Friday, August 22, 2014

Mystery Novels Can Be Hazardous to Your Sleep


Maybe I should stick to reading romances before bedtime. I suspect that reading mystery novels probably isn’t the best way to relax at the end of the day.

The other night, I stayed up way too late because I wanted to finish reading a serial killer novel. Actually, another character with homicidal tendencies also popped up in the story. That one was a surprise— and not a pleasant one.

Later that night, or, more likely, very early the next morning, I had a dream about the second murderer, the one who wasn’t a serial killer. I’ll call him “Dewey,” but that’s not his fictional real name.

I dreamed that Dewey had kidnapped me and one of my friends. He threatened to kill us if we made the proverbial false move. Dewey drove us to a humongous industrial complex where he forced us to apply for assembly line jobs at a company that manufactured some of those widgets hyped in “as seen on TV” ads. To add to the weirdness, the interviewer looked a lot like someone I had worked with back in the Late Jurassic Period.

I told the interviewer that the creep lurking at the back of the room had shanghaied my friend and me. I repeatedly asked the interviewer to call the police, but he ignored my pleas. He kept chattering away like a wound-up robot, expounding on the requirements for the job and complaining about Obamacare. Then he asked, “If we hire you, will you go to the company picnic?”

(Yikes! I actually was asked that question during an interview, but it wasn’t a picnic; it was a Christmas party. And, yes, I was hired. And, yes, I went.)

I was desperate to ditch both Dewey and the interviewer. One scared me and had a gun and the other seemed insane. Fortunately, stupid Dewey had neglected to confiscate my cell phone. So I went to the ladies’ room and frantically scrolled through my contacts list. Instead of calling 9-1-1, I searched for a certain individual’s phone number. I found it and poked the number.

And then I woke up.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

I Was a 4-H Dropout


When I was nine years old (back in the Early Jurassic Period), my mother suggested that I join 4-H. I guess she thought I needed to develop an interest in something other than reading Nancy Drew novels and scribbling stories in notebooks. I thought I really needed to get out more, so I joined a 4-H sewing club. However, I didn’t do much sewing during the meetings. I went to them mainly to socialize with my friends.

I also attended a 4-H overnight camp for two summers when I was ten and eleven. Those were semi-interesting experiences involving prowler rumors, 6 a.m. swims, a teenage liaison that ended badly, and a cabin mate who talked me into accompanying her on an emergency trip to the outhouse way after midnight. (Thanks to raging teen hormones, our cabin was sans counselor at the time. I still wonder if he got kicked out too.)

But I digress.

With Mom’s, um, encouragement, I always managed to turn a couple of yards of material into something recognizable as clothing by “judgment day.” That was the Saturday in April or May when all the 4-H sewing clubs in the county got together at a local high school to display their members’ projects.

While several sewing mavens inspected our efforts and awarded ribbons attached to tags that read, excellent, very good, good, or, gulp, fair, we toured nearby businesses. After lunch, everyone traipsed into the auditorium where several of the more outgoing club members presented demonstrations or skits to entertain their captive audience. I was a butterfly, one with major stage fright, in the only skit I ever took part in.
Other than having stage fright, I did okay. No fairs for me. I was thrilled when I actually got a very good on my last project, a maroon cotton skirt.

The following September, I picked out a pretty plissé print for my new project, a housecoat. I cut out the pattern, but I just couldn’t get motivated to even work on the project, let alone finish it. My group leader didn’t offer much encouragement. By the end of October, I had slacked off on going to the meetings, much to the annoyance of my more ambitious fellow group members.

I told my mother I wanted to drop out of 4-H.  She was all for it. At that point, I guess Mom finally realized that sewing probably wasn’t going to be one of my talents. And, anyway, Mom said she was “done standing over me to get me to finish anything.”

Friday, July 18, 2014

Camels and Zebras and Llamas, Oh My!


According to a few short online news blurbs and a Facebook comment, a tractor trailer truck transporting circus animals was involved in an accident on Interstate 90 last Saturday. The camels, llamas, and zebras riding in the truck were part of a circus performing in a nearby town that weekend.

Although the driver of the second vehicle involved went to the hospital, apparently none of the animals were seriously hurt. I hope the injured driver is doing well and the animals have rejoined the circus. I never will know for sure though, because I can’t find a follow-up to this story, and I seriously suspect there wasn’t one.

Would you believe that reading about the mishap reminded me of something that happened way back when? (Of course you would.)

One winter evening in the late 90s, Other Half and I stopped for dinner at a Friendly’s restaurant. When we left the restaurant, he sprinted across the parking lot to our vehicle, eager to get out of the cold and light up a cigarette.

I was eager to get out of the cold, too, but I stopped in the middle of the parking lot and checked out a pickup truck that was parked at the edge of the lot. The truck had a camper shell, and the camper shell was occupied by an animal that, at first glance, looked like either a humongous dog or a small pony. Instead of heading to our vehicle, I moved closer to the truck to get a better view. That did not go over well with Other Half.

“Hey,” he hollered. “Get in the truck. Let’s go.”

“Not yet,” I said. “There’s a weird animal in the back of that truck. I’m trying to figure out what it is.”

