Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Meme

I know, I know. Not terribly original, but here it is. I haven't written in a few days and something silly usually gives me a jump-start. Here's to a Happy New Year, everyone!

1. What did you do in 2007 that you'd never done before?
- Had a movie premiere at a real theater for Stone Soup
- Saw Space Shuttle launch
- Taped my own piece of video and helped edit it
- Traveled by train
- Participated in the Minnesota AIDS Walk
- Saw my son in a high school musical
- Went through the Pompeii exhibit at the Science Museum
- Started playing golf

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I usually don't make resolutions. I just continue trying as best I can to improve myself in some way.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Someone who used to be close, yes. A friend of the family from my younger years.

5. What countries did you visit?
In Florida I was close to Cuba. I don't suppose that counts, though.

6. What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007?
- Greater peace of mind
- Breathing room
- Time for taking care of the home front

7. What date from 2007 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I'm bad with exact dates, but there are two: the Pray for Daylight premiere and the Space Shuttle launch.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Getting a job with a good company and a good boss.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not spending enough time improving the house.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Little stuff. Nothing major.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My iMac. Best computer purchase yet.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
- My husband: for reconciliations with family and perseverence at work.
- My son: for focus on his goals, development of his skills, and achievement in an entirely new arena.
- My daughter: for her determination to improve her grades and give her beautiful hair to Locks of Love.
- My mother: for having the courage to accept her limits and begin to live her life more fully.
- A friend: who's been through hell and back, taken the responsibility for his actions, and his putting his life back together.

13. Whose behavior appalled and depressed you?
- Former friends
- Our government and leaders
- The TSA
- A majority of the American public

14. Where did most of your money go?
Technology and travel.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
- My job
- The movie premiere
- The Space Shuttle launch
- Visiting my in-laws (no joke!)
- Seeing Sir Ian McKellan
- Seeing Spamalot
- Seeing my son in his FIRST high school show
- Finding old friends online

16. What songs will always remind you of 2007?
That's a tough one. I really don't know that until I'm past 2007 and hear a song that ends up reminding me of it.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. Happier or sadder?
Happier. Definitely. More content.

ii. Thinner or fatter?
About the same.

iii. Richer or poorer?
In cash or in things that are really important? Friends, love, security, family... richer.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
- Working on the house
- Spending time outside
- Being with my family

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
- Being on the computer (work and play)
- Worrying (job search)
- Being angry over things I had no control over

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Quietly with my husband and kids... playing Rock Band, playing board games, watching movies.

22. Did you fall in love in 2007?
365 times... with my husband.

23. How many one-night stands?
ZEEE-RO.

24. What was your favorite TV program?
I think Doctor Who topped the list.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Interesting question. There are definitely those that I dislike, am disappointed in, or am baffled by reasoning, behavior, or choices.

26. What was the best book you read?
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
There was none this year, unless you count rediscovering old favorites.

28. What did you want and get?
- More travel
- Seeing family

28. What did you want and not get?
- Travel to Europe
- Our passports
- A better job for Avindair

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
On the fun side, Hot Fuzz.
On the serious side, Sicko.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
On my actual birthday day, had a nice dinner with my husband and kids. I turned 41.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Having the freedom to be in charge of my own schedule -- when to work, when to play.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007?
Me.

34. What kept you sane?
My husband and kids, my dog, getting outdoors.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Whom did I "fancy"? I don't think I'd go that far. There are those whose work I enjoy or I think are attractive, but "fancy"? Not so much.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Health care

37. Whom did you miss?
- Family
- Penmaster and Raven
- Uncle Dale

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Not a clue.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2007:
Say goodbye to people and situations that are a destructive influence. Life's too short.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
"Always look on the bright side of life."

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

King Arthur vs Amazon

In March of this year, I posted a review of a touring production of Camelot starring Michael York. My comments weren't exactly favorable.

Oh, who am I kidding? If I could have, I would have stood outside the theater a la "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" screaming, "Run away! Run away!"

Back to my point. After the show... that very night as I returned from the Ordway... from Amazon I ordered a DVD copy of the 1982 Broadway version starring Richard Harris as it had been broadcast on HBO.


That was in March 2008, folks.

Over the past nine months, Amazon has notified me no less than three times that release of the DVD had been pushed back again and again. The last time, about two weeks ago, the availability date was set at February 2008. I was aggravated, but what other choice did I have?

Last week I was on Amazon doing a bit of last minute Christmas shopping. Amazon's a great place for reasonable prices on DVDs (and I'm trying to avoid shopping at Best Buy). When what to my wondering eyes should appear but... Camelot... IN STOCK.

Wha-huh?

I quickly checked my pending orders. Camelot... the very same one... was still listed in my pending orders with an availability/ship date of February 2008.

Huh.

I cancelled my original order from March 2007. Placed a brand-spanking new order for the very same DVD. And it shipped the same day. New orders being fulfilled before orders that were several months old. Perhaps it was a glitch in the system, but it sure honked me off.

Good news is that we'll FINALLY be able to show the kids a production of Camelot, with a GOOD Arthur. Nine months late, but better late than never. I know what WE'RE doing Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Leavin' on that Midnight Train

I have an alert set up at Travelocity. Whenever flight prices drop to a few key cities, including my home town, I get an email. I was just informed that the price dropped from $330 to $290. I'm not sure if that's a bargain or highway robbery.

One thing's for certain... it's not a train robbery.

(EDITORIAL NOTE: Worst. Segueway. Ever.)

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter, Sporty Girl, and I went on our first ever, long distance train ride. Even with a few mechanical breakdowns and delays which brought us to our destination seven hours late, it was well worth it.

The trains from St Paul to/from Grand Forks run at odd times for most people. We had to depart from St Paul near 11pm and depart from Grand Forks at almost 1am. A little inconvenient, yes, but not a show stopper, by any means.

Why Tracks are Better than Airways

1. Cost - The round trip coach price for one adult and one child was a whopping $141. Compare that to Northwest Airlines coach for the same period - $660 (not counting taxes and airport fees, so closer to $700).

2. Space - We've all dealt with coach seating in the run-of-the-mill jumbo passenger aircraft. It's like traveling in a sardine can with all the accompanying charm. Coach seats on Amtrak were extraordinarily roomy and comfortable by comparison. If I stretched my legs out straight I barely touched the seat in front of me... and I have long legs. And no, you didn't get crowded when the seats reclined.

3. Comfort - Speaking of reclining. You could lay your seat back, lift a leg rest, lift a foot rest, put the complimentary pillow behind your head and be totally comfy. Our last airline trip charged you $1 to use their pillow.

4. Movement - Unless the train was about to come to a stop at the station, you could move about freely from seat to seat, level to level, car to car. No seatbelts. No assigned seats. No stowing your bags above or under your seat.

5. Security - I felt quite safe traveling alone with my daughter and not ONCE were my bags searched, xrayed or swabbed. We didn't have to walk through metal detectors and take off our shoes. I didn't have to get patted down and treated like a criminal. I showed my ID, showed our tickets, and took a seat. Both coming and going, I stood in line for perhaps a total of 15 minutes.

6. Luggage - Don't want to wait at tortuous luggage-go-round? Take the train! Luggage allowances were more than generous for the two of us (2 suitcases and one carry on per person). A checked luggage option is available for long distances or heavy packers.

7. Peace of Mind - Even though, as I said, we encountered some lengthy mechanical problems (7 hours-worth of delay), I was happy as a clam. Really. Unless you're in a big hurry, where's the bad? You're on the ground, not in the air. You're in roomy seating, not crammed into an assigned seat with no elbow room between Chatty Kathy and Mr. Halitosis. At the very worst, they send another train for you.

8. Relaxing vs Rushing - I used to love to fly before the 9/11 "security" bullshit began. Traveling by air went from fun and exciting to hours of paranoia inducing stress. Have trouble in the security line? Get delayed at the ticket counter? Miss your flight? You're screwed, Buster. Miss your train? Take the next one. Then open a book or kick back and take a nap when you get on board.

9. Food - Not every train has a dining car, but ours did. The food was great and worth the price... equivalent to a meal at a chain restaurant... like Perkins. It also had a lounge car where you could buy food and eat there or carry back to your seat.

10. Employees / Riders - Friendly. To a one. I was able to easily strike up lovely conversations with other riders. Employees were courteous and helpful. It was a real pleasure.

I've never come home from traveling so relaxed and refreshed. Nothing like the frazzled airline travel we've experience of late.

