Saturday, December 31, 2005

More Parts From Dell 

A couple of months ago I utilized Dell's online tech support chat system to request a replacement for my power adapter, since the cord was splitting and it only worked intermittently. "Rex" at Dell was quite helpful, and I received a replacement post haste, along with a shipping label for returning the old one in the same box.

Sadly, the new (refurbished) one wasn't much better. It would work, but then it would emit a high-pitched, crackling/buzzing noise and stop working. If I unplugged it for a while, it would usually come back to life.

I know, I should have just gotten back online with Dell and complained, but I didn't. I thought maybe it was just settling or something, and would calm down and fly right eventually. Of course it didn't, and today it fritzed out again and doesn't appear to want to revive itself. Meanwhile my battery power was dwindling down rapidly. I only get about an hour out of my battery. Is that unusually brief?

So I fired up The Girl's desktop (also Dell) and got online. A bit of a wait today, since they're on reduced staffing for New Year's Eve, but eventually I was connected to Vinayak. He asked the obligatory scripted questions to my stated problem, such as "Check if the Adapter port is loose?" I indeed double-checked, just in case, but then pointed out that nothing is loose, and it's the adapter itself that's freaking out. The little power light on it goes out. It's not like it's pumping out the juice and the computer's just not gettin' any.

But he quickly agreed, and assured me: "Not to worry I will make sure the correct part is sent this time and good one."

Here's hoping.

Along with my power of procrastination, I also have a power of making do. I made do with the old adapter until I was spending more time fiddling with the cord than using the computer. I made do with this one periodically sending out audio distress signals and no power. I had a slow leak in one of the tires on my Jeep, and rather than getting it fixed right away, I spent two winters dragging out my little air compressor every morning to fill the tire in cold weather. When The Girl finally pointed out the ridiculousness of this and accompanied me to the garage down the street, it was like 10 bucks to extract the nail that was embedded in the tire and patch the hole. Another winter I drove around for weeks with the soft plastic driver's side window all cracked and broken until The Girl got in the Jeep and noticed it. When we got home she went online and ordered replacement windows.

I just always try to make do with what I've got and get by. I need to get over this.

Sounds like I've got a couple of New Year's resolutions ready to go!

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12:34 PM
Friday, December 30, 2005

In Search of Geeks 

Of course I need to locate the geeks in the new place, and I've been making some progress.

 

The sysadmin guy at the pod next to mine is a gadget geek.  He was quite impressed with the mobiBlu.

 

The PM I traveled with to Florida is a movie geek, although she seems to focus more on the chick flicks to the exclusion of all others.  Not a well-rounded movie geek.  I introduced her to ThinkGeek.com this morning so she could order herself an iCHIMP (I need another one for myself).  That got us talking about Das Keyboard, and keyboard variations in general. 

 

This took us on a tour of the mostly empty office (it was around 7:30 am).  We found a Das Keyboard, a Dvorak keyboard, a very cool next gen ergonomic keyboard that has the keys sort of sunk in so you can really grip it like an integrated biomechanical console, and much to my pleasant surprise, the workstations of what appear to be kindred spirits. 

 

One of the support guys in a nearby pod has a Serenity mini-poster on his divider.  He also has a blue LED binary clock. Very cool.  

 

One of the developers has a plethora of mini Star Wars vessels all over his workstation and dividers. 

 

I must investigate further…


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Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:13 AM
Thursday, December 29, 2005

An RSLS Christmas 


Piggyback Santa
Originally uploaded by RSLS.
A few weeks ago I was chatting with my mom on the phone, and she was laying it on thick.

"This will be the first Christmas since [Biggest Sister] was born [1949] that I won't have any of my children in the house on Christmas morning. I've only put out a couple of the Christmas Village pieces for decoration. I was going to make a strada, but there's no point for just your father and me." *Sigh*

So I offered that The Girl and I could stay over on Christmas Eve, since we're going to be out that way on Christmas Day anyway. She replied, "Well, that would be okay. Just let me know, because I'll have to put together the strada the night before..."

She made it sound like a bit of a chore. Little did I know that this just made her holiday. By the time we arrived, the house was covered with holiday decorations, including this Santa who got a seat on the stone pig. Christmas in New England!

Check out the Christmas 2005 photoset for the full photo story. Don't use the slideshow option, or you won't get the accompanying text!

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 8:00 PM

Change in Blogging Habits 

Initially: Had my own office, in which the back of the monitor faced the door, so I could blog to my heart's content whenever the mood or inspiration struck.

Former company moved: Cubeland. Some privacy, but the monitor faced the cube opening, as did my back. Resolved this somewhat with installation of an iCHIMP monitor mirror. Still managed a good amount of impulse blogging during the day.

