Saturday, December 29, 2007

Happy Birthday Dani!

If it's between Xmas and New Year's, it must be time for Dani's birthday! Last night we started with dinner at Rockland's. They don't do the babyback ribs so much in Austin, so I was craving them, and Rocklands' ribs are excellent! (There was a minor delay when I started to drive to the wrong location, not realizing that Rockland's had moved... but fortunately Dani didn't let me get too far off course.) :)

After Elizabeth made a mess with the ribs, we went to Carpool to meet up with the rest of the crew. We even managed to get 4/5 of "Clueless in Clarendon" back together -- we missed you, Joanie! -- and did some excellent drunken singalongs. The bar had one tv tuned to NBC's "Singing Bee," and once that ended, they played a nice selection of our favorite 80's songs. (Don't Stop Believin'!)

Here's how Dani felt about the fact that we were celebrating her birthday:

But this mood was lightened considerably (and Dani's voice went up an octave) approximately every half hour, when she was strong-armed into doing birthday shots! There was tequila, a Jaegermeister bomb, more tequila... and I'm sure at least one or two more after that, but I didn't hang around to witness the craziness.

Happy Birthday, you crazy girl! Happy New Year! Enjoy your weekend jammie-fest!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Things that went right this week

I admit, it wasn't all a bust. Along with the completed knitting projects, I managed to make a super-tasty Mexican Chocolate Cake for the holiday party.

And, I did manage to adopt a Sea Otter for Bryan (and a Penguin for myself) from the Wildlife Adoption Center.

Bryan likes his otter very much, and my penguin is so cute! I think I'll name him Pepper. (I may change my mind, he does have a really goofy look on his face, which you can't quite see in the picture.)

Hannukkah Harriet's Horrible Holidays

Somehow this year my holiday shopping, gift giving and other to-do's got all out of whack, and I feel like I've been running behind for weeks! It didn't help matters that I got food poisoning at the office holiday party on Wednesday night (not sure what it was, but boy, it didn't like me!) and was completely out of commission on Thursday -- the very day I had intended to use as my last-minute shopping day! Argh.

Number of gifts for people at the office I had *intended* to give: 12
Number of gifts I *actually* gave: 4

Holiday cards received from friends, including adorable family photos: 5 and counting
Holiday cards sent: 0 -- unless you count the Chanukah e-card that I sent to about 20 people, three weeks ago.

Cookies baked for Supper Club holiday party? 0
(because: sticks of butter in freezer for cookies? 0)

The one area where I have managed to finish something in time for the holidays is knitting. I finished Gigi's clapotis, Rachel's booties, Kelly's sweater, and Rebeka's scarf and hat -- seen here being modeled by her daughter, the lovely Giana. :)

Ah well. There's always next year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

... and then I'm reminded that I live in Texas

I love living in Austin. I probably say that on this blog about once a month, if not more. :) But then there are days when I'm reminded that portions of the state of Texas are a little bit.... out there, shall we say.
On Friday, an advisory committee to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recommended that the state allow the Institute for Creation Research to start offering online master’s degrees in science education. The institute, which has been based in California, where it operates a museum and many programs for people who don’t believe in evolution, is relocating to Dallas, where it hopes to expand its online education offerings.
This is a school, my friends, where TEACHERS will be getting their degrees. IN SCIENCE. Only, oops, Creation isn't science! Intelligent design isn't science! But by all means, y'all should come to Texas, instead of that liberal bastion, California! More from
The statement of faith for everyone at the institute requires support for both “scientific creationism” and “Biblical creationism.” The former includes the belief that humans were created “in fully human form from the start” and that the universe was created “perfect” by the “creator.” The latter includes the beliefs that the Bible is literally true and “free from error of any sort, scientific and historical as well as moral and theological.” Specifically, the statement requires belief in the literal creation of the earth in six days, that Adam and Eve were the first humans, and in the virgin birth of Jesus.
Oy vey.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Wanted, Dead or Alive

Last weekend a couple of us were invited to a "Rock Band" Holiday Party. The invitation suggested that we dress up like our favorite Rock & Roller, or band groupie. Rebeka and I chose the latter. We thought it was going to be a bunch of people dressed up like Rock Stars, dancing around, maybe some karaoke.

We were wrong.

It turns out, our friends have the Rock Band videogame, for which you need two guitars (lead guitar and bass), the drum kit, and the microphone. We walked in to the sound of the neighborhood kids playing Bon Jovi (hence the blog title), which would have been great, but they played it over, and over, and over....yes, the adults were singing along, but when the time came to pick a different song, we were all in favor! So they went through The Clash "Should I Stay or Should I Go" (I did the Spanish backup line under my breath), Blue Oyster Cult "Don't Fear the Reaper," and Foo Fighters "Learn to Fly" -- among others. We were pleased to note that we weren't the only ones who dressed up, but we were certainly in the minority.

I got roped into singing a little bit, but Rebeka escaped unscathed. ;)

And here, for your viewing pleasure, are our "Rock Chick" outfits. We looked pretty good!

I'm a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride
I'm wanted dead or alive
Wanted dead or alive

Find your Clarity

Last night, the Austin Chapter of the Alliance for Technology and Women (I'm on the leadership team) held an event with Ann Daly, a life coach who focuses on women finding their "clarity."

A few of the women who came to the event were really in a work rut - they are bored, or are overworked and unhappy, or are wondering if they should try something new before it's too late -- even if that means leaving a cushy job and starting at the bottom again.

Ann suggested a path to start thinking about how to get out of the rut, figure out what you want to do with your life, and be able to find balance. ("Work-life balance is a myth. You can have it all, but usually not at the same time.") Her suggestions for figuring out what you want to do and where you want to go with your life seemed simple -- she admitted they were sort of "duh," but you still need to go through them.

  1. See the big picture. What do you want to do 5, 10, 20 years from now? What are your priorities? Visualize what you want to do, and what you need to do to get there.
  2. Think sequentially. What are the implications (for #1) of the decisions I'm making?
  3. Know when to say no, based on what you want for the future (see #1) . Women say yes far too often, and get over-committed, or even trampled. Work-life balance is about making hard decisions.
  4. Think of yourself as an investment. What am I willing to invest to get to where I want to be? Think about the price of each decision, and know your tolerance for risk.

While I was listening to the discussion, I did some self-examination. I was in a not-so-great situation two years ago, and making the decision to move to Texas was hard, but it was probably the best decision I've ever made. I love my job -- everything I learned in my past jobs (and, surprisingly, my MBA) nicely rolls into this one -- and I love living in Austin, and the fantastic new friends I've made here.

Ann has a book called Clarity, and is in the process of writing another. We also came up with some other book recommendations during the event:

Lions Don't Need to Roar, by D.A. Benton
Necessary Dreams, by Anna Fels
Getting Past No, by William Ury

Now, go forth and better yourselves. :)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

one gift done...

... dozens more to go!

I finished one of long line of knitting projects that is on the list for this holiday season. It's not a Chanuka or Xmas gift, however, it's a birthday present, for Giselle's 40th! :)

Pattern: Clapotis by Kate Gilbert
Yarn: Noro Aurora in rainbow (not sure the exact name),
5.5 skeins = 572.0 yards
Time: 6 months (on-and-off knitting, until the last week or so)
Notes: Dropping stitches on purpose was a little bit disconcerting, but it turned out beautifully, and blocking makes all the difference.

