28 February 2007

Bento Box Madness

I bought a bento box like this one on eBay about a week or so ago. It arrived yesterday. I first read about bento boxes on WellFed, when someone, I don't remember who, wrote an article about her Mr. Bento and how it was helping her post-gastric surgery weight loss program. I subsequently developed a minor obsession over bento boxes. (See, I do get obsessive about things other than hot young TV actors. Really.) I read everything I could point my mouse to about them, discovering the Flickr community dedicated to all things Mr. Bento, several great blogs about bento, and then, the hallelujah chorus rang out in my head when I decided to check eBay for a bento box of my own. I had decided that I didn't want a Mr. Bento; I wanted something cute.

And is it ever cute! There's a cute little fork that goes with the set, cute matching chopsticks, with their accompanying case, a little strap to keep the boxes tied together, and a bag to carry it all in. Cute, cute, cute!

DH puts up with me buying things from eBay because I have not yet purchased a car, a house, or major furniture. Some dolls, some books, some yarn, y'know, harmless stuff. He watched me open all the pieces and parts of my new bento box last night with growing incredulity. "What IS that?" He asked, rolling his eyes at yet another needless acquisition.

"A Japanese lunch-box," I responded gleefully. "Isn't it CUTE?"

"How could you possibly fit enough into that for a whole lunch?" He wondered, noting that it is six inches wide, 3.15 inches across, and when all 3 pieces are stacked one on top of the other, no taller than about 4.5 inches. The whole thing fits into a bag no bigger than a 20 ounce bottle of water.

Plenty of room, I assured him. See, two compartments for food! So much fun! He rolled his eyes again and asked how long until dinner was ready. So I made something kind of bento inspired for dinner and brought it with me today for my yummy lunch. The fish dish was inspired by the Fast Fish cookbook and the quiona salad recipe is adapted from Well Fed.

Parchment Wrapped Fish with Quiona Salad

2 large SQUARE pieces of parchment paper
2 fillets any mild, white fish...I use Basa
2 T soy sauce
1 t your favorite hot sauce (I use Sirachi here)
1 T brown sugar
1/4 c lime juice
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 2 limes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 c olive oil

Oven 400F

Combine soy, hot sauce, sugar, juice, zest and garlic. Slowly drizzle oil in, as if you were making a vinaigrette. Marinate the fish in this mixture 15 minutes in the fridge, turning once.

Lie one square of parchment on a flat work surface. Place the fish diagonal across the parchment, and bring up the bottom point of the square. Fold in the left and right sides, then flip the packet over, tucking the top corner into the space left at the bottom. You're making a small envelope full of fishy goodness. Bake on a tinfoil lined cookie sheet in the oven 15 minutes. Cut packets open and slide fish onto plates. Serve hot.

While the fish marinates and bakes, make the quiona salad.

1 c quiona
2 cups water
zest of 1 lime
juice of 2 limes
2 T sesame oil
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c cilantro, chopped fine
Grape tomatoes...about 1/2 cup
2-3 ribs celery, chopped fine
1 seedless cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut into fourths and diced

Follow package directions for quiona. It is a grain just like rice, it simply bears close watching. When it is done, spread onto another tinfoil lined cookie sheet to speed the cooling process. In a large bowl, combine the zest and the juice, and whisk oils in. Add cilantro, and vegetables, allowing them to soak in the dressing. When the quiona has cooled, add it to salad, toss, and add more olive oil if desired. Serve cold.

Dinner was wonderful, and I didn't eat all of my piece of fish intentionally, saving it for today's lunch. It fit beautifully into the bottom tray of my dragonfly bento, and I filled the top with quiona salad. That left a bit of room in the bottom container, so I added a mini muffin liner and filled it with about a tablespoon of blanched, slivered almonds. I closed both containers, fitted the strap around them, and put it in its cute little bag in my fridge. Brought it with me to work, and had a wonderful lunch. The bento box is microwave safe, but not dishwasher safe, which is the only downfall as far as I am concerned.

Definitely enough food, too. Yum!

27 February 2007

Brain-Dumping Day Again

So as I have designated Tuesdays as official brain-dumping day, today I'm going to write about another old job.

By "brain-dump," I mean that I'm dumping a bunch of random thoughts in my head out on to the computer screen and seeing what comes of it. Perfecting my storytelling skills, as the quote from David Mamet says above. There's a funny line in a song by Tommy Lee, of Motley Crue fame, on the "Tommyland, The Ride" album (yes, I will admit to owning that, with a slight cringe), in the song Good Times where he says "All the trash in my head, gotta throw it away". I like that line. Wish that I could, sometimes, ya know?

I dearly wish that there was such a thing as a Pensieve, as JK Rowling writes about in the Harry Potter books. Pensieves allow you to remove thoughts and ideas from your head and store them for later reflection or because you don't want to think about them. I could get rid of quite a bit of my own trash that way!

Back to the old jobs, then, I'm really not going to write about Supernatural, Jensen Ackles or Dean Winchester today, really. That is, of course, some of what stomps through my brain on a daily basis, but I'm trying to remember that I live in the real world. (Oh, go on then. You've never had a crush on a celebrity? Riiiight.) No, I'm not going to post any of the pictures I found, or links to the episode recaps on Television Without Pity, which made me howl with laughter. No. I'm not. Really. And I'm not going to bitch, at all, about the fact that the show is on a month-long hiatus. The next new episode doesn't air until March 15th. The Ides of March?!? CW television network, you're killing me. Yeah, OK, all right, I'm a liar. Here. Take note, please of the pretty.

Where was I? Ah yes, old jobs. I wrote here about working for the cash vault of a large Midwestern bank, and said that the next job I had at the bank would have to be a story for another day. I graduated from University in 1998, and the bank began making vague noises that they were going to outsource the vault's operations to an armoured carrier service, in a cost-cutting effort. My co-workers, who were really nice women, but not well educated, couldn't see the writing on the wall, and kept telling me that there was "no way that the corporation would be able to do what we do by outsourcing."

They were 1000% wrong, as it turns out, and I quietly began looking for another position within the bank that required my degree. When I had been trying to leave the first branch of the bank that I worked for, with the Evil Hag, I had applied for a job in the bank's Trust department, but I hadn't gotten it because I didn't have a degree at that time. Now I did, and so I applied again and got the job. The department had many various names, but I'm going to refer to it strictly as the Trust department because it amuses me....bank...trust....big evil corporations....hee.

I went to work for a really nice guy, who happens to be a lawyer. Cue the lawyer jokes...and I've got a ton of 'em...but he was really a nice person, and a great example of how I'd like to be as a boss. Since he's still working for the big o'l bank, and I respect the hell out of him, we'll just call him Mr. Lawyer. Mr. Lawyer and I were a department of two, working on accounts of clients who had passed away. Perhaps it is no real surprise that I ended up working in such a morbid field...I've had a lifelong fascination with the paranormal and odd occurrences, a few brushes with the occult as a young teenager, and was a bit of a hippy child/goth girl in college. My baby sis was about 13 or 14 when I went to work with Mr. Lawyer, and when she saw my business card for the first time with the word "Estates" under my title, she suggested that we add the line "We see dead people" on the card. *snerk* The bank has NO sense of humor, however, so I never suggested it.

Most of the clients that we had were really, really old folks, and it never bothered me to be working on the estate of someone who had kicked it of heart failure at 87. We had the occasional younger person, but mostly these were folks who had lived long, healthy lives, and who were very wealthy, had wanted for nothing. Their heirs were a whole 'nother story. I can't tell you how many phone calls I had from nieces, nephews, cousins, and much more distant relations wanting to know where their money was even before Aunt Edna was in the ground.

