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California after Jeopardy

So I played some Jeopardy games in California, then I did some other stuff - stuff like this:

Went to a taping of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. This was fun, but being a Live Studio Audience member is not all fun and games. We were constantly being told to laugh louder and harder. slicegirl rebelled and would laugh only when sorely provoked by actual humor, but I went along with it. We saw Helena Bonham Carter, who was fairly odd, Miranda Lambert, who is a country singer, and some guy who's in some show on TNT. None of these people ended up on the same episode. I did like the show, though, and if I am ever awake between 12:30 and 1:30 on a weeknight, I will consider watching the program, especially now that Grant Imahara is building Craig Ferguson a robot sidekick.

Hung out with c0untmystars. We ate burritos, went to Venice Beach, and drove around LA, talking about a variety of subjects including travel, family, and the varieties of geekiness. I had no idea where I was most of the time we were driving around, but it was good times.

Drove up the Pacific Coast Highway. How beautiful! I drove as far as Oxnard (an hour and a half, maybe, from where I was staying?), at which point I realized that my driving muscles were seriously out of shape and I needed to save something for the way back. The PCH is lovely, with the ocean to one side of you and beautiful hills on the other, and actually reminded me a lot of the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. It was a lot like the road on the way to Kas, except the road is mostly close to beach level in California and mostly precariously high up the hills in Turkey. And much more densely populated in California though there are bigger cities on the Turkish coast, I just didn't visit them.

Got my flight home switched from a redeye with a stopover in Chicago to a direct (still redeye) flight to Boston! This was a nice ending to my trip. I had to wait in line for 45 minutes to make it happen, but it was worth it - I got home hours and hours earlier. Plus, they had cancelled another flight into Chicago, so by taking the direct flight I allowed some other poor sap to go to Chicago, which is probably where they wanted to be anyway. Oh, AND there was an empty seat next to me, probably the only one on the whole plane. And they did not forcibly gate-check my luggage like on the way out.

So, all in all, it was a fun trip. Successful? That would be telling, wouldn't it! I was telling one of my friends at chorus rehearsal about one of my fellow contestants and I said that I had played against him and that he had won a lot of money, and she thought I had given something away, but I hadn't, had I? I mean, I did say that he won at some point. But he could have won before me, or he could have beat me. Everyone gets beaten by someone at some point, even Ken Jennings.

Jeopardy game day, minus the game(s).

Ye Jeopardy! saga continueth! (First part here.)

Tuesday was the first day of taping - Jeopardy tapes five shows a day, two days a week so they call 12 people (plus a returning champion) for the first day - two new people per show plus two spares - and I think eight more people plus two just-in-case locals for the second day. I think all but one of us were staying at the same hotel (it is near the studio and they have a little shuttle bus to take you to the studio, which is convenient). One of the twelve people couldn't make it, because of airport trouble or something. Bummer!

By the time we had arrived at the studio I had already decided who I especially wanted to beat (but if you want all the details about that you will have to wait until June) and we all hung out in the green room, getting our makeup done, eating pastries, signing paperwork, and listening to pep talks, mostly from Maggie, the contestant producer, who has perfected the art of wrangling Jeopardy contestants via a rather extraordinary combination of stand-up comedy, coaching, gentle teasing and effusive compliments.

We also did things like going over our middle-of-the-game stories, and if you think the stories that people tell on the air are lame, you should hear the ones that don't make the cut. One woman in our group said that she could sing the entire theme song to My Mother The Car, and proceeded to do so (it is actually a very long theme song). One of the J! staff members very kindly noted that they wouldn't be able to do that since then they'd need to obtain the performance rights to the My Mother The Car theme song. Which was probably true.

