Note:

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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

This Sucks More Than Anything That's Ever Sucked Before

My children have discovered Beavis and Butt-head. In a week's absence (me in Atlanta), I came back to hehehehehehe and B&B quotes out the yin-yang.

Apparently, they - out of the blue - decided to watch Beavis and Butt-head Do America. The title to this is "CJ's". No one else can hold claim to the quote in the house except her. And they continue to hehehehehe huhuhuhuhuh around the house.

It's quite funny.

Tim has continually done the B&B impressions throughout our marriage, then with our kids. MiMi, for a small period of time, would emulate Tim's impression of B&B. She never knew where they came from...until last week.

Tim and I were big B&B fans and watched all the episodes, probably 10 times over. My favorite episode, in which I use the line "Uh. Vanilla. Chocolate. Strawberry." when I ask a question, or see someone asked a question, and they don't know how to answer it... 

The episode actually goes like this:
[at Burger World]
Customer: Are your shakes made with real milk and ice cream? Or do
you use that reconstituted shake mix stuff?
Beavis: Yeah. Huh, huh, huh, huh.
Customer: What do you mean? Yeah, you use the shake mix, or yeah, you
use the real stuff?
Beavis: Yeah. Hhm, hhm, heh, huh.
Customer: Let me talk to the manager.
Beavis: Yeah. Hhm, hhm, heh, huh.
[Butt-Head shows up]
Butt-head: Im the Assistant Manager, sir. Is there something I can
help you with?
Beavis: Yeah. Hhm, hhm, heh, huh.
Customer: Yes. I am trying to ask a very simple question here. Are
your shakes made from shake mix or from ice cream and milk?
Butt-head: Uh... we have vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.
Beavis: Yeah. Hhm, hhm, heh, huh.
Customer: Forget it. Forget it. God, cant you idiots answer a simple
question? Ill go somewhere else. God, morons. A couple of
imbeciles.
[leaves]
Butt-head: Lets go break something.
Beavis: Yeah. Hhm, hhm, heh, huh.
The girls have watched the first season of the show. Apparently, it's not as accessible on the net as most shows are. It's pretty surreal - that my kids are watching something that was a mild, comedic obsession of ours before we ever considered kids.

Wait until they get a hold of South Park...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Good Job, Buddy!

For most of the day, I had a much better day than yesterday and the day before.

For most of it.

It started off, however, with a freaky sight across the street from my house. I have never seen anything like this and it took my breath away. I thought I was looking at a bunch of mutant prairie dogs. The fact that they weren't moving was the only thing making me think that they weren't real but I felt creepy butterflies in my tummy just looking at them.

It turns out that these were weird blow-up dinosaurs. There is a big black "50" in there, so this was a celebratory display for our neighbor.

The rest of the day went better than yesterday. It wasn't 100% stress-free but it certainly was 25% better than the stressful day I had yesterday.

But it's not over until I look at the back of my eyelids...so I am trying to get home in a good time to get the girls to the swim meet. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, the meet was canceled due to thunderstorms so we had to regroup for tonight: same time, same place. So I'm doing "okay" on ETA for home, then changing my clothes to more pool-friendly attire, and grabbing my book and crossword puzzle book for entertainment.

That takes a few minutes for me and I text CJ to make sure we have MiMi's stuff ready to go so I can do my thing and then we can take off.

I get home, and the first thing I see is a complete mess in the living room. WTF?!

Then I hunt for my cooler to put my new canned beer in. I go the freezer for my ice and...there's about a dozen ice cubes. WTF?!

OK. Now, let's get our chips into a bag. Where are my funyons I bought yesterday? MiMi hands it to me and I have what Tim calls "funyon dust" left in the bag. WTF?!

Whatever, whatever. Let's get this stuff into the car. I then hear my phone beep a hundred times. I look and I see my VM-translated-to-text message that the orthodontist had called, telling me they were waiting for me to stop by to pick up CJ's bite-thingy (to go with her spacered-molar-teeth-in-prep-for-braces). Earlier in the day, I received a text message and picture from CJ showing me the remains of the bite-thingy after the puppies got to it.  She had called the orthodontist to request another one and apparently, they had been waiting for me to pick it up.

I stormed into the house because, by now, I am frazzled. "CJ. When I tell you to find out if you can get a new bite-thingy, you should at least let me know that you asked for it!"  "I did! I sent you a text message!"

I go through my texts and, sure enough, there is a missed text from CJ that says I can pick up her bite thingy now.

Great. I yelled at her for something she actually did right. Yes. I felt bad and I apologized. Grumpily.

To top all of this off, my car is nearly out of gas. The light went on on the way home and while I can make it to the pool, there is no way I could make it to the other side of Raleigh, to pick up CJ's bite thingy, back to the pool, then back home.

But it's too late for me to do ANY of this BEFORE the swim meet.

So I drive the girls to the pool, find a table, plant my stuff there and make my demands known to CJ: DO NOT LET ANYONE HAVE THIS TABLE.

I leave a prime parking space and head out to Six Forks, inner beltline side, to pick up an envelope with bite thingies in it...which is taped to the door of the orthodontist since I never showed up.

This is during prime time quitting time.

Oh...but first...I had to get gas.

Found a station and as my luck would have it, I am approached by the woman in front of me to help her with the pump. 

I actually didn't mind. I am always happy to help. I just thought, for a moment, out of all the days, today?

Since Tim was working late, I pinged him to see if he was around. The one thing that went right is that he was indeed home while I was in the area, so I dropped by to pick him up so we could have one car to the pool.

