Monday, December 25, 2006

The Christmas Tree Has Been Drinking

Still Standing

One Down

Ha, Ha!!!!

Down for the Count

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Yeah, Quit It!

Yeah, Quit It!
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
I was having major trouble focusing today so, disgusted with myself, I created this primitive-looking poster and taped it to the wall in front of my desk in the vain hope that it would make me buckle down and stay on task. Of course, what was I doing but fucking around by spending the time to create it in the first place?

Somehow between the fact that my clients have already thrown in the towel for the year and gone off on vacation and that fact that the project I’m currently working on isn’t due until next year, it's hard to feel any sense of urgency.

But at least it looked like I’m being productive. Get a load of the academic-looking mess surrounding my desk!

Don't Be Fooled by Appearances

By the end of the day, after downing an iced coffee that delivered an electrifying jolt of caffeine and listening to Earl Scruggs playing the banjo at breakneck speed, I finally managed to accomplish a decent day’s work.

It made me feel feverish and slightly insane, though.

In a couple of hours B and I are meeting up with some friends to go hear local hotshot/sexpot Storm Large and her band. Other than earplugs, I have no idea what I’ll wear.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Radical Tailoring Required

Fuzzy Reception--Completed

Yesterday, at long last, I finished the Fuzzy Reception cardigan I started exactly eight months ago. Much to my surprise, it actually bears more than a passing resemblance to the Fuzzy that some far more accomplished knitter than I made in order to sell the pattern.

However. There is one rather large problem; "large" being the operative word here. The sweater is gigantic. It would fit a hippopotamus with room to spare, especially the sleeves, seemingly designed to accommodate ample “bingo wings.”

How the H-E-double-toothpicks did this happen? I’m not sure if the pattern’s at fault or if I bozoed up somewhere along the way. Quite honestly, novice though I am, I don't think it's me. I swatched and swatched to make certain I had the gauge right. I think the sizes are just generous. Too generous. Embarassingly generous.

I’m going to have to do some radical tailoring.

Since I inherited my mom’s gene for attempting half-assed shortcuts and patch-ups, I’m planning on re-seaming the sides up to and including the armpit to take it in at least an inch on each side. Then I’m going to reseam the sleeves to slim down their billowing profile. Then—and this is the part that I’m sure will make all perfectionist knitters want to poke my eyes out with size 2 bamboo knitting needles—I’m going to snip off the excess seam with my grandmother’s jumbo-sized seamstress shears. Then I'll whipstich the trimmed seams so they don’t fray. How does that sound? Sorry if I’ve sent anyone into orbit with that heretical plan, but it’s that or relegate the fuzzy enormity I spent expended so much effort on to a cat bed.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Microsoft’s Worst Product Ever

I just tried Microsoft’s new so-called search engine, Ms. Dewey. Boy, does it (she?) suck ass. If you haven’t tried it, let me save you some time by detailing just how lousy it is.

Here’s how it works—I shouldn’t say works, because it doesn’t work at all, as shall become clear. After arriving at the site, prepare to wait quite some time for Ms. Dewey to acknowledge your presence. She’s busy listening to her iPod and playing air guitar, so you will just have to wait until she gets over herself and has time for you. As we all know, Microsoft loves to waste people's time, and, though she's not much good at anything else, Ms. Dewey is quite capable of frittering away your time for you.

Let me describe Ms. Dewey. She’s played by an actress in a low-cut suit who appears to be a little bit African American, a little bit Hispanic, a little bit white (the air guitar thing), a little bit Asian, and a little bit country (the country part comes in when she starts miming rodeo-style lasso tricks). Microsoft’s attempt to be multicultural and at the same time "ethnically unthreatening" is obvious and utterly laughable.

Anyway, when she does finally realize you're on the site, she rudely demands that you type in a question. You go ahead and type it in, which takes for-freakin-ever. You'll have to wait about a second between typing each letter, because the interface is as slow as molasses in January!

It probably takes a full minute to get your question all typed in. Then you wait while Ms. Dewey says suggestive and highly unoriginal things to you like: “How about getting naked? Not me…you!” At one point she chirps, “Safety first!” and whips out a motorcycle helmet and unfurls a strip of about two dozen condoms. Pathetic! (Who wrote her script? I'd like to kick his stupid, unimaginative ass.) Don't assume I’m some zitty 14-year-old boy who can't get laid. But perhaps the most obnoxious thing is that Microsoft can't resist having Ms. Dewey warn you not to use pirated software.

