Thursday, June 30, 2005

Cheer

Yeah Spain! Yeah Canada! Yeah Spain! Yeah Canada! Yeah!!!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Night Lights

Yesterday was extremely hot and muggy. After work, I joined some co-workers for a game of kickball. I'm definitely getting older, but it was still fun, even with the beginning of another summer storm at the end of the game. Anyway, I'm driving home and I start seeing spots. I blink a few times and they go away, then reappear, then disappear. I'm feeling OK, but wondering if maybe I got dehydrated again. I get home and think of taking a nap, but I forgot an errand and have to run to the store. I start seeing spots again. On the way home, I'm sure I must need to lie down. Then I think, perhaps it's the street lights reflecting on the rain drops on my windows. Yeah, that must be it. I see the flashing lights out of the corners of my eyes. I'm definitely going insane. I arrive home and get out of the car, but now, without the drops on the windows to pacify me, I still see shimmering lights. Now they are across the street. Before going in the front door, I pause for a moment. I squint and try really hard to focus. I blink some more. And then it hits me... fireflies. Believe it or not, I've never seen them before. All evening I had to keep peeking out the window. So amazing, so brilliant, these "lightning bugs."

Monday, June 27, 2005

Just for Fun

http://dontblamemeivoted4kerry.com/

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Biology Lesson


The bird nest outside our bedroom window had shown a flurry of activity for the past 2 months. 2 birds kept flying in and out, monitoring the nest carefully. Last week, we awoke to very loud chirping, and realized that the baby birds had finally arrived! I even got a picture of them asking for some treats. (You may have to enlarge to get a good look). I've watched the babies' progress for a week, and suddenly they were gone. But they keep returning, as they're still flight novices. So I watch them every once in a while. My wife was asking exactly how birds, shall we say, "mate." Despite my zoo experience, I wasn't exactly sure. So today I went to take a peek at the babies flying about their nest and, let's just say, now I know the answer.

Nice Day

Although a steamy 90+ humidity day, it was again very nice out. My wife and I went for a bike ride. 1 chipmunk, 7 deer, 1 rabbit, 2 butterflies, and 1 woodpecker later, and we returned to being locked out of our house. Never seems to be a perfectly nice day without SOMETHING going wrong... but still, looking back, a nice day.

Friday, June 24, 2005

It's the Little Things...

I've mentioned many times how it's the little things that keep friends closer. Lately, I fell a bit disconnected from everyone. I'm missing the little things.

So, here's the deal. If you're reading this, you have hereby committed yourself to responding with one "little thing" that happened to you today. Here's my day so far:

- My wife (who is on her 2nd of 2 days off, after working two 24-hour shifts) didn't actually have today off at all. I woke up to find, as it turns out, she had to go to court. She didn't actually have yesterday off either, as she also had to go to court. She has also lost her voice, because 2 long shifts and no time off make it easy to get a cold.

- I got up late (as usual) and forgot that I had to take the trash to the curb since I didn't do it last night, thereby being even later to work.

- I was late to work again and, as usual, no one cared.

- I took a walk at lunch. I've felt heavier lately and sluggish. But the weather was BEAUTIFUL and I enjoyed the sunshine on my face.

- On my walk, I noticed how green the grass was, how beautiful the flowers are here, how blue the sky was, how clean the air was, how I felt better about things, how my head was getting clearer, and how much better my knee felt.

- Also on my walk, I heard a bird chirp directly above me. I stopped and it was on the branch directly over my head. I didn't want to scare it away, so I quietly walked further down the path. The bird hopped a couple branches closer as I walked. I stopped, the bird stopped. It jumped down closer. I walked forward, the bird walked forward. He was following me. We had a moment. I smiled.

- After the walk, I was warm, and glad my hair is long enough to put in a pony tail.

- I've taken to walking the stairs at work. I work on the 6th floor, but often have to walk to either the 4th or 11th floors. After about a week and a half of this, I think my thighs are finally getting slightly firmer. Once again today I noticed how I was glad my knee was better, so I could climb the stairs.

- I got up from my desk at work in the afternoon, and banged my (bad) knee into the side of it. I made a high-pitched squeal that my co-workers heard all across this section of my workplace. I didn't know weather to laugh or cry. I didn't do either, but I wanted to.

- Going home now... hoping to have a bike ride if my wife is awake and feeling up to it.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Stage Names for Drs.?

