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31 entries from March 2005

Vienna Teng: Live performance QuickTime stream

Vienna Teng stream thumbnailI've mentioned singer/songwriter/musician Vienna Teng many times before, and tonight I have the pleasure of talking her up once more.

If you're familiar with Ms. Teng's music at all, run over to Media and consider making a donation to view the QuickTime stream of a performance she gave 03/11/05 in Oakland, CA. The performance includes several new songs and some old favourites and is well worth the donation amounts requested, which go toward defraying bandwidth costs and to Doctors Without Borders (see also their international site).

If you aren't familiar with her work, check out some audio clips in the discography section of her site.

:: • :: • :: • :: • ::

UPDATE: The fundraising effort was a success—more than $1600 raised—and the performance stream has ended. Check out the tour page to find a live performance near you.

Adventures in Spelling

I just had to teach Microsoft Outlook how to spell colonoscopy.

I had to teach it this spelling because I was responding to an email from my friend JA about a story:

Hospital: Colonoscopy patients need HIV tests

I suppose I'm pleased that Outlook doesn't know the word colonoscopy by default. I don't encounter the word in regular daily conversation—the times I have discussed colonoscopy have been mainly to rant about mispronunciations I've heard—and I've now written colonoscopy more times in this entry than I'd written it in my entire life. In my experience, when you encounter such words, you're in pretty intimate territory and any of three things should apply:

  1. You're standing in the doctor's office for your [insert medical term here] appointment
  2. You're talking about medical topics with a person whom you know very well, e.g., spouse, parent or sibling, best friend, etc.
  3. You're viewing a news story or general medical info online or on television

My big concern was keeping the cats secret

I usually remember when I lodge complaints with hotels or airlines or restaurants, primarily because if something bothers me enough to take the time to complain, I expect some sort of resolution to my complaint.

In today's post I received from the Embassy Suites Lynnwood a letter of apology, over the signatures of the Front Office Manager and the Guest Service Manager both. Actually signed, in real ballpoint pen and everything. Or their signature machines use real pens. But I digress.

I have absolutely no memory of filing the survey responsesThe letter, which is dated March 1 but arrived March 30 in an envelope postmarked March 23, thanks me for filling out their online customer-satisfaction survey and apologizes for their lack of complimentary high-speed Internet service. It helpfully points out their complimentary business center which is open 24 hours a day and is conveniently located near the front desk, and that Embassy Suites is looking into providing complimentary high-speed Internet access in 2006.

Also, it asks me to accept their sincere apologies for the lighting in the bathroom. They assure me they have contacted their Chief Engineer to look into the lighting further.

So I'm pleased to receive this response, more so because it's actually signed by two persons with the word "manager" in their job titles, and I am as ever easily impressed by such things.

Except I have absolutely no memory of filing the survey responses that resulted in the letter.

I remember being mildly annoyed that the only high-speed Internet access was of the "pay a fee, get access until noon the next day" variety, but I immediately fired up my laptop anyway and paid the $9.95 charge (more accurately, I applied it to the room bill), the better to be geekily connected to the world.

The bathroom lighting? No clue there. I remember nothing about the bathroom save it was centrally located between the living room at the front of the suite and the bedroom at the back, with the fridge/wet bar area directly across from the bathroom door.

I thought perhaps my mom might have filled out the survey—we shared the suite the night of Jan 07 after our drive straight through from Salt Lake City—and the letter came to me because I made the room reservation. So I called her to ask about it.

No memory of a survey there either. We're both utterly mystified.

And we didn't even get a discount for a future stay, merely Embassy Suites' thanks for sharing our thoughts. Allows them to improve all guests' experiences, I am informed by the final paragraph.

So I ask that you enjoy your complimentary high-speed Internet access in the well-lighted bathroom during your next Embassy Suites stay. You'll have me to thank for it, even though I don't remember it.

I think we cooked everything in the house

My refrigerator was already stuffed to the gills before today's holiday gathering with family and friends.

