A glimpse into the world of obscenely overpriced chocolates

Via Jen comes this fascinating expose on Dallas-based gourmet chocolatier Noka. If you're at all interested in chocolate, how it's made or how it's marketed, this is a must-read.


Because nothing says Christmas like champagne in the hot tub

My parents' house has a nice pool, complete with heating. It's been so mild this year that they could probably still be using it, but my dad already closed it up for the winter.

That's where my grandparents come in. A few weeks ago, they bought a hot tub, complete with color-changing lights and a "waterfall." (They had a slightly cheaper one in mind, but my dad - a former college linebacker - just couldn't fit in it. I understand they had to take him to the hot tub place and have him sit in their potential purchases.) This big buy - along with my grandmother's love of touring the new addition to my parents' house (the "homestead"), all the while saying things like, "Oh, and just LOOK at this bathroom sink!" - convinces me that my grandparents are truly happy living out their days in spa-like comfort in suburban Cincinnati.

So when I arrived for my two-day Christmas stay in Milford, the hot tub had been set up for just about a week. That's new enough that my mom wanted to spend all her spare time in it - and no time is more spare than the time between opening presents on Christmas morning and waiting for the relatives to arrive on Christmas afternoon. So, not two hours after I'd torn open my Indiana Jones box set and had my first cup of coffee, my mom said, "Come on, Kel - get on your bathing suit!"

Did you know you're supposed to shower before using a hot tub?

Of my five readers, two are now saying, "Ew, I can't believe she didn't know that!" and the other three are saying, "A shower? Really?"

Yes, really. The water in a hot tub doesn't go anywhere to be filtered, so any dirt you have on you just stays in there. The instructional DVD that came with the tub said being in a hot tub with one other person is akin to being in a regular pool with 150 other people. (As a former visitor to Miami Hills on crowded days, I can tell you that this is super-gross.)

I guess my grandpa doesn't shower every day (which makes sense - it's not like he runs a daily 5K or anything), so he can only go in the hot tub on shower days. My parents were making fun of him - "Ha, ha - YOU can't go in the hot tub!" - and he was all, "Hey, I took my shower this morning!" But he didn't go in when I was there, and Nana was doing some kitchen thing, and my sister wanted to take a nap. So it was just my parents and me.

Which is weird - sitting in a hot tub with my parents on Christmas Day, sipping champagne (my mom decided it would make the occasion more festive). But hey, it beats watching the Jets beat Miami.


No more cats, please (or, spooked by a dream)

In my dream last night, I was still in college, but I owned Thursday. My college roommate gave me Christmas presents, and among them was a stray cat wrapped in a blue blanket. I pretended to be happy, but really I was wondering how the hell we were going to fit two cats in our dorm room.

Then (in the dream) I went home for Christmas break, and my parents also gave me a stray cat. As Thursday fought with the newcomer, I realized I had left the other new cat back in my dorm with no food or water.

So if you're reading this, and you're thinking about getting me a stray cat for Christmas because you know I like cats and hey, there's that stray that keeps getting into your garbage cans - please know that I'd prefer a gift certificate.


Queen Blogopopolis

I've finally gotten around to updating my blogroll - because I know you were all waiting for it.

You can see under "My Other Blogs" I've added Popography, where I mostly just crab about how Gilmore Girls has totally gone downhill this season. You might like the stuff the other people are posting, though.

WireCan has been added to Local Blogs. I've fixed the link to Josh's blog in Friends and updated the Other blogs to reflect what I've been reading these days. I've gotten rid of the links to my MySpace, etc. pages and (finally) added a link to the weekly comic Mr. Wufflekins draws.

Many of the blogs on this roll have got some awesome stuff up right now. Allow me to direct your attention to:
- Carrie and Eileen, who just got back from a trip to England and have recapped the experience. Who knew so many people jumped in front of Underground trains?
- Ronson, who's working on a "Top 25 Songs of 2006" list. Go see if you've heard of more than, like, eight of them.
- Gina, who's got a sweet video of her fun evening at the Pop Rocked opening reception.


Radio winnowing

My alarm clock plays CDs, but in the past few months it hasn't worked so well. Even CDs that are bought and not burnd begin to skip after about 30 seconds of play. So it's back to the radio stations for me.

NPR was my first choice, but it is simply impossible to wake up to. I'd set my alarm for 7 a.m. and bolt upright with a start at 8:15. It's too bad; I really enjoyed those "This I Believe" essays.

I tried Mix for a while, but I couldn't stand Whoopi's voice, and there was no music. I don't understand why radio stations think the thing to do when people are waking up is play NO MUSIC WHATSOEVER. I don't want to hear from callers in Brooklyn or wherever talking about how much they love Whoopi; I want to hear "Rock Lobster."

97.3 (when it was Everything Alternative and not The Wolf) worked for a few weeks. The morning show, Rover's Morning Glory - whatever. At least they played a song I liked once in a while.

But then one morning I heard Rover talking about some news item where we bombed a Muslim wedding party in Iraq, and people were all pissed off. Rover didn't understand this, because if we couldn't bomb all Muslims everywhere at their weddings, they would surely come back and bomb us just as soon as the vows were exchanged. Evil people, you know, those Muslims.

So I switched to Q102. And this actually worked for a couple of months. Sometimes they'd play a Hinder or Pussycat Dolls song, but I learned to see that as an incentive to get up and turn off the radio. It turned into a system: "Lips of an Angel" meant hit the snooze button; "Buttons" meant get up and put on some coffee already. Plus, I liked that the talk was actually local; one amusing call-in segment on a high-school football widow had several people calling in to say they went to high school with the bride or worked with the groom.

And then one day they broke the news that Wal-Mart, in response to protests from evangelical Christians, is forgoing the word "Holiday" and using "Christmas" signage to refer to its seasonal merchandise.

The three DJs were all thrilled! "That is such good news," they trilled. "Oh, I'm so glad Wal-Mart saw the light on this one," they warbled. "And of course it's not about disrespecting anyone else's religion," they caveated.

Looking back, perhaps I should have called in and asked these DJs why they thought the use of the term "holiday" was so offensive to begin with. "When someone wishes you a 'happy holiday,' do you grit your teeth and think, 'You BASTARD!' " I would say to them.

But right around that time, 94.9 The Sound began its 9,490 nonstop song promotion, so I switched again. Now the worst thing I have to worry about is hearing the Jane's Addiction song "Caught Stealing" for the eighth time since the promotion began. And let me tell you: it's a lot better than dealing with people.

Plus, this morning they played "Rock Lobster."


What I did on my two-day vacation (in no particular order)

- Painted both fingernails and toenails
- Sorted laundry (did not actually do laundry)
- Cleaned refrigerator
- Advanced three episodes in God, the Devil and Bob DVD set
- Finally finished BBC version of The Office; returned DVDs to Mr. Wufflekins
- Completed first battle with Xemnas, won Goddess of Fate cup in Kingdom Hearts II
- Got high score in reading aloud in Brain Age
- Advanced, like, five paragraphs in The Omnivore's Dilemma (due to my habit of reading it at bedtime, not to any fault of writer's style)
- Cleaned piles of random junk off desk; replaced with slightly smaller and less numerous piles of junk; discovered desk is made of blond-wood-veneer particle board and not old bank statements
- Rearranged DVD/video game shelf; retired VHS tapes to bookshelf in bedroom (except for The Maxx, which is still in player)
- Opened kit of "Winter Knits" patterns; discovered do not know how to complete any of them
- Moved two storage bins out of bedroom (five to go, plus "donate to charity" pile)
- Cooked three new dishes: tomato basil turkey meatloaf, Crock-Pot cranberry chicken, apple cranberry walnut crisp. (Have only tasted meatloaf - it's OK, but kind of loose. Chicken smells weird and off-putting to me; crisp smells amazing.)
- SausageFest 2006! Louis Rich turkey sausage patties are far tastier and better-looking when cooked than Jennie-O patties, plus they have half the fat. (Louis Rich also makes my favorite turkey bacon; I guess those guys know turkey.)
- Wandered Kenwood Towne Centre, Barnes & Noble without finding any Christmas presents for anyone
- Had crazy Kenwood IHOP experience involving waiter bringing checks before drinks, disappearing for entire meal, and taking so long to process my check I thought he had pocketed my change; Stacie's mom said we should have gone to Taco Bell
- Totally forgot about volunteering to be "celebrity" bartender for World's Largest Office Party tomorrow

Midnight baking

Fun fact: I always, always underestimate the amount of time it's going to take me to cook something. I never take prep time into account, and then I wind up puttering around at 1 a.m., waiting for the damn thing to be done.

