Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Thud! Goes the Other Shoe

Goodbye to my first web address ever

AOL Hometown/FTP is closing October 31, 2008
To:that word again @aol.com
Date:Tue, 30 Sep 2008 8:33 pm

Dear AOL Hometown/FTP user,

We’re sorry to inform you that on Oct. 31, 2008, AOL® Hometown and FTP will be shut down permanently. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Though you will be able to modify your Hometown site and access FTP until this date, we urge you to save your AOL Hometown/FTP content immediately, and consider other options for hosting your site. Read more about how to download and save your Hometown/FTP files here.

In the meantime, please bookmark the People Connection Blog, where you can find out more about AOL Hometown/FTP. You can also subscribe to the People Connection Blog RSS feed to stay informed about any changes. We’ll be updating the People Connection Blog often, so please check it regularly.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we make this transition. Again, we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.


The AOL Hometown Team

A caveat to those who need to download files before it's too late. Do NOT follow the directions referenced above. The old FTP client wants to convert all your gifs (maybe jpgs, too; I'm not sure) to bmps. Also the system is overloaded, and the little window doesn't list all files at once. Instead, go in through http://hometown.aol.com/_fm/mt.ssp?a=b from inside the AOL software, or use an external FTP client if you have one handy.

As for myself, I moved most of my pages to mavarin.com some time ago, but I'm taking no chances. I downloaded every file from every screen name tonight. While I was at it, I deleted two screen names, and subscribed to a mailing list from Yahoo/mavarin.com instead of my old UWoT screen name. I plan to shut down the latter at the end of October, the same time the other stuff goes offline.

This was the club's official home page - a hundred years ago.

My very first web page was on AOL, way back in 1995 or 1996. For a decade my Madeleine L'Engle bibliography was there, along with some neglected Quantum Leap stuff. But it's been a long time since that was a good place to host a web page. The URL was long, and each page was loaded with AOL advertising and tracking code. So tonight I cleaned up all that code from the QL pages, made some other updates and improvements, and uploaded them to mavarin.com. And I put stripped down versions of a few pages back onto AOL with the new URL at the top. May as well let people know where those pages went - until AOL deletes even that.

AOL has been largely irrelevant for quite some time now. But it's still very sad.


A Final Indignity for AOL-J Land

From my email of a few minutes ago:

Subject: AOL Journals is closing October 31, 2008

From: A
To: that word @aol.com
Date: Tue, 30 Sep 2008 4:54 pm

Dear AOL Journals user,

We’re sorry to inform you that on Oct. 31, 2008, AOL® Journals will be shut down permanently. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

It’s very important that you save your Journals content before the shutdown. We're working on a way to easily move your Journal to another blogging service -- you can expect an email within the next week with more details about how to do it. We want the transition to go as smoothly as possible for you, so you’ll have two choices. You can either save your information manually and find another place to blog on your own, or choose to automatically transfer your Journal to a different blogging service we’ve selected.

In the meantime, please bookmark the People Connection Blog, where you can find out more about AOL Journals. You can also subscribe to the People Connection Blog RSS feed to stay informed about any changes. We’ll be updating the People Connection Blog often, so please check it regularly.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we make this transition.


The AOL Journals Team


Mostly I think this is another sign that AOL is on its last legs after years of bad decisions and major changes in Internet technology and culture. It's very sad, for both the people who left and the people who stayed, and a final betrayal for those who stayed. They didn't leave AOL-J, so AOL-J left them.

I just hope they make it easily portable into Blogger. That is, after all, where most people went in the Exodus. And many of them, myself included, still have entries they never ported over, one painful copy-paste at a time.


Monday, September 29, 2008

The Man Who Bought the MotW (and other stories)

What did I promise to write about tonight? Ah, yes:

Tomorrow: my entry for the Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot, the man who bought the Museum, and St. Michael's ride.

Okay, the first part of that is done. Time to do the second and third parts. And I should probably say something about today's news, given that I spent almost five hours this afternoon following Twitter links to all the stories breaking on NPR and TPM and elsewhere.

The Man Who Bought the Museum of the Weird

...is a liar. At the very least.

The way home.