Currently: The new job involves open workstations arranged in three workstation pods. It is a completely open environment. I will be resorting to the occasional daytime post via e-mail. For example, one of the company owners just walked by, as viewed in my iCHIMP, which is even more handy now. I will be getting a second one to install to the left hand corner of my monitor.

Wish me luck, and I'll offer you my promise to send at least one e-mail post every couple of days. We'll see how it goes...

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 8:46 AM
Saturday, December 24, 2005

RSLS Goes to Cocoa Beach 


RSLS Goes to Cocoa Beach
Originally uploaded by RSLS.
While I wasn't able to spend any daylight time on the beach, I did manage to get out there for a short while just before and as it was getting dark after the client site visit. Click over to my Cocoa Beach Photoset for the rest. Remember - click on the first picture in the group, then use Next. If you use the slideshow, you won't see the commentary!

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:01 AM

The Family Stone 

A film of quiet, subtle wonderment. Big names, great acting, intelligent dialog and storylines. There's much, much more to it than the trailers would lead you to believe.

Diane Keaton, Sarah Jessica Parker, Dermot Mulroney, Claire Danes, Craig T. Nelson, Luke Wilson, Rachel McAdams.

Family, holidays, life, achievement, obligation, being true to yourself and your heart, fitting in, feeling left out, joy, anger, jealousy, and love.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:03 AM

Brokeback Mountain 

The Girl has been on the edge of her golf cart waiting for this movie to open in wide release, and last night we finally got to see it.

Colloquially known as "the gay cowboy movie," Brokeback Mountain stars Heath Ledger (as Ennis) and Jake Gyllenhall (as Jack) as two young cowboys trying to eke out a living in 1963 Wyoming. They meet when they each get a job tending sheep grazing in the national forest on Brokeback Mountain. Ranchers can purchase grazing rights and their workers camp out there, but the camp area is a distance away from where the sheep are. The two cowboys are supposed to tend the sheep during the day and eat their morning and evening meals in the camp, but then one is supposed to go back out to the sheep and keep an illegal overnight eye on them, with only a pup tent and no fire to keep warm.

Over the course of the season the ebullient Jack and the man of few, clench-jawed words Ennis become friends and eventually begin a relationship. The bulk of the movie follows them over the ensuing decades as they lead their separate but periodically intersecting lives, and the difficulty each has living acceptable lives in a not so accepting time and place.

The setting and the cinematography are stark, with the wind vying for a nomination in a supporting role. The mood is quiet, regretful, longing and desperate. The acting by the young cast is astounding. None of the four main actors (also including Anne Hathaway as a wealthy barrel racer and Michelle Williams as a lonely wife and mother) are out of their 20s, but we see them age from teenagers to middle age, and they do it well, with understated grace. Ledger, Williams, director Ang Lee, the screenplay, the score, the theme song and the film itself have all picked up Golden Globe nominations.

Heath Ledger deserves the accolades he's getting for this role. While costar Jake Gyllenhall has had success throughout his career with landing substantive roles in which he's excelled, up until now Ledger has primarily been eye candy or in not-so-acclaimed pictures (with the exception of Monster's Ball, but that was a small supporting role). He breaks out with Brokeback Mountain, and I expect he will continue to win the roles everyone wants in the coming years. His next feature opening is the more light-hearted (and rakish eye-candy-ish) Casanova, coming to theaters this Sunday. We'll be heading for Rumor Has It... (which I've been anticipating since August 2004) for our annual Christmas evening trip to the cinema, but I'd like to see Casanova while it's out.

Reality Check: The Girl liked it, but found it to be a little slow and rather mood-dampening. Like with Boys Don't Cry or In the Bedroom, both excellent and award-winning films, she wouldn't recommend seeing it twice in short succession. But do go see it.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 8:26 AM

63rd Golden Globe Nominations 

On our way to see Brokeback Mountain last night, The Girl asked me when the Golden Globes are, and who some of the nominees are. I was stunned - doesn't she read my blog? Well, on reviewing it this morning, I see that while I read the announcements, I never posted on them. What's wrong with me? What was I thinking?

So here it is. The Golden Globe nominees were announced on December 13, and the awards will be announced and presented on January 16, 2006 at 8 pm EST. You can watch them on NBC. And some of the nominees are (click here to see the full list).

