Friday, August 31, 2007

Meowch. Captain's a tad less than enthused about playing with the Feather Toy at the moment.

The toy in question looks like an oddly-proportioned feather duster: the handle is about the length of my forearm, and the feathered part is about the size of the palm of my hand.

Normally, Captain loves chasing it, especially when I run it up and down the stairs. Or when I run it around him in circles on the stairs (as if he were chasing his tail).

But earlier today, in the midst of an "around and around" maneuver, he got a little overenthused and conked his poor fuzzy head with a resounding "bong" on the cast iron bannister. Owie. Poor kitty! That never happened before! :o(

So he's now giving the feather toy the hairy eyeball. I'm wondering how long it'll take before the Short Attention Span takes over and he forgets what happened. I hope soon; that's normally one of his favorite games.

I suspect his amnesia will set in as soon as he sees STANLEY playing with the feather toy, lol. That's usually good for a "Hey! That's *my* toy!" moment around here. ;o)
Oh, dear. After all these years, it's finally happened.

After swearing off being a regular watcher of any particular TV program since about 1996, I finally have a show I hate to miss.

It's not my fault. Meerkat Manor is freaking addictive. That, plus the "cast", a group of wild meerkats being studied by scientists, are collectively the cutest li'l fuzzy things on TV.

[HEY, we thought we were the cutest! -- Captain and Stanley]
[You're the cutest li'l fuzzy things NOT starring in a TV series, how's that? -- Meowmy]
[Purrr, that's better. -- Captain and Stanley]

Unfortunately, Animal Planet puts Meerkat Manor on at a time that I'm normally busy: Friday evenings. But the good news is, they replay their programming multiple times during the week, including at least one late--night rebroadcast on Friday night/Saturday morning. So if I'm not in front of the TV during the original showing of the program, you can bet I'll be glued to the set during one of the repeat showings.

This week's ads have been giving me a nervous breakdown. They're making it sound like one of the important male meerkats is going to head to Meerkat Heaven before the episode is out. :o( It wouldn't be the first time we've seen a familiar character go to meet its maker -- this IS the wild, after all, and longevity is the exception, not the rule. But geesh, I hate when that happens. You get to liking the little fuzzballs after watching them, ya kinow? Yeah, I know, I'm a big softy and I'd like them regardless. Still, Mother Nature is one tough cookie, and I can't help but feel sorry for them when misfortune strikes.

If I had to guess as to which of the three characters might be at the greatest risk, it'd be Carlos. He's the alpha male of a newly-established, very small family group, which hasn't got a fixed territory and keeps trespassing on its neighbors' feeding grounds. His whole group could end up getting their tails whooped if they get caught poaching, particularly since the neighboring family groups all significantly outnumber Carlos's little gang. Plus, Carlos already has a nasty bite from a previous clash with another group's dominant male... if that gets infected, it could spell disaster; Mother Nature doesn't exactly hand out antibiotics to injured critters.

Plus, the other two males named in the ad, Zaphod and Houdini, are referenced in the opening credits. If one of them is the unlucky meerkat, the opening credits will have to be re-edited accordingly.

We'll all find out soon enough. I'll probably be sitting up watching the late-night rebroadcast tonight, if I know me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The PC is off being worked on by Circuit City. We'll have it back by Friday.

We hold the distinction of being the first customers who this particular store has encountered who have brought in an infected machine even though we had Norton 360 up, running, and current. Which is why I think this particular virus is a new one; that, and the fact that all the tech support forums discussing the issue have extremely recent dates on their posts.

I'm sure that all the anti-virus definitions will soon handle this virus, but in the meantime, the cats ;o) have been admonished to surf more carefully, and reject unsolicited offers of software upgrades or updates.

Monday, August 27, 2007

I've done some research on the symptoms the PC is displaying. The most obvious issue is that every few minutes, it opens an IE window and tries to visit either one or the other of two allegedly anti-virus sites. Seems that these sites will SELL you software that's supposed to rid you of the infection.

Can you say "extortion"? As if I'd trust these expletive-omitted vermin to write clean anti-virus software that didn't leave any back-door software behind.

Unfortunately, we might have to reformat to get rid of this thing. The tech support sites that discuss this particular infection seriously put that forth as an option, as this virus invites lots of other malware to come on board. The PC was infected from sometime Thursday through Friday morning when I noticed something wrong. God knows what was brought onto the machine in all those hours. But the virus is recently-created enough that not all anti-virus definitions recognize it. Ours is current, and even so, it can't find this problem.

%#&*$¢§¿...!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Day 3 of "Our PC is Fouled Up". We do have Norton 360, which was unfortunately circumvented when one of the cats ;o) tried to install what he thought was an upgrade to I-know-not-what. And, frankly, I *care* not what. What's done is done, and there's no sense pitching a fit over it now.

I've been running the Norton virus scan. Because the computer is infected, it's running like molasses. I'll spare everyone the minutia of what's going on, except to say that the problem has not yet been resolved.

In other news, Mark and I went to the Tutankhamun exhibit at the Franklin Institute on Friday. It was fascinating. But as informative as it was, oddly enough there wasn't a single mention of his being born in Arizona, nor his move to Babylona. Not one peep about his condo made of stona, either.

The first thing you see, upon exiting the exhibit (and its attendant gift shop), is the "science of sports" exhibit. So we took a quick walk through there, and I verified that the display still includes the huge photo of Neil Little, as well as Andy Delmore's gloves. :o) I still dote on those guys. It's always a nice thing to think a few pleasant hockey thoughts in the middle of the offseason.

