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.


Drizzly Sunday

Alex tells me I shouldn't complain about 66-degree weather; it's 29 in the Ukraine. And he doesn't have warm toasty slippers like I do. Guess he's got a point.

Etsy seller secondseed just finished my fingerless black gloves--I can't wait to get them!!

Our Star Wars bedding has been making me smile all day. Just wait until we get the matching sheets! (Since we were low on pillowcases for our less-exciting sheet sets, I also bought a Spiderman case for Alex and a Batman case for me.)

Saw Twilight yesterday morning with my gals Carolyn and Amy, and went out afterward for lunch and gal-time. It was wonderful overall, and the movie was fun: a decent mix of genuinely good/awesomely cheesy/painfully awkward and forced. Not sure what I thought of the glitter effect--but then, wasn't sure what I thought of it in the book, either. It was a bit more subtle than I was expecting, which almost made it seem more ridiculous to me. This doesn't really make sense; I think there was probably no way they could have made me happy.

I'm nearly done with the reading material for my Finance class, and will make my final posts tonight. I also need to check some due dates for other homework, to see where I am as we near semester's end. ...Is it December 12th yet? I'm ready for that break now.

(Also ready for Thanksgiving, and my hubbie back.)


[Crickets Chirping]

Yeah... it's been quite a month.

I've thought a bit about blogging (though primarily on my professional blog), but haven't got around to it. Something about work and school and school and work... and no time to breathe.

Anyway, in this week's news:
  • Alex is currently in Kharkov, Ukraine (yes, again... again), and staying a total of two weeks (yes, through Thanksgiving)... and his suitcase is lost.
  • Despite my neti pot, my sinuses are giving me intense grief. By which I mean pain.
  • All the Christmas presents have been bought, and arrived in nice brown packages last night. I'm having a little wrapping party by myself tonight, then sticking the presents under the bed until Christmas.
  • I'm trying to register for spring classes... and facing the likelihood of three evening classes a week--which means getting home around 10pm three nights a week. Geez, can I just live in Denton??
  • I'm not really as grumpy as all this sounds. Promise.
  • I keep trying to read a chapter or two of a fiction book to put myself to bed, and I can't concentrate on any, even my favorites. The last book I successfully read for fun was A.J. Jacob''s non-fiction "Know It All," about reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. (Oh, and "Freakonomics.") I think my brain doesn't have the energy for escapism--so anyone have fun non-fiction suggestions for the winter break? (So much for reading my new comics--geez.)
  • I have been in love with Etsy.com for some time, but finally made my first purchase(s) from it last week. Etsy people are WONDERFUL, and their products are even better in person. My paycheck trembles.
  • I've been in NaNoWriMo envy this month--there is no way I could balance the holiday, school, work, and 50,000 words of a novel so I won't even try--but it did spur me to write a lot of notes on mine Monday. The end of the first draft is in sight, people--when I start writing again in earnest in mid-May, I think I can finish it pretty quickly.



About once a month now, I have a variation on the dream I had last night. It always starts out sad, remembering Cherie is gone--last nights' was one of the saddest, as Jayne and I were driving somewhere together, and I clearly felt a large empty hole where Cherie should have been sitting, to make it the three of us. I remember thinking about that feeling for a long time--rational, reflective thoughts that don't often make their way into my dreams. Thoughts about how it would never be the same, there would always be that loss.

Then a bit later, Cherie came up and greeted us. I was pretty freaked out, but she explained something about some serum this guy discovered, and they had applied it to her buried body just in time (apparently, a few months was the limit to revive someone). She said she wasn't sure it would last, she might only live again for a week or a month, but she was glad to have more time with us. It was amazing, and awesome. I was telling her about the playlist I had come up with after she'd died, all our old high school and college favorites, but those with lyrics that had become particularly meaningful to me after she died. I remember thinking how wonderful it was that I could share this with her now, how she totally appreciated the humor and sadness of it, and how I had been longing to share it with her before. When I woke up, I thought it was odd that I came up with that playlist idea, until I finally remembered I had done that very thing in May, a week after she died. I haven't looked at the playlist in months; apparently only my subconscious remembered it.

Of course, when I first woke up, I had the same experience I always do with those dreams--thirty seconds of intense happiness, with a vague wondering of why I was happy. Then I realize it's because Cherie is alive again--and immediately realize it was a dream, and plunge into sadness.

It's been nearly six months now, and while the dreams are becoming less frequent, they're only becoming more intense. Sometimes I feel like I want to scream out to people I barely now, in public--especially at work--that I lost one of my best friends, and it hurts so bad, and I don't feel like messing with daily crap anymore--email, meetings, laundry, groceries. I thought it would get easier--and most days, it is. But some days, it's harder.


(Shakes Head at Self)

I started blogging about my new MacBook, and it somehow devolved into an admission of how geeky Alex and I are, and how this is revealed by our computer naming scheme.




We Interrupt This Lunch Break...

... for a bit of unscheduled silliness.

I am a computer geek wife, and a bit of a geek in my own right. We had an electronics rack in place of what was our linen closet. I've had to distinguish between typical, non-geek screws and rack screws for nearly eight years now.

So why is it that reading Slashdot over lunch, my brain stopped at the phrase "rack-mount" and won't stop giggling?



So, apparently, "survey says" conservatives are boring and liberals are messy. I'm offended on behalf of both sides of the aisle.

Granted, my quirky mindset (aka "moderate") is such that I'm labeled either liberal or conservative, usually whatever is the opposite of the person I happen to be chatting with. This is one of those many reasons I don't tend to volunteer a lot of political opinions. So I suppose that, having been labeled as both, it's easy for such a vapid article to get under my skin.

Then again, there's just the eye-rolling aspect of it. Surveying political opinions and then having strangers rate the tidiness or stylishness of workspaces? Somebody has a heck of a lot more time on their hands than I do.

Of course, then there's this David Cronenberg quote:
"All stereotypes turn out to be true. This is a horrifying thing about life. All those things you fought against as a youth: you begin to realize they're stereotypes because they're true."

When means... I'm boring and messy? Touché!


Fall Semester Slog

Actually, this semester is going quite well, but "slog" conveys how I'm feeling about all the things that I'm trying to keep track of... and thus the reason that I'm hitting my usual long-semester slow-down of personal blog posts.

Alex is on his way to Kharkiv, Ukraine at the moment--he should be on the plane from Kiev to Kharkiv now, his last leg of the journey (he had stopovers in New York and London). He'll be back Friday (after an overnight stay in London on his way back, lucky duck!). I'm in my usual state of Alex-ness. That is, I have a list of tasks to accomplish, since I don't have my BFF to interact with, I therefore should have no excuse for being excruciatingly productive... but his absence makes me feel off-kilter, and thus I'm dragging a bit on the productivity front. Meh.

Yesterday's absence of useful activity, however, was partially due to several scheduled activities (such as dropping Alex off at DFW Airport). The other portion was feeling rotten, both emotionally (attending a memorial service with other members of my department), and physically (almost not being able to drive back from Denton with an immense migraine, then throwing up promptly upon arriving home). In fact, I got home at 6:30 and immediately went to sleep at 7pm... and didn't wake up until midnight. Which actually worked out kind of well, considering Alex called 45 minutes later from London to say he was safely there. Then I read for a couple of hours and went back to sleep.