BEST MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
Brokeback Mountain
The Constant Gardener
Good Night, and Good Luck
A History of Violence
Match Point

BEST MOTION PICTURE - MUSICAL OR COMEDY
Mrs. Henderson Presents
Pride & Prejudice
The Producers
The Squid and the Whale
Walk the Line

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
Maria Bello - A History of Violence
Felicity Huffman - Transamerica
Gwyneth Paltrow - Proof
Charlize Theron - North Country
Ziyi Zhang - Memoirs of a Geisha

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE - MUSICAL OR COMEDY
Judi Dench - Mrs. Henderson Presents
Keira Knightley - Pride & Prejudice
Laura Linney - The Squid and the Whale
Sarah Jessica Parker - The Family Stone
Reese Witherspoon - Walk the Line

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE - DRAMA
Russell Crowe - Cinderella Man
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Capote
Terrence Howard - Hustle & Flow
Heath Ledger - Brokeback Mountain
David Straithairn - Good Night, and Good Luck

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE -MUSICAL OR COMEDY
Pierce Brosnan - The Matador
Jeff Daniels - The Squid and the Whale
Johnny Depp - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Nathan Lane - The Producers
Cillian Murphy - Breakfast on Pluto
Joaquin Phoenix - Walk the Line

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
Scarlett Johansson - Match Point
Shirley MacLaine - In Her Shoes
Frances McDormand - North Country
Rachel Weisz - The Constant Gardener
Michelle Williams - Brokeback Mountain

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
George Clooney - Syriana
Matt Dillon - Crash
Will Ferrell - The Producers
Paul Giamatti - Cinderella Man
Bob Hoskins - Mrs. Henderson Presents

BEST DIRECTOR - MOTION PICTURE
Woody Allen - Match Point
George Clooney - Good Night, and Good Luck
Peter Jackson - King Kong
Ang Lee - Brokeback Mountain
Fernando Meirelles - The Constant Gardener
Steven Spielberg - Munich

On the tv front, let's just say it's a VERY good year for Desperate Housewives, with a nomination for Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy, and the four leads taking up four of the five nominations for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy. The fifth slot is held by Mary Louise Parker for Weeds (I love both shows). Felicity Huffman could potentially grab a tv Best Actress as well as a film Best Actress, with her nominations for both Desperate Housewives AND Transamerica!

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 7:55 AM
Thursday, December 22, 2005

Better on the Whole 

The rest of the Florida trip went fine, with just a couple of minor hitches.

I mentioned in my last post that I had been waiting an hour for the lead PM to call me and let me know she was ready to go to dinner. It was about another 45 minutes before the call finally came. She'd been reading and responding to her e-mail the whole time. It's not like there was anyone in the offices to receive it, but she just hates to leave an e-mail unopened or unresponded. We ended up eating in the hotel restaurant as we were both too tired by that time to drive anywhere.

After dinner we walked out beachside briefly, then headed back in since it was too dark to see anything. Made plans that I'd swing by her room around 7:00 so we could have breakfast in the restaurant downstairs prior to our 8:00 client site visit. Next morning (Tuesday) I was in the elevator on the fourth floor, where my room was, at 7:05. At 7:05 and 10 seconds I the elevator had arrived at the second floor, where the lead PM's room was. By 7:06 the doors had yet to open, and I began pushing various buttons like "Door Open" and similar things, finally pushing "Alarm." This only rang a bell, which only lasted as long as I was holding the button. Finally I looked for the ever-present emergency telephone, without luck. Later I spotted it at floor level. Convenient.

Since I had yet to find the innovative Floor Phone, I pulled out my cell phone and Palm. I had downloaded my itinerary into my calendar, and it included contact numbers. Called the hotel, and informed them that I was in the elevator and the doors wouldn't open. They asked me which elevator. I had no recall. There are three, and I had traveled in them several times. I took a guess that it was the one on the lobby side. Turns out I was in the middle one. Oh well. On hold for a few minutes, then they informed me that they were going to reset my elevator and have me out in just a few minutes. I asked them to please transfer my call to room 239 so I could let the PM know what was going on.

*Waiting.* *Waiting.*

After a while, I started hearing some promising noises, and then a few fingers appeared in the opening crack of the doors. Then they disappeared, as did the tiny crack. Then I heard some drastic grunting and straining, and the door was pried open by the burly hotel manager, allowing me to step down 6 inches to the second floor. By this point we had to skip breakfast, but we made it to the client site on time.

More on the PM and her e-mail obsession later.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 7:33 PM
Monday, December 19, 2005

First Day of Business Trip 

As I briefly mentioned in my last post, the trip to Florida got off to a less than auspicious beginning.

It started with the allergy prescription - took the last Allegra yesterday, so I called a refill in while we were en route to Ikea for Christmas shopping. Unfortunately, we missed the pharmacy closing by five minutes upon our return, and they didn't open until 8:00 this morning. My flight was scheduled for 9:55, so it didn't seem like a good idea to be at Walgreen's at 8:00 and try to make it to Logan on the T in time to check my bag, etc. So I grabbed some Sudafed from the medicine cabinet and off I went.

