Monday, February 27, 2006

I'm official!

Today I officially became a North Carolina resident! I got my driver's license, registered to vote, and got my license plate. I had been putting this off for months; you're supposed to do it within 60 days but I became excellent at hemming and hawing. The DMV has never been my favorite place, for more than the average person's complaints about long wait times. Suffice it to say, I didn't do so well on my first (or second!) behind-the-wheel exams back when I was 16. It's a memory that haunts me to this day; I was an excellent student, accustomed to things coming easy to me, and then to fail this twice, it was like a slap in the face. I've had anxiety about the DMV ever since.

I knew it was not likely that I would have to take a behind-the-wheel exam here in NC. According to the DMV, the three things required of new residents licensed in another state are 1) a knowledge test, 2) a vision test, and 3) a traffic sign test. The behind-the-wheel exam is "at the discretion of the tester," and no one I knew who'd relocated had ever had to take it. But I also was afraid I'd screw up the knowledge test. I knew this was an irrational fear. Thousands of people who haven't even graduated high school take this exam and pass it every year; I'm college educated and have always been a good tester.

Well, thankfully, all my fears were for naught. The knowledge test was super easy. It was administered on a touch-screen computer and each question only had three choices. So right there, you've got a 33% chance of guessing the right one. As long as you read the handbook, you'd have to be retarded not to know most of the answers. For example: "When driving in snow, it is best to A) hit the brakes a lot, b) drive slowly, c) speed up." Come on, people! One made me laugh. "Studies have shown that a large number of accidents are caused by which of the following: A) Middle aged drivers, B) Women drivers, C) Slow drivers." I wonder how many people put B.

One awesome thing about taking the exam electronically is that you get immediate feedback as to whether you got each question right. You have to get 20 out of 25 questions right to pass. Once you hit 20 correct, though, the test ends...I only answered 21 questions. I got one wrong: "When approaching a right turn, the best thing to do is: A) Honk your horn (or some such ridiculous answer), B) Move slightly to the left in your lane to avoid hitting the curb when turning, C) slow down and stay to the right." I chose B, because that is what I do. But the answer was C. Oh well. No matter.

First thing when you walk in the office, you have to pick a line. It wasn't terribly crowded when I arrived, but while I stood there the line grew to almost out the door. I was later informed that Mondays and Fridays are their busiest days. There were only three windows open, and each one was for different types of transactions. When I got to the window, I sat down and handed over my documents. Social Security card, CA driver's license, proof of insurance, and proof of residency (water bill). The guy spent five minutes typing in all my info. He asked if I wanted to register to vote. I went ahead and did it, hoping I wouldn't get called for jury duty any time soon. He had me look into this little binocular-type thing for the vision test, which apparently I passed (I was nervous about that too, since I've been squinting a lot lately). I also had to identify all the types of traffic signs. They were all really easy, because I had reviewed them in the handbook. Then he had me go take the test. When I was done, I waited for a different window to be open. One neat thing in this state is you get to pick the background of your license. You have four choices: silhouette of North Carolina, a lighthouse, the Great Seal of North Carolina, or the ubiquitous airplane. Shouldn't be a monumental decision, but I did have to think about it for a while (luckily I overheard another customer being presented the options ahead of time). I ultimately chose the lighthouse. I wrote out a check for a whopping $16 and was told my license would expire in 2010. Sounds like the distant future!! Surely we'll have flying vehicles by then... Next I walked over to the photo lady, and waited (yet again) to be called. I got my picture taken (turned out pretty good) and then a few minutes later my card was printed. The whole process took about an hour.

Then I drove over to the license plate office a few miles away. Why this can't all be done in the same place is beyond me. The line at the second office seemed quite long but it moved pretty quickly. I forked over my newly acquired license, and the title to my car. I'd gone online ahead of time and printed and filled out the necessary form, so she just entered my info from that. I decided to splurge on a personalized plate: M CUBED. (My initials are MMM.) It's only an extra $30 per year and I've never had one before. I got a temporary plate for now (although it is just like a permanent one) and the other one should arrive in the mail in about 3 weeks. I had to pay $5 in cash for a notary fee, and the rest I paid via check. I now have 10 days to get my car inspected, which should be a simple process. They check your headlights, windshield wipers, etc. Just another way for the state to collect a fee, I suppose.

The rest of my day was equally busy. Stopped at the library to provide proof of residency since I had it now. Went to Target for six things, two of which they didn't have (4" x 6" unruled index cards and flavored bubbly water). Browsed in the dollar section, which always has fun little stuff. Got these adorable little candle holders:

They are solid metal and I could totally see them at Pier 1 for $9.99 each. Also got a bunch of magnets. Have I shared my magnet addiction with you? Used to be just a few magnets from places I traveled. But now I've got magnets of all shapes and sizes. They cover my fridge. Finding a bunch of neat-o ones for a buck at Target does not help the situation...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Announcing my Postcard Swap!

Sign-up info is toward the end of this post...

Do you like to get mail? Do you shuffle through the bills, circulars, credit card offers, and magazines in hopes of finding something with a handwritten address and a real stamp? I know I do. And these days, due to the speed and convenience of email, personal correspondence is at an all-time low. Now imagine if you got 10 pieces of personal mail in one week! Then--and don't let your head explode here--imagine those 10 pieces of mail were miniature pieces of art, sent straight from one kind, crafty soul to another. If you are still with me, you're probably thinking, "Where do I sign up?!" (Call now! Operators are standing by! If you sign up in the next ten minutes, you get two for the price of one! That's not all! A bonus postcard is yours free! Sheesh. I'm all about the hard sell. Damn infomercials!) Hold on a sec and let me explain the details.

