Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Final Word on Black Friday

Weekend Assignment # 346: Holiday Shopper

Ack! The holiday shopping season is upon us! What is your shopping strategy for this time of year? Do you spread out your shopping over weeks and months, or try to get it all done at once? Do you mostly shop online or in person? How heavily, if at all, do you rely on gift cards, gift certificates or plain old fashioned cash and checks?

Extra Credit: Do you enjoy shopping the Black Friday and after-Christmas sales?
I wouldn't say that I have a "strategy" for holiday shopping.  For most of the people I exchange gifts with, I wait for inspiration to hit.  It generally does.  Example:
My grandfather has been directing us more toward charitable gifting the last few years.  A couple of years ago, when he was a a docent at the Lincoln Park Zoo, I read about The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.  Their gift shop had prints of paintings that one of the elephants did.  Funny little gift to open under the tree and contributing to the rescue of elephants.  He loved it. 
Besides rocking the gifts, I have another goal: to avoid setting foot in a shopping mall from Thanksgiving until New Years.  I do quite a bit online:
Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Toys R Us, Drs. Foster and Smith, FTD, these websites have all worked out nicely for me.  The deals can be found and I am not buying too many gift cards.
While I have never gone to Best Buy at 4am, I do believe I have lived the Black Friday experience enough times to know better.  This year, I didn't even leave the house until 4pm and that was only a one-stop.  Yesterday, when I hit Day 2 of the sales, I swear I spent more money on myself than on gifts. 
I am never at the sales on December 26, because that is when my family is at my house, opening the remaining gifts and eating pizza.  So I start those sales late, which is fine with me. 
Sometimes, it isn't about the deal.  It's about the thrill of the hunt.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Over the Limit

It seems that the town Deerfield, Illinois is considering some new rules for pet owners.  One involves required muzzling of "aggressive" dogs.  The other is limiting the number of pets in a home to five:

"The board decided a limit of five would be a reasonable expectation, although trustees had considered three, which was regarded as too restrictive for some animal lovers.
 “I have a problem with three,” said Trustee Thomas Jester. “If someone has a couple of dogs, a cat and a bird, they are over the limit.”"

I find this utterly ridiculous.  This rule lumps all pets into the same category when clearly, all pets are not the same.  The daily needs of two average dogs are by far more difficult to manage than two average cats or two average birds.  Even within a species - two cockatiels are by so far easier to manage than two macaws.  And that doesn't even address the fact that different animals have different personalities and different needs.

I have three pets - a dog, a cat and an African Grey parrot.  At various times, we have had two dogs in the house.  I am also licensed by the state of Illinois to foster animals in my home.  I am extremely conscious of how much is "too much" for my home to handle.  I base my judgement on whether the two humans living in my house have the time, attention and resources to keep the animals fed, clean, emotionally cared for and in some way, disciplined.  Also, is there enough room in my house for each of the animals to find a quiet corner?   The answer is always Yes.

Right now, I am fostering a second African Grey parrot and am seriously considering fostering a lovebird for the holidays.  (The rescue also offers boarding services and is always very full over the holidays.)  I know that my home can handle that for a few weeks.  I don't need a village board to make that decision for me.

You know what?  I don't think that any family should be allowed to have more than three children.  Let's legislate that.  There is no way on Earth that my parrot is a greater burden to the neighborhood than the average child.

Or we could legislate something important: the breeding of domesticated animals, such that there aren't so many homeless in the first place.

If Deerfield feels the need to establish some arbitrary limit on the number of pets in one house, then so be it.  But for a Trustee like Mr. Jester to pass judgement on what is "over the limit" for any given family makes me glad that I don't live in Deerfield.

8am and I'm Not Sure Whether I Will Be Leaving the House Today

But I am doing a bit of shopping online.  On the website for Half Price Books, I found a list of 25 Tips for Reusable Gift Wrapping.  The introduction said:

"According to The ULS Report, Americans throw away 25 percent more trash from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.

That additional trash adds up to an additional 5 million tons of garbage for our country’s already full landfills! One way to cut back on your waste during the holidays is reusable wrapping."

I am not sure that many of these are practical for me, but I figured it was worth passing on.  Happy shopping.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Activities

You know, when you don't have a house full of people, Thanksgiving can get pretty busy.  This was my day:

Woke up at the regular time, dawdled for awhile and headed over to the rescue to lend a hand.  Good thing because an order of bird toys had arrived.  I spent a couple of hours going back and forth between rooms, cleaning cages, hanging new toys, and salvaging parts from old toys (in case they can be re-used).  Karen is my friend because she knew I was out of town when the order was placed, but she picked up some extras of our favorites for me.  Bird toys are really expensive, so one should really not miss an opportunity to pick some up wholesale.