A few negative points to consider. To ride the train, you have to have time. They don't run as frequently as planes, and it takes much longer to reach your destination. A trip may take you days instead of hours. Pets, with the exception of animals that assist the disabled, are forbidden to ride. Also, short runs are cheap, but very long runs, especially if you get a sleeper car, can be as pricey as plane flights or more (but your meals are included - not extra). But if you need to stay on the cheap, coach seats are just fine to snooze in.

All in all, whenever I have the option, the train is the way to go! I can hardly wait to climb on board again!

D & D & Me

It's no secret by now that today is a government day at work. After the "Video Project from Hell", I needed to kick back. No. I really don't have the time for it, but my mind needed to grab a magazine and go take a long mental crap. I'll tell you about the "Video Project from Hell" later. I promise.

I Am A: Neutral Good Human Ranger (6th Level)


Ability Scores:

Strength-13
Dexterity-15
Constitution-15
Intelligence-16
Wisdom-14
Charisma-12

Alignment:Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment because because it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Race:Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Class:Rangers are skilled stalkers and hunters who make their home in the woods. Their martial skill is nearly the equal of the fighter, but they lack the latter's dedication to the craft of fighting. Instead, the ranger focuses his skills and training on a specific enemy a type of creature he bears a vengeful grudge against and hunts above all others. Rangers often accept the role of protector, aiding those who live in or travel through the woods. His skills allow him to move quietly and stick to the shadows, especially in natural settings, and he also has special knowledge of certain types of creatures. Finally, an experienced ranger has such a tie to nature that he can actually draw on natural power to cast divine spells, much as a druid does, and like a druid he is often accompanied by animal companions. A ranger's Wisdom score should be high, as this determines the maximum spell level that he can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus(e-mail)

I Otter Know Better


Your Score: The Otter


Here's your results! Your spirit animal has a Nobility ranking of 11 out of 18.



Your spirit animal is the otter. Playful, curious and fun animals, they are truly the start of what can be considered a noble creature. Otters are good at figuring things out, and make great friends. You are lucky to have one as a spirit animal. Otters are fairly rare as spirit animals.

Link: The What is Your Spirit Animal Test written by FindingEros on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Smart Drivers DO Exist!

I found proof on the road today that smart drivers exist when I spotted this bumper sticker:

On the other end of the bumper was another gem that I still can't find an image of. In parody of the "got milk?" adds it read "got photons?"

Awesome. And the driver even used his turn signal! Wow!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Does Anyone Fall for This Stuff?

I got a very special email this morning. I wanted to share it with everyone!

*******
From: Fletcher Lawrence
Subject: special depth that true

to learn how those

Good afternoon. Doing good? Email me at ihm@ShineBal.info only. By the way, I am a girl. Hope you will like my pictures.
has a from their "I truly believe district if you want.
ihm@ShineBal.info
*******

This one didn't get caught by the spam filter. The "From" email address (I removed the user name since it looked real) is real -- FYI North Idaho, a tourist guide website.

So, really. Tell me. Are there actually people out there who fall for this stuff?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

I Don't Drink Alone... Much

100%ALCOHOLIC

Sunday is USELESS BLOG POST DAY at the SIZZLER!

For the record, I'm not an alcoholic, just a trivia buff. Little pieces of knowledge get wedged in my brain to pull out for moments such as these.

Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children

dating

I picked this link up from CubeZoo.

I got a PG rating based on the presence of the following words:
shit (2x) and drugs (1x)

I know that the drug reference was about PRESCRIPTION drugs, so obviously, it doesn't take context into consideration.

A PG rating doesn't have much clout. Guess I'm going to have to start throwing around the effinheimer or something and bring it up to R.

**Quick Note**
If you grab this cool little thing, it contains an extra link to some online dating service for Washington D.C. Yeah, I removed it. Not looking for a date in Washington, thanks.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Pimping Klingons



If you do not attend A Klingon Christmas Carol on December 8, you have NO HONOR!

ONE PERFORMANCE ONLY! Come one, come all, as my friends at Commedia Beauregard and the IKV RakeHell present this holiday classic in the original Klingon. Fun for adults, kids, Star Trek nerds, Vulcans, Andorians, and people who've never even HEARD of Star Trek.

WHERE?
University of Minnesota Saint Paul Student Center Theater
2017 Buford Avenuve
Saint Paul, MN 55108

WHEN?
Show starts at 7:30 p.m.

BUT WAIT - THERE'S MORE
Silent Auction at 6:30 p.m. and even more entertainment!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Vote Smart!

I've been doing my best to avoid the political brouhaha. We're down to, what? 17,000 candidates or so?

With elections less than one year away, I've finally decided to turn my attention to the fetid muck and mire that is our Presidential election process.

I don't want to have to wade through the hip-deep bovine feces spouted from candidates, supporters, the media, and pundits alike. So I looked online for a place to find non-biased, no-nonsense information. Just the facts. So I can make up my own mind.

I found Project Vote Smart, (www.vote-smart.org). It's non-partisan, takes no money from special interest groups, takes no money from corporations, PACs or any organization that supports or opposes any candidates or issues. 90% of the researchers are volunteers - receiving no pay - and the small staff receives minimal pay to cover living expenses.

They cover every candidate from local government up to President providing:
  • Voting Records
  • Biographical and Contact Information
  • Issue Positions (called the Political Courage Test - check out Pawlenty's rating here... ouch)
  • Interest Group Ratings
  • Public Statements
  • Campaign Finanaces

    This isn't all. There's so much more.

    So if you're weary, like I am, of trying to separate the political wheat from the chaff, check them out!
  • Tuesday, November 27, 2007

    AUGH! Give Me the Clam Juice!

    First, 10 points to anyone who can tell me where that quote came from.

    No, Avindair. Not you. I know you know it.

    As usual, I was in a hurry this morning. I realized that my Amy's Organic Palak Paneer frozen meal was still in my freezer when I was about 10 miles down the road to work. So, I made a quick stop at Cub to pick up another. They'd just rearranged the frozen foods and Amy's stuff was no where to be found.

    Kashi. Hmmm.



    I liked thier cereal pretty well. It's organic. Lots of good stuff for me. Lots of vitamins and fiber.

    What the hell? I purchased the box of Kashi Chicken Florentine and was on my merry way.

    What the hell, indeed.

    As it heated in the breakroom microwave, my first thought was, "My, what an interesting new smell I've discovered."

    You know how sometimes foods have a really terrible smell, but taste great? This was not one of those times.

    I was hungry. I'm busy. I seriously wondered if I could manage to eat my food while holding my nose. Instead, I decided to just embrace the pain, chow down, and vow never to buy it again.

    It is done. My stomach is full. I have the vague, unsettling taste of garlic and tree bark in my mouth. Now I need to see if there's any Clam Juice or battery acid in the breakroom vending machine to wash it down and cleanse my palate.

    Friday, November 23, 2007

    Oh, Shit. I Gotta Hunt Another Vampire?

    Ann Coulter's Beauty Secret

    There You Are

    Holiday weekends were meant for silly stuff, and my blog is no exception!

    Your Score: Buckaroo Banzai


    150 Heart, 158 Genius, 155 Cool, 131 Excitability



    Buckaroo Banzai - (Peter Weller)

    The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)


    You are Buckaroo Banzai! Hard-rockin' neurosurgeon, brilliant scientist, and all-around cool guy. Maybe you didn't have the cinematic success of some of the other guys here, but it's okay - you're a cult classic!

    "Hey, hey, hey. Don't be mean. We don't have to be mean because, remember, no matter where you go, there you are."


    Other scientific possibilities:


    Gary Wallace


    Wyatt Donnelly


    Peter Venkman


    Jordan Cochran


    Egon Spengler


    Doc Brown


    Newton Crosby


    Paul Stephens


    Ben Crandall


    Wayne Szalinkski


    Winston Zeddemore


    Ben Jabituya


    Lazlo Hollyfeld


    Ray Stantz


    Buckaroo Banzai


    Chris Knight



    Link: The Which 80s Movie Scientist Test written by xxyl on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007

    Giving Thanks

    1621.

    According to the history books, in 1621 the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians shared a harvest feast. That meal has been acknowledged by most as one of the first Thanksgivings in the colonies. However, harvest celebrations and giving thanks in autumn for the bounty of the earth was a tradition long carried out by not only Native American groups and Europeans, but many other cultures around the world.

    Giving thanks has been in vogue long before this country, or 1621, or Christianity. Who am I to mess with tradition? The fourth Thursday in the month of November is as good a day as any to give voice to things that I have been thankful for throughout the year.


