Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The POTUS and the SOTU

"Before history is written down in books, it is written in courage."

Deep, man. So deep I have absolutely no idea what it means. Anybody know who wrote the speech tonight?

I don't know why I watch/listen. It just makes me so angry. Here's a good link to check out, an example of how Shrubbie repeatedly just lies through his teeth.

Dream Tripper

Strange dreamer am I
Must stop smoking crack before
nodding off to sleep

Well, the wedding dreams have started up again. Last night's was particularly amusing. We were at our rehearsal, which turned into an audition for officiants. The first couple of candidates were unremarkable older gentlemen. The third was a guy who had brought with him a briefcase of fabric swatches so he could match his outfit to the gemstones in our rings. When we showed him our gemstone-less tungsten carbide rings, he said, "Wow, those are bitchin'!" Then he promptly packed up his briefcase and left without another word. Up next (and this was what made the dream particularly memorable to me) was a guy who was clearly not a rabbi but desperately wished he were one. He belted out various lines from Fiddler on the Roof, yelling out at one point "TRADITION!!!" and then smashing a tomato on my forehead. The final candidates were a pair (working in tandem) who were clearly thrown in to make the wannabe rabbi look better. The guy mumbled his way through his schtick, mispronouncing and stumbling over almost every word (m...muhTRAHmony?). His partner was a hippie/flower child chick who rambled on and on about how fortunate we were to be getting married at the dawning of the age of Aquarius...

So yeah, that dream was just too cracked out not to post. ;) I'll come up with something more substantive to write about a bit later, I hope. 'Til then, have a lovely day, everyone. :)

Monday, January 30, 2006

What's in a name?

In the past couple of years, I've known 2 women who, when they got married, changed their last names to those of their husbands and also changed their middle names to their maiden names. My initial gut reaction was rather like the reaction I have toward hyphenation - why bother? I know there are plenty of feminist arguments for women keeping their own last names after marriage, and I guess if one comes from some sort of prominent family, or if one has established a big-time academic/movie/sports/corporate career before marriage, there's some sense to it. But in the majority of cases, what's the point? It struck me as a rather silly and modern thing.

Ha. Haha.

I brought this up with Tom a few weeks ago, wondering "what's up with these women today, huh?" He gently reminded me that this is in fact not a new practice (Harriet Beecher Stowe, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, etc.), so I took some time to actually consider the matter. And the more I have thought about it, the more appealing the idea has become to me. Specifically, there are three reasons for such appeal, which I will now outline.

1) My middle name is common. Tom's last name is common. My (current) last name is not.
No offense, Mom & Dad, but you guys gave me the one of the most common middle names for girls born in America between 1970 and 1990 (and no, I don't have a statistic to back that up - I've wasted enough time looking for one already - but no one can argue it's extremely popular). It's not that I particularly mind the name, and there's no doubt that its meaning - "bitter sea" - is somewhat appropriate, given my (ahem) turbulent moods at times, but there are a lot of girls/women with the middle name Marie. A lot. And after May 20th, Tom & I (we were just discussing this on Saturday as a matter of fact) will be just about the most generic couple ever, namewise. ("Pleased to meet you. We're #10 and #8 #2.") Again, not a bad thing, just a fact. Why not take advantage of the opportunity to toss a little bit of uniqueness into the mix?

2) My current last name will only have lasted for one and a half generations anyway.
My dad and his sisters were all born with a big, long Italian last name. When they were kids, my grandfather had the name legally changed to another real Italian name, but one typically used as a first name, not a surname. Of my aunts, one has remained unmarried and gone on to publish several scientific papers (thus getting the surname "out there" some), and the other two married. My sister and I were, and will be, the only ones in the family to be born with this name. Pretty ironic for a name that means "immortal," eh? So yeah, it might be cool if I ever make something of myself and, like my aunt, help the name to live on in print, if not in progeny.

3) Hyphenation is out of the question.
As fond as I am of my last name, I'm not interested in my signature being any longer than it has to be. Also, I don't want to not take Tom's surname; trust me, I have enough pages of chemistry notes with "Susan Johnson" scribbled in the margins (yes, it's like I'm 12...laugh it up) to be fully committed to the name change. And I don't want people to make any mistake about our matrimonial status. Therefore, retaining my maiden name as a middle name seems like a reasonable compromise.

Anyway, I don't know what I'll end up doing, but as I said, I've been giving the matter some thought, as opposed to simply brushing it off as a silly idea, which is what I did before. Do you, my dear and intelligent readers, happen to have any opinions on the matter?

Belated Sunday Catblogging: Archive Footage

Going with kitten pics today since I didn't manage to get any good new photos over the weekend. It's *sniff* amazing how quickly they *sniff* grow up...


Here's Loki at a few months old, when he was begging us every day to let him go to cosmetology school. (Please oh pleeeeaaaase let me train to become a world-class hairdresser!) He eventually grew out of that.


And here's Leo, just a few days after I brought him home from the shelter. Too cute for his own good, that one.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

You know you're getting old when...

  • You are planning to attend a birthday party on a Saturday night

  • You know a bouncy castle has been rented for the occasion (and it's not a kid's party)

  • and

  • You make a concerted effort to stretch out really well before you go to said party

Friday, January 27, 2006

Stircrazy on a Friday Afternoon

This morning went by so quickly, I had begun to wonder what god I'd pleased. Things have slowed down considerably, however, since lunch. Draggy afternoon...

