Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Math is not my friend
Warning: This is a boring financialy/numbery post.

Every year, I get a letter from my mortgage company reporting on the past year's taxes and whatnot. This letter also announces my new mortgage payment for the next year, based on estimated taxes and whatnot. It's their best guess as to what my monthly payment will be, based on the history from the previous year.

The first year, they had WAY overestimated my taxes. Since they can't keep extra of my dollars lying around in my escrow* account, they had to send me a really nice check. It was like a surprise Christmas in May. PLUS, they estimated that my payment for the next year would be lower than what I had been paying.

SUPER! Owning a house is a piece of cake!

The next year, I got a HORRIBLE letter. Apparently they had UNDERestimated my taxes for that year, and I was low in my escrow account. I owed them lots of money. And my monthly payment for the next year went up. A lot.

I cried. I called people who could maybe get me out of it. They couldn't. I stressed out. I panicked that I would have to sell my house. Or WORSE, get a ROOMMATE.

Fortunately, my tax refund, plus my very sweet Daddy, made everything okay. But, I had to suck it up and get used to a higher mortgage payment each month.

So, last week I got the letter. I opened it. It told me I was short in my escrow account AGAIN. And they adjusted my monthly payment AGAIN. SHEESH!! I have no more money to give you people!

I put the letter away in frustration. I didn't even read all of it. I've been stressed about it all week.

Fast-forward to today, and I just looked at the letter again. Yes, I do have a shortage in my escrow account. But it's minor. And even with the shortage prorated over the next 12 months, my monthly payment will go DOWN a bit from this past year.

Um, yeah. So when I first looked at it last week, I noticed the last two numbers in the payment went from 30 to 74. And I immediately assumed this meant the WHOLE number went up.

Um, yeah. So after looking at it again and SUBTRACTING the two ammounts (because the first number is larger than the second - not the other way around), I'm much less stressed. I see that the difference in the numbers actually works in my favor this time.

Stupid math.

Yay somewhat-more-afforable housing!


*Do not ask me to explain to you what an escrow account it. I pretty much know. But I cannot explain it to you.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Three Things

1. Dried Fruit has finally made it in this world. I don't usually buy dried fruit because I can never find it in the grocery store. When I'm looking for raisins, I can never find them. Dried fruit is always stuck on a random aisle that never makes any sense. If I happen to stumble upon it, I will buy it.

But, today I went to Target and I saw DRIED FRUIT proudly listed on the big sign above the aisle. I bought some dried fruit because I knew exactly where to find it. It's a big day for dried fruit.

2. I can't remember the second thing.

3. As I was driving home, I saw three kids playing with a ball in their front yard. There were two boys and one girl, maybe 7 years old. The ball suddenly went out in the street in front of my car. Naturally I slowed way down and glued my eyes on the kids to make sure none of them ran out in front of my car to chase the ball.

As I watched the kids, I saw the younger girl run towards the street. But as she did, one of the boys grabbed her arm to hold her back. Then he motioned for her to stay. As I passed I saw him look both ways, then he carefully went out into the street to get the ball.

I cried the rest of the way home, watching this young boy be so protective of that little girl. Maybe he was her brother, maybe they are all just neighbor kids. Whatever the case, that was the sweetest thing I've seen in a really long time.


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Squirrels STILL don't belong in houses.
This morning as I enjoyed my usual Sunday morning routine of sitting in my chair, reading the paper, and drinking my coffee while letting the sunshine stream in through the windows, I heard a noise at the back door.

It sounded like the wind was lighting blowing outdoor debris at the door, which is not uncommon. But as I looked outside, I noticed the wind wasn't blowing.

My backdoors are French doors with lovely windows that allow lots of light in, and also make for a fantastic view of my backyard when looking out from inside. They also apparently make a great place for small creatures to peer into my home.

There, looking in through the bottom of the glass door was... A SQUIRREL. Yes, the noise I heard was his sharp pointy claws scratching along the bottom of the door as he moved from side to side to get a better view of me. He then stopped and stared right back at me.

