Friday, August 31, 2007

What A Piece Of Crap ...

Not that I've ever been a fan any of her songs, ever, ever, but from a purely musical perspective, may I say this song has the most inane chorus ever in the history of music? I mean, somebody actually wrote that? Check it out:

And for the love of God, the production on this track (and all her tracks, for that matter). What the hell? Why do these people get paid a bazillion dollars when we don't even know what their actual voices sound like?

Springsteen doesn't have a million filters on his voice. Ditto Bono. Ditto Eddie Vedder. What is this crap?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Acquired Taste ...

I had a bad formative salmon experience as a child.

My father caught one on one of him many fishing expeditions and brought it home and mom cooked it. I remember that my grandfather was over for dinner. I also remember not liking the weird pink fish.

I was not a picky eater as a child. Mom was good about making us try things, and I often wanted to try things even if mom warned me that I wouldn't like them. Like yogurt. At my grandmother's house. There it was, in a bowl, on the table, looking all creamy. I figured it would be like pudding.

GACK. That yogurt was not like pudding. That yogurt was like the flouride that got squeezed into those bite-shaped foam trays then crammed onto my upper and lower teeth with a sucky hook popped between them, the flouride which would invariably start to leak out the back of the trays and down my throat. I was always offered my choice of flavors, but holy hell, they all tasted like crap. Butterscotch-flavored crap, orange-flavored crap, bubble gum-flavored crap ...

As an adult, I eventually got into yogurt. I was on a flight, back in the days when food was still served on planes. It was a breakfast flight and I was hungry so I thought I'd give the yogurt a go. Note to would-be airborne yogurt openers: Open it away from you. Planes, they're pressurized. So, yogurt on the plane is pressurized. So, when you peel back the foil and release the pressure, you get slimed. Of course, the yogurt that day on the plane was not real yogurt. No, it was one of those fruity, chemical-laden yogurts. And these days, I'm cutting high-fructose corn syrup out of my diet, which eliminates a good part of the grocery store, yogurt included.

But back to salmon. I ate it as a kid and I thought it was yucky. As an adult, I watched in amazement in restaurants as friends ordered salmon. Seriously? Did they have taste buds? Why would they ruin a perfectly nice dinner by eating weird-tasting pink fish?

On my first trip to London, my pal Tracy and I ended up with a room on the club floor which was supposed to allow us access to the lounge on that floor. Our keycards didn't work, but we'd sneak in anyway. One night, one of the appetizers was salmon on a skewer. Tracy is one of my salmon-eating friends. I tried one of her skewers.

OK. It was OK. It wasn't great. It wasn't disgusting. But I wasn't sold.

Dave is one of my other salmon-eating friends. Like, all the time. Like, every time we go out to lunch. If there's salmon on the menu, that's what he orders. Every year, I take him out to lunch for his birthday and I've started scoping out restaurants online so I can see their menus and assess their salmon preparations. I ruled out many restaurants this year.

(This year's winner, by the by, was Blue Water Grill. I just checked the menu and am chagrined that the French green lentils and spinach are no longer available. A travesty, really. Dave ordered the French green lentils and spinach with his salmon and I nearly shoved him out of his chair to take over his place at the table. Though it would have been easier, now that I think about it, to just steal his dish.)

A few years ago, for my birthday, me and Dave and a group of friends were at Coco Pazzo Café. Dave, Mr. Entirely Predictable, ordered the salmon. He offered his plate to me, to let me try his entrée.

"Oh, I don't like salmon," I said, at which point his face contorted into total confusion as if what he'd heard me say was, "I kill puppies for sport!"

Not like salmon? How could I not like salmon? And how could he not know this about me? How had it never come up in all our years of friendship? I mean, you think you know someone, and then one day, she turns to you and says, "Oh, I don't like salmon."

Poor guy. OK, fine. I took a bite of salmon.

OK. It was OK. It wasn't great. It wasn't disgusting. But I wasn't sold.

At Blue Water Grill this year, I tried it again.

Hmm. It was maybe a little more than OK. It was maybe kind of good. Kind of. Maybe.

And then, in New York earlier this year, I ordered salmon. In a restaurant. For myself. (Dave was having surgery the next day. I thought having salmon in his honor would be good juju.) As I wrote back in April, "My entrée, in a moment of great departure and adventure for me, was the crispy salmon. I am not, not, not a salmon eater, but I ordered it in Dave's honor. Pan seared in a bit of butter and salt, I'm guessing, then finished in the oven, plated with crispy rosemary roasted potatoes and the most immense mound of garlic-sauteed spinach. (Dave, if you're reading, I ordered it medium and it was cooked perfectly.)"

And I ate every bite. And most of the spinach, too, which was quite a feat, as it was truly the most enormous amount of spinach I'd ever seen on one plate before. And I would commit a crime if that's what it took to get my hands on more of those crispy rosemary roasted potatoes again. (Happily, I'm going back to NYC next month. I think another visit to that restaurant is in order, though I can't find it online at the moment. Dammit, it better still be there.)

Mom, who prepared my original salmon experience, has also never been a fan of the fish, but had some on a cruise a couple years ago and really liked it, so she ordered some salmon from Market Day through a local school. She cooked two portions for her and dad. She didn't like it. So she gave the other two to me. And today, I baked them off. I ate one of the filets.

I wrote to Dave, "I had salmon for lunch. In my own house. I think you've converted me for good."

Dave, I may have mentioned, is guaranteed to reply to an e-mail immediately if it's about a) his daughter, b) The Beatles, or c) technology. And now, we can add salmon to the list. (Well, food in general, he says.)

He wrote back, at length, with a little salmon primer. I am his salmon initiate. I think he takes my salmon schooling very seriously, lest I stray from my newfound salmon ways.

Maybe next, I'll try anchovies.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

NASCAR Commercials? ...

I was flipping channels tonight and ran across NASCAR on Primetime on ABC. Again. I've been seeing this series for weeks now. Four weeks, according to TV Guide listings.

Four hours of NASCAR? What gives? I found a story on ABC News's web site, talking about its unprecedented access. Well, OK, but why does each show feel like an hour-long commercial for NASCAR? How much would 60 minutes of primetime advertising cost, I wonder.

Of course, ABC and NASCAR have a broadcast agreement, so it makes sense that the network would want to promote the sport, but four weeks running? It feels excessive. Maybe die-hard NASCAR fans are eating it up, and it is summer, after all. And August at that. A veritable wasteland for movies and television.

Still, given that these hours are being produced by ABC News, it's starting to feel like advertorial.

A couple years ago, I wrote a piece about my NASCAR life. Yes, I had a NASCAR life. Reposted, then, for your very much "Beth and NASCAR?!" enjoyment, with the new addition of a picture of a picture (I don't have a scanner) of me and the late, great Dale Earnhardt. He was very charming. He put his arm around me and called me "darlin'."

I left the Chicago Tribune in 1997 to take a job with Thomson Newspapers.

The office I went to work for didn't produce a daily newspaper. Rather, we published specialty sections that newspapers bought and ran inside their own pages. I always told people it was the same idea as
Parade magazine.

When I interviewed, we discussed my taking over the entertainment publication, or the health publication, or the kids publication.

After I tendered by resignation at the
Tribune, a package arrived in the mail, and I learned that I'd be editing a home technology section and a NASCAR section.



At the time, I wasn't entirely sure what NASCAR stood for, but I knew it was racing.

I'd never watched a race in my life. Not even the Indianapolis 500, which isn't NASCAR.

Oh well. I'd been thrown into situations before, and as I once wrote in a cover letter, "It was a sink-or-swim situation. I discovered that I am an excellent swimmer."

So. NASCAR. Gentlemen, start your teasing.

I received many tongue-in-cheek queries about my would-be wardrobe of tube tops and cowboy boots. My big hair days were long behind me, but perhaps I'd have to stock up on Aqua-Net again. When people weren't chuckling at their own amusement, they'd make disparaging comments about it not being a real sport, how it's boring to watch.

After I'd gone to my first race, I'd get defensive when I'd hear them. "You can't say anything until you've been to a race," I'd tell them. And it was true.

On TV, yes, it seems inane. Cars driving 400 laps in an oval. Whatever, right?

But in person, the energy is amazing. NASCAR fans are fervent. They're all really excited to be at a race. The few who are lucky enough to get into the garage area (because they know someone who works for a sponsor, usually) are like kids at Christmas. The drivers, who are essentially rock stars in flame-retardant jumpsuits, are very gracious, taking the time to meet fans, sign programs, pose for pictures.

Henry, my writer, had been to plenty of events and met plenty of drivers, and several of them would say hello to him, wave him over to their trailers to chat. (Henry's the most affable person I've ever met, but I was still surprised that these drivers would invite him over like he was a long-lost friend.)

And if you're standing nearby when a crew member hits the ingnition on one of the cars, you feel it in your chest. And you best be wearing earplugs.

And yes, there are a couple drivers who don't appear to be on the verge of winning any awards for physical fitness, but most of them are in incredible shape. They have to withstand a lot of G forces in those cars at those speeds on those turns. Not to mention the conditions inside the cars. The cabin temperatures are well over 100 degrees and they're suited up from head to toe. (By the way, in case you never noticed, there are no bathroom breaks during a race. It's not much of an issue, really, as drivers are sweating buckets inside those cars. It's not like they have the A/C cranked. But drivers have told me: if you have to go, you just go.)

