Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Georgette, Jane, and me

I'm thrilled to point you to the Dear Author site today and more specifically, to this: A guest review of Georgette Heyer's COTILLION by me!

Thanks for posting it, Jane, and have a great time in San Francisco at the Romance Writers of America's National meeting.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

I'll never pay a dollar a gallon for gas... (alas!) again

It's July 1979. America is knee-deep in an energy crisis and the Sisk family is over 700 miles from home in Georgia and about to move back after a three year sojourn there. Things have gotten to the point that the ugly word 'rationing' has reared its head, and some states, such as Texas, have implemented even/odd gas-buying days dictated by your license plate. The exception is for out-of-state cars and since we will be traveling across four states in just such vehicles, we have a tiny bit of relief in the surety of being able to get in line to fill up.

We are an unsightly 10-year-old Ford pick-up, a 3 year-old Chevy Nova, two cocker spaniels, a toddler, a newborn, and a 16-year-old sister-in-law not sure how she got roped into this "family aid" business. Then there's us, the two who've done all the worrying and packing and planning. I'm the one in the Nova, hunkered down in the passenger seat breast-feeding the newborn while his brother alternates with the dogs between the pick-up and us. The closer the sister-in-law gets to home and the boyfriend, the faster she drives.

I don't remember where we spent the night, but we would have had to do so for our sanity. We pulled toward home for two reasons: we could walk to the grocery if need be and the furniture just might beat us there. (It didn't.) We calculated gas and reserves and talked on the CB between the two vehicles.

We pulled across the border into Texas and saw the price of gas was 99 cents/gallon. Not on your life, we said. We'll never pay that! It'll be cheaper somewhere else, but we think we can get home anyway.

And we did. Pulled in on fumes.

Things evened out. The price went down. The rationing went away. Eventually the speed limit would go back up to 70 mph. It was a harrowing ride home and I remember only fear, mixed with gratitude that we could get home at all. But the one thing I would like to see again? Ninety-nine cent gas. Because I truly will never pay a dollar a gallon for gas.


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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Taking a cue from the granddaughter

With the joys of a grandchild have come the equal joys of seeing the amazing array of new gadgets and conveniences. Not only will this child never know what a real diaper feels like, she'll never bump her head on the brick fireplace because there are now fireplace bumpers!

However, I haven't really seen how I could personally use any of Emily's doo-dads until last weekend.

Desiring breakfast and a break from the interstate, we stopped at a fast food place. The service was what one would expect at 9:30 on Sunday morning, a bit sluggish. The tabletop clean-up service wasn't even at that level. We found one clean enough for a quick bite and at that moment I realized what I needed to pack: Emily's disposable placemats! Her mom just whips one out at a restaurant and it sticks to the table. Meal over, placemat is disposed of.

Hey, Emily... MoKa needs to look in your diaper bag and grab a little something!

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

The envelope, please

Having spent the last seven nights in four different hotels, I'm ready to share a few conclusions about staying in rented beds. While the room rate did not differ by $20, the amenities and extra charges rose exponentially with the "classiness" of the property. Class does not automatically equate with an enjoyable stay.

Used to be you were slumming to stay at a Motel 6 (or one of its ilk) when you were used to say, Hilton. Now Hilton has a whole range of properties and quite frankly, given the choice, I'll hop into a Hampton or Homewood Suites (my fav on this trip) before a full-blown Hilton any day. And why? Oh, free breakfast. Free wifi. Free parking.

Because the class joint we're staying in this time, a Westin to set the record straight, has none of the above. A great room rate, a quiet room, a choice (and expensive--$20 for some movies!) of movies, a wonderful work-out facility. What this class place doesn't have: free breakfast. Wifi in the rooms. (I'm not the only renegade in the lobby where there is free wifi and yes, if wifi were in the rooms, I'd pay for it.) There is free parking if you're willing to go underground into the bowels of the shopping complex next door--or pay $25/day valet. Just put it on the bill.

At one of the Hamptons we stayed at this time out, we had satellite TV. SATELLITE! In HD, even. (No wifi in the rooms however, the first time I've even encountered either experience in a Hampton.) With the satellite, there were no movies to rent. Just as well, as we had a hard enough time figuring out the two remote controls. If we had put choices into the mix, we'd have really been confused.

But I had forgotten to bring along an envelope to put our receipts in. No problem. I'd just scour the desk for one. Really? When was the last time you found stationery or postcards in the room? Nobody writes any more, other than the little pad by the telephone. At least there were pens. A trip to the front desk secured an envelope, but even it wasn't marked with the hotel's address.

Conclusion? Whereas the desk clerk at a cheaper hotel (all things being relative) used to dread to see a guest come in used to the classiness of a top property (what bellman? what valet?--and don't even think about thick towels), now I think the tide has turned. It's the guys at the classy properties who should grimace when I have to slum and stay where the towels are thick, the bellmen plentiful, and the concierge helpful.

Where's my breakfast?

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The old fogey strikes again

Heedless of my previous traveler's check misadventures, I've proceeded apace. Without a doubt, I tempted fate by giving one at a Mexican restaurant to a cashier barely out of her teens. She was wide-eyed and whirled around to the office to ask about it. Being told that it was okay if the signatures matched, she took the check before I signed it and looked for said sigs. I explained the finer points, signed, and got my change.

