October 2003 Archives

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Happy Halloween! We're going to a party at our friend Calvin's. I don't have a costume (poor planning, I know, but here it is Halloween day & too late to really do anything about it, so there you are), so I thought I'd just wear a really funky outfit and say I dressed as someone cooler than I am.

Yesterday I had lunch with a couple of folks I met online. We get together for lunch every couple of months, usually at Rick's Diner. It's funny because we don't have a lot in common in terms of where our lives are, but I really like them and have a good time with them. I think the net is really good for that: letting you get to know someone aside from all the stuff like do you have kids, what do you do for a living, and so forth that might interfere with getting to know someone, say, at a party.

Just got back from taking Lina to the vet to have her stitches out. This time I thought ahead and called to see if they were running behind. But it still did me no good! They said they were right on schedule, so I showed up at 10, and still had to wait until 10:15 to get into the examining room. Maybe for them that is right on schedule.

After all these trips to the vet, at all of which nasty things happen to her, poor Lina's whining the whole time we're there is reaching manic proportions. Seriously, she's getting to the point where she disturbs other animals (and people). Unfortunately it's only going to get worse. Because Dr. Lindeke confirmed today that she does have a torn ligament in her knee.

I'm not really surprised, because it's been over a week and she's still limping just as much. We're tentatively scheduled for knee surgery next Wednesday, but they have to confirm it because they only have one doctor who can do knee surgery, and she 1. is part-time there and overbooked; 2. only wants to do knee surgeries on animals less than 50 pounds. Apparently the larger the animal, the more difficult the surgery. I would think the reverse, that tiny knees would be harder to work on than big ones. Just like baby clothes are more difficult to sew because everything is smaller. But then, I'm not a doctor so what do I know.

Anyway, if this doctor at St. Francis can't do Lina, then we have to go to some veterinary surgical practice in Raleigh that Dr. Lindeke recommended. She said it's a state of the art facility and they'd do a really good job, but it would also be more expensive there.

On the other hand, the good news is the biopsy came bak and there's no sign that Lina had a tumor after all. The diagnosis is "Focal chronic ulcerative dermatitis with granulation tissue formation." Which apparently means "big inflamed lump on the skin with no obvious cause." [Warning: Gross Medical Information Ahead!] Dr. Lindeke was so amused by the lab report that she gave me a copy. It suggests the possibility "... that the dog had licked or chewed off the tumor in this area." In other words, if she ever had a tumor there, she ate it. Can I just say ick? I mean, ick. [End Grossout Warning]

So it seems this has turned out to be the month of veterenary bills. Poor Lina. An added complication is that, as always, they'll be spending Thanksgiving weekend in a kennel. So we either need to have the surgery immediately, so she'll be recovered by then, or wait until December.

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Salon.com has finally done it: published the stupidest article about low carbing imaginable. An amazing feat considering the lack of stupid anti-low carb myths (you're not allowed to eat vegetables! bacon at every meal! your kidneys are going to explode!) in said article.

Instead they compare Atkins to hacking. Tediously. With a seemingly endless supply of (ahem) cute metaphors. "Overclocking your body." "Reprogramming yourself." "New metabolic pathway." "Operating your body out of spec."

Excuse me while I throw up my high-protein breakfast.

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Great news! VRT has been listed in the Victorian Trading Company catalog! My mom called me last night to tell me. It's up near the front of the catalog, on their halloween themed page. I've heard that catalogs tend to sell a lot of books. So I have high hopes that this will help our sales, which had dropped alarmingly, one might even say plummeted (that is if one knew how to spell that word, which seems to be beyond me at this moment), in the last royalty statement. Actually I've been wishing Victorian Trading Company would carry us for the past year. So yay Llewellyn for getting it in there!

I had fun at the radio this morning. Pretty good show too, if I do say so myself. One of these days I'm going to remember to bring casettes and tape my show. I had a trainee from 10 to 11; a nice fellow named Leonardo who was a lot more comfortable on the air than I was for months. He said he had been living in Mexico for the past 6 years, and played mostly Latin music (although I did make him fulfill his playlist requirement). He was really into Cafe Tacuba, told me they were the best live show he'd ever seen. I pulled a couple of things I liked from the Latin section of our library to show him. Leonardo hadn't heard of Kinky and seemed to dig them, but he was, ahem, very diplomatic when I asked him what he thought of Aterciopelados. Oh well, no accounting for taste.

Unfortunately, the training director hadn't left me a handout or checklist, or even warned me Leornado was coming, so I'm not sure if I told him everything I was supposed to. I tried to hit the highlights like transmitter readings, writing down your PSAs, etc., but mainly stood back and let him do his set. Well he had already had a training session with Brad last week, so here's hoping anything I forgot was covered by Brad.

I forgot to mention that with Lina having to go back to the vet and all, I didn't end up going to the state fair with Georg and Rob. So I missed out on the mini donuts after all. Oh well, next year for sure!

OK, I'm all set up on the couch with warm socks, a full belly and a two hour show about Morcheeba for background entertainment, and I am going to finish that danged Vegas trip report. On which I think I had gotten to Tuesday morning.

Tuesday morning we walked down to the southern end of the strip to see the MGM Grand, Tropicana, New York New York, Luxor, and Mandalay Bay. The past two trips we stayed at the Tropicana and spent most of our time down at that end of the strip. But this time we mostly hung out around the Bellagio and Alladin, naturally.

We took the tram from Luxor to Mandalay Bay, where I made a quick cell phone call to our friend Pru. A little background: Two years ago Georg and Pru and I all went to Vegas together. We were highly amused by the people everywhere with cell phones surgically attached to their heads. It seems like some people can't stand to be silent for more than five minutes; they have to be on the phone as often as possible. We saw one woman literally stepping off the tram shouting "I'm at Luxor! I just got off the tram!" into her phone. That was so funny it became sort of a catch-phrase for us. I'm at Luxor! I just got off the tram! It doesn't look that funny written down; I guess it's one of those things that's only funny if you were there.

So, of course I couldn't resist calling Pru on my cell phone at the tram station, and saying "Hi Pru! We're in Vegas! We just got off the tram!" I don't know if she even knew we were there. It was lucky I still had her number in my phone from our trip to Baltimore over the summer.

Anyway, the hotels down at the south end were pretty much as I remembered them, except that Mandalay Bay and Luxor are building a shopping mall into a second-story walkway between the two hotels. It's open to walk through, but only a couple of stores were open. Including Urban Outfitters, which we had a lot of fun browsing. They have tons of neat home decor things, but all a bit expensive unfortunately. They also had a Mr. Sparkle T-shirt, but alas, they didn't have it in Georg's size. What a bummer!

I guess here I should say something about gambling. Now, Georg and I don't gamble much. Georg more than me, but both of us treat it as entertainment rather than a serious attempt to win money. I have a total system for stretching my gambling dollar as far as possible: first, I only play nickel or penny slots, and only the most fun machines with pretty pictures and animated bonus rounds. Second, I only play 3 lines. That way I won't see a win that I didn't get in the top or bottom line, but I'm not blowing tons of credits on 9 or 15 or whatever lines. Third, I don't leave the credits in the machine; I cash out every win, even just a few nickels, and put the coins back in one at a time for every spin. (The downside to this is my hand ends up filthy from handling all those coins, but they have wetnaps at the cashier stations.) Fourth, once I've decided how much to play at one time, I never add more money to the machine. Last and most important, if I hit a big win I always stop right then.

