----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: January 2006

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.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

I Hate the HOA--A Very Long Rant

Do you live in a townhouse or a condominium? Then perhaps you can relate to my tale of woe...

Mr. Pink and I rented a lovely little condo back in August of 2004. He moved in, but I had to wait until after the wedding in October. (My father is so traditional!) Anyway, as soon as we rented the place, we got permission from the landlord to install a satellite dish so we could subscribe to the DISH Network. We knew the dishes (we need two to get all the basic cable channels...there's some weird deal here in the Bay Area) couldn't be installed on the roof, so we had them installed on the inner support of the private fence that surrounds our private patio.

All was well and good. Mr. Pink was thrilled to be able to subscribe to the NBA package so he could still follow the Lakers, even up here in Warriors/Kings territory, and I was delighted with our DVR, which I regard as an invention of genius. Then, one sunny afternoon in October of 2005, 14 months after we had our dishes installed, two random people walking in the open space behind our condo accosted my husband while he was out on the patio and told him the dishes had to be removed. I heard this and debated them, saying that there was an FCC rule that protected our right to have satellite. We also pointed out that we'd had the devices for more than a year with no complaints and that they couldn't even be seen from the street. No matter. These people said they were on the board of the homeowners association and they could see the dishes from their condo and they would have to come down. Well, Mr. Pink and I were supposed to be off to Napa for wine tasting and an evening on the Wine Train, so we let it go. Also, I failed to see the wisdom of arguing with two strangers who were peering into our backyard without so much as introducing themselves by name.

We never heard from those people on the hillside again, but I started to do research into the legality of our dishes. I found that the FCC has passed a whole rule protecting homeowners' and renters' rights to satellite service. You can read it for yourself, but essentially, it says that restrictions by homeowners associations or local governments that unreasonably delay or prevent installation, maintenance, or use of a satellite, unreasonably increase the cost of installation, maintenance or use, or prohibit reception of a quality signal are prohibited. This rule applies to condominiums, townhomes, manufactured homes and single-family homes, and it applies to both owners and renters. For renters, the dishes can be installed anywhere where a tenant has an exclusive use, which we do for our patio and fence. Great, I figured. We were in the clear.

Um, not quite. In the middle of January, I got a copy of a letter that was sent to my landlord, saying that two board members had spoken to us in October and had been assured that we would remove the dishes within a week or so (a blatant lie). It also said that the dishes had to be removed by January 31, or the HOA would start fine proceedings against the landlord. It said that the dishes could be installed on tripods but "cannot be attached to the roof, building, fence, retaining wall or other association maintained property, it must be kept in the patio out of view....and a Hold Harmless Agreement must be signed by you accepting responsibility for any damage to the property caused by the installation and use of the dish. The Hold Harmless Agreement is filed with the County of Marin and is recorded with the unit title."

This is just wrong on so many levels. First of all, reinstalling the dishes on tripods will cost at least $100, and the DISH Network has warned us that we probably won't get as good reception, so that contradicts the FCC rule by both increasing the cost of use and by precluding acceptable signal quality. Second, it will cost $50 for the landlord to file a Hold Harmless Agreement, which also unreasonably increases the cost of use. Third, the dishes are installed within an area of exclusive use, which is protected under the FCC rule. Finally, another owner has a dish installed on her chimney, and she is not being hassled. I checked with her.

Well, I wrote to the property manager, pointing out all these things to the property manager, but she says that the fence is owned by the association and is a common area, and personal property cannot be installed in the common area. Granted, the FCC does say, "The rule does not apply to common areas that are owned by a landlord, a community association, or jointly by condominium or cooperative owners hwere the attena owner does not have an exclusive use area." But I fail to see how we do not have an exclusive use area over the inside of the fence that surrounds our private patio and does not extend to any other unit. Still, the property manager was having none of it. My dad, a lawyer, sent her an email saying that we would file a petition with the FCC to let them decide the matter, and asking for the board members' names so he could serve them with notice, but she has ignored him. In fact, she wrote to the landlord saying that all communication about this matter must only come from the landlord or her agent, not from the tenants.