If you sign up, you agree to make 10 postcards and mail them to the addresses I provide you with. In return, you will receive 10 unique postcards from people all over the country. You can make 10 of the exact same card, 10 similar cards, or 10 completely different cards. The only rule is they have to be hand-made (i.e., not store-bought). The suggested theme for this round is "Transitions." I am very anxious for spring to arrive, especially now that I am living in a state where the change of seasons is more than a date on the calendar. But I wanted the theme to be as open-ended as possible, so that's how "Transitions" came about (thanks to some brainstorming help from my knitting friends!). Your postcards can be about spring, or about any other transition you can think of. Caterpillar to butterfly. Day into night. Night into day. Child to adult. You get the idea. If you want to participate but think Transitions is a difficult theme, you can still sign up and let your own inspirations guide you.


You can create your postcard using any art supplies you have on hand such as paint, markers, glitter, watercolors, felt, fabric, ribbon, or even just pencil and ink. Some may wish to do a collage of some sort. Photography is also welcome. There are no restrictions per se on what you can use to make your postcards, but keep in mind that as a postcard, what you create will need to be sturdy enough to make it through the US postal system intact. If you are concerned about your creation's safety, you can always mail it in an envelope.

The size should be about 4" x 6" (I'm going to start with blank index cards).

What to write
If you have a blog, which I'm assuming most participants will (although it is not required to have a blog to participate), please include your blog address either on the front or back of the card. Otherwise, you don't have to write anything on the card if you don't feel like it (except the recipient's address of course!).

Don't forget to take a picture of your cards before you send them, and then email me the photo(s) so I can collect them all and display them on Flickr. That way you'll get to see everyone's cards.

Sign Up
Send me an email with your snail mail address (required) and your blog address (optional) to blogpostcards[at]yahoo[dot]com. Since this is my first postcard swap, I'm setting a realistic goal of 11 participants--me plus 10 more. But if more want to join, all the better! The deadline to respond is March 12, and if you participate you are agreeing to mail the postcards sometime during the week of March 20, the first day of Spring.

Please feel free to email this post to your friends who might be interested, or link to it from your own blog. I've created a little Postcard Swap button (see sidebar) that you can put on your blog if that's your thing. It's kind of international looking, and I highly doubt I'll get any participants from overseas at this point. But hey, aim high, right?

I have to credit this site with giving me the idea in the first place. I would have signed up for their swap but the deadline had already passed--so I'm creating my own! You can check out some of the little masterpieces they traded by going here.

All right, that's my spiel; now it's up to y'all to sign up for this and make it work. If you have any ideas on how to improve this little experiment, please feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Fun with Flickr

Flickr is a very cool photo-hosting website. I have a few pictures uploaded there, and the little mosaic at the bottom of the sidebar is courtesy of them. I found a very interesting article about Flickr mashups. It's kind of complicated to explain what a mashup does, but basically, techie nerds talented people have found lots of fun ways to manipulate the features of Flickr into new tools and games. My favorite is this time-wastr called Fastr (do you notice a pattern here--e's better start looking for new work!).

Users on Flickr can label every photo with limitless tags. For instance, this picture

could be tagged as Marines, medal, eagle, globe, anchor, military, etc. The game shows you nine pictures, one at a time, and you try to guess the tag they have in common. You are pitted against a couple dozen fellow time-wastrs and the quickr you guess the right tag, the more points you get. The competitive side of me got stuck playing for 20 minutes or so until I won three rounds in a row. It's really fun--strangely addictive--and you get to see a lot of neat photos. Which is how I stumbled upon this Flickr album--if you like photography, go there and select "view slide show in new window" for a beautiful little show. It's a contest so all the entries are everyone's self-selected best shots.

Friday, February 24, 2006

I'm Claire!

Who knew I was secretly an unmarried pregnant Aussie? At least I'm in good company.

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You scored as Claire. You're cute, and everybody likes you - especially Charlie ;)



























Who is your "Lost" alter ego?
created with

Thursday, February 23, 2006

There must be something in the water

This is such a talented state. Not one, not two, not three but FOUR of American Idol's semi-finalists are from the Tar Heel State. That's an incredible proportion! My favorite out of them would be Chris Daughtry, from McLeansville--a town outside of Greensboro so tiny it doesn't even merit a label on Google maps. My overall favorite, though, just might be Taylor Hicks. Original with a capital O as the judges would say. He's from Alabama--a little deeper south, but still The South. Yee haw!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Getting the heck out of Dodge

From a reader in California:
I am originally from there, moved out here in 1985 with my family and now am considering moving my own family back there. We live in the high desert out here and HATE IT. Traffic is horrible, people are so rude and a larger home for a stay-at-home mom with 3 kids is out of the question out here right now. Has it been a difficult adjustment for any of your family members? The humidity, the bugs, the accents :)? I truly miss the GREEN Country. I think we're afraid of culture shock.
It sounds to me like a move to NC is just what the doctor ordered for y'all. The ills you face out there are all but distant memories out here. People here are miles away from rude. Housing here is infinitely more affordable. And it is nothing if not green, green, green everywhere. Well, except during the winter! As I've said before, traffic exists but is less horrible than So Cal. You say the high desert; do you mean the Antelope Valley/Lancaster/Palmdale area? If so, I can agree that the rush-hour traffic there is quite challenging--and rush "hour" lasts for like three hours in the morning and three hours in the evening!

