Tuesday, October 31, 2006

More Montana pics...

Okay, looks like I can add pictures again, so here are a few more Montana pictures:

Cool picture of the sun behind the mountains...

Eric, with what I can only assume are the remains of many innocent chairs and trees...

Hey! I wanted to squish Eric D. with a bulldozer! I never get to have any fun...

Eric tries to encourage another giant campfire to burn hotter with his trusty leafblower...

Yep, seems to be working...

The Tree Killers -- Dave, Eric D., and Eric...

Another great snowy shot -- is that Mr. Bill Bridge? I'm not sure... looks nice and chilly, though. And now I've gotta go turn on my A/C because it's starting to feel a bit stifling in my house...

No carrot cake for me...

Happy Halloween, everyone! I just love Halloween. I love it so much that I go to great lengths to make sure I’m out of my house for several hours every Halloween night. There’s no better way to celebrate the holiday than to deny little kids candy. No candy for you!! Hahaha. Okay, I really don’t like Halloween at all… Actually, that’s not entirely true – I do like Halloween, because it’s kind of like the gateway to the winter holiday season. Once Halloween is over, you can really start concentrating on shopping for Christmas gifts (which you intend to finish completely by Thanksgiving… and yet, inevitably, you still manage to find yourself in the middle of a crowded mall on Christmas Eve, buffeted along the corridors by a wild-eyed holiday mob, searching for ONE LAST GIFT that ducked under the “finish shopping by Thanksgiving” radar…).

And speaking of Halloween and sweets – last night after dinner, Rick suggested we go out and get something for dessert. And since I’d been having a craving for cake all week, I decided I might as well go out and buy a single piece, before I broke down and made an entire cake and ate the whole thing myself. So we decided to go across the street to the ever-changing coffeehouse/live music venue/bar/pizza joint, which has always had the BEST carrot cake. (And I absolutely abhor carrots – so if you can hide them in cake and actually make them taste GOOD, that’s the only way I’ll ever eat them…) But when we walked in, we noticed that the “coffeehouse” and “live music venue” seemed to have been completely usurped by the “bar” and “pizza joint.” The cappuccino machine was gone, the live music stage was gone, and, worst of all, the pastries were gone. Not a slice of carrot cake to be seen. I quickly found a menu on the counter, and noticed that the name of the place had been changed from “The Coffee Plant” to “Brooklyn Heights Pizzeria.” Brooklyn Heights??? Look, people, I’ve BEEN to Brooklyn Heights… my brother used to LIVE in Brooklyn Heights… THIS is NOT Brooklyn Heights… This is barely even Austin. Don’t tempt me with promises of New York City boroughs – your pizza and tiramisu will never convince me that Manhattan is just across a bridge outside. What’s next? Bronx Liquors? Brighton Beach Bakery? Kew Gardens Dry Cleaners? I’m not buying it – I know where I am, and it’s definitely not New York…

And the only desserts listed on the new menu were cheesecake, tiramisu, and baklava. None of which have ever been on my list of favorites. I am quite disappointed. I may have to go back to the “Brooklyn Heights” Pizzeria and ask them where they used to get their carrot cake. Needless to say, carrot cake was out of the question last night. We ended up going down the street to a new coffeehouse that opened several months ago and we’d never tried (yes, when one coffeehouse closes down, another opens up right down the street). They didn’t have much in the way of pastry selection, but they did have really good chocolate chip cookies and something called a “seven layer bar,” which, as far as I could tell, was a dessert made up of seven different layers of sweet things that are equally bad for you. And the coffee wasn’t bad, either. So all in all, not a total loss of a night.

After returning home from the search for dessert, I was watching my new second-favorite show, Heroes (which is very, very close to moving in on Lost…) and Tivo chopped off the last few seconds of the episode. I hate it when that happens. So now I don’t know how the show ended, exactly. All I know is that Girl Who Looks Like Peter Pan came to the door of Heroin Addict Who Paints the Future. And Girl Who Looks Like Peter Pan is definitely evil – I’ve been suspicious of that girl all along. Even before she used her boyish charms in an attempt to seduce Guy Who Has No Powers But Feels Compelled to Finish His Father’s Work. Never trust a girl with a pixie haircut and shifty eyes…

Also in last night’s episode, we found out that Alter Ego Mirror Girl’s alter ego framed her husband (who, it turns out, is Man Who Can Pass Through Solid Objects). I’m trying to figure out if Alter Ego Mirror Girl is actually a “hero,” or if she’ll eventually end up being a villain. I mean, her “normal” self is a good person – it’s the crazy mirror girl who wreaks havoc upon those around her. By the way, if you don’t watch the show, I’m sure absolutely nothing in the last two paragraphs makes any sort of sense…

I was going to post a few more Montana pictures, but it looks like Blogger is being temperamental with the pictures again. So check back later today, and hopefully I'll have some pictures up -- it snowed up there a little bit yesterday, so dad sent some great pictures of the mountains and the lake next to the cabin. It looked very cold (which, right now, actually sounds really nice... it's 85 here today. This is obviously one of those days when it's NOT autumn... maybe tomorrow... I can hope...)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

We are men!

Dad and Eric and Eric D. and Dave are up in Montana this weekend for another one of their "guy" trips. No girls allowed. Because we're all weak and frail and stuff. Or something like that. And there are lots of fires to build and trees to chop down and probably random objects to shoot. No, Montana is no place for dainty girls this weekend. Yeah, whatever. I could light trees on fire, too, you know. :) Anyway, Dad just sent me the first set of pictures from their trip, with some explanation:

This trip it seems to be all about fires. Last night the chair that Eric D was using broke so they wound up throwing it on the fire with dramatic results. Today last nights fire was still going and Dave was up at 7:00 to make sure it didn't die. Then there was this tree that Bob wanted removed because it was dead and cracked. First the guys had to make sure it was really dead by seeing if they could set the branches on fire (unknown to me until I stepped outside to see the top of the tree blazing). Afterwards they cut it down and built the biggest campfire ever - making sure it was burning brightly even during the rainstorm.

So, without further ado, I present another installment of "We Are Men":

We are men. We're so cool we have to wear our sunglasses on planes like celebrities...

We are men. We drink beer and fall off our chairs.

And we will not let the chairs get away with such insolence.


We are men who work as police officers and who used to be volunteer firefighters. So we start forest fires. Because we can.

We like to play with dangerous power tools, or just watch our friends playing with them.

We are not afraid to climb to great heights, or to drive bulldozers.

But we must remember not to BURN the bulldozers.

We are men who can tell when a fire needs extra kindling.


Yes, we are men. Don't let the lacy, flowery curtains fool you...

By the way, they didn't REALLY start a forest fire -- like my dad said, they were burning it to make sure it was dead. (Although I'm pretty sure they REALLY did it just for fun...) :)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

How's your weekend going?

So the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series last night. To tell the truth, I didn’t actually watch any of the games this year, but I guess I was kind of rooting for Detroit. I figured if they were going to beat the Yankees in the playoffs, they might as well win the whole thing. Oh well. I’m just glad the Mets didn’t make it to the Series. It’s only fair. If the Yankees don’t win, then neither should the Mets. That’s my (completely skewed and nonsensical) philosophy. :)

I’m sad that baseball is officially over now. It was even more fun and interesting this year with my fantasy baseball league. And now I have to wait until April for things to get interesting again. Oh sure, I don’t mind a football game now and then, but football isn’t on every day. And there isn’t a football team I love as much as I love the Yankees. (Although Rutgers’ 7-0 record this year is very much intriguing me… Go Rutgers!! :) I’ll be paying attention to that game tomorrow…)

We went to see “The Prestige” last night at a new theater that just opened next to the new outlet mall. (So new, by the way, that the “new theater” smell overwhelmed the “stale popcorn” smell… I didn’t even know there was such a thing as “new theater” smell. New car smell, sure. But new theater? Didn’t know that.) It was a pretty decent film – a bit confusing at first, as most of the story is told in flashback and it’s hard to keep everything straight. But once you get into it, the story moves along nicely and you get caught up in the drama of the characters. There are a lot of twists and turns in the movie, so I can’t say too much without giving things away… but the gist of it is that the film follows a pair of rival magicians, each obsessed with besting the other. It’s a little dark and disturbing at times, and by the end, you’re not entirely sure who was the “good guy” and who was the “bad guy.” Or maybe BOTH were bad guys… or good guys… I’m not sure. You’ll just have to see it and decide for yourself.

I did just figure out that the guy who played the inventor Nikola Tesla in the movie was David Bowie – I’m glad to know that, because the entire time I was watching, I kept thinking, “gosh, that guy who’s playing the inventor Nikola Tesla looks a LOT like David Bowie…” And, incidentally, the guy who plays Tesla’s assistant is the guy who was so horribly digitized as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies… he cleans up well…

As we were leaving the movie, I almost fell backwards onto the stairs while I was walking down. Someone had decided to put their extra-large giant tub of popcorn right in the aisle, so I attempted to step around it… but with the dim lighting and slight feeling of disorientation from sitting in the dark for two hours, I started to lose my footing and stumbled backwards. To prevent an outright fall, I turned around, groping for a seat, still weaving in an awkward direction. I was finally able to climb up another stair toward Rick, who was walking behind me and provided a stable arm to lean on. When he asked what I was doing, I said “I was falling!” and he replied, “well, you make falling seem really graceful then, because I thought you were just going back to the seat because you forgot something.” Yep, that’s me. Completely graceful. Tumbling over popcorn buckets in the dark. Stumbling up stairs. Flailing my arms wildly. Graceful.

