Tuesday, February 27, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

Last Friday, a bunch of us watched An Inconvenient Truth. Very timely, as it turns out, since the movie won an Oscar on Sunday night! I had a flurry of thoughts as I watched it.

One, I should have watched this movie long ago. (duh)

Two, I wish I could ride a bus to work or use some other form of public transportation. But at least I go from place to place quickly and don't sit in traffic, adding to the carbon dioxide problems. I am going to go to the website and try to offset my carbon emissions. $9 a month is pretty affordable to help the Earth, even a little bit.

Three, I miss Al. It's hard to explain. I worked for him in the Senate ('91), went to NYC for the convention in '92, worked again in the VP's office ('93), for the '96 campaign and the '97 Inaugural. I went to high school with his daughters. As I sat there listening to him give the global warming presentation, I couldn't help but think that if he had won in 2000 (who am I kidding, he DID win)... after the World Trade Center on 9/11/01, we would have gone into Afghanistan and found Osama Bin Laden, and we wouldn't be in this ridiculous war in Iraq. It's a good thing it was dark in the room because I was this close to tears.

But you can't dwell on the past.

I was interested in the gossipmongers who were saying that Al would decide to run for President if/when he won the Oscar. Well, he won! (the film won Best Documentary.) Actually, one of the funniest moments of the evening was when Leonardo DiCaprio goaded him into *almost* announcing his candidacy, until the music swelled and played them offstage. Hilarious! (and Tipper looked lovely, too.)

This started us on a discussion of whether Al could accomplish more by becoming President, or by NOT running, and continuing on this crusade to help the world deal with the looming global warming crisis. Unfortunately, I think the next President of the United States will have such a raft of sh*t to deal with, they will be horribly handicapped and unable to do anything but try to help the country recover. I'm not sure he wants to do that -- although I'm positive he'd do a tremendous job, and would bring back much of the respect that the US has lost in the world in the last few years.
Just my 2 cents. :) I will support Al in whatever he decides to do. As long as I don't have to watch him make out with Tipper on national television.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Oscar Party & Birthday Bash

Sunday night was Oscar night, and my birthday! and that's all I needed -- a great excuse to have a party!

For the party, the food had to be themed according to the Best Picture nominees. (I had a good three weeks to think about this, after all...)

Babel: Since the movie takes place in Morocco, Japan and Mexico, I had plenty to choose from. I served chips and guacamole and salsa.

Letters from Iwo Jima: Sushi (I went to World Markets and got nice chopsticks)

Little Miss Sunshine: Fried chicken (first big scene in the movie, they have fried chicken for dinner) and biscuits and cole slaw

The Departed: Samuel Adams beer and Boston Cream Puffs (couldn't find the pie)

The Queen: Walkers Butter Cookies and Sticky Toffee Pudding (yum! from a mix at World Markets)

We also had Oscar ballots, so everyone could try to choose the winners. I wrapped up some goofy prizes, (most correct answers, best picture, best director, fewest correct answers) but by the time the Oscar show ended, everybody but Andy had gone home! But he was just waiting around to win his prize... he's definitely seen more movies than the rest of us -- either that or he's just better at guessing. ;) As it turns out, I got enough prizes so everyone could have one. I'll have to take them in to work tomorrow to pass them out. (New rule next year: You must stay at the party to win your prize!)

Speaking of Andy, Happy 40th! You made it! It's all down-hill from here. (kidding! I'm just kidding!)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Alphabet Meme

