Thursday, August 31, 2006

I'm a Swabbie

One of the things I did in Atlanta was become a swabbie. Suzanne Brockmann had talked about a SEAL named Justin who is in need of bone marrow. (Click here for the full scoop.) Unfortunately, his relatives are not matches.

I used to donate blood. Then they went and changed the rules so that people who had been in Europe in the 1990's (as I have) became ineligible. (There is no test for CJS, the human version of what they call mad cow.) For me, giving blood had been a relatively easy way to help others. Well, the military has a similar program, but they have different restrictions. As one person pointed out, a lot of service people were in Europe in the 1990's also. I have no idea if that is why they don't have that restriction. They have these packets with big Q-tip-like things - you know, swabbies. You swab the four corners of your mouth, seal it up and you're done.

Of particular need, are people who are of monority or multiple racial or ethnic backgrounds. People's tissue types are inherited and can contain certain markers that occur most often in people of similar racial or ethnic groups. Please consider putting yourself on the registry. Even if you aren't a match for Justin, there are plenty of other people who are in need of blood, marrow or other products. There is also a civilian bone marrow donation program, if you feel like going crazy - the National Bone Marrow Donor Program.

License to (Insert Joke Here)

I am amused by the whole idea that people call in to their local DMV to report obscene license plates. I recall a while back two Virginia women had "2 DYKES" on their plate and were reported and asked to turn in their plate for something not obscene. The women were lesbians and felt they were claiming the term rather than using it in an obscene or derogatory way.

Well a grandmother in Ohio has had her vanity plate for ten years. (Aside here: it's interesting that people feel the need to refer to her as a grandmother, since her progeny status has nothing to do with the story. I guess we are supposed to believe that all grandmothers are sweet and inoffensive. I have no reason to believe this woman is not, but anyway.) It is the initials of the farm she and her late husband had owned - Northwood Tree Farm - NWTF. She was reported by someone who took the letters to represent "Now What The Fuck". Her plates have been returned to her.

As Ms. Niple pointed out, "You can't take any letter of the alphabet and make something out of it. I don't think we need to give in to obscenity or derogatory things." And she has a point. After all, if her name had been Wilhemina Theresa Farmer, I think everyone would agree it is okay for her to have her initials on her plate, regardless of the fact that WTF now has an alternate meaning.

As DC moves through the alphabet with the new letter plates I am fascinated by the fun to be had. (DC plates used to be all numbers. They now have two letters followed by four numbers.) They started with AA plates, which made one visitor ask me if DC was identifying drunk drivers with special plates. Then they got to the B's, and there was BJ and BM. As far I know, no one has suggested that these are obscene.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Coolest Fans

The Toledo Blade has earned my appreciation with this wonderful review of Veronica Mars. (There are a number of lovely reviews. A fairly random process led me to spotlight this one.)

Veronica Mars fans donate DVDs to libraries across the country.

Reading is Fun

Bookseller Chick has a great entry talking about how culturally we have lower expectations when it comes to boys and reading. While I don't want to write a treatise on gender expectations, it got me thinking. I have a sister who is close in age to me and a brother who is quite a bit younger. When my sister and I were little, my mother didn't work. My mother had all sorts of things that were relatively inexpensive to entertain us - going to museums (free in DC), the zoo, and the library. She also read to us many nights while we ate dinner. So reading was something I experienced as fun, long before I reached school where reading was assigned.

This is not to say that I think there isn't value in reading something as a class, in looking for patterns and hidden meanings. There is. But I wonder if you first big exposure to reading occurs in this type of format, if you wouldn't view reading as something you get through, much like homework. I like to learn knew things all the time, and yet, since leaving school I have never once whipped out a math problem for fun. (This is not to say that I don't use math, because of course I do, this is to say, I do not create fun for myself with math).

This weekend as I was driving back from a youth event with three teens in my car, the subject of summer reading came up. As they discussed their progress (or lack thereof), I asked what they had to read. One of the books was by Hemingway. I myself had to read A Farewell to Arms for school. And I didn't like it. When I shared this there was a moment of silence (now we were all tired so I may be over dramatizing a bit here). But I think they were surprised to hear an adult admit to not liking Hemingway. And here's the thing - I don't have to like Hemingway. Reading (and writing for that matter) is - as with all art - subjective. My taste is nothing for me to worry about or apologize for. I read plenty. Shakespeare was in it's day the equivalent of a soap opera. That doesn't mean it isn't wonderfully constructed, but it is mostly the fact that we don't talk like that anymore that leads people to believe it is high art now. Who knows what works today will be the ones that several hundred years from now school children will be dissecting.

My point is that, going back to what Nick Hornby talked about, and Tess Gerritsen blogged about, reading is the point. Within a school setting, we read the same things to facilitate group discussions. It is okay to not like the things they ask you to read. You can still learn about foreshadowing and plot progression in a book you didn't enjoy. But, I wonder if by not allowing people to understand that it's okay not to like what they are reading, that they then think that reading must not be for them.

I mentioned before that my brother was younger. When he joined us, my mother had started working as a teacher. She took a partial semester off and then returned to work. My brother spent a big part of his day with a babysitter. As far as I know, none of the babysitters read to him. My mother got home, went to the grocery store, cooked dinner (she insisted), and then pretty quickly was asleep. I know he did get read to sometimes, but probably not with the frequency that my sister and I had. He is still in college, so we will see what happens when so much of his reading is not assigned. But I wonder.

I say this not to blame my parents - or anyone's parents for that matter. But my sister and I both read for fun. I worry a bit that we are teaching people to think of reading as work, instead of fun.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

When To Stop Reading

There are many posts and articles out there about how long to give a book before you give up. I personally used to always try to read the whole thing. Then when my friend had a closet-full of Harlequins, I amended that since many of the Harlequins were formulaic (and not in a good way) so several of those I read the first few chapters, skipped ahead a bit, read a little more, and then skipped to the last few chapters. This way I could give the stack back at the end of the sleepover. Occaisonally I liked one of them enough to read without skipping.

At some point I realized that not only is not every book for me, but not all the books I think are for me are going to turn out to be for me. (In other words, sometimes I will bake a bad purchase.) So, I made the hundred page rule. If I wasn't feeling it after one hundred pages, I was giving up. Over time this has morphed into more of a sixty page rule. It is not that I am more impatient. It is that I feel I better understand myself. If it hasn't appealed to me yet, then the chances that it will are extremely slim. And there are plenty of other books out there that I will enjoy without trying. So many, that it is likely I will never be able to read them all. (But I am going to try.)