Case in point: Tonight I got home at 10:30, 10:45, all ready to make this apple cranberry walnut crisp. (I have fresh cranberries left over from Thanksgiving, so I'm trying some new recipes to get rid of them.) It takes an hour to bake, so I guess my thought process went, cool, I'll pop it in the oven and be done by midnight.

Yeah, I hadn't done any of the prep work. Do you know how long it takes to peel and slice 3 pounds of apples? I don't either, but when I finally slid the mixture into the oven, it was 11:45, so I'm guessing it takes a while.

At least I'll have a really awesome breakfast for the next few days.


Vacation can sneak up on you

So I woke up this morning and thought a little bit about the month of December, and I realized that, hey, I'm supposed to be on vacation tomorrow and Tuesday!

I think.

So I called up my supervisor and found out that although she doesn't remember specifically when I'm supposed to be on vacation, she thinks tomorrow and Tuesday sound about right. And when I asked if I should just come in tomorrow and figure out some other days, she said she wasn't sure there really were other days. (The month of December is crazy in this respect; trying to find unobtrusive days to take off is why I wound up with random vacation days that I don't remember.) So I said all right, guess I'll see you Wednesday.

So now I'm faced with two extra days off and no plans for how to fill them. I'm sure I could just wing it, but that way would lie two days of blog-checking and DVD-watching. So I sent a text message to my sister in Columbus, asking if I might pay her a visit, and maybe do some Christmas shopping while I'm at it. We'll see how that goes.

How strange.


Black cat; gray cat

As I was getting into my car to go to work this morning, I saw an enormous black cat trot across the street. When I say "enormous," I mean possibly bigger than any cat I'd ever seen. I tried to come up with other quadrupeds to compare it to and came up with "calf."

I stared as the monster padded through the neighbor's yard and disappeared, and I wondered who owned him. I'm not (exactly) a superstitious person, but the thought did cross my mind that this cat could cause someone a whole lot of bad luck.

I saw another cat today. This one was gray and striped, and as he darted under my wheels on Mehring Way downtown, he also seemed huge. So huge, in fact, that as I felt the tiny thunk-thud under my wheels, I thought he must still be alive. Surely, that was the feeling of merely running over a leg or even a tail. Perhaps, I thought, I could find him on the sidewalk or in the shelter of the nearby bridge, and notify animal control.

He looked much smaller when I circled back and found he'd never made it out of the road. Small enough to easily be crushed under the wheels of my small car. It's the first animal I've ever hit. I've been assured that a cat running toward the river downtown in a place that's at least a half mile from any housing had no owner. I hope not.

The part of me that made me add the qualifier "exactly" to "I'm not superstitious" before was worried that somehow my cat would know - that I would be identified as a bane to the species. So far, she hasn't said anything, but I've still let her chew on my hand a bit in atonement.

I just got home from Mr. Wufflekins'. As I was walking through the parking lot, I saw two high-schoolers crouching by a car. They were feeding a skinny gray cat - I'm guessing a stray. I hope that it works out for him.


For all you regionalists out there ...

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The West
North Central
The South
The Inland North
The Northeast
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes


The new frontier of technology

A week and a half ago, Stacie showed me the pilot episode of Heroes. Since then I have been a woman possessed - I simply must watch every episode that has aired, then glue myself to the couch every Monday night until May and watch every episode that will be aired in the future.

So I'm doing it the sucker's way - by downloading the first eight or so episodes through iTunes at two bucks per 45-minute episode. I figure the cost-per-minute is expensive compared to, say, oxygen, but a bargain compared to playing the ponies. Plus, I want to try that thing where I display my computer screen on my TV. It's so very 21st century.

So I went out to the Apple store and picked up the cord thingy for video, headed over to Radio Shack and bought the other cord thingy for audio (and endured attempts to sell me the expensive, gold-plated Monster Cable version of my cord thingy, plus a cameraphone - as in, no joke, "While you're in here picking up your $8 cable, do you need a cameraphone?"), and went home to test it.

It. Is. Awesome. The audio is great (not that it's hard to beat the audio from an iBook) and the video cable works perfectly. I can't wait to try it out on an HDTV.

So then I get on the iTunes music store to buy my shows. I've never actually downloaded a TV show before (haven't tried a downloading program since Gnutella, which never worked on my iMac in college), but it's the iTunes store, so of course it is simplicity itself. I click "Buy Episode" ...

... and the download time pops up: 5 hours.

Five hours?!?! Seriously? I haven't had to wait five hours for something to download since I was scouring AOL for Sailor Moon AVIs over 28K dialup in high school. Is this what it normally takes to get 45 minutes of video that still looks good on a 27-inch screen, or does my connection just suck?

So I've been buying the episodes two at a time, right before work or sleep. When I get home tonight, barring some sort of connection failure (which happened yesterday), I'll have them all save the one from this week, which is currently streaming for free on the NBC website. Then the agony inherent in being a slave to a TV show can truly begin.


The pressures of updating

Hmm, it's been a while. In my last post I was preparing for my Harry Potter party, which was like three weeks ago. (It went off without a hitch, as long as you don't count "people not showing up" as a hitch.)

When you haven't updated for a while, I think the expectations for a "triumphant return"-type post are far higher. I can feel you (both) judging me, waiting for something great.

So here I submit to you: quite possibly the Greatest Music Video of All Time.

- Two people making out in a bathub makes Kelly Clarkson sad. (2:25)
- A cat clock "raises the roof." (3:20)
- Clarkson finds her true love at a raging kegger. I think we can all relate to that. (2:50)
- The raging kegger has karaoke! BONUS! (1:20)
- This party house and the party house in the video for Fiona Apple's "Criminal" - separated at birth? (This party was made more "upbeat" by the addition of palm-tree wallpaper - I mean, you can't have Kelly Clarkson roaming around an orgy! That would just be crass.)


My bathroom is the cleanest room in my apartment.

You can tell, because there's no pile of dirty clothes/old credit card statements/excess Tupperware in it, like there is in my apartment's other three rooms.

I even decorated!

See the shelf with the vase, and the wall thingy with the candles? See how the storage bins over the toilet are kind of symmetrical?

The bathroom-cleaning thing happened yesterday. It is the beginning of a week-long frenzy of general apartment-spiffing-up, culminating in a party Friday evening. (If you aren't invited, don't be sad - you probably aren't interested in coming. It's kind of like a book club, except instead of getting together and drinking and pretending to talk about books, we get together and drink and play Harry Potter Scene It?) It's my first time hosting, and I'm a little nervous - you know how judgemental those fangirls can be.

This evening, I went shopping for crepe paper, napkins and a Swiffer duster - one more weapon in my War on Cat Hair. I finally finished a craft project I've been wanting to do for at least a year, involving painting ugly red decorative Valentine's Day lights a more subdued silver color. I've got a pumpkin roasting in the oven, and all sorts of lovely ideas for what to do with it when it comes out. I transplanted my basil into a bigger pot.

But what I really should be doing is cleaning my living room.


Olbermann brings out the obscure historical references

To the extent to which references to past Presidents can be obscure, I guess.

Early in his special comment defending Bill Clinton, he refers to the Bush administration as "the worst administration since James Buchanan."


I actually couldn't focus on the rest of the speech until I found out what Buchanan did that was so bad.

Turns out he was the president just before Lincoln. He was afraid to do much of anything to soothe the tensions between slave and free states. He took office just before the Supreme Court handed down its Dred Scott decision, and he really hoped that would be the end of it. His policy of inaction is thought to be a factor in starting the Civil War.

