November 29, 2004

David makes fun of Goliath

During a commercial break while watching Monday Night Football tonight, I saw a (dumb) commercial that reminded me about this article I read earlier today. I'm not even going to talk about the Bud v. Miller portion of it as that would be, frankly, a waste of breath over bad beer.

But the new NetZero ads really caught my eye over the holiday weekend, and I thought the discussion about their tactics was very interesting. I have to admit that I simply couldn't believe how dead-on the parody ads were, and how great a job they did at getting actors who look so much like those in the AOL ads, especially the admin in the lovely chartreuse blouse. That moment of "Ohhh" the first time you see one and realize that you're not seeing what you thought you were seeing is priceless because it sticks with you, which is what I'm sure NetZero was counting on in this series of commercials.

I agree that the AOL ads are pretty lame, and I'm sure people are going to have a field day making fun of both AOL and the ads, especially now. As I've mentioned before, I have been, I am, and I will continue to be an AOL customer. (Save it, I'm immune.) Yet I am aware as the next person that their incessant mailing of CDs is annoying, their ads with the little man were dumb, their prices are higher than they should be and they are now ubiquitous to the point of absurdity even when almost everyone seems to hate them.

But hats off to whoever came up with the concept for NetZero, and to whoever was in charge of getting it done and on the air so quickly. I do hope, however, that it doesn't spawn a bunch of copycats because it will get old fast.

Extra 1: Many bonus points to anyone who knows what the word "micturating" (found in a portion of the article that otherwise did not interest me) means without looking it up. Hint: Context is everything.

Extra 2: Did anyone else catch sight of a rather odd sign in the end zone of tonight's game following a field goal/PAT in the first half? Could a new trend be in the works?

November 26, 2004

Cotton candy -- It's not just for the circus anymore.

As Christina requested in the comments for my b-day post, it's time for a report on The Great Cotton Candy Experiment.

Can what is, essentially, a kid's toy do a credible job of producing that sweetest, most ephemeral of childhood treats? Or will it overheat, explode, and cause grievous bodily harm? Will I finally stop pleading to be bought cotton candy whenever we go to sporting events because I can make my own? Will I ever stop asking questions and get on with it already?

Because I have finally figured how to get pictures up here without using Hello (I knew keeping that Yahoo! GeoCities page would eventually pay off), I can tell the story with photos.

Looking remarkably like the picture that I posted the other day, except in my kitchen, here is the magic machine itself:

You can see that I decided not to waste any time and I went right for the purple, grape-flavored cotton candy, thoughtfully made available to me by Target while briefly fighting the holiday shopping crowds today.

After 10 minutes of surprisingly annoying, grinding noise to warm it up, it was time:

In went the fairy dust...I mean, purple sugar...and almost immediately spidery strands of sugary goodness began to appear in the bowl, to be swept up with an authentic paper cone:

That one "rounded teaspoon" of sugar made quite a bit of candy, more than I was expecting, but certainly not enough to share. And what good is cotton candy if you can't share it and get someone else all sugared up? So in went a second teaspoon, which didn't make quite as much as the first teaspoon; I think the inner workings started to get a little gummed up, but it still functioned.

The end result:

I couldn't really get it to stay on the cone very successfully -- I think that's all in the wrist and I need a lot more practice -- so I piled it into a bowl and brought it out for sampling.

The verdict: Delicious!

It really does taste just like what you get out at the stadium, but even fresher and a heck of a lot less expensive. There's a SF 49ers game in my future, thanks to a generous birthday gift from a good friend, and I think I'll be whipping up a big ol' bag of for that outing thanks to this cool gift from another good friend. Guess it's easy to see what I was thankful for this year.

November 25, 2004

Shortest. Post. Ever.

Can't write. Too full. Must digest. Find TUMS. Happy Thanksgiving.

November 24, 2004

They say it's your birthday.

It's my birthday too, yeah! And thus, another year passes into history and pushes another year further back into the memory banks.

