Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Celebrities, for better or worse.

Last night on DramaRama there was a slide show of a whole lot of before-and-after pictures, each featuring a current A-List celebrity. It's safe to say that most of these superstars have made MAJOR improvements to their looks over the years, but seeing these pics side by side makes it a whole lot more obvious just who has had what done in their plastic surgeon's office! Here's hoping this blog doesn't cut off any of the photos, so you can see them in all their spectacular...glory? Horror? Guess it depends on which one you're looking at. Check out these nightmarish flashbacks to see who's gone under the knife (and who should go back for more):


WOLL SMOTH WILL SMITH (1990 and now)

DEMI MOORE (1984 and now)

BRAD PITT (1988 and now)

ANGELINA JOLIE (1991 and earlier this year)

KEANU REEVES (1989 and now)

TERI HATCHER (1993 and now)

LEONARDO DiCAPRIO (1993 and now)

HALLE BERRY (1992 and now)

JOHNNY DEPP (1988 and now)

JENNIFER ANISTON (1990 and now)

GEORGE CLOONEY (1990 and now)

NICOLE KIDMAN (1983 and now)

So who on this list looks like they haven't had some serious work done?? (Maybe Johnny; all he had to do was give up the drugs.)

There's your fluffy Wednesday edition of Ehch's Blatherings! We're halfway through the week... STAY STRONG.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday linkspam, my lovelies!

Another week begins (and this one marks the start of Charmaine's new job, so everyone should wish her luck!). In order to help us all get through it, then, I've opted to bring to you a collection of your favourite kind of linkspam: LISTS. This lot was easy to compile, since they all presented themselves to me once I'd posted that horrifying article on The 50 Worst Movie Sex Scenes on Facebook. (I just knew we'd see "Monster's Ball" [NOT SAFE FOR WORK!!!] on there; my god, I had to look away, and I was alone when I saw it). So give thanks to Nerve.Com for the following collection that should provide you at least an hour of amusement... (Be warned, as usual, that there's a 99% chance that most of this is NSFW. Just because it's Char's first day doesn't mean it should be anyone's LAST at their job, just for reading my blog. I do have some conscience. Sort of.)

  • The Top 20 Viral Videos of 2007 - I see that the featured one is that lovely Miss America "a lot of kids don't have maps!!" clip; having not yet looked at the rest, I can only imagine...

  • The 20 Hottest Music Videos Of All Time - am I seriously the only one who finds Fiona Apple's "Criminal" more disturbing and repulsive than sexy?? I fail to see what an emaciated young woman crawling around in her underwear is meant to offer us by way of...well, anything. Actually, this list is, in my opinion, TERRIBLE. Aside from Shakira, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and David Bowie (and who'd have thought I'd ever name them in the same sentence??), the rest of these choices are a complete miss. I mean...Rick James? Seriously?? And "Hot For Teacher" is just asinine. Bad song, bad video, lousy band. And NOT HOT. I think I need to do my own list (and make 25 of them Nine Inch Nails videos...).

  • The 50 Best Date Movies - there are some seriously weird choices here ("Donnie Darko"??? On a DATE??), but everyone knows that "Say Anything..." is gonna make this list. How many of the 50 are you willing to admit you saw? (I'm still counting.) Extra points for putting "Heathers" on the list, but...I'm not sure what kind of date that would make for. More bonus points for the brilliant "Me And You And Everyone We Know"!

  • The 40 Best Celebrity Rumours Ever - because some people still think that Richard Gere has a special place in his...heart...for his gerbil, and that Marilyn Manson got his start on Mr. Belvedere. Sigh.

  • America's Top 10 Political Sex Scandals - how timely! I can't wait for someone to catch Obama doing something that isn't as patently dull as everything he's said and done so far.
  • The 50 Greatest Comedy Sketches Of All Time - yeah, it's probably just me, but I think Christopher Walken's most recent appearance on SNL, in which he plays a gardener with a fear of plants ("I always knew it would be the ferns!"), should have made this list.

  • The 50 Greatest Commercial Parodies Of All Time - self-explanatory. Some commercials are just so easy to spoof.

Now get on with your blue Monday, folks. (I'm blue because I SHOULD BE IN FREAKIN' WALES INSTEAD OF HERE, but that's another story.) I hope everyone still has their jobs after that whole bad sex scene list. I for one am still shuddering (and for the first time am glad my office doesn't have 'net access).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

NaNoWriMo: psyched up, or psyched out?

