Sunday, December 31, 2006

Year-End Wrap-Up, Part II

I skimmed through all my posts from this year, and chose one from each month that I liked the best… so this is sort of like a Recap of 2006 and Some of the Crazy Stuff I was Thinking About:


And a bonus post -- because it turned out to be the jumping-off point for so many of my other posts this year, I have to give my "Post of the Year" award to Comfortability. Who knew a made-up word could inspire so much conversation?

So happy new year, everyone! I hope 2007 is a great year for you all...

Friday, December 29, 2006

Addendum to previous post... for Nick...

I just noticed the time stamp on that last post -- I didn't even do it on purpose! It just happened to work out that way... :)

Year-End Wrap-Up, Part I

So who watched the Rutgers game last night? Rutgers won their first bowl game EVER –37-10 over Kansas State. And what’s funny is that they played here in Texas. Houston, actually. If I’d known a little earlier that they were playing in a bowl game in Houston, I wouldn’t have minded driving down there for the game. Rutgers could’ve used more support… either that, or the broadcasters were really biased against them. Every time they went to commercial or came back from commercial, they would pan the crowd of KANSAS fans. That’s all I saw the entire night. Kansas Kansas Kansas. And Kansas just isn’t that interesting. At all. I mean, the way they made it look, there wasn’t a single Rutgers fan anywhere in that crowd. Which I know isn’t true, because I just heard yesterday they’d sold at least ten thousand tickets to Rutgers fans – so where WERE they, exactly? Apparently even after their 10-2 year and their rank at number 16, there are still sports broadcasters who refuse to take them seriously. I really think the obvious tilt toward Kansas State was just another example of how Rutgers has been fighting their “joke of college football” status – but after this year, they SHOULD gain some respect, I would think. This year was their “please take us seriously” year.

Anyway… so Rick was really proud of himself for being the instigator of a post that generated so many comments a couple days ago. (And NOW I know who wrote “FK 2 cute 4 ever” on the wall of the bathroom… that’s really been confusing me…) And it got me thinking about all the posts I’ve written the past year, and all the pictures I’ve added to the blog. Some of the posts have generated lots of comments, and some of them have resulted in the sound of crickets chirping in the midst of a dark, lonely night (probably the ones where people are sitting back and thinking, “wow, Lisa is weird… don’t comment on THAT…”). And since 2006 is drawing to a close, I thought I’d go back over the things I’ve posted this last year and find some of my favorite stuff.

So for today’s 2006 wrap-up, I present some of my favorite photos from this year:

Okay, technically this picture isn't from "this year," but of all the pictures I've ever taken, it's one of my all-time favorites...

Dad, mom, Bob, me and Eric in Chicago at the beginning of the year...

One of my favorite pictures of me and Eric...

I love this shot of Allegro -- I managed to snap the picture as she was in mid-yawn, which kinda makes her look like a tiny little roaring lion...

Eric and Dave -- Manly Men in Montana...

Another Allegro picture I really love -- she always seeks out patches of sunlight in the morning...

From our trip to San Francisco in June...

The infamous, alien-named Zzyzx Road...

Fun with mirrored hotel balconies and cameras...

I love this picture of Jason and Jen's little girl... she's so cute...

The Congress Avenue bats...

More manly hijinks in Montana...

I don't think I published this one earlier, but this is me and Rick acting weird in Hawaii... which is pretty much how we act all the time... weirdos...

And the one where we finally decided to act normal...

I love this tiki torch picture -- I think Rick took this, and he managed to get the torches framed between the water and the cloud bank above... plus the wind was just right, so the fire was sweeping to the side... great picture...

And finally -- brownies! The perfect way to end a meal OR a blog post... :)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Planning my next vacation... or not...

So I was watching that James Bond movie “Octopussy” last night. I’ve seen that movie many times, and I’m always a little disturbed when the title character is explaining to Bond how her father was fascinated with octopi – “his pet name for me was Octopussy.” Uh, huh? What? Your DAD called you that? I just, um, WHAT? Wait – did you say – WHAT? I mean, I get the whole “Bond girls have ridiculously suggestive names” thing, but with most of the Bond films, you can sort of imagine that they created those names themselves… or perhaps some really weird ex-boyfriends bestowed such monikers on them. Whatever. All that is certain is that those Bond girls were NOT born with those names, and those names certainly weren’t created by their parents. But the obvious suggestive nature of Bond girl names wasn’t my point anyway…

Today I happened to be browsing through the Forbes Traveler website, which often has these slideshows of “bests” – like right now you can find a list of the “World’s Best Hotel Swimming Pools” and the “Best Pet-Friendly Hotels in the U.S.” You can also find lists of the top hotels by region, like this list of the best hotels in India.