Do you think doctors use "stage names" like actors do in Hollywood? The name of the dentist in my office building is Dr. Lipps. Growing up, my family also knew a family, the Doctors. The husband was a physician, so he was Dr. Doctor. I find that amusing.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Can't Get it Right

Remember a few months back, when after weeks of temperatures in the 30's, 50 finally felt HOT? Now, after a week in the upper 90's, the 70's felt COLD. I just can't get my body to acclimate correctly.

In other unrelated news, I found an old journal of mine... probably something I never should have read again. The details are interesting, shocking, and in some ways not surprising at all.... but the one thing I do realize is that there are definitely some things in life where that saying "The more things change, the more they stay the same..." really applies. And no matter where I go or what I do in life, there's always something that can creep back in and point out how I just can't get some things right.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

We Can Rule the World!

My wife and I were having dinner last week, and finally collected our thoughts on various MD phenomenons into one cohesive idea. We've decided that we could rule the world.

OK, maybe not the world... perhaps just the greater DC metropolitan area. Beware: I'm about to insult everyone living within a 300 mile radius.

People here are stupid. Aside from the fact that they can't drive in the lines, can't design traffic lights that are timed, don't know that opossums and possums are the same thing, and can't understand why I'm upset that sourdough is a totally foreign food here, I don't know how they get anything accomplished with the work ethic that exists.

Let's recap some of my jobs. How about the one where I worked all night long (2 days straight) to finish a project we knew had problems so we could deliver it wrong, just to fulfill our contractual obligation to deliver in time... followed by the reward of working on 4th of July weekend to fix the problem? What about the job where I helped make a religious propaganda film to poison the minds of children in Third World countries [www.thegodman.com] by essentially working 80-100 hour weeks and frequenting the sofa of the workplace? How about the job where I worked 2 full months EVERY consecutive day to meet a deadline? Or the job I had to drive to from Clarement to Santa Monica to Burbank on a Saturday to deliver a tape because I was the only one with a key?

OK, maybe I'm the one who's stupid. But that's the work ethic I came from. I now work basically 9-5, sometimes 6. And granted, I'm being paid accordingly. However, if a deadline gets missed, the only repurcussion is "Let's try harder next time." If it gets "late," it's time to go home and it will just have to wait for tomorrow. I've heard co-workers complain many times of how crazy busy they were after witnessing them talk all day long about personal matters, and how late they stayed, after hearing them talk about leaving at (oh my gosh, brace me!) 7 or 7:30pm.

And it doesn't seem like my co-workers are alone in this concept. Another friend told me it is the same where she works. And my wife... don't get me started on the stupidity of the police department here. Someone asked her how come she walks all the way around the back of the police car to approach a stopped vehicle rather that cross in front of it. She explained that she remains out of the headlights, so she is not backlit for the suspect to see her very well, and also so if the police car is hit from behind she won't be sandwiched in between. Her "training" cop says it isn't a problem to cross in front because he parks far enough away so if the car does get hit he'll have enough time to jump out of the way. No kidding.

Now, I realize this is where most of our country's leaders live and work. And perhaps all the brainpower goes into the political spectrum here, so none is left for the civilian population. But I doubt it. It's just a totally different work ethic. It's not to say there aren't any smart people here. Obviously, there are people who were smart enough to get to the top and tell us lemmings what to do each day. But gosh darn it. My wife feels she could easily be Chief here, and I don't disagree. And I for one am TOTALLY underutilized at work. Heck, everyone is.

I'm not the cutthroat type who wants to rip everyone else off so I can get ahead in life financially or otherwise. And that's what it seems the partners at my company were talking about the other night after softball. And there is definitely something to be said for finally having a life outside of work. So, maybe I'm just not cut out to exist in the top tier. But if I could just get one great idea that I was also passionate about... If my wife and I could set up a company and employ the people we knew back in L.A.... Wow, we'd be unstoppable if this was our competition. If this was the alternative, we could rule the world!

Inspired

I've been accumulating my writing ideas for about a week, but the heat and humidity had me feeling quite slug-like for a while. Today, finally, a break in the humidity and a 15+ degree drop in temperature made it a BEAUTIFUL day. I got home from work, had a nice short bike ride, and finally felt refreshed and inspired enough to catch up a little bit.

