Monday, January 29, 2007

Yelling At My TeeVeeeee

First, I apologize for the photo quality here. I'd gotten nice clear screen-shots from my little 7.2 MP camera before, but how to do it with the 10MP monster is eluding me somewhat.

I will say without shame: I LOVE "24." Last season ("Day 5") just cemented this sentiment for me. I love it. I love Keifer, I love the action, I love the split-screen moments and the little beeping tick of the counting clock. I love it. Clear?

Still, I'm not above pointing out flaws in those I love--just ask my husband. The Yelling At My TeeVeeee moments from tonight's episode were mainly over just a couple of things:

1. When Nadia has her security clearance bogged down because Homeland Security is using racial profiling against even federal agents (she is Muslim), Milo, her supervisor, logs her in on her computer with HIS user ID, so she'll have full security clearance again. OK, fine. Of course, as I yelled at my TeeVeeee, as soon as Milo tries to log in anywhere else in the building, so that HE can work, all the alarms at CTU are going to sound, and they're both getting busted. This has even happened on the show, in an earlier season, when a Bad Guy was illicitly using Chloe's security clearance to log onto a computer. But whatever.

2. The "official bio" of the character Jack Bauer states that he is 5'11" tall. This tickles me to death, because Keifer Sutherland is only 5'10" himself. Why did they have to add a measly inch? But hey, you don't notice it too much, I mean, it's only an inch, right? At least until you put Jack in a scene with his father, and the father is played by James Cromwell (the farmer from "Babe"). James Cromwell is 6'7". So, this leaves me yelling at my TeeVeeee, "GET FARMER HOGGETT OUT OF THE SHOT WITH JACK!!" I also had to insert a few well-timed, "That'll do, Pig"s, but I wasn't yelling.

Seriously. This guy is supposed to be Jack's Father, and Jack is supposed to be slightly taller than the actor who plays him. Don't. Shoot. Them. Together. At the very least, let Jack stand on a box, or get him some of those special movie-star "I Am Not Short" shoes for those scenes. Tom Cruise has to have plenty of extra pairs lying around somewhere. We, the loyal viewing public, some of whom have unnatural attachments to this Bauer character, do not need to see him looking up vertically at someone like a little kid visiting Santa Claus. It just takes away some of the "tough," you know?

Not that Jack needs to be a big giant guy. "Big" doesn't mean "tough," right? And come ON. We've seen some of the stuff Jack has had to do. Spies built like Heisman candidates wouldn't have lasted 10 minutes in some of the tight squeezes Jack's been in. So he's not of Brobdingnagian proportions. So what? But don't visually "diminish" our hero by having him sky-gazing at a co-star who is supposed to be blood. Enough on that.

So last week, my Very Special Yelling At The TeeVeeee moment from "24" had to do with a special effect. One that the makers of the show are very proud of, since they feature a "making of" video of it on their official website. See, there's been a new-cue-lar asplosion. Havoc has been wreaked. In just one isolated incidence of derring-do, Jack is presented with a crashed helicopter, which is in danger of FALLING OFF THE ROOF OF A BUILDING at any minute, and there is an injured person inside! See? Oh, noooooooos!

Except then, they do a wider shot, which gave me my first "I call shenanigans" cue of the evening, by showing that the "building" is a house, and the impending deadly fall of the 'copter would be...oh, about 12-15 feet? Hey, if the crash into the house didn't kill you, you'd probably survive an additional fall from this height. That's Jack up on the roof--don't use him for perspective; they're playing with our heads already on that issue.

Except: We all know that when anything with a fuel tank makes impact with anything else on action television, explode, it must. You may be asking yourself, as I did, "But wait--it din' asplode when it hit the roof, why is it more likely to now?" Silly TeeVeeee viewer. We didn't SEE the crash to the rooftop, really, now, did we? Also, Highly Paid Action Star was not involved at that time. Onward, to the rescue, which proceeded in the expected fashion, with Jack extracting Victim just before the helicopter falls off the roof and, as promised, explodes in spectacular fashion (And Victim is perfectly fine, as you can see in the second picture here. Apparently he just needed Jack to unbuckle his seatbelt for him).

Okayfine...but. And here is where I give props to the wonder that is TiVo, because although I spotted this with my naked eye, I couldn't have confirmed it without the magic of frame-by-frame viewing. Because, you see, the chopper didn't asplode on impact, after got blowed up, right enough, but the process had a bit of help prior to impact,

They ignited the thing on the way down. And this drove me a little nuts for a few minutes. And then I took pictures, blogged it, and felt better. I still love you, "24."