But I love birthdays and this one was no exception. I had a great dinner out with family and friends, followed by a killer all-chocolate cake and a bunch of fantastic presents. There's nothing better than presents, especially ones you aren't expecting. Usually I drive my family nuts by guessing what things are before I open them, but this year they were ready for me and it was a lot more fun all around. And how many of you have one of these, huh?

In other news, because we got back so late from San Francisco last night, there was no time to watch Amazing Race until tonight. It was another great episode and the numbers are in for this week's Official One Ping Only AR6 "Baby" Count™. (Brace yourselves.)

One Ping Only AR6 "Baby" Count: Episode 2 = 21

The contestants must have been a bit tired after the first leg when they babied themselves out, because the tally was quite a bit lower than last episode. On an up note, however, "honey" was a strong mover this time out and I think it may make a good showing next episode.

Other lessons learned this week: 1. "Senior discount" is a universal concept; 2. People who can't drive a standard car are pussies (and losers); and 3. Mirna and Charla were nothing -- this is the season where poor Phil is going to be assaulted regularly at the pit stops.

November 23, 2004

All I Want for Christmas... a 2005 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. This particular beauty is on display right now at the San Francisco International Auto Show. A good part of today was spent there with a couple of friends, and this was the car that captured my imagination -- my "If I ever win the lottery, I'm so going car shopping" imagination -- the most.

Oh, sure, the purple Mini Cooper was the one I got to play in and could actually see myself driving in this lifetime, but the McLaren Mercedes has Formula One in its bloodlines and that fired me up. Who needs a (compratively) cheap-ass Maybach that, in my opinion, is more foofy than fine? I mean, a refrigerator compartment? Please.

Want all the car-geek details? Go here, 'cause all I know is that it's a $450,000 ride straight from heaven.

November 20, 2004

"National Treasure"

None of the reviews I've seen for "National Treasure" have seemed very positive, but I really enjoyed it. The local paper's headline for their review was "Maybe this 'Treasure' should have stayed hidden," but I have to disagree. I didn't read the whole review because I didn't want to be influenced ahead of time, and I didn't care afterward.

This is just my kind of movie. I like it when there are clues to be figured out and followed, even when doing so requires an enormous brain with all sorts of knowledge your average person wouldn't possess. But that's the point, isn't it really? They're not supposed to be "average" people.

I'm not a huge Nicholas Cage fan or anything, but I think he usually does a good job in the movies of his that I've seen, and he was just right for this part. He brought a quirkiness to it that, if it were lacking here, might have made this a long, dull movie.

Two other good points were his cohorts, played by Diane Kruger and Justin Bartha. I don't recall seeing either of them before, but they all played off of each other quite well. Will it win awards? No. But I found it to be a good, entertaining flick that kept me interested to the end.

But, oh, tomorrow! Tomorrow is the day of days for me. Barring unforeseen circumstance, tomorrow I'll be going, at last, to see The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie! It's going to be the best day ever, I just know it.

November 19, 2004

Friday's Child drops the ball...again.

Another lame Friday for you, the reader. Sorry. It was another movie night and now it's quite late and I've got nothing. But if you drop by sometime tomorrow night, I'll have a few things to say about the movie, "National Treasure."

Otherwise, have a nice weekend and I'll catch you next week.

Oh, and since Norman won't be around for a while, I think we'll have some gratuitous cat blogging really soon. But in the meantime, here are what Christina at Inner Bitch called "many, many pictures of lethally cute kittens." Truer words were never spoken.

November 18, 2004

I'm ready, I'm ready!

I don't usually talk about highly personal things here. Oh, sure, I'll mention my family and some of the things I do, apart from work. But, you know, there are areas of my life I'm just not willing to put out there for the whole world to read about. (As if the whole world were actually visiting, but you get the point.)

I happen to think that getting glimpses of a blogger, their life and their personality, through their writing is more interesting than having a whole life story laid out for me or encapsulated in a little bio. Feeling that way, it's the approach I find myself taking.

But today, there is something on the horizon in my life that I am so excited about, something so anticipated, that I feel like I just have to let loose and share, share, share, even though it's a fairly revealing view of the person I am.

