Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February Foibles - Weather-related

Remember how, last weekend, I was talking about the weird weather we were expecting? Well, so far it's living up to the weirdness, if nothing else.

On the up side, the weather has been fairly warm. On the down side, we're getting rain. Yes, rain. It's February 28th, and we're getting rain. A few miles north of here, they're getting snow, but here in the "south metro" we haven't seen snow since late afternoon.

When I walked the dog this afternoon, the sidewalks had spotty snow, but we were getting wet from rain.

When I looked outside just a bit ago, the trees are all coated with ice. They're shining in the streetlights, and we're fine with them - as long as they don't get too heavy and start to hit powerlines.

According to the local weather, there are thunderstorms throughout South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas as we speak; and there was actually a tornado in Nebraska - for the first time in history.

Around here, it usually takes a foot or so of snow before people will decide not to go to work due to weather. But I have to admit that if the rain turns to ice over night, there's no way in the world I'm going to be trying to get my car from here to the freeway.

Sure, that's wimpy from a "hearty midwestern" viewpoint, but I'd rather be a wimp with a working car than a hearty soul with a car in the shop.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Arriving Late

There are, as I think we would all agree, degrees of "lateness" when dealing with arrivals.

There's the usually excusable "coming in just a couple of minutes late" when you're meeting someone for dinner.

There's the "oh. crap. that's screwed everything up" when you arrive any time after an interview was supposed to start.

There's the "I'm so sorry, I took a wrong turn" when you apologize away your arrival at the doctor's office.

There's "I should have been born during a different era" which, really, isn't something people typically apologize for.

And then there's this winter's weather. We in Minneapolis have had - in essence - fall since last September. We had weirdly warm temps in January and early February. Winter was standing us up, and - frankly - aside from the fact that we *really* need the moisture, we've been pretty much okay with it.

This weekend we were supposed to get a decent snow, but it all went north of us. And, again, we were pretty much okay with that. But now it seems that winter is feeling bad about being so late.

The forecast for this coming week has snow on at least 5 of the next 7 days. In fact, there is already a winter weather advisory for Tuesday and Wednesday. The predictions are saying we could have "1.5 to 2 inches of moisture." That might not be too bad as rain, since the ground isn't completely frozen so we shouldn't get *too much* flooding.

If, though, it comes down as snow, there's a chance for it to be "fluffed up by a factor of 10" (at least according to the weather folks). For those of you with math difficulties, that means that - worst case scenario - we could be looking at 15 to 20 inches of snow by the middle of the week. (Plus the other 3 predicted snow days on the forecast.)

You know, as much as I hate it when people are late for dinner, or appointments of any kind - and I appreciate when they offer to make up the difference as part of their apologies - I think I'd have been okay if winter had just gone about its business and not tried to make up for the delay.

We'll see what kind of apologies the weather comes up with.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I Suspect This Was Not Intended

I just started working on editing a new manuscript. I had already heard that it has some interesting "issues," but I hadn't seen it until this week.

I pulled it up and found a note from the author to the editor. (I swear I have not altered this in any way. The spelling, spacing, and punctuation are exactly as it was sent to me.)

Dialogues are to be kept informal(English may not be correct but this is the autor's intend)

I'm guessing this is going to be a bit of a doozy to work on.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Post Re-post - Do the Crazy Thing

Just in case some of you out there were thinking about donating to the Xelles, but didn't get around to it, yet, I thought I'd offer a reminder.

At this point, their truck is already on its way overseas, and they're planning their own trips. But you've still got time to make a donation.

So. Yeah. Do it. You know you want to, right?

* * *

How often have you thought about doing something outside your comfort zone? Travelling to some part of the world you've never been to? Challenging yourself to do something most people would only dream of?

What has stopped you? Was it fear that you wouldn't succeed? Was it fear that you *would* succeed and then you'd have to go out and try other things?

For a good friend of mine, the thing standing in her way is something both easier and more difficult than that. It's fundraising.