At 10:30 or so, I stopped at Starbucks.  Businesses that are open on the holiday make me really happy.  The strip mall by my house was absolutely packed.  It looked like the Jewel, Starbucks, McDonalds, and Einstein Bagels were all open.  I placed my order and went over to the pick up counter.  The guy asked if I wanted whipped cream on my drinks.  I declined and thanked him for asking.  Then I said, "In case no one has told you today, I really appreciate that you are working on the holiday."

He paused.  "...Um.  No.. No one has said that to me today.  Thanks."

That's really too bad.

I went home, grabbed the newspaper wih the Black Friday ads and went upstairs to plan some strategy.  I found the one for Michael's, the craft store.  Open from 5pm to 9pm tonight and 30% off your entire purchase.  Right when every one was eating.  And then ready to die from being stuffed.

But wait.  There are only two of us.  We can eat whenever we want. 

I convinced my mother to cook the turkey early.  We were still watching the Lions game when we sat down.  (Note:  Whatever the outcome, that was a good game.  I don't want to hear any more of this debate about booting the Lions from the Thanksgiving program.)  And had already placed a Christmas order on Amazon.

Then I took a nap.  Ha.

I got to Michael's a few minutes after five.  There were people, but it wasn't too bad a crowd.  I still managed to spend nearly an hour wandering around.  I filled a basket with supplies and went to check out.  I started hearing the manager shouting orders to people - mostly about how to manage coupons and how much worse it would be tomorrow.  I also thanked the lady at the register for working on the holiday.  Can I tell you?  Her face lit up. 

About that time I started hearing mothers yelling at children and was ready to leave.

Anne's Law:  Black Friday is not for amateurs or children.  Leave the kids at home tomorrow.

Walking back to my car, I saw that Steak and Shake was open.  (Yeah, yeah.  Of course Steak and Shake was open.)  I drove through and picked up a couple of peppermint chip milk shakes.  Again, I told the drive through guy that I appreciated his working on the holiday.  Again, it was clear that no one else had said as much to him today.

Moral of the Story:

Seriously, gang.  Tomorrow, when the whole world goes insane, please say something nice to the staff.  They are having a longer, harder day than you are.  And they aren't being paid enough for it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I Need a New Computer Game

That was not a Christmas wish.  It was just whining. 

I have been buying cheap ($5 cheap) computer games at Half Price Books.  Not World of Warcraft-type games, just little things to keep me entertained for a weekend.  Or at least distracting me from the West Coast road trips of certain professional sports teams.

Last Saturday, I picked up Sally's Salon, a little "leisure game" along the lines of Diner Dash or Cake Mania.  I beat it on Sunday afternoon.  Tonight, I started Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, a mystery/adventure game.  Turns out to be a first person perspective.  I may be the first person ever to get motion sickness from her laptop. 

I am not kidding.  Uninstall.

I am going back to Bookworm Adventures. 

Black Friday Strategies

The news is filled with articles, tips and deals regarding Black Friday and I particularly enjoyed this "strategy guide" from the Chicago Tribune.  My favorite part of the piece was listed under "Buddy up":

"People are going to use carts as battering rams, but they are going to hit gridlock at a certain point," he said. "It's almost like the running of the bulls."

The runner will offload goods to the driver's cart. Upon completion, the driver takes the cart to wait in the checkout line, while the runner proceeds to the next store without delay. Of course, there are many versions of the buddy system. More elaborate are hunting packs of six or more that coordinate shopping lists and buy at several locations simultaneously. However, more stores are moving to Black Friday ticketing systems. Those first in line are given tickets and their merchandise is set aside.

"It's taken a little of the competitiveness out of it," Brim said.

It seems that on one day of the year, Real Life is less civilized than the Internet.

Monday, November 22, 2010

In Honor of Thanksgiving. Or Something.

Weekend Assignment # 245: Give Thanks

Thanksgiving is upon us, the time of year when we're asked what we're thankful for. Let's take the opportunity to interpret this literally, and actually thank someone! Tell us about someone in your life, past or present, whom you would like to thank for what they did, and why.

Extra Credit: Suggest a Weekend Assignment topic, because I'm running dry! Also: would you prefer that the topics be mostly literary, or is a variety better?
At the risk of making my mother cry, I am going to go with Thanking My Brother.  Here is a totally non-comprehensive list of stuff Scott has done that has made my life better, easier or more fun:
  1. He has three children.  So I am not required by either family, guilt or maternal instinct to produce my own.  And they are lots of fun.
  2. He is a techie, of sorts.  I will never have to do research for a new television or re-install my own hard drive.
  3. He calls Dad.  It is nice to know the old man is still alive, and God knows I can't be bothered to pick up the phone.
  4. He once camped out, overnight, for the opening of a Star Wars movie.  I will never top that geekery.
  5. He has power tools.
  6. He once went to a Tea Party meeting "just to see what all the fuss was about". 
  7. He is convinced that his next car is going to be electric.
  8. He is going to build me a new blog template.   He said he is going to build me a new blog template, even though:
  9. He never reads my blog, because he thinks blogs are stupid. 
  10. He is not on Facebook, because he thinks Facebook is evil. 
I don't like to publish pictures of my family on my "public" blog, but here is one of Scott from The Alex Collection:

He called it, "Daddy's Slipper on the Rug".

