Friday, August 26, 2005

This blog entry on Miscellaneous, Etc. cracked me up. Nasty public restrooms and bad punctuation are two of my biggest pet peeves, so I highly revere the blogger who can amuse me with both in a single post.


I came across an article about best and worst commericials that came out recently. No big surprises there -- people really like those HP "frames" ads (I confess I didn't realize they were for HP until I read the article, but I knew what they were talking about as soon as I saw the word "frames) and everyone hates the ad where the girl plugs up a leak in a rowboat with a tampon from the entire box she just happened to have brought along on her date. What I found really interesting was the results of last year's competition, where the identity-theft ads for Citibank ("A leather bustier for twelve hundred dollars? I didn't care -- it lifts and separates!") came in first and the Starbucks "Eye of the Tiger" parody ("Glen! Glen, Glen, Glen!") came in second. Huh? I really enjoyed the Citibanks ads, but the Starbucks one was the funniest thing I've seen in a long while. Even if the argument was that the Citibanks commercials had several in a series, you could add the other Starbuck's commercial, where Stacy enjoys her bottled Frappucino while a doo-wop group follows her through the office, fighting off co-workers seeking to harsh her mellow to the Survivor one and they deliver even more of an ass-kicking to the Citibanks ads.

Or am I just such a child of the 80s that I have no perspective on this matter?

As far as worst commercials of the year are concerned, I don't remember what I was thinking a year ago, but for this past year, nothing is worse than the Pediasure commercial where the mom is pushing her bratty little daughter through the grocery store in a shopping cart, and to each item the mom mentions they are going to buy, the little Spawn of Satan answers "I don't think I LIKE such-and-such." Mom, of course, just smiles knowingly, as though this is cute. In my mind there are no worse commercials than the ones where kids behave in appalling ways and grown-ups act like it's cute. BLEAH!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

50 Book Challenge: 32, People!

And it's only the end of August! You know, maybe I shouldn't be chortling about this, since I haven't actually done the math -- maybe I'm not actually ahead of where I'm supposed to be and I just feel like I've been reading a lot lately. Whatever.

It's always a sad thing when you notice a favorite author has started to fall off his or her game. Maeve Binchy has never been a "great" novelist but she's one whose books I always look forward to. Unfortunately, the last few haven't been so great -- in fact, I would even describe this one and the one before as not quite up to snuff. One thing that has stood out to me in both is that she insists on writing American characters (she's Irish) but doesn't have an ear for how Americans speak at all. That's fine except I know that her books sell well here, and it seems to me she would want to make sure she had that right. I know that if I was writing British or Irish characters, I would want someone British or Irish to read through my manuscript and help me get the voices of the characters just right. To not do so seems a bit sloppy to me, and I find it disappointing.

I've got so many books on my "to read" shelf right now, and each time I go there to pick one out, I have a hard time choosing because so many of them look good! My next selection is Bee Season, and I'm already engrossed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Bizarre Marketing Ploy

Maybe I missed something, and this has been all over the airwaves and I just didn't notice. But just now I was being a good mom and defrosting my son's daily frozen corndog, and after I squirted some oh-so-wholesome Heinz Ketchup on his plate, I put the bottle down on the counter and some words on the label caught my eye. Those words were "Lindsay Lohan."


I know she's kind of been everywhere this past year, but on a bottle of ketchup? That's just weird. Besides, I was kind of under the impression that she'd stopped eating solid food.

The back label explained a bit more: "(gold star)LIMITED EDITION(gold star) For a limited time, some of the your favorite stars are telling the world why they love the thick and rich taste of Heinz Ketchup. And Heinz is saying thank you by donating to the charities of their choice. (gold star)Collect All 4 Today(gold star)"

I examined the bottle futher. The band around the neck of the bottle said "Limited Celebrity Edition," "Heinz Celebrity Labels," and "Collect Today!" But if Lindsay's description of why she loves the thick and rich taste of Heinz Ketchup was on the bottle somewhere, I couldn't find it. OTOH, if that description had been there, I can't say the bottle would have increased in value for me. I don't really care why Lindsay Lohan or anyone else loves the thick and rich taste of Heinz Ketchup, and I can't imagine that even the most celebrity-obsessed teenybopper would.

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with Heinz donating to charity. The more big corporations like Heinz donate to charity, the better, as far as I'm concerned. But why exactly would they need to get celebrities involved? And what dumbass marketing executive decided that just spelling out the name of a celebrity on the front of a ketchup bottle was going to sell more ketchup? Who in the hell do they think is so pathetic that they would bother to collect all 4?

I checked the Heinz website and there's no mention of this particular promotion on it. I have no idea how old our bottle of ketchup is -- well, I mean, it's probably been purchased within the last 3 or 4 months, but I couldn't get more specific than that -- so maybe this promotion was a dud and they moved on from it quickly or something. But I have to say, I'm perplexed. If anyone has any insight into why this sort of thing would be expected to move bottles of ketchup, please let me know.

A few more wedding photos

Yeah, I should put these on the webpage, but that feels like way too much work right now, so I'm just going to put up a few of them here. Thank you to my mom for sending them to me!

