Note:

This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Under Protest

We saw the third Pirates of the Caribbean today. A 1:30 PM showing and we left the theater after 4:30.

WTF? What has gone into cinematography lately? The movie was nearly three hours long! We spent more than three hours at the movie, if you include getting there early and all the previews.

I took a nap while I was there. Geezus - three hours at a theater? I wasted my freaking sunshine to watch this movie. Sure, it was okay, maybe even good. And I am a huge Depp fan, but really, THREE HOURS?

So, I am under protest. I will not watch a movie that lasts over two hours at a theater anymore. That's already stretching it: I don't want to spend two hours of my precious time in a dark theater -- but try to find one under two hours anymore. The state of the movie-dom is to have these long-ass movies, but I won't be spending my hard-earned cash to feed their kitty.

DVD or pay-per-view. That's where those greater than two hour movies will be seen. That way, when I take my nap, I can stop it and start where I left off...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Book Review: Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger

Now this one was a great page turner. I couldn't wait to read it and it was hard to put it down, even when I was nodding off late at night with my eyes open. I usually had to re-read the previous page the next time I picked the book up since I'm quite sure I just scanned the words while falling asleep 'reading' it...

Anyway, it ended flatly but it didn't take away from how enjoyable it was while I read it. However, it was pretty cheesy. A romance novel disguised as a mystery-thriller.

The gist of the book: happy-go-lucky and somewhat successful freelance reporter stumbles upon some clues that indicate she may not be who she thinks she is. The whole story is pretty much following up on this premise. Among all of that, a sudden romance takes place with the most gorgeous, muscular, bad boy ever described in a novel.

Hey, I admit it. I used to read those Harlequin and Silhouette romance novels as a teenager and in my early 20s. Okay, I read a few more between then and now too. It's like candy for the brain for me. But this book was not intentionally picked for that reason. It was touted as a mystery thriller, which I was ready for after the previous fictional novels didn't really do it for me.

So, while it was fun to read, I doubt I will read the sequel. Now on to the next one...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Book Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This book was written by the same author of "The Remains of the Day", which I never read but deemed it as a 'literary'-type of book...mainly because I knew it was a movie starring literary-type actors, Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. I tried to watch the movie, but it just wasn't my style.

Anyway, I expected this book to be of a similar subject matter. It was not.

It was written well and definitely in a literary prose (IMO) that was believable over the previous book that tried to be in a literary form (A False Mirror). But the story just didn't do it for me.

This book was on my Amazon wish list for years. I don't know what influenced me to add this to my list, but most likely I read a review about it that intrigued me. I re-read Amazon's summary of the book and it still looks intriguing, but it definitely did not match my sense of what this book is truly about.

I am purposely being vague because I certainly don't want to ruin it for anyone who happens to read this review. The book is written so that the reader learns about the subject matter as it goes on. A lot of innuendo that comes to almost full circle, but not quite.

The book gets decent reviews on Amazon. I read it with determination to finish it but I couldn't wait to finish it so I could put it behind me and start on a new one.

I wasn't a fan of the book. I wouldn't recommend it. I didn't connect entirely with the characters and I wasn't sad when I guess I should've been sad. It didn't seem entirely believable, although the subject matter was trying to address issues going on in the world today.

My rating: unexceptional.

Happy Mother's Day

The week before Mother's Day, I had told hubby and kids about a dream I had about Lance Armstrong. I told them that in the dream, Lance wanted to date 'mommy'. I mentioned that in the dream, I was not married and didn't have kids (to which Tim's sly remark was that it was truly my dream...haha).

Anyway, it was an amusing tale to tell and we all had a laugh about it (at least I think we did).

That following Saturday, Cerina and I went to the library. Cerina and I picked up a few books and I was delighted to see that she had picked up a few more of these biography books that she had checked out before. They are basically a compilation of biographies of different 'famous' people in one book. The first few she picked up had stuff on Bethany Hamilton, the surfer girl who lost her arm to a shark a few years back, and stuff on Johnny Depp. It was really interesting to me that she was into reading all about these people's lives.

So she had three more of these biography books and was excited to tell me that one of them had information on Lance Armstrong. To which I replied, "You better read all about him. He wants to date your mommy."

