Moving Right Along

Ahoy! Hallo there! Why yes, it's me.

Just thought I'd drop a line to say that both my e-portfolio and my new blog are now hosted at:

...see ya there!


Miles to Go Before I Sleep

I can't believe it's been a year.

Last week, I was in Half-Price Books and came across a book Cherie and I had dearly loved, and much to our chagrin, could never find in hardback. I have no idea why, once online second-hand bookstores became common, we didn't think to look there--probably just because we'd been looking in second-hand shops for it since about 1994, and it didn't occur to us.

I spotted the hardback on the clearance shelf for $3, and just about let out a "whoop" of joy right there. I grabbed it, shook it at the crappy ceiling of the store, and said, "We got it, Cherie."

This year has been full of rediscovering awesome memories I'd nearly forgotten, a lot of crying, a lot of realizing how waiting for reunion in heaven seems impossibly long, a lot of raw and ugly anger that was terrifying in its intensity. It's made me feel closer to Cherie in ways I'd never have predicted, and it's also made me feel near insane when I can't repress the urge to talk to her aloud. It's made my heart break realizing that this process has been intensely, exponentially more difficult for her family.

Happy Homecoming day, Cherie. You earned this rest, that's for sure. But we all sure do miss you.


Spring 2009

Fulltime work and fulltime school allow for little else... I'm hoping to blog more over the summer once classes are over. But for now, here's the quick update:
  • We've moved! My drive is shorter, the house is great, and there are lots of crazy DIY projects in our future. (And yeah, it's rather scandalously large--we weren't looking for anything that grand, but it was the right price.)

  • Alex is still doing a lot of work traveling, and is on a crazy overseas-more-than-home schedule for awhile. He's very much enjoying the work, and I'm glad he isn't just stuck home evenings, watching me do homework.
  • I will complete my PhD's residency requirement May 14th, and will be taking NO classes this summer. I will be taking two classes in fall again, but won't have to take fulltime school ever again (unless, for some crazy reason I actually want to).
  • Once this semester is done, I will have completed 39 out of 60 credit hours for my degree... I'm hoping to finish up classes in about a year and a half--I think December 2010 will finish me up. (Then it's on to the dissertation, but let's not talk about that, as I don't need any further reason to hyperventilate.)
  • I'm getting excited, now that summer is in sight. My summer projects include: 2 (3?) research projects, finishing the first draft of my novel, some DIY house stuff, unpacking the house, rediscovering that "art" thing I used to do, and possibly learning how to knit. Also, helping my BFF/"sis" Amy with her new arrival sometime around June (I'm so glad I live close now!).
  • My mom is the Best Ever; she's come to spend over a week with me, to both keep me company while Alex is gone, and to start painting this mammoth house. Huzzah!!
Oh yeah--I also hear this rumor that after classes are done, I can READ FOR FUN this summer. Hmmm. I may have to try this odd idea.

Looking forward to getting reacquainted with you all, come June. Why hello, there Social Life! I've forgotten what you looked like!!

UPDATE: ooo, look, new blog colors! thought it was high-time for even a tiny refresh.
UPDATE 2: i forgot to include a photo of the new house. sigh, silly me!



And There Was Shopping

I think today's temperature was in the range from 20 - 25 F--or just Pretty Danged Cold, to be more accurate.

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of shopping with Sveta (with whom Alex works). We took a taxi to a big mall a bit outside the main city. It was fantastic--not only is the exchange rate heavily favoring the US dollar at the moment, but there were Christmas sales all over! I primarily got wardrobe staples, since my lost suitcase still hasn't arrived and there is some doubt as to whether it will ever show up.

For those of you who are curious, my take-home loot included...
  • 1 pair of earrings (huge, dramatic, black = awesome)
  • 12 pairs of socks (dude, I couldn't resist a pack of 7 pairs for under $3!)
  • 2 pair of underwear (one with Felix the Cat comics all over them... just because)
  • 4 sweaters (2 black, 1 plum, 1 orange)
  • 1 3/4 length sleeve t-shirt, black
  • 4 long-sleeve t-shirts in assorted colors (they were about $2.50 each!!)
All together, it cost me about $150 US. Not too shabby! (I have photos of everything, but I think the hotel connection may be too slow to post them... I may try tomorrow, if I've got the time.)

