Photodump: Bunnies, Books, and Obscenely Early Holidays

That’s right, another load of snappies from the phone camera. I’m going to head to the T-Mobile store this weekend (and when I say “weekend”, for me I mean “Wednesday and Thursday”) to fondle some of the newer Android phones. My G1 is getting a little creaky. Maybe I’ll even get a phone with one of those anemic little flashes — that would open up my snapshottery to a whole new level. In that I could take pictures in dark places. And after all, dark places are where some of the most fascinating things happen.

First off: BUNNIES! We frequently see one rabbit out grazing on the lawn near Epcot’s old kennel. But on this past magical Friday, there were TWO of them. I’m still dazzled by the wildlife all over the place. And in even more amazing news, yesterday there were THREE rabbits grazing by the kennel on my way out. But sadly, they were scattered around and as such, not easily photographed. There were no rabbits out today, so I guess Sunday is not my lucky bun-day.

This past week, I visited the Gastroenterologist’s office to get my monthly injections. There was a table with the usual outdated magazines in the waiting room, and then I happened upon this grouping of reading materials on a little shelf. I don’t know that I’ll ever again see three things more in contrast with each other sharing the same shelf space.

The big problem is that I’m so tied up with options regarding Breaking Dawn being crap, and being at the gastro office, that I can’t choose which way to go. Curse you, Stephenie Meyer!

I hate to see this. These dogs weren’t restrained in any way, and were sliding around in the bed of the truck when it was driving. Why is it that big white trucks account for more than their fair share of driving douchery? What is it about owning a big white truck that makes someone such a jerkbag? Just look out there, friends. Once you start keeping your eyes open to Big White Truck Syndrome, you’ll be shocked at how much bad behavior there is.

Oh, and don’t worry — as you can see, we were stopped at a red light when I took this.

Last but not least, COSTCO HAS CHRISTMAS STUFF OUT IN MID-SEPTEMBER. Since when is this OK? Here I thought it was still a tad bit early for all of the Halloween costumes, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but three full aisles of Xmas decorations. And come on — can you really call this awful thing a “lighted Santa” when it’s just a frame of stringy lights with Santa-colored tinsel garland draped on it? He looks more like he has a case of the glowing chicken pox. Or some sort of fluorescing mumps. Poor Santa.

I See Some White Shorts and I Want to Dye Them Black

I visited Old Navy the other day, and was delighted to find that they had half the store on clearance. A huge section was dedicated to white shorts in all lengths. I got a couple of pairs, since Old Navy’s shorts fit my pear-shaped butt fairly well. But white shorts have a problem — a HUGE problem, if most of your undergarments are colorful.

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That’s right: VISIBLE UNDIES. Scourge of the warm-weather world. So I figured I’d keep one white pair (to only be worn with flesh-toned underthings, I swear) and dye the other. Because they were so cheap to buy, and they fit so well.

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I got Rit dye from the grocery store. I haven’t used this stuff in almost 20 years. I think the last time was when I was a summer camp counselor, and we did tie-dyed t-shirts. Although apparently Rit isn’t the best option for cotton, but it’s what was available. And cheap. Did I mention that cheap was a big part of this project? Anyhoo, they print the instructions in tiny grey type on the inside of the box. If that’s too small and hard to read, they do have the instructions up on their Web site as well (thank goodness).

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First I set up my dying vessel. You can use plastic, glass, metal, whatever. But they warn you that it’ll probably be permanently stained afterward. I didn’t want any of my pots and pans to get stained, so I put a garbage bag inside a storage box. It was perfect! The bag got totally stained in the end, but the box was dry and untouched. Before I threw in the dye, I soaked the shorts thoroughly in plain warm water. This apparently helps the dye soak in more evenly.

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I heated some water to 140°F on the stove, poured it in my bag, mixed in the entire dye packet (as well as about a half-cup of salt, which Rit says will help the color stay better), and plunged in the shorts. You’re supposed to soak your fabric for a half-hour, agitating the entire time. Honestly, I don’t have that much patience. So I just squooshed everything around thoroughly every five minutes or so. And did I mention the need for gloves? I have a huge box full, initially purchased for hair coloring but handy for 1,001 household uses. The gloves immediately turned purple, and I’m just glad it wasn’t my hands.