When the dogs and I got home from the dog park just before dusk yesterday, my neighbor across the street came out and waved me over. We crossed the street, and there was much barking and carrying on as my dogs and hers exchanged credentials.

Once that subsided, M. asked me whether we were moving out. What an odd question! I said no, we aren't. Then she explained why she'd asked:

It seems that there was a man on a bicycle in the neighborhood yesterday, "going up the street and knocking on windows," she said. My next door neighbor, D., came out to talk to the guy. Bicycle Man claimed that he "picked up" our house "in a foreclosure deal," and had come over to see it! D. subsequently asked M. whether we were moving, as far as she knew. She told him that she didn't think so, because we "just got two new dogs," and because I had mentioned no such thing in a recent conversation with her.

Now, understand, I've been out of work for three weeks, and money is very tight. But our mortgage is up to date, and always has been. I just checked, and the September payment went through as usual. We're not delinquent, let alone in foreclosure.

The man was lying.

We're a little freaked out about this. More than a little, really. I can't imagine what sort of scam Bicycle Man was pulling, unless he was trying to establish with the neighbors that our house is his house now, and that they shouldn't call the police if he shows up with a van and starts packing all our valuables into it. Pepper and Cayenne are good watch dogs (especially Pepper), but that doesn't help if they're at the dog park with me. D. and M. have an informal neighborhood watch going, but M. has cancer and could be off getting a radiation treatment or something the next time this guy turns up.

John went around and locked all the doors and gates last night, to the point where I had to unlock the laundry room inner door so the dogs could get out into the yard. I told a friend at Safeway about the incident last night, and the customers behind me said I needed to tell the police. So I called today. The officer asked why D. didn't call the police at the time, and I explained that he didn't know for sure that anything was wrong. She told me to call back if the guy came around again. Right, fine. But only if I know he's there. I haven't even seen the man!

Tonight, Miko's Corner photographed as Fairyland.

So today I was cooped up all day at the computer, unwilling to leave the house unguarded. I didn't take the dogs to the park until after John got home, and John was late. We arrived in full dark. Miko's Corner is only lit at the edges, which lent a surreal quality to the visit.

An experiment in not using flash.

My theory, such as it is: Bicycle Man was probably looking in windows of various houses, "casing the joint," looking for stuff to steal. Tucson has been badly hit in the mortgage meltdown, and foreclosed homes are common enough to give his cover story a bit of plausibility. If I were D., though, I'd have been highly suspicious. Anyway, when confronted by D., Bicycle Man probably thought our house was a likely target, because John is a little behind on mowing the lawn so it sorta kinda looked the part.

Fortunately, there are only a few windows accessible from the front of the house, and they're heavily curtained against the sun and prying eyes. The back is fenced, so nobody can see into the bedrooms, the den or my office. Even if he could make out anything through the curtains, Bicycle Man cannot possibly have seen anything but a few unremarkable exhibits at the Museum of the Weird - a few couches, a shelving unit, cheap bookcases, no-name art and some lamps. With any luck, the combination of nosy neighbors, barking dogs and the lack of anything visibly worth stealing should protect us.

But I'm not counting on it.

UPDATE: John and I have talked about this further in response to Paul and Kiva's comments below. I am going to talk to my neighbors this afternoon, but will not leave the house unguarded until John has done some further work tomorrow morning on the locks and otherwise securing the house.

St. Michael Goes For a Ride

Pre-Mass prep. That gold banner is awkward to carry.

Sunday was Michaelmas, the annual patronal feast day at St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church. Choir directior and organist Jane Haman composed new music for the occasion. When I turned up before Mass, there was some question what, if anything, I would do as an acolyte. There were enough torch (candle) bearers, and Alex turned up right behind me to act as crucifer. Jo was already suited up as verger. But I ended up carrying the big gold banner on a pole. It's not heavy, but it's exceedingly awkward - it's almost as wide as the church's center aisle, and you can't see past it at all. As slowly as I walked, I kept bumping into the thurifer (incense bearer) whenever she had to stop for one reason or another. Fortunately, I didn't cause a fire.

