Friday, October 27, 2006

A year (or nearly) in pictures

I have all these stories that I want to write and things I want to talk about and I start a post and I just can't make it work. So let me do the cop-out thing and show you the pictures I put up on my flickr account. Hulk also has a plethora of new photos (we uploaded them at his parents' house this past weekend on our way to Testes Park since I had a state car).

Here are my favorites on my page:

Cloverdale School of Dance Reunion. We four spent many an hour with bleeding toes, laughing through pain and exhaustion, and sweating buckets because recital day was always mid-June and there was no AC in the Citrus Fair dressing rooms.

Lake Sonoma. The colors, shapes, and landscape of home.

Dude, my sister is weird.

I love the evil grin on my face in this one coupled with Hulk's patient suffering.

There's a whole set from the Botanical Garden; this one was taken in the arboretum.

I have a ton of favorites on Hulk's page, but since they're his pictures (or mostly his, I took a few of the Tuba Christmas ones and maybe one or two at the cabin) he should be the one who gets to post them.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Somebody's getting married!!!

And it's not me.

My sister just called me to tell me that her boyfriend proposed at sunset on Santorini. She called my mom when they got back into the states yesterday but waited until she'd had some sleep etc. before she called anyone else.

It's not like it's unexpected or anything; they've been together about 4.5 years and he knew what kind of ring she wanted and all that. And I guess they're going to wait to get married until they have money saved up to pay for a shindig. So at least 2 years.

When I found out he bought tickets to Greece for her birthday, I turned to Hulk and said "I bet he is going to propose in Greece." And he did.

Congrats, Lissa and Curtis, aka Drat!

Keystone: Like Narnia before Aslan

I saw snow very few times in my life until I moved to Colorado, and I never saw snow actually falling until the trip Hulk and I took to move me here - I think we were in northern New Mexico at the time. So when I was a kid, I always thought snow and places where it snowed in winter would seem magical. In reading books where there was snow I would imagine what living someplace like that would be like, but never actually experienced the muffling stillness of a night full of new-fallen snow, or the bright glare off snow in the sun. The first time it really snowed after I moved to Denver I got so excited I pressed my nose to the window and gaped at how pretty it was, how interesting it was in the air currents and drafts. Now that I've lived here a few years, I am much more aware of the downside of snow - but it's still magical to me. My favorite kind of snow is the big ploofs, wet and heavy and dancing like fairies in the air.

Last week I did a training in Denver and then I had to drive up to Keystone for a Big Required 2-Day Meeting. Keystone is one of the lesser-known (i.e., not Vail or Aspen) resort areas up in the mountains and they have had quite a bit of snow in the last few weeks, enough for one of the resorts next door (Arapahoe Basin) to open a run the weekend before I was there. Anyhow, I wanted to drive up while it was still light out (because I wasn't sure what the weather would be like), so I headed out of town around 4PM.

The drive up was only marginally frustrating and very pretty, with some of the aspens still clinging to their shimmery gold leaves, in amongst the evergreens, and with fog and snow blowing around in the valleys between passes. About halfway up I moved into the left-hand lane to avoid a herd of Bighorn sheep, blissfully grazing at the side of the road and spilling into the right lane. This was at a particularly steep and windy part of I70 and I let out a silent thank-you to whomever that I hadn't gone through there in the dark and hit the sheep. Then I did the same thing 5 minutes later, when ANOTHER herd of sheep was hanging out right next to the freeway. You'd think they wouldn't like being near all those cars whizzing past, but I guess people just avoid them. It was cool in that Bighorn sheep aren't seen every day by your average Coloradan - we see a lot of elk, particularly when it snows a lot in the high country, but the sheep are more shy.

So I'm almost to Keystone and it starts to snow a little, and I turn on the wipers of the awesome state car and one of them falls off. All that's left is the arm of the wiper, screep-screeping on the windshield. Luckily, it was the passenger-side wiper. And I got to Keystone and got all checked in to my fancy room in the fancy hotel and worked out in the not-terribly-fancy gym. At least they had one.