12 more days, folks. Here's my profile, should you wish to add me to your WB list. Who's doing it with me this year? And who's volunteering to be on the Super-Secret LJ Filter to read as I go?? SPEAK NOW, OR FOREVER HOLD YOUR PIECE. Er...peace. (And I reserve the right to restrict entry, damnit!!)

For those who are new to the whole idea of NaNo and are wondering what I'm on about, this is the explanation. Simple and sweet, yes? Suuuuuure it is. Until you actually TRY IT. Write a novel in a month? 50,000 words? It sounds so easy, especially for someone like me, who must blog three times that much in any given 30 day span. But last year, my first "win" (you're a "winner" if you successfully produce 50,000 original words between November 1st and 30th; I crashed and burned in 2005 and '06, but I found my groove in '07 and am proud to display my little "winner!" badge wherever I can) was HARD WON. It was emotionally exhausting, often frustrating as hell, and my inner editor was screaming at some of the horrors that came forth as I attacked the project I named May December. But oh, the satisfaction of having that huge stack of paper at the end... And who knows? Maybe, with a LOT of editing, the finished product wouldn't be completely heinous.

Oops! How'd that get there?? *whistling innocently*

I want my old crew back this year, and I want at least a couple of new recruits, too. It's a bonding experience. And it can be ever so cathartic. JOIN ME.

The gauntlet's been thrown. I want as many fellow sufferers as I can get along with me for the ride. Last year, many of you guys helped kick my ass into finally winning it on my third try, so I expect the same this time around! (As we get closer to 11:59 p.m. on October 31st, you'll likely notice I'll have written a note on Facebook and tagged all of my past cohorts; who among you are coming back for more? Maybe calling you out publicly will give you the shove you need...)

I kind of want to shriek, "WORDS IS MY BUSINESS!!" but only a couple of you (Meli & Shell) would know why. So I won't.

I look forward to reading whatever comes out of your quills or pops up on your screens. I'm actually quite psyched about it this year, because an idea I abandoned two years ago has now formed much more fully in my wee brain, and I hope it'll turn out well. (And no, that doesn't mean that I've abandoned May December - I know there are a few of you who are still seething about how I left that off last November, and I do promise I'll finish it...possibly making a return to it in December, while the creative juices are still flowing trickling! You will find out what the deal is with Bronwyn...and that's only the beginning.)

So, newbies, get out of your comfort zone! TRY IT. It's liberating. And I know a lot of you can write, but choose not to. Now's your chance.

I'll leave off with the intro to last year's project (since it would be cheating for me to start on this year's novel early), and I await your comments saying you're bending to my will and committing yourself to the exquisite torture that only NaNoWriMo can bring.


It wasn't supposed to be like this.

I'm sitting on the edge of his bed, holding one of the many bottles of god-knows-what I found laying about on his bathroom counter, in the nightstand drawers, anywhere I could think he would hide his stash. One bottle in hand, probably another thirty laying willy-nilly around this house. I used to love this house. Now look what it had become. It was his place of death, and within an hour or so, it'd probably be mine, too.

I'll write until it's illegible. That'll be my cue, the sign from above - or wherever - to lay back on this bed and wait for the end to come. I always pictured it being more dramatic than this. Or at the very least more poetic. Maybe it says something about me that I pictured this at all. Doesn't matter know, I suppose.

I read the prescription label. Figures. Valium. One of his two favourites. That's not to say he didn't dally in many other substances, but he certainly did favour his Valium and codeine. In retrospect, I find this almost amusing, really. All things considered, with the access he had as a doctor to anything he could have wanted, why would he choose such lightweight drugs? If you're going to have a hardcore addiction, you could, at the very least, take my path: Xanax and morphine.

It's a bit eerie, knowing that he's downstairs. Just lying there, face-down on the kitchen floor. I can actually smell the coppery tinge to the air up here. I'd be more unnerved, probably, had I not just swallowed a handful of the little yellow pills in this little orange bottle. I guess a few hundred milligrams of Valium can take the sting out of anything, even knowing that your ex is dead in the kitchen, and that you were the one who drove him to end it.