By the way, anyone taking the T to Logan? Use the newly enacted SL1 Silver Line route rather than the old Blue Line to Airport Station followed by the shuttle bus. The Silver Line goes around to all the terminals and drops you off right there. Much better than the schlepping.

Anyway, I had printed out my boarding passes at home, so I curbside checked the garment bag and went in to wait in the security line. I did set it off once, but apparently it was because I came into too close proximity to the walls of the detector, because it didn't go off the second time and that's the explanation the TSA guy gave me. Once through that checkpoint, I headed to Starbucks to arm myself with a grande decaf nonfat latte and headed to the gate. All seemed to be going well until we were on the plane.

There was a guy causing some sort of ruckus because he wanted to sit in a seat other than the one he was assigned, and he was trying to negotiate the the holder of that seat and those around it. I took my window seat. The guy in the aisle seat was fairly small, well-dressed and reading a magazine quietly. Good companion. Sadly, Loud Guy eventually gave up and took his assigned seat, which was of course the middle seat in our row. Paint-splattered rust-colored jeans, some sort of boots, leather biker jacket, smelling of cigarettes and diesel fumes or something. Also a real space taker, physically and sonically. And very attached to his cell phone.

This cell phone obsession wouldn't have been bad if we had taken off on time, since cell phone use is banned once we leave the gate. But this was not to be. Our 9:55 flight took off around 11:30, after the maintenance guys cleared our lower level fire extinguishers as being fully loaded even though the pilot's gauge wasn't working properly. I got to learn way more about Loud Guy than I ever wanted to know about just about anyone. At one point the flight attendant had to tell him to put it in check as he was making the other passengers nervous with his loud joking about what good will a fire extinguisher on the bottom of the plane do if we're on fire in the cabin, and other such pleasantries. He also kept complaining that he couldn't hear the pilot's announcements and making the flight attendants come over and fill him in. Well maybe if he'd shut the hell up he could have heard it.

So here's Loud Guy, calling his sponsor and all his AA buddies (he wasn't keeping himself very anonymous), handing out advice about when you're feeling down you should just read a few lines from the book and think about them for five minutes before going back to worrying about daily shit, if you still feel like worrying about it, and on and on and on. There was also some discussion about whether the current catch phrase is "Fake it 'til you make it" or "If you're trying, you're lying," and how he really doesn't get either one.

Just how much he doesn't get it became apparent during the flight, when he had two scotch and Cokes. It became really clear when the flight attendant brought the second tiny bottle and a glass of Coke and he complained because the glass had too much Coke in it. He had the scotch bottle - he was going to get the same amount of alcohol either way. But she kindly dumped half of it out for him. Prior to pouring the first one he turned and asked if I minded if he drank, since he's not driving. I said no, but refrained from adding, "but your sponsor might have an issue with it..." His choice. I just wish I didn't have to smell his booze breath for the rest of the flight.

He tried a couple of times to engage me in conversation, but I anticipated that giving him an inch would result in listening to him be alternatingly gregarious and supposedly insightful all the way to Atlanta, so I monosyllable-responsed him and he turned his attention to Quiet Magazine Guy, who was unsuccessful and proved me correct.

This was after he spent a while during the flight playing with his cell phone ring tones, most of which involved very loud electronic symphies, christmas carols and such. Really fun. His several trips to the lavatory were welcome breaks, to all of us in the general area.

We didn't get to Atlanta until 10 minutes after our connecting flight was scheduled to have departed, so we checked with rebooking and they had already booked my work colleague and me on a flight a couple of hours later. The next flight was much better, with larger, more comfy seats, a two-seat row and a seatmate who was thin and slept the entire way. Peace at last.

When we checked in at the gate for our new seat assignments, the ticket lady noted that they had put me in first class, "I guess that's all they had. But we've got something in coach now, so I'll put you there." And she said it like she was doing me a favor. Gee thanks. I'd hate to have to sit in first class. I'm much more comfortable back in cattle with my own kind.

So now I'm in my hotel room with a lovely view of the parking lot construction, unable to connect to my office VPN and e-mail, unable to reach The Girl on the phone, waiting for my colleague (she's the lead project manager, I'm her lacky) to call and let me know she's ready to get some dinner. She said it would be a few minutes, but that was almost an hour ago.

More tales from Cocoa Beach tomorrow, after an all day client site visit. It's killing me that I can't go tour the Kennedy Space Center. They're open from 9 am to dusk, but we got here after dusk, will be on site all daylight hours tomorrow, and my flight leaves around 9:00 on Wednesday morning. The ultimate geek frustration. So close, I can almost touch it!!!!!

