Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June 2010 Book Review

The Running Vixen- Elizabeth Chadwick- I found this book to be tiresome which is unusual for Chadwick novels. I liked the male lead at the start of the book but he kind of grew more and more annoying to me as the novel went on. Very strange but it definitely won’t stop me from reading anything else she has out there.

To Defy A King- Elizabeth Chadwick- Her latest novel. It wasn’t one of my favorites. It dealt with the son of Roger Bigot who appeared in a earlier novel of hers that I think I read last year and liked. The thing is, I don’t remember Roger Bigot being such a- well, such a jerk in his earlier appearance. Guess time really soured that guy.

The President's Daughter- Ellen Emerson White- I’ve decided to go back and reread a bunch of my favorite books to try and get myself out of my writing slump. This is what I started with. I don’t know if this strategy will work but I can’t complain about the reading. They’re my favorite books for a reason. This book has been one of my favorites since I was in the seventh grade. So, so glad my mother and reading teacher gave me a hard time about reading something that wasn’t written by Francine Pascal. Meg Powers is my hero!

White House Autumn- Ellen Emerson White- The second Meg Powers book. I’m not a skier but I went cross country skiing a couple of years ago and while walking around in ski boots, I finally understood what Meg was talking about when she says in this book that she sometimes pretend to be wearing ski boots. I was really very excited, probably sadly so, about this.

Long Live The Queen- Ellen Emerson White- The third Meg Powers book. I think this book really made me start to love tennis. You know, in a watching it from the couch capacity. I really suck on court. Also awesome: Meg and Beth have BtVS tee shirts!

Long May She Reign- Ellen Emerson White- I don’t remember what I’ve written about this book in the past though I do have copies of all my book diaries since I started keeping them so it would be pretty easy to look it up and remind myself. There are parts of this book I really really like, even though I hate to see Meg have such a hard time. There’s one big part of this book that I really, really hate. And that is Jack. If there’s another book someday (please, please let there be another book someday), I really hope he’s not in it.

Homecoming- Cynthia Voigt- The last time I read this book was back in 2002. I know this because I found a receipt from JC Penny stuck in the back of it. Apparently, I found a hell of a deal on flannel shirts that day. I picked it up now because partway through the Meg Powers series, I found myself strongly reminded of Dicey Tillerman and this is where her story begins.I really like characters written the way Dicey is written. Smart, internal, private, fierce, determined…traits I like to instill in my own characters. Get ready to see a lot of Cynthia Voigt's name.

Dicey's Song- Cynthia Voigt- The second book in the Tillerman cycle. I’m already looking forward to reading the next one.

A Solitary Blue- Cynthia Voigt- The third Tillerman cycle book, which focuses on Dicey's eventual boyfriend, Jeff Greene. I get mad, so mad at Jeff's mother Melody every single time I read this book. The last time I read this book, by the way, I was still living in Portland (over a decade ago, for those of you keeping score).

Sons From Afar- Cynthia Voigt- James and Sam Tillerman take the main stage. The last time I read this book was...well, actually, I've never read this book before. I bought it ages ago but never got around to it for whatever reason. I have a lot of books like that. Anyway, I didn't end up liking it as much as the others. Probably because Dicey has such a small role in this book.

So, not a bad haul overall this month, especially considering I didn't read a single page while I was away on vacation. Must try to do better next month.

June Books: 10
Year To Date Total: 55 books
Books Remaining: 45

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

And The Hits Just Keep On Coming...

My computer crashed this morning at about 11am. My desktop, not my laptop. I had left the room to go and referee another dog skirmish (the contractor's helper for the day had appeared, after all. We had to lose our minds over it.) and when I came back, the monitor had gone dark.

I thought it was perhaps because I had taken so long calming everyone down so I just shook the mouse a little to wake everything back up.

Nothing happened.

So I shook the mouse a little bit more, a little more forcefully this time. And still, nothing happened.

Power down, wait, power back up.


Power down, wait, power back up.


Commence screaming.

Why screaming when I obviously have a second computer (laptop)?

Well, see, here's the desktop was my primary writing computer because of the big monitor and my entire life's work was on it. Yep. That's right. On the crashed and burned computer.

I didn't actually scream. Not out loud where the neighbors could hear me anyway. I think I might be in shock or denial or something because I'm incredibly calm about this, especially when you consider what it is I'm talking about.

My entire life's work, everything I've ever written, every draft of everything I've ever written, gone without a trace.

Well, maybe not without a trace. I do have a back up. I have several back ups in several places because I'm paranoid about fire in particular, but just losing my work in general, and figure that every place I put a back up can't possibly all burn down at the same time.


But the thing with the back ups is that they're a couple of weeks old. Older, actually, because they were last updated before I went on vacation. So while I don't have to start over from scratch, I have lost about 20,000 words worth of work (22,720 to be exact) and no matter how hard I try to get those words back, they won't ever be what I had before.

Which could be a good thing, right? Maybe I can come up with something even better.

Always a silver lining, right? When life hands you lemons, you throw them right back, right?

A friend of mine sent me an email in which he said the following: "my self esteem has been knocked to the floor and had a conga line pass over it - followed by the entire field of Indy 500 cars, a herd of elephants, and finally a single cat which stopped in the middle to take a crap."

That makes two of us, my friend.

Here's to brighter days and working hard drives.

Be Careful What You Wish For

So it begins.

Remember yesterday when I resisted the urge to rant and rave about how much I hate contractors? Well, I think it paid off because guess what happened:

The contractor called last night and said he was going to be coming this morning. After I guffawed loudly, I realized he was in earnest. He said he was planning to be here around 8:30am. He was wrong about that.

He was here at 7:30am.

He also brought with him his little white dog. Not sure what kind it is except that it's little and white, like a Bichon Frise only not as poofy. This annoyed me. I know people bring their dogs to job sites but I really would have thought that maybe they would ask the homeowner if it was all right.

But whatever. I can and will deal because that's what I do.

But it made me cranky. Then Joe told me not to be cranky about it. This had the adverse effect of making me even crankier. But of course it did, right?

Then, after searching high and low for the little white dog running at large through the neighborhood and, in particular, my yard, I had to take Big outside because we never did litter box train that dog. Seems like an oversight on our part now. The little white dog was nowhere to be found. Joe and I and Big walked all the way around the house so that Big could see the work and realize that we were okay with it and thus, he could be okay with it as well.

So we talked with the contractor and Big greeted him all right and we walked around the yard together while Joe and the contractor talked about whatever they talked about. And then Big, who I guess was feeling pretty good about himself, decided to mouth the contractor's arm.

I. Was. Not. Amused.

There was yelling involved. The contractor said it was done just in play and it may have been because Big was quite jaunty and he does the same thing to me and Joe when he's trying to get one of us to play with him but still.

We. Do. NOT. Mouth. Strangers. Or people with whom we've just made an acquaintance. Especially people who are in the process of digging rather large holes in the backyard.

So we went back inside. Then I yelled some more. The second bout of yelling was really to make me feel better as Big no longer had any idea why I was so damn irritated with him.

And the morning continued.

The dogs started barking at the contractor and the backhoe that was ripping up their yard so I went to step outside on the deck to show the dogs that since I wasn't concerned about what was happening that they didn't need to be concerned either.

This was when the Gator Girl attacked Big. Hard and fast and unrelenting, the way the Gator Girl does. Cue yelling. Cue lots and lots of yelling.

I disciplined the Gator Girl and checked Big over and he seemed all right so we went in the office so I could attempt to work. I know from experience that when work's being in this yard or next door to us, and strange men are walking around making lots of noise, that I won't get much done because the majority of the day will be spent making the dogs shut the hell up.

I sat down in my chair and looked down. My feet were spattered with something. Little specks of something. At first, I thought it was dirt because dirt is everywhere right now. The nature of serious yard work, you understand. So I tried brushing the little specks off my feet but they didn't move. Upon closer inspection, I realized they were red little specks.

My first thought then was "Is that a rash? Do I have some kind of rash? Great. Now I have a frakking rash on my feet."

