Monday, December 17, 2007

Top 10 Christmas Songs

10. Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer
9. Let it Snow!
8. Twelve Days of Christmas
7. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
6. White Christmas
5. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
4. Baby, it’s Cold Outside
3. Do you Hear What I Hear?
2. All I Want for Christmas is You
1. Carol of the Bells

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Quote of the Week

Julie: i have friends who just got a norwegian forest cat
me: they're poofy!
Julie: oh i guess she's a mix, so only her tail is poofy
Julie: if they had named her while looking at her from the back they would have called her fluffy-butt
Julie: but as it turns out they didn't. her name is millie.
me: lol

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Quote of the Week

"so guess what

I just went to the bathroom...

and while I was washing my hands

I noticed I was wearing 2 watches

my metal one on my left wrist

my digital one on my right"

- Doug, on gchat

Monday, November 12, 2007

A World Drowning in Bureaucracy

Today I overheard my boss talking with my boss’s boss about a co-worker. This co-worker had been given a responsibility, saw a way to make the job more efficient, and adjusted some paperwork accordingly. Basically she rearranged some wording on a form. My boss’s boss found out about it today. “She just can’t be taking initiative like that,” my boss’s boss said in an appalled tone, as though my co-worker had just streaked the office or slapped a student in the face.

Since when did “initiative” become a bad word?

I thought that people who took initiative were supposed to be rewarded, sought-after employees. This co-worker, in my eyes, did nothing wrong. There are about 4 people in the world who actually look at this form, and she consulted every one of them to make sure they were happy with the adjustments. But she didn’t bring it in front of a committee of people who never even glance at this stupid piece of paper, and now she’s in trouble because of it. Why does every change have to have a committee’s support behind it? Isn’t “micromanage” supposed to be the bad word?

This sort of bureaucracy is what’s drowning our society today. Millions of people are employed, however unhappy they may be, to help slow the system down. I’m all for supporting the system, I think that societies need structure, but it’s reaching the point where it feels like we’re trying to prevent improvement, change, EVOLUTION. It’s a natural thing to change, see if things get better and stick with it, or go back to the old way if it got worse. I think my heart belongs to a place like Greenwood. It may not be managed well, but at least everyone supports you when you step up to try and fix the problems, instead of getting told off for it.

We’re taught when we’re little that we can make a difference, we can change the world if we want to! But if we can’t even change our own jobs, one tiny detail of our daily life, how are we supposed to keep believing that? I told a friend yesterday, “You can’t fix the world, but at least you can do something about your little corner of it.” But now I’m starting to doubt that too.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The sort-of top 15….

This isn’t a list of great literary novels of our time. This is a list of books that I really love to read. I know a lot of them aren’t deep, meaningful, symbolic, whatever. I don’t care! They’re entertaining, emotional, suspenseful, and that’s what matters to me. Screw you James Joyce!

Dead last. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks – I read it in Italy. It was left in Italy. I feel bad for Italy.

Second to dead last. Next by Michael Crichton – I warned Moon not to read it, but he did anyways. I’m sure he’ll regret it for the rest of his life.

Third to dead last. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce – seriously, a textbook of a novel. I appreciate the work that went into making this book (probably a billion times more than the Notebook) which is why it’s not dead last. But it hurts me to read it. It’s like reading cardboard. It’s full of unemotional, detached characters who I really couldn’t care less about what happens to them.

12. The Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey – probably doesn’t deserve a place on this list, but I’m giving it one anyways. I don’t recommend that anyone over the age of 14 read these books.

11. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin – a fabulous murder mystery book for kids.

10. The World According to Garp by John Irving – it’s funny, it’s heart-wrenching, it’s bizarre. It’s John Irving at his peak.

9. The Long Walk by Stephen King* - One thing I love about King’s books is he leaves some of them open-ended. You don’t REALLY know what’s going to happen to the characters. For me it makes the story keep going, long after the book is done. You can wonder about what happened next, come up with your own theories, relish it for a bit longer (kind of like garlic).

8. Ten Little Indians by Agatha Christie – the definition of suspenseful. I couldn’t sleep until I found out what happened. I always had this weird thought in my head that Agatha Christie was Alfred Hitchcock’s pseudonym for literature

7. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling – yeah, so they’re children’s books. I still love ‘em!

