Monday, October 31, 2011


Well, that time of year is upon us again - NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. For those who are unfamiliar with this, the goal is to write a 50,000 world novel during the month of November. You're supposed to write as much and as frequently as you can to get the words down on paper (err, computer). This is not supposed to be an exercise in editing, but rather just to get people to WRITE.

In theory I love the concept of NaNo. I've been composing story arcs in my head since I was a kid. As a child I won writing competitions at my elementary schools. I even had one story published in 4th grade for a district-wide writing contest (I wish I still had that damn book). In college I took several creative writing courses that taught me some measure of discipline but always seemed to be stifling me because the assignment was never what I wanted to write about.

So when I first heard about NaNo I was very excited to give it a shot. Unfortunately it also came during a particularly grueling period of my career and it turned out to be a complete and utter failure for me. I never even started. In 2007 I said I was going to participate. I got about 1500 words in. In 2008 I actually wrote something but I spent so much time editing and re-writing that I never got beyond the 10,000 word mark. In 2009 I picked up that same story and basically re-wrote it and added more character development and flow to the story arc. In 2010, I again re-wrote the beginning and added even more character information and dialogue. I wasn't able to hit the 50,000 word mark during November but I kept writing and I finally managed to get there shortly after the new year. I've continued writing on and off in 2011 and today, that story stands somewhere around 60,000 words. I think I can finish the story somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000.

So, I'm going to use the spirit of NaNo to get me there. I know where the story is going. I know who the major characters are. Now I need to fill in various chapters with additional information to make a more compelling narrative. I need to fine tune some of my characters so they are more integral to the story and eliminate others altogether. I need to decide if a device I used last year is going to remain a major part of the story telling and if so I need to replicate it successfully elsewhere or chop it entirely, which would mean killing about 10,000 of my 60,000 words. My main character has reached a major milestone, and now I need to learn where this takes her and those around her. November will hopefully reveal these things to me.

So, what's this story about you ask?
Olivia has spent her whole life thinking about death and obsessing over how her life will ultimately reach its end. When she meets a mysterious and charming man named William her understanding of life - and death - takes on new meaning as she grapples with the person she once was, the woman she was born to be, and the man who will be by her side throughout.
It's a paranormal romance and it takes place in Ireland, incorporating many of the places we saw during our trip in 2009. In fact, the hotel we stayed at in Dublin - the Shelbourne - was chosen because a pivotal scene takes place there. I felt that I really needed to see the place if I was going to have my heroine move her story forward.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, I'd love to hear what you're working on how it's going along the way. Peer encouragement is definitely something that helps make the process so much more enjoyable. I'm even thinking that this year I may break out of my anti-social tendencies and go to a write-in at a cafe near me. Gasp!


For the first time in a very long time we got dressed up and made our way to a Halloween party. I'd forgotten how much I loved getting all done up in costume. I also forgot how long it takes to get black eye makeup completely off. I still have raccoon eyes!

We've decorated the front porch, bought candy, and we're looking forward to welcoming trick-or-treaters to our place tonight. At the end of the block my weird ass neighbors are putting together a bonafide hippie drum circle so we'll see if that does anything to impact the historically low traffic we've gotten to our house. 

Whatever you're doing this Halloween, may it be a fun and safe one!

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Moving on in our Tour of Homes Not in 80 degree October Weather is New England. Like Northern California, prices in Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire are kind of out of control so I've included several townhome and condo options in this group, sticking to the $400k to $500k range in the Portland listings below.

A side note about this area: A couple of years ago we took a red-eye from SFO to Boston to attend my college roommate's wedding reception (those crazy kids eloped to Jamaica a couple of months before) in Newburyport. We accidentally took the wrong road out of the airport and instead of taking the freeway the 1.5 hours up the road we ended up driving along the coast of Massachusetts. What an absolutely beautiful area! In Salem we stopped to walk around and take a tour of the with museum. The town is adorable and as you would expect, quintessentially New England. I think it was Alan's favorite city of the few we stopped in on our tour of the area. While I'm no fan of living on top of your neighbors (hello screaming babies next door), there are a number of beautiful places in Salem that I would move into in a heartbeat. Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was another area that we really liked. Looking at the map today I was kind of surprised to see how close it is to Kennebunkport, Maine, another favorite vacation spot we've been to.

