Fractured Facade


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THE VALENTINE'S DAY CURSE -- A Short Story, is Free on Amazon, Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, Page Foundry and Tolino

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mushrooms

It was time to take the garden back from all the weeds so I spent a good portion of last weekend doing just that. I found this nifty little seat at Tuesday Morning which made my gardening chores much easier.



Once you get to be my age and weight it's hard on the knees to stay in one position for hours at a time. This little chair can be adjusted to different heights. It rocks so that you can bend from the waist and reach under all the brush to pull out whatever you need to without having to constantly move the chair into a different position. It was only $12.99 and definitely a worthwhile investment. It sorta reminds me of an upside down mushroom, which is funny because my yard is full of mushrooms.











I noticed that there is also an abundance of large acorns already, just like last year.



According to the locals and even what I've observed -- large early acorns means a long rough winter. Oh joy...maybe I should stop bitching about the heat.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Live Cam Links


Just because I can't get away this last official week of summer doesn't mean I can't daydream about it. And now you can see what you're missing, or not missing, just by looking over to the right sidebar of this blog and clicking on one of the live camera shots.

I've linked to a couple of places I've visited, lived, and currently live in, and two I haven't been to, namely the outer space ones. I just thought they looked cool. Have fun, and if you think you waste too much time on the computer already like I do, wait until you start clicking all the different camera angles, especially in Times Square.

I wish there was a Live Cam for the St. Rosalie/18th Avenue feast going on in my old neighborhood in Brooklyn this week...now that would be fun to watch!

Friday, August 27, 2010

This Isn't BP's Fault

Why I would never swim in, or eat fish from, the Roanoke River...







Heck, I wouldn't let my dog near it either. Yeah, this is in Salem and not from the BP oil spill. Disgusting...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Hardest Part of College

So here's my son's observations regarding college thus far...

"It's high school without the rules and way easier."

"All I have to do is show up to class and that's 30% of my grade."

"They grade on a 10-point scale and it's a sliding scale to boot!"

"Linear algebra is soooo hard. I finished the homework before the teacher finished taking attendance."

"For my Honors English class I have to write a half-page on what I know about the American Revolution period. A half-page! I could do that in the ten minute period between classes."

"College & Career Success class sounds like it's going to be on the same level as the useless Finance class I had in high school. Balancing a check book is sooooo hard."

"The one class I think may be a problem is the Philosophy one. It's the most crowded one and they had to find extra chairs for students to sit on. I felt like I was at the Valley View movie theatre. As the professor spoke, one girl kept calling out as if she was talking to the movie screen, "Uh-huh, you right...I gotchas...Amen." The only thing missing was "Watch out! Don't open that door!" As if that wasn't bad enough, when she finally stopped talking, her cell phone rang."

"You know what the hardest part of college is? Finding a parking spot!"

So you know what I said, dontcha? If it's so freaking easy I don't expect anything less than a 4.0 GPA. We'll see if he feels the same way in a couple of weeks especially after working until closing time. At least I don't have to worry about him joining a fraternity...

animal house Pictures, Images and Photos

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Identity Theft - Tricks of the Trade

thief Pictures, Images and Photos

There was a time when you knew you were the victim of a crime. A broken down door to your home, or a smashed-in windshield to your car could be the first signs. A quick inventory of what's missing and it's off to the police. There's usually a very slim chance of actually recovering anything. Time is of the essence, for every day that ticks away more sets of dirty hands have touched your goods, burying the trail. At least with a burglar's brazen entry, you are able to look around, know what is gone and after the police do nothing about it, report it to your insurance agent.

With the crime of identity theft you're not afforded that luxury. It could take months or even years for you to realize that you're a victim. By the time you have figured it out, the damage could be extensive. It will take many hours and many dollars to reclaim yourself. It's a daunting and discouraging task with very little, if any, punishment meted out to the stealthy thief. So, the best thing someone can do is try and prevent identify theft from happening.

From "Reader's Digest" - 13 Things An Identity Thief Won't Tell You.

1. Watch your back. In line at the grocery store, I’ll hold my phone like I’m looking at the screen and snap your card as you’re using it. Next thing you know, I’m ordering things online—on your dime.

2. That red flag tells the mail carrier—and me—that you have outgoing mail. And that can mean credit card numbers and checks I can reproduce.

3. Check your bank and credit card balances at least once a week. I can do a lot of damage in the 30 days between statements.

4. In Europe, credit cards have an embedded chip and require a PIN, which makes them a lot harder to hack. Here, I can duplicate the magnetic stripe technology with a $50 machine.

5. If a bill doesn’t show up when it’s supposed to, don’t breathe a sigh of relief. Start to wonder if your mail has been stolen.

6. That’s me driving through your neighborhood at 3 a.m. on trash day. I fill my trunk with bags of garbage from different houses, then sort later.

7. You throw away the darnedest things—preapproved credit card applications, old bills, expired credit cards, checking account deposit slips, and crumpled-up job or loan applications with all your personal information.

8. If you see something that looks like it doesn’t belong on the ATM or sticks out from the card slot, walk away. That’s the skimmer I attached to capture your card information and PIN.

9. Why don’t more of you call 888-5-OPTOUT to stop banks from sending you preapproved credit offers? You’re making it way too easy for me.