And we made it. Without missing MiMi's first heat. We had a nice front lane view of all the people, patting the boys on the back, with their "Good job, Buddy!" I kid you not: several grown men said this, with the big pat on the back, to nearly every boy that came out of the pool.

So that made me think, where's mine? Where's my "good job, buddy?" 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Frazzled

The title to this post was my answer to the question "How are you doing today?" I haven't recovered from a week of Atlanta and no work other than trying to catch up on email.

Monday: where did the day go? A morning doctor appointment, then pick up girls at pool to take back home, lunch date, make it to my desk (in my "new" office) to dock my laptop and find out that it won't work. Get the laptop working but can't see desktop on second monitor. Finish fixing that only to end up having to leave for a meeting...THEN it's time to head back home to get girls to pool for second swim practice.

Tuesday: get up late even though I went to sleep early last night, get the girls up so they can be ready for swim practice (with babysitter), I am heading out the door with my wonderful cup of coffee when Lucy (one of my twin chicorgis) rushes past my feet and into the garage. She's too stupid to realize that the big garage door is open and runs to the other door, which is the one good thing that happened. The rest: I spill my coffee on the floor in the garage and in the house; I yell GOD DAMMIT and see the babysitter walking into the garage.

Babysitter grabs the dog, I grab paper towels, then its off to work. I am barely there in enough time to warm up my seat where I then have to run back home in order to get CJ to her follow-up orthodontics appointment. There, we learn the 6K figure that it will cost to get these metal brackets on and that, because the first "procedure" is putting on spacers within her molars, that she needs to eat whatever she wants (aren't they sweet to suggest such a thing?) because her mouth will be too sore later. I take her to HER favorite, Moe's, grab to go but since I don't like Moe's, and I'm still far away from being able to actually _get_ to work, I forego grabbing a lunch.

So far, my only sustenance of the day is a half cup of coffee (the unspilled portion) and a banana.

I realize that I am running out of time to drop CJ home, grab lunch, and be back in time for a 2PM meeting. We finally make it home, after many fuck-ups in getting around North Hills to get to the right roads. I decided to microwave some chicken nuggets I made three nights ago and eat those on the way into work.

I am late for the 2PM meeting and rush right in. Discussion takes place and then it's done and I'm back in my office...only to have to leave to get home in time to get all of us to the swim meet. We have to have MiMi there by 5:15.

But first, I have to locate CANNED beer for the swim meet. Some of you may think: "have to?" YES. HAVE TO. HAVE TO. HAVE TO! HAVE TO!

Oh yeah, and some snacks for the kids.

Canned beer. How hard can that be? I am no beer connoisseur but I am certainly a snob about my beer. But glass is a no-no at a swimming pool and I won't let my snobbery take precedence over the rules of safety at a pool. Surely a six pack of decent beer exists. I am quite certain I have seen Corona in a can.

But my stop at the local Harris Teeter came in a downpour. And all I saw, spanning two big refrigerated aisles, were BOTTLED BEER. Sure, if one can drink the swill in a blue or silver can, you're in luck. But did I just mention I am a snob about my beer? I actually LIKE beer and drink for the good taste...not just to get a buzz so that any ole beer will do. I managed to find a 12 pack of canned Corona Lights so that should last me the rest of the season.

I made it home in time to change my shirt, grab any other last minute items, and then we were off to a different pool, as we were the visitors. Get there and, because of the rain and thunder, we wait to hear whether we go on or not. It starts raining harder so we wait in the car and then we see everyone leaving.

I get out and ask the first person I see, who is right behind our car, if the meet was canceled.

She stares at me, sort of spacey. And I ask again: did the meet get canceled?

"Y..e...a...h." In her best spacey voice, looking away from me.

"Um...so this was announced?"  Because I certainly wasn't sure if I should trust this chick.

She ignores my question and says, instead, "I...'ve s...e...e..n   t....h....i...s  c...a....r  b...e...f....o...r...e."

"Yeeeeah. If you go to our pool then it's usually there."

"I esp....e...cially l..i...k..e the teabags one."



Figuring out dinner was the last of the major decisions. Getting MiMi to sit still remains the most frustrating part of the evening but at least we are home, resting, as the thunder rolls and frazzles other folks.

As for me, I will be good for the rest of the night...then a new day brings on new frazzlements.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Socialization

I have had enough of this place. It's my last full day in Atlanta. It's the last full day of this conference. There is so much irony here, it's not even funny.

I mean literally, it's not funny. I am not laughing.

A user experience conference with the cheesiest sense of user experience. This is by far *the* worst conference I have ever attended. And I've attended a lot *and* I am easy to please.

The food sucks. I decided to eat out for lunch today and found a Chinese place across the street. I couldn't cross it without being verbally accosted. It's not just me. It's like anything female out in the open is up for grabs. You men have no idea how fucking lucky you are. Assholes.

The conference theme is Designing for Social Change. I bet you think it means one thing but that's not what it means. Social change being the fact that everything we do is about social networking: facebook, twitter, and all these "professionals" who love Linked In and how we, UX professionals, need to start thinking about incorporating this social phenomenon into our own designs, products, software, whatever. _That_ is the "social change". Nothing humanitarian here...

And by now, after being here for three and half days, my social intolerance has peaked. I am annoyed with people who simply stand in the aisles, trying to make their knowledge known to people around them. Or who run for the speaker, as though they are a celebrity, after the session ends, just to get up there and get their own voice heard about how they addressed whatever situation the speaker spoke about. Everyone is a god damn expert. Why do they come to a conference if they know everything?

Today's sessions were a big fail, except for the last two...which were only 30 minutes long but thankfully, I ended the day with two good topics *and* speakers.

