Sunday, December 13, 2009

Europe Here I Come!!!

It seemed like it would never come, but in 4 days I leave for Europe! I've been to Spain once but that was when I was 14 and traveling with my entire extended family. Basically, because I was a teenager and in my "too cool for school" mindset I pretty much hid out the entire time trying to pretend that I didn't know any of them.

And also eating an inordinate number of eggs in the form of tortillas. This was many moons ago, before people had really heard of vegetarianism. Did I mention I don't like eggs? But faced with the very real threat of starvation, tortillas it was.

I have a super-packed but just barely manageable itinerary.

First, I fly into Brussels and meet up with friends. Spend the weekend in Brussels with side trips to Bruges and Ghent on
Monday and Tuesday. This is what I have to look forward to:

Then, I take a train through France down to Basel, Switzerland where I will stay with a friend for a few days. Day-tripping to Zurich definitely and Geneva hopefully.

Then on to Bologna, Italy where we'll hook up with another friend.

And, if time permits, on to Ravenna, Italy where I will hopefully see this:

At one time, Ravenna was the capital of the Western Roman Empire and it's emperor Justinian was an early Christian (and believed in good PR, hence all the images of him).

The only bad part of my trip is that I'm going during the winter, which is going to be a culture shock to my system, but my university is closed over Christmas so we get a nice little paid extra holiday.

I can't look a gift horse in the mouth now can I?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Brazil visit last May!

So this is a "guest" post from my buddy Danielle (although I really am pirating it, not having gotten her permission) but she posted a link to it today and it was such a good entry (and I wanted to have my own record of my wonderful trip) that I decided to shank it.

Where have I been? Being social, that's where! My life in Brazil is significantly different when I have someone else to hang out with!So, here's all about Kristin's visit:First, she flew into São Paulo, and we picked her up from the airport.We spent the weekend there aaaannndd I LOVED IT.

We went to a huge beautiful park called Parque Ibirapuera.We took the metro.We had lunch in a yummy Italian restaurant.We walked to the Museum of Modern Art, but by the time we got there, we were so exhausted that we just sat outside for a while and then went back to Alex's sister's apartment. :)Nobody asked me where I was from, and I could buy water and ask for the restroom without explaining my life story.We had dinner and drinks at an adorable pizza cafe across the street from Alex's sister's 13th-floor apartment.I LOVE LOVE LOVE São Paulo. It really reminded me of San Francisco.The few pictures we took in São Paulo pictures are here.

On Sunday morning, Alexandre headed home, and Kristin and I flew to Foz do Iguaçu.Foz do Iguaçu is the name of the city where the waterfalls are. It's the city that's the farthest west in Brazil, and it borders Paraguay and Argentina.Although there had been a bit of drama with the travel agency when we had booked all the tickets and guides and stuff, it ended up working out really well. (It was also a very good deal, in my opinion!) We had someone to pick us up from the airport and take us to the hotel. That night, they took us into Argentina to go shopping. (We weren't super excited about "Duuchii free shawpeen!" but it was pouring down rain and everything in the city was closed on account of the rain and the Sabbath. Besides, we wanted to say that we'd been to Argentina, even if it was just the border area.)

The Argentinian mall thing didn't amount to much and wasn't exactly my favorite part of the trip. People could smoke in the mall and in the little bar/restaurant place there, too. It took us about 8 minutes to walk around the entire thing. It's really not much cheaper than buying stuff in Brazil. Also, my brain hurt by the end of it after switching between 3 languages for so long.We did get ONE picture of Argentina. Proof! Kind of...

The next morning, we woke up bright and early and were happy to see that the rain had more or less moved on. We were scheduled to be picked up to go to the waterfalls at 8:30, so we scarfed down our complementary breakfast in the hotel (stealing some pão de queijo for later) and met our tour guide at the door. Our tour group included us, a retired Brazilian couple from the center of the country (the guy was so hick that he rolled his Rs), and a 60-year-old Taiwanese lady who was traveling alone and didn't speak Portuguese. We were certainly the youngest of the bunch!

On our way up to the falls, the tour guide explained some of the history and interesting facts about the area. Because we were part of the group, we got to bypass the super long line to buy tickets, and we even got a 50% discount on the entrance fee! (Unfortunately, we had to pay extra because we didn't have Brazilian IDs, and I kicked myself for not having figured out about my damn RG before going on the trip.)Then, the guide took us on the hiking trail that led to us around the falls. Sooooooo beautiful!Here's my favorite picture:

(I took that!)

I mean, you can look at pictures of it, and I can use words like "beautiful!" and "amazing!" but it's hard to grasp without really being there.

We had sandwiches for lunch in the park, and had to keep shoo-ing away the coatí:

so cute! They squeak when they realize you have food.
Then the tour bus people took us to the Parque de Aves: The Bird Park (which was also included in the tour package, I might add).If you remember from my last entry, there was a slight mishap there with a galinha d'angola who mistook me for a branch. But aside from that, I think that the bird park was one of my favorite parts of the trip, because I do like birds very much. And I mean, I can only get so mad at a polka-dot turkey.That night, we relaxed in the hotel, and enjoyed our complementary hotel dinner (greatest tour package ever). We had another early morning ahead of us!Tuesday morning was our trip to the Itaipu Dam, which is also on the border of Brazil and Paraguay.

It's the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world! I tried to channel Elena as much as a good. I wish I knew more about engineering. The tour guide (a different guy this time) spouted off all of the details about just how much energy the park can produce (25% of Brazil's energy and something like 92% of Paraguay's) and how much water it releases, etc.It was hard to get decent pictures because it was really cloudy and we didn't get out of the bus much (the place was so massive that it was really more efficient to just drive around and stop off at looking points). Everything was just GIANT GIANT and also perfectly semetrical. Plus, it had a big man-made lake, which I think functions as the reserve for the water.After the dam, our tour bus went into Paraguay's Ciudad del Este, the border town between Brazil and Paraguay.