No, it's not that my birthday is a week away, even though birthdays are a big deal in my family. No, it's not that I've got six consecutive days off from work next week, though that is pretty thrilling to me. It's not even that I am so close to a huge milestone in my career with my current employer that I can almost taste it (more about that at another time).

Okay, so here it is. Tomorrow is a seminal moment in the lives of fans like me everywhere -- Friday is the opening day of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie! I am, unabashedly, a huge SpongeBob fan and I can't wait to get out there and see a full-length movie starring my favorite characters. I'm a little less sure of how David Hasselhoff fits into it, but I'm willing to trust that it will work.

If you don't know who or what I'm talking about, either click here and learn, or leave and never return. We don't want your kind here. And if you know exactly what I'm talking about and are scoffing, I don't care; you just don't know. Open up your heart and let that little bit of child back out past your cynical soul.

Well, I don't know about you, but I feel better after letting go of holding all that in. Excitement like this is always better when you share it. I hope those of you who are closet fans will step out into the light and join me in celebrating this day...and in line waiting for tickets.

November 17, 2004

The Great Smokeout '04

Normally, this article might not have caught my eye, but two things set it apart. Earlier today I read a post by Angie and an article she linked to that involved smoking, and, being strongly anti-smoking, I responded to it.

Then tonight I came across that first article and I had to link to it out of nostalgia. The dear, dear Poughkeepsie Journal. Or, as we used to call it, the Poughkeepsie Urinal.

Yes, I used to live in the Hudson Valley and The Journal was the only local paper of any size in the Poughkeepsie area. (For those of you who are wondering, it's "Puh-kip-see," not "Pogue-keep-see," and it is an Algonquin word meaning approximately "a little reed lodge by a water place." It's on the Hudson River.)

I grew up outside Po-town proper (thankfully); I lived in a charming little nearby burg called Hopewell Junction. (Raise your hand if an immediate vision of "Petticoat Junction" sprang to mind. Trust me, it wasn't like that.) It is also known as East Fishkill and is very much an IBM town. As a matter of fact, I'm the only one in my immediate family, and the older generation of my extended family, who didn't work for IBM.

One of those people was my dad, who was a technical writer for them. He was also a heavy smoker who, while now deceased, amazingly did not die of lung cancer. I think if a heart attack hadn't killed him at age 52, lung cancer probably would have been his fate. The thing is, we grew up with him smoking and, while it wasn't something that we were exactly crazy about, in those days it wasn't "a big deal." There just wasn't the level of awareness that there is now.

I was amazed to discover, after his death, how much my sense of smell had been diminished by growing up around a smoker. I had absolutely no idea how much the smoke had permeated our lives until the source of it was gone. I'm sure I walked around for two decades smelling like a used ashtray and never realized it. Maybe that's why I'm so intolerant of smoke and smoking now.

But I feel an unwavering certainty that, if my dad had been aware of the effect at the time, he would have tried to quit. For us. Because I think that the vast majority of parents would rather suffer themselves than hurt their child in any way.

So, if you're a smoker and you've read this far, I would encourage you to try (again, most likely) to quit. Do it for the people you love and the people who love you. We'll all thank you for it.

November 16, 2004

Baby, you can drive my (diesel) car

Oh, the game most definitely is afoot. I'm not even going to attempt an AR6 recap -- go to TVgasm for that because they do the best ones around and you'll laugh your ass off. But there are a few things I'd like to add to the fray.

Introducing the Official One Ping Only AR6 "Baby" Count™. Yes, folks, we're your best and first source for keeping track of how many times the contestants utter, scream, cry out, cajole, cheer, whine, or simply say "baby" (or "babe") during the course of each episode. I thought the show might have reached its height of "babydom" last season, between Colin and Christie and Brandon and Nicole. But they're getting a run for their money this time around, and it was a challenge to keep an accurate count during the ice climb. So, without further ado, here we have it.