I am seriously considering getting that kid a real camera for Christmas.  Because that would be fun for me.

Regarding the Extra Credit, you'd think I have a whole bunch, because I do "poll questions" for our the newsletter at work.  Here is one that Joy suggested that we haven't used yet:

Tell us about something you have Googled recently.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Travels With My Aunt

I saw Travels With My Aunt at Writers' Theatre tonight.  It was at the small stage in Books on Vernon.  They did the "general admission" thing again - does twice in a row make it a trend or a permanent feature?  No matter, because I was early.

I have not yet read the novel by Graham Greene, but I am sure going to - it was fabulous.  There were four actors playing 26 characters in the show.  One of the actors, LaShawn Banks, was the lead in Turn of the Screw a few seasons back.  In that piece, he also played multiple characters and I remember it as an excellent performance. 

The weird thing is that all four actors play the narrator, Henry, and then they play a bunch of other characters.  You get used to it pretty quickly, though.  Even Sean Fortunato, who plays the Aunt, manages to go back and forth between the two rather seamlessly.  Not much more than a shift in body language, but you can follow it.

The effects were old school and performed right on stage. The sounds of the Orient Express beginning to chug, for example, were created by opening an umbrella at increasingly speedy intervals. Writers' Theatre always makes that stuff charming.

Henry, a 55-year old retiree, meets his Aunt Augusta at his mother's funeral.  She lives in a world of adventure and sometimes all-out fantasy and poor Henry gets sucked right in.  Happily, while Henry is a rather dull guy, he doesn't pout or whine about the half-truths and other inconveniences that their Travels entail.  In the end, Augusta determines not to return to England.  And Henry must decide whether to go back to his old comfortable world, or to live in her crazy/thrilling one. 

Seriously, I have to go read this.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hercule Poirot's Christmas: A Holiday Mystery, by Agatha Christie

Book 43 - 50 Book Challenge
Book 2 -  Holiday Challenge

I didn't know that Agatha Christie had done any holiday novels, so I was really jazzed when I saw this one that feature Hercule Poirot, who I think is a total riot.  The premise is extremely basic:

Rich old invalid asks his entire estranged family to gather around him at the old manor house for Christmas.  They all show up, he acts like a jerk, makes the phone call to his lawyer to change his will and is murdered on Christmas Eve.  Poirot happens to be visiting a law enforcement friend in the next county or something.

The Lee family is mixed with the usual stereotypes, but interestingly enough, I generally liked them all.  There is the usual subplot with suspicion of the staff and a question of theft. 

The mystery built pretty well.  I had guessed one of the twists correctly, but even that was a red herring.  The "whodunnit" made sense.  The "how it was done" was pretty convoluted.  But overall it was a whole lot of fun.

However, the "holiday theme" was extremely weak.

Friday, November 19, 2010

BTT - Borrowing?

Who would you rather borrow from? Your library? Or a Friend?
(Or don’t your friends trust you to return their books?)
And, DO you return books you borrow?

I would rather borrow from the library.  I know exactly how long I can use it without making someone angry.  Or owe them money.  Mostly, I return books I borrow.  There are a few exceptions:
  1. Lusitania, a non-fiction book about the sinking of the ship during (or before?) WWI.  I borrowed it from my friend Eric about a dozen years ago and never read it.  It became a joke.  I do not see it on my TBR bookcase right now and I don't remember giving it back to him.  Perhaps I moved it to the other room with the rest of my books.  Perhaps he pilched it back the last time he was here.
  2. All's Fair, the Carville/Matalin book about the 1992 U.S. presidential election.  I borrowed it from my friend Jamie and loved it to death.  I kept it for so long that he bought himself another copy.
  3. A book on Nietzsche that I borrowed from a college boyfriend.  I just put it in my donation pile for the library.
  4. An old paperback copy of The Outsiders.  I forget from whom I borrowed it in highschool, but if it was you, you can have it back.  I found a hardcover copy.
Hm.  I guess this is why I buy my books.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Things I Forgot to Bring to Fargo

  1. My Passport.  No, I am not running for the border.  How far is the border, anyway?  But I normally use it for airport security because it is easier to grab than my driver's license.  
  2. A hairbrush.  No kidding.
  3. Pajamas.  I remembered my Urlacher jersey for the game tomorrow night, but not a bloody nightshirt.  I will be sleeping in the turtleneck that I wear under said jersey.
This trip was looking like an "everything that can go wrong, will".  My meeting materials were not finished when I left the office at lunchtime today.  The parking lots at O'Hare were full.  By "parking lots", I mean Daily Parking, Valet Parking and Economy Parking.  I had to park at the double remote parking lot that involved taking a bus to the Economy Parking Lot where you pick up the train to the terminal.  I didn't know such a place existed.