• A-Available/Single? Available.
• B-Best Friend? Kelly. Since we were 4. That's nearly THIRTY YEARS! Yikes! :)
• C-Cake or Pie? Cake, please. Yellow, with chocolate icing.
• D-Drink Of Choice? G&T
• E-Essential Item You Use Everyday? Does the Internet count as an item?
• F-Favorite Color? Red.
• G-Gummy Bears Or Worms? Bears. Or sours, if I can find them.
• H-Hometown? Washington, DC.
• I-Indulgence? Pumpkin spice latte. Once a year.
• J-January Or February? February. Birthday month :)
• K-Kids & Their Names? None, but I'm making a list of names with Y's in them for future reference.
• L-Life Is Incomplete Without? Laughter.
• M-Marriage Date? see letter A.
• O-Oranges Or Apples? Apple, if we're talking pies. Orange if we're talking Bowls.
• P-Phobias/Fears? Spiders and things that go bump in the night.
• Q-Favorite Quote? Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did - only she did it backwards, in high heels!
• R-Reason to Smile? My nieces.
• S-Season? Fall. Leaves changing, crisp air, sleeping with the windows open...
• T-Tag Three or Four People? you know who you are.
• U-Unknown Fact About Me? I can't ride a bike.
• V-Vegetable you don't like? Raw tomatoes.
• W-Worst Habit? Sweating the small stuff
• X-X-rays You've Had? Teeth, chest, ankles... I think that's it.
• Y-Your Favorite Food? Chocolate. or French Fries.
• Z-Zodiac Sign? Here, fishy-fishy! (Pisces)

On turning 34...

My 33rd year (technically, it was my 34th year, if you consider that a person's first year is between birth and age 1) was a pretty good one. It was something of a roller-coaster, but overall I'm happy with the way it ended up.

There were weddings (Ryan & Becky, Stu & Jenny), babies (Max K., Callie W., Cebrina B., Gabriel C., Claire B.), trips (Orlando, Tampa, LA/SD, Boston), and a BIG MOVE (and an awesome road trip with my cool cousin M.). I've made new friends, found some old friends again, and lost some friends along the way. I surprised myself by learning to knit new things (socks, cables), cook new things (chicken lettuce wraps, avocado-tomatillo salsa) and build new things (bookcases, desks).

So, now that I'm 34, I will:

Meet some of babies mentioned above; travel to new cities; see more live music here in Austin; knit more new things (socks with cables!); cook more new things; meet more new people; and have fun at my job. I will also finally learn how to properly use my Rollerblades, and look into getting certified to teach water aerobics. That's a good bunch of goals, right?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

"Be an eagle, not a turkey"

or, "If you follow the flock, you could end up a lamb chop."
or, "If you're not the lead dog, the view never changes."

Yes, Dad. I know, Dad. (those were my responses.) All of that started at a very early age, along with a small collection of buttons that said "Question Authority." When I was in high school, Dad cut out a paragraph from a newspaper interview with Margaret Thatcher. She said that her father had taught her "never to do things because other people are doing them; do what you think is right and persuade others to follow you." The last line of the paragraph (which I still have to this day) said, "It was a tough upbringing."

I guess all of Dad's insistence on "go your own way" and "question authority" has managed to force these concepts into my subconscious. I firmly believe that just because something has always been done a certain way doesn't mean there isn't a better way to do it today. It seems like common sense to me, but apparently it's not so common after all.

I was reading today about the "sexualization" of little girls in the Washington Post, [let's leave aside the "well, duh!" aspect of the article, which says that females are sexualized in the media, and that leads to eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression. No, really?] and one mother's quote hit home:
"It's not so much a feminist thing," explains Guay, a Gaithersburg medical transcriptionist. "It's more that I want her to be comfortable with who she is and to make decisions based on what's right for her, not what everybody else is doing. I want her to develop the strength that when she gets to a point where kids are offering her alcohol or drugs, that she's got enough self-esteem to say, 'I don't want that.' "

I never equated self-esteem with the strength to say no to alcohol or drugs, but I totally agree. Peer pressure in high school is an ugly thing -- especially at an all-girls school. I turned down drugs and alcohol (ok, I admit, I drank a little, but not as much as some of my friends!) because, seeing how it made my friends look and act, I didn't want to be that person, falling-down-drunk, or puking in the bathroom (or anywhere else) or worse yet, blacking out and not remembering the fun at all. I had more fun watching the drunk people act stupid! I was also fortunate that I had some non-drinking friends to hang out with.