One Ping Only AR6 "Baby" Count: Episode 1 = 44

Whew. I don't know about you, but it took my breath away.

A few other things: 1. My two favorite lines from this episode were "I'd rather put that ice in a martini," (Don) and "I'm so cold my implants are frozen!" (Lori); 2. I was sorry to see Avi and Joe go so soon because I was intrigued by Joe's vow to stay kosher on the Race, which could have made for some interesting food challenges; and 3. I cannot believe that yet again there was a diesel disaster. They really should make sure they put the word "DIESEL" in a far more conspicuous place than right inside the gas tank cover, shouldn't they?

November 15, 2004

It's Amazing! (The Race, not the post.)

Look how early it is (Rita)! I want to have time to get in a few (dozen) rounds of whatever game sounds good tonight on AOL, then get to bed early so I can be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for work tomorrow. (Yeah, right.)

So let's keep it sweet and simple, shall we? ('Cause we're fresh out of pathetic today.)

Tuesday night is the two-hour premiere of The Amazing Race 6, which, as I've already mentioned, I'm looking forward to very much. If you're one of those people who "doesn't watch reality TV" or have just never seen it because it was on opposite something else you watched in past seasons, this is your chance to give it a whirl. It's not like any of the typical reality shows out there. For crying out loud, the show has won two Emmy Awards! (Okay, so has Everybody Loves Raymond, but still.)

Making it sweeter still, for me, is the chance to take part in TVgasm's Amazing Race Challenge. It prompted me to check out all the teams ahead of time, something I don't normally do. (I like to be surprised.) So here's my take on some of the teams.

The team I think I am going to like least: Jonathan and Victoria, married "entrepreneurs" who plan to tell the other teams they're not married. (Their best quote: "In our minds, we're super heroes!")

The team I think I am going to like best: Gus and Hera, who are a father/daughter team. (I think they're feisty but kind.)

The team I think will shake things up the most: Lori and Bolo, who are professional wrestlers calling themselves "Team Intimidation." (Their best quote: "We enjoy pissing people off.")

The team I think has the best chance to come in first: I'm not saying. (Because I want to win the Challenge myself!)

The team I will be rooting for even though I don't think they have a chance: Mary and Don. (They live less than 30 minutes away from me, but they're in their late 60s and call themselves "Team Medicare.")

The player I think TVgasm will have the biggest field day with: Adam of Adam and Rebecca. (Check out the hair!)

The players battling for the "Hottest Babe" award: Victoria (see above), a Playboy Playmate who claims to speak six languages, though I count only five in the bio; and Kendra (of Freddy and Kendra), a model with a "good sixth sense" and a killer smile.

So tune in and find out what your co-workers are talking about...and who the heck this "Phil" guy is.

November 13, 2004

Saturday Funny

A little treat for the weekend because I was lame last night and didn't post. I went to a late movie and was so sleepy by the time I got home that I just couldn't muster the energy. "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" was worth no more than the $3.50 my brother paid for me at the cheap theater. (What can I say, he's a nice guy.) These reviews at Rotten Tomatoes sum it up pretty well, though are perhaps more generally positive than my take: Pretty and evocative, but hollow and lacking emotion.

Anyway, on to why I'm actually posting. This video clip made me laugh so hard that I snorted and was practically crying by the end. I'm still trying to recover. (Via flea.)

November 11, 2004

What a player

Games. We all play them, or at least most of us who are honest about it do. What about when it gets out of hand, though? What about when the game becomes more real than the real?

Okay, I spun that out about as long as I could, which wasn't very long at all. I don't mean mind games or romantic games -- though goodness knows people play lots of those, too -- I'm talking about the proliferation of video and computer games. It never ceases to amaze me how so many people are so into them.

Not surprisingly, it has come to my attention again recently with the release of Halo 2. It seems like every few blogs I visit (or 8 out of 10 if they're written by guys) have had a mention of it in the last few days. Some people haven't been able to put it down. And I think some other people would be playing it non-stop if they could. Then there are the articles: Does it live up to the hype? It does. It doesn't. It kind of does. It really does.