I never make much money with this system, but I never lose more than a few dollars either. On this trip I ended up $10 ahead! I spent my winnings on a pair of Hello Kitty underpants at the aforementioned Urban Outfitters.

Georg, on the other hand, won over $200! He really had a lucky streak. His best win, I think, was $50 on nickel slots. That's 1,000 credits! Well I definitely benefitted from Georg's good fortune. He spent his winnings on some pretty amazing restaurants, including Olive's for Tuesday lunch.

Todd English, the head chef of Olive's, appeared on the US version of Iron Chef as "Captain America." But I'll forgive him for that after having eaten at his restaurant. It was superlative. We had a carpaccio appetizer that was, I believe, the best single dish I've ever eaten. It came with big parmesan shavings, whole caramelized cipollini onions, little greens and a cake of roquefort polenta. For entree I had a crab & avocado salad, and Georg had fig and prosciutto flatbread. Which was actually a small pizza, but on a crust so thin that I guess they felt it was more accurate to call it flatbread.

The waiter was doing his level best to suck up, complimenting all of our ordering choices: "Our most popular selection," "An excellent blend of sweet and salty flavors," and so forth. It seemed to be a common habit among waiters at nice Vegas restaurants. I wonder if they're trying extra hard to dispel the stereotype of snotty waiters, to create the perception that the Vegas branches of these restaurants are more friendly? Do they get a lot of customers who wouldn't normally go to a restaurant of that caliber? Or are the waiters that eager to please in the original Olive's too? Anyway we're fairly comfortable with our food choices & don't really feel the need to seek out waiter approval, so we found the whole thing pretty amusing.

Another thing we noticed is that, while we've eaten at some pretty nice restaurants, none of them follow that traditional rule of service where the food is only served from the left. We decided that the restaurants we'd been to, while high quality, are all fairly informal. I bet at a formal place like Le Cirque or Renoir (Alessandro Stratta's Vegas restaurant, which has real Renoirs on display: we saw one through the window. And by the way, Stratta was also on Iron Chef USA as "The Italian Scallion," even though he's a French chef) they still serve from the left.

Speaking of Iron Chef USA, I know it was on TV a long time ago but eating at one of the cast's restaurants made me think about it again. And I have to say how disappointed I was at how badly the show turned out. At the time, I had high hopes for it. I thought -- and still think -- William Shatner was the absolute perfect choice to play the Chairman. Seriously, I can't think of another English speaking actor who'd be better suited for filling Chairman Kaga's frilly sequined jackets. And Shatner did his level best, as I recall. It was the rest of the show that sucked beyond belief.

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I have installed the MT-Blacklist plugin today; here's hoping it eliminates the comment spam problem. It isn't nearly as bad for me as it has been for some folks, but still annoying enough to be worth corrective measures.

The plugin apparently works by blocking comments that include links that are likely to be spam. So for the record, please avoid links to cheap pharmaceuticals and Viagra in your comments on this site or the car diary, as they will be blocked. Thank you!

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The vet called today to talk about Lina. Worst case scenario, she may have a torn ligament. Which would require knee surgery. Ugh. I have to take her back on Friday to have her stitches out, and we'll see then how well her knee has recovered. If she's still limping on Friday, they'll take X-rays.

The good news is that her stitches are healing up nicely, according to the doctor. She said that stitches on animals never heal as neatly as on humans, because the animals move around too much. She also assures me that once Lina's fur grows back it will be invisible.

Okay, back to the trip report. Monday lunch was our pilgrimage to Lindo Michoacan. Which is the best Mexican restaurant I've ever been to, and I've been to highly rated Mexican restaurants in Texas and Arizona. (And thanks to the Time Out Las Vegas guide for recommending it on our first trip to Vegas, years ago.) Well we got there and discovered that they're still closed from a fire last year. Waa! Luckily there was a sign out front with the address of their sister restaurant, Bonito Michoacan. Thanks to Georg's excellent sense of direction we found it without any trouble.

And it was good! Just as good as I remembered the original. We shared a dish of queso fundido, and then I had the chicken special, "Pollo Michoacan," and Georg had something with eggs. The tortillas were absolutely amazing; we could see a woman making them in a little booth across the dining room. I have to say, it's really hard to go back to pre-packaged tortillas after having fresh ones. The texture is totally different. The tortillas in restaurants around here just do not compare, much less in supermarkets. I wonder if there's a fresh tortilla shop in the Triangle? With the increased Latino community, you'd think there'd be a market for it.

Another table near us had the guacamole appetizer, and the waiter brought out all the ingredients and a molcajete and made it fresh for them! They were able to specify how much tomato, onion and jalapeno they wanted in it. Wow. Next time we definitely have to order that.

After the sublime Bonito Michoacan, we visited the Las Vegas Whole Foods store. It just opened a couple of months ago, and it is huge! They had all kinds of "A store features" like a case where they dry aged beef, a huge prepared foods section with a pizza oven, another case for aged cheese. One thing I really liked was small open refrigerated cases in the middle of a regular aisle. That lets them sell the fresh salad dressings with the regular salad dressings, or sell the milk near the cereal.

Georg gave the bread a critical eye, and declared it not as good as the bread they make at his bakehouse here in Morrisville. We talked about taking a loaf back to show them at the bakehouse, but decided that it wasn't worth trying to transport it. They did have nice looking desserts and pastries, which had a couple of different supplier names on the labels. I think the pastry departments in the stores around here either make their own desserts or get them from the bakehouse.

We were a bit tired and hot after driving around all afternoon -- have I mentioned how hot it was in Vegas last week? -- so we went back to the room and rested up until dinner time. We had hoped to have dinner at Olive's, the Todd English restaurant at Bellagio, but we hadn't thought to make a reservation and they were totally booked up by the time we got there. So we walked over to Caeser's Palace and ended up eating at Spago.

Lunch had been so big that even though it was late, we really weren't that hungry. So we went to the less formal (and less expensive) Spago Cafe out front, rather than the restaurant proper. We shared two pizzas -- one with duck sausage and shiitake mushrooms, and I think the other one was more traditional, with mushrooms, tomato and spinach. They were both excellent. As well they should be, considering Spago's reputation for pizza.

After dinner we walked around the Forum Shops a bit. They have a massive fishtank full of tropical fish which I love to check out. Last time we saw someone wearing scuba gear inside the tank. I can't remember if they were in there for some reason related to the fish, or just to wave at the tourists.

We also went by FAO Schwartz. They have this huge window display of little stuffed animals that move back and forth, acting out a Roman scene. On top was an Emperor on a throne, a banquet, chariot race and so forth. But the scene underground is more sinister: little teddy bear slaves at work, making bricks. One bear was digging earth for the bricks, but when we first saw him we thought he was digging a grave! I also took a photo of the bear slaves making bread in the underground kitchen.

