Stay Tuned

Busy weekend, but even busier Monday, so don't expect any work blogging.
I'll have more cat pics and a rundown on the weekend (including a fabulous lunch with the lovelies, Tania and Janiece) probably this evening.

Hope your weekends were fruitful!


Friday Cat Blogging

I love sleeping cats! This one is of Matti, with his paw pressed over his eyes:

And I have many photos of the cats squished into one bed, but here's another:

A Respite From the Storm

A few postponements and a cancellation has yielded me mostly free evenings this week. Yay! I have sat out on the patio and read two of the nights, talked to my dad on the phone one evening, as well as getting some much needed household chores done. (Bel, I ate leftovers the other nights or went out with a friend for a quick bite and a drink. No shame in frozen pizza, especially for a mom!) This weekend (aside from seeing Tania and Janiece), I should have some time to work on a house project I have simmering on the back burner. Life is good to me.

(I almost wrote a long post about my dating strategy, but decided it would be better approached in a "post mortem" style discussion, so I'm saving it for later. :)


Maniacal Laugh

The title is mainly because I researched and wrote a reply to a knotty problem in which a subcontractor was trying to make researching the building code that applies to his own work OUR problem. Obviously, it's not very polite to write "f**k off" in the professional world. But I put together a rational reply that pointed out why our documents said what they did and that we had researched the issue and could find no problem (which I actually did, so I could say that honestly) and that the ___ manufacturer "declined to provide a [code] reference." Stick it in your ear ___ manufacturer!

However, it's an appropriate title for my other story, in which I laughed at myself. Mere hours after writing that I "didn't really like being that busy," I found out that my date for the evening had to cancel, and then minutes later, I accepted a voucher for an advance screening that evening for Pixar's new release, WALL-E. Silly silly Annie.
Fortunately, the action version of a Freudian slip occured. To fill in the time between the end of work and the movie, I went to my friend Stacey's for a drink (one drink that, uncharacteristically for me, gave me a mild buzz for three hours). Despite being warned that I should get there early to get a seat, I left on time (as if I already had a ticket) and got there 15 minutes too late to get a seat. Feeling mildly relieved, I went home and ate comfort food (sweet potatoes with beef and mushroom gravy, see below) and read a good book.
So it all worked out for the best anyway!

I ruined my relaxed feeling a bit by checking my email before going to bed, then spent too long having to read and answer Match.com emails. :/
Oh well. This too, shall pass.

Oh, and to tie up some loose ends, I am posting a picture of the yummy spicy shrimp and cashew dish (served on rice) that Janiece made for dinner on Saturday. Yummo!


From the Eye of the Whirlwind

An accounting of the weekend:

Friday evening, went out for drinks with a Match guy.
Saturday morning, saw Indiana Jones IV and ate lunch with a Match guy.
Saturday evening, I went to dinner at Janiece's house. I met her Smart Man, Terry, who is not only smart, but a really nice guy and a really good match for the fiery Janiece. Her giant schnauzer, Boogie (his real name starts with a B and reminds me of dictionaries, but I can't remember it at the moment), is a beautiful and enormous dog and very sweet. We had a great time talking. :)
Sunday, I met another Match guy for hiking (he was vetted by sitting and talking at a coffee shop for a bit) and then a brief drink afterwards. The hike was a really nice one called Hall Ranch, near Lyons, Colorado (hint hint, local hikers). We had a good time and we have some interests in common, so that's a good start.
It took longer than I expected, so I just had enough time to change clothes when I got back before I whisked off to City Park Jazz with my friend, Ginger, her husband, Dave, and their daughter. They, like all my friends, are a lot of fun to be with. India had been Dave's first international trip, and so we had lots of stories to trade.

All in all, a good weekend, but the only relaxing I really did was a few hours of reading on Saturday. I miss being home and the cats miss me too!