I only hope that when I have a daughter (someday), I have the courage to help her be her own person, instead of "following the flock." And I really feel for my brother and sister-in-law, and my friends with daughters... I've seen the teen and pre-teen clothing in the stores, and I know my parents would NEVER have let me out of the house looking like that! I wish them all luck in keeping their daughters looking like little girls as long as possible.

p.s. Thanks, Dad. :)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Wonder What 'Team America' Would Think?!

Newsweek, in a bid to garner some of the audience that enjoys all of those makeover shows (including my personal fave, What Not To Wear), decided that Kim Jong Il needed a makeover for his 65th Birthday. So they asked some well-regarded designers (though not as well known as Versace, Hilfiger or Armani) to give him updated looks.

The results are, well, frightening. Go to the Newsweek website and click on the link to "Fiercing the Veil", in the lower right. (You can pause the audio as soon as it starts, or you can listen to why the designers chose the looks they did. ) Here's a sample.

(Is that a rocket in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Tastes as good as it looks

I made chicken pot pie! Four of them, actually. Weight Watchers individual-sized chicken pot pies, in little ramekins. Here's what they looked like when they came out of the oven:

Aren't they purty?

And when I cut one open, it looked perfect, and tasted just as good. The topping is easy, made with Pillsbury biscuits sliced in half. Slicing the biscuits in half is probably the hardest part! I used the knife that attacked me to cut up the chicken, and at that point I remembered that cutting up chicken was precisely why I bought the new knife... the others were much too dull. It worked beautifully. AND, I cleaned it and put it away without incident. Phew.

Otherwise, it was a pretty uneventful Saturday... I went to HCW and picked up another skein of the white yarn so I can finish the flag socks. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't leave HCW having only bought one little skein of yarn. :) I got six skeins of 3 lovely shades (2 of each, not 6 of each!) of Berroco "Love it" yarn. I think I'll use it for a sweater for someone special. (Haven't made her anything since I crocheted her a *rather ugly* set of gloves and scarf for Xmas a few years back. I'm thinking it's time to make something better.) Now I have to go in search of a pattern.

I also got industrious and put some more pictures on the walls. I figure I ought to clean up a little and decorate, since I'm having people over for an Oscar party next week!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bialystock's the Boss?

Ok, that just sounds weird. Almost as weird as the thought of Tony Danza playing the role of Max Bialystock in the Producers. As one columnist said, "I wish that was a joke, but it's not."

I get it, he's a song-and-dance man. I wish I could say confidently that he's a good actor, but with only Who's the Boss as reference, who knows? Having seen the Broadway production more than once (with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick) :) , I just wonder how the audience will react -- particularly to a skinny Max. Many of the jokes are funnier because Max is a bit... zaftig. But if Susan Stroman thinks he can do it, then I wish him well. After all, Matthew Broderick's first run was really a direct channeling of Gene Wilder's Leo Bloom in the (original) movie. It took him a while to make the role his own. So good luck, Tony. (oops, I mean, "Break a leg!")

While we're on the subject, Uma Thurman as Ulla in the new movie? AWFUL. I will say that Will Ferrel was good as Franz Liebkind. It was his sort of role.

...and now I'm going to have Springtime for Hitler in my head for days!!

Update: MZ pointed me to another article about The Producers -- Apparently David Hasselhoff is going to play Roger DeBris in the London production. I'm not nearly as bothered by this as I am by the Tony Danza thing... I think "the Hoff" could do a great job as a flamboyantly gay director -- he's totally willing to poke fun at his macho-man image. And if he did a Christmas 'panto' in London, he's gotta have great legs, because they are known for putting famous male actors in drag for those things! (see my panto post from 2005.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Spell with Flickr

MZ sent me this "Spell with flickr" site today.

Write your name (or whatever other text you like) in the box and click "spell." You get something like this:

But wait, there's more! Once you have your word spelled out, you can refresh the page and get all new images, or you can click on each letter individually to see different versions.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Penguins galore!

When I was working at the Council on Competitiveness two years ago, we produced a little 8-minute film explaining how high performance computing affects everyday life. [Most of you know this, because I have forced you to watch it at least once!] DreamWorks Animation was on our Advisory Committee, and they very kindly offered to help us put the video together -- and we got to use the "Psychotic Penguins" from Madagascar in the film.

