Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What is UP with the spam barrage lately?

Over the past month or so, an alarming number of spam messages have been showing up in my Yahoo! email account (with only a fraction of them getting automatically filtered into the Junk/Bulk folder). They are all coming from different addresses, they all have one-word subject lines like "cheque" or "proposal" or "alert," and there is no text in the message at all, but rather a zipped file is attached.

Helloooooo, spammers!?!? Did you just arrive from the year 1998? Everyone knows not to open zip files (or any attachment for that matter) from bizarre senders such as "Mat Q. Morino" and "Butler Clary" and the like. Hell, I don't even open attachments from people I do know most of the time.

So while I simply delete these messages immediately and am therefore not going to be lured into some lame virus attack or unwittingly help the Prince of Nigeria transfer his millions into a U.S.-based bank account or get a really great deal on Viagra, the fact that I have to even see these messages in my Inbox for a matter of seconds is still annoying the crap out of me. I'm thinking I'm all popular when I come home and see 33 messages rollin' in, and then 28 of them are these crazy spam attempts, 2 are "Hot Deals" from both American Airlines and Expedia, one is a reminder from Peapod about my upcoming grocery delivery, one is the shipment status for a wedding gift I just ordered, and only one lonely message is from an actual live friend (shout-out to CM!).

The bigger problem here is that I don't want to switch email addresses and just start fresh - that would be like letting the spammers triumph! Plus, both of my blogs are tied to my yahoo address, even though blogger itself is tied to a gmail.com email address (long story). So, I'm going to wait it out and see if this recent uptick in spam gets any better or not before I make any rash decisions.

Has this been happening to anyone else? I am even getting similar messages at my work account, which just started happening. Companies usually employ pretty fierce spam and virus protection tools, so I figured there has to be some sort of new technique that is being used in order to break through to corporate email accounts. When I find out what that technique is, I will tell all of you and then we can launch a counter-attack on the eleven-year-old whiz kid who is undoubtedly behind this - probably sitting in his basement somewhere on the outskirts of Seattle, writing code and using it for eeeevil.

WE WILL FIND YOU, you little brat! Cease and desist before we use your methods against you!

- e

Great article on Harry 7

Just read the cover story in the latest Entertainment Weekly issue - it was excellent (perhaps because it justified my reasoning for going to the midnight party). If you are a Harry Potter fan, you should take a look!

- e

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Product Review: Merino Lanolin Skin Creme

In my never-ending quest to meet Frodo, Gandalf and the rest of the gang from The Lord of the Rings trilogy (yes, they are real!), I spent two weeks in New Zealand last fall with my husband. One of our stops was this quite touristy, but actually really fun place called the Agrodome. As soon as you take one look at that site you will see why the Agrodome experience deserves its own post at some point in the future - it was the most bizarre mix of farming and extreme sports ever - perhaps the only mix of farming and extreme sports anywhere, now that I think about it.

Anyway, when we were there, I picked up a ton of souvenirs to bring back for family members, including many small jars of Merino Lanolin Skin Creme. In New Zealand, they sell everything related to lanolin that you can imagine, because it comes from wool and there are a hell of a lot of sheep down there!

I gave the lotion out for Christmas to several relatives, but I actually didn't keep any of it for myself.

A few months ago, my mother-in-law asked us if we knew if there was a store where we could buy the Merino lotion in the United States. Shortly after, my grandma commented on how much she loved the lotion I gave her, but that she was trying to use it sparingly now because it was almost out and she didn't think it would be available anywhere around her. When I mentioned both of these comments to my mom, she said that my dad had been "stealing" the lotion I had given to her, and that they both really loved it. Hmmmm.... something was going on. There are tons of lotions on the market and so many are interchangeable, to have four people raving about one specific brand seemed curious to me. When I mentioned all of this to my aunt, she, too, said that she was crazy for the lotion, and to let her know if I found a place to buy it.

So... I looked up the company's web site to see if there were any U.S. distributors. I'm not sure if I was just totally unobservant at that point, or if they later added a "USA Orders" button on their purchasing page, but I made an order through the New Zealand-based site. The next day, someone from the company wrote me and directed me to the Merino USA site, which is apparently the only U.S.-based distributor (they are located in Arizona). They had a special touting six huge jars for a discounted price, so I figured I'd do that and be able to give it to all of my family members who were eager for a new supply, and try it out for myself as well.

Before the shipment arrived, I had pretty high expectations, because I had read all of the raving customer testimonials on the site, as well as a special section describing the benefits of the lanolin lotion on diabetics. I'm not diabetic, but figured that the lotion had to be damn good if they were using it on patients and whatnot. Also, for those interested, they also have a line of baby care products.

The shipment arrived, and, to be honest, I haven't used the lotion very much - simply because I try to use the Jergen's Natural Glow as much as I can in the summer so as to not blind people with my otherwise glaring white skin. However, every once in a while I had been slathering the lanolin cream on my feet and then immediately putting on cotton socks when I went to bed, and my feet were invariably extremely soft the next morning. I was impressed by that, and also liked how it didn't have any scent. Recently, I decided to take a rest from the Jergen's and go all out with using the Merino cream for one night. My main complaint was that while I can't exactly say the cream is sticky, it's much thicker than normal lotion and therefore you need to be prepared that your pajamas, sheets, etc. are going to cling to your body even after the lotion has soaked in for a while.

But it is worth it! I can honestly say that I was amazed at how soft my skin was when I woke up. The hobbits and elves in New Zealand are pumping some magic into this lotion, I tell ya!

Therefore, I strongly recommend Merino Lanolin Skin Creme to anyone who suffers from dry skin and has never been able to find anything that soothes the problem. Keep the sheep-shearers of New Zealand employed!

- e

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Duh - All True Nerds Already Knew This

Probably only one person who reads this blog will care about this (and that person is my brother), but I was happy to see that in a very subtle way, George Lucas has admitted that Han Shot First and that he was wrong to edit Star Wars: A New Hope to make it look otherwise. If you like the Star Wars movies but have no idea what I'm talking about (which means you like them, but you don't LOVE them), read about the controversy here.

Don't mess with a classic!

- e

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

This Ain't No Stinkin' Wand?!?! The Harry Potter Midnight Party (no spoilers, don't worry)

As stated previously, I will wait a while before sharing my thoughts on the final Harry Potter book (which I did finish reading in 11 hours on the 21st)... but for now, here's my debrief on the midnight book release party.

And even if you don't read the Harry Potter books (you are missing out...)... I think you will enjoy this post.

The preparation
On Friday, I took a nap in the evening in order to be fresh and alert when it came time to depart for the Harry Potter midnight party. Usually it takes me about 3 hours to actually fall asleep - so I faintly remember being really excited that I could feel myself drifting off after having only been in bed for about 25 minutes.

But then, a huge "BOOOOOMMMMM!!!!" startled me back into consciousness, my dog jumped up, and a few seconds later I could hear the alarm going off in my building's storage room - it was the alarm on the sump pump.

