Monday, December 26, 2005

Auld Lang Syne

This blog is taking an extended vacation beginning on Tuesday, possibly the longest 'vacation' the blog has taken with me still being in the country (the other major hiatus was when I was in France for two months). I hope those of you who celebrated yesterday (and continue to celebrate this week, as the case might be) had a good holiday and quality time with your loved ones.

I will blog back at you in 2006. Happy New Year and all the best to you and yours for the upcoming year.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Good tidings we bring to you and your kin;
Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

All I want

My brother and I were recently discussing what we want, or rather what *I* want. It came in the middle of a conversation on "Battlestar Galatica", so there was no actual depth in the discussion at first. I mentioned along with wanting the new season of BSG to start RIGHT NOW, I would also love world peace, and my brother pointed out that would mean people would stop having to act like people.

So all I want for Christmas this year is for people to stop acting like people. We spend too much time picking at each other, too much time thinking about what we don't have compared to what other people have, and not spending enough time to understand where someone else is coming from and why they act the way they do. Understanding doesn't necessarily mean agreeing, but it can be a way of developing respect for another person's viewpoint or background or actions and finding common ground -- in other words, a way to get along with someone you'd really like to avoid spending time with or talking to (I'm thinking of Ann Coulter's nastily titled book, "How to Talk to a Liberal... If You Must" as an example).

My New Year's resolution (seven days early! Go me!) is to be more patient and to listen more so I can hear where people are coming from. It never kills a person to be nice to someone, no matter how much you don't want to be. So, really my resolution comes down to: I'm going to try harder to be nice and understanding with the people who make me nuts.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Top Sekrit (tm)

I've been having problems with blogger lately, and I think the NSA has been thwarting my efforts to rabble-rouse (or something) by making it very difficult for me to spread my propaganda. And speaking of the NSA and the secret spying program, my knee-jerk response that all things Bush does are inherently TeH Evil (tm).

However, on an intellectual level, the program makes me uncomfortable. I'm probably a minority opinion on this, but honestly, I don't feel like the 'war on terror' is something anyone can win and to claim that it's possible is misleading. For that reason, I'm reluctant to suspend my civil rights for some phantom enemy who is a) more creative than Bush (or any other president, for that matter) will ever be, b) not afraid to die, and c) whose only goal in life is to kill other people.

Plus, the program just doesn't make sense to me. If only four warrants out of thousands had been denied, what's the problem? The courts are obviously not standing in the way of the 'war on terror'. And if you can get a warrant retroatively up to 72 hours after beginning spying, what's the need to circumvent the courts entirely? To me, it sounds like a power-grab, an expansion of executive privilege, and it's disturbing to me. I don't want this nebulous 'war on terror' to be the raison d'etre for every decision every succeeding administration makes from here on out. It's almost like you can go out into a crowd, wave an American flag, repeat catch phrases over and over again, and equate criticism with unpatriotism, and everyone falls neatly into line without actually considering the consequences or even the reality of the situation.

In our local paper, nearly 60 percent of people polled in an unscientic poll said they'd be willing to give up their civil liberties in order to win the 'war on terror'. Count me in the other 40 percent.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The happiest time of the year?

I didn't watch "Christmas Blessing" last night because I was heavily absorbed in a new biography of Queen Isabella (betrayal, murder, and treachery in medieval England -- yum!), but I got a general synopsis of the film over here. Apparently the little boy from the song -- Nathan -- is all grown up and having a nervous breakdown about being a doctor. He runs home, discovers things are a' changing, but still manages to fall in love. But then, disaster strikes! At Christmas time! To wit:

Nathan scarcely has begun to try letting go of the past when he discovers that not one, but two of the people he loves most suffer from life-threatening medical conditions that only a Christmas Eve transplant can resolve.

This Nathan kid can't catch a break. First his poor shoeless mother is dying on Christmas Eve when he's a wee one, and now the two people he loves most BOTH HAVE TO HAVE AN ORGAN TRANSPLANT AT THE SAME TIME ON CHRISTMAS EVE?

Y'know, despite my better judgement, I really, really want to hear what NewSong came up for this particular movie. If you have the lyrics, I'd be much obliged. If you feel creative and want to make up your own lyrics based on the synopsis and the original song, then that's fine too.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Christmas under siege?

Every time I read a news story about people thinking Christmas is becoming increasingly threatened by 'secular forces' (and this is where I have an image of an army wearing baclava helmets marching upon a Christmas tree), I just want to scream, "GET A GRIP PEOPLE. HAVE YOU BEEN IN CIVILIZATION LATELY?" The stores are swatched in red and gold, and easy listening music stations go to 24/7 Christmas carols, depriving some of us from our daily Lionel Ritchie fix. From Halloween on, you cannot escape this holiday, no matter how much you want to.