On the train, a guy started counting.  He got to eleven.  Eleven squad cars with their lights on.  Then I spotted a fire in the distance.  Lots of smoke and on property.  Not on a runway, but in that general direction.  I still don't know what that was.

Then I went to my super-secret security line where there is no line.  And I couldn't use it because I did the mobile phone boarding pass and they didn't have the scanner there.  So I went to the next line, where there was a serious queue, and the very nice i.d. checker was going awfully slow because it was her first day.  And then I was selected for a pat-down.

I had a vague moment of wonder - whether Someone was trying to tell me not to get on that airplane today.

I ignore those thoughts, which is good because the flight was on time and perfectly pleasant.  The hotel shuttle was waiting for me when I got outside in the 27 degree Fargo night.  And I was assured in the bar that the Bears game would be on the big screen tomorrow night.

All is right with the world.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cider Doughnuts and Football

Weekend Assignment # 343: Fall Favorites

Some people like autumn leaves. Others like foods associated with this time of year, particular holidays, sports, weather, or even the run up to Christmas and Hanukkah. What is your favorite thing about Fall? (Note: if you're in the Southern Hemisphere, tell us about Spring instead!)

Extra Credit: What do you like least about this time of year?

This year was kind of a bust, because it was raining, but I look forward to picking apples at the orchard. There is a place on the border between Illinois and Wisconsin that does the pick-your-own thing that I have been doing with my brother and nephew every year. Then at the end, they have the shops with cider, meats and cheeses, and cider doughnuts.

Cider doughnuts are the best. Thankfully, we got there early this year, because that line is no joke.

Also, hope springs eternal and I always look forward to the beginning of football season. And by the time that might start to disappoint, hockey and basketball start. I haven’t been watching television in real time because there are games to watch. (And books to read and movies to catch, but nevermind.)

I realize I am in the minority, but leaves make me crazy. They are everywhere and always more and more and then they get wet and grow mold and I am allergic to mold so my sinuses have been bothering me for two weeks. But what I like least is the shorter days. That lead to the cold, dead winter.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Christmas Memory, One Christmas, & The Thanksgiving Visitor, by Truman Capote

Book 42 (for the 50 Book Challenge)
Book 1 (for the Holiday Challenge)

I am not sure where I found this lovely Modern Library copy of three Truman Capote holiday stories, but I love it.  Capote came from a very broken home and spent his earliest years living with elderly cousins on an Alabama farm.  The youngest cousin, at age sixty-something, was Miss Sook.  Miss Sook was his best friend and she is featured in these stories.

"A Christmas Memory" was a reminiscence of the last Christmas season he spent in Alabama before being sent off to military school.  He and Miss Sook saved their money all year to buy the ingredients to make fruit cakes for everyone they knew.  Then he remembered the actual Christmas morning and gifts exchanged and their little dog.  It was lovely.

"One Christmas" told the story of one Christmas that he spent with his father in New Orleans.  He barely knew the man and was absolutely terrified.  Capote managed to convey the anxious feelings of his childhood self while at the same time illustrating a father that really wanted to connect with his son (if only for a short time).

"A Thanksgiving Visitor" tells the story of Miss Sook inviting the school bully to Thanksgiving dinner.  It was priceless.

While I have long been a fan of Truman Capote's writing, I have not been impressed with the stories of Capote as a person.  Admittedly, these impressions were colored by Dominick Dunne, with whom he had something of a flling out.  However, these stories from his childhood make me like Capote a bit better.  Both because they are charming stories about charming people and because he opened his heart from a troubled childhood to share them.

Holiday Book Challenge

My LJ friend Miss Busy is big on the holiday themed books and movies.  I am certain that her influence led me to an unconscious stock-piling of holiday books this year.  So when she pointed us to the Holiday Book Challenge hosted by Nemy at All About {n}, I knew I'd be signing up.  Here is her pretty button with a link:

All About {n}

The rules are:

1- Challenge will start Monday, November 15 and will end Friday, December 31.

2- You can read anywhere from 1 to 5 books for the challenge and, of course, if you're like me, you are more than welcome to surpass that number.

3- And now, here's the clincher... they must be holiday related books. That's right, the holiday doesn't really matter, but it would be more "jolly" if your choices were Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.

4- The size of the book does not matter, nor does the genre. It is also okay for the book to overlap with other challenges. The only thing I ask is that they are not children's books. YA is okay. And so are re-reads. I for one tend to read the same books every Christmas - they are tradition.

