----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: April 2007

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, April 26, 2007

The Master Sleuth

We have a problem with our extremely tiny apartment that I am convinced we are overpaying for, although our landlord is a) an extremely nice man, b) the father of one of Mr. Pink's friends, and c) a fellow non-Hodgkins lymphoma survivor.

Our upstairs neighbors apparently have a leak. This came to Mr. Pink's attention almost two weeks ago, when I was still up in Northern California dealing with my neurotic real estate clients, aka, my parents. The ceiling in one of the bathrooms is all swollen like a pregnant belly. It also is cracked in several places and drips water occasionally. Luckily, the water drips right into the bathtub, so we haven't had to do too much cleanup.

Unfortunately, our landlord has been out of town for two weeks. Mr. Pink did let our upstairs neighbors know about the problem, and they were like, "Oh, snap." However, they did nothing to rectify the situation. Now, our landlord is back in town, and of course, he wants the upstairs neighbors to take care of the problem, since the damage to our unit is more or less their fault. The problem is, we had no idea what our neighbors' phone number is. We didn't know if they rent or own. We didn't even really know their names. (Well, I think the guy's name is Alex, but that's only because I was tapping into his unsecured wireless network for awhile. Now he wised up and secured it, but we set up our own wireless network, so ha!)

Well, today I had some time on my hands because I am slightly ahead of schedule on my eBay copywriting project. So, I decided to play detective. I want to get this leak resolved so I can take a bath in my bathtub without fearing that the ceiling will rain down on my head. First, at my landlord's suggestion, I went upstairs and left a note asking the neighbors to call my landlord. I could hear them walking around up there, but they did not answer the doorbell. I taped the note right over their lock so they would be sure to see it, but later, I noticed they had moved the note without taking it inside to read. This annoyed me and made me more determined to find out who they were.

I tried the reverse directory, where you can put in an address and find out names and phone numbers. Although I got several results, this, alas, was to no avail, because the results were not sorted by unit number. I didn't want to arouse suspicion by calling each number and asking, "Hey, are you our upstairs neighbors?"

Then, I got on the Orange County recorder's Web site and attempted to do an online deed search, but the deeds are only indexed by name, and since I didn't know the owner's name, that was no help. So, I called the recorder's office and learned that the assessor indexed deeds by name, but I would have to go to the assessor's office to do the search.

By this point, I was into it, so I figured, hey, what's a 30-mile drive to Santa Ana? I should see the county seat. Besides, although my landlord said he would repair the problem himself if need be, he also said he would then take the owner to small claims court for damages, so I figured I might as well help him out by finding the owner's name.

I was surprised by how smoothly the whole process went. Armed with my Prius, my ability to drive in the carpool lane as a solo driver, and my trusty GPS system, I made it to the civic center in record time. (Getting 45 miles to the gallon, I might add.) The only hitch was that I parked a ways away from my ultimate destination, but it was a nice day for a stroll. Once I made it to the assessor's office, I gave the clerk the unit's address and she gave me the parcel number. Then I put the parcel number into the computer, and voila! I had the owner's name, and the value of the property. Public records are a fantastic thing. I then went on my merry way. I even got to have lunch at a nearby Chick-Fil-A, which is my absolute favorite guilty pleasure fast-food restaurant, and of which there are none in within easy driving distance in Northern California.

Once home, I used my newly enabled wireless network to go online and find the owner's phone number. Lo and behold! She actually occupies the leaky unit, or at least she does according to www.whitepages.com. I relayed this information to my landlord, who immediately called, only to find that there was no answer. Oh, well. The ball is in his court now.

As for me, you can just call me Astera, P.I.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Even Copy Editors Need Copy Editors

I am spending the week at my new home in Dana Point, so I get to read the print version of the L.A. Times, instead of just the online version. I always enjoy the "Only In L.A." section by Steve Harvey, where readers send in unintentionally funny signs and whatnot. The humor usually stems from a misspelling of some sort.

Yesterday's "Only In L.A." column was even funnier than usual, at least to me, because an item pointing out a misspelling in a classified ad had its own misspelling. Isn't it ironic? The classified ad read:

"Luxury Ski/Vacation Home,
Fish for trout in your front yard, only eight miles to closet ski area. Easy access to Denver and Summit."

