January 31, 2005

Amazing Race teaser

I had no intention of doing another post today, but as I was going through my e-mail before bed I found something that made me laugh so hard, I simply had no choice.

Each week I get The Amazing Race Bulletin the day before each episode airs. I'm not sure why because it really doesn't have all that much in it, and until now I haven't seen a single thing in it that I felt deserved to be shared. I don't watch the video previews because I don't like knowing too much, or falling too hard for CBS's red herrings, and the photo caption thing is only so-so. (If you're interested, however, you can sign up on the main Amazing Race page.)

But tonight, their missive coughed up a good one. A little nugget that just made all my counting feel so worthwhile. Because, honestly, I don't know how many of you actually find the Baby Count as amusing as I do, so I do it mainly to humor myself and the people in my TV-viewing household who find this tendency in the show as laughable as I do. And that's good enough for me, baby.

But I do believe that tomorrow's show could, in fact, be the defining episode for my beloved Count. The newsletter teases that "Frequent use of the word 'honey' quickly irritates one Racer."

I don't know how they can say "quickly" -- hell, many of us have been irritated by it for weeks! So, what do you say? My money is on Kendra being the offender and Freddy threatening to "snap her in two" if she doesn't knock it off.


Just a little mid-day post to remind people one last time about the contest to come up with an idea for a new reality (or unreality!) show.

All of your fellow blog competitors really are intimidated by the ideas you have been letting "brew" in your head (you know you want that Starbucks card), so put them out of their misery and send your idea in before the end of the day.

Don't worry so much about the rules and take a "shot." I just had fun putting them together -- they're nothing out of the ordinary, "Joe." Chances are quite good that you'll "whip" the competition.

Okay, enough with the coffee references. Besides, if I were you I'd be playing for the See's candy, 'cause it rocks. Did I mention it's the gold box of truffles?

Which, by the way, Guys, would make a fantastic Valentine's Day gift for that special Girl and would leave you NOT having to scramble to come up with something last minute! And just think how nice it would be for them to get something not available at your local drug store or gas station.

It will be there in plenty of time, so you can spend that extra time not taken up by perusing all those velvet hearts (to find the least tacky one from what's left) checking out the cards to find one that will melt her heart. I can envision some fine lovin' in your future...

Update: Thanks to all of you who got your entries in! The judges will now retire to their ridiculously lavish chambers to ponder the wonder of your creativity.

January 27, 2005

Scavenge this!

I have nothing much of consequence to say tonight because I have been far too busy working on Round Two of Michele's scavenger hunt. I love stuff like this and, thankfully for me, I'm pretty good at it. (She says now with much confidence.)

I didn't get to participate in Round One, even though I was one of the clue sites -- and, apparently, not the easiest one! -- because of the aforementioned connectivity issues. But this one? Oh, yeah, I'm in, and I've finally got them all...or at least I think I do.

There are going to be more rounds because the fabulous Michele had a lot of takers on this one -- what a surprise, eh? -- so if you're in the mood for some fun and visiting some new blogs, I suggest stopping...or "hopping"...over and getting in on the action.

And while you're waiting for pages to load and such, please ponder on your contest entries. I know there are more of you out there with ideas that will knock our socks off.

Remember, anything goes -- silly, impossible, expensive, wacky, untalented, on another planet, D-List celebrity-filled, dating from Hell -- and from anyone. It can be as simple as a paragraph or two -- just get your idea across. Come on, make it hard for the judges to pick just two and help me celebrate the start of another year of this blogging insanity.

Seriously, send them in or we're going straight back to catblogging...

January 26, 2005

Clarification, thanks, and odds 'n ends

Hi everyone, and many thanks for all your well wishes and congratulations on OPO's anniversary. And a hearty welcome to those of you stopping by for Michele's scavenger hunt!

I'm way behind in catching up on everyone's blogs, because I finally remembered that I only have a certain amount of dial-up time on my current AOL plan, and I blew through that a few days in just by keeping up here. It's good to be back...though only for connectivity reasons since I was really enjoying myself and it will be hard to go back to work tomorrow.

True to my word, I never saw a sunrise in Tahoe. Didn't really see the sun a lot at all, actually, since it was really, really foggy much of the time. Luckily, I like fog, and it didn't keep me from snowshoeing as planned. (Yes, that what those things on my feet were, and yes, they do come off, though you walk around for a while afterwards feeling like they're still on.) Oh, and I encountered something called "freezing fog," which I'd never heard of before, let alone seen. Here's some evidence of what it does to the scenery:

Now for the clarification part. About the contest, I didn't want to get too detailed in describing what the entries should entail, because I wanted to leave it to your imagination. But I don't think it got across that it does not have to be an idea for a show that could ever actually be on TV. And you certainly don't have to be a fan of reality TV to come up with an entry -- I happen to think that someone who doesn't like them...at all...yes, Norman, that means you...could come up with a fantastic parody (or savagery, as the case may be) of one, which would be completely cool within the realm of this contest.

Want the losers to be thrown in shark-filled waters? Okay by me! Want it to take place inside a maximum security prison? Go for it...but please leave out any "shower scenes" because I still want Rita to talk to me, okay? Time and place are no boundaries here (yes, Liberty Bob, that means you), no holds barred. In fact, let's make it unreality shows if you'd prefer.

I hope that gets the creative juices flowing, people. There's still lots of time, so I hope to hear from more of you with entries. If there are questions, you know where the comments are.

Oh, and Norman? I'm not obsessed with reality shows, honest. I'm actually pretty selective in the ones I watch. I just thought it would be an interesting jumping off point for people since everyone seems to have an opinion -- usually a strong one -- about 'em!

January 25, 2005

Fast, Fast, Go, Go, Tuk Tuk!

Frankly, I'm exhausted. No, not from driving the many hours back from Tahoe ahead of bad weather, but from trying to keep up with the Baby Count for this week! It was an exercise in discipline, I tell you. We'll save those results for the end, though, as usual.