    • My loving family
    • Our friends
    • A job
    • A roof over our heads
    • Clothes on our backs
    • Food in our bellies


    I started a different list before the one above. One with flowery thank you messages. One with details of my life and experiences throughout the past year.

    And then, I thought... why?

    It's not that I'm not thankful. It's not that I didn't mean every single word. And then I came to a realization. What I'm really thankful for are the basics: family, friends, work, home, clothes, and food. Everything else I have or experience, no matter how wonderful, is gravy.

    Because not everyone... not even in one of the most prosperous nations in the free world... has what I consider to be just the basics. Being able to check off all six items on that list above, I count myself a rich woman.

    As I gather with our little family at the dinner table tomorrow, and we bow our heads, I'll be giving thanks for those simple things in life. Those simple things that I couldn't imagine living without.

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007

    Spot On

    Needed something silly today. After reading the the full report, this was eerily accurate. Weird.






    Take this test!


    You approach the world with reserve because unconsciously, and perhaps consciously, you like to be in control. You keep your emotions to yourself and you may seem mysterious or enigmatic to others.


    You're often very cautious about truly expressing yourself. Even people who have known you for some time may find it hard to get close to you.


    Your psyche is very deep and rich; the more you learn about it, the more you will understand who you really are.



    Monday, November 19, 2007

    What a Monday

    This past weekend was a productive one in the Nerd Clan household. It was our daughter's 11th birthday. My parents came 'round to redecorate her room into one a little more "mature". The bubblegum pink walls were covered in a muted green. Grown-up, floor-length curtains covered the windows. All of the little girl toys went to one of three places: keepsake storage, giveaway box, or the garbage.

    Sunday was spent finishing up a few odds and ends, but it was mostly restful and quiet.

    Monday started relatively well. The brand-new 11-year-old was staying home with a cold, and Avindair was going to stay home with her.

    "We'll snuggle on the couch and watch movies," he said. "It'll be a nice father-daughter day."

    In my rush to get ready for work, Avindair offered to let me take his car. The one with the heated front seats.

    "It'll be a treat. I'll even run out and get it warmed up for you."

    Minutes later he came back in... an edge to his voice."Someone smashed our passenger side window."

    Crap.

    I threw on my shoes and ran out to the car. It was smashed in, all right. With a blank space on the windshield where our 2-month old portable GPS used to be. Nothing else was touched.

    Our insurance company, Geico, was fantastic. One phone call and they made an appointment for a glass company to come out today and fix it in our driveway.

    The police came to make a report. It was a little bit of a relief to find out that we weren't alone. Four home in our neighborhood got hit that they knew of so far. No one suspected until this morning. The NerdHound didn't even wake up. Of course, we're so used to the sounds of teenagers roaming the streets at all hours of the night (even though our suburb has a curfew), that I suppose we've become accustomed to a certain level of noise. At least we could take some comfort in the fact that we weren't singled out.

    What now? Tony's father-daughter sick day has turned into "fix things and make the house secure" day.

    1. An electrician is coming out today to install motion-detection lighting on the garage. We had our lights on, but according to the police, the motion-detection lights are a great deterrent for any future problems.

    2. 1-800 Got Junk is coming out to haul away our remodeling refuse so that the cars can go back in the garage.

    3. The auto glass place is coming to fix the car window.

    One good thing, we were able to provide the police with the serial number for the GPS. If the thieves try to sell it at a pawn shop, we might be able to piss on their day just a little bit, too.

    Now all we need to do is put signs around the house reading, "TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT". You think the neighbors will object?

    Monday, November 05, 2007

    Meme Time

    MagicMarmot meme. After the last post, I felt the need to lighten up and talk about ME! *wink*

    1. Does someone love you?
    Yes. Yes, someone does. :-)

    2. Do you know anyone named Dave?
    Several.

    3. Ever kissed anyone with the name starting with a J?
    I think so. The list isn't that long. I should remember.

    4. Has anyone ever mistaken you for a family member?
    What an odd question. No... I don't think so?

    5. Have you ever tried Propel Calcium Water?
    Is this a marketing ploy in disguise? No.

    6. What color are the walls of your bedroom?
    Bland off white - but I aim to change that soon.

    7. Do you think that hair extensions look skanky?
    It depends what hair on the body the extensions are attached to.

    8. Are you named after a grandparent?
    Nope.

    10. Say you were given a drug test right now. Would you pass or fail?
    I'd pass. I don't abuse illegal chemicals.

    11. Are you taller than 5'6“?
    Yup.

    13. Ever see a dead body?
    Many.

    14. Do you like the color green?
    Love it.

    16. How are you?
    I think, therefore I are.

    17. Who was the last person to send you a text message?
    Tony. Trying to figure why people send text messages. I just don't text.

    19. Last restaurant you went to?
    Boston's

    20. What is the weather like today?
    Cold, windy... and I just saw the first snow of the season.

    21. Last voicemail you received?
    My daughter - telling me she was going to a friend's house.

    22. What did you do yesterday?
    Cleaned house. Saw a movie with Avindair, Saveau and Temple Viper. Got to hold a corn snake (cool!).

    23. What's the first thing you would do with five million dollars?
    Deposit the check.

    24. What nationalities are you?
    Mostly Irish, Scottish and Norwegian.

    25. How many hours did you sleep last night?
    About 8. It was a good night's rest.

    26. Any upcoming concerts you want to attend?
    No. Besides, they're really pricey and I'm cheap.

    27. Who's the last person that you felt was stalking you?
    The last person I felt like stalking was... oh, wait... who I felt was stalking ME?

    28. Have you ever been on your school's track team?
    Grade school -- but I hardly think "Softball Throw" counts much.

    29. What jewelry are you wearing?
    A pair of amber and silver studs. A pair of silver / "diamond" studs. My spiral goddess pendant. My wedding rings. :-)

    31. If all of your friends were going on a road trip, would you?
    Only if all my friends were going to put rings in their noses and jump off a cliff, too.

    32. How much money do you have?
    Plenty for my needs. Not quite enough for my wants.

    33. Do you swear at your parents?
    Never. Though I do swear near them.

    34. Is your phone right beside you?
    Two of 'em. Work on one side. Cell on the other.

    35. Have you cried today?
    Not yet. Why? Should I have?

    36. Do you think that someone is thinking about you right now?
    Yes. The person reading this!

    37. Do you untie your shoes every time you take them off?
    No. Especially the slip-on ones.

    38. What is the color of your bedsheets?
    Currently - burgundy.

    39. Have you ever crawled through a window?
    Crawled and climbed. But the real question is, did I break in? ;0)

    40. Are you photogenic?
    With the right lighting, make-up, angle, and lense.

    41. What's your sign?
    Sagittarius, baby.

    42. Where do you spend most of your money?
    House payment.

    43. What was the last thing you did?
    Typed this. Duh.

    44. Do you have a tattoo?
    On my scalp. 666.

    45. Do you still watch cartoons on Saturday mornings?
    Nope. I watch my cartoons at night.

    46. Is there a secret you've never told any of your friends?
    There are secrets I haven't told most of friends... does that count?

    47. Have you ever told someone you loved them but didn't mean it?
    No. That's cruel. Mean it or don't say it.

    48. Have you ever changed your clothes while in a vehicle?
    Yup.

    49. What are you doing in 2008?
    Metabolizing, albeit slowly.

    50. What is your ringtone?
    The T-Mobile default.

    51. What were you doing at 2am last night?
    Snoozing. Dreaming. Drooling.

    52. What is the last movie you watched?
    30 Days of Night with Avindair, Saveau and Temple Viper.

    53. What are you doing tonight?
    Taking down the Halloween decorations before they get frozen into place for the winter.

    54. What are you doing tomorrow?
    Work. Laundry. Maybe a little World of Warcraft.

    57. Does it annoy you when someone says they'll call but never do?
    Yes it does.

    58. What did you dress up as for your first Halloween?
    Wow. That one STUMPED me. I don't have a clue! I remember Halloweens as a witch, a hobo (when it wasn't non-PC to dress that way), a mime, a paper tiger. I also distinctly remember being Sabrina (from the Bewitched TV series) with the once-poplar horrible plastic mask and poncho-style plastic overdrape. Remember those?!

    59. What is the wallpaper on your cellphone?
    Cool blue spirals.

    Friday, November 02, 2007

    Your Papers, Please?

    We all know how the criminal justice system works in this country. A crime is committed. A perpetrator is identified. Evidence is brought against them. They go to court. But in every case, the defendent is required to know and understand what they are accused of and have the chance to refute the evidence brought against them.

