Thursday, September 28, 2006

we were meant to live for so much more

[editors's note: this was supposed to post last night, but there was a problem with blogger]

I need to stop reading books about characters confronting their destinies--they just make me unhappy, because then I start panicking when I think about my own situation and the fact that life doesn't wait for you to figure out what to do with it. I actually like what I do at work, and find it interesting, and have every reason to be perfectly satisfied with it, and I accomplish a lot and am making serious progress with my career, etc. But, I have this lurking sense that I should be doing something else, that my fate (or my overactive ego/subconscious/whatever) demands a different path...and so when I'm reminded of that (such as when I read a book about confronting destiny), I suddenly become achingly unhappy with the pain of wanting something that I cannot quantify or name.

The longing to do something else is sometimes unbearably strong--like the strange urges I get to chop off all my hair, or move to a foreign country, or drive too fast through the foothills. All of my moves in the past year and a half have been triggered by this desire to do something wildly different from what I'm currently doing; yet in all cases, it was just a substitute for doing something that would actually get me closer to my destiny. It's like I keep choosing things that seem like what I should do (because they're hard/challenging) rather than what would be easy to do (because it may be my destiny). I don't know why I'm avoiding it almost as hard as I'm trying to embrace it, but I always avoid what feels right in favor of what feels difficult. I played the flute and piano growing up, even though my mouth was exactly the wrong shape for flute and my hands were too small to progress to octave playing; I chose SymSys for all the wrong reasons; I work in a field that I've never really felt passion for; and to be honest, even though I've never said it before, I think I would have liked Boston better and sometimes wish that I had gone to Harvard instead, even though I've loved Stanford and don't regret coming here.

Anyway, this won't be resolved tonight, and the regret that is clawing at my heart will eventually subside again into a dull throbbing that barely reminds me of its presence while I go about my successful daily life. Sleep will help; I always feel a bit ragged after a couple of days of early conference calls and late meetings, and so tomorrow should be better. I also have my first creative writing class tomorrow, and by the time I get home, Tammy will be here to stay with me for a week--and so life will be too fun for regrets. Yay.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

what a concept...i could use a little fuel myself, and we could all use a little change

When I was in Iowa last week, I had lunch with my parents at Sharon's, the oft-discussed tavern in the back of the American Legion hall, where the menus are written on posterboard and tacked to the fake-wood-panelling walls, the main decorations are flourescent beer lights, and the waitress is charmingly obnoxious (although she is much-provoked by my father, so I can't blame her). I had never noticed the 'vegetable burger' on the menu before, but this time I did, and I commented to my parents that Sharon probably didn't sell many vegetable burgers, given the lack of vegetarians in the county. It was then that I learned that 'vegetable burger' does not mean 'fake burger made of vegetables'; instead, it means 'burger with vegetables' (in this case, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion). This actually makes a lot of sense; cheeseburgers, bbq bacon burgers, bacon bacon cheeseburgers, avocado burgers, etc., all denote what ingredients are included with the burger. Then again, a hamburger isn't made of ham, so perhaps I don't know what I'm talking about. The moral of this story, though, is if you are a vegetarian and you come to visit me in Iowa, you might want to bring your own entrees, since you won't find any substantial food in the restaurants in my hometown. Unless, that is, you can subsist on cheeseballs and breaded mushrooms, or french fries and iceberg-lettuce salads. Mmm.

I wasn't feeling well this morning, so I slept in and got to the office around 10:30. I more than made up for it by staying there until 11:30pm (with a break from 6:30-7:30 to run home, change into comfy jeans rather than my professional-seeming skirt, and grab some dinner). I have to be in the office by eight tomorrow, so I suppose I should go to bed. Hopefully I can get all caught up on my work this week so that I can have more free time starting next week; I am thinking about my romance novel all the time right now, and I want to strike while the proverbial iron is hot.

I leave you with the happy thought that, now that I have finished all travel for the foreseeable future, the TSA has lifted some of the bans on liquids, creams, and gels on airplanes. Look for another elevated threat level in December, since I'll be on my way home for Christmas then, but you can expect safe skies for the next few weeks. Lucky you!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

for better or for worse

Is it a bad sign that my toes are still numb from standing around in my uncomfortable three-inch heels for eleven hours yesterday?