Bedford, Massachusetts

Newburyport, Massachusetts

Marblehead, Massachusetts

Cambridge, Massachusetts
2 bedroom, 1 bathroom condo

Gloucester, Massachusetts

Salem, Massachusetts
4 bedroom, 1 bathroom condo

Kennebunkport, Maine

Kennebunkport, Maine

Kennebunkport, Maine

Newburyport, MA

Salem, MA

Salem, MA
3 bedroom town home

Salem, MA
2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Portsmouth, New Hampshire
2 bedroom, 2 bathroom townhouse

Portsmouth, New Hampshire
2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo


I had to change into a tank top and I may have gotten a bit sunburned, but our Halloween decor is up.

Now I'm trolling Pinterest looking for make-up ideas for my costume tonight. This is the first time we've gone to a Halloween party since we had one at our loft back in ... 2004?


It's the Saturday before Halloween and I'm sitting here in my living room in Northern California in the green dress I wore in Hawaii. Why? Because it's hot as hell up in here. This is not right. It's Autumn, for goodness sake! I should be in jeans and sweaters and boots right now. I should be all snuggly and warm. Instead I'm wearing as little clothes as possible to still be considered decent. Just another reason to want out of this place: I need me some cold and gray.

I was thinking about it yesterday when all of my East Coast friends on Facebook and Twitter were talking about the cold front coming through their areas. In Pittsburgh it's snowing. We always used to love when it snowed right before Halloween. It made the night so much more festive (admittedly, we had a really great time on Halloween every year because we had such great friends that loved the holiday as much - if not more - than we did).  My co-workers in Portland are breaking out their winter coats and firing up the fire places. I'm opening the windows and sleeping with the fan on at night.

This just isn't natural. It should be cold in October.

In keeping with my "GET ME OUT OF HERE" post of the other day, here's a sneak peek at some houses for sale across the country in places where it's sweater weather. Places where there are four seasons. Places where it snows. Let's take a tour shall we? First stop - PORTLAND.

Portland - $484,900
Portland - $480,000


Friday, October 28, 2011


Yesterday's post made me all kinds of depressed. And then Jean Quan failing to meet with the protesters even after she said she would made me all kinds of agitated. So I went to bed depressed and angry and then I had a panic attack and basically yesterday pretty much sucked. To help get me out of this funk I thought I'd focus on some beauty in the world by sharing some of the favorite things I've come across on Pinterest.

Source: None via Becky on Pinterest
Source: via Becky on Pinterest

Thursday, October 27, 2011


If you're paying any attention whatsoever to the national news, you've likely heard about the police ransacking the Occupy Oakland encampment during the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday morning with the full approval of our terrible mayor and then again attacking returning protesters on Tuesday night with flash bombs, tear gas grenades, rubber bullets, and bean bag bullets (which are actually filled with lead). I try not to get too political on this blog too often because no one wants to read the rants of a lady that has a self-admitted anger management problem, but y'all - THINGS ARE OUT OF CONTROL. (Strangely, this is the same mayor that doesn't want to treat thugs too badly but she apparently has no problem authorizing brute force against seemingly somewhat innocent protesters.)