There is an icon of St. Michael the Archangel that normally resides on a table behind the altar at the very front of the church. To be honest, it's about the least attractive, evocative or even realistic depiction of him I've ever seen, but that's not important right now. On Michaelmas this year, the statue was carried on a litter (or portable shrine) up the aisle by four parishioners and placed in front of the altar. The icon was surrounded by votive candles in red jars.

After Mass, we processed out of the church...

Fifth and Wilmot. That's the former First Magnus
building on the left, where I worked from 2005-2007.

...and all the way out to the street. There I was with this huge awkward banner half-furled in one hand, my camera in the other, about 50 feet from the old Crosswalk of Death at Fifth and Wilmot.

We went out to the sign, a new one with movable lettering which replaced the painted one that the city zoning people objected to on specious grounds. Father Smith said a prayer for the cuty, and we said the Lord's Prayer, and that was it.

And St. Michael? He didn't say much. Not that I heard, anyway.

The Botched Bailout and the Blame Game

As noted earlier, I spent the entire afternoon reading about the bailout package, McCain's alleged role in getting the deal, its failure to pass and the subsequent scramble to place blame. I wrote a rather good comment about all this for the NPR site, which just started allowing comments from registered users only. Either the site was overloaded by the day's news, or there were glitches in the user registration process, or my script blocker messed me up, or a combination thereof. My comment was lost in the ether. When will I learn to copy text before I hit "post?"

Here's my take on it all, probably less cleverly stated because I'm tired now. I shouldn't laugh at the comedy of errors that unfolded today, because the situation is a disaster for the world economy, the country and my personal chances of getting a job. But it was hard not to laugh at the absurdity that kept building with each new link from Twitter. McCain's taking credit - no he's not - yes he is. But wait! It didn't pass! Why not? Because (or so it was claimed) Nancy Pelosi mentioned in a speech that the Bush White House presided over the the buildup to this financial disaster. How dare she! Therefore only 30-something percent of Republicans voted for the bill, while about 60% of Democrats did. Clearly it's Obama's fault! Him and those Democrats! (Say what?) McCain says so, and in the very next sentence, says that now is not the time to place blame!

So what do we have? A shambles. After a week of work on turning a bailout package that everyone hated intensely into one that people hated somewhat less and could actually vote for, conservative Republicans bailed on it because they still hated it too much. Rather that admit this, they blamed their defection on a Democrat's speech, thus making themselves look like venal idiots who would rather see the country go down in flames than let the Speaker of the House blame the economy on a President that they no longer like very much, either, and on themselves and their peers. Barney Frank had a good time ragging on them for their alleged hurt feelings, and justifiably so.

Meanwhile, some liberal Democrats (including Gabrielle Giffords) didn't vote for the thing either, because they had major reservations about the bill as it stands. Um, what's your alternative?

So the bill is dead, at least for the moment, everyone is blaming everyone but themselves, and the Dow drops 777 points. So what do they do, these fine men and women who dropped the ball at the last moment with disastrous results? Why, they went home for Rosh Hashanah, of course! I can understand that for the Congress members who are actually Jewish, and maybe everyone needs a little break after working through the weekend, a chance to rethink. But it doesn't send the message that Congress is really committed to staving off further disaster.

More important, where will they go from here? Nearly everyone agrees it's a terrible bill, even as amended. But they're profound disagreement on how to fix it, whether it can be fixed, and even whether it's needed. Some people would just as soon skip the whole thing, on the theory that it's using taxpayer money to bail out the rich. Let the Dow go down! Let the irresponsible banks fail, and irresponsible borrowers lose their homes! Except that's not where it all ends. Responsible people who did their best to invest wisely now see their retirement nest eggs being sucked dry. Homeowners who did nothing wrong now have homes worth some unknown but rapidly falling amount of money, and will be "upside down" on their mortgages. Companies will have trouble getting credit, and will lay off more employees. Cities that rely on property taxes will see a big cut in revenue. And the whole mess adds up to a huge problem that no grandstanding or earmark-defying is ever going to fix.