I'm back in California, after an uneventful flight that I was fortunate to make, given how much packing I had to do this morning. Yesterday was extremely fun, but I don't really feel like blogging right now. What I *do* feel like doing is writing my romance novel, but I think I should go to bed instead--I have a bunch of meetings tomorrow and hundreds of email messages to wade through, so I can't slack my way through my first day back in the office. But, you can see a few pictures from the wedding (as well as some random pictures from other activities this summer) below--and express your thanks to Katie for picking dress colors that match the scheme of my blog :)

Bedtime now, but I shall probably feel more talkative after a restorative ten hours of sleep. Goodnight!

Elaina, Katie, and I--unfortunately I have always been dwarfed by them, but our friendships have survived for over a decade despite my height deficiency. Posted by Picasa

Me and my brother. Posted by Picasa

My brother was not thrilled about Katie's nuptials :( Posted by Picasa

Me and my friend Dave at Katie's wedding - Dave and I used to work at the convenience store together, back when I was the Pepperoni Princess. Posted by Picasa

Downtown Seattle and the Space Needle--hello future! Posted by Picasa

A few of the mafia kids in Seattle after Jasmine and Michael's wedding. Posted by Picasa

Some of the random fireworks we shot off for Indian Independence Day. Posted by Picasa

Claudia flying a kite by the San Francisco Bay (in July--many of these pics are rather delayed). Posted by Picasa

The only good thing about Rawlins, Wyoming Posted by Picasa

The house my father bought for a couple thousand dollars and moved to the round barn site--pretty sweet for the price of a designer handbag, eh? Posted by Picasa

The Round Barn - if you have ever heard me complain about how the round barn managed to ruin most of my birthdays, you will be happy to finally see my nemesis. Posted by Picasa

The view of my ancestral home from the opposite hill; the current house is obscured by trees, while the dirt pile has now been replaced by the beginnings of the new house (this pic was taken in July, so you can't see the new house yet). Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 23, 2006

twist and shout

I'm exhausted, but I began to fear that a continued hiatus in posting might lead to a loss of my loyal fanbase. I spent eleven hours on three-inch glittery heels, trussed up in a corsetted dress that did wonders for my posture even if I was concerned about breathing too deeply...and it was all wonderful. Katie got married today, and the whole day was lovely; unfortunately I'm now running on fumes, since I spent last night with her after spending the day at a bridal tea/luncheon, the wedding rehearsal, and the rehearsal dinner (where her grandmother plied me with margaritas--that grandma can hold her tequila!). It was great to have one last night to convince her to run away with me instead of marrying James--I failed :( But, since we spent too much time talking, we slept for less than six hours, and I rolled out of there at seven to come home, take a shower, fix up my hair, grab my dress, and meet her at her hair stylist's to give her moral (morale?) support.

I can give a better recap of the wedding in the coming days--I have a couple of pics on my camera that I can post, and there are things that are worth sharing, but I *must* go to bed. I have to arise at seven tomorrow morning as well, since I have to finish packing and leave for the airport by nine. By tomorrow night, I'll be back in California! Then, it's business as usual, and those of you who live there should expect to see some of the truly awful movies coming out in the fall lineup. On those pleasant thoughts, I wish you sweet dreams--goodnight!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

do you especially think i'm not a genius?

Today was a usual day in small-town Iowa; I woke up late, watched part of 'The Young and the Restless', took a shower, dolled up my hair and makeup--and spent a bit of extra time on it when I realized that I only have to make it three more years to *not* fulfill my senior prophesy. Some bitch on the senior yearbook committee wrote nice or at least normal prophesies for everyone in my class, but my prophesy would be that I would drop out of Stanford, move to Mexico, marry a goat farmer, and live in a barn, barefoot, with our four kids. Needless to say I was pissed, but the whole dropping out of Stanford thing didn't happen, and I don't think the four kids will happen either. Revenge was mine, of course, since she's not married to the guy she prophesied she would end up with, nor is she happily employed in Colorado; instead she's got two kids by two different fathers, and I believe neither of them is known. I shouldn't be happy about that. In fact, I'm rather apathetic about it. But, anyway, I digress.

So after cleaning myself up and donning my Versace sunglasses, thus becoming exactly the snob that my brother has accused me of being (but a snob with a heart of gold!), I went into town with my mother and had a lovely lunch at one of the two restaurants we always go to when I'm home. My father joined us a bit later, and I got to order cheeseballs--I only can get them here, since they haven't exactly taken California by storm. They're not the Cheetos-style cheesepuff variety; they're deep-fried balls of processed cheddar cheese. Mmm. My parents are clearly regulars, since the waitress knew to bring out an iced tea when she heard my father was coming. There were clearly other regulars there as well, as evidenced by the fact that a seventy-year-old man went back to sexually harass (jokingly, or at least non-threateningly) the waitress and she threatened to rip him some extra nose-holes with the oxygen tubes currently hooked up to his face. Ha!