In select groups I've been somewhat vocal about how I don't quite understand what the Occupy groups across the nation hope to accomplish. I've also taken issue with a lot of the "I am the 99%" signs I've seen posted across the Internet. You see, I graduated at the height of the dot-com bust. The parting words of my journalism and public relations professors? "Best of luck with that." There were quite literally NO jobs in Pittsburgh for anyone graduating that year. After a stint working as a glorified admin at the radio station I interned at, I found myself working at ... wait for it ... Pottery Barn. That radio job? I made $9/hour. That gig at Pottery Barn? I made $7/hour. Neither job was what I had in mind when I decided to go to college and make something out of myself. But you know what? I had bills to pay. I had things I wanted to buy. And so instead of sitting around and making signs about how unfair everything was and then posting them on the Internet (by the way, DIAL UP back then kids), I marched my ass down to the mall and applied at every single store that was hiring. This includes the perfume counter at Kauffmans even though I'm allergic to a lot of those damn perfumes. But apparently, these kids that are graduating with degrees in art history, philosophy, and poetry expected $65,000 jobs would be waiting for them the second someone handed them a diploma. My favorite "I am the 99%" sign was from some young man who had ambition to travel and see the world but the world is not fair and now his dreams of learning about other cultures and lands have been squashed. To him I say PBS. The Travel Channel. National Geographic. Travel is not a right, it is a privilege.

But I digress. 

To say that I feel disconnected from these people and this movement is an understatement, which is interesting since I have generally always considered myself a Liberal. I am staunchly pro-choice. I support efforts to improve the environment. I firmly believe Women's Rights are under attack by ugly mean old white men in positions of power. I am a vocal proponent of the right for gay people to be able to marry the people they love. I actively support animal charities. If none of that, you'd think I'd show solidarity for this movement for no reason other than the fact that I think there should be a lot more Wall Street bankers in jail for the mortgage crisis they caused with their swindling and greed and the false hope they sold to millions of Americans. I do not think we should have bailed out Wall Street. It was supposed to prevent a financial crisis. Guess what we got anyway? That's right folks, a full blown financial crisis. Seems we could have saved ourselves some millions and just got right to it.

And for me (I don't claim to speak for Alan; he's generally much more zen about things), this whole housing crisis is a bit personal. You see, according to Zillow, our beautiful, lovely, wonderful house is nearly nearly $200,000 underwater. I could buy a whole other house in either of the areas where my sister or mom live for $200,000. Alas, Oakland is where I live. And I knew what we were getting into when we bought this place. I knew the market wasn't going to climb forever. But I didn't think it was going to plummet quite as much as it has these past three years. I never, ever, thought that I'd be looking at a hole this big. At this rate, we're never leaving this house.

So yeah, I should be angry. And I am, but just not in the way that I think many of the Occupiers are. The idea of General Assemblies is just so ... strange ... to me. And the messaging behind this whole movement? From where I'm coming from (that of a pretty successful communications professional) seems all kinds of backwards and detrimental to the cause. And let me be honest for a second: I kind of loathe hipsters and aging hippies freak me out.

All of this said, I was HORRIFIED when I watched - via Twitter - my city's cops pretty much attack the people they have been sworn to protect. And they weren't going rogue either. This was sanctioned by the Mayor's office. She of the "Hug a Thug" program who refuses to institute curfews or gang injunctions signed off on the brazen brutality shown against the citizens of her city. (Ah, here's Liberal Becky!)

Today the cops are claiming they never used rubber bullets or flash grenades. There are several YouTube videos showing the explosions, including one in the vicinity of a downed protester who turns out to be an Iraqi vet with two tours of duty in the Middle East. The man spends years in a war zone and comes home unarmed? He spends one night marching for better treatment of of our own country's citizens and he finds himself in the hospital in critical condition with a skull fracture? (He's sing been upgraded to stable condition, by the way.) There are photographs of people holding the rubber bullets and the bean bag bullets they also say they didn't use. They claim the protesters attacked them with M-80s. Want to guess where there's no evidence of at the riot site? Yeah, that'd be M-80s. I'm not saying the protesters were completely innocent. Unfortunately there is a group of anarchists in the area that are known for showing up at every single protest and inciting violence. People threw paint on the police blocking the road. There were likely bottles thrown. But still. They basically turned Downtown Oakland into a militarized zone beginning Tuesday night.

And you know what? Not one single politician has condemned the behavior. Hell, we can't even get a comment from the mayor. (Correction: she's issued one. It's half-hearted and incredibly short-sighted. It has PR written all over it.) Astonishingly - or not, depending on your point of view - Obama was across the bay in SF at a $7,500/plate fund raising dinner. He has nothing to say about this. Nancy Pelosi has nothing to say about this. Jerry Brown has nothing to say about this. Dianne Feinstein has nothing to say about this. Our leaders, through their silence, have failed to condemn the actions of our police department. And THAT is why people across the nation are calling for changes to our current system. It's just so effing sad that it took this to bring me around to the cause.