My friend Julie - who used to be the mild-mannered, yet intrepid, Group Sales Coordinator at CenterStage Theater in Baltimore - is part of a two-woman team (called the "X elles") who have challenged themselves to enter the Rallye Aiche des Gazelles this March. (You can read about the team, here.)
This Rally is the kind of crazy thing that most of us only dream about doing. It's 9 days in Morocco (read "in the desert") with nothing for guidance but a map and a compass. And it's not really a race, because the goal is simply to get from point A to point B in the shortest possible distance, not the shortest amount of time. (Which, because you don't put out as much pollution at lower speeds, means that this is actually rated as an eco-friendly event.)
As if that wasn't enough, on top of all of that, the racers will also be building a school to give back to the people of Morocco.

PLUS this is a women-only event - the only one of it's kind in the world. (Which, honestly, probably explains the eco-friendliness, the lack of major competitiveness, and the fact that they're building a school.)

But here's the thing: even though the Rally is in March, Julie and her teammate Rachelle are still in need of funding. So...

If you've ever thought about doing something "just because it was there," or if you've ever wanted to help build a school in Africa, or if you just happen to have a few extra bucks because it's payday, PLEASE send them your support. (And please forward this blog posting - or their direct info - to anyone you think might be interested in helping out.)

You can donate via their website, or their brand new indiegogo donation page. In either location, although the site suggests a minimum donation of $100, you can donate as little or as much as you want (just choose the "no perk" option on the Indiegogo page).

Here's to the people in the world who go out and do things just because they can!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Missing Days Off

A bunch of people have been asking me whether or not I get tomorrow off for Presidents' Day. I don't.

In fact, after New Year's Day, the next holiday we get is Memorial Day. So, no MLK day. Nothing around Easter. Nothing for, basically, the first five months of the year.

And I have to admit that that's probably one of the biggest issues of my current position. My day-to-day work is fine. The pay is... well... at least it's better than it was a few months ago.

The part that really is bothersome, though, is the lack of time off. The maximum vacation you can earn at my company is 10 days per year.

I've dealt with being unemployed - not that long ago - and I know that I don't want *that* much time off again any time soon. But as someone who tends to work to pay for the rest of my life, it's kind of frustrating to not have any time to take off so that I can use that money for something fun.

We're trying to figure out how to spend our time off this year, and that means kind of parsing out the days. Which brings me back to wishing we had some holidays to work off of, so we'd be able to do more.

So, if you're off on Presidents' Day, I hope you enjoy it. Think of me as I'm at work and not on vacation.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Relevance of Downton Abbey

(Fair warning: I'm going to do my best to remain spoiler-free in this post, but I will be making some allusions to things in the latest series of episodes.)

As so many of my friends have been doing, lately, I've been watching the PBS Masterpiece Theater showings of "Downton Abbey." Among other things, there is an awfully lot of romance involved - frequently across class lines and into other such forbidden territories.

In the episode I just watched, the cross-class romance - once people truly stopped and paid attention to the love and not the classes - actually won out over prejudices and all was (relatively) right with the world.

So far, so good.

Then there's the romance wherein one of the members just might have to go to jail due to some past mis-steps. And, as he's dealing with them, the woman he loves turns to him and says that she wants to marry him so that she can't be denied her rights if he is taken into court custody.

Still, not bad.

Now let's look at the current state of New Jersey, where the governor - a single solitary man - has vetoed a bill which passed both houses of the State legislature AND had the popular support of the residents of the state. That bill was for Marriage Equality.

This one man used his own bigotry and hate to push forward an agenda wherein I would be considered a second-class citizen. Where my love for another human being is called unworthy. And where, should anything happen to my partner, I would have no rights of any kind.

I fully realize that "Downton Abbey" is fictitious. That it's focusing on the rights of the classes in early 20th Century England. And that it's not meant to be an allegory of life in America in the 21st Century. But the world is strange and the parallels are definitely there.

In better news, this evening the Maryland State House of Delegates approved a same-sex marriage bill which puts their state on track to become the eighth state in the union to recognize same-sex marriages.

And, in the past week, the city of Minneapolis took a public stand against the proposed MN Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage.

If only we could have the "Downton Abbey" scriptwriters work out a positive ending for us all. Preferably to be wrapped up in six episodes or less.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Love Songs

Since much of my life is wrapped up in songs, I was trying to think of a love song that really epitomizes my thoughts on Valentine's Day, as well as my relationship.

There are a ton of love songs - that actually might make sense - in musical theater, but those aren't the ones that show up all over the place this time of year. Instead, we get all of the weird country and pop songs (well, those are the only two genres that I listen to, so that's all I have to go from) that profess to tell us about love.

