Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Little Beauty Queen of a Puppy. . .

Yesterday afternoon, I caught her just lying there in her crate with her teeth over one of the bars. Her upper lip was pushed up and she looked like a hilariously bucktoothed dog. Of course, by the time I got the camera (which took less than a minute, since it was right beside me), she'd moved. Here's another lovely pose, though, showing off some of her new teeth:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vacuum Saga Update ;o)

I thought those of you who were riveted by my Vacuum Shopping Saga might be interested in an update, and today, as I gracefully guided our new machine across the kitchen floor (à la the perfect 1950s housewife, only in comfy sweats instead of a crisp dress-- and minus the ever-present lipsticked smile), I finally remembered that I haven't given you one, yet.

The short version:
I love the new vacuum cleaner! It actually makes vacuuming fun! (Yeah, we'll see how long that lasts. How long before the novelty wears off, do you think?)

When I lovingly park Bissie (that's her name, by the way) in her place in the utility/laundry room, I cast a disparaging eye over the old vacuum. I've yet to decide how to dispose of it, so for now, it's just sitting there, getting more jealous of Bissie with every passing day. ;o) "Why did I wait so long to get a new cleaner?" I ask myself. Because I never dreamed how much of a difference it would make in the cleanliness of our floors and my overall enjoyment of life. (Well, perhaps I exaggerate just a tad.)

Here's a photo of the exact model we ended up getting--
The Bissell Total Floors Velocity Bagless Upright Vacuum Cleaner (in Galapagos Green):

She's a beauty, ain't she? ;o) A real beaut!

Good things about this machine:
  • It is SO much more powerful than the old one. It's amazing how much hair, sand, and "stuff" this thing picks up!! Even on a carpet that looked relatively clean, it managed to gather up a hefty amount of soil. (This is of course mostly a "first few times you use it" phenomenon, since our old cleaner was doing such a bad job-- which is a good thing. If it always picked up that much, I'd have to be constantly emptying it.)
  • It's quieter than the old vacuum! I expected it would be about as loud-- especially since it has so much more power. Now, it's still noisy, but I don't feel like I have to wear earplugs when I run it (as opposed to our old monster that sounded like a jet engine revving up).
  • The hose is longer and more flexible than on the old machine. It's easier to reach into nooks and crannies. Oh, and because the hose is permanently attached to the base, it doesn't constantly pop out and lose suction.
  • The "turbo brush" attachment is a nice feature. I haven't used it much so far-- mainly on the couch-- but I think I'll be using it more in days to come.
  • I'll never have to buy a bag for this vacuum cleaner. (And with the amount of hair, dust, and dirt this thing picks up, it's a good thing. At the rate this vacuum cleans, I would already have gone through a few bags, I'm sure.)
  • With an on/off switch for the brush and an adjustable brush height, it's designed to work not only on a variety of thicknesses of carpet, but also on smooth floors (tile, wood, vinyl). With the brush switched off and the "scatter shield" down, I can vacuum bare floors without simply scattering the sand across the floor. I've already used this feature several times in the breakfast room and kitchen, and it works very well. I'm thrilled with it, actually, because those two rooms, along with the carpeted "main room", get sandy/dirty the fastest of the whole house. It's nice to not have to break out the broom and dust pan every time. (And I'm more likely to clean it regularly if I can just use the vacuum.)
Not-so-good things:
  • Like most vacuum cleaners these days (or at least the ones in my price range), this one's mostly plastic. This may make it lighter, but it also makes me feel that it's more breakable.
  • The on/off switch for the brush is really more of a foot-controlled lever down at the bottom of the machine. I think a switch up near the power toggle would've been better.
  • When you have the scatter shield down (for bare floor vacuuming), you're prevented from (easily) picking up larger things. For instance, there will be the occasional piece of kibble on the kitchen floor. The vacuum will usually just push these around. I've been able to make it pick up a piece or two with the shield down, but mostly it's not worth the trouble, so I'll go back and pick those up by hand.
  • When using the hose/wand, I've noticed that it doesn't do well with pieces of paper or plastic (such as bits of a plastic bag). They tend to not want to go into the hose, so I have to remove them before I can continue vacuuming. Fortunately, I'm not often vacuuming those things. (Technically, you're probably supposed to pick those up before starting to vacuum, but it was back in a hard-to-reach spot, so I gave it a try.)
  • While researching vacuum cleaners, I read that when you empty the canister on this model, there is often a little hair or dust up above the removable part. It's true, and some of this dust regularly falls down onto the machine when you empty the canister, but it's not much-- not enough to worry about, in my opinion.
So, overall, I've found that the pros far outweigh the cons. Count me as a satisfied customer!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

This may be the last entry of mine you want to read. . .

Maybe, after reading this one, you will wash your hands of me forever. (Or maybe not.)

This afternoon I was looking at the mail. We'd received something from a charity organization asking us to "PLEASE HELP!" because "Just $2.23 provides Thanksgiving dinner for someone less fortunate."

Before I really get rolling, let me say that we have donated money and "things" before, and I'm sure we'll do so again, so we're not absolutely horrible people. Ok? So I have your permission to be a little rude, now?

Rude Item #1:

After you've listened a while to Neal Boortz, you never hear the phrase "less fortunate" in quite the same way. (And you'd be amazed how many times you do hear these words-- especially during November and December, here in the U.S.) I'll try not to get too side-tracked, but basically, his opinion is that calling a group of people "less fortunate" implies that the main reason they have less than others is that they had some really rotten luck. In the great lottery of life, they were the losers. In turn, this suggests that those who have done well in life (even if that just means well enough that they're making their own way without relying on hand-outs from the government or charity organizations) have done so only because they were "fortunate"-- lucky. Phrasing like "less fortunate" takes away our sense of responsibility for our own successes or failures in life.