All this goes on while you wait, wait, wait, wait, wait for the answer to your questions. Actually, come to think of it, there is enough time to get fully disrobed, so maybe that's why she suggested it? As a way of passing the time.

And when the results do come up? Oh my god. I couldn’t believe how far off the mark they were. I started by asking an easy question: “Where do zebras live?” and Ms. Dewey came back with some sites about what zebras eat. Clearly, Ms. Dewey doesn’t read very carefully.

They weren’t even authoritative sites. One was a site put together by a class of 6th graders and was full of incorrect information. And, just to drive you even more nuts, the sites are listed in hard-to-read dark gray type on a light gray background squished into the right half of the screen so that Ms. Dewey and her David Letterman-style desk are still taking up the bulk of the screen. You can view only three results at a time and the scroll function doesn’t work well. It’s a huge step backward—in every respect—in search-engine technology. Seriously worse than search engines I remember testing back in 1997.

Still, I gave Ms. Dewey another chance. I asked, “Who was Prince Matchabelli?” After much tapping of her French manicured nails, rolling of her eyes, and lunging toward me tits-first, Ms. Dewey came back with a site about Machiavelli. OK. He wrote The Prince. He wasn't a prince himself. What a dumbass mistake! I don't know what kind of faulty parsing and logic (or whatever) the search engine is using, but it sure makes Ms. Dewey and Microsoft look dumber than a bucket of dirt.

Fed up, I started typing in questions like, “Is Ms. Dewey the worst search engine ever?” Surprisingly, I started getting some pertinent results. The answer, by the way, is: “Yes!!!!!"

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

New Shirt

Snow Shirt
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
Perhaps I’ve sunk to a new blogging nadir. I’m posting a photo of my bosom—not to show off its voluptuousness (such as it is or is not), but to show off the rad T-shirt it’s wearing.

I scored the shirt at the handmade gift exchange party yesterday, and I really like it! In fact, I liked it so much I stole it right off the back of another partier. You’re allowed to do that at these things. You can either pick a wrapped gift from the pile or “steal” one of the gifts that another person has already unwrapped (even if she's been a bit previous in staking her claim to the shirt by putting it on!). The latter strategy is definitely the route to go. That way you don’t end up with a stretchy bracelet made out of red-and-green plastic chili peppers that you couldn’t wear to a dogfight.

I have to say some people took quite a bit of license with the term “handmade.” For example, my T-shirt is not handmade at all.
Some facts:
  • It’s from Banana Republic. (boo!)
  • It’s 100% silk. (yay!)
  • It’s made in China. (boo!)
  • It’s dry clean only. (boo!)
  • It’s super comfortable. (yay!)
  • It still has the price tag on it; it was originally $30.99 but was marked down to $16.99. (yay! I guess.)
  • It has a very flattering drape/cut. (yay!)
The only thing handmade about it is the lettering, which must have taken all of five minutes to do. Contrast that with the hours and hours I spent cutting out images from postage stamps, getting my fingers Superglued together twice, and then slaving over a hot candle trying to decorate that box for my precious extremely handmade magnets to reside in. But that’s fine. I kind of admire the fact that someone thought it was a totally legit handmade gift, even though it required only five minutes of hand labor. Of course, I don’t know how much time was spent coming up with the concept. Perhaps years, even decades! That counts, right?

I’m still not sure why I like the shirt so much. I don’t pine for snow. I certainly hope that the shirt doesn’t have magical snow-conjuring powers. Just to be on the safe side, I won’t take it with me when I visit Chicago in late December. I don’t want to tempt fate and end up having to deal with a nightmare like this or this. It could happen--just ask Collene.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Unmitigated Aesthetic Disaster

I spent the bulk of the afternoon messing about with a box of 100 crayons, some candles, and an empty Altoids box. Incredibly, it took me about an hour to create this melty monstrosity.

Dungeons and Dragons

It looks like someone stuck 700s wads of Big Mouth chewing gum to the lid. And how about that Dungeons and Dragons color scheme? Unmitigated aesthetic disaster.

I scraped it all off and started over, limiting myself this time to three colors—mint green, silver, and black. I’d go for a swanky retro look, just like this vintage mint-green automobile. Classy! Um, no, not really. When you turn me loose with crayons of that color palette, you end up with puke.