    Unless, of course, under the current administration, it's a matter of "National Security".

    I've been quiet about this for a week and a half, but it's time.

    Two weeks ago I traveled back and forth between Minneapolis and Dulles International (Washington, D.C.) with my husband and kids. We were taking a quick trip to visit friends and family. In a repeat performance from our trip to Orlando earlier this year, I once again got "selected" for the special security treatment on the flight out. (On the Orlando trip the entire family got the pat down treatment coming and going.)

    After a really lovely weekend in D.C. and Lynchburg, we headed back to the airport. We picked up our tickets at the counter (since I mysteriously could not print out boarding passes at home) and headed for the security line. My 10-year-old daughter stood with me, while Avindair took care of our 15-year-old son. I handed TSA Guy our boarding passes and my ID. This was the conversation we had.

    TSA Guy: (pointing at my daughter) I need her photo ID.
    Me: She's only 10. She doesn't have a photo ID.
    TSA Guy: Huh? I need her ID.
    Me: We're not flying overseas. We're only traveling domestically. She doesn't need identification for domestic travel.
    TSA Guy: (to TSA Gal next to him - pointing at Kate) Doesn't she need an ID?
    TSA Gal: Um... nah. They don't need IDs if they're 15 and under.
    TSA Guy: Oh.
    TSA Gal: Oh... wait. No... I think it's 18 and under.

    LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK!

    The crack security staff didn't even know how old you had to be before you needed a photo ID? These people passed their training? HUH?

    Finally, he grudgingly handed back our boarding passes and my ID and allowed us to get in line.

    Wait... I don't get the "special treatment" today? I'm going through the line like a normal person for the first time in a long time? It's my lucky day!

    Three more TSA people look at my boarding pass, walk me through the metal detector, slide my binned travel bag and shoes through the scanner, and finally allow me to be on my merry way with my family.

    We had arrived at the airport very early. The plan was to get through the infamously difficult Dulles security, eat dinner in the terminal, then sit quietly, relax and read until the flight boarded. All was going as planned until about 30 minutes before boarding.

    "Would passenger GeekGoddess (name removed to protect the innocent-until-proven-guilty) please come to the gate counter?"

    Fearing the worst, I walked up to the counter, Avindair and the kids trailing behind me. At the time, I thought the worst would be a problem at home... someone in the hospital, an accident. Maybe they couldn't reach me on my cell phone.

    Nope.

    Turns out security had contacted the airline. I was supposed to have had the "special treatment" and get a "special stamp" on my boarding pass before getting on the flight. Apparantly, the crack TSA staff hadn't done it and the airline wasn't going to let me on the flight without it.

    *****
    NOTE:
    At that time I wondered, just how did they *know* I didn't have the stamp without looking at my boarding pass? How did the TSA know to call the airline? I found out today. Before every flight, no later than 15 minutes before departure, airlines have to send their passenger list to the TSA. The TSA then checks that list against the No-Fly (means you are NOT flying) and the Watch (means that you get the "special treatment") lists. Of course, they don't tell the passengers this.
    *****

    It took the airline gate staff another 15 minutes to FIND A WORKING TELEPHONE NUMBER for the TSA desk to call them back and ask what to do with me. Apparently, they never found it. Eventually, a surly Continental staff member showed up to escort me all the way back to the security checkpoint, leaving Avindair and the kids at the gate... confused and worried.

    As she led me away, slowly rambling along the long concourse, she complained about the long day she'd had and mumbling that I could catch a shuttle back.

    Me: A what???
    Her: A shuttle.
    Me: Why do I need a shuttle? Where am I going? My flight leaves in 30 minutes and my family is waiting for me.
    Her: Aw, you'll probably make it.
    Me: First, I don't know this airport. Second, where am I going?
    Her: Back to get a stamp.
    Me: A stamp from where?
    Her: Security.
    Me: You mean the main security checkpoint? All the way back by the ticket counters?
    Her: You'll make it back. It only takes 7 minutes if you use the moving sidewalks.

    Fuck.

    So. We finally make it to security. Continental Gal start arguing with the TSA Guy #2 over my need for a "special stamp". They argue some more. TSA Guy #2 decides to get a supervisor involved. TSA Super #1 argues with TSA Guy #2 and Continental Gal. Then TSA Super #2 joins in the fray. I jump in with "FLIGHT BOARDING IN 15 MINUTES! FAMILY WAITING AT GATE!" I'm given a look by all of them that sees me as more of a noisy child than a US Citizen/paying passenger. TSA Super #1 suggests I have a seat while they make some phone calls.

    I wait for another 10 minutes.

    Anxiously.

    At last, TSA Guy #3 calls me over to once again take off my dangerous jacket, my dangerous shoes, empty my dangerous pockets, and put my dangerous carry-on in the bin. I once again walk through the metal detector (who knows what I might have picked up on the OTHER SIDE of the security barrier the first time). I get the pat down, have TSA Gal #2 swab down my belongings for bomb-making residue.

    At least TSA Guy #3 has the decency to look sheepish and say, "Sorry about this," as he stamps my boarding pass with the stamp that TSA Guy #2 said didn't exist.

    Continental Gal looks up at me from her magazine and says, "You know the way back," and turns away.

    I look up at the clock. Boarding for my flight should be starting about... NOW.

    I start to run. I'm guessing it's about 3/4 of a mile. Oh, and the moving sidewalks? Ha! More like mechanical arteries blocked by human plaque.

    I arrive at my gate as boarding is beginning. My husband is worried... and angry. My even-tempered son is fuming and furious. My daughter is scared and crying.

    After a lot of arguing, Avindair finally pried out of an attendant that I'm on the TSA's "Watch List".

    Why? Who knows? Hundreds of thousands of people are on it. The government doesn't have to tell us why. The criteria are a matter of "national security". It could be as simple as having a name similar to someone on the No-Fly list... or it could be "something else". They just won't tell you.

    When I got home, I did a little research. The facts so far:

    1. There's no way of knowing why you are on the list.
    2. The TSA admits that there are many people on the list in error.
    3. There is no method an individual can take to be removed completely from the list.
    4. If you provide the TSA with more personal information about yourself, you may be shifted to a "verified" portion of the list... but you'll still be subjected to the same scrutiny when traveling.
    5. I can no longer print boarding passes from home.
    6. I can no longer use eTicket machines at the airport.
    7. Every time I fly, I have to wait at the ticket counter to receive a boarding pass from the airline representative.

    In short:
    - I've been accused of something by our government - along with thousands of other U.S. Citizens.
    - My personal freedoms are being curtailed by a government agency without having to provide me with reason, evidence or proof.
    - It's impossible to defend myself, when I don't know what I'm defending myself against.

    Without having to site criteria, under this umbrella of "national security", who knows what reasons normal U.S. Citizens are being treated like criminals? Is it truly to keep terrorists out? Or is it to "legally" profile and track people based on religion, political affiliation, cultural activities, personal opinion...? We don't know. And if you ask... if you question... you might just end up on a list yourself... perhaps for being "Un-American".

    I'm still trying to decide what to do... how to handle this. The ramifications of being identified on this list are more than a little frightening to me. Here I am: 40-year-old woman, married 20 years, mother of two, home owner, good work record, business owner, tax payer, former government employee with security clearance, former Girl Scout leader, never had a run in with the law for more than a speeding ticket, grew up in a Cessna with a father who was a flight instructor... but I get treated like a criminal now every time I travel.

    The Watch list, by the way, is filled with people who are considered a potential threat to civil aviation.

    Does the description above sound like I'm a threat?

    Have you seen the news lately? You all might be joining me before long. Check this out:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/10/12/flying_into_data_hell/

    There are lots of other good articles/blogs about this. Just do a Google search on "government permission to fly". Funny. For something as important as this, I didn't see anything on the regular news.

    If this rule goes into effect, forget about flying off to a romantic getaway at a moment's notice.

    Your papers, please?

    Tuesday, October 30, 2007

    My Daemon



    Taken from Trees at Anomalous Data!

    More DRUGS!

    Yup. That's what this country needs. More drugs!

    At least according to an article off the Associated Press this morning: More Young Adults on Cholestoral Drugs.

    You know WHY more young adults are on these drugs? You know why there is a greater incidence of obesity and high blood pressure?

    Let's examine the recommended lifestyle to be able to stay off the cholesterol drugs. Eat right, exercise, and lose weight. Sounds simple, but when the average American has to work 2-3 jobs to keep his head above water, runs through the McDonald's drive-thru and eats in the car along the way, it makes it a little difficult. Or when a full-time job means 60 hours a week instead of 40? Where do you find time to exercise and cook even one healthy meal when you can't even find the time for a full night's rest? Now, add a spouse, kids, a house, and all the other responsibilities of life on top of that.

