Thursday, April 30, 2009

Race Court with Judge Jason

I do not always agree with Jason Whitlock, the “edgy” Fox Sports columnist. And I am only a semi-regular reader anyway. But he has always had something interesting to say about race as it relates to sports and sports media and lately, diversity has been a big issue at work and at school.

This article is great. Whitlock talks about the difference between jokes, picking on people, and actual racism:

As RAC [racial apology czar], it would not be my goal to legalize idiots to say whatever they want under the pretense that "it was just a joke." But it is quite evident that a professional, someone with expertise in tasteless humor and racial politics, needs to define the difference between a McNabb lookalike and hoping Tiger Woods serves fried chicken and collard greens at Augusta National Golf Course.

This isn’t just about sports, people. He is referring to the everyday question about the line between what is funny and what is offensive - and the line between what is offensive and what is racist.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The State of Consumption

I don’t imagine this is news to many people, but it seems we haven’t learned anything. MSN Money reported on a study by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling that says :

“Nearly a third of Americans are without savings of any kind outside retirement plans.
A full one-third had not saved anything in the past year for retirement either.
One in four had paid at least one bill late in the past year.
28% of those with a mortgage said they were unaware of the terms.
Of those spending less, about 45% said they saw their newfound thrift as temporary and planned to recapture their old lifestyles once the economy improved.”

So 45% of us aren’t even pretending to think that maybe we got ourselves into this mess and should change our behavior.

We thought this would be a wake up call. But really, I think we just made bargain-hunting the national past time. A new Home Goods store opened near me and I couldn’t even get a parking spot on a Tuesday afternoon. At the Whole Foods two stores away.

I did it myself a couple of weeks ago. I walked into a TJ Maxx needing a last-minute Easter gift for my niece. I was in that shopping center and knew they had a toy section. I walked out with a lovely toy and a Michael Kors tote bag.

It was 55% off! And I needed a new bag for summer!

I guess for me, because I have 30+ years until retirement, the Dow Jones average means less to my spending habits than the fact that I have a job. Maybe that is how everyone else sees it, too.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I Cannot Take This Series Anymore

I hate overtime. I really, really hate overtime.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery

Book 16
I read Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery because I had never read it before. As a child, I thought it would be a bit too Little House on the Prairie for me. And I didn’t like Little House on the Prairie.

I had seen some of the PBS cartoon, so I was hopeful.

I loved it in the beginning. Orphan girl adopted by an older, unmarried farmer that lives with his sister. The farmer, Matthew, is the type that can’t even speak in the company of ladies. His sister, Marilla, is all stern and sensible. Anne is all sensibility. And she talks too much.

For the first half of the book, I found it charming. Later on, I started skipping over her monologues.

As a whole, I can see why this book was so popular. In the post-Harry Potter era, however, it is bound to lose its sparkle.

Have You Seen What the Bears' New DE Can Do?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dracula - The Resurrection

Several weeks ago, feeling like I was burning out, I was looking at computer games at Half Price Books. They had a three-pack of Dracula games, so I bought it.

I took the final exam yesterday.

After enjoying what was left of the nice weather, I camped out in my room and played the first game - Dracula, The Resurrection.

It was fine. The audio was choppy and I cheated a lot, but it was fun. The player is Harker, trying to save Mina again. I never could stand Mina. And because it is a computer game, Mina looks like this each of the few screens where we see

So low cut that even as a CG character, one doesn't want to look.

I started the second game a few minutes ago and was killed by a giant vampire bat in the second scene. So I guess this is a game where you can get killed.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros

Book 15

I read The House on Mango Street because it is the One Book, One Chicago pick for this season. (Utter Scoundrel is now saying "Ahem, you haven't read The Long Goodbye yet". It's on my shelf!)

This slim volume of vignettes is from the point of view of a young girl named Esperanza living in Chicago. The House is the first her family has ever owned, but it is rather too small for the group of them and she finds it shabby. She goes so far as to say she is ashamed.

What I like is that the stories illuminate her identity in several ways. There were many places where I could absolutely relate to her experience and others that were just..foreign. For example, Esperanza first gets a job to pay her tuition to Catholic school. Her father told her that "nobody went to public school unless they wanted to turn out bad".

I know about kids that worked for pocket money. And kids that worked because they wanted new clothes. Hell - even kids that worked to help pay the bills. But I had never heard of kids that had to work because their parents wouldn't send them to public school. Interesting.