It's not the way we normally think of our "Let's bomb Iraq for no real reason!" president, but Olbermann's comparison is perfect in the context of the piece, which points out that Bush ignored warnings of terrorist activity for eight months before the Sept. 11 attacks and is now trying to place all responsibility for the attacks on the Clinton administration.

Man, I hope our next president's more of a Lincoln.

If you're interested, you can read about Buchanan here. Wikipedia is good too.

Of course, Olbermann's entire comment is worth watching; it's a very rare thing nowadays to see a news anchor who knows how to turn a phrase.


Any book worth banning ...

... is a book worth reading, says a button I've had since I was, like, 13 and the Little Professor store down by the Kroger was still in business.

It's Banned Books Week!

Celebrate by reading a Harry Potter book. They're the most challenged books of the 21st century. ('Cause they're Satanic, doncha know.)


Thursday's got the wanderlust

My cat has a yen to explore. In a one-bedroom apartment, there are only so many nooks/crannies to investigate.

So every time I open the door, she darts out into the hall. It's all right; there's only a flight of stairs and a closed door at the bottom, so she can't go anywhere. But it's time-consuming each morning to either a) put down my bag and coffee mug, scoop her up, and toss her back in the apartment, or b) let her wander about and hope the noise from a passing car will scare her back inside.

Once, I said, "Fine. She wants to explore? Let's take a tour of the stairs." So I picked her up and started walking. The second my feet hit the landing, she started crying and clawing my arms as though I were taking her to her doom. I sprinted her back up the stairs, and the second I let her go she shot under the bed and stayed there for a long time. She gave the door a wide berth for a few weeks after that.

I might see if she takes to being walked - I even bought a little harness and leash. I like the idea of being "that girl who walks her cat." Somehow, though, I don't think the cat will cooperate.


Best cake EVAR.

Here's the story.

Now I want to see a whole Food Network Challenge devoted to video-game cakes. Like, how about a Prince of Persia cake that's covered with ledges and jutting flagpoles and broken pillars, or a Grand Theft Auto cake where you can pluck passersby off the cake and rip off their little sugary arms, or maybe a Phantasy Star Online cake that's split into four different parts, each with a custom topper? There could be a Halo cake with a little Warthog being driven around the edge and random weapons lying around, and maybe a flag on either side!

Oh, and at the end of the challenge, they have to carry their cakes on a series of moving platforms across a lake of lava, with fireballs shooting up periodically.

(Via Jen.)



Rather than go to bed, I thought I'd plug my boyfriend's comic.


Peyton Manning is in every commercial, parts 2-4

The video I was talking about:

And the Mastercard commercials I adore - D-CAF and Cut That Meat!

Game day

So on Sunday I was watching the Bengals game with Mr. Wufflekins and some friends, and this commercial came on where some ridiculous new sports drink drips on a football in a field during a thunderstorm, and it starts to swell and distend, and then, Alien-like, out bursts this ready-made athlete. It's all very creepy and makes me want to never drink this beverage in case a track-and-field team decides to rip through my abdomen.

But that's not really the point. The point is that the newborn athlete is Peyton Manning, and as that commercial ended and the next one began, somebody in the room remarked that it seemed like Peyton Manning was in every commercial.

The next ad, coincidentally, featured a geeky man with strange black hair and a moustache talking about how great Peyton Manning was, "I mean, if you like 6-foot-4 quarterbacks," and how he could see all these clips of Peyton Manning doing awesome football stuff on his Sprint phone. Which he thought was cool, because Peyton Manning is totally awesome!

"That guy has a man-crush on Peyton Manning!" I said.

Everyone said, "That IS Peyton Manning!"

I guess he really is in every commercial.


Wine tasting

Popped into the Fresh Market on Sunday for eggs and water crackers. (They've also got an awesome deal on bulk spinach.)

Rounding the final corner before the cashier, I passed through the wine section - holy crap! Is that Big Tattoo?

And it totally was.

I tried Big Tattoo White two years ago and really enjoyed it. It was the first wine where I could actually taste some of the flavors listed in the tasting notes - one of which is "stone." Stone? Really? But on that night when I first tried Big Tattoo, I listened to my palette and it told me, "Yeah, Kelly. Stone." And I was all, whoa.

Anyway, I liked it and bought a few more bottles before it disappeared from the shelves of Wild Oats. Later, I asked an employee about it, and she said that the vineyard was all out, but perhaps they would make more eventually. (She also said I wasn't the first to ask.)

And thus ended my love affair with Big Tattoo White - until that chance encounter in The Fresh Market. (If by "chance encounter" you mean "huge display of bottles that you'd have to be blind - or drunk already - to miss.")

The wine has a novelty name, a strikingly designed bottle, and a backstory (two brothers - one a wine importer, one a tattoo artist - unite to create a wine to honor their late mother). Mr. Wufflekins has pointed out that these are generally the telltale signs of inferiority, but I find them charming in this case. Also, my purchase of two bottles ($9.99 each) cause a tiny donation to be made to breast-cancer-related charities, and since I'm not running Race for the Cure, it's the least I can do. (That "least I can do" is very close to literal, since the donation per bottle is 50 cents. Still, Big Tattoo's website claims the wine has raised more than $600,000 for charity.)

I'm starting to think maybe I prefer blended wines to pure varietals; I can't remember liking a Pinot Grigio as much as I've liked Big Tattoo or Barefoot Beach White ($5.99 most places - awesome!). Or maybe it's just that those blended wines are sweeter than the Pinots or Chardonnays I usually try (I've backed off from Sauvignon Blanc altogether for being too acidic).

Do I sound like a wine wonk? Don't be fooled - I still can't identify the notes of cantaloupe and citrus and (I dunno) old library books with yellowing pages in most wines, I fill my glass to the top instead of leaving some room for swirling, and I pretty much refuse to pay more than $10 a bottle unless it's something really special. Perhaps I'm less of a wine snob and more of a wino.


The Somber Summary (or, the funereal Flash animation)

When one is in a foul mood, the gloom of Lemony Snicket's books can prove bracing. The final book in the series is scheduled to be released in six weeks - plenty of time to read the twelve preceding stories and their companion piece, Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography.

If. however, you are a 21st-century guy/gal-on-the-go and have only a matter of minutes to devote to this series, then you could certainly do worse than to listen to Tim Curry recap the twelve volumes as Brett Helquist's lovely drawings flash past your eyes.

I also highly recommend the AuthorTracker e-mail updates - they've proven invaluable to me. Without them, I might still be in the dark about the Friday the 13th (of October) release date for The End.

Speaking of which, The End looks rather grim for the Baudelaires, doesn't it?


Turns the stomach

I cut running short today because I had to do a slow, careful, stomach-churning walk to the nearest bathroom - which, by the time I finally decided I couldn't tough it out any more, was about a mile and a half away.

It's five hours later, and the sketchy Thai food I had for lunch has finally decided to stop making its presence known. But as this Waiterrant post reminded me, bad food isn't the only thing that can tie your insides in knots. (You like how I connected those things? Think maybe I have a future in punditry?)

Waiter wrote, among other things, about hearing the news of a terrible plane crash in Kentucky. You can tell it's been a grim week for Cincinnati news when a story like this - 49 dead an hour away from here, aboard our local airline - is not at the top of the front page.

Nooo, the story of a 3-year-old autistic boy being wrapped with blankets and packing tape and locked in a closet for two days, then taken out to the country and incinerated by his foster parents, who later tried to cover up this horrible crime by saying he "wandered off" at the park - that definitely trumps the plane crash.

No wonder the follow-up on the man who was shot to death on his front porch Sunday got pushed below the fold.

And the trial of two 15-year-old boys who sodomized another boy with a pencil on a school bus is a mere blip on the radar; I can't even find the story anymore without help from Google News.

Hmm - this has turned into a depressing and rather inarticulate "what's the world coming to" kind of post. At least the Bengals are lookin' good! I went to the game Monday; perhaps I'll talk about it when I'm feeling cheerier.


Suck it, Pluto!

