Thursday, March 30, 2006

Monday, March 27, 2006

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Eat your face: A Food balm collage

I was at the mall today and I was a inspired either to collect or create depending on your definition of 'art'. I think the inspiration mostly came from looking at these creations. I was at Claire's Boutique and I noticed the Peeps-flavored lip balm first. I thought about buying it and then I decided I had to collect them all because they were just so bizarre! Popcorn flavored lip balm? Not just popcorn but "Pop Secret" flavored. Is there a difference between Soft Batch chocolate chip cookies and Rainbow Chip cookies? What *is* Vienna Fingers Cookie flavor?

I spent $37 buying the 15 lip balms but I didn't get anywhere close to all of them. They not only had Pepsi flavored, but Pepsi w/ lemon and Vanilla Pepsi! (Vetoed as too difficult to photograph because of the shiny package). Plus Moutain Dew and Muggs Rootbeer lip balms. There were Nerds and Sweettarts flavored lip balms that actually came with candy (Vetoed as too large a package).

I have to admit, I'm curious to try them, but I sense that these are going to be great collector's items one day, if only for the novelty value.

Why "Eat Your Face Off?" It occurred to me when I was in the store looking at them. There's something a little bizarre, if you think about it, about having food flavoring smeared all over your face. It doesn't just stop with lip balm these days. Urban Decay makes an edible body powder that they somehow manage not to mention in their advertising to that it should be used for sex. Since Urban Decay's market is mostly 14-year-old runaways (or those who just want to look like one) having them make a defacto "sex product" is even weirder.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Blogging = writing?

One time I asked Dave Neiwert at Orcinus about whether I should make my blog “legit” and try to be a topic-specific blogger. Neiwert inspired the question because he wrote this post where he mentions he’s going to start talking about other topics besides right-wing media, Michelle Malkin and the Minute Men movement (at least that’s what I perceive his blog coverage mostly to be about). Neiwert was kind enough to respond and say that part of reason to blog is just to work on our writing skills.

I’ve wondered about that however because I often feel like when I write a blog posting it’s my laziest writing ever. I don’t think about an “audience” and I rarely try to focus my thoughts or organize them into a better structure. If you read my actual paper-version diary (which you’re not gonna) you would notice that my blog postings are written in much the same style my diary entries are. (Which is suffering these days because with the blog I don’t find as much need to write in my diary).

Back when I was still doing journalism internships for a now-defunct music magazine in Seattle, the editor asked me if I was writing in a journal every day just for “practice.” I saw his point, that for some people writing is so difficult that they need to keep “in practice” by journaling. But I’ve never been one of those people. I don’t have problems putting words on the page…I have problems making them interesting or just organizing longer thoughts into a complete story.

That’s partly why I started this blog (or rather re-started it) was that I wanted to talk about my Weight Watchers diet. I used to compose these long e-mails to friends that discussed tiny minutia of my life. I notice that I rarely get those kinds of e-mails back from them and I started worrying I was basically boring my friends with stuff they didn’t need to know. Hence, the blog where reading what I write is voluntary. I have no deadlines but no real structure either (also no readers).

However the downside to all this creative freedom, is that I feel like I’ve taken no consideration to structure my posts into coherence or interest. I still feel like this is the most lazy of lazy writing.

There is an upside to this kind of freedom, I have found something that I thought I lost. I actually enjoy writing again.

It’s strange. I used to be a reporter and I clearly recall a coworker, someone in her first reporter’s position, exclaiming to me “don’t you find it’s it just so cool we have a job where we get paid to write!”

I completely did not feel that way. As a reporter I stopped loving writing a long time ago. It felt like pulling teeth to write stories. I would just and most times I just gave up trying to make them the least little bit interesting. It was a tiny bit better when I was in charge of a weekly newspaper for a year. I got the chance to pretty much write whatever I wanted; columns, editorials, news stories, although I still had to keep to a kind of weekly newspaper formula. It was almost too much freedom. It was so heady I didn’t realize how good I had it until it was gone. As a regular joe (jane?) reporter for a nothing-daily newspaper in Ohio, I had to come up with exciting prose about the weekly County Commissioners’ meeting and I just couldn’t do it and mostly didn’t even try. I wrote the blandest, driest shit you ever saw. About everything. I always tell people it was the story about the Mayor’s prayer breakfast was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m Jewish but also mostly agnostic. If anything I despised public displays of “official” piety. The newspaper bought a table at this breakfast and my managing editor was sitting write next to me during the entire event. He could have written the damned story. I deliberately turned in the most threadbare story I possibly could (it was an annual event, pretty much exactly the same thing said every year).