So, this week found us back in Ethiopia, where apparently the food made Kendra sick. Serves her right for making Freddy sick back in Hungary, says I. She spent much of the episode looking wan and weak...so weak that we never once heard her mention doing research. I do have to give her credit for going on when she looked like all she wanted to do was curl up in a nauseous little ball. Damn, that's two weeks in a row that I had to give her credit for something -- let's hope that's the end of that because I really don't like her enough to keep doing that.

After the teams took a short charter plane ride from the Pit Stop and ran around a track as a part of a four-man relay team -- which was fun for no one but Hayden -- they set out for Sri Lanka where, Phil noted in an appropriately somber prologue, this leg of the Race was taped before the devastating tsunami. Well, four of the teams went there; Bolo asked to go to Sirika Lankka. That was while he was in Addidas Abbaba, of course.

Once in Colombo, Sri Lanka (or was it Colombia, Bolo?), the teams raced in suicide cabs to the train station. All but Rebecca and Adam made it onto the first train, though I think Kendra was wishing she'd missed it, too, and spent probably the whole trip in the bathroom. Of course, there was much drama and gnashing of teeth as Adam fumed about not making the train while Rebecca, after convincing him not to quit altogether, once again had to essentially tell him, "I want out of this relationship." I'd say only four or five dozen more repetitions, girl, and he may actually get it!

After a ride in a delightfully named "tuk tuk," it was time for the Detour. And oh, man, was it babylicious. I bet you never thought climbing a tree and walking a tightrope could inspire that many utterings of the word "baby" and its variations, did you? Everyone but Kendra and Freddy took the tree-climbing option; the models chose to play elephant polo, and I'd say they had a heck of a lot more fun in the doing. Certainly more fun than Hayden, who got hers for being so dominating in the relay race -- she's afraid of heights and had one hell of a time completing her part.

Once they were done with the Detour, it was off to the bus station for a trip to Kandy land. (Did someone on the staff get a raise for making them hit as many different forms of transportation as possible for this leg? I would have said they only missed water, but just wait for the ending.) Of course, there was a great big catch-up opportunity in Kandy that eventually found all five teams sitting around the next morning waiting for an art association to open. I think "art association" may be Sri Lankan for "tourist trap," but I'm not sure. They dashed inside to buy an offering of rice that they exchanged for a blessing and a clue from a rather long-winded young monk. Even the ever-cheerful Kris found her patience being tested by the time it took to complete this relatively simple task...I think she lost her smile for at least three minutes!

Then, led by Lori and Bolo, it was back on the bus to Dambulla and another interesting rock formation for the Roadblock, where one person had to race up 1,000+ steps and catch their breath long enough to locate the Pit Stop by binoculars. Speaking of catch, they had to buy and take with them admittance tickets for the top. Teams that didn't read the directions carefully, which you think by now they would know enough to do, paid a steep price for their inattention. Amid much huffing and puffing, the teams completed the task, but Lori -- who got up to the ticket-taker near the top before realizing her error -- had to go all the way back down and up before finishing. Channeling the not-at-all-missed Jonathan, Lori blamed Bolo entirely for this oversight.

It was back into the tuk tuks in a dash for the Pit Stop they had located from the rock. They then had to swim the length of a pool, where a dry and smiling Phil greeted them. Was this pool part really necessary? He was Right There, for crying out loud. Anyway, Team Smiley came in first. The next three teams got there at pretty much the same time, and it was amusing to watch them running around the pool like headless chickens to get the swimming part in. Hayden and Aaron outswam the others to come in second, with Freddy showing impressive strength in literally hauling Kendra straight out of the pool to secure third. Adam and Rebecca came in next-to-last again.

Because of the boo-boo at the Roadblock, Lori and Bolo got to the Pit Stop last, with Bolo executing what I thought was a pretty damned graceful dive for a man of his size. As they trudged up to the mat, Lori was probably regretting wearing a white top (though at least she didn't actually mention her implants, let's just say they were fully in evidence) almost as much as coming in last, where they were eliminated. Goodbye, Team Muscles, we hardly knew ye. And Bolo? Your complete lack of pronunciation and counting talents will be greatly missed.

This leaves us with just The Official One Ping Only AR6 "Baby" Count™ to ponder before we wrap this up. And it's a dilly. The vast majority of the "babies" were accounted for in the first half hour alone, and "honeys" were somewhat scarce -- Kendra wasn't feeling well, after all, and Hayden was so freaked out by the whole tree-climbing thing that I imagine she was just not in the honey frame of mind. We did have a unique "sweet pea" in the second half from Kendra to try to balance it out a bit, however lame. So, without further ado, here it is, a season-high effort:

One Ping Only AR6 "Baby" Count: Episode 10 = 75

January 24, 2005

The Contest

Okay, so let's get on with the contest! The One Ping Only First Anniversary Contest is your chance to create the reality show that you would put on the air if you had the means -- Richard Branson proved that you can buy your reality show into existence, however terrible -- or the one you would most like to see a network to do.

Send an outline or description, no more than one page in length, that describes the reality show of your dreams...or our nightmares. Be as detailed as you'd like (but keeping it to one page), be funny, be serious; help us see your "vision" for the next great reality show. I know some of you have already expressed on your blogs some ideas on how you'd do versions of shows already on the air -- copy 'em, paste 'em, dress 'em up and send 'em in!

The outlines will be judged by me and our very own Rita, The Reality TV Queen. I am going to rely on her expertise and her lack of bias -- she doesn't read other blogs so she won't be swayed any connection to anyone's blog. She will get the outlines without names, so anyone who is eligible (even if they're related to me) can participate. From her selections and with her input, I will have final say. Just call me "The Donald Lite."

The contest is open as of 11:59 p.m. (PT) tonight, and is subject to the rules found here. That's right, rules. Writing contest rules is one of the parts of my job that I enjoy the most (believe it or not) and I wasn't about to have a contest without 'em. So go take a look, they're pretty basic and they lay out the dos and don'ts.