While most that I know may consider me as a sociable creature...I am...by my own rules. I can sit with anyone and start up a conversation (see my post yesterday with my hour long ride in a taxi) but it wears me out. For a conference, I would much rather be with a group of people I know and hang out and bitch, drink, laugh with them. Since I don't have that pleasure, I tend to go off on my own...like now...sitting at a table, drinking a glass of cabernet, blogging and surfing...my very own virtual social circle.

I fly back tomorrow. It's been a nice but lonely break. I'm ready to get back to chaos and not faking my social skills with my own peeps.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

An Adventure in Atlanta

Day three went a little more “crazy” for me.

I attended three excellent morning sessions, starting with a kick off by Paul Adams. One would think I would know who he was but I really didn’t until last night, when the hostess of the conference was giddy with excitement about him coming to speak tomorrow (today). Without trying to figure it out on my own, I was told that he was a former Google employee now with Facebook who flew in from Japan to open the conference. While he spoke about how verticals of the future will be impacted by social networking, I found out on my Xoom that he was the guy who wrote about Facebook’s security issues as a google employee, and voila! Now works for FB. It was a good opening presentation. I am always amazed at how seamlessly some people can talk to people without a rehearsed, or even documented on cards, presentation. I’m not a fan but I’m not NOT a fan…

The sessions after his talk were awesome too. At lunch, I sat at a table that was then populated with semi-big-wigs. At least one of them was by the way that most of the men at the table were craning their heads to talk to him. It was a nice lunch and then I was off to check out Peachtree station to find out what it was all about. I heard there was a coffee shop there and since there was “starbucks” at the hotel (and just an urn with starbucks coffee), I decided I had to have good, reputable, good-for-the-soul coffee (aka NOT starbucks). I ended up getting Caribou, which, despite being a chain, doesn’t anger as me as much as starbucks. Mainly because people with starbucks coffee cups act like they are tres cool vs. any other coffee mug in existence. Personally, I’d rather walk around with a big mug labeled with McDonald’s on it, just to show that I could give a shit about yuppy, shitty coffee.

As usual, I digress.

On my way out of the Peachtree Station with my Caribou (two shot) mocha, I was stopped by an “ambassador” who asked me where I was from. Um. The Hyatt, I say. He laughs. No! What is your background!

Oh. Well, my mother is Filipino.

Ah. Can you speak Filipino?

Very little, I say. Wondering why this man, who certainly does not appear to be Filipino, would inquire.

I speak a little, he says.

Really? Like what?

First thing he says: Maganda. I say thank you. Then he says “salamat” and then I realize that he is just saying the words. I thought he was saying I was “maganda”, which means “pretty”. “Salamat” means thank you.

He then adds “mahal kita” which means “I love you”.

He asks where I am from…I say Raleigh. I ask where he is from and he says Morrocco. We converse a bit more and he tells me how he is an interpreter and can speak four languages. What languages, I ask. French and three others I can no longer remember. Finally, I go my merry way back to the hotel. I love how I find myself meeting people like this.

The rest of the day goes on and I realize that the seminars for the day end quite early. I decide to check out Buckhead, with the goal of hitting FLIP Burger Boutique, which is a restaurant from Richard Blais, who is famous *to me* and any Top Chef fan out there.

I convince myself that I _can_ take the train so I make that bold move and figure out how to buy my ticket (round trip), use it to get through the turnstile, and head downstairs, deeper into the ground of Atlanta, I find myself on board and headed to Lennox Station.

The mall here is magnificent. Not magnificent like OMG SHOPPING. That might have been my reaction many years ago but now it’s like, jesus Christ this is too much. I walk around, figure out that everything in this mall is high dollar (BCBG, Michael Kohrs, Nine West, etc.) and decide to head towards FLIP burger.

But alas! Rain! Lightning! Lights in the mall flashing on and off! I am stuck in the building, watching the rain. I know that FLIP is not too far away so I make the decision to grab a taxi to take me over.

I run in the rain to the closest taxi, who motions to me. WHAT?! I yell, as I get drenched. He barely pulls the window down when he points me to a different taxi. I run to that taxi as he points to a _different_ taxi. Are you fucking serious?! Can you see me getting soaked? I look at the taxi I have been motioned to and there is no one in the driver seat. WTF? I get in anyway because, god dammit, I am getting drenched. By the time I sit in it, the driver is there. Where the hell did he come from???

I tell him where I want to go and off we go. Guess what? The traffic lights are out en route to the place I want to go. I mean – major intersections! And being in a taxi is great…sort of…because they just GO. There is no yield. There is only FUCK YOU, I have a passenger and I’m getting them there. And get me there he did.

But the place looked closed. Great. I didn’t pay attention to their hours, I think to myself. Still raining, I run in and see a couple of people at the bar.

“Are you open?”

“Yes, but we do not have any power so we cannot serve you food.”

“Can I hang out here anyway? I have nowhere else to go.” Wow. I sound so pitiful. But it’s true. I just let the taxi go.

“Yes. We just can’t serve you.”

So I take a seat at the bar and I’m thinking, I could drink couldn’t I? As if he read my mind, the bartender asks if he can get me a drink. He says it will be on the house.

Wow.

I order a glass of the Quickfire Pinot Noir (a Masterchef specialty).

I sit there, trying to get myself less frazzled. I am not entirely concerned as I plan to eat there and can wait for the power to come on.

I overhear the manager call the power people, telling them he would like to look into getting a generator, as this seems to happen more often than they care. My assumption of his side of the conversation…

And barely 15 minutes there, a waitress brings me a burger. She said something that I didn’t understand. I looked at the bartender quizzically and he said “If you’re hungry…” It ends up they gave me a burger on the house too. I am bowled over. There is nowhere in Raleigh that I know of that would provide such gracious service *for free*.

