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Friday, October 31, 2003

WalMart versus Target. There's a huge difference, but I've had trouble putting my finger on it exactly. All I know is that when I walk into WalMart, I feel utterly overwhelmed by the mass of humanity and screaming children and crap for sale as cheap as possible. I hate the feeling I get when I walk in there. On the flipside, I really enjoy shopping at Target most of the time. It's easy to find what I'm looking for. The prices seem reasonable without screaming at me about how low they are. The store feels clean and easy to navigate. And it has a warmer feel to it. Less sterile and warehouse-like.

There's a couple of things I've been able to pinpoint. At WalMart, many of the shelves are very high. So high, that you can't possibly see over them even when standing at a distance. This leads to a sort of claustrophobic feeling. Also, WalMart has a tendency to place large displays in the aisles even when there's no room to pass comfortably. Beyond that, it's smaller things. Target seems to use more color, especially rich reds and blues. While Target puts sale prices on things in font about 3 inches high, WalMart tends to put up big plastic numbers that are a foot tall. WalMart seems to focus exclusively on low prices where Target also seems to have a desire for some level of quality. Employees at Target are easy to spot by their red shirts and khaki pants with a small name badge, but at WalMart, employees must wear incredibly tacky blue vests with "How May I Help You" in huge block letters on the back. That doesn't make WalMart employees any more helpful (especially as evidenced by the pregnant woman asking one about microwaves on Sunday, who completely ignored her and kept walking). It does increase the load as far as visual stimulus goes. And I think that's one of basic problems with WalMart. There is just too much text, too big, too omnipresent. Add to that the towering shelves and narrow, cluttered aisles, and it just feels oppressive. Add to that hoardes of bargain-seeking parents dragging their squalid packs of children of dirty children behind them.

All I know is that from the moment I walked into WalMart on Sunday, it felt overwhelming. We left without purchasing what we'd planned to purchase, and drove a mile to the Target, found what we wanted quickly and easily, and left very happy.

Monday, October 27, 2003

And I thought my work week was busy!

This weekend was inagurated with Rachel's Nice Boots party, which was blessedly close to home, but meant I had to give up going to Josh and Magenta's house cooling party. Still, after such a week, I just couldn't face a Friday night drive to Marin county. It's just too ugly. Still, the Nice Boots party was good fun. I barely made it in the door before being pulled into a snuggle with Christyn on the sofa. I spent the first hour or so of my time there with various people coming to hang out on the sofa. During the course of the evening, both Jim and Rachel told me how wonderful their new Tivo is.

Small aside: Tivo was selling off old 14 hour Series 1 Tivos for $50. I had been talking to Rachel about Tivo over coffee after roller skating a couple of weeks in a row, and how they wish they had one, but just couldn't justify the expense. When these came up for sale, I decided to play the Tivo fairy and get them one. I also got one for my mom, but she's been less than enthusiastic, so I was recosidering giving it to her. She's a freak about noises in the house (or out of the house in the neighborhood) and the old Series 1 models tend to have a lot more hard drive noise than the newer models, so I had one more in the garage.

So anyway, Jim and Rachel were gushing about how fabulous Tivo is, which is the only reaction I've ever seen anyone have to their first few weeks of Tivo life. I was telling Paul about this on the sofa, and how much fun it was to be the Tivo Fairy. He got kind of a sad, wish I had a job and could afford one look, and I decided that my second Tivo needed a good home.

So I asked, "Hey Paul, would you want one of those Tivos?" He hemmed a bit and said he really couldn't afford $50 right now. I stopped him and said, "Yeah, but would you want one? Like, as in, the Tivo Fairy just happened to drop one on your doorstep." He brightened and said, "The Tivo Fairy would do that?" Yes, yes she can.

If only everyone could have their first Tivo free, everyone would have Tivo. You live with it for 2 months, and you can never go back. Trust me, I hesitated about the cost until we did the beta program. Now I sing the gospel. Hallelujah, praise Tivo!

Anyway, so that was party one. It did involve an interesting moment of a Two-Hand Jig to Blondie. Heck, with such nice boots, it just had to be done.