The rest of the day was uneventful; I spent a bit of time on the phone with someone from work, and also spent a lot of time trying to plot out more of my romance novel. I'm backtracking a bit before starting again; I had started it during the National Novel Writing Month (two years ago! damn!) and didn't take a lot of time to plot then, but I wanted to do some character development before picking up the story again, since I feel that I don't know my characters well enough to write really effective or believable dialogue. Also, I like writing with a fountain pen in a lovely journal, but I don't want to write the whole book like that--scribbling down my character thoughts seems like a nice compromise.

My vacation is just flying by--tomorrow I have to spend cleaning up the detritus of my childhood so that my parents will have an easier time moving the contents of my room to the new house, and then I have wedding stuff on Friday in preparation for the actual ceremony on Saturday. Then, I go back to California! Sheesh. Too bad there's no beach here, and also too bad it's flippin' cold--I'm not used to taking vacations in non-warm, non-exotic locations :) Then again, with the amount of wildlife near the roads, this occasionally feels exotic--I'm probably in more danger of getting killed by an animal here than I was on that safari in South Africa, although I think I would rather have the drama of getting eaten by a lion over the mundane alternative of dying in a deer-induced car accident. Goodnight!

Monday, September 18, 2006

magic man

I'm in Iowa, home of my forefathers. I arrived on Saturday, after an exhausting journey marked by too little sleep and too much time spent on the shopping concourse of the Minneapolis/St.Paul International Airport. I had a fun time from 7-8am watching the woman working at The Body Shop explaining to all of her potential customers that she couldn't sell them anything in liquid, gel, or cream form--needless to say, she wasn't doing much business. I also bought a pair of sunglasses, and had breakfast at a restaurant; my layover was over four hours, which was frustrating, but somehow strangely relaxing. When I arrived in Des Moines, I went shopping with my parents, had a late lunch with them at our favorite restaurant (where the bar was playing the Iowa/Iowa State game, our big intrastate rivalry--the Cyclones lost tragically, much to the excitement of half the waitstaff and the chagrin of my family and the rest of the waitstaff), then came home.

Yesterday, my mom cooked an extreme amount of food for a joint birthday party for me and my sister. Then, I tried on my dress for Katie's wedding, which barely fit after my double helpings of ham, baked beans, scalloped potatoes, and lemon cake--but the dress fit like a glove when I tried it on this morning, so the stomach distension was apparently temporary. After my sister and her family left, I spent the rest of the afternoon napping. Yay!

Today, I went to a seamstress to get the dress shortened, spent the afternoon pretending that I was going to get up an accomplish something (but instead catching up on the soaps and watching Dr. Phil and Oprah), and then had dinner with my grandmother. You know you're back in Iowa when you can go out for dinner, both people can have chicken strips, baked potatoes, and iced tea, and the total for both people comes out at ~$12. I can easily spend that much on just myself for a meal out in California. Anyway, I came home, watched 'CSI: Miami' with my parents, and then played my gameboy.

It seems that I've completely reverted to my teen years--compensating for a lack of friends by spending too much time watching CBS and drinking tea. Actually, I had friends in high school, but none of them are here anymore--and when they were here, we didn't start hanging out a lot until I had a car, so the first couple of years of high school were characterized by a lot of 'Walker: Texas Ranger'. Yes, I watched his show before he was a cult icon...and I'm proud of it!

My vacation is going to go waaaaay too fast--it's not as relaxing as sleeping on a beach, but it's nice to see my family. Also, apologies for the lack of communication--my parents are having issues with their internet connection. Now, it's time for me to go to bed!

Friday, September 15, 2006

strange fruit from a forbidden tree

So, my birthday week (yes, I can drag my birthday across an entire week) has been relatively boring. That's been mostly my own fault; I haven't particularly felt like making lots of plans because I've been stressed about work, and I'm leaving tomorrow night for a sojourn in the land of my lost youth (a phrase that I continue to use with shameless abandon). So, I've done nothing more substantial than work, sleep, and read a bit to take my mind off work. I picked up a copy of 'The Areas of My Expertise' by John Hodgman, and I read about a third of it tonight--I had seen the author on 'The Daily Show' last fall, and thought he was hysterical, but the book had languished in my Amazon 'things to buy later' cart until I bought it on impulse while ordering the second season of 'Lost'. You can tell it's my kind of book--in his description of the states, he claims that Iowa is 'The Hobo State'. I've never been happier.

