Monday, April 30, 2007

30th Anniversary Stamps

Did I happen to mention that the USPS is going to issue Star Wars stamps later this year? They have a sheet of different options, including Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Yoda, C-3PO, and others.

You can go check out the options for the stamps (and vote for your favorite, for another few weeks) here. Apparently the Leia and R2-D2 stamp is getting a lot of votes. I think I'd like the Han Solo one more if it were a better likeness of Harrison Ford. ;)

In the meantime, they have created R2-D2 mailboxes and placed 400 them around the country. (I have yet to see one, but maybe they've posted a location list someplace...) So you knew this was going to happen. Classic!

What I really want is one of those mailboxes. How many of them do you think will get stolen? (yes, it's a Federal offense, but really... people are stupid, and we all know how nutty Star Wars fans are!)

Oh, and incidentally, postage rates are going up again this month! Better go out now and buy some 2-centers (Mom, this means you!) because it's gonna be 41-cents as of May 14th.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Farewell, Josh

I don't even know how to begin. Today I learned that one of my favorite professors from Business School passed away last month. Nothing I can say here would do justice to what a great man he was, or how strong he must have been to keep teaching through all of his (apparently ineffective) treatments, and even get to tenure at UMD a few years ago.

Josh Newberg suffered from treatment-resistant depression. None of his students ever knew this about him, however, because he always showed amazing enthusiasm and a willingness to help us learn - I think he'd have taught us everything in his packed brain if he could have!

"Law and Technology Policy" was my favorite class of my second year -- and as far as I know, this was the last time the class was taught (at least by Josh). We talked about everything from the creative commons to the Microsoft anti-trust suit to Napster. I had to give a presentation on Napster and how it violated copyright laws. I wrote a term paper on the concept of "cyber-squatting." Being slightly more of a techie than Josh, I got to explain the concepts of Internet2 and supercomputing to the class. Josh was very good at making everyone feel included, and debating every viewpoint on any topic -- which I now know was one of his specialties. I remember learning that, the year after I graduated, he served as the advisor on one of the Global Business trips to Argentina. He was so excited, and clearly enjoyed the experience, and I was sorry to have missed making the trip with him.

In addition to his being a great teacher, I am not ashamed to say I had a huge crush on Josh. He was, after all, a handsome Jewish lawyer, and a good Democrat... I will never forget the day, a year or so after I got my MBA, I was having lunch with Dr. Sundwall and he told me he had a Jewish young man for me to meet -- it turned out Josh was one of his "running buddies." What a small world, we exclaimed, and I was honored that Dr. D. thought me a good match for Josh (even though he already had a girlfriend!)

I know I will think of Josh whenever I read about the creative commons, the big bad bully Microsoft, and the shifting sands of MP3s and copyright infringement. I hope he's in a happier place now, and has found someone to debate the issues with to his heart's content.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Change the channel already!

Why can't people just change the channel if there's something they don't like on tv? The FCC, in yet another maneuver to control EVERYTHING we see and hear, has recommended to Congress that the government be allowed to regulate television violence -- even on PAY CABLE channels! According to the WaPo:

The report -- commissioned by members of Congress in 2004 and based on hundreds of comments from parents, industry officials, academic experts and others -- concludes that Congress has the authority to regulate "excessive violence" and
to extend its reach for the first time into basic-cable TV channels that consumers pay to receive.

Seriously? Almost every television these days comes with a little thing called a remote. If you don't like what's on, you don't have to watch it! It's called free will! Whatever happened to parental responsibility? Why should the government have anything to say about what's on, particularly on pay channels? If you're a parent, you should be watching what your kids watch anyway, and keeping them from watching the icky stuff. (I wouldn't let young children watch CSI (too gory) or The Sopranos (too much cursing, too bloody) or Grey's Anatomy (too risque') - but that's what the DVR is for!)

In the same vein, I have "This Film is Not Yet Rated" at home from Netflix, and I keep meaning to watch it. Maybe the MPAA can explain why movies can have blood, gore, cursing, and death, but a single bare breast is cause for major alarm and harsher ratings. WTF?!?

On a side note, I was highly amused when Bill Maher brought up the issue of the declining bee population on his show on Friday night. I've got my finger on the pulse of the nation!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Food, wine and family

On Friday, Mom & Dad Fratkin, along with "Uncle" Norman, arrived in Austin. We tried to have lunch at Enoteca Vespaio on South Congress, but Dad & Norman were running a little late on the trek from Houston (too many antique stops, I suppose)... so Mom & I had lunch at the South Congress Cafe instead. Very tasty.

I took Mom to see my new office in the afternoon, and she needed to chat with some of my co-workers. We went from there to the gym, where Tina kicked my a** (mostly because I hadn't been to the gym since Monday!) and mom got a quick massage. After we cleaned up, Norman used his little Garmin nuvi to find my house, and I gave them a quick tour. [You'd think mom had never seen a car navigation system before... she was enthralled!] Dad apparently approved of my house.... he even checked out the duplex that's for sale across the street.

