Friday, May 01, 2009

2382 Tired

Friday, May 1, 2009

I'm very something today, but I'm not sure what. Either depressed or tired, I guess. There were two jobs I've been putting off all week and had to get done by the end of today, and I don't think I'm going to get to either.

One task requires a hunk of paper that never leaves the little desk in the living room. The hunk of paper is gone. I've looked everywhere it could be, and it's gone. I don't understand. I wish Jasper spoke english.

The other requires that the weeds in the side flower bed be dead. I've sprayed them with Roundup three times over the past five days and they are not only still alive, they're flourishing. I don't want to leave any bits of live root there when I put the flowers in, or they'll all just come back, so digging and hoeing just isn't going to do it.

May is my favorite month, but there's no joy in Mudville tonight.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

2381 Economics

I finally gave up nicotine. I found out crack is cheaper.

2380 - Crazy Days

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

91 degrees on Monday. Frost warnings tonight. YOU figure it out - I can't!

2379 Hair. Bleck.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A few weeks ago I bought another inexpensive short wig for the manikin Peggy Sue. This one's described as "sun-kissed blond". It's a sort of buttery beige, almost the same color as a suede jacket in my closet. Naturally, I tried it on.

I like the color on me. Right now my natural color is too yellow to call white, and too light to call blond, and without enough pewter to call platinum. The richer color of the wig seemed to make my skin color perk up. I briefly considered dying my hair, but the upkeep would be demanding - roots and all that.

Last week I found the exact color in one of those 6-12 shampoo temporary colorings. That's ideal. By the time the roots become obvious, the color would have faded enough to blend.

I tried it.

The instructions said to leave it on for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the strand test. I was a bit worried because I bleach the dark patch on the top front, so the color might get intense there quickly. Luckily I had just trimmed my bangs, and still had the clippings. The strand test said 20 minutes was fine. So that's what I did.

When my hair was still wet, it was perfect, but then when it dried it was still too light, all over, so I decided that next time I'd try 30 minutes.

Ha. Three days later, just before leaving for Florida, I washed my hair. Shampoo number one. The color all disappeared. Then the sun in Florida made it even lighter.


I don't understand.

I'm going to try 40 minutes this evening. Maybe it'll last through TWO shampoos. Wish me luck.


Back in the sixties we could buy temporary color powder that came in capsules. You opened and used one, two, or three capsules mixed in a glass of hot water as a final rinse, and it did a good job. It lasted only one shampoo, and rubbed off on your pillow, but cost only 5 cents or so per capsule, so that was ok. I wonder what happened to them.

2378 The Play

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

So last night I saw Susan Kellermann as Dr. Gertrude Ladenburger and Jane Fonda as Dr. Katherine Brandt in 33 Variations, at the Eugene O'Neill theater. Before we left, I had read some reviews, which ranged from good through indifferent to bad.

My own opinion:
The interior of the theater was beautiful, but the seats were maybe 16 inches wide, which worked for the behind end, but didn't allow much more than a rigid pressing of elbows into the waist, unless one wanted to get into an armrest battle with one's large tough-looking (over-perfumed) neighbor. I was interested in the set design, and the use of the props, which passed back and forth very effectively between Beethoven's hands and the present. The lighting did its job, but could have been used to greater effect. The production's music director played the piano off to the side, like for an old-timey silent movie, and it came across as a bit thin, given the importance to the story. I'd have appreciated a fuller illustration of the variations, but then I'm not that familiar with Beethoven. (When I hear "variations" I think Bach.) The play itself, the dialog, was lackluster, without emotion. So much blah blah when it could have been more forceful. That of course affected the acting. The actors very often seemed to be just speaking neutral explanatory text, like visible voiceovers. In short, I think it could have been better.

But then, I wasn't there for the play. I was there for Manhattan, for the dinner (a very large and delicious Japanese dinner in a small restaurant about a block from the theater, for less than $20 - I didn't know that was possible!), for the company, and for the experience.

Didn't get much of the Manhattan part. Angie had scheduled us pretty tightly, so we didn't hang around Grand Central, we fast-walked the mile to the restaurant, we gobbled dinner, ran to the theater, and then fast-walked back to Grand Central. So there was no people watching, no window gazing, no bright lights and tall building gawking.