This isn't to say that there aren't some people who truly are dealt a bad hand in life-- though it's interesting to note that so many who honestly are "less fortunate" than the average person (such as those born with disabilities) manage to lead happy, successful lives. Apart from the rare exception, our "fortunes" in life are determined less by luck than by our approach to the world around us. (Perhaps, if you really want to put the blame elsewhere, you can claim that the reason you can't hold down a job and lead a normal life is that you were born with a bad set of genes that predisposed you for risky behavior, etc.-- but I think that's pushing it.)

Well, as a matter of fact, why not let the man explain his opinion in his own words? The following is an excerpt from this "commencement speech" that he wrote years ago but has never actually delivered at a college or university ceremony:
That phrase ["less fortunate"'] is a favorite of the Left. Think about it, and you'll understand why.

To imply that one person is homeless, destitute, dirty, drunk, spaced out on drugs, unemployable, and generally miserable because he is "less fortunate" is to imply that a successful person - one with a job, a home and a future - is in that position because he or she was "fortunate." The dictionary says that fortunate means "having derived good from an unexpected place." There is nothing unexpected about deriving good from hard work. There is also nothing unexpected about deriving misery from choosing drugs, alcohol, and the street instead of education and personal responsibility.

If the Left can create the common perception that success and failure are simple matters of "fortune" or "luck," then it is easy to promote and justify their various income redistribution schemes. After all, we are just evening out the odds a little bit, aren't we?

This "success equals luck" idea the liberals like to push is seen everywhere. Democratic presidential candidate Richard Gephardt refers to high-achievers as "people who have won life's lottery." He wants you to believe they are making the big bucks because they are lucky; all they did was buy the right lottery ticket. What an insult this is to the man or woman who works that 60 hour week to provide for a family.

It's not luck, my friends. It's choice. One of the greatest lessons I ever learned was in a book by Og Mandino, entitled "The Greatest Secret in the World." The lesson? Very simple: "Use wisely your power of choice."

That bum sitting on a heating grate, smelling like a wharf rat? He's there by choice. He is there because of the sum total of the choices he has made in his life. This truism is absolutely the hardest thing for some people to accept, especially those who consider themselves to be victims of something or other - victims of discrimination, bad luck, the system, capitalism, whatever. After all, nobody really wants to accept the blame for his or her position in life. Not when it is so much easier to point and say, "Look! He did this to me!" than it is to look into a mirror and say, "You S.O.B.! You did this to me!"

The key to accepting responsibility for your life is to accept the fact that your choices, every one of them, are leading you inexorably to either success or failure, however you define those terms.
I had a hard time making myself stop there. If you haven't already read the "speech"-- and if you aren't already fuming over the insensitivity of what I did copy and paste (g)-- I suggest you go take a look at the rest of it. I've said before that I don't agree with everything Boortz says-- and he does have a rare gift for being irritating-- but some of his points make a lot of sense.

So, that was the first thing. . .
Now for:

Rude Item #2:

Here's a photo of part of the front of the envelope the organization sent us:

Maybe I'm an all-around bad person because of it, but one of my first reactions to this envelope was, "Is this photo supposed to make me feel the stirrings of sweet charity in my heart?" (Because it, well, didn't.)

Here's a bit of background info: This particular organization is a Christian group specifically intended to help the homeless. So on the one hand, I applaud them for their honest portrayal of the average homeless person-- adult male, unshaven, etc. (You'll see a similar photo on their website, if you Google it.) But on the other hand. . . this photo seems like a poor choice for their envelope, because I think the average initial reaction will be the same as mine. A kind of creepy-looking guy with a grizzled beard, leaning over on his side (what is with that pose?!) and staring at me through slightly narrowed eyes? You people at WRM really know how to pull at my heartstrings! I felt more confused than charitable.

It may be shallow, but it's true.

I feel bad that the organization may get fewer donations than if they'd done a better job on their design. Something other than a-- let's be honest, even if it is mean-- scroungy-looking man might have made a better first impression. Maybe a pair of hands holding a plate of Thanksgiving food? Or an empty plate with a question mark on it? Something-- anything else would've been better, I think. Maybe I should offer to donate my time to help them design their next mailing. Seriously, I'm pretty sure I could've done a better job myself. . . (I really hope whoever designed that never finds this page!)

Well, now that you all know me for the shallow, heartless creature that I am, I guess I'll let the keyboard rest a while. . .

"Entertainment-Related" Stuff

(Think I have a shot at next year's Blogger's Choice Award for "Blog with the Most Boring Blog-Post Titles"?)

I've put off writing this entry, and written it in such bits and pieces, that now I no longer really care whether it gets written or not. But since I'm this far along, I might as well finish it. (Now I know you're filled with anticipation. (g))

** ** ** ** **

Engrish on Flickr--

I could've sworn I'd already written about this (in this entry), but I can't find it, now. It must've been accidentally deleted. . .

If you're a fan of, you really ought to take a look at the Engrish "group" on Flickr. Some of the photos are things you'll already have seen on the other site (if you're a regular visitor), but most of them are worth another look, anyway. There are nearly 7,500 photos in the pool-- enough to keep you busy for hours.

Of course, there are other Engrish groups on Flickr, too, some of which claim to be better than the one I've linked to above. (I leave it to you to look and decide. Myself, it'll take me weeks to look through all the photos in just that one group.)

