28 May 2009

Writer's block and tiny cats

It occurred to me a few days ago that I hadn't posted anything new in a while. I buried that information in the back of my brain for later review and it only just came up again.

I haven't been able to put together anything coherent lately. I don't know why. I certainly haven't run out of things to complain about. Plenty of things irritate me, particularly when I'm hungry.

I'm working on a few good rants, but in the mean time, here are a few things that popped into my head this week. They may or may not be funny. Or interesting.

-When did John Cougar Mellencamp dump the "Cougar" from his name? I think that, considering the pop-culture phenomenon that is the "cougar" he ought to put it back in there. Capitalize on the trend while he can.
-It rained last week. I was looking forward to a good rain because my car is a mess. It rained enough to clean most of the dirt off my car, but not the bird poop. I don't know what those birds around here are eating, but something in their excrement, when mixed with the finish of my Cavalier, formed a powerful epoxy and that stuff isn't coming off without a fight.
I put a feeder in my backyard, and *this* is the thanks I get. Stupid birds.
-My “Check Engine” light has been on since I took my car home from the shop a few months ago. You’d think they would have checked the engine while they were fixing everything else. The light didn’t actually turn on until I’d driven about two miles from the shop.
I’ve decided to “fix” it by putting a piece of electrical tape over it.
-Why does the media always make a big deal about how popular and athletic and smart a missing/killed teenager is/was? Would it be less of a tragedy if some fat, stupid loser was killed by a drunk driver? Is it a matter of not wanting to speak ill of the dead, or do people just not care what happens to unpopular people? Nancy Grace talked yesterday (I changed the channel as fast as I could) about a "beautiful young wife and mother" who was killed by her husband. So would it be okay if she was a single, childless hag? I think to Nancy it would because Nancy doesn't talk about the ugly victims of crime on her program. Ever. If Natalee Holloway had been hook-nosed and greasy-haired and overweight, Nancy wouldn't have given the story air time. Neither would anyone else have.
-Last night I saw a commercial for a nasal spray for allergies. To illustrate how pet dander irritates the sinuses, the ad featured a tiny kitten dancing around under a large, disembodied nose.
I know I hate it when tiny cats frolic under my nose. Of course I'm not sure how I feel about the solution offered in another ad: an army of tiny CG men marching a nasal allergy spray towards my nostril. That worries me a little as well. Maybe the tiny army men could take on the tiny cats, and that way I wouldn't have to take any medication.
-Speaking of which, side effects are getting scarier and scarier. One new nasal spray carries with it the risk of a hole in the nasal septum. I'm not 100% certain of the purpose of the nasal septum, but something tells me it's important and that I'd rather just have nasal allergy symptoms than a hole burnt through the sucker.
-Can anyone give me a reasonable explanation for the current pop culture obsession with zombies? I don't know, maybe it's because my father died of brain cancer last year, but I don't understand the appeal of the dead rising in various stages of decomposition with the purpose of emptying our living skulls. Why would I want that on a t-shirt or a mug or a bumper sticker?
Of course, I didn't get the whole pirate trend either and I don't have a compelling reason for that. Although my ex's pirate fixation doesn't exactly endear the pirate movement to me. My ex is ... let's call him a rotten sack of crap and leave it at that, since my mother reads this.
And pirates? Yeah, guess what folks, they still exist, and they commit horrible atrocities. A British man was brutally beaten to death, in front of his wife, by pirates. Maybe we shouldn't glorify that, okay, Disney? Johnny Depp? Y'all got it?
-There was a big to-do on the news about how swine flu deaths now number 100 or something like that. Yeah, okay, that's sad, but do you know how many people die every year of the regular flu? 20,000. Why aren't we keeping tabs on that?
-I'm sick of hearing about how Mancow Muller has decided, after experiencing it, that waterboarding is torture, for the sole reason that when I hear the name "Mancow" I get this nasty mental picture of a grotesque man-cow hybrid. Can we just call him by his real name of Eric and leave it at that?
-Why do they spend ten minutes discussing the heat on the news? We live in Phoenix. It gets hot. That's not news. If the heat is news to you, maybe you ought to finish moving your belongings out from under that rock before you worry yourself with the news. Phoenix is hot. It's always been hot, it will always be hot.
And you know what? It hasn't been as hot as it usually is! That's news. Shove that in your pipe and smoke it, Royal Norman.
And, finally ...
-Words I do not ever want to hear again: bromance, sexting, waterboarding, BFF, swine flu, twilight, Jonas Brothers.
Thank you.

17 May 2009

In Your Face … book.

I will admit to being vain enough that I have “friended” people on Facebook just to see my number of friends go up. I won’t send out requests, myself, but I have accepted friend requests from people I don’t really care about.

For the most part, it hasn’t been a problem. Most people don’t spend an inordinate amount of time or effort on their Facebook profiles, and it’s easy enough to hide updates on Mafia Wars or other applications that I find inane.

