Saturday, March 31, 2007

March Reading Update

For March, I took it a bit easier than February and read only a total of 10 books instead of 12. One thing that I had not really expected as a result of this push to read 100 is that I might not enjoy the books as much as I would if I were just reading just to read. About mid-month I became concerned that I was not going to hit 25 books by the end of the month and really started steaming through the books I was involved in (as usual about 4 at any given time). It left me with some discontentment about the quality of reading, particularly as when I was going at a more leisurely pace, I was enjoying some really great books. Still, I got through 10 at any rate, and am on track for where I think I should be (25 books every three months), so at least my goal is in sight.

So, what did I read? (WARNING WARNING WARNING: The below reviews contain SPOILERS. Paritcularly for Baggage and The Namesake.)

1, 2, and 3. The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Ok, now granted these are "children's books" in the sense that they're written for young readers, but the shortest one of them was over 300 pages long. The books have been so much fun to read, and so interesting. I have enjoyed visiting Wikipedia to see pictures of the Ingalls family and I must say, I have a renewed respect for the pioneering type. I've enjoyed a lot of pioneering women type books (IE 1000 White Women) but these make it easier to understand for little pea brains like me what exactly went into the mechanics of living life on the prairie with no "modern conveniences". In The Long Winter, the Ingalls family is forced to move into the town near their claim during a winter that is brutal. There are nonstop blizzards every three or four days from October till April, and the family runs out of firewood and coal to heat their little storefront. They sleep every night huddled together under quilts and spend their days grinding their remaining wheat into flour with the help of a coffee mill, while huddled around the kitchen stove to keep warm. Pa and Laura run back and forth to the stables through a tunnel they've made in the snow to grab straw, which they twist into "kindling" that they try to burn. Unbelievably, their straits are that dire. Finally Almonzo Wilder and Cap Garland take a dangerous 12 mile trek to a claim outside of town where they hear the farmer is hoaring a supply of grain to plant in the springtime. They talk him into giving it up and save the townspeople from starvation. In Farmer Boy, we follow Almonzo as he grows up on a farm in Malone, NY (my father is taking me to visit the farm this summer as a little historical field trip). Almonzo and his siblings have a very different life as farmers than Laura and her family trying to eek out an existence on the plains. I enjoyed it not only because I grew up in that area, but also because in discussing it with my dad, he said that the book reminded him of himself and his siblings as they were growing up. That put a nice human face on it. As for Little Town on the Prairie, it is the story of the year following The Long Winter, as the Ingalls family sends daughter Mary off to the Iowa College for the Blind and Laura prepares to become a schoolteacher and is beginning to be wooed by Almonzo. Nellie Oleson rears her ugly head as well. I find great amusement in Laura's precociousness and it's sad that she's growing up and starting to have to act like a lady. I picked up a cheap copy of the full color collector's edition of this particular book, and the drawings of Pa Ingalls look almost dead on what Charles Ingalls looked like in real life--two eyes and a whole lotta beard. Great stuff. So as I move along, I'll probably pick up the remaining couple of books I've yet to read and enjoy them. I have enjoyed reading these books right before bed, as they put me in a nice place before going to sleep. Fewer nightmares, definitely.

4. The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel. This book follows the story of young Livvy Dunne, who at 24 has been written off as a spinster while her two younger and prettier sisters marry military officers during WWII. When it is discoverd that Livvy has been, well, knocked up by a military officer who left to join the war, a family friend who is a minister arranges a marriage to a far off farmer, away from her family and friends, and far away from her dreams of pursuing a career in archeology. Lonely and not connecting with her new husband, she befriends two young Japanese-American girls who work on the farm as part of their jobs in the nearby internment camp. The girls involve Livvy in a scheme that could land her in a heap of trouble, and Livvy must come to terms with her life as it is and make peace with it. I loved this book. It was a real page turner. The basic criticism of the book is that the plot is improbable in terms of what Livvy and the Japanese girls do, and that it wraps up rather neatly and quickly at the end, both of which are true. But for me, that didn't detract one minute from the book. I enjoyed the story of a woman who takes on her circumstances by doing what is dictated by those around her, and how she must either run from those decisions screaming or make peace with how she finds her life. I felt a definite kinship and sympathy towards Livvy and truly enjoyed reading about her life and life during the time period. The writing was also quite fluid and easy to read.

5. The Dive from Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer. Carrie Bell feels the pull of a new life awaiting her outside her Wisconsin hometown. Her relationship with her fiance Mike is boring her, and she wants to see the world and learn who she is. She goes out with Mike on Memorial Day, and he dives headfirst into a shallow lake and is immediately paralyzed. Can Carrie stay? No. But with pressure from all sides, her mother, Mike's parents, their friends in Madison, Carrie feels terrible about deciding to leave and not return home. Still, she moves to NYC with an old acquaitance from high school with whom she strikes up a new relationship and while there, she meets Kilroy, a man from whom she cannot turn away. But unexpectedly, despite her happiness in NY and a new career looming, she finds herself being pulled back to Madison. The book leaves you in genuine suspense as to whether Carrie will abandon Mike for a new life or will she turn her back on her own needs and settle down to do the "right thing". And who is it the "right thing" for?

This was one of those books that I looked at and thought, "I really should read that" and didn't read it because I thought that way. I hate books that I should read. I hate the pressure of the world's expectations weighing on me as I read a book that it seems everyone else in the world likes. Now, in general, there's a reason why everyone tends to like those books, and it's that they're genuinely good books. This book was no exception. And usually I have a HUGE quibble with people who write about NYC. (see below) But even in this book, the usual pretentiousness of a writer writing about NY disappeared into one great story. I couldn't put the book down. It was great. I was genuinely conflicted as to what Carrie should do. And I was pleased, overall, with the way it came out in the end. I wish I could write as well.

