Sunday, January 31, 2010

Yes, I'm Still Sick. And Still Bitching About It.

Rather than getting better, I appear to have entered Phase II, which involves a complete inability to breathe, and what is quite possibly the greatest sinus pain I have ever experienced.

So far, I kind of hate 2010.

Friday, January 29, 2010

My Exciting Sick Day

Bah. I'm feeling just better enough that I no longer desire nothing other than to lie on the sofa in a stupor and/or sleep all day, which is pretty much what I did yesterday, but not well enough that I can be up and around for more than ten minutes or so without feeling like I need to lie back down again. Also, I am now out of Netflix discs to watch. (Note: It is entirely possible that watching The Prisoner while feverish enhances the experience, but for a combination of sickness and surrealism, I don't think anything is ever going to match reading Michael Marshall Smith's Only Forward while mildly delirious from the flu.)

On the upside, in my one burst of activity today, I did get out to the grocery store, so that I now have fresh fruit, orange juice, throat lozenges, extra tea, chicken soup, and chocolate Malt-o-Meal. (I figure I'd better get used to that last, as I suspect I'm going to be eating a lot of it for a while after the teeth come out.) I'm in a state right now where I can tell that my stomach wants food, but my brain, still firmly in sick-mode, is telling it that no, it doesn't. I'm hoping to keep them both happy with, "no, really, this doesn't count as food" compromises.

Also, I just found out the stuff that was supposed to happen at work tonight got canceled, which at least means that some poor sucker won't get stuck covering a night shift for me. Again. After already putting in his full complement of hours this week. This makes me feel slightly less guilty for not dragging my ass in, anyway.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Talking To My Immune System Sternly Didn't Work.

Crap. I am sick. This is Not Good. Man, it had better not be the start of one of those seven-day flus or something. I have a consultation appointment with the oral surgeon on Monday, and I am not missing it. If I don't get those wisdom teeth out in the next few weeks, I have no idea when I'm going to be able to schedule it.

I was thinking about going to the doctor, on the chance that it might be something treatable with antibiotics... I think if it were strep or tonsillitis or something, though, I'd be a lot sicker. And even though I think most of it's melted from the roads now, I don't really want to go out in the snow. I already had to walk home in it this morning.

So I think I'm just going to stay here and sip tea and whine. And hopefully get more sleep.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hmm, Scratchy Throat, Achiness, Face Feeling Hot While My Body Feels Cold... It's Sleep Deprivation. Got To Be.

Oh, no, I am not getting sick. I am not getting sick. *glares hard at immune system*

This Is What I'm Reduced To: A Steady Stream Of Complaints About Machines That Don't Work The Way They Should.

One thing that's always annoying: discovering that selecting "ringer off" on your phone doesn't actually turn the ringer off by having it wake you from a sound sleep. Which has, in fact, happened to me more than once now. Clearly the people who come up phone features for a living do not have to work night shifts.

I'm wondering if sticking the handset under the couch cushions will muffle it sufficiently.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Random Links: Mostly Funny, With A Dash Of Cute And A Smidge of Thoughtful

LOST characters explain how to make a sandwich: Very funny if you're familiar with Lost. (And very spoilery if you're not!)

Awesomely Bad Lyrics: Meat Loaf -- I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That): The Awesomely Bad Lyrics blog, which mocks the lyrics of rock songs, is a bit hit-and-miss on the humor, but this entry had me laughing my ass off. Possibly because there's just something intrinsically funny about Meat Loaf.

The Top 5 Underrated Sci-Fi Movies: I find these picks impossible to disagree with, except for the fact that I'm sure I need to watch their #1 choice a few more times before I can fully appreciate (or even understand) it.

Shiba Inu Puppy Cam: Now with all-new puppies!

SF reading protocols: An interesting article by SF writer Jo Walton about the way readers approach speculative fiction, as opposed to other genres.

The 100 Cheesiest Movie Quotes of All Time: I defy you not to laugh at this compilation of cheesetasticness! Warning: NSFW language.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Treadmill Saga Continues

I finally got to talk to a human being with actual knowledge about the product! Ten days after my first phone call! She had me check the drive belt and the connections, which as far as I can see were all OK, then decided that, yep, there probably was something wrong with it. Maybe there's a short somewhere. So, they're going to send me some replacement parts -- which will take 7-10 days -- and have a technician call me to set up an appointment to install them. (I'd say that the in-home service was nice, but it's sheer necessity. You cannot transport something this heavy.)

