Her Ladyship

Notes from the gutter.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Now this is getting sad

You almost feel for the guy - Bush seems to be groping around, desperately trying to hit on the right words that will dissipate the growing tide of anger and resentment about the morass in Iraq:

“Bush Calls Iraq War Moral Equivalent Of Allies' WWII Fight Against The Axis,” Washington Post, August 31, 2005.

But then you see the truth seeping out:

“Bush Offers Fresh Reason To Press Fight In Iraq: Oil. American troops must protect Iraq's vast supply, the President said, or extremists could take it over,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 31, 2005.

[No comment about SUVs - none necessary]

And then you read a heartbreaking story and you get mad all over again:

"In Iraq, Troops Watch And Fret About Home: Louisiana National Guard soldiers have 'a hard time' not knowing who survived hurricane," Los Angeles Times, August 31, 2005.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Gettin' old

On Sunday, I was sitting peacefully in my living room, reading the latest issue of the Washington City Paper and waiting for the other members of my book club* to come over. I started to get up to pull the little wannabe quiches I'd made out of the oven and as I leaned forward to hoist myself off my chaise lounge, I felt something go sproing in my back. Wuh-oh.

Friends, that is never a good thing. The spasm got worse throughout book club and by Monday morning, I couldn't handle standing up. I felt ridiculous - like I was an Old Old Person - but I had to call in sick for work as a result of my back. I'm sure my colleagues were like jesus, if you want to have a three-day weekend, just take one already - enough with the made-up illnesses! Except mine was for real. Lame, yes, but an honest-to-god ailment.

At any rate, copious applications of Tiger Balm put me on the road to recovery. Thanks dude!

* Our book club's latest discussion was T.C. Boyle's The Tortilla Curtain. That book is one of the best depictions of race relations in Los Angeles, even if it is nearly a decade old, and a great read to boot (think I finished it in under three hours). Check it out.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Toronto strikes again

The moment I've been dreading all summer finally came: I got my cell phone bill from when I was in Italy. I hadn't thought it would be so bad, since after last year's debacle where I rang up over $200 worth of phone calls from Malta, I'd resolved to cool it with the international calls and use my phone merely as a way of checking in from abroad. But I was still a bit leery of getting hosed. And I did.

The lowest part of my bill? Phone calls from Italy to the States. It wasn't that bad, particularly since I'd taken special care to keep each call's length in the single digits.

The second highest part of my bill? Blasted text-messages. And here I thought I was being so sly and saving money by texting The Texan instead of calling him. Who'd have thought that international text messages would cost seven times as much as domestic ones? Well, anyone who'd bothered to check it out ahead of time, so clearly not me.

But once again, Toronto Airport reaches out and slaps me upside the head with the highest part of my bill being the roaming charges on calls placed while I was stuck there for seven hours. Goddamn you, you stupid fucking airport. As if shuffling around in airport hell after a trans-atlantic flight doesn't blow enough, I get reamed with these extra charges. And another thing: Why does Canada get the United States' international country code if it's going to be considered far enough away so that I get roaming charges? One or the other, folks. You can't have it both ways.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Covered with hugs and kisses

The Hershey's chocolate kind, that is.

Sometimes I love working in an office.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Maybe the dog ate it

Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Penn., is a great American. Just ask him - he'd be happy to tell you all about how he and he alone has bulwarked up our democracy. It is only thanks to his dogged determination that our government continues to function. Apparently.

His latest contretemps is in regards to the age-old query, what did we know and when did we know it? Weldon makes the claim in his book which came out this past spring, Countdown to Terror, that a data-mining project called Able Danger identified Mohammed Atta in January or February 2000. He is quite adamant about it. However, when called upon to provide proof, things get a bit dicey.

His first witness, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, was brought up as evidence of this allegation. He supposedly knew of a powerpoint presentation of Able Danger's findings. But as it turns out, he never saw the slide in question - he was just told about it. Er, okay.

The second witness was Capt. Scott Phillpott who stepped forward this week. He too alleges that Atta was fingered by Able Danger as a threat, but he refuses to explain further.

