Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas to All!

We are packed. The apartment is clean. Our (many) wake-up alarms are set. Reservations and ticket confirmations have been printed and stowed in carry-on luggage. Reading material for the plane rides and beach lounging has been purchased.

And in a bit more than thirteen hours, we will be in the air. Boo-frickin-yah, baby.

Here's how much of a nerd I am - I am stoked that my most excellent (and, yes, my only) husband got me a copy of the Merck Index for Christmas. It is the chemistry geek's bible, and I finally have a copy of my very own. Seriously, this thing is freaking extensive. You can, for example, use it to find out the LD50 (dose that is lethal in 50% of cases) for caffeine (127 mg caffeine per kilogram of body weight in male mice...also represented are values for male and female hamsters, rats and rabbits) or look up the CAS number (registry number of the Chemical Abstracts Service) for riboflavin (83-88-5, just in case you were interested). Want to know how the Diels-Alder Reaction works? You can look it up! I know you're all doing somersaults of excitement along with me, right? ;) Well, I think it's awesome.

All right, folks. That's it for this year. See you in 2007. :)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Nerds on Ice!

Tom & I went ice skating last night. I had, previously, only been skating once. And that was 12 or 13 years ago. We already know how coordinated I am on land; skidding around a giant ice patch on a pair of razor blades may not be the wisest choice of activity for me.

Nevertheless, while I flailed about and looked for all the world like an enormous goof, I survived uninjured. And even enjoyed myself. Still, I found myself continuing to hope - as the ten year-olds whizzed around and cut me off, spraying up chunks of ice - that our eventual offspring acquire Tom's agility and athletic prowess, rather than my...complete lack thereof.

All in all, though, a fun wintry outing. I'd like to go again sometime, after we return from...

...Cancun! For which we depart in three days! Wha-haa!

(Excited much? Yes. Yes, I am.)

There is quite a bit to get done before we leave. Mostly cleaning and packing. Tomorrow is already "Christmas Eve" (we're leaving early-early on Monday morning, so we are shifting Christmas celebrations backward by a day), which means that tomorrow night I make calzones and we watch A Christmas Carol (though the official title of this version is Scrooge, I can't bring myself to call it that). Jolly good!

I shall try to post once more before we depart, but if I don't get around to it, I wish you all a very excellent [holiday of your choosing]. Probably won't be blogging from the trip, so a safe and happy New Year as well!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Yay! It's the weekeh-

Man, this weekend went by way too fast. Last night we roasted a duck at Max's, and holy sweet baby Jebus on a trampoline, it was tasty. The boys stuffed it with apples, pork sausage, chestnuts and cranberries. We also had latkes, which were quite delish, and peas. A fine feast indeed.

Today we did chores and then drove down to Yaya's in the afternoon to exchange Christmas gifts and hang out for a little while. Back home, I wrapped a bunch of presents for my family. Now it's time to get ready for bed, but dang it, I'm not ready for the work week to begin anew. My only consolation is that it's the last week of work before our super-fantastically awesome vacation. In case you couldn't tell, my excitement is unmeasurable. It defies your scales and...instruments of measurement and stuff.

Ugh. All right. To bed. More here in a day or two.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Los Angeles is occasionally pretty

There has been roofing going on right outside my office for the past two days. I swear, I don't know how anyone can be a hot tar roofer for a living. (Not that I'd expect anyone to do it for fun.) That smell just permeates everything in the general vicinity, floods your nose and lodges in your brain, resulting in (after several hours of continuous exposure) a headache that makes you feel as though Snow White's dwarf buddies are trying to mine some cranium coal. Today I resorted to sitting at my desk with my respirator on, removing it only to answer the phone. It helped somewhat.

Anyway, in an attempt to escape the nasty tar smell, I found an excuse to go over to the lab on the other side of the facility. This required me to walk outside, at which point I noticed that the mountains were really, really, really clear. Usually they're dulled by the ever-present smog haze, but not today. The clouds looked as though they'd been airbrushed or computer generated - too perfect to actually look real. There was a nice breeze flowing, causing the puffy white wonders to drift casually across the sky. Then, by the time I had finished my lab errand and was returning to my office, the clouds had darkened and the wind had picked up. By late afternoon, as I walked out to my car, my hair was whipped about my face by the gusts, and the sky looked as though it were ready to start dropping rain at any moment. It was so lovely and fresh, which was a perfect counterbalance to the stenchful morning.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Happy :)

We went to a super-fun holiday party this evening. There was fire breathing involved, and lots of skewered meats. Also, it started raining a little. I am a happy girl. :) Fa lala lala, and all that.

en fuego!
D breathing fire

Monday, December 04, 2006

In which our intrepid hero acquires some perspective

At work today, I was going through my computer, getting rid of a bunch of files I don't need anymore. I came across an email archive I'd saved from my college account right before the account expired. It contained the vast bulk of the emails I'd received from Tom, from the weekend wherein we met up again for the first time since high school up until shortly after I'd moved down here and started my job. Just over two years of correspondance. These emails were not in any discernable order, so as I began to read, I was plunged immediately into the days shortly after I first left for England. I was struck by the strength of the memories, and attendant emotions, that were evoked just by reading through these old letters. It was a rough year, for certain, but time has served to kind of dull the intensity of those memories. Reading Tom's emails made me feel all of that again, the pining and the distraction and the loneliness.

It occurred to me then that 2002 Sue would absolutely despise me for daring to complain about things like not feeling fulfilled by my job or wishing my belly were flatter. I've got the one thing she wanted most in the whole world - I don't have to go weeks or even months at a time between visits with Tom. In her mind, I have no room to complain about anything!

2002 Sue does have a point. I've got it pretty good. I've been trying for a while to find a way to shake my fixation on the small stuff, the little day-to-day annoyances that have lately been bothering me more than they should. This may have done it, at least for a little while.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

More Scuba Photos

I promised my mom I'd put up some of the really good photos taken by other people during our open water class, and now I'm finally getting around to it. So enjoy these, and I'll get around to actually writing something tomorrow. ;)



These first two were taken by Tom.


Kelp forest


Pretty green anemone


Can you see the rockfish?


Closeup on a rockfish face



It wasn't a rock...it was a ro-ock lobster!


Baby horned shark


Juvenile Garibaldi - too bad they lose all those nifty neon spots when they grow up


So shiny

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

(Soon to be) World Famous 3-Layer (Butternut Squash/Sweet Potato/Pumpkin) Pie

As promised, allow me to provide you with some fantastic pie-blogging! The recipe below will yield two delicious pies.

Components:

Gingersnap Crust
3 cups gingersnaps
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 ground ginger
2/3 cup melted butter

Crumb the gingersnaps. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, and mix well. Firmly press the crumb mixture evenly into 2 9-inch pie plates. Place crusts in the fridge to chill.



Crumbed gingersnaps...


...And a baked crust!


Pumpkin Filling

2/3 cups pumpkin chunks pureed (or one can of pre-pureed pumpkin)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup, 1tbsp, 1tsp half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/6 teaspoon salt
1/6 teaspoon ground ginger
1/6 teaspoon ground allspice
1/12 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, half-and-half, spices, and salt until smooth. Place in the fridge to chill.

Butternut Filling

2/3 cups cooked butternut squash chunks pureed (Trader Joe's has bagged butternut squash chunks that can be microwaved...so convenient!)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup, 1tbsp, 1tsp half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/6 teaspoon salt
1/6 teaspoon ground ginger
1/6 teaspoon ground allspice
1/12 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

In a large bowl, whisk together the squash, brown sugar, eggs, half-and-half, spices, and salt until smooth. Place in the fridge to chill.

Sweet potato Filling

1/2 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (ditto above Trader Joe's remark)
1/2 cup, 1tbsp, 1tsp plain yogurt
1/2 cup packed, light brown sugar
1/6 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/12 teaspoon of nutmeg
2 egg yolks
Salt to taste

Steam the potatoes until fork tender, mash with potato masher and set aside.