I end up having one other glass of wine and an order of fries, so I tip generously since they provide my food and drink…and then I grab a taxi to get back to the hotel. The bartender said that the best place for me to grab the rail back was where I ended up at, at the mall. That meant a taxi to the station, then the rail back to Peachtree. I decided it would be best just to take the taxi back to the hotel.

Apparently, 18:30 in Atlanta, after a rain storm, is NOT the best condition to ride a vehicle back to my hotel. It took an hour and 10 minutes to go the distance that is normally a 12 minute drive. Traffic everywhere. Lights out. My taxi drove through a huge traffic ramp median to get off of the exit ramp and get back on the local road.

And for an hour, we talked. I learned that my driver was from Somalia and has been in Atlanta for 10 years. He moved his family from Somalia to Kenya, where he left his family to come here on a student visa. He ended up in Colorado first but he didn’t know a single soul. He had friends in Atlanta so he moved here, where he worked a bit until he bought his own car and began driving for a taxi company. He has seven brothers and sisters from one father/mother, but two other sibling from father/different mother. He lived 15 miles from the city.  He doesn’t plan to leave Atlanta. He’s trying to get his mother here but it’s difficult. He has no children. And he was very sorry that it took so long to get me to my hotel.

He laughed at my story about the guy wanting to buy me a cold bottle of water. He seemed to agree, with other folks I met up today, that the Underground is not the best place to visit for someone like me.

The irony of all of this was during our conversation, I mentioned how I prefer to see how a place is “locally”. I am not big on seeing fish in a tank; I like to enjoy the natural elements of a place. Well, I got it. Traffic an all. And now that I’m safe in my room, it was quite an adventure that I enjoyed immensely.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How's the Weather Out There?

I wouldn't know since I've been indoors all day.

Today was an all-day tutorial about some geeky stuff I like. The tutorial was great but going from 9 to 5 is a bit much for delving on one subject. We don't do that for SCHOOL.

But I have been very unimpressed with this facility. It absolutely reeks of "cheap". I mean, I doubt this is cheap but it doesn't exactly have the look-and-feel of grandiose. And while one may think a conference did not need to be so grandiose, a conference that deals with user experiences should at least provide a good one.

The meeting room in which my tutorial was held looks like those cheesy rooms you see in the movies, where some droning, cheesy seminar is being held.

And this was a BYOL tutorial: Bring Your Own Laptop. But where there outlets to keep the battery charged for that long? Noooooo.

Lunch was OK. A chicken Caesar salad, bread, and a slice of chocolate cake. Along with small talk with strangers at a big round table. Not really my forte, although I'm good at it.

Tonight was the opening reception. The conference sessions begin tomorrow and yesterday and today were more "pre-conference" stuff. Again, very laid out sadly (not badly...sad...lee...). I ate a few of the crackers and hor d'oeuvres, grabbed a glass of cab with my free drink tix. Then I left to hang out at the hotel bar...too full (for now) to eat anything good. I'm eyeing some pork belly tacos...we'll see.

But in the meantime, I am missing MiMi's second swim meet. :( I love those things because I love watching her swim. She is the happiest swimmer in the world. And while last year she ended up in last place for most of the heats, this year she is on par with the leads of her heat (she's not in the leading heats, but at least in heats that she is able to be competitive in).

Tomorrow will be better. I just know it. Seminars throughout the day, so I won't be stuck listening to one subject. Enough variability to deal with my ADD brain.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Down Under

Well, if you consider Atlanta, being from Raleigh, as "down under", that's where I am this week.

I get to go to a conference and meet people in my field, learn what others are doing, yadda yadda yadda.

I actually LOVE these things because I am the perfect attendee: I am a sponge to listen to everything. I find everyone's presentation as inspiration and rarely ever doubt what they say. I get annoyed with other attendees who seem to act like they know more than the presenter. They probably do, but since they aren't presenting, they annoy me and lose credibility with me. I always go back to work, inspired, ready to try new things, or revisit old ploys with a new vigor. And in a few weeks, work will bring me back to reality and all is for not BUT in the interim, the inspiration is a *wonderful* experience for me.

This year I am in Atlanta, Georgia.

It's great to take a flight to ATL without it being a layover for another flight. An hour and a half flight and I'm at my destination. I didn't have an annoying seatmate. Although, in order to move my chair to a reclining or upright position, I inadvertently touched his thigh...which could be considered awkward for some but not me. I _did_ apologize.

I walked and walked and walked the airport to get to baggage claim only to end up being directed to the 'rail' system to get to baggage. I would have been better off to just take it from the get-go but the good thing is by the time I got to baggage claim, my bag was actually on the carousel.

I found a shuttle system to take me to the downtown hotel I'm in. I rode along with an entire group of folks that were there for an education conference. The driver was awesome, as he gave an account of touristy places that we passed. He was awesome.

My hotel is really supposed to be nice. The Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta. But it's under construction, so that affects the user experience *a lot* for me. There's plastic barriers floating around...the elevators in the main lobby do not work for the bottom two floors, which are the floors for the conference (starting tomorrow). I know it's difficult for hotels to undergo renovations and have guests but they MUST know how much it detracts from quality. It makes me think the conference got a MAJOR discount to host here.

My room rocks. It is huge. Sing "All...by...myself!" in this big room. BUT, I have to pay for wifi and I think that is one rule that a hotel should never break, which is to provide FREE INTERNET ACCESS TO YOUR GUESTS. I mean, in this day and age? Seriously? It's just lame. But my job will pay for it...