10. I use your credit cards all the time, and I never get asked for ID. A helpful hint: I’d never use a credit card with a picture on it.

11. I can call the electric company, pose as you, and say, “Hey, I thought I paid this bill. I can’t remember—did I use my Visa or MasterCard? Can you read me back that number?” I have to be in character, but it’s unbelievable what they’ll tell me.

12. Thanks for using your debit card instead of your credit card. Hackers are constantly breaking into retail databases, and debit cards give me direct access to your banking account.

13. Love that new credit card that showed up in your mailbox. If I can’t talk someone at your bank into activating it (and I usually can), I write down the number and put it back. After you’ve activated the card, I start using it.

And if that wasn't enough, here's 13 more...

1. My least-favorite credit card? American Express, because it likes to ask me for your zip code.

2. Your unlocked mailbox is a gold mine. I can steal your account numbers, use the convenience checks that come with your credit card statement, and send in pre-approved credit offers to get a card in your name. Stealing mail is easy. Sometimes, I act like I’m delivering flyers. Other times, I just stand there and riffle through it. If I don’t look suspicious, your neighbors just think I’m a friend picking up your mail.

3. Even with all the new technology, most of us still steal your information the old-fashioned way: by swiping your wallet or purse, going through your mail, or Dumpster diving.

4. I dig through Dumpsters in broad daylight. If anyone asks (and no one does), I just say my girlfriend lost her ring, or that I may have thrown my keys away by mistake.

5. One time I was on the run and needed a new identity so I went through a hospital Dumpster and found a statement with a Puerto Rican Social Security number for a Manuel Rivera. For a good two years after that, I was Manuel Rivera. I had his name on my apartment, on my paychecks and, of course, on my credit cards.

6. Is your Social Security number on your driver’s license or your checks, or is it your account number for your health insurance? Dumb move.

7. When I send out e-mails “phishing” for personal information by posing as a bank or online merchant, I often target AOL customers. They just seem less computer literate—and more likely (I hope) to fall for my schemes.

8. I never use my home computer to buy something with a credit card that’s not mine. That’s why you can often find me at the public library.

9. If you use the same ATM every time, you’re a lot more likely to notice if something changes on the machine, like the skimmer I installed.

10. Sometimes I pose as a salesman and go into a small office. After I make my pitch, I ask the secretary to make me a copy. Since most women leave their purses on the floor by their chairs, as soon as they leave the room, I grab their wallet. I also check the top and bottom right-hand drawers of their desks, where I often find company checks.

11. How much is your information worth? I can buy stolen account information—your name, address, credit card number, and more—for $10 to $50 per account from hackers who advertise on more than a dozen black market web sites.

12. Hey, thanks for writing your PIN number on that little slip of paper in your wallet. I feel like I just won the lottery.

13. Sure, it may be nice not to have to put in your password when you use an unsecured Wi-Fi connection. But know this: We have software that can scoop up all the data your computer transmits, including your passwords and other sensitive information.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

More Layoffs at the Taubman

I first mentioned on Friday via Facebook that some staffers from the Taubman Museum were fired. Later on Twitter I questioned whether there were any journalists in the Roanoke Valley who would bring us the story. Finally, four days later the Roanoke Times reports "breaking news" on it. It's amazing what an average citizen picks up just walking around the city while it takes "real journalists" days to sniff out a story...

On July 15, 2009 in an entry posted on my last blog I wrote about the Taubman Museum and their then recent layoffs. In the post you'll see I predicted that in the future the museum would depend more on volunteers as resources thereby letting other staffers go to save money. Same thing goes for interns.



******

"July 15, 2009

Volunteers As Resources

A couple of days ago the Taubman Museum raised its admission rates. Yesterday the Taubman Museum laid off more folks, two full timers and several part timers. Last March 18% of the museum's staff was let go. According to this article, when asked if these layoffs would be "the last, Williamson (museum board president) said, "Never say never."

After reading this passage in the same article...

"She (Templeton, external affairs director) said the reason for this week's layoffs was "largely the economy, and just being fiscally prudent and efficient with the resources we do have.

"We have an incredible pool of volunteers to step in, Templeton said."
...I'd say we haven't seen the last of the layoffs. I wouldn't be surprised to see in the near future more volunteers working for the $66 million museum than paid employees. After all, by getting people to work for free, the museum would be "fiscally prudent and efficient with the resources", and by resources, I mean volunteers.

Now don't get me wrong. Volunteering is fine, and many of us do it in some form or another, but I don't like the idea that people are losing their livelihoods because someone else is willing to work for free. I feel the same way about giving writing, or whatever talent one has, away for free to those that charge. The local media outlets don't want to pay, or will pay too little. They too depend on "resources", which cost them nothing, to supplement their livelihoods while only granting one the "glory of" seeing one's name in print or on-air as payment. Those that allow themselves to give away the milk for free make it hard to those who need to bottle that milk and give it to their family.

I don't think we should make it so easy for these media/art/whatever outlets. This goes for retailers too. Ukrop's is having a tough time making a go at it. Don't fire workers, open on Sundays. Simple as that. I'm sure many of their employees wouldn't mind working on a Sunday. If Ukrop's continues to stand behind it's outdated "corporate policy", then they shouldn't moan if they fail. Adapt to your customer's needs. Pssst...people use the coupons in the Sunday paper to go shopping on...Sunday.