But there are a few indicators that I have noticed:
Use of italics to indicate flashbacks or thoughts. I recognize sometimes this is a publisher or editor decision, not an author decision. But nonetheless, if font is needed to help me figure out what is going on, I consider it a bad sign.
Use of a ridiculous stereotype. This varies for different people. I personally am tired of the girls don't like sports one. (Yet another reason I adore Nora Roberts). I know that some girls don't like sports. I don't insist that all female (or male) characters like sports. But don't chalk it up to gender.
Use of a child as a plot device. Characters that are children should act in a way that is consistent with their age. They should not appear only when they can ask an eye-opening or uncomfortable question and then disappear or fall silent for the rest of the scene. In other words, if you are going to include children, they should be realistic and three dimensional.
Use of the phrase "over and out". Here's the thing. In radio-speak, over means, "Your turn to talk". Out means, "I'm disconnecting" or hanging up or whatever. So to say over and out is contradictory. Anyone with any training in that would know that. This is something that is very easy to find out. I realize I'm picking on a small thing but it it representative of the whole. If there are glaring inaccuracies, that it appears to me could have been cleared up by some basic research, my patience nears it's end even more quickly.
Use of inappropraite regional references. This is very similar to the above, although it only applies when I have familiarity with the area in which the book takes place. I love Luanne Rice books in part because so many of them take place along the Connecticut shoreline, an area I am very familiar with. As is she, so while she has created a fictitious place in the shoreline, her descriptions of the region have special resonance for me. By contrast I just finished Julie Garwood's Killjoy and the characters use road references that we don't use here. (Overlooking the fact that she doesn't tell us which FBI office they're in until the book is two thirds done.) Again, some research or a local reader could have helped that out. It's not a huge thing, and certainly wasn't my biggest issue with the book, but it pulled me out of the story.
Use of caricatures. If the character isn't fleshed out beyond the broad strokes - oh look, she's crazy, oh look he's gay - I don't want to waste my time.
Use of unnecessary stupidity. Often in suspense there are things that we the reader know, or can figure out, before the main characters. Sometimes that is simply due to us knowing basic rules - someone is after them, it's probably someone we've been introduced to, and so on. But there reaches a point where there have been so many clues, that the only reason for one of the mains to have not figured it out, is because it would screw up the plot. Which means the plot is the problem here.
I'm sure you've come up with your own lists and reason, but those top mine.

One Year On

On this anniversary of Katrina I've been thinking. I am surprised that the slant of many media stories seems to be one year later and it's still not fixed. We are almost five years from September 11th - and while the Pentagon has been fixed, the rebuilding in New York is not. And while part of that is certainly due to bureaucracy surrounding building plans and zoning, all of those issues apply to the gulf coast as well. This is going to be a long process. As with so many things it takes less time to destroy than it does to rebuild and repair.

There were (and are) people who have suggested that parts of the gulf coast, parts of New Orleans should not be rebuilt. And while I certainly understand that people don't want to fix something only to watch it get swept away by another hurricane, I wonder. I don't recall anyone suggesting that California shouldn't be rebuilt, due to earthquakes. Certainly there were and are discussions about how to change buildings to make them better able to withstand the conditions. And it would seem that that would be the course here. Certainly no one wishes to live in a structure that is on borrowed time.

It is in our nature to view September 11th as preventable and Katrina as inevitable. But I don't think either of those viewpoints serves us well. Certainly looking to each event to find the lessons we can learn is useful. But we have no idea where the next threat - from nature or from humans - will come from. We can only do what we can to stay informed and to try to use what we have learned to try to mitigate the next one.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Bad Neighbors

A 14 year-old boy in Pennsylvania is being charged with misdemeanor harrassment of his neighbor. Apparently the neighbor, who is a 78 year-old woman, had complained to the family about their cat. The cat was apparently using her flower bed as a littlerbox. (I am a little torn here. On the one hand I can see that I wouldn't want poop in my yard. On the other hand - fertilizer. Also, wouldn't the cat be burying it's stuff. So is it really an issue?) As a result, the family eventually sent the cat in question to live with relatives. So, all better. Except that the boy, meowed at his neighbor. There appears to be a dispute as to the number of times that he meowed at her - he says he did it twice and the neighbor contends this has been going on for three years.

Perhaps I am underestimating the annoyance of being meowed at, but I am wondering - even if the boy has in fact been doing it for three years - so what? It does not appear that he is seeking her out to meow at her or meowing loudly or at inconvenient times (although I guess there is not a convenient time to be meowed at). Of course this article does't provide all the facts. Certainly I would love to know if the neighbor ever - for example - asked the boy to not meow at her? Does she have a traumatic experience that causes her to find the meow offensive? Were the police officers able to take the complaint without laughing? (I'm a little bit sorry to be flip here, but still, I cannot see the deal here). Is there legal precedent for animal noises being considered harassment?

I can see that if - for example - my boss oinked at me every time I walked by - that would be problematic. Harassment even. If a teacher meowed or chirped at a student - there are scenarios where that would be inappropriate. And don't get me wrong, I'm not going to start suggesting that animal noises are an appopriate form of communication or conflict resolution. But a teenager meowing at a neighbor is not the end of the world. I certainly don't think the legal or justice systems should be involved. But maybe, as a cat person, I can't appreciate the horror of being meowed at.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Books: Tear Alert

I seem to have missed out talking about the Dewey Donation - so I'm going to fix that. Some fabulous people on the web have joined forces to create this super easy way to help libraries. (The site has a really cool description of the birth of the idea and such, so I won't rehash it all here). As you may know in this day and age where government funds are increasingly spread out over more and more things, libraries often suffer. After all they already have books. So, many libraries do not have the funds to buy all the books they would like to make available to their patrons. So they have sales and other fundraisers to try and do that. Or they ask lovely people to donate books. Dewey Donation targeted as their pick for 2006 the Harrison County libraries. These libraries are on the gulf coast of Mississippi, and as you all know wind and rain are not kind to books. Some of the libraries experienced partial damage, two experienced total collection loss.

So, the libraries have created wishlists on Amazon (find the links on Dewey Donation) and you may choose to select books to send to them. As you may know, Amazon offers free shipping for purchases over twenty five dollars, so depending on how much you decide to get, you could get free shipping - and they will of course ship it straight to the library for you. Or, you may choose to send cash to the library(ies) to use for whatever needs they have.

So, now to the reason for the tear alert. The big push started in July (but you can still help). Sharon, on of the librarians has sent a lovely thank you letter (it's on that first page) talking about how great it was to help a teen who was looking for some books that had recently been donated. (See if you can get through the whole letter without feeling mushy.)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Things People Should Know #9

You may have heard that there was a plot to blow up some planes recently and that resulted a greater list of things being banned from being carried on to planes. So, you might think that people would be especially careful about what they brought with them. Perhaps shipping certain things home. Especially anything that is sold in special stores that some people don't go to so might not know what it is and then might ask you to tell them what it is. You know, like part of a penis pump. You might also think that if you decided to go ahead and pack the object in your luggage (for a trip you were taking with your mother) that you would be prepared to answer questions about it. But Mr. Amin decided, that since his mother was standing nearby when he was asked by the TSA agent about the item, that it was too embarrassing to say the words penis pump, so instead he told security that it was a bomb. Guess what happened next? If you guessed that he was arrested and charged with felony disorderly conduct, you would be right. So guess what, now not only does his mother know he had a penis pump, but so do I. And you too! That's much better.

Update - Apparently Mr Amin actually told the security guard it was a pump and was misheard. Due to his mother's proximity he was whispering, which along with his accent created confusion about what he was trying to say. Charges have all been dropped.


The FDA has (finally) approved Plan B, the so-called morning after pill, for over the counter sales. This is great news!* In case you have somehow missed what the deal is with this a short synopsis.

Plan B is essentially the same stuff found in a regular birth control pill, at a different dosage. If taken within 72 hours of sex it can prevent pregnancy. It does so by preventing eggs from becoming fertilized and possibly preventing any fertilized eggs from attaching to the uterus (which by the way what IUDs do). However, unlike RU486 (often referred to as the abortion pill) it does not interfere with embryos that are already attached. So, due to debate about at what point pregnancy (and therefore life) begins, this led to some people feeling it was an immoral drug and should not be available.

Except it was available, but only by prescription. Which was fine except that leaves out people who don't have health coverage or who may have reasons for not wanting this information on their coverage (for example, teens).