Dinner on Friday was at Castle Hill, one of Norman's favorites -- and now I know why! He had the Voodoo Shrimp appetizer, while mom & I tried the Chicken & Pork Dumplings, and dad had the Curried Lamb Empanadas. (There was plenty of sharing all around, everything was delicious!) and that was just the appetizers! Norman is also doing his best to convince me that red wine is just as worthwhile as white. It helps that he brings wine from his own cellar. ;)

Saturday was the button show. By East Coast standards, the show was tiny (16 tables), but it was pretty good for Texas, from what I understand. The postcards I sent out seem to have worked... we had 12 people come and look around, but I'm not convinced the newspaper ads were worth it. Next year we'll work on contacting the poli-sci professors and local high school history teachers. Maybe that will drum up some interest. (Besides, it'll be an election year!) We've definitely got our work cut out for us.

By the time nap time rolled around on Saturday afternoon, I was ready to pass out. Mythbusters was on, and as much as I luuuurve Adam and Jamie, I needed the sleep more. Dinner on Saturday was at Wink. It's a tiny little place that changes its menu daily, depending on what they get from the farmers market. Tres chic, I must say. My mom tried to sell me to the waiter (who was sort of hot, so that was ok) -- even before she got tipsy! Dinner was very good, although I liked the more relaxed atmosphere of Castle Hill better. Dad really enjoyed the lemon meringue with lemon curd for dessert. (My tongue is curling from the tartness just thinking about it!) Wink also had cool decorations: a divider made of 'flasher' eyes -- winking!

Boy, you'd think all we did was eat on this trip! Well, there's probably a kernel of truth there. Sunday brunch was at the Omelettry, a hole-in-the-wall diner that has arguably the best buttermilk pancakes in town. I did learn one very important lesson: do not follow brunch at the Omelettry with a tough workout at the gym. urp. While I was trying to digest and ride the spinning bike simultaneously, Dad and Norman were zipping back to Houston.

Remind me next time mom comes to visit, she shouldn't take a 6:30am flight -- or I should just let her talk me into calling a cab. Oy. The only reason I'd wake up anywhere near 4:30am is to take a cheap flight to California. ;) But, she made it out on time, and I made it back to my bed by 5:45am. YAWN.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Good friends are hard to find

E is a good guy. He's funny (as long as you like sarcasm), bright, and a mensch. He knows more about Tiger Woods than I would ever have thought necessary. He's a BoSox fan and a Cowboys fan (ICK! BLECH!), and a good father. And he looooves cheesy 70's music. He was put through the ringer by a nasty divorce, and is on his way to healing.

What E needs more than anything else is a friend.

After talking to him for a month, I realized how much I miss my guy friends. In my late 20's I spent a lot of time hanging out with some amazing guys, but haven't spoken to many of them in a while -- either because they went off and got married, I moved, or we drifted apart. [some of those I'm working on 'finding' again.] I miss going to baseball games, trying new restaurants, flirting even though we knew nothing would ever come of it, and just hanging out. I have worked hard to keep up with a few of you (you know who you are), and always smile when an email pops up or the phone rings.

I must admit that being one of the guys backfired more than once, when I liked a guy but he didn't look at me "that way" any more. Sigh. Story of my life.

Girlfriends are vital (and it took me a long time to appreciate the fabulous ladies in my life), but guy friends are too important to overlook.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Honey, turn off your cell phone

Or rather, "if you like honey, put your cell phone away."

Researchers in the UK have recently determined that whole colonies of bees are dying out because of electro-magnetic interference from cell phones.

Alarmingly, this situation has already presented itself in the US:

The alarm was first sounded last autumn, but has now hit half of all American states. The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast.

No wonder honey is so expensive! But that's not all we need bees for, of course:

The implications of the spread are alarming. Most of the world's crops depend on pollination by bees. Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, "man would have only four years of life left".

The thing that the article fails to answer, however, is how we go about fixing this disaster. Keep cell phones away from bee colonies? Certainly. Stop using them altogether? Not likely.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, it's highly unlikely that Einstein ever uttered those words.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Plenty o'Stuff to blog

I spent Monday-Wednesday of last week in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, for a conference. It's a cute, small town, and a gorgeous resort hotel. I posted my photos here. I had a few minutes to roam around on Monday afternoon before the meeting officially started, and wouldn't you know it, I found a yarn shop! [I broke down and bought some sock yarn, but I haven't figured out what pattern to use with it.] In the meantime, because you have to fly to Spokane to get to CdA, and you can't get to Spokane directly from Austin, I spent a lot of time in airports and on planes, which gave me ample time to work on mom's socks, thereby avoiding the dreaded "second-sock-itis". :) When I left, I only had the toe done; by the time I got home I was ready to do the heel. Unfortunately, as I got closer to the top of the sock, it occurred to me that I was running out of yarn! I have about 10 rows left... I may cut the ribbing a little short, or find a coordinating color.