Hope she likes it!

Still to be done for Xmas:
Scarf for Rebeka -- Brown Sheep Company Burly Spun, 100% Wool, in Moonlit Night (gorgeous blue shades)
Kelly's Beachcomber sweater -- just needs sleeves sewn on! Can you say procrastination?
Booties for Rachel -- tulip toes from Knitty, in two colors of my stash of leftover Dalegarn Baby Ull yarn

Phew! I only have two weeks to go! Back to knitting!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Yet another reason to love Duff...

He's a HUGE Star Wars fan. I can only hope that the Star Wars cakes are part of next season's show -- I want to see the Han Solo in carbonite cake!

Great interview with Duff on the Star Wars fan site. Check out the Death Star cake. cool!

Yes, I am a nerd. So sue me. :P

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Rose Bowl, here we come!

The final score today: USC 24-UCLA 7. :)

Yes, the Trojans won their last four games (Booty's finger seems to have healed ok) and are the Pac-10 champs for the sixth year in a row. It's also our 32nd appearance in the Rose Bowl, and our sixth straight BCS bowl appearance. Not too shabby! Coach Pete is 24-0 in November!

Someday, I will get to go to the Rose Bowl. For now, I'll have to settle for watching it with the Austin USC club on January 1.


Breakfast for Dinner - a success!

Fifteen people showed up at my house last night -- FIFTEEN! I don't think I've ever had that many people here at once. It got a little warm, but it worked out ok.

Once Jay and I had the requisite conversation about how small my TV is, we moved on to more important things -- namely, breakfast! We had french toast, pancakes, omelets made to order (Paul sweated over the stove for 2 hours, but he made damn good omelets!), cheesy-ham-and-bacon-casserole, parmesan tomato tartlets, bacon crackers, pigs in blankets, fruit salad, bacon and sausage, and of course, Krispy Kremes. Now that I think of it, I never did manage to make any coffee, but we had Kir Royales and Greyhounds and Mimosas... I don't think anyone missed the coffee. ;)

Then we watched The Breakfast Club, which is among the long list of movies that Paul has never seen. (Of course, he's gonna have to watch it again, because he fell asleep with about 30 minutes to go...) I don't know how many times I've seen it, but there I was reciting the lines..."demented and sad, but social." I love that movie. :)

Did I mention how much food we had? When it was all said and done, I had a little bit of casserole left, some pigs in blankets, some fruit, and half of the donuts. And a mountain of eggs! What am I gonna do with all these eggs?!I am so grateful to Rebeka and Atesha for their clean-up efforts, it made my job much easier when everyone was gone.

Maybe I need to have another party... hey. Oscar night will be here soon! :)

Friday, November 30, 2007

All I want for Chanuka...

Is a Star Wars mimobot!

Gotta love the smirk on Han Solo's face. ;)

Darth Vader and R2-D2 are already sold out.

(No, I don't really want one, I just think they're cute.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The ultimate Pass/Fail test

I Passed - 10 out of 10! It amazes me that many of the people who are born in the good ol' US of A don't know a thing about our nation's history, and take it for granted... but the people who fight to get here to build a better life for themselves, they know ALL about it.

You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 10 out of 10 correct!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

I should have posted this earlier, of course, but I am tremendously thankful for my family and friends, my job and my great co-workers, and of course, the USC Trojans. ;)

Here's a great picture of us at the Carpinteria Tidepools on Friday. L-to-R that's Jae, me, Sam, Teri, and Bryan.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, full of laughter, food, family, and fun.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hearst Castle


I mean, WOW!

It's incredible. The Hearst family owned so much land that at the turn of the century they used to put up tents at the top of the hill, and vacation up there. Of course, when they raised tents, they put down oriental rugs, and loaded in furniture, and hung paintings along the sides of the tent... it was very elegant "camping." They used to call it "The Ranch." William Randolph Hearst wanted to build something up on the hill, but his mother* wouldn't let him, so he had to wait until she passed away.

Then he went to work. In 1919, he commissioned the architect, Julia Morgan, to build three guest houses surrounding one main house (above). He was partial to Italian and Spanish styles. We did two of the tours (#1 and #2). The first was one of the guest houses, and the first floor of the main house, and the pool(s). A lot of the interior decorations are pieces he purchased from defunct churches in Europe - there are rooms lined with choir stalls along the walls, and paintings of the Virgin Mary and iconography. The Neptune pool is gorgeous, lined with marble. Apparently the tour staff get to swim in the pool once a year. We also got to see Hearst's own movie theater, where he showed soon-to-be-released films (and invited the actors up to the Ranch to watch with him). I took this opportunity to try out the "candlelight" setting on my camera, and it worked rather well -- took the picture in the dark, without flash. :)

The second tour was the upstairs part of the main house, including Hearst's own apartment, and the kitchen. (And the pools again.) His rooms were up on the third floor, under the fancy teak roof that was imported from Thailand and carved in place. The artist even carved an image of his family's dog into the roof! From one side of his apartments, he could watch the sunrise over the mountains, and on the other side, the sunset over the Pacific coast. He also had a small Otis elevator built into one of the towers, since he was already in his 50's when the house was completed.

The indoor pool has gold leaf in the tiles, and marble accents all around. Unfortunately, it was 10 ft deep all the way across, so nobody swam in it. But it was gorgeous.

After getting up at 5am, we were so tired by the time we were done with the tours, we didn't even bother with the National Geographic film about "Building theDream." Instead, we headed for Abbe's house, and the end of our weekend adventure. The last hour of the trip was in heavy fog coming off the ocean. Makes the sunset look much darker that way.

(*: WR Hearst's mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, founded the high school I went to in DC.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Second Leg, Oakland to Monterey, and beyond

Sunday morning, we slept in a little bit and then headed for the nearest Fry's. I had to buy a new camera, after all -- there's no way I was going to the Monterey Aquarium and Hearst Castle without a camera! I picked out an Olympus FE-300. It's GREAT. I love it. I also bought an xD memory card (1Gb) and one of those converters to plug in to the lighter in the car (to charge the battery). Then we drove south and stopped for a bit at Gilroy, so I could get new shoes. (My feet were killing me in San Fran!) We found our way to the hotel in Monterey by about 1pm, checked in, and headed off to the aquarium and Cannery Row. We were sooooo hungry (breakfast was at McDonalds, when we were searching for Fry's)... we went to a bbq restaurant in Cannery Row and scarfed down some salads. Then it was time to see the animals!

The Monterey Bay Aquarium exhibits focus on the ecosystem around the bay, the oceans in northern California, and other local waterways. The first thing we saw was the tank full of jellyfish. Amazing! At this point, I started figuring out how to use the special features of the camera, including image stabilization. My first few jellyfish pics were fuzzy, but the last one came out great!

We skipped the otter feeding - we knew it would be the most crowded event in the building, and opted instead to see the upstairs exhibits. The aquarium has multiple two-story tanks, showing the otters, a kelp forest, and the outer bay. We saw anchovies and sardines swimming around in large groups, sharks, rays, jellies, shrimp, anemones... it was amazing. We went to the 4:00 feeding in the kelp forest. I know you're wondering, how do you feed kelp? Well, it turns out a lot of fish and smaller sharks live in the kelp forest, so they send a diver in twice a day with a bucket of shrimp and squid and small fish, to feed them. He has a mic in his mask, so he could talk to the audience. It was cool.

