Monday, July 31, 2006
And I see where this is going – eventually she’ll move on to Asia, where she’ll travel from country to country, staying in cool hotels and trying different kinds of foods and buying souvenirs… and then Africa… and Australia… South America. She’ll probably hit Antarctica, just for the fun of it, and stay in a research station with a bunch of scientists. She will have traversed the entire world, and stayed in every famous and comfortable and lavish hotel in existence. That in itself is enough to make anyone with wanderlust more than a little jealous. But the best part of her many, many travels is that this is her JOB – she gets PAID to visit hotels and try out the room service. The very fact that she travels provides the salary needed to buy all those souvenirs. It’s a strange and wonderful sort of paradox that most of us (or that I, at least) could only hope to be wound up in.
So like I was saying, I’d really like to know how she ended up with such a sweet gig. I mean, I would be more than happy to run around the world, visiting interesting places, staying in expensive hotels, and writing about everything I’d experienced. I could lay on the beach in Hawaii drinking mai tais, and then write up a little article about it:
“It was sunny. And sandy. I drank a mai tai. Then I went back to my hotel room. It has a bed. And a coffee table. And a bathroom with little bottles of shampoo and conditioner. It costs a lot of money to stay here, but I didn’t have to pay because this is my job. Tonight I’ll order room service, and let everyone know how great the food tastes. I might have another mai tai…”
Okay, I’d have to tweak the writing just a bit, but you get the idea. The point is, some people, it seems, have managed to wind up with really amazing jobs. Just kind of out of the blue. Because I have never seen a want ad for “world traveler” in my local newspaper. Or even on Monster.com, for that matter. It’s possible, of course, to find employment that requires travel – probably to less-than-exciting locales, where your company will gladly compensate you for a few nights in the La Quinta. But I suppose you could, if you felt compelled, write an article about it:
“Tonight I’m in El Paso. It’s a little scary. The hotel is in a bad neighborhood. My room has a bed. And a coffee table. And a bathroom, but they forgot to leave me any little bottles of shampoo or conditioner. It costs about 80 bucks to stay here, but my company is paying for it. Tonight I might venture out to the Subway across the street and buy a sandwich. I wish there was a mini bar…”
Oh well. In lieu of actual “world traveler” employment, I guess I’ll just have to keep watching the Travel Channel. At least I can live vicariously through Samantha Brown…
Sunday, July 30, 2006
And as I was thinking about it today, I figured something out – the Yankees, it would seem, are like a superhero conglomerate. And every superhero needs an anti-hero. Every superhero needs an arch nemesis. It would be easy, of course, to assume that the Boston Red Sox were the Yankees’ arch nemisis. After all, they’ve been rivals for decades, and Boston/New York games attract rowdy fans of both teams by the thousands. In contrast, Tampa Bay games tend to attract, well, Yankee fans. Even in Florida…
So sure, the Red Sox and the Yankees have a rivalry, but they’re usually a pretty evenly-matched rivalry. And as everyone knows, a superhero’s arch nemesis never begins as an evenly-matched enemy. It’s usually someone who doesn’t even realize the evil powers within their possession until the superhero awakens them. Like Spiderman – I mean, I’ve never read the comic books, but if I’m to understand the movies, Spiderman’s enemies have all started out as friends. In fact, his BEST friend is his biggest enemy. His best friend, the person he’d least expect, is the one person determined to wipe him off the face of the earth.
And what about Superman? His downfall is a stupid little glowing green rock. This is the guy who is impervious to bullets, and can fly around the world in seconds, and can pick up freight trains with one hand. You could drop an entire REGULAR rock on his head, and he’d be just fine. But pelt him with a tiny fleck of kryptonite, and he’s toast. The big, bad, obvious things can’t touch him – it’s only the unassuming, and the ordinary, and the unexpected that can have a detrimental effect.
So it would make no sense for the Boston Red Sox to be the Yankees’ arch nemesis – they’re too obvious, and too strong, and too conspicuous. But the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are different – they’re like a quiet, conniving, crafty team that waits in the wings until the Yankees come to town. Until then, they’re just a little fleck of kryptonite, glowing in their green uniforms but completely harmless to most teams. And then they go and beat the Yankees 19 to 6.
But no matter – everyone knows the superhero always wins in the end.
Friday, July 28, 2006
I had the “good fortune” (I use the term loosely) of being involved in an accident directly outside Austin police headquarters several years ago. I was driving in the far right lane of interstate 35, minding my own business, when a woman in the far left lane inexplicably lost control of her car, and slid sideways across three lanes of traffic. She somehow managed to miss every other car on the highway – except mine. I broadsided the passenger side of her car. Neither one of us was hurt, and the first thing this woman did when we got out of our cars was something you’re never, ever supposed to do after an accident – she apologized profusely and declared over and over again, “it was all my fault!” I took a quick assessment of the onlookers – there were at least five or six witnesses close enough to have heard the confession. Excellent. And, since this happened just off the exit ramp from police headquarters, help arrived immediately, we were able to move our cars off the highway, and she repeated her “it was my fault” spiel to the police officers. What’s more, although her car sustained some pretty heavy damage on the passenger side, MY car was practically unscathed. The insurance company gave me a check for about $800, which I never even used to fix the few dents and scratches in the car. I needed the money, and the car was running just fine. It was, all in all, the best accident I’ve ever been involved in. (You know, if accidents can be a good thing…)
In contrast, I was in another accident on my way home from work several years ago that turned out to be a bit more complicated. There had actually been a very serious accident on the highway earlier, and all of the westbound lanes had been closed. This meant that those of us in the westbound lanes had to wait for eastbound cars to go by, until the police officers directing traffic stopped them and allowed us to go through. After we’d waited about a half hour, we were finally given the go ahead to very slowly start moving toward the eastbound lanes. Suddenly, I felt my car lurch strangely, propelled forward once, then twice. At first, I didn’t even understand what was happening. It wasn’t until the third jolt that I realized the dump truck behind me was hitting my car. By the fourth hit, I was completely confused as to why the truck was still hitting me, and by the FIFTH hit, I actually yelled “stop it!” as if the guy driving the truck could hear me. And he DID finally stop at that point, but the back of my (practically brand new) Honda Civic had five huge dents in it.
Because the major accident site was still being cleared, we were directed to the side of the highway where, I suppose, secondary accidents are made to wait. At one point, while I waited there on the side of the highway, I saw Rick drive by in his pick-up truck, on his way home from work. I jumped up and down, waving my arms like an idiot, but he was staring straight ahead and didn’t even notice me there. It was after this particular accident that I first saw the obvious advantages of a cell phone… I bought one shortly thereafter…
Rick and I also discovered the advantages of the phrase, “I’ll be contacting my lawyer” after this accident. The truck driver – who obviously had not been paying much attention – was attempting to pin fault for the accident on me, claiming I’d cut him off. Cut him off when we were all traveling at 5 MPH, apparently. Yeah. I’m an amazing, magical driver. When his insurance company called and told Rick that we’d have to pay, Rick simply said, “okay, I’ll be contacting my lawyer.” Amazingly, after that, the truck driver’s temporary amnesia was lifted and he remembered he’d been distracted by the other accident and was adjusting his radio dials at the time he hit me.
I find it so amusing that simply saying “I’ll be contacting my lawyer” can strike such fear in the hearts of many. I mean, what really makes it funny is that I don’t HAVE a lawyer… it’s not like “my” lawyer is out there taking care of all of “my” legal issues. But when making veiled threats, you have to say “my lawyer” and not “a lawyer” – you have to make them think you’ve done all this before. You have to make those insurance companies think you’re so unbelievably litigious that you have your own personal legal team waiting in the wings. In fact, it might be even better to say, “I’ll be contacting my LAWYERS.” Yeah, that’s right. I sue so often that I need a mighty TEAM of legal counsel to keep track of my many valiant fights for justice.
