Tuesday, February 27, 2007
An Inconvenient Poof: I usually don't watch televised awards ceremonies, but I was sort of interested to watch the Oscars the other day, and I figured it'd be a nice break after working on my own movie-type project all day. So I was watching, and I was into it, and then poof -- my cable went out. And apparently, I wasn't the only one. I found this sad and funny, since the tv advertising campaign of my cable company talks about how much better cable is than the dish because cable won't go out in bad weather. It was raining. My cable was out.

I got sort of annoyed right off the bat, so I called the cable company and was treated to about five minutes of soft jazz before I actually got to talk to someone. But of course, it wasn't the person I needed to talk to, even though I was pretty sure I entered all the right numbers on the four-tiered menu system, so she said she'd transfer me to the right department. And then she hung up on me. Well, not hung up so much as transferred me to a busy signal (which I noticed I hadn't heard in a long time!). So I called back, punched the numbers again, listened to more soft jazz, and got to someone. I told her the problem, emphasized my compounded annoyance (missing the Oscars plus being hung up on), and she apologized, said she had to transfer me to the right department, and then gave me the busy signal again. Bastards!

So, since I couldn't watch the Oscars, I fired off a steamed yet articulate email to the cable company in which I blasted their deplorable customer service and rather ironic marketing plan. I got a form letter back. I don't even think they care. My cable started working again about an hour later, but I had missed Alan Arkin, and really, his was the most up-for-grabs category, plus he was really funny in LMS, and I would have really liked to have seen him.

Monday, February 26, 2007
A nice day off, but I'm sorry: nothing.

Thursday, February 22, 2007
It sounds like a lot of people are getting all in a huff about daylight saving (not savings) being moved up to March starting this year, but not me. Apparently, the big complaint has to do with computers being programmed to not switch to daylight saving time until April, thereby potentially throwing off all computer-based calendars and appointment books. Frankly, this sounds a little to much like the false Y2K hype for my taste, and besides, I will gladly take an extra hour of light in the early evening. The only downside to this that I can forsee is that it'll be dark outside until much later. These days, sunrise is around 7:25 in the morning. I leave for work a few minutes before that, and just in the past week it's been light as I'm driving in. That time will get a bit earlier in the coming weeks, but once we push the clocks ahead an hour, the sun won't come up until around 8. So it means a few more weeks of driving to work in the dark. But that's okay. I'll take the extra hour of daylight later in the day, when I'm not so sleepy.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007
For the past five or six days, I haven't been able to hear very well out of my right ear. At first I thought I was getting sick, but when I didn't get sick, I starting thinking of other things it might be. Then I came to the realization that it's probably just (and this is kind of gross) wax. Great. Now I'm one of those people.

So I had to get rid of it, partially because it's kind of annoying, but mostly because I hate the way I sound when my voice is bouncing around inside my head as I'm speaking, and with a full-time teaching job and a part-time teaching job, I talk a lot. (I have, however, been avoiding the phone as much as possible.) My first thought was to do it naturally, so I went to the health food store and bought an ear candle. I had heard people talk about these, and while sticking a candle in my ear initially sounded ridiculous, I then thought back to grade 12 physics, and remembered something about high pressure and low pressure, and how heat affects those, and how the cylinder shape would come into play, and while all the dots didn't exactly connect in my head (because it's been like 15 years since high school physics), it seemed plausible enough. I got the candle. This was on Friday, and that night, Paul sat with me to make sure I didn't burn the couch or anything, and he lit the candle, and I laid there on my side with a freaking open flame shooting out of my ear. It felt a little tingly inside, and a little crackly, but when it burned down and I took it out, my ear was still clogged. It was maybe slightly better, but it was obvious that this was not a solution. And also maybe that I need to brush up on my physics, because as it turns out, you really do need to know that kind of stuff.

So the ear candle didn't work, and I didn't want to go to the doctor, so I went to the drug store and spent five bucks on a tube of slimy drops that you put in your ear to "break up" the wax. Great. It says on the tube that you may want to tilt your head for a few minutes to let the stuff work its way into your ear. What it most definitely does not say is that if you don't lie on your side for a good 20 minutes, the stuff will ooze out and down your neck and be just a general gross mess. Once I figured that out, though, it was smooth sailing.

It's been a few days of, umm, treatments, and while the problem hasn't completely gone away, it is getting better. I can actually feel stuff breaking up, similar to how it feels when your chest is all congested and it starts to break up and go away. Unfortuantely, with your ears, you can't just cough the excess wax out, so I've been using lots of q-tips, and it looks like I'm pulling pancake syrup out of there (gross, sorry), but at least it's working. I hope to be back to full hearing real soon, and I hope to never have to deal with this again. In fact, if anyone wants a slightly used tube of ear goo, you can have mine.