We go from "Stand By Your Man" to "Stand By Me," and from "Muskrat Love" to "Puppy Love." There's "Burning Love" and there's "My Heart Will Go On" from the very watery Titanic.

We've got "Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong" which, on the surface, sounds nice. But then there's the musical assumption that where we belong is "where the eagles cry on a a mountain high" - which sets up an expectation that most couples may never reach. Because, let's face it, many romances only make it about halfway up a hillock before getting run off by a couple of screeching crows.

We're told "Love is a Many-Splendoured Thing" and that "Love Makes the World Go 'Round" and that "All You Need is Love" - although I'd like to see someone try to pay their bills with it.

We know that some people "Can't Give You Anything But Love" (which is nice, but, again, how does that pay rent?), and that "The Greatest Love of All" is learning to love ourselves - which really doesn't sound like a very romantic notion, after all.

With all of the love songs out there, I was starting to get a little frustrated. They all look at love and life through seriously rose-colored glasses. It's Edith Piaf seeing "La Vie en Rose" and it's the wedding at the end of a Disney movie where you don't see the newlyweds dealing with who gets the closet space and who has to wash dishes.

In musical theater, you get a lot of that, too, but you also get "Into the Woods," where the happy "ending" is just the beginning of the second act. Which, really, is a lot more like life.

It dawned on me amidst all of my digging, that I knew exactly what song was my perfect Valentine's Day song. Partially, I'll admit, because Christopher is gone this week and one line of it always comes to mind when we're apart. The line is "And even be glad, just to be sad, thinking of you."

The song is "It Had to Be You," and although it's been around for a while, I know it mainly from the Harry Connick, Jr. version which was used in When Harry Met Sally. I love that it talks about this great love that is made better because they're not perfect: "Nobody else gave me a thrill, with all your faults, I love you still. It had to be you, wonderful you. It had to be you." The person in question is wonderful because of the faults, not in spite of them. And I like to think that all good, realistic, romances can embrace that.

You can find the video of it, here - where it plays after a 15-second ad. (And you really ought to check it out. It's an "official" video, so it's got clips of the movie, as well as a very young - and very 80s-styled, yet still sexy - Harry Connick, Jr.)

That's the kind of love song that works for me. The kind that says "it's not perfect. it's not a fairy tale. it's life. and I want you in it with me."

(Happy Valentine's Day, Christopher!)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Movie Monday: Underworld:Awakening

Last week, on kind of a spur-of-the-moment decision, Christopher and I went out to see the fourth movie in the "Underworld" series. This one was "Underworld: Awakening" (which, of course, you probably already guessed if you read the title of this post).

The "Underworld" series is a dark vampire versus werewolf series (no one glitters in the sun, or runs around with a bare chest for the teenagers to drool over), where the lead vampire (a deadly, yet beautiful, woman) falls for a human who - in the first movie - is bitten by both a vampire and a werewolf (well, they're called "lycan" in this), and becomes kind of a hybrid.

In this latest installment, she awakens from 12 years of captivity to find that the man/hybrid/guy that she loved is gone, and that they have had a daughter (which she didn't know about), and a conspiracy has been using them to try to find a "cure" for the vampire and lycan scourge. Or, maybe, to create new hybrids...

And... well... mayhem and shooting and biting and gore and special effects ensue.

Here's the twist, though. This was the first movie in the franchise to have been filmed in 3D. And, if you've been paying attention, you know that I'm not really a fan of 3D. In action movies, it tends to result in things being thrown at the camera, or gore splattering the camera, or motion sequences that make you want to hurl at the camera. But aside from one scene at the very beginning when the camera was rotating (and so was my stomach) they did pretty well with it.

And, consequently, I kind of rather enjoyed the movie. The 3D actually did enhance what was going on - adding depth to the scenes, instead of causing me to sit back and think "wow. They really worked hard on that." It was a nice change of pace for the 3D market.

Overall score: A-. It really was what it promised to be, but they keep alluding to the lover/hybrid guy, but we don't ever actually see him. And, well, I have to admit that he was one of my favorite things about the first movie. So, bring him back and I'll give it an A.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Perspective on Productivity

Most Saturdays, I'd be really excited to go to the grocery store, run multiple other errands, bake some cookies (and clean up the kitchen), watch a movie from Netflix, walk the dog (twice) and try to comb out some of her tangles, and even get some correspondence done. All before 7pm.

