Archive for August, 2012

Death Expo

August 31st, 2012

There are several national funeral conventions and a few international ones, as well. They go by different names. I call 'em all Death Expo.

Claus has been regularly attending them as part of his professional commitment. He goes for all the reasons people go to conventions: to learn about new products and trends, and network with colleagues. Overachieving undertaker.

He just went to one in Canada. I was a single, working mom for a week - difficult, but that's a whole different story, one in which I emerged with a mild cold.

As I was taking him to the airport, I asked, "So, what do you do after the convention day is over? Do a bunch of you go dancing or something?"

He looked at me like I was nuts. "Um, no. I go back to my hotel and have dinner with Sal (a mainland colleague/friend) or alone," he said. "It's actually not a barrel of laughs there."

He's said similar before, but I thought I'd still ask. One never knows if things have changed.

I guess they have not since the one convention I attended. It was Paris, 2009. Even the City of Lights didn't put the fun in "funeral convention." It was a little surreal walking around a huge convention center surrounded by rows and rows of caskets and urns. That was a new one for me.

From that one, I actually brought back promo items for kicks. We still have European death tschotskes (pens, keychains, notepads, leveler - why leveler? Tombstone needs to lie flat!) scattered around the house. I have a canvas grocery bag that says COFFINS on it. I try to be mindful of where I bust that thing out.

I've been to some journalism conventions. Those were like a reality show, with dressed-to-impress talent shopping their tape to agents and news directors, and keynote speakers you'd recognize from network TV. I met Ann Curry at a national Asian American Journalists Association meeting once. The attendees would make friends randomly and all go out for food and drinks after.

Two of my friends are drug reps. Holy cow, those meetings sound like a blast. There's disco lights, loud music, and even scantily clad dancers on a pole as the entertainment.

Paul Drewes gets pressed into service to attend some of his wife's makeup conventions. I am keenly aware of what goes on there, because I'm usually the recipient of a text message warning that he's about to poke forks in his eyes to alleviate the boredom. Still, afterwards he said there's a really fun group party as a send off, if you're into makeup.

Claus thought about his previous Death Cons. "Well, there was this one time when someone hired a model to dress up as Elvira, stand by the casket, and hand out little skull lollipops. She would hand it to the men asking, 'Want a little head?' That was quite popular," he recalled.

Wow! Now that sounds like a page out of the playbook from the Adult Entertainment Expo!

Animal in weird situations

August 29th, 2012

When you have a five year old, the weirdest questions come up. Olivia still needs night diapers (to my chagrin, because it is so smelly). The other night when I told her to pull on her diapers and get ready for bed, we somehow got on to the topic of who else in the world wears diapers. Next thing you know, she was asking me to look up dog diapers on my computer.

Claus - oh, so sheltered - said, "Dogs don't wear diapers." I think I've mentioned he did not grow up with pets.

"Of course they do," I said. "So do cats. For their periods." I then pulled it up online for everyone's amusement.

As if the sight of cats and dogs in Pampers wasn't funny enough, we decided to see what other animals use diapers. Turns out, you can put a rabbit and a bird in one, too!

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

I have never seen that before. It makes sense, but it sure is funny to look at.

It brings to mind my old work buddy Darren Pai, who, when the topic of dog outfits came up, would shake his head and say in his infinitely comical dry way, "That poor animal."

The next night, the topic of animals on treadmills came up. Our neighbor, Vicky, has one. Naturally, when carried to the n-th degree of weirdness, it led to us looking at dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, and shrimp on treadmills. That last part, I'm still in disbelief about.

I have about 200 shrimp in a tank. Olivia suggested we put all of them in diapers and on a treadmill. Those poor animals!

I can't wait for tonight's dose of odd!

The language of iPhone

August 24th, 2012

I'm trying to learn another language: iPhone voice command-speak. I have an iPhone, and on it are 1,511 contacts, most from work. (Gosh, that number just SOUNDS crazy.)

Most of what I know about iPhone comes not from a tutorial, or any significant research, but rather, just trial and error in and around my scattered attention span. (I don't have ADHD, but I just have too many things asking for my attention.) Somewhere along the way, I figured out what Voice Command is and how to use it.

It drives me nuts when I ask it to call someone, and it calls another name. I also don't like when it gets the name right, but in the confirmation playback, pronounces the ethnic name in a totally middle-American fashion. Example: the name 'Trancher.' The iPhone Americanizes this French name into 'tran-sher,' when it really should be tron-SHAY.