Many of the stories I have from that time are things that I certainly shouldn't be telling on teh internets, as it would be a breach of confidentiality. At least, I think it would if I was still working for ye olde evile bank, and if I gave enough detail for you to figure out who these people were/are, but since I have not worked for the big ol bank in 3 years, I don't think it is illegal. I think it would be completely unethical to give away enough detail to allow even RL friends to be able to identify them. SOOOO, I'll have to tread very carefully here.

One of my favorite heirs was the daughter of a dead guy, and best illustrates the old axiom, "The wealthy aren't strange, they're eccentric." She showed up to our first meeting after her father's death wearing a sundress, a long sleeved t-shirt under the dress; socks, and Birkenstock sandals. It was January. In Ohio. There were 3 inches of snow on the ground. And she complained about being cold. She was one of the very few who wasn't a money-grubbing brat, however, and I'm being honest when I say that she was one of my favorite heirs.

The two heirs that I disliked almost the most of all of them had to be a pair of sisters who despised one another. The estate I worked on was their mother's, their father having passed on years ago. This was one of the larger estates I worked on...and to put that into perspective, a short government/history lesson is required.

At the time I was doing this work, the bank wouldn't take on an estate unless they could get a fee of about $100,000. Now I never saw a dime of that, and neither did Mr. Lawyer. The bank sure did, though. In the state of Ohio, the fees are based on the amount of the gross estate. So the bank could charge 1% of the first $100,000 ($10,000), 3% of the next $300,000 ($30,000) and I can't even remember what the balance was. Maybe 3% on the balance of the gross estate. So the bank could charge $40,000 on $400,000 worth of assets, and if the whole estate was worth $1 mil, then the fee would be in the $90,000 range. The ones I worked on were big estates. Small estates for Mr. Lawyer and I were in the $800,000 range. Big ones were over $10 million.

These two heirs I'm going to kvetch about were the sole beneficiaries of a BIG estate. Money, money, money, honey. And they hated each other with a passion and ferocity that you rarely see except in the most bitter of divorces. They were sisters, close in age. The assets were huge, real estate, cars, stocks....and these two morons were fighting over the sheets and towels in mom's linen closet. They fought over the holiday decorations and family pictures too, but I get that. My great-aunt had most of my great-grandmother's 1950s era Christmas tree decorations, and I would have loved to have them; they went to other family members, and given the chance, I would have fought for them. Sheets and towels? Um, not so much.

One of my favorite parts of that job was going into the houses of the decedents and doing an inventory of every item in the house. Which I will freely admit is morbid and creepy. Yes, we spent time in houses were people had actually died. Mr. Lawyer and I usually did that sort of thing ourselves, and there were strict rules about staying in sight of one another at all times. Not because of superstition, but because the bank took a pretty dim view of theft on the job. When we were in the dead person's house, we would be looking specifically for tax records, bank statements, statements from investment accounts, other important papers, but also we'd be on the lookout for artwork, antique furniture, clues about other assets the person had. I liked doing that because it got us out of the office. But also I liked it because it taught me a few things about human nature, and because I'm a nosy busybody.

We almost always found cash in the freezer. And under the mattress. People think they're so clever when it comes to hiding money, but they're so predictable. Human beings are creatures of habit. Mr. Lawyer even had one where he found stacks of cash on the steel i-beams in the basement...unfortunately, that was one he did before I went to work with him, but he always checked the i-beams in every house we went into, because you never knew what you were going to find. We found cash stuffed in filing cabinets, behind old framed cross-stitch samplers, in the medicine cabinet.

I must note that we did house inventories only when there wasn't a surviving spouse or other family member who lived with the decedent. So there were never family members hovering around when we did this. It was far too distressing for a family member to witness complete strangers going through Uncle Ernie's bottom drawers. And we did. We went through every single drawer, every single shelf, in every single room. We cleaned out the refrigerator, we gathered up the mail, took care of a myriad of details. We had a checklist that ran to 17 pages full of stuff that needed done pretty quickly after someone passed away.

I worked with Mr. Lawyer for 5 years, spending almost more time with him than with my spouse. We had a really great working relationship. Get your mind out of the gutter, there was none of that. He wasn't my type, and he is the same age as my dad, so ick. He was a great example of how to treat your staff; when I made mistakes, he would say things like, "You ought to be more careful" or "Slow down and take your time." He was gentle, extremely patient, nice, generally a good guy. I think we made a good team because I'm abrasive, bitchy, and impatient. We often did the good cop/bad cop thing when we needed to on various cases, even once switching roles so that he was the bad guy. Which was really hard for him to pull off...when he gets really pissed off, he says things like, "Jiminy Christmas" and "Gosh Darn it". When *I* get really pissed off, I say things like "Kiss my ass, motherfucker."

By the time I moved on from that job, I'd had more than enough of the bank's politics, policies, and the general garbage I had to do each day. Like somehow it had become my responsibility to sort the department's mail, and don't even get me started about the department's coffee service and how it became the responsibilities of the assistants to clean up the coffee area when everyone drank it. Stuff like that just burns me up. So I left with few regrets. Just about the only one is that I don't have the opportunity to bounce ideas, thoughts, and theories off of Mr. Lawyer on a daily basis anymore; his opinions tended to be rational, reasonable, well thought out. I miss a few other co-workers as well. But I really miss my free daily copy of The Wall Street Journal...

26 February 2007

If it is Monday

Then I must be politicking. I didn't watch even a second of the Oscars last night, but I was checking all the usual places where I look at fashion faux pas. Yes, yes, yes, for all my blustering about being a political wonk, I am a girly girl who likes looking at the dresses. On MSN, I noted that Al and Tipper Gore were at the Oscars, and so I did a bit more digging to discover that An Inconvenient Truth won for best documentary. Which leads me to the politics portion of the post.

Along with most of the rest of the country, I voted for Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election. I didn't like him a whole lot, and I despise his wife Tipper for the PMRC. Course, the joke's kind of on her in that one, isn't it, since music with those stickers on the CDs do tend to sell more, as Steven Tyler noted back in 1980-something at the VMAs.

Anyway. Rolling Stone Magazine did an article a while back about Al Gore and how he could win the presidency if he choose to run. I get Rolling Stone, but I didn't read that particular article. The current issue, RS1020, however, has an article about Barak Obama. Which I did read. I've not yet made a decision about who I am going to vote for when the time does finally come for nominating a democratic presidential candidate. I like some of them more than others, but don't know enough about some to make an informed decision. Plus, let us not forget that the 2008 primaries are, oh, 13 months away.

I am surprised by the intelligence of the political reporting in RS, because I tend to think of them as only a music mag, but the article about Barak is surprising and made me think more about possibly voting for him. As much as it is TIME! for a female president, I just don't think that Hillary is electable. Too many people just can't stand her. And while I don't understand the varied reasons why they don't like her, I think that might be an insurmountable barrier to election.

21 February 2007

Writing about....writing.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about writers. Biographies, profiles, and such of folks who are honest to goodness published authors. So many of them state unequivocally; “I always wanted to be a writer.” Plus blah blah blah about how they wrote books as kids, majored in English in college, did “creative writing” classes out the wazoo.

Here’s the thing. I’m working on a novel of my own, but I never wanted to necessarily write the great American novel. I’ve been a READER my whole life, someone who loves to read, a bibliophile, since I was perhaps 4. I never had plans, really, to write a book…I’d much rather read one. The writing of MY novel grew out of the frustration that I’ve not been able to find much lately that I enjoyed reading. I hardly think I’m going to set the world on fire with my little story. Still no delusions about writing the great American novel.

