Monday, March 31, 2008

New Frontiers in Competitive Athletics

Apart from a 4-year stint as a coxswain on the rowing team in college (go Heels!), and an 8-year career as a teenage equestrienne, I'm not exactly what you would call an athlete. Running, biking, rowing, swimming, skipping, hopping? All good. I don't excel, but I'm fairly consistent in the "mediocre but dedicated" category. I am, however, almost completely hopeless at all sports that involve balls and/or sticks of one sort or another. Soccer? Dear lord. You're better off playing man down. Basketball? In addition to my totally shrimpy size, I still haven't quite gotten my head around what "traveling" is. Lacrosse? My first instinct is to run screaming. Softball? Well, here's an interesting story.

In graduate school, I have been lucky enough to have fallen in with my own kind. That is to say, people who generally are not very good at sports (although we do have a few standouts), but who enjoy playing anyway, even if we lose 25-3. (That's an actual soccer score from last year, if I'm not mistaken. Let me repeat. SOCCER. 25-3.) Our history department has been tremendously successful at getting intramural sports teams organized. Our soccer team, the Subalterns (sorry, it's a history joke), have lost every single game in our glorious athletic career, except for one extramural game we played with the Chemistry (?) department last season when most of their folks didn't show up, so we put a lot of our extra guys on their team, and then beat them. But it was sort of like beating ourselves since we'd loaned out so many players. Still and all, we'll take a victory any way we can. Last week, our softball team got thrashed by the Classics department. Classics. Now that, my friends, is humiliating. If we can't beat Classics, who can we beat? Will Philosophy destroy us, as well?

Yesterday, however, was a red letter day. A day for the history books! (Ahem. I beg your pardon; another history joke. Very punny.) A day in which History athletic events have finally emerged from the doldrums of defeat.

The game? As you might have inferred from the first paragraph, it was softball. The team? The History Department's co-ed team, "Publish or Perish: We're History." God, history jokes are awful. Our jerseys have a picture of Abraham Lincoln as a Zombie. Very very unspeakably bizarre, yet strangely wonderful. Anyway, you know what happened yesterday?

We won.

Wait a minute, that's not good enough. We TROUNCED the other team. Wait a minute, that's not good enough, either. We TROUNCED the other team, which happened to be the KINESIOLOGY DEPARTMENT. Kinesiology. These people do athletics for a living, and we tanned their hides. It started off with a 6-run inning, and we never let up. Wham! To left field. Whap! A line drive past the shortstop into the outfield, and the bases are loaded! Run, run, run! Wheeeeeeee!!! Eventually the umpire invoked the mercy rule when we were up 14-2, and the game ended there. Oh, the shouting, the cheering, the stunned stupefecation, the disbelief, the utter joy of winning! We are at an almost total loss to explain this athletic prowess, and completely unconvinced that we'll ever be able to repeat that fine moment of synergy, but it was grand. Just grand.

In the excitement of the moment, I forgot to take pictures, but I snapped a few in the aftermath. Here's some of the kids on the field, fresh off our victory. See how happy we look?



And here's some others, celebrating in fine old fashion with beer after the game.



We may not be athletic wunderkinds, but damn, we're good looking.

I Love This Joke

What did the fish say when he swam into a wall?

"Dam!"

(hehe.)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Because It's Just That Good, That's Why

Friends, family, countrymen. Today I direct your attention away from my blog. Go to this link. Blue Dragonfly has posted the best thing I've read in a long time. I love this blog post so much that I've already asked her to marry me, so don't get any ideas. I got there first.

Click here to see what happens when you go to the dentist in a Bollywood movie.

An Open Letter To March Madness

Dear March Madness and the Geniuses at the NCAA:

I hardly know where to begin. Let me start with this. I'm not really a sports fan. I don't know who players are, I don't follow pro sports at all, and collegiate sports only minimally. I can't cite a single sports statistic off the top of my head. But I make an exception for Carolina basketball. There are only two sporting events in the world that I will stop everything else in my life to watch (unless we're counting Dancing With the Stars, in which case three, but for now let's not). Number One: Carolina/Duke games. And Number Two: Any NCAA tournament game in which Carolina is playing. Today I did not study -- let me repeat, DID NOT STUDY, when studying is the number one activity of my life -- so that I could watch the University of North Carolina play in the Sweet Sixteen against Washington State. And you, in your infinite wisdom, NCAA, have decided that you can MAKE MORE MONEY or some other SHITTY REASON, so you only let ONE FREAKING CHANNEL broadcast all the games. And then you scheduled games AT THE SAME GODDAMN TIME. And excuse me, all you Xavier and West Virginia fans out there, I know your game was excellent, exciting, and all the things that a Sweet Sixteen basketball game should be, so I don't want to take anything away from you by saying this, but really. I don't give a flying fart. That's not true. I do give a flying fart, because one of you will be playing UNC in a future round. But I would MUCH RATHER have been watching the second half of the UNC game, thank you very much. Instead, Umulu and I sat there having paroxysms of frustration throughout the ENTIRE SECOND HALF, not that you broadcast even one measley SECOND of it. Not one. But hope springs eternal, so we sat there, flipping back and forth between Keith Olbermann and the Xavier/WVU game, just checking the score. Then Keith got tiresome, so we watched some HGTV and learned how to put paisley appliqué on our walls, just in case we ever want to do that. And every time we checked the score, our hearts sank further and further into our bellies, because we were winning by a substantial margin and apparently the only way you get airtime during the early rounds of the tournament is if you PLAY REALLY CRAPPY AND STAND A GOOD CHANCE OF LOSING. We hung on for a while, thinking that we might get to see the last two or three minutes, but then Xavier and the Mountaineers went into overtime, and we gave up.

