Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Goodbye Minnesota

I am on the plane for London. I am in business class, which,
amusingly, won't be comfortable until I can put the footrest up, since
I am too short to reach the floor :(

But it is rather bad of me to complain about business class, so I
should stop. It's time to sign off anyway, so I'll blog when I get to
London!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

she's short...the kind of girlfriend you want if you have an apartment

My love for Craig is over, since he implied that short girls are only good if you have minimal space!

Just kidding, I will love him forever.

In other news, I spent today getting ready for an exciting adventure -- I'm leaving tomorrow for a trip to England and Scotland! I'm billing it as the 'Jane Austen Death March' -- not that I'm necessarily a fangirl for Jane Austen, but she lived during the time period in which I intend to set the majority of my romance novels, and so many of the attractions that appeal to a Jane Austen fangirl are also good for researching romance. So I'm currently planning to hit up Bath, Brighton, Oxford, the Victoria and Albert Museum (which has early 1800s fashion/costumes), the Soane museum (a Regency-era house that conveniently has a candlelight evening tour while I'm in the area), Windsor, Hyde Park, and some other gardens and castles in England. Then, I'm going to Edinburgh to catch a five-day bus tour of the Highlands (including Iona and Isle of Skye). The bus tour could be scary, and will likely be populated by well-off septuagenarians, but we shall see -- it seemed to be the most convenient way to see what I wanted to see without having to rent a car, so I'm taking my chances. I'm rounding off the trip by flying to Amsterdam to meet up with Walter (you may remember him?) and hopefully Doug (who may or may not be able to pry himself away from the charms of Copenhagen).

I am taking my laptop, so you will not get a reprieve from my loquacious blogging. In fact, you may benefit from an improved pictures:text ratio. I'm also hoping to use the laptop to finish the first draft of my novel -- I'm tantalizingly close (there's only five or six scenes left in the book, including the 'climax' of the scene that I had to stop writing last night, if you get my drift). So, the trip should be good. And if nothing else, while I'm in London I'll be within walking distance of a latte, rather than ninety miles away, so that's exciting. Then again, I'll be several thousand miles away from my parents, and won't be able to afford steak at the outrageous exchange rate, so I will likely end up eating Marks and Spencer sandwiches -- unlike the delicious mushroom steak, baked potato, and corn that my mom made for dinner tonight. As you can see, everything's a tradeoff.

Now I should go to bed -- I have to get up and do some last-minute things before leaving for Des Moines. If you like Jane Austen / the Regency period / tales of travel horrors / England / Scotland / Walter, check back frequently. If not, you might want to take a pass on the blog for the next couple of weeks, and check back when I return to the country on 5/19.

Monday, April 28, 2008

her flowing skirt is blowing in a transcendental wind

I went to Des Moines today in an effort to make progress on my romance novel (and to have french onion soup at Panera, and to have dinner with Aunt Becky and her scandalous fiance). I wrote approximately three thousand words in the cafe at Borders (where the staff knows my name, but I keep 'em guessing by ordering different drinks every time).

One of the last sentences I wrote today was this: "'Remember your hoydenish ways when night falls,' he said darkly, and she felt a jolt of electricity at the heated promise in his voice." From this, you may be able to gather that the tension was escalating and they were about to reach another 'steamy' scene (since it's required to have at least a couple in any standard historical romance novel). But alas for them, I tend to get interrupted just as they're about to move into more physical territory, so they're going to have to chill out in the dining room until I get around to finishing the scene.

I left Borders to have dinner with Aunt Becky and the scandalous fiance at an Italian restaurant on the southeast side of Des Moines. My pesto ravioli was quite good, and the conversation (about romance publishing, India, and Britain) was v. entertaining. The scandalous fiance is nominally involved in hosting a couple of people visiting his company from India, and when he arrived at the hotel to pick them up this morning, he discovered that the fire department was there because one of them had started a fire by attempting to microwave rice for ten minutes. Ha! It made me homesick for Hyderabad.

On the way home, I chatted with Emily on the phone for awhile, which was nice, since we hadn't talked in ages. And I also confirmed that living in California has made me soft -- I was six inches away from killing a raccoon, and I swerved to avoid it rather than gunning for it. Verily, I am a bridge between two worlds, familiar with both but comfortable with neither, since my animal-killing instincts are anathema to Californians but my inability to follow through with them makes me a pansy in the heartland. Sigh.

Now, my friends, it's time for bed!

best sign i've seen in iowa thus far















Nothing says good home cookin' like fresh hot chicken and fishing worms! This is even better than the sign for '24-hour live bait' conveniently located next to the cemetery in Indianola -- I wonder where they get those worms, and what they've been feeding on?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

moebius strip

Today I went to Seymour to celebrate my great-aunt Leila's 90th birthday. Aunt Leila is a sister to my deceased maternal grandmother Eleanor; there were five girls in that family, and the remaining four (Leila, Lucile, Irma, and Mary) converged on southern Iowa to celebrate Aunt Leila's birthday.

You'll be sad to know that the Seymour Community Center no longer thinks that senior citizens are our most valuable national resource, since this poster (which I fell in love with last summer at a similar gathering) was missing:





















So if any of you reading this blog consider yourself to be an 'older American', apparently you're not worth as much as you used to be!

Anyway, the gathering was as much fun as can be expected. My brother and I shared a moment of abject horror when the woman who had been my grandma's maid of honor asked us, 'Where's Eleanor?' -- but luckily, she was just accidentally calling my mom by the wrong name, rather than demonstrating senility by asking for a woman who has been gone for almost four years. I also had a poignant wish that I had known my maternal grandpa, who died before I was born; Leila's scrapbooks contained a one-paragraph WWII clipping about 'Lt. Harold Holder', who was stationed at Guadalcanal after being the first on the beach on one of the Marshall Islands. While he probably wouldn't have told me anything about his war experience (which was likely unpleasant, to put it mildly, given the battles he was in), it still would have been nice to have known him.

Michael and I escaped in time to briefly see Aunt Becky and her scandalous fiance before they left for Des Moines. I then had to help my grandma put in her earrings (her fingers are too twisted from arthritis to do it herself), and because she had left them out for several days, I ended up drawing blood, which made me feel bad.

The rest of the evening was pretty relaxed -- I'm sitting in my room, sucking on the remnants of a stick of honey that I picked up at the local apiary last week. Supposedly, eating local honey will help to improve one's pollen-based allergies. Honey sticks are great, but I forgot to look for raw honeycomb -- that's even better, and I haven't had it in at least a decade. Now, though, I'm going to go to bed so that I can go to Des Moines tomorrow and attempt to write. Goodnight!

Friday, April 25, 2008

our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain

I've probably used the blog post title before, but for those of you who aren't aware, it's the Iowa state motto. Way better than 'Eureka', right?