6. The Stand by Stephen King* - I judge all post-apocalyptic books by this high standard. It’s epic, which in my opinion is the best kind of story you can get.

5. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving – an all-around great, which also gave me a new appreciation for armadillos.

4. Armor by John Steakley* - I can’t come up with a quip that can summarize how I feel about this book. It’s a great stand-alone book.

3. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card* - It’s one of those books that sticks with you, whether you read it once or a hundred times. Truly inventive and insightful.

2. The Redwall series by Brian Jacques – C’mon! It’s Redwall! It’s got mice and badgers at war against rats and weasels and foxes! Brian Jacques may be personally responsible for my love of small woodland critters (except the South Park Christmas critters, those are fucked up).

1. The George RR Martin series, A Song of Ice and Fire* - the series hasn’t even finished yet, but I can’t stop thinking about them… talking about them… reading them over and over. Thankfully there are groups for this sort of lunacy.

* denotes books/series that were recommended by the Wolf. The man picks winners. He should start a club, like Oprah.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Movies these days suck

The Wolf told me he'd take me to a movie, any movie, that I wanted. So I looked at what's in theaters, and decided that I'd rather watch Wheel of Fortune on TV. There's NOTHING out. I mean, it was tough picking between The Game Plan and Resident Evil: Extinction. What has happened to modern cinema? Wolf has mostly given up on American film and has turned to foreign films, which has yielded some pretty quality stuff, but I'm still a cinematic patriot at heart.

I hope that some day US filmmakers will pull their heads out of their asses and realize that what they're doing isn't working. Movies based on books, sequel after sequel, remake after remake-- the world isn't finished with creativity!! Come up with an original idea people!

The few movies I am excited about, sadly ARE a part of that category: The Golden Compass, Elizabeth: the Golden Age, and Sleuth. A couple of other movies have caught my eye: Rendition and American Gangster, but these are mostly based on the fact that I love the actors-- Jake Gyllenhaal and Chwietel Ejiojor respectively-- not so much the plotlines. (Actually, Clive Owen is why I want to see the Elizabeth sequel.)

Hopefully the Christmas season will improve the film landscape, otherwise it's gonna be a looooong winter.

p.s. congrats Moon!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Poker Tournament

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 1797684

Monday, October 01, 2007

Quote of the Week

"I know he's a good guy, but he's not welcome [at my wedding]."

- the Wolf, discussing Jesus

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Quote of the Week

"You don't have to be smart. You just have to have an internet connection."
- Bag, on the AbsolutePoker scandal

Thursday, September 13, 2007

When I'm a millionaire...

It's my new favorite way to start a sentence. I don't have anywhere close to a million dollars, but it keeps me positive and focused on my goals. (My goals are not ultimately having a million dollars, but rather a means to an end for my true goals.) After all there are so many ways to make millions these days! The top of my list right now is to win a big online tourney and to turn my book into a best seller. Sadly, I think winning the tourney is my most likely option since I don't think writing is usually a big money-maker. Unless you're JK Rowling, Dan Brown, or John Grisham.

But this is why I'm excited that the WCOOP is starting soon! Not only is WCOOP fun to say, it's fun to play! And it could be quite lucrative if the poker gods are on my side. I'm trying to qualify for a few of the bigger tourneys, though I'm notoriously bad at qualifiers. Qualifiers require more patience than most tourneys and patience is something I lack. But I'll keep at it and hopefully in a couple of weeks I can at least be a little closer to the million dollar mark!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Some Sunday million hands

I played the Sundy million today and didn't do very well. I lost a few 50/50s but I also played very differently. In the beginning my aggression was not paying off, so I switched to a more loose-passive game. After this tourney I think I'll try to avoid this kind of play from now until forever. Here are just a few hands for your reading pleasure.