I decided to tool around the hotel area to "see" Atlanta. I wasn't quite sure what to hit but I noticed that Atlanta Underground was nearby. I had heard about it so I thought "I'm here I should check it out! Grab a beer and eat there..." The concierge mentioned that it was a seven block walk away so I thought I'd huff it over.

Well, despite the fact that there are signs that claim downtown Atlanta is "safe", I sure didn't feel that way. One of the first people I passed by on my walk to the Underground was a homeless? man, wearing a hospital gown, opened in the front, carrying a clear to-go box.

Then I passed several other people that, no offense to anyone, appeared to be "bums". They were everywhere. And all I could think of was that homeless dude that just attacked, and beheaded, the woman at random. Was I next?

I managed to survive. I made it to the Underground and I was just about to grab my camera and take a picture of the sign when I noticed a man across the street from me just yelling at me. WTF? I was trying to ignore everyone during my seven block walk but this guy was incessant. Finally, I stopped and asked "what?" when he approached me and asked "Can I buy you a bottled water?"

Huh?

So I said NO THANK YOU and just started walking past him, once I realized he was hitting on me. He mumbled other inappropriate things and then said "Can I buy you some ice cream?" which actually made me laugh...on the inside. What a pick-up line: can i buy you ice cream? What is he? Justin Bieber? I'm looking for alcohol and you want to get me ice cream? He definitely wasn't Justin  Bieber...

The Underground was a flop. It's just a bunch of stores *and a food court*. I did see a very empty looking area that had, maybe two bar-like places? but they didn't seem to be, um, well-suited for someone like me, so I left.

I thought about taking the MARTA back to the hotel...one stop, the concierge had told me earlier but all I could see were rails and not buses, as the concierge told me. So I huffed it back and totally dissed anyone that attempted to stop me (several folks trying to sell something). I'm pretty good at being a snotty bitch :).

I stopped at one hotel, with the idea of eating at their hotel's restaurant (it was on my list from the conference) but the hostess was the ULTIMATE in elitist hostess and I thought, really? You want to be a douche about food that you're charging triple for? If there's anything that annoys me more, it's elitism. Of any kind. I don't care if you're the hostess, the waiter, the chef, the owner. You. Are. No. Better. Than. Me. (I am a self-proclaimed hypocrite as I prefer to be an elitist over elitists.)

I left and man, my feet were killing me. So...as bad as I hated to do it...I ate...at my hotel's restaurant.

I prefer taking in the local landscape. And despite trying the _other_ hotel's restaurant, I prefer NOT to hang out at the hotel eatery. But I was pooped. I didn't want to venture out anywhere else after what I had experienced. So I enjoyed a nice meal in a nearly empty restaurant in the hotel that I'm in.

So that' my day one in Atlanta. I have an all-day tutorial tomorrow and I'll have more time to figure out where I can go to experience the culinary side of ATL, hopefully, without meeting more hospital gown folks or men who want to buy me ice cream (or cold bottles of water).

Where are the sugar daddies???

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay

I have no idea where I picked this one to add to my book list. But I requested it from the library about 3/4ths of the way through HP and the Goblet Fire, where I was ready for something else. By the end of the book, I had a change of heart and wanted to go on to book five...but since I had to wait for that book too, I decided to read this one.

It is a mystery? thriller? both? about a man who's wife disappears during a trip to a local amusement park.

It actually starts with the abduction of their young son at the park, then when the wife and hubby were supposed to meet up, she never shows up.

Along with the mystery is that the husband works for a local paper investigating whether a proposed private prison system is paying off city council members. Is this what caused the abduction of his child and the disappearance of his wife?

Things are not looking good for the husband, who naturally, because people like to believe in statistics 100% of the time and never actually attempt to THINK for themselves and look at evidence, he is looked upon as murdering his wife -- despite the fact that there is no body.

It was an OK book to read. I wouldn't say it was predictable, but it was in an unpredictable way. Does that make any sense? Probably not but my point is: it's not original. It's not bad but it's not great. It's like the "chick lit" of thriller books. Something to pass the time but I could have passed it on...

The writing was a bit annoying. I was able to forget it for awhile until close to the end when I was reminded about how annoying it had been. There are way too many details and while I am not even remotely close to being a writer of any kind, or have earned the right to scrutinize a professional...I will anyway. It read more like an inexperienced writer. The detail was unreal. Just over the top for no reason.
Jan was opening a small canvas bag next to it that was actually a soft-sided cooler. Inside were a small ice pack and half a dozen juice boxes, cellophaned-wrapped straws stuck to the sides. She handed me one of the juice boxes and said "Give that to Ethan."
I took it from Jan as she finished up in the trunk and closed it. She zipped up the cooler bag and tucked it into the basket at the back of the stroller as I peeled the straw off of the sticky juice box. It, or one of the other juices in the cooler, must have sprung a tiny leak. I took the straw from its wrapper and stabbed it into the box.
This goes on a couple more sentences but there is no significance in these paragraphs *at all* to the story. Just writing this annoyed the shit out of me.

Then toward the back end of the story, this reminded me of what I didn't like:
Oscar sat on a leather stool at the kitchen counter. A silver laptop lay there, its screen black. He hit a button on the side, and while he waited for the machine to get up and running, he reached for a remote and brought the flat-screen TV to life. It was already on CNN, and he left it there.
 The only thing relevant is the CNN story. But the amount of detail about the laptop is just, amateurish.

Sorry to Mr. Barclay. But he doesn't need my apology since it seems that one of his books No Time for Goodbye has been "optioned" for a film.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Do You Think I'm Sexy?