I'm ready to go home and begin my weekend. We have some good movies to watch (yay for Netflix!), and we're going to a birthday party on Saturday evening. Should be a grand old time. :)

Hope everyone has a nice weekend.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Ring-a-ling

As promised, the wedding ring post! Be forewarned - this may get a bit nerdy.

I should begin by saying how much Zales/Kay/DeBeers commercials offend and irritate me. The none-too-subtle message conveyed by these commercials is that women want, nay, need to have gaudy-ass diamonds. Men don't have to be funny or smart or articulate; nope, they just have to cough up "three months' salary" on a rock and their women will love them forever! (I know I'm oversimplifying it a wee bit here, but you get the point. And let's be fair...I'm really not oversimplifying it that much.) The message these commercials send to men is bad, and the message they send to impressionable little girls is even worse. As offended as I am by the implication that women actually feel this way about diamonds, I am even more horrified by the thought that these very commercials might create that attitude in subsequent generations of women. I know, I know, it's marketing and that's the whole point, but that doesn't mean I have to think it's at all okay.

I know there are plenty of women out there who like diamonds. Even I will admit they're shiny and sparkly and pretty. But I just don't think the glitter is worth the cost. I'm not just talking about the price tag (which is freakin' hefty...I'd be so afraid of losing or damaging the damned thing that I'd never want to wear it!), but the diamond mining industry is notoriously evil. Pardon me for not being all gung ho about raping the earth and exploiting huge groups of people. So yeah, diamonds are most definitely not this girl's best friend(s).

(That said, I'm okay with synthetic diamonds, mostly because a) they're inexpensive, b) I haven't found any reasons yet for being horrified by the industry and c) they're a shining example (har har) of the awesomeness of science. Yay, science!)

Okay, precursor rant complete.

So what's an anti-diamond girl to do? Well, I'd always kind of imagined I'd have a simple gold wedding band, but I certainly wasn't opposed to other options, should any present themselves. And that's exactly what happened when Tom's office-mate got married last year and told Tom all about the tungsten carbide band he was going to get.

For a chemist and generally geeky girl like myself, tungsten carbide has a huge appeal. For one thing, it's unusual; not many people have even heard of the stuff. Mostly, though, tungsten carbide is appealing because it's got some really neat physical properties. Allow me to offer a brief chemistry lesson:

(Image courtesy of the nifty Wooden Periodic Table Table website. And no, that's not a typo. You can also look at their key for the information contained on this tile and the one below.) Tungsten is a transition metal. Its atomic symbol, W, comes from its German name, which is Wolfram. 'Wolf rahm' means "wolf froth" in German, and "it was so called due to the apparent 'eating' [of tin] during the extraction, like the wolf eats the sheep." The name tungsten comes from the Swedish 'tung sten,' meaning "heavy stone."

But I digress into etymology land. ;) Tungsten is not the heaviest metal, nor the densest. What makes it special is its high melting point. Silver melts at 962 degrees C, gold at 1064, titanium at 1660 and platinum at 1772. Tungsten? It takes a whopping 3410 degrees C (5432 F) to melt tungsten. That's why it is the metal used in light bulb filaments. The only element with a higher (known) melting point is carbon.

Ah, carbon - the basis of all things organic. Though it's not listed on this tile, the melt temp of carbon is 3500 degrees C. Carbon is a really neat element, not least because in its molecular form, it can take on varying configurations; depending upon the shape of the lattice structure (or lack thereof), carbon can take the form of soot, graphite (one of the softest known materials) or diamond (the absolute hardest). I defy you to tell me that's not wicked cool.

Okay, so what happens when you combine tungsten and carbon into a molecule? Well, you get a metal compound with a ridiculously high melt temp and a hardness just below that of diamond. In fact, the only thing that can cut/scratch/machine tungsten carbide (WC) is diamond itself. This means that a WC wedding ring is not going to develop scratches over time as a result of everyday wear. It also means that the ring can't be resized ever; a brand new one has to be manufactured. Yes, that's a bit worrisome, but thankfully Trew Tungsten does offer, with purchase, one free replacement ring should one become necessary.

Bottom line - tungsten carbide is practically indestructible, which makes it a really cool choice for wedding band material. It's all symbolic and shit. ;)

After Tom & I set a wedding date, we thought for a while about what sorts of rings to get in order to signify our engagement. We settled on titanium, a metal that is strong, but quite a bit softer and lighter than WC. It is in fact second only to scandium as the lightest of the transition metals, and WC is as heavy as gold, which is second only to mercury as the heaviest transition metal, so there's some neat symmetry there. :)

And there you have it! Topic of next wedding post - our awesomely original carbon nanotube-shaped donut cake. I am so not kidding.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

(VF)RotW: TacoSubstanceWagon Mac*

Ingredients:
Taco Substance (1 bag)
Annie's white cheddar macaroni and cheese** (family-size box)
Onion (about 1/4)
Garlic (1-2 cloves, or you can use garlic powder)
Sour Cream (light sour cream is good, or if you want to be all healthy and what not, you can use low-fat milk)
Cumin
Pepper (both ground black pepper and crushed red pepper)


Put a pot of water on to boil. Chop onion & garlic; saute in some olive oil, and add crushed red pepper. Bear in mind that the taco substance cooks quickly - to be fair, it doesn't cook at all so much as warm up - so don't add it to the pan until the macaroni has been added to the boiling water and is about 3 minutes from done. When you do add the taco sub to the pan, season it with cumin and black pepper. If you didn't use fresh garlic, add garlic powder at this time, too.

