30 December 2008

And then the week seemed short

My bro and his family stopped by for a brief visit Sunday morning, loaded up their gifts and then hit the road for the long drive home. The days post x-mas went by fast.

My they are a talkative bunch. I kept thinking, "No wonder I was so quiet as a kid. If he talked as much then as he does now, it's amazing I ever got a word in," and also, "Was I quiet by nature or in part because of him?"

After a couple days, shifting my sleep schedule to accommodate them started to get to me. I didn't succumb to my niece's wet hacking cough, but my throat was on the verge of being sore. I could tell if I spoke a lot that it would get sore, so that sort of worked out for the best. Then getting 1 word in to my bro's, SiL's, or niece's 9 words didn't bother me. Of course now I don't feel like I said much of anything the whole time they were here.

What else? One of my favorite things about my 5 yr old niece is that she said "Thank you" to strangers who held open doors for her. Also when she said, "It was very nice to meet you" to my Mom's best friend that we'd stopped by to see.

Also much to everyone's amazement, she bowled a 197 for her first game of Wii bowling. Much dancing and jumping around ensued after each strike or spare she got.

If you've ever made a Mii on the Wii, you know the little tune that plays as you make your avatar. Mom had brought up my bro's xylophone sort of drum that our Grandddad made and my niece starting playing along to the tune.

Delayed gratification and five year olds don't mix though. The poor kid was so ready to bust with xmas excitement, I wanted to say let's just open it all now. But we were all good though she was pushing the limits of her secret holding abilities as well. If she couldn't open stuff, she wanted other people to know what they'd gotten.

Rock Band 2 is a whole mess of fun. My niece was determined to play and though the guitar was way too hard, she did pretty well on drums. Watching my dad on guitar and her on drums was hilarious. My bro can join my band any time. He intuitively kicked his guitar into overdrive and racked up lots of points. I'm better on drums but my guitar has vastly improved too. Whacking the drums is really satisfying though. If I start playing harder difficulty levels, I'll get an upper body and right foot aerobic workout.

As they were leaving, my bro and SiL both urged me to come visit them. I'm still not sure about it but the fact they are both finally quitting smoking has improved the odds tremendously. It was really nice not having to wait around for them to have an after dinner smoke nor having that smoke saturated smell in everything of theirs to contend with.


2 years ago on TTaT: I will

29 December 2008

Jinxed

DVD manufacturers, particularly those of multi-DVD sets, should standardize their packaging to one of the designs that isn't prone to breaking before it ever reaches the store. Or maybe they just need better quality control.

Though I'm a perfectionist, I do have some tolerance for flawed packaging; last year I resorted to a rubberband and paper sleeve rig to hold an errant dvd in place in its set. This year, however, the hinged middle piece holding 2 DVDs on either side of it had a completely broken hinge and missing teeth for one DVD.

Mom and Dad were driving up to storage so I decided to tag along to help and then head up to the mall with them so I could exchange the DVD set and look in Target for some bras on sale. This meant assuming pretzel form to sit behind the front seats of the pickup truck, but I figured I could manage for a short time.

Unloading the truck was a snap, but when we got back in after less than ten minutes, it wouldn't start. Mom walked to the office to see if someone would give us a jump since we knew that would be faster than AAA. While we waited for Mom, Dad and I both confessed that it'd crossed our minds that the truck might have trouble. (Sometimes it won't start if it hasn't been driven for a while, but it'd been fine just yesterday.) We'd jinxed ourselves.

Mom had been gone for a while and I commented that every time I've stopped to sign in at the office there have been at least 5 people in the office which was making me start to think they were a bunch of jerks if not one of them could spare under 10 minutes to drive over and give us a jump.

After 10 to 15 minutes, Mom came back somewhat disgusted. As soon as she'd asked if someone could give us a jump, everyone in the office made themselves look really busy. The boss had pointed to one guy to do it who was on the phone. When he got off, he filed something and then someone transferred another call to him. No one gave her a definitive answer. Or offered to let her call AAA, or to wait in the office (hello, it's cold out) while we waited for help. She ran into a worker outside who'd just pulled up in a van and asked him and he said he'd ask the boss.