Digression about makeup, which got long but which I don't want to cutCollapse )

Anyway, after the pep-talking and the making-up and picking at my cuticles until two of them were bleeding* it was time to go out and rehearse on stage. You play a few categories worth of Jeopardy with relatively easy questions, and around this point you start to think, "Shit! This is much harder than it looks from home!" I mean, obviously I knew it was going to be harder than it looked, but it was very difficult indeed. After everyone's had a chance to practice, a lawyer** draws two names, and those are the people who play against the returning champion (the contestants then draw numbers to see who gets the middle podium and who gets the end podium).

I don't think it gives away too much if I say that I didn't play the very first game of the day, so I will tell you: I didn't play in the very first game of the day. Which meant I got to sit and watch. The Jeopardy set is very segregated. Most of the staff are not allowed to talk to the contestants (and vice versa), in case they should accidentally or purposely pass information to the contestants. You're also not allowed to talk with your friends/family who came to watch, even though they're sitting right across the aisle from you; I guess this is in case they have been talking to the production staff? Or something? You're allowed to talk to your fellow contestants, the contestant coordination people, the stage manager, the sound guy, and the makeup ladies. I think that's it. You can talk to Alex Trebek, but only when you're on stage.

Some interesting facts about Jeopardy! and Alex Trebek:
  • Johnny Gilbert, the announcer, says "This... Is... Jeopardy!" every time, but the part where he says "closed-captioning provided by" is pretaped.

  • The show is recorded in real time, with commercial breaks. During the breaks, Johnny Gilbert and Alex Trebek talk to the audience about whatever the heck comes into their heads.

  • Also during the breaks, Alex re-records any clues that he flubbed during the show. He messed up at least one clue in every show I watched or participated in.

  • Squirrels have been eating the plastic sprinkler heads on Alex Trebek's lawn irrigation system, so he is going to have to buy brass sprinkler heads

  • Alex Trebek has had 12 surgeries, most recently for carpal tunnel. He does not like opiate pain medications.

  • And of course the set is much smaller than it looks on TV etc. The podiums are very nice and spacious, lots of elbow room, and there is a little elevator box that you stand on so they can make everyone the same height.

Coming tomorrowish: the rest of my time in California. Coming in June: playing Jeopardy.

*(ew! I know! I have an assembly of nervous habits, and usually cuticle-picking is not one of the major ones, but I guess it felt like the safest and least-obvious one to do in a room full of strangers, and it messed up my makeup less than nail-chewing or face-rubbing would have done)

**I was vaguely expecting this lawyer to be like the Price Waterhouse guys at the Oscars, but actually it was just a middle-aged-ish guy in jeans or khakis or something and a warmup jacket. In retrospect, this made much more sense than some guy in a fancy suit, and I've always thought handcuffing yourself to a briefcase seemed excessive and uncomfortable.

Jeopardy entry - part 1, before the taping

I'm going to write an entry with show-spoiling content in the next day or two, but I am not going to post it until the show airs on June 9th (I know! It is a very long time from now!) because 1) Jeopardy! asked me not to and 2) I think it will be more fun to watch my show (OR WILL IT BE SHOWS???) if you don't know the outcome. I have told my parents, my sister, and their spouses, and asvern and slicegirl were there, so they know what happened, and I think they have told their dad. If you desperately want to know what happened and cannot wait until June, I would recommend trying to contact my brother-in-law, who is the biggest gossip in Massachusetts.

So this entry will be about the non-game-play related things that happened on my trip to Los Angeles, including some of the lead-up to the game-playing. Please pardon my caginess about the outcome! It is making writing this very awkward.

I flew out via Chicago on a Sunday night, and the flight arrived at LAX an hour early, apparently because it was the end of the week for the flight crew and they wanted to get there an hour early. Good for them? It was a little annoying for me, though, because if I had known we were going to get in so early, I could have booked the hotel shuttle, which was not going to be running by the time I was scheduled to arrive, and saved money by not taking a cab. Oh, also, my bag was forcibly gate-checked in Boston all the way through to LA, so I had only a purse full of stuff (and a pocketful of presidential flashcards) to get me through my boring times in Chicago, which is probably how I came to eat a Fillet-O-Fish value meal. I did at least have my iPod and my PowerMonkey, so I had plenty of podcasts and audiobooks and things.