But then I realized it wasn't a rash. It was blood. Big's blood.

Damn ear injuries. Those things just never stop bleeding. They bleed and bleed and bleed and then the dog shakes his head and blood flies everywhere. I've blogged about that before. About the whole chainsaw massacre look that walls have when this happens. This time was no different except that it was spread from one end of my house to the other because I had moved the whole big happy party down to my office because when I checked Big's ear back in the ;iving room, it hadn't yet filled with blood.

And a lot of blood there was. I went through an entire tree's worth of paper towels trying to clean it out. The Gator Girl didn't put a hole through his ear but I think she came close. It really looks horrible right now but the bleeding has at least slowed down enough to allow it to clot.

Oh good. A chainsaw is now running. Sounds like they're getting ready to cut down the stumps they aren't pulling right out of the ground. You'd really think that after watching/listening to Marie's garage project for the last two years (yes, that's right years.), my dogs would be pretty well immune to construction sounds. But no, they're both running for the sliding glass doors, losing their minds. You know what that means...

Another fight is on its way. Better get the gauze.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Thoughts For Thought

I've been reading several writing themed blogs of late and a couple have peaked my interest enough that I've formed a blog about them. It's not going to be a happy-go-lucky blog (wait...have I ever written one of those?). It just is what it is.

The first blog is about the commitment it takes to be a writer. The willingness and ability to immerse oneself into one's work, the ability to believe in it and one's abilities to write it properly. You pour blood and sweat and tears into it. You open your vein, right? You just pour yourself onto the page.

Writing is a very egotistical thing. And yet, it's a business where you have to be able to stand unflinchingly in the face of criticism and rejection. I have one big absolute red letter failure on my track record where this is concerned and I hate it. I'd like to point out, for the 'what it's worth' column, that it wasn't so much about the criticism (except for that Jane Austen thing) as the, well, lack thereof. Long story that makes me incredibly cranky. If you've tuned into this blog for a while now, you'll know what I'm talking about. If not, you'll, well, it might suck to be you right now. Or maybe I'm overestimating the extent of your concern for whatever I'm blathering on about this time. Wouldn't be the first time.

Let's put it this way: I don't do well with the feeling that I've been ignored by someone who has chosen to make a commitment to me. Ask my contractors. Of course you'd have to get them on the phone first and good luck with that.

Oh hey, look at that. If you check your rear view mirror, you can see the original point I was trying to make.

Which was...which was what? Oh yeah, commitment.

I like to think I am committed. Or maybe I should just be committed. Maybe both. Anyway...

I am committed to my writing. I don't know how many times I've said this in this blog or in life in general but it's the first thing I think about when I get up in the morning and the very last thought in my head before I finally manage to fall asleep at night. I have notebooks upon notebooks devoted to my craft. I have a closet full of swords and daggers because in some of my novels my characters use swords and daggers. I also have a wall full of various holes and gashes but that's completely unrelated.

That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

I'm a method writer. I put myself through the paces. I act out scenes (with an audience of two never all that interested dogs) and spend a lot of time (probably more than is healthy) talking out loud to myself with some sort of bad British accent (because all my fantasy characters, save one, have a British accent, or at least an accent that sounds British).

Plus, I think it means I'm committed to my chosen profession when it's currently making me beyond miserable and yet I still can't bring myself to stop, to chuck it all and throw my energies into being the most perfect precision folder I could be (wait...I'm already the most perfect jeans girl in the does one top that?).

But then again, I could be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time. This probably comes as a major shock to some of you. It certainly was to me. You get used to it after a while.

But once again, I digress. Hmmm...must be Monday.

I even put parts of myself into my characters. This is in reference to another writing blog I read recently which talked about the possibility of living one's life vicariously through our characters. At first I didn't really think so but my characters do have a much more exciting existence than I do (puppy class on Saturdays notwithstanding, of course) and they never have to precision fold anything. So maybe I do.

I know I inadvertently put my own personality (I know at least one of you out there right now is saying to yourself "She calls that personality?" And the answer is Yes. Yes, sadly enough, I do. ) into my characters. There's this one character, Catherine, who appears in Second Nature who, for better or worse, seems to have quite a bit of me in her veins. My excellent friend, Mike (the one with the misfortune of reading every damn draft of everything) made some remark about how Catherine was just like me. It was followed by this remark:

"She can be a real bitch!"

In case you were wondering, I didn't take offense at this. It made me laugh. It still makes me laugh.

What doesn't make me laugh is all the progress I'm not making. Sure, my word count is good but I don't know if those are the right words I wanted to have written. Then there's that whole "what do I do when I'm finished" problem I've been having. I like having a plan. I like having a course of action. Right now all I have is a big bundle of nerves over the possibility that when I do make a decision, it'll be the wrong one and a complex. Let's not forget the complex.

Please, family and friends of mine, concerned citizens and apathetic passers-by, do not interpret my lack of success as laziness. I really am trying to work this out, I really am trying to make this happen. I really want the über-sweet present from my ultra thoughtful brother and sister-in-law a reality. I'm just not getting anywhere with it yet. I'm treading water. A lot of water.

But at least my head's still above the water, right?

I will figure this out. Or maybe I'll just take the swords and daggers out of my closet and hide in there instead. If I don't show up for puppy class this Saturday, you'll know what decision I made...

Just teasing.


One last thing before I go: this is something that occurred to me tonight while I was waiting outside in the knee high grass for the dogs to finish doing whatever it was they needed to do (you know, apart from 'what if there's a tick crawling up my leg?'):

If the definition of insanity that people like to bandy around is performing the same action over and over again expecting different results, what does that make me? Me who routinely prints up letters and envelopes and sends them out to perspective publisher and/or agents, always thinking that this one will be the one when that never seems to be the case.

Something to ponder.

Summer Session

So I really want to rant and rave about how very much I hate contractors because I really, really do hate them and they happen to be giving me a hard time as of late. The yard project, as I am sure you can guess, is not going to plan.

But I am not going to rant and rave about how very much I hate contractors. At least not today. Today I'm trying to be zen and whatever, trying to rise about the blood boiling frustration. So instead of ranting and raving about how very much I hate contractors, I am going to blog about what I'm watching on television this summer.

About which I will not have to rant and rave.

So You Think You Can Dance (Fox, Wednesday and Thursday nights). I don't think I can dance (unless I've had too much to drink first) but I really appreciate the dancing done on this show. I'm not crazy about many of the Top 11 yet just as I wasn't really crazy about a lot of the dancers last season either. Really, since the summers of Twitch and Katie and Brandon and Ginette and Jeannine...those two summers maybe have ruined it for me. And I haven't decided how I feel about the 'all stars' either. I'm thrilled to see Twitch and Courtney again but it feels like a different show and I kind of liked the old format. But as for this summer's actual contestants, I think Billy Bell is cute and Alex the Miami ballet guy is pretty damn awesome. Kent- the kid from small town Ohio- is really a lot of fun to watch and listen to. His post performance interviews with Cat and the judges always elicit gales of laughter. I hope he sticks around for a while because he's just so damn funny. The other contestants haven't really made that much of an impression on me. I hope they get it together soon. Robert did an Argentine Tango this past week that really didn't do anything for me and I love a good Argentine Tango.

Burn Notice (USA network, Thursdays). Now this show I love. I frakking love it so frakking much. I've always been a sucker for a good spy show and this is a great spy show. I'm not entirely sold on the new cast member, Jesse whatever his name but I still love Michael and Fiona and Sam. Joe complains that the guy who plays Sam is just a terrible, terrible actor but I think he's great. Maddie and Fiona are my favorites.

Royal Pains (USA network, Thursdays). I like this show a lot. It's good summer fun as the promos say. I want Hank's father to go away and stop causing problems, even if he is the Fonz. I'd also like to see Hank doing some good for the other people in the Hamptons. Remember at the start of the show when he helped that fisherman who couldn't afford a doctor? What happened to that kind of stuff? Now Hank's jet setting to embargoed communist countries and Evan's getting kidnapped? Don't lose sight, show creators, of what made the first season so much fun. Also, I think it's time to check in again with the kid (whose name I currently cannot think of) and his girlfriend Libby.