And speaking of falling back – everybody remember to set their clocks back tonight. Wasn’t that a great segue? :)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Not quite the middle of nowhere...

As we were driving back from Seattle’s Best this morning, I noticed that a few of the trees are sort of changing color. The ones that line the median on the way into our neighborhood are kind of yellow. Well, yellowISH. Maybe yellowish green. But they’re definitely NOT "green" green. And it’s cool and windy today – unlike yesterday, when the temperature ONCE AGAIN managed to climb into the high 80’s. It’s like, yeah, we’re in the middle of autumn – but only every other day and for about 24 hours at a time…

Writing about trees and leaves makes me think of our first house in New Jersey. We’d never lived in a place with so many trees and hills and squirrels and deer. Our house was surrounded by vegetation, and between the acre or so of land between our house and the house next door, there was a large, sloping, wooded area. Eric and I immediately claimed it as our own, and began exploring, looking for the easiest way to get around through the maze of trees and underbrush.

After a couple weeks of intrepid exploration, we discovered that there was a “right way” and a “wrong way” to descend through the hilly woods. Walking in one direction might lead you to a tangle of impassable vines and roots… but take a few steps in another direction, and you could easily keep walking. Eventually, it became an everyday routine to run outside the front door of the house, walk toward the backyard, step into the shady trees, and meander along the path we’d worn. What had originally looked like a nonsensical, random arrangement of natural flora had become quite familiar. We knew exactly where the tree was that signaled a detour to the left… we knew where those rocks were that we had to step around… we knew to avoid the tree root that could easily trip a person.

And what’s more, some of our landmarks turned into much grander settings in our imaginations. The boulder that sat halfway down the hill became “Lookout Point” – where we could sit and watch cars attempting the tight turn in the road at the bottom. The large, round hollow between the trees – which was always filled with fallen leaves, no matter the time of year – became “The Leaf Pond.” There were others, as well, but most of them seem to have escaped my memory (do you remember any more, Eric?). And we were so proud of our own little nature preserve, that I decided one day to paint signs for all of our landmarks. I broke down some of the cardboard boxes we’d used in the move from Texas, cut them into big rectangles, and pulled out some acrylic paints.

I soon had colorfully-decorated signs with “Lookout Point” and “The Leaf Pond” – and all the others I can’t remember – painted in careful lettering. I took my usual walk through the woods, carrying my signs, and placed each one near its respective landmark. I can’t remember how I attached them – did I nail them to trees? – but those signs remained a fixture in our woods until rain and snow and heat and sun eventually took their toll.

The woods was more than just woods to us – it was a cool place to show our friends when they came over… it was (literally) a cool place to retreat in the middle of summer… it was the place where I could take a book and sit at “Lookout Point” and feel like I was miles away from home. It was easy to walk through those trees, and get lost in thought, and forget that a real world was mere steps away.

It seems when we get older, we’re less inclined to go hang out amongst dirt and leaves and bugs… or sit on a boulder and read a novel… or paint silly signs to memorialize our landscaping. But it’s still nice to have a “retreat” of some sort. I guess we just never outgrow the need to get away from “real life” once in a while…

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I lost my jeans...

So who watched Lost last night? All I can say is, it’s a good thing that bunny wasn’t really dead. Killing bunnies is just MEAN. Even tough ex-con Sawyer was like, “did you just kill that bunny???” Dead bunnies do not make good shows. Good thing it was alive. Unless that crazy Ben guy really DID just paint another bunny with a number 8. But I don’t know – I’m starting to think the Others are less about killing stuff, and more about simply messing with people’s minds. They’d rather just make you THINK they killed something than actually kill it.

But I did sort of have a problem with the whole “pacemaker” storyline. Or maybe I just had a problem with it because I figured it out so quickly. I knew it had to be another one of the Others’ mind games. Because if they HAD implanted Sawyer with a pacemaker, he would’ve been able to feel it under his skin. I mean, the way they made it look, Sawyer was supposed to believe that they’d actually implanted something IN his heart… or at least near it. But that’s not the way pacemakers work – only the leads are threaded into the heart… the rest of it is just placed somewhere under the skin. Probably closer to the collarbone. To actually get something the size of a pacemaker IN the heart, you’d need to crack someone’s chest open. You can’t simply slip something underneath a ribcage with minor surgery. And the incision they showed on Sawyer’s chest was directly over his heart. That’s just completely unrealistic for pacemaker surgery…

Of course, I’m probably focusing WAY too much on this… perhaps they assumed that Sawyer – while well-versed in such classics as Of Mice and Men – wouldn’t have done a whole lot of reading up on pacemakers when he was in prison. Well, regardless, I thought the ploy was a bit too obvious. Haven’t Sawyer and Kate and Jack all figured out that everything is a big crazy psychological test at this point? Or maybe ASSUMING everything is a psychological test is part of the psychological test. Maybe as soon as they assume everything is a mind game, that’ll be when the REAL game starts. Perhaps it’s all REVERSE psychology… or reverse reverse psychology. Or anti-reverse psychology with a side of astrology for good measure. My head hurts…

And on another subject completely – I was looking through my closet yesterday, thinking that I ought to clean it out and get rid of some of the clothes I don’t wear anymore. And I was realizing how many pairs of jeans I have in there – most of which I either hardly ever wear, or never wear at all. I really only have three pairs that I wear on a regular basis. So I was looking through the jeans and wondering if I should toss some of them out. But it’s funny how you can find a way to justify having five thousand pairs of jeans…

I have the jeans that are too big for me, but I keep them around to remind me that I never want to actually FIT into them again… and I have the jeans that are a bit too small for me, but I keep them around because I can zip them up, so I know I WILL fit into them as soon as I drop a couple pounds… there’s a pair of jeans that I only wear in the summer, or when the weather gets warm, because they’re very light and casual and look good with sandals… and there’s a pair of nice jeans I only wear when I’m going out, and I want to be casual but not TOO casual… there’s the pair that I keep around for sentimental reasons (“oh no, I can’t throw THOSE out – those are the jeans I was wearing on that day when I was making chocolate chip cookies and finally got the recipe JUST right… that was a great day…”)… I even have a pair with a big rip down the seam, and I keep them because – well, you know what? I don’t know WHY I keep those… I should throw them away.

I just thought it was interesting how I could find a reason to keep all those pairs of jeans in my closet. The great thing about jeans is that they never, ever go out of style – so you really CAN hold on to the same pair for years and years and know that you’ll wear them some time. Eventually. I can’t say the same for some of the OTHER clothes in my closet. Scary stuff…

And now I shall post this quickly, as my internet has been down for the better part of the day and it seems to be working again. But who knows how long that’ll last… must… post… now…

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Random thoughts...

Hey, yesterday was my 200th post! Wow... time flies when you're writing lots of stuff about nothing...

I’m wearing a long-sleeved shirt, and drinking hot coffee – and BOTH of these things finally feel like they’re “in season.” In fact, my hands are kinda cold, and I’m thinking of turning the heat up…

Speaking of coffee – Starbucks has a new drink called a “maple macchiato.” It’s pretty good, but it definitely tastes like the kind of thing you should be drinking on a chilly autumn day – as opposed to a day where the sun is beating down relentlessly and you wish you’d worn a t-shirt instead of your Brooklyn Law School sweatshirt (I HAD to put it on yesterday, because it’d been so long since I wore my “my brother who graduated from law school is way smarter than YOUR brother who does whatever it is he does – certainly something less impressive than law school – not that I would ever disparage someone for working hard, no matter what they do… you know, to be honest, I mostly wear this sweatshirt because it’s warm…” shirt). I really like the peppermint mochas and gingerbread lattes Starbucks serves around Christmastime – but they really DO taste better when it’s freezing cold outside… I don’t know why, they just taste different.

So my dog Echo has this weird habit of pawing at the carpet before she lays down. And it’s not like she paws at the part of the carpet she’s intending to use as a bed – no, she just randomly scratches parts of the carpet, then walks away and goes to lay down somewhere else. I was listening to her last night while I was trying to fall asleep – she probably pawed at the carpet at the end of the bed about thirty times, then she finally walked around to the side of the bed and curled up there. Is that not completely bizarre?

And speaking of my pets, here’s a picture of Allegro behind some books on one of my bookshelves:

She sort of looks like a crazy, evil, lunatic cat in that picture. She has those glowing eyes, and what looks like a weird little half-smile. She’s plotting something… probably trying to decide where she should throw up next (this morning it was in the kitchen near the pantry. But at least it was on a tile floor… I hate it when she throws up on carpet…).