Seat 4: Trunkmonkee (9925 in chips)
Seat 8: Jdubtd10 (10000 in chips)
Seat 9: PunkyPickle (10000 in chips)
ragweed147: posts small blind 25
Jdubtd10: posts big blind 50
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to PunkyPickle [Ad Td]
PunkyPickle: calls 50
ForeverDean: folds
mick69b: folds
BonesMaster: folds
Trunkmonkee: calls 50
akia86: folds
Ezu1: folds
ragweed147: folds
Jdubtd10: checks
*** FLOP *** [7s Ah 2s]
Jdubtd10: checks
PunkyPickle: bets 125
Trunkmonkee: calls 125
Jdubtd10: calls 125
*** TURN *** [7s Ah 2s] [3c]
Jdubtd10: checks
PunkyPickle: bets 350
Trunkmonkee: calls 350
Jdubtd10: raises 350 to 700
PunkyPickle: calls 350
Trunkmonkee: calls 350
*** RIVER *** [7s Ah 2s 3c] [Kh]
Jdubtd10: bets 1200
PunkyPickle: folds
Trunkmonkee: folds
Jdubtd10 collected 2650 from pot

- AT is my least favorite hand. I think it may be my all-time money loser. I limped UTG because quite frankly I'm afraid of the hand. I didn't want to raise with it in case I got reraised, but limping here is pretty weak too. I should probably just start folding AT all the time and save myself a lot of grief.

Seat 5: akia86 (9750 in chips)
Seat 9: PunkyPickle (10625 in chips)
Trunkmonkee: posts small blind 50
akia86: posts big blind 100
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to PunkyPickle [Jc Td]
Ezu1: folds
ragweed147: folds
Jdubtd10: folds
PunkyPickle: calls 100
ForeverDean: folds
mick69b: folds
BonesMaster: folds
Trunkmonkee: calls 50
akia86: raises 300 to 400
PunkyPickle: calls 300
Trunkmonkee: folds
*** FLOP *** [4c 9c 8c]
akia86: bets 600
PunkyPickle: calls 600
*** TURN *** [4c 9c 8c] [Jh]
akia86: bets 1300
PunkyPickle: raises 1300 to 2600
akia86: calls 1300
*** RIVER *** [4c 9c 8c Jh] [2s]
akia86: checks
PunkyPickle: checks
*** SHOW DOWN ***
akia86: shows [Ah Qc] (high card Ace)
PunkyPickle: shows [Jc Td] (a pair of Jacks)
PunkyPickle collected 7300 from pot

- Obviously limp-calling with JTo is pretty loose but I felt good about the hand. When Akia raised I put him on two overs and figured I could outplay him in position. I'm really pleased with how I played this hand although it's one of the strangest hands I've ever played.

Seat 5: dvash9 (11155 in chips)
Seat 9: PunkyPickle (15991 in chips)
Jdubtd10: posts small blind 300
PunkyPickle: posts big blind 600
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to PunkyPickle [Ah Ts]
ForeverDean: folds
magetzu: folds
UB_Bone: folds
Trunkmonkee: folds
dvash9: raises 1200 to 1800
TheDna: folds
mrsmontal: folds
Jdubtd10: folds
PunkyPickle: calls 1200
*** FLOP *** [Ac 7s 4h]
PunkyPickle: checks
dvash9: bets 600
PunkyPickle: raises 1200 to 1800
dvash9: raises 7555 to 9355 and is all-in
PunkyPickle: calls 7555
*** TURN *** [Ac 7s 4h] [8h]
*** RIVER *** [Ac 7s 4h 8h] [2c]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
PunkyPickle: shows [Ah Ts] (a pair of Aces)
dvash9: shows [4c Ad] (two pair, Aces and Fours)
dvash9 collected 22610 from pot

- The damn AT again! I HATE this hand! I called thinking he had something weak like KJ or KQ. When the flop came and he bet the min I reR to 1800 because I wanted him to push over the top all in on a bluff. When he did it though, I got a really bad feeling. Before I thought he was on a bluff but now I couldn't decide. I ended up calling and being in pretty bad shape. I think the best move was probably to either reR or fold preflop and avoid all the trouble.

I was down to 4700 after that and went out soon after with Q7s on the button. The SB happened to have 99 and it was goodnight Pickle.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Book Update

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten.

- Natasha Bedingfield, "Unwritten"

I've finished writing the book and now I'm in the process of editing. I haven't even looked at the beginning of my story in so long that it feels like revisiting an old friend. Sometimes I've surprised myself at how much I enjoy what I've written. Other times I feel really sorry for myself because the writing is so terrible that I doubt I'll have a chance at getting this bad boy published. But one thing that I hold forefront in my mind is something another writer once told me: write every day, even if it's no good. Sometimes it's just vomit on a page, but at least it's out there. That's what I did. Now I have to clean up the vomit.

The plot's out there, everything is outlined. I'm fixing up the poor writing and trying to put the soul into the characters and into the book.