Last we stopped by the Virgin Megastore to get music. Because we couldn't find a good college radio station on the car radio. There was a pretty good Latino station called "Radio Tres Color: Mexicanisimo!" They mostly played music with a lot of accordian and a sort of "oompa" beat -- wish I knew what that music is called, I really like it. But they had really long commercial breaks so we wanted a CD to play in the car. Georg picked up Bally Sagoo's new Bollywood Flashback 2, which was excellent, and I got Paris Lounge 3. Which, to be honest, didn't knock me out on first listen. But then again, I wasn't that crazy at first about London Lounge, another album in the same series. But now I love it and listen to it all the time.

Okay, so that's Monday! Whew, now I can go to bed.

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So where were we. Oh yes, we were at the Bellagio's gallery exhibit on Chatsworth, the home of the Duke of Devonshire. Chatsworth, located in Darbyshire, is one of the most-visited private homes in Europe according to the Bellagio website promoting the exhibit. Which, by the way, the website is extremely disappointing. I was hoping to be able to link to photos of some of the objects on display, but they have almost nothing and hardly any text either. There's a little bit more in the brochure, which fortunately Georg saved. I guess they wanted us to shell out for the exhibit catalog. I was tempted but, at $65, not that tempted.

Bellagio said that the house was Jane Austen's inspiration for Pemberly in Pride and Prejudice, but while flipping through a book about the house in the gift shop, we noticed a line that it's not known whether Austen actually visited the house when she toured the area. I'm not sure if that means the thing about Pemberley is just speculation, or if there's other evidence that Chatsworth definitely was her model for the house.

In any case, the exhibit consisted of art, jewelry, furniture, letters, and other treasures from the family collection. I think the oldest things on display were second century BC Roman cameos that had been collected by one of the previous Dukes. But among the oldest objects which were new when they passed into the family was a letter from Queen Elizabeth I to the Earl (not yet a duke) of Devonshire. They also had letters to various Dukes from Charlotte Bronte, Handel, Alexander Pope, Dickens, and Thackeray. Pretty impressive!

I don't really go for the exceptionally ornate furniture and jewelry, but the exhibit did have some really interesting components: a collection of drawings, mostly studies for paintings, which included works by Ruebens, Titian, Raphael, Dürer, and van Dyck among others. They also had a lovely portrait which was thought at one time to be a Leonardo, but now they think it was painted by his assistant Giovanni Boltraffio.

Also eighteenth century scientific equipment which came from Henry Cavendish, who was apparently nephew of one of the Dukes. From Cavendish they also had first editions of books by Galileo and Copernicus. Wow. There was also a fair amount of material by the architect Inigo Jones, who was patronized by an earlier Duke. They had a bust of Jones (along with a portrait of the then-Duke standing next to the same bust), letters and architectural drawings, and (most interesting to me) a series of simple drawings called "Triumphants" which depicted people of various professions. I have no idea what that was about because the audio wand didn't provide any information on that particular display.

Speaking of which, instead of signs next to the displays, they had these audio wands. They looked kind of like long cell phones. I'd never seen one before, but I guess I haven't spent much time in museums lately. Some of the displays had numbers next to them, and if you typed that number into the audio wand you would get information about the display. I can't decide whether I like the wand more or less than the traditional sign or placard. On the plus column, using the wand lets them provide much more information about each display. On the minus column, it tends to control the pace at which you view the displays. There was no pause button so when the voice moved on to the next artwork, I was obligated to move on with it. Of course you could always wait for the wand to finish talking and then go back, but it's not the same as a placard which you can read and think about for as long as you want.

The other big negative about the wand is that noisy people become much more of an irritant. I mean, loud people in a museum always annoy me, but even moreso when they're keeping me from information about the exhibit by yammering too loud for me to hear the wand. At one point there was this woman yelling "LOOK at this LETTER! Did you SEE the one by CHARLES DICKENS?" and I was sorely tempted to yell at Georg "LOOK at that IDIOT who will NOT SHUT UP! Did you SEE an EMPLOYEE anywhere who could MAKE THEM SHUT UP?" But I restrained myself. In any case, we got there early enough that we made it through about 2/3 of the gallery before the rude talky people showed up. After that it was just a matter of avoiding them as much as possible.

Interestingly, there was almost nothing in the collection for the 20th century. I think the last Victorian display was a costume from a grand 1897 party, and then the only 20th century displays I can remember were paintings by Lucian Freud, whose work the current Duke and Duchess are apparently very fond of. Freud's portraits are, well let's just say they're not very flattering. He tends to render people looking craggy and glum. Melancholy and isolation are the primary emotions of his work. Which makes it really interesting that the Duke and Duchess would be so into Freud, rather than an artist who would make them look attractive in their portraits. We wondered whether aristocrats on that level feel an obligation to patronize British artists, or maybe they just really like Freud's work.

The collection included portraits of the Duke, the Duchess and their son, and the audio wand had a hilarious story about the Duke going to Freud's studio to see the portrait of the Duchess for the first time. (Apparently Freud is notoriously private and won't let anyone see a work until it's finished.) While the Duke is staring at the painting, another visitor asks him who it's a portrait of. The Duke says, "It's my wife," to which the other man replies, "Thank god it's not my wife!"

The gift shop had tons of branded products to accompany the exhibit, including several books by the Duchess about the house and grounds, Duchess of Devonshire jam, Duchess of Devonshire biscuit tins, and so forth. I guess that, with an estate like that to maintain, they have to come up with some creative ways to make money. It must be a tremendous responsibility now that I think about it. Not just the financial burden, but the ethical responsibility of owning a collection that includes Henry VIII's rosary, needlework by Mary Queen of Scots, Henry Cavendish's telescope and so forth.

One last thing about the gallery: I was very pleased that, while they (of course) confiscated my bottle of water, they wrote my name on it and gave it back to me when I left. They do know something about customer service in Vegas.

Okay, whew! Finally done with the Chatsworth exhibit. We're almost up to lunchtime on Monday. I think I'm going to have to start writing in less detail or I'll never get through this trip report.

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Lina went to the vet this afternoon. They said she's limping because of her knee, and gave me Rimadyl to give her for the pain. I didn't get to talk to the doctor, but the paper said we should check back in a week and see if she's still having problems. The lady at the counter made noises about Lina maybe having arthritis and needing to take Rimadyl forever, but I really don't think that's it. Rob says she was out for a long time one afternoon, rambling around in the woodsy outer reaches of the back yard, and when she came back in she was limping. He said it's gotten better since that first day, when she was hopping to avoid putting any weight on that leg. It really sounds to me like an injury. Well anyway, I'm glad it's not related to the surgery. Best of all, the Rimadyl was a free sample. That stuff is expensive, or so I've heard.

We had dinner tonight at a new barbecue place in Chapel Hill, simply called the Barbecue Joint. They had some frou-frou items on the menu, like banana caramel torte instead of the traditional banana pudding. But the barbecue was excellent so I'll overlook it. It came with these spectacular fresh pickles. I don't even like pickles, but these were great. I also ordered green beans, which had tons of garlic and bacon on them.