Actually, I’d prefer to just never have to use that phrase again… so if everyone would please stop hitting my cars, that’d be great.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
I let out a strange sort of high-pitched squeak, doubled over so my hair fell away from my face, and began to jump up and down. Then I grabbed a fistful of hair near my scalp, and began shaking the whole thing. At this point I was fully engaged in an awkward dance, the likes of which you’ll never see in the next Shakira video. What’s worse is that I lost sight of the spider, and couldn’t tell if it was still hanging out in my hair, or if it had fallen to the floor. I ended my dance with a couple extra-high jumps, just to make sure the jolt had been hard enough to knock the little intruder away from me. When I stopped, I spotted it – STILL clinging to my hair by a thread. By a spider web thread. More high-pitched squeaking ensued (there’s a SPIDER WEB in my HAIR!!) and more hair shaking. And finally, I saw the source of my panic fall to the floor, where it stayed still long enough for me to squash it with a tissue.
After a few involuntary shudders, I got ready for bed and tried to fall asleep. But I couldn’t help but think that if I hadn’t spotted that little guy, I’d be falling asleep at that moment with a spider in my hair. (Another involuntary shudder, followed by a feeling of general ickiness… a feeling I think can best be summed up with the word, “eeyyyaageeeooooeeeeaahhh.”) I was also suddenly acutely aware of the fact that I was lying right next to the windowsill on which I still find ant carcasses, despite the fact the exterminator has been out to deal with them (at least they’re dead…). Eeyyyaageeeooooeeeeaahhh…
But despite the occasional bug or snag in the car door, I still like my long hair. When I was a little kid it was really short, and I can remember, even at the age of five or six, disliking my short hair. By the time I was seven it was growing longer, and it’s never been that short again. When I was a kid with long hair, I used to chew on it – I would take a little handful of hair, and pop it in my mouth, and chew away. Which seems completely bizarre to me now. What a strange habit. I think I stopped the hair chewing when I met a slightly older ex-hair chewer (yes, other people did this, too – not just me) who said she once accidentally bit down on a bug when she was chewing on her hair outside. That was it. No more hair chewing. And thank goodness, because if I’d never grown out of it, who knows if I would’ve been chomping on my hair last night??
I guess I do wonder now and then if I should cut some of this hair off. Last night, as I struggled to shake the spider loose, I was considering just grabbing Rick’s electric razor and shaving myself bald. I mean, if your problem is a spider in your hair, then the problem would be solved if you HAD no hair. I did chop a significant portion of my hair off about four years ago – it was slightly longer than chin-length. It was interesting, actually – it only took about five minutes to blow dry after a shower. I have no idea how long it takes now, because I don’t usually have that kind of time…
But I think for now I’ll keep it long. And the next time I go outside, I’ll just keep the razor on standby…
Yeah, I'm in there somewhere... if anyone sees a spider, could you take care of it for me? Thanks...
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
This was always my biggest fear on the first day of school. In high school, lunch was broken up into three different 27-minute sections (yes, we had 27 whole minutes to eat lunch) and which of those sections you were assigned would depend on the rest of your schedule. On the first day of school, I’d seek out my extremely small circle of friends and hope and pray that at least one of them had the same lunch time as me. Unfortunately, this didn’t always work out, and I’d be relegated to lunch with a subset of friends – who, in reality were not MY friends at all, but rather friends of my friends – or, the worst case scenario: lunch by myself.
Now, lunch by yourself in high school MUST be avoided at all costs. There is nothing worse than being shy, unpopular, and an obvious target for ridicule. If you eat lunch by yourself, you might as well wear a big bull’s-eye and carry a sign that says, “hurl insults here.” What made matters worse was the fact that my school was run by fascist Nazis… or at least that’s what I made them out to be. There was a rule against being in the library if you weren’t either with a class, or in the middle of a scheduled study hall (and, unbelievably in my mind, the study hall rule only applied if you were a senior – freshmen, sophomores and juniors with study halls had to be in assigned classrooms). I mean, what kind of SCHOOL doesn’t allow you in the LIBRARY?? Was there really that much of a problem with kids sneaking in and reading up on physics and Shakespeare and the Civil War when they weren’t supposed to be? Was there some sort of library “incident” in the past where a gang of rowdy, slacker students showed up and played keep-away with the librarian’s “due back by” date stamp? What's the worst that could possibly happen in the library -- somebody might LEARN something in an unsupervised manner??
I can understand not wanting kids to cut class and hide out in the library, but if you can PROVE that you’re scheduled for either a study hall or lunch, why shouldn’t you be able to be in the library when you want to be? Fortunately for me, my social downfall could also, at times, be an asset. Being the shy, polite kid doesn’t usually have its advantages, but the one thing I WAS always able to do was build up a certain amount of trust with most teachers. If you were nice to them, and you were quiet, and you smiled and minded your own business, there were times you could get away with just about anything. That’s not to say I ever DID “get away with” anything much – except for hanging out in the library. Librarians came to know me – “oh, it’s that nice, quiet girl” – and my presence amongst the books was never questioned. Luckily, I only had to use the pathetic “lunchtime in the library” tactic a few times, mostly when friends were out sick or on field trips and I knew I’d be the only one in the lunchroom. Ah, memories…
The other thing brought to mind by these “back to school” ads is a question – can someone please tell me why they start selling autumn clothing in the department stores in TEXAS in the middle of JULY? Do people not know what the weather is like in July in Texas? For that matter, do people not know what the weather is like in OCTOBER in Texas? I don’t need any sweaters right now… I don’t need corduroy pants… I don’t need knee-high boots… I don’t need flannel pajamas… and I’m not GOING to need any of this stuff for a long time. I might, however, need a new swimsuit – but good luck finding anything decent at this time of year. All that’s left are the “clearance sale” rejects that no one else wants. You’d think the stores in Texas would adjust their “seasonal” merchandise to actually match up with the seasonable changes in the weather. Or seasonabilty, if you will. (Ha! Faisal – check it out – I just made that word up. Pretty good, right? Seasonability…) So as I’m wearing last-year’s swimsuit in the 99-degree-practically-autumn Texas weather, and wondering if maybe I should go buy some gloves “just to have them,” at least I can be content in knowing that “back to school” no longer applies to me. My lunchtime is now MY lunchtime.
And I can go to the library whenever I feel like it, thank you very much…
Now, one of the other things we added when we built the media room was a lock on the door at the top of the basement stairs, which had never had a lock. And the door to the garage was halfway down the stairs, and it had never had a lock, either. So we felt like one of those doors into the main house deserved a modicum of security. And the doorknob on the basement door needed to be replaced anyway, so we just bought a knob with a lock at Home Depot. I always locked that door and went out through the garage after I’d visited my cat or taken care of anything I needed to take care of in the house.
So the house was pretty empty, save for a few random pieces of furniture and my cat. But the media room was still completely operational – Rick decided to leave all the equipment for the new homeowners and start over with different electronic doohickeys in the house in Texas. The furniture was gone, so any movie-watching had to be from the comfort of the purple-carpeted floor, but that wasn’t such a big deal.
One weekend when Eric was in town (which may have been during one of his “oops, I accidentally broke my hand on the job and now have six weeks of paid vacation” spells), we got together with Faisal and Dave and my dad and headed over to the media room. We’d rented what turned out to be a rather bad movie – I think it was called “On the Line” and it had one of the guys from N’Sync. (You know it has to be a bad movie when “boy band” is listed on the star’s resume.) While the guys settled in on the floor, I headed up the stairs to make sure my cat had plenty of food and water. And that’s when I realized I’d forgotten my keys – we were able to get into the media room through the garage, but I didn’t have any house keys with me. And of course my cat had already heard a commotion downstairs, and had begun to meow plaintively on the other side of the locked door. My dad was nice enough to run back to his house and get my keys, while the rest of us lounged around on the purple carpet eating Kit Kats. As soon as my dad got back, I unlocked the door, said hi to Allegro, and then we all watched the movie.