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 7:17 PM

Travel Hell 

I'm now sitting in the Atlanta airport, after my first flight was delayed with us on board for an hour and a half so they could check the fire extinguishers, sitting next to one of my worst stranger travel companions in my history of flight.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 2:31 PM
Saturday, December 17, 2005

John Spencer, 1946-2005 

Sad news this way comes from Coming Out of Left Field. Actor John Spencer, most recently of West Wing fame, has died of a heart attack just shy of his 59th birthday. I've been a fan of his ever since he joined LA Law back in the day.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12:51 PM

Holiday Reading 

I've already made my first selection for school break reading. This will be coming to Florida with me:



I'm also bringing my Criminal Procedure Examples & Explanations, to review before the start of Criminal Procedure II next semester, but that's not official "vacation" reading.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12:36 PM

Ding Dong, Semester's Done! 

Just got home from my last exam of the semester, in Massachusetts Practice and Procedure. No more school stuff until January 9.

As for the new job, it's going well and very, very busy. Monday I'm flying to Florida for an all day client site visit on Tuesday, then flying back on Wednesday. Just before I left the office Friday evening the idea was tossed out that perhaps I should stay in Florida for the lead project manager's other client visit in another part of the state on Thursday. Since it was the end of the day and would mean last minute travel changes, they decided instead that perhaps they'll send me the following week on a different client visit, to lovely, snow-covered, chilly Detroit. Rock city.

Guess it all balances out on the karmic scales.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12:30 PM
Friday, December 16, 2005

My First Computer 

I bought my very first computer when I was in grad school at the University of Iowa. They had a computer center where students could purchase computers and spread the payments over the course of the year. I did my research, and placed my order.

It was a Packard-Bell with an 8088 processor, 80MB hard drive, a green monochrome display a 5.5-inch floppy drive and a dot matrix printer. I loaded all the software myself, including MS-DOS, Word Perfect, Lotus 1,2,3 and some statistics package I needed for my stats class. I learned how to use it by reading the DOS manual, then moving on to the WP and Lotus documentation.

I would spend hours on it.

I would go to the store and check out all the 5-1/4 inch floppy disks -I would get double density, of course, since I could store a whole 360 KB on it. Then I'd bring them home and format them before use.

In addition to doing the usual writing of papers and statistics crunching, I also kept track of all my students' progress. I created detailed analyses of their scores and earned points throughout the quarter, and gave them updates on where they needed improvement. Grading of tests was accompanied by spreadsheets to breakdown the percentages of how many got each question right, so I could see where perhaps I had failed to impart the information correctly. I created bar graphs and pie charts (with different shading patterns, of course, since there was no color-coding available in monochrome and with dot-matrix).

It was my birth as a geek.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 5:50 AM
Wednesday, December 14, 2005

New Jobs, New Sights 

What I saw today:

The definition of irony - a coworker standing on a wheeled cart on a linoleum floor, in order to read the posted workplace safety information.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 5:37 PM
Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Wills Done, Work's Begun 

Had the final exam for Wills, Estates and Trusts on Monday evening. This was the first exam I in which I actually went to the end and had to put down my pen midsentence. I take comfort in the fact that the majority of the class, including most of the others who usually finish early, were in the same boat. All I ask is to beat the curve...

Monday morning (yesterday) I started my new job, and today I set up my profile with our designated travel agent and booked a business trip to sunny Florida for next week. I'll be the backup project manager on this client's first setup/overview visit. Travel Monday, on site all day and into the evening Tuesday, and fly back Wednesday morning. I've also downloaded the software that allows me to download my entire itinerary directly onto my Palm via Avantgo, and also have it popped into my Outlook calendar. Very cool.

Today we had our monthly company-wide meeting, and a couple of the telecommuters came up for it. One of them is a woman I used to work with at our mutual nightmare former employer about 5 years ago, and it was great to see her. I knew she was working there, but she hadn't heard that I'd joined up as well. Small world, once more.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:21 PM
Sunday, December 11, 2005

LA Film Critics Awards 2005 

The first awards of the season have been announced, as the Los Angeles Film Critics made public their list of winners and runners-up for their 31st annual awards, which will be officially presented on January 17.

And the happy artists and films in the major categories are:

Best Picture: Brokeback Mountain
Director: Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
Actress: Vera Farmiga, Down to the Bone
Actor: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
Supporting Actress: Catherine Keener, Capote AND Ballad of Jack and Rose AND The 40 Year Old Virgin AND The Interpreter (busy, busy!)
Supporting Actor: William Hurt, A History of Violence
Screenplay: TIE: Dan Futterman, Capote and Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale
Foreign Language Film: Cache
Documentary/Nonfiction: Grizzly Man
Production Design: William Chang, 2046
Animation: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Nick Park and Steve Box
Music/Score: Joe Hisaishi and Youmi Kimura, Howl's Moving Castle
Cinematography: Robert Elswit, Good Night, and Good Luck
Independent/Experimental: La Commune (Paris, 1871)

For other winners and the runners-up, see the LAFCA announcement.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 6:54 PM
Saturday, December 10, 2005

Christmas With the Kranks 

I had to be at school first thing this sunny Saturday morning for our Massachusetts Practice and Procedure (i.e. Civil Procedure for civil actions in MA state courts), so when I got back early this afternoon we had a late big breakfast and watched last year's holiday offering from director Joe Roth and screenplay writer Chris Columbus (based on John Grisham's novel), Christmas With the Kranks. The big motivator for putting this on our Netflix list was Jamie Lee Curtis.

