The 24-hour economy

Dear Yahoo! Travel:

Thanks so much for being concerned about my financial security. It's great that you noticed that the phone number I provided was different than the one on my credit card account. And don't get me wrong, it was nice of you to call and check, but did you have to do it at FOUR IN THE MOTHER-EFFIN MORNING!?

I know you're in India, but jeez, a girl needs her beauty rest.


It is to laugh, oui?

Al Zarqawi's Mom's Blog

Susan Sarandon offered to take me rollerblading in the park. I like her because she is older than me. She introduced me to someone named David Crosby. He smelled like death and excrement. And that makes me hungry. Perhaps room service will have something that i will like. I enjoy dried leaves and the flesh of small birds. If they don't have either, then they will die. Slowly - I predict!

Google Reader

Looks like Google fixed a few of my complaints in Reader, but I'm still sticking with Bloglines for now.

Next Time, Sedation Dentistry

Dear Dental Hygienist:

Thanks for humming a little tune as you scraped the living shit out of my gums today. It's always nice to have some music while you watch the copious amounts of blood going through the suction machine. And I appreciated the tiny amount of topical anesthetic you put on there, which brought the pain down to a nice stabbing level, rather than the intense misery I felt last time.

Am I getting old and decrepit, or are you just a hardass? My previous cleanings were simple affairs. Sure, there might have been a tiny bit of bleeding, and I always got a lecture about not flossing enough, but I never felt like crying before. Why am I reminded of Martin Amis when I visit you?

You might think that I would resolve to change my ways and start taking better care of my teeth, but I think we both know that's not going to happen. So start sharpening up those pokey tools and stock up on gauze. My inflamed gums and I will be back to see you in January.


Goodbye Google Reader

Dear Google Reader:

Just wanted to let you know that I've decided to go back to Bloglines. I really like your smooth interface, the way you can star posts and publish them on your Web site, and your blog search, but I find it too hard to organize my feeds. You also seem a little slow in retrieving new posts, and I really hate that you don't have a "mark all read" button. You're still in beta, so there's still hope. Maybe I'll come back when you've got your shit together.

Love, Jennifer

P.S. I'm not mad, just disappointed. Your siblings, Google Notebook and Google Desktop, are awesome. I use them all the time. Why can't you be more like them?

Cats That Look Like Hitler

Once, long ago, we went to an animal shelter in West L.A. to visit the prisoners. There, among the strays, we found a cat that bore a striking resemblance to a certain homicidal dictator. Since then, we've always regretted not taking little Adolf home with us. Now I can remember him at Hitler cats!, where he and his brethren are given the attention they so richly deserve. Finally, right?

Dear Evil Discussor

I must spread the word about the Evil Discussor blog. I wish I could write like that.

Getting Things Done On Paper

I've gotten so much accomplished in the last few days since I switched to a paper-based version of Getting Things Done! There's something magical about writing tasks down on a list and crossing them off when they're finished. Who knew?

Today's time waster

3D Logic game. I was up to level 19 last night when my mind started to turn to mush and I had to go back to my usual practice of watching endless reruns of Forensic Files.

Technorati Tags

Thanks to Consuming Experience for teaching me how to include Technorati tags on my blog and for giving me a new way to waste time.

LA Opera's La Traviata

It's a story as old as time. Boy meets girl, boy's father forces girl to abandon boy so that his sister can get married, boy reconciles with girl just before she dies of tuberculosis. As Alan Chapman said in the pre-show talk, "It's opera. Someone's got to die."

I had heard some grumbling about the fact that the L.A. Opera's version was set in the 1920s, but I thought it worked really well. The set design was gorgeous, and the brief dance pieces were great. Elizabeth Futral, as Violetta, and Joseph Calleja, as Alfredo, did themselves proud. I didn't fall asleep even once.

Getting Things Done

My name is Jennifer and I am an office supply fetishist. When I go into a stationery store, I must fondle every planner and address book, stare at the pen selection for hours, and rationalize various reasons why I need to buy a few more notebooks. It takes genuine self restraint not to add to the piles of Post It notes, stickers, and rubber stamps in my overflowing office. At work I love to go in the supply room and pick out new steno pads and glue sticks.

I'm also an INTP, and I love to create new organizational systems for myself. Unfortunately, I love creating the systems more than actually using them, so I sometimes find myself organizing and reorganizing rather than actually doing anything productive.

A few months ago I went to a day-long seminar on David Allen's Getting Things Done regime, which was right up my alley. I loved how simple and realistic it was, and decided to implement it using Outlook. I've been using the Outlook-based system for a while now, and it's worked fairly well. At home I have an inbox on my desk where I throw all my mail, receipts, and notes. Once or twice a week I go through it and throw stuff away, add new items to my task list, and file important backup. At work, since I'm mostly sitting at the computer, everything goes straight to Outlook. I take meeting notes on paper, then go back to my office and enter action items on the to do list and important information into my Google Notebook. My office is so clean that no one believes I do any work.

I keep my Outlook tasks, calendar, and contacts on a HP iPAQ, which I sync with my home and office computers. At work we have a shared calendar, which syncs with my PDA. The PDA syncs with Outlook at home, but at work I log on to our network to see my appointments. When I complete a task, I delete it from my list.

But even with all this hoo-hah, I've been feeling lately like I'm not getting anything done. The tasks on my list aren't really "actionable" the way Allen recommends. They sit there for weeks, and I stare at them feeling like I don't know what to do. I still find myself making lists by hand of the things I'm going to do that day, rather than relying on Outlook.