We had to take a bridge over the Rio Paraná, which is the biggest river in Brazil after the Amazon (if I understood the guide correctly). This city is relevant for Brazilians because Brazilians love to go to Paraguay to buy cheap crap imported in from China that gets marked up by import taxes in Brazil. It was basically Tijuana, but like 8 times more intense. We had 4 hours to kill there, so, in an attempt to avoid the malls and insane shopping district, Kristin and I just started walking to see where we'd end up. We saw a sign that said "Catedral," so we headed toward it. The church itself wasn't that interesting (very obviously built by religious Americans that had recently invested in the area), but we did get a nice tour of the city. We also got some good pictures, if I do say so myself. (Click here for the Paraguay pictures.) I bought Alexandre a wireless video game controller and some black socks (those were more of a present for me, since I'm trying to wean him off of white ones in the Land of No Good Bleach), but we avoided the sprialing malls on the whole.

Oh yes, and this was another afternoon of maddening PortuSpanglish.We went back to the hotel (again, a ride courtesy of the tour package) and enjoyed another yummy complementary dinner there (+ not-so-complementary but entirely delicious drinks).Wednesday was our long, LONG trip home. It included 2 flights, a very unnecessary 2-hour layover, 2 different buses, and lots of waiting. We left our hotel at noon and got home at 4am. ;oPThe rest of Kristin's trip was a lot more laid-back, since we were just hanging out at home and I had to work and stuff. I took her downtown, we went out with a couple of my friends / my couple of friends, basically just showed her my day-to-day life. The highlight of the second half of her visit was definitely...

The Monkey Park!

That's right, a monkey park. Right here. In our city. I've been here for over a year and NO ONE told me about it until my student-friend Melissa a couple of weeks ago. When I asked Alexandre, he said he'd vaguely heard about it but had heard it was closed.So fun! Cute little monkeys that are eager for your fruits and attention!
The rest of the monkey park pictures are here. It was hard to get good shots, because the little buggers are so quick! But you'll get the idea. :)We had a great time, and I hope that after reading this entry, you'll see what a good host I am and how beautiful and interesting Brazil is, and you'll decide to come visit me, too! :D :D
at 2:46 PM

Year-End Charity Giving

I just decided what my year-end charities will be. I was going to give to Smile Train, which fixes cleft palates of children in developing countries (and I'm still thinking about it) but they were very negatively reviewed on charity rating sites so I'm not sure.

Last year, I gave to PBS and I decided again to this year. Although this is quite self-serving since I love PBS (esp Britcoms and yes, I know I'm a nerd). I also decide to give to Wikipedia since I use that site so much.

But finally, my last charity is going to be The Humane Society. I have worked on their campaigns before but I automatically give each month to the ASPCA. I figured that was enough.

Then I got this email today from the Humane Society about a dog. Fay, that had been brutally mauled by its dogfighting owner. I'll spare you the video but here's a synopsis.

"Our team met her in Missouri, when The Humane Society of the United States helped rescue hundreds of animals from the horrors of dogfighting. She’d been wounded badly in a fight, and a dogfighter had mercilessly cut off her lips. She was in tough shape, but we found her in the nick of time."

Here's a link to the video if you want to see it.

Why people do these kinds of things is beyond me.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Language School Rip-Offs

How I wish I had paid more attention in high school and college Spanish! But back then, I thought learning another language was a waste of time. And I think, for most Americans it's not necessarily a waste of time, but most of us don't have a language partner to practice with (and this is key to success in learning a foreign language).

America is so huge that unless you happen to live in a border town or Miami, pretty much everyone will speak English. We're not Europe where they have whole countries the size of Rhode Island (and if you've ever been in RI, you know it's pretty dang small).

Who knew then that I would grow up and marry a Puerto Rican and Cuban man whose first language is Spanish?

In my quest to learn his language, I've probably spent close to $10,000 on private lessons (hey, language lessons ain't cheap) and countless hours of frustration.

And I have to admit, my language skills aren't that great. Mostly I think it's a confidence issue and also the awareness that my teachers and Leo all know English. It's very easy to slip back into English when the going gets rough in Spanish.

So I decided that the next time the military moves us (which could be as early as this October--we find out our choices of cities/hellholes in January) instead of sitting around on the couch for the first couple of months looking for a good job, I would send out resumes in advance (something I didn't have the luxury of doing when we moved to San Diego) and then spend a month or so studying Spanish in another country.

I wanted to go somewhere where I couldn't fall into the easy trap of expressing myself in English when I couldn't in Spanish. I first looked at Puerto Rico but that's hella expensive.

Spain? No way, they talk funny and use weird verb forms over there :D
I tossed out Mexico since I spent last Christmas there in Guanajuato and Guadalajara and it's too close to where I live now.
Costa Rica, meh. Been to San Jose and trust me, it's nothing special. My mom lives in a little town called Boquete in Panama but I've already been there a few times.

I considered Chile and Peru but finally settled on Buenos Aires, Argentina since I also want this to be a vacation. A learning vacation, but a vacation.

A sabbatical if you will.

Next I started looking at prices. They're pretty comparable so I wasn't sure how to choose. But one school, which made me give them my contact info before they would send me anything which should have been my first clue, offered a free online "language testing ability" quiz.

I took it one time and got an Inicial level (this is the lowest level). Ok, I thought, maybe it's because I had had a glass or two of wine. I tried again the next day and got an Inicial level again.

Completely enraged at this point, I asked Leo to take it (again, hubs is a native Spanish speaker) and he got Elemental. (the next level up). They did have one question using the vosotros form and Leo did move from PR to Miami when he was 9, so I thought maybe his Spanish isn't all that either.

Then I had one of my Spanish teachers take it. This woman has taught Spanish for years and is very thorough and precise. She grew up in Venezuala and Spanish is her first language.
She scored an Intermediate 2. (not the highest level).

At this point, I'm like this test is absolutely ridiculous and designed to fail you and crush your spirit. After all, even though I got Inicial, to me an Inicial level is like "uno, dos, tres..." I could read everything the test was asking and that, to me, is certainly not Inicial.

Here's the link if you would like to try the test for yourself and see how you fare.

Having worked in a language school for awhile, I know that many are complete rip-offs and aren't in the best interests of the students.

At the school I worked at, our "training" consisted of us coming in to observe another teacher's class for 1 hour before we began our own classes. Did I mention, this training was unpaid and completely voluntary? So, many people didn't bother.

