Tuesday, August 30, 2005

She's baaaack

Julie Powell, of Julie-Julia fame, has just started a new blog, What Could Happen? As I wrote in her comments, she was one of my main inspirations for starting blogging last summer. Initially I even toyed with the idea of chronicling some kind of Important Project like Julie did... then I realized that felt too much like work, and came up with the concept of an occasional series of incoherent ramblings about my unexciting life. (Aren't you glad I started writing here?!?)

In any case, Julie's brilliant and funny and totally potty-mouthed, and I am personally thrilled that she's back online.

Monday, August 29, 2005


Like everybody else, I just turned on word verification for comments to try to stop the spammers who've recently discovered this little corner of the Internets. Sorry for the inconvenience, y'all.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Sunday night iTunes

Since I've been so swamped lately, I haven't had a chance to check out a bunch of music that I've been meaning to -- until this evening, anyway. We decided against getting the Sunday Times after getting home so late tonight, and after making my way thru the latest New Yorker and the latest Entertainment Weekly, I decided against any more magazine reading. But it was too early to go to bed. And Darren was re-watching The Life Aquatic, which I enjoyed in the theater... but not enough to watch again.

So in the last 30 minutes, I've listened to the following:
~Rilo Kiley (I like... but not quite enough to buy. I think that'll change soon enough.)
~My Morning Jacket (Hmm. Hard to say. They're coming to Portland in October, and Kathleen Edwards is opening. I know a bunch of people who love 'em, and I love Kathleen... but the clips just didn't do anything for me. Have asked a trusted advisor for his opinion on this one.)
~Death Cab for Cutie. (Yes, that is the bandwagon pulling away from my house. I finally bought Transaltanticism, which I've been meaning to do for ages. Good stuff.)
~Modest Mouse. (I actually bought Good News for People... etc., but listened to it once, decided 'twas too loud and gave it away. But Phantom Scribbler and Scrivener have mentioned this one again and again; after a listen to "Float On," I think I'm going to get my CD back and burn it to the iPod. And, yes, I'm really late on that one, too.)
~Iron & Wine. (A favorite of mine from the Garden State soundtrack. Finally got around to buying Our Endless Numbered Days. Must stop downloading now.)
~Sufjan Stevens. (I've read tons of reviews of this guy, and wanted to check him out. Interesting... but not sure if it meets my threshold for a purchase, though solely on a songs-per-dollar basis it's an awfully good deal.)

Ok, 9:57. A respectable time to start getting ready for bed, and a decent hour to stop spending money.

More excuses...

... for the pitiful absence of posting in these parts.

Excuse #1: The bathroom renovation continues. For what will be the third week in a row, we have no shower. Which means that every day I have to decide what I am going to wear before I leave the house, pack it in my bag and take it with me. (Actually, I decide what I'm going to wear before I leave the house pretty much every day(!); it's just that now I have to be absolutely sure, since there are no options when you're standing in a towel at the gym, rooting around in your bag to see exactly which bizarre items of clothing you chucked in there at 6:15.) The contractor is super nice, and the work is gorgeous... and, as I cynically predicted, it's going to take a week longer than they said it would. Which is exhausting.

Excuse #2: My No. 1 employee is out on paternity leave. He's been out for, I think, seven work days, and is planning to be out for at least eight more. Besides myself, that leaves two other people on my staff... one of whom began work four weeks ago. She is smart and nice and ambitious, but still Very New. Which is exhausting.