God I want out of this place. And by this place, I mean this city, this state, this country.

There is just sooooo much wrong with how we operate and how we treat our own people that it's sickening. I could choose to ignore it. I could go about my life - which is actually quite cushy all things considered - and pretend that it's not happening. It would be quite easy. We're well off financially. All of our friends are well off financially. We're a married white couple. Really, there are no obstacles in our way. But I just can't do that. I can't put my head in the sand and pretend that I live in the land of milk and honey, happiness and apple pie. I just can't ignore it.

Which is why I need to get out of here. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening anytime soon, at least not while we're $200k underwater (and I'm sure the police attacking the citizens of the city is really going to help the housing market around these parts.) Unless, of course, one of those earthquakes we keep having decides to level the whole thing. Yeah, we had another one last night. Thankfully this time a combination of the flu, a fever, and some sleeping pills kept me calm and allowed me to go right back to sleep. Otherwise, I'm having problems sleeping again. You see, I'm pretty convinced The Big One is going to hit in the middle of the night and I'm going to be the only one awake and will therefore somehow be able to save my family. I'm the one with chronic insomnia so it falls on my shoulders to be our lookout. To be the one to make sure that Dakota doesn't get crushed by a falling bookcase. That Alan gets up out of bed and stands in a doorway. Have I mentioned that I also have chronic anxiety these days? Yeah, living in a war zone about to fall into the ocean will do that to a gal.

I'm thinking of running off to Tofino and buying this 450 square foot house boat that's for sale for $75,000. Think they'll take Mastercard?

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Remember how yesterday, after two quakes in the 4.x range hit Berkeley, I posted how the three things in life I'm most irrationally afraid of are - in this order - plane crashes, earthquakes, and tsunamis? Well, we're going to go ahead and move quakes up to the #1 position because right now I'm not so convinced it's an irrational fear.

At 10:35 p.m. we went to bed, exhausted from a long week at work for both of us. At shortly after midnight tonight I jolted awake, mid-quake. It was a "baby" quake by all accounts - only in the 2.x range. According to the latitude/longitude coordinates provided by the USGS earthquake map, it was roughly in the same area as yesterday's quakes.

Unable to sleep, I got dressed and was sitting in bed playing mahjong on my iPad when I heard my house start to rumble, and then I felt the bed shake beneath me (our house has made crazy noises in each quake just immediately before I feel the actual shaking). I threw off the covers and jumped in the bathroom doorway, just feet from the bed.

Alan barely stirred with a "huh? What?" before falling back asleep.

Me? Not so much. I don't think I'm going to get any sleep tonight. I'm kind of convinced there's a bigger one coming tonight and I'd like to be awake when it hits. They're scary enough when you're awake but the sensation you get when jolted out of your sleep is much worse.

Incidentally, that second quake - less than an hour later - was another "baby" quake at 2.5. According to the map it was 2.7 miles from my house, in The Uplands neighborhood, off Claremont Avenue, up around Highway 13. There are some gorgeous houses for sale up there. If I was a buyer right now you couldn't pay me to live there. If these tiny and mid-size quakes feel like this at my house I can't even imagine what they feel like on the fault line, at the epicenter.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, October 21, 2011


One of the best things I learned from my step-grandma growing up (besides, of course, poker with pinto beans as currency and loteria) is how to crochet. As kids my sister and I would spend hours crocheting pot holder handles, baby blankets, pot holders, etc. In college I even made myself a blanket (seen in this post) which was quite the accomplishment. In fact, I think that may be the last time I finished a crocheting project.