And of course, since I have a business degree, I’ve really got no earthly idea just how to go about writing a novel. Storyboarding, what’s that? But what began as a short story has grown into roughly 100 pages, and the fun I’m having working on it more than makes up for the fact that I don’t think it is really publishable. Not in its current format, anyway. Publishers choose books to print based on saleability, not really the fact that something is well written or poorly written. Publishers, after all, are in business primarily to make money, not to share great works of literature with the masses. Those are called LIBRARIES, y’all.

I don’t want to share the story just yet. At least, I don’t think I do. I’m on the fence about that right now. I’ve talked to DH about it, but in yet another staggering bit of proof that opposites attract, DH isn’t a reader at all. Although he’s interested in what I’m working on, he’s not gung-ho to read it. I think he’d almost rather gouge out one of his own eyes than sit down to read one of the classics.

The more I work on it, though, the more I want to TALK about it, and talking about it is tough if I haven’t shared it with anyone. I’ve also been entertaining ridiculous fantasies of book tours and interviews with the press asking the silly questions they always ask authors…”How much of the main character is YOU?” (She isn’t much like me, being practiced at deception and hiding things from people, but yeah, we share some traits. She’s blonde.) “What does your mother think of the sex scenes?” (Ummm, I’ll get back to ya on that one. I imagine she will be proud and horrified, in equal measures. Proud that I’ve written a novel and horrified that I am pretty graphic.) “Where did the genesis of this story come from?” (I’ve always used my imagination to dispel boredom, to help myself relax, to entertain myself, and the love story part of it was initially just a fantasy.) “Is the lover’s character based on anyone?” (Not really. Not exactly. I don’t know. Maybe. Yes? An amalgamation of many different people, but disguised so that they hopefully wouldn’t recognize themselves. I know who I’d like to have the lover played by in a movie….and talk about premature and fantasies, I’m not even done writing the book yet!)

And the more I re-read it, as an ongoing effort to make sure that I haven’t made a bunch of mistakes, such as describing a room as pink and then later saying it is red, the more I think maybe it is total crap. The typical writer’s paranoia that nothing they do is any good. Even L.M. Montgomery, a Victorian era writer, wrote about 2 AM doubts and fears that her work was crappola. She wrote a little series you might have heard of, called the “Anne of Green Gables” books. Seven or eight of them in all. Plus another series known to fans as “The Emily Books”. LM’s stuff has been translated into 36 languages, and when I discovered them in the 1980s, they were enjoying a resurgence due to a PBS miniseries.

Really, I don’t know what to do about the whole mess.

20 February 2007

Winter Wonderland

Skiing is one of the joys of life for me. I don't get to do it very often, but when I do, it makes me happy to be alive.

I had a perfect day on the slopes. Perfect weather...in the 20s, sunny, very little wind. Near-perfect conditions...groomed trails means that there has been snow recently, and the resort has taken some giant machines and driven them over the snow, making it uniform in depth. It is rare, in this region of the country, to be able to ski on fresh powder, the glory, be-all end-all of skiing conditions. At least, it is for me, because I don't live close enough to a ski resort to head for the hills as soon as fresh snow falls.

Every year, the first time I go skiing has the same emotions attached to it. A little bit of trepidation...what if I've forgotten the skills I've learned over the past 23 years that I've been a skier? A little bit of worry...what if I fall? (I am compelled to note here that I rarely fall. I'm too cautious of a skier, I don't take unnecessary risks, I rarely ski so fast that I can't stop myself. What can I say? I'd rather not be injured.) And a lot of elation, because as the saying goes, even a bad day skiing is better than a good day at the office.

Standing at the top of the hill, I take a deep breath of cold, clean country air. Peek'n Peak's elevation is only 1800 feet, so you can't really call it a mountain. At least not in my book. I have on a pair of goggles, a band around my ears, my iPod, a neck wrap, my ski jacket, ski pants, gloves, and three layers of clothes underneath the ski gear. On my back is a Camelback, a hydration system that I find imperative for a good day on the slopes. It holds about 64 ounces of water, the RDA of 8 eight ounce glasses of water. It has a tube that goes over my right shoulder from the bladder that holds the water. The bladder is held in a backpack, in which I also carry lip balm and tissues. I sip water at need by biting on the tube, not the classiest method going, but it sure beats carrying around bottles of water.

On my feet are new, brand-spanking new ski boots, bought last week. I've never had brand new equipment before, so that's exciting. My skis are Kastle, very old. I have a pair of Scott poles, also very old, but I see no need to replace either. They still work, and I have newer bindings on the skis, so they're fine, safe, and effective. I get occasional guff from other skiers while on the lifts, when they see my skis, asking me just how old the skis are, but with new skis and bindings setting you back about $500....yeah, my old stuff is fine, thanks. I got the Kastles when I was 13 or 14, and they were used when I got them, so a good guess at their age would be between 15 and 20 years old. I've replaced the bindings twice in that time, most recently maybe 5 years ago.

So the air is clean, cold, and crisp, and as I glide off of the chairlift, I look around for a map to remind me of the layout of Peek'n. Yes, that is the main resort that I go to, as it is within 2 hours driving distance, and yes, I go there between 2 and 5 times every winter, but they change things around during the summers, and anyway, I like maps. I stand in front of a map the size of a highway billboard, and ponder my routes for the next several hours. I don't like to start out with a run that might overtax my abilities, so I plan carefully.

The sound of the snow under the runners of the skis brings back floods of memories. Racing my sister at 11, 12 years old and again as adults, and she beats me every single time. My dad, encouraging me to enter my first NASTAR race, an amateur ski competition that I first tried around 11 years old. Getting stuck on the chairlift with a family friend at Peek'n, for over two hours in the late 80s, freezing my butt off. J-bars, T-lifts, rope tows. Skiing in Breckenridge with K and E, in the mid-90s. It isn't quite a crunching sound, more like when you rub two pieces of plastic up against one another. Not a grinding, either. Movie sound effects people use cornflakes and cornstarch encased in cotton sheets to simulate the sound of snow under skis...and that's a pretty good facsimile of the sound. Parallel skiing throws small bits of snow away from the skier, and the sssscuuuscchhh of the snow flying this way and that behind other skiers is soothing, right, exhilarating.

Having the iPod while skiing was a new thing for me. When my parents would take us skiing when we were kids, they disapproved of us listening to the Walkman while skiing...dangerous, they said. So it is. At the volume my 14-year-old self would have listened to it, very dangerous. Not that their edict of "No music on the slopes" stopped me from having it, but it was bulky, hard to hide, and cumbersome to carry. My old ski jackets always had inside pockets, but by the end of the day, I would be looking for someplace else to stash the Walkman, rather than carrying it on my person. The iPod, on the other hand, has an armband that I carry it around on, and it is no thicker than 3 credit cards stacked one on top of the other. So not bulky, not heavy, and I wear it on my arm every day at the gym, so nothing out of the ordinary.

I started the day on the hill listening to my "Supernatural" playlist, which is a bunch of classic rock tunes used on the television show. "Carry on Wayward Son" by Kansas. "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult. "Rock of Ages" and "Pyromania" by Def Leppard. "Working Man" by Rush. "Wayward Son" is something I like to run to on the treadmill, and I can now report that it works well for flying downhill on skis too. I've got about 45 minutes of music on the SN playlist, so when I heard "Reaper" for the second time, I stopped skiing for a minute to change over to something else. Since I didn't organize a playlist specifically for the ski trip (which would have been smart), I just told the iPod to play the 25 most played songs, which is a pretty eclectic mix of Prince, U2, Def Leppard, Red Wanting Blue, The Format, and Dave Matthews Band.