Back to the museuum. Rather than the Museum just looking to slash their paid staff in an effort to save a buck, and will also decrease the attendance of the friends and family of the fired worker, they should be looking into why they are not doing well in the first place. What other measures could be taken to rectify the situation? And please, you can't keep blaming the economy. Adapt to the economy. How many times have you visited the museum other than the free opening night? Would you be inclined to visit more now since they raised the admission price? What would bring you back there? I'd hate to see it fail, but I think they're going the wrong way. I keep flashing back to that Simpson episode..."


*******

So I guess raising admission rates to the museum didn't exactly increase attendance. Gee, who wouldathunk it? Notice Ukrop's is no longer with us either! They didn't adapt either. Wonder who's next? Perhaps even the Roanoke Times, since they seem to be having a hard time adapting as well.

Cramming

Lilly Pictures, Images and Photos

Just a quick heads up to make you aware that there is some telephone scamming going around called "cramming." When I got my telephone bill at the shop yesterday I wondered why it was more expensive than usual. As I do with every single bill, I read each line by line charge and found there was an additional monthly charge of $45.90 that was billed on behalf of the "local senior center." Huh?

I showed my husband and he assured me he didn't authorize any sort of monthly charge for anyone. Who was this local senior center anyway? There was no name, just the generic term. Thirty minutes later, after having gone through the automated Verizon service, and then being on hold to talk to an actual person, Verizon removed the charge. I thought I had a block on the line already, but upon checking was informed that the block only applied to fly-by-night phone companies who attempt to change my service to theirs. If I wanted to block these type of charges I had to implement a "cramming block" which is what I was told this practice was called.

I let Verizon know although we don't have anything against senior citizens, we didn't authorize any charges like this and asked how does this happen. I was told the way these companies work is they'll ask you something inauspicious like, "Is this XYZ Company?" When you answer "yes" they hang up. They then take your recorded "yes" and edit it onto a recording after they ask if you would like to donate to their company, which they play back for you when you call up to complain that this is an unauthorized charge. It's a total scam that probably gets overlooked by many companies who have large bills. An additional $45.90 monthly charge to me is pretty large so would not be overlooked as easy as a company that had hundreds of employees. Verizon told me it might take a couple of billing cycles for it to disappear totally from my bill. I don't know if they're hitting residential lines too so make sure you check your bills.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Let's Roll...

Welcome and salutations end of the summer.

In this house the new year is always marked by the return to school -- not Labor Day, or New Year's Day -- just an inauspicious August day that changes every year that becomes my target date for fresh starts, or pumping energy into the old ones. I love me some autumn. Spring has never been my rejuvenation/resurrection season. It's always been the beginning of the slacker season -- the season I become easily distracted and sidetracked. Throw in some lazy and hot, and other than the mandatory obligations, nothing much gets done. I'm glad summer's over. It's now time to speed up my lackadaisical stroll. It's now time to focus, focus, focus.

I've cut away the dead hair, vibrated the color, stopped smoking, cut down on wine & popcorn consumption, am back to working out and walking, dug through the clutter of my office -- cleaned, organized and spruced it up. Once I catch up with the shop shit I'm parking myself in it. I'm setting a schedule. I am setting a deadline.

I recently read a blog by someone who wrote and edited a 76,000 word or thereabout, book in 26 days. 26 days. 26 days. Good grief! I've been working on mine 26 months. 26 months. 26 months! I'm still revising. I'll keep revising until I'm content. I may never be content. I'm a tough audience. I think of this as my one time shot. I want my first published book to leave an impression, a lasting one. If I can't, then I don't want to waste any more time writing books. It's a lonely and difficult road to take and not for the soft, or easily bruised. Nope, it's not an easy journey, but I've never been one to pick the easy way out, and I ain't giving up. As my husband asks, "You never do anything halfway, do you?" No, I guess I don't.

To get Monday morning moving..."Born to Be Wild." Let's roll...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dropping Drugs

So I went with my son and sat in on his 2 minute dermatologist visit. I think it took longer for the doctor to shake our hands than it did for him to examine the boy. His diagnosis was to keep the same treatment up, antibiotic once a day and Epiduo in the evening. Personally I thought the boy wasn't making such great progress. The boy and doctor disagreed. It didn't matter I still asked again, as I do every visit, about Accutane, which was promptly ignored.

For the record, I know all about Accutane. I was on it, twice. It was the only medication that ever worked for me. I had been through it all, tetracycline to the point I'm now allergic to it, various other antibiotics, hot ice wrapped in gauze scoured over my face twice a week, cortisone shots in my face, scapels and other assorted metal instruments of torture, you name it I underwent it. Nothing worked, except for Accutane. You probably see all those ambulance-chasing lawyers on tv telling you to call them if you took it because you could be at risk for some deadly illness but you know what, I'd take it again. It made my life livable.

Funny thing is my son's doctor prescribed it to me when we first moved here. Maybe he's a little more gun shy now what with all the lawsuits and all, so he's opting to keep him on the same treatment with a four month follow up visit. He handed me a "free" Epiduo coupon. In exchange, my son has to participate in a survey with the drug company for the next month. At first I wasn't going to even use it because I still had three refills left on the last prescription that would only cost me $35 because of the discount card that I had gotten last time. I figured we'd use those three up and then go for the "free" tube.

