Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Disaster on the Lawn Mowing Front!

It's actually chilly out there this morning! I wore a jacket for the first time in months. It feels strange, rather like the first time I wear tennis shoes after months of sandals and flip-flops.

Not that I'm complaining. I love Autumn and everything that goes with, as I've mentioned before. In addition, I'm also excited that my lawn will soon stop growing for a while and I won't have to mow.

Especially since, at the moment, I'm not sure I can mow. You see, I tried last night and I think I blew my lawnmower up.

I wasn't doing anything different to normal; I started the mower, managed to get the entire back lawn mowed and just as I was going to the front, it happened. The lawnmower died. I was confused. I restarted it. Nothing. I restarted again and it caught. I mowed for about 10 seconds and black smoke started pouring out the side. This was a little alarming, as you can imagine. It would have been a little easier to deal with if I hadn't been in my front yard in broad view of my neighbours. Not to be defeated, I tried again. The black smoke poured out. Then it stopped. I tried to mow and the moment the blades encountered longer grass, out came the black smoke.

Naturally, I did the only thing a single woman with no idea why her lawnmower is billowing smoke can do: I called my dad.

And, naturally, my dad did the traditional thing. He laughed at me. Then he told me to call Sears to see if it's still under warranty. While I appreciated his advice, it wasn't as though this thought hadn't occurred to me. What I really wanted is that magic fix that I expect my dad to have: A simple easy flick of a switch. Sadly, I didn't get that and thus, I was left alone with my smoking lawnmower.

Fortunately, the Dog Whisperer next door had come out to his yard and I noticed him watching. "Want to borrow mine?" he asked.

I thought about it. My lawnmower had died just as I'd started to cut the long grass out front. At this time, it looked like it had a bad, uneven haircut. Defeated, I agreed, stammering my thanks and feeling guilty about calling him The Dog Whisperer.

I didn't feel guilty for too long. "It's hard to start," he said. "Once it starts, it won't stop though."

Well, that was good. Nothing worse than a lawnmower that stops in the middle of mowing.

Except, you know, one that billows black acrid smoke.

He gave me a sly grin as he walked away after wheeling out his significantly older mower and leaving me alone with it.

I pulled hard on the choke cord. Nothing. I tried again, nothing. Following The Dog Whisperer's advice, I primed again, using the little red rubber button thingy. I pulled the cord again...nothing.

This went on for a few minutes and the entire time, I felt like The Dog Whisperer was probably laughing and snickering. While it was chivalrous of him to loan me his mower, it would have been even more chivalrous to start it for me since by the time the blasted thing FINALLY caught, I was a sweaty mess. It had taken about five minutes to get the stupid thing started and it was hard work.

So, I did finish mowing. My lawn isn't as short or neat as I like since his mower blades are dull and don't cut that short but, as the addage says, beggars can't be choosers. It was very, very kind of him to loan me his mower and at least I got my lawn mowed.

Now I have to figure out what's up with my mower. It's not normal for a mower to smoke like that...right? I will follow my dad's advice and find out if I'm still covered under warranty since the mower was brand new at the beginning of the summer. If not...well....hopefully the problem will magically fix itself.

That's not likely. While I'd love to shout the magical Harry Potter spell, "Reparo!" and get the mower to fix itself, doing so just makes me sound a little odd. I know this because, yes, I tried it last night because that's the kind of thing I do and the Dog Whisperer chose that moment to come out into his yard. He gave me an odd look and then offered me his mower. Perhaps he thought it might be safest.

So, keep your fingers crossed that my lawn decides that now would be a good time to go into hibernation for the season. Thus, I will not need my mower and I can have some time before I need its services again.

If not, maybe I can try staring at it and trying to figure out why it's smoking. Or...I can call Sears. That might be better. I'll keep you posted.

Happy Tuesday.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Awesomeness and Carousels...

It's finally Autumn. A wind has cropped up overnight that adds a chill to the air and tonight is supposed to be downright chilly. I can feel my mother- the cold-weather-hater- cringing as I write this; she does not share my enthusiasm for the fact that I will be able to switch to warmer pajamas and add more covers to my bed. The wind is supposed to be gusty today and I foresee showers of leaves cascading down from the trees.

I love days like this. I've been waiting a while, patiently through the summer, for the weather to change and bring with it the coziness of the cooler months.

While I think we'll likely have an indian summer at some point, I think today means that Autumn is here. I felt touches of it over the weekend, a crispness hidden in the breeze. Yet, while I took my sweatshirt to the fair on Saturday evening, I really didn't need it. It was warm enough with the crowds that I really only put it on so I didn't have to have it tied around my waist.

The fair itself was...anti-climactic, I'm sad to report. While it was nice to see almost the exact same fair as I remember, I realized that, overall, fairs aren't my favourite thing ever. Maybe they were once but now I'm an adult, there are far better ways I'd rather spend my money and my time.

However, it was nice to go back for the first time in several years. It was especially fun because we met my sister's family there and she has a three-year-old daughter. Going to the fair with a three-year-old gives you a new perspective. For example, I did get to go on a ride. My niece favours the carousel. That ride, to her, is safe and thus...approved. Apparently, at one of the last fair-type places she went with her parents, she went on a train-ride for kids and it traumatized her. The carousel, however, is not traumatizing. It is, in fact, "AWESOME!". I know this because I got to be the 'responsible' adult who went on the ride with her to hold her on the pony and make sure she didn't fall. As the carousel turned, we both yelled, "AWESOME!" every time we got to a certain spot. We also waved at her parents/grandparents as we passed then. I admit, it was fun, if a little dizzying.

My niece is also a bit of a, um, gambler, it seems. The Street Fair has a game called "The Mouse Game." Maybe you've seen it. Maybe you haven't. Basically, it's roulette only instead of spinning a wheel, a little mouse is dropped out of a box and scurries into a hole marked with a number. When you play, you get to select a bank of three consecutive numbers and mark them with a quarter. If the mouse scurries into a hole marked with one of your numbers, you win.

My niece loves this game. I thought it'd be fun to play. I admit, however, I do have a few reservations having watched the game. That poor little mouse. It's pretty much thrown out of the box onto the game board and it rarely gets a break. Drop and run, drop and run. I know some people don't like mice but I do. They're cute and harmless. Now, if it had been a Nutley, I might not have felt so bad.

Just kidding. Mostly. We played that game for a very long time. My niece was bound and determined to win her stuffed pink monkey. So we all gave her quarters. We all put quarters down. No luck. That damn mouse scurried into a number next to one of ours many times but never choose ours. Finally, we realize we're out of quarters and we have to stop. My niece has one quarter left and we tell her, "last time!" She puts the coin down and, lo and behold, her number comes up. She finally got her pink fluffy monkey which she immediately hugged. The toy probably cost us about $7 worth of quarters but what's that to a little girl's thrill at winning a fair toy?

It was fun being at the fair with my sister and her family but they left earlier than us. This left my parent's and I to wander around and get food. I chose the Wisconsin Cheese Sticks and I split them with my mother. I'm sad to report, they are not the greasy fried ambrosia I had concocted in my head; they were greasy sticks of barely melted cheese that fell extremely short to my memor of them. I was sad. My parents split some fried veggies but they were very greasy and sometimes that stuff doesn't sit well in my stomach. I settled on a hot dog for dinner which, I admit, is a cop out but after two heavily-fried snacks, I didn't want to push my luck.

Even the industrial tent let me down. By the time we got there, most of the tables had gone and there was no popcorn or apple dumplings to scent the air.

Ah well, such is life. I'm glad I went because it was nice to bump into some old friends and see what I've been missing. I think, perhaps, my biggest mistake was becoming such an enthusiastic Disneyland attendee during my L.A. days. I'm spoiled rotten. I'm sure in a few years, I'll adjust my expectations back downwards.

Still, Street Fair is a tradition in my parent's town. It's the first marker that Autumn is here. It's a time for the town to take to the streets, to mingle, to brush shoulders and torment innocent mice. It's a tradition I've missed, even if it wasn't everything I hoped and more. Sometimes there's something nice about the fact that things don't change, that the fact that the fish sandwiches are still in the same place as always, that the Pizza Hut wagon still smells ridiculously tempting with it's melted cheese and bread crust smell and that there will always be more than one place to toss a ping-pong ball into a fish bowl and win a goldfish.

And though it may not be Disneyland, in the words of my three-year-old niece, that's "AWESOME!"

Happy Monday.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Things that Thrill...

It's Friday and, you've guessed it, it's a gloomy day. It's still a little humid but the thickness of the air has faded a little and I can almost feel the Autumn air replacing it. I think in a couple of days, the temperature will drop and it might start to get a little chillier.

It seems to have been a long week this week. The days at work dragged by a little and it seemed all about making it through the day. Some weeks are just like that; they are weeks where the workdays pass in the most cumbersome way without making any real progress, even though you attempt to get a lot done.

Hopefully the weekend won't be like that. I'm heading back to my parent's this weekend. The town in which they live has an annual "Street Fair" in which the centre of town is closed to traffic and filled with rides, games and food stands. I haven't been in many years but, naturally, in high school, it was THE place to go after school.

Back then, it was all about the rides. They're the standard 'traveling fun fair' type of rides with the Spider, Til- a-Whirl and Gravitron which is really just a round room that spins so fast, gravity pins you to the wall and you don't need a restraint.

