Friday, December 29, 2006

Dani's Birthday

Our favorite Xmas baby (who hates to make birthday plans) was forced to celebrate last night! The lovely Ms. E. arranged for us all to meet up at the Village Bistro in Arlington. It was a nice small party of 9 - Stick braved the highways and crazy drivers all the way up from Atlanta to be there! She even managed to get Dani a nice gift from KH (with Holly's help). Thanks, Holly. ;)

The birthday girl did wear a tiara all night, to make sure she was easily identifiable to the masses. (don't we look cute?) :)

Dinner was verrrry yummy (and fast! entrees in under ten minutes!). Most of us vowed to return to the Village Bistro immediately - although I don't know if I'll make it back there before I leave on Monday. Poor Pete was the only guy at the table, but he was ok with it -- until we started talking about our mothers giving birth to us and other 'girly' topics... he was so traumatized by the end that he started re-folding the wrapping paper that Dani was neatly removing from her gifts. (Here's Dani unwrapping on the right, Pete folding on the left)

Then we migrated North (or is it West?) to the Four Courts in Courthouse to meet up with the rest of the crew. Dani's roommate Mairead (how do you pronounce that again?) tends bar at the Courts so she begrudgingly provided some "Irish Car Bombs" (a shot of Bailey's dropped into 2/3 glass of Guinness). Blech! These were followed a short time later by shots of Tequila. Before you start thinking that I'm a lush, please know that I participated in NEITHER of these. I stood by and took pictures. ;) Stick and Dani were gearing up to go to the lake cabin with a bunch of ruffians for New Year's, so this was good practice. We were all enjoying the stories they were telling about last year's trip, and can't wait to hear what craziness awaits -- vegetable oil, a blue tarp and some spatulas? or how about a headbut to the groin, protected by the "im-Parv-anator"? there's video of that one! Really, you really don't want to know.

How did Stick get the Tiara? Anyway, here's the tequila shot in progress. :)
I can't tell you how the evening ended... the smoky bar and my sore throat combined made me decide to leave just after 11... I'll need to get an update from the girls.

Xmas photos

Hannah in her pink boots!

(Looks like she's already bow-legged!) Maybe her mom got a better picture of the modeling than I did...

and, the magnets I made for Kelly & Micki

and my favorite picture of the girl from Xmas Eve:

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

DC is my hometown...

... but I think Austin is "home" now.

Arrived on Saturday night. The whole fam came to pick me up at the airport, and we went to Ted's Montana Grill in Crystal City for dinner. We all had various forms of bison meat -- steak, meat loaf, short ribs, burger -- but nothing so impressive that we have to run right back. It was a little unnerving to sit underneath the wall-mounted giant stuffed buffalo head. (His name was Maximus.) When we got home, we celebrated the last night of Chanuka. I got a penguin to add to my collection (a collection that is growing daily as my mother goes out shopping), a lovely bracelet and three books I wanted (including a knitting book) from my brother. Poor kid had to brave the Crafts section of the bookstore to get the Yarn Harlot book. heh. I also opened my new (RED) iPod (thanks, Andy!) and started loading songs onto it. I loooove it!

Xmas eve at Kelly's was tons of fun, as usual. We only had nine people this year, which was a nice, small group. Hannah was the only little kid, and she milked it for all it was worth. She tried on her pink cowgirl boots as soon as she opened them, but I think they were a little too big, and not quite comfy without socks. But she did like them! (She was a crankypants all day long, and by that time, almost nothing was making her happy.) We had Kelly's awesome lasagna, salad, Aunt Karen's garlic bread (spread: 2 sticks of butter with four cloves of crushed garlic, tarragon, basil and ... dill? It was yummy), and cream puffs with chocolate sauce for dessert. We were stuffed! Kelly's mom gave me a neat long wooden sign that's a star and four stripes... If I can figure out how to get it home, it'll look great on my wall. :)

Xmas day: Chinese food! We did the reverse of the stereotypical Jewish holiday, though... we went for dim sum at Fortune and then went to the movies. We saw the latest Christopher Guest movie, "For Your Consideration." It was better than "A Mighty Wind" but not nearly as good as "Best in Show". I don't know if it's because my aunt breeds and shows dogs, or if it was just a funnier movie overall, but that by far is my favorite Guest movie. Well, ok, except for the Princess Bride. ("You don't by any chance have six fingers on your right hand?") and Spinal Tap. The rest of the day wasn't terribly exciting... and the weather was icky.

Boxing day, mom was up and out at 8am for the day-after-Xmas shopping at Lord & Taylor! I wasn't nearly awake enough to go with her. I probably should have gone along - she ended up buying a half-dozen 2' tall Santas! (I'm so confused.) It turned out to be international foods day - sushi for lunch and Indian food for dinner. Ryan and Becky picked an Indian restaurant in Columbia that was on the Zagat's list... it was hard to find, but the food was very tasty.

I'd probably have more to report, but I managed to get sick -- or a really bad allergy attack -- as soon as I got here. Just like what happened when I got to LA for Thanksgiving. ICK!

Friday, December 22, 2006

What else would you do with a USB port?

You've seen the USB fan, the USB light, the USB coffee warmer...even the USB lava lamp.

Now meet "Rex the Humper." Be sure to watch the video to see just how amorous Rex is. ;)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

How's your Grammar?

Whee! I'm a grammar whiz!

Your Language Arts Grade: 98%

Way to go! You know not to trust the MS Grammar Check and you know "no" from "know." Now, go forth and spread the good word (or at least, the proper use of apostrophes).

Are You Gooder at Grammar?
Make a Quiz

Monday, December 18, 2006

Yes, Virginia, there really was a Holocaust

I have been trying to ignore stories about last week's Iranian conference on whether the Holocaust actually took place or not. (We all know that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a nutcase.) This article in the LA Times really puts this conference into perspective. According to this emigree from Somalia, it's not that all Muslims deny the Holocaust - they are simply oblivious. They've never been taught about the mass murder of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, political dissidents, (or for that matter anyone Hitler didn't like)... or seen pictures of the gas chambers, the cattle cars, the piles of suitcases and shoes and hair. As this writer suggests, they are being fed propaganda, not unlike Josef Goebbels' efforts, telling them that Jews are evil.

Yes, there are still people in this great melting-pot of a country who have 'issues' with Jews (and why are there Jews in Hollywood who have forgiven Mel Gibson for his idiotic rant?!?) but for the most part, we're left alone - and even regarded highly enough to be given a small spot on the retail sales floor for the requisite blue and silver chanuka crap this time of year. ;)

How do we combat the institutionalized anti-semitism of the Muslim world? How do you change years of prejudice, hatred, and negativity? I hope the outcome of the "conference" is a) rational - yes, the Holocaust happened (hah!) and b) serves to wake the world up to what's going on over there. But somehow, I doubt it.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Offloading pics - random

I realized today that I have been taking pics but not uploading them, so here's the rundown. It's nothing terribly exciting.

Two weeks ago when it was really cold around here, I broke out my new hot cocoa. I bought the "marshmallow lovers" low-fat Swiss Miss. Let me tell you, they aren't kidding when they say marshmallow lovers. Each serving is two packets - one is the hot cocoa powder, and the other is all mini-marshmallows! I had to take a picture. It was soooooooo yummy.