Once the macaroni is done, drain it and transfer it back into a bowl (or the pot in which you boiled it; that's fine too). Stir in some sour cream and pour in the cheese packet. When the macaroni's all nice and cheesy, pour the piping hot taco substance/onions/garlic over the top and stir it in.

I haven't got a nice photo for y'all, but I may make this for dinner tonight, so I'll snap a shot if I do. I shall warn, however, that it tastes way better than it looks. ;)

*I may be back on the road to meatatarianism, but I shall endeavor to continue posting recipes that are vegetarian friendly. Hence, chuckwagon mac becomes tacosubstancewagon mac...

**As an alternative, you could probably use 2 regular-size boxes of Annie's Mexican Macaroni. Though I've never made it with the taco substance added, it's delicious on its own and would probably be muy tasty in this capacity. The mexi-mac is hard to find sometimes, and frequently overpriced. I can get a family-size box of the regular white cheddar mac for $2 at Target, but Ralph's charges over $4, and the only place that sells the mexi-mac around here is Wild Oats.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

They're there for a reason...

Here's a little tidbit I meant to post yesterday but didn't get around to. It concerns certain goings-on during my drive home yesterday afternoon.

Distance of commute: 25 miles
Number of drivers within my field of vision who used their turn signals when changing lanes: 9
Number of drivers who didn't: 23

Do better, people!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Food Blogging

Last night I made the green enchiladas for our dinner, so per Sunny's suggestion, here is a photo of the final product (cut in half).


(Credit for presentation and garnishing goes to Tom.)

Wind Watch! 2006!

And the walls came down - all the way to hell.
Never saw them when they're standing,
never saw them when they fell.

-Traveling Wilburys, Tweeter and the Monkey Man
Oh lordy, what a windstorm we had last night. Actually, the whole region is under a "high wind advisory" until 2pm tomorrow. That pesky, pesky wind. That pesky wind's the reason I got just shy of 4 hours of sleep last night and am about to write a very rambly post. Stupid wind.

At the back of the parking lot of our apartment complex, there is a cinder block wall that's about 5' high. Atop the wall is another 4-ish feet of plastic lattice, which is not-all-that-securely nailed/screwed/otherwise affixed to some spindly wooden supports. After being buffeted with gusty winds for six or more hours, this plastic lattice started falling down. First one panel went; Tom went out a bit after 11:00 to check on the car and found the lattice flopped over onto the trunk, scuffing up the paint. He pushed it over to the other side of the wall (where no cars are parked) and came back inside. The wind continued to blow, at times even shaking the whole building. Super. The screen of our bedroom window was rattling so much that Tom eventually had to duct tape it to the frame. We tossed and turned and finally started drifting off to sleep around 12:30.

At 12:45 the doorbell rang, and there was knocking at our door. One of our neighbors had just returned home and saw that another large chunk of the lattice had fallen down and proceeded to molest not just my car but two others as well. We went downstairs; he and Tom hacked and pulled and tore down what was left of the lattice. The woman who owns the cute little BMW coupe convertible in the space next to mine was down there as well; we tried to stay out of the way for the most part and let the men do their manly thing.*

Finally around 1:30 we got back upstairs and tried to go back to sleep. That's never easy after being startled awake with midnight ringing of doorbells and whatnot, so I tossed and turned until about 2:00. I re-set the alarm for 6, deciding I would just come in half an hour late this morning, but that's still not very much sleep (for me). Groggy Sue...

As I left for work this morning, I noticed another 3 big scratches down the driver's side of my car that I hadn't seen last night. Stupid fence. Stupid wind. It's just cosmetic, of course, but still irritating. The wind has continued to gust thus far today, living up to the advisory and all. The freeway was fun (drive, drive, drive, WHOOSH!, drive, drive, WHOOSH!); fortunately it wasn't all that crowded, so I was able to keep a lane between myself and other vehicles most of the time, just in case someone's car got tossed more than they were anticipating or something. I'd just as soon not get crushed by an SUV on my way to work (or any time, for that matter).

Okay, speaking of work, better go fetch myself some more caffeine and then get back to it. Yay for Mondays...

*This is something I'm still trying to get used to doing, after living on my own or with another girl for all of college. A few years ago I would have been helping with the hacking and tearing; admittedly, I probably would have injured myself in the process, as I am woefully uncoordinated, but you do what you've got to do.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Sunday Catblogging: Ahh! Cuteness Attack!


How is it possible that two furballs so full of evil can be so damned cute? With hugging and everything? Good gravy.

*Pay no attention to Leo's slightly yellow tinge (she said, drawing even more attention to said tinge). He got a bath the next day.

Abandon ship! (and other tidbits)

Yesterday evening, my meat-fast of almost 8 years was broken. With pot roast.