So she came back and we called AAA who said someone would be there within 90 minutes. Dad left to wait for them at the entrance while Mom and I played tic-tac-toe on the steamy passenger window.

About 10 minutes later, a small van pulled up. It was the worker Mom had asked on her way out of the office. He'd just gotten off work and was nice enough to come back by to give us a jump.

Then we called AAA to cancel our order. Dad wanted to drive home and then take their car back out to the mall, but I told him that I hated the idea of backtracking all the way home without having accomplished anything I'd wanted to do on the outing. My stops would be quick and Mom had a return also, so Dad just dropped us off and drove around to pick us up again.

Best Buy's exchange policy is pretty simple. They stickered my DVD set at the door, so I could find another copy and then head to the return desk. Only problem was they didn't have another copy of season 1 of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. So I got in line for the return desk.

They had 2 people working, but 1 was stuck with an old guy the whole time I was waiting while people slowly filtered through the other person. After ~15 minutes, it was my turn. I explained that I wanted to exchange it because the case was broken but they didn't have any in stock. He opened it and looked at it, looked at my receipt, consulted with someone, and then came back.

Under state law, they can't refund open software (movies fall under this category apparently) due to piracy concerns. They have 6 on order, which should be in in a week or so (and still within my return window), so I have to go back when they have one in stock. As I walked out of the store, I realized I'd jinxed myself a second time today buy saying I wanted to accomplish something on our ill-fated outing. Of course, Target was also a wash. Not surprising though as ours is small and doesn't have the same variety and level of selection larger ones have.

Sigh.

Home without further incident now though, so that's something. Time for a pre-dinner cookie now methinks.


A year ago on TTaT: Snowprints

23 December 2008

Today was better

I discovered that I can maintain my calm if the ratio of introvert to extrovert is 1:1. In that scenario, I can even participate in conversations.

Mostly it was my SiL's assume-the-sale approach to 'asking' favors that got on my nerves. Her approach tends to elicit the reaction she's prsesumably trying to avoid. It also makes everything seem like a bigger deal/commitment than it is. Sigh.

I did go sledding with my bro and niece today. Opted for pajama bottoms under canvas cargo pants since I don't have long johns. Think I would just stick to jeans in future since we weren't out that long. SiL made it sound like a big deal outing, entertaining the niece all afternoon, which to me sounded like going somewhere else to sled for a few hours. We just made use of a small hill in the backyard though, so getting wet wasn't a big deal.

Located more bows and ferried piles of packages downstairs in lieu of wrapping which suited me well. I really dislike wrapping--I don't think my family appreciates that. Also, I didn't bust my ass wrapping all my gifts before bro and his family arrived just so I could wrap their packages. I already wrapped a couple for mom.

I just want people to stop volunteering me for wrapping. If the counter was: then you won't get as much stuff, I would be OK with that.

A'right, I should go. I have ornaments to stuff and glue shut for my SiL so my niece can decorate them tomorrow. Man, I'm tired.

Finally tried an Indian restaurant we've been meaning to though, and it was very good, so that's a groovy find.

Hope everybody's enjoying their fams as much as possible this week. ;)


A year ago on TTaT: Rebel icicle

22 December 2008

It's going to be a long week.

My brother, sister-in-law, and niece arrived today.

More than anything else I was struck by the fact that I am a quiet contemplative person. With many people I know, I can be quite chatty, but when confronted by extroverts, I don't have the energy to compete for air time. From the moment they arrived, at least one of them was always talking. And not just talking, but amped up chatter that requires speaking above my normal volume to interact with.

A pause here or there but my parents filled those. My conversational contributions were cut off or diverted several times.

My sister-in-law (SiL) enlisted me by way of assumption into wrapping my niece's gift from Santa. She asks for favors in a way that doesn't leave room to say no. Kinda bossy actually. All I had time to say before 5 yr old niece bounded back in was, "Santa wraps at your house?" He never did at mine. He set everything out in front of the tree on xmas eve after we'd gone to bed.