Take that, tiny lopsided-orbit Kuiper object!

(Sorry about the wacky colors; Photoshop was not kind to my PDF)


Oh, ew.

This LA Times profile of the man behind "Girls Gone Wild" just really could not get any more disgusting.

That's because of the man, not the reporter, by the way. I'm rather jealous of AE right now.



In which I suck the Internet from the very walls!

After a few weeks of radio silence, I finally have consistent home access to the mother of all time-sucks.

I went with Current, that company that somehow squeezes Internet access from the electric lines. I have no idea how they do it, but they do, and so far the service has been, um, serviceable. Every now and then I have to wait a while for a page to load, but I'm learning to think of those short interruptions at built-in break times, perfect for refilling my coffee cup or plucking my eyebrows.

The ease of setup is impressive. The photo above shows the contents of my installation kit (including a handsome mouse pad). The modem is the transformer-sized black thing on the left. I plugged it into the wall, connected the Ethernet cable to it and the computer, and signed in to the Current website. That was it!

I wonder if I'll miss reading books ...

UPDATE. I think I figured out the reason for the occasional stutters in service: I was plugging in to a faulty socket. With some rearranging of plugs, the issue seems to be resolved.


"Hot as balls" is a misnomer

Because the testicles, residing outside the body, are actually several degrees cooler than the rest of the body.

That's all. Carry on.


Overheard in the cruise ship gift shop

"I have a tank top with 'Aruba' on it, but I never wear it. I just don't feel like I can support Aruba after what happened - after they didn't help find that little girl."


No more free rides

Well, it seems the open wireless network I'd been using finally wised up and got itself some password protection. Blogging will be sparse (-er than usual) until I bite the bullet and start actually paying for Internet access.


Story time

Garlic Soup
as remembered from Highlights magazine

There was a kind man who owed a great debt to his landlord. The man was poor, for nearly all his money was spent trying to pay back the loan, but he managed to survive on what little he had.

One snowy night, there was a knock at the man's door. He opened it to see an old woman, dressed in rags and weak with hunger. Of course he invited her in to warm herself by his fire.

Presently she asked if he had any food to spare. Upon checking his pantry, the man found only a bulb of garlic and a tiny lump of butter. But he was used to such limitations, and before long the smell of roasting garlic filled the house.

He returned to the table carrying a steaming bowl of garlic soup. The butter he had mixed into it pooled on top and made hundreds of tiny rrops of gold on top.

The old woman smiled at him and said, "You are a good man. You have taken me in and offered me your food. This is how I will repay you. Close your eyes and count to one hundred. When you open your eyes, for every golden circle in this bowl of soup, you will have a gold coin."

The man, surprised, nonetheless did as she said. When he reached one hundred and opened his eyes, the woman was gone, but the bowl which had held the garlic soup was overflowing with gold - enough to pay off his debt entirely and live in comfort for the rest of his life.

The next day, the man went to his landlord to repay his debt. When the landlord saw the gold coins spilling out of his tennant's purse, he raised his eyebrows and said, "Robbed a bank, did you?"

"Oh, no," said his former tennant (for now that the debt had been repaid, he owned his own house and was no one's tennant). "I just ... got lucky, I suppose."

But the other man pressed him, and he eventually related the incredible story of the old woman, the garlic soup, and the gold coins. The landlord (he was still a landlord, for many other people still owed him debts, and he was a rich man) thought about this for a long time.

That night, it snowed again. The landlord paced up and down his living room, stopping every few minutes to glance out the window. Finally, he saw a hunched figure making her way down the street.

"About time!" he said, and he rushed outside and dragged the old woman into his house. "Here, sit," he snapped, shoving her down into a plush armchair by the fire.

"Thank you, kind sir," came her voice slowly and creakily. "Might I trouble you for -"

"- some food, of course, fine!" the landlord barked, racing to the kitchen. He grabbed a bulb of garlic and tossed it into a pot of boiling water, then dumped in a large block of butter. He than carried the entire mess out to the old woman and set it before her, saying, "There! That's more food you've seen in a long time, I reckon."

The old woman said, "You will be repaid for your generosity. Close your eyes and count to one hundred. When you open your eyes, for every golden circle in this bowl of soup, you will have a gold coin." And as the greedy landlord closed his eyes and excitedly started to count, he thought he heard a small, creaky laugh.

The landlord counted slowly at first, then faster and faster still. When he reached eighty-six, he couldn't take it any more. He opened his eyes and turned to the large pot where the soup had been.

And in its place, he found just one coin. And this is why. When the large block of butter the greedy man had dumped into the pot melted, it did not form tiny drops as a smaller amount might, but rather collected around the edge of the pot in one large, greasy ring.

What the story's moral is I leave to you, but I take it to mean, "Cook with care."


Lesson learned.

Never drink coffee at 11:30 on a weeknight. I don't care if all the cool kids are doing it. Just. Don't.

Otherwise, you might find yourself wide awake at 2 a.m., poking around the Internet in search of meaningless diversion, only to discover that you read all the good blogs that afternoon.

Also, Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" will be running through your head nonstop. Which is kind of awesome, but you don't need to dance around your living room to the music in your head; you need to go to sleep.

This is a cautionary tale, children. Heed my words.


YouTube + MySpace = PopCulture CraziNess!

Turns out, Mario and Luigi have the same problems as the rest of us. When they're not diving into pipes to save princesses, they're trying to navigate the tricky waters of MySpace ettiquette.

OK, so the video isn't very skillfully done. It's funny because it's TRUE. (And also, what is Toadstool doing???)

Mario In MySpace: Luigi's Band Blues


X-men 3 thoughts (chock full of hot spoiler-y action)

Things I liked about X-Men: The Last Stand
- The beginning. Man, that was some good beginning, with the ultra-powerful child Jean and poor Warren trying so hard to be not-a-mutant.
- The ending. Good God, that last scene with Magneto thrilled me. It was enough to make me forget how annoyed I was with the conclusion otherwise.
- The way Magneto left Mystique, naked and sobbing, on the floor of the prison truck. That said more about his character than any scene of him preaching about the human menace.
- How Magneto defended Xavier when Pyro said he wanted to kill him. (Magneto, why do you put up with that stupid punk? Is it just so you can turn cars into exploding projectile weapons?)
- Pretty much anything with Magneto was good, actually.
- Seeing the X-men's special fighting styles. There wasn't nearly enough of that in this movie, but when it was there, it was a joy to watch - especially with the new characters.
- Scott turning into another Wolverine, sort of, over grief for Jean.
- Hank! The intelligence! The one-liners! The fighting!
- Kitty! Such a spunky lass, and able to think on her feet! She'll outlive them all.

Things I didn't like about X-Men: The Last Stand
- Jean Gray's hair. Remember how in the first two movies, it was, like, kinda red, and it coulda been natural? Now it's RRRRRREEEEEEEDDDDDDD, in a way I've never seen in nature, plus it looked like maybe they had forgotten about the whole red hair thing until the night before they started shooting, and then they ran out to Meijer and bought six boxes of Crimson Glow, because in Jean's first scene, you can still see the hair dye on her scalp.
- Dark Phoenix's look. Come on, guys. Evil, veiny women with black eyes is sooo Dark Willow.
- When Mystique actually said, "Don't call me by my slave name." We get it, X-men, you're an allegory for racism, we get it.
- The cliches! They're all here, from "What have I done?" to "Then may God help us" to "If they want a war, we'll give 'em one" to "My ... God!" My favorite movie cliche even makes an appearance: "No, Dad. This is what YOU wanted." Give me Hank McCoy's oath, "Oh, my stars and garters!" any day.
- The movie didn't feel very cohesive. It consisted of a whole buch of cool scenes strung together in no very particular order - like when Bobby's at the mutant cure clinic looking for Rogue, and then Pyro is there, and then he blows it up or something, and then it's the next day and THEN Rogue gets in line at the clinic, which I guess wasn't so blown-up after all.
- 800,000 pointless new mutants. In this movie are probably a dozen new mutants, and so many of them have only three scenes: They show up and demonstrate their powers; they use their powers to provide a joke or a fight; they die. Sure, the scene with Multiple Man acting as a decoy was cool and all, but if that's really all he's going to do, maybe that scene could've just been a special feature on the DVD? And since Angel is so essential to the plot, maybe we could learn a little more about his plight - about how he's torn between wanting to please his father and being his winged self. And do we even know who that third mutant was who was hanging out with Callisto and Quill? Oh, well, she's dead now.
- Really? We needed the thing with the Golden Gate Bridge? That was essential to the plot and something Magneto would actually do, and not just an excuse to have a really huge special-effects scene? OK, just checking.
- All the death. Maybe I'm not remembering things properly, but I'm pretty sure you could count all the deaths in X-men 1 & 2 on two hands. In this one - DEATH! Lots and lots of pointy desintegrate-y falling from high places firey crushing DEATH! And all of it was, for the most part, pointless! (So, just out of curiosity, who's going to be the X-men now? There's, like, two people left.)
- Tiny snarky point: Kitty says she misses the first snow of winter. Is Westchester, N.Y. secretly a tropical paradise, or is Kitty from Alaska?