Anybody want to take any bets on how long it will be before I actually have this thing running?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Thoughts For The Day 2

1. I am very far from being a neat freak, but it's amazing how much better just getting the vacuuming done makes me feel when I'm stressed. Whatever else is going on in my life, by gum, I have clean carpets! Well, clean-ish, anyway.

2. I have got to stop leaving myself cryptic notes. I stared at the one sitting on my desk that says "edit dictionary" for ages wondering what the hell it could possibly mean before I realized that I wrote it after accidentally adding a misspelled word to my Firefox dictionary. (If you're wondering how to fix that, behold!)

3. Maybe thoughts for the day do come in twos.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Thoughts For The Day

1. The problem with 1960s special effects is that when the monster is actually supposed to be a guy in a rubber suit, you have to go to rather a lot of trouble to make this clear.

2. Arguing with people on the internet, no matter how full you are of righteous indignation, never, ever, ever leads to anything satisfying. This is worth remembering, and yet depressingly easy to forget.

3. Thoughts for the day somehow feel as if they ought to come in threes.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Urge To Kill... Rising...

Sure enough, I sat by the phone all morning and waited for the Horizon Fitness folks to call back and talk me through troubleshooting this damned machine, and as soon as I left for lunch, they called back and left the same damned callback number, which sent me to the same damned recording.

Dear Horizon: "We'll call you back in the next 24 hours" is not fucking specific enough! Yes, yes, I know I didn't give you my cell phone number, but this is something I have to be at home for! I am a human being with a life, goddamn it! I have other things to do besides sitting around waiting for you to deign to talk to me, especially since the one and only time I got to talk to a human being, he couldn't fucking help me because helping me wasn't his job. I know it's January and people are buying a lot of fitness equipment and stuff, but this is beyond ridiculous. Dudes! Put me on hold for an hour! I don't care! Just stop doing this to me.

Also, I have been reading up on wisdom tooth extraction a little bit, and I do not like anything I have read.

Well, at least I just had a very nice lunch. *waves gratefully at Captain C*

Books Are Comforting.

There is still much stress happening. Did I mention that on my dental visit yesterday, my dentist told me that I really needed to get my wisdom teeth out with no more procrastinating? I don't want my wisdom teeth taken! They're mine! Waaaah!

Fortunately, talking about books is always soothing, so here's a book meme stolen from somewhere or other:

1. Which book has been on your shelves the longest?

I still have the copy of A Wrinkle in Time that I got when I was eight. It's kind of falling apart now, though, and I think I have another copy of that book in an omnibus volume that's sitting on my To-Read Pile, so I think that at some point I might retire it from the shelves and let it rest in the closet as a childhood keepsake.

2. What is your current read, your last read and the book you'll read next?

Current read is Falls the Shadow by Daniel O'Mahony, a Doctor Who novel from the 90s. It's... okay. It's trying to be sort of dark and surreal, and I keep vacillating back and forth between finding that intriguingly creepy, and just finding it dull. Last read was Experimental Man, which I've already mentioned here. And next up, I think, is Circumference by Nicholas Nicastro. I was thinking about The Help by Kathryn Stockett, but I think something short and non-fiction-y is called for first.

3. What book did everyone like and you hated?

Oh, let us not discuss my permanent and deep-seated antipathy towards Jane Austen after being forced to read Emma in high school. Yes, everybody tells me that I shouldn't judge based on that, and that I'd find Austen brilliant if I only gave her another chance. No, I don't care. I came away from that book thinking that I'd rather have bamboo under my fingernails than to spend one more moment in the shallow, horribly constrained little woman's world that Austen's characters live in, and that feeling hasn't entirely faded since.

4. Which book do you keep telling yourself you'll read, but you probably won't?

I fully intend to read every book ever published eventually, with a few exceptions, even though I am aware that this is physically impossible.

5. Which book are you saving for "retirement?"

Nothing specific, although I'm sure there are some books currently on the To-Read Pile that will still be there when I reach retirement age. Sigh.

6. Last page: read it first or wait till the end?

Reading the last page first is an abomination. Abomination!

7. Acknowledgments: waste of ink and paper or interesting aside?

A long time ago, I used to read the things faithfully, having some vague sense that if I didn't, I hadn't really read the whole book. These days, I skim them, at best. But I don't begrudge a writer the indulgence.