Anyway, on arrival in LA, I woke asvern and slicegirl from sound sleeps (confusing them very much by arriving a good hour earlier than they expected) and we hung out for a bit, then all went to sleep. On Monday, we went to the Farmer's Market and the La Brea Tar Pits and Page Museum. This was great! It was 80 degrees and sunny - a nice treat for all of us after the gloomy coldness of the East Coast.

The Page Museum at the tar pits is great, but wow, in some ways it looks like it fell into the tar pits itself shortly after it opened in the late 1970s. It is a very 70s museum, but great for all that. I had to buy a hat at the Page Museum because it was so sunny I knew I was probably going to get a sunburn, and although I'm sure they could have covered that up with makeup, that would have been uncomfortable. Monday evening was for ironing and watching the Olympics. I had never ironed clothes in a hotel room before. I did actually manage to sleep that night, which was nice.

Tuesday was for taping! I have another entry about that coming, still with no actual show spoilers (although of course I am writing that entry, too, to be deployed in June).
Vacation update: I did all of the things I planned to over my winter break (well, it took me an extra couple of days to finish Vanity Fair, and I only made lentil soup for the freezer, no lasagna or anything). Fun!

Now I'm back at work. Bleh. I am in general being much more positive about it, though, and trying to acknowledge that yes, my job is lame and kind of a waste of my time and my employers' money, but it could be much worse and at least I have health insurance and ample internet-surfing time. Tuesday I spent researching prepaid cell phone plans and switching plans since I never use my phone. That was not a terrible use of my time, actually, and it could save me as much as $300 over the next year!

I haven't exactly made any New Year's resolutions, but I do have a few goals that I am trying to accomplish and things that I am trying to do differently. I'm three weeks into doing a Couch-to-5K. For those unfamiliar with the concept it's a run/walk program where you gradually step up how much you're running so that, in theory, six weeks from now I will be able to run for 30 minutes straight (whether I will be able to run 5K in 30 minutes is another question, but whatever).

This week was great because I figured out two important things about how to make this program work for me:
  1. For me, the running time passes faster with audiobooks than with music

  2. I can run/walk home from work instead of walking like usual! This way running takes literally no extra time out of my day aside from that required to change into running clothes. This was revelatory, I tell you. The only problems are that home is considerably uphill of work, and I do have to take a shower pretty much as soon as I get home, though I'm not so gross that I can't stop for a half-gallon of milk or something.

I'm not actually super-excited about running for the sake of running. But I very much want to be in better aerobic shape so that I can have more fun at activities like hiking and biking, and running is a really efficient way to do that. My two main points of inspiration were my sister saying "I don't run because I like it, I run because it makes me strong," and the Under Armour ad campaign that says "Athletes Run™" (shut up! you get your inspiration where you want and I'll get mine where I want).

Even just three weeks in, I can feel the running getting easier, week by week. Today I am going to jog for five minutes straight! I'm not sure I've ever done that, certainly not since I was on my high school JV soccer team. I'm pretty sure I could not have done that four weeks ago, but I'm also pretty sure I will be able to do it today. I was able to run for three minutes straight on Wednesday. That feels good! I don't think I'll ever identify myself as an athlete, much less a runner, but I do always like pushing myself, especially within the confines of a rigid day-by-day plan (seriously, curriculums are catnip for me).

Anyway, if you don't hear from me again, I will be dead by the side of the road from running for five minutes straight, but let's hope it doesn't come to that.

How I'll spend my Christmas Vacation...

So, I have several days completely un-mucked-up with work or family commitments over Christmas - December 27th, 28th, 29th, and 30th, January 1st, and January 3rd. Four days in a row! and then a couple of other days too! So I have decided to try and come up with some enjoyable things that I especially want to do over those days.