Between what I manage to write now, and what I kept as record in my journals for the past two years, I should be able to leave a complete picture for everyone. I feel like I owe the people I love an actual story. A beginning, middle and end to this ill-fated affair they all warned me against. After so much criticism from my English professors about my style, or lack thereof, and their irritation with the storyteller way I had with my diary, I finally found some use for it: The grandest suicide note in history. That's what I owe them. Don't sleep with the boss, they said. Well, they were right, I was wrong, but now the least I could do was tell them what lead me from being full of hope to being...well...dead.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My job, my life, and everything in between.

Ten years ago I'd have said that "nurse" and "teacher" were the two absolute last career choice I would ever, EVER make. I stand by the teacher bit. But some of you are wondering what's up with this medical-field melancholy I've been passive-aggresively expressing all over the place lately. The short answer: I don't like my job. The long answer? Well...go get the popcorn.

I worked at a medical clinic - family practice - for just shy of 6 years. Ten great doctors and tens of thousands of patients. In 2001, after I'd broken my ankle while training for the RCMP (I'd already passed all of the intellectual and psych tests with flying colours), my then-doctor offered me a job in his office while I sorted out what the hell I was going to do now. Not that the RCMP should have ever really been a realistic dream; my legs would have destroyed themselves, or me, sooner rather than later. But I hoped I could pass the physical and then go civilian, because my first love throughout my life has always been forensic psychology and sociology.

I'd started a pretty good entry earlier, but then I got on the phone (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE) and didn't realize Vista wanted to reboot without saving my I'll START OVER AGAIN. I'll try to get to the point faster this time. But brace yourself for complete honesty. It's exactly what I more or less promised you would never see in this blog. All I can say - to some of you, at lest - is, "You asked; I'm answering."

Anyway, that job, for which I was woefully inexperienced and ridiculously unprepared (take, for example, the circumcision in which I assisted only 10 months into it), lasted from February 2001 to January 2007. I loved a lot of what I did there. Stressful? Sure. But I got to do stuff often enough - stuff that didn't involve filing or calling in prescriptions - that I managed to learn a lot, and I got a great deal of satisfaction out of the things I could do to make the patients' and the doctors' lives easier. Somewhere in there I even switched over to taking anatomy and physiology classes in college, and while I sucked at science in high school, I (with the help of a few of my doctor colleagues) started pulling off 80s and 90s on my exams. It shocked me to realize that there was something I was good at that I also wanted to do. I even remember the very day that cemented my desire to be a nurse - it was a Sunday morning, and something especially horrifying and stressful had happened with a patient, but once I'd managed to get the patient, myself, AND the doctor through the crisis, I remember calling my Mom and saying, "This is what I was meant to do."

So why did I leave that job? God knows I've asked myself that a lot, especially lately. But the truth is that my physical health was wearing down to nothing, and it was taking my mental health with it. Add to that a few key ingredients that made my work environment impossible to endure any longer - no matter how much I adored nearly all of my coworkers, my bosses, and the patients - and I knew I had to go.

What I didn't realize, though, was just how bad my health was. So when the job I walked right into upon leaving the Clinic did some major damage to my already lousy ankles, I started to worry. I found another job quickly, but then got so sick with every virus that came through the door that I had to bail after only a few weeks. This happened over and over again - me pushing myself into new jobs, new places, and then having my body and mind fail on me - before we figured out what was wrong with me. The summer of 2007 was hell, but I did get better once we knew what to treat. And I thought, once I was physically stronger, that it would be a cakewalk getting back into the workforce.


Two or three more jobs came and went, each one seemingly too much for me in one way or another: bodily, mentally, or situationally. My Mom got sick in January 2008 and our entire world stopped; I didn't want to be away from her, and poverty would just have to do. But in March, I found what I honestly thought was the perfect job. The one that would get me closer to being able to afford to go back to school for my RPN. The one that had these great doctors who were so much fun to work with, and an office staff full of amazing women who I immediately knew would be my friends forevermore, and an opportunity to learn more, to get back into the game, to do something meaningful, however small.

That job turned into hell. On every level. I was treated like garbage by my "manager" (as was everyone else, though some got it worse than others), I was betrayed by at least one of those "great" doctors, and on top of it all, I was sexually assaulted one night by an employee who shared the building. The salt in the wound was being summarily fired for a completely nonsensical reason, only one week before my 3 month probation period was up. Presumably because I just seemed like too much trouble. I'd only just begun to process the assault when I lost the job altogether, and that did something to me - to my dignity - that I cannot put into words. I was broken.