I am almost positive that the FCC would rule in our favor. However, our landlord wants to keep the peace and doesn't want to be fined, which is understandable. So, she is willing to pay the $50 for a Hold Harmless and the $100 for our dish reinstallation. But to me, it's the principal of the thing. Why are we being singled out, especially after we've had the dishes with no complaint for more than a year? Why is someone else allowed to have a dish on her chimney, which is clearly a common area? Why has another person been allowed to add onto her fence and create an arbor for her plants? Why has almost every other tenant attached things to their balconies or fences without harrassment from the board?

I think we are going to file our petition with the FCC. Our landlord has not objected specifically to that, and there's really no reason for her to be involved. Since the property manager won't communicate with us, maybe she won't even respond to the petition, and the FCC will automatically rule in our favor. In the meantime, I have an appointment scheduled for reinstallation on Feb. 2, but my landlord has asked me to hold off until I receive a copy of the CC&Rs from the management company. If I don't receive them in time, I may have to reschedule. Trust me, that wouldn't exactly break my heart.

Anyway, this has motivated me. If Mr. Pink and I can ever save up enough money, we will buy a single-family home, not a condo, preferably in an area with no HOA. And if any of you are considering renting or buying a place that's managed by Eugene Burger Management Corporation, I'd think again. Thanks for reading my rant. Putting it all down here has just convinced me of the strength of our arguments. So, stay tuned, and we'll see what the FCC has to say!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Once Again...It's Bizarro Craigslist!

Wow. Just...wow. Craigslist has made my day once again. I guess they must not have much to do in Turlock. Squirrelman7 forever!

A New Look

Isn't it amazing what a little makeup and the right lighting can do? I think I look totally different here than I do in the two pictures in the post below!

Yesterday, I had the chance to do a test shoot with a photographer. Normally, I am very leery of such things because the "photographers" are usually amateur men looking for women to do topless shots for them. But this woman was really nice and talented and totally legit. Check out her work. The deal was that we'd do a few commercial shots for me to see if I could get something I might like to use for a new headshot or a comp card. Then we'd go crazy and do some unusual looks. I brought along my makeup artist friend, and she transformed me! I thought the look was pretty wild, but the photographer wanted to push it even further. Unfortunately, we ran out of time.

If you want to, you can view all the photos from the shoot. Let me know if you have any favorites!

In other news, I had an audition last Friday for a Safeway industrial film (one of those cheesy training videos they make employees watch) and one on Monday for a voiceover radio spot for a car dealership. I didn't book either job, but that brings my audition total up to four for the month. That's more than I had in the past three months combined! Let's hope things are picking up for me.


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Close, But No Cigar

I didn't get the part.

This morning, I woke up early because I was so on-edge and anxious. But I tried to go about my routine, and I went to an exercise class at the gym just so I wouldn't be sitting by the phone. As each quarter-hour ticked by, though, I figured it was less and less likely that I'd get the part. After all, wouldn't good news come quickly?

Finally, at 11:30, my cell phone rang. It only rang once, but by the time I answered it, the display showed a missed call. Is there some secret trick that allows callers to go right into voicemail? Anyway, it was Tom from the agency calling. This is what he said:

"Unfortunately, they're releasing you for tomorrow for the Giants commercial. This is something that happens all the time, and it's our least favorite part of the business. They released five of the six people that they had on check avail. But they liked you enough to put you on the short list! This is just something that happens. Don't get discouraged, and we'll get you booked next time."

So essentially, after seeing probably 60 people for this commercial, the producers narrowed it down to the top six. I made it that far, but I wasn't the big winner. Still, even though I am depressed and bummed out, I have to look at this as progress. It's the closest I've come so far. And maybe Tom's right...maybe next time I will get booked. After all, I must have done something right on this audition to make it to the finalists!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

More Audition News

So, I guess I did not get the part in the Bryman College commercial, even though the producers seemed to really like me. Maybe the client was not as impressed. Who knows? The important thing is that I felt good about it. Also, that audition may have gotten the ball rolling for the new year. Today, I had an audition for a San Francisco Giants commercial. I didn't have to read any copy. Instead, all I had to do was tell a story. A story about anything I wanted. I decided to tell the story about how my husband and I met, and I said, "This is a story about serendipity." (I have a feeling that most readers of this blog already know the story, so I am not going to post it here, unless there is a huge public outcry of demand.)