Beat sweet potatoes, adding yogurt, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, yolks, and salt, to taste, until well combined. Place into the fridge to chill.



Clockwise from left - pumpkin, sweet potato, butternut squash, gingersnap crust!


Baking Instructions:

After the fillings are finished and chilling, allow them to stay in the fridge for about 30 mintues. Take out the pie crusts and bake them at 375°F for about 8 minutes, then set on the counter to cool. When the crusts are cooled and the fillings are sufficiently chilled, remove the butternut squash filling from the fridge. Split the filling evenly by pouring into the two pie crusts, and then bake them at 375°F for 15 minutes. Remove the pies (the first layer should be reasonably well set-up), pour in the sweet potato filling (again splitting evenly between the two pies) and bake for another 15 minutes. Repeat the process with the pumpkin filling, except this time bake for 25-30 minutes. Check to make sure the top filling has cooked through the middle, and then remove the pies from the oven. Allow to cool, slice, plate, enjoy!


You know you want it

Monday, November 27, 2006

Prelude to a Blog Post

Hello, hello! Just a quick note (while I'm on my lunch break) to say that the weekend was fabulous -- though far too short, of course -- and that I will be pie-blogging later this evening. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Three words

1) Four. Days. Off.

It's a double weekend, baby. I get to sleep in, gorge myself on fantastic eats, and not think about my job for four whole days. I am a happy camper.

2) Finally! Fall. Weather.

Well, sort of. November's nearly over, and we haven't seen a rainy day yet. At the beginning of the week, it was above 90 degrees. Hideous. Today though, it finally dropped back down to the 70s, and it's supposed to continue cooling through the weekend. I know the grass is always greener and all that, but I'm so jealous of those of you who are blessed with actual fall-type weather this time of year. 'Tis the season for scarves and hats and coats, not t-shirts.

And yet, oddly enough, I'm still very much looking forward to our warm weather Yucatan vacation next month. I think that's possibly because I'll be spending most of it in the pool and/or ocean, however. ;)

3) Three. Layer. Pie.

Tomorrow we are going to make (and bring to Thanksgiving dinner) what I anticipate to be a delicious 3-layer pie. I don't want to give too much away now, but I promise to write all about it in a couple of days. It will be legendary!

Happy Thanksgiving, folks! May your hearts be warmed and your bellies be filled with all the goodness and bounty of the season*!


*Wow, can I be any cheesier**?

**Mmm...cheese...

Saturday, November 18, 2006

License to Shill

We saw Casino Royale last night, and I have to say I was thoroughly impressed. I won't go into too many details, so as not to give anything away to those of you who haven't yet seen it (and you really ought to!), but I will say this - the first big chase/fight scene was unbelievably awesome. Completely ridiculous and astounding and awesome.

I have three small complaints. 1) The opening montage was pretty lame, but then again, aren't they all? 2) There were too many extreme close-up shots during the fight scenes. I'm not sure why directors are doing this more and more these days. I assume they want you to feel like you are immersed in the action and chaos of everything, but really you just end up not knowing what's going on because you can't see anything besides movement. 3) One of the characters had far too many expository lines. I became distracted from the drama of the scene because this guy kept saying exactly what was going on, and it made me wonder what the writers had been smoking. And then I thought that maybe the actor pitched a fit because he didn't have enough dialogue, so they were forced to write this extra drivel for him just so he had more things to say. And by that point I was completely detached from the movie and had to get back into it again. Fortunately, there were only a couple of short scenes like that. The rest was great.

There were some amusing one-liners, and as always, Bond had a sweet car and some cool gadgets. I would definitely watch this movie again, and I'm actually looking forward to the next one (and this coming from someone who was always pretty 'meh' about the previous Bond franchises). I know lots of people had their doubts about this Daniel Craig guy, but he did a damn fine job. Go see the movie, seriously. It's one of the most entertaining things I've seen in a while.

As a side note, they showed the preview for Spiderman 3, and it looks amazing. Go Spidey, go!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Flickr Blogging - Hectic


It's been a crazy week. I've fallen way behind on my blog reading/writing, but hopefully things will slow down a bit this weekend, and I'll be able to catch up.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Flickr Blogging - Sickly


I feel like...a joshua tree, I guess.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I'm a lucky girl

I have the best husband ever. I seem to have caught his cold from last week, and am feeling rather craptastical at this moment, so he is tending to me and making us some tasty-looking Mediterranean-y wraps for dinner. He's a good one.

Plus, he's kind of cute. ;)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

This, that and the other...

Sometimes I really, really, really wish I were one of those anonybloggers with a clever little nickname and the ability to do things like gripe about work without running the risk of being canned. Alas, my identity isn't cloaked well enough to afford me such luxuries, so I'll just sit here and growl nonspecifically at the monitor. Grrrr.......

In other news, my sister got a job, a new place (and state) of residence, and a fiance, all in a matter of weeks. She's been a busy kid! She's joining the ranks of you teachers (whose blogs I read and whose temperaments I admire), educating the leaders of tomorrow. Or, in her case, the leaders of a few decades from now. (They're kindergarteners.) Teach on, sista!

Last night I had my first opportunity to meet someone I'd only previously "known" from her blog. Megan of From the Archives was in town for a few days, so we met up with her and some other cool people at the home of two of her readers. (Tom had actually met with her on a previous visit of hers to town, but I was studying for a final that night and could not attend the gathering.) It's a weird thing to meet someone you kind of feel like you know but have never met, and whose voice you've never even heard. But it's a neat thing, and it makes me want to meet, face to face, more of the people whose blogs I read. You east-coasters...I don't mean to brag (really, it's more of a complaint) but we've had record-breaking high temperatures this week. Ninety-five degrees in November, I kid you not. (Personally, I'd rather have creepy fog, but perhaps that's just me.) Come on out to the (left) coast, we'll get together, have a few laughs...

Looks like it's time for bed. I'm certainly not going to stay up and watch whatever crappy Steven Segal movie this is that Tom's found on Spike TV. No thank you to that. Good night, all.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Scubaddiction (Part Trois)

Monday:
Dive number one - deep dive! Thus far, we'd been as deep as sixty feet, which is pretty deep, but today we would be going for triple digits. The "deep end" of the dive park drops down to nearly 100 feet. It would be colder and darker, with higher pressure, than we'd been before, and with depth comes the possibility of nitrogen narcosis. This last thing isn't nearly as bad as it sounds, but it can make you goofy and careless. We all had to be on our toes not to do anything dumb because we thought we were invincible. ;)

There was a long surface swim out to the site, which was way at the back corner of the dive park. We dropped down as a group, slowly descending further and further, until we settled on our knees at the bottom, 95 feet underwater. Shay brought down a racquetball to show us what the pressure can do at that depth (the thing was completely crushed) and had us do math problems to test our level of impairment (underwater sobriety test, basically). We could hear a whistling that was most likely sonar from a boat, and the kelp leaves were huge at that depth - no surprise since they like the cold. We hit a thermocline (sharp change in temperature) at about 48 feet, but while it felt like a five or ten degree difference, it was really only two degrees colder at the bottom than at the surface. Crazy!

You go through the air in your tank significantly faster the deeper you go, so we only stayed at the bottom for 13 minutes before taking a slow tour back up to the steps. It was an incredible feeling, knowing that we'd leared another hurdle toward becoming advanced open water divers. Ninety-five feet! How sweet is that?

Dive two began with underwater navigation, which involved making our way around a square. It's significantly trickier to follow a compass heading underwater, as you're being pushed around by currents, than on land. However, we managed the task and were then sent away in our buddy pairs to dive on our own, unsupervised. Technically, we could have done that already, since we'd been certified the previous day, but it was still a little scary to be going off without an instructor. For about 45 seconds. And then it was awesome. :)

We swam around, using all the skills we'd learned over the past week. I kept getting water in my mask and had to clear it repeatedly. Good thing I'd practiced it so much! We went down to about 45 feet and then swam back up along the rocks, pointing out neat things to each other and enjoying the feeling of exploring together. When we'd run our air down to nearly the specified level, we ended the dive and made our way back to the surface. And that was that. We were officially hooked.