The person submitting the ad was labeled as Randi Hutchinson of Santa Moncia.

See? The column made fun of a misspelling in an ad, and now I am making fun of a misspelling in the column. It's the circle of life! I just hope there are no misspellings in this post. Let the circle be unbroken.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Lacerated By Taxes

Normally there is nothing funny about filing taxes. But this article on SFGate gave me a chuckle. It's all about the delays caused by late e-filers. Most of those affected were using TurboTax, but some programs that tax preparers use were affected, too, including Lacerte (note spelling) and ProSeries. One tax preparer gave this quote:

"I have never sent a communication through Lacerate that did not go through the first time until Monday."

Ha, ha! Lacerated by taxes.

I used TurboTax to file my taxes last Friday, and I felt a bit wounded, too. Note to self: as a freelancer, I must put aside money for taxes throughout the year, so as not to be hit with an unwelcome April surprise.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Always Learning

I am immersed in a copywriting project for eBay, and I am learning about all sorts of new things. Today, for instance, I had to write about inkjet printers. That probably sounds really boring, but while researching this subject, I finally learned what CMYK, the four-color printing acronym, really stands for.

I always thought CMYK referred to the colors used in the four-color printing process. This is mostly true. The colors are cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. Some people say the "k" stands for the last "k" in black, but I always thought that if the acronym really referred to the four colors, it should be CMYB. Right? Well, it turns out (according to Wikipedia) that the "k" stands for "key," which refers to the key plate used in printing. The key plate lays down fine detail in black ink. So there you go.

I imparted my newfound knowledge to my husband, who greeted this revelation with a shrug. "I knew that," he said. Right. Because he's a fancy graphic designer who knows all about printing and production and typefaces. He's a design geek. He has a book called "Helvetica: Homage to a Typeface."

That's okay. I know PLENTY of things that he doesn't know. So there.

But that's not really the point of the story. The point is that this is what I love about writing. Even when you're writing about something seemingly mundane, you may learn a useful bit of information. Next up: learning about HDTV.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Move Is Imminent

The short version: Mr. Pink lost his job back in November. After a brief, frightening period where we thought we might have to move to Seattle so he could work as a designer for a behemoth department store, we thought better of the rain and gloom. He then decided to look for jobs in Southern California. He has been there off and on since January, and he landed a permanent position at a great surf company last month. I, however, have remained in Northern California to sell my parents' house.

The house is now in escrow. It was on the market for a week, we got two offers, and it's in contract for over asking price. Yay! So now, I can finally move the rest of my stuff down to Dana Point and rejoin my husband at last. There's just one little issue: my hair.

Today, I went in and had my hair cut and colored by the best hairstylist I have ever had. I've been going to her for about a year and a half now, and she always makes me look great. We never get stuck in a rut, either. She always helps me change it up in subtle ways, and she does great things with color. I normally book my next appointment immediately, but this time, when she asked, "Do you want to rebook?", I didn't know what to say. She knows about the move, and she said, "Well, why don't I put you down, and if you're gone by then, you can just call and cancel."

"What am I going to do?" I asked. "How will I ever find a hair stylist down there?"

"The best thing to do is find someone with hair like yours in a style you like, and ask her where she gets it done," she said.

This made me laugh. "Um, there is no one with hair like mine in Southern California," I said. (Okay, this is an exaggeration and a stereotype. But I have short, dark, pixie-cut hair. Women on the Orange County coast have long, blonde, voluptuous hair.)

Sadly, my hair stylist had no answer for that. Dear readers, do any of you live in south Orange County? If so, can you please recommend a good stylist? And I don't even want to think about what I'm going to do without my good friend and aesthetician up here. I guess I'd better get used to paying retail for my facials and bikini waxes!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Now this is interesting...a sheriff decided to ticket himself for an unsafe lane change. Wouldn't it be nice if all officers of the law held themselves to such a high standard? I mean, I see police officers driving around all the time without signaling their lane changes or even signaling their intentions to tun at stoplights. I've seen them speed along the freeway even when they aren't in pursuit of anyone. And we all know that the police are guilty of much greater misconduct than minor traffic violations.

Really. If these police officers are supposed to uphold the law, shouldn't they be held to the same standards? I commend Brown County Sheriff Dennis Kocken. Too bad more law enforcement agents don't follow his lead.