That was May.

In September I started the job I'm in now. And it's okay. The doctor couldn't be nicer. My office mate is wonderful and capable and patient with me while I learn. The money's not horrible. The hours are all right.

But...I feel as though I am so, so much farther from where I really want to be than I've ever been before. I don't make enough money to set it aside for school. I don't do anything that affects people's lives at all. I...file. And at least once a day that famous quote from the movie Heathers goes through my mind: "I'm using my grand IQ to figure out which gloss to wear or how to hit three keggers before curfew." In my 6 years at that first Clinic, I learned a lot about medicine and people and life and death, but I learned even more about myself. And now? Now I fax referrals. That's what I do. Moreover, I fear, that's what I am.

That is not enough for me.

I was meant for more than this. I have to be. I see others' successes and am so proud of them, while still feeling like I missed that train, and they're all waving to me as it pulls away. I don't know if there's another one coming.

I know I'm lucky to have a job at all, let alone one where I'm treated kindly and am not doing anything too heinous to my body. I do know that. But I've grown so tired of feeling lucky. I want to be HAPPY. I want to stretch the limits of my potential and see if maybe, just maybe, I'm even smarter than I thought I was. I want to do something that matters, to the people I help and to myself. I don't want to spend five hours taking phone messages. I want to be elbow-deep in something gory and terrifying and possibly life-changing.

(And no, writing for a living is not that. Not for me. It is for some, and rightfully so,'s not my dream. I do love all of you who praise me so often about my writing - biased though you may be -'s not what I truly want. It's not all.)

What stands in my way is money. And the waitlisting going on at every school that offers the nursing program I want. And, I grudgingly admit, my guts (and lack thereof). This past two years has shaken my self-confidence hard. I'm amazed I have any left at all. I have failed over and over again, which, to a born perfectionist, is like dying tiny deaths with each near miss. Each of the experiences I've had since leaving the Clinic has chipped a little more away from Me, from Who and What I Am, and I fear that, if the money were to fall in my lap tomorrow, I wouldn't be strong enough anymore to even chase my dream, let alone catch it.

My recent trip to the UK, as I have said to some of my friends, affected me deeply. Because it made me see that I can watch some of the dreams I've had since I was nine years old come true. It showed me how big my world is, and how small a part of it I've been cowering in all this time. But it also devastated me in the strangest way, because it gave me the chance to look at my life from the outside - really and truly, for once - and I hated what I saw. And right now, at least, there is nothing I can do to change any of it.

So, in 6 hours, I will get up once again, put my scrubs on, and I will go to a job that I know full well is not what I thought I had/have to offer - and there's nothing at all wrong with that, if it's a means to an isn't. It pays the bills now (and, actually, not even that, since I haven't gotten a single paycheque since I started last month; that'll change soon enough, mind), but I stand to learn nothing, and it's not contributing to a tuition-shaped nest egg in the least. I come home from a day at work and I just want to cry, because I think of all the hours I just spent making nary a bit of difference to anyone, anywhere. Including (or especially?) me.

But, for now, these are the cards I've been dealt. They are the product of some bad decisions on my part, as well as some limitations over which I have no control, and just good old fashioned fate. I wish I could see a light at the end of a tunnel. Any tunnel. But I feel like I've euchered myself somehow, and everyone else has gotten up and left the table. I have no idea when the next game will begin, or what the stakes will be, or if I'm just stuck sitting here, staring at the four 9s and one 10 in front of me.

I'm thinking those of you who asked are probably sorry you did now.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Scotland, and how my blogs are "graded", plus LINKSPAM!

I've had a couple of people ask me when I'm going to post in this public forum about my recent excursion across the pond, and...well...the answer is: I'm not. There are a few reasons for this, the principal of which being that I have posted an awful lot about it already, but have done so in my Very Private Blog, and if you could see how bloody long those entries are you would immediately understand why I don't feel like I can rewrite the whole thing (or scrub it up enough to have it be fully public). I do come bearing an offer of compromise, though, for the Very Interested (and I won't even ask you why you're Very Interested). I have a mirror blog that acts as something of a second-tier privacy module, if you will. Yes, I have three blogs, and yes, they all share some of the basic posts, but they each have varying degrees of privacy. It's kind of like the CDC, and how they classify deadly viruses.