I’m wearing a red shirt today. More people give me compliments when I wear red than when I wear any other color. I guess it looks good on me? Or maybe lots of people just like red…

This is a pretty bad picture of me…

And here’s a picture for Nick, because I just HAPPENED to look over at the digital clock on my oven a little while ago:

By the way, Nick, did you ever see that movie “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”? Because in that movie, the priest explains that 3:00 am is considered the most evil time of day. That’s the time all the demons like the best. I mean, that movie was all about demons and exorcisms and it never made one single mention of 11:11… If 11:11 is such an evil time, wouldn’t it have made its way into exorcism lore? Wouldn’t Linda Blair’s head have spun around and spit pea soup at exactly 11:11? I’m just saying… perhaps all your fears are unfounded. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not gonna have some serious fun on November 11, 2011. The plans are underway…

Just kidding. Maybe. :)

Monday, October 23, 2006

They didn't say anything about Bloomin' Onions...

Okay, so who watched Discovery Atlas last night? Anyone? Anyone? C’mon, I’ve been hyping this show for weeks… didn’t anyone think, “hey, that Lisa has really good taste… I oughta check out this show…”? (Or maybe I DON’T have such great taste?)

I’m a little annoyed, though, because for a month now I’ve been seeing the commercials for this show, and they always mention South Africa. So I assumed, judging from the fact that this particular country was prominently featured in the advertisement, that eventually South Africa would be the country-of-the-evening. But after wooing me with China, Italy, Brazil, and Australia, it appears my beloved Discovery Atlas is leaving me for good. There was no South Africa… South Africa was just some kind of lure to reel me in. How will I ever learn about the wonders of South Africa now? I’ll have to actually read a book, or, like, look at a map or something... :)

But why would they have advertised South Africa if they never planned to air an episode about that country? Maybe it’s been filmed, and eventually it’ll show up somewhere. Maybe this is a good thing, and MORE episodes of Discovery Atlas are in the works. Perhaps one day it will return to me… (yeah, I know, I’m really weird… it’s just a TV show… :))

So, as I mentioned, last night’s show was about Australia. Australia is one of those places I’d like to visit eventually (which would include pretty much everywhere), but it’s never been high on my list. And watching the show last night reminded me why – Australia is home to all TEN of the ten most poisonous snakes on earth, as well as a few of the most poisonous spiders on earth, as well. Now, I suppose if a traveler were to stick to a city hotel room, the chances of coming in contact with said creepy crawlies would be at a minimum. But do I really want to risk it? (There’s also the matter of the flight – how many hours do you suppose it would take to fly to Australia? 18? 20? Lots and lots? Definitely lots and lots…) Regardless, some time in the future I suppose I’d like to spend an entire day of my life on various planes, which will wing me to the Southern Hemisphere. I’ll just have to take my chances with the snakes and spiders…

A few interesting facts I learned last night: Did you know that about 90 percent of Australia is uninhabitable? Most of the interior land is too dry – which is why most of the cities are right on the ocean. In fact, one of the interior towns they talked about hasn’t seen rain in over four years (and we complain about drought in Austin when we haven’t seen rain in a couple MONTHS). But even with all that dry land, the northern area of the country is made up of rain forest. (I didn’t realize there was a rain forest in Australia…) And, just like China has the Great Wall, Australia has a really great fence – there’s a continuous fence that runs about 3000 miles through the country, to protect livestock from dingoes – wild dogs (another interesting fact: dingoes can’t bark. Isn’t that strange? They look just like cute dogs, but they can’t bark and they kill livestock… so much for a family-friendly watch dog…).

My aunt and uncle actually lived in Australia for several years, I think back in the 80s. At that time, they weren’t entirely impressed with the country – they said it was like living in the U.S. in the 1950s. Apparently there were a few lifestyle areas that needed to be updated. But from what I’ve been able to see in books and on television the last few years, Australian cities seem to be plenty up-to-date now. I’m pretty sure they even have Starbucks.

Which is great, because when I visit, I’ll need to be well-caffeinated when I’m running away from the snakes and spiders…

Sunday, October 22, 2006

It's not black and white...

My anonymous commenter under the Ramadan post got me thinking about a lot of things this weekend. Like how I find it very strange that people can make assumptions about entire groups of individuals based on the actions of a very few. Or how people think they can make assumptions about any single person, simply based on something superficial like skin color, or a name, or religious beliefs, or political beliefs, or clothing choices, or any of a number of other little bits and pieces of individuality that make up a human being. To go back to religion – if God had wanted everyone in the world to be exactly the same, he would have MADE us all exactly the same. The differences we exhibit shouldn’t be some kind of cause for fear or distrust – the differences are what make us human. Otherwise, we’d be some sort of bizarre race of mindless clones…

I went to a high school that can only be described as very, very white. In fact, the kids who happened to be something ELSE were probably the most popular kids in school. The non-white kids were like rock stars – everyone wanted to get to know them, I guess because they broke up our Anglo-European monotony. My school was also very, very Catholic, which gave me the slightest edge toward “interesting,” especially around Lent. On Ash Wednesday, other kids and teachers would be showing up with dusty gray crosses on their foreheads and asking the “what are you giving up for Lent?” question. When I was asked, and I said, “nothing,” they would give me strange looks that seemed to be half “she must be a heathen pagan” and half curiosity. For a few moments, at least, while I explained my Protestant beliefs on the subject of Lent, I would be one of those unusual novelty kids that all the others took a slight interest in.

My own interest in the differences between people began earlier, probably when we first moved to Texas when I was nine years old. Of all the places I’ve lived, Austin has always been the most racially, culturally and religiously diverse. In contrast to my ├╝berweiss high school in New Jersey, school in Texas was a mixture of all kinds of people, with very different backgrounds and cultures. And what’s more, I discovered that all of those differences were fascinating – the different languages other people spoke, the foods they ate, the clothing they wore, the countries they traveled to in order to visit relatives – it was all extremely interesting and thought-provoking and intriguing.

But I’ll admit I didn’t have an overabundance of knowledge on the subject of other religions. During high school, I have two distinct memories of delving into the realm of Islam. One was in my senior AP English class, where we read a little bit of various religious texts – the Bible, the Talmud, the Qur’an, the Bhagavad Gita. And the other was in a history class, where I can still remember a picture from my textbook of Hajj pilgrims walking around the Kaaba in Mecca. It’s probably a picture we’ve all seen at one time or another – it looks like the picture was taken with the shutter left open for a few seconds, so while the motionless object in the middle is perfectly clear, the people are blurred – the people in the middle are like a sea of motion, spinning in waves of black and white, becoming less and less hazy toward the outer edges of the picture. It actually looks very much like a human hurricane – which, the first time I saw it, probably meant nothing significant, but now seems to convey some rather interesting symbolism. After all, what other religion has lately stirred up such storms of fear and misunderstanding and prejudice and ignorance and controversy?

After high school, I can remember exactly – and I mean EXACTLY – when I decided I should educate myself a bit more about Islam. That would be September 12, 2001. The 11th, of course, I spent in a complete daze, certainly unable to comprehend anything I may have tried to read. But by the next day, when the stirrings of “them” and “those people” and “let’s turn Mecca into a parking lot” (what???) began – the sort of talk that suggested there should be a line drawn down some imaginary part of society to separate the obviously superior from the obviously evil – I stared at my laptop computer and thought, “no.” I refused to believe that what happened was indicative of the thoughts and beliefs and wishes of the majority of Muslims on this planet. So I picked up the laptop and started researching. (I also researched that ridiculous “prediction” supposedly made by Nostradamus that seemed to make its way into everyone’s email inbox on September 12…) And it’s not that I even had to CONVINCE myself that most people on the planet, regardless of belief, would denounce what happened on September 11. But at that point I felt it was necessary to understand just a little bit more about some of the people I share the world with. The terrorists who carried out the September 11 attacks didn’t do what they did because they were Muslim – they did it because they were TERRORISTS. There’s a huge difference. Really.

I remember a few years ago overhearing an acquaintance talking about how he hated his job, because his new boss was Muslim, and I quote, “I can’t believe I have to work for one of THEM.” (Again with the “us” versus “them” mentality??) It is unconscionable to me that people actually THINK this way (if you can call it “thinking”), yet that, of course, isn’t an isolated view. My question is, why? It honestly doesn’t make sense to me… because to ME, common sense would dictate that you get to know a person before you make any sort of judgment about them. If your boss happens to be a purple-polka dotted Taoist Republican monk who follows the Atkins diet and wears nothing but power suits and leather sandals, well, he might look a bit strange, but there’s nothing there that would tell you exactly WHO he is.

So I guess what I’m saying is – try to get to know people. Try to understand them as best as you can. Try to learn as much about the differences that much-too-easily divide us for absolutely no reason. Because otherwise it’s all just ignorant assumptions and gullible ideas and random hearsay and urban legends and email inbox hoaxes. The truth might be a lot more fascinating and amazing and beautiful than we even realize…

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Too warm...