Today, I went to Des Moines with the intention of having lunch with my Uncle Mark, running errands, and writing a significant amount. I succeeded in two of those three goals. I made it downtown in time for lunch -- and Uncle Mark took me to a restaurant called Latin King on the east side of Des Moines. You may be surprised to know that 'Latin' in this case means Italian, not Latin American. And it was *awesome*. I had a sausage sandwich -- made with hot Italian sausage and mozzarella. Mmm. It was fun to see Uncle Mark, and he gave me a book on Victorian England that he'd picked up from a book fair. He also gave me a tour of his office -- he's an administrative law judge, and I have to say that the state of his office building (which, while architecturally interesting, is rather run down and slated for demolition) reminded me, as always, of how good I had it in California. I'm sad because I can't eat at my favorite sandwich-making cafe for free because I'm 1800 miles away, but now I'm even sadder that the only food offerings in my uncle's building are hamburgers out of a vending machine. Ugh.

After parting ways with Uncle Mark, I dropped some stuff off for my parents, and then took back a couple of the things that I bought last week and realized I didn't want/need. I took the 'proceeds' and bought some 'necessities' at Sephora and Target, then went to Borders to write. But I didn't stay there all that long; I wrote less than a thousand words before being grossed out by this guy sitting across from me. He looked like what Gollum would look like if Gollum gained eighty pounds -- really pasty, stringy hair, oversized creepy pale blue eyes, and such disregard for propriety that he was openly digging in his nasal cavity while talking to his friend. Thank goodness he wasn't wearing a loincloth, or else I might have thrown up.

So I came home, where I recovered nicely by watching the new episode of 'Moonlight'. They're banking all the fortunes of the show on the attractiveness of the main character; the rest of it is completely ridiculous, but it's entertaining. I also found out that my mom was one of the people who voted for it for 'Best New Drama' at the People's Choice Awards, partially because it was one of the only CBS shows in the running and she didn't know any of the others -- but 'Moonlight' actually won, so clearly there are a lot of people out there (myself included) who think it's awesome.

Now, I'm going to bed. Take a look below -- I've finally posted pictures! Now that it's getting a bit greener, I may feel more motivated to take photos, rather than sitting inside (although the fact that it was 45 degrees in Des Moines today did not make me happy).

pictures from iowa, pt. 2















Des Moines's skyline at night (taken after the Craig Ferguson show)...the tallest building in Iowa is the Principal Building, at 45 stories.















Common springtime sight in southern Iowa -- muddy roads, newly-green pastures, cows, and impending storms. I took this photo this morning; the cows/house belong to one of our neighbors, whose dog I will likely run over.















Some metal thing in my uncle's office building, with the Iowa State Capitol in the background.















A tribute to Iowa's farming past in the lobby of my uncle's office building...the plaque says, "This memorial is dedicated to Iowa's sturdy farm pioneers and tot he plows they used to break the prairie sod, thereby unlocking the riches of Iowa's fertile soil and enabling Iowa to achieve world leadership in food production. -Presented by Iowa Plowing Association, 1979"
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pictures from iowa, pt. 1















The gravel road outside my house; I took this when I first got home, when the muds were the worst, but they've been pretty soft the last few days as well.
















Ignore the fact that my parents haven't had time/dry weather to landscape the area behind the new house yet, and focus on the fact that I can see half a dozen deer (of the 20-30 who were routinely hanging out in the field) from my bedroom window.















My bedroom -- notice the combo teenager / India / college student aesthetic I have going, with the twin bed, the mirror-work bedspread and Indian carpet, and the college-style papasan. Also, I didn't intend for the paint color to be quite this pink, but that's what I get for choosing paint based on its name (in this case, 'Bombay')...and now I really like it.















This is what happens when you try to fit childhood and adulthood in one closet; the right side contains shirts, purses, and twenty pairs of shoes; the left side contains boxes of Nancy Drew books, dress-up clothes, high school awards, dolls, hatboxes, sewing implements, my flute, etc. My favorite thing is the teddy bear in the middle, made out of my granddad's dress blues from his WWII Marines service.
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i wanna be an industry

We had dinner guests tonight -- Tammy, Gail, and Nancy. One of those three is a man -- can you guess who it is?

If you guessed Gail, you would be correct. Gail is the sheriff's deputy whose retirement party I went to a few weeks ago; Tammy is his wife, the former editor of the town paper; and Nancy is the other reporter at the paper. My mom used to be the advertising department, so we know Tammy and Nancy pretty well; Nancy is also in the secret society. Tammy and Gail are moving to southern Missouri, so this was sort of a farewell get-together.

They all came over for dinner, which was delicious -- steak, baked potatoes, green bean casserole, and spinach salad (note: spinach salad does not consist of fresh spinach and a vinaigrette; it consists of frozen chopped spinach, boiled eggs, onion, miracle whip/mayo, and some other secret ingredients I can't divulge for fear of my grandmother's wrath). Fun seemed to be had by all, since they stayed until 11:30. Many small-town stories were exchanged, gossipy histories rehashed, family ties explored, etc. Mix together two small-town newspaper reporters, a member of law enforcement, and my father (who keeps pretty up-to-date on what goes on around here, and was once in law enforcement himself), and you hear all kinds of stories. If I were more extroverted and wanted to go to the bar every day to get people to tell me all the dirt from the past sixty years, I could have ideas for a score of novels.

As it is, I really need to be focused on *this* novel, so I'm going to Des Moines tomorrow to work on it. Today was not particularly productive -- I ran into town twice, once to pick up the pants I had shortened (Melvina charges $2.50/pair, which is a steal), and once to get some ice. And it's funny -- if I run into someone I know (like today, when I was at the convenience store I used to work at and ran into one of the guys who works with the propane delivery), I definitely drop into a little bit more of a drawl. Not that it's probably noticeable as a drawl, since I still talk waaay too fast, don't enunciate, and generally have a hard time making myself understood, but I still notice it. I will never get to the point where I say 'ain't,' but if I stay here long enough, maybe my speech patterns will slow down enough that I won't have to repeat myself constantly. We'll see...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

cold, distant, first explored by scandinavian sailors...remind you of anyone?

Today I read approximately 80% of a book called 'Sex in Georgian England'. It's v. amusing, mostly because the author (who holds a doctorate from Cambridge) writes about sex with the same dry, dull sobriety that I've seen in traditional college textbooks. It's one thing to fall asleep reading about Russian intellectuals or second-order desires or thousand-page bios of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It's another thing to fall asleep from boredom while reading an analysis of 18th-century artistic portrayals of women's nipples.

However, since I'm a good little researcher, I persevered. There were some good pieces of information, such as the number of murderers prosecuted in England and Wales from 1805-1818, the average number of divorces per year (ranging from 3 to 4.3 per year, due to the fact that divorce in England required an Act of Parliament), the going rate for streetwalkers, and an amusing anecdote of a man in Edinburgh in 1760 who accidentally set his wife's pubic hair on fire with a candle while shockingly attempting to see her private parts. Ah, the good old days. I don't think I'll be reading the book again anytime soon, but it was worth the purchase.