India has never actually been high on my list of places to visit. Not that I wouldn’t love to go there – but every time I hear about someone who’s been to visit India, the words “really sick” seem to pop up at some point:

“Did you hear that Mr. So-and-So went to India?”

“No – how did he like it?”

“Oh, he got really sick and had to come back early.”

I’ve heard the “so-and-so went to India and got really sick” story so many times, I’m starting to think it’s an unfortunate inevitability. Is it just a given that if you visit India, you’ll end up in some sort of gastrointestinal distress? And if it IS inevitable, why is that? Is it the food? The water? If it’s the food and the water, why aren’t the people who LIVE there sick all the time? Are visitors just eating any old thing off the street? Do they drink from puddles on the sidewalk? Do really malevolent Indians set out big barrels of palak paneer in the sun for hours and then offer bowls to unsuspecting tourists?

And what does any of this have to do with the fact that I was watching Octopussy last night? I’ll tell you… it’s because one of Forbes’ top hotel picks in India was this one, which was used during the filming of the James Bond movie. And it’s hotels like this that would make me rethink my slight aversion to Indian travel. I mean, surely a hotel of this caliber would understand things like proper cooking temperatures and the fine art of water purification, right? So could it, in fact, be totally within the realm of possibility to travel to India and have a perfectly lovely, food-poison-free visit?

James Bond, of course, doesn’t exactly reflect reality. In addition to the previously-mentioned improbable Bond girl names, the movie I watched last night was a like a study in Indian stereotypes. There was actually a scene where Bond happened upon a street corner on which were crammed a turban-bedecked group consisting of Guy Walking on Hot Coals, Guy on Bed of Nails, Sword Swallowing Guy, and Snake Charmer Guy. Bond, of course, wreaked havoc on the entire scene, before running back to that cool hotel in the middle of the lake. Which is probably a great place to run back to once you’ve wreaked havoc.

Reality or not, I have to figure if it’s good enough for James Bond, it would be good enough for me…

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Wait -- WHO'S cute?

Ugh… I ate way too much Christmas dinner… it’s 10 o’clock and I’m still full. Yeah, that “after holiday” diet is gonna have to start tomorrow… or the next day… maybe the day after that… or possibly some time after New Year’s Day, because I’m sure I’ll find plenty of things to eat between now and then. But regardless of the overeating, we had a good day. Spent a couple hours at my parents’ house in the early afternoon, and then we all headed over to Rick’s parents’ house for dinner. My parents gave us the coolest present – a big wall map of the world, with different colored pins to mark all the places we’ve visited and all the places we want to visit. I’ve already chosen a place for it, on the wall over my “world travels” shelf in the foyer.

That big map was wrapped with quite a bit of paper, which ended up on the floor of my parents’ living room. Along with several other random balls of paper and untied ribbons. Kiko and Ozzie couldn’t resist all those new playthings strewn across the floor, and wasted no time pouncing into the soon-to-be recycling and shredding it all to pieces. As we hung out in the living room, laughing at the cats and drinking coffee and sorting through our gifts, Faisal sent us a couple text messages to wish us a happy holiday. So for a few seconds, Faisal was a topic of conversation… and then we went back to laughing at the cats. I got up to reheat my coffee in the microwave, and as I left the room, I heard Rick say, “Faisal’s so cute…” which caused me to pause in mid-stride and look back toward the living room. “I mean OZZIE,” Rick said. “Ozzie’s so cute – that’s what a meant to say!” But of course the “Faisal” comment had the rest of us laughing hysterically for a few moments…

And as tends to happen with slip-ups like that, the joke kept delivering more punch-lines. As we opened the front door to leave later on, Ozzie decided to run out onto the porch. My dad immediately said, “Faisal! Get back in here!” And even better, when Rick and I got back home – long after the Faisal text messages and with nary an Ozzie in sight – Rick saw Allegro napping on the couch and said, “you know, your cat is so much smaller than Kiko and Faisal… I mean OZZIE! Darn it – I meant Ozzie!” I mean, it was one thing to mistake Ozzie for Faisal when we’d just been taking about him, but it was another to make the SAME error when Faisal was no longer a topic of discussion.

Of course, maybe Ozzie and Faisal have more in common than I think they do. Perhaps I should compare:

Here's Ozzie... (what Ozzie is thinking: I love sink water... yum yum yum... sink water...)

...and here's Faisal. Why is he so darn happy? I think this was at Ruth's Chris... must be because his steak is about to arrive... (what Faisal is thinking: I love Ruth's Chris steak... yum yum yum... Ruth's Chris steak...)

