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  • Locked in

    Take a look at this picture:

    Yes, you are looking at a doorknob. It’s my interior bathroom doorknob, to be precise. It’s a mix of gold and silver colors. That raised part in the center is only decorative, and the outside half of the knob is identical. It looks quite benign.

    But it’s actually a villainous doorknob, full of evil plans. It sits there silently for months, plotting and scheming, waiting to catch me off guard, at a moment when I’m certainly not thinking about my bathroom doorknob.

    That moment came Friday evening, when I’d had less than five hours of sleep, had been awake since 4 a.m., had driven 110 miles, and had been staring at a computer screen for a good chunk of the day. Oh, and on my way home I’d gone shopping (not my most favorite past-time) for a birthday present for a 1-year-old. In other words, when I went to open the bathroom door, I was quite confused when the oh-so-angelic doorknob didn’t turn.

    I tried again. I turned (or tried to turn) it the other way. Then I recalled that my doorknob had pulled the same stunt a while back. I was quite shocked then to learn that my bathroom door actually locked, and then I promptly forgot that bit of trivia about my house — probably because I spent the summer battling black widows. At least this time, I knew I didn’t need to panic, since I’d clearly managed to free myself the last time I managed to get locked in my own bathroom.

    Of course, it would have helped if I remembered HOW to unlock the door. I pulled, I pushed, I turned some more. Just when I was starting to worry, one of those methods worked. Now that I think about it, I’m still not sure how to unlock the door…

    In typical Layla fashion, I promptly posted about it on both facebook and Twitter — might as well spread the humor at my own expense! The best response was from my friend Rick, who suggested I put a refrigerator in the bathroom for next time, adding, “Mmmmm. Toilet beer.” Perhaps he was referring to Bud Light?

  • Nerd alert: 44444

    It’s no secret to most of my friends that I am easily amused. This extends to numbers and patterns, which often drive me mildly nuts because I see them constantly. On long drives, I’ve been known to mentally calculate my miles per hour to the nearest hundredth, simply because I was bored. My days of grocery store work and crime/court work have made it that I see produceĀ  and criminal codes everywhere, too. We’ll get to 11:11 in another post on another day.

    Anyway, the other day my car’s odometer hit a cool number. Since I’ve gotten better at thinking, “Oooh, photo opportunity, let me pull out my phone,” I documented it:

    Aren’t you glad you spent the time reading this blog post?

  • PostSecret tour stop

    I’ve followed the PostSecret blog for a long time, and a friend gave me one of the books a few years ago. So, when I heard the author (for lack of a better word to describe him) was speaking at the university 16 miles from my house, I was intrigued. But there was competition for tickets, and I don’t like dealing with that, and I figured I didn’t need to spend $10 on it. Then I got a last-minute offer of a free ticket, so I jumped at the opportunity and attended the event Saturday night.

    If you don’t know about PostSecret, it started five years ago when a guy named Frank Warren got an idea for an art project. He printed up 3,000 postcards with his home address on them, then began asking random Washington D.C. strangers to write a secret on the card and mail it to him. It became an Internet sensation, and now he gets 1,000 postcards a week from around the globe. He’s also received secrets written on a potato, a bag of coffee, an In-N-Out bag (which he showed Saturday), and others. He just published his fifth book, a best-seller.

    Warren is a great public speaker, and he had the right balance of humor and serious thought-provoking matters. For him, the biggest purpose of collecting secrets is to encourage people to let go of them. Plenty of the secrets are funny — he said “I pee in the shower” is the most common secret he receives — but many are from people who are dealing with awful things in life. If they can tell their awful secret, even anonymously, then maybe they will feel relief and be able to move on.

    Of course, some people will probably move on for other reasons: At the end of Warren’s talk, he asked people to step forward to one of several microphones and share their own secrets. One girl brought down the house by admitting that, for revenge, she uses her roommate’s pasta strainer to sift poop out of her reptile’s cage. I have a feeling she’ll be moving on to another roommate because a confession like that won’t remain secret in today’s world full of social networking. But that’s probably best for both roommates, anyway.

    Others shared about depression, and some started crying as they shared their dark secrets; audience members then started crying, too.

    “The children almost broken by the world become the adults who will change it,” Warren said in his speech, and it stuck with me.

    Much of the audience was made up of college students, and the first one who spoke publicly said that he makes it a point to say hi to as many people as possible, because when he was in high school he was the outcast nobody talked to. That young man didn’t let his experiences break him; instead he’s trying to change the world simply through kindness.

    One PostSecret blog reader was inspired by a postcard to start a website that would reunite lost cameras with their owners. Now, dozens of people have found the pictures they thought were gone forever, thanks to I Found Your Camera. As I write this, the site has received 5.2 million hits.

