January 30, 2010

We Have A Winner!

So today was the big day; the guesses were all in and tallied last night so all that remained was to see how much money was actually in Mr. Donkey. He and I went off to a local supermarket with a Coinstar machine to get ourselves a winner. There's time for a quick picture to set the stage.

I think he's waving, but it was hard to tell.

Resigned to his fate.

Then it was time to disgorge his contents and see what we had to be counted. He didn't give it up easily, I must say, as I had a hell of a time getting the plug out. [Insert your own joke here.] It took a little more effort to get all the coins out, but finally the silver started flowing.

A little privacy, please.

I selected the UNICEF Haiti Emergency Fund and got the confirmation screen.

We took a look at what we had to offer before starting the big count, then I started to feed the coins into the machine. I was a little giddy with anticipation because I couldn't wait to see how much was actually in there. (If you think I knew, I didn't. There was no way I was going to count all that myself if the machine was going to do it for me.)

Is it just me or does he look a little sad at this point?

The machine went clicky, clicky, clicky, clack for a while, doing its tallying and totaling. At first it looked to me like there wasn't going to be as much as I'd hoped, but then it started to get caught up and when it stopped, this is what the screen said:

Much to my surprise, someone guessed the total on the button: Duchess!! You are the big winner, my pregnant friend! I will send your prize pack off to you as soon as possible.

Thank you to everyone who participated. I had so much fun putting this together and watching the guesses come in. And a special thank you to the good folks at Coinstar, who got involved and tweeted about the giveaway, then very generously donated some gift certificate love (Can you say iTunes, friends?) that will appear in a future giveaway. This was my best blogoversary yet and you have energized me for the year ahead.

January 27, 2010

Ping: My Boy Finn

It has been a long time since I've done any catblogging (and some of you *cough* Kathy *cough* are probably peachy-keen with that oversight).  But when I had my camera out last week to take pictures of Mr. Donkey, I snapped a few shots of Finn and thought I'd share one.

He still hates having his picture taken, almost as much as me, so it wasn't easy to get him to look at me. I have to play on his inability to ignore my little clicky noises for long. He's gotten really big (that vet who told me he'd be "a big boy" sure knew what she was talking about!) but there's still that same kissable nose and chewable ears. He puts up with me accosting him on a daily basis because I can't resist snatching him up for a snuggle or two. But then, I am The Mighty Holder of the Food.

January 24, 2010

Play That Funky Music, White Girl

I went out last night with friends and had a great time. There was sushi and sake, beer and darts; it could hardly have been better. During the course of the evening, the idea of going dancing sometime in the future came up. Half of us were in favor of it, half of us weren't. I fell into the "not in favor" camp.

It's not that I hate dancing, it's just that I'm not all that good at it, I don't enjoy it much and it's not something I look forward to doing. Weddings are pretty much it, and I haven't been to one of those in years. I do, however, really enjoy a lot of dance music. Someone pointed out a few years ago that the songs I turn up on the car radio are almost all dance tunes, yet I don't want to go dancing. True. I'm also that person at a concert who's pissed when the person(s) in front of me to stand and dance the ENTIRE time the musicians are performing. I am paying to see the musicians and hear their music, not watch someone's lame-ass dancing in three feet of space. There, I said it. If you're that person, I'm sorry, but that's how I (and some other people, I know for a fact) feel.

But I digress. When this week's list came up, "List your favorite dance songs," I had to really think about it. I think of songs as just ones I love, in general; I don't necessarily divide them into categories like that. So here, for your ridiculing pleasure, is my latest list, in no particular order.

List 4: My Favorite Dance Songs

  • Crazy in Love - Beyoncé
  • Push It - Salt-N-Pepa
  • Let's Go Crazy - Prince
  • Hips Don't Lie - Shakira
  • Boom Boom Pow - Black Eyed Peas
  • Vogue - Madonna
  • Brick House - Commodores
  • Fergalicious - Fergie
  • Promiscuous - Nelly Furtado
  • Love Shack - The B-52s
Clearly I skew toward female artists for my dance tunes, and I have an affinity for 80s music. Feel free to tell me what yours are (or why mine suck *sniff*) in the comments.

January 22, 2010

A Blogoversary Giveaway!

One Ping Only turns six today! Sometimes it feel like it has been forever, but other times it feels like it has been no time at all. I'm not going to wax poetic about it, I'll just say thanks to those of you who have been a part of it during some or all of that time. It means a lot to me, especially your comments (yes, Ben, I do put a lot of stock in the commenting!) and the fact that you are supportive even when I'm spotty on regular posting. OK, on to the fun part!