I started over yet again, this time resolving to use only one color—spring green. But I melted the crayon down to a nub long before I’d obliterated all traces of Altoids branding. I had no choice but to blindly follow my instincts about color (proven time and again to be very poor) and choose some supplementary colors. I selected a tealish blue and a darker green and resumed the melt-and-splatter routine. Once again, I found myself in Dungeons and Dragons territory. Why? How?

I couldn’t face the prospect of starting over one more time (I'd already spent far too much time on this!) so, throwing caution to the wind, I held the underside of the vomity-looking lid over the candle flame. All the little scabs of wax started to melt and swirl together in a very intriguing and satisfying way.


About time. I finally had something presentable. In case you’re wondering, all this pyromaniacal dicking around with the Altoids box came about because I needed a container for the magnets I made for the upcoming handmade-gift party. B encouraged me to decorate the box (something it hadn't occurred to me to do), and, basically, doing so squandered the better part of the afternoon. I think I spent more time on the ding-dong box than I did making the magnets.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Wind Song Wavelength

Tina and I seem to be on the same wavelength lately. We’re both a bit hung up on the cheap drugstore perfumes of our youth. In a surreal post about her quasi-freakout at a drugstore perfume counter, she mentions Wind Song.

Wind Song, you know, by Prince Matchabelli. The perfume parfum in the exquisite crown-shaped bottle!

The Prince

That dinky bottle of parfum was among my most prized possessions as a girl of, perhaps, 13. I don’t even remember what it smelled like, but I do remember this: I loved that little bottle! I also remember the circumstances surrounding my acquisition of it.

At the back of magazines such as Seventeen and Glamour, you could send in a coupon (along with one dollar cash money) and get this “World of Beauty” box of cosmetics. It was sort of a grab bag; you never knew quite what you were going to get, but they did have you fill out a form listing your hair color, preferred shade of lipstick, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, etc., etc., so naturally I presumed that once in receipt of my form and my dollar, a trained "beautician" would carefully study my preferences and thoughtfully select the ideal products for me. All that for a buck! What service.* Boy, oh boy, was I into it. I sent away for several boxes, possibly committing a felony by sending in coupons with my sister’s name and my mom’s name on them, since World of Beauty made it clear in the fine print that under no circumstances was any one person allowed more than one of these boxes per year.

I was so thrilled when my first box arrived. The interior of the box was made of mock velour and each little bottle, tube, or vial had its own recess, tailor-made for it in its own exact shape! I got a little pot of lip gloss, some eyelash crème (?), probably half a dozen other things, and the teensy bottle of Wind Song by Prince Matchabelli. Surely, that alone was worth at least $10! I really scored! Big time! I dutifully used everything else in the box, even the puzzling and gunky eyelash crème, but the Wind Song? I opened it, sure, but did I dab any on so that I could impart the fragrance to the halls of North Junior High and its troglodyte student body? No feckin' way. It was far too precious to squander on the likes of them.

After reading Tina’s post, I started wondering who this Prince Matchabelli jaboney could have been. Was he a real guy or was he a phony persona like Betty Crocker or Mavis Beacon? I had to find out.

I ping-ponged around the Internet (not bothering to be too assiduous about the sources I consulted, so don't use this post to write a term paper), and here’s the dope on the Prince. He was a real guy and an actual prince. His family ruled Georgia. When the Russian Revolution broke out, he fled to the United States.

Fortunately, unlike certain members of other royal families, the Prince had some marketable skills. He had a collection of beakers and test tubes and an extra-keen snoot that was able to detect the “astral” (ya got me) properties of perfumes, which he then re-created in a lab. He concocted and launched some very successful perfumes and his wife, the “Princess” (a former dancehall girl), designed the peacherino of a bottle, modeling it on the Matchabelli family crown.

Alas, Prince Matchabelli’s been dead for 70 years and is buried in a cemetery in Queens. His company is now owned by Unilever (manufacturers of Q-Tips, Vaseline, and Slim-Fast) and Wind Song is now sold in a hideous, supersized spray bottle, more reminiscent of Windex (not a Unilever product, surprisingly) than a dainty crown.