When I went to renew at Kroger the pharmacist called me to let me know that Anthem will no longer allow Epiduo to be refilled. What?! He said I needed to get the doctor to fill out some forms saying he tried x,y,z and that they didn't work so this is the medicine my son needs. Well the doctor didn't try x,y,z because this medicine worked. I reminded the pharmacist that I still had 3 $35 refills left so this shouldn't be a problem. He informed me that Epiduo would not refill them because Anthem would not allow them to use them as the primary. These drug companies will only give you a discount if you have insurance. Wouldn't it make more sense to give a discount to people who had no insurance? Now I was getting really pissed off. I freaking pay mega premiums with a $2,500 deductible for each of us. On top of that I have another $200 prescription deductible, for each of us, and then only get 40% off so it's not like I'm living high off the hog off Anthem.

The pharmacist laid out my options. 1) Contact the doctor and have him fill out the forms and wait up to three weeks for a decision. His experience is that Anthem wouldn't budge. 2) Exclude Anthem and pay for it myself. How much? $276.00! What?! No, that's not an option. It's the freaking size of a Clearasil tube! Ok, Anthem sucks for dropping it but so does the drug company for charging so much. I gave him option 3) I'll go on-line, register the boy, fill out the survey, and get the free code. He didn't know if that would work or not since the boy was already on the medicine. I took a chance, went back to Kroger, handed him the materials and waited for the results. Option 3 worked. We got a tube of the golden Epiduo. I handed it to the boy and told him to use it sparingly since I don't know what's going to happen when he finishes it. I imagine I'll go up to the doctor's office and let him know what Anthem is pulling, hoping he'll throw a sample or something our way. Geez, my son would have to work 40 hours just to pay for a freaking tube. Crazy.

I'm really dismayed about this. You would think Anthem would have had the courtesy to at least send me a letter informing me they would no longer allow this drug, since we've used it three times already. The pharmacist said Anthem's been doing this, just willy nilly deciding to drop a medication. I say bullshit. Is this their preemptive response to the upcoming health care changes? Are they stopping covering certain medicines before they're forced to pay for it? Is this only the beginning? What's next -- dropping certain procedures, tests, specialist visits? I gotta tell you, I'm not liking where this is heading. I have a bad feeling if you're not getting your health benefits by being in a union, you're gonna be screwed.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bone Pain

Too much information can be a bad thing, or it could be a good thing, if it causes one to get off of their butt and make a doctor's appointment. Having scoured WebMD, Medline and the most accurate of all, Wikipedia, for bone ache causes I've discovered I may have a very serious problem, the worst being bone cancer. The one constant thread amongst all the medical symptom sites is if you are experiencing any of the symptoms I've been experiencing, get thee to a physician, and quick!

Of course, quick is a joke whenever I try to make an appointment to see any sort of professional here in Roanoke. My daughter has to wait three months for a well visit; my son 7 months for a well dental visit; my dog a week to be groomed; and now me, two weeks to see my family doctor.

My pain started about two weeks ago first in my right hand pinkie. I noticed I was having a hard time bending it. Since I don't bend it that often the pain could have been there longer but I just never noticed. I'm not one to drink a cup of tea with my pinkie extended. A couple of days later the pain spread to the rest of my hand, just a dull ache that was more noticeable every time I flexed my hand. Then my left hand, first the fingers then the rest, started aching. Still it's not as bad as my right which I attribute to me being a righty and favoring that hand, more so now since I'm using a blowdryer with my new 'do. I casually mentioned to my husband what I was feeling and he thought maybe I was developing arthritis. "Call the doctor." Why? There's nothing he can do for arthritis, is there? "Call him anyway." Okay. I promptly ignored him, figuring maybe I was just typing too much. Besides I had other things more important going on -- I was too busy worrying about my daughter's pain, and after reading Web MD about a possible diagnosis of a pulmonary embolism, trying to get her into seeing her doctor, which she couldn't. Instead, we were sent to the emergency room.



Always smiling. More x-rays, this time of her ribs. More osteochondromas, this time on her ribs. More Ibuprofen, bed rest, and Kleenex to wipe away the tears. I didn't fill the Vicondin script. She's finally feeling better so now I guess it's my turn for pain.

A couple of days ago I noticed my ankles began aching along with my wrists. Now, I have never typed with my feet so I suspected my "typing too much" diagnosis was wrong. The weather was rainy so I attributed the pain to that, although weather had never affected me before. My daughter is the human barometer, not me. The dull aching splashed with sharp jolts was annoying, but nothing I couldn't live with. Then two nights ago as I was trying to fall asleep it felt like my bones ached everywhere, not just in the joints, but in my arms, through my legs, my hips, my feet and even my jaw. When I had a hard time getting out of bed my husband noticed so I had no choice but to let him in on my pain. "If you don't call the doctor I will." Okay, okay. I promptly ignored him again.

A couple of times during the day he called me asking if I called the doctor. Not yet, but I will. "You made me go to the doctor, and now I'm on five different medications." It's true, I made him an appointment for a wart on his finger that turned into blood work, that turned into high cholesterol, high blood pressure and a Vitamin D deficiency diagnoses. He's been taking his medication, is feeling much better and has complete faith in our doctor. I've never seen this doctor for anything, but a removal of a cyst on my chest years ago, that grew back by the way, and had to be removed again by a dermatologist. I think I'm like most women and use my gynecologist as my go-to guy. I don't think I should wait until December when I'm allowed my next appointment with him.