As a matter of fact, there are so many groups on Flickr that maybe I'll share just a few more that I find amusing and/or interesting:
  • Strange and Funny Signs-- Photos of strange and funny signs. (Never would've guessed, huh?)
  • Grocer's Apostrophe-- Signs illustrating the sad decline of the apostrophe. (Warning: This may cause irritation and high blood pressure in "Grammar/Punctuation Police" types.)
  • Pyrex Love & Calling All Corning Ware Lovers-- Did you know that vintage Pyrex and Corning Ware are hot items for collecting, these days? I saw several pieces (and patterns) in these groups that brought back memories of meals at my mother's and grandmothers' tables. . . :o) (And I'm guessing this is a large part of why they're collectible. People in my general age range want a set just like Grandma or Mom had.)
  • Foodie Craft!-- Food-themed crafts. I don't know why, exactly, but these things are just fun to look at, I think.
  • Dogs Eating Potato Chips-- You may be asking, "Why? Why a group devoted to dogs eating potato chips?" The answer, obviously, is because they can.
  • The Candy Shop & Candy Blog-- Photos of candy. I wonder why I'm suddenly so hungry. . .
  • Garden Junk vs Garden Art & Bowling Ball Art & Weird Yards and Gardens-- I think you've got the point, right?
  • Vintage Advertising-- And if you scroll down that first page, you'll find links to lots of other related Flickr groups. Truly, Flickr has more vintage ads and "stuff" than you ever wanted to see in one place!
  • Here's one for Halloween: ***Looks HAUNTED to ME!!!***
And before I move along (finally) to the next topic, here are a few specific photos that made me laugh:
  • "Hot Diggity Dogger" -- It's a toaster-esque machine that heats two buns and hot dogs at a time. Donald had heard of this before, but it was all new to me. This seems like the quintessential "buy it and use it exactly twice before it goes into storage/is given away or sold" kitchen gadget. I'd have to eat a whole lot of hot dogs to justify the counter space one these babies would take. . . (That said, we have our toaster out all the time, and yet we eat toast maybe once a year. Maybe that often. We're not big toast-eaters, even though I do like it on chilly days like today.)
  • "Tell Me Truth!!!"-- Maybe you'll think I'm a weirdo, but I find this absolutely hilarious. The "put your paws up, or else" pose-- the crazy juxtaposition of a kitten and a gun-- the caption. It's so bizarre!
  • "Cell World" & "Cell World 2"-- I've seen some hideous figurines in my time. I guess anyone who's wandered through a dollar store has seen some strange things. These particular uglies transcend the ordinary. They are exquisitely tacky.

** ** ** ** **

Songs most likely to be stuck in my head, lately:
  • Brandi Carlile's "Have You Ever"-- (A couple of the photos in that video are. . . odd, if you ask me, but the song's beautiful.)
  • Patrick O'Hearn's "Adagio from 'Fantasy for a Gentleman'"-- (Sorry about the tiny clip. It was the best I could find.) My brain has had this on repeat for a day, now. This song has such an eerie atmosphere to it. For me, it conjures images of a rain-wet cobblestone street in an oceanside town about a hundred years ago. Each stone has a little curve of golden light, reflecting from a partially clearing sunset sky. The "gentleman" from the title is seen from behind, closed umbrella in hand as he walks towards the ocean. That picture may not seem to "go" with the spooky feeling of the music, but it's what I see when I hear it.
  • Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights"-- What a weird voice! But it's a weird story, so it fits, somehow. . . Oh, and I can only endure this particular version of her singing this song. The other (more common?) one grates on my nerves, because she sounds (even more) like a witch. (shudder) (Help! I'm addicted to parentheses!!)
  • "Arioso" (a.k.a. Concerto for harpsichord, strings & continuo No. 5 in F minor, BWV 1056 Arioso, by J.S. Bach), as played by Tracy Silverman and Thea Suits Silverman-- Not much to say. It's just a nice, soothing melody.
  • A handful from The Alan Parsons Project that you can listen to here, including "Sirius", "Eye in the Sky", and "Mammagamma". Also, from the same group, "Time" (which I linked to not too long ago) and "Don't Answer Me". (Incidentally, I just saw the video for that song for the first time and. . . yuck. I just don't get the appeal of the comic book format, and I don't have much sympathy for the girl. Why is she dating the mean guy?)
  • Ray Lynch's "The Oh of Pleasure" and "Falling in the Garden"-- Two more that I linked to recently, but here they are again, because they're still "new favorites".

** ** ** ** **

Berkeley Square--
I've finished watching the first (and only) season. It was entertaining, but it did seem to get more and more soap opera-ish as the story progressed.

Serious spoilage to happen immediately.
Read at your own risk.

Ok, it was kind of soapy before-- especially with the baby switch-- but then there was the "oops, I accidentally shot my father" bit, the "oops, I buried the dead baby right where the city needs to come through and dig" thing ('scuse me while I roll my eyes), and so many similarly soapy incidents that before I knew what was happening, I was up to my nose in bubbles.

Still, it was enjoyable enough that I was disappointed to see it come to an end-- particularly since that end left so many things unsettled-- or very conveniently "temporarily" settled. It's obvious that they were planning/hoping to take the show into another season. Too bad that didn't happen! (So I guess it wasn't much better than a typical soap, in that regard, either! At least there were no children who went away for a month and came back seven years older. Also, no sickening incidences of every male in a family having a romantic relationship-- ok, at different times, but still-- with the same nasty woman. And of course the clothes, sets, writing, and acting were still about a thousand times better than a regular soap opera.)

A few tidbits to just get off my chest before I put this series aside:

  • Mrs. Simmons, apart from being a horrid, horrid woman, looks like a goose. No, I mean it! I know she can't help what she looks like, but-- a goose!
  • Hannah's baby switch was such a stupid idea! Sure, she didn't want her baby to live so near a typhoid outbreak, but how did she think the baby switch was ever going to work out? Worst case scenario-- She's dismissed for some reason and has to abandon her child, confess (and likely go to jail or be executed), or "kidnap" the child and go on the run. Best case scenario-- She gets to keep her position well into old age, but she may never be able to tell her son his true identity, and she'll have to stand by helplessly when her emotionally-distant employers return and make all the important decisions in her child's life.
  • Pringle seems so familiar to me, but it must just be my imagination, because I didn't recognize anything else she's done (according to IMDB).
  • The cheating wife (and frankly, her husband, for the most part), the cheating officer/whatever-he-is, Pringle, Mrs. Simmons, the parents who go away and leave their two children for months, "Lord Hugh", and I'm probably forgetting someone else-- oh, yes, the spoiled debutante girl. As far as they're all concerned, I'm glad to leave them behind. They can remain stuck in their unfinished storylines for all eternity, as far as I'm concerned.
  • The whole Matty/Ned thing was nice, but I think Lydia and the butler (what was his name, though?) made a sweeter story (even if Lydia is a little bit too clueless and eyes-bulging-in-shock sometimes).