Anyway, it's a good story, and I've told it a bunch of times, so I felt comfortable. I felt like I was talking really fast, and I stumbled over some words in some parts, but I thought maybe that could just be taken as a sign of great enthusiasm. Anyway, at the end, they all said, "That was a good story." But you know how people are...they'll say anything just to get you out of the room! Witness how, at my last audition, the guy told me I was "wonderful," and yet I did not book the job.

Well, this time it's a little different. My agent called, and I just got my very first "check avail"! That may not seem like much, but what it means is that the producers are very interested, so they are checking my availability for the shoot date! Basically, since there are no callbacks, it means I made the first cut. It's definitely a step in the right direction. Hmmm...maybe that box of See's candy I sent to the casting director's office for Christmas did the trick. (She sent me a very nice, personal thank-you note, so if nothing else, maybe she remembers me now.)

The commercial shoots on Friday, so I should have a final answer tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Potty Humor

As those of you who know me know, I have a bladder the size of a pea. If there is a chance to use a restroom, I will take it. My husband jokes that I should take a Polaroid of each bathroom I visit and then compile them into a coffee table book. I suppose weirder things have sold.

Anyway, yesterday I was at Mel's Diner in the city with one of my friends who was in town for the weekend. We'd finished our meal and figured out the bill, but we had to pay up front. I asked if she'd mind paying while I ran to the restroom. But there was a girl in front of me. So I dutifully waited my turn. We were waiting and waiting, but no one came out of the bathroom. The girl in front of me brought out her compact and fixed her lipstick and everything, and then I guess she got tired of waiting because she left.

I was glad to be next in line because at this point, I'd already waited about 7 minutes, which is an awfully long time for one person to be in a public restroom. I was almost to the point where I was ready to leave, because who wants to use the restroom after one person's been in there so long? It's probably all stinky. But I had to drop my friend off where she was staying and I didn't want to try and find parking to come in and use that restroom. So I'd have to drop her off and drive all the way home, so I really needed to use this restroom.

Just then, I thought I heard the toilet flush, and I figured, "Okay, it can't be much longer now." But it was! I rattled the doorknob as a polite hint that someone was waiting. Then I got tired of being polite and rapped sharply on the door. Still nothing. Finally, I caught a waitress's eye. "Do I need a key or something?" I asked. "Oh, yeah. There's a key up front."

So I got the key and opened the door very gingerly, because I still thought there was someone inside. But there was not. The restroom was totally empty, and it had two stalls! Now, here's my question: Why wasn't there a sign? You know, just a little piece of grimy paper with "Get key from front" written in marker would have done the trick. Maybe it's a game to the waitstaff. Maybe they like to watch and see how long it takes before someone gets fed up and stops waiting. I don't know. But I sure felt stupid!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Feelin' Good, Feelin' Fine

Well, January is off to a pretty good start. I've got some money coming in from freelance assignments, I'm going to the gym, and today I had a really good commercial audition. Yeah, I had that cold that made me sort of delirious, but NyQuil's always fun.

So, the audition. A week or so ago, I saw a posting on Craigslist that said "Brunette talent wanted!" They were looking specifically for brunette Caucasians, and usually the Craigslist talent section is such a scam and almost everything is porn, but this seemed legit. I emailed in my headshot and resume, and I got an almost immediate response saying, "We really like your look. When can you come in to audition?"

I drove down there today, and I was feeling really good and relaxed. I was having a good hair day (I have a new stylist who gave me a great cut a few weeks ago), my eyes were bright and I was wearing this blue jacket that I wore in an on-camera class, so I knew it was very flattering on-screen. There were just a couple of people in the office and they were all cool. It seemed like they really wanted me to do well. They gave me the sides and explained it all and gave me some time to get comfortable with the script. Here's the funny thing: the sides had the mocked-up storyboard of the commercial on them, and the girl they used to depict the announcer (the part I was auditioning for) had my exact hairstyle! That's got to be a good omen.