The only good part of the day was that, feeling rotten, I treated myself to Recycled Books trip before I left Denton. I managed to find a great reference work on Egyptian mythology for $4 that Alex will love perhaps even more than me, a London guidebook for half-price that also included a laminated street map someone had tucked inside (score!), and a couple of comics (Batgirl and Thessaly). (This, the day after I scored three cheap books at the campus bookstore, one of them a Catwoman compilation for $6.)

This morning, I've still felt a bit physically under-the-weather, so I started slow with a chapter of the book "Drawing Words, Writing Pictures," a textbook on how to create comics. First Second Books graciously gave me a free copy of this and the comic Prince of Persia (yep, based on that awesome old video game) to review on my professional blog, and so far I am thoroughly enjoying both. First Second always publishes interesting, artistically distinctive stuff, but in addition I am continually impressed by the quality of their printing. Their books are ridiculously inexpensive for the high quality of paper, color, binding, and printing. Open any of their books and compare it to a regular DC or Marvel hardback--it's a huge difference.

I keep meaning to post brief takes on movies we've been watching, and have neglected to do so all summer. Instead, I find myself reading a friend's blog, and commenting when he review movies that I watched recently (like The Fall, which was awesome!). Although now that it's fall, my movie-watching is pretty limited anyway.

Okay, enough stalling--time for homework. Well, actually it's nearly lunchtime... so on to stalling by way of food!


Happy Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day!

My pirate name is:

Mad Mary Bonney

Every pirate is a little bit crazy. You, though, are more than just a little bit. You can be a little bit unpredictable, but a pirate's life is far from full of certainties, so that fits in pretty well. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from piratequiz.com.
part of the fidius.org network


City Girl (Our NYC Trip)

Tihleigh (with further encouragement from Laura and Astrid, but T you're the one who convinced me): you're a genius. The neti pot seems to be working, inasmuch as it stopped six days of NYC pollution from instantly replaying my recent sinus infection. Woohoo!

So, here's the briefest of summations of our 6-day New York City vacation, with no work in sight for either of us. It was a blissful time, and I'm realizing it's super-awesome to travel places that aren't attached to work-related trips.

  • flight in, finally seeing Manhattan for the first time
  • decided that Times Square is actually more over-stimulating, crowded, and neon than Vegas. WOW.
  • love love LOVE Central Park.
  • discovered that H&M has 1) awesome clothes that 2) fit me and 3) are about as affordable as Old Navy. Rock on.
  • began to figure out the complex subway system
  • Chinatown: fantastic food, fun shopping (and I can finally use chopsticks)
  • Yankees game (tromped Toronto 2 - 1, woohoo!)
  • walking down the street after Yankees game
  • Gray's Papaya
  • finding out Sarah Palin was McCain's VP pick outside of Gray's Papaya (a great day for women, no matter your politics!)
  • um… we did… stuff… in the morning. I will probably remember what it was when I look at photos.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art: Egyptian collection, Assyrian winged guards, Degas, Madame X, and Vermeers
  • “The Lion King” on Broadway (awesome—especially loved the dance and use of performers as set pieces)
  • street hotdogs—yum!
  • Southside Seaport and Brooklyn Bridge
  • decided not to wait in TKTS ticket line
  • Wall Street
  • walking alllll the way up Broadway
  • lunch in Soho
  • matinee showing of "Boeing Boeing." So. Freaking. Incredible. Best show I have ever seen, period!!
  • dinner and dessert in Little Italy (sampled both pastries and gelato)
  • more Central Park walking and street hotdogs
  • American Museum of Natural History: elephants, dinosaurs, huge whale
  • dinner at the Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien--tiny, impossible to find, amazing burgers
  • another stop at H&M (purple cordorouy blazer!)
  • walking along Fifth Avenue by Tiffany & Co., Trump Tower, St. Patrick's, Rockefeller Center
  • Ellis Island
  • Statue of Liberty
  • taxi driver getting lost
  • flew out, and first class flying for my first time!
So... if I can tear myself away from my already-ginormous piles of homework this weekend, I'll upload those photos to Flickr--think we came away with about 7GB total, which for a 6-day trip, for us, is actually remarkably little. (But still a lot to sort, edit, and upload!) Then if by some miracle I finish, maybe I can start going back and uploading the Quebec City photos and other stuff from the spring and summer.

Well, a girl can dream, anyway.


The Fine Art of Music Videos

...Or rather, the fine art of choosing them.

So, the topic of ponderment for Alex and I this week has been favorite music videos. This was prompted by two different things. First, my insane love of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and the 80's station on Sirius radio has always amused Alex. Second, he's been using that nifty app on the iPhone to find out the titles/artists for cool songs we hear on TV. Namely, during the Olympics, Muse's insanely awesome "The Knights of Cydonia."

Yeah, go look it up on YouTube. Right now. I'll wait, really.

YES. We've decided it's "Kill Bill" meets "Firefly" in a wondrous clash of cheesy genres.

So, anyway. Alex keeps asking for my top ten list of music videos. I've been working on it for three weeks, usually on my drive home as I suddenly remember one. And I think I've got it. He rather tyrannically insisted that I keep it to ten, although I originally had eleven (finally had to bump Madonna's awesome "Hung Up," to my chagrin). So now I also have an "Other Favorites" category.

And since I don't like the actual music video for Chris Cornell's opening to Casino Royale, but love love LOVE the opening in the movie with it, I decided that it didn't actually qualify. And now I also have the beginnings of a list with my favorite film opening credits.

Sigh. A lister. Can you tell why I'm a librarian?

Top Ten

  1. Here It Goes Again, OK Go -- reasoning: humor, awesome choreography, unparalleled creativity, and I like the bald guy with glasses (oh plus I like the song)
  2. Thriller, Michael Jackson -- reasoning: classic, great cheesy storyline, awesome choreography, awesome song, and Vincent Price
  3. Tonight, Tonight, Smashing Pumpkins -- reasoning: lovely period/goth feel, haunting, and it references a cool old silent film
  4. Call Me When You're Sober, Evanescence -- reasoning: just gorgeous, and a fairytale flavor to boot
  5. Vogue, Madonna (original) -- reasoning: Madonna. Dude. plus, awesome choreography, great style, killer song, classic!
  6. Knights of Cydonia, Muse -- reasoning: amazing cross-genre humor
  7. A Million Ways to Be Cruel, OK Go -- reasoning: same as reasoning for #1. DUDE.
  8. Ain't No Other Man, Christina Aguilera -- reasoning: great retro flavor (several of them)
  9. White and Nerdy, Al Yankovic -- reasoning: insanely clever parody that's too true
  10. Feel Good Inc., Gorillaz -- reasoning: awesome crazy odd animation, and... yeah.