** ** ** ** **

I finally finished reading To Say Nothing of the Dog. I paused lengthily before reading the last fifteen or so pages. I guess I felt that the story was pretty much finished at that point, so I wasn't compelled to pick it up again. That doesn't sound very flattering, but I did enjoy the book. If you're a fan of stories involving time travel-- or humorous references to Victorian-era literature-- this might be for you. The romance part was just ok. Not at all bad, but it definitely isn't primarily a romance. Also, I suspect that the fact that it's all told from a male point of view-- crammed in amongst so much other stuff-- had something to do with my dissatisfaction. As far as the mystery component of the book goes, I was able to guess the solution to at least one "puzzle" almost immediately. Still, all in all it was a pleasant read.

** ** ** ** **

(Older) Movies:

Donald and I watched Halloween for the first time ever, a few weeks ago. We watched it with the RiffTrax commentary, which was probably an improvement on the original. I don't know what I was expecting, but not what it turned out to be. I think I thought it would be quite a bit more frightening-- and gory-- than it actually was, though listening as the RiffTrax guys poked fun at everything obviously ruined the atmosfear. (Get it? Atmosfear? Ha ha ha. . .)

Actually, I found all the partial nudity more surprising than the scary parts of the film. (Yes, I'm an American prude. Sorry, but I can do without all the shots of bare-chested women. Thanks anyway.) I wondered if this was just a 70s thing, that they "couldn't" include much gruesome horror, so they chose to include the nudity instead for some extra shock value. Then again, considering some of the other movies made in the 70s, probably not. . . Not that I'm really complaining about the lack of show-it-all horror. I don't enjoy excessive blood and gore in movies (or in real life, for that matter!).

Watching it these days, at first it's hard to see what all the fuss was about this movie. But I suspect that seeing it back when it was new (and when I didn't keep thinking "seen that gimmick before. . . and that"), in a darkened theater. . . or later on, on TV in an otherwise empty house would be a different experience. . . And now I've decided that, no, I wouldn't want to watch this (RiffTrax or not) in an empty house at night.

Side note: I hadn't realized that saying "totally" was a "thing" in the 70s. I'd totally assumed that was a totally 80s thing. Totally.

Troll 2--
This is another we saw with RiffTrax commentary. With the commentary, it was agonizingly bad, in a "please let this end soon" way. Without it, I know for 100% certain I would never have sat through the whole thing. Wow, it was bad.

I can't believe what gets made into movies. How did anyone look at this script and think it was a good idea? Stupid, stupid movie, with some amazingly bad acting. Seriously. When I watched this, I kept thinking, "How dared that #@^& acting teacher to give me such trouble when these people have actually been paid to act, despite the fact that they should never be in proximity to a defenseless audience?!" And yes, I'm referring to that oft-mentioned college acting class yet again. Why, no, I don't have the least little bit of trouble letting things go. Why do you ask? I know I'm not destined for fame on stage or screen, but I think I should win awards, compared to some of these poor actors.

Or in other words, only watch this if you're a glutton for punishment and/or actually like incredibly awful movies. :o) On a more positive note, there were a few things that reminded me strongly of my youth in the late 80s/early 90s.

The Fifth Element--
I wasn't impressed. At all.

I like to check out the page for movies after viewing them for the first (and often only) time, just to finally find out the name of that actor/actress who looked so familiar, etc.-- and also to see what people have written about the movie. (Kind of silly, considering that so many of those commenting seem to be mind-bogglingly stupid. I'm sorry if that sounds "ugly", but it is so, so true.) Anyway, I saw that there are apparently many people who absolutely adore this film and say that the problem with the rest of us is that we're trying to take it too seriously. Of course, those were probably the same people who thought that the irritating-beyond-words, please-someone-make-him-shut-up cross-dresser-guy was hilarious, so. . .

** ** ** ** **

Donald and I have been watching John Adams through NetFlix. It's an interesting show, but I'm ashamed to admit that my memory of history class isn't good enough for me to judge its accuracy. Besides, there's no way historians could know some of the particulars included in the show, anyway, so there must be a fair bit of artistic license taken.

A few comments on the program (and yes, there will be **SPOILERS**):
  • How could they both have left their children behind for so many years, while they lived an ocean away? I can't imagine how I would have felt if my parents had done that to me and my sisters. . . No wonder one of their sons was resentful. I would've resented that, too!
  • The smallpox vaccination scene? Disgusting, horrific, yuck yuck yuck.
  • John is supposed to be somewhat annoying at times (I think), but what about Abigail? Because the fact that everyone has to comment on how important she is-- the wise woman behind the man, etc., etc.-- is also irritating after a while.

** ** ** ** **

Donald asked what I was writing about and I was answering. . . blah blah blah. . . He asked if I'd mentioned To Say Nothing of the Dog, because he's now reading that novel. I answered that I didn't think I'd spoiled anything in what I'd written. "But," I added, "you might want to skip"-- and I almost said "that chapter".

"You might want to skip that chapter!"
It's so funny-- because this entry is going on forever and ever-- and. . .