I imagine that I'll have a hard time finishing the book. There will always be room for improvements, I know, so I just have to make the decision to set it down and go with what I've got at some point. I've been working on this book since senior year of college, so it will be hard to put it out there if I'm not 100% happy with it. But I guess that's why people write sequels, right? ;)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Quote of the Day

When you lose, don't lose the lesson.
- from an email my mom sent me

Monday, July 16, 2007

Harry Potter predictions

So I know most people reading this blog couldn't care less about Harry Potter, but I want to get my predictions down for who will live, who will die, before the seventh and last book comes out Saturday.

Who's going to die:
1. Voldemort
2. Snape
3. Neville Longbottom
4. Someone from the Order of the Phoenix... I don't know who, but I hope it's not Lupin

Who's getting together:
1. Bill and Fleur are supposed to have a wedding at the beginning of the book, so I'm going to assume that goes through
2. Ron and Hermione. Rowling has been building this up for six books. I'm more confident of this than anything else I'm predicting. (Although I personally think they are a terrible match for each other.)
3. Harry and Ginny. A lot of people think Harry will die... so if that happens then obviously this one won't work out so well. But I think Harry will end up saving the day, getting the girl, and becoming Hogwarts' Defense against the Dark Arts teacher. And winning the Quidditch Cup just for being Harry. Actually playing Quidditch will no longer be necessary.
4. Tonks and Lupin have a relationship now, but I have a horrible gut feeling that one or both of them won't see the last pages of Deathly Hallows. That makes me sad because they are both kickass and two of my favorite characters.

In about a week I'll find out if I'm right or wrong and then everyone can mock me or revere me as appropriate.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Book Update

I've been inspired, but I have no idea who or what my muse might be.

Lately I've been on a writing rampage. Two months ago I'd finished less than half of the chapters in my book, although I'd started several. Now I only have 2 left to finish and I predict that I am over 90% finished with the first draft. After that I get to edit. And I do mean "get to." Words cannot describe how excited I am to rip my own piece of work to shreds. I think what I've got now is good, but I want to fix it so that it is great.

I read a quote one time that said something along the lines of "people don't become authors because they want to be, they become authors because they have to be." I completely understand that now. Even if this book doesn't get published, even if only my friends and family ever end up reading it, I still had to write it. The story was inside me and I had to let it out.

The timeline for now is to finish the first draft by August sometime and to finish the edits by December 31st, 2007. So far I'm right on schedule.

Monday, July 09, 2007

All the WSOP stuff on TV and real life got me excited about poker again. I started playing in some tournies, not doing so great, buying straight in to the Sunday Million on PokerStars after spending $160 trying to qualify for it, doing bad there too, and then going on tilt for buying into a tourney that was way out of my bankroll range. I whined for a while and then the Wolf told me to play the 180 player max tournies that PS has going all the time. He may have said it to get me to shut up, but never once actually told me I was being a big baby. For that I am grateful.

I took his advice and later that day came in 2nd in one of the $10 buy-ins. The next day I did the exact same thing. I'm no longer a big baby, now I'm happy I started with the poker again. I've decided to stick primarily to the 180 maxes from now on. They go fast (for a tourney) and the structure is actually surprisingly good. Much better than the Sunday Million which is unexpected. When it got heads up in the first tourney there was $270,000 in chips out there and blinds only at 1k, 2k. The next day was slower and the blinds were up to 4k, 8k when we got heads up, but still, not too shabby.

p.s. the title function isn't working right now which is why this post is officially "untitled"

Monday, June 11, 2007

Red pandas are in the garbage again... go get the broom!

I was reading up on red pandas a few days ago. (This may sound strange, but about once a month I get the urge to look up an animal species and learn more about them. I'm weird like that.) One of the things that the Wikipedia site mentions is that red pandas are most closely related to bears and raccoons. Now, having worked closely with raccoons I know how intelligent and fun-loving they can be. (Although they can also be a pain in the ass when you're trying to sweep their cage out and they're trying to steal your broom... but that's another story.) Unlike me, though, most people consider them pests and annoyances. But these same people would do a flip if they ever saw a red panda in the wild. I know that red pandas are more rare and live in Asia as opposed to their back yard, but if you look at them they basically look like fluffy red raccoons. So you have to wonder, if red pandas were native to North America and raccoons were native to Asia, would these people go bonkers if they saw a raccoon? I think they would... and just like that one of our most reviled species would become one of the most beloved.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Vive la France!

