29 December 2007

What's New, Pussycat?

Cats of various types have been in news lately.

Feral kitty cats have been recruited to clear Los Angeles police stations of rodent pests. This approach has been successful at several other locations, including the LA Flower Market. Installing cats as a deterrent to pest infestation is being hailed as a safe, humane, natural, and environmentally friendly method for removing rats and mice, as opposed to traps, glue, poisons, etc. Furthermore, shelters are eager to offer viable candidates for the program, as it moves cats from their facilities and prevents them from having to put the cats down. For their part, the cats (who are fixed, microchipped, and treated by a vet when selected for the program) gain a safe place to live out their lives, somewhat naturally, being cared for but with a minimum of human interaction.
Read more about the Working Cats program here.

We have all heard that a Siberian tiger somehow escaped from her enclosure and killed a zoo visitor in San Francisco. The questions on a lot of people's minds have been things like, "How could this happen? Why?!" I wouldn't venture to answer the "how" question, especially with the police investigation still underway. But the answer to the "why" question is obvious: Tigers (and all cats, really) are powerful, lethal predators. They are natural, elegant killing machines. While humans are not their preferred food, tigers can easily overpower and slaughter even an armed person. When provided with opportunity and motivation, a tiger will attack. IT'S WHAT THEY DO. I've always felt safe in zoos and animal parks, but I have never failed to respect the instincts and abilities of cats, big and small. Lions and tigers, and other wild animals, do not actually belong in concrete and wire enclosures, being gawked at by locals, far away from their natural habitats. Have we gone too far in trying to assert our dominance as humans over the rest of the creation? I wonder if this will prompt all of us to re-examine our relationships with the physical world in general, and foster changes in our attitudes toward our roles as stewards.

28 December 2007

Decisions, et al

Well, the poll numbers are in (you can still see, in the upper left corner).
11 people voted that they would consider reading a bloggy 'zine type thing on rental life.
5 people voted that they wouldn't.
So there was greater than 2:1 ratio of yes-to-no votes.

I've been thinking a lot about it, and I'd have at least a tiny audience, but I'd want to do a good job and actually work out articles that would be useful and interesting, and it would be something of a commitment, in terms of both time and brain cells. So, I'm not sure what I'll be doing, yet. I'll keep you posted.

To Do (posted here so I don't forget)

On the docket for today:
  • Trip to the yarn store
  • Working on some knitting projects

Things to do after the New Year holiday (writing them here so I don't forget):
  • Get new AZ driver license
  • Sign up for childbirth class w/ Jeff
  • Complete our baby registries (I've been putting this off because I HATE to shop)
  • Pre-register at hospital where we plan for delivery
  • Research for good pediatrician in our insurance network
  • Side note: Egad, I'm becoming a responsible adult!!!!!!
  • Write thank-you notes for Christmas gifts we received
  • Make sure to send out those few remaining Christmas presents I haven't gotten yet to their recipients (again, I'm cutting myself some slack because I just moved; don't make me play the pregnancy card, too)
  • Get together with Sharon
  • Get together with Bekah
  • Put together calendar and contact information
  • Notify friends and family of new address and phone #
  • Clean, simplify, organize our home
  • Get our home set up for Fuzzy's arrival into the outer world
  • Contact local school(s) regarding tutoring
  • Spend time with Hobbes and Touchy so that they don't get a complex when Fuzzy shows up

Happy Christmas Days

Well, this is the fourth day of Christmas. Keep that jolly post-solstice cheer flowing! I've been busy in the past few days. I've been working on setting up the apartment (still), puttering around the house, hanging out with the cats, and occasionally leveling my various characters in WoW. Jeff went to Mt. Shasta on business travel on the morning of Dec 26, and was gone for a few days. So in the meantime, I have ended up taking an impromptu trip with Dan and Jennifer. I initially had not intended to go, when they invited me to hitch a ride with them to SoCal to see our family there. But Jeff reminded me that he would be working out of town, then working in-town, during the days (Dec 27-30) that I'd be gone, and ALSO, it is just about my last chance to just drop everything and go visit the fam on a spur-of-the-moment whim.

SoCal friends, I decided to come along late during the night before we left, so I didn't get a chance to contact you and make plans. I will call as many of you as I can, and see if I can work with Dan and Jennifer to meet up with you (I don't have a car to drive myself, so I'm dependent on them). We're staying with Mumsie Willow and Dad, and Mike is here, too, along with one of his nice friends from HMC (seriously, I almost always like Mike's college friends). We will see Mia and Tim on the weekend, when they've returned from visiting Tim's family in OR.

In other news: Yesterday before I left, I had another visit with the ob/gyn (it's lame, but in the final two months, I guess a pregnant woman has to have doctor visits every two weeks). The verdict is good: Both the baby (nicknamed Fuzzy) and I are in great health, my blood pressure is normal (120/70, when it is usually in the 90/60 range), my blood chemistry is fine, and my gestational diabetes test was negative.

Well, as far as Holidailies is concerned, there isn't much I've offered that is in tune with the festive holiday time. In the exchange of gifts, I must admit that my favorite present this year was Super Scrabble, from Jeff. I'm really looking forward to playing with friends and family.

26 December 2007

Is it too soon to say "I told you so"?

Finally! Research has confirmed what I've been saying for years: Extreme low-carb diets can be very hazardous to your health!!

Of course, my dietary opinions are coming from a person whose motto could be "I never met a carb I didn't like." But still, I think it is intuitively obvious that it is unhealthy to eat an imbalanced diet of any kind. Our bodies were designed to subsist on certain types of fuel (carbohydrates, proteins, fats), in certain proportions, and severely cutting one's intake of any one of the three can only lead to bad things. Moderation in all things, I tell you!

Employment Spam

One aspect of seeking gainful employment, in this day and age, is the searching through and logging into job websites such as CareerBuilder. This being the twenty-first century, many companies are doing recruiting and hiring almost exclusively online, so putting one's resume up is de rigueur and presumably useful. In my case, of course, it has gotten me nothing but spam, the majority of which is poorly written and moderately incomprehensible.

I don't really understand why anyone would generate spam with fake offers of employment. What is the payoff in that? I suppose they're just hoping that you'll follow their links, and either get some sort of virus or Trojan horse, or give them your e-mail address and more information about yourself. In any case, I just delete the spam, which is easy to spot anyway because (as I stated above) it is usually unfortunate and nonsensical.

On occasion, however, I have to stop and wonder at WHY people bother to send me certain "employment offers", because they are so outlandish and fake that it is obvious that the spambot neglected to actually troll my resume before generating the message.
For example, the other day, I received a message that included this:
"While looking through online resumes, yours caught my eye and I believe your background is what my client needs. X Gym is currently seeking a Personal Trainer, and I would like to invite you to apply for the position."
My readers who know me even a little bit will be very aware that my resume has NO MENTION of anything related to personal training or a gym. And I cannot believe that anyone with my background is what X Gym really needs. Unless X Gym has a business model centered around hiring personal trainers who are pudgy, lazy pregnant women who hate to exercise. In which case, X Gym is a lousy gym anyway, and not one with which I'd like to be associated at all.

25 December 2007

Season's Greetings

Wishing you a festive Feast of Winter Veil:


And a very Merry Christmas:

23 December 2007

Good Stuff Galore

Futurama sends you Xmas cheer:


Haha, Robot Santa is funny. You have to see the Xmas episodes to understand.

Always call ahead:


This can't be embedded, but:
See a cute Christmas-themed Bones video set to music.

22 December 2007

More Good Stuff

Found this whilst trolling through Christmas-related videos on Youtube (I sort through Youtube so you don't have to).


More than half a century later, Eartha Kitt can still get whatever she wants from Santa. He's one of her biggest fans!

Good Stuff 3



Your daily dose of Christmas cheer!

Yakko, Wakko, and Dot are their usual crazy selves, yet never irreverent. Their pageant of carols and popular songs manages to catch the joy and quirky humor of the Incarnation ("God? Coming to earth as a baby? A virgin, you say?"), without diluting the fact that the little child born in Bethlehem was unique and worthy of praise and worship.

21 December 2007

Good Stuff 2



The one and only Boney M, singing a lovely Christmas number in their distinctive style. This comes from one of my family's favorite Christmas albums. And please notice that where other women would look ridiculous, the ladies of Boney M simply look composed and gorgeous in their long white feathery/furry robe thingies. Impressive, indeed!

20 December 2007

Good Stuff



For my money, it doesn't get any better than this.