Yeah, I tend to ramble. Sorry about that. But, you know, you don't really have to read all this stuff. Even you loyal readers. ;o) Please don't feel bad about skipping paragraphs or whole entries. Otherwise, I'll feel obliged to make this stuff interesting for other people, which would put a huge crimp in my style.

** ** ** ** **

And with that, I think I'll let that be the final "chapter" for this entry. And, believe it or not, I'm leaving some things out that I'd planned to include. (I don't blame you if you doubt my honesty, even though it's absolutely true.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Everything's Connected. . .

Everything-- and everyone.

Tonight, Donald and I were catching up on the last episode of Pushing Daisies, which we missed during the week. There was a reference to "shoofly pie", which instantly brought back memories of a particular book Mom used to read to us when I was a kid. I couldn't remember the name of the book, but I typed a few carefully chosen words into Google, and up popped a link to this blog entry featuring the book, which is titled McBroom's Ghost. (Remember it, Mom? Carrie? Kimberly?) And you know what's really funny (to me, at least)? That blogger wrote about the book only four days ago! And it's not even that well-known of a book, as far as I can tell. Well, ok, it's still in print, but the illustration she included is from the older edition of the book, so it's the one that I remember. :o)

It never ceases to amaze me, what you can find in five or ten minutes on the Internet. Incredible!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Weird Al's been spyin' on me again. . .

I'm writing this partly just to get my "please don't vote" public service message one slot further down the page. I still stand by my stated opinion that not everyone ought to vote, but-- you've already read about that, so let's move on to the next thing. (g)

Next thing is. . . Last night Donald introduced me to Weird Al's latest single, "Whatever You Like". Have you given it a listen? (Older relatives or others who may not know who this Weird Al person is: He takes "real" songs and parodies them by setting his own amusing lyrics to the same tune.) Here's a YouTube video, if you're interested:

(You can see the lyrics, if you're having trouble understanding them, by visiting the page and clicking "more info".)

As a proud practitioner of thrift (though certainly not the most frugal person I know of), I find this absolutely hilarious.

(However, it's still not quite as funny as "White & Nerdy".)

Dear Me,

In future, please be so kind as to make sure you have the title of the song right before publishing to the WWW. I've just had to edit this thing twice (from "Whatever You Want" to "Whatever You Like" to "Anything You Like"). This is time-consuming, not to mention embarrassing. What will your RSS-feed readers think? (Do you get sent yet another copy of this post every time I edit? I'm not sure. . .) Anyway, thank you for keeping this in mind as you continue to write informative, life-altering blog entries such as this one.

Most sincerely,

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Please *don't* vote.

Note: Oops. Had to edit a few mistakes. Maybe I'm not a genius, after all-- not even today! ;o)

This isn't the promised "entertainment-related" entry-- just a little political sidetrack.

I'm sure it won't surprise you to hear that I'm not a big fan of Howard Stern, yet here I am, about to link to a YouTube video featuring a clip from his show. (Will wonders never cease?) Before I do, though, I have to warn you that anyone with young children around might want to wait until they're not around to hit the "play" button. There are a few "f-bombs", even in the first minute of the clip, so use discretion. If you'd prefer, you can just read what it's about further down the page. And don't worry-- I've edited out the questionable language, in my version. ;o)

So, here's the audio clip:

If you chose not to listen, here's what it's all about:

Some guy goes into Harlem and asks random strangers (well, random except for race, as they are all black) whether they're voting for McCain or Obama. Most plan to vote for Obama. The interviewer then asks them what helped them make this decision. For instance, was it Obama's pro-life beliefs or his stance on Iraq? (The key is that the positions the interviewer attributes to Obama actually fall in line with McCain's policies.) The interviewees say that, yes, those are the reasons they support Obama. (Go ahead, take a moment for a grim chuckle.) Next, he asks them if they support Obama's choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate. Oh, yeah, they do. When talking to the one guy who said he was going to vote for McCain, the interviewer pulled the same tricks (attributing Obama's positions to McCain and saying the McCain had chosen Biden to run for VP). Same results.

(End synopsis)

I realize that having someone come up to you on the street and ask you political questions might be a little unnerving. You're probably a bit startled and may be more likely than usual to make mistakes. However, I think this goes beyond that. I think there are many, many people out there basing their vote (a theoretical vote, at this point, but it's only a matter of weeks until they'll be real) not on the issues, but on something that shouldn't be an issue.

At times like this, I remember a particular commercial. . . (Ok, I looked it up, and it was from Ditech. Actually, it seems that there might have been a whole series of ads. Which isn't really pertinent here.) The commercial voice-over stated that "people are smart". Well, "smart" is a relative term. Whatever you think of people as a group, it's clear that some of us are smarter than others. Since the all-knowing glow of my youth has begun to fade, my opinion of my own intelligence has sometimes faltered. Today-- after listening to that clip-- I'm feeling like a genius, but one whose life will continually be detrimentally impacted by people who insist on voting when they clearly shouldn't.

Some people like to say that it's our duty to vote and that every person in the land should do so. I disagree. If you won't take the time to learn about the very most basic issues at hand, you shouldn't vote. Leave the serious business of life to the rest of us, please.

Monday, October 13, 2008

"Current Events" Tidbits

In an attempt at a pale shadow of coherency, I'm dividing this batch of tidbits into two groups. The first (or in other words, this 'un) is a mix of random things that have been happening or have been recent topics of discussion (between us, at least). The next will be more "entertainment-related" topics-- i.e. books, movies, TV, and so on.

** ** ** ** **

Last week, someone from Louisiana called and left a message for another someone named "Charlotte J********". The message was something about a shipment of snakes-- oh, and he was sorry if this was the wrong Charlotte. I wonder what kind of snakes, and what Charlotte J. intends to do with them. . .

** ** ** ** **

Somehow or other, we got to talking about discipline and our memories of punishment, the other day. Donald reminded me of a couple of stories he'd told me before, but that I'd forgotten.