Jeri is Awesome

Jeri sent me a pair of handmade earrings. What a surprise!
Thank you, Jeri! You're the best and I'm looking forward to getting to know you when you come for Denvention next month. :)


India: All the Animals

Besides the elephant, we saw many other animals in India. I didn't get to see a tiger, but here's a few of the others we saw:

On the way to Gwalior's Fort, we passed through some cliff carvings and above one of them, we saw bee hives. Being a good beekeeper's daughter, I tried to take a picture of it.
In Leh, one of the frequent scenes we saw was cows and donkeys grazing in the trash heaps.
All animals in Leh were smaller than the ones we saw anywhere else. Here's a donkey (thanks, Brenda) with Cheryl (for scale). They were little beasts and had teeny little hooves.
While in Leh, we went on an overnight trek (story to be told later). We had a few ponies to carry our stuff and they were all belled around their necks. This made for a pleasant sound (much like windchimes) at night when they were tied up next to the tents.
Our tents were erected in a field that, next morning, was occupied by wandering yaks and cows. Here's a small yak, interested in our decampment.
When we were driving from Leh to Manali, our taxi's progress was often obstructed by herds of goats and sheep, being moved between grazing areas. This was the most entertaining one because there were also men moving ponies and Indian tourists in cars moving in the opposite direction. AND this was on a mountainside, with a precipice (on the left of the photo) filled with mist. Very exciting!
In Manali, our hotel was in a district that was occupied by herdsmen. These cows are watching their owner retrieve grass for them. I love their floppy ears all alert. These ones are actually pretty well kept -- there were many thinner cows in my photos.
And at Chandigarh's Rock Garden (a major Indian tourist attraction) there was a fellow giving camel rides. The most amazing thing about the camel was the enormous, flat feet. (No, we did not ride the camel. We were a spectacle enough just by being white people in India.)

Busy Weeks

A week ago, I stated that I was beginning a program of social expansion (aka joining meetup.com and match.com, with the intention of meeting people, not corresponding). The first interested fellows had to wait to meet me until this week because last weekend I already had plans with family and friends. Interestingly enough, though my "dance card" is full, it's not just meeting guys. I'm determined that I will not lose touch with my existing friends. On Wednesday, I met one guy for drinks (nice fellow) and Thursday, went to a women's group gathering. (It was very freeing, actually. I was reminded of some personal guiding principles I had forgotten I use.)
Tonight and this weekend I'm meeting three other fellows (drinks, a movie, and a hike), having dinner with Janice and her Smart Man, and going to a Jazz and BBQ in the Park thing with friends.
This isn't to say I won't be available for spontaneous outings, but if you want my guaranteed attendance, you'd better give me a heads up.
I'll try and keep you entertained with stories of my whirlwind life without resorting to the scoreboard (sorry Nathan!).


Review: Thud!

I have heard of Terry Pratchett's Discword series, but had never read them until now. In the airport Borders, I picked up Thud! and bought it purely based on the fact that my friend, Belsum, enjoyed it and the rest of the series. I didn't get to read it until I got home, but I just finished it and enjoyed it thoroughly.
The best thing about it is that even though it's a late book in the series, it's pretty much stand alone (I understand that most if not all of them are). I could enjoy the murder mystery "A" plotline and follow (slightly vicariously) the character development of the recurring characters.
The characters are the second best part. They are funny and well-rounded and, most importantly, engaging. I would love to follow the story arc of The Watch and plan to use the handy chart in the Discword wikipedia article to do so.
I could go on. There were lots of lovely bits of writing, though Prachett was occasionally heavy handed with the parody (the "accent" for the troll mobster comes to mind) and overall it was a light and easy to read murder-mystery... set in a fantasy world with dwarves and trolls and magic, etc.
Delightful and recommended.

Quick! Get the Camera!

Some things we got lots of opportunities to photograph (women in saris, people taking our pictures with thier cell phones, goats and sheep blocking the road, etc). However, I only got one shot off when, while we were driving from Keylong to Manali, a painted elephant (presumably ridden by someone or carrying something) lumbered past on the road. I think you can get the idea...