One disappointment of the pictures on our camera was that we didn't get a single good shot of the Bride, so here's a shot of the happy couple together:

Are they cute or what?

We also didn't get any shots of any of the bridesmaids besides me, so this is a nice one of all of us with the Bride:

Finally, my favorite picture, of Chad dancing with his longtime friend, Toneka, and Angela's sister Lora. Toneka and Lora were roommates in grad school and that's how Chad and Angela met.

Monday, August 22, 2005

"So-and-so and the Chocolate Factory" Movies: A Comparison

Last week, the kids and I hit the local multiplex for a matinee of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." They had already seen it with Reasonable Man, otherwise known as their father, the weekend I went on the Bachelorette Cruise, which annoyed me because I'd wanted to see it, and it annoyed me even more when I complained about this to Reasonable Man and he said "I didn't think you wanted to see it." WTF? I definitely never said that. I think this is maybe just a wee bit of a passive-aggressive thing he does when I go on trips, taking them to the good kids' movies, if this recent example and also the fact that he took them to see "The Incredibles" when I was gone last fall are any clue. But I digress.

I was kind of excited about seeing the new "Charlie" movie. I'm one of those people who really liked the original for what it was, but it didn't seem like sacrilege for them to remake it or anything -- I mean, the old one was so cheesy, and, special effects being what they are today, I thought it would be fun to see what they could do with it. Besides, I've liked pretty much every Tim Burton movie I've ever seen and when I heard he was doing it, it seemed like a good fit to me.

So how did I like it? Well, I enjoyed it a lot. And at the same time, I couldn't help comparing each part of it to the old movie that I've seen so many times. I really couldn't say at this point that I like either of them better than the other -- it's pretty much a draw. It feels weird to me to feel that way because I usually have a pretty strong opinion about these kinds of things. Anyhoo, I've got it in my head to do a point-by-point comparison here and so I'm gonna do it. I will be talking about the end of the movie(s) here so consider that a spoiler alert, although it's hard to imagine that anyone is going to be shocked to hear that there's a happy ending or anything like that.

Starting at the very beginning: the title. This round goes to the new film, because they went with the original title from Roald Dahl's book, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." The 70s version was called "Willie Wonka and Chocolate Factory," and in my opinion, there was no good reason to change it.

Portrayal of Willie Wonka -- okay, this may be an unpopular one. I'm not a hater of Johnny Depp -- I enjoyed his work in "Edward Scissorhands" and "Pirates of the Carribean," and would classify myself as leaning in the direction of being a fan of his. That said -- I didn't like what he did in this movie. The way he delivered his lines just really got on my nerves, not really enough to seriously impair my ability to enjoy the movie, but enough to make me think "eh -- this is not working for me" a number of times. Gene Wilder, OTOH, with his fuzzy hair and his more subtle hostility toward the kids who are visiting his factory -- for me, he just hits all the right notes, and frankly it would have been hard for Depp's performance to top his in my mind, but seriously -- in my not-so-humble opinion, Depp doesn't even come close.

Portrayal of Charlie and the Bucket Family -- OMG, did the new movie kick the old movie's ass to the curb on this one or what? I'll admit it: I never liked the old Charlie much. I thought he was kind of a pansy. The old Grandpa Joe was annoying too. Personally I thought maybe when Charlie was deciding who to take to the factory with him, he could have at least thought about taking his mom, who spent all day stirring big vats of other people's laundry to support the four bedridden grandparents, one of whom apparently could get up and dance the whole damn time. Then again, old Mom sang that horrible "Cheer Up, Charlie" song that seemed to go on for an hour, so maybe I would have wanted to ditch her too. In any case, in the old movie, you just couldn't wait for all Charlie's family crap to be over with so we could get to the factory already. In the new movie, not so much. I loved the parents and the look of the house, and even the grandparents were kind of cute instead of just, like "ech, can you imagine having them just sitting there in the middle of your living room all day long?" You really did believe that they didn't mind being poor because they all had each other. Yeah, sap, I know, but the actors sold it. The child who played Charlie didn't blow me away or anything, but he was huge improvement over the icky blond kid in the old one.

The factory -- this one is a draw. The stuff in the new movie is awesome, of course, but you know what? I didn't think that the room that's made to look like it's outdoors but everything is made of candy, for instance, was a big improvement over the one in the old movie. I did like the shots of the outside of the factory in the new one, and Grandpa Joe's story about working there and how everyone was fired after secrets started leaking out. I also liked the glass elevator scene near the end too -- in the old movie, Willie Wonka talks about how the elevator can go in any direction, but in the new one you get to actually see it, and that's fun. But as far as the scenes that happened in both movies are concerned, nothing really really blew me out of the water.

The other kids -- well, Augustus Gloop isn't onscreen for very long in either movie, and I didn't notice his character being very different from one to the other. He's a fat German kid who eats too much, his mom thinks he's precious, he drinks from the chocolate river, falls in, and gets sucked into a pipe. So he's a tie, as is Mike TeeVee. I don't really understand why they made him be addicted to video games rather than TV in the new one -- I understand that video games are maybe a bit more timely but his last name is still TeeVee, and he still comes to the end of his tour of the chocolate factory being sent by television waves, so what's the point? Neither of the kids who played him stood out to me particularly.