For instance--

The Crime:
Donald's parents had a freezer with a power switch/button that had some type of indicator light. He was young enough to think it was really fun to watch the light go on and off, so he was playing with it, despite having been told to leave it alone. He just happened to tire of the game with the switch/button in the "OFF" position, with predictable results.

The Punishment:
(Brace yourself, and just remember-- he made it through, and when you look at him today, you'd never guess that he had to endure this sort of thing as a young lad.)
He wasn't allowed to go to Sunday school!!!

Lest you think him too perfect, though-- I mean, not being allowed to go to Sunday school was considered a stern punishment? (g)-- let me tell you about the time that he and Ingela were playing with the mangle. . .

(Sidenote: A mangle is also known as a "wringer"-- but it that still doesn't ring a bell, it's the contraption that people use(d) to wring water from laundry or-- more recently-- to flatten larger items, like sheets or tablecloths. Two cylinders roll firmly against one another, with the fabric fed between them.)

So, they were playing with the mangle. Heaven only knows why.

(Kids do have the strangest ideas, though, don't they? I remember thinking washing dishes looked like so much fun, once upon a time. . . Unfortunately, most of the magic's gone, now that I can wash dishes all day long, if I so choose.)

They weren't supposed to play with the mangle, of course-- which, come to think of it, probably goes a long way to explain why they wanted to, in the first place! Ingela was turning the hand crank (making the rollers move) while Donald pretended to feed the cloth into it. Apparently, he got carried away by imagination, because one of his fingers was caught in the mangle. (I think he said the nail even came off. :oS)

To avoid admitting that they'd been playing with the mangle against the rules, he told his parents that he'd hurt his finger in a door. What's more, I don't think they ever "confessed" to mingling with the mangle. (shakes head in disappointment) Tsk tsk, Donald. . . Well, you know what they say about the truth eventually coming out. ;o)

** ** ** ** **

Over the weekend, we relocated the banana fuscata that was too near the site of our new patio. It wasn't a quick and easy job, and I foresee aches, but at least that should be the only large plant that we'll have to move because of the patio.

I've also been working on painting posts so that we can get them set in concrete before the cold weather comes. (From what I remember, concrete doesn't set well when the temperature dips below 50 degrees, and I definitely don't want to have to put this project on hold until spring!) Meanwhile, Donald's putting down the pavers. I tried my hand at it, but I don't think I have the patience for it. There are too many things to keep an eye on. Is it level with the surrounding pavers? Is it level period? Is the spacing right? I get one aspect right only to ruin another! I'm better at carrying pavers where they're needed and painting. (g)

** ** ** ** **

Donald's paternal grandmother is still in the hospital, recovering from surgery. The last I heard, they were just hoping for the best.

** ** ** ** **

Donald recently tried out Skype (pc-to-pc "phone"calls) and was impressed with the quality of the sound. Now if we just get a web cam, he can have almost face-to-face conversations with his family.

Yes, apparently we're about ten years behind the rest of the world, in this area. ;o) I remember we talked (not "chatted"-- actually talked with our voices) via our computers a little, back when we lived on separate continents, but I'm sure the technology has vastly improved since that time.

** ** ** ** **

I heard an owl hooting one night last week. A week or two before that, I heard a group of geese honking overhead. Autumn sounds!

** ** ** ** **

  • Still growing. She weighs about twelve pounds, now.
  • Still likes to chew/bite, but we've noticed a distinct improvement in this department, in the past week or so. I guess she's finally starting to grow out of the biting. (Thanks be!)
  • (on the other hand. . .) Still "talks back" when scolded for biting. (You may be saying to yourself, "Um, Michael? Dogs. . . Well, I don't know how to break it to you, but dogs can't talk." No, maybe they don't talk like you and I do, but trust me, they can use their "voices" to make their feelings known. It's not barking-- not whining-- not howling-- not growling. It's dog-talking, and it's another of those typical Eskie traits.) She gets particularly sassy when you hold up your index finger in a scolding position.
  • Loves to dig. This is something I'd read about Eskies-- that the breed tends to like digging. I guess it's true. However, to be fair, I'd say almost any energetic young dog would have been tempted by the large expanse of sandy soil where we're putting our patio. I suspect she'll be less likely to dig through sod. (But flowerbeds. . .)
  • Still loves playing fetch and "Frisbee", though her willingness to drop things on command is somewhat less impressive. Sometimes she'd rather play keep-away or tug-o'-war.
  • (speaking of keep-away) Likes to pick up things and keep them away from us. It can be a sock, a sea shell, a stone-- anything. She's not picky, though she does prefer things that she's not supposed to have. It's always great fun to run away from "the peoples" when they get within grabbing distance. Even if we're not remotely interested in her fabulous new stick, she still likes to dart away as though she's guarding treasure. (Now that the biting is more under control, this will probably be the next behavior to modify.)
  • Likes to sit in my lap (sometimes). It's an endearing habit, though somewhat less so when she crashes into me at full speed.
** ** ** ** **

And I'm going to say that's good enough and post it. The entertainment portion will probably not be ready until tomorrow. It'll give you something to look forward to. ;o) (Um. Joking there. Obviously, I hope. . .)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Book Meme

I haven't participated in Booking Through Thursday for a few weeks, but this week's set of questions looks interesting:

What was the last book you bought?

That would actually be a handful of books I ordered at the same time from Amazon, but to name just one, I'll give the title of the one I started reading first: To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis.

Name a book you have read MORE than once.

For one, Jane Eyre. I haven't kept count, but I've probably read all the way through it from start to finish at least four or five times, and I've read my favorite passages many more times than that.

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?


One again? Ok. . . Well, this one book symbolizes (for me) the whole series, plus even more by the same author: Anne of Green Gables.

How do you choose a book? eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews?