Shooter games have never really interested me, especially since they have gotten more and more violent and more and more graphic. The commercials for the ones coming out now leave me cold, but then I'm not exactly the target audience. Ones like the latest Grand Theft Auto (the game and the commercial) I find absolutely appalling, though I suppose that matters to no one but me.

Not being into that kind of game, the array of platforms or systems or formats or whatever is always something I'm a step behind. I'm aware of the different ones, but I never know which game goes with which system, or what ones you can't play on a PC, etc. The reason I mention this is that part of me kind of has to cheer certain of these games, because the well-being of the company I work for depends on those games coming out, being "good," being popular and selling well, and driving the development of still more graphics-intensive games in order to spur sales of high-peformance processors. So I'm a little conflicted about them, which wouldn't so much be the case if they weren't almost all about killing and destroying. Trying to turn that tide would be like spitting into the wind, so I'll just be happy that I don't have kids and don't have to fight that battle, so to speak, in my own home. Oh, there's a Playstation 2 somewhere around here, and plenty of games, but it's not mine and my brother is free to play whatever he wants and kill all the CG bad guys he wants, so long as I don't have to be in the vicinity!

Before Halo 2, the newest version of The Sims was the thing everyone was talking about. I'm not into that one, either, but I also haven't tried it in ages.

No, I'm much more into puzzle games, word games and arcade games. Thanks to AOL (malign it if you must, but it does have some things to like) I can pretty much play a different one every night for free, and you have the chance, albeit a small one, to win cash from some of them if you hit a jackpot.

The thing is -- and I know this isn't a news flash -- they're like a drug. You get started and it's hard to stop. A real opiate of the masses, but on a one-on-one basis (I'm not sure if that's a contradiction in terms, but you get the point) and in every flavor. For instance, as I believe I've mentioned before, I tend to hop around while I'm writing a post -- it's rare that I just sit here and write, post and move on. Oh, no. It's write, surf, check e-mail, watch whatever I've recorded on TiVo in the last day or so, check another e-mail to see if anyone sent a pet picture (yeah, like that ever happens), write some more, watch more on TiVo, read a news article, surf for a particular link, write for a minute, watch TiVo, check e-mail again, and so on.

Well, add to that mix "compulsively play the game of the evening" and getting though the actual writing of a post is extended by about three times. Once I get into the groove of a game, the next level, that next jackpot spin, is too hard to resist. Case in point: That time down there? 11:23? That's the time I started, and that was about an hour after I began a new kind of game on AOL. It's now...well, I'm not going to say because a certain friend at work will give me a hard time about it...but it's a lot later than that and I'm still playing that game and I'm still not done here. Oh, wait, now I am.

November 10, 2004

Tempus Fugit Maximus

Apparently, letting loose with a week's worth of thoughts all at once has a curious effect on me. There's just not much more I have to say at the moment. It's kind of weird. Being at a loss for words is not something that happens very often to me! (Those of you who know me personally, feel free not to comment to vouch for that.)

There are only a few things on my mind, and they seem so benign compared to all those tumultuous thoughts:

1. Christmas is just over six weeks away.
2. My birthday is just over two weeks away.
3. The Amazing Race (yay!) will be back on in just under a week.

The thing is, the time between now and each one of those events will go by in a virtual blink of an eye. Age, getting older, that I really don't mind. The acceleration of time the older I get, however, bugs the hell out of me.

November 09, 2004

No catchy title

It wasn't quite this bad in my case, but I really did need some time to regroup and stop to smell a few roses amid the bitter stench of disappointment. And if, in your opinion, I took too long to "get over it" then that is too bad. I didn't spend the last week moaning or whining about it here. I run my life and my convictions on my timetable, not yours, and I'm entitled to as much time as I needed to reflect and gather my thoughts and my energies.

There are still some blogs I normally visit daily that I haven't been up to reading since last Tuesday, but I'm planning to ease into that this week. Hopefully, any lingering gloating or residual blue-state-bashing, if it was ever there, will have disappeared into the archives by that point because I really don't need that right now and I won't read it. I need more positive and less negative. Life is too short to get worked up over people whose point of view is so entirely different than mine.