NCAA Geniuses, March Madness? Can you hear me? There's got to be some way you could plan this a little better. Just think of all the extra money you could earn off of fans you didn't alienate! Is it too much to ask for a faithful fan to see her team when they're playing really well? I protest, March Madness. I know you're not listening to me, and if you wanted to, you probably couldn't hear me over the mad, loud clinking of all your solid gold coins, but on the off chance that for one perfect moment you achieve absolute stillness, here's hoping that my lone, reedy voice filters through the silence and bounces off your tympanic membrane. Next year let's do this a little better, ok?

Yours truly,
Amazing Cheastypants.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

On Sisters, and Why Having Them Kicks Ass

Yesterday was kind of shit for me. Not big shit, just little shit. Ups and downs, and pesky annoyances; first it rains, then it's sunny and too hot for my sweater, but I didn't bring a t-shirt. I read and read, and feel like I've gotten nowhere. NOWHERE. I get a headache.
Around mid-morning I got accidentally cc'd on an email I wasn't supposed to get. It was nothing horrible, nothing mean, but it was a sharp reminder of a time and a series of events that was then, and is still now, I guess, pretty hurtful and painful for me. You know how sometimes you're cruising along, twiddling your thumbs, humming a tune, and then all of the sudden something random will trigger a memory and WHAM! Next thing you know it's another time, another place, and you're feeling things you thought you'd put behind you. I hate it when that happens. It makes me feel so... I don't know. Unevolved, I guess.
The rest of the day kind of chugged along. It coughed and spluttered, but still kept moving forward. I went and got my hair done and it looked really cute. I still had a headache, but before I knew it, I was starting to feel a little better, a little more like, hey, this day wasn't so bad, after all! (chirp chirp! twitter twitter!)
Then I found out that I didn't win a prize I'd been nominated for. I know, go cry a river. I was nominated for a prize for the best Master's Thesis in the History Department for this year, and I didn't win. Poor little Cheastypants, how do you stand the pain, the sheer agony of being you? Oh, wailing, oh moaning, oh gnashing of teeth, oh, rending of garments. Oh, sackcloth and ashes. Well, fine. I can make fun of myself till the cows come home, but I still felt kind of poopy. And to make it worse, I couldn't even hate the winner in a petty and vindictive way because he's my good friend and a great historian. It couldn't have gone to a better guy.

You know what made it all better? My sister. I was lying on the couch counting the beats per minute of the eye tic I'd developed over the course of the day, and wondering idly if my headache could get so bad that my head might actually fall off my shoulders. And if that happened, would I mind? Then Umulu came home. "Hi!" she said, and chattered merrily on about her great day, but boy was she tired, and so ready for bed, just needing to buzz out for a while, and my heart sank. "No!" I cried on the inside. "Don't go to bed! I need you to pet my head and count the ways you love me!" And somehow Umulu looked at me, and this is why sisters are the greatest. When I said, "Ok, good night," (and I swear that's what came out of my mouth), she heard my insides say, "No! I need you to pet my head and count the ways you love me!" So she did. She sat on the couch and petted my head and told me how much she loves me, and then she fed me ice cream.

Having sisters kicks ass.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Some Call It Obsession...

...I just call it doing the job well. This little movie is hilarious. While it's specifically about knitting, it speaks to the deeper human condition of all those who are of a perfectionist bent. As an added plus, the sound effects and animation are fantastic. The movie is 6 minutes long.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Common Misconceptions Men Have About All-Girl Slumber Parties

Last weekend, a bunch of my girlfriends and I got together for a slumber party, and I was intrigued by the interest this generated among the boys in our group of friends. Prurient speculation of the rankest sort, really, all of which culminated in offers (threats?) to install hidden webcams, or to set up ladders by the various windows in the house we'd be slumber-partying in. So in the interest of preserving harmony between the sexes, and to put those poor boys out of their misery, I'd like to put to rest some common misconceptions about all-girl slumber parties.

Misconception #1: We do not eat anything made of chocolate that isn't physically stapled to an immovable and inedible very heavy object. Just look at Cookie. No chocolate in her teeth whatsoever.



Misconception #2: We do not sit around painting our toenails, braiding each other's hair, and picking each other's noses. Honestly. Where do boys come up with these ideas?



Misconception #3: We do not watch chick flicks and musicals. Only kung fu and action/adventure. Promise.



Misconception #4: We do not drink excessive amounts of wine. We hardly drink at all, in fact. Sobriety is the name of the game.