8. Which book character would you switch places with?

Probably none of them. They tend to have much more interesting lives than I'd be comfortable with.

9. Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time)?

Oh yes, quite a few. In fact, sometimes the only way I can remember the date when something happened in my life is to remember what I was reading at the time, and then look up when that was. (Yes, I keep records. What?)

10. Name a book you acquired in some interesting way.

Um... You know, for all my book-buying obsession, I'm not sure I really have any interesting stories about acquiring books. Certainly not ones that would be interesting to anybody but me. ("Dude! I was at this huge library sale, and one of the sales attendants set this copy of Good Omens down right in front of me!" Um... yeah.)

11. Have you ever given away a book for a special reason to a special person?

I've given books as gifts, but I can't recall any that were dripping with sentiment or anything. When my nephew was smaller, I did sent him a couple of kids' books that I loved when I was young.

12. Which book has been with you to the most places?

Star Trek Creator: The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry. For years, every time I traveled, I'd throw it in my bag, figuring I'd read it on the trip, and kept not getting around to it. That book has literally been around the world with me. I finally read it last year in Colorado.

13. Any "required reading" you hated in high school that wasn’t so bad ten years later?

The stuff I really hated in high school I haven't gone back to. The things I actually liked, though -- Huckleberry Finn, Cyrano de Bergerac, Hamlet -- I made a point of re-reading later under happier circumstances.

14. What is the strangest item you’ve ever found in a book?

I got a free copy of a book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program a while back that the author sent with a bright yellow fake feather stuck in it. Also, it was gift-wrapped and perfumed, and came with a teabag, a biscotto, a tiny rubber duck, and a four-page letter raving about the book and explaining its themes and references, and ranting about people who are incredibly rude enough to mention in public how their books come packaged, because that's private, doggone it! I was not impressed.

15. Used or brand new?

Yes, please!

16. Stephen King: Literary genius or opiate of the masses?

A bit of both. Unlike some wildly popular writers, the guy actually does have some pretty amazing talent. Unfortunately, he also has some flaws, which editors have long since stopped calling him on.

17. Have you ever seen a movie you liked better than the book?

The Hunt for Red October. Great story, which, in the book, was buried under layers and layers of technical detail and pointlessly digressive backstories for characters with two-page cameos.

18. Conversely, which book should NEVER have been introduced to celluloid?

Most of them, probably.

19. Have you ever read a book that's made you hungry, cookbooks being excluded from this question?

Yes, although I can't think of any specifics. Probably because it's completely unremarkable for me. It's pathetically easy to make me crave food. Which is doubtless part of the reason why I weigh mumblety-mumble pounds.

20. Who is the person whose book advice you'll always take?

I'll take damned nearly anybody's advice. I'm a complete slut for books. Some random stranger mentions in passing that something's good, and suddenly I want it. There are reasons why my To-Read Pile and my wishlist are both over 400 volumes.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Relaxing With A Stupid Internet Quiz After A Stressful Day

Your result for The Improved Book Character-Savvy Test...

More than good :)

You scored 71% Best Seller, 67% Classic and 88% Fantasy/Sci-Fi!

Well, well, well... We're pretty good at this, huh? Maybe we can work on our Classics... And if you prefer you can rent the Best-Sellers, yes. But it's quite good. Congrats.

Your rank: Lieutenant Kif Kroker (Just because I can. And he's a nice guy, isn't he?)

Take The Improved Book Character-Savvy Test at OkCupid

Yes, Kif is a nice guy. Just looking at him makes me feel better.

Excerise Is Good For My Health. Stress Is Bad For It.

So, as indicated in the previous post, there are many things that are annoying the crap out of me this week. But first and foremost among them is what may be the single stupidest customer service experience ever.

I just bought a new treadmill, because walking, indoors or out, is the only form of exercise I can actually bring myself to do. Those of you following this blog religiously may know that I originally had a very cheap motorized treadmill, which I managed to short out the console on as I was putting it together. They sent me a replacement console, but none of the displays ever worked. After a couple of years of use, the motor started making noises, and I finally gave up on the damned thing. I then bought an extremely cheap manual treadmill, which I used for a while, but, frankly, that thing sucks. It's annoying, I don't get much of a workout on it, and I think the manual foot action, if I may call it that, was aggravating my plantar fascitiis. So I ordered a newer, much nicer motorized one. (OK, it's still kind of a low-end treadmill, by professional standards, but it's pretty darned expensive by my standards.)