For the past week, my tv has been slowly dying (in fact, as mom reminded me, it was already starting to go south when she was here two months ago!) . I've had that set for ten years - it survived moving from Arlington to Chevy Chase and back to Arlington, and then to Austin. I spent the past week jumping up off the sofa to go whack one side of it or the other to keep the picture going. Finally, last night, I gave up and went to Circuit City. Complicating things, I have a tv unit that has a square-shaped hole for the tv - in other words, the television itself cannot be wider than 28" or taller than 26". The width restriction really limited my choices with the flat screens. I literally had to go around the store with a tape measure! I ended up with a 24" flat screen digital tv, and was smart enough to have it delivered instead of trying to bring it home on my own. It's lovely. :) Happy Chanuka to me! (and thanks, mom & dad!) [Extra points if you can figure out what movie I was watching when I took this picture] ;)

Which reminds, me, Happy Chanuka! When I unpacked my kitchen in August, I realized that I had four boxes of Chanuka candles. Four boxes! I think I must have just bought some when they were on sale after the holiday - and then conveniently forgot and did the same thing the next year. Oops. (Plus, I didn't use the big candles last year because we lit the little ones on the menorah I took to London.) Here are my two lovely menorahs and my multitude of candles. The menorah on the left represents an oil lamp, with the outline of Jerusalem in the middle. It was sent to me when I was a freshman in college by the student support group from my synagogue, and I've used it almost every year since.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Working neither here nor there

Today is the big day! We move into our new offices in the new building! I escape cubicle-land (aka "the Library") and enter a real office, with windows and -- most importantly -- a door! Unfortunately, it's also working-in-limbo day, because I can't go work in my cubicle (they're moving the cube furniture to the new building) and I can't go work in my new office, because they don't want us to get in the way of the movers bringing our stuff in. *sigh*

So here I sit in Starbuck's, getting amped up on the strong smell of coffee, trying to get some work done, and drowning out the constant Xmas music with my Launchcast. (And trying to figure out what to get for everybody for Xmas/Chanuka. Any requests? suggestions?)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

You're more likely to be gay if you eat tofu.

I wish I were kidding with this.

"Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That's why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today's rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products."

--Jim Rutz, a columnist writing in the far-right WorldNetDaily that soy is a “devil food” that has caused a rise in homosexuality. Seriously.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Holiday Meme

Welcome to the Holiday edition of "Getting to know your friends" - courtesy of Phyl-Phyl
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Both. It all depends on the gift. I looove wrapping gifts.
2. Real tree or artificial? None. Menorah, check. Chanuka lights, check. Tree? Not so much.
3. When do you put up the tree? see #2. Menorah comes out the day before Chanuka, and gets put away after the eighth night... after I've cleaned all the melted wax off the base.
4. When do you take the tree down? again, see #2.
5. Do you like eggnog? Lactose intolerance really curbs my eggnog intake. However, I would love to get a sip of Dani's famous version someday. I'll just pop a dozen lactaid pills first! I'm still on the hunt for the recipe my mom used to have for eggnog cookies. they were awesome.
6. Favorite gift received [as a child]? There are two things that I absolutely love that my parents got me - first, a script from the West Wing, signed by Dule Hill, Allison Janney, John Spencer and Richard Schiff. I literally screamed and jumped up and down when I opened it. [there's a picture of that reaction...] Second, a Lalique eagle hood ornament. (I used to have the eagle on a poster that my mom brought back from a car museum. So it was very exciting to have my own eagle.) That was my only Chanuka present that year... and dad made me play 20-questions in the week leading up to the holiday, to see if I could figure out what it was. (I couldn't.)
7. Do you have a nativity scene? I think I can safely skip answering this one.
8. Hardest person to buy for? Mom. Since she doesn't often express any "need" for anything, it's very hard to come up with something she might like that she hasn't already gotten for herself!
9. Easiest person to buy for? Jeff. I am always surprised at the cool books that come out about comic books and superheroes, and most of the time I get it right. (I think the golf/billiards set I gave him a few years ago was my worst choice ever!)
10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? A battery-powered light-up ring in a weird aluminum box. (last year's office white elephant - thanks, RTK.)
11. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mostly mail. Yikes! Better get started on those this week.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and Love Actually.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas/Chanuka? This mostly depends on when Chanuka actually falls. If I see something for a specific person early in November, I'll buy it - but then I run into the challenge of making sure I can still find it by late December! Otherwise, shopping starts this week in earnest! I have been known to hit the mall on the evening of the 23rd for Xmas gifts.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? That's what "white elephant" parties are for, right?
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas/Chanuka? Potato Latkes with applesauce! yum.
16. Clear lights or colored [on the tree]? Lights with Chanuka shapes attached to them - menorahs, stars, and dreidls - strung around my office.
17. Favorite Christmas song? I love the David Bowie/Bing Crosby duet. But you can't beat Adam Sandler's Chanuka song, or Kyle's "Lonely Jew on Christmas" from South Park. :)
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Travel... but that's because I went and moved to TX, so I have to travel home to DC.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers? Donner, Vixen, Prancer, Dancer, Comet, Cupid and Blitzen. Plus Rudolph. Is that all of them?
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? K&J use an Intel "Bunny-man" that I gave them as a tree-topper. I think that's my favorite.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Eve, because I'm never there (at K&J's) in the morning. ;)
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Xmas music in the stores BEFORE Thanksgiving! UGH!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Wild Wedding Weekend

Spent the weekend in Kansas/Missouri. (Kansas City, MO is the closest airport to Overland Park, KS, so that's where I went.) My friend Stuart "officially" married his wife Jenny. Yes, you read that correctly. These two eloped almost three years ago, before he was to be stationed in [a Middle-Eastern country] for two years, and she was going along on the trip. So now that they're back, this weekend they had a church wedding and a big party.

I admit, was a little (ok, alot) apprehensive about going to another wedding by myself, but in no time, I was "adopted" by Stuart's high school friends, Anthony and Tamara, and Tam's husband Eric. Turns out these were the "cool" kids - the ones that were always causing trouble, the ones that everyone stared at for laughing too loudly. I fit right in! We were so clearly the "fun" table at both the rehearsal dinner and the reception that people moved to hang out with us -- or moved to get away from us! [pictured right: Eric, Tamara, Stuart and Anthony]

The wedding itself was *very* Catholic. Made me think of those times when I was in high school and we would go to the Christmas service at the Cathedral (I was in the choir). Afterwards, my mom would say she needed to go to the synagogue, to "cleanse her palate". I really felt like I needed a good Sh'ma and maybe some Kaddish after the whole father-son-and-holy-ghost thing. (although I can still say the Our Father prayer backwards, forwards and upside-down after all those years at NCS... scary.)
Then we all (the bride & groom and attendants, and the troublemakers) jumped on a little trolley (thankfully, there was heat on the trolley - it was COLD in KC!) and drove around the city to take pictures... although someone on the bus pointed out that it was kind of silly to take pictures of the bride & groom with dead plants and piles of snow everywhere. Oh well. Unfortunately, the trolley seats were wooden slats, so it wasn't terribly comfortable to ride around for two hours. But we survived. (and we stopped and picked up some "Christmas Cheer" after we were done taking pictures, on the way to the reception.) I probably had a few too many of the signature drink - pomegranate martinis - but was able to snag enough water bottles to make it through the night and not have (much of) a hangover this morning. and I think I danced off plenty of alcohol on the dance floor!
All in all, it was a GREAT weekend. I also had to thank Jenny for *not* throwing her bouquet or doing the silly garter thing. Turns out there were probably only two of us who would have been waiting for the bouquet [one of my favorite scenes from SATC - the girls all stand there when a bouquet is thrown, let it fall to the floor without even moving a muscle, and then walk away]. We talked about it this morning... ten years ago, our friends' weddings were full of singles. Not so much any more. Instead, they had an "anniversary" dance - they asked all the married couples to come on the dance floor, and then whittled the dancing couples down based on how long they had been married - 15 years, 20 years, etc. Turns out there was one couple who have been married for 43 years! Wonderful.
There are plenty of other stories from the weekend (I was hanging out with the troublemakers, after all!) but they will not be posted here. If you wanna know, you're gonna have to ply me with food & drink. probably a lot of drink. ;)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Just posting a link

I don't normally just post links to other blogs, but this one is disturbing, and a little bit funny. (Sort of like that diet coke ad.)

The Priest-of-the-Month calendar, from Rome:

As Andrew Sullivan put it, "How Gay is the Vatican?"

Monday, December 04, 2006

The word HUBRIS came to mind...

The USC Trojans, after effectively squashing the Fighting Irish like bugs, felt good. No, they felt Grrreat! They were going to the BCS national championship to prove their mettle against Ohio State -- in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year at SC -- *if* they could win the last game of the season against crosstown rivals UCLA. Piece of cake!

That turned out to be a big IF.

We're perfectly content to play in the Rose Bowl, mind you. But the boys I saw on the field at the Coliseum last weekend were not the same boys that came out to play this weekend. UCLA is not that good. The Bruins were 6-5, fourth in the PAC-10. They just out-played us, plain and simple. It sucked.