The first half or so was just too over the top. The basic premise is that Nora and Luther Krank (Jamie Lee Curtis and Tim Allen) are depressed as Christmas approaches, since their daughter has joined the Peace Corps and will be in Peru during the holidays, missing Christmas at home for the first time. Luther decides that they will simply "skip" Christmas, and will go on a romantic cruise instead to help them through their empty nest. Unfortunately, the folks in the neighborhood just won't let it go (the street wins the area house decorating contest every year), so they put the pressure on, led by Vic Frohmeyer (Dan Akroyd) and his Oliver Twist-ian gang of adolescents.

The initial reactions from friends, neighbors, coworkers and total strangers is too much. The Boy Scouts get pissed off because he doesn't take the Christmas tree they bring to the door on the assumption that he's going to shell out $90 for the same type of tree he bought last year. He didn't order it - they just brought it on out. The neighborhood gathers on the front lawn to shout out their demand that the seven-foot artificial snowman be hoisted onto his traditional place on the roof. Nora's friends are outraged that the Kranks won't be having their annual Christmas Eve party. The stationery store guy chases Nora down in a restaurant to announce to all present that Nora isn't ordering Christmas cards or party invitations, and then everyone starts glaring and gossiping. No one responds with any sympathy at all that this couple is trying to deal in their own way with the first holiday absence of their only child, who by all accounts is a favorite child of the entire neighborhood. It's just too much.

But The Girl and I hung on, even though I think The Girl was angling for early termination, and part way through the hijinx eventually led to some Christmas spirit kicking in, and it turned all It's a Wonderful Life and I even starting welling with the cheesy-ness of it all. The Girl was flabbergasted that it had this effect on me, but what can I say? I'm one of those people that is an easy mark for Hallmark commercials, romantic comedies and the like.

So while I wouldn't put it at the top of the list for holiday viewing, if you happen to have it or have seen everything else and you're willing to sit through the first half without damaging your screen by throwing heavy items at the obnoxious neighbors, the second half might give you a warm fuzzy reward.

Reality Check: It was okay. It was kind of goofy.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 4:45 PM
Friday, December 09, 2005

Weather Woes 

Given that today is my last business day of being unemployed, I made an appointment for a haircut with our new favorite stylist. Unfortunately, she's all the way up in Gloucester, about 30 miles away. Plus, we've got a whopper snowstorm hitting us today. Not just snow, but periodically changing to pouring rain here and there. I also had to go into school to drop off some stuff at the business offices, so I got to go exactly here and there.

Shoveled about 2 inches off the driveway before I left, then headed out in the snow. As I got further north, it changed to rain, which was much better. The problem was that there was lots of slush on the edges of the lane, which more than once tried to grab my tires and wrench me off the highway. But at last I made it up north, and got a fabulous haircut for my first day on the job Monday.

When I got out (oh, and by the way, now apparently we're also being joined by a thunderstorm, while the snow is coming across - it's blowing sideways - so furiously that I can't see across the street), it was raining pretty hard in Gloucester. But also by that point the highway was clear of snow, since it had all melted. I had to swing by The Girl's office to pick up some stuff she photocopied for me, so I continued down 128 beyond 93, around where I usually would have exited onto Washington St. in Woburn. At that exact point, it switched back to horrific snow - could barely see!

Got the papers, suggested she get out of work early if possible, and continued to the Mass Pike. As soon as I headed east on the Pike from 128, it switched to rain again. This was good for driving, but not so good for the three blocks I had to walk from where I found a spot on Charles Street to the offices on Church Street. I ran in my hiking boots, jeans, midlength wool coat and no hat, very glad I had put all the papers in a protective brown envelope, and by the time I got there I was drenched. A cold drench at that.

Drop off, chat, drop off at another office, chat, then back through the pouring rain. By the time I was unlocking my car, there was definite wet snow in the air. By the time I got to 93 North, it was snowing pretty much as it is now. I passed several accidents over the course of the day.

When I got home I parked the Jeep in the street and shoveled the driveway and walks all over again. By the time I finished, it was covering over again, so I gave up, pulled the Jeep in and ran inside. I also noted today that the dashboard light that tells me when I have the four wheel drive engaged isn't working. I think the four wheel drive is working, just not the light.