Tom & I went to Yaya's for snacks and linner (we ate right around 3:45, neither lunch nor dinner really) and visiting. Aunt Teresa & Uncle Kenny were also in attendance, bringing with them the good news of having both sold their condo and bought a house (well, put in an offer that was under serious consideration) earlier that day. So that was very exciting. :) There was pot roast and sausage for the carnivores, veggie lasagna and spinach pie for me. I ate three tiny bites of roast from Tom's plate ("seven strings of meat" was how he put it) near the end of the meal and have experienced no major gastrointestinal backlash as of yet. Perhaps I'll step it up a bit and have a more substantial helping of something like chicken in a week or so.

Before and after our visit with Yaya, Tom & I visited a couple of ring stores, specifically ones that carry the tungsten carbide wedding bands we want to get. (More on our reasons for getting such rings in a later post.) The second store we went to was a tiny little jeweler's shop in a mall (the shop was tiny, not the jeweler himself); the price he quoted us was quite a bit lower than the one we were given at the larger, chain-type store we went to first, which was a bit surprising to me. You would think (or I would, anyway) that the chain store would be able to reduce their markup and still turn a profit by the sheer volume of stuff they sell, but they apparently choose not to. Well boo to them; we'll stick with the independent shop.

All right, off to complete the weekend's chores. Laundromat, here I come. Hope everyone's having a nice weekend.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Fun Facts About Salt

Well, I finally finished reading Mark Kurlansky's Salt: A World History, and boy was it ever fascinating. As I read, I marked the pages that had particularly interesting tidbits, which I will now share with you.

  • Salt is known to have been made in Sichuan as early as 3000 B.C. But it was Li Bing who found that the natural brine, from which the salt was made, did not originate in the pools where it was found but seeped up from underground. In 252 B.C., he ordered the drilling of the world's first brine wells. (Page 25)

  • Sometimes the people who dug the wells would inexplicably become weak, get sick, lie down, and die. Occasionally, a tremendous explosion would kill an entire crew or flames spit out from bore holes...By A.D. 100, the well workers, understanding that the disturbances were caused by an invisible substance, found the holes where it came out of the ground, lit them, and started placing pots close by. They could cook with it. Soon they learned to insulate bamboo tubes with mud and brine and pipe the invisible force to boiling houses...By A.D. 200, the boiling houses had iron pots heated by gas flames. This is the first known use of natural gas in the world. (Page 26) - A.D. 200! That just blows my mind.

  • The Roman army required salt for its soldiers and for its horses and livestock. At times soldiers were even paid in salt, which was the origin of the word salary and the expression "worth his salt" or "earning his salt." In fact, the Latin word sal became the French word solde, meaning pay, which is the origin of the word soldier. (Page 63)

  • (This one isn't directly about salt, but was included in the section about salt's use in cheese-making; I still thought it was interesting.) Each creamery had a cheese master whose hands reached into the copper vats and ran through the whey with knowing fingers, scooping up and pressing the curds as they were forming. When he said the cheese was done, a cheesecloth was put into the vat, and under his direction the corners of the cloth were lifted, hoisting from the whey more than 180 pounds of drained curd. While the others struggled to suspend the mass in the cheesecloth, only the cheese master was allowed to take the big, flat, two-handed knife and divide the mass in two. (Page 99)

  • In 1689 [in Poland], the mines began offering miners daily Catholic services at their underground place-of-work. The miners of Wieliczka began carving religious figures out of rock salt. Three hundred feet below the surface, miners carved a chapel out of rock salt with statues and bas-relief scenes along the floor, walls, and ceiling. They even fashioned elaborate chandeliers from salt crystals. Increasingly, the mine had visitors. In the early seventeenth century...the Crown began to bring special guests, mostly royalty. They came to dance in ballrooms, dine in carved dining rooms, be rowed in underwater lagoons. In 1830, the Wieliczka Salt Mine Band, which still performs, was started because of the quality of the acoustics in the mine. (Page 171)

  • Anglo Saxons called a saltworks a wich, and any place in England where the name ends in "wich" at one time produced salt. Hellath Wenn became Nantwich, and between Nantwich and Northwich was Middlewich. (Page 181)

  • A 1670 revision of the criminal code found yet another use for salt in France. To enforce the law against suicide, it was ordered that the bodies of people who took their own lives be salted, brought before a judge, and sentenced to public display. Nor could the accused escape their day in court by dying in the often miserable conditions of the prisons. They too would be salted and put on trial. Breton historians have discovered that in 1784 in the town of Cornouaille, Maurice LeCorre had died in prison and was ordered salted for trial. But due to some bureaucratic error, the corpse did not get a trial date and was found by a prison guard more than seven years later, not only salted but fermented in beer, at which point it was buried without trial. (Page 227)

  • In 1870, the colony of Turks and Caicos was asked to send a crest to England so that a flag for the colony could be designed. A Turks and Caicos designer drew a crest that included Salt Cay saltworks with salt rakers in the foreground and piles of salt. Back in England, it was the era of Arctic exploration, and, not knowing where the Turks and Caicos was, the English designer assumed the little white domes were igloos. And so he drew doors on each one. And this scene of salt piles with doors remained the official crest of the colony for almost 100 years, until replaced in 1968 by a crest featuring a flamingo. (Page 432)

  • The United States is both the largest salt producer and the largest salt consumer [today]. It produces over 40 million metric tons of salt a year, which earns more than $1 billion in sales revenue. But little of this is table salt. In the U.S., only 8 percent of salt production is for food. The largest single use of American salt, 51 percent, is for deicing roads. (Page 435)

And those are just a few of the gems! Really, I had no idea salt had such an interesting history. Until the truth of its abundance was discovered a bit over a century ago, salt (and the trade thereof) drove entire economies.