  • Biosafety Level 1 is PrettyH @ Blogger (You Are Here). It's open to the public and is searchable on Google. Anyone and everyone can read what I write here; I don't censor or edit posts, and I welcome unmoderated comments. If you're A-OK with just getting my occasional topical rant or a collection of bizarre links every so often, and never having to see any of my more personal stuff, this is where you wanna stay.
  • Biosafety Level 2 is PrettyH @ InsaneJournal. It acts as a mirror journal to my Level 3 blog, meaning I transfer the less controversial or disturbing or objectionable entries there, still giving a fairly good glimpse into The Real Thing but without the worry of any sensitive info getting into the wrong hands. I tend to set up accounts for people I trust and give them the passwords to allow them to read at will; if you want to do the same, or if you want to make up your own account, GO HERE, then add me as a friend, and chances are - if I know who you are - you'll be admitted without hesitation. (I'd suggest you get a username that I can figure out, or comment here or on my IJ to let me know you've arrived!) There are a few very specific people I'm actively keeping out, which is really the only reason I have it locked down at all.
  • Biosafety Level 3 is PrettyH @ LiveJournal. I have an established Friends List there, complete with filters for various subjects, and as a rule I no longer add people to that list. I've developed a degree of trust with those who read my near-daily posts (and whose I read daily as well), and the balance is good; I don't wish to allow any further additions lest I err in my choices and find my private business being splashed all over the 'net. It contains details about everything from my boyfriends to my job to my family to my strange adventures and experiences, and it is therefore locked down like a prison during a riot.
  • Biosafety Level 4 is my actual, physical, paper journal, kept since I was 9 or 10 to the present, which gets read by NOBODY (although a small handful of you know about two other secret locations where I occasionally transcribe the deep, dark stuff that usually comes first from my pen).

My point in telling you this? I know there are a good number of you who have this blog on GoogleReader or on their RSS feed, and some folks have emailed me asking why A) I don't update this one very often, and/or B) this blog is so...surface, most of the time. Now you know. And the invitation to step up to Level 2 is there for you now, should you wish to take it. That is where all of what I've written thus far about my time in Scotland is located, so it's there, if you're willing to reach for the key to open the lock!

Meantime, I can and will gladly share my photo album, at the very least, with anyone who's interested (and who isn't on Facebook already): Ehch's UK Trip 2008 in all its glory can be viewed at your leisure.

And I'd love it if you'd leave a comment here and direct me to your blog, if you have one, because I like keeping up with my friends' lives (and those of strangers, too...)!

Now to the fun stuff (because, here in Canada, we're just coming off a long weekend for Thanksgiving, so this is technically a Monday for us in terms of the work week - BLARGH - and you know how I like to amuse you with twisted links on Mondays). Long live the time-sucking glory of my lists! (Note that some of these links may contain mildly NSFW material, so don't go clicking away while your boss is standing behind you or anything.)

  • The 11 Most Awkward Imaginable Moments - I don't know how these people had enough time to devote to these photo manipulations, but a couple of them made me laugh aloud.

  • 7 Music Trends Whose Return Must Be Stopped - I am unaware of any up-and-coming mass celebrity Christmas songs in the works, but I do think that Hair Metal is a threat about which we should all be vigilant. (Also worth noting: Level 42 escaped mention in the "Bands With Numbers 4 Names" segment. I think I'd have boggled if they hadn't.) "Dudes As Ugly Chicks" made me spit out my drink.

  • 5 Bizarre Ways The Weather Can Kill You Without Warning - because, apparently, terrorist alert levels aren't enough; now we need to live in ph33r that Mother Nature is gonna bust a cap in our asses for no good reason.

  • 6 Horrible Lessons Movies Like To Teach Kids - even if I've mentioned this one before, it is so worth reading again. The Creepy Recluse is Actually the Nicest Person on the Block gets me every time. It's so true. HOW DID WE NOT ALL GET KIDNAPPED?!?

  • 6 Famous People Who Pissed Away Their Fortune - because it's fun to laugh and point at the Have Nots who did it to themselves. Greedy bastards. Yes, I'm talking about you, Ed McMahon.