Excuse #3: After spending the entirety of last weekend in parts undisclosed for a story I wrote the other day, I spent the entirety of this weekend in transit: Friday afternoon, Darren and I, along with my sister and her fiance, left for New Jersey after all having worked all day. Encountered miserable, horrible traffic in Massachusetts (gawd, I detest Lowell and Lawrence). Got to my parents' at 11 pm. Chatted for a few minutes, then practically fell asleep standing up. Saturday morning, I was grouchy for a while (wonder why??), then went for a brief shopping excursion with my mom and sister, in which I managed to purchase several items -- a couple pairs of shorts, some off-white strappy sandals and a little tan purse thing -- that I've been "needing" all summer. That's especially convenient since it's Aug. 28 and the winter will be here in approximately three weeks.
Anyway, the whole purpose of the trip was a gala birthday party for my dad's parents, who turn 85 and 90 this summer. All their surviving children were there, as well as all their grandchildren. We went out for a nice dinner, and then surprised them with a short program in which we read really mushy, sweet things about what they meant to us. (My aunt compiled all the tributes, which being a family of procrastinators were written yesterday morning, into a book that they pored over last night.) They absolutely loved it -- there wasn't a dry eye in the place for a while -- and we were so glad we'd made the trip.
But still. We left to come home at 8:30 this morning. What with the picking up of dogs and vegetables, we finally got here around 3:30 or 4. The contractor's truck was in the driveway, and once we came inside it was clear that the job was not going to be done today. Which was also exhausting.

Excuse #4: I haven't even had enough time to purchase my new car!! We took out a home equity loan for the bathroom remodel, and realized that it's a couple points cheaper than a car loan. So we tripled the size of the loan (it's a small bathroom) so I can buy a car. The money has been just sitting in the bank account for two weeks, and I have had no time at all to test drive a Prius and see if I like it.

But there's hope on the horizon: The bathroom should be done this week, and next weekend is a three days long, which should allow me to finally finish the flower bed I started digging in the front, plus buy a car and maybe even furnish the new bathroom. And then, in September, I am taking some time off. If it kills me.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Quick update

Sorry for the lack of activity around here... it's been insanely busy between work and the bathroom renovation (which, incidentally, seems to be going very well). I'd love nothing more than a weekend at home to putter around and work on the flower bed I want to put in the front yard, but I'm spending the weekend reporting a story in central Maine. Which means I am leaving straight from work at 1 pm today and will get home at 5 or 6 Sunday night. Woe is me. Should be interesting and probably fun, but right now it feels like drudgery... especially since my #2 guy is out on paternity leave for the next three weeks, so there's no one to pick up any of my workload.

With that, I need to finish packing, water my hydrangeas and black-eyed Susans, and drive over to my sister's to take a shower. Like I said, this week has been exhausting.

Friday, August 12, 2005

It's not Wednesday, but I'm still whining

In case you're not already on top of it, Phantom Scribbler runs a very entertaining event called Wednesday whining. I haven't gotten up the gumption to post at it yet -- largely because much of the activity takes place during work hours, and I'm still skittish about posting to blogs at work, but also because I never think my whines are worthy.

Tonight, though, I've got no such doubt. Here's why: Remember my last post, about how Lucyfer escaped? Well, she's done it again -- twice. Once this morning while I was watering my new plants... some green things that might eventually have flowers if I don't ever kill them... and once this evening while we were allegedly playing fetch in the backyard. The (mostly good) news is that she is currently sacked out on my living room floor, so my efforts at recapturing her were successful. And the other good news is that I saw her in action and figured out what she's doing: Our gate to the backyard doesn't fit real well, so we sort of smash it into place and don't latch it. She's figured out that she can pop it open with her giant snout and then sprint down the driveway. So from here on out, we are latching the gate. Which is a pain in the ass. And on top of that she dug a big hole among my hostas... which I mostly hate, but still: A hole!!

Worse than the dog situation, though, is the work situation. This week has nearly killed me. I haven't been sleeping very well, and my favorite co-worker informed me today that I've been grumpy all week... and my other favorite co-worker agreed. Oops. Perhaps this has something to do with the giant and tedious book o' listings has become completely my job due to things I can't write about but really frickin' wish I could???

Ugh. I did not sign up to be correcting typos in a database, at home, at 7:41 on a Friday night. (Yes, I am listening to WFUV and, yes, I have a very nice Tanqueray and tonic and a plate of fancy cheese and crackers in front of me, but still... it's FRIDAY.) And I have still more work to do tomorrow. And this work that I am doing tonight, which should have been done eight hours ago, means that favorite co-worker #2 has to come in and work over the weekend. And ruining someone else's weekend really sucks.