Not much thought goes into my jovial statements. I think I'm HILARIOUS when I get on these whims. So it at least makes me laugh. I just don't realize the impact it has on my kids.

On Mother's Day, Cerina was busy in the playroom with firm warnings to me not to enter the room. I knew she was making something for me for Mother's Day (I LOVE homemade things for these holidays and she knows this).

When she was finally finished, she ran to me with two pictures that Mia had made: big happy faces (which are her favorite things to draw) and three "cards" that she made for me.

The first card had two erasers glued to it: one of a small turtle and the other a pair of pink lips. The card read:
to mom from: everyone
Mommy
likes
turtles.
I love mom!
mommy wishis
to kiss lance
armstrong.
How can you make this
sentence better? mommy wishis
to kiss lance tim huffman.


Then she showed me a picture she drew of me and Lance holding hands and kissing, with Tim behind me holding a hammer (?!?!?) and Lance's bike behind him. It is signed "Love Mia, cerina and tim". The picture is the one attached to this post. Very funny and cute.

The last card read:
lance might love
you but tim,
mia, and cerina

will love you more!
Happy Mothers day!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

My Budding Photographer

My daughter Mia is four years old. She loves taking my camera and taking pictures. I don't mind, since it's digital, so I know I can just delete them. But she just has a ball running around with the camera. She loves taking photos of me, Tim, and Brenna the dog.

But when I was going through the pictures, I noticed a bit of style to her photos. She was really putting some style to it. I was really impressed. I didn't realize how impressive it was until Tim looked through them and laughed about how she had placed his shoes on a stool to take the shot.

I let her take the camera (until she got finger prints on the front) and these are just a handful of the many shots she took. For the most part, she has an amazing eye, but I'm partial since I'm her mom.

These photos were all taken, and staged, by Mia herself:
Photos by Mia

Book Review: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

This book was on a list of mine to read for awhile. I finally decided to give it a go and reserved this through the Wake County Library. As with "A False Mirror", I quickly received this from the library.

This one is a biography. I had never heard of Joan Didion, but she apparently is a well-known author who was married to a well-known writer, John Gregory Dunne. I had never heard of him either.

I did find that he was related to Dominick Dunne, who was the father of Dominique Dunne, the actress who was in Poltergeist who was murdered by her boyfriend. These morbid Hollywood stories I can cite; not noteworthy novelists. How very sad.

This novel was very good. It became a bit long-winded towards the end, but the initial reading was quite deep and heart-wrenching.

The story is about Joan Didion, losing her husband after nearly 40 years of marriage. Most of the book deals with her thoughts, her grief, and her memories, after his death.

It was so good and so 'too-close-to-home' that I wanted to quit reading it. It was just too painful and almost obtrusive to read into someone else's emotional grief.

It brought me back to a time in my life when a dear friend of mine lost her husband. I had seen her, days after his death. And this strong, private woman was sitting in her living room, sharing the moments she found her husband, the continuing moments of her despair, and the idiocy of everyday people who are careless in character when someone is going through the worst moment of their life.

It was a life-altering moment for me. I feel selfish saying it, because she was the one who lost her husband. But it made me afraid to lose mine. Death was too close for comfort and I knew that I needed to make some good changes - to enjoy every day as though it were my last.

This novel brought me back to that. I could feel the raw emotions Joan had felt. I also felt how much she loved her husband, how they ended up being so much a part of the other person, and that after almost 40 years, life was not easy without him.

Forty years is a long time, but it was refreshing to know the bond they had came from their time together. I want that - well, more than 40 years - but a commitment with one person for at least 40 years.

I'm getting there, since we have been married 18 years thus far.

Anyway, I realize that I'm at an age, or place in life, where I am not looking back at what I could have missed, but instead, looking forward to what I can gain and especially, with one other person.

Of course, unless Lance Armstrong calls... That might put a kink in my current plan.

Book Review: A False Mirror by Charles Todd

This book came to me from the Wake County Library. I had recently signed up for e-mail from the library and one of the first received was a list of books for different genres. The synopsis seemed interesting so I decided to reserve it and received it fairly quickly, despite being alerted that I was number seven in the waiting list queue.

The book is not a typical novel for me to read. It was set post-WWI with British characters.

