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March 2007

A few observations

A few days ago I was in my grocery store. You know, the closest big one. I am gratified that the closest big one is really good, and so I happily call it mine. Plus, they sent me valued customer coupons for two free reusable bags. And I have three others I bought. They're much better than the old canvas-y bags stores used to offer. I don't know why I've never seen anyone else using them there. Even the ones you buy are only 99 cents. In the old days, they were pretty expensive, for no good reason I can name.

Anyway, I noticed that metal cup holders had been attached to the right side of the cart handle. It just cracked me up, so America, to have cup holders on, you know, pretty much everything. But I enjoyed the idea. I do sometimes have a bottle of water or even an occasional latte with me when I shop.

Nearly all the stores have coffee shops in them, of course. One chain in this area has Dunkin Donuts, and another has Starbucks in their larger stores. Most of the others have either a store coffee shop, or a little self-serve area next to the bakery. So my first thought was that it was offered for convenience, and to sell more coffee.

Today when I went in there, I saw that the coffee shop had been ripped out, and there's a big sign up that says "Starbucks coming soon." So that really explains the cup holders. I wonder if the other chain with Starbucks in it got them, too.

It's pretty hilarious. Fairly awful. Yet also somehow delightful at the same time.

I use the green bags from that store, and it keeps me going to that store; the name is printed on them, and it is a good store, so there you are. When I get the plastic bags from Target, I save those and we collect our recyclables in them to take out to the blue bins. The Target bags are better than most of the other store bags for that purpose. So between those two stores, I do most of my shopping, and am able to do a little reduce, recycle, reuse.

I have also noticed that two more companies are using versions of Mah-na Mah-na in their TV ads. That's cool by me; I never get tired of that. But maybe other people do.

You might remember this weekend was the time I was going to start updating the family album blog. Well, I'm having a strangely fussy net connection, and have been unable to do anything with any file, and everything is terribly slow. It took forever for this page to come up at all. It probably won't last much longer, though. (Whoo, I'm editing this to say I think things are speeding up again, so I'll be able to do that in the morning. I'm tuckered, for now.)

So--I'm left-handed. I kind of feel discriminated against with these cup holders, but I guess that's just one more adaptation that will cause my brain to form superior cross-hemisphere connections. :-)

Vox Hunt: Me, Crazy

Show us your craziest or funniest self portrait.
Submitted by djgk.

I am sorry. I wasn't crazy or funny. But I'm sharing it anyway. Maybe I'll try again when I'm in a better mood.

When I was about 16 or so, I listened to this record every day before going to school.

I Made It Through The Rain
Barry Manilow

We dreamers have our ways
Of facing rainy days
And somehow we survive

We keep the feelings warm
Protect them from the storm
Until our time arrives

Then one day the sun appears
And we come shining through those lonely years

I made it through the rain
I kept my world protected
I made it through the rain
I kept my point of view
I made it through the rain
And found myself respected
By the others who
Got rained on too
And made it through

When friends are hard to find
And life seems so unkind
Sometimes you feel afraid

Just aim beyond the clouds
And rise above the crowds
And start your own parade

'Cause when I chased my fears away
That's when I knew that I could finally say

I made it through the rain
I kept my world protected
I made it through the rain
I kept my point of view
I made it through the rain
And found myself respected
By the others who
Got rained on too
And made it through

QotD: Stop Me If You've Heard This One

What's the infamous story people tell about you? 
Submitted by Cherney.

I thought it might be fun to ask the people I know what stories they ever tell about me, because it seemed to me that they do, and would enjoy sharing one, even if it was at my expense.

Turns out I was wrong. There aren't any. I was ready to be embarrassed, but I don't think I was ready to be sad. Sometimes I am so hopelessly naive, it's mystifying.

Vox Hunt: Shopping List

Show us your shopping list.

I collect shopping lists, actually, that people leave behind in shopping carts and so forth. Also, handwritten notes. My daughter has a collection of her own that she plans to start sharing on the internet sometime.

But here's what's really on my mind, especially now that I have to wait 5 or 6 weeks more.

I love XM radio. I make excuses to drive my husband's car so I can listen to comedy, old radio shows, and the AT40. This new car comes with a built-in Sirius option, but I'm getting a portable XM radio instead so we can just do the family plan. Also, XM has baseball, while Sirius does not, at least until the merger happens. Baseball is important.

This portable unit is nice-looking, comes with a car kit, and has a remote control, so that you can put it wherever you need and not take risks in order to operate it.

more photo fun

This has a brushstroke filter applied to it called "accented edges," then I used the eyedropper to pick up some of the existing colors and deepen them. I painted over her eyes, and then decreased the brightness and increased the contrast. Then I enlarged it a little bit.