Lie To Me (Fox, Mondays). Joe and I sporadically watch this show but we generally have a good time with it when we do. I love shows with a mouthy British guy, I guess. There have been a couple of good episodes lately, one guest staring Jason Dohring of Veronica Mars fame.

The Good Guys (Fox, Mondays). Well, I don't know that I've actually watched an entire episode from start to finish yet (TUCKER!!! The kid in Royal Pains? His name is TUCKER!) but it's generally on because it follows Lie To Me but I think I end up reading through most of it. But what I have seen is fun and certainly entertaining. So weird to see Bradley Whitford in this role because I can generally only think of him as Josh Lyman.

Psych (USA network, Wednesdays). So this show hasn't yet started up again this summer but it's coming back on July 13th and I'll totally be there to see it. I don't know what made this show must watch television for me, but something happened and I fell deeply, deeply in love with Shawn and Gus.

Hmmm...I think that's it. I mean, I watch the Red Sox (now Pedrioa and Bucholtz are hurt too?) a lot and right now I'm checking out Wimbledon and will later watch The US Open but for scripted or 'reality' television, I think that's about it. I'm planning to check out USA's new show Covert Ops when it gets going next month. It's a spy show and you know I love spy shows but I worry about the lead actress. Here's hoping we'll be pleasantly surprised.

What are you watching this summer?

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Bird In The Hand

So I've been sitting here in front of the computer for a little while, trying to figure out what to blog about. I was feeling a strong urge to blog but I just didn't know about what so I've decided to ramble a bit and see what comes from it.

I worked today. It was a mid day shift, the kind in retail that often is called the Princess Shift because the one who works it doesn't have to open the store nor does one have to close the store. And I hate closing. My long suffering brother can attest to this as he was unfortunate fortunate enough to work for with me one summer at the craptastic fabulous factory store where I was a Bitchy Stock Tyrant kind and caring floor supervisor/Operations manager before I chucked it all to teach delinquents high school. I remember one night I was in a particular good mood (it may have been the night that a customer told me I couldn't possibly be a manager because I had ovaries. That went over real well.) and accidentally (I swear it was an accident!!) dumped a shelf of sweaters on the floor when I slapped the shelf's lip to indicate that I wanted it refolded. I was immediately mortified and worked with the associates to refold the sweaters.

Anyway, I've now forgotten what point I was trying to make.

Oh yeah. I hate working the closing shift. I want to go home and watch my prime time television shows. Back then, I was itching to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. I did not want to be refolding sweaters and polo shirts and jeans. Always the damn jeans.

But here's the thing, I really kind of hate working the Princess Shift too. I used to have this really sweet schedule that involved working the opening shift and having two whole hours on the sales floor by myself. No customers, no co-workers. Just me and my iPod. But hour cutbacks and inventory levels and delivery times (Damn you, Fed Ex!!) and whatnots have forced a change in my sweet schedule so now I come in later in the day and process whatever shipment showed up while covering the fitting rooms.

Plus, today I had wanted to stay home and watch the conclusion (because there just had to be a conclusion) to the epic marathon historic tennis match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut. But since I figured "tennis match" wouldn't be an acceptable excuse for calling out, I set the DVR and went to work.

Eager Beaver Tammy showed up a little after noon and while we were talking, I mentioned how I was recording the match so I could watch it when I got home. This apparently was a cue for Tammy to say the following:

"So that American guy finally won it."

Oh. Thanks, Tammy. Want to tell me about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy next maybe?

The rest of the day was spent in the fitting rooms pointing out open doors to French Canadians (a LOT of French Canadians today) and telling people I don't care how many items they take into the room with them. I don't particularly care how many items they come out with either.

Hmmm...maybe I shouldn't broadcast that part.

What I meant to say was that I take my job in fitting very very seriously.

Anyway. Moving on.

One time (at Band Camp...), back at the Fabulous Factory Store, I had a pair of French Canadians come in to return a pair of pants. They were from Montreal. I know they were from Montreal because they told me they were from Montreal. A lot. They were also upset that the wrinkle resistant (please note the italicized word) pants they had purchased and rolled into a tight little ball had wrinkled.

Here's the thing, kids, wrinkle resistant clothing will indeed wrinkle when rolled into a tight little ball for an extended period of time. That's the thing about 'resistant' verus 'proof'.

That argument went over about as well as a lead balloon or something French Canadians are opposed too. You know, in addition to wrinkle resistant pants. But still, I was willing to do the return for them. Because I am nice like that.

But then I was stupid enough to look at the date on the receipt.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

The receipt was dated waaaaaaaaay past our (at that time) strict time limit on returns. And it wasn't just a day or two. It wasn't just a week. It wasn't even a month. It was way over.

So then I had to be all "Yeah...about that..." to which they responded with "But we're from Montreal."

Oh? You're from Montreal? Why didn't you say something? I'll just pull out our Montreal Customer Returns Policy then.

Piss monkeys.

So when I then politely explained that I didn't give a rat's ass where they were from, that our policy was (at that time) very clear and very strict, they came back with "We do not like the policy."

I say this phrase every now and then with quite the obnoxious accurate and very flattering French accent.

It reminds me of that time when I worked in the hotel industry (what is wrong with me that I keep seeking out employment in fields requiring respect toward humankind?) and working the overnight shift. By myself, mind you. I was the only hotel employee on property at that time. So a family checked in late and I gave them keys to the room that had been previously assigned to them by the numskulls working the earlier shift, not realizing that they had been put into a studio room instead of the one bedroom suite they had reserved. Well, the family got to the room, realized how damn inadequate it was for their needs and called down. I looked at what I had available (no one bedroom suites, possibly why they had been stuck in the studio room) and offered them an available two bedroom suite for the rate they'd been quoted for their other room. Pretty good deal, right? Here's what I got in response:

"But we've already unpacked and we don't want to move."

Wait. I'm sorry, let me see if I understand this: You already unpacked in a room that is too small for your needs and don't want to move but you called to complain to me anyway? Gee, thanks. Maybe later you could come down to the front desk and kick me in the shins a few times before running away.

So I offered to get a couple of rollaway beds and bring them to their room.

"We don't want rollaway beds."

Okaaaay. So would you like me to come up there and actually build on an addition to your hotel room? Because I'm running out of suggestions here, you big bunch of piss monkeys.

I don't remember how that situation resolved itself but I'm sure the blame fell on me. That happened a lot in the hotel industry which is part of the reason why I don't work in the hotel industry anymore. Maybe the reason. I guess we'll never know.

In other news, a robin has built a nest in my Swedish Ivy plant. I put it outside before we went on vacation because Scaredy Cat likes to climb up on the dining room table, balance precariously off the back of one of the dining table chairs and eat the plants that hang in the window there. Then she promptly vomits. A lot. One of these plants is a Swedish Ivy I've had for a few years now (how I have managed to not kill it, I will never know) so I put it outside so Scaredy Cat would not make a meal of it. And while it was out there, a pair of nesting robins came by and decided it would make a great place to live.

When I was a kid, we had a see through bird feeder that we stuck to a window outside our living room so we could watch the birds and stuff their faces. It was a good place for it because it was sheltered from the elements and the squirrels couldn't get to it without jetpacks or something. A pair of birds (I don't remember what kind of birds now) built a nest in it and eventually laid eggs it. We found this to be very cool but the birds would be skittish about the people in the living room. Eventually, my mother had to put a piece of construction paper over that window so the birds wouldn't see us and be spooked and abandon their eggs.

We were really looking forward to the baby birds and that whole circle of life thing (Cue Elton John) but we got a different life lesson instead. It may have involved blue jays, those little bastard birds, not the Toronto baseball team.

