October 2002 Archives

10/31/02

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Happy Halloween! Actually, this is the first year in a while that I'm not doing anything to celebrate. For the last two years I've gone to Austin to see my friend P., who's really into Halloween: decorating the house, dresssing up for the trick or treaters, the whole thing. And also I would normally dress up in some sort of costume for my friend L.'s annual costume party.


But this year we had already been to Texas for the parade, so we couldn't go back for Halloween. And L. decided to take a break from the costume party and just have a swanky cocktail party instead. I have no complaints about the party change. Actually I found the costume thing a little intimidating, and besides it gave me an opportunity to finally wear my new boots. Which were met with universal acclaim, including one rather inappropriate expression of shoe-love from a partygoer who had maybe had a little too much to drink. But that's neither here nor there.


Anyway, this is the first year in a long time that I haven't done anything at all for Halloween. I thought about wearing my little wind-up skull pin to work, but I ended up forgetting. Oh well! It's nice to take a break from tradition once in a while. I was thinking about watching scary movies on video -- I've got Suspiria and a horror anime called Wicked City waiting to be viewed -- but I don't know if I can fit them in around taping Survivor. Besides, Georg is doing a special Halloween show on the radio tonight which I wanted to listen to. So maybe I'll save the scary movies for Monday afternoon while Georg is at work. If I have to watch them alone, it might be better to watch them in daylight now that I think about it.


This morning there was a stoplight out on my way to work, so the police were there directing traffic. I always wave at traffic cops and construction workers. Because I figure, those jobs must really stink, so anything that breaks up the monotony must be nice. Besides, they're usually staring at my car anyway. So I always smile and wave.


Construction workers usually wave back (either an exuberant "yee ha!" wave or a confused "what the hell is up with this car?" half-wave) but traffic cops never, ever do. I had been thinking that there must be a rule against them waving at motorists, because they use gestures kind of like waving to direct traffic, so a hand-wave out of turn might cause an accident or something. Which seems perfectly sensible to me, so I kept waving even though they never wave back.


But the cop this morning waved back at me! He held his arm straight up and opened and closed his hand, the way a small child would wave. It was unlikely to be mistaken for a traffic direction. I wonder if that's the approved method of social waving for a traffic cop?


One last thing -- I saw a TV commercial for Corn Pops breakfast cereal that used something from Ursula 1000's latest album as the jingle. That's so freaky I can't even think of a snarky comment.

10/22/02

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I hear that the "wooly worms" predict a cold winter this year. I hve absolutely no idea what that means, but it's been pretty cold so far. Our blankets have been getting more and more ratty, so we went out over the weekend and bought a nice new comforter. Made of flannel! What a treat. Unfortunately the dog appreciates it too. I have a nasty blanket to cover the bed during the day, so that if (when) she gets on the bed while we're out, she at least won't be right on the new comforter.


I forgot to mention that on Sunday we went to the state fair. I love the fair, although this year was a bit of a let down. For one thing, we got there really early to avoid the crowds, and so when we got to the livestock displays they were mucking out the stalls and all the animals were gone. We didn't get to see the chickens, sheep, goats or pigs at all. The cows were also absent but we could see them penned up in the distance. Also, fair food was verboten of course. And we also missed the piglet races, because we had gotten there so early.


On the other hand, we did get to see most of my favorite things: the bunny house, the "village of yesteryear" crafts booths, the garden displays, and the produce, needlework, canning and baking competitions. I guess that's kind of goofy, but I love that stuff. Every year I go and carefully examine the displays, trying to figure out what makes this jar of canned tomatoes better than that one. My friend P. entered her canned sugar snaps when she lived here, and I think she won a ribbon one year.


Also, being there before the mob really was nice. The crowding is usually so bad that I start to feel a bit of -- claustrophobia? I'm sure there's a specific word for fear of crowds. But in any case, later in the day people are packed in so tight, everywhere you go, that I start to get this panicky feeling, like I've got to get the hell out of there right now. But this time we got there around 9:30 and there was actually room to walk around. It didn't start to get bad until we were ready to leave.

10/21/02

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I talked with a friend last week who encouraged, nay urged me to start doing bookstore appearances to promote VTW. She's absolutely right. I need to do more to promote the deck. Coincidentally, we had gotten a postcard in the mail announcing that Dancing Moon, the sole surviving local metaphysical bookstore, had moved and was having a grand opening on Saturday at their new location. Seemed like perfect timing, so we went out there Saturday afternoon.