The fridge is now even more stuffed with various containers holding the remnants of today's feasting:

  • Spiral-sliced brown-sugar-glazed ham, with wheat rolls for sandwiches

  • Diced potatoes baked with cheese, sour cream, and cream of mushroom soup (in Utah these were known as "funeral potatoes"; we're trying to find a different name for them in Seattle)

  • Julie Anne's baked Brie appetizer, which is indescribably good—I was most impressed by it

  • Black olives and sliced veggies with a ranch dip

  • Various candies and other goodies

We spent a good three hours over cocktails and such as everything finished cooking. Then it was time to put everything together, carve ham, pull dishes from the oven, arrange the table, and on and on. The last guest left around 20:00 when the clean-up was completed, and may I say what a blessing are friends who stay to help with the last dirty dish. :-)

Hospital's apology and institutional changes aren't enough; send money now

I find quite telling Dr. Thomas Gallagher's comment about how some patients' families view money as the way to ensure changes are really taking place after medical mistakes of this magnitude. View the full story at the Times' site for details.

Seattle Times Local News: Suit filed over Virginia Mason Medical Center's error
By Carol M. Ostrom
Seattle Times staff reporter

The family of Mary McClinton, who died after being mistakenly injected with an antiseptic solution at Virginia Mason Medical Center, has sued the hospital, which had publicly disclosed and apologized for the "preventable medical error."

"Virginia Mason's statement was public-relations spin pure and simple," said Gerald McClinton, one of McClinton's four sons. "Apology is no substitute for atonement when our mother's death should never have happened."

Virginia Mason, in a statement released yesterday, said the Seattle hospital had approached the McClinton family and was "ready to proceed" with a settlement. "Our hope is to quickly reach a resolution that will support the healing process for the family," the statement continued.

The family's attorney, Lawrence Kahn of Bellevue, said the hospital had rejected his settlement offer—which he wouldn't specify—and had made no counterproposal. The lack of an offer was "shocking and disappointing" to the family, he said.

McClinton, 69, of Everett, died Nov. 23 after being injected with Chlorhexidine, a colorless antiseptic, during a procedure for a brain aneurysm. The antiseptic was mistaken for another substance to be used in the procedure.

Today's Travel Tips

Via the Transportation Security Administration's helpful list of prohibited items for air-travel carry-on baggage, revised 08/23/04 (here's a local download in case the TSA-based link changes), we learn....

  • You may carry up to two (2) disposable lighters or four (4) books of safety matches. No strike-anywhere matches at all.
  • Your PDA, laptop, cell phone, etc.: All allowed, with in-flight usage restrictions.
  • You may not carry your cricket bat, ski poles, lacrosse sticks except in checked bags.
  • Swords too, disallowed for carry-on. Checked bags only.

There's a rather limited listing of sharp/pointy things on Page 3 that are limited to checked bags only, in fact. Limited enough that I wondered why they don't just say "all edged weapons," but I suppose that could be too broadly phrased, legally speaking. For that matter, it could even be too limiting, due to the magic of our legal system.

I learned this because my mom is visiting us for Easter and asked specificially about the lighters, but of course I had to read the entire listing and be a smart-ass about it.

As if the world might end should they be unable to update their price signs

Ahh, if only....

Seattle Times: Problem at pump: too few 2s
By Seattle Times staff and news services

It turns out that when regular-gasoline prices top $2 a gallon, it can be a pain for station owners, too. Sometimes there aren't enough 2s to go around for their signs.

And in areas where gas prices traditionally have been higher, such as the West Coast, dealers are worried about the terrible 3s.

As average prices for regular unleaded top $2 nationwide, there has been a growing demand for the number 2 in some parts of the country.

"The large numbers cost about $150 each, so stores don't keep a large inventory of them around," said Bobby Joslin of Joslin and Son Sign in Nashville, Tenn.

Station owners in Washington state, where gasoline prices tend to be higher than in other regions of the country, are no strangers to such shortages.

Indeed, station owners in Washington ran out of 2s for a short time about two years ago, said Tim Hamilton, executive director of the Automotive United Trades Organization, which represents about 400 gas stations in the state.

"We don't have a 2 problem," Hamilton said. "Our problem arises when we run out of the number 3."

Who'd'a thunk it?