If you're still with me, here's a special Yelling At My TeeVeeee bonus, just for you. The WORST FAKE GIANT BOULDER SINCE "STAR TREK," courtesy of "Monk." Yaaay for papier mache' and spray paint!!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

How To Tell When He's REALLY Not Listening

Me: "Oh, I was watching the coverage from the International Auto Show this morning--guess who won the Car & Driver 2007 Truck of the Year Award?"

Alex: (absently, and not looking away from the television) "Flava Flav?"

Me: Yes. Flava Flav is "Truck of the Year."

Alex: "What?"

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Reminding Us Who We Are

Since I am such a threatening authoritarian that my child laughs out loud and gives me a blatant "as IF" expression when I make threats of impending corporal punishment, I am free to say, as I did today, things like, "Bella, you better knock that off right now...if I catch you, I'm gonna give you such a WHIPPIN'!"

To which she gets right in my face and replies, "Mommy, we don't say whippin'. We say WHUPPIN."

Touche', little Southern gal. That we do. Don't know what came over me.

Also, just now, when her father referred to her as "a three-foot tornado," she hollered back across the room at him, "Daddy! I am NOT a three-foot potato!"

Good times.

And we have heat. In, like, EVERY room. I may actually take a shower now, knowing I won't freeze afterward.

Monday, January 22, 2007

We Are Very Cold, But Perhaps Will Stop Having Pneumonia

So, I never did tell you the horrific story of our ridiculously incompetently-installed and maintained air-duct system, although we did have warnings, starting last summer--and it got worse after that.

The three of us, despite those new-generation antihistamines, the new steroidal nasal sprays, and vigorous use of the much-ballyhooed Neti-Pot, have had multiple respiratory infections since moving to this new house. MULTIPLE. Alex, who is prone to pneumonia because of his asthma, had full-blown pneumonia no less than three times in 2006. Bella, who never had a real sick day in her life for her first three years, went through course after course of antibiotics for sinus infections, as did I--I am just NOW finishing up a 10-day course of fluoroquinolones, and my chest is already hurting again less than 48 hours after the last dose.

So. The time came for an evaluation of our heat/air system. It's all electric, run by two heat pumps and two air-handlers. Short story: The whole system sucks. There is rotting ductwork all through the house, full of mold and mildew and dirt from 10 years of total neglect (aside from the occasional duct-taping, shown below). There are entire sections of crappy flex-duct that has rotted completely away, so that we've been blowing heated/cooled air directly into the attic. Nice. Also, the square-footage heated/cooled by one 2-ton, 8-SEER heat pump was just about DOUBLED when a huge room was added on, but the heat pump was NOT upgraded. Not only that, the same people who added the room without allowing for proper heating/cooling also decided to opt out of any form of insulation for this new room. Which is walled entirely on two sides with WINDOWS. Do you see where this is going?

So, since Christmas, when we learned that we're most likely breathing deadly poison of one kind or another anytime we're running our heater, we've had to choose between being warm OR being able to breathe. So mostly we've been huddled up in the master bedroom with a space heater. It's been a fun January.

Cut to the present, in which we've taken out a small loan, and begun the three-day process of ripping out the crappy ductwork--seriously, don't just take my word for it (click images to see flickr notes):

duct crrrrrap

holeee crap

air handler interior
This last one is of the interior of our inside "air-handler" unit. I think this particular part at one time actually functioned as a FILTER. Wonder how that was working for us, air-quality-wise?

And YES, we had a pre-purchase home inspection! In which the inspector did not notice any of this not-to-code, disintegrating ductwork (among many other things in the attic), OR the fact that there was ZERO insulation in the attic! Lack of insulation which, you would THINK, would make the crappy insulation VERY obvious! The name of our home inspection company, should anyone else in central Arkansas (or the rest of the country--they have inspectors everywhere) be dying to employ them now, is "PILLAR TO POST." Go ahead, give 'em a call! I particularly enjoy this passage from their website--apparently "inadequate insulation" they notice, but "NO insulation" just slips through the cracks:

3. Attic issues. Home buyers almost never look in attics but inspectors always do, paying special attention to signs of roof leaks, missing support trusses, pest infestation, illegal venting, illegal electrical wiring, inadequate insulation, etc.