5- To sign up - leave a link back to your challenge post. There will also be a post for review links as well as one for challenge wrap-ups.

6- And.... there will be goodies. That's right, we'll call them presents. At the end of every week that the challenge is running I will choose one winner from the review links. Meaning the more books you read, review and link up, the more chances you have at winning a "present".

I had five books waiting on me (because I just finished one):
  1. A Christmas Memory, One Christmas and The Thanksgiving Visitor, Truman Capote
  2. Christmas Classics, The Modern Library
  3. A Different Kind of Christmas, Alex Haley
  4. Hercule Poirot's Christmas, by Agatha Christie
  5. Benjamin Franklin and a Case of Christmas Murder, by Robert Lee Hall
And I will probably want to read A Christmas Carol again.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I recently reacquainted myself with my popcorn maker.  Hockey is better with popcorn, for some reason,  and if you use that spray butter stuff, it isn't too bad for you.  Of course, I use an awful lot of popcorn salt.  So I was in the Jewel last weekend, looking at all of the different kinds of salt, and I cannot find the popcorn salt.  I figured it must be in the popcorn aisle.  So I head over there.  There are a few different flavors of popcorn topping, but no actual popcorn salt. 

My mother was doing the shopping today, since I am leaving town again on Wednesday, and I asked her to take another look.  She didn't find it, either.  In fact, she asked for help.  The staff brought her butter buds - the powder people use on their baked potatoes (if they haven't discovered spray butter).  Then they tried to tell her that it was the same thing.

Um.  No.  Butter buds are not the same thing as popcorn salt. 

I stopped at Target before the game today.  Particularly since Target now has an entire grocery store inside, they must have popcorn salt.

Again, I looked in the spice aisle, with all of the other salt.  There were a dozen different types of sea salt, but no popcorn salt.  Again, I went to the popcorn aisle.  Three flavors of powdered popcorn topping, but no popcorn salt.

What in the name of all that's holy has happened to all of the popcorn salt?!  Do I have to buy it online?!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

New Chairs

I have been reading about retailers that have done well during the recession.  You know - Wal-Mart, Target, Marshalls, TJ Maxx and Home Goods.  Those last three, owned by the same company, I believe, have sprung up everywhere.  Everywhere.  Any direction on the map that I might take in running my weekend errands, I can find one.  The deal, though, is because they deal in overstocked items, the inventory is really hit or miss.  But for some of us, the hunt is part of the fun. 

My most recent mission was for kitchen chairs. 

When I moved into my first apartment, I bought a dining room table at Wickes.  It is a pale oak table much better suited for a kitchen, but I loved it, could afford it and it worked in that space.  The chairs however, were crap.

When I moved back to the house, and put the table in the kitchen, one by one the chairs fell apart.  We are lucky that no one got hurt on those things.  Sometime in the last year, I figured that 13 years in two homes was not a bad run for that table and I started casually looking about for a new set.  My mother told me that was stupid.  There was nothing wrong with the table, I should just look for new chairs.

How do you find four to six chairs to match an old table?  I looked at the usual stores and found nothing.  Then one day early this summer, I was in... TJMaxx/Marshall's/HomeGoods...- one of 'em - and found two pale oak chairs.  $150 for the pair.   There were only two and I wasn't sure they would match, but they were real wood and sturdy so I went for it.  They work great.  I started looking for them at every other TJMaxx/Marshalls/HomeGoods in the area.  No luck.  For months I kept looking.

As I whined to my friends about it, someone said, "You know, the chairs don't have to match each other.  In fact, mismatched sets are even rather trendy these days."

Huh.  Then I found another set.  Pale oak, but the back was painted.  The paint was in the same neighborhood as my kitchen walls.  I picked them up:

They look odd right next to each other, but around the table, no one will really care.  Oh, and that stool on the left, also from the old apartment, is generally at our counter.  But it also works as a booster seat for the kids. 

So, thank you, TJMaxx/Marshalls/HomeGoods.  Instead of spending $1000 on a new kitchen set, I spent less than $300 for four chairs and a rather funky new look in the kitchen. 

Now I am all ready for the holidays.  If I can get the tree up, that is.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Julie and Julia

I have no idea why I recorded Julie and Julia the last time there was a free preview weekend on the cable movie channels.  I had heard that the "Julia" parts rocked and the "Julie" parts sorta didn't, so I turned it on tonight while doing other stuff.  Verdict:

The "Julia" parts rocked and the "Julie" parts sorta didn't.

Stanley Tucci was great as Mr. Childs and Jane Lynch was charming in the small part of Julia's sister.  Of course, Meryl Streep was spot on.

So I am glad I mostly saw it.  And now I can delete it.  But I might be forced to read Julia Childs' book.