There is a a Cathy comic strip that has never left my memory. It has Cathy and her gal pals, at the beach, wrapped in their towels...too embarrassed to show their bodies in their bathing suits. There's a fat man, lying on a chair, with no shirt, and his big belly out there for all the world to see.

The ladies are talking about him: "Ewww. How can he just lie there, looking like that?" "How is he not embarrassed by the way he looks?" "I can't believe he can just lay there without concern!"

Then the last cell has him, behind his sunglasses, thinking "Look at those girls checking me out."

Yes. You men. You are so full of yourself.

Tim often asks me, especially when we are at the pool "How do you women have sex with us?" Because you men come out there, take your shirt off, and have a big belly, and/or a hairy back -- which you refuse to shave because you think it'll grow back twice as thick. SHAVE IT. Then shave it again. It's disgusting single-ply, or two-ply.

Also, another observation from Tim, as we passed a shirtless man mowing his lawn...if *I*, yours truly, were to be topless, I would be arrested for indecent exposure. Yet some men can come out with their double Ds and get away with it. What is wrong with you people?

The Anthony Weiner case. Another example of an arrogant fool. He takes a picture of his hard-on to tweet to ladies. Really? You think that highly of your hard-on that a woman is going to like to see it? 

And perhaps, I am in the minority. That the idea of looking at someone's penis, or a hard-on, is going to make me go "Yes baby. That does it for me." But it doesn't. A man's penis is not the most attractive thing in the world. Similar to the quip in the clip below, it looks like some almost-extinct creature that lives in the depths of the ocean. Yet there are men everywhere that think women are turned on by that shit.

I remember, long ago, in a far away land, I was dating a pretty conservative guy (I was young). At some point during one of our phone conversations, he told me about how his mom bought him new colored underwear. OK. That was NOT sexy *at all*...and I wasn't even thinking that it was sexy...I was just thinking "Why the fuck is he telling me about his mom buying him underwear?" Yes. I cursed then too.

So I moved on in the conversation...thinking how nonsensical his underwear anecdote was. But he interrupted me with "Aren't you going to ask me what color I'm wearing?" I threw up in my mouth and was like 'this is so weird...WTF is wrong with him? I am utterly disgusted.' But I was young. I asked. It was red. And because I was so traumatized by this episode, I haven't forgotten it to this day.

I am sure there are women out there in the world that like that kind of shit. Not me. And neither does Kristen Schaal.


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Super Funny

Yesterday the family and I watched the movie Super 8. Ever since the teaser trailer was shown on American Idol, we have been intrigued about what this movie was all about.

And we found out. The movie is definitely reminiscent, to me, of Steven Spielberg (who produced the movie). Think E.T. It also reminded me of one of my all-time favorite movies, Stand By Me.

It centers around middle school pals who are making a movie about zombies...and while shooting, they end up being a witness to an amazing train crash (and it _was_ an amazingly filmed crash scene), which changes the lives of these kids, and the entire town of Lillian, Ohio.

It's just a great family movie that was funny, interesting and lovely to watch.

But what was really funny?

During the movie, someone came up the stairs near our seats. It was DARK. I had a hard time traversing the stairs myself when I had to hit the head.

It was a bit annoying, as the person stalled at the row in front of us; then bypassed our row and went to the row behind us (the last one), then started walking behind us (in front of the moviegoers behind us). Although they apologized for their annoyance, I was thinking "WTF? You are _just_ coming to the movie NOW? It's halfway over. AND you HAVE to sit down the aisle?"

Next thing I know, I see the person, again, stalling around by us, then the row in front of us. WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! I screamed in my head. I was >this close< to showing my exasperation when I realized in what a young boy (like 12).

He then walked along the row in front of us where he then sighed with frustration. It was apparent by this time that he was trying to get to the _other side_, where his seat was. But because we were in the back, and because it was dark, he didn't realize that there was a barred off area blocking his way to the other side. So he figured out that not only was the top row blocked, the third row from the top was blocked.

So with his big dramatic "Ah...", a shake of his head, and a laugh of frustration as in "I can't believe this!", he quietly apologized to us, then put his soda in the soda holder of an empty chair, held on to his popcorn, then went under the bar to cross to the other side.

He grabbed the soda after going under, then started walking across and quickly fell down, spilling his drink and his popcorn.

Describing this can no way show you the visuals that we all had in witnessing this whole five minute event. I normally NEVER laugh when someone trips or falls. I have the opposite reaction that most have and that is that I feel bad and sympathetic to the embarrassment of the person who falls.

But not in this case. We all burst out laughing for a good solid minute or so. It was uncontrollable. In fact, I continued laughing for a good long while...re-visiting the image of him falling over and over and just laughing at it until I was in tears (I am laughing now, as I relive this moment again). MiMi would often have fits of laughter during the rest of the movie, which would make me think about it again and laugh...

I enjoyed the movie and definitely recommend watching it. But you will never have the best time as we did, with this young, clumsy kid (with manners).

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

This is the fourth book in the Harry Potter series. It sat by my bedside for months. My friend Cheryl had loan me book three and four and after I got through book three, I just couldn't bring myself to read book four. It's a tome at over 700 pages. I wasn't sure if I was _that_ interested in Harry Potter's fourth year at Hogwarts.

It's not that I don't like the series, I do. I just don't LOVE it. They're great reads but slow for me since I'm not as gung-ho about getting to the next chapter as others might be. I love books that just capture me and have me thinking about what's coming next that I can't wait to read the next page, the next chapter.

To top it off, this one was on the heels of American Gods, another big MFer dealing with science fiction, my least favorite genre. I posted the AG review on May 15th, which would have been the day I started on HP. That's a long time, for me, to be reading one book.