Misconception #5: We do not have pillow fights in our pajamas.



Misconception #6: We do not paint each other's naked breasts with whipped cream and lick it off.

Erm... no photo for this one. tee hee!

Check It Out!

Do any of you check the blog called List of the Day? If you don't, you should. Many many priceless bits of hilarity over there. The guy who runs it solicits suggestions from readers, and about a month ago I suggested that he do a list on gestures that mean different things in different countries. This is what he came up with. Warning: the post is called "Obscene Gestures of the World," so be prepared for a mega-insultathon. :)

Obscene Gestures of the World

Monday, March 24, 2008

In My Mind, I'm Goin' to Carolina

This is a brief description of my day today. Laptop, laptop, book, book, book. Laptop, laptop, book, book, book. Oh, fine, sue me. So I went to the gym. But guess what I was looking at while I sat on the exercise bike? Book, book, book. And now I'm blogging. Laptop, laptop. Guess what's next? Book, book, book. So here I am. But this is where I wish I were:



Today I wish I were back at my parents home. If I were back home, I could be doing so many fun things. I could be playing with the dogs. My mother has collected six of them over the years, and I've been justly accused of telling each and every one of them that they are my favorite, but don't tell the others, ok? I could be checking out my dad's beehives. He just got a new beekeeper suit that ought to fit me, and we could check on this year's honey crop. I could be going for a walk in the woods with the dogs, looking to see if I can spot any cool birds, or find the beavers under their dam in the Little River. I could be teaching my little brother Bug how to skip stones in the pond. I could be in the cool and quiet hayloft in our barn, looking out the door over the pasture at our neighbors' horses. I could be chopping firewood. I could be turning the compost pile, or planting tomatoes and zucchini and sweet peas in the garden. And as evening fell I could be sitting on the front porch with my dad, listening to my mom play her guitar inside after she put Bug to sleep. And we would count the deer as they gathered in the pasture.

I wish I were back in North Carolina, very far away from the laptop, laptop, book, book, book.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

New Frontiers in the Culinary Arts

I love to cook. It relaxes me, pumps me up, and allows me to be creative. My best cooking moments revolve around recipes I've made up on my own, but since I hardly ever write them down, they're usually unrepeatable. I like it that way. Even when I'm working with a recipe, I tend to view it merely as a list of suggestions rather than a set of instructions, and normally that ends up really well. But sometimes I make mistakes.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you... (drum roll, please)...

THE CHOCOLATE STRAWBONION CAKE. Ta-ta-ta-daaaaaaaa!!! (You may commence making gagging noises now.)

Here's a picture of this delicious-looking monstrosity. Yummy, right?



Wrong. Why? Well, let's start by dissecting the name. Chocolate. Yummy! Nothing yucky about that. But wait. What is this strange second word? Strawbonion? What on earth is "strawbonion?" Hehe. Ha. Um.....

Well, it all started with a dirty cutting board. (All good stories start with that sentence.) I was cooking over at Cookie's house for our friend's birthday party and she had just finished chopping onions for the dinner, but I wasn't really paying attention. White onions. No colored residue. I wanted to chop strawberries to make pretty floral arrangements on top of the delicious chocolate cake, and I grabbed the (apparently) clean cutting board, chopped the strawberries, and then left them there while I waited for the cakes to cool off. I vaguely remember a lesson in freshman biology about something called osmosis, and i can now safely report that this fine scientific principle works exactly like it's supposed to. By the time I placed the strawberries on top of the cake, they'd morphed into something else entirely: a strawbonion. This exotic new fregtable looks like a strawberry, but has the pungent flavor of an onion. I can hardly explain how disgusting this was on a chocolate cake.

Luckily, most girls, especially when congregated in large groups, would eat cat shit if it were chocolate coated, so the cake disappeared with alarming speed. And being ever optimistic in the culinary arts, I think that this strawbonion idea is not entirely without merits. I might try it again one day, but next time I'll put it on a salad.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Awkward Moments Define My Life

This is a brief profile of me. I was a really shy little kid, and deep down inside, I'm still a really shy little kid. Over the years I've learned to disguise that about myself, and people who know me now are routinely astonished to hear me describe myself in those terms, but there you have it. Underneath the exuberance and bluster is a really shy little kid. For every inner voice that says "hey, go be friendly," or "smile at that person," another quieter voice is whispering in my other ear things like, "oh, dear, what if that person doesn't remember you?" or, "look the other way and pretend you didn't see them." Ninety-nine percent of the time I vanquish the shy voice and bounce through my life as if my middle name was Cool and my shampoo was called "Social Poise and Confidence." But there's always that pesky little One Percent left over. I hate that One Percent. That One Percent makes me blush (oh, ruddy cheeks, ye bane of my existence!) and walk away quickly with my head down when faced with circumstances that I know not how to handle.