This one is silly, of course. I imagined it as one of those super-close-ups they give you of a detail section of a crowded painting. If I wanted to take the time, I'd do it over differently and make the pixellation more random.

Girliefriends, you need PhotoShop

I understand there's a fairly inexpensive consumer version. I get all my stuff through the man, so I don't know the details of cost, etc. I also understand there are PC knockoffs of the original PhotoShop, but I know nothing of those. You could look into them.

Here's a bad photo. I rotated it, reduced the size to 25%, and saved it as an optimized file, so it would load more quickly on the web.

And here is the same photo, turned into an acceptable though not really good picture, by using 5 or 6 other simple PhotoShop tools. It's a bit grainy, but nice enough looking.

So imagine what you can do with a photo that was actually good to begin with? Also, I sometimes take a bad photo, and just crop out everything but one best area. Other times I apply crazy filters to a bad photo, in order to make it visually pleasing in another way. I will add examples of those here after my nap.

But for now, here are two more okay pictures for today. The first one was taken by another of my daughters, and was very blurry, so there was only so much sharpening that could help. The second is an ordinary-looking photo, but I erased two things in the background; a bathroom scale and some errant cords hanging from the aquarium. They are two different boys, by the way.

On language

Wikipedia got me thinking about the difference between terminology and jargon. The former is mainly written; the latter is mainly spoken. When jargon is written, it needs context in order to be understood by those outside the group in which it originally coined. When terminology is spoken, the same need arises.

We all use 'net terminology these days. But now and then I'm starting to hear very young people say, aloud, "wtf?" or "omg." That's just as problematic as written jargon, though for an additional reason. Beside the fact that it presents an "insider" code to outsiders, possibly without context, it also just sounds extremely silly, unless used with liberal quantities of irony. And when is the last time you encountered a young person who truly understood the use of irony? Most people take awhile to develop that skill, many never do. :-)

Here's a quote from wikipedia on the use of jargon, which sounds like it could have been spoken by one of my excellent high school English teachers, "Jargon to the outsider usually comes across as pedantic, nerdy, and divorced from meaning."

My husband has spent over 20 years in the advertising industry, mainly in the business-to-business sector, and most recently in the pharmaceutical field. You would be hard-pressed to find a more jargon-addled world. When he uses business-speak at home or while we're dining out, I have to remind him that these terms are not common to an outsider. He spends so much time in that world, it's easy for him to forget that the world at-large is not privy to the code.

And when he, on occasion, claims that everybody knows what x or y means, I gently remind him that his daily environment is fairly insular, and that everyone else is off somewhere else forming codes of their own.

QotD: My SSB

What is, or used to be, your SSB (secret single behavior)?
Submitted by Dee.

No one has any idea what this even means. I just clicked on the view answers button, and the typical response is, "What the hell does this mean?"

First, regarding a previous QotD, if anyone is reading this besides my neighbors, a "greasy spoon" is a truck stop, or in some places, a diner. It's an old-fashioned term that always bothered me when I was a child. But there you are. Probably the person who submitted that question is a little older than some of you, and maybe from the midwest or south.

Now, SSB? First of all, just stifle, Archie, with the initials. There are too many in the new internets age, and we're all tired of trying to keep up with them. And this precious attitude of assuming we're all "in the know" if we abbreviate everything is obnoxious.

No offense, Dee, because I am guessing you didn't invent this term, and thought it would just be a fun thing to discuss. But jargon is useless unless we all have some common ground to stand upon. It's internal language, you see, a sort of groupthink form of communication. And in certain circumstances, it's great stuff. But for the world at-large, regular English will do an even better job.


I will be so glad when my kids get their new hard drive. Their old one killed itself. And I've been letting them use my computer, and so I just only seem to have it all to myself at times when I'm kind of too tired to do anything other than poke around for things to read.

I love Mondays. I know people often don't, as a rule, but I do. Mondays are a fresh start, a tabula rasa each week, to get things right and keep them organized.

Today I taught the kids about the end of WW1 and the 1918 flu pandemic. My younger one finally got all his threes right. I got the living room clean, made a good dinner, put on a fresh blouse and cologne, and was mixing a smart cocktail for my husband as he walked through the door. To top it off, the Music Choice channel I like to play while cooking dinner, Singers and Standards, played a great version of "The Lady Is A Tramp" by Rosemary Clooney, and also "Blue Skies" by Bobby Darin, which I somehow do not own, but definitely should.

Was your day that good?

Also, I'm feeling very optimistic that I'll have my new car soon. I'm so excited! It will be the first time since, well, since my first car, that I really get to choose just what I'd like, and it will be so fun to drive after 13 years in a Chevy Astro. Two identical Chevy Astros, except the color and year.