Macintosh...The Naked Truth, by Scott Kelby

Book 41

I forget where I found Macintosh...The Naked Truth.  Some book sale or another, so long ago.  I've been thinking for awhile that my next computer might be a Mac and I've been doing  a bit of homework.  Kelby is a magazine guy/blogger dedicated to Macs and this book is his perspective on being a Mac in a PC world.

I was about two pages in before I had to check the publication date - 2002.  That would be about five minutes after the original iPod was released and before they knew whether it would fly.

Apparently, before the iPod, Mac people felt persecuted.  There was a whole sociological drama involving PCs and Macs that was totally over my head. 

I use a PC because that is what they use in my office.  And what they used in my school computer lab.  I never thought Mac people were losers or suckers or foolish or lame, but apparently the real PC users did.  If you had asked me cold why someone would buy a Mac, I would have said the graphics stuff was better.  Macs were better for artists and PCs were for better for spreadsheet people.

Kelby has story after story about horrible PC people geeking out in his face about how lame the Mac is.  It was fun for about 80 pages and then I started reading faster.  He talks about how all of the people in the Big Box electronics stores were PC experts, clueless about Macs and mean to Mac people. 

I went to Best Buy one day and talked to a guy about Macs. He asked what I used my home computer for. I felt incredibly lame, but I told the truth: music, movies and Internet. He told me that I would love the Mac. Opposite of the experiences Kelby describes.

I take this as evidence of the game changer that was iPod.  Followed by the iPhone, which even my brother has.  I imagine that the iPad will only make it more dramatic.

Kelby's book wasn't what I was hoping for in that it wasn't warm and fuzzy and welcoming to me as a PC User On the Brink.  But I sure learned a lot.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Book 40 

Finally, finally.

It's not that this was a bad book.  It just has so many layers.  The plot was fascinating and I was continually frustrated by the fact that it wouldn't move when I wanted to know what happens next.

One father, three sons from two different wives.  Complicated relationships.  Theology, philosophy, love and hate.  A lot of people behaving badly. 

Also, I felt like Russia was a character in herself.  There was a bit of a monologue at the end where one brother is talking about running off to America and he makes it sound like death.  That was pretty cool.

This is a good example of a book that I might have gotten more from if it hadn't taken so long.  And I am not going to spend any more time writing about it, either.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mobile Check In

The Chicago Tribune helpfully pointed me to this promotion with United Airlines.  Apparently, they are trying to encourage us to use their mobile check in feature, wherein we use our smartphones to check in to a flight.  A square code, like a UPC symbol, pops up on the screen and they scan that instead of paper when we board the airplane. 

It works fine.  I kinda prefer checking in online and printing a boarding pass because it is easier to hold than the phone when I am schlepping through the airport.  And my phone battery could always die.  And the security people seem less than impressed when you hand them your phone in that particular line.

But for an extra thousand miles for each flight between now and year end?  I signed right up.

Monday, November 8, 2010

John Adams

This HBO miniseries has been in my house almost since it was released on DVD and I just got to watching it.  Adams isn't my favorite President - that would be Abraham Lincoln, duh - but depending on what day you ask, I might call him my favorite Founding Father.  And his wife rocked.

The film starts with the Boston Massacre, and Adams' courtroom defense of the British soldiers.  It was from this that we have his immortal quote, "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."    

Timely observation.

Many familiar characters crossed the canvas.  George Washington creeped me out, until I realized it was because the actor had played a terribly obnoxious bad guy on House.  Rufus Sewell played Alexander Hamilton, Washington's dashing aide de camp and Secretary of the Treasury.  I have spent years getting over my childhood adoration of that guy, and Sewell made him positively smarmy. So.  Thanks for that.  I found Laura Linney's Abigail to be rather understated.  My perception may be skewed because as a historical figure she is way larger than life to me.  Danny Huston's Sam Adams was both incredibly cool and really...scary.  Which is how I imagined him.  Tom Wilkinson pulled off a charming and respectable Ben Franklin.  Whose sexploits only hit the screen once.  And OMG did Paul Giamatti play the hell out of John Adams.

But Adams is often defined by his relationship with (and contrast to) Thomas Jefferson and the film displays that brilliantly.  It also nailed the reason that I can't love Jefferson the way that most people love Jefferson:

He broke John Adams' heart.

It was easy for Adams to believe that Hamilton would throw him under his own political gain.  But his old friend Jefferson?  Jefferson was above "party politics".

This program was based on historian David McCullough's biography, which I understand was the beginning of a renewed interest and appreciation of the Adams family.  It looks like they are finally going to get a memorial in the District of Columbia.  I think I might send them money.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mid Season Report

You know, when the talking heads get their hands on a sports statistic, they do not shut up about it.  This week's, during the Bears game, we learned that the Bears quarterback, Jay Cutler, is the most blitzed in the NFL.  The other teams just love to send seven or eight guys across the line to try to kill him.  They do it 48% of the time.  That was an interesting statistic.  The first time.