NASCAR fans are very, very loyal. Sponsors know this. If you love Ricky Rudd and Ricky Rudd is driving for Tide, you buy Tide. That's it. Tony Stewart drives for Home Depot. You won't see a Tony Stewart fan at Menards or Lowes. Menards courts Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans.

I met Jr. once at an event at Woodfield Mall. It was the grand opening of a virtual NASCAR racing outlet, and Jr. and his father, the late Dale Earnhardt, were there. If you know anything about Woodfield Mall, right now you should be saying, "NASCAR? At Woodfield Mall?!" I know. I never understood it either. When I think of the epicenter of NASCAR culture in Illinois, I don't think "Schaumburg!" But there we were. And there were fans there who had been waiting all day - literally since the moment the mall opened - to get a glimpse of Dale. Some of them asked me to get things signed for them, which I couldn't do. Others asked me what it was like to talk to him. And when Dale walked out into the center of the mall, the crowd went nuts. Flashes flashed like it was a runway in Paris. Dale walked around on top of the brick wall circling the space, shaking hands with fans.

I don't even remember him saying much of anything. He didn't have to.

I was there as a member of the press, a favor to a friend who was doing the PR for the event and needed to get people there to cover it. I was reluctant when he first called me, but Henry, my writer, said, "It's almost impossible to get one-on-one time with Earnhardt. You have to take it." But he warned me, "He doesn't really like the press. If you ask a question he doesn't like, he'll refuse to answer it or tell you it's stupid. Or he might just walk away from you."

Swell. But I got my 10 minutes with Dale, standing near his car's simulator. Someone wanted me to race against him. I said, "No." Dale asked why not. I said, "Because you're Dale Earnhardt, and I'm not insane." One of his people pulled him away for a photo op or some such, which was fine. I got a few quotes to use for a story. Justin, my marketing guy and a race fan in his own right, and I stood there talking for a moment when Dale reappeared at my side.

He'd come back. Just to chat.

He was terrifically charming. I told him that I'd rented a Monte Carlo to drive out from Chicago. "But it's white," I said. "I couldn't get black." He didn't mind. He nudged me with his elbow, winked at me, and said, "Good girl." He posed for a picture with me. Put his arm around me. Really nice guy.

The next day, I called Henry to tell him how it went. "You're so wrong about him," I said. "He was perfectly charming."

With a bit of disgust, Henry said, "It's because you're a woman."

Maybe. Sometimes it pays to be a woman in a man's world.

Re-Answer ...

Miss South Carolina went on Today and was given the opportunity to clarify her "answer" in the video seen 'round the world.

But where's the fun in that?

Marc, my ever-busy friend, sent a link around this afternoon to this, and it cracked me up, so I wanted to share the hilarity:

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

'The Fountain' ...

This movie isn't so much a movie as an experience.

It starts off rather abstractly, so much so that I was tempted to turn it off. But it's so beautiful to look at that I kept watching.

I think actors like Hugh Jackman make the X-Mens of the world so that they can make movies like this.

It offers a lot of food for thought, but it also makes my heart ache. The love story between Jackman and Rachel Weisz is boundless and trancends time.

I fully believe that there are souls who are together throughout all of history, that there are connections that are so profound that we find each other again and again.

If your idea of a good time at the movies is Superbad, this isn't the movie for you. But if you crave more cerebral fare, add this to your Netflix queue.

New Bruce Tune! ...

Available on iTunes, for free!

Free Bruce, people! Get on it!

Thanks to L.A. Dave for the alert this morning. I just screeched "Ahhh!" and immediate went to iTunes. Just downloaded it. Oh man, it's good!

The album, if you hadn't heard, is due out October 2. Which means he'll tour in the spring, I figure.

Update: Spring, schming. Bruce kicks off the tour the day the album drops!

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band fall tour itinerary

Oct 2 - Hartford, CT - Hartford Civic Center - On sale Sep 8
Oct 5 - Philadelphia, PA - Wachovia Center - On sale Sep 8
Oct 9-10 - E Rutherford, Continental Airlines Arena - On sale Sep 10
Oct 14 - Ottawa, ONT - Civic Centre - On sale Sep 17
Oct 15 - Toronto, ONT - Air Canada Centre - On sale Sep 17
Oct 17-18 - New York, NY - Madison Square Garden - On sale Sep 10
Oct 21 - Chicago, IL - United Center - On sale Sep 8
Oct 26 - Oakland, CA - Oracle Arena - On sale Sep 15
Oct 28 - Los Angeles, CA - Venue TBA - On sale TBA
Nov 2 - St. Paul, MN - Xcel Energy Center - On sale Sep 22
Nov 4 - Cleveland, OH - Quicken Loans Arena - On sale Sep 15
Nov 5 - Auburn Hills, MI - Palace Of Auburn Hills - On sale Sep 21
Nov 11 - Washington, D.C. - Verizon Arena - On sale Sep 21
Nov 14 - Pittsburgh, PA - Mellon Arena - On sale Sep 14
Nov 15 - Albany, NY - Times Union Center - On sale Sep 8
Nov 18 - Boston, MA TD - Banknorth Garden - On sale Sep 22
Nov 25 - Madrid, SPAIN - Palacio De Deportes - On sale Oct 2
Nov 26 - Bilbao, SPAIN - Bilbao Exhibition Centre - On sale Oct 9
Nov 28 - Milan, ITALY - Datchforum - On sale Sep 10
Nov 30 - Arnhem, NETHERLANDS - Geldredome - On sale Sep 8
Dec 2 - Mannheim, GERMANY - Sap Arena - On sale Aug 31
Dec 4 - Oslo, NORWAY - Oslo Spektrum - On sale Sep 3
Dec 8 - Copenhagen, DENMARK - Forum - On sale Sep 3
Dec 10 - Stockholm, SWEDEN - Globe Arena - On sale Sep 1
Dec 12 - Antwerp, BELGIUM - Sports Paleis - On sale Sep 8
Dec 13 - Cologne, GERMANY - Koln Arena - On sale Aug 31
Dec 15 - Belfast, IRELAND - Odyssey Arena - On sale Sep 6
Dec 17 - Paris, FRANCE - Palais Omnisports De Bercy - On sale Sep 7
Dec 19 - London, UK - O2 Arena - On sale Aug 30

Monday, August 27, 2007

Just Two More ...

It's been the all-YouTube day around here, and I'm not typically a big YouTuber, but what kind of friend would I be if I didn't share these gems, courtesy of my pal Marc?

As he said of the first, "I didn't think it possible to make YMCA even more gay than the Village People original - the Finns have proven me wrong." But I could be convinced that this is Kevin Kline with a dye job, just being funny. (I know it's not him, but it's the kind of thing Kev would do.)

And then Marc sent the link to this. Clearly, it was not a busy day for him at work. Then again, it wasn't a very busy day for me, either. "My blue jeans is tight, so onto my love rocket climb"! "Prepare for downcount!" "Offblast!" "Is time for downsplash!"

Writer Rant ...

Poking around Craigslist today, I spied a posting for a "Financial Copywriter for a Large Financial Website."

I know nothing much about finance, but I clicked on the link.

In a nutshell, this person is seeking, ideally, a college graduate with journalism experience whose responsibilities will include:

- Writing articles for our main website and sub-sites
- Reviewing and editing the current content posted on the site
- Writing, editing, and reviewing posts to our company blog
- Reviewing and editing press releases before they are sent out
- Learning about the debt/credit/loan industries and keeping up on the latest news and trends

Well, that's quite a lot of responsibility for a Large Financial Website.

Let's take a look at the compensation, shall we?

- $1500 per month to start. Review after 6 months with possible pay increase, based on individual and company results
- No benefits at first.
- Performance-based incentives and bonuses.
- Compensation is based on spending a minimum of 5 days per week working from the office. If you would like to telecommute, we will have to negotiate a lower rate.

I thought I might be seeing a typo, so I wrote to the poster to confirm that he did indeed mean $1,500 per month, not per week. He replied with, "Sorry, this position has been filled."

Well, darn. I missed my chance to work a "minimum of 5 days per week" for "$1500 per month."

When are people going to get a clue? You can't pay a professional writer with journalism experience $18,000 a year, GROSS, and expect them to work a "minimum of five days per week."

Writing is a valuable skill. If everyone could do it well, no one would need to hire writers.

And, you get what you pay for.

Ouch ...

Idiocracy is already here.

Thought Progression ...

It's lunchtime. So I opened my fridge to grab some grub and I noticed the vegetables I bought the other day and thought, "I should have bought some broccoli."

Which led me here, one of the best moments in SNL history. I love the thoughtful look on Phil Hartman's face, like he's really feeling the song:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

What About 'The Rattan Man'? ...

OK, kids, enough of you have said enough good things about the original Wicker Man that I've just fast-tracked it to the top of my Netflix queue.

I will watch it as soon as it arrives and post, directly, my take on it versus the piece of Nicolas Cage crap.

Thanks for the needed nudge. I was all set to never invest another moment in the whole situation, but from the sounds of it, the original has a lot to recommend it.

So thanks for recommending it.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Caveat Emptor, 100 Percent ...

Today, my bank account received my first dollars from my Zap2It/Design Star blog assignment. (You've been reading, right? No? That's OK. No one else is, either. Which is a shame, because I gotta say, the posts I'm writing for that gig are damn clever. Meanwhile, over at HGTV's official blog for the show, hundreds of people comment on every post. Note to self: Approach HGTV about future blogging opportunities ...)