*Now that I'm a grown-up, I suspect that the World of Beauty boxes were a convenient way for cosmetics companies to rid themselves of overstock and products that were not enthusiastically received by the public (e.g., eyelash creme).

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Querulous Old Crone

Yesterday, we were supposed to go on a bracing and salutary winter hike in the Columbia River Gorge with a bunch of friends, to be followed by beer and pizza (two of my favorite things) at the Walking Man brewpub in Stevenson, Washington (where the fabulous seasonal brew, Ho, Ho, Homo Erectus Double IPA, is on tap).

The temperature was stalled out right about at freezing and winds were kicking up to about 30 mph. B and I weren’t daunted. Nope. Not us. We layered up and headed over to our friends’ house, only to discover that the group consisted only of us, the two friends who organized the outing, and one other guy and his three-year-old son. Evidently, the guy who brought his son hadn’t quite gotten the message on the afternoon’s plans. He only heard the part about a pub and beer, not the part about hiking. That’s why he brought his toddler son, I guess??? No. It doesn’t quite make sense to me either.

Anyway, we gamely headed out to the Gorge, where—surprise!—there was all this snow. Snow we sure as heck didn’t have in Portland. I’m still enough of a Midwesterner that I’m always knocked for a loop when I leave Portland and find out that the weather is, like, totally different. How can that be? I still harbored the hope that the trail wouldn’t be snowy. It was.

Snowy Trail

There was a good three inches at the trailhead. Not a big deal, except that other hardy hikers had trampled the trail into treacherous ice. My nemesis. I rued the fact that I hadn’t brought my hiking poles. I’ve dislocated my knee twice as a result of taking nasty falls on slippery surfaces, so I’m super leery of anything in the least bit slick.

I hate it, but I turn into a querulous old crone when it comes to slippery footing. I inch along, with my knees locked (the exact thing I shouldn’t do, probably), grasping at saplings (another thing I shouldn’t do) and stray wisps of dead meadow grass. Pathetic! My trepidation and desperation are obvious. I don’t like to have witnesses to this spectacle. But there we were out on the trail with two people who are bona fide mountaineers (as in they’ve climbed Mt. Adams and other 10,000-foot+ glaciated peaks) and a guy wearing slick-soled street shoes and no socks. And, oh yeah, a toddler. They all acquitted themselves more competently than I did.*

I was actually more or less fine going uphill, but coming down? That’s when the humiliating inching and creeping and faltering began. B had the foresight to bring his poles and kindly lent me one of them, which helped a lot (probably more of a psychological crutch than anything). Thankfully, I made it down, knees intact.

Actually, the hike was quite beautiful. There were great views of the Gorge, draped here and there with lazy purplish fog from the snowmelt. And we passed several dramatic icicle-festooned waterfalls.

Of course, I totally enjoyed the beer and pizza (when do I not?) part afterward, but let me just sidetrack for a moment to document some less than chivalric behavior on the part of one of my fellow imbibers at the pub.

I was standing in a general sort of way outside of the two restrooms (labeled Dreamers and Readers), which, after some ginger jiggling of the doorknobs, I had determined were both occupied. This guy appeared and stopped dead in front of them, stymied by the Dreamers and Readers plaques on the doors. “Which one’s the Men’s?” he demanded. I found it a little hard to believe he’d never encountered unisex restrooms here in the freewheeling Pacific Northwest, but I explained it to him, breaking it down into simple terms: “You can use either one, but they are both occupied.” Ignoring the latter half of what I’d said, he lurched toward the Dreamers door (of course) and gave it a good tug. Guess what? It wasn’t occupied after all.

The next thing that should have happened is that he should have told me to go ahead and use the Dreamers restroom, since I’d been waiting there all that time—long before he came on the scene. But without so much as a look in my direction, he just stumbled right on in. Cad! (I could hear him tinkling, too—to add insult to injury!) I stewed for about half a minute or so and then screwed up my courage to try the Readers doorknob, which of course, easily gave way this time and had been free all along. D’oh!

This is forever happening to me. I really hate it when I’m in a public restroom and someone starts yanking at the doorknob and impatiently turning it this way and that, this way and that, this way and that. They never seem to deduce that because the door isn’t opening—despite their strenuous efforts—that must, therefore, mean that it is locked, and that, thus, someone is in there taking care of business and will, in the fullness of time, emerge and turn over the toilet to them.