And then there's the fact that the contractors start work Monday morning. Which in the long run is not going to be something to whine about... I hope... but in the short term it's going to suck: No shower, no bathroom sink. Just a toilet against the wall in the basement, and strange guys in the house making lots of noise and dust. And that means this weekend is going to be spent working, then picking out tile and lighting fixtures and emptying out the bathroom (and, yes, documenting its current state for a nice before-and-after photo spread). Waaaah.

And then there's the fact that Phantom, who is a total rock star among bloggers, is leaving for a week's vacation... which means I can't even save this whininess up to win a prize next week! Poor, poor pitiful me.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

I love Lucy??

If it ain't one thing, it's another this week. As I may have mentioned, we're watching my sister's giant pony, I mean, dog, from today through Monday. Darren put her out along with the other pooches a little while ago, brought Jelly and Rocky in and said, "I left Lucy out there. Can you bring her in?" I nodded yes.

So some time goes by and I'm sitting here at the computer, checking to see who among y'all has updated, and a few times I hear Lucy's collar jingling. Excellent -- I know she's out there. And then something about the jingling strikes me and I think I ought to get up and bring her in. So I go out the back door onto the deck and the gate is open. And there is Lucy, standing in the driveway... next to the open window in the office, which is why I heard her collar jingling.

I walk toward her and, like the playful pooch that she is, she takes off down the driveway and up the street (this is when we thank jebus that we live on a dead end... and that it's 11 pm). And, for once, my brain did not thwart me: I ran after her down the driveway, stopped, looked at her standing in the road, and said, "Hey Lucy, you can't catch me" and ran back down the driveway toward the house, through the gate and onto the porch. She followed me every step of the way, right into the kitchen, thinking this is the best game she's ever played. (And yes, taunting her verbally was totally key to this strategy.)

Now if only I can get my heart to stop pounding.... Phew. We've had her in our possession for approximately six hours and we already lost her once. This does not bode well for the next four days.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Survivor: Parental edition

The parents are gone. As are their dogs. Darren's on the couch watching the Sox, with our (newly groomed and oh-so-cute) pooches. And I'm finally back at my computer, complete with a glass of Chardonnay and some crisp-tender green beans from the farm.

So, a quick recap of the last week's challenges:
~A note stuck in the door from the neighbor not one, not two, but three houses down informing us that the "highest pitched dog" (aka my parents' neurotic poodle) "has been barking nonstop since you left this morning. And last night while you were out for dinner, too."
Strategy: Close windows whenever we leave the house. Forget to install the air conditioner, so that the house is absolutely baking hot and stinky whenever we return.

~A dinner with my in-laws, complete with tedious tour of remodeling project.
Strategy: Patience.

~A 7:15 a.m. departure time for my race on Saturday. With passengers including my father, who rarely gets up before 10 a.m. on days off and is, in the best of times, typically 30 minutes later than requested.
Strategy: Firmness. And I quote: "If you are not in the car at 7:15, we will leave without you." Actual departure time, with entire family in tow: 7:14. Astonishing.

~A trip to the emergency room for the aforementioned father, who managed to give himself a fairly scary electrical shock while helping my sister's fiance install an exhaust fan in the bathroom of their new house.
Strategy: Uhh, some back copies of Rolling Stone to entertain us in the hospital? He is fine, but it was frightening. And the man who's always proclaimed his healthy fear of electricity now knows exactly what he was afraid of.

~Massive gardening effort initiated by my mother, very early in the morning.
Strategy: Obey. Dig holes, divide hostas, buy Pee Gee Hydrangeas (as my soon-to-be brother-in-law remarked, they're not too racy, and their language isn't that foul). After a few hours of work, the yard (front and back) looks about a million times better. It's not clear why we waited until the 4th summer of owning the house to figure this out...

~Trip to outlet hell.
Strategy: Whine like a 10-year-old. Pout because everyone else needs to buy something but you just have to sit and wait. Kvetch, moan, grumble. Then remember that you actually like these people and don't get to spend very much time with them. And act like the frickin' grownup you actually are.