I pulled myself onto my feet and then realized that my clock wasn't working. Nor were the lights... or the phone... or the Internet connection. Everything was out - the loud boom must have either been the cause or the result of a massive power outage. Cursing myself that I hadn't charged my cell phone, I used some of its remaining battery to call my upstairs neighbor to ensure that it wasn't just my unit having problems. He, too, figured it was an issue for the whole block. And the second I hung up with him, ambulances and sirens started blaring down the street - I felt bad for all the people inevitably stuck in high-rise elevators.

Then my thoughts turned toward the party that was supposed to take place in a mere six hours - oh no! The Borders store in my neighborhood may have also been affected by the outage! What if they couldn't ring up the sales that night?!?! What if they couldn't have the party... WHAT IF I COULDN'T GET MY BOOK????

While I was shutting off the sump pump alarm and then consoling myself with cookies & cream ice cream (why let it go to waste if everything in the freezer was going to melt?), I started devising a Plan B. It involved stalking little children coming out of other bookstores after midnight in surrounding neighborhoods. But luckily, 45 minutes later, lights flew back on, electronics started blinking, and I heaved a sigh of relief. And then went back to bed.

I was lucky enough to be joined by MB, a fellow nerd and Harry Potter fan, for the shindig. While I had reserved my copy of The Deathly Hallows several months ago at the Borders in my 'hood, she had hers being delivered on Saturday from barnesandnoble.com. I convinced her, however, that this was a historic cultural event and that she therefore must experience it with me - with the added bonus of getting the book earlier and being able to read it for a few hours the next morning before her B&N shipment arrived (every minute counts!).

Alas, when she called Borders the day prior to the party, they said that they had shut the reservation list two weeks ago, and that she would therefore have to be on the "wait list," and was not guaranteed a book. She was nice enough to put an order of two books under her name on the wait list (the other was for my husband who suddenly realized that he didn't want to wait for me to finish the book - he wanted us to read it simultaneously). Since the Borders employee had told MB that they had so many people on the reservation list that they expected to not get through ringing up those people until 3 AM, we were prepared for a long night (hence my nap).

Aside from reservation lists and wait lists, Borders also devised a wristband system to attempt to control all the eager readers and keep them from bum-rushing the registers at midnight. They started doling out wristbands at 9 AM Friday morning, and the color that you got would determine what "wave" you would be a part of in the line. It just so happened that MB was going to be working from home that day, so she was nice enough to go to the store, assume my identity and score a wristband in the second wave for me. We were all set to go and planned to meet at the store at 11 PM - early enough to experience the mayhem but late enough to not get sick of everyone by the time midnight rolled around.

The event
It was less crowded than we had expected... but then we realized that they had separated out all of the holders of the different colors of wristbands onto different levels of the store (there are three levels), so alas, true Harry Hysteria was not going to be ours to witness. They had balloons and decorations all around, but since the silver wristband-holders were told to go downstairs, we didn't waste time in checking out the scene - we wanted to get in line. I was told that I would get my poster and my wand (promised in the email touting the event) at check-out. I thought that was lame because I wanted to play with the wand right away!

We went downstairs... there was a snaking trail of clear masking tape that wound all around the "Movies and Music" section of the lower level - about half of it was already occupied, so we got in line behind a teenage girl who appeared to be wearing some sort of ball gown, and her mother, who looked almost exactly like Professor Trelawney. They are both in the picture to the left, although the mom is kind of hidden. Only a handful of people had on costumes... one woman had a school outfit and a "Potter Stinks!" button, another had a "Weird Sisters" concert t-shirt, a group of friends wore Harry glasses and lightning bolt scars.

We waited and waited and waited. I saw that Trelawney had some stickers, so I ran upstairs to see if they were giving them out up there. Score! A Borders employee gave me two sets of stickers (one for me, one for MB) - one to wear if you thought Snape would turn out to be good, and one if you thought he was bad. You can see them in the picture at the beginning of this post.

They also gave out raffle coupons to everyone (the prize was to jump ahead in the line and be the first one to get the book) and little glow-sticks (both also pictured at the top of this post).

One of the funniest aspects of the night was the Borders employee who kept coming over the loudspeaker and shouting orders at everyone. I have his speech memorized still, nearly a week later: "SILVER WRISTBANDS!!!! Silver wristbands, you should be downstairs in Movies & Music. But if you have a silver DOT, not a wristband but a silver DOT, you are on the WAIT LIST and must wait until everyone in the reservations line has gotten their book before we call you. Once again, silver DOTS, not wristbands but DOTS, are on the wait list."

This announcement, or some variant of the same message, was hollered over the speakers about every 10 minutes. The best was when he came on and said, "ORANGE wristbands... I'm assuming you are smart enough to know that you are the first wave and should be in line on the main floor."

Uhhh... obviously not everyone was smart enough to know that if he had to make the announcement. Another excellent tirade was: "IF YOU MISS YOUR WAVE... IF YOUR COLOR HAS ALREADY GONE THROUGH THE LINE AND YOU HAVE MISSED IT... then you will need to get at the back of the LAST LINE in order to get your book!!!!" Groans all around. This guy was evil!!! That would be just rude if you had an orange wristband and missed the first wave and were made to wait three more hours for everyone else to go through? Damn, the Borders employees were hard-core! They must be on the side of He Who Must Not Be Named!

As it neared midnight, the same guy got on the microphone and announced that they knew that they were going to sell out of all of the books that they had, so if anyone had just walked into the store who wasn't on the reservation list or the wait list, they should just leave and come back the next day to see if any more books were delivered. He also said that it was not a guarantee that people on the wait list would get a book. MB and I looked at each other worriedly... I didn't want her to have spent hours waiting in line with me to NOT get a book!?!?! We would find a way!!! Unfortunately, believe it or not, I only saw two or three younger kids at the party, so there wasn't really anyone I could accost to steal a book from later. Everyone was college age or much older.

Now we come to my favorite part of the night. Two guys that were probably in their late teens or early 20s (I'm not good at guessing ages), who can be seen in the picture above, came up to hang with Trelawney and Ball Gown Chick. They didn't know them, I believe they just wanted to talk to other people who had dressed up. The guys had made a half-ass effort at costumes... they had on extremely wrinkly white button-downs, ties and "broomsticks" (one was a mop, one was a crappy plastic broom).