Other Favorites

  • Hung Up, Madonna
  • The World is Not Enough, Garbage
  • Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), Eurythmics
  • Lady Marmalade, Moulin Rouge Soundtrack (various)
  • Don't Speak, No Doubt
  • Safety Dance, Men Without Hats
  • Mercy, Duffy
  • Vogue, Madonna (MTV Awards version)
  • You Spin Me Round (Like a Record), Dead or Alive
  • Bad, Michael Jackson
  • Beat It, Michael Jackson
  • Wild Wild West, Will Smith
  • Men in Black, Will Smith
  • One, Metallica
  • Take On Me, A-ha

Favorite Film Opening Credit Sequences

  • 007 Casino Royale
  • Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
  • Catch Me If You Can
  • 007 Goldeneye
  • Charade
Note: the above is not very indicative of my top ten, or even top fifty favorite songs. That's because my criteria for a music video is much more complex:
  • choreography (skill, appropriate for song, and creativity)
  • general creativity
  • narrative helpful, particularly if costumes involved
  • classic quality--timeless, not something I won't care about next year
  • humor--not necessary, but really helpful
  • song quality
And there you have it.


Home in Texas

Anyone else frantically watching (and fast-forwarding through the boring parts) the Olympics each evening to clear space on their DVR for the next day's round of events?

I thought we were pretty much through with stuff Alex and I were interested in watching, now that Phelps has officially made his mark, gymnastics is pretty much wrapped up, beach volleyball seems to be winding down, and we finally gave up on the rowing events... but now I hear that the rhythmic gymnastics cometh. With ribbons and all.


Not that I'll be able to catch much of it the next two nights--since the library closes at 6pm each night, I am going to have to scramble and use my evening-time at home to print more items for my annual performance review-type binder. Yippee.

Quebec City was awesome, my IFLA presentation went exceedingly well, and I now have at least four trips of which I haven't even looked at the photos I took--much less edited or uploaded to Flickr. Dangit, I need Christmas break already.

Oh, and Alex is taking scuba diving lessons--last week was his written test and pool exercises, and this weekend will be his open-water test, at a local lake. We were hoping to camp out there, as well, but between the rain and my mom coming into town, I think we'll just make the drive Saturday and then Sunday. I'm hoping to get some photos of him in all his gear this weekend--woohoo!

While he's underwater and I'm sitting on the shore, I've got my New York City guidebook to look through, to make some final plans. We'll be there August 28 - September 2, and will be catching a Yankees game and The Lion King (maybe another show as well, but that's the one we broke down and paid full price for). I've also got a handy list of "best of" NYC sights from my pal Rosemary (who lives in Queens)--any suggestions are certainly welcome! I'm hoping we won't be totally doomed, going over a holiday weekend... but ah well, you go when you can.


Wednesday = "Meh"

It's not really a bad day, although it feels like it's trying hard to become so.

This morning, I woke up for the third time in the past week having had a dream about Cherie--most of them involving Cherie still being alive, and this most recent one discussing her as gone, but then she showed up to join the commentary, as well. In each dream, I was having the best time with her--going to the movies, laughing, etc. They were really good dreams--they were just hard to wake up from.

This morning, I found out that Pauline Baynes, my favorite illustrator, had died a few days earlier. This article focuses on her work for Tolkein, but I knew her best through CS Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia.

I got home from work at 10:45 last night--a glorious 13-hour day courtesy of my overloaded schedule, which is completely my fault. I learned how to say "no," just not soon enough. In any case, I slept in a little so I wouldn't be completely useless at work today, but even so, I have a raging sore throat and feel a bit spacey.

And I should be excited--I'm going to get to present at IFLA in Canada next week, after all! A new country, an international professional opportunity--but I'm tired and I'm sad that I can't bring Alex. All in all, it scares me a little that I'm longing for the fall semester to begin. Am I really so busy that three classes' worth of homework will seem breezy by comparison? Rationally, I highly doubt it. But as usual, being the well-seasoned schoolgal that I am, I'm excited for classes to begin, so that's probably a good thing.

So, yeah--it's not a bad day. But I can't help feeling a little down, nonetheless. Well, maybe "down" is too strong a word--it's more like "quiet and thoughtful."


Best/Worst Comic Book Movies

Anyone going to San Diego Comic-Con?
...If so, and if you can manage to swipe me a copy of this awesome Sandman poster, I'm forever in your debt.

In brief update:
  • I'm using Twitter now--finally gave in. The upside is, I'm spending less time on Facebook (which I love, but I don't really have time for)--because the primary reason I kept my Facebook window open all the time was to see status updates, anyway. If I'm not following your Twitter, please let me know so I can add it.
  • I'll be in DC from this Friday (July 25) through Saturday, August 2nd. No idea what my online status will be during that time, but let me know if you're in the area and up for lunch/dinner/sight-seeing (evenings and weekends only).
  • I turn 30 next Monday. No big party this year, as we're living in the temporary circumstances and ridiculously busy. It bums me out, but I'm planning on having the "big" bash next year, instead--just between you and me, can we pretend that I'm turning 30 next year? Pretty please?
  • Got my Fall class schedule, finally: EPSY 6010 (first half of Educational Statistics), EDHE 6070 (Finance in Higher Education), and EDHE 6500 (Essentials of Academic Publishing). I think it looks like a good schedule, and I only have five on-campus sessions the entire semester, which ought to help me out.
  • Re-watched T2 this weekend on Blu-ray, and the effects stood up pretty well in hi-def, considering it was made in 1991! Yowza. And it was good timing, considering I saw the Terminator: Salvation teaser last night.
  • Which means: YES! We watched The Dark Knight last night. Ledger really does make an awesome Joker--it's not just the facial tick, body language, etc., but the fact that he is terrifying and insane, yet genuinely funny. That was the first time I've heard an audience consistently laugh so loudly in a long time. And that's the essence of the Joker, to me--crazy and violent while genuinely funny.
So after we watched the movie last night, Alex asked me if I thought it was the "best" comic book movie of all time. And what that meant. I haven't had a lot of time to ponder this, but here are my initial musings:
  • X-Men 2: Most Watchable. By this, I mean that the pacing in this movie is so smooth, the plot so enjoyably crafted, that I am almost always in the mood to watch it. It's not the most complex or "best," but it's just a fun movie. This, despite a dizzying number of characters, which still impresses me.
  • Iron Man: Most Fun. This is almost the same category as X-2, really--but there's a slight difference. Also a movie I'd frequently be in the mood for--not so much for the pacing, as for Downey, Jr's great interpretation of Stark. "Best Quipping?" It loses a few points for obvious villain/pacing at the end, but meh--doesn't bug me much. Also: Best Costume Translation On-Screen. On paper, I love Batman's costume best--but the most authentic and least cheesy-looking has to be Iron Man.
  • The Dark Knight: Best Villain. Most Successfully Serious. I'd almost put "best movie" here, except that I've only seen it once, and I think the pacing/length aren't perfect. However, there's no question in my mind that Ledger's Joker is the best movie comic-book villain, period. And I love me some Batsy.
  • Spiderman 2: Best Origins Summary. I love, love, love the opening credits with the "best of" the first movie. It's done in a pleasing visual manner, it's brief, and it leaves out most of the crappy Green Goblin parts (I hate helmet/mask acting). Also possibly second-best villain... hmmm wait, now I'm remembering Zod--never mind.
  • Superman 2 (Richard Donner Cut): Most Surprising. This is another close contender for "best," because I'm just amazed at this movie. I watched the original version again a few months ago, and was flabbergasted by the contrast. This movie has real drama, emotion, and two moments that flat out made my jaw drop with surprise: Superman letting Lois fall out the window (!), and Lois shooting him (!!). Daring moves from an older movie, where I didn't expect it. And Reeves--man, what talent he had in that role.
  • Batman (1989) and Batman Returns: Best Set Design. Tim Burton--what an excellent choice for a movie with such a dark character and setting. He truly made "the" version of Gotham for me--gothic, art noveau-ish, dark, extremely stylized. Also the best Batmobile--this is what I miss most in the Nolan movies. Sigh.
  • Superman: The Movie: Honorable Mention. I actually prefer Superman 2, but I have to give this one props for the scene where Superman peeks at Lois's underwear. (Not that Frank Miller would agree with the less-self-righteous interpretation of the character--but that's why I love it. Goody-two-shoes Supes has always annoyed me, thus my preference for 'ol Batsy.)
  • The Bottom of the Barrel:
    • X-Men 3 (too many plots)
    • Spiderman 3 (too many villains)
    • Superman Returns (too little heart--although gorgeous visually)
    • Supergirl... oh gosh I loved this movie as a kid. Too... yeah. Worse waste of Peter O'Toole in a film? Hokiest plot ever? Take your pick.
I'm sure there are worse comic book movies, particularly pre-1990's, but I honestly haven't seen many older ones.