You really should not fear culture shock. I have not experienced any at all. If anything, it's been a culture "pleasant surprise." LOL! Humidity in the summer is definitely an issue, but that's what A/C is for. And the beauty of the Triangle is you are only 2-3 hours away from the mountains or the ocean for a cooler weekend escape.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Thanks, Kathy, for shedding some major light on something that has been puzzling me for days. I found the forum where you posted my blog url. I assumed that if people were finding it online, they would be clicking it. But apparently this forum does not allow for hyperlinks, so readers must be copying the address and pasting it into their web browsers. Thus, the "no referring link" trick.

I know this is a very tiny thing to have occupied my mind, but it feels so good to have gotten to the bottom of it! And even better to know that the people reading are finding it useful. Not that I've received many comments as such, but I have to assume they are finding something they like judging by how much they dig around.

Also, thanks for putting me "out there," so to speak. I would feel weird doing self-promotion, but for someone else to think my writings are worthwhile enough to share, that means a lot to me!

The Triangle: Where North and South (and West) Collide

More questions from a reader (thanks for commenting, Kathy!):
Can you tell more about the culture in RTP? I've heard it attracts people from all over so it's quite diverse. I know I've heard about Californians relocating there and now New Yorkers who move to Florida but then realize it's not for them so they head half-way back to NC and are called halfbacks. I thought that was interesting. So is it southern, northern or a mix of everybody?
Funny--I hadn't heard the "halfback" theory, but one of my friends would fit into that category. He followed that exact pattern...NY to FL to NC. I'm not sure why he picked NC though.

I would say it is a mix of everybody here. I've commented before on how everyone here is from someplace else, and those other places tend to be scattered. I've met people from Atlanta, Washington D.C, Boston, New York City, Michigan, Texas, California, Illinois, Oregon...and more that I cannot think of right now. One joke I've heard is that Cary stands for "Concentrated Area of Relocated Yankees." I have met a few North Carolina natives, but they are by far the minority here. To me, the area does not scream Southern (although I haven't lived in the true South so my frame of reference is restricted). Here are a few off-the-cuff observations that will tell you this is the South:
  • Wendy's offers the "Carolina Classic": a burger topped with chili and coleslaw.
  • Nearly every restaurant, be it sit-down or fast food, offers sweet tea.
  • In the summer or fall, you will likely be invited to a "pork pull" or "fish fry"
  • You will encounter a southern drawl every now and then but it's more lilting than anything. Local newscasters and DJ's do not have accents.
  • People here (not just men!) are fanatical about college sports, mainly basketball; this website ranks the Duke Blue Devils and UNC-Chapel Hill Tar Heels as the number one rivalry around.
  • The pace of life is only slightly slower than what I'm used to from California.
  • People complain about the drivers here being particularly horrendous (one theory is that it's because there are so many former New Yorkers who never had licenses before) but I have not noticed it as being any worse than any other place I've driven. People do speed on the freeways but not like L.A.
  • You get the overall impression that church is slightly more prominent in people's lives here, but then again, hardly any of the people I've become friends with go on a regular basis.
I have noticed that when I visit my brother in Western North Carolina, which is rural and up in the mountains, the Southern characteristics become much more prominent. Everyone has a thicker accent, things are much slower, people are less open-minded/progressive. I think my hometown and my new town share more similarities than differences, due to the fact that they are both suburbs. That seems to me to be the overriding characteristic. I suspect that if you chose to live in Raleigh or Durham proper, you would find they are first and foremost cities, and only secondarily Southern cities.

Monday, February 20, 2006

A musical collage and other silly fun

Pretty cool. Use common words and make sure your speakers are on!

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Start this puppy up when you get into work in the morning for a little motivation. Beware, however: comparing your accumulating wealth to the likes of Oprah's may engender sentiments such as bitterness or envy.

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Draw a quick sketch and then see the computer draw someone else's. You never know what you're gonna get!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Traffic and suburbs

I got some questions from a reader and instead of hiding my reply in the comments section, I thought I'd post it here where it's easier to find.

I found your blog through a travel forum, I think or something. I'm also thinking of moving from Orange County to NC.
I've really enjoyed reading about your experiences. One reason I want to leave So Cal is the horrendous traffic. Do you find a lot of traffic to the bigger cities?
Also, if you have any info on housing prices in the suburbs, that would be great. I need to work in a larger city but I don't really want to live there. But I don't want to live out in the boonies either. Of course this is all relative coming from someone who drives to and works in Los Angeles!
Anyway, hope to hear from you. I'll keep reading and enjoy NC vicariously for now!
Hi Cheryl! Thanks for leaving a comment! Yes, So Cal traffic is really awful. Traffic here in the Triangle is definitely less severe, but it does exist. Capital Blvd. in northeast Raleigh is notoriously bad--it's a very busy street with signals at every block. And if you work in Research Triangle Park (RTP), getting in and out is pretty nightmarish. Of course, I'm not currently working, so I have not really experienced the daily grind of a rush hour.