March of the Penguins came out around the same time, and then Happy Feet. So these little tuxedo-clad waddlers are everywhere! My mother decided that as long as I was going to be associated with this HPC video, I should start a collection of penguins. I'll admit, I didn't fight her very hard on this, because a) penguins are cute, b) I work in an industry where the penguin symbol is well-known, and c) she's not really serious. Right?

I momentarily forgot that I come from a family of collectors, and no matter how hard I fight the pack-rat gene, I myself have, in addition to my flasher button collection, a small collection of Muppets items and a growing collection of Wonder Woman items. (Just ask my aunt what happened when my father decided she needed to add to her collection of ceramic and stuffed pigs!) I'm very picky about which Wonder Woman things I will buy, however; I much prefer the Lynda Carter and "vintage" WW stuff to the new cartoon version. I did have to get myself the little Lego WW figure - she sits on my monitor at work and watches over me.

But back to the penguins. Over the course of the past 18 months, I have been given (or purchased) a few penguin things, from the two beautiful jewelry pins (that I really should wear more often) to the stuffed penguins, the plastic ones, even the little hopping one. Most of these are on display in a corner of my office. But today, my father surprised me with a Valentine's gift (and a birthday gift that I am dutifully going to save for two weeks) that dwarfs them all. Literally. I opened the box to find a giant DreamWorks penguin! He's the one called "Private" -- he's about 2 feet high! (On the left in this image.) I don't think he'll be staying with his brethren at my office, however; that's not the professional image I'm trying to convey.
But thanks, Dad! and the rest of you -- please don't get any ideas!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Good thing I'm not a golfer...

because apparently I have a really sweet slice! heh.

Last weekend I bought a nice new chef's knife. My old one was a Betty Crocker piece of crap and I never used it -- the blade was strangely serrated, which isn't at all how a real chef's knife is supposed to be. So I got a gorgeous Kitchen-Aid one with a red handle. I never understood when chefs said the knife should be heavy and feel good in your hand, until I held this one.

And boy, it works well. I cut up those green beans in a flash on Tuesday night. Cut up everything else in sight, too, including my finger! OUCH! It wasn't so much in cutting the food, it was in cleaning the knife that I did damage. Instead of wiping off the knife from the back, I had the blade facing the sponge. (My ever-supportive father said, "I thought you were smarter than that." Thanks, dad. :) ) This knife is probably sharper than any other I have ever owned -- which only makes it worse, because if that's the case I definitely should have held the blade away from me! Lesson learned.

It was 8:30 at night. I live right next to an ambulatory care clinic, but unfortunately they close at 5pm. (what's the point of that?!?) So I wrapped my finger (my right middle finger, thankyouverymuch) tightly in paper towel, and took off for the closest ER. I brought a book; I figured I might have to wait an hour or two.

Six hours and three stitches later, I went home. They prescribed some Vicodin, but I wasn't about to try to get the scrip filled at 3am. I won't post the picture of the stitches -- besides, the camera-phone image was pretty grainy. If all goes well, the removal will be next Wednesday, at which point I will also request the tetanus shot that they forgot to give me at the ER. But if you see me driving around and it looks like I'm flipping the bird, please don't be offended - I have to hold my finger up like that! ;)

As my friend Judy said, "Just because Rachael Ray has 'finger food' recipes, doesn't mean they contain ACTUAL FINGERS."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Music and memories

As I was getting out of the shower this morning, the radio station played "We Built This City" by Starship. You know how certain songs remind you of specific places, times, or people? This song has huge memories attached to it, all of which came flooding back today.

When this song came out in 1985, I was in seventh grade, and thus eligible to join the synagogue youth group. One Sunday, the youth group was doing a clean-up project in the wooded area around the synagogue building, which was unfortunately being used as a trash dump by all of the neighbors. The 10th grade boy in charge of the project [let's call him "Joe"] was using this as his community service requirement for his Eagle Scout badge.

