Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Pledge Allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the Pearl of the United Network of Blackberry
And to the emailing for which it stands, 
One QWERTY keypad,
Under silicone cases,
Indestructible,
With PIN messages and Google maps for all.

I got a new one today.  To replace the original version whose trackball doesn't want to scroll down anymore.  It's been a good 19 months.

There is no other phone for me.

I heart the Pearl.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Keep the Tradition Alive

We all know  - the economy basically sucks right now.  Thankfully I still have a job, I don't have a mortgage to pay, I can pay my bills on time, etc.  I'm in a decent spot (and I hope it stays that way).

Except that I had planned on cancelling the annual New Years trip that Tim and I started back in 2005. 

I've tried to stop using credit altogether, stop buying clothes, stop buying expensive decorations for my apartment, and instead making a bigger dent in the student loans, car loans, credit cards that I've already used too much.  No extras, just the basics.

Tim and I have been holding out for a few months, looking for deals.  He was a travel agent once upon a time, I'm the queen of finding deals, and it's always worked out well for us.  We've both traveled pretty extensively, so finding a locale that we both haven't already seen and is affordable (he's in grad school in NYC.  Ouch on the budget) is rather difficult now.  We usually search Europe since it's cheap to get there in the winter.   This year we've talked Mexico City, Costa Rica, Iceland, and had even realized that we may end up in Vegas of all places (which we'd both hate hate hate).  Heaven forbid we stay in the borders of the United States.  We have almost full passports to max out, thankyouverymuch.

We usually end up with a trip planned as early as July, as late as September.  Except here we are, end of October, nothing going for us.  Flights are too expensive or the cheap flights only go to expensive cities.

But I'm extremely pleased and excited to say that we stumbled upon the most RIDICULOUS deal of all time over the past weekend.  And I do mean RIDICULOUS.  

Let's have a quick look back at the years, first, however.

Ringing in 2005 on the banks of the Seine, with the French and their wine.  We found tickets on sale on British Airways in July for $89 each way.  We jumped.  And we went to London and Paris, the two major cities in Europe I hadn't seen by that point.
2006 - Tim went back to London, I stayed in DC for some strange reason.

2007 - Easy Cruise - a tad pricey to fly to St Maarten, but 20 bucks a night for lodging and transport to 6 islands in the Caribbean on a sweet little boat - awesome.  We saw St Maarten, St Barts, St Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla and Antigua.  Great, great deal.  Sadly I don't think Easy Cruise is operating in the Carib now; only in Europe.  I marveled at the water of Anguilla on New Years Day, thinking about my freezing friends back in DC.
2008 - Que vive Espana!!  A return to my homeland.  Cheap tix to Barcelona from NYC.  I was able to return to one of my favorite cities on the planet and also venture south to Valencia.  


And 2009?

Bring on Central America!!  Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras!!
American Airlines had tickets from New York to Belize City for SIXTY dollars roundtrip (plus like 50 bucks for taxes, but not bad at all).  SIXTY DOLLARS.  That's just like not eating out for two weeks.  No sweat.  Granted we booked the tickets that were $105 cause the flight times were a little better, but still.  Cheap!

Tim and I are both more than game to take local transport and sleep in hammocks.  I've already researched - bus from Belize City to Tikal - 15 bucks.  Hostel in Flores, outside Tikal, as cheap as 3 bucks a night.  The delux rooms go for 10 bucks a night.  Sweeeeeeet!  This may be the cheapest trip ever.  I'm so so excited.

Now just pray for no parasites or kidnappers and we're good.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Musical Monday

This week may be an odd choice, but I feel that I should pay tribute to one of the first things I fell in love with upon moving to Arizona (and maybe the only thing I've fallen in love with here), and that thing is Energy 92.7, playing today's best dance hits.

Incredibly sad, this is the station's last week on the radio.  They will cease broadcasting this Friday at 5pm.  And no longer will I listen to any radio.