But on the occasions when I've found myself trying to get somewhere around that time, I have noticed there IS quite a bit of traffic. For instance, I drove to Durham (big city) from my home in Apex (little suburb) for an interview. I left at 8:30 and arrived at 9:15, a 29-mile drive which according to Google should take 34 minutes. There were pockets of congestion but it wasn't that bad. Another day, I drove from Apex to Cary (also a suburb), a six-mile drive supposed to take nine minutes--it took about 25, when I left at 7:30 am. But I had to travel most of the time on a road with construction. There is a TON of construction going on all around right now--they're mostly trying to widen main arteries, which, until completion, makes those main arteries even more clogged. That's the price you pay for growth, though.

One notable difference out here is that the rush hour is very defined. I would say the morning traffic peaks around 7:30 - 8:30, and the evenings are worst from 5:30-6:30. Other than those times, the streets and freeways are light to average. And unlike Los Angeles, if you're driving around after 11 pm, you are likely to be alone (at least in the Cary/Apex area--I cannot speak for Raleigh and Durham proper). It is kind of eerie to see the freeway and streets completely empty and dark.

Speaking of which, darkness has been somewhat of an issue for me; streetlights are virtually nonexistent here. Cary does the best job of lighting their streets, but everywhere the freeways are pitch black. When there are lots of other cars, the combined brightness of headlights is enough. But when you're solo, it's hard to see. Another issue is a lack of street signs. Many are totally unlabeled, or labeled only with teeny tiny signs on one corner of a giant intersection. The first few weeks of trying to find your way around can be frustrating, but having a map handy helps. The best one I found was in a tourist booklet at my hotel. An online version of it is here. And if you have one of those fancy computerized navigation devices in your car, you're golden.

All of that said, not for one minute have I wished I could go back to So Cal traffic conditions.

As for housing prices in the suburbs, you might want to search current listings here. It's one of the better sites because it does not require registration and it lets you specify lots of parameters in addition to price and location, such as age, number of bedrooms, etc. (Note: Late spring into summer will offer a better selection; right now few people are on the move because they want to keep their kids in school.) If you're looking to live in a suburb and commute to the city, there are lots of options--Cary, Apex, Morrisville, Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina, Garner, Wake Forest, Rolesville, and even Knightdale and Pittsboro. But it's hard to recommend any because it depends on which city you work in. The "Triangle" is really more like a blob, because of sprawl. For instance, Wake Forest is a lovely area, but if you work in Chapel Hill, your commute would be pretty icky (over 40 miles), and Pittsboro might be a better choice. It feels like "the boonies," but it's only about 30 minutes from Chapel Hill.

One thing you should keep in mind is that out here, city limits are pretty far-reaching. For example, there are houses with Raleigh addresses that feel more like the country. If you decide to explore the area further, get in touch with a real estate agent; they will be able to direct you to the neighborhoods that best match your needs. Or, do like I did. Rent an apartment and get a feel for the area yourself before deciding where to buy. You can check out to help pick a good complex.

I hope this helps! Please feel free to ask any more questions as they pop into your head.

Let's compete with James Frey

Just for fun . . .

If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now, (even if we don't speak often) please post a comment with a COMPLETELY MADE UP AND FICTIONAL memory of you and me. It can be anything you want. BUT IT HAS TO BE FAKE. When you're finished, post this little paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people DON'T ACTUALLY remember about you.

Thanks to Debby for the idea. If you need some inspiration, you can see some examples at her blog.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


There's been an uptick in visitors here recently and I'm not quite sure why. My trusty stat counter can tell me cities of origin, but it's not always accurate. It lists the ISP's location, which is not necessarily the user's location. For instance, I show up as being in Atlanta, when of course I'm not. But apparently I've got some new readers from Oregon, Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Louisiana, and Georgia.

And the strangest thing is I can't tell how they found me. My aforementioned counter service usually identifies where a reader clicked to arrive at my blog. If the person typed in the address directly or navigated via a bookmark, it says "no referring link." Well apparently all these new visitors are typing in my address because they didn't come here from a search engine, and they didn't come here via a link from somebody else's blog or by hitting the "next blog" button. I'm very intrigued. I mean, I often get readers from far-flung locales, but they're just passing through randomly and don't spend much time here. However these new visitors are poking around and reading the archives and stuff. I hope this doesn't freak you out that I know this. Don't let it discourage you from more poking. I'm not snooping, just curious. Nothing would please me more than to get a comment from anyone who enjoys reading my blog. Even if it's anonymous!
Update: Let's add Nevada and California to the list of new visitors. Yay!

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In other intriguing news, I got a letter today from Mediaworst, my cable and internet provider, telling me that they've just completed a major upgrade to their infrastructure and will be switching over to this "far superior" system on Wednesday. I have to swap my current modem for a newer one in the apartment complex's leasing office that day, or make an appointment to have a tech come by and do it for me. Assuming this is going to speed up my connection, this is fantastic news! I do bandwidth tests occasionally and this connection is horrifically slow. Right now:

Now if I were paying 20 bucks a month, that would be one thing. But this is nearly 50! But it's my only option because I don't have a land line so DSL is out, and satellite is even more expensive! We'll have to see if the new system really makes a difference.