The head guy told me that they hadn't really found what they were looking for yet because they were looking for someone friendly and accessible, and he thought I had a great, friendly look. Then he pratically told me exactly how to deliver the lines! He timed it out once off-camera and then gave me a little more time. Then he put me on tape. I did it once, he gave me some notes, and I did it a second time. He said it was "perfect" and "wonderful," and while that may have been an exaggeration, it seemed like he really did like me.

Now the agency will send the audition tape to the client, and the client has final say. So, even though I feel like I did a really good job and was warm and accessible, the client may decide to "go in another direction." But it was good to get back into the game and get some confidence. The funny thing is, my agent called me this afternoon (for the first time in months) and wanted to send me out on the same audition! She seemed a little bummed that I'd already gone out, but hey, I've got to look out for myself and find my own opportunities.

So that was my day. A little piece of happiness.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

New Favorite

I added a new blog to my blogroll...Tequila Mockingbird. Her post about Banana Republic and its marketing, plus the side tangent about why BR no longer makes pants for girls with hips, thighs and asses, made me laugh out loud.

I don't do a lot of shopping at Banana Republic, but I am a little put out at their sister company, The Gap. Okay, as I'm sure I have mentioned before, I can never find jeans that fit properly. If they fit around the hips, they gape at the waist. If I buy jeans that come up higher on my waist, they cut into my ribcage when I sit down. Lowrise jeans gape at the waist and show off my underwear when I sit down. There's seemingly no way to win. So, I thought that maybe these new Gap "curvy" jeans would be a solution. They're a little better, but the marketing message is all wrong. Check it out on the Web site..."You'll want to try this fit if your waist is smaller than your hips." Wait, what? Isn't that the whole point of a waist? To be smaller than one's hips? Otherwise, we'd just be straight up and down. Like men, or little girls. Is that what Gap wants? Straight lines? Maybe so. Because now they have a "Straight Fit...Perfect if your waist and hips form a straight line." Where are these straight-line women? Do they exist in real life, or is this a market segment that is limited to Paris Hilton and Mischa Barton? Seriously, I'd like to know.

I have not bought any "curvy" jeans. Instead, I bought a pair of size 4 short stretch boot-cut Levi Strauss "Signature" jeans (whatever that means). They don't gape quite as much at the waist, but I think they were mislabled as "short." They drag the ground! Unless, at 5'1", I am no longer just "short." Perhaps, since the rest of America seems to be getting taller, I am now considered "miniature." I have not found any "miniature" sizes yet, although I do sometimes buy shirts in the kids' section. But anyway, I got the jeans at Ross for $10.99, and when I wear them with my boots with heels, they just barely graze the ground, so I guess I'll live with them.

Are there any other women out there who share my plight? If you are short with a small waist and "curvy" hips, let me know if you have found jeans that fit!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Progession of a Cold

It starts with a sneeze. But I sneeze a lot anyway. Who's to say these sneezes are any different? Still, I have an inkling that they are. They're more frequent, a little...jucier. And my nose kind of itches. And yet, I do not rush to the pharmacy and buy Cold-Eeze or Zicam or Airborne or Emergen-C. Instead, I figure that it's just a minor thing. How sick could I get? I got my flu shot, after all. I blithely ignore the fact that the flu shot protects against one virus strain, and there are about a zillion cold and flu bugs out there, just waiting for someone to infect.

By that evening, the symptoms are piling on: I've got sneezing, itchy nose, watery eyes, sore throat, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, low-grade fever, irritability. Well, I've got irritability a lot, especially on days like this one where I go in to copy edit for people with a very tenuous grasp on grammar. So maybe the irritability doesn't count. Regardless, I take some NyQuil, thinking that a good night's sleep will be just the thing to cure me.

The next morning, I wake up after a solid 10 hours of sleep, which seems like a lot, until you realize that I try to get nine hours on a regular basis. I'm not one of those people who can cut it on very little sleep. There's the aforementioned irritability thing, plus my tendency to immediately contract cold viruses such as the one that my immune system is now battling. Now I start with the Zicam and the Tylenol Cold capsules. "Now with instant CoolBurst sensation!" the package declares. The pills do taste faintly minty. But they don't do much to keep the cold at bay.