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After a salty black soak, it was time to rinse. And I’ll tell you what, these things took FOREVER to rinse. I thought it was boring to wait for the water to run clear when rinsing out hair color. This took five times as long, and I had to sqoosh and smoosh the shorts the entire time. Bottom line: I just rinsed Rit dye out of some shorts, and BOY are my arms tired.

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After wringing out as much water as I could, I sent them through the dryer. And now, here they are. They’re not exactly black — more of a dark grey. Which I don’t mind. And the threads, zipper fabric, and part of the lining of the waistband didn’t take much of the color at all, which I think is kind of cool.

Every other pair of shorts I got this season was plaid (which I guess was big this year), so now it’s nice to have two solids to choose from. For cheap! Plus I got to have fun in a sciency, messy way, so it’s a win-win.

Photodump: Skywriting, Business Cards, Furries

Can I say once again how much I love having a cameraphone? I only wish it were as good as Scott’s. His pictures come out with much better color balance, and his phone even has an anemic little flash. Who’s jealous? Me, that’s who.

First off, our local skywriter-for-god had a fantastic weather day the other day. Clearly not too breezy up there; some days, the first letter is blown into a smear before he’s done with the second. Also, he was kind enough to write his messages so that the viewer didn’t need to look directly into the sun to read them. You’d think this would be an obvious move, taught in Skywriting 101, but more often than not you have to squint into ol’ Sol in order to read what he’s writing.

A coworker and I had a small bicker about whether or not the skywriter himself/herself is the actual religious person, or whether it’s a rich religious person who has hired the skywriter. I vote for religious skywriter, myself. Although this picture was taken on a Sunday morning, which means if the skywriter is religious, he/she was skipping church. Hmm.

This business card, which I saw today, hits several of my design/grammar sweet spots. A hearty combination of serif and sans-serif fonts! The perilous Occasional Capitalization (because words like Butts are Very Important)! Missing hyphens galore (second-hand [or even secondhand], cancer-causing)! “Quotation marks” around “Electronic Cigarette”! And don’t forget, you can either Leave a Message, or call the other number and be yelled at by JAY (!!!!).

Lastly is one of the regular pin-traders here at Epcot. I don’t know if you know the hullabaloo about pin trading, but some adults take it very seriously. They come in and park themselves at these little cocktail tables with their ginormous binders full of pins, and hang out all day. I’ve seen this guy before, and was hoping he’d come back again. And he did! With his sparkly floor-length tail! Sadly, this time he wasn’t wearing his dogs-playing-poker cabana shirt.

People. Their variety just delights me.

Top 7: Jobs

Top 7. Because 5 is never enough, but I’m too lazy for 10.

I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life. Like many, I started my work career at age 15-1/2, which was something of a labor-law rule back in the 80s. Is it still? Anyhoo, ever since that first job bagging groceries (with the title of “courtesy clerk”), I’ve moved around through a lot of workplaces. Retail? Restaurant? Outdoors? Office? Hospitality? Been theres, done those. From customer service to bank teller to webmaster.

But of all of my jobs, there have been favorites. Heck, there are some that I’d go back and do right now, if I could. Not that I don’t love my current job, but some of these remind me of a lot of fun times.

7. Intern, KJR Radio

Back in the 70s of my youth, KJR was the biggest, bestest radio station in Seattle, playing all of the hot hits. So when the time came for me to do a college internship for my broadcasting degree, I jumped at the chance to work at KJR. It also helped that, at the time, the station was trying out a new “greatest hits of the 80s” format. Yes, it was unpaid work, but I got a priceless look into how radio worked in the real world (None of the vacuum tube-driven machines, like we had at school!) and it eventually led to my first post-college full-time job at KJR’s sister station KUBE. Plus, even as an intern, I got to do occasional voice-over work. (One of my voiced ads was even nominated for a “Soundie” award.)

