Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What's your favourite colour?

It’s snowing up in Dallas… so I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before it makes its way down here. Hahaha! Just kidding. We’ve already had our snow allotment for the year. An entire half a millimeter. It was exciting while it lasted, but I have to be realistic – it’s doubtful there’s any more on the way. I may have to take up Eric’s offer to visit Chicago now – while the frigid temperatures practically guarantee more snowfall. But it IS only about 41 here today. It ALMOST feels like it could snow at any moment. (And it certainly looks that way, seeing as the sky is once again cloudy and overcast…)

Okay, can someone tell me what’s up with those new Kleenex commercials? (Yes, I know that was an abrupt segue, but I just happened to catch a glimpse of one of these new ads, and they really annoy me.) You know, the one where there’s a couch set up in the middle of a busy city sidewalk, and random people sit down and talk about their random problems with some random stranger (a sidewalk therapist?), until they’re bawling like little girls and need – what else? – a Kleenex. These ads are so bizarre to me… if some guy in the middle of downtown Austin invited me to sit on his couch and talk about my problems, I’d be running – RUNNING – in the other direction. What kind of weirdo ad campaign IS this? It’s supposed to make me want to buy tissues? I think all it does is make me never want to meet the sort of people who would willingly sit down for a session with a “sidewalk therapist.” (Able to spout psychobabble in the time it takes for that stoplight to change! I’ll have you blaming your mother for everything bad in your life before it turns green!) They’re just really weird ads… I want to see the “bottle it all up inside” commercials…

And speaking of really weird (see, now THERE’S a segue)… yesterday, Rick sent me a link to a Microsoft message board thread. Which normally, I’m sure I wouldn’t find the least bit interesting. But this one was rather amusing. It was started by a person in the U.K., who was extremely upset that Microsoft didn’t provide a “British English” version of Windows. OTHER languages have their own versions of Windows, this person argued, like Spanish and Chinese and Danish. But the English version only comes in “American” English. So words like “favorites” and “colors” have been dumbed down into our slovenly American dialect, instead of retaining their proper British spellings, which would be “favourites” and “colours.” This person then went on to condemn America’s influence on the rest of the world, and bemoaned the fact that young people in the U.K. are starting to use words like (gasp!) “movie.” (In place of what, I wonder? Film? Cinema? Well, certainly something more proper and essential than a silly word like “movie.”)

I wondered, as I read the message board thread and the list of complaints this person had, whether he or she realized that Microsoft is an American company. And Microsoft probably assumes, no matter which dialect you’ve grown accustomed to, that anyone who speaks English can understand the meaning of the words “favorites” and “colors.” When I read books or magazines that were written in the U.K., I don’t get all bent out of shape if they haven’t been “translated” into “American.” I mean, sure, it took me a few chapters of “Bridget Jones’s Diary” to figure out that “Silk Cut” was a brand of cigarette, and that “Milk Tray” was some kind of chocolate. And I got a bit tripped up by a sentence where someone was “queuing up at the till.” But it only took a minute for me to figure out it meant “standing in line at the cash register” (although “queuing up at the till” does seem more efficient…).

And that’s kind of my point – as Nick will happily point out, languages are constantly evolving and changing. Just because I say “standing in line at the cash register” now, doesn’t mean I couldn’t eventually adopt “queuing up at the till” for its obvious practical use of syllables. The person who posted on the Microsoft message board kept talking about the “corruption” of the “mother tongue.” Because Americans spell words like “color” without a “u”? Because kids in the U.K. are starting to use the word “movie”?? I wonder if this person has ever read a work of literature – like Beowulf or the Canterbury Tales – in Old English or Middle English. They were both written in English, but it’s certainly not like any “English” WE have ever used. The “mother tongue” of hundreds of years ago was completely different than what is spoken today. In fact, the English of fifty years ago was different than it is today. And the English used fifty years from now will be different, too. So will all the other languages in the world. It’s impossible to hold a language captive and not allow it to change in any way, shape or form.

So British kids are saying “movie” – who cares? At least they’re not saying “comfortability.” (Or ARE they?) :)

Monday, January 29, 2007

That oleander can be quite shady...

Talking about True Lies the other day got me thinking about that movie Children of Men again (which, the more I think about, the less I like). And why, you ask, would a movie full of gratuitous violence and random explosions and lots of special effects remind me of the much-lauded Children of Men? Because, if you’ll recall, my main grievance with that movie was its lack of conflict – the fact that beyond the initial layer, there was very little substance. And as I watched Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his pre-governor days, wielding automatic weapons and throwing punches and riding a horse into an elevator, I realized that even THIS rather senseless action movie had conflict. There was an obvious beginning/middle/end to the struggles within the characters – to put it simply, at the beginning of the movie, all the family relationships were a mess, and at the end, they were one big happy family. Simple and obvious. That’s not to say that conflict within a story has to be simple and obvious – but it does have to BE. And I’ve been heartened by some of the more recent reviews I’ve read concerning Children of Men. Now that the knee-jerk, “best movie of 2006!!” reaction has died down a bit, people are starting to actually WATCH the film and see it for what it is – which is pretty much a shallow, one-dimensional, pointless film. It’s sad, too, because that movie so easily could’ve been an emotional, multi-layered story. (And maybe the book IS that way… like I said last time, I need to get the book and see if it’s better than the movie…probably… most books are…)

So it’s a very depressing Monday here in Austin. After a nice weekend where the sun finally graced us with its presence for two whole days in a row, the weather is back to cloudy and gloomy and rather cold. Although not as cold as Chicago, which, I’ve noticed, has been below freezing the last few days, with wind chills in the negatives. And, according to Eric, who sent me a text message earlier just to make me jealous, it’s snowing. Sigh… I remember snow… REAL snow – not that dusting-of-powdered-sugar stuff we get here every now and then.

But if it was snowing, then there wouldn’t be half a dozen men out in my backyard revamping the landscaping. We were having lots of weed problems with the original landscaping, which was apparently causing Rick a multitude of emotional pain. At least that’s what he said. Personally, I’ve never been all that emotionally vested in the plants around my house. They’re just THERE, and that’s that. I mean, sure, I was a little scared of the oleander outside the kitchen window, ever since reading about how oleander is one of the most poisonous plants you can find. But it’s not like I would cower in fear next to the dishwasher every time the wind blew the branches against the window… scratch… scratch… I’m coming to get YOU, Lisa… scratch… Um, yeah, it wasn’t like that at all. (I’m SO glad they chopped that thing down this morning… but not because I was afraid of it or anything… I wasn’t… it was just a tree…)

I think all of the men working outside are Mexican… and it’s times like this that I wish I was fluent in another language. In this case, of course, Spanish. Because earlier today, as they were digging in the yard to bury a drain pipe, I heard one of them start yelling to someone else. And his voice was what I would describe as “panicky.” I had no idea what he was saying, but if I had to guess, I’d think it was something like, “stop digging there! You’ll hit the gas line! We’ll all explode!” And nothing has exploded yet, so I guess he got his point across. But seriously, I do wonder what all the yelling was about. It sort of made me nervous for a few seconds… but when I ventured a look outside, everyone was smiling and laughing, so it couldn’t have been TOO serious. Maybe it was a joke…

But I guess I will trust that everything is under control out there, and the dangerous oleander has been wrestled to the ground, and the gas line is still intact, because it’s 4 o’clock and I need to jump on the treadmill to increase my step count for today (currently at 8,315…). Not to mention that exercise is one of the few things that seems able to boost my mood on cloudy, gloomy days. SOME day the sun will be back… I hope… :)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Love me or leave me...