I admit, despite enjoying hot apple cider, finding the perfect gift for someone and receiving Christmas cards, sometimes I really want to. Christmas isn't under siege, but it's taking a good chunk of the population hostage -- even the ones who celebrate.

The thing is, there is nothing inherently offensive in Christmas to non-Christians. Or at least, the non-Christians that I know. Most of us have no problem wishing Christians who celebrate 'Merry Christmas' because it's important to that person. And we're not particularly offended if someone wishes it to us back if they don't know where we stand on the holiday. But there is a distinction I do want to point out.

I don't go around wishing non-Hindus Happy Diwali. Most people would say, "Huh?" anyway, but that's not the point, because nothing's stopping me from saying it. It's easy to say, "Well, no one knows when that holiday is, so who cares?" Well, it's a major holiday, celebrated by a huge chunk of the world's population. You can say the same about Ramadan, or Channukah. These are holidays that are important to people, but most Muslims aren't going to wish Happy Ramadan to non-Muslims and Jews will keep their Happy Channukahs to other Jews. What's the point of wishing a 'Happy insert-holiday-of-your-choice-here' to people who don't celebrate?

The Fainter put it best yesterday. She says it's like being at a birthday party, and being genuinely happy for the person at the party, and wishing them a happy birthday. But if someone else came up to you and even though they knew who the guest of honor was, said, "Hey, happy birthday" to you, that'd be kind of weird.

That's how Christmas feels. It's there, you can't get away from it for three months of the year, so you might as well go with the flow, whether you want to or not. My point is, if you know for sure someone doesn't celebrate, why wish them a 'Merry Christmas'? Only do that if you're willing to have them wish you a 'Happy Diwali' back. My guess is most people who complain over whether a tree should be a "Holiday spruce" or a "Christmas tree" wouldn't be particularly happy to be wished a "Happy insert-non-Christian-holiday."

Saturday, December 17, 2005


I finally got most of my holiday cards and packages mailed out today. When I reached the post office around 10:30 this morning, it was jam-packed, and I figure the wait was probably an hour or so. A nice guy pointed out the self-serve kiosk, and OHMYGOD, it is the best thing ever. You can weigh your package at the kiosk, print out the appropriate postage, and also for international letters. Plus, you can buy regular stamps (only holiday ones, unfortunately). Best part? You can charge it all to your credit card.

There was a bin for packages so I could just drop my package in after putting the postage on it, and then I put the cards in the regular stamped mail box. I was in and out of the place in about 20 minutes -- no waiting in line. For all the crap that gets heaped on the USPS, I thought I'd point something really good that they've done.

Now you know what that extra 2-penny increase in January is going to pay for.**

*No, I don't work for the USPS, I only use their services
** Or is it a 3-cent increase?

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Bush Shuffle!

Kerry might waffle, but Bush shuffles! During Bush's interview with Brit Hume on FOX News Wednesday evening, Hume asked Bush what was on his iPod and so it begins:

Bush : Beach Boys, Beatles, let's see, Alan Jackson, Alan Jackson, Alejandro, Alison Krauss, the Angels, the Archies, Aretha Franklin, the Beatles, Dan McLean. Remember him?

Hume: Don McLean.

Bush: I mean, Don McLean.

Hume: Does "American Pie," right?

Bush: Great song.

Hume: Yes, yes, great song.

Unidentified male: . . . which ones do you play?

Bush: All of these. I put it on shuffle. Dwight Yoakam. I've got the Shuffle, the, what is it called? The little.

Hume: Shuffle.

Bush: It looks like.

Hume: The Shuffle. That is the name of one of the models.

Bush: Yes, the Shuffle.

Hume: Called the Shuffle.

Bush: Lightweight, and crank it on, and you shuffle the Shuffle.

Hume: So you -- it plays . . .

Bush: Put it in my pocket, got the ear things on.

Hume: So it plays them in a random order.

Bush: Yes.

Hume: So you don't know what you're going to going to get.

Bush: No.

Hume: But you know --

Bush: And if you don't like it, you have got your little advance button. It's pretty high-tech stuff.

Hume: . . . be good to have one of those at home, wouldn't it?

Bush: Oh?

Hume: Yes, hit the button and whatever it is that's in your head -- gone.

Bush: . . . it's a bad day, just say, get out of here.

Hume: Well, that probably is pretty . . .

Bush: That works, too. ( Laughter )

Hume: Yes, right.