To say that I developed a "crush" on Joe would be like saying Mount Everest is "sorta tall." This was the beginning of my affinity for smart (and smart-ass) boys. [Here come the rose-colored glasses...] Joe was funny, smart, cute, and arrogant, in a "big man on campus" kind of way. I was smitten. It wasn't really cool for him to be friends with me, but we hit it off. (It didn't hurt that our mothers had gone to the same college, although they didn't know each other until they ended up on the board of trustees of the synagogue together. ) I wrote his initials next to mine in every notebook I had in school. We talked on the phone allll the time. We hung out in his bedroom (scandalous!) and he took me out in his car when he was first learning to drive a manual transmission (which turned out to be the first thing he'd ever done that he wasn't instantly good at, as my whiplash would attest).

He came to my bat mitzvah, and was seated at the table with me and my friends -- which, in hindsight, must have been mortifying for him, as we were 13 and he was 16. But Joe stuck it out, and had a good time. I got myself on the 'board' of the youth group in ninth grade, partly as an excuse to see him more often before he went off to college. [He also stopped me from jumping off a high building that year, but that's another story for another day.]

He graduated at the top of his high school class and went off to a big ivy league university. I wrote him letters [my g-d, remember when we did that?!] all summer and into the fall. (He had the coolest handwriting, and always wrote with fountain pens.) When he came home for winter break in January of '88, he took me to the movies one night. To this day, I have no clue what movie we saw.... all I know is that we made out on the escalator on the way back to the car. I think I was on a cloud for a solid week after that.

After various jobs and moves to different cities, he finally came back to the DC area around 1999. Strangely enough, we talked on the phone and saw each other less once he was nearby. (Of course, it didn't help that he'd brought his soon-to-be-wife back with him...) We lost touch a few years after that, but every once in a while I do a web search to see what he's up to. Maybe I'll be bold and email him one of these days.

Oh, what does all of this reminiscing about Joe have to do with Starship? That was the song he was singing during the synagogue clean-up project, the day we met. :)

Monday, February 05, 2007


I love Jeremy Piven. (in addition to just finding him adorable) He has played John Cusack's "buddy" in everything from Say Anything to Grosse Point Blank to Serendipity, and is now kicking a** every week as Ari on Entourage. So when Andy decided he wanted to go see Smokin' Aces (again) this weekend, I was definitely in.
Faith, Matthew, Andy and I went to Alamo Village on Saturday night. Andy warned us that the movie was a little violent, but since the plot involves a mafia hit on Piven's character, I wasn't too surprised. It was a little bit bloodier than I expected... the horde of would-be assassins worked with everything from automatic weapons to a metal spike to a chainsaw - but it also had some comedy. Some things I learned from watching this picture:
  1. I still love Piven. and he really is a great actor :)
  2. Andy Garcia really sinks his teeth into the good guy/bad guy role. He's still using the snarl that he perfected in Ocean's Eleven, but it seems to work for him.
  3. Ryan Reynolds can act! Who'd have thunk it? I mean really, Two Guys a Girl and a Pizza Place and Van Wilder were not marks of a true thespian. ;)
  4. Ben Affleck is great in small parts where he doesn't have to carry the whole movie.
  5. Jason Bateman is a gem, and had by far the funniest scenes in the movie.
So, if you can stomach a few minutes of raging gunfire, some blood and guts, and a twisted ending, I highly recommend it. I also recommend doing something fun and relaxing afterwards - we played pool for a while - to come down from the adrenaline rush that this movie creates. ;)

Friday, February 02, 2007

It's Groundhog Day!

... and since Phil Connors is nowhere to be found, I'll tell ya what happened this morning in Punxsutawny, PA: Phil (the groundhog) didn't see his shadow, so it's going to be an early Spring.

This confuses me a little, because I would think that if the sky is clear and the little rodent "sees his shadow", there's going to be an early Spring. Sunny skies = warmer weather, right? Apparently not. Turns out it's the opposite. If he doesn't see his shadow, early Spring.