Just thinking about the Gravitron makes me feel nauseous nowadays. Just as the 'Egg' does when I think of them. The 'Egg' looks like a small ferris wheel but instead of seats, there are little egg-like capsules (hence the name). The capsules can spin in a circle so that, at any given time, as the whole ride is turning, ferris wheel style, you're also turning and are upside down.

I used to think that was cool. My friends and I would dare each other to go on and we always did.

I can't help but think I must have been a little crazier back then. As a kid, you just think of the thrills and try not to throw up on the ride. As an adult, you think about each of the bolts holding those eggs on the ride, you think about the fact that they're assembled by locals who are hired by the day to help set up the fair. You think about what would happen if one of those bolts wasn't connected properly, if one of those locals misheard the direction and forgot to lock a piece of the ride.

Yes, folks, I've become the grown up I used to mock. And that...is a scary thought.

Somewhere between my teens and now, something kicked in within me that made me realize that though I used to go to theme parks and ride the rides, it took me forever to work up the nerve to go on the huge roller coasters and the rides with huge drops. Once I'd ridden them, I realized that I'd gone on them because I'd been bullied by my friends, that the only rollercoasters I really liked were the ones with small drops that went fast. I didn't mind a corkscrew, upside down twist but I did NOT like being dropped 100-200 feet on a coaster. It terrified me and despite what my friends said, it wasn't the kind of thrilling terror I get on the coasters that go really, really fast and don't drop but just wow with their speed, like Space Mountain at Disneyland which is my all-time favourite roller coaster.

At the same time I had this realization, I also realized that I didn't have to go on the roller coaster and if I was that afraid, it wasn't worth it. While I believe there are some fears in life that need to be conquered, I see nothing useful about conquering my fear of monster roller coasters. I have tried; I'm not one to shy away easily. I allowed myself to be talked into going on the Tower of Terror at Disney's California Adventure because I thought maybe I'd enjoy it. I didn't. The ride is one that lifts you very high into the air and then...you just drop. Only on this ride, you drop. Then you go back up, then you drop again and each time, your stomach is left in the air behind you. For me...that was not fun and my gurgled screams were not of delighted exhilaration but, rather, fear and genuine terror. Fortunately, I was with a friend who understood and didn't mind at all that I didn't join her the next time she went on for a second ride. Those are the best kind of friends because they recognize the difference between a shy refusal (but secret desire to try a ride) and a flat out refusal and they know when to gently persuade because I want it and when to give up.

I guess the things that thrill us are different for everyone. I don't like those rides. To me, the three to five minutes it takes to ride a ride are not worth the anxiety I feel while waiting in line. Thus, I have discovered in my older years that if I don't enjoy something, I shouldn't do it. Life is too short. I'd rather wait on the ground and watch passers-by than put myself through the fear for a couple of thrills.

Maybe I'm missing out. My personal feeling is that I'm not. Why waste life doing things we don't want to do just because we might enjoy them? By now, I know the things I enjoy and I don't need to experiment quite so much.

Thus, at the Street Fair this weekend, I shall enjoy it on a whole new level. I enjoy the sights and the sounds of the fair. Naturally, I enjoy the food. Why is it that the food at fairs is some of the most unhealthiest on the planet but also the best? This fair has great food, from what I remember. There are huge, fat, battered and deep-fried (naturally) Wisconsin cheese sticks; there are deep fried (naturally) fish sandwiches that are just very tasty. There are Italian sausage sandwiches, curly fries, elephant ears, funnel cakes....all the foods that make the fair smell like a pit of naughty indulgence.

Ironically, back in the days when I went to the fair before I abandoned the small town for the lights and experience of living in L.A., I always used to walk around the fair and see what I fancied to eat. There would be a chill in the air that made all of the food smells more intense. Yet, every time, no matter what else there was, the smell of the slices of Pizza Hut pizza from the mobile van tempted me most. People mocked me for this. Pizza Hut was in town year round. It was, in fact, less than a mile down the street. Yet...that cheesy, pepperoni smell would waft to my nose on the wings of cool, crisp, Autumn air and...that's what I wanted.

This year, I'm bound and determined to eat something different, something really, really bad for me that will taste good when I eat it but, most likely, I'll regret afterwards.

Yet the fair is not all about food. This fair in particular has a "Industrial Tent" this is a very long tent in which local businesses and organisations set up and advertise their wares and services. The tent always smells like apple cider, caramel apples and popcorn because some of the business sell/give away food as a fundraiser. As a kid, the tent was boring. As an adult...well...honestly, it'll probably still be boring. Yet on the cold nights, especially when it rained, you'd go to the tent to warm up and get dry. There's something comforting about going in there.

I'm excited to go back to the fair. I know if you live in the town where my parent's live, it's an inconvenience as much as enjoyment. It literally is in the middle of town and to get around it, you have to go quite a long way off the beaten track. Yet, as a homecomer who missed it by a week last year, I'm excited to go back, check it out and see it through new eyes. It'll probably wear out its welcome after a day but I'm looking forward to it. The smells, the sights, the chance of running into old friends...it should make for a good weekend.

I hope yours is good too. Happy Friday.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Imposter Chocolate and Other Miscellaneous Thoughts...

It's still gloomy outside. Today, due to the incredible level of humidity, we're supposed to have fog that is 'fluid'. This means that the fog is moving all over the place and might not stick around. To me, this seems to be a bit of a weather cop-out. It's a creative way of saying "there's fog in some places but if you don't see any, it might be pop-up fog". Can fog really 'pop up'? I sort of envision fog more...creeping in, rolling in across the land. I would be rather alarmed if I was driving and suddenly there was fog right where there was none moments before.

Nah, I think it's really just another way of saying, "it might rain!" Thanks, Mr. Weatherman, as always, you've been most helpful.

It's been an overall gloomy week outside. My lawn is slowly growing and, while it isn't wet, it's damp and soggy and the mosquitoes are thick and eager. I cannot go outside and return without a bit. I do wear repellent but I think that mosquitoes are becoming immune to repellent. I tried not to venture out much last night but it's rubbish day in the 'hood so I had to drag my bin to the curb and take out the recycling. Fortunately, I dodged every bite but one.

I think the weather outside takes its toll on people inside. You can always tell when it's been bright and sunny because people are more alert, more friendly. With the oppressive gloom, people seem to keep more to themselves, finding themselves weighed down by the heavy humidity and the burdens of life.

I've been trying to fight the gloom. It's hard, I admit. My house is not terribly airy when it's muggy outside. As a ranch style house, the windows are all along the outside and the centre of the house has no air flow. My living room windows have no screens so I don't open them. It makes it warm in the evenings but as I said yesterday, it's just a little sticky but not sweltering hot as it was a month or so ago.

Of course, according to Mr. Weatherman we are supposed to see cooler weather during 'the second half of the weekend.' Unfortunately, he followed this by saying, "so, by Tuesday, temperatures should be lower." How, exactly, he interprets Tuesday as "the second half of the weekend," I'm not too sure but, as I always say, he's the Weatherman and his ways are a mystery to me. I think I'll keep it that way. It keeps me entertained in the mornings and helps wake me up as I try to puzzle his strange phrases such as "impulses of rain," "fluid fog" and "pop-up thunderstorms."

Ah well, we're in that strange phase that happens between seasons. It's not cool enough to be Autumn but the days of summer are behind us. Summer is struggling to hold on so it's bringing humidity and warmth but Fall is just beyond the horizon, still changing the colour of the leaves and dropping them from the trees and proving its arrival by giving us pumpkins in the supermarkets, on roadside stands and on the porches of those that don't mind replacing them regularly until Halloween.

This year, I'm quite excited that I live in the type of neighbourhood where people put out pumpkins. I have a strong feeling I'll get a lot of trick or treaters this year because there a ton of kids in the neighbourhood. That's going to be fun...I think. Of course, it means a financial investment in the treats because no-one wants to be known as 'the lady who gives out crappy candy at Halloween.' To me, this means those nasty peanut butter kiss things in the waxy orange and black wrappers and Tootsie Rolls. I know, I know, some people like Tootsie Rolls. To me, they're impostor chocolate. You reach for them when you really crave chocolate and...they fail you. If I'm going to eat chocolate, I want a Cadbury bar, not some nasty chewy fake chocolate thingy that takes longer to unwrap than to eat.

The fruity Tootsie Rolls are an exception. I like those but that's because they don't pretend to be something they're not. They just are fruity goodness in the form of a chew. Kind of like Starbursts. I love Starbursts which used to be called Opal Fruits in England but are now also called Starbursts. The only thing I don't like are the grape ones. This is because the first time I ate one in the U.S., I saw the purple and assumed, like in England, it'd be blackcurrant which is one of my favourite flavours. Not so. It was a nasty grape one. The same also goes for watermelon. Watermelon and grape flavours rarely taste like the real fruit. Thus, I shun them because they're vile.

So, obviously, this is one of those blogs where I just start typing and I end up babbling. I hope that's ok. Even if it's not, it's not like I'm going to erase it and start over. I would, actually, except I have a meeting at work. This will most likely be a meeting that irritates me because it's going to end up trying to give me more work to do that shouldn't fall to me but I'm going to be an optimist and hope for a better outcome. At the very least, it'll give me a chance to doodle. I love to doodle. It helps me focus during meetings.