Then I thought I had it made today: the cashier at an old-fashioned family-style buffet restaurant was of an age to know all about traveler's checks. Then, in fashion true to my luck, she called for a sub just as it was my turn to pay. The sub was not out of her teens and I knew I would be educating yet one more member of the populace. Sure enough, after being granted permission to take it, she looked at me and said: "What do I do with it?"

"It's like a fifty dollar bill."

"Oh!" Her face brightened and I got my change.

I'm beginning to think I should have called this blog The Old Fogey or Fuddy-Duddy: My Life and Times.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Kay, the anachronism, strikes again

Growing up, when Mother and Daddy took a trip the first thing they did to protect their funds was to buy traveler's checks. I remember in college traveling to Mexico and getting twenty dollar checks to convert. Even when we went to Australia in 2005, we took them to convert at the exchange offices. We took what was left (yes, we had some left) when we went last February, but we didn't cash a one.

It seemed the time to put them to use and, although the denomination is higher than twenty, I didn't think it would be a problem.

Enter lunch at Neiman's. The bill was nearly $30 (no complaints, it was very good!) and I asked, as a courtesy, if a traveler's check was okay. Bless her heart, the young waitress, competent in every other respect, didn't know what to do. She had to go ask. My spouse watched the action at the front desk. A conference. A phone call. Another phone call. More conferencing. Finally it was okay to sign the check.

A few take home lessons here: One, we're cashing them in tourist areas where they won't think it strange and two, we're cashing them NOW, before the little darlin's go the way of three dollar gas.


Friday, July 11, 2008

All trapped out

Since the triumph of last Sunday morning, I have been on a trapping low. I've set my trap amidst the pear trees three nights. I've baited it with fruit and veggies (health food for the incarcerated) and waited. Nothing. Not even a heavy breeze to close the gate. Each morning I've found the goodies where I left them, the door up, and the trap empty.

So, who's eating my pears? They still litter the ground in half-eaten state.

Just to make sure this was not a figment of my imagination, I raked all the pears together yesterday morning and carried them to the compost pile. By early evening, there were more on the ground, some whole (they just fell off?) and some with heavy evidence of mealtime. Ah ha! Since pears don't practice cannibalism, someone was in those trees. But who? Raccoons don't appear in the daytime. Squirrels? Awfully big bites for squirrels.

Therefore, I set the trap again last night and... no takers.

I may have to close up shop and harvest before I want to in order to get any pears at all.

Outwitted. Again.

Don't tell my cats.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008


Undeterred from my previous night's experience, I set the trap with grapes and banana. Surely no cat would wander into that ploy. So what should I find yesterday morning than--ta da!--a raccoon. A full-grown raccoon. Where did he/she come from? Perhaps it was my targets' parent. A sojourn to the countryside was in order and accomplished.

So... last night, I tried lettuce and tomato and the results are below with outside cat Sammy getting his curiosity satisfied.

Only problem? These are too small to be the little rascals I spied in my pears. But still, a trip to the countryside was in order, where they could meet up with their relative already there.

I continue.

But, let's face it--two at once! WHOA!!!!!!!


Friday, July 04, 2008


They're darlin', just darlin', as my aunt would have said. So cute, so innocent, as they waddle out of my neighbor's yard, through my caladiums, and into my pear tree.

That's right. It's summer, the pears are far from ripe, and the juvenile raccoons have shown up.

In the twenty years we've had these two pear trees, we have never, never, never! had a pear! Each year, as the crop ripens, we anticipate the bounty, only to come out one morning and find them all gone, the trees stripped.

We had the culprits narrowed down to squirrels or raccoons, but before this year, have never actually seen them at work. Of course, these two relative babies are but the latest in a very long raccoon line to find us. This problem is generational. But now that I know about it, I'm going to try and fix it.

Two nights ago, as I sat on my patio, movement across the yard caught my eye. A young raccoon walked out from the caladium row, grabbed a pear on the ground and sauntered back. I went to check on him, only to find there were two of them, the ground was littered with pears sans one bite (they are, after all, not ripe yet), and to see two little ring-tails scoot under the fence into the wooded area next door.

Last night, I set the trap with, alas, cat food. I should know better, because Sammy, our outdoor cat, immediately became enamored of it. So enamored that two hours later, I'd caught him in the trap. Giving new meaning to catch and release, I turned him out, hoping he had learned his lesson. An hour later, I'd caught the neighborhood homeless tom.

Now, I'd really like to do something about this fellow and his ever-expanding gene pool. But the vet is closed today, maybe Saturday, too--I don't know--and so, because I wasn't going to keep him trapped for days, he got a reprieve. Unfortunately, he's probably learned his lesson as Sammy has and I'll never get him again.

At that point, I kicked the trap closed and gave up on the raccoons babies for the night.

I will persevere, however, and find a less cat-friendly bait for tonight. Because the odd thing is, I've actually had a friend tell me he wants these raccoons for his country home. They have a place to go! Now if they'd just get in the trap, I'd take them there.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Spammed out 2

When June began, I had been inundated with spam from drug purveyors to the tune of 30 a day. It was all I needed to start a count.

Immediately after I did, the spam slowed to a trickle, only to reassert itself the last day of June with 22, all purportedly from Phizer and Lilly. Then today, nothing again. What is it with the end of the month? Are our supplies of male-enhancement drugs down to zero and we need to order posthaste?

Whatever. I'm finished counting, although it has proved to be an interesting and worthwhile exercise. Now I know I'm not a plagued as I thought I was, but when it's bad, it's very bad indeed!