----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: December 2005

The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire

Meet Astera (aka: me), a star in her own mind. Our plucky little heroine has embarked on not one but two difficult, low-paying career paths: writing and acting. Witness the menial jobs! The unreasonable demands! The quirky friends and family! And the glimmer of success just ahead! Through it all, Astera maintains her core beliefs: 1) She is destined to be fabulous 2) Everything is more fun with a cocktail.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Just a Quick Note...

...to let you all know I survived my Christmas in Minnesota with the Blacklabels. I was worried, but I did not catch hypothermia and freeze to death. In fact, I got really lucky with the weather. It was 45 and sunny on Friday, and then it turned gray, but the temperature never dipped below 30 during the day. And at night, my mother-in-law was so worried about me being cold that she kept the heat on the blast-furnace setting. One night, I woke up from a dream that I was being boiled alive by cannibals, that's how hot it was. I definitely didn't need my flannel PJs.

Anyway, it was a lovely time with lots of delicious food and drinks. I tried two new tasty beverages, and they were both pink! One was a "Scarlett O'Hara," which is Southern Comfort mixed with cranberry juice. The other was a pomegranate martini, with pomegranate juice, vodka, a touch of sparkling water, and fresh pomegranate seeds for garnish. (An aside: those who know me know that I have loved pomegranates for years...since middle school, at least. All of a sudden, they're the hot new thing in the public consciousness. Odd.) We also ate so much! We had shredded pork tacos, chicken tortilla soup, a fondue night with meats cooked in oil with lots of dipping sauces, plus chocolate fondue for dessert, German pancakes and beef tenderloin and mashed potatoes. Not all at the same time, of course. Both Mr. Pink and I probably gained a few pounds on that trip, though.

Now it's back to work. I am writing some copy for a top online retailer. It's a pretty cool project, and it will look great in my portfolio. I'm looking forward to the new year. I think it's going to bring all sorts of good things!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve: What Not to Say

Okay, pretty much the last place you want to be on Christmas Eve is inside a Target store. But you do overhear the most interesting things:

Woman on cell phone: "Well, I have some news about your son." [Pause]
"He's in jail."

Well, I hope your Christmas Eve brings only good news. And don't drink and drive!

Friday, December 23, 2005

That Christmas Spirit

As you may know, Mr. Pink isn't the biggest fan of Christmas. His opposition to "the most wonderful time of the year" is a bit murky, but I think it has something to do with the dark years of his childhood when he had to live with his dastardly biological father and his wicked stepmother. Apparently, his half-sisters were fawned over and showered with gifts, while he was treated as an outsider. Anyway, now he finds it hard to feel festive. But I think I'm starting to change all that.

I couldn't get him to compromise on the tree this year. I wanted to go to an actual tree farm where you drink hot cider and feed the chickens and get free candy canes and roam the grounds with a large knife on a stick to cut down your own tree. But just like last year, we ended up in the Target Garden Center. This was the extent of our tree selection:

Mr. Pink: "We're not getting a big tree. How about this one?" [We were in the cheapest section: 5-to-6 foot Douglas fir.]
Me: "Maybe. But we can't just buy the first tree we see. We have to look around more!"
MP: "Well, there aren't that many options."
Me: "Can't I at least look in the 6-to-7 foot section?"
MP: "No."
Me: "Well, how about this one?"
MP: "No."
Me: "This one?"
MP: "No."
Me: "This one?"
MP: "No. The first one we looked at is the best one."
Me [grudgingly]: "Okay."
MP: "Good. Now let's get out of here."

The whole process, including getting the tree wrapped and tied to our car, took maybe 20 minutes. But in all fairness, our tree is quite nice, if a little short. But hey, we live in a small place.

Okay, so once again, I did not get the tree selecting experience I had hoped for. (See last year's post about Christmas trees.) But this year, my husband was much more willing to help me decorate the tree. We put on Christmas carols and threw a crackly log on the fire and decorated it all up. And Mr. Pink actually seemed excited about the process. One day, I said that I thought maybe I'd add some ornaments to the tree, and he said he didn't want me to do it without him!

