30 September 2005

I embrace my geekness

Last night was the first session of German conversation 3. It was so fun! The teacher is from Germany and spoke only German. We spoke only in German as well. The class is small, nine people, and there are several very funny people in it. It was a lovely way to spend my birthday! I embrace my geekness!

Yesterday my brother Mike called me and my nieces Tori and Katy sang happy birthday to me. It was the sweetest thing! Made my whole day. And my day was great to begin with!

Tonight I continue the celebrations with a lovely chinesisches Essen (Chinese dinner) with the Hs, my Switzerland traveling companions. Then it's off to Alexandria to celebrate with my parents. Isn't it appropriate to celebrate your birthday for as many days as you have years? That's what I'm shooting for.

Can you tell I work in communication? (Could I end more sentences in prepositions?)

My fortune cookie yesterday: " The mysterious side of your nature makes you most alluring." I like that!

29 September 2005

It's my 40th birthday!

I'm having a great 40th birthday today! The photo is of my Gerburtstagtisch -- all the lovely cards and items from my fabulous co-workers. (Including my very own jumbo honey bun!) I work with such a great group! I'm going to really enjoy reading and putting this book to use: How to Rule the World, A Handbook for the Aspiring Dictator. It's nice to have something to fall back on if this gig doesn't work out.

It's a beautiful day today and I start German conversation class tonight. Yay!

Am I bad dog owner?

Am I a bad dog owner? Sophie has no outfits. (The picture at right is not her!) She has no Halloween costume, custom furniture, jewelry or shoes.

While I don't read Dog Fancy, I do read and love The Bark magazine (how could I read a magazine with fancy in the title?). It's a fun, hip dog magazine. As an added bonus, in the back there are ads for all sorts of goofy, expensive accessories. Does your dog need an armoire for his/her outfits? Don't you and your dog need matching sweaters? Look no more. (If you're feeling less than spry, go to the smiling dog page. It will cheer you up.)

I also love the Three Dog Bakery. In the New Orleans store, when it reopens, you can buy a Mardi Gras King Cake for your dog. (No baby in the dog cake.)

Matt Rinard
is a New Orleans artist who does the poster each year for the Mardi Gras dog parade. I first found his paintings when wandering through the French Quarter and was immediately smitten. His pop art paintings are very funny if your a dog or cat lover with a sense of whimsy.

28 September 2005

Vending Oddities

The vending machine near my office is a source of amusement. It has the usual items plus a small, odd assortment of bakery items with shelf lives of at least 10 years. It's like having a museum of oddities close by. But one that has exhibits on no apparent schedule.

The latest fun item was "Jumbo Honey Bun" -- a brownish bun-like article with what looked like paste on top. I assumed it was frosting. It was indeed jumbo. It hardly fit in the rack. Two other favorites:
  • Lucky Puffs -- Cupcake, snowball things covered in fluorescent green coconut. Just in time for St. Patrick's Day. We were hoping for a whole line of puffs -- red white and blue freedom puffs for July 4, orange spooky puffs for Halloween. No such luck.
  • Tiger Tails -- Twinkie looking items -- bright yellow -- with painted-on stripes. Alluring yet, as a tail, oh-so-creepy.
While trying to find photos of some of these I discovered that there is a recipes section on the Hostess site. Who knew? Twinkies sushi, caramel snail on a log. Almost as disgusting as the litter box cake.

Does anyone else find the name of this bread just a little disgusting?

27 September 2005

Father Murray

Last week I went to “Simple Prayer/Complicated Life,” a presentation by Father Paul Murray, OP at St. Olaf Catholic Church. I was wondering what this priest would have to say about a complicated life. I was so pleasantly surprised. He had such a humble grasp of the craziness of life. His disarming, funny and self effacing style wasn’t for show but to get his point across.

He drew heavily from the saints and mystics. Someone asked who are our current-day Mother Teresas. Father Murray believes that they are all around us. But because of our preconceived notions of who saints should be, we often don’t see them. “God hides his [sic] saints very successfully… We expect saints to be perfect all the time. So we don’t allow ourselves to recognize the radiance of Christ in others.”