At first I thought they were nice guys and that they were just extremely excited about the book coming out. When I passed by them with my "Trust Snape" sticker displayed proudly on my arm, one of them muttered, "Snape is a goddamn traitor." He said it so seriously that I got the biggest kick out of it, and MB and I thought they were hilarious. But then I overheard some of the conversation they were having - or should I say - the ARGUMENT they were having, with people around us. They started off by loudly proclaiming the fact that they had placed bets on an event that would happen in the book, making a girl standing behind them literally yelp and plead them to not say any more (and no, it wasn't about whether Harry lived or died, it was something more detailed than that). I can tell you now that what they predicted with such assurance did NOT come to pass in the story, but at the time even I was thinking, "Wow, I cannot believe they just said that." While they honored the request not to shout out any other potential spoilers and didn't move on to any new topics, they did continue to make an argument for why their previously predicted event in the book would indeed happen. After Trelawney and Ball Gown Chick fought back with logical reasoning, the guy on the right in the picture hollered, "Do you KNOW the mind of a wizard?!?!?" They then got into a heated discussion - and I have to admit, they knew their facts about the characters. The battle ended with them mumbling something about "glass ceilings for witches" and then a Borders employee came and made them get back to their place in line because they were disturbing the peace.

The countdown
Annoying Speaker Guy got back on the microphone as midnight neared. He ordered everyone to activate their glow-sticks, and that they were going to turn off the lights. Sweet! This was gonna rock!

Well, it sucked. I swear to you, they turned off ONE light bulb. I'm sure there was some lame fire code restriction that prevented them from engulfing the store in darkness, but it really, really ruined the effect to have everyone waving their glow-sticks around in a fully-lighted room.

Then they did the raffle drawing... and no one on my floor won.



Let's just say that that guy isn't going to be taking over Dick Clark or Ryan Seacrest's spot on New Year's Rockin' Eve any time soon... once again, since we were separated from everyone else in the store, it was kind of anti-climactic. Give me my book, already!

Less than twenty minutes later, the Silver Wristbands' time had come - they herded us upstairs. But then we just had to wait and wait and wait some more in the long line that stretched across the main level. I ran to see if they had the rice-krispie-treat-lightning-bolt-thing that they had for the Book Six party, but alas, they only had all the typical Harry Potter goodies that you can buy anywhere at any time, so I was disappointed.

But that was not my biggest disappointment of the night. As we neared the registers, I stopped a Borders employee who was carrying around a wand.

"So, we get our wands at the check-out, right?"
She stared blankly. "What do you mean?"
"On the email invite, it said that you get a free wand."
She held up the glow-stick that hung around her neck. "This is the wand."


The lame-ass GLOW-STICK was the WAND?!?!?! No it wasn't?!!!! NO IT WASN'T!!!!
Never in a million years would anyone mistake that little teeny thing for a wand (look up at the top picture again - you cannot deny it!).

I was fuming.

But my anger quickly dissipated as I became the next in line. I spotted a sign at each register that said "No more than three books per guest." I looked at MB, who would not be able to get her book (or my husband's) for hours still, as they were checking wristbands at the registers, and she was on the wait list.

It was my turn. I strode up to the register and confidently stated, "I have three."
"Let me see your wristband."
"Do you have your reservation number?"
Check! I pulled out my sticky note containing the number. He barely glanced at it.

He loaded up the books on to the counter, I paid and then whisked them all into my backpack, and then MB and I headed out of the store and waited until we were in the clear to celebrate our victory. MB got her book and my husband would owe me big-time for securing him one as well. And I got my poster (what I'm going to do with it, exactly, I haven't figured out. Perhaps paint it while it's still rolled up to look like a wand?).

The aftermath
It was a triumphant night. MB and I made plans to check in with each other during the day on Saturday to compare progress and thoughts on what had transpired in the book. She went her way and I went mine.

It was a dark, dark night. I made sure to take off my Snape sticker so as to not alert any ne'er-do-wells to the fact that I had just left the Harry Potter party. However, I forgot that I still had the frickin' glow-stick - OH, EXCUSE ME, WAND - hanging around my neck... besides the fact that I was carrying a huge poster and being weighed down by two ginormous books in my backpack.

I crossed in front of a semi-sketchy bar on the way back to my place. Two guys, probably in their late 30s, were standing in front of the entrance. I could tell that they had been eying me for some time as I approached. One of them yelled out to me:
"Is it ON you?"
Oh, crap.
I just pursed my lips into a weak smile and walked a bit faster.
"Holy shit, is it ON YOU right now? Do you have Harry Potter in your backpack?"
Awwww, CRAP. Now I really needed a wand! Where were those broomstick and mop guys to protect me?!?!

But it was OK. As I was safely past them, they shouted out one last question:
"Just take it out, flip to the last page and tell me what happens... PLEASE!?!?!?"

See, EVERYONE loves Harry Potter.

I got home around 1 AM... not bad at all. I put the books out on the kitchen table, arranged my stickers, poster and faux-wand next to the books and got ready for bed. I know this sounds lame because I am a grown woman, but the party really was fun and I DID feel like I was part of some international cultural event. These books are going to be loved forever and each of them was only released for the first time ONCE.

A shout-out to MB for going with me, a shout-out to ComEd for restoring the electricity in time, and a shout-out to everyone who loves Harry Potter and who read it or is reading it as anxiously as I did. My write-up on the book itself will come in about a week, and if you haven't read it by then, well, then you are slow!

- e

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

K-Fed vs. Britney

I never thought this day would come!

Is it wrong that at this point I'm rooting for K-Fed to win custody of the kids he had with Britney Spears? In a divorce battle that is sure to get even messier, it now seems that both of Britney's parents and her cousin Alli have joined forces with the Fed-Ex in his effort to get the children out of her care. Why? Because she continues to show signs of erratic behavior months after her head-shaving and umbrella-attacking incidents and they uniting for the sake of the kiddies' safety. In the issue of OK! magazine due out this Friday, there is reportedly an exclusive interview with Britney that left even the gossip reporters startled because she was THAT messed up during the talk.

Once again I ask: why are all of these young mega-stars ruining their lives? And once again I'll also say - obviously money cannot buy happiness!

Finally, can someone convince K-Fed to get custody of those poor doggies of hers, too? She just bought another one (named London) and you know it's now running around her mansion living off of Cheetos and never seeing the light of day.

GO K-FED! Get the babies and the puppies!!!

- e

Just Lock Her Up Already! Lindsay arrested AGAIN.

I just had to quickly comment on this story that came across CNN.com... Lindsay Lohan was arrested yet again, early this morning, for drunk driving AND was once again in possession of what was most likely cocaine.

Hey L.A. cops! Do the right thing! Don't let her out again - she's going to kill somebody, for the love of God. And while you're at it, please haul away her absolutely awful mother, who's either in complete denial or simply doesn't care about the downward spiral her daughter's been on since she is simply along for the ride.

This girl needs serious help. And it should be a surprise to no one, since literally the second she got out of rehab last week she immediately went to Vegas (it ain't called Sin City for nothin'!) of all places, sporting a supposed "alcohol detecting ankle bracelet." But word was that she was trying to get Ecstasy and basically any other narcotic in place of alcohol. Sneaky, eh? Perhaps, but not too bright, as everyone is tracking her moves quite closely.

I hope she goes to REAL rehab this time and gets the help she obviously needs before it's too late.

- e

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Countdown Begins for HP 7 (no spoilers here, duh!)