Now Ozzie, obviously, really IS quite adorable. He’s also got a great laid-back personality, gets along well with just about anyone, and likes to sleep on your lap when you’re at the computer. Faisal, on the other hand, is, well… a lawyer. You can make your own comparisons...

But I suppose it can be really easy to mistake one person/place/thing for another.

For instance, here's a picture of me looking pensive:

And here's a pair of sneakers looking equally pensive:

Pretty confusing, right? I just hope this Ozzie/Faisal thing sticks around for a while, because I'm looking foward to hearing someone say, "Faisal, get off the table! People are trying to eat..."

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and here in my home,
I thought I would pen a Christmas Eve poem.
I’d wrapped all the gifts with paper and bows,
I’d searched my TV for holiday shows.

Echo and Allegro were snug on the floor,
Dreaming of squirrels and fish and pet stores.
And Rick in his study, and I writing like so,
Had just returned from our trip to Chicago.

And out on the lawn, there was nothing but grass.
I asked God for snow, but he said, “I think I’ll pass.”
Even Chicago, with its cold wind of ice,
Was temperate, and mild, and pleasant, and nice.

There was no moon shining on drifts of white snow,
No flakes falling freely to catch the moon’s glow.
That which to my wondering eyes did appear
Was simply my neighbor’s light-up reindeer.

“Hey, Rick! Hey Echo! Allegro, you too!
Remember New Jersey, where the snow would fall new?
It would reach the top of the porch! It would reach the top of the wall!
Giant drifts of black mush would collect at the mall!”

It was slushy and festive, a right jolly old sight,
It would land on my eyelashes, fluffy and light.
But then with barely a turn of the head,
An hour of shoveling there would be to dread.

So I realized that while I considered snow a big perk,
To wish it on these southerners might make me a jerk.
I’d lay aside my longings for cold and for ice,
Perhaps I’d never see smoke from my chimney arise.

And that’s the way weather is here in Austin,
If I get tired of the sun, I’ll just move to Boston.
After all, this season is about more than just snow.
Like gathering with friends and family at home.

So as I unwrap my gifts tomorrow in 60-degree temps,
The lack of winter weather I will not lament.
I have but one line to add before I turn out the light:
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Okay, I'm obviously not the best poet. :) Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you all have a great day. And to those who don't celebrate the holiday, I wish you all the peace and contentment and happiness of this season. I think there's enough to go around... Love you guys! (Yes, even YOU, Eric! :))

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Home stretch...

We're in the thriving metropolis of Tulsa, Oklahoma tonight... what a happening place THIS is... (please note the obvious sarcasm...) Okay, to be honest, I really don't like this city. At least not in the dark. And I'm not sure if it's because the navigation system in the car brought us through what must've been the absolute WORST part of town to get to this hotel... or if it's because the hotel is about a block and a half from the previously-mentioned "worst" part of town... or if it's because we were accosted on our walk from the parking garage to the hotel by a woman asking for money... or if it's because the door to our hotel room sort of looks like it's made of plywood and was possibly the final exam project of a seventh-grade shop student. I don't know. They all seem like valid explanations. Not a big Tulsa fan at the moment. Maybe it'll seem nicer in the sunlight...

I was sad to leave Chicago this morning, even though it rained the entire time we were there -- it's amazing how happy and cheery a few well-placed Christmas lights can make a cloudy, dreary city block look. (I don't even think Tulsa has any Christmas lights... at least not in THIS part of town... Oh wait -- I stand corrected. I just looked out the window and found ONE building with a string of red and green lights around the top...) And the Pancake House breakfasts and daily Starbucks/Seattle's Best/Caribou Coffee runs certainly didn't hurt, either. Not to mention dessert at Ghirardelli. My mean old dad text messaged me a picture of a big Ghirardelli sundae earlier this evening -- apparently they went back for one last dessert before they have to fly home tomorrow.

And lest anyone think I'm being unfair for calling my dad "old" (I don't think anyone would dispute the "mean" label -- because let's face it, it IS mean to send someone a Ghirardelli picture when they can't get to Ghirardelli. :)) I submit exhibit A:

This was a sign near Eric's apartment, and mom and dad just sort of gravitated toward it... we took lots of pictures. :)

Anyway, tomorrow we head back to Austin, where we're hoping to be home in time for Christmas Eve dinner at Rick's parents' house. (And on a side note, Rick just made fun of me because I'm obsessively weird about hotel bedspreads -- he'd moved the clothes I'm planning to wear tomorrow off the suitcase and set them on the bedspread, and I asked him if he could put them back on the suitcase. After giving me some kind of nonchalant, "eventually" sort of response, I just went and moved them myself. I can't stand to have anything touching the hotel bedspread. They don't WASH those things. Five million people have done who-knows-what on that bedspread, and I don't want to lay on it, or sit on it, or let my clothes touch it... I had to perform this sort of OCD Bedspread Removal Ceremony to knock it onto the floor... I think the threat has been neutralized...)