Despite the fact that the FDA's stated purpose is to evaluate safety and effectiveness of drugs (and not their morality), and despite the fact that the FDA panel that reviewed Plan B saw no reason it couldn't be offered over the counter, much as Claritin became over the counter, the commissioner ruled that they could not do that. (There was some song and dance about the irregularity of only making it available to people of a certain age, and did the FDA have that authority yada yada). So, the drug remained prescription only.

Well, acting commissioner Mr. von Eschenbach would like to have the acting bit removed from his title so has backed down and allowed it to be approved for women 18 and older.

Now some have said that it doesn't make sense to have Plan B available for some people without prescription when we still require prescriptions for the pill. And here's the difference - plan B is taken once. The pill is taken daily. The pill therefore has long term effects on the body and needs to be managed with other medications a person is taking, as well as being managed to find the best combination for each person.

I hope that eventually this will be available to everyone, regardless of age. Just as I don't think people buying condoms should be lectured, I think people trying to make the best choices for themselves should not have their ability to do so impacted by their ability to find someone to help them do that. And maybe one day that will be the case.

*I would link to the article but I read about it in the Washington Post and they require registration so go hunt it down wherever you get your news.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

No One Requires That You Like Every Book

You don't have to like everything you read. This is true whether you are reading it for pleasure or for school. (In some cases it is especially true if you read it for school). You don't have to agree with everything an author says. And yet, this concept doesn't seem to work for some people.

Several Clemson students didn't like a book that was assigned and felt that they would rather write an essay about how they didn't like the book without reading it. (I'm sure none of them were motivated by saving themselves some time.) Part of what I find fascinating is that the book is a memoir, and some students stated they had heard it glorified certain behaviors. But it's a memoir, so really it's recounting behaviors, one imagines. (I haven't read the book either, but I may have to now.) Update: Ann Patchett visited Clemson for the author panel about the book.

But perhaps that isn't so strange, since the Banned Books Cafe noted that a number of banned books are memoirs, including the Diary of Anne Frank.

Nick Hornby wrote a great article, suggesting people read what they want and be nice.

Thanks to Bookslut for the links.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Amazing Lace: Final Challenge

Note: Right as I was uploading the pictures yesterday, my computer froze. And when it unfroze if had lost it's internet connection. Arggh!

It's been quite a summer. Kiwi, Sublime, Peachy and I have learned a lot about each other. Our final challenge was to have an unlikely model display or wear one or all of the pieces. Well, we put our heads together (literally in my case, a little more figuratively on the part of my teammates) and came up with a bear. And hey,now that we are in the vicinity of the National Zoo, why not a bear. Maybe even a panda bear!

Well, it turns out the zoo is not a big fan of letting people drape their bears (who new),not even in the name of the Amazing Lace. But then, Beary agreed to step in as a substitute model. So - here we are!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Chai: The Good, The Bad and The Newly Trained

I don't drink coffee. I feel a bit left out culturally, but I just don't like it. And I firmly believe you shouldn't have to work so hard to make yourself like something. Although that may be why I'm single. But, I digress. So, I drink tea. Copious amounts of it, really. And when the Starbucks phenomenon hit I went and bought tea - ah, the glory of people who understand that for a big cup of tea, two bags are needed - and felt a bit smug that my drink was under two dollars.

Well then came the chai latte. Now I had an opportunity to buy a drink that was more than hot water. It required some actual prep. (Sort of - depending on whether it was hot or cold.) I believe I first tested out the chai at the now defunct Borders Cafe. And it was good! And while my drink did not contain coffee, it allowed me to feel more part of the experience. And is was delicious - sugar and caffeine in one handy package - er, cup.

And shortly after, Starbucks had chai. So, I got some of theirs. Now for the uninitiated, chai (which means tea) is basically black tea with spices (usually cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves and pepper). For the lattes they use a mix that has been sweetened and then add milk. The Starbucks chai had a lot of cinnamon. Such that it was like trying to drink a Big Red. Well, I thought, perhaps the person was new or the mix was off. So I went to a different Starbucks - same result. So, I stopped getting chai at Starbucks.

But then Starbucks changed their teas. So, I thought maybe that included their chai mix, so I ordered it again. Yay! It didn't taste exactly like the Borders Cafe stuff, but it didn't taste like Big Red gum either. It was good!

Now, I won't tell you I never had an issue at Starbucks. Every once in a while someone will use the wrong amount of syrup or the wrong syrup, but when you balance it against the numbers of times I go there, we are talking minimal issues. And every time I've had an issue, they've fixed it.

Well, then enters a new kid (at least around here). Named after an elk. My first trip or so, chai wasn't on the menu. Well at a recent trip to a shopping mall, they did. So another chai fan and I each got one. Big Red. Yuck.

Then I went to a bookstore with a new cafe. I saw hot chai on the menu but not cold chai. So I asked if I could order it and was told sure. Except the person making drinks had never made one. And couldn't find it in the recipe book. I was tempted to offer to show him how to do it. Or to show him that the Tazo mix they sell has instructions on the back. But I held back. Wrong decision.

I did eventually get a chai of sorts. I got chai mix over ice and water. No milk. I added milk but it was still so-so, since the water and the milk made it a pretty weird tasting chai. (I know Starbucks cuts their mix with water, but much less). I know their new and just learning. But that's two bad chai experiences in about ten days. Yuck. I may have to go to Starbucks to feel better.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Fashion May Affect Your Criminal Behavior

It seems the fashion trend of men wearing baggy, low-slung pants, (apparently inspired by the prison set) has tripped up a few criminals. (Couldn't resist.) Several examples are given, but my favorite may be this one. A suspect was being led to the patrol car when he escaped. His pants fell down, causing him to roll about a bit in traffic. He got out of the pants and ran to a mall, where - one imagines - he felt his handcuffed, pants-less self would blend. A 61 year-old grandmother of ten spotted him in front of J.C. Penney and grabbed him - holding him until police arrived.

Thanks to Lipstick Chronicles for the link.

Project Runway - Ep 6

Apparently I feel most moved to talk about "Project Runway", when I am sad. Here I spent the last few episodes worried that Robert wasn't going to break out of his slump in time and apparently my inattention to didn't work out. I think in many ways it has to be sad to go home on a challenge that doesn't involve fabric. Certainly many of the designers - Robert included - created lovely things with their recycled materials so it isn't an excuse. Nonetheless, Allison had a great idea, that turned out not to work and she started again, and the result of her second attempt wasn't great. Perhaps she should have pulled a Kayne and told the judges she didn't like it, since that seemed to work for them and he had a similar issue. I expect great things from you Allison. Mwah!

My less snappy judgments of the remaining contestants. But first, a disclaimer. I absolutely think that all of these designers have talent. But not all of them are cut out (sorry) to be reality show contestants. Or at least not on this show.
Angela - You are very inconsistent. And so far the only thing I've loved, you did as a team with Michael and Laura. I think you are quite lucky that you weren't in the bottom three this week.
Jeffrey - You're attitude is still bugging me but your outfit this week was lovely.
Kayne - You owned up to the outfit not working like you thought it would, which I admire. But you may need to tone down the sniping a bit.
Laura - I loved your outfit again. You are seeming to be a bit one-note as far as neck and waistline are concerned, although that could in part be due to time constraints. And hey, KaraSaun made it to the final three that way.
Michael - Two wins in a row baby. (And I'm still bitter your coffee filter dress didn't get to the top three.) Looking good! .
Robert - So glad you broke your self out of that slump! Yay! Keep it up. (OH and stop sniping with Kayne. Not nice.)
Uli - I really think you have stayed true to a specific vision, without doing the same thing over and over. I haven't loved all your outfits, but they have all been beautifully put together.
Vincent - I still think you're a little nutty babe. You and Angela are barely hanging on in my opinion.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Maybe this Just Isn't the Career for You

One might consider this gentleman to be somewhat of an argument in favor of a three strike type law. Or a rehaul of the prison system. But what's perhaps a bit scarier is that his 226 arrests put him at number forty. In that city.