Many years ago I was a devotee of the two-page per day Daytimer. On one page I would list my appointments, and on the other I would write my to do list for the day, phone numbers, notes, etc. When I was done with a task I would check it off. If I was waiting on someone else before I could do the task I would put their initials next to it. When I moved a task from one week to the next, I would put a dash next to it. At the end of the week I could see all the things I had completed, and every day I was forced to plan what I was going to do, because I had to make a new list.

I was thinking about moving back to a paper based system when I found a whole community of loony planning enthusiasts like myself online, who had made the move back to analog. They sang the praises of the Moleskine planner, which reminded me of my old system. They reveled in the satisfaction of writing by hand and using nice pens. They argued that paper based systems were more flexible and creative.

Of course, these fellow whackos were speaking my language. I immediately went out and bought myself a Moleskine 18 month planner from eBay. I went to Office Max and found just the right pens. (Felt tip Flairs.) I'm awaiting the delivery of my new planner like it's Santa Claus. In the meantime I've created my own stopgap solution using a steno pad, but it's just not the same.

I've moved my task list out of Outlook and into a notebook that I carry with me everywhere. The tasks in it are allowed to be vague. I use it like the "brain dump" that Allen describes, where you list all things on your mind that you need to do something about. Then I go through that list and create actionable tasks that I add to my planner every week. When I'm done with a task I check it off, and my heart flutters a little with the joy of knowing that I'm one step closer to being able to buy another planner.


I went blackberrying yesterday on the hillside next to my house, clambering through the bushes, risking spiky branches, and ruining my favorite sneakers.

Cobbler for everyone!

Night Terrors

This morning I woke up with a bleeding scratch between my eyes. I think a cat stepped on my head during the night.

Oh my!

Dear George Takei:

You've been really great on the Howard Stern show this week. You've got such a great sense of humor, you're so open about your life (even your sex life), and you're such a good sport. I love it when you flirt with Artie Lange. More importantly, you're a successful businessman, a survivor of WWII internment camps, and a devoted advocate of free speech and gay rights. Basically, you're a great American.


P.S. Bill Shatner can suck it.

Garden Joy

After removing an enormous weed from one of my backyard planters, I discovered this bent little plant beneath it:

There were several of them growing in various places in my backyard, and I couldn't decide if they were weeds. They looked a little too dignified, and they had some buds at the end that looked like they might develop flowers.

But then again, I also saw something very much like them growing alongside the freeway. After much contemplation, I had resolved that they were indeed weeds, and decided to send them to their doom. I went over to the house to rip them out by the roots, and found that they now looked like this:

and this:

Disaster narrowly avoided.

Uncle Muscles Hour

Not sure why, but the Uncle Muscles Hour is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time. We've Tivoed it and watch it over and over. Especially the very last moment.

I can't seem to link to it directly, so go here, click on downloads, then Adult Swim General and scroll down to the end of "other stuff."

It's Not Rocket Surgery

Just got back from a trip to Denver to attend a fundraiser conference. I won't bore you with the details, but let's just say there were a lot of "Livestrong" bracelets. I learned one or two interesting things, and got to steal a good joke from Robert Sharpe and make it the title of this post. Sharpe was by far the best thing about the conference. That guy knows his stuff.

I enjoyed my time in the six-block segment of Denver where I was staying, near the 16th Street Mall, which--besides the elaborately dressed goth teenagers--is a bit like a red state Santa Monica Promenade. Everyone seems to be trying just a little too hard. Exhibit A: the above sign.

The conference was in the shiny new Hyatt Regency Denver, which shows videos of cows in their elevators:

and has very cool lighting in its ballrooms:

It's right next to the Denver Convention Center, which has a giant blue bear trying to get in. Could belong to Paul Bunyan.

It's good to be home. Sweet, sweet Internet access.

April Windshield

April Winchell's podcast is here! Go listen right now.

Flying squirrel

Check out this picture Cosmo took of one of our neighbors.

Thanks honey. You're a great American.

Our home renovation project is coming to a close, and I feel the need to reflect. (That's a "before" picture above.) Some thoughts. Talk amongst yourselves.

  • When you tell people that you’re remodeling, they invariably sigh and trot out the horrible story of their own remodeling nightmare. They spent three years working on their house, and spent many winter weeks without heat or a roof. The contractor ripped out all their plumbing and then disappeared for six months. That sort of thing.
  • Your two best Internets friends when remodeling are the Better Business Bureau Web site and
  • Move out while you remodel. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Get lots of bids. I was amazed at how much prices varied. We got six or seven paint bids and they ranged from $4,000 to $15,000. How much better could a $15,000 paint job really be?
  • The sales approaches among trades are vastly different. One painter asked psychobabble questions about our feelings. A contractor read to us from an elaborate Power Point presentation and pressured us to commit on the spot, even though we hadn’t gotten any other bids. Sears sent a nice young English man to sell us kitchen cabinets, who spent at least an hour and a half making small talk that had nothing to do with the project. A roofer didn’t show up for his appointment because he couldn’t find his ladder. A painter sent his hot young daughter, who walked briskly through the house and left without taking any measurements or asking any questions.
  • Referrals are the way to go. I attribute our success in avoiding disasters to the fact that we worked with a crew of expert finished carpenters who were friends of Cosmo’s family. Our plumber is a friend of my family. Our painter was recommended by a neighbor.
In the end, our (so far) nightmare-free remodel can be credited to my wonderful boyfriend, who has thought through every detail. He's been patient with me as we made decisions, spent a shitload of money, and tried to cope with each other's work styles. Most of all, he has a superior sense of design, the mind of an engineer, and unrelenting good humor. Our house will be unlike any other, and I can’t wait to move in.