I've also been volunteered for sledding tomorrow. Fuck man, it's only going to be 23 degrees at best tomorrow. I don't own snow pants or long johns or even sweat pants, or for that matter, snow boots. I'm game for a few runs but I'm not equipped for hours. It's the presumptiveness that bothers me more than anything though...

Having comments from you guys helped though. Leave some more and help me get through this week!

P.S. I'm so glad they have a hotel room.


A year ago on TTaT: A new favorite, Bowties: not so tough

21 December 2008

Or theist, if you prefer

Bear Winter Card

Last minute wrapping tips

These tips assume you know the basics of wrapping and are meant to make the process a little easier and the results more satisfying.

1. Work on a large, hard, flat surface.
A table is ideal, so you can sit most of the time while you work. Your bed may seem tempting, but it is too soft if you want to make those crisp wrapping paper edges. Put a board on it, you say. OK, but make sure it's hard. I used one of those large, thick cardboard things for cutting sewing patterns, but the folds in it caused me all sorts of trouble since it didn't lie completely flat. Also, standing and bending over the whole time will wear you out in no time.

If you don't have a table that will work, make plan B the floor but avoid carpets with a thick pile.

2. To make your wrapping look neat, don't cut too much paper for your package.
This is the main key to avoiding crumpled, sloppy edges.

Make sure you have enough paper to cover your package end-over-end on all four sides plus a couple inches.

Then for the other 2 sides, you want a little more than will cover 1 of those sides completely. (When you wrap the paper around the package the long way, it will effectively double up so both sides will get covered. Just be sure to center your package on the paper left to right.)

3. Don't cut too little paper for your package.
If your cutting goes awry as it inevitably will when the hour is late, don't go crazy starting from scratch if it's just missing by a small amount. Cut a strip of paper large enough to cover the gap and place it under the seam where the paper was supposed to meet. Then place your tape from one edge, across the strip, to the other edge and it will hold it all together.

If it will look neater putting your bandaid strip of paper on top, do that, but it will take a lot more tape to hold in place.

Wrapping purists and perfectionists may disagree with the patch theory, but when the hour is late and the paper is short, this is the way to go.

4. If your package is slim and vertical, wrap it on its side if it's OK to rest it that way.
I know from experience that it's a lot harder to wrap these sorts of things standing upright. Avoid it if you can. If not, I refer you again to #1.

5. Crease the edges for a sharp look.
Once your package is wrapped, but before it is bowed, run your knuckles along each of the edges to give the paper more of a crease on its corners. (E.g., one knuckle on the top while the other runs next to it on the side.) Make sure to run your knuckles over any seams in the direction that won't rip the paper. Doing so will also prevent potential paper-cuts.

6. Even if you finish wrapping early, you may not be done.
It's likely family members will enlist your help wrapping their gifts. If you can't get out of it--or want to be nice--offer to help with the stocking stuffers. Roll stuff up in tissue paper, fold over the ends, tape and you're done. In my house at least, stocking stuffers need not be neatly wrapped. Failing that, offer to wrap a few packages but leave the bows and ribbon to them. Gift garnish is a real time and momentum killer.


Those are the main things that come to mind without getting into a full-on tutorial. Share your own tips and revelations in the comments. Good luck!


A year ago on TTaT: This is what happens...

19 December 2008

The snow began

Yesterday was so productive but today as soon as it started snowing, my brain completely shut off. I still have stuff to do. I NEED to concentrate.

Maybe I'll try to get wrapping done today... it needs doing before my bro and his family arrive on Monday. Damn, I was gonna say: what the hell was that? but I know what it is... a snow plow heading up the street.


2 years ago on TTaT: Previously un-freakin'-heard of

17 December 2008

The Hustons

47. The Hustons by Lawrence Grobel (3.5/5)

When I pulled this book off my shelf and started reading it, it didn't immediately register that it was nearly 800 pages, but it didn't take long for me to realize I was reading something epic. The author did over 200 interviews and an impressive amount of research to present a Rashomon style look at the Huston family. Everyone ever involved with John Huston who was still alive when the book was being written (or left diaries or letters) had their chance to speak in their own words. I usually prefer autobiographies, but this book appealed to me since it felt true to all of these myriad people's takes on various events.