An Amateur's Guide to Boycotts

Even before recent events, there had been discussion - how much can/should/does/will a person's behavior affect your decisions about participating in their business? Art or otherwise. Acting, painting, writing, or selling pizzas. It is an interesting question and certainly one I have wondered about myself. There are those that say that someone's behavior in their personal life is their business and shouldn't be factored in to purchasing decisions. Others say that they refuse to provide monetary rewards for people who do things they disagree with.

Both positions contain a bit of naivete. On the one hand, certainly in this day and age where I have choices on just about everything, I probably have some responsibility to try not to support certain things. Terrorism for example. But on the other hand any company or person examined too closely will probably have some mistake, error, belief or process that I don't agree with. So, does it make sense for me to factor these things in to my decision making. And in particular do I have the right to judge or determine appropriate personal behavior or beliefs that didn't directly affect me?

And I often wonder also, if I choose to factor in these things, how do I determine who is deserving of my money. Do I have a responsibility to research each establishment, to make sure their choices align with my beliefs. Or can I leave it to the media, assuming if I have heard nothing, then I am safe? And if I choose not to support one company for a decision, how do I make sure that the people who get my money instead are not also engaging in things that would make me unhappy. Is it okay if I stop shopping at the place that is using endangered forests for their catalogs, but keep shopping at the place where the employees have been forbidden to unionize? Okay, I'll give up the can't unionize place, but can I still keep shopping at the place where all their clothes are made in Malaysia for probably criminal wages, since I haven't heard anything icky about their factories? If I give up Jude Law movies, do I have to give up Robin Williams movies? Or has the statute of limitations run out on that? Is it okay if I watch "Breakfast at Tiffanys" or "Dumbo" even though they both contain ridiculous racial stereotypes since that stuff was considered more acceptable at the time the movies were made? Is it okay that I enjoyed so-and-so's work before I knew s/he was a complete idiot? Is there a point at which I might be thinking about this too much?

So based on my minutes and hours pondering this in traffic, some rules. Or really ways to make rules.

*It is certainly possible to make the argument that no one person or organization could withstand serious scrutiny. Anytime humans are involved their will be faults. So the first question is, are you going to factor this in to your purchasing. If not, you probably stopped reading already.

* Decide which things you are going to base your decisions on. There are personal things - religious beliefs (your or theirs), political beliefs, adultery, murder. There are corporate things - fraud, labor practices, environmental practices, political fundraising. (And sure, corporate things can circle back to being people things too.) This list may be small or large, static or evolving.

* Decide how much you are going to boycott. For companies: Are you focusing on a product or product line? The whole company? What about possible subsidiaries or parent companies? For people: Are you not going to watch/see/be in the presence of their work? Is there an exemption for works they produce or direct but don't star in? What if they are in it with three other really awesome people and you go to the matinee?

* Decide the extent of your boycott. What happens if you have an opportunity to see, watch or otherwise enjoy the thing you are boycotting for free. Whether it is a gift certificate, at a friend's house, or an office event. Is your boycott still in play or are you going to let it pass when the money has already been spent.

* Decide what your goal is. Obviously you are trying to impact the person's or company's bottom line. Is there a change they could make that you would lift your boycott? If so, if it is a corporation I suggest contacting it.

*Decide the length of your boycott. Is there a point where the behavior, action or stance fades. For example, do you move on from the person who cheated on her spouse after a certain number of years. (This may bear more consideration when there is no specific goal per above.) Or are the actions such that there is no end date (at least for now)?

Happy boycotting! (If in fact that is what you decided to do.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Things People Should Know #8

I understand the hatred of ticket cams. I live in a city with many - ready to catch me running a red light or speeding. (I actually pass a speeding cam on my daily commute.) The irony in all this is that I have been called a slow driver - it was actually a running joke amongst a group of my co-workers for a while. But several years back a portable (as opposed to permanently installed) speed camera spotted me going thirty six miles per hour and for this I was mailed a fifty dollar ticket. Now I would like to state (since I missed the deadline for making this argument with the people who had the power to change the amount of money I owed) that the speed limit on the road in question is twenty five. I am quite certain that I was in fact going faster than twenty five. Particularly since I was traveling downhill. I am not convinced I had actually reaching the roaring speed of thirty six, but it is possible since this road is a throughway between three major roads and even going thirty is enough to put you in danger of being run over. But I ended up paying the ticket.
But all this is to show that I feel solidarity for those who justly, unjustly or anywhere in between have had dealings with such ticket cams. And certainly I have whiled away happy minutes imagining the sudden disappearance of the ones on my route. Or at least the speed cams, the red light cams can stay. In my world, at least.
The first rule in attempting such camera vengeance (which I am not advocating, so we're clear) would be to understand that a camera's job is to record things. So one should not drive past the camera moments before firebombing it. The additional irony is that the man in question apparently felt moved to such destruction to avoid losing his job due to the points the speeding ticket would have brought. I'm sure this is much better.

Craft Benefit Analysis

I remember being asked at one point if - discounting the customization (it is exactly the color I want) and the sentiment (I made this) - making my own jewelry was actually cheaper. And my answer was no. I mean eventually. But much as a small business doesn't make money at first because of all the outlay, if you fact in the cost of tools, the cost of supplies, and the time I spend doing it, making my own jewelry is not cheaper than say going to Claire's or shopping the department stores sales. I do it because it's fun. Now certainly sometime it is cheaper, depending on whether I use cultured pearls or glass pearls, swarovski crystal or glass, sterling silver or nickel. But in most cases, no. But the enjoyment I get out of creating these things is what keeps me doing it.

I am reminding myself of all this because I spent what might - to the uninitiated - seem like an unreasonable amount of money on yarn this weekend. This yarn is for a rug (the log cabin rug - from Mason-Dixon Knitting which I now own). I spent an amount that is probably more than I would pay for a rug of the size this will end up being. But it will be exactly the size I want it be, exactly the colors I have selected, and I get the fun of knitting it. (I'm sure it will be fun and not stressful in the least.) And okay, it means my kitchen or bathroom (wherever this ends up going) will be rugless a while longer because I have to knit this, but when it's done I will be happy. And can you really put a price on that?

Monday, August 14, 2006

At Least He Has a Good Story

I don't get injured a lot, but each time I haven't been doing anything interesting. I was standing. I was standing and bouncing. I tripped. Results: broken elbow, dislocated knee with chipped patella and broken toe. When I went in for the elbow and the knee, everyone wanted to know what sport I was playing. My mother suggested I tell people I was chewing gum. (Ba-dum-bump.)

Well, a gentleman in Florida will not have this problem. He was jet skiing when a four-foot-long sturgeon leapt out of the water and into him, knocking him from the jet ski and also rendering him unconscious. He will apparently be fine. And talk about a fish story. (No word from the fish in question whether it was an accident or if the fish was tired of their jet skiing.)