Speaking of baseball teams, what the FRAK is going on, Boston?? I say how great you've been playing and all of a sudden you start sucking again? You know I love you unconditionally but I'm just...confused is all. Though you are currently tied with Colorado and about to go into extra innings but still...

Did you know the longest sporting event ever was a cricket match between England and some other country? It lasted twelve days and ended in a tie because the English team had to catch a boat home. The things you can learn from ESPN.

Anyway, it's now past 1am and I actually meant to do some other writing tonight. This morning? Whichever. Plus, I have to get up early tomorrow (today?) so I can start calling and harassing politely inquiring to the guys who are supposed to be working on my yard why they are not doing just that. They were supposed to start last week. They were supposed to have started last month but who's counting, right? You know, besides me.

Hope everyone enjoys their weekend...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

All Nighter

So it's about five thirty in the evening on Wednesday afternoon and I have been awake for well over twenty four hours now. I'm surprisingly awake.

I was supposed to work at The Store today but got a call Tuesday evening around this time telling me not to bother coming in because they didn't have anything for me to do. So while I'll miss the paycheck bump, I appreciate them calling me because it really sucks to go in and have nothing to do. I don't imagine that will last, however, because we're supposed to be getting an entirely new denim line in in the next couple of weeks and well, someone's going to have to unpack and then fold all of them.

Can't wait.

So instead of going to bed early last night, I stayed up. I hadn't really intended to stay up all night, it just kind of happened that way. I worked my way through Ellen Emerson White's White House Autumn because I recently decided to reread some of my favorite books to try and get my writing self back on track. I think it worked because I went straight from reading to the computer and started working.

I took a break around 4:30am because Big was sitting in the hallway crying because he really had to pee. So I took the dogs out and marveled at how light it really was at that time of morning and then went right back to work. I took another break around 7am because the cats were sitting on the steps crying because they were hungry. I tried to sleep a little then but it didn't work out very well. The Gator Girl had spent the night actually sleeping so she wasn't remotely tired. Instead, she ran up and down the hall chasing the cats (who are pissed as hell that the dogs are back in residence), trying to entice Big to play (good luck with that, Gator Girl) and, when that failed, jumping on the bed to see if I might be willing to give her a go but all I gave her was a shove off the bed pat on the head.

So sleeping didn't work out for me but it's all right. I didn't mind. I never mind when the trade off is a bump in writing productivity. Yes, my moods are entirely entangled with writing. When things are going well, I'm up, very, very up. When things are going less than well, I'm down. Down, down down. So I'm hoping this is the start of a nice upswing because I could use one.

It would be kind of like the Red Sox. For a while, their season was looking pretty dismal. But then I come home from Vegas, check the standings and find out we're only a game and a half back from first place. A game and a half. Do you know how awesome that is? Take that, sports writer from Sports Illustrated whose name I don't know who said the Sox's season was over in May. It ain't over until October.

Which is, coincidentally, the same month I'm supposed to have finished Second Nature. Wonder how that's going to play out. If last night is any indication, it'll work out just fine. What I do with it afterward still remains to be seen but, you know, there's still time to figure that out, right?

I spent most of the day today on the couch nursing a major, major pain in my side. I was worried it was appendicitis and actually contemplated calling Joe to have him take me to the walk in clinic (which should tell you just how badly it hurt because I was going to call Joe at work AND go to a doctor, two things I like to avoid at all costs) but then I snapped on the television and got sucked into watching Wimbledon instead where I watched American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut play in an epic, classic match that had been carried over from the day before. The match had started on Tuesday and had been suspended after four sets on account of darkness. They started up again today and were tied at 59-59 in the fifth set when play was suspended for a second time on account of darkness. If you know anything about tennis and tennis scoring, you know how freaking insane and monumental that is. This match has lasted TEN hours thus far and isn't over yet. No, those poor guys have to come back again in the morning and do it all over again. I have nothing but mad respect for those two and I find it incredibly sad that one of them will have to lose. That said, I am rooting for John Isner which will likely end up being a millstone that will prevent Isner from pulling it out and for that, I deeply apologize.

There was also an earthquake today measuring 5.5 on the Richter Scale. It was in Toronto but we felt it here in the Valley. It's the third earthquake I remember feeling. The first had been based in New York and shook the whole damn house hard enough to wake both Joe and I up (I remember my first though was "what the hell are the cats doing now?"). The second was out of Bar Harbor, Maine. Joe really felt it and for a while had a hard time convincing me that what we had felt was an earthquake but (and don't tell him I said this) he was right. There are reports that it was felt as far away as New Jersey. Anyone out there feel it too?

Anyway, it's now after 6pm and I have to report for dinner duty. I'm hoping the pain in my side has subsided enough for me to be able to pull it off although I'm thinking it might be can of soup night. Too bad I already ate all the Double Chocolate Milano cookies. Those would have made a great dinner.

Until next time, everyone. Be sure to stick close to your doorways.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Postcards From Vegas

Dear Video Roulette,

I thought what we had was special. I thought what we had was real. We had four glorious days together last June and now...nothing? Nothing but heartache and misery as you seduce me with your shiny lights and the promise of payouts but then leave me with nothing but empty pockets. How is it I'm getting more love from the penny slots than I am from you? Needless to say, it's over between us. Don't call, don't write. I'll be over at the penny slots station.

Dear Penny Slots,

You tease. You stupid tease. You lure me in with your clever pop culture tie ins (Star Wars and The Price Is Right), not to mention a $30 return on my one dollar bet and then you kick me around the rest of my visit? What kind of heartless addiction causing machine are you? Do you and the Video Roulette machine get together and plot new ways to torture me or what? I hate you! I hate you!

Dear Strawberry/Pink Lemonade Frozen Daiquiri,

Having a wonderful time...So glad you were here!

Dear Treasure Island Resort,

We need to talk about your asinine 'resort fee' which charged me $22 a day to stay in your hotel on top of the nightly room rate. The resort fee was supposed to cover internet charges for your insanely pathetic internet access (C'mon, dial up is faster) which is why I was so surprised when we had a $16 internet access charge listed on our bill directly below the resort fee. Twice. Why don't you do yourselves a favor and just charge $22 more for a room per night and say the internet (and all the other lame ass not worth it stuff supposedly included in the resort fee) is free? If it's free internet, people won't get all pissy when it sucks shit through an i.v. needle. Also, I'm not about to give the engineering guys a tip for coming up to my room to repeatedly fix the stupid television that was supposed to be working in the first place...or is a working television extra? And one other thing, stop forcing your employees to utter the phrase "the hotel just does that sometimes" when addressing a guest's questions about billing processes. Although I suppose I should just be grateful that someone actually attempted to address the question. Do you want to know how long we spent on hold waiting for someone at the front desk to pick up the damn phone, listening over and over to the recording boasting about your hotel's attention to guest services? I didn't think so.

Dear Grand Canyon,

Try not to take it personally when some stupid woman walks around your breathtaking rim trail complaining that she could think of better things to do with $25 than pay the entrance fee to the park. Some people just don't get it. All right, so maybe it was so windy we ended up eating about a pound of sand and grit. But rest assured that no one in my group thought that our visit was anything resembling a waste of time. All right, so Joe might not have understood my excessive need to capture absolutely everything on film. Not that my pictures did you any justice because my word, you're impressive. 'Grand' doesn't really cover it, you know? One complaint though...your park rangers leaves a lot to be desired. The rangers at Acadia National Park are so nice and can't wait for you to ask a question so that they may shower you with love, affection and information. Getting information from your park rangers was akin to pulling teeth from a tiger who has not undergone anesthesia. Sorry to bother you with my questions, Mister Ranger, sir. I hope it won't be too much of a bother to track down my bleached bones when I get lost in that massive abyss you call a tourist attraction.

Dear Dangerously Intoxicated Newly Minted Legal Drinker,

I know you're twenty one. I know you're in Vegas but getting so drunk before noon that you vomited all over the pool area and had to be lifted into a wheelchair and wheeled out is just not cool or sexy or anything along those lines. Enjoy your alcohol poisoning and probable YouTube notoriety. Hope it was worth it.