Violet Beauregard -- now, I appreciated what they did with her in the new film. Substitute the used-car-salesman dad for a hyper-competitive mom, give her and the kid matching blonde bobs and track suits -- it was cute. I was liking them as well as I liked Violet and her dad in the old one right up until she blew up into a giant blueberry, and then, you know what? The CGI ruined it for me, because she didn't look real anymore. It was like in the first Harry Potter movie, where they're whipping around on broomsticks playing Quidditch really fast, and you get distracted by the fact that those aren't human faces you're seeing -- sure it was cool that Violet got so big, but when you saw that the face on her wasn't a real face -- that's where they lost me. As I kid, I found that scene, where all they did was paint the actress' face with blue make-up and fill up her costume with air, scary enough, and you could see her there the whole time, even when the Oompa Loompas turned her on her side and rolled her out of the room. The Violet in the new movie turned into a cartoon and that made it lose the creepiness for me. So the old film definitely wins the Violet competition.

Same goes for Veruca Salt. They were smart and didn't mess with Veruca too much in the new one -- she's still a demanding, bratty little British girl, with a dad who doesn't seem to get the fact that giving her everything she wants has made her into a monster. I believe they changed the geese that lay the golden eggs in the old movie to squirrels who crack and inspect nuts because they were squirrels in the book, and that's fine. But I still don't think you can beat the old Veruca's performance when Willie Wonka won't sell her father one of the golden geese, where she sings the song -- more like a musical tantrum, really -- about how she wants everything now. (One of the things she demands in the song is a "bean feast" -- anyone know what that's about? Maybe I misheard her?) And then she falls down the bad egg chute as she sings the last line. I'm pretty sure that's my favorite scene in the whole movie. In the new movie, the squirrel thing just didn't work for me. For one thing, Veruca's pronunciation of the word "squirrel" is totally annoying. Then, when the squirrels attack her, you pretty much think they're going to start biting chunks out of her, and that's pretty brutal. And then, it takes them forever to throw her down the bad nut hole, and it's hard to believe that they could keep her pinned down that way or that her dad couldn't get down there to get to help her in all that time. I just found it annoying frankly. So the old film definitely wins in the Veruca department too.

Next, the Oompa Loompas -- this one I had to break into parts. I loved the old Oompa Loompas, but come on -- they looked terrible. It was like whoever designed their costumes and make-up didn't even try: "Yeah, let's get some little people, paint their faces orange, slap some ugly green wigs and weird white overalls on them and call it a day. Next!" The Oompa Loompas in the new film are all portrayed by a single actor, a guy named Deep Roy digitally reproduced thousands of times, and I thought he looked great in all of his different costumes and incarnations. So I liked the new Oompa Loompas a lot better, at least until they broke into song. What fan of the 70s movie doesn't love it when the Oompa Loompas sing their song: "Oompa, Loompa, doompity doo, I've got another puzzle for you..." Each time, it's the same song, with different lyrics to spell out the lesson to be taken from the latest child's mishap -- by the end of the movie, you're singing along. They do a little dancing and there's some psychedelic-looking animation, but it's all kept pretty simple. Not so with the new Oompa Loompas -- each time a kid disappears or gets messed up in the new movie, techno music begins to play and it's a full, Vegas-style production number. There's even a synchronized swimming sequence, and I have to admit that was clever, but still -- sometimes less is more. So I give it to the new Oompa Loompas for their look, and the old ones for their musical performances.

Finally -- the ending. I have to say, it never sat right with me the way Gene Wilder's Willie Wonka turned all nice at the end of the first movie, even giving Charlie a big hug in the glass elevator. Obviously, a kid's book is going to have a happy ending; Charlie is the hero and it's fitting for him to "win" the factory because he's a good kid with his heart in the right place, but it's still a dark story about a guy who makes candy and doesn't really like kids at all, so the happy ending is a hard thing to reconcile -- too much sweetness isn't going to work. I felt the new film did a bit better with it by drawing it out and Willie and Charlie having conflict about how it was going to happen -- I also appreciated that there was no particular moment when Willie suddenly learned that family is a wonderful thing, and that he just sort of seemed to quietly become a part of Charlie's family. It was still a bit awkwardly done, but definitely an improvement.

So anyway, there you have it -- my long-winded compare-and-contrast of 1971's "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and 2005's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Who knows, maybe some day when the latter is out on DVD, I'll rent them both and watch them back to back. Maybe I'll change my mind on some things.