Finally!

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, nearly five months after almost everyone else on the planet finished reading it. But no matter: I did read it, and it was pretty decent. I discovered that I had correctly predicted several key plot points related to the ending, which makes me wonder whether it was just really obvious to everybody or I happen to think the way J.K. Rowling does.

Now on to find my next reading project.

Interesting... or not

I talked with someone at a party last night. No, really. I had an actual conversation with someone I don't actually know.

Jeff and I went to his company's Christmas party, which was held basically outdoors, at the Phoenix Zoo. Now, Phoenix is warmer than, say, Chicago in December, but it still gets CHILLY at night. My friends and family know very well my aversion to anything even remotely resembling cold. Fortunately, the event planners had made certain that there were heaters in the seating area, and I plopped myself down right next to one. A bit later, one of Jeff's coworkers came in with his wife, and she plopped herself down on the other side of the heater. One or the other of us made some introductory remark, and we soon discovered that we share the same medical condition!

See, I'm not totally a singular and bizarre freak of nature. Though it is a rather rare condition, there are others who also have Raynaud's disease. We lose circulation in our extremities (usually hands and feet, but sometimes nose and ears, as well) very easily; we often wear gloves/mittens* and heavy socks to insulate our hands and feet; we also have to keep our entire bodies, particularly the bodies' cores, warm, to prevent blood from being mistakenly drawn from our extremities back to our vital organs. If we don't stay warm enough, we can get frostbite, in weather where other people might be comfortable wearing only a sweater. I myself have primary Raynaud's, which is more severe and is "stand-alone", i.e. not a secondary symptom of another disease or disorder.

Further chatting with this woman revealed that we share some other medical conditions, too: hypoglycemia and low blood pressure. I haven't found it in any literature (let's face it, nobody is handing out huge grants for Raynaud's research anyway), but I wonder if there is some sort of correlation. The low blood pressure thing makes sense: One mightn't have enough blood pressure to combat the constricting vessels and push the needed blood to extremities.

Well, it was nice to just hear from someone else who really understands what life is like, day in and day out, for me. Raynaud's is not like a major disease (e.g. polio) or a severe handicap, in that it doesn't really impact my life in an extreme way. I am mobile, and can function normally from day-to-day. Yet it really does impact my life in ways I don't always remember. For example, I make conscious choices about living in hotter, drier areas of the world; I might dream of doing brilliantly on the GRE and getting offered a fellowship at some big-name school back east, but realistically, health-wise, I'm not going to be able to live anywhere in a location that gets much more than slightly cold at any time of the year (so that pretty much leaves Hawaii, Florida, and the Southwest, which is where I currently reside). Air conditioning is literally a pain for me and can make me cry, and it's often an ordeal to just walk through a refrigerated aisle at the grocery store. I really don't wear short pants, or even many skirts or dresses, because they just don't keep me warm enough. I have to tote an extra wrap, plus gloves and hat, almost everywhere I go, so I'm always hauling around more stuff than I want. [I ought to carry a balanced snack, such as a protein bar, with me at all times, to combat blood sugar issues, but I've gotten lazy about that lately...] It's the little things that other people might not even notice, but they add up sometimes.

So I'm glad I met a fellow Raynaud's sufferer, even if it was just once at a company party. I'm glad that I was reassured that Phoenix really is a great place for people like us, as long as we can stay outside in the summer, to avoid the crazy air conditioning. If she's survived this long, there's hope for me, too.

*I believe that this is how Wendy first recognized me during our first year of college: I was "that weird girl who always wears gloves in class".

19 December 2007

It Just Goes to Show

So, Britney Spears is a mess: a divorced single mom with (confirmed) custody problems, (sort of alleged) substance abuse problems, and an apparent inability to do anything correctly within the framework of the legal system.

Now, Jamie Lynn Spears is pregnant and on her way to becoming a single teen mother.

It seems almost too easy to take a pot shot at their parents, since obviously something went wrong somewhere. It's even easier to snicker and say, "You can take the girl out of the trailer park, but you can't take the trailer park out of the girl."

But in defense of Britney and Jamie Lynn, I'd like to point out a very salient fact: Whether pregnant, drugged-up, being visited by social services, or just running around town looking trashy, neither of the Ms. Spears is on welfare. Thank you.

17 December 2007

Christmas List Thoughts

I have made a list of things I'm getting for others, heavily peppered with questions marks for those people for whom I have no idea what to get. Yes, I'm a bit behind on the shopping and shipping, but cut me some slack--I've been a bit busy.

People have asked me what I want for Christmas, and I haven't had many good answers. I don't expect that too many folks are buying stuff, but just in case (and for my own memory-jogging), here's a little list with some ideas:
Weekly calendar / daily planner - one with nice pictures , to help me manage life
Monthly calendar - for planning and scheduling all our important activities as a family
Baby items - onesies, t-shirts, diaper starter kit, more diapers
Baby books - not sure exactly which ones, though
Baby food mill - something like this
[Yes, I guess there's a definite baby theme this year.]
Harry Potter books - we don't own any of the seven
New slippers - my current (Hello Kitty) ones are worn down at the heel

I can't really think of anything more, although I'm sure there is plenty more that I need.

Linguistics

Twice in the past few weeks, I've had vivid dreams in which I am holding conversations in Bahasa Indonesia. It is said that when one dreams in a particular language, it is an indication of fluency. While I have been fluent in Bahasa Indonesia in the past, I haven't really used it for years, so I don't know from whence comes this sudden resurgence. Could the baby hormones be stirring up memories and confusing my brain?

Aneh sekali!

ROFLMAO

Pardon the acronym, but I really had to post this homage to both Muppets and World of Warcraft.



PWN N00BS FTW

16 December 2007

Keep Reading!

See? I said I would post more, and I've posted nearly every day, and when I haven't posted, I've tried to post multiple times on the days following, to make up for it.

I hope I haven't lost most of the few readers I had. Don't stop reading! I'll be more funny and interesting, I promise.

I put a poll in my upper left sidebar. Please vote!

...But where do the SKINNY women shop?

Yesterday, Jeff took me to Motherhood Maternity (which sells the only maternity clothing I have found to be acceptable) to get me a few more items of clothing, which were sorely needed at this point, because I can no longer fit into ANY of my pre-pregnancy clothes. We had budgeted for it, and it was nice to get cute clothes, even if I'll wear them for only a few more months. But our experience there had me wondering: "Where do really thin women buy maternity clothes?" I am not extremely slender--in fact, I'm just on the slim side of average. However, I wear size small trousers at Motherhood. I wear mostly small tops, too, although I have had to get a medium-sized sweater, thanks to some shifts in my weight distribution. So, basically, at 5'7" and 150 lbs, I am considered "small". And it's difficult to find clothes labeled with that essential S on any of the clothing racks (Maybe all the other "small" people got there before me?), but L and XL are plentiful.
Motherhood does carry petite sizes, of course, but anyone 5'5" or greater would be too tall for them.
Also of note: They do not carry brassieres, for maternity or nursing, in any size smaller than 34. Thus, any woman with a narrow back and/or small torso is probably out of luck.

So, the question remains: "Where do average-to-tall skinny women get their maternity clothes?"

Bah humbug 3!

One thing that many people really like about this festive solstice-related and often religiously-overtoned Christmas season is the proliferation of culturally valued "holiday movies" that are broadcast on all sorts of TV stations. I have no objection to many of such films, particularly if I haven't seen most of them. [Case in point: Apparently, Charlie Brown's Christmas is famous; I heard of it a few years ago, have yet to see it, and am still wondering if it is devoted to the exploration of the Great Snowball myth.] I like White Christmas as much as the next old movie buff, and my fondness for Meet Me in St. Louis is already well-documented. However, two films that I absolutely cannot stand are It's a Wonderful Life (No, Mr. Capra, it's not a wonderful life if I have to sit through this painful and misdirected movie during yet another year, Jimmy Stewart notwithstanding. How did it get any Oscar nominations, really?) and A Christmas Story (It's not charming or funny. It's just not. What are people smoking when they say they like this movie?). I can't tell if people actually watch these films because they are deluded enough to enjoy them, or if they just go through the motions annually, because they feel obligated due to some sort of participation in an undocumented but universally understood North American social ritual.

15 December 2007

Another Survey, non-Christmas

Mom sent this to me on e-mail, and rather than replying to it, I thought I'd post it here.