    What do you mean you don't have time to go to the gym? What do you mean your "too tired"? What do you mean you can't go to the store to select lean cuts of meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, and create a healthy meal? It's easy! If it's REALLY important to you, you'll MAKE the time!

    How's about instead of curing our cholesterol with pills, we examine the American lifestyle? But it's a nasty, vicious cycle. If you tell your boss to go get bent, you're only working 40 hours a week, you'll get fired. If you decide to work one job instead of three, you'll lose your home. If don't have a full-time job, you won't be able to afford health insurance. If all you can afford is the 79 cent box of mac and cheese and not the $3 head of lettuce, guess how healthy you're going to eat?

    How do you fix it? Just take a pill. Every day of your life.

    But in order to HAVE that pill, you have to have a job... or several. The job, and the unhealthy lifestyle mandated by having that job, leads to the high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which leads to needing the medication, which leads to having to keep the job to afford the medication, which leads to pharmacuetical companies smiling all the way to the bank.

    Grump.

    I've got other things to write about -- boy, DO I -- expect more blogging very, very soon.

    Next up -- my rant on the TSA.

    Tuesday, October 16, 2007

    The 2030 Problem

    Some of you may remember my post from September, Beware of Aging, outlining the worries my mother is going through caring for her elderly mother and the outrageous cost of care.

    Quick update. Grandma was moved into a nursing home a couple of weeks ago. During that time she's undergone an evaluation to determine the level of care she needs and to figure out exactly what the cost will be. We have the answer - $195 per day - about $6000 per month - $72,000 per year. Much more than the average full-time worker in America makes in a year.

    Even when the nursing home insurance kicks in in three months, after they've incurred over $18,000 out of pocket in care bills, it will still only pay out $2700 per month, leaving $3300 out of pocket.

    The solution? Mom and Dad haven't figured that one out yet. Just a few days ago, care workers visited my Dad's mother. This grandmother has just come home from several months in the hospital and can no longer take care of herself either. Mom and Dad have to find a way to put two grandmothers, on opposite ends of the country in nursing care or give up what years they have left on their own good health, caring for them themselves.

    This is insane. And it's only going to get worse - it's called the "2030 Problem". That's the year when the youngest of the Baby Boomer generation will turn 66 -- and will number 61 million people in our country facing care needs. Those born prior to 1946 is estimated to number 9 million. Conservative estimates of long term care costs from the Congressional Budget Office set expenditures at $154 billion in 2010, $195 in 2020, and $270 billion in 2030. Currently about 59% of care is paid for by the government, about 40% by individuals, and a meagre 1% by private insurance.

    "The $120 billion in current expenses underestimates the economic resources devoted to long-term care, however, because most care is delivered informally by family and friends and is not included in economic statistics. Among the elderly who require assistance with daily activities, 65 percent rely exclusively on families and friends and another 30 percent rely, at least in part, on informal care. It has been estimated that the economic value of such informal care-giving in the United States reaches $200 billion a year--one and a half times the amount spent on formal care giving (Arno, Levine, and Memmott 1999)."

    There's also a shortage of people willing to go into the elderly care industry. Low wages and poor benefits are the rewards of caring for an aging America.

    Granted this is just one of the problems facing our nation in the future, but it's a future my kids will be inheriting. What burdens are we placing on future generations by our lack of attention to this growing dilemma? What kind of a country are we handing over to the next generation?

    Wednesday, October 10, 2007

    Missing Chins

    I miss Chin's Asia Fresh.

    We used to have one by my workplace. It was recently replaced by *retch* LeeAnn Chin.

    Chin's was just what it claimed to be - fresh, cooked to order, "Asian" food. The meats were moist with hardly a bit of extra fat, the vegetables were crisp and colorful - never overdone. It was a place I could go for lunch where I could be sure that the nutritional value was high and I wouldn't bust my diet.

    Unfortunately, with the demise of the Plymouth location, there are only two -- count'em with me -- TWO locations left in Minnesota.

    Today I was out running errands at lunch time, like I do, and wanted to grab something quick to go back to the office. What do I have nearby?

  • Taco Bell - Choose 1 taco slop delivery system (A. hard shell, B. soft shell, C. flour tortilla). Fill it with hamburger slop, chicken slop, or bean slop. Garnish with onion slop, cheese slop, hot sauce slop, and sour cream slop. Wrap in paper and serve with a sneer.
  • Panera - Menu items described by words like artisan, fuji, harvest, orchard, and Parisian, which really mean "stick to half-portions or you'll gain 5 lbs. today."
  • Pot Belly - Tasty sandwiches, with lots of calories, that cost far too much for what you get... and a line that goes on forever.
  • Chipotle - IF you watch what ingredients you choose, can be very low cal and healthy, but if you arrive at noon, kiss a quick lunch goodbye.
  • Salsaritas - Pretty much the same as Chipotle.
  • Noodles & Company - REALLY have to watch what you order here. Can be very high in calories and fat. Plus, the noodly entrees can be really heavy, even with lots of veggies.
  • Buffalo Wild Wings - A few light menu choices, but SLOW, SLOW, SLOW!

    Then there's LeeAnn Chin.

    Today, I chose it because there was no line, it was right next to the place I'd run my last errand, and I figured I could find something that was halfway healthy. And I did. By not eating it.

    The biggest difference between LeeAnn Chin and Chin's Asia Fresh is when the food is prepared. LAC has heated vats of their entrees, sitting under a warmer, waiting to be chosen like awkward teenage girls at a dance. By the time my so-called entree of stir fry chicken had reached my fork, the once crisp snow peas, broccoli, mini corn, and onions had become a pile of barely identifiable green and brown mush. Disgusting doesn't cover it. It was inedible. Much like the last few times I ventured through their doors. I dribbled a bit of soy sauce on the untouched steamed rice, picked what I could stomach, and threw the rest away. And I'm not a picky eater. Just ask my waistline.

    Here's what I don't get. In all of the LeeAnn Chin locations I've tried, I've never really had good food. Each event was usually due to a time-crunch or an overwhelming craving for "Asian" food. If you go to LAC's corporate website, you'd think their egg rolls walked on water: Best Chinese Food - Mpls St Paul Magazine, Best Chinese Food - Minnesota Monthly Reader's Restaurant Survey, Best Chinese Food - City Pages, Best Take Out - Mpls St Paul Magazine. HUH? Are their taste-buds DEAD?

    Add that to the sit-down restaurant prices for cafeteria line food? Never again. Last straw-ville for me. Not by the hair of my LeeAnn Chinny-chin-chin.
  • Tuesday, October 09, 2007

    An Evening with Sir Ian McKellen


    McKellen in "King Lear", 2007 - Directed by Trevor Nunn

    Sporting a shock of white hair and a generous white beard, he looked more like Gandalf than the smiling, clean-shaven man on the front cover of my program.

    That is, if Gandalf was fond of wearing turquoise dress shirts with MacBeth tartan ties.

    "King Lear" at the where? With WHO?

    "Today at 10am on Minnesota Public Radio, an interview with Sir Ian McKellen."

    The words cut through the grey, mind-fog of my morning drive. The Guthrie Theater was playing host to the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) for two productions, "King Lear" and "The Seagull" -- both starring Sir Ian McKellen. Also appearing in "King Lear" was Slyvester McCoy of "Doctor Who" fame. This was too good.

    I called Avindair.

    "We have to go," he said. "See if you can get tickets."

    Ha!

    Here There Be Scalpers

    When I got to work, my first stop was the Guthrie Theater website. I was determined to get a ticket... ANY ticket... to see the show.

    ANY ticket didn't seem to be within my budget. "King Lear"... according to the Guthrie... was sold out. However, "ticket agencies" aka "scalpers", had plenty. At the gut-wrenching rate of $400-$700 a seat.

    Um. No.

    Disappointment set in.

    I went back to the Guthrie website, ready to drown my sorrows in a little theater-lover's web-based pity party, when I found the next best thing. Sir Ian would be speaking as part of the Global Voices forum. I called. I could still get two tickets -- in the second row.

    Oh, yes. They would be MINE.

    No, hon. It's just me and Dad.

    Alex's face fell. I was a bad, bad Mom.

    "Oh. I thought we were all going. But, that's okay. I understand."

    Ouch.

    He was still smiling, but I could see the disappointment in his eyes.