Also, YES, we obtained a Home Warranty when we bought this house! A Home Warranty which specifically covered DUCTWORK...but guess what claim they're refusing? That's right, the claim we submitted upon discovering our criminally inadequate DUCTWORK. Why, you ask? Well, because, since the ductwork was improperly installed before we bought the house, they classify it as a "pre-existing condition." Are you relishing the irony of this situation yet? Are you getting the hearty belly-laughs that we have been? Are you thinking, you foolish thing, as we were, that when you buy a house FROM SOMEONE ELSE, that pretty much EVERYTHING about that house is a "pre-existing condition" for you? And that that is the motivation for BUYING a Home Warranty? Oh, you silly, silly person, you. The name of our wonderful Home Warranty company, should you want to rush out and buy a policy upon your next home purchase, is "WARRANTECH." Oh, and Warrantech's portion of the cost of replacing the non-operative ductwork, had they chosen to honor their policy? About $1,000-1,500, because they have a limit on what they'll cover. WE are paying MUCH more than that, but Warrantech ain't kickin' in their share--pre-existing condition, you know.

So anyway, this is my crazy-eye, from hiding in my bedroom surrounded by poodles while several strange men tromp around in my attic, apparently playing a rousing game of horseshoes or something equally loud and unsettling, for the next three days. Whee.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

We May Be Stupid, But At Least We Married the Right People

In anticipation of last night's viewing of "Alien: The Director's Cut" (because you just can't watch "Alien" too many times, can you?), Alex and I were poking around in the bulletin boards for the film on IMDb, and came across the following post, titled, "IMPORTANT QUESTION:"

My foots [sic] itchy. Do you think I have an alien hiding in it secretly?
What do I do?

And then we laughed, for at least five minutes solid, until both of us were wheezing and crying actual tears. Do we have a problem, or is the thought of someone watching "Alien," and then getting scared every time they have an itch as hysterical as we thought it was? If it's the former, don't answer.

I post this while waiting for my camera to charge so I can post puppy pictures tonight, due to popular (and impatient) demand. Tonight. I swear.

UPDATE: And here they are, with an hour to spare. A few more are on flickr.

When attempting to coax a small pile of puppies to hold still long enough to photograph, it helps if the preschooler corralling them has a smidge of coconut-shrimp sauce on her face.

Puppy faces. Good therapy. That little toot in the middle, looking right at me? My favorite.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Out and About

So, Alex and I are on our way out of the medical building after a psychiatrist appointment the other day (I know, I know, so many of my stories start out that way), and on the elevator on the way down, a very tall and slightly gaunt and spooky-looking gentleman got on at a lower floor, and rode down to the lobby with us. Being the mature, considerate jerks that we are, my husband and I just shot each other one discreet glance during the elevator ride.

As soon as we were outside, and thankfully free of earshot, Alex says, "He could have been one of those...what were those bad guys from Stephen King? The tall men?"

Me: "What? No! You're thinking of The Tall Man from Phantasm." (laughing hard)

Alex: "Why are you laughing?"

Me: "Because the guys from the Stephen King books, with the flashy cars and the yellow coats, were the LOW men."

Alex: "So? They could've been tall. And low."

Me: "Please shut up. But wait--if they were tall, then how could they also be LOW?"

Alex (stooping over): "Maybe they were hunkered over."

Me: "That would have made them The Hunkered Men. And please stop walking like that."

Alex (still stooped, now making a gruesome face and using a creepy voice): "Right. The Huuuuunkered Men would be WAY scarier."

He should totally make movies. Out of books that were made into movies that he's confused with other movies. I'm sure there's an audience.


And then, today? On the way to the wonderful, quaint little rural Arkansas feed store that I patronize for all my agricultural needs? We passed by a little restaurant that I hadn't known existed, called the "Java Cafe and Pasta House Italian Restaurant." Out front was a blackboard with daily specials chalked up.

MONDAY: Baked Spaghetti

TUESDAY: Fettucini Alfredo


That last part would have been a lot funnier if I had just posted the picture I took of the sign with my Motorola Razr phone, just like I would love to have shared the pictures I took of the smashed front of the Wal-Mart Supercenter that day last week when someone tried to drive their car through the front doors of the grocery section. Except... me and my stupid Motorola Razr phone? We hate each other, and I don't know how to send or receive pictures on it, and I mourn my "old" cell phone. So if you have this Razr phone, and you can help me out, holler. Just remember that you'll have to talk to me like I'm five. And hard of hearing. And from some ancient civilization whose language only exists anymore in overblown Mel Gibson movies. Use subtitles.

Monday, January 08, 2007

That the House is Not Yet Burned Down? Not From Lack of Trying.

Since we are, even now, having some "issues" with sleep and medications, I thought I'd take the opportunity to relate our tale of Ambien-induced insanity from the week before Christmas.