Four jobs I have had in my life:
1. software technician at Intel
2. lab assistant at Biola
3. rocket scientist
4. construction administration assistant

Four movies I've watched more than once:
1. It Happened One Night
2. UHF
3. Alexander's Ragtime Band
4. Legally Blonde

Four Places I've Lived
1. Sentani, Indonesia
2. Portland, OR
3. Wheaton, IL
4. Fullerton, CA

Four T.V. Shows I Watch:
1. Bones
2. Stargate SG-1
3. Charmed
4. Veronica Mars


Four Places I've Been:
1. Jakarta, Indonesia
2. Petra, Jordan

3. Thessaloniki, Greece
4. Tijuana, Mexico

Four People Who Email me regularly:
1. Spam originators
2. Mom
3. Jeff
4. Debbie

Four of my favorite foods:
1. fried rice
2. ice cream
3. fresh-baked apple pie
4. green guava

Four Places I'd rather be right now:
1. Darwin, Australia (never been there, but sure, why not?)
2. Santorini, Greece
3. Rome, Italy
4. Singapore

Four things I'm Looking forward to in 2008:
1. being a mom
2. improving in knitting and sewing
3. taking up dance again
4. living in the southwest desert


14 December 2007

Christmas Meme

Stolen from Wendy.

A Christmas Meme
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Gift bags: They appeal to my laziness but still look classy.

2. Real tree or artificial?
Artificial, to avoid trouble, needles in the carpet, fire hazard, etc.

3. When do you put up the tree?
Meh. Some years, never. Other years, mid-Decemberish.

4. When do you take the tree down?
Probably early January.

5. How/When did you find out about Santa?
What do you mean, "find out about Santa"? I can't remember when I first heard of Santa Claus. However, I always knew he wasn't real. I can't believe that anybody actually ever has believed that Santa Claus is real, but apparently, it is a consistent phenomenon in the Western world.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
Anne of Green Gables books, received when I was 9 and 10.

7. Do you have a Nativity scene?
Yes, but it's still packed.

8. Hardest person to buy for?
Everyone is difficult for me. I'm a terrible shopper and can never figure out what to get for anyone.

9. Easiest person to buy for?
No one. Everyone is difficult.

10. Worst Christmas Gift you ever received?
Can't think of any horrible presents. I've gotten a few inexplicable ones, like this weird purple stone and wire sculpture in the shape of a tree...

11. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Neither. I'm too lazy. Although I hope to change that.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
Not technically, 100% a Christmas movie, but Meet Me In St. Louis. Best Christmas scene ever, best Christmas song ever coming from a movie.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
December.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Can't remember if I have. I don't think so.

15. Favorite things to eat at Christmas?
Cookies. Fudge. All the good things.

16. White lights or colored on the tree?
White on a dark green tree!

17. Favorite Christmas song?
I like a lot of Christmas songs, and one we don't sing nearly enough is "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus".

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
It depends on where I'd be traveling.

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?
No. But I can look it up on Google if I really need to know, and that's almost as good, right?

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
Whatever. I have no preference. I seldom have a tree.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Christmas morning. If I had it my way, we'd wait till the Feast of the Wise Men, but everyone else gets so impatient.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
See all my Bah humbug! posts.

23. What is the “silliest” family tradition you do, or miss doing?
The silliest thing we would do was "put milk and cookies out for Santa," because to the best of my knowledge none of us believed in Santa. It was just a fun, funny tradition. We also liked to leave a carrot out for Rudolph.

24. Ugliest Christmas decoration ever invented?
Big plastic snowmen and Santas with lights inside. Hideous!

25. Which looks best, theme trees or homey trees?
This question makes no sense. Isn't a homey tree a kind of theme tree? As in, the theme itself is "homey"?

26. Gingerbread or sugar cookies?
Sugar cookies, all the way.

27. Do you like Fruitcake?
No.

Guilteeeeeee!!!!!!

Murder in the First.
We can now go from stating that Larissa Schuster allegedly murdered her husband to simply saying that she is a convicted murderer.
http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,22920701-5012748,00.html

Remember, whether you are an active agent in a murder, or simply an accomplice after the fact, hiding the victim's body in your rented storage locker is an idea that's all kinds of bad.

Bah humbug 2!

One thing I really enjoy about Christmas is the music. One might not immediately realize, as I do not have Christmas carols or solstice songs playing round the clock from Thanksgiving through the Feast of the Wise Men. However, I love singing the good old music, and listening to quality renditions of these songs.

One aspect of the Christmas musical tradition that I DETEST is one peculiar, I am afraid, to the North American Protestant Christian subculture. I HATE the ubiquitous Amy Grant Christmas album. I am not one to listen to Amy Grant in the first place, and then the poor woman's Christmas album has been overplayed, ad nauseum, since its inception in the late 1980s or early 1990s. I have been known to remark that the most effective and insidious torture that could ever be inflicted upon me would be to immerse my body in cold water while playing Amy Grant's Christmas album on repeat.

12 December 2007

Rube Goldberg

Some people have WAY too much time on their hands.
I want to look away, but I can't...

Missed

So I missed another day of posting. Well, dear readers, I guess you'll have to take what you can get.

I am immersed in unpacking and organizing. So much to do! I can't imagine trying to do this while gainfully employed at the same time.

Let's see.
-The cats are pretty much completely adjusted by now. Now they both love sleeping on the bed with us. Hobbes sleeps at my feet (keeps them warm), and Touchy tucks into the crack between Jeff and me (I am trying to think of how to tactfully encourage him to move to another spot, since he could get squished). There's not really room for five in the bed, but oh, well.
-My ob/gyn visit yesterday gave me a lot of confidence. First of all, Jeff and I had considered finding a nurse midwife and/or birthing center, for a more low-key and natural (but not drug-free, oh no) birth experience. However, we discovered that none of the above are covered in our insurance network in the Phoenix area. Boo! But we found that we like the doctor we picked (I chose her solely because when I looked up my options, her office was closest to our apartment and she practices at the hospital closest to the apartment); she is competent, down-to-earth, and open to dialoguing with patients. We think we just might stick with her. Second of all, both the baby's and my vitals were pronounced to be good and healthy, so that was encouraging.
-Ultrasound and blood test scheduled for 1:30 pm tomorrow (this dr office does not lose any time, let me tell you).
-Have an appointment with OfficeTeam in Scottsdale for 4:00 pm tomorrow.

Still working on:
-Calling other employment possibilities.
-Calling schools about tutoring.
-Setting up kitchen and other rooms in the house.

10 December 2007

Arrived

I was trying to post every day of December, in the spirit of Holidailies. However, I have to think that there can be a teensy bit of grace extended to people who put posting on hold for a weekend while packing up and moving to another state.

Yes, I survived, and so did the cats. The move was accomplished due primarily to my parents (who gave up two weekends to come help pack and clean), Jeff's parents (who helped me so much that it would be impossible to list everything that they did, and who have been as good to me as any human beings can be to another), many helpful young Tulare County homeschoolers (names unlisted to protect their underaged identities), and some people whose names I do not even know who volunteered their time to load the truck on Friday afternoon (while I was still working).

Jeff flew in on a redeye flight Saturday morning; it wasn't supposed to be a redeye, but it kept getting delayed. Jerry volunteered to pick Jeff up at the airport so that I could sleep. Rob and Candace had (Jeff's brother and sister-in-law) had driven up from Whittier the night before, so we all met up at Mimi's for Rosalee's birthday breakfast later on Saturday morning, then finished packing and loading up the final miscellaneous items. Then we figured out how to fit two human adults and two (unhappy) cats in pet carriers into the cab of the truck. and were off. I didn't think I would be emotional about leaving, but I cried a little bit.

The drive was long and bumpy, but we survived, and with only three stops (Gorman, Ontario, Blythe). Jeff had the harder part, as he had to handle the driving. I just sat there and tried to shift positions every so often, to keep my back and legs from cramping up. We enjoyed listening to KFI AM 640 when we were driving through the LA area. It's hard to find good talk radio that we both like. The worst part of the drive, by far, was dealing with the cats. I was terribly worried about them, and Jeff said it stressed him out to have me fussing about them all the time. I tried to relax. Touchy was such a good little traveler, overall. He mewed a few times, but then just huddled down in his cage and was quiet, although he did seem to look out of the window while it was still light. Hobbes, however, was loudly miserable. Mrow mrow mrow! I would talk to him and put my hand down by his carrier, so that he would know I was there, and that seemed to help. Eventually, he must have just given up hope, since he was mostly quiet during the latter half of the trip. I offered them water and comfort when we stopped for our breaks, but they were too traumatized for anything. They are resilient, however, because within 15 minutes of being introduced to their new home, they were cautiously nosing around, and within an hour or so, they were frisking about and exploring with perfect ease. Neither of them seems to hold a grudge.