I don’t know how many times, I’ve been seated on the throne, only to hear someone on the outside cluelessly rattling away at the doorknob. I’m then forced to pipe up and say something like, “I’ll be out in a minute” or “It’s occupied.” I think I once even said, “Estoy ocupado,” for some reason (maybe I was in a Mexican restaurant?), which probably means, “I’m occupied,” and may have sounded somewhat suspicious. At any rate, I’m always so flustered by the virtual invasion of privacy that I can’t think of exactly how I should state the obvious, so that the person will get the farking message! Whatever I say usually comes out all garbled and squeaky. So that’s why I’m always a little timid when it comes to trying to ascertain if a restroom is in use. I don’t want to put whoever might be inside in that awkward situation. And that’s also why I frequently (and embarrassingly) find myself standing outside of a restroom that doesn’t, in fact, have anyone in it.

*OK. So maybe I did a little bit better than the toddler, who was carried most of the way up the trail by one of our accomplished mountaineering friends. I think they both quite enjoyed themselves.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Refurbishing Myself

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine sent me a photo she took of me, herself, and two other friends. We’re all grinning like lunatics, but one of those grins is not like the others. (Click at your own risk.) And that grin is mine. My teeth are awful! They’re dull and yellowy and, most irksome, one of my front teeth is a crown that is nowhere near the color of the rest of my teeth.

I really would like to assassinate the dentist that did that crown and all the people in the tooth lab. They made such a big deal about how Eric Clapton had come to them when he was in Chicago and needed an emergency crown. Wow, I thought at the time, I’m in good company. But wait a ding-dong minute. Eric Clapton is English, and—not to stereotype or anything—but the English aren’t known for their choppers. And I don’t even like Eric Clapton. Plus, why is it that all recent pictures of Eric Clapton show him with his mouth firmly shut? Could it be because he has a botched crown made by a certain lab in Chicago? Hmmmm. I wonder.

Of course, at the time I wasn’t thinking about any of this. It was also prior to the day on which I decided that I never needed to hear “Layla” or “Cocaine” ever again in my life. And it was also before he wrote that intolerably saccharine song “Wonderful Tonight.” God, I hate that song. Anyway, this crown of mine is bad. Not only is the color match way off, there’s a rim of grayish metal showing between the enamel and the gum. My dentist assured me that the gum would slimpse back and cover that metal bit in a matter of days. I’m still waiting—it’s been more than 10 years. If anything, the gum has receded even more.

So there’s the awful crown, which cost about a grand (not covered by my insurance) and isn’t even any damn good. It really leaps out in the photo, a photo taken with one tipsy hand in dim nighttime light outside of a restaurant. If it looks that bad under those circumstances, what does it look like in real life at high noon? Don’t answer that. And then there’s the fact that the rest of my teeth are well on their way to looking like those of a nutria.


Anyway, after looking at that photo, I decided that I’ve really got to do some refurbishment. I’ve never been happy with my teeth, but obviously they’re just getting worse and worse.* I remembered seeing an ad in People magazine for something called Lumineers. They’re a newish type of veneer. The best thing is that they can be applied right over botched crowns, so that problem would be solved. Funny thing, though, I found tons of dramatic “before” and “after” photos and lots of gushing testimonials, but nowhere did I find even a ballpark dollar amount for how much these things cost. And you can’t just call a dentist and ask, you have to fill in a Web form and then someone will call you—and give you the hard sell. Ugh. I hate that.

After much searching, I finally found an estimate. Have a seat. $700 to $1000 per tooth!!!!! It’s cosmetic dentistry, so insurance won’t cover it. I’d probably have to have a minimum of 20 teeth done. There’s just no way.

So now I’m thinking about bleaching. I’ve actually had my teeth professionally bleached before—maybe seven or eight years ago—when I lived in Chicago. I saw absolutely no detectable difference. Three hundred bucks down the crapper. My dental hygienist in Portland, however, tells me that they have this new much stronger, much better bleach these days. She’s had her teeth done and I would be thrilled if mine could look like hers. I asked her what color they were before she had them bleached. “Oh, about your color,” she said. Do I believe her? Or do I just start training myself to keep my mouth shut?

Clapton With His Mouth Shut

*Part of it is genetics. My teeth have never been that white. I inherited my mom’s teeth, which just got more and more yellowy-brown as she aged. No looking forward to that.