The most telling sign of Mr. Pink's increasing holiday spirit, though, was the cookie experience. I decided that the impending holiday called for some homemade sugar cookies. I made the dough, but Mr. Pink actually volunteered to cut out shapes and decorate the cookies with me! Again, we listened to some Christmas carols, and he took pride in wielding the rolling pin and getting the dough to just the right thickness. We chose three cookie cutters (star, Christmas tree, snowman) and placed them carefully on the dough to maximize our cookie outcome. Then, I made icing from powdered sugar, vanilla and milk, and Mr. Pink, who normally hates sweet things, kept sticking his finger in the bowl and licking the icing off! We frosted the cookies and got a little crazy with the sprinkles: red sugar, green sugar, red and green balls and red and green sprinkles with white snowflakes. Delicious! Then we promptly ate them all.

We celebrated Christmas with my family a little early, and Mr. Pink actually seemed to enjoy all the gift-giving and the trimmings of the season. The only thing that brought out his inner Grinch was his company holiday party, but I can't blame him for that. It was at a Doubletree Inn, the food was lousy, and he got a $5 Starbucks gift card as his annual bonus.

Now, we're in Minnesota, spending Christmas with Mr. Pink's good family--his mom and stepdad, aka the Blacklabels. So, I think he's finally got the Christmas spirit--peace, joy, and family togetherness.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone!

Friday, December 16, 2005

The O.C.

Okay, so I know it's only a TV show, and an unrealistic one at that. But come on. Why are Summer and Marissa still sleeping in the same room, in the same bed? I guess it makes those late-night chat fests a little easier to film, but that place is huge. Are you telling me that there's no guest room that Marissa could stay in? Yeah, yeah, she was having nighmares about the whole Trey thing, but that seems to be forgotten now that she has Johnny to confide in.

At least now we know that Summer is not completely parent-less. Her workaholic father made a rare appearance last night. He knows that Marissa has been staying there, but he doesn't seem to think it's odd that she's sharing Summer's room. What is with these people?

Also, I know that this would ruin the dramatic conflict and force Johnny to give up his "poor me, I'm a poor kid" moping, but what happened to the driver who hit him in the parking lot? Don't these people know that when you're a pedestrian who gets hit by a car, it's your God-given right as an American to sue that driver for as much as you can possibly get? At the very least, that car insurance company should be on the hook for Johnny's surgery, not his poor night-shift working mother.

Again, yes, I do know it's only a TV show. I'm just saying...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Last night, I dreamed that my husband and I had a baby girl. She was the most perfect, beautiful, angelic child, and she slept through the night right away. (Come on, go with me...it was a dream!)

So, is this how it starts? Is this how the biological clock sneaks up on you and starts ticking? I've been thinking a lot about babies lately, but mostly about how unprepared I feel to have one. Such a huge life change! How can you ever possibly be ready? I've even been wondering if I am fit to be a parent. But then I see my friends having babies and I see all the cute fat little ones dressed up in holiday clothes and I get all mushy inside.

I will be 30 next year, so maybe those maternal hormones are kicking in. But I'm sure we'll still be waiting awhile. We've only been married a year, and we still have so much to do as a couple before we introduce a new, small, extremely demanding person into the mix. It was a happy dream, though...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Guaranteed Income! $2,000 Per Month!