The past couple of months I've been wanting to take it up again so while I was at Michaels I looked at yarn and needles and books. Um, I didn't understand a word those books said. Did y'all know stitches have names? And that there are a lot of numbers involved in crocheting? I have no recollection of how Grandma taught us to crochet, but we did not learn any of that stuff (at least I don't remember learning any of that stuff - Jenny?).  I could have been looking at a book in Russian and I would have been able to follow it just as well, which is to say NOT AT ALL.

So I'm thinking maybe I'll find a class at the local yarn shop in my neighborhood and maybe they can teach me "the right way" to crochet so that I can make something besides a straight row. Unfortunately the reviews on Yelp for this place are terrifying (apparently they're quite rude to customers), so maybe I'll check out a class at Michaels or something. I don't know. All I know is that I want to learn to crochet, for reals.

Oops, I've been told these last two pictures are actually knitted blankets. Well damn. Maybe I'll learn to knit too.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Another one! This time they're reporting it was a 4.2 with an epicenter of Memorial Stadium at Cal. I can't take this. I have a fragile heart and weak ass nerves.


At 2:40 p.m. today I was sitting on the couch, typing up a case study for work, just minding my own business, not bothering anyone. Dakota was sitting on the top of the couch, behind my head, purring like she does. At 2:41 p.m. we both had the bejeezus scared out of us when the house started making a slight rumbling noise.

Is that a truck passing by, I thought. When you live in a nearly 100 year old house, there are a lot of things that can make it creak & moan, so it's not uncommon for a large truck to roll down our street and make our house shift.

And then it hit.

My house lurched to the left, then the right, then the left again. On the first lurch Dakota was over my head running to the back of the house. I was right behind her. By the time I got to the kitchen doorway there was one more loud BOOM and then silence and stillness. 

If you had asked me at that moment how big the earthquake was I would have said it was easily over 5.0. I lived in LA for both the Whittier and Northridge earthquakes and it easily felt as bad as Whittier (we lived a couple of towns over from the epicenter for that one). The Whittier quake is why I'm so terrified of quakes today  That shit is scary. And as we all know, the big one is coming any day now.

I stood in the doorway trying to calm myself. I walked outside to see that most of my neighbors that are at home during the day were also outside. The mailman was arriving at my house just that instant. I reached out to take the mail, my hands still shaking.

Have I mentioned I'm terrified of earthquakes? The things I'm most afraid of in life are (in this order) airplane crashes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. 

I called Alan in San Francisco and he said he hadn't even felt it. He was at lunch and his co-worker might have felt it. My shaky voice, near tears, was the confirmation for them. 

My former co-workers in the Financial District reported the office shook and some people screamed but others handled it like pros. 

Not me. 

I was still shaking twenty minutes later when Alan called me back.

During that time I learned that it was only a 3.9. You could have fooled me. We've had several 3.9 quakes since moving into this house and our house has NEVER sounded like that during an earthquake. The noise was terrifying. I thought we were going to come off our foundation or the chimneys were going to come down on me. It sounded like something out of a horror movie. Houses shouldn't make those noises unless they're possessed by the devil. 

It turns out the quake was about 1.75 miles from my house on the Berkeley campus. Wow. News reports say that it was only six miles deep as well. That might explain why here in our neighborhood it felt like the end of the world while just across the Bay it was barely a blip on people's radar.

I walked around the house to check for damage. All of the frames in my office and on our gallery wall are askew, and one of the frames that was leaning against the wall in my office fell down, knocking the stuff that was in front of it to the floor. Some stuff jumped off the bathroom shelf into the toilet (fun!), but otherwise everything looked okay. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


NOTE: I started this post a couple of weeks ago and kept meaning to go back and finish it with pictures but things just seemed to have gotten away from me. To give you some insight into the timeline, we actually made this update BEFORE we updated our mantle, which you've already seen - TWICE. 

Those that have followed casacaudill for any length of time know that I've struggled with the look of our living room. With a patterned carpet and patterned curtains it was too busy. With a monochrome carpet and different curtains it still wasn't right. Over the course of the last couple of weeks I have tried every combination of curtains & rug that we have in the house and nothing has ever felt right to me. Sometimes it looked busier than before we switched the rugs between the living room and dining room, and other times it just looked so wrong that I wanted to cry. Through all of these iterations I have stayed away from solid curtains because I didn't want the room to go from too busy to too flat. Ultimately, I was at a loss as to what to do.