Remember that date I went on about a week ago? Well, things are still going well. Really well, in fact. We'll call the fella in question Leo. Last night Leo called me and said, "Hey, I've got my spanish class at a coffee shop really near your house, so how about I call you when it's over at 9:30 and we can hang out?" I'm pretty infatuated with this guy right now, so while in my mouth I believe I said, 'Oh, sure, that sounds cool," in my head I giggled stupidly and burbled something like "Ohmigod, your hair is so sexy." Later that night, I was out on a walk while I talked to my mom on the phone. I hung up, and noticed that I was right nearby the coffeeshop where Leo and my friend Schwupna were having their Spanish class, and it was 9:30.

"Hey," said my good and brave voice. "You're right near by, they're wrapping up the lesson about now, and you haven't seen Schwupna in a week or so, so why don't you just walk over and surprise them?"

My One Percent immediately interjected. "Oh, no, no, no, Cheastypants. You just started seeing this guy. Showing up at his Spanish lesson will send a very stalker-ish vibe, and you really want to avoid that."

"Oh, pshaw," scoffed Brave Voice. "It won't look stalker at all, and besides, you really just want to say hi to Schwupna. This is a totally valid and brave idea."

Accustomed to ignoring One Percent and listening to Brave Voice, I walked over to the coffee shop. I sauntered through the door, and there in the front were Leo and Schwupna, sitting with their Spanish teacher. I walked over and sat down.

"Hola, amigos!' I chirped merrily. Schwupna looked up and gave me an appropriately exuberant greeting. "Cheastika von Schwitzie!" she crowed, "Give me a hug, my love!" Yay, hugs! But then I looked at Leo and the Spanish teacher, and they were both looking at me like I was wearing a t-shirt that said I Heart Abortions. Crickets, crickets.
"Um, hi there!" I ventured. Leo belatedly remembered his manners and introduced me to the Spanish teacher, who shook my hand somewhat curtly and then immediately returned to the lesson.

"Y cómo se dice "necktie" en español?" Leo and Schwupna bent their heads back over their Spanish text book.

I started to get that weird stomach feeling that comes whenever I act against the dictates of the ever-prudent One Percent and start to regret it. Shitballs. I knew it, Brave Voice. I do look like a stalker! Oh, crap. Now I'm going to start blushing. Great.

Luckily for me, my phone started ringing, giving me just the excuse I needed to run like the wind. It was Cookie, a true and wonderful friend who promptly assured me that I wasn't totally weird for stopping by. I love her for promoting my somewhat tenuous grasp on reality. I hereby vow to listen just a leeeeeetle more carefully to you, One Percent. You have my sincere apologies.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Rinse, Lather, Repeat

Studying for my comprehensive qualifying exams is not dissimilar to washing my hair, it turns out. It's a lot less pleasant, and doesn't make me feel half as lively and beautiful as clean bouncy hair does, but at it's heart, the formula is about the same.

Read, think, write. Read, think, write. Read, think, write. Check email. Read, think, write. Read, think, write. Check email. Read, think, write. Read think, write. Eat an orange. Read, think, write. Read, think, write. Pull hair out.

Welcome to the exciting life of a graduate student. It's hard under any circumstances to sell the lifestyle based on glamour, but on days like this, it's an awful lot like voluntary self-incarceration. In fact, a classmate of mine just the other day commented that prison would be an ideal place to study for comps. I don't disagree, but neither am I willing to go to such extremes. I will soldier on, no matter how badly I want to cry uncle and work at a 7-11 for the rest of my life rather than do this awful thing.

Back to the grindstone, my poppets. Back to the grindstone.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

As I Sit Studying, This Is Where My Mind Is...

The following is a post I wrote for some friends on another blog last April after a trip to Belgium and the Netherlands. It is beautiful outside today, and only a combination of will power and desperation is keeping me inside to study. After 17 consecutive days of having friends and/or family in town visiting, I'm desperately behind on my work, and feel the onset of what I suspect might be panic. Either that or it's a heart attack. Either way, not good. I have stapled myself to my desk chair in a last-ditch attempt to keep myself from running outside to enjoy the beautiful spring weather before it turns boiling hot for summer, and every time I want to get up and run around, I say to myself "Listen missy, this is not your best effort. Sit down and study before I call Mom and tell her you're not doing your homework." So my body is at my desk, and my brain is even somewhat engaged in learning. But my mind? My mind is quite far away, on a wonderful European getaway...

April something-or-other, 2007.

J'suis arrive!! (I'm not at all sure what that means, or if i've spelled it correctly, but I think it means "i'm back!") Welcome home, Cheastypants. i just had the most fantastic vacation EVER, and i'd like to tell you all about it. Sadly, there's too much to tell, so i'll just hit some highlights. And pictures. But here's the cool thing i did -- i brought my digital voice recorder with me to Europe so I could tell you the stories sort of as-they-happen. It's pretty funny. I looked ridiculous talking into the damn thing, but every time I felt self-conscious I'd assume an alternate identity. "I am a spy." Or, "I am a very busy and important businesswoman dictating notes for my hot male secretary." Or, "I am a forensic anthropologist." (That last one was harder to imagine on the placid cobbled streets of western European cities, but all three were fun.) The neat thing about the recordings is that on top of my dulcet and mellifluous voice you can hear all the background noises like horses clopping by, bus doors opening and closing, accordions playing, music, and all that stuff.