Dear Fremont Street Experience,

You don't mention that the Fremont Street Experience is kind of scary. Not to mention seizure inducing. Still, seeing your Aerosmith Tribute band fumble their way though Dude Looks Like A Lady was damn fun and the lead singer really did look like Steven least until you got anywhere near the stage, that is.

A close up of a flower at the Bellagio Botanical Gardens

Dear Vegas,

Thanks for not disappointing. Well, you know, with the exception of your roulette and penny slot machines which I am convinced are somehow cheating. And that one cockroach that ran across my foot (Not. Enough. Soap. In. The. World.) The Bellagio gardens and fountains were lovely as always although I suspect it might be time to change the music for your fountains. I saw the same show before, you know? And I know you don't do the fountain shows when it's very windy out because Las Vegas Boulevard apparently ends up flooded, but some of us would like to see that, so maybe consider it next time. The Cirque du Soleil experience was truly jaw do those people do those things? Wayne Brady, you're awesome. Thank you so much for using Heather's song title in your act. We couldn't have asked for anything more. Really, your show was so funny, I couldn't breath for large portions of the evening and had tears just streaming down my face the rest of the time. A couple of teeny tiny criticisms:

The Bellagio Fountain Show

Don't put a television airing the Red Sox game near a flight of stairs. Out of touch Red Sox fans may get distracted by the prospect of seeing one's team again and fall down the stairs because her attention was on the television and not the marble stairs. Also, what's up with the total lack of food available after 1am? You're Las Vegas for crying out loud. People are up all freaking night long so where are the late night buffets (unless they're located on Fremont Street...then you can keep them.)? The Mississippi Queen Steamboat even had midnight buffets and most of their guests were old people who were in bed by 8pm. Just saying that when one's only option for food is the 24 hour McDonald's, it's pretty pathetic. And one last thing, what's up with the people handing out the stripper business cards not wanting to give any to me? I suspect they didn't believe I was truly interested in having a hot girl sent to my hotel room but isn't that discrimination? It's a free country. If I want a stack of stripper business cards, I should be allowed to have one. Anyway, all minor things, really. We had a great time, hangovers sunburns aside. Joe set a goal to double his gambling money and then lose it all and well, he did just that. So until next time, Las Vegas, stay cool...

Magnets found in a Las Vegas souvenir shop...strangest yet funniest Vegas souvenirs ever.
The Happy Couple at the Grand Canyon

If you're interested in seeing other vacation pictures, they're posted on my Facebook profile. I took around 400 pictures but don't worry...I only posted about 54 of them.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hey, Kids!

Miss me? Dying to know what happened in Vegas? Well, you know what they say about that...what happens in Vegas shows up on YouTube. So just head over there to check things out...

Just kidding.

Well, a lot of things that happen in Vegas show up on YouTube. Just nothing I did. Or Heather. Or Joe.

But I will be blogging about it. I'll be working on the retroactive trip blog just as soon as I get through the mound of laundry and yard work waiting for my immediate attention. I'll even post some pictures.

I know you can't wait.

Friday, June 11, 2010

What Happens In Vegas...

The view of the strip from our hotel

This might be my last blog for a few days as I am headed on vacation this weekend and although I keep crossing items off my To Do list, the damn thing doesn't seem to be getting any shorter. How's that work?

Anyway, I'm headed out west to Sin City. We went out the same time last year and it was surprisingly a lot of fun. I didn't think I would end up having as much fun as I did. I thought it was going to be one of those places you just go once to say "Oh yeah, I've been there." But now I'm going back out a second time.

We really did have a great time that first trip. We did an appropriate amount of drinking and gambling. We even won a little. I don't think Heather won very much. She didn't have the best luck. We were wasting our time playing Video Blackjack and Video Poker (couldn't afford to play actual cards at an actual table with an actual dealer) until Kirby, a friend of Heather's who happened to be out there the same time we were showed us the majestic wonder of Video Roulette.

Me and the Video Roulette Machine

Oh, Video Roulette, how I love thee. Let me count the ways...there's the $100 Joe managed to win and the $60 I managed to so nicely helped us recoup our video poker/blackjack losses (double down on eleven, my ass! Worst advice ever!). I appreciate everything you did for me, Video Roulette and hope to rekindle our love affair upon my return.

I also hope to return to Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill and partake of the macaroni and cheese they have on the side dish menu as well as the ginormous Long Island Iced Teas they serve. Biggest. Long. Island. Iced. Tea. Ever.

Heather and I ordered them, completely unaware of their vastness and our eyes about popped out of our heads when our waitress set them down on the table. They came in mason jars. Really, really big (like 32oz. big) mason jars. We both took the Lord's name in vain and our waitress said, "Don't worry. We have To Go cups." And they did. They were the size of a large Starbucks iced coffee cup and they didn't come with lids so after Heather and I filled out To Go cups with our remaining tea (and there was a lot, no matter how much we drank at dinner), we stumbled walked out to the Starbucks counter in the hotel and stole politely asked for a couple of large lids.

The Bellagio Fountain show as seen from the Eiffel Tower across the street

I also had a beer at the ESPN bar in the New York, New York hotel where I rooted for the Red Sox. The funny part is about the beer though. We'd been walking around all day at the other end of the strip from our hotel and had to kill some time before our dinner show at the Excalibur so we decided to sit in the bar. I was reading the beer menu and saw they offered Chimay. Chimay is a Belgian beer that isn't very widely known in these parts. It even comes with its own specially designed glass to maximize the flavor of the beer. The only reason I know about it is because, way back when, a man who used to come to our Ring Sport group owned (well, he still owns it as far as I know) a bar/restaurant in Lovell, Maine and he brought all these Belgian beers for us to sample one evening. One of them was the Chimay and I remembered really liking it so I ordered one. That lead to the following conversation:

Me: Could I get the Chimay, please.
Waiter: The what?
Me: Chimay.
Waiter: Yeah. What?
Me: (holding up and pointing to it on the menu): Chimay. I would like the Chimay. The one listed right here.
Waiter: (squinting at menu) Yeah, okay.

So he went off to bring us our beverages. Joe and Heather had both ordered beers that the man had heard of and therefore, their beverages came out quickly. Mine took a little longer because apparently, I was the only person in that entire desert to ever order the Chimay. But finally, the waiter found it in whatever cave they had been storing it in and brought both it and my specially designed glass out to me.

Waiter: Did you know it came with this glass?
Me: Uh, yeah. Actually I did.

Not that I actually got to keep the glass (or had a bag with me big enough in which to store it), of course.

We went to the Wax Museum where Heather hugged Johnny Depp, I cozy-ed up to Daniel Craig and Joe got to grab Jennifer Lopez's ass (and Angelina Jolie and Jessica Simpson..And he will be mortified if he knows I put this in this blog so don't tell him). We took a walk through the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef and Aquarium and watched the Sirens of Treasure Island show. We went to the Sigfried and Roy Dolphin and Exotic Cat habitat where they have posted the sign reading something like "The lions like to mark and they can shoot far so watch for lifting legs." We did not get marked.

We went to the Bellagio Botanical gardens because it was free pretty and to the top of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris hotel. Heather opted out of that excursion because she's not wild about heights so Joe and I went up where we promptly met a woman who was so afraid of heights, she was standing there with her face pressed into the wall as she waited (for the rest of her group, I'm assuming) to leave.

We attended the Excalibur (a very noisy hotel just crawling with glad we decided against staying there) Tournament of Kings dinner show. We had very excellent seats. It made up for the horribly spotty drinking glasses (I ended up with a bottle of water). The Tournament of Kings show is a lot like the Medieval Times dinner shows. Jousting, sword play, acrobats and dancers while serfs hand out a feat you're meant to eat with your fingers. Our king was the King of Ireland and he was H-O-T. Heather and I whooped and hollered at him politely cheered him on while Joe crawled under the table to avoid being seen with us watched approvingly. Unfortunately for the King of Ireland, his looks got him knocked on his ass and he lost. Still, it was a good show.