Apparently, the main character, Inspector Ian Rutledge, is part of a series of novels by this author. I discover that Ian Rutledge was a commander in the war, who killed one of his own men (I never really figured out if he was ordered to, or he thought he needed to) who now 'exists' inside of his head. Hamis is his name, so he 'talks' to Ian Rutledge. This was odd, but I got used to it.

The story is set in a small coastal town where someone ends up missing. It's a mystery that brings Inspector Ian Rutledge to the town to solve.

The book was pretty big. It was offered for checkout for one week, so it is one of the new releases. I didn't like it. The writing, to me, was trying too hard to be of a literary form. The story was intriguing, but not a page-turner. I'm glad I read it mainly because it was a different type of book for me to read, but I wouldn't recommend it, nor would I probably read another one of this in its series.

I rate it as OKAY.

The Rental

So I had been driving the damaged Odyssey since the accident. It seemed drivable, despite the fact that the hatch did not shut enough to turn the sensor off. This had the warning light on my dashboard remain on, the interior lights would not shut off and the FOB didn't lock the doors -- all because it 'thought' the hatch was still open, even though it could latch.

Then there was the rattle and vibration. I wasn't entirely sure what caused that, but once the damage assessor took a look at it, I found out that the exhaust pipe had been pushed into the thingamajig, which was causing the rattle and vibration. I asked "It's still safe to drive, right?" and I instantly knew the look and hesitation he had was "No".

In fact, he had assessed the car at my workplace. I met him around lunch and had figured I would pull my car into a closer parking space after he reviewed it. But once he said "Even driving through this parking lot could do more damage..." I decided walking the long route back from my car to my building was just what I needed on that nice, warm day.

The following day I found a body shop to take in my car. The man I am working with, Brian, is the epitome of user-friendliness. I explained what happened and he instructed me on the steps I needed to take. LOVED IT. I could tell that he dealt with women-who-knew-nothing-about-dealing-with-body-shops before.

He explained that the car needed to be towed, since the assessor had deemed it unsafe to drive. So when I contacted the towing company (recommended by user-friendly Brian), I set up an 'appointment' for him to come by my house to tow the car into Brian's body shop, so that I could get it home from work.

The rental was reserved for me from the panicked-guy-who-hit-me mother's insurance company. I asked for a minivan, thinking, no, HOPING, to get to try out what's new in minivans. I kind of knew that wouldn't be the case when the insurance company mentioned it would be a Chevrolet. What do Chevy's make in minivans? The Astro can't still be around, can it?

At the rental company, there was one other person waiting for something. I didn't see any rental employees. The other customer kindly mentioned that 'he was in the back, vacuuming a car'. The rental guy showed up and explained he was finishing up something and he would help me as soon as he was done. No problem. I sat down and waited.

Soon, another woman hurries in with several big ass bags. She walks up to the desk, where again, no rental employee. She quickly turns to the first lady that spoke to me and barked "Is anybody working here?!"

"No, dumb ass. We just like to hang out at an auto rental place after work, looking at posters of happy people with car keys in their hands." No one said that, but I wanted to.

It took about six minutes, give or take a few seconds, for the rental guy to show up. But in the interim, we had the pleasure of listening to the lady-with-the-big-ass-bags huff and puff and talk to herself. Not out loud, but under her breath, so I couldn't even understand what she was saying...all I could think of is how deranged she must be...and did she realize how idiotic she appeared? Okay, maybe I was the only one that thought she appeared idiotic, but that's all that matters.

The rental guy then came in and told the lady-with-the-big-ass-bags that he would take care of me first. She barked something else at him, not happy that she wasn't being served because it was obvious that she was more important. I was nice enough to say he could help her. I was really getting tired of listening to her heavy breathing and I wasn't sure if I was sane enough to keep my mouth shut.

Once she's gone and taken care of, it's my turn. A second guy shows up and both men proceed to tell me that "It was an act of Congress to find you a minivan". With Mother's Day and graduation coming this weekend, most of the minivans had been reserved. They found one, they tell me so I feel pretty good.

Only in hindsight do I think it was a ploy on their part to make me really appreciate the minivan.