Yesterday, we had a group trip to Marsh Creek State Park, where there's a really nice swimming pool. Al, Karla, Jean and Joe J., Mark and I went. The weather was perfect, sunny and hot, though the pool water was a little cold due to some rain we had early in the morning. And there's a new feature that replaces the kiddie pool: they called it a splash park. It's got a bunch of places where water spouts up in streams from the pavement, sprays from various brightly-colored tall pipes, and pours out of colorful conical "buckets" that fill up until they tilt and spill their contents onto any kids standing below.

Once we realized that Joe's wheelchair would easily withstand a drenching (hey, it's gotta be weatherproof, right?) and the sun was strong enough to dry it out quickly, we took Joe on a stroll through the splash park and got soaked through. :o) What a great time we had! It felt terrific, too.

Too bad Marsh Creek is so darn far away. I'd love to visit it more often.

OK, back to the PC... the virus scan (which ran for 17 hours, grrrr) didn't find anything, even though I know better. Time to work on a Plan B.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A pox on the no-good blankety-blank-blank-blank(s) who wrote the malware that infected our PC.

The system performance is so bogged down, the virus scan I started nearly 12 hours ago is still running. (It would take under an hour on an uncompromised computer.)

The modem is unplugged, so at least the infected machine can't be hit with any additional problems. Or, more to the point, it can't invite more problems to come in, because that's the nature of this infection: once it gets on a machine, it goes out to other evil sites and brings in additional problems.

If I didn't have a web-enabled cell phone, I'd have hurt somebody by now. Poor Mark, though... he's managing a fantasy baseball team, and I don't know if he can update the lineup via cell phone.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Joe called again last night. As soon as I saw that the time was after 10 PM, I knew what the call was about. My eyes welled up before I even answered the phone.

He talked to Rita S.'s family again. She passed away not long before he spoke to them. Even though I know she had long since made her peace and was ready, it doesn't make it any easier to bid a good person goodbye.

RIP, Rita S. Please tell Joan we said hello. We'll miss you.

On to the mundane things in life... we got a virus on the computer sometime yesterday. It started acting up while Mark was online.



I'm working on cleaning up the mess now. It's slow going, as the problems have got the machine running like molasses.

on the vermin who write malware. Their computers should blow up.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I just got a phone call from Joe that saddens me. The choir in Heaven is preparing room to add another voice.

The lady who directed the choir for many years in the parish where I grew up, Rita S, is gravely ill. It's been known for some months now that all the doctors were still able to do would be to make her as comfortable as possible. At that point, she set her sights on remaining with us to see her grandson graduate from college, which he did last May.

As a bonus, the Lord let her stay with us a while longer, so that she could celebrate her 89th birthday a few weeks ago.

Joe just spoke with her family, and according to the doctors, "it's a matter of hours now". And I'm sad to hear it.

Not sad for HER, exactly -- I know from what Joe told me that she's ready to go to the Lord. She's also one of the people of whom it can be said, "If SHE doesn't make it into Heaven, the rest of us have no chance at getting in". I am certainly sad that a good person like her would ever have to suffer with serious illness. But I know that when her time comes, she'll be at peace and rejoin her late husband, another person who was highly regarded by all who met him in life, and has been greatly missed since his passing.

But I sure am sad for the REST of us. This world can use as many truly good people in it as the good Lord can send. When one leaves us, it's like the world shrinks a bit.

But Heaven will soon expand, as will its choir, when its newest citizen makes her arrival. Of these things, I have absolutely no doubt.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The latest fashion statement in this house involves wearing one or two purring, striped ankle bracelets. There are a couple of Velcro Kitties in this house who have to make sure that Mark and/or I am in their line of sight at all times. And if one of us is making bodily contact with said Velcro Kitties, so much the better. :o) I haven't sat down on the sofa by myself in two days; the moment I park there, I've got at least one cat parked either right on top of me or right next to me.

Anyone who thinks cats are aloof and independent hasn't met the Stripe Committee. They're as insistent on being near, or at least maintaining visual contact with, their humans as any Canine Critter on the face of the earth, and that was BEFORE we boarded them over the long weekend.

Of course, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I'm enjoying the opportunity to get in some extra doting. The kitties might have missed us while we were away, but I missed them, too.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Now that I'm fully recovered from the migraine AND the sleep marathon that followed in its wake, I can write more about the vacation.

Mark and I went to visit my aunt in Brigantine, NJ, which is a barrier island just past Atlantic City. She's lived there year-round since the early 80s, but she and my late Uncle Pat bought the house in the late 50s. My parents and I used to visit there for vacations once or twice a summer, plus there were other times when Aunt Rita and Uncle Pat would have me, along with my cousins Maryann and/or Michele, down there minus our Parental Units.

Everyone can point out the good times and tough times in their own respective childhoods. If I wanted to list the tough times, I could point to the daily bouts of BS I went through at school with the bullying fiends I called classmates. But Brigantine was one of the places that I associate with unmitigated GOOD times. Honest to goodness, there's not one single, solitary negative thing about it in my mind. Whether I was there just with my cousins, or with my parents AND cousins, it was All Good. Well, there was that one time that Michele and I both fell sound asleep on the beach, and earned ourselves the worst cases of sunburn in the history of the Earth. But even THAT mishap has been fodder for some of my funny stories, so we managed to wring some lemonade out of that particular lemon after all.

Spending four days there did more to lift my spirits than any trip to any faraway exotic locale could have done. Going there is more than just a trip across the width of New Jersey for me. It's a trip back through time, and the destination is some of the best memories I've ever had -- probably WILL ever have -- in my life.