In other news, I demonstrated exceptional self-sacrifice and went to a secret society meeting tonight, when I really just wanted to sit at home and watch 'Big Brother'. After the meeting, when we were eating cake, it was clear that several other women had wanted to do the same thing, since the conversation turned to how stupid everyone in the Big Brother house is, and how much we all wish that Ozzy hadn't been ejected from 'Survivor' last week. But, I suppose I'll recover from the disappointment.

The only other thing worth reporting (sort of) is that I washed my car this afternoon. I was about ten minutes away from the car wash when a bird shat all over my car. I thought it was just the windshield (which I was able to use the wipers on), but when I got home, there was shit all over the hood of my car as well. I've never seen that much bird shit from a single bird -- it must have been a buzzard, or perhaps an emu that had been selectively bred to enable flight. But I suppose I should be grateful -- my sunroof was open, so another foot farther back and it would have been in my passenger seat. Ugh.

Okay, that's all you get tonight -- it's time for bed!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

gouryella (magik version)

When I've been listening to trance a lot, it's difficult to come up with lyrics for my blog posts. So you'll have to settle for a song title tonight instead.

Today was kind of a blah day in spite of the lovely weather outside. I'm glad I'm taking my triple-drug allergy cocktail, since I still have a massive sinus headache; if I weren't drugged up, I'd probably be in a state of despair right now.

It probably didn't help that I stayed up past three a.m. last night reading 'Northanger Abbey' straight through from cover to cover. I had remembered loving it, but now I love it all over again -- Austen's satire of the classic gothic novel, combined with the delightful dialogue between Henry and Catherine, is simply awesome. It's probably dangerous, too, since romance novels are not expected to rival Austen's brilliance, but it made it difficult to go back and work on my novel this afternoon.

Other than that, nothing really happened today. We had a great dinner, watched tv, and now I am going to go to bed so that I can write tomorrow! I'll likely work from home, since my mom and I have a secret society meeting tomorrow night (unless I feign illness to stay home and watch 'Big Brother', but that would be obnoxious). Goodnight!

Monday, April 21, 2008

nothing's unconditional

Today I took a lovely jaunt to Des Moines to get some writing done. I got there around 1:45pm, and stopped first at Panera for some french onion soup. Then, I went to Borders, where I reread a significant portion of my book before writing ~3400 words. My hero and heroine went on an expedition to steal (or 'liberate') some sheep, and the adrenaline rush may lead to some lovemaking in their near future. Yay.

My heroine is a writer, and I decided that I need to read a couple of the Gothic novels that were intensely popular during her time period. Borders didn't carry any in the store, so I came home and ordered a couple via Amazon; they should be here by the end of the week. It's unfortunate that I didn't pay closer attention to the class I took on Gothic/Romantic literature at Stanford, but I made the mistake of taking the class around the same time that I was taking multiple classes for my major -- and it was also the quarter during the 2002 Winter Games, which destroyed my academic attention span. I remember reading one of the major Gothic Novels ('Romance of the Forest' by Ann Radcliffe), but I can't remember much about it. The books I ordered will be here by the end of the week, though, so that's exciting. I also got a book on the social history of the English country house, and Katie will be pleased to know that I got the newly-released fourth book in the werewolf/vampire/paranormal series I was so excited about a few weeks ago. So, I have much to look forward to!

One of the other books I read during my Gothic/Romantic class was Jane Austen's 'Northanger Abbey', which I remember liking quite a bit. I know that I have a copy somewhere in storage in California, but Borders had another copy for only $6, and one of the things I want to go back and revise in my manuscript is making sure that the dialogue sounds a little less modern. Not that I want to parody Austen, but I don't want my heroine to sound like a valley girl either. I should also dig out some Georgette Heyers from the boxes I brought back from California and have left stacked in my parents' garage -- but that's a project for another day.

Finally, on the way home, Felicia called me, which was a v. pleasurable way to spend an hour of driving through nowhere. And I didn't hit any deer, so it was quite a good evening! Now, though, I should go to bed -- I need to write tomorrow! But I'll probably read some 'Northanger Abbey' before going to sleep -- let's see if I actually make myself go to bed before two a.m....

Sunday, April 20, 2008

there is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune

I got tricked into helping the Round Barn today. Actually, I wasn't precisely tricked -- my dad asked me if I could enter a list of ~150 names and addresses into a database that he could use for an upcoming mailing -- but I remembered as I was typing them that I had made the dire prediction several months ago that I would end up getting roped into helping out with barn activities. And sadly, that was the case tonight. I didn't mind doing it -- I took a typing test online tonight and was regularly at 90-105 words/minute, so I could clearly do it more efficiently than my father could. I could have been such a great secretary (and I have a state typing trophy from high school to prove it), but alas, I have decided to pursue other ventures.

As promised, my mother made Sunday dinner, which consisted of ham, scalloped potatoes, and baked beans. Her baked beans are to die for, and I think this was either the first or second time she made them since I've been home, so that was great. My brother hung around for awhile this afternoon, and informed me that the desk chair I've been surreptitiously borrowing from him is actually broken. I had been sitting in it for two weeks, but I dragged it back into his room before he got home. He *hates* when people borrow things without asking him -- and his rage at such events is so strong that I took the extreme measure of spending a few minutes yesterday smoothing out his carpet with my feet so that he wouldn't notice the track marks of the chair wheels when he got home. But then I asked for permission, and he said it was broken, so I guess I won't be using it again :(

And that, my friends, was it. I'm going to go to Des Moines tomorrow to work -- Uncle Mark, do you want to have lunch on Wednesday or Friday? I'll call you and we can plan.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

keep moving in case anyone in here has a scope

I only have two goals in life: to become a successful novelist, and to see Craig Ferguson. Tonight, I accomplished the second goal. It's so huge to accomplish half of your life's ambition that I think I can take a break from the novelist thing for another decade at least.

I'm just kidding about stopping the writing thing, but I'm not kidding about Craig. He was playing for one night only at the Hoyt Sherman Theatre in Des Moines. I convinced my parents and brother to go to the show, and I'm quite happy that we did. One of Craig's writers tours with him as the opener, and he was v. funny -- the part that got the most laughs from the audience was when he ripped on the hotel they were staying in, since he was v. harsh. And then Craig came out and did an hour and a half of pure comedy. He covered a lot of topics in that hour and a half, such as growing up in Scotland (where 'damp was a color'), trying to get high off of chloroform, coming to America to be an actor, and the wonders of the birthing process. He also made fun of a San Francisco hotel that I've actually been to (the Clift, where my friend Irish Matt typically stays when he comes to SF), because it's one of those trendy places with the really dark purple lobbies where all of the staff is too good-looking to be bothered with helping you.

But the happiest moment for me was the five minutes he spent discussing Sean Connery, particularly since I can verify that Sean Connery did indeed deliver milk as a boy (Craig said that he and Sean Connery had both delivered milk, and so Craig thought that 'actor' was the next logical step for his own career). I'm quite surprised that Sean Connery is still alive -- rest assured, former Loro residents, that I will plan a fabulous wake for him when he is gone.