Off to bed now... hopefully I won't think about that icky bedspread lurking on the floor...

Friday, December 22, 2006

Great place for a refresher course in the periodic table...

When we were in San Francisco earlier this year, I posted a picture that Rick took of me when I was eating ice cream in Ghirardelli. So here's a picture that my dad took of me eating ice cream in Ghirardelli in Chicago:

I wonder how many pictures I can collect of myself eating ice cream at Ghirardelli? I hope that question has an ever-changing answer...

We went to the Museum of Science and Industry this afternoon, mainly because I'd heard it had a big Christmas tree display and I wanted to see it. But the rest of the museum turned out to be really cool and interesting, too. The Christmas trees are kind of in the lobby of the museum, and they've been decorated by all kinds of different cultural groups in the city. So each tree has a different "theme" that represents a different country. A few of my favorites:



Scotland (I liked this one because they used lots of purple... :))



After the trees, we wandered around all the other displays and exhibits in the museum. They had everything from chemistry experiments to displays of nineteenth century clothing to an entire Boeing 727 hanging from the ceiling. But we saved the best for last -- although not necessarily on purpose. We were actually on our way out of the museum when Rick saw a sign for a German U-boat exhibit, and we decided to check it out. We weren't sure if it was just some kind of replica of a submarine, or just pictures, or what. But it turned out to be an entire, authentic submarine. In 1954, the museum was able to procure U-505 -- a German submarine that was captured by Americans in WWII. It's the only German submarine in the U.S. today. Unfortunately, they weren't letting anyone inside the sub while we were there -- we got to the exhibit just as the museum was about to close. But we walked around the outside of it (you could still see bullet holes from where planes shot at it before it was captured), and walked through the displays around the sub.

Not the best picture, but you get the idea... it was actually bigger than we all expected, because we've all heard how small U-boats were. I guess they were just "small" relatively speaking...

Anyway, I'm very sleepy right now, so I'd better post this and go to bed before I fall asleep here at the computer... zzzzzzzzzz...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Heavenly chocolate...

Mom and dad have joined us here in Chicago -- we spent several hours wending our way through snail's pace Chicago holiday traffic to drive to and from the airport this afternoon. Rick declared that the traffic was "worse than Byram," so you can imagine how congested the highway was. Actually, it wasn't horrible -- we were moving the whole time, at least. We may have only been averaging 15 miles per hour, but at least we were moving.

We're staying at a Westin hotel, and I think this is the first time I've been at a Westin. They are famous, apparently, for what they call the "heavenly bed." When I heard about it, I assumed that I would crawl into said "heavenly" bed and immediately fall into a blissful slumber, from which I would hardly want to wake the next morning. And at first, it seemed like it might be that way -- when I climbed into the bed last night, it felt like I was surrounded by fluffy pillows on all sides. I could tell my dreams would be filled with visions of squishy marshmallows and puffy clouds...

And then, some time around one in the morning, my lovely sleep was interrupted when I realized the squishy marshmallows were attempting to suffocate me. In fact, my bed had morphed from an innocent, puffy, fluffy cloud into something more akin to a waffle iron. It was stifling hot. That "heavenly" down duvet was so warm I could've sworn I was vacationing in the tropics -- not the chilly city of Chicago. I got out of bed and lowered the thermostat a degree or two, only to wake up an hour later in the middle of the waffle iron once again. It look a couple more trips to the thermostat before I finally found the most comfortable temperature -- which turned out to be a very brisk 61 degrees. Once I figured that out, it really WAS a pretty comfortable bed. The fact that I woke up ten times last night will not deter me from climbing back into that bed again tonight and hoping for a much better sleep. 61 degrees... now I know...

Well, we did accomplish one of my Chicago requirements today -- we went to Ghirardelli for dessert after dinner tonight. Ghirardelli is, happily, within walking distance of the hotel. It's practically across the street. It was raining tonight, and only about 39 degrees, but we all stubbornly marched right into that store and ordered hot fudge sundaes. And the place was quite crowded, so I guess we're not the only ones who'll eat ice cream even when it's only seven degrees away from snow...

I'm not sure what we have planned for tomorrow... well, actually, I guess that means we have NOTHING planned for tomorrow. But I'm sure we'll figure something out... if nothing else, we can just go hang out in Ghirardelli for a while...

Writing the nightly blog...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Finally! Coffee!