I also had fun chatting with Sveta, finding out things like New Year's is more heavily celebrated than Christmas (which they celebrate on Jan 7th, which suddenly makes that whole "12 days of Christmas" make a lot more sense--it's from the 25th to the 7th). I asked Sveta what she likes to do for fun--she said in the summer she loves being outside and barbequeing, but that in the winter it's so dark and cold she likes to sleep and watch TV! I told her I totally understood that.

We also talked about colleges here and at home, and we had a big laugh over the apparently universal fact that women love to shop, and their husbands worry how much they spend!

We briefly looked at big long awesome coats (I'm hoping to find a leather coat with some kind of fuzzy lining), but we're going out again tomorrow to just look at coats in the local shops.

Then I spent a few hours relaxing at the hotel before Alex picked me up to meet a couple of friends and go to Stargorod for dinner and the football (y'know, soccer) game. Stargorod is a kind of sports bar and grill that heavily reminded me of German restaurants in New Braunfels--heavy wood, dark interior, lots of sausage and meat and barbeque and amazing cabbage, and gigantic mugs of beer (the biggest are apparently called "The Professional" and look more like a barrel!).

There were two gals in tank tops, tiny sport shorts, and knee socks dancing with pom-poms on a stage in front of one of the gigantic TVs--they had three huge screens and a bunch of smaller ones all over, tuned to the Kharkiv football game. Then these two guys--apparently not part of the endorsed entertainment, just goofy fans--in shorter shorts than males should legally be allowed to wear--got up on the stage and started dancing. Wow. If that's not a blinding display of the international phenomenon of the white male lacking rhythm, then I don't know what is. (Nor would I want to see it!)

The food was amazing, and the atmosphere was crazy--I thought I'd been in loud places, but I hadn't been in an enclosed space with beer and football fans before! There's also a door at the end of the bathroom that, when opened, reveals a full-length mirror, a big cushiony seat, and another... door... that turns out to open into the men's room. It's called something like the "relaxing room." Hmm. Well, if that's what you want to call it...

The only disappointing part of the meal were the buffalo wings. Sergiey had told Alex that he couldn't get any spicy food in Kharkiv, and he loves it--so he wanted Alex to try the wings and see what he thought. They were barely spiced--I mean, I get more tingles on my tongue from Chili's chicken sandwich, and I am not even kidding. Alex said they should be called "kitten wings" instead.

Sergiey called us a taxi and told it where to go, but either the driver didn't listen well, or just doesn't know the area--it seemed like it was taking awhile to get to the hotel, but I thought I don't really know where I'm going anyway. When he took us over a river, though, Alex and I gave each other a sidelong glance. Then when there were less lights and more shabby buildings, we gave another sidelong glance, this time of the "oh crap, I hope we're not being kidnapped by the Ukranian Mafia!" variety. Then after a bit more driving and Alex trying to reach Sergiey on his phone, we ended up in front of a hotel that is in no way our hotel. We explained to the driver that no, we're at the Aurora... he called dispatch and apparently got it straightened out, and a few minutes later we were back! But man, for a few minutes there I was cursing my obviously-American hairstyle and the trouble it had got us into!


привет from the Ukraine!

(That word means "hello," and no, I can't pronounce it. Yet.)

I arrived in Kiev all right on Sunday evening (well, it was Sunday evening in the Ukraine--I can't speak for when it was in your neck of the woods!)... but my suitcase did not accompany me. Luckily I packed one extra day of clothes in my carry-on, and the hotel has amazing and cheap laundry services, but I am both tired of these clothes and ready for my stuff to arrive. All my knitting supplies, instructions, and further pleasure reading is in that suitcase--here's hoping it's delivered tomorrow!

We didn't see much in Kiev the first day, although we did find an expensive local mall that offered a coat for $13,000. Yes, US dollars--eeep!

We took a six-hour train ride from Kiev to Kharkiv. It was a lot more pleasant than the last train ride I had--probably because a) it wasn't a bunk-car I was trying to sleep in, b) Alex was with me, and c) we watched "Back to the Future" and "Return of the Jedi" on Alex's iPhone. Ah, technology these days...

It's really, really cold. I'm hearing Dallas is purty darn cold as well, but personally without being there I find that hard to believe! ...I think today the high here was -5 C (23F) and the low was -8 C (17F). Yeesh!