Well, maybe a third witness will help things out. And this is where it gets ridiculous.

Weldon pulled out of his bag of tricks a former contractor named James Smith who supposedly created the powerpoint presentation in question. Great - something that nuclear you should have plenty of copies of, right? Just in case? If nothing else, DC residents have perfected the fine art of covering their asses.

Except...no. According to yesterday's New York Times, "Mr. Smith said that he had retained a copy of the chart until last year and that it had been posted on his office wall at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. He said it had become stuck to the wall and was impossible to remove when he switched jobs."

Oh come now. Are they handing out superglue at Pentagon offices these days or what? Really.

One final note: I find it highly amusing that the bone of contention here is a powerpoint presentation. DoD is filled with Powerpoint Rangers who live and die by their software of choice. It figures that it would be key in yet another B-list Washington controversy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Back in bidness

Well, real-life picks back up where it left off last week. After spending a week out of the office on a business trip, I decided to be the dedicated professional that I am and take a couple of days off because The Texan unexpectedly got a last-minute ticket out to DC. So I spent the last couple of days squiring him about town, force-feeding him ethnic foods and introducing him to every single person I've ever met or thought about meeting here in Washington. Now, sadly, it's back to the grind.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Alabama slammers

Anyone know what goes into them? Guess I'll find out. I'm leaving in a few minutes for a whirl-wind work trip to Alabama. Um, woo? No, it should be a good trip. I just have to laugh: one of my friends just got back from three weeks in Sarajevo; another came back from a week+ in Turkey. I get to go to our nation's heartland. See everyone on Friday.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Nosiness pays off

I love my iPod, truly I do. I travel with it and its little charger all the time just so I don't ever have to be without music. (Although don't get me started on its so-called "shuffle" function. I have over 1200 songs and you have to play three in a row off of the same album? For shame!) But sometimes, it's good to unplug and listen to what's going on around you.

Hiking home after work last night, I was without my iPod. This was intentional: I've decided the iPod stays home on days that I don't start off my day with a trip to the gym. Yes, this is perhaps a bit anal, but at least it means one less decision I have to make in the morning. And given my half-ass approach to working out, I end up only getting to listen to my iPod maybe one or two times a week.

I was idly running over what I would have for dinner and calculating how quickly I could get everything ready when I overheard a guy behind me say something about "Monopoly." Turned out he and his buddy were exchanging strategies for how to kick ass and take names at Monopoly. I never really had any game plan while playing, other than to not end up bankrupt. Actually, having typed that, I realize that that kind of is my current financial strategy too.

So I listen in. Then they segue seamlessly to hip dive bars in the neighborhood...dive bars overseas....and international travel. It was just one of those rare conversations between two strangers that is interesting to listen to. Usually, they're talking about people/situations I don't know, or they're god-awful boring, or one of them has an annoying voice (I have a perfectly mellifluous voice, why do you ask?). Not these two guys. There definitely was an alpha who was doing most of the talking, with the beta responding and adding to his statements.

I spent a good ten minutes picking up my pace so that I could remain *just* in front of them. Because they couldn't see me, I was able to laugh/roll my eyes/etc with impunity at what they were saying. Finally, they stopped to look at the DVD rental box in Adams-Morgan, and I reluctantly left them behind. I did think about pretending to root around in my bag so that I could stall long enough to keep traipsing along with them, but I decided that would be somewhat stalker-ish. I continued on my way, surrounded by silence again.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

And then there was one

Part of the fun of working in the office is liberating office supplies, right? What do you do when your office is sadly lacking the basic necessities? We have eleventy-billion binder clips but mysteriously no pens. I am down to my last one - and it's MINE too, I nicked it from a restaurant that was "celebrating" the last presidential inauguration. I guess I could buy my own, but something deep inside of me won't let me do that. It would be admitting defeat. Instead, I'm going to see how far I can eke out this last pen. Or I might take a stroll around the office to see if anyone foolishly left some pens unattended.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Her Ladyship: 1; Toilet seat: eh, 1/2

The other night things became Un-befucking-acceptable. My toilet seat was mocking my complete lack of handyman (-person? -woman? oh, forget it) skillz and I Could. Not. Take. It. Not one more minute.