We made it to Chicago -- today was an easy drive compared to yesterday... yesterday was too much driving in the dark, and way too much driving without coffee. Fortunately, today we were able to sleep in a bit, and we only drove until about 3:30 this afternoon. And we had plenty of coffee to keep us happy. Yes, it was a good day...

I took some pictures this morning before we left St. Louis, because I thought the hotel was so cool:

The view outside our room, where you can see the roof of the old train shed. It might have been the original structure, because it looked pretty old and rusty...

The shopping center adjoining the hotel, built where the platform used to be. That display on the right side is hundreds of pages people sent to a St. Louis newspaper in 1985 when the train station was closed down. The paper asked people to share their memories of the station. A lot of the letters start out something like, "I worked at Union Station from 1940 to 1947..." and continue with stories about WWII soldiers. I saw one from a woman who worked at the station back in the 20's... it was just interesting to think about how I was standing there reading these letters in the same spot where travelers used to wait for their trains...

A mural of Harry Potter's nine and three quarters platform...

The lobby, which, judging from the old pictures we saw, looks pretty much the same as it did when the station opened in 1895...

Driving out of St. Louis this morning...

View of the John Hancock building from our hotel room in Chicago -- we're right across the street from the place... I sort of had to lie down on the windowsill to get a picture...

View of Michigan Avenue from our room...

Well, we need to go meet Eric for dinner soon, so that's it for now. Hope everyone is having a good week so far! Don't forget to drink plenty of Starbucks coffee and/or hot chocolate, as the case may be...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Meet me in St. Louis...

Actually, DON'T meet me in St. Louis, because by the time you got here, I'd probably be on my way to Chicago...

But tonight, I'm in St. Louis, at a really cool hotel -- it was converted into a hotel from the Union Station train station, which was in operation from 1895 to 1985. It's very interesting to walk around the hotel (and the adjoining shopping center) and see how much of the old station has been preserved. I didn't get any pictures tonight (because I didn't realize, when we left our room for dinner, how historic and unusual this place would be), but maybe I'll take some tomorrow morning.

We ate dinner at the hotel restaurant, where their specialty was something called a "sauce flight." Ever heard of a wine flight? It's where you can sample several different wines throughout your dinner -- and a "sauce flight" was the same sort of idea. You could choose your entree from several different kinds of steaks, fish or chicken, and then select three different sauces to compliment the meat. I tried chicken with roasted shallot, hollandaise horseradish, and lemon butter sauces. VERY good.

After dinner, we wandered around the shopping center, even though it was closed, just to see what sorts of shops were in the building. (And we were very grateful to see a Starbucks, after driving all the way through Oklahoma and Missouri without seeing ONE today. It was horrible. No coffee. No coffee all day. I don't even know how I made it through...) Even though the shops were all closed, we happened upon a little Union Station museum that apparently remains open all the time. They had pictures of what the station looked like back in the 20's and 30's, and I thought it was really interesting when I saw a picture of the old restaurant (where a dinner cost $1.50, dessert was 30 cents, and coffee was a dime) and I realized the ceiling had the same wooden beam pattern of the restaurant where we'd just eaten. It's the same restaurant, but these days the prices are slightly higher...

By looking through the various pictures, we were able to figure out that most of the shopping center was built on the platform where people would wait for trains to arrive or depart, with one section stretching through the huge train shed that had been behind the station. Most of the hotel rooms were built in another part of the train shed... and the lobby is in the giant hall where, I suppose, everyone would buy tickets and gather luggage and check the clock to see if the trains were on time.

Well, it looks like the laptop is about to run out of battery power, so I'd better post this now... off to Chicago tomorrow... hopefully I'll have some pictures soon...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

And when I had braces, I went to an orthodontisterologist...

So speaking of words that don’t exist – I was recently browsing through some of the message boards on WebMD. I like to keep up-to-date on the latest news about what sorts of things will eventually kill us all – this month, it looks like trans fats are the things to avoid like the plague. Thankfully, coffee and alcohol are now considered to be GOOD for us… (in moderation, of course…) The message boards on WebMD are some of the best places to bust that myth about how “there are no stupid questions.” Oh yeah, believe me, there ARE stupid questions. (Or, you could say it the way Rick likes to say it: “there are no stupid questions, just stupid people who ask questions.”)