There was one cute incident - On our trot to the restaurant, Angie had surged ahead, but Nat lagged behind with me and my short legs. When she teased him about favoritism, he said "If anything happens to you, I'd have to explain to your parents. If anything happens to Silk, I'd have to explain to The Man. I'll take your parents."

2377 Auction Tutorial repeat

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The following is a post from about a year and a half ago that I liked, so I'm repeating it. With "the current economic climate" a lot of really nice stuff is turning up in auctions, and there are fewer people attending and buying. So if you need or want stuff, auctions can be a good place to find some great deals.


Repeat from Monday, August 20, 2007
1446 Auction Tutorial

I've learned a few things about live auctions.

Never, ever, bid on anything you have not actually held in your hands and examined. This is rule #1 and the most important. Auctions always have a preview. Go to it. If there's a preview a day or more before the auction, go early, and then do your research. Who is that artist? How much does that chair usually sell for? Then ALSO go late to the preview immediately before the auction and reexamine the things you plan to bid on. Between the first time you looked at that music box and the time it goes up for bid, many other people have touched it, and someone may have broken it. Parts may now be missing.

Once you have decided on your items, make a note of what you consider a reasonable price, and promise yourself you won't go more than one or two bid levels over that. I mark items with one, two, or three stars. One star = absolute limit. Two stars = I'll go over one or two bids. Three stars = I WANT IT AND I WILL HAVE IT AND NO ONE WILL STAND IN MY WAY, DAMMIT! (I'm allowed one of those every few years.)

During the actual auction, do not be temped to bid on something that seems wonderful, and the bids seem low, if it's not something you had already decided to bid on. Because you had not decided to bid on it before, you didn't examine it carefully, and the temptingly low bids are probably because of a major flaw.

Never jump at the auctioneer's first call. He'll ask first for, say, $100. This is an indication of what he considers an acceptable bid, but if there are no bidders, he'll drop. He'll ask for $85, then $70, and he'll keep dropping until someone bites. The lower you let him drop, the lower you might get it for. In most cases, once he has the first bite, it will rapidly go up to what he really wants, and in the process he discovers who in the audience are the interested parties. Which leads to the next pointer.

Once the bidding starts, don't wait to get in. The temptation is to wait until the bidding slows, the theory being that the fewer bidders, the less rise (which is not true, it won't go any higher than it would with or without you), and maybe you want to see how high it will go before you decide to get in. However, understand that the auctioneer is looking out over a large herd of people, and watching for sometimes subtle signs. During the first round or so he spots the interested bidders, and "works" them against each other. If it gets hot and heavy, and you decide to jump in late, you can stand on your chair and wave a red flag, and he might not see you. He might call it sold before he glances to the left and sees you. Display your interest early, and understand that once you shake your head no when he looks at you for the next rise, you are out of it and probably won't be able to get back in.

During bidding, maintain eye contact with the auctioneer. He will indicate when he expects to hear from you with eye contact. If he glances your way and you're looking down or away, he will interpret that as "No", and you may find yourself out of the bidding.

Be very careful of multiple identical item lots. Know exactly what your bid means. The catalog might show and state "a pair of garden stools", and the helpers bring out a matched pair. Don't assume your bid will be for the pair. Listen carefully for the words "times the money" or "per item", or the like. It may be said only once, and if said, it means that your bid will be multiplied by the number of items. So if you win the bid at $50, you must pay $100, and you must buy both stools. Claiming that you didn't understand that your bid was going to be doubled, that you thought you were bidding $50 for the pair, will get you nowhere.

You can make some types of side deals with other bidders. I'm not talking about collusion to keep the bids low. That will get you thrown out and barred forever, if not sued. However, if you bid on and win two garden stools for $50 times 2 in fair bidding, and you really want only one, if you happened to notice who it was who made the next-to-last bid at $45, it's acceptable to offer them the other stool for that lower bid, $45 or lower. (If you want to make a profit, do it off the auction hall property.)

Don't jump too soon on bidder's choice items. Sometimes there will be a tray of items, like, say, a tray of 20 similar silver candlesticks. The winner of the first round of bidding gets one or more of his choice at that price each, let's say $50 each. If there are still items on the tray, they will be offered to anyone else who wants choice for the same $50 price.