6. Final Analysis: The Untold Story of the Susan Polk Murder Case by Catherine Crier. This was Michael's and my book choice of the month. The story of Susan Polk, whose husband Felix was founded stabbed to death in their California home, centers around the couple's relationship, their family life, Felix's murder, and Susan's conviction for said murder. Susan and Felix met when Susan was a teenager and underwent psychiatric care with Felix, who was 20+ years her senior. Apparently during their therapy sessions, Felix would put Susan under hypnosis and sexually assault her. Somehow, she wound up marrying him, bearing 3 sons, and then, continuing to struggle with her mental health issues, went off the deep end and murdered him after years of alleged emotional and physical abuse. She decides to represent herself at trial and is convicted. (There is little doubt in my mind based on this book that she would have been cleared by reason of insanity had that been her defense and she would have allowed a competent lawyer to represent her)

This book stretched on for miles, included a lot of useless facts (ie what Susan wore to court every day, how she styled her hair, etc). Towards the end, Michael and I just wanted to be done with it and skipped over a chapter or two to reach the end. And I don't think we missed a damned thing. Awful. Singularly awful. Although it was entertaining to read, "Susan stabbed her husband in the chest and abdomen" out loud. hehe Catherine Crier, host of a show on CourTV, needs to take a few true crime writing lessons from John Grisham or someone. We just finally gave up. "Uncle!"

7. Baggage by Emily Barr. Lina Pritchett's life is centered around hiding her new pregnancy from her husband's family until they are ready to tell, her son Red, and her mother-in-law Margot, as well as her career as a teacher in a tiny town on the Australian Outback. One of her former students has run off with her best friend's husband, the big scandal in town. At a wedding for the two, Lina is started to run into Sophie, a backpacker from England who is sure she knows Lina as her old pal Daisy from ballet school back in Devon. Ten years earlier, Daisy was accused of a terrible crime and committed suicide in the midst of the ensuing media melee. Or did she?

This was a really great women's suspense type of book. Written in such a way that you know that Lina is Daisy and that she was not entirely guilty (one of those shades of gray type of deals), the suspense centers around her getting caught, and what will happen to the life she's so carefully protected for the last ten years. Can a person be rehabilitated, and is forgiveness possible? I loved that it wasn't grisly, that it was very human, and exposed the frailties we're all vulnerable to as thoughtless careless youths (granted, we aren't all mildly responsible for poisoning four of our best friends). How Daisy deals with being discovered and how it affects the people around her makes for compelling reading.

8. The Motorboat Boys on the Saint Lawrence by Louis Arundel. We have a great little used bookstore in Fredericksburg and in the basement they have shelves of classic children's series. Apparently Motorboat Boys is one of those series that was big back in the early part of the 20th century, and I had to pick this one up, as it takes place on the St. Lawrence River in the Thousand Islands, where I used to often visit growing up when my dad worked customs on the Canadian Border.

Motorboat Boys was written around 1912, and centers around 6 friends (Buster, Jimmy, Jack, Josh, George, and Herb) who all like to travel on 3 little motorboats through the great waterways of the USA. Travel is certainly a loose term in this case, as their travels on the St. Lawrence seems to center on them anchoring off a small island in the 1000 Islands and sitting there for a week. Eventually they get some strange looks from a couple of passing boats, and discover they've hit upon an island used for smuggling. This happens approximately 7/8 of the way through the book--the first 200 pages have to do with Buster being fat and all his friends calling him Fatty. Seriously, poor little Buster takes it on the chin.

Ultimately a rather tedious little tome to get through, the most excitement being when the boys hook some big fish. Even the boys admit in the book that their trip has been rather dull and they decide to continue motoring into the Great Lakes to head home. It was an entertaining read in the sense of the language that has changed so much in 100 years. It was a cute book and nice to have on the shelf as a curiosity, but I'm not inclined to run out and buy the series.

9. The Lost Boy by Dave Pelzer. The beauty of swapping books on line is that I don't have to pay for books I've been interested in reading but not interested enough in to go purchase or get from the library. This was one of those books. I read A Child Called It ages ago, which details the horrifying abuse Dave Pelzer suffered at the hands of his mother. The Lost Boy is the follow up to that book, in which Dave details his struggles to find a home in the foster care system. Dave's first taste of freedom from fear, hunger, cold, and hurt send him on a headlong path to crazy-little-boy-dom as he just goes off the wall for a while. He switches families a good amount, as he gets into serious trouble while trying to learn how to behave in a world he doesn't understand. Eventually he finds a place where the people understand him and are willing to work with him to help him become a healthy and productive teenager.

I have thought often of becoming a foster parent, although I know it's a difficult journey to follow, and reading this makes me question my own patience even more. It's sad to know there are children out there like Dave was, who need a good home and a place to feel safe as their own families either cannot or will not care from them appropriately. I am currently an on-line mentor to two such youth and it's nice to know that I am doing my part to try and give them a little guidance. (If you think you'd like to become an online "vMentor" to a youth aging out of foster care, please visit and click on vMentor today.) I enjoyed reading The Lost Boy and learning what it took for Dave and his family to get his act together and help him clean up after years of unbelievable abuse.

10. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. This is this month's book club selection, so again I can't say too much about it (we're meeting on Monday) other than I HATE THE WAY PEOPLE WRITE ABOUT NEW YORK CITY. Not everyone in New York is wealthy or artsy or bohemian. There are plenty of average, every day people just living in the city, working, taking care of families, going to school, and/or getting it done. Why do 99% of the books about NY have some crazy songstress who works as a waitress when not launching her own fashion line with her own signature hair color? Or an uptight stockbroker who goes to the Hamptons on weekends to unwind with his mistress while his wife and three children are at home in Manhattan on their 54th floor penthouse?

Ok, Ok, I'm calming down, neither of those people show up in The Namesake, but they very well could have. And it really pisses me off.

It also really pissed me off that a) Gogol spent his young life running away from marrying a fellow Bengali, then finds one he actually loves, marries her and then it's like a flip is switched the minute the honeymoon ends and they hate each other and get divorced; and b) that he is called "conflicted" when all he's trying to do is figure out who he is when out from under the shadow of his domineering parents. Oh, and there was nothing particularly comic about it, despite what the back cover might have you believe.

Still, I thought it was a great book, and I truly enjoyed it. I never would have read it on my own, as I'm also fussy about "ethnic" books for some strange reason, even though I loved, loved, loved the Kite Runner. I just tend to read white bread America books more than any others. Maybe I need to start broadening my horizons.

So that's it for this month. I would have had one more, except that I forgot to bring home the book I was reading last weekend and it's been on my desk at work all week. I was almost done with it too. I had every intention of returning to the office and picking it up, but sadly the car troubles and a few super needy clients had me running this week. So I will review Blue Water by A. Manette Ansay next month. My "to read" shelf is growing in leaps and bounds thanks to the swapping sites, and so I'm busy, busy, busy and have plenty to read for the next few months. This month should be interesting, as I have a full week lost at our statewide meeting, and then of course our trip to Las Vegas (I've been informed only tourists call it Vegas, so I'm trying to call it Las Vegas so I sound like a local), so I may not get much done in April. We'll have to see!!

To Recap:

The Great: The Dive from Clausen's Pier, Baggage, The Magic of Ordinary Days

The Good: All 3 Little House books, the Lost Boy, The Namesake

The OK: Motorboat Boys

The Awful: Final Analysis


March: 10 books, 3196 pages

Year To Date: 28 books, 8609 pages

Friday, March 30, 2007

Men, Women, and Cars

What is it about women and motor vehicles that leads men to automatically assume we're a bunch of unknowledgeable idiots? (Of course, my enlightened male readers excepted!)

Wednesday morning, I got in my state car to head up the happy highway to work. I started smelling something funny, and approximately .1 miles down the road, smoke started pouring out the vents. No dummy I, I turned that rig around and headed back to the VDOT lot where I park her. Because I am now cell phone-less, I had to go back home and call the state's vehicle management center.

The conversation went roughly as follows:

Me: Yes, I'm an employee for the Dep't for the Blind and just got out of my state car. There is smoke pouring through the vents.

VMCC Guy: What do you mean?

Me: There's smoke coming in through the vents.

Guy: Did you turn the heat on?

Me: The a/c was on, yes.

Guy: Well, can you drive it to the garage?

Me: I'm not driving it anywhere.

Guy: Well, I can't just authorize a tow for any reason.


Guy: Can you put your driver on the phone? I know you ladies from the department have drivers.

(This really got my dander up)

Me: Listen here, I am fully sighted. I am the sole driver of the car. I saw smoke coming through the vents, and I parked the car and I am calling you. Someone better pick that car up and repair it, because I am not driving it any further. I wouldn't drive it if it were my car, and I'm sure as hell not driving it since it's your car.


Guy: Can you turn the car on and turn the heat off and tell me what happens?

Me: I'm not at the car at this point, I'm at home. I don't have a cell phone. [Doesn't that just freakin' figure?!]

Guy: Well if I'm going to send a tow truck over there, you're going to have to go drop off your key anyway. Go over there and then call me back.

Me: Fine.

I go over to VDOT, and do as he says, and the smoke is gone, but a strange smell of burning or melting plastic or something is now coming into the car. I check all my stuff to make sure nothing is touching the vents or nothing could be melting and find nothing.

So I go into the VDOT facility where I park it, which I should have done in the first place, and ask to use the phone. Where I get guy #2.

Guy: Well, all this sounds rather vague. I'm not sure I can authorize a tow. Can you be more specific about what the problem is?

Me: There was smoke pouring through the vents. It was gray and smoky. There is now a smell of burning or melting plastic. I am not driving the car to a garage. I am not turning the car on again.

Guy: Where did you say you were?

Me: Falmouth VDOT.

Guy: That's S-A-L-M-Y-T-H??

Me: F-A-L-M-O-U-T-H.

Guy: S-A-L-M-O-U...

Me: F! As in Frank. F!

Guy: Oh, F.

(You can say that again)

Guy: Can you hold while I try to get Tony at the garage?

Me: Sure. (What the hell? I know Tony--he'll tell me it's gonna be a while)

Guy: Ok, I'm back.


Guy: Ok, Tony says he can't get there for a couple of hours.

Me: Fine. I'll leave the key.

Guy: He says you won't have your car for at least 3 days. (said in the tone of "I'm going to take your favorite toy away since you can't play nice.")

Me: Fine by me. I'm not driving it while it's smoking.

Guy: Ok (as in "Fine, if that's the way you want to be, lady.")

Me: Bye.

Now, all things considered, I held my temper pretty well. But come on, please, who in their right minds is going to drive a smoking vehicle to a garage? Jeez, I particularly don't like those kind of macho men who think I have no brain just because I don't happen to have a Y chromosome.