I was trying to pick my favorite leading lady of a comic-book film, but I'm kind of stumped, to be honest. Debra Winger's Lois is nice and gutsy (and not nearly as annoying as I found her when I was a kid)... Kristen Dunst was annoying in Spidey 1, but I like her fine in 2... Maggie Gyllenhall was a geniously great replacement for Katie Holmes in Dark Knight, but she's really Harvey's gal in that movie, so I somehow don't want to count her. Of the early Batman films, I really liked Michelle Pfieffer as Catwoman--although I haven't seen it in about four years, and this makes me wonder how she stands up against today's more dramatic fare. I enjoy both Famke Jansen and Anna Paquin in the X-films, but neither enough to pick as my favorite.

Hmph. Let me know if I'm missing someone obviously awesome.

Villain I'd most like to see in a new comic-book movie? Mr. Freeze. That would be the second-favorite of my favorite Batman villains, and he was treated so very, very well in Batman: The Animated Series and in Batman: Beyond (both cartoons). And he suffered so very badly in the hands of Arnie, on-screen (shudder). But I'm skeptical that he'd be a watchable live-action villain, especially since Nolan seems to like using more than one villain at a time.

I'm interested to know your thoughts... about Dark Knight, about best/worst comic book movies, etc.! Feel free to pick a fight with me, heh heh.


It's July Already?


This post isn't going to be about Alex's adventures in St. Pete, but as I'm spending part of my Sunday afternoon going through our stuff on Flickr, I thought I might post one of my favorite shots from his trip. Gorgeous, eh?

Last night, we went to Fort Worth for a date night. We ate dinner at the Flying Saucer, an establishment so centered around their international alcohol that I thought for a minute the waitress was going to throw us out when we said we weren't drinking tonight. However, the food was quite good; I enjoyed a goat cheese/cranberry/walnut salad, and Alex had a buffalo chicken wrap. Then we indulged in some kind of ice cream/chocolate cake drenched in raspberry sauce.

The Bass was gorgeous, and Avenue Q was great. So, so great. We kept joking throughout the first act that we'd see a bunch of empty seats after intermission, due to the, ahem, controversial nature of the show. And sure enough, the four seats to our left were empty throughout the entire Act 2, despite the fact that one of the guys had been laughing his head off. My theory is that he's going to get heck from his wife for laughing at all.

Today, we've had pancakes and some lazing about, and now we're back to work--Alex literally working on work stuff, me working on getting papers together for house financing, and travel receipts to file tomorrow, then the last three weeks (and four trips' worth) of laundry, and I had been planning on ripping CDs and organizing our mp3 players.... but yeah. So far, I've managed to throw up my hands in frustration over my lack of cohesive plans for my 30th birthday party, and add tags to some images on Flickr. And, er, there's this post.

I've still got a ton of photos and content to post for the last three trips (plus earlier stuff that I'm not even going to think about at the moment)... here are two brief notes:
  • I was just in Anaheim, Abilene, and Austin. What's up with the A-town theme?
  • I have now come to realize that Austin is the avacado capitol of Texas. And also has the most fantastic waiting service I have ever enjoyed. I have now made my peace with this town, and accept its eccentricities as charming (with the exception of the awful highway system, which I did not personally have to deal with on this particular trip).


More Online Humiliation

In a further effort to make my entire life public to the world, particularly any embaressing instances, here's a link to all my yearbook photos from HSU, which my lovely employer the UNT Libraries have just digitized.

Ah, more fodder for being teased at work--just what everyone needs, eh?


Pre-Flight Check

I just had to add this funny anecdote. So, you know what sucks most about a huge thunderstorm the night before you're going on a trip? Nope, it's not that the thunder kept you up so you didn't get much sleep--although that was interesting, too.

It's pretty darn hard to pack when the power's out.

Um, yeah. For hours. And all your decently-sized flashlights--those have been packed in boxes for two months. And you have no idea where your in-laws keep flashlights, but you're pretty sure it's somewhere downstairs... in the dark... probably three rooms away in some drawer that you can't find in the dark.

So--good thing you've got that tiny LED light in your purse. You know, the kind that is only really useful for finding the keyhole of your car door in the dark? That is so tiny, that if you set it on the counter, it doesn't shine light anywhere near what you're packing--but you're using your hands to pack--so you spend two hours holding the darned thing in your mouth while you ponder which pants you want to wear to Friday's Happy Hour at ALA.

Yeah, that was interesting.

Sunny (Kinda) Cali!

It was an early morning with a flight and time-change that made for a long day, but it was fun. Here are some highlights:
  • realizing that Dr. Totten from UNT's SLIS was in the TSA security line right behind me at DFW
  • riding in a convertible through Beverly Hills, Mulholland Drive, Rodeo Drive, and Santa Monica with Greg, Cari, & Emma
  • the resulting crispy shoulders (despite liberally applying 30 - 50 spf sunscreen four times)
  • seeing dolphins playing in the waves at Santa Monica
  • eating almond-chocolate-chunk ice cream on Santa Monica Pier
  • photographing my favorite part of the Pier: glimpses of the waves beneath the boardwalk
  • passing Kodak Theater and Groman's Theater
  • chatting with a librarian/vendor from Melbourne on the shuttle from LAX
  • getting a tremendously-upgraded room at Residence Inn... and finding three closets and two balconies in it!
  • finally staying in a hotel with free wifi
  • eating at In-N-Out Burger (nod to Tihleigh)
  • "talking" to Alex (still in Russia); he was IMing Robert, who called me, and we had an interesting three-way conversation
  • sitting in my hotel room, getting annoyed at the loud upstairs neighbors... realizing there *is* no upstairs... walking outside and realizing it's the enormously loud/huge fireworks at Disneyland... and laughing at myself
  • (did I mention my room has three closets and two balconies? yeah, dude.)
  • exchanging thunderstorm stories and befuddlement at the convention center entrance with a Library Journal exhibitor from NYC
  • walking around the Convention Center... the looooong way
  • being so tired from the long day and time change that I ate popcorn for dinner--thank goodness for Residence Inn's kitchenette!
This isn't even all of the selected photos from today.... but it's a start.