Now the funny part is, a couple weeks later, I was out and about running errands and decided to stop by my house before returning to my parents’ house. As soon as I hit the garage door opener, I remembered that I’d once AGAIN forgotten my house keys. But, not wanting to make another round trip, I went up the stairs anyway, thinking maybe I’d forgotten to lock the door and could simply walk in. But no, it was definitely locked. And my cat was already on the other side, yelling at me for once again leaving her alone in an empty house. So this time, instead of immediately running off to get the keys, I decided to try that little trick you’re always seeing on TV and in the movies – a credit card. I got one out of my wallet, ran it along the space between the door and the doorjamb, and – pop! – the door opened right up. My first thought was, “hey, that was cool! I broke into my own house!” My second thought was, “I never knew it was so easy for someone to break into my house!”
So, dad, and Eric, and Faisal, and Dave – I don’t know if you guys remember that night when I thought we were all trapped in the basement. Turns out all I needed was a credit card. I could’ve had that door opened in two seconds, and we all would’ve been watching the N’Sync guy movie a lot sooner.
Not that we would’ve WANTED to, of course…
Monday, July 24, 2006
We watched it in our home theater, which, in our present house, is just a big room with all of Rick’s various electronic equipment and the movie screen. The walls are a boring beige, and there are three big windows along one side, so during the daytime the room is flooded with light. We really don’t watch many movies during the daytime anyway, but if we wanted to, we’d have to find a way to blackout those windows.
But when we lived in New Jersey, it was a different story. The house we bought in New Jersey is still my favorite house of all the places I’ve lived, because it was unique – it wasn’t simply a cookie-cutter house in the middle of a subdivision. What’s more, the entire house had been recently renovated when we bought it – so although the house itself was built in the 60’s, everything inside was brand-new. The carpet, the tile, the appliances, the bathroom fixtures – everything was shiny and clean and gleaming and up-to-date.
Everything, that is, except the basement. The basement HADN’T been renovated, save for a new oil heating tank and air conditioning unit. The basement itself was dark, damp, full of cobwebs and extremely uninviting. There was really no reason anyone would ever venture down there. And Rick decided we should change that. He decided to keep going with the “renovating” theme and have part of the basement transformed into a media room. At first, I was rather unenthusiastic about this idea. It’s not like we NEEDED a media room, and couldn’t the money be spent on something more practical? Even as we found a contractor and the room progressed, I was skeptical. Soon, the room began to take shape, and the dank, scary basement became more and more interesting. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t such a horrible idea… as the days progressed, and the media room emerged from the subterranean concrete, I began forming ideas for color schemes. Rick placed the entire “decorating” burden on me, something I was happy to mull around in my head. I finally decided on dark blue walls, a very light lilac for the ceiling, and a dark fuchsia for the trim around the rope lighting. And, the piece de resistance – purple carpet.
So our basement went from looking something like this:
Sadly, even a super-cool media room such as the one we’d managed to create was not enough incentive to keep Rick in New Jersey. We moved back to Texas after barely breaking in our creatively-decorated media room, and now we watch movies in our plain beige room. And I suppose it doesn’t matter, since the MOVIE is the main attraction, and you can’t really see the walls and carpet in the dark anyway. But perhaps it’s sort of like those foreign language movies – just because I can’t understand the language doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear it. And just because I can’t always see everything in my media room doesn’t mean I don’t want it to be visually appealing.
Perhaps next weekend I’ll have to pick up a few gallons of paint. And some purple carpet. Definitely purple carpet…
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Doors in an alleyway in France...
Houses in Stockholm, Sweden...
Painting over the entrance to a church in Berlin...
Saw these trees on the road to Hana in Maui. I thought they sort of looked like they'd been painted into the forest -- almost like impressionist painting trees...
Flying over the Alps...
A picture I like to call, "Eric, King of Martinis." And yes, he DID drink all of them himself. At least that's my recollection...
A sandcastle on the beach in Maui...
A picture of me that was taken in the dark... probably when I wasn't aware that anyone was taking a picture...
Sunset in Arizona... or possibly New Mexico... either way, it's pretty impressive...
Friday, July 21, 2006
In high school, I became fast friends with a girl named Allison. She and I were remarkably similar and shared many interests -- we both loved reading and writing, did well in all our classes, and sang in the chorus. We weren’t members of the “popular” crowd, and the night of our junior prom, we went to the movies together and indulged in popcorn and Twizlers and M&Ms (neither one of us had a date). I can still remember a card she gave me one year that said, “like the Marines, we’re looking for a few good men… and if their luck is as bad as ours, this country is in serious trouble!” That STILL makes me laugh. But of course high school graduation arrived, Ali and I went our separate ways, and for a while, sporadic letter-writing ensued. And once again, the letters eventually stopped, and another friend transitioned into a memory.
When I think back on the barely-perceptible endings to these friendships, I feel no sadness or remorse. Perhaps an occasional speculation or curiosity on what their lives are like these days, but otherwise, the end of those relationships seemed merely an evolution of my life story. But these days, I feel like my friendships are more important to me. Not that my childhood and teenaged friendships were unimportant, but they were more shallow, in a way. Childhood friendships are about playing games, and having fun, and eating ice cream on humid summer afternoons. Teenaged friendships are about sharing history notes, and giggling about boys in the hallway, and complaining about the injustice of homework. They’re the relationships you build before “real life” kicks in…before experience and knowledge and opinions have built up in layers, transforming children to adults.
And my “adult” self values the friendships I’ve formed since my younger days, more so than my pre-legal-voting-age self. Because these days, friendship is less about ice cream and games and more about support, and understanding, and relating to someone who can relate right back. There are people who read this blog on a regular basis who honestly honor me by simply reading my words… and in so doing, show me that this tiny little effort of mine is not as silly as I often assume it is. Some of these same people have been the proud (er, not-so-proud?) recipients of novel-length emails, authored by yours truly – emails that run the gamut from happy to sad… from content to angry… from thoughtful to illogical. And these people – the ones who’ve listened to my plaintive, overdramatic grievances, or my small, insignificant boasts, or my bizarre, nonsensical musings – these are the people I know to be true friends. The ones who have been subjected to the “real me” and continue to be here when I need them.
It’s not always easy, in the throes of “real life,” to maintain these kinds of friendships. Situations arise, marriages occur, kids are born, job transfers move us from place to place… feelings can be hurt and mended, illnesses strike when we least expect them to, people move in and out of our lives. It’s all such a far cry from the days of unfair homework. It’s no longer a matter of sharing history notes – it’s a matter of sharing a part of someone’s “real life.”
So to the people who know the real me and share in my real life – thank you. And continue to check your email for those novel-length messages. Because if you really know the “real me,” then you know another one can’t be too far behind…
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Fortunately for Rick, he actually DID find something good. I am now the proud owner of two autographed baseballs – one with the signatures of Tino Martinez and Derek Jeter, and one with the signature of Mariano Rivera. And if you like baseball – and especially the Yankees – how cool is that?? I’ve been staring longingly at my Derek Jeter ball, in particular… Derek Jeter’s signature is in my living room… Derek Jeter held that baseball, and now that baseball is in my house. (And yes, I realize that I turn into a fifteen-year-old every time I talk about Derek Jeter…)
So Rick, thanks for finally figuring out that I love the Yankees. (Just kidding. :)) And when it’s YOUR birthday, I’ll be sure to get you something from your favorite football team. The, uh, Green Bay Packers. No – New York Giants! Right? Yes, I’m sure that’s right…
Mariano Rivera's nice, neat signature...
Tino Martinez (top) and Derek Jeter... Jeter's handwriting is even worse than mine! And mine is pretty bad...
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
FINISHED FILES ARE THE RE
SULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTI
FIC STUDY COMBINED WITH
THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS...