On the flip side, some blogs have been really helpful to regaining my footing, notably Snarkcake for posts like this and this, and Inner Bitch for posts such as this that lead me to a site like this. So I thank you three for that.

I have been told by someone whose opinion I respect that I need to listen more to what those on the other side of the POV wall have to say now, instead of tuning them out in order to hear less. There is truth to that and I understand the reasoning -- "know thy enemy" and all -- but that is one hell of a difficult task as far as I'm concerned, and there are a few stumbling blocks down that path for me. Flat out: I do not suffer fools (and, by extension, stupidity) gladly...or well. It's a major character flaw, I'm sure, but that's the way it is. And listening to people spew one-sided rhetoric that is based on political, cultural, or religious dogma that I cannot relate to and cannot agree with is anathema to me.

As I stated a while back, I don't believe that there is real political debate any longer in this country, and I can't abide what passes for it on TV "news" these days. It's not that I am unwilling to consider other ideas, truly. I am willing, and I strive to be as open-minded to discussion as I can because persuing knowledge and understanding is admirable and worthwhile. It's that I find it nearly impossible to listen to the way the positions of the Right are presented and by those who present them at this point in time via the mainstream media. What I see there is not discussion or sharing or educating, it's more often sanctimonious ranting, character assasination, and intolerant diatribe.

The best I can do at this point is to read more about differing political views and positions -- because finding myself separated ideologically from half the country by such a wide gulf is very troubling -- and set aside my disappointment in favor of moving forward in whatever direction the country is headed. We may be doomed to repeat history if we do not learn from it, but learning from it means stepping away from it and not clinging to resentment over the parts that let you down.

So I will open myself up to learning more about the 51% of the country that sees our world so differently, where you're coming from and what you're hoping for as a result of this election. I don't see any other way for my 49% to work toward overcoming this enormous divide. But don't ask me to watch speeches, press conferences or other news programs that feature members of the current and/or forthcoming administration, or their sycophants, because I won't. I can't. Not yet.

November 08, 2004

Peri's Pet Parlor - Day Three

Mo had better get her act together because I'm running out of stuff to say.

My days are pretty much the same. My mom likes to nap almost as much as I do, so we do that a lot. I spend a bunch of time on patrol in my window, keeping our condo safe. I spar daily with a series of balls to keep my reflexes, and my nails, sharp. I eat and beg Mom for treats every once in a while -- I've gotten pretty good at catching them in my paws. Maura comes over a couple of times a week to go digging for gold in my Littermaid, then we play until I get tired of it and take refuge under the bed.

But that's about it. Not exactly an endless source of cat chat. So I'm hoping to lay low for a while, as much fun as the comments about mice have been.

Let's wrap this up then. Since there are only two people in the whole world we can count on to send us photos, I'm doing what Maura called "going back to the well." This is, of course, my good friend, Squeaky. It looks to me like she's laying on the most uncomfortable bed ever. I'm not sure what it is, but it sure is shiny.

Later, people.

November 05, 2004

Peri's Pet Parlor - Day Two

Here's a picture of my long-distance friend, Kitty-san. I think she's contemplating lunch at the moment. That or she just caught one of them tasty little moths that I love to hunt and my mom hates to see.

Maura's playing some game involving colored balls, which are great, but she's shooting them out of the sky instead of chasing them around the floor. That I don't really get. And I can't get her to stop, even to pet me and how can she pass that up?

Earlier I meowed her to death and was able to get her to check to see if anyone else coughed up a photo and she said I got something called "bupkis." I guess that's a no. They're pictures, people, not hairballs. It won't kill you. I'll even take ones of dogs.

November 04, 2004

Peri's Pet Parlor

Maura is ticked off about something. She started to explain it to me, but I didn't know what she was going on about and I yawned about five seconds in. That made her even more annoyed and she stalked off, tossing over her shoulder something about not coming back until she had calmed down. That could take a while from what I saw.