Dive three took us back down below 80 feet again. We got cameras and made our way to the corner of the park, where we descended to the wreck of the Sujac with another buddy team and a pair of divemasters. A real shipwreck! It was huge and old and neat. As with our previous deep dive, we couldn't stay at the bottom very long, so we took some pictures and made our way to shallower waters. One of the divemasters had brought a bag of peas down with him, and when he cut it open, a feeding frenzy ensued. Fish were swarming everywhere around him. Who knew fish liked peas so much?

Too soon, it was time to go back to the surface. We packed up our gear, hailed some taxi vans, and went to dinner. All in all, a super excellent weekend! And now I can't wait to go diving in Mexico. :)

Scubaddiction (Part Deux)

Sunday:
We woke early, though with the time change, it wasn't tooooo bad. Went to breakfast with the group, set out our gear to be picked up by the local dive shop's truck, and walked over to the dock to wait. It was boat diving day.

As with every step in the process so far, there were some jitters. (What if the Dramamine doesn't work, and I get seasick? What if I have a hard time getting back on the boat after I'm in the water? What if I'm cold and miserable all day from the wind and the cold water? And won't it be even scarier out in the open ocean than in the dive park?) And, as with every step in the process so far, those jitters were quickly cast aside.

Our charter for the day was The King Neptune, a fairly sizeable dive boat with a comfortable galley and an amazing crew. Once we got all our gear set up and had our orientation, we went inside to wait for our arrival at the first dive site. We were greeted by sliced cantaloupe, veggies and dip, hot and cold drinks, and doughnut holes. The sun shone down outside, so that the wind felt refreshing, rather than bone-chillingly unpleasant. The Dramamine worked like a charm. It was going to be a good day.

Before too long, we anchored at site number one. I'm not sure why it hadn't occurred to me that we'd be following the shoreline and boating around the island, rather than away from it into the deep blue. There's more cool stuff to see at the bottom and among the reefs than just out in the middle of the water. Duh. So anyway, we anchored just offshore at a site called Italian Gardens, so named because it is usually full of kelp. This summer, the water got too warm, and the vast bulk of the kelp died off, but it's slowly coming back. Because of this, the Italian Gardens weren't very garden-like, but it was still a neat site.

We entered the water by taking a "giant stride" off the side of the boat and paddling over to the instructors. Underwater, we found that the bottom was very steeply sloping, which made it somewhat difficult for us to do our various skills without sliding backwards. Skills completed, we got to go on a little tour of the shoreline. We saw an octopus and a baby horned shark, along with the usual array of fishes and snails. Far too quickly, the dive was over and we were climbing back onto the boat.

For dive number two, we were put in smaller groups of two or three for some more specialized skills. Some people did underwater photography, some worked on navigation. Tom & I were sent out with one instructor, Shay, to work on fine-tuning our buoyancy control. There was a strong current this time, so just swimming from the back of the boat (where we entered the water) to the front (where the descent line was) was quite the workout! Nevertheless, we got there, and upon descent found that we couldn't see anything but blue water in every direction. The bottom was more than a hundred feet down, so we wouldn't be going there. The shore was visible, but somewhat far away, and we would have done a surface swim toward it instead of descending along the anchor line if that was where we were going. Shay signaled for us to follow her and began swimming out into the blue.

It wasn't too long before our dive site came into view - a big reef known as the Pinnacle. We proceeded to swim up and down, all around it, working hard to remain neutrally buoyant and not smash into the reef. We wove through big strands of kelp, sometimes single-file because it was so dense, and shone our flashlights into nooks and crannies to see all the neat things that lived there. The thing was just infested with big, purple-black sea urchins. So cool! Once again, the time elapsed well before we expected, and it was back through the blue to the boat. I was really glad that we were following Shay, who knew exactly where she was going. When we got back to the boat, we discovered that none of the other groups had even made it out to the Pinnacle! They hadn't been sure enough of its location to risk the swim out, so they'd hung around the anchor line. Thank goodness Shay knew what she was doing, or we never would have gotten to see the beautiful reef.

Back on the boat, we were all contratulated on our completion of all the requirements for PADI Open Water certification. We were certified divers! Some in the group were headed back to the mainland that night, but the rest of us would be staying on for one more day in order to obtain our Advanced Open Water certification. There was one more boat dive scheduled, but Tom & I opted to skip it. PADI rules stipulate that you can only have three training dives per day, so since we would be going on another dive that night, this third boat dive would be just for fun, and not for credit toward our certification. Since we were already quite tired, we decided to save our energy for the night dive, so after lunch (the galley crew made a delicious soup, and there was a sandwich bar) we broke our gear down and had a rest. It was amusing to me how much longer it seemed like the others were underwater for their third dive, even though I know it was the same amount of time as for the previous two. You know what they say about time flying...

Back at the dock, we loaded our gear back on the truck and sent it ahead to the point. It was still quite light out, so we decided to get some dinner before our dive. We walked to the point and made sure everything was in order with our stuff, and then we walked back to the restaurant. The city of Avalon is tiny, but it was still a lot of walking! Dinner warmed our bellies and restored our energy, and we began to dread what we knew was coming next - the re-donning of our cold, still wet wetsuits. And it had started to get breezy outside. Oh dear.

Gearing up was, as expected, a hideous experience. Fortunately, by their very nature, wetsuits are quite insulative, so while I wouldn't say we warmed up exactly, we were at least moderately comfortable in short order. Getting into the water was another tricky matter, as it was low tide, and there are huge rocks all around the entry/exit point of the dive park, and it was, you know, dark. It was nervewracking, but we made it in, and once we got underwater, we found that our enormous flashlights did a pretty good job of illuminating the immediate vicinity.

Just as there are nocturnal creatures on land, there are sea animals that prefer the dark to the light. As a result, we were eager to see some new things we hadn't yet encountered. In particular, there are little plankton-type organisms that are bioluminescent - basically underwater fireflies. If you turn your light off and wave your hand through the water, it will leave a glowing pink trail behind it. Cool! We had lots of fun playing with that. We cruised around looking at lobsters and anemones and crazy fish that were "sleeping" by sticking their heads into corners and swimming in place. Shay found a sea cucumber and passed it around for us to hold. They are weird and squishy. All in all, despite the unpleasantries of putting on our cold, wet gear and getting back out of it afterward while the breezes blew, the night dive was totally worth it.

Too late for taxis, we grabbed lockers at the point for the tanks and weight bags and hauled the rest of our stuff back to the hotel. A few of us went out to play some pool and have a couple of beers in celebration of our certification, but we didn't stay out too late. One more day of diving awaited us...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Scubaddiction!

Sooo....looks like I finally have time to sit down and write about our awesome open-water weekend. Here goes:

Saturday
The alarm went off at o-dark thirty (four AM, really, so no thirties were actually involved). We got our stuff together, fed the cats and set out for the Long Beach Harbor. One ferry ride later, we arrived in Avalon and prepared to set out on our first open water dive.

Scuba diving is a very gear-intensive sport. The dive park at Casino Point is a good mile and a half from the ferry landing, so it was a good thing that we had taxi vans to haul our stuff to the park. Dive gear is heavy!

Before I get much further into my play-by-play, let me just admit that I was nervous at every new limit we pushed with each dive. However, I was also pleasantly surprised when it was never as bad or hard or scary as I expected it to be. And that, my friends, begets confidence, which begets joy, which begets addiction. But I am perhaps getting ahead of myself...

At Casino Point, we suited up and got ready for dive number one. This was to be just an orientation to the ocean, a short tour around that didn't involve any demonstration of our tricky scuba skills (e.g. take your mask off and then share your air with your buddy!). I was relieved that we wouldn't have to deal with any skills, and I was both excited and anxious about being outside of the confines of a swimming pool. I mean, going nine feet underwater was one thing, but forty?! That's, like, a lot.