I've heard people rave, rightly so, about how amazing the beaches are in various other places in the world -- pink sand, white sand, blue water, clear water, what have you. I have no doubt whatsoever that if/when I visit any of those places, I'll be enthralled by them. I'm all about seeing the wide array of beautiful things and places that Mother Nature has to offer.

But none of those places, NONE of them, will supplant Brigantine's grey sand and green, murky-with-algae Atlantic ocean. They can't. The exotic resorts of the world, when I get around to visiting them, will be wonderful because they're something new and different, but Brigantine will remain at the top of my list because it's Old and Familiar and filled with happy associations.

I just spent a few days in the Good Parts of the Past. And I rediscovered, as I mentioned in an earlier post, that my sense of humor used to be a lot more active than it's been in recent years. People who know me remark about my sense of humor NOW, but frankly I think I've been coasting on my reputation a little bit in that regard. Sometimes I suspect that the people who've known me since before the internal cave-in that the downsizing triggered still connect the sight of me with my previous, more lively self. So they still think of me that way, even on the days when I just barely have the energy to set foot out the door -- on days when I sit around and am more of an observer than a participant in the goings-on.

Well, I got to be that more-lively-self over the weekend, finding puns and punch lines in just about everything. It wasn't something that I planned; I just FELT like being that way for the first time in ages. And you know what? I felt a lot better, across the board. So I've made a resolution that I'm going to do my best to STAY that way, as much as possible.

So, consider yourselves warned. If puns and corny jokes aren't your bag, invest in earplugs. :o)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Aunt Rita's Rooster

Cock-a-doodle-doo!

Edit: Darn. This was originally a MMS message that I sent from my phone to Mark's phone, complete with the sound of the rooster crowing. (Aunt Rita's rooster, shown above, crows whenever someone walks past it.) I was curious to see how a message containing both a picture and sound would look if I sent it to the blog.

Apparently, the picture will post, but not the audio. Live and learn.
Well, something interesting happened with this migraine. And when I say "interesting", I mean, "Oh, #%$&*, this is new. What brought this on?"

I never had a migraine come back after taking Imitrex before. So, since I'm a geek and since it was the wee hours of the morning, I did what comes naturally and started looking for information online.

At which point, I discovered that fouled-up serotonin levels can trigger migraines.

Did I mention that I forgot to pack my freakin' prescriptions? And haven't taken any of them since Thursday morning?

Friday and Saturday, I got plenty of sun and exercise, both of which boost serotonin levels.

Yesterday was rainy and we stayed indoors all day, until we left for home. I had a migraine from about lunchtime until we got home yesterday evening. No sunshine, no exercise, no prescriptions for the third consecutive day... and problems set in. I shouldn't be surprised, should I?

Chalk this up under "I'll never forget to pack the meds again".

Sunday, August 19, 2007

We're home!

I'm heading off to rest my eyes. About an hour after I posted this morning, I started to get a migraine. My migraine prescription was at home, unfortunately, so I took some aspirin and hoped for the best. It helped a bit, but by the time I got home, it had worn off and the symptoms were back full force. Phooey.

I just took the Imitrex, and I'm going to lie down and let it get rid of the headache (and stomach upset and photophobia -- the reasons why I know this isn't an ordinary headache). Later, all!
Sorry, all... the guest book is suspended. I'm not spending the rest of my vacation deleting spam posts via the cell phone (a tedious process, at best).

I've felt better over the past few days than I have in MONTHS. I'm not going to undo it all by wasting my time getting aggravated at having to remove ads from my guest book.

My silly side has resurfaced with gusto. (I originally was going to say, "with a vengeance", but putting silly and vengeance in the same sentence seemed to be an oxymoron.) So much so that it's a real eye-opener to me as to how infrequently I get genuinely silly anymore. This is what happens when you revisit a place you've loved all your life and spent a lot of growing-up time in.

I like THIS version of me a lot better than (what has become) the regular me. I'm going to have to find a way to bring this outlook on life home with me.

And the rest of you will just have to deal with all the extra puns I make. It's your lot in life. :o)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

This is a quick note to mention that I'd like to flatten the freaking spammers who are posting garbage to my guest book.

I might have to go in search of a different guestbook provider. This one doesn't offer the option to let me approve messages before they can be read.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

OK, what *simpleton* installed this purse holder in the rest stop stall?

Women will immediately know the list of things that are wrong with this picture. So, since I would be astonished if there was an implement like this in men's rooms, let me bring the guys here up to speed. Purse holders, installed properly, are attached at the FRONT of the stall, not the back. They should fold upward, not horizontally. The flat part, when it's extended, should be parallel with the floor, not the wall.

The goal is to have it folded up and out of the way when it's not in use. But when it's needed, it can be unfolded to create a horizontal shelf, such that a purse can be placed on it. And, conveniently, when it's where it belongs in the front of the stall, you can't exit the stall without retrieving the purse and letting the metal shelf return to its upright position.

The way this is installed, it's completely unusable, unless you LIKE risking knocking your purse right into the toilet if you move the wrong way. (Presuming that your purse has a strap long enough to hang on that thing, since not even a Barbie-doll purse is small enough to balance on that one-inch horizontal surface.)

I'm having another "How is THIS numbwit employed, and I'm still seeking work?" moment.
And, we're off! The first good news of the day is that the vet now offers a "condo" option where two cats can be boarded together. I told them to do that for Captain and Stanley. Now I know that they'll each have their favorite toy with them -- each other -- while they're at the Kitty Hotel. :o)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

OK, I'm trying to follow the logic in the news story I'm reading, and it seems that I'm missing something.