I spent two days up at Keystone knitting and then just sitting when I ran out of yarn for my project. The Big Required Meeting was, of course, boring as hell, and I managed to disappear a few times with a work friend who looks about 7 months pregnant even though she is only 4 months. I think this week she finds out if she's having twins - and if so, it would be really odd I guess because Indian women aren't likely to have twins. Anyhow. The chairs were really uncomfortable for her to sit in for any length of time and I accompanied her on walks around the inside of the conference center. It was really cold outside and snowed off and on throughout both days, and as I walked to the meeting on the first morning I realized how much that part of the mountains looks like what I once imagined Narnia to look like, the first time I read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. You know, all snowy and evergreens, and quiet stillness? Always winter but never Christmas. They fed us way too much and I ate a decent dinner and then wasn't up for doing the yearly coworker carousing, as I was ready to fall asleep at 9 PM. I looked out my window and watched the crows in the snow and thought that maybe that was what it looks like beyond the wall in George Martin's Fire and Ice series.

The second morning I was in Keystone I wasn't quite awake yet in the shower, and I slipped when getting out of the tub, landing hard on my knee on the toilet and on my chest on the corner of the marble sink area. I'm pretty bruised and banged up, but it's gotten better in the several days - for a day or two there, I couldn't even touch my skin on my upper chest without wincing. I had to replace the wiper blade on my way back from Keystone and was glad I did because it snowed on the ascent to the Eisenhower tunnel and for quite a ways on the other side. It wasn't a blizzard over Vail Pass or anything like last year, but it was still kind of difficult driving. I got home and didn't want to drive any more for a while.

I enjoyed my couple of days in Keystone, for the views and pretty snow if nothing else - at one point, I even drove over a dam road - much weirder and scarier than a bridge. On the one side is water, right next to the car. On the other side? A huge drop. And no guard rails. Just glistening alpine water and nothingness.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Just so the five of you who read this blog know, I'm now in super busy work season, so it's harder for me to blog, particularly when I'm not sitting in my dank basement cube but instead am training a room full of people about the program I run and having to be on for 8 hours at a time. My schedule for the next month runs such that I'm going to be away from the office and/or home more frequently than I'll be in the office/home. Fall is always both my favorite time for my job (I love the training aspect and getting out of the office, traveling around the state, and interacting with people face-to-face) and a really tough time because I'm gone so much. By next week, when I pull out my suitcase or duffel bag, Petra will stop speaking to me and Loki will take it upon himself to sit in it and prevent me from packing. They know what's up.

So anyway, last week was super stressful because I had to finish putting together my training materials after I came back from Indy and then I did 2 days of training and then I had a big meeting. By Friday afternoon I was absolutely exhausted, having not gotten enough sleep/rest in nearly 2 weeks (since before I left for Indy). I knew that once the weekend was here I would want to just do a lot of sleeping and relaxing and ass-sitting. But since we hadn't had a weekend home in a while to clean and stuff, there was a lot to be done around here.

Hulk is currently working on two major projects for his art classes, one of which he has been working on at home (the other is a computer-based project and he can only do it on campus). The at-home project is a wire sculpture primarily composed of baling wire. Hulk asked me if it would be possible to get some much thinner wire to knit into a wire fabric for part of the sculpture, and I took it upon myself to knit the pieces he needed myself because a) I'm a much more accomplished knitter, though he does know how to knit, and b) he's still working on the rest of the project.

So when I had the state car for work this week we made a stop at a Michaels and got some thin wire and when we got home I pulled out some aluminum needles and started working on the first piece. It took me a few minutes just to get a row or two done, get used to working with such an unfamiliar material. Though it was quite thin and relatively easy to work with (bendage-wise), knitting with wire is certainly not easy by any stretch of the imagination. After an hour or so, I had a few inches done and sore fingers. But I have to admit, it looked pretty cool. Over the next few days, I worked for an hour or two in the evenings and yesterday while we vegged and watched Lost from Netflix, I completed the second of two larger pieces. After working with the wire for a while, my fingers were scratched, poked, and sore, and the paint on the needles had been scratched off. My fingers started turning black from aluminum residue. Tonight, I finally finished the last (long, thin) piece of wire knitting. My fingers haven't hurt this much since I cleaned our oven in our old apartment without gloves on. But knitting with wire was a definite challenge, and I'm proud of myself for having taken on that challenge and completing those pieces.