In general, I go by summary. Recommendations and reviews are nice-- and I like to use recommendations as starting points in book hunts-- but even if I like a person and sometimes like what s/he likes, I often find that our tastes can differ greatly from book to book. As for cover design and title, they might catch my eye, but I usually try to look beyond that before making my final decision. Some of my favorite books have hideously unappealing cover art, and plenty of books with tantalizing titles turn out to be duds.

If I'm buying, I'm pickier than if I'm just browsing the library. And if I'm paying for a new book, I'm pickier than if I'm paying 50 cents for a used copy. So for a 50-cent book, I might let myself go on "instinct", but for full price, I look at everything and try to make a more informed decision.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?

For sitting down and reading? Fiction, usually. I also like crafts books, but I don't really read those in the same way. I see them more as references and instructional works. I do occasionally read non-crafty non-fiction, but even that is typically related to fiction-- biographies of favorite authors, for instance.

What’s more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?

I'd say that plot is more important than beautiful writing, if it comes down to deciding between the two. Of course, a blend of both is best, and if I don't care about the characters, I'm not going to love the story, no matter how gripping the plot or how beautiful the writing.

Most loved/memorable character (character/book)

I don't know which is my most loved (or memorable). . . It's probably Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester, or someone from L.M. Montgomery's novels (Anne? Pat?).

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?

To Say Nothing of the Dog (currently reading)

Looking for Anne of Green Gables (waiting to be started)

The Jeeves Omnibus, vol. I (reading w/ Donald)

Webster's New World Collegiate Dictionary (looking up obscure mythological figures and Victorian things referenced in To Say Nothing of the Dog)

What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?

Finished? Anne of Windy Poplars, by L.M. Montgomery. I can't remember exactly when I finished it. . . Sometime in September.

Still in the process of reading? To Say Nothing of the Dog (again), last night in bed.

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?

I've given up before I got halfway in. A couple of times, actually, with The Hunchback of Notre Dame. (Incidentally, I have never managed to seriously crack open Les Misérables, either. Some sort of Victor Hugo phobia, perhaps? (g)) I'm sure there are others, but that one in particular stands out, because I've kept my copy, and every so often, I look at it (and a few I've never even started, like Les Mis) and wonder if I'll ever actually read it. . . (They were purchased back in my teenage "classic-reading" phase. Now, I've mostly lost interest, but maybe someday I'll feel ambitious.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Informal Poll

If you have a moment and the inclination, please leave a comment to settle a little debate that sprang up in our house today.

Donald says that mashed potatoes (mos) and "sausage" (korv) make a delicious meal. He claims that it was a popular lunch, back in his school days.

The thing you have to realize, though, is that here in the U.S., he uses hot dog wieners, because we haven't seen anything like real "korv" in local shops. He says it's the "same thing. . . almost", but they don't look the same to me. Oh, and the mashed potatoes (today, at least) are really reconstituted "potato flakes". Yum yum, right?

Here's a picture of the real thing, for illustrative purposes:

My position is that a bunless hot dog with mashed potatoes/potato flakes sounds downright yucky. (No offense to Sweden, but the "real thing" doesn't really appeal to me, either.)

So. . . What do you think? Yummy or Yucky? Somewhere in between? We promise we won't have our feelings hurt or hold grudges. ;o)

Take Action Now!!

(Oops! I accidentally published this prematurely-- hit the wrong key in my fit of righteous outrage, I guess. Sorry about that!)

Have you heard about how Starbucks is wasting 23 million liters of water, everyday?

In light of this news, I've decided to post something that I might not have, otherwise. However, I think it's worthwhile to bring this important issue to the attention of as many people as possible. If you agree, please feel free to forward it to everyone you know.

Topsoil in Trouble!!

According to the Almanac of the Environment (information published by the National Audubon Society in 1994), the world loses 7% of its topsoil every ten years due to human impact, and it takes 1,000 years to produce one inch of topsoil. At this rate of depletion, there will be only about 1/32 of an inch or topsoil left by the year of 2020!

This problem is magnified by the onslaught of Global Warming!

Consider: As temperatures rise, water evaporates more quickly. As water evaporates from soil, soil dries to a dusty consistency, at which point it is easily blown away. Experts warn that with every 1°F rise in the temperature, relative dustiness increases by 30%, leading not only to a serious shortage of topsoil, but also to dirtier, dustier cars, which in turn causes environmentally challenged car owners to wash their vehicles more often, thus wasting more water.

However, as dire as the situation is, there are things YOU can do to make a difference in the world today!! The Coalition for the Rights, Advancement, and Protection of Soil (C.R.A.P.S.) suggests that concerned individuals take the following measures to preserve this inestimable resource:
  • Wash vegetables outside, where the residual soil can be gently returned to the Earth. (Every year, millions of pounds of precious soil are washed down drainage pipes, never to be seen again!!)
  • Don't throw away valuable soil after sweeping the floor! Instead, release it outdoors.
  • Carefully shake soil from welcome mats in a safe spot outside.
  • When emptying your vacuum cleaner's bag or cup, liberate the soil particles outdoors.
  • When you are particularly dirty (such as after gardening, or for children, after playing in the mud), shower (Briefly! Remember, we must all conserve water, too!!) under the garden hose, outside. (Think of all the soil you'd otherwise be washing down the bath drain!)
You may have noticed that those were all preventative measures aimed at avoiding the throwing away of perfectly good dirt. But in order to prove that you're an even more enlightened being, consider taking things a step further:

Help build up the soil!
The Society for the Nourishment and Invigoration of Dirt and Earth (S.N.I.D.E.) says that Mother Earth needs our help! It takes her 1,000 years to make an inch of topsoil, but with all of us working together, we can bring that number down! Build up your local soil by starting a grassroots effort to "Save the Planet"!