Anyway, this was (as I keep saying) a really fascinating book and one I highly recommend. A+

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

(VF)RotW: Green Enchiladas

Ingredients:
flour tortillas
cheese (jack and cheddar, shredded)
green enchilada sauce
canned whole chiles
onion
mushrooms


I like to make enchiladas with flour tortillas, rather than corn ones. Not only are they larger than corn tortillas, but I'm happy to do without that mealy texture you can get from corn ones that haven't been cooked into oblivion.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 and chop up the onion and mushrooms. Sometimes I like to saute them a little before putting them into the enchiladas, but they're also fine to go in raw. Slice the chiles into thin strips. Shred the cheeses or (if you're lazy like me) take the bags of pre-shredded cheese out of the fridge. Open a jar of enchilada sauce and spread a thin layer across the bottom of a glass baking pan. The pan should of course be large enough to accomodate the size of tortilla you have chosen; I always go for "burrito size" and a 9" x 13" pan. You also want to make sure you've got enough sauce to pour some in the pan, smother some on both sides of each tortilla and pour another layer over the top at the end. For 6 enchiladas, 2 small cans or 1 large one should suffice.

Okay, assembly time. Pour a bit of sauce on a plate and spread it around. Set a tortilla on the plate and then spoon some sauce atop it; spread that around. You want to be sure both sides of the tortilla are coated so it doesn't get too dry. (And also because the sauce is tasty.) Place your fillings according to the diagram* below:

You want to put the bulk of your fillings (a fair amount of cheese and all the veggies) within the rectangular area, as that will end up being the middle of the enchilada. You then want to spread some cheese around on the rest of the tortilla so you've got some nice melty cheese/tortilla/melty cheese layers once it's all rolled up. However, you do want to have some blank tortilla at the very end so the seam isn't too thick, so don't go beyond the dashed line with your cheese-spreading. Roll that sucker up, starting at the end with the bulk of the fillings, of course, and place it seam-side down in the pan. Replenish the sauce on your plate before getting out another tortilla and repeating the process.

Once you have all the rolled enchiladas in the pan like pretty (green) maids all in a row, pour the remainder of your sauce over the top and sprinkle a generous layer of cheese on top as well. Cover with foil and stick the pan in the oven. Remove when the cheese is bubbly (20 - 30 minutes). Dig in!

*I know that's not the most appetizing of drawings, but it's the best I could whip up in 5 minutes with MS Paint. ;)

TGI...HH

(or, Thank Goodness I Have Headphones)

The crappy oldies station they play - nay, blare - over the loudspeaker here at work did a godawful segment yesterday in which David Coury (vocal coach for American Idol...last name pronounced 'curry' in case you're interested...yeah, I thought not) assisted both the deejays and then callers in improving their singing. This meant that there would be crappy singing, followed by some snippet or other of advice, and then more crappy singing and lots of praise and outbursts from the deejays...over and over and over again. My iPod batteries were dead, so there was no reprieve from the horror.

Then today...they replayed the segment! Not just a clip, but the entire segment. Good. Freaking. Lord. I was ready to stab my ears with my pen, but fortunately I remembered I had a CD I could listen to on my computer. Ahh. That was a close call.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

More Girly Wedding Blogging: Flower Time

I've been in correspondence with my flower lady (that'd be the woman who is providing the flowers for the wedding, not the adult equivalent of a flower girl), and this weekend in the mail I received a rundown of the flowers she's planning to use for me. It's pretty exciting. :)

The bridesmaids are going to carry bundles of white or cream-colored tulips. That's what I'd been planning pretty much from the start. I love the look of tulips; they're simple but elegant at the same time.



Speaking of bridesmaids, the dresses were ordered a couple of weeks ago, and all 3 gals received them last week. We ended up going with the orchid color, which is pretty. A rather extraordinary coincidence was discovered when they arrived; I had seen from the website photos that there was some embroidery on the bodice of the dress, but I had no idea that it was anything more than a random pattern. Au contraire...tulips! So very cool.



As for my bouquet, there's to be quite a lovely array of pretty things. It will be made up of some white flowers and some purpley ones, in order to coordinate with the bridesmaids' colors.



First up we've got dogwood. Simple, neat-looking, love it.



Lily-of-the-valley. I'm not completely sure how I feel about this one. I like the look of them in and of themselves, but when you stick them in a bouquet (as below), they kind vaguely have a baby's breath look about them, which I'm not terribly thrilled about. I'm not really a baby's breath kind of gal.



I think I'll just have to go to a local florist and get a look at them in person, and I'll make a decision from there.



Moving into the purples, we've got columbine. I'd never seen these before the flower lady suggested them. I think they're pretty crazy-looking (they have these wacky spur things coming off the back), but interesting. And I'm all for interesting.



Dame's rocket is another one with which I wasn't previously familiar. The flower lady said they come in both white and lavender.