I’m watching the end of True Lies – that movie that stars the governor of California (it just sounds funny to say that, doesn’t it?). I’ve seen this movie bunches of times since its release in 1994 (had to look that up on the Internet Movie Database – I didn’t actually KNOW the release date of True Lies… I mean, my life isn’t THAT empty…), but I didn’t realize until just a few years ago that one of the characters in the movie is named Faisal. I only realized it after my friend Faisal said, “did you realize that one of the characters in True Lies is named Faisal?” and I suppose I must’ve said, “why no – I did NOT realize that.” But in my mind, I was thinking, “gosh, Faisal is so self-absorbed... it’s all about HIM, isn’t it?” (Just kidding. :)) And now that I know about it, I hear the name mentioned every time I watch the movie – it’s like, well, of COURSE there’s a character named Faisal in True Lies. Just like there’s a character named Lisa in… uh… hold on, I’ll think of one… just a sec… um… okay, c’mon, seriously, there’s gotta be a movie with a character named Lisa… uuuuhhhh… I’m sure it’s just temporarily slipped my mind, because there have to be TONS of movies with characters named Lisa, right? Right?

Okay, I was curious, so a quick search on has uncovered a whole list of movies that are simply titled “Lisa.” Who knew there were so many movies named after me? Most of them are foreign, however. There’s a Dutch movie called Lisa, which, according to a review, is about “a girl who loves mountaineering, falls in love with a piano player, and gets contaminated with the HIV virus.” Hmmm… I think I’ll skip that one. There’s a Spanish short film called Lisa, and a Swedish animated family show called Lisa. There’s even an Indian movie called Lisa, which features characters by the names of Kala, Murali, Suresh, Madhava Menon, Gopalan, Deviyamma, Sankunni, Bhavithradan Namputhirippadu, and… Lisa. Lisa?? Okay, that one confuses me. And yet strangely intrigues me at the same time… it seems to be a rather obscure movie, however. They don't even give a synopsis of the story on the website. I'd probably have a hard time catching a showing of this cinematic endeavor, even with the multitude of movie channels I have on DirecTV...

But I think, after browsing through these titles, the “Lisa” movie we should all see is a 2001 French movie that was obviously named specifically after yours truly. One of the reviews (written by a French man) proclaims, “you will like Lisa very, very much… you will fall in love with Lisa… every word she will pronounce will make you shivering.” Does this guy know me or what? This is EXACTLY what I’m aiming for with all these blurbs I’m writing. I mean, I’m not just writing for the fun of it here. I expect after a while that everyone will like me very much, eventually fall in love with me, and all the words I write will make everyone, uh… shiver, I guess. Are you shivering yet? Does anyone need a blanket? (I really shouldn’t ridicule this French guy’s attempt at English… his English is ten thousand times better than my non-existent French…) So, just to review: like me, love me, shiver. (Actually, the shivering is optional.) In other words, it’s all about me.

Not that I’m self-absorbed or anything… :)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Mmmm... cherry jam...

I’m flipping through the new Williams-Sonoma catalog that came in the mail today. I love Williams-Sonoma, but some of the things they sell seem just a little TOO specific… a little TOO tailored to the requirements of preparing one single particular dish. For instance, on page 18 I came across a recipe for “cherry jam-filled ricotta pancakes,” which sound really good. And the recipe seems simple enough – I’m fairly certain I could create a respectable reproduction of what’s pictured in the catalog, but there’s one problem. To make these cherry jam-filled ricotta pancakes, I would need a filled-pancake PAN. And how often, in the course of my entire lifetime, am I going to make filled pancakes? Is it enough to justify buying a pan that can ONLY be used to make filled pancakes? I’m not sure it is… (but I wouldn’t mind buying a jar of the sour cherry jam they’re selling on the same page…)

What I DO need from Williams-Sonoma is a cutting board. I used to have a cutting board – it was a really nice wooden board, and I only used it for fruits and vegetables. (Never meat, of course, because that would just spread salmonella all over the kitchen… but discussing my OCD tendencies isn’t really important right now…) But somehow, when we moved back to Texas from New Jersey, I lost my cutting board. I’m sure I packed it – I can remember standing in my kitchen in New Jersey and tossing it into a box, probably quite unceremoniously. It was just a cutting board, after all. But after a few weeks in my new house here in Texas, I realized that my cutting board hadn’t turned up. It always takes a while to unpack every box when you move to a new house (in fact, I THINK there may be a box in the bedroom that was never unpacked… we might be using it as a table for the phone… maybe… that’s not crazy, is it? Nah, of course not…), but even once I’d opened every box marked “kitchen,” the cutting board hadn’t surfaced. (And no, the box in the bedroom isn’t marked “kitchen”…)

And what’s even more interesting is that in my search for “kitchen” boxes and the missing cutting board, I unearthed a box of perfectly practical, never-once-opened glasses that someone gave us as a wedding gift. Yes, eleven years after I got married, I found an unopened wedding gift. (That’s not crazy, either, right? Nah, of course not…) These glasses made the move from our first apartment to our second apartment… then to our first house in Texas to our house in New Jersey… and then finally to our new house in Texas. And not ONCE did I notice them. Or maybe I just figured I had plenty of glasses already. I can’t even remember who they were from… I’m not sure it was anyone I actually knew personally. But whoever it was, I’m pretty sure they didn’t get a thank you note. Oops. My bad. And I DO use the glasses now, so feel a slight twinge of guilt every time I fill one with water or orange juice or soda… years ago, someone out there assumed I just couldn’t be bothered with penning a thank you note for their lovely gift, when in reality I just didn’t NOTICE their lovely gift. (Wait – which one of those scenarios is better??)

But even though I found a box of “new” glasses, I was never able to find my cutting board. I’ve looked through every box I can find, even the ones in the garage that seem to be filled with random junk. The cutting board – and whatever else I packed in that box – has disappeared. I’ve been chopping vegetables on dinner plates or paper towels or the countertop, always wishing I had my nice wooden cutting board again. How does a cutting board vanish into thin air?

Oh well – at least it gives me an excuse to browse through the Williams-Sonoma catalog. And when I buy my cutting board, perhaps I’ll go ahead and invest in one of those filled-pancake pans… I do like cherry jam...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

And sometimes Y...

When we went to Seattle’s Best this morning, we heard the guy at the cash register telling the girl in line ahead of us about how he took three years of German in high school. So when it was our turn to order, my mom mentioned that I’d taken FOUR years of German in high school (thereby crowning me Queen of High School German). The baristas explained that someone had accidentally left behind a German phrase book in the coffee shop, and they’d been flipping through it all morning. “Ich bin müde,” exclaimed the girl who made our coffees, as if to demonstrate. Which even Rick can tell you means “I am tired.” (I think Rick retained “I am tired,” “I am hungry,” and “that is not very good” from the two semesters of German he took in college…)

And then we all broke out into the German alphabet song – which is pretty much the same as the English alphabet song, with a different pronunciation for all the letters. A is “ah,” B is “bey,” C is “tsay,” etc. It also ends rather strangely, because the German pronunciation of W is the monosyllabic “vey.” However, the missing syllables are rediscovered once we get to Y, which is pronounced something like “oopsillon.” Use of the letter Y in German is actually pretty rare – it’s usually only found in words that were adopted from other languages and not really translated into a German equivalent. Like “yoga”… or the website “Yahoo.” But even so, my high school German teacher was obsessed with that stupid letter, and would incessantly tweak our pronunciation any time we recited the alphabet:

Frau (Her name was Frau Newcomer, but we eventually just shortened it to “Frau”): No, no, it’s not “oopsilon,” it’s “oooooopsilon.”

Us: Oooooooopsilon

Frau: Oeoeoeoepsilon

Us: Eeeewwwwpsilon

Frau: Watch my mouth – eeeeeooooooeeoeoeoepsilon

Us: Eueueueoooooopsilon

Frau: Oopsilon!!

Us: Screw it. We never use that letter anyway…

My first year in German class, we were all assigned new “German” names. There was a guy named Mike who became Michael… a guy named Mark who became Markus… a guy named Dave who became David – it seemed like a pretty simple system. And then there were the girls – me, and another girl named Kim (like I’ve mentioned before, there weren’t too many of us in my German class). Kim became “Ute.” Ute? How do you get Ute from Kim? Mike gets to be Michael, and Kim is Ute?? It didn’t bode well for me. I can think of several German names not too far removed from “Lisa” – Liesel, Liese, Lotte, Lieselotte, whatever. But would I be assigned one of these monikers? No, of course not. My teacher decided that I should be “Inge.”