Last weekend was Pride, and I have to admit it was nice to have a cultural reconnection of some sort. However, there are a few major differences between LA Pride and Capital Pride. First, apparently, is that the beautiful people really do live in Los Angeles, even if I denied it for all the years I lived there. There was a noticeable absence of any attractive women (or even men for that matter). Second, Capital Pride is SIGNIFICANTLY smaller. The festival was only 1 day instead of 2, and people started tearing their booths down almost 2 hours early. Now, in all fairness, it could have been the 90+ heat and humidity, but still... They didn't even fully block off the parade route, which took place in the evening by the way. In fact, we were standing in the middle of the street, practically surrounding the people IN the parade as cars would come in the opposite direction right behind us. Bizarre! Also, there were no dance tents. And the 1 "major" stage only attracted small crowds. The only place there were a LOT of people was in the caged off area AWAY from the booths, where you could purchase alcohol... and that's it... JUST to purchase alcohol. Not even to dance!! Funny, I don't always miss LA Pride when I'm in LA, but I sure missed it last weekend. However, I still had a blast, got my groove on, hit the streets, strutted my stuff, and enjoyed myself.

After the parade, my friends and I went out to eat at a French restaurant and they convinced me to eat escargot for the first time. I even have a picture of me trying it... and if I ever get this moved over to LiveJournal, I'll try to post it. I am NOT an adventurous eater, but I was in an adventurous mood for Pride, so I went for it... and it was GOOD! I like it a lot. :)

On Tuesday, I played softball in a game for work. For someone who never played, except for one work team stint more than 7 years ago, I did pretty good "for a girl." The participants said it was usually a one-sided game, but the teams wound up tying and going into extra innings. We were up by 1 in the bottom of the last inning. The other team was batting. They had 2 outs. There was a runner on 3rd. I was the catcher... but alas, I was a girl. The batter hit it toward the pitcher. The pitcher got the ball, I ran to home plate and held up my glove. The runner was coming, and the pitcher looks around and actually says "Where is everybody?"... he was waiting for the guys to come up and cover the base. So he stands there looking back and forth in awe. The runner scores, tying up the game. The batter makes it safely to 1st, and that is how we ultimately lost by 1. Now, I might be a girl, and I might have dropped it, but WHAT THE HECK DID YOU HAVE TO LOSE, YOU MORON???!??!?! Worst case, I would have dropped the ball, the runner would have scored, and the batter would have made it to first... hmm... sound familiar? Possible outcome? I catch the ball, tag the runner out at home, and make the winning out of the game! ARGH!!!

This is just another example of how come I think I should take over the world. And I'd do it, too, if it weren't for all that responsibility and stuff...

Friday, June 10, 2005

Emergency Card

Yesterday at work, someone brought me a sheet to fill out "in case of emergency." It included the usual phone, address, and email info. Then it asked "4 wheel drive, yes or no?" I asked what they needed that for. They said, "In case of a blizzard." So I asked, "What if I have a 4 wheel drive but I don't know how to drive in snow?" Slight pause. The response from 2 people simultaneously: "Um, put down 'no'."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Anticipated Protest of the Week

I haven't seen any official protests yet, but I'm expecting Gay Pride (or Capital Pride, as they call it here) to generate this week's Protest of the Week. Wherever gay people assemble in pride, unity, and love, there are bound to be people who see an abomination.

Pride is this weekend, and I'm looking forward to it. I feel I've been isolated from the culture for quite some time. I think the last time I was immersed in it was an entire year ago at last year's L.A. Pride. Go back to my postings from June 2004 (I think it was called "Busy Weekend") and you can read about it.

Where Humidity Comes From

So, this week I've experienced humidity. I've been in it before, but now I'm living it. For all the talk, they're right. I'm used to "dry heat" and after only a week of this, believe me when I say I prefer dry heat. The past week it's been in the 80's and 90's with very high humidity. I can stand the feel on my skin... it's moist and not burning like dry heat, which is nice, but my biggest problem is I seem to have trouble breathing. The air is literally thick and I can't seem to get full breaths in it. It's driving me bonkers!

But that isn't the worst part. Oh, no. You see, humidity, as most smart folks will tell you, exists because there is a lot of moisture in the air. What nobody prepared me for were the "summer storms" that my co-workers tell me can be an almost daily occurrence in Maryland. They have now told me that even when the forecasters don't mention a chance of thunderstorms, history has shown them that there is ALWAYS a chance of thunderstorms.