Next on my "to-do" list was replacing my cell phone, which cracked when I dropped it on my kitchen floor. So now I have a new (red) phone. I moved all of my phone numbers on my SIM card, so that part was easy enough. But I can't seem to figure out how to set specific ringtones for different people, and I'll have to re-download the ones I want, so I'd better figure it out before I start paying for songs. ARGH. But it's so purty.

Finally, more to report about E. He came up to Austin yesterday (thankfully, the weather was much nicer than last Saturday's cold/drizzle!) and we went to the LBJ Library. I got a huge kick out of seeing the political memorabilia all over the place, but I also learned a lot about LBJ - the list of landmark legislation that was passed during his Presidency was absolutely incredible: Civil Rights, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA), among others. [I suppose Bryan and I have LBJ to thank for our existence, since our parents met working for VISTA!] While we were there, a girls singing group from Kentucky lined up on the main stairs and sang the national anthem and My Old Kentucky Home (and then, by request, they sang Happy Birthday to a lady in the crowd, and to E, whose b'day is tomorrow.)

After the LBJ Library, we went down to South Congress Ave, to look at the goofy shops, and so I could pop in to Hill Country to see if they had the sock yarn I might need to finish (see above). They didn't have it, and I didn't want to stay in there too long, for fear that I might lose control and walk out with even more yarn. (and E was waiting... I was surprised he was even willing to walk in the door - the only thing he could say was "Oh. My. Gawd.") So we left there and meandered around for a while, stopping at my favorite store, Monkey-see, Monkey-do. Very similar to Archie McPhee in Seattle. :)
After dinner at Chuy's (I forgot that the Saturday special at the Barton Creek one is Hatch Beef Tacos! Yeah!) we came home and watched Ben Affleck in Hollywoodland. I really liked it - a little dark and serious, but Diane Lane, Adrien Brody, and Affleck were all impressive. Made me want to learn more about the life and death of George Reeves.
So, a big ol' Happy Birthday to E tomorrow (and to Dan T., whose b'day was yesterday). My focus for this week will be on making sure my house is clean enough for mom & dad's visit next weekend! ACK! (Of course, they're not coming just to see me, we're having a button show, too.)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Good Advice

From Mighty Girl:
  1. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that something is too competitive. Once you subtract the people who don’t work very hard, or the people who aren’t as good as you, your competition shrinks dramatically.
  2. That said, an original idea sells itself. Instead of spending a year pushing the same product everyone else has, spend that time thinking of a product or service that no one else offers. If you do, you won’t need to do much marketing, people will find you.
  3. Don’t believe the myth that “if you liked your job, no one would pay you to do it.” It’s essential that you love your work for you to be as happy and financially successful as possible in your life. The person who loves her job will always beat out the person who’s doing it for the paycheck.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Remember the Alamo!

Saturday was touristy day for me in San Antonio. The ridiculous April cold front that dropped snow on DC also dropped rain and 40-degree weather on Texas. ARGH. Driving down wasn't too bad, except for the people who are afraid to drive next to 18-wheelers, which we have plenty of around here. But I made it in about 90 minutes. The NJB (who will now be known as 'E'... not to be confused with 'EJ' who has taken over my trips to the supermarket with Dani!) met me at a shopping center a little north of town - no sense taking two cars into that melee.

It was noon when I got there, but we weren't all that hungry, so we went to see the McNay Museum of Art. This worked out rather well, as the current exhibit on Warhol, Wyeth and Basquiat ends this weekend. I love pop art! [The Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh still stands out as one of the best Internet2 Worshop evening events that I planned, back in June of '99]. The most interesting items (IMHO) were the papercuts of Robert Indiana's costume and stage design for "The Mother of Us All", an opera by Gertrude Stein about Women's Suffrage. (scroll to page 13 to see Indiana's designs.) Who is Robert Indiana, you ask? You may recognize his most famous image (right). :) I wish they had had a book or postcards of the papercuts, but no dice.

Then we went downtown. Did I forget to mention that it was freezing cold and drizzling? First stop, the Menger Hotel (it was on the way to the Alamo). I had to stop by when I read that Teddy Roosevelt came here to recruit Rough Riders! The bar is beautiful. Apparently they see ghosts there all the time. Moving on to the Alamo. There was a long line of people snaking around the inside, but the docents kept saying "I don't know why there's a line, you can just wander through..." So we did! Of course, I also got in trouble for taking a picture inside (and the picture didn't come out, so that was a wasted scolding!) We walked through the garden and the barracks, and then headed for the Riverwalk.