Yesterday (Sunday), there was the big task of unloading the truck. Fortunately, we had great help from Sam and Mel and Dan and Jennifer. Everything got unloaded and into the apartment. Jeff said, "We have too much stuff!" Yes. Yes, we do. It won't happen overnight, but we are on our way to simplifying our lives!

I am working on setting up the kitchen today, as well looking at some other tasks. On the agenda for the rest of the week: going to the ob/gyn (we'll let you know if we have an ultrasound that provides us with the sex of the baby), finishing unpacking, getting into a good schedule with Jeff in our new home, calling OfficeTeam (for whom I have worked in the past, and who have done a great job placing me in employment, so far), calling other potential employers, contacting schools in the area to find out about tutoring, and seeing about re-establishing myself in WoW.

07 December 2007

Bah humbug!

Not to dampen the solstice-related, holiday good cheer, but you know what I really hate about this season of the year? Salvation Army bell-ringers. They should be banned from all public places.

Your jingle bells are not festive, people. The constant jangling gets on my nerves. And then, after irritating me and at least two of my five senses (because the tacky red aprons are also an affront to aesthetic decency), you have the nerve to want me to give you money in your little buckets. MONEY? If you want money for the Salvation Army, get a freaking job like the rest of us!

06 December 2007

Countdown

In just three days, I will be an actual resident of Phoenix, AZ! I'll be moving my possessions into my new apartment, just in time to feel as though I ought to be decorating for the holidays. So hard to believe, and it doesn't seem real.

I will also be sans employment, again. *sigh* I think I'll be looking for some temp work to fill time, as it will be difficult to find a permanent job in the next few months, thanks to (1) the holidays and (2) my now-obvious impending lack of availability. My preference, and my prayer, is to be able to work part-time from home. I know, it's everybody's dream, right? But I would really like to find several hours per week of tutoring, that I can do before and after the baby comes. Believe it or not, I am very good at what I do, and thriving communities always need excellent math and science tutors. Do you hear that, Phoenix?! I tutor MATH (kindergarten-level through first-year calculus)!! I can also do all core subjects, plus standardized test prep, but math seems to be most highly desired. *ahem* A little self-promotion never hurts, right? Click here to contact me for an appointment.

Currently, aside from the logistics of loading our worldly possessions into the moving van and then driving several hundred miles, our greatest concern is how to transport Touchy and Hobbes, without scaring or traumatizing them to death and also without going crazy ourselves. The kitties do NOT like traveling, AT ALL. They have been moved in cars before, though never so far as from Visalia to Phoenix, and they have always made it clear that they hate, loathe, and abominate moving. =^.^= My poor furry babies!

04 December 2007

Photographic evidence

This sweater is the famous Mommy Snug, made by Willow (the premiere designer/creator of custom knitted goods) over at Willow's Cottage.

When I first put it on, I said, "Oh, no!! This sweater is no good. It makes me look dumpy and pear-shaped!" It took only a few seconds before reality hit me upside the head, and I said, "Wait a minute, it's not the sweater's fault. I'm pregnant. I AM dumpy and pear-shaped!" The sweater is actually very flattering, and the color (selected by Willow) is perfect for me, although you can't see that as well, this picture having been taken at night in artificial light.
The picture was taken by Debbie in her living room, and Hobbes, usually camera-shy, makes a cameo appearance.

Frustrations

I'm having technical difficulties with my laptop.

It makes it difficult to post. I'm still trying to update daily, though.

02 December 2007

Putting the X in Christmas

The sermon this morning was entitled "Get Thee Behind Me Santa" (sic). It was slightly muddled, and Debbie and I spent time after church discussing it, trying to figure out exactly what the pastor's point had been. We eventually concluded that he was really trying to convey, "Don't get all bent out of shape about the world supposedly taking the Christ out of Christmas until you make sure there is clearly a Christ in the Christian of your own life."

Debbie and I had some long talks about which of the traditional Christmas activities are mere cultural trappings (answer: most, and often with pagan origins), and which ones actually have anything to do with the birth of Christ (answer: almost none). If I see a sign advertising "Xmas Trees", why should it bother me? I don't care if people remove mention of the Christ child in their commercialization of a fir tree that is totally irrelevant to Jesus the Anointed Messiah. In fact, I'd prefer it. Feel free to leave Christ (who was probably not even born on or near December 25) out of your decorative traditions drawn from various ancient Europeans practices of pagan celebration of the winter solstice.

Please note: I am not against participation in culturally relevant festivities, even those with pagan origins. I am fully in support of having a good, solid festive atmosphere, celebrating the arrival of the winter solstice, leading to a new year while remembering the bounty of the old, etc. etc. etc. I am just opposed to the conflation of such traditions with the celebration of the commemorative holy Christ Mass. The pagan and Christian celebrations can (and do) happen simultaneously, and we need only to take care to distinguish between what is sacred and what is secular (which is not to say, bad), so that we as Christians can lead balanced lives of spiritual and intellectual integrity. It's okay, nay even good, to go a-wassailing, if you know what such activity does and does not entail, and if you are comfortable with the spirit that you are representing in your activity. You can accept that humans participate in human activities together, and embrace that aspect of God's creation of humankind. And you can know what it means that from darkness came a great Light, and a Child was born who is the Savior for all humanity, if we will accept Him. If there is Christ in you as a Christian, then your life will offer worship at a Christ Mass that lasts all year long, not just on one day. And you can feel free to light a menorah for Hanukkah, burn a Yule log or hang holly, pretend to believe in Santa, or do... well, whatever it is that people do for Kwanzaa, because your heart is right with God and you can enjoy all His good gifts to His people.

And that is why I don't mind if a non-Christian celebrates Xmas instead of Christmas, or refers only to "the holidays". After all, it's only natural that he would be seeing only the human side of the party season. It is not our duty as Christians to press such a person with criticisms and accusations about something he doesn't even recognize. Rather, we should present him with an invitation to go to the heavenly party, as well as displaying to him a clear reason why he would want to join us. Show an unbeliever Christ, with actions and words.

More Papuan pictures, just because

West Papua is a gorgeous tropical paradise, with palmy beaches of snow-white sand, exotic coral reefs, and lush vegetation.



There are rugged mountains and rolling hills, such as these around Lake Sentani.


Most people live in villages (kampung-kampung) in remote areas.


Some live high above the jungle floor, in tree houses or houses on stilts.


These people are often fierce, proud warriors who follow the way of life their ancestors experienced for thousands of years. A fair number of them are cannibals (or ex-cannibals, more recently), such as the famous Asmat of the south coast.

1 December

Today has been widely celebrated as World AIDS Day.

It is less widely known that this is the day celebrated as West Papuan Independence Day. Curiously enough, Papua has not yet gained independence, but that does not hinder many Papuans from celebrating anyway. There have been flag-raisings, both in Papua and at various embassies around the globe, and repercussions have followed. In the interest of being cautious but a teensy bit political, I can safely raise the Morning Star here on my blog to show my support of my people on the other side of the planet.

01 December 2007

Times They Are A-Changin'

Well, dear readers (if I have any readers left), you may have noticed that I have been VERY inconsistent about blogging during the past few months. And even more unforgiveable: I've been boring.

Well, readers, I have been occupied with many things of much importance. I've been gainfully employed, of course, with my construction administration job at the Medium-sized Consulting Architecture and Engineering Company (MCAEC), and that has been fun, and I've enjoyed learning about the construction industry as part of a full-service architectural firm. I try to keep my employers anonymous, for their sake as well as my own, but I will say that this particular company is classy and professional, and they're really good at what they do. I've had some great coworkers, and none of my bosses are psycho, nor is there any probability that ethical scandals will land our company on the front pages of newspapers and threaten our stock values (for one thing, the MCAEC is not a publicly traded company anyway). With all my satisfaction with the work and the people, it's sad that I have to move on from there.

As most of you are aware, Jeff was placed for work in Phoenix, AZ. We've spent almost all of our time apart for more than two months, due to this circumstance, and it's been really difficult, but now the time has come for us to finalize a move to Phoenix. Yes, we're really almost there! In one week, we'll be all moved and starting to settle into the desert. Many thanks to my parents and Jeff's parents, who have really helped us in so many ways to pack and get the house ready. I'm just ready to be done with it now.