That was kind of it. I realized this was what reporting was going to be like for me for probably 20 years and if I was good I would get to maybe be a columnist by the time I was 40. I would never really like the stories I was writing. Writing stories about things I didn’t care about was like giving away little pieces of my soul. I don’t think I can adequately explain it but I’d rather do boring work than boring journalism. I actually quake a little inside when I think about going back to doing that kind of writing jobs and probably why I’m so picky about the kind of communications jobs I apply for. I really want to care about what I’m pitching.

That’s what I kind of hated about journalism was that it killed my interest not only in writing, but in being a good story-teller. I felt like I was phoning it in for probably more than half of all the stories I wrote. My creative brain probably atrophied.

So that’s why I was really amused by my little adventure with drugs this weekend. It may be a naturally funny story, but how you tell it that makes it interesting. I wrote this mea culpa on Craiglist for that guy. Sure I feel guilty about it, but it was also my way of sharing the “story” to the craigslist world.

And here’s the thing. I’ve gotten some e-mails from people reading my posting. One guy says I seemed “witty.” I can’t tell you how much that perked me up that I, Newscat, can write an amusing anecdote to keep someone’s attention.

Maybe Ornicus is right about this whole “practice” thing.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

My new friend, Flickr

Every once in a while I get just *obsessed* about making things look good. For a while I was acting that about about downloading furniture objects for The Sims. I would just get obsessed about making rooms in my faux houses look perfect with matching furniture. It was crazy. I don't know how much I spent in subscription fees to Well-Dressed Sim, Sim Freaks and 8thdeadlySim. Even though I've bought Sims 2, and two expansion packs, I haven't bought the third and I'm trying to give up the game. It's just not that fun. It reminds me how when I had a box full of My Little Ponies all I would do half the time was brush their hair and "set them up" to be played with (which of course all they would do is fall over again).

Yesterday was one of those days. I finally took some decent photos of my apartment. I kept wanting to take shots of the place when it was a) clean, b) sunny out. Not just daytime, but actually sunny. I've looked at many a apartment photo and I can tell you I've dismissed places based on the digital pictures for merely looking odd. Even though I can tell that digital cameras shot by amatures just don't make for pictures worthy of Home & Garden.

So now that I had the photos I just drove myself crazy trying to find a site to host them where they would actually look good. I know craigslist allows you to host up to four pictures but I have 16 to show!

And I know there are plenty of free sites, not to mention Geocities and other free websites. But it seemed like every time I started downloading the pictures I would quickly run out of space after five, and/or the photos would all be kind of small.

I had found Flickr, which DOES allow for pretty good picture hosting but, here was my mistake, I didn't realize that they have a limit on how much you can upload a month. Not just host, but upload! I burned through my limit by constantly uploading and then deleting photos, trying to see which ones looked good. Waste of bandwidth space. Totally stupid on my part.

After messing with this project for about 3 hours (skipping dinner. I had even cooked some chicken and quickly forgot about it. Which is fine, I just save it for later meals), I got obsessed with making the images come out the way I want them to look so I finally shelled out the $25 for premium membership. Which I can just hear my computer-savvy friend telling me that it was stupid with all the "free" services out there.

But you know, if I look at the $25 as the cost of running a newspaper ad to advertise the apartment its really not an unreasonable expense. Plus now I get the service for a year. I *do* think it'll make a difference in the apartment search, weeding out people who aren't interested and helping stroke interest in others. I showed my place to at least 30 people last time. It was kind of exhausting and I'm just getting started with it. It's sort of the wrong month for this (September is probably the best time to look for a roommate), but I've got at least 10 people so far I'm showing the place to. (Although figure at least a 10% drop out rate).