I'll preface this by saying that I don't do "shock jock" humor. I guess being female and in my 40s has something to do with that -- I'm just plain In the Wrong Demographic to either enjoy or appreciate that brand of humor. Apparently, there are enough people who think otherwise, because there are multiple "shock jocks" on both free and satellite radio on a daily basis. Clearly, the industry isn't hurting for the lack of my ears listening to the programs. And that's OK. I mean, there's a place for junk food on supermarket shelves right alongside health food, so why not have the equivalent of "junk food" humor alongside what I'd consider to be healthier (or at least more substantive) choices for the brain? And then let each consumer decide for themselves what they're in the mood to eat, or listen to, at any given time. Live and let live, and all that good stuff, ya know?

Having said all that... a few months ago, Don Imus offended an awful lot of people by calling the members of the Rutgers' women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos". The backlash was such that his show lost sponsors and he was ultimately fired by CBS. At the time, I thought that the "humor" in that statement was nonexistent, that too many people speaking into a live microphone make the error of thinking that "if it offends, annoys or bothers somebody, then it MUST be funny", and that Imus and his producer should have known better than to let the conversation drift off along that tangent in the first place. BUT... he also lost his job over it, so IMO that's a pretty significant repercussion for offering up an ignorant, unfunny punch line. (I can't speak for the emotional impact that the racially-charged slang words would have on a person, since I'm in no position to speak from experience on that score. I'll leave that analysis to people who have a clue what it feels like to face discrimination, and let THEM say whether Imus's comments qualify as racially divisive.)

BTW, I also thought that the comments were out-of-line because the team hadn't actually DONE anything to deserve being lampooned. They earned their way into the public eye by being an underdog and going deep into a national tournament, not by getting into trouble or doing anything wrong. Had the team made negative headlines for itself by getting into a brawl or something, well, in that case they'd deserve to be tweaked by any and every standup comic out there. But this case, they made headlines by doing All the Right Things, so it's a little puzzling to me that darts, even small ones, would be cast in their general direction in the first place.

At any rate, I'm not sure that those particular ignorant, unfunny attempts at humor warranted having someone fired, but the Sponsors Dropped the Show and the Almighty Dollar had its say. The radio show was cancelled, the shock jock was fired. If it were up to me, I'd say that this is a clear example of "case closed".

But, as with far too many things in this world, it's NOT up to me. And the case is, apparently, NOT closed. See the article below:

A member of the Rutgers women’s basketball team sued Don Imus and CBS yesterday, claiming the disgraced shock jock’s “nappy-headed hos” remark damaged her reputation.

Kia Vaughn filed suit alleging defamation of character in state Supreme Court in the Bronx the same day Imus settled with CBS Radio in a deal that pre-empts his threatened $120 million breach-of-contract lawsuit against CBS.

Vaughn’s suit, believed to be the first by a player in the case, says Imus and his former co-host Bernard McGuirk, along with CBS Corp. and CBS Radio, are legally responsible for damage done to her character and reputation. There is no dollar amount listed.


Okay... see, NOW we have an example of how Karma's Army works. One aspect of the original brouhaha was that Imus and his producer made comments about the TEAM as a whole, not about any individual person on the team. Therefore, any player who didn't want her good name degraded by association with those comments would have an easy solution to the problem. She could simply move on and live her life, and avoid mentioning the fact that, yes, SHE happened to play on the team that Imus cracked his so-called jokes about and got himself fired for it.

But no... now we have an individual who is allegedly so bent on defending her good name (that was never really sullied to begin with, IMO), she's going to court over it. NOW we all know her name, NOW we all know that she was on the team that was targeted by the punch lines... and NOW she's gone and provided fodder for every standup comic and late-night talk show host to crack jokes specifically about HER and her lawsuit. If she couldn't abide being lampooned (undeservedly or not) as an anonymous member of a group, she's going to REALLY loathe it when she's parodied, specifically by name, on every comedy program in the US.

Is this about restoring the honor to her good name? I think not. I think it's about an attempt to put some cash in the bank. Because as ignorant as Imus's comments about the Rutgers players were, the only name he did any damage to was his own. The team and its players did nothing wrong, and therefore IMO their good reputation was never in doubt for a moment. But if there's a person from that team whose public behavior paints her as lawsuit-happy and trying to line her own pockets, NOW there actually IS going to be an in-depth public examination of her character, as well as a multitude of punch-lines put forth about the entire affair. Is she going to want to sue every comedian to keep her name out of their comic act? Time will tell. Stay tuned to Google News for details.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Well, no sooner do I get a traffic meter on my site, then I find out that it (the stats site) has periodic outages during the day when it's got more traffic than it can handle.

As a result, whenever the statistics site is out of whack, it misses visits to the page. I know this because I was on my own site this afternoon, checking some of the template links on the left-hand side of the page, and there's no record of the several times I went to the page.

So, off I went and tracked down a DIFFERENT free site. Now I've got two traffic counters, the original one (which is not visible anywhere on the page), and the "Sitemeter" counter which does have a little button at the bottom of the page. I'll compare the results over the next few days, just to see if there's any noticeable disparity between the stats that the two counters dish up.

Tomorrow, I have a few errands to run. Interspersed with that will be Project "Spoil the Stripe Committee". Little do they know that their first overnight spent away from home is imminent. But *I* know it, so I'm going to give them some extra fussing between now and then. And I know that they'll give US some extra fussing when they get home. Heck, a day trip to the vet turns them into Velcro Kitties for a day or two; I can imagine how a brief stay in the Kitty Hotel will affect their demeanor.

Well... I'm off to do a bit more template tweaking. This making-minor-adjustments thing is freakin' addictive. ;o)

P.S. I updated the COMMENTS feature. You no longer have to be a member of blogger.com in order to place a comment. I do, however, have them set up so that I have to approve comments before they show up.