Now, how does Horizon Fitness customer service suck? Let me count the ways...

1. They sent this 200+-pound item, clearly marked with "use mechanical lift" instructions via a shipping company who apparently believed that one old dude with not so much as a dolly was perfectly adequate.

2. The manual said to lubricate it before use, but the instructions for lubrication were vague to the point of uselessness.

3. Plastered all over the manual, however, were remarks to the effect that Horizon's friendly customer service reps are willing and eager to help out with any little questions one might have, and repeated instructions to call if unsure about something. So I called them. And got a recording saying to leave a message, and they'd get back to me within 24 hours.

4. Fortunately, it turned out that they had a nice instructional video online showing you how to lubricate the belt. Would've been nice if they'd mentioned that in the manual. So I followed the instructions, lubed up the belt, and turned the thing on for the first time. It failed to work. Every time I started it, the belt stuttered a fraction of an inch, and stopped. So I called and left another message.

5. Today, two days later -- yes, you counted right, that's more than 24 hours -- at 8:00 in the morning, I get a call from a guy who had apparently only heard my first message. He took down all my info -- name, rank, serial number, etc -- then informed me that he'd pass it on to the technical service department. Apparently his only job was to get my info. The guys who could actually help me get the thing working, he said, would call me back tomorrow. Gaaah. Well, at least he was polite.

6. Several hours later, I go out for a dentist appointment -- also annoying. When I get home, there's a message on my answering machine from the fitness people. It leaves a number where the call can be returned.

7. I return the call. I get the "leave a message, and we'll call you back in 24 hours" message. Aaaaargh.

8. I am leaving for work now, and hoping they do not call again while I am gone. Of course, I will have to stay home tomorrow and wait for their damned call. It's no good them calling me at work or on my cell, after all, since I have to have physical access to the machine while they're helping me troubleshoot it. This, fortunately, is not a problem, but it means I will have to take some vacation time. Some more vacation time, since I've been working short hours this week thanks to doing other annoying things. (E.g. the dentist appointment.) I am, however, going out for an hour or so to have lunch with a friend who's passing through town. Anybody want to place any bets on whether they'll call during the precise time that I'm gone?

This damned thing better work when all this crap is done, and it had better be damned well worth it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

And It's Only Wednesday?

I think this may be shaping up to be a really annoying week.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Look How Far We Are Into January Already!

Current clothes: It's sitting-around-in-front-of-the-computer-after-my-shower-wearing-a-towel time again! (Update: That was getting chilly, so in the middle of writing this post I got up and put on clothes. I am now wearing black sweatpants and a t-shirt that says, "WILL WORK FOR BOOKS." Also, slippers shaped like penguins.)

Current mood: More or less OK, except I have this weird (but, for me, not at all infrequent) conflict in my brain, where something in there is going, "Oh, god, we have stuff to do today! When will it get done?!" and something else is rolling its eyes and responding with, "Dude! It's minor, unimportant stuff, and it will take very little time! We have all day! Will you just freaking relax?!"

Current music: Most recently, Parachutes by Coldplay. I got it for free through some promotional thing on Amazon.

Current annoyance: You know what hurts? When you have a nervous cat on your lap and the doorbell rings. *rubs at gouges on thigh*

Current thing: Books! With the new year, I am determined to read more books, better books, longer books, more diverse books! I am determined to cut the Book Pile down to size! Really! Except, um, it's not really working out that way so far...

Current desktop picture: This image of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. Maybe if I spend enough time looking at it, I'll find myself getting used to the new guy. Although, man, that picture does highlight the fact that, age aside, this is pretty much the least radical appearance change he's ever had between regenerations. I know some people have complained about that. But it suddenly occurs to me that, hey, I could make an argument for an interesting possible in-universe explanation for that. Which I won't get into here, because it's spoilery.

Current book: I've just started Experimental Man: What One Man's Body Reveals about His Future, Your Health, and Our Toxic World by David Ewing Duncan, in which the author undergoes every medical test known to man and reports back on the results.

Current song in head: "The Traveler" by The Alan Parsons Project, which is simply the middle link in a persistent chain of associations. I just recently read a (very tiny) book with the same title, which keeps making me think of the song. And the song always makes me think of Doctor Who. Admittedly, many things make me think of Doctor Who...

Current DVD in player: Disc 1 of season 3 of Slings & Arrows, a rather wonderful Canadian show about eccentric theater people, one of whom is, in fact, dead.