Sooooo...after reading through possible causes of my symptoms I've decided I must bite the bullet and take that first step of seeing a family doctor. If memory serves, and lately it's not been serving me too well, my gyn recommended I get a bone density test last year. Naturally, I promptly ignored him. Come to think of it I have a history of ignoring not only my husband but doctors. I have a medicine cabinet filled with prescriptions that I will never take. I have slips of papers for procedures and tests I haven't taken. I always think I know better than them. I'll see what this doctor has to say. My husband thinks is arthritis. I guess that's the lesser of evils so hope he's right. He was right about my daughter's sprained diaphragm, so maybe he's batting 1,000. Anything but bone cancer would be acceptable. Freaking Web MD...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

He Deserves a Break

My cousin is fond of saying to me, "The best thing that ever happened to your car was marrying your husband." I'd agree but with the addition of "my house, my yard, my appliances," oh, and "me." It's really a good thing to have someone handy around. My dad couldn't screw in a light bulb so either my mother did everything or hired people to do even the most menial tasks. Most of the time they did lousy jobs and she would get blamed. At least that's not one of my problems. I have to say my husband can pretty much do anything I ask him to, and when he can't he knows the right people to call.

You see these hands...these are his hands and what they look like after two weeks of vacation.



It only takes a day at the shop for them to get back to the dirty, grimy beaten-up look. When we close the shop down I don't put a "gone fishing" sign in the window...I put this pic of my husband's hands with a "Cya!"

You see the underside of this car...this is what a Cadillac without an engine looks like.



This is the engine...



I have no idea how he does it, but my husband removes engines, tears them down, rebuilds them and then puts them back in.



The man who can't remember where he put his keys down, or to pick up a loaf of bread from the store, somehow remembers where every nut, bolt, belt and whatever else is part of the immense job, goes. He does it in 100 degree heat in an unairconditioned, and ceiling-leaking shop, in between inspections, a million other repairs, taking calls from annoying telemarketers and arrogant customers.

He pretty much can do whatever is set before him. Sometimes it takes a little longer with his arthritic hands and football injuries, but one thing's for sure -- it will be done right. When he drags in, worn-out sometimes after a fourteen hour day, working through the weekends, I feel for him. I wish I could help out more at the shop, but he tells me it's a good thing I'm not at the shop much since I don't have the "people skills" he has when it comes to obnoxious customers. Knowing what's involved and how hard he's working, I want to throw them out when they remark something stupid like, "It's not done yet." He doesn't. He swallows and shows them what's involved and asks them, "You want it done fast, or you want it done right?" They keep coming back so I guess they know the right answer to say.

What with surgeries and this summer's blistering heat, the one week he had off in the beginning of the summer was really not enough of a break, and now summer for all practical purposes, is over. When the kids get settled back in school I think he and I should sneak away for a weekend. He deserves it. Any suggestions within a couple of hours from Roanoke? I want to surprise him and try to get his hands clean again...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tan Begone

I knew I was over summer a couple of weeks ago when I could no longer stand laying on a lounge chair on my back patio, sipping a cocktail, Sirius playing in the background, reading in the blazing sun. I got bored. It was just too damn hot. I no longer cared about getting my Vitamin D daily requirement, and a tan. You could tell by looking at the white rings on my neck that mine was a natural tan, certainly not an even one, paid for and taxed at a tanning salon. The problem is...I no longer want my tan. I hate what's left of my tan. I cannot understand how those "Jersey Shore" girls looooove being tan all year round. Too much work.

My arms are still golden brown and looks like I've been working in the fields all day. My chest is still dark from the sun reflecting on it off of the many books covered in plastic I checked out of the library. Parts of my neck are still dark, except for the tree rings formed from my tilted head lost in a book. Then it gets even more freaky. My face has lost its tan which basically means the best part of summer, not wearing any face foundation, is gone. The problem is I cannot match any sort of foundation to blend in with the rest of my body. Besides, it's still too freaking hot to wear any sorta face makeup, especially with the hot flash sweats. So how do I get rid of the tan on my shoulders and neck??? Since I can't think of anyway besides taking steel wool to it, I wonder if perhaps I should be putting Dove or Jergens self tanner on my face until the rest of my body fades. When I was young I once used QT, it made me orange which would now clash with my reddish brownish hair. Someone should come up with a product called "Tan Begone" which eliminates a tan quickly and painlessly -- an anti-tanner.

It's too much work trying to look good. Who the heck has the time? I've got too much on my plate as it is. Sometimes I wonder if it would be a lot easier if I were a Muslim woman who was covered from head to toe. I wouldn't be worrying about such trivial things like an uneven tan problem. No, instead I'd probably be worrying about being stoned to death for talking to someone from the opposite sex. Of course I wouldn't want to have to wear the garb constantly, only when I felt like it. I don't think I'd want a burka though -- I'd opt for the niqab, which would cover most of my face, leaving just my eyes exposed.

