Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Back To School Night

I know. An entire month into the school year, only a week before interim reports are sent home, and the middle school does back-to-school night. Seems like it would be helpful to have it sooner, but I guess the teachers need a chance to settle in before they have to face the parents.

Middle school BTS night is a lot different from elementary BTS. Elementary BTS you squeeze into tiny chairs at tiny desks and have the teacher talk at you for half an hour, basically reading the policies that have both been sent home already, and are sitting in front of you. There might also be some awkward chit-chat with parents you don't know, or animated chit-chat with parents you do know.

At the middle school, the kids change classes. They have up to 8 different teachers in a day. So for BTS, you go to their homeroom for a presentation on Wildcat TV by the guidance counselors and principal/vice principal, who stick in a couple of jabs at each other's football teams while they're telling us what we're in for.

Then we spend 10 minutes in each classroom our kids are in that day, with three minutes between "classes"--just like the kids get. We have to find classrooms on the map and bustle through the halls, and damn, if it doesn't feel like *I'm* in school all over again. Wondering if that mom is still mad at me for some reason and is going to avoid eye contact with me. Laughing that I run into that mom in every classroom, and funny how Number One never mentioned that her son is in so many classes with her. It's kind of fun, actually. After all the classes are done, we get to have refreshments in the cafeteria! Yummy cookies.

Some random thoughts I jotted while I was there:

1. I miss chalkboards.

There's something special about the sound and feel of chalk on a chalkboard. Now they have whiteboards, and those are more versatile (colors!), but not the same. Number One's computer class has a "Smart Board." It's a giant touch screen monitor connected to the laptop AND the desktop. Very cool...but not the same.

2. Learning-Focused Schools versus tons of information

A couple of years ago, our district adopted something called "Learning-Focused Schools." It dictates how the curriculum is run, and for the most part, in practice, it seems to be a good thing. But since No Child Left Behind, even in this stellar school district there have been changes. They're more apparent at the elementary level, as things have become more homogenized and less challenging. I hate the term "Learning-Focused Schools." What were they focused on before, if not learning? They're less focused on learning now, and more on memorizing and scoring well on tests and I promise I'm stopping there. I try really hard not to do politics here.

Anyway. The problems at the elementary level seem to have a bit less of an impact at the middle school level. Some of the teachers talked about the tons of information they will be getting through, and showed us some of the curriculum, and talked about preparing for high school, and of course I've seen it in practice in Number One's homework and assignments. I just hope Number Two doesn't get dumbed down in the two years she has left before she gets to the middle school and there's more flexibility.

3. Despite the problems related to #2, this is an awesome school district

Every teacher talked about the turnout they get for BTS Night, and raved about the involvement of the parents and the quality of students they have. I think Number One just has an exceptionally good class, because I've heard it all her life, how wonderful they are. But every single teacher was enthusiastic and excited about teaching, no matter how many years they've been doing it. Every one clearly loves their job, is sincere about loving the kids, and appreciates the parents we have. It was emphasized more by teachers who've worked in or know teachers in other districts. It makes me really grateful, because that enthusiasm and love for the job are really the top criteria for giving kids a good education. Everything else streams from that.

4. Number One is really lucky. All of her teachers are FUNNY.

She's talked about a couple of them, telling me things they've said in class and stuff, but I got to see it firsthand. One teacher was a little more subdued than the rest, and one was very no-nonsense and focused, but they all had great senses of humor. I'm jealous.

5. The kids are paying attention

The history teacher said the whole class has unprecedented interest in the election this year. She's been teaching 8th grade American History for 15 years, and says it's never been like this. I saw it in Number One, who came home all indignant about the candidates and their double-speak and their stand on certain issues that we have rarely talked about in our house, but it's interesting to hear it's not just her.

As a parent, it's nice to feel your kid is in a good place six hours a day, five days a week.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Yeah, All Problems Should Be So Huge

Our "new" DVR box in the family room was rattling up a storm, so when I called DirecTV last week to deactivate the extra access card, I mentioned it. The rep ordered me a "new" box, and I got it hooked up today. Luckily, tonight's shows appear in the guide, even though tomorrow's (and beyond) don't. Monday is our heaviest DVR night: Chuck, Prison Break, How I Met Your Mother, 2.5 Men, Terminator, and Heroes (and My Own Worst Enemy later this month).

We only fit everything because, as previously mentioned, I moved the TiVo box up to the bedroom when I got the new DVR box. (I don't know if I said...the problem with having to reset the TiVo all the time because it loses contact with the satellite is definitely a problem with the box itself, because we have to do it upstairs now, too. It's less of an issue up there, though). And thank goodness we did that (moved the TiVo), or I'd no longer have my first two episodes of Supernatural to watch over and over between now and next year's DVD release. Yes, I recorded it both places. Big deal.

Anyway, next week and the week after and at least one more time after that, we have a problem. Either the Patriots or the Browns are on Monday Night Football, which means we have to skip recording a couple of shows.

I know. World ending, huh? I'm ashamed to even call it a "problem."

But it does serve a purpose. Whenever I have these itty-bitty things to complain about, it illustrates how good my life is. This isn't the only problem I have to worry about, but hey--if I have energy to fret over TV, the other things can't be all that bad, either.

So, hey, remember my novella, Renegade? It got a review! A very nice one, at that, so thank you, Abi! I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

While you're checking out Renegade, don't forget my latest novella, Letting Go. Zack is the template for all young men--I beseech mothers to raise their boys to be like him! Since I have two daughters who will be seeking his like in the way-not-far-enough-distant future. :)

September is almost over--I'd love to make the bestseller list!

Friday, September 26, 2008

And the Awesomeness Continues

I wasn't expecting to like last night's episode of Supernatural as much as premiere. The premise had potential to be lame, and come on, how can you beat shadow wings? And Misha Collins?

So I was thrilled that I loved it just as much.

I loved the brothers debating the whole angel thing--amusingly, without bringing up the LAST time they debated the whole angel thing. I loved the pie. I loved how the spirits of Meg and Henricksen and Ronald had pure logic about how Sam and Dean have failed them, yet were also unfair. Meg's demon and Lilith and Ronald himself (and the shifter and the police/FBI) were the responsible parties. But they were hard to argue with.