The entries have to be in me by midnight on February 1st, and should be sent to moburns[at]gmail[dot]com, with the subject line "Contest Entry." If you don't have that subject line, I cannot be responsible for treating any potential entries as spam!

Prizes, you ask? Of course there are prizes! The details are in the rules, but there will be one Grand Prize winner and one First Prize - Honorable Mention. The Grand Prize includes a $10 Starbucks card, a box of my favorite See's truffles, and a limited edition One Ping Only magnet calendar, along with a few other goodies.

So get busy and send in your ideas -- be the next Mark Burnett!

January 22, 2005

Happy Anniversary to me!

One year ago today, I started One Ping Only. I was inspired by reading and enjoying Ernie's Little.Yellow.Different daily for months beforehand and, through his being nominated, many of the other nominees of the 2004 Bloggies. Its limitations aside, Blogger made it so damned easy that I jumped in with both feet, really only having the idea that I would include links to news stories and sites of interest that I would otherwise send by e-mail to my friends or family, with a bit of commentary. No one told me, however, how hard it would be to get them to remember to go read it! So it became something else over time, with a few detours along the way and many other blogs crossing my path.

It astonishes me today to think of life without this outlet and this connection to people who I may never meet in person but who have come to mean so much to me and whose company in the blog world I value so highly. Special mentions and heaps of gratitude have to go out to The Trinity -- fat dude, gary bibb and copygodd, for putting up with a novice blogger and becoming my friends and my mentors, whether or not they really intended to! Many thanks also to BytchInNY, cbeck, Kevin, Norman, Liberty Bob, April and Howard for being, well...great, and to the other bloggers I've had the pleasure of getting to know over the last year. Last, but by no means least, thank you to those of my family and friends who do stop by and who often give me great ideas.

So how to celebrate such a momentous occasion? With a contest, OPO-style, of course.

Beginning Monday, I'll have the details up for a contest that I'll hope you'll enjoy taking part in, with the chance to win a few nifty prizes. Rita will be helping out with the judging of this contest, which should give you a clue as to what it will be about.

I'd put it up it today, but I figure that the weekend isn't the best time to start something like this (at least, according to the site meter, it's not!), and being up in Tahoe, well, I'm not able to do it justice. Let's just say that I'm a bit hobbled when it comes to technology at the moment. (Dial-up is cruel torture to someone who has become complacently accustomed to high-speed, wireless access!)

To make up for the delay, here's a picture of how I spent a good part of my day today.

Hope to see you back here on Monday. In the meantime, enjoy the playoffs tomorrow if you're into football, or enjoy the fact that football season is almost over if you're not.

January 20, 2005

Sunrise, sunset

This time tomorrow, I will be snug as a bug in a rug, tucked away in a little castle near the shores of Lake Tahoe. I am headed for days of fun, sun, snow and relaxation.

By definition that means that I will not be seeing anything even remotely resembling the following for the entirety of my trip:

That is a picture of a beautiful Tahoe sunrise taken by my good friend, Rita.

Rita, who has a house up there, is the earliest early riser I know. She and I, in that respect, could not be any more different. That picture was probably taken at about 5:30 a.m., after she had already made scones, had her coffee, read the paper, reupholstered a chair or two, done a load of laundry, ironed it, and watched at least two episodes of the reality TV shows she had to record because she was asleep at about 7:59 p.m. the night before.

I, on the other hand, was still in bed for approximately another three hours, minimum, after she snapped the photo.

She has all my admiration for that -- as well as for being just an all-around terrific person, friend and fellow sushi-enthusiast -- but I think she's nuts. And she knows it. She thinks I'm nuts, too...just for other reasons. She's probably going to kill me for writing this post when I get back (nothing a little judiciously provided chocolate can't resolve, however), but it serves two three important functions.

First, to tell you that I'm leaving you all behind and going away for a few days.

Second, to make you positively green with envy. (See first item.)

And last, to formally introduce you to Rita who, if the stars align properly, you are going to want to impress. She has truly earned the title "Reality TV Queen" in my eyes, and now she gets to wield that title with purpose, with authority, and with...prizes? Hmm...the mystery of it all.

So, with that, I'm off. Well, not really, I still have to pack. (Rita would have had it done yesterday, but I'm just not that organized.) Oh, and I'm taking the laptop along because, please, would anyone really expect me to not check in once in a while? There are "greener" pastures for me to till while I'm off living the life of leisure so it wouldn't be fun for me not to amuse myself by sharing some of it with you. Consider it a test-run for when I'm on my sabbatical later this year.

If I'm lucky, there'll be a heartbreakingly beautiful sunset for me to take a picture of to post. But a sunrise? Only if I stay up all night in one of the casinos trying to work up the courage to actually play some blackjack, and come stumbling home at daybreak.

P.S. Look, Rita, a new time on the post, just for you!

January 19, 2005

Be good, Jonathan, and you can have your coke back when we leave the studio

Not having a great deal else to share with you today, I thought I'd do a little follow-up to yesterday's magnificent elimination of Jonathan and Victoria.

I don't watch the morning TV news/entertainment shows much. For the most part, they just don't interest me and mornings are not a relaxed, coffee-in-hand, saunter-through-the-family-room, watch-the-talking-heads exercise in my world.

On those rare occasions when I do watch, it's usually Today simply because that's what I grew up with on the TV in the mornings so it's familiar. I've never watched The Early Show, even though they're the only show that seems to get all the contestants from the reality shows I watch. But Team Spousal Abuse made me take the time to set the TiVo for their post-race interview today because I just had to know what kind of crap Jonathan was going to come up with in defense of his disgusting behavior.

To my astonishment, he had very little to say. He did manage to get a few things in at the start, such as the fact that he thinks he is "a better person than that" one we saw on the show, and that he really doesn't "know who that person is." I'll give him the minimum amount of credit for also stating, "I don't have any excuses; it was wrong," when confronted with The Shove. In terms of "why," the most he said was, "I turned off all compassion to everything," because he was caught up in the competition.