I loved that he didn’t try to reduce questioning and suffering to character flaws, insufficient faith or signs of a vengeful God. “Thinking and wondering about God is part of the life of faith.”

Was ist heute auf der Fahrbahn? Spielende Kinder. (What's on the Fahrbahn today? Children playing.)

26 September 2005

Word pack rat

I jot down funny phrases on my Palm Pilot. I don't collect other things but I am a word pack rat -- particularly if those words are goofy, rather mean or don't quite make sense. (I'm not a mean person but I talk a good game.) I'm not sure where some of these came from. My apologies to the writers. Some favorites:
  • He had delusions of adequacy (Clarence Darrow)
  • Mean-spirited little dwarf
  • I haven't had this much fun since a pig ate my brother
  • Honey, we don't do that with cheese (my friend Kathy to one of her children)
  • Get a move on you strange and insane idiot
  • You are very beautiful. Are those your real teeth?
  • Wholesale galloping ignorance (Calvin Trillin)
  • We thought you was a toad ("O Brother, Where Art Thou?")

25 September 2005

The comedians

My brothers are sick and twisted. One of the reasons I love them. Mike is quite the storyteller. For many years he would pose as a pushy telemarketer whenever he called -- furnace cleaner, fundraiser for fringe political candidates, you name it. Just about the time you were about to slam the phone down he would laugh or state what an easy mark you were.

Both of my brothers have no end of fun playing off the place I work -- an organization connected to the church. Mike's voicemails have delighted me and many of my co-workers. ‚An example: “This is Bill from the Coliseum. We need another shipment of Christians for our lions‚’ den. The last bunch you sent us were kind of stringy.‚”

Steve gets no end of joy in asking for Jesus or God when he calls me at work. ‚“Can I speak to God? This is the bank; he’s seriously overdrawn.‚” I told this to a couple of the clergy who work here. One asked, ‚“Did you ever answer, ‚‘Speaking‚’?‚”

"I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me." -- Noel Coward

24 September 2005

Queen of the slugs

It's cloudy and rainy today. Perfect for what I had in mind for the day. Not much. After many busy weekends it was glorious to lay around, read, putter around the house and take a nap.

Today at the library I picked up Mirth of a Nation. It's a collection of humorous essays with titles like You'll Never Groom Dogs in This Town Again, The Yanni Files and Rejected Polls (which includes "I couldn't care less about the NHL"). Oh how I would like to be inside the writers' heads as they come up with these brilliant ideas. On second thought, maybe not.

The best entry is in the second edition, More Mirth of a Nation -- Andy Borowitz's Procrastinator's Checklist. A few:
  • Call siblings long-distance and start unprovoked arguments
  • Test yourself on state capitals just to stay sharp
  • See how the NASDAQ is doing.
It's one of the funniest things I've ever read. I hoped to find it online. No such luck. In case you need a few ideas I did find another checklist. Not quite as funny as Borowitz's but "brushing the cat" does provoke a pleasant mental image.

Fortune cookie

My fortune cookie tonight read, "You will have traveling opportunities." But when? A business trip this fall? A winter weekend away? Germany next summer for the World Cup finals? (That would be lovely.)

I've long thought that it would be fun to write fortunes. Things like, "Don't take the bus home." Or, "I wouldn't give this person your home phone number."

23 September 2005

Sophie the hipster

For the next two weeks I’m supposed to keep Sophie from running and jumping. She’s a Boston Terrier. This is well nigh impossible!

Her hip popped out of joint this week. Luckily it popped back otherwise she would have had to go under the knife. Talk about painful! After the x-rays, which I admit were very cool, the vet gave her a shot of cortisone. Apparently it’s make a big difference because she’s almost back to her crazy old self, despite my protestations – running through the house with her toys, doing a flying leap at mealtime and jumping up on the chair to look out the window.

Was ist heute auf der Fahrbahn? Nur Personen. (What’s on the highway today? Only people.)

22 September 2005

Anything ending in "zilla"

My boss volunteered a colleague and me to present at a conference. ("It's in Savannah in February? Well, OK!") Our topic? Building community on the Web. Since it was way off I put it out of my mind. February 2006? I don'’t even know what I'’m doing tomorrow.