*Happy Sigh*

You ever have one of those times where you feel like you've participated in something sentimental and it just feels so stinkin' good you want to dissolve into a little pile of happiness slush? Yeah, it's one of those days.

I've been active on YouTube for a while--probably a year. When I say "active" I mean that I've been watching videos. I've posted about 10 videos, which are probably LAME to anyone but the people surrounding me on a daily basis. And even to them, probably pretty lame.

So anyway, this past weekend I got a PM from a guy named Curt that he was seeking people to collaborate on a video for a guy whose videos we all enjoy. And he asked me to participate. I couldn't very well say no! So I sent in a little clip and Wednesday the collaborative video was released, followed by a response video on Thursday and a response to the response today.

I've got a case of the warm fuzzies all over the place. Everyone's laughing, crying, if we were altogether in person, we'd all just go ahead, break out the ice cream and play Truth or Dare.

It's a rare thing to happen on line. I don't know if it's on account of it being on video or what, but it's about the nicest thing I can remember participating in with a bunch of strangers since I don't know when...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Love it/Hate It Meme

This meme discusses the highs and lows of popular culture. Fill it out with your opinions and send it on to 3 friends.

Three Movies Everyone Loved and You Hated:

1. Star Wars Episode Three: The Phantom Menace. Grown men cried when ole Anakin turned into Darth Vader. People were cheering, it was pandemonium in the theater. I slept through it. I thought it was AWFUL. Hours of torture.

2. Titanic. Yes, I know, the ultimate chick flick AND Celine Dion. After about 90 minutes, I was like "Go ahead and sink already."

3. Spiderman. I figured, Tobey Maguire... I liked the old Batman movies (Michael Keaton, not Adam West, although the Adam West one was hilarious) and Superman. So I thought I'd love it. Plus my dad and sister and Joe all loved it. Snore. The sad thing? I went to #2 to make Joe happy and snored through that one as well. Ugh.

Three Movies that Lived Up to the Hype

1. Little Miss Sunshine. Still one of my all time favorites. I loved the story, the acting, it had some dark humor which I always enjoy, just a great movie. Too bad it didn't win the Oscar.

2. Shrek 2. I thought the first Shrek was pretty good, but the second one was amazing. I absolutely loved it. It was the first movie I watched on the new plasma TV.

3. Wedding Crashers. I laughed till I cried, and I was convinced I would hate it. Enough said.

Three Books You Hated that Everyone Else Loved:

1. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Oh. My. God. I hated it from start to page 40-something when I finally gave up. Zzzzzzzzzzz. I hated the poor little goat being eaten by the tiger. I hated the writing. I hated the story. Even the overall story did not appeal to me. However, it was this book that made me vow I would read whatever came up in book club, whether I thought I'd like it or not. And this year, I've kept that vow.

2. Wicked by Gregory McGuire. Ok, in all fairness, I forced myself to read all the way through to the end. I was convinced that if I just went far enough, I would come to a place where it would all make sense and I would say, "Oh my gosh, this was fantastic!" Um, no. Definitely not. Boring. But finishable boring.

3. Blessings by Anna Quindlen. When it was written, Anna Quindlen's name and face were everywhere, and at the time I was heavily into listening to Imus on my way to and from work in Boston. He interviewed her and the book sounded great and was almost immediately turned into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, and I thought, well, this must be the greatest book ever. I finally got my hands on a copy with Paperback Swap, and read it in a day or two. It wasn't awful but it just wasn't amazing. Mediocre, didn't live up to the hype. A huge disappointment in my reading year.

Three Books that Lived Up to the Hype:

1. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards. Oh my gosh did I love this book! It was easily the best book I read last year and probably one of the best I've ever read--it's firmly on my favorite books ever list. I first heard about it on the Diane Rehm show and understand it did quite poorly in hardcover, but once it went into paperback, the book clubs started snapping it up and sales went crazy. With good reason. It was fantastic.

2. Freakonomics by Steven D. Leavitt. This book made a splash by suggesting that a drop in the crime rate was directly attributable to Roe v. Wade. Michael and I read the book and just loved it. In addition to the crime/abortion correlation, it talked about how real estate agents operate like the KKK, how much sumo wrestlers and public educators have in common, and how rich people decide the in vogue baby names of a generation. It was fascinating.

3. March by Geraldine Brooks. This won the Pulitzer last year and was all the rage. I usually hate books that are about classic characters from long ago, and I was sure I would hate this. I definitely had my quibbles with it, but overall, it was a great book and taught me not to be so prejudicial towards something without all the facts (ie don't judge a book by its cover).

Three TV Shows You Hated that Everyone Else Loved:

1. Survivor. I must admit that I watched 3 whole seasons of it: Survivor Australia and Survivor All Stars and the one where the fireman won. But it's been on for what? 10 seasons? And every last one has been the same. Sure, they mix up men vs. women, asian vs. hispanic, or some such, but at the end of the day, it's all blah. The "challenges" aren't particularly exciting, it's basically a bunch of pretentious idiots, losing weight, strolling around naked, and stabbing each other in the back for 30 days. It was new and innovative at the time, but really, who cares any more? (Plenty of people, just not me!)

2. The Office (USA). Everyone goes bananas for the US version of the Office. I watched it a couple of times and HATED it... Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. Not funny. Ugh.

3. The Family Guy. Joe and Judy go bananas for this and every time I'm at their house, it's on. And I try, really I do, but it's just the stupidest show I've seen in a long time. They're literally doubled over. I read a book. I don't know why, it just really bores the snot out of me!