Now, this is my opinion, and it comes from a LOT of experience. If there was one particular candlestick you want, and you're willing to pay $50 for it, then win that first bid, or take the first offer. Otherwise, don't move too fast, because now the remaining candlesticks will be reauctioned! And the second round is unlikely to go to $50. It might go to $40. The third round will be even lower. The last five candlesticks might go for $5. The only danger here is that if you hold out too long, on the second or third round the winner might elect to take them all.

A live auction is "as is" and "buyer beware". It's not like eBay, where if the seller's description leaves out something important, like "Hey, man, it doesn't work!", you can get your money back. The live auction house makes no representations and gives no guarantees, and descriptions in the catalogs are assumed to be puffery. So if you bid on and win that "brand new in the box" weed whacker, and when you get it home it isn't new and it doesn't work, well, tough. You have no recourse (especially if you had the opportunity to examine it). All you have a right to expect is "something" in the box. You must understand the implications of "as is" when you decide how high you're willing to bid.

Remember that the auctioneer is faster than you are. Be careful of that first very low bid for junk. They bring out a sad little something, maybe an ugly afghan. The auctioneer drops his asking bid way down. $5. Nobody wants it. He begs. He says, hey, for $5 you could put it in the doghouse - and six hands shoot up. Bam! You've been suckered! Auctioneers are quick. Bam bam bam his hand shoots around the room as he says "$5 $10 $15 $20 $25" and as he's pointing at you, "$30", and surprise, you just bought an ugly afghan you don't want for $30! The auctioneer can nail you faster than you can react to get your hand down.

Hint - if you have a right-handed auctioneer, the front on his left is a bad place to sit if you're susceptible to begging. He'll usually start from his "prime" side and swing around, making left front the last and highest "pity" bid. Guess where I always sit....

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

2376 Mystery visits solved

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I'd mentioned that I had a plethora of visits to the "messed up legal system" post from Philadelphia. That has been followed by many many visits from all over the country. This is very unusual for me. I have maybe fifteen regular (some are sporadic) visitors, and I recognize their footprints. These are complete strangers! Some of them from scary places, like Washington DC, and Bethesda. And a few insurance companies.

I found out what happened. The US Inst1tute for L3gal R3form (the folks I had linked to) has linked to my post in their website's "IRL in the News" section (in their right sidebar).

I am flattered. "In the News"? Me?

2375 Going to the city

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Another quick entry. I went in for a fasting blood panel this morning, and they couldn't do it because I'm on antibiotics, so it was rescheduled for next week. (Hello? You prescribed the antibiotics for me!)

Angie called me yesterday. She and three other people have tickets for a Broadway play this evening, and one of the people canceled, so she invited me. I'll be meeting them at the train station in about three hours, and heading into the city for dinner and to see Jane Fonda in "33 Variations".

A "what the hell?" at the doctor's office this morning. (I had already been in, but had stayed in the waiting room for a few minutes to finish a magazine article.) A guy, in maybe his mid thirties, arrived late for his appointment to go over some test results with the doctor. The receptionist said he was 45 minutes late. He insisted he was 25 minutes late. He had not called ahead to tell them he'd be late. He got furious when he was told that he could not be seen - the doctor was already with the next patient, and the next following was already checked in - so he could wait to see if there were any cancellations or he'd have to reschedule.

He took the attitude that yeah, he was late, but he was here now (and he was too important to wait), so he should be seen immediately.

He ended up asking for a copy of the test results to take to "another doctor", and badmouthed the entire practice to the waiting room on his way out the door, declaring that he'd never be back.

By the way, this practice is very good at scheduling. I always arrive at least 10 minutes before my appointment, and have never waited more than 5 minutes. Back when Jay was ill, we were in there like three times a month those first three years. And I know from experience that if the test results required immediate action, that would have already happened.

So, what's his problem? Maybe he's like those folks in the previous post who sue even when they clearly caused the problem. Oh, by the way, Someone in Philadelphia found that post by Googling the tort reform website I linked to, and then the same IP address has been back to visit that post FIVE MORE TIMES already today. Interesting. Yoo hoo - Philadelphia - want to leave a comment? I'd love to know who you are and why you find it so interesting. (Remember to credit me if you quote me.)