6. Bass Ale Ambassador

This was a hilarious part-time job I did in my mid-20s. A group of us went around to local bars, speaking in fake English accents, talking about the deliciousness of Bass Ale and giving away free Bass Ale merchandise. The thing is, in most states, the ambassadors were able to give out free samples of Bass. But Washington state had (and probably still has) draconian liquor laws where nobody was ever allowed to give away free drinks. So our program was much changed from the other programs nationwide, and the Washington program was shut down pretty fast. But it was good while it lasted, and our leader always bought us a Bass after our giveaways were done.

5. Children’s Theater Usher

I worked day shifts at the Seattle Children’s Theater, ushering for the school shows. The job was basically meeting up with busloads of kids, making sure they got to their seats, keeping an eye on rowdiness during the shows, and knowing where the huge barrel of kitty litter was kept in case a kid puked. Nobody else ever wanted to sit in the auditorium during the show, and I LOVED drawing that particular straw, so I ended up seeing Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse at least 30 times, and The King of Ireland’s Son maybe a few times less. What a delight to watch kids enjoying the theater.

4. College Cafeteria Pizza Chef

I worked many a job in my dorm’s cafeteria — cashier, grill cook, sandwich maker … but no job was more pleasant than the late-night pizza chef gig. It was a prized job, because it paid a little more due to the late hours. Fortunately, I had prior experience from cooking at a pizza place in high school, so I got the choice gig. From 8pm until Midnight on Friday and Saturday nights, two of us had the entire cafeteria kitchen to ourselves. We turned The Police up loud on the stereo and made pizzas for our hungry peers. Since I wasn’t exactly a dating machine at that time (my idea of fun was playing Pinochle in the dorm lounge with a group of like-minded geeks), I didn’t mind working on my Friday and Saturday nights. Easy, fun, and all the pizza I could eat. No wonder I gained more than the freshman 15.

3. Summer Camp Arts & Crafts Counselor

Every summer while I was in college, I worked at a city-run day camp. The first year, I was a regular counselor, in charge of a group of 10 like-aged kids every week. But the three years after that, I moved up in the world. My title was a huge combo platter: “Arts & Crafts Counselor / Assistant Camp Director”. For the assistant part, it meant I got to do fun things like shop for snacks at Costco and arrange use of the 15-passenger van, but the director herself got to deal with irate parents and permission slips and such. Perfect. As for the arts & crafts part, every group of kids came through my craft room once a week, where we worked on a one-hour project. I loved researching and putting together activities — we did everything from tie-dyed shirts to paper bag puppets to homemade ice cream using coffee cans, ice, and rock salt. And when I didn’t have any official duties, my job was to go find groups of campers and join in whatever fun they were doing.

I’d totally do that job again, but I’d be the odd duck now. At the time, the bulk of us were all college kids, but we’d usually have one or two counselors who were older — substitute teachers, for the most part. A couple of them wanted to party with us, but it was always awkward. I don’t want to be that creepy older person. But what a great job that was. I had a fantastic tan, got more exercise than any time before or since, and got to work under an assumed name: those kids still only remember me as “Charlie Tuna”.

2. Casino Party Dealer

I went to casino dealer school in my early 30s. It seemed awesome, and turns out, it was. I worked in a real casino, but I also worked for another company that did casino events and parties. I prefered the fake-money parties; they were much less stressful than having someone dump hundreds of dollars at me. Screw up with fake money, and nobody cares. I dealt all of the stand-up games: Blackjack, Spanish 21, Three-Card Poker, Four-Card Poker, Red Dog, Caribbean Stud, and others I’ve probably forgotten. I also learned Roulette from the party company, although I never chose to deal it — too much math for me. I also dealt all of the popular poker games: Texas Hold’Em, Omaha Hold’Em, and all of the various Stud games. The pay was awesome, I always had a great time, I got to wear a name tag with a fake name along with my suave tie and cummerbund, and a surprising number of people tipped us real cash for dealing a fun fake-money game. If only the big casinos weren’t an hour away, I’d love to deal again part-time (fake or real money).