To celebrate the blogoversary, I'm doing a little giveaway. I'll be sending to one winner the following:
  • A copy of My Life. My Loves. My Lists. (For you to do your own lists this year)
  • A $20 Starbucks card (Or Peet's or the like, if you'd prefer)
  • The new Norah Jones CD, The Fall (I'm loving listening to it right now.)
  • Two single-serve packets of Nutella (In honor of my friends who are big Nutella fans)
  • A six-pack of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (Don't need to explain those, do I?)
  • A donation in your honor to the UNICEF Haiti Emergency Fund (Keep reading for info on that one)

Here's the deal: It's a simple affair, no requirement to tweet about it (though if you wish to, you're certainly welcome to); subscribe (again, unless you'd like to), write an essay or otherwise turn cartwheels. All you have to do is submit a guess in the comments, in the form of a dollar amount, as to how much money you think is in this bank:

Though he looks like a hippo, the fine people of Target said he's a donkey. So, it's a donkey bank.

I love banks and I have probably too many of them. I put all my change in them -- my rule is that if any coin makes it to my room in my pants pockets at the end of the day, it goes in a bank -- with one for just pennies and one for silver coins. Mr. Donkey there is the one with silver coins. Usually when he fills up, I take them all out and wrap them up and bring them to the bank for a little mad money.

He's almost full and instead of saving the money, I'm going to take Mr. Donkey to a Coinstar machine when the entry time is over and his contents will be tallied up and donated to the UNICEF Haiti Emergency Fund in honor of the person who can guess how much he holds. To give you some perspective on the size of the bank, here he is posing in front of my laptop next to a soda can. (That is not an ad for Dell, by the way, I just needed a clean background!)

What I'm looking for is a guess of the total that will appear when his contents are emptied into the Coinstar machine. Because there's only silver coins inside, the total will be to the nearest nickel. The person whose guess in the comments is closest to that total wins -- that's it! If two guesses are the same distance away from the correct amount, the person with the guess under the total will win. I was going to limit it to North America, but what the hell, it's only postage, right? (However, I don't think the Starbucks card can be used outside the U.S. so I'd have to leave that out. That would go to the next-closest person in the U.S.) Comments with a guess must be submitted by 11:59pm PST on January 29, 2010 to be eligible.

Let me be clear: This money is getting donated to this cause even if no one enters. I just don't like random number generators all that much and picking names from a hat is a lot of work -- I did it once and that was enough. I thought this would at least be a different way of picking a winner! Also, I have no idea how much is in there; I'll find out when the total shows up on the screen, which I'll take a picture of to share here.

So help me celebrate my blog's anniversary with a little fun and a little giving; two things I believe in greatly.

January 17, 2010

The People I Know

This week's list was an interesting one for me -- "List the children and babies that you know" -- because it goes right to the heart of a post that has been brewing for a while. The thing is, two years ago, here is how that list would have looked:

Would-be List 3 - Children and Babies I Know
  • (None)
The difference between now and then is AllMediocre and Twitter and the incredible people they've brought into my life. And that difference is huge because many of the people I met by those means are parents who are now a part of my life.

List 3 - Children and Babies I Know
The thing that makes this list somewhat different, apart from the obvious fact that it's far lengthier than it would otherwise have been, is that I have met some of these children in person and some I haven't.

But it doesn't matter because I know them; their parents are my friends.

Some of their parents I have met in person, and some I haven't. And that doesn't matter, either.

I no longer distinguish my friends by how I know them. There is no "in real life/IRL" and "online" in my lexicon of friendship any more. None. It's gone. If people ask me to clarify who I'm talking about, I do, but my friendship with The Duchess or Kathy is no less meaningful to me than my friendship with someone I get to see more frequently (or ever) simply by virtue of location. The fact we've seen each other only once or haven't seen each other face-to-face is meaningless to me. That kind of thinking is outdated. How you meet and make a friend does not define that friendship anymore than the length of time you've known someone or their proximity to you defines a friendship. Friendship is far more complex than that and the Internet has broadened our friendship horizons exponentially.

I think some are threatened by that broadening of horizons, so they ridicule and resent the friendships their loved ones have with people they've met in a manner other than what they consider to be "real." One part of me is frustrated by this...and frustrated often. The other part of me feels bad for both my friends who encounter this and their loved ones, because the loved ones are limiting themselves and limiting their partners (or trying) when they feel threatened by what they don't understand. Many of these loved ones cite safety concerns and there are certainly some people online whose intentions are less than good. However, in the same way that the news scares us daily with cautionary tales of evildoing, whether online or in our neighborhood, not everyone can be painted with that same brush of fear or we'd never leave our houses. Doing so toward people who spend part of their lives online is simply another form of discrimination, as they're judging people they don't know based on one facet of those people.