  1. Go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing (if feasible given snow conditions).

  2. Read Vanity Fair (I've never read it and have just started it and it seems like something I ought to be able to do over the course of six or so nice winter days).

  3. Make some food to put in the freezer - lasagna, bread dough, chili, ???

  4. See the Secrets of Tomb 10A exhibit at the MFA.

  5. See the Sherlock Holmes movie.

  6. Any suggestions?

I had a lovely walk in the snow today - it is enormously satisfying to be out and about and comfortable in difficult weather. I love my YakTrax, my wind/rain pants, and assorted other pieces of clothing. Then I came home and baked cookies! Good times.

The internet is for cats

Sadly, I have no pictures of this yet, but I am kitten-sitting for a friend over the Thanksgiving holiday and since I am also watching kmusky's cat I thought it would be more convenient to have both cats in the same apartment. So far, so good. And since Darwin (kmusky's cat is 22 lbs and terrified of his carrier or going outside, and Bellatrix (the kitten, named after the star and the Harry Potter character) is ~5 lbs and doesn't apparently much mind being in her carrier, it was decided that the kitten would come stay in our apartment.

So, yesterday the friend and her very nearly 7-year-old daughter (how can she be seven? I remember her when she was as-yet-unborn!) came over to drop Bellatrix off so that she could have some supervised meeting time with Darwin while there were cat people in the house (I didn't want to have to introduce them myself, since I have no experience with that sort of thing). It was not a fun evening for Darwin. Between the doorbell ringing (twice!), strange people in the apartment, and the kitten, he retreated deep under kmusky's bed and would not even come to the edge for me, even when I gave him Greenies. This morning, though, he was out and about, and Bella was sneaking up on him, sniffing him, and then hissing at him when he turned to look at her. I think the weekend will go fine - Bella is too little to do any serious damage to Darwin, and Darwin seems to be in denial about the whole thing and hoping that if he ignores Bella she will go away (which will actually work out for him just fine, since she will go away on Monday whether he ignores her or not).
On my way home from work today I ended up walking behind this seriously badass-looking person - she was wearing this great short black trench, gray glen plaid trousers, these great shoes that looked like what you'd get if Doc Marten made a gray snakeskin Chelsea boot, and she had super-short hair, and big spacers in her ears (normally not a look I like very much, but with the dressiness of the rest of her outfit, it looked kind of fab). To top it off, she was carrying a little Coleman playmate cooler with a biohazard sticker on it (this is actually pretty common in the area where I work, since there are a lot of research and medical facilities within walking distance of each other). She looked, as they say, fierce.

Anyway, I felt very frumpy walking behind her. Today I look a bit like a chorus member in a high-school production of "Little House on the Prairie: The Musical!" in my slightly too puffy-of-sleeve shirt and my overly-long beige corduroy skirt. The plain black knee socks and clogs are not exactly pulling the outfit together, and when I was outside I was wearing a hooded rain parka shell thing over the top of it all. Ah well. To paraphrase the immortal Rumsfeld, we go to work with the clothes that are clean and dry and non-holey, not the clothes that we want to be clean and dry and non-holey. Tomorrow is another day, and my laundry really ought to be dry by then.

Oh, also on the way home today I saw this very strange looking dog. I think he was a puggle that had gotten really fat and then lost most of the extra weight. Big folds of skin all over the place, like a Shar Pei, but strange long skinny legs. I should have just taken a picture, but that would have been a little odd.

And another thing! I saw a guy riding a bike and he had a rearview mirror attached to his glasses, but he wasn't wearing a helmet. This seems like backwards safetying to me.

Cheesy mysterious goodness

I recently made the dangerous discovery that I can watch old Murder She Wrote episodes on the TiVo via Netflix Watch Instantly. This simple, relatively harmless gateway drug led me, last night, to watch two episodes of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. And worse, I dragged kmusky into my delinquency!

