Saturday, March 28, 2009

Somebody's Watchin' Meeeeeee

Okay, this is totally spooky, since Bubbles writes as Elizabeth and her DH's name is Michael:

Oh, and there is that nasty procrastination problem I have...

Check out more of Debbie Ridpath Ohi's cool comics at her blogs:
Will Write For Chocolate and InkyGirl

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sexy New Cell!

Every once in a while, the Fates smile down. Today was one of those days. Arriving on my doorstep, one of these:

Back in January, when I was researching smartphones (carrying a phone, an iPod, and a Palm was getting annoying), I stumbled across a RIM preview site for T-Mobile's newest, the BlackBerry Curve 8900. There's a contest--enter your email to win one for yourself and your Fave 5. So I dutifully type in a bunch of email addys I can remember off the top of my head who also have T-Mobile phones and forget all about it...until this nice woman calls from Toronto and says I'm a potential winner. We're sending paperwork, fill it out and send it back, and we'll send you some phones.

Right. Like it's that easy.

Turns out it is! I filled out, notarized, tossed it in an International Priority Mail envelope, and a week and a half later, voilà! I now own a CrackBerry. Pretty, isn't it? Now I have to re-learn everything. But if it makes my life even that much calmer, it's worth it! Plus, it makes an excellent milestone birthday gift for Kelz. Yay BlackBerries! Yay, Canadians! T-Mobile for life, y'all!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ten Things You Like Doing on Vacation

  1. Walking. Ground level is the best way to discover a new city.
  2. Sleeping late!
  3. If it's a stay-cation, making one room really sparkle.
  4. Reading.
  5. Staying in my pj's all day.
  6. Being a lady who lunches. I never get to do that.
  7. Staying up late.
  8. Seeing how busy I can keep the Netflix gnomes.
  9. Cooking. Something that takes time, like bolognese sauce or homemade bread.
  10. Relaxing and laughing with DH, Frick, and Frack.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Happy B-Day, Buttercup!

My girl Buttercup is turning the big 4-0 today! Don't let the demure pose fool you, though. This is one kick-butt writer we're talking about. Given the personal storms she's weathered the past couple of years, her forties ought to be smooth sailing--she has two great kids and a rockin' guy, so hitting the decade when women can finally do what they want and not worry about what people are saying about them is going to be the bomb. Love ya!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Simply Saturday

Just some random Q&A, courtesy of Real Simple magazine. Feel free to nab these questions for your own blog--if you're reading, consider yourself tagged.

If you suddenly came into $1,000 in spare cash, what would you do with it?
I should say "pay bills" or "save it," but screw that. Buy a new iMac. Mine's an indigo G3, and it's tired.

What song would be on the soundtrack of your life?
"Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy" by The Tams (love me some Carolina beach music). This explains why, although I have two kids who both play equipment-intensive sports, I drive a Beetle convertible.

What did you want to be when you were little?
A jockey, or a writer. No access to horses, so jockey was out, but I still thought about first book was about a couple of kids who revive an abandoned barn so they can train a racehorse. Yes, I was twelve.

What makes you laugh?
Warner Bros. cartoons, Monty Python, wit, my kids, my kids laughing at my being silly, DH (very infectious laugh), driving with the top down, happiness.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?
Staying in my pajamas ALL DAY LONG and reading ALL DAY LONG. Usually these two events occur simultaneously.

What was your most embarrassing moment?
I don't embarrass easily (be young, be foolish, right?), but arriving late to the church at my wedding probably ranks up there. Then again, my friends who know and love me probably weren't surprised!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ten Songs I Hate

  1. "Red Red Wine" by UB40
  2. "Blue Christmas" by Elvis. I know, I lose my red-blooded American card for this, but the background singers just kill it for me.
  3. Anything by Mariah Carey where she's trying to contact the secret planet of dogs.
  4. Risking hell for this one, but "The Old Rugged Cross." Its tune is just. So. Depressing.
  5. Pretty much anything by Boston at this point.
  6. "Soldier" by Destiny's Child. Yes, let's encourage young women to choose useless thugs for boyfriends!!
  7. "Unchained Melody" by The Righteous Brothers. I know, I'm probably the only person in the world who does, but...blech.
  8. "You're Beautiful" by James Blunt. He deserved every freakin' second of the Weird Al parody that followed.
  9. "Two Princes" by Spin Doctors
  10. "What's Up?" by 4 Non Blondes. Linda Perry has nearly redeemed herself for this by writing great stuff for P!nk, but not quite. Maybe not ever.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Newbery Update: 1920s

This year's reading project is to read all of the books that have been awarded the Newbery Medal. After scanning the list, I realized that I've only read a dozen or so of the books, the earliest of which was written in 1949 (Marguerite Henry's King of the Wind). So delving into the list at the beginning seemed a good way to tackle it. As I progress through the list, I'll review my thoughts on each decade's choice (the Medal was first awarded in 1923) and select my favorite work from each decade.