    The camera site and PostSecret started simply: Someone got an idea and decided to act on it. On the screen behind Warren, he displayed a simple question: “What’s Your Crazy Idea?” His own mother doesn’t like PostSecret (she called it “diabolical”) and, after glancing at his books in a bookstore, said she doesn’t want her own copies. But that didn’t stop Warren, and his idea has become a phenomenon. He has found something he truly enjoys doing, and he’s been rewarded: Warren has heard from people who, after seeing a secret on the website or sharing their own, decided to get help rather than committing suicide.

    We all need to cling to our dreams, and take a chance by pursuing the ideas that come to us. After all, we might just stumble upon a way to help others.

  • Fun pasttime: OKCupid

    The other night, when I should have been either sleeping or doing something productive, my friend Maggie and I happened to start chatting on Facebook. And in the process she sent me a link to a profile on the OKCupid.com dating website. It started with, “So I’m unemployed and currently trying to get my life on track.” The guy’s profile name has “187” in it, the California Penal Code section for murder. And it had this for his profile photo:

    Really? You’re 19, unemployed, and you’re looking for a girl that finds your gas mask attractive? In LODI? Good luck, dude.

    But that guy is far from being alone! Maggie and I probably spent another hour on the site, being both amazed and amused. A few gems:

    • xchrystalpyro quit smoking four days ago. (The date of his last login? Sept. 9.) “My personality will win you over if you ever quit staring at me,” he says. Well then.
    • Mr. tallhandsomensc says, “I am a business that enjoys life.” A business?
    • EXMULEMAN (ex? muleman?) starts his profile by saying that his cat told him to get a life. I think this cat should get a gig on David Letterman’s show. Oh, and when asked what he’s good at, he says, “takin’ out the garbage.”
    • ssb2 is a grown-up at age 32 but says, “jesus can walk on water and turn wine into beer. i can swim through land and turn wine into pot…”
    • Quivirian has three profile photos that look like three different men. He says women should message him if they want someone to write them a sonnet.
    • And, last but not least, we have peteranton39 who has “A LUST FOR LIFE, A LUST FOR LOVE, A LUST FOR LAUGHTER AND MUSIC.” Apparently he also has a lust for capital letters. At age 67, he’s looking for a woman between the ages of 22 and 46. In other words, if you’re only 20 years younger than him, rather than 21 years younger, you are too old and don’t have enough “LUST FOR LIFE” to suit him.

    So now you know my newest favorite source of amusement. And no, you won’t find my profile on that site, because I don’tĀ  own a gas mask or have enough “LUST FOR LIFE.”

  • Weekend Wrapup: Marc’s 40th

    If a friend turns 40, you’ve had lots of time to clean your house, and you’ve been talking for eons about throwing a party, what do you do? Why, you throw him a party! So that’s what I did this weekend. After all, how many times does Marc Lutz the cartoonist turn FORTY? It was a busy weekend for lots of people, other others just flaked out, but that’s OK. I probably went overboard anyway, so I was left with lots of pizza (mmm), snacks (not what I need!), and wine (yay!), despite my best efforts to send most of it home with people.

    We wound up with a good group of people, and they made it a lot of fun. They tolerated the awesome black decorations that Marc’s wife, Melinda, helped scatter around my house:

    They played “Pin The Tail On The Marc” (admire my stellar PhotoShop skills):

    Yes, that's me.

    They ate. They drank (Jasmine supplied the wine!). And they ate the cake made by Marc’s wife (Marc helped decorate it):

    The cake was almost directly beneath my smoke detector, which somehow didn’t go off despite ALL those candles:

    And the guests humored me by reading some of the research I’d done, printed out and left around the living room. On the day Marc was born, a loaf of bread cost 24 cents. A nice house on the good side of town was going for $17,000. Sputnik launched that day.

    When they left, I posted to Twitter and Facebook, “I have party hats on the front lawn and empty wine bottles in the kitchen. Party must have turned out ok!”

    So, happy birthday, Marc! Here’s to another four decades of cartooning.

    Tomorrow I hope to test my leg on another short run, so I’ll blog about that.

  • At least the carpets are clean

    If you’re in the middle of a heatwave, what’s the best thing to do? If you are me, apparently the answer is, “shampoo the carpets!” It sounds like a good idea at first, because the heat will make the carpets will dry faster. However, that only works if you leave the doors and windows open so the heat comes in, which is less than ideal. Duly noted for the next time.

    As I type this, a certain feline is still occasionally throwing himself against the other side of the garage door, apparently thinking that if he whines, scratches and makes enough noise, the door will open. I locked the cats in the garage (how cruel of me; they have towels, food, water, litter and lots of things to explore in there) about four hours ago, which was an adventure all on its own. They knew something was up, because I’d been moving furniture into the garage. When they weren’t looking, I closed the bedroom and bathroom doors, so the cats couldn’t hide very well. Then I tried to coax them into the garage.