Back to the trip report. Sunday dinner was the only dud meal. It was late and we were both to tired to walk over to another casino and sit down to a fancy meal, so we just went down to a cheeseburger place in the "Desert Passage" shopping mall in the Aladdin. The sign outside the restaurant had a rotating cheeseburger with a fez on it, which intrigued us, but it failed miserably to live up to expectations. There was nothing terribly wrong with the food; it was just mediocre, overpriced cheeseburgers. And i don't know about Georg, but I was way too tired to enjoy it even if it had been worth enjoying. Anyway, if that was our worst food experience then we did pretty well.

One thing I should mention here, before I forget, is that the Aladdin had really crummy cable TV -- all Vegas casinos seem to have bad cable, I guess because they want to encourage you to get out of the room and gamble -- but the one interesting thing was a Chinese channel. My Mandarin is so far gone, I couldn't understand but a few short phrases here and there. But I still had fun watching a news program, and a historical melodrama that seemed to be a soap opera with a lot of martial arts. They also had ads for some kind of freaky game show, or maybe talk show, with a lot of yelling and pictures of everyone's faces on Lego people. But we never caught that show, just the ads.

OK. Monday morning we both woke up early, because of jet lag, and walked around the big casinos. One of my favorite pastimes in Vegas is to look in the windows of designer boutiques like Armani, Chanel, Prada, etc., and read the menus of high end restaurants like Lutèce or Le Cirque. I don't have the nerve to go into the clothing stores since I have no intention of buying, but it's fun to window-shop. Especially since the designer stores seem to at least partially change their window displays every day.

Georg and I had great fun snarking on the various designer clothes on display. For instance, we decided that the women's shops were almost all going for one of two looks: either groupie slut (as Georg put it) or "I'd like to thank the Academy." Menswear often veered towards bling-bling (i.e. fur coats and basketball jerseys). Even Armani had a fur jacket in the window! Actually that jacket might have been for women, I can't remember. We also noted that DKNY is going totally new wave (they had a jacket in the window that looked like they stole it from Debbie Harry in 1981) and Betsy Johnson's clothes still look like she found them in the bargain bin of a thrift shop somewhere and marked them up 5,000%.

The worst clothing we saw anywhere was in a lingerie shop window. It was a completely backless nightgown (just a few strings to hold it up) made of fabric printed with images from the Kama Sutra. But get this, all the genitals had been airbrushed out! Why the heck would anyone buy a Kama Sutra nightie with all the naughty bits removed? What on earth is the point?

I didn't take many photos in the shopping malls, but I did get this one at the Venetian that proves mod is alive and well this fall. As if we didn't already know that. All I can say is, I had this idea way back in the spring, before I saw designer labels doing mod. I really did!

I also took this photo of (allegedly) the world's largest Hawaiian shirt, for my friend Marc who loves Hawaiian shirts.The little boy who appears to be peeing on the ground or something was a bonus. He was really jumping up and down.

Bellagio had really nice Christmas decorations up last December, and for fall they had done up their conservatory in a gorgeous autumnal display. Those glassy arches over the path are fountains of water. I forget the technical term, but there was a sign explaining that all the molecules of the water are aligned so that it flows perfectly smoothy, no spatter at all. That bed with the arches over it is normally full of flowers, but they had built a brick path down the length of it.

Around the sides of the conservatory were more beds full of autumn flowers, pumpkins and corn. This bed had big droplets of water -- maybe the size of a tablespoon -- blooping straight up about three feet, then falling back down. I tried to get a picture of it but with so much greenery, it was really hard to see the water in the photo. On the other side was this bundle of some kind of grass, standing a pool of misty water. My photo is a litle blurry unfortunately.

The main event, so to speak, in the conservatory was the "ol' mill" complete with functioning water wheel. Surrounding the mill were lots of these incredible glass leaves hanging from the ceiling. They had also scattered the leaves throughout the shopping mall part of the casino.

This time I remembered how I'm always disappointed to have photos of scenery but not of us. So I took a couple of shots of Georg on that walkway down the middle flower bed. I also made him take one of me but it didn't turn out that well, I don't think. We took tons of photos of each other in front of the ol' mill (yes, it was labeled "The Ol' Mill," complete with apostraphe, on the little sign) but the light was all wrong and they were totally washed out. We should have gone back in the afternoon and tried again.

My last photo of the conservatory is pretty unremarkable except that I think this is the staircase Julia Roberts walks down in her first scene in Ocean's Eleven. If I recall correctly, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt are waiting at the bottom of the stairs, and she walks past them, but you get the impression they're in some totally different place like the lobby, not the conservatory. Unfortunately we just cancelled HBO so I won't have 20 opportunities a week to watch the movie and check that scene. Guess I could rent it.

Jeez, I'm only up to about 9:30 am on Monday! Our next stop is a museum exhibit of objects from Chatsworth, the ancestral home of the Duke of Devonshire. Which will take a bit of time to write up so I'm going to start a new entry.

vegas, day 1

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When I woke up this morning, the sunlight looked so ... normal. Soft, a bit grey, like it's supposed to. In Vegas the sun was so bright, it looked like high noon from seven in the morning until late afternoon.

OK, the trip. It was terrific. I read Tipping the Velvet on the plane there. I've been meaning to read it for a long time, and it turned out to be really enjoyable. We got there about a half hour early, but our extra time was eaten up by a wait of over an hour at the car rental place. Poor Georg! I sat with the bags, but he had to stand in line that whole time. Tip for the day: Don't rent from Alamo! At least not in Vegas.

Still, the snafu at the car rental place was made up for by the car. Georg got us a convertible! It was so much fun to cruise around the strip with the top down. Although we did leave it up sometimes because of the heat.

Speaking of which, the heat. Wow it was hot. I ended up seriously overpacking because I had misjudged the weather. I knew how hot it would be during the day, but I thought it was going to get colder at night. I brought warm clothes for every evening, but as it turned out all I needed was a little jacket over my sundresses. Oh well, at least my suitcase has wheels on it.

The trip was all about the food and the Bellagio dancing waters, so that's what I'm going to be writing mostly about. Like I said yesterday, our room at the Alladin had a great view. You can see Bellagio to the left, behind the dancing waters, Caeser's Palace in the background to the right, and Paris just beneath our window. I took a ton of photos of the dancing waters from our room, but I found it really hard to capture the sense of movement in a still photo. Also the image kept getting cluttered up with dirt on the outside of the window, and reflections of the room behind me. If I were a better photographer I'd probably have known just what to do about that, but as it was I muddled through as best I could. Turning off the lights in the room helped a lot, and using the zoom also seemed to help for some reason. Maybe because zooming in on the lake cropped out the bright buildings right around us, which were lighting up the dirt stains on the window? Hmm.

Speaking of which, this is a note to myself: next time I plan to take lots of photos on a trip, I definitely want to take my computer with me. It was so frustrating to come back, download my photos and find shots that were almost right, except for one problem which I could have easily fixed if I'd known to try again.

Okay. So our first afternoon we didn't get checked into our room until about 2, which was 5 pm East Coast time. And Southwest gave us no food except for a snack pack of Ritz crackers and Oreo cookies (which I wasn't even going to eat since I knew I'd be carb-loading for the whole vacation). So all I had all day was an Atkins bar, and all Georg had was those crackers. So we were both pretty hungry. We walked down to a little French restaurant in front of Paris called Mon Ami Gabi. They had outdoor seating in front of the hotel, and we could sort of see the dancing waters across the street. We split a pate which came with this fantastic baguette, chewy and almost all crust, and then Georg had a croque monsieur and I had a really nice salad.