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Tonight I went bowling with a bunch of ladies. One was Laura, who I've known a few months; she organized it. Another was Aneda, who I met about 5 weeks ago through Bunko. The rest I didn't know. I suck at bowling. We played three games and my scores--although progressively better--were abysmal. 69, 75, 91. Granted, I hadn't played in years before tonight, so maybe I should cut myself some slack. But I do not take losing well. And bowling is particularly wincing because after you roll the ball you have to turn around and look at five faces staring back at you. Now, I did get a couple spares and even one strike, but the rest of the time it was just a few pins here and there. But it was a good time overall. Better than sitting home alone I suppose.


Put in a DVD today and feared the worst (broken equipment) when it wouldn't play at all. Took it out and turned it over. Ah-ha! The movie is called Secondhand Lions after all, but come on.

Yowsers. I'm surprised this doesn't happen more often, considering how little protection Netflix offers the millions of DVD's they send through the mail. The crack was barely noticeable on the front so I didn't catch it before I loaded the disc. Hard to believe, since the whole disc was completely split apart. Anyway, I reported the problem to Netflix--they have a very user-friendly system for these kinds of things. They will send out another copy and requested that I return the damaged one ASAP. I had another to send back as well (The Interpreter with Nicole Kidman--very, very slow to start, okay by the end, but the best part was the behind-the-scenes bonus features about shooting on location at the actual U.N. (this was the first film to be granted permission) and about what it's like to be an actual U.N. interpreter) so I hopped in the car. Even though I'm not a kangaroo.

The mail had already been delivered here so I drove to the nearest mailbox about half a mile away, hoping it would be in time for today's pickup. Alas, no. Bummer since Monday's a holiday. Oh well. The drive was interesting. Something was falling from the sky and it wasn't rain or snow. It was either hail or sleet...I've never really known the difference. But it made a neat tinkly sound on the car roof. Most of the little pieces of ice melted on contact but some stuck around for a little bit. I swear one that hit my jacket as I was standing outside the car "experiencing" the weather looked just like an itty bitty star of David. Weird.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Just a quick update

Just a quick update on the past couple of days. The interview at Meas Inc in Durham went fine. The lady didn't ask many questions. She mostly spoke about her experience at the company (prompted by my question about the likelihood of transitioning to a different department). I had to provide a writing sample; the prompt said to write about a teacher who had influenced me. I chose Mr. Schock, my 11th grade American history teacher. I credited him with why I majored in history in college and then became a history teacher myself. But really, that was because I was too lazy to major in math. Anyhoo, I also had to point out grammar/spelling/mechanical errors in a sample student essay. Not correct them, mind you. Just point them out. All very easy stuff for me. I like writing. I like editing. But scoring essays....I'm having a hard time convincing myself to take the job. The next project (because this job is on a project-by-project basis) starts Monday and they said they would try to get back to me by today so I could start Monday. I'm not holding my breath.

The vet office also went well, but I have reservations about that too. [Hello. My name is Melissa and I am tirelessly, sickeningly, and hopelessly negative about everything.] I did not do much. Mostly listened and watched. The girls were nice enough, but I don't know if I can see myself working with them for 11 hours a day. I think the job would take me two weeks to master and then I would be bored out of my mind. And I would really hate it if I started to lose my passion for animals. I once said (scroll toward bottom) that I preferred to keep my hobbies as hobbies--maybe I should listen to myself.

I've decided I'm going to stop blogging about my job hunt, because making the struggle public raises my anxiety to irrational levels. Once I have procured employment, I will share, but meanwhile my fragile ego needs some shelter. So from now until then, other stuff.

I ate at Gypsy's Shiny Diner for breakfast this morning with Laura. Very cute place. Good omelet and homefried potatoes. We made plans to see this group in concert next week. I've never been to a live a cappella performance. But I love a cappella music in general (see: Brown Derbies) and African a cappella in particular (see: Lion King on Broadway--try track 4, Lioness Hunt).

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


So yesterday I called about a vet receptionist position I saw in the newspaper. The ad said "vet office experience preferred." Not "required," so I gave it a shot. They had me come in to fill out an application. I met with Mary, who talked to me briefly and then showed me around the facility. She said she would call me if they wanted me to go on to the next step, which would be coming in for a couple hours to try out the position. She said lots of people think it is fun to work in a vet office, but it's not for everybody, so they like to give it a dry run, so to speak. Well, she just called me and I'm going in on Thursday from 8-10! Yippee!

This would be an awesome job. It's right here in Cary, just a few miles away, and it's full time with benefits after 60 days. I would work four days a week, 7-6, and every other Saturday (only 9-12). The pay is "negotiable" so I'm not sure what it'll be exactly, but they said my ballpark of $10/hr is reasonable. Just going to the office yesterday to fill out the application tickled the animal lover in me. There were kittens and puppies and they were all so cute!

And as a receptionist, I don't have to give them shots or cut them open or anything like that, which is why decades ago I ruled out becoming a vet, and more recently decided against becoming a vet tech. I love working with animals but the sickness and injury I couldn't take.

That's why I thought petsitting would be such a good option. I really enjoyed the four or five months of it I experienced in L.A. I had planned on starting my own business out here, but I got spooked by the possibility of a snow or ice storm keeping me from my appointed rounds. Of course, no ice or snow yet. I might consider offering my services seasonally (spring/summer/fall) and working in a vet's office would make referrals easy!