Or maybe he was looking for his friend that perished in my home a couple of years ago.

I got up to take his picture, but he left before I could grab the camera.

If I wasn't paranoid about squirrels getting into my house, it would be really cute. But I'm a little worried that maybe he was sent in on a recon mission by the secret squirrel militia, to get the layout of my house for a secret attack they may be planning.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I'm annoyed
Granted, I've been really grumpy all day anyway. But then I watched American Idol and decided that I'm not only grumpy, but I'm annoyed, too.

Things that annoyed me:

Bucky. Just, Bucky.

Kelly Pickler's walking. Just because you are singing about walking doesn't mean you actually have to walk the whole time you sing.

Taylor's possibly-cocaine-induced dancing. It's not even cute anymore. Just annoying.

Taylor's white shoes with a suit. What?!?!

Paris's hair. I'm just not really sure what was going on there.

Ace's shirt. I was growing weary of the t-shirts, but now that I've seen him in a real shirt, it's just not natural. Go back to the tees.

Elliott's tie and untucked shirt combo. Nothing good about that.

Kevin's hand in his pocket the whole time he sang. 'Nuff said.

THE FLOWER! You saw it, too. And it scared the bajeezus out of you like it did me. There in the audience, Jasmine Trias back with the flower. WHY WILL IT NOT GO AWAY?? We voted it off a LONG time ago.

Things that did NOT annoy me:



I'm changing my earlier prediction. The top two will be Katharine and Chris. As long as they continue NOT to annoy me.


Monday, March 20, 2006

Sir Thomas Bickle Blog Day
I'm a few hours early of the official Thomas Bickle Blog Day, but since I will be away from blogging tomorrow I wanted to make sure this was up on my blog in anticipation of the event. This is a departure from my usual posts, but it is a worthy cause to join in with many fellow bloggers to use our blogs for good, rather than evil today.

Meet Young Thomas Bickle:

He is a young lad, nigh on 7 months old. And he belongs to Mom and Pop Bickle:

A couple of weeks ago, Thomas was diagnosed with a very serious brain tumor. I won't pretend to know anything special about cancer or tumors, but it's bad. The big nasty tumor that Thomas developed was an ependymoma. Look that up for all the gory details.

Thomas has undergone a successful surgery to remove the tumor. But needless to say, he has a long road ahead of him to beat the cancer and recover.

You can read more about Thomas on his very own blog (this little guys is so special he has people who blog for him!): thomasbickle.blogspot.com


You can also read about Thomas in today's (Monday 3/20) Dallas Morning News Metro Section.

Thomas and his family need a lot of support and help during this time. Please keep them in your prayers. And if you are able to send a bit of $$ their way (you can read on Thomas's blog about their financial needs at this time), they have a handy Donate button right there on the blog.

Because really, who could say no to this face?

Viva Thomas and Bickles!


Saturday, March 18, 2006

If I only I did more drugs...
So, I finally watched Walk the Line this afternoon. It was one of the few Oscar movies I hadn't seen, yet. Agreed, Reese Witherspoon was fabulous and definitely deserved the Oscar.

But, my reaction to the movie as a whole is this:

Drugs + Alcohol + sleeping around + accidentally discovering you can sing = fame and fortune as a rockstar

We saw it last year in Ray. We saw it before that in Great Balls of Fire. We saw it in the made-for-tv version of Elvis.

Really? Is this how rockstars happen? Are these the people we hero-ise, we worship, we want to be like? Is this the lifestyle we idolize and dream about? Dude, Johnny Cash was sober for MAYBE 15 minutes of the movie. The rest of the time he was drunk, high, and throwing stuff at people. In between some of that, he sang a bit. Otherwise, he was hurting everyone around him and making people clean up after him.

This is good?

It's not that I don't have an appreciation for the genius of the music, although I admittedly don't listen to a lot of Johnny Cash. Or Jerry Lee Lewis, for that matter. Great Balls of Fire? Not really my anthem.