Saturday morning I pulled my sad ass out of bed and headed to Oakland for a dance rehearsal for the Vampire Ball next weekend. We're performing the Scotch Reel as part of the "Elizabeth, the Vampire Slayer" play at the intermission of the ball. I'm a total doof because I volunteered for this out of sheer joy to learn the dance without paying any attention to needing a regency gown or when the rehearsals were. But I got to learn the dance, so now I'm happy. And I get to go to the ball next weekend, so yay that as well.

I had originally planned to just stay in the east bay until it was time for Gaskells Ball that evening, but since all of the stuff I really needed to do that day was at home, I just headed home instead. On the way, I stopped to pick up some tights at Mervyns, got asked to take a survey, and was paid $10 for my trouble, which effectively bought 2 pairs of tights. That didn't suck at all.

Then there was Gaskells. Gaskells was fantastic. Everyone looked fabulous. I have been fretting over outfits for the Vampire Ball and for Dickens, so I hadn't put any effort into what to wear to Gaskells. I pulled out my old 9th Grade Homecoming dress, and it still fits (unlike so many other of my dresses at the moment), so I threw that on, and got a bunch of complements on how lovely I looked. Go figure. I love it when I get an easy win. And it just amuses me when I picture the photo of me and Mark at Homecoming and how little we both looked and how different I am now from then, but the dress is a classic and still works. Now if I could just lose enough weight to fit back into my prom dress. I miss wearing that one. It always got the "Wow!".

Sunday was Fred's birthday party. It was a great bash with all the makings of a classic Fred birthday, including the fireworks. I had a plan to get a bunch of people in on contributing to a new digital camera for Fred. It worked out great. He was really thrilled with his new bitty camera. I got him a Nikon 3100. It's tiny, but it's got 3.2 megapixels and a 3x optical zoom. I like the UI as well. My only complaint is the same as the one I had with our Nikon - from the time to press the button to the time the picture is shot is just a little too long of a delay. But other than that, it's faboo.

And now, back to my hectic work life. Oh yeah, and sometime this week, I've got to learn my lines for Dickens Fair. Yikes!

Friday, October 24, 2003

It's been an insanely hectic week at work, but I managed to break away long enough for lunch at the Googleplex with Kevin. And you know what? Google rocks.

I showed up, walked in without hassle, saw Debbie at the desk (which was a major out of context friend experience), and printed out my own visitors badge. They had a computer set up on the reception desk with four fields to fill in, click submit, sign an NDA electronically (with a touchpad pen) and then it printed up the badge with the label printer. Google rocks.

So we walked over to the lunch room. Along the way I was introduced to several folks. Everyone was exceptionally friendly, including the head chef. Deb had read the menu to me while I was waiting for Kevin. It included Sea Bass, fresh green beans, sweet potato pancakes, asparagus-cheddar soup, satay, and a wide selection on deserts. Lunch is served free of charge to all Google employees and their guests every day. We shared a table with someone who was having lunch with her parents. Because Google rocks.

We headed back and I got to see the break room, full of bins of snacks and cereal. They also had an espresso machine to make your own drinks. I made myself a double cappucino for the first time in 10 years. At Google, you need not suffer the whims of a lazy barrista. You get coffee your way. And it was good. Mmmm.... So then Kev pointed out the massage chair. It's a Japanese import that is not shy. It massages you into a little puddle. I was genuinely impressed. It actually massaged hard enough to satisfy me. Google rocks.

I saw Kevin's cubicle briefly, then headed back to campus for my ITSS Town Hall meeting. Kev was on his way to a lecture from one of the founders of Paypal who's working new ways to launch satellites into orbit. Yeah, Google rocks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Nym, the stealth kitty, is still pretty stealthy most of the time, but she's decided that bedtime is a good time to cuddle. She hops up on the bed and demands petting. She does this for about 30 minutes, or until we're both actually in bed. Then she hops back down and does her own thing. This morning I was also treated to a bonus cuddle session where she noticed I was waking up, and then decided that was a great time to come snuggle. She tucked herself right in the crook of my hip and snuggled down. This was followed about ten minutes later by walking back and forth a bit and eventually curling up on my pillow. It's been a really long time since I've woken to kitty attention. I really liked it. At once, it makes it both much easier to wake up and harder to break away and get up. Still, by the time I get up, I'm far more ready to face the world. Snuggle kitties are the best.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Got credit problems? You're not alone, but you can avoid the biggest pitfalls. A friend was recently planning to cosign on a loan, and I probably overreacted, but reading this article, it's nice to be a little vindicated. Luckily, said friend decided against doing such a thing. Whew!