And somebody, please put Brent Musberger out of his misery. I know it wouldn't have felt as bad if we had been winning, but his commentary was really horrific. Maybe he was just being snotty because USC sent a nasty letter to the network after Musberger revealed Booty's hand signals on national television (!!!) What a shmuck.

At least Reggie and Matt had good games on Sunday. [A friend of mine, a Texas Longhorn fan, made the most of his Sunday watching Vince Young and the Titans, reliving the glory days. Maybe I should have watched the Saints game?!]

As for the Rose Bowl game, unless I can change my flight, I'll be watching from Dulles airport, and will probably miss the end of the game as I fly back to Texas. Argh.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Ceci n'est pas une Fratkin

Bryan, Marc and Carla went to the Magritte exhibit at LACMA on Sunday. (I'll bet my plane was probably somewhere over New Mexico before the boys even woke up...) I was very jealous. I am particularly fond of Magritte's Son of Man and the other bowler-hat images. But of course the most famous one is "Ceci n'est pas une pipe." -- a painting of a pipe with the caption, "This is not a pipe."

I received this photo by email (and sent to my cellphone) on Sunday. The caption was "Ceci n'est pas une Fratkin." :)

Son of Man is part of my favorite scene in The Thomas Crown Affair (the new version) -- Pierce Brosnan and his lackeys scatter around the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, all wearing black coats and bowler hats and carrying briefcases full of pictures of the man in the bowler hat. It drives the cops crazy.

Marc also found (after Bryan mentioned) a picture of the Son of Man etched into the top of a Mac Powerbook, with the Apple logo in just the right spot. Very cool. If I had a Mac, I'd think of doing that too.

And that was the end of the trip to California.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

USC 44, Notre Dame 24

That's it. That's all I need to write.

Well, ok, I'll write about the rest of Saturday. :) Bry and I got up and got out of the hotel at 9am, as planned. We made great time getting to LA, pulling up at Marc's at about 11:15am. We drove up to the hills behind the Getty to pick up one of Marc's Band buddies -- they looked so cute in their matching band jackets! I should have taken a picture -- and then we were off to lunch and campus. We went to the Two Nine for lunch - the boys all had the Trojan Double Bacon Cheeseburger. (urp.)

Then we walked down to campus. The place was hopping! Bry and I immediately headed for the bookstore, where we had to stand in line to get inside! The line moved quickly, and soon we were among the hordes of people upstairs digging through shirts, sweatshirts and other Trojan paraphernalia for the perfect item. I got a t-shirt, a sweatshirt (my old one is getting pretty ragged) and a pair of USC earrings! Had to put those on right away. The kid got a yellow hat, which proved to be very useful the rest of the night - I could always find him!

We went back out to see Tommy Trojan, but he was neatly wrapped in plastic to protect him from any mischief that might come about in the weeks leading up to the UCLA game (next weekend). I took a pic with the cell phone --> By then, the band (The Spirit of Troy) was done warming up and was marching over to play for the President's BBQ, which is around the side of the building behind Tommy. So we lined up next to the path and watched the show. They're so great! We high-fived them as they went by. When they finished, they marched over to the stadium, so we followed. On the way over, we joined the rest of the fans in kicking the flagpoles at the campus gate for good luck. It's tradition.

We had GREAT seats. THANKS, MOM! We were on the 20-yard line, about 50 rows up. We were also glad we had brought/bought warm stuff, because it was already shady on our side of the stadium, and it only got colder! Bryan was admittedly a little nervous before the game - there was a lot of hype, and ND had been playing pretty well, particularly Brady Quinn. But it was not to be. There were a lot of *stupid* penalties on both sides. (Some were bad calls, and some were stupid moves by over-excited players.) USC even missed a point-after! How does that happen? There were some phenomenal plays, which I am not going to recap -- go read the Sports Illustrated article if you're interested.

After the clock ran out and everyone rushed the field, we made our way around to the other side of the stadium where the band set up to give its final concert (this was the last home game of the season). They played everything in the repertoire, and the chant changed from "Beat the Irish" to "Beat the Bruins." Then they marched out of the stadium, and we followed them back across to campus. By the time we got back to Marc's it was 10:30pm, and I had to get up at 5:30am to make my flight. I don't think I slept at all, regardless -- I was too excited about the game.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"Duck when Shamu Dives!"

This was the text message I got from my mother when I told her that we were going to Sea World last Friday. She remembers the last few times that we went to Sea World (when I was very young) -- we sat in the "soak zone" for both Shamu and the seal and walrus show. It's called the "soak zone" for a reason. :)

Samantha, on the other hand, is very wary of getting wet. So we sat waaaaaay far away from the splashing Shamu and the dolphins. The shows were good, although they seemed really short (30 minutes each). Sam has a great story book about baby Honu the Sea Turtle, so we were able to relate the animals to their Hawaiian names in the book. She was much more excited about the eels and other creatures when she recognized them from the book. We looked for the sea turtles (there was one on the map) but we couldn't find them. Instead we went to see the starfish in a little pond, where you could take them out of the water and touch them. Sam actually touched the starfish, especially after Dada told her that it felt scratchy like BooBoo's tongue. (BooBoo is the family cat.)

Then we went and fed the bat rays (sort of like manta rays). Sam wasn't willing to put her hands in the water, but she wanted to drop the little fish in for them to eat, which we thought was very brave. The rays kept splashing us with their fins -- either they wanted us to know they were there, so we'd feed them, or they were saying thank you. :)

We visited the eels and garibaldi (a bright orange fish that is apparently Jae's favorite), and then the flamingos and ducks. Sam showed me how she can stand on one leg just like the flamingos, and we quacked at the ducks, although they were actually quiet compared to their tall pink neighbors. We also used that opportunity to take the standard kids-at-Thanksgiving photo. :)

The last thing we had to see was the sea otters. Sam liked hearing that Uncle Bryan used to want to have a sea otter as a pet - in the bathtub! Apparently he once wrote a story about flooding the basement so the otters could live there. Good thing he never did it. heh.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Photos Posted

I have posted the trip photos to Kodak Gallery.

I'll continue blogging about the trip later. :)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thank goodness for Thanksgiving!

... or as I said many times by the end of the day, "urp."

Wow, there was a lot of food. Turkey, Ham, asparagus, spinach salad, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and "geoff-a-roni." and rolls. and wine. and don't forget the not-quite-seven-layer dip that we had for an appetizer. Like I said, "urp." And that's not counting the desserts!!

Teri's brother Tom made spinach salad. Tutu made asparagus and stuffing. Geoff made his own version of Rice-a-Roni, and really yummy candied sweet potatoes. and three kinds of gelato. (much of the early time was spent messing with the gelato machine and explaining what 'zabaglione' was.) We ate outdoors in the sunny 70 degree weather (why didn't I remember from last year that black jeans are not good for sitting in the sun?!). Casey and Samantha had their own little side table, and Sam actually tried some of the Thanksgiving food. The girls seem to have had a good time, and the grownups ended the evening watching "Chad Vader" on YouTube. If you are a Star Wars fan, Go watch. There are multiple episodes.

In addition to the gelato, we had Dawn's apple pie, Geoff's pumpkin cheesecake, and Teri's pumpkin delight. Then we all sat around in our food comas for a while, before everyone started to drift homeward.


Family "Bonding"

Wednesday, we helped straighten up for the onslaught of family that was coming on Thursday, while Samantha went to pre-school. Bryan was happy *gardening* outside. (Hang on, Mom, I know you're in shock.) He was enjoying the warm sunny weather, while also cleaning up the garden. He pruned the rose bush waaay back, mostly so that he could get past it to reach the hose, to rinse off the nice outdoor chairs. (The way he put it, he needs outdoor physical activity, and this was as close as he could get while on vacation.) I had to take a picture. :)

We finished up with the chores pretty quickly, because we decided to go see the latest James Bond 007 movie - "Casino Royale." I liked it. It drags in places, but the opening sequence is phenomenal, and Daniel Craig is a very good Bond. Much as I looooved Pierce Brosnan, he was a little too ... "prissy" as Bond. As one of the reviewers said in People magazine, when Daniel Craig punches someone, they "stay punched." And there is a nice homage to the Ursula Andress "coming out of the ocean" scene which Teri and I very much enjoyed. I was surprised to learn that my big brother has seen very few of the classic Bond films - Sean Connery, Roger Moore, etc. Not that he has much time to watch movies any more...