Three TV Shows that Lived Up to the Hype:

1. Arrested Development. While it was on, I kept hearing about it, and even managed to stumble onto it on TV once or twice, but never actually knew when it was on or anything. The critics were going bananas for it, but I never watched it. I think Fox was too busy promoting its other stuff. Anyway, then it was cancelled and then Judy said she had seen it with Joe when she visited him in Buffalo and loved it. Finally last year, with nothing to do for 3 months, I got seasons one and two on Netflix. Awesome. Definitely way too smart for network television. But an incredible show and I am now the proud owner of all 3 seasons on DVD.

2. Lost. I was extremely resistant to watching Lost. I'm not sure why, I guess I just thought it sounded kind of dopey--a plane crash on an abandoned island, who really gives a crap? I do. Again, three months to do nothing, I capitulated to Joe's demand to watch season 1, which I did, and then picked up on season 2 while it was on the air. This season, season 3, has been incredible. If you want to buy me something nice, buy me seasons one and two on DVD :-) I don't have them yet!

3. The Office (UK). I had seen ads for this on BBCA at my dad's house, but never really thought it'd could be entertaining. Boy was I wrong! What an awesome show. Funny, clever, not one week character in the entire thing. The episode where they have the guy in for team building or whatever it was is an absolute classic.

So that's it! I'm tagging everyone on my "friends and seagulls" list. You better do it, I'll be monitoring all your blogs :-)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tagged by Lauren

Alrighty, Lauren tagged me, so I've got to participate. And it's a song meme to boot, so in case there were any doubts, this will put the final nails in the coffin of my tragic uncoolness. All I listen to musicwise now is my iPod, and all the songs listed are on my "My All Time Favorites" play list. Which is basically the sole reason my iPod exists at this point. ;-) The songs I'm listing are the songs I always play at least twice lately while hot rodding around.

The guidelines are: List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what they are. They must be songs you are currently enjoying. Then tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to.

1. Sound of Your Voice by Barenaked Ladies. I love BNL anyway, and heard this song the first time I saw them in concert, which was in November. The lyrics are sad, but the music is upbeat, and I love to really belt it out in the car. It makes me happy.

2. Runaway by the Corrs. I had this song in my head all during National Novel Writing Month and it's become a true favorite. I can't get enough.

3. Accidentally in Love by Counting Crows. One of my favorite happy songs, whenever it comes on my iPod in the car, I play it over and over and over again. Never fails to leave a smile on my face.

4. When You're Next to Me by Mitch and Mickey (aka Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara). My favorite song off the Mighty Wind soundtrack, if this song had been around when we got married, it would have been on our wedding favor CD. My husband and I both love it and sing it in the car whenever it comes on. I have happy memories of seeing the movie, happy memories of the song, and love that Michael sings it with me.

5. The Least You Can Do by Phil Collins. This song says it all about every crappy ass relationship I ever put myself through, with friends as well as amours. There are a couple of people I think of in particular when I hear this song, and I love to sing it loud and proud.

6. Bittersweet Symphony by the Verve. I really got into this song after hearing it on Judy's iPod a year or so ago, and last summer it was the only song for me after Tim died. Kind of a personal anthem, if you will, I love that it is angry and sad at the same time and seems to sum up life so beautifully.

7. Oh Lately It's So Quiet by OK Go. When I first got OK Go's "Oh No" album, it was a bit beyond what I ordinarily listen to, and then suddenly this soothing little melody pops on and I felt relaxed. It was my favorite song they performed when I went to see them last November, everyone's cell phones swaying back and forth in the dark, it was quite something to see. The song is kind of haunting and sweet. Great music.

Well, maybe I'm not such a musical loser. Who knows.

Ok, now I have to tag 7 people. Who to tag... who to tag...

I shall tag Miss Music herself, Annette at Meanderings and Musings, my sister Judy over at MySpace, Melissa who's started blogging again and is a fellow iPod user, Nicole who just started a blog and I'm sure needs material (hehe), Lara who hasn't blogged since JANUARY, Gaina at MySpace who I will have to email and tell her she's up, and last but not least Nancy with whom I'm going away this weekend.

(I would have picked you, Lesley, but didn't want to muddy the waters of your amazing book blog! :-D)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Vegas Itinerary Finalized!

Well, Michael and I have been debating the merits of tours, shows, and casinos while we've been planning our trip, and yesterday we purchased the last little piece of it. Once I pay off Michael's credit card bill in April, which was how we paid for our hotel and airfare only, the entire trip will be paid for, apart from whatever we spend while we are there.

Every other day we'll go on a tour and on the other days, we'll enjoy all Las Vegas has to offer. We have three shows booked. So it's going to be amazing. Type A personality that I am, I have a full itinerary typed out, complete with our "to do" list for such things as picking up show tickets and we have to call the tour company with our room number once we arrive. My itinerary even has foot notes. Yeah, I'm nuts. But I love me for it.

So, here's the basic rundown...

Saturday is the Barry Manilow concert. Sunday we'll tour the Hoover Dam and see the Celine Dion concert. Monday will be Penn and Teller. And Tuesday we're taking an 11 mile cruise of the Colorado River and then a Hummer tour of the desert. I do feel sort of ecologically irresponsible for the Hummer tour, but it was either that or return to the Hoover Dam--those were our 2 Colorado River cruising options. The tour of the Grand Canyon we wanted to take was booked. :-(

So we'll be busy, busy, busy, and I'm sure when we get home, we'll be ready to collapse, but I'm as excited as I can be! I've also secured an official copy of our marriage certificate so we can renew our vows while we're there :-) hehehe Only 4 weeks and 2 days to go!!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen...