Though the book focuses on film director John Huston, it also covers much in the lives of his grandparents, parents, and children (yup, that includes Anjelica) as well as his wives, lovers, friends, and business associates. A crazy but fascinating life: multiple wives and affairs, an estate in Ireland, a house in Mexico, making war documentaries during WW2, collecting art, and movies made all over. The broader scope of the book lets one discern repeating patterns of behavior.

If you're not going to read it over a fairly continuous stretch, I recommend drawing a family/relationship tree for yourself to help you keep track of all the names. You're going to need a big piece of paper though.


2 years ago on TTaT: Level-headed and responsible

12 December 2008

Quick ways to donate even if you have no extra funds

Consider Melissa:
Because there are so many worthwhile charities that could use a shot in the arm this year I will choose the top three mentioned here and send each of them $1 for every time they receive a vote from you (up to $150 each).

You can vote for the charities you love in her comments. The three with the most votes get the donations from her. She hasn't established a deadline yet, so get voting and increase those donation totals!

I'm quite fond of World Wildlife Fund, Equality Now, V-Day, Heifer International, and Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Read through the comments on her post to learn more about these and other charities. Also, you can vote more than once, so be sure to bookmark it.


Play Free Rice and sponsors will donate 20 grains of rice through the UN World Food Program to end hunger for each word you correctly define. If you're not into vocabulary, you can pick another subject: world capitals, geography, art history, multiplication tables, chemistry, foreign languages. For each multiple choice question you get right, that's 20 grains of rice.

If that's too time consuming for you, visit The Hunger Site. Just click the "Click Here to Give - it's FREE!" button and sponsors will donate 1.1 cups of food to the hungry. Visit their sister sites via the tabs at the top of the site and click to help women in need get mammograms, children get healthcare and books, to save the Rain forest 11.4 square feet at a time, and to have sponsors donate .6 bowls of food each day to rescued animals . You can click on the button for each site once a day; I do it every day my computer is on. Rest assured, Snopes says it's legit.

So, get clicking and commenting!


2 years ago on TTaT: Bad equation

10 December 2008

Double your Heifer Internation donation- today's the last day!

Author Patrick Rothfuss is matching donations to Heifer International until Dec. 11. I read that as meaning today is the last day.

For every 10 bucks you donate, your name will be entered into a drawing for lots of cool stuff. Signed books, posters, etc. from lots of authors. Check out some of the swag here and here.

As Patrick Rothfuss says:
Heifer International is my favorite charity. It helps people raise themselves up out of poverty and starvation. All over the world Heifer promotes education, sustainable agriculture, local industry, and clean water.

They don't just keep kids from starving, they make it so families can take care of themselves. They give goats, sheep, and chickens to families so their children have milk to drink, warm clothes to wear, and eggs to eat.

Read up on how to donate and get your name in the drawing here.

If you decide to donate and would like to do me a solid, donate towards a goat! That's what I'm doing. Let me know in the comments even if you donate towards another animal. Thanks!

UPDATE: Unfortunately donor pages don't give you all the same animal and shares of animals options the full catalog does, so I couldn't earmark my donation for a goat unless I donated the cost of a whole goat, $120. I was torn since I can't afford that right now and wanted to donate towards a goat, but I couldn't pass up a chance to double my donation.

So if you're looking at this Wednesday night, get clicking to meet that double-your-donation deadline.

If you're reading this later and decide to support Heifer International, consider a share of a goat. Why goats? Well, there are pygmy goats that live not far from me, and any day I see them is always the happier for it. Besides, it's fun to drive by and bellow, "Little goats!"


2 years ago on TTaT: GGggrrRR

09 December 2008

And then there was calm, at least temporarily

Honestly, I didn't feel much better after writing last night which I found both disappointing and a little suprising.

Before I went to sleep though I felt like I had the answer. Picking 20 photos would be easy, I'd do that. I felt settled and relieved and went to sleep.