Sorry for the ramblings. Wish me luck on my meeting. As always, thanks for reading.

Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Facebook: Our Grown-Up Playground....

We seem to be stuck in a system of gloom. The humidity outside is so thick that inside, everything feels almost sticky. The easy solution for this would be to put the air conditioning on but, so far, at home, I refuse. It's almost October and the temperature gauge is only reading 82 degrees. It seems extraneous to turn it on when fans are sufficing. It's just that blasted stickiness which isn't going away.

I listened to the weather this morning. I know, I know, it's pointless as I complain regularly. Yet I was hoping to find out when this nasty, humid, gloomy front would pass us by. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, Mr. Weatherman doesn't seem to know. All he can say is, "you might have thunderstorms." Seriously, he seems positively befuddled at what's happening and hasn't any idea how long it will last and if, in fact, it will even rain, even though it always seems to look like rain. So....basically, I have absolutely no idea if it's going to rain or if the humidity is going away any time soon.

Ah well, I suppose it means it'll be a surprise if anything actually happens with the weather. It doesn't mean I don't often wonder how Mr. Weatherman keeps his job. That's just one of the mysteries of life.

Still, I'm sure there's much more to not knowing what the weather is going to do than it seems on TV.

While I was waiting for Mr. Weatherman's vague forecast, I had the news on. I like to listen to the news in the morning. I did prefer it when I didn't have to leave quite so early for work because they do a segment that's called, "News from around the U.S." that airs later in the morning. This report usually features cute stories about bears that wander into people's yards, monkeys that do cute things in various zoos and dogs that are awfully clever. There's something nice about seeing animals on the news instead of just hearing about people shooting each other, shooting policemen or shooting themselves.

One of the stories I did hear is that the Florida Bar Association (or something similarly named) is now using social networking sites such as Facebook to research candidates for law jobs and law school. Apparently, they're using it to research job candidates who might have joined Facebook groups like, "Lawyers Suck!" or "I HATE my lawyer" and then decide to become lawyers.

Now, personally, I think this is a little bit too much. Also, I'd like to think if I hired a lawyer who had joined a Facebook group like that and then become a lawyer, he or she would be smart enough to unjoin the group before actually becoming a lawyer.

Still, even so, I still think that's a bit of a snoopy job practice.

I admit; I love Facebook. I used to be on MySpace when that was the trendy place to be. Unfortunately with MySpace, it got overrun with porn, stupid spam mail and just became a bit of a ghost town because all my friends were defecting over to Facebook.

I followed them only to reconnect with the most bizarre assortment of friends I could ever have expected. I found old friends in England, friends from high school whom I had lost after graduation, cousins, aunts, uncles...it was and is fantastic for that.

I don't spend quite as much time on the site as a lot of my friends do. Most days, my time on there is spent updating my status to something rather asinine and reading my friends' statuses. It's a fantastic way of knowing what people are up to without having to make too much of a commitment. I love it.

I don't use Facebook for sharing really personal information. Some of my friends give a lot of personal info in their status updates, stuff I wouldn't want the entire world of my facebook making to know. It's a personal choice, I get that. It's not one I make but it doesn't mean I frown on those that do share information.

For me, the key word there is personal. Facebook is a place to electronically socialize, to catch up, to take silly quizzes and just have fun. I found out that if I were a character in True Blood, it would be Pam; I actually was quite pleased with that. She's sarcastic, hilarious, a snappy dresser and best of all gets to hang around with Eric. I also discovered my personality type, got addicted to Bejewelled Blitz and found out that my Patronus (from Harry Potter) would be a polar bear.

What it comes down to is that Facebook is a big old place for us grownups to go play as if we were kids again. The games and toys are not dolls and miniature cars, they're quizzes, silly games and becoming fans of TV shows, authors, groups, chefs...you name it, there's probably a group. It's a big old electronic playground and the time we spend there is like our playtime, our recess.

So, naturally, feeling the way I do about Facebook, I find it a little off-putting that employers seem to think this is a good way to spy on potential candidates. I'm not saying that I don't see why they're doing it. I suppose it is a good way to get a sense of a person. Also, you can make your profile private so that they can't see more than your picture. But if it means employers are asking permission to see a profile, that's a different story. That, to me, is a violation of my personal life. I wouldn't allow them to come over and search my house to find out who I am, what I like, what I do in my spare time. IThat seems to be what they're doing by looking around Facebook. I'd get it if I were applying to be in the FBI or CIA or something classified. I mean, you wouldn't want someone whose addicted to Farmville and can only think about that to become a CIA agent, would you? Then again, I don't think a person like that would be applying to the CIA so it's a non-issue.

So, really, I don't think there's many excuses for an employer to be snooping on my Facebook profile. Granted, if I'm silly enough to befriend my boss, I don't think I'm daft enough to do anything on Facebook that's incriminating. In that case, it'd be my choice that I'm allowing them into my personal life; at least I know my boss and I'm consciously allowing them to snoop.

For potential employers though, it doesn't seem quite right. I know there are arguments to my point and I'm absolutely willing to hear them. For me, personally, however, I just don't think it's right that because in 2009 we have an electronic 'playground' like Facebook, employers are exploiting that. After all, when we were in our early years of school, we'd huddle on the playground and swap erasers, pencil sharpeners and stickers. Granted, it was in the more innocent days when underage drug deals were still an unreal notion but teachers didn't stop us; they'd take one look at the bright coloured swap-materials, smile and walk away. They knew that playtime (recess to you American readers) was for the kids, not for the teachers. Provided we didn't do anything obviously naughty, they left us to our own devices.

The obvious point is that just because employers can do that, doesn't mean they should. I could argue that it's different for employees than it is for potential employees because then, at least, that employee has an obligation to the company for which they work in that they don't do anything to put it or it's reputation in jeopardy. Yet, even then, Facebook snooping should only be utilized in the most necessary of circumstances: Suspected murder, pedophilia and the like. Otherwise, it should be off limits and for the nosy boss who can't resist, they should NOT be allowed to hold anything they read from the employee against them.

I suppose it's all debatable really. As always, I'm just stating my ranty opinion. There's always two sides to an argument. Still, for me, as long as I know I can hide behind a 'private' setting on Facebook, I'm only letting people I know 'friend me' on Facebook. I don't even do anything on there that I'm embarrassed to share... It's more just the point of the thing. Facebook is my play place and I shouldn't be afraid to be me on there in case someone holds it against me or decides that because I belong to Mario Batali's fan group, I'm a pig and I eat too much...

Overall, I guess what I'm trying to say is that Facebook allows people to judge unfairly based on how they utilize the website. It's easy to dismiss someone for the groups they belong to, for the jokes they share when, in truth, that may not affect the fact that they'd be a stellar employee and could reap great things for a company.

When we were kids, we used to do things like run around with our coats extended, pretending we were superheroes, flying around. Teachers just let us do it because it blew off steam. We needed that. We still need that. Sure, it's probably not smart to declare you hate lawyers and then become one but...so what if you do? Unless you have a Dexter-like habit of waiting in the shadows and taking them out one-by-one, does it really do any harm? Does it mean you're not a good lawyer because you don't like other lawyers?

I suppose it's all in the interpretation.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Year of Change...

It is another gloomy day this morning with the added bonus of mass amounts of humidity. It feels nasty out there. It's the type of day where I begin to try to do something with my hair and I realize that the minute I walk out of the house, it'll fall flat so it's a ponytail day instead. The weatherman, having been wrong about the heavy and steady thunderstorms we were supposed to get yesterday looked slightly defeated this morning, almost like a puppy that has been scolded. He was far less bold with his predictions stating that while it was likely we'd get thunderstorms, we might not.

I have decided it might be quite nice to be a weatherwoman. Apparently, it's all about being vague. You can say things like, "There's a chance of rain," and "Parts of the area are seeing clouds." I mean, really, every day there's a 'chance' of rain: It might rain...it might not. It's a nice safe prediction to say that there are going to be clouds somewhere in the viewing area. It's a big viewing area.

But, as it stands, it's grey and nasty out there. It's definitely a stay-in-and-do-nothing-really-productive type of day. Unfortunately, since I'm at work, that might be a bit hard to do given that I am being paid to be productive.

Today actually marks the day when, a year ago, my friend and I packed up my little Toyota and left Los Angeles for the Great Midwest. Given everything that's happened in the past year, it seems much longer than that. In the time I've been gone from L.A., I've started this blog, learned to cook and bought a house. Depending on how you look at it, it may not seem like much but to me, they're components of my life that make up who I am.

It's amazing how much life changes in a short time. It seems like if you're born in L.A. you tend to stay there but if you move there later in life, you tend to enjoy it for a while and leave. When I first moved out, there was a steady wave of my college friends also slowly moving out. My only friend in the scary world of California was a former college roommate with whom I had been friendly but never known well. We had been joined as roommates by another friend. We had all been theatre majors. In the undergraduate school I attended, the theatre department was very small and very "exclusive.". I put the exclusive in quotes because, looking back, I realize it was exclusive in a fairly bad way. Overall, the atmosphere was arrogant and self-congratulatory. There have been some immensely talented people to come out of there but to survive and come out the way you went in...that was a feat. It was a place where if you tried to be slightly different, you would either be broken like a horse and tamed or you would be made miserable to the point in which you'd leave. I saw both happen in the three years I spent in the department. To this day, that phase of my life remains a muddled confusion. Doing theatre was what I loved but it was the only thing I was allowed to do. I felt as though I were sneaking away when I enrolled in other, non-theatre classes.