T-Minus 31 hours until your faithful blogger e will be pushing little kids out of the way to get a better spot in line at the midnight party for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows! Surely you didn't think I would wait until Saturday to get it, did you?

Actually, I considered it for about .15432 milliseconds because I'm a loser and my bedtime is usually 10:30 and I feel old and tired, but then I remembered that I will get a free three-foot poster of the book jacket art AND (drumroll please) a free glow-in-the-dark WAND at the party!!!! If you are wondering if I will be so cruel as to steal some eight-year-olds' wands so I have more for myself, all I can say is... maybe I will and MAYBE I WILL!!!! Watch out kiddies, Auntie e is in the hiz-ouse and she will take no prisoners when it comes to getting the final Harry Potter book and/or any related freebies! Get out tha way! What will be even funnier is when I come into work on Monday with all the wands and attempt to put hexes on people. They already think I'm crazy, why not remove all doubt?

I am debating about how early I should get there Friday night. I'm thinking 11:30 pm or so; I want to be able to bask in the excitement and anticipation for the grand finale of the series, but I don't want my patience with the other geeky fans to wear thin. I'm just hoping that they have this rice krispie treat thing with frosting on it that is shaped like Harry's lightning bolt scar that they had a few years ago at the book six party. Shout-out to my cousin Brad who went to that party with me - you will be missed this weekend!

My intention is to then go home, get a good night's sleep, and spend the majority of Saturday and Sunday reading the book, with the hopes of finishing it before the idiots in the mass media ruin it for everyone. No, I have paid no attention to all the spoilers already out there. And while we're on that subject - does anyone really understand WHY someone would leak the book or anything about it? Seriously, think about it for a few seconds... nothing good can come of it. No one's going to give you money, if they find you you're going to get sued or worse, you are ruining a truly joyful occasion for millions upon millions of people (most of whom are kids), and by and large, no one will even know who you are (as most spoilers out there seem to be posted or uploaded anonymously). Perhaps the Grinch's heart has shrunk again and he is now targeting Harry Potter events instead of Christmas? Who knows. What I will say is this - I'm reading the book no matter what, and if I should happen to hear something against my will, I will just figure that it's not right and therefore I still just have to read the book for myself.

But even though I may have stolen some kiddies' wands and pushed them out of the way to get the book in my hands - believe you me... if someone at the party ruins it for those kids, I will unleash the 'Wrath of e,' which is not a pretty sight and has only been unleashed a handful of times in the past three decades. I will kick the offender over and then pounce on him, and all of the boys and girls at the party will follow my orders to pile up on the evil-doer until he is hauled away by the police. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

I will predict my reaction to finishing the book - I'm going to bawl my head off - probably for about a half-hour. I am going to become deeply depressed. I'm not going to want to talk about it for a few days. And then about two weeks from now, I will write up my overall thoughts on the book (so those of you who are going to read it - you have 14 days to catch up with me!) and launch into a downward spiral all over again. It doesn't matter what actually happens in the book, I know I will feel all of the emotions above, because of the simple fact that it is OVER. Sure, maybe when J.K. Rowling has slipped to, say, the 4th richest woman in the galaxy, she may write more books about this wizarding world that we've come to know and love. But it will never be the same.

I read the first three books in 2000 when I was on a crazy trip around the world for The Man. I bought them in Paris and read them back-to-back in a matter of days - I finished up The Prisoner of Azkaban in Australia and remember vividly (which is a big deal, because I have no memory anymore!) lying there in the hotel bed, crying. I wasn't crying because anything was sad, I was crying because I loved the books so much. Yes, I am an overly-emotional freak, that should already be known. Lucky me, though... I then had literally only days to wait for The Goblet of Fire to come out in July of that same year. At that point, I was dating the guy who would end up becoming my husband, and I remember finishing book four on his futon and I was sobbing so hard that I forbade him from coming into the room or speaking to me for a full hour. Book five, as I mentioned in a previous post, was read on our honeymoon. And reading The Half-Blood Prince was one of the highlights of an overall crappy year in e's life - the sobbing at the end of that one occurred just a room away from where I sit now.

Now here I am, seven years after picking up the series, and I feel like stomping around and pouting in protest about coming to the end of such a fantastic journey. I can't imagine what I would feel like if I was a kid and read these books starting from when they came out in 1997... imagine being seven years old and now being 17 when it's all said and done! You literally GREW UP with Harry Potter! I'm jealous of those kids. But I will still spare no mercy if any of them get in between me and my reserved copy tomorrow night!

Until then, happy reading... and, this should go without saying, don't send me any spoilers. I will put a voodoo curse on you, you will attract extremely bad karma, and I won't post your comment anyway!

But I have a feeling none of MY readers are that mean-spirited. For those of you who love the characters just as much as I do, when I'm sitting in my fluffy robe in my recliner, sipping my tea while racing through the pages hour after hour, I will think of you and hope you are having as much fun as I am. And remember, when you're through with the book - take solace in the fact that we still have the final two movies ahead of us!

- e

e Meets Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife

Have you ever been looking forward to something, but as it approached, you suddenly no longer wanted to do it? That was how I felt Tuesday night as I was struggling to get ready to head out to the Chicago History Museum and see Audrey Niffenegger, the author of one of my top five favorite books of all time, The Time Traveler's Wife. She was going to speak about the process of going from getting the idea for her most excellent story, to writing it, to having it published, to now overseeing (from afar, it seems) its development into a major film (starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana - shooting begins in the fall). For weeks, I had been anxious to see her, but now that the time had come and I was tired, cranky and lazy, I was reconsidering.

I'm so, so glad that I kept my plans!

Her talk began at 6:30, and there is a bus from my place that lets off right in front of the history museum. However, I had to feed and let out my dog, eat, change, and by the time I had done all of that, it was 6:15. D'ah! There was no choice but to take a cab... and as I sat in the back seat collecting my thoughts, I became confident that I had not put my dog in his crate (he destroys things if he's not kept in there when we're gone). Should I turn around and go back? Had I actually locked him in but just didn't remember it? I decided to take my chances and kept heading south.

When I arrived at the museum a few minutes before 6:30, the auditorium where the event was being held was already pretty packed. I wanted a seat up close, and luckily there was still one in the third row. Shortly thereafter, Audrey was introduced and came on stage. She has a very distinctive walk... very light on her feet but deliberate, with her hands clasped in front of her and in each step she rolls from her heel to her toes. Her head was down as she crossed the stage, she had on a plaid skirt and tights, and quite frankly, I thought she fit the picture I have in my head of "someone who loves books." I also thought she would be nervous or shy, but that was not the case.

She spoke very clearly (no "filler sounds," which always impresses me) and her words seemed to be chosen in the same deliberate manner in which she walked. It was like you could almost see the gears turning in her head as she would pause, glance upward and think about how she would answer a question. Her voice was a lot deeper than I expected... not strange by any means, but once again, just not what I necessarily would have imagined. She's in her mid-40s but could pass for younger, and her long hair was a fiery red - clearly not natural in that it almost looked neon under certain lights. You can read here why she changed her hair color. What I first thought when she came on the stage was: "She is Tori Amos' long-lost sister." After hearing her speak for 1.5 hours, I feel that way even more - she's very new-agey and philosophical and is most definitely a free spirit.

