----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: July 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.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Baby Boomlet

Many of my friends are now parents, pregnant, or considering pregnancy. One friend has a 3-year-old. Another has a 3-month-old. Two more are pregnant. A college friend emailed me to tell me his wife is pregnant. Two other friends may be prenant within a few months. Even my Pilates teacher is pregnant! It's like fecundity has just erupted all around me.

I, on the other hand, am definitively not pregnant. I don't even have any baby urges yet. I think kids are cute and I like being around them (usually), and I am fascinated by the details of pregnancy. But I just don't want any children of my own right now. I know that there's never a "perfect" time to have children and I know you don't need to own a home or have a pile of money saved up before you're ready to have a child. (I think that the pile of money would probably come in pretty handy, though.) Eventually, you just have to jump in, but for some reason, I'm not ready to take that jump.

My mom says that having kids was the best thing she ever did, and she and my dad were, and are, great parents. But back then, she says, you never even thought about whether or not you would have kids. It was just expected. You got married, and then you started a family. Now, we have all these choices. Have kids. Have kids when you're young. Have kids late in life. Have kids when you're married. Have kids when you're single. Have kids with your husband. Have kids with donor sperm. Have kids with your lesbian or gay partner. But no matter what, it seems like the emphasis is on "have kids," not "don't have kids."

My biological clock isn't ticking yet. Luckily, that's just fine with Mr. Pink. He's not ready for kids either. It shouldn't be that big a deal right? I'm not even 30 yet! (Well, I won't be 30 for another few days, at least.) The only thing that worries me is, what if my biological clock never starts ticking? I mean, I've always thought that of course I would have children, but lately, I'm not so sure. It just seems so overwhelming! I still think I would like to have at least one baby, but what if I change my mind? What if I don't want any at all? What if I don't want to pass my disease-ridden genes onto another generation? Or, what if I can't have children? It's been nearly four years since my last bout of chemotherapy and radiation, and everything seems to be fine, but do doctors really know the long-term effects of these things?

I've started thinking about all these hard questions because of the baby boomlet around me. But ultimately, I'm not ready to make any decisions. Right now, I am content to focus on my life and my marriage. I worry that having a baby now would upset the delicate equilibrium that allows us to function--Mr. Pink doesn't like his job, I recently changed careers, we may not even stay in Northern California. It seems like having a kid would force to us solidfy some of our plans, while right now, we're better at keeping it loose and just seeing what happens next.

Let's hope what happens next is a good thing. And here's wishing healthy babies to all my pregnant and soon-to-be-pregnant friends. I'm happy for you. I'm just not ready for that path yet.

Monday, July 24, 2006

How Hot Is It?

It's too damn hot! It was 103 here today, and I live close to San Francisco. We don't get the fog so much during the summer like the city does, but we shouldn't get the sweltering heat, either. It's not like I live in Miami or Phoenix or something! I live in California partly because I enjoy its temperate climes so much, although that seems to be changing. But of course, there's no such thing as global warming. That's just bad science. Apparently, "bad science" is anything our Spineless Leader does not personally agree with or understand. And that covers a lot of territory. But I'm glad he's clamping down on flag burning and stem-cell research, because clearly, those are the biggest problems our society faces today. The imploding relations between Lebanon and Israel and all those people dying in Iraq, well, that's all going to work itself out. Much better that we focus on denying a woman's right to choose!

I'm getting a little off-track. Perhaps the heat has made me delirious. Or perhaps it's the fact that it's not just broiling outside. I'm broiling on the inside, too. I have a summer cold, complete with hacking cough, aches and pains, fever, and sore throat. My throat is so sore that I had a milkshake for dinner tonight. And I'm really loving the chills that come along with the fever. One minute I'm sweating, the next I'm chilled to the bone. I also feel a little woozy, and I'm not even taking the Valium anymore. I spent a weekend away from the computer, and my muscles seem to have loosened up on their own. So that's good, but now I've got this cold virus infecting my brain. And does anyone have any sympathy for me? Oh, no! Mr. Pink just says, "Stay away! I don't want to get what you have!" (But to be fair, he is the one who went out and fetched me my milkshake dinner. Also, I make the world's worst sick person, mainly because of my tendency to overdramatize every little sniffle. So it's good that Mr. Pink can be tolerant of my illness-induced insanity.)

I need a cure. I don't want to be sick for my birthday, which is rapidly approaching. Send help. Send ice cream!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Little. Yellow. Different.

No, the headline doesn't refer to Nuprin. Do they even sell that anymore?

My little, yellow, different pills are also known as "Mother's Little Helper." That's right..for the next few days, I'll be popping the Valium. Just the latest in my long line of health ailments. When will it stop? I exercise. I go to Pilates. I work on my mind-body connection. I eat my fruits and vegetables. And yet, my body has turned against me.

This time, it's all about stress. My neck and shoulders have always been tense...well, that may be an understatement. Most of the time, my traps feel as hard as rocks. So Monday, they finally called it quits. I couldn't move my neck and my arms started to go numb. When I went to the doctor, she told me that my sore muscles were sending pain signals to my brain, and my brain then thought that the muscles needed to be braced and stabilized, leading to even more pain. She could tell I was in a lot of pain, because every time she tried to touch my neck or shoulders, I flinched. So, she instructed me to change the ergonomics of my home office setup. She also prescribed the little yellow pills, telling me to take half a tablet with breakfast, half with lunch, half with dinner and one to two at bedtime. But since I want to be sentient, I have not been following the recommended dosage. I feel spacey enough just taking half a tab during the day and one at night. I must say, though, the pills are quite effective at controlling the pain. It's like floating!