Upon waking, my brain went 180; I would just submit text. This too felt reassuring.

Part of the difficulty I've been having is in the planning of what I'd work on for a year starting 6 months or later from now. Some of what I'm doing now should be done by then, so what would be next? I don't tend to think this way, though perhaps I should.

The answer came to me while I was in the shower. Before I started this application, I felt like what I was working on would be more than one project. So there's the next project, duh. Just stick to the plan.

gotta jet.


A year ago on TTaT: Words + Rice

08 December 2008

Long Shot

My brain's been in overdrive for a couple weeks. As of today, my holiday shopping is pretty much done, so that's something. There's still the fellowship (for aspiring artists) application though, and that's the bigger anxiety trigger. Having seen little bios of previous winners, I feel like it's a real long shot for me to win, so applying shouldn't be a big deal. However, when I convince myself I have a chance, that I could deserve it, I get stressed out with the particulars. Who can I get for references? What project should I pitch for the fellowship year? Writing or photography or both? Or something else entirely: lamps/furniture/sculpture? What should I submit? And their stupid PDF file won't let me type stuff in. Grr. Unfocused is not the way to win this.

It's almost funny because I was looking at a copy of an application I submitted for this same fellowship 10 years ago, and I only just a month ago started working on what I pitched back then. I'm sticking with almost funny rather than horribly depressing.

When I first finished grad school, it seemed inevitable that I would eventually win this fellowship offered by my undergrad alma mater. I'm not sure how many times I applied before (3-5?), but I've skipped several years recently with little in the way of good listy stuff to show for it, and now here we are at my last year of eligibility. Last chance long shot. No wonder 35 always seemed like such a weighty year to me.

It's stressing me out so much I feel like quitting, but I've got to see it through.


A year ago on TTaT: You've seen them

06 December 2008

Auditorium

Auditorium is a cool symphonic online game.

It'll suck you in, but in a soothing way.


2 years ago on TTaT: the other side of Santa, Owls really are nocturnal, Wrapping faux-pas

05 December 2008

Dear ABC execs: Don't cancel Pushing Daisies

Pushing Daisies is whimsical, fun, and has mysteries and intrigues that keep me coming back every week. There's nothing else like it on the air right now, and that's a great thing. I do not have it in me to watch another doctor, lawyer, or dramatic crime show; and I never had it in me to watch reality tv.

The bit where Kristen Chenowith breaks into song from last night's episode of Pushing Daisies was brilliant.

I want to see more of that. Please renew Pushing Daisies.


3 years ago on TTaT: Beauty Parlor Nostalgia (part 1)

04 December 2008

New Neighbors

They go to bed early and own a Hummer.

I kind of want to climb on it.


2 years ago on TTaT: Cheapest coffee in LA and other [mis]adventures

03 December 2008

Prop 8 - The Musical

"Prop 8 - The Musical" with John C. Reilly, Jack Black, Allison Janney, Neil Patrick Harris, Margaret Cho, Maya Rudolph and many other famous people is unquestionably AWESOME. Watch it now.




A year ago on TTaT: Here's what's in it for you

02 December 2008

Men's

Though I haven't been watching lately, I've absorbed enough What Not To Wear and the like to keep me from buying clothes that are totally wrong for me. I'm not prepared to make the sorts of changes Trinny and Susannah would espouse, but I do at least have improvements in mind. To wit, closer fitting long sleeve tees. Classy, I know.

Anyway, I'd been wanting to go to an L.L.Bean store for a while to try some on, and get a feel for size. Alas, today I found the small men's was still too big for me. It was a disappointing blow. Women's sure, makes sense, but the colors suck.

Walking through some department stores, considering gift options for my brother, I saw so much that I liked. All men's, too large, and wouldn't fit flatteringly anyway. If I were still essentially me but a man, I'd be such a goddamn snazzy dresser. Bring on the Perry Ellis. Even the casual wear would look better. I love men's clothes: the cuts, the colors, the patterns. It's not fair.


A year ago on TTaT: Handcuffs or chess?