Friday, August 11, 2006

I've Locked Up My Keys, But...

I am reminded of the Thanksgiving episode of "Grey's Anatomy" ("Thanks for the Memories"), where the fabulous Dr. Bailey tells Meredith to be thankful for the stupidity of the human race, since it leads to surgeries. (Most of these events don't involve injury, but nonetheless.) Since it is August, we will blame the heat for all this.

An 85 year-old woman went to the bank and was admitted into the vault in Zurich, Switzerland. They then closed the bank. With her still in the vault. And it was not until several hours later when she moved enough to set off the motion detectors, that her continued presence was discovered. Perhaps they will add to their closing procedures, make sure there are not customers in the vault.

A man in Michigan robbed a 7-Eleven and then left the scene. Except he didn't make it very far, because he ran out of gas a mile away. A police officer noticed the truck on the side of the road and was able to apprehend the suspect, as well as the (alleged) missing cash.

I really want to know how drunk the guys in Littlerock, California were. Apparently six U-Haul trucks were stolen. Four have been recovered. But seriously - U-Haul trucks? They're not fun or interesting to drive at all!

Thanks again to Wasted Blog for helping me find these gems.

The Amazing Lace Non-Update #??

As we head towards the final challenge there is suprisingly little change. Perhaps I should follow Kaffeinated Knits and convince my knitting that it needs to show me love. But with the unpacking and more unpacking, I have heard the siren call of simple knitting, which has taken the form of a dishcloth. And okay, it has a pattern too, and it is technically longer than the stitch pattern for Sublime (who has grudgingly emerged) but I have hit a groove. Perhaps with the approaching days this will change. (Peachy and I are still in the untangling phase). Perhaps Sublime and or Peachy and I will bond as we gather together ideas for the final challenge. And Kiwi will help out with that also. We shall see.

Books: Used, Borrowed and New

Some of you may remember the ker-fuffle a few years back when the Author's Guild got upset that Amazon allowed customers to purchase a new or a used book from the very same page. The email I sent to the Author's Guild about this has been lost in a now terminated email account but I recall some of my points. I purchase a ton of books. I read even more. When I leave my place, heading for a bookstore, I know where I am going. I have mapped out my route (even more important with skyrocketing gas prices). So I already know if I am going to the used bookstore or a new bookstore (or both as I did last weekend). So, Amazon allowing me to click different buttons on the same page has never changed my decision about whether my plan is to buy new or used. And it is a little insulting to suggest that I was unaware of my ability to purchase a book used until Amazon put those buttons on the same page for me.

I was recently reminded of this when I read a blog where someone recounted a story of a reader who was saddened to hear that a series she loved was ending. The person then told the reader that it was the reader had killed the series since she had purchased her books used.

I understand that publishing is a business. I get it that authors, agents, editors and all the other people who work to put a book together and in my hands need to get paid. And that that only happens when I buy the books new. But here's the thing. I spend a lot of money on books. And I don't get my money back when one of them turns out to be either a piece of crap or something that just doesn't appeal to me. So, some of my purchases are going to be less than eight dollars. Because if I hate it, I mind less if I only paid a dollar fifty. And when I get a used book that's wonderful, I usually go but more of that author's stuff. New.

And yes, I should use my library (because then, the argument goes, at least that book was purchased new. And if there's demand the library might get additional copies.) Except the library has this pesky due date thing. So, it potentially costs me more when I fail to return it on time. And this assumes that the library has the book. What if the library has discarded it, because the book was published several years ago? Or the book is out of print? Especially if it's a category romance which typically has a limited print run. What if - as I did with the Laura Lippman Tess Monaghan series - I discovered one in a bookstore, bought it, read it loved it and wanted to go back and read the rest of the series. They don't have it at the bookstores, only the last few. But it turns out my roommate has them all. Do I get credit for buying new all the ones I could find? Especially since I had read them already?

So, my point here is that the assumption that by getting books used or borrowing them from friends instead of buying everything new is hurting book sales is short sighted. Because the books I borrow or buy used actually fuel my new book purchases. I have a lot of books. (Trust me, I just had to pack them all up. And this was after I donated or swapped over a hundred.) More of them are new than not. But a huge portion of the new books were bought because I had been turned onto the author or series by a used or borrowed book.

Case in point. I first remember hearing of Nora Roberts when reading that internet groups had spotted marked similarities between Nora's work and some more recent Janet Dailey books. I was a Janet Dailey reader. Well, Janet admitted the similarities, whole scenes in some cases, were too close to ignore, apologized and blamed her husband's health problems and other distractions. Well, I remember thinking that okay maybe I should be reading Nora Roberts then.

This thought percolated in the back of my brain for a while. Then I was on vacation, standing on a sidewalk in Watch Hill, RI, waiting for family members to finish in another store. As luck would have it I was standing in front of a book store that sold used and antique books. And on the stand in front of the store was a pretty book. I moved closer and saw it was by Nora Roberts. I picked it up and read the back and saw it took place in Maryland and so went in and bought it. (The book was Sea Swept - the first in the Chesapeake trilogy.) I adored the book. So I went to my local bookstore and bought everything I could get my hands on. (Okay - not all at once. But I did buy several each time until I had them all.) And sure, I found some of her stuff - particularly older, out of print stuff in used book stores. But now, I buy her new stuff within days of its release. I buy it in hardback. Something I would hesitate to do, if I did not have the familiarity with her backlist that I gained in part thanks to used book purchases.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Cable and other guys #2

I promise not everything I write will be about moving. I have a couple of rants perking right now. But, since I moaned about the last time I waited for the cable guy (it was a guy - both times), I thought I would share this. I called Friday and got an appointment for Tuesday. (Yay - points for speedy!). My window was two to five in the afternoon. I got a call on the appointed day at twelve thirty. It was my guy (hey - he's mine for right now) wanting to know if I was home so he could come early. I told him I was still at work and he said that's fine, he'd just call the next person. Now, of course, I was stunned. And then I went to the pessimistic place. Now that I wasn't home, he'll put me last. And I'll never here from him. Or he won't be there until six. But no, he arrived around three. And took care of everything. (Okay my Ethernet port apparently doesn't work so we had to switch to wireless so the internetty bit took a while.) I'm stunned. And so happy that I moved back into an area where I have cable choices. Yay!

Since It Appears to Have Been Thwarted

I want to start by saying that I only feel safe in being this vocal, shall we say, about my self-centered thoughts on this because it appears that the plan to use liquid explosives has been stopped before it could be successfully carried out - or at least seriously impeded. But one of my thoughts (after determining it appeared that no passengers or flight crew had been hurt or were in imminent danger) was don't fuck with my Starbucks. (Channeling a little "Adventures in Babysitting" there).

I set off security alarms a lot. I finally figured my bracelet was a prime culprit although it has also been at times my barrette or the underwire in my bra. I have been tagged for special screening. So, I tend to expect that when planning for my trip to the gate. I'm okay with removing my shoes and putting them through. I in fact pick shoes that are easy to remove (Okay, since I don't own shoes with laces, that's not really that hard, but still.)

But one of the experiences that stands out in my mind was a trip I took to Mexico. I had booked two months ahead, and right before the airlines re-jiggered their schedule. So my outgoing flight ended up putting me at National Airport at about five thirty in the morning so I could catch the shuttle to New York to catch the Aero Mexico flight there. (My return went through Texas.) I am not a morning person.