As promised:

Wedding Pictures:

Mini Post-Wedding Post

I woke up yesterday, the morning after the big wedding, with a nasty cold, which doesn't really surprise me considering how well I've been handling stress in the last week or so. On the plus side, everything went well and I did manage to relax and enjoy most of it. I am very happy that BLB and the Bride are now lawfully wed, and I'm very glad that all their planning resulted in a lovely day for everyone. Congratulations to both of you, guys, and thanks so much for letting us be a big part of your special day :-)

That said -- since I'm home on the couch feeling like crap today anyway, I'm going to put together a simple page with the small number of good and okay pictures we got with our camera and link to it instead of posting them here or linking to them individually. I'm going to do my best to keep it really, really simple and not spend the better part of the next few days on it as I have in the past. Wish me luck and I hope to have a link for you soon!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

We are all home in one piece, the wedding was great, and I will write about it when I have a bit more energy. For now -- well, I haven't brought up celebrity happenings in a while. There just hasn't been a lot going on since Tom and Katie's World "We're in love, why don't you believe us?" Tour of Crazy came to an end. Lately all we've really had to pick over Jude Law's tearful apology to his blandly blonde actress fiancee after she found out he messed with his kids' nanny a while back. Then, while she tries to figure out if she should take the bastard back, occasionally being photographed looking "brave" and "fabulous", Jude goes to France to visit his parents and someone takes a picture of him changing clothes -- in other words, butt-naked -- the same week his bare-butt scene in "The Talented Mr. Ripley" was voted best by British movie-goers. What a life, huh? I have just a couple of comments:
1) A really good-looking, well-known actor, messing around on his fiancee? Shocking!
2) I find it kind of amusing that anyone would make a big deal out of naked pictures of Jude Law, since I'm 99.9% sure that, in that very scene in "The Talented Mr. Ripley" that the Brits were drooling over, he showed not just his ass but also anything else that might have been showing in pictures of him changing out of his bathing suit. Sure, it's an invasion of privacy and I can understand why he'd been annoyed by it, but what I can't figure out is why anyone would bother. I guess recent events have made him a hot property in the tabloid world, but seriously -- Jude's manly parts have been available for viewing since "The Talented Mr. Ripley" came out 6 years ago. The nudity is totally gratuitous -- people have been shown getting out of bathtubs onscreen plenty of times in the past without full-frontal nudity being necessary. I remember finding it very puzzling at the time. I mean, that was a pretty high-brow movie, nothing like the only other example I can think of right now, Kevin Bacon getting out of the shower near the end of "Wild Things," which was obviously meant to be trash and therefore pointless nudity seems par for the course.

Another thing about the bare-butt honorees that cracked me up was the inclusion of Ewan McGregor in "Velvet Goldmine." This is another case of "um... you only noticed his butt?" Because the main thing I remember from that movie was that not only did he appear completely nude in it, but that in one scene, he was on-stage nude and he turned around and bent over. I honesty don't seek out these salacious things in the movies -- I really don't -- but that's the sort of thing you don't forget. I happen to love Ewan McGregor, and I'm of the opinion that with the right, he is even more attractive than Jude Law, but I don't need to see that much of anyone, know what I mean? So hearing that people remembered his tush in particular after that kind of display seems odd to me.

Then again, I'm not British, so maybe they see these things differently.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Wrapping Things Up

This week, I am not:
1. sleeping much
2. managing my stress very well
3. tolerating caffeine well, and the one Tylenol P.M. I took on Tuesday night made me feel like a mess all day Wednesday.

Today I need to pack up the kids and the stuff we need so we can head down to Pleasant Hill/Walnut Creek/Concord for the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner for the wedding of BLB and the Bride (Reasonable Man will be driving down seperately a bit later -- he has some briefs he's trying to get out today). Tomorrow is a day to get primped at the day spa and help the Bride take care of any little tasks that might spring up, and Saturday is the Big Day. I've looked forward to it for months and it's all going to be a lot of fun, so why I am I feeling so anxious and overwhelmed? There honestly isn't a tremendous amount I need to do here -- Buster needs to go to the kennel and we need to drop off some movies we rented at the video store, I need to finish the load of laundry I'm doing, fold it, pack a suitcase for myself and one for Enthusio, and then there are the usual pre-trip things like taking out the trash, making sure the cat has enough food and water to make it till we get home Sunday morning, and printing out computer directions to all the places we will be driving to in the next few days. That's not really a whole lot but I'm still making myself a little crazy trying to get started on it and I'm not sure why.

I do know one thing and that is, in this state, I need to really watch it with any alcohol consumption. I was planning to do so anyway, in light of events on the Bachelorette Cruise, but my experiences this week lead me to believe that I'm extra sensitive to any kinds of chemicals right now, so yeah -- one drink at the dinner tonight and one at the wedding on Saturday. I want to feel well and enjoy these things.

I found a brilliant and cheap solution to my computer hinge issue -- it works so well and was so easy that I don't know why I didn't think of it before. One word: Velcro. I bought a package of strips of it with adhesive on the back, and put a strip of the less abrasive side along the bottom lefthand side and along the lefthand side of the lid. Then I cut a strip of the other stuff that would reach between those two strips when the screen was up and attached it, and voila! Strong, simple, easily adjustable, and cheap to replace, although I don't see that being an issue for a long, long time. Right now the strip that spans between the bottom and the lid still has the paper on it that you pull off to expose the adhesive, and I need to find attractive to stick on it and round the corners so they so poke me, but otherwise, it's great, having spent $6.99 just, I am feeling pleased at having saved myself $893.01. So there.

Well, I guess it's time to get a move on here. I'm feeling a little calmer and there's stuff to do. BLB and the Bride -- I'll see you in 6 1/2 hours. Everyone else -- take care, and I'll be back on Sunday.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


It will become apparent, as you read this, that the title of this post is a terrible pun. I'm not even going to apologize because this situation is so stupid that it deserves a terrible pun.