While I certainly have bills that will benefit from this direct deposit, I decided to spend a little of it on myself. So I went to Target and bought 40-some bucks worth of paper towels and shampoo and such. Hardly a reward. So I went to Best Buy, 'cause I've meaning to pick up a car adapter for my iPod since, oh, the day I got my iPod, which was Christmas a couple years ago. Yeah, I dawdle. I'm a dawdler. But I also didn't know which one to buy. I asked Dave, the King of All Technology, which one he uses.

"Mine's hardwired into my car audio," he said. Of course it is.

I wandered around where the iAccessories used to be and didn't find what I was looking for. A guy who didn't look like a Best Buy employee (no blue polo shirt; I mean, he was wearing a shirt, just not a blue polo shirt) asked if he could help me. I told him what I was looking for. He asked a guy in a blue polo shirt to help me. So I guess the first guy is the guy who susses out whether you need help, and then finds help for you if you do.

So Mr. Blue Polo Shirt Guy led me around the corner and handed me an adapter, saying, "This is the one you'll want." (Was he the son of Carnac? He didn't look like Johnny Carson.) It wasn't the most expensive adapter, nor was it the cheapest. It was $74.99. I asked about another one. He said it was wireless and therefore was more prone to static and interference. The one in my hand, he pointed out, plugged right into my cigarette lighter (and also charged my pod) and into the pod itself.

I thanked him for his help and looked at a few of the others. The one he'd handed me seemed to suit my needs, so I went with his recommendation. At the checkout, I swiped my debit card for $79 bucks and change. Tax. It's such a disappointment.

For what it's worth to this story, I need an FM transmitter for my car. I don't have a cassette player that will accommodate a cassette adapter because when I bought this car, I didn't bother to get a cassette player, thinking, "Cassette? I'll never use a cassette player." Because all my cassettes were stolen out of my last car. (Aside to thief: Seriously? You bashed out a window to steal cassette tapes? And left my cell phone and radar detector? You might want to bone up on your thieving skills.) And who uses cassettes anymore? Of course, when I was asking Dave for an adapter recommendation, he didn't hesitate to tell me that I should get one with the cassette feature. Sigh.

So I drove home and opened the package without the need for a blowtorch. This package, in fact, had perforated plastic for ease of access.

Finally! No more burning CDs for the car! Woo hoo! I grabbed my new gizmo and my pod and headed out to the car. I sat in the car, windows down. The instructions told me to search for an FM frequency that broadcast only static or, more preferably, silence. Hello? I live in one of the largest radio markets in the country. Almost every frequency is a station or has carryover from the frequency before or after it. Ah, but 87.9 seemed like it would work. Except that my device wouldn't let me go below 88.

Sigh again.

I came back into the house to see if I couldn't find some advice online. Surely someone had run into the same problem.

Sure enough. Some helpful soul named Josh mentioned switching the device to international mode (other countries broadcast over a wider range of frequencies, apparently). My instructions didn't mention switching to international mode, but holding down the Select button had worked for switching other settings, so I thought I've give it a whirl.

I found this information in a very helpful comment on the product's page on Where the price for my iTrip is $37.43. Yes, that's right: $37.43. As in less than half than what I had just paid at Best Buy.

Less. Than. Half.

And Amazon ships for free.

And the list price for the item at, provided so that we can see what a great deal we're getting? $69.99. Not $74.99 like I paid at Best Buy. Best Buy is charging five bucks more than the list price. Put another way, compared to, Best Buy is charging more than 100 percent more for the same exact item.

More than 100 percent more.

I get that Amazon can charge less for items because it doesn't have the overhead of retail stores, but come on. Charging more than the list price? What's up with that? Way to rip off your customers, Best Buy. Because the mark-up on retail goods isn't enormous enough?

I went back out to my car to try the 87.9 International setting. My neighbor saw me sitting in my car with the windows down and said, "Hi, Beth," in that tentative voice you reserve for approaching people who look like they're mentally unbalanced, the way Garth spoke to Russell at the end of Wayne's World: "Benjamin is nobody's friend. If Benjamin were an ice cream flavor, he'd be pralines and dick." (Let the record show that I typed that quote from memory, and just verified it at Woot! My brain is full of worthless movie trivia!)

"I just bought an iPod adapter for my car and I'm trying it out," I reported. "I bought it at Best Buy for about 80 bucks, and I just found it on for 37. This one's going back."

I repackaged the device. (I'm very good at repacking things. I once returned a set of sheets and the woman asked, "Was there a problem?" and I said, "Yep, the package says queen size but they're king size." "How do you know?" she asked. "Because I tried putting them on my bed and they're too big," I said. She looked at the package and said, "You got them back in here perfectly?" Yes, yes I did. I'm also very good at folding sheets. It's astonishing that I'm still single. I mean, I can fold fitted sheets, people!)

Anyway, I got everything back into the package just so, and headed back to Best Buy, prepared for a bit of a tussle with the customer-service person. I figured I'd be charged a restocking fee, and I wasn't about to give Best Buy money for ripping me off in the first place. Yes sirree, I was practicing my "I'll need to speak to your manager" delivery.

I was second in customer-service queue. When it was my turn, I approached the woman and said, "I need to return this, please."

She said, "OK. Is there a problem?"

And I said, "Yep. I just found this on for $37 and you charged me $74.99."

"OK," she said, and started punching things into the computer.

OK? That's it?

"I put it on my debit card ..." I said.

"You'll get the cash," she said. And counted out my money for me. "Would you like your receipts?"

"Yes, please," I said.

And off I went, with an extra $80 in cash in my wallet and a crumpled-up Best Buy bag in my hand (so I could put it in my recycle bin when I got home).

I'll be writing a letter to the CEO of Best Buy, so I just Googled "CEO + Best Buy" to find out his name.

His name is Brad. Bradbury H. Anderson. I clicked on an interview with him that ran in Fortune. The lede says, in part, that he "decided to overhaul the company's retail philosophy to focus on customers, not gadgets, a process called customer-centricity."

I admit that from a customer-service perspective, today's experience with Best Buy was lovely. I was girded for a confrontation that never came. I wonder if the customer-service girl processes a lot of returns when people find the product for less money elsewhere?

But I think my Best Buy days are numbered because now, every time I walk into a store, I'm going to assume I'll be paying too much.

At the very least, I'll check first.

Update (yes, already): OneEar posted a comment with this URL to this post before I was even done editing it. I just spent 20 minutes reading the linked post. It's very long, but there are many pictures – and videos, if you get that far – but it's the coolest damn idea and funny! "Thomas Crown Affair! Thomas Crown Affair!" cracked me up! Thanks, OneEar!

Update II: Oooh! Could this be what I'm looking for?! If any of you are techy types, let me know if you know anything about this product, eh? It seems like just what I'm looking for!

Update III: Woot! Dave has given the above-linked device his blessing. I just ordered it! Fingers crossed that all works out OK.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Seriously, Enough Already ...

Yeah, you're seeing the time stamp on this post correctly. No, my Blogger settings didn't somehow default to the time zone for Kazakhstan. It's 2:36 in the morning (as I write this sentence; it will be later when I finish this post) and I've just gotten caught up with the situation in my basement.

This morning, my favorite plumber, Chuck, showed up bright and early to rod out my sewer line. He asked if I've had any trouble for the past few days.


He scrunched up his face. It could have been the city's problem, he suggested. Maybe the city wasn't keeping up with the sewers and that's why I was having a problem. (It wouldn't be the first time.)

Yep, that's right: My plumber was trying to save me money, suggesting that the service he was there to perform might not really be necessary.

I know! It's craziness! An honest tradesperson? No offense to all the honest tradespersons out there, but you know how it is: You need your oil changed, and the next thing you know, the mechanic is telling you that you need a new transmission. Sadly, it's hard to find service people you can trust.

Which I why I love Chuck The Plumber.

I told him to go ahead and rod anyway, as long as he was here. I figure, I'd rather spend a couple hundred bucks on a service that might just be preventative maintenance than have to rip out all my carpet and drywall in the basement if, in fact, there really is a problem.

So Chuck did his thing, and I chatted with him while he rodded, and he did in fact get a decent pile of little tree roots out of the line. I'd rather have them outside of my sewer line than inside.

He went on his way, saying he'd have the office send me a bill.

It was sunny while he was here. And it was sunny for a good part of the day.

And then it wasn't.

Christ on toast, as Stacy would say, the rain hit with a vengeance. Then a second wave hit. And then, because I am extra lucky, a third wave hit my area. (Is still hitting, actually. How much rain can there be?)

I went downstairs from time to time to make sure everything was OK.

Yup. All good.

Still, I was hesitant to go to bed. The storms kept storming. (I turned on the 9 p.m. news on WGN, as a storm raged above my house, and Tom Skilling spent both of his weather segments talking about the weather from earlier in the day. Uh, hey, Tom. See those massive red splotches on your weather map? Let's talk about those, shall we?) I checked the radar on my computer. Rain, rain, and more rain.

Finally, about 12:30, I thought I'd head off to bed, but I made one last trip to the basement to quell my concerns.

Hmm. Yeah, I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure that water coming through the basement wall is a bad thing. I peered into the crawl space to see if that sump pit was OK. Um, nope. Water in the crawl space. And my main sump pit was going crazy.

Shit. Shit, shit.