So a brief description of the book, which is so funny for me to do since everyone in the world has read HP over and over and I'm the newbie.

The book begins with the story of how the Riddle family were found dead in their home. There was no sign of any murder: poisoning, stabbing, etc. Just a look of terror frozen forever on their faces.

We then enter Harry Potter's dreams, where he dreams that Voldemort has an aide, Wormtail, who is trying to resurrect his master with plans to take vengeance on Harry Potter.

Harry awakens, with excruciating pain upon his lighting bolt scar. This becomes the sign that Voldemort is either nearby, or has done something evil. In this case, he kills his groundsman, who is caught eavesdropping on Voldemart and Wormtail.

Before starting the fourth year at Hogwarts, Harry is able to stay with the Weasleys. A trip to the Quidditch World Cup is planned, one of the biggest events for wizards and witches. During the match, we are introduced to Viktor Krum, a talented Bulgarian Seeker that Ron and Harry become big fans of. But chaos ensues after the match, and the Death Eaters - followers of Voldemort who escaped punishment for supporting him - torture muggles and the "good" wizards/witches fight to save them.

During this chaos, a Death Mark - the sign of Voldemort - is presented and haunts the rest of the book. Who sent the Death Mark? And who threw Harry Potter's name into the Triwizard Tournament, a tournament that is supposed to be for three people from each of the wizardry schools?

That's right, Harry Potter becomes a fourth participant in the Triwizardy Tournament, not only one more than the required contender-ship but also under-aged. He, along with Cedric Diggory, Fleur Delacour and the Bulgarian Seeker, Viktor Krum.

The rest of the book outlines the three tasks that the competitors must do, as well as the strange occurrences that continue to add suspicion to the fact that someone is working for Voldemort to kill Harry Potter.

Harry remains unscathed throughout until the final moment of the third task, when Cedric and Harry reach for the tournament cup at the same time. This becomes a trap, as the cup is a portkey, an object that is a portal to a different place, and Cedric and Harry end up in Voldemort and Wormtail's vicinity. Cedric is killed immediately and Harry is left to watch (and contribute his blood) to the resurrection of Voldemort into a being. A duel between Voldemort and Harry takes place and amazingly, Harry is able to "conquer" by grabbing the portkey (along with Cedric's dead body) back to Hogwarts.

The moment is revealed that Voldemort is rising again, which is both frightening to most and disbelieving to others.

It was at those last several chapters that I was truly enrapt in the story. I guess my affinity for dark story plots is what makes me tick so, as sad as it was (and shocking to me!) to lose Cedric, it was a great, dark twist to what has been, so far, pretty light storytelling.

I was ready to start the fifth book, but alas, I do not have it. That's OK as I do have another book ready to read but I will need that fifth one very very very soon.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Ten Seconds To Love

I grew up obsessed with Motley Crue. This particular song, Ten Seconds to Love, was a song about Nikki Sixx's rendezvous in an elevator.

As my stay ends in a building I have worked in for rouly five years, I have had many "rendezvous" in the elevator. While I wouldn't describe my interactions in the same context as Nikki did, I will say that my 10+ seconds in the elevator created some funny moments for me.

The "This must be my floor" Lady
I work(ed) on the sixth floor of a seven story building - when you include the basement. I would arrive at work, which is the main floor, with the basement below. Since the bzsement includes a food bar, as well s another entrance to the building, there is a lot of people that end up being in the elevator when I am ready to
 board one floor later.

There is one lady who almost always would try to get off on the first floor, when I get on. She would be coming from the basement, one floor below. When I got on, I would notice that only the number six was illuminated. So essentially, this woman would think that, after entering the elevator on at the basement level, then going up only one floor, that she was instantly on the sixth floor. I could understand this happening once, but I notice this behavior from the same lady several times.

The American
Actually, this person is not an American; they are of another nationality but for me to provide a description of their ethnicity would give away (at least very closely) who the person is (or might be) and I don't want to get close to "naming names".

This person is quite delightful, actually. I like their personality, as strange as it may seem.

This person is also on my floor. I see them often in passing and I always say hi even if this person barely acknowledges me.

Around lunch, there is usually a crowd of people waiting near the elevator. They are usually waiting for the rest of their peers to join them before they actually go _into_ the elevator. It took me a bit before I figured this out.

One day, I got to the elevator with that "crew" hanging back away from the elevator. The button wasn't pushed to "call" for the elevator so I pushed it, waited in front of the doors, then walked on when the doors opened.

The American and a few others got on. The elevator starts to go down. And this is the conversation that takes place:
The American, looking at me: You got on first.
me: Yup. That's what I try to do.
The American: How rude.
me: Another goal for me.

So I answered as sarcastic as possible, since I was very much confused as to what I might have done that they determined was rude. I decided that this person was not particularly fond of me, for some reason that I was not aware of.

Later...way later...like weeks, maybe even months...I was coming down some stairs in the parking lot. I stopped at where the sidewalk ends and the road begins because, peripherally, I saw a car coming down my way. The car driver, upon coming upon me, actually had a look of shock on their face when they saw me because they really were not paying attention to pedestrian activity.

I waved them along, not concerned since *I* knew they were coming and prevented myself from being hit.

That afternoon, the American and I ended up in the elevator again. I just stood there, not wanting to make conversation with a person who apparently has such disdain for me. The American then said to me "I almost killed you today", which actually made me laugh.

Maybe that was a good thing as they seemed to lighten up a bit with me after that. They would actually allow me to get on or  off the elevator before they got on, so I guess me getting on first was no longer considered rude.