And then one Sunday I was at Target wasting my afternoon away when I decided to see if they had any new window treatments for me to consider and then reject. Lo and behold they did. And they weren't all frustratingly ugly (I've noticed lately with Target that a lot of the home decor items are looking "my first apartment" or "I'M TRENDY, BUY ME!"). And then my eye was drawn to - wait for it - a solid tan panel. Except this wasn't any old solid panel. This was a grommet panel in tan with a lovely texture that was somewhere between burlap, linen, and waffle weave. It had weight, it had texture, and it was different enough in tone from my couch that it was a viable option. At $24.99 I purchased two panels and made my way home.

I delayed putting them up for a couple of days because I didn't want to be disappointed. And I didn't want Alan to complain about my problem with curtain buying. And I didn't want to mess with our janky curtain rod because the last time I did it tried to poke my eye out. But I sucked it up and finally got to work.

And I loved it.

They were perfect.

If I believed in angels, I would have heard them singing.

I got those large 24"x24" suzani print pillows from T.J. Maxx and I love the way they look but the pillow inside is just sad. After about two weeks of being on the couch they were buckled and bunched and just generally ... sad ... looking. Unfortunately there's no way to put new inserts in the pillows so I'm afraid these might have been a failure. I'm going to keep them around for as long as I possibly can because I do love the way they look but I don't think that's going to be for long. If they make it until the end of the year without looking completely deflated that'll be a miracle.

* * * * * * * * * *

This post was added to Tuesday's Treasures at My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia.


The saga continues.

Last night at 8 p.m. Andy told me that there was something to do with something else related to AT&T and the central office. He hoped the switch over would take place before the night was over and that he'd call back in the morning.

Like Glenn before him Andy never called back so Alan called Sonic this morning. I don't know the specifics of what this new CSR told Alan but he must have been especially apathetic because Alan lost his cool and HE NEVER DOES THAT. I'm the hot head in the family, ready to throw out an f-bomb at the first sign of trouble. But wow. Alan was not pleased with the direction that conversation took. At the time they were still saying Friday was the best they could do for us.

In the meantime the CEO of Sonic saw my blog (I tweeted out the link & cc'd him so he'd have to be blind not to have seen it). He apologized and said he hoped the company could earn back my trust over time. It's the time part I'm having trouble with as I want things fixed today, not on Friday.

I drove Alan to BART and decided I'd give the mother-in-law a call to let her know I'd be invading her house for the forseeable future. Except Alan called me back and said that Sonic had gotten back in touch with him, apologized for "the debacle" and promised to send someone out today. SUCCESS!

Meanwhile I ended up working from Peet's where my "one hour of free wifi" stretched into three. Another success! Oh, and the CEO tweeted back that it was his understanding that they were doing everything to fix the problem. There's something to be said for working with a small, local company - the man at the top of the food chain at least knew about our problem.

When I got back from Peet's a curious thing was happening. There was an AT&T van at my house "fixing" the problem from last week when our AT&T connection was out for a couple of days. He ended up on the phone with Alan and apologized for the delay - he was supposed to have been there on Friday. Whoops! Friday, Tuesday ... It's all the same. Alan explained to him that we'd cancelled our service and sent him on his merry way.

And then ANOTHER AT&T van pulled up. They were here to mess with the box outside and do the transition to Sonic. They were a bit dickish to me and wouldn't give me a straight answer about what they were doing and what happened with the porting.

While they were here the Sonic guys showed up. The AT&T guys were dicks to them to, not surprisingly. Ty from Sonic has been professional & courteous to me even though I've unleashed some vitriol of his company via the twitters.

Once the AT&T guys did whatever they did our Internet worked, albeit with terrible download speeds. Interesting. The theory is that AT&T has been to blame the whole time for the connectivity issue. Ty didn't like the download speed so he's been playing with our wires to make the service run at optimal levels. I've been very happy with his level of service. If this all works when he leaves Ty may have singlehandedly restored my faith in his company, something the CEO had hoped would and could happen.