Okay, so how many F’s did everyone find? There are 6 within the text, but supposedly our brains have a tendency to jump over small words like “of.” So a lot of people only find three or four of the F’s. The email also mentioned that if you found all 6, you’re “a genius” and it included a picture of Albert Einstein, just to add some visual emphasis. So now I’d like to mention that I found all 6 of the F’s the first time I read that little sentence, and I am, therefore, a genius. Because the mysterious, invisible, anonymous email author said so.
Actually, I think finding all those F’s probably has more to do with the time I’ve spent proofreading. When you start proofreading, you learn very quickly that you CAN’T skip over the small words. Some of the best mistakes are hidden in the small words – and if you DO manage to find them, you’re respected as some sort of proofreading mastermind, and editors and designers gaze at you in awe and amazement. So like I said, I figured out pretty quickly that the small words were just as important as the big ones…
The designers where I used to work would often scan old documents into their computers so they could be reformatted and updated, without needing to be completely retyped. But the problem with scanning a document is that scanners don’t always “see” everything correctly. So even though these were old documents, and someone along the line had already proofed them, I would need to go through them again to catch the scanner mistakes. One of the most common errors I found was a proliferation of the nonexistent word “ot.” When read in context, it was easy to see that “ot” was supposed to be “of.” Since “f” and “t” look rather similar – especially if you’re a computer scanner with a not-so-precise eye – it was obvious why this popped up so often. And perhaps that’s another reason I noticed all those F’s – I was having “ot” flashbacks.
Of course, the other explanation would simply be that I really AM a genius. :)
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
When we were finished reading this little blurb, the professor asked how many of us in the class would like to be responsible for one of these dangerous animals. The only people who raised their hands were me and the guy sitting right in front of me. It may already be obvious what the “dangerous animal” is, but in case it’s still not clear, I should mention that the name of this animal is a “rac.” Now, when I was reading the anecdote, it took me about a sentence and a half to realize that “rac” is “car” spelled backwards. It wasn’t about a distant tribe in some faraway country – it was about us, right here, right now. The point, of course, was to show that our perceptions of “culture” and “tradition” can be skewed depending on what part of the world we assume we’re talking about. Sure, here in America, it’s perfectly acceptable to hand a 16-year-old the keys to a car, but if we were talking about some kid in East Timor riding a giant, angry yak to school, well that would be totally different, right?
(And on a side note – after that, any time our professor would ask us to “pair up” or get into a small group with other students for a project, me and that guy in front of me would always make sure we were in the same group. I mean, really, how hard is it to figure out that “rac” is car spelled backwards?? Everyone in that class should’ve had their hands raised…)
But the part of the class I found most interesting, and still think about today (besides the sort of über-sensitivity toward other cultures I seemed to develop… don’t offend anyone… don’t offend anyone…) was our discussion on “race.” I touched on this in that silly little survey the other day, after the question about interracial relationships. What’s funny is that there really aren’t different “races” of human beings. You’re either human or you’re not. There are many anthropologists who believe the whole idea of “race” should be given up, anyway. Human beings are far more similar than they are different, and our perceptions of “race” are merely insignificant differences in appearance, coupled with social and cultural traditions. To me, these things are so infinitesimal in the grand scheme of things, that “race” ends up meaning nothing very important.
Think about it - you could take any baby from anywhere in the world, transplant him/her to any other part of the world, and that child will grow up acting/talking/dressing like the people he or she is around most of the time. It wouldn't matter what color anyone's skin happened to be, it wouldn't matter what "race" they belonged to. It's not a "black" thing, or a "white" thing, or an "Asian" thing or whatever other kind of "thing" you might want to label it. It's just adaptation to the socitey you happen to be in. "Race" has nothing to do with it...
And where would you draw the line, anyway? If we consider skin color a factor of “race,” then what does it mean that I can never get a decent tan? Does that make me “whiter” than other white people? Am I a member of some sort of mega-white race? What about people who live in Istanbul? What if a girl from the European side of Istanbul fell in love with a guy on the Asian side of Istanbul? Would that be considered an interracial relationship? Are they two different “races” because one is European and one is Asian?? Or do we make an “exception” in that case? And if we make an exception in THAT case, what other cases might we make exceptions for? If you really start to think about this stuff, the whole “racial” question becomes much less “black” and “white,” and much more a big, murky conglomeration of colors and cultures and differences and similarities and love and laughter and happiness and sadness and wishes and worries…
What it all boils down to is, I’m just Lisa, and that’s it. And you’re whoever YOU are, and I really couldn’t care less what “race” that happens to be. Just don’t ever ask me to be responsible for your rac… those things are dangerous...
Saturday, July 15, 2006
1. How old do you wish you were?
About ten years younger than where I am.
2. Where were you when 9/11 happened?
At home in New Jersey, thinking about what a nice day it was while I ate some breakfast… turned on the TV around 9 a.m., and wondered what movie it was I was watching. I honestly thought it was a movie. I remember I had to go grocery shopping that day (which seemed strangely pointless at the time), and everyone in the store was walking around in a daze with their eyes glazed over… I mean, I’ve never actually seen that kind of thing… it was surreal.
3. What do you do when vending machines steal your money?
Well, if it’s something I really, really want, I guess I’d just have to put more money in. And if it stole my money AGAIN, I’d just go to 7-11.
4. Do you consider yourself kind?
Yes… probably a little TOO kind at times.
5. If you had to get a tattoo, where and what would it be?
(Why would I HAVE to get a tattoo?) I suppose I’d do some kind of Angelina Jolie thing and have a poem written in some foreign language on my shoulder.
6. If you could be fluent in any other language what would it be?
Oh how weird… I was just talking about foreign languages… um, to be honest, I don’t know. I guess I’ll say German, just because I already know a little bit. But in reality, I think I’d rather be fluent in something totally different than English (German is just a little too similar).
7. Do you know your neighbors?
Nope. Not that I’m antisocial. I’m just… not interested in knowing my neighbors.
8. What do you consider a vacation?
Going some place where everything is taken care of for you… doesn’t really matter where it is… as long as someone is making the bed for you every day and cooking for you and cleaning up all your dishes – then it’s a vacation.
9. Do you follow your horoscope?
Nope. Plus, I’ve always been slightly disconcerted by the fact that my sign is “Cancer.” Just doesn’t have a pleasant ring to it.
10. Would you move for the person you loved?
Sure. I’d probably even move for someone I was only slightly fond of.
11. Are you touchy feely?
I’m really not… in fact, I’ve never gotten a massage, because I don’t like the idea of strange people touching me.
12. Do you believe that opposites attract?
Sure they do. So do similar people. And people whose interests meet in the middle.
13. Dream job?
I think I mentioned this once before, but I think it would be cool to be some kind of travel writer – those are like two of my favorite things.
14. Favorite channels?
Travel channel, Discovery, National Geographic, Discovery Health, Discovery Times (yeah, the entire Discovery empire has sucked me in and taken over my life…)
15. Favorite place to go on a weekend?
Um, I don’t think I really have a favorite “weekend hangout,” if that’s what this question means. Or is it like “weekend getaway”? Either way, I’m drawing a blank… that’s sad…
16. Showers or Bath?
I haven’t taken a bath in years… (uh, so that would mean shower… I DO take showers…)
17. Do you paint your nails?
I rarely paint my fingernails, but I always paint my toenails during the summer because I wear sandals so often.
18. Do you trust people easily?
Not even close. I think I mentioned how paranoid I was when I was a child – and that pretty much spilled over into adulthood. Not to mention the fact that it takes me a long time to warm up to people in the first place.
19. What are your phobias?
Uh, I don’t want to take up too much room…
20. Do you want kids?
Never been much of a “kid” person.
21. Do you keep a handwritten journal?
I keep all kinds of journals. I have so many random bits of writing lying around my house, I’ve probably forgotten where some of it is.