The most entertaining thing about our lunch was this table of blowhards sitting next to us. It seemed to be a guy and his wife on vacation having lunch with a local guy they knew through work. At least, the tourist guy was trying awfully hard to impress the local. Well, I wouldn't find drinking way too much and talking way too loud impressive, but this guy seemed to. From them I learned that it's better to date showgirls than strippers, the clubs are all dead on Sunday night, and the tourist's chiropractor knows a lot of bodybuilders on Venice Beach.

The funniest part was after the local left. The tourist and his wife spent some time talking in glowing terms about how on the ball he is, how he's got it all together, really thinks outside the box, uses his paradigms dynamically and probably a bunch of other management-speak cliches too. But this conversation quickly devolved into the two of them upbraiding the guy for being some kind of health nut. "Can you believe he drank iced tea with lunch?" He also apparently urged them to drink lots of water so as to avoid dehydration. Because we were in a desert and all. Wow, what a crazy health nut! I would have thought that someone who lives near Venice Beach would encounter enough serious fitness freaks that drinking iced tea at lunch would seem positively decadent.

After lunch we did some sightseeing on the strip. They were doing maintenance on the dancing waters, which they seemed to be doing every day, so I got this photo of the jets up out of the water. I think Georg said the lake is modeled on Lake Como in Italy. The new casinos are so impressive, but I'm fond of the old school, neon-explosion places like the Flamingo. (Of course, for a true neon explosion you have to visit Fremont Street. Which we did later in the trip.) There's also Bally's, which is a bit old school but not in the neon, swinging, "Vegas baby!" way. The front entry must have looked incredibly futuristic when they built it, but now it looks like a set from the movie Logan's Run. I find that movie corny good fun, so Bally's is too by association.

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We're back from Vegas! The trip was officially Too Much Fun. We ate tons of great food, saw the dancing waters many times, window shopped all the designer boutiques, visited the new Las Vegas Whole Foods store, drove down the strip in a convertible, and even won some money on the slot machines. Will start the obligatory trip report tomorrow after I've downloaded my photos.

Everything seems fine at home except that Lina's been limping for a couple of days. Rob left me a voice mail on my cell phone, but I never got the message. I hate my cell phone. Anyway Rob also called the vet, and they told him that as long as the stitches weren't swollen it's probably not urgent. I'll call them in the morning to schedule an appointment. Lina doesn't seem to be in pain, she just can't put much weight on that one leg.

We got home around 9 and had a late dinner, which was actually an early dinner according to Las Vegas time. Now I'm all comfy on the couch, sorting through 2,250 (mainly) junk email messages and enjoying a Burt's Bees foot treatment. Because, while I was careful to use lots of lip balm, hand lotion, and sunscreen, I completely forgot about my feet. Four days of walking around all day in sandals in a desert, and my feet were so dry, well you probably don't want to hear the details. Suffice it to say that I'm really glad to have the Burt's Bees foot stuff in the house.

In the meantime, here's one photo. This was the view from our hotel room!

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So is anyone watching the Nick and Jessica reality show on MTV? I confess it's a guilty pleasure for me. The question that looms over every episode is "Can anyone truly be that stupid?" And the answer seems to be yes.

Anyway. The past two days haven't been nearly as stressful as I expected. I got the DVR replaced Friday morning. I must say, the customer service at the cable company is excellent. What the heck is that about? I called in the morning and they scheduled a service call for the same day. Then about an hour later someone called back to tell me that I could take the box to their office on East Club and swap it out, if I didn't want to wait around all afternoon. I told her that since I work at home, I'd rather have someone come out. But then I got my work done more quickly than expected, so I did end up taking the box to their office. It was nice for the dogs to have an outing, although Lina was still probably too tired from her surgery the day before. Anyway the person at the cable office was really nice. I just handed her the box and my account number, and she gave me a new one. When I got back, all I had to do was call the cable company to activate the box and cancel the service call.

Rob flew in yesterday afternoon. We took him to the Q Shack for dinner last night, where I made the delightful discovery that you can choose any two meats you want on the cobb salad. I'm not crazy about their smoked turkey, which normally comes on it, so I got brisket and pulled chicken. Yum! On the downside, I was so excited about this discovery that I forgot to ask them to hold the hard boiled egg. Which meant they had to make my salad over, because the egg is really crumbly and it was all over everything. The guy who made the salad seemed really annoyed, but the women at the register was nice about it.

Then after dinner we all went to an small party at Lisa's house. There was much drinking, naming of household objects, trying on (and showing off) of clothes, and dancing like Peewee and like Wesley and like Bollywood bandleaders. Good times.

There was also a debate over which fair food is better: deep fried Snickers bars or mini donuts. I'm firmly in the "mini donut" camp; they've been a highlight of the fair for me for years. The secret to getting the best mini donuts is to get behind a line of people. That way they'll definitely be out of donuts and have to make fresh ones for you. So you get to watch the donuts float down a little canal of oil, be flipped over automatically, then pop out to be put in a bag and handed to you, still hot. I skipped the mini donuts last time and have been regretting it all year. This year they're all mine!

This morning Georg and Rob went grocery shopping, while I headed back over to Lisa's to help her set up for painting her living room tomorrow. it went really quickly because there wasn't that much stuff in the room and we didn't have to remove the furniture, just push it into the center. Her cat Moses was surprisingly calm I thought he'd be really upset by the disruption of his living space, but he didn't even seem to notice until the furniture was all moved. Then he paced around a bit before settling back on the couch.

Lina and Thirteen seem to remember Rob from before, so I don't think they'll give him too much trouble. Although Lina's worrying at her stitches is a problem. She hasn't pulled any stitches out, but the incision doesn't seem to be healing like it should. I think she's keeping it open with all the licking. Sorry, that was really gross. I had to go ahead and put clove oil on the surrounding area. We were trying to decide yesterday whether the clove oil would make her smell like pumpkin pie, or ham. Turns out it's ham. Poor dog.

Getting ready for the trip went pretty easily this afternoon. I think that has a lot to do with not having to set up the timers on the lamps, empty the fridge of perishables, get the dogs to the kennel, etc. All the things we'd normally be doing to close up the house for a few days. Instead we just had to do laundry and pack.

I even had time to fix up a skirt that I wanted to wear on the trip, but had gotten too big for me. Which turned out to be more work than I had expected, because the skirt was surprisingly well made. Lots of detail and understitching and so forth that all had to be pulled out. Figures that the one time I want clothing to be shoddy and cheaply made, is the time I end up with quality workmanship. Because of that, it isn't the tidiest job of alterations in the world. In fact it's complete crap. But it will hold together and it looks okay on the outside. And no one's going to see the inside but me.

Well our plane leaves pretty early tomorrow, and I'm not taking the computer, so I won't be posting again until we get back Thursday night. In the meantime, have fun!

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Whew, busy week. My big project is just about wrapped up, thank god. Now I have tomorrow to do all the other stuff that piled up in the meantime.