On Monday, after work, I ran a few errands. The day had been bright and muggy and in the 90's. But when I exited the supermarket after my last errand, the wind was suddenly whipping strongly, and the sky was turning black, and fast! I could see it rolling in. When I got home, the wind was howling and the trees were blowing sideways, so I closed all the windows, which were still open because it still was HOT, especially upstairs. By the time I got to the last window, I only had a few seconds before the big claps of thunder and the rain began hitting the windows straight on. It poured with such force that it was blinding outside and heavier than a shower in the morning (to get clean, not like an early rainshower). I went downstairs to watch TV and finally relax. More thunder, some lightning, and then the power flashed on and off, 3 times. After the third time, it remained off. The sun was setting and within a half hour I was sitting in the dark... for the next 2 hours. The thunder was so loud I jumped out of my chair a few times. The lightning was so intense that it sometimes hit at the same moment as the thunder, lighting up the sky in literal shades of orange, red, and even blue! It was non-stop for over an hour at least. I could even see the lightning rods several times. On one hand, it made me think of how Ben Franklin discovered electricity. On the other hand, it was terrifying for an inexperienced storm-watcher like myself. And it was LOUD! I was actually conscious of how loud everything seemed for that period of time, almost like an earthquake, if I could hear an earthquake over my screams. For all of my L.A.-native friends like myself, I'm sure you know I am NOT exaggerating when I say that if a storm like this had come to L.A., it would have been the top story for 2 days.

But not in Maryland. No. No mention, no discussion, no nothing. So I brought it up at work the day after. I said, "So, I'm guessing the storm last night was considered relatively mild, huh?" They looked at me as if to say "What storm?" and then did a very small scoff answering, "Storm? Oh, the rain yesterday? That was nothing." Oh, yeah. It's going to be a long summer.

P.S. And a long winter... apparently, they say there are only 4-8 really nice weeks of weather total all year in MD. Oh, joy.

A Little Bit of Everything

So, nothing too extraordinary going on, just a little summary of what's new:

- My friend that I met in California, but who is originally from Maryland, decided to move home. She arrived last week, and I'm excited to have another friend in the area.

- 2 of my friends have moved away. They decided that they'd had enough of Bush, and have picked up and moved to Canada. Net value = -1 friend.

- I have not had a haircut since I've moved. My hair is ridiculously long and bothersome, and yet if I blow it dry just right, it looks pretty good. I've been paying more attention to my attitude and my hair (and my clothes a little, but barely) and I've noticed guys being more friendly for the first time in my life. Not that I'm looking for that kind of attention, but it sure feels nice. Maybe I'll grow it down to my toes.

- I've always felt this way, but every day I'm reminded more and more that life is in the details. It's the little things that make me feel closer to friends. So if you ever want to write to me and tell me you have a hang nail and that you cut your finger or got a little sunburned, please drop me a line. The big stuff happens to everyone eventually. It's the little things that set us apart.

- This past weekend I saw 2 movies: "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," which was a well-intentioned heart-felt girlie movie with really poor editing but a good heart and probably most appropriate for teens, and "Crash," which was quite the opposite as a depressing, realistic, dark portrayal of racism and prejudice in Los Angeles. I really like "Crash" for its realism and for making me pensive... god knows I like to be pensive. I'm not sure, however, if it made me miss L.A. or be glad I am gone.

- My wife and I went strawberry picking on Sunday morning. It was only 20 minutes from our house. It was so hot, we only lasted a short while, but then again, how many strawberries does one need? It was just nice to something outdoorsy and the scenery was BEAUTIFUL! I really wish I had my camera with me. I couldn't describe the beauty of the farms if I tried. I could never do it justice... but if you want to see it, please visit. We'd love guests.

- I've finally experienced humidity. See my upcoming post.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Protest of the Week - June 3

OK, so I haven't been posting the Protests of the Week weekly, but the protests still happen weekly, so I'm keeping the title. This one, I was actually e-mailed about:

"As President Bush continues to push his scheme to privatize Social Security and slash benefits for middle-class families, hundreds of concerned citizens from across the country and the region will take to the streets of Washington D.C. tomorrow, Friday, June 3, 2005, at 2:30 pm and march to the White House to tell President Bush "Hands Off My Social Security."