She gave me a break the last few weeks, so I guess I owe her a couple.

At least she put up the perfect picture before she left. (I just wish she would find a way to stop making my eyes blue. You ever seen a blue peridot? Me neither.) Yeah, that's me playing with my favorite new toy. I captured that stupid ball and I wasn't letting it get away anytime soon.

So, look, if I'm going to be doing this, I could use some pictures from you people. Maura's always dragging out that evil flashy thing so there's a bunch of them of me, and I guess I could just keep putting those up. I mean look at me, I'm gorgeous, so it's not like you can really complain or anything. But that guy who talks kinda funny that my mom is always watching on the TV said variety is the mice of life and that's gotta be a good thing.

Send me some mice, people.

November 03, 2004

Completely frayed

To say that I am not happy today would be a vast understatement. I spent the whole morning in a fog, trying to wrap my mind around things.

But I'm still processing my feelings and, for once, I don't feel like writing about them. Gary Bibb did an excellent job of capturing them (and he only misspelled one word in the process, so you know he really means it), only without all the swearing that my post would have had, so please go visit him.

Normal blogging will be suspended for the time being while I deal with this the best way I know how. Come back tomorrow to see what I mean.

Update: Sam nailed the more angry part of my reaction, so go visit him, too.

November 02, 2004

Tied up in electoral knots

I can't take it any longer tonight. It's almost 3:30 in the morning on the East coast and all they're doing is finding fifty different ways to say "We just don't know yet and we're not willing to guess because we're not getting it wrong this time around" on CNN.

And I sure as hell don't feel like giving up any sleep in order to wait and listen to that smirky bastard come out and start throwing around words like "mandate" or "moral victory" -- I'd use other words, but I think they might have too many syllables for him -- so I'm going to bed.

If I were a less optimistic person, I'd go cry myself to sleep.

If I were a more spiritual person, I'd go pray myself to sleep.

But I'm a person who's a dreamer, so I'll simply go off to dream about someday living in a country where I once again feel that I belong, and hope that morning helps me shake off these twin feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

November 01, 2004

A window on the spiritual world

We celebrated Halloween this year by taking a nighttime flashlight tour of the Winchester Mystery House, in San Jose. I feel a bit like a tour guide whenever I say this, but if you're in the area I do recommend checking it out. It's not a cheap ticket, but you'll never see anything else quite like it and there are some fascinating stories behind the various rooms. If you have no plans to ever visit The Golden State, however, and have no idea what the deal is with the house, read a bit here or here to get a flavor.

The flashlight tours are something they do only a couple times a year, every Friday the 13th and on Halloween, and the only illumination really is by the flashlights they hand out. The tour guide wouldn't let me pick my color, though, so that was kind of disappointing. I mean, why would I want a red flashlight when the blue one was so much cooler?

Anyway, we traipsed by and through 110 of the 160 rooms in the house, and I took a few pictures. Some didn't come out that great, but this one of the window was interesting. (I'm sure the people who go in for these kinds of pictures would find my pictures disappointing, because if there are going to be ghosts or "energy designs" to be captured, you'd think that Halloween would be the night to get them. Ooh, ooh, are those blurry, whitish images in the window ghosts? No, they're finger smudges from "gotta touch it" visitors.)

If you read the articles above, or any of the many, many stories and mentions you can find on the Web, you'll hear about Sarah Winchester's superstitious nature, her twice-daily seances to consult with the spirits, a fondness for building features in her house to confuse ghosts, and use of the number 13 in a myriad of ways. But there are some other themes and motifs found throughout the house, including daisies, which were reportedly her favorite flower, spider webs such as in the window that is found in one of the bathrooms, and one that I noticed but that never got mentioned, Celtic knots.

We completed our hour-long tour without incident or eerie encounter, damn it, and (after a trip through the gift shop, of course) headed back out into the chill of All Hallows' Eve with worn-out feet and nothing but respect for any lingering, restless spirits.