Today, Hulk made and canned salsa and pasta sauce from the overabundance of tomatoes and herbs and other produce from our garden (I did a lot of chopping) and I made homemade chicken tortilla soup tonight for dinner while Hulk watched football. Yesterday I baked a sugar pumpkin, pureed it, put it though cheesecloth, and today I made pumpkin pie. We also got some cleaning and laundry done and I'm working on a scarf for me and a scarf for Hulk to replace some of the ones we lost in the Great Leaking Storage Debacle of 2006.

When there's so much to be done, it's hard to be lazy. But we accomplished a lot this weekend, and I'm ready to start another week of copying, training, and attending a pointless two-day meeting in Keystone. At least being in the mountains should be fun. And in a couple of months we'll pull out a jar of sauce or salsa and taste our garden when it's below freezing outside.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Tales of Indianapolis: Or, Indy isn't nearly as bad as you think it might be. Yeah, total shocker!

Chapter 1: Good things, bad things

* In packing for my trip on Monday night, I realized that I needed to bring a black sweater for some of the outfits I was planning to take. The weather hadn't gotten quite cold enough here in CO to switch out summer stuff for winter stuff yet, so our sweaters, scarves, hats and gloves were still in our little storage area in the badly designed and ugly cinderblock thingy connected to our house. "It leaks!" our landlords had warned us, so we took precautions by sealing everything in those plastic blanket bags.

I went out to retrieve my black sweater and found that "It leaks" was the biggest understatement of the year, and everything we had in there was pretty much ruined - the winter down comforter, the extra blankets and flannel sheets, and (worst of all) the enormous bag full of all of our winter hats, scarves, gloves and mittens (and two of my favorite sweaters) was completely waterlogged. I went through everything at 11 PM, dreading the status of each item as I pulled it out and tossed the ones that looked salvageable in the washer. I managed to salvage one sweater, one scarf, one pair of gloves and three hats out of everything in the bag - the rest was rotted, mildewed, or both. We lost a lot of stuff that I'd made for Hulk, that I'd made for myself, and things that had been gifts to us from friends and family members over the years. My black sweater made it (thought it was pretty stinky and needed a thorough washing and airing, so didn't go into my suitcase), but most other stuff didn't.

* When the SuperShuttle came to pick me up on Tuesday morning, I got chauffered, because there wasn't anyone else who needed a ride. My driver was from Kenya and told me stories of driving across the US to California on his first vacation in the states.

* I got to the airport and was asked by the self-check-in machine whether I'd volunteer to give up my seat in exchange for a free ticket I could use later. "Hells yeah!" I thought, "Free ticket to CA for danksgibbing!" I talked to the ticket agent, who told me she needed one seat relinquished, and then she sent me over to the long line at Untied customer "service." As I reached the front of the line, the helpful agent said "They're still boarding, why did she send you over here?" and sent me back, only to find out that not everyone showed up for the flight and they didn't need my seat after all. So that free ticket fell through my fingers like goop, that stuff you make with cornstarch and water and foodcoloring for preschoolers.

* It was an Untied Express direct flight to Indy, and my seat was pretty comfortable compared to the usual 737 misery. I was seated next to a guy on his way home to prepare for a move to Oklahoma City for his fiance's job. We had a nice conversation, I discovered that men who look like they once played football and currently coach football probably did once play football and do currently coach, and he ended up offering me a ride downtown so I wouldn't have to take a cab to the hotel. It was a nice introduction to the midwest for me, my only other trip to said part of the country having been a trip to Michigan six years ago.

* My room was lovely and cushy and I spent a couple of hours shopping in the mall connected to my hotel by a covered pedestrian walkway. So people don't even have to go outside to go shopping. Sweet! Plus, they had H&M, which was totally fabulous. The hotel takes up an entire city block and the open atrium inside is a little vertigo-inducing if you take the glass elevator all the way to the top (21 floors) and then back down.

* I hadn't yet met up with anyone I knew, so I picked an oirish place to eat dinner ("Claddagh Irish Pub" - sure) and halfway through my meal and 20oz pint of Strongbow I realized that I'd forgotten a Very Important Prescription that I Must Take Daily To Stay Ungravid at home in Denver. Shit. And then I realized that, after taking said Prescription for nearly 10 years (with a short break to enable weight loss), I'd forgotten to take it Monday night in the aftermath of the packing and the mourning of the winter accessories. SHIT.

Chapter 2 Things Mostly Get Better

* The alarm went off at 6:30 Eastern time. That's 4:30 Mountain time. NOT FUN. My eyes were a lovely shade of salmon as I tried to do my makeup.