Anyway I'm kind of loving Flickr. Another cool feature I didn't even think about is the fact Flickr shows you how many "views" a picture has. So I can sort of gauge how many people have been looking at my photos. A few times were probably me, and one never knows if one person looked at something a couple of times. Most views were for the room shot and a "sweeping" view of the living room, 18 views both. Interestingly I notice that my "floorplan with furniture" sketch got 13 views but the regular floorplan only got five. I just used Photoshop to sketch-in where the furniture would be on the floorplan. It's really crude and it was mostly a joke.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

More craigslist scammer spam

I really don't understand the point of these. I know that somehow people sending you a fraudlent cashier's check allows them something, but how it works I don't really know. Odd as it is I think the better scammers are the ones that don't put the whole pitch in the very first e-mail. I think I've gotten a couple of others that were more borderline fishing expeditions.

I don't know why this both amuses and annoyes me. It's not like no one's gotten these scam e-mails before. I think it's more about the expansion of the scam into something like roommate ads.

By the way...I love that this one just says "hello owner" and her name e-mail is "honesty jenny." It could be a like some really good piece of satire except that it's real.

HELLO OWNER, My name is JENNY JOHN,am from NEW YORK,and will like to relocate, if is not even from NEW YORK and have been living there my whole life,my mum and dad are both from there,i live in chico in my
childhood life and later moved to oxnard where i stayed with my elders sister. A m a model by occupation and i mostly model cloths and other things like shoes and more,i have been modeling ever since i was 16 years but that was localy but now i model all over the state and sometimes move out of the country to model too. i am curectly in west africa ,nigeria to be precise ,and am there for my contract,modeling for issey miyake,is just a month contract,but i wont love to go back to my sister house when geting back to the state cus she is about preparing to get married to her husband ,so cus of this i will like to have my own room. i registered for roommate and i saw you advertising your room, that there is vacant there,i will love to know if the room can be given to me cus i will love to come there directly to stay when coming back to the state. About the payment that is not a problem I WILL tell MY LAST BOSS WHO I MODELLED FOR WHEN I WAS IN THE STATE TO SEND YOU A CHECK OF MY LAST PAYMENT WISH HE IS OWING ME SO THAT THE ROOM CAN BE KEPT FOR ME.AND YOU SEND ME THE REMAINING CHANGE SO THAT I CAN USE IT TO BOOK FOR MY
FLIGHT TICKET BACK TO THE STATE. I will be glad if you simply reply
me to my mail box. which is I will be so glad to rent your room and ,am sure you will be so glad to have someone like me cus i am a very kool and easy going person,am looking forward
for your reply YOURS

The new craigslist scam...on rent

Interesting. I just got a couple of e-mails from women in the U.K. saying they would love to become my roommate. One said she was a model. Here's the first e-mail she sent.

Hello, I am interested in renting your room. Here is a little info about myself. I am Donna and i am 29 years old.Am a Canadian but at present i'm in England,but I'lll be coming over to The United States in a couple of weeks. Consequent to this and in order to make settling in much easier and quicker i am searching for an accomodation early and i saw your ad on the
site and i want to make reservations for your apartment. I can assure you that you will not have any regrets letting out this apartment to me & having me as a room mate.I am an introvert by nature & i get along much easily with most people.I will be coming over alone,with no family or pets. I do not smoke and i drink very lightly. My reason for moving is because i have three job offers which i am undecided which to choose & the pay is very good. I'm a model and just got some new contracts and dont intend to spend more than 1-2 months in America. Please reply me as soon as you read this email.I ll be waiting to hear from you. Kindly contact me via email. Also if you have a yahoo messenger you could add me.My yahoo id is donnagill_1 and email is so you could add me.Or call me +447024076192Thank you once more Yours sincerly Donna

I admit I was curious but it was like she hadn't really read my craigslist posting because I say in ALL CAPS "this if for MAY MOVE-IN." So I wrote "her" back saying "hey this is for May only, like I said, and it's a year lease, not just a few months."

This is verbatem the e-mail sent back.