Sigh… it’s 85 degrees right now. Will the see-sawing cool/warm weather never end? I think I’ve mentioned before how confusing it can be to get dressed on an autumn morning in Texas. Yesterday, it was so cool that I not only wore a long-sleeved shirt, but I threw on a cardigan sweater over it when I went outside. In fact, it was SO cool yesterday morning that I actually turned on the heat in the house for a little while. And that, my friends, was quite an exciting event. First time the heater has been on since, um, I don’t know – March?

So of course when I woke up this morning, I figured I might as well head straight to the “long-sleeved shirt” drawer in my dresser. I threw on a lovely fuchsia tunic with sparkly sequin bead-work (one of my favorite shirts…) and prepared to begin my day, which would hopefully include an outing in the shining (but certainly still cool) autumn sun. My parents were kind enough to drop off some Seattle’s Best coffee at around 10:30, although not nearly kind enough to actually bring it to the door (just kidding, mom and dad! J). So I walked outside to retrieve the coffee from their car, and as soon as I did, I realized the sun was beating down on my cloth-covered arms and warming me to an uncomfortable temperature. Well THIS wasn’t good… so I had to go back inside and change into a t-shirt. Another t-shirt. A t-shirt I’ve probably worn fifteen thousand times this year (never mind the fact that a year is comprised of only 365 days…).

But the high temperature tomorrow is only supposed to be 70 degrees. I purposely set aside my fuchsia tunic for tomorrow, when hopefully a long-sleeved shirt will be more appropriate. And I’m optimistic, especially after watching the last minute of the University of Texas/University of Nebraska football game this afternoon. And not only because Texas managed to win in the last 20 seconds (thanks to a field goal kicked by a player who’d never played in a UT game) – but also because it was snowing in Nebraska. And all that cold air up in Nebraska is supposedly heading down this way. Not cold enough to snow, of course.

But with any luck, it WILL be cold enough for the long-sleeved fuchsia tunic…

Friday, October 20, 2006

More kid stuff...

Nick left an interesting comment under my post about kids – in fact, I’ll just reprint it here for anyone who hasn’t read it yet:

Ok Lisa, I could be making way too much out of this and that wouldn't be the first time for me. But, for the sake of debate and because I'm a father of four (4), I can't say that I completely agree with the concluding thoughts in this specific entry of your wonderful blog. Yeah, yeah, I know, they're your thoughts and comments and who am I to argue with them. But I did find it interesting how you managed to go from humorous remembrances about your baby-sitting experiences to what looks to be an implication that those of us who are parents must be so only because we now have a discarded desire to travel / see the world and who now function with a skewed view of our own children.

I think that's a bit of a broad stroke you've painted there or rather...a stroke that doesn't display the entire parental painting. There is more to this picture, perhaps.

First of all, let me say that my being a parent certainly doesn't qualify me as the expert here, but I do at least have the benefit of recalling what it was like and how it felt to when before I had kids to how it feels now after I've had kids...err...I should point out that I didn't HAVE them...my wife actually HAD them, I just HAVE them now...except for when I'm busy working or sleeping or watching TV or avoiding them whenever possible...hmm...maybe I know nothing here... Ahh well, Nevermind...

Ok, wait! So I can say this: Most parents I know still dream big and desire to go, do and see great things. They just now desire those things for more than themselves. The means and convenience to go and do is constrained by parenthood and this sometimes forces a "stay or suspension" of this wanderlust as you call it. I think for most parents, that desire is still very much alive...it's just put on a higher bookshelf for a time, father back from the front and harder to reach but still very much accessible. You may not want yours put away that far back and I understand that and can respect your honesty.

I would also like to comment about what you say is a parental skewed view toward our children. To me, the word skew implies...well, not implies, but really it says that we see our kids falsely or wrongly. It says that we see off-center in some way. I don't necessarily think so, not in the way you seem to be making a point about. Sure, I'll be the first to admit that most parents aren't always completely honest about our own children at all times and that we don't see them as other people see them and maybe that's simply what you meant there. But I think the more important point here is: I don't think it much matters whether your children are truly different when they're yours or not but what matters more is that YOU ARE THE ONE who's different when they're yours. I think that's the point. You feel different when they're yours.

I don't think one can ever for certain know how he / she will feel about being a parent until they're the parent of they're own child. Solely using your experiences and feelings from other parents' children and translating that as the final barometer of the feelings you'll definitely have toward your own children is sort of impossible. It'd be like trying to predict the amount of pride and satisfaction you'd have after composing your own work of art (music, literature etc) from the pride and satisfaction you feel for the art of some other artist. You can appreciate, understand - or not - another's work of art but you can't know it in the way you know your own piece. When it's yours and from you and part of you and created by you, it's just different.

I'm sure you're thinking...well Nick...this is all sort of a deadend, a trap, isn't it? And yeah, it is a trap I guess. If there's no way for you to truly know whether you're meant to have kids until you determine how you'd feel about your own kids, which would only happen if you actually HAVE your own kids then is the only choice to have the kids?? I DON'T KNOW. I guess you pray about it and go with where your gut leads you and be at peace with that. But, understand that it is quite possible to have no clue how you'd truly feel about your own kids until you have your own kids. It might just be very wonderful.

I do know this though. My kids love you. They think you're great. They say that your kind and sweet. You're very giving, gentle-spirited and patient. You're smart too. Sounds like a pretty good recipe for motherhood. Rick, on the other hand... LOL... kidding.

In the end, you know better than anyone how YOU feel. Sounds like you're making a wise decision by contemplating these things and I can respect that. I'm not trying to be argumentative, just giving you an alternate view.

Take care and keep up the great blogging. It's always a good read.

Now, the first thing I have to say is – Nick, you had the time to write a comment this long, and you STILL haven’t updated your own blog? :) (Nick is kind of like my writing kindred spirit – he’s the only person I know who can take one of my novel-length emails and reply in equal measure. This makes for some interesting discussions and lengthy word wars – it’s also nice to know that I’m not the only person on the planet who can write about a single subject for an extended amount of time.)

But moving on to the comments – the remark I made about traveling came from an article that happens to be sitting next to my computer, so it was something that sort of jumped out at me while I was writing. I probably honed in on the traveling stuff because I’ve always been a bit of a travel fanatic. For me, personally, traveling is one of the things I love most about life, and I’m probably never happier than when I’m out exploring the world. Not everyone is like that – certainly not every parent out there is suppressing a great desire to get out and travel. But Nick, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that for those parents who DO think about those things, “that desire is still very much alive.” And how difficult must it be to push that desire aside and save it for another day? Maybe not difficult at all for some people… but for others, it would perhaps represent a sort of defeat – a kind of resignation to the life they’re now obligated to live. Because you can’t put your kids on hold and run out to do something you’ve always dreamed or wished of doing. The kids come first – and if the dreams and wishes are eventually fulfilled, great. But if not, well, it just comes with the territory.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to travel with kids. My parents did it – we used to go on vacation every summer when Eric and I were kids. They’d rent an RV and pack everything up and drive across the country. (There’s a great picture somewhere of me when I was about two years old, up in the extra bunk over the driver’s seat of a rented RV, behind what looks like prison bars – my dad apparently fashioned some sort of metal bar restraining system, so I could play around in that bunk without falling out. But seriously – it looks like my parents put me in a cage. I wonder if I can find that picture…) And certainly the ability to easily drop everything and travel can’t be the only criteria one uses when deciding whether or not to have a kid. There are plenty of other things to worry about, as well.

But I have to stand by my idea that parents’ views of their kids is skewed – maybe that’s not a great word, but I think it conveys the right idea. Not in the sense that you see your kids “falsely or wrongly,” but like you said yourself – you see them in a different way than other people see them, because they’re YOURS. If you could somehow step outside your family and look in on them, your view would be different. Your kid might do the same annoying thing that someone else’s kid does, but it somehow seems different when your kid does it. (By the way, I’m just making generalizations… I’m not trying to imply that one of your kids does something annoying… but if I WAS implying that, it would have to be Abby. Abby is definitely the annoying one… just kidding. :))

And you’re definitely right about the “dead end trap” as you called it. There’s really absolutely NO way to know how you would react to having kids, or how your kids would react to BEING kids, or how anyone else would react to your kids reacting around them, without actually HAVING a kid. It could be wonderful, it could be horrible, it could be the best thing you’ve ever done, it could be the worst thing you’ve ever done. And sometimes that seems like an awfully big chance to take. You can’t return a kid to the counter of Macy’s once you have one. (You can’t, can you? I mean, I’ve never actually tried it, so I wouldn’t know for sure…) Of course, I suppose if you never take chances, life can be pretty boring…

Hopefully in all of this I haven’t made it sound like I hate kids or something. Because I love your kids, too, Nick. They’re great – they’re all really sweet, smart little kids, and I think you could have quite a talented singing group on your hands. In fact, I’d like to see your kids arranged on a stairway singing, “So Long, Farwell” from the Sound of Music. If you could organize that for me, it’d be great… :)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Yikes... now THAT looks cold...