They are very keen on the Seafood Watch list -- the list of which species are more or less endangered/over-fished so you shouldn't order them in restaurants. No more rockfish... choose tilapia instead. We went to dinner at Old Fisherman's Grotto (cheesy but well-known seafood restaurant on Fisherman's Wharf) and ate Alaskan crab legs and Dungeness crab cake and Bay scallops. :) We could hear the seals barking out on the rocks, but I couldn't get a picture of them. (Turns out, I got amazing pictures on Monday morning anyway!)

Then we went back to the hotel, and went to sleep early -- we had to get up at 5:30am on Monday to start the drive down to Hearst Castle. I think if I had realized that it was a three hour drive down Route 1, we would have found a hotel a little farther south. But it turned out to be a great way to see the California coastline, the sunrise, and the most amazing herd of elephant seals!

Route 1 down the coast is all hairpin turns, skimming the edges of the mountains above the waves crashing on the rocks. From Monterey, we drove down past Big Sur and multiple other State Parks. We stopped at four or five of the turn-outs to take pictures. It was nice to be one of the only cars on the road -- in either direction -- for most of the trip. We were also able to pick out the parts of the road that have been used in multiple Hollywood movies and tv shows.

We stopped one last time before Hearst Castle -- completely through luck -- at a spot along the coastline where a whole herd of elephant seals have been gathering since the early 90's. It was amazing! We were no more than 15-20 feet from them (there was a fence), at a rest stop by the highway! They smelled a bit... This time of year, the males are fighting to see who is going to be dominant and get to mate with the females. The females were just lying around sunning themselves. :)

Things I learned about my new camera: reduce the resolution so the pictures are less than 2MB each. Makes for difficult uploading to flickr.

Next post: Hearst Castle. WOW.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

First leg, Reno to Fallen Leaf Lake to Oakland

On Friday, Mom and I set off from Reno at about noon, headed to Fallen Leaf Lake, which is southwest of Lake Tahoe. We made it about ... 15 minutes, before we had to stop at Boomtown for some coffee. I took a few pictures of the mountains, and then we were off to the west. I didn't even notice when we crossed into California. We are driving a cute green Jeep Liberty.

We stopped once on the road so I could take pictures, and then for lunch at the Olde Tahoe Cafe in Homewood. We just kept saying how beautiful the scenery was. And stopping by the side of the road so I could jump out and take pictures. :) When we called Mike (our host), he told us we'd definitely want to stop and take pictures when we got to Emerald Bay. He wasn't kidding! Unfortunately, up on top of that mountain, it was COLD! But a nice lady took a picture of us, and we returned the favor for her. Then we jumped back into the car and headed for Fallen Leaf.

We missed the turnoff for Fallen Leaf Road the first time, but only got about a mile before we turned around and went back. At that point, we became even more thankful for our little Jeep. It was a bumpy, one-lane road, and we had to pull over more than once to let other people by. Just before we got to Mike's, I had to pull into someone's driveway to get out of the way of a panel truck! Yikes! I can't imagine what it must be like to go up there in the snow.

Once we recovered slightly from the hike up to the house, Mike took us on a much longer hike to go to Lily Lake. It was about a mile in each direction -- fortunately, it was mostly downhill coming back. It was beautiful. Fresh air tinged with the scent of pine trees made us completely forget about the craziness (and smoky air) of Reno.

We had to rest a little after the hike -- that 7,000 ft altitude will get you every time -- and then we went out for sushi for dinner. It was surprisingly good. We slept soooo well - between the hike and the exhaustion from the week, and the fact that it was *pitch black* and *dead quiet* up there.

We went to bed early (9pm!) and woke up early (6am!), and were on the road by 7:30, towards Oakland. We did have to make a quick stop at Tarjay... but we made it to the hotel in Oakland by 1pm. In fact, we made it at 12:50, and had to scurry to unload the car before the hotel shuttle took us to the BART station. We went straight to the Embarcadero/Ferry Building, and had lunch at a Mexican place. (We were starving!) We walked around the farmers market as it was closing, and then headed for Ghirardelli Sq. Check out the gorgeous blue sky!

We ended up taking the bus up to the Maritime Museum area. The old
Ghirardelli Square shops and chocolate museum are being turned into a Fairmont Hotel! Oops. I'm sure the hotel will be lovely. And expensive.

Then we walked (ow, ow, ow, my feet!) up Columbus all the way to Chinatown, and ended up at Union Square. [If you're looking at the map, we made a biiiig circle.] We sat on a bench for a while, watching the guys put the lights on a giant xmas tree, and watching the fog roll in and obscure the buildings nearby. It rolled in fast, and wow, it got cold! Round about 5pm, we headed back to the Embarcadero Center, where we found Osha Thai restaurant. YUM. It was fabulous, and hit the spot.

Leaving the restaurant, I stopped outside to take a picture of the Ferry Building again. In order to stabilize the camera so I didn't have to use the flash, I leaned it on a police barricade. And dropped it. On its zoomed-out lens. I didn't notice at first, and tried to take the picture again anyway. The result is a half-focused, half-fuzzy pic, and a dead camera. Yes, I was thinking that I'd buy a new camera next year for my birthday, but that's 3 months from now. Maybe subconsciously I meant to drop the camera.... It still pissed me off the rest of the night. At least we were going back to the hotel to go to sleep at that point.

Tomorrow, Oakland-to-Monterey, with short stops for a new camera and new shoes!

Rest of the pictures (and Monterey pics, too) posted at my flickr page.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Reno, quick and dirty

I have just finished four fun-filled days in lovely (and a little dreary) Reno, NV at the International Supercomputing Conference, otherwise known as SC'07. I saw a lot of people I haven't seen in a year, worked hard at representing my center, made some new friends, and learned a lot. Handed out a lot of business cards.

Not a single photo. I was waking up at 6am and collapsing into bed at 10pm, with very little time in between to do anything but read a little bit of email and answer the important stuff. I did manage to lose $10 at the slots, however, and caught the 30-min special Blue Man Group show on the last night of the event. I still have a lot of work to do to catch up with what I missed, and make notes about what I did all week.

Next post: "Thelma & Louise" set off from Reno for South Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, and beyond!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

My peeps are smarter than your peeps

Oh, to have been in DC on Monday when the author of Abraham's Children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People spoke at the American Enterprise Institute. The discussion centered around the supposed genetic predisposition of Jewish people to be smarty-pants. (That's a very technical term, you know!) :)

The average IQ of Ashkenazi Jews is 107 to 115, well above the human average of 100.
But what if the genes that make us smart also make us sick? I never thought about it this way, but the Jewish population of the world is one of the most in-bred groups in existence. Makes sense, though, with all of our mothers urging us to find a "nice Jewish boy," or avoid the "shiksas." ;)

The question is, are we all smart because our genetics have made that happen? Or are we smart because the Jewish culture & religion place a heavy value on study and learning? Or is it a combination of both? And are we smarter at the expense of being less coordinated? or even at the expense of our health? (Tay-Sachs, anyone?)
Supposedly, Jews are deficient in visio-spatial skills, possibly because their brains allot extra space for verbal intelligence.
I know I'm a klutz... a smart, Ashkenazi Jewish klutz! Mozart, Einstein, (Leonard Nimoy) and me! What does Nimoy have to do with it, you ask? The "live long and prosper" Vulcan gesture made by Spock in "Star Trek" was apparently a symbol used by Jewish high priests, that he learned in synagogue. [See, there's a reason to go to shul!]