But there are a few friends I have – one in particular, who shall remain nameless – who don’t fit into that “most people” category, and whose updates I am seriously considering hiding on my friend feed. This one friend is someone I haven’t seen in the better part of nine years, someone who I was only acquainted with in high school. And yet I know more about her personal life than I do about clipper cuts, and I’m a licensed hairstylist.

This person – let’s call her “Jane” – is under the mistaken impression that everyone she has friended on Facebook is on tenterhooks for more intimate details of her stunningly unremarkable life. You know that video, “The Trouble with Twitters,” where people Tweet things like “Watching TV with my cat” and “I forgot how much I like pickles?” Well, Jane is like that on Facebook. Nothing is too unimportant for a status update, including household chores and her husband’s bowel movements.

For instance, Jane recently baked a fruit-filled cake. How do I know this? Because she had no less than three status updates about said cake, and a photo album of the cake and the people who ate it. We see Jane in the kitchen. Jane mixing the cake batter. Jane pouring the batter into a cake pan. Jane adding the fruit filling. Jane putting the cake into the oven. The cake coming out of the oven. The cake on a cooling rack on the counter. The cake being iced. The cake being decorated. The decorated cake. Several women standing around the cake, smiling. Jane next to the cake she baked. Someone slicing the cake. Someone holding a slice of cake. Someone putting a forkful of cake into her mouth. And several more random shots of … you guessed it. The cake. I exaggerate a bit, but there were nearly twenty pictures in the album and I got a little teary-eyed at the thought that some poor bandwidth somewhere died to put those pictures on the internet.

And the status updates? “Just baked a yummy cake!” “Everyone loved the cake!” “Fruit filling is so yummy!” I’m paraphrasing here, but you get the idea. To hear Jane tell the story, it all started in a Betty Crocker mix factory in Des Moines.
You know what, Jane? It’s a bloody cake. And no one cares.

The cake is only the most recent of her over sharing. Every single picture she has ever taken is on an album on her profile. Yes, your baby may be cute (in an awkward, let’s-hope-he-grows-into-his-looks sort of way), but do I really need to see ten nearly identical photographs of him making funny faces? Here he is in a diaper, smiling. Here he is in a diaper, smiling again. And here he is, this time smiling, in a diaper. I don’t mean to sound cruel, here. But I don’t even know the kid. If I had more than three similar-looking photos of my own nephew, I’d get a little bored. And this woman has more than thirty photo albums on her profile, each more superfluous than the last.

And I have noticed that the people who clog up my friend feed the most (Jane and those like her) seem to have the worst grammar and spelling. I’m reasonably certain these people have graduated from high school, but I’d never guess that if I were to judge on their ability to put more than three words together. These are the people who randomly ad Os to the word “so” in an effort to convey emotion. “I am sooooooooo excited!!!!!!!!!!!” They might say. Because they also enjoy overusing punctuation marks. After all, they think, if one exclamation mark means I’m excited, then twenty of them must mean I’m super (or sometimes suuuperrrrrr) excited. Exclamation mark! My recent rant about grammar and spelling was a direct result of too many illegible status updates by two specific people.

I don’t mean to pick on oversharers like Jane, though. There are plenty of other annoying friend habits that make me want to log off for good (although I’ll concede that some of it has to do with how Facebook is set up). There’s the obsessive quiz-taking that several friends practice. I have hidden many of them from my feed, but, like a particularly virulent strain of the Hantavirus, for every one quiz I stamp out three more seem to emerge in its place. No offense, Facebook friends, but I don’t give a crap what color your aura is, what supernatural creature you are, who your Twilight soulmate is, or what your Native American/Redneck/French/Scottish name is. You’re a fan of not being shot in the face? Of not catching on fire? Congratulations. You’ve acquired common sense. Now, how about becoming a fan of shutting the heck up?

I’m not saying I’m perfect and none of my updates are ever annoying. I’ll admit to being guilty of some of this, myself. I had to find out what Golden Girl I am (Dorothy). But I do those for me. Half the time I don’t post my results on my wall, and I figure when I do it annoys people so I limit myself to one, maybe two a week. And I post other things. I’ve found that I’m most annoyed by repeated quiz-taking when it’s done by people who never do anything else on Facebook. I have friends I know nothing useful about, but I could tell you what their Barbie name is, and that annoys me.

So take heed, potential Facebook friends. I will accept your friend request, yes. But I can only hold back my snarky commentary for so long, and if it’s only a matter of time before you post one too many cake pictures, beware. I will comment. And I will not hold back the snark.

16 May 2009

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog with this special announcement:

I will return on Monday. And I will be funny. Promise.

09 May 2009

And the winner is ...

I'm sure that my loyal readers (all two of you) have been waiting with baited breath to find out what happened vis-a-vis my mobile phone. Did I go with Verizon or Alltel? Did I pick out a phone? Was Steve helpful?

My mother had ideas in her head about asking my brother Scooter for help picking out a phone and a plan. Bad idea, I told her. I knew, from a twenty-minute conversation I had with him during a spring training game, that my brother thinks we should switch to T-Mobile and buy used iPhones for him to hack. Never mind the fact that I don't want an iPhone, and my mother's ADD brain would explode from app overload.