This is to prevent spam from creeping into the comments, the way I've seen it happen on other sites. Real people's comments will be approved. Spammers' comments will be sent to the ozone.

So, feel free to comment away!

Monday, August 13, 2007

I just got off the phone with the vet. Mark and I will be visiting my aunt for a few days; I've arranged to have the cats boarded, as well as getting their annual checkup and vaccinations, during that time.

I was originally going to just leave extra food and water, as I used to do for Melody and Harmony during brief getaways. But then I thought about it some more, and realized that Captain and Stanley play a lot more rambunctiously than their late sisters ever did. They're still good for knocking things over or crashing into things during a vigorous game of Chase My Brother, and that's WITH their Meowmy and Paw around to fuss over them at regular intervals. I don't want them to get into an accident of some kind, simply from the hazardous combination of being playful, curious, and bored.

The Stripe Committee is due for their shots, anyway. Might as well take care of everything at once -- they get checked, get vaccinated, get daily attention (though not as much doting as they'd receive at home), and they don't risk any of their nine lives by getting into unsupervised mischief. Everybody wins.

In other news, I got an automated note today from FixYa.com that left me feeling bittersweet. See, back in November, when I worked at the Fort Washington assignment, I had a Canon calculator in my cubicle that offered the capability of displaying the date and time. Unfortunately, I had no manual, nor was it immediately apparent how to SET the clock or calendar. Searching online for a manual proved fruitless, but I did run across the FixYa.com site, where people post questions about equipment issues.

Long story short: I posted my question, got an answer, and successfully set the time and date. And, apparently, I also remained subscribed to that topic, because someone posted comments to it today and I just got the email notice. Which, needless to say, was a reminder out of the blue about a calculator I no longer have access to, in a place where I no longer work.

Like I said, it's bittersweet. I really liked that place, even though the commute was a nightmare, and I was sorry to see the assignment end. Ah, well.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

From CNN's "Breaking News" text messages:

Merv Griffin, the entertainer and multimillionaire entrepreneur, has died at 82, AP reports.

There's one more fixture from my childhood gone. When I was in grade school and high school, all three major networks had talk shows on from 4-5 PM. KYW (Channel 3, NBC) not only had Mike Douglas, but for most of his program's long run, it was broadcast from KYW's own studio in Philadelphia. WPVI (Channel 6, ABC) had Merv Griffin, and WCAU (Channel 10, CBS) had Dinah Shore.

Dinah Shore passed away several years ago, and Mike Douglas passed away not all that long ago. (Last year or the year before, I think.) Now the last of the Big 3 talk show hosts is gone. :o( RIP.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

We've got comments!

Yay, hooray, we've got comments enabled!

I have an old-style Blogger template, which meant that for some reason couldn't just automatically enable comments like the people with new templates can.

Long story less long: I found a couple of blogs that are using the same style template as I am (see Earwax and The Secret Base of the Rebel Black Dot Society, and I noticed that both of them have got comments enabled on THEIR blogs. So I figured that if they could do it, so could I.

Thanks to Lauren from Earwax for sending me the code she entered to make it work.

I'll be adding links to these two blogs to the left-hand side of my page, since so far they're the only two I've seen that use the same style template as I do. Those of us with good taste in blog templates have to stick together. :o)


Giant Hot Dog Busted by Chicago Cops

The Associated Press
Friday, August 10, 2007; 2:46 PM

CHICAGO -- Not even a giant hot dog can escape the long arm of the law.

One of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobiles, a fiberglass behemoth on a national promotional tour, was discovered parked illegally _ hazard lights blinking _ on a major downtown street.

The violation in a no-parking zone on ritzy Michigan Avenue earned the driver of the 27-foot sausage a $50 ticket.

"The situation was resolved without the use of ketchup, which in Chicago is a big thing," said Matt Smith of the city's Streets and Sanitation Department.

The officer who issued the ticket had already called a tow truck when the driver showed up to claim his fiberglass wiener-on-wheels. "We have access to tow trucks that could have handled a Polish sausage, not just a hot dog," Smith said.

Sydney Lindner, a spokeswoman for Oscar Mayer parent company Kraft Foods Inc., said the Wienermobile, one of several, is traveling the country promoting a contest to sing the Oscar Mayer jingle in a commercial.

She said illegal parking is against company policy, "even if you're driving a company vehicle that's shaped like a giant hot dog."

It's not the first time a Wienermobile has tangled with the law.

An Arizona Highway Patrol officer in June found a Wienermobile parked in a Tucson construction zone and ran its "YUMMY" license plate to make sure it was street legal. The plate came back as stolen, but it was just a mix-up with a similar plate that had been stolen from another of the giant hot dogs in Missouri.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Hello, out there? Anybody home?

My gosh, where IS everyone?

I added a stats tracker to my blog a few days ago, so I could get an idea of how many visits it gets over time. I've been curious about that for a while now, but Blogger doesn't provide that information. So when I ran across a freebie hit counter recently, I added it to the blog.

Today, to my surprise, the blog hasn't had *any* hits yet. Looks like everyone's taking a long weekend. ;o)

Next up for the Blog Remodeling Project: adding "comments" code to posts.

In other news... I got a text message today from the CNN Breaking News service. I have NO idea how I wound up subscribed to this service, and my several attempts to unsubscribe have proved fruitless. I wonder if someone mistyped *their* phone number and entered mine by mistake. In any case, I gave up on unsubscribing several months ago, and now I get the occasional headline in my text message inbox.

