Monday, November 30, 2009

What Mimi Saw: Disney's A Christmas Carol

Right after I gave my boyfriend his handmade birthday gift and right after he broke up with me, my parents came over to my house to keep my sobbing self company. Instead of sitting around having them watch me cry and talk about my feelings and all that crap we decided to go see the new 3-D movie by Disney: A Christmas Carol.

For a cartoon -- it was really scary. I'm not joking. I was scared several times. I wouldn't suggest bringing a young child to this show unless you want them burrowed in your lap. Now I admit -- I don't do the whole scary/horror movie thing because, well, I get easily scared. But the ghosts in A Christmas Carol were strangely real looking and creepy. The ghost of Marley moaned the entire time and his lower jaw came unhitched. Gross. The Ghost of Christmas Past was a creepy whispering candle dude with a flaming head. The Ghost of Christmas Present was a Scot who couldn't stop laughing, even as he was dying. And the Ghost of Christmas Future? He rode the four horses of the apocalypse. That's one scary mode of transportation.

The 3-D effects weren't the kind that jumped out at you because they could. They enhanced the film subtly without cheap shots and tricks. I actually felt like I could feel the greasy-ness of Scrooge's limp hair. Gross but kind of cool.

And the effects didn't stifle the message. If you're looking for something un-cheesy and fun to watch this holiday season I would highly recommend this movie. Bring your boyfriend -- if you have one.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

I am currently reading Olive Kitteridge on the suggestion of some of my friends on Facebook. Good suggestion guys! It took me a little while to get into it, but I'm over half way through and I am thoroughly enjoying myself.

Set in the fictional coastal town of Crosby, Maine, Strout gives readers a glimpse into the lives of some of the locals. Olive, a retired junior high math teacher and wife to the town pharmacist, weaves her way through the lives of these townspeople in practically every story. It's a lovely way to write about a community but you have to pay attention. Time jumps from chapter to chapter and it can get confusing if you don't remember the names of the characters and the ties they have to each other.

Growing up and currently living in a small Maine town where my parents are townies and everyone in town knows who my grandparents are, I feel connected to this book. If you've never been to Maine, Strout gives you a rare taste of what it really is like growing up and raising your kids in the same town -- knowing the same people all your life. I'm sure Crosby, Maine could be a microcosm for small town America, but the quaintness of coastal Maine is unlike any other place in the country. It's so -- New England.

In any case, I'm not finished yet, but feel confident enough to suggest this book to my friends and veritable strangers. Hope you like it!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

FairPoint Still Sucks

I've blogged before about how much FairPoint sucks. That was back in April and they haven't been doing any better since then. I just read this story in the Bangor Daily that after a loss of $77 million last quarter and filing for bankruptcy in October, the "communications" company has hired a couple of Portland-based firms to beef up their marketing.
FairPoint needs to win the public’s confidence after bungling the technical aspects of the network handover from Verizon, leaving many customers frustrated with dropped calls, billing errors and slow action on service orders.

Trementozzi said he hoped advertising would be geared “to reassure the public that they’re a viable company here to do business and capable of handling products and services to the consumer.” - David Graham for the BDN.

Will it work? I don't think so. People up here in New England aren't quick to forget when they've been wronged. And this company has wronged a vast amount of people.
Michelle Kainen, a White River Junction, Vt., lawyer specializing in bankruptcy, said she, too, was not surprised at FairPoint’s efforts to step up marketing and advertising. But Kainen, who suffered a long delay in getting voicemail from the company and then lost messages in a voicemail box, laughed as she suggested one other area where the company could spend the money.

“They ought to hire more customer service people,” Kainen said.

I hear ya, Michelle...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Education Program for Prisoners -- well done MPBN!

I caught Maine Things Considered last night on MPBN radio while waiting in my car for my dinner companion. I'm so glad he was late. Susan Sharon did an amazing job on her story about the prison education program College Guild that it prompted me to see how I can be a volunteer reader. Ok, so I haven't done it yet but I will as soon as I'm done this post.

The entire story was well researched with tons of great interviews. It's so nice to see that there are people out there with big hearts and an open mind who want to help some of the most helpless people in the country.