We saw previews for Rocky Balboa (yes, seriously, Sylvester Stallone is slurring his way back into the boxing ring) and Spiderman 3. THAT looks awesome. And the movie poster is a lenticular flasher, which I think I need to get for my collection. ;)

Then we went to pick up our Honey Baked Ham for Thanksgiving. Oh. my. gawd. The advertising works! There were a hundred people in line at the store! Teri and I stood in line for an hour (she took a pic of the line) while the boys went to pick up Samantha. It worked out ok - even the people who had reservations had to stand in line -- next year we pick up the ham on Tuesday. We got a nice big ham, and went off to have dinner at Souplantation. Samantha really likes it there. And I can see why she loves the chicken noodle soup - I've never seen such huge noodles and big chunks of chicken! Otherwise, though, I have to say, it's a carb-lover's dream - pizza, pasta, breadsticks. :) Too bad there was so much cheese involved. The salad bar was great, though.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hello La-la-land!

After a quick weekend at home, I got up at 6am, runny nose and all, and went off to the airport to fly to LA. Why an early morning flight? One word: Non-stop (ok, two words). In order to get non-stop flights to/from LAX at an affordable fare, I am flying early in the morning in both directions. But it's worth it!

So I made it to LA and went to the Getty to have lunch with MZ. Unfortunately, there was some fixing-up in progress up on the hill, so we went elsewhere for lunch. (Jerry's Deli, in Westwood) We were going to go to the Bel Air Grill, but they hadn't opened yet. Then I dropped M back off at work and went to the Getty Villa, over on PCH. It has only just reopened. It was beautiful. I particularly like the Greek painted terracotta wine cups and vases, with stories illustrated around the sides. (The muses were my favorite part of Disney's Hercules cartoon movie.) :)

But owing to the fact that my nose wouldn't stop running, and I had gotten up way too early, I finished with the museum and gardens (shown here) in about 2 hours. Picked up MZ and basically went home to crash. I definitely napped through an episode of the Bill Maher show that he had downloaded. Dinner was a wonderful lamb stew and some great appetizers at a Mediterranean place near his apartment. It wasn't a very exciting night.

Had to get up sort of early again (but the cold medicine helped me sleep through the night) to go down to LGB to pick up the kid. He walked off the plane and looked at me and said, "I left the tickets at home." AAAAAHHH!!! We managed to find a friendly neighbor and he was nice enough to go to the house and get the tickets and FedEx them to us at J&T's house. Phew! [this is not the first time Bryan has forgotten tickets... let's just leave it at that.]

I decided that if what I had was a sinus infection, I didn't want to pass it along to the Rosen girls, so we skipped lunch with them and headed south. Had to stop at In 'n Out Burger to satisfy Bryan's craving. Yum. For those of you who know what I'm talking about, he got a double-double animal style. :) Went to the Urgent Care center that my brother and sister-in-law swear by, and they told me it isn't a sinus infection, it's mostly just allergies. Prescription: Nasonex, once a day for the next three months.

We met up with Jae to pick up Samantha. She was showing off her climbing and swinging abilities in the pre-school playground. What a little acrobat! :) Then we met up with Teri at a park, and Sam showed off some more before we headed to dinner at a sushi place. Yum. The boys ordered a lot of spicy tuna rolls, which I avoided. But everything else was quite tasty.

Tomorrow we start setting up for Thanksgiving at J&T's. Doesn't sound like we'll need to make very much - everybody is brining something. As long as one of their cable channels will let us watch football, we'll be fine. :)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

My sneaky family (and friends)...

It seems that my mom managed somehow to get a pair of tix to the USC-Notre Dame game next Saturday, for me and Bryan... and she got them WEEKS ago. Bryan knew, J&T knew, even MZ knew, because both Bry and I are going to stay with him after the game. But they all kept it a secret from li'l ol' me. A secret, that is, until I started bidding on a pair of tickets I saw on eBay today that were still at 99 cents... so here's hoping I don't win those, cuz we're already GOING!

You guys suck!

But thanks. :)


One American Flag Sock finished! I joined the blue yarn when I was on the plane between Houston and Austin, and finished the "stars" and the ribbing when I got home, and during the day on Saturday. It looks so cool!! Of course I immediately cast on with the red for the second sock!

Here's what the finished sock looks like, and next to it, the actual pattern. But truthfully, the only part of this pattern that I really followed was the grid for the stars. I knit toe-up rather than leg-down, and used "magic loop" vs. double-pointed needles (DPNs). but I don't think my version looks bad at all! Now if only I could figure out how to properly do the heel turn... mine always comes out with holes on the corners. ugh.

Tomorrow morning I'm off to LA/SD for Thanksgiving. MZ is getting me a ticket to the Getty Villa, and we might go see the 007 movie on Monday night. I'm interested to see how Daniel Craig does as Bond. I've heard good things so far. Also excited to see the Rosens after I pick up the kid at the airport on Tuesday. We are such the travelling family - mom & dad are already running around to all the antique malls and flea markets in London!

Friday, November 17, 2006

That's quite a haul!

I haven't written in a week. (Stick is right, I'm glad I didn't sign up for NaBloPoMo. I couldn't have done it.) Supercomputing'06 was exhausting.... even more exhausting than last year's conference in Seattle. I took even fewer photos than last year, too.

Here's a quick rundown.

Monday - flew to Tampa. Collapsed in my hotel room for a half hour before changing for evening event at convention center. Wore my red-white-and-blue cowboy boots. (I am becoming a Texan now, after all.) ;) Ended up back in the TACC hotel suite with all my co-workers, ordering pizza - the hors d'ouvres at the event left much to be desired. I think it confused a lot of people when I was walking through the exhibit floor and yelled "Hi mom!" :) Nice, since I hadn't seen her since she visited me in Austin last month.

Tuesday - ate my breakfast on the 45-min bus-ride from our hotel to the convention center. The days seemed far longer when we couldn't quickly get back to our hotel to change or rest. Here's hoping it's better next year in Reno. I didn't go to many of the presentations or meetings (I missed the keynote, I wasn't awake!) but I had a great time visiting with all the people I knew at the exhibits, and the TACC booth was really nice. Tuesday night we went to the LinuxNetworx party at Raymond James stadium, home of the TB Buccaneers. I had so much fun at Safeco Field last year, but this year wasn't as great - maybe because a few of my favorite people were missing. We also got there too late to go down onto the field and try to kick field goals or anything. Turns out the Intel/Microsoft party was going on the same night, so when we went back, M and R joined the rest of the TACC crew there. I was just too tired. They were out drinking and dancing til 1am. oy. (sorry the pic is so dark... that's the pirate ship inside the stadium)

Wednesday - Spent a lot of time either in meetings or checking out the exhibits and collecting swag. Made some great contacts for my job, and got to see some of my former employers. :) I would have gone to the reception at the art museum, but I was invited to a nice sit-down dinner instead. Spent the whole time talking to my old "work-crush" from when I was at COC - A.S. Hadn't seen him yet, so it was worth every minute!

Thursday - More schmoozing, more swag. Pictured left - pens, frisbee, stress balls, small portfolio, USB key (64MB), USB laptop fan, clip-on light, keychains... etc. We closed down the TACC booth and shipped everything home. Instead of going out to dinner, we ordered pizza in the TACC suite again. The girls made the boys go into the next room so we could watch Grey's Anatomy. :) We definitely had some bonding moments. heh. WHITSIT*.

Friday - home, sweet home!

In the meantime, on the various planes and in my hotel room (and even in the suite on Thursday night) I did a lot of knitting on the flag sock. Sock one ought to be done this weekend! Incidentally, Continental Airlines apparently does not like to use the words "emergency exit row" any more - they call it the "row marked 'no children this row' " - Is there something wrong with calling it the emergency exit? Weird.