I am so sick of these ads on Craigslist that I just had to write about it here. Does the poster think that writers are stupid and can't do math? Here's an ad that I see pretty frequently on the San Francisco Craigslist:

Easy money for simple article writing. Need extra cash every month? I need your help! I am an internet marketer with many web sites of all themes and have a need for original, exclusive simple, fluffy 400 word single spaced plain text mini articles. I will pay $1,000 cash for 200 mini articles each and every month. If you can deliver 400 mini articles I will pay $2,000. I can write these fluffy articles in 5 to 10 minutes. You can too. Opinion pieces ok, minimal web research needed, no references to be cited, or bibliography needed - these are fun and easy to write, not academic pieces. Simple is good enough, as long as content is not copied from other sources and I'm the only one that gets the article. Writer will NOT be credited but you get guaranteed monthly income so who cares, right?. I’ll give you a list of keywords and subjects each month for which articles will be written about. The keywords must be used several times naturally in the articles. Many different subjects - it will be fun and interesting. Please let me know if this interests you. Send me an email so I can discuss it with you. Look forward to your email!

OK, so each article is supposed to be 400 words. And if you can write 400 of them in a month, you'll get $2,000. But 400 articles at 400 words apiece is 160,000 words. That works out to $0.0125 per word! A penny a word? Come on, people! Plus, a single-spaced article of 400 words is about three-quarters of a page in Word. That's quite a bit. Even if you can type, say, 50 words a minute, it will take you 8 minutes just to type the article, so I don't see how it would be possible to compose and type the whole thing in 5 to 10 minutes, as the poster claims.

Clearly, this is some sort of scam. I am sure that most writers will not be taken in by such a scheme, but I worry about those who are just starting out, who are desperate for any writing job. And I'm also angry that some people seem to place so little value on writing. Good writers have a talent, and they should be paid fairly for it. A penny a word is not fair compensation. Writing for free for "exposure," as many other ads ask writers to do, is not fair compensation, either. Sure, beginning writers have to build clips somehow, and they may need to write a few articles for free to do that, but over and over again, I see Web sites and other operations looking for experienced writers to provide content in exchange for "publicity."

Writers, unite! Writing is a talent and a skill. Don't sell yourselves cheaply.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Gifts for Guys

I am thinking back to the dating days of my life, and I remember how hard it was to buy just the right present for my boyfriend. It couldn't be anything too serious or personal...that would show that I was taking the relationship too seriously. But it couldn't be some silly joke present, either, because what if he got me something really nice? Then I would feel stupid. It was such a difficult balance to find something that said, "Hey, I really like you and think you're great, but it's not like I think we're going to get married or anything. Don't freak out. Whatever!"

I thought that once I got married, all those gift-giving concerns would simply melt away. How wrong I was. It turns out that my husband is harder to shop for than any boyfriend ever was!

Why is Mr. Pink so difficult, you ask? Well, for starters, we have totally different tastes. I like to dress up and be girly. For him, getting dressed up means putting on a button-down shirt with his jeans instead of a t-shirt. And he doesn't wear "fashion" jeans, either. Just regular, everyday jeans. Seriously, the boy has an allergy to nice slacks. So, you can imagine what a disaster it is if I try to buy him clothes. I think it's a nice sweater, he thinks it's something his grandpa might wear. And forget accesories. The man has three watches...a Citizen titanium one (which I bought him, after he picked it out), a Tag and a Rolex. That seems like plenty right there. And since I can't afford the $25,000 rose gold Jorg Hysek that he covets, what's the point, really?

All his hobbies are way too cool and esoteric for me, so it's difficult to shop for anything like that, too. For instance, he's into photography. But would he like a nice digital camera? Oh, no. It's got to be some vintage box camera or something like that. And he's got to have the special medium-format film to go with it. Seriously, he is bidding on some camera called a "Diana" on eBay right now. I've never even heard of such a thing! And don't even think about music. He downloads everything he wants from iTunes as soon as it becomes available. His iPod (the big one) is nearly full. Besides, I know very little about the music he likes. And it's not that I'm unwilling to learn. But when he knows so much about People Under the Stairs and daKAH and the like, what could I really add?

Forget trying to buy him anything to do with his profession. He's a designer, so anything that piques his interest, he buys right away in the name of "research." Funky design books? He's got them. Pattern making books? Yep, got those, too. Books about fonts? He actually has one called Helvetica: Homage to a Typeface. How hardcore can you get?