Winter. Uck. Give me early autumn anytime.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 2:39 PM
Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Print, Dammit, Print! 

I finally finished my paper for Sexual Orientation and the Law, and e-mailed it to the professor. The catch is, if I don't get confirmation that she received and could open it, I have to mail it to her and it has to be postmarked today. It's 4:48, I haven't received confirmation, and the post office closes at 5:30 (thank god not 5:00).

Sadly, I forgot about how long it takes to print things out on the home printer. I got so spoiled in the former office cubeland where I could print out high quality duplex prints in no time flat, and a simple one-sided job like this would have taken microseconds. Now I'm painfully watching each friggin' page ease its way into the tray. Twelve pages down, five to go.

Tic, tock, tic, tock...
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UPDATE (7:23 pm): So, I made it to the post office, waited in line and got my 12/7/05 postmark along with my receipt showing I paid for it at 5:02. My only remaining issue was that as I pulled the pages off the printer to staple them together, I noticed that although on the screen and Print Preview it showed my page numbering as being "Page X of {total}," on the printed pages it was "Page X of X." In other words, I had Page 1 of 1, Page 2 of 2, etc. The only one that was correct was Page 17 of 17. I've had this happen before and was able to correct it by mysterious waving of the hands over the monitor, but I had no time for mystical technomaging or wait for another complete set to drib-drab its way through the bubble jet, so I bagged it and tagged it.

At 6:38, after I had returned, I got the previously-anticipated confirmation e-mail, with an apology that she hadn't read it until after 5:00. I replied, "No problem - you can just toss the copy you'll receive via USPS!"

I really hope she takes me up on that, as the file had the correct numbering system.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 4:47 PM

Papers and Other Items of Daily Living 

Today I've been working on my final paper of the semester, "Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins: Civil Unions and Parentage in Vermont and Virginia," for my Sexual Orientation and the Law class. But I squeezed more than just writing into the day - no, that would never be enough. Other completed items on the agenda included (in no particular chronological order):

  • Cleaning up the kitchen from last evening's dinner.
  • Going out for the second day of my new running regime (started on Sunday).
  • Listening to and taking notes on the audio file of oral arguments before the Supreme Court of Vermont in Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins for the aforementioned paper.
  • Set up and started the bread machine to make a loaf of white bread laced with Herbs de Provence.
  • Started the chicken brining for a roast chicken this evening.
  • Several loads of laundry.
  • Three lunchtime games of online backgammon with The Girl. I lost all three. It was very uplifting.
  • Chatted with the trashy neighbor, who popped out of her door upon my return from running. Our mutual front door has been so swollen with all the precipitation of the past couple of months that it's nigh-on impossible to pull shut from the outside, and you have to really lean into it to close it from the inside. There was much more to the story, including her sighting of a red fox in the front yard the other day, but I won't bore you any longer with the details. You can thank me later.
  • Continued the ongoing battle with The Boys regarding who has sovereign control over my desk while I'm working. At this point Aspen has retreated to his pillow on the credenza, but Mischief has taken up a napping stance on my blotter/notepad while I work on the computer.
  • Set up the Gazelle for The Girl to work out upon while the chicken is roasting.
  • Helped The Girl with her stretches.
  • E-mail updates with a classmate who is also working on a paper. We find this commiseration to be a great comfort.

But now it's time to say goodnight, and resume fighting the good fight again tomorrow. Priority number one will be knocking off the rest of this last paper. But who knows what else the day will bring?


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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12:29 AM
Monday, December 05, 2005

Employment, Thou Art Mine 

You may recall that I got laid off back in September. Well, my downtime will be coming to a close on Monday when I start my new job. I'll have to update the FAQ section, as I'll no longer be a tech writer by day, nor an unemployed tech writer, but an Installation Project Manager at a healthcare-related software company. Yay for me!

The timing works out well, since Monday evening's Wills, Estates and Trusts exam is my last weekday school event until January 9, when the second semester starts, so I'll be able to focus on settling in and learning the ropes at the new gig. I'm psyched - the company seems great, and a woman I used to work with has been there for five years and still loves it.

This is so cool.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 5:43 PM
Sunday, December 04, 2005

Such Timing 

Inspired by a BMC classmate of mine, The Girl and I decided to take up running. Yesterday we went out and got ourselves each a pair of Ryka running shoes, and this morning woke up for our first run. Last week I looked up some running sites and found Cool Running's schedule for couch potato to 5K in two months.

Sadly, we didn't check the weather, and woke up to the first big snowstorm of the year. But we were undeterred. We shoveled the driveway, cleared off the cars, and off we went.

I know, you're thinking, "Why did you get in your car?"