First I went to a city called Groningen, in the Netherlands, to visit my friend Fifi. Strangely enough, five of my friends from Austin were all going to be in Europe on the same weekend, so we all flew to the same place and had a wild-ass party (there's a picture of me literally swinging from the rafters. I'd post it, but i'm wearing a little black dress and hot pink panties. Not for general consumption, if you know what i mean.

Getting there was fun. I suppose I could say that things went relatively smoothly, but only if by "relatively smoothly" I really meant to say "actually I ended up in the wrong city entirely." It was unbelievably weird. I accidentally ended up in a parallel universe -- the city i went to is called Gorinchem, which in Dutch is a homonym for Groningen, apparently, which explains why the woman at the ticket counter sold me the wrong ticket, and why none of the 5 people I asked along the way told me I was going to the wrong place. And then when I got there, (here's the really strange part) the city looked JUST like the sketchy map Fifi had sent (same roads and marketplaces) and it took me a LONG time to realize I was in the wrong city. Who knew that you pronouce "Gorinchem" and "Groningen" almost exactly the same in Dutch? At any rate, I eventually gave up wandering. My suitcase was heavy and I was fatigued, so eventually I stumbed into a bar (naturally) and here the story gets better, because I got free beer from a very nice bartender, even though it was still only 11 am. But really I'd been awake for like 36 hours at that point, so who cares, right? He was so nice, and figured out where I was going and how to get there for me. He even let me use his cell phone to call Fifi, who was wondering why I wasn't at the train station when I said I would be. Oh, you're in another part of the Netherlands, Cheasty? Somehow, she wasn't surprised. But then again, this is me, so neither was I. A few beers later I was feeling somewhat fortified, so I toddled drunkenly back to the train station and found my way to the REAL Groningen where we proceeded to have the aforementioned wild-ass party. Theme: Bratislavan Poetry Slam and Dance-o-Mania. Insane! I'd love to show you pictures, but perhaps the following shot from the morning after will express better than all the rest just how much fun the previous night was. (note: that is my REAL hair. and my face doesn't even look like that. It might be a mask.)



Oh, fine. I'm going to show you this other picture just cause I look really funny. Like an ad for Teen Spirit or something.



Anyway, the rest of the weekend was fantastic. Fifi, Cookie, Schwupna and I did much eating, and walking and feeding ducks in the loovely parks. Spring was just begining to spring, and everything looked so beautiful. Want to see something funny? This is what happens when a cute boy rides his bike past 3 single girls (I swear this really happened):



Sigh.... But all good things must come to an end, so I packed up my baggies and took off for the wonderful city of Bruges, Belgium. What joy, what bliss! It's a living breathing fairy tale. All these canals and bridges, and boats and cobblestone streets and gothic architecture, windmills and secret gardens, and outdoor cafes, and happy people on bicycles and pretty horses looking happy in the harness carrying happy people in carriages. it was quite possibly the most surreal-ly perfect-but-not-like-Disney-perfect place I've ever been.

Of course, I had work to do, so I studied REALLY REALLY hard:



I wish I could show you all these pictures, cause they're so beautiful. I'll post some others on Ojo de Aguila later and you can check them out there. But first, here's a pretty pictures of tulips in the town square:



and a canal:



and lest you think the whole thing was just too bizarro world, there was a little carnival in the town square, too, so here's a picture of the circus ride in front of the 11th century town belfry tower. So bizarre.



I must've walked a marathon checking out the whole town. It was awesome and romantic, and I want to go back someday. The conference, however, beckoned me on to Brussels, so off I went. Luckily, my friend Caroline came over from England to hang out for a long weekend. We promptly got in trouble, as we always do. Apparently the hostel we were staying at had a 1am curfew (who knew?) and we were out drinking, gabbing up a storm, met some Argentinians, etc. Long story short, we got locked out and so I started whistling up the windows trying to wake somebody up to let us in. Some girls heard us and tried to open the door for us, but it was locked from the inside (FIRE HAZARD!!! but we won't go into that now). We were getting a little desperate, so I upped the noise level, and eventually convinced some boys on the second floor to drop down their bedsheets so we could climb up the walls and in their window. We did, laughing our pants off the whole way.

The conference went really well (I presented in Spanish for the first time!) but really, who cares, so I'll tell you other more interesting things instead. Like all about the marvels of Brussels. Gorgeous gothic architecture and picturesque plazas:



But right next to gorgeous archictecture are really awesome murals (some very very funny) of Belgian comic book characters. Apparently Belgium is called the Capital of Comics, or some such honorific. At any rate, it's the home of TinTin. Here's a picture of a Devil roasting the remains of what appears to be a man, but he's mad cause an angel is watering flowers above him and the water is splattering on his fire. (strange, strange city)



But strange or not, this is an interesting city. It is a city that does things. Builds things. European parliaments, international business. The people are insanely helpful and friendly, and every conversation starts with a listing of languages to find the one they have in common. Yet it's so quirky, too. For example, they see apparently no contradiction in building a bowling alley right next to a remnant of the medieval city wall. (Note: the wall itself is HUGE. The bowling alley is just huger.)