Yesterday marked the 10th of the 7-10 business days that the computer place downtown was holding my laptop hostage before they looked at it, so I called them to see what was what. They had indeed looked at it, and they put the guy who worked on it on the phone to talk to me. Remember how I was afraid they were going to tell me that parts weren't available to fix the broken hinge? Well, that didn't happen. The part I need is available, and I can have it fixed if I want. That's the good news.

The part is a whole new LCD screen. And it costs $900. Plus $27 for shipping.

Can you believe that shit?

We bought this laptop just over two years ago, in July 2003. I have used it a lot, that is true -- it has been my primary computer and I'm on the computer almost constantly. I have not, however, even toted it around all that much. 99 out of every 100 hours I've used it have been right here, sitting on my family room couch. I don't let my kids use it unless it's absolutely necessary -- the wear and tear isn't worth it. I've tried to take care of it, I really have.

I know I've said this before, but it works perfectly. It's speedy, even with all my stuff loaded on to it. It's never crashed. I can't remember ever having had any kind of technical, computer-type problem with it at all. But the hinge is completely fucked, and the little speaker thingy that holds it down on one side is detached. The computer is totally useable, except you have to hold it at a certain angle to be able to see the screen properly. And that's damn inconvenient.

We paid $1800 for this thing just 2 years ago, and now the physical structure of it is so broken down that it would cost half that again to fix it properly. That makes no sense, since I could probably replace it for very close to the total of parts and labor.

I'm sure I sound hopelessly naive about all of this. I don't mean to. I do understand how the computer industry works. I know that whatever computer you buy is going to be obsolete practically as soon as you get it out of the box. I know that, regardless of how much you spend on a new computer, the company that made it is out to make more money from you. When I went in to pick up my laptop from the repair place yesterday, the guy who'd worked on it sympathized with me. He said, "I don't know why they make it so you can't just replace the hinge." I said it was obviously so it would make more sense to just buy a whole new computer. He agreed -- and then mentioned that they had several new laptops there in the shop that someone could show me if I was interested. Building something to last -- why would they want to do that?

I understand all that. But just because we all know that that's the way it works doesn't mean it isn't utterly ridiculous, and insulting to those of us who drop our hard-earned dollars on their products.

When I brought my laptop home last night, I told Reasonable Man that I wanted a new one -- an Apple this time, because I've heard good things about they way they're built. But you know what? I'm not replacing it. I'm not going to respond to this situation in exactly the way I'm expected to -- by going out and buying a new laptop computer -- when this one works perfectly well and we spent almost two grand on it only two years ago. That would be a ridiculous response to an asinine situation.

No, I'm going to use duct tape and whatever else I need to to rig something up so that I can use this one comfortably for another few years. I'm going down to the hardware store today to see what they've got. And when I get it fixed up -- guess what? It's going to look really stupid. I know that. Just like the driver of the junker you see cruising down the street, primered and Bondo-ed to all hell, I'm going to use a computer that looks like shit, and I'm going to do it with pride. And I'm going to feel better about it than I would if I bought a whole new freaking computer.

And you know what else? I'm even springing for a whole new role of silver duct tape today, because that'll match my computer a lot better than the red kind I already have.

And I'm also never again buying a Toshiba anything, EVER, as long as I live.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Neglecting My Blog

Yeah, I know I haven't posted in a few days. It's kind of hard right now with my laptop being in the shop. I don't really like posting on the desktop (yeah, I know, poor me) and I do use Ryan's laptop sometimes but I've found it's a pain to check email on the SBC website which is down a lot for some reason, so I haven't been using it much. It's actually good overall because I'm on the computer less. As for my laptop being gone, I'm feeling much better about not having it here than I thought I would. The only issue that's come up is that I'm reading a book about Beatles music right now and they talk about lots of songs I'm unfamiliar with, so I'm be downloading some of them if I had my computer. Other than that, the 7-10 days it's supposed to take them to get a look at it are flying by and I think I might not actually blow a gasket if they tell me they can't fix it. I will be upset but not about the time they've had it. Anyway, I will cross that bridge if I come to it.

Not having my computer is also delaying my being able to write a post I want to write about Celebrity Playlists on iTunes. I want to have my own collection of music in front of me when I write it.

Some of the hens are together at B's this weekend and I wish I was there with them. I hope they are having an awesome time and that they all enjoyed partying with cute hockey boys on Friday night. I would have been there in my slutty top if there was any possible way.

It's less than a week till the big day for BLB and his Bride. I talked to her on the phone the other night and she sounds pretty cool about everything, so that's good. We will be heading down to the Walnut Creek/Pleasant Hill/Concord area on Thursday afternoon to attend the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner and will just stay down there till the morning after the festivities. I have surprisingly little to get taken care of before we leave: I need to make a reservation at the doggie hotel for the beastie and then deliver him there Thursday morning; hit one of the two places the happy couple is registered to get them a little something; and get some undergarments (or "magic underwear") to wear under my bridesmaid dress so I don't look like a tub in it. I have failed to lose ten lbs prior to the wedding and, you know, oh well. I have been working out a lot and I feel like I'm in better shape than I was three months ago, so that's something. The dress fits so that's that.