FYI: ALA in Anaheim

I'll be in Anaheim, CA at the American Library Association's Annual Conference starting tomorrow (June 26th) through Monday evening (June 30th). I may or may not find the time and divine combination of free time + laptop + outlet + internet connection + near beach (ha!) to post more updates, so I thought I'd let you guys know what I'm up to.

I will, however, be spending at least some of that possible free time posting on my professional blog. So if you're curious as to what lofty academic pursuits I'm up to (ha!), feel free to check there.


Overload and Russian Dumplings

You would think I can't complain about being busy any more than I already have... yeah. I will try to contain myself when conversing, but suffice to say that work + preparing to travel for work + prepping for construction loan + car repair + normal bills and stuff to take care of... = Overwhelmed (more than usual) Starr. Sigh.

It seems worse than usual, since my co-conspirator is out of the country and not immediately available for help or venting.

But he did teach me something during our brief IM today: pierogies are Russian dumplings. He had some filled (variously) with meat, cabbage, mushrooms, apricots, and cherries. (He missed out on the salmon, apparently not enough to go around.) He had an apparently amazing boat trip around St. Petersburg today (well tonight, for him) from 10pm to 2am--gotta love having all that day light during White Nights. He said he took many photos (yay!) and there was apparently much yelling while under bridges. Huh. Guess that's a story I'll just have to hear when he gets back.


Solo Weekend

So, Alex is now in St. Petersburg; he informs me that as he is nine hours ahead of us, he'll shortly look up the winning lotto numbers and give them to me. Heh.

In any case, I'm off to ALA in Anaheim early Thursday am, and he's back in Texas the day afterward... I'll be back late the following Monday. We do get around these days.

Yesterday, my department enjoyed a lovely party at Clarice's house. Four of us ladies actually stayed in the pool until 10pm. 'Twas quite nice; I haven't been night-swimming in quite a while, and I've sorely missed Clarice since her retirement a few weeks ago. I stayed to chat with the last stragglers until 11pm, and was back in McKinney at midnight, then groggily woken up at 6:30 by Alex's call to say he was at his layover in London. Then it was off to church with pals Amy and Jaime, who also treated me to a scrumptious lunch of breakfast tacos, and rushed home for my first IM-session with Alex, once he finally got to his St. Petersburg hotel. We talked about Russian traffic and vessel sinks, primarily. (Ah, the joys of house-building.)

I believe the only things on my weekend list that actually got accomplished were purchasing a vanity for the new house's downstairs guest bath, and looking at a lot of vessel sinks and faucets. Here it is nearly 10pm and I haven't ripped a single CD, or cleaned my desk, or packed for California, or written any in my novel. Ah, well.

I have discovered this, however: Vader and stormtroopers dancing to Thriller. Which pretty much glows with Pure Awesome, considering it combines two of my greatest delights. Actually, make that three--I was going to say Star Wars and Thriller, but also the concept of a Dance-Off itself. Yep, Pretty Stinkin' Awesome.


Stuff Happens

...So much of it, in fact, that I haven't been around here much, have I?

Well, here's the update:
  • Alex leaves Saturday to spend a week in St. Petersburg
  • I'll be at ALA in Anaheim June 26th - 30th
  • so much more travel planned that it makes me tired/excited to think about
  • been very social lately: dinner with Greg & Cari and then Amy & Jaime, art museum with my parents, day with Carolyn, and an afternoon of books and ice cream with Jayne & progeny
  • visited bookstores 5 times in the past 2.5 weeks (it's an addiction)
  • close to finalizing our houseplans (probably won't break ground until August--arg!)
  • still reading a lot of "fun" books
  • managing to write in my novel--major breakthrough last week
  • still lack the ability to tan
Um... that's at least a portion of my life, currently. I've been writing a lot of thoughts on paper, but haven't sat down to transcribe them here, yet. Maybe next week while I'm bored and husband-less.


More of the San Antone Weekend

Check out this bizarre patent.

Other fun stuff we did this weekend (that I left out of my previous post):
  • Sunday afternoon, I swam for a gloriously peaceful forty-five minutes while Alex read one of his business books (poolside). Swimming underwater is one of the most tranquil activities to me, and something I rarely get to do. It's somewhat wrecked when I have to share the pool with other people, particularly chatty ones. Thus, sharing silent pool-time with Alex was blissful.
  • Completely neglected to eat sweets for my Dad's birthday. He did manage to have some of the cheesecake Mom bought, but Alex and I were both so full and sooooo sleepy from our awesome TexMex meal that we fell asleep on the couch. Yes, sleep instead of cheesecake--it was a tough decision, and my brain won over my stomach (pretty rare occurrence, that).
  • Again, I have to mention the early-morning chats my with parents. Saturday's morning was in the art studio, sans Alex, but Sunday was our more-traditional on the porch, with Alex. We all looked over the book purchases we'd made the night before and chatted about them--heavenly. Family + coffee + books + trees/country = bliss.
  • On the five-hour drive back, Alex and I chatted about tons of stuff, as is our usual during that trek. We almost always bring music or audiobooks (this time we had a learning-Russian CD), but we rarely use them--we're having too much fun chatting together! That is just one of the hugest blessings of my life, that after more than seven years of marriage, Alex has even more become my best friend, so much so that we can't stop conversing through five hours of monotonous driving. This time, we discussed the new house plans, my book's plot, politics, work, travel, future dreams, finances... yeah, and I forget what else.
  • I took a bunch of photos, primarily at the McNay Art Museum... but due to this week's schedule, I think it might be awhile before I get them up on Flickr.

Am I the Only Goofy One...

...or when composing emails, do you also reflexively smile when you add an emoticon? I don't know if I'm smiling "back" at the little digital face, or if my subconscious believes that by physically reinforcing the expression, my tone will be more adequately conveyed in the email.

It's also possible that I'm just an insufferably cheerful person.

So, this weekend Alex and I jetted down to San Antone for my dad's birthday--his 58th, which just adds to my whole reinterpretation of age, as he looks and acts, at nearly 60, nothing like what I thought of that age as a kid. I think he's more of what I thought 40 was--then again, when you're 12, it's hard to believe the world will still exist when you're 30. Anyway.

We had a great time--Alex made the remark, echoing what I've often thought, that my parents' house is an amazing place where you can truly relax. We tried to assess the reasons why, when we got back. We both think that a lot of it has to do with all the trees around their house--which bodes well for our future home, as the lot has tons of big, old trees. But there's also the birdsong (also related to trees), the "nearness" of the outdoors due to their abundant garden spots and back deck, and the sheer quiet. Alex and I lived in a similarly country-ish area at our old house, but there was the lack of trees (and thus birdsong), and because of the placement of our electronics, the house was always loud, even if you didn't consciously notice it. Whenever the power would go out, we'd be reminded of how loud the house usually was--the constant barrage of white noise from UPS's and computers and theater equipment and fans and the fridge.