We'll see how this goes. I have high hopes (where have you read that before?) while also being cynically optimistic.

Before wrapping this post up I also have to say how much I love the Blogger app on my iPhone.

Monday, October 17, 2011


If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you know I have no love for AT&T. As a remote worker my Internet connection is my lifeline to success. In a telecommuting world uptime is of paramount importance. AT&T failed to understand this or deliver on speeds we paid for each month. These last two months things got even worse - I would regularly lose connectivity at least four times an hour every hour and then on Thursday & Friday of last week we had no cable or Internet at all. The only bright spot in this fiasco was that we had already cancelled our service & would be switching to a small ISP based out of Santa Rosa called

When you read about Sonic the reviews are glowing. People I know who rely on home connectivity as much as or even more than I do love their service. We went into this change with high hopes. Such high hopes.

(You can guess where this is going, can't you?)

When we ordered the service we were assured this was a common situation and one that they handled all the time. As such the installation - for which we paid $125 - should be easy for them. We'd have just a couple hours of downtime, they assured us.

At 11 a.m. today AT&T cut our service. At around 11:15 a.m. the installer showed up. So far so good. After about an hour he told me everything looked great except for one minor issue - AT&T hasn't ported the line yet. He said that it should happen in the next couple of hours but if nothing happened by 3 p.m. I should call back to report the problem.

(You can guess where this is going, can't you?)

So, pretty much all day I didn't have Internet. You know, the person who telecommutes. Thankfully I had several projects I needed to work on and I was able to devote time to them without distraction. But, you know, I now need to send these projects to their recipients - today.

Except I can't leave my house to go find The Internet so that I can send these docs & presos off because I'm having back & forth calls with trying to figure out if my Internet works yet.

At 4:45 I realize today is mostly shot. At 5:30 they finally call me back to tell me that it looks like AT&T finished porting the line at 5 p.m. and that something must be wrong with the installation. You know, the one we paid $125 for and was assured was a normal procedure for them.

I did not take too kindly to this information, especially when the very perplexed Elijah told me that he'd have to schedule a technician to come back out to check the installation - ON FRIDAY. (Today is Monday, as you know.)

Essentially Elijah was telling me that this normal procedure they do all the time had gone haywire and I was now being punished for both the ineptitude of and AT&T. For the rest of the week I'll need to find Internet or drive down to my corporate office 2 hours away, each way. Oh fun! Or, I can be put on a special escalation list where if there's a cancellation they can send someone over but I'll need to be around to let the tech in. So yeah, no driving to my corporate HQ every day. Looks like my in-laws in the next town over are about to get a large dose of me. It'll be just like when we moved back to CA from PA and had nowhere to live. Except this time I've got a kick ass job where I'm kind of important so my mother-in-law won't have to ask me how many jobs I've applied to this week. ;-) (Those were awesome times. Maybe more awesome than this.)

I chatted with Elijah a bit longer and let him know that would be refunding our installation fee and they'd be taking some amount of "sorry for your trouble" money off our first bill. He seemed amenable to the first directive and a bit taken aback by the second. Oh, do not cross me Elijah. I once nearly got a Macy's employee fired for lying about our couch order & delivery date (it was off by three months), and I will come for you too if I need to. People make the mistake of thinking I'm a pathetic pushover because I might sound pathetic and I might actually be crying (I cry when angry, I can't fight it - sue me) but I am a determined bitch and when I pay for service and I'm wronged - when you eff with my life or my livelihood (ie, my job) - I will cut you ... and I will enjoy it.

So yeah. Not even one day in as a customer and has ruined my week and put me in a FOUL mood. I think I'll tweet this blog post and cc the CEO. As a small local company I'm sure he'll love hearing about these shenanigans.

And Elijah dear? I expected better of you. I hope you have an awesome week because you fucked mine.