I have to say, the Riverwalk was nice and empty because of the weather. If it had been warmer and sunnier, it would have been PACKED. We tried to go to La Villita, but there was a "Starving Artists" show, so we couldn't go through the little shops. (I wonder if a lot of people fell for that and paid the $3?) Then we got some tea at the mall and thawed out a little bit. My ears were frozen!

By the time we made it over to the Mercado area, it was 4:30 or so. We wandered through a few of the shops there - they went from small tchotchkes to uber-tchotcheland. Ugh. Dinner was at Mi Tierra, a San Antonio landmark. The food was very good, and the mariachis were everywhere. We left before they started singing again. ;)

After dinner we went to see "Blades of Glory." Neither one of us was totally excited about the movie choice, but it turned out to be hilarious! Eventually Will Ferrell will make a movie where we don't have to see him half-naked... They also showed the previews for Shrek the Third, the next Fantastic Four, and Spiderman 3. Sequel summer, here we come!

[Note to self: Do not try to write a full-day's blog entry during the first of the last 9 episodes of the Sopranos!!!]

As for E, he's a funny, smart, sweet guy and I'll definitely be seeing him again. :)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Forty years ago

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. posted his father's speech about Vietnam on the Huffington Post today. These words are just as inspiring (and just as true) almost 40 years later. [Here I give you the first paragraph and the last - go read the rest for yourself.]

"I do not want--as I believe most Americans do not want--to sell out American interests, to simply withdraw, to raise the white flag of surrender. That would be unacceptable to us as a country and as a people. But I am concerned--as I believe most Americans are concerned--that the course we are following at the present time is deeply wrong. I am concerned--as I believe most Americans are concerned--that we are acting as if no other nations existed, against the judgment and desires of neutrals and our historic allies alike. I am concerned--as I believe most Americans are concerned--that our present course will not bring victory; will not bring peace; will not stop the bloodshed; and will not advance the interests of the United States or the cause of peace in the world. I am concerned that, at the end of it all, there will only be more Americans killed; more of our treasure spilled out; and because of the bitterness and hatred on every side of this war, more hundreds of thousands of [civilians] slaughtered; so they may say, as Tacitus said of Rome: 'They made a desert, and called it peace.'"

"You are the people, as President Kennedy said, who have "the least ties to the present and the greatest ties to the future." I urge you to learn the harsh facts that lurk behind the mask of official illusion with which we have concealed our true circumstances, even from ourselves. Our country is in danger: not just from foreign enemies; but above all, from our misguided policies--and what they can do to the nation that Thomas Jefferson once told us was the last, best hope of man. There is a contest on, not for the rule of America, but for the heart of America. . . . I ask you to go forth and work for new policies--work to change our direction--and thus restore our place at the point of moral leadership, in our country, in our hearts, and all around the world."

Find me a Democratic Presidential candidate who can do that, and we're in business!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

My Travel Profile

Not a great measure, because it's based only on a selection of cities in each place, but still kind of fun!

Your Travel Profile:

You Are Extremely Well Traveled in the Southern United States (85%)
You Are Very Well Traveled in Canada (80%)
You Are Very Well Traveled in the Midwestern United States (75%)
You Are Very Well Traveled in the Northeastern United States (71%)
You Are Well Traveled in Australia (50%)
You Are Well Traveled in the Western United States (42%)
You Are Somewhat Well Traveled in Eastern Europe (40%)
You Are Somewhat Well Traveled in Southern Europe (27%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Scandinavia (20%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in the United Kingdom (13%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Latin America (7%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Western Europe (7%)
You Are Untraveled in Africa (0%)
You Are Untraveled in Asia (0%)
You Are Untraveled in New Zealand (0%)
You Are Untraveled in the Middle East (0%) [somewhat misleading, I have been to Israel, but no Israeli cities were included]

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Passover tip from Japan

What a great little video on YouTube! Instructions on the best way to break your piece of matzah exactly in half, to make the perfect sandwich (with what looks like nutella - yum!)

And even more Passover fun -- bunny Peeps demonstrating the ten plagues. (ok, not really "fun", but very funny.) :)

Monday, April 02, 2007

Huckabee's no huckleberry

A quick item from today's WSJ --

A Baptist minister, [former Arkansas Governor Mike] Huckabee expressed impatience with the political choices so far of some religious conservatives. In the March Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, Mr. Giuliani led among Republicans with 38%; even among evangelical voters, the twice-divorced former New York City mayor, a supporter of abortion rights, received 37% to 2% for Mr. Huckabee.

“If Republicans in this election vote in such a way as to say a candidate’s personal life and personal conduct in office doesn’t matter,” he declared, “then a lot of Christian evangelical leaders owe Bill Clinton a public apology.”