It is a Chevrolet Uplander. I have never heard of it, ever. I think Chevy is trying a name similar to "Highlander" to make it seem like one. It is butt-ugly. The front of the van looks like what an SUV looked like 10 years ago. The rest of it looks like what a minivan looked like 10 years ago. BTW, it's a 2007 model.

The doors are not automatic. Yes, I am spoiled. My Odyssey has automatic sliding doors. My mind set is more 'privileged' thinking, since I had assumed that most minivans would have this standard.

To move my seat up, I have to dig my heels into the floorboard while pushing a lever and moving forward or backward. This takes great effort on my part.

I have no FOB with this rental. So to lock it, I have to push the "lock" button from the inside, before shutting the door. However, one of it's features is to not lock at the first push of the button, but to ding a warning that you are about to lock it. So I have to push it again to actually have it lock. This takes several tries before I get used to the feature.

Another great feature is that there is only one keyhole. The driver side door is the only door with a keyhole. Not the hatch, not the passenger door. Just the driver side door. So in order to unlock the door, I have to go to the driver side, use the key, open the door, then push the unlock button. The problem is that my habit is to put groceries, kids, bags, etc. either through the passenger door, the passenger sliding door, or the hatch. I haven't gotten used to that feature, so I am usually cursing as I figure out what to do and start moping to the driver side door.

And yet another feature is the radio does not turn off even when the keys are turned all the way 'off' AND when the keys are pulled out of the ignition. I can't tell you how long it took me to figure out that this was a feature and not a flaw, and actually, I am not entirely sure if that's the case...

Even my friend, our babysitter Christina said "Man, that thing is ugly."

The user-friendly Brian updated me on Friday about my other car. Parts have been ordered and they'll get them in sometime next week. I'll get my car back around May 29th. It's only May 11th and I'm stuck with this rental until then...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

In Search of Focaccia

One of my recipes for the week included focaccia bread. This was a 'sandwich' entree, so the focaccia was the focal point of this dish.

BTW, "sandwich" seems like such an understatement label for this dish: Antipasto Chicken Sandwich. This is amazing. Look for it on cookinglight.com.

At the local Harris Teeter earlier in the week, focaccia was nowhere to be found. No problem, I thought, I'll get it later in the week: Wellspring (now Whole Foods, but I still call it Wellspring) *will* have focaccia.

So Thursday (May 3rd), I decided to have it for dinner and headed to Wellspring after work, with my 4 year old in tow.

So now I'm in Wellspring and guess what, no focaccia. Really? Wellspring has no focaccia? Really???!!

I think I say this out loud to my 4 year old. Well, I said something out loud and it was in frustration and irritation at not finding focaccia. I thought BRIEFLY of substituting one of their other breads, but these are not focaccia and BY GOD I WANT FOCACCIA! Is it out of season, for god's sake? It's BREAD - you bake it - anytime of the year - and it's popular - so where the hell is the focaccia?

So I was not happy about this. I almost thought about dumping the whole dinner idea. I knew it would be due to irritation and not common sense. Hard to believe, but I get emotionally anal-retentive about things and focaccia - or the lack of - was one of those things on this day.

So I take Mia through the store in search of frozen focaccia, or something close. Crusty bread will not work because it's crusty and hard. I know that focaccia is a must for this dish.

No frozen focaccia. Sure, I have never ever seen focaccia in the frozen bread section, but at this point, I am not thinking rationally.

I decide to lay my decision on the fate of Fontina cheese, which is also part of the sandwich. HT did not have Fontina during my grocery shopping day, so again, I knew Wellspring would. My irrational thinking process was: if the fontina cheese was here, then I would settle for some other type of bread for the sandwich. If it was not, then curse Wellspring!! And Harris Teeter!! And all the other lame groceries that do not carry focaccia!!! And the damn bakers too!!!

As I move through the many cheeses in the cheese section of Wellspring, I see no fontina. My irritation grows. No fontina? Another common cheese for a cheese monger. This is getting ridiculous. WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME???

The friendly cheese monger sees angst in my face: Can I help you find something? I reply nicely, but curt, with "Fontina". She says its right in front of me and sure enough, it is.

Fate has spoken. It is the sandwich tonight, sans focaccia. I went back to the bakery section, asked the baker if he had focaccia and he shook his head no. I wanted to scream "WHY?"