I loved Bobby's little girls. So heartbreaking, and excellent performances.

I loved the whole pie thing, and Bobby's panic room, and his Giles moments (ref. Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I TOTALLY love the way they're handling the religious mythology. Bobby saying the widely distributed version is for the tourists, but basically Revelations--that's moving it into the realm of legend, making it bigger than any particular religion.

I stay away from broad fandom discussions. My little group of insanely obsessed passionate fans is eclectic--we have churchgoing Christians, Jews, athiests, and people whose religious affiliation is unknown to me, and we all love the show equally and can have intellectual discussions about it without ranting or attacking. But apparently there are people out there who get really offended when the show "bashes" their chosen religion.

I just want to say that portraying a few "bad" witches or a few "bad" Christians or a few flesh-eating pagans is not even CLOSE to condemning the entire group. Acting like that's what they're doing is like bashing sitcoms for saying all moms are shrews and all dads are fat idiots.

I'm excited about the exploration of this mythology and invite anyone who wants a non-religion-bashing discussion to head on over here! I'd be delighted to discourse!

Some other thoughts:

I want to thank either Sera Gamble or Jared Padalecki, whomever is responsible (whether it was in the script or ad libbed) for having Sam say thank you when Bobby handed him the paper to draw the brand. One of my biggest pet peeves is that people don't ever say thank you on TV. Granted, this was a toss-off, not a favor or a compliment, but it was still nice to see. Keep up the good work.

Sam sleeping. The way he has his head turned all the way to the side, and his arms draped across his torso...no man has ever looked so appealing asleep. I'd brave morning mouth to wake that up.

Speaking of sleeping...Bobby's house is huge. Why weren't the boys in an upstairs bedroom? I get that maybe they felt too vulnerable and wanted to stay near the witness-banishing tools/fire. But Dean didn't look very comfortable--not even a pillow!--and where was Bobby?

I felt so bad for Castiel. I kept licking my lips for him. And he lost 6 of his brothers. And Dean's both all "why me? no way" and "hey, what about me?" practically in the same breath. I'll be glad when he reaches the point where he can turn the focus outward. It stands to reason that he's not there yet. But he will be, and I'm looking forward to it.

One last thing: I saw some preview pix earlier in the week and was all excited about Dean being in a t-shirt again. Not that I didn't love the tight long-sleeve shirt (with hanger nipples in the shoulders!). But apparently they shot a lot of stuff that didn't make the cut, or they took photos of rehearsal, because not only Dean, but Henricksen was dressed differently in the kitchen. I'll be looking at preview pix with skepticism from now on.

Bring on the time travel!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Friday Things

Things I Don't Like About Fridays

1. Getting up early.

2. Getting up early is really super hard now. (Except today, Number Two came in and said, "Aren't you getting up? It's...oh. It's only 5:40." And, of course, I was dreaming about Sam and Dean.)

3. The whole week is behind me, so I can lament all the things I didn't get done, and probably one of those is cleaning, which means I have to clean.

4. I'm almost too late to meet my weekly writing goal and have to work super hard to make it.

Things I Love About Fridays

5. It's the last day of the week! Chances are kinda good that we can sleep in at least a little tomorrow, unless there's a soccer away game that's really far. And we can definitely sleep in Sunday.

6. Better mail! Friday is the best mail day of the week, hands down.

7. Obligations are minimal.

8. Fun things are often scheduled for Friday, and if not Friday, then the weekend, family time. Whether we're hanging out in the living room reading or heading off to a movie or to the park to do some extra soccer drilling, there's always plenty of together time.

9. TV catch-up. J and I often watch our favorite "both" shows on Fridays. ("Both" shows are shows we both like to watch--there aren't many.)

10. Talking about Supernatural! Whether I'm just blogging about it or commenting on other people's blogs or exchanging e-mails with my friends who watch it, there's always plenty to talk/think about, and it makes the day something to look forward to.

Thursday Things

Things I Don't Like About Thursdays

1. Getting up early.

2. Paying bills.

3. Thursday errands take time away from whatever else I have to/want to do.

4. The day goes reeeeaaaalllllyyyyy slowwwwwllllyyyy.

Things I Love About Thursdays

5. It's always been the quietest day of the week, in any job I've ever been in. Quiet days can be boring, depending on the job, but they are usually a huge relief, and very productive.

6. Good mail! I usually get a magazine and/or Netflix disks, a little junk, and NO bills.

7. No running around at night (most weeks). Soccer practices are all done, we don't do dance class anymore...that means everything is more relaxed, from homework to dinner to bedtime to TV.

8. I actually like my Thursday errands, which are usually library, comic book store (usually nothing for me, but I like doing something that makes J smile), post office (which may have something cool in my box but usually doesn't), oh, and a café mocha at my favorite coffee place. You know, Whipped Cream Delivery System number one. :)

9. Payday! Every other week, anyway.

10. It's Thursday! Which means...duh...Supernatural is on! This time of year, it's ALWAYS new, and ALWAYS great, and ALWAYS makes me super happy.

Thursday is my favorite day of the week!

Wednesday Things

Things I Don't Like About Wednesdays

1. Getting up early.

2. Getting up early feels a lot more difficult.

3. There's nothing special about Wednesday.

Things I Love About Wednesdays

4. Tomorrow's Thursday!

I'd really have liked to have 10 things, but ref. #3.

Tuesday Things

Things I Don't Like About Tuesdays

1. Getting up early.

2. Daily chores.

3. Everyone's Monday work means lots of Tuesday work for me.

4. Trying to get into the writing after (probably) three days away from it.

Things I Love About Tuesdays

5. Neato Burrito's salsa of the day! It's a jalapeño feta with a sour cream base and lime juice, and it's wonderful. When I worked two blocks away from NB, I got a burrito-in-a-bowl on chips, no beans, no meat, no rice, regular cheese (unmelted), lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and salsa, every single Tuesday. Now I maybe do it once a month, if that. But even when I don't go, Tuesday is special because I could.

6. Both kids have soccer practice at the same time, which feels efficient.

7. New PFW in Progress and ESPN Football Today podcasts. Even when the Pats lost, I still like listening to the analysis.