Anyway, Craig was hilarious. I suggest that you TiVo him sometime -- his facial expressions alone are a good bit of entertainment, let alone the happiness that ensues when you realize that you're watching someone who is more likely to make a joke about J. Edgar Hoover than about Britney Spears. Okay, maybe that's not a selling point to some of you, but it is to me!

The only other thing I did of interest today was take a few pairs of pants to a woman so that she could shorten them. Her name is Melvina, which is rather unusual; it's also unusual to know someone who makes her living as an independent seamstress, but I'm glad that she does, since unless I buy pants that are intended to be capris on 'normal' women, I have to get things shortened. She was babysitting two of her great-grandsons, one of whom is the child of a girl who graduated in my class. Based on the age of the kid, my classmate had him around the same time that I came perilously close to contracting a lip fungus from kissing a water buffalo in India. Since I still loathe the idea of commitment, I would definitely take the water buffalo over a toddler any day of the week.

Now it's time for bed; my brother's home for the weekend, which means Sunday dinner, which means I can't laze around all day tomorrow. Goodnight!

Friday, April 18, 2008

when the worrying starts to hurt, and the world feels like graves of dirt

I'm blogging v. fast tonight because I want to watch Craig in five minutes, and I also want to paint my fingernails, both of which are more important than documenting what I did today. That's mostly because today was something of a wash -- I did wake up and go to Des Moines, with the intention of spending a couple of hours shopping and at least five hours writing.

Instead, I spent five hours shopping and two hours writing. There were a lot of things to get on my shopping list, and I also went to two different malls, which contributed a lot to the amount of time I spent on this endeavor. The top things on my list were a spring coat and a good all-purpose sweater; sadly, I discovered that all of the spring coats were stocked in February and have already been cleared out to make way for summer stuff. And of course sweaters were all gone in like November or something. I really dislike how far ahead of the season you have to buy things; by the time the weather is appropriate and you want something, you're a season and a half too late. Bleh.

But I did find a jacket that I liked, although it was exactly the opposite of what I initially wanted -- I was aiming for a trench coat in either black or a cute spring color, and instead ended up with a magenta raincoat. It's actually perfect for me, but so much for my attempts to grow up.

The rest of the stuff that I got is suitable for my impending old age, though; I got several new pairs of pants, and there isn't a single pink pair among them. I also got a couple of skirts, a dress, and several shirts. I've realized that my wardrobe is way too heavily focused on the super-casual side, and I have too many tshirts, so while I have time off and can spread the shopping out (since contrary to popular belief, I don't like shopping), I'm trying to reconfigure my clothing selections. Granted, it's not fun that I have time off to shop but don't have an income with which to retrofit my closet, but c'est la vie.

I did manage to write 2400 words at Borders, even though there was a live band -- I believe their name was Soundrabbit, and they were from Boulder, Colorado. They were pretty good, although I think they may have been surprised by the crowd -- after me, the next youngest person was probably in their late thirties/early forties, and most of the people were part of a knitting group that had apparently already planned to meet there. So, I was entertained and productive and caffeinated, which is a great combo.

Okay, Craig's on, so you lose. Or win, if you are glad that I am not going to keep rambling. Goodnight!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

i've been through the desert on a horse with no name

Today, Felicia directed me to this site - www.facestat.com - interestingly enough, one of the three people behind the company running FaceStat is our mutual friend Brendan. FaceStat allows you to upload a picture; using a wisdom-of-crowds approach, it gives you feedback an hour or so later on a number of attributes that a bunch of complete strangers judged while looking at the picture.

So I gave it a test. I uploaded this picture (from my friend Katie's wedding a year and a half ago):


















And approximately an hour later, got these results (apparently from a sample of ten strangers):


ethnicity: Caucasian / White
weight: chunky
political affiliation: moderate
relationship status: dating
intoxicated?: true
gender: female
trustworthy?: false
wealth: average
attractive?: true
intelligence: average
age: 25
funny?: true

And I thought - this is a great way to screen pictures if one is going to join an online dating service. For instance, of the 10 people who rated this picture, 9 of them thought that I looked untrustworthy, which completely surprised me. Also, I wasn't intoxicated when this picture was taken. And 2 of the people actually rated my intelligence as 'dull' - I can attribute some of this to either the well-known correlation between perceived attractiveness and perceived intelligence, and there is also a likely sample bias given that the people who will sit around and rate pictures may not completely represent the overall population. Still, it says something interesting about me that the thing that most offended me was that people thought I didn't look intelligent.

However, I thought that the whole thing was interesting. So if you have a somewhat thick skin/morbid curiosity, check it out. You can only upload one photo per day, but the interface is easy to use, and the results come in less than an hour. Let me know what you think!

And that, my friends, was pretty much the only 'productive' thing I did today. I did a lot of online window-shopping. I watched tonight's fine CBS programming ('Survivor' - I paid for my excitement over Natalie's BB9-eviction by having to watch Ozzy, my favorite survivor, get blindsided at tribal council; after that, I watched 'CSI' and 'Without a Trace', the 10pm news, Letterman, and Craig). I read the latest issue of the Romance Writers' Report, published by the Romance Writers of America, and got excited about all the great workshops that they'll have at the conference in July. My mother made some delicious steak fajitas, which I enjoyed with my parents. I exfoliated my face. Yay.

Tomorrow I must write, so I'm going to escape the house and go someplace, even if there are more thunderstorms like there were today. We only had one brief power flicker this afternoon, and there were no tornadoes, so it was all pretty unremarkable. Now it's time for bed!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

the other white meat

The only good thing that happened today was that Natalie was kicked out of the Big Brother house. Yes, my life has sunk to the level that I'm paying attention to Big Brother. Bleh.

Actually, I lied -- several great things happened today. For starters, it was 74 degrees at one point today, which is awesome considering that it was snowing last week. And, my mother made tenderloins for dinner -- I never see proper tenderloins anywhere in California, so it's awesome when I get them here. Tammy will be happy to know that we had tater tots with them, which were also awesome, albeit not quite as awesome as the tenderloins.

For those of you who have never seen a real tenderloin, I found this site, which you can explore at your leisure. The best tenderloins are the ones so big that they cannot be contained by one bun; in fact, at the tavern in town, they actually serve them with two buns, but my mother's tenderloins are a million times better than those. For the curious, she breads hers with crushed saltines (none of them fancy panko breadcrumbs that you coast-dwellers are familiar with!), and if you like pork, tenderloin is second only to bacon in the vast pantheon of pork goodness.

Now that I've said that, though, I'm not sure that I can accurately rate the pork pantheon. My brother doesn't eat pork, because it was all we ate in Ukraine (other than chickens who had clearly starved to death), and he has a serious aversion to it. But I love the stuff, and often come to the startling realization that I rarely have it in California. In my mind, the top members of the pork pantheon are:

1) Bacon
2) Tenderloins (breaded and fried)
3) BBQ pork butt, shredded (I had this at my high school graduation party)
4) Ham (either whole hams baked for dinner, or leftover ham for sandwiches)
5) BBQ ribs
6) BBQ pork buns (dim sum)
7) Bologna
8) Hotdogs (plain, corndogs, or pigs-in-a-blanket style)
9) Pork sausage
10) Porkchop (baked)
11) Ham and bean soup
12) Pork roast (this is what we ate in Ukraine virtually every night -- and I have to admit that if the smell of boiling cabbage permeated the kitchen just like it did everything in Ukraine, I would probably be less thrilled)
13) Porkchop (grilled)
14) Ham balls (Gram Wampler makes these - ground ham, baked into ball form, with some syrupy sauce. Sounds gross, but they're delicious)
15) Bologna salad (only in v. small quantities, like on a cracker - grind up some bologna, mix with Miracle Whip and chopped sweet pickles, and serve on a Ritz cracker at your next fancy function)
16) Bac'o'bits (probably not real pork)

Do you agree or disagree with my pork pantheon? Did I miss anything? Do you find any of it to be an abomination? I'll admit that the ranking is pretty loose, since the top eleven, at least, could all be number one at some point depending on my mood. And 'bacon' probably shouldn't be number one -- but bacon is a number one condiment/sandwich topper, even if I don't usually eat it by itself.

Okay, I'm going to bed -- I skipped Craig tonight so that I could go to bed early, but thinking about the wonders of pork kept me awake later than planned. Goodnight!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

ten hundred percent

Today I took a trip to Chariton, which is the county seat of the county directly to our north. I picked up my brother's contact lenses at the eye doctor's, where I unexpectedly ran into my grandmother. I also went to the homemade candy store on the town square and bought some peanut clusters and 'turtles' (walnuts covered in caramel and chocolate, yum). Their candy is amazing, so it's a good thing that it's half an hour away.

On the way home, I stopped in at my former high school. Very few of my former teachers are still there; as the social studies teacher told me, the junior/senior English position is now like the 'Defense Against the Dark Arts' job from Harry Potter, since it's been held by five people in four years. But I did see my social studies teacher and my Spanish teacher; I was hoping to see the band director and the guidance counselor, but they weren't around.

Katie will of course think I was a huge dork for going back -- but I was a huge dork in high school, and it's not like I've gotten any cooler. And the social studies teacher promised some good gossip if I go back sometime when he's not on his way to a track meet, so I'll have to stop by again. He hasn't changed at all -- I've always thought that it was a miracle that he hasn't been fired for sexual harassment (and in fact, during my senior year, I flipped him off and walked out of class at one point when he made a joke about my menstrual cycle), but apparently his charm has carried him through. Anyway, today he asked me where I'd been living before I came home, I responded 'San Francisco', and he asked me if I was still straight. I'm glad that he hasn't changed -- there's something strangely comforting about it.

I spent the rest of the night playing around with my blog template, eating a delicious dinner made by my mother (cheeseburgers, corn, and fried potatoes -- healthy!), watching Big Brother (why am I so stupid?), and rereading the last forty pages of my manuscript so that I can figure out where to go next with it. Tomorrow I need to write like crazy, so I should go to bed!

another day, another new template

I'm trying out another new template. My tastes run towards either calm, serene sea tones, or awful, over-the-top black/magenta schemes, so we'll see what wins out. My desire to act like I'm 26 instead of 16 is pushing me towards seafoam, but I've lost that battle before.

I'll post a real post later!

experimentation

I'm playing around with new templates, since I'm v. bored with the way my blog looks. RSS feeds are the way of the future, so many of you won't even see the changes -- for those of you who still come here manually, rest assured that even if the background gets all snazzy, the content will still be as snooze-worthy as before.

Monday, April 14, 2008

sandstorm

This weekend was not even worth mentioning from a productivity standpoint, since there was no productivity. I did backup my entire hard drive, which is something that I've needed to do for quite some time.

Today, however, was not so bad. Granted, I wasted the daylight hours. But I wrote briefly around six p.m., before talking to Katie (who may or may not look like a chola with Sharpie eyebrows, depending on how her experiment with threading went tonight). Then I had dinner with my parents -- my dad again grilled two types of meat (beef steak and pork steak), and my mom made baked potatoes and green bean casserole. Yay midwest!

After that delicious dinner, I actually forced myself to sit down and work on the book, and I managed to write 3715 words before stopping to watch Craig at 11:30pm. That's 400 words above my current daily goal -- the daily goal had been 1500, but now I want to finish the book by April 23, which is nine days away, so I'll have to write 3325 words/day to finish.

It turns out that listening to trance music while writing is awesome. I'm using Pandora's auto-generated trance station, and it spits out a nice mixture of Tiesto, Darude, Paul Van Dyk, ATB, and some other random DJs/musicians. If I have one unfulfilled dream in life, it is that I secretly wish I had spent my youth as one of those skinny little trance kids with crazy hair dropping ecstasy and dancing until dawn. I had a brief brush with that lifestyle at the Love Parade in Berlin in 2002 -- although instead of dropping ecstasy, I was drinking some awful, unthinkably-warm German rum that John had smuggled into the club via a baggie in his pants, so my transition to raver kid was not meant to be.

I shall leave you with something I photoshopped today. I call it 'chandrian' -- a cross between Vidius Chandicus and a Mondrian painting. I decided that 'Chandrian' is a good nickname for our friend Vidya, and since people in that group switch nicknames as often as most people switch their socks, I'm hopeful that I can use it for at least three days. Goodnight!

Friday, April 11, 2008

i know i could look at anyone but you now

Happy birthday Aunt Becky! She turned 29 for the eighteenth time, which is pretty impressive.

Today was a long but v. productive and entertaining day. I made it up to Des Moines in time for normal-people lunch (as opposed to my usual 2pm lunches) -- my parents had gone up early for an appointment with their CPA, and I conned them into buying me lunch (sprout sandwich!) before going to Borders' cafe and settling down to work on my romance novel.

I wrote 6,192 words today! That's pretty great, particularly since I spent half an hour on the phone with Gyre and half an hour on the phone with Laura. I also got completely tweaked out on caffeine -- I had two triple lattes and a whole pot of black tea, which wired me well enough that I was in no danger of falling asleep on the way home.

Before going home, I had a late dinner with Aunt Becky and her scandalous boyfriend -- intruding on their post-movie dinner probably put a damper on her boyfriend's scandalous tendencies, but Aunt B called three times to see if I wanted to go with them, so I assumed that I was truly welcome. It was fun to see them, and dinner was delicious -- I had a creole pasta with andouille sausage that qualified as the spiciest thing that I've had since my return to the Midwest.

However, by the time we were done with dinner, it was almost eleven p.m., and I had to drive ninety miles through snow and suicidal deer to get home. For those of you living in California, please feel free to gloat -- I know I highlighted Iowa's variable weather patterns as a reason to move back, since I was bored with the fairly uniform weather of Northern California. But I conveniently forgot that 'variable weather' makes it quite possible that you will have a tornado warning one day, flooding overnight, and a snowstorm the next. Ha.