But I didn't. I picked up a pack of whole wheat pizza crusts instead. I recalled that other recipes with focaccia have also stated "or ready-made pizza crusts", so I went with that.

Mia wanted to look at some other stuff -- yes, the stuff at Wellspring can be interesting to a 4 year old -- so we looked at that which gave me some time to get my sanity back.

I pay for my fontina and whole wheat pizza crusts and calmly walk out the door and to my car. All is good.

It's now ~ 5:30 PM and I'm headed home. I take a right onto Wade Avenue, leaving Ridge Road. I am now at the next stop light, near the entry and exit ramps to I-440.

I am thinking about dinner and what to add to my menus for the next week. During my raving at Wellspring, I realized that I was due for another weekly menu -- using up most of our goods on our previous weekly menu. So I'm outlining what meals I want to make for the weekend when BAM - I hear something *and* feel something. I am fully aware of my head hitting the headrest with force. I am totally confused, wondering what just happened. It finally dawns on me that I have just been hit from behind.

I look in the rearview mirror and see a guy holding his head, panicked at the realization that he just hit the car in front of him. I see *his* rearview mirror swinging, broken from the hit. His front end looks bad and I think about what my car must look like.

I search for the hazard lights -- how do I turn these things on? Where the hell is the button? It used to be here and now I can't find it. And my airbags didn't deploy. Why is that? And then I think of Mia and for the split second it took for me to turn around and look at her, sheer dread hit me. As I turned to look at her, I saw her wide-eyed, confused, and scared. She looked at me for assurance. I was surprised at how calm I sounded when I asked if she was okay. She nodded yes and started to cry. I rubbed her leg and told her everything was okay. She blinked the tears away -- I noted this with pride. I told her to continue watching her movie.

I still can't find the stupid hazards and I'm thinking about how we, including the other dude, are in the middle of a busy intersection, at 5:30ish in the evening, and now worried that no one will see us and will make it worse.

I finally find my hazards and have them on. I briefly look around and see cars -- more behind us who are now aggravated because we are in their way. I see the dude but I do not want to leave my car. There is no way in hell I am leaving Mia, nor holding her in the middle of Wade Avenue. I remember: it's okay to move our vehicles out of the way.

I call Tim and say "Where are you?" when he answers. He's all happy "I'm on my way home! Why?" And I tell him what happened. He's surprisingly calm, but not unsurprisingly directional. "Call 911 and tell them what happened. I'm almost there." While he's talking, I see the dude get out of the car and walk to my window.

"As you can see, I've hit your car" is what he says to me. Fine I'm thinking, but then he says, as he covers his face, "I don't know what to do! I don't know what to do! I graduate this weekend! I don't know what to do!" He is still panicked.

Tim calls me again to see how things are going, since I hung up on him when the dude reached my window. I told him the dude was panicked. Then the dude hands me HIS cellphone and says "here's my mom!"

So I'm now on the phone with his mother. A nice woman who says "As you can tell, I have a very panicked son right now." She asks me a few questions and I answer and then hang up.

I ask the dude if he's okay (he nods yes) and then I touch his arm to calm him. I am now thinking, who am I? This is not typical of me. I should be panicking right now.

But I tell him we should pull over to the shoulder so we are out of danger. I tell him I will call 911 and they'll take a report. He says "I'll follow you."

We do that and it took no time for Raleigh police to get there. I was worried about that because I had just heard someone tell me their story of a fender-bender in a parking lot where it took at least an hour for the police to get there.

He came out, inspected, took our statements and said it looked like a cut and dry case.

I still worry about the dude. Tim says "good thing he hit YOU and not US" -- meaning, he would not be as nice as I was being about it.

I start to feel the effects of what happened: nausea, faint, pain in my neck and my head. I try to think about what internal injuries I could have suffered. I conclude that the worst that could happen to me is more damage to my already damaged neck. Great. I just got over that one...

Anyway, in the end, Tim helped direct the dude back to his house and followed me home. My car, it ends up, has minimal damage -- at least from what is visible. It sounds funny driving, feels a bit rough, but we'll find out soon what the damage is.