And, a strange sighting - on the little tram between the E gates and the C gates in Houston, I spied a guy who was in my dorm senior year at Rutgers. It was definitely AB - he looks exactly the same. I almost said something, but he looked like he was racing to catch a plane. And then I started thinking about whether I actually *wanted* him to know where I am or not! [He was absolutely certain when he met me that we were b'shert... he'd have instantly gotten that idea again if I had said anything in the airport.] So, I let him go. I might just google him anyway, to see what I find. Random!

*What happens in Tampa stays in Tampa. ;)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Go Scarlet Knights!!

If you read this blog, you know that I am a big USC football fan. Ain't nothin' but a family thing. :)

But when forced back to reality, I will admit that my undergrad degree is from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Rutgers has a proud history in football: RU and Princeton played the first college football game EVER in 1869. [Rutgers won, 6-4]

Up til now (since the time that I was there, in nineteen-ninety-mumble), the RU football team hasn't been much of a threat to anyone but themselves... they went 1-11 in 2002. But things are looking up. They did well enough last year to make it to a Bowl game, and this year are 8-0 and the #15 team in the nation! Last night, they made it 9-0 (I can't get used to this Thursday night football thing... my dad had to call me and tell me it was on) by beating Louisville, the #3 team! Go Scarlet Knights!! They will undoubtedly move up the rankings on Sunday, so USC had better win too, or I'm gonna have to find a Rutgers Alumni club to watch football with down here! ;) ha ha

It occurred to me as I was watching the last 14 seconds of the game -- played at the enormous stadium they opened in my senior year, where Clay tried to teach me to drive on a manual transmission car in the parking lot -- that I have no t-shirts or other memorabilia with the RU logo. I guess I'll have to go to the online bookstore (or send cousin M over to New Brunswick, where I'm sure there will be a mob scene) and get something. Does this make me a fair-weather friend? I suppose. But who had ever heard of Rutgers (outside of NY/NJ)? Heck, even the folks at the Empire State Building showed their "Scarlet fever"! [and a Scarlet ESB is much cooler than an orange tower...] ;)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

D.C is in shock...

Now I know why Brian Williams said election night was "like catnip, like crack!" -- It's so exciting that the world can change like this. The American people decided that they've had enough of the Republican control of the government, and the Dems will now control the House and the Senate. (It was touch-and-go there for a while, but Jim Webb managed to pull ahead by about 8,000 votes in VA. Senator Allen decided not to ask for a recount.) First thing President Bush did - let Rumsfeld resign so he can become the scapegoat for the war in Iraq. And try to rush through Bolton's confirmation before the lame duck session ends.

In other news, Ed Bradley died of leukemia. I always liked his reports on 60 Minutes. He was the old, hip guy with the earring who did the great interviews - Michael Jordan, Lena Horne, etc. He seemed so gentle and caring, and yet he asked really tough questions and everybody answered them.

Tonight I went to the Jewish Book Fair's Local Authors night at the JCAA. The first one Josh Frank, who wrote a book about the Pixies. (He was sorta cute, in the geeky Jewish boy way that I like... and very funny.) Then Robin Chotzinoff, who grew up with an atheist father (he had been raised Jewish and rejected religion altogether), and she wrote about her experiences returning to Judaism. And Trevor Romain, a South African guy who uses his humor to help kids get through tough times - like chemo and bullies and such. They were all very good. I bought a bunch of books -- I couldn't resist! Some that I had on my Amazon wish list (instant gratification! yeah!) and some that sounded good while I was there. (I didn't buy the ones from the three authors.) Book reviews to follow... if I ever get around to reading them!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006

Weekend review

Friday night, I watched two Netflix movies I'd had since AUGUST... I felt it was about time to get them out of the way. I watched The Family Stone and Ice Harvest. What a waste of a Friday night!

The Family Stone looked sort of cute in the tv ads, but didn't do well in the theaters, and I know why. First off, Sarah Jessica Parker was playing totally against type - the anti-Carrie Bradshaw -- uptight perfectionist b*tch, and she looked decidedly uncomfortable doing it. Second, this was not nearly as funny as the ads led me to believe. It was a holiday family dramedy... Spoiler Alert- in case you planning on seeing this movie: Diane Keaton (the mom) has some kind of cancer and dies in the end, although the only thing we see is the next year's family Xmas without her. And the uptight b*tch loosens up and ends up with the shaggy flake brother (Luke Wilson), while her original boyfriend, the uptight business brother (Dermot Mulroney) ends up with HER SISTER (Claire Danes). I gave it two stars on Netflix ("Didn't Like It") - I didn't hate it. But don't make me watch it again.

So, then I thought I'd watch a John Cusack movie, those are usually pretty good, right? WRONG. Seriously. I think I watched 80% of Ice Harvest on fast-forward, and only slowed down when it looked like something interesting had just happened. I'm not even going to give you a spoiler alert, because you don't want to see this movie. You never really find out how he took the $2M, but I managed to gather that he's a mob lawyer and took the money from his boss, with the help of Billy Bob Thornton. BBT is, as usual, a rather unsavory guy. Eventually, Cusack is the only character in the movie who is still alive - in order to get the money, he has to kill BBT, his boss, and the woman he loves. Blech! I actually gave this one star ("Hated It") - which is unusual for me. Oliver Platt played Cusack's drunk best friend - I think I liked him the best.

Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful weekend. USC redeemed themselves by beating Stanford 42-0 and moved back up to 7th in the rankings. But then again, Stanford is 0-9, so if we hadn't beaten them, it would have been downright tragic. The Redskins nearly gave me a heart attack, beating the Cowboys (YEAH!) with a 47-yd FG after time had run out in the game. I hope my neighbors weren't too frightened by my screaming and yelling at the tv. ;)

and, one more random note:

I am a big fan of the coffee pod. Yes, it's a little bit more wasteful (and slightly more expensive) than making coffee in my 3-cup French press or 10-cup coffeemaker, but it's so much more convenient, and about ten times easier to clean up! Target usually sells the coffee pods -- I can use almost any variety with my little Juan Valdez machine, so that's a plus :) -- for less than the regular supermarket. They're not as good as the Gevalia Caffe pods that Jen used to get and bring into the office (YUM) but it'll do for the daily ration. I figure it costs me about 50-cents per day (I make 2 pods worth, to fill my travel cup and take to work), which is much better than $2/day at Starbucks!

Why am I telling you all this? Because somebody's now selling a machine to make your own pods! So you can use REALLY good coffee grounds and make REALLY good coffee pods. Of course, making the pod totally defeats the time-saving purpose, so that would have to be done in advance, but that's minor. [At this point I started trying to figure out what it would cost per homemade pod of coffee, but then I got off on a calculating tangent and decided to stop before it got really crazy!] You don't need to know all that. ;) But there are other home goodies and gadgets on my list long before I get to this one!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Busy bee

Yesterday, in addition to doing laundry, making banana-oatmeal-apple-cinnamon-bread, and going to the gym for my favorite class, I cut open my mini-pumpkin and took out the innards. I wanted to do a jack-o-lantern, but not a huge mega pumpkin... so I chose a small one. I also borrowed a recipe from and toasted the pumkin seeds. (hmm... I probably would have felt better today if I hadn't eaten ALL of them in one sitting.) Tonight, when I got home, I drew a fun face on the pumpkin and cut it out. It turned out great! (The yellow clip isn't actually in the pumpkin's ear, it just looks that way) :)

I also worked a little more on my very first sock. This is a picture of the first attempt... after this, I switched to a smaller needle and cast on fewer stitches, and have now knit almost 4" of the first sock. It's great! I'm not used to having to work for so long to get only 1" of stockinette ... smaller needles, more knitting! I am also beginning to understand second-sock-itis - my friends' tendency to finish the first sock and not feel like casting on the other one!

Thank goodness we got an hour back from Daylight Savings yesterday, I needed the extra time to sleep.