The snow wouldn't have been so bad, but there are deer everywhere -- I only saw five (three of which crossed the road in front of me, less than a mile from my house, preceded by two rabbits whose death wishes I thwarted by a timely application of the brakes). But for every deer you see, there are six more fornicating in the bushes and producing more of the little bastards who will try to take you out as soon as they're big enough to do some damage to your car. Luckily they're not kangaroos, since kangaroos will kick you to death if you hit them with your car, but it's still a little nervewracking to spend an hour and a half waiting for something to leap out of the ditch and try to kill you.

I'll have to write tomorrow -- as I told Aunt Becky, I broke off just as Malcolm and Amelia were about to consummate their marriage, and they're probably eager for me to finish the scene. I also mentioned the impending consummation to Laura when we were chatting -- but I was sitting in Borders at the time, and when I said 'they're about to consummate the marriage', the guy at the table across from me looked startled and then stared at me for awhile. Good times. And now I should go to bed -- I need to rest up if I'm going to write a similar amount tomorrow. Goodnight!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

it's a lot better than this crap-fest

You get the rare double post because I am in love with Craig Ferguson. I was going to go to bed so that I could get up early, but I decided to stay up and watch Craig instead. And boy, am I glad that I did -- he just did a segment with Betty White, in which she brought her tax receipts with her because she said that all of his interviews were only about him anyway, then proceeded to make fun of his penis enlargement and illegal immigrant status before encouraging the at-home viewing audience to switch to Showtime to watch 'Bad Boys' with Will Smith because 'it's a lot better than this crap-fest'. Hearing 86-year-old Betty White, in her best Rose Nylund act, make dirty jokes with Craig Ferguson topped off my night. If it's on youtube or cbs.com tomorrow, you should watch it!

Now I'm going to finish watching Craig, and then it's time for bed!

look, ma, no cavities!

Today I went to Centerville with my mother for a dentist appointment -- no, I don't need my mommy to take me to the dentist, but we had consecutive appointments. I'm proud to report that I have no cavities for the twelfth straight year. That's pretty amazing, considering that I drink so much sugared tea and diet coke, but I won't question it. I also saw my sister briefly, since she met us at the dentist's to pick up some stuff (Aunt B - Jackie says thank you). Then, my parents and I had lunch at the Pizza Ranch, which is strangely more renowned for its fried chicken, before coming home.

The rest of today was quite exciting -- we've had 'severe weather', which means thunderstorms and a slight amount of hail. There was also a tornado near Centerville, right where we had driven through only three hours previously -- when I drove through, there was dense fog, but it cleared up just in time for a tornado. Yay. If my grandfather was here, he would have taken us out to chase the tornado, like when he took me tornado chasing when I was three and he was babysitting me. On that evening, my parents got to the restaurant where they intended to have dinner and found that a tornado had destroyed it. Nothing quite that exciting happened today, alas.

The thunderstorm made me feel quite wild and reminded me to live life to the fullest since it might end at any time -- so I staged a coup and watched NBC in the kitchen. Shocking, right? I watched the new episodes of '30 Rock', 'The Office', and 'Scrubs', all of which made me v. happy. I may get exiled by my CBS-loving parents, but I only intend to rebel occasionally, so hopefully they'll forgive me.

Also, I forgot to report that yesterday, I saw brown people! Specifically, two elderly Indians, with Indian accents that made me homesick for Hyderabad. Given how cold and miserable it was yesterday, they were probably more homesick for India than I was, but I didn't ask them.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

either way it's okay you wake up with yourself

Today I went to Indianola to work on my book. I wrote 2076 words, and figured out the gist of what I want to have happen in the next section. I also had a delicious sandwich that did not make my lips swell -- it's a miracle!

The other big event was tonight's secret society meeting. My grandmother hosted, and since her living room gets crowded when we have Christmas Eve there with only ten people, you can imagine how difficult it was to squeeze in eighteen women. Also, it was strange to sit on the floor of her living room and not receive arcane types of money (from Uncle Mark), or tiny gold-wrapped Josephs Jewelers boxes (from Aunt Becky), or odd Christmas decorations made out of socks and toothpicks (from my cousin Andrew). But the meeting was fun -- and while the proceedings are of course highly mysterious, I can divulge that Cheyrel (who is in the same general age group as my mother) asked if she could be in my novel, and specifically requested that any character named after her should be a 'tart'. Ha!

Then I had vision (which I have frequently) of how mortifying it will be if my book is ever published, since I will have to make eye contact with friends, coworkers, and people who have known me since I was born, knowing that they may have just read a scene involving words like 'manroot' and 'velvet sheath'. Perhaps I should take a v. long vacation if the book sees print, so that I can hide out in Morocco or something until the titillating storm dies down.

Tomorrow I have a dentist appointment, conveniently located in the town thirty miles to our east (Centerville, pop. 7000). Centerville has stoplights! And they got a McDonalds about ten years ago, in addition to their Taco Bell/KFC, so they're a genuine metropolis. They're also home to a Wal-Mart, which, true to Wal-Mart form, has sucked the oxygen out of the non-Wal-Mart economy in all surrounding towns (including ours -- people don't mind driving half an hour to buy cheaper crap). It is also, interestingly enough, the town in which my parents met, when my mother was eight and my father was three -- and the town my mom was living in when my dad stalked her until she agreed to go out with him. Ah, the memories.

Now I need to go to bed -- I probably won't go anywhere else to write tomorrow, which is a shame. My father pointed out an apparent correlation between the distance I drive away from home and the amount of writing I get done at my destination -- Indianola is thirty miles closer than West Des Moines, but I wrote half as much today as I did on Monday. He suggested that I drive to Minneapolis every day to write, but since Minneapolis is 342 miles away, I feel that there is probably a point of diminishing returns somewhere between here and there. There's also a possibility that I wrote less today because I only spent two and a half hours writing, rather than five, but I will have to examine this issue closely over the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

infinitely infantile...but ultimately worth each and every while

CBS should realize that 'Secret Talents of the Stars' has been poorly conceived and marketed, given that my mother actually chose not to watch the series premiere, and instead watched PBS. Getting my parents to change the channel for anything other than the Olympics, the Super Bowl, or Iowa State basketball (since March Madness and the Masters are conveniently broadcast on CBS) is nearly impossible, so this is the sign of a truly abysmal show.

I was pretty unproductive today (or, as my favorite author, Robin McKinley, sometimes describes herself on her blog, I was a 'lazy slut'). I didn't set an alarm because I thought that I would wake up naturally and get out of bed, rather than hitting snooze for an hour like I normally do. But, I awoke naturally at 12:15pm, which was later than I would have gotten out of bed if I'd set the alarm for 10am and hit snooze for awhile. Boo.