Today, however, even though that's actually more than what was on my to-do list, I feel like I've kind of wasted the day.

You see, I've been up for about 5 hours longer than usual. Yep. I got up at about 4am so that I could take Christopher to the airport, and just didn't feel right going back to bed when I got home (after stopping at the grocery store). So I watched some TV and stalked his flight online to make sure it took off and landed on time.

He actually called after he'd gotten settled in, and I thought that - since I'd heard from him - I'd run the extra errands and then come home and nap. But the cold weather woke me up, so I just came in and watched that movie and hung out with the pup.

This evening, I did the baking and the correspondence. And it's not even 8pm.

The worst part of this, of course, is that you can pretty well bet that I'll get a second wind at about 9 and then be up until midnight. And, no, I don't plan to do any more of this weekend's to-dos before I go to bed. I figure that, by tomorrow, my perspective will be mostly back in line with today's productivity. And I don't want to set my expectations for tomorrow too high.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Food: In a Pickle

Lunch, today, was a basic club sandwich ordered in from Jimmy John's. I had no intention of ordering in, but I was running late this morning while getting ready for work, and then... well... the weather decided to turn frigid overnight, so I didn't really want to go out.

Plus, there's the fact that ordering in from Jimmy John's - even with a tip for the delivery guy - is usually less expensive than going to any of the cafes/delis/restaurants in the area for lunch.

Even so, I always feel a little odd ordering in.

I used to kind of laugh at the people who always bought lunch instead of bringing it in. I marveled at how they had enough money to do it. If I hadn't packed lunch I'd walk to the market a couple of blocks away and get myself something. Or, once, I actually got a sandwich from the vending machine in the building so that I could save some cash.

Today, though, I was just in one of those strange situations that kind of made it hard to do any of my usual things. I didn't have time to make lunch at home. The market is closed - possibly under foreclosure. And the vending machine... well... I don't like to play that kind of Russian roulette more often than I need to. Which is why I went online and ordered my "Club Lulu" from Jimmy John's.

And, because I didn't want to have to deal with the delivery guy having to give me change - but didn't want to give an almost $4 tip on a $6 sandwich, I ordered a pickle to go with it. (Did you know that you can get their pickles delivered whole, halved, or quartered? Who thinks of these things?)

It showed up fast (though possibly not as "freaky-fast" as in the ads), and was quite tasty. Plus I never had to leave the office and go outside into the nasty cold winter weather that is apparently waiting outside.

Gotta admit, that makes being in a pickle much easier.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why I Like Ellen (and will start shopping at JCPenney more)

I've liked Ellen DeGeneres for a long time.

I liked her old stand-up comedy routines. I liked her sitcoms. I like her talkshow (although I don't see it very often since it's in the middle of the day). I think her CoverGirl ads are fun. And I kind of love that she's married to Portia de Rossi.

I fully admit that I hadn't really given any thought to the fact that JCPenney had hired her as their new spokesperson. And then the Million Moms people decided to mount an attack on JCP and Ellen, saying that she was a horrible rolemodel, and - basically - an abomination unto the Lord.

Now, let's look at this.

Ellen's comedy has been touted for being some of the nicest around - no swearing, no mean-ness, just funny.

Ellen's charities are all about helping others, helping animals, and, basically, helping anyone or anything in need - without judgment.

Ellen's family life includes a mother who has stood by her daughter through more adversity than most, and a wife with whom - if you watch the interviews - she shares an absolutely immense love.

If you want to see - and hear - exactly what Ellen had to say about the current kerfuffle (and you really should), check out the clip from her show, here.

I watched it, and I can see why a group of bigoted, horrible people supposedly worrying about morals and family wouldn't want to have her as the spokesperson for a company.

After all, who'd want such a giving, loving, caring, funny, gracious, truthful, supportive, and generous person to be a rolemodel?

Oh. Right. I would.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Movie Monday: Two Tales of Expectations Versus Reality

I believe that I've mentioned, before, that I usually enjoy movies more when I go into them with no expectations.

I really wish I had done that in the past week.