There was no grammar test given, nor were you asked to give a teaching demonstration or anything. Some of the people they hired there were so sad. But I digress.

I do know that for dollar ratio, language schools can be very expensive. For example, private lessons at our school were $60 per hour. That's $1 per minute! Needless to say, not many students availed themselves of this "privilege". (BTW they paid the teachers $16 per hour)

However, I want to visit Buenos Aires and I sure don't want to sit on my couch for 2 or 3 months driving myself and Leo crazy while I job hunt and try to get acclimated to another city.

Has anyone out there had good experiences with language schools? If so, any recommendations?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Facebook for Dogs!

Ok, now I've seen everything. My Lil' M (aka Maude Bijou Wiggle Worm) now has her own Facebook page. Dogbook.

Here's her link if you want to check her out or be friends or whatever.

I'm not lying about this.

So far, she's joined one group (Mutts Unite) but is thinking about joining Dog and Cat Chat and for those politically minded pooches out there, there's Dogs For Obama.

I haven't spotted anything for the right-leaning pups, but I'm sure Sarah Palin and her jimcrack crew is working on it.

Her Dogbook page is also linked to her Twitter page (ok, I'm kidding here, not about being linked to Twitter but Maude doesn't just jump on any bandwagon and she tried Twitter once and thinks it's for fools).

Maude also has one toy, but is open to accepting more if anyone is so kind. Hint hint.....

Maybe next they'll invent for pets?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Geezer Bandit terrorizes San Diego

So this is the infamous "Geezer Bandit" who has knocked over as many as 5 banks in the Southern California area.

Since he has used a gun, authorities say he is armed and dangerous. The latest heist happened late last month in La Jolla, where witnesses said the bank robber "fled" on foot after sticking up the teller.

I'm not sure whether to laugh, be amazed, wish this guy was my grandpa, or somehow be appalled that an O.A.P. (Old Age Pensioner as they call them in Britain) is gang-busting his way through the San Diego area. Maybe a combination of all of them.

The main question, I think, is this a last-minute bucket list terror spree kind of thing or a sign of our seriously dire economic times? Only time and the Geezer Bandit himself will tell I suppose.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sad Weekend

Meh. This weekend sucks on a multitude of levels. First of all, someone (who will be later hunted down and killed) gave me a head cold. Who knew a body could produce so much snot? Gross.

Thank God for my DVR. Currently, am watching old episodes of "You Are What You Eat" (featuring one Gillian McKeith, Britain's Fascist Foodie who not only berates the morbidly overweight people who get hijacked by her and her camera crew but then demands poo samples as well) but have tons of "The Office" (American, not British), travel shows, "Modern Family, "Parks and Recreation", "Vecinos" "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and "Sherlock Holmes" (I want to see the new SH movie coming out Christmas Day with Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. but I'll be in Europe and probably have a million better things to do, so it will just have to wait).

But this isn't what's so sad. I just got off the phone with my parents (as well as having gotten busted by my Dad for not taking my vitamins which is why I'm currently in the situation I'm in). But they told me they had to put one of their dogs to sleep late last night. It's extra sad because my Dad's a veterinarian and had to do it himself. But as he wisely noted, it's better to have it done right.

Poor Jerry Lee had a lot of health problems his whole life, but he just recently started having uncontrollable seizures. There wasn't anything my parents could do and the seizures were really scaring Jerry Lee so they knew the right choice was to put him down. They live out on a horse farm in Michigan so they could bury him in the yard which was nice. Although it's starting to turn a bit into a pet cemetery. I think they're up to 3 dogs buried there and 2 horses. As they jokingly put it, "In 200 years, if someone digs this all up, they're going to think we were a cult of crazy Satanists!"

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sasquatch and Huckleberries...

So we returned unscathed from last weekend's trip to the Great Northwest (make that the Cold Northwest). We spent a few days in Spokane for a Navy conference and then rented a car to go to Coer d'Alene, Idaho; Wallace, Idaho and Missoula, Montana.

Having lived 3 years in sunny San Diego, I really have forgotten that other areas have actual seasons, replete with snow, rain and gale-force winds. Not too fun, but it can be easy to slip into a sun-induced coma down here and lose touch with the real world.

Spokane was ok, nothing great but nothing to write home about (literally). Coer d'Alene was a cute little town with an artsy type downtown. See pic below.

However, our favorite was Wallace. Population 960. More pics to come, but unfortunately Lil M ate the USB to the camera and when we took it to Best Buy to get another, they actually laughed at our ancient camera. I know technology moves fast, but come on, that camera is only a few years old. They told us to check Ebay for parts. Sigh. Time for a new camera apparently.

Wallace was picture-book cute and people were really friendly, but we definitely didn't go in the right season. Both the Bordello Museum and the Silver Mine I wanted to go to were closed for the season.

But I did learn what they mean when people say, "that pass over yonder, it pritner be closed for the season." They're really just saying it's too snowy to take the road through the mountain, so you're F'ed and have to stay where you're at. Sorry sucker.

We did, however, manage to make it through Lookout Pass into Montana, but I know now how the Sasquatch could be a real thing. First, let me say that when I used to teach English as a Second Language, we had this afternoon course about American culture (ie. all the really crap things, like Las Vegas and Lizzie Borden) and one of the topics was Bigfoot.

Because of the ridiculous way the material was written, I could never make it through that lesson without cracking up like a million times. They actually had one sentence in there about miners hiding under a bed in their cabin while a Bigfoot threw rocks at the roof of their cabin (see what I mean?)
Anyway, now seeing how many trees there are and how mountainous and rugged the landscape is, I see how that urban myth has persisted. It really is lonely country up there. Not to say I'm a convert, but it would be nice to actually believe in something :D Loch Ness, here I come.
Anyway, I'll depart with these two funny (at least to me) photos.

Hee, hee, hee. Outside our hotel room in Missoula. Who the heck says "pilfering" let alone writes it on a sign? I don't know, but I'm in love.

Missoula was great, BTW. A very booky college town. Much like Ann Arbor, Michigan where I grew up. We found a wonderful used book mega store, called Hastings that is open until 11 p.m. I bought Nick Hornsby's "A Long Way Down" and a collection of stories by Isable Allende. We had a great lunch (with a surprising amount of veggie options) at the Iron Horse Brew Pub.