For several days, I had noticed unexplained messes in the kitchen in the mornings, messes that hadn't been there the night before. There were also several nights that Alex woke me up when he got out of bed to go rattle around in the kitchen. I just assumed he was getting a drink, which is a habit of his. But then the morning messes I'd discover just became over-the-top ridiculous.

Many of you who read here are all too familiar with the challenges of dealing with the effect of bipolar disorder and its various medications on sleeping. When Alex is "cycling," he has a lot of trouble with his sleep habits. He almost always has a prescription for a sleep-aid, as do many bipolar people, because one thing you do NOT want to deal with is a bipolar person who is not getting good SLEEP. Trust me on this one.

So one night, he was driving me up the wall at bedtime with excessive irritability and MUCH flailing about in lieu of actual sleeping--so much so that I got up and relocated to the living room sofa. I just wanted to be away from the angry, restless person in my bed so that I could get some rest. Apparently, sometime around midnight, Alex took some Ambien. And had already had a Klonopin, because of the agitation/irritability. And he went to sleep. I didn't fare as well, since I was on the sofa, but I did manage to drift off around 2:30 AM, about 30 minutes after seeing and hearing Alex get up and bang about in the kitchen...for a really LONG time. After which he went and got back in bed, and slept like the dead.

Around 4:15 AM, I woke to the smell of smoke. (Yes, we do have electric smoke alarms, but my nose is faster.) I bolted up and ran to the kitchen, and was amazed at what I found. My husband, IN HIS SLEEP, had mixed up a pitcher of Crystal Light Fruit Punch. And microwaved (but not eaten) a Lean Pocket, which was still in the microwave, nestled in its little reflective cardboard sleeve. He had also consumed at least a half-dozen Pop-Tarts (yes, we are all about the health food).

The source of the smoke was two-fold, and to be found in the oven, which was set to 450 degrees, and just a-cookin' away for well over two hours: The charred remains of an entire box of 40 chicken nuggets, as well as an entire box of frozen waffles. The chicken nuggets were on a baking sheet, but the waffles had simply been tossed directly onto the lower oven rack--some of them were even stacked on top of each other, three deep.

This, folks, was some WELL-DONE food. Blackened waffles and fossilized chicken. (Fortunately, the wasted chicken was not in the form of THIS fine product, photographed but thankfully not purchased by a near-hysterical Alex on a recent shopping trip): Yumm. And the smoke, it was EVERYWHERE. So I did what any rational person would do--I went into the bedroom and poked and yelled at my snoring husband, attempting to inform him that he had NEARLY BURNED THE HOUSE DOWN AS WE SLEPT...but he couldn't even wake up.

We went to see the doctor about this episode the very next day, and the Ambien, especially in combination with Klonopin, was implicated immediately. Apparently there are people all over the country who are eating, driving, dating, and doing trigonometry while sound asleep, thanks to Ambien. Let the patient beware. It has never had any sort of such effect on me, but I'll certainly use more caution with it from now on.

I will also be tying Alex by his big toe (or some other appendage) to some sort of sleepwalker's booby-trap from now on.

And speaking of smoky ovens: When you are dealing with exploded chicken-nugget detritus and such, and decide, for the first time ever, to go ahead and push that "self-cleaning" button on your oven and see what happens? If you are as ignorant as me, let me just tell you what happens. The coolest thing is that the oven door LOCKS ITSELF SHUT. Me, I thought that was AWESOME, and waited with 'bated breath to see what came next. What came next were FLAMES. In my ELECTRIC oven. Which was also awesome. Because to "self-clean?" Your oven basically just heats itself up to 3,000 or so degrees Farenheit and burns every bit of junk present in the oven into oblivion. Which is cool.

Except that, the unintended consequence is a LOT of smoke, for a long time. Again, as with the Ambien, let our experience serve as your warning.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Re-Ringing in the New...ish

Going back to work. Getting back in shape. Regaining my health. Getting back into the routine of singing in the choir at church. Getting a handle on household organization again. Rebuilding a financial safety-net. Going back to menu-planning and home-cooking with whole foods. This is what I see when I look ahead to 2007 and beyond, and I've never felt the need to fight so hard just to get BACK to where I once was. Not turning back the hands of time, you understand, but just getting back to a "place" where I was comfortable, happy, and successful. And this time, I have my little family, too, so it should really be all good.

That's me, resolution-wise. Wish me luck. A Happy New Year to everyone--may you have every blessing, and as few tears as possible in 2007.

And, as promised, but at the risk of the result being disappointingly anti-climactic, you can click over to my Arkansas Times blog to read about my pre-Christmas run-in with the po-pos: