Monday, June 30, 2008

Damn it feels good to be a gangsta

I haven't talked much about my leg in a while, but this weekend was pretty leg-focused, or perhaps leg-centric, as on Saturday we walked about 5 miles to REI and back (finally bought Dan's sleeping bag with some gift cards and our wedding gift from Monkey, thanks again Monkey!). The big REI flagship store is right next to Confluence Park, where Cherry Creek and the South Platte River meet, and Saturday afternoon saw oodles of people enjoying the day (the first day it had been cooler than 80 degrees in a while) and quite a few dogs playing in the water. Two dogs in particular, a black and a yellow lab, swam happily through the current after gravel tossed by their owner and, after getting swept downstream over and over again, made their way over to the bank and back only to repeat the process. Dan had a good time taking photos and I dipped my feet in the cool water, face shaded by my big floppy hat. Saturday was a good day.

Sunday, we had a hard time getting motivated. We had talked about going hiking, and decided Sunday would be better since we'd get more benefit from the cooler weather in the foothills. Because we were lazy and enjoying the morning, we didn't get started hiking until around 2 PM. But it was worth the trip up to Evergreen - we hiked about 5 miles along a gorgeous trail, saw all kinds of pretty wildflowers, mountain bicyclists, and lots and lots of dogs. Two of them, a yellow lab and a black something mutt-ish, greeted us as we sat on a bench at the halfway point eating a snack. By the time we got back to the car, I knew that my leg was DONE. The PT said I could try some relatively easy hiking and just see how my leg did, so we picked a relatively easy trail. While it was a nice hike, I felt like most of my body could have done much, much more - if it weren't for this whole leg thing.

I haven't written a lot of really meaty posts on here recently. I've been feeling kind of down, if you hadn't guessed, and I think a lot of it has to do with my leg. Sure, I can walk just fine. I can do the elliptical trainer and ride the stationary bike at the gym. I can lift weights. I can do a (really easy, not especially challenging) hike. But there's so many things I still can't do, and it will be a long time before I can do. I can't run. I can't dance (not that the PT told me not to, but every time I've tried it hurts). I can't do a lot of yoga or pilates so I don't bother going to class. I certainly can't climb 14ers. There are things I wanted to do this summer that I can't do. Having physical restrictions is really frustrating. I want to be able to climb mountains! Mostly I want to be able to dance at my sister's wedding in early August, so I'm going to do what it takes to rehab my leg properly. The waiting game sucks.

In other news, I have a bike now! Dan's mom gave me her old bike and since we're the same height it will work for me. I just have to get a bike helmet.

Also, may I recommend the song mentioned in the title of this post for driving purposes? It's on the Office Space soundtrack, and really gets your head bobbing.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Bathroom adventures

This week the ladies' room at work has smelled like sewage gas all week (today it's the worst) and when I went in there a few minutes ago there were 3 cockroaches.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

I told you he would review it better than I ever could

Thanks, guy that I married. You are awesome.

Jobs I would not want to have.

* Pole dancer

* Jizz mopper

* Roadie

* Cleaner of grease traps in industrial kitchens

* Carnie

* Mime

* Door-to-door salesperson

* Call center drone

* TSA personnel

* Fish cleaner (in a cannery, for example)

* Person who cleans up slaughterhouse floor

* Professional dominatrix

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The little robot that could

I really like my gym. I like that they have lots of warm towels available at all times, and that they have so many different kinds of classes. The weights areas are spread out, rather than everyone trying to use equipment at the same time. They have thick mats for post-workout stretching, inflatable balls for crunching, and a billion TVs all tuned to something different. In the summer, the gym smells of kids' lunches because of the summer day camp, with the occasional small human napping on a mat in a corner and lots more chaos than usual. All in all, I'm quite pleased.

One of the perks I've noticed is that occasionally, there will be free passes to a screening of a movie available on the front counter. Last week I happened to be passing by and saw a stack of passes to WALL-E, which made me squee because I knew how much Dan has been looking forward to seeing this movie. Last night was the big night, and because it said right on the pass NO CELL PHONES I didn't bring my purse and walked into the theater empty-handed.

You always know you're watching a kids' movie when the theater smells like diapers. Luckily, Dan and I learned our lesson years ago *coughShrek2cough* and we always try to sit in the back row at a kids' movie so nobody can kick our seats. The theater we were ushered into after being WANDED (seriously, we were wanded in order to get in, I guess they're really concerned about piracy 3 days before the movie opens?) was about a 50-50 split of kids and adults. And while we were shown to the last seats in the theater, they were in the back row. Hooray!

Now, I'm not going to write a full-scale review of the movie, because Dan does that much better than I ever could. But I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. LOVED. Visually fantastic, aurally fantastic, and plenty in there for both kids and adults to enjoy. I might even go so far as to say it's up there in Pixar's top efforts, maybe even the best. And a good chunk of the film doesn't even have dialogue. It's that compelling, that entertaining, even without a lot of talking. And it's worth staying for the credits, because they're really cool as well. It's not often that I walk out of a theater thinking that I want to own that movie. But I plan to buy Wall-E as soon as it comes out, because I want to watch it over and over again. Go see it!

Friday, June 20, 2008

A new junkie in the neighborhood (plus, Friday links)

We found a junkie in our backyard yesterday, and I haven't laughed that hard in a long time.

Let me back up a bit. A few weeks ago we bought plants (veggies, herbs, a few shade annuals) to put in our yard and a few to put in pots. Dan thought it might be fun to get a catnip plant to keep in the house for the kitties (we'd never tried growing catnip before) as Petra loves the dried stuff. We planted all the things that needed to go in the dirt right away but it took longer to get around to putting the other things in pots. One morning I left for work and noticed the catnip plant was missing - not knocked over, not in some other part of the yard - completely and utterly missing.

My first thought was that Grey Kitty or some other neighborhood cat had taken it. Grey Kitty is a female cat that obviously lives somewhere on our block because we've seen her in other people's yards and in the alley. I have no idea where she lives (in fact, it's possible that several people consider her their kitty). She doesn't have a collar but is sleek and healthy and quite well cared-for. She also likes to torment our cats by coming in our yard and hanging out where Loki can see her. Our cats are Indoor Only and Loki is uber-alpha-male, so to have a strange kitty in his yard that he can see and hear and smell but not chase away or fight is very difficult for him. On more than one occasion, they've faced off through a window or the screen door, yowling and poofing up tails and Loki being Very Put Out that there is a strange kitty in his yard. Sometimes when I'm out in the backyard the kitties will watch me through the screen door and let me know they'd very much like me to come back inside, and they get really upset when Grey Kitty comes by and rubs against my legs. I don't pet her, but I do talk to her.

Anyhow. Later that week, Dan put the potted plants in larger pots and found the remains of the catnip plant - a clump of dirt with two sticks emerging from the top. He realized it was probably the catnip and put the dirt clump up on a little table.

Last night, while Dan was making dinner he called me to look out the back door. There was Gray Kitty, lovingly snuggling with the clump of dirt, rolling around in ecstacy on the back patio area. She looked thoroughly drugged and thoroughly pleased with herself for finding the remnants of the plant she so efficiently demolished a week or so before. I've never in my life seen a cat making love to a clump of dirt, but it's something I'm going to remember for a good long while.

And here are the best things I've found on the internet this week (both today, actually). Watch Cookie Monster face off with Steven Colbert here.

The coolest wine glasses I've ever seen. But you'd have to find the perfect wine for each glass.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Officially graduated, and a gigantic golden retriever

Due to the aforementioned difficult night (nightmares, 6 adults in one room, etc.) I woke up in a very foul mood on Sunday. Neither Dan nor I got to shower and we had only a few minutes to get dressed and ready for the graduation ceremony, since it was at 9 AM and we still had a drive ahead of us to get there. At least the stupid hotel gave us free continental breakfast, which included eggs and a good variety of other things, so I loaded up on protein-ish items to stave off blood sugar problems (I had two episodes on Saturday, both stemming from waiting too long to eat, I think). We left the hotel by 7:45 and drove up to UC Santa Barbara, finding free parking in a lot, and walking across campus to the lagoon. We passed a clock tower that had no clock (which would be what, a bell tower? It was very angular, resembling a stack of square blocks) and made our way down an expanse of lawn, finding a row of seats and saving some for the people who would be joining us (Laurel's BF, her best friend and her best friend's sister). Everything was bright and colorful in the muggy, foggy morning, flags of 31 countries flapping in the breeze, people selling garish purple orchid leis and bunches of roses and commemorative commencement programs that included the names of each graduate. I spent a while in line for the women's bathroom in one of the buildings and listened to a mom trying to convince her young daughter to use the potty. As soon as I got back to my seat, the music started and went on and on for what seemed like hours as the graduates filed in (and this was just graduates for the social science programs).

The rest of the morning went as graduations normally do. There were speeches, and more speeches, a keynote speech, tortillas were tossed by the graduates, some awards given out, and then every graduate's name was called. Laurel text messaged us to let us know when she was close to the stage so we wouldn't have to be listening for her name, and we all cheered when her name was called. Many audience members made far more noise than we did with air horns. There were more names called. And then it was all over, and the group of us met in the back corner and took photos of the new graduate. I felt extremely proud of her. Laurel held down two and sometimes three jobs throughout her four years at UCSB and graduated with a major and a minor and a respectable GPA.

We hiked back across campus in the throngs and crowds, attempting to keep the group together. Alas, as in any situation where thousands of people attempt to leave one place at the same time, traffic was horribly snarled up. We actually made it back to Laurel's house before she did (her boyfriend was first, but he bicycled back) and enjoyed the ocean view from her balcony while we waited. Finally, everyone was there, so we figured out who was going in which car and where we were going, and eventually we all made it to Laurel's boss's house where he was having a graduation party for her and two of her coworkers (all three of them UCSB grads this year). So it was an interesting party, a mix of family and friends of the three girls and the boss and his family and their GIGANTIC golden retriever named Bo who was the biggest dog I've ever seen that wasn't a great dane or a giant English mastiff. Seriously enormous. We snacked on snacks, admired the gorgeous house and yard, sipped tasty beverages, and enjoyed the afternoon, and finally all the food was grilled so then we ate that. Dan and I both ate a lot, since we knew we wouldn't be having dinner. Then there were two kinds of cake, and I could only eat a few bites because I was STUFFED.

Finally, it was time to go. Dan and I hugged everyone goodbye and climbed into the rental car and headed south on 101. It was the worst traffic I'd seen in a long time, and there was absolutely no obvious reason - no accidents, no construction. It took us an hour and a half to get to Ventura (should have been half an hour) and then we hit some more traffic a bit father south. But once we got to LA, there was no traffic at all. We made it to the rental car place three hours after we'd left Santa Barbara (good thing we left so early, is all I can say!) and there was some sort of mixup and they charged me an extra $9, so when I went back to the counter to ask them to remove the charge, they ended up only charging me for half the rental. Which was kind of surprising, but hey, I'm not going to complain. The airport was an airport, the flight was a flight, I managed a little nap and we landed safe and sound in Denver at 11:30 PM. When we got home around 1 AM, both of us decided we desperately needed showers (having never bathed since the tar incident of the day before).

Needless to say, I was a zombie on Monday. Which was why I didn't post.

Anyhow, all in all it was a good trip, if a little rushed. We didn't make it to Hearst Castle or even to the Santa Ynez valley, and I'd love to make it back to SoCal sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Victoria's Secret stole my idea

They're selling their seven-in-one jersey dress as a bridesmaid dress.

It's nearly identical to the ones I made for the wedding. Except I used nicer fabric.

Tar Babies

Our original plan was to drive north and do some wine tasting in the Santa Ynez valley (thanks for the recommendations, Slackmistress and QIR) but by the time we made it through SB we decided we weren't feeling up to it. We did drive a little ways north up the coast, enjoying the view, then turned around and went to the Santa Barbara Mission.

The restrooms at the mission have chalkboards inside with a note that says "If you must write something, please do it here" which really amused me. I got some cool photos that I am going to try to get on the internets so I won't talk about it too much now, only say that it was a neat experience, and also say that man, they really need to update some of their displays.

After we were finished at the mission, we called my sister who told us where we might find restaurants that wouldn't cost 8 arms and 6 legs like the ones on posh State Street (she directed us to Goleta, where we ended up just getting sushi and a wrap to share from Trader Joe's). We did some more TJs shopping - stocking up on chocolate supplies for us, plus buying a few things for the next day. My sister had another graduation to attend, but she told us how to get to her house (right on the beach, on Student Row in Isla Vista) and where to walk to have a nice beach experience. We dropped off some stuff at her house, carefully avoiding all of the students packing and moving (apparently, everyone has to vacate their apartments at once, during the same weekend as graduation, so the neighborhood becomes a complete madhouse, and is the only place I've ever seen someone on a bike pulling someone sitting in an office chair down the street). Up the street we walked, through a park and down a path, and found some stairs that led down to the beach.

It's been some time since I walked on the beach with no other time commitments or other things to do, and many years since I walked on a beach in Southern California (where the water is slightly less cold than in Northern California). We took off our shoes and found all kinds of treasures as we dodged large bundles of washed-up kelp, rocks, shells, and other beach detritus that helps differentiate Northern from Southern CA (all the beaches I've been to in SoCal had WAAAAY more stuff on the sand than in NorCal). We passed a large dead elephant seal, skirting around so as not to get too close, and Dan nearly stepped on a large dead fish that was missing its eye (surely the tastiest bit, we decided). We sat for a while on a sunbleached log and watched people surf, Dan snapping action shots while I made interesting shadows on the sand with my hands and a heart-shaped shell I found.

A surprising thing was the overwhelming smell of asphalt on some parts of the beach, and the tar that washed up along the shoreline. We did our best to avoid it, and saw how it covered large rocks and small pebbles, a black ugly stain on an otherwise beautiful scape. I wondered if there had been a recent oil spill as we rounded the bend and came across a rock with a piece of iron ship embedded, rust streaks dripping down the rock like paint. The rest of the beach was less interesting, and we wiggled our toes in the shallows, and then a few waves came up faster than we expected and we got a little wet around the hems of our jeans and shorts, respectively. My leg grew tired, the one that is still healing, so I asked if we could go back. We walked all the way back, stopping to inspect the iron grown into the rock once more, splashing through the water and just next to it because it was easier for my leg to walk on packed wet sand than on powdery dry. And then a wave came up and soaked the back of my jeans up to my butt. Awesome.

Past the dead fish, the tar, and the seal corpse, we climbed slowly, wetly, and sandily up the steps to the cliff, where we stopped to put on our shoes. At which point we realized the bottoms of our feet were covered in tar, despite our valiant attempts to avoid it. I had been wearing sneakers with no socks and so after I scraped what I could, I put my shoes back on, resigning them to a tar-filled afterlife. Dan had socks to go with his shoes, so he only ruined a pair of socks. As we walked back to my sister's house, my family pulled up in the Prius, having driven four adults plus luggage down 101 from the Bay Area. My mom and cousin, my sister and her fiance, all gave us hugs and joined us at Laurel's only to realize her roommate had left and Laurel was still at the other graduation. Dan and I were wet, sandy, and tarry, while my family was tired of the long drive and wanted to relax. So we drove down to Carpinteria to our hotel, through more ugly traffic.

There was some sort of mixup at the hotel that I'm still not clear about, but they doubled the price my mom was quoted and were generally nasty all around, so instead of two rooms for that night, we had to all sleep in one. Six adults. Two queen-size beds, one ridiculously small and uncomfortable pull-out couch. We lounged in the room and discovered the one good thing, three little premoistened towelettes in the bathroom labeled "tar-off" (note to hotel in Carpinteria: excellent idea!) so Dan and I were able to remove the tar from our feet. I removed my wet, salty, sandy jeans and changed into a skirt. We sat around the room for a while, the six of us, and found a place to eat dinner when Laurel and her boyfriend drove down to join us. (a passable Thai food place, at which only a few of the diners enjoyed their meals). Laurel informed me that there hadn't been an oil spill, that tar comes up naturally out of the ocean along that part of the coast, and it's pretty much impossible to avoid small particles in the sand.

After dinner, we bought a small variety of items at a liquor store, giggled over three sizes of tequila that came in the most phallic bottle I've ever seen, and retired to the hotel room for an hour or two before Laurel and her boyfriend left and the rest of us got ready for bed. Six adults in one hotel room, sharing one bathroom, good lord. Needless to say, most of us slept terribly, especially Lissa and Curtis who ended up putting the pull-out couch mattress on the floor and piling blankets on top (they were the only ones who could both fit on such a small mattress, but I understand neither of them really slept). I slept, but had nightmares all night.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cantalope arms, and the cutest alarm clock I ever did see

(Photo of Polie, taken by Oldest Friend)
Friday afternoon we packed up some clothes and two crane mobiles and flew to Los Angeles. I'd already checked us in online and printed our boarding passes, and we weren't checking any bags, so though we had to park in the crappy long-term lot (as opposed to the slightly less crappy one), we made it to our gate with plenty of time to spare. At which time I realized I'd forgotten to bring any reading material. The in-flight magazine provided a modicum of entertainment, but there was no SkyMall catalog, and I spent the flight using whatever brain cells I seem to have left by doing the easy crossword and three of four sudoku puzzles.

We landed at LAX right on time, and then I realized I'd forgotten to do something very important, which was print out the email from travelocity telling me with which rental car company I'd reserved our vehicle. In most airports, this wouldn't matter, since they have in-airport reservation desks all near one another, or all the rental car companies in the same off-site location. So we took a gamble and took Avis's shuttle (I knew I hadn't rented with budget or hertz) but lost the gamble. They gave me a list of phone numbers to other rental car companies, but most of them didn't work. Then we got the bright idea to call someone who could get into my email to tell us which rental company it was. The trouble with this idea was that it was 5:10 PM on a Friday, Pacific time, which meant it was even later in Colorado, and everyone we knew in California would be out doing something or on the way home from work. I took a chance and called Monkey, and luckily she was at home near her computer so was able to tell us the appropriate rental company (Thrifty). So we walked the 3/4 mile to the Thrifty lot, and they gave us a Dodge Caliber, which is apparently the only small car they rent (I'd asked for their smallest car, and it felt really big to me). We headed north on the 405 freeway toward Oldest Friend's house and arrived around 6:45 PM.

Oldest Friend lives in the cutest little house that is a perfect size for one person (or two people who really, really like each other). And we immediately fell in love with her cat, who took to us right away, purring and being cute and being all tiny and such (she was the runt of the litter). We sat and relaxed for a while, and then we changed clothes and drove over to the restaurant where we met Monkey and Big Bird and Big Bird's college roommate (who was once a professional triathlete) for dinner. Everything was super tasty - the sangria, the nachos, the enormous appetizer samplers (one regular, one seafood), and by the time main dishes came out I was already full - but I did my best, and wasn't able to even touch the beans and rice that came with. It was a fabulous evening of conversation and laughter and I have to say I found Big Bird and his cantalope arms (and his college roommate) to be thoroughly charming.

We returned to OF's house and were warmly greeted by the kitty again, who did her best to convince us she should be let outside (OF had asked us to keep her in so she'd have access to her food/water over the weekend) and then she played with us and kept us company in the bed. A scant few hours later, she decided it was time for us to wake up, sitting on Dan's chest for some morning lovey time, purring in my ear and being exceedingly cute. It was 5:45 AM, and while I dozed a bit after that, we were out of bed by seven, showering and packing and getting ready to head north. We stopped at a Ralph's on our way out of town to get a few things to eat for breakfast in the car. We headed west to PCH 1 and drove north through Malibu, noting the June Gloom (a yearly phenomenon of fog/overcast/clouds during this part of the year). It was not at all warm, so our plan of stopping at a beach or two along the way seemed to be a less-than-good idea. We drove through Oxnard, toying with the idea of trying to find a comic book shop run by one of the bloggers Dan reads, but ultimately decided to keep driving north. The gloominess continued through Ventura and Carpinteria (where we hit ugly traffic) and only started to clear up once we got halfway through Santa Barbara.

Friday, June 13, 2008

I'm still sorry about your sunglasses

Seven years ago this week, I put on a purple shirt and braided my hair in two braids, bought some flowers, and took BART to the Oakland airport.

This was back when one could still meet people at the gate, so I looked at the monitor to find out where you'd be coming in, and waited. A crowd of people deplaned before you did, and I almost didn't recognize you because of how blond your goatee was. But it turned out to be you, and I gave you a hug and the flowers. My stomach did somersaults as we walked back through the airport, and I met your uncle John on our way; I guess he had come to pick up your parents? Anyhow, I didn't meet them on that trip, but your uncle John shook my hand, and then we were outside and taking the shuttle to BART.

I sat on your left side. I could see that you had a white spot in your hair, which I asked you about. You smelled good.

We made it to the BART station and waited for a train to take us to Berkeley. I was distracted, talking to you, still totally nervous, and when the train rolled into the station the train operator honked the horn. It wasn't until you pulled me back form the yellow area that I realized *I* was the reason the train had yet to pull in. You still tease me about that sometimes, when we're in the Bay Area and waiting for a BART train.

We made it back to Berkeley and you put your stuff down, and we spent the day walking all over town, me showing you the sights and you asking questions. We walked by the Campanile and, feeling daring, I bit your hand that I had been holding, gently. You didn't appear to object. I showed you around campus, and around Telegraph avenue, and around the neighborhood on the walk back down to my place. I wanted to kiss you all day, but I don't think I actually did until we were standing in my room, glass french doors wide open. It was a really good kiss; my knees ended up buckling a little bit.

I sewed a button back on your nice pants, which you changed into because you had to attend your Grandfather's memorial service. I told you how to get back to BART, which train to get on, but I found out later you were so twitterpated you'd taken a train in the wrong direction and ended up far later to the service than you expected to be. That night, I went to my cousin's birthday party in the city, but I was really distracted, thinking about you coming back to stay with me after both our social obligations were completed. I already missed you, and I'd only spent a few hours in your presence.

We both made it back to my place at some point, you driven by your brother (I think) and you slept in my bed. My head fit perfectly in the crook of your arm, on your chest. It was the best sleep I'd had in ages.

The next morning, we were standing in the kitchen. Maybe I made you breakfast, or we both cooked, or QIR cooked, or Bequi - I can't remember. But I do remember that you came up behind me, hooked my arms in yours behind my back, and leaned against me - an embrace I'd never had before, but one that felt familiar, comforting. That day we took BART again, into the city to spend some time at the Haight Street Fair. The photo I took of you and QIR waiting for the train, she in a straw hat, you with a gigantic grin, still hangs in my cubicle. I look at it every day. You still had an earring then, and something boyish about your face. We made it to Haight street and it was a complete madhouse, a situation neither of us relishes. Too many people, too close together, and I felt bad for subjecting you to a great part of the city under such unideal circumstances. We bought ice cream at Ben and Jerry's and walked off Haight a bit to eat. QIR got ice cream all over her face. I could hardly eat for thinking that you'd soon be flying back to Colorado.

We took the train back across to the East Bay, and you left your new prescription sunglasses, which were really expensive. You just left them on the seat, and I didn't think to make sure we'd all grabbed everything. But six and a half years later I would do the same thing with my camera in Italy, so I think we both need to start looking out for each other's belongings on trains; we don't have such good luck with that.

I think QIR drove us to the airport, and I kissed you goodbye. My heart was in my throat as we drove home. I wouldn't see you again for another month, and by then we'd already have decided we were officially together, in a relationship. July 3 is the day we say is our anniversary, but I think of that first weekend trip, during which we spent the entire time together (aside from the memorial service), as an important time as well. It's the day we met in person, finally, after spending months on the phone and IMing with each other. It's the day I knew my feelings for you had a basis in truth rather than fantasy. It's the day you gave up watching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in which your hockey team beat the other hockey team to win the cup and you didn't even tell me you wanted to watch the game, because you decided you'd rather spend the time with me, and I didn't know until years later what a big deal it was to you.

Happy meet-a-versary, Dan. I love you very much. *vapt*

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Then again, maybe not

After I posted yesterday I started actually researching the trip to San Simeon from LA and discovered that it's a lot more difficult than I initially thought. I had remembered it being just north of SB, but it's in fact 150 miles up the coast. And we'll be driving up from LA, so it's 250 miles north of LA. That's at least $50 in gas just to get there, plus another $50 to get back to LA on Sunday, plus the cost of the tour ($24 each), plus we'd have to leave LA at oh-dark-thirty to get up there in time to take a two hour tour and drive back down to SB in time to do anything.

I walked home with a heavy heart yesterday afternoon, and told Dan the bad news. He immediately said, "OK, not this trip." And I felt really bad, because we'll be closer to San Simeon than we've been in years, but won't be able to afford (either time or money) the trip. Wah.

So instead, I need to come up with some other ideas for adventures to have in and around the LA/SB area (or just slightly north of SB, but not 150 miles north). Anyone in the Southern CA area have any suggestions? Wineries, places of interest, the best place to see marine mammals? I know very little about the stretch between LA and SB, having only driven it once in the dark in January 2003. Any suggestions welcome.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Disappointment, Contentment, Anticipation

We've seen two big summer movies so far (Iron Man and Indiana Jones), and the big summer movie I was really looking forward to seeing was Prince Caspian. So this weekend, we made a date to pay 8 bucks for a MATINEE, good lord, and headed down to the local Theater that Shows Big Movies on the 16th street mall Sunday afternoon because we'd heard it wasn't doing terribly well and might be gone from theaters soon. After being more than pleasantly surprised by the first one, I was really looking forward to seeing what they did with book two.

Unfortunately, my excitement was short-lived. The movie was not what I was hoping it would be, and though it's been many years since I read the book, I think they took quite a few more liberties with the story than I might have liked. One of my favorite parts of the movie didn't actually even happen in the book, and they were far more heavy-handed (in my opinion) on the religious undertones than they were in the first movie. I left the theater feeling like I'd seen an entertaining movie, but it wasn't what I had wanted to see. Not that I consider myself a fanboy or anything, but it's always a bummer when you walk away disappointed. If they make a movie of book 3 (Voyage of the Dawn Treader), I hope it's better. Prince Caspian did not live up to The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

The rest of the weekend, however, was lovely. There was some relaxing and some chore-doing and two delicious breakfasts, shoe shopping but no buying, and we planned to grill outside but the weather didn't cooperate on Saturday or Sunday (too windy, not warm enough) (we tried again last night and the damn coals just wouldn't light despite direct flame for several minutes. We just need a better grill I guess, but we made do with the George Foreman). On Sunday, we made our way through the People's Fair on our way to and from the movies, and while it is generally interesting to watch people and gawk at merchandise and sniff overpriced food smells, there was nothing particularly camera-worthy (though in the car on Saturday we did see the best yard sale sign ever, with its perfect message of STUFF and an arrow pointing right, and I wished I'd had my camera with me). As Dan remarked, PrideFest is more interesting for people watching, and the Taste of Colorado is more worthwhile to consume overpriced food, so maybe we'll try again later in the summer.