And it’s funny how different regions of the world, and something as simple as a name, can conjure up different images. Because “Inge,” I believe, can not only be considered a German name, but also a Swedish name. But Swedish Inge would be totally different than German Inge – Swedish Inge would be a tall blond bikini model, whereas German Inge would be a three hundred pound pastry chef. At least that’s the way I pictured them. But pastry chef or not, I was stuck with Inge. For four years of German. And it may have annoyed me at first (although I think I liked it better than “Ute”), but after a while I started getting used to it. The handful of us German students would use our German names with each other, even outside of class… there were so few of us that it became like a code. A foreign-sounding-name code. My friends who didn’t take German thought my temporary name was funny, but they’d laugh once and then forget all about it. My fellow German students, however, would shoot me a “hey Inge” in the hallway when they saw me between classes, without the slightest hint of sarcasm or mockery. And after those four years of German, “Inge” just sort of became synonymous with who I was. The name I’d hated during my freshman year turned into a unique Germanic nickname. I guarantee no one else in that school ever answered to the name Inge. (And they probably wouldn’t have wanted to, anyway…)

And since I am neither a tall blond bikini model or a three hundred pound pastry chef, AND there are both Swedes and Germans in my family lineage, I’ve decided that MY Inge is an American by way of Germany by way of Sweden. And that’s not confusing or weird at all. Unlike that crazy German letter Y…

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Penny for your (non-specific) thoughts...

Oh my gosh, 24 was so STUPID last night…

Haha! Just kidding. Trying to upset Greg… :) Looks like 24 this season is going to be a family affair. Who knew that bald guy with the glasses would turn out to be Jack’s brother? (I wondered why his identity was so shrouded in mystery last season. I kept asking “who IS that guy?” and they never told me…) And what a family Jack has! Remember those games you used to play with your brother? You know, when you were just fooling around and having fun? Like the one where you’d tie him to a chair and choke him and throw a plastic bag over his head? Yeah, Jack and his brother were playing that game last night. They seem close. It was a poignant reunion. And apparently next week, Jack will be reunited with his father (played by the farmer from the “Babe” pig movie – “that’ll do, Jack. That’ll do.”).

But moving on… I was just reading about a “study” conducted by a bunch of researchers – who, I guess, we’re supposed to assume are “smart” – in which they concluded that people tend to daydream when they have nothing else to think about. Apparently, although they weren’t certain what sorts of things were happening in the minds of their fellow man, the researchers were able to agree on one thing: when there is nothing terribly important to think about, the mind does not simply go blank. Instead, the mind continues to generate thought, even when no direction to the thought is given. The amazing, groundbreaking group of researchers decided to call this unbelievable phenomenon “stimulus-independent thought,” or “mind wandering.”

And all I can say is THANK GOODNESS someone finally conducted this research… because it’s certainly nothing we all knew in the first place, and it’s definitely going to change the way we, uh… it’s going to change the entire… um, it’s really, really important because… well, it just IS, and that’s all there is to it. I mean, up until now, I’ve never known WHAT to call it when my mind starts to wander. And now, at long last, I have an official, clinical term – mind wandering. Usually when my mind wanders, I call it “potato peeling” or “Hungarian folk dancing,” but I can see now that “mind wandering” probably makes more sense. I used to get some pretty strange looks during our Tuesday morning meetings at my proofreading job, when I’d apologize for Hungarian folk dancing during my boss’s boring reiteration of the previous week’s projects… (Side note to brilliant researchers: this is called “sarcasm.” Maybe you could conduct a study on how often ridiculous, useless research results in sarcastic comments from the general public.)

And something else about this “study” confuses me – the researchers concluded that “mind wandering” occurs “when people are not specifically thinking about” something. Not SPECIFICALLY thinking about something. But when would a person not be specifically thinking about something? Even if you’re just thinking about what you want to make for dinner on Wednesday night – you’re specifically thinking about what to make for dinner. Or if your mind “wanders” to an island in the Caribbean, where it’s warm and sunny – you’re specifically thinking about a place you’d rather be. What constitutes “specific” and “non-specific” thought? Is it simply the difference between thought connected to ACTION and thought connected to nothing in particular? So thinking about what you want to make for dinner tomorrow would be non-specific, but thinking about making dinner WHILE you’re making dinner would be specific?

All these questions are hurting my brain… I think I’ll go stare out the window and engage in some stimulus-independent thought…

Shhhh… leave me alone – can’t you see I’m potato peeling?

Monday, January 22, 2007

THIS is why they drink so much coffee in Seattle...

When I woke up yesterday morning, I noticed a big, glowing, ball of fire in the sky. I immediately contacted police, who informed me that they had also noticed the strange anomaly, and they put me in contact with an astronomer at the University of Texas. When I mentioned, in a panicky voice, the very serious nature of my call, the astronomer merely sighed loudly and spoke to me in a way that suggested he’d been answering many of the same sorts of calls all morning:

Astronomer: It’s the sun.

Me: The sun?

Astronomer: Yeah. The sun. It’s been there forever. Since the beginning of time. It’s the thing that provides us with light and heat and makes this planet habitable for humans. Unlike, say, Neptune. Neptune is cold. Really cold. No one wants to live there.

Me: Have you been there?

Astronomer: Neptune? Have I been to NEPTUNE?

Me: Yeah. I mean, if you haven’t been there, how would you know if you’d want to live there or not?

Astronomer (after long, incredulous pause): I’m just guessing. I don’t think I’d be happy in the negative 350 degree temperatures.

Me: Wow – negative 350 degrees? That’s like- what? Like Antarctica?

Astronomer: (total silence)

Me: Um, so the sun, huh? Thanks…

It had been a while since we’d seen the sun here in Austin. And yesterday was perfect – not a cloud in the sky – but today it’s back to being cloudy and dreary and depressing. (Although I have seen the sun peek through the clouds a couple times… but I'm not holding onto the hope that it will actually stick around...) We’re not supposed to have sun again until Thursday, and then it’s only for one day. Then it’s back to cloudydrearydepressing for another fifteen years. I think I’ll go to Hawaii…

Speaking of traveling, I finally hung my big “traveler’s map” that mom and dad gave us for Christmas on the wall in my foyer. It came with one box of pins, but mom ordered an extra box, which was a good idea. They’re color coded – the red ones are for places you’ve already visited, and the green ones are for places you WANT to visit. Well, I ran out of green pins pretty quickly. Even with the extra box. And since I’d really love to visit EVERYWHERE, I had to be rather choosy when selecting spots for my green pins.

Here's the whole map...

Western hemisphere... I only put one red pin in the U.S., not in each individual state... well, except for Alaska and Hawaii. And I only put a pin in Toronto, even though I've "sort of" been to Vancouver... but it was really just the airport. I'm pretty sure I've been to a few other places in Canada, too (I seem to recall my parents talking about Nova Scotia...), but I was probably too young to remember. But I've definitely been to Toronto about five thousand times...

Now, like I said, I had to conserve my green pins. I put one in La Paz, Bolivia, because that's the highest capital city in the world and I think it'd be cool to visit... and I put one in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, although I'm really more interested in visiting the countries, not those particular cities. I also put a green pin in Reykjavik, Iceland, which Rick thought was really weird ("Iceland?? You want to go to Iceland???"). What's wrong with Iceland? I've heard lots of good things about Reykjavik...

And along with the red and green pins, I also had two yellow flags to mark "favorite" destinations. So on the Western half, I put one in Hawaii...

...and on the Eastern half, I put one in Rome. It's kind of hard to tell in the picture which pins are red and which are green -- but I have quite a nice collection of red pins in the Europe/Scandinavia area, but that's about it. Although I did put green pins in Prague, Vienna, and the Switzerland/Austria border (I think that's where Liechtenstein is...) But everything south of Europe is a green pin...

And most of those places would probably be sunnier than it's been here for the last few weeks...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A few ice pictures...

Icicles outside the living room window...

These are little yellow flowers, but I took it in black and white for some reason...

Tree in the front yard with a bird's nest in the middle...

Another tree in the front yard...