One of the questions I happened to see the other day concerned a woman with some sort of persistent wrist pain. After listing all her symptoms, she wondered if perhaps she should go to see an “orthopediologister.” Say it with me, now: orthopediologister. It just rooooolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Orthopediologister. I was confused when I first read that word, because I’d never heard of this particular medical specialty. But when I broke it down, I realized it was obviously some sort of a cross between an orthopedist, a cardiologist, and a general practitioner. It’s so obvious now…

I mean, really – was that person being serious, or was it supposed to be a joke? Do we use the word “orthopedist” so infrequently in everyday conversation that people actually forget how to pronounce it and spell it? I can’t really remember EVER using the word “orthopedist” in a conversation, yet I’m able to tell you that an orthopedist is a doctor who specializes in the skeletal system. Is that not common knowledge? Do I spend too much time watching “Scrubs”? (Well, yeah, I probably DO spend too much time watching Scrubs… it’s not MY fault that they’ve started showing reruns almost constantly on the comedy channel. But c’mon, it’s a funny show! Cut me some slack…) Oh well… I hope that woman was able to find a competent orthopediologister in her area… they can be hard to come by…

And in other unrelated news: I have to pack some time tonight or tomorrow morning for our trip to Chicago. Rick and I are doing the road trip thing and driving up, and then mom and dad will be flying up in a few days. I’m really looking forward to this trip – it’s been much too warm here lately. It was 78 degrees today. I am SO ready for a change in the weather. (On the positive side, however, since the milk steamer at Seattle’s Best was still broken today, I had no problem ordering an iced coffee this afternoon. I probably would’ve ordered an iced coffee even if the steamer had been functioning perfectly…)

I think we’re officially done with our Christmas shopping… I finished most of it last week, but we still had most of Rick’s family – four sisters, his mom and dad, and many nieces and nephews. No, wait – only one nephew. Poor guy. (I know how he feels – I was the only girl in my family…) I always buy the younger kids presents, and the older kids get checks, but we wanted to get all the adults gift cards – the problem, of course, is that everyone likes something different, and it’s a little inconvenient to run around to six or seven different stores to purchase gift cards. But one time when we were at a Randall’s grocery store, we noticed they had an entire display of gift cards – they have just about everything you can think of. Restaurants, department stores, Home Depot, sporting goods stores, Starbucks, cards for hotels and airlines, girly bath stores (I love girly bath stores… uh, you know, just in case anyone wanted to get ME a gift card…), Barnes and Noble… they even have gift cards for online sports sites like So it ended up being really easy to finish up our shopping. And I never ONCE went to the mall this year…

Well, speaking of Scrubs (three paragraphs ago), it’s on right now, and I need to walk on the treadmill for a while before I start packing. I’m sure I’ll soon post updates of our travels, so YES, you’ll all be subjected to my random pictures and rambling commentary. Something to look forward to, right? :)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Is that kid happy or sad?

Argh! The milk steamer at Seattle’s Best was broken this morning, so I was unable to get my morning latte. Oh wretched technology, thou hast enticed me with assurances of perfectly-steamed lattes and lured me into a trap of dependence. Curse you and your false promises! Uh, sorry… got a little too melodramatic there. That tends to happen before my morning caffeine fix. I just made my own coffee, so everything should be fine now…

So last night I saw this ad for Walgreens, in which a bunch of toys strewn around a Christmas tree start moving, apparently infused with some sort of artificial life. A doll’s eyes pop open; a stuffed horse starts shuffling across the hardwood floor; a little action figure walks up to the fireplace mantle. And then they all wrap themselves up for Christmas morning. Now, let me make this very clear: toys that come to life are creepy. Always. They are always, ALWAYS creepy. I don’t care if you place them in a Christmassy setting and play cheerful holiday music in the background. I don’t care if they have smiles on their creepy little faces. If they are MOVING, of their own accord, that’s just WRONG. It’s even creepier if the toys in question are clowns. Or marionettes. And marionette clowns are the worst of all.

What’s funny is that I saw this ad during a commercial break in the middle of The Polar Express. I never saw that movie when it was in theaters, but I’d heard a lot of criticism for the somewhat “soulless” quality of its characters. It was one of those films that was created by sticking little sensors all over live actors, so their exact movements could be translated into digital imagery. The problem, of course, is that facial expressions – not to mention the signs of “life” in people’s eyes – are often so subtle that they don’t register on all those little sensors. As I watched the movie, I could immediately understand what the critics were talking about. All the characters in the movie exhibited plenty of movement – running and jumping and falling and riding on a runaway train – but their FACES were remarkably absent of movement, and their eyes were quite, well, vacant. When the little boy runs out of his house on Christmas Eve and sees a train right in his front yard, it’s reasonably expected that he’ll gaze upon it with a look of wonder or amazement or fear or puzzlement. Anything. Any kind of emotion at all. Instead, he runs out of his house and looks up at the magic train with what can only be described as “complete indifference” on his face. And the rest of the characters were exactly the same way. It was like watching a movie about a bunch of bored, disinterested, possibly blind, slightly brain-damaged kids.