  • The 5 Most Clearly Insane Public Figures Endorsing McCain - I would've enjoyed this more if they'd also done a Top 5 list of Obama-llamas, too. If anyone happens to find one, please do share! Still, I did get a chuckle out of the GW pics, like this one...

And now, to wrap up, a few of the newer (and funnier) urban legends hitting our beloved Snopes.Com lately:

  • Doll Talk - A Fisher-Price doll utters phrases such as "Satan is king!" and "Islam is the light!" Where can I buy one of these??

  • Spare Ribs - a collection of photos that show a woman who had her lowest ribs removed so she could look extra faboo in that corset.

  • Dolphin Rings - a video apparently showing that dolphins can make bubble rings and actually play a game with them. That's smarter than a lot of humans I know.

  • Why English Teachers Die Young - a list of hilariously bad metaphors that would probably be enough to drive any teacher to suicide. (If that doesn't work, try reading a Laurell K. Hamilton blog entry. WORDS IS HER BUSINESS.)

  • Obama Sex Video! - I cannot believe there are enough people who would want to see such a thing that this would be an effective way to spread a computer virus... Eugh. But I do love the text of the email, which ends off so eloquently with, "Obama it's not right choice!!" Poetry, I tell you.

  • Strawberry, QUICK - so we're just getting over the whole Jim Jones Kool-Aid business, and now we have to wonder if there's meth in our Quik?? Is nothing sacred??

Hope that helped you kill some time at the start of our short week, fellow Canucks. To everyone else...well, you're just as close to Friday as we are (hell, some of you Aussie types are even closer!), so... Wait. What was I talking about?

This is what happens when I let myself blog before sunrise. Hardy har.

I'm sure my next entry will have a little more substance than this one did. We can hope.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

For those asking about my trip - where and why, for example...

Mmkay. I leave for the airport Thursday morning (Oct. 2nd) and won't be back until probably late Tuesday/early Wednesday (Oct. 8th). The Glasgow airport is mercifully only a 15 minute taxi ride from our hotel. And oooh, they only have those awesome black taxis with the doors that open the wrong way!! [/geek] I'm 90% sure I'll be taking my laptop (free WiFi in my room, plus I can upload my photos every day & clear off my cards), so I may be able to be in touch that way. My Mom has gotta be freaking at the thought of being without her daughter AND her husband AT THE SAME TIME (this has actually never happened in their 34 years of marriage), so she's hoping I'll find a way to access Facebook & can then pretend I'm only in the next room. Poor Mommy. (But my uncle is here with her the whole time we're gone, so he'll doubtlessly keep her occupied and thoroughly entertained.)

I called the hotel yesterday just to confirm everything (since we booked through Expedia, I figured it'd be wise to ensure that all our bases are covered before we jump on a plane), and it was hilarious. First I kept dialing it wrong - there's a zero you have to drop, and I never remember which one (which is why I put the CORRECT number above), so I kept getting told the number was out of service. NOT WHAT YOU WANT TO HEAR from a hotel at which you're supposed to be arriving in a few days!! So I sent an email to their reservations inquiries address, which said, in part,

Hello! I've been trying to get through via the telephone, but I'm being told the listed number is no longer in service. (This could, however, be as a result of me being from Canada and being hopeless at dialing internationally.)

Uh...d-uh. "Me Canadian! ME NO DIAL GOOD!!" This appearance of stupidity skyrocketed when I finally DID figure out how to get through, and - after not understanding a bloody word the woman at the front desk said by way of greeting - I had to confess to her that I'd also sent an email and that she could delete it now. She had a good laugh over that. "It's not Mars, dear!" she said in her lovely brogue, and I chuckled and explained the whole I've-never-been-off-the-continent thing. She got quite excited at that.

"Oooh, you've not been out of Canada and you've chosen us, then?" was what I believe she said (but don't quote me on it).

"Well, I've been to various parts of Canada and the U.S., but our phone numbers are a lot shorter here. We need simplicity."

That gave her more to laugh at, of course. "Let me check my schedule to see if I'll be at the desk when you check in, love," she said, which amused me, and after hearing pages flip for a moment (and listening to my phone bill rack up with each passing second), she said quite gleefully, something that sounded like, "Oh, aye! It'll be me here to greet you! We love having Canadians stay. You're a charming lot."