See, here's the deal. I have no idea of how long it's been there, but I've lived in my condo for five-plus years and it was benignly present when I moved in. So it's probably getting up there in toilet seat years. And I really can't be all that upset with it for its paint finally giving up the ghost and starting to bubble/chip away. I noticed that for the first time back in, oh shit, March. Yes, I bought the toilet seat cover right before Easter (I'm sure Our Lord doesn't mind me back-dating things like that) and intended to swap things out, real quick-like.

However, I was stumped by the damn screws. I could not figure out how to get them to, well, unscrew. I actually do have a tool kit, and it's not even a girly pink. It's an, er, manly turquoise green. So I had the proper tools and everything. But that toilet seat was not budging.

I should probably take a step back and say in my house growing up, while my parents were extremely frugal about most things, any fix-ings that required help above a few squirts of WD40 meant that a professional would be called in. Not drawing on a strong reservoir of ability here, is what I'm saying.

So while on the phone with The Texan the other night, I had had it. He made the mistake of mentioning how he used to do general contracting and plumbing work. My eyes lit up, and I asked, nay, DEMANDED that he figure out over the phone why my toilet seat's screws were being so obstinate. Instead of hanging up and finding a sane girlfriend, he instead took the plunge (ha ha) and walked me through it. For 45 minutes. "Easy installation" my ass. I spent the better part of an hour getting increasingly shrill and petulant about the toilet seat, the toilet, and bolts in general.

As the clock approached 2AM, I finally turned the last screw and got my new toilet seat completely installed. Not that I'm in the least biased, but I have to say this: It's so beautiful. Brings a tear to my eye. Consider this a warning: visitors, you are expected to bow and scrape before it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A hard-learned lesson

No matter how much you try to convince yourself otherwise, it is always much easier just to run back upstairs and grab an umbrella rather than attempt to duck raindrops.

Monday, August 08, 2005

I'm all growned up now

Saturday, I trekked down to the DMV to do something for the fourth and I hope to god the final time: take my driver learner's permit test. Now, you might read that and think jesus christ, it's not that hard of a test, what's wrong with you?

I'll have you know that I have passed it each time I've taken it. It's just that things kinda get in the way when it comes to doing the behind-the-wheel test.

Growing up in southern California, you absolutely, positively had to have a driver's license. LA ostensibly has public transportation but it's there more in name than actuality. If you don't drive, you really can't get around. So I took driver's ed in summer school when I was 15 and triumphantly passed my learner's permit test. As soon as I turned 16, I signed up to take the behind-the-wheel test...and failed. Spectacularly. I'd like to blame it on the fact that the only thing I'd eaten that day was a bag of chips, but let's be honest: I probably wasn't a very good driver. You'd have to be awful to get a 37.

Battered and bruised, I practiced for a few more months and then tried again. This time I got a 97. Boo-ya! Many happy years of driving commence.

Then I move away to Italy and then DC, two places where I didn't need a driver's license. I grow lazy and complacent - so much so that I allow my driver's license to expire. Now, if you do that, you have a three-month window in which you can pay some sort of fee and get it re-upped, even if it's from another state. But after that window has closed, it's so sad, too bad my friends. You have to start over.

I believe I've mentioned my peccadilloes with my learner's permit here before (don't feel like linking to the specific entry). Suffice it to say, I keep getting my learner's permit and then letting it expire before going behind the wheel.

Not any more. This I vow: I will have my driver's license before the year is over.

And just to wipe that smirk off of your face, here are a few sample questions from the study test:

How close to the intersection may you park on the non-approach side of a one-way street?
a) 10 feet
b) 25 feet
c) 40 feet

How much notice is your insurance company required to give you before canceling your liability insurance?
a) 10 days
b) None
c) 30 days

When approaching a stopped school bus with alternately flashing red lights from the opposite direction on a street with a median strip divider, the driver of a vehicle should:
a) Stop not less than 15 feet from the bus
b) Proceed with caution
c) Stop not less than 7 feet from the bus

These all were admittedly confusingly written. My personal favorite is the one that does a completely unsubtle plug for the DMV:

Why are drivers licensed?
a) To make more money for the city
b) To identify them for the police
c) To keep unsafe drivers from driving.