Let's go to the mailbag...

9/12/2006 ('happy birthday to me') comments:

Beaver Creek, Co. said...
As mentioned in the phone message - when you get to IA, you will receive a birthday gift(s) that will make your friends envious. You will be proud. Very proud. It meets all appropriate requirements - pink, utilitarian, ridiculous, of display quality, etc. Guesses will be entertained. But my PC access is questionable at this time.

Editor's response: I mentioned this to Vidya, and her exact response was:
'Vidya: IT'S A PUPPY
I really hope it's not a puppy. I have no idea what it is, but if it's a pink, display-quality (which probably means lapdog-sized) puppy, I'm not going to be thrilled.

felicia said...
70 is a little young to be in a nursing home, don't you think? why not shoot for 90? happy birthday, sara!!!

Editor's note: aim low and you won't be disappointed.

9/11/2006 ('look into your heart') comments:

Sammi said...
youre not that old aunt sara but i can see how u feel old considering your oldest neice is a FRESHMAN in highschool...remeber those days?

Editor's note: that doesn't seem possible. In fact, I refuse to believe that it's true. If I never come home again, I can believe that my nieces and nephew are pre-teens forever.

8/31/2006 ('don't you worry what the bitter hearts are gonna say') comments:

Alan said...
It seems the Talbott family is bad news for restaurants. Years ago we ate at a place on the pier in Santa Barbara - up in flames the next week!

Editor's note: I'm not surprised by this--Walter could start a fire MacGyver-style with a piece of twine and some shards of glass, so it stands to reason that the combined powers of his family could result in a build-up of combustibility to the point of spontaneous ignition, even without twine or glass.

Okay, that's it for the mailbag and this post--goodnight, everyone!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

happy birthday to me

My birthday/the national day of mourning is officially over, and we can all return to our regularly-scheduled lives. I'm glad that I'll hit all of my milestone birthdays on milestone anniversaries of 9/11--I'll turn 30 on the 10th anniversary, 40 on the 20th, etc. Hopefully I'll be one of those really cranky, obnoxious seniors, so that when I'm 70, I can make nasty jokes about the twin towers while the staff at my nursing home is trying to get us to make 50th anniversary collages or some shit.

Today was nice, albeit tame; I didn't clean up my kitchen tonight because I went out for an unexpected dinner with Terry and Claudia, and then had to work when I got home, so my kitchen is quickly turning into a biohazard. I have to clean tomorrow before I end up with cockroaches, mice, or other vermin--nothing drives me crazier than a dirty kitchen, so I shall overcome all of this tomorrow. Now, though, I should go to bed, since I have a conference call in five hours. Thanks for the birthday wishes, everyone!

Monday, September 11, 2006

look into your heart - you will find there's nothing left to hide

From tonight: 'President Bush and other top officials joined thousands gathered across the country Sunday in tearful tributes, prayers and quiet reflection on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.'

Clearly they didn't get the memo about my birthday party.

Actually, it wasn't that raucous; it's hard to get too raucous on a Sunday afternoon, especially since I'm taking pains with my apartment to make it more grown-up (some mementos from college notwithstanding--the catfish, Prom King, and the hordes of romance novels are hardly adultlike, but I'm trying). But, most of my favorite people who were in the area showed up, and fun was had by all. No one had a heart attack on my premises, so hopefully this means that I will not be subject to a class-action lawsuit from my friends in the near future. Verdicts on the food:

1) The devilled eggs, corn casserole, spinach artichoke dip, and potato salad were all enjoyed, but were too standard to merit a lot of excitement.
2) The baked beans won quite a few converts to my mother's recipe; in fact, several people put them on top of their maidrites, which was a stunning innovation. Mine weren't quite the same as hers (I cooked mine with the lid on--was I supposed to?) but they were v. close and v. delicious. I'm going to eat them for dinner tomorrow night too! I bought some potato chips special for that occasion.
3) The maidrites (aka sloppy joes) were a hit with the nonvegetarians in the audience--particularly the one kid who was born in Minnesota, and the excitement when he heard that they were there was so visible on his face that everyone else laughed in stunned amazement. However, when I mentioned that they are also occasionally called 'loose meat sandwiches', some of my raunchier friends turned the conversation to decidedly-non-family-safe venues.
4) The chocolate chip chewies were devoured, but not at the rate I anticipated, which means I had an entire pan left over--I sent a bunch home with Claude and Vidya, and will take some to work tomorrow so that I don't end up eating them all (which I'm definitely capable of--I made them, so I can vouch for their ingredients, but they're so addictive that I'm sure fairies must be smuggling cocaine into the flour).
5) The Indian flag jello salad (which my family may recognize in the more familiar guise of Christmas ribbon salad, although I replaced the red layer with an orange layer) didn't set properly--I don't know what I did wrong! But, the jello salad was more for shock value anyway, so I don't care.
6) The strawberry shortcake was the sleeper hit of the party--and everyone was willing to try, and subsequently won over by, the idea of putting half and half on their strawberry shortcake. Mmm. I love strawberry shortcake so much, and these were perfect, especially w/the fresh strawberries I bought this morning, so it was fantastic.
7) The funfetti birthday cake wasn't even cut into, since we were too busy stuffing ourselves with strawberry shortcake--so I'll have to take it to work tomorrow.

Anyway, moral of the story is that I should have invited more people--there were people from work that I would have invited, but I didn't think I would have room. In actuality, no one even sat on the patio, so if the party had gotten bigger it probably would have split--and there would have been more people to eat the food and spread the cholesterol around. Oh, well, next time I'll change things up a bit.

My birthday party was fantastic, but I'm also glad it's over--as you can tell, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen the last two days, and after I clean up tomorrow, I'll want a break for a couple of days. Tonight was lovely, though, especially with the mix of oldest friends, newer-but-still-old friends, and friends from India. Also, Claudia stayed after everyone else took off, and we drank tea and caught up for a couple of hours--I hadn't seen her since before I left for Seattle, which feels like ages ago, since she was on the east coast all last week. So, all is well in my world again.

It's officially my birthday, and I'll be officially 25 in less than six hours (Iowa time--my birth time was 8:11am). Ugh. Haha. 25 isn't that bad, but then again every day is one step closer to the grave, so it's not like 25 is swell either. I'm going to go to bed now, and when I wake up I'll be old! Happy 9/11, everyone.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

yes i am spectacular

Sorry for the hiatus--I've been busy, and therefore tired, and therefore not willing to forsake an extra ten minutes of sleep at the end of a hectic day in order to blog about said day. I should be going to bed immediately, but I felt like writing, and the constant urge to blog finally superseded the equally-constant urge to sleep.

I'm gearing up for my party tomorrow; my shopping list included:

3 pints sour cream
3 8oz. packages cream cheese
2 cans whole-kernal corn
2 cans creamed corn
2 boxes jiffy cornbread mix
3 packages butter
2 packages chocolate chips
2 10oz. packages frozen spinach
1 can crushed pineapple
5 lbs. hamburger
miracle whip
white bread
hamburger buns
half and half
4 dozen eggs
10 lbs. potatoes
1 funfetti cake mix
1 container funfetti frosting
1 can pork and beans
instant onion
mustard seed
more ketchup
1 container of Cool Whip
lemon, lime, and orange jello

If you recognize all the fixin's for a true Midwestern feast, you would be correct, and you deserve a chocolate chip chewie (there's plenty of those here--I baked two batches tonight). I went grocery shopping at 10pm last night to avoid a) the crowds and b) the judgmental stares of the well-heeled residents of my neighborhood, who would probably look askance at my heart-attack-inducing cart o' goodies while they stood in line with their fresh vegetables and their skinless chicken and their classy bottles of white wine. They don't know what they're missing--today, I churned out ~8lbs. of potato salad, 36 boiled eggs (which I'll turn into deviled eggs tomorrow), a funfetti cake, two batches of chocolate chip chewies, 5lbs. of maidrites (aka sloppy joes), and a Jello salad that looks like the Indian flag. I also cleaned my room, cleaned my living room, kept up with the endless dishes produced by my cooking frenzey, and did three loads of laundry. And, I went to the mall and bought a vase and some makeup, and stopped on the way home to buy flowers for my living room. All in all, it was a productive day, so things should be okay tomorrow, although there's still a bit left to do--I have to go back to the store to procure ice, beverages, and more ketchup and butter; make spinach/artichoke dip, strawberry shortcake, baked beans, and corn casserole; clean my bathroom; clean my patio; clean up the remnants of stuff in the kitchen; and make myself look presentable for my danged friends. That means it's bedtime, or else I'll sleep 'til noon and not get everything done.