And then, as if soulless children weren’t creepy enough, when the Polar Express finally reaches the North Pole, there’s a bizarre scene where three of the kids get separated from the rest of the group. They wander around the totally deserted streets of what I assume is the “elf village,” as a scratchy recording of old Christmas tunes plays over loudspeakers. I can’t even explain how eerie and strange this scene was, and as I watched, I fully expected a deranged elf to pop out of a dark alley and drag the soulless children away. In fact, when that DIDN’T happen, I was really confused as to why the whole thing had to be so creepy to begin with…

I was a little disappointed in the movie, especially since The Polar Express is one of my favorite Chris Van Allsburg books. Back when I worked in the Sparta Public Library in New Jersey, Friday afternoons I was in charge of the children’s section. When things got slow, I would read the only books I had available – kid’s books. I soon discovered that of all the books I had access to, Chris Van Allsburg was one of the most creative and interesting writers/illustrators. Granted, his books at times DO have a rather surreal quality to them – but there’s a fine line between surreal and downright creepy. And I think the movie may have crossed that line…

But what do I know? I haven’t even had enough coffee yet today…

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Make-your-own word...

I was lamenting to Rick that no one left any comments under my last post (with the exception of Eric… but he doesn’t count. No, I mean that literally – he doesn’t know how to count…), which kind of made me wonder just how weird everyone thinks I am. But Rick replied that “sometimes your posts are just insights into what makes you you… not much to say to that except to sit back and take it in.” And then he emphasized that I’m NOT weird, I’m merely “eccentric.” (Wait – is that better?) Of course, all of that made me worry – because “who I am” is not necessarily “normal” (or even sane, half the time). And do I really want the entire world to be privy to this fact? (The “entire world” being the five or six people who read my blog on a regular basis…) Oh, who am I kidding? You five people already know I’m, uh, “eccentric.” Yeah. :)

So what’s weirder – to write and draw silly stories, or to believe in the existence of non-existent words? I’ve given Faisal lots of grief over his insistence that “comfortability” should be a part of the English lexicon. So imagine my surprise when I read this article on CNN yesterday. That’s right: Merriam-Webster, respected wordsmiths – who do, in fact, publish a dictionary full of REAL words – chose a non-existent, made-up word as their “Word of the Year.” I can only assume this gives Faisal, along with linguistically-challenged people everywhere, hope for the future of our ever-changing language.

But at the present time, an attempt to look up “comfortability” on the Merriam-Webster site will result in a polite admonishment (“the word you’ve entered isn’t in the dictionary”), and a list of suggestions for possible words you REALLY meant to type in: perhaps you meant confirmability, computability, comparability, confirmabilities, corruptibility, comparabilities, comfortably (oooo… so close), computabilities, compressibility or compatibility.

But what I find interesting is the actual definition of this prestigious Word of the Year. As it says on the Merriam-Webster website, “truthiness” is defined by the American Dialect Society as “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.” I am inspired to create my OWN made-up word along these same lines – I think I’ll call it “believement.” Believement is the stubborn insistence that a non-fact is, indeed, a fact, when said non-fact has, in fact, been shown to be a non-fact. In other words, it is Faisal’s believement in the truthiness of comfortability that enables him to hold fast to his views. And THAT is to be commended.

The last time we had a discussion about the non-existence of comfortability, Faisal felt compelled to point out to me that “doctors” apparently make use of the word. He followed it up by asking, “you know what they call the last doctor in a graduating class? Doctor.” Yes, but do you know what they DON’T call the last doctor in a graduating class? Writer. They don’t even call the FIRST doctor in the graduating class “writer.” So if some brilliant surgeon is running around a hospital asking nurses to check on the comfortability of patients, I’ll let it slide. It won’t be that last doctor in the class, though – he probably ended up with a job at Starbucks after he realized he had zero comfortability with malpractice lawsuits. “But Lisa, you said ‘he’ – WOMEN can be doctors, too.” We’re talking about the LAST doctor in the class. Definitely a man. Kidding! Just kidding! (No, seriously, I’m pretty sure it’s a man… :))

As my friend Nick has pointed out to me many times, our language is an ever-changing linguistic entity – words no one had heard of fifty years ago are now a part of our everyday conversations, AND a part of our dictionaries. So if, some day down the road, “comfortability” should pop up in a reference book, I will graciously accept its existence, and congratulate Faisal for holding true to what he believes.

Because that is the true heart of believement.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Story time!