I have a not-so-secret desire to be a DJ and this station has given me some of the latest tracks (granted we're still 9 months behind European releases), but they've kept my workout playlist full.  It's been a tiny slice of musical heaven for me.

So in honor of Energy, here's the latest track from their playlist that I had a crush on, from JES.
If you're into this genre at all, you'll know her voice.  And if you know Tiesto, you should definitely know her voice.  Granted, I had never SEEN her until I pulled up this video.  Not really at all what I expected.  And I'm always curious how dance track vocalists pull off live shows, but there's footage in here that proves it's possible.  Check out her rad hair at the end.

Now This is What I'm Talking About

Lots of people have these things on their blogs; I've been playing around with Wordle over the past few weeks and decided to make and post one.  Perhaps I'll do it from time to time.  It's visually appealing and just cool.  Go play.



Weekend Update

Time for fall, finally. It's still close to 90 degrees during the day, but when it's dark outside and you can't see the palm trees, the temp falls a little, and surrounding yourself with pumpkins helps you pretend it's fall.  A few of us made the trek (and I mean trek) out to Schnepf Farms over the weekend to participate in all sorts of fun.

We had some cornbread and chili, rode an old carousel (I felt really bad for the kid operating the ride.  He's the perfect angsty teenager type, and probably spends 30 minutes a day blow drying his locks into this forward facing style.  He's wearing the dorky Farm Staff t-shirt and once everyone is loaded on the ride, he pushes a button on an ancient boom box that's off to the side to play some creaky carousel music, over and over and over.  I hope he has an iPod).  We meandered through the pumpkin patches, watched the rickety roller coaster and sort of got lost in a corn maze that's supposed to look like Muhammad Ali from the air.   I don't think the maze was big enough to have been Ali but....
It was dark, but not really scary and we couldn't really have gotten lost.  Isn't that the point?  Good times though, worth a visit at least once.  I spent the rest of the weekend trying to maintain the motivation for productivity that I felt this week.  That included cleaning the kitchen, finally hanging art and photos on my walls, cleaning out my entire closet, donating clothes, recycling magazines, and even taking a lint roller to the shower curtain.  That last one might have been taking it too far.....

Friday, October 24, 2008

Summing Up September - Part III - Birthday Style

So in a previous post, I reminisced about past birthdays.  And the brilliant idea Ms. Liz had for the 2008 event.

Phoenix, not my favorite place, I've still got some growing to do before I can fully appreciate it.

Palm Springs it was! 

Initially this started as a girls' weekend.  Liz and me, I'd kidnap Janelle from Phoenix and we'd make the drive.  Liz had just had a birthday too; we'd double up the celebration.  But as the news trickled out, it became a favorite group thing with some of my most favorite people on the planet, minus a few who are scattered around the country. 
What better way to spend the weekend (in my opinon, at least, and it was my birthday) than lounging by the pool with fruity drinks, catching up on reading, with such good friends? Including favorite people who are so thoughtful and wonderful that they got me the only thing I could possibly want right now, a guitar!  And all the accessories that go with it!  Granted, the learning is going slow.  I'm teaching myself.  But I figure if my brothers could do it, surely I can.  Any tips - send 'em my way.

We stayed at the Miramonte for the weekend and had a glorious time.  We hauled RockBand over from Phoenix and played daily (I even got to the Expert level on a few tracks.  Impressive, I know).  I think this may have to be an annual tradition.  Even if not on my birthday, no reason required to have a sunny poolside weekend at a Palm Springs resort.  Liz wrote a nice summary, far more detailed than this short post, complete with video evidence.





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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ah, the Fate Stare. I mean, the State Fair.

I'm not sure why I got so many bewildered looks of disgust when I told friends and coworkers that I was headed to the State Fair last Saturday.

My question back - Why wouldn't you want to go?

Besides being the BEST people watching experience of all time, you can see crafts and animals and carnies and fried food and screaming children and cheap junk for sale, all in one place.