I am glad that I'm celebrating my birthday tomorrow, though--it looks like Monday promises to be frustratingly somber, as I expected the fifth anniversary of 9/11 to be. I may just switch my birthday permanently to the 10th; I celebrated last year on the 10th, and the scavenger hunt in Hyderabad was one of the best birthdays ever. Hopefully tomorrow will live up to my wildly-inflated expectations. Goodnight!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

i want a girl with lips like morphine

Plans for my birthday party are shaping up beautifully; which reminds me - if I forgot to invite you, let me know and I'll send you my new address. It's Sunday afternoon, which leaves me a few days to put the last stuff in order, go grocery shopping, and embark on a massive kick of baking, boiling, and frying in an effort to turn out all of the classic foodstuffs of my lost youth.

Actually, when I say that 'plans are shaping up beautifully', I mean 'the guestlist is shaping up beautifully'; and by 'beautifully' I mean 'into a horribly large mishmash of representatives from every era of my post-Iowa life'. That just makes it more exciting though. Will there be enough spinach artichoke dip? Will there be enough tasty beverages? Will people dance in my papasan until it falls apart? Will my college friends and my expat friends engage in a 'West Side Story'-style conflict, replete with murderous dancing and crazy antics? The answers to all of these questions will present themselves as the party unfolds on Sunday afternoon.

I still haven't finalized the menu; I'm trying to focus on things that can be prepared a bit in advance, since I hardly want to spend my birthday party cooking. For instance, I really want to make tenderloins because I *love* tenderloins and never get them here (Californians apparently no longer embrace the tenderloin, even if there is a district by that name in San Francisco). But, tenderloins require frying and are only half as good if they're cooked in advance--so if there are tenderloins, it requires me to mind a pan full of sizzling fat and pork, leading to the inevitable smell of grease permeating the house. Hmm. I could grill on the ol' George Foreman, but that's not very exciting. But, I feel that I need some meat products - perhaps pigs in a blanket? Or, ooooh, maidrites! My mother passed on the 'maidrites for a large group' recipe--I may have just struck on a winner. The other option is roast beef salad, but that would probably result in a mutiny of all hands, considering that it's ground-up roast beef, Miracle Whip, and sweet pickles. Luckily, I do have a jar of homemade sweet pickles (thanks sis!) in my fridge, so I can make all kinds of midwestern delicacies.

But, I will make corn casserole, and baked beans, and perhaps scalloped potatoes, and some kind of jello salad (Mom - if you read this, can you send me the recipe for the green jello salad with the marshmallows if you have it?), and deviled eggs, and spinach artichoke dip, and chocolate chip chewies, and a funfetti birthday cake! Since it's California I should have a salad, but no one really wants to eat salad anyway, and that hardly goes along with my birthday. Unless, of course, it's a salad made with either Miracle Whip or Jello.

Okay, I should go to bed rather than contemplate all of this--I have another seven a.m. call tomorrow. I'm really not made for this type of lifestyle; I'd much rather stay up all night and dream the day away.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

the war is over, the rain is falling

Unfortunately for Princess Aiko, her aunt had a baby boy today, effectively ending all debate on whether Japan will revise its male-only succession rules to allow Princess Aiko to inherit. Honestly, being a female royal in Japan just sucks. One princess got married last year, and she had to abandon the family and her title altogether because she married a commoner, even though the crown prince was able to marry whomever he pleased. I'm not saying that I would automatically turn down the chance to be part of the Japanese royal family, but it doesn't seem like a very sound proposition to me.

I don't really want to go to bed, but I know that I should--I have a conference call at seven a.m. tomorrow, and those always drive me nuts. Sorry for being so boring tonight, but my impending old age is sapping all of my humor. Sigh. Goodnight!

six sigma heart

So, there's this song called 'Carousel', by this band called As Tall As Lions. I've heard it a few times over the past couple of days because it's been recommended to me by (more on that in a second). Anyway, there's this repeated line that actually says 'sick sick my heart' (which, in my defense, doesn't exactly make sense). But, because I spend too much time thinking about work, I kept hearing 'six sigma heart'--six sigma is a method of quality assurance, originally used in the manufacturing industry, but recently applied to the more squishy realm of customer service, and I've done a bit of reading on it without actually understanding any of it. I'm usually pretty good at understanding song lyrics, but when I strike out, I strike out big. Luckily I looked this one up, since I knew it couldn't be 'six sigma', before it got permanently ingrained in my consciousness.