I talked to two sales clerks and the owner, and to say the response was less than enthused would be an understatement. In fact, chilly would be a better word. Partly this was my fault: I should have brought a sample of the deck. But last time we were at Dancing Moon, they had had a great Tarot selection. So I assumed they would have VTW and didn't bother to bring a copy. Well, their great Tarot selection isn't so great anymore. In fact they may not have added anything to the stock since the last time we were there, which was almost a year ago.


So they didn't have VTW in stock, didn't know if it had ever been in stock, wouldn't look it up, wouldn't even write the name down when I asked them to consider carrying it. The owner said that she wasn't all that into Tarot and asked me to call back in three weeks so we could set an appointment to discuss whether or not she would let me do an appearance.


In other words, it was pretty much a total disaster. It could have been worse -- we could have been thrown out and admonished never to darken their doorstep again -- but it's clear they have little interest. So much for supporting the local community! I thought that an independent, specialized bookstore would be happy to know about a local author in their genre.


At times I felt like we weren't quite having the same conversation. Like maybe they thought I was some crackpot who was trying to foist something off on them? For instance, one exchange went like this:


her: "So are you working hard on your deck?"

me: "Well, I did work hard on it but it was finished two years ago. It was published in March."

her: "Oh, do you sell it at Renaissence Faires?"

me: "Um, no, it's sold in bookstores. In fact, it would be great if you would carry it here."

her: (blank look)


I told them more than once that VTW was published by Llewellyn, but that didn't meet with any recognition. Either they aren't familiar with Llewellyn, which is hard to believe, or they just weren't listening to me at all. Which is more likely. I wanted to ask them if they had a Llewellyn catalog handy, so I could show them the deck, but they were giving off such a brush-off vibe that I just wanted to get out of there. All in all the experience was quite a downer.


So I guess I'll get off my butt and finally follow up with Borders and Barnes & Noble. At least they had the grace to act happy when I introduced myself to the floor managers there. The guy at Borders was really nice -- he ordered extra copies on the spot.

10/17/02

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It's finally gotten cold here. Well, those of you living up North probably wouldn't find it very cold -- high 60s - low 70s during the day, high 50s - low 60s at night. But to me, this is cold! This is the best weather for sleeping. Not cold enough to turn on the heat, which dries out the air, but cold enough to put a pile of blankets on the bed and feel all snuggly and warm under them. Also, it's still dark out when I get up now. Which has resulted in my being late for work so often that I'm thinking about just shifting my work schedule back a half hour. When do we switch to "daylight wasting time" anyway? Is that this weekend?


Anyway, now that it's cold I am fully able to appreciate the glory of a bathroom with a heater and sufficient hot water. It's wonderful! Also, I think I figured out the weirdness with our water heater. See, the first shower of the day isn't all that hot. It's warm enough, but not really what I would call hot. But the second shower of the morning (or a shower taken pretty much anytime later in the day) is good and hot. This has mystified us for some time. And caused much confusion, as I usually take the first shower, and have been complaining about the lack of hot water for the past year. Which has made no sense to Georg, because he usually takes his shower after me, when there's plenty of hot water.


But I think I figured it out. The water heater must not be functioning well when it's just sitting there keeping water warm. For example, overnight. So the first shower of the day isn't all that hot, because that water's been sitting all night. But once that water has been used up, it has to heat up some more. So the second shower is nice and toasty. Mystery solved! This also explains why showers in the evening are adequately hot: because we've been running the water throughout the evening to wash hands, dishes, etc.


That was probably way more than you wanted to know about the status of my showers, but I'm just tickled with myself for finally figuring this one out.

10/13/02

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The Restoration Hardware catalog has something interesting in it. I get that catalog now because of buying a lamp from them. Speaking of which, they're having a sale on lamps right now. I'm really happy with the lamp we got from them for the bathroom. It does feel a bit flimsier than it looks, as my friend Prentiss warned, especially the metal part. I guess it would be a bummer if we had to touch it every day to turn it on, and so every day we were feeling that thin metal and thinking, wow this lamp looks so much better made than it is. But since it's up high on the wall and we turn it on from a wall switch, it doesn't really matter.