Pity I didn't understand what the hell she was saying when she spoke her name at the intro. It sounded Martian, anyway.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that, when she asked for my name so she could confirm the details, I said, "There are two rooms, both under the same last name but different first names."

"All righty," she said. "Last name, then?"

"It's Swanson. S-W-A..."

She laughed. "It's all right, dear. We have a lot of those."

*laughs* Yeah. I guess they would.

She also added that she'd try to get us rooms that overlook the pond, to which I responded, "You have a pond??" (As though somehow that's the most absurd, bizarre thing I could imagine..? I...dunno. I think my excitement about the trip has overtaken my IQ points.)

A moment of silence. "Why, yes, dear. We're called the Glasgow Pond Hotel."

"I just figured it was a pretty name."

Again she laughed. "No, dear. One side of our grounds is taken over by a large pond that's full of swans, which I'm sure you'd like to see from your window."

I assume this is because of my name...? Either way, the pond-side rooms are an extra £s;25 a night, and she wants to just give them to us for being Canadian and being Swansons and being phone-illiterate, so I'll take it! I'm rather looking forward to meeting this woman, whatever her name is. She made me day. (*LAUGHS* I meant to type MY, not ME. Oh, god, it's starting already.)

There's something to be said about staying in a Best Western no matter where you are. You have a reasonable expectation that things will be nice. Not fancy, but nice. Having said that, though, this one has just been overhauled, would seem they went for "fancy". They're graded as a 3-star (presumably because of the not-outrageous cost compared to the other hotels in Glasgow) but actually fall into the requirements of a 4-star, so...again, I'LL TAKE IT.

The website shares all sorts of happifying information, like the fact that the bar is open 24 hours a day. Whoo! That plus 24 hour room service and a dessert list longer than one's arm? Yeah. I'll have to be conscious of not spending too much time in my room. But it's really good to know that, at the end of an exhausting day of prowling about the countryside, we have such a nice place to crash. For whatever reason, my Dad and I each got a double room, so I plan to switch beds each night. And if I pick up any cute Scottish boys, I'll have somewhere to chuck them when I've gotten what I wanted and would prefer not to share a bed once I'm ready to sleep. Works out well, I think.

My Dad is going to have to be torn away from the huge flat screen LCD TVs that are on each of our walls. That could get interesting. By the way, the principal reason for getting separate rooms is because my father snores like the world is ending, but yes, it is in the back of my mind that I'd like to have at least one illicit hookup. Hah!

Yes, I am bad. But that makes me FUN. And on that particular subject, does anyone have any advice for me on how to snag me a Scottish one-night stand? I have the whole Canadian thing going in my favour, but if anyone would care to offer some tips (especially if you've had your own overseas hookup adventures!), I'm listening. Closely. I'd like to have the entire Scotland experience, if you get what I'm sayin'. Nadine and I were just discussing this the other night - my lack of whore-dom when I was at the prime age to slut about freely - so I'd like to remedy that with at least ONE international one night stand.

Morals? What morals? I never said I had any, did I? If I did, I was lying through my teeth. Besides, it's been 2 years since I last got any (we know who ruined me for a while), so methinks a vacation is a good time back in that saddle. (I'M KIDDING.)

I suspect we'll be spending a goodly amount of time in this lounge, because my father is a sucker for fresh scones, and they have an after-hours menu that puts Fran's to shame. (Toronto nightlife reference; don't mind me.) I'm also hoping that it'll be chilly enough to warrant them having their 7,012,548 fireplaces going. I swear, you look at pictures of this place and wonder how they managed to divide every single room and lobby and section of anything with a great big modern fireplace. Gorgeous! Not sure if I have one in my room, though, but as I said, I'll be distracted by the wall-sized TV. Who the hell said that the rooms in UK hotels are ridiculously small compared to North America??

I'm not positive, but I think this is a photo of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, which is where, on the evening of Sunday, October 5th,I'll be scratching one more thing off my Bucket List and finally seeing my most beloved band: Level 42. I canNOT put into words the degree of excitement I feel about this. And yep, I'm goin' alone. 4th row centre!! I've never been to a concert alone before, but I suspect this will be a lot of fun, because I can just make friends with everyone sitting around me. And, eventually, with the band (although I wish to hell Mark King had answered my diva-free request for a backstage pass; I only asked because I want photos to bring home to my Mom, and you can take pics during the show, so I HAVE to meet them! I'll use my womanly wiles if I have to. Flirt with their security guards. It can be done.)

