Saturday, July 08, 2006


I've mentioned one of my favorite novels a few times in recent posts. It's a book called Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. It's the first book in a series about the same characters. The book begins in post WWII Britain. Claire Randall is visiting Scotland with her husband, following a long separation due to the war. She visits some standing stones (Stonehenge is an example) and is mystically pulled back through time to the year 1743.

In the book, the word "outlander" has something of a double meaning. Claire is British, and is seen as an outlander, or Sassenach, by the scots. To be a Sassenach alone amongst the Scots in 1743 is a dangerous thing, since the Scots were fomenting rebellion against oppressive British rule at the time. The bigger sense of the word "outlander" is Claire's anachronistic presence in 18th century Scotland. She is out of time and place, quite literally.

When I was a little girl, I read a lot of fiction set against historical backdrops. I was an imaginitive child, and I felt I didn't belong in modern times. I longed to go back in time and live in an era when I could wear gowns every day, ride horses for transportation and dine by candlelight. A post by Random Kath over at Ordinary Snapshots reminded me of the days when I felt this way.

Of course, I recognize all of the flaws in my childish reasoning. It is not likely that I would have been part of an economically advantaged class (although one can dream). It's much more likely that I would have had one long dress to call my own, day by dirty, smoky-fired, air conditioning-free day, and without the benefit of a washing machine. I would have been more likely to walk around avoiding the piles of muck left by the horses than to have actually owned or ridden one.

It is doubtful that I would have had much education at all, and who knows whether or not I would even have learned to read. There were common beliefs and practices in past centuries that I would find repugnant, and don't even get me started on public health issues! Most of all, the disadvantages of being a woman at almost any time in the past are enormous. Look how much the status of women has changed, just in my lifetime! Why would I want to go back?

Having said all of that, there is still the kernel of longing within me to visit the past and spy on my ancestors. I suppose I would prefer to visit as a fly on the wall, so to speak, rather than as an active participant. To participate actively, if I took my modern self and way of thinking along, could get me into a lot of trouble. I'm too vocal and my opinions are too modern. I'm too accustomed to living with my US American freedoms.

If you could go back in time, would you wish to actively participate in the culture and events of the era, or would you prefer to just observe? Which era would you choose, and why? There is a "Part II" to this post, saved for tomorrow, since this was getting to be a bit long. I'll answer these questions in reference to myself in tomorrow's post.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Uncommon Scents

I just received another bottle of Eau Fresh cologne in the mail, bought on ebay. I'm well stocked for the foreseeable future, though I'll continue to check in every now and then to be sure I don't run out.

I don't know what's come over me, but I find I am beguiled by fragrance these days. I never cared much in the past whether or not a man wore cologne. Now I find the right scent to be appealing, even distracting. When I wear one of the very few scents that isn't too strong for me, I find myself stopping at frequent intervals to check the fragrance as it changes throughout the day.

I have a hair product that has the most wonderful fresh lemon scent to it. If I could find a cologne that smelled like that, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. I remember wearing Love's Fresh Lemon when I was young. It's still on the market, so maybe I'll try it again.

I have a small bottle of Tea Rose perfume. I love it, but it can be tough to wear because it tends to be strong, and a lot of people are allergic to it. Still, I will wear it now and then.

Last night I put on a touch of L'Air du Temps. I was surprised to find that there was still cologne in the bottle. I had kept it these many years because it was a refillable spray bottle, and I have always intended to buy a refill. I spritzed some on just for fun. I still like it, though it's on the sweet side.

Last week I had a conversation with a male friend about the advantages of being male versus those of being female. He said he thought it was probably hard to be woman, that he wouldn't want to go through all of the hormonal ups and downs we go through. I told him my mother has always said she wants to come back as a man in the next life because men have it made. He wondered if I thought most women feel that way. I said I could see Mom's point, but I like being a girl.

There are things I don't like about being female, of course. A woman has to be more careful about going places alone than a man does, and women of my generation don't get as much of a pass as younger women when it comes to watching our "reputations." Women my age still watch each other closely for signs of looseness, from the cut of a neckline to the color of nail polish. And, yeah, there's the whole hormone thing, but that has its upside, as well ;).

Younger women were freed from many of my generation's unwritten rules, for good or for ill, by the child-tart fashions and behavior of the Britney Spears era. They wear tight-fitting, low cut clothes for business and for pleasure, regardless of their body type, and they just don't seem to be uncomfortable. I know that the anorexic starlet images persist, but doesn't it seem that most young women today are not as affected by them? Am I mistaken?