Speaking of Prentiss, I went to his website to check and make sure I had the right URL, and I saw on his page that the bat stamps are out. Woo! Bat stamps! Memo to self: go to post office first thing tomorrow and buy lots of bat stamps.


Oh! I forgot to write about the interesting thing in the Restoration Hardware catalog. OK, on the page with their Halloween supplies they are selling an Etteilla Tarot deck and a Mlle. LeNormand deck! It's a bit bizarre to see such unusual decks in a major catalog. But since this catalog is all about retro chic, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that they'd choose two 19th century French decks. I wish they were pushing one of the really beautiful Italian decks like the Gumppenburg/Della Rocca ("Soprafino", my absolute favorite historical deck) or the Vacchetta, which was recently re-released by Lo Scarabeo. But those decks have only pips on the number cards, which maybe didn't appeal to the Restoration Hardware

people.


In other home news, there are some nice looking throw pillows on sale at Pier 1 imports, with a sort of ribbed cotton finish? Don't buy them. Or if you do, make sure they are exactly the same color as your couch and your clothes. I bought a red one, and after one afternoon of lounging, the end of the couch and the back of my sweatshirt have turned pink. The sweatshirt is no big deal, I can bleach that out, but the couch may be a problem. Very annoying.


Lastly, I got a couple of photos uploaded: First the mirror we bought for the bathroom. I am really, really happy with the way it looks. Rather than a frame, it has a six inch border made from frosting the glass around the edge. Which matches the light grey walls perfectly. You can see in the photo that the lamp isn't centered, but I'm so over that. Considering the disaster it almost was, an off-center lamp is fine by me. So the only thing left to do in the bathroom is get the glass shelf hung under the mirror. More on that later.


Second, here's a photo of the most amazing boots in the world. I bought them for myself on a whim, and probably shouldn't have, but now they can be my treat from the VTW royalty. These boots are so cool I can hardly believe I actually own them. Now I have to figure out where to wear them.


Now that I think about it, my treat for myself from the advance was an ankle tattoo. Which is kind of a strange coincidence. I seem to be developing some sort of foot obsession.

10/12/02

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In the fine tradition of compartmentalization, I wrote about the news events in the previous post and saved all the personal stuff for this one. First of all, the royalty statement arrived. To which I say, yay! Very, very exciting to finally have concrete numbers after the deck being out there for over six months. And the numbers were good, about as good as what I had hoped for. So I'm very happy.


The only thing I still don't know is the rate of sales. I am assuming there were a lot of sales at the beginning and then it slacked off, but I really have no idea if that's true or not. Should I expected future statements to be smaller? Or does it build as worth of mouth increases, so maybe sales will increase? My friend J. who's given me a lot of advice on the publishing industry writes romance, which is totally different. In her genre, titles are cycled in and out so quickly. Unless the book is a monster seller, it only gets a few months. But that's not true with Tarot decks (at least I hope not!).


So I had been planning to use the money to install that instant water heater that we had talked about. Which would be a really nice thing to have -- unlimited hot water and lower heat bills. However, it's a fairly big expense, especially on top of having redone the entire bathroom. In these uncertain economic times I'm not sure that's so wise right now. Besides, the hot water is working so much better since they redid all the plumbing. Because of the drought I've gotten in the habit of turning off the water to wash my hair, and turning it back on to rinse. And I almost always have enough hot water. Before the replumbing, the water was cold by the time I rinsed my hair every day. Can I mention how much that sucked? (I wonder if that had anything to do with my having a chest cold pretty much constantly last winter?)


So Georg and I talked it over, and we're going to put the instant water heater on hold for now. If the hot water becomes a problem this winter again, we can revisit the subject. But in the meantime I'm going to send the royalty to the evil credit card company. Who is already sending me those form letters that say "We recently received a large payment. Are you leaving us? Please take these counter checks, with an extra low rate and lots of strings attached! Because we love you and we need you! And we really want to keep exploiting your financial irresponsibility!" Credit card companies are so evil.


Also, in non-financial news, I got a call to my show this morning! OK, so it was a friend of mine. But still, what fun to actually get a phone call. I didn't know who it was at first, which resulted in endless hilarity. Well actually, about 2 minutes of hilarity, as I had to get off the phone so I could cue up the next song and do a talk set. I wish I'd know he was going to listen as I would have played some things that I think he would have liked. He said he was enjoying the show though. The DJ before me had done hip hop, so I followed him with some funk and R&B. There's a new CD by Yohimbe Brothers on our playlist that I like a lot.