A shot from the Botanical Gardens. Thought it would go nicely with the porn paragraph (below).

And we collected porn. That's right we did. Lots and lots of free porn. I was picking some up for my (sort of) father-in-law because I knew he'd get a kick out of it. Heather started a collection for her brother for the same reason. They had stripper catalogs in newspaper dispensers just there for the taking. And then there were the business cards where you could pick out your hooker and have her delivered to your hotel in thirty minutes or a pizza. There are people in Vegas whose job it is to stand on the sidewalk with the giant stacks of hooker business cards to hand out to the passersby. You have to reach for them, they don't just shove them in your face...that is until you reach for one stack. Then you get a little bit of a mob. By the end of our visit, we had quite a collection of cards depicting barely dressed women with barely strategically placed stars covering their whatnots. Heather and I spent one evening at a bar going through our business cards like they were baseball cards and saying things like "Oh! I don't have an Amber. I'll trade you an Amber for a Tiffany!" Joe, meanwhile, was busy crawling under the table to avoid being seen with us. The funny thing is there was a woman at the table next to us doing the same thing to her boyfriend.

I presented my father in law with his box of porn for his birthday. Well, actually, I had Joe do it as I had to skip his party to be able to attend my godson's birthday party. Joe reported that the present had gone over well. Heather's brother also appreciated her thoughfulness. She is under strict instruction to start a new collection for him on our next trip. She is also supposed to start a collection for a few others too. She actually has a list.

Double Chocolate Box Cake

But if you want to hear about something more wholesome and yet delightfully sinful, there were the buffets. Huge buffets of all you can eat food. We went to the Treasure Island breakfast buffet, the MGM Grand lunch buffet and the Bellagio dinner buffet (not all in the same day, of course). Talk about a smorgesbord. I was particularly taken by the dessert selection, especially at the Bellagio. But nothing quite took my breath away like the Double Chocolate Box Cake (as seen above) offered in the Treasure Island coffee shop. Oh. My. God. What a fantastic cake. I'm really, REALLY hoping they have it still when I get back there next week because I really, REALLY want seconds.

What I'm hoping to avoid this trip is the spinter I managed to get in my foot while walking around the strip that forced me to go to Walgreen to purchase tweezers and neosporin and then balance my foot on a railing while Joe tried to tweezer out whatever I'd gotten stuck in my heel. Heather took pictures but I don't actually have a copy of that picture so I can't post it here. I'd also like to avoid the Very Angry Housekeeper who was always so irritated with Joe and I when we had the audacity to come back to our room. And I'd like to avoid losing my shirt while gambling. Or while doing anything else for that matter. Drinking on the Vegas strip is all right but I think they still frown upon stripping on the strip. And I'd also like to avoid the 4am phone calls (Yes, as in more than one) Joe received from his boss who thought the sky was falling when it really wasn't. This time Calvin, please be assured of the necessity of the call and please be aware of the THREE HOUR TIME DIFFERENCE.

So here's what's on tap for this trip (you know, besides drinking and gambling):

1. The Grand Canyon. It's a five hour trip from Vegas to the Grand Canyon so we're renting a car and headed out. We won't be able to stay out there for long but at least we'll be able to say we've seen at least a corner of it. Plus, we'll get to drive over the Hoover Dam.

2. Fremont Street. Lots of lights. Other than that, I know nothing about it. Just that we're going there.

3. Wayne Brady. He has a improv show that he puts on at the Venetian hotel so we got tickets to go see him. From what I understand, it'll be like Whose Line Is It Anyway but with uncensored swearing.

Anyway, I really need to wrap this thing up. Like I said at the start, I've got a billion things to get done before we head out. I don't know what my blogging capabilities will be out in Sin City so I don't know if I'll be blogging again before I get back so, if that's the case, I'll see y'all later. Just don't expect me to blog about the trip because remember...what happens in Vegas lives on YouTube forever , clears up in 7-1o days, stays in Vegas.

That's the ticket.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Gator Girl Turns Five

The Roly Poly Gator Girl at five weeks of age

So today is the Gator Girl's fifth birthday. To celebrate the dogs' birthdays, we go out to Burger King and get a cheeseburger. It's a little difficult, I think, for the dogs to understand that today is different from other days because they tend to get a cheeseburger on Sundays too.

Yes, my dogs are a little spoiled. I am aware of that.

Anyway, so it was five years ago today that the Gator Girl was born. Joe and I had made the decision to get a Belgian Malinois because Carl's Malinois, Cosette, was absolutely a perfect vision of a dog. So sweet, so well behaved, she was everything we wanted in a dog (not to suggest that Big is not sweet and well behaved. He is. Especially when his Mimi's around.). Carl assured us, and continues to do so, that the Gator Girl would grow to be just like Cosette.

Carl may have over stated things a little.

Appearance wise, the Gator Girl strongly resembles Cosette. They really could be twins. On more than on occasion, I do a double take in class wondering how the Gator Girl got to Carl's side when she was supposed to be sitting at my side. Carl's done the same. Once, Carl and I switched dogs, trying to see if we could trip up Joe with a little switcharoo but it didn't work out. Why? Because the Gator Girl, all of a sudden, possessed the ability to sit still.

The Gator Girl on the day we brought her home

We have a sunken living room with two steps leading to either the hallway or the dining room. When we brought Big home, we were able to use the living room as a playpen because, for a while, Big was unable to figure out the stairs. It's not uncommon for puppies to have trouble navigating the stairs. So when we brought the Gator Girl home at eight weeks of age, we were operating under the assumption that we would be able to use the living room as a playpen again. But whereas it took Big a couple of months to feel fully confident on the stairs, it took the Gator Girl a couple of hours.

She's always been very quick on the uptake. Once, I put her in the back of my wagon on a trip to the post office, a mile away from the house. By the time we got to our destination, she was sitting in the passenger's seat, having managed to wriggle her way between the dog gate and the back seat, over her brother and console so she could take her place as my co-pilot. She's never looked back since.

Dog is indeed my co-pilot.

She's also a cookie thief. I know many of you have heard of the Gator Girl's cookie stealing exploits but I beg an indulgence as I relate the tales in honor of this special day. When we brought her home, we had no idea just what a little criminal genius we were taking in.

There's a cupboard in our kitchen where we keep the dog cookies and cat food. The Gator Girl, ever food obsessed, worked out a way to steal the cookies and avoid being caught except for one fateful afternoon when Joe happened to walk in on her right when she least expected him to. She would open the cupboard door and open the cookie box. She'd remove a select number of cookies and make a little pile of them on the floor. When she had all she wanted, she would close the box. Yep, that's right close the damn box by flattening the flaps with her paw so that at a quick glance, one would never notice it had been opened. Then she would close the cupboard door and enjoy her not so little smorgasbord.

When we caught on to what she was doing, we set a trap. And by 'we', I do mean Joe. Joe set a trap. The Gator Girl is sensitive to noise and so he propped a cookie sheet up against the cupboard door so that it would fall onto her and eventually the floor if she opened the door. It was good in theory but in actuality, the only one ever caught by the trap was me. Yeah, I know. Even after I wrote myself a note saying "TRAP!!!" and stuck it to the cupboard door, I still managed to set off the trap.

Three months old

But not the Gator Girl. No, she managed to work around the trap. She'd open the door just enough to nudge the cookie sheet over so that it was propped up by the cupboard's lip and then make a break for the cookies. I know this to be true because I watched her do it one day. Carl says we really need to film her doing this. I never seem to have the presence of mind to get my camera out though.

She broke into my glove compartment one evening. I had been down visiting the family and we had all gone out to Friendly's for dinner. Big and the Gator Girl waited in the car. I had put a treat bag filled with cookies in the glove compartment to keep it safe from the Gator Girl while I was inside. Cookies are an essential part to a successful car ride because the Gator Girl (and I'll talk more about this in a moment) likes to attack things. A lot of things.