I just got back from my first trip ever to France and I have to say that I was in no way disappointed. I've had several friends go before me, and they've all said that they didn't like it so much, so I was afraid that I would have a similar experience. Plus, French people in general tend to have a bad reputation (spread mostly, I imagine, by the jealous Brits) for being unfriendly, erudite, and rude. I found none of this to be the case.

In case anyone is considering going sometime in the near future, here's a list of my favorite and least favorite things that I did. I could go on for a long time about all the great stuff to see, but I tried to limit myself. Must see's that don't make this list include Mont St. Michel, the Eiffel Tower (at night), and more.

Les Bons:

1. The food - French food is amazing. They really know their stuff. We had great dinners every night, but my most pleasant surprise were the lunches. Get a sandwich French style and at first you'll be disappointed. It's a baguette with butter and meat (usually ham) and not much of that. But the bread is fresh and delicious, the butter is BUTTER not margarine, and the meat is top quality. They know what tastes good and they don't fancy it up with lettuce and other stupid ruffage.

2. The gardens and the Seine (Paris) - walking through Paris was a fabulous experience. You get to see everything on foot, from the flower market to the Notre Dame. Walking by the Seine was even better. In most cities (like NYC) you don't get a lot of sunlight or see the sky that often. But Paris' streets are wide and there are tons of gardens and the Seine which give the city an open feel, and makes you forget that you're in a city with over 2 million residents and what felt like half a million tourists.

3. Climbing the Notre Dame (Paris) - I think it was 422 narrow steps up to the top of the Notre Dame but it was worth it. The cathedral itself it amazing even from the ground, but at the top you can see all my favorite parts. There are up-close views of the gargoyles, the statues, and the flying buttresses, and great cityscapes of Paris. Plus, making the climb feels like such an accomplishment in itself!

4. Le Pointe du Hoc (Normandy) - We spent half the time in Paris and the other half in Normandy. I really liked Normandy because it wasn't such a cluster fuck of people and the weather out there really suits me. We did a tour of the WWII beaches, and by far my favorite stop was le Pointe du Hoc. This point was heavily bombed by the Allies before D Day and it really left an impression. The tour takes you on a path through the craters, some of which are 20 feet deep, that were left by the bombs and the twisted remains of the batteries that German troops occupied on the cliff face. No other site gave me such a vivid image of what fighting in WWII must have really been like. I can see the German troops, huddled in their batteries while the bombs dropped around them like rain, praying that their luck will hold out long enough that they can make it through one more day. I can smell the fear and the sweat and the piss of the barracks where they were trapped with no escape. It gave me goosebumps.

5. The Louvre (Paris) - I thought that it would be overrated. After going there, if anything, I think it's underrated. Not enough can be said about the immensity of the art collection and of the building itself. It's a former palace, but I don't know how any king could have borne parting with this absolutely stunning building, which to me is a work of art unto itself.

Les Mauvais:
1. The metro (Paris) - I was told that the metro smelled like urine. I didn't get that sense from it so much as vermin feces. Being in there made me feel like a rat too, always scurrying around underground, trying to find the right train, the right exit, a breath of fresh air. Walk around Paris, no matter how far away your destination might be. It's worth the sore feet.

2. Charles de Gaulle Airport (Paris) - Anyone who's talked to me lately knows the horrors that occurred on my flights to and from France. While the CDG airport wasn't the cause of all these problems, I certainly don't have fond memories of the hours spent there. Plus their security line and baggage claim are really unorganized.

3. Napoleon's Tomb (Paris) - Maybe part of the reason I didn't like this so much is that I don't really know much about Napoleon. I know he was a self-proclaimed emperor, he was short, he fought a lot of wars, he was exiled twice, and he wore a funny hat. But all that doesn't really add up to much as far as knowing who he was and what he accomplished. And I didn't learn anything new from this site except that Napoleon was a man of great excesses. His body is actually contained in 4 or 5 different caskets, all one within the other like a babushka doll. (Although reaching the middle of this doll would be a far less pleasant experience, I imagine.)