I don't know what these plants are, but I really loved the way the red berries looked with the ice all over them...

All this ice will be gone by tomorrow... :)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

'Tis the season (premiere)...

Well, it looks like most of the ice is starting to melt, and businesses are slowly opening up again. Which is good, because after 36 hours of being stuck inside my house with absolutely no hope of leaving, I was starting to get rather stir-crazy. Actually there WAS a business open yesterday – the Walgreens drugstore down the street. Oh, and the CVS drugstore across from the Walgreens. (We’ve been unable to figure out WHY, exactly, that CVS decided to build directly across the street from the Walgreens, but now it seems like anything the Walgreens does, the CVS tries to do better… so if Walgreens was gonna force its employees to drive on slippery sheets of solid ice in the freezing rain and sleet to open the store, then by God, so was CVS… it’s like neighborhood drugstore wars…)

And in other news (okay, it’s not really “news”)… I watched the two-night, four-hour, season premiere extravaganza of 24 this week, even though I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it again this year. But the fact that hour 4 ended WITHOUT Jack Bauer saving the day like a superhero has convinced me that I may have to give it a chance again. At least until hour 16 or 17, which is where it started losing me last time (“can we wrap this thing UP already???”). I wasn’t sure if I’d still watch after the first two hours – Jack’s been in a Chinese prison for 20 months, where apparently his captors fed him 2200 calories a day and allowed him unlimited access to gym equipment. Because all he had to do was shave his matted, scruffy beard and he was back in top form. And then there was the use of a plot device I’m pretty certain was already used last season – Jack calls up CTU, tells them they’re after the wrong man, and tells them who they SHOULD be after. But, “oh no, we can’t trust Jack Bauer – not the guy who’s never steered us in the wrong direction and always has correct hunches. He might be screwed up in the head because of all that Chinese food…” Did they not use the exact same thing last time? Jack tells everyone what they should be doing – and he’s correct – but no one wants to believe him. Even though he’s ALWAYS been right in the past. I guess that’s why the president finally gave him control of the operation – finally, after a myriad of times being “right,” someone realized that Jack usually knows what he’s talking about. (Of course, this’ll probably turn out to be the one time he’s wrong… who knows…)

And then there was Kal Penn. I saw his name listed in the names of the guest stars the first night and I was like, “Cool! Kal Penn! Kumar!” (Uh, that’s Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, for anyone who missed that movie… it’s an incredibly dumb yet absurdly funny movie... at least I think so… but I tend to have a weird sense of humor at times…) On 24 his character’s name was Ahmed, and when we first see him, the FBI is dragging his dad away as he insists his dad has done nothing wrong. Then the big neighborhood bully shows up, talking about how “we don’t want your kind here” or some such nonsense, and the nice family across the street decides to intervene. Dad goes over and tells Big Neighborhood Bully to get lost, and that Ahmed and his family are “no more terrorists than we are.” And then he invites Ahmed to stay with his family until things get back to normal. Aw, what a nice guy. But hey, guess what? Ahmed really IS a terrorist, and when he sneaks back to his house to get a “package” the terrorists need, Big Neighborhood Bully shows up again, a scuffle ensues, Ahmed gets thrown into a glass coffee table, and Big Neighborhood Bully gets shot. And then the nice kid from across the street shows up, and everything just goes downhill from there.

I must say it was quite interesting to see Kal Penn in this role – in fact, I have to assume he took it because he’s trying to break away from his “college comedies” typecasting. But it was rather disconcerting to see silly, hamburger-hunting Kumar holding a gun and snarling, “do exactly as I say or I’ll kill your family.” And when the kid from across the street says, “but Ahmed, we’re friends!” and Ahmed says, “friends? You can’t even pronounce my name right. It’s not ah-med, it’s agh-med,” I just wanted to slap him silly. But I guess that just means he’s equally as convincing as a bad guy as he is playing a guy who’s got the munchies… I was scared… I wanted to give him a bag of White Castle burgers and hope that was enough to appease him…

As a little side drama, CTU was thrown into chaos by a passionate love triangle consisting of two fairly decent-looking guys, and Chloe. Wait – Chloe? Two guys are fighting over Chloe? Chloe. That girl who’s always scowling and looks mad at the world? That girl who snaps at everyone and furrows her brow and acts like she’s doing you a favor just by coming to work? That Chloe? Maybe there’s a different Chloe somewhere… or maybe I just don’t have a clue what guys find attractive… which is totally possible…

But like I said, the ending was quite a surprise. It’s not too often that Jack Bauer can’t save the world. So I’ll stick around for a few more hours and see where this is leading. I’ll bet it’s leading to a White Castle…

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It's snowing!! It's snowing!!!

Or, in German: Es schneit!! Es schneit!!! I'd say it in some other language, too, but that's pretty much the extent of my language knowledge...

But yes, we're actually getting SNOW here in Austin. I think it's more a mix of snow and sleet (because snow doesn't usually make noise when it hits the ground... and it doesn't bounce around like popcorn, either...). But there's definitely snow in there, too. If it actually amounts to anything, I'll really be amazed. But at the moment, I'm just amazed that I can actually see little white flakes falling to the ground outside. I took some pictures, although I don't know if they do justice to what a monumental event this is:

This picture sort of just looks fuzzy -- but it's fuzzy because it's snowing...

Hmmm... this one is better at showing the ice all over the car... but the snow is there... really...

Can you see it? If you look over toward that red truck, you can kinda tell how there are flaky white things falling around it...

All the kids in the neighborhood are outside right now -- my mom just called to say there are a bunch of kids out in the cul-de-sac by their house, lying in the street making snow angels. In the eighth of an inch of white stuff on the ground. Half of which is hard, crunchy, frozen sleet. Yeah, you can tell we don't get much snow around here...

Monday, January 15, 2007


We’re having a nice dose of winter weather today. Austin has finally plunged into the elusive “below freezing” range of temperatures. It’s 31 right now, and it’s supposed to drop down to about 27 eventually. But even when it’s this cold, the dreary gray clouds still seem unable to produce snow. Instead, we get this annoying mix of rain and sleet… and once the ground is cold enough, it’ll freeze into glassy sheets of ice. So far, though, it’s just really cold. (Well, it’s really cold, AND any car left outside overnight was encased in car-shaped ice this morning…)

I still think it’s amusing how weather like this is such a huge deal here. Half the city is already shut down, and if the precipitation continues, I’m sure the other half will be closed by afternoon. I just saw a weather update on the news, where they cut to someone “braving the elements” outside:

Newscaster in warm studio: So what’s it like out there Quita?

Quita Culpepper: Oh it’s definitely getting colder. I’ve already slipped on the sidewalk several times. And take a look at this: (camera zooms in to focus on a tree branch covered with ice) The trees are already covered with ice. It’s cold. Really, really cold. And icy.

Newscaster in warm studio: Wow. Thanks for that report Quita. You stay warm. Heh heh.

I mean, is it really “news” that the sidewalks are a little slippery and the trees are covered with ice? (Well, I suppose it IS when it only happens one or two days a year, if that…) My dad and I – ever-intrepid, brave explorers that we are – ventured out into the cold and the occasional drop of freezing rain to make the journey to Seattle’s Best. (Mom decided to stay indoors with a cup of tea. She just doesn’t understand the vital importance of morning coffee…) And for the most part, the roads were just fine. There was one bridge near the coffee shop that was starting to get a bit slick, but that’s why they put those big, yellow, “watch for ice on bridge” signs on the side of the road. My dad and I stood in Seattle’s Best, waiting for our coffee, looking out the window and watching the cars that were c-r-a-w-l-i-n-g across the bridge. There was one pickup truck that literally drove across the bridge at about 5 miles per hour. (That’s why you should put big bags of kitty litter and rock salt in the back of your truck – it not only weighs down the lighter end of the truck, but if you DO get stuck, you have kitty litter and rock salt for traction…)

It’s just funny how even the MENTION of the word “ice” shuts down this city. (Fortunately, the coffee shop was open…) And the worst of it isn’t supposed to arrive until tomorrow morning – tomorrow is when all the roads might actually be icy, and the coffee shop might actually be closed. I’ll have to make do with home-brewed coffee. (But I wonder if I’ll ever be able to build a snowman again?)