Listening to Prince (old school Prince, mostly from the Purple Rain soundtrack) while traveling somewhere around 30 miles an hour on a ski slope is a pretty surreal experience. I have a remix of "Let's Go Crazy", probably my favorite Prince tune ever, that runs almost 8 minutes long, and I heard it about 3 times. That song is going to be stuck in my head for a week, I swear.

I think I've written before about how difficult it is for me to NOT sing at the top of my lungs whenever I have the iPod on. I was a singer all through school, trained with a private opera coach from 13 to about 17, entered contests, the whole bit. I tell you that not to brag, but to tell you that I'm a decent singer. I don't sing in public (meaning on stage) anymore, but I've never been able to resist the urge to sing in the car, in the shower, and yes, while skiing. When Red Wanting Blue came on, I was alone on the chairlift, and I gave in to the urge to belt out the chorus of "Audition". Fortunately, if anyone noticed, I didn't see them.

I skied all alone this time, having been unable to convince anyone to play hooky along with me. And while that's a bit of a shame, it isn't the end of the world. I crave solitude, it is an essential part of my nature. There are days that if I had a personal motto it would be "LEAVE ME ALONE!", so I didn't feel lonely while out there. There is, of course, a crucial difference between being alone and being lonely, and I was alone. I didn't lack for company...since it was President's Day in the US (Perhaps our most useless holiday? Discuss amongst yourselves...) all government offices, schools, and banks were closed, there were a bunch of other nuts out there on the hills with me. I talked to tons of people while the chairlifts took us to the top of the hills. Mostly other Ohioans, which entertained me a lot, as Peek'n is located in Clymer, New York.

I rode the chairlift early in the day with a fella named Jeff who did his darnedest to convince me to come back to his ski condo at the end of the day to party with a bunch of his friends. I haven't been hit on in a really long time, so it took me a few minutes to figure out what was going on. I'd been feeling very mischievous when I got on the chairlift, though, so when he asked my name, instead of giving my real name, I told him "Lucy." Thank goodness for that intuition, because the further up the hill that chairlift got, the more uncomfortable this guy made me. I've introduced myself as Lucy before, last year when I was writing food articles, I interviewed a couple of different people, and always identified myself initially with the pen name. I always told the interviewees that Lucy is a pen name, however, not wanting to be dishonest. This idiot on the chairlift got no more than "Lucy" and the name of the big city in my area out of me, and he'll have a right difficult time tracking me down with just those two things, fortunately. Men. We love ya, but honestly, you're all dorks.

I'll be out on the slopes again on Sunday, the 25th, with a few members of my family. I know that most of the rest of the Northern hemisphere is wishing for spring, but I'm hoping winter holds on for a few more weeks, at least, so I can get a few more runs in before the snow melts for another year.

19 February 2007


Because I am a very firm believer in caring for my own mental health, today I am taking a hooky day today to go skiing. See ya on the slopes!

18 February 2007

Technology? So Rocks.

Egad, I sound like I'm 13.

I've been working on the book all day, doing laundry, watching my television show (which yes, I did buy the whole season on iTunes so now I can watch it on demand, whenever I please, cue music that indicates drooling) and randomly surfing the internet.

What did we do before the internet when we wanted to know what the population of Peoria, Illinois, is? Or what streets cross Ventura Boulevard in Los Angles? We had the library as the only source for information like that. And it would have taken hours, hours I tell you, to find some of the more obscure information that is readily available online.

I posted a message on one of the fan forums talking about trouble I was having with teh internet yesterday, and realized, after I posted, that many of the other members of the board are high school students. (Yeah. Don't tell me about my lack-of-maturity when it concerns the fan forums. I know. I know! At least I'm not spending all of my waking hours reading/writing fan fic. Not yet, anyway.) Kids who will graduate high school in 2007 were most likely born in 1990. I turned 16 in 1990....therefore, I could reasonably be a parent to most of these kids. Yikes.

I didn't have an e-mail address in high school...teh internet was something that government contractors were still playing with back then. Now I have at least 5...Lucy's, one in my real name, 2 for work, one on Juno (my very first ever...you didn't even need an isp for Juno back then, you just dialed up, downloaded your e-mail, and hung up....keee-rist, I'm old), plus the Yahoo e-mail that I use when I buy things online.....

I think about my grandfathers, both of whom are no longer with us, when I think about the strides that technology has made in my lifetime. Grandpa S, who despised computers, he would hate, hate cell phones. I can only imagine what he'd have to say about them. He often quoted the "garbage in, garbage out" theory about computers, and I can't even fathom what he would think of my cell phone (I have a Motorola Razr, which has the capability to do pictures, video, be a personal digital assistant, and make phone calls). He would be annoyed by it, mostly, I think. Especially all the ringtones that I've added to the phone.

Grandpa B, I wonder what on earth he'd think of the internet. Grandma B is still around, and she does not have a computer. I was in serious withdrawal when I went to see her last year. I talked to her about the amazing things that you can do online, but she has a busy and active social life, and claims to not have 'time' for the internet. *ponders her own life sans internet for a second...shudders....*

I had a third "grandpa", a surrogate Grandpa L, and when he was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia, he asked me to research experimental treatments for him. Which I did, online, and forwarded the most promising to his daughter's e-mail address. I remember the telephone conversation I had with him about that...he was surprised that I'd been able to do everything I had done without ever leaving the chair I was sitting in when he called me.

I am continually astonished and amazed at what can be done from your computer. And I say this often about other areas of my life...I'm excited about the possibilities, the promise of what's to come tomorrow.

17 February 2007

More things from NPR

I was listening to NPR this morning and heard a few things that I wanted to share.

First, this story from Weekend Edition Saturday, which is about a television show featuring 4 Middle Eastern students exploring America. Sounds really, really interesting, but it isn't airing in America, so check YouTube or similar for the show. They interviewed Lara Abou Saifan, one of the cast members. She is Lebanese, and was here in America filming the show during last summer's war between Hezbollah and Israel. Can you even imagine? There's a war going on at home, and you're in a country where no one really cares about anything that isn't happening in their own backyard. It must have been awful for her.

The other thing that I thought about as they interviewed her was that she was the only female cast member. I don't know how they treat women in Lebanon, but I do know that the Saudis don't let women drive, and one of the cast mates was a Saudi, so I wonder if she had any trouble of the chauvinistic variety. The interview, of course, didn't address this.

Next, on Weekend America, I heard a story about rice, and an art exhibit. Called "All of the people in all of the world", it uses grains of rice to represent various populations. Like how many people fit into a baseball stadium. Or how many people in America will be born today, how many will die, how many people in the world are HIV positive. When you see numbers that are incomprehensible, like 64 million, represented by grains of rice, you start to get a feel for just how many that really is. They weigh the rice, rather than counting it, when the numbers get high.

Other than these two things, I've got nothing to share. My online time has been mostly taken up with fan forums (really, don't ask. I'm embarrassed enough about it as it is.) and my book these days. The book is going...slowly. I'm at a point where I'm not stuck, exactly, but at a loss as to how to get from where I am right now to the next action sequence, without dragging it out too much. But in the six weeks or so that I've been working on it, I've written almost 90 pages, when I copy and paste it into a Word document. So it is apparently going all right. Right?

16 February 2007

Regularly scheduled posting interrupted....

I've caught whatever is going around...intestinal, sinus, and other related distresses, and won't be online until I feel better. DH had this for about a week.....ugh. I'm exhausted, and going back to bed.