Anyway, if you haven't already, you need to check out I read a New York Times article about it earlier this week, and now I love it. It's part of something called the Musical Genome Project, in which some company has hired a bunch of people to listen to songs and categorize them by the type of instruments used, the key, harmonies, etc. Now that they've built up a profile of tons of songs, they can custom-build a streaming playlist for you based on a song that you put into their search box. For instance, I put in 'Dani California', the latest single from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and my customized 'radio station' plays music by Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, other Red Hot Chili Peppers songs, as well as lots of bands I've never heard of and several songs that I've really enjoyed. As you're listening, you can give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to songs that you feel strongly about, so that it can continue to tailor its selections to your tastes. Brilliant, eh? Sure, some people may see this as yet another way for someone to get data about you--but I've already made peace with the fact that I love bad music, so if this is divulged publicly someday, I won't be upset at all.

I didn't finish putting my apartment in order; I would make progress for about fifteen minutes, and then take a half-hour break, so there weren't many noticeable changes today. However, I did recycle a whole bunch of cardboard boxes. Also, I made myself a ravishingly-delicious omelette; 'omelette' may be kind, since the pan was too small and so the egg got too thick to adequately fold, but 'ravishingly-delicious' is only inaccurate if you think that it's an understatement. Never again will I pay $10 for an omelette, unless I'm out with friends and don't want anything else on the menu. My omelette contained green peppers, onions, mushrooms, and cheese; I'd sauteed the peppers and onions before making the omelette, so they were soft and tasty rather than crunchy and overwhelming. Combined with two pieces of buttered toast, this was the best meal I'd had in a long time. Yay for cooking! It is sad, however, that I love cooking, but am sized out of most kitchens--I can only reach the bottom shelves of all my cabinets, which means that I'll probably get more use than I would have liked out of the stepstool that I bought. Oh well--now that I'm almost 25, I suppose I'll have to come to terms with the fact that I will never be described as 'leggy', unless there's some sort of nuclear holocaust and everyone elses' legs melt off except for mine. But in that case, everyone else will probably be so bitter that it would feel like a Pyrrhic victory. Hahaha.

Monday, September 04, 2006

catch a dylan song or some eclipse of the moon

I saw 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest' today with Zach and Oniel. Of all of the things that I could have done to celebrate seeing Zach for the first time since before I left for Ireland, this was not the most auspicious thing to pick. Frankly, the movie was disappointing, even moreso that it would have been if it were just boring.

[warning: spoilers follow, for those of you who haven't seen it--which, judging by the box office numbers, probably only includes my parents ;) if you don't want to know, skip until the 'no spoilers' section below]

The writers and producers of this movie didn't seem to understand what made the first 'Pirates' movie so successful. No one cared about the plot, or even about all the explosions--what made the movie special was the interaction between the characters, the occasional moments of surprising character development, and the chance to see all of the main characters do exceptionally crafty things or plan ahead in clever ways. This movie attempted to create a plot to span two movies, and because so much of this movie was set-up for the third movie, the three main characters (Captain Jack Sparrow, Will Turner, and Elizabeth) went their separate ways for most of the movie--and none of them are as entertaining alone as they are with each other. There was far too much focus on how 'cool' the sea-creature special effects were, and about twenty minutes' too much usage of the Kraken. Surprisingly, I thought some of the best lines came from Commodore Norrington, who was really a one-dimensional bit part, but allowed to grow a beard for this particular outing.

But the worst was that none of the main characters developed in ways that made me love them, and two of the three of them did things that seemed uncomfortably out of character. Sparrow going valiantly to his doom with the Kraken would have seemed heroic and tragic if he hadn't spent most of the movie either absent or being an ass--for instance, it was never explained why it was necessary to send Will on a suicide mission, nor did he do anything to rectify the situation. And the whole thing with Elizabeth and Sparrow was just weird--granted, pirates are hotter than 'good guys', but in this particular movie, Will Turner seemed more clever than Sparrow, despite being held back by all his heroism and morals.

I guess the problem for me was that I felt some level of affection for the characters after the first movie, and this movie destroyed a lot of my good will towards them. I know I'm overreacting--but I would have the same reaction if they made a fourth 'Lord of the Rings' and Aragorn turned into an alcoholic. I'll still see the third one in hopes that they can redeem themselves--and I hope that the writers turn out a halfway-decent effort and aren't the same people who turned out 'Matrix: Revolutions'. And also, this wasn't as bad as many of the other movies I've dragged my friends to, so I can still be redeemed!