A couple of weeks ago we got two emails from our wine clubs - pick up your wine or it will be shipped. We're generally okay with our wine being shipped but it's been awhile since we've been up to the Dry Creek & Alexander Valleys, so we decided instead to make a day of it with a visit to Peterson's Farm in Petaluma on the way home for some pumpkin fun.

The first thing we do with any wine tasting trip is stock up on dim sum from Oakland's Chinatown for the car ride up. All that grease does magical things to boost your tolerance. I haven't had dim sum since I came to the realization that grains and complex carbs exacerbate my GERD, so this was going to be quite the test to see what my tolerance was. At least it would taste great going down!

Tao Yen Pastry - Oakland Chinatown

Our first stop of the day was a new-to-us winery called Amista in the Dry Creek Valley, right near the general store. It has a really great location with tasting room barn overlooking estate-grown chardonnay and syrah grapes. I'm not sure how long they've been open, but my impression is that they've decided to go with a more Napa-like tasting experience than you find at surrounding wineries. First off, every tasting is $8/person. At this price, that gives you access to a chardonnay, rose, syrah, zinfandel, cabernet, and a port. The wines were decent; in fact, we liked the syrah quite a bit. 

Unfortunately, throughout the entire tasting experience they push the wine club really hard. They keep telling you all the things you're not tasting and that you could be tasting if you just signed up for the club. They talk to you about wine club events more than they talk to you about the wine. I know more about their wine club members and their dogs than I do about the way the wines are made. I had to ask where Francesca's Terrace was because there's no indication of it any other way. 

We decided to purchase two bottles of wine, expecting that the tasting fee would be waived given the purchase. That's pretty standard for this area. Nope. $16 + tax on top of the $60 we were already spending on the two bottles. And the second we said we weren't interested in the wine club, the smiles were put away and it became "get 'em out of here" mode. It was generally very off-putting and just so not in keeping with the other wineries in the area. We've been coming to Dry Creek Valley & Alexander Valley since 2002 and never once that I can remember have we paid a tasting fee after also buying wine. 

Our next stop was our long-time wine club, Manzanita Creek, in Healdsburg. This place, as I've mentioned before, is low on ambiance and high on service. It's located in a warehouse in the industrial part of town and unless you're looking for it, you might not find it. We had 1.5 cases of futures to pick up, plus our November shipment of six bottles, PLUS they were having a 50% off sale on 2007 varietals for wine club members so we picked up another case. The wine maker, Jack, is getting ready to have his two newest wines judged in the coming weeks so he gave us two additional bottles to taste and let him know what we think. 
I love Jack. I love the wine club. The experience we get when we go to Manzanita Creek - personalized service - is really what we're looking for in a wine club environment. Not some sales pitch repeated over and over again until we capitulate just so you'll stop talking about your wine club.

After Manzanita Creek we went to our other wine club, Hawkes Wine in Alexander Valley. We chatted for a bit with Alex about various wines we'd all been tasting, tasted a bit of wine from Hawkes (hello 2002 Cabernet!), upgraded our wine club membership to start getting some merlot, picked a fig from their GIANT fig tree (it makes ours look like a sapling), and then heading out of the valley to Peterson's Farm in Petaluma.

We were worried about finding this place. Our directions were okay, but we're not very familiar with the area. If it's not the outlets, we never really visit Petaluma. Well, we shouldn't have been worried. Peterson Farm, for those who are interested in going, is just down the road from the outlets. Seriously. It's like you're on the highway and then in seconds you're in farm country. Strange how that happens.

Straight away I can tell you that Peterson's Farm is adorable. This is not a once-a-year pumpkin patch with hay rides and corn mazes (that's further up the highway - you can't miss it because all the cars drop down to 20 mph while they take a peek). This is a working farm, complete with a menagerie of animals and a real field of squash of all varieties. And the cows. Oh the adorable cows.

We got home from the farm at about 5:30 p.m. All in all it was an incredibly lovely day and it really put me in the mood for Halloween this year. I'm definitely going to be decorating our front porch, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, I leave you with our haul.

Why yes, that IS three cases of wine. For two people.