So, I ran outside, got my garden hose unhooked, crammed it through the little basement window screen, went back in the house, hooked up the hose to my submersible pump and got that in the main sump pit. Ran back outside to find no water coming out the other end of the hose. Kink in the hose. Got it. Back inside. Another kink. Got it. Crawled in the crawl space. (Ew! There are, like, spiders in there. Funny how I get over my fear of spiders when I'm afraid my basement's about to flood.) Duck-walked over to the sump pit through the water. The floaty thing that's supposed to trip the sump pump on and off was stuck. Unstuck the floaty thing. Backed out of the crawl space. (Did I mention the entrance is kind of high, so I have to step on a chair then hoist myself through the opening to get into the crawl space, then reverse it to get out? It's very graceful.) Checked on the main sump pit. Now that I was pumping out the crawl-space sump pit, the main sump pit was having trouble keeping up with all the water. Oh, and the culprit behind the weeping wall? (Check me out, being all smart here:) Hydrostatic pressure. As in, too much of it. There's a low point between my house and garage and water pools there and when it's rained for, oh, a year and a half straight, the drain tile around my house can't keep up with all the water around the house, hence why it was coming through the wall. Path of least resistance, and all that. So, back outside, I grabbed my squeegee-water-pusher-thingee and started trying to shove water away from my house. And nature, being the helpful gal that she is, decided that that was the perfect time for another round of thunderstorms. So picture me, in the rain, squeegeeing, then periodically stopping to run in the house to check the sump pit, to plug in or unplug the submersible pump, check on the crawl-space, then run back outside, move more water, etc. For more than an hour.

Let me tell you, kids: big fun.

So now it's nearly 3 a.m. My crawl-space sump pit (which is almost directly below where I'm sitting at the moment) is still cycling on and off, catching up with all the water in the ground. I've obsessively checked every radar I can think of and it seems (knock wood) that the worst is over for the night, though there's still plenty of rain headed this way, just not massive crazy storms like earlier. (And as I wrote that, I heard thunder rumbling as if to say, "Not so fast, missy. I'll leave when I'm good and ready.")

So maybe I'll towel off (don't want to take a shower and add to the water in the system right now) and try to get a few hours of sleep, though I think I'll be half asleep the whole time, listening for sump pumps kicking on (a good sound right now) or not kicking on (which would be bad).

I love owning a home, but some days, I hate being a homeowner.

Still, I'm proud of myself for handling the situation and not freaking out (entirely) and beating on my neighbor's door at 1:30 in the morning. Because he couldn't do anything, really.

Unless he knows how to stop the rain.

Update: Stayed up until 5 a.m. (Hey! Local morning news starts at 4 a.m. now! Who knew?) Went to bed until 7 a.m. Crawl-space sump pump is still dealing with water, though it kicks on and off at a much greater interval now. More rain on the way, but I'm ahead of the curve now. All should be OK. And ... exhale.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hello, Nurse! ...

Doreen receives e-mails about advance ticket sales for the Chicago Theater.

Yesterday, she forwarded an e-mail about Benise with the cheeky note, "Do not know if you ever heard of this guy … but I know you like a man that looks like this (wink wink) and you may EVEN enjoy his music!!!"

Hello! My friend knows me well! I'm a sucker for musicians with long hair. Ooh, and hands. I've got a thing for strong hands. I could do without his collection of necklaces, but why quibble?

I called him up in iTunes. Turns out, I'm not into his flamenco-guitar sound (though Mom, I think you'd like his music; you can sample tunes on my computer if you'd like), but hubba hubba!

His name is Roni. Roni Benise. He'll be at the Chicago Theater on November 4th, if you're interested. Tickets range from $57.50 to $37.50.

Job-search Humor ...

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I posted my resume on all the usual job-search sites.

I've never bothered to remove it from said sites. If someone wants to contact me, that's fine, I figure.

So yesterday, contacted I was.

I just went to the company's web site to get a little more information. It's always good to know about other employment options. One never knows when one might need to search for a new gig.

This company's tag line is "Navigating the Chicago area high-tech job jungle." (Why yes, "Chicago area" should be hyphenated! I'm so glad you've caught my sickness!)

The site has a job-search feature in which you can plug in a specialty and salary requirements and then you get to click on a map of the Chicago area. (Right again! "Chicago area" doesn't take a hyphen in that sentence! Damn, you're getting good at this!)

If your search yields no results, this is what you see:

You gotta love a tech company with a sense of humor.

Calling All Arks ...

The rain. My God, the rain.

What the hell is with all the rain?

We've had entire days of rain. And yesterday, the sun came out, and – poof! – insta-sauna.

My plants are drowning. There's not time for them to dry out in between showers. Or thunderstorms. Or microbursts. Lightning striking trees and falling limbs taking out power lines. Sump pit issues. The plumber was here Monday and is supposed to come back tomorrow (we agreed it was silly for him to work in the rain since the problem wasn't dire and immediate), but ha ha! Joke's on him! It'll be raining again tomorrow morning!

I used to like thunderstorms. In the midst of all that power, I'd be safe and dry inside. But now that I'm a homeowner who's had near-misses with water in her furnished basement, storms just freak me out. The plumber is coming back – sometime – for a "better safe than sorry" service: my problem seems to have resolved itself, but we agree that it's worth him rodding out my sewer line just to be sure everything's clear. I'd rather spend $150 on preventative maintenance than have to throw out my furniture and rip out all my carpet and drywall in the basement if I got water.

Meanwhile, we're going to get socked again tonight. Look at what's coming our way:

Today on the news, the weather lady said that Chicago's August average for rainfall is like 4.5 inches, and as of this morning, the official accumulation at O'Hare was 6.3-something. And there's rain in the forecast between tonight and Saturday.

Today, while carrying my recycle bin back from the curb to my garage, I saw cicada carcasses on my driveway and wondered, "Why am I seeing you now?"

Unless they were locusts. In which case, we're all seriously screwed. Hey, I saw The Seventh Sign. I know what to look for! If you go out tomorrow, beware rivers turning to blood and birds falling from the sky, OK? Though, even if you saw them, there's not a damn thing you could do about it.

Only Demi Moore can replenish the Guff.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Not Enough ...

Have I mentioned how utterly sickened and disgusted I am that that book is going to be published after all? You know the one I mean. I won't include the title or the "author's" name because I don't want my blog showing up in any searches about it. Or him.

Today I read that Barnes & Noble won't be stocking it in the stores, but it will be available through special order and online. Borders will stock it but won't promote it.

Jesus, I'd hope not. I wish they wouldn't stock it at all.

This isn't censorship I'm talking about, it's decency. That man and his ghostwriter absolutely have every right to pen the "hypothetical" account. I was thrilled beyond thrilled when the project was killed last year because of public outrage.

But now, the book has been revived, with a small-time publisher bringing it to market.

What is that publisher thinking? That publishing this book will be good publicity? That it will put its little publishing house on the map? I wonder if anyone who works there has stopped to think that this might be the last book they every publish. If you were an author, would you want your book published by this house? I sure as hell wouldn't. I would instruct my agent to expressly not include that publisher when shopping around my manuscript.

But I'd have far more respect for a publisher for refusing to print those pages. Every publisher has the right to pass on this project. I wish they would.

Sadly, though, this book will see the light of day. I wish that the booksellers would refuse to carry it. I wish someone along the production line would take a stand and prevent anyone from making a dime off of such a heinous act. I don't care if some of the proceeds will go a foundation that helps families who have been affected by violent crime.

If there's any decency left in this country, this book will languish on shelves and there will be no money made.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Like Thyself ...

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, you can please some of the people all of the time and you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time.

As much as I'd like to think that I'm enough of a self-actualized human being that I can float through life unaffected by the opinions of others, I don't know how many of us mature past our grade-school insecurities. No matter how old you get, it sucks to get picked last for a team. Everyone wants to be wanted.

But part of being a grown up, besides having to pay for one's own home repairs, is coming to terms with the fundamental differences between people and grasping – perhaps weakly at first – that despite our best efforts and intentions, some people will stay steadfastly on the other side of the field, arms crossed tightly across their chests, a not-so-subtle sneer on their lips as they try to stare you down.

You can walk into a room of 100 people and win over 99 with your wit or charm or thoughtful gestures but you'll die trying when it comes to getting No. 100 to like you. It's just not going to happen.

And if you're like me, you can obsess about No. 100, trying to figure out all the Whys? and What Have I Dones? And you can try to tell yourself, time after time, that it doesn't matter.

But it matters.

It matters a lot.

Everyone likes to be liked.

But then comes the day when you get a glimpse into their view of you and you realize that they don't know the whole story. You realize that they're basing their opinion on half the truths.

Oh, the relief you feel. Finally, you have a chance to change their minds. All you have to do is supply the missing pieces and the picture puzzle will be complete. And then – finally – then they'll like you.

Except maybe they still won't. And you start to think that you don't owe them a full recounting of your life after all.

No, what you need to do is realize that it doesn't matter if No. 100 never comes around, because Nos. 1-99 love you.

And the No. 100 who matters is yourself.

I'm pretty sure I arrived at that place tonight and for that, I have my friend Linda to thank. She just sent the nicest note to me about my 3-Day letter, and ended it saying, "Please tell your parents that they raised a wonderful bitch who knows how to have fun and accomplish good at the same time. That ain't easy!"