Once we descended, however, all those doubts skipped off to wait for me on the next go-round. For one thing, there was so much more to see in the ocean! Fish and kelp and fish and urchins and fish! (So much cooler than nose plugs and band aids.) There's no way I could be nervous when there were so many neat things to distract me. Pretty soon we were cruising around, thirty-five feet underwater, comfortable as could be. The fifty or so minutes went by far too quickly, and we were soon back on land once more.

We had two more dives that day, during which we did more of our "dog and pony tricks" (as one of our instructors likes to call them). There was more waiting (it can take a little while for nine people to get through one skill) and less swimming around, so it got pretty cold sometimes, but overall, these dives continued to build my confidence in my abilities. If my regulator got kicked out of my mouth by a flailing fellow diver or if my mask were ripped off my face by a wayward sea lion, I would be able to manage, no sweat. ;)

Our first three open water qualification dives completed by four pm, we were done with day one, and ready to get some dinner and a hot shower. I think I was completely unconscious by nine that night, which was good because Sunday was to be another early morning.

(to be continued)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday Flickr Blogging - Sleeping


Because I'm going to get to finally catch up on my sleep this weekend! Whoo-hoo!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Catalina photos

The first few are up here. No underwater pics yet. I should be getting those back (and finding out if they're even any good!) this weekend.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Friday Flickr Blogging...on Tuesday


We were crazy busy with packing on Friday night, so I wasn't able to get around to posting a photo. However, if I'd had the time, this is what I would have put up. Search phrase for this week - "Casino Point, Catalina" That's where we did most of our diving this weekend.

Now in a little while, I'll upload my own photos from the trip. Can you stand the excitement?!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Scuba Sue

Okay, so I promised details about our scuba class from last weekend. Here are some fun facts about scuba diving that they don't tell you in the PADI open water manual or DVD:

  • Fact - Dive gear + certifications = ¡mucho dinero!

  • Fact - Wet suits are very nearly impossible to get into unless you are dry.

  • Fact - When you flood or remove your mask, it's difficult at first to remember that you still can breathe. Really a bizarre sensation.

  • Fact - Scuba gear is heavy! Sure, it's no problem when you're underwater, but man, lugging the gear around on land is a workout.

  • Fact - Scuba diving will invade your dreams, chasing away all those nightmares you've been having about work (bonus!)

Actually, re-reading that list, it looks like I didn't enjoy the class very much, but I promise that I did. For one thing, breathing underwater is crazy and very, very cool. For another, I learned how to do all sorts of neat things, like hover midwater without sinking to the bottom or floating up to the top. I learned how to calculate how much time I can safely spend underwater at depths up to 100 feet (if it's the first dive of the day, 20 minutes; less than that if I've already spent some time at depth earlier that day). I learned that English and Australian divers (and I, apparently) frequently have unusually buoyant feet and may require ankle weights to offset the effects of "floaty feet." I learned that spending 10 hours in a pool over the course of a weekend makes you very, very pruney.

I'm excited, and admittedly a little nervous, about the open water dives this weekend. I'm sure the water is going to be fuh-reezing, but the incredible things we'll be able to see...totally worth it. We're going to go on a night dive (scary! but the instructors are really enthusiastic about it), and a deep-water dive, to 100 feet, where we'll get to check out a shipwreck! We'll be taking photos underwater and (hopefully) playing with DPVs and learning how to navigate. It's going to be three days of diving, shivering, warming up, and diving some more, with the occasional meal and snooze thrown in there for good measure. I have no doubt that we will be completely exhausted by our trip home Monday evening, but by the end of it all, we will be proficient scuba divers, ready to tackle the warmer waters of Mexico in a couple of months. :)

All right, back to my studying. Have a good rest of the week, all.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Boys don't make passes...

That's hot!
...at girls who wear (circa 1972 safety) glasses.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Forgetful...

Man, here I was, enjoying the whole Friday Flickr Blogging thing, and then I completely forgot about it once I quit blogging from work. Here then, are your make-up Friday Flickr posts for the five weeks I flaked out and forgot (Alliterative? Me?).


Week One: Busted
Since I was busted for excessive internet usage at work. Poor Beethoven...guy can't catch a break...er...d'oh. ;)


Week Two: Anniversary
This was the Friday of my parents' 33rd wedding anniversary. Aww...


Week Three: Soil Analysis
I began soil collections for my thesis project this week. Not sure if I'll be able to get more info out of the dirt than a sharp-nosed collie, however... ;)


Week Four: Yoga
I started taking a yoga class this week. I am not quite as flexible as this fellow, and yoga requires a heck of a lot more upper body strength than I expected. I think it's going to be a good thing for me. (There was actually a really cute Flickr pic of a hamster looking very yoga-esque, but it was un-bloggable. Ah well.)


Week Five: Scuba
Started our scuba class this week! (This photo look familiar, Tom?) ;)


And there you have it. I promise I will try to do the Friday Flickr posts again from now on. Even if you guys don't care so much, I enjoy it. ;) More on the scuba class a little later...

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Yawny

I woke up briefly between 4:00 and 4:30am every. Single. Morning. This week. I'm not sure why that is, but I know that at least a couple of times, I found myself the object of a very intent stare.


As a result, I've been pretty sleepy off and on for the last 5 days. Wednesday night I actually conked right out in the middle of Mythbusters. I'm actually all sleepy right now too (have to keep erasing my many drowse-induced typos), but I'm sitting here typing up a nice little post for you good people. Exciting, isn't it? I thought so.

Tomorrow Tom & I will drag ourselves out of bed one last time at a ridiculous hour on a weekend morning to collect the final six soil samples for my thesis project. Then we'll meet up with our fellow scuba students at the dive shop and head over to the pool for a nice, long day of skills-learning. Then, on Sunday, blessed Sunday, we will actually get to sleep in until the sun has risen fully! It's been 3 weeks now since I've slept until it was completely light outside. Aaah, the little things we come to appreciate...

And with that, I'm off to bed. I can barely keep my eyes open now anyway. G'night!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Commutress

Yesterday afternoon, Boomer (the Maliboomer) started making some really baaaaad noises with his brakes. I mean, they'd been squeaky for months, but when I asked the guys at Pep Boys to have a look at them (way back in, oh, February or something?), they said they were fine, so I just kept on driving and wincing at the noise every time I stopped. But yesterday they started making this horrible grinding sound, which is just one of those things that, if you know absolutely nothing about cars, you just kind of instinctively know can't possibly be good. So, as it seemed a really unwise course of action for me to drive in to work today, I had Tom drop me off at the metro station at o-dark-thirty so I could take the light rail into downtown and thence board the Metrolink, which conveniently stops just a few blocks* from where I work. Less conveniently, it puts me to work an hour later than usual, so it's not exactly something I can do every day. Also, with gas prices dropping back into a somewhat more reasonable range, it's no longer cost effective to take the train to work. I'd end up saving on wear & tear on my car, sure, but tickets would run me quite a bit more than the cost of a tank of gas each week.

It's a pity, though. I find commuting by rail infinitely more relaxing than commuting by car. I have a nice little walk home from the station, and the weather these days puts a spring in my step. I can rock out to my iPod and get caught up on the Scientific Americans and Newsweeks I never seem to get around to reading. I can doze a bit. I don't arrive home tense and disgruntled with the idiots I have to deal with while driving.

Of course, there is a tragic flaw in all of this, in that I don't go straight to the gym. I've come home today and sat for, oh over half an hour now, reading emails and blogs and typing this post. I need to get up and go swimming, but I'm just so comfortable here on the couch...

All right, off I go. The pool is calling. Boomer got nice new brake pads today and is waiting for me down in the parking lot. And at least he smells better than the train. ;)


*Or so I thought. Turns out, the platform is actually a little over a mile from where I work. Oops.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Dive! Dive! Dive!


Exciting news, people. Exciting! Next week, and weekend, Tom & I are going to begin scuba dive training. One of Tom's friends is a diver, and his wife just recently got her dive instructor certification, so she graciously set us up with a sweet discount on the PADI open water course! After initial classroom and confined dive training, we will be departing at the end of the month to Catalina Island for a 3-day weekend of ocean diving (and, I'm told, freezing our butts off). If all goes well, we'll pass the course and be able to go on some exceedingly cool dives in Cancun. I am very excited!

Tom & I have both been reading the PADI manual in preparation for the course, learning about neat things like mask and fin attributes and scary, scary things like tooth squeezes. Seriously, not being able to equalize the pressure in a little air pocket under your tooth would have to be about the worst thing ever. (shudder)

That's about the most noteworthy thing of late. Work's been...well...work, and I'm just plugging along with the thesis stuff. We risked life and limb on the 405 freeway this morning - me collecting soil samples and Tom trying not to anger the drivers with our many exits from and re-entrances to the flow of traffic. The weather has been lovely and cloudy and cool this week, and we even got a little bit of rain the last two days. The cats are doing fine. Sleeping on the back of the couch at the moment, if you must know (which I doubt, but oh well...now you know). I've been swimming and going to yoga in the afternoons, which has been good. I'm quite pleased to be doing something active, even though it's been leaving me more tired than usual.

Seems like I had something else to write, but now I can't remember what it was. I assure you, if it comes back to me, I shall return. Til then, happy trails and all that. :)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The weekend of no late mornings

Both days this weekend, we got up early so that I could begin collecting soil samples for my thesis project. With Tom as my (much needed and even more appreciated) wheel man, we set off as early as we could manage so as to beat the worst of the traffic. We traveled one freeway yesterday and another this morning, stopping every couple of miles so that I could pull a soil sample from the side of the road. A super-snazzy borrowed GPS device (thanks Dad!) allowed us to record the exact location of each collection, hence the beautiful map I posted yesterday. Next weekend we'll be at it again, and possibly one more day after that, depending on how much we are able to get done. I'm pretty excited to start work on the "meat" of the project - analysis of the samples - though with all the little soil-filled vials sitting in front of me, it does look somewhat daunting. But it wouldn't be a proper Master's thesis project if it were a cake walk, now would it?

Saturday afternoon we swam. I'm going to do more of that after work a couple of days this week. This afternoon we played racquetball. I hit myself in the head with my racket. I am teh coordinated! ;) But we already knew that, didn't we...

Hope the weekend was good to you. May you have the fortitude to face Monday head-on and beat it down like the whiny little bitch that it is. Or something.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

How I spent my Saturday morning...


Explanation forthcoming ;)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Shear me!

Isn't it great how sometimes you can get such a good haircut that you feel like a sexy bad-ass? Not one of those homely bad-asses...someone who could not only take on the world, but would also look damn good doing it. I think it's great.

I paid quite a pretty penny for my haircut today, as I expected to, and it was totally worth it. It even increased my "apparent age" by a whole year (usually I get mistaken for 18, but today at the wine shop, the proprietor said I looked 19). I am rather pleased. :)

The football game last night was pretty fun, except that the announcer sounded like he was drunk. Both of the schools had a shocking number of cheerleaders. The squads were quite possibly larger than the football teams. One of the schools had four different types of cheerleaders (pom-pom bearers, tumblers/tower builders, a flag squad, and the JV girls who sat in the stands and occasionally yelled things). The flag team would devolve into random twirling whenever the band started up a song for which there was not an established routine, which was actually kind of nauseating, but overall they seemed reasonably skilled. It was a good time though, and it made me nostalgic for those frigid Friday nights I spent playing in the pep band in high school.

Off to bed, and then sleeping in tomorrow as late as the cats will allow. (Well, as late as Leo will allow. Loki's pretty agreeable as far as that stuff goes.) Have a great rest of the weekend. :)

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Reticence of the Sue

Sorry things have been so quiet around here of late. I got (ahem) scolded at work last week for my excessive usage of the internet. Oops. ;) No more blogging during the day for me! Unfortunately, by the time I get home in the evening, I'm usually pretty wiped out and barely get around to reading what all the rest of you are writing, let alone posting anything of my own. Totally lame, but that's the way it goes.

I will say that I am loving not having to drive to San Diego anymore. L-O-V-ing it. I can get so much done after work during the week, and sleeping in my own bed every night is downright marvelous. Never mind the added benefit of getting to see my beloved every day. Sappy, it's true, but I really am fond of the guy. ;)

Next week the thesis work begins in earnest, and I'll be going to the gym every afternoon, so I may be reduced to weekly updates here, if that. I'm sure you'll survive without my daily witty commentary recountings of trivial shit. For the time being, I'm too fond of hearing myself talk seeing myself type to quit altogether, so maybe I'll be all mimi smartypants style and it'll be a pleasant surprise every time I update ye olde blogge. Or something. ;)

So one last bit of trivial crap, and I'll send you on your way. Tonight, Tom & I are going to a high school football game because, well, neither of us has been to one in a long-ass time, and we think it might be fun. Pasadena High School faces off against Arcadia tonight. I don't know what their mascots are or how good either team is, but it should be entertaining. Tomorrow I'm getting a haircut. I don't know how short I'll go with it, but almost anything could happen. I say almost because I'm not likely to get a crew cut or dye it blonde, but I am leaving my options open with regards to length, within reason. I know they're going to charge me an arm and a leg for the cut, too, so I am expecting quality! I will let you know how it turns out, since I know you will hardly be able to stand the suspense.

Signing off. Have a lovely weekend!

I Wanna Be Like You-u-u...

Congratulations to my parents, who are celebrating their 33rd wedding anniversary today! Way to go. :)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

It's all about context...


September 2004: "Holy crap! Look at how high the price of gas is!"
September 2006: "Holy crap! Look at how low the price of gas is!"

(This photo was taken in September of 2004. I found it the other day while going through my old laptop's hard drive. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry.)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Suh-weet!

Took my final this morning, and I thought it went quite well. No more classes for me! Yay! :)

Tomorrow we're going wine tasting at a wine shop here in Pasadena. That should be nice. Happy autumn, everyone!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Seasons Change

I was all set to write a "Yay! Happy first day of autumn!" post today, but I thought it would be a good idea to double-check that it actually is the atumnal equinox today before posting erroneous information. It's a good thing I checked, since it is technically still summer until Saturday. For some reason, I had it in my head that the solstices and equinoxes were almost always on the 21st of the month (March, June, September, December), but that is not the case.

  • The vernal equinox falls on March 21st every 4 years and on March 20th the rest of the time.
  • The summer solstice is always on June 21st. (Well, it has been for the last quarter century. Back in the 60s it fell on the 22nd.)
  • In 1996, the atumnal equinox shifted from being on September 22nd every fourth year and September 23rd the rest of the time to switching off every two years. This year it falls on the 23rd.
  • The winter solstice alternates between December 21st and 22nd every two years.

The linked pages have little tables and diagrams showing the changes each year. I wouldn't want to be the one sitting around and figuring all that stuff out (so thanks, astronomers!) but it's kind of neat to look at.

All right, enough procrastination via blog. Back to work on my Powerpoint presentation. More from me in a couple of days.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Haiku-Tu: Electronic Addiction Edition

Might as well face it -
You're addicted to e-mail.
Is there hope? Perhaps.