So the next time I bump into something, or find a bruise I didn't know I had, I'll remember that clumsiness is the price I pay for having extra-powerful brain cells. ;)

(And yes, I understand the inherent racial undertones of this whole mess, which, as someone at the AEI event pointed out, is how so many people have come to hate us. But that's another topic for another day.)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Save Second Base!*

October is (was) Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And as you all know, breast cancer research is my crusade, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation is my pet charity. So I got organized, and had all of the people at work wear pink and give $5 on the last Friday of the month. In fact, we asked everyone to wear pink every Friday, but only collected money and had a pink party on the 26th. [And in an organization that is 75% men, I offered them the option to pay $10 to not wear pink. It worked!] We had pink cupcakes, pink rice krispie treats, chocolate chip cookies with pink m&m's, and pink ribbon prizes! And we raised over $250! It was very exciting.

Then I left work and went to the gym (and wore a pink t-shirt, natch), and my trainer made me do an hour of squats and lunges and frog-jumps and crunches... needless to say, I couldn't walk much on Saturday! But I still went to the UT-Nebraska football game with Janie. And now I can say I've seen the "Godzillatron!" But it was chilly, so we left the stands and went to the Alumni Center. Where it was also chilly, but we watched most of the rest of the game on the big screens.

The whole day, I was tortured by the fact that I wasn't watching the USC-Oregon game, and was forced to wait for the scores to roll around on the side scoreboard, or at the bottom of the screen. And then I didn't really want to see the scores roll around at the bottom of the screen. It was sad. The Trojans, it seems, are fallible. Hard to swallow, but in some way it was inevitable. Last year was supposed to be a rebuilding year, and it was fantastic. Maybe this year is the rebuilding year? I sure hope so.

Monday night, after yet another business-related dinner where we ate great BBQ, Marcia and Rebeka and I went to the bar at the Four Seasons to have their "Batinis" -- named for the largest urban bat colony in the United States, living under the bridge that's just beyond the bar's patio. We were too late for the bat flight at sunset, but not for the drinks! But instead of the Batini (made with raspberries and champagne), I had a Pink Ribbon Martini (made with cranberry juice - almost a Cosmo) that came with a giant pink fondant ribbon in the middle. Half of the proceeds from the Pink Ribbon drinks go to the Seton Hospital Cancer Center. Hey, a new sport -- "Drink for the Cure"! Yay! (Ha ha, no, I only had one.) My cell phone camera doesn't take good pictures in the dark, but it was beautiful.

* Among the Breast Cancer Awareness t-shirt designs at CafePress was one with baseball gloves in the proper places that said, "Help save Second Base!" and another with a little pink owl that said "Save the Hooters." There are thousands of designs.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

More video

I don't usually just post video to my blog, but this is SO funny...

"300" meets 1776 --

I promise I will post more about Passionately Pink for the Cure, my pink ribbon martini at the Four Seasons, and various other tales. Soon. Really.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My triangle...

James Blunt teaches kids about that pointy little shape, with the help of his guitar, a popular song, and a Sesame Street muppet. Very cute.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dead, and loving it!

That's it, I'm dead. In my previous post, I mentioned Sock Wars. The basic idea is, you become an "assassin", by knitting a pair of socks (everyone knits the same pattern) for your "target" and shipping them off, before your assassin sends you your socks. I managed to finish one sock -- took me an extra day to get the yarn, and then I messed up the sole and had to rip back a few inches, and in the meantime I was travelling all over the place -- so at least I was able to stave off my "death" for a few extra days. ;)

I finally gave up and went to the mailbox when I got home from work today [after I spent an hour getting a new tire on my car], and lo and behold, beautiful grey wool socks -- and a perfect day for them to arrive, too, it didn't even get to 60 degrees today! -- along with a cute little WIP bag (that's "work-in-progress" to you muggles) and a matching little pouch with stitch-markers! Wow! It's like Secret Santa for knitters!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Assassin! :)

So what happens now, you ask? Well, now I send my unfinished pair (I did finish one of them, see below) to my assassin, and she gets to try to kill my target, before getting killed herself.

I chose a lovely pink Linie ALPHA yarn, each little ball makes one sock. (well, my target has size 10 feet!) I'll be taking it to the post office tomorrow to pass it along.

Sunday, bloody Sunday

It was a long day. (Not actually bloody, but there was some sunburn involved.)

The day started with brunch with my DC friends. We hit Whitlow's for the buffet, and by the time we got a table, it was already 11am - time for the crab legs to come out! It's wonderful to have a plate covered in crab legs, with a side of waffles and eggs and bacon. :) And great conversation with my favorite people to boot! Thanks to Amy & Rob, Dani, Jen, and Elizabeth for making my day!

Then I headed for Bry's soccer game. It was a gorgeous day to be outside in DC - mid-70's and bright sunshine! In hindsight, when I noticed the soccer players putting on sunscreen, I probably should have asked to borrow some. My left upper-arm (I was facing north most of the game) is a nice bright pink color. My face and neck got a little color, too, with the v-neck shirt, but not as much -- although I now know why my chest felt like it was on fire when I was sitting in the airport.

Yes, Washington National Airport. Scene of my last big travel fiasco, back in June. This time, the weather wasn't the problem -- it was the fact that I was trying to fly out late on a Sunday afternoon. I tried to go standby on two earlier flights, but ended up on my previously ticketed 7:50pm flight. Unfortunately, this left me sitting at DCA for almost four hours - so thanks to Dani for chatting with me and keeping me sane, while she watched her guys win the race in Martinsville (and I tried to keep her from hyperventilating).

I knew before my plane took off from DC to Dallas that I didn't have an assigned seat on the flight from Dallas to Austin - it was waaaay oversold. When we landed in Dallas, our gate was still in use, so we had to sit for a while. Then I had to run (laptop, backpack and all!) from C-22 to D-38. I think I was the only person on the sky-link tram at that hour (10:30pm), but I just couldn't get it to go any faster! Fortunately, the gate agent had a ticket waiting for me. (I think I would have cried if she hadn't - there were 24 people already on the standby list, and the next flight wasn't until this morning at 7:30am!) Phew! Got on the plane, finished knitting my SockWars sock (more on that later), and made it to Austin @ midnight. One good thing did happen: my suitcase had flown standby on an earlier flight, so it was waiting for me. Amazing how busy the Austin airport is at midnight on a Sunday!

Went straight to the car, loaded up, and started to drive out of the lot. Thump, thump, thump. FLAT TIRE. Seriously?!? At 12:15am?!?! *Sigh* I suppose I could have called AAA, but I didn't feel like waiting for them to find me. So I drove out, slowly, and went to the nearest gas station to fill up the tire. So far, so good. I'll take it to the tire shop to get it patched this week.