I'm quite certain that these loved ones don't see it that way. I imagine they think they're looking out for their partners (and, by extension, their families) because they love them. What they don't realize, in my opinion, is that they're also trying to substitute their judgment for their partner's judgment to a large degree, and that doesn't honor their bond one bit. Most of us are not dumb enough to blindly trust the people we meet online. We all get taken in by people from time to time; it happens, it's part of life and it's by no means limited to "people from the Internet." When you spend time online, you learn to assess people by their presence there, the same way you assess people in your office or class when you have to decide who you can trust and who you can't. To make an assumption that someone means to harm or dupe your partner just because their connection isn't face-to-face is to question your partner's ability to make that kind of assessment.

It's also ignorant to think that if your partner meets someone at the club or a party or in the PTA, they will make a better friend than someone they met on Twitter. Who exactly do you think is on Twitter? It's the people at your grocery store and your gym, it's the people in your office and your softball league, it's the people living next door to you and across the street. They are, quite literally, as real as you are and denying that does no justice to your own common sense and no credit to your intellect.

I make a real effort to meet my friends in person whenever possible. It's important to me because of this distrust that some of their loved ones have about their "invisible friends" or "Twitter buddies." Sometimes I feel like I'm on a one-woman crusade to prove to them that we're not all actually 30 year-old men living in our parent's basement who pretend to be women online. It doesn't always work and my feelings on the subject have come between me at least one friend, which saddens me greatly. But it matters to me what their loved ones think because they are a major part of my friends' lives and I respect them for that role. It's not enjoyable to know they sometimes don't respect my role in their partner's life because of how they know me.

My life has been enriched immeasurably by the people I consider to be my friends, and I look forward to continue getting out there and spending time with them, their kids and their loved ones whenever possible. And when I can't, my days are made brighter by their presence on my laptop. 

January 13, 2010

Making Progress

I've been taking my list of goals for the year seriously and I'm trying to be mindful of the items on it, in order to look for opportunities to advance them. (I think blogging three times this week -- so far -- is a fine example of that!) I realized that my blog anniversary is coming up, and it would be nice to have made progress on my "Get a new blog design" goal before then.

Last night I decided to take the plunge and made major changes to the layout. I figured that if I pay someone to do a full-blown re-design, I'll have to upgrade it on Blogger in any case, so might as well do that. I've been cobbling together bits and pieces of HTML on the original layout to keep things afloat for a couple years and it just gets harder and harder to make it what I want. That is simply not where my talents lie.

As you can see, if you've ever been here before, things look seriously different. I realize that it's not great just yet, there are still a lot of things that need to be tweaked. I'd let you tell me what you like or don't like, but the biggest problem I've encountered is that my comment function is not working with the new template. I'm sure it's an easy fix, but I haven't been able to puzzle it out on my own. I'm getting some help with it, but people have been coming to visit today and I wanted to thank you and apologize for not having comments working.

Because of this, I've added something now that I'd planned to add later: A link to me on Twitter. I've resisted doing that for a long time, but the reasons for doing so seem less relevant to me now. Twitter has become a huge part of my life and I want to integrate it into my blog. Over there to the right is a rather clunky-looking widget, which I hope to improve on, that will take you to my Twitter page. If you're not already following me there, I hope you'll come by and say hey. If you are, please feel free to leave your feedback there until I get the comments up and running. Because, let's face it, tweets are great but there's nothing to equal a comment left with a post.

So, technically, I've met the challenge of my goal because this definitely constitutes a "new blog design." But I'm not ready to cross it off because it's not the final version and it doesn't meet the spirit of the goal. So let's consider it to be struck through with a dotted line for the time being. I'll keep updating the progress over there in the Welcome message and I hope you'll come back to watch as things develop.

***UPDATE: For the moment, it's essentially back to the old template. But the header and comments are back up. (Thank you Emma!) But the Welcome message I mentioned is gone. This will be a work in progress. Thanks for your patience.***

January 11, 2010

Now Showing: Movies I Missed

I was amused at how much I enjoyed writing and posting yesterday's entry. I suppose I shouldn't be; I know I'm a cyclical kind of person and the things I like to do wax and wane during a year.

But this morning I knew I needed to cross one thing off the list (already, yay!) and add one thing to it, seeing as how they're related.

Crossing off: Find a volunteer position
Adding: Watch as many of the movies that "everyone" has seen that I haven't

"How can these possibly be related?" you may ask. It's a fair question, but they actually are.

Since it was a list of goals for the year, I went ahead and included the finding of a volunteer position. In actuality, I'd already found one and it just started. I'm volunteering at a local library, doing one of my favorite things: looking for books and other library materials when they are requested by patrons. There's nothing I love more than a treasure hunt, and it's like a new treasure hunt every time I go. It's like a little win when I find a title that's on the "We've looked before but haven't found it" list, I must say.