It's only because the city loves you so much that it wants to make sure all of its precious angel inhabitants are completely secure.

At any rate, I'm signed up to take the behind-the-wheel test on Monday, Sept. 12. Soon I will have the capability that most teenagers take for granted: I will legally be allowed to operate a motor vehicle.

Friday, August 05, 2005

80s trivia

I almost feel foolish for having to ask this, but pop quiz, hotshot: what movie is this conversation from?

Man #1: Married?
Man #2: Yes, married!

If it takes you more than .3 milliseconds to figure that out, you clearly were not a child of the 80s.

One of my closest and oldest friends is getting married this fall and asked me to be in her wedding. The maid of honor, another one of my closest and oldest friends, scheduled the bridal shower on Labor Day weekend so I could make it to LA. Other than that, I was not really involved in the shower planning itself. So when my mom brought up that there was something unusual on the invitation she received, I had no idea what she was talking about. All she and my dad would say was that there was something strange tacked on the end.

So I had them read the invite to me over the phone. All of it was your regular shower wording, until the bitter end, where it had the dialogue from above. As soon as my mom started reading it, I started laughing. Hard. Clearly my parents have not memorized all of "Sixteen Candles." I tried to explain to them the scene, but it was too tiresome and I left it at "Inside joke." One of the many things I regret about not having cable is that I miss getting to watch "Sixteen Candles" at any time of the day or night, as it is always, and I mean ALWAYS, on at least two channels simultaneously. And while some of it seems horribly racist - I mean, my god, Long Duck Dong's character is breathtakingly offensive - somehow, the movie's familiarity is comforting. And who hasn't dreamed of a Jake Ryan coming to pick them up in a red convertible? I have a colleague who swears he's ruined her for real-life men.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Hep cats

Last night, Z-Ditty and I went to Bossa to go hear a friend spin in their upstairs room. I love that place - it's a firetrap, with the open flames from candles scattered about all the rooms and even along the stairs, but it's got (and you'll excuse the Californian coming out in me) such a great vibe. Low-slung couches and chairs are covered with brightly-colored fabrics, the walls are peppered with outsider art, and it's always got great music going on. The background for when I got dumped there last year came from a lively salsa band. There's nothing more disconcerting than to be sobbing in the corner and yet keep catching glimpses of happy couples whirling away in the corners of your eye.


I really do like it. And last night it was even cooler than normal. In addition to the DJ spinning reggae/electronica, they had a guy on a mike singing along with it, or as much as you can sing along with reggae. Full-disclosure: not a huge reggae fan, I peaked in 1987 with "Red Red Wine," and I know that true reggae lovers would rather rip their ears off than listen to UB40. But this guy was good. Plus they had someone painting in a corner, I guess as a way of doing performance art, and not one but two bongo drums.

One of the bongo-players was sitting right next to me. He'd chatted earlier, so I figured it was safe to lean over and ask him if he had received training on the bongos. Turns out you don't need it - just rhythm in your heart. That I don't have, but he let me play the bongos anyways. Z-Ditty was much better at it. At any rate, now I am officially a hippie. All I need is my hacky-sack and some clove cigs and I'll be all set.

Along those lines, in my new life as a hippie (and also partially because I was a wee bit tired this morning), I decided not to wash my hair today. And of course I got tapped to go do an interview. This happens every time I opt out of grooming myself properly. I should skip showers for a week - I'd probably end up on CNN. Let's hope they have some serious shine-control makeup at the studio.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Know what's fun?

Shopping for a home equity loan, that's what. Even more fun: casting about for insurance. And best of all? Re-doing your resume. Loyal readers, all twelve of you, I was very distracted today. Apologies.

One comment, though: that airplane going into the ravine at Toronto Airport? That place is cursed, CURSED I tell you.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Her Ladyship of the Bleeding Gums

Just got back from the dentist. I think I'm going to have to drink my dinner tonight - wow are my gums sore. While I have freakishly good teeth, my gums leave something to be desired.