Needless to say, as a theatre major, you lived, breathed, slept and ate theatre. You also had little time for non-theatre activities. This meant that the only friends you really had time to socialize with were fellow theatre majors. It was a good thing and it was a bad thing. To this day, I regret some of the friendships that weakened because of this phase of my life. Ironically, while I keep in touch, mostly on Facebook, with some of my former theatre friends, without the bond of the stage, we really don't know each other any more. It's sad but we bonded over our 'craft', it was the tie that connected up. Most of my former close friends from my theatre days, like me, drifted away, having felt burned out from doing so much of it during college.

I digress. I do have a point, surprisingly. It is that when I did move to L.A., I was still fairly recently graduated from college and so reconnecting with former theatre friends, all in L.A. to try to break into movies or at least the theatre scene was easy. The problem that ended up happening was that we all 'came of age' at the same time. When I say that, it means we found the things in our lives that we truly loved. My former college roommate found love and a career and he ended up moving closer to his boyfriend. Another friend went back to the Midwest, still dabbling with theatre but still trying to figure out what she wanted. Then there was me; I'd found my writing. It was no longer screenwriting, it was novels. Over time, I realized there was no reason for me to be in L.A. I could write anywhere and then, slowly, the pull of home, of my family began to be stronger than the pull of L.A.

So, seven years after I'd moved out, I found myself coming back home. As I left, I was 'friended' on Facebook by two other former theatre friends who were just moving out to L.A. It's an interesting pattern; you leave and there's someone always waiting to fill in the gap. Los Angeles represents a city of dreams if you live far away. When I was in high school, I had a friend who was obsessed with moving to California. She was determined to go there and have a rock-and-roll-lifestyle. She had originally planned on marrying Bret Michael's from the band, Poison. Then she decided it was all Axl Rose from Guns n' Roses. Either way, the lure of L.A., the dream of California was all-encompassing.

As far as I know, she never did go out there. I think she actually lives in Cincinnati. Due to the fact that she went a little mental in high school and would talk about having me killed in notes to her friend, I'm really not that worried about where she is. I just hope she's happy and a little, um, less deranged.

I still find it ironic that I went there. For me, it was really just a question of me getting out of the Midwest, to see what else was there. It was between New York and L.A. I chose L.A. because it was cheaper. That's pretty much the only reason. I do wonder what path my life would have taken if I'd have gone the other direction. However, choice I made, to this day, feels like the right one. I'm just glad it led me back here. I had my years of seeing life from a different point of view, immersing myself in a city that's so diverse you can walk from one street to another and see a whole new culture spring up.

Yet...I'm glad I left. I love the peace of the Midwest, the fact that one day it can be stormy and humid and the next a crisp, Autumn day with the hint of frost on the wind. I love the fact that the trees are starting to change colour and that I can be one of those people to put a pumpkin out on my porch and welcome trick or treaters on Halloween night.

I'm not saying that there aren't days when I don't miss my former life. There are days when I miss it so much, it's hard to remember where I am in the world. That might be due to the fact that I stream KROQ, my beloved L.A. radio station, online. It's awfully disorientating to be working in Ohio but hear advertisements for restaurants, concerts and events in the L.A. area.

Whatever the reason, it's now officially been a year in which KROQ sent me off with Viva La Vida, one of the few Coldplay songs I can actually stand, as I drove out of the city and lost reception, moving away from L.A. on a new path. I'm still finding my way but I'm glad it brought me here.

Even if it did give me Nutley 2.0.

Happy Tuesday.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mondays, Markets and Hideous Curtains...

Today is a gloomy Monday morning. It's overcast and the skies are heavy with rain with only a light drizzle currently falling. It's going to pour later. I'm glad about that. Yesterday, we had a rainy Sunday. It didn't start raining heavily until the evening but there's just something luxurious about being inside on a rainy evening without having any place to go.

It was a nice end to a busy weekend. Saturday, as I mentioned, was Yard Sale day in my neighbourhood. While it wasn't as much without my sister who is my Yard Sale expert, it was still a good chance to score some deals. I managed to get quite a lot of deals such as a fold out TV table for $1, a Rachel Ray cookbook for $2, some collectible Harry Potter figurines still in the boxes for $1 and a cornucopia of other goodies.

I didn't have quite the stamina for them as I usually do so about midday, I decided to try something new. I headed down to Findlay Market in downtown Cincinnati.

Findlay Market is one of those treasures that most cities have: A farmer's market and a Foodie heaven, all in one. There is both an outdoor produce area and an inside area that stocks every type of meat you can imagine, cheeses and all sorts of gourmet goodies. I really just wanted to browse to see if it was worth future soujourns.

All I can say is that the market itself...was awesome. It was just the parking and the neighbourhood that was a nightmare.

When I got down to the market, I followed the signs for "parking" only to circle the car park for about 15 minutes. This was not me driving around freely for 15 minutes, this was me being stuck behind a parade of cars all searching for the elusive spot. Naturally the 'pack' was headed by someone who decided to just sit still in hopes that he'd catch someone leaving. He didn't seem concerned that there were literally nine cars behind him.

Once I'd made a lap, I had to exit since there was no way to reenter without circling the block. There was supposed to be additional parking a block over. So I went there. So did the other nine cars. I think one of them may have found a spot. In the meantime, I thought I'd find street parking.

Unfortunately, a quick tour of the radius of the market quickly deterred that idea. Findlay Market is not in a good neighbourhood. It was decrepit and run down and there were people just standing on the street corners, watching. Sometimes there's an instinct that kicks in and you just know that it's not a good idea to be a single woman walking alone. It's not a racist comment, it's not a judgement. It's just the way things are.

So, I drove back to the parking lot. Same thing except this time it was only a ten minute lap. I went around the block again, furious now. I understand that they're busy but one of the easiest ways to make me irate is to make it hard for me to park. I admit, I don't have road rage but I do have parking lot rage. I get really angry if I can't find a parking spot in a reasonable amount of time. You want to see Captain Monkeypants fume? Just take away all of the spots in a car park.

The 'overflow' parking lot was...overflowing. Frustrated beyond belief, I got BACK to the main parking lot. This time, there's an orange-shirted parking attendant there. He sees me and waves me towards a spot that was off the beaten track. The only problem is that he's directing me to go the wrong way down a one way aisle. I wasn't sure about this but he enthusiastically waves me forward so I take the plunge and squeeze down the aisle only to discover...it's a handicapped spot and, last time I checked, I did not have a handicapped sticker. He apologizes and promises to help me out. So, I do as he says and follow him. Once again, he sees a 'hidden' spot. I follow him. I realize that, once again, I am going the wrong way down a one way aisle. It turns out that not only am I at the wrong angle to take the spot but some poor sod has been waiting for it, indicator flashing and everything. I have to give the spot up.

Orange-shirt PROMISES me I'll find another spot. I follow him. No parking space. I see one open up and he eagerly waves me forward only to realize that the car wasn't leaving, it was just straightening up. He shrugs at me, admits defeat and walks off.

You probably wonder at this point why I don't leave. Well, the thing is, I drove for 30 minutes to get there. Not only would I have wasted the gas but also the time. I wasn't giving up yet, even if I was fuming.

This time, as I pull out, I manage to pull a legal u-turn out of the lot because I see a spot on the street right by the market. Turns out it's a loading zone. I have to go around the block. Again. This time, however, it's a different block and while it's a wee bit abandoned, it's not quite as dilapidated as the other blocks. At the end of it, literally diagonally across from the market, I find a plethora of open spaces with parking meters. Here there are no people sitting around on stoops, standing on corners, yelling 'Nice car' at me as I pass. It's quiet and it feels safer. I finally find the closest spot to the market and park. Immediately, my anger fades.

After hiding all my gadgets including Satan The GPS Unit and my iPod dock, I feel satisfied and put a quarter in the parking meter. Unfortunately, my quarter did nothing as the meter was dead. Still, at least I tried. Feeling a little apprehensive, I headed to the market.

I'm glad I did. As is the case with most farmer's markets, the produce was cheaper than in the supermarkets and much fresher. Findlay Market itself was a treat. I got to finally see quails eggs for sale although I didn't purchase any this trip. I did buy some fancy sausages including some Swedish Potato and English Bangers with Sage. I also bought a South German Frank that ended up tasting just as I expected and took me back in my memories to teatime with my German granddad and the sausages he likes to eat. Not that I ate it at the market. I had it last night. At home. Even given my slight tendency towards eccentricity, I think it might have been weird to walk around eating an uncooked sausage without a bun.

After the nightmare of the parking, it was nice to relax by looking at food. While the market itself isn't as big as other city markets I've been to and it doesn't have quite as many food stands to purchase lunch, it's definitely a good place to go as a Foodie and a market lover.

By the time I left, my parking rage had been vanquished. It's a good thing too; my trip home took twice as long as my trip there due to construction on the interstate. Fortunately, I had an audiobook to keep me company so I didn't mind. Besides, it wasn't like I was looking for a parking space; my rage is usually limited to that and being stuck in traffic when I'm already running late for something.