But if I am to learn anything from these movies, it is that since I can already kinda sing some, I may already have the potential to be a rockstar. Like, I can carry a tune and whatnot. But what is missing from my fame and fortune is that I am responsible enough to get through my life sober.

If only I did more drugs and had more dramatic freakouts, I'd have been a rockstar a long time ago. Really, I'd be due by now for my crash and burn phase, shortly followed by rehab in about a year. I am, after all, 30 years old now. WAY overdue for getting started on my rockstar career and a lifetime of being addicted to strange black pills.

So, my question is, why are all of these American Idols working so hard? They like, take singing lessons and rehearse and have to endure week after week of scrutiny and criticism for their craft. We make them audition, and audition more, and even then, most of them will never make it as true rockstars. We even kick people off of the show who have been arrested.

Shouldn't we be keeping the ones with criminal records? All the best rockstars do hard time!

The Idols already have the exposure. We see them every week on TV. But clearly they are not watching these great movies, or paying any attention to our current rockstars. They will never make it in this world if they don't get drunk, take some pills, sleep with each other, then break everything on stage for next week's competition.

Take it from Johnny. And Ray. And Jerry Lee. They have shown us the way.


PS: I totally ended this blog by throwing my computer out the window, then slamming three Colt 45s and a bag of heroine. I'm a blogstar!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bracket, Schmracket
Up until 10:15 this morning, I hadn't given the NCAA Basketball Tournament a second thought.

Then I helped a young non-sports-minded coworker of mine fill out her bracket to enter a tournament (she had it ALL wrong), and now I may be slightly obsessed.

I've never filled out a bracket before. The team I picked to win the whole thing nearly lost in the first round (it would have been an upset AND very upsetting to me).

The tournament we are in is only for bragging rights (no money involved), but unfortunately I hate to lose. And even thought I didn't care up until midmorning, NOW I really want to win.

I should have stayed out of it.

I picked Syracuse tonight, but they are losing. I want to go to bed, but the game isn't over...

Curse you, March Madness.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Art that I get
It's safe to say that for the most part, I don't get art. I mean, I like pretty pictures and all. But as far as "getting" it, I generally don't.

Friend C and I went to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) while I was in NYC. It was fabulous. Admittedly, most of the exhibits and photos and paintings and sculptures, I just don't get. It's artistic on a level that is beyond my wee brain. It's fun and pretty to look at. I enjoyed it.

But it makes no sense.

There was one room full of scribblings on shards of paper from lots of different artists. I'm pretty sure I scribbled a lot of the same stuff when I was a kid, and my mom hung this type of stuff on the fridge. If only she had thought to turn it in to the MoMA, I'd be a famous artist by now.

I just don't get why some of that stuff is "art". I can scribble with the best of them, ya know? As far as I know, none of my scribblings are in demand or worth any money.

But, one really cool thing that we saw was this. The link isn't for MoMA, but this exhibit is now at MoMA. It's called The Brown Sisters, and it is a series of 24 photos of the same four sisters, in the same order in each photo, over 24 years, documenting their aging.

I'm fascinated with anything "sistery". I miss sistery in unimaginable ways sometimes, and sometimes I don't know when that will strike. I could have stared at these 24 photos for a lot longer than I did, which would have thoroughly bored Friend C. But it would have been therapeutic for me to pore over each photo in detail.

It was just cool for me to see these four sisters for each of these 24 years, and how they changed. Whoever thought up this project is genius, whether it was the photographer himself, or someone else. I think it is something we should all have of our own families. Intentional togetherness documented for as long as possible.

In a way, we do this. We take photos at Christmas of our families. Or other special occasions. But sometimes we forget. Or sometimes one person is missing. And it's not intentional. We don't really capture that time. We're not necessarily preserving a memory or creating something to last. We're just trying to use up a roll a film or make the obligatory Christmas card.