It’s 58 degrees! 58 degrees… 58 degrees… it’s cold! Freezing, freezing, cold. I’m wearing a long-sleeved shirt and I actually NEED it. I even wore a denim jacket when I went out to get coffee this morning. I think I was a little hasty back on Saturday, when I said I thought autumn was really here. Because as soon as I said it, the temperature promptly ascended back up to 90 degrees. And it got really humid, too. All of a sudden I went from the optimistic assumption that we’d be welcoming autumn back to Texas, to the pessimistic assumption that I’d be spending the entire season either feeling like I was walking through a sauna or searching for an air conditioned space to take respite. And then last night, after a deluge of rain that practically filled the pool to the brim (and caused me slight panic when the satellite began cutting out and back in again – it was Lost night!), the air cooled down about 30 degrees, and voil├á! I’m wearing a long-sleeved shirt!

But just so I don’t forget to appreciate our mild weather now and then, here are a few pictures from that storm that hit Buffalo last week. This is Aunt Carol’s yard (at least I THINK her yard is in there somewhere…).

And a few from after the snow melted… this is what happens when you get an early snow, and the snow is really wet and heavy – broken branches everywhere:

Anyway, glad you have power again, at least, Aunt Carol! Hope everyone up there can get cleaned up and back to normal soon. And if you get tired of the Buffalo winter, come on down to Austin. It probably won't be a chilly 58 degrees for TOO long... :)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Today's lesson: Ramadan

I just learned that today is the One Day National Fast, when Muslims invite non-Muslims to fast for a day during the month of Ramadan. But I’m drinking coffee right now, so I’ve already screwed that up. What I find really interesting about fasting during Ramadan is that it includes EVERYTHING – even water. I don’t think it would be TOO difficult to forgo food from sunup to sundown, but I’m not sure about water. Maybe if I woke up at 3 in the morning and drank a few cups… except then I’d be up again at 4 to use the bathroom… and then I’d probably have some more water, since I’d know I couldn’t have any during the day… and then I’d be up again at 5… basically, if I was fasting all day, I wouldn’t sleep very well at night. I have to give credit to the devout Muslims who DO observe fasting throughout Ramadan – can’t imagine it would be very easy to do for an entire month. I’m actually getting thirsty just writing about this…

In addition to the fasting, the web site I was reading touched on the idea of positive thought, as well. As it said: “Another point that must be mentioned is that as well as refraining from food and drink during fasting, we try our best to avoid negative thoughts, speech, action, etc. Although fasting is a cleansing experience physically, it's just as much beneficial spiritually as well. With that, we recommend you all try to remain on your best behavior and try to help others as much as you can.” Okay, THAT I can do. I’m ALWAYS on my best behavior. No, really. I am. Seriously. I mean it. And I’m thinking positive thoughts about all of you right now. (With the possible exception of Eric.) And if any of you need help with anything, don’t hesitate to ask. (Except Eric. Eric should hesitate.)

In my internet research into this subject this morning, I also learned that tomorrow night (or possibly Friday night – seems to be some inconsistency on that… but maybe it depends on where you are in the world?) is something called Laylat al-Qadr. This can be translated as Night of Decree, or Night of Measures, or Night of Power, or Night of Predestination, or Night of Destiny, or the Grand Night, or Night of Almightiness, or Night of Majesty, or Night of Many Many Translations That No One Can Agree On. (I may have added that last one myself.) Regardless, it’s definitely a night. That much we know. :)

The significance of Laylat al-Qadr is that it is believed to be the first day that God began to reveal the Qur’an to Mohammad through the angel Gabriel. (I also just learned that “Qur’an” can be translated as “recitation.” I didn’t know that… but it makes sense.) One of the beliefs about this particular night is that worship offered on this night is worth a thousand months of worship. Laylat al-Qadr is considered the holiest day of Ramadan:

In the name of God, the Beneficent the Merciful
Indeed We sent it [the Holy Quran] down on the Night of Power.
What will convey to you what the Night of Power is like!
Better is the Night of Power than a thousand months
in that Night the angels and the Spirit descend
by the permission of their Lord for every affair.
Peace it is, till the break of dawn.
[Qur’an, Chapter 97]

I don’t know if that's the best translation, but it's the best one I could find. And I also don't know if anyone else even thinks this stuff is interesting... but I always find it beneficial to learn about religions other than my own. In fact, I don’t think we can truly understand our OWN beliefs until we educate ourselves about what OTHERS believe. Otherwise, we’re just blindly following along with what someone told us to think, without understanding the other points of view out there. You don’t have to agree with other points of view – but if you don’t even KNOW about them, then how can you truly understand or appreciate or judge the value of your own beliefs?

And speaking of my own beliefs, here are a couple verses from the Bible to end my little blurb about religion:

Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs. (Proverbs 10:12)

There is deceit in the hearts of those who plot evil, but joy for those who promote peace. (Proverbs 12:20)

Good stuff to remember, right? :)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Mom, Dad, 2.5 kids...

So, the population of the U.S. hit 300 million today. Or rather, it hit 300 million sometime within the last few months, or it WILL hit 300 million soon – no one really has an exact headcount. But the “population clock” in the Census Bureau rolled over from 299,999,999 like a giant odometer at 7:46 a.m. this morning. The population clock adds a hypothetical person every 7 seconds to represent a birth; subtracts a hypothetical person every 13 seconds to represent a death; and adds another hypothetical person every 31 seconds to represent an immigrant. But since these are hypothetical people, no one really knows for certain if we have, in fact, surpassed the 300 million mark. But it’s a good guess. So I’d just like to say – I think we’re good now. That’s enough. There’s a baby born in this country every seven seconds? You can stop having so many babies, people. Let’s slow it down to every eight seconds, at least…

I’ve never been much of a “kid” person myself. I’ve always felt that I was somehow defective, apparently lacking in that maternal instinct gene that seems far too obvious in most women. While my friends in high school had their entire lives planned out – complete with names for all their yet-to-be-conceived children – I was dreaming of living in my own apartment in New York City, where I’d no doubt be a famous writer or artist (I’d have to be a FAMOUS writer or artist to afford an apartment in New York). I’d have a view of Central Park, and I’d walk to a coffeehouse every morning to sip cappuccino and work on my novel. I’d travel around the globe, meeting fascinating people and staying in fascinating hotels. I’d have fabulously creative friends and I’d wear fabulously creative clothes, and of course I would transform from the shy, reserved teenager I was into some kind of beautiful social butterfly. Kids were never in any of my future plans… heck, MARRIAGE wasn’t even in my future plans. Not that it wasn’t something I thought of – it was just something I assumed I’d never have a chance to experience. In fact, in lieu of all those other silly dreams, I thought perhaps a nunnery might be my best choice. Do Protestant nunneries exist? I would wonder. Because I’m not Catholic, and I don’t think I want to convert…

And what’s more, I absolutely hated babysitting when I was a teenager. I did it only for the money (and also because I’m incapable, at times, of saying no to people). I babysat my piano teacher’s little girl once a week for several years when I was in high school. I was able to accumulate a nice stash of spending money, but I dreaded the job. The little girl’s name was Danielle, and she could be very cute and sweet when she wanted to be, but she could also be whiny and demanding and excruciatingly boring. When I first started watching her, when she was about two years old, she was in an “I want to be naked all the time!!” stage. As soon as her mom would leave the house, she’d start peeling off items of clothing one by one. I would chase her around the house, collecting the clothes, attempting to coerce her into putting them back on. In response, she’d giggle hysterically and jump on the couch naked. I had a horrible fear that her mom would return to the house, see her daughter prancing around the house in her birthday suit, and angrily inquire why I was allowing Danielle to run around in such a state.

And then there was dinner time – Danielle’s mom would always put a plate of food in the fridge (which, by the way, was like some sort of horrible bio-hazard – I hated opening that fridge), and I was supposed to heat it up in the microwave and feed her, and afterwards she could have dessert. The instructions were usually something along the lines of, “she can have a popsicle, but don’t give her any ice cream.” Inevitably, Danielle would not only refuse to eat whatever plate of food her mom had left for her, but she would also insist I give her ice cream, whether or not she was supposed to have it. She would throw a tantrum of such epic proportions that eventually I’d just set out the whole carton for her, with chocolate syrup and whipped cream on the side, and let her go to town. I mean, it was either that, or hitting her over the head with a frying pan. I’m pretty sure the ice cream was the correct choice.

Danielle was also one of those kids who would find a toy or game of some sort that she liked, and then decide that we had to do everything the exact same way, over and over and over again, to recreate the magic of that very first, “hey, I love this game!” moment. After the five zillionth time of pretending to be the pirate while she pretended to be the princess, I wanted to hit MYSELF over the head with a frying pan…

The whole experience made me wonder – are there actually teenagers who ENJOY babysitting? Or is it always just about the money? And why are girls always the ones who are asked to babysit? Is it just an assumption that all girls have some kind of longing for babies, and think they’re so adorable, and can’t wait to take care of them? It’s a well-known fact within my family that Eric is about a thousand times better with kids than I am. Maybe he would’ve been less frustrated and annoyed with babysitting, who knows. Maybe he wouldn’t have walked away every week thinking, “I am NEVER having kids… ever… never ever…”

I once read that one of the indications that you're ready for motherhood is if you can say you feel completely traveled-out. If you no longer have any sort of wanderlust, then perhaps you're ready to welcome a tiny little ball-and-chain into your life. But if there are still places you want to go, and things you want to see, maybe a kid isn't the best idea. Because once you have one, you can't send it back. There's no return policy. And traveling to faraway locations becomes an extravagant and complicated undertaking -- if it's undertaken at all. And I feel like there's still so much of the world left to see...