Again, with the isolated lonely thing, but Missoula is only 1.5 hours away from Wallace and NOBODY could tell us what to do there, because they had never been there. One 18-year old girl said she had only left Wallace one time. Did I mention this town only has 960 people? Oh, and 11 bars? I guess I know where she's spending her time instead of traveling.

Hee, hee. This sign was outside a Dairy Queen where we had an ice-cream date in Coer d' Alene. Notice the last line. I told Leo he was going to get thrown out. Priceless....

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why oh why did I teach my husband how to work this?

Let me start off by saying I LOVE Netflix--not only does it satisfy my lame desire to always be getting something fun and interesting in the mail, but they also carry all the Britcoms and other independent movies that the regular video chains don't carry.

When I travel, I usually just load up 2 or 3 movies that I know my husband will like and which, previously, I had just been bumping back down to the end of the "queue"(how is this British word gaining in acceptance nowadays--what, we're too posh to say the word "line" now)?
His pics tend to fall into 1 of 2 categories---war movies (any decade, any war) and car movies--he finally wore me down enough last year to see Smoky and the Bandit--yes that's right, Smokey and the Bandit from the 70's. Like Burt Reynolds when apparently he was hot. I wouldn't know. Sigh.

He does through in an occasional movie about Cuba or Miami, just to spice it up apparently.

However, when I went to Brazil earlier this year for 2 weeks, I decided to take pity on him and show him how he can log in and choose movies as well as how to put them in order.


I looked at my "queue" yesterday and now it's sprinkled throughout with movies such as "Cocaine Cowboy" which arrives Monday; Two-Lane Blacktop which features one of the members of the Beach Boys as a "drag racing drifter"; and Empire of the Sun, which is about the Japanese Army invading Shanghai during World War II. Now this movie won tons of Academy Awards and all that, but please--it was made in 1987 and is 2 and a half hours long!

Personally, I think it's all a subtle and rather cunning plot to torture me. All I can say is paybacks are a bitch :D

Although in all fairness, he has sat through some real stinkers that were "Kristin pics"....

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


To the Snuggie! Not to be confused with the Slanket. For those not familiar with the blanket with sleeves/modern-day monk wear, here's a video to bring you up to speed.

I've seen this commercial for awhile, but never thought I would buy such a thing. Well, long story short, I have to lead a class discussion for my Management and Strategy class and part of that involves a Bingo game (yes I love Bingo and no, I'm not 100 years old--I just grew up WAY to close to Canada).

Anyway, after a few drinks the other weekend I thought it would be funny to have the Bingo prize be a Snuggie. Something everyone secretly wants, yet is ashamed to buy.

So I valiantly set off for Target and endured the shame of buying not only a Snuggie, but a leopard print "Wild Side" Snuggie.

I stored it on our dining room table, yet as the days passed my sense of wonder grew. Until one day, in a peak of curiosity I opened the cardboard box and broke the plastic seal to the Snuggie.

Thereby began my downfall. I couldn't resist the soft, velvety touch of the Snuggie, coupled with the ease of arm mobility. They're right. No blanket can compare. Once you go Snuggie, you can't go back.

Disgusted with myself (it is someone else's prize after all) I put away my secret shame. Only to return to it the next night. The horror.

The following night, I resisted (mostly because I had a meeting and went out afterwards) but tonight the old longing returned and I had to don it for a few minutes at least.

I'm not sure how this saga will end, but I do know what my European friends are getting from Christmas this year!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Words that are better in Spanish and words that are better in English

So, I've kind of been thinking about this post for awhile and I'm sure as soon as I post it (meaning tonight at 2 a.m.) I'll think of a ton more but an abridged list will have to do for now.

Here is my very unofficial and highly subjective list of words that are better in Spanish. And then my list of words that are better in English. As well as a list of words that are equally beautiful in both languages.

Better in Spanish

Leche meaning "milk". For some reason, I absolutely can not stand the sound of the word milk. It's those two consonants, the l and the k, somehow meshing that just sends the skin on the back of my neck crawling. Meh. This is the reason I refuse to see the Sean Penn movie, "Milk". I just couldn't bear hearing everyone keep saying that word.

Tiraste un pedo meaning "You farted". Ok, the secret's out. I'm over the age of 8 and yes, bathroom humor still cracks me up. I know it will until the day I die and I'm ok with that. Really.

However, the best part about the phrase tiraste un pedo, is that you're really not just saying you farted. Rather, you're saying, "You threw a fart." How awesome is that.

Todo el Mundo meaning "everyone". When I first leaned this particular turn of phrase, I was reading a dialogue about a 5 year old children's birthday party. And they said, "Todo el mundo came to the party". I remember going to Leo and being like, ok, this book is ridiculous. Obviously the whole world didn't go to this little kid's birthday party. Maybe his aunts and uncles, a few cousins possibly but certainly not the whole freaking world. And said spouse, was like, "Oh, that's just how we say everyone." Talk about an overstatement.

Better In English

Toes which in Spanish is "dedos de los pies" which translates to "fingers of the toes". This just sounds wrong (and quite scary, to be frank) on so many levels.

Peacock which, arguably, isn't the greatest word ever. Until you hear the Spanish. Which is pavo real which translates to royal turkey. Peacock's looking a bit nicer now, no?

Shorts in Spanish translates to pantalones cortos or "short pants". Now I didn't grow up in a British boys-only boarding school, but if I had I imagine I'd wear pantalones cortos and probably get my ass kicked 24/7.

Words that are Equally Beautiful (or Horrid) in Both

Butterfly= Mariposa

Pantano =Swamp (meh...)

Manteca= Lard (I found this one out the hard way halfway through a burrito at one of the more "traditional" burrito shops in town. I say gross in both languages!~

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bum Camps and 1 Million Pounds of Trash

Last Saturday was my work's annual Community Service Day and I was in charge of coordinating and organizing it. I chose the non-profit (the San Diego River Park Foundation) and decided to do a river clean-up.

The good news was that we had a good turn-out (staff, alumni and current students, but no faculty--boo to that) and we helped the River Park Foundation clean up its 1 millionth pound of trash.