The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries is a pretty terrible show. It stars Shaun Cassidy as... one of the Hardy Boys (the younger one? I think?) and some other guy as the older Hardy Boy, who may or may not be named Frank. The girl who plays Nancy Drew is pretty terrible, and apparently in the third season (there were three seasons!) they just took her off the show and made it The Hardy Boys Mysteries, thereby getting rid of the slash in the title, which was probably a good call.* The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries is a pretty unwieldy title, so from here on out it is going to be THB/NDM.

We watched two episodes because it was a two-parter - the kids all went to some private investigators' convention in Los Angeles and quickly got wrapped up in a spooky mystery at a movie studio. I am going to include spoilers here, because I can't imagine that spoilers would influence your enjoyment of this show one way or another. The mastermind kidnapper (it was a kidnapping mystery - I am guessing that THB/NDM stuck to kidnapping, fraud, smuggling, etc., so as to keep it family-friendly and in the spirit of the books) was one of the PIs at the convention, and his accomplices were a studio security guard and - this is so weird - a guy impersonating Peter Falk as Columbo, played by Casey Kasem. I don't even know.

Anyway, this Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew experience left me simultaneously thinking, "Geez, there's an hour and a half of my life I'm never getting back," and "Hmm, which episode should I watch next. If you have Netflix Watch Instantly and you need something to play in the background while knit or repair your toaster or alphabetize your DVD collection, you could do worse than The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. Sadly, all the best-sounding episodes, like Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Meet Dracula, and the ones with Ned Nickerson (played by Rick Springfield!) in them, are DVD-only. Bummer.

*The only other TV show with a slash in the title that I can think of is Nip/Tuck.
Oh my goodness I just remembered there is Halloween candy in my pocketbook! Yay!

OK, I've taken care of that now. There is no longer any Halloween candy in my pocketbook. Or indeed anywhere else in my possession.

Behold, my tale of several weekends with perhaps one or two weekdays thrown in for fun!

This very (spooky) weekendCollapse )

Last weekend, in which I go to my 10 year university reunion and am vaguely ambivalent about things.Collapse )

Columbus Day weekend, or as you silly Canadians call it, ThanksgivingCollapse )

What else is going on? I'm experimenting with not using sulfate-containing cleansers on my hair, to see if I can cut down on the frizz. I've been doing it for maybe four or five days now and I may not be able to go on any longer. My hair feels super-heavy and it hardly moves, even though I haven't used any styling products on it. It does feel nice and soft, though. All in all it kind of feels like my hair when I go camping, except it doesn't smell awful! But anyway this experiment may be nearing its end.
I have been sick for a week now, which is GETTING OLD. It started last Monday night, when I had a bit of a sore throat, then by Tuesday afternoon I was really feeling like crap (possibly partly the result of my first flu shot ever - they were giving them out free at work, and I can't resist the power of Free), Wednesday I stayed home from work and watched bad movies, Thursday I dragged myself back in to work for some reason, and Friday I went home early to play bad computer games and read mystery novels. I have definitely been improving steadily since Friday afternoon, but I would really love it if my nasal mucosa could calm the heck down. How much snot can one 150 pound woman produce?! I feel like I should have run out by now.

Movies I watched while I was sick:Collapse )

This weekend I finally bought a new bike, which you may recall I've been intending to do for a while now. I ended up going with the Trek 7.3 FX WSD, and I think I'm going to be very happy with it. It is white and pretty and fast (enough) and comfortable. So far I've only ridden it home from the bike shop (5-6 miles) but I can't wait to take it out again. I need to find a good way to store it in the apartment, though. I may end up buying a bike rack that lets me hang it from the wall, although that means finding studs and annoying things like that. I'm very sad that I'm not going to be able to ride it again until Thursday (I'm having a surprisingly busy week). Looking forward to riding to the museum on Saturday!