Hello XXX (My name),
Thanks for your reply & agreeing to share room with me, I intend to move to the states in April 1st.I am willing to pay the $800 rental. Well i'll need your favour on something which would also serve as my means of payment. My Boss owes me some funds and i told him that i've secured a room ,he agreed to pay up and said he'll inform his partner in Canada to send a cashiers check to you. Send me your full names, address and phone number to send the payment get across to you. Once you receive it, kindly take them to your bank & have them cashed. From this you can deduct the total amount for the room & in due course of time i will forwardto you my name & address to have some of the balance sent back to me. With this i will be able to buy my ticket & pay for freight fee that will be bringing my things over. The remaining i will pick up when i arrive. I wont be bringing much over as i intend to buy most afresh there. But my PC will be coming with me surely & other personal belongings.Thank you so very much for understanding and the opportunity given me to be your roommate.
i hope to hear from you soon.
Yours with all sincerity

Um...yeah. Okay. Fool me once on these things. I've placed my guitar up for sale on craiglist a lot (no one ever buys it) and every time I do you get those people who always send those really poorly written e-mails "Hi I will pay you for it. Im dealer in UK. Send cashiers check with expenses." If you haven't heard of these scams it's totally phoney. Right up there with the perenially Nigerian looting-the-country e-mail.

I just had no idea people were now trying to do it with RENT. I mean, unlike a seller selling an object where at least they expect to be paid, trying to get someone to mail you money so that they can become your roommate is even weaker. Why not just come out and say "I'm a Russian in the Ukraine and I need money because my economy is piss-poor. I could make a huge song and dance about pretending to be an African looting Nigeria or a Canadian model or I could just ask you to send me $500 American dollars. What do you say?"

While I'm sure people fell for the selling-things scam at first (or once in a great while) who in their right mind just sends money to a stranger who is then supposidly going to live with them? I guess it costs nothing to try but wouldn't it be better to put effort into cultivating this scam? The e-mail was written like he never read my ad, which I'm sure the scammer on the end didn't.

Then a few minutes later I got another e-mail that seemed like a pitch for the first. Of course it could be legitmate but again, notice she says she need to move in RIGHT AWAY even though I spell out it's a May move-in, and then says she only wants to stay for 7 months although I clearly say it's a year lease. My guess is that if I respond I'll get another one of those "oh and can you mail me airfare first. I will totally pay you back."

Hi, I saw your profile and I want to be your roommate.I am Rose Becca 31.I work in the UK for a footwear manufacturing company, I will be moving to the US to work on some project. How much is both the deposit and the first month rent I need to pay before I can move in? I want this space very urgent atleast before 28th of March. and I will like us to conclude soon so I can move in my things, I will be staying for 7 months, depending on how the 1st 5 months go. I will be moving to the US alone in the meantime, my family will not be moving in with me.Thanks, I awaits the price list of the deposits and and first month

UPDATE: So far this is pretty much my most popular blog posting. I posted one other example of this scam as well before I gave up. I think I got about 5-7 of these scammer e-mails when advertising my apartment. Although, it's possible at least one or two had been legit, they were just bruque people. Not all of them were as crudely written as the some. I too wrote back a highly moralizing e-mail to the first scammer about how theft is no way to earn a living, even if you are poor. I used to do that to the people who wrote who wanted to "buy" my guitar, but after a while you get tired of it. It's like shouting into a void. I don't know why these e-mails make me so sad about the human race. I guess it seems so personal yet impersonal. There's a human being at the end of that badly composed piece of writing. I do wonder a lot who that human being is and what his life is like?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Long live the messy roommate!

Heh. I've been getting some good responses to this craigslist manifesto I posted about wanting a a messy roommate (not a clean one).

Yes you read that right. I want a messy roommate, not a clean people. I'm one of those people who has a two-bedroom, and I notice that EVERY SINGLE RESPONDENT says something along the lines of "I'm clean but not a neat freak." Or "I like cleanliness but I'm not anal about it." (and yes, anal is usually the word they use). Is there really only two ways to be, a "neat freak" or a total pig?

Here's the thing, I'm *always* the messier of the roommates I live with. I'm not a total pig but yes, dishes sit in the sink for a few day but don't stack up. On average I'd say there's about 3-4 plates in the sink at any given moment. I'm good at taking out the garbage but not wiping down the counter. I don't leave plates out with food on them, but I've had cups sitting on my coffee table overnight.