In just a few feet of space you could see dramatic changes in each sister from the first year or two to the last years. Towards the end of the row of pictures, it almost gets hard to recognize the faces as the same faces from the beginning photo. But the eyes are the same in each.

I wondered what was going on at the time of each photo. Hard times for one sister? Good times for all? Was this just a project for them, were they just subjects on film? Or did it mean something to each of them?

I look at photos of my sister and me, and she never changes. Turning 30 this year, I've been thinking a lot about age. I will continue to age. I've aged 7 years since the last possible time my sister and I were photographed together. But she will never age. We'll never have another photo together.

She's always 21 in my dreams. She looks the same when I think about her or when I "see" her. But I get older. We're not two years apart anymore. It just doesn't match. It doesn't feel right.

24 years of photos together is really amazing and beautiful.

And that's the kind of art I can get.


The Tyrant in NYC
Or, "I See Famous People, Part 108".

I spent the past 5 days in New York City with everyone's favorite little friend, Friend C. It was a fabulous trip. Good weather. No muggings. Lots of fun. I can see why she loves living there. It was tempting for me to stay there and not come home.

Friend C showed me pretty much the whole city. We walked more than I have walked in my entire life. Ever. Since neither of us have any money, we "saw" the sights. Meaning, we walked and subwayed TO everything, but were satisfied without actually paying to do a lot of stuff. It was great. I experienced the awesomeness of the city with a great friend and it was a fabulous vacation.

Some (but not nearly all) highlights:

Best game of Scrabble ever, beating Friend C (C.T. = 358, Friend C. = 166)
Lunch in Central Park
Lunch at Tom's Diner (the Seinfeld diner - good for novelty, but the food - not so much good)
A big giant Gothic cathedral
Syracuse basketball games
Broadway sights
Babysitting kids that aren't mine, nor did I get paid
Ground Zero (not technically a highlight, but a must-see)
Statue of Liberty as seen from the free Staten Island Ferry
Hot Coast Guard guys on the free Staten Island Ferry
Wall Street
Coffee at the Starbucks in one of the 108 Trump Towers
Friend C's $10 Steve Madden shoes
Pancakes at Big Nick's
The biggest slice of pizza in the whole world. Ever.
Lots and lots of Friends episodes
Meeting up with our NYC LOST friends

And of course, the famous people.

Day 2 of my NYC adventure was chock full of famous people sightings. If you know me at all, you know that I can't help but find famous people on my vacations. Day 2 was our first day to really get into the City, and by the end of the day I had seen no less than SIX famous people.

I can't help it. I'm sure you've heard of Gaydar. Well, I have what I like to call Fame-dar. Famous people flock to me. I love them, they love me. I can sense when I am near famous people. Seriously, it's like a sixth sense.

Like, right now I am at home. I sense that there will not be any famous people here tonight. Walking down Broadway in NYC? My Fame-dar went NUTS with the nearness of literally millions of famous people close by.

Really, it's all about being aware at all times. And, it's just really important to watch people all the time. Forget about watching where you're going. Stare at people.

C.T.s famous people sightings in NYC:

1. Caroline Rhea (host of The Biggest Loser, previously a star of Sabrina the Teenage Witch)
I spotted Caroline walking past us on Broadway. She wore a pink coat. She was on the phone and she looked right at me as I walked by. She's kinda short. Friend C was on the phone and missed the whole thing.

2. Paula Zahn (CNN)
I spotted Paula walking past us as we came out of Central Park, near the CNN building. She was on the phone, but she did not look at me. She wore a long black coat. She's way tall.

3. Three guys from SNL
This was my first famous person sighting of the trip. We were walking through Rockefeller Center and I noticed some cameras were set up. Then I noticed the cameras were all pointed at Seth Meyers, Andy Samberg, and Will Forte from Saturday Night Live. They were taping a skit for SNL.

As usual, Friend C had no idea what was going on until I said, "Look. Famous people from SNL right there." Really, what would people do without me to point out the famous people around us?

We watched them tape some of the skit. And yes, they do read every single word from cue cards.