[Dedicated to Rebekah's mother and all who read Kipling or H. Rider Haggard or even Tarzan]

Time Constraints

Sorry I haven't been as entertaining as I'd like to, folks. As you might imagine, this pseudo Bachelorette thing is taking up some time. Four outings planned this week and one (probably more) for next week. That's on top of seeing my current friends.

I thought about putting up a scoreboard with my beaus and their odds to entertain you all, but I'm really swamped. Can I outsource my blog material? ;)


Monday Morning Fun

Monday mornings aren't generally considered to be the best hours of the week (unless, of course, you are a work-a-holic and love your job, but in that case, did you really stop working on the weekend?) so here are a couple of fun website (courtesy of Nathan) to get your week started in a more positive fashion:

- Be Jackson Pollock (hint: move your mouse and try clicking)

- Cool european designs (hint: give it a moment after it loads)

Now get back to work!

PS: This is my first try at a "scheduled" (in the future) post. Looking forward to see how it works...

PPS: I fixed the first link. Apparently I can't spell.


In Praise of Fathers

When I was in India, my wonderful dad (pictured above with his sister) came and took care of my house and kitties. He did a great job. The cats were happy and healthy when I got back and the house was in one piece. Yay!
He has been a wonderful father and taught me a lot about being true to yourself and your ideals.

I think I speak for all his children when I say "Thank you, Daddy, for all you've done for us."

While not all of my friends have excellent fathers (and thrived in spite of it), my friend MWT's put up a great post: Butter Pecan



My friend, Jeri, has written a post, "Blogging the Fine Line," about where to draw the line on sharing information on a blog. She was prompted by a NYT article (I was only able to read the first page) by Emily Gould about oversharing in a blog and a followup article by Christina Hyun that looked at how oversharing might affect future political hopefuls.

It made me think about questions I've gotten from non-bloggers that essentially address two questions "Why?" and "Shouldn't you be more careful about Internet predators?" I won't go into the answers for the first, but the second I usually point out that I don't have my last name on my blog (I used to have a link to my professional site, but I took it off) and when I talk about friends, I don't use their last names either. Those that do have last names here are those who have chosen to do so on their own. In my mind, that preserves a lot of anonymity. Also, although I do blog about some personal things, I don't post anything I wouldn't comfortably talk about in a group of friends. If someone (friends judge almost as quickly as strangers) wishes to judge me based on the things I say here, so be it. We are always being judged by those around us, just to varying degrees. I have been attacked for things I've said here (and I admit, it has changed the degree to which of openness I discuss things certain issues here); that's just life.

One personal thing you will rarely see me post about here is my dating life. There are two reasons for this: one, I have been single all my life and have heard every piece of dating advice there has ever been -- I don't want any more, thankyouverymuch. In addition, some people have been judgmental about my process. It's not their process, so it must be wrong somehow. I really don't want any of that either. The second reason is that I find the beginnings of a relationship to be very personal. Personal for me and for the guy as well. I'm sure some of you remember how long it took me to admit I was seeing someone last year. It was unfortunately short. I was learning a lot about myself before it was cut off, and then, of course, I got to learn a lot about myself in a different, not as fun, way.
So here's the last piece of info you'll have about my dating life for a while:
I just signed up on match.com (again) and meetup.com. My last playmate decided to play with someone else, I took a break to take exams, and now it's time for me to find another playmate.


Taj Story

In the comments of another post, we were discussing what a story based on the building of the Taj Mahal would be like. Turns out (as expected) that it had already been done -- Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors.
I'll probably buy it or (even better) find it at the library and give a report here.

Stay tuned!


By Reader Request

My mum requested a picture of my building (not those closeup photos of previous work related posts) from a distance so everyone can see the whole thing.
As you can see, we're approaching completion. The little orange box on the right is the "man and materials hoist" that we will have until the elevators are up and running. The only major missing item that you can see in this view is the aluminum grilles that will go into the openings in the parking garage (the masonry base).
Local folks can find this at the intersection of 20th and Lincoln.