I've never had a fight with my past two roommates at all about cleaning. If they asked me to specifically do something I would do it and not argue. But I never know how to present my level of being accepting of messes to others. I just can't keep a place spick'n'span all the time forever. A lot of my stuff ends up in the common area whereas my roommate's doesn't. I'd be fine if they left their jackets or shoes or books floating around in the living room. It really doesn't bother me. With only two people I don't feel it's as necessary to keep everything orderly the way that it is with 3 or 4 roommates.

Since I'm a girl does this mean I have to live with a guy to reach some happy level of dirt? Frankly I think it would be good for me to live with someone who admits they're not so concerned about such things and then I can *really* learn what's my level of cleanliness.

To clarify, I didn't meant to criticize people who say they are clean but not "anal" about it. I just thought it was interesting that over and over again you hear the same descriptive words, "anal" and "freak." We all know there are some people who would freak out to see my sneakers in the living room or a few dishes in the sink for a few days. But I do wonder how those people describe themselves? They also say they're not neat "freaks" who are anal about it. They probably think they just like things picked up and tidy.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Chair envy

I don't think I've ever mentioned that to join Weight Watchers I had to give up buying this chair with my birthday money. I've wanted to one just one of these chairs for two years now.

I have one kitchen chair, which is rickety, after my last roommate moved out and took the chairs she painted. This chair is like a butt-pedestral. The fact I have not had $80 to scrape together for two years means I am very, very sad.

The True Story of the Howard Dean Metrosexual quote:

This is the story, if you google “Howard Dean” and Metrosexual you’ll end up getting quite a few hits. Maybe some people remember this week-long story dating from October 29, 2003. Howard Dean had been running high all summer but towards the end and into the fall there started to be a pile on of bad stories about him. I still think a lot of these were non-gaffe “gaffes” that were blown up because the official story was now “take-down” by both Republicans and the other Democratic hopefuls. Dean simply peaked too soon. (I say this without ever being a real Dean sign-on. One the things about running for president is you have to learn how to handle campaign messaging. If you can’t handle the press or your opponents in the primary, you’re not going to be able to handle them in the general.)

Anyway here’s the only national scoop I ever had before anyone else and how I didn’t use it. The Denver Post was the paper that originated the story. They have expensive archives so I can’t link to the original but many other websites repeated the story in its entirety.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean tried to be all things, except George W. Bush, to all voters on fundraising stops in Boulder and Denver on Tuesday.

The pack-leading Democrat hit all the marks, courting fiscal conservatives and social liberals. He bashed the war and pumped up his plans for universal heath care, renewable energy and investments in schools, highways and broadband Internet for everyone.

Dean declared himself a "metrosexual," the buzz phrase for straight men in touch with their feminine sides, as he touted his accomplishments in "equal justice" for gay and lesbian couples.

But then he waffled.

"I'm a square," Dean declared, after professing his metrosexuality to a Boulder breakfast audience with an anecdote about being called handsome by a gay man. "I like (rapper) Wyclef Jean and everybody thinks I'm very hip, but I am really a square, as my kids will tell you. I don't even get to watch television. I've heard the term (metrosexual), but I don't know what it means."

At a luncheon in Denver, Dean surged past the issues and got down to more immediate business, spelling out the main reason for his fourth Colorado visit in the past year.

"This is all about raising money to beat George W. Bush," he told a full ballroom at the Oxford Hotel.

Now being a former reporter (I was in grad school at the time) I noticed something a little funny about this story. The big news is that Dean calls himself a metrosexual but there’s no actual quote where he says it. The reporter paraphrases it. I thought for such a juicy revelation it was rather odd not to have the real quotation. So I tracked down the actual reporter who was there (The Denver Post has their e-mail addresses so its easy to do so) I wrote a fairly short letter…”hey did Dean really say he was a Metrosexual? What’s the actual quote?”

The reporter wrote back to me that “yes” he did say it and that he had transcribed the whole speech, which actually sent it to me.