4. Now, the last famous person story is awesome for several reasons. She's probably the least famous person out of all the famous people I found in NYC. But, she's got the best story.

For several weeks, Friend C has been through some job woes. Job possibilities coming and going, specifically one possibility as a bartender at one of her favorite local establishments. She frequents this place, has made friends with the manager (we'll call him Carlos). She thought she could certainly get the job of female bartender at this fine establishment.

Well, she didn't get the job. Some other skinny blonde girl got the job. So, Friend C takes me to this place on Friday since she and her friends typically go every Friday night. And sure enough, Tall Skinny Bartender Girl shows up and starts serving drinks at the bar where we happened to be sitting.

Here's what happened next:

Friend C: Yeah, that's the Tall Skinny Blonde Girl who stole my job. We hate her.
CT: Um, she looks familiar.
Friend C: No way. You don't live here. No way you could know her.
CT: Yeah, I'm pretty sure she looks like one of the girls from America's Next Top Model. How funny would that be?
Friend C: Impossible. No way.

I sit there for a few minutes, trying not to blatantly stare. But of course, I'm staring while my brain flips through all of the thousands of reality TV people I have catalogued from years of watching a LOT of reality TV.

Tall Skinny Blonde Girl (TSBG) is now standing right in front of us, and she asks us if we need anything. We say we're fine. Friend C refuses to order anything from this girl who stole her job, and I'm too busy trying to figure out who she is to think of anything to order.

CT: I think her name starts with a K.
Friend C: Stop it. YOU DO NOT KNOW HER.
CT: Kay... um.... Kayla?
Friend C: (gives CT a dirty look)
CT: Yeah, I think she's the one who came in second place two seasons ago. Ask Carlos what her name is.
Friend C: No.

I stare at TSBG some more, watching her spill drinks all over the floor. She's definitely hot, and I am positive she is familiar, but she's a terrible bartender.

Friend C: FINE. Carlos, what's the new girl's name?
Carlos: Kahlen. Yeah, she's kinda famous...
CT: From America's Next Top Model, right?
Carlos: (nods)


Friend C: (to CT) You watch too much TV

Naturally, I am thrilled. This has made my day. After watching 5 seasons of ANTM, I've finally met one of the models. On accident no less. At this place that I've been hearing about from Friend C for months. And, now I can keep tabs on her every week while Friend C goes for her weekly happy hour get together with her friends. Kahlen will soon be one of my new best friends.

Friend C was less than thrilled at this new insight as to why she did not get the bartender job. She lost out to a model....

Personally, I think it's the best story in the world. Ever. And thank goodness I was there to bring all of this to light.

It's not entirely unlike the time I took Friend A to the emergency room for her toe, and I recognized the nurse who taped her toe was Brook Pemberton, one of the bachelors from The Bachelorette. It is odd how reality TV fun for me seems to come at the expense of my friends...

The next day, there were no famous people. We were not in the Famous People Zones. And the last day it rained, and it's a well-known fact that famous people do not go out in the rain. They melt or something.

I did spot our own little famous person, seen here in Central Park:

And of course, what's a trip to NYC without pizza from this quaint little pizza joint near Times Square:

Good times. But it really is exhausting attracting so many famous people.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Spring Break, WOO-HOO!
I'm not technically on Spring Break since I'm a grown-up with a non-teacher job. Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking growing up and sticking myself with a job that does not allow spring break, Christmas break, or summer vacation.

But lots of people I know are on Spring Break, and I'm going to NYC to visit Friend C for the start of her Spring Break.

So, I declare myself on Spring Break.

And not just Spring Break, my friends. Spring Break, WOO-HOO!!

Catch y'all next week.


Monday, March 06, 2006

Like a punch in the gut
Sometimes I don't remember how much I miss something until it comes out of nowhere and hits me like a punch in the gut.

I don't think I've ever actually been punched in the gut. Which is why it's one of the things that would catch me most off-guard if it happened.

I imagine it would hurt, knock the wind out of me, and there would be some tears.