So apparently, I am a failure as a gift-giving wife. I usually just ask him what he wants and buy him something off his list, so it's never a surprise. For instance, he knows exactly what he's getting this year. It's not something I agree with, but it's something he really, really wants, so at least I know he'll be happy. (Motorcycle riding classes, so he can get his license, if you must know. He really wants a motorcyle, or a "donorcycle," as I like to call it. But he says I can take out a big life insurance policy on him. So comforting.) I won't be able to see his eyes light up with surprise on Christmas morning, but at least I'll know that he won't try to return my gift. And I guess that's something, after all.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Worth Checking Out

There is a blog out there that is all about the real estate bubble in my home county...The Marin Real Estate Bubble.

I am taking real estate classes and I have had an opportunity to speak with several real estate agents, and this whole bubble idea is pretty crazy. On the one hand, I hope there is a bubble that bursts soon. That's the only way I'll be able to afford a home in this area. On the other hand, I hope prices don't get driven down too far, because my parents plan to sell their home in a year or so, and I hope to be the agent on that sale, thus earning a hefty commission.

Honestly, I do think that prices are out of control here, particularly in the "entry-level" segment. There is a condo for sale in the development where we rent. It is a two-bedroom, one-bath with a one-car detached garage, exactly the same floor plan as the one we rent. It is listed for $489,000, and it will probably sell for close to $500,000. That's half a million dollars for a condo that's probably less than 1,000 square feet. Most people who live in this development have converted their garages to living space or storage space because the units are just too small! I think it's outrageous. Homeowner's fees are something like $285 a month. That makes our rent look mighty sweet in comparison to what a mortgage payment would be. No, we're not building any equity, but I don't think these places are going to hold their value for more than another year or two, so it's no great loss.

People across the country (well, except for those in NYC) are probably laughing at us Californians. "Fixer-uppers" in my neighborhood, ones that are more than 50 years old and need serious work, are selling for more than $600,000. Crazy, I say. And those people who have negative-amortization loans (the last resort for people whose adjustable-rate mortgages have adjusted upward to more than they can afford) are probably going to end up owing more than their houses are worth in a few years. I am already reading stories about people with adjustable-rate mortgages who have seen their monthly payments balloon 60 percent or more.

But a lot of people say there is no bubble. Well, I don't think prices can keep going up forever. It's just a law of physics. You know: gravity. However, I'm hoping for a "soft landing." If not, the economy will just be worse off than it is now. And I don't think any of us want that.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

On Checkwriting

Have you ever noticed that it tends to be women of a certain age who write checks in stores? Men rarely write checks while standing in line, most likely because where would they keep the checkbook? But with the advent of the easy-to-use ATM debit cards, especially those with Visa or Mastercard logos that are accepted virtually everywhere, I don't understand why some people are still tied to the checkbook.

Take today, for instance. I was standing in line at Longs Drugs, and there were too many customers and not enough checkers. The woman in front of me was buying about 10 items. It was not until the last item was rung up that she began to make out her check. I mean, come on! Couldn't she at least have filled in the name of the store and the date while she was waiting? And of course, she didn't have duplicate checks, so we all had to wait while she filled in the amount in her checkbook ledger and did the math. Then, she seemed surprised when the clerk asked her for her driver's license, so she had to haul out her wallet and rifle through it to produce ID. It took several minutes, whereas she could have just swiped her ATM card, entered her secret code, and finished in a matter of seconds.

Yes, I know that I have a serious lack of patience. But you'd think other people might be a little bit more considerate of that!

Friday, December 02, 2005

A Discovery

Did you know that if you are drinking champagne out of a flute, you can drink lying down without it spilling all over you? Amazing! Whenever I try to drink anything else lying down, I just make a mess. Ah, the benefits of champagne (and proper stemware).