The roads are all slushy and yucky, plus we had to do some grocery shopping, so we drove down to the Minuteman Bikeway in Arlington. It's nicely covered with trees, so the snow wasn't bad, plus it was quiet and there wasn't all kinds of road slush. Our first day of running went quite well, with a 5-minute walking warmup, then alternating 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking. That's the schedule for the first week.

Then we climbed up the steps to Starbucks, then back in the car for shopping. Nice!

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 4:15 PM
Saturday, December 03, 2005

Two Classes Complete 

We had our last session of Accounting for Lawyers on Thursday (which was my last any class session of the semester), and we handed in our take home exams that night as well, so that class is completely behind me. I'm really glad, because that was the first law school class that I felt was a waste of time and tuition. Perhaps if the professor had stayed on topic more often, but most of the time he was going off on 30-minute tangents about some related tax implication, prefaced by the statement, "This is just for those of you interested in tax law. If you're not interested, don't worry - this won't be on the exam." That's great for the tax wonks, but for those of us more interested in the exam which counts for 100% of our grade, not so much.

But it's over.

About an hour ago I e-mailed my paper for my international law seminar, Perspectives: Non State Actors (title = The Role of the European Union in Advancing Individual Rights for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Citizens). I got so distracted thinking about and working on the Accounting exam that I was left with a short time to polish off this one. It always happens that the first exam or paper due gets all the attention, and all the others get jammed in. It would have been easier if these two professors had stuck with the published exam/take-home/paper schedule the Registrar issued back when we were picking classes for this semester. According to that, I had plenty of time between the end of classes and my first target date, then each date was spread out nicely. Instead, they both move them up to the last couple of class days of the semester, one the day after the other.

But it's over.

Next event is my other seminar paper, for Sexual Orientation and the Law, due next Wednesday (12/7). Then it's the Wills, Estates and Trusts exam on 12/12 and the Massachusetts Practice and Procedure exam on 12/17 (yes, a Saturday).

Then the semester will be over. Yay.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1:43 AM

Plethora of Procrastination 

Clearly I learned nothing from last year's experience off putting of writing to the last minute. Or from my other experience earlier last year. I need to be better about stopping the reading and researching, and starting the writing. The actual text is what gets the grade, so no matter how much knowledge I've absorbed and no matter how many fabulous insights I've developed, it doesn't count for shit until I get it put on paper and turned in.

I've been reminding myself of this fact of life since high school. I'm hoping that this time it will stick, even though it hasn't for the previous 20+ years.

I remember vividly sitting on a dorm roof at Bryn Mawr with my friend Ingrid and a manual typewriter, tapping out a paper for Romantic Music (the last remaining gut course at BMC at the time - I'm sure even that's been beefed up by now) on the afternoon of the day it was due.

Hell, I still remember vividly sitting at a table in front of the fireplace in my parent's living room in my high school years, with a manual typewriter, trying desperately to pour my thoughts onto the keyboard in a form that would show how much work I had done. Of course I probably have such a clear image of this because I also have a clear image of my father wandering downstairs in the wee small hours of the morning to give me the sage advice, "Next time don't wait so long to get your work done."

Perhaps I still have this problem out of some form of retained adolescent rebellion. Perhaps now that I've had this epiphany and see how lame it is for someone now in her 40's, I'll finally get over it.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1:28 AM
Thursday, December 01, 2005

Marriage Equality: South Africa 

South Africa's Constitutional Court today ruled on the case in which the plaintiffs claimed that South Africa's definition of marriage as being one man-one woman violated the nation's constitutional provision of equality for GLBT individuals. The high court affirmed the appellate court's decision that yes, this is unconstitutional discrimination, and gave Parliament one year to change the marriage laws accordingly. If Parliament fails to act, the court's ruling will go into effect on its own and the country will have marriage equality.

This is similar to the approach in Massachusetts, where the Supreme Judicial Court stayed its order in Goodridge for six months to allow the legislature to take appropriate action in line with the decision.

During arguments in the case, the government's lawyer met with laughter from citizens in attendance when he made the following groundless arguments:
"Same-sex partnerships are a relatively new phenomena," said the Department of Home Affairs' advocate Marumo Moerane, sparking laughter in the packed gallery. He then said that, "We don't know whether single-sex relationships involve the idea of mutual support."

Stay tuned over the coming months to see if parliament acts earlier than the deadline. Otherwise, hopefully in one year at the latest Mr. Moerane will see a demonstration of people in single-sex relationships committing themselves to mutual support. Or he could just look at Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium or Massachusetts. Or he could just look to the victorious plaintiffs in the case he just lost.
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UPDATE (12/2/05): The 111-page opinion is now available online. Thanks to opinio juris, who also has an extensive discussion of the court's discussion of international law on the issue.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:19 AM