Audrey began her talk by saying that she was going to project images on the large screen that filled up the stage area (she talked off to the side of the stage behind a podium) - they were paintings and other artwork that she had created. I really liked them - several were funky self-portraits (not included in the link above), all of them were fairly depressing, but there was something I was attracted to in them. She has a studio called "Printworks" that I am thinking of visiting one day and maybe I'll get one of her pieces.

It became clear to me that she thinks of herself more of an artist than as a writer; she said she describes herself as a "visual artist" when someone asks her what she does. Interestingly enough, she makes books by hand - usually only one copy or perhaps as many as ten - quite unique, wouldn't you say?

About half of her talk was her description of the experience she's been through with the book becoming a bestseller, the other half was a question and answer session with the audience.

At this point, if you haven't read the book, you need to stop reading this site and go get it, because the rest of this post will discuss plot points and will ruin it for you. You should know by now that I don't lie to my faithful readers, so I don't know why you haven't read this book since I've told you how much it rocks many times!

For the rest of you who are fans of the novel - read on. And before I go any further, I must give a shout-out to TV who encouraged me to read the book, and to KG who told me about the event!
Now on to some highlights from the session:

- She began by expressing joy (and humble surprise) that there were so many people in the audience. Apparently, there is always a worry about "what if no one comes? What if it's only my mom?"

- The title of the book came to her first, oddly enough. She thought about what a drag it would be to be the wife of a guy who was always going on adventures through time while she needed to just wait around. That idea percolated around in her head for a bit... and then, the very last scene came to her. She clearly saw Clare in her coral sweater with her cup of tea, waiting for Henry's last visit. So she had the end of the story first, which I found absolutely amazing.

- There were two color-coded timelines she created in a Word document to keep track of what was going on - one was Clare's and the other showed Henry's jumps and what each character would know at that point in time, as well as what the audience would know. It sounded like the hardest part was that "there was a restricted flow of information... both from the characters and the readers."

- She did not write the book in any order, she wrote scenes as they came to her. Her favorite scene was when Ingrid shot herself, because Ingrid was originally developed as a take on herself, though she claims that by the end of the character's development, Ingrid barely resembled her at all. But she described it as "very freeing" to be able to essentially kill yourself through fiction. And apparently, the scene where Henry was there to witness it was not supposed to be that way... she had said that Ingrid was only going to impart some troubling words on to Henry. But as she kept writing the scene... "All of a sudden - Ingrid had a gun! And it kept going and going... I always knew Ingrid was going to kill herself, but hadn't planned to show how it happened."

- She does not own a TV and therefore doesn't watch TV, but she strongly believes that the success of any given book is unfortunately dependent upon television in this day and age. She thinks this because when she was going through the process of getting "blurbs" for the cover of her book (quotes from well-known people saying how great the novel is), she called Scott Turow, famous author and lawyer (who lives in the Chicago area, as does Audrey). Instead, his wife answered the phone and told Audrey that SHE would read the book, and if SHE liked it, she would get Scott to do a blurb for it. Well, she did like it, Scott wrote the blurb, and then when he was asked on "The Today Show" to pick a book for The Today Show Book Club, he mentioned The Time Traveler's Wife! The the next thing Audrey knew, she was getting a call to go on the show herself, and then it hit the bestseller list. Ironically, she said that two days before she went on TV, she had a book signing and only 2 people showed up. One of her funnier quips was about how often, at book signings, book store employees will come and sit down to make the author feel better. On that note, believe it or not, she had THIRTY-SIX rejection letters from agents! It just goes to show the power of persistance as well as a good bit of luck (she chalks it up to "luck and serendipitous events").

- She had originally envisioned the story to be much darker. They were never going to have a child ("It would have been miscarriage after miscarriage"), and, as I read in another interview with her, Clare was supposed to have gone insane. But, despite the fact that she is drawn to darker, sad topics and that a fan rightly pointed out to her that all of her works revolve around loss, she said that even she wouldn't have read the book if it was that depressing.

- When the movie rights were optioned, she really didn't think anything would ever come of it. "For every 40 books that get optioned, only one movie actually gets made." If you were not aware of this, it was Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston's company, Plan B, who bought the film rights. When they divorced, she said a ton of people were coming up to her, asking her if she was OK. "Yeah, I'm fine!" was her response. She has never met either of them.

- The original cover for the book was something she didn't like at all. Then, since she's an artist, she tried to design something, but was politely told that it was not right. Finally, her British publisher actually hired people and did a real photo shoot, which resulted in the picture used on the paperback cover (which she was happy with).

- She's originally from South Haven, Michigan (as is Clare in the book). She said that many things in the book are based on real events - like the Violent Femmes concert was something she actually attended. This led her on a slight rant about how Chicago needs to be represented more in fiction (there's actually a tour happening on Saturday that goes around to all of the places in the book - but alas, I need to be focused on Harry Potter)... and then ended it with, "You know, so that's why my next book is set in London."

- She has read four different screenplays for the movie so far, and they are all drastically different. Seeing her book turned into a movie script has been strange for her, "because someone is essentially re-writing you. In a book, there is no time limit, but in a movie, apparently everyone will turn to stone if it goes over two hours. So characters have to get cut out, and characters say things they never would have said in my mind." She has two main hopes for the movie version: 1. That the ending stays exactly the same, and 2. That otherwise, they bring something new to the story, or else "it's just an illustration of the books, like the Harry Potter movies." She knows that they will have to change certain things and tone down the language because "They want it to be rated PG-13. But my perfect film would be NC-17 - full-frontal male nudity!!!"

It was a really fun time and as I mentioned before, I am SO glad I went. A lot of the questions she answered were covered in other interviews with her that I had read online (yes, I was a good little fan-girl and studied up!), so I encourage you to read them if what I've covered above has interested you.

I then stood in line for 45 minutes to have her sign my copy of the book, and rode the bus home that night extremely, extremely happy, and with a renewed inspiration to one day become a published writer. I am looking forward to her next novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, but it won't be out for at least another year or two. She is actually a tour guide in a cemetery in London as part of her research for the book (it's still fiction, but set in that cemetery). Regarding her follow-up act to such a beloved story, she admits it's much harder the second time around - now there are high expectations!

When I arrived home... my dog was in his crate and all was well. A successful night indeed!

- e

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Funny Turns Ugly

The event I went to last night with the author of The Time Traveler's Wife was great, but it's going to take me a little while to write up.

So in the meantime, I need to vent about something that's been bothering me. It is the fact that Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey are really annoying, but worse than that, they have both turned totally fugly in the past few months.