Friday Forum: All About Singing

  1. Would you consider yourself a good singer? Why/why not?
    Fair. I think I harmonize well, since my range is narrower than a lot of the music I like, but of course I'm hearing it in my own head. Who knows what it sounds like to others.

    Were you ever in choirs, musical groups, musicals, voice competitions, etc. while growing up?
    The inevitable school performances and a church function here and there, but I never sought out musical performance.

    How would you describe your singing voice?
    Fair, as I said above. I've been told I have a pleasant speaking voice and many times asked why I don't sing more, but never sought any training or experiencee with it.

  2. Do you sing in the shower? What about in your car? Around the house when you're by yourself? Do you sing along to the radio/CDs a lot? Do you prefer singing when you're alone, or do you belt out tunes at any time?
    I usually hum or mumble along in the shower. In my car, I belt out tunes when I'm alone, or sing more modestly when I'm with people. I often sing along to the stereo at home—living alone's great that way, you can be as good or horrible as you want.

  3. Who is your favorite singer at the moment, and why?
    Vienna Teng (solo singer/songwriter). Beautiful songs, beautiful voice, and I know the words.

    Do you ever watch the show "American Idol"? Why/why not? If so, do you have a prediction for who will win this year's competition?
    I don't watch it, never interested me.

  4. What are some songs that you remember fondly from childhood?
    Mostly Christmas music, because I wasn't into popular music until I was a little older. In particular, Carol of the Bells (the Ray Conniff Singers vocal version) and the Harry Simeone Chorale's The Little Drummer Boy.

    Are there any songs from your high school years that you particularly loved?
    None that I can remember right now, though I always get a bit nostalgic when I listen to an '80s-centric radio station.

    What songs absolutely annoy you?
    Purple Rain—absolutely intolerable. Afternoon Delight by The Starlight Vocal Band and Hazard by the unspeakable Richard Marx (it kills me that I even know the "artists'" names for those songs) because I was forced to hear them a few times per day when I worked at Kmart in the late '80s to mid-'90s.

  5. Name a song that accurately reflects the way that you're feeling right now.
    Hmm... I'm not coming up with a single song that accurately reflects my mood. I'll ponder it and possibly update later.

    If you could choose *one* song to describe your life up to this point, what song would you choose?
    Back in the High Life by Steve Winwood, particularly for the last 15 years.

Yahoo! Groups: Friday Forum

Let the March Madness begin

I don't follow the NCAA basketball tournament with any real interest, but this year I'm keeping track of it in a half-assed way because I'm participating in a pool.

I filled out my bracket about 12 minutes ago, using the decidedly unscientific method of glancing at each team's seeding and its regular-season record. Then I started writing and whatever my hand wrote is what I picked.

I wonder if I'll even make it to the second round....

What's the best way to pick teams for these events when you don't follow the sport much, if at all? I find myself interested in college basketball only when teams I know are doing well, so I was pleased to see Utah's 6th-seed placement and Washington's 1st-seed placement in the first round. Otherwise, though, I'm clueless.

So how do you pick 'em?

Caffeine confusion

A little note to the coffee snobs of the world:

If you're going to order a drink that takes 30 seconds to describe ("Nonfat half-caf triple short mocha latte with light foam, extra hot, partridge in a pear tree"), remember what you ordered.

By remembering your order, you won't look like a towering fool and a flaming bitch when the barista simultaneously places on the counter your drink and that of the customer on line behind you and calls out both orders as completed, and you

  1. first stare helplessly at the counter, trying to decide which of the two drinks was yours (mine was the one that took about 2 seconds to describe, so back the hell off while I swoop in and grab it),

  2. then walk up to the counter and in a supremely bitchy tone, demand: "Is that what I ordered?"

I'd have trouble working in a place like Starbucks or any quick-service place of that type. I'd probably be fired for "accidentally" spilling coffee all over a customer's head and chest.

Funny how those cups just... leap out of your hands sometimes...!

