Thursday, May 28, 2009

And now, for my next act...

I've left a few threads loose on this blog in the past month or two, so this an attempt to tie them up.

• Some good news: I got the contract to write humorous essays about home and lifestyle topics for a local consumer newsletter. It's subscriber-only, and I am not able to retain rights to republish, so I can't re-post any of the essays on my blog. And they're not online. But I'm delighted to have an opportunity to do my favorite type of writing.

• I'm pretty much recovered from breaking my nose when I feel over some fencing on the patio while chasing a cat in the middle of the night.

• The orange cat, Mr. Garibaldi, is coming by for two meals a day and has let me touch him twice. Mostly he likes to sunbathe on the deck or sleep at the bottom of the back porch stairs.

Still recovering from Folklife weekend, which was great. I thought the festival was less chaotic than in past years, and more acoustic. Didn't get as much dancing done as I would have liked, but got the chance to catch up with several folks I hadn't seen in ages. High points of the weekend included seeing the Morris dancing mockumentary "A Life with Bells On," shown as a collaboration between SIFF and Folklife, and hearing Mike's band close the Roadhouse Sunday night with the waltz he composed for Nina.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I know exactly what I want for Christmas

Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes film, with Robert Downey as Holmes, opens Christmas Day.

Have ink cartridges, need printer

There's often a humorous side to technical glitches, though it's hard to see it when you've just spent close to $300 replacing three ink cartridges and three print heads on an HP Business Inkjet 1200d printer and it still prints faded, blurry pages and will only print the last page of any print job!

The printer refused to believe that the expensive new print heads, purchased from a reputable office supply place, were HP print heads. And the office supply place wouldn't take them back because they had been opened.

Part of my problem is that the HP Business Inkjet was manufactured in 2004 and purchased in 2006, which means it's so obsolete that the repair place I called (which would charge $125 just to look at a printer) warned me they wouldn't be able to get any parts for it, anyway.

So I figured I'd just give the thing away to someone who could use the $180 worth of fresh ink cartridges. I went on Craig's List to put together an ad.

That's when I found the guy who is selling two HP Business Inkjet 1200d printers, both in working condition, for $25 each. (The pair of them are about the same price as one color ink cartridge, BTW.) One of the printers is missing its power cable, but, what do you know, I've got one!

So tomorrow morning I'm driving to Tukwila to pick up two working (if obsolete) printers to go with my pricey ink cartridges. Yes, I know there is something weird about this.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Journalism dreams

I've been bidding on some fascinating projects recently. One would involve writing a humor column. The other is a comprehensive marketing communications program for a group of developers with an aggressive business plan. So: Lots of bids, lots of emails, lots of meetings.

Last night I dreamed I'd been hired to do marketing communications for a non-profit. I wasn't that interested in the work, but needed the money. The non-profit had offices in an old industrial building near Pioneer Square, and while waiting for the elevator there, I got talking to a man who had just come out of a big office that looked like a turn-of-the-century newsroom.

Through the dusty glass windows, I could see that the room was filled with intellectual-looking folks, lounging about and reading — old hippies and bohemians and academics. It turned out that the man on his way out was the managing editor of a magazine; he'd just quit because he was fed up. He asked me if I wanted the job — said the writers were impossible to manage. I asked him how much the editor's job was paying. He quoted quite a respectable amount, and I asked for an additional 10 percent.

"Fine," he said, handing me some keys. "It's all yours."

He disappeared into the elevator and I walked into the magazine office. It was filled with floor-to-ceiling bookcases and massive oak desks; all the horizontal surfaces were covered with books and papers. The writers, mostly men, but some women, looked at me with expressions that would have been considered glares if they had been more energetic.

I picked up a phone (it was an old, dial phone) and began calling one of my two favorite editors in town. I was convinced that if I could get those two guys in to work with me, we could whip the place into shape. I remember being rather pleased that I felt so confident.

This has to be the first time I've ever dreamed about running a magazine!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The key to cat sitting

Cat sitting is easy if you've got the key.

If you've lost it — it's just the cat meowing on one side of the door, and you freaking out on the other.

I'm the neighborhood's designated cat sitter. Until yesterday, the panic episode of my pet-sitting career was when the neighbors across the street left town for two weeks, leaving me to care for their cats — and for the mice and fish the husband forgot to tell me about. Fortunately, their six-year-old yelled "Don't forget the fish" as they drove off down the street, and I investigated.

I feed cats, I pill cats, I let cats in and out. I find cats that have been locked overnight in a bedroom when the wind blew the door shut (phew!). I fill water bowls and I scoop litter.

My latest assignment seemed particularly easy because it involved only one cat, a 20-pound feline that lives contentedly indoors. He has an automatic feeding bowl and water dish, so all I needed to do was pet him, give him a few treats, and shovel the litter every few days.

Yesterday I went in, tossed my keys and purse on the coffee table, sat in a chair, and petted the cat for 20 minutes. I gave him two salmon treats, picked up my purse and keys, and realized that while my keys were on the coffee table, the key to the neighbors' house was missing.


I checked the floor, the counters, and the table tops. I checked the cushions of the chair where I'd been sitting. I dumped the contents of my purse on the floor and went though that. I checked the pockets of my jeans.


No key. The phone number for the neighbors' sister was on the information sheet in the kitchen; she was taking over cat care on the weekend, so I knew she had a key and I could, if all else failed, call her.


By now, it was time for me to leave for yoga class, and I decided to latch the front door from the inside, go out the back way, and leave the back door unlocked. Bad idea. This house has a door that automatically locks. I found myself standing on the back porch, locked out, with the sister's phone number on the info sheet in the kitchen.

"Meow," the cat said.

I went off to yoga class, came back late, and put off trying to locate the sister until this morning. After all, the cat had food and water, and was unlikely to die from lack of petting.

Searching old emails, I was able to find an evite from the neighbors, and, looking at the evite RSVPs spotted a name that sounded like it might be the sister's. Fortunately, she has an unusual last name. Using that, I was able to locate her on Linkedin and find out that she works for a small local law firm.

I called the firm. They greeted me in the usual arms-length business style, telling me that the sister was not available. Fortunately, I knew she was out of the office recovering from eye surgery. So I simply told them I was her brother's cat sitter and had locked the keys in the house with the cat. The person on the phone (who turned out to be the head of the firm) cracked up, and a few minutes later the sister called me back, laughing.

Her husband came over this evening to give me their key, and, sure enough, immediately spotted the original key where it had fallen — under the sofa.

"I was sure the cat had eaten it," he said kindly.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Funny is fun

I put The Mysterious Traveler blog to work yesterday providing a few examples of my humor writing. A Seattle area publication is looking for a columnist to write about home and lifestyle topics in a Dave Barry / Erma Bombeck vein, and I couldn't resist tossing my beret into the ring.

When I left Apple three years ago, my first stop was the 2006 Erma Bombeck writing conference where, as fate would have it, Dave Barry was the keynote speaker. This was at the peak of the snarky, ironic style of humor writing (practiced locally by The Stranger and imitated by The Weekly) and it was heartening to hear someone being just plain old mainstream funny.
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