But here’s the thing. I don’t believe his paraphrase; “Dean declared himself a ‘metrosexual’… and then waffled” was accurate. I wish I had the actual transcript to show everyone. All of this went to University e-mail account that is now closed and I never thought to save these e-mails before the account was closed.
The actual quote was something like “People say I’m a metrosexual…I don’t really know what that means.” It might have even been more like “this guy who said I was handsome called me a metrosexual, which I don’t know what that means.” There was definitely no declarative statement as in “I, Howard Dean, say I am a metrosexual.” He used the word, for certain, but as I pointed out to the reporter…do you really think he actually did know what it meant? The reporter agreed with me. Howard Dean probably didn’t have the foggiest clue what Metrosexual meant, but the reporter still nailed him for “pandering” to the crowd by using a word like that.

I hate that term, “pandering” in relation to politics. It’s a word meant to give negative connotations to a fairly natural habit in speechmaking. How much speech is pandering and how much is just good old fashioned showmanship? If a band comes out on stage and says “We’re happy to be here in Cleveland!” does that mean they are “pandering” to the crowd? Or are they supposed to say “Well we’re here in Cleveland which is our 142nd city and we’d really rather be at home with our girlfriends, but here’s our set tonight!”

That would get the crowd moving.

So Dean, who had a natural constituency in gays and lesbians, in a friendly luncheons name-checks a term he’s heard and he’s supposed to be slammed for it? (By the way, raise your had if you actually think Howard Dean is a metrosexual or that he thought he was a metrosexual, a term he admitted he didn’t know what it meant!)
Even if you believe that “pander” is the correct term that should be used to describe Dean’s speech at a friendly fund-raising luncheon…for the reporter to use the loaded word “waffle,” I think is even harsher. Waffle is a very negative term to use in political descriptions; this was even before “flip flop” took over.

The reporter and I went back and forth a few e-mails about this situation and it ended with him not admitting he was wrong but saying I’d make a good spinner. It was about as much of an admission that he was potentially wrong as you are likely to get. That maybe, someone could possibly honestly interpret the situation differently.

The thing is, being a reporter I know exactly why he wrote the story as he did. Covering speeches and luncheons is pretty boring. Everything is fairly canned and, if I may say so, staged. It’s like writing a story about a birthday party “Good time was had by all.” You start looking for disaster like someone lighting the table on fire. (Other story I hate writing, “man-on-the-street” quotes. So pointless.)

So if you have a presidential frontrunner use a buzzword, it’s probably (to the reporter anyway) the most “interesting” thing that happened during the event. Remember that is the reporter’s perspective of what’s interesting at, for him, a naturally boring event. He’s not really the intended audience for these events which are meant for supporters. But the thing about not using the quote as it was…again, I’ve been there. Sometimes you wish people would speak in perfect quotedom. I remember Ken Auletta interviewing Jon Stewart and they played a clip of The Daily Show with a bunch of Dick Cheney lies. And Auletta asked why he didn’t play one where Cheney blames Saddam Hussien for 9/11 and Stewart said that basically the times Cheney made an allusion to this theory, it ran into a 10 minute long speech where it was only suggested but not directly said. So, essentially, it wasn’t quotable but you could paraphrase it.

This metrosexual quote was also probably pretty good for the reporter. It got picked up nationally and became a one-week story which was along the lines of “look, another gaffe made by Dean.” You know, if this is a gaffe, calling or referencing a term like Metrosexual, I wonder what you would call something like what Trent Lott said at Strom Thurmond’s birthday party? One is truly an offensive statement (which was later revealed to have been repeated a lot in Lott’s political life). The other is something, at worst, kind of silly but certainly doesn’t offend anyone.

Anyway I think of this as the one-that-got-away because back in early November 2003 I wasn’t really into reading blogs (it’s a habit I picked up more in 2004 and 2005). If I had I would have tipped off Daily Kos or someone and tried to get the story going. Or written it up myself and gotten some attention. But what I did was try to pass the tip onto Slate’s Jack Schafer and the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz, both of which did nothing with it. (Schafer wrote me back that he thought he had seen already seen an explanation of the quote, but didn’t write about it himself or link that to me. I’ve never seen such an expose myself and to this day people will still occasionally rhetorically link “Howard Dean” and “metrosexual” as a gaffe of his. Like that stupid Al Gore internet myth quote.

Again, I agree this would be all the more impressive if I still had the actual transcript the reporter sent me. But the benefit of being a blogger and not a reporter is that I’m free to write about this as an anecdote but not as a news story.