Friday, February 16, 2007
As if all this cold weather and snow -- just enough snow to be annoying, but no, not enough snow to cancel school or anything -- weren't enough, yesterday I hit a patch of black ice, swerved around, and rammed the front of my car right into a snow bank. I'm perfectly fine, and there weren't any other cars involved, and I was going only 25 when this happened, so I feel kind of lucky that it was a fairly minor incident. And, I was able to steer my car a bit before I hit the snow, so I didn't get it head-on. I glanced it pretty good on the front passenger side, though, and while the impact wasn't too severe (my air bags never popped, and the hood didn't crumple or anything), it was severe enough to do $2300 worth of damage to my front bumper. (I couldn't believe it was that much either, since the car's completely driveable.)

But again, I didn't get hurt, or even a little sore, and if there's one good side to all the snow we've been having here lately, it's that all that snow was built up along the side of the road and really helped to cushion the impact; if it hadn't been there, I would have hit the concrete edging and probably done much more serious damage to the car and to myself. In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have been on that backroad during such conditions in the first place: it's very curvy, and it's tree-covered, which means no direct sunlight, so any moisture freezes on a 12-degree day like yesterday, and I knew from experience that there were lots of slippery patches. But I was on the backroad, and it happened, and there was nothing I could do. I'm actually not too shaken up about it. More disappointed than anything, especially at having to pay my $500 deductible for something I can't help but think wasn't my fault. Yeah, the insurance company doesn't see it that way, but I was obeying the speed limit, I was sober, and I was obeying all posted signs and precautions.

The one somewhat bright spot in all of this was the help I received. After I got out to survey the damage, I got back in my car and tried to back up and drive away, but my passenger-side wheels were stuck in the snow. A few cars drove by, some much faster than the 25 mph limit, and the drivers all stared at me, but aside from one lady who slowed down to ask if I was okay, no one stopped. And then this man and his teenage son came bounding down from the house up the hill, and they had shovels, and they cleared all the snow away from my car for me and pushed me out and were just generally very nice about everything. I thanked them profusely for their help, and I am thinking that at some point in the next few days I will stop by with a thank you card and a box of edible thank yous from one of the local bakeries.

So yeah. I am ready for spring -- or at least ready for the temperature to get over 32 degrees to melt some of this snow and ice and brownish wintry gunk on the roads.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007
After yesterday's post on old Sesame Street clips, it got me thinking about this goofy stop motion animation that used to air on Nickelodeon when I was younger. I remembered it being vaguely European and about a boy and a girl and having a really catchy theme song that I could hum, but that's about it. I did some looking around this morning and found it: Chapi Chapo. (I think the title refers to a girl and a boy in a hat; I don't know French, but this makes sense to me, since I'm pretty sure chapeaux means hat.) The story lines of the cartoons are kind of silly, but they're excellent examples of stop motion, and very colorful, and that theme song is just so catchy! I remember humming it a lot when I was younger and never being too sure of what the hell those clay kids were saying. Now I know why: the lyrics are a mixture of French babytalk and nonsense. Anyway, here's a full episode; more at You Tube.

Monday, February 12, 2007
You know how when you have a song that you heard once stuck in your head, and you can't get it out, and you have to hear it, but you can't find it, and then you start wondering if you ever really heard the song at all or just imagined it? Maybe you do know. Anyway, that's been the case for me and the kooky llama song they used to play on Sesame Street. I've had that song in my head since I was about three, but I hadn't really heard it since. Over the summer, I poked around You Tube to see if anyone had posted an old clip, but no one had. And then yesterday I was telling Paul about it, and how the song accompanied a short film of some girl walking through some residential streets in Manhattan with her pet llama on a leash, and he looked at me like I was nuts. Granted, the idea of someone walking around Manhattan with a somewhat exotic animal on a leash is a little out of the ordinary, but still, I didn't think I was nuts. So today I looked for it on You Tube again, and here it is! Finally. (One comment suggests it sounds like a Randy Newman song, and wow, it really does!) So I feel better now. I know I'm not nuts!

And just for good measure (and since I had it on my mind), here's a Teeny Little Super Guy clip. You remember - the strange-talking cartoon character on a glass tumbler? It'll come back to you.

Saturday, February 10, 2007
We just saw Fast Food Nation and it was just okay. It brought up some good points that were maybe less obvious than I was expecting, like, the whole business and slaughterhouse and immigration aspects of the industry, as opposed to the redundant, hey-guys-this-food-is-bad-for-you side of the story. It didn't even go into that, as a matter of fact. And okay, no, I'm not going to eat a Whopper anytime soon (or probably ever), but as a film, Fast Food Nation was pretty disjointed. Just too many storylines, too many loose ends, and no satisfying finish. I guess with the fast food industry, there can be no satisfying finish (except, of course, for the ultimate satisfying finish, but that would probably mean the end of capitalism as we know it), but it was still a little frustrating to watch.