Interesting post on Mind Hacks today. I understand the email withdrawls all too well.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Bulletpost Monday

  • Friday night was awesome! It was a field of 38, none of whom jumped the initial round clear. The jump-off was between the 7 riders who had 4 faults each (meaning they had knocked down one jump and finished within the time allowed). There were only two clear rounds in the jump-off, and one of them had one time fault, so it was a close competition. I really enjoyed myself, though I'd forgotten how uncomfortable metal bleachers are. ;)
  • I love that the weather's changing, but I think I'm getting a cold. I've been feeling like crap for the first few hours of the day, particularly when I have to get up early. Yippee.
  • This is my last week of classes for my master's degree! I have a final on Saturday, and then I've just got to write my thesis by the end of the year. Suh-weet. No more San Diego commute for me!
  • Cough cough cough...
  • Tom did the laundry and a mountainload of dishes yesterday. I am a lucky girl. :)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Friday Flickr Blogging: Grand Prix Show Jumping


Today after work, I am going to pick up Tom and we will brave the Friday afternoon traffic in order to make our way down to Orange County for a Grand Prix show jumping competition.

I have mentioned it before, and my family/friends know it all too well, but I used to ride horses. I was way into it, and I was actually quite good at it. I may not be able to kick a ball or run around a track faster than anyone, but damn if I can't do some impressive things on the back of a horse. One of my youthful aspirations was to make it to the Olympics as a stadium jumper. (That was after I grew too tall to be a jockey.)

Stadium/show jumping is a competition in which a horse and rider combination must successfully maneuver over a course of fences of various types. At the Grand Prix level, there are between 10 and 16 jumps ranging in height from 5' to 5'6". That's right...some of the fences are taller than I am.* I love watching this event on TV, and in person it's even more impressive. Needless to say, I am way stoked about going to tonight's competition! :)

Pictured above is Margie Goldstein-Engle, one of my childhood idols. She is 5'1" tall (so pretty much everything she's jumping is over her head) and one of the best riders the sport has ever seen. Props to you, Margie!

*There's another type of competition called Puissance, which is basically a high-jump contest. There's a short course, the final jump of which keeps getting raised every time it is cleared. It usually ends up over 7 feet high. Click on this link to see the current record holders (from 1949!) clearing 8+ feet. Ho-lee crap.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Good Afternoon


After an extraordinarily lazy and unproductive day (I did some homework, but not much else), I wandered down to the Farmers' Market and got another of those tasty savory crepes for an early dinner. I took it to the beach, where I sat a while and took some pictures.

Bonus Haiku for You!

I am annoyed that
these days, at this latitude,
it's dark before eight.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Haiku-Tu: Homage to My Athletic Husband

He's a Racquetman,
Racquetman, hit that little
blue ball at the wall.

Tom & I have been playing racquetball once or twice a week. As should be made obvious by my inability to stay on my own two feet while running, I could never be mistaken for an athlete. However, Tom has been kind and patient, and I believe I have almost caught up to him...when he's playing left-handed and I get an extra bounce. Still, improvement is improvement, so I'll take it. I did smack him pretty hard in the ear with the ball last night though. Oops. :(

Monday, September 11, 2006

Wait. It's not what it sounds like.

Statement made at work this morning that really doesn't mean what you might think it means:

"We're out of acid. The strippers are starting to panic."

Reader Participation Monday

Finish the following sentence:

Water chestnuts...

a. are crunchy and delicious!
b. are essential for stir fry, but not much use for anything else.
c. set my teeth on edge and should never be eaten by anyone, at any time, for any reason.
d. [insert your answer here]

All right, peoples. Now participate.

(And if you're itching for something to read about the anniversary of a pretty crappy day for a lot of people, go here, because she's a lot more eloquent than I am.)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Also, a word of thanks

To whatever weather god(dess) decided we were worthy of a break from the heat. The past two mornings have been downright lovely, and it hasn't gotten too bad in the afternoons. Hurrah!

Weirdness

I woke up this morning from a dream in which I was suddenly and enormously pregnant. Tom was out of town, and I was trying to make my way to the hospital because I thought I was going into labor. I had to run through a carnival in order to get to the hospital and nearly got taken out by one of those Scrambler rides. It was a weird dream.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Friday Flickr Blogging: Safety


This will round out the three-day posting arc highlighting The Clumsiness of the Sue. Remember, kids - safety first!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Was I what?

At the hospital yesterday, after the admitting nurse took my blood pressure, pulse and temperature (simultaneously!), she started in on the "head injury questions." Did I lose consciousness? (No.) Was I having any vision problems? (No.) Had I been...and then there was a look on her face like she realized mid-sentence how stupid the question was but couldn't stop herself from finishing it...wearing a helmet? Yeah, I'm the one they call Helmet Girl, jogging around the block with my bright pink helmet on. Children point and laugh at me, mothers hold their infants a little closer as I pass, men look at my wedding band and wonder who I think I'm fooling.

No, admitting nurse, I was not wearing a helmet. That's not, however, to say that there isn't a distinct possibility that I should have been wearing one.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

American Klutz

Last Wednesday I started running again, since I've got 2 days each week in San Diego with little to do (homework/reading/studying for my current class is almost nonexistent). I don't really like running, but I've got to do something to stay active, and it's remarkably effective for improving the cardiovascular fitness. This morning, after lazing around and surfing the internets for a goodly while, I dragged myself out to get some exercise. I've been jogging a little 1.3-mile loop near my friend's house, just to get back in the swing of things; when I rejoin the Caltech gym next month, I'm going to start swimming, too.

Anyway, I was a bit more than halfway through my route, when I suddenly found myself flat on my belly with blood gushing out of my chin. Buh?! I had been passing a church that was undergoing some construction and was surrounded by a chain link fence. This fence had little "feet" that stuck a little ways out onto the sidewalk, and I was paying too much attention to my iPod and too little attention to where I was going to avoid tripping over one of them.

Below is a graphical representation of the event, inspired partly by American Splendor, which we watched this weekend, and partly by MysteryGirl!.



I'm okay. I broke my fall with my knees and then my chin, with my hands coming up as something of an afterthought. Heh. (No, Mom, I didn't rebreak my jaw.) The bright side? Looks like I won't be running tomorrow! (And I got a blog post out of it. Hehe.)

Update: I ended up going to the hospital after all because I feared I might have fractured my right patella in the fall. (As in, "when I fell" and not "in the autumn.") They took x-rays (no fracture...phew!) and I asked someone to take a look at my chin while I was there. The doc deemed it worthy of 4 stitches, so he sewed me up and sent me on my way. Astoundingly, I was in and out of there in 90 minutes (at a Kaiser hospital!), so that was good. But now I have lovely black threads in my chin. Chah-ming.

Stuff it!


For dinner on Saturday, we made red bell peppers stuffed with layers of lamb, feta, Greek yoghurt and herbs. These were served with eggplant slices that were topped with diced bell peppers (orange and yellow), onion, and a combination of Parmesan and Jarlsburg cheeses. It was gooooooood.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Weekend, in Haiku

Saturday I worked
Then made dinner with the boys
Tasty stuffed peppers

Sunday, got up and
went over to M's for some
swimming and kabobs

Monday, Irwin croaked
You poor, crazy croc hunter
Rest in peace, matey

Also Monday, chores
Laundry, dishes, vacuuming
And a barbeque

Addendum:
Seems I ate a lot
at other peoples' houses
No cooking for me! ;)

Friday, September 01, 2006

Friday Flickr Blogging


Thought I'd try a new thing (we'll see how long I keep it up). Each Friday I will choose a word or phrase apropos of the day or week, and I will do a random Flickr photo search. Best photo among the search results gets posted. This week's word (since it is currently 102 degrees out): heat.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

For Summer

For a couple of years when I was a teenager (late high school, early college), my summer job was working at my friend Caitlin's horse farm. It was the first - and come to think of it, only - time I was happy to get up before dawn six days a week to drive an hour to work long days for little pay. I carpooled with another friend, Sara, and we'd blast The Foo Fighters or Collective Soul or the local radio station, chattering all the while. We'd arrive and make the rounds feeding all the horses before wandering off to the blackberry bushes that provided our breakfast. Since moving away from Oregon, one of the things I have missed the most is blackberry season. Berries from the supermarket simply don't compare. There is just nothing like finding the plumpest, ripest berries on the bush and eating one after another until your fingers are stained purple.