8. It's only two more days until Thursday!

9. In a pay week, I have to pay bills. In a non-pay week, pay day is over a week away.

10. Even though I still have three more days of getting up early (likely four, with Saturday soccer), it feels good having most of the week still ahead of me. I have plenty of time to be productive.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday Things

Things I Don't Like About Mondays

1. Getting up early.

2. Post-football hangover (if they lost).

3. A full week of getting-up-early ahead of me.

4. A large to-do pile.

Things I Love About Mondays

5. I can pretend Sunday never happened (if they lost).

6. Terminator and Prison Break are new on TV.

7. I'm alone again after a full family-oriented weekend.

8. It's only three more days until Thursday!

9. It's a huge jump closer to payday, even if it's not a pay week.

10. It's a new week, and I can expect it to be better than the old one.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I'm Such a Rule-Follower

I've seen this meme twice now, and I feel too guilty ignoring it again. So I'm taking a page from Megan's book (not her book, actually, though that's a lovely set of covers--scroll down if you click over, see her meme post) and posting just a PART of me.

Take a picture of yourself right now. Don’t change your clothes. Don’t fix your hair. Just take a picture. Post that picture with no editing. (Except maybe to get the image size down to something reasonable. Don’t go posting an eight megapixel image.) Include these instructions.

I didn't realize my lips are so damned crooked!

Wanna hear something weird?

I took Number Two to a local college's women's soccer game today. Guess who their opponent turned out to be? Never mind, you'll never guess. I'll tell you.

Ohio Wesleyan University!

What do you mean, so what? Haven't you memorized my bio? Sheesh. OWU is my alma mater! The reason I can check "Graduated College" in all those surveys. Anyway, I rooted for them instead of Messiah. They lost, 7-1. Messiah is scary good.

Football tomorrow! Man, I love fall weekends.

Friday, September 19, 2008



On first watching, I loved everything about last night's episode of Supernatural. After discussion with some friends (some of us did a post-show chat last night, and I communicated with a few others about it) and a partial second viewing, I have a few nitpicks or less-than-thrillednesses. But overall, I'd say it was the best season premiere yet.

I recorded to VHS for a friend who doesn't have cable and watched a little as it recorded, taking notes. But the phone rang halfway through so the following thoughts will get less detailed and more sparse as I go. Please comment! I'm sure I'll have more to say later.

The flashes of Dean's eyes was excellently done. The bloody red, the panic, the screech. Then his sudden appearance in a grave.

Let's ignore the practicality regarding someone's ability to claw through six feet of dirt and just note the realistic rasp in Dean's voice. I wondered what Jensen had to go through to sound like that, because it was pretty real, and existed until he drank water in that store.

The blast area, the trees being down, with the aerial shot, made me go "Whoa!"

I don't like the new show logo as much. The wings are kind of cool, though too freak-me-out-ish, but the static reversion to season one...eh. I much prefer the colors and flames of the "going to commercial" or "returning from commercial" or whatever it is.

OMG, we get Dean in a t-shirt immediately! *hugs Kripke*

And Sam in a t-shirt not too much later! I know, I know, I'm jumping ahead, but let me just say...I love the filmed-in-July episodes!!!

When Dean was in that store...I know a lot of people will have something to say about his complete plundering of the inventory and cash register, so I won't bother. But I loved the detail--the cap from the water bottle falling to the floor when he's getting his drink. Drying his face on his shirt. Those kinds of things. Love it!

Which, of course, brings us to Dean examining his torso in the mirror. Despite my 13-year-old's inauguration into watching live prime-time TV, I rewound that part. I claimed it was to see if he had his tattoo (which of course I noticed the first time). They didn't buy it.

Jumping ahead again...I love Castiel. I hope he keeps possessing that guy. Several times my fellow fans have mentioned how ironic it is that an angel possessed a human in a demon-like manner, and the human is now going to die because he's been shot and stabbed. But I remind those people that Castiel restored Dean's body to near perfection after not only hellhound chew-toying, but four months decaying. He can fix the guy he possessed, easy.

Plus, he said the guy prayed for this. He looked a little rough around the edges. Like the guy he was in was living a bleak, hopeless life, perhaps one tainted by alcoholism or worse. Perhaps housing Castiel is his redemption, or part of it.

Okay, backing up...

When the TV, radio, etc., came on the first time, I thought maybe Dean was doing it somehow. Still thought it the second time. I wonder why Castiel tried a second time, knowing it didn't work? It kind of hints at the reality of the angels. That like demons, they have elements of humanity. Like the ability to make mistakes.

Whoops. Backing up again...

I loved the reunions. Again, it was all about the details for me. Bobby with the holy water cracked me up. Perfectly done. Dean fisting Bobby's shirt when they hugged. When it came to Sam, the hug tightened just a little at the moment when it probably would have ended. Some felt the reunions were a little flat, but I appreciated that they didn't drag it out, that everything kind of clicked. They went into mission mode, partnership...no wallowing in "bad four months" or whatever. Of course, on Sam's part, some of the glossing-over was due to his development of his abilities.

Why was it a rough four months for Bobby? Yes, he had to bury Dean, and felt the loss, and hurt for Sam, but was that all there was to it? If his wife's death drove him to drink, he was over it at this point, yet Dean's death led to bottles all over the house. So I'm wondering if there's been something else going on with Bobby, too.

I really liked that Dean asked why he was buried and Bobby's answer. It was what I expected, but they could have assumed we just knew that, and not addressing it would have been annoying.

Okay, I can't tell. Is the woman in Sam's hotel room (Cathy/Christie) the same woman with him in the diner (possessed by Ruby)? If she is, did Ruby take her over before Dean showed up, or after? If before, then she probably knew Dean was raised, which means Sam might have known, too, which might account for his low-key response to Dean's accusations (though if it wasn't that way, then I attribute Sam's low-keyness to maturity--he doesn't have to get defensive anymore).

I'm not buying that she was Ruby already. Ruby's too hard (though the actress didn't exactly try to emulate her attitude the way every actress who played the crossroads demon did, for example), and she wouldn't be interested in a physical relationship with Sam, so she wouldn't be hanging around in her underwear. And Sam's not that good an actor. He'd be behaving a little more weirdly, because Ruby wouldn't hide her presence, or he wouldn't expect her to, at least. I'm thinking, if that was the same woman, Sam just knew it was Ruby in there, either because of proximity or because of his abilities. Though he didn't seem to know the waitress was a demon, so maybe I'm way off and if I am, I don't think they did that whole element all that well.