Oh, and yes, I know – “kids are different when they’re YOURS.” Yeah. Sure. Right. Actually, they’re exactly the same – it’s just your view that gets skewed. I’d be willing to guess that’s from lack of sleep… :)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Face the facts...

Okay, I am in love with Discovery Atlas on the Discovery channel. I know I talked about this show last week, but at that point I was only in the infatuation stage. But now I know it’s true love. Discovery Atlas and I are going to run away together and live happily ever after. Well, that’s my dream – the reality is that this show is only airing during the month of October, so by November, my true love will be gone. Leave it to an atlas to run away as soon as someone starts getting attached…

Last night’s show was about Brazil, and I learned some things I never knew before. For instance – while I’ve always known that the Amazon is considered the largest river in terms of volume, I didn’t know that new satellite imagery suggests it might also be the LONGEST river in the world. Longer than the Nile. There are people who live in houses along the Amazon who have supplies delivered by boat on a regular basis, but instead of paying with money, they generally trade other goods. They’re so far away from any sort of “civilization” that they really have no need for money. I found that interesting, just because it’s hard to imagine living a lifestyle where money has that little meaning.

But in contrast, Brazil also has some of the largest cities in the world. I believe they said the population of Sao Paulo was 18 million. And the gridlock at rush hour is so bad that the wealthier inhabitants take helicopter taxis to get to and from work. At any given time, there are 20 to 30 helicopters in the air over Sao Paulo. How crazy is that? New York City only has about 8 million people, and traffic is bad enough there. Although if you ask Rick, the worst traffic ANYWHERE would have to be in the thriving metropolis of Byram, New Jersey. Population 8,000. Oh, curse the crazy madness of the infernal stoplight on Route 206 by the ShopRite. Sometimes it takes minutes – yes, MINUTES – to get through it. Every time I’m stuck in three lanes of crawling traffic on I-35, or braking for yet another chaotic merge in one of the innumerable construction zones around the city of Austin, I thank my lucky stars I’m no longer in Byram, where that single stoplight was the bane of my existence. (Right about now, Rick is getting really annoyed with me…) :)

I also found the show’s cinematography around Brasilia to be really interesting. I knew a little bit about Brasilia before I watched the program last night – how it was built for the sole purpose of being Brazil’s capital city, and how it’s laid out in the shape of a bird, with a lot of modern architecture. But it’s “modern” in the way “modern” was perceived by people who lived in the past. It has that outdated-now-but-probably-looked-cool-then appearance – sort of like when you watch old episodes of Star Trek, and observe how they attempted to make everything look futuristic… but now everything looks sort of clunky and silly and out-of-place. But maybe a city that looks out-of-place is even more interesting than a city that blends in with its landscape…

Anyway, I believe next week’s show is about Australia, so I’ll be looking forward to that. And next time I visit New Jersey, I know what I have to do – find a helicopter to shuttle me around. Anything to avoid that stoplight in Byram…

Saturday, October 14, 2006

It's not just for baking anymore...

So Buffalo got two feet of snow on Thursday, which makes me want to say – thank you, mom and dad, for moving away from that city when I was a kid and never looking back. :) Sure, I’ve been complaining about the unseasonably warm Texas weather… but two feet of snow in October?? That’s even worse than still needing shorts and t-shirts every day… Actually, it was only about 74 degrees yesterday, and it felt really nice. I ALMOST needed a sweater when I woke up in the morning, because it was about 59. I thought about it… but I knew if I actually put a sweater on, I’d be too warm within an hour or so. But I think this is a turning point… I think autumn is really here this time. Really. (I’m going to be optimistic about it…)

The cold front that brought the 59-degree morning has been big news about town – I had a dentist’s appointment the other day, and everyone in the office was talking about it. It was that sort of excited chatter you hear when someone is expecting a long-lost friend – “hey, so-and-so is back in town!” Hey, cooler weather is back in town! Let’s all give the cooler weather a big hug and take it out to dinner! If we wine and dine it, perhaps it’ll stick around…

And speaking of the dentist – when I was younger, they always used those little spinning brushes to clean your teeth. They sort of tickled your gums and left grainy bits of toothpaste in your mouth, and it took quite a while because the dental hygienist would clean each individual tooth one by one. But now (at least at my dentist), they use this baking soda mixture to polish your teeth, which is applied with some sort of high-powered fire hose. It’s a lot faster than the little spinning brush, but it tastes really terrible, and the baking soda flies all over the place. You have to wear a helmet and goggles and protective elbow pads, and when they’re finished cleaning your teeth, they send in a construction crew to patch up the holes in the walls and repaint the ceiling. (I may be exaggerating slightly, but I swear I had baking soda in my eyelashes when I left the dentist’s office…)

My dentist now is the same dentist I went to when we first moved to Texas – back when I was nine years old. When I was eleven, I needed braces (I was starting to look a little bit like a chipmunk), and my dentist decided I should have four teeth pulled so there’d be room in my mouth for my wisdom teeth. And that actually worked out quite well – by the time I was sixteen, I had all my wisdom teeth (all my teeth appeared really early) and I grew quite fond of them, to be honest. There’s just something great about having three sets of molars to really chew your food well. And then a few years ago, not too long after I’d moved back here from New Jersey, one of my wisdom teeth cracked – a little part of it actually fell off. That just didn’t seem good. Never a good thing when part of your tooth chips off. And since I didn’t have a dentist here yet, I decided to go back to the same one I’d had as a kid. This time he recommended I just go to an oral surgeon and get rid of the wisdom teeth, since they’re hard to keep clean and the people who hang on to them usually wind up needing root canals and crowns anyway.

So I bid my wisdom teeth a mournful goodbye (I actually DO miss them sometimes). But then I realized that ultimately, I didn’t need to have those first four teeth pulled, did I? The original idea was to remove those teeth so I could keep all my wisdom teeth. (Or perhaps the idea was to make sure the wisdom teeth weren’t impacted, so they’d be easier to remove in the future?) But now the wisdom teeth are gone. So I think I’d like a refund – I want my first four teeth back. It seems only fair.

I think I need to go shake the baking soda out of my ears…

Friday, October 13, 2006

I'm it!

I was “tagged” by Evydense with this little questionnaire – I haven’t played tag in ages and ages! :) Actually, have I EVER played tag? (That could be another question for the list – “When was the last time you played tag?” I’m sure it’s been even longer than the last time Austin saw snow…) So without further ado:

Would you bungee jump?

Um, not on purpose. I don’t even like those “pirate ship” rides at amusement parks. And while I do like roller coasters, I hate that first drop right before the ride gets started. Basically, I don’t like the feeling of freefalling, so bungee jumping would probably be out.

If you could do anything in the world for a living what would it be?

I think it would be great to be a travel writer… or maybe some kind of National Geographic photojournalist. Any job that requires me to travel places and learn stuff. (I can be so eloquent when I want to be.)

Your favorite fictional animal?

Okay, is this like an animal from a work of fiction, or an animal that I just make up off the top of my head? Like the majestic, mythical pleagleoose – a combination of a platypus, eagle, and mongoose. It can not only fly AND swim, but it’s a crazy mean cobra fighter. Maybe that’s not what this question meant? Um, okay… I guess my favorite fictional animal is, um… oh, I love the king lemur from Madagascar. I love that lemur… “everyone be quiet, including me… shhhhh… who’s making that noise? Oh, it’s me again…” That movie cracks me up.

One person who never fails to make you laugh?

I’ll have to say our friend Bill Grapes, who has an infectious laugh and has, on occasion, managed to have me laughing non-stop through an entire dinner. And if other people are laughing, it just makes Bill laugh more, which makes everyone else laugh, etc, etc. In fact, there have been times when I’m in a really bad mood, and Rick tries to make me smile unsuccessfully, and he’ll finally just say, “Bill.” Usually just the mention of his name gets me smiling. And if that doesn’t work, Rick will resort to saying something like, “think of Bill in a frilly pink tutu.” If I’m not smiling by then, it’s a lost cause.

When you were 12 years old what did you want to be when you grew up?

Probably a veterinarian. I always loved animals.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

If Echo is awake, I let her out – but now that she’s deaf, she sleeps much more soundly and doesn’t always get up when I do. In that case, I just get dressed and put my contacts in – I never really feel awake until I can see clearly.

Have you ever gone to therapy?

No… probably should have about a million times, though…

If you could have one super power what would it be?