After that, the rest of my weekend passed quickly. Yesterday I finally got around to clearing up my spare room and removing the Most Hideous Curtains In the World. I still have them if you wish to see them but they are thick, dark and covered with a print of globes and books. They may sound attractive but, let me tell you, they are not. They were homemade by the lady from whom I bought my house. I felt a bit bad at taking them down because they were really well-made. However, they were also hideous. I now only have one more room with hideous curtains to remove. I replaced them with some happy orange ones that are sheer and bright. They're a bit too bright but it makes the room look cheerful, unlike the Most Hideous Curtains in the World.

So, that was my weekend for the most part. Now I'm back at work on a dark Monday morning. Everyone seems to be a little grumpy. This might be because we were scolded for not working hard by our personnel person on Friday even though she has absolutely no idea what any of us really do for a living. This is a sad fact but also a true one. She knows our job titles but ask what we actually do and she'll back away, a wary look in her eyes and not answer the question.

She also told us we need to not talk so much. This is an admirable idea except that, unfortunately, in order to do our jobs well, sometimes we have to, you know, talk. In our case, we don't have an office as she does in which we can close the door to talk. We have cubicles and nowhere to go to confer. So we do it at our desks.

Then again, she is the person who insists on using the men's bathroom and doesn't understand why they don't use her Warm Vanilla Sugar room spray. She also complains that it's 'gross in there' yet she makes no effort to go to the women's bathroom instead. Ah well, it's the personalities that make work interesting....right?

Happy Monday.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Weekend is Nigh...

We made it to Friday. It has been one of those weeks that seems to have whizzed by but, at the same time, dragged a little, at least for me.

It's supposed to rain this weekend. I'm actually quite happy about that. It hasn't rained properly in a while and the ground in hard and parched. I've had to water my plants every night which isn't too much of a hardship except for those annoying dogs next door. It's official; the man thinks he is the Dog Whisperer. He even told me this last night as he, in turn, picked up all three dogs and held them up for me to pet.

I did not want to pet the dogs. Especially as it does not good because the moment he puts them down on the ground, they start yapping again. He told me last night that now when they run out, the come to the fence looking for me and that's progress!

Well, in his eyes, that's progress. In my eyes and my ears, they're still yapping the minute they're let out in the yard and they see my movement. I suppose he thinks that's an honour, that they're yapping in greeting. Maybe they are. The problem is...they're still barking and even when I attempt to say hi, they go ballistic.

Ah well, it's one of the joys of suburban living, right?

Speaking of suburban living, let's talk about Nutley 2.0 for a minute. Yesterday when I was driving, I noticed a sad sight: A squirrel had been run over just a few houses down from mine and lay splayed and broken in the road. I did wonder if it was Nutley 2.0 and was a little sad. For all of his mischief, I don't really wish death on the squirrel even if I do sometimes wish to shoot him with a BB gun.

Well, it turned out not to be Nutley 2.0 as I saw him in my yard last night and he brought with him a new problem: Nutley 2.5. Yes, I think Nutley 2.0 has a girlfriend.

I'm almost certain it was a girl squirrel from her smaller size and the way in which Nutley 2.0 was treating her. He ran across the yard, doing this weird happy jumping thing and then he stopped and waited while Nutley 2.5 caught up with him. Then he proceeded to chivalrously wait while she scampered up the tree and he followed her. Then I heard them BOTH chattering at me.

Maybe they were chatting to one another. Having found the half-chewed rose petals the other night, I did briefly wonder if Nutley 2.0 got himself hitched in some bizarre squirrel wedding ceremony. They probably had tomatoes on the buffet for the other squirrels. I hope they invited the bunny as well.

Then I realized that it's probably an odd thing to think about, picturing a squirrel wedding. I mean, they probably don't get married or anything like that. Not that we'd know. As I child, I used to picture all sorts of humanlike goings on with the wildlife once they were away from prying human eyes. I think I probably watched too much "Wind in the Willows" because I used to picture them in little dwellings complete with furniture.

Actually, I still sort of do that but I do, at least, know that it's not likely. I still like to picture it though. It's a lot nicer than thinking of an insect ridden nest that smells bad.

I'm wondering if Nutley 2.0 is going to settle down. For a squirrel, he has a certain level of cockiness and he's rather large. I picture him as a bit of a squirrel Lothario, bringing his 2.5's to his nest to check it out but then kicking them out in the morning.

Ah well, whatever he is, he's still digging holes in my back yard and I'm not sure why. I keep having to readjust my mulch to cover them. It's an ongoing battle. I was going to put more mulch down this weekend but if it rains as much as the terrible weatherman 'promises', I may get stuck indoors. This won't be so bad. I still have boxes to unpack and hideous curtains to replace. There's plenty to do so I won't be bored.

Especially in Nutley 2.0 has anything to say about it.

Happy Friday and have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Triumph over the Portal to Hell!

Today is a good day. I have been to the Portal to Hell and emerged, victorious. After long last, I managed to go to the DMV and leave without wanting to commit mass violence.

Yes, I am an Ohio licensed driver.

I'm also pleased to add that the DMV employees, while not nice, exactly, were not...unpleasant.

I'm shocked. And pleased.

If you read my blog regularly, you'll know of all my DMV troubles. If not, you can read about them here and here...and here. Oh, and here. Yes, I have had a LOT of trouble at the DMV.

Fortunately, today, the stars must have been aligned because I got what I wanted and no one was rude. I'm shocked. Shocked, I tell you.

My first stop this morning was the Regional Service Centre at the DMV. This is the place you go when they threaten to take away your license or actually do so. I was a threatened-ee. Fortunately, since the State of Indiana decided two days ago to unsuspend my driving privileges there, Ohio could see that and they had no case. They still wanted the $30 reinstatement fee until I politely pointed out that since the date upon which my license would be suspended had not yet passed, my license didn't have to be reinstated. They hemmed and hawed and consulted on that one then, finally, one wise DMV employee pointed out that they could, perhaps, look in the 'system' because it usually said how much I owed. Sure enough, it told them I owed...nothing. I'm rather glad I had them look because I have a feeling they would have taken the money otherwise and there wouldn't have been a reinbursement in my future.

Second stop, the license branch. I had a rather long wait while the two slowest people in the world tried to man the desk alone and, during which time, one of those two people stopped to yell loudly into a cell phone to try to get someone else to come in and help. While I fully support and endorse her decision to get more people in there to work, perhaps calling someone and telling her to get "her lazy ass out of bed before she gets kicked in the butt!" in the hearing range of people who, probably, like me have a bit of a negative view of the DMV...was not a great idea, per se.

Nevertheless, after a nice ten minute wait in line in which the Snails of the DMV dealt with the one customer in front of me, I finally got up there. My DMV snail, who was also the angry phone-yeller, was convinced she was going to trip me up, I'm sure of it.

Here's a quick recap:

DMV Snail: Yes?
Captain Monkeypants: I need to switch my California license to Ohio.
DMV Snail: Oh. (Pause). You need to take the written test first
CM: I did that.
DMV Snail: Oh. (She types into her computer). I can't find you.
CM: Oh, well, here's the paper that says I passed. (I smugly hand her my paper)
DMV Snail: (Examining the paper) It says you have a hold on your license.
CM: Not anymore. Just took care of that.
DMV Snail: (sighing, seemingly with disappointment) Do you have your Social Security Card
CM: Why, yes I do! ( I hand it to her)
DMV Snail: (Examining the card). I suppose I should see your California license.
(I hand it to her. She scrutinizes it then starts typing).
DMV Snail: Do you do drugs or alcohol in excess while driving?
CM: Nope.
DMV Snail: Do you have seizures or any other condition that makes you unsafe to drive?
CM: Nope
DMV Snail: Do you have any outstanding tickets?
CM: Nope
DMV Snail: Are you a US Citizen?
CM: Uh, no. Permanent resident.
(I see her eyes gleam with a secret hope)
DMV Snail: Do you have an I-5 form?
CM: No. ( I pause). But I do have a green card. Would you like to see it.
(I see her face fall).
DMV Snail: Yes.
(I hand it to her. She scrutinizes it. After long last, she enters everything into the computer, verifies it and prints it off to me to sign.)
DMV Snail: You need to have your picture taken over there. But, first, it's $23.
I stop. It seems a little high but, at this point, I'm literally moments from getting that stupid, shiny piece of laminated plastic. I sigh. Then I have a horrible realization. I have no cash.)
CM: Do you take checks? (She pauses.)
DMV snail: (Sighing) Yes.

I wait for her to tell me that they don't accept out of state checks. Then I realize that my check isn't out-of-state because I live in Ohio. She doesn't argue. She hands me a receipt, I get my picture taken and, moments later, out pops my new Ohio license.

I could complain that I came out looking orange in the picture, that I look like my face looks like it belongs to a giant. It's a big picture. My California license had a nice, dainty little picture on it. Ohio likes to scream "THIS. IS. YOU. SUCKER!". I think I look like an orangutang. And yes, while my moniker does imply that I love monkeys, it doesn't mean I want to look like a monkey.