George Bush's privatization plan would make massive cuts in Social Security benefits for future retirees and add trillions of dollars to the national debt.

By replacing our Social Security system with new private accounts, Social Security benefits will inevitably be cut—up to 46 percent for future retirees.

In addition to privatization, Bush has proposed even more benefit cuts that will slash benefits for every middle-class family that makes over $20,000. Benefit cuts are the problem, not the solution.

George Bush has admitted that privatization does not solve Social Security's solvency issues, so privatization is a sham meant to replace a guaranteed benefit with a guaranteed gamble."

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Sad Truth About L.A.

The following article, copied from the Los Angeles Daily News, expresses the sentiments I have known and felt about L.A. for a long time. No matter what happens out here where I've moved, I don't think I can ever afford to come back.

Daily News link

California, off they go; can't afford a home, you know

By Mariel GarzaColumnist

Wednesday, June 01, 2005 - Today I say goodbye to Jean Dobbs, a good friend who's finally given up on housing in California. Tonight, she is planning to board a red-eye at Los Angeles International Airport and say so long to the overvalued West Coast, bound for her roots -- and her first taste of home ownership -- in North Carolina. Jean watched in dismay as the median housing price soared out of her reach in Los Angeles County and across the state. For a couple years, Jean kept thinking: "It can't keep going up." It did.

As of April, the median home price in California reached a half million dollars. The price in Los Angeles County is only slightly lower, at $485,000. The national average is $203,000.
Half a million is tough to swing for anyone, even young professionals like my friend who don't have family money or a high six-figures salary. Few people under 40 -- even white-collar professionals -- can easily come up with $100,000 as a down payment, then shell out $3,600 a month for mortgage and property tax.

Of all people, my friend Jean should have been able to afford a house. She is executive director of New Mobility, a national lifestyle magazine for people with disabilities, and its spinoff books and magazines. It's a job she does from a home office, and she could live almost anywhere.
When the reality sank in that Jean couldn't afford much more than a shack next to a cattle farm in the Central Valley or a double-wide trailer in the distant High Desert of California, she widened the scope of her search. By about 3,000 miles.

I am sad to see Jean go. But -- I'm chagrined to say -- the same forces that priced her out of this market are making me rich. Well, maybe not really rich like billionaires Eli Broad and Bill Gates. But rich compared with the former me: a poor kid who grew up a no-savings, credit-card, in-debt renter. Now I am still cash poor, but land rich. Jean was still thinking about home ownership in the abstract three years ago when my family decided that it was time for me to buy and loaned me the down payment. I was literally just in time. A few months after I bought my modest two-bedroom house a few blocks from Dodger Stadium, I could no longer afford my neighborhood.

After eight months, my house had gained $83,000 in value. Two years later, $125,000. By now, I have so much home equity that I could probably sell my house and use the proceeds to modestly live out the rest of my life loafing around the beaches of some third-world country.
Simply by my good timing, I am a "have" in California, while my friend on the same rung of the socioeconomic ladder is a "have not." Jean's not my only friend in this situation. I could pen a long list of friends and colleagues -- young and creative professionals all -- who despair of ever having the means to afford that particular slice of American pie as long as they remain in California.

Jean's new house in Wilmington, N.C., is a sweet, yellow building more than 150 years old. It's an officially designated historic home with a plaque of its history mounted next to the front door. The two-story house has stained-glass windows and gables and polished wood floors. The quiet street just off her front stoop is made of cobblestone, and it leads to the Cape Fear River two blocks away. The warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean are 10 miles away. For all this, Jean paid less than $300,000 -- in fact, within $3,000 of what I paid for my tiny stucco house in a now-hip former barrio.

Prices like this may be one of the reasons why North Carolina's population has become one of the fastest-growing in the country, much of it because of people moving in from other states. Jean picked Wilmington because she decided it was revitalizing -- thanks to affordable prices, a charming downtown and the relocation of some white-collar employers. The mild weather and lush landscapes probably didn't hurt either.

On those hot smoggy days in Los Angeles, when I'm fighting traffic to get to the crowded grocery store and trying to avoid road-raging drivers who might be packing, it's tempting to follow Jean's example and get out. But it's a heavy decision. I know that if I leave, it will be a very long time -- if ever -- before I can afford to come back.

Mariel Garza mariel.garza@dailynews.com