And on another topic altogether – Rick and I went to see “Children of Men” Saturday night. I had high hopes for this movie, judging from all the rave reviews it’s been getting. And I love Clive Owen – ever since those great BMW mini-movie commercials (if you haven’t seen the one with Madonna, do a search on You Tube… funny…) – so it really pains me to say that I was quite disappointed in the movie. It was nowhere near as good as I thought it would be. It was “okay,” but that’s about it.

And it took me a while to really put my finger on what, exactly, left me less-than-impressed with the movie. Because it’s not like it was just outright horrible. It wasn’t at all. It was well-acted, it held my interest more or less, and it had great cinematography. (There was one scene near the end that was particularly fascinating, when Clive Owen’s character, Theo, was running through a war-torn neighborhood, dodging bullets and explosions and piles of rubble. About halfway through that scene, I realized they’d been using the same camera throughout the shot – the entire scene was shot in one, long, continuous take. Which was pretty impressive when I thought about the logistics of filming such a scene.) And it didn’t even bother me too much that the movie was rife with unanswered questions. I mean, so what if we don’t know for sure whether Theo died or just passed out… or whether the girl and the baby made it to the boat… or why everyone was infertile to begin with… or what happened to the midwife… or why there were a bunch of burning cows near Jasper’s house… or why Julianne Moore got top billing when she’s only in the movie for about fifteen minutes… or why all the illegal immigrants the government rounds up seem to be German… or why movies set in a bleak future always have a pot-smoking hippie in a safe house…

Like I said, none of that really bothered me too much, because I’ve seen plenty of movies with “unanswered questions.” No, there was something else about Children of Men that disappointed me, and I realized what it was after I’d had a day to think about it. A few years ago, I took a fiction writing class at St. Ed’s, where we had to write several short stories. I was so proud of the first one I turned in – it was about a girl whose car was stolen… it was set in New York City… it was funny and had great dialogue… and I was certain, of course, that it was well-written. So imagine my surprise when the professor returned it to me with this comment: “I know something happens in this story, but nothing happens in this story.” That was the day I learned about “conflict.” Conflict is NOT all the huge, crazy things that happen in a story to move the drama along – the girl in my story may have had a problem when her car was stolen, but it was a CRISIS, not a conflict – the conflict of a story is the more subtle moral/ethical/psychological problems and changes that occur in the characters of a story.

And that was what I finally realized about Children of Men – a whole lot of stuff happens in that movie, but not much actually HAPPENS in that movie. I guess it could be argued that the conflict in the story was Theo’s attempts to accept his son’s death – and I guess we’re supposed to assume he’s come to terms with it when the girl says she’ll name her daughter “Dylan” (Theo's son's name). But the “change” in his character is so subtle (if it’s there at all – I really didn’t get much of a sense of change in ANY of the characters) that the movie ends up seeming unfinished and rather senseless. The whole movie, I was waiting for something to HAPPEN… but nothing ever did…

But like I said, the acting was good, the cinematography was good – so I suppose as a “visual work of art” it might work. But as a STORY, it fell quite flat. I might buy the book and read it, to see if it’s better than the movie (which is usually the case, anyway). It may be easier to create subtle conflict in book form as opposed to onscreen. Just my opinion… plenty of people seemed to LOVE this movie, so to each his own…

Anyway, I’d better go get something hot to drink, before I freeze right here in my living room…

Friday, January 12, 2007

Walking with my cat in rainy Vegas, drinking a mocha. (Or something like that...)

Some random thoughts today, since I have nothing very coherent:

It’s been gray and dreary the last few days, and it’s expected to stay like this for a while longer. I hate days like this – when I wake up in the morning, assuming it’s barely six or six thirty, only to discover half the morning is already gone and I’d better get out of bed so I can trek down to Seattle’s Best for my morning coffee. It takes a little longer to wake up, a little longer for the sleepy fog to clear, a little longer to realize it might make things a bit brighter if the kitchen lights were turned ON. (I just turned them on… and it’s two o’clock in the afternoon. I just NOW figured out that those bulbs up on the ceiling are capable of casting illumination into my dark abode. I am brilliant. Not as brilliant as those lights, obviously. But brilliant nonetheless.)

I just discovered a great new coffee drink – mom and dad and I met Rick for lunch this afternoon, and afterwards we stopped by It’s A Grind. It’s A Grind is a coffee shop Rick and I first discovered out in San Diego, and they’ve slowly been adding new shops across the country. Their hot drinks are good, but what we like even more are their cold blended drinks – I’d take an It’s A Grind blended coffee over a Starbucks frappuccino any day. But they just added a new hot drink to their menu, something called an “Aztec mocha.” It’s a mocha with cinnamon, chili, and spices added. When mom read the description, she was a little skeptical – “CHILI? In a mocha?” Chili and chocolate is actually a popular combination in the Southwest. In fact, there’s a restaurant in Austin called Z Tejas that serves a “famous” ancho chili fudge pie. And while I’ve never actually tried it myself (why haven’t I tried it?? I don’t think I’ve ever had dessert at Z Tejas… I’m going to have to remedy that… ), food critics seem to love it. Chili helps to bring out the flavor of chocolate. So it’s no surprise that I LOVE the Aztec mocha from It’s A Grind – I’d have to say it’s my favorite mocha of any coffee place I frequent. Those Aztecs really provided a great service to the culinary world by introducing everyone to chocolate…

You know those commercials for Las Vegas – “what happens here, stays here”? They confuse me. Every one is the same sort of thing – a wife asks her husband what he did while he was in Vegas, and he laughs nervously and says something about going to Cirque du Soleil. Or parents come back from Vegas, and their kids ask about what they did, and the parents look at each other and blurt out something about Wayne Newton. Etc, etc. I want to know WHAT it is these people are doing in Vegas. What is it that happens there and has to stay there?? Are they all having wild affairs? Shoplifting? Being arrested for public drunkenness? Pulling a Britney Spears and getting married and divorced in the same weekend? What IS it, exactly? I mean, it’s not like every hotel room in Vegas comes with a hooker and a minibar stocked with illegal drugs. I was just in Las Vegas last year – I walked around in the 105-degree heat. I bought a much-too-expensive designer shirt (which I only bought because it was on sale – the regular price was a ridiculous amount to spend for a shirt…). I drank a couple margaritas. I watched some lions in a glass enclosure at the hotel. I ate some great food at some great restaurants. That’s about it. And now I feel so shortchanged – apparently I was supposed to do something else… something that would be a secret forever and no one would ever know about. I guess I have to go back some time and try a little harder to be bad… yeah, I’m gonna drink THREE margaritas… AND buy a designer shirt at FULL PRICE…

Why is it that my cat will never sleep on my lap like some cats (Ozzie and Kiko, for example…) but she WILL sleep on a pillow if I put it on my lap? What, my lap isn’t squishy enough? (I suppose that should be a compliment to me… I don’t think I’d WANT my lap to be “squishy.”)

Speaking of squishy laps – I’ve been wearing my pedometer every day the last few weeks. I’m trying to average 12,000 steps a day. They (whoever “they” are) recommend 10,000 steps a day, so I’m aiming for a bit more than that. It can actually be surprisingly difficult to reach that magic “10,000” mark… even more, I would imagine, if you had a desk job that kept you seated for many hours during the day. You’d have to get up every fifteen minutes or so and walk a few laps around the office. Which probably isn’t such a bad idea anyway…

Well, I’m only at 5,084 for the day, so I should go walk a few more laps around my house (or maybe just jump on the treadmill…). Need to work off that yummy Aztec mocha…

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I have a sudden craving for cotton candy...