I got a call and a visit the next day from the dude's insurance personal injury rep. On Saturday, Mia and I got at least four items EACH in relation to the accident: personal injury lawyers, chiropractors and a medical doc. All included a copy of the accident report. I had just been thinking recently about how I felt HR reps are worse than car salesmen, but my influx of mail relating to this accident changed my mind.

After the accident on Thursday, Tim questioned why I was at this intersection (since it's not on my normal route home), I told him it was for the focaccia. He was like "So I guess I'm not getting dinner tonight?"

We didn't, but we did the next night and boy oh boy, it was deLISH even without focaccia. I doubt I'll curse focaccia, Wellspring, or bakers again. Who knew they could get so angry like that?

Never Give Up, Never Surrender

My friend, and best wallyball teammate, Carlos - quoting the great astronaut Buzz Lightyear Tim Allen character from Galaxy Quest (got the character wrong the first time, but had the right actor :-))- said this early in our wallyball partnership "Never Give Up, Never Surrender".

[Sidenote: Wallyball is a sport that is similar to volleyball, except played in a racquetball room. Teams can be made up of two, up to possibly four, players. I prefer two and Carlos has been my patient (as I honed my playing ability), strategic partner for nearly 10 years. This game I LOVE.]

So, when Carlos and I are playing and we get behind, I repeat this -- my sports mantra that may not always work, but it keeps me focused on not giving up. I use this many times with my other love (in sports), running.

So when I heard about the judge ruling against mandating year-round schools in Wake county, I recalled my mantra in relation to the WakeCARES organization, who filed the lawsuit to stop the change.

Up until the judge's ruling, no one believed this would happen. I heard 'expert' lawyers state that WakeCARES really had no case. Their suit was dealt with lightly - shallow reporting to appease space in the paper, or a time slot on the local news. Nothing was posted on my regular internet reads regarding this suit, so no one really was giving it a second thought. After all, these parents, and/or many like them, have been complaining for months (possibly years) regarding reassignments and most recently, the conversion of many traditional schools to year-round.

I too did not think these folks had a fighting chance. But hearing these expert lawyers pretty much 'laugh in the face' of the 'common man', and most especially, the Wake County School Board appearing nonchalant about this action, made me give WakeCARES their props for not giving in or giving up. Passion, people, is what drives 'us' to be successful. If the lawsuit had failed to rule against the year-round conversion, I doubt these folks would have turned tail and hide.

This drive, this PASSION, these people had for their cause is what I feel is missing in our American society. We have a bully president. We have bully bosses. We have bully neighbors. We have bullies in the Wake County School Board. And someone - several someones - stood ground and fought their bullies. And for now, they have won. I love it.

Naturally, there is anger from the 'other side'. The others being the people who supported year-round conversions, or those who didn't care, or did care at one time but gave in -- well, now THEY are pissed off. But who are they pissed at? The WakeCARES group who filed the lawsuit. Huh? I guess I'm not surprised -- it's easier to point the finger without actually thinking -- but if one actually used their brain, the logical point of blame should be with the Wake County School Board (okay, so the logic is more my opinion but note the name of this blog). They've been screwing parents and students for YEARS. There is no logic in the decisions they have made. They have done nothing to build trust, so how the hell are we supposed to trust that yet another decision by the idiotic board would alleviate our growth problems?

They've bullied us for years. That includes YOU, the one without kids.

We all end up having to pay for it somehow - tax hikes, decreased home values, schools being too far away. So they've bullied us with their authoritative and arrogant status' as school board members and treat the rest of us as serfs, as though we have no clue how to run a school system. I admit that I don't, but, um, I just looked up their backgrounds on the Wake County Public School System and I don't see specific degrees or training in engineering, social sciences, economic development, or anything suited to mapping out infrastructure -- which is what they claim they are trying to do. (A slightly an unfair statement, since it's a small paragraph describing the member's background - some do not have one listed.)

But the small voice won. It's too early to see if they really won, but in my eyes they have. They went against the odds. I wonder how many lawyers they sought to take the case? Who did they speak to about their cause only to get laughed at for fighting a moot cause? But they united and organized and defeated the bullies.

For the record, I was currently not affected by the decision to go year-round. I supported the school bond referendum; I have complained about the Wake County School Board before and after I had kids; I also complained about the parents who were fighting to stop the transition to year round. But in the end, I can't help but give the utmost respect to people who would not back down.