Never mind that the weather didn't get really cold on the east coast until recently - I guess none of the members of The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club have seen "An Inconvenient Truth." ;)

More Groundhog Day info may be found here. (The official site, groundhog.org, seems to be having trouble with the one-day onslaught.)

Stella! Stelllllaaaa!

(with apologies to Brando)

On the heels of Marcia's post, Too Stupid to Live, I thought I'd share the 2006 award winners of the True Stella Awards - people who file (and sometimes win) the most ridiculous lawsuits imaginable. Not quite as you've-got-to-be-kidding head-slapping as the Darwin Awards, but close.

They're called the Stella Awards in honor of the woman who spilled hot McDonald's coffee on her lap in 1992, and was awarded $2.9 million in damages. (As it turns out, there's a lot more to that story than you might have heard... including the fact that there were 700 other cases of people being burned by coffee from the golden arches, and the judge reduced the award to $480,000.)

I think my favorite is the 5th runner up, who never realized that outside the shopping mall is, well, OUTSIDE, and there might be some wild animals living there.

The 2006 True Stella Awards

Issued 31 January 2007 (Click here to confirm these are legitimate.)

#5: Marcy Meckler. While shopping at a mall, Meckler stepped outside and was "attacked" by a squirrel that lived among the trees and bushes. And "while frantically attempting to escape from the squirrel and detach it from her leg, [Meckler] fell and suffered severe injuries," her resulting lawsuit says. That's the mall's fault, the lawsuit claims, demanding in excess of $50,000, based on the mall's "failure to warn" her that squirrels live outside.

#4: Ron and Kristie Simmons. The couple's 4-year-old son, Justin, was killed in a tragic lawnmower accident in a licensed daycare facility, and the death was clearly the result of negligence by the daycare providers. The providers were clearly deserving of being sued, yet when the Simmons's discovered the daycare only had $100,000 in insurance, they dropped the case against them and instead sued the manufacturer of the 16-year-old lawn mower because the mower didn't have a safety device that 1) had not been invented at the time of the mower's manufacture, and 2) no safety agency had even suggested needed to be invented. A sympathetic jury still awarded the family $2 million.

#3: Robert Clymer. An FBI agent working a high-profile case in Las Vegas, Clymer allegedly created a disturbance, lost the magazine from his pistol, then crashed his pickup truck in a drunken stupor -- his blood-alcohol level was 0.306 percent, more than three times the legal limit for driving in Nevada. He pled guilty to drunk driving because, his lawyer explained, "With
public officials, we expect them to own up to their mistakes and correct them." Yet Clymer had the gall to sue the manufacturer of his pickup truck, and the dealer he bought it from, because he "somehow lost consciousness" and the truck "somehow produced a heavy smoke that filled the passenger cab." Yep: the drunk-driving accident wasn't his fault, but the truck's fault. Just the kind of guy you want carrying a gun in the name of the law.

#2: KinderStart.com. The specialty search engine says Google should be forced to include the KinderStart site in its listings, reveal how its "Page Rank" system works, and pay them lots of money because they're a competitor. They claim by not being ranked higher in Google, Google is somehow infringing KinderStart's Constitutional right to free speech. Even if by some stretch they were a competitor of Google, why in the world would they think it's Google's responsibility to help them succeed? And if Google's "review" of their site is negative, wouldn't a government court order forcing them to change it infringe on Google's Constitutional right to free speech?

And the winner of the 2006 True Stella Award: Allen Ray Heckard. Even though Heckard is 3 inches shorter, 25 pounds lighter, and 8 years older than former basketball star Michael Jordan, the Portland, Oregon, man says he looks a lot like Jordan, and is often confused for him -- and thus he deserves $52 million "for defamation and permanent injury" -- plus $364 million in "punitive damage for emotional pain and suffering", plus the SAME amount from Nike co-founder Phil Knight, for a grand total of $832 million. He dropped the suit after Nike's lawyers chatted with him, where they presumably explained how they'd counter-sue if he pressed on.

©2007 by Randy Cassingham,
StellaAwards.com. Reprinted with permission.