So I was flipping through my new issue of Shape magazine yesterday, skimming through the articles and looking at pictures and glossing over advertisements. And then, sandwiched between “Workout Express” and “Firm & Lean in Just 4 Weeks!” (yeah, right…) was an ad for Jennie-O ground turkey. I actually have bought this particular product before – not for me, but for Rick. (I have a rather strong aversion to any sort of meat that has been ground up and smashed back together into a big blob. I mean, how can you be certain nothing else is in that meat? Like a pencil, or silly putty, or a hairnet that fell off the sweaty head of some guy named Bruno… You don’t know – how COULD you know? Everything has been ground up and smashed back together into a big blob. And even if that meat blob is nothing but a big blob of meat, there’s no telling exactly WHAT sort of meat is in there…)

Okay, I got a bit off track… anyway… so I was flipping through my magazine and ran across this advertisement. And the more I looked at it, the more confused I got. I just – well, here, let me show you the ad:

Again, this is an ad for ground turkey. Ground turkey that can be used in lasagna recipes. Okay, I understand that. That part makes sense. But there are so many things about this ad that DON’T make sense. Let’s start with the model herself – was it really necessary to use a woman whose cheekbones are so sharp they look like they could slice right through that package of ground turkey? And what’s up with that sort of “come hither” look she’s giving the camera? It’s a piece of lasagna, lady… not a Victoria’s Secret ad…

But let’s forget about the model and just focus on what she’s wearing. Below the lasagna plate, she seems to be dressed in a conservative tweed skirt or slacks. Okay, seems reasonable. But ABOVE the plate, she’s decked out in some sort of ruffled, poofy pirate shirt, topped off with what looks like a red velvet jacket, complete with giant, oversized buttons. So while the bottom half is saying, “I’m off to an important business meeting,” the top half is saying, “please direct your attention to the center ring, and watch the man on the flying trapeze.” The bottom half is all prim and proper, and the top half is proud of itself for sneaking a jacket out of the circus clown locker room.

When I first saw the ad, I was so confused by this outfit that I almost didn’t notice the piece of lasagna on the plate. And that’s another problem with the ad – that piece of lasagna is HUGE. That piece of lasagna is bigger than that strange woman’s head. I’m assuming this is supposed to be a single serving of lasagna, and not the entire dish, since it is on a plate, and it’s paired with a nice little green salad (which practically disappears behind that giant piece of baked pasta…). I mean, that thing almost spans the waistband of those conservative tweed pants… it’s bigger than all of those monstrous clown jacket buttons put together… the ruffles in the lasagna are right on par with the ruffles on that horrible shirt. If you’re a person who’s trying to eat right and exercise (which tends to be Shape’s target audience), you probably shouldn’t be eating a slice of lasagna that could be used as a doorstop. I don’t know… maybe I’m being a little too critical. It’s just ground turkey. But I think the ad would have worked better if it was ONLY a picture of lasagna – the half serious/half flamboyant woman with the ridiculously high cheekbones is much too distracting.

Then again, I’m no marketing expert. I’m just a rather peculiar girl with an irrational fear of ground meats…

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

What's that smell? Oh, it's Jessica Biel...

Yesterday, the big story in the news was the natural gas smell that was permeating every corner of Manhattan. People were afraid and uncertain – was it a gas line? If someone lit a match, would the entire island explode in a ball of flame? Should someone have been sent out to extinguish the Statue of Liberty’s torch? It was a perplexing mystery, a frightening conundrum, a bizarre olfactory riddle with no obvious answer. Thank goodness, at least, that my man Derek Jeter was out of the city, traipsing around with that floozy tart Jessica Biel. (What right does SHE have to put her trampy little paws all over MY man? Huh? Jessica Biel – ha! More like Jezebel Biel… running around in her little white bikini on the beach with the love of my life… harlot… Okay, I suppose there’s a possibility I may be overreacting slightly. I mean, seeing as I’ll never actually come into any kind of contact with Derek Jeter… and oh yeah, I’m married. That too. Whatever. Hussy. Trollop. Bimbo. Actually, now I’m just trying to come up with as many words as I can that sound funny and are synonymous to “prostitute”…)

Where was I? Oh yeah – Manhattan smelled bad yesterday. (Eventually, Derek Jeter will realize that Jessica Biel is NOT what he needs to make him happy…) So today I’m browsing through various news sites (I mean, c’mon – I came in second in my fantasy baseball league! Did JESSICA BIEL ever come in second in a fantasy baseball league???), and it seems that many authorities have come to the same conclusion about the strange Manhattan smell. (She’s not even a GOOD actress… oh wait, let me guess – guys don’t care about her “acting ability,” do they? All they care about is how she looks in that stupid white bikini…) Yes, the obvious culprit when a bad smell hits the island of Manhattan is, quite simply, NEW JERSEY.

Here are just a few examples of the headlines today:

NYC Eyes N.J. for Odor Source

Culprit in NYC Gas Smell: Stinky Ol’ New Jersey

New York Officials Say New Jersey May Be to Blame for Manhattan Stink

New Jersey Sniffed Out as Source of Stench

Sure, sure – any time you’re in Manhattan and you get a whiff of something nasty, it MUST be from New Jersey, right? Apparently, because of the way the wind was blowing, they think the smell was coming from the industrialized waterfront. It’s just funny to me how this whole thing played right into the “New Jersey is a cesspool” stereotype that seems to be prevalent out there in non-New-Jersey-land.

Of course, I was guilty of the exact same thing when I was thirteen years old and found out we were moving there – all I could picture in my head was concrete and factories. And flying into Newark doesn’t seem very promising – it IS pretty much just concrete and factories. But I’ll never forget, after a short drive to the west, how green and hilly and rural the rest of New Jersey seemed the first time I saw it. And I’ll never forget sitting in the back of a car, hanging on to the seat for dear life, as our realtor drove us around looking for houses on winding little rural roads. He flung the car around turns and launched it over hills at what seemed impossible speeds. But years later, after I’d been driving around myself on those hilly, twisting roads for some time, Rick would be in my car, hanging on to HIS seat for dear life – those roads just take some getting used to. Once you figure them out, you can navigate them quite easily. :)

It seems a bit unfair to me that New Jersey has this reputation for being full of concrete and refineries, and for being a state that apparently exudes unpleasant smells and unleashes odorous perplexities on its neighbor to the east. We never seem to hear about all the hills, and the trees, and the lakes… or about how it only takes a short drive to find yourself in a place where concrete is few and far between… or about how, in springtime, the air quite frequently smells of flowers. Maybe “Stinky Ol’ New Jersey” smells funny now and then, but so do a lot of other states... ever drive past a herd of cattle in the middle of Nebraska? Or the poultry farms in Georgia? Ever been to the Great Salt Lake? Or the mud pits in Yellowstone? (My mom has many pictures of me with my arm across my nose in these places… I was very sensitive to yucky smells when I was a kid. :))

Sometimes stuff stinks, and that’s just the way it is. Stinky Ol’ New Jersey – ha! More like Stinky Ol’ Jessica Biel…

Monday, January 08, 2007

Look what I found...

My friend Cindy sent me one of these quiz things back when I was on vacation in Hawaii in November, and when I got home, I forgot all about it. I just discovered it a couple days ago, when I was skimming through some old emails. And I was like, “hey! One of those quiz things! I’ll have to use that for a blog post!” I’ve probably answered some of these questions in some of those other lists of questions I’ve posted… but just in case anyone forgot about how weird I am, here’s a refresher:

What time is it?
10:50 a.m.

Full Name?
Lisa Carol Something… I don’t know, should you just put your whole name on the internet? I suppose it doesn’t really matter… not like people can’t find your whole name in all kinds of other places on the internet. I actually kinda wish I’d kept my own last name when I got married – not that I don’t like Rick’s last name, but it’s very, very common. Whereas my own name is very, very uncommon. And it’s funny, because when I was growing up, I didn’t always like my last name, because it seemed so weird, and I felt like it just gave people another reason to make fun of me (although in reality, I don’t think they were actually making fun of my NAME – it was just the way they SAID it that made me feel that way…). But now I see that name as unique and unusual and interesting.