Nine Jews who Changed the World

I went to an event this evening at the LBJ Library (I will have to go back and see the exhibits, there wasn't time tonight!) with the author of "Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World." Kati Marton is originally from Budapest, as are the nine Jewish scientists, filmmakers and authors that she chronicled. It's an interesting story -- the nine men came to the US when the Nazis were gaining power in Europe. These scientists helped convince Einstein to sign a letter (which they had written) to FDR to get the US to start developing the atomic bomb -- before the Germans could do it. I had heard before that Einstein was a pacifist, and that he regretted sending the letter for the rest of his life. But Marton provided the convincing argument that had swayed Einstein's decision - what if Hitler had gotten there first? How different would the world be if the Nazis had had a bomb to drop? That was a little scary.

I thought of the Budapest that mom and I saw in 1994. Western influence was just coming in - we turned one corner and were faced with brand new KFC, Dunkin' Donuts, and Baskin Robbins shops. But the art, churches and museums were amazing. (I'd post pictures, but those were the days of print film, so I have nothing digital of my own. I ought to scan some of them one of these days.) I'd like very much to go back to both Budapest and Prague -- because we went to both cities on the same trip, I sometimes get the two cities confused! This is a picture of the castle on the Buda side of the Danube... I have a picture of this at sunset. It's beautiful. [This photo is from the Budapest Tourism Office's website.] Mom and I stayed at the Hotel Victoria, which is right on the Danube, with only 25 rooms -- all of which face the river, overlooking the Cathedral on the other side. I think I'd stay there again if I went back. :) (I'm very excited to see that they are still there, and have a website!)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Toga! Toga!

Last night a bunch of us went to the Alamo Drafthouse to see Animal House on the big screen - with an intro/Q&A Session with Chris Miller. He was one of the original writers of the screenplay, and has a new book out. It sounds like a lot of the stuff in the movie is a) real, and b) minimal compared to the full story of what actually happened! Before the film he talked about a guy in the fraternity (basically, the Bluto character) who "wore" a carved jack-o-lantern around his middle (and nothing else!) to go trick or treating around town. Basically, the jack-o-lantern's nose was the guy's ... well, you can guess. :) I don't think I'd ever seen the movie on the big screen before... I was only 5 when it came out, after all. It was fun to watch.

The Drafthouse here is similar to the one in Arlington - but the food is much better! Instead of comfy chairs at round tables, it's rows of movie seats alternated with narrow tables. They have great programs and events... I will definitely have to go back!

In the meantime, I have also been kinitting my first sock. I can't believe I was so nervous about making them... it's not really that hard! I am trying a toe-up sock, so far without a pattern (once I learned the cast-on and the proper increases). I'll have to get some instruction when it comes time to turn the heel, and then I have to figure out if what kind of pattern I want to make as I go up the leg. All of this is in preparation for making the American Flag socks, which are my next planned project. That's going to involve a chart pattern (for the stars), so it'll be a little more complicated. Photos will be posted soon!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Aggravation eliminated

I know you don't really need to hear more about the desk-building experience, but there is more to tell! I will take this opportunity to point out the ups and downs of the fun I've been having with Office Depot.

Good customer service: I used the OD website on Weds to submit a complaint about the desk. I just could not believe that the damn thing was so poorly made. (serves me right for getting the OD "brand," I suppose.) I received an email within a few hours that said that they would exchange my desk for a new one -- the next day! Yippeee!

Bad customer service: You must wait patiently at the delivery location, for they will arrive any time between 8:30am and 5:30pm. Right, because I didn't have anything else to do yesterday! We won't even go into the notion of having them call first, because clearly that didn't work last week. But they can't even provide a 3-hour window, like the cable guy?

Good customer service, part 2: Then reality set in. Did I really want to build that behemoth again?! I don't think so. Instead, I surfed the OD website and found something I'd rather have instead. The nice lady on the help line was able to make the switch (including charging me the difference in price for the new desk) in less than 10 minutes.

Bad customer service, part 2: By 3pm yesterday, I was getting really fed up with the whole waiting thing. (although it did make me realize that even though I live on a cul-de-sac, there is a lot of traffic on my street during the day!) So, I checked my order number on the website. Lo and behold, the automated system tells me my item HAS BEEN DELIVERED. Hunh? Where? to Whom? Another phone call to get a live person, and all she can say is, well, they're coming. They'll be there by 5:30 or 6:00. ARGH! To make matters worse, the order number for the removal of the old desk said it wouldn't be taken away until Friday. NOT funny.

Good customer service, part 3: Round about 4:15pm, the guys finally showed up. They delivered the new item, and took the old desk away. Yippeee!

Lessons learned:
A. MEASURE the doorway before building the furniture. See previous post about this.
1. Do not buy crappy furniture from Office Depot if you can help it. Office supplies, yes. Particleboard-that-looks-like-wood executive-style desks? Not so much.
2. Do not use big words around OD delivery guys ("behemoth" was a little much for them)
3. If you don't like soap operas, there is very little on tv during the day except Food Network.
4. Grilled ham "marinated" in peanut butter and honey sounds really tasty (Paula Deen, see #3)
5. Simon & Simon is much goofier now than I thought it was in the 80's, but the theme music makes me smile. (see #3 - I do have the Sleuth Channel ) :)
6. There is no punchline to the joke that Bender (Judd Nelson) is telling as he crawls thru the ceiling duct in the Breakfast Club. "A naked blonde walks into a bar with a poodle under one arm and a two foot salami under the other...." (that was on tv yesterday, too.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

More about me than you ever wanted to know...

1. FIRST NAME? Melyssa
2. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Great-grandma Molly.
3. WHEN DID YOU LAST CRY? Last Thursday night, while watching this item by Keith Olbermann. (yes, I cried. I must be PMS'ing or something.)
4. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? It could be better. I like my printing more.
5. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCHMEAT? Sliced chicken breast, which they don't seem to sell much here in Austin.
6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? Sure! I'm goofy and interesting and a good cook to boot!
7. DO YOU HAVE A JOURNAL? I have my blog now. I used to have a journal next to my bed. I still use that when I can't sleep and have to get something out of my head.
10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Quaker Oatmeal Squares. Or Cracklin' Oat Bran *(which is really crack, you know. It's addictive!)
12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Emotionally? sometimes. Physically? kinda.
14. SHOE SIZE? Sometimes 8 1/2 and sometimes 9
15. RED OR PINK? Red. Hello, have you met me?
16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? My low self-esteem regarding my physical appearance.
17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? 1. my family; and 2. Kelly, Jeff and Hannah. And Dani. and Amy. and Giselle. ok, ok... EVERBODY!
19. WHAT COLOR PANTS, SHIRT AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? Black jeans, black loafers, purple sweater.
20. LAST THING YOU ATE? Pretzel goldfish. (can't eat the cheesy ones)
21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? me typing. there's nobody left in the cubicles around me.
22. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? Burnt Sienna. I always liked that name.
23. FAVORITE SMELL? Rain, the forest, chocolate, pound cake, honeysuckle
24. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? a wrong number on my cell. I hate that!
26. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON you stole THIS from? I don't think I've met her more than once, she's a blogger from VA.
27. FAVORITE DRINK? Santa Margarita Pinot Grigio
28. FAVORITE SPORT? to play: racquetball. to watch: college football (go Trojans!)
29. EYE COLOR? green
30. HAT SIZE? No clue.
31. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? Nope. 20/20, baby!
32. FAVORITE FOOD? French fries, chocolate, and ice cream. but not all at the same time.
33. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? happy endings. John Hughes ruined me!
35. SUMMER OR WINTER? Winter. Love fireplaces!
36. HUGS OR KISSES? From whom? Hugs are always good.
37. FAVORITE DESSERT? Chocolate anything.
38. WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND? I'm not looking for responses.
40. WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING? Adventures of a Continental Drifter: An Around-the-World Excursion into Weirdness, Danger, Lust, and the Perils of Street Food by Elliott Hester and about to start Janet Evanovich's Twelve Sharp (thanks, Aunt Robin!)
41. WHAT’S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? It's from the now-defunct Independence Air - it says "i am not normal"
42. WHAT DID YOU WATCH LAST NIGHT ON TV? CSI (on Spike), CSI:Miami (CBS) and Studio 60 (on the DVR, because it's on during CSI: Miami).
43. FAVORITE SOUNDS? Train whistle in the distance; the ocean crashing against the rocks; thunder rumbling when it's not right above my head
46. WHAT’S YOUR SPECIAL TALENT? I have an excellent sense of direction. (thanks, Dad!)
47. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Washington, DC
48. WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? Nobody. I copied.