It's kind of hard to take a sick day when you work from home, but I give it my best shot, lounging around in bed and doing the bare minimum on an article with an impending deadline. I flip through our DVR selections, trying to find something humorous to watch. Those few episodes of Freddie offer exceedingly mild amusement. I also have a new symptom: loss of appetite. This cheers me for a moment, because I think that maybe I'll lose a couple of pounds of water weight, at least. Then I realize that my loss of appetite does not apply to chocolate, and I've got a two-pound box of See's sitting on the counter.

Midway through the day, I venture out to pick up an unrelated prescription and run a few errands. Of course, it's a beautiful sunny day. Of course, I didn't get a cold during the miserable, wet, flooding days. Upon my return, I discern that leaving the house was a bad idea. Exhaustion overtakes me, so I put on my pajamas, insert earplugs, turn off the phone, slip on eyemask and get in bed. It's 4:30 in the afternoon. I get some fitful sleep, characterized by disturbingly realistic dreams. At 6:15, Mr. Pink comes home and immediately wakes me up. On purpose. "Don't you know you're never supposed to wake someone who's sleeping?" I say (irritably). "I'm sorry, I just thought you might want to know I was home," he says. "What if we had a baby?" I ask. "Would you wake it up when you got home? You never wake up a baby! There are rules about this sort of thing!" Now I am completely unreasonable. "It seems like I already have a baby," I hear him say as he leaves the room. I let the insult pass without comment. I am too tired to argue.

I drag myself out of bed and roam aimlessly around the house. This does not take long, as we have a very small house. Mr. Pink asks what I want for dinner. "Nothing," I say. "I'm sick. I'm not hungry." He goes to the store to get the ingredients to prepare himself a favorite meal from his bachelor days, and I have a slice of bread. And some chocolate.

At 10:00, Mr. Pink orders me to take more NyQuil and go to bed. I follow his orders, but the NyQuil does not work its magic this time. I sleep until 2:30 and then wake up and never fall deeply asleep again. Instead, I have disjointed dreams about living in Los Angeles and the green bridge in Napa and my estranged aunt and soft-serve Foster's ice cream dipped in chocolate. (Again with the chocolate!) At 5:30, I take more NyQuil. Again, it fails me.

At 8:00 the next morning, I take my temperature. A hundred and one! I am definitely too sick to be out in polite company. I call my mom and tell her I can't go with her to Napa today. Then I sleep until 10:15. When I get up, I feel woozy and dizzy and weak. Still, I take a shower and blowdry my hair and put on makeup and get dressed. I don't know why I do these things, but it's a deeply ingrained habit. Even in the throes of chemotherapy and radiation, I would get up and dress and apply makeup each day. I didn't have to worry about my hair, because I didn't have any. I wonder if this makes me slightly obsessive-compulsive, or if it's my way of not giving into the disease. Vow to ponder more deeply later.

At this stage, delirium has set in. I am dressed and made up, for absolutely no reason. Then I have a coughing fit and choke on some phlegm. Wonder if it is possible to die this way? How terrible. I envision the headlines in our local paper: "Local woman chokes on own phlegm and dies alone in apartment. Hair and makeup look nice, though." There would probably be some typos, also, because the paper is really a very bad one.

I sit at the computer and try to write my article, but clear reasoning evades me. Instead, I go out to purchase more cold medicine. The CoolBurst! capsules are going fast. At Target, I have to get the Tylenol Severe Cold (with CoolBurst!) from the pharmacist behind the counter. It's a new rule so that the meth addicts can't get to them and buy dozens of packages and cook it up with lye and battery acid and lawn fertilizer to make more meth. Seriously, do they know what's in that stuff? Disgusting.

Anyway, back at home, I take another stab at the article. I feel lonely and neglected because no one has called to check on me all day. Then, within 15 minutes, both mom and Mr. Pink call. Decide I am loved. Article does not get any better, though. Finally give up. Decide to put feverish ramblings online in blog instead. Get the chills. Decide a hot bath is in order. Mr. Pink is home now, so chances of falling asleep in the bathtub and slipping into a watery grave and/or burning house down with scented "relaxing" candles seems remote. The end.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

"Extra" Disappointment

Remember way back a year ago when I did a long, cold grueling day's extra work for Memoirs of a Geisha? If you'd like to relive the agony, read about it here. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wonder if I'm insane, particularly since I then did extra work again on a Will Smith movie.