You know what else they told us?  The Bears are terrible on third down, terrible in the red zone, and have a great defense that is really good at creating turnovers.  They say this like it is news.  As if the Bears were ever fabulous on third down, or even in the red zone. 

People.  The last time the Bears went to the freakin' Super Bowl, it was because the defense created turnovers and the offense....managed.  (That, and we drafted this kid named Devin that has a bit of a knack for special teams.)  These are the universal truths regarding the Chicago Bears.

This season there has been a lot of talk about the injuries, particularly head injuries caused by helmet-tohelmet hits.  This week, we also learned about things that are scarier than your QB going out with a concussion.  That would be Julius Peppers hitting the quarterback and not getting up.  Which my mother noted isn't as scary as the possibility of Brian Urlacher not getting up after a play.  And five minutes after that discussion, we saw the Colts' Austin Collie take a hit that landed him immobilized on a stretcher and carted off this field.  Phil Simms just said that he was sitting up in the locker room and they think it is just a concussion.

Tangent:  Miss Janis, a friend of our family, grew up in England and doesn't quite get football.  But she is a good sport and watches games with us when she is at our house on holidays.  A good dozen times a game, she will see someone hit and gasp in despair and we almost automatically tell her, "He's fine.  Look - he bounced right up!"  Even I am not feeling non-chalant about it right now.

Anyway.  If you had told me in August that after eight weeks, the Bears would have a record of 5 and 3, tied with the Packers at the top of the Division, I would have been thrilled.  I do not feel thrilled.

Maybe next week, after we beat those Vikings, (and stay healthy while doing it) I will feel thrilled.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

More Star Wars Goofiness

Dooce posted this piece from Vimeo.  There is a decided lack of Han Solo.'s darling.

Jeremy Messersmith - Tatooine from Eric Power on Vimeo.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Social Commentary

On this, Chapter One of Killing My 2010 Vacation Days, I was awakened at 6:52 a.m. by the dog.  He wanted me to know that his mother had left for work and he did not want to be alone.  I did not get back to sleep.

Whenever I have a random day off, I think about going to the movies.  I generally don't.  I think I see one movie in the theater each year - the last being Star Trek.  I even skipped the last Harry Potter.  I refuse to go on a Saturday night.  Re.  Fuse.  Friday at 11:10 a.m. was worth a try, so I went to see The Social Network.  There were five of us in the theater.

I know, I know.  Punk kid movie.  Why did I want to go and see a punk kid movie?   Two words:

Aaron Sorkin.

Sorkin is just about my favorite writer in Hollywood and let me tell you, I could feel the old magic in the very first scene, when Zuckerberg's girlfriend dumps him in a Boston bar.  The dialogue is fabulous.  The Zuckerberg character is a total ass.  Seriously.  I have known social climbing jerks and I have known genius jerks.  But I am happy to say I have never in my life met such a foul combination of the two. 

I am sorry to say that the ex-girlfriend, with about five minutes of total screen time, is the most sympathetic character in the entire film.  "Arrogance" is the word that best characterizes this story to me.  Or maybe "hubris".  (And not a politician in sight!)  Seriously, people.  If history determines this tale is 50% true, then I submit:  it is already too late for this country, civilization is dying and we are all going to hell.

I don't know what made me the most uncomfortable.
  1. The idea that nerds are really manipulative paranoid vengeful thugs that think they can get away with anything because they are smarter than the rest of us.  Please tell me this is not true.
  2. The idea that entrepreneurs are really manipulative paranoid vengeful thugs that think they can get away with anything because they can pay us all off.  Please tell me this is not true.
  3. Justin Timberlake.  That was a scary performance, and I totally bought it.
  4. The idea that people at Harvard really think their addresses make them hot. 
  5. That in this country, a $65 million settlement could be considered, "the equivalent of a speeding ticket".
I am on Facebook all the time.  My current status reads, "I feel dirty."


Weekend Assignment # 342: Read It Again

Some people like to read a book once, and then they're done. The plot is resolved and they know whodunnit, so it's time to move on to the next book. Other people reread a favorite book every few years, and still others keep it on their shelves in case they may want to read it again someday. Are you a frequent re-reader, an occasional one, or are you "one and done"? How do you decide what to reread, and when?