There were pieces that were observations about the neighbors. One that wanted to go home and cried when her young son started to speak - English. One who was so pretty that her husband locked her in the house when he went to work. A school friend whose father hit her.

There was one toward the end that made me think:

She is talking with three old ladies at a funeral. They tell her to make a wish. Then one says:

"When you leave you must remember to come back. For the ones who cannot leave as easily as you."

Esperanza was ashamed that they knew what she wished for. That she had made such a selfish wish. I thought, "Geez. Doesn't every thirteen year old girl wish she could go away and never come back?"

Doesn't every thirteen year old girl hate her name? Weren't we all caught in a horrible place between wanting to climb trees and wanting to wear lipstick?

I understand they are teaching this book in schools now. I hope the thirteen year old girls get that message.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Liquid Lunch

Yesterday, after a couple of tense meetings, I realized it was noon. I had a 1pm conference call before a 2:30 meeting. I knew I had to eat something, but I wasn't hungry. I was all wound up. I remembered the summer I was sick and I didn't feel like eating I went to the smoothie place. So I hiked over to Jamba Juice and picked up some peach concoction. With immunity boost. Whatever that is.

I was pretty hungry when I finally got home, but I made it through the day.

Today, I had lunch with Joy and we managed to not stuff ourselves. Which was good because I have to eat dinner early in order to be at the library for the 6-9 pm shift. But after going home, feeding Eloise and watching my mother scrub the kitchen from top to bottom (Terminix was visiting today), all I wanted was ice cream.

Aha. The Dairy Bar is open. This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is my first vanilla malt of the

It was awesome.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Back from Columbus

I was just reading somewhere that the traffic at mid-sized airports was way down. No kidding. I took this in Columbus this morning:

One airplane over something like six gates. I realize that Columbus is not O'Hare, but this is not normal.

Also not normal. Here is how Spooky feels about me and my travel schedule:

Notice how he refuses to look at me.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Have you ever been on the road and looked at the restaurants and been so bored and so tired that you just did this? Probably cost the same as Chicken and Biscuits at the Cheesecake Factory.
P.S. Natural peanut butter is not normal.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Happy Trails

When I heard John Madden is retiring, I thought he must be sick. But he says he isn’t. He is 73 years old and wants to enjoy his grandchildren. Michael Hiestand at USA Today wrote the nicest article and if I wasn’t already aware, it became quite apparent as I read through that I am going to miss the guy.

Sunday Night Football is the best thing since Monday Night Football. Madden isn’t the entire reason, but he’s a big part of it. The reason that we should all kiss him – which I didn’t even know until today – is that he is pretty well responsible for our TV screens coloring in the unofficial first-down marker.

I love the unofficial first-down marker.

The great Mike Singletary is quoted as saying, "He called the game the way players and coaches like it to be called," but I really think he called it like a fan. A fan that knew every possible nerd detail of the game, and then made up some new ones. For fun.

My personal favorite: “One knee (down) equals two feet” became, “One (butt) cheek equals two feet”. To explain when the ball is down or whether the player stayed in bounds.

I will not miss “turducken”.

Here’s my question. Once he is retired, will the Madden Curse live on?

Star Wars - Shatterpoint, by Matthew Stover

Book 14

Shatterpoint, by Matthew Stover, is a Clone Wars novel following Mace Windu on a bad, scary mission to his home world. I read Stover's novelization of Revenge of the Sith and it was a really good adaptation, so I was excited about this one.

The best compliment I have ever heard about a Star Wars novel was when the first Zahn novel was realeased. It was something like, "I could hear the John Williams soundtrack as I read it."

I did, in fact, hear the John Williams soundtrack, as I read Shatterpoint.

Shatterpoint, incidentally, is the weak spot. The tiny point of weakness that you don't even have to hit very hard on the strongest thing to get it to break. Master Windu's gift is to see the shatterpoint in freaking everything.

The narrative started out rather slowly. There was fight after incident after fight as stuff got worse and worse. But Stover fleshed out this character, Master Windu, just as I imagined him. He answered one of the questions that had been bugging me for awhile:

You know all of the "don't get attached" "learn to let go"-whatever that Yoda is always preaching? We know that Anakin flunked that class. We know that Obi Wan had a pretty damn hard time, too. Did any of the othe Jedi struggle with that concept?
Why, yes. They did. Except maybe Yoda, I don't know.