In any event, I think the whole preoccupation I have with fragrance these days is just another facet of being a girl and loving it. Are men as bewitched by fragrace as I seem to be lately? Maybe it's a human thing, not just a girl thing. Perhaps it's even more basic than that; perhaps it's an animal thing.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Tidying Up

I managed to get rid of the blogshift problem I was having, but there are still a few untidy bits here and there about the Room. Please excuse the housekeeping for a few days while I figure this out. My abilities give new meaning to the "hack" in the word hacker. I have zero experience with templates, html and that sort of thing.

I went to school in the dark ages, before people had PCs. I used a computer with CRT (Cathode Ray Tube, for the unitiated) screen a few times for a few class projects in Stats and in Psych Testing. That was it. How many of you are old enough to remember the DOS carat prompt and memorizing commands, in the days before the advent of the mouse and point and click technology? How about dot matrix printers with spooled paper? Or am I the only one?


Sorry for the unattractive shifting of my most recent post to below the level of the left column text. This happened because of the large photo I inserted into the post. Blogger won't let me upload photos right now (???). I had inset it from another site, so I can't change the image size. Still, I think it's worthwhile to leave it there! This is a temporary setback, at best.

Shifting Gears

Too much of my blog time has been given over to New Jersey's fiscal woes over the last few days. Time for a change of pace!

I like features in magazines that ask people what they're reading, watching or listening to. Here's my list:


I'm currently reading Lamb, by Christopher Moore (on loan from a friend :))

I just bought Everything She Thought She Wanted by Elizabeth Buchan (author of Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman and The Good Wife Strikes Back)

I'm dabbling in CS Lewis right now, rereading some of his poems, and also some essays from a collection called God in the Dock. I've ordered a new copy of The Screwtape Letters from Amazon. Of course, I found my old copy the day after the order shipped. Oh well, the old one is starting to fall apart.

I also ordered a new copy of Outlander. Sorry you didn't like it, Virginia Gal! I plan to read it again as soon as it arrives. I'm looking forward to spending many pleasant hours with Jamie Fraser. ;)

Listening To:

In my car CD Changer right now are the following CD's:

1)The Best of Donna Summer/The Millenium Collection
2)Softly With These Songs/The Best of Roberta Flack
3)James Taylor/Greatest Hits
4)The Best of Three Dog Night
5)Fleetwood Mac/The Dance
6)Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? (soundtrack)

I might actually get to listen to these CD's if we go back to work anytime soon! Oops, topic digression. Get back on track!

My Amazon order will also include a CD of The Cars Greatest Hits.


Hmmm. I didn't get to the movies yesterday, since I was not home alone as originally planned (before the shutdown), nor did I watch 6 hours of Pride and Prejudice, the alternate plan for my day to myself. I haven't been watching much of anything, truth be told.

I saw a bit of a History Channel program in the middle of the night last night. It was called Digging for the Truth, Giants of Patagonia. I think Digging for the Truth is a series. It was interesting, but it wouldn't have held my attention at that hour of the morning if it weren't for the host, Josh Bernstein. Worth watching, that's all I have to say! Here's why:

photo credit

That's him on the left. I'm sorry Pax, Zelda, but move over Antonio! Here's another peek:

photo credit

What are you reading/listening to/watching these days?


My friend Pax provided this link to a site quoting a statement by Governor Corzine that all NJ state workers will get make-up pay for the days we are unable to work because of the shutdown. This is news to me because we were all given a statement that we would not be paid in the event of a shutdown. We had to sign a sheet showing that we had received the statement and were aware that we would not be paid.

Paying state workers is important for more reasons than the obvious (feeding families, keeping mortgages afloat, etc.). Taking several days pay out of the pockets of that many New Jerseyans will affect many other businesses. Day two of not being paid already has me ratcheting back on spending, and I'm sure it's had that effect in many households.

So the point of the shutdown would be what? I guess the point is the cessation of actual services to the public because services are not funded without an approved budget. If I had gone to work, I would be handling requests for services. Services may not be provided right now because there is no budget to do so.

The state is already losing money on the lottery (which has been stopped until the budget crisis is resolved), and will begin losing megabucks tomorrow if the casinos are closed for business. This is just plain stupid in a year with a budget crunch.