Disneyland was loads of fun this weekend, save for one annoying drama first thing on Saturday morning. Athena forgot her AP at home, and they offer a one time courtesy replacement pass, but that meant standing in line to get the pass, then going through the gates, she had to produce picture ID and then they had to hand type in the number on the pass to let her in because it didn't have a barcode. In the normal worldl, that would've been the end of it, but since it didn't have a barcode, I asked, "So how do you do fastpass without a barcode." The person at the gate said, "Go to the office and they'll give you a fastpass ID you can use." We stood in line at City Hall, but since it was such a long line, Rick stopped a cast member to ask if this was what was meant by saying the "office". The cast member said to go down to the AP processing center. We did. They had no idea that the ticket didn't have a barcode and directed us back to the turnstiles, or maybe the wait time board. Athena was really frustrated at this point and said, "How much for a replacement ID?" So for $20 we were on our merry way. Well, actually, I decided to check with the wait time board. They had no idea and directed us to the ticket booths out front. I came back to the AP center and was even more exasperated. We then headed out to the Blue Bayou, couldn't get reservations for lunch, and then found out that Splash Mountain was down for rehab, Big Thunder was closed because of the recent accident, and Space Mountain was closed for renovations until 2005. Oh, and Pirates of the Carribean was broken for the moment too. Then I was grumpy. We managed to go on the Haunted Mansion Holiday, and that helped cheer me a bit, but I really have come to expect Disney Cast Members to be highly competant, so I was completely flummoxed by the morning's chaos. It would've been so simple to just print the bar code on the courtesy pass and avoid the drama. Oh well.

But the Haunted Mansion was looking great. And the rest of the park was the same as it ever was. After a lovely lunch at the Blue Bayou using the standby line, we all got a fresh start and had a good time. Athena and I even tried dancing a bit at the Carnation Plaza swing thing. Two follows, no leader, but we did okay. Well, okay enough for her to get picked up for a dance. Anyway, it was my last trip to Disneyland for at least a year or so, so I'm glad it was a good one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

In the continuing saga of Nym, the stealth cat, she's starting to warm up a bit. Cyrus and Athena came over Saturday night and brought their cat Thomas for a little kitty intervention. We kicked Nym out from under the bed and shut the doors upstairs. She floundered for a while, hissing at Thomas and not knowing where her safe place was. We watched, making sure they didn't actually escalate the hissing into a fight. Nym eventually took up residence near the top of the stairs. Thomas kept trying to get her to play. Thomas is a very cute cat, but he's dumb as a box of hair. He couldn't conceive of not playing with this other cat. He would run up the stairs, leap over her, and land at the top, flop over and roll around, reaching out a paw to investigate her. She would hiss as he leapt over. Then Thomas would get bored, come downstairs and play for a while, head butting us or what have you, then he'd notice Nym again and the cycle would repeat. For a while, I sat up on the stairs next to Nym, who seemed perfectly content to be petted, and kept purring, broken only by moments of hissing at Thomas. Thomas would eventually wear her down and get her to play. That was clear. But Athena and Cyrus finally headed home.

After that, Nym has been easier to coax out from under the bed. Last night I was studying for my class, and I coaxed her out by reading on the floor next to the bed. No cat can resist the power of a book being read. She came over and planted herself in the middle of my book. We spent a couple of hours cuddling, intermittently interrupted by household sounds that would spook her and cause her to run under the bed until the irresistable power of the book overcame her fear of the world again.

Eventually, I'm hoping she'll get used to the sounds of the house and will mellow out and be able to be social more of the time. But we're getting there. There are few sounds and sensations in the world better than a purring kitty snuggled up to you. It's worth the wait.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Okay, so I've gotten three notes now mentioning that the Science Fair is actually a hoax. I haven't read anything conclusive, but it seems to be a fairly well known hoax. That's good. But I still don't trust the fundies. Sure, maybe creationists haven't gone as fair as to have a science fair for kids yet, but I wouldn't be shocked when "Creation Science" gets this many hits on google or when one of the first links takes you to a video just for kids.