Monday, October 23, 2006

When you buy furniture...

1. MEASURE the doorway that the item has to go through *before* it is completely constructed.

2. Don't buy the heaviest thing in the store.

3. MEASURE the doorway that the item has to go through *before* it is completely constructed.

Yes, the Office Depot furniture arrived tonight. The Asst Mgr was nice enough to bring it over to my house in his own truck, saving me the $20 delivery fee. I had no idea how much the desk weighed. The desk top is ridiculously heavy. I had to leave the box in the kitchen and bring the pieces into the living room so I could build it! In retrospect, I could have used the $20 to pay Office Depot to build it for me.

My hands hurt. My back hurts. It was exhausting. When I finally finished (2 hours later) and stood the thing up on its legs, it occurred to me that it had to go around a tight corner... and then I looked at the doorway to the small office. and immediately reached for the measuring tape. Desk: 29 1/2 inches. Doorway: 29 1/2 inches. d'oh! I bought some of those sliders to put under furniture, so I tipped it vertical and tested. Success! The depth of the desk was only 28 1/2 inches, so after I took the door off its hinges (fortunately, the door has been removed before, so that wasn't hard), the upright desk slid straight through. Then I laid it down and brought in the drawers. Something is very wrong here - the drawers are flush with the sides on the outer edges, but about 1" short on the inner edges. hmm... BUT, it's in its little space, and I will deal with the rest tomorrow. zzzz

Time for bed!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

You were right, mom!*

* - This is a phrase that my mom doesn't get to hear very often, so I thought I would lead with it. :)

When mom was here last weekend, she suggested that I move the sofa back against the wall and shift the console table to one side... etc, etc. I decided this weekend I would try it, and also build the second bookcase that we got at Office Depot. (I will not bore you with the details of the undelivered office furniture; suffice it to say they're gonna call me about it tomorrow.) Lo and behold, Mom was right. It looks lovely. The only drawback is that now I'm much further from the tv... so I'm tempted to buy a bigger one. ;) I also hung some pictures on the walls and emptied a few more boxes. So this is what it looks like now. The console table is along the left wall of the room - you can just see the corner of it in the picture. Having moved the sofa back, there was enough room to build the new bookcase in the middle of the floor!

Friday night, I went to see Carlos Mencia with some girls from my office. I'll admit, I wasn't really impressed with what I had seen on Comedy Central, but he was hilarious! I nearly lost my voice from laughing, and my face hurt!

The weekend ended with a nice dinner at Korea House, which I'd never been to, despite the fact that it's in the same courtyard as my gym. We had bulgogi - the beef that you cook yourself on a hot grill in the middle of the table. It was good, but my clothing smelled awful when I got home! We were there so long we were nearly the last people in the restaurant. Who is "we", you ask? I went on a date! Yes, I know, you're shocked. Proof that you can meet nice people on Jdate!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Dance your cares away...

...worry's for another day, let the music play, down at Fraggle Rock!

I have to say, I am excited that there's going to be a Fraggle Rock movie!! But when I stop and think about it, I'm not sure Ahmet Zappa is the right guy to direct... ah well, as long as the Henson family is involved, I'm sure it will be great. :)

(and yes, I already have the "Fraggle Rock - Where it All Began" DVD, thank you Bryan.)

I don't know why I am so attached to these five characters (say it with me now, "Gobo, Mokey, Wembley, Boober, Red!") and the other goofy creatures that inhabit their world (the Doozers!) ... Maybe I was young and impressionable when the series first aired on HBO. Maybe I'm just a huge fan of all things related to Jim Henson and the Muppets (yes, that's definitely part of it). Maybe I need to grow up. (naaaah.) Regardless, there's always a lesson to be learned in a Fraggle Rock episode, and this is a heck of a lot more entertaining than Aesop's Fables.

a happier post :)

Jude and Josh -- well, mostly Josh -- have finished re-doing the room that will be the nursery for the baby when she is born. (and it's happening soon - mid-November!) I am pleased and flattered to see that the little penguin has been given a place of honor in the room. :)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Building a wall across the border with Mexico isn't enough....

Now we have to make sure nobody gets in our way in OUTER SPACE! US satellites and other objects must have right of way to cruise around the earth. We had to write policy about this? Is it just me, or is this another way to set it up in advance so we can go to war against anyone who violates "our space"? Please, could this be more ridiculous?!? Nobody stood up and said, really, Mr. President, there are more important issues out there, like ...
  • the situation in Darfur
  • cleaning up New Orleans
  • the most violent month in Iraq yet
  • the out-of-control national debt
This can't even be a stunt for the election - it's not hurting anybody! But of course since the right-wing evangelicals don't really believe in science, I'm sure they'd believe Dubya if he said one of the 'Axis of Evil' nations is up there building a Death Star! (that's science *fiction* - which is still more sane to me than intelligent design!)

On a related note, I've recently discovered that I cannot listen to NPR when I'm driving home from work - I end up so angry I yell at the radio! Not good. I'm not angry at NPR. I'm angry at, for example, the evangelicals they intereviewed yesterday who talked about voting for the candidate who they thought was closest to G-d. Hello? Haven't you people heard of the separation of church and state? I'm happy if the candidate is a religious person, that's fine. I just dont need to know about it. Alan Alda's character had a great line about that in the final episodes of West Wing:
"I don't see how we can have a separation of church and state in this government if you have to pass a religious test to get in this government," Vinick declared. (...) "Every day until the end of this campaign I'll answer any question anyone has on government," Vinick concluded. "But if you have a question on religion, please, go to church."

ok, end of rant.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Watch where you stick that elbow!

I am addicted to the Huffington Post. The blog runs pieces from all kinds of people - movie stars, serious reporters, regular joes, and everyone in between.

I love reading Nora Ephron's posts. This week's post is about Vegas, so of course I had to read it. Apparently, in the presence of Nora and a few others, Steve Wynn (who owns a great many fabulous pieces of art, and used to display them at the Bellagio) put his elbow through a Picasso painting. This is the painting that the show* in his hotel is named for - Le RĂªve. The same painting he was about to sell to a collector in Connecticut for over $100M! ouch. (Fittingly, the hole he made was basically in the woman's elbow area in the painting...)

Can you imagine?! It's aPicasso! Apparently Nora and friends had to keep mum about what they had witnessed - at least until an art restorer could look at the damage. Her observations on the experience (and on being at the Wynn hotel and how amazing it is) are amusing. And here's the piece that was eventually written about the incident in the New Yorker. I have to say, I agree with Wynn's wife - it was a sign, he had to keep the painting. :)

*Note: It's not a Cirque du Soleil show, as my ever-vigilant-about-all-things-Cirque brother pointed out, but it is directed by Franco Dragone, who has directed Cirque shows (O, Mystere) in the past.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

More on Disney World trip

Last week, Jae and Teri gave Samantha her own camera(s) -- three of those little disposable ones -- so she could take her own pictures of Disney World. Probably safer than handing her one of their nice digital ones and having her drop it... So here's a link to the pictures that she took. There are a few pics of her fingers, or random body parts (belonging to my family, and assorted other people), but she did do very well taking pictures of Jae & Teri and of the rest of us. Jae has great pictures of her taking pictures, too. She would point to a rock or a particular spot on the ground where we were supposed to stand, and then she would back up a few feet and say "one, two, three, smile!" and snap away. (A guy in Epcot saw our stroller-photographer taking a picture of us, and wanted to take a picture of her taking a picture of us, but she refused to repeat the adorable activity for the benefit of strangers. good girl!)