Get this done, Congress. Tweak this bill enough that you can hold your nose and vote for it, or start over and get a genuine consensus on something that will work better to rescue the economy, protect homeowners, provide for decent oversight, avoid rewarding the guilty, and keep taxpayers from getting ripped off. Barack Obama laid out the principles of what needs to be in there, and John McCain belatedly called for most of the same stuff. Put something together, tweak it as best you can and pass it. Now.


EMPS #5: Focusing on Fruit

For this week's Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot, Carly is asking for still life photography featuring fruit. Now, except for some past-their-prime organic grapes (they were pretty much inedible the night I bought them), I had no fruit in the house; and being on an austerity budget until I'm employed again, I couldn't exactly go out and buy a lot of produce. Not at today's prices. I haven't bought any fruit or veggies at all lately unless it was on sale. But it's the Monday Photo Shoot! I never miss the Monday Photo Shoot! So I went to Safeway tonight anyway. (Come to think of it, I forgot to get two of the non-fruit items I intended to buy.)

Still life arrangement, Safeway style

I've mentioned several times recently that my local Safeway, from whose parking lot I've filmed so many wonderful sunsets, has recently been spruced up in a big way. There was nothing wrong with it before, but now it's got all-new signage, a Starbuck's, new display cases, wooden flooring in Produce and so on. Produce is where the changes are most profound, because of the fruit stand / farmer's market look they've affected, especially for the organic items. So I figured, if a still life is the art of arranging items, choosing the lighting and composing the shot, why not let Safeway do the first part of that for me?

Pumpkins and golden pineapples at Safeway

Small Granny Smiths. I can't afford to buy, only photograph!

But okay, that's probably not quite in the spirit of the assignment. So I bought a single apple (large Granny Smith, $1.89 a pound), and a "personal watermelon" ($2).

Lighting is a big part of the art of still life, I gather, and we haven't had adequate lighting in the kitchen since Cayenne broke the vintage overhead light. So I arranged my two green, round edibles on a kitchen towel next to the stove, turned on the stove light, and took a number of shots without flash. This was the best of them.

Then I took a few more with flash.

In the editing, I used effects on most of the shots. The one above is with the "watercolor" effect applied. Or was it the acrylic one? Yes, that's right. It's the acrylic one.

Psychedelic fruit!

But why limit the effects to the semi-realistic? If still life photography is largely about the lighting, let's play with the lighting effects! This is the "solarization" lighting effect, followed by a negative effect, and then solarization again, and then tone adjustment to lighten things a bit. Result: a magical golden apple!

Be sure to check out Carly's blog Ellipsis every Monday for the new EMPS topic, and to see links to the previous week's participants. I look forward to seeing all your entries.


(Another entry will follow later tonight. Probably.)

What Dogs Tell Each Other

A little over a decade ago, John and I came up with a list of "Four Things That Dogs Want," and another list of "Four Things That Dogs Are Telling You." Full disclosure: one of the latter, "Don't hurt me; I'm only a puppy," did not originate with us, but came from something John had read.

Anyway, when I posted a home page on AOL circa 1997, the two doggy lists were there. Both of them have been tweaked a bit over the years, and now reside on the mavarin.com version of the page. (Scroll to the bottom of the page if the link doesn't direct you to the proper section.)

But it occurred to me today, as I watched the dogs at Miko's Corner Playground, that we need a third list:

Things That Dogs Tell Each Other

Hi! Who are you?

That's right. I'm tuff! (sic)

Let's play! (lots of ways to say this)

I'm top dog! / You're top dog!

I'm down, but not out!

Mine! Back off!

Many dogs live solitary lives with respect to their own species, but given the opportunity they will exhibit pack behavior. Well, at least I assume that's how a pack behaves. Sometimes a dog will attract the attention of several dogs at once. With the right kind of bark, nearly every dog within a hundred yards will come running. And if one dog runs, even chasing a ball, other dogs will usually give chase.

I don't really have anything deep to say about this tonight. I just wanted to see whether I could document a variety of common dog interactions in tonight's photo essay. And here it is!

Tomorrow: my entry for the Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot, the man who bought the Museum, and St. Michael's ride.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Where Did Today Go?