In part, I replied, "It's been a week of emotional highs and lows, and I've found myself in a real struggle to remind myself that despite one person's opinion to the otherwise, I'm fundamentally a good person and most people like me."

As much as we'd like to be free of external validation, only the truly enlightened among us can live above it. I am surely not one of the truly enlightened.

But I'm a little more wise tonight than I was when I woke up this morning.

And I'm very fond of the description "wonderful bitch."

Friday, August 17, 2007

'The Wicker Man' ...

What kind of M. Night Shyamalan/David Lynch-wanna be piece of crap was that?! What was Nicolas Cage thinking? Was Ellen Burstyn channeling William Wallace? What did the beginning of the movie have to do with the end of the movie?

How did it earn a 15% on This film deserved a negative score. It was completely asinine. No, I never did see the 1970s British version. And I won't bother.

Yeeeesh. Horrendous waste of celluloid. Or pixels.

Kicking Bottled Water To The Curb ...

I think I started drinking bottled water in college. I'd buy a liter of Evian to drink with lunch. Yeah, the whole liter. Then I'd slosh around campus all afternoon.

When I lived in my apartments, I'd buy those refrigerator bottles of Ice Mountain with the built-in spiggot. I figured, the water in Chicago might be fine to drink, but who the hell knew if the pipes in my buildings were safe. In my head, they were massive tunnels of lead, leaching brain-scrambling doses of poison into every glass. No thanks.

And then the water-by-the-case craze hit and I was hooked. I'd go to the store and load up my cart with many cases of water. So handy! So healthy!

I'm proud to say that I recycle my water bottles. All of 'em. If I'm out and about in the car and I finish one, I toss it over my shoulder into the back seat. If I'm out to lunch or shopping, I carry my bottle with me until I get back to my car, then toss it over my shoulder into the back seat. When I get home, I clear out the back seat and dump my quarry into the recycle bin.

But somewhere along the line, I got to thinking: Why am I consuming all this packaging? It's good that I recycle, but wouldn't it be better if the bottles weren't manufactured in the first place? Damn tootin' it would be. So I bought a Brita pitcher for my house (still not trusting the pipes) and thought I'd rely on bottled water only for trips in the car.

I've read about the hazzards of reusing bottles over and over, that the plastic begins to break down and they harbor all kinds of bacteria. And then, a few weeks back, I saw gezellig girl's post about reading a New York Times' editorial and her subsequent purchase of brand-spankin'-new Nalgene bottle. I'd been thinking about buying a bottle for the car so I could cut out buying cases of bottled water altogether, so her post was exactly what I needed.

There's a nifty web site devoted to what we can do to reduce disposable water bottle waste. Because you and I might recycle all our bottles, but ours are part of only 23 percent that get recycled. And, like I was sayin', it's best to just not produce them in the first place. (I didn't buy the bottle that benefits Native Energy because I needed one that would fit in my car's cup holder.)

So I ordered Nalgene bottles, one for me, one for my mom, and one for my dad. And I love my new bottle. Though after I ordered them online, I found them at Jewel for less money. Go figure. Who knew anything at Jewel was less money than any other retailer on the planet?

I still have a couple of cases of bottled water left over from the 4th of July. I'll put them in the fridge eventually. They're handy to give to guests when they're gettin' back on the road. But me and my Nalgene bottle are now fast friends.

And it matches my eyes.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sssssssssssss ...

I just had a Whitesnake lyric running though my head: "Oh I don't know where I'm going, but I sure know where I've been." (I'd link to the band's official web site but it's just too ugly.)

I took Monday off to recuperate from the walk. I was up early - too damn early - and spent the day writing and editing the thank-you letter I sent to all of my contributors, then hobbling to the copy store, then hobbling to the post office, where I proceeded to stand at a counter and sign all the letters and fold all the letters and stuff all the letters into the envelopes I'd already addressed and then lick and seal all of the envelopes. Note to self: Next year, buy self-stick envelopes for that mailing.

I always buy the breast cancer stamps at the post office, and it dawned on me today that I now pay 55 cents per stamp. Good God, that just seems crazy. Fifty-five cents for a stamp? I clearly remember when stamps were 15 cents. And I am clearly officially old, because I am now saying things like, "I clearly remember when stamps were 15 cents."

So Monday, I tried to keep my leg elevated and tried to remember to ice it often and took a few Advil and didn't push nearly enough fluids. And when I'd flex my ankle, I could hear my muscles contracting. Or maybe I was hearing my tendons. I dunno. But you know something's seriously amiss when you can hear your musculature moving.

And then, for the rest of this week, I've been working and puttering and wishing I could sleep for about 16 hours straight to try and catch up from the weekend. That's the funny thing about the 3-Day: You're asking more of your body than you ever do, but you're getting less sleep than usual: Hey, body! How about I give you about four hours of sleep and then we walk 23 miles, 'kay?

Yup, I'm a loon.

And then last night, massive storms moved through the area and my power flickered a bit, and then it went out. So I laid on the couch, waiting for it to come back on. Because it always comes right back on. But 15 minutes later, bupkus. I tried calling the power company, and got a recording that they were experiencing an unusually high call volumn. OK, so they knew there was a problem because other people were calling to tell them there was a problem. But just to be sure, I felt my way downstairs (where I left my flashlight) to check the circuit-breaker panel to make sure I couldn't just flip the main power switch and put myself back in business. Nope. So I went to bed, figuring I'd wake up when my clock started flashing. Only it didn't. I woke up a few times and then again for good at 5:13 a.m. (I looked at my cell phone) to the sound of a chainsaw nearby.

Turns out, lightning hit a tree a couple doors down and a falling limb took out the power lines. Well, that's not good.

So I tried to think of things I could do that didn't require electricity. I made my bed. I emptied the dishwasher. I washed the few items that don't go in the dishwasher (like my knives and wooden utensils). I Swiffered the floor. When it was light enough, I read through Sunday's paper, which I hadn't gotten around to all week. I smooshed all the bottles in my recycle basket so they'd take up less space in my recycle bin outside. I continued reading J-D's novel and had a brilliant idea (which I couldn't e-mail to him).

Thinking back, I should have gone back to bed. Sleeping does not require any electricity.

The power came back on about 12 hours after it went out. To be safe, I'll pitch most of the contents of my fridge and freezer. Bummer. I just bought a half-gallon of orange juice.

So now the post-walk stupor is wearing off and I'm mostly mobile again and I should kick it back into gear next week.

I'm halfway through my Design Star blog assignment. In addition to posting each week right after an episode airs, I need to post once mid-week, too. I continue to amaze myself with my ability to craft an entire blog entry out of absolutely nothing.

Yessirree, that's the mark of a good writer: Writing even when you have nothing to say!

: o )

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Chicago 2007 3-Day, The Day After ...

Warning: What you are about to read is extremely long. And may require the use of a Kleenex.

For those of you who are readers and who contributed to the walk, printed copies of this just went in the mail, if you'd like to save your eyes and read it in letter form. It should be there in a day or two.

Everyone else, settle in. Maybe get a beverage first. And make sure all the crops are harvested. And that you've got plenty of firewood chopped and cured to get you through the winter.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Friends and family:

It all started on Thursday.

Anna, my coach, had asked me if I’d like to be part of opening ceremonies. So on Thursday, I headed to the site in Schiller Park for a run-through, like a wedding rehearsal. This year, a group of walkers and crew carried a series of vertical flags through the center of the walkers and up onto the stage, and survivors carried flags to a second stage surrounded by all of us. Each flag displayed a word, words that were part of the opening speech. We were allowed to choose our flags. In honor of my mom, I chose “Joy.”

Helene was the stage manager, calling all the shots, like the producer of a fashion show, directing other staff through their earpieces. René was like a wedding coordinator, standing at the beginning of the aisle, telling us when to walk. We ran through it once on our own, then again while Jenné, our host, rehearsed her speech and we timed the two events together. Each of us was to walk up the stairs to the stage as she spoke our word in the speech and stand on our marks.

As we were running through practice the second time, René passed me in the procession and I said, "I’m crying already."

And up on the stage, as we stood there while Jenné spoke (and her voice was cracking), I had tears streaming down my face.

I had thought about applying for the position Jenné held, being “the voice” of the 3-Day, traveling to all the cities to deliver the opening and closing speeches, and updating the walkers each night in camp, acting as the emcee for all the evening activities. But realistically, I would have had to take too much time off of work, and, even more realistically, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stand on that stage and not sob through half of what I was saying.

Apparently, my stiff upper lip is made of Jell-O.

After rehearsal, after meeting my first round of amazing people, I drove to Doreen’s to spend the night. (Thanks again, Doreen!) I carbed up on spring rolls and Pad Thai and started falling asleep as we were watching TV.

And as soon as the credits rolled on the second show, I was wide awake.

I figure I slept about four hours, on and off, between Thursday night and Friday morning. Four hours of sleep in preparation of walking 23 miles that day? Sure, that seemed about right.

Doreen had set her alarm for me – my 4:30 a.m. wake-up call. She got up, hugged me goodbye, and went back to bed. I got ready, repacked my gear, and headed down to the doorman to wait for a cab.

We got to the park in good time. I signed in and chatted with my fellow flag bearers from the day before and then realized I should try to find my friend Jen and coordinate where we’d meet, as I would be one of the first people onto the route.

Jen and I didn’t know each other two months ago. But Anna asked us if we’d host a walker workshop and we hit it off instantly. When you have the 3-Day in common, you already know a lot about each other.