Today's headline: "CNN confirms three people have been killed in a coal mine accident in Princeton, Indiana." First of all, I was sorry to see that news. Second, I did a double-take when I realized that the location of the mine was NOT Utah, where there's been an ongoing story as rescuers try to dig to where 6 miners were trapped by a collapse a few days ago. In other words, we've now got two separate mine accidents in progress, at least one of which has got confirmed fatalities. :o( (The condition of the Utah miners is unknown at this time.)

It's been a rotten week or so in the news... last week, there was the MN bridge collapse, and this week, we have two mining accidents. Ugh. I realize that the news outlets' motto is, "If it bleeds, it leads" when they're prioritizing stories, but I still find it sad to see human suffering. Even if it IS condensed to 160-characters-or-less and disseminated as a text message.

When I see a news story about a disaster or a tragedy, I often respond by telling the Resident Felines, "You're lucky you're a cat. You don't have to think about these awful things." Looks like it's time for me to remind a couple of Stripey Critters once again of their good fortune. They've heard that phrase a lot this week.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Here's an example of the kind of "work at home" scam I've run across in my online job search. I've never bought into any of these things, but that's largely because I've done a lot of research on anti-scam sites BEFORE actually applying for anything.

On Craigslist.org (from whose classified ads I've gotten a few legit interviews, so it's certainly not all hogwash over there), I responded to an ad entitled "Clerical/Data Entry Position".

In the ad itself, information regarding the job was limited. The job details involved processing orders received via email, for pay, and it was an entirely work-at-home position. The ad instructed interested parties to send an email requesting additional information.

This is always the first sign that there's likely to be a scam afoot. Craigslist has banned scammers from placing their false advertising, and will remove any ads inviting people to join what are essentially pyramid schemes or outright swindles. HOWEVER, if the ad contains minimal information and tells the responder to REQUEST the details, then no one can prove that it's a scam and the ad is allowed to stand. So caveat emptor: if the advertisor seems to be downright secretive about this job opportunity, there's a reason for it.

But, for kicks, I responded to the ad anyway. I have two email addresses that I use for job searching. One is for the opportunities that I'm positive are legit openings; the other one is what I use when I'm suspicious that the "job" will be a disappointment at best, and flat-out shady at worst, once I've received more complete details. I used the latter address to answer this ad.

And here, for your entertainment, is the response I got, interspersed with my commentary.

Thank you for your interest in the Processor/Typist position. Here is some more information about the job…

Job Description
>Work at home part-time or full-time
>Earn $250 - $1000 per week
>Full online training
>Completely Legit
>Work your own hours and days



The monetary promise above is exactly the kind of thing that would have gotten this post flagged and removed from Craigslist, had the ad contained the above information. It's false advertising to claim that the person will receive this kind of income when they're essentially dependent on the number of orders they receive, and there's no way to control that.

Oh, and of course, stating "Completely Legit" automatically absolves the poster from any suspicion. Just like the ads out there that say "This is not a pyramid scheme" automatically make the thing they're advertising not be a pyramid scheme. All you have to do is declare something in print, and it's instantly true. Yeah, right.


Requirements
>Computer with Internet and E-mail access
>Good typing skills
>Basic Internet knowledge
>Self-motivated

Information
This home based position is a great opportunity for stay at home moms/dads, students, or anyone who wants to work in the comfort of their own home. There is no cold calling (calling strangers) required. You respond to orders sent to your e-mail and process them at your convenience.



And you do have to be self-motivated, because as it turns out, you'll be completely responsible for getting your own name out there so people will send their orders to YOU.

Details
This home based position gives you the opportunity to earn $250 - $1000 per week. We are seeking only self-motivated people with the desire to work in this field. No experience needed.You must have a computer with Internet access, a dedicated e-mail account, and basic typing skills. You can choose to work full-time or part-time and can choose to work the hours of your choice.You do not have to contact anyone. You will be processing responses from the ads, which will be explained to you in your training materials. Everything is sent to your e-mail account. There is no contract to sign—the amount that you choose to process is entirely up to you. As with any job, you must be willing to work hard and try to respond to the orders in a timely manner.

PLEASE BE ADVISED, this job is not for you if you do not wish to be your own boss, work from home and at your own convenience, and make money for tasks that you accomplish. This position is very much self-driven and task oriented.


Bingo... "you will be processing responses from the ads, which will be explained to you in your training materials". The so-called training materials are going to tell you to place ads on as many free classified sites as possible, in order to maximize the number of responses you receive.

Compensation
You will be paid from $10.00 - $20.00 for each order that you process. For example, if you process 35 in a week, you make $350 - $700 weekly. The average person makes $600 per week. The amount of money you earn is entirely up to you. You will be responsible for keeping track of your earnings for tax time, as we do not take out any taxes or provide you with a 1099 form.


As a matter of fact, if you follow the formula detailed later in this very email, you will receive approximately $15 for each order that you process. And the reason that "we" don't take out any taxes or provide a 1099 form is that once you've received the training package, "we" never need to interact with you again. You're on your own.

Training
The training materials you receive will give you step-by-step instructions on how to get started. When you receive your training materials you may begin working on that same day. There is no special software required for this position. If there are any questions on the training materials, please contact me.


The training materials, such as they are, will give you a template for the ad you're going to be placing on all these free sites. They'll also most likely provide a list of online sites where you can post free classified ads, though it's anybody's guess if the information is current or outdated.

Method of Payment
You will receive your payment through PayPal. You are not going to be paid weekly; you will be paid for each application that you process.


And THIS is why "we" don't take out taxes for you. The money isn't coming from "us", but from the people who send in responses to the ads.