The Belgians are famous (rightly so) for their beer and chocolate, but here's a little known secret. Unbelievable pastry shops. Stunningly, indescribably, beautifully, decadently delicious. Light flaky fluffy... God. I could droooool just remembering it.



I never wanted to leave. But as I believe I mentioned before, all good things must come to an end. I can't wait to go back one day, but for now, there are thngs to be done here. Like reading papers, grading papers, writing papers, eating papers... (er, scratch that last). Over and out, munchkins. Love yas.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Dog's Life

This short movie made me laugh, and once (but only once, I swear) it sort of made me choke up a little (but only a little, I swear).

Monday, March 17, 2008

Texas Weather Reports: 65 Years and Counting...

At UT-Austin they are in the process of fixing up all the run down buildings, which frankly, I hate. Not the buildings. The end product. Everything is overly airconditioned, sleek and expensive looking when they're done. It looks like the University of IKEA, and I hate it. I like the old buildings where the ceilings are high and the windows open, and so fine, maybe it can get a little hot in the summer, but it's better than FREEZING TO DEATH like a refrigerated chicken. In my opinion, I should not have to carry a sweater and warm socks in my backpack at any point between March and October in Texas. So what if my office gets a little stuffy. It's got character. Character. Remember that? It's what you end up with when whatever it was that didn't kill you makes you stronger. Take for example, the bathroom in my building.

For those of you who are reading this and hang around UT, please take it upon yourselves to visit the ladies room in WAG, the first stall when you walk in the bathroom. Paper your seat, take a load off, do a crossword puzzle. And while you're at it, look at the wall to your right. For the past 65 years, women have been scribbling the date and a brief weather forecast in the grout between the tiles. "Another dreary day, February 7, 1962." "Brisk and beautiful! October 25, 1952." "Raining. Again. April, 1991." At the margins of the wall people of course have jotted other contributions (make love, not war), but for the most part, that bathroom wall is a collage, in different inks, colors, and scripts, of the daily experiences of women at UT from the early 1950s until today. You can't buy shit like that at IKEA, and I hope that whenever Wag's day comes to be renovated, somebody notices that wall and leaves it the hell alone. I added my contribution this morning. "Muggy and warm. March 17, 2008."

For the Record, A Correction

First, I'd like to offer a clarification. The date I wrote about last Thursday WAS NOT the date I just went on this weekend. I was just expressing my uncertainty about *whether* the date I had for Friday night was actually a date, given that the word "date" never popped up in conversation. The anecdote about "Frank" was just a past experience that had taught me to be wary. Turns out that Friday night was a date, and a mighty nice one, at that.

P.S. I looked hot in my new dress. How hot? Soooooooooo hot. Once I licked my finger and touched my butt, and swear to God, my skin went tssssssssssss and smoke billowed around me. Now that's hot.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How To Tell When It's A Date

Has anybody else ever had this problem? I think I've been asked out on a date, but I'm not 100% sure. Reasonably sure, but only as a byproduct of some fairly intensive detective work. But perhaps I'm overly suspicious, having been tricked into going on dates before by clever doses of misinformation and evasion. This is what happened once upon a time:

Once I got "asked out" by a guy I worked with. He was nice enough, but not that attractive, a poor conversationalist, superior to me in the workplace foodchain, and a CO-WORKER. Under normal circumstances, NEVER would I have gone out with this guy. But one day I ran into him in the hallway at around noonish. We chatted for a few moments, how ya doing, what's up, gosh this weather is crazy, blah blah blah, where are you off to, and I foolishly answered, "Oh, I'm going to get lunch." Then he said, "Hey, do you want to grab lunch together?" Not really, I thought, but how awkward.
"Um, ok, sure," I said.
"Great!" he enthused. "When are you free?"
"Um, I'm going right now. Like I just said."
"Ohhhh, well, it's just that I can't get lunch now," he said, glancing at his watch. "So can we do it another day?"
I stammered for a moment about how I wasn't sure, and awfully busy, and sheesh, will you look at the time...
"Oh, come on, it'll be my treat. You already said yes -- you can't bait and switch!"

"Hey you two, what's up?" Another co-worker enters the scene.

"Oh nothing," said my wannabe date. "Cheasty's just trying to avoid going to lunch with me." The co-worker looked vaguely uncomfortable, and who can blame him. He sort of chuckled, and said, "No, Cheasty'd never do something like that!" AAAAWWKKKWWWAAARRRDDDD.
I don't remember what I said next, but I'm certain that it involved burbling. There was now officially NO way of getting out of this with any modicum of grace. I'd been bamboozled. And worse, it ended up being that we actually couldn't do lunch, and ended up agreeing to get beer on the weekend (kill me now. It was the longest beer of my life) and while we were at the bar, who walked up but our boss, SHE WHO CONTROLS THE PURSE STRINGS. She looked at me. She looked at him. She smiled as if to say, ohhh, I get it. How cute. "Hi, Cheasty. Hi, [Frank]."