The bad part was (and which wasn't advertised on their website) that what we were mostly doing was cleaning out bum camps and picking up trash left by homeless people).

See pictures below:

I knew San Diego had a large homeless population because of the temperate climate, but I had never seen whole tent cities like there are back in the woods by the river.
Some of the things volunteers were pulling out of there were crazy. It was a little scary and we had to make sure we buddied up because you could tell people were "home". There were battery-operated radios playing and one guy came out of his tent with his pitbull and told the volunteers to leave.
While I know we helped clean up a lot of trash that would have eventually found its way into the river, I didn't realize it was a homeless clean sweep. It's also sad to think that there's going to be just as much trash back there in 3 months.
But I guess if you're homeless you have bigger fish to fry than worrying about littering.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dog Training, Capes and Divorce Proceedings

Well our little bundle of joy has come with a few bad habits. Namely, chewing things (for some Freudian reason, only stuff of mine including 2 bras, a pair of flip-flops, a pair of Adidas (salvageable), a pair of headphones, a book my boss lent me and a couch cushion (technically shared property).
Although she does seem to have some sort of vendetta against this particular couch cushion, and not the 2 others exactly like it, having successfully attacked it and pulled the stuffing out twice.
I digress, but I wanted to post some ever so cute pictures of her in her new vest (which Leo insists is really a cape). But it's not.
I bought her 2 Halloween costumes, neither of which fit her properly. First was a banana (too cute) and second was a turtle. She didn't care for either of those, but she loves her cape so I guess we're all happy.
So back to the story. I decided (after she ran off twice and was caught playing in traffic) that we needed to get a dog trainer. After much research, I found one and he came over for the first visit last night.
I now understand why divorce proceedings, especially if there are kids involved, can get so nasty.
It went something like this.
Dog Trainer (DT): So what seems to be the problem?
Me: Well, I think we need to set some boundaries with the dog and get on the same page about training her.
Leo: Well, I think she's the most wonderful, beautiful dog in the world and we don't really need this. Besides, she's so little and cute.
DT: Hmmm, interesting (said while taking notes)
Me: The main thing I'm worried about is that she's run off twice and hasn't come back when we've called and then she's run into traffic. She is so small that cars can't see her and I'm afraid she's going to get hit. The other thing I want to fix is her chewing. She's chewed up about $200 of my stuff already.
Leo: She hasn't chewed up anything of mine, so I don't think that's so much of the problem. But I do think we should work on her running away.
DT: I see.
Me: Well, I do think it's a problem and it needs to be solved. It's not funny. I think a main problem is that Leo babies the dog too much because she's so little.
Leo: DT, let me tell you. The truth is that the dog really likes me better and Kristin doesn't like that. She's a little jealous.
Me: (getting madder). That isn't the issue. Can we please work on this? This is serious.
Anyway, it kept going for a little bit and we spent the better part of the (expensive) first session talking like this.
To Leo's credit, he started to take it more seriously when we started leash work outside. He did really well and was really into it, when all of a sudden our neighbor, K decided to saunter past to see what we were up to.
K and Leo had been joking about the dog training all day and I guess he wanted to see what was going on. Two minutes later, Leo gets a phone call and starts giggling and I know it's K. Nice.
Anyway, now K is on my list.
All in all, I think the training was pretty much a success. A lot of it I knew, but I needed that kick in the pants (and in the wallet) to do it. I did learn a few new things though.
Our homework is to work with her on a leash. Basically, anytime she pulls ahead of you, you have to jerk the leash and then turn in the other direction so she starts paying attention to you and realizes she's not the leader.
We also have to practice making her sit and stay while we keep the door open so she doesn't bolt. If she does bolt, we have to throw this bag of pennies, that Leo calls the magic bag, down on the ground to startle her. Like shock aversion therapy I guess.
Wish us luck! Our next session is this Saturday.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Must Do Things in San Diego

I've decided to merge my love of travel and love of making lists and create a guide of best/most fun/can't miss things to do in each of the cities I've been to. Seeing as how I live in San Diego, I thought I'd start right here and work my way out.

The first thing anyone coming to San Diego has to see is Balboa Park--it's our version of Central Park. All the buildings are done in the Spanish Colonial Revival style and were built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition.

The carving is amazing and so ornate. There are several museums in the park, including the Natural History Museum (has good traveling exhibits), The Museum of Man (beautiful building but so-so anthropological museum), the Timken Museum of Art (free and has an amazing collection of Russian icons and old European Masters, including many of the famous Flemish and Dutch painters--Rembrandt, Hals, Rubens and Brughel the Elder).

There is also a model Railroad Museum, a Photographic Arts Museum, the San Diego Art Museum, the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center and the world famous San Diego zoo.

Also in Balboa Park are many gardens, including a Japanese Tea Garden. As an English major, the most interesting thing to me is the exact replica of Shakespeare's Old Globe Theater. As a lazy English major, I'm ashamed to say I've yet to see a play here.
Residents of San Diego County and active duty military personnel (along with dependents) get free admission on rotating Tuesdays to several of the museums.
I can't think of a better way to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon except to go to Seal Cove in La Jolla. This is a protected cove where a seal colony and their descendants have taken up residence (although some evil people have been lobbying to chase away the seals and turn it into a children's swimming area, as if there aren't enough of those anyway).

La Jolla is very beautiful, although very expensive. You wil have to drive here (it's about 15 miles north of downtown) but so worth it. The downtown area is filled with art galleries, expensive boutiques and fancy restaurants. But it's fun to walk around and see how the other half lives. For me, the seals are the best part. They are so cute and fun to watch (but a little stinky).

After that, you'll want to swing by Pacific Beach, which is a collegey, hard partying neighborhood. It was one of the last beaches in San Diego to ban drinking alcohol on the beach and there was a huge uproar about it.
In fact, one group decided to collect signatures to try to get a measure on the ballot to overturn it and they did get the required number of signatures, but when the county tried to verify them, they found out most of them were fake or were from out of town people (who can't vote in SD).
It turns out the volunteers were going to all the local bars (of which there are many) and asking people there to sign the petition. Which seems like the right target market, but unfortunately drunks who make up fake names and out of towners don't qualify.

This is a view of the Pacific Beach Pier (you can rent these bungalows over the water).