But that was about it. Victoria, who was all smiles, did most of the talking! After a certain point, when most of his worst deeds had been replayed and rehashed, Jonathan got very subdued, seemed pained by the discussion, and almost looked as though he was sedated. (Which, frankly, would not surprise me a great deal.) Victoria was really in the driver's seat, but she peppers her speech with so many "likes" and "you knows" that there was not a lot that was quote-worthy.

She did say, "I was really out of my tree at that point," when she cut her finger because she was hungry and exhausted and panicked and needed to go to the bathroom, etc., etc. Honey, we have no trouble believing that you were, in fact, out of your tree. Plus, she claimed that she told Jonathan to keep going on the mud hut once she calmed down a bit and Kendra started screaming at Jonathan, but that they didn't show it. Those evil CBS bastards! It's all their fault, not Jonathan's, not Victoria's!

OK, I'll say it: Bullshit. I don't care what she said, a decent person responds to their mate in pain.

Reinforcing their point as the interview wound down:
Victoria - "Believe it or not, there was (sic) many moments we had a good time..."
Jonathan - "...and they didn't show it."

Neither Harry Smith nor I were terribly impressed.

P.S. If you follow this show and aren't reading the recaps on TVgasm, too, you're really missing out. You even get video clips, which I'll figure out in maybe five years or so.

January 18, 2005

The Ass Episode

Do you smell that? That, my friends, is the smell of vindication, the smell of redemption, the smell of good triumphing over evil, the smell of the biggest ASS in all of Reality Television being eliminated from The Amazing Race! And, oh, the sweet irony of it, it was all because he forgot his ass.

But first, lest we forget the rest of what turned out to be a compelling episode all the way around, let's take it back to Corsica. This was not Bolo's finest hour, but he kept me in stitches. He started out by mispronouncing the city of "Nice" in the first clue, mangled the pronunciation of "Addis Ababa" in the second clue, then smacked his big head (but not, like, steroid-enhanced big or anything) above the entrance to the airplane on the way to Rome, and wrapped it up by tripping over a stone in a field, falling and executing a perfect roll without missing a beat on his way to the Roadblock. Guess all that "wrestling" training came in handy.

Kendra, on the other hand, was her usual irritating self at the start, lamenting the fact that they hadn't "researched" the ferries out of Corsica. She later had another stellar moment of global understanding when she decided that Ethiopia was "a different kind of poverty." In fact, it was "like these people choose to be this way" and "the animals aren't even as skinny" as in Dakar (a.k.a. Ghetto Africa).

But she redeemed herself a bit in my eyes at the Detour when Victoria hurt herself, and could probably be heard screeching five villages away, but Jonathan merely kept working on the challenge, flinging mud onto the side of a hut. Kendra stopped and, in her most human action yet, roared at him, "Jonathan, HELP her!" Freddy lamely chimed in when Jonathan still wasn't reacting to the situation, but to no avail, so Kendra followed up with "She's screaming in pain! Help her, you ass[bleep]!" Jonathan, however, turned to the local overseeing their work and calmly asked what more he needed to do to get the next clue. When Victoria returned to keep competing, bleeding finger and all, her darling husband's concern extended as far as saying "Mind over matter" to her. Truly a jaw-dropping example of his indifference toward his "soulmate."

When he and Victoria left the Detour with only one donkey, instead of the two they were supposed to take, my heart truly soared. It was one of those moments when you almost hesitated to believe that this could be it, the screw-up that would finally do them in. But, in the end, The Ass was one ass short of a herd and it cost them dearly. This quickly became Victoria's fault, of course, even though Jonathan had been the one to read the clue aloud. They tried to rally, but it was all over, they were eliminated. There was utter joy in Mudville, let me tell you.

There were some other good moments: Rebecca and Adam had another huge fight where she decided that she was the ass for staying and finally threw in the towel on their relationship; Kris and Jon merely smiled and smooched their way into third; Hayden and Aaron pulled it together and bounced back from last place to first even though they began with no money, and Aaron had an impish moment while transporting the donkeys when he said that he was "good at guiding asses" while pointing to Hayden...wisely out of her earshot; there were the sweetest, most adorable children ever in Lalibela, Ethiopia, who were so kind and eager to help you couldn't help but smile; and the look on Phil's face was priceless as Jonathan and Victoria trudged toward the Pit Stop with a ragtag group of kids prompted by Jonathan to hold their fists aloft in a kind of black power salute. (Memo to Jonathan: You're white.) I wonder if Phil had to spend some time practicing saying, "I'm sorry to say that you've both been elimiated from the Race," with a straight face?

Last, but hopefully not least, is The Official One Ping Only AR6 "Baby" Count™. For the first time this season, the "honeys" outnumbered the "babies" -- you can thank Kendra and Hayden for that -- and we had a "sugar" thrown in for goo measure. I almost can't wait to see what the count is for the season as a whole.

One Ping Only AR6 "Baby" Count: Episode 9 = 30

January 16, 2005

April, Wil and Me

As April has supplied the narration of our trip up to see Wil Wheaton at a reading and book signing at a Borders in San Francisco, I'll provide the promised pictures. Yes, it's long, but there are pretty pictures to break up all those pesky words.

First up is the view from our seats. Seats I had to go retrieve with my very own hands off a stack, by the way, because there were more people than they expected. There was no way I was going to stand for the whole thing, which was smart because it also lasted longer than we expected. Please try to ignore the gentleman with the very shiny hair in front of me.

I couldn't get away from his head, so that was the end of taking pictures from the seats.

I was there as Official Sidekick for the first part of the evening, the reading, and Official Photographer for the second half, the signing. I can't tell you which hat I wore longer, since the wait in line felt about as long as the reading. But the reading and the Q&A were enjoyable, much more so than the wait.