Anyway. Stover addressed a "what the hell" question from Episode II:

"Instead of sending in all the Jedi to die, why didn't someone just drop a bomb on the arena. Sacrifice one senator and two Jedi to end the war before it started?"

The answer, of course, is that Jedi don't drop bombs. But the philosophical debate was pretty interesting. Geonosis messed Master Windu up. But, whoa, can he fight.

One of the best scenes was at the end, in Palpatine's office. Master Windu was talking about how jedi were not designed for war. He said:

"It's war. Not just that war, but war itself. When every choice you make means death. When saving these innocents means those innocents die. I'm not sure that any Jedi can survive those choices for long. "

Then Palpatine says:

"Who would have thought that fighting a war could have such a terrible effect on Jedi? Even when we win," he murmered. "Who would ever have thought such a thing?"

The scene continues and I found it chilling. Which is pretty damn good for a Star Wars book.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Hate Group Projects

I was telling my brother about my group project for school. It was Easter Sunday and we were sitting down to brunch. He said, "I hate group projects." My nephew, Alex, age 4, said:

"I hate snow."

Then my brother remembered that we are not to use the word "hate" in front of Alex. Because it is bad to hate things. Wait. I'm pretty sure we aren't supposed to use the word "bad" either.

I hate group projects.

I have been online and in the chat room every night. I left the Refuge early last night to get home and into the chat room. I am right now at the library for my regular Thursday night gig and I am still logged in to that chat room. People are not showing up. I have already done what I consider to be more than my fair share of this thing, we are not near done and people are still not showing up.

So I minimized the chat room and go to read this week's lecture. The lecture is on diverse and virtual teams. Really. It actually says that graduate students hate group projects. It says that the products from the group projects of graduate students suck. It suggests that it is ok that the products suck, because in the real world there will be a supervisor supervising and it won't be all scholarly-whatever.

I remember the last time, it was goofy trying to coordinate. There were 15 of us in that group. But the workload wasn't that bad. For me, anyway. The programmers had it harder. But at the end, I thought the result wasn't half-bad. With this one, there are only five of us It's just bad.

I should go back to taking pictures of my dog.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

This Was Interesting

I am doing a project for school on Diversity. We read in class about the Implicit Association Test, part of Project Implicit. Project Implicit is a “Virtual Laboratory for the social and behavioral sciences designed to facilitate the research of implicit social cognition: cognitions, feelings, and evaluations that are not necessarily available to conscious awareness, conscious control, conscious intention, or self-reflection” .

So I looked it up and took the first one listed. If I understand correctly, you can take the test, it is confidential, but they get to use the results in their research. Anyway, it was trying to gauge my "preference" for gay people or straight people. The test is a word association thing, timed to peg your automatic reactions. It was even fun in a nerdy-video game way. My result:

Your data suggest a slight automatic preference for Gay People compared to Straight People.

Huh. OK. Only 7% of the population falls into this category. I didn't delve too deeply into what it "means", but if you are interested in the research, or would like to try it yourself, you can read more about it here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What is in My Wallet

MSN Money has an article entitled, “What Your Wallet Says About You”. It basically says that if your wallet is a mess, your finances are probably a mess, too. It particularly notes the terrible, tragic problem of having change lying around on the floor of your car.

Under the heading “Chaotic Cash”:

“The bills in your wallet are crumpled and in no particular order. There's change in the bottom of your pocketbook or even the floor of your car.

Someone who treats money cavalierly often does not respect money or may not even care about finances, Thakor says. If you leave money around, you're basically saying it's not important enough to put it in a safe and protected place.”

Or. We treat cash cavalierly because we don’t use it so much as the credit cards that record each transaction down to the penny, sorted by date or category and posted in a secure account online.

Under the heading “Unruly Receipts”:

“Your wallet is stuffed with receipts, but there's no sense of order to them, and you never really do anything with them. This is a person who is trying, says Thakor.”

Or. My wallet is stuffed with receipts because people give them to me and I haven’t thrown them out yet. I clean out my bag when the messiness starts to make me mad. Maybe twice a month. I actually decline receipts at nearly every opportunity. I don’t take them at the gas station – which shocked my grandfather.

The idea that “a disorganized desk is the sign of a disorganized mind” is not true. And I can absolutely confirm that the state of my wallet, and my bag and the change on the floor of my car are absolutely no reflection of the state of my finances.