Meanwhile I have an interview tomorrow in downtown Durham (my mom will raise an eyebrow at that location) for the reader/evaluator position at Measurement, Inc. The position isn't that great--it's just scoring student essays (I imagine it's like the ones for state competency exams). It's a temporary gig (could be long-term but they make no promises), the pay is so-so, but the big downer is there are no benefits. The benefits thing is important because if the job I get doesn't offer medical insurance I have to keep paying for Cobra and that would be a significant chunk of my monthly income. However, if I can use this position as a stepping stone into a better position with the company, a permanent one that pays well and offers benefits, that would be sweet. So I'll have to find out at the interview tomorrow if that is a possibility.

At least there is some activity on this front, finally!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Celebrity look-alikes

There's this cool facial feature analysis thing that a new website is offering (if you register--it's free). You upload a picture of yourself, and then they (meaning their nifty futuristic computers) compare it to their database of 2400 famous people and tell you whom you most resemble. I tried this photo first:

My mug was a 60% match for Meryl Streep, a 55% match for Kirsten Dunst, and a 49% match for Keira Knightley and Katie Holmes. If only!

Then I tried this one:

It came back 64% Meryl, 45% Jodie Foster, 44% Uma Thurman, 42% Britney Spears, and only 40% Kirsten Dunst. The scariest thing...when I elected to show both genders, it revealed a 61% match with Eddie Murphy. Egads!

Lastly I tried a pic of me without my glasses...

And it came back 65% Christina Ricci, 61% Kirsten Dunst, 61% Renee Zellweger, 59% Katherine Hepburn (!) and Jodie Foster, 56% Lauren Bacall, 55% Shania Twain and Drew Barrymore, and 54% Judy Garland. So apparently I look better without my glasses? I always thought it was the other way around.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In the spirit of Valentine's Day, here's another fun thingie you can check out if you have scads of free time like yours truly...Take this quick quiz and you can find out what your candy heart would say. Mine:

Your Candy Heart Says "First Kiss"

You're a true romantic who brings an innocent hope to each new relationship.

You see the good in every person you date, and you relish each step of falling in love.

Your ideal Valentine's Day date: a romantic dinner your sweetie cooks for you

Your flirting style: friendly and sweet

What turns you off: cynics who don't believe in romance

Why you're hot: you always keep the romance alive

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Spoiled kitty

Comet was trying to tell me last night that he is tired of his Science Diet food. I suspect he would never have known what it is to be unsatisfied if I hadn't tried out the expensive stuff (as if Science Diet isn't already pricey enough!). But now he likes the spa cuisine. Yes, they have spa cuisine for cats. I bought a bag of it a couple months ago because I was basically pressured by this lady at the pet supply store. She went on and on about how much better it is for the cat's health. Well, of course, he loves it. And last night he kept giving me this urgent look then running to his food bowl. Usually that means, "It's empty, you lazy bum, feed me already!" But there was plenty in it. So I knew he wanted the good stuff. Thus I found myself at Petsmart today purchasing kitty spa cuisine. I'll be darned, though, if that other stuff is going to waste. He'll get a mix and be happy about it.

While I was at the store I decided to spring for a new cat scratcher. He already has two, but they get worn out. They are only made out of cardboard, after all. These scratchers are the only thing that he reliably loves. You know how you buy a toy for your pet or your child (for some, pets are like children--me included!) and you are so pleased with yourself that you will bring happiness to your pet or child's life, and then you give the toy to your pet/child and they look at it/sniff it and walk away? Major let down. But imagine there was a toy that they would always dig. These corrugated cardboard scratchers (laced with catnip, naturally) are a guaranteed winner. I can barely finish unwrapping it before he is ON that thing, scratching away, rubbing his cheeks on it, and in the case of the ramped version, playing with the ball underneath. Such satisfaction. For both pet and owner.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


How much you wanna bet if I book this ticket, I'll get a job offer. It's probably worth it. If I'm wrong, I'm goin' to Paris for cheeeeeep, and if I'm right, I'm employed! It's a win-win situation.

Another meme

Lists are fun. I am so grateful for your indulgence. And even if you know some of this, I guarantee you at least one unknown fact...

Four Jobs I’ve Had:

1. Teacher (the bald patches from where I pulled my hair out grew back nicely)
2. Instructional Designer (the almost-perfect job for me)
3. Disability Benefits Specialist (oh yeah, I know you're jealous)
4. Summer camp counselor (for two weeks before I got laid off)

Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over: (I can name a lot more than four, so this is just a random assortment!)

1. Under the Tuscan Sun
2. Something's Gotta Give
3. Love Actually
4. Finding Nemo

Four Places I’ve Lived:

1. Santa Clarita, CA
2. La Jolla, CA (UC San Diego)
3. Playa del Rey, CA (an LAX runway was in my front yard)
4. Hanover, NH (Dartmouth, fall quarter '95)

Four TV Shows I Love to Watch:

1. American Idol (thank goodness the auditions are over)
2. Lost
3. Desperate Housewives
4. The Ellen Degeneres Show

Four Places I’ve Been on Vacation:

1. Paris, France
2. Rome/Florence/Venice, Italy
3. Oregon coast
4. Las Vegas, NV

Four Places I Want to Go on Vacation:

1. London, England
2. Australia and New Zealand
3. Disneyworld
4. Boston, MA

Four of My Favorite Dishes:

1. Lite Sausage Primavera (recipes you find in ads can be yummy!)
2. Risotto (only made it once so far but it turned out great and I was so proud!)
3. Avocado eggrolls from Cheesecake Factory
4. Quesadillas

Four Websites I Visit Daily When I’m Online:

1. Snotty Mommy
2. Diary of an Adult Runaway
3. Blueberry Pie
4. The Bleat

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now:

1. Driving home from work (sounds lame, but that would mean I'm gainfully employed)
2. Paris
3. Venice
4. Santa Clarita (to visit Nicole!)