Unrelated dog picture

Seriously. I've been awake for over 13 hours (I went to bed at 6 AM and slept in), and can't come up with much that I did to account for the time. I watched some tv with John, took the dogs to the park, bought groceries and made dinner, caught up on the Doctor Who Forum after a couple of days away, posted a shortened version of the entry below this one to my Obama blog, and read a lot of political stuff online. Is that all? In 13 1/2 hours?

Well, not quite. A week or two ago I announced in my horribly neglected LiveJournal that I was going to try to put in at least an hour a night on my latest Mâvarin edit. I did well for the first four days, and then started to falter as I got involved in this whole Obama thing. Last night (this morning) I stared sleepily at the page and went to bed. So much for that run. But today I started a new run. I've reached Chapter Six, which is nearly halfway through Heirs of Mâvarin.

And on working on it, I promptly hit a snag.

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, I'm a continuity junkie. I'm the one who spent several years writing about (among other things) the internal evidence in Quantum Leap that Sam's whole body leaps, and that descriptions saying he "leaps into the body of..." are inaccurate. I once wrote all the questions - sorry, answers - for a game of Whopardy. At one time I could tell you the three mutually incompatible histories of Atlantis in Doctor Who, and the two origins of the Loch Ness Monster. I noticed when Anne McCaffrey changed a character's name from T'ton to T'ron, initially without explanation. I'm good at both identifying and explaining away inconsistencies in complex works of fiction. Yup, continuity is a wonderful game for me - when it's someone else's fiction.

When it's my own fiction, it's harder, and I'm not quite sure why. I think it's because I can't seem to sit down and read the whole story in a day or two, as I would a book by J K Rowling or Madeleine L'Engle. Usually it's more like a third to half of a chapter per night,with lots of tweaking along the way. By the time I reach a scene Chapter Six, I may not remember the exact timing of a related scene in Chapter Four. Also, working my way through the story for the second time in the last couple of months makes it harder to recall whether a scene is in the chapters I just went through again, or in a later chapter I looked at a month ago.

So tonight in Chapter Six (titled "Two Princesses," fact fans), the imposter king tells the Archmage that some tengremen are about to leave the city, having learned that the real Prince is traveling with a rival faction of tengremen. Two problems, I realized belatedly. One: the Archmage is probably responsible for that particular pack rushing off to attack the Prince's allies, and therefore ought not to express surprise about the pack's wherablouts. Two, Sunestri has known about the Prince for three days. Why is the enemy pack still hanging around the capital city?

Not that I was sure at first that an inconsistency existed. I had to dig back a few chapters, and check the dating on who was where when, and who knew what when. Yup, there's a problem. To fix it, I need to place the scene earlier, and kill Sunestri's expression of surprise. But how far back do I move it? What other timing issues still exist that I'm just not seeing?

Bottom line, I'm comparing the current versions of the chapters with my day by day and scene by scene outline. It's the only way I can think of to get the big pictures, and see how all the moving parts fit together.

After all, I don't want some editor or reader to point out all of my continuity gaffes!


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saying It Doesn't Make It So.

Dusk during the debate.

I need more time to digest before I have much to say about tonight's debate. Part of this is due to an odd disconnect in the way my mind works. When I read something that is supposedly factual, I am constantly analyzing it for plausibility, internal inconsistencies, lapses in logic and variance with previously established facts as I understand them. But when I hear a speech, even as part of a debate, I'm a bit more gullible. Even politicians whose positions I abhor acquire a certain Grima Wormtongue quality when delivering their prepared remarks, and sometimes I come very close to buying into the truthiness of it all. (By the way, although I don't watch his show, Stephen Colbert deserves the thanks of a grateful nation for two highly useful words, "truthiness" and "wikiality.") It sometimes takes me a while afterward to apply the same kinds of standards to the spoken word as to the written one. I say "same kind" because they can't quite be the same actual standards. Everyone misspeaks, stumbles over an occasional spoken word, and says things off the cuff that don't quite make logical sense. A certain amount of slack must be cut.