Perhaps I'm edgier about this than average. My baby cousin Wendy, once the member of my family I found most interesting, is now working for Youth For Christ and she sends me these letters periodically, every month or so. I nearly lost it the time she said Jesus had helped her to find a soda machine so that the ministry could sell sodas as a fund raiser. I'm pretty sure Jesus had nothing to do with it, and it bugs the crap out of me that everything she does is the will of god these days. She's a lost little girl who doesn't know what to do with her life, so she's turned herself over to "God" and now let's him do the driving. Or at least do whatever his reps on earth tell her to do. It's deeply frightening.

Oh, and there's other things in a long litany of reasons I just can't stand organized religion. Topping the list is Suzi's pastor, who cut off her hair in front of the congregation because he had dreamt she was masturbating and cut her hair to punish her.

Organized religion is ripe for abuse because it's founded on unblinking faith and trust. To be a true believer you must turn off your mind and avoid listening to contradictory facts and refrain from any serious analysis that doesn't end in "God works in mysterious ways."

Again, follow the Golden Rule in it's spirit, and try to leave the world a slightly better place than when you arrived. No one needs religion to do that. It's just an ugly distraction from using your own best judgement.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Goddamn organized religion. I hate it with a passion because of bullshit like this. I just can't believe they'd be so callous and self-serving. It's a hate crime on a global scale.

Think the Vatican is alone? Heck no! Good old American fundies are busy holding things like the Creation Science Fair. Gah!!! My personal favorite is the 2nd Prize for the Middle School category - "Women Were Designed For Homemaking". It just makes my blood boil that a 12 year old boy is being rewarded for being a chauvenist pig. All in the name of religion and God.

And then there's freaky psychos like this Sunday-School teacher who abuse their position of trust to take advantage of kids. Ugh.

And that's not even counting the hundreds who commit murder in the name of God (or Allah). I'm so sick of organized religion and its effects on the world. People always defend it saying "What kind of morality would the world have without religion?" Bullshit. I'm easily as moral as any of the religious folks I know. It's simple. Follow the Golden Rule and you won't stray far. If more focus was placed on that than on what the Almighty intends or wrote or how he/she/they want us to worship, then the world would be a much better place. In the meantime, I pray to whatever god may or may not be out there: Please save me from your followers.

Quotes from friends regarding the recent recall results:

"I wonder if this is how it felt to be in Minnesota after Jesse Ventura was
elected. I know their politics are different, but at some point you just
have to stop and say "Holy crap, that guy from Predator is the governor of
my state!"" Matt Bartush

"Governor Schwarzenegger--can you say that five times without laughing?" Tina Bennet

Yeah. It's like that.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Took an IQ test online today. Said I had an IQ of 138. Trouble is, the questions they were asking didn't seem to have anything to do with basic intelligence, but more about education. One question basically amounted to "Do you know the Pythagorean Theorem?" Sure, it made you do the calculation, but if you'd never taken basic high school geometry, you wouldn't know how to do the calculation.

I've never actually taken an IQ test before. I've taken all kinds of standardized tests, but not IQ. I have a hard time imagining that I'm in the top 1% of minds on earth. I feel way too stupid for that most of the time. Perhaps I'm more educated than average (though certainly not in the top 1% of that either). Anyway, just one of those weird things I've always wondered. So many of my friends are very smart folks, many of whom learned their IQ at a young age, and that knowledge was taken in several different ways. Some took it as a foundation to excel from. Others took it as an excuse to give up on the standard educational system. I've never known and sometimes wondered when numbers get bandied around.

So now I guess I'm left with a couple of conclusions. First, that the IQ test really isn't much of a measure of intelligence. Second, that by the numbers, I'm right up there with my friends.

All this for the sake of procrastinating on system testing at work...

Go figure. Wednesday night roller skating has become a habit. Tom and Rachel and Rick all enjoyed it so much that they came back the very next week. I skipped that week in favor of sewing, but came back last week on my own skates dug out of my closet. After a wobbly start, I plowed around the rink a lot and wished I'd eaten dinner first. This week I get dinner first since Rachel (Kevin's Rachel) is cooking tonight. Then it's more skating. Skate goodness. It's pretty clearly good exercise, and it's really nice to just roll around.