Moving on...

I find it amusing and sad that Dean's all for going to the psychic for help, but Sam's a freak and he doesn't want him even thinking about using his abilities.

It bothers me (not in a "bad show!" way, but in a "boy, they're doing a job on me" way) that the boys are already lying to each other. I think Dean remembers more of hell than he's admitting, and Sam made a big mistake telling Dean flat out that he didn't go down that road. Things will be soooo much worse when Dean finds out now.

Okay, best part of the episode, bar none, was the iPod. The look on Dean's face when Sam said "I thought it was my car." The sheer JOY (in me!) when Jason Manns came on! And Sam's sheepishness at Dean's reaction. I loved it!

Speaking of looks on faces...Jensen nailed this episode. Every emotion was perfect, portrayed with subtle flickers of facial muscles or the look in his eyes. Where Jared seems to need a few episodes to feel Sam again, one would think Jensen had spent his summer in a pine box in the dark, waiting to get back with his crew.

Okay, here's where I get more vague 'cause from here I only watched it once...

If Pam knew Castiel's name, knew who he was (and I got the impression she did--at first, I thought he was trying to keep her from seeing some other being), why did she have to insist on seeing him? A name was better than a face. A face could be anyone, anything. A name can be researched. Though I do admit, the thing with the eyes was very effectively horrifying. Poor Pam.

The geography was kind of confusing. Dean drove his stolen car from Illinois to the Bobby Dimension (portals to every part of America!) and then had to go back to Illinois to get to Sam. Pam was four hours down the Interstate, but when Sam snuck out, he went back to Illinois to stake out the demons. Where did Bobby and Dean go at that point, to conjure Castiel? Were they near the hotel in Pontiac? Four hours from Sam?

I liked that they didn't drag out the question of who hauled Dean out, especially after hints about the beginning of season four implied that Dean was searching for answers for a while. His exact mission, what God and Castiel (if, indeed, it was at God's orders and if Castiel is really an angel and/or if angels really report to God) want from him, might go unsaid for a little while. But the mystery being at least partially answered right away is a good thing.

Best line of the episode: "You're not invited." We declined to explain that to Number One.

Evidence that Mommy needs to adjust pretty quickly to having a kid watching with her: When the mirrors over Dean were about to shatter and come down, I said "Shit!" rather audibly. It's not like she doesn't hear it at school, and possibly even say it (though I'm reasonably sure her profanity runs to milder words), I still strive hard not to curse in front of the kids.

So I think that covers it. I'm very happy. I can't wait for next week, and I'm soooooo glad it's only six days instead of four months!

Now please excuse me while I go check for Dean's *ahem* tattoo.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

They're Getting Smarter, But *I'M* Not Stupid

When the phone rings at 4:19 a.m., it's never a happy call.

I should be glad that the one that came in this morning wasn't, say, my stepmother with news of my brother in Iraq. Or a frantic call from my mother-in-law asking us to meet them at the hospital. And I am. But I'm more pissed off.

We all know about phishing scams, right? Where you get an e-mail all set up in stolen HTML from a credit card company with a link for you to "verify your information." Well, they've gone low-tech.

Phone rings. I say hello. It clicks to a recording with a woman (who sounds just like most recorded messages) who says she's from Members 1st Federal Credit Union and my card has been suspended. To reach the security center, press one.

Now, I'm a pretty good waker-upper. It's really rare that I don't just snap into awareness and process things normally, even if I'm really tired. And I often start waking up sometime between three and four, and then keep waking up every 20 minutes or half hour until the alarm goes off. So 4:19 a.m. isn't a vulnerable time for me like it might be for a lot of people (clever bastards).

I don't have a Members 1st account of any kind, and neither does my husband (to my knowledge! LOL). And the recording didn't say what KIND of card. And since it was a recording and not a live person, they didn't say WHOSE card it was, which would be stupid because anyone could answer the phone. Every Christmas, when we go shopping for presents, our bank calls to verify purchases, either because we had a lot in one day or because we had a big-ticket item. If it was my husband's card, they won't talk to me. It has to be him. And it's a live person. So I knew from the get-go that this was a scam. But I was curious. So I pressed one.

The recording said again that my card was suspended, and to reactivate, press one. I did, and it asked for me to enter my card number. I mean, come on! THEY called ME. They're supposed to know my number. The whole thing is so obvious to be laughable. But it's also scary, because it will work. They will reach elderly people, people of diminished capacity, young people who don't pay attention or who are too busy thinking of sex and music to use logic, or even smart people who don't wake up that easily or are too distracted to think and who will pull out their Members 1st card, or even a different card, assuming that must be what the nice lady on the phone is talking about, and enter the number. And bam, credit card fraud that will kill their credit and follow them forever.

That really pisses me off.

I wasn't aware before today that this was a widespread issue. I checked the Members 1st web site today and they referred to it as "Vishing"--like phishing but with V for voice. Spread the word, so no one you know gets accidentally caught by this crap.

On a happier note...

...or at least, a more amusing one...

After the call, I had more vivid, intense dreams (I've been having them every night for ages). This one had something mundane, like housecleaning (dishes? laundry?) or soccer or something, with a mystical element. I remember waking up amused and thinking "mystical laundry" or whatever, but now I can't recall what the mundanity was. Anyway, between the call and the dreams, I was a little unfocused. I was thinking about our long-distance away games Saturday morning and thinking that was tomorrow, which means I was forgetting that today was only Thursday...

And then I remembered! Supernatural starts today! Woo hoo!

To whet your appetite:

(I didn't actually watch it myself, but enjoy!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Around the Internet

When you see this, post another Supernatural quote in your lj (blog). Let’s see how long this can go on.

Dean: Are you drunk?
Sam: Yeah. So. Stupid.

I put up a review of Terminator: SCC on SciFi Chicks this morning (only a day late). Read my random thoughts on the second episode of the season.

One more day until Supernatural returns!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


It's a good thing the grocery store is less than a mile from my house. I'm there too many times a week. Yesterday I $75 worth of grocery shopping in the early afternoon. Two hours later, Number One comes home and needs cotton balls for her science experiment. So out I go again. It's like that several times a week.