Let's just say that children's reading habits really have changed. Most of the books I checked out from the library were long--several hundred pages each. In reverse order, here are the titles:

The History of Mankind by Henrik Willem van Loon - He's not kidding. He started with aaaaaaaaaaancient history (think primordial soup) and covered most major world events through the end of the first World War. Surprisingly, the writing was quite engaging. It was the hardest slog, though, probably because it was nonfiction (not my favorite genre).

The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting - I kept picturing Rex Harrison, especially when they finally met the Great Glass Sea Snail. Apparently, this book has had to be revised to take out some of the more offensive language common for the 20s that would not fly these days. 

The Dark Frigate by Charles Hawes - A pirate-y kind of tale. Slow going at first, like a ship pulling out of the harbor, but plenty of skullduggery to keep things moving as you go along.

Tales from Silver Lands by Charles Finger - This is a collection of stories from South America illustrated with woodcuts. I'm still wondering what a "gentle huanaco" is. I'm thinking llama, but I could be wrong.

Shen of the Sea by Arthur Bowie Chrisman - Another story collection with silhouette illustrations this time. All of these are Chinese, but none were familiar. 

Smoky, The Cow Horse by Will James - Since I've never fully outgrown my Misty of Chincoteague phase, I figured I'd like this one, and I did. Will James was a self-taught writer and artist, and I have to say that this book is an excellent example of strong authorial voice. A book on tape of this title would demand Sam Elliott as its reader.

Gay-Neck, the Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji - By the time I got to this book, I started to feel that the early Newbery committee members were making a conscious effort to introduce American children to other cultures. This one is set in India and the central characters are Indian natives, but it definitely nods its head to the country's ruler at the time, Great Britain. Gay-Neck, the pigeon, ends up as a carrier pigeon for an Indian regiment fighting with the British in France during WWI. I liked it more than I thought I would.

The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly - Historical fiction that blends Polish history, the Heynal played four times at the hour from the Church of Our Lady Mary in Krakow, alchemy, and intrigue. What exactly is Joseph's father hiding in that pumpkin shell? Who are those creepy Tartars following the family from the Ukraine to Krakow? And will the Alchemist Kreutz discover how to transmute brass into gold?

And my favorite is...

The Trumpeter of Krakow! 

Props to Eric Kelly for writing a gripping story that manages to teach you a heck of a lot about medieval Poland at the same time. I love historical fiction anyway, and this book, even though written for children, was complex and interesting. If you're able to find the pictured copy (like I was; I think my public library bought it as a first edition), spend some time with the great illustrations. Janina Domanska has done a marvelous job evoking medieval art with her chapter illustrations.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This Is Why Banks Are in Trouble

I'm currently at war with one of my credit card companies. A few months ago, they decided to jack up my interest rate from a reasonable 7.9% to a just-this-side-of-outrageous 19.9%. Since my payments are withdrawn automatically, I didn't know anything about the switch until I got a special note telling me my payment was late. Hmm. So I check the statement, and sure enough, I'm apparently "late" because my payment--which was safely larger than what the 7.9% rate required--wasn't quite enough to fit my more-than-doubled new rate.

Of course, now the bank decides that my payments--which are withdrawn early, mind you--are late because they don't meet the new minimum. So now I get whacked the $39 late charge. And since I have a couple of late charges, they jack my rate up again to 27.99%. Apparently no one in the banking business has a working definition of "usury," but there you have it.

I call them and ask for a rate reduction because of my solid payment record. No dice. Now I have to show financial hardship. Well, geniuses, I didn't have financial hardship until you decided to start charging me nearly four times my original interest rate!! So now you have less money coming in, I have more headaches, and now the bank's decided the way to ensure my customer loyalty is to turn over the late charges and such to a collection agency.

Way to install confidence there, American banking system. When I finish paying this card off (since I am honorable, even though late, and won't declare bankruptcy and stick it to you as you so richly deserve), it'll be a cold day in hell before any of my money works its way through your doors. Not that they'd be my bank of choice anyway, considering that a chunk of my tax dollars have paid for custom-loomed rugs and antique breakfronts and ginormous bonuses to a bunch of executives who have basically run the company into the ground and all. But there you have it. Tank the economy, get a bonus and a bailout. Teach kids in the inner city, try to pay your bills, and buy school supplies and Kleenex and whatnot out of pocket with the raise and step I didn't get, and worry about whether we'll be employed next year--since schoolkids don't fundraise or donate to political campaigns. Go figure.

Yep, that makes sense.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

There Is That...


Today's Animal Crackers comic has a point. Thank you, Fred Wagner, for the obvious (and necessary) message! Now back to work...

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