Strategy: Hug. Kiss. Wave on the doorstep. After the car pulls out of sight, stand in the blessedly empty house with husband for 12 seconds. Discuss dinner plans, and home equity loan closing, and dogs' groomer schedule, and the mounds of laundry that need to be done. Head directly to work, where one days' absence means 50+ emails (and those are the legitimate ones) and many hours of angst.

Finale (12 hours later)
Learn that, as suspected, you're not pregnant this month either. Head directly to fridge, pour more Chardonnay.

Monday, August 08, 2005

It's a shame about Ray

The Ray of whom I speak is Ray Lamontagne, a Maine singer-songwriter who's had a whole mystique built up around him -- time working in the shoe factories of central Maine (probably when he was, like, 11, since most of them have been closed for years), a nomadic existence living out of his mom's car, then an awakening upon listening to Tree-Top Flyer by Stephen Stills. Then, a few years later, a record deal.

And I love Trouble -- it's an excellent, grim, moody album that is perfect for road trips.

But the problem with seeing Lamontagne live, at least last night at the State Theatre (about which more griping in a moment), is that there's not a lot of variation in his songs, from tempo to cadence to subject matter to key. Which makes 90+ minutes of listening to him (at least when he wasn't drowned out by the obnoxious drunks in the crowd acting as if they were at the local watering hole) a little tedious. Still, his voice is amazing. I was trying to figure out how to describe it; he's got more than a little Van Morrison (that soulful growl)... and that's as much as I can come up with. (No coffee or shower yet this morning, so the brain is moving a little sluggishly.)

As for the State Theatre: It has become a miserable place to see any act that does not totally rock out. We saw Wilco there last summer, and by and large it was fine, because they played loudly enough that you couldn't hear the morons. But a guy with a guitar? Not so much. Part of the problem is the layout: It's an old theater, and there are no doors between the main performance space and the halls. In fact, there are even large windows cut into the walls, so you can lean your can of Heineken on the sill, chat loudly into your cellphone and still pretend to watch the show. And on top of all this, there are the bars. Many of them -- including, as of last night, a piece of plywood on top of a garbage can. And on top of the plywood was a tub full of cans of beer. And all of this was in the middle of the floor section, so that the idiots didn't even need to stagger to the back of the hall to get their drink. Grrr.

And then there's the seating: A while back, they pulled out almost all of the floor seating, leaving just 10 or 12 rows of seats. For quieter shows, like Aimee Mann and John Hiatt, they bring in f0lding chairs to fill that space and sell assigned seating. For most shows, though, it's general admission. Which meant that my dad, with his bum knee, and my mom spent the show in the middle of the theater seats, able to just see the top of Ray Lamontagne's head. The rest of us stood in the back, where we could see fairly well, but where the noise of idiocy was overwhelming. And the thing about the idiocy is that this show was a really big deal -- the first time he's played a venue this large in Maine. The show was sold out... and people who'd paid $25 for tickets completely ignored the show to drink and talk. Loudly. I enjoy having a beer at a show, but I'd gladly give up that opportunity if it meant the crowd would even remotely approach civility.

So the long-awaited show was a bit of a disappointment. It did inspire me to come up with a whole theory about why so many college-aged girls absolutely swooned over Lamontagne, a skinny bearded guy straight out of 1978... The theory involves John Mayer and the tendendcy of many girls to imagine rock stars as boyfriends, but in the light of day it's kinda dumb. And obvious. So I will spare you the details. And, if Ray Lamontagne comes to your town, you might want to just stay home, drink a little red wine and listen to his album instead of being irritated by the idiots and, sadly, a little bored by Ray himself.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

All the way home

A quick note to report on the 10k: It's over, and I accomplished my goal of improving my time from last year's race. It was a little iffy at first -- the first mile-plus is very bright and sunny, with no shade anywhere, which is not exactly my ideal running condition. But I picked it up somewhere around the three-mile marker and finished just fine.