But, the license is MINE. No more will I have to run through the reasons to be paranoid when I see a police car parked and waiting to swoop on a victim. I now have legal plates. I now have an Ohio license and thus haven't violated the "You must apply for a license 30 days after you move here" rule. I now have an unsuspended license in Ohio and Indiana.

I suppose, in a way, when I handed my license over to the DMV snail, that was truly the end of the L.A. period of my life. I am officially a Midwesterner again. While I have friends in L.A., there is barely a mark that shows I was ever there except the vestiges of my work at USC.

It's a bittersweet realization. I love being back in the Midwest, back to my family, back to a quieter life. Yet it's the end of a phase of my life that led to my discovery of who I am and what I want. I loved being there and there are some things I miss about L.A, sometimes on a daily basis. Yet everything I did, everything that happened, the good, the bad, the happy and the tragic...they're all part of a life experience that will never leave me. Everything that happens to us becomes part of us so, I can't help but feel that L.A. is a part of me and I brought part of it with me.

I never got to say goodbye to my license; it was taken and disposed of as I watched. It might have just been a little laminated piece of plastic but it was my last easy written evidence that I have ever lived there and been part of the crazy world of Los Angeles.

Still, the upside to having such bad DMV experiences in the past is that, as a result, today's was so joyous, I didn't have time to lament. I grabbed that piece of plastic and practically ran out of that DMV building before they could change their mind or ask for my first (as yet unborn) child in order for me to get my license.

As such, I now possess an Ohio license on which I look rather simian and orange.

But I possess a license. Oh, happy day.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rambo Squirrels and Evil GPS Units...

It's the midpoint of the work week and after today, the weekend starts feeling nearer, almost like it's here. I think it's Yard Sale Day in my neighbourhood on Saturday so I'm hoping that I can wander and score some bargains. As far as I know, it's not supposed to rain so it'll be a good day for it.

Then again, our faithfully-wrong weatherman said we weren't supposed to have any rain until Sunday, that we'd remain dry-as-a-bone until at least then yet...I can't help but think that wet stuff that was falling on my car from the clouds above as I drove to work this morning might have been...rain. And the road was soaked so it wasn't just a few drops, it was a brief downpour.

Ah well, must have been one of those freak 'impulses of rain'. Of course, it is rather cloudy today so we might have further impulses of rain. I wouldn't actually mind. Not only would it mean that I wouldn't have to water my plants tonight but it would also put a damper on the fact that I plan to mow. (Get it, rain would be a damper on the fact? Sometimes I just crack myself up with my hilarious humour. And, um, yes, that is sarcasm. Mostly)

I've been avoiding mowing not only because I don't want to mow but also because I've been waiting for the neighbours to go out. If they go out, they won't be tempted to let the Yapper out into the garden. I suspect that the reason they do seem to let the dog out every time I'm there is because the stupid dog is barking in the house and they can't stand it. Thus, they let it outside...to bark. At me.

Last night, I was taking a bath and finishing a book and I heard that dog barking. It barked for, literally, a good 15 minutes. It was getting on to be 9 p.m. I heard them yelling at the dog to be quiet but, naturally, it did not listen. Naturally, they did not take the dog inside. They just let it bark. I secretly hoped that Nutley 2.0 was staging a coup and trying to conquer the dogs. I can just see him standing them down. I picture him wearing a Rambo headband and carrying a man-purse like Jack Bauer. He'd hold the dogs at bay until they stopped and stared at him and then, slowly, he'd do that thing like Neo does in the Matrix where he holds his arm out and slowly beckons with all his fingers making the universal gesture for "Bring it on, bitches!"

Yes, I realize that squirrels do not have fingers nor, really, arms. However, you've never met Nutley 2.0. He is no ordinary squirrel.

I'd like to say Nutley 2.0 is evil. However, I can't say that; it's not fair. Don't get me wrong, when he eats my tomatoes and roses, he borders on evil but he doesn't have demon devil eyes, at least not that I've seen.

On the other hand, I'm becoming more and more convinced that my GPS is evil. I've mentioned before that it does occasionally channel Satan. While I haven't heard Satan speak for a while, I think he's taken control of the navigation. No longer can I go from point A to point B directly. Instead, there are many occasions where Satan likes to go around in circles. I still haven't figured out why.

Take, for example, my recent request for my GPS to guide me to a gas station. The closest one was just a little back from where I'd just passed. Rather than have me make a 'legal u-turn' as she used to do and rather than have me turn in a way favourable to getting me there quickly, GPS Lady had me make a rather large circle around the countryside until she dropped me back onto the exact same highway and practically the same location from which she'd begun the circle. Upon the way, she also wanted me onto "Unnamed Road" which turned out to be the entrance to a cemetery.

I hope she wasn't trying to tell me something. It's not the first time she's tried to do that.

There have been other instances, occasions where she's had me make three right turns in a row. Three right turns equals, you've guessed it, a circle. One time, it was around a shopping centre. I can't help but think she wanted to scope it out in case she wanted to go back there. She'd probably do it too; I'd tell her to take me somewhere else in that general direction and then, suddenly, I'd find myself at the shopping plaza.

You're probably wondering why I don't just ignore her. The problem lies in the fact that I usually only ask her for navigation when I don't know an area thus, I need her. I think she knows that. I think she exploits that. I'm the trusting fool and she has me in her power.

I suppose I could get a new GPS. I suppose I could be nicer to her too. I do have a tendency to shout at her and treat the GPS lady like she's actually in my car. I have visualized a future in which GPS units take the form of holographic people who sit with you in the car and calmly guide you there. I'm secretly hoping for this development. It would be rather nice to smack a GPS around the head when she misguides me. Except she currently doesn't have a head and if I were to smack her, I'd end up hitting buttons and, who knows, that might bring out Satan again. At least a hologram would look like it had a head.

I sound rather violent and, generally, I'm not a very violent person. Yet that GPS lady can rile me up worse than most things do.

Except maybe Nutley 2.0.

Perhaps I ought to stop assigning personalities to animals and inanimate objects.

But where's the fun in that?

Happy Wednesday

(By the way, you'll notice I tried to not blog about animal heads today. Although a holographic GPS head is...still a head. Note to self: Stop blogging about heads.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Visions of Mounted Squirrel Heads...

You'll be happy to know I won't be blogging about pig heads today. Honestly, there are some blogs that I really can't explain. It's just what comes out when I type. I'm sure if I had a professional analyse my thoughts, I'd either be thrown in the loony bin or be determined criminally insane. Really, though, I'd like to think everyone has a peculiar way of thinking; I just happen to have a blog.

While I might not blog about pigs heads, I wouldn't mind blogging about squirrel heads. You see, I'm declaring war on Nutley v. 2.0. While I wasn't happy about him eating my tomatoes, I'd resolved myself to the fact that there wasn't much I could do about it in the immediate future except shoo him away if I saw him.

Last night, however, I went out to water my plants. I had recently planted a very small but cute rose in my garden that has been doing well. It has one tiny rose blooming on it and the second, and only other bud, was just opening.

Well, that is to say it was opening. Last night, I discovered that Nutley 2.0 had not only picked my rose but he'd strewn the petals over my garden. I can only blame him as I saw him boldly and brassily sitting in the exactly spot where I found the evidence just the night before as day became twilight and Nutley loomed large in the shadows of the setting sun. I'd like to think there was some more serene and pretty purpose in his scattering of rose petals but since they were chewed and regurgitated alongside the dregs of the rosebud, I don't think it's likely he was the groom in a squirrel wedding or anything like that.

I liked that rose. I was pleased because I'd rescued it from my mother's yard where it hadn't taken too well to the shade and soil where we'd originally planted it. Since I replanted it, it thrived.

I'm hoping it continues to thrive but short of a BB gun, I'm not sure how to solve the squirrel problem. A BB Gun would help and, I confess, I'm tempted. Perhaps a BB could even go astray as the neighbours' yappy dog came to torment me.

No, I'm not that mean. Besides, my mother was almost shot with a 'stray' 'BB' gun last year while she was minding her own business and weeding her garden. She was kneeling down and felt something zip by her ear. It hit the barn behind her. It scared her rather badly, as you can imagine. Shaken and scared, she told my dad who wisely called the police because it seemed that the neighbours were shooting in their yard across the street and a bullet had managed to find it's way across the road. Considering there's a good distance between my parents' house and the neighbours, it seemed a little unlikely that a little BB would have such a trajectory. The sherriff's department came and questioned the neighbours who said they had accidentally been shooting at squirrels and misfired. I don't buy that for a second, especially considering they're not the friendliest of people. The woman who lives there proceeds to wake me up whenever I'm staying overnight by screaming like a banshee at her dog or kid; I can't quite tell which one- the screaming generally sounds the same whether she's telling the dog to shut up or the kid to stop acting like a brat.

Still, whether it was a BB or a stronger bullet, I think my mother is a little more cautious. She didn't take my suggestion to wear a bulletproof vest and helmet seriously. However, I told her to stay low if she hears gunshots from across the way. I can just see her snaking on the ground, army style, to get from her flower garden to the house. Given that her miniature Yorkie is usually with her in the garden, he'd probably hamper her progress in staying low by licking her face and stifling her. So, all in all, it wouldn't be very successful or subtle. It might prevent her from getting shot by stray pellets, however.