There is a ONE-TIME non-refundable fee of $15.00. This cost will cover the training materials sent to you. Once you process your very first application, you will have made back this fee!! I processed 7 orders on my first day. One of my partners had 11 on her first day and by the end of the week, she could have processed 46 orders. Some start-up fees are as high as $30.00 or more. We have tried to keep our fee low. Please understand that as much as I would like not to charge this small processing fee, we must protect ourselves from those who are not serious about this work. Be assured that you will recover this fee after processing your first order. The Training Materials will automatically be sent to your e-mail after your payment is received. You can then get started right away.

If you do not have a PayPal account, you may go to http://www.paypal.com to open a free account, so you can get paid for your work and purchase your materials. You may use me as a reference.


I repeat, BINGO. This is where the money comes from. The people who respond to your ad are going to get a form letter like the one I'm quoting. The letter will ask for this "one-time fee" to be sent to your paypal account. Therefore, you will earn "between $10-$20" for every order you process. The actual amount will be $15, minus the paypal fees.

I mean, THINK about it. The fee is allegedly to "cover the cost of the training materials"? Hello? They're sending the materials via email! WHAT "cost"? There's no expense for paper, printing, or postage!

Please e-mail me as soon as you make your payment via PayPal so I can expedite materials to you. The payment at PayPal for $15 goes to [removed].

Thank you and I truly hope you join our team! Again, if you have any questions at all, please e-mail me.

[signature removed]



"Our team"? What team? You send money, you get training info mailed to you, you start placing ads. You're flying solo once the money leaves your paypal account. But I suppose that last paragraph sounds better than, "I truly hope you send me money to cover the cost of the training materials that I purchased from someone else who placed an ad just like this one. If at least one person answers my ad, I'll break even. Will YOU be that person?"

**The legal part of this is:
This concept is 100% legal. Refer to US Postal and Lottery Laws, Title 18,
Section 1302 and 1341; or Title 18, Section 3005 in the US code, also in the
code of Federal Regulations, Volume 16, Sections 255 and 436, which states
that a product or service must be exchanged for money received.


What's interesting is that those laws are actually available online, for anyone who actually DOES care to review them (instead of just relying on this person's word regarding what they say). And, as per the anti-scam site breakthechain.org, Title 18, section 1302 &1341 of the US Postal and Lottery Laws actually states that chain letters (e-mail or otherwise) are illegal "if they request money or other items of value and promise a substantial return to the participants." Selling a report (which, coincidentally, is just more propaganda about the scheme) or adding respondents to a mythical mailing list do not make this thing legal. In other words, the laws that allegedly say this "order training materials, then sell them to other people" scheme is legal actually say no such thing.

Like I said, caveat freaking emptor. And don't get scammed out of your $15.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Courtesy of canada.com:

Nine in 10 Americans say ban texting while driving

To which, my first thought was, "Say what? NINE out of ten?"

What kind of fargin' moron thinks texting while driving is a good idea? More to the point, what kind of driving record does this person have?

Geesh. I'm as big of a technophile as there is, but even I know that when I'm driving, the only device I should be concerning myself with is the one with a steering wheel protruding from its dashboard. That's because I like breathing, and I'd like to continue doing so until I get the "cease and desist" order from my Maker. Moreover, I presume that the other people in my car, as well as the ones in the cars adjacent to mine, share that philosophy. And even though I've witnessed more than my share of Stupid Pedestrian Tricks while driving in South Philly, most persons travelling a piedi tend to want to remain among the living, as well.

Careless behavior behind the wheel is a sure-fire way to get a "cease and desist breathing" order sent to you and/or people in your immediate vicinity. Sending text messages while driving is a hobby that needs to be filed under "incompatible with life". Any driver who thinks otherwise needs to be filed under "driver's license suspended for criminally reckless behavior behind the wheel".
Rejoice and be glad! I have a guestbook again!

I had one a couple years back, but the darn site that hosted it crashed, taking all its guestbooks with it. (Grumble mumble grumble.)

So check out the links on the left-hand side of the page, and by all means, sign the guestbook. :)

Actually, this has been one of several changes I've made to the blog's template within the past few days. I've also added a stats tracker (not visible on the page, but it was added to the template) that lets me see, for the first time, how many hits the site actually gets. The same source that provides the site traffic counter also provides free guestbooks, which is why I've got a guestbook up and running again at last.

I also added text ads to the page. Yep, you saw right. The little text ads up near the top are my doing, not something that Blogger threw in for fun. I did that because the ads are unobtrusive, they're based on the content of the site itself, and my readers might find them useful.

Don't be surprised if other minor blog tweaks happen here and there, over the next few days. There'll be nothing drastic. Consider it a bit of minor maintenance work.

Monday, August 06, 2007

I wonder what the Fox29 Storm Tracker is doing parked at Broad and Wolf?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

That walletboosters.com site had a couple of interesting opportunities that I decided to look into. One is transcribing. They email sound files to you, you transcribe it, you send it back, you get paid according to the number of words and the size of the file they sent. I type 85 words/minute, and having done transcribing as one of the modes of interpreting for deaf-blind delegates, I figured that I'm more than up to the challenge. If I can sit there and type on a PC keyboard that's attached to a large-screen TV as a monitor for low-vision deaf delegates (during the 2000 AADB convention), in real-time, I can listen to a recorded file at my own pace and type that in.

