Thursday, January 25, 2007

For Anybody Who Might be Bored at Work...

Here's a site where you can try your hand at painting a Jackson Pollock painting. Have fun.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

What I Read

Since I just gave you guys a book recommendation, I thought I'd look back on some of the things I read last year, share the list with you. Here's what I read last year:

1. Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants
2. Why New Orleans Matters
3. The Best American Short Stories 2005
4. The Breakdown Lane
5. The Electric Michaelangelo
6. Unsettling
7. The Odd Woman
8. Leeway Cottage
9. The Wright 3
10. The Tenth Circle
11. Lies My Teacher Told Me
12. Gail Godwin: The Making of A Writer: Journals 1961-1963
13. You Remind Me of Me
14. Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs
15. The Big Love
16. The Brief History of the Dead
17. Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor
18. The Puschart Prize Anthology: 2006
19. Tallulah Falls
20. The Jester
21. Prey
22. Anna Karenina
23. The Best Travel Writing 2006
24. The O’Henry Prize Stories 2002
25. Blankets
26. Looking for Mr. Goodfrog
27. Serious Girls
28. Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn
29. The Position
30. The Bone Vault
31. A Death in Belmont
32. Miss American Pie
33. Elsewhere
34. The O’Henry Prize Stories 2006
35. L’Affaire
36. Labyrinth
37. We Were the Mulvaneys
38. The Gun Seller
39. Japanland
40. Lizzie’s War
41. The Falls
42. The Mercy of Thin Air
43. Without Reservations
44. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
45. Maybe a Miracle
46. Honor Bound
47. For One More Day
48. The Time Traveler’s Wife
49. The History of Love
50. Reasons to Live
51. Prague
52. A Long Way Down
53. The Bright Forever
54. The Good German
55. Twenty-something
56. The Things They Carried
57. The Egyptologist
58. On Beauty

A Book You Should Read

My latest book recommendation came to me from Matt. At Christmastime, or maybe it was Thanksgiving time - we were talking about possible subjects for future Lee & Low multicultural books. And Matt brought up Muhammad Yunus, who I had not heard of before. Turns out he's a Nobel Prize recipient for his work to break the poverty cycle for good. This is from the back cover copy of "Banker to the Poor: Microlending and the Battle Against World Poverty":

In 1983 Muhammad Yunus established Grameen, a bank devoted to providing the poorest of Bangladesh with miniscule loans. He aimed to help the poor by supporting the spark of personal initiative and enterprise by which they could lift themselves out of poverty forever. It was an idea born on a day in 1976 when he loaned $27 from his own pocket to forty-two stool makers living in a tiny village. These women only needed enough credit to purchase the raw materials for their trade. Yunus's small loan helped them break their cycle of poverty for good. His solution to world poverty, founded on the belief that credit is a fundamental human right, is brilliantly simple: loan poor people money on terms that are suitable to them, teach them a few dound financial principles, and they will help themselves. Yunus's theories work. Grameen bank has provided 3.8 billion dollars to 2.4 million families in rural Bangladesh."

This guy's fascinating obviously, and it's really interesting to learn that it's not as hard as we may think to break the poverty cycle. Check it out.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Gripe of the Day: Idiotic Policies and Regulations

My cell phone drama continues. Now I ordered a new phone online from this website last week, and they finally shipped it out on Monday. Today's annoying company of the day award goes to Fedex. I called them to ask if they could just leave the package without a signature because I knew nobody would be home. They said the driver has to make at least one delivery attempt before they can do that, and then once he does, I can sign the slip and leave it on the door. So I got home last night, no slip. But I know an attempt was made since I've been tracking the package. Then today, same thing happens. By the time I track the package they've already attempted a second delivery. So I call and ask them to leave it and they say, "the company who shipped you this package requested a signature. So in order for us to be able to drop it off without a signature, you'll need to have that company calll us and say that the signature is not necessary." Does that even make sense? I'm the recipient, doesn't what I want count for anything? Apparently not. Morons.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Gripe of the Day: The Fine Print

It's been awhile since I've griped about something (not a word out of you, Drapo) :-) so I figured I'd post a rant about one of the things in every day life that drives us fucking crazy and rightfully so. The fine print.