Friday Forum: In the Bedroom

  1. How is your master bedroom decorated? (Tell us about the wall color, your bedding, wall hangings, what type of furniture you have, etc.)
    My bed takes up most of the space. One bedside table with a lamp in the corner by the bathroom door; an unoccupied plant stand in the northwest corner by the window; and a corner-style entertainment unit for a TV, VCR, stereo components in the southwest window corner. The southeast corner is behind the bedroom door so nothing there.

    The walls are a kind of light beige of some sort—I'm sure there's some charming name for the color, but I've no idea what it is—in fact, the same color as the walls throughout the townhouse.

    I haven't put up any pictures or anything because, well, I'm a gimp that way.

    How did you decide on your bedroom decor? (Feel free to share a photo with us if you'd like.)
    By plunking furniture down and not rushing to hang anything (pictures, posters, whatever). Pretty spartan.

  2. What size bed do you have? Is it a waterbed or a regular bed?
    King regular bed. I don't care for waterbeds much.

    Do you prefer lots and lots of pillows, or do you have just a few?
    I keep two pillows on the bed and use one of them but it tends to get pushed out of the way during the night.

    What's lurking underneath your bed?
    Amazingly enough, nothing right now. Every once in a while I find one of my cats under there.

    Do you have anything at the foot of your bed?

  3. Do you normally fall asleep quickly, or does it take you a while?
    There seems to be no rhyme nor reason to how long it takes. Some nights I'll be out immediately, others it may be an hour or more. I rarely go to bed before I actually feel sleepy so I haven't figured out why the big variations in timing.

    Do you like to fall asleep to some kind of background noise, or do you prefer an absolutely quiet room?
    I like drifting off to music, very relaxing.

    How did you sleep last night?
    Very well. I dropped off quickly and slept straight through to my phone alarm at 07:00.

    Do you prefer a completely dark room or some kind of nightlight?
    When I'm really accustomed to the room's layout, I like darkness, but I don't mind light at all. I usually keep one night light so I don't kill myself if I should have to get up during the night for any reason, but in my townhouse the parking-lot lights behind my house shine a bit through the blinds no matter what, so I have no trouble seeing at night.

  4. Do you have any pets who sleep with you?
    Two cats; they come and go at will during the night.

    Do you find that you move around a lot during the night, or do you tend to sleep in the same spot?
    I usually stay in the same general space on the bed but I change position a lot.

    Do you have a preferred position for sleeping (i.e., on your stomach, on your left side, on your back)?
    On my stomach in winter, on my back in summer.

  5. Would you say that your bedroom closet, dresser, etc. are organized?
    Mildly so. Floor's a bit cluttered with shoes but everything else is pretty well organized.

    Do you fold/hang up your clothes in any certain order/system?
    I hang all my shirts except t-shirts and a couple of sweaters and long-sleeved shirts. Jeans and socks go in the dresser drawers.

    Do you have anything other than clothes and shoes in your bedroom closet? (Feel free to snap a picture if you'd like!)
    Right now I have a plastic storage box of random Lego bricks, the entirety of my collection from my childhood and teen years. I also keep my hamper in there.

Yahoo! Groups: Friday Forum

Good Saturn of Lynnwood experience, for a change

Had a scheduled-maintenance appointment at Saturn of Lynnwood this afternoon. It was time for my car's 51,000-mile maintenance routine and I needed them to check into the worsening headlight-dimming problem the car has exhibited since I took delivery in October 2001.

My appointment was at 11:45. I arrived a few minutes late and they got me right in. I planned to leave the car because I dropped it off during my lunch break; Katharine picked me up and we met a few other friends for lunch at Old Spaghetti Factory in Lynnwood. I'd asked the Saturn folks to call me when the car was ready because I figured they'd need at least a few hours to do electrical checks.

Shawna (not sure of spelling) called about 16:45 with good news and with neutral news: The scheduled maintenance was done, everything looked great. However, the electrical checks had yielded nothing, and the national customer-care folks at Saturn World HQ in Spring Hill, TN still haven't figured out a fix for the dimming-headlights problem, about which they've received a few hundred complaints from L-Series sedan owners. So I'm not alone in this problem but that only means there are a bunch of us waiting for a fix.