Homemade signs at Pima County Democratic HQ

So listening to George W. Bush the other night giving his economics speech, I had to grudgingly admit he did a pretty good job of explaining the situation we're in, if not necessarily exactly how the bailout will help. And listening to the debate tonight - on tv at home, in the car, at Democratic HQ, and finally in various post-debate wrap-ups - I found myself sometimes agreeing with what John McCain was saying. As did Barack Obama, it turned out, who graciously acknowledged when McCain came out with something similar to Obama's own policies. And no, I don't count it as a weakness to acknowledge when your opponent is on the right track. That is intellectual honesty and consensus building, not weakness and deference to the superior debater or candidate.

Yes we can eat cake! (But I didn't)

But McCain wasn't gracious in return, and maybe that's why the Wormtongue effect didn't work very well tonight. Much has been made already of McCain's failure to look at his opponent throughout the debate, beyond a fleeting glance or two in his general direction. It's difficult to be charming and ungracious at the same moment.

Maybe that's why McCain's frequent claims that Obama "just doesn't get it" hit my ears as a desperate and condescending lie rather than a sincere attempt to point out a genuine weakness in his opponent. Obama consistently showed a wide-ranging knowledge of foreign policy issues and the major players involved, and was even able to connect the dots between the individual conflicts and the strategic disadvantages of being dependent on foreign oil. Meanwhile, McCain showed a similar level of knowledge at times, but stumbled over a few names, got a few facts wrong, and stated no clear policy of his own while frequently distorted Obama's. When your opponent just proved to anyone who is listening that he has a strong working knowledge of the subject, it seems dishonest and pointless to claim otherwise a second or two later. Say that you disagree with your opponent's assessments, and here's why your opponent's ideas won't work. Don't try to pretend that the disagreement stems from ignorance, not when the other candidate is clearly demonstrating the opposite. Whom was McCain trying to convince? Maybe, maybe, sound bytes of his accusation will be believed by people who rely on such things, and will never hear what was said immediately before or after. But those are the people who already believe the ignorance and inexperience claim. To everyone else, each repetition just made McCain look more petty and desperate, and more as though he's the one who doesn't "get it."

Dog park sunset, Thursday. We didn't get there Friday.

Between my near all-nighter last night, volunteering this afternoon and a bit of unseasonable rain, I didn't manage to get Pepper and Cayenne to the dog park today. But the dogs, and a certain cat, were very much on my mind. Having consulted with Carly over permission and what photo of Carly's to use, I now present the Elvis edition of the Cool Cats for Barack button:

And this next one was requested at the campaign office, but I figure there may be a person or two here who is interested:

Here's another tweak. There was a concern that Tuffy on the Barkers for Barack buttons looked too much like a German shepherd, a breed some people associate with racist attacks and police brutality. I kind of hate to see my poor little mixed chow caught in such a blanket condemnation. Nevertheless, I redid that button with Cayenne pictured instead. Here's the post I prefer for it:

And here's the main one the campaign will be using:

We can't leave Pepper out, can we? The Pima County campaign for Obama can, but we can't:

As with last night's buttons designs, today's additions call all be seen and downloaded on my Obama gallery on Picasa. Share and enjoy!


Friday, September 26, 2008

Furball Friday: Pepper in Particular

For Feline and Furball Friday - in haste so I can go to bed! I've been neglecting Pepper a little bit in the dog-blogging department, mostly because she's usually a hundred yards behind me at the dog park. But let's rectify things right now:

and one with Cayenne, so we don't forget her:


Weekend Assignment #235: Button Up!

This one is inspired by what I've been doing, with a few short breaks, for the past 14 hours!

Weekend Assignment #235: Design a button (a badge, a pin...). It can say anything you like as long as it's clean and not defamatory. Or maybe you prefer a photo button. You can just describe it if you like, or tell us what it says - or you can actually create the complete design. I am hoping to actually make your button and mail it to you, so do play along, okay?

Extra Credit: Have you ever designed a button or other apparel before now?

Here are some of the ones I designed today for the local Obama campaign, starting from the downloaded logo and names:

See, back in 1979 to 1982, John and his best friend Kal and I owned a store called Rockarama. I was the manager - and no, I didn't make anything close to minimum wage. Anyway, one of the things we did for merchandise was design and sell buttons. When Paul McCartney was busted for pot in Japan, I made buttons that said LET HIM OUT, and alternative buttons that said LET HIM ROT, and a third design that said FREE PAUL. We did a Lennon memorial button, which I gave away the day after. we did slogans and special orders, and designs based on popular rock albums of the day.