Because It Had to be Done

As an architect, I would have been flogged if I had not seen the Taj Mahal while in India. It is, in fact, a beautiful building (exhibit A below). The proportions are lovely, the white marble catches the light throughout the day, and the botanical patterns of inlaid semiprecious stone (exhibit C below) are amazing, especially considering they are done by hand.
It is also a monument (see the bajillions of Indian tourists, exhibit B below) and a mausoleum and in this respect, it failed to move me. I am more touched by being in a building in which history occurred than I am by being in a building intended to evoke something.
Don't get me wrong: I loved seeing the Taj Mahal and the buildings and grounds surrounding it. I also experienced some odd emotional effects (almost as if imposed from the outside). I am very glad I have seen it. It did not, however, inspire me.

The Taj Mahal soon after sunrise (note the lack of tourists):

The Indian tourists on the plinth (note the bare feet, we had to take off our shoes to get on the plinth and into the Taj Mahal itself):

The exquisite inlay (my favorite part of the Taj Mahal was the inlay):

The Taj Mahal through the trees at the sides of the grounds:

The Taj Mahal later in the day (note the tourists):


The Most Amazing Thing(s)

One of the most thought provoking questions I've gotten about my trip was "what was the most amazing thing you saw in India?"
Well, that's a toughie, because I saw many amazing things.
But on the other hand, as soon as I realized what my answer would be, there was no other choice:

The Himalayas

They are truly stunning and overwhelming in a way that is unforgettable.

Photographs tend to flatten things, so they are not very good at showing the depth of these colossal bones of the earth, but they're what I have. So here are a bunch:

And, my favorite:

Proud as...

This photo is of a carving in the painted palace at the Gwalior Fort. I love it. I'm not sure exactly what about it, but the elegance of the shape is wonderful to look at. Don't you think? :)


Painted Palace

The palace at Gwalior Fort (every fort has a palace or four, don't you know?) is best known for the bright colored paint and tile job on the exterior. Pretty, eh?

But take a closer look...

An Embarrassment of Riches

The most challenging thing I've found so far about synthesizing my trip for others is that I have lots (986) of photos and quite a few, perhaps 5 to 10 % of them, are great. I'm still sorting. If my estimate is correct, that's 50 to 100 photos I need to gather together and say something about.
So, bear with me. In the meantime, I'll try and post some of the greats.

This photo was taken at Gwalior's hilltop fort. Near dusk, locals started arriving (for the "light and sound show" we think) to look out over the city. There were a few wooing lovers (not touching, of course -- this is India, after all), but most of them were young men cruising in groups, wooing each other, it seemed.


Review: The Years of Rice and Salt

While I was in India, I read a book recommended by one good friend (belsum) and bought for me by another (Michelle). It's The Years of Rice and Salt, by Kim Stanley Robinson.
The premise is that of an alternate history: how would the world have developed if 99% of Europe (and Christianity) had been wiped out by The Plague of the 14th century? Islam and China/Confucism and Hinduism and Buddhism become the active forces in the world. The story is told well, through the narrative device of reincarnating characters (identifiable by their consistent personality types and by the use of the same beginning letter for their names). This way we can have a thread through the changing timelines and history.
It was one of those strange coincidences that had me reading a book about Islam and Buddhism and Hinduism at the same time that I was in India, where all three religions live side by side. The two experiences (reading and observing) enriched each other.
I admit that had I not been immersed in that culture (and had a fortuitous day off) I might not have made it through the book completely. As I said, it is very well done, but it is extremely dense with information. I was not always certain how the events compared with real life history (one would have to be a world history buff to trace all the correlations through half the world's history). The characters were entertaining enough, though a wee bit two-dimensional in the effort to keep them consistent.
Aside from the historical aspect, one of the most interesting (for me) parts is how the writer occasionally inserts himself in the story. In the middle, when the writing must have been wearing on Robinson, there is a dialog that is essentially him talking about how he felt about the characters and how the story was progressing. Amusingly, the next "chapter" is a brief changeup of some of the roles, almost to show he could do it. The last chapters are mainly about his theories about history and the structure of storytelling. I think if he had pulled this out as an addendum, he might have avoided some of the criticism that the book lacked a strong finish. This was a criticism I agreed with, actually. I think a book based on history is hard to "end" satisfactorily, considering history does not end (or rather, it will when the Universe implodes). One comment I saw somewhere pointed out that Robinson's skill in writing science-fiction could have been used here to push the boat of history on beyond our current time. That would have been better, I think.
However, all in all, it was a good book. Dense, but good. If you enjoy history, comparative religions (ahem, Brenda), and/or exploring other cultures, I highly recommend it. If you're looking for light entertainment, look elsewhere.