Lavender freesia; this'll also go in the mom/grandma corsages.



These are called spray roses. Unlike standard roses, these have several flowers branching off of each stem. I think they're neat. :) These will also likely be used in the boutonnieres of the groomsfellows. The flower lady also said my bouquet may have a few white roses in it as well.

And there you have it. Nothing's set in stone at this point, of course, but that's the general plan thus far. I'm a tad nervous as to how all of these different flowers will look all clustered together, but I know the flower lady did a nice job with my friend Megan's wedding, so I'm sure it'll be lovely. I'm excited to see how it'll all turn out!

Haiku-Tu

California wimp -
forty-five outside and I'm
teeth-chattering cold

Got some fun wedding planning updates in store for later. Need to get some work done first, though.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Catblogging: Where's Loki?


Don't even try to put one of those stupid red-and-white striped shirts on me...

Delayed catblogging and a fun morning

The camera batteries had just enough juice left to take a great catblogging photo yesterday, but not enough to upload. After recharging, I tried to email the pic to myself this morning directly from the camera (didn't transfer it to the hard drive first) and apparently that didn't work. So I'll be posting that when I get home this afternoon.

It's been a thrilling day so far. I've only in the last 15 minutes been able to turn my computer on, since it was sitting in a giant puddle of water when I got to work this morning. Apparently a pipe in my office sprung a tiny leak and spent the whole weekend drip-dripping onto the (concrete) floor. Needless to say, quite a large volume had amassed by this morning, and it's taken most of the day to get everything fixed/dried/cleaned up/etc. Good times!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Movie Review Double Feature

In the last two nights, we have watched two vastly different movies. Both were entertaining and enjoyable but in completely different ways.

Thursday night we watched March of the Penguins. I never got around to seeing this one when it was in the theater, and I'd heard mixed things. Mostly good things, but a lot of people were put off by the narration, which at times treats the penguins as if they have human emotions. Other people were upset by the whole leaving the babies on the ice floe thing.

Personally, I found the documentary fascinating. Penguins are amazing and extremely, extremely bizarre creatures. From the very opening sequence I found myself wondering how in the world these things exist, have existed for millions of years. They look like those inflatable punching clowns that bounce back up when you knock them down. Yes, some of the narration was silly; I know animals feel things, and there is no doubt that that they undergo an incredible ordeal just to reproduce. But to say that they do what they do out of love is just silly. It's instinct, pure and simple. And personally, I didn't think the baby penguins seemed all that traumatized when their parents ditched them fot a few weeks to go eat. Cute as hell, yeah, but they seemed to get along okay.

Overall, March of the Penguins was very interesting and absolutely worth watching.

Last night we watched Kung Fu Hustle. Utterly hilarious, and a spectacle in every sense of the word.* Without giving anything away you can't glean from the trailer, the basic premise is that there's a widely feared gang (The Axe Gang) in 1940s Shanghai. A young man named Sing wants desperately to be a part of the gang, so he and his buddy pose as gang members and try to extort some money in the one place the actual gang would never go - a slum called Pig Sty Alley. (The residents there are so poor, it's not worth visiting because there's nothing to steal.) Their bumbling ends up drawing the Axe Gang to the formerly-safe slum, a fight breaks out, and it turns out some of the residents are more than capable of defending themselves. Hilarity ensues.

Campy as all get-out, Kung Fu Hustle was a fun movie, plain and simple. Apparently there's a sequel due to come out later this year. We'll definitely have to go see it.**

*Okay, not every sense. (noun: 1. a pair of glasses or 2. something - such as natural markings on an animal - suggesting a pair of glasses)

**Tom really wanted to go see KFH in the theater, but I didn't want to waste the money because I thought it looked dumb. I was wrong. You were right, Tom.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Oxymoronicness

The Kaiser-Permanente Medical Office of Pasadena offer what I believe to be quite possibly the dumbest thing I've ever heard of.

Appointment-only Urgent Care.

Is not the point of urgent care that one's sudden ailments can be examined on a walk-in basis? It doesn't seem the good folks of Kaiser are quite so dedicated to their patients' ability to "live well and thrive" as they claim...

My congestestion of these past few days has turned into a full-blown sinus infection. By the end of today I was fairly miserable and decided to take tomorrow morning off so I could go to the doctor. When I got home from work this afternoon, I tried calling to set up an appointment, but Kaiser's phone system was experiencing technical difficulties, so I was directed to go to the nearest health center and make my appointment in person. Fortunately, the nearest center is all of 6 blocks away.

I went in and asked if I could make an urgent care appointment (trying all the while not to guffaw), and after I was rather snippily informed that the Pasadena Medical Office doesn't offer urgent care, and that I could maybe make an appointment for tomorrow, the receptionist suddenly furrowed her brow and said, "Okay, I'll go ahead and just do it. I'm signing you in right now for an appointment tonight."

Quite the turnaround! But I most certainly wasn't going to argue. I got to see a doctor, and I got to take home a big bottle of amoxicillin. Yay for me. Hopefully I'll be feeling much better soon.

Yuk yuk yuk...

Sometimes a very funny joke will spring from a conversation completely unexpected. Such was the case last night.