4. The Orangerie (Paris) - This impressionist museum is located in the Tuleries gardens and has eight great works by Monet. But besides that, the museum doesn't offer much. If you have a love of Monet then you'll appreciate it, but the rest of the museum is several long halls with paintings that don't have explanations (at least not in English) that I didn't like too much. One thing I did enjoy though, were Soutine's work. He paints twisted versions of the realities around him that I really enjoyed. Maybe someday when I'm a billionaire I'll buy one :)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Survivor, a season in review

This season of Survivor was one of the most pleasantly surprising that I've watched. I don't think it was as good as last season's ethnic division theme, with dominating performances by Yul and Ozzie, possibly two of the best players Survivor has ever seen. But I went into this season not expecting much. After watching the finale last night, I have to say that it's now among my favorites.

To me there are three reasons why this season is great: 1) the twists the producers put in, 2) Yau-Man, and 3) Dreamz. The twists were all amazing, particularly the adding of two immunity idols, and the fact that if you wanted to play it you had to do so after the votes but before them being read. This change in rules was the catalyst for the greatest single episode of Survivor that's been aired (if you don't know what I'm talking about, that's too bad, it would take way too long to explain).

However, none of these twists would have stood for much if it weren't for Yau-Man, the wise and clever elder, and Dreamz, the young buck with a very skewed sense of reality. Yau's scheming, alliances, and surprising challenge victories made it look like he was a shoe-in to win this season. But Dreamz-- who rattled on and on about integrity and being a good role model for his son-- betrayed him (as Yau thought he might, which is why he made the truck deal in the first place) at the very end, snatching his victory away.

Without the Disneyland-ish tribal council and all the challenges, this season could be the basis for a fantastic, classic book. Earl would be the main character, the young grasshopper with talent who is taken in my his wise mentor Yau. But the villified Dreamz comes in and kills his master so Earl has to go on by himself and get vengeance and the booty. You get the idea.

The big question for me though is, is Dreamz really a bad guy? Yau seems to think he's a smart young man who needs to get some discipline and priorities. The show depicts him as across the boards unpredictable, unreliable, and untrustworthy. Jeff Probst seems to like him. In the made-up book, Dreamz would be a sympathetic bad guy. He has a rough history and personality that endear people but everything is does is wrong. My guess is that Dreamz could be a good guy, but he doesn't have a good sense of ethics. He also doesn't seem to have a grasp of the consequences of his actions. Which, in the end, make him a bad guy. He may be charming, but he's not the kind of person that I'd want to be friends with. I'd never trust him. Maybe some day he'll figure all this out, but for now, I do think he's the villain.

Monday, May 14, 2007

France baby!

I'm going to France next week and I'm incredibly excited! I've never been before, but I have taken French classes for 9 years of my life, so I feel like this is sort of the reward for all my hard work, academically speaking. I'm going with my parents to Normandy and Paris, where hopefully one of my friends from college will meet up with us! She lives in Switzerland, so I don't get to see her very often.

Things I plan on doing while there:
1. drinking wine in Paris and hard cider in Normandy (that's apparently what they're known for.)

2. eating delicious French foods, particularly baguettes and other bread products

3. visiting the Louvre and other touristy Paris sights

4. seeing all the WWII stuff in Normandy and seeing Mont St. Michel, the castle that's surrounded by the water at high tide.

5. buying French souvenirs/clothes (I'm packing an extra bag just in case I overdo it. I do plan on going a little nuts in this department.)

6. Maybe getting a little of my French back? I haven't spoken in 5 years and I'm trying to practice, but I can barely come up with numbers. Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq... got those, but once I get to double digits, things get tricky. Hopefully I'll come back feeling a little bit better about this.

Any other suggestions?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel... okay

I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about what a bizarre world we're living in. This is mostly because I'm writing a book about future America and I need to think about what will become of us. But on some days I get home from work and realize that I just spent an entire day doing nothing. Not because I wasn't working. I work at a study abroad office where over 1,000 students study abroad each year, and I push a lot of paper! But what does that really mean? It doesn't really teach me any skills, particularly any real survivor skills. If I didn't do the job then the kids wouldn't get to go abroad (probably not true, but if enough of us weren't working there, then yeah, they probably wouldn't go), but it's not like I'm saving lives by coming into work every day. Would not studying abroad seriously affect their lives? I doubt it.

When you look at the bare bones of the situation, I go to work to get paid. But the weird thing is, I never see the money. It gets electronically transferred to my bank account. I usually spend money on my credit card and pay that bill electronically too. So the numbers go up and down in my account but I never really touch the money. It doesn't really feel like I'm accomplishing anything.