    Our kids are almost as big theater and film buffs as Avindair and I are. And I would have loved to have taken them. How often does a chance like this roll around in the Twin Cities? Much less often than you would think.

    For years we've had just-out-of-reach plans to visit England with the kids. We've told them tales of London, the theater, the history. Promised them the chance to meet their English relatives. But time, work or money has always stepped in the way. Seeing the RSC in Minneapolis would have been a taste of what-will-be-one-day, but it wouldn't be this time.

    Worth Every Cent

    The tickets for Global Voices weren't cheap, but they also didn't break the bank.

    And it was worth it. Oh, was it worth it.

    Avindair picked me up from work around 430pm. His eyes were dark and moody.

    "Bad day?" I asked?

    "Ugh," he grunted. "I don't even know if I want to go to this thing tonight. I just want to go home and relax. I'd like to see him, but I'm just feeling so damn grumpy now."

    The only reason he didn't send MonkeyDude in his stead was for safety. Downtown Minneapolis streets aren't the safest at night. He didn't want MonkeyDude and I playing parking ramp Russian Roulette for the sake of some cool theater tickets.

    The new Guthrie is... interesting. Parking is conveniently located across the street. (Getting out of there is NOT convenient.) I'm not a big fan of the overall architecture, but I'm a bit of a traditionalist. From my theater background, however, I could appreciate the design behind the Wurtele stage, where we'd see Sir Ian. The seats were a bit cramped, but there was great versatility for lighting, respectable accoustics, and a beautiful thrust stage.

    Since we had to go early to grab our tickets, we decided to grab a quick bite at one of the Guthrie's three restaurants before the show. Trying to stay light, we each chose a soup and salad. A little pricey (what isn't, downtown?), but quite good -- and fast. By the time we'd finished our soup, Avindair was finally relaxing from his day, and glad that he'd come along.

    Once we got into the theater, we found ourselves wedged between two interesting people. I sat next to an odd fellow, who I later discovered rode a fine line between theater afficianado and weird, crazy fan guy. The entire two hours, he sat scribbling in a notebook in a a script I could only assume was short hand. Previous pages contained what I thought at first might be scientific notation, but on repeated glances, seemed to be some kind of code. I won't go into his personal hygiene. Yeesh. Next to Avindair was a friendly older lady who regaled us with a few stories of her years as a freelance marketing writer. At least we had something in common!

    ENOUGH with the Exposition!

    So? What about Ian McKellen?

    In short, he was a delight: charming, funny, modist and at times, self-effacing. Sir Tyrone Guthrie, founder of the Guthrie Theater, had been a prominent influence in the beginning of McKellen's career. He spoke of directors and actors he'd worked with, his thoughts on acting and Shakespeare, shared stories... it was fantastic. During the question period, he was gracious, patient, and throrough in his answers.


    McKellen in "Coriolanus", 1963 - Directed by Tyrone Guthrie

    Although the audience seemed almost embarrassed to touch on McKellen's more mainstream roles, like Gandalf and Magneto, there was one very memorable moment in the evening.

    He mentioned that when preparing for a role, he likes to know where a character would keep his money. Does he have pockets? A wallet? Does he use cash?

    Someone asked, "Where would Magneto keep his money?"

    "I imagine with his powers he'd simply put it wherever he wanted to," McKellen replied, making the Magneto hand gesture as if levitating metal coins. "But what I would like to know," he continued, smiling, "is where Mystique keeps hers?"

    I'm sure there were many in the audience, who, like ourselves, hadn't been able to get tickets to "King Lear" or "The Seagull". Sir Ian saved the best for last. He treated us to a soliloquy from "Sir Thomas More" by Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker, Thomas Heywood, Anthony Munday & William Shakespeare. This particular passage was known to have been written by Shakespeare himself, as the British Museum has the original text in his handwriting. The piece was as relevant today as it was in Shakespeare's time. Here's a bit of it that I could find online.

    Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
    Hath chid down all the majesty of England.
    Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
    Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
    Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
    And that you sit as kings in your desires,
    Authority quite silent by your brawl,
    And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
    What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
    How insolence and strong hand should prevail.


    Sir Thomas More, Act 2 Scene 4

    And yes, there was a standing ovation.


    *Images from www.mckellen.com.

    RAWR!

    You know why the tiger is snuggling the pig? Because she has a full tummy and she's keeping it as a snack for later. I mean, come on. Just LOOK at that pig's face!


    Your Score: Wuzzy Fuzzy


    You scored 54%Randomness, 81 % Fuzziness!




    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


    Your lovableness sickens me. It SICKENS me. You snuggle puppies, sniff babies, and have the world's dorkiest grin. People love you...and snicker behind your back.

    But you don't care. After all...awww, lookit the cute tiger snuggling piggies!!! Awwwwwwwww.

    Your attention span? WHAT attention span?




    Link: The How Fuzzy Is Your Soul Test written by Chel-Hell on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test


    Ganked from MagicMarmot.

    Friday, October 05, 2007

    Do you LIVE here?

    This morning I plugged in to the Star Tribune online, as I do most days, to read all the news that unfit to print. (Plus, I think buying the paper paper is a waste of money, ink, and trees when I can get it online.) I came across an article, linked to from the front page Local section, "Wisconsin geek convention will draw hundreds to Madison".

    Wow. No kidding.

    The article goes on to describe that 600 self-described "geeks" will gather and do geeky things. How avant garde!

    When in the Star Tribune's own back yard, one of the largest "geek" cons in the U.S., CONvergence will be celebrating ten years in 2008. Not only that, registrations for 2007 were 2,665 -- outweighing the Wisconsin con by more than 2000. I've never seen anything like THAT in the Star Tribune.

    Nothing against the Wisconsin con. Good for them. When two or more geeks shall gather together, there is wondrous geeky fun. It just kills me that our crack local journalists couldn't write up and promote an event that's four times bigger RIGHT HERE!

    Wednesday, October 03, 2007

    Real Beauty

    I'm not sure if this is new or not, but I love Dove's Real Beauty campaign. As a woman and the mother of a 10-year-old daughter, the imagery in this really hits home.



    Ganked from Tony.

    Sick at Heart

    It's official. Bush has vetoed the child health care bill raising it by an additional $35 billion over 5 years. That bastard. It was getting too close to that phrase that strikes fear into the hearts of Republicans - socialized medicine.

    Of course, it's perfectly okay to tell congress he needs an additional $150 billion in 2008 for the "War on Terror".

    Over four times as much spent on killing people in other countries, rather than healing our own.

    We have a fucking sick country... and I'm not talking about disease.

    Speaking of sick. If you haven't seen Michael Moore's SICKO yet, please, PLEASE do.

    One quote from the film continues to stick with me from the British... and I continually forget this gentleman's name and position in government. But he was explaining why the Brits moved to socialized medicine after World War II, when their country's economy was in shambles. To paraphrase, "If we had enough money to kill people, we had enough to heal them."

    Amen to that. Come on, America. Put your money where your oh-so-Christian-ideals should be - helping people instead of harming them.

    Monday, October 01, 2007

    Don't Wait

    My mother called this morning to let me know about the death of a friend of the family. We knew it was coming. He'd been ill for a long time. Hospice had been caring for him in his home. His family had been gathering.

    Still, it hit me harder than I'd thought it would.

    Dad knew Jerry through work. Our families had been very close when I was younger. They had two boys around my age. Our moms were on the same bowling team. We went tent camping, canoeing, and to the shooting range for target practice. We got together for dinners, birthday celebrations and holidays. Listened to Fleetwood Mac. Drank my first beer, Pabst Blue Ribbon, in their back yard. The boys and I used to go to movies and out roller skating. Jerry, himself, was friendly, cheerful, robust, and big-hearted. For awhile, at least, they were really like a second family to me.

    Then we all drifted apart, as people sometimes do.

    My parents and theirs didn't get together any more. The boys, like me, grew up, got married and had families of their own. I hadn't seen them in years, much less talked to them. Perhaps the occasional Christmas card, but that was all.

    Then I heard that Jerry was ill. Dad started seeing Jerry again, when he was in town. I knew that he was getting worse. I kept thinking, "I should call. I should write. I should do... something." But I never did. I never told them that I was thinking of them. And now, all I can do, is send flowers and a card. Heartfelt, but too little, too late. And nothing can ever change that.

    I'm not writing this to feel sorry for myself. Just a reminder that if someone in your life has meant something to you -- a friend, a mentor, a relative... even an acquaintance -- tell them. Don't let it wait.

    Friday, September 28, 2007

    Friday Silliness

    So... did it get me right?