1. Comedic Actor/Improviser

I’m lumping two workplaces into this category: Jet City Improv, where I worked for ten years (the longest I’ve spent with any company), and Walt Disney World (One more year until that 5-year Pluto pin!). Actually, if you tack on the group I was with for a couple of years before Jet City, it means I’ve been improvising for about seventeen years. That’s crazy! Jet City was where I honed my short-form chops, but I also had the creative freedom to develop and direct a show, as well as work on side projects like Twisted Flicks, a show I still miss like crazy. And thanks to those skills, I got to work at WDW’s Comedy Warehouse for the last 18 months of its life. That place was an amazing high-pressure improv machine — I did more shows in that year and a half than I did in the 14 years before. And the great job is continuing now, in my role as a game show host (part scripted, part interactive/improvised). When we took those “what will your career be” tests in middle school, actor was always the first item on the list. (Writer came up frequently in second place.) How cool is that? I’m doing for a living the thing I’ve been inclined to do since before I was a teen. And I love it!

Basic Instructions: Behind the Scenes

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been over three years since I drew a guest comic for Basic Instructions. My first was the aptly titled “How to Have a Guest Artist Draw Your Comic Strip.” Now I have an additional strip under my belt (which you should go read first, if you haven’t already), and since I had to re-learn how to draw and assemble a strip in the Scott Meyer way, I figured I’d give a little behind-the-scenes peek at how Basic Instructions gets made.

First off, there’s the idea. I try not to say the following words to Scott often: “You should do a strip about how to ______!” Believe me, he hears that all the time from everyone. But our conversations sometimes lead to an idea popping out. If he doesn’t already make a note of it on his own (and most of the time he does), I might say something like, “Huh, there might be something in that.” For this strip, we were indeed coming up with drinking game rules at the grocery store, and I thought not only that there was potential, but that I could help Scott with his workload by doing a guest strip.

The idea percolated for a while, until one day when I was trying to take a nap. Which wasn’t working, because of the cat giving himself a bath while pressed against my leg, and the other cat giving herself a bath while pressed against my head. But while I was lying there, I came up with my four punchlines.

I got up, wrote them down, and figured out rough narration for those four panels. Scott doesn’t always write the same way — sometimes he comes up with the “how to” concept first, sometimes he comes up with a couple of punchlines and figures out what kind of “how to” framework they’ll fit in. And some rare times, an almost-complete strip will pop out from his head like some kind of comedic Athena.

I worried about a strip about drinking games, and considered some sort of “please drink responsibly” fine print at the bottom. Finally, I decided to start the narration in the very first panel with “alcoholic or not,” and I went with coffee cups and soft drinks for two of the art panels. Hopefully that will satisfy everyone but the most sticklerific out there.

With the writing done, it was time for the art. The software involved is Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. I’m sure you could use other drawing programs, but these are the ones that are (a) in my house, and (b) I know how to use. As for the hardware, we both swear by Wacom tablets:

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I use the small Wacom Bamboo tablet. Scott has another model. I’ve used a tablet instead of a mouse for 10 years or so, and love it. I used to have a larger off-brand tablet, but when that one conked out, I got a smaller but higher quality model. Diet Coke is also an essential piece of hardware. Or would that be wetware? Anyhoo.

Photography comes next. In my first guest strip I called Scott’s drawing process “photocartooning.” Its more technical term is “rotoscoping,” and it mainly consists of drawing over the top of a photograph. Shots are taken in the appropriate poses and costumes (Yes, costumes — what would Scott be without a black t-shirt and chinos? Or Mullet Boss without his suit jacket and unbuttoned shirt?) and put on the computer.

Tracing over the pictures isn’t as easy as you’d think. I think the hardest part, and the part that Scott really rocks at, is figuring out what parts to trace, and what to leave behind. You can’t trace every single line on someone’s face, for example — it’d look like a line-filled, wrinkly mess. Likewise, you don’t want to capture every wrinkle of clothing, and you don’t want to define every single tooth. It just looks creepy. Plus, these drawings are going to shrink down to a tiny size, so you’d lose a lot of the fine details anyway. Pick the bold stuff and ignore the rest.

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Here’s a sample of one of my tracings, and you can see some of the subtle changes and things left out. I made sure to remove my double-chin, which makes an appearance every single time I make a hammy face. What can I say, I’m blessed with chins. I also didn’t draw any of the lines around my chin or mouth; those details would be lost upon shrinkage. I did have fun with my hair, however. (I’m also fascinated by how the curve of my face follows the curve of my guitar on the wall. Also, please enjoy our messy desk and bookshelves. And I moved my wedding ring to the proper finger, since it’s too big and I’m too lazy to have it resized.)