I think that civilization as a whole has come to the point where we are in a delicate balance that puts us all entirely dependent on the rest of society. If the heat stopped working in the apartment this winter, I certainly wouldn't have any idea how to fix it. If farmers stop growing crops and raising cattle--oh that delicious cow, my primary diet-- I wouldn't have a clue how to feed myself! My life is dependent on technology and other people who are so specialized in what they do that I probably wouldn't last 2 weeks without them. Put me in the wilderness, and I'd probably eat a poisoned plant within the week and die. Put me in a post-apocalyptic world like the one I'm writing about in my book with no technology or other people's expertise and I'd last longer. I could probably survive on Ramen and Twinkies for a couple years, but I certainly wouldn't make it to a ripe old age.

What does that tell us about us? Who could survive with nothing but their own guts and skills? My bet is SEALS, marines, and Ozzie from Survivor have the best chance. What would America look like after a big disaster and how would the survivors cope? I'm trying to picture it, but it's not easy to imagine when I have such a low opinion of our society as it is today.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Welcome back quality TV

I don't want to look like all I do is watch TV and movies all the time, but April looks like it's going to be a great month and I wanted to share its glory with everyone who reads my blog (this means you, Wolf). If you can't get excited about other things going on in your life, get excited about this:

1. The return of Entourage- the show is fantastic and the second half of season 3 has been long overdue. I can't wait to see what the upcoming episodes have to offer. Ari just got fired, the boys are out on their own, I have no predictions about what will happen, and that excites me. The only downside is that it's only a 30 minute show and it always leaves you wanting more.

2. The Office- after taking a very long break and showing many reruns, the Office is back. And after last night's insanely good episode, it looks like they needed the vacation! It was the best episode of the season (although Phyllis' wedding was also solid) and I hope they keep it up!

3. Survivor- Yeah, Survivor's on all the time. But this season has a lot of really cool twists, like two immunity idols that are both shared by two groups of people. It will be interesting to see how this new dynamic will turn out. Plus, the people on it have unique personalities, especially my new favorite, Yau-Man. Everything he does looks wrong, but he's in one of the most secure positions with a great alliance and an immunity idol in his pocket. Go Yau!

4. Bullrun- It's this great new show on Spike TV. 12 teams are racing across the country in their own cars. Then they do challenges at the end that usually involve racing at high speeds towards something that will blow up or kick the shit out of your car. Team Lamborgini already has about $80k in damage to their car, mostly because they ran over a raccoon. Serves you right for hitting it in the first place!

5. UFC 5- I thought last season was one of the worst they've had, so I hope this one gets better. It's going to have the lightweight division though, which should be fun. I like the quick small guys. They make the fight more exciting.

6. America's Next Top Model- It's my new guilty pleasure. I don't know what I like more, watching people being mean to skinny, big-egoed models or feeling perfectly free to join in from the comfort of my living room. The art director of their photo shoots is hilarious and brutally honest, and I love the photos that they take and the challenges they give them. I think I love photography without having a bit of skill at it myself. Plus, it's a reality show, and clearly that's my bread and butter.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Top 15

Moon likes to post the top 15 songs that he likes at the moment. Bag has picked up on that too. I don't know music well at all, but I do know my movies. So I'm going to post the top 5 movies that I like right now or am excited to see, and the bottom 5 that I think either look terrible, or I've seen and know are terrible. And the 5 movies/TV shows that I bought at Target yesterday, which I'm listing mostly so my countdown adds up to 15.

The 5 Buys:
5. Ghostbusters I&II - it was really cheap and the first one is a classic. The second one is eh, but the two came as a set. It was basically like getting the second one for free, so whatever.

4. Snatch - I used to own this movie but lost it in college, which is inevitable and fairly commonplace (if you've seen my Armageddon, let me know). Once again a solid movie, and on sale.

3. Firefly - This is the television series that preceded the movie Serenity. I love the movie and really like the series too. The show and movie are written and directed by Joss Whedon who did the same for the Buffy the Vampire series and movie. I love those too. So I guess I love Joss Whedon's work. It's not a series that I'll probably watch a lot, but it makes me feel are warm and happy inside knowing that I can.

