7.30.2008

Movies and Finances

"For all we ought to have thought, and have not thought; all we ought to have said, and have not said; all we ought to have done, and have not done; I pray thee God for forgiveness." - Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan, 13th Warrior

I watched two DVDs while putting my finances in order yesterday evening: a movie I love, but had forgotten, The 13th Warrior, and a movie I never expected to see because of it's bad reputation, Battlefield Earth. A friend convinced me to borrow his copy and I let it sit around for a while before getting around to it. I have to say, if you look at it as a serious sci-fi flick, they're right, it's atrocious. BUT, if you see it for the comedy (intentional or not), it's delightful. I usually don't like John Travolta, but he did a good job with the fatally arrogant bad guy. I *do* like Barry Pepper, ever since The Green Mile and Saving Private Ryan, and I thought that though his character was basically unbelieveable (were any of them? Not really.) he was enjoyable to watch. Yes, it was laughably bad, but it was also astonishingly fun to watch.
And now my financial house tidy and that feels good too. Yay!

7.28.2008

Review: The Dark Knight

Saw the latest Batman movie tonight.
In a nutshell: Well acted, but slightly (read: VERY) improbable, particularly the bat-cycle that could turn on a dime, even though the tires were almost square (in profile, not elevation). The other special effects were great, but couldn't they have designed some of them with reality in mind?
My major beef was that The Joker claimed to be an agent of anarchy, but his M.O. seemed to be extremely elaborate, albeit well-hidden, plans (half of them I saw through, half of them were a surprise). Granted, he's also a villian, so potentially a liar as well, but it was again, improbable. I think we'll call this a writing flaw.

Heath Ledger made the movie the success it is, and was pretty much the star, but I loved all the other actors too. They really do a great job with casting. Wonderful acting throughout.

Good movie: four stars = glad I saw it in the theater
Go to see it if you can suspend your disbelief and like seeing crap blow up.

7.27.2008

Slooooow Weekend

I live a busy life, but I love those occasional lazy weekends. I went to a coworker's housewarming party yesterday. It was a nice diversion. We played some Dutch lawn game called kuub(?) and Jessie (the coworker's husband) and I won the first game. I know to quit when I'm ahead, so I sat out the second game and let others play.

Later: Turns out it's Kubb: The Swedish Viking Game. Info also found on wikipedia.

Aside from that, I've been fiddling about the house, doing laundry, cleaning, financial housecleaning, etc. That and sitting outside reading while the cats play in the backyard.

I've also tried to do a little catchup on blog reading. I'm really glad I started using Google Reader, but it highlights how prolific some of you guys are and how my usual one-per-day posting schedule has gotten lost in the daily grind. Phooey. I guess these things go in cycles and I'll be prolific again some other time. Since I've been trying out new things, I've been getting a better feel for what's important to me and what parts of my lifestyles I want to make time for. One of those is writing, even the little bit I do on this blog. So hopefully you'll see more from me. :)

Hope you guys are having a great weekend!

Later: Said "ciao" to the last (and most promising) of the Match guys, for reasons already talked over in a previous post. Dating sucks and I am a total smeghead. :(

(OK, so the video cheered me up a bit... There's hope for me yet. ;)

7.26.2008

Sink Oddity

While walking a custom unit on my project yesterday, I saw the wierdest sink I've ever seen (evidence to the right). The basin depth is less than 2".
At first it seems impossible to use, but then when you think about it, how often do you fill up the bathroom sink with water? The only difficulty I can think of is cleaning your toothpaste down the drain. It should come with one of those faucets that has a sprayer-head.

Very odd.

7.25.2008

Limitations

Ever have a friend you wish you could do more for, but because of personal boundaries or office/family politics or even just physics, you can't?

I'm feeling that right now. I wish I could make it all better, and I can't.

Phooey.

7.24.2008

Tania, Bonbon Queen


[sigh]
Thank you Tania. You know you really didn't have to. I picked you up from the airport because friends do that for each other.

However, I acknowledge that friends also buy yummy yummy Bonbon Bars for each other too. :D

Thank you so much! You are awesome!

--------------------------

Looks like Janiece was blessed as well. Excellent. We can torture others with our descriptions of heaven together. ;)

My strategy is to start with the only non-chocolate item, the Passion Fruit Marshmallows (see ravings below) and work my way up to the item that appears to be transcendental, the Single Malt Scotch Bars. I'll put up a short description of each so you can "share" in the experience...

Passion Fruit Marshmallows - I've heard of handmade marshmallows, but I don't think I've ever tried them. If I have, they have faded in the memory compared to these tart clouds of sugar and gelatin. They are petite, so you can savor one, have the perfect balance of sweet fruit and delicate texture, and then come back three more times before you're done with the packet. Delicious!