By the time I got home, it was 12:40am. Had to resuscitate the dying basil and parsley in the kitchen window, but I think they'll survive. (somebody remind me to ask the landlady to water them when I go to CA for Thanksgiving...) After unpacking and cleaning up a bit, I finally made it to bed at 1:15am. Exhausted!

Lessons learned: Get a confirmed seat. Don't schedule short connections in Dallas. And wear sunscreen!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fight on!

In the past, USC has been a strong second half team. This year, we've been a passable team, waking up in the 4th Qtr with a few flashes of brilliance. Until this week. Benching John David Booty in favor of backup QB Mark Sanchez, the Trojans were able to (as CNN-SI put it) "Spank" Notre Dame 38-0 this weekend. Awesome!

I was a little worried before the game with the story of the Trojans' bumpy flight into South Bend, but the jostling they got seems to have toughened them up a bit. :) Another part of the improvement is definitely Sanchez. Booty was pushing as hard as he could, trying to live up to the legacy of Palmer and Leinart, throwing passes that would have been miracles even for those two stellar QBs. Sanchez, on the other hand, is playing with what he has -- he's completing passes to the whole stable of RBs, who are making sometimes incredible catches that make him look good. It seems to be working.

The stats from yesterday's game are shocking --
  • Largest margin of victory in the 79-game history of the USC-ND rivalry.
  • Worst Irish home loss since they were beaten 40-0 by top-ranked Oklahoma in 1956.
  • at one point in the 3rd Qtr, ND had as many first downs as the Trojans had touchdowns.
  • Fourth consecutive home loss, tied a school record.
Fight on, Trojans! and go Scarlet Knights -- my alma mater's team knocked off the #2 USF Bulls on Thursday, too!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bush v. Gore redux

Yes, Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize this year. A little unexpected, and possibly controversial, but he will still not run for President -- nor should he, IMHO. And every time he wins an award (Oscar - check! Emmy - check!) it becomes even more painfully obvious that the wrong man is in the White House. I am not the only one who thinks this way, of course, but here's the best description of the situation that I have seen recently -- in today's NYT, Bob Herbert writes,
... for all of the obvious vulnerabilities [GWB] exhibited in 2000, it was not him but Mr. Gore who was mocked unmercifully by the national media. And the mockery had nothing to do with the former vice president’s positions on important policy issues. He was mocked because of his personality.

In the race for the highest office in the land, we showed the collective maturity of 3-year-olds.

Mr. Gore was taken to task for his taste in clothing and for such grievous offenses as sighing or, allegedly, rolling his eyes. It was a given that at a barbecue everyone would rush to be with his opponent.

We’ve paid a heavy price. The president who got such high marks as a barbecue companion doesn’t seem to know up from down. He’s hurled the nation into a ruinous war that has cost countless lives and spawned a whole new generation of terrorists. He continues to sit idly by as a historic American city, New Orleans, remains wounded and on its knees. He’s blithely steered the nation into a bottomless pit of debt.

I always said the country voted for the guy they would most like to have a beer with. (That is, if he drank alcohol. And please, no pretzels!) Given my choice of Dem candidates, I'd choose Obama, but I'm afraid that he doesn't have a chance -- both from a "maybe America's not quite ready" standpoint, and a "watch out for the Hillary juggernaut" angle.

Of course, when I went to the "Select your candidate" site at MPR, it told me my best candidate was Dennis Kucinich. hmmm....

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chocolate-loving is in my blood - literally!

A study in Switzerland (commissioned by Nestle, natch) has just found that the desire for chocolate -- or indifference to it -- is in our metabolism. And it turns out that eating some chocolate is good for you.
"This is the first demonstration that a dietary preference has an imprinted effect on your metabolism and that might link to all sorts of long term health implications- interestingly the chocolate preferring people had a better gut microbial metabolite profile than the people that don't like chocs," said Prof Nicholson.


"It is known that by eating chocolate, catechin and epicatechin can reach the bloodstream where they can be transported around the body, helping to prevent oxidation so the body can stay healthier," said Kochhar.
Of course, the study only included men, and a small number of them at that. I will wait to see the results of the study when they ask a bunch of women. In the meantime, I will do my best to add catechin and epicatechin to my bloodstream. ;)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Welcome, Rachel Frances!

I wish I had a picture, but at least I can tell you that at 10:21 this morning (EDT), little miss Rachel Frances D. came into the world, at 6.9 lbs and 20.5" long. :)

YAY! Mazel tov! Can't wait to meet her in two weeks.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

TV premiere week!

I think my DVR is my favorite piece of technology (this week). I couldn't help traveling during premiere week, so I set the machine to record my faves, as well as a few new ones that seemed interesting. (although I realized on Friday night that I forgot to record the season premiere of Numb3rs! Drat!)

Here's my take so far: (spoilers! fair warning!)
CSI season opener - Wow. They found Sara right at the end of the hour. There are still rumors about Jorja Fox leaving the show, but in the meantime, they showed how the crazy chick kidnapped her, and how Sara got out from under the car and wandered in the desert. And Nick was the one who found her, which I thought fitting.
Journeyman - We (Dani and I) were sort of hoping that it would be like Quantum Leap (oh that Scott Bakula...), but it was *a lot* more confusing, and there were multiple jumps back and forth from current time to the 80's (and the 90's). They made it the 80's by showing a guy in a red leather jacket carrying a boom box, and some other funny "clues." I may watch one more time, just to see if it gets any better. Kevin McKidd is no Scott Bakula, but he's not bad (Marcia said he was really good in 'Rome').
Dirty Sexy Money - I love Peter Krause, from Sports Night and Six Feet Under, so I figured it might be worth it to try the show. He, of course, was great... but the rest of the show just annoyed me. Whiny rich people. Ugh. Ok, Donald Sutherland was interesting as the smarmy patriarch. But again, one more episode might be enough for me.
CSI:Miami - Pretty typical Miami-ness. Except that one of the suspects was Horatio's son, and Calleigh is dating the Christian-Slater-lookalike cop, who generally annoys me. And why are we keeping Ryan around, running the gun range and talking about all of the evaluations he has to do before he gets reinstated?
Cane - Yet another show where I like the main actor (Jimmy Smits) so I thought I'd see how it was. I only caught about half of it, but it looks interesting. Ken Howard made the most of his bad guy role.
Private Practice - Better than I expected. I knew all the characters from the intro show last season, and they pretty much lived up to the way they were supposed to be. Kate Walsh and Tim Daly... we'll see. He's another one that I've liked for a long time.
Grey's Anatomy - Let's see. A missing arm, a separated skeleton, new interns, and Izzie's operating on a deer in the parking lot. It's a little disjointed, but I did miss this crew. Still not sure how I feel about Lexie Gray being around, so we'll see.
Criminal Minds - haven't watched it yet, but I'm interested to see how they phase out Mandy Patinkin (waaah!) and phase in Joe Mantegna.
Big Shots - bunch of funny guys, being funny - Michael Vartan, Joshua Malina, and Dylan McDermott! Yay! Haven't watched that one yet either.

Oy. and Men in Trees is coming back next week... and Numb3rs... and Bill Maher and What Not To Wear and Mythbusters and House... I have too many shows!