Part of the problem was what section of the bookstore they put the line. It was the "Music" section and it was depressing to see how many crappy books there are. Here was my view for what felt like for-ev-er:

That's April on the right, by the way, clutching her copy of Wil's book, Just a Geek. And that's about as much of her as you will see because I enjoy life and would like to continue enjoying it.

As the line finally (finally!) moved up and we got closer to the beginning of the alphabet, I saw the following and had to take a picture just for Bibb and Yaz because we all know what big Clay Aiken fans they are:

At long last, we were almost to the front. Wil's a nice guy and he doesn't rush anyone through the line, so if someone stood there and wanted to chat, he chatted. Picture? Sure. And that's cool and all, but it made for a long night. (More so for him than us -- when we left there were still a LOT of people in line.) Please note that in the picture below, all the books that were on the wall behind him are now gone. They sold a lot of his books that night, and they ran out of the ones they had available on the table.

The guy you see in the white shirt, standing in front of the table as Wil signed his book, eventually turned around for a photo and was wearing a Wil Wheaton t-shirt. Gotta admit, that struck me as a little surreal. And the guy directly in front of us, with the stylish white and yellow jacket, was what I would call a serial offender. He came with an enormous Poloroid camera (circa 1982) slung around his neck and a rainbow-colored autograph book, and told Wil exactly what he wanted him to write in the book: "Walt, glad you liked the movie 'Stand By Me.'" This was uttered, monotone, as he stared up at the woman assisting in the signing who was about to take their picture with said Poloroid. Which he then had Wil sign. I had the distinct impression that he was just someone who went to these things to meet celebs and get the photo snapped; he had no interest whatsoever in who Wil is as a blogger and writer.

Then, finally, it was our turn, lucky #45. I sprang into action and took a series of rapid shots (sans flash) while he was signing the book for April, two of which appear here because the other few are, well, pretty much exactly the same as the first one:

Somewhere in the midst of this he noticed me and April's friend, D, standing there playing the part of The Entourage. Because April wasn't about to do it, I asked, as The Official April's Entourage Photographer, if she could go around the table for a picture, as well. Being the accomodating guy he is, he said of course, while April plotted a most painful death for me. Please note that this picture doesn't do him justice and that April has been cropped out at her request. (Okay, it was an order. I left in her elbow just to spite her.)

And that was it. As we walked on by, D swiped one of the chocolates that had been set out on the table for people, which he kindly gave to April as a momento. Being a smart woman, she quickly ate the momento and had me wishing that I had not been so wrapped up in my photographing so I could have snagged one, too. The evening ended with dinner at The Cheesecake Factory atop Macy*s in Union Square, where I made up for the earlier lack of chocolate in spades with a big ol' slice of Chocolate Oreo Mudslide Cheesecake for dessert.

I have to admit, I enjoyed going to see Wil a lot more than I had anticipated. Not that I have anything against him, mind you; back in the day I was a huge fan of ST:TNG and I was never a Crusher-hater. But he was there as a blogger who became a published writer and I've not been a reader of his blog up to this point. (Now, damn it, I have no choice but to start reading it because he is a fantastic storyteller.) I told April that I would explain why that is, since she's been telling me how good he is for a long time, so I'll try to do that here.

A good way to describe me is "contrary." The best way to get me not to do something is to tell me I have to. Case in point: I read like a freaking fiend but I would almost never actually read the books assigned to me in English class back in school. I've "done" the play Hamlet twice between high school and college and I still haven't read the damned thing. In high school I would sit in Chemistry and Social Studies and read all manner of books behind my textbook (never did get caught) but often not the assignments. (And yes, I still graduated with honors -- don't hate me because I'm lazy but brilliant.) Another good example: A person I met relatively recently is a big fan of going to the gym, and frequently exhorts people to do the same. At one point I mentioned that I have a membership to the gym at work and she told me that, well, then "you have to go." Bad move. That's the point where I shut down and won't really listen to what-all you have to say about it because, frankly, no, I don't "have to."

This same quirk applies to the blog world from my perspective. You'll notice that there are no "big-name" bloggers on my blogroll. The one for Dooce up top is temporary and once those awards are done, it will be gone. It took me a very, very long time to actually start reading her (and once I did, I kept going back because she cracks me up) simply because she was linked everywhere, and that was about all it took for me not to be interested.

To me, there are so many more interesting stops along the way that I'm just not interested in reading the sites that "everyone" reads. Instapundit? Never been there. Daily Kos? Same thing. Wonkette? Nuh-uh. Give me a Crawly Amphibian who has something to say that I can relate to and who still cares about someone coming across their blog and wanting that blogger to link back to them.

My feeling toward Wil's site was pretty much the same. And, after this post, I'll probably never link to him again. But I'll be reading, 'cause you gotta respect a guy who's really just a geek and writes his heart out.

January 15, 2005

Why I'm going to bed late

It's all April's and Wil Wheaton's fault that there is no Friday post.

And there are pictures to prove it.

But I'm so damned tired that you don't get to hear about it tonight...or, rather, this morning. Just because I followed through and went to bed early last night didn't mean I was able to fall asleep right away.

Thankfully, there is nothing on the schedule for tomorrow (and, if there is, I've forgotten so if I don't show up, that's why), so as soon as I press "Post" here, it's sleep, glorious sleep for as long as I like.

And there's no time like the preszzzzzzzzzzz......

January 13, 2005

Why I'm going to bed early (for me)

There once was a girl by the Bay,
who stayed up too late in the day.
Knowing she wouldn't go far
falling asleep in the car,
she couldn't go on that way.