    Your Personality is Very Rare (INTP)



    Your personality type is goofy, imaginative, relaxed, and brilliant.



    Only about 4% of all people have your personality, including 2% of all women and 6% of all men

    You are Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Perceiving.

    Wednesday, September 26, 2007

    Go Bohemian for only $2,000

    Women's fashion has problems.

    Since I turned 40, I began subscribing to the online newsletter from MORE magazine. It has some valid information for the 40-something and MORE crowd. Today's included this headline: 30 Best Jeans for Women.

    As part of this feature article, there were 30 styles of jeans, some shown as part of an ensemble. Each complete outfit was no less than $2000.

    What. The. Hell?



    Shay Peretz
    By Lois Joy Johnson
    Jeans for the Bohemian
    "I'm all about vintage-look funky jeans. Finding a style that fits my waist and my derriere is always the challenge."
    -- Beth Kristiansen, 43, aesthetician

    Beat-up hippie flares with an artsy soul are reincarnated as brand-new fades with a curve-accommodating fit that true vintage lacks. They're great with this year's floaty tunics and wedges. Kristiansen is wearing True Religion "Joey" style ($253) with contour seaming that slims the legs. Max & Co. silk tunic ($198). Kate Spade shoes ($325). Henry Beguelin bag ($1,325).

    ********

    Don't forget the $300 color and perm, the $150 manicure and pedicure, and the $100 make-up.

    But WHATEVER you do, don't use that Henry Beguelin bag in the spring. It will be SO LAST YEAR!

    I don't know what's worse. The people who make and price this stuff. The magazines that push the stuff. Or the women who think they have to have this stuff.

    Cripes.

    Tuesday, September 25, 2007

    Beware of Aging

    My cell phone buzzed against my desktop.

    "Oh, no," I thought. It was probably a school nurse. Seasonal colds and flus were making the rounds.

    I answered, expecting to have to make my excuses to my boss, grab my keys, and go.

    It was my Mom. Mom calling my cell phone in the middle of the work day couldn't possibly be good.

    "What's wrong?"

    "Nothing, honey. Nothing's wrong. Everything is just fine. We're okay."

    Her voice didn't sound like everything was okay.

    Mom is a 24/7 live-in caretaker for my grandmother -- her elderly mother. For years she's done everything for her and her home with the tenderest of care and attention to every detail for years... often to the detriment of her own health, well-being, and general sanity. The woman hasn't had more than a handful of 8-hour sleep sessions in all that time. Waiting on my grandmother, attending her every need, night and day, day in and day out. A short time ago, to the relief of the rest of the family, she decided that she simply couldn't do it any more and put Grandma on the waiting list for a nursing home.

    Monday they called and said they had a room open -- for Wednesday.

    Mom's voice was a heart-breaking combination of relief, guilt, fear, loss, excitement...

    My grandmother needs complete care. She needs help to eat, to stand up, to sit down, to go to the bathroom, to get dressed, to get in and out of bed, to walk from place to place... everything. The intelligent, strong-willed, opinionated, sometimes infuriating, but always supportive woman I knew is trapped inside this elderly shell of weakness, pain, and confusion. It's no longer safe for her to live in her home she loves so much. It's no longer possible for my mother to give her the care she needs.

    Then there's the financial question. The home my grandmother will be going into, for the full care she needs, will cost almost $6000 per month. That's above and beyond the cost of all of the medication she needs on a monthly basis. The nursing home insurance she and my grandfather paid for most of their working lives, only shells out about $2500 per month. Medicare pays nothing. Leaving my grandmother's assets, investments, cashed in life insurance policies... and possibly even, her home... to take care of the balance. Eventually, if she stays in the nursing home, virtually any inheritance... any assets that would have gone to my mother, will have to be liquidated to pay the nursing home. Of course, if she had no assets, she'd pay far less and get the same care.

    My mother is trying to think of alternatives. There are no other family members to help. Mom's brother died years ago. She's considering taking in renters at my grandmother's house. At 63, she'd like to finally start enjoying her life a little, travel, see her grandkids... but she may have to consider taking a job. But the kind of jobs open for women like my mom in the town she lives in will net her maybe $8 / hour after taxes... tops. I can't offer any help, with two kids and a mortgage, and living 300 miles away.

    I just get angry at the lack of help for caretakers of the elderly. Little to non-existant breaks, compensation, support, information, legal help, finanacial advice... just a bunch of vultures waiting to rip of their piece of the carcass.

    Sorry for the downer of a post. It's been on my mind all day.

    Wednesday, September 19, 2007

    AVAST, me hearties!

    It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Pour a pint of grog and party like it's 1799!

    You are The Quartermaster


    You, me hearty, are a man or woman of action! And what action it is! Gruesome, awful, delightful action. You mete out punishment to friend and foe alike – well, mostly to foe, because your burning inner rage isn’t likely to draw you a whole lot of the former. Still, though you may be what today is called “high maintenance” and in the past was called “bat-shit crazy,” the crew likes to have you around because in a pinch your maniacal combat prowess may be the only thing that saves them from Jack Ketch. When not in a pinch, the rest of the crew will goad you into berserker mode because it’s just kind of fun to watch. So you provide a double service – doling out discipline AND entertainment.




    What's Yer Inner Pirate?
    brought to you by The Official Talk Like A Pirate Web Site. Arrrrr!

    Friday, August 31, 2007

    It Couldn't Have Happened to a Nicer Guy

    When the Nerd Clan moved to the Twin Cities way back in October of 1998, things weren't looking so good for the home team.

    Due to the Red River Valley flood of '97, I was going to be losing my great job as Computer Department Manager of the UND Bookstore. The university needed to find ways to save money to pay for the damages the flood wrought and a way to attract students back to the ravaged campus. They ended up leasing the bookstore business to Barnes & Noble... and B&N was not in the business of selling computers.

    Avindair was working a crappy job for an insane boss (you should hear the stories), having to drive 150 miles round trip every day from Grand Forks to Fargo, traveling to other cities for a week at a time at the drop of a hat, and having paychecks that bounced.

    With no career prospects in Grand Forks, we had to look elsewhere. Elsewhere had to be the nearest metro area... Minneapolis/St.Paul.

    Marathon to the Twin Cities #1

    I found a job all right. In one day I drove 5 hours to the cities, spent two hours interviewing, and drove 5 hours back. They offered me the job of regional inside sales rep at a company that made multiport serial cards. It was set up as a pay + commission structure. Not a dream job, I'll admit, but it was enough to help support our family in a new city. They knew I'd have to relocate and were all smiley-supporty.

    Marathon to the Twin cities #2

    In between job offer and moving, Avindair and I took an overnight trip to the cities to find an apartment. We took the first place we could find as close as possible to my work, since Tony didn't have a job yet, that wasn't a scary (is that a heroine dealer?) rat trap that we could also afford. Paid the *yowch* first month's rent, stayed one night with local relatives (the first of three times we'd see them in the 9 years we've lived here), and once again headed back to Grand Forks.

    Marathon to the Twin Cities #3

    Did you know that it's possible to break down an entire apartment for 4 people, pack it on a truck, drive to another city, unpack it, set up the new apartment, and drive back to the original city in 48 hours? With the help of two of our best friends, DaveGuy and Bella, we did... bless their hearts.

    Halloween 1998

    The night before we left for our new home. For good. Our son, who was only 6 at the time, was enjoying Halloween at Grandma's house. Due to our neverending search for good jobs, he was being uprooted once again. It broke our hearts. We were having to move just a few months into first grade. Avindair and I dreaded it for him. In his six short years we'd already moved five times - six if you count the two places in Denver. He would once again have a new home, a new school, a new daycare, new teachers, new friends, new places to play... with our little family and the contents of our apartment the only things that were a constant in his life.

    Our daughter had it a little easier. She would be turning 2 in just two weeks and didn't have the level of adapting to go through that our son did.

    "Hi, I'm the new rep."

    The first week in November I started my new job. And to tell you the truth, it suck-diddly-ucked, Flanders.

    First, my sales manager and I were the only females on the sales team. Good Old Boys Club in the extreme. It didn't matter if I'd been a sales manager in my own right, I was treated like "just a girl".

    Second, nearly all of the sales reps had been FRIENDS SINCE GRADE SCHOOL. Yup. Even in a city this size, they had grown up together, gone to college together, and were now working at the same company -- and they acted like it. Not only was I not in the boys club, I also was a charter member of the "You're Not From Around Here" club.