In my final bit of news, I have been on the Atkins diet for about three weeks. I haven't mentioned it before because I absolutely do not want to be one of people who prattles on endlessly about their diet. Good grief I can't stand that, and I do not want to do that to you. Like anyone else cares how many grams of carbohydrate one ate yesterday?


On the other hand, I've never "been on a diet" before in my life. So this is a strange and new -- though not unpleasant, to my surprise -- experience for me, which is occupying a lot of my attention. This is by way of explaining why I've been so slack about the diary lately, and probably will continue to be until I settle into a routine and am not so preoccupied with food. So anyway, let me just say that I'm on the Atkins diet, I'm pleased with my progress so far, and I am not going to talk about it here again. However, feel free to send me an email if you have done Atkins and have any advice.

10/12/02

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I'm sure by now that everyone has heard the horrible story about the serial killer in the DC area who allegedly left a Tarot Death card at the scene of one of the crimes. I haven't been following the news all that closely, as the inevitable march to War Against Oceania Which Has Always Been Our Enemy is so depressing I haven't been able to stomach the news lately. So I probably can't offer much in the way of insightful commentary.


Except to say, first of all, I'm pleasantly surprised to see quotes from respected figures in our community like Rachel Pollack and Geraldine Amaral showing up in major media outlets. It says to me that the media takes Tarot authors seriously enough to at least talk to us, which is something. A big something. I was afraid we'd see a batch of hateful anti-divination fundamentalist screed, and I'm sure that sort of thing is being said, but not in any media outlet I'm following.

Also, the American Tarot Association has posted a press release which I found remarkably level-headed. A question like "what does the Death card mean" or "where does Tarot come from" is extremely complex, but they had to write a simple press sheet with easy-to-digest information. With that in mind I am impressed with what they came up with.


I wish they had mentioned the fact that in truth, we know nothing about that Tarot card, why was it left there, even who left it. For all we know, it might not have been left by the killer at all. It might have been some idiot teenager who thought it was a funny joke, or some sad crazy person trying to attach themselves to a notorious crime, etc. Those of us who are not law enforcement officers actually working on this case really have no idea what that card is about. Heck, we don't even know what deck it's from!


They do say that they are not in any way trying to speculate on the mindset of the person who left that card. Which is good, I'm very glad they said that. Although they then go on to say that the person probably knows very little about Tarot. Which is probably true, but it's also the kind of speculation that they said they would avoid, and probably should. But what do I know, I'm not the one being barraged by questions from the press.

10/10/02

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The web stream has been turned back on at WXDU. for the time being. If you're so inclined, you can listen online at www.wxdu.org. Unfortunately you can't listen to my show unless you have severe insomnia, because I'm still on from 5 to 8 am on Saturdays. But Georg is on alternate Thursdays from 8 to 10 pm, a nice time. He's not on tonight, but next week he will be. He does a good show, so please listen if you can, and send him a request so he'll know you're listening!


The bad news is, as far as I know we will have to turn the webcast off again, permanently this time, at the end of the year when the reporting requirements take effect. This is the most insane part of the webcasting law: we would be required to record all sorts of detailed information about each song (i.e. title, album, songwriter, label, bar code) and what's more, each listener (i.e. IP address, length of time listening, songs they heard, geographical location, etc., all tracked by unique identifiers). In other words, we would have to turn in this sort of information: "Listener 1234, at this IP address and this physical location, listened to these 4 songs..." for every single listener we have online.


To me this seems like a serious invasion of our listeners' privacy. I guess Duke's lawyers and the station managers must agree, because the word has come down that we will stop webcasting the day this takes effect.


I hear that webcasters are negotiating a deal with the RIAA. Which sounded like good news, but actually for WXDU it's bad news. Because the deal only covers small commercial web broadcasters. Non-profit and community stations like us (or WCPE, an independant public classical station that a friend of mine works for) aren't included in the negotiations. Likewise House Resolution #5469, the Save Internet Radio Act, doesn't cover educational and community stations. So I'm not sure what's going to happen.