Original transcript here here, though I found out about it in a hilarious WP politics chat over here.

My favorite moment:

Boston, Mass.: This country is a wreck.

If we look at our leaders... torture, spying on Americans, bribes, fraud, outing of CIA agents, lying about stock deals, lying about wars...

If we look at ourselves.... our kids are fat, on prescriptions, and 1 in 20 can't read. We've got global warming, high prices, low wages, no health insurance, a housing bubble, and the gap between rich and poor is extreme.

Dana, make it all better, please. I can't take much more of this.

Dana Milbank:
On the positive side, Speaker Hastert has saved Christmas by renaming the "Holiday Tree."

So. Happy. [/Katie Holmes]

When I first started yoga over a year ago, it was because I was stressed to the gills and having hip problems, and wanting to just make it all go away. Since then, I've gotten a lot better, and I've developed some favorite poses.

My favorite pose back when I started was Warrior II. I still have a fondness for the Warrior series, but lately, I've been preferring Plank Pose which, mho, is the quickest way to flat abs, and I also really like Downward Dog because I feel strong in that pose and am very proud of myself that I can hold it for long periods of time (our yoga instructor is very big on holding very a looooooooong time). However, I do have a new favorite: Sideways Plank pose.

I like Sideways Plank because not only does it tone, but it involves balance, and it's just really difficult to stay up -- it requires strength and concentration both. I'm getting a lot better at holding it, and I don't fall over any more -- or at least, it takes more than 30 seconds before my whole body starts shaking and I need to come down. This is another really good pose for abs.

I'm not terribly good at most of the balancing poses. I'm unable to hold Half Moon at all, for instance, but I'm slowly improving on Eagle Pose. Of course, it should be no surprise to anyone -- especially people who know me well -- that the pose I most look forward to is savasana or corpse pose.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Boob tube thoughts

Y'know, I wonder why television programs don't schedule their programs to run during commercial breaks, rather than all of them taking the commercial break at the same time. I'm a channel-flipper through breaks, and I suspect most watchers are, and I wonder if the networks would get more eyeballs if they just managed to pace an interesting scene or development at the point everyone else is taking a break. I do know that's why some of the networks start their programming at the :59 mark or end at the :01 mark -- to throw people off their stride.

Incidentally, I saw part of "E-Ring" yesterday while flipping and OH MY GOD, how terrible is this show? It's impossible to take Benjamin Bratt seriously, and really, how much drama is there in watching people run around the Pentagon? I think what really killed it for me was when there was a special ops mission going on in Kazakhstan, and all of these Pentagon types were sitting there watching on some kind of big movie screen. All that was missing was the overpriced popcorn.

I do, however, have a massive crush on "Grey's Anatomy." I didn't like it when it first aired, but it's starting to grow on me. I love the humor, the acting, the characters, and the way when it hurts, it really hurts. "Grey's Anatomy" doesn't take itself seriously, which is what I like about it. "ER" always came across as incredibly serious and self-centered, whereas "Grey's Anatomy" isn't afraid of being funny. In fact, I'm starting to like "GA" better than "Desperate Housewives", the latter which has recently made my 'endangered shows' list.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Speaking of cold...

Despite the fact I have an aversion for cold, I seem to be into stories that take place in very cold locales, such as Mount Everest, and now Antarctica*.

I just finished reading "Endurance", a book about Ernest Shackleford and his crew's amazing survival story of being stranded on Antarctica after his ship is crushed and destroyed by the ice. Imagine it's 1914, and you're stuck in the middle of, well, pretty close to nowhere, and all you have are three open boats, no land in sight, frigid temperatures, and all around you, a wild and freezing sea filled with killer whales and sea leopards. Survival under those circumstances is really mind-boggling.

While I found the book could have been more descriptive in places and I didn't like how it gave the ending away on the back cover, the book itself was gripping and the diary entries used to pepper the narrative are quite often very funny. What amazed me was how these men seemed to maintain their spirits and discipline in the face of incredible adversity. For that alone, it's an amazing story. Here are some interesting links:

Frank Hurley's expedition photographs. This includes pictures of the ship -- the Endurance -- being crushed and toppled, plus some amazing pictures of Antarctica itself.

Here is a site with some excerpts from the books and NOVA did a documentary on the expedition, and its write-up is over here.

* 'Antarctica' is seemingly my 'Hemingway' of geographic spelling.

Monday, December 12, 2005

These shoes were made for walkin'

You all know about about my deep-rooted version to all things related to "Christmas Shoes", so imagine my horror at the news CBS is airing a sequel to the damn thing called Christmas Blessing and just to put the coal in the stocking touch to all of this, NewSong -- the group responsible for the original treacle -- will perform the title song during the movie. For those of you who can't wait, CBS has a copy of the song* on the website (see above link).