All in all, I was happy with today's experience. Quickly in and out both at drop-off and at pickup, and my car is now sparkly clean inside and out, in addition to being lubed and oiled and otherwise expertly maintained. And they called to let me know how things were going, which was my chief complaint before. (See previous: Saturn of Lynnwood continues abominable service record (12/24/03), Saturn of Lynnwood feels slighted by my web site (01/24/04).)

Nice job for the local team. Now to get the national folks to figure out and fix the headlight problem once and for all....

Signs of suburbia

I was waiting in line at Starbucks for my triple grande nonfat no-whip white chocolate mocha (itself a sure sign of my own full-immersion suburbia experience) while...

  1. The two men at the counter tried to pack 17(!) drinks onto four drink-holder tray things and then figure out how to carry the entire order down the street to their offices

  2. A crowd of young mothers, most with at least one child in tow, materialized out of nowhere and surrounded me with breathless discussions about
    • their kids' recent athletic or scholarly achievements
    • the latest piano-lesson craziness
    • the fact that Robbie's friend Emma (not that Emma, the other one) broke her wrist at gymnastics the other day and now she can't deliver her Girl Scout Cookie orders, and that means the cookies will be late!
    • how Brittany (Connor's mom[!]) looks like she's anorexic, but we've all seen her put away the food on more than one neighborhood-gathering occasion, haven't we?
    • how Joe got laid off almost two years ago and hasn't done a damned thing to find work but isn't their house looking lovely these days? Even though you know it's because Tiffany's hired the right handyman since Joe's all thumbs....

  3. Amanda—I assume that's her name; it was embroidered across the ass of her low-rise sweatpants (and why does any 20-something, or for that matter anyone at all, think those are even remotely attractive?)—freaked out when the baristas told her they were out of soy milk for a few minutes until the new shipment they were in the very act of receiving (I could see the truck out the side window) could be unpacked, but the baristas saved the day by offering her a consolation scone while she waited

A favourite band reuniting

I was browsing around Nick Kelly's web site tonight and stumbled across a news item that pleased me greatly:

The Fat Lady Sings Again!

One of my all-time favourite bands, responsible for my three all-time favourite songs, and they're getting back together to release their best-known work after it's been so hard to find for years.

If you haven't heard Nick's music or that of The Fat Lady Sings, drop me a line and I'll be happy to provide you a sample. Well worth a listen and certainly worth the bandwidth.

Hazardous-materials spill in Salt Lake City

Links to the several articles I've seen about the spill which was discovered early Sunday morning. Hazmat crews experienced hours of confusion and frustration as varying sources disagreed over the exact content of the leaking rail car, and at least 6,000 residents of nearby neighborhoods were evacuated when an orange plume of fumes arose from the site. The spill also forced closure of I-15, the main north-south arterial, for most of the day.

Article links below the cut.

Continue reading "Hazardous-materials spill in Salt Lake City" »

Spotted on the way to work

Two trucks from a local moving company, Bumble Bee Movers!, with their toll-free phone number in huge lettering along the sides of the trucks.

I don't remember the whole number; what stuck out was the last six digits:


Hiring movers whose phone number identifies them this way is just asking for trouble, seems to me....

Odd design choices

I’ve lived in this townhouse for more than a month now and I hereby declare the following Things I Find Odd About the Design.

In no particular order:

Several things I’ve decided are odd about the design choices (most of them absurd and unnecessary trade-offs) in these townhouses

  • Both bathrooms are on the top floor—not even a powder room on the main floor. So when you do the occasional (inevitable) “I really gotta go!” thing upon arriving home, you have to dash from garage to main floor to top floor.

  • No patio or deck. There is a microscopic front porch, just wide enough to stand between the railing and the window at the front of the house. (I call it “the smoking porch”—seems perfect for my friends who smoke to stand outside but be out of the weather.) The sliding door at the back of the house looks out over a white metal balcony that’s only about eight inches deep, certainly not suitable for enjoying the outdoor weather. I noticed a couple weeks ago that the townhouses in the apartments north of mine have decks over the garage doors, would’ve been a perfect way to do it here.