On Tuesday night we had dinner with my good friends Chandra and Fred at the Southern Season restaurant. I must say, I'll miss the outdoor seating they used to have but the new space is swank. Good food too. Chandra is a chocolate connoisseur (from her I learned that no matter how good the chocolate, a bar so big you need a hammer to break it apart in order to eat it isn't worth the trouble) so we spent some time after dinner perusing the candy selection in the store.

Wednesday night was Stoneline. It was quarterly tax night, but I made far less progress than I wanted. Because first of all, they had switched from DSL to cable earlier that day, and needed my help disentangling their Earthlink account and preventing double billing. Which turned out to be way more complicated than it should have been. Second, they've been approached to make some furniture for a government agency, but in order to get the job they have to have something called a "GSA Schedule." So they asked me to find out what what that is, and how to get it. Ai! What a headache. The application is 80 pages long!

On top of all that, they went out for the evening and their six year old daughter Carina had friends over. Carina's bedroom is right above my computer desk, and she and her friends were playing a game that apparently involved throwing bowling balls off the bed. I swear, I thought I was going to end up with ceiling plaster falling into my hair.

So anyway, the point is that I was totally unable to concentrate on the taxes. Which require serious concentration since they got switched to semi-weekly filing. I worked on them for over an hour and managed to do nothing more than ruin a form. (good thing I have a spare!) Oh well, this is why I don't wait until the end of the month to do the quarterly taxes. I'll try again next week after we get back from vacation.

Lina had her surgery today. I didn't get to talk to the doctor, but the vet tech said it was a success, they got the whole tumor. She's been really sleepy all evening from the anaesthetic. Keeping her from worrying at the stitches is going to be a problem, I can tell already. I've had to stop her a couple of times already this evening. I just put Neosporin on it, hope that helps. The vet tech also told me I could put a dab of clove oil around the area to stop her from licking. I may try that, but I'm worried about getting it in the incision. I'm sure it would burn.

Georg's brother Rob is going to housesit while we're in Vegas next week. His flight comes in tomorrow, so we'll have a couple of days to visit before we go, and he'll stay throug the weekend after we get back. This means that we'll be introducing him to the glory that is The Fair. The fair starts this weekend, and we'll be away for most of it, but we try not to go on the first or last weekend because of the crowding. So that leaves next Friday. Hope it doesn't rain!

So anyway, Vegas. We're leaving on Sunday and will be there until Thursday. I can't wait! We're staying at the Alladin this time, so we'll be right across the street from the dancing waters at Bellagio. It's supposed to be hot as hell there next week. The long range forecast changes every day, but at one point they were predicting highs around 99° F on Tuesday and Wednesday. Blegh! Well at least I'll get one more use out of my sundresses this year. And on the bright side, without bulky clothes and heavy shoes my suitcase will be relatively light.

Our Tivo-like device has been acting messed up. When we try to record a show, it sort of skips or something. Every five seconds it pauses for a half-second or longer. Makes the show completely unwatchable, and once it happens, stopping record doesn't stop it -- the live broadcast gets screwed up too. The only way to stop it is the unplug the DVR and let it restart. No fun when that happens in the middle of a show you're trying to watch. Sounds like a bad drive maybe.

Guess I better call the cable company. I hate for Rob to have to deal with this but I doubt the cable company will come out before we go. Then again, he's already going to have to deal with the dogs' myriad medications and Lina's stitches. So maybe the Tivo-like device's problems will be no big deal in comparison.

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The cable guy came this morning and installed the Tivo. Well actually it's a generic digital video recorder, not a Tivo. But I still think of it as Tivo, except that it doesn't make those "bip-boop" noises that a Tivo makes.

The cable guy was really nice. He recognized my car and asked me lots of questions about it. We actually had coffee to offer him because Georg was home, but he didn't want any. He said that we were his third stop that day, and the previous two had talked to him at length about 1. a recent divorce and 2. a recent job loss. I told him that I didn't have any trauma to share, and he said I was his favorite person.

I talked to the vet on the phone today and feel much easier about Lina's tumor. I had been concerned that it was a mast cell tumor, which can be bad news. But the vet says it's probably an adenoma. Which apparently is a doggie wart. Easy to remove, low chance of recurrance, extremely low chance of metastasis. What a relief.

Best of all, she said we don't have to force Lina to wear the elizabethan collar. (I refuse to call it an E-collar.) Which is great because keeping it on her was literally impossible. We tried tying it to her collar, but it slipped right off and then hung from her neck like some weird bib or something. I did take a photo of her shaking the cone off her head, but unfortunately the flash didn't go off. And I'm not putting that thing back on her just for a photo op.

Anyway, the vet said that since she's responding to the antibiotics, and when we tell her to stop worrying at it she's pretty good about stopping, she doesn't have to wear the Cone of Shame. Of course she's free to go at the sore spot while we're out or asleep, but I'm putting Neosporin on it in hope that it will taste bad and she'll leave it alone.

Lina of course is having a grand time. She gets a big hunk of cheese (containing her antibiotic) twice a day, lots of extra attention, and a new nickname: Cancer Girl. Cancer Girl gets to sleep on the bed whenever she wants!

Georg had the day off work so we saw Kill Bill this afternoon. Two tons of fun! I really enjoyed it. Tarantino has clearly been watching his fair share of samurai movies and yakuza movies. I have to warn the squeamish that this may be the most violent American movie I've ever seen. (I don't know how it compares to the horror genre, which I don't generally watch.) But if you've watched much anime, yakuza films or HK martial arts films, then the violence level won't be that much of a shock. Actually some of it, particularly the big set piece at the end, was so cartoony that it reminded me of that old Monty Python sketch where the turn of the century tennis party turns into a bloodbath. Georg also pointed out that the body count is probably lower than a lot of blockbuster action movies, but in Schwarzenegger films he shoots people, they fall down and that's it. Kill Bill isn't sanitized like that. On the contrary, Tarantino revels, nay wallows in the consequences of violence.

I had a theory, based only on the advertising, that Kill Bill was really Fox Force Five, the pilot that Uma Thurman's character Mia Wallace talked about in Pulp Fiction. In actuality it wasn't that much like the description of Fox Force Five, except I guess for the group of multi-ethnic assassin babes. But I think the presence of the "Death List Five" must be a reference. Now if Thurman tells any old vaudeville jokes in part two of Kill Bill, then we'll know for sure about the Fox Force Five influence.

Now we're playing with the Tivo. Or "Tivo-like device" if you want to be specific. It seems pretty easy to use, although the one pre-recorded show I've watched so far, I kept forgetting to fast-forward through the commercials. (I often forget to skip the commercials when watching videotapes.) It won't do that automatically, which is no surprise considering it was provided by the same company which sells TV commercial time to advertisers.

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Just got back from the vet. I love my vet, but they have serious scheduling problems. We spend way too much time standing around waiting there.

Anyway. Lina has a tumor on her side, by her hip. The vet didn't make it sound too dire, although she did make the receptionist reschedule someone else so Lina could have surgery next week. She said that the biggest problem is from infection, which it is because Lina's been worrying at it. I'm hoping that we caught it in time before it became a real danger. The worst part, so far, is the $200 bill for office visit, blood work, antibiotic for Lina, and steroids and hypoallergenic shampoo for Thirteen's skin irritation.