The tracing is done in Photoshop, saved as a JPG file, and then placed in Illustrator. Why, you may ask? Well, the Photoshop paintbrush is easier to draw with (Illustrator’s pen and brush can both be a little weird) but Illustrator is needed to turn the drawing into a vector format. A process called Live Trace is run on the JPG, and Illustrator finds all of the lines and turns them into points on curves. That way, you can resize the art as small or large as you want, and as long as the software knows how the points and curves relate to each other, it’ll always look the same. Illustrator’s fill-in paint bucket is really nice, as well.

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Here’s our image, first in the Photoshop drawing, then in the colored Illustrator vector drawing. You can see some subtle differences in the smoothness of the lines. The Live Trace process is very forgiving for shaky hands and small errors — for the most part, it smooths them out in a stylish way.

Once all the drawings are traced and colored, it’s time to assemble the strip. I had to draw eight figures and some furniture all from scratch for my strip, which made my poor hand tired. Scott has a huge stockpile of drawings of his characters, and almost always has a drawing he can use again for most common poses (thus the title of book 2: Made with 90% Recycled Art). I did not, however, build my own framework. I used Scott’s, because I wasn’t about to measure everything and start from scratch when he had a perfectly usable template ready for the borrowing.

Although the template appears simple, it’s a 15-layer Illustrator document. Each panel’s art gets its own layer, as well as layers for the outer frame, the shaded background, narration, dialog, word balloons, and more.

The first part of assembly is a mad festival of copying, pasting, resizing, typing, and nudging things around until they fit right. A little scootch here and there really makes a difference.

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Here you can see my strip before I’ve clipped the unused parts of the artwork away, and before I’ve put balloons around the words. It took a lot of nudging and wiggling to get everything to fit. I worry that I might be even wordier than Scott, which is saying something. You can see that I didn’t draw Scott’s feet, because I didn’t think I’d use them. I actually wish I’d been more complete with a couple of the drawings, because I had to really finesse them to get them to fit right. Like Scott’s shopping cart (and he is, indeed, the one who pushes the cart), which is as high as it can go without showing that the side comes to an abrupt end.

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The superfluous art is hidden away with a clipping mask, and word balloons are placed around the text. For voices coming from out-of-frame, I wanted a different look than just the rounded rectangles. Scott’s template had a soft, rounded thought-balloon brush, but nothing as jagged as I wanted. So I had to make a pattern, then make a brush out of it. You can see my original jagged line on the side, and how it repeats its way around the dialog. The directional tail of the balloon is made with a > shape, made with the pen tool and lined up with the jagged balloon edges. The curved tails from the regular dialog are also made with the pen, then the pen shape and the rounded rectangle balloon are merged into one shape. (I also had to learn how to adjust the corners of my rounded rectangles. I learned a ton about Illustrator in general.)

A few more nudges and adjustments, and the strip was ready to send to Scott. I sent it to him as an Illustrator file, and he rendered it as a 600×600 GIF for the Basic Instructions site. For his strips, there are a couple of additonal steps — there’s a larger vector-based copy that gets sent to newspapers, so it’ll print clearly at any size. He also has to keep everything scheduled tightly, due to newspapers and the Cracked.com site running strips certain lengths of time before they show up on the BI site.

So there it is, how a Basic Instructions gets made!

The Fall 2010 TV Season

Every network is smothering us with ads for the new fall season, so I went to the ol’ TV Guide site to map out what we’ll be recording.

Boy, I guess scheduling the TiVo won’t be as hard as I thought it would be. What with Lost done, and must-sees like American Idol not showing up until mid-season, there aren’t really any bottlenecks. I only have two brand-new shows on my list, and I don’t necessarily expect them to stay on the list for long. Here’s what we’ll be watching this fall:

Monday
8:00 House (FOX)
10:00 Castle (ABC)

I guess I could record Dancing with the Stars in its two-hour block from 8-10, but there isn’t a single celebrity who interests me this season. I know NBC is desperate for us sci-fi fans to check out The Event, but it doesn’t look interesting either. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll check out the Hawaii Five-0 reboot in the 10pm hour.