Riches to be had

Waiting for my iced mocha at the Milford Showcase Cinemas (yeah, they have Starbucks now! Crazy, yes?), I glanced down.


I am the sort of person who will nearly always stoop for a cent. (Exceptions include urgent appointments, weather and crowds.) As I bent to claim my prize, I saw - hey! - another penny!

So, when I found two more pennies in the theater entryway as we were leaving, I said to Stacie and Corrie, "Man, someone is just throwing pennies around, and I am reaping the benefits!"

While Stacie was still making fun of me for my use of the word "reap," she found a quarter.

And then a nickel. And another one.

Pretty soon we were weaving through the parking lot, saying things like, "What's that over there? ... Oh, just a gum wrapper." And "We should come back with metal detectors." And "It's like a video game, but it's real life!" (OK, I said that.)

Stacie won with her 35 cents. I think I found one more penny, giving me a nickel's worth. And ... did Corrie find a nickel?

So I guess the moral of the story is: if you're going to see a movie, go see it in Milford, because apparently people just toss their change on the ground rather than having to deal with that zipper compartment on their wallets.


I hate you, Hans Christian Andersen.

"On the foam-covered sea-weeds, lay eleven white swan feathers, which she gathered up and placed together. Drops of water lay upon them; whether they were dew-drops or tears no one could say."
- from The Wild Swans

It's not fair, Hans Christian Andersen! Why must your beautiful prose always tell of heartbreak and sorrow? Why do your words pierce me, even as a single word from the princess would pierce the hearts of her 11 enchanted brothers?



Maya's gonna be a hard-ass. I can tell.

When I ended my session with Maya today, she reminded me that I should come back on Saturday.

Never mind that on Saturday morning, I'm running a 5K. Maya doesn't care. Activity only counts if it happens under her tutelage. And I know if I don't check in with her on Saturday, the first thing she's gonna do when I see her on Sunday is ride my ass about making a commitment to fitness.

Yeah, Maya - it's easy to be fit when you're pixelated. If you think your thighs are too flabby, you can just re-code them until they're toned.

Actually, Maya's all right. Like, when I completed my fitness evaluation after signing up with her, she pointed out that by standard guidelines, I was overweight - but then she was quick to point out that not everyone's body is the same, and healthy weights differ from person to person. She's constantly pointing out how fitness is all about feeling good about yourself, and from the very beginning, she said she was going to push me, but she knows I can achieve my goals if I put my mind to it. She even provides tips for healthy eating and everyday fitness - while she's preparing my workouts for me!

If she were real, I think I'd hate her.

The fitness evaluation included jumping jacks (doing them for two minutes, then taking my pulse). Have you ever tried to do jumping jacks in a way that wouldn't cause your downstairs neighbor to think that very dirty things were taking place in your living room? The idiotic solution I came up with: tiptoe jumping jacks! They still make noise, PLUS they make your calves hurt!

By the time I completed the fitness evaluation, it was 10 p.m. I decided against the Maya-recommended (but potentially jump-intensive) "Cardio" workout in favor of spending some time in the meditation garden. For about 15 minutes, Maya took me though a yoga workout - which was nice, but not particularly relaxing, given how fast she went through the motions.

I think I'll check in with Maya on Saturday and see how I do. I wonder if I can push, say, the triangle key if I already worked out that day. But something tells me Maya wouldn't allow that excuse.


April Tuna

In between getting Hyundai to buy back her car and helping our flag football team to glorious ... um, defeat, I would think Carrie's schedule would be packed.

Still, she managed to find time to rate the sushi at four area grocery stores, just so her Oakley friends (like me!) would not have to waste their money on grody spicy tuna rolls.

Thanks, Carrie! I eagerly await your pronouncements on salmon nigiri and rainbow rolls. And I definitely think you should hold off on buying your new car until the Prius Tuna Edition comes out.

P.S. Do you know where the post title came from? You don't? How sad for you!


Rough day

It's Bar Guide week, which means that I worked until about 10:30 p.m. today.

At least we did better than last year, when I arrived at the office at 9 a.m. and left around midnight.

At this rate, we'll meet our self-imposed deadline of 6:30 by Bar Guide 2008. Awesome!


New blog obsession!

I've been trying to think of a cool bar-related way to link to Tavern Wench. You know, something like "Add 1 oz Waiterrant to a pint glass filled with Cincinnati experiences. After the liquor melt, add 1.5 oz drink recipes ..."

But it just doesn't quite fit, so here's what you need to know. This girl Jen tends bar at a local restaurant. (I think I know which one, but I won't say, because that's half the fun.) Anyway, she provides delicious-sounding drink recipes (I was half-convinced that the gimlet was going to be my new drink until I actually ordered one at Northside Tavern this weekend), tips for making your bartender like you (and therefore give you better service), and (best of all) stories of her wacky customers. Fun!


Sunday in Milford

I spent all yesterday at my parents' house. We had this deal where I would dedicate an entire day to cleaning out my closet in my old room, and they wouldn't randomly give away my old baseball cards to St. Vincent de Paul.

I like going to my parents' house because even though it's familiar, it's very different from the way it was when I lived there. Since I moved out, they've been making the place over, one room at a time. We're talking extreme stuff, like knocking down walls. So when I'm there, it feels just a little bit like being in a stranger's house where you get to raid the fridge.

The current project is the master bathroom, which is completely gutted. There's just plywood, drywall and a few pipes sticking out of the floor. I think the marble ledge for the big shower is coming in a couple weeks.

And from the sounds of things, my room is next.

My parents had always thought the closet was simply STUFFED with my clothes and didn't believe me when I pointed out that at least half of those things were castoffs from various other family members. So when my mom saw the tiny pile of "give away," the other tiny pile of "store," and the three dresses I took home with me ... well, she was just SHOCKED.

Once when she was checking up on my progress, my mom started asking what I was going to do with the stuff in my dresser. And the posters on the walls. And the books - three cases' worth. And the stuff that was already in the attic - did I want to keep all those clothes? Did I even know I had clothes in the attic? Because I do - the attic is just STUFFED with my old clothes.

Looks like I'll be spending another Sunday in Milford soon.


Hello, Cleveland!

A week ago, Anne Elisabeth and I packed our bags and took a wacky midnight jaunt to Cleveland for the 2006 American Copy Editors Society national conference.

It was my second conference, and I'd forgotten how much fun I had at the 2003 Chicago event. Cleveland is not Chicago - not by a long shot - but I did have advantages this time: 1) I knew other people at the conference, and 2) I stayed in the conference hotel instead of at my friend Amanda's apartment in Evanston, an hour El ride away. (Kyle did not have this second advantage; he stayed with his parents in suburban Plainsville. This meant he was generally unable to join us on our post-conference drinking bouts. Poor kid.)

The hotel is lovely - and designed exclusively for business travelers. Everything is inordinately expensive, and I'm pretty sure that's because they're expecting you to pass the cost on to your (supposedly) fabulously wealthy employer. You even have to pay for Internet priveleges! Who does that?