But, the officers for secret society came over and we practiced initiation; I'm not an officer, but my mother asked me to be the prompter. Luckily, we stopped sacrificing live animals back during the Great Depression, when the by-laws were amended to recognize that people would rather eat the animals than slaughter them in an ancient ritual. After the practice, I got all sorts of good dirt about what's going on in the area, but I won't divulge it here -- Katie, you'll have to call me back if you're curious.

We had steak tonight for dinner, with mashed potatoes and gravy, and so all in all it was a great day, if you ignore the fact that I didn't write. I'm going to get up early tomorrow and go to Indianola to write. I will also have the sandwich with guacamole and sprouts, and when my lips blister and my tongue swells, I will tell myself it is just a one-off and not continued proof that I'm likely allergic to avocados. Yay!

Monday, April 07, 2008

dare to dream

I was actually productive today -- that probably doesn't matter to those of you who have to get up and go to a full-time job five days a week, but for me, it was quite an accomplishment. Granted, I didn't get up until 11am...but I left the house around 12:30 and drove up to Des Moines, where I worked at Borders until 8:30pm. And in the six hours that I worked, I wrote 5400 words! That's about 22 pages, for those of you keeping score at home. That puts me past the 55,000 word mark. Theoretically, if I could write 5000 words a day, I could be finished with the rough draft in nine days, but those would have to be pretty intense days. However, I'm going to set a stretch goal (to revert to corporate-speak) of April 23 -- that's sixteen days away. Whether I can hit it remains to be seen, but I'd like to send it to some friends for feedback by the first of May, and I need to spend some time editing it before that happens.

I got back from Des Moines just in time to watch the last two minutes of regulation and the entire overtime of the Kansas/Memphis game. While I am morally obligated as an Iowan to despise Kansas during the regular season, I felt safe cheering for them tonight, since Iowa State is laughably far from being able to compete with them anyway. Now I'm watching Craig while waiting for my fingernails to dry -- yes, I've painted them again, because I have time for things like this. He spent an extended amount of time talking about the Olympics, which made my night. Now I should go to bed, so that I can get up tomorrow and do some writing. Goodnight!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

annoyed about paypal

The only thing of real worth that I accomplished today was cleaning my room -- and I find even that to be of dubious value, but it pleases my mother, and since I would be homeless if she kicked me out, it seemed like a necessary endeavor.

I know that I'm about to sound like a corporate whore, but I really hate PayPal. Yes, a big reason why I hadn't kept my account current was out of some weird, misguided loyalty toward Google Checkout, but I also always found PayPal to be kind of annoying. So when I got an email several months ago saying that they'd frozen access to my account, I didn't think that was such a bad thing.

However, I now want to join an online chapter of Romance Writers of America, and they accept membership dues via check or PayPal. As a child of the e-commerce revolution, I hate paying for things by check; in fact, I watched in shock when I was at the gas station the other day and some chick paid for her gas with a check. Anyway, I went through all the motions to unfreeze my account, including giving them my home phone number so that they could call me...and now, three days later, the message still says 'complete these steps to verify your account', with a 'completed' by each step, and no further options. Impatient, I created a new account -- but then it refused to let me pay by credit card, insisted on using my checking account instead, and I have to wait 2-3 days for a couple of micropayments to go through so that I can verify the amounts and get the account set up. Grr. I thought my allegiance to Checkout was purely blind loyalty, but it has never given me this much grief.

So, since I've basically wasted the whole weekend, I'm going to get up tomorrow and write until I can't write any more. And that output had better be at least 5000 words, or else I'll be v. disappointed.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

when i was young i knew everything...now i'm old and the smartest son of a bitch around

My father is famous for intentionally (or, more often, unintentionally) modifying song lyrics when singing to himself, and tonight's version of Verve Pipe's 'The Freshmen' was classic.

Today I took my old Pontiac Sunfire for a spin; I had sent it home with my parents last fall, and we haven't gotten around to selling it yet, but I thought it could probably benefit from being driven. Part of me misses having a smaller, sportier car with better gas mileage, but the Rav4 is obviously a serious upgrade. My next car (likely in six or eight years, depending on how the Rav4 holds up) will probably revert to the sporty side. By then, I see one of three scenarios unfolding: 1) I will be making it as a novelist and so will likely buy something used (unless I'm *really* making it, in which case I will buy something extravagant), 2) I will have sold out and committed to corporate America, and will purchase a high-end sports car to console myself, or 3) the Mayan-predicted end of the world will have arrived, in which case, if I am still alive, I will likely be too preoccupied with finding something to eat to worry much about buying a car, even if there were still automakers in existence.

Tonight, I made risotto for dinner as an accompaniment to the barbecued chicken and pork that my father made (yes, two types of meat for three people is overkill). The risotto recipe is from Mario Batali's cookbook, and I've made it for my friends before -- it's simple, although risotto requires frequent stirring. But I realized as I was standing there stirring for twenty minutes that my parents would probably be happier with rice cooked with Campbell's cream of mushroom soup and fake onions, and my suspicion was correct (as my dad said, "it was great...but you don't have to make it again for my sake"). Sigh. So I guess I'll be eating risotto leftovers by myself for the next couple of days. I also drank a glass of wine that was produced in Minnesota -- it wasn't too bad, and I'm eager to try out some Iowa wineries once it warms up a little bit. But I can't go to wineries until I finish this book, which means I should get up tomorrow and write!

Friday, April 04, 2008

it's just a trick of the light, she says

I decided to go to Des Moines today, since I'd gone several days without writing anything. But before going, I had to dress well enough to merit my fingernails (observant readers will remember that I painted them with 'An Affair in Red Square' last night -- and scarlet fingernail polish looks absurd with a Blogger sweatshirt). So, I blow-dried my hair, wore darker lip gloss than usual, and threw on the silver metallic DKNY sweater that I got on sale for $15 (marked down from $90) last week. The sweater was more low-cut than anything I've been wearing recently, and it brought back memories from college, when Zach and the other boys occasionally tried to throw berries down my shirt whenever I was wearing something that showed off my breasts. Ah, the good old days.

Anyway, I had a late lunch at Panera, worked a bit there, decided I was freezing, and moved to the Borders cafe down the street. I wrote 3092 words today, which is twice the daily goal -- but not enough to make up for the fact that I haven't hit the goal in five days. However, I decided to stop rewriting what I had -- now that I've fixed the glaring issues in the first eighty pages of the book, I'm going to press forward into uncharted second-half territory and write the rest of thing before I start editing again. The editing process is surprisingly enjoyable, so I'm not too worried about polishing a second (or third) draft. This means that I should get back to writing brand-new stuff, because that's what I'm more afraid of, and if I don't tackle it, I will never finish.