Tuesday
8:00 No Ordinary Family (ABC)
8:00 Glee (FOX)
8:00 The Biggest Loser (NBC) (via Hulu the following week)

Here’s the one spot of the week where three shows are on at the same time. But if No Ordinary Family turns out to be a steamer, the problem is solved. Last year, because of Lost, we watched The Biggest Loser via Hulu. They have a one-week delay on the episodes, but nobody spoiled me, and the season rolled on just fine. Not to mention our antenna isn’t that reliable with NBC, so we’d be using Hulu most of the time anyway. In other news, I’m still not sure why I watch Glee. I’ve figured out that I don’t like Matthew Morrison at all, but … I guess the music is usually interesting.

Wednesday
8:00 Survivor (CBS)
8:00 America’s Next Top Model (CW)

Wednesday appears to have become reality night. Survivor moved there from Thursday, which is actually a huge help. There’s also Hell’s Kitchen on at 9, but I removed the season pass halfway through this last season. It’s just a horrible show full of horrible people. Though some might say that about ALL reality TV.

Thursday
8:30 Shit My Dad Says (CBS)
9:00 Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)
9:00 Fringe (FOX)

We’ve dropped both CSI and The Office from the Thursday at 9 spot — CSI got boring once William L. Petersen left, and The Office is an NBC show: crappy antenna reception, and available on the Hulu. We’ll try out the new Shatcom, which I prefer to keep profane, but I have a sneaking feeling I’ll find it uncomfortably unfunny, like I find most sitcoms.

Friday
9:00 The Good Guys (FOX)

Wow, Friday. That’s it? Okay then.

Saturday
(rest)

There’s not a single thing. Then again, the schedule has college football listed for ABC, “local” for CW, lots of Cops on FOX, and NBC just reads “repeats” for the whole night. I guess that will be Netflix streaming night. Bring on The IT Crowd!

Sunday
8:00 The Amazing Race (CBS)
9:00 Undercover Boss (CBS)

This is, clearly, feel-good reality night (as opposed to Wednesday, which I’m renaming backstabby reality night). The best reality show on TV (and the only one I’d want to be on), The Amazing Race will always be at the top of our season pass list. And Undercover Boss was charming last season. Hopefully they’ll adjust the formula a little bit, to make it just a splash less treacly.

So that’s what we’ll be watching this season. I keep thinking of trying out Bones, but they have so many seasons under their belt, it’d be hard to start now. Maybe we’ll check it out on DVD. I also keep hearing about Mad Men, but it doesn’t interest me. Not to mention all of the shows on HBO and Showtime, two channels we don’t get. But I think this will be more than enough.

Top 7: Duran Duran Songs

Yes, top 7. Because 5 is never enough, but I’m too lazy for 10.

What better way to launch a new category — my personal top 7 lists — than with the songs from my favorite band, Duran Duran. They’re still as fantastic to me now as they were 28 years ago. I have to make some tough choices, since their discography includes 14 albums, as well as numerous B-sides, demos, and other rare songs that didn’t make it onto an LP. My MP3 collection, which is incomplete (but has some remixes, demos, and live versions) contains 137 songs. Tough choosies!

7. “Someone Else Not Me”Pop Trash, 2000

This is probably a song you’ve never heard of, from an album you’ve likewise never heard of. Unless you’re a big ol’ Durannie. But it hits me right in my mellow sweet spot — Duran Duran made great party music, to be sure, but they also really knew their way around a ballad.

6. “Serious”Liberty, 1990

Again, you ask: what? From what? That’s right, another track from a little-listened record. Not only is it the best cut from Liberty, it’s really the only great song on that album. The rest are fair to good, but this album suffered from musical musicians and the boys figuring out what they were doing. The band liked the song enough to play it on MTV Unplugged in 1993, so there’s that. A great ballad with a great sound.