I walked around to the front of the stage and sure enough, there she was, with her team, South Siders for a Cure. She was the captain of a team of 14, quite large by 3-Day standards. (Their team, as of last night, had raised more than $46,000, which is astonishing.) We made a plan to meet.

Back behind the stage, René got everyone organized and led us around to the entrance to the crowd. We proceeded to the stage. The flags were on PVC poles that had to be 15 feet tall. I held mine with both hands, as straight as possible against the wind, elbows out, arms parallel to the ground.

I had Kleenex peeking out of my waist pack for easy access. In Jenné’s speech, she said that instead of taking a moment of silence for all those we’ve lost, she wanted to give us a chance to mention who we were walking for. Names rang out from the crowd, as well as from the older man standing next to me, a member of the crew. I could hear the need in his voice: I handed him my other Kleenex. I said, simply, “Everyone.”

The survivors descended from their stage to begin the walk and we followed. The gentle music swelled and then, as is always the case on the 3-Day, switched to a rockin’ tune to get us going.

I began the 2007 Chicago 3-Day to the chorus of U2’s “Beautiful Day.”

I met Jen and her team just beyond the chutes on the other side of the forest preserve. There are bar codes on our credentials, and everyone gets scanned out onto the route and scanned back in at the end of each day.

A group of us arrived at the first pit stop together and Kelly, the team photographer, asked if she could take a picture of the laminated list pinned to the back of my shirt. On my 3-Day web page is an Honor Roll, a scroll of the names of people who have contributed as well as, if they choose, the name in whose honor or memory their contribution has been made. I wanted to carry those names with me.

The list on my shirt read:

“I’m walking ...

... in honor of Rita Serritella,

... and in honor of Esther Maravilla,

... and in honor of Aunt Sue, Aunt Bev,
and Grams,

... and in memory of Kathryn Mikolajczak,

... and in memory of Marion Watters,

... and in honor of Meg Guttman,

... and in memory of Stephanie Schultz,

... and in honor of Ester Geyman,

... and in memory of Carol Walano,

... and in honor of Mommie Tessie,

... and in honor of Sandy Johnson,

... and in memory of Mildred Grever.”

I lost the girls in the first pit stop, but that was fine. Everyone walks at their own pace on the 3-Day, and it takes a little while to figure out who’ll end up walking together, based on their respective paces. It’s also hard to find who you’re looking for in a crowd when almost everyone is wearing pink and white.

I met up with them again while we were all stopped at a railroad crossing. We broke into smaller groups, some moving ahead, some falling behind. You fall into a bit of a trance on the 3-Day. Not that you’re not aware of your surroundings or all the people around you (like the amazing guys who helped us cross at major intersections – imagine spending five hours standing in 90-degree August sun and humidity), but when you’re putting on that many miles, something in your body goes on autopilot. I was trekking along with Kelly and Tina at that point (I think; my memory ain’t what it used to be and Friday feels like a month ago already) when I was jolted out of my zone by someone saying, “Hey, bitch!” I turned and took a moment to register who said it, then realized it was Mike from last year’s walk! (He’s the one in the picture with me on my web page and is the one who made the contribution in honor of Aunt Sue, Aunt Bev, and Grams.) On the walk, he was our Pimp Daddy and we were his Bitches, a joke born of there being so many women on the event and very few men.

He had driven the route, looking for me, and saw me, I suppose, so he pulled off the road and stood by the route until I arrived. I was thrilled to see him and hugged him tight. Erin, who I also walked with last year, was on his phone. It meant so much to have him there. On the 3-Day, a little encouragement goes a long way.

I felt bad after lunch, as I did last year, too. I think our bodies get into such a processing rhythm with the steady influx of fluids and snacks that eating a full meal is a bit of a shock to the system. More than once on Friday, I wondered if I’d finish the day. I didn’t have issues with blisters, but I was nauseous and the heat was, well, hot. And annoyingly, I had pain in my neck and right between my shoulder blades. It took a while to figure out that my muscles were likely sore from the way I’d held my flag the day before and that morning. But I walked into camp, a total of 22.7 miles from opening ceremonies.

I did the camp things: set up my tent, ate dinner, waited for the shower, tried to sleep. Sleeping is a challenge on the 3-Day.

On the one hand, all your body wants to do is sleep, on the other hand, it’s hard to really rest lying on an air mat in the middle of a college campus. Near O’Hare airport. And if you’ve been drinking enough all day, you’ll need to go to the bathroom all night. Here’s a handy hint: Lying in your tent and telling yourself that you do not need to schlep over to a Port-A-Potty will not, in fact, help you go back to sleep. Your bladder will win that argument every time.

Saturday dawned early, and we met for breakfast and got on the route, though a little later than most. Camp closes at a certain hour, and if you’re not on the route, you get transported to lunch. We were out of camp in plenty of time to avoid that, but the route closes at a certain hour, too, and you have to allot enough time to complete the day’s miles.

So we walked and came upon a very large South Siders for a Cure sign. Kelly’s parents had come to a cheering station along the route. And, bless them, they brought a cooler full of ice. You become very grateful for little things on the 3-Day, like ice, breezes, and shade.

Cheering stations are one of the best things about the walk. Lots of people who live on the route come out to cheer or set up sprinklers for us, some bring ice or freeze pops, but the concentration of people at a cheering station provides a much-needed substantial dose of encouragement to carry on. One awesome guy was handing out Push-Ups. Do you know how many years it's been since I’ve had a Push-Up? I don’t either. I can’t remember that far back.

On the leg just before lunch, my left ankle started hurting. At that point, we were on our 35th mile of the event. I thought perhaps it was hurting because I’d twisted it a bit the day before the walk. But at lunch, Sheila mentioned the front of her legs hurt. Just like me. We had shin splints. Before we left lunch, I asked one of the medical crew what I could do to treat them, besides slicking on Bio-Freeze and stretching. “Ice,” she said. Right. Ice. That was my plan for the next pit stop.

Sheila and I tried to walk very deliberately, planting our heels and rolling through each stride to extend the muscles as fully as we could. It seemed to help, but by the next pit stop, she had to sweep (3-Day parlance for “grab a ride”) to camp. Day 2 is the biggest day for sweeping, either because people have developed too many blisters on Day 1 or because they want to conserve their energy for Day 3. Tina, Hong, and I, without icing, continued walking. We arrived at an intersection (with a tree, thankfully) and I sat down on the grass. I needed to rub on more Bio-Freeze. I’d walked through the pain of last year’s blisters, but this pain was almost more than I could bear. And I was pissed. I hate having to sweep. Still, when you’re in so much pain that you’re crying, it’s probably time to call it a day. The girls waited for my decision.

“I’m walking,” I said, standing up.

If ever there were any question about my sanity, now we know: I’m nuts.

We walked and came upon a crew member who was filling water bottles on the route. She told us we’d be at the next pit stop in 15 minutes.

It took us 30.

I sat on the grass with a bag of ice on my ankle. A medical crew person asked me what was wrong. Shin splint, I told her. (Not shin splints, mind you. Shin splint. Only my left leg hurt. Well, hurts. Still.) She asked what I was going to do.

“As Kramer on ‘Seinfeld’ would say, ‘I am no longer the master of my domain. I’m out.’ ” She laughed and said that she admired me for knowing when to say when. The captain of the pit stop announced that the pit stop was closing in two minutes and we had to get back on the route or sweep to camp. I stood up to find Tina and Hong. They looked at me. I looked at them.

And I stepped onto the sidewalk, officially back on the route. Like I said to Erin and Shelly last year, “I can’t sweep from a stop. I have to at least be trying.”

As we walked on, Tina had the brilliant idea of sweeping to the next pit stop. At the pace we were walking, we would probably get to the next stop just as it was closing and would once again have no time to ice. But if we swept there, we could ice for at least 15 minutes and then attempt the last leg of the day. We flagged down a sweep van and the crew member told us they’d have to take us back to the previous stop to put us on the bus back to camp. What? That’s not the rule. If you sweep, you always sweep forward. Like, you know, sweeping.

We told them we’d keep walking. We stopped on a lawn to do what we could for our respective pains. When we resumed, we were the last three on the route. A crew member rides on a bike behind the last walker, and she pedaled up behind us, asking if we were OK. We told her Tina’s plan and that the sweep crew wouldn’t take us to the next pit stop. She said, “Well, they shouldn’t have told you that. If you want to go to the next pit stop, you’re going to the next pit stop,” and she got on her radio and called for a sweep van.

All the sweep vans have different themes. The one we boarded was Western with a big stuffed pony strapped to the roof. I think I want to put a horse on my car. It just seems like driving would be more fun that way.

Sweep crews aren’t just drivers, they’re also counselors and cheerleaders, because most people who get in those vans do so after a long internal struggle and most are disappointed in themselves.

So our cowboy and cowgirl dropped us at the last pit stop of the day, we iced, and we got back on the route. We had just under an hour to walk 2.7 miles. A 20-minute mile is entirely reasonable, but when every step hurts, it’s hard to kick it up to that pace. I found myself pulling ahead of Tina and Hong. I wouldn’t have left just one of them behind, but they had each other, so I walked as fast as my ankle would allow. At that point, I was essentially trying to ignore the pain (which had been dulled by the ice). After all I’d gone through on Day 2, there was no way I was going to get swept on the last leg to camp.