Because of a screw-up in our reservations, AE and I had to share a bed. To apologize for this development, the hotel put us on the club level, where we had access to free food (at certain hours) at the Club Lounge. V. useful for breakfast; not so helpful at other times, honestly. I think I would have preferred being on the fifth floor and being able to walk down to the conference rooms, rather than having to wait 20 minutes for the elevator every morning, noon and evening. (The elevators were undergoing some sort of modernization, or so the card on the wall near the elevator buttons said. When I saw that the card was framed, I wondered how long the renovations would actually take.)

I wish there were some time built into the ACES schedule for exploring the city, because I've never gotten to spend a lot of time in Cleveland, and I'd like to see more of it. Since we were busy with, you know, actual conference stuff from 9:30 in the morning to 9 at night, our jaunts were confined to the hotel-adjacent Tower City Center mall and a sprinkling of nearby bars.

One of those nearby places was Fat Fish Blue, the location of the post-conference party. After a few hours of $9 drinks and loud "blues" where the lead singer kept exhorting his audience to scream, AE and I concluded that we weren't all that broken up about the demise of the Cincinnati location. (What we really need, I say, is a Winking Lizard.)

Kyle and I still haven't gone back to Howl at the Moon (which has a very special OSU story behind it), and I still need to eat at Mallorca and tour the Great Lakes brewery. So I guess I'll be heading back to Cleveland sometime soon. Which is good; I've been told it rocks.

To read about the actual ACES conference, check out my copy-editing blog over the next few days.


Go Coffey! Go Coffey! It's your birthday! It's your birthday!

Or so the tween girls behind us yelled when closer Todd Coffey took the mound at the top of the ninth today. They also broke into some cheers of "L-E-T-S G-O! Let's go ... Reds ... let's ... go?" (They couldn't ever really get the meter worked out on that one.)

Our seats (courtesy of Edmund's friends Dan and Stacey) were amazing. (This from a girl who almost always goes to Reds games on bleacher discount days.) We sat in the lower deck, behind home plate - just behind the oh-so-swanky Diamond Club seats, I understand. Neat. Plus, the wandering snack people were never far away.

Just before the game started, we flagged down the beer man. After he served us, he was adjusting his big, icy tray for another trip up and down the aisles. A man, carrying a curly-headed toddler, passed by on his way to his seat. He looked at the big tray and said, "Trade you."

That kid is going to grow up weird.


Vancouver in a nutshell

Monday: Flight, Granville Street
Tuesday: Granville Island
Wednesday: Aquarium
Thursday: Bus tour, mall
Friday: Grouse Mountain
Saturday: Elbow Room Cafe, Robson Street, Gastown, Robson again
Sunday: Flight home

Throughout: Veronica Mars

all in all, a relaxing trip - although I think we probably could have done the same things in 5 days instead of 7. I wonder if a 7-day vacation isn't just too durn long...


Damn! Damn damn!

I'm so very sick of Brokeback Mountain jokes.

At least that's what I thought.

Of course, that didn't stop me from giggling with glee at the poster for Buckbeak Mountain, with its seamless Photoshopping and clever nods to fanfic:

And it doesn't stop me from adoring this trailer for "Brokeback to the Future":

Perhaps I should revise my opinion to "I hate Brokeback Mountain jokes, unless they are carefully crafted and involve one of my pop-culture loves."


I'm back!

I returned from Canada to discover that a certain significant other, charged merely with "keeping the cat alive," had gone above and beyond the call of duty. My apartment looks like a catalog for cat toys. I've been told petting was involved.

See why I love him?

Vancouver was lovely, if wet. We went during an odd, rainy time when the ski season is winding down (not that my two companions ski) and the beach - yes, those lucky bastards have both a ski mountain AND a beach) is not yet open. But there was still plenty to see and do. More on that later, eh?


I did not quit blogging! I am in Canada!

Being in Canada is not the same as quitting blogging, although I can see how they might look similar on the surface.

Also, Internet access has been spotty at my place. I might have to bite the bullet and either pay for access or move to a Panera. Both options have their merits ...


Cast on, cast off ...

I'm going to give knitting another try.

In my life, I've taken up knitting three times. The score so far: Dilettantism 3, Finishing What You Start 0.

But one must never underestimate the power wielded over me by a certain store with a red bulls-eye logo. If Target had a sale on a starter kit for, like, torturing puppies ... well, I wouldn't buy it unless it was at least 75 percent off, but still.

So there was this knitting kit with SIMPLE INSTRUCTIONS! and EVERYTHING YOU NEED! to make your VERY OWN! hat, scarf and mittens. The woman on the box looks a little bit odd hugging herself with her mittened hands, but the finished products are pretty cute, and the kit was 30 percent off, and I've been thinking about picking up some knitting to do on vacation.


Casting on is HARD, man. I had to rewind the DVD (yes, the kit came with an INSTRUCTIONAL DVD! so I could LEARN TO KNIT!) about 12 times and unravel my knotted mess of yarn at least three times before I was finally able to make a go of it. But I did it, and I now have seven garter-stitched rows.

Now if only I could remember how to purl...


"Why are you like this?" "Like what?" "Like how you are."

I'm in bed early tonight so I can get up to run a 5K tomorrow. My cat nuzzles against me.

Suddenly, I think, "Wait a second - I'm a dog person, and I hate running! Who is this person I've become? Because it's definitely not someone I saw myself becoming."

What a difference a year makes.

Or whatever.

Which My So-Called Life Character Are You? Find out @ She's Crafty

Sadly, there doesn't seem to be an option for Tino, the parents, Mr. Katimsky, or any other slightly less important character. I think a better MSCL quiz is, like, so possible (AE, I'm looking in your direction, here, or whatever).

I attribute my recent MSCL obsession to my purchase of Stage Beauty, in which we see Claire Danes again being kinda awkward and vaguely rebellious and trying to figure herself out. I'm thisclose to finally dropping the, like, $80 on the DVD set. Or whatever.

Microsoft iPod

Because I'm sick of having to search YouTube every time I want to watch this again...


I knew it!

You Are Gonzo the Great

"Is something burning in here? Oh, it's just me."
You're a total nutball who will do anything for attention.
The first to take a dare, you'll pull almost any stunt.
You're one weird looking creature, but your chickens don't mind!


I demand a moratorium ...

... on the publication of Jane Austen fanfic.

Actually, let me amend that to "the publication of poor, shoddy Jane Austen fanfic."

I went to Amazon to look at this book, a collection of essays about Pride and Prejudice (one of which is written by my new favorite blogger/TV writer, Jane Espenson). Note well the suggestions Amazon makes for other books I might be interested in: two "sequels" to Pride and Prejudice; The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy, which one reviewer describes as a mix of "funny," "boring" and "pure porn"; and a couple of books from various series detailing the further adventures of the P&P crowd. I knew there was a subculture of P&P tribute novels out there; I had no clue it was this widespread - that so many "sequels" had found their way to publication.

OK, so I like fanfic as much as the next girl. (This might not be totally accurate, since the "next girl" - who I found by clicking "Next Blog" until a girl showed up - is from Sweden, and I can't read Swedish, so I don't know her thoughts on fanfic.) So last year, I picked up Pride and Prescience, the first book in the "Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries." I was all, "Elizabeth and Darcy side by side, solving mysteries? Hells yeah!"

Um, hells no. As the savvier among you have probably already guessed, it's terrible. Jane Austen would have laughed this author and her wild notions right out the door. It was as though the author knew the basic characters and plot of P&P, but had no understanding of the world in which they operated.

But of course, there are tons of girls out there just like me, who've read all of Austen's works and want more. The Jane-Austen-clone industry has to be worth millions - and those millions can come from shoddy ripoffs as well as well-thought-out homages.

I would like to volunteer my services as a Jane Austen Sequel Quality Verification Associate (JASQuVA). As a JASQuVA, I will read the manuscripts of any Austen-related materials and provide the would-be publisher with an assessment of its quality. If the manuscript is not up to snuff, it can still be published - but under a special label reserved for poor interpretations of existing characters. Other titles under the "Shoddy Fanfic" label would include Star Trek novels where Kirk and Spock get it on, that Hey Arnold! fic that includes several pages describing Helga and Arnold making out, and Scarlett. This would clear up any more confusion about the quality of published works that use beloved characters.