Remember last month, how I had to fight with AT&T Wireless because they held on to my account for an extra day so they could charge me for another month? Remember how I asked politely, then less so, then yelled at the rep, and he put me on hold for 15 minutes but gave in at the end (sullenly and reluctantly)?

I just got my first Credo Mobile bill, and I had slightly less than one month prorated, and they started the billing on 8/11. Well, that doesn't work. AT&T didn't relinquish my account until 8/14. The day I activated the phones was the day I added the text service, and that prorated fee started the right day. 8/14. Could be infuriating, right?

But I called Credo, got a rep right away, explained the situation, and was given an immediate $6 credit with no argument. It's nice not to have to fight.

(I know $6 isn't much, but when you have a nearly $200 phone bill, every little bit helps!)

So kudos to Credo, and I heartily recommend them as a long distance and mobile phone company. (Don't forget, they also donate 1% of your bill to charitable causes AND give you free Ben & Jerry's ice cream!)

One of my pet peeves is slowness. It's a flaw in me, of course. I should have more patience. But people who walk slow bug me (when I'm behind them). Ditto people who drive ten miles below the speed limit. Sometimes they seem slow when they're doing the speed limit, but then I can't be annoyed because they're being good. Slow talking, slow thinking, even slow pacing in a book, movie, or TV show drive me nuts.

I like to use the U-Scan checkout at the grocery store so I have control over my scanning and bagging (mostly the bagging). I don't care if someone has six items or sixty-five. I don't mind waiting when the stations are full. But last night there was a woman who moved slower than molasses. I couldn't stand watching her, even though it didn't directly affect me. She wasn't old, and didn't appear to have any kind of physical deficiency (though that's not always apparent). She'd finished checking out and started moving her bags from the scale to her cart. I think she had one bag left when I moved past her and started my scanning. Granted, I only had one item, but I was done and out of there before she was.

That grocery store has a clerk who's often there when I am. She's very sweet, always greets me and asks how I'm doing and stuff. But it's kind of disconcerting when she's walking along, sees me, and stops to say hi and beam at me as if I'm a close friend and it makes her day to see me. Like it violates the code of comfortable customer service.

I know. I'm weird.

Hey, look at that! My post had a cohesive theme today!

Don't get used to it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

When Do I Ever Post Anything That's Not Randomness Anymore?

I can't seem to post on a single topic here anymore, even when I post more than once a week. Is that annoying?

While doing my post for The Gab Wagon today, I looked up all my Amazon rankings. Most of my paper titles are old, so their numbers are dismal (except Brianna's Navy SEAL, which was 658,733, which is higher than Megan Hart's Wish List and An Exaltation of Larks, and even her next book, Stranger! And yes, I measure myself against her All. The. Time. And usually come up wanting. :) ) Most of my Kindle titles haven't even achieved a ranking at all, but again, Brianna's Navy SEAL had an overall rank in the Kindle Store of 47,461. Since they advertise that Kindle has over 170,000 titles, that seems pretty good. I'm not complaining, anyway.

*Makes note to check ranking every day.*

Soccer season, the real one, is in full swing now. Both kids have played two games, both won both games, both are top of their divisions by either number of wins or goals scored/goals against. It's a nice feeling, especially for Number One, whose team has had varying levels of success but not this one. Number Two's team has yet to be tested, and we'll be up against a particular team (who beat us twice last fall) not once, not twice, but at least three times. We play them twice in the regular season and are bracketed with them in an October tournament. Should be interesting.

Football season, too, is in full swing. The Patriots are 2-0. They had a convincing win against the Jets yesterday. Matt Cassel looked good. Everyone can settle down now.

I have two really great things to look forward to this week. Tomorrow I'm going out to dinner with some friends. These are the ones I did the writing challenge with this summer. We're celebrating our hard work, discipline, and dedication. Someone's got to do it!

The other thing is, of course, the Supernatural premiere. There are two clips available online. One is, I think, the reunion scene, and I don't want to watch that one. I want to see it unfold. Even if I misunderstood what that clip is, I don't want to expose myself to too much. Anticipation is very high for this show, and if it's going to pay off, I want to give it the chance to.

However, I let a friend (damn you, Smith!) browbeat entice me into watching the second one, which showed the boys in their usual form. They were funny and gorgeous and belied implications by Kripke that their relationship is damaged. I can't wait until Thursday!

Number Two just got home. Must move on to the belongs-to-everyone-but-me part of my day now. :)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Mixed Bag

I'm highly amused by the difference between the media's talk about the New England Patriots' new situation and the perspective of the players from around the league.



Players: The Patriots didn't win because of Brady, they won because of the well-coached, dedicated, team-focused team that they are, and they will continue to be a challenge--nothing changes.

The truth, of course, is somewhere in the middle. Tom Brady's loss does change things, but it takes a team that might have been stratospheric (which we'll never know since the injury occurred only a few minutes into the season) and brings them down to the level of the rest of the NFL.

I have a new blog! Well, it's more than a blog, and it's not MINE, per se. Okay, it's not mine at all, I'm just one lowly member of a fabulous group of women who like speculative TV. Today I posted my review of the season premiere of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles on SciFi Chicks. The site will have reviews and commentary, news and spoilers, and rousing discussions about the best in SF, fantasy, and paranormal television. Check it out!

I really want my TiVo back.

Last night was the first night we watched anything we'd recorded using the new DVR box, and I HATE IT. Really, really hate it. Enough to pause the show and rant.

With TiVo, you have a list of shows you recorded. You click on the show, click Play, and it starts either at the beginning, or where you left off the last time you viewed it. When you get to the end, it takes you back to the menu.

We recorded three shows yesterday. Two and a Half Men (I don't watch that, J does), Terminator, and Prison Break. I went into the List, highlighted Terminator, and Selected it, then clicked Play.

Prison Break started.

I thought I'd hit the wrong show on the list, so I did it all over again. Same result. (This was about 9:10 last night, so just a little into PB, so it was starting from the point of the live show, not even at the beginning.)