2374 Screwed up legal system

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's no secret that I think the US legal system is a screwed up mess. It's no secret that prosecutors are more interested in winning than in finding the truth. And it's only coincidentally a personality flaw - it's the way the system is set up. They don't get rewarded for truth, only for wins.

The same with large law firms. Juniors don't make partner by getting to the truth. Only wins count.

It's no secret that innocent people plead guilty or no contest to criminal charges because they earn too much to qualify for a court-appointed attorney, but too little to hire their own. It's cheaper to just pay the fine, or take the 60 days in jail.

It's no secret that there are people who will sue everybody in sight for accidents that they themselves caused, because "it's free money", "it's the insurance company's money, so nobody is hurt". And there are unscrupulous lawyers who will take those cases on contingency because they know that the insurance companies will settle because it's cheaper than going to court, even though they know the plaintiff has no case. No case. But it's cheaper to pay the plaintiff and his lawyer off.

There are people who are serial suers.

There are lawyers who salivate over class action suits. I, personally, get four or more notices a year, every year, that unless I opt out, I am a member of a class action suit. Usually it's either a medical or stock owner thing. Most people just throw those notices away. The few I have followed up on, I discovered that whatever it was that happened, I was not actually affected. But there I am, on their list. In every case, the award is a few gazillion dollars, and each of the plaintiffs (most of whom were not injured in any way) gets a few dollars. The biggest check I have seen from a class action suit was $3.85. The lawyers get the gazillion minus the few thousand they paid the people who allowed themselves to be used to pad the "injured" list. It's no wonder they salivate.

The local TV stations' mid-morning schedule is full of "baby-momma" and judge shows. It's interesting that when the folks are asked "and where did you get the money to...", or "Do you have a job? No? Then what do you live on?", in more than half the instances, the reply is, "I had an award from a lawsuit." It's scary that there are people who think that's how to get free money.

The system encourages it.

I found an interesting website on the topic:, from the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform · 1615 H St N.W. Washington D.C. 20062-2000. They have stories of outrageous lawsuits. There are videos, but you don't have to watch them - you get the same info faster from reading the stories.

Government has been blathering about tort reform for decades. It isn't going to happen if we leave it up to them. The lawyers have the majority vote there, remember?

Frivolous lawsuits must be stopped. Law firms that bring frivolous lawsuits should be penalized. Settlements should be scrutinized and not allowed in frivolous cases. But --- you and I could be sued at the (literal) drop of a hat, and then we'd be forced to hire a lawyer to prove the case frivolous.


This is something we could learn from the French legal system. They do it right. Well, righter.

Post Script -
This entry has had a lot of visits, but next to no one clicks on the above link to my post on the French system.

So I decided to copy the pertinent part here:
In France, according to Jay and his father at least, the object of the courts is to find the truth. Cases are presided over by a panel of judges, who direct the research and investigation, and choose, summon, and question the witnesses. They want the whole truth, not someone's filtered and slanted version of it, and they keep probing until they are satisfied they've got it. Contrast this with American courts, where the object often seems to be to prevent the whole truth from coming out, to pit one attorney's skill at obfuscation and blocking against another's, winner take all.

This means that in the US, the outcome of family, civil, and criminal cases is often determined not by the truth and law, but by whose lawyer could dance faster. Which actually translates to who had the most money. Which explains a lot about the demographics of the prisons.

If I were innocent, I'd want a French court. If I were guilty, I'd want an American court and a rich uncle. That doesn't sound nice at all.

Monday, April 27, 2009

2373 R-rated GPS

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Man, who never gets lost but has a thing for gadgets, has acquired a GPS, which he took with us to Florida. And, since he also has a weird sense of humor, he downloaded a special voice for it: Stewie Griffin, the archvillain toddler from Family Guy.

It's a riot. We were purposely making wrong turns just to hear Stewie yell at us - "What the hell are you doing!? This is not the plan I laid out for you!" (where mine simply says "Recalculating").

When you arrive at the destination, he says, "Arriving at your destination VICTORY IS MINE! on the right."

I suspect The Man got the device not for the directions, but to hear Stewie swear at him.