So while I was in Friendly's, the Gator Girl managed to break into the glove compartment and remove the treat bag. She shredded it and ate all the tasty goodies inside. Then she put the remnants of the bag back inside the glove compartment and closed it. I didn't even know anything had happened to it until the next day when I went "Oh! I forgot to grab the treat bag out of the car!"

Those are the times when Big looks at me as if saying "Don't ask me. I never asked for a baby sister."

And what a baby sister she is. She's food obsessed, ball obsessed, and a downright bitch in every sense of the word. She tags Big for smallest infractions and spends almost every minute in the car searching for a target. Semis, school buses, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, baby strollers, other dogs, mailboxes, bridges (yes, seriously), name it, it freaks her right the hell out when we're in the car. In the home, she attacks the dishwasher (ask my mother...she's witnessed it and learned to neither open nor close the dishwasher when the Gator Girl is in residence) and oven door. She'll go after the pots and pans when you take the out of their cupboard. She used to be afraid of the vacuum but screwed up her courage enough to start blinding attacking it and since she comes from a line of hard hitting working dogs, she can hit a lot harder than her sixty pound petite frame would suggest.

She's a jumper. Not on people so much, not without an invite, but MAN, can that dog jump. She excels at obedience (although I understand how the previous paragraph may make you wonder about the validity of that claim) and agility. She's also an excellent tracker. She's a neurotic never ending tan blur of anxiety and energy.

This makes her a perfect jogging dog. I've been running a lot lately and she runs with me. We run around the neighborhood and when the weather is less than cooperative, we run around the house. She always runs in a perfect heel position, even when there's no leash involved. Especially when there's no leash involved even. Just one of her may quirks.

And she loves her people. She loves to sit on the couch with me in the evenings and cuddle. She loves to get in bed with me in the mornings after Joe's gotten up. When she lays down in the car on our way home after a long day, she'll lay her head in my lap. She was supposed to be daddy's girl because Big is such a momma's boy, but it didn't work out so well. Maybe the next dog, Joe...

So here's to the Gator Girl's first five oh so colorful years. Can't wait to see what the next five will bring...even if it scares the hell out of me.

The Gator Girl today

I'd also like to make a shout out to the Gator Girl's newest and biggest PIC, Brewster the Bruiser who is also celebrating a birthday today. If you haven't read about the Gator Girl and Brewster's exploits together, then you are really missing out. My couch hasn't been the same since but boy, you should have seen Heather's face when she saw the barricade I built around it. Anyway, Happy First Birthday, Bru!!

The Birthday Bernard

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Deciding Not To Decide Is Still A Decision

Hello all.

The last time I blogged about writing was early May. The theme was "Where The Hell Do I Go From Here?" and I was contemplating the future of my currently nonexistent outside of my delightful home office writing career. I don't know if you know this but I spent most of May in a Really Bad Mood.

I'm trying to pull myself out of that right now. Sort of a 'fake it until you can make it' thing. I'm experiencing marginal success thus far. It's a work in progress, I know.

So I am here to report that I have (as you may have already guessed) decided to not decide. At least not at this point in time. And by that I mean I have no definite plans outside of researching my options. And while I research my options, I will continue writing Second Nature.

This is a complete turn around, I know, from the last writing blog where I announced that I was pretty much halting any and all work on Second Nature so I could instead focus on the problem that is Effigy. What do you do with a problem like Effigy? Turns out you ignore it and hope it goes away...

Not that I was ignoring it. I wasn't. I have pages of notes that I took, chock full of possibilities for that particular work. What happened is I found I was no good at halting any and all work on Second Nature because now I'm in that Second Nature mode and I set a stupid goal for myself back in January and once I set a goal (and blog about it so others know about the goal as well), I have a really hard time just letting that goal go. So I didn't.

The good news is I am now well past the 100,000 word mark. I'm sitting at 115,925. According to my daily word count monitor (which is a handwritten tally on a calendar), this is nearly a 12,000 word surplus.

Woo Hoo.

The less than good news is that I'm not currently in love with my main character. My heroine. I always hate to use the word 'heroine' because every time I used it back when I was teaching at delinquent school, the kids would snicker and then ask if I was the one needing to be in a program.

Ah, delinquents. Best birth control ever.

But anyway, my heroine is kind of a pain in the ass at the moment. I don't know why but I highly suspect her PITA-ness is directly linked to my grouchiness. My male lead is in a Really Bad Mood and my secondary male leads are still AWOL. So don't ask me how the hell I could possibly be sitting atop a 12,000 word surplus because I have no idea.

But I will certainly take it.

P.S...Joe asked me if the title of this blog was a Rush reference. Which it isn't. At least not an intentional one.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Movie Review: Robin Hood

If you don't already know this about me, I am a pretty big Robin Hood fan. Rob from the rich, give to the poor, rebel against authority, live in the forest and kick ass with a's kind of my thing. I watch all the Robin Hood movies and television shows so it was kind of a no-brainer that I was going to go see Ridley Scott direct Russell Crowe in this summer action flick.

I went with Omar who surprised me by actually showing up before I expected him to show up. We were the first people in the theatre and, for a while, I thought we would be the only people in the theatre but the prospect of a Robin Hood film brought out quite a few old couples. No one near as interesting as Norman and Ethyl from our Star Trek experience though. There was one woman sitting in the row in front of us who gave me a nasty look every time I swore. Joke's on her because although I probably swear more than I should (my father's a's genetic. It can't be helped.) I was actually behaving myself and not swearing as much or as badly as I usually like because Omar was with me and he's a nice guy. A really nice guy. So nice that I wonder sometimes why he likes to hang out with me.

But anyway...yeah. There were a lot of older couples who probably loved Errol Flynn and so went home from this experience feeling less than satisfied. My favorite movie Robin Hood is Cary Elwes in Mel Brook's spoof Men In Tight because as he says in the movie, "Unlike those other Robin Hoods, I can actually speak with an English accent." Plus there's this:

But this movie, the Russell Crowe film, wasn't like this one. If you're like me and you're a Robin Hood fanatic, you'll probably end up doing what I did. You spent a lot of time at the end of the film, looking at your watch and thinking "is there another two and a half hours to go?"

This next part will contain spoilers...just so you know.

If you're a Robin Hood fanatic, don't go to this movie thinking it's a Robin Hood movie. If anything, it's a Robin Hood prequel movie where Robin is older and not even a nobleman. King Richard is a jerk who dies in France and Robin of Loxley is the nobleman carrying the crown home when he's set upon by thieves and rogues who were paid by the king of France to kill Richard. Talk about bad timing. Russell Crowe runs off the thieves and rogues but not before they mortally wound Robin of Loxley. Robin of Loxley gives Russell his sword and sends him back to England with the task of returning the sword to his father. Russell does and becomes the new Robin of Loxley, at the blind father's request. Maid Marion isn't a maid at all but rather the harsh widow Robin of Loxley leaves behind. A lot of reviews I read didn't like Cate Blanchett as Marion, saying she was too harsh and not, you know, the Maid Marion of legends old. But you know what? I liked her. I liked her character a lot. She was appropriate for the film and she kicked ass. Actress Sienna Miller (best known, I think, for being attached to Jude Law when he cheated on her by sleeping with the nanny) was supposed to play Marion but was replaced with Blancette...good call, Mr. Scott! Good call. But then again, I've always been a Cate Blanchett fan so maybe I'm not the most impartial reviewer.

That aside, I am not much of a Russell Crowe fan. But he's a good actor. I don't much care for his personality. But that's neither here nor there, I suppose. He wasn't bad in this role either. I was reading some reactions of people on Facebook and someone said they would have liked to have seen Christian Bale (another fantastic actor with some severe personality issues) and I would have liked to have seen that too. Christian Bale would have been good, I think.

But Russell wasn't bad. There were huge chunks of this film that were ripped from the Scott/Crowe movie Gladiator and a couple of parts that reminded me so strongly of Lord of the Rings (right down to the film's score). The boats the French use to invade England at the end looked like they were left over from the Saving Private Ryan set. There's a saying that good writers borrow, great writers steal. I guess it works for filmmakers too.