14 February 2007

Blah. And meh.

The winter storm dumped about 9 inches of snow on us. I went in to work, having no other choice, and spent the whole day doing....nothing. Work was dead, due to the weather. Blah. Boring.

And then on the way home, I was listening to NPR, and I heard a story that has me thinking about the original reason that I started writing this blog, the abortion debate.

In all honesty, I cannot comment about this story because I am not qualified. There are a bunch of states that have passed what are called MISSing Angels laws, which is legislation that gives the parents of a stillborn child a right to a birth certificate. Otherwise, a death certificate is issued, but no birth certificate. I went searching for my own birth certificate, out of curiosity, and sure enough, across the top of it, it says, "Certificate of Live Birth". Therefore, at a stillbirth, one would not be issued.

I don't feel that I can comment about this because I am not the parent of a stillborn child, and far be it from me to say that I understand what these people are going through. Unless you have lost a child, you could never understand what these people feel. I will say that the idea makes me both uneasy...and very sad.

Uneasy, because the anti-choice people have been trying for years to get the law to recognize a fetus as a person, which ipso facto, would make abortion murder under the law in all 50 states, with blatant disregard to Roe v. Wade. The right to have an abortion hangs by such a tenuous thread in this country that any movement towards the anti-choice side could break that thread. And that scares me. As I have said time and time again, faced with an unwanted pregnancy, I have no earthly idea what the heck I would do. My answer to that question has changed over the years, as my life situation has changed. When I was single, 17, and starting college, the answer might have been radically different from the answer that I might give today, at over 30, happily married, with a job that has health insurance. I really don't know what I would do. What I do know is that I don't want a bunch of old white men deciding what I can or can not do with my body.

Sad, because as a woman they interviewed for the story says, she doesn't want to be in the midst of the abortion debate...she just wants a birth certificate for her baby, stillborn at 8 months gestation. I could hear the pain in her voice, and it breaks my heart. There are no easy answers here. Meh.

Listening to: Snowplows driving past, ice breaking off of my gutters, tires spinning in unplowed snow.

13 February 2007


I spend a lot of time complaining about the weather. Which is a very silly thing to do, as weather is one of those things that is beyond our control. You can't change the weather. Complaining about it is a favorite pastime among people who live here, though, I think mostly because the weather is so shitty most of the time. Cold, grey, rainy most of the year, and hazy, hot, and humid in the summer. I'm not the only one who complains a lot about it...we have a saying here, that if you don't like the weather in Oh-hia-ia, wait 15 minutes, it will change.

So this post will be somewhat out of character, because I'm not really complaining about the weather, but (mostly) glorifying in it.

I love the snow. Ohio is grand central at the moment for a heck of a snowstorm, and my corner of the world is forecast about 18 total inches of snow. I live far enough away from Lake Erie that I'm not in the 'snowbelt' region, so I whine a whole lot that we never get what they actually forecast. I would LOVE to get 18 inches of snow, but it probably won't happen.

I spent a moment standing in the snowstorm this afternoon. Listening to the gentle hiss of the snow falling. If you've never experienced snow, then you wouldn't know that it deadens the sounds of everything around you. Traffic is quieter. High heels on a sidewalk don't have their usual staccato tap. The snow makes everything look cleaner. More peaceful. As if everything is right with the world, as it sleeps under a white blanket.

That is, if you're at home, with a good book, a good lover, or a good movie, a warm blanket and comfy sweats. And if you have plenty of hot cocoa. If you're out in that mess, it just sucks.

The Vault

Tuesday may hereafter be designated as brain-dumping day. Perhaps.

I wrote a snippet about working for the cash vault of a bank a few days ago and said that those were stories for another day. Since then, I’ve been thinking about that job, and remembering the funny things that happened there.

I went to work for a big bank when I was 19 or 20 years old, in 1994 or 1995. Can’t really remember exactly when, and it is no longer important. The bank that I worked for is what is known in the financial services industry as a “super-regional” bank, a huge establishment that is not nationwide, but extends its reach over a footprint of 6 contiguous midwestern states, with operations in about another 5 states not connected to the footprint. They offer all of the traditional banking services, and I started out as a part-time teller in an office close to home.

Being a bank teller is not easy work. When you wander into a branch of your local bank to cash a check, that teller who waits on you (if you in fact go into the office and don’t use the ATM) has been through at least 20 hours of training in policy, procedure, operations, customer service….it is a lot of work for very little pay.

I think that first year I made maybe $8,000. And I despised it. The branch manager at my first branch was an evil hag, who must have taken the advanced class of “How to NOT manage people”, because she was awful at any and all human resources issues. Her favorite way to discipline someone for anything was to wait until there was a lobby full of customers and then berate the person from inside her office while they were waiting on someone. She and I clashed nearly daily.

Hindsight has given me some perspective, and in retrospect, I should have probably not told her that she was a textbook case of how to not run a department or an office. Y’see, I was in my first year of business school, majoring in management, which is enough knowledge to cause problems, but not fix them. If I had to work with her today, I would do some things differently, but I would have still left.

I worked with the evil hag for about 6 or 7 months. I began applying for transfers anywhere within the system as soon as I was eligible. One job posting that caught my eye was for the International Teller, who handled all of the region’s foreign currency. Having lived in Europe, I could do currency conversions in my sleep, and it seemed like something that would be more fun, so I applied. I was thrilled when I got the job, which was full time, and in another city, about 60 miles away from home.

The International Teller’s office was located inside the main cash vault. At first, I was too busy cleaning up the cubicle area allotted to me to notice what else was going on around me, but I came up for air about a month after starting there. The former international teller hadn’t been the neatest person, and I tossed stuff that went back to the mid-80s. As you can imagine, this made obsessive-compulsive me absolutely tweak the fuck out.

When I had everything arranged as I needed it to be for efficiency’s sake, I felt able to assist my co-workers in what they were doing. The international teller job could have reasonably been a part time position, because there was relatively little for me to do. I bought and sold currency with a New York City trading house, sure, and that was fun, but I didn’t have near enough to do. This suited me, though, because I was in my last year at University by then, and I used downtime to study.

The rest of the people that I worked with did very different things than I did every day. The vault processed money from the Federal Reserve for distribution to branches of the bank in our region, processed any counterfeit money that the bank received (more about that in a second) and processed deposits from big box retailers that were delivered to the vault by armored couriers, plus processed change through huge coin sorting machines in the coin room.

The most interesting of these activities was processing the money that came from the Fed. The vault’s head teller would order money from the Fed on a weekly basis, and sometimes they sent new money (who doesn’t love the smell of new money?) and other times they sent currency that had already been in circulation. But when I say that she ordered money, I mean that she ordered millions of dollars. Millions and millions of dollars. Four million in twenty dollar bills wasn’t out of the ordinary. Four million dollars in cash is HEAVY, y’all. The couriers would bring it in on pallets. There were of course secure doors that you had to go through, and a process that we had in place to make sure that the couriers were legit, but it always worried me that they brought the cash in clear plastic bags, sealed and imprinted, yes, but clear plastic….I used to tell the people that I worked with that if anyone with criminal intentions paid any amount of attention, they would see a pattern of days and times when the money from Uncle Sam was delivered. Hit us on the right day, and you could have made off easily with two mil in cash. We never were, and I don’t know if that’s because no one was paying attention or if we were extraordinarily lucky.

The bank no longer does things this way, which is why I feel all right about telling these stories. The vault is no longer located at my old office, and procedures are radically different, security has changed lots. This was eight or nine years ago after all, and I have not worked for this company at all for nearly 3 years now.