I'm not yet familiar with all the features of the remote, so I started rewinding, and it was rewinding through T:SCC but geez, I don't want to have to take that time, or watch a whole show in reverse before I watch it in forward/regular motion. So I checked the cheat card and saw that if I hold the six-second jump-back button down, it will jump to the beginning of the show. When I did that, though, it jumped back twice, to the beginning of Two and a Half Men! Which I had to fast-forward through.

So okay, yeah, I have to learn the features of my remote and maybe read up a little on how the stupid Playlist works. I mean, gawd, am I gonna have to jump through 56 episodes of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody to get to Fringe?

Stay tuned to learn if Natalie Stops Being an Cantankerous Old Lady and Learns This Newfangled Technology or says F*** It! and buys a new TiVo box.

Monday, September 08, 2008

It Wasn't Supposed to Be This Hard

So yesterday was one of the best days of the year, and one of the worst.

Football season started! Woo hoo!

Tom Brady got hurt. Boo hoo.

Rumor has it that it's an ACL tear, though that rumor was spreading before he had today's MRI, so no one really knows for sure what it is. If that is the injury, he's out for the season. My first reaction to that was "great, now I'm not going to watch" but that's ridiculous. I don't watch for Tom Brady. And sure, the very faint possibility of repeating last year's undefeated season adds some excitement, but I'm totally spoiled. Most teams don't have that. Most teams don't feel, the day of the first game, absolute confidence that they'll win their division. So now we just have a new kind of excitement. The excitement of true challenge.

Even with Matt Cassel replacing Brady (and he played very well), the game shouldn't have come down to the last play. Our defense did fine, and our special teams really could do a lot better--but "fine" and "needs improvement" won't cut it for long.

But we won the Superbowl the first time with an untried backup, and we can do it again. I say "FIE" to all the pundits saying to stick a fork in the Pats. We are so not done.
Enough football. Have I mentioned that I have a new release? I think I have failed in that responsibility.

Letting Go I loved the idea of a May/December romance, even though "cougars" and young male boyfriends are all the rage. My heroine is far from a cougar. She's just a regular mom who's way too focused and really needs to let go.

Here's the blurb:

Single mom Samantha Pearson lives for her son, who's about to come home from college for the last Thanksgiving before graduation. But a snowstorm strands him at the airport, while Samantha is trapped in her house for days with his best friend and roommate Zack, a sexy twenty-two-year-old charmer whose flattering flirtations first embarrass her, then stir something forbidden deep in her soul.

What Samantha feels for the young man is utterly taboo, and she's determined to fight her growing attraction. But Zack, who fell for her the moment they first met, is equally determined to give Samantha all the pleasure and relaxation she never takes for herself...

You can read excerpts here and here and buy here. It's already available at ARe and soon to come at Fictionwise and for the Kindle.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Fandom Rocks Hard!


Contact: Dana Stodgel

Phone: 217-621-9970

Email: contact@fandom-rocks.com


Champaign, IL, September 5, 2008 - Fandom Rocks, a grassroots organization made up of fans of CW Television’s Supernatural, has concluded yet another successful charitable drive, raising thousands of dollars for two very worthy organizations, WriteGirl and Invisible Children.

This campaign, the third for Fandom Rocks, was the most successful to date, raising almost $9000 USD which will be evenly divided between WriteGirl and Invisible Children. The beneficiaries were chosen by fans through voting conducted on the Fandom Rocks website. Funds were raised among through site donations and a successful eBay auction, for which items were donated by fans and celebrities alike, including the cast and crew of Supernatural.

Fandom Rocks is grateful to everyone who participated in the campaign by donating auction items, bidding, and spreading the word about the fundraiser. Special thanks go to Sera Gamble and everyone at Supernatural for the autographed memorabilia provided for the auction.

Supernatural fans from around the world worked together to “give back” while bonding through their shared love and support for Supernatural, which they will be quick to tell you is the “absolute best show on TV!” Winners of auction items included fans in Belgium, Australia, and Japan.

Fandom Rocks is now preparing for their fourth campaign. Information on the organization and their work can be found at www.fandom-rocks.com.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Stealing from the Internets

From Avery Beck via Cindy Procter-King:

What Your Name Says About You

Your name says that you are mostly:

Unconventional but unstable

Your name also says you are:
Ambitious but stubborn
Dynamic but aggressive
Thoughtful but slow

Also from Cindy:


Okay, the rest of this post isn't technically stolen. But while I was reading blogs before posting this, to see if there was anything else I wanted to steal, I found this at Tracy's blog.

I SWEAR, the stuff below? I wrote it all three days ago! I just didn't feel like going to find pictures for all of it so I hadn't posted it yet. So I don't know if I should be annoyed at Tracy for making me look like I'm stealing, or amused because of like minds and all that.

I Really Love My...

Ground Meat Chopper (Pampered Chef)

I make ground beef more than any other kind of meat. Tacos, sloppy joes, spaghetti, my own special turkey-and-rice recipe. And I really, really dislike large chunks of ground meat. I like it very finely chopped--it goes along with my fear of uncooked meat. So when PC came out with this chopper, I couldn't get it fast enough. It works much better than a spatula for chopping meat the way I like it.

Neo (Alphasmart)

I talk about this all the time, of course. I'm using it right now, as a matter of fact. I love that I can whip it out and jot a note or type an e-mail or work on my book or blog posts without having to wait for boot-up or being distracted by shiny new e-mail posts or IMs.

TiVo (TiVo)

I love DVR. I love that I can record two shows at once, and now that I have three shows on at the same time on Monday nights, I'm happy that we replaced our downstairs TiVo box and moved it upstairs. As I said in a previous post, I'm not thrilled with DirecTV's DVR and prefer the TiVo interface. But as long as I have the record-ability, I'm happy.

iPod Classic (Apple)

Mostly, I listen to podcasts about the New England Patriots and the NFL. I also listen to Pottercast regularly. Mentioning Harry Potter on here always raises my hits by like four times normal, but I keep forgetting that and not mentioning it. Anyway, even though the Harry Potter books are all done, Pottercast still has lots of fun content. Games (playing a clip from the audiobook for "Guess That Book," which you'd think I'd be better at, considering how many times I've listened to them), news, discussion of the last book--I like keeping myself in the Potterverse like that.