There are cowboys and girls wearing super short dresses and hoop earrings who belong in Scottsdale clubs (who dresses up like that to go to a FAIR?), Mexicans and women in daisy dukes with Uggs, women with shirts that look like Edward Scissorhands got ahold of the back (we tried to follow her and take a picture, but she was too darn fast) and lots of other fun What Not to Wears.


But the best part for me is filling up on my once a year Funnel Cake and Indian Fry Bread.  Mmmm.....
I tried to break up the food, not cram it all down in one sitting, since I knew I had to try it all.  But by the end of the night, I was home popping Pepto like candy, wishing I hadn't eaten so much.  My stomach felt like a rock, even when I awoke the next morning.   Suddenly I'm craving fresh fruit and veggies.




Monday, October 20, 2008

Musical Monday

Last week I got to hit not one, not two, but THREE shows.  Hallelujah!  Back to normal pre-Phoenix behavior.  Thank you bands, for actually stopping here and not just skipping Phoenix for LA or Vegas, or even Tucson.

Last Monday - We Are Scientists (one of those bands that their home country doesn't fully appreciate; they're much more loved in the UK).

Last Tuesday - The Hotel Cafe Tour (chick style)
I had been dying to see Meiko, who was great, but everyone else was equally impressive.  Laura Jansen especially (I always love the ones with the piano more than the ones with guitar).



Last Saturday - Weezer at the AZ State Fair

I sang "Say it Ain't SooooooAwhoaaawhoaaaa..." with all these people:

Rivers Cuomo is a strange little man, but so so entertaining.  I had to think back to the previous Weezer shows I've attended; one at Coachella and one in Spain where I almost died on the floor of the Plaza de Toros en Madrid because everyone rushed the arena to see Dover when Weezer had finished and there was only one exit and it was tiny and I was pushing to get out while thousands (okay, maybe hundreds) were pushing to get in and at one point my feet were off the floor and my shoulders pinned to the people around me and I almost hit the metal barriers on the side.

And then, possibly the most crowd participation I have seen, and the most entertaining -the Hootenanny revival.  He brought out 35 people with their own instruments to play along, ranging from trumpets to cellos, flutes, and even a didgeridoo.  The crowd chanted Hip Hip! when appropriate and all was well.


Friday, October 17, 2008

A Walk Down Birthday Lane

Ah, the Birthday recap edition, looking on past Septembers

People tend to ask, what do you want for your birthday? Or what did you get?

I guess I’m not so much into “things.” I’d much rather have experiences. Memorable ones. With bright sunny days surrounded by friends with music and laughter and stories of past excursions and creating moments worthy of future tales.

My birthday celebrations in recent years (for my own sake, I'm starting to forget these things):

2007 – I really don’t remember. Guess it shouldn't be on this memorable experiences list. I had just moved to Phoenix. I’d been at my job barely a month, a couple coworkers took me out for lunch to Delux. The grandparents with whom I lived were in the California condo for two weeks. I was home alone. I think I visited the other grandparents down south for a birthday dinner or something. May have been a rather sad experience, comparatively speaking.

2006 – Bowling at Lucky Strike! And a barbeque on our stoop afterwards, in our tiny little area of green space on our tiny little grill on the steps of our townhouse. Man, I miss that place.














2005 – The big 2.5 decade celebration with a huge party and glossy black and white invites and black attire requested and my roommate passing out 25 candles to 25 guys who had to present me with said candle after giving me a smooch. Hilarious. Thank you, Niki.