One thing that has kept me super-busy is yet another changing circumstance in our lives. Again, most of my readers already know, but for those who have not yet heard: Believe it or not, we are expecting a baby! I've not posted it on my blog for a few reasons. First of all, I'm paranoid. It's my first pregnancy, and I know of many people who have lost babies even several months along, and I just didn't want to be publishing it for the internet to read, and then having to write and report a miscarriage or something. And second, I really do not want to be one of those women who is obsessed with her pregnancy ("OH, MY GOSH. I'm PREGNANT! It's all about ME! And it's like NOBODY has ever been PREGNANT before.") and thinks everyone needs to hear all about it for more than nine months. Yes, I'm having a baby. And billions of women have had babies before. Anyway, Baby is due mid-February, and it has been an adventure for the past few months. It really is such a strange thing to grow another human being inside your own body. Yes, it is like having a parasite (I've had enough parasitic diseases to speak with authority on this matter). Also, I am pretty much huge by now. I might post some pictures, if I overcome my self-consciousness.

The prospect of me being a parent is amusing, of course, for those who know me and my attitude toward children in general (they should be seen and not heard, and preferably not anywhere close to me), but I expect that I'll gain some affection for my own child. If nothing else, becoming a mother will teach me a lot and lead me to become more Christ-like (I hope). All of our friends and families are so supportive and excited. It is the first grandchild on both sides, and one of the first babies in my group of friends. [Sherida, of course, has just had her little Caleb, and Amanda is going to have her baby just a little before me!]

I'm planning to post more regularly (finally!), and life will actually become easier when I'm living in Arizona with my husband, so I might have good things to write again.

27 November 2007

Ooh la la, Larissa!

My coworker and I are obsessed with the proceedings of the trial of one Larissa Schuster, who is accused of murdering her husband by stunning him, stuffing him into a barrel, and pouring hydrochloric acid on him (nice lady). We read the daily updates and discuss the testimonies and ensuing developments.

Schuster is from the Fresno area (Clovis), but is being tried in Los Angeles County, as it was felt that the notoriety of the case would make it impossible to obtain impartial jurors in Fresno County.

Schuster's alleged co-conspirator has already been convicted, and Schuster herself has had to do some fancy talking to provide any explanation for her bizarre behavior in the days surrounding her husband's disappearance, if she wants to demonstrate her own innocence (she claims her accomplice committed the murder, and she merely helped cover it up, out of fear, after the fact). But whether you are guilty or innocent, why would you hide your murdered husband's body in your rented storage unit? That's just not a good idea.

Check it out. This is one crazy murder case.

Film Review: Chariots of Fire

I finally watched Chariots of Fire last night. I say finally, as if to imply that I've been trying to view it and been repeatedly stymied in my attempts, or something like that. Actually, not only have I not had Chariots of Fire at or anywhere near the top of my viewing list, but I've even seen it before, technically. However, I choose to discount my initial viewing, because at the time I was (1) 10 years old, and (2) suffering from a malaria-induced fever of c. 104 F.

My real impression of the film from my childhood was that it consisted of a bunch of people standing around talking a lot, interspersed with scenes of some guys running around. And as it turns out, that juvenile impression was extremely accurate. This movie is stodgy and talky, indeed. However, if you have to have pedantry and verbose pageantry, it's always a safe bet to go with the classy British production, and if you get a fabulous cast, solid script, and well-crafted direction to go along with your tony accents, so much the better.

I have spent the better part of 24 hours trying to decide if Chariots of Fire is a great film, or merely a good film. Many people count it among the very best films ever made, but a glance through IMDB's entry for Chariots of Fire will reveal that many other people also have things to say along the lines of "This movie is more boring than C-SPAN" or "THIS is the clunker that beat Raiders of the Lost Ark for Best Picture Oscar?" Each according to his or her taste, I guess. Chariots of Fire is actually a bit like another slow-moving but critically-lauded British movie that won the Best Picture Academy Award during its time: Cavalcade. Both films have opponents labeling them as "least deserving Best Picture winner ever", and both end up being better movies after one is done watching them. Ultimately, both films are not really about events; they are about people, and watching people who are human beings, and not merely figures in an explosive action sequence, requires a little more concentration and reflection than the standard summer popcorn movie viewing experience.

Anyway, I finally concluded that all things considered, Chariots of Fire could justifiably be described as a great movie, not merely good. Why? Well, why might it be less than great?
The Cons:
-Gab gab gab. The script itself isn't bad, but there's just so much of it.
-Yawn yawn yawn. It's a sports movie that even sports fans can find boring. The overall pacing is incredibly slow, especially considering the fact that it's about men who are incredibly fast.
-The score. Okay, okay, I know Chariots of Fire has one of the most recognizable and beloved film scores of all time. And it won an Oscar, of course. BUT, while the composition isn't bad, I think the arrangement was severely lacking, a fact which is more glaringly evident after one has left the 1980s behind. The whole synthesizer thing is jarringly incongruous with both 1920s Europe and the world of competitive sports.
-Editing. Oscar-nominated, and beautifully done in most parts, yet WHAT IS UP with the constant slow-motion thing? It loses its impact if done too often, okay?
-The fact that, despite the title, this movie contains not one single chariot of fire. As a child, I would really have valued a few wagons being alight at some point in the narrative, and my adult self agrees. If nothing else, it would have been a relief from the tedium of the talk-talk-talk of post-Victorian existential crises.
On the plus side, the Pros:
-First of all, it's gorgeous, a visual treat. The lands of England and Scotland have never looked better, and it's all nicely staged with fairly good 1920s period detail. The Oscar-winning costumes help, too.
-The acting is earnestly done, with sincerity but without undo Brando-style emoting. Very British, very RSC. Seasoned professionals such as Sir John Gielgud and Ian Holm (Oscar nom) keep standards high, and lesser-known individuals such as Ben Cross and Ian Charleson do not fail to meet those standards in their own performances.
-Then there is the script. One never sees characters reciting lines, but rather genuine people speaking honestly and realistically. The above-mentioned acting helps, but good writing shines through in the fact that despite the much-complained-about talkiness of the film, the dialog itself never sounds heavy-handed.
-The honest and positive portrayal of a truly godly man. This is one movie wherein the religious man is lauded for living by his principles, rather than sneered at for his gauche naivety or exposed as a bigoted hypocrite.
-The simple fact that, like all great films, Chariots of Fire works on so many levels. It can be viewed as a sports movie (everything leading up to the Big Race), as a story of the human spirit, as an illustration of the triumph of faith. The film has all of the elements because it is a story of humanity, of human individuals, and so it will have as many facets as real people themselves do.

Bottom Line: See this movie! Even if you don't much like it, you should be able to find at least something to appreciate.

23 November 2007

Mew mew!

Touchy visits Grandma and Grandpa's house, and climbs up into the skylight frame, via the fridge. He's such an adorable little pudgekins!

15 November 2007

Meme (tagged by Willow)

1. Name one person who made you laugh last night.
Billy West, voice actor on Futurama.

2.What were you doing at 0800?
At 0800 today, I was at work, doing work stuff.

3. What were you doing 30 minutes ago?
Eating.

4. What happened to you in 2006?
At what point? I held four different jobs at three different establishments, I was a bridesmaid in three weddings, and helped out on three other weddings, and then was introduced to World of Warcraft.

5. What was the last thing you said out loud?
I don't remember, but it probably wasn't interesting. I was probably chatting up Touchy or Hobbes.

6. How many beverages did you have today?
Define "beverage". Do you mean "How many ounces of beverage did you have?" Or maybe, "How many different types of beverage?" I drank coffee, a lot of water, and a smoothie.

7. What color is your hairbrush?
Blue and white.

8. What was the last thing you paid for?
Bulbs to replace the ones that died in my headlights.

9. Where were you last night?
Why? Who wants to know?!? I was at home, and yes, I have reputable sources who can confirm my alibi.

10 What color is your front door?
Blue.

11. Where do you keep your change?
Mostly in a jar, which I raid when I want to buy something at Starbucks.

12.What’s the weather like today?
Foggy in the morning, mild and sunny during the day, chilly at night.

13. What’s the best ice-cream flavor?
Mint chocolate chip.

14. What excites you?
Good theology, a balanced equation, a nicely worded sentence.
Hearing good news from friends or family.