You may recall that I was attacked by a sudden cold the week before my little Christmas vacation from work. I rested up over the break and was feeling mostly better by the time I returned to work last Tuesday. A day or so later, I got another cold. Instead of being concentrated in my throat, this new cold has the less painful but more irritating symptom of total head congestion. This has led to a persistent cough that still plagues me over a week later. It's fun.

Anyway, last night Tom & I were getting ready for bed. I was all stuffed up, as usual, and the following conversation ensued -

Susan: I can only breathe through my left nostril. I'm like that asthmatic swimmer...what's his name?

Tom: Gary Hall, Jr?

Susan: Yes, that's the guy. Good job.

Tom: I can't believe I remembered that. I mean, he was a big star for like, five or six days, four years apart. Like Iowa and New Hampshire.

Ba-dum tsssh! We laughed for a goodly while about that one. (Yes, we're dorks. I'm well aware.) ;)

Update: It's actually Tom Dolan, not Gary Hall, Jr. (who is diabetic, not asthmatic). I just remember the announcer saying (during the 2000 Olympic Games) it was as if the guy had to swim with one nostril completely blocked and the other one filled with a cotton ball, and couldn't breathe through his mouth at all. In any event, the joke's still funny. ;)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

(VF)RotW: Trader Joe's Goat Cheese Pizza

I was going to write my RotW earlier (green enchiladas), but Blogger was having some sort of server hiccups when I was trying to post at lunch time, so that will wait until next week. For now, I'm going for simplicity. I'm like that lady on Semi-Home Made...which is unfortunate, because she's irritating. Oh well!

Ingredient
Trader Joe's Goat Cheese Pizza

Buy pizza. Pre-heat oven at 375 degrees. Unwrap pizza and remove cardboard. Place pizza in oven on pizza stone. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven. Cut. Enjoy!

(Don't burn roof of mouth on tasty, tasty molten cheese.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

To Jump or Not To Jump...

After nearly 8 years as a vegetarian, I've been considering the idea of jumping ship more and more, of late. The overriding reason I'm tempted to make the switch back is that there's a lot of tasty (but meaty) food out there that I'll never get to try if I continue treading the vegetarian path. Also, my decision to go veg in the first place was nutritionally-based, and I'm no longer convinced that the health benefits are that significant. Yes, people who eat fried chicken wrapped in bacon every day are bound to be in worse shape, health-wise, than people who eat no meat at all. But they're also going to be in worse shape than people who eat meat that's been prepared in, say, a somewhat more responsible fashion.

Bit of background. I packed on rather a few pounds during my last two years of high school, a time in my life when I was considerably more active than I am now. I was also tired all the time, which was likely due to the fact that I was an insomniac teenager who went to bed far too late and woke up for school far too early to get nearly enough sleep each night. At the time, though, I considered the possibility that my diet was to blame. I was very good friends with a girl who'd been a vegetarian almost her entire life, and after hanging around with her as often as I did I figured, What the hell? I'll give it a try.

I don't know if it was psychosomatic or an example of mistaking correlation for causation or if the dietary change really did make a difference, but I did feel like I had more energy after the switch. So I decided to stick with it for a while, and "a while" has turned into, as I said, about 8 years.

I've been kind of a lazy vegetarian, for certain. There are plenty of fruits and vegetables I don't eat on a regular basis, if at all. I eat a lot of pasta and a lot of cheese. I fudge sometimes on the strictness of my vegetarianism; for example, I'll order miso soup in a Japanese restaurant, even though I know it's made with fish stock, and I'll eat the potato cheese soup at Marie Calendar's, even though it contains chicken stock, just because these things are too damned tasty to resist. I eat Junior Mints and York's Peppermint Patties, which contain gelatin, and I make my onion dip with the Lipton's onion soup mix, which has powdered beef stock.

But then, my main motivation has been the health benefits. I don't have a major moral objection to the human consumption of animals. Yes, I do get uncomfortable hearing about the deplorable conditions under which "eatin' livestock" are kept, and it's something of a comfort to know I don't support some of that industry, but it's not as though I don't eat dairy products or eggs. And I'm not willing to go completely vegan (never mind the fact that I am too big a fan of cheese to ever consider such a thing, but vegans are quite often even less healthy than people who eat a lot of meat), so I'm contributing to animal cruelty either way. May as well go whole hog (no pun intended) and enjoy some tasty new foods while I'm at it.

Yes, I'd be able to return to old favorites - I still love the smell of ribs and bacon - but there are a lot of things I never got around to trying before I quit being a carnivore. A short list follows:

All fishes except rainbow trout
All other sea creatures except shrimp and the artificial crab meat you get in a California roll
Most game meat (elk, deer, pheasant, etc.)
Jello
Lamb
Veal
Rabbit
Duck

There are two things holding me back from carnivore reversion right this moment. Number one is the violent objection my digestive system is sure to raise when it's asked to process flesh again. I figure I'm going to be fairly uncomfortable for a few days, and that's definitely a deterrent. Number two is the concern that my weight gain back in high school was in fact related to the consumption of meat. Logically, I know it probably had more to do with the kinds of foods I was eating (CrapDonalds comes to mind, breaded chicken patties in the cafeteria at school, etc.), coupled with my ever-changing teenage metabolism, but with the wedding coming up in 4.5 months, I'm not sure I'm willing to take the chance. I am definitely taking the idea more seriously these days, though. It's not as if I'd be forced to eat meat at every meal; more often than not, I think I probably would stick to the meatless foods. But the option would be there.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Sunday Catblogging: Highlighting Feline Transgressions


This is what we returned home to one day last week. Someone *coughLeocough* likes to chew on various containers of household goods (lotions, toothpastes, detergents, et al), and we made the mistake of leaving the laundry soap out of the cupboard for a few hours. It's a miracle that cat hasn't poisoned himself yet.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Disappointed

I am disappointed with The Book of Daniel. I had high hopes. Looked funny and amusing and such. I was bored 5 minutes into it. And that was after splitting a bottle of wine with Tom. Sad.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Friday afternoons...