2004 - A year I'd rather forget, the year of the "Bar Mitzvah." Thanks to a few good friends, I still managed to make the weekend mostly decent and we're all about to laugh (sort of) about the whole thing now.Pre-digital camera days
2003 - Really, no idea.  I had just moved in with Niki and Yuhi to our Van Ness apartment.  No recollection.  
2002 - I have a really cute picture of me, Erin, Crystal, and Shannon in our apartment from that day.  I think we went out to dinner?  I wore a red skirt.
2001 - A few days after 9/11.  Rather muted. I do think JWP took me out for a really nice dinner and got me an awesome spa package, which I used during Thanksgiving break when Tanner came to visit me at the S St house.  Yeah....
2000 - The Henle apartment.  I think I went home around that time for a long weekend.  And when I came back the roommates + Abe had ice cream and cake waiting for me late one Sunday night.
1999 - First college birthday.  The ladies of Harbin 3 had been friends all of 2.5 weeks.  My lovely roommate ACS decorated the hallway, got a cake, balloons, and we had a little fiesta.

This year as I was pondering what to do, this wonderful lady suggested she could come into town for the weekend. My immediate response was a forceful NO! I (and I hate to say hate) strongly dislike this place and don’t want to spend the weekend here.

Her immediate alternative (and one of the reasons why she’s brilliant), let’s go to Palm Springs. Perfect, perfect, perfect!

Weekend recap, coming up.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Oh, and I'm a Horse Jumper Too

USEF * USHJA PROOF OF MEMBERSHIP2008
LAUREN WILLIAMS
line
USEF: 5005952 Senior Amateur 1/4/2008 - 11/30/2008
USHJA: Senior Active 1/4/2008 - 11/30/2008
line
May compete in Hunter/Jumper
 
You must present this card or a copy thereof to prove your eligibility to participate as a rider, driver, handler, owner, lessee, agent, trainer, coach, vaulter or longeur at USEF licensed competitions. 

ATTENTION COMPETITION: Please accept this in accordance with GR 1504.2.1(d) as proof of 2008 USEF and USHJA membership

Sorry, You've Got the Wrong Person....AGAIN

One of the best things about having a common name AND snagging that as my email address on Google means I get a lot of email for other people with my name.

Like LOTS of it.

I mean, enough that it has to be directed to at least 25 different people with my name. This is a constant source of entertainment, and I occasionally like to share on this blog. I’ve previously posted about it here.  I almost think I should try and get national recognition and track down all the intended email recipients and bring us together on Oprah or something.  That could be my 15 minutes of fame.  Just a thought.....

Upon receiving such email in error, I usually respond to the originator politely, like ‘Hey! You’ve reached the wrong person, wanted to let you know!” Most of the time I get nothing in response, sometimes I get an “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry” and on a rare occasion I’ll start a dialogue with strangers on the internet. Right up my alley.

Twice I’d have to make phone calls explaining this (mostly due to library cards and renewal notices).
 
Some recent emails of amusement:
  • She looks beeeautiful! Apparently I helped a youth pastor at Cornerstone Community church redecorate the youth room.

  • Bonnie wants to know if I’m becoming a real estate agent

  • Whitney sent me 5 pictures of her and her boo from her Picasa account, complete with the backwards cap and dreadlocks

  • I’m staying at the Four Seasons, Las Vegas soon! And I ordered a balloon bouquet with a message “Happy Birthday Stud!” and a Pink Pig Staff Animal attached.

  • Austin sent me some photos that he took on his first day of work as a newspaper staffer (see below)

  • Desiree is a little pissed at me: “I need to submit my other payroll numbers now. I waited to hear from you all day and have been hung up on, or disconnected, and have not got a return call from you so the best I can do now is assume on what you would like. I have also emailed you 3 times.”

  • I went to the Ravenscroft school.

  • I also went to the University of Georgia

  • The Kalamazoo MI public library has my email on file for one of their patrons. I get renewal notices. I had a lovely phone conversation with a woman at the circulation desk when I called.  She perfectly understood the situation and was able to get my email address out of their database.  Now, when the same thing happened with a DC public library, no disrespect to my former home, but I KNEW I'd have a problem.  Sho' 'nuff, when I called, the employee was confused beyond measure and had no idea what on earth she could do to help me cause she can't do nothin' cause I'm not the account holder.  