Tomorrow is Tuesday. Usually, Tuesday is only really looked forward to because I like all these Tuesday TV shows, including foremost, of course, House. Tuesdays are rarely like Mondays, sadly. And tomorrow, all those shows are just reruns. But you never know. It could still be a good day.

something silly

My score on The Classic Dames Test:

Myrna Loy
(You scored 7% grit, 33% wit, 19% flair,  and 38% class!)

You are class itself, the calm, confident "perfect woman." Men turn and look at you admiringly as you walk down the street, and even your rivals have a grudging respect for you. You always know the right thing to say, do and, of course, wear. You can take charge of a situation when things get out of hand, and you're a great help to your partner even if they don't immediately see or know it. You are one classy dame. Your screen partners include William Powell and Cary Grant, you little simmerpot, you.

QotD: Musical Horoscope

What's your musical horoscope?  (Put your player on shuffle and write down the first 10 songs that come up.)
Inspired by Stephanie.  

Here are 11. You know, to maintain consistency. :-)

Pretty Girls Make Graves--The Smiths
Once Upon A Time--Simple Minds
God In An Alcove--Bauhaus
O Grande Amor--Stan Getz
Hernando's Hideaway--Billy May's Rico Mambo Orchestra
Another One Rides The Bus--Weird Al Yankovic
Groovin' High--Charlie Parker
That's The Way Love Is--Bobby Darin
Thirteen Men--Miss Ann-Margaret
One Of Those Days--Duran Duran
Love And Anger--Kate Bush

Hm. How does one interprete this, horoscope-wise? Odd sort of divination, really. Maybe just seeing what shuffle chose first would yield some sort of result. Here, I'll try again.

Hah!  Not hard to figure out what this means!

Vox Hunt: Back To My Roots

Show us your oldest family photo.
Submitted by Alex Leonard

This is my great-great grandfather. I scanned this picture from a ferrotype, and then lightened it a whole lot. The problem is I'm not certain which great-great grandfather he is. If he's my great-grandfather's father, which is what I really think, then he was born in 1836, and this picture would have been taken around 1875-1880 or so, I guess. But if he's my great-grandmother's father, then I think he's the one who was born in 1851, so the picture would be from a little later. His jacket does look like it's from the earlier period, but these people wouldn't exactly have been up on the transition to Edwardian fashion, had it been later on.

I have some of this information at one of the genealogy sites, but I never seem to be able to get it to load lately.

Another lifetime

Nearly 30 years ago, I spent many idle hours lounging on my canopy bed, flipping through magazines, thinking about marrying Andy Gibb. I knew he was probably too short for me, and a bit too blond, but somehow that never mattered. Some of the more positive key points were that he would be the perfect age for me once I reached a suitable marrying age, he had a really great accent, and, well, what else was there, really, from the view at thirteen?

A few years later, my friend Charlotte and I spent a class period or two coming up with our list of key characteristics for the "composite male." Frankly, other than the cool accent, Andy really didn't fit the profile well. He was slim, of course, but our list was long and detailed and right from the start excluded anyone under 5' 10". We also demanded dark or possibly salt and pepper hair. I'd moved on by then, anyway. My fantasy crushes were tall, suave movie actors of the 40s-60s, baseball players, and a few book characters, all of whom seemed to possess the same crucial "je ne sais quois."

Andy Gibb died about five or six years after that, just at the time when I'd previously imagined going out to hunt him down so we could get to know each other and then get married. Even though I really hadn't thought much about him in a long time, his death affected me, almost profoundly. I'm not going to say actually profoundly, because people seem to say that an awful lot of the time. The word is cheap. But it hit me hard, deep inside where no one could see.

I couldn't stop thinking about it, about him, and how his seemingly gifted life had just gone crashing down without much of a look back. Now and then he comes to mind, and I just don't know why he mattered so much then, and somehow still does a little bit. I had more pictures of Shaun Cassidy on my walls but I never thought about marrying him. When I got to the stage of imagining what it would be like to kiss someone, it was always someone older and sturdier, like Jim Garner or Tom Selleck. Incidentally, my passion for Garner has never waned, whereas I haven't given Selleck a second thought since well before he kissed Kevin Kline in that movie.

Yet this inner longing for Andy Gibb still remains, buried way underneath years of life and loves, both real and fictional. I'm not the only one; over the past couple of years, I've encountered a few other women who share very similar feelings, and who still carry him around in a special little box marked "13."

Last week I was noting "On This Day" events for a friend, and discovered that she shares her birthday anniversary with Andy Gibb. If he was still alive, he'd be 49 years old now. I'm certain I would not find him the least bit attractive, because he in no way would resemble Hugh Laurie, Craig Ferguson, or anyone else I now girlishly moon over in idle moments. Yet I think I'd still want to meet him, or maybe just exchange glances from across a room. He had a very charming smile.