So after waking up in that relaxing place--and enjoying my traditional cup-of-coffee-with-the-parents while Alex caught another half hour or so of sleep (this usually occurs on the back deck, but due to rain this time was moved to my mom's art studio, which is in a small red shed near the house), we took off for San Antone itself. We enjoyed the re-opening weekend festivities at the McNay Art Museum, a small but wonderful jewel of a place that reminds me of the Kimbell in Fort Worth (only with gorgeous Spanish colonial architecture instead of gorgeous modern architecture). It has a similarly comfortable and human-scaled approach to art display, with one of the most beautiful inner courtyards I've ever seen. We were ferried to and from the museum in a school bus in which the bus driver decided to dramatically illustrate that the shocks were not made to hold a load of adults, much to our discomfort (and amusement).

Then we headed off to enjoy a Jazz and Arts Festival at Crockett Park... but were perplexed to find it nearly empty, few booths (with the exception of the excellent Starbucks booth that twice provided us with free caffeine), and most befuddling, no music at all. Most people, performers, and vendors had apparently been frightened off by some earlier drizzles. We pronounced it neither jazzy nor festive, and instead spent awhile browsing through Half-Price Books, a dangerous activity for four people addicted to print. This was the third bookstore Alex and I had been to in a week and a half, and we brought home our fifth (at least) sack of books. I think we're a bit flustered by all our books being packed in boxes, and desperately trying to fill that hole--and since we plan on using movers for our next move, we don't have the thought of hauling heavy boxes to deter us.

Then we enjoyed a yummy (if loud) dinner at Tomatilla's, and headed back to my parent's casa rather late. A good time was had by all.

I'm now reading a ton of material in preparation for an all-day meeting tomorrow. Alex is off to Vegas (yes, again!) tomorrow through Friday, my mom is in town Wednesday through Saturday, my pal Jayne will be here over the weekend and a tad longer, and we have plans for yardwork and socializing over the weekend. Ah yes, and there are still preparations to be made for Alex leaving for Russia the following weekend.

It's a busy life, but at least it's an interesting one.


Just To Say...

I have seen
the Indiana Jones movie
that was in
the box office

and which
you were probably
as a 1950's B-movie spoof.

Forgive me
the effects were so shiny
too CGI
and too much.

-- Starr Hoffman (with apologies to William Carlos Williams)

(Although I have to add an amended last stanza,
addressed to my fellow Indy fans...)

Forgive me
it was delicious
so appropriately corny
and so fun.
The original poem is here:

The idea for this spoof came from This American Life:

And to my cousin Victoria:
hope you enjoyed my crack at poetry spoofing.


More Letters to Cherie

It makes me angry, now, to watch Battlestar Galactica. One of the main characters, President Laura Roslin, has cancer, and it hurts me and makes me angry all at once, that she looks nothing like a cancer patient. Oh, they give her a skincap once in awhile to show her bald, and her wig is sufficiently un-shiny to look like a wig rather than natural hair, but other than that, she just looks tired all the time. Like, mother-of-three-children tired, not fighting-for-her-life tired. They tried a little harder with a cameo role of a character that died of cancer--but they but such odd, harsh makeup on her that she just looked dirty, like she'd been playing in mudpies. She was still fleshy, whole, untouched by disease--just dirty.

It makes me think of your graveside service, when I see Laura Roslin. It reminds me that standing next to your coffin was probably the hardest thing I have had to do in my entire life. I thought it would be difficult, beforehand--I had no idea.

It was all I could do, hanging physically on to Jayne for dear life and biting my lip, to keep from screaming and throwing myself forward. If it had been an open-casket service, I don't think I would have made it.

I kept looking at that coffin and picturing your disease-wasted body lying there. And I think it was painful on two levels. I wanted to throw myself onto your body, to touch your body one last time, to see your golden eyelashes and your freckles--it was some deep visceral need that I didn't anticipate or understand. And on another level, I couldn't stand to even imagine your wasted body there, so unlike the body I used to know, before it was twisted by cancer and treatments and prescription drugs. I know in either case, I know, that that body is not you, was never you, even before that disease captured you. I know that your "you-ness," your soul, is long gone and destined for a better locale. But that didn't make it any easier.

The last time I saw you, barely able to lift your legs onto the recliner footrest, your legs were mostly bone, kneecaps knobily protruding from what had once been vibrant, muscular legs, capable of back-handsprings and running after two energetic kids. Your arms were so thin that it's painful to even think of it, and your face was swollen from the steroids--you wryly compared it to a chipmunk's. You made us all laugh at your comments about your complete lack of any butt, the fact that you could still somehow gain weight in your face and your stomach. But in the end, it was so hard to see you look so alien, to wonder where that body I had known had gone. To see my strong, vibrant friend so frail.

So I see these characters on TV shows, in movies--they all have cancer now. It seems everwhere I turn, there's a plot where someone dies. I'm sure everyone feels this way when they lose someone. But still, it makes me so angry. I want them to take the President Laura Roslin on Battlestar Galatica, and make her face look pinched and drawn--or swollen by drugs. I want to see her arms look thin and wasted, her legs look so frail as to nearly be incabable of supporting her body. It makes me resent her, that her acting expects me, the audience, to be sympathetic toward her plight, to fear for her health and feel sorrow for her pain. I simply don't believe it. She doesn't look sick, or exhausted. She doesn't have cancer, and I know it. My suspension of disbelief is no longer willing.

I cry a lot more now, at anything. Part of it is that every plot line is related to death, or cancer, often both. Part of it is that emotion seems always to be bubbling just beneath the surface--good ones, bad ones, all kinds. Except for those days when I'm too numb to feel anything. On those days, I wonder if I'm dispassionate, or happy you're no longer in pain, or too busy to feel anything, or forgetting you, or if I'm simply over your death. But I'm not--it's just another wave of numb, to be followed by another wave of sorrow. In and out, the tides flow.

I feel like no one who's not in this sorrow with me can understand. I need to talk about you, think about you, look at your pictures and--even more so--your handwriting. When I look at your handwriting, you seem so alive. Perhaps everyone feels this way, or perhaps it's just that in high school and college, we wrote so much together--stories, yes, but also notes in class and goofing around. We didn't write notes and then hand them to each other, we wrote entire conversations, sometimes talking at the same time, sometimes simply silently communicating through words. Your handwriting is, to me, like your voice--therefore reading it isn't like watching some static photograph of you. It is you, almost audibly speaking to me, in the present.
Your photo is on my bedside table, on my desk at work, and I've been carrying your senior picture with me in my backpack for weeks. I feel like anyone who doesn't understand will see it as some bizarre shrine, some evidence that I don't believe you're in Heaven, or that I'm obsessed. I think it's just my way of reaching out for your presence, not to hold you on earth, but to know that my (I keep using the word "vibrant," what's another word for this, for you?) hilarious creative friend is still alive. Not here on earth, but alive in a far more real way.

Everything I just wrote was about my own selfish sorrow--I certainly feel a lot of that, but it's tempered by my knowledge that for you, this is better. You are happier, you are without pain, you are waiting for us. But I also hurt far more for your family, particuarly for your mom and your sister. I cannot fathom what they must feel, knowing that their sorrow must be so much deeper than my own. It makes me unspeakably sad, and it strengthens my resolve in the promise I made you. And I pray for them, oh I haven't prayed this much in years. When I hurt for them, I pray.