Well now our presentation description and title are due. Figuring out what to say about our presentation was pretty easy. A nice balance between vague and compelling (since we haven'’t written the presentation yet). The title was another matter. Our boss asked us for something snappy. Why is it that when someone asks for snappy you can'’t think of anything? But when you'’re supposed to be relatively serious you can always think of all sorts of snappy and smartmouthy things to say? We finally landed on "“Webzilla: Making the Web Work for You."

My co-presenter and I always have a great time working together. We've heard that this group can be rather staid so we'll have fun shaking things up a bit. Anything i’s better when it ends in zilla.

Hippo and tortoise

A friend forwarded this story about a baby hippo that's bonded with a century-old tortoise. It's incredibly sweet. Full story.

20 September 2005

An ode to book club

Tonight it's book club. Yay! It's a great group of people with different professions and backgrounds so the discussion is always lively. Say Bird Song or mention the author Diana Gabaldon in our group and you'll get a host of reactions, many of them loud. (Bird Song was excellent except for the last section -- no matter what anyone says. Sally is with me on this one. I found Diana G. books in Switzerland this summer. I told the Gabaldon-lovers that I thought this was a waste of the German language.)

I don't know any men who are in book clubs. That's too bad. Once a month or so you get together with a great group of interesting, funny, smart people. I likely wouldn't have met these people without book club. That would have been a shame. My life is so much richer with them in it!

Be who you are

I love this quote from Abraham Maslow.
"A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he [or she] is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What one can be, one must be." -- Abraham Maslow, American Psychologist
What am I? In the creative realm I write, paint and play the piano. Write? Check. Paint? I just finished a mod kind of canvas and now I'm figuring out another project. Piano? Maybe I should look into getting one. But where would I put it? I used to play when I was at my parents' house. However, since my nieces and nephew are often there, it's a bit more complicated (four of them -- all 7 and under -- so it's hardly a fair fight). First off, they hog the keyboard. Secondly, our tastes differ. I have simple tastes -- Bach, Mozart, Handel. They prefer to create their own, atonal, pieces.

Was ist heute auf der Fahrbahn? (What's on the highway today?) Ein Hund. (A dog.) I do hope the drivers pass auf! (watch out)

19 September 2005

Spiro's & simple pleasures

Today's simple pleasure: an international market. We read Kite Runner for book club this month. We rarely theme the nosh but this time it seemed appropriate (could it be because of the prominence of hummus in that region of the world?). Ran to Spiro's Mediterranean Market (University Ave., St. Paul) today in the hope that they'd have baklava. (I made it once and it took hours!) They did. And Naan, olives, tahini and all sorts of fabulous imported items. Walking around the place, looking at all of the interesting items, I kept thinking 'we live in a wonderful, interesting world.'

The West Wing blues

The TV show West Wing inspires me and makes me incredibly sad. OK, I know it's pretend. But wouldn't it be grand to believe in the president -- or any politician -- again? Believe that the person actually cared about the average person? Cared about community, the poor and the earth? Didn't always bow to the almighty economy? A strong person who would do the right thing whatever the political cost? Someone who demonstrated so-called Christian values -- caring for the poor and oppressed, demonstrating love and compassion for all of God's people? I know the future can be better.

17 September 2005

Spirit and music

I am often transported by music. The latest: Speed of Sound by Coldplay. I have no idea what the writer had in mind but I find this song vibrant, airy and highly spiritual. The writer revels in creation, mystery and life:
All that noise, and all that sound,
All those places I got found.
And birds go flying at the speed of sound,
to show you how it all began.
Birds came flying from the underground,
if you could see it then you'd understand,
ah when you see it then you'll understand.

Wide weird world of Web

Isn't the Web a wonderful, scary and funny thing? At Eric Conveys an Emotion you can see various emotions demonstrated by Eric. You can also make a request.

It's so odd yet so lovely. Anyone can trot out their favorite oddity, neurosis or rant for all to see. There are several blogs on cupcakes, including this one. So why am I keeping this blog? I'm a writer and it's a chance to muse about big questions and weird things. Oh, and rant about the current administration.

16 September 2005

Crazy? Oblivious? Jerk?