Biggest complaint about my DVR: I lose the last 30 seconds of EVERYTHING! It's a good thing I had taped Big Shots, which starts right after Grey's Anatomy, or I never would have known that George was at the door! UGH. I wish I could figure out how to fix this.

Santa Fe and spicy hummus and sports

It was a looong week. I spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Santa Fe, NM, for work. I gave a quick presentation, and managed to get an invitation to Singapore out of it! (Have to figure out how to fund that one...) Caught up with my former boss, learned a lot about the energy industry and where we need to go, and played hooky for about an hour (part of our lunch hour) to go shopping. :) I could have bought kokopelli EVERYTHING, but I was very well behaved -- I only bought a kokopelli necklace (sort of like this) for myself, and some pistachios to bring back to the office.

Came home to a busy Friday at work, got killed by my trainer at the gym, and had dinner and drinks with the girls, which was fun. Saturday was spent making Mediterranean munchies for supper club. I made regular hummus (with extra garlic), roasted red pepper-chipotle hummus, and falafel. (chick peas galore!) I used the box of falafel mix - I'm never sure what that special spice is that makes falafel taste exactly right, so I go with the mix. It works. They ended up looking like little hockey pucks, but they were yummy!

The Skins were doing well for a week or two (that Monday night game was awesome!) but then they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, as is their custom. USC keeps winning, but it hasn't been as easy as expected. Last week, the powers that be at ABC/ESPN took it upon themselves to switch games just as we were going into the 4th quarter, because the Iowa-Wisconsin game was more interesting (final score was USC 47 - Wash State 14). I wrote them a NASTY email. This week, the game was a lot closer, but that's probably because we had 16 penalties for 161 yards against Washington. WHAT?! Hello?! They're gonna have some tough practices this week, 4-0 record notwithstanding. And lo and behold, LSU jumped ahead of us to #1 in the polls. Next weekend Stanford's coming to the Coliseum. I won't jinx it by talking about the way the game *should* go.

Speaking of the Trojans, I found out today that one of my spinning instructors at the gym knows Pete Carroll! I suggested that she wish him a belated happy birthday. Apparently she and her husband have known Pete since he was coaching the Pats in the NFL. I'll have to think of some way to parlay that into tickets or a signed something-or-other... ;) (I love Pete, he's awesome.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

There are good bugs,

like the caterpillar I made for Kelly's baby shower:

I crocheted this one, but it's based on Kimberly Chapman's incredible knitted pattern.) I made up the pattern as I went along, trying to get it to look like hers. Turns out I chose the same numbers of stitches for each round (without reading hers first), so it's probably about the same size as the original, although I didn't have any bright orange, so it's one segment short! I wish I had noticed that her pattern called for a squeaky bit in the head and some bells in the tail, though. Oh well. I'm sure the baby will love it. I think the antennae and the smiley face are what make it so cute.

... and then there are the BAD bugs, like this little baby scorpion that appeared in my kitchen the other night, just as I was getting ready for bed. ACK! To be fair, he was only about 2" long, though this pic makes him look HUGE. Let me tell you, with my adrenaline kicking, it didn't matter how big he was! I stopped to snap a pic of him, and then I went and got the (floral-scented) RAID. He didn't like the RAID very much, but just for good measure, I went and got a big shoe (thanks again for those Merrills, Aunt Robin!) and smashed him a couple of times. But then I had to figure out how to pick up the dead body. I feel bad for wasting a whole wad of paper towels -- Robin said I should have used my kitchen tongs -- but I got him in the trash, and got the trash out ASAP.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Monkeying Around

Jill Greenberg presents a series of fantastic images at the new New Republic. The images are great, but the captions make them hilarious.

On the left, "Grrr" and below, "oy vey"

I don't know how people could say that man didn't descend from apes when they look at this set of pictures! The animals are SO expressive and human-like, it's uncanny.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Fight On, Trojans!

Yay! It's college football season again! And the Trojans are #1 again! The game two weeks ago against Idaho (at the Coliseum) was sort of lame, although USC won 38-10. The talk was that the team was holding back to keep Nebraska from seeing what they were capable of. And apparently even the fans in the stands were so bored with the blowout that they started leaving in the 3rd quarter.

Then we had a week off. That was really weird, a week 2 bye? I didn't know what to do last Saturday night. [ok, that's just sad.]

Yesterday, the Trojans traveled to Nebraska. I have to say, I'm thankful that our team doesn't have the kind of mascot where we (the fans) feel the need to wear goofy things like corn cobs on our heads (or cheese wedges, or any of those other midwestern oddities). ;) I kept thinking I saw cardinal and gold in the stands, when it was actually those giant corn cob hats. Funny.

Booty's passing wasn't getting us anywhere (one receiver dropped three passes!) but the running game was a different story. I swear, you could have driven a Mack truck through the holes in their defensive line! And Stafon Johnson did just that -- to the tune of 313 yards! (144 of those yards were his.)

We have a former songleader in our Alumni group, too. Ordinarily, I'd say that's a good thing, but not in this case. She got up (in front of the tv, which was annoying) and tried to do the cheers (she must be in her mid-40's or more) but she didn't know the songs! and she was rather intoxicated, so it was more disturbing than entertaining. I don't remember her watching the games with us last year, but then I didn't find the group until about midway through the season. Tim (the president of the group) said she stood on the table with her pom-poms last year. Yikes. Glad I missed that.

Next weekend, Washington State @ the Coliseum. Fight On!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Blog line of the day

I don't know if it's because I'm tired, or if I see a little of my (possibly future) self -- or my friends -- in this line, but it made me laugh out loud:
"When Elijah got home from kindergarten yesterday, Regina made him a snack tray and served it to the boy while he, exhausted and numb-eyed from a hard day at school, watched a couple of episodes of The Tick, which I rented for him on Netflix. Counting the number of pretentious Gen-X parenting references in that previous sentence would be like trying to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar. "

From the blog.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Let your laptop save the world!

I don't know why it took me so long to post this, but we had a speaker at the Austin Forum last month who told us about the World Community Grid -- and we all promptly went and signed up! Remember searching for extra-terrestrials with SETI@Home? (Did anybody ever find the aliens?) I was running United Devices Cancer research bot for a while on my laptop, but that project ended, so we've now moved on to WCG.

It's easy! Download the BOINC client from the website, sign up (you can even join the TACC team, if you like) and start using your computer's background cycles for medical research. You even get to accumulate points, so you can "compete" with your friends. (The points aren't really worth anything, but they're fun to track nonetheless.) The newest project is "Discovering Dengue Drugs - Together," and it is based out of the UT Medical Branch in Galveston, TX. (This blue, red and turquoise blob is what the Dengue virus looks like.) -->

I'd have more points, but my home laptop is three years old (ancient!) and apparently couldn't handle the load. I have WCG running at work now, and seems to be doing fine. [Competitive? moi?] :)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Quote of the Day:

"That man [Daniel Craig] should be wet as often as possible."