Anyway, because of this, I'd feel bad for getting a BB gun and aiming at the squirrel. I have a lot of neighbours around. I might accidentally shoot one. Given my recent DMV Issues, I really don't need a assault with a non-deadly weapon on my record. Though, I'm happy to report, as of this morning, I'm legal to drive in the state of Indiana. Now, given that I live in Ohio, I better get things cleared up there. I see a trip to the portal to Hell in my near future. Is it bad that I'm actually happy about this?

Back to Nutley 2.0. I'm not sure what to do to him. He was shouting at me last night as I watered my yard. If you've never heard a squirrel shouting, it's a stream of hissing chattering. I recognize the sound because Nutley at USC used to talk to me sometimes. It sounds angry. I think he was annoyed that I was watering his buffet. Personally, I'd like to take Mr. Nutley 2.0 and show him who's boss but since I can neither scamper up a tree at the speed of light nor get low enough to the ground to nibble at a tomato from below, I think he has the edge. Also, he's quite big for a squirrel and can jump on me from above. Yes, I'm being held at bay by a 10 inch tall rodent. He's big for his size though. Really!

I'll have to find a way to repel him next year; I'm sure I can find solutions but given that fall is coming and Nutley 2.0 will go into hibernation, I can deal with him for now. Though I do wish he'd stop hiding his nuts under my newly transplanted plants.

And yes, I'm aware, that could be a euphemism. It is, however, meant to be read literally. I'm talking about hickory nuts and acorns. Get your mind out of the gutter.

If anyone has a squirrel deterrent, I'd gladly hear about it. I wish to defeat Nutley 2.0. I just don't know how. I will not concede defeat, however. I WILL NOT! Nutley 2.0 WILL be conquered, oh yes, he will.

On a far more serious note, I would be amiss if I didn't mention the death of Patrick Swayze. Being the daughter of a man who thinks Dirty Dancing is the best move ever and also adores Black Dog and Roadhouse, it doesn't seem right to not admit that it's a sad day. As a teen, there were many late night sleepovers with friends in which we'd stay up watching swaying to Dirty Dancing's, "I've had the Time of my Life," and miming along to the Mickey and Sylvia song. Yet when I think of "No one puts baby in the corner!" it's my dad that comes to mind. The amount of times he's sat there, remote poised, rewinding to that final dance number, a happy smile on his face, is ridiculous. He's a strange man, my father. But he does love his Dirty Dancing. Rest in peace, Mr. Swayze.

Who's going to rescue Baby from the corner now? :(

Happy Tuesday.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mondays and Pig Heads...

Every Monday I complain that it's a Monday. Last week, I was irritated that Tuesday was Monday.

I can't really promise this week is going to be any different. I think I'm just going to have to admit that Monday mornings are just not fun. It doesn't matter if they're labeled as Monday or Tuesday on the calendar; they're still the sign that the weekend is completely over and only work days lie immediately ahead.

But that sounds so negative, doesn't it?

I'd like to begin this work week with a new attitude, a bright and shiny desire to excel at my job. Unfortunately, there really isn't much room to excel at my job which is, in itself, a sad fact. My company, as I've mentioned, is not particularly forward thinking and their acknowledgment that you're doing a good job is pretty much to let you stay employed. Awkward Bagel Days are usually only scheduled for new employees. When we have a barbecue, we have to bring in the food. I've been told that we used to get bonuses but I have a horrible feeling we won't because we're still struggling to find our feet after being sold earlier this year.

Still, our sweet Warm Vanilla Sugar squirting HR lady has taken it upon herself to give us small perks. Though I still hate the smell of that damn room spray, I do appreciate her efforts to give us these small perks. She buys Coke and Pepsi at the store and then charges us .25 cents a can for them. That's just a bargain, if you ask me. We were never allowed it before. One thing I've learned about my company is if you want to do something, you should just do it. Asking usually leads to getting a no or being made to feel guilty. This includes asking for time off or skipping lunch to leave 30 minutes early. The most they'll do is have a staff meeting in which we're all passive-aggressively scolded and told to stop whatever bad behaviour we were exhibiting. Everyone knows who actually did the deed, no one admits to it.

Anyway, despite this, I mostly do like my company. So, despite the fact that it's a Monday, I'm going to actually attempt to get some work done, even though I'll mentally be counting down the minutes until I can go home and relax.

I can't really complain about not getting relaxation time anymore. I had a nice relaxing weekend. I did make a trip to IKEA for some curtains. Naturally, I came out with the curtains in addition to several other items I had not planned to purchase. That's the problem with IKEA; they have all kinds of nifty gadgets and kitchen stuff and I can't resist. I was very restrained this time, however, and only bought a citrus zester and a melon baller. Of course, this was followed by a trip to Jungle Jim's International Market where I had fun wandering around and just looking. I discovered they sell entire pig heads. I was a wee bit alarmed by this. I probably wouldn't have been so alarmed but I'd just watched an Iron Chef America in which the secret ingredient was suckling pig. This basically amounted to a heap of baby piglets, heads on and looking cute but slaughtered lying there on my TV. When the chefs got hold of the piglets, it was indescribably disgusting. Let's just say they use every part of the piggy.

It would have disgusted me even if I hadn't been eating bacon at the time. I'd DVR'd the episode not knowing the secret ingredient, you see. Then I chose breakfast time to watch it. Fortunately, I'd eaten all the bacon by the time the piglets came on screen. Still, there's nothing more likely to put you off the breakfast than a chef lopping off Piglet's ears.

So, when I saw that giant pig head staring up at me in Jungle Jim from the captivity of its cellophane prison, I was a little taken aback. It looked like something from the Amityville Horror. They also had entire ducks heads packaged up. I know they're used a lot in Asian cuisine but I think I might have a hard time eating a duck head.

I will say, though, I find that sort of thing fascinating. It's also vaguely disgusting but still intriguing. When I lived in L.A. I used to enjoy going to the Asian markets with seafood counters. It was a little like going to an exotic zoo. There were live giant frogs, crabs crawling out of the mound upon which they were piled for sale, nasty looking clams that resembled yellow elephant trunks and, of course, tanks and tanks of live fish. I thought nothing of the tanks of fish until one day I saw one of the staff capture a giant fish and then violently club it over the head until it stopped thrashing. That was an eye-opening experience. Someone bought frogs once and I feared for the lazy-looking creatures but fortunately, they were just bagged up in a cellophane bag and taped tight. I happened to be behind the purchaser at the checkout and those frogs were still trying to leap to their freedom as the cashier rang them up.

I know it's all cultural; it seemed that as the minority in the store, I was also in the minority at being horrified/fascinated by such 'different' practices. I suppose if that's an everyday thing, you become desensitized to it; it seems almost normal. To me, I don't think it'll ever become normal. I actually hope it doesn't. I think I'd rather be slightly nonplussed at the sight of a giant pig head staring at me than accept that as an everyday thing.

I admit though, I did go back a second time to stare at the pig head in Jungle Jim's. It seemed like I wasn't the only one. I was behind a couple who were clearly on the Unusual Food tour of the store; looking, like I do, for the weirdest, most disgusting things to see. I admit, it's slightly wrong but it's also a new way to look at a grocery store. I love Jungle Jim's; they sell kangaroo meat, antelope meat and alligator in the same freezer section. That's pretty fascinating, you have to admit.

Anyway, so that was probably the most interesting thing I saw this weekend. Aside from that, I spent hours upon hours weeding my garden only to discover it didn't look like I'd done much at all. Although it does look better, there are still a ton of weeds there but my sore fingertips and stiff back belie a lot more work than it seems I did.

My neighbour with the yappy dog did come out a couple of times while I was outside. I only had to have one "pet the dog and make awkward conversation" encounter though. Otherwise, I just waved and ignored him. I feel a bit sorry for him anyway; his wife never seems to do anything outside, including grilling dinner. The only one I ever see doing any work is him. I wonder if he's as henpecked as he seems. Maybe he likes escaping into the garden to be the Dog Whisperer.

Still, with pig heads, weeding and IKEA, I had an interesting and productive weekend. Of course, in typing this, I just realized I'm having ham for dinner. I probably should have thought of that before I started talking about piglets and pig heads.

Oh dear.

Happy Monday.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hoping for a Summons to the Portal to Hell...

What else is there to say on a Friday except...thank goodness? Even though it's technically been a short week, it's felt like a long one.

Still, the weekend looms ahead and I cannot wait. At the very least, it means I don't have to set my alarm and the blissful luxury of being able to sleep in awaits me.

I was hoping I might get to go to the DMV yet again but, alas, it does not seem to be in my immediate future.

Yes, I repeat, I was hoping I might get to go to the DMV.

This may seem like a strange and un-Monkeypants thing to hope for, especially given my previous DMV rants.

Don't get me wrong, I still despise them with every fibre of my being but the sad fact of reality is that I need them.

I wish there was an alternative, that there was a happy place to go to take care of all things vehicular-operation related but, alas, the Portal to Hell seems to be my only option.

If you read my blog regularly, you'll recall my last unsuccessful attempt at the DMV. I went to finally give up my California license in order to exchange it for an Ohio one. I took my Ohio test. I passed. Then I was told that the State of Indiana had a hold on my license and they'd suspended it. Lovely. How kind of them not to let me know. I finally discovered it was because of an accident I'd had in 2001 that wasn't even my fault. The DMV said it never received proof that I'd been insured at the time. Never mind that the police report has my insurance proof on it. Never mind that there's countless tales of "The Indiana DMV lost my insurance proof" on the internet. Never mind that it was EIGHT YEARS AGO.