“Never mind, it’s none of your business. Let’s go.”

“In a minute,” I said, moving closer to the pickup. At first, I thought the animal was a mutant form of Great Dane, but the neck was too long, and the head didn’t look like a Great Dane’s.

Between concentrating on getting a close look at the animal and trying to ignore Other Half’s grumbling, I failed to notice the man approaching the pickup.

Busted! The man did not look happy to see me sneaking up on his vehicle.

I’m sure he wondered why I was so interested in his, um, cargo. I was about to confess that I was just curious. However, I suddenly remembered some advice I’d heard somewhere (I forgot where): If caught in the act, play dumb.

“Um, what kind of dog is that?” I asked.

“It’s a llama.” He said.

O-kaaay.

I really wanted to ask more questions. For instance: How the heck did you convince that thing to hop into the back of a pickup?

But I didn’t. I took Other Half’s advice and minded my own business.

[Note: There were several llama farms operating in the area at that time. So it might not have been that unusual to haul small/young llamas around in pickup trucks. Still wonder how they got them in there, though.]

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Confessions of a Dollar Store Junkie


In 1989, super cheap discount stores were a fairly new concept in merchandising. One afternoon, during my lunch hour, I checked out the merchandise in a ninety-nine cent store that recently had opened in Escondido, California.

I wasn’t impressed. The store was messy, and most of the merchandise had been imported from China. The items I briefly considered buying looked as if they would fall apart about two minutes after I handed over my money.

Obviously, I thought, this type of store won’t be in business too long.

Obviously, I was wrong.

Ninety-nine cent stores didn’t go away. They just increased their prices by a penny and morphed into dollar stores. These days, dollar stores seem to be popping up all over the place, like dandelions in the spring. And most of the stores seem to be doing very well.

However, companies frequently have to fight uphill battles in order to get approval to locate in some municipalities.

Several city governments have passed regulations prohibiting dollar stores from locating in “prime” areas. People living in small towns (especially some people living in a certain small town) often are opposed to any form of dollar store locating anywhere within the town.

And although many individuals swear they would never shop at dollar stores, tens of thousands of other people do shop at them. Otherwise, companies wouldn’t be opening so many of them.

And yes, I am one of those other people.

I confess that I shop at dollar stores, mostly at the Dollar Tree stores that are everywhere in San Diego County. The county also has a variety of ninety-nine-cent-type stores. Oddly enough, all items in most of those ninety-nine-cent stores sell for a dollar each.

I don’t buy food products, makeup, medicine, or vitamins at the Dollar Tree. However, there are a lot of “basics” that I do buy there, including greeting cards, office supplies, and kitchen and cleaning supplies.

I refuse to pay four dollars or more for a greeting card. The Dollar Tree has a variety of very nice greeting cards that sell for a dollar each or two for a dollar. And I’m always able to find cards with verses that are appropriate for the intended recipient.

I do most of my writing and editing on the computer. However, I take notes, lots of notes, the old-fashioned way. I then enter my handwritten notes into the computer (well, I do if I can read my scribbling) and trash the paper copies.

I once spent way too much money on notebooks and other must-have office supplies at Staples and Office Depot. These days, I buy my notebooks, note pads, index cards, and most of my pens at the Dollar Tree.

Last, but definitely not least, it’s no secret that I’m domestically dysfunctional (and I do have published proof). I spend the fewest hours on housework that I can get away with, while still ensuring that the apartment is clean and presentable.

I dislike spending a small fortune on dishcloths, dish towels, sponges, brooms, mops, and dustpans. Paying only a dollar for each of these items suits me just fine. And I’m still using the dish towels, broom, mops, and dust pan I bought more than a year ago.

When it comes to buying certain items, frugal me will continue to buy them at the Dollar Tree and other dollar stores (sorry, Cheshire). I’ve found that most of the present day dollar stores are cleaner and better organized than the first one I walked into 25 years ago. And they offer better quality merchandise today, even though most of that merchandise is still imported from China.

And just for the record, I am neither employed by nor do I own stock in Dollar Tree, Inc.
 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

No More NOOK Tablets for Me


I own a NOOK Tablet and a NOOK Color. Nice devices, but both were a tad bit pricey. I decided they were not things I wanted to haul around in my backpack on a daily basis.
 
So about a year ago, I bought a Kindle Paperwhite. I can’t check my email or update my Facebook status on this device. I can use it only to download and read eBooks from Amazon. Yes, my options are limited; however, I really like the small, easy-to-navigate Paperwhite. Until the beginning of May, I had been using it exclusively for six months, mostly to download and read freebies I found advertised on BookBub.
 
But then, I began feeling guilty about “abandoning” my NOOKS. After all, I had spent money on them, but I wasn’t getting any use from them. I decided it was time to buy another eBook from Barnes & Noble.
 
When I attempted to access the B&N website using the NOOK Tablet, I couldn’t connect to the Internet. Instead, a message popped up informing me that the failure to connect was due to a Wi-Fi error.
 
Okay. But what kind of an error. I hadn’t a clue, but I really needed to find out.
 