What is up with Jim's hair? Does he actually think he looks attractive? Or is he trying to be all deep and somehow prove (by sporting a hideous 'do) that he doesn't care about appearances? Is he perhaps trying to start a trend? I don't think so, because he's been growing his hair longer and longer for months now. We GET IT Jim, you are a carefree dude - but guess what, when you looked better in Ace Ventura, that's a bad sign.

As far as she goes... I never thought she was a stand-out in the first place, but something has turned very much the wrong way for her lately. It's harder to put my finger on with her - perhaps her shorter hair doesn't suit her face... perhaps she's had plastic surgery but it's not quite obvious - I just don't know what it is, but I don't like it. And when I see pictures of them together, it drives me batty. It's like they are trying to scream out to the world, "We're so in love, that we both don't care that we've driven each other to look like crap!"

When they first started dating (I think over 1.5 years ago now), I thought they wouldn't last for more than a few weeks. So perhaps they really do dig each other. I hope they are happy, I have nothing against either of them other than their current looks. I just don't like it when people seem to be going out of their way to look ridiculous (witness the below).

- e

Monday, July 16, 2007

The X-Files Sequel - it's ON!

I know I have a pretty good life. I'm very thankful for it every day. But I must have done something worthy of really great karma recently, because this may just be one of the best weeks ever for your tireless blogger e.

It's summer in Chicago, The Man has drastically mellowed out, I get to meet one of my favorite authors tomorrow night, I get a free wand at the Harry Potter midnight party on Friday night (not to mention book seven), my weekend is basically cleared in order to read The Deathly Hallows... and now I learn that The X-Files movie sequel is going to become a reality?!?!?! The way things are going, Locke is going to appear on the sidewalk while I'm walking my dog tonight and then I will have achieved all of my life's goals!

Since my time as a rabid X-Files fan was pre-blog, you have all been spared my ramblings on one of the best shows ever made. You also probably don't know that I went to not one, but two X-Files fan conventions (at which many pictures were taken that I'm sure will one day be used against me as blackmail), and also have a Mulder action figure (I have not introduced Mulder to my Lost action figures - I don't know what would happen). So needless to say, I am excited about seeing one of the best duos of all time - Mulder and Scully - back together. And quite frankly I kind of miss thinking about the possibility of aliens. Lost, The Office, 24, and The Amazing Race have many things, but none of them feature aliens.

The truth is out there!

- e

Calling all "The Time Traveler's Wife" fans...

A quick post to let you know that I will be attending a talk tomorrow (Tuesday) given by Audrey Niffenegger, the author of "The Time Traveler's Wife," one of my all-time favorite books (which I have mentioned several times before across both blogs).

If you have read this book and have any questions for her, leave a comment and I will ask her your question if I can. There are a few things I'm curious about already, so if your question isn't as good as mine is, then you lose!

I will report back on how it was.

- e

Pet Peeve of the Week: Soft Water

While showering in the Marriott during my stay in New Jersey this week, I was both happy and annoyed. Happy in that I had at least one idea for the blog this week (how horrible soft water is), but annoyed in that I was having to expose myself to its grossness in the first place.

I'm not sure if there is this "hard water vs. soft water" issue in other countries, but in the U.S., there are varying levels of dissolved minerals in our water across the states. "Hard water" contains higher percentages of the minerals - and therefore is supposedly harsher and "less clean" (if you are interested in learning more on this nerdy subject, here's a more detailed explanation). However, if you are like me and have always lived in areas that only had hard water, when you go to a place with soft water, you are driven insane by the feeling of sliminess all over you after you get out of the shower. You wash your face with soap and then rinse and rinse and rinse and rinse because it still feels like the lather is on your skin. And when you towel off? It's maddening - you're positive that there's a thin layer of invisible scum on you. Forget drinking it!

Yet after a little bit of research on this topic, it is apparent that those who have grown up in soft water areas have a hatred of hard water. They claim that they cannot feel fresh when showering in it and that it is so rough that clothes or bedding washed in it will be coarse to the touch, and will apparently degrade 15% more quickly. I say that those people are wimps!

I am glad to be back and to have rinsed away the NJ scum water off of me. And no, I didn't see Tony Soprano while I was there, so I can't tell you if he's still alive or not.

- e

Friday, July 13, 2007

In a Garden State of Mind

In a few hours I am off to New Jersey to visit family, so I will not be putting up any posts this weekend. Two big events coming up next week, however, that I will most definitely write about are of course the final Harry Potter book being released, as well as an event I'm attending that features the author of The Time Traveler's Wife, one of my favorite books of all time. If you haven't read it, go get it right now!

I'm a tad concerned with getting in to the Garden State on time tonight as there are major thunderstorms predicted for that area. Last year I went on this same weekend, and didn't end up landing until the wee hours of the morning. So - wish me luck! At least it's not LaGuardia that I'm flying in to this time.

I will leave you with a few other comments from my night at the movies Wednesday night - none of which have to do with the Harry Potter movie itself, so don't worry about spoilers:

- I waiting in line for an hour and fifteen minutes beforehand this time around. Usually I am near the beginning of the line, but this time I was running late so I was probably at the mid-point. Unfortunately we were in a pretty small theater, but it was one of the ones that was all digital (rather than using a film reel), so I dealt with it. There were no major freaks dressed up, but I did see one woman with a witch's hat, and three teenage girls who I think were trying to dress like a naughty version of Hermione. They had on mary jane shoes, knee-high socks, short plaid skirts, white long-sleeve buttondowns and ties wrapped around their heads like headbands.
- The people sitting behind me in the movie were VERY annoying! The kind of people who talk really loudly because they think they are smart and figure that everyone else would be impressed by them as well. One of the women kept asking everyone in her very large group if they were watching the "World Series of Pop Culture," and no one was. Which upset her very much, because, as she repeated about 1,000 times: "Oh, it's really great, you should watch it!" I started wondering if she was being paid by VH1 to use guerrila marketing tactics to promote the show - that's how ridiculous she was.
- Two guys walked across the front of the theater, both dressed in light-colored blazers. They were joining the obnoxious group behind me, who of course had to call more attention to themselves by shouting out, "You guys are in matching blazers - how very Hogwarts-esque of you!!!!" When the guys sat down, they proceeded to loudly explain that they had been circling the block a few streets down over and over because they thought the show was at McClurg Court. For those of you not in Chicago, McClurg Court closed down years and years ago. Now I was starting to realize that these people apparently didn't get out too much, so perhaps the reason why they were screaming at each other was because they were excited to be out in society again.

I have very little tolerance for people in general, as you may have noticed if you've been reading my stuff for a while. I sat there for quite a while trying to think of some witty yet pointed comment to turn around and say to all of them to perhaps clue them in to the fact that no, in fact, they are NOT brilliant and the rest of the theater would appreciate it if they shut up in the remaining minutes before the show (part of my annoyance came from the fact that we were all in the theater 50 minutes before the show started). But, I was distracted by Junior Mints, Raisinets and popcorn when my husband arrived. There's nothing like a popcorn-butter induced food coma to kill your desire to tell people off. Luckily for me (and for them), the group was quiet once the show began. I think the "World Series of Pop Culture" fangirl was threatened a bit by me when I started clapping at the trailer for The Golden Compass because she didn't know what it was. Although one of her friends exclaimed, "Nicole Kidman scares the bejeezus out of me!"