Along the last stretch of the route, I saw a couple who’d created a mobile cheering station for the weekend, moving from spot to spot along the route. They had ice and candy for us, and tunes blaring from their Jeep. (I heard a lot of Beatles on this walk.) I shook the guy’s hand and thanked him for everything they were doing. Little things really do mean a lot.

Which is one of the key things you take away from the 3-Day, the realization that it’s so, so simple to affect someone’s life in a profound way.

For the very last stretch of the day, the Des Plaines police had closed off half of the road for us, so we had a wide berth to walk back into camp. The Western sweep van was on the other side, driving toward me. The driver honked and gave me a big thumbs up from his window.

As I approached the campus, the sign said it was 6:55 p.m. The route was scheduled to close at 7.

I turned onto the campus toward the end of the route. Walkers and crew line up to cheer as walkers finish the day. One guy said, “Look at that pace!” I said, “My ankle is killing me!” But I hadn’t thought that there was any way I was going to be able to finish Day 2, and then there I was, scanned back into camp. Minus the distance we swept, I’d put a total of 44 miles behind me. The cowboy from the sweep van appeared next to me, touched my arm, and said, “Good job. I was so glad to see you at the end of the route.”

While we were eating dinner, the last walker arrived. The arrival of the last walker is a very big deal. Everyone got on their feet and cheered, clapping in unison – clap, clap, clap, clap! – as she walked through the tent with the crew, including the same woman who was there for us when we were the last on the route. The last walker of the day raises the camp’s 3-Day flag, signifying that we’re all home.

After dinner, we saw the finals of the 3-Day version of “American Idol.” Singers “auditioned” the night before (I was in the shower at the time) and now the three finalists were performing and a winner would be chosen by applause. A guy (remember, there aren’t many men on the 3-Day) sang “I’m Too Sexy” and did a great job vamping around the stage. The next tune was “I Hope You Dance.” And then one of the crew, an older guy, sang “Unchained Melody” and blew the roof off the place. Almost everyone was on their feet cheering for him as he sang. I’m pretty sure The Everly Brothers [Ed. note: As a commenter pointed out, I mean The Righteous Brothers. D'oh!] were triplets and this guy was just separated at birth. He was amazing.

Speaking of music, rumor had it that Tricia Yearwood was doing the walk with us, but I never saw her.

Kelly, who had swept from lunch to camp, was feeling the familiar walkers’ guilt and became my gofer that evening, bringing me more Bio-Freeze and filling my water bottle and getting a new pole for my tent. I was grateful for her help, as walking was about the last thing my body was going to tolerate.

I did sleep a bit that night, though. I know this because I remember that I was dreaming when I was awoken by the wind whipping against my tent. And then it started raining. And thundering. And lightning. And then the skies opened up. And in the middle of it all, crew members were walking through camp yelling, “We need you to get out of your tents as soon as possible!”

They’ll let you stay in your tents in the rain, but not in a thunderstorm. So at 3 a.m., 2,000 walkers made their way across camp to one of the buildings on campus. Some of us had grabbed our gear, others had nothing. We were like refugees, sitting in hallways and on stairs and in the gym. My adopted team, not surprisingly, found tables in the lounge. By the vending machines. When life hands you lemons, buy yourself a cup of coffee.

The rain didn’t last long, but they held us to see if the storm was passing. We were cleared to go back to our tents about 4:15. But most tents were wet inside. Some tents had blown into the campus lake. There was nothing to do at that hour but strike our tents, pack our gear, have breakfast, and get on the route.

The route opens at 6:30. Day 3’s mileage is usually around 14 miles. This year’s Day 3 mileage was 18.7 because the route had to be reconfigured earlier in the week due to rain that had flooded some areas. Asking walkers to put in 19 miles in Day 3 is extraordinary, so we were given the option of taking coaches to the first pit stop, to lop three miles off the day’s total.

Most of our team planned to get on the bus. While we were waiting for the next coach, I saw the Western van. I approached the window and said, “I just wanted to say thanks. I couldn’t have finished yesterday without you.”

So we started the day from the first pit stop. After pushing to finish Day 2, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to walk on Day 3. And sure enough, it was hard. It hurt. But I had to do at least part of the day. I made it to the second pit stop and iced. Gayle and Karen, two other adopted members of the team, were with me. I made it to the third pit stop. And I made it to lunch. After lunch, there were 10 miles to the lakefront.

One of the crew came around to let us know that the sweep vans were very busy on the first part of the route, so sweeping from lunch on wasn’t really an option. We could catch a coach from lunch or catch them from pit stops, but we’d be on our own on the route. The next pit stop was 3.3 miles away.

Reluctantly, I got on the coach. I wasn’t sure if I could make it 3.3 miles, let alone 10.

We were dropped off in advance of the end of the route so we were able to walk through and “finish” the walk, but it felt anticlimactic. Getting off a coach and walking a couple hundred yards doesn’t provide the same sense of accomplishment as actually completing the route.

My parents were there. Mom hugged me and started crying.

I guess I know where I get that trait from.

They went on their way and I walked through the holding area, scanning back in, getting more Gatorade (turns out, I can actually stomach the strawberry flavor if it’s really cold), and meeting up with other team members. And then I went back to the route to cheer.

My voice is shot today. (Go ahead, ask me to sing a high note. My voice’ll crack like Peter Brady’s.) But cheering for the others was the perfect antidote to the disappointment I was feeling in not completing the day’s mileage. One woman walked toward us alone, trying hard not to cry. “Do you need a hug?” I asked, and hugged her tight, as did the other girls from the team who were with me. The walk is such an emotional experience. You need to share it with someone.

And when the bulk of our team arrived, we walked the last steps with them. And *then* it felt like we’d finished the event. In the end, I walked just over 50 miles, most of those in the first two days.

In the holding area, I saw René and hugged him. It felt like way more than two days since I’d seen him at opening ceremonies. “In case I don’t see you later,” I said, “I wanted to thank you for everything.” I felt like I’d known him forever.

We lined up for our victory march. The crew lined the route to cheer the walkers. Once the walkers were in place, surrounded by our friends and family, we turned to cheer the crew as they filled the space in front of the walkers. And then the survivors walked into the center, surrounded by all of us.

We look forward to the day when there will be no need to find a cure. We look forward to the day that the cure is found. But until then, we will be there, walking, surrounding each other.

My deepest love and appreciation to all of you for your generous contributions and support. I truly couldn’t have done this without you.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

126,720 ...

I'm not much for math. I believe there are number people and there are word people. I am a number person, but I can handle simple calculations.

For instance, I just calculated my stride. By measuring out 50 feet (or the span from my dining room wall to the entrance of my living room and back again) and counting how many steps it takes to walk those 50 feet (20 steps for me), I now know that my casual stride is 2.5 feet. Dividing 5,280 (the number of feet in a mile) by my stride (2.5) I now know that I walk 2,112 steps per mile. (Hey, like that Rush album I never owned!)

Which means that for the 3-Day, if I do every mile, I'll walk 126,720 steps. Add in all the extra steps at pit stops and camp (camp is big) and I can probably tack on another mile or two, but we'll just count the actual route. And we'll round up.

127,000 steps.

Doctors prescribe that people should walk 10,000 steps per day. That's four miles for me. I put in an hour on the treadmill most days, and that's three miles, and with other walking, I probably get close to four miles a day.

By that math, I'll do 12.7 days of walking in three days.

The map has been released for all three days, but the wily 3-Day people wisely don't spell out the exact mileage for each day. No, you find that out each day as you hit the route. As they check us out (our credentials have bar codes on them, and we get scanned when we leave and scanned when we return), we're handed a route card for the day which handily slips into our credential holder and spells out the day's route in terms of the number of miles to the pit stops (lovely walking oases where you can use a Port-A-Potty, grab a snack [after using a Wash-n-Dri after using the Port-A-Potty], refill your water bottle with a lovely assortment of sports drinks or water, and sit a spell, snacking and stretching) or grab-and-gos (where you use a Potty, refill your water, and go).

This is me and Catherine at a pit stop during the 2005 event. (No, there aren't photo ops at every stop!)

Last year, there was a bit of a kerfuffle about the actual day's mileage. The route card said 23 miles but people with pedometers said it was 25. And lemme tell you, when you're walking close to a marathon a day on Days 1 and 2, a mile or two makes a huge difference. Knowing camp is a mile away is much different than knowing camp is three miles away.

I'm almost ready. I have a ton of stuff piled on the floor in my living room and I ran errands this afternoon to pick up my last-minute needs. I need to do a load of laundry, and then I need to cram everything into my wheelie duffel. I'm rather astonished at how much I can pack into such a relatively small piece of luggage: sleeping bag, sleeping mat, extra pair of shoes, shower shoes, clothes, clothes to sleep in, toiletries, towel, tarps for the tent, six pairs of socks (amazing socks - amazingly expensive socks; it feels a bit insane to spend $13 a pair on socks, but if they prevent a blister nightmare like last year, they'll be money well spent).

Tomorrow is the dry run of Opening Ceremonies (though considering it will be in the 90s and humid tomorrow, the dry run will be anything but dry), and then Friday morning, I need to arrive early for Opening Ceremonies, which will kick off at 6:30.

Right now, the forecast is for no rain (that's a good thing) and temperatures for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, respectively, are slated for 82, 90, and 94 with mostly sunny to sunny skies. This is not so good. But thankfully, Sunday is the shortest day, typically clocking in at a "mere" 14-15 miles.