I had chatted online with a B&N tech two years ago when I had a different problem with the NOOK Color. That cyber conversation didn’t go well, and I wasn’t going to do it again. So I stuffed the NOOK Tablet into my backpack and took it to the nearest B&N store.
 
An associate in the music and DVD section spent 20 minutes attempting to restore the Wi-Fi connection without success. And then he made a phone call. After he hung up, he handed the Tablet to me. “I can’t help you,” he said with a smirk on his face. “It’s out of warranty.”
 
Well, duh, I could have told him that. When I bought the  Tablet, I also bought an extended warranty. All warranties on that device had expired about six months ago.
 
I've owned the Tablet for two and a half years. I think the Wi-Fi capability should have lasted longer than that. I was willing to pay a reasonable amount to have it fixed. However, the associate told me that was not an option. The Wi-Fi connection couldn’t be fixed.
 
Well, at least I still can read the eBooks I previously downloaded to the Tablet; I just can’t download new ones. And the Wi-Fi connection on the NOOK Color seems to be in good working order, at least for now. When both NOOKs conk out permanently, I'll have to buy another NOOK product in order to access my online library.
 
When that happens, I won't buy another pricey NOOK. I'll buy a dedicated eReader, the B&N version of the Kindle Paperwhite.
 
 

Friday, June 06, 2014

A Couple of Things That Annoy Me



Although I can’t imagine life without it, I’m trying to limit my time on the Internet because, well, it's addictive. I need to get other things done, things such as writing, editing, running errands, or maybe actually doing some housework.

And I will not “share” any posts that appear on my newsfeed if the sole purpose for posting or sharing that information seems to be an opportunity to spew nasty, even cruel, remarks about someone or something and/or to deliberately (yes, I split an infinitive) encourage people to snark at each other over some controversial or pseudo-controversial issue.

Likewise, I am beyond tired of logging into Facebook only to find ads from companies or nonprofit organizations popping up all over my newsfeed. The people posting these ads are directly invading my cyberspace. Their posts are not something that FB friends have shared.

These maverick ads are obnoxious intrusions that clutter my newsfeed. They include pitches for mobile pet grooming, online classes, pork chops (yes, really) and many other products or services that I’m not even remotely interested in. I didn’t “like” these pages. I have never heard of most of these businesses, and I don’t want to see their ads on my newsfeed. And, yes, I know how to get rid of them, and I do.

But they are sooooo annoying.

[Note: This blog post was written in basic html. Hope it looks presentable on various browsers.]

Friday, May 30, 2014

That Bracelet Was Definitely Overpriced


A few months ago, I gave away some jewelry making supplies. I guess I didn’t give away enough of them. I still have too many beads and findings, but I don’t have enough space to store them.

I usually pack surplus supplies in a gallon-size Ziploc bag and drop them off at a Goodwill store. I really would like to give them to someone, but I don’t know anyone in North County who could use them. On second thought, maybe that’s just as well.

About twenty years ago, I gave a small stash of beads and findings to a twelve-year-old girl. I don’t remember her name, so I’ll call her “Nicole.”

Back then, I worked part time in the fabrics and crafts department of a big box store. One Monday evening when customers were few and far between, I spent ten or fifteen minutes hanging out at the cutting table, discussing the pros and cons of polymer clay with Nicole and her grandmother. I’ll call the grandmother “Ellen.”

When Nicole wandered off to explore the crafts area, Ellen confided that she had temporary custody of Nicole and her thirteen-year-old sister. I won’t share the details here; however, Ellen did share them with me that evening.

The girls’ immediate family was, to say the least, dysfunctional. The parents were divorced, and the sisters had a really contentious relationship. Ellen claimed that the girls couldn’t stand being in the same room with each other.

Ellen supported and encouraged her younger granddaughter’s interest in making jewelry using a variety of materials. She said the hobby distracted Nicole from fretting about family problems and the impending permanent custody hearing.

Nicole had just started making polymer clay beads. She also had created a large inventory of earrings using glass beads. Nicole had sold several pairs of those earrings to a local woman who owned a store.

I told Ellen I planned to sort through my beads and findings and give some away. I asked her if she thought Nicole would like to have them. Ellen gave me her phone number and told me to call her when the supplies were ready to be picked up.

Later that week, I went through my stash and came across a sad looking beaded bracelet I had made a few years before. I had strung the beads on tigertail (inexpensive beading wire) and finished it with the cheapest crimps and clasp I could find. The tigertail had kinked, and the base metal crimps had split.

The bracelet was unwearable, but the small glass pony beads were salvageable. I thought about taking the bracelet apart, but decided to just toss it into the bag as is. When Ellen picked up the supplies, I handed her the bag saying, “There’s a really ugly bracelet in the bag. Nicole can take it apart and use the beads to make something else.”

I never saw Ellen or Nicole again. However, several weeks later, I visited a local consignment store. Upon entering the store, I noticed an earring display with a sign that read, this jewelry was made by Nicole, a twelve-year-old [name of town] resident. I don’t remember how much the earrings were selling for, but that ugly bracelet hanging in the middle of the display had a price tag of $1.50.