My favorite Hollywood Christmas anvil moment came during this evening's ep of "Seventh Heaven" (which I was watching in between commercials for the Elton John concert), when Glen Oak has a power outage on Christmas Eve, and all the lights go out. Sandy converts to Christianity and a second later, then lo! Behold! LET THERE BE LIGHT. Then there's bizarre image of panning away from the Camden residence (the only light in the otherwise dark town) and then slowly the light spreads across the town and then the camera pans back until suddenly, we're in outer space, looking down at the glowing earth and it is good.

I may just have to let the little urchin from "The Christmas Shoes" off the hook and set the Camdens as my new whipping boy(s). Subtle, "Seventh Heaven" has never been, but boy. Oh. Boy.

* And no, I haven't listened to it, but that's more due to my aversion to Real Player rather than a fierce allergic attack to anything 'Christmas Shoes' related

Sunday, December 11, 2005

How do you solve a problem like google?

A few months ago, I went on a date and over lunch, the guy asked me casually, "So, you knew so and so?"

My heart completely stopped. He was referring to a good friend of mine from college who had died of cancer. For a moment, I was estatic. He knew her name, he must have either known her in person, or read some of her sports stories in the newspaper, and if nothing else, we could swap stories. I remember leaning forward and asking, "How do you know her?"

And he shrugged. "I don't. I just saw her name somewhere and thought you might know her."

And in that moment, I knew he had googled me, that he had found the memorial site for my friend, and had read the piece I'd written about her there. I was crushed and he quickly moved on to another subject.

Looking back, I know he exhibited a lack of social graces and tact. There's nothing wrong with googling someone; he just picked the wrong thing to ask me about. I never asked him if he had googled me, and I never told him that I googled him. But ever since that incident, I've felt uneasy over the whole subject of googling. When meeting someone new, it's nice to get the intelligence, but at the same time, how do you use that information? I'm not sure I'd ever bring it up in a conversational setting.

The other thing is this blog. This blog will be five years old in January. I've been blogging since before blogging was cool, before I knew what I was doing or what the consequences of having a blog could be. That means there are five years worth of stuff people can read about me, and the five-year old in me thinks that's unfair. I think this also stems from my misplaced belief that this blog only has five readers and I know who you all are, and I think of this space more as a 'reading corner' for a few people, rather than the much wider audience that troops through here every day.

I can't solve the blog problem without stopping the blog, and that's not going to happen. I've resolved to think of it as a "Hey, this is me" snapshot at any given moment in time, and while it's never a complete picture of what I'm thinking of, what is here is honest and in my voice. So, my attitude really should be: "Take me or leave me." Still, it's not easy to reconcile.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Sock it to me

Years ago, I think it was my 21st birthday, my mom gave me socks. Now some of you would say, "Oh that's a terrible present," but there are two things you must know about me: a) even when it's 80 degrees out, I'm freezing and b) I like warm things. Hence, I've routinely received things like flannel sheets, blankets, sweaters, warm pajamas, socks, and mittens as gifts. In college, I'd routinely ask -- as I'd hunch over and brave the blizzard winds -- just how did the pioneers make do without polar fleece? I mean really, can you people imagine what life before fleece was like? I can't even think of it. If I were a pioneer, I'd probably have to be somewhere like, I don't know, Hawaii, or Mexico, because I wouldn't have been able to take the long winters a la Little House on the Prairie.

Anyway, I mention the socks because they are AWESOME: two pairs of fleece (one pair green and one pair red), and the other two pairs were brown, with thick soles, and just really warm. My feet were incredibly happy wearing these socks as I trudged through the New England winters. I still have the socks, and today I'm wearing the red fleece ones because it's freakin' cold here. And I know, I know, all you Midwest and New England types are probably laughing because it's in the 20s here in Red State, but in my defense, I was just at a cafe with NO SOCKS* on and really, even you hardy New England/Midwest types would be cold with NO SOCKS on when the temperature is rapidly dropping below freezing. I'm just sayin'.

I should also mention my pajama top is fleece too. And that I'm sitting here typing to you with a chenille blanket around my shoulders. I also have flannel sheets on my bed, a wool blanket, a soft pink blanket of some unknown material, and a quilt. I'll probably throw another blanket on there for good measure. Back in New England, I routinely went to bed with my robe on over my pajamas. Also, I never sleep without socks on.

I don't like the cold at all, but I do like the things that keep us warm.