...good bye!

Tonight I had the extreme pleasure of saying "Hasta La Vista, Baby" to Cingular Wireless, the world's worst cell phone provider.

I have had problems with Cingular almost from the start. When I first got Cingular, two and a half years ago, I was living in Centreville. Almost from the start, there were problems. I would drive down Interstate 66, and as soon as I hit the Fair Lakes shopping center, the line would go dead. Whenever I drove certain portions of I95, the phone would go dead. The phone would go dead in major portions of Prince William County, Washington DC, Fairfax County, and surrounding counties. I live in the national capitol region. What's wrong with this picture?!

Calls to Cingular were rewarded with, "We don't show any outages in your area."

Then I made the discovery that they were charging me to call and check my voice mail. Um, I don't think so. So I put a recording on my voice mail that stated, "Don't leave me a message, I am not checking my cell phone voice mail any more."

I've heard from countless friends and acquaintances in the DC area that they've hated every moment of their Cingular service. And apparently Cingular has the lowest service rating in Washington DC.

Anyway, our contract finally expired in October, but due to the fact that Judy needed the cell phone for work, I didn't shut it off. When finally she left those cheap ass bastards, the time came when I could call Cingular and tell them to kiss off.

Still, I felt bad about it. Not for me, since I never use my stupid cell phone. But for my sister, who had it practically glued into her ear. We're talking the need for surgical removal was imminent.

So I called to cancel, and I was told we were "due for an upgrade" which would help us, since our old phones were no longer really compatible with the service or something that they had upgraded to. We'd have 30 days to try out the new phones, they'd reimburse us $200 for the overages my sister had managed to accumulate, and we could still cancel if we wanted to.

Ok, fine and dandy. So I decided to a) see if I even needed a cell phone; and b) test out the phone to see if it would work everywhere.

Well b) never happened. In the entire past 25 days we've had the phone, I made exactly 2 phone calls. For the past 3 weeks, the phone has sat with its dead battery in my car. The ONLY time I even charged it was tonight, when I plugged it into the wall, called Cingular, and told them to cancel my account.

The woman on the other end told me that I could go back to the "month-to-month" plan (instead of a new 2 year contract the new phones--which you will recall I was DUE according to the first woman I spoke to weeks ago--required). All I would have to do would be to return the equipment and go back to using the old phones.

"The old phones didn't work. That's why you sent me new phones."

"Well, that's the only way we can get you back on the month-to-month plan."

"Why would I go back on a plan where the phones don't work?"

*cue those chirping crickets*

"Um, ok, then, go ahead and turn them off."

As soon as I hung up with her, I put both phones and their chargers in the box, sealed it, and Michael and I drove to the Fredericksburg post office, used the 24 hour automated postage center, and mailed those babies off. And you know what? I'm not exactly going to miss that bill coming in the mail. I can think of many things to do with an extra $80 per month.

So, Judy, I am truly sorry, I know how much you loved having the phones. But for me? I won't miss a single ringtone, crappy game, or one pixel of that lousy wallpaper.

Dancing With the Stars

Ok, I'm not even certain this is worth my while to post this on this blog, but what the heck.

Last night, for the first time ever, I tuned in to "Dancing with the Stars." I got caught up in the whole watching Heather Mills thing, and decided to tune in and see what happened. Which was pretty much nothing where she was concerned, other than the fact that she sat all by herself looking either miserable or snotty (I couldn't tell which) for the first 3/4 of the show. They must have noticed, because eventually they did have her get up and she made a crazy face at the camera.

I used to watch American Idol, well, ok, I watched for one whole season. I'm still convinced the thing is rigged and this year, when they have those poor kids competing against a professional singer that the judges can't fall over themselves enough to compliment, well, it just doesn't do it for me.

So I tuned in to see what was going to happen on "Dancing".

I have to say, I really enjoyed the show. John Ratzenberger was just as adorable as can be. The people you expected to be pretty good were, and the people you didn't were better than expected. I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens, as they started with a bang--the kind of dancing I could only imagine being good at. So I don't even care if Heather Mills plants her face on the dance floor. I'm just looking forward to watching and enjoying some great dance.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Pictures from Saturday, Courtesy of My Sister

Cindy Sheehan (told you we were close)

Your humble correspondent

What can you say to someone who thinks peace sucks?
The counter-protest

We finally made it to the Pentagon!!
(The guys in the picture are reading the Constitution into the bullhorn)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

March on the Pentagon

Today was the ANSWER Coalition's March on the Pentagon. Judy and I debated long and hard about attending it, but ultimately we decided to check it out. We both wanted to see Cindy Sheehan, and I have become a button-whore and wanted to get some more.

We got out to the Metro, and since I had decided to bring my sign from the January march, we stuck out a bit. When we hit the platform, a young guy yelled, "Hey! Are you guys going to the rally?" so we went over and introduced ourselves.

Our first anarchist. This guy was serious. I don't know about his friends, but he was preaching to us the whole time about the evils of litter laws, and then suggested that we should invade the Capitol building while the cops had their attention diverted elsewhere.

When the ride was over and we got above ground, we kind of ditched those guys. As I said to my sister, if I'm going to get busted I want it to be on my own accord, not guilt by association. We made our way to the protest site and started picking up all kinds of stuff. It was a free-for-all. We got tons of stickers, buttons, pamphlets, I think Judy may have signed up to become a Socialist at some point, and we were invited to march under a JAMOP flag.