(In case you were wondering, NPR isn't affected by this, because they cut their own deal with the RIAA long before all this controversy became public, leaving the rest of the public and community radio stations to fend for themselves. I must say, I'm disappointed to find NPR behaving like one of the bad guys in issues affecting radio. Besides this, they also lobbied against Low Power FM, which would have been a boon to small community radio stations. You would think they'd support community radio as a whole, but it seems like it would be OK with them if all non-NPR community radio went away. But maybe I'm just cranky this morning.)


[later] Writing about this piqued my curiosity, so I went and read a bit about the DMCA. It's even worse than I thought! I knew about the fees and the reporting requirements, but I didn't know about the content restrictions. If I read the law correctly, we would:


-no longer be able to announce songs in advance (for example, we couldn't say "Next up we're going to hear such-and-so")


-have to wait at least an hour before playing requests


-not be able to play more than 4 songs in a two hour period by the same artist or from the same box set


-not be able to play more than 3 songs in a row by the same artist.


(information on the DMCA from the Save Our Streams website)


So for example, when an influential musician like George Harrison dies, a lot of DJs do tributes. You know, play a few of their favorite songs on the air. Georg did a 2 hour tribute to Joey Ramone when he died, and got a lot of calls from people who enjoyed and appreciated it. But if we continue webcasting, that's now illegal. Also, the rule limiting plays within a 2 hour period would be difficult logistically, since a college radio station changes shift so frequently.


I can't understand how this law could ever have passed. It's so beyond ridiculous. Has anyone who voted for the DMCA even listened to the radio? It seems obvious to me that the real purpose of this law is to make webcasting so difficult that everyone has to stop. Will someone please explain to me how on earth that benefits recording artists?

8/9/02

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The postage costs for VTW have gone up. Unfortunately, they've changed to a new and more complicated postage system, where the rate is dependant on the distance between the point of origin and the point of delivery. Which is more fair, to be sure, but now that there's no longer one consistent postage rate, it's a bit difficult to set up an order form.


To make things just that much more fun, the postage scale at the office seems to be incorrect now. Either that or I just don't know how to use it. But I think it's the former, as I've been taking care and following the instructions and I think I'm following the correct procedure. I'm thinking maybe the "point of origin" zip code in there is wrong. If it thinks we're in the wrong zone, that would explain why it always gives the wrong postage.


In any case, to get correct postage I have to weigh the package on the scale, then go back to my desk and use the USPS website to figure out what the postage actually is. I need to tell my boss about the problem with the scale, but he's kind of busy right now, and kind of cranky because of it, and I don't want to bother him. Besides, I want to make sure that I'm not just pushing the wrong buttons.


So far it looks like postage to the east coast has gone up a little, and to the west coast it's gone up a lot. I think I'm going to leave the shipping cost on my order form as it is though. To make the order form calculate the actual correct postage would be a serious pain in the butt, and surely not worth the effort considering that I'm not getting that many orders these days. They still trickle in, but it's not like when the deck was first released and I was taking stacks of boxes to the post office. I might rewrite the page to point out that people are effectively getting a discount of one to three dollars, depending on where they live.

8/8/02

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We've gotten our first negative review of VTW. To my knowledge, of course. In a way I'm relieved. I have been anticipating the dreaded negative review for a long time, wondering what they would say and how I would feel. Would I be hurt? Would I be angry? Would I take to bed and pull the covers over my head for a week? What if they were right? Would I feel like a talentless hack?


As it turns out I'm not upset about it, which is a relief. (And a pleasant surprise, considering my tendency to over-analyze and worry things to death.) Some of his criticisms are warranted, I think; some are arguable; and some I disagree with completely, including a couple of inaccuracies about the deck. However, I am not -- not! -- going to commit the big author mistake and argue with a review. Instead I will simply thank him from afar, for reminding me that I'm not all that.


Okay, well if I'm being all noble about it, I ought to be honest too. So I will confess that one line in the review does irk me: a statement that the project might have accomplished more if we were British instead of American. It's kind of funny because I have received positive letters from people who don't believe I'm American, they think only a Brit could have created the VTW art. Either way -- whether complimenting me by calling me British, or deriding me for being American -- I do not get it at all.


But whatever! I can't change who I am. If having been born in the US makes me less qualified to write or do art in the milieu of Victorian Britain, well there's not much to done about that. If "but you're not British" is the worst criticism of VTW, I think we're doing pretty well.

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