The kids are done with activities for the summer, other than a cooking class I forgot to take Enthusio to last week (there are still two sessions for him to go to). Mermaid was signed up to swim at the City Championships meet this past Thursday and Friday evenings -- she went Thursday but Friday she developed a migraine and couldn't go, so that kind of sucked. Enthusio had his last day of day camp on Friday and has now changed his tune and said he didn't like it and doesn't want to go next summer. I already told him that he will have a choice: day camp or SummerDarts, and he's not happy about it, but we can revisit that next spring. I really think he'll like SummerDarts if he gives it a chance and that it's really a self-confidence issue for him. In the meantime, he wants to play soccer in the spring and he wants to do some other kind sport this fall, so we'll work on that.

We have two weeks before school starts, and I for one am looking forward to relaxing, sleeping in, spending some time with Enthusio because it feels like I've hardly seen him all summer, reading some more, enjoying the wedding festivities, and did I mention relaxing? In case I haven't already mentioned it: Busiest. Summer. Ever. The relative calm of fall will be welcome!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Books, Music

Yeah, remember how I said I was going to read some YA fiction because they went fast and I'd wanted to anyway? So now I'm up to 30!

The Perks of Being A Wallflower is for one of my book clubs and I gave it a * because, even though there were a lot of things about it that just didn't work for me at all, I reacted to it so strongly and there was so much about it that was well done that I just can't not recommend it to others, if only because people should form their own opinions of it, you know? The Gossip Girl book -- well, those are a guilty pleasure of mine, and instead of forking over nine bucks for this one like I've done with the last five, I will admit that I just read a copy of it sitting in the Borders' children's section over the course of a few different afternoons. Borders gets an awful lot of my money as is it so I don't feel too guilty.

Speaking of Borders, I had a really depressing experience there last week. I had coupon for 25% off any CD or DVD and so I thought it would be fun to just go in there and pick up a CD. I rarely do that since the whole music downloading revolution took off a few years ago -- in fact, you can count the number of CDs I've bought since then on the fingers of one hand -- I just prefer downloading individual songs and arranging them on CDs myself. But last week I was just tired of all the CDs in my car. Anyway, I spent about 40 minutes browsing in the Borders CD section and almost ended up walking out empty-handed. I just didn't even know how to look for what I wanted. I ended up buying a newer collection of Tori Amos songs that has some that I'm familiar with and others that I'm not, which seemed like a good idea since my two Tori CDs mysteriously disappeared a few years ago. That kind of sounds like I'm being sarcastic but I don't mean it that way -- it really is mysterious to me because I have no idea where the hell they went. I can't imagine who was here who would steal at all and steal Tori Amos in particular. Whatever.

Anyway, I've listened to it a bunch of times and I don't really like it. Oh well.

Naturally today I'm looking on and I've found 3 different CDs I want: "The Best of George Harrison," the "March of the Penguins" original score, and "I Am Sam - Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture," which is all covers of Beatles songs. Sarah McLachlan singing "Black Bird?" OMG, I could wet my pants!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

So Much For All My Worrying

After I picked up Enthusio from day camp today, he asked if he could go again next summer. I said he could if he wanted to, and he started talking about all the field trips and how he would be be in bunk three next years with all his friends and how he wanted to go ALL summer. So I guess all my fussing and fretting about his fragile emotional state was a wee bit of an overreaction.

50 Book Challenge Round-Up

I may do this yet. Have gained some momentum over these past few weeks and I'm looking at my current total -- 28 books in 7 months -- and thinking that's close to being on pace. I've been wanting to read some more young adult novels anyway, and those go fast so that will help and I won't feel bad about using them to pad my total since I can chalk it up to research for my own writing career.

I looked over my list this morning and did a quick tally of genres just because it feels like I've read about a zillion true crime books this year. It's actually 6, which is a pretty large percentage of 28 but not as bad as what I thought. Here's the list:

True Crime: 6
Other Non-Fiction: 4
Literary Fiction: 10
Science Fiction: 4
Mystery: 2
Young Adult Fiction: 2
Humor: 2

I could have arranged this differently. Some books are hard to classify. I could have made the Sci-Fi category "Sci-Fi/Fantasy" and put the new Harry Potter book in there instead of in the Young Adult Section, and I could have also divided up the literary fiction category into several categories like "Historical Fiction," "Chick Lit," etc. Both books in the humor category could have gone in the non-fiction category. I just went with my first instinct on most of them.

In any case, I think the total I'm most proud of is the sci-fi category. Even though they were all for book clubs and one of them could have been put in the literary fiction category if I'd wanted to put it there, I'm pretty sure I've never read 4 sci-fi books in one year before, and the two Mary Doria Russell ones were kind of difficult to get through. If I were in this just for the numbers, I might consider awarding myself credit for 2 books a piece for each of them...

Thursday, August 04, 2005

A Special Place In Hell

Several years ago, Reasonable Man and I came up with the idea that some people are going to a special place in hell for their especially egregious karmic crimes in this earthly realm. We were inspired to embrace this theory when we heard that Dorothy Hamill, she of the famous short haircut and 1976 Olympic gold medal in ladies' figure skating, was divorcing her second husband because he had cheated on her. Multiple times.