The main drag in Pacific Beach (or PB as the locals call it) is Garnet Avenue. This is lined with bathing suit shops, restaurants, bars, clothing stores and hair/nail salons.

There are so many Brazilians who live in PB that it's sometimes called Brazilian Beach.

There's so much to do in San Diego. More to come!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ok, if anyone knows how I can make this part of the masthead and not just an individual post, please let me know :D

Onward to the Northwestern Frontier!

So it's official! In 3 weeks, we're off to a Navy weekend workshop in Spokane, Wash. The workshop is called the "Returning Warriors" Workshop and it's for people who have recently come back from Iraq or Afhganistan.

Even though Leo returned more than 4 years ago, he's going to be running it for his command, so we have to go check it out. Basically, it's a 2-day workshop where they put you and your spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend or whatever up in a 4-star hotel with NO kids allowed.

The military used to be really strict about only allowing spouses before to this stuff, but they've lightened up in the past few years. They've come along way from the days of, "If the military had wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one."

They've realized that family and relationships are important and that a happy soldier who doesn't have to worry about his loved ones, is a more productive soldier and one who is less likely to get himself and others killed.

Anyway, so this workshop has classes like, "Couples Coming Back Together", "Money Matters" and "Why I Want to Go Back". A lot of people don't realize how hard and difficult it is to adjust when your spouse has been gone for 9 months to a year in a combat zone.

It's tough for both people. The whole relationship dynamic can change. For example, if the man had previously done everything around the house and then leaves, the wife has to learn how to pay the bills, how to fix the garbage disposal, how to juggle kids, a dog, chores, a job, etc.

A lot of times, the woman (especially if she wasn't very independent before) resents it when the man comes back and tries to take over. The man is upset because he doesn't recognize this new woman.

This is just one example but I know personally from our separations, it's very hard to get back in the groove. It's like you have a stranger in the house for the first couple of weeks. I've never met anyone who can just jump back in and pick up right where they left off.

A friend of ours has been in the Philippines for 6 months and she's nervous about seeing her husband again. It's just a weird, shy, awful feeling.

There's also a lot of infidelity that happens during deployments (on both sides). Sad but true.

When soldiers come back from Iraq, I know how hard it is for them to adjust. When Leo came back the second time (he was injured and earned the Purple Heart the first time), it was really hard for him to pass under highway overpasses because in Irag, insurgents used to wait for a convoy to pass under them and then set off a bomb.

I remember one time driving in Philly and he almost made me pull off the highway rather than go under a bridge because there was a truck parked on top of the overpass and he had a flashback to Iraq.

He came back in late June and had a very hard time with the 4th of July fireworks that year.

Also, a lot of guys have survivor's guilt (that's why they have that class on helping them understand their feelings about wanting to go back). They have the class on money management because our military is paid so poorly, that a lot of the junior enlisted guys make such little money, they qualify for food stamps.

But anyway, this is a happy post about our upcoming trip.

I've planned it all out. We'll stay in Spokane Friday through Sunday and then drive down to Coer d'Alene, Idaho (about 1 hour away I think) and then on to Missoula, Montana.

Neither of us has been out to this corner of the country, so it will be totally new for us. Any suggestions on things to do would be greatly appreciated!

We are going to do a day trip to Wallace, Idaho which is called, "The Silver Capital of the World" and for some reason, "The Center of the Universe". I'll let you know if I find out why.

While the building to the left may not look like much, it's one of the places I really want to see. It's the Oasis Bordello Museum and it was the last operating brothel in Idaho, finally shutting its doors in 1988.

It was converted into a museum in 1993 and showcases how the working girls of the period lived.

They also have a gift shop on the ground floor. Not too sure about that one.

I also want to see Garnet Ghost Town outside Missoula, Montana. Growing up in Michigan, ghost towns were things you only saw on "Scooby Doo"

If anyone has ever been out this way or has any suggestions, I would love to hear them!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Crazy California Drivers

So I know that every state I move to, I say the drivers are bad. I moved to Atlanta, I was like WTF?

I moved to Boston, I was like, these people don't know how to drive.

I moved to Philly, I was like these people have no clue.

I moved to Virginia Beach, I was floored by how bad the driving skills were.

However, California drivers really do take the cake.

It's not that they're all that bad at driving, they are just super rude. For example, you know the courtesy wave that people give to you when you graciously let them in front of you? Doesn't exist here.

It's taken as some sort of birthright that you only exist to let them out in front of you.

You know the slow lane? That's supposed to be used for slower cars?

Here, it's the passing lane.

In other states, when you're trying to merge onto the highway, most drivers who are already on the highway (in aforementioned slow lane) merge over into the next lane in order to give the merging drivers room to get onto the highway.

Not here. They just toodle along, not letting you over. Despite the fact that it's very obvious you are trying to get on the highway.

I truly believe people from Detroit are the only good drivers in this nation. Maybe it's because we've all had cars since we were 13 or something. Who knows?

I've also never seen a state where there is so much crap on the highway as well. I'm talking mattresses, ladders, sofas, clothing and tables right in the middle of a lane.

And people just swerve around it like it's no big deal. Last weekend, there was a huge bumper in the middle lane of I-8.

It's because people drive around carrying their entire household goods and worldly possessions in the back of their pick-up trucks here.

It's ridiculous, but kind of comical.

Although the first time I had to swerve across 2 lanes of traffic to avoid a mattress I wasn't laughing so hard.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Raffle Winner!

So, I have to go to these HR meetings for work. Some are fun, some are not so fun. But this last one I was actually looking forward to going to. Basically, you had to fill out a personality assessment (kind of like Myers-Briggs) and it would tell you how you communicate and the best way to communicate with others.

Have you ever felt like you just can't communicate with someone at your job? Or you are at a meeting and people are just talking about the same thing over and over and never seem to come to a decision---and this either drives you nuts or you're cool with it?

This "psychological inventory" is called DISC for the 4 main personality styles it breaks people down into: Dominant; Interactive; Steady; Compliant.

Here are the criterion--I think most people can peg themselves or a coworker pretty quickly without going through this training.