January 12, 2005


Three things I saw or found this week that I really like:

1. Chantico from Starbucks -- It may be kind of a dumb, pretentious name but it's a killer hot chocolate drink and, after only three days, I am completely addicted. It reminds me of nothing so much as the chocolate I used to have on a regular basis when I studied in Spain, which was enjoyed with churros. Ah, the memories. The best of the chocolate y churros were always found in the little corner mom and pop cafes, not the tourist traps, and you could sit there for as long as you wanted, enjoying your snack and just chatting or reading and relaxing. This drink isn't near as thick as what they serve in Spain, but the flavor is so reminiscent that it took me right back. The delicate, slightly overpriced cookies that are (sometimes) available to dip into Chantico are nothing like churros, but are better than nothing. If you like good hot chocolate, I suggest stopping by your local Starbucks sometime soon. It's pretty reasonably priced and I don't think you'll be disappointed.

2. Take 5 from Hershey's -- This is a new candy bar that I stumbled upon at the grocery store when I wasn't particularly looking. Even better was that it was on sale, probably as a come-on to get us to try it. It worked and I'm hooked. It has chocolate (of course), caramel, peanuts peanut butter and pretzels. Perhaps an unusual combination, but it's delicious; sweet, salty, smooth and crunchy all at the same time. Yum! The bar is divided into two pieces, so you can either share (yeah, right) or have half now and half later, which I like.

3. The George Forman Grill from Play-Doh -- Yes, you read that right, Play-Doh. This had me cracking up in the aisle of the store when I saw it. It's just so damned cute; it even "sizzles" when the grill plate is pressed. Kids can form Play-Doh into various foods, including bacon that can be extruded (I love that word) from the back of the grill. If you're intrigued, click on the demo at the link. It's quite authentic-looking and I think it would be a fine addition to any child's toy chest or play kitchen. If anyone's kid has this, I'd love to know how they like it. (Oh, and Norman? There is no mold for whipping up kitty cats to grill, sorry.)

Three things I saw or found this week that I really didn't like:

1. The cynicism and negativity displayed by some people over the "comments for fundraising" efforts at other blogs. "How do we know they're even going to do what they say they're going to do?" Well, I suppose we don't, Mr. Cranky Pants, but what exactly did it cost you if, for some wacky reason, they don't? Are you being charged by the comment? "You're just doing this to get comments and votes." Please. Are you really that small that you have to anonymously slam a woman who is nothing but kind and generous? Yeah, I guess some people actually are.

2. Non-stop rain in California that not only kept me wearing a goofy-looking slicker for days on end but, far more importantly, caused death and destruction. The pictures of the mudslides in SoCal were scary and chilling.

3. This. This. And this. Not the breakup, per se (though who likes to see any marriage end, really), but the nauseatingly zealous coverage of every possible aspect of it.

January 11, 2005

Of Corsica I know where Napoleon's house is, you American fool

Oh, Adam. Adam, Adam, Adam. What are we going to do with you, you sweet, clueless, whiny pussy boy? If you cry out "Tell my mom I love her!" one more time while doing a challenge, I don't care how cut Rebecca's abs are, I'll knock her down and slap you silly myself. I'm glad that you and she managed to leap into first place after you nearly chickened out of the Fast Forward (or, as Rebecca put it, the "Slow Forward" you turned it into), because the trip you won will provide her with more opportunity to demonstrate that she's got a bigger d...I mean, um, that she's far more capable than you.

Meanwhile, Jonathan's self-delusion continues to grow by leaps and bounds as the race goes on and simply everything becomes Victoria's fault while he amazes himself with his cleverness. (Because, you know, most really clever people don't know what a moat is.) It was apparently her fault that they didn't get to the Fast Forward first, though I'm not sure how, which qualified her as useless. And when he refused to do the harder of the two options at the Detour because he might not be good at it, she became a moron. Amazing how that works, huh?

But I think I have to give this episode to Kendra. First she managed to stymie Freddy by sneaking in some "research" in the middle of the night by chatting with the cabbie on the way to the first clue. Next she was able to make the hulking Bolo look pretty bad by flying up the rock wall of the Detour in comparison to his awkward crawl. Then she really stepped up to the barrel at the Roadblock. Part of me thinks she didn't dare ask Freddy to do it after the soup incident last week, the other part of me thinks she's too self-absorbed to have even realized what she did ("Oh look, vomit!") and never considered it here. But, as a member of my household commented, Kendra stomping those grapes with such vigor made for some good TV!

The Official One Ping Only AR6 "Baby" Count™ was going fairly slowly this episode up until the Detour, then things really took off as all the teams (except, you know, Jonathan and Victoria) enthusiastically encouraged each other to complete their tasks, and the "babies" and "honeys" were flying fast and furious.

One Ping Only AR6 "Baby" Count: Episode 8 = 46

P.S. Personal note to Hayden: Girl, learn to read a freaking map. You're an embarrassment to women everywhere.

January 10, 2005

"You're cooler than a free bucket of beer."

Today's title reflects both how I feel about those of you who took the time to participate and help contribute to Michele's and SC&A's tsunami relief blog fundraising effort yesterday and the single best line from tonight's debut of "The Bachelorette." What a dichotomy.

I have no intention of doing regular posts about this show -- I wasn't even sure that I was going to watch it at all, but an otherwise dull TV night and curiosity piqued by an ad that featured one potential suitor passing out at the rose ceremony and I couldn't resist. (I'm no better than people who slow down to look at car crashes, am I? At least I don't actually do that.)

And the best part of the whole show? The outtake reel they showed while the credits were rolling at the end.

The host, Chris Harrison, displaying more personality than I've ever seen (on any of the shows he does), was goofing around with Jen, the Bachelorette (natch), by imitating one of the suitors telling her how hot she is. The "bucket of beer" part was the very last line before they cut away to the news and it had us positively rolling with laughter until we were breathless.

It could be more of ABC's clever editing, but this season does seem to have more than its share of excitement and it's more than catty women getting all bent out of shape because one of the other chicks is open about her sexuality. It may not be enough to keep me tuning in until the "Best, most exciting, most romantic, most suspenseful, most heartwarming, most climactic, most ratings-grabbing final rose ceremony...ever!" but it will do for Mondays for now.

January 09, 2005

Please take a moment to do a good thing

Many of us have done what we can to help send aid to the victims of the tsunami in Asia. Here's a chance to do a little more that won't cost you a thing and you'll get a special bonus.