I also use my iPod for music, though there are a lot of songs on it I have (apparently) never listened to. Here's a sampling:

"Lean Back" by Terror Squad Feat. Fat Joe and Remy from Now 17
"Over and Over" by Three Days Grace from One-X (I just got that album, though)
"Dirty Water" by ZO2 from Tuesdays and Thursdays

The two songs I've listened to most? "Boys Break In" and "Dean Comforts Sam" by Christopher Lennertz from the Supernatural season 1 soundtrack.

And finally, I use my iPod for video. I have all the Firefly episodes and all the Supernatural season 3 episodes and the last two eps of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Oh, and Dr. Horrible. Ask me how often I watch any of those. Yeah. Not often.

Simplus (Boston)

I alternate bottles of this with bottles of my regular cleaner and conditioner, because a long time ago my eye doctor said she didn't like the all-in-one solutions because if they were safe enough to put in the eye, they weren't strong enough to clean the contacts properly.

But Simplus is used as a cleaner in the morning. At night, you pop the contacts out, drop them in the case, and you're done. That works for me, because at night I'm often too tired to clean them properly. Then in the morning, when I'm awake and alert, I clean and rinse them. Plus, the contacts feel more cushy with this stuff than the conditioner.

Cell Phone (Motorola)

It's the same cell phone Dean uses in the last few episodes of Supernatural season three. He'll probably have a different one with the beginning of season 4, but for now, we're the same.

That's much better than my last phone, which was the same one Gordon had in the episode where he becomes a vampire.

Whirley-Pop Popcorn Popper (Wabash Farms)

I'm a popcorn fiend, and it has to be real popcorn with real butter and salt. Microwave stuff stinks. I used to do air popped corn, but most air poppers shoot kernels all over my house, and I can't stand that. I had one that was self-contained, but as it aged, the popcorn got harder and harder in the center, as if it wasn't popping completely. So now I use a very little bit of olive or grapeseed or canola oil in this spinny popper, which is a vast improvement over our old method of shaking a saucepan over the stove burner when I was a kid. I have a flat-top stove now and can't do that.

I owe my awesome popcorn to my stepfather, who taught us how to toss the butter and salt for ideal distribution. This allows us to use less butter (in theory) and means you don't have to be sweeping your fingerfuls of corn across the bottom of the butter-soaked bowl to get the best flavor. Though I have fond memories of the family sitting around the TV and doing that.

What do you love?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Wild Wednesday

Discerning readers will notice I have a new blog template. Whatcha think?

In updating my Gadgets (see to the right), I found that Blogger has a whole bunch of new things. I added a few. It would be cool if you became a Follower, if you are a Blogger user--that will make me look cool, as opposed to foolish, as I do now, with ZERO followers. You can do it anonymously.

I know the Supernatural Gadget doesn't fit on the sidebar, but LOOK! New promo!

Scroll down a little and you can see not only the blogs on my list, but when they were updated (I'd point out that Misty Simon is on the bottom of the list, but she won't read this to notice I'm picking on her, so never mind) and even what kind of blog it is (or the blog's special icon, for Sophisticated Bloggers).

I was looking at my sitemeter stats and found that while my search strings aren't as fun as Shannon Stacey's are, they can amuse. Apparently, most people who find me randomly are searching for TV spoilers. Unfortunately for them, it's the shows I don't talk about that often. I also had "boys don't realize" and "secret sneaker liar" near the top of the list. The former took them to this post, the latter to a post that briefly mentioned the store by that name.

Mary tagged me with this meme.

I am going to list three categories of books: 5 MUST Read Books, 5 Books on Your Nightstand, and 5 Look For These Soon. Anyone I tag should put these same lists on their blog but SUBTRACT one book from each list and ADD one of their own. (I've highlighted my additions) Then they should tag at least 5 more bloggers. It will be fun to see how the lists change as it goes around the blogosphere. Please come back to this post and leave a comment so I can see how the lists are changing as they go around the blogosphere!

(Since this is Book Buzz…please keep your lists to titles released in 2007-2009.)

5 MUST Read Books:
Not Without Her Family by Beth Andrews
A Mile in My Flip-Flops by Melody Carlson
Cast in Stone by Kerry A. Jones
Yellow Moon by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Bobbie Faye's Very (very, very, very) Bad Day by Toni McGee Causey

5 Books on the Nightstand:
Last Dance at the Jitterbug Lounge by Pamela Morsi
Nightswimming by Rebecca James
Pleasure by Eric Jerome Dickey
From Harvey River by Lorna Goodison
The Queen's Bastard by CE Murphy

5 Look For These Soon:
Wanted by Shelley Shephard Gray
After the Fire: A True Story of Friendship and Survival by Robin Gaby Fisher
Midnight: A Gangster Love Story by Sister Souljah
A Firefighter in the Family by Trish Milburn
Stranger by Megan Hart

I tag anyone who wants to do it.

Oh, shoot. My day is almost over! Number Two will be here in 20 minutes and I haven't eaten lunch yet. :(

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Frustrations That Demonstrate How Good My Life Must Be If All I Have to Complain About Is This Petty S***.

Okay, the major one is not really petty.

I went to Barnes & Noble today after dropping the dog at the groomer. I wanted to pick up the Season 3 DVD for Supernatural, which came out today, and even though the 30% off that they advertise plus the 10% off I get from the preferred reader program don't bring the price as low as Target and Circuit City, I have a gift card that covers a lot of it, so I'd be paying less in real money.

But they didn't have it.

They had one copy they had special ordered for someone but they weren't stocking it. The clerk offered to order it, that it would come in 2-3 days, but I said "no, thanks" in a "don't bother" tone to drive home that they'd lost my business because of their shortsightedness.

Which of course cut off my nose to spite my face, because now what do I do? *sigh* I guess I'll order it from bn.com. It will be free shipping, and I can use the gift card, but it will take longer to get here. *sigh* again.

I have a writing dilemma that should really be an easy decision but has a bunch of factors playing into it.

When I took the dog to the groomer, they were doing construction in two different places and were alternating traffic, so it took me much longer to get there than it should have. I hate being late. HATE.

The holiday weekend means that my Netflix DVDs didn't get mailed back until today, so if my local center has the next disks I want, the earliest I can get them is Thursday, which means after that, I'll have to wait extra days because of the weekend so if I watch one each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I'll have to wait until Tuesday to get new ones again, and by then the TV shows will be on.