And in any case, I said, nice men like Steve and Traffic Director guy are paid to explain these things to us. Why not let them do their jobs? So my mother and I went in to the Alltel store on Tuesday. Much to my chagrin, the aforementioned Steve was busy with a telephone call. Instead, we were helped by a young man named Michael, whose hair strongly resembled Alltel Chad's, only darker. I found myself wondering if there was a company policy about Chad Hair, and if maybe Steve's neat haircut meant he was a Verizon guy.

Anyway. Michael turned out to be very helpful, although if I'm honest I'd have preferred Steve if only because his desk was one of the lower ones. Michael had one of the side desks that sits about four feet high so we had to climb up onto these bar stools that were not meant for short people. But I digress. First things first: a plan. Michael showed us what we had, and what he recommended since my mother is starting her own business. She looked at me a fair few times for an opinion, which was a darn shame, because I had none. I don't actually use my phone for phone calls most of the time, so it made no difference to me how many minutes we ended up with.
As my mother compared plans, I asked Michael about the Verizon-Alltel merger. September, apparently, is when our Alltel bill becomes a Verizon bill.
"Will that Chad guy be out of a job?" I asked, staring at a promotional poster.
"Everyone asks me that," Michael said. "I've never even seen an Alltel commercial. I have TiVo."
"They're annoying," I told him. I didn't add that even if he'd never seen the commercial, he'd clearly seen the print adds and taken one in to SuperCuts with him. Finally we picked a plan, mostly because I said, "This looks good. Let's go with this one."

But what phones to buy? I know that, had things been different and I'd been in there with my father, I would have walked out with a Hue II (interchangeable faceplates make it pink). Maybe a Banter, although I don't like the idea of a sliding half. Won't it collect pocket lint and crumbs? What if it snags and breaks off?

My mother knew what she wanted, for the most part, and walked away with a cherry red BlackBerry Curve. Her main qualifications for a phone were a qwerty keypad and e-mail-checking ability. My main qualifications were an SD slot and the option to get one in pink.

I circled the phone display for an hour all together. I knew what I needed. And I knew what I wanted. And I got it - a pink BlackBerry Pearl. We went back to Michael's desk to get the phones set up. Steve came over to help. He is, apparently, a Data Transfer Specialist. It said so on his nametag.

"Do you get a special parking space?" I asked.

He said no, but I could tell he was thinking he probably should. Especially once he said so. I found myself liking Steve a little less. Up close, his hair didn't look as neat.

But the important thing is, after two and a half hours (during which time Scott told my mother on the phone that she should switch to T-Mobile), we walked out of there with new phones and a slightly better monthly plan. Which just goes to show, you can't judge a phone salesman by his hairstyle, or a mobile phone company by their incredibly inane commercials.

05 May 2009

Oh, you humans ...

You just kill me sometimes, you know that?

I try to be good on Facebook and Twitter. Only twice have I left comments correcting grammar or spelling. Twice! And I could have done so at least sixty-three times this past week alone.

On the off chance that the offenders are reading, here's a refresher. And yes, I do see the irony in my being a stickler for grammar and spelling and being so poor at style. What can I say? Strunk and White bore me.

-"Your" indicates possession. If you mean to say "you are," the word you want is "you're" which is a contraction of the words "you" and "are." As in, "I'm sure you're aware that your pants are on backwards."
-Contractions are tricky little things, aren't they? Here's another one: it's. A contraction of the words "it" and "is." "Its" is, like "your," a word that indicates possession. As in, "It's annoying when people don't know the difference between two similar words. English isn't that difficult. Its rules are fairly simple."
-"Their" indicates possession. "There" indicates location. "They're" is one of those tricky little contractions, this one of "they" and "are." As in, "They're parking their car over there."
-So much of English is about possession, isn't it? Here's another one: the apostrophe. This one's important, so I'm going to go all caps-lock on your arse: YOU DO NOT NEED AN APOSTROPHE TO PLURALIZE A WORD. Never have, never will. An apostrophe and an "s" can be another contraction, usually a given word and the word "is," as in "Jill's intolerant of poor spelling." However, if I had just returned from a Jill Convention, I would not need an apostrophe to say, "There were a lot of Jills there." The "s" alone is sufficient for pluralization. To say that "There were a lot of Jill's" there would beg the question, Jill's whats? Apostrophe = possession. I will shout it from the rooftops.
-The following are not words: lite, nite, rite, thru, tho, and any mishmashed abbreviation that one might use in a text message or a chat room.
-It is customary to begin the first word of a sentence with a capital letter, unless you are e.e. cummings. And his work just irritates me. Also, proper nouns should begin with capital letters. Is it really that hard to push the shift key?
-If a word you've typed is underlined in green or red, the computer doesn't like it. Usually, the computer doesn't like it for a reason, and that reason is that you can't spell.

Please keep these things in mind, dear humans. Read them. Learn them. Use them. Because I can keep my opinions to myself for only so long, and once I begin my merciless red-pen rampage, no one will be spared.