And, moments from now, my house will be blessedly empty. My folks are over at my sister's house, helping with house projects, and Darren's headed out for a paddle. My goals for the afternoon are to shower, rehydrate myself, read and maybe take a little nap, then rejoin the family for dinner. In short, a perfect August afternoon.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Invasion of the time snatchers

My parents arrive this afternoon for a seven-day visit. Conveniently, we also have to send the magazine to the printer this afternoon. So between work demands and my wonderful parents -- who tend to irritate me to no end with their hogging of my computer, their sitting on my couch, their constant requests for things that need to be done around the house (I know, I know; I'm lucky that they're such great people but they are very high maintenance guests) -- I'll likely be unable to update until they're gone next Tuesday.

So between now and then, wish me luck on the 10k, for which I think I'm actually fairly well prepared, and the parental relations. Have a lovely summer weekend, y'all.

Monday, August 01, 2005

An ethical question

Bizarrely, we are about to buy a new car, in addition to undertaking the bathroom renovation project that has been planned for lo these many years. I currently own a 1990 Honda Civic, which is lovable and trusty and incredibly fuel-efficient, but doesn't have room for much more than me and Rocky the nine-pound shih tzu. And since it's 15 years old and we'd rather not drive it until it quits (which, given the Honda nature, could be another 100,000 miles or until the body falls to pieces, whichever comes first) and it wouldn't be very baby friendly (not that there is a baby prospect currently... I could very well have said "plywood" or "passenger" or "crates full of organic vegetables" instead of "baby") and I would luuuurve to have a vehicle that could play these new inventions - have you heard of them? - called CDs... well, we started doing some research. And what we found was totally surprising.

We thought we'd reached the point in life at which we could afford a late model used car (which, I have to admit, I only recently figured out that "late model" meant "kinda new-ish"). So I started investigating prices -- thank you, Edmunds and cars.com -- and models and features of fine used Toyotas and Hondas. At which point I nearly passed out: These cars are wicked expensive. (And to think I've only lived in New England for eight years.)

The conventional wisdom that driving a new car off the lot causes it to lose half its value is not so wise any more. So I could buy a $16,000 2003 (four door!) Civic with 40,000 miles on it and a warranty with only three or four years left on it, or I can spend $19,000 for a brand new one with zero miles and a six-year warranty. And from there, it's just a hop, skip and a jump to the $21,000 Civic hybrid, which satisfies any number of desires on my part: the desire to save money on gas; the desire to consume fewer petroleum products; the desire to prove to carmakers and that simpleton in the White House that there actually is consumer demand for these things; and, not to be underestimated, the desire to have a cool new gadget.

And so there you have it: I am going to buy a brand new Honda Civic hybrid, for which there is a two-week to two-month wait in these parts. (How we are financing this purchase is the subject of an entirely different post involving spare kidneys, panhandling pooches and a room for rent in the front of our house.) So I should be driving this fine vehicle sometimes this fall. Amazing.

And this brings me to the subject of this post: How to handle the sale of the beloved Lil' Blue (no relation to Baby Blue), which has served me faithfully since I bought it from a recent graduate of Babson College who lived around the corner from me in Allston, Mass. in 1998. It's worth squat as a trade-in, so we've decided to sell it ourselves. I have all the maintenance records, and have looked up the blue book value. But I'm pondering taking it to my trusty mechanic to give it a once-over, so I know what a prospective buyer might find when he/she takes it to get checked out before laying down some cash.

The problem, though, is that if I do that, so as to be prepared to bargain with said buyer, I lose any chance of plausible deniability. I would know exactly what's wrong with the car and, if asked, would have to 'fess up. So it seems that the best course of action is to do nothing... which feels a little bit like copping out. (edited to add that "would," the lack of which seems to have confused a few folks as to my intentions and/or general level of weaselyness.)

And so, my dear readers (all four of you), I am wondering what you would do. Please, entertain me with tales of used cars won and lost, of buyers scorned and hailed. Failing that? A little advice (or, as the Internets say, assvice) would be welcome.