What are you most afraid of?
Really, it’s easier to just ask me what I’m NOT afraid of. Let’s see… I’m not afraid of heights… I’m not afraid of closed-in spaces like elevators… I’m not afraid of the dark… I’m not afraid to fly… I’m not afraid of anything inanimate like garlic or fabric (alliumphobia and textophobia, respectively… seriously, I just found this list of phobias, and apparently there are actually people who are afraid of garlic… vampires, maybe… I’m not sure who would be afraid of fabric…) By the way, am I the only one who thinks it’s hilarious that “Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia” is the “fear of long words”??

Baths or showers?
Showers… I haven’t taken a bath in who-knows-how-long…

Have you ever seen a ghost?
No. And thank goodness, because I’m a total phasmophobic…

Where were you born?
Buffalo, New York. Yippee.

Ever been to Alaska?
Yes. I love Alaska. It’s like Colorado on steroids…

Ever been toilet papering?
No. But I USE toilet paper – does that count for something?

Croutons or Bacon bits:
Probably croutons… not really a big fan of pork products… although I’m not necessarily a big fan of croutons on my salad, either.

Favorite day of the week:
Friday maybe… or maybe Saturday…

Favorite restaurant:
Hmmm… this is probably always changing, because I like to try new places. I love Roy’s, and there’s this great place downtown called The Roaring Fork… I also really love Keefer’s in Chicago, and The Saloon, where Eric took us for steak the last time we were there.

Favorite Flower?
Is it really prosaic to say rose? Yeah, probably. But I do like roses.

Favorite sport to watch?
Do I even have to say? (It’s baseball, in case anyone hasn’t been paying attention…)

Favorite Drink Alcoholic:
Why did this survey start talking like Yoda? Shouldn’t it be “favorite alcoholic drink”? Oh well… anyway, like the restaurant question, this probably changes all the time, too, because I like to try new things. Roy’s restaurant has a great Hawaiian martini that I like… and when we were in Las Vegas, Rick and I went to this great Mexican restaurant that served the BEST margaritas ever. Soooo good. And I just discovered mojitos, which are really good, too. I’ll just take one of each… (just kidding, mom… :))

Favorite Ice cream:
I love chocolate ice cream with marshmallow, but it’s really hard to find that combination in the popular ice creams out there.

Disney or Warner Brothers:
Uh, well, Disney has the better theme parks, I guess.

Favorite fast food restaurant:
I’m not sure I have a favorite… I suppose I’ll have to go with Chick-fil-A.

What color is your bedroom carpet?
A nice, boring, neutral, taupey-beige.

How many times you failed your driver's test?
I never failed my driver’s test, but the first time I went to take it, my mom brought along an EXPIRED insurance card, and I wasn’t allowed to take the test. That was funny. (Actually, I’m not sure I thought it was funny at the time, but it’s funny now. :))

Before this one, from whom did you get your last e-mail from?
Well, like I said, I actually got this back in November, so I don’t know. But today, the last email I got was from Rick.

What do you do most often when you are bored?
Read, write, send text messages to Eric just to bother him…

Is it already? Wow. Seems rather early… oh wait, was that a question? I usually go to bed some time around midnight, give or take an hour…

Favorite TV show?
Hmmm… comedies, I like Scrubs and the Office… dramas, I like Lost, Heroes, and House. Interesting… I seem to like shows that exhibit a certain amount of brevity in their titles… And of course, I’m addicted to the Travel channel, Discovery channel, National Geographic, etc…

Ford or Chevy:
I actually prefer German cars. :) But if I had to choose, I guess I'd go with Ford...

What are you listening to right now?
Shakira on my iPod.

What are your favorite colors?
Purple. And purple. And lavender.

How many tattoos do you have?
Fourteen. Ha! Just kidding. None.

Do you have any pets?
My dog Echo and my cat Allegro.

Which came first the chicken or the egg?
Who cares? They’re both pretty tasty and quite versatile in many different kinds of recipes.

What would you like to accomplish before you die?
That’s like an entire blog post topic right there… maybe I’ll expound on it another time…

Friday, January 05, 2007

April will be here before you know it...

Yesterday, our fearless fantasy baseball league leader Tim sent us all an email. It was a copy of a poem that über-fanatic-Jack Bauer/24-devotee and fellow-fantasy-baseball-leaguer Greg wrote prior to the draft last year. Greg later replied with this: “Lisa needs to post this POEM on her blog. This is blog-worthy!!! Dang, I’m good.”

And, since I really had nothing terribly interesting rattling around in my brain today, I shall grant Greg’s wish and post his “POEM.” I should explain before anyone reads it that apparently there was a bit of an argument between Rick and Nick at the 2005 draft – I wasn’t in the league that year, so I missed it. But I guess there was some name-calling and probably some pointless angry banter, and I think Nick threw a drink in Rick’s face, and then Rick slapped Nick, and then Nick threw his pizza crusts at Rick, and then Rick pulled a cushion off the couch and whapped Nick in the head, and then everyone else joined in and they had a big pillow fight. At least that’s the way I picture it in my mind. Like I said, I wasn’t actually there…

But the point is, the Rick/Nick argument explains the last line of the poem, in case anyone was wondering about it. So here ya go – Greg’s Fantasy Baseball Draft Poem:

It's right around the corner….it's drawing very near;
Is your stomach in knots….is your heart filled with fear?
The day in which I speak will take place at Rick's;
It's Fantasy Baseball Draft Day, baby, 2006!!!

Let's start at the top with pick number one;
My guess is that Bone will take Poo and have oodles of fun.
But he hates the Cardinals for the obvious Astro reason;
He should probably just take Roy O. so he can enjoy this season.

The second pick is definitely a no-brainer for Ed;
Santana goes here….or he's sick in the head.
But I will applaud him and congratulate him because, heck, he's big!!;
And I will not poke fun at his pick because he could break me like a twig.

Blue has the 3rd pick, so who knows who will go;
He should be prepared for our reaction, which will probably be 'DOH!'
It might be A-Rod or Carpenter…who knows with this picker;
Hell, for all we know it might be a Zambrano named Victor.

Now we welcome the rookie with pick number four;

Could her strategy be dependent on how high the Yankees soar?
It's no secret she wants A-Rod, and beating her hubby will be her goal;
But if she takes RJ, hubby will say, 'Fine! Be an asshole!'

Never has there been a more apathetic pick than pick number five;
This poor soul is a wreck after last year's huge dive.
I honestly am baffled by who will be taken here;
The best strategy for Mr. Nick is to consume most of the beer.

Pick number 6 confuses me and causes me much grief;

Will they go starting pitching in the first and on the rebound take Relief?
Halladay, Oswalt, Pedro or Vlad?
Out of those incredible four only one could make me sad.

Now everyone views #7 as the worst pick in the draft;
And everyone assumes this pick will always get the shaft.
Cook won 3rd place money with this pick by using his head;
And I will win it all…Yes, 1st place…that's what I said.

I'll get straight to the point for pick #8;
There's no doubt in my mind that the player will be great.
The only problem with this pick is it makes me feel like fainting;
Because the only question now is who will Moran be tainting?

Near the tail-end of the order we have Mr. Cook;

Will he take a Jake, a Pedro, or even give RJ a look?
Every year Mr. Cook's draft is a draft to behold;
If he took Dewon Braezelton he would turn to gold.

Ahhh, the poem has finally come to pick number 10;

Can Jeter, Cano, Mussina, Posada, and Pavano allow Rick to win?
Rick we have one request this year that would diminish our gloom;
For the love of God, could you and Nick please sit on separate sides of the room?

So Greg, are you working on the 2007 poem? No rush… we still have a few months… :)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Walking the walk...