5. “Rio”Rio, 1982

Wait, what? “Rio” isn’t the number one song? Not for me, it’s not. Although it’s an excellent piece of work, with an upbeat tempo, full of fun, and a bassline I’ve always loved. It is, however, hindered by that long super-quiet lead-in, which always makes me think my CD player is suddenly on the fritz. But the big problem is, Rio is an amazing album full of outstanding songs. Which means for me, personally, the song “Rio” isn’t even the number two song on that record.

4. “Lonely in Your Nightmare”Rio, 1982

Because this song is my number-two from Rio. The third track on the album, sandwiched between radio giants “Rio” and “Hungry Like the Wolf”, has always been one of my favorites. And it’s made even more awesome by a game we play at the House of Meyer, where we try to fit whatever we’re saying into the cadence, “if blah blah blah blah blah blah blah, let me in.” So just remember: if it’s time to fold the laundry, let me in. (Now please excuse me for a moment, because it actually is time to fold the laundry.)

3. “What Happens Tomorrow”Astronaut, 2004

I just about exploded when I first heard that the original five were getting back together for this album. I fretted greatly that it wouldn’t be good, but my frets were unfounded. The album as a whole is quite good, with a few songs that stray into great territory. They managed to capture a lot of the fun positivity that made their early stuff successful, but they also tweaked things enough to be current. “What Happens Tomorrow” is a perfect combination of hopefulness and smooth ballad.

2. “Save a Prayer”Rio, 1982

Okay, so you may have realized by now that I like ballads. Probably 80% of my music collection in general consists of slower songs. And this is one of the best damned ballads ever made. What girl who heard this song didn’t want to be the one whose one-night-stand Simon LeBon called “paradise”?

1. “Girls on Film”Duran Duran, 1981

I have three versions of this song in my collection. One from the original album, one from 1984’s live Arena album, and the “night version” from the 12″ single. The song is peppy, and fun, and vibrant. The full Godley & Creme video was shockingly full of boobs, while the concert video from Arena had leather-and-lace girls playing roller derby. Which was awesome. But it’s the song’s personal staying power that puts it in the number one spot: whenever I make a new mix CD for the car, a version of this song is always on it. In fact, my current car mix has both the Arena version (I put the whole album on this one, except for I omitted “Wild Boys”) and the night version on it. Just hearing it makes me want to dance around. Or skate fast in a circle. (But not in leather and lace.)

A Dump from the Camera Phone

What did we do before our phones had good-quality cameras attached? I know what I did — carried a point-and-shoot in my purse. And before that, I just missed out on being able to share random things I see. But since blogs didn’t exist then, none of us knew what we were missing. Onward, to things I’ve photographed!

I don’t ever want to get into a car accident with a vehicle that reads “prepare to meet god” anywhere on it. It seems more like a threat than a recommendation, you know? At any rate, this guy’s bumper stickers had a charming homemade look about them. I wonder how I can print up slogans on strips of vinyl?

We found this display at the local Publix supermarket — a huge bin full of little 8-ounce bottles of colorful pop. It was the name “Chubby” that caught my eye, since the ingredients list pretty much started with high-fructose corn syrup and made its way through two other sugars. At least this is semi-truth in advertising! If you want chubby kids, give them this soda (pop)!

At the mall, this huge window display in the Victoria’s Secret smellystore caught my eye. Yes, our mall has three VS properties — the regular Victoria’s Secret, full of underthings; the VS Pink, full of collegiate underthings; and this third place, which is all perfumes and lotions and I will never go in there because it smells too much. Anyway, this woman’s face seems somehow wrong. Maybe it’s the shadows, or maybe this is a Photoshop disaster. Her puffly lips, her mangled nose, her GINORMOUS collarbones. It’s all wrong, wrong, wrong.

And lastly, from the home front: bouncy balls. Our littlest cat is really taken by these foam balls, and will carry them around in her mouth. Then she meows at you so you’ll throw it for her, but because she has a foam ball in her mouth, it sounds hilarious. They certainly don’t stand up to much abuse, though — our carpet is covered with little shreds of red and purple, and those balls look like incomplete Death Stars. I just gave her the green one yesterday. Naturally, Target stopped carrying these toys two weeks after I bought them. Because that’s what the stores here do.