The main thing that causes the pain to flare up is working at my desk on my laptop. The doctor says there's actually no way to make a laptop ergonomically friendly, so it may be time to spring for a desktop model. In the meantime, I am supposed to be staying off the computer, but I have work to do. Plus, I'm kind of addicted to reading news on the Internet. Anyway, I have to finish this post before Mr. Pink gets home, because he has threatened to take my computer away and hide it until my muscles are healed. So, if I don't check in for awhile, it's because Mr. Pink has followed through on his threat. I know he is just trying to protect me, but come on...I'm a big girl!

Still, maybe it is for the best. I can feel my muscles tightening even with this little bit of typing. So, maybe I should give it a rest!

Thursday, July 06, 2006


I love my DVR. I used to record all my shows with my VCR, but with a DVR it's so much more convenient, and I don't have to worry about missing an episode if it's on at a "special night and time." We gave my in-laws, the Blacklabels, a Tivo for Christmas, and they love it, too.

That's why I was so upset to read this article (which unfortunately you have to sign in to read) in MediaPost's Media Daily News. David Goetzl and Wayne Friedman spoke with ABC President of Advertising Sales Mike Shaw, who thinks that DVRs should no longer come with fast-forward buttons. He doesn't want people skipping ads (obviously), and he also doesn't think that the primary purpose of DVRs is to skip ads. Rather, he thinks the point is to watch shows when you want to watch them. Well, yeah. But it's also to fast-forward through the ads.

His idea of disabling the DVR fast-forward button is one of the most asinine I've heard yet. Although I am sure that most people use the fast-forward button to skip ads, the button has other uses, as well. What if you're recording something and you want to rewind to hear a line of dialogue you've missed, and then you want to fast-forward again? What if you're watching a show that has absurdly long opening credits, like Entourage, and you want to fast-forward through them? What if you're watching basketball and you disagree with everything Charles Barkley says, so you want to fast-forward through all his comments on the halftime show?

In the article, Shaw says, "I'm not sure that the driving reason to get a DVR in the first place is just to skip commercials. I don't fundamentally believe that. People can understand in order to have convenience and on-demand (options), that you can't skip commercials."

Maybe skipping commercials isn't the main reason to get a DVR, but it sure is a nice feature. And almost everyone I know loves to skip the ads. Even if they're at home and are going to watch a show the night it airs, most people I know record the show and then wait 10 or 15 minutes until after it's started, just so they can skip the commercials! Also, I don't see why we have to pay for convenience by watching commericals. After all, people have been able to skip commercials and have the on-demand features for years through effective use of VCRs. This just makes no sense to me.

Shaw also says, "we're just training a new generation of viewers to skip commercials because they can." Again, I disagree. People have been able to do that for years with VCRs. Perhaps Shaw's craziest moment comes when he says that he doesn't think there will be a big consumer backlash if DVRs no longer come with a fast-forward button. I, for one, would be up in arms! Why should some ad sales guy be able to force me to watch commercials? I don't think I would be alone in my outrage. If that day comes, I would go back to using my VCR, or I would get what my friends term "Free-vo," which is a sort of DVR you can set up yourself with a computer and a Linux program. I don't really understand it, and I would have to pay someone to set it up for me, but if that would preserve my ability to fast-forward, I would do it in a heartbeat. Face it, Shaw--once you have given people the ability to fast-forward, you can't take it away from them. You just can't put that genie back in the bottle.

I really don't understand why all these ad people are so upset about fast-forwarding anyway. I have three simple solutions to get viewers to watch ads that they would normally fast-forward, and I will share my genius insights for free.
1.) Make a commercial that is really, really funny. For example, those Citibank identity theft ads. They are hilarious, especially the new one with the old ladies who sound like hillbillies and have purchased motorcycles with their stolen identities. Every time I'm fast-forwarding through commericals and I see one of those ads come on, I stop and watch it because it makes me laugh. My husband likes to watch the monkey ads--I don't even know what company they're for, but it's about trying to work with monkeys, and he finds them hilarious, probably because the ads so closely mirror his own work situation. If ads are entertaining enough, people will enjoy watching them. If they are stupid and annoying, which most ads are, people will fast-forward them.
2.) Make a commercial that looks really bizarre or intriguing while it's being played in fast-forward! Even while I'm fast-forwarding, I can get the gist of most ads. And if something catches my eye in an unusual way while I'm fast-forwarding, I often go back and watch it, just to see what the heck is going on.
3.) Buy ad time right after the TV show segment ends or right before it begins again. I'm sure this is already part of the strategy of some media buyers, and networks could probably charge a premium for this time, if they don't already. Look, fast-forwarding is not an exact science. Most people are not that quick on the trigger, and can't start fast-forwarding as soon as a commercial starts. There's a little bit of lag time. Also, it's easy to overshoot and fast-forward through some of the start of the next TV segment, so you have to rewind and try again. Then, you probably catch part of the ad that preceded the segment. Sleep Train always sticks in my mind because it always seems to have ads right before the program begins again. Also, those ads are quick and to the point. How much do you really need to say, anyway?

So there you have it. My solutions to keep the fast-forward button and still get people to watch some ads. And come on, people...is there anyone out there who wouldn't be just a tiny bit peeved to lose the fast-forward button on the DVR? I sure would be. If this Mike Shaw thinks there wouldn't be backlash, I'm afraid he's got another think coming.