Bush Suspends Prevailing Wage Laws for Katrina Clean Up. Is he crazy? Didn't we learn anything about poverty in this disaster? Did he totally space out "love your neighbor as yourself"? Does this Christian think Jesus wasn't serious?

Go to Sojourners and take the Katrina pledge:
1. I pledge to be personally involved in helping those whose lives have been affected by this natural disaster - by praying for the victims and their families and by offering my time, talents, and resources to relief and recovery ministries that are meeting their needs.

2. I pledge to work for sweeping change of our nation's priorities. I will press my elected representatives to protect the common good - especially the needs of our poorest families and children - rather than supporting the twin social disasters of tax cuts for the rich and budget cuts that hurt the poor.

Adventures in Mating

Tonight it's off to the Bryant Lake Bowl to see "Adventures in Mating." I saw it at the Fringe Festival and had to see it again. It's incredibly clever and very silly. It's like a chose-your-own-adventure book but this scenario is a blind date. There are only three people in the show -- Jeffrey, Miranda and the waiter. Jeffrey and Miranda are over-the-top stereotypes -- he's looking to seduce anyone, anyone!; she's looking for a husband (and brings along her potential spouse questionnaire).

The fights begin as soon as the date begins. When he wants red wine and she wants white he responds: "White wine goes with chicken... and sadness." When she slaps him once, then again "for luck," he responds: "You kiss people for luck; you don't slap people for luck." The waiter is deadpan in a Jeeves, I-can't-believe-how-stupid-you-are, kind of way.

Joseph is one of the Scrimshaw Brothers. Their show, "Shut Your Cake Hole," was at the Fringe a few years ago. No talking. All physical comedy. I will likely laugh about the vignette involving a driving test long after I'm steeped in dementia. The person taking the driver's test has to parallel park a Cozy Coupe car and repeatedly fails. The instructor has the requisite clipboard and look of disdain.

Thought from the day from that famous writer, Anon: "Some people are like Slinkies... Not really good for anything, but they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a flight of stairs."

15 September 2005

The laugh drug

I'm totally smitten with Ira Glass' laugh. If you're jonesing for it, or don't know what I'm talking about, check out Fiasco (episode 61 from 1997) at This American Life. The first story is about a community production of Peter Pan. I think I've listened to it about 25 times and I still laugh. Even if I was really, really crabby Ira's giggle would make me smile.

Was ist heute auf der Fahrbahn?

Was ist heute auf der Fahrbahn? (What's on the highway today?) I often listen to German radio online while at work. It's mostly music with a little news and traffic thrown in. Almost every day the traffic person mentions some item on the highway that drivers need to avoid -- a trunk, a dark blue van, a person, a bike rider, a piece of a tire, an object. I'm a little disappointed on the days when there are no out-of-place items. Today there are Personen auf der Fahrbahn (people on the highway).

14 September 2005

Ambulance Girl

Ambulance Girl is one of my favorite books. Jane and Michael Stern are on The Splendid Table each week. This book is about how becoming an EMT pulled her out of her depression. It's a touching book and also completely hilarious! It makes me laugh out loud.

"Sometimes I think I am too stupid for this class... Other times I think the class is too stupid for me. We are lectured on the following things:

1) Do not try to replace someone's organs if they are hanging from their body.

2) Do not give CPR to a severed head."

The Current is so fabulous

Have you listened to The Current? (89.3 in the Twin Cities or online) It's Mariah Carey free! Around dinner time they often have very danceable music for those of us who enjoy a bit of jig with the preparation. Anyway, thanks to The Current I'm now a big fan of Shivaree. Ethereal and kind of spooky. "I close my eyes" is quite hypnotic. Now if they'd only add Herbert Groenemeyer to their line up. I can dream.

And I just have to add, can't you make nice CBC? "As It Happens" has been off the air for weeks due to the "labour disruption." You can't even get to the show online. Aaargh!

What's with this blog?

Here are some things I love in no particular order: dogs (esp. Sophie), traveling, the German language, my family and friends, all things UK, books, the New Yorker, all-out silliness and running jokes, painting, words, singing in the car and the AP Style Book.

Welcome to Sophzilla

I've been thinking about a blog. I can spin nonsensical yarns with the best of them. Welcome to Sophzilla.