Well, I arrived just as the ticket counters were opening. The airport Starbucks had not yet opened. But as luck would have it, when I arrived in New York the gate for my next flight was right near a Starbucks. So I raced over and got myself a Venti Chai. Only to discover as they began boarding that Aero Mexico did not allow you to bring drinks on the plane. So myself and another woman were standing next to the line, quickly chugging our drinks. I have to say I was a bit peeved about this until several minutes after the beverage cart arrived plying me with new liquids.

So in hearing that the terrorists - or should they be proto-terrorists or something at this point? - planned to use liquid explosive thereby restricting, at least for now, all liquids on the plane. (And electronics too, since that would theoretically house the detonator.) I was not worried about not having my cell phone or my organizer on the plane. (Now mind you I have no current plane plans so this is all hypothetical.) I was worried about my tea! How am I supposed to fly without my Starbucks. Will it be okay if I stick to airports where the Starbucks is after the security check? Because it's all about me. And my caffeine and sugar needs. Yep.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Challenge 5 (Late): It's Everywhere

Well, with the moving and my not having scouted out the nearest free wifi yet, we missed the deadline for the penultimate Amazing Lace challenge. But Peachy and I wanted to share our entry, even if it won't be able to compete for the prize. (Sublime did not enjoy the move and is still hiding. Somewhere.)

I first experienced the "it's everywhere" phenomenon when I discovered Tetris. Having previously been primarily uninterested in video games, the experience of spending every moment not playing Tetris thinking about playing Tetris was new to me. And then, it happened. I would look at my bookshelves and start going through the pieces that would wrap around them. Ooh - I could put and L shape there, a zig zag there, or I could just stack a bunch of cubes there. And that was when I realized that maybe I needed to dial it back a little. So, while this phenomenon had not yet occurred in a knitting sphere for me, I am familiar with it. (Although the power of suggestion is strong, hmm, look at that air vent, with a dropped stitch...)

However, as you may have heard, I recently moved. So, rather than seeing lace everywhere - I see boxes everywhere. And okay, that's not entirely my imagination. But sometimes, I see things peeking.

Amid the boxes.

Wait what was that?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Books, Authors, and Readers - Oh My!

Many gazillion moons ago - or two weeks ago if you use a more traditional calendar - I participated in the Suzanne Brockmann readers gathering known as "Storming into Atlanta". It was held in Atlanta since the timing put it a few days before RWA. I have no intention of trying to recap the whole experience, other than to say it was fabulous. But I am going to share some moments that stick out for me.

But first some notes and disclaimers. This was my first "Suze" event. I do not actively read or post on the SB bulletin board so I went in knowing no one. I had met internetically one person and we agreed to be roommates. I was aware that there would be other authors there, but other than Ed Gaffney (who happens to be married to Suze) I had somehow missed hearing of any of them (except in Suze's acknowledgements). And I had not yet bought or read either of Ed's books. So, Suze was the only author there I had read. (I have since corrected this).

So, registration began at two, and my flight go me into Atlanta around one thirty, so I was at the hotel a bit after two. Our room wasn't ready yet so, I went off to register and was apparently the first non-volunteer there. So, while I was registering this nice woman comes up and says, "Hi, I'm the author!". And I shook her hand. Meanwhile my internal dialogue was something along the lines of, "Oh my god! She looks different from her picture. I'm not ready for this! I'm not prepared yet. I have questions. Or maybe I shouldn't. Oh my gosh my mind just went totally blank. ---" (Yes, it was Suze - in the flesh).

So there was - as we came to call it - the yellow sheet game. (Also known as a getting to know you game.) I sat down to fill it out. Many of the volunteers and others in the suite were tearing tickets for the raffles into sets of ten. (I mention this because apparently there was much discussion over what the best denominations to divide them into was.) And as I sit down I'm checking out name tags. The tags had our names, our locale, a job title and a category. The title was not the job I do when not at author events. It was in my case Troubleshooters Linguist. (Cool! How did they know I took linguistics in college. Or that I keep learning new languages. Not that I'm fluent in much of anything other than English.) Some people were FBI. Others were Navy. That determined the meal you got to share with the authors. Then the tag had the category - I was a team member. Volunteers were sharpshooters. And VIPs - authors, speakers, and relatives were commanders. All very cool.

So, as I'm checking out tags and chit chatting while I fill out my sheet, I notice that the nice woman I'm speaking to, seated across from me, her tag says Lee Brockmann. Oh - it's Suze's mom! And, it turns out most of the lovely volunteers I sat and chatted with had been in Suze's acknowledgements.

A couple of us did at one point pull out "Apples to Apples" and even though I was the only one who had ever played, we ended pretty evenly. (Although Beki beat us all). Later that evening - after checking in and all that - I met Eric! Hey - I remembered him from the acknowledgments too. (Hey, I do read these things, and besides he's in more than one.) And Tom-the-Navy-SEAL was there too. But he had quite a crowd around him so I didn't meet him until later.

So, for those of you who may not be familiar with the story, Suze was writing category romances. She wanted to do something with characters that would naturally last over several books. A trilogy or something. So she was trying to come up with how that would work. Well, her friend Eric went to the dentist. And there, while waiting, he read a Newsweek article about Navy SEALs. They profiled one SEAL in particular, Tom Rancich. Eric called Suze after the appointment and told her to go read this article - that he had found her hook. And so, the Tall, Dark and Dangerous Team Ten group was born. (And yeah, it ended up going a little bit farther than a trilogy too.)

The other authors were Catherine Mann, Alesia Holliday, and Virginia Kantra. There were a number of panels with the authors. And Eric. (We'll count Tom as an author, he isn't published yet. But he's working on something.) We discovered that authors tend to be control freaks. Eric played host as each author came up so we could do Two Truths and a Lie with them. Everyone had filled out three sets, and Eric was picking the best. The authors got a bit snippy since they had created themes within each row, and he was messing up the theme. (Editor issues, anyone?)

Alesia's first book, E-mail to the Front (out of print, but I hear fabulous things so go hunt it down, or email her publisher), was about dealing with her Navy husband being in Iraq - their first wartime separation. During one Q&A, the subject turned to how 24/7 news had changed being at home in wartime. And Alesia talked about seeing that a ship had gone down about where her husband Judd was supposed to be. And that for several hours, she didn't know if it was his ship. And then she got the call that it was not, and that she remembers every moment of that phone call. Well, there were a few tears. Hers and others. Possibly even mine. So then there were a couple of jokes about how do you follow that!

Alesia, Tom, and Catherine (Cathy), along with Catherine's husband Rob took part in a panel about military life. While I won't name names, let's just say there were tears again, at one point, along with some lovely pronouncements about the honor of having a husband who did such great stuff, and due to the seating, the mike was getting passed from female to male, so the running joke for the guys trying to follow something emotional was to say, "So I was killing this guy..." Alesia said people said to her - especially after she wrote Email to the Front that since her dad had been in the service she knew what she was getting into. Except that, as she said, having a dad who goes away is very different from having a husband who goes away. But certainly she knew enough that she originally wouldn't date Judd, but he was persuasive and hot. Apparently. (Judd had planned to come to the event, but ended up getting shipped out. Which led to a few, "too scared to even show up" comments from other panelists.)