Being the responsible little Monkeypants that I am, I was horrified. I asked how I could fix it. I was told I could go to an Indiana DMV License Reinstatement Centre with a Certificate of Compliance from my Insurance Agent and get reinstated.

So I did. The only problem was the insurance company hadn't filled out the form completely. They forgot to put their name and address on it. The DMV office couldn't accept the form, nor would they let us write in the information. I drove all the way to that DMV which, I'd like to add was not conveniently located, for absolutely no reason.

I tried again Monday, faxing the completed form to the DMV per the instructions of the lady who'd turned me away. I'm now waiting seven-to-ten business days for it to clear and have the hold removed. Then I can attempt to get licensed in Ohio.

Except...now there's a problem there. I guess my attempt to do the legal thing and get my license changed over in the first place has now alerted the Ohio DMV that I'm having trouble in Indiana. Last night, I got a delightful letter in the mail informing me that as of three weeks, my license will be suspended in the state of Ohio, that I must surrender it and not drive until my issues in Indiana are resolved.

The problem with this is that I am receiving the same notice that someone who has commited a crime would receive. It's the "You Screwed Up and We're Going to Punish You by Taking Away Your Driver's License" letter. In Ohio, they take away the license after you get 12 points in two years or you get more than two DUI's. I know this because I read the handbook before taking my test.

Here's the thing: I didn't do anything wrong. After my accident, we called the police. The lady who hit me admitted it was her fault. My damage was paid for by her insurance. My insurance company was alerted. Now, I don't know if it was my insurance agent who didn't send in the form or it was that the DMV lost it. Either way, because, alas, I am not psychic, I did not know that the form hadn't been received because no one told me.

Now, I admit, in many cases, that's the excuse of a passive-aggressive person: "I didn't do it because no-one told me!" It's easier to place the blame on others because sometimes it's hard to admit we made a mistake.

However, in this case, I truly don't think I can be at fault. After all, I managed to change my Indiana license to California when I moved to L.A. in 2001. I've renewed my license plates at the DMV several times since 2001. Thus, they know where to find me. They have my address on file.

Which leads me to wonder how, exactly, I managed to drive for eight years without being informed that my license was suspended in the state of Indiana.

You can see why I'm a little irked, right? I'm also a little worried because I really need my driver's license. If I look at the logical steps, I've already sent in my paperwork to Indiana. I just need them to remove the hold which, theoretically, should be next week. After this, I have to go to an Ohio reinstatement centre, apparently pay $30 and be reinstated there. Which is just fantastic since I don't want to spend $30 to get my license back when I didn't have anything to do with it getting suspended in the first place. I can appeal my case but that takes 30 days. My license is going to be suspended in less than 21 days. Thus...if, along the way, at any time, the Indiana DMV loses my form again, I'm going to be in some hot water.

I wonder if anyone has the same travails with the DMV that I do. I know they are the Pit of Despair for many people but why does it seem like I have more trouble than anyone else? All I want to do is drive legally in Ohio. I could have gone until January before my California license expired. Instead, I'm being punished because I tried to be responsible. I'm just glad I didn't wait. I'd hate to think what the DMV would do then.

Yet, we are all at the mercy of the DMV if we want to drive our cars. Unlike with airlines that make our lives difficult, we don't have a choice with whom we license our cars and ourselves to drive. Besides, in United Airlines' case, they did, at least, send me a gracious reply after I emailed again telling them I didn't like being ignored. They also gave me $250. I may not like their planes but I appreciate it anyway. It's a bribe but I'll take it.

I don't see the DMV apologizing for anything. They don't have to, that's the problem. I know they have to cater to a lot of unsavory folks but I do wonder why, exactly, they try so hard to live up to their reputation as being the Portal to Hell. Ah well, hopefully next weekend, I'll get to enter the portal and finally be legal to drive again. At least they did tell me they're going to confiscate my license. That was nice of them. I guess communication has to start somewhere.

Happy Friday and have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Morning Musings...

I keep reminding myself that tomorrow is Friday. Sometimes, that's all it takes to get going in the mornings on a Thursday. Today, it's not quite enough but it helps.

My Thursday is off to one of those starts. I was already running late due to my ambitious attempts to get a loaf of bread baking in my breadmaker so it's ready by the time I get home from work for dinner. I have a horrid feeling it's not going to turn out. Try as I might to keep the liquids and yeast separated, there was a slight tidal wave incident as I was pouring in my olive oil and the yeast got soaked by that and the water.

Traffic was not fun this morning either. It meant I made it into the office eight minutes later than usual. My coworker had beaten me in to the office; this rarely happens. While many days, she's a lot of fun, she's also one of those people whose mood you can sense when you walk into the office based on how she responds when you say "Good Morning!"

Today was not a chipper response. Today was one of those, "talk to me again and I'll rip your throat out" responses. It's not that she's not a morning person but she's a person whose agenda and duties rank way higher in her own mind than they do in anyone elses' and so there are days when she's far too busy and important to deign to speak to me or our other office-mate. Usually, these are the days where we remain quiet and don't speak because she's a little scary. I don't mean that I'm actually physically afraid of her, it's more that to rile the beast is to have to listen to it and we do not like to do that.

She's also a little, um, noisy. She does not know this. On any given morning, there is the jangle of a bracelet on a keyboard, heavy sighing, the squeak of rubber since she sits on an exercise ball and the frantic, frenetic typing of one who has far too much to type in far too little time.

Of course, as I write this, I'm crunching loudly on a piece of toast. I finally gave in and joined the people who cook in the office. Sometimes, I don't feel like eating my toast while I'm driving in the mornings and today, I figured I might as well join the masses and use the toaster oven in the office. A good choice, I'd say. Having toast at work just makes it a better day.

My crunching toast led to a discussion about toaster ovens vs. toasters. Personally, I concur, toasters are easier. However, we don't have one in the office. We do, however, have a toaster oven. My coworker thinks it takes too long. To that, I say, "it's toast, it's worth the wait." Also, it's not like I'm standing there staring at it. I put it in the oven, walk away and when it tings, there's my toast. Voila!

Ok, so it doesn't pop up but, instead, is waiting for me in the oven which means it actually stays warmer for longer.

I think it might just be that lately, I've learned, sometimes it's better to take your time over food preparation and enjoy the process than just throw something in the microwave.

I blame the Food Network.

Of course, I blame them lately for everything food-related. It's almost like I've undergone a "Foodie Conversion." I still have the Lipton fettucine alfredo mix in my cupboard to remind me of how far I've come in a year. A year ago, I added margarine and butter to my soggy noodles and, voila, fettucini alfredo.

I'm not enough of a food snob that I still won't make this. Quick food has a time and a place and sometimes, it's all you want.

Yet, no more do I reach for the Lipton when I'm craving Alfredo and don't want to spend the money to go out. Mario Batali has shown me that with four simple ingredients, I can make delicious fettucine alfredo.

Bobby Flay has shown me that sometimes, the sauce makes the meal. You can dress up a piece of meat with a few fresh ingredients by making a sauce that tastes good and is usually nutritious.

Giada deLaurentis has shown me how to make simple italian food with easy ingredients that tastes as good as any restaurant food.

Alton Brown has taught me that breaking down what seems to be complicated methods of cooking is actually quite easy. Also, my Alton Brown salt pot is ridiculously useful.

I could keep going but you get the idea. Celebrity chefs are teaching me to cook and I didn't even plan it.

It's put a whole new dimension on my life. I used to mock my friends who used to go to kitchen stores and admire the tools. Now I go to the same stores and do the same thing. This weekend, I was extremely excited to find a nice potato ricer at TJ Maxx. I also got a new saute pan, some stoneware baking dishes and a new grater.

I'm sad. I'm obsessed. Cooking has become part of my life. I think it's probably filling a void but I don't see anything wrong with that. I'm hoping it's not trying to fill the void that I have because I'm not writing as much. I think that's really up to me though, isn't it?

I have thought about writing about cooking. Not a cookbook but a book about someone who likes to cook. Yet there is already quite a plethora out there. For some reason, there's an excess of books about women who seek fulfillment in life and find it in baking. Occasionally, there's a twist and they actually cook, not bake, but it's usually the result of any of the following:

1)Grief over the death of a beloved husband.
2) A way of finding themselves after the husband has left them for another woman.
3)A hidden love of cooking coming to the forefront as a woman discovers herself
4)An accidental discovery as a side effect of running away and needing to make a living...so they cook and discover they're geniuses at it.

You'd be surprised how much this happens. I've come to the conclusion that while chick lit aimed at the Bridget Jones' of the world tends to put the main character in either PR or a magazine setting, chick lit for the generation above them tends to put a recently divorced/widowed woman in a bakery or restaurant.

Anyway, I think for now, I'll keep my cooking separate from my writing. I can do both...I hope. In the meantime, I'm going to try to get some work done. That is if my coworker stops her jangling/squeaking/sighing/"oh shitting". Either that or I put my headphones on and tune her out.

Headphones it is.

Thanks for reading. Happy Thursday.