I'm using this broad term to describe any situation where you find yourself parting with money for reasons unbeknownst to you, but apparently completely justified because they appear somewhere in the universe in teeny tiny unreadable unfindable letters. I've had a run of bad luck recently with a few things, and I thought I'd share them here just to show how completely ridiculous companies can be and yet, somehow get away with it.

Case #1: The cell phone. When my current cell phone was conking out, I went to get a new one. I was an AT&T customer, and since then, they'd changed over to Cingular. I'd have to get a new plan, a Cingular one. Okay. But I was eligible for a free phone. Sounds good. I get the new plan and the new phone. Superb. Only I quickly find out the cell phone sucks. It doesn't work in a lot of places, including the apparently remote time square. And no service when I was upstate in Woodbury Commons! I start going to stores to see what I can do to switch my phone, but guess what? There's no way to switch your phone once you get it! So I end up paying $250 (full price) for a good phone - which of course I lost about a month later. The lesson? Cell phone companies suck. They give you crappy phones and then wait for you to toss it against a wall in frustration. Then when you have to buy a new one, they charge you full price. Grrrr.

Case #2: The cell phone bill. During the whole "You need a new cell phone contract" debacle, the guy that told me I had to switch from AT&T to Cingular apparently thought it would be funny to give me a contract that costs about double what I currently pay. So the first month I get a bill that's over $100 instead of the fifty I normally pay. I freak out and change it, but of course I still have to pay it. Fine. Then the next month my bill is about $30 more than usual, a "pro-rated" fee for changing my contract in the middle of the cycle. FINE. Then recently, when I switched to the new phone, it had all kinds of cool browser capabilities. I made the mistake of thinking I'd download some kind of a song ringtone. I ended up fooling around on two different ringtone sites, tried to download a couple of things, but they didn't work out. Couldn't get them to upload. But lo and behold, there's a $25 charge for these companies on the new cell phone bill. thanks guys. Really appreciate it. Grrrrr.

Case #3: The credit card. I had a balance on a credit card with high interest, so I figured I'd be fiscally responsible and switch it to a credit card with 0% interest. So I transfer the balance, and pat myself on the back for all the money I've saved. But on the first statement, there's a finance charge. I call to ask why and they say the 0% interest only applies to purchases, not to balance transfers. Apparently I should have read THE FINE PRINT. Jackasses. Thanks Amex for hiding the fact that the zero interest doesn't apply to balance transfers. Grrrrr.

Seriously, I hope I've gotten all my bad luck out of the way for the year. I've certainly learned a couple of valuable lessons. Always read the fine print!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

2nd Annual Killington New Year's Trip

Last Friday the crew and I departed New York, Boston and Philadelphia for a fun filled New Year's weekend in Killington. We did this snowboarding trip last year, and since it was so much fun, we decided to repeat it by heading up to Killington again. We got up there Friday night and had a great dinner at the Wobbly Barn. Luckily it began to snow early on Saturday, so we had some fresh powder to work with. Time to hit the slopes! So here's Drapo and I, who finally made it off the bunny hill! Whoo hoo! The other slope picture you see is the beginner trail we spent our time going down. I was really excited to graduate to the lift this weekend - my control was getting better, and by Sunday afternoon, I was able to work my way down the mountain and only fall a few times - a big improvement over falling eight or nine the day before. The other pics you see here are from New Year's eve - us playing poker and being silly and waiting for the ball to drop. the last picture is Pat - celebrating the fact that his health insurance kicked in at midnight - Jan 1 2007 - and he could be reckless about jumping around in the snow since once again, he was covered. Drapo and he both did some awesome snow slides down the embankment to celebrate the beginning of 2007.

As usual, the trip was filled with laughter and comments, so here is the usually summary of funny happenings and things said:

What the hell is an aluminum falcon???


Cockadoodledoo motherfucker!

I am the greatest snowboarder in the world. Say it. SAY IT!

Dude those moguls almost killed me. If my snowboard had an emergency brake on it, I would have pulled it.

I think that everybody here had some kind of a collision with a skier today.

This is my Roy Rogers collectible gun holster. They only made 12 billion of them.

Does his bathing suit really have two holes cut in the ass? Seriously????


Where are my slippers? Has anybody seen them? Anyone?

Michelle, it's your turn from trivial pursuit! Roll the dice! Michelle? ZZZZZZZZ

Hey, I have health insurance! Time to do a backflip!

Happy freaking New Year everybody. Now if only we could do this every weekend...