VeloYBurka Pictures, Images and Photos

The burka is too extreme, even the eyes are hidden. And my eyes still look good...no wrinkles and no crow's feet, even at my age! With just my eyes showing I wouldn't have to worry about bad hair days, scarred or blemished complexions, shaving my legs, crappy teeth, or working on and then having to lose, a tan. And if I got a big enough niqab I could even hide my weight instead of spending hours working out trying to lose it. I would save so much time not having to get ready or working out, I might actually be more productive! Too bad it's a religious thing, and not a fashion statement. I'd opt for the black one and would dress it up with jewelry...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Swinging in the River

This is the first time I've ever seen anyone use the ropes to swing into the Roanoke River...



Since it rained last night and the river probably has some sewage seepage, I don't know how good of an idea it was. But from the looks of it, they were having a blast. Hopefully they didn't swallow any water.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"What Did You Do?"

I tortured myself today. Spent three and a half hours in a salon getting my hair colored. I got tired of people calling it "white" when clearly it was "platinum." I should know it wasn't white, as I had spent every third week frying it with cheap natural blonde dye. Before I decided to jump this shark, I had tried something else to get me through my mid-life crisis, shearing off over six inches and getting the mop styled. That didn't do it so I proceeded to the next step -- spend money and have a professional colorist dye it with a decent hair product, instead of my half-assed hatchet job with the usual $2.99 box of bleach.

It was supposed to take an hour and half. It didn't. Like a bad painted wall, my mutant "white" hair had to be primed with something called filler so the color would take. I picked a color that I thought would be brown with just a hint of red. A red color filler was painted on first. And then on the hottest day of the year, I sat under a heat dryer so the color would take. On my way back from the sink I saw my reflection and gasped at the Bozo the clown color. I was assured that was not going to be the color of my hair. "Don't panic, that's just the filler."



Upon inspection after blow drying it, the head colorist stopped by and determined that some parts of my hair took the filler better than others. So it had to be refilled again. Back under the dryer. Back to the sink. Pass the mirror. Deeper gasp.

After blow drying it a second time now the actual color was put in. In the bowl it was a lovely shade of green. "Don't panic, that's not the actual color." The colorist covered my roots first, then put me back under the dryer for ten minutes. She had to work quick to brush the rest of the color in so it would be even. "You have so much hair." I told her she should be glad she didn't do it last week when I had six more inches. Finally it was done. Was it the color I picked? Nope. Did it look good? According to all the stylists it did. "Is that the woman with the white hair?" It was platinum, platinum, damn it! "You look twenty years younger?" Really? After all the time I spent here I feel twenty years older. The young colorist asked nervously how I liked it. She was already two clients backed up and such a nice girl. I told her it looked fine. And in the salon lighting it looked okay. Frankly, at that point my sugar level was sinking, my nicotine level had plummeted and I began to think it was five o'clock somewhere. I needed to get outta there asap so I paid, tipped and bolted.

For the life of me I cannot understand women who spend hours weekly in salons getting their hair, nails, feet or whatever done. I've been told they like getting "pampered." To me it's like more like getting "assaulted." I don't like to be touched by strangers. I don't like the smell of salons. I don't like sitting under hair dryers. I don't like my head tilted back in a sink with water dripping down my back. And I feel so vulnerable sitting on display in the open with mirrors showing every blemish and pound of fat surrounded by thin women with perfect nails, makeup and hair who look better first sitting down in the chair than I do after getting out of it hours later.

When I hit the sunlight I knew the color was not what I had envisioned. It's too red with streaks of red. I did not get highlights but they have appeared anyhow. After sitting in the car looking in the rear view mirror I realized why they didn't bother with taking the "after" picture as they did take a "before" one. I finally got out and headed inside hoping no one would notice. Ha! My son's friend was the most honest, "What did you do? Man, it looks freaky." My son said, "It'll take some getting used to." My daughter said, "It doesn't look bad at all. You don't like it. Give it a day or two. You'll like it when you style it yourself." My dog hid under the bed. My husband's not home yet. Better run and get a big bottle of wine.

Since phase one and two didn't help my mid-life crisis I wonder if the next phase will be buying a muscle car, or a convertible.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Carnevale at The Shadowbox


Saturday evening the place to be was The Shadowbox in Roanoke, Virginia. Thanks to Roanoke's very own PT Barnum, sans the "sucker born every minute" part, River Laker



urban guerrilla artist, Joseph Carnevale, his girlfriend, Jo, and a riveting slide show, "TRESPASSING: PHOTOGRAPHS FROM RESTRICTED AREAS; JOSEPH CARNEVALE" rolled into town.



What's Carnevale's gig? According to his website, "No Promise of Safety," -- "We trespass for fun. We like to spend our time hanging out on rooftops, climbing to the tops of high rise construction sites, creeping around in storm drains, exploring abandoned buildings, riding freight trains, and just generally using the urban environment as our own playground."

As Carnevale interpreted each photo or video, the audience found themselves perched in locations none of us most likely would ever find ourselves, especially if one suffers from agoraphobia. Another title for the presentation could easily have been "Fisheye is Your Friend" as many of the shots were taken through a fisheye lens. I happen to love that look, and Carnevale uses it superbly, enhancing the already impressive urban landscapes.

I don't know if it's the New Yorker in me or not, but some of my favorite shots were taken atop a couple of New York bridges. Besides the phenomenal view I was impressed, and scared, by the ability of the crew to arrive atop without detection post 9-11. Those 24-hour NYPD surveillance signs are clearly more "feel good" than anything else. I did ask Carnavele if they ever attempted to scale and shoot from my favorite bridge, The Verazzano. He said it was impossible.