"Oh, man, cheating on Dorothy Hamill," Reasonable Man commented. "That guy is going to his own special place in hell." And so the concept was born.

Over the years, we haven't been moved to nominate cell-mates for Dorothy Hamill's cheating ex-husband very often. A few years ago, somebody, or several somebodies, broke into the kindergarten classrooms at our neighborhood elementary school and absconded with a couple of laptop computers and a few other items. The fact that they'd chosen the kindergartens -- not the office, or the science lab, or the library -- the kindergartens, for God's sake -- that caused us to surmise that those individuals would be sharing living quarters with Dorothy's ex in that special place in hell. But this guy takes the cake. Can you freaking imagine? A tee ball coach pays one of his players to hit the autistic kid in the head so he can't play the rest of the game and they can win? Holy shit -- I'm speechless.

Now, in light of this particular story, I really can only give a Special Place in Hell honorable mention to whoever the asshole out there is who stole the Austism Awareness ribbon magnet-thingy off the back of my minivan. I'm really puzzling over this. Who the hell would do that? Seriously -- does it make sense that the person who sees it and thinks "oh, autism awareness! Yeah, that rocks! I need one of those!" then decides there's nothing wrong with ripping it off my car and slapping it on his or her own? I guess it's possible that it just fell off, but -- it was a magnet. Unless there was some brief suspension of the laws of physics that I failed to notice, I don't really see how that would happen. I'm thinking human hands had to be involved. And that being the case -- who? If anyone has any theories on this, I'd really like to hear them.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Broken Laptop Hinge Drama Update

I gave up on stupid computer guy downtown who won't return my phone calls, called Fry's and sat there while the phone to the service department rang 20 times without anyone answering it, and then took my laptop to some other folks downtown and handed it over. It will be 7-10 business days before they can even look at it and check with Toshiba to see if they can even get the parts to fix it. If I'd wanted to make an appointment so I didn't have to leave it with them for so long, it would have been $70 an hour instead of $60. They are estimating that it will be at least 2-3 hours of labor and the replacement parts will be in the $100 range, if they can get them at all, which they couldn't guarantee, in which case I am SOL and have a perfectly functional laptop with a completely fucked up hinge. Needless to say, I am not happy. I can certainly live without my computer for a few weeks -- I spend too much time on it anyway and there are two others in the house so obviously I can make do, but what a pain in the ass. I can't tell you how pissed I'm going to be if they don't have parts available to fix the hinge on my barely-two-year-old laptop. I'm getting a little nauseated just thinking about the gasket I'm going to blow if that happens.

Yesterday's Reason That I'm A Complete Idiot

We all know I did yard work yesterday, because I've mentioned it about 5 times. Okay, so I'm out there on my hands and knees in the front yard, digging weeds out of the lawn. It's summer, over 90 degrees, and I'm wearing a tank top. Here is my internal dialogue:

I should put on sunscreen, because I'm going to burn. Well, I'm in and out of the shade here. I won't be exposed to the sun that long. It's my shoulders, they're nice and tan, so they'll probably just get tanner. It'll be fine. I don't need sunscreen. It'll be fine.

Needless to say, I got a sunburn.

It wasn't, however, just my shoulders. What I failed to realize when I was out there was that the tank top I was wearing was riding up, exposing a little strip of skin approximately two inches wide on my lower back. You know, where I'd have a tattoo if I was about 10 years younger? I first noticed it when I got out of the shower yesterday. My first thought was, oh crap, I'm stupid. Then, a few minutes later, I went running back over to the mirror to check the location of the burn again, and was relieved to find it several inches north of the crack area. Not only would I not like to think that I was out there in the front yard showing off butt cleavage for most of the day yesterday, but this sunburn is already stupid enough without it involving my buttcrack, don't you think? I mean, you would think I would have noticed if my pants had been riding that low -- but you would have thought I would have noticed that my top was riding up and exposing that little strip of skin too, and I didn't, did?

Now, the tank top I was wearing is what they call a racer-back, which means it leaves pretty much your whole shoulder blade area exposed to the elements. This is fine, as my shoulders and accompanying blades are old hands at weathering sunburn. I'd say they get a good one at least once a year, despite my best efforts. Not so for the strip of skin on my lower back. When I showed it to Reasonable Man yesterday, he exclaimed in shock.

"What, is it purple?" I asked?

"No, but it's pretty red," he said, because he's nice that way. A lot of people would probably have been more like, "Purple? Try magenta!" Or something like that. They might have used the word "crispy," which would have been fitting. We are talking about skin that hasn't been exposed to sun since sometime back in the 70s when my mom used to buy me those little girl bikinis. This skin doesn't have the year-to-year seasoning that my shoulder blades have. In other words, finding a comfortable sleeping position last night was kind of a job.

Thanks for those high-thread-count, silky, satiny sheets you gave us for Christmas this past year, Mom and Dad. I promise to wear my sunscreen from now on.