22. Where would you rather be right now?
In Chicago, helping Eric find a condo.
23. What makes you feel warm and safe?
Um, a blanket, some hot chocolate, and a seat belt?
24. Heavy or light sleep?
I think it depends on how tired I am.
25. Are you paranoid?
I think I’ve already answered this question…
26. Are you impatient?
I’m actually a pretty patient person. In fact, I can have patience bordering on the ridiculous at times. And people with NO patience tend to annoy me a bit. I have no patience for impatience.
27. Who can you relate to?
Uhhh… um… I don’t know… I think I’m unrelatable. (Made-up word, Faisal! Add it to the made-up word dictionary, okay? :))
28. How do you feel about interracial couples?
Personally, I think it’s a non-issue… unfortunately some people MAKE it an issue, which means it becomes an issue even for people who don’t think it’s an issue. Did that make sense? Some day maybe I’ll write about how “race” is a misnomer, anyway…
29. Have you been burned by love?
I don’t know if “burned” is the right word…
30. What's your life motto?
What? I need a motto already? But I’m still trying to work out the mascot!
31. What's your main ringtone on your mobile?
Right now it’s on silent. Sometimes I’ll set it to a very quiet, annoying chime. I don’t like it to be too loud, in case it rings in a restaurant or something.
32. What were you doing at midnight last night?
Probably checking my fantasy baseball scores for the night.
33. Who was your last text message from?
Let me check… looks like it was from Rick… (I don’t get very many text messages…)
34. Whose bed did you sleep in last night?
Uh, in my own – who else’s would I have slept in??
35. What color shirt are you wearing?
36. Most recent movie you watched?
The Devil Wears Prada
37. Name five things you have on you at all times?
Wait, like literally ON me? Like, hair and dust mites? Or, should that have said “five things you carry with you at all times”? Because if it’s the latter, I can say that every time I travel, I have the following things in my carry on: my phone, lip balm, gum, wallet, and sunglasses. And usually hand lotion, too. But that’s six things… sounds better than dust mites, though.
38. What color are your bed sheets?
39. How much cash do you have on you right now?
I have no cash ON me right now, but in my wallet I probably have about two bucks. In change. Yeah, I’m loaded.
40. What is your favorite part of a chicken?
I’m rather partial to their fingers.
41. What's your favorite town/city?
I’m gonna have to go with New York City, although Chicago comes in a close second.
42. I can’t wait till.......
Uh, Christmas? No, till I get to go back to Hawaii… or, I can’t wait until I can fit into size 4 jeans???
43. What did you have for dinner last night?
44. How tall are you barefoot?
45. Have you ever smoked crack?
No. Wait – what? Crack?? Have I ever smoked CRACK?? What, you just jump right over plain old cigarettes, or even marijuana, and go right to crack? What kind of survey is this???
46. Do you own a gun?
No, but if I ever need one, I’ll just borrow Eric’s…
47. What do you prefer to drink in the morning?
Well, usually I’ll have a couple shots of whiskey, then smoke some crack and play with my guns.
48. What is your secret weapon to lure in the opposite sex?
Hahaha – this survey is making me laugh… I have no “secret weapons” and I never have… if some guy happens to be “lured in” by me, it’s probably his own stupid fault…
49. Do you have A.D.D.?
Hey, who wants ice cream?!?
50. What time did you wake up today?
Um, it was about 10 – I don’t usually sleep that long, but I was up late last night and it’s Saturday…
51. Current worry?
You name it, I probably worry about it.
52. Current hate?
Um, I hate the fact that people hate so much.
53. Favorite place to be?
I guess of all the places I’ve been, my favorite would be hanging out on the beach in Maui.
54. Where would you like to travel?
I believe I’ve mentioned this many, many times… the better question would be “where would you NOT like to travel?” And in that case, I’d have to say Detroit.
55. Where do you think you'll be in 10 yrs?
I can’t even think about where I’ll be in ONE year, let alone ten.
56. Last thing you ate?
Um, I guess it was that pizza last night, since I just realized I didn’t have breakfast. Does a caramel latte count?
57. What songs do you sing in the shower?
I don’t sing in the shower… that’d be weird, and I’m obviously not weird.
58. Last person that made you laugh?
Um, oh – probably last night, when Rick realized Sci-Fi Friday was back to brand new episodes, and he practically had a fit about how Stargate was all new. (“It’s a new episode! Sci-Fi Friday is back! I have to call Nick!!”) I was laughing so hard I almost fell off the couch…
59. Worst injury you've ever had?
Gosh, I guess it would be my umbrella accident… that’s the only time I’ve ever needed stitches, and the only time I’ve ever seen my own blood on a sidewalk…
60. Does someone have a crush on you?
I seriously doubt it… but again, if someone does, it’s his own fault because I have no “secret weapons” to “lure” him in.
61. What is your favorite candy?
I don’t think I have one specific favorite – I like all kinds of chocolate, and I’m always willing to try NEW kinds of chocolate. So bring it on. :)
Friday, July 14, 2006
Actually, that’s not entirely true, either. When I was a kid living in Buffalo, we had the only house on the block with an in-ground pool in the backyard. Or at least I have to ASSUME we were the only house on the block with a pool – because every other kid in the neighborhood spent their summers in my backyard. I don’t even think that pool was heated – which once again supports my theory that kids don’t care about that kind of stuff as much as adults do. Buffalo doesn’t see too many 100 degree days… the elusive 87 probably remained quite elusive. I doubt very much that pool water ever got very far above 80 degrees. But that didn’t stop the entire neighborhood from jumping off our diving board…
I remember I was very prone to ear infections when I was young (maybe because of all the swimming?) and if I had one, I wasn’t allowed in the water. Which would seem so unfair to me – especially when half the children in the neighborhood were happily frolicking in MY pool, in MY backyard. I wanted to send them all home to play in their bald patches of grass and dirt. But, vindictive jealousy aside, even with an ear infection I could still lay out in the sun on a towel. And I’m absolutely certain, in the middle of those lukewarm Buffalo summers, that I was tan. I’m sure there must be photographic evidence somewhere…
But these days, I can’t seem to develop much in the way of deeper-pigmented melanin. The crazy thing is, as pale as I am, I really don’t even BURN very easily. It’s as if my skin is imbued with some sort of organic SPF. Rick often jokes that I need to donate some of my skin cells to science, so they can create a new “super SPF.” It would be like SPF Lisa – “It provides as much sun protection as Lisa’s own skin!” That stuff would fly off the shelves. There’ve been so many times when I was outside with other people – when the sun was shining brightly and shade was hard to come by – and everyone else would be getting burned. I’d be surrounded by red noses and red arms and red legs… and then me – blindingly white skin impervious to the assault of UVA and UVB rays. That’s not to say I absolutely DON’T ever burn – but usually, in order for me to get any kind of sunburn, it has to be a very hot day, and I have to be outside in direct sunlight for a few hours. (Unlike Rick, who gets burned after about fifteen minutes in the sun… twenty minutes in the shade…)
So the “very few sunburns” thing is a plus, but it means that if I want a tan, I also have to be outside in direct sunlight for hours on end. I can’t imagine, even with my inborn sunblock, that hours of irradiation is a good thing. So there are summers where my “tan” is really more of a suggestion of a tan. I consider myself “tan” once I’ve gone from pasty-white to off-white. Beige, if you will.
So I think perhaps beige should be the new tan. Instead of saying, “hey, nice tan,” we should say, “hey, nice beige.” Because then I’ll feel like I’m somewhat normal. I’m going outside by the pool to work on my beige…
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Take the piliated woodpecker, for instance. My grandparents instilled within my mom the importance of any sighting of this particular bird – it’s a very big deal, apparently. I can still remember the first time one of them said something about spying one of these members of the woodpecker family, talking in an excited, awestruck tone that suggested they’d just seen Elvis picking up groceries at the corner store –
Them: Guess what I saw today? A piliated woodpecker!