Originally we had a cheap Badge-a-Minute button maker, which was a pain to use, and promptly broke. Then we got the next model up, which was metal instead of plastic, but still a pain to use. Finally we got a heavy duty, top of the line Badge-a-Matic. That's what I loaned to the local Democratic Party toay, and that's what the designs above are for.

All of those button makers took designs that were 2 3/4" in diameter, and produced finished buttons 2 3/4" in diameter. Eventually we also bought a different brand that made smaller buttons - 1 3/4" I think. I donated that one to Project Quantum Leap long ago.

Your turn! What would you like to have on a button? Write about it in your journal or blog with a link back here, and then visit the comments section below to leave a link back there. I'll be back in a week to link to your handiwork!


Weekend Assignment Results: Good Things

For last week's Weekend Assignment #234: It's a Good Thing, I asked you to tell me one good thing about the area where you live. Those of you who found something good to say are as follows:

Florinda said...

Another reason I say "the LA area" is that I live outside of LA proper; I don't even live in LA County. (I think the LA Moms Blog is stretching their boundaries by letting me play with them - lucky me!) But that's one of the best things about my Ventura County suburb - location, location, location.

Mike said...

We have great restaurants here. We have a Rosebud, Shaw's Crab House, Morton's Steakhouse, Benihana, Texas de Brazil, and we have a Ruth's Criss steakhouse opening up one town over. Isn't that a great list of places to eat? I even left off Olive Garden! So you see, we have just as many over-priced restaurants as the city. Why spend even more on gas?

Kiva said...

Sheesh, just one good thing? The best part of the area that I live is that I can walk to variety of places. I moved to this area over 25 years ago. Living out in the country like Robin or Vicki does is an idealist dream of mine, but I know in reality I would flee from my cottage every chance I get to the closest populated area. I need people to chat with. I would berift without In-N-Out Burger, Trader Joe's, and Target close by.

Sarah said in comments...

How did it get to be Thursday already? I fully intended to complete this assignment but the week got away from me. Shucks (I did blog this week, though, just not in response to this).

One boast I have to make after reading Mike's post and the comments: here in the Bay Area, we have TWO Ikeas.


what I may have failed to mention is that I've never been inside either one of them. ;)

The new Weekend Assignment is imminent!


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hoo-Boy, What a Day! (Again)

I thought Wednesday would be much like Tuesday. Get up, check email, get dressed, work on the Obama campaign, take dogs to dog park, and spend the evening blogging and messing around online before putting in time on Heirs.

Well, some of those things happened. But that was far from the whole story.

In today's email, there was a reply from Arizona's unemployment service in response to some urgent questions I had about problems getting their automated system to accept my middle initial and social security number, and what to report for the following week. Two things wrong with this...no, wait a minutes, three:
  • It was in reply to my urgent question from over 100 days ago, the last time I was unemployed.
  • Its canned text didn't address most of what I'd asked about, and
  • It said that I'd never filed a weekly claim, and therefore needed to start over by registering again.
I darn well had filed a weekly claim, the night before I sent the email! I'd just never received the debit card with the funds. I didn't pursue it at the time because I started work again later that week (this was the subject of one of my questions) and therefore wasn't in dire need, there was a possibility that the debit card might be in some unopened mail we'd find in due course, and, well, I did have that email out to them, which the web site promised would be answered within 72 hours!

Considering I now needed to file again and had been putting it off, I got extremely stressed out about this whole unemployment filing process. The State of Arizona had completely automated the process so that (as far as I can tell) you cannot talk to a person at all, ever. The phone router doesn't allow you to talk to a person, there are big signs up at the DES office that they don't do that stuff any more, and the only email address, well, you know what happened there. Although some of the individual screens of the online filing are clear enough, the process as a whole is arcane and confusing. The first dates you can get paid for are in the calendar week after the first full week in which you didn't work at all. I think. But you have to register during that week you're going to put a claim in for the following week. So, if I understand it correctly, I've already lost $240 or whatever it is, because I was supposed to reregister last week so that this week I could put in a claim for last week. But I didn't know I'd have to reregister until I got the email today. Clear? Fine, then explain it to me! I get all flustered and stressed trying to deal with it. It makes me feel positively stupid as I try to figure it all out.