I'd really like to pass $3,000 in contributions before I take my first step on Friday morning (it's just a few hundred bucks away), so if you're a friend who's been meaning to contribute, now would be an excellent time to cross that to-do off your list. And if you're a reader who's happened upon my blog and you've been reading my 3-Day accounts and thinking, "Damn, I should support this girl," well, you're welcome to visit my web page, too.

This ends my broadcast day, kids. I'll be back with a post on Monday.

After I've slept in.

In my oh-so-comfy bed.

As late as I possibly can.

Think cool thoughts for me.

Love and thanks,


And this, from left to right, is Shelly, Erin, and Mike from last year's event. This is the full version of the picture that's on my contribution page, but I had to lop off the girls to get the photo down to the right size to upload. These three people are the reason I completed last year's event. They kept me going. Hi, Pimp Daddy! (We were his Bitches.)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Other Posts ...

On Sunday nights, I write blog entries for HGTV's Design Star. It's not the official blog, unfortunately, because that one gets a lot of traffic. Frankly, I'm not sure why the one I write exists. But I have fun writing the entries and I'm getting paid, so [shrug] meh.

I don't post until Monday mornings, lest I spoil the episode for viewers on the west coast, but writing those posts after watching the show in real time kind of takes all my late-weekend blogging energy, and I'm left with no reserves for this space.

(If you're wondering if HGTV sends out screeners of the show, I can say, "Why, yes they do!" With the last few minutes lopped off, so if I watch the screener, I have no idea whose show is canceled that week. "Kinda defeats the purpose of a screener," you say? I couldn't agree more. So I have to watch the show in real time just like the rest of the world.)

I'm expected to write two posts a week, one about the Sunday-night episode and another one, based on comments (ha!) or something HGTV sends out in a press release.

This week, I've gotten no comments (like I said, I don't think anybody is reading this thing; I've gotten a few comments on past posts, but nothing like the volume of the official blog) and I've received no press release. So what's a girl to do?

I'm proud to say I whipped up what I think is a rather top-notch post, which will go live tomorrow, just to space things out a little. Don't want to exhaust all those people who aren't reading, after all!

I'll post a direct link to it when it goes live, or you can click here and read "Robb Story" when it's up.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

'Hairspray' ...

Wow. The original Hairspray is almost 20 years old. I don't remember when I saw it, but it can't be 20 years ago. Or can it? My 20th high school reunion is in October. Where the hell does the time go?

I saw Oprah raving about this version of the movie a couple months ago. She had the cast on her show before the summer hiatus and then reran the episode recently. So much has been made of John Travolta taking over the Divine role and so much has been made of cute little Nikki Blonsky's rise from Cold Stone Creamery dessert jockey to movie star that I found it a bit difficult to just watch the movie.

I was too busy watching John in drag and watching Nikki light up the screen.

It's an absolutely delightful movie, full of genuinely funny moments, but me, being me, I spent a good part of the movie wiping away tears. Not tears of laughter and not tears of sorrow but tears of gladness: I am genuinely thrilled for Nikki. What a dream come true. Can you imagine landing your first movie role, starring opposite John Travolta, Christopher Walken, and Michelle Pfeiffer? Not that Queen Latifah is chopped liver, but I get the sense that she's still pretty thrilled to be a new-ish member of this club, too.

Travolta's Edna is so much softer than Divine's ever was. She's adorable. You can't help but love her. Though it felt odd that for all the hours of makeup he sat through every day to morph into Edna's body that they didn't alter his masculine hands and forearms (see the picture below). Edna is a laundress, but her hands wouldn't look that bad. Maybe the filmmakers just wanted to keep us mindful of the fact that it's really a man in that body. But it's hard not to look at Edna's face and see John Travolta staring back at you.

John Watters, Ricki Lake, and Jerry Stiller all appear in this remake, in subtle ways. Well, Stiller's not subtle, but then, he never is. And Watters isn't subtle, but he doesn't have a lot of screen time. It's more of a Hitchcockian cameo. If Hitchcock was a flasher. But Ricki Lake's role is absolutely subtle. She's changed a lot from her turn as Tracy Turnblad.

Amanda Bynes is cute as always, and Christopher Walken could sit on a park bench and mutter to himself and I'd watch him. It's cute to see him having so much fun in a role, and the man should sing and dance more often. Hairspray is about as far as you can get from The Deer Hunter. And I didn't even know that Allison Janney has a part.

Oh, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Skinny gorgeous bitch. But I mean that in a good way. : o )

Not surprisingly, most of the audience today was women. There's not a lot of crossover audience for this and something like Live Free or Die Hard.

But it's absolutely worth your time. The phrase "feel-good movie of the year" was invented just so it could someday describe this film.


Play With Your Food ...

This story rocks.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Blue ...

At this time next week, I'll be done with Day 1 of the 3-Day.

But that's not why I'm sad.

Maybe "sad" isn't the right word. Maybe the right word is "bummed." Or "disappointed." Or maybe "doleful." "Doleful" is underused.

This year, I set a fundraising goal of $5,000. I'm halfway there. Of course, there's always more I could do to raise more money.

Mind you, I've passed the minimum required to participate in the event, and that's great. I'm really grateful to all my contributors, as I am every year, for their generosity.

We have a deal, me and them: I walk 60 miles to raise money and awareness, they write a check. Or clickity-click a few buttons online.

And I'm always very aware that not everyone is able to contribute and that's totally fine. We've all been there.

But I'm bummed that friends who have told me they'll contribute, some of whom who have told me for years that they'll contribute, haven't gotten around to it.

"Remind me!" some say. So I remind them. I understand. You mean to do something and then your attention gets diverted and e-mails get buried. I get that. But after several reminders, you realize that there's a fine line between reminding and nagging. After several gently prodding e-mails and phone calls, well, either they're going to do it or they're not. I'm not going to say, "If you don't contribute to this walk, I'll kill this dog."

And while I like to see progress on my fundraising thermometer, it isn't just about the money. And even though I try not to take it personally, it's hard not to feel a little let down.

I've prepared to walk 60 miles in the August heat for a cause I hold very near and dear to my heart. And I know that not everyone takes this as seriously as I do. This will be my fourth event. That means, by the time next Sunday evening rolls around, I will have walked nearly 240 miles.

That's like walking from Chicago to Detroit in 12 eight-hour days.

But I've gotten amazingly generous and unexpected contributions from people I don't even know very well, so my brain is trying to process why people who love me can't find two minutes in their lives to follow through on a promise they've made time and again.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Honored ...

I have a 3-Day "coach." Given that this is my fourth 3-Day, I don't really need anyone to walk me through the process, but every walker is assigned a coach and Anna is mine. We met last year when I went to a 3-Day workshop as her assistant of sorts. She likes to have a veteran at workshops who can answer questions for first-time walkers.

At Anna's request last year, I hosted an informal workshop for walkers in my area. And again this year, a tag-team session with my new walker pal Jen.

This morning, Anna wrote to me: "I wanted to see if you might be interested in participating in the Opening Ceremonies."

Being me, I got a little misty. Opening Ceremonies are both really moving and really motivating. You need to psych yourself up to walk 60 miles and part of that preparation is reminding yourself why you've made the commitment in the first place. In the past, a small group of survivors have held hands, forming a circle, symbolically holding the memories of all those who have been lost to breast cancer. It is a somber and beautiful moment.

But the underlying emotion of every event is hope. Opening Ceremonies are purposely timed to coincide with the sunrise.

Earlier this year, I contemplated applying for the spokesperson position, the woman who travels to all the events and gives the opening and closing speeches as well as who updates all the walkers on the day's events and media coverage each night at dinner. My media background and public-speaking experience would have come in handy, but realistically, I couldn't take that much time off of work. So, reluctantly, I dropped the idea.

Today's e-mail from Anna touched me greatly. I'm truly honored to be asked to be part of the 3-Day in yet another way.

I told Doreen about Anna's request.

She very wisely asked, "Do you have waterproof mascara?"

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

'300' ...

I meant to see this movie in the theater. Clearly this is a movie that was meant to be seen on the big screen. But, as with so many movies, I didn't get around to it.

But even though I didn't see it when it was in release, I bought the DVD, knowing it's a movie I want in my collection.

And not just for the unfathomably hot Gerard Butler - good God, the abs on that man - but for the style of the film. It's a visual feast. As I'm watching it, I'm realizing that a new job title was created in Hollywood for this film: CGI blood-spatter inserter.

Whew, the fight scenes! Outstanding. I'm not squeamish anyway, but these battles are so hyperstylized, the violence doesn't bother me. I found myself often saying, "Yeah!" when the Spartans got especially creative with their slaughter.

Butler was perfectly cast as King Leonidas. I can't imagine anyone else in the role. He totally owned this performance. Contrast that with the softie he played in Dear Frankie. And hey, I just noticed on IMDb that we share the same birthday. Same day. Same year.

And Xerxes, so pierced and otherwise ornamented, looked familiar. Holy crap, it's Rodrigo Santoro a k a Karl from Love Actually.

I've seen a couple of reviews, balking at the storyline. Storyline, schmoryline, this film isn't so much about the story as about the experience. There's a lot of Gladiator in this movie, but I liked Gladiator a lot, too.

And Braveheart. And Rob Roy. And not just for Liam Neeson in a kilt. I like epic movies with massive battle scenes.

Then again, I like fluffy chick flicks, too.

I'm a cinenigma!