And I remember what you told Mom, at Sasha's funeral, that it wasn't sad, that this was just the beginning for her. That it wasn't a waste of her young life, but that she got to go on to the real life that much sooner. And I know you were right, that you are right. Sometimes I can nearly see your wry smile as you shake your head about all the fuss we're making. But it's so amazingly hard, being left behind. I cannot believe it, it amazes me constantly how hard it is. I didn't see you every week, every day. I lived far away, I hadn't lived in the same room as you for twelve years. And still, it is this hard.

I've been talking a lot with a friend at work, who lost her younger brother in a car accident three months ago. I cannot believe, at times, that she is able to keep going. She didn't get a last chance to say goodbye like I did, she had no idea that this was coming, that he would be lost in an instant in a car crash. I know it's incredibly difficult for her, every single day--and I'm thankful that she talks to me about it, that we each have someone who understands a bit of this experience.

I started reading "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion, about the year after her husband suddenly died of a heart attack. I'd been wanting to read it for over a year--and now it's exactly what I wanted. I would have thought the last thing I'd want is to read a book about grief--but that's what I want, to hear someone else say "this is how it is" and "this is okay" and "you might later expect this." It makes me cling to Alex like he's a life preserver, or like he might suddenly vanish. It makes me almost want to have kids and screw that I'm not ready for that or wanting them at this moment--but just in case, just in case. To quote "The Time Traveler's Wife," when Claire talks about wanting a child with her husband, Henry:

"...I wanted Henry to be in this child, so that when he was gone he wouldn’t be entirely gone, there would be a bit of him with me…insurance, in case of fire, flood, act of God."

I know it's irrational, and we'll wait for kids at the right time, if and when it comes. And I know that ultimately Alex's safety--and mine, and everyone else's--is up to God. But right now I feel like I'm clutching desperately at everyone, to keep them close.

And in the end, if that makes me reach out to my friends more often, treasure each moment with them more dearly, then I think that would make you happy. So I'll wipe my eyes--yet again--and I'll do just that.


Weekend-ish Weekend

Well Saturday was all-out weekend-y, but since Sunday I had to write a conference paper, I'll just call it weekend-ish as a whole.

Friday night, we saw Iron Man, which was just about as fantastic as the trailer made it look, which made me extremely happy--but also frustrated, since I immediately wanted to see it again, and it no doubt won't see a blu-ray release until Christmas. Arg! But dude--yeah, I so called that Robert Downey Jr. was genius casting. Favreau, I thought if anyone could do it, you could--and you not only did it, you threw yourself in there as the chauffer. And had more than one line! I'm impressed.

Of course, we all know what movie is coming out this weekend, the thing of speculation for years, anticipated for nearly two decades--Indiana Jones. I've been heartened by the trailers--but worried that the whole "alien" plot thing isn't in the trailers at all. Yeah, that worries me. And the early buzz... I try to ignore it, but I guess time will tell. I hope to actually see it this week/weekend, despite the fact that we just saw Iron Man and have yet to see Speed Racer or Prince Caspian. But dude--it's Indy.

In other news, one of my fellow geek-brarians let me know of this extreme awesomeness: Joss Whedon is almost done shooting a 40-minute musical about supervillians that stars NPH (Neil Patrick Harris, for those of you not on the down-low) and Nathan Fillion (of Firefly, for those of you not--well, let's face it, for those sad, sad people who haven't seen Firefly yet). It's called Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.

Ahem: did you hear me? Whedon. NPH. Fillion. Musical. Supervillians.

Ah-ha, I thought I'd hear your scream of extreme awesomeness. Yes, indeed--and it's supposed to be released online first, later to DVD (and I can cross my fingers for blue-ray).

Erm, yeah, back to my weekend... Anywho, Saturday we met with our architect (yay!), had lunch at Freebirds (yay!), went to the Frisco mall and bought some clothes (I guess I'll just stop saying "yay" now before it gets old), had yummy tasty food at Cheesecake Factory, had a nap, I wrote in my novel (finally! returning to creative writing summers), and then watched some more of the new American Gladiators show--yeah, that's what I said. Cheesy guilty pleasure, indeed, with a little nostalgia thrown in.

Sunday, I had to work on a paper for IFLA (which is kind of a "yay" but also a groan for actually doing the work), but we did FINALLY break out the Mario Kart Wii. Dude--the wheel is a vast improvement, particularly for the kind of gamers, like me, who always threw their traditional controllers around anyway. I actually don't completely suck at this game--in fact, I got first place in most of the races I tried yesterday, which is pretty crazy stuff. I was so bad at Mario Kart DoubleDash for the GameCube that after the first week, I never drove my own cart, but was always Alex's partner in charge of throwing stuff at the other carts. I'm glad that the peripheral for the game is intuitive enough that I can finally drive my own cart. And the retro tracks are pretty fun--one of them is completely boring, but most are great, and I just love the idea in general. Next task: type in Bryce's Wii and Mario Kart numbers, so we can meet for online battles--woohoo!

We watched Enchanted in the evening, and it was truly awesome. I'm sure as a normal romantic comedy it was so-so, but for a Disney freak, it was awwwwesome, catching all the little references and watching Amy Adams do an amazing job of actually moving like a Disney princess in real life (which boggles my mind). And James Marsden was hilarious. And better yet was watching the credits and seeing James Baxter, my favorite animator of all time because he animated Belle, listed as animation supervisor. Dude!!! Go, Baxter! And who did he supervise? None other than Andres Deja (who animated Gaston). (I think Glen Keane, who animated the Beast, is busy working on Rapunzel, which I am so so excited about.) AND the great Alan Menken was responsible for score and song, which of course explains why both were awesome and hilarious.

I'm wearing the black-funeral-jeans again today--I keep wearing them and washing them and wearing them. Somehow it just comforts me to wear them, although I would have expected that I'd never want to wear clothes I bought for a funeral again. I think it's at least in part because it was Cherie's idea to get them in the first place, and having them on makes me think of her, in good ways. I've got still more memory notes, like my last two posts, but other than writing them down on a pad of paper, I haven't wanted to type them out and see them again. I think I'll get on that later this week, though. I don't know if it's important to anyone else that I put them up, but it makes them seem more real to me, if they're on the blog. And I know I'll read the blog again, whereas I'll probably lose the paper notes at some point.

Thinking of Cherie makes me think of missions, which reminds me: if you'd like to help with the crisis in Myanmar or in China, World Vision offers a great way to do that. They'll accept online donations of any amount, but if you specifically give $100 to either cause, you'll be providing one family with a survival kit including emergency food, drinkable water, blankets, temporary shelter, and a cookset/utensils. You can donate to Myanmar, to China, or both, or you can still sponsor a child for $30 a month. My family's supported World Vision as long as I can remember, and I've always been impressed by their organization.

And upon returning to my office with my lunch, I also brought back Jellaby by Kean Soo, which I'd read part of online and loved, but didn't realize was now in print. He's got short stories related to this book in the Flight volumes (which I also highly recommend). Jellaby is strongly reminscent of Calvin and Hobbes--only with a dragon and girl instead of a tiger and boy, and it's mostly drawn in purple--which is to say it is AWESOME. It's more of the "quiet style" Calvin and Hobbes strips, as I think of them, with a little manga-style background panels thrown in. I love it very, very much and if you like dragons or cuteness or small children with big imaginations, then you must buy this book.