Instead, however, I rented "The Change-Up" from Netflix, hoping for a grown-up, male-bonding, oddly-sexy version of "Freaky Friday" (the one with Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris). What I got, instead, was an immature, overly-testosteroned, swearing-filled version of "Freaky Friday" (the one with Lindsey Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis). I mean, the lead characters were played by Jason Bateman (really funny, sardonic, ironic... usually) and Ryan Reynolds (comically ingratiating, sexy, shirtless... usually). That should have been a good combo. But it was really really bad. I mean... really bad. Like D- bad.

To balance that out, I went to see the 3-D re-release of "Beauty and the Beast" in the theater last week. I honestly can't remember seeing it in its entirety since it first came out. And I was excited to see what they could do with the 3-D effects. When I was getting my popcorn, the guy behind the counter sounded not-too-thrilled by the 3-D of it, except for the ballroom scene - which I guess makes sense, since that was one of the first scenes in a major movie that was done with computer animation (for the background). And he was kind of right. Aside from a couple of scenes where the ambiance was enhanced by the 3-D, it really didn't do much for the movie.

Here's the thing, though. Maybe it's like this in the original, and I just haven't seen it in forever so I've forgotten, but there were a few scenes where the animation just seemed "off." Scenes where Belle's whole face kind of changed shape - and the same thing happened to the Beast a few times. I don't remember that in the original, though, so I kind of wonder if it was caused by the folks working on the 3-D-ifying of it.

And, even though I had the entire theater to myself (Really. I was the only person in a theater that probably seats over 300 people.), I'm not sure I really enjoyed it. I mean, I even got to sing along when I wanted, and laugh and cheer whenever I wanted without bothering anyone. And parts of it were phenomenal even after all this time - and after seeing it on the screen, and on multiple live theater stages - and I still got teary in all the right places. Not enough to give it an A, but enough to give it a solid B - simply because I'm not sure about those weird facial changes that really kind of threw me out of the "reality" of the movie.

Or, maybe, it's just that they through me out of my expectations of the movie.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Out of Practice

It is weekends like this that make me realize how out of practice I am for weekends like this.

Because of how much travelling Christopher has (and to a lesser extent I have) been doing - and that he's going to be doing - this was our only "available for scheduling" weekend in about 5 weeks. Since we had people we wanted to see, this meant that we scheduled a whole lot of events between Friday and today.

There was a time when this wouldn't have fazed me, and I'd have gone from one end of the weekend to the other without any problems. Unfortunately, the muscles that used to propel me through don't get that much exercise these days.

These days, I tend to think of a "busy weekend" as one where I have to run errands on Saturday, and the newpaper takes more than an hour to get through on Sunday. Which could explain why, after a wine and cheese night, an art show, a belated birthday dinner for Christopher (at a restaurant with 17 other people), a brunch, and a family dinner also for Christopher's birthday, I barely made it through the SuperBowl.

It also explains why I haven't blogged for the past couple of days. And why I'm about to head for bed even though it's not even 10 o'clock, yet.

Can't wait to head for work tomorrow and get some rest... and lots and lots of caffeine.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


One of the things that Christopher and I both talk about liking during this frigid time of year is the amazing clear skies that come along with the bone-chilling temperatures.

January in Minnesota is known for being snowy, cold, and blindingly bright.

This year, though, with the weirdly warm weather, and almost no snow, we've also landed ourselves in (so far) two days of massive dense fog.

The kind of fog that makes it hard to see the tops of the buildings in downtown Minneapolis from my building in the warehouse district.

The kind of fog that, overnight, can freeze on roads and make the morning commute SUCK.

The kind of fog that makes the world kind of murky - even at high noon - and turns twilight into some kind of strange dank misty blech. (And, yes, with the perpetual twilight I do, in fact, find myself humming strains from "A Little Night Music.")

I fully admit that it's been nice to be able to walk the pup without having to be in major winter gear every day. She doesn't have to wear her coat, and I don't have to wear my hat. It's nice.

But I'd really prefer putting her coat on and bundling up if it meant that I could actually see the sun a little. Heck. I'd even take a few cold snowy days in exchange for some days of chilly sunshine to re-energize my solar-powered batteries a little.

As it is, I just keep finding myself ending up in... well... a fog.