DMV and Library

My counter is at 1000 hits exactly. Yippee! Me love round numbers. I thought I might have missed it...the count was 996 last night, and I'm checking it late today. How many noticed that I changed it to four digits about 50 hits ago? Anyone? No? Okay.

So I had a busy morning. I went to Larry and Carlee's house to wait for the FedEx guy. They were expecting an important package that needed to be signed for, and they were both going to be out in the morning. So I took my knitting over there and watched Regis and Kelly. Still no package when I left around 10:20 (Carlee had returned to take over the vigil).

Then it was time to interact with Triangle area public services. I proceeded to the, not to get my license plates. Not to get my license either. Just to get a driver's handbook. Baby steps. Despite the fact that I had the exact address and had printed directions from Google, I had some trouble finding the place. I must have driven the same quarter-mile stretch of Academy Street like 10 times. I'd noticed the train station, because it was an attractive brick structure complete with a clocktower and a bronze sculpture of an engineer out front. But who knew the DMV would be INSIDE the train station???!!! Makes perfect sense, though. Where do I go to obtain legal permission to drive my private vehicle? To the train depot, my friend! Of course. Luckily, though, there was no line and, like, three unoccupied "windows." The bureaucrats were wearing uniforms similar to police officers. In California, it's jeans and a t-shirt. So a tad more formal here. I wonder if that's what they wear when you do your practical exam at age 16. Only a little intimidating! I mean, the clipboard is bad enough. Add to that a two-tone (navy and light blue) pressed polyester shirt with a shiny badge, and it's like they're setting you up to fear cops.

After the DMV I went to the public library. It is just down the street from the DMV/train station. Pleasant enough experience. I wasn't sure if they would let me have a card without having a North Carolina ID. But sure enough, they did! Filled out a simple form with name, address, birthdate and they handed me not one, but two cards. A regular credit-card sized one, and the ubiquitous "key ring size." All I have to do is show them proof of residency (such as a utility bill) within 30 days. Very generous. I walked over to the audio book section, and found a rather large selection. I decided on Jennifer Weiner's Little Earthquakes. I've read (and seen the film adaptation of) In Her Shoes, which was enjoyable. And I'd read the first chapter of Earthquakes on Jennifer's blog, and recall it as intriguing. The plan was to copy the CD's onto my computer so I could listen to it on my iPod, but it's 14 CD's!! And I have three weeks with it, so I'll just dig up my old CD walkman--I hope I still have it!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

More commercials and some silliness

While we're on the subject of commercials, I wanted to blog about these ads I've been seeing. I relate to them so much. (I looked for them online but alas, came up empty-handed.) In the first one, the voiceover says something along the lines of, "Not just any marker will do. You need a half-inch red one that coworkers 25 feet away can smell." And it shows a lady marking giant X's on her calendar, counting down to the day her Hawaii vacation starts. If you've ever planned a big trip, you KNOW what that anticipation is like. It is half the fun of traveling! The second commercial talks about what travel means: Eating new foods. Feeling different sheets. And letting the cat fend for itself--and they show a ridiculously overflowing bowl of kibble. Ain't that the truth!

Now, I've always used Orbitz to find the best/cheapest flights, and I usually end up purchasing through them (although occasionally I'll go through the airline directly). But I may just have to check out Expedia one of these days, and see if it's any good.

On the local news Friday, they were interviewing people about whether they care about Superbowl commercials and this one lady said, "I have never in my life bought something because of a commercial," and I thought how preposterous that claim is. She may have never immediately rushed to the store, called, or hopped online after seeing a commercial. But seeing things over and over again can have an effect on your subconscious. Next time you're looking for, say, plastic bags, you may choose Gladlock over Ziploc because the ad showed how they are better--and you may not even realize why you're doing it.

I remember a Pampers commercial from a few years ago that showed baby wild animals and their moms, with the song "Forever Young." I loved that commercial so much...if I'd had a baby at the time, I know I would have bought Pampers at least once because of that ad. Whether or not I continued to buy them, of course, would have depended on how well they worked.


My mom forwarded me some puns and while most of them were groaners, this one made me laugh even though I saw it coming:

A woman has twins and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named Ahmal. The other goes to a family in Spain; they name him Juan. Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother.

Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, "They're twins! If you've seen Juan, you've seen Ahmal."

Superbowl commercials

Didn't get to catch the Superbowl on Sunday...but I'm not much of a football fan anyway. Like many people, I usually watch just for the commercials. Luckily we now have Google Video, which organized them all together on one neat little page. Very handy. My favorites were the baby clydesdale pulling the carriage, the "little monster" Hummer ad, and the Fed Ex caveman bit.

Runners up would be the Sierra Mist airport security spoof (Kathy Griffin is too funny!), and the Budweiser sheep streaker.

And I must give an honorable mention to the promos for Desperate Housewives. Although I did not recognize most of the guys who were gushing over the show, I'm guessing they were all big-name athletes. Pretty funny.