15. Do you want to cut your hair?
Yes, eventually. I just got it cut a few weeks ago, though, so I'm fine for now.

16. Are you over the age of 25?
It depends on what is meant by "25".

17. Do you talk a lot?
Depends on who is listening.

19. Do you know anyone named Steven?
Yes.

20. Do you make up your own words?
Sometimes. I can't think of any interesting examples, though. I'm more likely to confuse people by tossing a word from another language into my English conversation. If I use a Greek or French word, I might be trying to sound clever. If I use an Indonesian word, it's more likely that my brain is way out there and forgets what it's doing, and in what language, so my mouth just spews forth whatever verbage may be easily accessible.

21. Are you a jealous person?
Sure, but that's not always bad. The LORD is a jealous God.

22. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘A’.
Amanda (Winter).

23. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘K’.
Kevin (White), or Katie (Coffin).

24. Who’s the first person on your received call list?
Jeff.

25. What does the last text message you received say?
Katie was asking if we live near Long Beach (we don't, but I wish we did).

26. Do you chew on your straw?
No. Should I?

27. Do you have curly hair?
My hair is mostly straight, but I have a cowlick, so it curls exactly the way I don't want it to.

28. Where’s the next place you’re going to?
Work, tomorrow morning.

29. Who’s the rudest person in your life?
Meh, lots of people are rude. I'm not tracking and measuring or anything.

30. What was the last thing you ate?
Half of a sweet potato.

31. Will you get married in the future?
I doubt it. I'm already married. If I become a widow, I don't really see myself getting remarried.

32. What’s the best movie you’ve seen in the past 2 weeks?
I'm watching Quai des Brumes right now. It's pretty good, if you like early French film noir.

33. Is there anyone you like right now?
It's more remarkable to note that there is not anyone I am actively disliking right now.

36. Did you cry today?
No, but I cried last night when I found that my car headlights were both burned out.

37. Why did you answer and post this?
Because Willow tagged me.

38. Tag 5 people who would do this survey.
I'll tag Mama Mia, because she needs to update her blog anyway, and leave the other four open to volunteers.

14 November 2007

Still here

Once again, I'm checking in to let folks know I'm still alive and I haven't given up blogging. I'm just focusing on other things right now. December should be much better.

28 October 2007

Freedom of the Press: Ultimate Purpose Realized

People have started wondering, "What is emo? Am I emo? Could I be emo if I wanted to be? Is emo like one of those big elephant birds in New Zealand or whatever?" And that venerable institution, journalism, came to the rescue with the answers! Long live the free exchange of information!

25 October 2007

Funniest Thing This Week

Okay, folks, this is seriously the funniest thing I've seen all week. Of course, if you have never spent much time in the Indonesian province of Papua, you probably won't think it's funny at all. I can't help you there. Unfortunately, the audio does not really sync with the video, so it requires patience and some careful attention to follow along.



Remember, Papua is the Silicon Valley of the Third World islands south of the equator.

16 October 2007

So THAT'S what happened to Common Sense!

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, life isn't always fair, and maybe it was my fault. Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you earn) and reliable parenting strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job they themselves failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer Aspirin, sun lotion or a Bandaid to a student, but could not inform the parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband; churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar can sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason. He is survived by three stepbrothers; I Know my Rights, Someone Else is to Blame, and I'm a Victim.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

10 October 2007

Quippage and quotage

Charmed can actually be a pretty funny show. Not as funny as Buffy, but funny none-the-less.

Example:
Paige has lost her voice, so she is communicating via writing on a notepad. She is interrogating a demon the sisters have captured.
Paige (writes): WHERE IS OUR WHITELIGHTER?
Phoebe comes in, and sees what Paige is doing.
Phoebe: Did it ever occur to you that Kazi demons might not be able to read?
Demon (gratefully): I tried to tell her that...
Paige (writes): DEMONS LIE!!
Phoebe: Yes, but not about literacy.

Or some great exchanges between Cole and Phoebe (or Cole and, well, anybody):
Phoebe to Cole: Good people don't turn other people into water coolers!
On another occasion:
Cole: Don't you think you might be a little paranoid?
Phoebe: About my demon ex-husband from hell? No, I don't think so.
Cole trying really hard at the relationship thing:
Cole: Did you get my flowers?
Phoebe: Yeah. "Sorry I tried to strangle you." Probably not a card the florist gets to write everyday.

Or one-liners from the fabulous Piper, who tells it like it is:
-Life isn't a garden so stop being a hoe.
-Be careful of the feet you step on, they may be connected to the boot that kicks your ass.
-Phoebe, you're overreacting. That's my department.

'Tis that time of year

That time of year when we celebrate the achievements of the ordinary scientist who just wants to find an answer to a gnarly--if often quirky--question or two.

The 2007 Ig Nobel Prize winners have been announced.

04 October 2007

My Day

Didn't Eleanor Roosevelt have a [rather popular] column called My Day when she was the First Lady of the USA?

Anyway, my own day was eventful without being particularly interesting. I awoke at 5:30, but snoozed for a while. It's so hard for me to get up before the sun rises. I showered and got ready, scrambled with my bevy of morning tasks (usually including feeding and water the pets, checking the plants, and a few other household chores).

I stumbled out of the door, hauling my bag full of stuff that I would need for the day (e.g. purse, water bottle, lunch, various pieces of paperwork, and so on). I had some CDs that I could listen to in the car or at work. I stopped by Starbucks because I deserved a treat and because I had a gift card (a coworker gave me one he didn't want-- imagine that) and so did not have to pay for it.

My job is a few blocks from Starbucks, so I made it in by 7:30. However, despite me being a morning person, the early start didn't help. Even with some caffeine, I was tired and groggy all day. I hate that, because I'm unfocused and unproductive. I was done at 4 pm, and it was just icing on the cake to discover that I'd received a parking citation that (to the best of my knowledge) I shouldn't have gotten.

I was not a happy camper when I got home. I really needed to get my mail, as I was expecting a paycheck (one that has not yet arrived, which brings even more frustration). Well, no time to fret. I grabbed some other checks and headed to the bank, to do some business before it closed at 5 pm. With barely a break to breathe, I went to the Verizon store to examine some cellular phones, as we are changing our wireless service over to Verizon. I finally selected a phone that (1) would be workable for me and (2) more importantly, would be free with signing up for a wireless service package.

I zoomed to Jamba Juice to pick up some sustenance, both because I like smoothies and because I had a gift card that would pay for my purchase (long and pointless story as to how I obtained the JJ card). At that point, I was heading west, making my way to the gym, so I decided to stop by Rosalee's house, which is in that area, for a quick little visit. We chatted and I showed her that I was wearing the sweater I had bought with the money she'd given me for my birthday. It was nice.

I had to zip off in order to make it to the gym to change and try a yoga class. The class was fine, but turned out it was an hour and half long, instead of one hour. That threw off the rest of my evening. Post-yoga, I went to the grocery store (a necessity, since I needed food), and spent a while shopping, but managed to forget a few important items. Grr. By that time, I was starving (a smoothie is a good snack, but is, for me, an insufficient meal). I had to eat something when I arrived back home after 10 pm, after which I put away groceries and got stuff ready to take out for trash and recycle pickup tomorrow. Now, my tummy is finally settled, so I'm able to stagger off to bed, and hope my poor neglected cats will take pity on me and cuddle me.

Tomorrow is another big day that will start too early and probably go too long.

02 October 2007

Charmed, I'm Sure

One TV show I've been watching (seeing as how I have little better to do) is Charmed, which airs a few episodes each weekday on TNT. It is kind of cheesy at times, and I'd like to say I don't know why I like it so much, but actually, I do. This show has a quirky charm (no pun intended), to be honest, and occasionally whips out a good quip or two; but ultimately, the real foundation of the entire series lies in its exploration of the complexities of relationships among close-knit, but all very different, sisters. The writing and characters of the show are far inferior to those of Charmed's fellow, and distinctly similar, WB dramas Buffy and Angel. Indeed, at first glance, Charmed seems to be almost a cheap knock-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with its pretty and supernaturally gifted chosen females battling demons while constantly griping about the struggle to have normal lives (read: mostly, boyfriends and sex), not to mention the Wicca-infused girl-power rhetoric. However, Buffy was all about being the Chosen One, aware of the weight of the world on her shoulders, while Charmed is, as mentioned before, a portrait of the joys and considerable duties of sisterhood. On that level, really, it works. I don't know if men would "get" Charmed, as they can have sisters, but cannot be sisters. I am not disparaging brotherhood, just observing that sisterhood seems to be its own thing. Never-the-less, a good many men probably watched Charmed on the sly, without admitting it, due to the trios of beautiful, usually scantily-clad, actresses who were the stars.
Note: It must be said (though I wish it wasn't necessary) that I do not support the practice of magic in real life. I approve of it only in a fictional context.