* My responsibility was the charity auction portion of the conference, wherein each year we pick a local charity, people who attend the conference donate cool shit from their state, and people bid on it, silent-auction fashion. I spent most of the morning organizing stuff and giving people reciepts and trying as best I could to jump into the presentations, none of which I wanted to miss.

* I figured out that I could have my prescription called in to a pharmacy nearby after waiting until a convenient break in the confererence schedule to make some phone calls. I ran out at the next available break to pick up the pills and start popping 'em.

* The charity we picked was Rupert's Kids, started by that Rupert guy who won $1 million on Survivor, but not by actually winning it. It's actually a really good charity (IMHO) and he came to speak at lunch and then signed autographs and posed for pictures and stuff. Since I don't watch Survivor, it didn't mean that much to me, but I was glad the money was going toward something important.

* The gym facilities: Very good. I didn't make use of the pool, but that looked good, too. The lack of free wireless in the rooms (and thus my week long blog silence): not good, especially considering how expensive the damn hotel was.

* There is apparently a chain of dueling piano bars in the Midwest (and south-ish, since Louisville has one too) called Howl at the Moon. I went to said piano bar in Indy on Wednesday night with some of my colleagues from New Mexico (Yes, Hulk, they have a NEW Mexico now!). While they didn't have food, they did have pretty cheap drinks, and the piano player guys seemed to be able to play anything (it was an all-request sort of deal). It took 4 drinks before I realized that I had had 4 drinks and was barely tipsy and then realized, "Oh, yeah, altitude to sea level. Damn, I'm not a cheap date here" and still had one more drink, so my tally for the night was FIVE DRINKS which must be some sort of record for me. Also, I totally got picked up by some guy because I was the only one in my group not wearing a wedding ring. I gave him my spam email address and told him to email me next time he was in Denver and Hulk and I would go hang out. I can't even remember the last time someone hit on me in a bar, and it was kind of flattering, just to know that Hulk isn't the only guy out there who thinks I'm hott.

* The piano bar was fun, but we needed food, so we stumbled back to a restaurant in the mall across from the hotel and ordered grub. The server came over to us and said "You're guaranteed to win at least $25 if you sign up for karaoke, because there are only 3 people signed up right now." We looked around, saw that there were fewer than 10 people in the place (including the servers) and said, what the hell, so one of the girls from NM and I each sang a song and won our damn $25 and I only had water there. Also, a chicken sandwich. But $25! For free!

Chapter 3: 5 drinks in one night takes its toll

* I swear I set the alarm for 7 AM. It went off, I woke up, emptied my bladder, crawled back in bed and slept another hour. So by the time I got downstairs, breakfast was over and the presentations had begun. I sat in on a really good one and an OK one and got some knitting done, and loaded up on food at lunch. By this time, my body clock was totally wacko - it didn't know what time it was or what I should be doing.

* I managed to score some internet time at the conference-sponsored "Internet Cafe" to ensure I wouldn't have 304958309485 work emails to return when I got home, but that was about all I could do because there was someone sitting next to me doing the same thing. So I started going into Internets Withdrawl. Seriously, people, it was not pretty.

* Dinner was consumed in the big rotating restaurant on the top of the hotel that evening. I joined a group of people and saw the downtown from the lofty perch. I have heard that it is one of the most expensive restaurants in Indianapolis, and I still managed to find food to fit into my per diem, which should tell you something about how inexpensive it is even in downtown Indy. Speaking of - I didn't get nearly enough time to walk around and explore. It seemed like a good city for that sort of thing, but they kept me hopping. I realized after I got home that I averaged about 5.5 hours of sleep per night, and what with the time difference added in, I just didn't have the energy for everything I wanted to do.

Chapter 3: The Reckoning (and the reunion)

* Friday morning was the big presentation that everyone had been waiting for from Big Federal Agency that is doing its best to kill the program I run. After all the Agency bashing throughout the conference, I wondered how the presentation would go, but everyone was pretty respectful.

* We raised $1060 for Rupert's Kids (I donated CO wine, a calendar, and fancy package of tea from Celestial Seasonings for the CO package) and it was matched by my organization. Pretty good!

* The keynote/ending speaker was this guy who's having a movie made of his life (it comes out soon) starring Peter from Office Space. So that's pretty sweet.