Finally, something we agreed on!

- e

Thursday, July 12, 2007

e Really Digs Harry Potter 5 - the movie

(If you have not read HP5, then skip this post as I refer to major plot points and happenings and you will be spoiled)

Harry Potter fans, rejoice! All of those movies reviews you've been reading that claim Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is slow, boring, or just so-so, are WRONG! I saw it last night and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it, since the 5th book was my least favorite of the series thus far. I remember struggling to finish it on the way back from my honeymoon, cramped in my seat, annoying everyone else who was suffering through one of the longest flights in the world (not kidding: South Africa to New York) by keeping my reading light on, and thinking, "Harry is annoying the crap out of me in this one! This book is kind of poop?!?!"

Therefore, I had extremely low expectations for the film version. I had heard that they cut out many scenes, including the prominent "Ron playing on the Quidditch team" subplot (fine by me, that stuff always bored me), but upon reading a recap of the book, I now realize that they deleted much more than that. What was left of the story were the essentials, and even that clocked in at over two hours on the screen. As I was captivated from the beginning to the end of the movie, I think they did a marvelous job.

Three random, nerdy observations:

1) I realized that Hagrid's hound, Fang, despite being a different color, looked a heck of a lot like the bizarro dog in the painting in Jacob's cabin on Lost. That would be the ultimate cross-over!!

2) In the scene where Sirius dies, Harry is held back by Lupin and everything goes silent and slo-mo, and I couldn't help but think of the scene where Frodo and the hobbits all freak out after Gandalf falls to his apparent death after his battle with the Balrog. Yes, this IS how my mind works!

3) Similarly, in the scene where Voldemort (he doesn't scare me, I'll say his name!) and Dumbledore are having their Ultimate Wizard Duel, it reminded me of Gandalf and Saruman's wicked-awesome battle in Fellowship of the Ring.

So much nerdiness, I'm about to explode! I love wizards! I am quite sure that in a past life I was somehow connected to Merlin himself.

Anyway, back to HPATOOTP - other high points included Luna Lovegood - the actress who plays her is just spot on - great job, casting peeps! Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange was also a perfect choice - and while she wasn't in the movie for very long - she kicked butt in the few minutes she was on screen. I think Bellatrix is the 80s-era-Cyndi Lauper's long-lost cousin with that funky hair and awful outfit. On to Snape... who, as always, rocked the house with his drole one-liners and his obvious disdain for Harry. And speaking of Harry - good God, is he a cutie?!? If loving Harry is wrong, I don't want to be right!!

Low points included Cho - the recipient of Harry's first kiss. She was pretty lame (or perhaps I'm just jealous). Hagrid's half-brother, the giant Grawp, looked plastic and fake... surprising for a movie series that so far has had excellent, realistic effects. Another negative about the movie was that no one character, besides Harry, was in it for very long. This was a very Henry-centric movie and at the end I realized that I missed having my fill of Dumbledore, Hagrid, Snape, and even Malfoy?!?!

And I can't talk about the movie without mentioning Delores Umbridge, the ultra-evil new professor/representative of the Ministry of Magic, played expertly by Imelda Staunton. Soooo creepy and nasty - she did a top-notch job and made me hate her character just like I did when I read the book. The scene where Harry has to write lines that are then burned into his skin made me want to jump through the screen and bust out a Tae-Bo roundhouse kick to her head!

So definitely go see this movie... if you haven't read the book then you may be a little lost, but it really held my attention and everyone I've talked to who has seen it agreed that they didn't understand why it was getting mixed reviews.

Just one more week til the midnight party for book seven?!?!? Yeah, you know I will be there with all the kiddies - I just got an email from Borders saying that they're giving out free wands!!! YESSSSS!

- e

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What do you want to read about, faithful a-to-e visitors?

Hello my dear friends -

Based on a few recent comments requesting posts on certain topics (I feel like that just rhymed, but it didn't), I thought I would publish this entry as a central "collector of ideas" for things you think I should write about.

To Anonymous who just wrote me today - I definitely will be doing another entry on the latest round of cosmetic lotions and potions that I've been scammed into buying and my assessments of each - so thanks for that suggestion. First I just need to get over my bitterness for continuing to be fooled by The Marketing Machine.

And rest assured that I will be posting on the Harry Potter movie out this week (I'm going tomorrow night), the final book coming out in two weeks, and all other major summer events and celebrity tomfoolery. I also intend to post "e's favorite things" (a take-off on Oprah's Favorite Things - only my list will be of stuff that is much, much cheaper), as well as resume airing my Pet Peeve of the Week.

But any specific suggestions would be appreciated as I'm much more motivated to write when I know someone's interested about a particular topic. What can I say, I'm a people-pleaser.

Let me know what you think! You can post comments anonymously (if you'd like to) without having to sign in or anything, because that's how I roll with this blog! Just click the link for comments in the lower right corner of this entry and go from there. If you have problems with the comments, write me at e@longlivelocke.com and describe what the problem is so that I can try to figure out what's going on (for example, some browsers don't allow pop-ups - and the comments window opens in a pop-up, but there's a way around that).

If you are reading this blog in the first place, then at least some part of you must be fairly strange, so I am looking forward to any wacky ideas you may have... Thanks in advance!

- e

Thought of the Day: Don't these people get hot?

In any major city around the world, you're bound to see the latest craze in street performers - people who are painted all one (usually shocking bright or metallic) color, standing frozen like statues up on a small platform until someone puts money in their bucket. The reward for contributing to their cause is a short robotic dance, a mime show or a short skit.

I was over these people about three years ago, but a lot of people still seem to be amazed by them, because a crowd of gawking tourists will inevitably surround any of these performers as soon as they set up.

That's all fine and good (except for when the tourists block my way down the sidewalk, then I turn into 'angry e'), but what I want to know is - HOW do these people not keel over when they are wearing heavy clothing and covered in paint in the depths of summer? The guys below were at the Taste of Chicago this past weekend and the temperature was in the 90s. That cannot be healthy!

The paint doesn't wipe off, either, because I've seen some of them rub their faces before, or shake someone's hand - and no color transfers. Just like the guys in the Blue Man Group, too. How does this magical paint work?!?! I'm intrigued.

- e

Monday, July 09, 2007

The stage, the stage, the stage is ON FIRE!

You may have heard that there was an "incident" with a pyrotechnic display at a recent Beyoncé concert in St. Louis. What you probably did not see is the interview with the two people who got hurt because of it. I know I am awful, but this is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time --- if you have a few minutes, you must watch it!