Hmmm… maybe invisibility. I’d love to just wander around places without being seen. When I know people can see me, I always worry I’m being stared at. And then everyone will be watching when I do the stupid things I’m certain I’ll inevitably do. (Have I mentioned I probably should’ve gone to therapy a million times?)

Your favorite cartoon character?

I like Lisa Simpson… not only because her name is Lisa, but because she’s intelligent and likes music and likes to read and tends to be a bit of a loner… in other words, she reminds me of me (and yes, I DID just call myself “intelligent” – although I’m sure there’s plenty of evidence to dispute that…).

Do you go to church?

I used to go to church religiously (ha ha! Religiously! Get it? Funny? No? Okay…) but now I’m more of a sporadic church-goer. I think I used to have some sort of expectation that “church people” were somehow nicer or more compassionate or friendlier than the general population – but eventually I realized that churches have the same cliques and groups as everywhere else, and if you’re not already a part of one, there’s not much of a chance you’ll work your way into one. After meeting all the people I’ve met, and forming the friendships I have, I’ve realized that people who go to church are just that – simply people who go to church. The way you live your life – EVERY day, not just Sunday – is much more indicative of the kind of person you truly are.

What is your best childhood memory?

I had to skip this and come back to it, but when I got to the question below about singing, I started thinking about how much fun it was to be in the kids’ singing group Eric and I were in when we were young. Those are definitely some of my favorite memories. We once spent an entire day in a TV studio recording a Christmas special that aired on one of the local channels… it was really tiring and really fun at the same time. And at the end, I felt like I’d been a part of something cool and exciting and unique – none of my friends had ever been on TV. Even one of the local channels…

Do you think marriage is an outdated ritual?

I don’t think it’s outdated… it’s not really something that comes with a timestamp. But I do think it’s greatly misunderstood by most people before they actually jump into it. (Then again, it’s probably one of those things you CAN’T understand until you’re in the middle of it…)

Do you own a gun?

Nope. If I ever need one, I’ll just ask Eric if I can borrow his…

Have you ever hit someone of the opposite sex?

Sure. I hit Rick all the time. He annoys me. But he can’t hit me, of course. Because I’m a girl. Yeah, it’s a double standard. But it works for me.

Have you ever sung in front of a large number of people?

Just me by myself? No, I don’t think so… but in choruses and small groups, yes, lots of times. In fact, that reminds me of some great childhood memories that I can use for one of those questions above…

What is the first thing you notice about the opposite sex?

Eyes, a willingness to smile (I don’t like it when people never smile)… and for some reason I’ve always liked a guy with nice hands.

What is your biggest mistake?

I’d love to be one of those people who doesn’t consider anything a mistake, because all our actions (or inactions) in life eventually shape us into the people we become. And that IS true – but it’s still hard to not have regrets. But since I don’t feel like advertising my mistakes right now, I’ll keep my regrets to myself…

Say something totally random about yourself.

My jeans feel like they’re about to fall off. I think I’ve lost weight. I need new jeans.

Has anyone ever said that you looked like a celebrity?

A professor at St. Edward’s once said I looked like Kelly Rutherford, who, at the time, was playing a 19th century hooker on the show “The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.” She’s really not much of a “celebrity,” I guess, seeing as I’ve never seen her in anything else… and I don’t think I look much like her, anyway. Although I should point out that I used to dress like a 19th century hooker when I went to class, so maybe that had something to do with it…

What is the most romantic thing someone of the opposite sex has done for you?

I considered my signed Yankee baseballs a pretty romantic gift – not in the “mushy” romantic kinda way, but rather because it was one of the first times Rick bought me a present without me giving him a list of things I like. And it turned out to be a great, thoughtful gift. Thoughtful gifts are always romantic.

Do you actually read these when other people fill them out?

Yes… I’m always on the lookout for people who are just as strange as I am…

Now, if I were to “tag” someone with this questionnaire, I would have to tag Nick – because he hasn’t updated his blog since the Eisenhower administration, and some of us are getting tired of checking his blog and seeing the same picture of Jordan over and over. I mean, sure, he’s a cute kid and all, but by now that picture is sorely outdated… Jordan must be in his mid-twenties by now, right? So go update your blog, Nick… :)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Waiting for a cold snap...

I am once again wearing a long-sleeved shirt (even though my outdoor thermometer is reading 84 at the moment… but it’s right in the sun, so it might not be accurate…). It was 63 degrees when I got up this morning. 63 degrees! I believe that’s the coolest it’s been in about six months. I am so ready for cooler weather. Which is why, once again, I’m refusing to change into a short-sleeved shirt. Even though I’m really a bit too warm right now. It’s a tad stuffy in this room… just a smidgen past comfy… kinda suffocating, actually. Okay, you know what? I give up… gotta go change…

Sigh… I must admit the short sleeve shirt DOES feel better right now. The neglected long-sleeved shirts in my wardrobe will have to lie idle for a little while longer. And my poor sweaters won’t be seeing the light of day until December or January, I fear. Actually, if we spend Christmas in Montana (which seems to be the plan at the moment), I’ll at least be guaranteed a few cold sweater-wearin’ days near the holiday. Unless northwest Montana is suddenly hit with unseasonably warm weather.

My cousins Steve and Kevin have been in town this week… Steve left a couple days ago, and Kevin is here until Friday. Yesterday we were talking about the last time Steve and Kevin were both in Austin at the same time – it was way back in 1984. Which also happens to be the last time Austin has seen any REAL snow. Oh, we’ve had an occasional flake or two – and one outright accumulating snowfall that resulted in three inches of the white stuff one February day at around 2 in the morning. Of course, it was completely gone a few hours later. (And I wasn’t even here – I was up in New Jersey, so Rick emailed me a couple pictures as proof of the event.) But most of the “snow” we’ve seen since 1984 has amounted to nothing more than a dusting of powdered sugar on a coffee cake.

That snowfall in 1984 was so steady and relentless than the airport shut down and Steve and Kevin were unable to return to their cold, hundreds-of-times-more-snowy-than-Austin home in Buffalo. And it remained firmly stuck to the ground for at least 24 hours or so – long enough that we were able to make snowballs and perhaps even a pitiful little snowman. Snowmen – even pitiful representations – are quite rare in Austin.

I always think it’s funny when people in Austin get excited about the “snow” we manage to see. Most of the time, I don’t even think it’s actual “snow” – it’s more like frost that happens to form on various surfaces, melting once the temperature rises half a degree. So just so everyone is clear about the snow/not snow difference:

This is snow. (This is looking down the driveway of my parents’ old house in New Jersey.)

Here's some more snow. This IS the driveway of my parents’ house – that little bit of black peeking out was my dad’s car.

And this is a bag of powdered sugar.

Hopefully it all makes sense now.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Bryan lost to a girl...

And so did a lot of other guys... but THIS, specifically, is Bryan's money:

Isn't it nice? Fantasy baseball is great...

This means war...

Well, it looks like the rumors of Joe Torre’s demise were just that – rumors. Supposedly his job is still safe, which I’m quite happy to hear. It really wouldn’t make sense to blame Joe Torre for the Yankees’ abysmal pitching situation. He just tells people to pitch… he doesn’t actually go out there and throw the baseball himself. Although with the way our pitching was this year, he probably COULD have done that, with similar results. Skippy the ball boy could’ve pitched a few innings and he would’ve looked just as good as Jaret Wright. (Seriously, has anyone ever let Skippy pitch? I mean, maybe the kid is good, who knows… he certainly has a flair for tossing foul balls into the stands…) Anyway, I will continue to proudly wear my Yankee cap, whether or not we made it past the playoffs this year. As soon as we get Skippy on the mound, we’ll be unstoppable…

So tonight is the final exam in the class Rick has been taking the last few weeks – the exciting world of Managing Human Resources. I know it’s an exciting world, because I proofread most of Rick’s assignments before he turned them in. And I fell asleep about halfway through all of them. What a riveting subject. But, to Rick’s credit, he has a straight A average in this mesmerizing class, and as he likes to point out, “I could skip the final altogether and still get a C.” Aim high, Rick… aim high.

This reminds me of another fascinating class Rick took, years ago when we’d only been married a few months. I can’t remember what it was, exactly – some sort of history class, maybe? But I do remember that the students were required to write a term paper in two or three parts, where a section was turned in one week, and then the same section, plus whatever was added on to it, turned in at a later date. There was a long list of subjects to choose from, and Rick chose one that interested him, I guess – the history of naval warfare. Certainly wouldn’t have been MY first choice… wouldn’t have even been my LAST choice. But it was Rick’s paper, not mine, so he could write about whatever he wanted…

And the whole thing began innocently enough – Rick was working a night job at the time, so his schedule was very screwed up and sporadic. Since I was taking classes as well, and I wasn’t working, he wondered if I could just stop by the library after my classes and check out some books for him. Just a few “naval warfare” books. Okay. No problem. I returned home with a pile of stoic, stodgy old history books about boats and wars. Blah. Thank goodness this wasn’t MY paper. How boring. And then, just as innocently, Rick wondered if I could possibly just jot down a few notes from those dusty old books (that had certainly never been checked out before, because who would want to actually READ them?), because he was exhausted from work and classes. Well, hmmm… okay. Just a few notes. I wrote down a few pages of ideas and facts that seemed pertinent to a study of naval warfare, and handed the whole thing over to Rick so he could do whatever he wanted with them.