Want to be inspired? Listen for yourself.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Funky Figures in the Penobscot Times

For those of you who don't live in the Orono-Old Town Area, The Penobscot Times is a weekly paper that covers the news in our area. It's a nice little publication and editor Greta Sproul also seems to be the sole reporter -- her name is always on every article.

Being the only reporter can be tough -- and I wonder if the workload is getting to Sproul. On the front page of the November 19th edition there is a story about a Maine dude, Gerald Brann, who impersonates Elton John. He was performing at Orono High School, "in conjunction with the presentation of a $20,000 check from Lane Construction on behalf of Project Graduation" Sproul reported.

$20,000 for Project Graduation! That number jumped out at my mother, who, back in the day, helped plan Project Graduation for both me and my sister. That is one hell of a donation...

But when you jump to page 4 to finish the story there is a photo of Brann (in his Elton John get-up) with two guys from Lane Construction and Sunrise Materials holding up a big fake check for exactly $1,500.

How the heck did Sproul get that wrong? Especially with a photo? $20,000 is a huge chunk of change for an after graduation party for about 60-ish kids and a huge red light for a fact check.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Real Simple redeems itself

So I recently posted about how sucky Real Simple magazine was in November. I gave it to one of my coworkers, pointing out all the stupid crap they put in there (like how to load my dishwasher and 7 stupid things to do with an old CD) and she still took it to look at. Idiot (just kidding, Sandy!)

Getting ready for a recent trip to our nation's capital I decided to pick out a magazine for the plane trip -- one of my most favorite things to do. I instantly bought Real Simple. I was lured by the beautiful cover (image left) and had momentarily forgotten how much the last issue disappointed me. As you can see I'm easily distracted. I read it with trepidation.

But you know what? It didn't suck! It's like the editorial staff actually read my post! (They totally didn't -- but how cool would that have been?) Inside I found a bunch of gift ideas for the men in my family and found a bunch of cool craft ideas for things I could make myself rather than pay a lot of money for! I love when that happens.

So it was a good purchase. I dog-eared a bunch of pages and I am ready to set out on some new craft projects with glee. Thanks guys!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rich Dad, Poor Dad

I finally got around to reading this book. It was published in 1997 and I was wondering how the economic downturn would relate to the story. Author Robert Kiyosaki's advice is really timeless.

Most of the stuff I already knew. Credit card debt = bad. But it was interesting how he put my assets and liabilities in check for me. I'm struggling with how to categorize my educational loans -- are they an asset or a liability? The asset is that they gave me skills to freelance and have my job. The liability is that they are something I have to pay each month -- like my car and mortgage. Ugh.

Basically it comes down to the fact that I have no assets and all liabilities. Assets are things like stocks, bonds, rental property, mutual funds, etc. that make money for you without you having to work for it. I am signing up for my companies 401k program next week but still. I have very little (5k about) in a retirement plan and even less (2k) in Roth IRAs. Yikes. My liability category, though, is full: mortgage, taxes, car payment, insurance, heating oil, loans, blah blah blah!

It did make me see my goals more clearly...which are to:

1. pay off my car and drive it until it falls apart at the seams.
2. get a pay raise
3. invest said money from no car payment and raise to create more assets
4. put an extra mortgage payment towards my house each year
5. not look to upgrade (ie, new car, new house, new luxuries)

I would love to own a rental property down the line, and living in a college town that's probably easier to do than if I lived in the middle of nowhere. I'd like to go into an investment like that with my family members but then again that can be tricky. I tried to talk my dad into doing something like that for his retirement. He and my bro-in-law John could be in charge of maintenance, I would be in charge of rent and tenants, and my sister could do...I don't know....something else.

I firmly believe in getting your money to work for you. And I know I need to be more financially savvy. It's my new year's resolution for 2010....thanks Rich Dad!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Weird Catalogs

I bought my grandparents' house this summer when my grandmother decided to move into assisted living. Sometimes I get some weird mail addressed to them -- not anything important mind you -- just junk mail and occasional catalogs.

I got a Miles Kimball catalog in the mail recently -- their Christmas 2009 issue. I leafed through it one night out of sheer boredom and found a plethora of really weird things. I decided they were strange enough to share with you.