After the courier passed the security checks, we would do a ‘rough’ count, ensuring that the imprinted and sealed bags were in fact still sealed, and checking that each bag had the amount that it said it did. Then the couriers left, and we would move the cash into the most secure area, a real vault with the ship’s wheel on the door and a timed lock. The room inside the vault was about ten feet wide and five feet deep, with one wall entirely taken up by smaller safes. Those safes limited the amount of room that we had to move and work inside the vault, but it was where the cash was kept after it was counted.

Once inside the secure area, we would open the imprinted bags and begin a ‘bulk’ count of the money. Bulk counting means that you run the bills through a counting machine, which counts the number of bills but not the denominations, so if there is a one-dollar bill in the middle of the twenties, it doesn’t register. We did bulk counting to separate the bills into more manageable stacks; every denomination was bulked in stacks of 100 bills, which in twenties is $2000, and ‘bricked’ in packs of 5 of the stacks of 100 bills, making the bricks of twenties $10,000.

After the bulk count was done, and totals matched the paperwork, we would do a fine count. Fine counting means that you personally touch every single bill, you eyeball every bill, and this is where the biggest potential for theft occurs. It is also where you’re going to find a counterfeit bill, or a ten in the middle of the hundreds. American currency has a very specific ‘feel’ to it…the paper that it is printed on has a very high cotton content, and counterfeit bills ‘feel’ wrong. Even someone who doesn’t work with big bunches of money on a daily basis can feel the difference.

Fine counting takes forever. It would take several hours to process the money from the Fed. The first time I helped process a Fed transfer, I thought it was pretty exciting. Who can say that they personally handled a million dollars at work? Cool. The only problem, as I saw it, was that the money wasn’t mine.

In order to work in a place like that, you have to be bonded and have no criminal history. And while I thought it was pretty cool to put my hands on that much money, I had to get to the point where my thought process went something like this….”It is just paper. And it isn’t MY paper.” Because otherwise, you could easily drive yourself bonkers thinking about what you could do with so much money.

Two other funny things about money. One, it is filthy. Filthy, filthy, filthy dirty. New money’s ink rubs off on your hands, turning your fingers black. Old money is just dirty, and your hands turn black from touching it. We couldn’t wear gloves while handling it because that sense of touch is important to be able to feel for counterfeits. So my hands were always chapped from frequent washing. Secondly, have you heard urban myth/legend that the US currency tests positive for cocaine? True.

We had a spate of counterfeits come through the office, and it was part of my responsibilities to send the bills to the Secret Service, which is who handles all counterfeit claims. Now that would be an interesting job, working for the Secret Service.

Like anything involving the government, there was an extensive process in place to send counterfeit bills to the Secret Service, forms to fill out, a very specific way it had to be packaged. It took about a half hour to fill out the paperwork and package it all up. The funniest thing about it was that it had to be sent registered mail, and it went to a facility in the same city where my office was located. We couldn’t send it with the couriers.

The bills were being passed at branches of our bank, and the tellers would send them to us with a “suspicious” tag. I always felt bad when I had to contact a teller and let him or her know that we were going to send a short ticket to them for the amount of the bill. Counterfeits, you see, come in a bunch of different incarnations. The crudest take the numbers off of a higher bill and paste them onto a $1 or a $5 and then try to pass them as a $20, $50, or $100 bill. The more sophisticated are attempts to print your own $50 bills. Regardless, the teller who sent them to us was penalized for taking the bill as part of a deposit, if that was in fact how it came in. Sometimes customers would bring them in, thinking that the bill seemed off, and then the customer would be out the money, which never failed to piss them off. And I saw their point….what’s the sense in being honest if you’re going to be out the money? Try and pass it along to someone else, leave someone else holding the bag. Unfortunately, that’s just the way that it went, with the honest person being shorted. Many times a teller could pass the short back to the merchant who took the counterfeit bill in the first place, but a civilian had no recourse.

I worked for the vault for about a year, moving on to another division of the bank when I graduated from college. But those stories are, again, for another day.

Listening to: Online radio station, an eclectic mix of adult contemporary stuff including Los Lonely Boys, The Pretenders, Life House and Maroon 5.

12 February 2007

Religion and Politics

Just when I think that only in America do we have trouble keeping the line between religion and politics, I hear something that makes me think twice. Now you know that separation of Church and State is one of the constitution's basic principals, yes? Just checking. To be precise and pedantic, here's the section of the constitution, which sets up the doctrine.

It seems that the Italian Parliament is all set to debate a bill which would give some rights to unmarried heterosexual couples and homosexual couples. This in no way allows for gay marriage in Italy, nor does it promote a 'gay agenda' (which I must point out is possibly one of the most offensive phrases in the English language.)

Pope Benedictine the 16th has strongly condemned this effort to give some rights of inheritance, among other things, to unmarried couples, issuing a statement through the Vatican publication L'Osservatore Romano, saying that it "harms the family". Sheesya, right. Because stable couples who happen to not be married are a big threat to families, be they hetero or homo. Didn't you know that? Gosh, I feel threatened right now. Run for the hills, the unmarried couples of the world are going to ruin it for the married folks.

Here's a few tips for the Pope. Stay out of politics. Refrain from commenting on the differences between God's law and man's law, because it makes you sound stupid. Let the elected officials in Italy decide what is best for the citizens of Italy. Get a grip. It isn't 1325, it is 2007.

11 February 2007


Why, oh why, has Nancy Pelosi's airplane request been such big news?

Has everyone forgotten that President Idiot insisted on the same requirement for Denny Hastert?


08 February 2007

Scooter Libby

There is a lot that I want to say about the perjury trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Most of it, I'm sure, is available from a myriad of other sources, but my opinion about the whole mess may not be.

First of all, I know what side of this whole debacle I ought to be on. The liberal side, which wants to string him up for outing a CIA agent. Yes, I agree, that was bad. Bad Scooter! And indicative, really, of the Idiot Administration's way of handling a problem. Ooohh, someone says that there's no WMDs in Iraq? Well, obviously, ob-vi-ous-ly, the way to deal with that is to discredit the critic's wife. Personal attacks on credibility being sooo much easier than actually talking about the facts, right?

And in many respects, I feel that if in fact Scooter outed Valerie Plame, maliciously, and then he lied about outing her, then yes, he ought to be strung up by his toenails, or whatever we're doing to punish the naughty this week. But on the other hand....this trial, at taxpayer expense, is essentially a he said-she said thing, with no real way to definitively prove anything one way or the other. So much high school style drama. There isn't forensic evidence that Scooter lied....how could there be? Sure, polygraph tests might show the truth, but in reality, there is no way show for certain what he knew, when he knew it, and who he told it to. There's also the fact that he's been charged with obstruction of justice and perjury when there's no underlying criminal case....usually obstruction of justice charges involve someone trying to cover up a homicide, for example. So the prosecutor has his work cut out for him in proving this case.

I'll admit that it is pretty darn damaging that a whole host of people have testified to the fact that he did, he did, he did it. I heard Nina Totenburg on NPR's Morning Edition this morning talking about how, in the tapes of the grand jury testimony, the prosecutor tiptoes around coming straight out and asking Libby if his boss (that would be Vice President Dick Cheney) told him to leak Plame's info, but the prosecutor never does come out and ask him directly, and nothing that Libby says through more than eight hours of testimony would indicate that Cheney did, in fact, tell him to release Plame's name.