Extra Credit: What was the book you reread?
I love re-reading.  I love to re-live a plot and take another look at the characters and see the things that I didn't see the first time when I just wanted to know what happens next?!  However.  If I had the luxury of three lifetimes, I would not get to all of the books I want to read.  So I don't indulge in it as much as I'd like.
When I was young, I re-read lots of stuff.  But whe I was young, there weren't nearly so many age-appropriate books.  I recently confessed on Booking Through Thursday to having a rather ragged copy of Flowers in the Attic.  There are a few novels from the original V series that I read to death.  I would love to find a hardcover copy of my first chapter book, Little Witch, because it is out of print and my old paperback version is in quite sad shape.  ($75.00 is the best price I have ever seen for a decent copy.  Do you believe?)
I have mentioned that I used to read Gone with the Wind every summer through high school and college.  I haven't picked it up for more than a reference check in years. 
This year, I re-read Jane Austen's Persuasion while I was on vacation.  It was a Kindle freebie and an old favorite.  I also re-read The Outsiders, by S.E. Sinton, because I found a darling copy in a used book store and got nostalgic.  I am considering re-reading A Christmas Carol, as well.  Those are all short novels.
The last time I re-read anything of the epic variety was A Tale of Two Cities a few years back.  I would like to do that again sometime.  Kindle would be good for that too.
It is now official that I spend as much time shopping for books and talking about books as I spend actually reading them.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

That Time of Year

Open Enrollment.  Three trips in three weeks.  Peppermint hot chocolate.  Spending too much money.   And taking off every Friday (that I am not on the road) so that I don't "lose" my vacation time.

I also start power-reading because I may or may not officially be behind schedule in my 50 Book Challenge.  Which I should be doing now, inasmuch as I am at the library.  But I find it weird to read on a Kindle when I am physically in the Used Book Store.

The Fiction shelves are already pretty packed.  In fact, we are pulling out duplicates to make more room on the shelves.  I am thinking we should pull all of the mysteries out, move them to where the cookbooks are and hijack the space that is not being used effectively by foreign language titles.  I realize that you don't care, but I needed to write that down so I don't forget to make the recommendation.

Who would've thought we could fill this up so fast?

While I am talking about the Used Book Store, the dates for the Holiday Sale are set.  December 4 - December 18, most of our books will be half off the regular price.  Books listed on will be 20% off.  There are several that I am looking to buy myself!

In other Glenview news, Steven Soderbergh is filming a movie in the Glen.   Some high school buds on Facebook find this cool.  I find it a nuisance.  Fortunately, the trailers stayed put and I was able to go about my happy day.

I took out my winter coat.  But the Dairy Bar is still open.  What's up with that?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Because I Don't Want to Talk About Election Returns

I have heard that some dentists were doing a "swap your candy for" thing for kids.  But Noodles is doing it, too.  I would totally take Alex to do this, but I am sure he has figured out that he is not required to give up his loot in order to have Noodles with Aunt Anne.  And anyway, I would never get back home in time for kickoff.  But in case you have a kid and too much candy, the ad says Sunday, November 9 from 11am to 9pm for kids 12 and under.

In other non-news, the new quiz going around my Facebook crew is about which D&D characters we are.  It seems I am a Rogue.  And all of my friends are Rogues, too.  I never played true D&D, but I am pretty sure that's bogus.  But it killed five minutes between refreshing the elections results.  That I am not going to talk about.

I had lunch today with a colleague from Fargo.  In between not talking about election results, we talked about football.  We have agreed that the Minnesota Vikings have gone from desperate to idiotic.  Waiving Randy Moss for being a showboating punk?  You hired him because he is a showboating punk!  Whatever, Dudes.  I didn't want my team playing against him, anyway.

I am still reading that book.  The kid was finally arrested so I am hoping it is all downhill from here.  Or I will not make the 50 Book Challenge.  I even made that when I was in school!

Holiday Creep has officially made it to October.  I saw Christmas decorations on a house in my town last weekend and eggnog lattes were already at Starbucks.  The holiday-scented stuff also hit Bath and Body Works, so I shall smell like a candy cane until after the New Year.

My travel schedule is set for the rest of the year.  And it seems I will be half a segment short up reupping my Premier status.  How the heck can you be half a segment short?  Seriously, though, it would be less expensive for me to spend a day flying someplace stupid to get the status than to pay to check bags for an entire year.  If I have to fly to De Moines during my vacation...

Monday, November 1, 2010

10 Things

I love this series of articles - 10 Things Your (Fill-in the Blank) Won't Tell You.  Your Waiter.  Hairstylist.  Funeral Director.  This one is the hotel housekeeper.

It helpfully answered my question about the "eco-friendly" opting out of housekeeping.  It is, in fact, costing them hours - and therefore pay.  It confirmed that most guests are not tipping their housekeepers, and reminded us to leave a note confirming that the money is for them, or else they are not supposed to keep it.

Three things I didn't know:
  1. Some guests people leave such messes in the rooms that houskeepers could just cry.  And sometimes they do.
  2. "In a city like Chicago, where the majority of hotels are unionized, housekeepers make $14.60 an hour," says Strassel. "But in a city like Indianapolis, where there are no union hotels, a housekeeper at that same chain will be making about half that. There's a very wide range."
  3. It takes something like twice as long to prep a room for a new guest as it takes to clean another room.