During today, January 9th, please go to this post at Michele's blog, and leave a comment for her that includes something to the effect of "Hi, Maura sent me." (You're free to say anything else that tickles your fancy, but make sure you include that at the very least.)

That's it.

For every comment left there today, a long-time fan and friend of Michele's, the man behind Sigmund Carl and Alfred, will donate one dollar to Oxfam International. In addition, if you let her know I sent you, I will add a dollar for your comment to the fund. It doesn't get much simpler or better than that.

The special bonus for you is that you get to visit Michele and check out her fun and thought-provoking site. Okay, I wish it could be one of those nifty bracelets like XM radio is giving away when you make a $50 donation to the Red Cross, but I just don't have the talent for that.

Now git!

January 07, 2005

Good news

Especially good news for those of you who might have been too...um...busy...to thoroughly read and entirely absorb my post from yesterday. (Which seems to have been most of you! I know it was long, but come on, I don't get passionate about that many things here.)

The vigilance of the Internet has again netted real results. According to Maura in VA, Delegate Cosgrove has responded to the outpouring of opinion he received on this matter today. The bill he sponsored that ignited all of this will be revised before being presented for consideration by the Virginia legislature in such a way that will clarify the original intent of the bill, limiting it so that is will "apply only to those babies that are claimed to have been stillborn and that are abandoned." In other words, applying it only to what are called "trashcan" babies, who are abandoned after live birth or stillbirth in places, sadly, such as trashcans and Dumpsters and toilets, etc., instead of being left somewhere covered by a Safe Haven law.

I am still not convinced that the intention he says was the original aim of the bill was as well-meaning as he claims. But in the end, so long as a badly written and potentially abusive law doesn't come to pass, I will consider it a victory for privacy and, yes, decency, and let it rest.

On that note of restraint, I wish you an unrestrainedly good weekend. It will be back to your regularly scheduled mishmash of light(er)hearted who-knows-what here next week, so I hope you'll stop by then, ready to comment!

Update: After already agreeing to change the wording, Delegate Cosgrove has withdrawn the bill entirely. A Virginia news source, the Augusta Free Press Online, has this as its top story. The reason? "The language is just too confusing." You don't say...

I can't tell you how amazing it is to have been a teensy part of the "firestorm of controversy" that made this happen. All credit to Maura in VA and Getupgrrl for rallying women to stand up and reject this kind of intrusion into our lives and our bodies.

January 06, 2005

The only time I will ever ask you to actually forward something to the women who matter to you, including your readers.

It's funny to me how sometimes I will sit here with the intention of beginning a post, pretty much knowing what I'm going to write about, and not one word of what I'd thought about makes it onto the screen.

Tonight is one of those nights because I decided to hop over to a few of my favorite blogs first to kind of "settle in." The post about my experience with my new XM radio? Out the proverbial window.

In a country where we see people get up in arms over the most trivial of things (e.g., a breast being flashed on "family time" TV) and the most serious of things (e.g., a Presidential election) in the same year, sometimes it's hard to know where to pin the line of "Here is where I care." Cross that line and you will be on the bad side of a bitch on fire.

Where do you place that line and how much does it move based on what you see, hear and read on the latest big story from the evening news, Larry King, the now-defunct "Crossfire" or the Drudge Report and its ilk? Or from your friends, family, church, co-workers, drinking buddies and gym cohorts? We all have things that are important to us, but what makes you take a stand and say, "No, that you cannot do. I...we...will not stand for it," to the world and to the person or persons crossing that line?

For many people, that line may be abortion. Not all women share the same view and many, if not most, have strong, deep, and oftentimes personal reasons for deciding which side of the issue she stands on. It's a line that, as a country we have seen shift a little back and forth from the middle over the decades, but for the most part I believe it's fairly steady and the people on either side stand pretty firmly entrenched in their opinions. It's a hot-button issue because it's not just about being a woman (or a man who might become a father, for that matter), it now has its roots deep into our culture as a religious matter and a personal privacy matter and a medical matter, all tangled up into one mix of incompatible beliefs. You pull on one thread and the other two howl in opposition. Throw it into the crucible of the government and politics and it just gets messier and more intractable.

I have no intention of debating the issue here one way or the other for those very reasons; it's merely an example. But consider how you immediately thought about where you stand on the matter, and how you would have been prepared to react if what I had to put forth on it was an abomination to your most personal, closely held belief or sense of self?

Tonight I went over to Chez Miscarriage to assure myself that NBHHY, and found this post from the amazing and resilient getupgrrl. I did a double-take at seeing my own first name unexpectedly, because it's not one you see around a whole lot, but forgot all about it once I really started reading.

Her post drew me to this post from Maura of VA that is a comprehensive explanation and examination of a bill that is "The Most Odious Infringement on the Privacy of [Virginia] women...ever." (I put "Virginia" in brackets because it truly goes beyond just the women of Virginia and is an affront to every woman of childbearing age in this country.) I highly suggest going over to read it to get the full scope of what is involved and at stake here. But in short, as she explains:
"It sounds preposterous to talk about criminalizing women who suffer miscarriages, but one Virginia legislator is proposing just that. HB1677, “Report of Fetal Death by mother, penalty” is a bill introduced by John A. Cosgrove (R) of Chesapeake. Cosgrove’s bill requires any woman who experiences “fetal death” without a doctor’s assistance to report this to the local law-enforcement agency within twelve hours of the miscarriage. Failure to do so is punishable as a Class 1 Misdemeanor."
"I believe that most women, regardless of position on the issue of reproductive freedom, will be offended by this bill. I know many avowedly pro-life women who have experienced miscarriages and who would be horrified by the intrusion of the state in the first 12 hours following this tragedy."
This is not about religion. This is not about medicine. This is not about harm to another person.