Monday, April 13, 2009

She's Making Me Crazy

Eloise the Foster Gray, (shown here during the famous pizza-stealing incident) is making me freaking crazy.

I took her back to the Refuge for the week I was in Savannah. I left very detailed instructions on how I get her to eat. A lot. Because she is still on the long-term meds for the fungal infection and has trouble keeping her weight up. When I went to pick her up, I got the report:

She did the exact opposite of everything I said she would do. She chowed down on the Instant Ounces, when I said she was about done with it. She did not eat a single piece of real food - almond butter sandwiches, apples, grapes, pasta, grapes, etc. - that I said she had been eating. And she picked all of the feathers off her chest.

So I brought her back home and gave her an almond butter sandwich. She stuffed herself like a Thanksgiving turkey. Everything was back to normal.

Yesterday morning, I found that she had been picking at the skin of her feet. Raw to bleeding, sorry to be graphic. Back to the Refuge to treat the wounds. She looked good last night, and fine again this morning. When I got home tonight, she ate every crumb that I gave her. Then I gave her the anti-fungal medicine. Then I put the medicine on her foot. Then she jumped out of the towel, landed in the sink, broke a feather and started bleeding again . Back to the Refuge.

I am exhausted. And 24 isn't helping. Go Tony.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Back From Savannah

I felt stupid about not taking the picture of the fountain, so I went back on my last day in town. On the approach:

And from behind:

I just can't get into it. I prefer the pictures from Fort Jackson.

Joy and I went there on Sunday, on the way back from Tybee Island. Where I almost got my rental car ticketed because Georgia is not a friendly parking state.

Anyway. I am now exhausted and have to get to the homework. I didn't slack while I was away, but we only have two weeks left in the semester.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I Don't Know How I Feel About This

"Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes will play warring gods in Clash of the Titans, a Greek epic directed by Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk). The “reimagining” of the 1981 classic is scheduled for March 26, 2010."

Clash of the Titans is one of the all-time great cheesy movies of the "if you didn't see it when it came out, you will never get it" variety.

You can find the entire article here. With a goofy Voldemort/Quigon Jin picture.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Product Shout Out - Strawberry Body Butter

This mini body butter came in a free gift from The Body Shop. I don't normally go for strawberry scented things, but it looked good for travel.

I really like it. It actually smells like strawberries. I think my problem with strawberry scents is that they are generally the artificial Strawberry Quik smell that I can't stand. This is the real thing.

Now if they would only come out with a straight up vanilla.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Still Here

I'm still trying to get a decent picture of a container ship. Somehow, in my head, my nephew will get a kick out of seeing one. But I haven't seen one in two days. That's what one gets for sitting in meeting sessions. Although interestingly enough, USA Today said this morning (or maybe it was yesterday) that the numbers in the port of Savannah are down.

Here's something worse. Joy and I walked over to Forsythe Park before dinner. I am not much impressed by fountains, but the sun was just breaking through the clouds as we were walking up the path and it was all framed with the trees and the Spanish moss and I pulled out my camera but there were too many people and I was too far away and by the time we were close enough the sun was gone and the moment had passed and I was all disappointed and didn't bother to take a picture of it.

It seems I went all artiste for five seconds. I am rather disgusted with myself.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Tourist Pictures

Monday night Must See TV has messed me up so that I couldn’t even pretend to do homework. But I managed to talk the Blackberry into coughing up the pictures I took at St Bonaventure yesterday:

I actually like these because they catch the contrast with the foliage. It messes with your head. I don't remember it messing with my head before. Maybe because the other couple of times I visited were in the summer?

Sunday, April 5, 2009


I received a letter from Ernie Dannenberger, Director, Vehicle Services, Ilinois Secretary of State.

Dear Illinois Motorist:

Your license plates have been identified by the manufacturer as being in a batch that has the potential to wear prematurely. IN order to remain in compliance with Illinois law, it may be necessary to replace your license plates if it develops bubbles or rust around the letters causing it to be difficult to read.

To have your license plates replaced under the manufacturer's warranty and at no cost to you, please call 800-252-8980 or 217-785-3000 or visit . Failure to do so could result in a citation.

Thank you,

I had noticed such wear on my plates. Don't tell my mother, but I asked my car what fresh hell I drove her through to manage such a thing. She didn't say. But then, she isn't a complainer. Except about the potholes.