And worst of all, the dreaded elizabethan collar, now known as "E-Collar." Whatever that means. I was feeling bad enough about the collar, then I found this web page which makes it sound like torture. There is no way she's going to wear that thing for a week! I put it on her this afternoon and it stayed on for precisely 5 seconds after my back was turned. The problem is she has a big thick neck, her head is small by comparison. Collars don't stay on her, she has to wear a harness when we go out. All she has to do is shake her head and that stupid thing pops right off.

She's not wearing it now. She's sleeping and I'm right here, so I can make sure she doesn't worry at that spot. I guess we'll try to make her wear it at night when we go to sleep. Ha ha.

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On the way home from Stoneline last night I heard Bill O'Reilly on Fresh Air. Disclaimer: I don't really know anything about Bill O'Reilly. I've never watched or heard one of his shows. I know that he's a controversial figure, and I know he has a reputation for yelling at people on his shows, but that's about it.

Well after hearing him harangue Terry Gross for the better part of an hour, now I have an idea of why he's so controversial. It was really astonishing. O'Reilly talked to Terry Gross like she was stupid for most of the interview, then at the end -- when she tried to read a paragraph from a negative book review -- he went ballistic, yelled at her and walked off abruptly. I guess she should have been expecting some kind of antics, but she sounded taken aback by it.

He talked a lot during the interview about how his own show is all about "truth," how his job is to reveal the truth. All I can say is, anyone who says things like "if you read my book, then you have to agree with me, and if you don't agree with me then you can't read," is not dealing in fact. Facts stand on their own merit; they don't need to be propped up with bullying or insults.

(That is not a word-for-word quote in the paragraph above because I'm too lazy, busy, and actually don't care enough to listen to the interview again and transcribe one. It's pretty close, he definitely said about anyone who doesn't agree with him "then you can't read.")

Then again, he didn't say his purpose is to reveal facts; he said it was to reveal the truth. I guess he meant The Truth, a moral imperative not necessarily connected with facts, which in the messy real world are often open to multiple interpretations by reasonable people.

Later on it was Angel night. Lisa couldn't make it because she's getting ready for a big car show, but Shayne still kindly hosted. Well after griping last week about how there's nothing to distinguish Spike from Angel, I have to concede that they've made him a lot different from Angel. The whole ghost thing, of course, but also he's not so mopey as he was on the last season of Buffy (thank god).

After the show Dave came down and asked what it was about. (And probably regretted it immediately, but was nice enough not to show it.) When he learned Spike was a ghost, he immediately asked "Can he walk on the floor?" Which started a whole discussion of why ghosts can float through walls and furniture, but not through the floor. Dave was trying to construct a theory of ectoplasm being repelled by floors, so people who have ghosts in their lives should build their whole houses and furnishings out of flooring material. I countered with the rather more prosaic theory that it's just a convention of TV that ghosts can walk on floors, because it would be too expensive to produce the effect of floating around all the time.

Then we remembered that besides walking on floors, Spike could also sit in chairs. I wondered if it was a matter of intent -- does the ghost want to lean against the wall, or pass through it -- which idea was roundly condemned. And rightly so, now that I think about it. Because there's a scene in the show where Spike tries to hit a demon and his fist goes through it. So clearly it has nothing to do with intent.

Anyway, I think the real point of this discussion is that we are all thinking way too much about these things. Dave also asked, is Spike a human ghost or a vampire ghost? Can he make the vamp face while he's a ghost? If he gets a corporeal form, will it be human or vampire? Which is a good question and I hope they address it on the show.

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Yesterday, just as I was leaving for my show at WXDU, the smoke alarm went off. I was pretty sure that it was just the steam from the shower, it's happened before because the smoke alarm is right outside the bathroom. But still, I felt really uncomfortable about leaving the dogs alone for three hours when there might be a fire in the house. Not to mention the noise, which was bad enough for me but clearly quite painful for them.

I called the station to alert the next DJ that I was going to be a few minutes late, got a chair and pulled the battery out of the smoke alarm, then spent the next twenty minutes looking around the house for signs of fire and unplugging everything I could think of. I even went up in the attic. I thought about removing our computers from the house, but decided against it because, what if there was a fire, and I had taken the computers to safety but left the dogs to burn up? That would have been so awful and callous. So instead I left everything behind, which made me feel like at least I didn't value the equipment over our pets.

Of course there was no fire, but I still worried about it all morning. I made myself feel better by calling the house every half hour. On the logic that a fire would have cut out the electricity, so the answering machine wouldn't work.

Aside from worrying about what I was going to come home to, I had a pretty good show if I do say so myself. I thought I was supposed to have an on-air trainee, but no one showed up. I didn't get any calls, but line 1 wasn't working (non-stop busy signal) which might have had something to do with it.

There's been a discussion lately of backselling, how people wait too long between talksets, so I made a real effort to backsell every 5-6 songs. Which still ended up being only 2 talksets an hour. It's because I play so much RPM, all the tracks are five minutes long or even more.

This morning I was horrified to realize that I'd forgotten to turn off the high-speed net access I had signed up for on my cell phone before Artscape. I signed up just before the parade, on the assumption that I'd cancel right after. Well I forgot, and it's been 3 months of service now, at $80 a month on top of our regular bill. Yikes!

I called up Verizon Wireless, hoping I could sweet talk them into only charging me for the one month since our phone records would show that we had only used it for a few days back at the end of July. Well as it turns out, we're not being charged $80 a month. We never had the high speed access. I thought we were signed up but apparently we weren't.

My first thought was immense relief at not having wasted $160 (and beyond that, having saved $80 that I had intended to spend). My second thought was, "well that explains why it was so slow!" Really, I couldn't understand how they could charge $80 for a data connection that was only marginally better than what I'd had before. Because, in actuality they had upgraded me to a better free service, not to the expensive one.

My third thought, now that I've gotten over my relief, is to wonder what the heck is wrong with Verizon Wireless. When I signed up for the high speed access I spent a lot of time on the phone with that guy, making absolutely sure he understood what I wanted. And I still didn't get it! Maybe it's time to look into a new cell phone service.

It's not like we have a strong attachment to the phone number, or to Verizon. We used them in the first place because they were the only one that had decent service out here at the house. But that was a year and a half ago; maybe coverage has improved with someone else. I need to have some friends with other cell companies come over here to see if their phones work. Too bad I didn't think of this on Bollywood night; almost everyone there has a cell phone. Don't know if they all brought them though.

One last gadgetry thing: called the cable company today, they are offering a Tivo-like digital video recorder for only $7 a month and no charge for the box. Cancelled HBO at the same time, since we hardly ever watch it, so our cable bill is actually going to go down. They're coming on Friday to install the new box. Whee! I have no idea how it will compare to Tivo, how much storage it will have and so forth. But we can cancel it anytime so if it turns out not to be that good, we can always just switch to Tivo.

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I went to Wellspring a couple of days ago and they had a big container of chopped liver in the deli case. They normally don't carry it, but I guess they made it special for the high holy days. I love chopped liver so I got a container. It was gross! Full of big chunks of hard boiled egg, and it hardly even tasted like liver. I never had chopped liver with hard boiled egg in it. I think they were trying to stretch the recipe.