The supporting cast is underused in this mess of a film. You see Friar Tuck, Will Scarlett, Alan a Dale and Little John but they don't get all that much to do. The Sheriff of Nottingham is seen all too briefly as he's not the villain of the piece. Eleanor of Acqutaine makes an appearance as she is as you would expect her to be played. Prince John (or King John, I guess since Richard dies early on) is played as a fool. And I didn't like that. He seemed all right in his first scene, appropriately boorish and whatnot, but then, by the film's big climatic battle scene, he was just a clueless boob and I really don't think John was like that. Or I prefer it when he's played smarter. Smart and devious. Makes a better villain every time.

So if you're still interested in seeing the movie, don't go thinking it's going to be a Robin Hood movie. Just go watch it as a flawed summer action movie with swords and archery. Forget the Robin Hood thing entirely. It'll just be better if you do. One last thing before I go:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Oh, What A Month

My view of Mount Washington, taken with the new camera as I precariously dangled out of a second story window.

A lot of stuff happened in May, a lot of stuff about which I didn't get a chance to blog because I was revisiting my Russia experience.

The first of which is my new camera. That's right. I finally took the plunge and ordered one. It very helpfully arrived with an instruction manual with started with #1) Remove camera from box.

I wish I was kidding.

Anyway, the user's guide is the length of Gone With The Wind with a vocabulary that proves that whoever wrote the damn thing ate a thesaurus shortly before setting to work. It also includes pictures of icons. Icons which really mean nothing to me. So I'm taking the "pushing random buttons to see what happens" approach. So far, it's worked out all right. The camera comes with a "continuous sports" setting which allows you to take several in focus pictures of a subject in motion. This is a vital component when one has a Malinois (who was NOTHING but bad today. A trés mal Malinois!) as I do. Of course, when one forgets to change the camera setting from "continuous sports" setting to the sitting still portrait setting, one gets twenty remarkably similar pictures of her German Shepherd sitting still.

It's a learning process.

The camera also comes with a food setting. Yeah, a special setting devoted to taking pictures of food. I don't understand it and I have yet to try it.I have yet to have anything other than macaroni and cheese or bland soup to take a picture of. It wouldn't make for a very interesting picture.

There is also a close up feature which I like because I like to take pictures of flowers. I took one of my hostas (seen below) that I think came out really very nice. Both Joe and my friend, Heather, said it looked like one of those computer monitor wallpapers. Heather actually thought the camera's manufacturers had preloaded some images on there for the user to see the kind of shots they could take with their new camera. I decided to take that as a very flattering compliment.

The picture of my hostas I took with the close up feature with the new camera

I also took the camera to a Portland Sea Dogs game where my major league crush, Jacoby Ellsbury, was playing a rehab start. It make me think that maybe I needed a camera with even more zoom. Still, I took some nice pictures. Of the dirt around second base. I was obviously trying for something else (someone else) but I still have a little to learn about the - well, about the everything.

All right, I still have a lot to learn. In a quasi related side note, I also have a lot to learn about inserting pictures into these blogs. I'm just not used to it and every now and then, I look up and go "'d that picture end up there?" So, if things are not properly spaced and/or lined up, I apologize.

The dogs, down by the river

In other May news, Joe had his wisdom teeth removed. All of a sudden, they just started bothering him, the bottom right tooth especially, and he had to have them taken out. I was not looking forward to this, given how annoying Joe is when he has a cold, forget oral surgery. Joe, I should mention, was afraid there would be an entire blog devoted to the experience but, as it turned out, it went too damn smoothly to warrant an entire blog. Instead, it gets relegated to a paragraph in a hodgepodge blog.

The funniest part of the experience was when Joe came out of anesthesia and asked me repeatedly (a) what time it was, (b) how long he'd been asleep and (c) how long I'd been sitting there. When he wasn't asking me these questions, he was telling me about the anesthesia process even though I'd been sitting in the room at the time it was administered and how disappointed he was that it wasn't like the last time he had teeth removed, back when he was a young lad of ten or whatever. I know the anesthesia made him forget but it was still damn funny.

The worst part of the experience was when the recovery nurse handed me a pair of latex gloves (or whatever they're made from now) and a pile of gauze and proceeded to tell me what to do in the event of a major bleed. I was looking at her in absolute horror when she added, "But don't worry about it."

Uh huh. Yeah, right.

But there was no major bleeding. There was no major pain. There was no major swelling. Joe maintains he had more pain before the surgery. He had his teeth out on Monday and went back to work Tuesday afternoon. And here I was thinking I was going to have to resist the urge to put a pillow over his face...

I jest. I swear.

I did learn two very important lessons from the wisdom teeth experience. The first lesson is that I will never, ever have my own wisdom teeth removed. I don't care how much pain they cause me, I will never sit in a chair and let some supposed doctor put me under and rip out my teeth. You know, again. I did it that one time but I was a minor and my mother said I had to. But never again, I tell you. And you know why? Forget my total lack of any kind of health insurance or dental insurance. No, it's because I would not have the dream experience that Joe had. I would have all the pain and bleeding and swelling and bruising and whatever other miseries are inflicted upon people who have their wisdom teeth removed. And then I would feel compelled to suck it up and soldier on because if Joe didn't whine and cry about it, then I can't either.


The second important lesson I learned came that first evening after Joe's surgery when I went to put an old pillowcase, one for which I didn't care, on his pillow so that if he happened to bleed on it, I wouldn't care. As I stood in front of my linen closet, examining my options, I realized that I didn't have a pillowcase about which I didn't care. I was ultimately forced to choose the oldest pillowcase I have, a Lion King one featuring Pumbba and Timon, left over from my dorm room days. Fortunately, Joe didn't bleed on it.

Another picture taken with the new camera...aren't new cameras fun?

In other non dental news, we're making plans to do some yard work. And by 'do some yard work', I of course mean 'pay someone to do it for us' because we're hopeless at that sort of thing. We kind of have to do the yard work because of our new fun lack of trees. Now we have stumps. We have stumps everywhere and they're not all that attractive. This was one of the reasons (on a very long list) why I was a little reluctant to cut down the trees in the first place. This led to the following conversation between Joe and me:

Me: I don't want to cut down the trees because then we'll have stumps everywhere.
Joe: Nah, the stumps will be in the woods.
Me: The woods? You mean the woods we'll be having cut down? Because I think if you cut down all the trees, it ceases to be woods and just become yard. And an ugly one at that.

Turns out, I was right. So now we're having yard work done. Or, at least we're planning on it. We're still waiting to hear back from Shane the Arborist and Robin the Excavator. Shane the Arborist is also a landscaper. He's supposed to be putting together our work agreement but maybe he's decided he doesn't want to have anything to do with us because I haven't seen one yet. Eventually, they're going to pull out some stumps, bury others, bring in fill to level out our uneven yard somewhat and then plant grass. After all this, we're going to have the yard fenced in so that the dogs have a place to romp. The only catch is that once the grass gets planted, the dogs can't romp upon it for a few months.

So that means I'm going to have a beautifully fenced in yard on which I still can't my dogs run.


But at least it'll mean I won't necessarily have to spend all winter taking my dogs outside. Nope, they'll get to go outside and play in the snow while I stay inside where it's warm and dry.

Just one of many from my Jacoby Ellsbury stalking experience

Anyway, it's getting late and I need to go to bed. My friend, Heather, is celebrating her birthday tomorrow (or later today, I guess, as it is now well after midnight) and I have graciously been included in her plans. I think (hope) it involves massive amounts of decadent desserts. Tune in next time when I review Russell Crowe's film Robin Hood and reveal my Dance Recital Drinking Game, inspired by my recent dance recital attendance, courtesy of my multi talented niece, Jupiter and my equally multi talented goddaughter, Maddie. Maddie, by the way, just started reading the Harry Potter series and she's LOVING it. Nothing makes me happier...these days anyway.