Something told the wild geese ...

Spring is on the way.

I know, of course, spring is always on its way, but two things on this 20-degree night solidified it for me: twilight and teenagers.

Tonight, for the first time this year, I saw twilight. Don't confuse twilight with dusk. Dusk is dark; twilight is blue. In twilight, the street lights have come on, but they aren't yet necessary - which somehow makes the artificial light stand out even more brightly. It's a phenomenon I associate with summer, when the daylight lingers as long as it can.

And the high-schoolers know. They were out in full force tonight, gathering wherever teenagers gather - which is, of course, in ridiculous places like the parking lot of the Blockbuster or the playground by the community center. They're wandering around in the near-freezing weather because they know.

I can't wait to break out my flip-flops.



The CiN blogs are getting pretty bad. It's irritating.

In the past few days, we've had anonymous commenters say that:
- my high school teacher who's running for Congress will have to drop out because of unspecified "allegations";
- a downtown restaurant closed because the "busboys were jizzing into the bisque";
- a former intern beats his girlfriends;
- Gina is "a beast in the sack";
- the women who work for CiN are "whores."

I'm not sure why these things bother me. Why should I care what some Internet ass thinks of my teacher?

At the same time, I kind of don't want to post anything there anymore, because what's the point? It's just going to get shat upon.



Oscar Watch, again

On Wednesday I tried to get Stacie to see Capote with me. She was in the mood for a comedy, so we wound up seeing ...

The Squid and the Whale (original screenplay)

I think I have to expand my definition of "comedy," because this movie, while good, didn't seem to fit the bill. While there were funny moments, I spent a whole lot of time feeling sorry for, angry at, or disgusted by the characters - but I was always interested in them.

Also, I wanted more of a resolution regarding the youngest son, Frank. The parents know about his problems (which I won't detail because the movie's still in theaters and I wouldn't want to spoil it for anyone); will they break through their haze of blame and selfishness and work together to help him?

The older son's story is satisfying, though. Have you ever met somebody who lives entirely inside his own perceptions, regardless of whether they mesh with reality? That's the horrible egotism Bernard has passed on to his son Walt - but somehow, the only perceptions Walt has have been given to him by his father. This trait comes through in many ways - like when we see that both of them feel that if one has the capability to do something, it's the same as actually having done it. If Walt thinks he could have written a beautiful song, it shouldn't matter that Pink Floyd already wrote it ... and if Bernard has the ability to work at saving his marriage, it's as if he actually did, and his ex-wife shouldn't have any grievances because it was obviously all her fault. It was fascinating to watch Walt take as gospel truth everything Bernard says, when he really ought to be old enough to see that his dad's a pretentious jerk. In this respect, Frank is more mature than Walt - but is his mistrust in his dad influenced by his apparent Oedipus complex?

Sorry, I'm just thinking out loud (if you can call the clatter of computer keys loud), because it was interesting to see the very prickly ways in which these characters interact. Everything felt genuine, from the awkwardness of high-school relationships to the seven-hour agony of knowing in the morning that heartbreaking news is going to arrive at the "family conference" that afternoon. The only thing that rang false was tennis pro Ivan's dialogue, because, come on, who really ends every sentence with "my brother"? But I'll spot them one irritating verbal tic.

It might not be a comedy by my standards, but it's a great movie nonetheless.


Actors I often confuse (even though they don't even look alike), possibly because of a vague similarity in the actors' names

- Matthew Broderick and Michael Keaton
- Jake Gyllenhaal and Jason Schwartzman


It's 6 in the morning, and I'm afraid to go back to bed for the hour or so that I could sleep before my alarm goes off.

Well, not "afraid" in the monster-under-the-bed or even rapist-at-the-door sense.

I'm afraid that if I try to sleep, that damn car alarm will ruin everything again.

It woke me up at 4:15 or so with its honk-honk honk-honk-honk-honking. At first my thoughts were along the lines of "bleah, car'larm, go 'way, sleepy ..." but it kept going. Just about the time when I became lucid enough to realize that that alarm had been going off for kind of a while if it had been going long enough for me to not only wake up, but start to be coherent ... it stopped.

Hurrah! I began to snuggle deeper into the blankets for my journey back into Slumberland - and then it went off again. But instead of 7,496 honks, the alarm just honked about 9 times, then stopped again.

Pause. Six honks.

Pause. Three honks.

OK, what is the deal? Is this a spectacularly incompetent car thief, or just some sort of code? I throw off the blankets (good-bye, warmth!) and head to the window. All seems quiet and peaceful on my street; there's a light dusting of snow on the cars that doesn't seem to have been disturbed.

I return to bed and spend a fitful half-hour imagining an elaborate hypothetical in which the car alarm is the distinctive screech of my Hyundai. In it, I clock the would-be perp with my largest frying pan, chase him down the street and pin him to the ground until the police arrive, whiling away the interval with "What would your mother think of you"s and periodic punches to the neck. I fall asleep.

Fast forward to 5:30, when the stupid alarm goes off again. Twice.

This time, I actually call District 2, hoping if they have a car in the area they can at least take a turn down the street. I find out that unless the alarm is actually going off at the time, they can't do much. In retrospect, I probably should have pointed out that the way things are going, if they drive down the street at any given time there's about a 50-50 shot that the alarm will, in fact, be blaring.

So now it's 6 a.m. and it doesn't seem worth it to go back to bed. I think I'll put on the kettle for tea - and possibly fashion some toilet-paper earplugs.


Oscar Watch, continued

Corpse Bride (animated feature)

I probably shoulda seen this one around Halloween, when it was released. Maybe then I would have been in the mood for its Gothic story and goth look. As it was, not so very much. I felt it was a pale imitation of The Nightmare Before Christmas - Burton having a great idea for a story, but not really having fleshed it out perfectly.

Why exactly does Victor need to go back to the world of the living for his wedding to Emily (other than because the plot requires it)? Wouldn't it have made far more sense for him to die, then say his vows in the land of the dead? And why does Emily turn into butterflies at the end? Is that what happens when someone's resolved their unfinished business? So then what's the cab driver's unfinished business? The evil lord's? These plot holes kept me from really enjoying the movie - which is too bad, because it's beautifully executed.

Also, there were, like, three songs. If you're not going to have an entire soundtrack's worth of Danny Elfman tunes, then I say don't bother.

I would describe it as "a good start." If some more time had been spent polishing it, it could've been truly great.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (documentary)

This film did a good job of laying out the downfall of Enron in a way that average people could understand. The filmmakers try to bookend the movie with the suicide of Enron executive Cliff Baxter, but since we never really learn more about him or his role in the scandal, it comes off as the filmmakers searching for extra drama in an already horrifying event. (I was especially unnerved by the movie's opening, a dramatization of Baxter's suicide. I'm a documentary purist; I think all the footage should be real.)

Personally, I would have focused less on Baxter and more on the employees who thought they were working for the most successful energy company in the world, then suddenly found out they were jobless and their pension funds were worthless. There's a point in the movie when we see Enron execs on stage taking questions from the employees of a recently-acquired power company. One of the questions is, "Should my 401K be in Enron stock?" The execs (who were already starting to sell their own stock) laughed and said of course, and my heart sank as I imagined my own 401K disappearing, just like that.

In short, I think Enron is an important movie that people should watch to gain a better understanding of the scandal ... but I don't care for it as a documentary. There are too many distracting musical choices and quick cuts to random guys jumping out of planes to symbolize the "dangerous games" being played by executives. It winds up feeling a little like a VH1 "Behind the Music" piece. For the Oscar, right now I prefer March of the Penguins. Its subject matter might be less hard-hitting, but with its 100-percent-real footage and simple narration and music, it's the better documentary. (Maybe that opinion will change if I see Murderball.)


It happens every year...