On my way out I couldn't help letting him know it wasn't impossible at one time. In the middle of the night, in 1976, my one-day-to-be-husband # 1 and I drove through the bottom "closed" level. In the middle of the bridge, or about there, he stopped the car, got out, reached for my hand, and led me up a slanted concrete slab -- my feet sweating and slipping out of my plastic gladiator one-shoe-laced flats. We perched ourselves on the thin ledge and gazed towards Manhattan, with the black water pulsating below. That's when I developed my fear of heights, and realized I was way too much in love to have done something that stupid, without even having a camera with me.

Not that it was legal then, but now it would be most impossible to even stop on the bridge without someone fearing you're planting a bomb. They even prohibit taking photos from the bridge, as my kids remind me every time I sneak out my camera to shoot the city skyline.



Seeing the shots from the other bridges Carnavele's taken, now I question the validity of those signs. We've never been arrested. And neither has Carnavele. Let's hope it stays that way -- he's young, talented, clearly fearless, hopefully not reckless, and his possibilities are endless. I would be more worried about getting hurt than caught, but that's just me. As long as he's willing to take risks, capturing the world through his distinctive eyes from unconventional heights, I'll be thrilled to gaze from my seat, planted safely on the ground.



Check out his site to see some of his work...you won't be disappointed.

One more thing...this was the first time I visited The Shadowbox, but I don't think it will be the last. I understand last night's show was sold out. Good. Roanoke is lucky to have a venue such as this and I hope the people continue to support it, and they continue to bring unique programs to town. Good job guys.

*****UPDATE*****AFTER THE SHOW*****

As my daughter and I suspected, the crew went exploring in Roanoke. What could they possibly find in Roanoke you may ask. Well, River Laker was kind enough to forward and Joe Carnevale was cool enough to allow me to post this great photo he took last night in Roanoke's Vacropolis Drain. See what you miss when you stay home on a Saturday night...



Photo by Joe Carnevale
In the photo: Joanna Magner, Joe Carnevale, River Laker & John W. Johnson
http://nopromiseofsafety.com

PS. - The Verrazano Bridge shots were taken by me

Friday, August 6, 2010

College Textbooks Sticker Shock

When we went up to VWCC to pay for my son's last class we stopped by the campus bookstore to see what books he needed for his five classes. My son is the first in the family to go to college so I had absolutely no idea what college text books cost. Once I found out, there went the first year college budget. Talk about sticker shock.

The first book we checked was a thin little fellow entitled, "Elementary Linear Algebra." Guess how much they wanted for it? $237.75! Yes, you read that right! $237.75! I about fell over. The class is one semester long. The class is only 2 credits which amounts to about the same price as the book would cost. There's something wrong with that. When the clerk saw my jaw drop she informed me that they had used books available much cheaper -- $178.50. Yeah, that's not cheap in my book.

We then strolled the aisles for the rest of his needed books -- $123.00, $64.25, and the cheapest one was only $39.00 for the mandatory class, How to Succeed in College. I kept adding, "without really trying" but no one got the movie reference. We still don't know what public speaking book he needs and how much that will run.

We were informed that VWCC now offers rental books which is about half the price of the new books. That's a great idea if they're offered for the student's course. Naturally Linear Algebra is not one of the courses. I asked the clerk to please write down the ISBN numbers because there was no way I was paying $2327.75 for that book.

Years ago I decided both of my kids would go to college with the goal of them graduating without being in debt up to their, or more likely my, ears. So with that in mind they took as many AP courses, tests and dual enrollment classes as they could. As long as they scored high enough they would be credited with college credits. My son is entering his freshman year with 12 credits under his belt. That's one semester and a couple of thousand dollars saved. I figured if they went to VWCC for their first two years we wouldn't have to take a student loan out. We never applied for financial aid as I didn't think we would qualify so why bother. There were no scholarships or grants either. So everything is out of pocket. I figured he'd be living at home so we wouldn't have to pay for room and board either. The only thing I forgot to factor in was textbooks.

When we got home I immediately went on-line to Amazon. Sure enough there were used textbooks. For the majority of his classes it would pay to just rent the book. When I entered the ISBN number for the Algebra book I was stunned to see how many used copies were available. When I saw the prices they were asking I think I heard the angels sing. I didn't go with the cheapest one because the comments said the book had writing in it. I opted for the one that Amazon guaranteed. With shipping and handling the price came out to $20.99! Yes, you read that right...$20.99!!! I called my son over to make sure I was seeing it right and the decimal point wasn't in the wrong place.

I don't like ordering on-line, because I don't like using my credit card on the computer (yes, yes, I know as my kids say, "join the 20th century Mom!") but I did. I had no idea what to expect but figured it was worth the 93% discount to take a chance. Three days later the book came and this is what it looks like...



It's practically in perfect condition! No markings and one little creased corner on the hard cover is the only wear I see. My advice to all parents and students who need to buy textbooks is search before you buy. Here's a site that lists different places to buy new and used text books. I'm still checking it out to see if I could find the rest of the books any cheaper. Since I saved over $200.00 my daughter and I are going to Onyx today to get our hair cut. If I'm lucky the style will last longer than a semester.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sandusky House EVPs

After the presentation by L.B. Taylor, my friend and I decided to check out Sandusky House and walk around the grounds a bit. I took a lot of pictures. I didn't get anything paranormal but did fall in love with the look of this tree. I felt like it had a face and was watching me.