Earth, are you listening? Swallow me now.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Conversation with My Mother

I'm 30 years old, and single, right? Right. Congratulations, here's an award. But remember, Cheastypants, with great power comes great responsibility. So along with the great powers of absolute flexibility and control over my life come a series of responsibilities, most of them to my mother. Like, for example, the increasingly awkward conversation we have every year around the Christmas holidays. I hate it, but it's something I must do, just to make her feel better.

It started when I was about 23 and hadn't had a serious boyfriend in years. It was college, dude! I was having too much fun. But slowly my mother started introducing words like "commitment" and "phobia" into our conversations about men, relationships, and my future. I protested in vain. More about my early dating habits later, but for now, I'd like to tell you about one of the most painfully sweet things my mother has ever said to me. This was the day that I realized, after years of encouragement and hopeful optimism, that my mother had given up on me. Not entirely, I'm sure. She is, after all, a preacher, and therefore a believer in miracles, but nonetheless. I was officially in the realm of miracles, and therefore not in a good place, regarding men, relationships, and my future. And my mom wanted me to know that that was okay.

A couple of years ago, Mom and Dad were re-doing their will, having added children, property, and mountains of diamond-studded gold bricks (kidding) to their collective assets since the previous writing. Mom found me in the living room one afternoon and asked me what I wanted to receive in their will. Ugh, I said. I want not to be having this conversation. You will never die, I forbid it. Regardless, Mom insisted, asking and prompting me, until finally I said that I'd be happy if I could have her scarab bracelet. I don't even know if I'm spelling that right, or what exactly a scarab is. All I know is that this bracelet is beautiful -- many different colored stones set in a gold setting, and linked together. More importantly, it is something of a family heirloom, having been her mother's before it was Mom's. So I love it. I love the way the stones catch the light, becoming almost opaque, and I love the way all the different colors mean I never have to wonder if it matches what I'm wearing (not a forté of mine). Best of all, I'd be carrying something with me that she loved as much as I do. I really love that bracelet. Mom was touched. She may or may not have welled up with tears at my uncommon sensitivity. She sniffled, she kissed me, and she let the conversation go without further questions about rugs, paintings, furniture, and the like.

Then, a few days later, she found me in the living room again, and gave me a small jeweler's box. "What's this?" I asked. "Oh, nothing," she replied, looking nonchalant. "Just something I found while I was shopping today. Open it." I opened it, and inside was a beautiful small scarab bracelet set in silver. I looked up at her, surprised. "What on earth is this for?"

"Oh, nothing much," she said. "I saw this and thought about you and what you said the other day, and I thought this could be like a promise bracelet, you know? You wear this one until I pass away, and then when you start wearing mine, you can give this small one to your... (awkward pause, as she cast about for the right words)... you know, niece, or some other girl in the family you're especially fond of."

Crickets, crickets.

(Thanks, Mom. I love you, and I promise I'm trying super hard not to let you down. Don't give up on me yet -- I have a date tomorrow night!)

I'm Not Making This Up, My Friend.

I talked to a good friend of mine today, a friend who has known me lo these twelve years and more, and she said, regarding the fire-eating magician of yesterday's post, that she thinks that sometimes I just make shit up to get a good story out of it. Sometimes. Not always. But sometimes. Now, I will be the first to cop to perhaps exaggerating a story here and there to make a better punchline, to drive home a dramatic point, although I did that far more in my misspent youth than I do now. As my good friend Pony once told me, I tend to live my life in hyperbole. But I draw the line at making shit up. This is for you, Red.

Exhibit A: Photograph of Cheasty and Spikey-Headed Fire-Eater. And moustaches. Sorry, very fuzzy, which is why I didn't post it in the first place.



Exhibit B: Thank God I had the presence of mind to hit the video recorder on my camera. The video quality is horrible, the sound is... well, I've got an exceptionally cheap camera, so let's leave it at that. The action centers around the 30 second mark, more or less. Check it out. Fire eating. video

UPDATE: Sorry, there seems to be some problem uploading my Quicktime file. So much for making a dramatic point. I'll work on figuring this out later.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Supermarket Sweep

In spite of the ennui that is fashionable among people as fabulous and elegant as I, I must confess to a new obsession that has whipped me up into an unbecoming tizzy of excitement. I am in love with a game. So in love, in fact, that I want to play it every day, everywhere I go. I am endlessly inventive when it comes to playing this game, or derivatives of it. The game is Supermarket Sweep.

I first played it a few nights ago. My friends Lahn Jahn and NaeRae (two of my best friends from college), are in town visiting and attending SXSW festivals. Rather than go out to dinner, we decided to eat in. And rather than eat anything normal and mundane, Lahn Jahn proposed that we do what she and her boyfriend occasionally do: supermarket sweep. This is how it works: you decide the parameters (time spent shopping, cost, "ethnic" foods, etc), and say go. We chose time as our parameter. Each person had 15 minutes to buzz through the grocery store, pick up as many or as few items as they wanted, and then meet back at the registers. Whatever you've picked up is what's for dinner.