High Dominant Style
Pace Fast/decisive
Priority Goal
Seeks Productivity/control
Strengths Administration/Leadership/Pioneering
Growth Areas Impatient/Insensitive to others/poor listener
Fears Being taken advantage of
Irritations Inefficiency/Indecision
Under Stress My Become Critical/dictatorial
Gains Security by Control/leadership
Personal Worth Measured By Impact/results/track record and progress
Workplace Efficient/busy/structured

High Interactive Style

Pace Fast/spontaneous

Priority People

Seeks Participation/Applause

Strengths Persuading/Motivating/Entertaining

Growth Areas Inattentive to detail/short attention span/low follow-through

Fears Loss of social recognition

Irritations Routines/complexity

Under Stress May Become Sarcastic/superficial

Gains Security Through Playfulness/Other's approval

Measures Personal Worth By Acknowledgements/applause/compliments

Workplace Interacting/Busy/Personal

High Steady Style

Pace Slower/relaxed

Priority Relationship

Seeks Acceptance

Strengths Listening/teamwork/follow-through

Growth Areas Oversensitive/slow to begin action/lacks global perspective

Fears Sudden changes/instability

Irritations Insensitivity/impatience

Under Stress May Become Submissive/indecisive

Gains Security Through Friendship.cooperation

Measures Personal Worth By Compatibility with others/depth of contribution

Workplace Friendly/functional/personal

High Compliant Style

Pace Slower/systematic

Priority Task

Seeks Accuracy/precision

Strengths Planning/systematizing/orchestration

Growth Areas Perfectionists/critical/unresponsive

Fears Personal criticism of their work efforts

Irritations Disorganization/impropriety

Under Stress May Become Withdrawn/headstrong

Gains Security Through Preparation/Thoroughness

Measures Personal Worth By Precision/accuracy/quality of results

Workplace Formal/functional/structured

So that's a very rudimentary graph of the process. You can read more here.

So I scored a very high Dominant style, which in some ways is not so great. For example, I don't want to be impatient or critical but, let's face it, at times I really can be.

It's not a very common style, but my coworker (who is very good at reading people) saw my results and was like that's so you.

During the workshop, out of the whole group of 18, there were only 3 Dominant styles (that may be because it's all women who work in HR, but who knows?). The biggest group was Steady with 9 women.

What's very weird though, is that all 3 of us had sat right next to each other (without knowing it) and we're all left-handed! I think that's a very strange coincidence. Out of a room of 15, we all sit in a row and we all use the same hand to write.

Anyway, at the end of the workshop the facilitator did a raffle and I won!

A free 2-day workshop learning how to administer these DISC assessments. It's a $2,000 prize. I've never won anything that big in my life.

I wish it had been a free vacation, gas cards, stock options, massage therapy.....but having talked to several people in HR, they say it's a huge benefit and a great thing to be able to put on your resume. Not that I want to work in HR, but in this economy, any extra skills or certifications are always welcome.

The hubs still thinks it's a pyramid scheme though. Wait until I administer the test on him. Then we'll see who's laughing....

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009


So why am I writing this instead of doing my paper for my Organizational Development and Change class? Because I'm procrastinating, which is what I've pretty much been doing this whole weekend.

My weekends follow a pretty similar format. Spanish class on Friday and Saturday. Britcoms on Saturday night and then sometimes I take my little sister out on Sunday. I've been volunteering with the Big Brother/Big Sister program since March.

Yes, my life is wildly interesting and no, you can't have it.

I did, however, book my ticket to Brussels in December with a return flight home from Zurich.

More on what I plan to do later, but I do really want to see this in Brussels:

This is the famous Mannekin Pis statue (apparently Dutch for little man urinating). It's the symbol of Brussels and people from all over the world send him outfits to wear.

Apparently, he wears new clothes everyday.

Here he is in his Judo outfit.

Too cute!

Since I'm procrastinating, this is going to be a pretty random blog.

One weekend, my little sister and I went to the Body Worlds exhibit here in San Diego.

It was pretty cool in that these are real dead bodies that all the fat and fluids have been sucked out of. They then inject them with plasticine. It was at the Natural History Museum and I worried a little bit about taking a 12-year old there but then I remembered that she told me her favorite movie is, "Saw" which scared the bejeebies out of me, but I guess I'm just a big baby.

Here's one of the bodies from this exhibition.

It's kind of weird because they pose them in all sorts of strange positions, like yoga and skateboarding so you can see all the muscles and tendons.

I know some of the security managers there and they told me that people have fainted at seeing the bodies, but so far no one has vomited. Nice to know.

What else do I do on the weekends? Last night, we went to the Navy Chief Petty Officer's Khaki Ball. Khakis are what they call the Chief's Uniform.

Making the rank of Chief is a huge deal in the Navy. It's like basically going from blue to white collar and there's a whole huge hazing process that's involved. I thought it was pretty silly when hubs was going through it, but it's a long Navy tradition and who am I to stand in the way of seafaring history?

Basically, it's like the worst frat house hazing but it goes on for longer but as far as I know, they don't make you cross dress. However, once you finish, you're a "genuine" Chief and become part of the worldwide Chief community. And they don't take it easier on the women either. I have to take my hat off to the strong women who go through this process. As my husband often tells me, "You would never make it through Chief season". He says it in a joking way, but I know he's serious. Sigh.

You can choose not to go through the whole hazing thing, but if you do, you're ostracized not only where you're stationed, but one of the "genuine" Chiefs will call your next duty station and tell them, so you're persona non-grata there as well.

What else do I do? Well, last week when I was in LA, I went to see The Queen Mary ship at Long Beach.

It was in service between the US and Great Britain from 1936 until 1967 and is now rumored to be haunted.

It's a hotel and tourist attraction now, along with a defunct Russian submarine parked (moored?) next door.
It's kind of gross to get there though because you have to go through all the ports of Long Beach. Not the most fun.

Anyway, I think I've procrastinated long enough. Back to the paper. I don't know why I can't get get motivated to write this paper but for some reason it's not happening for me.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Erik Estrada sighting!

I just returned from a work conference in Anaheim (right outside Disneyland). Our university has a booth at this conference every year--it's called the American Society for Industrial Security Conference (we offer a Master's in Organizational Security Management).