I have such a treat for you guys today (I’m saying that rather sarcastically – run. Run now while you have the chance…) It was about a year and a half ago that I was up in New Jersey for the last time, helping my parents pack up their house for their move to Texas. My main concentration was Eric’s room – Eric hadn’t actually lived at home for years, so going through the stuff in his room was like embarking on some sort of archaeological dig. Interestingly enough, I actually DID unearth a couple Egyptian coins in his room – they were buried near the brontosaurus bones, just across from the Incan pottery… No, seriously – I found Egyptian coins in Eric’s room, and for some reason I’ve been carrying them around in my wallet ever since then. I’m not sure why, because try as I might, I can’t seem to convince any American merchants to accept them as payment…

In addition to the Egyptian coins, I found all sorts of long-forgotten items in Eric’s room. Old baseball cards, books I could remember reading when I was in high school, ticket stubs from shows and baseball games, pictures from Eric’s class trip to Washington D.C. where he and his friends went looking for “Ed” (that’s a funny story… albeit a story that doesn’t make much sense… another time perhaps…). And somewhere in the piles of old paper and books, I ran across something of my own – a story I’d written when I was a kid. And not only did I WRITE this story, but apparently I felt compelled to illustrate it, as well. I sat on the floor of Eric’s room and read it, laughing at how silly the whole thing seemed to the “grown-up” me. But I also carefully packed it into my carry-on for my flight home, and brought it back to Texas with me. But once again, the silly little story ended up buried underneath something or other, and I forgot about it for a while. I just re-re-discovered it yesterday, as I was going through some old short stories I keep on my bookshelf.

I scanned each page into my computer, and even though the whole thing is starting to get yellow and faded, I think some of the pictures came out okay. I’ll have to type in the story itself, because the words were too faint and small to come out clearly when I scanned everything. So here’s my illustrated fairy tale, “Armand and the Princess.” (Don’t ask me how I came up with the name “Armand.” I have no idea…)

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who owned the ugliest dog in the world. Every day, she would look at him and say, “Boy are you ugly,” and every day, she would wonder if there was anything she could do to make him as beautiful as she was.

One day as she was eating oatmeal cookies (her favorite kind) she had an inspiration. “I will kiss the ugly dog,” she decided. “That is what the princess down the street did when she found that ugly toad, and he turned into a handsome prince!”

So the princess went to find the ugly dog, who was sleeping in a lounge chair by the pool. Very carefully, so as not to wake him, the princess kissed the ugly dog. “It worked!” the princess said with joy as a puff of smoke rose from the chair. But then a cry of anguish escaped the princess’ lips. For in front of her stood the ugliest man she had ever seen!

He was clothed in rags, and was covered with dirt, but in her infinite charity, the princess invited him into the castle. The man (whose name turned out to be Armand) gratefully accepted, and they walked over the drawbridge to the humongous front gate.

The princess started to show Armand around, but he stopped her. “I have lived here as long as you have,” he said. The princess laughed out of embarrassment. “That is right,” she quipped, “then you must also know where the bathtub is.” Armand only smiled as he headed upstairs toward the bathroom.

That night over supper, Armand told the princess and her father how he had been turned into an ugly dog. “My family and I lived by an evil sorcerer,” he began. “He didn’t like us living in the woods by his house. He gave us three chances to leave. My father knew nothing of the sorcerer’s power and ignored his threats. But on the third day he turned me into an ugly dog.” The princess noticed that after his bath, Armand looked just slightly better than he had before.

Over the next few months, Armand and the princess did many things together. She showed him the royal riding stables, and laughed when Armand fell off an old mare on his first ride in the meadow with the princess.

She took him to the open markets where they bought fresh fruits and vegetables.

They sat in the meadow under the trees and read books by Shakespeare, Voltaire, and Locke. And every day the princess could see Armand getting more handsome, until one day he was proclaimed the most handsome man in the land.

“I don’t understand,” the princess said one day. “You were once so ugly!” “Don’t you see?” said Armand. “It is your kindness that has made me the most handsome man in the land!”

And then came the inevitable day when Armand asked the princess to marry him. Of course she said yes, and of course they lived happily ever after. The end.

So that’s my silly story. I can’t remember how old I was when I wrote that, but I’m hoping I wasn’t TOO old. I mean, why was my princess so worried about having a dog who was “as beautiful as she was”?? And then she goes and laughs at the poor guy when he falls off a horse (what if he’d broken his arm or something?), and then at the end reminds him that he used to be ugly. I’m not sure what point I was trying to get across with this story – was it that looks DON’T matter, or looks DO matter? Sure, I make a point of mentioning that the princess was kind, but her kindness made the ugly guy LOOK better. Or maybe he didn’t REALLY look any different at all – it was only her perception that had changed?

Then again, seeing as I'm talking about a story that I wrote eons ago with colored pencils on construction paper, I could be analyzing this whole thing way too much… :)