Wake Me Up When September Ends

Well, in the month of September, I learned, among other things, that just because I CAN do 45 squats in a row, doesn't mean that I SHOULD. Words of experience, people. Heed them.

I have several social and political issues about which I should like to write on this blog, but for which I never seem to have inspiration when I am at my computer. Among these are:
-The thing about which everyone has an opinion these days - Ahmadinejad speaking at US university.
-Humpbacked whales, evolution, and the limits and hypocrisy of practicing scientists.
-Burma/Myanmar, and the fact that despite their claims, world leaders don't really want freedom and justice for all oppressed peoples. They are interested in helping only those whose oppression is not beneficial to themselves.
-The ridiculous and pointless political system in the US.

However, I don't know if I will have the patience or fortitude to write about those topics. Some of them just make me really irritated.

Any votes for topics you'd like to have addressed? Feel free to write in nominations for something not covered above.

29 September 2007

Going on

I've been pretty tired lately. Either that, or ennui is making me sleepy.

I'm enjoying my job, at the Medium-sized Anonymous Engineering Company (MAEC). I'm learning a lot about civil engineering, architecture, and construction. I'm once again working with crusty, middle-aged male engineers, which is a demographic with which I am very familiar and comfortable. Overall, I like it.

Last weekend, Sara and Elizabeth came to visit. We watched Bones, put together a puzzle, went shopping, and spent time together talking, which was the most fun of all.

Speaking of Bones, did everyone get a chance to watch the Season 3 premiere episode that played on Tuesday night?

20 September 2007

My kingdom for a copy editor!

I was flipping through one of Debbie's Cottage Living magazines the other day, and came across a reference to a furnishings designer who started her business working in a "chicken coup". Into my mind flashed a wild series of plausibilities and images. Did this woman's farm experience some sort of Orwellian, Animal Farm-style rebellion, centered, unlikely as it may seem, in the henhouse? Was there an event similar to the planned "great escape" of the movie Chicken Run? Did the poultry simply refuse to be kept down on the farm, after they'd seen Paree?
Obviously, the incongruity-resolution section of my brain kicked in after a few seconds, and I realized that the writer actually meant "chicken coop" and simply either typed it incorrectly (it can happen to the best of us) or substituted a word that looked like it should be pronounced "coop" but really isn't. In either case, the error lent some unintentional humor to the proceedings of an otherwise-routine article about stuff you can buy at Target, plus it just goes to show something about education in the USA.

15 September 2007

Funny memories

I have no idea who this guy is, but his song is hilarious and pretty much dead-on. I now need to write The Talbot Song.

14 September 2007

By the Way

I am once again gainfully employed. I'm working in construction administration at a local architecture and engineering company. I enjoy the industry. I wouldn't want to do my exact job forever, but it's fine for now. I could, however, see myself doing something in the realm of civil engineering for a good many years.

Strangely, both of the coworkers in my department are LDS. Coincidence? Or a leading to return to some parts of my life that I might rather leave behind? It's reasonable to suppose that despite what I want, it's not really possible to just brush away pieces of one's past (or their implications). Are we, as humans, really essentially a summation of our past experiences? Or more appropriately, created in such a way to be shaped and molded by our past experiences? Are we, as Plato might assert, wax that is intended to be imprinted properly (i.e. to reflect the image of the True-cast Mold of the Creator), but can occasionally (or rather, in real life, regularly) be impressed upon by improper images (the effects of sin)? "What is good wax?" Is it possible that, even if we warm ourselves in the fire of the Spirit, becoming pliable and attempting to reshape our waxy selves in the Right Form, we cannot totally rid ourselves of the traces of bad imprints, until the Great Fire at the end of time melts us down completely and gives us new heavenly wax for eternity? And why am I trying to rid my waxy self of imprints that are not necessarily sinful, just because I want to be different from what I am?

We are currently in transition-- AGAIN. Jeff is going to Phoenix to start work for a company there. We'll figure out a way to get me out there soon.

02 September 2007

Cow Town

You know you really live in a cow town when:
(1) A cow wanders onto the major freeway,
(2) The cow literally stops traffic, and
(3) It's front-page news!

No, I am not making this up. I have pictures of the front page to prove it.

01 September 2007

Update, Part 2

In early July, I went down to LA to help Mom and Dad move up to their new house in Camarillo. Hard work! Mia toted cleaning supplies, Mom dealt with masses of mess, and the moving truck was more than sufficient to hold all their worldly possessions.

27 August 2007

Update, Part 1

What have I been doing this summer, when I haven't been posting?

Well, Jeff's grandfather died, as I've mentioned previously, and because it was unexpected and tragic, it took up most of our attention during the latter two-thirds of June. Olaf 's grave marker was still being made at the time of the graveside service. The roses mark the spot; he is buried right next to his mother, Lenora Feely.The memorial service was in a church, and there was a flag thingie in the front, which was related to Olaf being a WWII veteran, along with a display with his picture and some other paraphernalia.
Mom and Dad came up for the funeral, to be supportive. A fun time was not had by all, even though the church provided a nice luncheon reception.

The next week, we got Rosalee a kitten to give her something on which to focus and provide companionship. Rosalee named her Mittsy. She's so cute.

Revamp

I have a new theme and a new look (currently boring, but I'm going to try designing a header and some other stuff) for my blog.

I'll be posting more, for real. I'm sure you're all relieved to hear it.

17 August 2007

Tujuh Belas Agustus (17 August)

It comes around every year, and while I do not actively celebrate Indonesia's Independence Day (as in, I don't take a holiday from work or school or anything like that), I usually observe it in some way. This year, I opted to make myself some nasi goreng (fried rice) and teh manis (sweet tea) for dinner. I'd been craving the fried rice anyway, I had some leftover nasi putih (steamed white rice) in the fridge, and I'm rather a devotee of the idea that kalau belum makan nasi, belum makan (basic translation: "If you haven't yet eaten rice, you haven't really eaten").

Politically and socially speaking, there are plenty of things I dislike about Republik Indonesia. Nevertheless, it does have a place in my heart, and not just because of the food (even though the food is really great-- way better than indigenous American food of any variety).

14 August 2007

Panjang Umurku

Yesterday was my Hari Ulang Tahun, known in the US primarily as "birthday". My parents were visiting, and while Jeff had to go to work, so I didn't get to see him all day, I had a lovely day of relaxing and doing what I enjoy: Starbucks for breakfast, a visit to the library, a stroll through downtown Visalia to look at shops with Mom. Then we had pizza dinner at Debbie and Jerry's house, and Rob and Candace were there, so it was nice to see them.

11 August 2007

The terror that flaps in the night



For Christmas, Sara gave me a set of Disney's Darkwing Duck cartoons on DVD (Yay! Thanks, Sara!). Darkwing Duck is my favorite cartoon of all time. I watched it when it ran on The Disney Afternoon in the early 1990s, and my whole family loved it. Unlike many silly or saccharine cartoon shows, Darkwing Duck has dark comedy with an edge, featuring humor of the gallows or even (occasionally) potty variety (several IMDB reviewers commented, and rightly, "I can't believe Disney did this-- and got away with it in an afternoon cartoon!"). The basic set-up is something of a satire of Batman: the main character has no supernatural abilities, but relies on handy technical gadgets and a modicum of crime-solving know-how to capture a variety of villains. There are puns, sight gags, inside jokes, running jokes, and a general hilarity related to the characters and the situations in which they find themselves. The alliterative and articulate masked mallard fights crime in the Gotham-like city of St. Canard and encounters evil-doers of both the mutant and simply psychopathic variety. In addition to Darkwing Duck (and his civilian alter ego, suburbanite Drake Mallard), series regulars include goofy pilot sidekick Launchpad McQuack (crossing over from an earlier Disney Afternoon series, Duck Tales), adopted daughter Gosalyn, and the Mallard family's utterly boring and predictable next-door neighbors, the Muddlefoots.

See as many episodes of this cartoon as you possibly can. Someday, you may need to know about vampire potatoes or that "the cows are not what they seem".

[Notice: Darkwing Duck, his image, and anything else pertaining to him, are property of DISNEY. Please buy only legally licensed Darkwing Duck paraphernalia (not that I've seen a big market for illegally licensed Darkwing Duck items, but still). Speaking of which, why doesn't Disney do more to market Darkwing, rather than that lame other duck, Donald, or even that mouse?]