Oh, and Avril Lavigne was in it, and while she was definitely a decent actor, seeing her totally reminded me of this time when I went to the PBS station in Grand Rapids to meet with the programming director, and she introduced me to her intern, who I was told was rather eager to meet me, though I had no idea why. But the intern, upon first seeing me, developed a look of confusion that slowly turned to what seemed to be disappointment. "This is Amy Levine," the programming director said to the intern. "Oh," said the intern. "What?" asked the programming director.

Apparently, the intern thought she would be meeting Avril Lavigne. Hey, I'd be disappointed too.

Thursday, February 8, 2007
It's weeks like this one when you think it will never get warm. I hate that all anyone is talking about is how incredibly cold it's been, but when temperatures on the positive side of the thermometer are a big deal, nothing else seems important. We did get two days off of work because of it. I couldn't believe they closed schools two days in a row because of a little cold, but they did, and I was not complaining. I just wish someone had done that when I was in school, because I remember waiting for the bus in negative temperatures. Are kids more fragile these days? Or are administrators more afraid of sue-happy parents? I think it might be the latter.

Monday, February 5, 2007
The bad news is that we're getting hit with a cold snap of epic proportions. No joke, it is ungodly cold outside. And windy. And snowy. But mostly cold. Last night it got down to 15 below. Today we barely broke out of single digits; I think it was 10 for about a half hour before the temperature slipped back under. Going outside means serious pain in the face and the extremities, and staying inside means fleece-lined pants, thick socks, several shirts, and a hat. Inside. It is cold.

The good news? As long as I'm inside, I kind of don't mind being shut in. There's lots to do around the house, and I cooked a big turkey dinner yesterday, which made the weather outside seem almost appropriate. And it takes more than a few days for me to get cabin fever (though our cat is nearly delirious with boredom and has taken to stalking us). And, and, the wind chills were so low this morning that they cancelled schools! Like, all over the region! Apparently, it's too dangerous to let the kids wait for the bus when the wind chills get lower than 20 below. And, the roads are all icy to boot, mainly because (and I just learned this today) salt will only help melt snow and ice if it's 18 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. So, chilly wind plus messy streets all adds up to me getting a lovely day off. Good news indeed.

What's sad about all of this is that I look at the long-term forecast, see that it's supposed to be 30 degrees next Tuesday, and think that 30 sounds warm.

Thursday, February 1, 2007
I like Aqua Teen Hunger Force a lot, so when I heard that yesterday's bomb scare in Boston turned out to be a guerilla marketing campaign for the new season of ATHF, I had to laugh. That is some good publicity-getting! But now the proverbial shit is hitting the even more proverbial fan, and the higher-ups in Boston are none too pleased, and they want apologies and a whole lengthy explanation of just what exactly this Aqua Velvet Force thing is. (Can you just imagine those meetings? "So you're telling me that a milkshake, a bag of fries, and a meatball are the main characters?" "Actually, sir, it's a meat wad." "I'll give you a meat wad, you snarky bastard!" Oh man. They should sell tickets.)

In any case, I think that while yes, the Adult Swim people who commissioned this marketing campaign probably should have stepped forward sooner to maybe tell the Boston police to re-open the bridges and let the boats down the Charles because there was no bomb scare, and that maybe they should offer an apology, I think maybe the Boston city officials are blowing this out of proportion, with all the lawsuits and outrage and everything. First of all, everyone needs to calm down. We're so on edge about terrorism, and no matter how much our unfortunate president reminds us of his conquests against terrorists, we as a country are obviously not fully convinced. They're out there, they're on our territory, and they're going to do bad things. But second of all, and perhaps most importantly, I think this is really a case of misinterpretation, and now it is too late for the Boston city people to turn back, for fear of looking stupid and embarrassed, because they are not cool enough to know that Aqua Teen Hunger Force totally rocks! Any Aqua Teen fan would have recognized the characters in those ads, but because Boston city officials probably watch CSI and then go to bed at a reasonable hour and don't rent or buy cartoons on DVD, they don't know about ATHF. So they saw these signs, interpreted them wrong, closed down half the city, and were then told, oh, that's a freakin' ad for a freakin' cartoon, and they know that they would have looked incredibly dumb and incompetent if they would have apologized and admitted their own ignorance. So they did what they had to do: they blamed the other guy.

It's fun to watch this all play out. And, I'll bet most of the Boston officials will start watching Aqua Teen, just to see what all the fuss is/was about. So will a lot of people, I'll bet. And they should, because Aqua Teen is cool. Number one in the hood, G.

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