    Third, after several weeks, after uprooting my family, incurring the expense of moving, having rent and utilities and car payments and daycare to pay, and in the midst of holiday season with kids, I eagerly awaited my first paycheck. Payday came and went. And I had no paycheck. I confronted my boss. "Didn't we tell you? We pay a month behind, after you've completed your first month. So you don't get your first paycheck until January. But if you want, we can give you an advance."

    WHAT THE HELL?

    So, to stay out of bad debt with our monthly bills, I had to go into debt with my new employer. A debt that I then had to make payments on with every future paycheck for nearly a year.

    Fourth. Every month we'd gather for an all employee meeting. The owner would usually fly up from Florida, where he lived part of the time, and address the troops. I'd already heard from other employees that he kept the Florida address to avoid Minnesota taxes and that he was a bit... eccentric. What I heard at my first employee meeting made my jaw drop. After everything my family and I had been through to be there, at that point in time, I was infuriated. Here's what the speech from the company's owner boiled down to:

    1. God was to be thanked for everything we had and the all of the successes of our company.
    2. The owner had the position he had in life, because God put him there. He was appointed to be sucessful by God.
    3. We all, as workers, had the position we had below him in life, because God meant for us to be there... below him.
    4. God had made it clear that he (the owner) was better than us.

    Oh, yeah. THAT'S the way to motivate your employees.

    My family and I had worked hard to be where we were. Life had thrown us a lot of curve balls and we did our damndest to keep our heads (literally) above water and persevere. I was supposed to believe that some white-bearded father-figure on a cloud had handpicked me to be the bitch-slapped worker bee for life and handpicked some narcissistic looney to reign supreme... just because?

    Um... no.

    Eventually, of course, I got out of there. I got away from the insane, zealot, tax-dodging owner and his nepotism-ridden company.

    And My Point Is?

    Just the other day, I saw this article in the Star Tribune.

    "With founder a fugitive, Comtrol remakes itself"
    http://www.startribune.com/535/story/1382004.html

    Apparently, God doesn't want him paying taxes. This CEO-on-the-lam was also a republican, a former delegate the Repulican National Convention, AND the founder of the Minnesota Christian Coalition.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/8/16/104246/586

    Or read this goodie from the US Department of Justice:

    http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/mn/press/econ/econ0140.pdf

    The articles just get more and more fun:

    http://blog.au.org/2006/08/18/taxing_situatio/

    Finding this news just made me feel warm and fuzzy all day. This nepotistic businessman, leading republican supporter, right-wing Christian zealot, law breaking nutzoid was on the run from finally getting what was REALLY due him.

    Huh. Maybe there IS a God?

    Tuesday, August 21, 2007

    Ducks and Bunnies

    I can tell I've been in too many meetings today with management types. I'm over explaining to everyone I meet. You know how it is with management, all of the authority and none of the understanding of technology. Duck and bunnie charts.

    Mgr: "I need a pencil and paper."
    IT: "A pencil and paper are already in the requirements. You'll have the pencil and paper, just as you asked."
    Mgr: "But the requirements don't say that I can write on the paper with the pencil. Will I be able to write on the paper?"
    IT: "Of course, you will."
    Mgr: "But how do I know that?"
    IT: "Because that's the basic function of pencil and paper."
    Mgr: "But I don't see anything that says I can write on the paper with the pencil. What if I get the pencil and paper and the pencil doesn't write on the paper?"
    IT: "That won't happen."
    Mgr: "Why?"
    IT: "Because the basic function of pencil and paper is for the pencil to write on the paper. It's intrinsic to having pencil and paper."
    Mgr: "But how can I be sure of that?"

    Yup. This is the point when you just bonk said manager-type on the head, lock him / her in a closet, and only let him / her out when the application has launched. Then they can say:

    Mgr: "Where's my pencil and paper?"
    IT: "It's right there. On your desk."
    Mgr: "But it doesn't LOOK like my old pencil and paper."
    IT: "No, it doesn't. But it works the same way."
    Mgr: "How do I know that it works that same?"
    IT: "Because all pencils and papers have the same function."
    Mgr: "But that pencil is blue. My pencil was yellow."
    IT: "Yes, but it writes in exactly the same color as before."
    Mgr: "No it can't. It's a different color."
    IT: "But it writes the same way as before."
    Mgr: "No it doesn't."
    IT: "Yes it does. How do you know it doesn't? Have you tried it?"
    Mgr: "No."
    IT: "Then how do you know it doesn't do the same thing as before?"
    Mgr: "It looks different."

    Ah.... nothin' like the Peter Principle.

    Thursday, August 16, 2007

    Phone Woes

    Today started out pretty darn well. Last night I slept better than I had in days. I dreamt all night. Good dreams, too. The kind that leave you with a lingering warm fuzzy all morning. My commute to work met no delays or nasty drivers. Even my hair cooperated and looked good.

    I drove up to my workplace. Got a nice parking spot. Remembered my access card to get in. Put my lunch in the fridge. Got my morning cup of coffee. Didn't spill any on my white pants. Booted up my computer. Plugged in my cell phone to charge.

    And noticed that I'd missed a call. Only a few minutes earlier. From my dad?

    How had I missed a call when I'd been holding the phone in my hand?

    Instead of dialing up my messages, I called Dad direct. My grandmother had been recovering from illness and injury. There may have been a change in her condition that I needed to know about.

    Nope. It turns out that my dad had been trying to call me since LAST NIGHT. My mother had been taken to the emergency room. She was home and recovering now, but he'd be trying to reach me for hours. He tried my home phone, but it went straight to voice mail. Never rang at the house. He tried my cell phone. No answer. Went to voice mail.

    In addition, Avindair's dad is in surgery today. The phone (if it was working) could ring at any time for news of his progress. Our kids are at home, can't call them to check on them. This is ridiculous.

    Ever since we switched to Comcrap VOIP we've had problems. And complained. And complained. This was the last straw. After Avindair bitched them out thoroughly, they finally agreed to give us 2 days credit on our bill. (My, how generous.) The phone service still isn't working right.

    Bottom line. We're shutting off Comcrap phone service. We're shutting off Comcrap cable. And if we can find a comparable speed Internet service, we're going to shut off Comcrap cable modem, too. Not one more dime to these corporate vultures.

    Unfortunately, the area where we live seems to be a black hole of phone service. The ONLY land line service we can get is Spront... and it's crap, too. Just less craptacular than Comcrap. Yes, we sometimes have to dial 5 or 6 times to get a line out, but at least we CAN EVENTUALLY get a line out... and in. I guess we have to choose between bad or worse service - AND get to pay a premium for it. WHEE!

    Go cellular, you say? A few problems with that. First, 911 service. We have kids. I want to be able to pick up a phone on the wall and dial 911 if needed, not run around looking for my cell. Plus, the towers in our area are notoriously bad. Often my cell phone won't ring, or it goes straight to voice mail, OR... and I love this one... I won't get a notified of a message until HOURS or even DAYS after it's been left for me. Not so good if the school calls, or my son or daughter call needing a ride, or... any number of possible emergency scenarios. After all, THAT'S why I have the damn phones in the first place.

    And to make matters worse, this phone service crap screwed up what was shaping up to be a really nice day. F**K!

    Thursday, August 02, 2007

    Turn on the News

    Our little Nerd clan had gathered in front of the TV for dinner. "The Simpsons" was cheerily chattering in front of us. We laughed together eating slightly charred, grilled hot dogs and chips. Life was good.

    Then the phone rang.

    "Turn on the news."

    It was our good friend, Garrett.

    "Hey! What's up?" I laughed. "What news channel?"

    His voice came back dark and strained. "Any news channel."

    There were no other words to describe what we saw.

    Last night, just after 6:00pm CST, during rush hour traffic, the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed, spilling as many as 50 cars into the rushing waters. There was heart breaking tragedy. There were heart wrenching miracles. Heroes came from all walks of life and gave of themselves to save others, or comfort those in their last moments.

    We were told to keep cell phone lines clear. Land lines were hit or miss with people calling in and out of the cities. When I finally reached my mother, she was nearly hysterical with fear. I could understand why. A few years ago she lost her father and her only brother, her mother was ailing, and the thought of losing her only child, son-in-law and grandkids was almost too much for her. I made the round of calls to the rest of our Twin Cities relatives and called her back to calm her.

    As darkness fell last night, the rescue operation turned to one of recovery. Twisted and unstable wreckage along with a strong current made it too dangerous for rescuers to continue searching the submerged vehicles. Twenty to thirty families across the cities wait for word on their loved ones. My thoughts keep turning to them. I can't imagine your pain, but I pray for you. Right now, it's all I can do.