-- Dani, after watching Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Yes, we're Skyrocket groupies

Last night Skyrocket played again, this time up at Hanover's in Pflugerville. (and yes, I say Puh-flugerville every time I say it, just because it's funny.) :)

The bar was smoky, which was a shock - I haven't been in a place full of smokers since... 2006, I think - but at least it was indoors, so we didn't sweat to death unless we were actually dancing. The dance floor was small, but we didn't care! We took over the spot in front of the band, which also meant that Rebeka caught the eye of the lead singer, whether she liked it or not. They played a good run of 70's classics, and some great 80's tunes - everything from KISS' "Rock n Roll All Night" to Tom Jones' "She's a Lady" to Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" to the Clash's "Rock the Casbah." And we stayed for all three sets, so by the time we got out of there, it was 1am.

Apparently it was also "Miller Chill" night... These two girls (I swear, barely old enough to drink) showed up in matching lime green dresses, and proceeded to bring little taster cups of Miller Chill (the beer with lime and salt in it) around to the crowd. BLECH. I was not impressed. Although it was nice to learn that I didn't like it with a free taster, rather than having to pay for a bottle of it and then discover how icky it is. ;) [It's like Diet Coke with lime - if I want the lime squeezed into it, I'll put it in; please don't do it for me. Pre-"flavoring" is a tricky proposition. And DC with lime is awful! But I digress. ]

Only took a few photos, which can be seen here.

We ended our evening at Whataburger. All that dancing burns a lot of calories -- and that's not counting all of the ones I burned with the trainer beforehand! I hadn't been to Whataburger yet, and I have to say, I wasn't missing much. The burger was ok, but the fries were awful. Fortunately, the company made it all worthwhile. :)

Looks like Skyrocket is at Cedar Street again at the end of the month! Woo hoo!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Rain, Round Rock, and Random foods

Catching up...

Friday night was the end-of-year party for my office, so we all went to Round Rock to see the Express play. I went last year, too, but I'd only been here a few weeks, and didn't know anybody - and very few people came. This year we had lots of people, little kiddies, and... RAIN! It was hot and muggy, and we saw the dark clouds, but we kept hoping the rain wouldn't bother us. We were mistaken. [At least the girls got a chance to make some chalk flowers before the rain started!]

Right around the time that the game was supposed to start (7:05), it started to drizzle. We thought we'd be ok under the tent, but it turns out a shade tent doesn't stop the water coming through.... particularly when the water is coming down in sheets! :( Rebeka and I used her quilt (a lovely American flag quilt that she made herself, btw) as a tent to cover ourselves and Giana and Nic. Lesson learned: four year old girls shriek a lot when they're getting wet! Eventually, the Dell Diamond staff came and invited us to move indoors. Fortunately, my knitting bag (you think I'd go to a baseball game without a sock to knit?) is waterproof, so when we went inside I had a dry towel.

The rain finally let up around 8:30-ish, but by then we were so wiped out, all I had the energy for was a quick trip to the souvenir shop. I got a beer coozie shaped like a RRE shirt. Made it home in time to watch some good tennis from Flushing Meadows. Yay US Open! One of these days I'll get back to NYC.

Another pic I took and forgot to post... Last week was the Summer Supercomputing Institute. One of the students came from our partner institution in Mexico, and brought me a gift. He tried very hard to get something that couldn't be found in the States - and he succeeded! As you can see, it's "Queso de Tuna." This threw me for a loop, until I went on the Internet and looked it up! Turns out, it's a sweet - sort of jam/paste like - made out of prickly pear or cactus fruit.... which you could sort of guess if you looked at the picture on the package. (If you're paying attention, Spanish speakers, it's certainly not tuna fish, as the word for tuna is atun.) I tasted it, it was ... interesting. Sort of like apple butter, in a more solid form. Anyway, it was a lovely and original gift.

And finally, last weekend was Supper Club. Our theme was "foods that remind us of home" - or some variation thereof. I remember eating artichokes every summer, with Durkees dipping sauce, and teaching other people how to get the yummy artichoke meat off the edge of the leaves with your teeth. But individual artichokes for each person was going to be a) expensive, b) time consuming to eat, and c) messy at the dinner table. So instead I made Rachael Ray's baked artichoke hearts, which are easy and very tasty. I also made mint chocolate chip ice cream - green, with Nestle chips - because that was my favorite thing at Baskin Robbins. (well, other than the pink bubblegum ice cream with the multicolored pieces of gum in it, that we always kept in our hand until we were done with the ice cream so we could chew the gum.... but I digress.) It was a very random buffet - potato salad (w/o mayo -very yummy), crabmeat dip, blackened catfish pieces, vegetarian lasagna, eastern carolina vinegar pulled pork, rosemary corn bread, cinnamon apples, and key lime pie and my ice cream for dessert. YUM.

So that's it, I think I'm caught up. For now. :) Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

That's SO last year!

Now that we're all pros at chatting online with instant messenger or sending cellphone text messages, we all know what LOL, BRB, and LMAO** are. But the next generation (call them Generation Y, the "Millennials", the Internet generation - your choice) is way beyond these archaic abbreviations.

NYT's David Pogue offers some suggestions for new terms. My favorites - (pay attention! you may see these soon in a message from me!)

* 12OF -- twelve-o'clock flasher (refers to someone less than competent with technology, to the extent that every appliance in the house flashes "12:00") [I love this one!]

* GI -- Google it

* FCAO -- five conversations at once

* IIOYT -- is it on YouTube?

* SML -- send me the link

* KYST -- knew you'd say that

* NBL -- no battery left

* TWD -- typing while driving

* CYE --check your email

And a few just for iPhone owners: [Andy, this means you:]

* CSVUI -- can't send video, using iPhone

* BPWMI -- boss playing with my iPhone

* SIK -- sorry, iPhone keyboard

* OOM -- out of messages (for iPhone users who haven't upgraded their AT&T "200 messages a month" plan)

And, for the older crowd (read: parents, employers), some classics:

* WIWYA -- when I was your age

* YKT – you kids today

* WDO? -- what are you doing online?

* NIWYM -- no idea what you mean

* AYD? -- are you drunk?

** LOL - laughing out loud; BRB - be right back ; LMAO - laughing my a** off

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Growing up in DC

You've all heard by now that I grew up in DC. A Native Washingtonian, born & raised -- and there aren't that many of us! And growing up there, we were exposed to a lot of things that other people 'outside the Beltway' are not. [Even calling the rest of the country "Outside the Beltway" is a DC thing. ;) ]
  • The local news always has something to do with the President.
  • You can get run down by a motorcade -- it may be the Prez, or the Veep (who nearly ran me down last year), or it could be a visiting dignitary from who-knows-where with flags waving. But don't worry, there will be nineteen motorcycle cops, three dozen cop cars, and twelve black SUVs letting you know that something is up.
  • Museums are always free. And the traveling exhibits always stay for many months.
  • Northern VA and the rest of VA are not remotely the same.
  • You can tell when you've crossed from DC into MD, because the roads are better.
  • "Going to the Mall" has nothing to do with shopping.
  • Washington National Airport is and will always be "WASHINGTON NATIONAL" not "Reagan National”.
  • A snowstorm brings the whole city to a screeching halt.

But the best line had to be from today - a mother who took her 'tween' daughter shopping and was told, "Mom, I'm 11! I'm not Harriet Miers!" Way to be up on the political scene, kid!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Political Compass

Dani sent me a link today to the Political Compass, a site that gauges your left- or right-leaning tendencies, and your authoritarian vs. libertarian views.