* Lest you think I'm completely crazy, the lack of socks was due to the fact I'd gone to yoga this evening, and I was wearing black cropped length yoga pants and my socks were white, and I so didn't want to pull an Urkel. I never did take off my jacket though during dinner, as I was wearing a t-shirt over a tanktop, so at least I exhibited some sense then..

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The eye of the beholder

Following up on yesterday's post, here's an article from the Washington Post on eyebrow threading.

I should also mention (as The Fainter recently found out) that the salon we go to has the 'tough love' philosophy when it comes to the eyebrow care; getting berated for plucking (baaaaaaaad!) and going more than 3 weeks without a stop in at your friendly neighborhood threader is a cardinal sin. During the 20 minutes the stylist is yanking your eyebrows out hair by hair from the follicle, she's also lecturing you on any number of beauty sins and what an awful person you are for letting yourself go like that. It's the newest wave in beauty marketing: Guilt and shame.

Incidentally, I did momentarily contemplate posting a picture of my eyebrows earlier this evening as Harry requested, but then I realized that it would also involve posting a picture of me, and OH MY GOD, you guys would know what I look like*.

We can't have that now, can we?

* Real Life people excepted, of course
Blog re-run

T'Other Liz reminded me recently I had yet to rant about "The Christmas Shoes" carol. Since I've done it before here and here, I'll just point you there.

I'm still waiting for someone to adequately explain me the appeal to this sentimental treacle though. Guest blogger for a day anyone?

Monday, December 05, 2005

The eyes have it

My God-given eyebrows and I parted ways more than ten years ago, sometime during my freshman year of college, to be more precise. I didn't realize there was such thing as a 'sculpted brow' until the age of 18, and those were the years when big round framed glasses were in, and I have a small face so pretty much all you could see of my face were the glasses anyway. But in case you were wondering, my God-given eyebrows are thick, unruly, curly, and rather mannish.

Anyway, off I went to college and my roommate had such pretty eyebrows and it was such an awakening. Every morning, she'd stand in her little cubby and pick at her eyebrows, and unlike mine, her eyebrows never misbehaved. And in a sad, sad case of trying to imitate her lovely arched brows, I think I plucked most of mine out. Thank God for the big round glasses!

The following summer, my aunt declared the glasses to be object non grata, and persuaded me to switch to contact lenses. My mother, on the other hand, concerned about her eyebrow-less daughter, found someone who could 'fix' what was left of the eyebrows and hence became what is now an addiction to lovely, perfect eyebrows, especially now that I can no longer hide behind big round glasses. I started off getting my eyebrows waxed, but for the last three years or so, I've been getting them threaded.

Threading is... well, exactly what it sounds like. The stylist takes an ordinary spool of thread, loops it around her fingers and through her mouth, and at some point, lassos each individual eyebrow hair and pulls it out by the root (there's an interesting bobbing head action involved as well, but my eyes are closed for much of the process). The thread itself is taut, so it's a similar sensation to feeling something with an edge scrape across your skin. In addition, at some point, the stylist asks you to pull your own skin tight; the tighter you pull it, the less it hurts (and when I talk about hurting, we're not talking massive amounts of pain; something similar to plucking, but for longer durations of time -- say 5 to 10 minutes an eyebrow. The more hair, the more the pain).

The positives of threading is that you end up with lovely eyebrows that are very nicely shaped and very rarely does skin crack or get pulled off or loosened. With wax, the pain is over quick, but it can pull at your skin and leave it feeling raw.

Visual aids of eyebrow threading, courtesy of Google, over here.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


So, today the Boy Toy (as Sarah calls him) called about meeting him for lunch.

"How much time do you need?" he asked.

"I only need an hour to get married, I mean ready."
Let the world go by

I had such a relaxing night yesterday and I really appreciated it. The last few weeks have been so helter-skelter, running around, that even though I had five days off for Thanksgiving, I was anything but relaxed, and this week, I haven't been feeling well. So it was so nice to just sit back on a Friday night and really not worry about much at all.

I wrote for a couple of hours -- something I haven't done in a long time -- and then I popped a bag of popcorn and watched a movie. The movie was just so-so (I must lack the taste buds that deem movies like "Sideways" and "Lost in Translation" as good or better; I was still wearing my socks when both movies ended, though something like "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" completely knocked them off), but it was the idea of just sitting back, not paying attention to the phone or email and not at all feeling rushed, that was the best part of the evening. I finished off the night by reading a few pages in "America, The Book", which is hilarious in spots (but not uniformly so), and then slept until 8 am! Yeah for 8 am!

Best. Friday. Ever.