No, seriously, my teeth are a dentist's wet dream. Outside of having worn braces for two years while in junior high, I do very little to my teeth. And yet every time I go to the dentist, they make a big fuss over how beautiful and perfect they are. Of course, there is the option that they're blowing hot air up my ass, but I like to think that it's more a situation of from god's mouth to my ears.

I do feel kinda guilty about this, because I can't even thank genetics for this. My poor sister has had root canal after root canal - to the point where she invited her oral surgeon to her wedding.

But my gums are an entirely different story. I totally deserve it too since I don't floss. At all. And my dentist's office is so damn nice about the whole thing - always giving me the latest and greatest dental technology in the hopes that maybe this will be the breakthrough needed to get me going. Now they apparently have "soft" floss, for those of us whose gums are beyond the pale. Let's hope that this does the trick, because OUCH.

Monday, August 01, 2005

What is this floppy you speak of?

Working on a project today, I had need for a file that I'd last used a few years ago. The only place I could remember seeing it was on a floppy disk stowed carelessly in the bottom of my unmentionables drawer (you know, the place where you keep the aspirin, cough drops, and various other medical sundries in order to take care of any contingency that would arise at the office). I dutifully dug it out, leaned over to insert it in my hard-drive...and realized that I had no freakin clue where to put it. In the eleven+ months that I've had this hard-drive, I've never had to use a floppy. I searched all around the equipment and even consulted with a co-worker but no luck. Could not find it. I ended up having to get a co-worker to open the disk up for me, and, 20 minutes later, discovered that the file I wanted wasn't even on there. Dammit.

Absolutely nothing original in what I'm about to say, but it amazes me how much things have changed. There was a time when everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, was saved on a floppy and then backed up on my hard-drive. There was a time when a floppy meant one of those dinner plate-sized discs (my parents still have an Apple IIE that works and uses those. I've threatened my dad with severe harm if he ever gets rid of that museum piece). There was a time when, if you wanted to use Microsoft, you had to go through a whole song and dance routine with C:: and dear god I don't even want to think about it. It was just really really painful and counterintuitive.

When I went to college, my friends and I had two options for how we wanted to write our papers - okay, three. There was, of course, the old-school typewriter, but even that was fading out. The more technologically savvy of us couldn't decide between a word processor (how quaint!) and an actual computer. I know people who got a word processor and used that for most of college. I waited until my second year, at which point I got an Apple powerbook. That thing would break your toe if dropped on it - it was quite the clunker - but it got me through all of undergrad, plus grad school, plus surviving transportation abroad and that wacky European electrical current. I turned it over to my dad reluctantly upon graduation so that he could play games on it. Yes, I know they make actual game consoles that are a lot faster and lighter than a powerbook, but he requested it, so who was I to deny him that pleasure?

Thinking back even further takes me to the Apple IIE's dot matrix printer that would always give me away when I procrastinated in high school and tell my mom's alert ears that I'd stayed up far too late and was trying to quietly print a paper at 3am. My mom fought that computer for years but in the end, they came to an uneasy detente and up to a few years ago, even when my dad had gotten a much better computer that was easier to use, still insisted on the Apple IIE. Now that she's retired, she assiduously avoids all things electric and I have learned that when I send emails to the family I have to include instructions "Print for mom," because otherwise she won't see them.

When I was in 5th grade, the be-all and end-all entertainment in our classroom was the computer game "Oregon Trail." Never mind that it was an educational game where you nearly always died of dysentery half-way across the United States - it was a (semi-)interactive computer game, something few of us had experienced, and its rarity made it that much cooler in our eyes.

But my very first memory of a computer was in the third grade. Someone wheeled a ginormous contraption into our classroom and they asked if anyone knew what it was. Like three kids raised their hands, and only one of them knew how to use one. We watched with awe as one of our own made the blue screen come to life.

Then again, given how often I've stood aside with my thumbs up my ass and waited for someone to awaken the slumbering beast at my desk, I grudgingly have to admit that some things haven't changed.