The video runs a lot longer than the clip about the concert, so you can stop watching after the part about the burn victims is over. Just make sure you watch all of that for the last bit with the male fan. He is classic, and so is the female victim's yellow toenail polish!

- e

Sunday, July 08, 2007

e's Love Affair with the Frozen S'more Begins - Taste of Chicago 2007

Another Taste of Chicago has come and gone, and I have once again lived to tell the tale of my eating adventures. Nerdy P came in from Michigan to brave the Taste with me, as she has done for many years (I posted about our 2006 experience, too). As we did not want to relive my brush with heat stroke from last year, we chose to head over to Grant Park right after Nerdy P arrived (on... the MegaBus! Awwwww, yeah!) Friday afternoon, knowing that Saturday and Sunday were supposed to be in the high 90s.

You may recall that I'd already been to the Taste grounds two times this year - the first was to see Kenny Rogers on June 30 and then once again to see John Mayer on the 4th of July. But I only grabbed a slice of deep-dish spinach pizza both of those times - I hadn't yet endured the long strip of food tents down Columbus Drive, which is the true heart of the festival. But that time had come. For some reason, I had convinced myself that Nerdy P and I would each need 4 strips of food tickets (11 tickets for $7 = one strip), because a full portion of any given item at a tent will run you 7 to 8 tickets. Once our tickets were in hand, we immediately visited the deep-dish pizza stand so I could get my third helping of the spinach pie (Nerdy P got the "Taste" portion, which is appetizer size). Every year we also get "cheesy garlic bread" at a different stand - and this year was no different. But we each only got the Taste size, which was still one huge slice of the bread. Hmmm... we couldn't possibly already be feeling full already, could we? We had to push through!

As we waded through the crowds, deciding on our next stop - I noticed one of the craziest things I've seen in a while - PIZZA IN A CONE. Check this out:

I cannot figure out if I think this is genius, or evil. Evil genius, perhaps? If you can't tell from the picture, the cone is pizza dough. I regret not trying one now.

Next stop was Bobtail Soda Fountain, which had set up shop in an already-existing small building near Buckingham Fountain - away from the chaos of the food tents. I was very intrigued by their menu because they were offering Frozen S'mores, Ice Cream Cake on a Stick, and Merlot and/or Chocolate Bourbon ice cream cones. I liked ALL of that! On top of being psyched about the great selections, I was happy because there is a Bobtail shop fairly close to where I live, so I figured if I really liked something, I would be able to get it again after the T-o-C was over.

The Frozen S'more was the most intriguing pick, so that's what I ordered first. Nerdy P went along for the ride, too. While it wasn't in the 90s outside, it was still in the 80s, so we attempted to find a place to stand in the shade and eat our highly anticipated treats before they started melting. What exactly IS a Frozen S'more, you may be asking? I will tell you what it is - it is PERFECTION. It is the best thing I've had at the Taste for a decade, and I was very, very happy to have discovered it. I consider myself somewhat of a dessert connoisseur, anything having to do with chocolate being my specialty, and so I was anxious to try something new that seemed to have immense potential for future enjoyment, as well.

But I still haven't told you what the Frozen S'more is made of! It is chocolate ice cream in the center, a layer of marshmallow (only on one side), then graham crackers and then the entire thing is covered with hardened dark chocolate (and thick, too - they didn't skimp on the chocolate by any means). It's a rectangular shape - about the length of your palm and two inches thick... all on a stick. Witness the brilliant concoction for yourself:

That picture makes it look smaller than it actually is - so you just need to trust me that it was a good size and that I felt very full after finishing it off. Although the second I was done with it, I started considering whether I would get another one before leaving for the day.

Break time came next... we found a table underneath a tent and spent a while people-watching. Highlights were:
- A woman sitting next to us sifting through a plastic bag she had brought with her of what appeared to be Tums.
- Two ladies with what looked to be rice field worker hats - or really bad lampshades - on their heads.
- A large man who vaguely resembled Hulk Hogan with a SPONGE strapped to his forehead. Apparently it was some sort of makeshift sweatband, but I think it would've been easier to have just bought a normal sweatband, don't you? The more I sat there and looked at him, the more I thought that having a sponge stuck to your head wouldn't even help keep you cool, would it? Would that sponge actually absorb sweat? If someone has an idea about that, leave a comment, please. It intrigues me.

We still had three strips of tickets left, each!??!?! We had to push through - we just had to! I marched back over to the Bobtail building and got the Ice Cream Cake on a Stick. It was exactly that - so no surprises there... but it didn't hold a candle to the Frozen S'more. I couldn't even finish it, I was getting sick.

It was around 4 pm, and we decided to take leave of the Taste and walk over to Navy Pier to go on a speedboat ride while Round One of food was digesting. Nerdy P got three pierogies on the way out of the park - those were her favorite of the trip this time around.

Even though we became fairly sweaty, it actually felt really good to walk for about 40 minutes to the pier. I've gone on the Sea Dog boat ride many times - it's one of my favorite things to do in Chicago because it provides such a great view of the city, and they always play fun songs as the boat zooms up and down the shore ("Hey Ya!" and "Shook Me All Night Long" were two this time). Friday was simply a beautiful day to be out on the water.

The ride was excellent, and we were re-motivated to have one more go at the Taste. The walk back, however, made us more thirsty than hungry, so we each got frozen SoCo and Lime drinks, which were quite good. I feared they would be too sour or sweet, but they were perfect. It was a great way to end another successful visit to the Taste.

We gave our left-over tickets to my husband (who had arrived in time to see The Black Crowes play (Nerdy P and I didn't stay for that, though) and a homeless guy who seemed to be collecting them.

Fast-forward to Saturday... Nerdy P and I were out and about in the city, and I was craving a Frozen S'more once again. I decided to call the Bobtail shop by my place to ensure I could always get one at any time in the future. To my horror - THEY DO NOT SELL THEM??!??! The woman explained that the Frozen S'more was just something they made for the festival, but that they never sold them in their permanent locations, nor did they intend to.

"OK, now, you listen to me. I want you to tell the owner that he is a damn fool! The Frozen S'more is the BEST THING EVER and he NEEDS to sell them! I live right by your store and I will seriously be in there every other day buying one, if you sell them."

Uncomfortable silence. "OK, ma'am, I'll tell him."

"Don't you get it? This makes no sense! Why would you sell something at the Taste and then not offer it in your stores - that's the whole point of the Taste! To reel people in to visit your restaurant later!!!!!"

"I will tell him."

GAAAAHHHHHH! I hung up in disgust. Nerdy P just shook her head and laughed. But no one can deny that I'm right on this one - that's just bad business. I'm so mad at Bobtail over this, that I will boycott them from here on out. Is it a sign that I'm getting really old if I am considering writing a complaint letter about this?

To make myself feel better about it, I chant the following mantra: "It is better to have eaten a Frozen S'more and experienced five minutes of ecstasy than to never have eaten one at all."

- e