The much-despised cedar allergy season has arrived here in Austin. This is the time of year when zillions of cedar trees in the hill country fling their potent pollen into the air, where it’s carried on the winds and eventually finds its way into homes all over the city. I think there’s a big invisible cloud of it here right now, invading my personal space… even a pouring rain, which we had last night, seemed unable to wash the miserable stuff out of the air. Unless it actually DID wash some of the pollen away… in which case, if it weren’t for the rain, I’d be sneezing even MORE than I already am. That’s an unpleasant thought. I often wonder why we don’t chop down all the cedar trees in this area and create lovely cedar closets for every home in the city. Everyone loves a cedar closet, right? And so many people around here are allergic to the cedar, I can’t imagine too many people would be upset with the loss of the trees. Goodbye cedar trees! Hello cedar-scented closets! It’s a reasonable and practical solution. At least I think it is. Of course, my thoughts are probably being swayed by my Benadryl-induced haze…

Okay, I have a confession to make: I am addicted to the VH1 marathons of “America’s Next Top Model.” I never watch this show when it’s actually on network TV during its regular season. I don’t even know what channel it’s on. All I know is that every few months, VH1 will have an America’s Next Top Model marathon, where they show every episode from start to finish. And I actually WATCH it. What’s wrong with me? The whole thing is so silly and superficial, yet Tyra Banks and the rest of the modeling “judges” do their best to project an air of drama and complexity into the competition. Tyra is constantly reminding the wanna-be models how hard it is to stand still for a camera. And how vitally important walking is. I mean, this is not America’s Next Top Neurosurgeon. No one needs to know anything about the medulla oblongata or the cerebral cortex or the parietal lobe or the hippocampus – all they need to know is how to WALK. Most of us have been walking since we were toddlers (granted, we were not the most graceful of walkers – hence the “toddler” designation) – but apparently it’s a lot more difficult than we realize. “My walk is so bad! I have to practice my walk!” If you have to practice WALKING, how far behind must you be in all those other little skills we learned before kindergarten? Do these models have to practice eating with a fork (when they actually EAT, that is…)? Do they need to practice writing their first names in crayon? Have they progressed beyond the sippy cup?

And in every season of this show, they have an obligatory “plus size” model wanna-be. In the world of fashion, “plus size” seems to be about a size eight... I think they may have even thrown in a size ten one season. But it’s obviously only a pretense – they include the “plus size” so the show can, temporarily, appear slightly less one-dimensional. Like we’ll believe that some day, they’ll decide to choose someone who is NOT exactly the same as the girl they chose last year. But I seriously doubt this show will run long enough to see the day a “plus size” girl is named the “next top model.”

And yet like I said, when VH1 has a marathon, like today, I actually WATCH this show. Again, I must ask – what’s wrong with me? Some of the “drama” on one of the episodes today centered around a girl who refused to cut her hair when Tyra Banks told her she should. She was adamant about not cutting her hair (which was already pretty short to begin with) because, “by trying to make me change my hair, they’re trying to change ME!” Wow. So your entire identity is wrapped up in some strands of dead keratin protein? That’s rather sad, if you ask me. She ended up quitting the show – just for a few inches of hair. If there was a show called, say, “The World’s Next Top Travel Writer” (because who wants to be limited to America??), and the prize was $100,000 and a guaranteed career when it was all over, I would SHAVE my head if they told me to… and hair doesn’t even have anything to do with writing. It’s just HAIR – it grows back. That’s the great thing about it… you can chop it off, and it comes back eventually. So it’s weird to me that someone who was dreaming of becoming a model would refuse to cut her hair. She should’ve been worrying less about hair and more about walking… it’s sooooo hard to walk…

And just so no one gets the wrong idea – I don’t actually sit on the couch all day and watch every single episode of this show. It’s just something I might have on in the background while I’m cleaning the kitchen, or writing emails or blog posts, or while I’m working out on the treadmill. After all, if I sat on the couch all day, I’d be dangerously close to morphing into one of those “plus sizes.”

Not to mention I need to practice my walking…

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Lucky number, uh, nine?

This is what happens when you have a cat in the house, and you bring out the box to pack up Christmas decorations, and then turn your back for a few seconds:

I guess we don’t usually have very many boxes lying around, because this is probably the first time I’ve ever gotten a picture of Allegro hanging out in a box. Whereas mom has about a thousand pictures of Kiko and Ozzie in various boxes – even boxes that are obviously too small to hold their furry little feline forms. Kiko and Ozzie have never had a problem with cramming themselves into tiny spaces – anything new and out-of-the-ordinary is fair game.

The new year not only means boxing up holiday decorations, but it also signals the impending approach of another fantasy baseball season. This afternoon, some of the guys in the league drew names to determine draft position – meaning who, among the ten of us, will choose first, second, etc in the fantasy baseball draft. Last year I was fourth… this year I’m ninth. I wasn’t sure that was such a good place to be, until Rick informed me that everyone, for some reason, considers seventh place to be the “cursed” position. Apparently seventh place in the draft translates to seventh place at the end of the season… or eighth… or ninth. At least that’s the superstition.

And actually, that’s rather strange – because wasn’t I just talking about how superstition doesn’t really mean much? Seven years of bad luck when you break a mirror… seventh place in the draft results in a bad season… And did I mention that my parents brought back lava rock from Hawaii when we were there in November? (That was a strange segue… but as long as I’m talking about superstitions…) In case anyone hasn’t heard that particular superstition, removing lava rocks from Hawaii is supposed to result in bad luck. Pele (or Pete, as the case may be) gets very angry when you disturb her lava. People believe so strongly in this superstition that many tourists actually send lava rocks BACK to the islands after they’ve returned home. People get sick, or lose money in the stock market, or total their car when they accidentally flip it in the driveway… and instead of attributing it to coincidence (which is generally what happens in life…) they look at that lava rock sitting on their curio shelf and think they’ve been cursed by the fire goddess of Hawaii. So the rock is sent back, the curse is lifted, and from there on out, all the illnesses and natural disasters that strike are simply the work of fate. And somehow that makes them less noticeable and obvious and overwhelming… “Fate” is okay… cursed lava rocks are not…

My point is, I’m not going to spend too much time worrying about where I’m drafting. Much of baseball – just like much of life – is lots of luck and coincidence. Although finishing in second place last year didn’t leave me much room for improvement. I might need some EXTRA luck. I wish I hadn’t broken those two mirrors…

Luck schmuck...

We ate dinner at mom and dad’s house tonight, where I flipped through the pictures mom took when we were in Chicago. Here are a few I liked:

Me and Eric in front of a train inside the Museum of Science and Industry...

Another one from the museum -- I laughed when I saw this picture, because I don't even remember making that face when mom was taking this...

Rick, me and Eric outside the Caribou Coffee across from Eric's apartment building. I wish we had one of these in Austin... good coffee...

Christmas at the hotel (actually a few days before the 25th...) -- Rick and I took all of Eric's gifts with us when we drove up in the car. It was easier than mom and dad making room in their luggage (since they flew up...).

So tomorrow I suppose I’ll have to take down the Christmas tree and put away all the decorations. That’s always a little depressing. Although it’s funny, because I can remember standing in my living room last year, looking at all my decorations, and thinking in a melancholy sort of way, “it’ll be NEXT Christmas much more quickly than I realize…” Which actually seems to imply that I DID, in fact, realize how quickly the year would pass by. But it’s strange how time can seem to pass so slowly when you’re in the present… it’s only afterwards, when the present becomes the past, that we can look back and count up the many months behind us, and wonder what we did with all that time…

Rick was trying to convince me to make new year’s resolutions today. I was trying to explain to him that I never make resolutions, because no one ever seems to KEEP their resolutions. So wouldn’t it make more sense to NOT make resolutions, if you’re actually hoping to accomplish something? If proclaiming resolutions results in the breaking of said resolutions, then perhaps refraining from the entire resolution-making process would have a more productive consequence. Doesn’t that seem reasonable?

And what’s more, I don’t think I’d have much luck with holding firmly to my resolutions, anyway. I have, in the last couple weeks, managed to break not one, but TWO mirrors… which either means I’m in for fourteen years of bad luck, or maybe forty-nine – I’m not sure how the broken-mirror-bad-luck accruement works. Is it seven years per mirror? Is it seven times whatever bad luck you’ve already brought upon yourself? Does one mirror cancel out the other? Is the bad luck doled out on a prorated basis? And where did all that bad luck I had BEFORE I broke any mirrors come from? Shouldn’t I be compensated in some way? Could it be that broken mirrors and black cats and walking under ladders actually have NOTHING whatsoever to do with what kind of luck we have?

You know, come to think of it, my horseshoe and four-leaf clover HAVE been pretty useless lately…