The Oscar nominations come out, and I suddenly realize I saw NO movies last year. None.

Well, like, 20. But still.

This year seems wose than most, though. Ususally I've seen one or two of the nominees for Best Picture. I can make some sort of educated statement like, "Sideways? Seriously?" or "If Return of the King doesn't win this year, there's no justice in Hollywood."

This year? I've seen none of the Best Picture films. And, of the 53 films nominated for an award, I've seen eight:
Batman Begins (cinematography),
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (makeup, sound mixing, visual effects),
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (art direction),
March of the Penguins (documentary),
Pride and Prejudice (actress - really? must've been a bad year for leading ladies - , art direction, costume design, original score),
Walk the Line (actor, actress, editing, costmes, sound mixing),
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (animated feature),
and War of the Worlds (sound editing, sound mixing, visual effects).

When I saw the list, I vowed to do better. I am going to try to see as many Oscar-nominated movies as possible before the ceremony on March 5.

Last night, I took the first step with ...

Good Night, and Good Luck.
(Best Picture, actor, director, original screenplay, cinematography, art direction)

Good Night, and Good Luck. is writer/director George Clooney's big arm-waving jumping-up-and-down cry to the American people, "Come on, guys, history is repeating itself RIGHT THE HELL NOW!" It is incredibly relevant; when Edward R. Murrow points out that "balanced journalism" doesn't mean reporting the wrong as equal to the right, he's speaking to journalists everywhere, in all times.

It's so freakishly apt that I want to go back and study Murrow's old speeches and broadcasts, to find out if the things he said were really so applicable to journalism in 2005 (such as when he berates a room full of reporters for allowing the media to be dominated by silly entertainment masquerading as news) - but I can easily believe that it all happened the way Clooney presents it. Watching the film - which makes much use of historical footage; possibly as much as half the film is actual clips of Sen. Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communism hearings and Murrow's pieces for CBS - feels like watching history itself.

Of course, history often does not present itself in the form of a three-act arc of conflict, which may be why the pacing of Good Night, and Good Luck. feels off. The climax of the piece - the controversial broadcast where Murrow and producer Fred Friendly decide to go after McCarthy - comes fairly early, and the denouement is long. The footage of McCarthy and of Murrow's interview subjects is lengthy and sometimes repetitive. (Come to think of it, that could be a conscious nod to the films of the period, whose scenes I often feel end five seconds too late.)

But these problems slipped away once I left the theater, leaving me with memories of the striking dialogue and visuals that are going to make this film a classic. It deserves any awards it wins (um, not that I have anything to compare it to, really).


I shoulda been Kaylee...

Your results:
You are Dr. Simon Tam (Ship Medic)
Dr. Simon Tam (Ship Medic)
Kaylee Frye (Ship Mechanic)
Derrial Book (Shepherd)
Wash (Ship Pilot)
Malcolm Reynolds (Captain)
River (Stowaway)
Inara Serra (Companion)
Zoe Washburne (Second-in-command)
Jayne Cobb (Mercenary)
A Reaver (Cannibal)
Medicine and physical healing are your game,
but wooing women isn't a strong suit.
Click here to take the "Which Serenity character am I?" quiz...

Quiz time!

Man, that's a gross picture...

The Moon Card
You are the Moon card. Entering the Moon we enter
the intuitive and psychic realms. This is the
stuff dreams are made on. And like dreams the
imagery we find here may inspire us or torment
us. Understanding the moon requires looking
within. Our own bodily rhythms are echoed in
this luminary that circles the earth every
month and reflects the sun in its progress.
Listening to those rhythms may produce visions
and lead you towards insight. The Moon is a
force that has legends attached to it. It
carries with it both romance and insanity.
Moonlight reveals itself as an illusion and it
is only those willing to work with the force of
dreams that are able to withstand this
reflective light. Image from: Stevee Postman.

Which Tarot Card Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla


It's actually called Global Bazaar.

My mistake.



The timer beeps. My dad and I slow to a walk. "Whew," he says. "That one seemed long."

“I know,” I reply, panting.

We are silent for the rest of the minute we have to catch our breath before we will make ourselves run again.

My parents' neighborhood has no streetlights. In the early January dark of our run, my father carries a flashlight - but he uses it mainly to highlight our presence to passing cars, so most of our run is lit by porch lights and the full moon.

And, next to the moon, the great hunter.

Orion is an old friend of mine. In the winter, the only thing better than a snowy night is a clear night when snow is on the ground, when the stars in Orion glitter like they would like to fall from the sky and join their crystalline bretheren on the ground. And on a too-warm winter night like the night of our run, the beauty of his shape in the sky almost makes up for the dreary brown of the earth, which won't awaken for several months yet.

I look at his shape and think about what I might have named him, had I been in charge of such things: the Hourglass, the Great Bowtie. I look at his sword, tipped with the Pleiades, and imagine a new myth that is less a tragedy than a bawdy tale: seven sisters, one by one, impaled by the great "sword" of the hunter.

I think about Orion and Artemis of the moon, hunting together. (Were they lovers or merely companions? Did he deflower the chaste goddess? The myths I read and eventually learned by heart, intended for children, were fuzzy on these sorts of details.)

I think about fiery Apollo, the jealous twin brother of the moon goddess, in a rage because his other half had found another companion. (A human companion, no less.) In his fury he sent a scorpion to hunt the hunter, and the beast pursued Orion across the known world (which is less impressive than it sounds today).

Finally, Orion did battle with the scorpion, and each died locked in the other's embrace. A grieving Artemis hung her friend's image - as well as that of the scorpion, which I like to imagine she couldn't tear away from Orion's dead hands - in the sky as constellations. (My children's myths again become fuzzy. Did Artemis do this alone, or did Apollo, as an act of contrition for his rash deed, help her?)

Thus, Orion and the scorpion continue their endless pursuit. Every winter, Orion arrives in the night sky, protecting us through the dead months. And every summer, Scorpio creeps up over the horizon, and the hunter must flee again.

The timer beeps.

As I start to run again, I look at the shape of Orion next to the moon and imagine myself as Artemis, pursuing my quarry in the night sky with my old friend by my side.


Lord help me.

And my credit-card balance, for that matter.

Global Market is back at Target.

You see, every year, Target has to think of something to put in their "seasonal" corner between Christmas and patio furniture. Valentine's Day, while profitable in its own way, just isn't big enough to fill the void.

So last year, they did something that was apparently so successful, they're trying it again this year. They filled the space with small furniture and decor from around the world, called it Global Market, and watched Pier 1 fanatics (is there such a thing?) swoon and tell their friends.

Global Market furniture is priced about the same way as all furniture from Target - $80 for a trunk, $30 for a silky throw, $15 for, I dunno, some sort of bamboo basket. Which is, I guess, cheap for furniture, but expensive for me.

But, since it's "seasonal," in a couple of months the whole section is going to go 50 percent off so they can make room for that patio furniture. Last year when that happened, I bought, like, half of the Asia collection. This year, I'll go for the other half.

So, if you come over to my place near the end of March and discover that it is crammed with so many throw pillows and folding screens that there is actually no room for you to come inside ... now you know why.


Dara + Thursday = BFF

My mom saw my apartment for the first time this weekend. My dad was delivering my BRAND NEW TV!!!!, and she tagged along.

My mother has never exactly been a cat person, but when she saw Thursday for the first time since I adopted her (so, you know, the first time since she's been living unde er a porch and starving to death), it was instant love.

"That's the kitty?" she said in disbelief as the kitty under discussion jumped out of my arms and darted under the bed. "I would never have recognized her!"

While my dad and I cleared off a space on the coffee table for my BRAND NEW TV!!!!, my mom lay on the floor in my bedroom, playing a fascinating game with the under-bed cat that involved a hand put on top of a paw, then a paw put on top of a hand.

"Mommy," I called. (Yeah, I'm 24 years old and still call my mother "Mommy." Whatever.) "Can you see her?"

"We're playing a game!" my mom replied. And then:

"I miss having a pet."

I turned to my dad. "She's gonna make you get a cat."

He snorted. "Not a chance."

We'll see.