It was pretty fun, but the highlight was seeing (dunh dunh dunh--although the title was kind of a spoiler) Erik Estrada! Ponch from CHiPs! More recently (and forgettably) in Armed and Famous with Jack Osbourne and LaToya Jackson.
He was there in a booth where a professional golf teacher could analyze your swing and tell you where you need help.
I guess they booked him since it was a security conference and he was a cop and all in the early 80's.

Condoleeza Rice and Ben Stein were also key-note speakers but I was much more excited to have seen Poncherelli.

When I was a kid, I had a CHiPs Big Wheel and it was the bomb. I was like hell on wheels on that thing!

My Book List

So, there's this "How well read are you?" list going around on Facebook. I thought I'd adapt it to the blog and keep a running summer reading list. I plan to mark them in red as I go. Currently I'm working on Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude" or "Cien Anos de Soledad" and a new book I picked up yesterday that seems pretty good so far, "East of the Sun" by Julia Gregson.

I haven't read this list before doing this, so let's see...

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno – Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Hmmm, interesting list. Don't know that I would have included, "The DaVinci Code" and "Bridget Jones's Diary" on a Great Books List (not that I didn't enjoy them, but they're hardly thought-provoking literature).

Also, "Hamlet" is a choice, but an earlier choice had been the complete works of Shakespeare. Apparently, whoever made this list didn't proofread or is blissfully unaware that "Hamlet" is one of the complete works of Shakespeare.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Europe Bound!

So after some slight confusion (completely on my part) on when our Christmas holidays actually start, I'm ready to book my tickets to Europe for December. Yes, I know that's not the best (or the cheapest) time to go, but the university I work for has wisely decided to give it's employees a paid vacation between Christmas and New Year's. Did I mention I love, love, love this benefit?

Last year, I went down to Guadalajara

and Guanajuato, Mexico

Photos you take yourself are so flattering....

Callejon del Beso (Alleyway of the Kiss)= Mexico's answer to Romeo and Juliet

Pepila! Mexican resistance fighter against

the Spanish.

But this year I decided to venture further from home and visit some friends in Europe.
My plan is to fly into Brussels and stay for a few days. Then take a train down to Basel, Switzerland for Christmas--hopefully see a few more cities in Switzerland and then head down to Bologna, Italy for a few days. I'll fly home out of Bologna on January 2. Exhausting but doable.
There's so much I want to see, but first I have to buy some winter clothes. Which, believe it or not, they sell in Southern California. Every "winter" I see these heavy coats in the stores.
I guess it's all relative. My mom retired down to Boquete, Panama which is cold for Panamanian standards. It's up in the north near the Costa Rican border and it's kind of in a valley.
So, it'll be a nice, comfortable temperature down there and people have mittens and scarves on. Too funny!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pics of the New Dog

So, I thought I'd add some actual pics of the new dog. She got a clean bill of health at the vets last Friday and she is good to go. The only weird (and annoying) thing is that she won't go to the bathroom in the backyard--only when I walk her. Which means I have to come walk her 3 times a day--this involves often stopping by on my lunch break to take a walk.

I'm also on a one-woman mission to change her name from Maude to Bijou. I doubt that's going to happen, but maybe it can be her middle name. Or else maybe pirata.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ship Ahoy!

So, I'm officially a pirate in training having completed half my weekend basic sailing course. How exciting! Well, maybe not a pirate but a first mate at least.

From 9 a.m. until 4:30 this afternoon down at Fiddler's Cove Marina, under the tutelage of Captain Steve, I tacked, jibed, trimmed my sails and I think spliced the mainbrace a time or two.

And these weren't baby sailboats with training wheels, ala the SunFish. These were 16.5 foot Capri sailboats, like the one pictured below.

Tomorrow, we're going to learn to tie knots! How exciting. ( and how sad that I'm not saying that sarcastically).

The hubs, Leo, didn't want to go because he had a muscle car show to attend. He doesn't much like being on the water anyway. Our honeymoon cruise was the longest he has ever really been on a ship (did I mention it was a week-long Caribbean cruise). Being a Navy combat medic, he's "boots on the ground"--not much for ships.

Anyway, I got very sunburned but only in really weird areas. Like my kneecaps and my elbows. I guess these were the spots most exposed to the sun.

I did almost become the first casualty of Captain Steve's crew when I nearly fell in trying to disembark, but luckily Capt. Steve grabbed my arm before I met my maker at the bottom of Davy Jones's Locker.

Speaking of which, in honor of pirates I thought I'd share some pirate lingo with everyone. (I got this on the back of a St. George's Brewing Company brochure at the annual Blackbeard Festival in Hampton, Virginia.

  • Ahoy: Used to hail a ship or person

  • Arr!/Argh/Arrgh!/Yarr!/Harr!/Etc: General Pirate Talk--can be used with anything

  • Avast!: Used as a command to stop or desist

  • Aye: Yes, as in Aye, Aye Captain!

  • Belay: Used as an order as in to stop. Belay there!

  • Blimey!: used to express frustration

  • Dead Men Tell No Tales: Leave no survivors

  • Gangway!: Used to clear a passage in a crowd

  • Grog: Rum dilated with water

  • Hang the Jib: To look ill-tempered or annoyed

  • Hempen Halter: The hangman's noose

  • Hornswaggle: To cheat

  • Me: My. A term of familiar address, as in Me hearties.

  • Shiver me Timbers!: An expression of surprise

  • Smartly: Quickly

  • Yo-Ho-Ho: Completely meanginlgess, but fun to say

And yes, these have been hanging on my refrigerator for over 4 years.

Every year, the city of Hampton, Va. hosts the Blackbeard Festival. After years of terrorizing the citizens around the Chesapeake Bay, Blackbeard was killed in 1718 and his severed head was hung as a warning to all pirates at the mouth of the Hampton River. If you're in the area in early June, I highly recommend attending.

If you're a history buff and historical re-enactor, you can be part of Blackbeard's crew like these people:

But, if getting drunk on grog and terrorizing little kids is more your thing, you can be what they call a "polyester pirate" which according to the website, means you don't really have to bother too much with historical accuracy (maybe a quick trip to Spencer's Gifts?) and you just basically run around with an eye patch yelling, "Arrggh!!" at everyone.

Below is the link if anyone's interested! Happy pirating!