Many New Jerseyans have a disdain for state employees that approaches hatred. Unfortunately, this is due in large part to the fact that our elected representatives malign us to the public for political gains, stabbing us in the back like Brutus stabbed Caesar.

This shutdown of services will likely fan the flames of the public's dislike and distrust of us, especially if we end up being paid in the end. The public should know this: we were expressly told that we MAY NOT report for work during the shutdown if we have been classified as non-essential. We would be sent home by management if we showed up.

I am both a New Jerseyan and a state employee. I want to show up for work, and I want New Jersey to succeed.

And I vote.

Monday, July 03, 2006

NJ Shutdown, Day 2

I have finally reached the point in my life where I like my job and I actually look forward to going to work. This has been my dream for many years, and I am thankful for the work I do, the people I serve, my coworkers and my boss. Now I am being told that I may not report to work. Oh, the irony. Last year at this time I would have welcomed leave in any form, even unpaid.

The State of NJ continues with a shutdown of services today because our elected representatives at the state level have failed miserably to approve a balanced budget. Each seems more concerned with his own political future (how will this affect my reelection bid?) than they are about the welfare of The Great State of New Jersey. To me, this is strong evidence of a need for term limits. I'm ready to say one term and you're out, so that politicians may base decisions on the real issues, not their personal aspirations. Elections could be staggered throughout the state so that there would always be experienced representatives in office to pass on knowledge.

In my opinion, years of experience equals years of entrenchment in a corrupt political system, and NJ is renowned for political corruption. Frankly, state government isn't rocket science, and experience in New Jersey appears to be a detriment rather than an asset. The hue and cry for upcoming elections should be get rid of incumbents.

Both incomes in our household are affected by this snafu, since we are both state employees. Today is a forced, unpaid day off, and it looks like tomorrow will not be a paid holiday. From what I've read at about the situation, it does not seem likely that we will work on Wednesday, either. Our household is prepared for a rainy day, so we'll get through this, if it doesn't last too long. I know state employee households with only one income, and they will be affected even more deeply by this mess.

Some NJ legislators want to cut state worker benefits and salaries by 15%. Think about that: 15% less pay, plus an additional 15% contribution to our benefits. While this is probably the extreme version of what will actually be brought to the table during contract negotiations next year, it highlights the need for state workers to be proactive with their personal finances. That's hard to do when the state forces unpaid leave on us, making us dip into our savings and assets.

According to the CNN article, the state Assembly didn't even bother to convene today, thought the Senate did. Here is a quote from the article:

"I would welcome the Assembly actually coming in, staying in Trenton, working on the budget, hour after hour, 24 hours a day until we come up with a budget," Corzine said Monday morning on CNN. "I can't veto a budget, I can't sign a budget until it's actually presented by the Legislature."

No budget bills had moved through legislative committees yet, and any legislation those panels approve must wait a full calendar day before receiving final votes in the Assembly and Senate. If no bills move forward Monday, the Legislature couldn't adopt a budget before Wednesday morning.

Sounds to me like the assembly members want this problem to reach critical mass. Wonder if they expect to be paid for their service? Let's fire the lot of them, first chance we get.

I just read an executive order by Governor Corzine posted on the State of NJ website. He has ordered both houses of the legislature into sessions beginning 7/4/06 at 9:00 am and for each day until a budget is passed. Here's the text:

Governor Signs Executive OrderCalling For A Special Legislative Session

TRENTON - Governor Jon S. Corzine today signed an Executive Order calling for Special Sessions of both Houses of the Legislature beginning on Tuesday, July 4, 2006, at 9:00 a.m. and continuing for each day thereafter until a General Appropriations Law for Fiscal Year 2007 is enacted. The Governor faxed a letter to each Senator and Assembly Member containing the following text:

Pursuant to my authority under the New Jersey Constitution, Article V, Section I, Paragraph 12 and Article IV, Section I, Paragraph 4, I am hereby convening Special Sessions of both Houses of the Legislature for Tuesday, July 4, 2006 at 9:00 a.m., and for each day thereafter, until such time as this call shall be revoked, in order to pass a balanced General Appropriations Law for Fiscal Year 2007 and to consider legislation that is related to the State budget. I have determined that the public interest requires these Sessions in order to expedite the enactment of a General Appropriations Law for Fiscal Year 2007 and thereby end the current state of emergency caused by the failure to enact such a law by July 1, 2006.