Anyway, the pics are here:

Here's one that Sam took of me. :)

Typhoid Sue

No, not "Typhoid Mary" ... not even "typhoid Melyssa"(which my grandmother and aunts called me when I was little) ... I had a visit this weekend from "typhoid Sue!" To say that mom has a head cold is a major understatement. The poor woman was so stuffy she couldn't sleep until I basically forced her to take some cold medicine - and take it again at 4:30 in the morning! She was coughing her guts out! :(

It all started with a rainstorm. Thursday afternoon (after spending the day hopping back and forth between two conferences - the Governor's Conference for Women, and the UT Ready to Commercialize Conference), I went to the airport to pick up mom. She had been in Dallas all week at the EDUCAUSE Annual Meeting. Her plane was a little late because of the quick-moving storm, which lowered the temperature in Austin by 20 degrees in 2 hours. But by the time we came out of the airport, it had stopped!

We went to Central Market and had dinner at the cafe there - we shared a crab cake salad, and mom had her first taste of fish tacos. She loved them! (I make them at home all the time, ever since Jae made me taste Wahoo's! fish tacos out in San Diego.) :) [Hey! There is a Wahoo's here in Austin! Wahooooo!!]

Friday was "take my mom to work" day. Everybody at my office either knows my mom already (and loves her) or couldn't wait to meet her. The biggest challenge was getting her laptop to work. The IT guy from my office tried to help, but in the end we gave up and he lent her a loaner laptop. (By the time we got that working, it was time to go to lunch!) We decided that the computer problems were a toss-up between my mom's bad tech karma, and the fact that it was Friday the 13th. You have NO idea.

After work, Mom came to the gym with me, but she was too sick to work out -- my trainer had even come up with some fun exercises for us to do together. Oh well. So Tina did her best to fatigue every one of my muscles (she succeeded), and then we went to dinner.

Saturday was so busy, I'm still recovering. We went to Las Manitas for migas for breakfast. Awesome. Unfortunately, Marriott has bought the land that LM sits on on Congress St. and is trying to get the restaurant to move. There's a petition, a letter from City Council, a website... it's all very dramatic. We walked over to the Farmer's Market, where they were having a dog show and had puppies on display from different rescue groups - Bassett rescue and some others. They were adorable. Then it was time to go shopping!! :) We went down to Barton Creek Mall, and ended up getting some clothes for each of us. By then it was ... only 3pm!

On a normal Saturday, at this point I would probably head for home and take a short nap. But not today. From the minute mom entered my house (which she liked very much), she started listing off the pieces of furniture that I "need" to get - bookcases, a desk, etc. So off we went. We stopped at Storehouse Furniture (which apparently is going out of business, so they're having big sales!), and a few other places, but the big money was spent at Office Depot. I got a desk, three bookcases, and a desk chair. The biggest splurge was the chair ---> which I put together myself. :) The desk and the tall bookcase will be delivered on Tuesday... now all I have to do is make space in the small bedroom so I can build them!

After the furniture extravaganza, we had to pick up one or two more things. Target, here we come! Then I took mom to Zinger's Hardware, which I love. Mom admitted that if she lived here, she'd go there a lot, too. They have so much cute stuff! We went to El Arroyo for dinner - it's right near my house, but I hadn't been there yet. Yummy! It's the Austin version of Guapo's. I think I'll be there a lot. We didn't even have enough energy to go to the sports bar to hang out with the USC alumni for the game, so we followed it online. Frustrating (the sites didn't upload data in real time), but at least USC squeaked out a win.

Today's brunch was at Blue Star Cafeteria. The restaurant was surprisingly empty (it's new), but the food was very tasty! Dropped mom off at the airport, and home to nap! I bought some Zicam at Target, and between that and the vitamin C, I'm hoping to stave off the germs that mom left. Well, that and I wiped everything down with Lysol dysinfecting wipes as soon as I got home!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Another new experience in Texas

Last night as I was about to go to bed, I turned off the tv, and I heard a weird buzzing sound. I turned to look in the small bedroom, and a FLYING COCKROACH came out at me - at eye level! AAAAAAH! I was asked (a few weeks ago) if I had seen these yet, and I was relieved to say no. Well, that was then. At least I had a vague idea of what the thing was when it came at me! It was 2" long!

I swatted at it, and it went into the bathroom. I scooted to the kitchen and got the (floral-scented :)) RAID. I mostly hit the bathroom mirror, but I did get the bug a bit. If my aim with the spray had been better, the next thing that happened would not have happened - it flew into my bedroom, and took a hard right into my closet! ACK! I was too far away to see exactly where it went in the closet, and it never reappeared. I am now absolutely positive that in the next day or so, I will go in to grab a t-shirt or a pair of jeans and the bug will come out at me - alive or dead. EEEW! Needless to say, it was a little bit difficult to fall asleep...

The good news is, this is only the second one I've seen since I've been here, and they are not in the kitchen. (hm, is that good news or bad news?) Did I mention that I HATE COCKROACHES?!?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Walt Disney World!

In case I never mentioned it, my big brother loves all things Disney. So when the 35th Anniversary of Walt Disney World rolled around, he had to take Teri and Samantha and go. And of course if they were going, then Grammy and Baba and Uncle Bryan and Auntie Mel had to go too! We rented a big house complete with a pool (which I didn't have time to even dip a toe into!).

I don't have the energy to go through everything now, but we had a GREAT time. Samantha is so bright and happy, and it's thrilling to see her growing up and learning new things every day!

Super-short recap: Baba and Grammy arrived at about midnight on Weds. Bryan and I got there in time for dinner on Thursday. Friday we went to Epcot. Saturday we went to Disney's Animal Kingdom, which is an incredible place. Thursday night and Saturday night, Jae took us to his favorite night-time spot at Pleasure Island, The Adventurers Club. (Those visits alone will require their own blog post.) We ate well, walked a lot, and slept little. But it was a heck of a lot of fun!!

I will post more later, I promise. In the meantime, plenty of little tidbits to read on the Samantha blog.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Let there be light!

Last month, I read a great article in FastCompany magazine (I adore FastCompany! I tend to refer to their articles often) about a new kind of light bulb. Well, ok, it's not *new* exactly... it's a compact flourescent lightbulb. According to the article, this little item will "change the world." I thought, "eh, it can't be that great." Then I got my first month's electric bill. Ouch! (of course, it was over 100 degrees here for 24 days in August, that could explain part of it...)

Turns out (I have just calculated), I paid for 51 kWh of light from my incandescent lightbulbs, just in the living room and my bedroom. I didn't notice that two of the bulbs in my bedroom were 100w until I went to switch them - no wonder it seemed so damn bright in there when I woke up in the morning! (I didn't count the ceiling fans in those rooms... apparently those use about 300 kWh per year, so that's another 50 kWh per month for my 2 most-used fans.) The kitchen is already fluorescent, and I don't know if I can reduce the wattage of the bathroom bulbs, but at the very least, by switching to the little swirly compact fluorescent bulbs, I'll go from 51 kWh to 22 kWh immediately. A savings of a whopping... $3-ish per month. Oh well. It seemed exciting at the time. :) [and that $3 savings pays for about ONE of the new bulbs, but the price is going down pretty fast.]

However, the $3 savings is amortized (ooh, an MBA word) over the expected 10,000 hours or so that the bulb will last - saving me from having to buy regular 60-watt bulbs for three years! The only bad thing about these bulbs is that the light is just a little too... dull, particularly when getting dressed in the morning or knitting/crocheting on the sofa, so I am keeping one incandescent for every 2 CF bulbs in my ceiling fans. And I've heard that the weather will get cool enough around here that the A/C won't be as necessary - but so far it's October and it's still in the 90's every day.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Latest projects

It's not that I haven't been knitting... it's just that I haven't remembered to take any pictures. So here you have some evidence:

I am almost done with the second sweater for Samantha. (about time, too, since I'm giving it to her next weekend!) I probably shouldn't post the pictures, because Jae & Teri read my blog, but they'll see it soon enough anyway. I still have to wash and block it, (and do the cuff on the right sleeve), and put a tag on it. But otherwise, pretty good, eh?

Then there's the garterlac dishcloth. I love things with lines and angles. I haven't made anything from my modular knits book yet, but I saw this pattern and I thought it was pretty cool. When I was killing time last week, I picked up my multicolored sock yarn and decided to try it. I had to frog it and try again more than once... as it turned out, I had to rewrite a little of it to make it less confusing. It looks pretty neat! I like it. (The least creative thing, I think, is that I got lazy and took the picture with my dishcloth on my lap.)