Want to look like a Ukrainian woman? Okay, start out unreasonably tall and thin, add long hair, pour yourself into some dark jeans that redefine the meaning of tight, add a long black coat (preferably fur-lined leather, though other styles are permitted), and finish off with amazingly tall stiletto-heeled black boots. Basically, they're gorgeous fashionistas, and with my short self walking down the streets in tennis shoes, corduroy pants, and a red ski jacket, I feel frumpy.

Thus far, I've bought a pair of said boots, but have no plans of wearing them on icy, cobblestone roads like the locals do. I have no idea how they move that fast, in those shoes, over that ground--but they do! I plan to shop later in the week for my own long coat, so that I can be ridiculously over-warm when it's 40 degrees in Dallas.

And also: the Mullet is king. Seriously. There are subtle mullets and what Alex calls "power mullets," and then there's the guy we sat behind in the concert tonight... whose extremely curly hair was so amazingly long--only in back--that I thought he was a woman until he turned around. It kind of makes me want to watch "Joe Dirt."

TV: there are no less than eight music video channels in our room, and I think more of them in the bar downstairs. In the bar, there's a channel called MTV Dance, that 1) features British commercials, 2) lots of dance music videos, and 3) heavily emphasizes the '80s. It's heavenly--wish I got it at home!

Food = great! So far I've tried chicken-and-mushroom pancakes (more like a crepe-wrap), borscht, truffle tortellini, potato dumplings, and some amazing mushroom angel-hair pasta. And the full breakfast here is really something.

It's completely disorienting to me to not be able to read any signs (except "internet" is pretty easy to spot, as it's close to the English version), and to rarely recognize any words. It's not at all like being in a romance-language country where it's either Spanish or sounds like it!

Tonight, we went to a concert at an organ hall, that had once been a cathedral. It was really pretty, and the organ was great--the organ-player did some crazy footwork on the pedals that I've never seen before! There was also a great cellist, and a whole choir--the only thing we recognized the whole evening was "Ave Maria," which was fantastic!

I'm trying not to work, but I had some loose ends to tie up today, and I have this sneaky feeling that I'm going to get reference questions in my inbox that aren't auto-forwarded. Hmph.

I have done some pleasure-reading, though, and I'm also so grateful that Amy finally hit the second famous "what the CRAP!?" moment in Breaking Dawn, so that now she fully understands that Stephenie Meyer is insane, and we can discuss.

Which reminds me--I am loving Gmail chat, which has allowed me to have conversations with Amy, Claire, Bryce, Christina, Jaime, Cari, and of course Tihleigh! The wifi at the hotel's been slow lately, so I'm not able to be on Facebook or several other websites, so it's nice to have some kind of live communication.

And yes, I've taken some photos--not a lot yet, but we'll be sight-seeing more a bit later--and as soon as I get the USB cable from Alex, I'll work on editing and uploading them. I promise!!


Happy Holidays

I'm up early making final preparations for my Ukraine trip, looking forward to three weeks away from work and school.

I've started receiving all kinds of wonderful Christmas cards, and as is usual, this spurs both delight and tremendous guilt. The delight is obvious, and perhaps the guilt is, too--I haven't sent out Christmas cards since about the second or third year we were married... I think around the time that I began working and schooling at the same time. I write a Christmas letter almost every year--I think I even posted it on this blog once--but usually I write it in early November (before finals), and save it until it's closer to the holidays--always a bad idea. When finals hit, I don't have the time to address and mail things, and after finals I'm too burned-out to remember or to care about anything.

Suffice to say that, if you have ever wondered why you haven't received a card from me, I have probably added you to my mental Christmas card list, but it's nothing personal--I haven't sent out a card since about 2003. Many thanks for your lovely cards--I love seeing the card you picked, the photo of your family, and hearing what has been going on in your life for the past year. I look forward to the day when I complete this crazy work/school regimen and have no more excuses left to not send you a card. Perhaps then I will also have more to tell than: "we had a really busy year--me with the work/school, and Alex with the work/travel."

Btw, I am sick of the word "busy..." as I am guessing are most any of you who read this blog. Hmph.

In any case, my thanks to those who are gracious enough to continue sending us cards! I appreciate the time you take to organize and mail them.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hannukah, a great New Year, and any other holidays you're celebrating.



I was thinking about webcomics this morning, and thought that in the spirit of my music video post, I'd write about webcomics (but without ranking them). If anything, the inevitable comments will probably reveal a couple of webcomics I ought to be reading--Todd, Shaun, Kurt, I'm looking at you, heh.