...remind me of a line from one of my favorite Death Cab for Cutie songs:

As if saved from the gallows,
there's a bellow of buzzers, and people stop working,
and they're all so excited. Excited.

Have a good weekend, everyone. :)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Surprises abound!

Surprise #1: My commute home yesterday was no longer than normal. There wasn't even a backup of traffic at the Rose Bowl offramp. Go figure.

Surprise #2: As I was just about to Glendale, I could see a large pack of aircraft circling the stadium. This pack consisted of the Goodyear blimp (of course), a few helicopters, and a whole bunch of small planes trailing advertisement banners. There were seriously a lot of them up there. I was amused by the sight until Tom brought to my attention just how scary it was that there were so many up at once, in not that large of an area. Could have been really bad, potentially. Anyway, I was just getting into Pasadena at 4:00, at which time all the air traffic dispersed, leaving only the blimp. It was a pretty interesting sight.

Surprise #3: I ran errands and got home just after 5:00. Surprise! The stairway had been painted (apparently quite late) yesterday and was roped off. It was still rather wet, but there is no other way to get up to our apartment, so I crept under the rope and tiptoed up anyway. Surprise! The doorknob and lock were swaddled in masking tape since the door had been painted. I pried the tape off and wiped my shoes as well as I could before going inside. No paint was tracked into the apartment (as far as I could tell), so I'll consider that a victory against the odds.

Surprise #4: Nah, I'm actually not all that surprised USC was beaten. Had to happen eventually, and Texas had the skills to do it. Sure was a hell of a game though, with bogus calls all over the place and one incredible play after another (both incredibly good and bad). Entertaining, to say the least.

Update
Surprise #5: It's 80 degrees outside today. In January. Stupid SoCal...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

(VF)RotW: Twice-Baked Potatoes

Ingredients:
Potatoes (Russett or some other thick-skinned variety), as many as desired
Cheese (cheddar's always good, but you can get creative; pepperjack, anyone?)
Onions (both green and red)
Garlic
Red Bell Pepper
Sour Cream
Butter
Salt & Pepper


Bake the potatoes. You can do this the "real" way (i.e. in an oven) or the quick way. If you opt for the latter (as I usually do, because who wants to wait any more than they have to for tasty twice-baked potatoes?), first scrub the taters with hot water, then stab them 5 or so times each with a fork, wrap them with paper towels, run water over them again, and stick them in the microwave. 7-10 minutes per potato is usually sufficient, depending on the microwave.

While the potatoes are are nuking, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Chop up your onions, garlic and red pepper. When the potatoes are done, cut them in half lengthwise and scoop their guts out into a bowl. Place the husks in a baking pan. Add butter, sour cream, cheese and the veggies to the potato guts (I hesitate to offer specific amounts of each because it really depends on your preference). Mix well, add salt and pepper to taste, and then scoop the guts back into the potato husks. Sprinkle extra cheese on the top of each, and stick 'em in the oven. They're done when the cheese is nice and bubbly (about 15-20 minutes).

Okay, now I'm really hungry. Good thing it's lunch time. ;)

Why I'm Old

My baby sister is turning 22 today. Holy crap.

Happy birthday, kiddo. :)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A goal and a pat on the back

back a'work today
a year of promise ahead
(you convinced yet, self?)

As tempting as it is to bitch about having to get up before dawn and go back to work today, I'm frankly getting sick of listening to myself whine. I'm going to be at this job for at least another year (more likely 1.5 - 2, actually), so it is certainly in my best interests to at least attempt to develop a more positive attitude. Or a resigned one, anyway. No, it's not my dream job, but it's not as though I'm trying to turn it into a lifelong career or anything, so I'm going to do my best not to whine about it anymore. A negative outlook on a situation that isn't going to change anytime soon does not serve me (or anyone else, for that matter) well at all.

Anyway, enough about that. I managed to get a fair big accomplished over the vacation as far as wedding plans are concerned. The bridesmaids' dresses have been ordered (opted for "orchid" as the color), and roughly 2/3 of the invitations have been mailed. Tom & I made some progress with ideas for dinner table centerpieces (no simple flowers for us; we're going for something much more dorky, but also much more interesting). All in all, things are progressing quite nicely, I'm pleased to say.

Not much else to report at the moment, except that I'm dreading the commute home tomorrow. This is exactly why they shouldn't play Bowl games during the workweek. I don't know what genius(es) came up with that idea, but they should be flogged repeatedly.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Sunday Catblogging: The Finest in Haute "Cat"ure


Tom seems to have acquired a dual-layer cat scarf.