The Chocolate Caramel Malt Bars - These are like a fancy Twix bar, only much much better. I'm indifferent to malt, so it was a nice surprise to find these so delicious. I've been good and am sharing them with select co-workers. :)

The Chocolate Caramel Nut Bar - Only one of these and I'm really glad I'm having this one at home on the weekend. I don't have to share with anyone! Yay! This one's been my favorite so far. I love dark chocolate with nuts. Guess I'm just "nutty" about them... ;)

The Chocolate Orange Bar - This has orange caramel and pecan nougat wrapped in dark chocolate with a crystalized orange peel on the top. Mmmmmm! I love nougat, and this was just so flavorful! Yum yum yum.

The Single Malt Scotch Bar - Divine. Ingredients for divinity: dark chocolate, scotch ganache, caramel (not too chewy), and a light sprinkling of sea salt. Absolutely divine.

In all cases, whenever I shared these with coworkers, they commented on the flavors. "The flavors go on forever!" I believe is a direct quote.
And considering the pleasantness of the flavors involved, this is a very good thing.

7.21.2008

Family Fun

My family's been visiting this weekend, so I haven't been online as much as I usually am. My parents and my mother's sister drove in from eastern OK on Friday and we've been doing the usual rounds of visits.
It's been so nice to see them and hang out and eat yummy food and watch movies.
We went to see WALL-E, which is *such* a cute movie. The quality of the animation is amazing. It seemed much simpler than the usual Pixar movie (which is usually layered with adult in-jokes), so I'm guessing I missed some of the references. Thoroughly enjoyable, however.

I hope you all had pleasant weekends as well!

7.18.2008

Long Live the Internet

A couple of pieces of Internetty Goodness:

Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog (in which Joss Whedon tries to change the media distribution system)
Stolen, once again, from Shawn. Obviously, I'm incorrigible.

and

Time for Some Campaignin' (the latest brilliant bipartisan parody song from the boys at Jib Jab)
This, I swear, I DID NOT steal from Shawn. I was pointed to it by a co-worker and only 2 hours after writing the post find out... oh wait, his post is dated after mine. Whew. I thought for a moment that Shawn and I had switched brains.

Happy Friday!

7.17.2008

Contradictory Phrase

Well, I think that morals/values question yielded some interesting answers. Thank you all for your thoughtful replies! I knew I could count on you. :)

Today I used the phrase "the exception that proves the rule" and then realized I didn't know what it meant.

Learning for the day: Here's wikipedia's version of the answer.

Strange, huh? Makes me wonder how often it's actually used correctly...

Perfect ponderings when it's time to go to bed!

7.16.2008

Think Tank: Do Values Change?

OK, all you smart (-assed) people out there...

I was talking to a good friend of mine about something interesting and I wanted to see what you guys think. My brother, who majored in philosophy (and something more practical), would probably have all kinds of technical terms for what we're discussing, but I imagine we'll be able to muddle through. ;)

Do you think values change? Are they something that you learn (or are born with) and you believe it all your life? Or, are they something that changes as you gain experience?

Discuss.


(I was tempted to give examples, but I think that might stifle your creativity.)

7.13.2008

On the River


View Larger Map

Woo hoo!

Yesterday, I went rafting at Brown's Canyon (see above), a section of the Arkansas River, that started at Johnson Village (pan north), near Buena Vista. The outfit we rafted with is called Acquired Tastes, though our guide said that their rivals call them "Acquired Space" because of the easy going and no rush attitude promoted by the company. There was a photographer at one of the rapids and they offered photos of the different boats going through it at the end of the trip. Unfortunately, they wanted $30 for a photo, so you'll have to settle for seeing a fierce picture of me and my boat here. The guide, Josh, has a jaunty hat on, so you can't see that he has a lovely blonde mohawk. Very entertaining fellow.

I had a lovely time, especially since I didn't fall out of the boat (no one in our boat did) and the boat didn't flip over. The water was pretty darn cold. During the first half of the trip, where water was rough, but not rapid, I didn't have the jacket on and was a bit cold. After we stopped for lunch though, I was sure that if I stayed wet the rest of the time, I wouldn't be having as much fun, so I opted to wear what they call a "splash jacket" (essentially a waterproof jacket with velcro secured sleeves and neck). I'm so glad I did. I could stop shivering and enjoy the ride. So much fun!

I love Colorado!

