've ever done that, the site is hilarious.

I'm also pretty sure the humor is transferable to other jobs--say, if you've been an investment banker. In fact, Anonymous Lawyer's personality reminds me of a friend of mine who used to call me long distance just to laugh evilly as he supervised interns at his ibanking firm.

Be sure to check out the accompanying Anonymous Law Firm web site, and in particular their job application. Personally, I think every employer in America is looking for employees who "can be motivated by the vague promise of future rewards which may never actually come."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hell's Kitchenette

I thought I'd be excited when Virginia got nominated--indeed, after her remark about Gordon's spicy hot dog I wished for nothing else. Again, for the video editors, this must be like shooting fish in a barrel. But it wasn't as much fun as I thought it would be, so I'm glad she got to stick around. Her airheaded flirting was actually the least annoying thing in this episode. The prize for most annoying goes to Sara's snarky 'tude (you have to love those coworkers who never make mistakes--they're such a joy).

Overall, I have to say, this series of "Hell's Kitchen" is disappointing. Men versus women is one tired, tired theme, so it's good to see that broken up a little--maybe if they mix the teams up a little or whittle it down to individuals things will perk up a bit. For now the women are catty (wow, what a shock) and the men are just sort of floundering incompetents.

Once again, I can't imagine any of these people successfully running a big resort restaurant. I know that this whole experiment is ostensibly an exercise to scare up some fresh innovation, but I can't help but think there must be lots of qualified people who could really make something of this opportunity. Even really talented people whose peers agree they deserve success can have a tough row to hoe once they're in charge of a restaurant.

Once, when I was in Vegas, I had the pleasure of seeing a man attack a teppan chef in an effort to get the snazzy restaurant he was in to reimburse him for his $500 sweater. Someone--not me, for a wonder--had spilled something on it. Something plain, like water. I'm no expert, God knows, on $500 sweaters, but I think it could have been saved. Let us pause to consider our society's wondrous capacity to create humans such as this, shower them with money, and then release them into an unsuspecting resort population. Now let us pause to imagine ANY of these contestants running a kitchen that has to appease this kind of clientele often enough to avoid bankruptcy.

I can't do it. If you can, my hat is off to you.