Of course Libby never indicates that Cheney ordered him to out Plame; they're both reasonably intelligent people, and I would assume, being the conspiracy theorist that I am, that they'd be smart enough to have had these conversations about what to do, should either of them be in trouble, long before they ever got into trouble. Duh! Didn't you ever plan to do something you probably shouldn't have done, as a kid, and have the conversation with your friends, "Well, you just tell your mom xxx, and I'll tell my mom xxx, and we'll be fine." I know you did!! Guess what, those in political power are at least as smart as eight year olds, and they did the same thing.

At the heart of this whole trial for me is the issue of privacy. Yes, privacy. Valerie Plame had the right to privacy, the right to pursue a career that she was, by all accounts, good at and excited about, the right to live her life without such intense scrutiny, and that right was taken away from her. Whether Scooter Libby did it because his boss told him to, or not, the fact remains that Ms. Plame is no longer able to pursue her first choice of career, being a CIA spook, because she is now well known and recognizable. At the risk of sounding like I'm in high school, that's not fair. Not at all. Added to the fact that she is (as far as I know) no longer working for the CIA is the fact that her life could be in danger from this outing. Which is really unfair.

Privacy is, to me, one of those sacred rights. Yes, I know that I'm a big hypocrite for saying that, as I obsessively follow celebrity gossip. But! If you choose to be a celebrity, you know going into it that you're not going to have much of a chance at a private life. There are some trade offs...fabulously rich, the whole world on a string, screaming fangirls, et cetera. In general, I don't feel sorry for stars who whine about not being able to have a private life; I do feel sorry for them when the stalkeratzzi try to take pics of their kids or generally hound them. But I digress. Those of us who choose to go into less glamorous careers, who have ordinary lives, should be able to expect that our bidness isn't going to be splashed all over the six o'clock news. I dunno that being a CIA spook is an ordinary life, but for Valerie Plame, it was. The trial of Scooter Libby will resume on Monday. I'll be watching/listening.

Also: Wow. Wish I could write like this. Thanks to Mother Me for the link.

07 February 2007


With apologies to Mother Me, who I told I would be writing about Scooter Libby today. Maybe tomorrow. This will be another brain dump post.

This morning, I was at the gym as usual, listening to the iPod as usual, and I put the playlist that I've made of music from my TV show on, and a song I had forgotten that I added popped up. It isn't part of the show's list of songs; they play a TON of classic rock on this show. Rush, Journey, Def Leppard, among others. Anyway, they've used "Working Man" by Rush, but I like a few other Rush tunes, and since it is still in keeping with the tone of the show, I added "Freewill" "Tom Sawyer" and "Time Stand Still". When "Time Stand Still" came on today, I stopped what I was doing to listen.

Once upon a time, this was my favorite song in the whole wide world. Rush released the double album Chronicles in 1990, and "Tom Sawyer" and "Subdivisions" were popular at my high school, but I wasn't all that into them. When I was in Sweden, though, an expatriot friend had the album and taped it for me when I said I liked "Tom Sawyer" but didn't know much else that they'd done. I had a Sony Walkman, a lot like this one that I listened to on trains and busses as I traveled around Sweden, and Chronicles was often among the tapes I carried. I listened to "Time Stand Still" over and over and over again, the chorus had meaning for me then. I'm not going to reprint the entirety of the lyrics here, see the link above if you're curious. But in part, they say

Time stand still
I'm not looking back
But I want to look around me now
Time stand still
See more of the people and places that surround me now
Time stand still

Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each sensation a little bit stronger
Experience slips away
Experience slips away
Time stand still

Almost every time I listened to it, it made me emotional. It described, exactly, how I felt about the year that I spent living in Sweden. I wanted to stop time, to never return to America, to spend some time looking around. Each time the calendar turned to a new month, it brought panic to me, the time I had (precious little) in Sweden was slipping away from me, faster and faster every day.

When I came back to the States in August of 1992, the Grunge movement was in full swing, and I was into "Alternative" music, the Pixies, the Pouges, punk, the Grateful Dead....and my classic rock collection fell by the wayside. I never stopped listening to Def Leppard, but the rest of it became something I felt was cringe-worthy, not worth listening to. I'm glad that I've rediscovered the classic rock. I feel obligated to point out that this stuff was all classic rock before I started listening to it, I'm not THAT old.

But Time Stand Still reminded me again today that I've always had trouble living in the NOW, living for the present moment, taking a look around and appreciating what I've got. There's a few other songs on the iPod that talk about this...Def Leppard has one called "Now"...Buffett has one called "Breathe in, breathe out, move on" and I'm hoping that by listening to them more often, I'll remember to take that moment, to look around and appreciate what I've got now.

Dreams and goals are important, don't get me wrong. I've got plans for the future. Kinda nebulous, sure, but they're plans. But living in the now is important too. So thanks, Rush, for reminding me of that.

05 February 2007


Fandom. Fangirl. Both internet word creations, from 'fanatic', defined by the dictionary as "marked by excessive enthusiasm for and intense devotion to a cause or idea; 'rabid isolationist'." I never, in a million years, would have called myself a fanatic about much of anything, until recently. Fan? Yes. I'm a fan of women's rights. I'm a fan of a good curry. A fan of jazz, swing, the blues, even a few contemporary artists like Dave Matthews Band & Def Leppard, plus one or a thousand others. But fanatic? No. Not so much.

I've never understood the rabid craziness that develops over certain TV shows; to wit, Survivor, Fear Factor, American Idol....I'm often left wondering who the heck watches this stuff. And I shake my head in amazement that someone, lots of someones, actually, get paid to produce such dreck. I have always been proud of the fact that I've never obsessively followed any television show...most of the time, I'd rather read, knit, cook, whatever, than watch TV.

A large part of that is because of the way I was raised. I did NOT have a television in my bedroom growing up, in fact the very idea was pretty horrifying to my parents. (I wasn't allowed a phone in my room either. At the time, I thought I was such an underprivileged child. Now, I get it.) There was no television in the living room. If my sisters and I wanted to watch TV, it was in the basement rec room, at a very low volume, under pretty strict guidelines.

  1. All homework must be completed, in such a state that either parent could review it and see that it was done. Nothing half-assed. They never put it that way, of course, but they always asked to see it, and frequently sent us back to do it over, do it more neatly, do it right.
  2. Stations we were permitted to watch were limited. Not that the 'rents thought that MTV and VH1 were the devil incarnate, far from it, I did watch MTV, but we weren't allowed to watch things like Dynasty, Dallas, LA Law, thirtysomething, et cetera.
  3. We were allowed to watch Unsolved Mysteries with both parents, once a week. Thursdays, I think.
  4. On Fridays, when the parents had their weekly date night (and I must have been 12, 13, 14 by then) we were allowed to choose what we wanted to watch, as long as it was still appropriate for my baby sister, who at 9 years younger than me would have been 3 when I was 12. So we watched A LOT of PBS miniseries, like Anne of Green Gables, The Little Princess, and for a brief while, a show on network TV, Beauty and the Beast, which starred Linda Hamilton. (I admit to it only under duress. My excuse is that I was 13.)

So I never ever watched Alf, Cheers, or things like that during the late 80s, and by the time the 90s rolled around and things like Friends and Seinfeld were popular, I no longer cared. Comedies on TV have only every irritated me. I might be the only person in America that's never seen a whole episode of Friends or Seinfeld. Sitcoms especially, I think are awful. The format of 1/2 hour, with a live studio audience, laugh track....ugh. I'm smarter than that. I hate laugh tracks with a passion.