But what takes the cake, really, above all else: the promo for Lost. "You're gonna have to face it, you're addicted to Lost." You betcha! The editing is spot-on clever. Too good.

And just because I missed the game, didn't mean I had to miss out on the food-fest that is Superbowl Sunday snacking. My dad made a plethora of treats, from a giant sub sandwich, loaded with everything, to creamy spinach-artichoke dip and seven-layer dip. There were also taquitos and chicken wings and Chex mix. I brought brownies. Can you say, "pig out?"

Friday, February 03, 2006


You want to start your weekend off with a great big guffaw? Go here. It's inspired.

You're welcome.

And in case that wasn't enough, here's a "no friggin' way" video...I think it's actually legit!

Umstead Park Hike

As promised, Umstead photos!

This state park is very large (over 5500 acres!) so I saw only a small part of it. I drove in at the Reedy Creek entrance, off the 40 freeway. You could hear slight road noise most of the time, but otherwise the hike was awesome. I could not have asked for better weather: sunny with a gentle breeze, about 68 degrees. Warm enough to be in t-shirt sleeves, cool enough to avoid feeling the least bit of swelter--even though I was "glowing" by the end of the nearly two-hour trek. According to my calculations on Google Earth, it was about 2.8 miles.

Sounds like I practically crawled, but of course I spent a lot of time taking pictures! I was actually walking at a pretty fast clip, especially in the areas where there was gravel or pavement. I encountered maybe a dozen other people, a few with their dogs. I also spotted some fairly fresh horseshoe prints, but no equine sightings. The closest I came to observing the fauna was a very red cardinal who flitted away before I could get a shot (pictoral, of course!). You can see the full compliment of photos at Flickr, but here are a few of my favorites:

In totally unrelated news, check out what happens when you type in "life in North Carolina" at Google's blog search engine. Yours truly is the top result!! (As always, click for a larger view.)

Now, it's one thing to rank highly in a search engine dedicated to blogs. But on MSN's generic search engine, I rank #9, right after the Museum of Natural Science! Not too shabby.

2/10/06 Update: While checking on my ranking today, I noticed I am nowhere to be found on MSN's search engine. Oh well. Must've been a fluke.

Scarves and jobs

I finished my purple scarf last night. Not because I was particularly motivated to finish it; but rather, I was motivated to get it off my size 10.5 needles so I could use them to start a different scarf. One that will be a gift--my first that I will give to an adult, so it has to be good. No mistakes allowed! Or, more realistically, only a couple mistakes allowed! Can't say who it's for; it would ruin the surprise, even though this friend isn't a regular reader. So far it's looking good. I've only got a few inches, though. It's very thin yarn.

So back to the purple scarf. I'd been working on it for ages, and when I pulled it out last night I was delightfully surprised to see it only needed a few more inches! So I finished it, and wore it out to breakfast today. Of course, it was like 85 degrees, so I didn't need a scarf at all, but gosh darnit, I spent hours knitting the thing, so I'm gonna wear it! I kind of like how it turned out, with the makeshift pattern I came up with.

After much hemming and hawing, I've decided to apply for a job that qualifies as "settling." It's basically scoring student essays for a big testing company...I may be delusional, but I think I'm a shoo-in because the only requirement is that you have a bachelor's degree and can write a decent essay. So since I have that, PLUS I was a teacher and scored essays for five stinkin' years, if they don't hire me, I might as well go jump off the nearest bridge. The pay isn't great, it's only 35 hours a week, and there are no benefits, but hopefully it will get my foot in the door, so to speak...this would be a good company to work for in a permanent capacity. Assuming I get an interview, I'll have to find out if this can be used as a stepping stone job. If not, it's probably not worth it...I'd be working three weeks just to make rent, the fourth week would almost cover my Cobra premium, and then the rest of my expenses for the month (including all the gas for the commute to downtown Durham) would come out of savings. Gosh, I'm not making it out to be a very attractive opportunity. I don't know. We'll see what happens. I have applied for other jobs this week, better ones, but haven't gotten any calls.

I must take leave, now, and go enjoy this gorgeous weather. I'm thinking Umstead. You'll see photos, no doubt.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

It's February already??!!

I'm due for a new post but haven't got much to say. This afternoon I delivered a cake for my friends Larry and Carlee, to a woman in RTP. It was for her mother's 63rd birthday. Monday I went over to Larry and Carlee's with Arvind for dinner and games. We played Coda, Loot, and Scattergories. I lost miserably at every single one. I think we are witnessing the tragic and yet perversely hilarious gradual decline of yours truly's mental capacity. My brain, until now only mushy in spots (mostly the ones in use when I attempt to display even minor physical coordination) is just about entirely mushlkjroqc.... At least I can still spell Febuary Frebuary Febrary February. Dude, write February ten times in a row. It starts to look reeeeally weird.

A-hem. Pardon me. Where was I? Ah, yes. My decline. In the final throes of self-preservation, I dropped off a follow-up thank-you letter at the company where I interviewed last week. I figured, since I was in the neighborhood, why not? Afterwards I went back to the Body Shop outlet to get a couple more oil warmers. They're a steal at only $3 each, normally like $15 in the regular stores. They really are the best way to fragrance your home. Plug-in thingies, even the oil ones, work okay for a few days in a small area like the bathroom. Candles are so expensive and the smell isn't that strong. But oil over an open flame, that's the ticket.