* After a board/bored meeting, I had appetizers with some people, bought some jeans at TJ Maxx, and met up with EEK! and her husband The Boy. It had been three years since I'd seen EEK and was my first time meeting The Boy after hearing him talked up so many times, and we had a lovely evening. We heard a little bit of blues at this blues place while we ate, and then we found a quieter place to have ciders and beers and got caught up, though it didn't really feel like it had been any time at all since we'd hung out. I like friendships like that. Plus, I got to see them doing their Titanium Ring Wonder Twins thingy, which I've always wanted to see.

* My hotel (and EEK/Boy's) was overrun with all these people partying for some sports event that was going on in town. When I got in at 1:30 AM, my floor was relatively quiet (though the atrium and some of the other floors were hopping), but it smelled like some skunk-ass wacky tobaccy. Luckily, I was too exhausted to care.

Chapter 4: The Longest Day That Didn't Involve International Travel

* Another 7:30 AM call after showering and packing until 2:30 AM the night before. I had another bored meeting (Long range planning! so exciting!) until I had to get the airport, and when I hauled my crap downstairs, this other lady from the conference was there and offered to share her LIMO SERVICE with me. Dude! It cost me $15 to ride in a stretch limo to the airport, which was less than a cab ride would have cost to share. Plus, the driver was cool and the lady sounded like she was from Southy even though she lives in New Haimpshah.

* Flight: uneventful. Landing: a little shaky (smallish plane) but OK. Luggage: took 40 minutes to pop out on the conveyor after we landed. It was by far the longest I'd ever had to wait for luggage at DIA. Then I squeezed into the SuperShuttle destined for downtown, waited for all the conventioneers to be deposited at their respective hotels, got home, picked the 4093845098 ripe tomatoes, sighed at the plethora of tiny, tiny yellow leaves on the lawn and in the yard (a pain in the ass, because rakes don't pick 'em up and there are too many for brooms), and hauled my exhausted ass inside. I think I might have been a little delerious, actually. My cats were shocked to see me without Hulk. It's the first time I've spent the night at home and he's been away (on a cabin trip, lucky bastage) since we've lived together, though I have been gone many a night for work and such.

* I wanted to go to sleep at 8:30 but I made myself stay up until 10 and slept for 11 hours.

Conclusion: Indy wrapup

I seriously think that the Indianapolis Tourism Commission should have their new slogan be "Indy - Not nearly as bad as you might expect!" because it describes the city, at least the immediate downtown near the capitol and such, to a T. There are very few locally grown restaurants (most are chains that you'd find in any major city) and there are a lot of hotels, but they've done quite a bit to fix things up and make them hospitable for visitors. The streets are easy to navigate and some of the architecture is really cool. I wish I'd had more time to just go outside and walk around and explore a bit, but unlike Seattle last year and Boston the year before, I really didn't feel like staying an extra few days. Maybe someday I'll have occasion to go again, and I'll know that I don't need to dread it quite so much.

Also, I know this is the longest blog entry evar OMG and probably not as eloquently written as it might be, but if I wait any longer to write down my stories I'll forget them.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Ted Koppel: Respected Journalist. Also, good in bed.

Last Thursday we moseyed down to Fado (local Irish/Oirish pub) and met some other big nerds who all read (or are at least familiar with) the Straight Dope Message Board. I mostly lurk (~700 posts in 5 years) and Hulk never posts but he does read the nerdliness in Cafe Society. So I dragged him along, and we met some other Dopers.

It was a fun evening, especially since it happened to be trivia night, and we all got a kick out of participating (I've never done pub trivia before). We were in 2nd place at the end of the night and then bet all our points and were just a little off in our final Jeopardy response and so we got bupkis. But we did win round one (free beer, of which I of course did not partake).

Conversation flowed pretty freely the whole night, and everyone seemed to have a good time talking. Even though the only thing we all (ostensibly) had in common was the SDMB, we ended up finding plenty of common ground (shocking! we are all big nerds!) and everyone seemed to really enjoy each others' company.

The best part of the evening for me was the Hulk writing Ted Koppel on his nametag and never telling anyone what his actual name was. People seemed to get a kick out of it. I never realized I've been sleeping with Ted Koppel for the last 5 years, but he sure is good in the sack.