29 February 2008

Must Resist Target Jingle Must Resist Target Jingle

Over the last few days I've had a persistent earworm (see http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/commercial-jingle2.htm for more details on this maddening phenomenon.) It's not even a whole song, just two repetitive lines from an old target ad: "A little bit more, a little bit more" over and over and over and over and over and over... ARGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG. At least it's not "It's a Small World Afterall."

28 February 2008

It's All A Blur to Me Now

Sharper Image filed Chapter 11 about a week ago.

(So how sharp are they?)

This is a little surprising but not hugely surprising.

It's a little surprising in that there are always lots of people in the Sharper Image stores. It's not hugely surprising in that the economy is in the tank and what goes first when people tighten their financial belts? The unnecessary purchases.

Sharper Image was all about unnecessary purchases. It's implied in the name. Wouldn't this improve your image?! You don't need it but boy you'd be cool if you had it.

Seems like the heyday of Sharper Image was the 80s. The ME decade.

So, if they're doing so poorly now, why do I always see people in the stores? Maybe they aren't there to buy. Maybe they're just killing time playing with the high-end toys while waiting for their spouses.

If Sharper Image is no more, does the public become duller? Do we walk around wishing we could hone our fuzzy self-images? Me thinks not.

What does this say for other companies in the business of selling image? This does not bode well for Tiffany's, Hummer, or Cigar Aficionado.

27 February 2008

EU fines Microsoft record $1.35 billion

Excerpted from Reuters via Yahoo News:

By David Lawsky 2 hours, 57 minutes ago

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Microsoft (MSFT.O) was fined a record 899 million euros ($1.35 billion) by the European Commission on Wednesday for using high prices to discourage software competition in the latest sanction in their long-running battle.

The executive arm of the European Union said the U.S. software group defied a 2004 order from Brussels to provide the information on reasonable terms.

Microsoft has now been fined a total of 1.68 billion euros by the EU for abusing its 95 percent dominance of PC operating systems through Windows.

Its latest fine far exceeded the original and was the biggest ever imposed on a company.

"Microsoft was the first company in 50 years of EU competition policy that the Commission has had to fine for failure to comply with an antitrust decision," Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said in a statement.

For years after the decision Microsoft said it was making every effort to comply with the Commission's orders.

"Talk is cheap, flouting the rules is expensive," Kroes said. "We don't want talk and promises. We want compliance."

The article goes on but the Kroes quote is the one I love. It's hard for me to feel even a smidgen of sorrow for Microsoft here. Now, their stockholders, that's a different story. But knowing the vagaries of the market, this may very well help. [I do a quick check...] Yes, the stock is up.

I Can't Sleep

It's nearing 1 a.m. and who am I going to call at this hour? No one. So after trying to sleep for a while I give up and head downstairs and fire up the laptop. It has been a strange day.

My mother has been in and out of the hospital a number of times over the last month and she is understandably not happy about it. She is 85. I think, "how many times can she bounce back?" But she is tough.

My sister has taken her back to the doctor today and he is pleased. The medicine is working. Her lungs are clear. Her heart is strong. All her stats are better than they've been in years. He tells her she looks good and she protests that she doesn't feel good, she feels weak. He cuts back on her meds, which I am relieved to hear, and assures her that she is doing well and will be getting stronger. This is a good thing.

Later, we are on the phone an usual amount--so much so that hubby, who has been on the phone at work all day, too, declares that he isn't talking on the phone to anyone else tonight. He doesn't know it yet but he is wrong about this.

We settle in to watch The Biggest Loser, my one "must see" show, and the phone rings. We let it ring but then check messages, worried that it may be a call about my mother or his mother, who is older than my mother and also of precarious health. It is my cousin on the message, who asks us to call her back tonight.

I try to call her back but the line is busy. At 10:00 the show is over and I wonder if it is too late to call. I will call her tomorrow, I decide. At 10:15 she calls me and her husband is on the extension. She asks me to get hubby on the extension.

She tells us that her breast cancer has re-surfaced and this time it is inoperable.

We spend the next half hour trying to be a comfort and having no clue what to say. We hear the story of how she found out. We are all in shock. We are all sorry. We try to be optimistic without being trite or simplistic. We hope that the doctor is wrong and that she will beat the odds. We relay stories of people that have beaten the odds. With each word I say, I feel useless and stupid but I have to say something, even the wrong thing, because this is horrible.

I ask her what I can do to help. Bless her, she gives me a task--to send her cartoons/comics so she'll laugh. I can do that. I will do that.

We are being stared down by death and we don't want to look it in the eyes. We try to avert our gaze and keep our cousin squarely in our sites, simultaneously. What is there to say? A strained half-hour later we end the call, reinforcing the positive and vowing to stay in touch.