The only other thing of interest was that I had a nice conversation with Vidius Chandicus today, and so she gets a label on the blog. Congratulations, Vidya! Now, I suppose I should go to bed so that I can get up and write tomorrow. Yay.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

you could be the one for me...and you could be the one that i adore

Today was pretty much a wasted day in the heartland...I awoke with the best of intentions, but instead spent the afternoon engaged in playful arguing with my parents about such subjects as evolution and reincarnation. We then watched Oprah, I took a "break" to check my RSS feeds, and then had dinner with them while watching "Survivor". After dinner, I decided to paint my fingernails (two coats of 'An Affair in Red Square', plus a clear topcoat, which is 2-3x more effort than I usually put into my fingernails, but I'm a lady of leisure right now!) while reading the latest Susan Elizabeth Phillips romance novel.

The book is 'Natural Born Charmer', for those of you who care -- it's another Chicago Stars book, and the hero is the latest quarterback (Dean Robillaird, who replaced Kevin Turner, the quarterback who got with the children's book writer). The heroine is an itinerant portrait painter. The writing was, as usual, excellent, and a lesson in how to write great, snappy dialogue punctuated with visceral scenery descriptions.

However, I'm getting tired of SEP's books, I think. I will continue to read them because it's difficult to find such well-written books, but the Chicago Stars series is basically the same two characters over and over again. The guy is impossibly gorgeous, but more down-to-earth and intelligent than anyone gives him credit for, and is typically working through some major mother issues; the woman acts likes she's tough as nails and doesn't back down for anything, but is hiding a serious sensitive side. There's also the requisite side relationship between two middle-aged characters who are rediscovering what it means to love each other; the adorable but self-conscious preteen; the antagonist elderly lady who is a lot nicer than anyone realizes; and to top it all off, it's set in a small town that is filled with people who are mysteriously able to make the town charming and self-sustaining and possibly revitalized, directly contradicting the facts about how many thousands of small towns are in their brutal death throes.

Anyway, despite that, I would still recommend it, but you'll like it better if you haven't read 'Dream a Little Dream' or 'Nobody's Baby But Mine'. Actually, I'd recommend just reading those two instead.

In other news, I've mentioned that it's a 90-mile drive for me to get to West Des Moines, home of the nearest nice malls, the nearest Starbucks, the nearest Borders, etc. Well, I calculated today, and that's the same as the distance from Palo Alto to Stockton. But, imagine driving ninety miles through virtually nothing, rather than the vast sprawl of unwashed humanity.

On the ninety mile drive to Des Moines, I go through the following towns:

Humeston: population 546
Lucas: 257
Liberty Center: 26
Indianola: 14,227
West Des Moines: 53,945

That's a grand total of 69,064 people.

On the drive from Palo Alto to Stockton, one would go through the following towns:

Palo Alto: 58,598
Mountain View: 70,708
Milpitas: 62,698
Fremont: 210,158
Pleasanton: 67,724
Dublin: 45,000
Livermore: 82,845
Tracy: 75,800
Lathrop: 14,625
Stockton: 289,789

That's a grand total of 977,942 people.

And the other interesting stat - it's 57 miles (from here to Indianola), before I hit my first stoplight. There aren't any stoplights in my entire county. Isn't that awesome?

Okay, that's enough for tonight. Happy Friday!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

let's build a fence!

Today you get the rare double post! Score!

After posting this morning, I picked Aunt Becky up, and we spent several hours shopping and touring Des Moines. In a nod to Cody, I've picked 'city of corn' for the Des Moines label -- my family was lobbying for 'dogtown' in honor of Des Moines' Drake Bulldogs (who were a fifth seed in the NCAA tournament), but since Drake lost in the first round and will likely never win another game, city of corn seems like a more apt description.

Then again, the city has really expanded beyond its agrarian roots. Aunt Becky directed me toward downtown, where we visited an Italian grocery store, a tea store, a paper store, an art/craft gallery, and a kitchen gadget store. We also went out to the new mall on the west edge of Des Moines, which is the ultimate upscale suburban mall -- all the usual suspects (including Sephora), as well as Cheesecake Factory, PF Chang's, etc. Aunt B was nice enough to buy me a new pair of sneakers (much needed -- my last pair was purchased at Hyderabad Central in 2005, and while they have been good companions to me, they are out of tread). I tried to turn her on to the magic of Sephora, but she remains in a committed relationship with Bobbi Brown. We did not see her scandalous boyfriend, but we did have a v. tasty pizza lunch (including the taco pizza, which I never see in California, but which is a midwestern staple). So, all in all, it was quite the lovely day!

However, I was exhausted after the fact, and ended up taking a half-hour nap in a Walmart parking lot on the way home. Since it's ninety miles from Des Moines to home, it's a long way to go when you just want to take a nap. But, after the nap, I was completely refreshed, and made it home in time for dinner. My dad fixed his grill, and so we had the first real grilled steak of the spring (all previous steaks have been George Foreman'd). Then we watched Big Brother, CSI Miami, the ten o'clock news, David Letterman, and I'm now watching Craig. I'm quite excited...Craig is going to be in Des Moines in April, and I bought tickets for my parents, brother and I!! I'm hoping he feels the electric current between us and rescues me from my drudgery to live with him in Hollywood, but I'm not holding my breath. Now, though, it's time for bed!

early morning procrastination

Today is April Fool's Day, and also Ritu's birthday, which is remarkably fitting. Happy birthday, Ritu!

Also, the jhoke is on me, since I'm up earlier than I've been in weeks -- I spent last night with Aunt Becky so that I could drop her off and pick her up from an appointment this morning. Aunt Becky likes to pretend that she has one foot in the grave, but she also likes to act like a teenager, so hanging out with her is always fun. We watched 'Dancing with the Stars' and 'The Bachelor' -- I normally don't see those shows because they're on ABC and my parents are a CBS household, but they were pretty good. I also tested the efficacy of my potent allergy drug cocktail, and am pleased to report that it held up against my aunt's two Persian cats. Even though Singulair supposedly causes suicidal tendencies, I would have been more likely to stab myself in the face last night if my allergies had attacked, so I'm going to keep taking it.

I watched Craig Ferguson last night, and it was a fantastic episode. He had a sketch of him playing Larry King, and one of his extra guys playing Craig Ferguson -- those types of sketches are becoming my favorites, because when someone else is pretending to be Craig, the real Craig can barely keep it together while he watches the fake Craig do all sorts of heinous and disgusting things.

Also, for the 99.9% of you who don't watch Craig, you missed out on Sir Richard Branson announcing the Google/Virgin joint-venture 'Virgle', intended to establish a human colony on Mars. It was quite a funny interview, and while I knew it was fake, I was still sad that it wasn't real -- I mean, how awesome would it be to colonize Mars? I have to admit that space colonization is one of those childhood dreams that I've never quite overgrown. The urge to explore 'new' places is why I went to India and Ireland (even though they've been copiously explored by other people), and that urge is starting to rage in my blood again. What I'm going to do about it, I don't know, but I need to channel it into finishing my novel before I think about anything else.

Okay, speaking of novel, that's what I should be doing right now. Aunt B and I are supposed to go shopping after I pick her up; since she has excellent taste (and by 'excellent' I mean 'similar to mine'), it should be fun. Yay!