This is where I draw a line a mile deep and a mile wide and say that you do not, cannot, will not and shall not have the right to impose this barbaric and malicious attack against the dignity, privacy, and innate worth of the women of your state and your country.

No, Delegate Cosgrove, that you cannot do. We will not stand for it.

January 05, 2005

A small, self-congratulatory pat on the back

I do not, as a rule, talk much about work here apart from the most casual and general sort of way. I think there are pretty well-documented reasons why a blogger would make that decision when his or her blog is not completely anonymous, unless they work in a situation where doing so could not put them at risk for being shown the door if they are less than discreet.

But today was a landmark day for me in my career at my current company, so I figure it deserves a mention...and it's for a reason that talking about won't get me in trouble.

Seven years ago today, fresh off a series of temp jobs, I walked into my company's headquarters for a full-time, regular position unlike any I'd had before. Fast-forward through one dotcom bust, two promotions, three cube moves, four bosses, five haircolor changes, six different tea/coffee/hot chocolate mugs and seven times I was sure I was either going to quit or get fired, and today I left that building having achieved a goal that seemed so far off and so very unattainable way back when.

As of today, I have earned the one reward that is available to all the company's salaried employees in the U.S., regardless of department, location, position, rank, pay or influence, after seven years of uninterrupted employment: an eight-week, paid sabbatical leave.

To me, it was the alluring prize that got closer in tiny increments, seemed impossible during the most stressful of times, seemed endangered during the most difficult of times for the company, seemed somewhat possible as more people came and went in the department while I still remained and, finally, seemed more and more necessary the nearer the time came.

It only became real last month when they sent me the notice informing me about this particular benefit, in case I hadn't been aware of it...and hadn't been counting down to the exact date by working days for the last year.

While I believe that it's something that many Silicon Valley companies used to have available back in the heady, carefree boom days, it is fairly unique at this point in time for big companies. And it's an achievement for someone who had never previously worked anywhere for that long and honestly didn't think she'd ever get there.

The dates for my sabbatical have not yet been set (nor approved), so a new countdown has not yet officially begun. But in spirit, I have arrived, baby!

January 04, 2005

How to leave Hungary not the least bit hungry

There is little left to say about how odious Jonathan is, even though he just becomes more and more intolerable as the Amazing Race 6 goes on. He reached a new and screech-inducing low tonight when Victoria failed to steal a cab out from under another team by proclaiming, "That's why women don't rule the world." I, for one, will celebrate long and hard when he is beat again by another team in a footrace -- this time at the Finish Line -- and he has to settle for second place. However, since tonight he told Victoria tonight that she was "dumb," I have to wonder what putdown he'll fling at her then while she's shrieking and sobbing.

Enough about that jerk, tonight's episode had a lot more going for it than him. Or should I say "coming up" for it, as this was the most upchuck-filled one yet. Yikes! I'm really glad I was done with dinner by the time it came on, and I have cancelled my reservations next week at a Hungarian restaurant.

And then there was Adam. He may have gotten rebuffed by Rebecca in the romance department, but he had some of the best moments this episode. My brother and I about fell out of our chairs during the water polo Roadblock when Rebecca told him to distract the goalie and he rose to the challenge by saying "Hi..." The way he cooed it, the poor guy probably thought he was about to proposition him and he let Rebecca's weak shot float on by into the goal. Then again, he let everybody's shot go by, didn't he?

Anyway, Adam climbed out of the pool feeling like a champ and proceeded to go watch his former girlfriend blow (no pun intended) past the competition in the eating challenge of the Detour. Being a stud-ette, Rebecca waited until she got outside to toss her cookies, whereas the others grossed out the musicians brought in to the restaurant to play loud Hungarian music that irritated many of the racers. At one point, while maybe three people were heaving at once, the musicians all stopped in amazement and revulsion. Adam piped up, with exquisite timing, "I think we need more music," and the band started up the ruckus once more.

Sadly, Gus and Hera weren't there to witness this because they chose the "wrong" option in the Roadblock and fell far behind the pack. By the time they got to the restaurant, other teams were arriving at the Pit Stop, and Team Slow and Steady was eventually eliminated. Which was a shame, because Gus was just as impressive at the eating challenge as Rebecca, and all he had to show for it was probably indigestion.

Lori and Bolo missed the whole retch-ed restaurant debacle because they pulled off an amazing comeback from last place, took advantage of a really gross Fast Forward, and sprinted into first place.

Now, for the reason I know you're really all here, The Official One Ping Only AR6 "Baby" Count™ for this week. With so much excitement and goings-on, it was baby-this and honey-that; there were so many endearments flying around I had to keep hitting the replay button on TiVo to make sure I got them all.

One Ping Only AR6 "Baby" Count: Episode 7 = 42

January 03, 2005

Shiny and new

Thus far the new year has been treating me pretty well. But I have not yet had occasion to actually write "2005" and that always trips me up. (However, I did just discover that I inadvertently put the date for my New Year's Eve post as "December 31, 2005." Not that anyone noticed, but I blame it on the champagne. )

In the spirit of new, please help me welcome April back to the blog world with the launch of her new site, Feeding the Addiction. It's a poker blog, where we get to follow along as she explores the world of online poker and actual poker tournaments and techniques. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't bet against her.

Another new site I think you might enjoy visiting next time you're doing some online shopping is Yin Yang Home. It's run by two of my dearest friends and they've been adding some pretty cool stuff you don't find everywhere. For instance, I've got my eye on this baby, because we know how much I love my popcorn and anything I can do to keep it from scorching has got to be good! If you feel bad for missing both my birthday and Christmas, one of these would go a long way toward mending those fences.

One last new thing? My newest online game addiction is Jewel Quest. I just can't stop playing the damned thing, and you know it's love because I don't even win any points for playing it. I have a feeling there's a more complete version of it out there because this one keeps cycling through the same four puzzle layouts and I remember at one time there being more. This could mean I will actually have to put out some money for this dumb thing. Nah, there are dozens of other games available to me and something else will catch my fancy...eventually.