7.10.2008

Brothers are Awesome

I was feeling a bit discouraged about this Match.com thing and when I thought about who I'd like to talk about it to, I decided on my brother, Max. He and I have a similar attitude towards dating and what we want in a mate, so I knew he'd understand. Plus, he just got engaged, so he's really upbeat about stuff right now.
His pep talk was perfect. Of course, I already knew all the points, but I just needed someone else to tell me.

Thank you, Max! You made my day!

Clarification: I think I misled you folks by the above. I'm not discouraged because of not finding decent men on Match.com. I've met several very nice, intelligent, and thoughtful men. However, I'm finding that just because a guy meets all those criteria doesn't mean that I'm interested in him romantically. I have to turn down perfectly fine human beings for no reason at all except that I'm just not feeling an answering draw. It makes me feel like a total heel.

7.09.2008

Tentacular

I promise not to steal all my posts from Shawn, but I couldn't resist this link to a building sized art installation involving tentacles. Very cool.

(I rationalize with the thought that I have readers who do not read Shawn's blog)

7.08.2008

Making Progress

I went this evening to Lowes to check out things like showers and sinks. I'm planning a home improvement project that I'm sure I'll use as blog fodder as it progresses (witness the chronicling of the patio last summer).

I also ended up going to see Get Smart again with a different friend and sure enough, it was funny AGAIN. One part was so funny, it brought tears to my friend's eyes.

I'm still planning to see WALL-E with my mom (when she visits in a week and a half), Wanted with Stacey, but I have no takers yet for Hancock. Anybody?

No More Experience

Star Trek: The Experience will be closing in Vegas in the fall.

I'm so glad I got to see it before it closes!

(Thanks, Shawn, for the tipoff.)

7.07.2008

Geeky Girl Fun

Just ran across a link to this calendar celebrating geeky girls on Neil Gaiman's blog. Thought the geeky girls or aficionados of geeky girls would appreciate it.

7.06.2008

Long Weekend

I had a very good weekend. I hope you all did too. Mine was a good blend of being busy and bumming around:

Friday I bummed about the house a bit (trying to get something done, but not really wanting to expend any energy) and then went to a friend's house for dinner. We ate yummy chicken in tomato vodka sauce with peppers and olives and watched the fireworks from the balcony, the view slightly obstructed, but it was still very nice.
Saturday I managed to get to the grocery store before I went off to see Get Smart with another friend. Wow. That was a brilliant movie. Absolutely brilliant. I laughed my butt off. I will definitely buy a copy, and am tempted to see it again in the theater (which is rare for me). Steve Carell is perfect. Highly highly recommended. We had an early dinner at T.G.I.Fridays (I had a surprisingly good itty bitty steak and jalapeno mac and cheese) and then I went home to make sugar cookies for Sunday and cat food (not for Sunday).
Sunday, I got up and quickly went to work decorating the sugar cookies. My brother-in-law is visiting his dad and so my sister decided to have a "girls only" party. I decorated a lot of girly style cookies and thankfully most of them were eaten. I got to use the lovely coloring gel that Stacey gave me and really can't wait to try making more sophisticated colors. We talked and ate and watched The Holiday. Despite my general skepticism about romantic comedies, this one was quite good. I'd even consider *buying* it! I'm in a point in my life where I really identified with Camaron Diaz's character, so it didn't hurt that Jude Law's character was pretty damn charming. (Granted, he's supposed to be an Englishman in the middle of winter and he's sporting a tan that looks like he just got back from a beach vacation in the south of France.) The unrequited love plotline with Jack Black and Kate Winslet was extremely sweet as well. Unrequited love sucks. I'd recommend avoiding it if at all possible.

I've made some progress in getting the house in order, but I also got to be out and about. A good weekend, all in all.

7.04.2008

India: Our Favorite People


Since I just posted about an aspect of India that I found most distressing and most challenging, the intrusion of others' attention and expectations, I'm now going to talk about the nicest people we encountered in India:

The Dewans: This was the family of a school friend of Cheryl's. They live in a suburb of Delhi called Vasant Kunj. We stayed with them for a couple days when I first arrived and then again when we returned from Agra and then a third time just before I left. They were very kind to us and made sure we had tasty meals and a bed. The young people of the family, Aanchal and Abenov (sp?), took us out one evening to see India Gate (pictured above through a bus window). It turned out to be a wonderful local tradition for families to go out to park along the grassy mall that stretched out to either side of the monument and eat ice cream cones bought from a cart. There were street vendors selling the sorts of things they normally sell at concerts or fun ride parks -- bubble solution and lit up plastic strings (the kind you fix into a circle and wear around your neck), stuff like that. The weirdest thing was a little 3D show in a box that showed images of gods and tigers and things. It was 3D like the old ViewMaster viewers, with a stereo picture set up. You pay, then peek inside, and I was expecting something like a peep show. However, it was really geared toward children, I think. Anyway, it was a lovely evening.
The other very sweet thing Mrs. Dewan did for me was to teach me how to put on a sari and gave me a sari blouse of hers that I altered to fit me. I'm very grateful to her and to all of the Dewans for their care of us.