    “Coax” is not a word that works with cats. I rattled their food dish and they came running, then skidded to stops at the garage door and refused to move. I picked them up and put them in the garage, but of course they leaped over/under/around/through me to get back in the house. We went around in circles, with me resorting to herding them with the vacuum cleaner. That only worked so well, because everyone knows you can’t herd cats. I finally thought I had them both in the garage when Mickey broke free and ran straight for the sliding glass door. He knocked the whole screen out and took off into the backyard.

    Cue the anxious yowling of a 7-year-old cat who’s never gone outside. He circled the backyard along the fence, then decided it was safer back in the house. I put him in the garage again, and this time he hunkered down in a corner. One down, one to go. Mousie literally put his paws on the doorjamb of the garage door and held on for dear life. After several break-away escapes and one mild war wound to my arm, I somehow got the cat in the garage and closed the door with a huge sigh of relief.

    Then I realized the carpet cleaner was in the garage.

    After another round of tag with Mousie, I was once again victorious. The actual vacuuming and shampooing really wasn’t that bad, and it didn’t take as long as I’d expected. But now I’m sitting in a warm house waiting for the carpets to dry. As I debate whether to close the windows to keep the heat out, I hear the scratching of a determined cat who thinks I’m cruel for keeping him away from damp carpets. This is one of many reasons I’m actively looking for new homes for them — I want less drama and more simplicity in my life.

    At least the carpets have a bit less Cat in their fibers.

  • Mt. Shasta

    Since I’m not feeling inspired, I’m just going to post a couple photos of Mt. Shasta. I grew up at the foot of this 14,162-foot mountain located about 45 minutes south of the Oregon/California border.

    Here’s the morning sun over the mountain just north of Weed, a view I saw thousands of times:

    Sun over Shasta

    And here is the mountain from further south, near the city of Mt. Shasta:

    Mt. Shasta

    Not bad for a camera phone. (I took more photos with my real camera, but sorting through those is still something on my to-do list.) Notice how blue everything looks? That’s because there’s no pollution.

  • Weekend Wrap-up: Shark, etc.

    As has become my sad habit (due to the stress fracture of doom), this weekend involved no running. This means you’re not being subjected to a report of how many miles I traveled, etc, etc. Instead, I went to the Lodi Grape Festival with friends who got free tickets. It’s basically like a county fair, minus the livestock, plus huge murals made of grapes. And we had this:


    Along with a helping of odd cuteness:

    Shorn alpaca, perhaps?

    And there were the carnies, of course, who somehow always manage to assemble rides and operate games involving darts without leaving a trail of mayhem behind them. The funny thing is, I heard two security guards got into a fight there, not the carnies.

    Sunday involved lunch with the gals, and then a dresser cleaning spree. I was quite surprised to discover that I had 70 pairs of socks and 61 pairs of underwear. Those numbers have since been reduced, and I plan to go through them again later as I try to Downsize My Life.

  • Blog direction

    It took me a while to restart my blog, in part because I wanted a different name for it. I’ve used theSmudge.com for years, and I happened to pick that name due to sheer lack of creativity and plenty of exhaustion. It’s actually pretty hard to come up with a URL that isn’t taken, and it’s getting harder every year.

    My work blog became dormant when I got too busy, and then more so when the website changed and looked more foreign than ever. But weeks and then months passed and I couldn’t come up with a name for my own blog. I wanted to blend running and writing, and my choice would have been “Between the Lines” as a play on paper lines and road/track lines. However, everything remotely similar was already a registered domain name, and I was determined to claim the URL as mine, too. After a brainstorming session with friends in Portland earlier this month, I went online and struck out once again.

    And so The Smudge remains. It’s been mine for eight and a half years, which means that if I keep it a couple more years it will have outlasted my career. I’m at a vague place in life, but at least my website and e-mail address are on solid ground.

    Anyway, I intend this blog to be about running, writing and any random bits of my life that I feel like including. It doesn’t have much running on here yet (other than that link up there) due to a stress fracture, which will be discussed soon in another post. And it doesn’t have much about writing, either, because I’m only just starting to regain my desire to write. But I do feel that desire returning; I was just watching an episode of a TV show I missed while on vacation, and it partially addressed something I want to write at length about. A small voice in my head was quietly screaming, “Do it! Go after that project! I’m not resting until you do!” Yes, little voice, I’m trying to listen and I’m trying to find myself again.

    So that, in a rambling way, is what this blog is about. We’ll see what happens when I attempt to mix running, writing and the occasional happenings of my life.