Mon Cherie Man
This is someone I chatted with often...in the elevators. One day, I saw him in the basement, as I got off the elevator. He walked away into a hallway and I went to grab some food at the food bar. As I got back to the elevator to wait for it, he showed up -- like he went around in a semi-circle around the hallways. We rode back up, gathering more and more passengers on our way to the sixth floor. At the end, he said something towards me in French. I forgot what he had said to me exactly, but in ended with 'mon cherie' which is why I turned to him, after getting off the elevator, and asked him "what did you just say?"

I didn't mean for it to come out as strong as I said it...I was genuinely curious as I love French *and* I thought: who says mon cherie to someone else in public at work? But, after stalling for a moment, he said "I said my sweet". I was flattered. But he has never acted, or said, anything to me like that ever again.

Opera Man
A strange man...with a determined walk. But I have been in the elevator, alone with him many, many times, and he sings. Not just sings...but like the kind of singing one would do in their car, alone, with no one around. Just weird.

Lastly, I remember riding up the elevator alone with this:

Monday, June 06, 2011

Gattaca

Gattaca made the ICS Top 100 1990s film at #84. I was surprised to see this entry when I reviewed this list because I remember when the movie came out and it didn't get great reviews. What I do remember most about this movie is that this is the movie that Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman met and fell in love.

I am not a big science fiction fan. I got this off Netflix as a DVD and held on to it for months. And I end up watching it on one of my movie channels...

Tim thought it was a piece of poopy. I didn't think it was that bad. I certainly didn't think it was one of the top 100 flicks of the 90s...but it wasn't that bad.

The premise is pretty interesting...

...a baby is born in the not so distant future. Upon birth, listing is made of the baby's genetic future. This particular baby, Vincent, is that he has a birth defect and will die by age 30.2 years. This devastates his parents, who end up coddling young Vincent throughout his upbringing. When they decide to have a second child, they work with a geneticist who is able to manipulate the genes in order to "conceive" the perfect, healthy child. Anton is born and bears his father's name, along with mom and dad's accolades.

Vincent's dream is to be an astronaut. But because of his genetic outcome - that is made public in this 'not-so-distant-future' - he is labeled as an "in-valid" and, much like a caste system, is relegated to never excelling beyond being a janitor...or as Vincent's dad told him, the only thing he would see of a space ship is cleaning the interior.

Vincent decides to hire someone who provides him with a different identity. This comes in the form of Jerome, who is genetically perfect: an excellent swimmer who ends up paralyzed from the waist down due to being hit by a car. It is implied, to me, that perhaps this was a suicide attempt gone wrong.

Jerome is alive and well (but in a wheelchair) and sells his identity, including his blood, urine, hair and skin cells, in order for Vincent to have his identity.

Every day, Vincent scrubs his body with a buffer to buff all his skin cells, applies fake finger "skins" with blood globules underneath, to his own fingers, and wears a urine bag for any random urine tests, at the futuristic "NASA". Everything is going perfect for Vincent, AKA Jerome, until the Director of the next space mission (that Vincent is slated to go up for) is found murdered. Vincent's eyelash fell close to the scene, and due to the fact that part of evidence gathering during this future era, vacuuming everything and analyzing all the lint, skin cells, hair, nails, and eyelashes that come into the vacuum is part of gathering evidence, Vincent's eyelash sends alerts that an "in-valid" was around a "valid-only" area...and Vincent becomes the leading suspect.

This is the gist of the movie and the plot, on paper, is much more interesting than what the movie delivers. I definitely wouldn't put this movie ahead of "Seven", which is one of my favorites and shows up at #92 on this list.

Ethan Hawke was pretty amazing in this movie. In so many of his films, he's just a brooding, moody guy. In this one, he actually smiles. And he looks well-kept...and pretty darn hot. Uma plays a secondary character, although a main role, and she looks amazing as ever. I remember an interview with Ethan Hawke, after he and Uma married, where he said he never really saw Uma as beautiful...and then he watched this movie and thought "yeah, she is beautiful". I think this turned me off to Ethan forever because, how could one not see how beautiful Uma is???

So an interesting movie...I don't regret seeing it...the storyline is fun to retell. But definitely not on my top 100, or top 500, or top 1000, or top 2000...or...

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Age of Innocence

In a few short days, I will be the mom to an official teen. My oldest turns 13 this month.

I am having a hard time not thinking about how quickly time has flown. Those first several years seem to go by sweetly slow. I enjoyed having this young child and watching her grow...again, slowly.

But the last few years? Man, they have flown. I still remember elementary school as though it were yesterday and now, she is finishing seventh grade. And soon, she'll be in high school and perhaps college, and then out on her own in the world.

It's depressing. And it's monumental.

I can also reflect on my younger self, her age. I can remember so many moments of my life at her age and I am so happy for her, to be in this prime of her life, with so much of her future ahead of her and how open it is. She can do anything she wants (theoretically)..."the world is her oyster".

Last night was honors night at her middle school. Two years in a row and we've had the pleasure of being guests on a night to celebrate how well she has done all year. The guest speaker was a young lady graduating from Broughton high school; an alumnus from Daniels. She had an amazing speech, which really hit me hard -- in a good way. She spoke to them about being young, enjoying the new adventure of 8th grade or for many, high school (this was a 7th and 8th grade honors night). She told them to be bright: read. Read anything and everything. She told them to 'be the kind of person your dog thinks you are' (I used to have that bumper sticker) and to contribute to the community as a habit and not a hassle. I hope someone puts her speech on youtube. I can only imagine how proud her parents must be...as I am of CJ.

Now if I can get through those moments where CJ is laying out, in the sun, "tanning", with her bikini butt out there for all to see. I am not sure how I am going to survive. What other drugs are out there???