  • I signed up for Emerson Ecologics??

  • A dude named Buell Fogg from Union College is going to help me with the FAFSA.
  • Will thinks I’m an agent – see headshot below. We exchanged a few pleasantries. I told him I sent his headshot and resume to friends. I hope he thought that was funny.
  • Charles in DC emailed me the weekend plans for the wine tasting tour. Turns out he lives a couple blocks from my old place – we chatted briefly and he issued a real invitation for the weekend!

  • I’m also booked at a resort in Anguilla. Lovely place, lovely place.

  • Hello Daughter, The reason I need you to come back, well, let's just say that we (your mother) screwed up. Instead of just putting or keeping you myself and travis on the lease, she also signed tutor and the baby. (that you should have known) But she was still on kisha's lease as well. The management people informed kisha that as of 1/31/08 her rent was now 1,500. a month. You know kisha had a cow, (as she was supposed too). Long story short, a new lease has to be drafted and signed again. Dad

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Summing Up September Part II

Let the California adventures begin, trip one of three in a month’s time.

It only took a year to get together. After a few years of great geographic separation, Erin and I both moved to the southwest around the same time – me to Phoenix, her to San Diego. A year later, I still hadn’t visited. It was high time to visit Erin and the Toddster and the munchkin, baby JAG.

Erin and I date back to Georgetown, first bonding in Harbin and Profesora Wear’s class and slight disdain for our ward and later moving in as roomies with Crystal and sharing a love for Spain and Christopher Guest films.

It was my first real road trip since the Volvo disaster on the way to the Grand Canyon in February. I’d driven all over the East Coast, with friends, alone, and fully explored. But the West seems a whole new ballgame. Especially stopping at two border patrol checkpoints on Interstate 8 amidst the barren wilderness. That’s a new one for me. The six hour drive went by quickly. And I rather enjoyed being alone in the car; after years of not driving, I figure karma will even it out or something like that. With a fully stocked iPod, anything is more than bearable (almost).

As I get older, it takes less and less to entertain me. I’m simply content to converse, catch up, read a book, relax (really, did I just say that? Hmmm). And it was a good weekend for that. I pulled in Friday night, right as JAG was going to sleep. Erin and I caught up over dinner and errands and soon I fell asleep in JAG’s room, on the spare bed.

Erin warned me he’d cry in the morning upon the discovery of a stranger in his room. He did. But I was determined to make him like me before the weekend was over.

Me and babies – not so much a natural interaction. Over the last couple years as I’ve shopped for baby shower gifts, I can’t even bring myself to go near the baby clothing section (I almost had a heart attack writing that word – baby – just now). I usually steer clear of the baby sections of stores and end up purchasing something to pamper the mother-to-be. When I met another friend’s new baby earlier this year, the first thing I could stammer out was, “Congratulations. You reproduced.”

Sounds heartless and awful and my mom says that’ll change when/if I get married but we’ll see……I’m really not cold-hearted towards children, I just don’t know what to DO with them. I grew up watching my little brothers and of course I love them, but the rest of human beings under the height of 3 feet….not really sure what do with them most of the time.

Back to the trip.

We started off Saturday at Seaport Village, a touristy little shopping place that I’d always visited as a kid. Even the old kite shop was still there. The harbor is beautiful, the weather perfect, the artwalk full of things to see. We had great kebabs for lunch, made the trek to the beach, and had a great day despite the clouds.

Sunday morning – no more tears from baby JAG. He woke up, I woke up, and I managed to spend a little over an hour with a 15-month old. This is a big deal. I consider it a small feat. We read books and talked about animals and played. And perhaps we made friends.

Then I gave him back.

We headed to church, had some lunch and then it was time for me to trek back to the Valley of the Sun.

It won’t be a year before I return. Life’s too short to let a 6-hour drive separate me from great friends and possibly the best weather on the planet. But Erin, be assured that I’d still come visit, even if you don’t stay in the perfect weather city.