I also knitted a baby hat for the baby who was still in utero last Saturday; she was born on Thursday the 5th and hadn't been named yet, so I whipped up a cute hat real quick in the baby yarn I had left over from other projects, and I'll give it to Julie in a day or two to bring to the new parents. I knitted the hat while we watched the Bourne Ultimatum (less confusing than Matt Damon Kills People and Runs Around A Lot II) and while we watched the Goonies (Sean Astin was my first confirmed crush; when I saw that movie I totally swooned, and I was only like six) and I finished it up on Sunday morning while breakfast cooked (that, and finally finished Monkey's giftmas/birthday present that I will be bringing with me this weekend).

Because hooray! We are going to Southern California this weekend to witness my little sister's college graduation (what does one wear to a graduation at 9 AM on a Sunday in a beach town?) We fly in and out of LAX, will be driving up the coast on Saturday, and making a stop at San Simeon because I've owed Dan a trip to Hearst Castle since he moved me to Colorado in January of 2003. I'm not sure what else we might do; perhaps just have an adventure and make some stops along the way up. I'm excited because we get to meet Oldest Friend's cat (unfortunately, OF will not be in town, but we get to stay at her house anyway) and because we get to hang out with Monkey and Big Bird and (I have heard tell) some other people as well on Friday night. A Friday night! Out in a big city! It should be a smashing good time. Oh, and we'll spend part of Saturday doing beachy things, and getting to spend time with my family, and I bet there will be something fun to do on Saturday night in Santa Barbara. Plus, after the graduation on Sunday we're having a party for my sister who is leaving for a 3-week trip to Ireland right afterward, so that should be fun too.

Friday, June 06, 2008


This week, a very disturbing thing happened.

A local Major Newspaper decided to put a link to a huge database on their front page. This database contained the names, titles, agencies, and salaries of the people who are employed by the State of Colorado. This was not done as a part of a story, or an expose, or with any sort of analysis involved. When asked by multiple people why they had chosen to do this (particularly, why they had chosen to publish names and not just job titles/positions), they responded, "Because we can." The paper feels that "taxpayers need to know where their money is going."

Yes, my salary and the salaries of all state employees in this state are a matter of public record (because we are civil servants). However, there is a process through which one must generally go in order to obtain this information (the process the newspaper went through). Now this information is available for anyone to see with the click of a button, whether that be a future employer, an identity thief, or a coworker with a grudge. It is extremely easy to use this information for the detriment of the employees involved. For example, there is only one ME employed by the state (there is only one ME in the country, as far as I have been able to ascertain). Not that I care all that much if someone wants to know how much I make (it's not that much, I can assure you), but it still feels like an invasion of privacy. And the exact same purpose could have been accomplished had the paper chosen to publish this information without the names of the individuals, without any of the risks involved.

Take people who are employed by the state and in the legal or correctional industries. What about criminals with grudges? Or people who have taken pains to hide themselves from ex-husbands or wives, people who may have a valid reason to be afraid someone can find them? I can think of any number of scenerios in which the publication of this information could be very damaging to the state employee. Also, life becomes more difficult for the employers of people who can, at the touch of a button, find out how much their coworkers make. And use this bargaining chip. Or people once employed by the state who wish to switch to private employment. How convenient that they no longer have the means with which to bargain for a future salary, because the employer can easily see how much the person currently makes (or made).

The most amusing part to me, in all this fucked-upedness, is that from what I understand much of this data is incorrect. I haven't looked to see if what they say I make is actually what I make, but several of my fellow state employees have reported inaccuracies. And best of all? A large percentage of state employees (which includes people employed at universities, etc.) don't even get paid with state taxpayer funds, but grants, federal funds, or other funding streams which don't involve the state general fund at all. Like my salary, for example, is paid for by the program I run, not the good citizens of this state. Yet my information is (I assume) out there for anyone to see.

We were informed that this information was going to be published about fifteen minutes before the fact, and had absolutely no say in the decision to make this information so easily acessible. Even if the newspaper took it down, it's out there in cyberspace; someone has already copied it for who knows what purpose, I am sure.

Just because you CAN do something, doesn't mean you SHOULD. I have no idea what the fallout from this decision could be, but I'm going to be keeping an eye on my credit reports. And I will never again contribute any money to this newspaper or its sister paper. I fail to see what makes including employees' names so important to this data set; the exact same purpose could have been accomplished without names and there would have been no repercussions for state employees. Shame on you, Major Metropolitan Newspaper.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

How I know it's summer

The heady ubiquity of lilac in the air has given way
To drifts of tree sperm, deposited by the honey locusts
Broad-leafed catalpas bloom
Ruffled flamenco skirts, modest purple freckles, garish yellow pollen
Distant thunder rumbles, the mountains emerge from snowy winter sleep,
Loudly airing their disagreements with the warm prairie air
And bad television
Good thing there's netflix

Monday, June 02, 2008

Healthy cake, about to pop, come get yer lik's!