And what he wanted, it turned out, was for ME to just go ahead and write the whole stupid paper. I’m not sure how that happened, exactly – I do think I may have been lured in with the promise of dinner at a nice restaurant. (This, of course, was an extremely big deal when we first got married, since we had about five cents in the bank…) And not only did I write the first part, but I wrote each subsequent part as well. Rick could not have chosen a more boring subject for “his” paper – I mean, do I seem like the kind of person who’d be utterly fascinated with the history of naval warfare?? And yet there I was, writing paragraphs about canons on wooden ships and evasive maneuvers on the high seas. The best part (or possibly the worst, I’m not sure…)? I got an A on that paper. Or, rather, “Rick” got an A on that paper. I wrote a term paper on a mind-numbingly dull subject that interested me about as much as the dust bunnies under my refrigerator… and I got an A.

I. Am. Awesome.

And let me make it clear that I do NOT condone cheating. Like I said, I’m not exactly sure how I was coerced into writing that paper – probably just because I realized I had more time on my hands and Rick was completely stressed out. I’m really nice that way. Not that I’d be that nice anymore, of course. I mean, if I’m going to earn an A on a paper, I want to make sure I actually get credit for it.

But if anyone has any questions about the captivating world of naval warfare, feel free to ask…

Monday, October 09, 2006

On the map...

I saw a great new show last night on the Discovery channel – it’s called Discovery Atlas. I don’t think it’s a permanent show – I think it’s just a special documentary series they’re airing for the next month or so. Each show focuses on one particular country, and over the two hours of the program, they cover various regions, doling out interesting facts and figures while profiling the life of a citizen in that area of the country. And one of the reasons I have to assume this is a short-lived show is because both the cinematography and accompanying music are feature-film-worthy. I can only assume this was a massive undertaking on the part of the Discovery network. But hopefully it can be a semi-regular feature… because I think EVERY country should have a two-hour documentary feature on the Discovery channel.

Last night’s show was about Italy. And another fun thing about Discovery Atlas is that while the show is on, you can visit the website and follow along with an interactive online program – so while the show on TV was talking about the Alps or about gondoliers in Venice, the online program was synchronized to the same point in the show and would display extra facts and maps and trivia questions. Wow – a travel show with interactive maps and trivia questions? This is like the best show EVER. I can’t wait for next week’s show about Brazil… Of course a show with the word “atlas” in the title is going to catch my attention, what with my love of maps and travel. Although it’s funny that I don’t actually OWN an atlas. (Wait, that’s not funny at all. Why don’t I own an atlas? This is a situation I shall have to remedy forthwith…)

So now that the weekend is over and I’ve had time to absorb the whole Yankees debacle (sigh…), I’m realizing how much I’m going to miss baseball for the next few months. Fantasy baseball made my favorite sports diversion even more interesting, and “America’s favorite pastime” really did become a great way to pass the time. What am I supposed to do all winter? Watch football? Read books? Get a life? (Yeah, that might be a good idea…) Oh, I know – I’ll buy an atlas and spend the winter studying it. And that way, by the time we know whether or not Joe Torre will be returning as the Yankee’s manager, I will have honed my geography knowledge. Not that one has anything to do with the other. I mean, it’s not like I can say, “La Paz, Bolivia is the highest capital city in the world” and suddenly the Yankees will be guaranteed decent pitching next season. Right? Gee, I HOPE that’s not the way it works…

I’d better go buy an atlas…

Sunday, October 08, 2006

I need some hot chocolate...

Ugh. The Yankees. So disappointing. Argh. No words. Can’t talk. Bad bad bad. That’s all I’m gonna say about that…

Actually, that WAS all I was gonna say about that, but I just returned home from lunch, and checked some news headlines, and apparently Joe Torre will no longer be the Yankee’s manager next year. I don’t think I agree with this decision, but apparently I don’t have much pull within the Yankee organization. I mean, c’mon – the Yankees have made it to the playoffs EVERY year Joe Torre has been manager. They’ve won four World Series titles. As much as I love the Yankees, they CAN’T win the World Series every single year… that’s just unrealistic. Not to mention boring. If other teams never win, there’s no reason to root for your own. And what’s even worse than firing Joe Torre is the rumor of his replacement – Lou Piniella. I can’t stand Lou Piniella… Lou Piniella already managed the Yankees back in the 80’s… he didn’t do much with them back then. Why does anyone think he’ll be able to change anything now? I really don’t think Joe Torre was the problem…

Anyway… I can’t believe it’s already October 8th. I’m a bit alarmed by how quickly the month seems to be passing. An entire week is gone so soon? I don’t even have my Halloween Evacuation Plan in place yet (this is where I sneak out of my house early on Halloween, before trick-or-treaters have a chance to ring my doorbell and realize I have no candy whatsoever…). And it doesn’t help that it’s still practically 90 degrees every day. How am I supposed to believe it’s really autumn when I’m still wearing t-shirts and tank tops?

This is probably the time of year I miss New Jersey the most – from about October to December. I miss it now because I know it’s getting cooler up there, and the leaves are changing color, and there’s an obvious line between “summer” and “autumn.” There’s a gentle, sloping transition between clothing choices… tank tops… t-shirts… t-shirts and jackets… bulky sweaters… sweaters and wool coats. Whereas here in Texas, every day is either really warm, or some kind of surprise – surprise! It’s cold in the morning but hot in the afternoon! Or, surprise! It’s freezing cold all day but the weather guy said it would be 80 degrees! This is the time of year I never really know how to dress in the morning. I guess it’s best to dress in layers. If you dress in layers, you can strip off what you don’t need, and add it back when you do…

And I miss New Jersey throughout the whole Thanksgiving/Christmas season, because – for someone who mostly grew up in the northeast – “75 degrees” and “Christmas day” just don’t go together. It’s sort of bizarre to see brightly-adorned Christmas trees – most of them made of plastic – decorating stores and businesses, in this area of the country where fir trees are few and far between and look rather out of place when they’re casually displayed in a window. It takes a bit of conscious effort to begin shopping for Christmas gifts, since the seasonal signals of frosty weather and visible wisps of exhaled breath just don’t show up too often. Yet I know, by looking at the “October 8” on the calendar today, that we ARE well within the fall season. And the end of the year is quickly approaching. So, wool coat or not, I’ll soon need to begin searching for holiday gifts and pulling out boxes of decorations. I’ll probably even make hot chocolate and spiced cider and various other warm beverages – the kind that taste so good when the thermometer dips uncomfortably low, but still taste perfectly acceptable (although not nearly as soothing) when the weather is clear and sunny.

But for now, I’m going to forget about the weather and just brood about the Yankees for a while… (Lou Piniella??? Sigh…) Maybe some of that hot chocolate WOULD be soothing right about now…

Friday, October 06, 2006


I found out an interesting fact tonight -- the full moon tonight is at the point in its orbit where it's closest to earth. So therefore, the moon tonight will appear 12 percent bigger than other full moons this year. I thought that was pretty cool. So I took some pictures, which probably won't do justice to that "12 percent" thing, but just take my word for it -- these pictures are 12 percent cooler than any other pictures of the moon I'll be taking this year:

This is what happens when you take a picture of the moon and move the camera...

Completely useless post...

Stuff that’s in my refrigerator:

Orange Juice
Apple Juice
Bread (I keep the bread in the fridge so it doesn’t get moldy as quickly…)
An onion
Elephant garlic (which is bigger than regular garlic, and a bit milder and sweeter. Good stuff. I only recently discovered elephant garlic and I’ve been using it quite frequently.)
A package of Ruby Gold potatoes
String cheese
Brown basmati rice
Various condiments
Frozen chicken, ground turkey, and flank steak (I didn’t even know I had that – fajitas, anyone?)
A package of frozen Gardenburgers
Half a frozen package of Ore-Ida Potatoes O’Brien
Couple of frozen Amy’s Indian dinners – Palak Paneer and Mattar Paneer (the Amy’s brand is really good – but don’t ever buy the “Ethnic Gourmet” brand. Blech. I tried some of their Indian food, and it barely had any flavor. “Bland” and “Indian food” should never go together…)
Couple frozen Cornish game hens (I should do something with those one of these days...)
Various boxes of frozen vegetables that I’ll probably never use

Stuff that’s ON my refrigerator:

Some of those are mine, and some are things that other people have written. I especially like Eric's classic, "Dearest bourgeoisie can't keep soul like dynamite. Say it moon children!" I have two sets of refrigerator poetry -- one that Cindy gave me as a Christmas present a few years ago, and one that I bought for myself last year. So there are plenty of words to go around. I love it when people come over to my house and stand at the fridge for twenty minutes, searching for the perfect expressions to say nothing in particular.

Needless to say, what's ON my fridge is probably more interesting that what's IN it...