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Monday, October 13, 2008

Summing Up September Part I


September, the month of my birth.

Autumnal Equinox
The start of school
Talk Like a Pirate Day

Here go my attempts to review the very Satisfactory September that just passed me by.

The whole fam (minus Tanner, who’s in Argentina) came to visit AZ during Labor Day weekend. Mom and Dad made it in time to celebrate their birthdays; Taylor and Courtney (perhaps future sister-in-law? Do I jinx it by saying that in a public forum?) managed to get out of class and work to make the trek down to AZ. I’d been to two continents since the last time I saw my dad.

Mom’s sisters presented her with hilarious birthday gifts, themed around blueberries, since my parents run a blueberry farm in their spare time. But the big kicker, my two aunts claimed, would be the very limited edition gift they put together for my dad. They slaved away over the stove for hours, they claimed. And finally, when the time came to reveal the gift, I almost couldn’t stand it.

I was nervous. Knowing my aunts, they’re quite the characters. You never know quite what they’re going to do.

Tah-dah! He pulled out a tie from a bag. But not just any tie. A tie that had been specially dyed with fresh blueberries. Cooked with blueberry juice. Stained in such a way that could never be reproduced. Apparently this tie didn’t absorb enough color; they spent hours and hours cooking down the blueberries to get it just right.

Who thinks of such things?

The two crazy aunts also put together a ‘Welcome to AZ’ pack for Courtney, complete with a coloring book and scorpion lollypop. Ewh.

We drove up to Sedona for a day, something to pass the time. My mom had been calling for weeks prior, what should we do while we’re there? Uh….same thing we always do. You grew up here. You’re here at least twice a year. You’ve been here 3 times this summer already. What is there to do besides the normal lay by the pool, eat Mexican food and shop?

So we tried Sedona. We sort of hiked in the barren mountains. We ate at a mediocre restaurant. We walked through the sidewalk sales and saw Native American dances and drummers and finally drove out through the gorgeous trees and water.

Taylor and Courtney came to hear me mess up on the organ at church on Sunday, and soon enough the weekend was over and they all went home. I felt that I should leave with them. But no, I live here. I’ve lived here for a year. Does it feel like home? Still not really. But where else in the world should I be?



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It's Cold!!

Finally, in the middle of October.

Cold by Phoenix standards. Sixty-five degrees this morning. When it drops below 90, that’s the trigger to bring out the boots. Which I did today.

Despite my professed hatred for cold and ice and all things winter, I think I just might miss it this year. Shhh....

A year in the extreme heat has thinned my blood, I still freeze in the AC and revel in walking outside into 115 degrees in the summer, yet I find myself longing for some chill and sweater and scarves that will linger a bit longer than December to February. This might be a decent year for an extended winter. I may even willingly go on vacation to a place that’s cold this winter, rather than try and escape further south.

I long to unpack my great white marshmallow coat. I’ve even put away all socks that aren’t in my gym bag.

I reminisced about great fall weather with fellow Georgetown grads last night, a couple of whom just moved to the Valley. We know what we’re missing. Yes, we do.

Musical Monday

In anticipation of Keane's new album tomorrow, here's Spiralling.  I previewed the album over the weekend and kinda dug it.  Hopes and Fears was a great album, couldn't really get into Under the Iron Sea as much, but I think third time, they've brought the charm again.



Tuesday, October 07, 2008

World on the Edge

Usually the Economist is a source of comfort and happiness.
With this week's cover image, not so much.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Dr Pepper.....everywhere....

I love Dr Pepper so much that I left a can from the last purchase in my car for future use.

Not such a good idea when it's still 100 degrees daily in Arizona.

Got into my car after work (even though I park in a covered garage) and noticed brown dots all over the back window. Hmm...

And on the floor. And the seatbelts. And the door handles.

The can was mostly exploded on the opposite side of the car, under the seat. Would've loved to witness that.

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