We had a discussion about The Wedding Dress by Virginia Ellis. I enjoyed the book but it isn't in my keep pile. It's a lovely story about three sisters in the post-Civil War South, trying to get by. The middle sister, who narrates the story, decides that the youngest - who is about seventeen and the only sister who didn't get married before the war - should have her chance at marriage and happiness. So, using a bit of what I call the Potomac Mills attitude (due to some ads that ran a lot in the nineties) they decide to start sewing a wedding dress. Despite the fact that they barely have money for food, aren't sure how they are going to hang onto the land, and they haven't seen a single man since before the war. It's the "get the dress, the occasion will come" attitude.

But it was very interesting having a fairly large discussion. It was also really interesting hearing the authors discuss it with their appreciation for some of the crafting of the story. Not to spoil too much of the story, but at one point the horse dies. It is early spring, so the dead horse clearly can't sit in the barn. So an elaborate scheme involving ropes and people and a hole and a donkey is put together to get the horse into an appropriate grave. Cathy said she thought that was a little sentimental of them, because she would have eaten the horse. (Much laughter followed that).

There were, of course, discussions about writing. And of writing a series - since particularly Cathy and Suze have ongoing series. (As do Alesia and Ed.) Cathy talked about (spoiler alert for the Wingman Warrior series) how she had a character named Lance. She had named Lance after Lancelot - who she always thought was a weenie (I agree) - and he was a big playboy, cheating on his girl on his temporary duty (TDY) assignments. So, her plan had always been to kill him off after a few books. And people are writing her, asking when she'll do Lance's story. Cathy also said that Rob - when he read where Lance died - told her he got the message.

Suze said it was wonderful that so many people loved her characters as much as she did. But that we all needed to remember that, in the end they were hers. That people would write her and ask her to promise this. Promise that this wasn't really true. That she was going to later reveal that this didn't happen. Or how could she have done this? And while she got it that it was amazing to have readers who are so caught up in these stories and these characters. But that she couldn't make choices based on that. And that she planned things pretty far out, so we just had to trust her. (Or not.)

There was the Cammies and Sequins party where both Cathy and Suze sang. And they all participated - including volunteer/reader/fan Laura - in Eric's "Famous Skit" - an abridgment of all of Suze's Troubleshooters series. (It was amazing).

Eric read from Alesia's to be released next year paranormal book, Atlantis Rising. Tom read from his book - a work in progress. Suze read from Into the Storm (in stores August 15th). Cathy read from Blaze of Glory - part of her new series. (In stores now - buy it it's great!) Virginia read. (Don't remember which one, but I just read Close-Up - in stores - it's great).

There were signings galore. (They let everyone bring backlist, in addition to having new ones available for purchase.) There were raffles. (I won a copy of Identity Unknown - with the man-titty cover). There was a silent auction. One person gets to be in one of Suze's books. (I'm not jealous. Really. Not at all.) I won a basket of Alesia stuff - including Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) versions of three of her books. Which have now all been signed. Squee!

And there was the Reader's Guide which we all go copies of. And - there were extras (and Border's has now requested them, so they will be available, as well as being on the web now). I mentioned to Suze that I had gotten my manager hooked on the series and would like to give her one. Not only did I get one for her, But Suze signed it, to my manager from me and Suzanne Brockmann. So cool!

Oh, and in addition to getting Ed to sign my new copy of Premeditated Murder, he's on my yellow sheet since his favorite show is "Veronica Mars". He and Suze got hooked when the DVDs came out, but by the time they finished them the second season had already started, so they are anxiously awaiting those. (Coming soon!).

Tom gamely agreed to be the sole panel speaker for a discussion about life as a SEAL. He said one of the big things is that his life in the Navy, and as a SEAL has given him a lot of great stories, so some people tend to get a little annoyed. When he was studying for his MBA, his group all met and discussed their goals. He said, one by one they all talked about how they wanted their group to get the best grades, As weren't enough. A pluses for everyone. And then he said that he had been in a helicopter crash where one of his buddies didn't make it and he had broken his neck. So, for him, breathing was a great accomplishment. (He has recovered well from the accident.) And so, while he was there to learn he wasn't going to spend a lot off time worrying about whether it was an A or an A plus. And one by one, they all went back around saying, "Oh yeah. I didn't really meant it before."

I had a great time. I think everyone did. I got to meet all these wonderful people - authors, readers, and combinations thereof. And I now have more authors to read. (I would say in my TBR pile, except that I've finished all but two of the ones I came home with.) And it was completely worth missing a few days of apartment hunting (although when I left I didn't know I was trading that.)

Monday, August 07, 2006


Now that's how to handle the heat. Yum!