2. The Office, Season 1 - Woo hoo! I never feel really good about owning a series if I don't have the complete set (or two complete sets if we're talking about the Harry Potter books). I don't like this season as much as the second, but it's still solid. I plan on watching that this weekend.

1. Casino Royale - this is the reason that I went to Target in the first place. The others were unplanned, spur of the moment purchases. This is the only Bond movie I own and may be the only one I ever own. Unless the next one is equally as amazing.

The Bottom 5:
5. The Grindhouse - I know it's Tarantino and Rodriguez and it'll probably be a movie I'll end up seeing. But this movie looks so ridiculous. I think the names are what's keeping me intrigued- not just the directors, but Bruce Willis and Kurt Russell. It's so appropriate that the kings of cheap action movies are starring in this one. It came really close to making it into the top 5, not the bottom. Hey, at least I feel strongly about it... one way or the other!

4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - There's no way it can live up to the humans in turtle costumes from the early 90's flicks. Those were great movies, especially for their day. The 90's were a time of teen angst (My So Called Life, the Karate Kid... you get the picture) and who has more TEEN angst than the teenage turtle Raphael?

3. The Lookout - they keep bombarding us with previews for this movie, and every time I see them it makes me want to watch the movie less.

2. Dead Silence - this is the movie that's about a ventriloquist who hunts and kills people with her dummies. One of the tag lines is along the lines of "If you want to live, then don't scream." I think I'd scream through the whole movie, desperately hoping someone would come and kill me before I had to watch more of that sorry excuse for a horror movie.

1. Easy Rider - no matter what horrible movie I've seen lately, or what kind of mood I'm in, Easy Rider will always be my least favorite movie ever. I don't know what it is that rubs me so much the wrong way with this movie, but I hate it. Hate it.

The Top 5:
5. Die Hard IV, Live Free or Die Hard - the title says it all. This is the ultimate sequel movie, and I'm really excited about it. It looks like fluff: lost of action, cliched characters, and violence. At least it's not going to pretend to be something else. I can't wait!

4. Children of Men - Not too many people saw this movie, but I really love it. I haven't seen it in a while, which is why it isn't higher on the list. But it's got Clive Owen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Michael Caine in it. I love them all. And I love the plot! It's set in post-apocalyptic England with a Big Brother-type government. It's really intense, and I highly recommend it.

3. Casino Royale - I bought it as soon as it came out. It's awesome. Enough said.

2. 300 - this movie keeps coming back to me. I really enjoyed this movie. As I said to Bag as we exited the film, "if Spartans were going to make a movie about themselves, this is what they'd make."

1. The Birds - I've never seen it before, but it really stuck with me. Yeah the effects are completely outdated, and seagulls attacking people is kind of stupid from my perspective (you want scary birds? EGRETS! Those things go for your eyes!), but no one is a greater master of suspense than Hitchcock. It's something that's lacking in the horror genre today.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The most wonderful time of the year

March is possibly the best month in the year and I'll tell you why. College basketball. My childhood has been largely based around the Duke basketball team-- one of the reasons my family moved to Durham in '95 was so we could watch more of their games. One of my earliest memories is of Christian Laettner's last second jumper to beat Kentucky in the NCAA tourney of '92. I remember screaming at him on the TV "you don't have that much time! Stop dribbling the ball!" and then going completely nuts when he made the shot. I must have made my parents very proud that day.

After we moved to NC I had the wonderous opportunity to go to the ACC tournament whenever it was in Greensboro. I remember this as a time of unbelievable excitedment. We'd often stay in the same hotel as the Duke team and I'd sit at breakfast looking around, desperate to see my favorite players. I also remember it as one of the few times my sister and I didn't fight. After all, why would we? It was a basketball fan's paradise. The atmosphere in the stadium was awesome-- everyone was there to cheer on their team, and once their team lost they'd all join in cheering for the underdogs that were left (except UNC fans, I hate them).

And the fun doesn't stop there. After that is the NCAA tournament, where the best teams play each other and I join at least 2 tournament pools. I almost always pick Duke to win, being the devoted fan I am, so I don't usually win, but it's so much fun. There will be a lot of TV watching in the upcoming month. I've also made a bet with Moon that if Duke wins the tourney he has to burn his UNC hat. If UNC wins, the only hat I can wear is a UNC hat until the start of the college bball season next year. Most likely it will be a push, but I'm still going to keep a matchbook handy, just in case.