This weekend was quite lovely, both in weather and activities. It was nice to have a weekend that we neither had company nor were company, a couple of days to just do what we felt like doing and enjoying ourselves (with some errands etc. mixed in, of course). We sat in the backyard in the warm shade and read books; we completely restocked our liquor supply (were out of EVERYTHING); we spent way too much money on plants for our garden (mostly vegetables, a few flowering annuals) and put the garden in, finally.

On Friday, I asked our friend Julie what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday. We threw around ideas, and, knowing she's on some sort of fancy diet, I wanted to make sure I made something that would a) taste good, and b) not make her feel extraordinarily guilty for eating it. She asked for chocolate, zucchini, and booze to be involved in the production of the cake. I went to allrecipes and typed in those ingredients (plus cake) and came up with this recipe. However, I knew it needed to be modified to be made healthier. Here's what I came up with.

MLE's awesome Chocolate Zucchini Rum Cake, now with Less Guilt!
3/4 cup butter
1 1/3 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups grated zucchini
1/3 cup Sailor Jerry's rum (that's the kind we buy, I'm sure it would be fine with any rum)
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 plus a little bit wheat flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts and pecans
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 dark unsweetened cocoa powder (I use this stuff, it is terrific)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup powdered sugar
2 oz Sailor Jerry's rum

I accidentally omitted the milk from the original recipe but discovered it wasn't necessary (the batter was plenty moist) and probably could have even left out some of the butter. I used a 9x13 pan rather than a bundt pan because we don't have a bundt pan, plus I knew there would be a lot of people at the party and it's easier to divide up a sheet cake into lots of pieces.

We got all gussied up for the party, which was held at a swanky local establishment (so swanky the drinks were $8-9 EACH, good thing I had planned to only have two) and walked the 8 short blocks and 4 long blocks, me tottering in four-inch heels and carrying the cake in arms, Dan carrying my wrap and his jacket. A great time was had by all, but, best of all, the cake was a huge hit. Julie cut it up into about 28 pieces so everyone could have some and everybody who tried it must have complimented me. Seriously, it turned out SOOO GOOD, and you couldn't tell at all that it had zucchini in it (or that it was made with partly wheat flour, or that I'd cut the sugar nearly in half, etc.) I plan to make this cake again, only this time I'll use parchment paper in the bottom of the pan (it was so moist that a few bits stuck to the pan rather than holding cohesively, but since I iced it in drizzles and the venue was dark, it didn't matter).

I love going to events that are Julie-centric, because she has a lot of friends who I like very much, some of whom I have known almost as long as I've known Julie (about 5 years now), so it's fun to catch up with people. Like Chu, the Brazillian goddess who just got back from 6 months traveling around the world, who also plays Capoeira. I enjoyed the company for a couple of hours, but at one point the place got really loud because they were showing some sort of fight on the television and it was a little overwhelming. Luckily, things quieted back down once the fight was over. I started to feel like I wanted to leave at one point, until I learned that Julie's cousin and his wife were on their way, so we decided to stay and say hi to them (having met them at Julie events through their engagement and wedding and decision to become Orthodox over the last few years). The female half of the couple was exceedingly pregnant, having been told by her midwife that she'd probably have the baby over the weekend. Yet she and her husband made it to two social events in one night. Go, them! She looked great and I am really excited to find out what flavor of baby they have and what his or her name will be.

Because we were up so late Saturday night, we slept in on Sunday and didn't finish with our breakfast of waffles-from-scratch, strawberries, and turkey bacon until nearly 11 AM. We had decided to experiment with a new sweetener, maple syrup being prohibitively expensive these days and regular syrup being rife with HFCS, so we bought Agave Nectar at the grocery store on Saturday. Turns out I like it better than maple syrup, plus it's marginally healthier (has a lower glycemic index) and far less expensive. Hooray! We bought our plants and other necessities (bags of poop and bark and dirt) and spent the afternoon planting everything. I have high hopes for the zucchini plant I put in, since now I have a great food processor that grates in like 2 seconds and a fabulous new zucchini recipe.

We never ate lunch, opting instead for a early (for us) dinner of homemade hummus, falafel, veggies, and pita, and then we walked to our neighborhood ice cream store. It turned out that everyone else in a 3-mile radius had the exact same idea, so we waited in line for a half hour for our child-size chai tea and billionaires (me) and chocolate peanut butter in a sugar cone (Dan). It was nearly full dark by the time we got home, enjoying a leisurely stroll in the warm June evening.

I couldn't have asked for a better weekend.