Me: A who-see-what-now?
Them: A piliated woodpecker! They’re as rare as spotting a Studebaker on the highway!
Me: What’s a Studebaker?
Of course, now I’m completely educated on the fact that piliated woodpeckers AND Studebakers are worthy of our silent reverence when sightings of such rarities are made. But I’m waiting for the ultimate sighting – a piliated woodpecker driving a Studebaker. That’s why I always carry my camera with me…
But back to the phoebes – the nest has been on my porch for several years, and at least three or four times a year, a phoebe will lay eggs in the nest (I don’t know if it’s the same phoebe or different ones each time… if it’s the same phoebe, it must be one TIRED bird…). And I can watch through my porch window as the bird sits on the nest, then, once the eggs have hatched, she flies around looking for food and feeds the babies. Eventually, I can see little yellow beaks poking over the twigs and moss of the nest, and within a week, the baby birds have grown so much that they crowd each other in their tiny little temporary home. They start to test out the edge of the nest, standing on it and flapping their wings like mad, almost like they’re revving their engines in preparation for flight. And I know, every time I see that wing-flapping, the baby birds are only days away from flying off and leaving the nest empty.
That’s where they are today – at the wing-flapping stage. In fact, last night, two of them actually ventured out of the nest altogether and hopped onto the little ledge around the porch ceiling. But I guess the idea of jumping off didn’t appeal to them quite yet, and they crawled back into the nest for the rest of the evening. How strange must it be to be born high off the ground, and then be expected to fling yourself from the nest at some point and trust that your wings work? I always wonder if those phoebes are brave, or merely flying off instinct. Do any of them ever need extra encouragement to finally jump? Do the other phoebes gather around the nest yelling, “you can do it! It’s not as hard as it looks!”? Is there a spiritual phoebe guru whispering, “use the wings, phoebe… the wings are with you…”?
And is it possible to be jealous of birds? Those phoebes accomplish what I’ve so many times been unable to – they take a chance, and throw caution to the wind (literally), and trust that their wings will hold them aloft. I’ve never been much of a risk-taker, but maybe those phoebes are on to something. By tossing themselves out of the safety of the nest, they have the opportunity to see all kinds of other things out in the world.
Who knows? They might even discover a piliated woodpecker driving a Studebaker…
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
But I digress… as I was saying, I received my copy of Shape in the mail yesterday, and flipped through it quickly, looking for interesting articles, and I saw a few recipes for low-fat, low-calorie desserts. One of them was something called a “cherry clafouti.” I glanced over the ingredients list, and realized I had everything I needed to make this particular dessert. I even had a bag of fresh cherries in my fridge, which were a few days old and needed to be eaten, anyway. So after dinner, I turned on the All-Star game so I’d have something to watch while I worked, and pulled the cherries out of the fridge. I washed them, and then spent the first couple innings pitting them, until there was cherry juice splattered all over the counter. And my hands. And, I think, on the blinds covering the window in the kitchen. It looked like some sort of horrible fruit-related crime had taken place there. But I knew, once I’d made my delicious cherry clafouti, it would all be worth it.
I moved on to the rest of the recipe – two eggs and four egg whites (six eggs? Are you sure? Seems like an awful lot of eggs…) a little bit of sugar, some milk, vanilla extract, three-quarters of a cup of flour (that’s it? All those eggs and not even a whole cup of flour? Well, if that’s what the invisible editor of recipes for Shape magazine says, then it must be okay…) a pinch of salt, and a couple tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar to sift over the top of the whole thing when it was baked to perfection. My cherry-stained hands worked to mix everything in a large bowl (this seems awfully runny…) and then I poured the whole thing over the cherries I’d arranged in the bottom of a pie pan (just like the recipe says. Gosh, I’m so good at following directions…). I placed the pie pan on a baking sheet (in case it runs over – sure, I get it) and put the whole thing in my pre-heated oven. Then all I had to do was sit back and wait for the lovely aroma of cherry clafouti to fill the kitchen.
Of course, I’ve never even HEARD of cherry clafouti, so I wasn’t sure what it was supposed to smell like. At first, it smelled like nothing. But eventually, my kitchen started to smell like, well, like baked eggs. But I was sure that was only temporary. This was DESSERT after all – so eventually the sugar and vanilla (the tiny little bit of sugar and vanilla) would mingle with all that egg and create something sweet, right? I turned the oven light on and ventured a peek through the window. The concoction in the pie pan was bubbling ominously, much of it spilling over onto the baking sheet. I turned the light off and hoped for the best. Maybe if I didn’t watch it bake, it would simply run its course, eventually winding up at the obvious conclusion – a perfectly delicious low-fat dessert. After the 40-minute bake time, I pulled the pan out of the oven and realized it wasn’t even done yet. I had to bake it for another fifteen minutes before the eggy mixture solidified.
I was still optimistic, however. I mean, this was a recipe out of Shape magazine – a very reputable health and fitness publication. Certainly they would know the difference between something that tastes good and something that should be tossed in the garbage. I waited for my dessert to cool, then cut a small piece from the pan. My optimism began to fade as half of the cherries fell away, revealing the slimy, mushy, eggy disaster underneath. I replaced the cherries and took a small, tentative bite. Wow. It was horrible. It was like eating an omelete filled with cherries. If I wanted an omelet filled with cherries, I’d go to Denny’s and ask for a special order. Needless to say, the whole thing WAS sent straight to the garbage…
I learned something last night – dessert is dessert for a reason. It’s not supposed to be “good” for you. I don’t eat dessert to be healthy – that’s what I eat vegetables for. That’s why I buy broccoli and green beans and tomatoes and spinach and mushrooms at the grocery store. That’s why I eat whole-grain bread and brown rice and cook with olive oil. That’s why I’ll choke down an occasional carrot, even thought I think they taste like dirt – because they’re good for me. I eat dessert when I want something that simply tastes good – there’s a REASON most desserts use a certain amount of sugar and butter and flour. Because without those things, your “dessert” runs the risk of ending up in the garbage.
I’d much rather eat a real, regular-fat, regular-calorie brownie and spend a few more minutes on the treadmill, than eat something that belongs in the garbage…
Thank goodness Ghirardelli understands what a dessert should be like...
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Here we are all, by day; by night, we're hurled
By dreams, each one into a several world.
I’ve always had a tendency to have strange dreams. Dreams that usually make absolutely no sense and defy explanation. Oh, I suppose every now and then I can glean some sort of meaningful wisdom from those nocturnal pictures in my head. Like when I dream about being chased by a tornado – I’ve had tornado dreams several times. Usually I’m outside, and I see the tornado approaching, and I try to run, only to discover my feet are as heavy as lead. Every step I take causes me to stumble, and I can see a house not a hundred yards away from me – but the harder I try to get to that house, the more I stumble, and the heavier my feet start to feel, and the closer the tornado gets. This dream seems to be filled with all sorts of symbolism. I mean, sure, the tornado could just be a tornado (I do have a rather large fear of tornadoes), but it could also represent just about anything else I’m afraid of. Or perhaps it’s just a general fear of failure – I’m supposed to get to that house, but I can’t seem to do it. Oh, and I always wake up before the tornado hits, by the way…
When I was young, I used to have a recurring dream – I was probably about ten years old the last time I dreamt it, but I can still remember parts of it. It always began in what looked like a factory, with a conveyor belt over on the left side of the building. The conveyor belt had little cars on it, and it was climbing up like a roller coaster. I would jump on the conveyor belt, and suddenly I’d be in an office building, where – again, on the left side – there was an escalator climbing upward, just as the conveyor belt had been climbing upward. And on the right side, there was a mattress on the floor. And when I’d jump onto the escalator (as I always inevitably would) I’d suddenly fall backwards towards the mattress. Except by now, the mattress would disappear and I’d be falling into a hole in the floor. This was the point where I’d wake up – and no matter how many times I had this dream, it always felt like I’d fallen onto my OWN mattress, and that’s what woke me up. I’ve always wondered what that dream meant – especially since it recurred so often. Was I afraid of falling when I was a child? I wonder what all the “climbing upward” imagery meant? What sorts of things were floating through my elementary-school mind to generate this dream with such frequency?