The rest of the day would consist of exercising the horses, tearing down old pasture fences and building better ones, sometimes giving riding lessons to kids, hauling hay from the barn to the fields with the tractor, cleaning out the stalls, and doing whatever else needed to be done. On one memorable occasion, we took Caitlin's truck down to the lumber yard and filled the bed up with wood shavings. Caitlin shoveled while Sara and I took turns either helping her or standing in the truck bed and doing a "rain dance" to pack the shavings down so we could get as much in there as possible.

In the afternoons, if we had time, Sara and I would take the two retired horses out on the trails. We'd take them swimming in the creek if the weather was hot, and then we'd race them back to the barn. Sir is an ex-racehorse himself, and MacDuff is a big Percheron who has been Sir's buddy for years. The boys always got excited when we would approach the galloping lane, ears pricked up and heads raised high, suddenly much lighter on their feet than you would expect of such respectable elderly gentlemen. As soon as we'd give them permission, they would be off, feet pounding the dirt and necks outstretched. On Duffy's back I felt like a warrior going into battle, with his big draft horse hooves making the earth shake.

Every night I would come home filthy and exhausted, but ready to start again the next day. If I ever find another job for which I have so much enthusiasm, I will consider myself a lucky woman.

Yesterday afternoon I got an email from Caitlin. She passed along the sad news that one of her mares, Summer, had an accident out in the field that left her fatally wounded. It's not really clear what happened, but she had to be put down. She was a good old girl, the only broodmare on the farm who only had one foal. (She was already somewhat elderly when Caitlin acquired her, and after one foal she couldn't get pregnant again.) We were all very fond of her, and she lived out a happy retirement at pasture. Upon hearing news of her passing, I memorialized her in the most fitting way I could think of - by going to the Farmers' Market and buying a package of blackberries, which I took down to the beach and ate quietly while thinking about my summers on the farm.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ahoy there!

Look ye down below. I (finally) got the pictures added to the risotto-stuffed mushrooms post.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Return of Haiku-Tu Participation

This is an approximate representation of my morning so far:

Wallet? Where are you?
I'm on the coffee table!
Back at home? I suck.

Ants! Ants everywhere!
On the floor and on my desk!
Office invaders.

Looking at the clock...
Wait, is it going backwards
Or is it just me?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Open Letter to the Powers That Be of Magic Mountain

To whom it concerns:

This past spring, we purchased season passes to your establishment, specifically for the purpose of visiting a few times throughout the course of the year without breaking the bank, as it were. One of the things we expect of our visits is that the rollercoasters we wish to ride will be operational. We understand that sometimes attractions are down for repairs; we can deal with our disappointment when our desires cannot be met on one visit. However, when we are thwarted on subsequent visits, we tend to get a little testy. Was there really a good reason for X to be closed down for a whole week? And if so, would it have been so very hard for you to put up a little recorded announcement so that one could conceivably call in before the park opens and find out that he/she would do well to make other plans for the day and try again another time? Hell, we might have still come on down, but at least we would not have come with high hopes that would only be violently dashed upon our arrival. In the future, please consider better accomodating your guests, who only wish to come and give you money in return for 35 seconds of high-flying thrills.

Cordially,
Mr. & Mrs. Johnson

Kitchen-Aided Procrastination

My plan for Thursday evening was to come home after work, wash the dishes, make a tasty dinner and do some studying for my DNA/Serology final. What I did instead was come home after work, sit on the couch, surfing the internet and playing WebBoggle for about 2 hours (just one more game...), then get up and wash dishes, and finally, spend about another two hours making tasty, tasty risotto-stuffed portobello mushrooms. By the time dinner was eaten, it was time to get ready for bed. Oops.

Okay, so the risotto. I always make it generally the same way, with minor variations depending on what else is going to be served. I start out by browning the rice a little in some melted butter on the stove. Once it's got a bit of color to it, I dump some white wine or beer (Thursday it was Gordon Biersch Pilsner) into the pan to deglaze. In a separate pan, I saute my vegetables of choice in some olive oil. This time I diced sweet onion, bell peppers (red, yellow and orange, left over from fajita night) and sun-dried tomatoes.


I love making risotto because you get to keep the lid off the pan and just keep stirring and adding liquids until the rice is done. No mystery, no "oops, I burned the bottom," just periodic taste tests and the opportunity to adjust the flavors as desired. When the beer had cooked down almost all the way, I added some tomato soup to the pan. This turned the rice a nice orangey color as it soaked up the tomatoey goodness. After that cooked down, I started in on the vegetable broth. Add a cup or so, let it cook down, add another cup, cook it down, add another cup, etc, etc, until the rice is soft. Depending on the brand of broth, a little added salt may be in order (some broths are way salty on their own, and adding more is just crazy-talk). When the rice is just a little too al dente to eat, then you stir in the vegetables that have been quietly simmering away in the other pan. I always like to dump in a fair bit of parmesan cheese at this point as well.

Once the risotto was ready for eatin, I turned the stove on low and turned the oven to 350 degrees. I got my delicious portobello mushroom caps out of the fridge and prepped them (scrape the innards out with a spoon, scrub down with a damp paper towel, and rub lightly with olive oil). Then into each cap I spread a thin layer of goat cheese before packing them tightly with the risotto. A sprinkling of parmesan on top was the finishing touch, and into the oven they went for 25 minutes. They were delicious. :)


(Sorry, I should have photographed the first one I ate, so the plate would be nice and clean.)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Busy busy busy...

Trying to get lab reports written and diagrams studied before my final exam tomorrow. Got a nice post to put up later about the exceedingly delectable risotto-stuffed portobella mushrooms I made for dinner last night. For now though...what the heck is up with google? I had to sign into Blogger all sneakily-like, because it kept saying Server Not Found.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Can it be...catblogging?!


I know, it's been a while. But at least I'm breaking the catblog fast with a good one. ;)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Um...no

Contrary to what is apparently becoming popular belief, my roller coaster queasiness from Sunday is not (I repeat...not) an indication of any impending pitter-patter of little feet. Really, it is more accurately an indication of my advancing age and decreasing ability to tolerate the violently twisty coasters of yore. Besides, were I actually "in a family way" I wouldn't be nearly so cryptic about it. ;)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Fun Weekend

Friday afternoon, my mom arrived at LAX for a week-long visit with her mom & sister. On Saturday, I met up with them at Aunt Teresa's after I got off work. Even though Tom and Max and I would be making dinner that evening, I could not resist eating some of Aunt Teresa's amazing hors d'ouvres. Little baguette pieces with cream cheese, pesto (made with basil straight from their garden) and sun-dried tomatoes, homemade spanakopita and dolmathes, and tasty baklava provided by Grandpa. For dinner there was spaghetti with homemade sauce (with tomatoes from the garden), and while I knew that actually eating a full helping was a bad idea, I couldn't help at least trying some sauce with a piece of delicious garlic bread. ;) It was the right decision - the sauce was excellent.

That evening we made chicken adobo, green beans and sticky rice, with banana-chocolate chip scones for dessert. I didn't manage to get any photos, but it was delish. In fact, Tom & I just finished eating the leftovers for our dinner tonight. ;) After dinner, we watched Dodgeball. It was incredibly stupid, but I could not stop laughing. Utter absurdity at every turn. I can appreciate a movie that continuously makes fun of itself, as this one does.