You can rebuild the soil with shredded paper, lint from clothes dryers, dust bunnies, hair trimmings, nail trimmings (from fingers or toes), rags, used tissue, cigarette butts, gum wrappers and more! Contact your local chapter of S.N.I.D.E. for detailed information about how you can help feed the earth!

I don't know about you, but I'm definitely going to take this advice to heart. I mean, just think about it. . . If the soil keeps disappearing like this, not only will there be crop shortages, but sooner or later there won't be anywhere left for us to build houses or shopping malls. . . It's pretty serious.

Anyway, back to regular subject matter, next post! ;o)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Vacuum Cleaner Shopping Saga

What do you mean, people might not really care to read my (not so) exciting tale of vacuum cleaner shopping? Well, in that case, people might want to skip this entry.

Edit: In the middle of writing my harrowing account of vacuum shopping, I decided that not even I cared enough to finish it, so I'm pruning it (in a rare act of charity toward my handful of devoted readers). As you continue reading, you may begin to wonder, "If this is the pruned version, what in the name of verbosity was it before??" {shakes head sadly} You really don't want to know. . .

When our vacuum cleaner stopped working, nearly a week ago, it was obvious that a replacement would be needed soon. Particularly now, since a large patch outside our main entry is nothing but orange sand, a surprising amount of which is tracked in by our twelve collective feet.

After talking to Mom about her recently-purchased vacuum cleaner, I'd pretty much decided to get the same model. However, checking a few websites revealed that none were in stock, locally, and the shipping costs were prohibitive. (Enough that I might as well just buy a slightly more expensive model that was available in the local shops. Yeah, I have issues with shipping & handling. The main "issue" being that I really resent paying it and will only do so if there is no other possible solution.)

Or in other words, let the online comparison shopping begin!

I looked here, there, and everywhere. I read reviews. (It's amazing how there are always a few people who seem to have personal vendettas against every product or manufacturer. If you paid attention to all the "Never buy from ABC!!!" and "You might as well flush your $$$ down the toilet as buy XYZ!", you'd have to resign yourself to dirty floors. None are without detractors.) I compared prices and checked availability in local shops. I tried to puzzle out why some (all?) manufacturers have twenty zillion models on the market at the same time, then struggled to identify the differences between said models. I pored over vacuum specs and studied diagrams of features. I questioned the sanity of the person whose bright idea it was to have vacuums called "PowerTrak", "PowerForce", "PowerClean" and "PowerGlide". (And they're all from the same manufacturer!)

So, time for a little "brevitization":
  • I mostly just wished I could get the vacuum that wasn't in stock, since at least I knew someone who liked it. Plus, it got mostly good reviews.
  • When I finally went shopping later in the week, I didn't even go to the store where Mom had bought her vacuum, because it was still listed as "out of stock" on their website.
  • Instead, I took notes on a couple different models on display in the store where I did my grocery shopping, and went home, with the prospect of yet more vacuum research to brighten my outlook on life.
  • Talked to Mom again that afternoon. Learned that website was in error (and apparently is often). The vacuum was in stock!
  • Wished I had known that earlier that day! (Stupid website! What is the point of that feature if it gives you the wrong info?!)
  • Decided I'd probably get that vacuum next time I was in that area.
  • Looked online a little bit more. (Don't remember why, now. . . Maybe I just had the pages already up from when I was in the midst of research. Perhaps I'd spent so much time vacuum-researching that I was addicted. Possibly I wanted to look once more at a few more things before I made my final decision.)
  • Found a deal whereby I could get a different vacuum (one that's designed for vacuuming non-carpeted floors in addition to carpeted ones-- basically the same as the other vacuum, but with a couple of extra features) for not much more than the other one would've cost-- plus have it delivered here for free.
  • Dithered some more. (You know I can dither like nobody's business.)
  • Was finally told by Donald that this was the one we would get-- that it was worth the difference in price to be able to vacuum non-carpeted floors because that's how vacuums always work in Sweden. (Or something like that. . . I think he was mainly just tired of watching me research vacuum cleaners for days on end.)
  • So I placed the order, and now we're expecting the vacuum sometime next week.
  • Does anyone know where vacuum cleaners go when they've finally choked down their last dust bunny? No, that's not the opening for a joke. Seriously, how should I dispose of the old vacuum? Take it to the dump? Dismember it and stuff it in garbage bags for the weekly trash? Bury it in the backyard in the dead of night? (Just kidding about that last one.)
I don't know if that was briefer than any other method would've been, but at least it cut down on some of the superfluous linking together of thoughts. (You can tell how my writing style/ability has degenerated by the fact that I see that as superfluous, can't you? Oh well. Fortunately, no-one's grading this blog!)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Everything Depends on Perspective

Donald told me last night that the Swedish media had proclaimed Palin the "winner" of the debate.

--Never mind that the whole idea of anyone winning a debate seems improbable to me. How can you tell? Maybe, rarely, there is no doubt, but most of the time opinions will differ.--

For the Swedish media to suggest that Palin "won", however, I figured the victory must've been fairly unquestionable, because generally speaking, the Swedish media (like most media in Europe, I'd say) tend to slant things toward the Democratic side.

And yet when I visited a few blogs this morning, almost the first thing I saw was a liberal blogger (no-one you know, I'm sure) who had written with an "and that settles that" complacency that while Palin did better than expected, Biden had won the debate.

All I can say is. . . Wow. If you have a more blinding case of left-leaning bias than the Swedish media*. . . you must be democrat right down to the core.

(This is why I think it's mostly pointless for many people to bother watching the debates. If you've already made up your mind, it'll take something incredible to sway your vote-- something much more shocking than what usually takes place at these debates. And if something that big ever were to happen, you'd be sure to hear about it the next day.)

*No offense to Swedes in general, of course. I might say the same thing about the mainstream media of the U.S., actually. But I thought it was more fun to drag Sweden into the brawl. ;o)