Well, anyway, extras usually just blend into the crowd and no one ever gets recognized. But Memoirs was a big-buget production and I was excited to see how my scene turned out, at least. So, I went to see the movie with my family and we were all sort of looking forward to the end, not only because it's a really long movie but because that's when my scene was supposed to be. So the movie is going on and on (the book is way better, in my opinion), and then it gets to the climactic point with Sayuri and the Chairman and then the screen goes white and the movie is over! They had a little rendezvous and that was it! There was no scene in New York circa 1948, or whenever it was supposed to be! I, and all those other extras, got dressed up in our period costumes and our uncomfortable shoes all for nothing! Most disappointing. I can't even get screen time as an extra.

So, for anyone thinking of doing extra work here's some wisdom I have gleaned:
  1. Extra work can be fun once or twice, particularly if you get to be on your favorite TV show or in a big movie. If nothing else, you'll learn your way around the set.
  2. Be prepared for obscenely early mornings and very long days. You'll earn that minimum wage they're paying you.
  3. You'll be sitting around for long periods of time, so bring a book. Or, if you want to be social, bring a deck of cards.
  4. Once in a while, an extra is plucked from a crowd scene to do a bit and have more of a chance of being recognized. This happens very rarely, though, so don't count on it.
  5. Extra work is not really considered "paying your dues." Since you are unlikely to be recognized, you can't put it on a demo reel. To pay your dues, you're better off working for free in student films or no-budget productions and demanding a finished copy for your reel.
  6. If you do extra work too often, you run the risk of being branded "just an extra," at least according to my agent.
  7. Do not put extra work on your acting resume. Just about anyone can be an extra, so it's nothing special.

Okay, that's it for the advice. I'm still on the lookout for legitimate acting opportunities. In fact, I have an audition for a low-budget commercial on Wednesday. But this is my solemn vow: No more extra work!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Not Quite Champions

Who would have predicted that UCLA would win its bowl game while USC would lose? Granted, the Bruins weren't playing for the national title, but they finished a respectable 10-2, despite a sound beating during the regular season by the Trojans.

The Trojans, meanwhile, were golden boys all year long, only to have it come down to this...in the last couple of minutes, their defense just couldn't stop the Longhorns. Generally, I always root against USC, no matter what, but in this case, I just felt kind of sad for them. Too bad, Trojans!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

Our plans to ring in 2006 were somewhat dampened by the torrential rain we're having here in Northern California. Mr. Pink and I are lucky. We have not been affected by any flooding or other catastrophes. But some places very close to us are under several feet of water.

We went to spend New Year's with my brother, Esquire, in Napa. He lives on our newly planted vineyard property, and a creek runs through it. The creek has spilled over its banks in some parts, and he got his 4Runner stuck out there in the mud when he went out to assess the damage. Actually, we were barely able to get through to his house yesterday because the CHP had the roads blocked off. But we made it. And even though the New Year's party we were supposed to be going to got cancelled, we still had a festive evening. We were supposed to be partying at Steltzner Vineyards in their wine cave, but it had two feet of water in it, and the roads to get there were all swamped anyway. So instead, we drank a bunch of wine and champagne, watched some cheesy nostalgia on VH1 and set off fireworks at midnight.

So now it's resolution time. My resolutions relate more to my professional life this year. Essentially, I want to get more freelance clients and get more work from my existing clients. I have a general plan in place, and I just got some business cards printed up, so that's a step in the right direction. And I have one project that I am working on now that I hope will lead to more work in the future. Of course, I still hope that something is going to break for me on the acting front, but despite my best efforts, that seems sort of unlikely. Maybe I should concentrate on the idea for my novel, instead. What about you, dear readers? Any interesting resolutions for the upcoming year? It's a clean slate!

Here's hoping for a happy, healthy and profitable 2006 for everyone.