Hubby, who has been up since 5:00 am, is exhausted. Stress tends to make him shut down/sleep more and, with this added situation, he is asleep very quickly and I am glad he can sleep.

I toss and turn, no longer caring about Biggest Loser, no longer caring about the six meetings that are on my schedule tomorrow. I am trying to make sense of something that has no sense to it.

I try to remember my Reiki training, first sending healing energy to myself and then to my cousin, as the procedure dictates. And, then, for good measure, to my mother.

I silently vow to stay in better touch with all the people that I am taking for granted but who mean the world to me.

I give up trying to sleep and think, "maybe if I blog..."

26 February 2008

The Tastiest Healthy Food Ever

If you are trying to be reasonably healthy but you still have a cookie jones, check out Kashi Oatmeal Dark Chocolate cookies. They're a little denser than most cookies due to the fact that they're jam packed with grains but don't let that hold you back from trying them. Incredibly tasty and you get your triticale, both at the same time! 7 whole grains, 5 grams of fat, 140 calories per cookie.

JoeBob says "Check it out!"

25 February 2008

Fortune... & Fame??

I watch a few minutes of the morning news and several national anchors announce that they will be interviewing the recent winners of the $270M MegaMillions (lottery) jackpot. So I watch one of these interviews and this couple from the tiny town of Portal, Georgia are shown, via satellite, discussing their win. They sit stone-faced and unsure as they listen to the disembodied voices in their ear phones.

The anchor, in this case, Meredith Viera, asks them questions and they provide simple, honest answers. Yes, husband quit his job as an iron worker and did so politely. Wife says they played their grandchildren's birth dates. No, they don't want to make dramatic changes as they like the life they have for the most part. She does want a Mercedes and he may get a 4-wheel drive vehicle and they may buy a little land and build a different house. They've had some hard times, money-wise, over the last few years and this will really help.

I am happy for these people. And I am sad for these people. I am appalled that they went on NATIONAL TELEVISION and announced that they have more money than god!

Clearly, they are not considering the ramifications. I give it days, maybe just hours, before they are bombarded by people they know and many more people they don't know demanding/begging/wheedling for some of that money. How long before they need a special account at the post office to deal with all the letters coming in? How long before they change their phone number to an unlisted one to get some peace? How long before some nut-job threatens them at gun point or kidnaps one of those grandkids? How long before they have to move out of the town they love because of this simple publicity piece?

It's stuff like this that makes me despair of what the news shows have become. How can they take advantage of these people like this? Sure, on the surface it is that rarest of news items, a happy piece so isn't that a good thing for the public to see? So, the winners are naive enough that they don't know any better and no one has advised them that publicity might not be the best move right now. Does that mean you have them on your show and ruin their lives?! Jeez.

Don Henley said it best in his song "Dirty Laundry"...
I make my living off the evening news
Just give me something-something I can use
People love it when you lose,
They love dirty laundry...

Kick em when they're up
Kick em when they're down
Kick em when they're up
Kick em when they're down
Kick em when they're up
Kick em when they're down
Kick em when they're up
Kick em all around

21 February 2008

Disturbing Footage on Hotel Glasses

Check out this footage. If I've embedded the link properly, you should be able to click on the title of this post. If not, cut and paste the following: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFypXXe1kW8

Sigh. Well, thinking back, I can't say I've ever seen glasses on those housekeeping carts. Oy.

That which does not kill me makes me stronger. That which does not kill me makes me stronger. That which does not kill me makes me stronger....

14 February 2008

A True Sign of a Good Day

I went to a meeting today and there, on the table, for the taking, were cupcakes! One of the folks at the meeting had baked and brought them. Just for the joy of it.

I gotta tell you, I've never had a bad day that involved a cupcake. Think about it... have you?

It's all positive associations...

Cupcakes are delicious.

There's the cake. Usually a simple vanilla but not always.

There's the frosting. And with cupcakes, unlike whole sheet cakes, you don't get stuck with too much frosting in the form of a "rose" that you have to scrape off.

There's the decoration. Sometimes simply the attractive application of the frosting. Sometimes you get jimmies ('sprinkles', for you out of towners) and such.

There's the cupcake peel-away paper to keep it from getting cooties.

They're almost always associated with a celebration of some kind and even when there's cupcakes without a celebration, nobody provides them for something bad. You never see a cupcake at a shiva house. It's never, "Sorry you lost your job--I baked you this cupcake." No! It's always, "Where's the birthday boy? Get him out here! We've got cupcakes!"

And they're individual. Everybody get's there own. So, there's none of that nasty "hey, did she get a bigger slice than me?"

How great is that?!

Wishing you all a day with a cupcake in your very near future!

12 February 2008

It's Quiet. Too Quiet.