[end spoilers]

I spent the rest of the day doing some desultory unpacking, with a trip to Target to get a trashcan for my kitchen and some necessary hardware to hang some shelves. Tomorrow, I have more errands to run, and then I need to get rid of all of the boxes that have accumulated in my apartment--this means either recycling them here, or dumping them clandestinely on Stanford campus or at my place of employment. It's been lovely having a three-day weekend--this was my first weekend in my apartment in a month, and I desperately needed it. Now, it's time for bed--hopefully I'll wake up at a decent hour tomorrow so I can accomplish something, but don't hold your breath.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

peanut butter jelly time!

My kitchen cabinets are woefully understocked, as I discovered today while I cleaned and organized them. My canned goods amount to one can of chicken noodle soup and one can of slices olives, which is somewhat short of the week's worth of non-perishable food items suggested by all the 'survive the next big earthquake' checklists that I like to read and promptly ignore. There were also ten pairs of shoes strewn about my living room, but none next to my bed where I could slip into them in the case of broken glass. Granted, since my bed is under my window, the only broken glass will already be in my bed, which is a rather horrifying thought. My refrigerator contains around forty bottles of beer and alcopops, as well as several containers of random condiments and some milk that is on the verge of expiring. I have most of a loaf of bread that I bought before I went to Seattle, but thanks to the miracles of ultra-processing, Safeway bread lasts for several months and could probably be considered one of those non-perishable food items that I should be stocking up on. It's no wonder I've been eating out to much--my 'home-cooked meals' are currently limited to Easy Mac, oatmeal, granola bars, bread with some random condiment, or a cup of tea. Ew.

So, I found myself craving a peanut butter and jelly sandwich tonight, and luckily I live within walking distance of Safeway, so I ran over to get the necessary ingredients. I came back with more than I had intended--yogurt, cottage cheese, milk (yes, I'm inviting lactose intolerance, but I seem fine with all of those delectable foods), apples, salad greens, dressing, and ice cream. I'm still far from being able to whip up a pleasing meal, but it's a start; I should do more staples-stocking this weekend, if I get around to making a list. The peanut butter (crunchy) and jelly (grape, in a squeezable plastic bottle) sandwich was the best thing I've had in awhile, and the cold, non-rotten milk was heavenly. It's funny that I enjoyed this more than the Spanish omelette that I had at a cafe for my 2pm 'breakfast' (you can tell I took advantage of the opportunity to sleep in!)--but I was annoyed that I paid $10 for an omelette and a diet coke when I could have made the same thing for a fraction of the price. Or, gone back to India and had four or five lackeys make me the same thing for a fraction of the price. Either way, there are times when I'm fine paying $10 for breakfast because I live in California and everything is expensive here and I really didn't feel like cooking anyway; there are other times when $10 seems like highway robbery. Today was a highway robbery day, so maybe that will encourage me to cook more in the future.

Despite my rather late start, I managed to thoroughly clean my kitchen, do the dishes, and reorganize the refrigerator and my cabinets. I also unpacked a couple of the boxes still in the living room. However, I had made the mistake of browsing at Walgreens while waiting for some prescriptions to be filled, which led to the even bigger mistake of buying a romance novel. It was 'Match Me If You Can', Susan Elizabeth Phillips' latest effort, which has just come out in paperback. Her storylines are becoming a bit formulaic (granted, this is to be expected of romance novels)--but all of her stories are rather similar, particularly the ones in the series she has going about the fictional Chicago Stars football team. In a nutshell, a brainy, adorably-insane girl falls in love with a drop-dead gorgeous athlete with a surprisingly-large brain to match his killer instincts. Basically, it's like porn for women--while porn for men is dominated by hot chicks and average-looking guys, these novels contain absurdly-handsome men and women who sound like they might actually be real women (even though they aren't). Unlike porn for men, however, there is much more plot and much less sex. And, while Phillips' storylines are all the same, her dialogue is always snappy and amusing, so her plots can be forgiven. Of course, despite all my good intentions to put my house in order, I threw in the towel around seven, and read the book straight through (with that one break to buy peanut butter and jelly). Now, I should consider going to bed, since I do want to accomplish things tomorrow. Goodnight!