I stress that the following are listed in no apparent order...

: Every librarian--and non-librarian--should be reading this strip, period. If you enjoy pop culture, weird human behavior, and sarcasm, you'll feel right at home. Oh, and sometimes they talk about books, too!

It's currently the only strip I get through RSS, meaning it's the only strip I read on a dependably-daily basis.

Sheldon: Frankly, I had avoided reading this comic for years, even against the personal advice of Bill Barnes from Unshelved (sorry, Bill, you were right!). I just didn't want another thing to read daily when I was already trying to cut down on my media intake. Also, I didn't realize that the whole geeky, scifi (and in particular, Star Wars) references weren't just the obligatory "here's one for the geek crowd" kind of props. This storyline is a case in point--it gives me a gleeful joy to read.

Also? There's a really cute, sarcastic duck. With a lizard for a son, who only says "squee." I can't run from that.

xkcd: This comic is alternately comically genius and so mathematically complex that I find myself reading maybe every tenth comic, turning my head to the side, and saying, "huh, I bet James (my math-major pal) knows how hilarious that is." The mouse-over comments often cause me to snort aloud, which is why I shouldn't read these in public places. And anyone who's played MarioKart: DoubleDash, give it up for the Blue Shells comic!

Mark Monlux's various endeavors
: I also found Mark through Bill of Unshelved (Bill, you really pimp people out on your blog, y'know?), and while I enjoy just about everything linked on his website, what I love best are the Comic Critic movie reviews. They make me laugh about movies I've seen, and sometimes make me want to see ones I haven't. I really like his artistic style--simple and punchy. If I ever have enough sense to graduate from school once and for all and pull those comics out of a drawer and start them up online, I'd be aspiring for a similar style, heavily text-driven. (Only my primary characters are a banana and a kiwi... you can see why I doubt that anyone would care to read it.) Anyhoodle: Mark's stuff = good; you read!

Joe Loves Crappy Movies: One of those comics written by someone who would fit into my group of movie-loving geeky friends just fine. I have to love a comic strip that pokes fun at movies, appreciates the cheesy ones, and provides a complete, text review of the movies under the strip. Heck, yes, sign me up!

Digger: The best comic art that I read online, hands-down. Actually, it's so good, and the storyline so involving, that I have to admit I've stopped reading this one online, and now buy the print editions instead. However, the creator, Ursula Vernon, is so engaging in both her writing and art, that I now daily read her blog and have several of her original prints on my wishlist *ahem* husband needing gift ideas, that was a hint, *cough* *cough.* (I particularly like the Wizard of Tea, fyi.)

Schlock Mercenary: Speaking of comics blogs, this brings me to an interesting category: a webcomic I don't read. I have read quite a bit of Schlock, and find it amusing, but I never feel into the "groove" with it... however, through it I discovered the creator's wife's blog, where she discusses raising four kids as a geek/writer mom married to a self-employed webcomic artist, trying to give her kids a creative, disciplined, Godly, loving home. I end up tagging about a third of her posts as "parenting advice" in del.icio.us to save for when/if I have children of my own. It's full of honesty about being a writer, creative ways to encourage your kids to be their imaginative best, and just plain daily life. I love it.

Penny Arcade: I read this one, again, in print rather than online. This is more due to the fact that in the print editions, the accompanying commentary on the strips is ridiculously funny, sometimes to the point of being funnier than the strip itself. And, I have to admit, much as I love video games, I'm nowhere near the connoisser it takes to be to get some of their jokes--so I appreciate the commentary's elaboration for us n00bs. (Hangs head.)

I am also not reading:

Perry Bible Fellowship (sorry, I just don't get it) or PVP (I dunno). If I look at the comics I enjoy the most, I think this is because these comics distinctly lack a warm-and-fuzzy connection for me (ooo, look at me getting all girlie). Then again, I read Penny Arcade... and xkcd. Hmm. Anyway, I think each of them have enough readers not to care that I'm not reading them, etc etc blah blah please don't send hate email, amen.

I read Dinosaur Comics about once every two months, in a big fat binge of hilarity, but it's just not a daily reader for me. Kind of like reading Strong Bad emails--best done in for three hours on a boring afternoon. Alien Loves Predator I read on about a six-month basis--I just like the story arcs to stack up.