Honk if you can hear me
I've been fighting a cold over the past few days. Sometime Saturday night, my voice decided to leave me.

It's been gone for 3 days now.

I don't even really feel sick anymore, except for a slightly annoying dry cough. But I think I'm coughing for the satisfaction of making a noise, more so than really having a cough.

I mean, I'm usually pretty quiet and all. I don't often have much to say. But of course when I CAN'T say anything, I want to say lots of things. My catty comments during the Oscars last night were frustrating more than funny, and really the only funny thing about me was the sounds that came out of me in my attempt to vocalize words and phrases. I couldn't even say half of the funny stuff going through my head. It would have been lost and only funny to me.

Today I just had to sit around at work and not say much. Because I can't. I had the most painful 10 minute phone conversation I've ever had with a client, because it was only a 5 minute conversation but I had to repeat everything twice because she couldn't hear me.

Every once in awhile I can make a noise. I've decided it sounds like a honk.

Sometimes I open my mouth to say words and absolutely nothing comes out.

Basically a conversation with me at the moment sounds like a series of honks and grunts.

It's pretty amusing to people who aren't me.

I'm getting worried my karaoke career may be over.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Tyrant's Week in Reality TV
I've watched a lot of reality TV this week. I'm behind on my commentaries. I'm also tired. This much reality TV can wear a person out. So, I'll keep it simple.

This week, American Idol took a dive for the worst. With a few exceptions, I was sadly unimpressed with most of the performances. It was worse than last week. One would expect things to get better as we go. And so, I offer these words of advice.

1. Song choice, song choice, song choice. There are literally millions of songs in the world to choose from. Most of them will not annoy me. If I am annoyed at the first few notes of your song, you've lost me.

2. I watch these shows on tape. I watch with my finger on the Fast Forward button. You've got about 10 seconds to not annoy me with whatever you are singing before I fast-forward you off of my stage.

3. A hero NEVER comes along. You are NOT the wing beneath my wings. And the thunder NEVER rolls. If any song you sing has anything to do with any of these things, you've lost me.

4. Sometimes, even being pretty doesn't help. Ace, I'm talking to you.

5. I can fast-forward through the results show in about seven minutes. I would love to give my over-worked fast-forward finger a break (see #2 above). Therefore, I would like the results to be no more than seven minutes in real time. I don't need the drama. I don't need the worst medleys ever put together and sung by way too many people who should never, ever sing together in a group. I don't need to be tortured by the losers singing the song again that got them kicked off the show. I just need to know who is going home. Seven minutes or less.

6. The other 23 minutes of a 30-minute slot (we certainly don't need a full hour of this stuff) can be filled with more of drunk Paula. I'm pretty sure she was drunk tonight, and that much of the show was entertaining. Moths and cornflakes? What?

7. Crooning is soooo 1950s. Please get off of my stage and go back to the decade from whence you came.

Oh look. He did get off my stage tonight. Wishes do come true, when you're young at heart.

I'm not sad about anyone who left the show tonight. They are (spoiler alert):

We didn't so much love the way you sang tonight - Crooner Guy Whose Name I Can't Remember
When you're bad, you're so, so bad - Brenna
I told you a hero NEVER comes along - Heather
I have no idea what you sang but it was whiny and annoying - Sway

In other news, Amazing Race did not disappoint. I like the nerds. The annoying guy with the annoyingly hyper southern accent needs to quit calling the African American team the "black people." And the next team to be eliminated had better be the Amazon sisters because OH MY GAWD if I hear them scream ONE MORE TIME I WILL TRACK THEM DOWN WHEREVER THEY ARE IN THE WORLD AND PHYSICALLY REMOVE THEIR VOCAL CHORDS.

ANTM sadly does not premiere until next week. I was anticipating it this week, but I was wrong. And I was sad.

Although I don't really know where I would have put it in my schedule.

And that, my friends, was the Tyrant's week in Reality TV.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A bit too much Mardi in her Gras....