Current refreshment: I can still taste toothpaste.

Current worry: I don't so much have specific worries at the moment, as vague, freeform anxieties.

Current thought: Is that a cat hair on my computer screen? *blows on screen* Yep. It was.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Goldilocks Cats

I've been making excellent use of my days off this week, including getting my cats in to the vet for their shots and checkups.

Of course, Vir is still way too damned fat. He's actually gained weight since the last time I had him in, in what must surely be defiance of the laws of physics. So he is now off the regular weight-loss cat food and onto the super-duper extra no-cal weight-loss cat food. (After I just recently bought a new bag of the other stuff, too. Sigh. Anybody in the Socorro area want a big tin full of Iams Weight Control cat food?) He's so disturbingly obese that the vet was talking about experimental weight-loss drugs, but, alas, they have so far only been tested on dogs.

Meanwhile, Happiness is still underweight, as far as I can tell mostly because she just can't be bothered to eat. The vet suggested trying canned food to tempt her into eating more -- something I'd tried in the past with mixed success, but which is definitely worth another shot -- but, of course, she had that urinary infection a while back, so it's supposed to be special canned food. Special, expensive canned food.

Meanwhile, Nova weighs 13 pounds and happily eats Cat Chow. But that's OK. He finds plenty of other ways to annoy me.

First Random Links Of The Year!

Top Ten Astronomy Pictures of 2009: The Bad Astronomer presents his top ten space images for the past year. As always, these are both informative and pretty.

The Known Universe by AMNH: Speaking of space, here's an amazing video tour of the entire universe. My own reaction to this one was interesting. I love the idea of exploring space, and yet, at some point here, my little monkey hindbrain started screaming, "Too far! Too far from home! Go back!"

Star Wars Weather Forecast: An entertainingly geeky way of reporting the weather. (Hint: try entering nonsense, or a place that doesn't exist. The results are amusing.)

Simon's Cat 'Snow Business' (Part 1): A new Simon's Cat video! These are always adorable.

The Master's Facebook Page and The Doctor's Facebook Page: A humorous look at the just-aired "The End of Time" parts one and two, respectively, via the medium of Facebook. Warning: serious spoilers! (By the way, my own opinion on David Tennant's Whovian swansong is that it was kind of a mess, but a reasonably entertaining and ultimately surprisingly engaging and satisfying mess. Which is all I ever ask of Doctor Who.)

Monday, January 04, 2010

Welcome To The Future

Writing "2010" on things just looks really weird.

Friday, January 01, 2010

2009: The Year In Books

Happy New Year, everybody!

Traditionally on New Year's Day, I do a round-up of my reading for the past year. You can find a list of all the books I read in 2009, in more or less the order that I read them, here. As usual, it's a big old eclectic mish-mash of stuff. Lots of science fiction and fantasy, and about as much non-fiction as fiction -- I'm still mostly alternating the two -- but an increasing amount of more mainstream fiction, as well. Among other things, I finally finished the Horatio Hornblower series, kept on reading through Miles Vorkosigan, dipped in and out of Jeeves & Wooster, and went back in time to read some old Doctor Who novels.

Total books read: 157, which is slightly less than in the last couple of years, but surely still a respectable number in anybody's book. The teetering To-Read Pile started the year at 454 books, and was down to 428 at the end of it. Less progress than I'd hoped for, alas, but progress nonetheless. I'm hoping to whittle it down below 400 in 2010. Wish me luck!

I find it nearly impossible to pick the "best of" anything, but I looked over my 2009 reading and picked out everything I rated four-and-a-half stars or above, which conveniently worked out to an even 20 books. Whether I could really call this the best books I read in 2009, I can't say. Ratings for me are such slippery things, and what they actually mean tends to vary from book to book. But here, divided by category but otherwise in no particular order, are the results that approach gives:


I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
Joy in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse
The Cat-Nappers by P.G. Wodehouse
The Ant King and Other Stories by Benjamin Rosenbaum
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8, Vol 3: Wolves at the Gate by Joss Whedon et al.


The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
The Trial and Death of Socrates: Four Dialogues by Plato
Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human by Michael Chorost
How Doctors Think by Jermoe Groopman
Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama
Alien Hand Syndrome edited by Alan Bellows
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
The National Parks: America's Best Idea by Dayton Duncan
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers


xkcd: volume 0 by Randall Munroe
Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book by Shel Silverstein