I went to vote in the primary today and it was way too quiet. This is the first time I've voted that nobody tried to influence me. I saw a couple of commercials on television and that was it. I didn't get anything in the mail; no flyers, no sample ballots, nothing. I didn't get any telephone calls or recorded messages. Nobody canvassed the neighborhood, knocking on doors. There wasn't even anyone set up outside of the voting site to try to hand me information. Very strange. But I voted. Got my sticker and everything. Just like the one in the picture.

Now we wait...

Travel Insurance Comparison Sites

From PostPoints Travel Tips:

Buying travel insurance in case of bad weather, like a hurricane in the Caribbean?

Policies that stipulate you’re covered if airports are closed should help if bad weather strikes before departure, but won’t cover you if you’re already at your destination and wish to flee. Look for terms that cover you if your lodging becomes uninhabitable. That way, if an evacuation is ordered before a storm, you’re covered, and can go home on the insurance company’s dime. Three sites that let you compare insurance policies and costs: www.quotewright.com, www.squaremouth.com and www.insuremytrip.com.

11 February 2008

Music & Passion: An Evening with Barry Manilow

Okay, you can make fun of me. Yes. I went to see Barry Manilow. And what's more, I enjoyed it. It was kitchy and sweet and fun all at the same time.

Travelzoo had a rare announcement about a Barry Manilow concert at the Verizon Center in DC where tickets in the nosebleed sections were going for $9.99! Now you can't see a local, no-name band for that price much less someone who is world famous. I thought, "Why not?"

So I bought nosebleed seat tickets--section 404 which is in the highest tier--and looked forward to an evening of live music for very little money, even if we couldn't see a thing.

When we got to the Verizon Center, they handed us Manilow glowsticks so we could swing them back and forth with the music (!) and the entire crowd sure did. See the green dots in the picture above? Glowsticks.

They scanned our tickets, and said "Congratulations! You've been upgraded!" Because of the set up for the evening, we would have been in obstructed view, so they automatically gave us better seats: we were moved from the 400s to the 200s which is the first tier beyond the floor.

We got ourselves some drinks at the Bacardi bar and headed in and were delighted with our seats which gave us a great side view and wonderful sound. Plus, we had a pretty good view of one of the jumbotrons.

The opening act was a light jazz band that was good.

The man/the myth/the legend himself was everything you'd imagine him to be... shmaltzy and heartfelt and grateful to be in front of a crowd.

Check out the picture above. Is it my imagination, or does he look more and more like Clay Aiken?

Hearing all those old songs really took me back to my teen years.

Come on, admit it, you know most of these, too, don't you? You'd be surprised how quickly the lyrics come back to you when you hear them.

New York City Rhythm
This One's For You
Can't Smile Without You
Ready to Take a Chance Again (yes, the theme from "Foul Play")
Bandstand Boogie (yes, the American Bandstand song)
Weekend in New England
Looks Like We Made It
I Write the Songs
All the Time
I Made it Through the Rain
It's a Miracle
The Old Songs

and so much more. Lots of fun. :) Even without performing the jingles, it was an amazing repertoire. This tour is the precursor to his new gig at the Vegas Hilton and his band/orchestra is pretty dang impressive, too.

It's true, I went in with low expectations but I was really pleased to see that Barry is still in good form, musically and otherwise, and puts on a good show. Good for him! And good for us. :)

07 February 2008

YTIC (Free Movie Passes)

Check out the YTIC (that's "city" backwards) site at:


to win free passes to latest movie screenings in the DC metro area!

See these movies before everyone else does and do it for free... Yowza!

01 February 2008

A True Sign of A Troubled Economy

From MarketWatch:

Starbucks collides with a sluggish economy
Commentary: Plenty of investors saw it coming
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Starbucks shares got clobbered at the open Thursday, falling as much as 6% after serving up disappointing fourth-quarter earnings late Wednesday and announcing they are scaling back expansion plans that, frankly, many investors doubted were sustainable.

No cause for panic, but it is time to wake up and smell the economic realities of 2008.
SBUX 18.84, -0.07, -0.4%) built its fortunes as a purveyor of luxury and convenience to a nation floating on consumer confidence. No one needs to plunk down $1.55 for a cup of coffee. Even the most hardened caffeine addicts know they can brew their own for a lot less.

With the economy sliding ever closer to recession and the latest jobless numbers out of Washington showing more folks out of work, the spasm of belt-tightening by consumers is bound to put Starbucks near the top of the casualty list. Their fourth-quarter results merely confirmed this.

Starbucks' initial plans for 2007 called for 1,600 new stores in the United States alone, or more than four openings a day. That number has since been whittled back to a mere 1,175 new stores, adding to their already vast 11,160-outlet domestic empire.