And that's even before you take into account any database glitches. Last time out, I'd tried to file as Karen F Blocher with my social security number, and it said that combination was invalid. I took out my middle initial, and it went through - other than the fact that I never got the money. This time around, when I re-registered this afternoon, it called Karen Blocher + the social security number invalid, but went right through when I added the F back in! It makes me nervous, I tell you. I've gotten statements from Social Security that purport to show how much you've earned and what your benefit projects out to, and it's always seemed severely undervalued, as if it's not including any money I made as Karen Funk, and maybe not from the early days of my being Karen Funk Blocher. Someday I'm going to have to look one of those things over carefully and, if necessary, go downtown and ask some serious questions about it. But now, with the economy in meltdown and me unemployed, is not the time.

Another attempt to photograph this.

So with all that going on, I was close to tears when I arrived at the campaign headquesters for a few hours of ata entry. One of my fellow volunteers, a lawyer, sent me home to write up a timeline of my unemployment situation, which I did. I came back later and she critiqued it for me "as a friend," which was darn nice of her and very helpful. But the main conclusion was that I needed to get that registration done, which I then went home and did. So I didn't do any Obama work at all today, except another blog entry on Obama.com, and observing the entry of data by bar code reader. Also, I offered the campaign the use of our Badge-a-Minute heavy duty Badge-a-Matic button maker for the duration. I just have to fight my way past some boxes to get it out of the closet.

For some odd reason, my negative emotional upsets tend to come packaged with unrelated good news on the same day. You may recall that almost exactly a year ago, I had my last day at ARR!, was hired by FVD, learned about Tuffy's cancer and received a rejection from DAW for Heirs, all on the same day! Today wasn't anywhere near that extreme, but it did have that ame kind of back and forth, good news/bad news quality. On Tuesday, the little USB doohickey that made the wireless mouse work on my laptop somehow disappeared between the time I put it in my case at the campaign office, and a few hours later when I went to set things back up at home. Today I looked in the car, in the driveway, on the floor between the drively and my office, on the screet between my car and the campaign office, and in the office itself. No go. So I had to replace it. The good news was that I found one at Best Buy for just $30, and it has an extra feture that should prove useful. The bad news is that there's something wrong with my CD drive or maybe the CD that came with the mouse or both. It won't run at all. The good news is that it runs fine without the software on the CD.

When I say run, run!

And if all that's not enough, let's add in the phone call I got while on the third circuit of my walking aroun the perimeter of the dog park, a little at 5 PM. It was one of my recruiters, and she wanted to know if I know QuickBooks. I had to admit that I didn't, because none of the companies I'd worked for used that. (Well, maybe Interesting Manufacturer, but only for older data, and I wasn't given access to it.) But I said I could learn it quickly. When I graduated in 2005, I used my student discount one last time to buy MS Office and Peachtree Accounting and, I thought, QuickBooks Pro. Three and a half years later, I could now open and load the software, familiarize myself with it, take a tutorial or five, and then take the ProveIt! test the recruiter sent me.

Dogs in conference

Well, that was the plan. Except I couldn't find that unopened software, no matter how many boxes I looked through. I did find the Peachtree. Maybe I didn't buy the QuickBooks after all. But I had a trial version of a seriously basic edition of it that came with my current laptop, and John found an in-depth series of tutorials online. That was about a sixty part course, and I didn;t have time to go through even a quarter of it. But I got the gist. So at three in the morning or so, I took the multiple choice test from ProveIt! and did my best to reason out the answers, or find them by looking at the screen captures that it sometimes provided. Result: 32 out of 40 questions correct in 19 and a half minutes, a score of 78%, a percentile ranking of 70. The test had a Global Average of 68%. I assume that means I did pretty darn well, considering. It's all in aid of another temp position, maternity relief again, not a temp to hire situation. But in this economy, I'll take what I can get, so long as the salary is adequate.