Thursday, January 31, 2008

Unexpected Uses for "Creative" Writing

Hey, it's me. No, really. I've been here. It's just that I've been in non-blogging mode for a few days. I haven't even logged onto Facebook for a bit--one of my newer sources of procrastination and enjoyable non-productivity. I did blog on Finding Wonderland a few times this week, including a new Toon Thursday today (in case you haven't checked it out, I do a somewhat weekly writing-related cartoon on the writing blog. click here to see the archives.).

Today I found an unexpected new use for my writing skills--a friend of ours, the contractor who helped us build our addition, needed assistance writing a letter to his insurance company disputing how they handled a claim for the leakage of his roof. Since he and his wife are both second-language English speakers, he asked Rob and I for help in writing the letter. This turned out to be a two-hour job, during which we had to quiz him about what happened when, what various inspectors said, etc. etc.

I have to admit, though--in a way it was kind of fun to write blatantly manipulative sentences like "I was further alarmed by the failure of the inspectors to adequately identify themselves as agents of the insurance company." It took way too much mental effort, but at least all those years of writing business letters as a temp finally came in handy. Hopefully our friend gets his claim settled.

Speaking of creative writing, though, insurance policies just baffle me. I remember trying to look up something in our own homeowner's insurance policy when we had a plumbing issue, and I remember thinking, "Dude, they don't cover shit!" And today, when I looked at our friend's policy (from a different company), I thought, "Dude, they don't cover shit!" It was virtually the same--a veritable morass of exclusions. It amazes me that anything is ever covered. The only reason our plumbing issue was covered was that the plumber was a cool dude and said he'd give an appropriate reason that would necessitate coverage. I would normally not think that our friend has a chance, but maybe "I believe that the inspectors made a decision about the viability of our claim before adequately assessing the damage" will help.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

From the Inland Empire to the O.C....

Jeez, seems like I never have time to blog anymore. We just got back a few hours ago from a visit to the many branches of my family tree in Southern Cal. It was actually a surprisingly good visit. We went to see an incredible, awesome movie--Juno, which I highly recommend--with my mom and stepdad, and had an amazingly chill visit with my dad, stepmom, and stepsister on Sunday, and a good visit with my aunt and uncle earlier today on our way out. We also got to visit my younger cousin in her new digs--she moved out of her parents' house a few months ago and is very excited to be in her own place (well, with a roommate). She called looking for my advice not too long ago because her dad (my uncle) didn't seem to be dealing well with her moving out; but I know he'll come around, and she's good with the parental visits--she comes over at least once a week. They only live about half an hour away.

It's hard for them, though--my uncle is a little traditional in some ways, and my cousin is a hairstylist and Starbucks barista with numerous tattoos. Not exactly what he was envisioning, I'm sure. Her younger sister is graduating with her BA this upcoming May, which makes him a little happier, but I know he's not looking forward to the empty nest. Poor Uncle.

I can't believe I had such a positive visit with my dad. Usually I'm super stressed when we go over there, and if he's in a bad mood...well, both my parents are the type of people who can affect an entire room or situation with their mood. If they're happy, everyone's relaxed or at least non-stressed. If they're not happy, then everyone feels like they're walking on eggshells. This time, my dad was in a really good mood, and showed us pictures from his latest vacation to Dubai and India (Kerala, Delhi, and Bombay), including numerous cousins and second cousins and so forth whom I've never met but are apparently incredibly successful lawyers or something.

My dad finally sold his stupid Quizno's franchise, which was a retarded idea to begin with, in my opinion, especially during his retirement, for God's sake. Now he's back to just consulting (he used to be an electronics engineer/systems analyst) and semi-retirement. So I think that's probably made him much happier, and as a result, our visit was far less awkward than usual. AND, he actually spent a fair amount of time asking me about my writing projects and apparently also listening to the answers, which is amazing. I was floored by that part. Usually he asks questions but then interrupts me when I'm halfway through the answer. So I guess he's calming down a little.

Anyhoo, I seriously need to get back to blogging regularly, and I still owe y'all pictures of the addition, with the press moved into the studio and everything. I swear, it'll be soon...

Monday, January 07, 2008

Guilty of Neglect!

I know I am shockingly delinquent in putting up the latest pictures of our house addition--there's furniture in the studio, a working bathroom, and everything. The only things left are some tile trim, furniture in the new bedroom (not a top priority at the moment), and the room that was the studio which will soon be my office. That one's still dirty and floor-less.

It's been busy, though--too busy, apparently, to perform the seemingly simple task of connecting my camera to the computer and uploading the pictures which were taken over a week ago. We had friends come into town from Hawaii--longtime friends of Rob's who we don't see so often since they moved to a tropical island. So, during the week and a half that they were in town, we had kind of cleared our schedule (except for household construction) so that we could hang out with them, although unfortunately they ended up having many more family obligations than they'd originally expected. Oh, well.

We did have a great time on New Year's Eve--Rob and I went to a Mars Volta concert in San Francisco, and took Bart so we didn't have to worry about driving except to and from Dublin/Pleasanton. After we arrived, the opening band came on, which turned out to be complete shite, the crappiest crap that ever was crapped, but then the second opener was a total surprise and unexpectedly awesome. I had heard of the DJ Peanut Butter Wolf before, but knew nothing about him. He performed an awesome and REALLY eclectic set, complete with visuals--mainly video clips from the songs he played. This is but a short selection of some of the music he played:

  • Straight Outta Compton - N.W.A.
  • These Boots Are Made for Walkin' - Nancy Sinatra
  • Peek-A-Boo - Siouxsie and the Banshees
  • Pass the Dutchie - Musical Youth
  • The 1980s "Pepsi Generation" commercial with the little kid who's dancing around like Michael Jackson, and then Michael Jackson shows up
  • A Message to You Rudy - The Specials
  • Black Mountain Rag (?) - The Byrds
  • Trans Europe Express - Kraftwerk
  • You Dropped a Bomb on Me - The Gap Band

Shiva H. Vishnu, to quote Apu. Usually one of my problems with DJs--at least, the kind who spin records for dancing (as opposed to the sound-artist type, which PBW definitely is)--is they aren't eclectic enough to reflect a range of music (and I do enjoy a wide range). Peanut Butter Wolf did not have this problem. Not at all. Plus he associates with DJs I do like--Q-Bert and Cut Chemist.

Of course, The Mars Volta were awesome, and we arrived early enough (before the Craptacular Shite Extravaganza) to see them do a special half-hour acoustic set. Oh, and we drank a lot of beer. That was nice, too.