And then there are the totally nonsensical dreams that seem to fill most of my nights these days. A few days ago I had a dream that I was having some sort of sleepover at Nick and Cindy’s house. I was sleeping in a bed in the middle of a big room filled with all kinds of different beds. And here’s the really crazy part – in my dream, I actually fell asleep. I was already asleep, dreaming about falling asleep. And THEN, to make it even crazier, I had a DREAM while I was sleeping in my dream. I had a dream within a dream. An embedded dream. A dream surrounded by another dream. And in this second dream, Cindy came over and sat on my bed, and said that she’d been talking to God, and then she said, “God told me you’d be more comfortable in the bed in the corner.” At that point, I “woke up” from the dream-within-a-dream and realized that Cindy was NOT actually sitting on my bed, and I didn’t even know if there WAS a bed in the corner of the room. I then woke up (for real), and realized that the entire thing had been one big dream emulsion. And the first thing that came to mind was, “what was THAT?” I also wondered why, if God was going to speak to someone, he would focus on something as trivial as the comfort (or comfortability – I’ll throw that in for Faisal…) of a bed. Couldn’t he clue us in on some of those big mysteries of life? Maybe explain a thing or two? But no… it’s just, “hey, go sleep in THAT bed…”
This wasn’t the first time I’d had a dream about falling asleep. But even worse than “falling asleep” dreams are “I feel really tired” dreams. These are the most frustrating dreams I have – I’ll actually dream that I’m tired, and I wish I could fall asleep, but for some reason I can’t. And then at some point I’ll wake up, realize that I’d already BEEN asleep, but feel less-than-rested because of my dream. I always feel cheated out of a good night’s sleep when I have a dream like that.
I wonder why I can’t just dream about eating lots of chocolate? All of the chocolate, none of the calories… now THAT would be a great dream. :)
The moon shining through my kitchen window...
Monday, July 10, 2006
For instance, I found last night’s show particularly interesting – because I’ve heard about the Hindenburg disaster my entire life, but I’d never heard how it happened, exactly. Everyone knows it was trying to land, and it was filled with highly-flammable hydrogen gas, and it caught fire, and was pretty much completely destroyed within seconds. And everyone knows that some guy was there reporting on the landing for the news, saw the airship catch fire, exclaimed, “oh the humanity!” and his words were forever preserved for posterity. Preserved so those of us living in the present century can make fun of that particular line… because it sounds so out of place today… Oh the humanity! Yep, still sounds funny…
The show last night explained a lot of things I’d never known. Like the fact that hydrogen itself is not flammable until it comes into contact with air. So in order for the Hindenburg to catch fire the way it did, the hydrogen must’ve already been mixed with air. The hydrogen in the ship was encased in many specially-made bags, covered with tough layers of cotton and linen. These kept the hydrogen separate from the air. But when the ship was beginning to line up for landing, the wind picked up and blew it off course. Instead of slowly circling and lining up again, the captain ordered a sharp turn, and then another sharp turn, to quickly maneuver the ship into place. But the Hindenburg wasn’t designed for sharp turns – the stress of the turns on the rudder caused a supporting line within the ship to snap, springing back toward one of those cotton/linen hydrogen gas bags. It ripped the bag and caused a leak – viola. Hydrogen mixed with air.
But this in itself didn’t cause the ship to go up in flames. The weather on that day was rainy and stormy. And while the lightning had moved out of the area by the time the Hindenburg was landing, the ship behaved much like a giant balloon – picking up static electricity the way a balloon gets charged up when you rub it on your hair. As long as it was in the air, all of this electricity stayed in the ship. But as they neared the ground, the crew threw down mooring ropes, and the electricity from the metal parts of the ship (metal being a good conductor of electricity) traveled into the ground. But the outer skin of the ship – made of some sort of cloth material, and therefore much less conductive – held onto its charge. And then, a spark of electricity from the outer skin of the ship attempted to find the shortest distance to the ground. Unfortunately, it was through all that hydrogen and air that was mixing up near the damaged gas bag. And that’s all it took – one little spark – and the entire ship was engulfed within 34 seconds. Pretty fascinating stuff, right? I hope I’m not the only one who found that fascinating…
So as I was saying, on the one hand, Seconds From Disaster is a very interesting show. However, on the other hand, it graphically illustrates just how LITTLE needs to go wrong for some sort of horrible outcome to result. Like the Concorde crash – remember that? It was caused by a little strip of metal that happened to fall off another plane and landed on the runway. It seemed so benign – it couldn’t have been more than 12 or 14 inches long, barely three or four wide. You’d think a huge plane could run right over it without incident. But that little strip of metal brought the entire Concorde era to a halt. I wonder sometimes if perhaps I shouldn’t watch this show – do I really want to know about things like that? If I keep watching it, will it deter me from boarding a zeppelin some day? Or even a regular old plane?
I’ve never been particularly afraid to fly generally, and there’s only been one instance I would consider a bad experience. It was on a flight home to Newark, after a vacation with family and friends. It was windy and turbulent when we started our descent, and I’ve never liked turbulent landings. (I mean, if the plane is bouncing around like that in the air, who’s to say it won’t bounce a bit too much when it nears the runway?) But the turbulence itself wasn’t as disturbing as our plane’s bizarre approach – as we neared the airport, the pilot made a sudden sharp turn, as if trying to avoid another plane that had unexpectedly swooped out of the sky. The turn was so sharp that the pilot had to rev the engines to prevent a stall. And, as if ONE of these crazy maneuvers wasn’t enough, the pilot made the same kind of turn AGAIN, in the opposite direction (then why did he turn so sharply in the other direction the first time?). At this point, there may have been some slight panic and hyperventilation on my part… And then the grand finale – the plane, still rather high above the runway, steeply descended and dove toward the runway at what seemed a remarkable rate of speed.
We did land safely, of course – but I had never before and have never since experienced a plane landing like that one. In fact, I’ve compared every flight since then to that one – if someone says, “boy, that landing made me nervous,” I say, “are you kidding? That was fine… there was no turning, no engine revving, no swooping towards the runway… that was a great landing.”
I just hope I never see a Seconds From Disaster about a “great landing” plane crash…
Don't overshoot the runway... unless you want to wind up on Seconds From Disaster...
Saturday, July 08, 2006
I was reminded of this observation this afternoon as I headed out to my pool for a swim. We’ve gotten quite a bit of rain lately, which is sort of unusual for this time of year. Normally, by the time we reach July, Austin is on the brink of a summer-long drought and the temperatures have been hovering near 100 every day. But this year, the temperatures have been cooler, and rain has been pouring into the pool every couple weeks, and as a result, the water in the pool is only now beginning to really warm up. Eighty-seven degrees seems to be optimal, but today it was 85, and I thought maybe that would be warm enough. But as I said, 85 on land and 85 in the water are two different things, apparently. Even at this balmy temperature, the water was cool enough to make me stop short as soon as I was submerged up to my stomach. The strangely-cool water, coupled with the fact that the sun disappeared behind a large bank of clouds as soon as I got in the pool, made my swim less pleasant than it should’ve been.
What’s funny is I’m certain an 85-degree pool wouldn’t have fazed me in the least when I was a kid. I probably would’ve been so happy to have an opportunity to swim that I would’ve jumped right in, without the slightest thought wasted on a pool thermometer. In fact, a lot of things didn’t faze me when I was a kid. When we first moved to Texas, when I was nine, we lived in an area with lots of new houses and construction. Next-door to us was an empty lot, and across the street was (what seemed at the time) an endless forest of trees and bushes and shrubs. Eric and I used to run across the street and wander through the thicket of trees, building forts and digging in the dirt and never even thinking about the things I’d be thinking about today – what about snakes? Spiders? Poison Ivy? Of course, I never once got bit by a snake, or a spider, or roamed off into a patch of poison ivy.