Stupid weekend.

I was just looking at my Netflix queue and it says I can upgrade to the next level (one more disk at a time) for only .42. That's because my plan renews in two days, when they would charge me $6 more for the next month. I actually contemplated it and was looking to see what the terms were, if I could downgrade right away, like, the day after they mailed my extra disk (the timing wouldn't really work, I'd have at least a month at the higher rate), but it had a reminder on my account that I'm part of the class action which means for my next billing cycle, I get upgraded for free! Yay!

Have I mentioned how much I hate my refrigerator? I tried to use Consumer Reports to guide my purchase, but no one ever has the model numbers that CR most recently reviewed, and the ones that were best rated or best buys were either too big to fit in my kitchen, or not the kind I want. Because I'm picky. I don't want grated shelves, I want glass ones. I want them adjustable. I want the freezer on top. And I don't want fancy stuff like the in-door water dispenser that I can't use without paying a boatload for plumbing hookup.

So I got the best option I could find, and it SUCKS. The frozen stuff is always freezer-burned, no matter how well I protect it. That never happened in the old freezer. Don't ask me for an explanation, because I can't give you one. A double-wrapped piece of meat should not be sporting chunks of frost after three days in the freezer. Hmmm...it just occurred to me that that could be a sign that things are thawing and refreezing. But no, I'd notice if anything was ever soft. It's not.

Also, the refrigerator area is HUGELY uneven. Stuff in the bottom and the back will freeze solid, while stuff in the center and top shelf will seem lukewarm to me. Not really lukewarm, like bacteria-growth temperature, but warmer than I like. I like my beverages and cheese to be COLD. But it's not, and the damned thing is too new to consider replacing, even if we had the money lying around to spend. If only I could justify claiming it as a business expense. I need them.

Last thing...

I hooked up our new DVR receiver downstairs, and moved the TiVo box upstairs. It's nice being able to pause upstairs now, and record a show (though we only have one satellite feed upstairs). But I'm not thrilled with the DirecTV DVR layout. It seems to take a lot more effort to do the same things. Some of it is a matter of adaptation, of course, but some is just more complicated. If I'd known, I might have actually paid money to buy a new TiVo receiver instead of taking the free one DirecTV offered.

Okay, enough complaining about petty s***. Tomorrow, I promise, I will have only good things to say in an upbeat manner. :)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Word Choice

My agent pointed readers to Elizabeth Bear's blog post this weekend, and I had a comment. She already had a ton of comments, though, and I was a little late, so I decided to turn it into a post.

As a reader, I want rich prose that informs the story. I don't want rich prose that is very enamored with itself and says "Hey! Look at this awesome turn of phrase! Aren't I beautiful?!" I read for story, not words. But I agree wholeheartedly that word choice is still important, that when she uses "drooped" no other word would do.

Which is why copyediting bugs me so much. I have been lucky in that my current publishers are very lenient in their editing. I had one story that I did a little battle on, over things I hadn't thought I would ever fight over but which I found far more important than I expected. Like I had one character say, "Ohmigod." The editor changed it to "Oh, my God," which does not convey the breathless excitement I intended. We compromised with "OhmyGod," which I still didn't like because "mi" with a short I and "my" with a Y do not sound the same. And it made me feel petty, but now Ms. Bear has made me feel vindicated.

But I've heard horror stories from friends about copyeditors who change voice, and change the meaning of sentences, and rewrite half the book, if not more. I believe in the collaborative relationship with editorial staff, but the burden is on the author to deliver the goods. When the average reader reads a flat sentence or section of a book and stops reading because they are no longer engaged, they blame the author. They don't think, "Oh, I bet the copyeditor changed some important stuff in there."

This is one of those "luck of the draw" things in this business, and one of my few real fears.


I was almost writing a big rant right here in this space. It will be only a partial rant, and I had to pick myself up off the floor before I could write it. The end part is actual praise for customer service.

No big deal, right? Except it's praise for AT&T.

I've always avoided AT&T. They had a history of screwing over their customers, back when they were not only a huge conglomerate but basically had no competition. My cell phone company was sold to AT&T, and for a while the company I wanted to switch to kept saying they had no coverage in my area, which was wrong, but I wouldn't call them (you know me). I just kept checking the website. Anyway, this spring they changed their website and I could get their service but they weren't offering reimbursement for the early termination fee anymore, so I waited for my contract term to be up. And then Number One was going to Holland and I will admit that AT&T does have the best signal coverage and it was the easiest way for her to keep in touch from overseas.

So I finally switched last month. When I called to activate my new phones, they told me AT&T hadn't yet released the numbers so I had to call back the next day. This week I got my last AT&T phone bill, and they charged me for service from 8/14 to 9/13, even though my records showed I'd switched to Credo on 8/13. So I called them. And they said according to the terms of my account, AT&T doesn't prorate the monthly service and my bill cycle ended 8/13 and I didn't switch until 8/14.

The bastards held my service hostage so they could bill me another $60+.

Vintage AT&T.

So I told him that my new company showed my service effective 8/13 and that it was one day and if they ever wanted me back as a customer, they'd remove that charge from the bill. He said it was policy and he couldn't do that. I asked for a supervisor. He assured me he had authority to address the issue and that it was true and correct and laid out right there in my terms of service. I got pretty loud and demanded a supervisor again. During the 15 minutes I was on hold (he put me on hold mid-sentence, too--I really ticked him off), I laid out my argument for the supervisor. But when the CSR came back on the line, he said yes, if I switch in the future, they would want me back, so he removed that fee.

I was really nice after that. :)

So it appears AT&T is at least attempting to balance its bastardness with good service, and if I do switch again--which is a possibility, since Credo, a reseller of Sprint, doesn't have the signal power of AT&T--they aren't automatically off my list.

Switching is a low possibility at the moment, because Credo gives 1% of my charges to charity, and I've been a long distance customer of theirs (formerly Working Assets Long Distance) for nearly 16 years, so I'm reducing my number of bills to be paid. But still. AT&T smartly did not burn our bridge, and now I'm praising them publicly instead of vilifying them.

Maybe corporate dickheads CAN learn something.