We're also spending a day in Edinburgh, of course (and, if we can pull it off, Belfast as well), which will involve - among other things - one of the coolest walking tours I've ever heard about! It's called "The Ghosts & Ghouls Underground Tour, which is apparently creepy enough that they have to give you complimentary BOOZE once you get through it. (My Dad doesn't drink more than once every couple of years, which means he gets goofy after half a glass of wine; this oughta be fun.) About the tour: By day Edinburgh is a bustling metropolis – but at night the old buildings and narrow closes take on a more sinister air…A long history of murder, torture, hangings and plague has left a haunting legacy on the city's Old Town and ghostly apparitions now walk its streets.

Enter the underground vaults whose walls, it is said, have absorbed the memories of those who once lived and worked there. This part of the tour is not for the faint-hearted. Cling tightly to the person beside you: we try to leave with the same number as we had on going in!

Choose the extended tour and end your experience with a complimentary drink in the atmospheric Megget’s Cellar, a candlelit nook located above the Underground Vaults, where the guide will continue to entertain you with eerie tales from Edinburgh’s past.

Be Warned: Mercat Tours employs neither sound nor visual effects on this tour. If you see or hear something untoward during your time with us - Be Concerned !!!

Ohhh, yes. This is gonna be SO MUCH FUN. Add in a bus tour around Loch Lomond (which, as you can see from the photo, is incredibly beautiful... I seriously thought places could only look like this in the movies, after a lot of touch-ups from the FX crew. Apparently not...) and a whole bunch of cool stuff right around our hotel (like The Necropolis - how deliciously creepy to think my hotel is across the street from 3,500 corpses...), and whatever else catches our fancy, and it's gonna be epic. There are endless antique bookshops around our neighbourhood, which will have my father completely thrilled, and I think just being surrounded by that fantastic accent for most of a week will make the whole experience well worthwhile. Everyone's surprised that we're not going for longer, but between my Dad's work schedule (and now mine), money, and the odds that we'll be bloody knackered by the end of the fifth day, I think we're doing just fine.

[ Glasgow's Necropolis ]

I am also, as you can imagine, thrilled to pieces to discover that I'm going to the one city in the world that calls its subway "The Clockwork Orange". It's the weirdest little train - only 3 cars long, and it comes every 5 minutes, and it has a track that's only about 11km long! My hotel is close to the main train depot, so I'll definitely be hopping on at least once to take a spin around the underside of the city!


And as you can see... looks like - according to BBC's weather report for Glasgow, we'll be flying into a sunny, chilly day, which is exactly what we want!

So there you have it. I unfortunately can't promise postcards to everyone this time, because that could get SCARILY expensive, but if you want to email me your complete mailing address I will certainly do my very best.

One last question for those who do a lot more international travel than I do: What can I bring as far as toothpaste/mouthwash/lip gloss/other liquids when I pack?? I can't remember how to go about that whole "you can't have liquids on the plaaaaane" thing, so I'd like to know how to get around that or how to make it simplest. And how much can I bring back? Is there a monetary limit on the souvenirs I can come home with?

I can't believe I'll be on six different planes over the next two weeks, when everybody knows I HATE TO FLY. Oh, god. (And yes, I'll gladly take advice or anecdotes on HOW NOT TO FREAK OUT ON THE PLANES, too.) These are the right models but not necessarily the right airlines. I'm flying US Airways and British Airways only.

From Toronto to Philadelphia: Canadair RJ

From Philadelphia to Manchester: Airbus 330-300

From Manchester to Glasgow: EMB-135

And coming home...

From Glasgow to London: Boeing 737-400

From London to Philadelphia: Boeing 757

From Philadelphia to Toronto: Canadair RJ

AUGH! Some of them are just...way too small. ESPECIALLY THE FIRST AND LAST ONES. I barely kept it together on the EMBs from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara! *deep breath* Xanax and beer. Xanax and beeeeer.

ANYWAY. Consider that my comprehensive pre-Scotland post. It took me TWO HOURS to type. I need a nap now.