And the empty lot next-door started out as just another place to dig in the dirt – at one point we’d dug a huge hole in the ground, big enough to hold us and a few of our friends, and we covered it with a piece of mesh we’d found somewhere. It was probably just garbage in the empty lot (which brings me to another point – how could we not care that we were playing with GARBAGE?). And we’d covered the mesh with leaves, so we could hide out in the big dirt hole in the ground, and cover it up, and pretend we were invisible to the outside world. To us, the entire thing was like this super-cool underground cave. I remember there were little roly-poly bugs all over the place, and instead of being disgusted by them, I dug little tiny holes within the giant hole in the ground, so the bugs would have places to live. Nowadays, all I’d do is pull out a can of Raid...
Eventually, the empty lot was sold, and construction workers began building a house, which presented us with an entirely new kind of landscape for whiling away the hours. When the workers went home for the day, we’d run next-door, wandering around the construction site, walking amongst the nails and saws and 2x4s – again, never thinking about the possible dangers lurking all around us.
It makes me wonder – do all people just naturally become more fearful as they get older? Perhaps we just don’t think about these kinds of things when we’re kids. Maybe we just haven’t had time to hear all the stories about the people who HAVE been bit by snakes and spiders and stepped on rusty nails and hit their heads on 2x4s. Or maybe kids are just better about “living for the moment.” Which might explain why a cold pool was never much of a deterrent – kids just want to swim and have fun. If it means getting a little cold, well, so be it. So tomorrow, I’ll have to make sure to use my pool, even if the temperature’s not perfect.
But I still wonder why 85 in the water and 85 on land feel so different…
Austin is a big “moving-watching-going-out-to-eat” city. In fact, I once read that we have more restaurants and theaters per capita than any other city in the country. Or something like that. The point is, we have a lot of restaurants and theaters. And the last few years, there’s been an increase in the number of stadium-seating theaters in the city. I love stadium-seating theaters… because some of us are only 5’4” and a half (number 22 on the “101” list) and sometimes have a hard time seeing over people’s heads.
But one of the best theaters I’ve been to is in New Jersey – there’s a theater in the Jersey Gardens mall, which not only has stadium seating, but, if you’re willing to pay a bit extra, you can get tickets in the “reserved” section. They have actual assigned seating, like a real “theater” theater. What’s more, you can order all your concessions from your seat, and they bring it to you. So if you order your tickets online, you can get there at the last second, still have a seat, AND you won’t miss any previews because you don't have to stand in line for popcorn.
I mean, how great is that idea? Why don’t we do that here?? Because there’s nothing I like more than being made to feel like movie theater royalty… knowing I can just sit back, watch the movie, and say, “bring me my Milk Duds, knave…”
Friday, July 07, 2006
Me as a baby with mom and dad. Check out the hair... and mom's really big collar... :)
This is me when I was five, with some sort of football-helmet hairstyle. I mean, maybe I was an accident-prone child, and needed the extra cranium protection...
Me, Eric and Bob on our grandparents' deck. I don't know the story behind those matching outfits -- were they bought in a store? Or did someone make me a skirt and Eric a shirt out of the same yards of fabric?? And why were we dressed alike to begin with? Just for the fun of it? Or perhaps it was for the express purpose of this picture...
This was me when I was eight... this is about the last year I was anywhere near "cute," because I'm already displaying my chipmunk teeth... by the time I was nine, I had big chipmunk cheeks to go with the chipmunk teeth, and then I got braces, and then I was a teenager... well, you can see where this all goes. Basically, between eight and, oh, let's say 19, I have absolutely no pictures to show anyone... Nope. Not one...
Old picture of Eric and me, back when Eric had hair...
Old, kinda washed-out picture of me at Christmas (sorry if some of these aren't the best quality... scanned-in pictures don't always look the best... :))
And, some even MORE random pictures with absolutely no rhyme or reason:
The infamous "Eric flips his car in the driveway when he's not even in the car" picture...
Echo as a puppy...
Dad, Nick, Cindy, me, Rick and mom at Mickey Mantle's Restaurant in New York City. I think this was spring of 2001, when Rick and I were living in New Jersey and Nick and Cindy came to visit. You know, I've always sort of regretted not putting up a bigger fight to visit the World Trade Center instead of the Empire State Building that day. I always thought the WTC had the best views of the city...
Faisal's probably gonna kill me for sticking a picture of him on here, but I think this picture is great because he looks so happy. I wonder why he's so happy? Oh yeah, it was because he'd just beat me at about fifty rounds of rock, paper, scissors...
Rick took this picture near Denver, as we were driving out West to visit Yellowstone. I've always loved this picture -- we actually pulled over on the side of the highway so Rick could get the camera out of the back of the car. It was one of those "if you don't take it now, you'll never get the picture" opportunities...
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Since it was late evening when I noticed the ants, Rick and I did the only thing we could do at the time – boarded up the room with “hazardous” signs and set off a bug bomb. We had to sleep on the pull-out couch in the TV room that night. Which, incidentally, is extremely uncomfortable. If you ever come to visit me and you want to stay at my house, that’s cool – just be warned that sleeping on the pull-out couch is like sleeping on a cardboard box full of metal rods. I mean, you’d think it would be fun to stay in the room with the big movie screen – lying in bed watching movies all night – but trust me, the plain old COUCH is more comfortable than that bed. (Now, I did steal a couple futons from mom and dad last year, and THOSE are quite comfy. I have no complaints about the futons…)
Anyway, back to the ants… in the morning, we called an exterminator, who thought they might be carpenter ants. They were getting onto the house from an overhanging tree branch, and then somehow finding their way into that window. So, a few applications of ant poison and a tree branch-trimming later, the ants seemed to be gone. But – Rick and I never being ones to have much affinity towards bugs – we placed ant baits on that windowsill as a precautionary measure. And for a long time it seemed to work just fine. Not a single ant crawling on the windowsill, and certainly no parading lines of ants on the way to the bathroom.
Fast forward to the present, when Rick happened to look behind the curtain of the Ant Kingdom Windowsill one day, and noticed more ants – little piles of DEAD ants. Okay, well, at least we had an assurance that the ant baits were doing their job. But since no one wants to see little piles of ants on their windowsill, we once again called an exterminator. This time we went for a bigger, more well-known company – the kind that has supposed “bug experts” on hand. So the bug expert took one look at the ants, and explained that they weren’t carpenter ants at all – they’re something called “acrobat” ants (with shows every Wednesday and Saturday…). What’s more, the ant baits that we thought were working so great weren’t working at all. (But what about all the dead ants??) Apparently, what’s been happening is the acrobat ants have been pushing the already-dead members of their ant community onto our windowsill. The ants have been DISCARDING their DEAD on my windowsill. (Cue crazy violin soundtrack from Psycho – eeee eeee eeee eeee…)
For some reason, I find it so much more disturbing to know that all the dead ants we’ve been finding on the windowsill were ALREADY dead before they got there. I mean, when I thought it was the ant baits, it was like, “yeah, stupid ants… can’t even tell the difference between real food and poison.” But now, these ants are like little cold, calculating, evil masterminds. If they have no problem with unceremoniously dumping their dead relatives on my windowsill, who knows what else they’re capable of? Every time they bring out another dead acquaintance, are they looking at the baits and thinking, “stupid humans… they think we can’t tell the difference between real food and poison”? What if they’re plotting some kind of bedroom takeover? What if they’re leaving all those dead ants on the windowsill as some sort of warning to us? What if I start finding little ant heads on tiny little pikes??
Yeah, that uncomfortable sofa bed is sounding better and better…