The questions are really thought-provoking... in some cases, I would have rather had the option to say "no opinion" or "neither agree nor disagree," but you have to pick one way or the other.
Sample questions: (strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree)
  • Charity is better than social security as a means of helping the genuinely disadvantaged.
  • In a civilized society, one must always have people above to be obeyed and people below to be commanded.
  • There are no savage and civilized peoples; there are only different cultures.
  • Governments should penalize businesses that mislead the public.
My results: (no one is really going to be surprised) ;)

Economic Left/Right: -5.50
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.44

See that red dot? That's me.

In case you're wondering, here's how some of the world's leaders and great thinkers would fit on the graph (that's Milton Friedman, not Thomas-the-world-is-flat-Friedman). Gandhi and I would have gotten along swimmingly. :)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dignity for Chickens

Every once in a while, in the cartoons, Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny would realize they were "naked", and cross their knees and cover themselves up. We always knew they were naked, but it was a cartoon! Who cares?

Well, somebody thought that chickens should be spared from running around naked, so voila! Chicken diapers! ... I mean, "chicken suits."

To check out the various available designs, and meet the "models", click here.
Actually, I could even knit a chicken suit ... if I knew anyone who had shy chickens! Here's the knitted version from the website - tres chic chicken!

Friday, August 17, 2007

... and not a drop to drink

In addition to a great article about Al Gore (and his pic on the cover), last month's issue of FastCompany had a huge article on the massive quantities of bottled water we drink in this country: the amount of money wasted in the process; the damage we're doing to the environment by trucking it around everywhere; and the irony of buying those neat square bottles of Fiji water when half of the nation of Fiji doesn't have potable water. Here's the quote that got me:
If the water we use at home cost what even cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water bills would run $9,000.
The article came out just as Coke and Pepsi 'revealed' that their own bottled waters, Dasani and Aquafina, are just filtered tap water. I have to say, the FC article really made an impact on me. When I do buy bottles of water, I re-use them for a week or more before I recycle them. I look for recycling bins everywhere I go now, and am always surprised when I go to an event (or a house) in Austin where there's no recycling bin. It really hit us at work last week, when we ran out of the giant bottles of water, and had to resort to drinking -- gasp! -- tap water! Honestly. Tap water is fine. I grew up on DC water, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with me. [no comments from the peanut gallery, please!]

Clearly the issue is starting to get some traction. Of course, the Bottled Water Association is unhappy, as you would expect them to be. They feel like they are being unfairly targeted.
"If the debate is about the impact of plastic packaging on the environment, a narrow focus on bottled water spotlights only a small portion of the packaged beverage category and an even smaller sliver of the universe of packaged products," he said.
I wonder if Dasani and Aquafina sales will drop because of the whole "public water source" flap?
Go ahead, take the Bottled Water quiz, to see if you're really paying attention. ;)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Yes, it's been a while.

I've been busy! So sue me!

Thursday night, I went up to Pflugerville to watch 'Lady Jane' with some girls from my book club. Our book last month was Innocent Traitor - a historical fiction novel about the life of Jane Grey, who was Queen of England for 9 days when she was 15 years old. The movie is also her story, although it paints a decidedly different picture of her life, and particularly of her reign. The movie (1986) stars Helena Bonham Carter as Jane and Cary Elwes as her husband, Guilford Dudley. The book portrays their relationship as painful and awkward... the movie, clearly taking liberties, spent a lot of time making it into a love story. But at least Patrick Stewart was in it. :)

The heat has finally arrived, so it's been 100-plus degrees since last week. But that didn't stop us from going out dancing on Friday night! About 15 of us went to Cedar Street to see Skyrocket, a great 80's cover band. We took a bunch of 'before' and 'after' pictures -- before the sweating, and after! (Cedar Street is an outdoor venue.) We were drenched within fifteen minutes, just sitting still -- never mind any time spent dancing. But it was a blast! [Waiting for the pictures to be posted, although some of them are blackmail material....]

Saturday night, Andy wanted to go see Guy Forsyth and the Hot Nut Riveters, a 20's and 30's dirty jazz band. I've been hearing about Guy Forsyth since I got here (he's an Austin legend), so Andy and Paul and I went downtown to the Parish and enjoyed the music. We also enjoyed a parade of people at the show that would have given Stacy and Clinton heart palpitaitons. I mean, really, people!

By Sunday, I was dead tired. I did get up and go to the gym, and got a lovely massage from Patrick the masseuse. I think that's what saved me. He was trying to fix the knots in my shoulders, particularly the left one, which I fell on last week at the gym. I didn't do much more after that - it was too hot!

My neighbor came back from her trip to Scotland and brought me a lovely wool scarf, to thank me for watering her plants. (I think I'll put the scarf away until I go to DC in the winter.) I'm planning on going up in October, but I'm waiting for plane ticket prices to drop again. By then there will be a new little Diehl baby, too! (d'oh! another penguin to make!)

Work is incredibly busy, but really fun, for the most part. I'm glad I moved to Texas. :)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

What are the bags of water for?

If you've ever eaten out on the patio at Rudy's in north Austin, you've seen the clear plastic bags of water hanging from the rafters. (I think we talk about those odd fixtures every time we eat there.) We've been told that the bags of water keep flies away, but I was never sure that was true.

But if you hear something kooky like that from many different sources, does that make it true?

Alton Brown is back on the road in "Feasting on Asphalt" on the Food Network. This year, they're riding up the Mississippi River, starting in New Orleans. In the first episode, AB was in a seafood shop, and noticed the bags of water hanging from the ceiling. Sure enough, the proprietor told him the bags were keeping the flies away!

Here's a pseudo-scientific explanation. Believe what you will. (Having been to Rudy's and met up with some flies that clearly weren't intimidated by the bags of water, I'm still not convinced that it works!) And here's another article specifying that "Scientists say the method has no real merit..." So it's still up for debate.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Heroes and Villains

Two interesting news tidbits today:

First, the heroes. An interesting interview in Wired with the author of the forthcoming book, Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics and the Creation of the Superhero. In case you didn't know,

Jewish comics creators and co-creators include Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel(Superman); Bob Kane and Bill Finger (Batman); Will Eisner (The Spirit); Jack Kirby (Fantastic Four, Incredible Hulk, the X-Men); Jack Kirby and Joe Simon (Captain America); and of course Stan Lee (who helped create Spider-Man and a whole bunch of others).

It's an interesting look into why so many of these guys got into comic-book-making, and how their background influenced them.

Now, the villain. Glenn Beck seems to think that Al Gore and Adolf Hitler have a lot in common:

"Al Gore's not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic, however. The goal is different. The goal is globalization. The goal is global carbon tax. The goal is the United Nations running the world. That is the goal. Back in the 1930s, the goal was get rid of all of the Jews and have one global government." He continued: "You got to have an enemy to fight. And when you have an enemy to fight, then you can unite the entire world behind you, and you seize power. That was Hitler's plan. His enemy: the Jew. Al Gore's enemy, the U.N.'s enemy: global warming." Beck added: "Then you get the scientists -- eugenics. You get the scientists -- global warming. Then you have to discredit the scientists who say, 'That's not right.' And you must silence all dissenting voices. That's what Hitler did."

Say what?!? Can I sic' all of my Jewish superheroes on him?