I had taken my digital recorder with me hoping we'd get an opportunity to slip away and check things out a bit. It wasn't an "official" investigation or anything like that, but I had a feeling since I was a Yankee, I might attract some Confederate spirits or even some Yankees. I've been pretty lucky with capturing EVPs anywhere I go. Sometimes I'm referred to as spirit bait and Saturday was no different.

It's been my experience that spirits want to be heard, or join in the conversation when they think someone can feel or see them. That's why some of the best EVPs I've ever gotten have been with them just talking in the background while I'm or a partner are talking. Some are intelligent spirits, not meaning they're "smart" but that they're interacting in real time with me. Others are residual, meaning they're replaying their lives over and over again and what comes through sometimes has nothing to do with any questions I ask. I think I had both kinds on Saturday.

After you watch the video you'll see what I'm talking about. I believe an instance of intelligent spirits occurs during Clip 9. I'm drawn to an area of the yard near the yucca plants when I discover I'm about to traipse through poison ivy. I felt something calling me there but I say aloud I'm not going there. Mandy thinks I'm talking to her, but I'm not, I'm talking to the voice in my head. On playback there is a voice telling me to "come" and when I say I'm not going, there's a "you got to." I believe an instance of residual haunting occurs during Clip 4 when a voice declares, "My girl...how dare you."

It took me a while to create the video because I have no clue what I'm doing using Windows Movie Maker, clearly an inferior editing program. I'm used to editing from two decades ago, on real video equipment, where I was able to trim and dissolve and extend and slow-mo, etc. without pulling my hair out. My daughter helped me a great deal until she began to pull hers and then my hair out. I guess I'm not only a slow learner but can also be exasperating, especially when I snap my fingers telling her there's where I want a cut to go. Hey, when I was a producer that's what I used to do and none of my editors ever found it offensive.

Anyway, I finally put together something and figured out how to upload it to Youtube. It's 6:35 minutes long and contains 15 clips of multiple EVP's. I put some pics on it and titles of what I think I hear, or ? marks when I hear whispering but can't make out what they're saying. My daughter helped a lot because her hearing hasn't been damaged yet from standing next to speakers at rock concerts, or singing in a band, or getting old. I'm sure others will hear something different than what I hear and if you do let me know. The video is best listened to with ear or headphones. None of the audio has been enhanced or altered and I apologize for my big mouth talking loudly during certain parts. I can assure you if this had been an actual investigation this would not have happened.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sandusky House I



On Saturday I took a trip to Lynchburg to visit the historic Civil War site, Sandusky House to hear author L.B. Taylor speak. Taylor is best known as the author of about 45 books -- 21 about Virginia ghosts, including "Haunted Virginia." He's also a well-known speaker on the paranormal circuit.



I went as a guest of a friend who is a member of the Seven Hills Paranormal Society. I had met Mandy a couple of years ago when we were part of a local Roanoke investigative group that has since disbanded. We still perform investigations along with another member, but do not have an "official" group. I've thought about joining Seven Hills, but it's just too darn far away.

Anyway, when we arrived I was surprised to see how many local paranormal investigators there were. I soon found out it was a meeting for the National Paranormal Coalition. I felt like I was at a ghost convention with light snacks. Definitely an eclectic mix of folks.

Taylor gave an interesting talk complete with slides and anti-Yankee jokes, always a crowd pleaser in the South. He explained how he first got started on ghosts -- he was working freelance for a NY publisher compiling ghost stories. When he realized so many of them came from Virginia, especially Williamsburg, he approached the publisher about compiling a book on just Williamsburg. The publisher poo-pooed him saying it was too much of a niche market and it wouldn't sell. He travelled to Williamsburg and went into a couple of the many shops there and asked them if they would be willing to carry a book on Williamsburg ghosts. Many expressed interest. Figuring in the large number of tourists that visit there he decided he would write the book and publish it himself. The rest as they say, was history.

He has a new book coming out, not self-published, "The Big Book of Virginia Ghost Stories" which is a compilation of the "best" ghost stories. I purchased a preview copy and he signed it, "hauntingly yours." The signed copy has taken a place next to all the other signed book copies I've gathered -- another reason why I'm not a fan of E-Books. What's an author going to autograph, my screen? He spoke with me about getting published, offering the story we all heard about Mark Twain and how it took him 50 rejections before he got picked up. I swear that number gets higher and higher each time I talk with an author. He told me to never give up and keep writing. I told him I haven't sent anything out yet and hoped I'd have better luck than Twain! He was entertaining and the biggest surprise was that in all his years following up leads he's never had a personal paranormal experience himself.

Afterwards Mandy and I decided to check out the grounds and house. Just for yuk-yuks I brought along my digital recorder to see if I could pick anything up. I figured a Yankee walking around there might attract some spirits. I was right. I'm putting together a "best of" clip reel with some photos (nothing paranormal) of the house and property. When I finish I'll post it on Youtube and here. The most prevalent phrase captured over and over again is, "I'll kill you." Stay tuned.