The guide at the Hilltop Fort at Gwalior: This fellow really grasped the fact that westerners did not respond well to the hard sell. His "no really, you don't have to hire me" schtick was frankly endearing after a week of "come into my shop! Come in to my shop!" Unfortunately, he wanted to take us around by car and we, being insane Americans who didn't realize that only poor people walk everywhere, wanted to walk up the hill to the palace and temples beyond. Thankfully, one of us struck on the idea that he could meet us at the palace and only give us the palace tour for a significantly reduced price. As we were the only westerners he had seen in a couple months, he took the deal. He spoke English quite well and really knew a lot about the palace. It was a lovely tour and I'm really glad we got to meet him. He tried to tell us some of his best lines for the temples, but by the time we got to them (without him with us) we didn't really know how to relate what he had said to the buildings in front of us. Very sweet guy, and if you ever go to Gwalior's fort, go to the south western gate and see if the tour guide is there.

Chime: She was a Tibetan refugee who ran a restaurant (Norlakh Cafe) in Leh. We went to her restaurant quite often while we were there. She made delicious garlicy fried potatoes and cream of barley porridge, so we loved to go for breakfast. About the third time we went,Bret and Cheryl had to wait for me to join them there, so the got into a conversation with her. The next time we saw her, she invited us to her nephew's wedding reception. It was a really interesting cultural experience, and some of the best parts were when we were able to help her with some of her cooking duties. She is intelligent and kind and very sweet. One of the most memorable conversations we had, I said how wonderfully sweet I found the faces of the Tibetan children and she pointed out that it was because our features were so different and that she felt the same attraction in looking at us and our Caucasian features. I know that "exotic" is essentially just different, but it was interesting coming from her. She is a lovely person with a lovely and intelligent daughter (whom we met at the wedding, pictured below on the left, and then once or twice after) and I'm really happy to have met her.

7.02.2008

India:The Downside of Celebrity


One of the oddest things about being a western tourist in India is the paparazzi. We were often photographed, sometimes asked (families would crowd around us and we'd smile dutifully at the camera), sometimes not. Occasionally they'd do it openly, but sometimes there would be a decoy, where someone would stand near us as the "subject" but they were really taking a photo of us. Then there were the people with the camera phones. This trio, probably a father and son and the son's friend (or two sons, I suppose), walked towards us, with the father walking in front, providing cover for the son to take a photo as they passed. Cheryl and I spotted this and decided we'd had enough and we were going to take their photos instead. At that point, they stopped pretending and just stood there with thier phones up, taking photos. I kept my camera in front of my face, taking photos until they got bored and walked away.
(This didn't happen in Ladakh, only when we were south of the mountains.)

Very weird. And irritating, if you happen to be a private person...

7.01.2008

I Don't Look Like a Celebrity

See?



Janiece, Michelle, and Jeri [Edit: and Shawn] all did this exercise too and similarly to Jeri, my matches were mostly HUH? I think that my totally normal features do not lend themselves to celebrity. I usually get mistaken for third grade teachers, or something like that.

Oh well. At least I only have to worry about paparazzi in India.

First Triple UCF Meet

Our good friend Tania was supposed to fly in very early on Sunday. However, the airline had other ideas and she ended up spending 6 hours in the airport waiting for her flight. Fortunately, she also had time to email Janiece and I and then she had the presence of mind to text me after I got up, but before I left the house. Genius, she is.
I picked her up from the airport 6 hours later and we met Janiece at Il Vicino, at Broadway and 6th. Yummy food was eaten, much talking was done, and you can rest assured that we continued the tradition of UCFers getting along just as well in person as they do online. Of course, we documented the occasion with photographs, and both of those lovely ladies have already posted about it. I have to say, I was very impressed with Tania's plucky good cheer, considering how frustrating the previous 12 hours had been. Yay Tania!
In addition to being lovely and plucky, Tania is also generous. She brought a present for Da Boyz. It's a cat mat (or catnip blanket, as Nathan calls it) with some super powered Alaskan catnip. The boys, usually very good at sharing, did not manage to share this very well. Here's a photo of Martin, trying to be dignified (note the beautiful tabby patterened fabric -- perfect for the boys!). And below, in my first blogged video (taken with my lovely Canon point and shoot), Matti being cute:
video