Eventually, we made our way to the staging area, where they were leading chants against the counter demonstration across the street and various speakers made speeches. Cindy Sheehan arrived, which was thrilling, since I just adore her. At one point, she was close enough, I could reach out and touch her.

Eventually, they kicked off the march, and after another 20 minutes of standing around because there were SO MANY people that they couldn't get us moving (which was a good thing), we started on our way. We marched past the counter protestors, but I really couldn't bring myself to get into it with them, since most of them are veterans themselves, and I didn't feel good about shouting or making noise or saying anything disparaging. So I walked along the street and the bridge, raising my fingers in the traditional peace sign, and by the time we were off the bridge, the counter protest had petered out and we were on our own until we hit the Pentagon.

The walk was quite nice, although it was FREEZING COLD outside, and by the time we hit the Pentagon, there were protestors everywhere. Some went up to the soundstage that had been set up in the parking lot. Some were up on an overpass, waving to passing cars. Some congregated on the hills and lawns. And some, like us, turned around and headed back for the Metro. Unfortunately, Judy had to work, so we had to get back.

She just called a few minutes ago to say that she had run into our anarchist friends on her way home from work and one of them had gotten arrested and one of them had been in a scuffle with some of the counter protestors. They were looking forward to an April event, but I think it could be when I'm in Las Vegas, so I'll probably miss that one.

It was a great day and I felt like I was doing something important out there. The crowd was a bit younger than the January march, and we met a lot of nice people in the crowds around us. I have a whole roll of "Impeach Bush" stickers if anyone wants one :-) I'll post pictures as soon as Judy sends them to me. I didn't shoot video this time, I was too freakin' cold.


Sometimes, the only thing right in this crazy world is a guy and his rabbit.

Friday, March 16, 2007


I'm all for people being able to do what they want in their own homes, but, frankly, I'm just totally grossed out.

I'm the type of person for whom showering is a chore. I get in the shower, I do what I have to do, and I get out. I don't take long, supposedly "luxurious", showers, because to me that's a waste of time. Five minutes tops.

Well, this week my clients have been stymying my system!

Care to take a guess why? There's one thing, and one thing only that can make me shower more than once per day, makes me wash my clothes the minute I get home, and totally grosses me out.


Yes, I am an anti-smoking Nazi. I don't tell people not to smoke, but if I'm in someone's home and they ask if I mind if they light up, I don't lie. "HELL YES I MIND!" Only a bit nicer.

And I've had 3 clients this week, all new, who have either been smokers or who live with smokers.

My state car smells like a freakin' chimney. Last night we had to do the wash and today, I just got home, and I'm going to have to wash these clothes (which were just washed yesterday) and hop into the shower again. Which ticks me off since I showered less than 9 hours ago.

But I can't stand the smell of my own self. Then I'll have to Febreze my car, the state car, and the office chair I'm currently sitting in.

And the sad thing is, these guys are all long term clients, so I'm just going to go through this week after week till I can close them. That really sucks.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Is It Really Worth It?

Every few months I get an idea in my head that I need to change something physically to make myself feel better. I have been in a bitter stand-off with my hair for approximately 5 years now, due to several factors, and the whole diet and exercise thing is a real on-again, off-again love affair. But the other day, I looked in a mirror and tried to smile at myself and my mission was clear...

My latest attempt at self-improvement involves Crest White Strips. Or rather, the Walmart equivalent, since those little Crest puppies are PRICEY! I bought a 28 day program, and for the last 5 nights have been torturing myself with these things.

Now, I have no idea whose mouth these things are designed for. The strips are pretty large and the top strip has an extra "front teeth" added length which make me look like TomTom the Rabbit's long lost cousin Sue. The bottom strip slides all over the place--it's way too big and I can't figure out if the curved part goes up or down. When it's up, it doesn't cover my teeth, when it's down, it wiggles all over my mouth and cuts into the inside of my cheek.

I also purchased whitening toothpaste and ACT Restore mouthwash. The feds have only just waved their magic wands and granted us dental insurance after a two year hiatus, so we'll be making appointments soon. And I've been flossing twice daily.

I wish I could say this will last. But tonight, I was getting ready for bed when I spied the box of strips on the vanity and thought, "Oh shoot, I haven't whitened." So now I'm up for an extra half hour while I wait for my teeth to become as pearly white as Walmart can make them.

The taste is GROSS, and I'm supposed to avoid contact with skin and clothing. I just know this stuff can't be good for you, so I hope it improves my smile to some degree. It darned well better. All I hear is Didi Conn repeating, "Sandy, Sandy, beauty is pain!" in my head. Amen to that.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


...has gone to her new home.

She has a great new place and I'm happy for her... The last of the oops bunnies has left the building.

Hard to believe, but there it is.

So long, little Suisse. Bring your new family joy.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Five Days From Hell

It's the world's worst kept secret that traffic in Washington DC SUCKS.

And it's also well established that I HATE, HATE, HATE driving around here.

So why on earth did I tell my husband that I'd take him to a conference in Fairfax for two days towards the end of the work week? The only reason I can think of is: love.

So, Michael had a 2 day conference in Fairfax over near Fair Lakes. Due to our mahvelous transit system, there is absolutely no way for him to get over there independently.

So, Thursday, 6:50am, we get in the car and head to Fair Lakes, planning to get there at 8:30.

Um, yeah. Right. We got there at 9:00am. Every single major road we could have taken was clogged by accidents. The traffic then shifted onto secondary roads guessed it...began to experience accidents.

No problem, I thought, I can just go ahead and take the tertiary roads I know from work.