Of course, the 2000 AADB convention was a few years before the days when they had actual CART captioners doing the transcribing. Boy, is that ever easier than the setup we had... 3 or 4 of us (depending on the length of the event) would be clustered around one PC keyboard, switching every 15 minutes (which is the norm when interpreters are teamed up). That worked fine, at least early in the events. But in each case, the wear and tear really started to build up as the event continued. I had a watch with a timer that would repeat (i.e., it could be set to go off EVERY 15 minutes), so I was in charge of letting people know when to switch. As the events progressed, I ended up letting the rest of the team know that I was taking us down to ten minutes/shift, because I was noticing that the fatigue (and the mistakes) were starting to set in after about that long.

Anyway, I digress. None of these audio files are going to be two and three hours long, like the Opening Ceremonies and workshops at AADB can be. Even if they were, taking them at my own pace would be about a billion times easier than having to type in real-time. So I did the transcribing test and emailed that in yesterday. If this pans out, it could prove to be an interesting little side job.

Unfortunately, the other telecommuting opportunity I was interested in turned out to be a non-starter. There was one particular data entry job description that actually looked legit, as compared to the numerous BS ones that I know to ignore (where you pay a fee to join up... say what? Pay for a job? I don't think so). This one appeared to be an actual opportunity worth looking into, as it listed an hourly rate that wasn't all that far off from some temp jobs I've done. (It was slightly less, but since it didn't involve any commuting costs via SEPTA or car, I think it pretty much balanced out in the end.)

However, I changed my mind about it the moment I saw the online application form. They wanted my name: no problem. Address: sure. Birth date: fine.

Social Security Number... Wait a minute, stop the music. That's a combination of digits I'm not typing in online for just anybody, job application or not. I don't mind writing my SSN down when I'm physically in a company's office filling out an application, but just sending it out to some unknown party online? Does the word NO mean anything to you?

So I started looking for some way to call this company on the phone, and request a printed version of their form that I could mail or fax to them. Surprise, surprise... they don't have that information on their site. It's not on their application page, and it's not on their HOME page. Shoot, their home page only shows the products they sell, in great detail... you can click on the products, but there's no way to actually freaking ORDER any of them...! No phone number, no fax number, no physical address listed... and no freaking way I'm sending them my personal information. So much for that particular data entry position.

Bah, humbug.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I've gotten a virtual earful from one of my Faithful Readers, on the topic of earning pin money online vs. taking organ lessons and prepping for an actual part-time job. Joe is right on that score, but I'm probably going to keep looking for ways to earn a little "mad money" online, even after I'm proficient enough of an organist to earn money at it. :o)

In other news... these stories about the bridge collapse in Minneapolis are appalling and tragic. :o(

I keep wondering if we used that bridge at all during the AADB convention in St. Paul, the other Twin City, in 1992. I'm sure we used its companion bridge, I-35E, that leads to St. Paul.

Sending prayers and thoughts out for the victims and their loved ones. And a big "Thank God!" that everyone on the school bus got out safely.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

My CareerLink appointment this morning has had to be rescheduled. I don't have a problem with that. What I DO have a problem with is the difficulty I've had actually speaking to the person who's working with me on the resume-revamping. She visits multiple CareerLink sites during the week, and her only time in the office I visit is Wednesdays. Fine. I've left two voice mails, for her and for someone who helps keep track of her schedule when she's not on site, and haven't been called back yet. NOT fine.

Also not fine was the "And yet, this person is working and I'm not" moment I had this morning, when trying to reach the lady from CareerLink. I got one of the two receptionists when I called in.

"Hello, my name is Donna M___ and I'm trying to reach ____etta."

"And the purpose of your call?"

"I had an appointment with her this morning. When I called yesterday to talk to her, I was told to call back this morning because she's only on site on Wednesdays. Yesterday, I left a voice mail for B___ who handles ____etta's schedule when she's not in the office, but I'd like to speak to ____etta to arrange a new appointment time."

"Please hold."

[Three or four minutes later]

"I'm sorry, we don't have anyone on our list by that name."

"But I met with her last Wednesday at your site."

"Perhaps you meant the [alternate office location] site and not here?"

"Yours is the only site I've ever visited. I've been there three times so far."

"Well we don't have a Donna that works here."

"No, *I'M* Donna. I'm trying to reach ____etta! SHE works there."

"And you work for CareerLink?"

"No, I'm a CONSUMER with CareerLink".

"We don't have a Donna here."

"NO!" By this point I was exasperated and starting to raise my voice. I was up sick all fargin' night, never even fell asleep until about 5:30 AM, and I got back up at 7 AM specifically to start calling this place so I'd catch them when their phones came back online. My patience was now officially shot. "My name is DONNA M___. I am an UNEMPLOYED PERSON. I am working with ____etta to REDESIGN MY RESUME and I had an APPOINTMENT THIS MORNING WHICH WAS CANCELLED. I want to RESCHEDULE IT and I'm TRYING TO SPEAK TO HER."

"Oh."

[pause]

[more pause]

"Let me connect you to her voice mail."

"Thank you."

[call is transferred to ____etta's voice mail]

GEEZE! What freakin' LANGUAGE do I speak? How does this person not know the names of the freaking people who work in her own office? Even if they don't work there every day, they make APPOINTMENTS there on a regular basis.



Oh, and remember that opportunity I posted about weeks ago, that was supposed to pay for people to read text files aloud and post the audio files on their site? I completed their first assignment, three audio files, way back then.

Have they paid YOU for those three recordings? That's how they've paid me. Oh, well. I wasn't expecting a lot out of that, and at least it didn't cost me any money to try it. (Had there been a fee involved, I WOULDN'T have tried it. I'm not falling for that kind of scam.)

On the other hand, pin money might not be impossible to come by on the internet. I ran across a site last night called Walletboosters.com/. I'm going through it now to see if there's anything on there that's a viable option for bringing in a bit of spare change. Ya never know.