A funny aside, OT for a minute, when I lived in Sweden, I saw "Tool Time" (starring Tim Allen) for the very first time. The Swedes called the show "All Thumbs". Channel surfing one day at the host parent's house, I stumbled across it on a satellite station, and at first, honestly thought that this show was produced entirely in the same manner as Saturday night live skits. I truly believed that this show was just making fun of American TV, until I asked another ex-patriot, who informed me that "Tool Time" was in fact one of the most popular shows on American TV. Perhaps you knew it as "Home Improvement"? Yeah. I knew that.

I'm not completely out of the pop-culture loop, but if you want to beat me at useless trivia, start asking questions about sitcoms. I'll be lost.

So a few years ago when DH got into "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", I was endlessly entertained that he could honestly give a damn about what was happening on the show. Then, because he watched it, I started watching it. Good writing. I liked it. We ended up taping the last 3 seasons because it ran on a night when we had other obligations. I wasn't too worried if I missed an episode. I felt the same way about the Buffy spinoff, "Angel". Liked it, definitely liked looking at David Borneaz, but again, if I missed it, no big. After both of those shows went by the wayside, DH found other things to watch (including Firefly, Dark Angel, One Tree Hill, NCIS....I could go on. He's a much bigger TV addict than I'll ever be.), but I didn't. Until 2005's new crop of shows came out, and I noticed one called "Supernatural" in TV Guide, which I had purchased for DH, someone he likes was on the cover. Don't remember who. But I read the articles about the new programs, and thought, 'huh. I might want to watch that one. Looks interesting.'

I have a pretty short attention span and limited short term memory when it comes to what's on TV, so of course I missed the pilot, the second show, and finally caught an episode on the third try, one called "Dead in the Water", which aired in September of 2005. Scary, at turns funny, and the guest star had been a regular on Angel, so I watched and wow. Loved it. But life gets in the way of television viewing in my world, and I didn't see another episode until I asked for the whole season for Christmas in 2006. I'd seen the news that the CW picked it up for a second season and thought, good, maybe I'll have a chance to see it now.

Since I'm a pretty spoiled brat, and I get almost everything that I want, I got the first season of the show for Christmas as requested, and watched it over about 3 days. I was completely blown away. The production values...it looks more like a movie that a TV show. The writing....every episode has moments that make me laugh, startle me, sometimes terrify me, always make me think. The acting.....the two male leads have the characters nailed, besides the fact that they're two really good looking men. Really, really good looking men. I read an interview somewhere with the series creator, a fella named Erick Kripke, and the interviewer told him that fans would probably be happy to just watch Jensen Ackles (who plays Dean Winchester) and Jared Padalecki (who plays Sam Winchester) read the telephone book to one another for 40 minutes each week. True! I would. But they do so much more than that. The acting is fantastic.

Never in my life have I ever felt this way about a television show. Ever, ever, ever. I had a bumper sticker in college that said, "Kill your television" . In my mid 20s, I worked with a group of women in a small enclosed space (read that a vault. Yes, I worked in a vault. A cash vault, at the big ol' bank. Stories for another day.) and they watched "Everybody Loves Raymond", "The King of Queens" and something else that I thought was horrible just from listening to them talk about it, but can't remember what it was called. I was in my last year at Uni then, working full time and going to school 4 nights a week until nearly 10pm. They got offended when I told them that unless it was on A&E, Discovery, or TLC, chances were that 1. I wasn't watching it and 2. I never would. Plus I might have mentioned to them more than once that I think sitcoms are stupid and an extreme waste of time. I wasn't the most tactful woman back then. I have learned over the years to be lots less abrasive when talking with people about TV....now I just usually smile and say, "I watch a lot of movies, but not very much television, sorry."

I've never followed the antics of any TV characters. Celebrity gossip, yeah, I'm down with that. I read Hot Gossip on MSN, and can't let a day go by without my fix of the Go Fug Yourself girls. Antics of celebrities make my life seem so normal in comparison. But to know what Susie did on last week's episode of Comedy XYZ, no way. Dear God, never ever been one to watch the soap operas. Shoot me.

But not only am I interested to see how the story goes with this show, I'm also fascinated with Jensen Ackles. This is dumb. I'm a happily married woman who lives in the middle of the red states, fer gawd's sake, not the girl who had posters of Joe Elliott (Def Lep's lead singer, sigh.) or Chad Allen (who is out and proud these days) wallpapering her room that I used to be. I'm just a few years beyond that.

I'm an adult, with a stable job, a great house, a loving husband. I live in the real world, and I know that is it unlikely in the extreme that I'm ever going to meet this actor. I know better. I'm not a schoolgirl anymore. Even if I did by some strange chance meet him, WTF would I do then? Besides act like a moron. DH thinks it is funny, thank goodness. Wouldn't want a jealous husband added to the insanity that is my life. Plus now when DH teases me about how he has a girlfriend, (which he does to yank my chain) I can tease right back about my boyfriend in Vancouver.

Here's why I'm into it, though. My work? Sucks right now. I don't talk about my work on the interweb, so let's leave it at that. It sucks. The weather here in Oh-hi-ia? Sucks right now. Local schools have been closed since Thursday due to extreme cold. I like the cold, but this is a bit much. Wind chills today are in the -20 F range. I don't normally wear a coat, but today I have on long johns, lined wool trousers, a long sleeved knit shirt, and a (lined) jacket that matches the trousers, along with two pairs of socks. Plus I wore my heaviest winter coat, even have a scarf, gloves, and a hat. The weight loss program? Sucks right now. I'm down a reasonable amount, and the hot doctor I see convinced me that I just need to be patient, take some time, and be content that I am at least losing and not gaining. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I want to be done with the whole losing thing and on to maintaining my target weight and appreciating my gorgeous self. So that sucks. Anything I've picked up to read lately? Sucks. I read that novel by Christopher Paolini over the holidays and didn't like it much. Nothing I've picked up to read in Sci-Fi/Fantasy has been any good lately. My hair? Boring. My wardrobe? Uninspired. Not that my life is terrible, far from it. It is just...ordinary.

Supernatural? Doesn't suck. Not even a little. Rocks my world, frankly.

And if being obsessive over a television show is what it takes to get me through this winter, so be it. But Jensen? Honey? If I was single....

03 February 2007

Politicking again

Back to business as usual, then.

The Governor of Texas has signed an executive order that requires girls entering the sixth grade to have the new HPV vaccine. I first heard it on NPR, of course. If you've been living under a rock, and haven't seen the ad campaign for the vaccine, here's a link to more info.

Here's the thing. If there were a vaccine to prevent some boy cancer, let's say testicular, would anyone be thinking about requiring little boys to get it? Sixth grade means about 11/12 years old. That seems a bit young to me, but that's not really why I'm concerned. I had a classmate tell me in fifth grade that she had already had sex, so yes, it happens that young. This particular post isn't about how I feel about kids that young having sex...that's an issue for another day. At issue here is the fact that you're required to have the vaccine to get into sixth grade. Keep your laws off of my body, anyone?!? I think that the decision to get the vaccine or not get the vaccine should be up to the person getting the needle shoved in their skin, or their parent/guardian, if they're under 18.

Also the methodology of the Texas gov is a little...well...political and smarmy. He signed this as an executive order, circumventing the legislature. There's a lot of chatter out there about how this would have been pretty controversial for the Texas legislature, and no little amount of doubt that it might not have passed. So by signing an executive order, he's just tossed out the whole chance for public debate, and I don't like that at all.

Listening to: Supernatural soundtrack...Soundgarden, Blue Oyster Cult, Rush, Kansas...yay mullet rock! Maybe next time I'll write about the ridiculous obsession I've developed with Supernatural....a television show. Soooooo out of character for me. Are you watching it? You should be! Thursdays on the CW at 9pm. End fan rant (for now).