Monday, August 01, 2005

This Is Not Sexy, People

Is it just me, or is this HIDEOUS?:

This is a photo from an ad that assaulted me when I was minding my own business and looking at my Yahoo mail account yesterday. I know I've mentioned it before, and I don't mean to keep harping on it, but... damn! It's not just ugly -- it looks infected! Or maybe like an allergic reaction to eating shellfish or something. Seriously -- the whole gender issue aside, if someone with a mouth that looked like this wanted to kiss me, I'd be thinking about what course of antibiotics I needed to start on afterward. Yecch.

Yard Work

Right after I wrote I was blowing off the gym to lie on the couch and read a book, I went outside and worked in the front yard for two hours. I found it strangely gratifying dig up these viney weeds in the front lawn. Reasonable Man is probably not going to be thrilled about the holes I left, but I think it was important to dig these suckers up down to their roots. Our front lawn is 10 years old, and it seems to be at a turning point -- we can either let it turn into one of those gnarly green patches that is really more weeds than grass like you see a lot in older neighborhoods, or we can fight for it and keep it a lawn. I don't get motivated to do this kind of crap very often, but I feel like I'm doing good work today. If only my damn iPod ear buds would stop slipping out of my ears...
It's 10:30 and I'm sitting here in my gym clothes. I don't think I'm going and I don't care who knows it.

I worked out 5 times last week and that was a good thing. I'm not going to make it 5 times this week and oh well. I think I had too much caffeine or something because my tummy feels all squirrelly and I'm anxious. I think what I need is to take off my shoes and lie on the couch reading a book for a while. Maybe I'll go pull some weed in the front yard...

50 Book Challenge: "Homework" Books and Lighter Fare

Part of the reason I'm not going to make my 50-book total by the end of the year is that for some reason I'm reading a lot of heavy books this year. Sci-fi takes me a while. Sometimes I pick up a mistake of a true crime book and I end up trudging through it instead of gobbling it up the way I do with the really good ones. Another thing that will probably slow me down is worrying about Enthusio and wanting to do some research on dealing with his issues.

I was really disappointed in The Highly Sensitive Child. I probably shouldn't have had such high expectations. I read the author's earlier book, The Hightly Sensitive Person, several years ago, and it was kind of a life-changing experience, in that it explained what had been "wrong" with me my whole life. I had always felt like things were so much harder for me to deal with than for anyone else. I knew that saying I was "shy" or "introverted" wasn't really the issue. I knew it wasn't just emotional sensitivity because it seemed physical too -- not being able to deal with extremes of temperature for any length of time, or uncomfortable clothing, or having volume too loud for TV or movies or music, or more than a little caffeine -- it all seemed to point at having a stupidly delicate nature. Turns out this is a trait I share with 20% of the population, more than the number with whom I share the trait of left-handedness. It was a huge relief to read this book that seemed to explain who I was, but at the same time, I knew that I hadn't ever fit the profile of the typical Highly Sensitive Child, who seems timid and hesitant -- by all reports, I was always a cheerful, open, friendly kid, from the time I was a baby. Enthusio has always been the same -- "shy" is about the last word I would use to describe him. I do feel very strongly that the Highly Sensitive label fits us both, between the strong emotional reactions to so many things and the many sensory issues that both of us seem to suffer from. But it does make sense that the book would naturally be more geared toward dealing with the issues of the typical HSC, so I guess I shouldn't have expected it to answer all my questions.

It did point me in another direction -- emotional intelligence. I've read that EQ is supposed to be a more accurate indicator of how well a person will do in life than IQ. A couple of years ago, I took an online EQ quiz and scored incredibly low, which I thought was kind of funny, since the last time I checked, I wasn't a total loser and had in fact managed to do reasonably well in life. But I would definitely like to read up on the subject, especially with regard to raising a child to have high EQ, because I think that could really help Enthusio. So this morning I ordered a used copy of Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman on Amazon.

Along those same lines, I was really proud of Entusio this morning. I took him to day camp, and they are going on a field trip to a miniature golf/arcade type place today. This situation seemed fraught with opportunities for Enthusio to get upset, so I checked with the lady at the front desk to get a sense of what the fee I'd already paid was going to include and what he might need to spend his own money on, and I talked to him about how to handle some different situations that might come up, like not doing well at the mini-golfing since he's never done it before and that sort of thing. He seemed very prepared for it. I am starting to think he has actually grown up a lot this summer and that day camp has been good for him.

Anyhow, now I get to choose something else to read, and, as though I didn't already have about 100 books sitting on the shelf waiting to be read, last night I picked up 3 more (Borders had a buy 2, get the 3rd free deal): We Thought You Would Be Prettier by Laurie Notaro, a short, funny memoir-type thing; Bee Season by Myla Goldberg, about a girl placed in a class for slow learners who unexpectedly find success in a spelling bee, and Atonement by Ian McEwan. The book I recently read for one of my book clubs, The Reading Group, was not my favorite, but I was intrigued by some of the books the women in the book met to discuss, and Atonement was one of them. It looks kind of heavy, but the story sounds really good. I think I'm going to start with We Thought You Would Be Prettier -- it looks like one that will be easy to gobble down -- before I get to my other August book club selection, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a young adult book that I think will also be a quick one.

Maybe August will be my month for catching up on my total, although I am determined to deliberately choose quick books for that purpose. That feels like cheating.