This morning we headed over to Magic Mountain in hopes of finally getting to ride X. Alas and alack, it was closed down for repairs. We got there early enough that there were hardly any people there. We never waited more than 5 minutes for any ride. It was actually kind of creepy, walking around the park practically by ourselves, but cool at the same time. Unfortunately, I got a little nauseated, which almost never happens to me on roller coasters, so after spending 2 hours in the park and getting on 4 coasters, we called it a day and went for lunch. As we left, the girl manning the exit gates was shocked that we didn't want our hands stamped to come back later. ;) But we didn't get those season passes for nothing! So with the rest of the day stretched out ahead of us, we came home and watched Chinatown. Well, Tom watched Chinatown. I fell asleep. I'll be taking it with me to San Diego tomorrow to try again. ;)

After the movie, we went to the Caltech gym to play some racquetball. It was good exercise, and so much more fun than running. Sure, Tom kicked my ass up and down the court, but it was still a good time. And if we make a habit of playing relatively often, I might actually get to be fairly decent at it. ;)

Home to dinner and preparations for the week ahead. Hope everyone had as pleasant a weekend as we did. :)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Classy


Yes, those are women's panties draped on the base of that light post. Yes, that light post is in the parking lot of the company where I work. No, I do not work at a brothel.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What I Did (and didn't do) This Weekend

  • I did not do any reading for class or lab report writing this weekend. Bad Susan. Guess what I'll be doing tomorrow and Wednesday...
  • I did go to work on Saturday. I did not actually do much work while I was there. But in all fairness, there really wasn't that much that needed doing.
  • After work I helped Gram Gram fix her computer. She gave me money, which I only accepted after her insistance that I use it to purchase filet mignons to make for dinner. I did so, Tom pan seared them and finished them in the oven, and they were exquisite.
  • We did watch Underworld: Evolution on Saturday night. It was not as good as Underworld (the first one). It was also really, really, gratuitously gory. I mean, I'm not squeamish, but damn.
  • I did not write any more thank you notes. The guilt remains heavy on my conscience. Tomorrow, tomorrow...
  • I cleaned out the catboxes. That is to say, I dumped out all the old litter and hosed the suckers down before drying and refilling them. They were gross and in dire need of a thorough cleaning. They looked much better afterward.
  • I vacuumed the apartment. I continue to marvel at the awsomeness of our new vacuum.
  • I dried the dishes that Tom washed, and I folded one of the loads of laundry. This is not exciting in any way, and I'm not sure why I'm bothering to mention it, except for continuity's sake.
  • I did cajole Tom into going shooting with me. The range recently got a new 9mm that's sort of in the style of a Glock but not quite so heavy on the trigger, and I gave it a try. My first three rounds all went through the same hole...about two inches left of the x-ring. I eventually got the hang of the sight and shot reasonably well, though never again with the same astounding precision of those first three rounds.
  • I did manage to stay out of the sun for the most part. Our apartment was still too warm, however, even though it wasn't all that hideously hot outside. In fact, it was cooler and breezier outside than in, even though we had all the windows open and fans going. Let's all recite the fifth law of thermodynamics...
  • I slept fairly well on Saturday night and poorly last night. I couldn't seem to stay asleep. I was tired for most of today.

As a direct result of this last bullet point, I am going to read a few pages of my book and (hopefully) fall fast asleep. A pleasant evening to you all.

UPDATE:

Here's the "Farscapey" triangular sight on the Steyr. Because visual aids are always good. ;)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Things I Need To Do This Weekend:

(in no particular order)

  • Read a bunch of stuff about DNA for class
  • Work on lab reports for class (detection/analysis of blood and semen...ooooh)
  • Watch Underworld: Evolution
  • Finish our darned thank you notes (we only have a few left, and I know we've technically got a year to complete them, but at 2.5 months I'm getting antsy and feeling guilty)
  • Go shooting (It has been too long. I must project lead at paper at high velocities at least once every few weeks. Don't want to lose my mad skillz, yo.)
  • Stay out of the sun
  • Sleep
  • Laundry
  • Dishes (but not many since I washed them yesterday!)
Looks like it'll be a busy weekend. :) Anyone else have plans to share?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Seemingly Interminable Workday

This isn't griping about work so much as about the unacceptable length of the day. Oh, I'm working my usual number of hours today; it's just that each hour feels like three. Why can't I be doing something fun with this long-ass day instead?

Drawing a Blank

I'm having trouble resisting the urge to be a complainasaur today. I can't really think of anything to say that doesn't involve the phrase, "Gah! Work/school/weather/traffic sucks!" So instead, I'll link to this because no matter how many times I see it, it always makes me laugh. So enjoy! Now if only it weren't blocked by the firewall at work, so I could watch it too...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Honeymooners

News so big it deserves its own post. ;)

Saturday night we bought our tickets for the Cancun trip. We will be spending ten days on the Riviera Maya (a little bit south of Cancun proper) at this place. It's an all-inclusive resort right on the beach, a short bus trip away from various Mayan ruins, underground rivers, and other neat things. I definitely want to take advantage of the gorgeous sightseeing, but mostly we're looking forward to doing a lot of lounging, reading, swimming, napping, and poolside margarita consuming. ;) I have been a little bundle of excitement all weekend. I've never been to Mexico, and Flickr has been providing me with some drop-dead gorgeous photos of the Yucatan peninsula.


The weather is due to be just about perfect, too. Hurricane season will be over, and even in December/January the average temperature is 82 degrees. Sounds about right to me! Alvin & the Chimpunks have been on a near-continuous loop in my head for the past few days...

Christmas, Christmas time is near
Time for toys and time for cheer
We've been good, but we can't last
Hurry Christmas, hurry fast
Want a plane that loops the loop
Me, I want a hula hoop
We can hardly stand the wait
Please Christmas, don't be late.

Fun-filled Weekend

Man oh man, where do I even begin? Well, Friday night was dinner at Max's, but I've already covered that, so I guess I'll start with Saturday.

I went to work in the morning and got a bunch of paperwork done. Wheeeee! Then after work I met Tom at the Norwalk metro station, and we drove to Aunt Suzanne's house in Santa Ana, where festivities were underway for Aunt Julie's 80th Birthday Party. We got to relax in the nice swimming pool and catch up with family, some of whom I hadn't seen since I was...well, far too young to even remember meeting them originally. So that was neat.

One of the highlights of the event was Yaya's gift to her big sister, which was a life-size cardboard cutout of Aunt Julie's main crush, Brett Favre. It was even autographed!


Uncle Kenny, The Favre, and the Birthday Girl

As is typical for gatherings in my family, there was a veritable smorgasbord of delicious food, from grilled meats to spanakopitas to orzo salad with vegetables straight out of Aunt Suzanne and Uncle Ed's garden. And let's not forget the chocolate-ganache filled cake! As is also typical for such gatherings, there was a spontaneous musical performance when "Hey Hey, We're The Monkees!" came on the stereo. Aunt Teresa and Aunt Jean danced around with paper plate tamborines and entertained us all. ;)


On the way home from the par-tay, we stopped and picked up my good buddy Marcy, who is in town from Tacoma visiting family. We stole her away for the weekend and went to the Huntington Gardens on Sunday. Those are some pretty amazing gardens, I have to say. We saw a wealth of beautiful and very weird plant life, and naturally, I took a slew of photos. (They aren't all uploaded yet, but I'll be putting more up over the next couple of days.)

This was some sort of aloe tree, which was in the Desert Garden. We also saw a Palm Tree "forest", Japanese and Zen Gardens, the sneak preview of the Chinese Garden (which will be open for six months, and then closed down again for two years until the completion of the first phase), and the indoor rainforest and Cloud Garden. We also went through a couple of the galleries and saw some neat paintings and sculptury. I couldn't bring myself to walk down the hall of busts though. All those pupil-less eyes staring at me...no thanks. I just don't get it. These artists can carve all these amazing and intricate details out of marble, but they can't chisel out a couple of pupils? You spend twenty years working on a bust of Caesar or somebody, and you get every curl of his hair and every leaf of his little crown just right, and the overall effect is ZombieCaesar because he's got those blank, expressionless eyeballs. What gives?

Anyway, we had a really nice time and were thoroughly wiped out by the time we got home. After slothing around for a few hours, we went out to dinner at the Tibet/Nepal House, where we ate tasty, tasty lamb served in a variety of ways (noodle soup, mo-mo dumplings, and lamb saag). Also, there was garlic naan and savory daal. It was a fine feast and an excellent way to round out the weekend. :)