India: By Air

[Sorry I haven't started my stories until now, not sure why... just processing, I guess. I'm going to do the stories of my trip by subject rather than chronologically, though I can do a post with a quick timeline if you'd like.]

The plane rides to India (Denver-Newark, Newark-Delhi) went fine. Continental has great customer service and I had an empty seat next to me, so I was able to sleep much of the way there. Once I got there, I didn't see my friends inside the airport, but once I went outside, there they were. Actually, I didn't see them at first, but a stranger caught my eye and motioned that I should look behind me. There they were, holding up signs with my name (silly me, I was looking for their faces, not reading signs!). They were pretty thrilled to see me, mostly because they had accidentally come the night before and spent hours waiting for me.

The plane rides back to the States (Delhi-Newark, Newark-Denver) however, had its ups and downs. Firstly, the Delhi-Newark leg was packed, so there was no extra space and I hardly slept at all - probably 3 hours of the 14 hour flight. This would have been horrible, except that they had a fantastic new technology on the viewers in the headrest. The viewer was touch screen and you could use it to select movies, TV, music, or games. The movies is what I explored the most. You could choose to watch any movie from their selection of 329 movies! Everything from very recent (27 Dresses) to classics (It's a Wonderful Life, Casablanca) to foreign films (French, English, and Bollywood movies) to children's movies (most of the Pixar films, Disney). Because I couldn't sleep, I watched 5 movies: 27 Dresses, Keeping Mum, Dear Frankie, (part of Finding Nemo), Salaam-E-Ishq (a Bollywood movie), and Mary Poppins. There were also a ton of TV options, but there were really enough movies to fill 5 or 6 plane rides of that length. They often had trilogies or paired movies, like Toy Story 1&2, The Godfather 1-3, LotR 1-3, Matrix 1-3, etc.
At first I wasn't really tired (even though it was night in India), so I watched the first three movies. Then I tried to sleep and managed a couple hours. I thought watching something familiar might help, so I started Nemo, but I really couldn't sleep. I thought, why not take this opportunity to watch a Bollywood movie? So, I did, but reading subtitles when you're tired is not a great idea, so when that was done, I put on Mary Poppins, hoping that the familiar songs would be soothing. I think I dozed a little, but it was fun to watch something I hadn't seen in a couple decades.
At the Newark airport, I ran into a little snag after I had rechecked my bags after customs. I had bought some Indian rum ("Old Monk") at the Delhi duty free shop and put it in my carry on. I thought that I would be within the security of the Newark airport the whole time, so it would be OK. It was not. I could not carry through that much liquid, even if it was sealed and bought in a duty free shop. It's here that I'd like to commend the wonderful people at Newark airport. First, the TSA people were kind but firm about my options and pointed out where exactly I needed to go and what exactly I needed to do to check my purchase. I really needed that detailed help, 'cause I was operating on too little sleep at this point. Then, when I got to the Continental desk and asked for a box, they found one, lent me some tape, and helped me to check the box (my third! item) for free. Thank you, Newarkians.
The Newark-Denver leg of the flight seemed very short, mostly because there was a free seat between me and the gal next to me, so I slept from before they even pulled away from the gate till we started the descent to Denver. I woke up periodically in the middle, but only for a moment or two, then it was back to sleep.

I really didn't have too much trouble with jet lag (which I actually had to look up). It mostly just turned me into a morning person. I got tired earlier than usual, then woke up earlier than usual (it's obviously more extreme the night/morning immediately following the plane trip).