  • No GFCI outlet in the master bathroom. I thought these were required by code. The apartment manager’s (allegedly) checking into it for me. I’ll check into it myself when she tells me they aren’t code and thus refuses to install a GFCI outlet for me without charging me for it.

  • The garage overhead light switches are located in strange places. There’s only one switch for the incandescent fixture that lights the whole garage, about 2' from the door to the house, and it can be difficult to find if you’re walking from the house into the dark garage. There’s no switch at all at the garage-door end. The so-called “workspace” area has its own fluorescent fixture with a single switch in the middle of the garage, again not convenient if you walk into the dark garage from the house or from the street.

  • Only the vehicle door at that end of the garage; no secondary pedestrian door. The mailboxes and trash bins are both directly behind my building, so I either hit the garage-door opener and annoy everyone, or I walk around the long way from the front door. No big deal but a strange way to do it.

  • No keyed-lock or keypad access to the garage door from outside the house. I have to use the transmitter, which I keep in my car all the time, or go through the house to hit the single doorbell-style switch inside the garage.

    There is what looks like a key-triggered switch on the outside of the garage door, but they don’t issue you a key to operate it. I imagine it’s solely so management has a guaranteed way to get into the garage no matter what.

  • No above-cupboard space for all kitchen cupboards. Makes for handy storage space but in this townhouse, only the set of two cupboards over the fridge has the gap between cupboard top and ceiling. The rest of the cupboards are flush against a slight projection in the wall below the ceiling. That’s probably to provide venting for the stove, but who knows.

  • No drawers in the bathrooms. The vanities are wide enough for the sink with cupboard space below only. The commodes are close enough that they didn’t put drawers in at all. So no useful storage space for those small toiletry items we all use.

There are other strange little things but these popped immediately to mind, and now I have to go to bed so I can get up with the goddamned roosters tomorrow.

Happy weekend, everyone. :-)

The Commonly Confused Words Test

First time through; I may take it again when I know all the answer keys are posted so I can see where I'm missing things.

You scored 100% Beginner, 93% Intermediate, 100% Advanced, and 72% Expert!

You have an extremely good understanding of beginner, intermediate, and advanced level commonly confused English words, getting at least 75% of each of these three levels' questions correct. This is an exceptional score. Remember, these are commonly confused English words, which means most people don't use them properly. You got an extremely respectable score.

The stats on the results page show that 100% of the people who took the test and are in my age group had lower scores in all word-level categories, and the highest-scoring age group for all categories is the 55-59 crowd.

Take the Test for yourself.

Via eclecticism

Friday Forum: Sports and athletics

  1. What's your favorite sport (to watch or participate in)? How often do you play it/watch it?
    Watch: Baseball, football, tennis about equally.
    Participate: Softball, bowling (bwahaha), cycling.

    Do you take part in any competitions in this sport, and how important is this sport to you?
    I do not; I play for fun.

  2. Do you feel that your favorite sport has a lot of positive influences/rewards? Are there any negative ones?
    I don't think of sports this way when I participate in them.

    Were you encouraged to become active in athletics as a child?
    Did the usual soccer-kid thing and played a couple of sports through youth groups in my teams, but never encouraged to take part in them just for the sake of the activities.

  3. Do you have an idol, a symbol, and/or a motto that helps you through rough times when you are competing in this sport? Or, when you are working out/exercising, do you have a method of keeping your emotions high in order to motivate yourself? (Could be music, reading a book while working out, setting goals for yourself, etc.)
    I usually listen to music; too hard to concentrate on a book or anything else visual.

  4. Which "extreme" sport would you like to try (or would have already tried) if you weren't afraid of doing it?
    BASE jumping looks fun in that insane way. If I knew I had any balance to speak of, I'd try crazy mountain biking or something similar.

  5. Do you get caught up in "March Madness" (i.e., the NCAA basketball tournament)? Which team(s) do you like? Are you a basketball fan? Will you enter any tournament pools? Who do you predict will win?
    I barely pay attention to it; not a basketball fan. What I do know about it is from the people around me who follow it.

Yahoo! Groups: Friday Forum

Which states?

Bold: States I've visited. Underline: States where I've lived. Italics: Current state.

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington, D.C.

Via verbatim