Among the things I get to hunt down are videos (yes, there are still some) and DVDs. When I spent a little more time in the DVD section, I was amazed at how many recent movies were there, as well as many that have been in my "meaning to see" category for ages. That, of course, spawns another list. You might be surprised by some of the movies on it, but there are many popular movies that I don't go to see, especially if everyone is hyping it up. I'm also one of the few people in the country who doesn't use Netflix, or many of these would have been ones I'd have had in my queue and probably would have seen while I was waiting for the newer movies.

List 2: Movies I've Been Meaning To See
  • All About Eve
  • Almost Famous
  • Annie Hall
  • Atonement
  • Bonnie and Clyde
  • Borat
  • Breaking Away
  • Brokeback Mountain
  • Bullitt
  • Burn After Reading
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • Casino
  • Chinatown (I tried to watch this once before, but I fell asleep)
  • Cold Mountain
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Dr. Strangelove
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Fame (original)
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High (I know, I know, but I haven't seen it)
  • Finding Neverland
  • Flags of Our Fathers
  • Frost/Nixon
  • Garden State
  • Giant
  • Glengarry Glen Ross
  • The Godfather Part II
  • Goodfellas
  • Gorillas in the Mist
  • Grand Hotel
  • Harold and Maude
  • Hotel Rwanda
  • The Hustler
  • An Inconvenient Truth
  • Letters From Iwo Jima
  • L.A. Confidential
  • The Manchurian Candidate (original)
  • Midnight Cowboy
  • Michael Clayton
  • Meet Me In St. Louis
  • Monster's Ball
  • Moonstruck
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  • Mulholland Drive
  • Napoleon Dynamite
  • Network
  • An Officer and a Gentleman
  • The Queen
  • The Pianist
  • The Producers (both versions)
  • Ratatouille
  • Ray
  • Rebel Without a Cause
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • The Right Stuff
  • Rushmore
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Schindler's List
  • Seven
  • Slap Shot
  • Some Like It Hot
  • Taxi Driver
  • Terms of Endearment
  • This Is Spinal Tap
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • 12 Angry Men
  • The Usual Suspects
  • Young Frankenstein
All over the map, isn't it? It's a lot longer than I anticipated, but once I got started, I decided to go all out. I don't know how many of these the library actually has, and there's no way I'm going to fit them all in this year, but at least I've finally got them down in one place.

January 10, 2010

The Year of Lists

Happy New Year! I figured that I'd let all the other bloggers do their new year posts first, so you wouldn't get overwhelmed.

OK, we both know that's a lie. As usual, I put it off because I don't do resolutions and I wasn't sure yet what I wanted to say for my first post of the year.

Finally, inspiration struck the other day, in Barnes & Noble, of all places. I took my mom there so she could get a 2010 calendar book for her appointments. B&N usually has so many and discounts them by 50% after Christmas/New Years, so we were hoping for a good buy. While she was perusing the selection (which was pretty thin by then, unfortunately), I checked out a few and hit gold. I found a rather unassuming-looking volume called Listography Weekly Calendar: Your Year In Lists.

I love lists. I think most people do. I don't make them as frequently or as predictably as some (e.g., the ubiquitous "My Top 10 List of the Year!"), but there's something incredibly satisfying about making and completing a list, some of the reasons for which I was amused to find here. The Listography calendar, while it serves as a conventional weekly planner, has the additional twist of giving you a topical list to complete each week, accompanied by a quirky illustration. As the back cover says, the lists "range from autobiographical to aspirational to holiday-specific" and I fell in love with the idea of the calendar guiding me to make lists to share here.

Because, let's face it, I'm not always good with the ol' follow-through here at The Ping. The only thing that I successfully did for an extended period of time was The Year of Living Generously, and even that had an element of failure because I felt I couldn't write about it after a certain point. (I did complete it, though, even after being laid off, and I'm pretty proud of that!)

The calendars topics are random enough to keep my interest (I'm hoping), amusing and relevant enough to make for some good posts (I'm really hoping), and already prepared so I won't have to struggle for a topic. The idea of that makes me a little giddy, I have to admit, so I'm encouraged that it's something I can stick with for a while.

As we've completed the first full week of our new year, it's time for the first list (hopefully the first of many!) in no particular order except as how they occurred to me.

List 1: My Goals For The Upcoming Year
  • Take another trip to Los Angeles to visit friends
  • Find or create a job that I can stand
  • Get a new blog design
  • Put together a disaster-preparedness kit
  • Blog more regularly
  • Find a volunteer position
  • Complete some cross-stitch projects
  • Pare down my possessions
  • Drink more wine
  • Take more photos and organize them
Thoughts? Questions? Goals of your own to share? Hit me up in the comments and let me know.