That's a lot of news for one day, so I'll leave you with that.


More Memories

I keep having these memory flashes, and I want to get them down for keeps.

Cherie & Me (closeup)

Saturday mornings after staying overnight at Cherie's house: frozen Red Baron pepperoni pizza, brownies we made that morning, and Dr. Pepper. I have no idea how we survived so many years on that diet, but that was the tradition. Then we'd plop down in front of the TV with something like "Hunt for Red October" that was almost impossible to see, because the movie was so dark, and because the sunshine glared through the back living room windows in the morning.

The music of our youth:
  • Waking Up the Neighbours by Bryan Adams (this has been in my dashboard player for months now, retro-rockin' out)
  • Top Gun soundtrack (dude: you know you love The Danger Zone)
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves soundtrack (Cherie's favorite movie at the time)
  • Three Musketeers soundtrack
  • Footloose soundtrack
  • Shout soundtrack
  • Amy Grant's Heart in Motion
It was because of Cherie saying how Christian Slater's line in Robin Hood POT was the only time she'd ever found the F-word funny, that I discovered both that word and what it meant. Um, not that I lent on that I had been clueless. Heh.

Cherie had a photo of a cop pointing a gun at the camera--the barrel was the only part in-focus. She absolutely loved that--at the time, she and Beth wanted to be FBI agents.

It's funny that, although I was a really vain and sensitive kid, I loved hanging out with Cherie. She was so frank--she told you exactly how it was. But when she said an outfit looked ridiculous or I was being silly, it didn't hurt like it would have with others--I valued her words because they were spoken in absolute honesty, without malice. And when she said you looked great, or--even mor importantly--that the story you wrote was incredible--you knew it was absolutely true, that there was no bias in it. Her honest opinion was a gift.

I find it hilarious and ironic that one of my favorite photos of Cherie is her cheerleading portrait. The non-conformist, non-girly, sarcastic pal of mine was a cheerleader for exactly one year. Yep, it baffled me, too.

The next-to-last time I saw Cherie, she was up in Dallas visiting her sister. She, her sister, her mom, my mom, and I all went out to Chili's and had a great gabfest--and wow, was it. I think we are about five of the talk-i-est gals I know. We left Chili's and were going to say goodbye, but ended up gabbing a long time on the steps, Cherie regaling us with her hilarious take on what the cancer and drugs were doing to her body. She made us scream with laughter as she showed off the absolute lack of a butt, and as she described how square the steroid had made her face. Although her body was distorted to the point where it made me sad to see how different she looked, she was completely herself with her dry sense of humor. After six years of hell with that disease and its nearly-as-bad cure, she had an immensely upbeat attitude.

We used to write together a lot--sometimes trading off paragraphs or sentences in short stories. We wanted to write a novel that way together called "It Was a Dark and Stormy Knight." I think we only got one or two chapters written. My favorite thing we wrote together was a story-poem (our term) called "The Tree Way Up in the Sky All Alone and Bill the Canary." It is awesome.

I am immensely sad that the only person I ever planned on writing collaboratively with is gone.

We both loved fairy tales, and my bookcases (well, okay now my many many boxes of books in storage) are filled with the fruits of our long weekends spent at used book stores. Many fairy tale rewrites, original volumes of them, reference works about them. Our favorite bookstore, which is now closed, was in San Antonio near the Shepherd's Shoppe, and was about the size of a closet with bookcases nearly to the ceiling. We thought it was about the coolest place on earth (but then, I hadn't seen Recycled Books in Denton yet). I think we must have spent half our weekends there.

The other passion we shared was movies--to be honest, Cherie got me far more into movies. My husband has her to thank for that, and for getting me even more into Star Wars than I was. (Sidebar: it's odd now that my interest in Star Wars is due to three women: my mom, Jayne, and Cherie. I didn't realize how odd that was until I got to college. And became popular with boys. Er, geeky boys.) I did not know how Boba Fett was until Cherie told me--I didn't pay attention to the names of secondary characters until college, for some reason.

We spent almost as many weekends at the theater as we did at bookstores. I remember watching so many of the movies of the '90s with her, good and bad... The Bodyguard (heh), French Kiss, While You Were Sleeping, Only You, Crimson Tide, Circle of Friends, Batman Forever (slight cringe), Batman and Robin (shudder), Johnny Neumonic (shudder), Waterworld (biggest shudder ever)... Cherie saved the poster images from the newspaper ads and had them pinned to a bulletin board in her room. The one I always remember looking at was the one for Beauty and the Beast, because it was my favorite movie and it was an awesome silhouetted image.

While sitting under the steps at Bracken Christian School (it was an awesome hideout after school), we planned out an entire Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves-themed bedroom. I remember the bunkbeds were treehouses, and the carpet was green with a curving blue section for the river... I don't remember the rest.

Cherie is the only person I've known with naturally orange hair.

I kept thinking about that first time she was at my house, with the black and white outfit, and I couldn't remember what necklace she was wearing, just that it was special. This afternoon at the service, Rynae came in wearing Cherie's hourglass necklace, which she wore every waking moment in high school--and beyond. When she ran up to Carolyn today and said "this was my Mommy's necklace" and asked her what it was, it about broke my heart.

Had dinner with my parents, Jayne & Tony, and Martha & Brandon (with their kids Zachary and Lydia). We went out to Adobe Cafe, in honor of Cherie, and at first I couldn't decide what to eat. But then I remembered that not only had Cherie ordered tortilla soup at every Mexican restaurant I've ever eaten with her at, and she ate it last August when we went to Alamo Cafe, but she's also the person who got me to try it for the first time in high school. So that's what I had, and it was very very good.

Cherie & Rynae

I've uploaded some photos I took when visiting Cherie last August up on Flickr.

Hey Cherie:
Yep, I wore the outfit--fittingly enough purchased at your favorite place, Kohl's--and will wear it again at the second service tomorrow. I've found a Princess Leia shirt for Rynae--it's even pink--so yes, your princess-loving kid will finally get a shirt that encourages her geek side. It's even the exact graphic of the shirt I wore three weeks ago that you liked so much. And yeah, I remember that third promise--don't you worry. It's taken care of, and I've enlisted help. And stop rolling your eyes at me from up there--I know you think we're all putting up such a fuss. I hope you got a good chuckle out of me walking through Half Price Books like a loon with tears streaming down my face--yes, I honestly didn't realize how much every single book I looked at would remind me of you. And yes, now you know exactly how the Wheel of Time Series ends--I know you finangled it out of God or RJ himself.

But I'm going to miss not seeing your reaction to the last seasons of Stargate: SG-1, and to the new Indiana Jones movie, and so many other things. I'm wearing my half of that silly black ying-yang friendship ring we bought as our RJ rings, believe it or not. I wanted so bad to send this to your email address, as if somehow it would be forwarded, to cherie.tamar@heaven.org, or something. But I didn't want your family to read this and be sad, if they cleaned out your inbox--so I'll just post it here, teary-eyed, yet smiling to myself because I know you're definitely up there shaking your head and rolling your eyes, with your own awesome smile.

Can't wait to meet you again, girl. I love you.