It was so bad that I took it back the next day and asked for a refund. I felt like kind of a jerk, but I honestly felt ripped off. They even had the nerve to call it "Cindy's Famous Chopped Liver"! Famous for what, being disgusting? The woman at the service desk was really nice about it. She gave me a store credit and said she'd tell the people in prepared foods about it. Georg said that it probably wasn't even made here, but at some regional place. After he said that, I remembered my friend Peggy complaining that Whole Foods made really bad chopped liver. So today's tip is: no matter where you live, avoid the chopped liver from Whole Foods.

After returning the offending chopped liver I went by Southern Season (who make really good chopped liver) but they were out. Boo hoo! On the other hand I got a look at their new location. It's really, really big. It used to be a department store (a Belk's I think) on the end of University Mall. I didn't have time to walk around the whole store, but I did notice that the china and cookware section is hugely expanded. I hope the food sections are similarly increased!

Last night we tried to see Lost in Translation, but got there a few minutes late. We weren't sure if we were just going to miss the trailers, or if the movie would have already started. So we walked around Southpoint Mall instead. Stopped by the Apple store to drool over the G5s. Which I have to say, I'm not crazy about the new case design. It's so flat. But maybe works better for clusters or something. Also we bought an iPod splitter so we can both listen to music on the plane when we go on vacation at the end of the month.

After the Apple store I indulged in one of my favorite shopping tactics: trying on clothes in expensive stores to find out my size, so I can go online and buy clearance. Because I'm not stupid enough to pay full price for J. Crew or the Gap, but they sometimes have good sales on their websites.

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The past couple of days have been pretty uneventful: just work mainly. Oh, and spending way too much time driving around because Durham and Chapel Hill have decided that now would be a good time to do disruptive road construction in as many places as possible simultaneously.

On Wed. I ended up 25 minutes late for a 30 minute hair appointment due to said road construction. Luckily my hairdresser David is a nice guy, didn't give me a hard time about missing the entire appointment, and let me come back that evening when he had a free half hour. Of course that meant another trip to and from Chapel Hill, but this time I took a different route and bypassed the traffic.

We're growing my hair back out again a bit, since it's getting cold, so it doesn't look that different. In fact no one noticed (sniffle) except Shayne who hadn't seen me in months so she hadn't seen it short before. David styled it a new way that looks terrific, but takes a godawful amount of time for daily styling. Normally I sort of pull it straight with my hands while brow-drying, takes about 5 minutes. (Well, if we're being brutally honest, normally I just comb it down and let it air dry. But when I am stying it, that pulling straight thing is what I do.)

But this time he went all over my head, shaping individual little curls with his hands. Then used a diffuser so the blow-dryer didn't muss up the curls, just lightly loosened them. I felt like such a glamor-puss. Although when he was busy coiling up these little curls all over my head, I told him "You know I'm never going to actually do this, right?" He replied that he was just showing me what I could do. The sad thing is, yesterday I went ahead and did it! It took a long time but did turn out nice. As long as I don't end up having to use rollers. That would just be too much. Next thing I'd be going to the supermarket in my housecoat with a hair net over my rollers.

Wed. night was the Angel premiere at Shayne's house. I have high hopes for this season now that Joss only has one TV show (Don't tell me about the Firefly movie, I don't want to hear it!). I'm hopeful that he'll give more attention to this show and it will be really good, and the season premiere this week encouraged my hopes.

I had known that Spike was joining the show, and I have to admit, while I like Spike -- a whole lot more than some Buffy fans apparently -- I don't think he was a good choice of cast member to carry over from Buffy. I just don't see what he adds to the ensemble that isn't already provided by Angel. Let's see... vampire with soul? Check. Was evil, now good? Check. In love with Buffy? Check. Sacrificed all to be a champion of the people? Check.

So, much as I like Spike I didn't welcome the news that he was joining the cast of Angel. It didn't surprise me though. Considering the amount of screen time he got in Buffy's final season compared to original cast members like Giles, Willow and Xander, he was clearly considered a major star of the show. Maybe the major star second to Buffy.

Before seeing the episode I was thinking that Anya would have been my first choice to cross over. (Of course the character is dead, and not mystically dead but really, truly, extremely dead, so that's a somewhat moot point.) But I didn't know they'd be bringing in Harmony, who serves the function that Anya would have in my opinion. Harmony was a pleasant surprise by the way. Unfortunately the surprise came not when her face first appeared on screen, but when I saw her name in the "also featuring" list at the beginning of the show. I should stop reading that list.

So anyway, it was a good premiere. I'm still not totally caught up on who's who and what's what but I'm basically following the story. I made brownies for the evening, which alas didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. Charitably I would call them "cake-like," but uncharitably I would call them "dry." It's been a really long time since I baked anything, and I forgot that for brownies to turn out at all fudgy, they have to be still kinda raw in the middle when you take them out of the oven. I kept baking them until they seemed done, which was way too long. So I took along a bowl of whipped cream to smother the dryness. Lisa and Shayne were very nice about it anyway, and I had a good idea later on to let the rest go even more stale, crumble them up and use them to make a cheesecake crust.

Yesterday I made the rather unpleasant discovery that a container of Damp Rid -- that crystal stuff that sucks moisture out of the air -- had cracked in my closet and leaked all over about half of my clothes. I guess because the water had that damp rid stuff in it, it never dried, just sat on my clothes. Ugh. On the bright side, it was mostly clothes that I was planning to get rid of anyway. In fact I discovered it when I went to take them out, was going to go to Goodwill on my way to a work lunch meeting. But on the downside, that meant I spent the entire day laundering clothes that I don't even like or want anymore. Even the hangers had to be cleaned, they were all sticky with damp rid. So apparently those plastic containers need to be changed once in a while.

Then in the evening I had Stoneline (which I'd had to postpone because of the hair appt. snafu on Wed). Ended up going with them to a political puppet show called "Bread and Puppets Circus." Apparently it's some kind of famous puppet company from Vermont. I wouldn't call it shockingly incisive political satire, but the presentation was fun and even laugh-out-loud funny at times. They did a sketch at the beginning with local media outlets, represented by WXDU, WXYC and the Independant, entertaining people until they're silenced by the FCC and AOL Time Warner. Which was great to see our station's name up there. I "woo"ed as loud as I could when they said our name. I was surprised that they didn't include WUNC or WCPE in the local media outlets. Maybe because WUNC is NPR, so most of their programming isn't local, and WCPE is up in Wake Forest? Or maybe just because they were on a college campus and named the stations that college students would be listening to.

It was interesting to watch political humor with a six year old. Carina had lots of questions like, "what does 'victory over everything' mean?" or "what's 'the economy'?" Her younger sister Jenna limited her commentary to "Bye bye!" every time a sketch ended, and loudly trying to count the people who came on the stage. Since she can only count to two, this was pretty funny actually.

So the puppet show was fun, though I was severely underdressed for the event. It was at an outdoor stage under the trees with stone benches. A beautiful setting, but in the shade it was freezing cold, especially as the sun went down. I'm cold all the time these days, but last night it was really bad. I got a chill that didn't really go away until I got home from Stoneline around 9, had dinner and got under a blanket.

So I think that's all to report. Today it's work, work work.

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