10 August 2007

Lassie, eat your heart out!

As many of you know, Jeff and I are owned by two cats: grey tabbies named Touchy and Hobbes. [We are temporarily possessed by a long-haired calico named Nala, but she will be moving out to be with her true family in a few days; we're keeping her while her humans settle into their apartment.] I have no shame in admitting that a fair portion of joy and amusement in my life comes from these kitty cats.

Touchy is pudgy, a bit clumsy, sweet and shy. He will come and hang out with me, and follow me around the house like a puppy, but he is not a lap cat. Hobbes is leaner and meaner, the alpha cat in the household. He is not a lap cat, either, but he does make a habit of sleeping on our bed at night, and I like it, because he sleeps ON my feet, and keeps them warm.

Hobbes is the primary subject of my post. He is a cat that is far too smart for his own good. In our old apartment in Fullerton, Hobbes figured out how to open door handles; we always had remind guests to lock the bathroom door, lest Hobbes take it upon himself to open the door and invoke a rather embarrassing situation. Fortunately, our current home has round knobs, rather than handles, on the doors, and since Hobbes lacks opposable thumbs and is furthermore unlikely to acquire them anytime in the near future, we think things are safe for now. But Hobbes also took the opportunity, in the Fullerton apartment, to figure out how sliding glass doors work. He knew how to open the sliding door to our balcony. Of course, Hobbes is only 11 pounds and maybe 11 inches long, so he could not actually MOVE the sliding glass door, despite his best efforts, but it was pretty undeniable that he understood how it worked: when he wanted to go out onto the porch, he would stand on his hind paws, hook his front paw through the door handle, and lean back, trying to pull the door open.

In truth, Hobbes has outdone himself. We now have a sliding glass door, coupled with a screen door, that leads to our back yard. It has been my habit to open the glass door in the morning, allowing fresh air to circulate through the house before it gets too hot (or what others would consider "too hot", since I myself don't usually feel the heat) by mid-day, and just leave the screen door shut to keeps cats in and bugs out. In the past few days, Hobbes learned how to open the screen door. Day before yesterday, I was out doing some yard work and heard a scraping sound from the direction of the house. I looked up and discovered that the door was opened about three inches, Nala was on the little patio, and Touchy was cautiously poking his nose outside, while Hobbes was nowhere to be seen. Oh, no! I ran and grabbed Nala, shooed Touchy back in, and began calling Hobbes. He didn't show himself, so I pulled a trick from the Bad Parenting Handbook and got out his favorite treat (powdered milk), intending to bribe him back into the house. I called him again and made the tsking noise the cats associate with treats, and sure enough, he came running back inside. Too smart for his own good.

All's well that end's well, but now I can't leave the glass door open even a few minutes, if I'm not standing right there to catch Hobbes poking his paw at the screen door and scooting it open. I'll have to rely on opening the windows to keep the the house fresh and airy.

21 July 2007

In honor of Mia

My adik Mia had this in her blog, so I stole it.

Here are the rules:
~Use the 1st letter of your name to answer each of the following.
~They MUST be real places, names, things…NOTHING made up!
~If you can’t think of anything, skip it.
~You CAN’T use your name for the boy/girl name question.

Your Name: Deb
1. Famous Singer/Band: Duke Ellington
2. 4 letter word: duel (also, dual)
3. Street: Demaree
4. Color: dandelion yellow
5. Gifts/Presents: DVD
6. Vehicle: dump truck
7. Things in a Souvenir Shop: decorative figurine
8. Boy Name: Daniel
9. Girl Name: Doris
10. Movie Title: Destry Rides Again
11. Drink: Diet Coke
12. Occupation: DMV clerk
13. Celebrity: David Beckham
14. Magazine: Doll Reader
15. U.S. City: Dallas, TX
16. Pro Sports Team: Dodgers
17. Reason for Being Late for Work: Didn't wake up when my alarm clock went off.
18. Something You Throw Away: dirty tissues
19. Things You Shout: Doggone it!
2o. Cartoon Character: Darkwing Duck

I'm just wild...

... about Harry.


And yes, I've seen so many articles using that line, but oh, well.

Anyway, it is true. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be released to the world in two hours, and has already presold more copies than any other book ever written. No, I didn't order a copy. No, I don't know when I'll be able to get my hands on a copy. I just know that if anyone spoils it for me, that person will not be my friend. Ever.

[As a side note, I found it extremely disturbing that when I searched for "Daniel Radcliffe" on Google images, in order to put a pic in this post, the first several images that popped up were naked pictures from his role in Equus. Eek!]

15 July 2007

HP Madness (not too many spoilers)

Well, life goes on.

Jeff and I took some time yesterday afternoon to follow the example of millions of children and teens, and went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. What can I say? Either we are lemmings or we just really like Harry Potter.

I liked a lot about the production, and the casting was, as usual, spot-on. However, both Jeff and I thought the book-to-movie adaptation could have been a little better. I know that such adaptations are challenging even with routine material, and with Rowling's books, everybody has an opinion and many people are dissatisfied with their favorite parts or characters being given short shrift. However, the movie axed some aspects of the book that really contribute to the unfolding of the plot (for example, the actions of the house elf Kreacher, the significance of Harry's growing isolation when Ron and Hermione achieve important roles at school, and so forth), and the emotional climax was hurried in favor of a showier action-fueled climax. And (most offensive of all) there is not a speck of quidditch anywhere in this movie! If you've read the book, you know that quidditch plays as important a role in the fifth story as in the previous four.

Dramatically, the film hits its stride and is most comfortable when showing scenes of the DA students training and growing in skill (we feel their exhilaration when they cast successful spells), and in the few quiet moments when the three close friends (Harry, Ron, Hermione) are talking with one another. We see the ease the actors have achieved in their years of working together, and director Yates seems to know how to handle them. On the negative side, the action and the smooth flow of the plot have, regrettably, suffered. To be fair, if you've read the book, you know the plot gets pretty convoluted in the parts when Harry isn't overcome with teen angst (although if any teenager has the right to a bit of angsty self-pity, it must be Harry Potter) and in some parts even when he is. However, other directors have managed to keep some complicated plots afloat (cf Alfonso Cuaron with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which plot involved time travel, of all things), so we'll hope that we get good writers for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and give David Yates another chance at directing (per IMDB, he is currently set to take that chance).

As noted above, the film's greatest strength is in its cast (the Potter films have always been fantastic in this respect), and the actors do not disappoint, even when allowed only disappointingly small roles in this entry (Robbie Coltrane's Hagrid, for example, is in only a few short scenes, and Maggie Smith's Professor McGonegall is much less in evidence and much less spunky than in the book). We see a bit more of Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, but David Thewlis as Lupin and Natalia Tena as Tonks are practically absent (we hope this will be remedied in the sixth movie). Likewise, talented Alan Rickman has little to do as Professor Snape, but he makes as much as he can out of it. Props also to newcomer Evanna Lynch as a perfect Luna Lovegood (even if the writers took the Quibbler away from her), as well as solid Matthew Lewis, still portraying the put-upon Neville Longbottom. So far, the Potter series' best secondary villain (the primary villain being always Voldemort) is Dolores Umbridge, and gifted actress Imelda Staunton brings her to life in an amazing way, her pink suits and floral teacups contrasting perfectly with her cruel punishments and destruction of students' rights, all done with a creepy smile on her face. Other evil-doers are also done well, with showy Helena Bonham Carter making good with the crazy as Bellatrix Lestrange, and series veteran Jason Isaacs still collecting his paycheck as the menacingly silky-voiced Lucius Malfoy. As the self-styled Dark Lord himself, Ralph Fiennes is acceptably scary, if not particularly charismatic.

Overall, I thought the film's unintended consequence was to aptly illustrate why government should not be in charge of education. The attempt to control minds and thoughts, the intentional subjugation of truth for the purpose of political agenda: these seem to be the exaggerated fabrication of fiction, but they could happen in real life. [Obviously, they have happened in other nations.] The state's selection of standards and curricula already have garnered a predisposition of the state-run schooling system to sacrifice the next generation to an arbitrary set of expectations. If some person decides that controlling students' access to certain information and training in certain areas would be a desirable end, the means are available and such a person need only apply slight manipulation and force of will to achieve his or her ends.
Education, like journalism, should be free from government tampering. This will produce better citizens in the end.