Friday, August 04, 2006

A Moving Story

Note: This story is long. Really long. So I have a short version here. Or you could read the whole thing. Or you could skip it. (I won't know.)
In May, my roommate (from whom I was subletting) decided to move out of state. She gave the complex the required 60 days notice. I spoke with the residential manager about possibly transferring the lease and initially she said that would be no problem. A week later she called me back to say that oops, we couldn't do that. She was willing to let me stay but someone else's name would have to be on the lease. While we were having this conversation, she had already called my roommate to tell her someone was coming to look at the place. The end result of my conversation with her was that I was not willing to stay if my name couldn't be on the lease, so therefore I would have to move. I began looking.
I checked Craigslist and signed up for roommate search services. I wrote down names of places I passed. I looked at one apartment - a shared space - where the bedroom was so small that I wasn't sure my queen bed would fit, much less anything else. (The person who was staying had been there several years so the shared spaces were fully furnished as in without room for anything else).
I looked at another shared space where my stuff would all have to fit in the room - but this room was bigger. But the more I thought about it I got a weird vibe. Nothing totally bad, but just not right. And the homeowner had construction planned, which when finished would be nice, but not something I necessarily wanted to deal with while unpacking.
I looked at a townhouse where the bedroom was small, but I figured some of my books could go into common spaces. I decided to think about it over the holiday weekend (at was now July) and it got snapped up while I pondered.
So, I sent more emails. And did more web searches. And I found this great townhouse in Silver Spring. The bedroom was a good size, the roommates were quiet and away a lot. So, I filled out the application. The rental agents said the process would take three to five days.
At this point we were in mid-July. But I had a trip to Atlanta planned for the 22nd to the 26th, so I knew my time was tighter. I called movers. (Having made the mistake last time trying to get the place before I got movers and having everyone be booked up). And on day five, I called the agents back. To be told that the unit I was looking at didn't allow pets. Now of course, I knew there was a cat there. The ad had been listed as both cat and dog friendly. And of course there was the, "It took five days for you to tell me you won't process my application!". And now I am two days from going out of town.
But, the agents said, there's another place we have available that you could look at tonight. It was a one bedroom so more than the place I couldn't move into, so I asked for a ballpark on the utilities. I explained that my current building our electric went up to $200 in the summer, which greatly affected the amount of rent I was able to pay. They promised to check. I met the guy at the apartment that night. It was very nice. But then I discovered two things. There was another person who already had an application in on the place. And there was no air conditioning. (I was welcome to purchase window units should I desire, etc, etc).
Which reminds me of the craziness of all this. The place I just moved out of required a rental payment as security deposit. (As do many places these days, although seriously together we were paying over fifteen hundred dollars, I can't imagine what we would need to do to cause that amount of damage. I'm sure it has happened, but it can't be common.) But then, they have 45 days to give you back this money. By which point one assumes you have already ponied up rent, security deposit, pet deposit and moving costs. How are people supposed to afford this process? I understand why it works this way, but it's crazy.
So, back to my saga. So, I emailed more people. I called a guy with an efficiency and made arrangements to see it the next day. It was small. But I could afford it, it was in a great neighborhood, and he accepted cats. So, I called a couple more places and then called him back to say I wanted it. He called back and asked if I could give him the rent and deposit that day. (I had let him know I was heading out of town the next day.) I told him I could give him the deposit, but the rest I wouldn't be able to give him until next week. He said he's call back. I got a message that night to not worry, we would work things out when I returned.
So, I went to Atlanta. (More on that later. Promise). Sunday night I get a call - they gave the place to someone else. Bird in the hand they said. He mentions he has a friend with a one bedroom available, but its for three hundred more a month - well out of my price range.
So, I call and leave another message for someone I had called earlier - reaffirming my interest. She called back and said the place was still available and they would not make any decisions before I looked at the place. So, we talked Thursday and arranged to meet that evening. I also spoke with her roommate (the one who was staying) briefly. I also respond to another ad for a studio in DC. They are showing that afternoon. So, I go there. I walk in minutes after the start time of the showing and am the fourth person there and about the only one not already filling out an application (with fee, of course).
I head to the shared space. I was told they were in the third unit. I got there - a bit later than planned due to traffic - and the units are numbered 101, 102, etc. So, okay I knock on 103. A gentleman with a Doberman answers. I tell him who I am looking for. I have the wrong unit. He comes back to tell me they are on the third floor - the left unit. I knock there. No answer. I call and leave a message saying I am here, but I am going to head out. I never got a call back.
So, now it's Friday. I had left messages at a few places. Emailed a few more people. Called the rental agent for the studio I had looked at - asking her what their timeframe was for processing applications. Called some more apartments. Now I'm starting to hear from places that they'll have something available August 3rd, or eighth or eleventh. But of course I need to be out before then. (Our apartment had been rented for the fifteenth, I had already been told by the resident manager they wanted to try to do the walk through before I moved out so they could get going with the repainting, etc.)
I go to a building in DC - there are many people there. They have only a few people in their leasing office, which I actually like. It's a big enough building that it makes sense they have people just for new rentals, but I start to worry when they have too many. I lived one place where they had twice as many leasing agents as rental staff, and of course the leasing agents all were there late and on weekends. So, it was very convenient to rent a place - and almost impossible to get assistance once you were a resident.
So, three of us look at a number of places - all studios. Two of us decide to put in applications on the spot. I hand over my $150 (application fee plus earnest money that will be applied to my first rent if I become a tenant). And I head off to another another few places. One says they can get me in, but I would need $1650 (rent, deposit, pet deposit, extra pet rent) in cashier's checks since I want to move in quickly. Another doesn't have anything ready for the next few days. And another is just too freaking far away. I call the movers to change the time from Sunday to Monday. I call work to let them know I won't be in Monday.
I hear back from an email that I can see a place today. I ask what time. I don't get an answer until Sunday - in which I still don't get a time I can see the place.
I hear back on another email and get sent the email for the person who can show me around (this is a shared space). She's available Saturday. I respond requesting a time. I get a response Sunday that they had to call repair people who are to arrive Monday, so then or Wednesday I could come by.
Monday I go back to the building to check on the status of my application, stressing that really I'm supposed to move out today, so - while I know I'm asking a lot - I am crunched. (I did have friends who offered to put me up if I couldn't get things going in time.) She has to call to verify employment and rental history still, but will call me that afternoon. I hear back,and am told that she doesn't think it will happen today, but she'll try. They still don't have verification of employment.
So, I go to see the residential manager, and ask if I can stay one more day. She agrees. (Yay!) I call the movers, and they agree to re-reschedule for tomorrow.
I go into work Tuesday, update everyone on my not moved yet status. I call and get the forms faxed to me which my wonderful manager fills out to prove I am employed. I head off to meet the movers. I call to make sure they have everything at the building. My person is at lunch. Have I mentioned that at this point the DC metro area is under a heat advisory. The air quality is orange (much like the terrorist color coding, red is the worst, orange is second worst). The heat index has us at 109 degrees. Yippee!
I call the building again - while the movers are moving, and I am throwing away junk. (Not the good junk, that I'd already donated. This is the bad junk). I call the building again. The person I had been dealing with had to go home. I explain the scenario to the person who is there, who has three people sitting in front of her to move in. The movers sense something is up - I explain the situation. They suggest I call the office and arrange for possibly keeping the stuff overnight - which is agreed to easily. (Yay!).
I hear back - they do have all my paper and if I show up soon (money in hand) I can get everything signed and ready to go. However, you can't move furniture into the building after six. It is now four fifteen. The movers determine that there is not enough time for them to finish loading and get everything loaded in (understandable). So we stick with the prior plan of moving in tomorrow. I get to the office, sign documents (along with another gentleman who had also been working with the woman who had to go home early) and get my keys. Life is good.
I go back to my almost former place, clean up all the trash that you discover when you move your bed and clean out your closets. Load up the car and grab the cat. And head to the new place (Air mattress - I figured it would be less crazy for the cat to only deal with the car and a new place once this week.) Yay!
Wednesday. The movers call, since I have the keys now we could do this right away. I explain I am on my way to work and would like to be there for a few minutes before I turn around and leave. We agree on eleven, so I have time to make it back to the new place. (Predictably this means they do not arrive until noon). I talk to the parking guy who tells me he will get the movers all set up and it's all good. And yet, thirty minutes pass and the movers haven' made it back to the apartment. I am torn between not being there when they arrive and wanting to make sure there isn't a problem. I locate one of them, they parking guy told them their truck was too big. They asked for permission to parking on the street level parking (rather than underground) but are told that that entrance can't be blocked off for security and emergency exit reasons. The building guy suggests they leave the truck where it is on the street and just use there carts to carry stuff into the lot, down to the loading dock and then over to the elevators. Have I mentioned that today the heat index is 114 degrees with code red air quality?
The movers call their office and the office will send another guy to help. They tell me to go back and wait in my place. (I got a lot of reading done). So, apparently another guy from the building came out and said the truck will fit so they tried again and it did. Oh. And the freight elevator hadn't been available but then it was and so I got the key. And stuff started appearing in my apartment. (My cat hid in the closet). So, at the end of the day I have a place full of boxes. I have a place! Now, I just have to unpack.
A Moving Story: The Short Version
Had to find new place. Looked, web searched, Craisglisted, called, emailed.
Too small
Construction + weird
Small but got snapped up
No pets (even though the ad said pets okay)
No air conditioning (are you kidding me?)
Small but okay but then they gave it to someone else while I was out of town
Four other people already applying
Got wrong apartment number + nobody home
Two places we can't set a time I can see
Apply for one
Several that won't be ready in time for me
And, I finally get the (second) one I officially apply for - after rescheduling the movers twice and having to move in (stuff-wise) a day after I move out in part due to communication issues and a leasing person having to leave the office early. But I am now safely ensconced. Just need to unpack.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Books: Another Cool Site

I have recently found (with the help of a Bookslut) Field-Tested Books. They do not review books, they instead discuss the place where they read the book(s) in question and possibly the melding of the topic and place. It includes contributions from Wendy McClure and Whitney Pastorek, but so far I have a special fondness for Christina Talcott's contribution, since it involves the Little Falls Library, which played a part in my childhood also.

I know

I promise stuff. I whet your appetite with future tales of books and authors and moving. And then - silence. And even this entry is really me telling you I can't think yet. The heat, the stress (moving wise) have melted my brain. I was actually glad to head into work today because it meant I had to think about something else. At least part of the time. So, I have forgotten. But - not yet.