For the longest time, when I went to dial an ethnic name, I'd think about how someone from Kansas would say it, and then I'd try to pronounce it like that.

I finally spent a little time trying to figure out how to train the iPhone to customize voice recognition. According to, "It can get hung up on hard-to-pronounce names—let’s use Samir Nagheenanajar as an example. To help Voice Control recognize his last name, all you need to do is open the Contacts app, tap on Samir’s name, and tap Edit. Down at the bottom of the page, you’ll see an option to add a field. Tap on this, select Phonetic Last Name, and type in something along the lines of 'Na-ghee-na-na-jar', then tap the done button. For contacts with a difficult first name, you’d use the same steps, but select Phonetic First Name instead."

I tried it, and it worked. But I can't go through 1,500 contacts to customize their names phonetically. So I'm still trying to preemptively think of how the phone would pronounce it before I ask for it to be dialed. Who's training whom?

There are some names that the Voice Command just can't understand, and I'm actually curious to know how to make it speak so I can hear it. That, I don't know how.

Imagine; I'm going through these issues and I have a general American accent borne of a youth spent partially in Connecticut. How does the Voice Command (and Siri, for that matter) respond to those with heavy ethnic accents? Any experiences?

Runaway worms

August 22nd, 2012

Here's something I never thought I'd say: my worms ran away from home.

Here is the full saga of the red wriggler composting worms I bought off Craigslist: first, the dog tried to eat them. I picked them up with Inca, and the man gave them to me in a sealed re-used sour cream container. I put them in the trunk with the dog.


In the very short ride home, the dog stepped on the container to open it and started to eat them. When I opened the trunk, I was aghast to see the "black gold" and some worms wriggling around the back.

"Inca!" I yelled. "That is not good! That is the opposite of good! Get out!" I'm pretty sure she understood every word I said and felt bad about it. {burp}


I salvaged the rest of the worms and put them in a homemade pen. I have been feeding them and eagerly awaiting the vermicastings.

I have a small yard and it isn't ideal for gardening, try as I might. I had the worms in a couple locations as I tried out different areas. The first location was too wet. The second was too hot. It got a couple hours of direct sunlight every day and I think the worms tried to escape the heat.

One day I came out and found five worms had committed suicide on the concrete pavers. I have a teensy little front lawn that's about 5' x 7' and I put in cinder blocks with the grass growing in between.

The worms were on the blocks and hadn't figured out where the grass margins were, probably because it was high noon and they were freaked out to be in broad daylight. They just dried up and died there. Sad.

I then moved the dwindling population of worms to yet another spot, which I believe to be both dry and cool. I think this'll work. I hope so for their sake. They have had a very hard life since coming to live with me.

If you know anything about composting worms, I'd like to hear your take on the worm escapees!

Lost & Found, Part 2

August 20th, 2012

Continuing the theme of my scatterbrainedness,  I lost a file at work recently. It wasn't costly or confidential, but it did represent some hours of research that I did not feel like recreating.

I looked around my desk a few times over several weeks. I looked at home. I couldn't find it.

I was complaining to a friend, Brent, about these forgetful episodes. Again, I'm usually very good about certain things, and keeping track of my things is one of them.

His superpower is to hypnotize people, so he offered to do that for me to retrace my steps and find the file. Sure, I said. Let's try.

If you've never done hypnosis, here is how it goes. You sit or lie down comfortably while he speaks to you in a calming voice. First he asks you to imagine a comfortable scene, and then he counts you down from ten to one. You get sleepier as you count down. It feels like the wave of relaxation that sweeps over your body just before you fall asleep.

Then he asked me to think about the day, in detail, of when I took possession of the file - before, during, and after. I wasn't to think too hard about the answer, but just say what came to me. Sometimes I couldn't remember the answer, and we just moved on. It felt like looking at a hazy dream.

At the end of the half hour, I still hadn't recalled where I put the file. He still said I did a good job with some very detailed recall from a date two weeks ago, and that my brain would continue to sift through the subconscious data and maybe come up with the answer later. He likened it to how you might not remember someone's name right away, but it'll come to you later out of the blue.

We parted ways and I went back to work. Not five minutes later, I decided to check a certain place on my desk that I hadn't thought to look before. There it was! Brent is amazing!

I went into the session with faith and optimism that it would work. I came out a little bummed that I hadn't recalled the location of the lost folder, but believed him when he said I would continue subconsciously thinking about it. I just didn't think it would come to me so quickly!

What's your experience with hypnosis?

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