Here is what I want to know:

If they know that my plates are going to "wear prematurely", and the swap is going to be at no cost to me, why did they not just send them? It would have saved the postage on the first letter, and avoided the offense I take at being told "Failure to do so could result in a citation".

I went online and entered my information. Apparently, the plates are ordered. It was that easy. And the couldn't have done that in the first place?

Does someone know the story here?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Amazon Feedback Makes Me Insane

A couple of months ago, a lady left negative feedback for the Library Used Book Store on Amazon. If I remember correctly, she said it was a horrible, useless book. Really.

First of all, it is hardly the fault of the seller if you find that a book does not suit your needs. We listed it by the ISBN and described the condition. Accurately.

Second, we never sent the book. We could not find it in stock and promptly refunded the money with an apology. We politely sent a message to the lady regarding the latter and asked for a retraction. Never got one. Finally, it dropped out of our 30-day feedback and life went on.

Today, I saw another negative:

"A rip off. Does not work. Bought the Apple cable with more plugs, and it works perfectly. Don't waste you money or time on this junk. "

What the heck kind of A/V stuff did we sell? I clicked on the link. It was for a cloth-bound book with gilt lettering.

What? Did we actually get negative feedback meant for someone else? A small seller account like ours takes a pretty big hit from that feedback and I am livid. And all I can do is send out this public service announcement:

Please be careful with your feedback. We want it to be honest; we want it to be an accurate reflection of the transaction. And we want it to really be meant for us. Don't just click on your last transaction and start typing. And? You might try contacting the seller about a problem before leaving that feedback.

Thank you for your attention.

In Savannah

I flew in to Charleston, rented a car and drove down to Savannah. It is a lively drive that I have done before. It is too early in the season for roadside farm stands of peaches, but I did stop at the Carolina Cider Company for cherry cider. I swear they have this exact same place in Door County, WI. They just call it something different!

Driving into the city, I nearly missed the fact that our hotel is on the other side of the river. I have felt all turned around all day. This is the view from my dirty hotel room window:

If I angled a bit left, you would see the fabulous parking lot.

We had our meeting today, which went fine. Then I spent almost two hours with my boss in the bar while he helped me with a school assignment involving self assessment. He was unbelievably nice to me. Then we went to dinner with a couple of colleagues. The Olde Pink House is a big deal here, and I had been there before. Unfortunately, it is Saturday and we could only get two tables pushed together in the basement bar area. Food was good, though. I was too lame to remember to take a picture (ok, I was talking), so this is the best I can do:

Now I really have to do some homework.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

And the New Doors

The front hall is much darker now that we have the smaller windows way up there. Our compromise was I wanted to keep the double door concept and she wanted something that a burgler couldn't smash to reach an arm in and unlock the door. Everyone is happy.

The doors are fiberglass, rather than metal. I would never know the difference there. But I must say I was surprised by the change in noise level. The echo we started hearing a month or so ago (when we replaced carpet with laminate in one room) is that much more pronounced. And oh, my. When the dog barks.

Frugal Fliers

MSN Travel had a good article, Two Words for a Frugal Flier: Patience. Wednesday. I am not a particularly frugal flier in that I am spoiled by my home town airport and think that a layover is about the worst thing one could endure while travelling. I am also rather loyal to United Airlines. And I don’t like the risk of waiting for fares to drop. So I suck at this particular game. But I found two good tips that will work even for me:

“The best time to shop is late Monday or early Tuesday, some fare experts say. Airlines often start fare sales on Sunday night or Monday morning, said Rick Seaney of Those sales alone are fine if they include the flight you want. But other carriers generally match the fare sale by Monday evening or Tuesday morning, giving you more choices.”

OK. I can be flexible about when I shop for a flight!

“Wednesdays are generally the cheapest day to fly. Tuesdays and Saturdays are also good days to fly because demand is low and the airlines are trying to fill seats.”

I think I knew that already, but it is good to keep in mind.

I think the point here is that we as consumers should gauge the value of our own convenience. Ugh. I just realized my mother must be credited with teaching me that.


As we speak, new front doors are being put on my house. Unfortunately, my "Before" shot was an afterthought as I was leaving for work today:

Why, yes. They are very 1977. I could go on a complete rant about the silly looking fancy-schmancy doors going up around my neighborhood these days. And take pictures. And write about how the people who caught me taking pictures probably think that I am taking pictures so that I can find something just like it.

But I am much too lazy.