Guess what? Yup, accidents.

See, we had gotten about .000003 microns of snow Wednesday night, and everyone took this as their cue to drive 3MPH and crash into things.

So, we finally get up there, I get him registered, and head out to see a little ole lady who was recently referred to me.

I go to see her, and guess what? She kicked me out of her house!!! She had completely changed her mind about having service, and didn't bother to tell me before I drove all the way out to her house to see her.

Ok, I thought, well surely I can catch up with my sister and take her to lunch between my appointments. So I drive out to Judy's place, only to discover, she's not home. I sit there for an hour waiting and checking my work email and finally she arrives back (from paying her rent, I really couldn't squabble), and we decide to hit McDonald's because I'm in a rush.

We drive to Van Dorn Street, and guess what? A street crew has half the street blocked off and we can't get through! It took us 20 minutes to 1 mile. At this point, I was ready to scream.

So we get our food, I drop Judy off and head to Woodbridge. Afterwards, I go back to Fairfax and pick up Mike.

Guess what? We get stuck in ANOTHER traffic jam. Forty five minutes later, we arrive back at Judy's, where we've decided to spend the night.

Friday morning we leave early and head back to Fair Lakes and only got stuck a little bit. I do my teachin' thing and then pick up Michael and we decided to have dinner before we head back after listening to a traffic report.

After dinner, we put on WTOP and we listened for 4 successive traffic reports. Virginia was not mentioned once. Not even one time. And it's Friday evening... I got a bit of a report on I-95 from Washington Post radio, and we decide to head west and then south. Occasionally we flick on WTOP and in a solid hour, during which we may have missed ONE traffic report, we hear nothing of Virginia. And you guessed it, we were stuck in traffic for the better part of 2 hours.

To make things better, on Saturday, we have to go back to Northern Virginia to get our taxes done. When we first moved here, we met this absolute sweetheart of a gal named Cindy and it turns out she was doing taxes for H&R Block. We decided to let her do our taxes that year, and every year since, and she's been a godsend. So it's worth the drive, really, but already we'd been in NoVa 2 days, that made it three.

Then yesterday, our tickets for the Capitol Steps were valid--we had tickets to see them on 1/21 for Michael's birthday, but that was one of the great snowstorms, so it was cancelled and postponed till yesterday. We pick up Joe and Judy again, drive up to Fairfax for dinner and the show (which was absolutely HYSTERICAL by the way, you must see it!), and then it's time to head back to their house and then back to our house. We pull up to Judy's front circle, and I said, "If I have the energy, I'm just going to come back tonight because I don't want to deal with the traffic tomorrow" (because I have to be in Fairfax every Monday for work). And then, I had to swallow a big ole lump in my throat. The thought of making ANOTHER 120 mile round trip became too much. I wanted to shrivel up and die. My rear was being rooted to the seat of that car, my back molded to its curves.

Joe decides to boogie inside, so Judy, the General, and I start debating what's going to happen, and finally Judy says, "I'll ride back with you and drive you back up here." Ok, that sounded decent enough. But what really put the spring in my step was when she said, "Forget it, I'll just take the General home, pack an overnight bag for you, and I'll be back in a couple of hours."

Someimes, my sister really is an angel.

So today, I got up and drove to Fairfax. I waited till 9am, thinking rush hour on the Beltway would be over. How wrong I was. It still took me 45 minutes to go roughly 15 miles. And tonight I meandered back to the 'burg in about 90 minutes.

Thankfully, tomorrow I'm in the rural counties in the state car. I honestly don't know if I could take a whole lot more.

I hate driving, and I really hate it right now.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Feel of Books

I've just finished reading two books--one I got on Paperback Swap, the other I picked up at Riverby Books. Both were well used and a bit more worn than I care for my books to be, but for some reason, that didn't bother me one bit.

Both books had spines that had been cracked, and their covers were bent a bit at the corners, soft and flexible from previous use. The pages were well worn and a few had been bent over to mark a previous reader's place. I dodged the bullet where stains and cigarette smoke were concerned.

When I read, I never fully open my paperbacks. I want the spines looking as pristine as they day I bought them. I can't claim the same where my covers are concerned--I'm not always the most careful book layer-downer, and there have been times in the past when I've fallen asleep with a good book and awoken to find the cover bent under a stray arm or my husband's foot, the cover turned back sadly, wondering what it did to deserve such treatment.

Until recently, I haven't really bought or gotten used books, preferring firsthand copies. And some of the books I've gotten have been in first rate condition, clearly read by readers like me, who believe in preserving the integrity of the construction of books.

And I don't know if it's that I enjoyed the stories these two little abused volumes told so much that their own history appealed to me, or if maybe I'm just mellowing. But they look just as good to me on my shelf as all those books I've taken the trouble to keep new.

(And while you're at it, do yourself a favor and go read The Dive From Clausen's Pier and The Magic of Ordinary Days.)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Blog Clean Up

I'm in the midst of the great Blog clean up. I had way too many categories listed and I've cleaned them up a great deal. It will make things slightly harder to find, but I think in the end it looks neater and I'm happier. Nothing like a little OCD in the morning.

Slacker in the Midst of Talent

Yup, that's me!

Oh, my talented family!!!!

My sister just had a piece published on DC Guide and my cousin is apparently a songstress.

Check out Judy's piece at:

Not only did she write it, but she also took the pictures!

Check out my cousin Jill's vocals at:

I gather she did the background vocals for some friends of hers. Play the song "Love Song in D" to hear her.

How did I get mixed in with such talented people?