This so called "Sheet and Blanket Support" made me giggle. I guess if you had really big feet this might be a bit more comfortable -- but it really goes above and beyond just not tucking your sheets and blankets tightly under your mattress. And, in case you were wondering, the vinyl-coated steel support won't rust. Call me crazy but I thought metal only rusted when exposed to water. If it's raining under your comforter you have bigger problems to worry about than creating a tent for your feet...

I love how this photo alerts the readers that these knee warmers save energy. Not sure about the ladybug, though. The write up in the catalog says these warmers "provide soothing comfort when winter winds blow." Here's a crazy idea -- if your knees are cold put some pants on! Or if you want to wear a skirt, wear tights! How ones knees could be cold but their shins and thighs could be toasty warm is beyond me.

I sort of love this product. I mean, why let your tight pants motivate you to exercise and go on a diet when you can just make them bigger. It's called a Comf-O-Mate. I'd call it a Gut Buster.

I actually own this rope timer though I don't think my mother got it from the Miles Kimball catalog. "Just wear this timer around your neck and you'll never miss its cheerful ring!" I can tell you, from experience, that the ring this timer gives off is NOT cheerful. It is, in fact, a blood curdling, heart attack inducing, ear shattering bell. If I wore it around my neck I might drop dead when it went off.

I grew up going to Catholic church every Sunday and not ONCE did Santa Claus appear in our Christmas Eve re-enactments of the birth of Jesus.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon

This book gave me nightmares. Literally. I had a dream that my friend's little sister was going to commit suicide. It was my job to talk her out of it. I tried to tell her all the things she was good at and her sister wasn't. I also told her that she couldn't kill herself because there was no way her husband was going to be able to take care of their two kids by themselves. Thankfully it was a dream.

This book is a true story about this teenager, Brent, who doused himself with gasoline and lit himself on fire in the bathroom of his home. Gross. And really sad. It sort of reads like a diary and is somewhat graphic when it comes to the pain he goes through having burned 85% of his body. Runyon takes you through the "incident" and the first year of his recovery.

If you're thinking about burning yourself to death I highly recommend you read this book first. It will take all of the romance out of it for you. It was hard to read at times -- especially the parts when his parents break down and cry. This kid is dealing with some real serious depression as a teen and it ends up following him into his adult years, too. If you've never been depressed or been close to someone who has had to deal with depression, you might not really get this book. I got it.

Many people have, even if fleeting, thought about what it would be like to kill themselves. This book shows you exactly what it's like for someone to live through a suicide attempt and what they and their family members go through. It's a fast read, as it's written in the voice of a 14-year-old, but it's still powerful. Heck -- powerful enough to give me a nightmare.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Real Simple thinks I'm stupid

Well, maybe not ME in particular, but their readers as a whole. I picked up the November issue and began to leaf through it. The editor's note from Kristin Van Ogtrop made me smile -- Kristin promised me 14 brand new monthly columns! Wowzers! Then I started reading.

Good lord. Real Simple thinks I need to know about the dumbest things. Here are some examples:

How to load my dishwasher
How to decorate with the color blue
The difference between one ply and three ply toilet paper
7 dumb things I can use an old CD or jewel case for
To keep my black pants black I shouldn't wash them so much (duh)
How to embrace change
How to wash my face
What shampoo their testers liked best
Taking a deep breath helps to reduce stress (4 pages on this earth shattering discovery)
How to do sit ups
How to clean my stove in 10 mintues

I'm so bored I can't even write anymore....

Weird typos

I was reading this story, posted on the Portland Press Herald's website from the Associated Press, and realized that there are some serious typos:

WASHINGTON -- Authorities say Fort Hood shooting Nidal Malik Hasan remains in a coma but is expected to live.

I think they mean "shooter" here.

Retired Col. Terry Lee, who said he had worked with Hasan, told Fox News said Hasan had hoped President Barack Obama would pull troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq and got into frequent arguments with others in the military who supported the wars.

told Fox News said Hasan? Huh?

I'm interested to know if this is an AP mistake or a Press Herald mistake. Either way...spell check! If one of my college students had passed this in they would have been in BIG trouble.