It rocked! We had sausages and cheese, grapes and apples, jam and bread, wine and olives, tomatoes and cucumbers, more wine... It was perfect. As my dear wonderful super awesome friends and I gathered around the coffee table, we snacked, we talked, we caught up on years gone by, and rehashed favorite memories. And we owed it all to Supermarket Sweep.

I ought to confess that part of my current obsession is due to my insane good luck with this game. Witness: we played a game of Party Sweep yesterday, and you won't believe how lucky I got. Lahn Jahn, our friend the Samurai Warrior, and I went to one of NaeRae's South By Southwest schmooze-fest parties, where we knew absolutely nobody. We were three random chicks surrounded by people who worked in "the industry," so I said, hey, let's supermarket sweep the party! We each got 20 minutes to run around and talk to strangers and then meet back at the bar to compare notes and see who met the coolest person. This was something of a personal challenge for each of us, all three being somewhat more to the shy side of things, but I was in a great mood, so I shamelessly browbeat my poor friends to go along with the idea. We clinked glasses, gulped our drinks down, and headed off into the party to see who would meet the most interesting guest.

Feeling my oats, I walked right up to a guy who had made his hair stand up in spikes all over the top of his head (how did he do it? Hair gel? Hairspray? Cement? Magic?). I figured, with hair like that, this guy's gotta have something going for him. Sure enough. He was a fire eater and magician, and he gave me a demo of some of his fire-eating tricks right there at the bar. I couldn't believe my luck; I'd knocked out a homer in the first inning. A fire eating magician? Beat that! And he had an iPhone, which, I'm not entirely sure, but I think it might mean he's cooler than me (and probably everybody else I know) by a factor of a million gajillion infinity squared. I cannot lose at this game.

In the interest of continuing my obsession, just this morning I decided to Supermarket Sweep the various clutters and messes in my house. I gave myself 15 minutes to see how many I could clean up. Want to know how many I knocked out? No you don't, cause the answer is ZERO. But I did freshen up my pedicure, which has to count for something.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Thoughts on a Caucus

A few weeks ago I wrote about my excitement for participating in the democratic primary elections, and two nights ago was IT. The big day. Finally, I voted in an election where I knew my vote would actually count; that evening, I caucused for the first time in my life.

At 7:15 pm, hundreds of people gathered in the dusk outside our precinct voting station (a local elementary school), and as the temperatures dropped and night fell darker, volunteers eventually herded us into the elementary school's cafeteria. It was disorganized and uncertain; nobody knew exactly what to do, nobody knew where to go, yet people remained calm and reasonably cheerful. Barack and Hillary beamed down upon us from posters up on the wall. The volunteers eventually organized us into a couple of different lines, but then kept changing their minds about who ought to be in which line, whether we needed our voter registration card, our "I voted" card, both, neither, etc. One man started to get a little testy, and loudly berated a young man who was doing his best to inform people what was going on, where to stand, and what to do. And you know what happened? As a body, people around him turned and admonished him to calm down and be patient. It was marvelous. Normally people tend not to bother a grump. In fact, they usually think the grump has a good point, and thank god HE said it, cause I never would, and so on. Not at the caucus. It was as if every person there was as excited about being there as I was, and uniformly they thought "Hey, man, you are NOT going to ruin this for me, so shut your hole and cool off." He shut his hole.

I started chatting with a guy standing near me and it turns out he'd caucused in years past. "Why's it so chaotic?" I asked him. "Don't they do this every election year?" He laughed and said, "Well, yeah, but every other year I've caucused it's just been 5 people and a card table." Looking around at the hundreds of people lined up on all sides, I thought, well, Bush can be proud of one thing, at least. He's spurred this nation to new heights of commitment to participatory democracy.

As things go, it actually went pretty fast, once they figured out a system. One volunteer came down the line with juice and cookies, and as he passed my section of line, he apologized to us for the long wait. "No worries," said a dad with a stroller. "We've waited seven years - fifteen more minutes won't kill us."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Scary Things On Town Lake

Crasey and I went canoeing yesterday on Town Lake. Town Lake is what Austinites call the Colorado River as it winds through the center of downtown Austin. (Look at a map, skeptics. There are TWO Colorado Rivers!) Say hello to Crasey. She just got a fabulous haircut. (Sorry, that was for my Dad, who wanted to see Crasey's new fabulous haircut. Fabulous, no?)



It was a beautiful afternoon, and we saw many wonderful things. For example, we saw turtles.



Lots of turtles. Turtles are unrepentant sunbathers, it turns out. Shameless hussies. Everybody knows beauty is only skin deep.



There are, government sources estimate, one trillion gajillion ducks on Town Lake.

Crasey: Wow, I wish I had bread crumbs to throw them!
Me: Why?
Crasey: Cause then they'd follow us around!"
Me: No way. One duck, cute. Two hundred ducks, scary.
Crasey: Whatever. Here, watch. I'll throw water at them so they think it's bread crumbs.

She threw water, and delighted in the many many ducks that flocked to our canoe.



Crasey: See? They're so cute!
Me: (silently laughing, cause I'm behind her with the camera, and she doesn't see what I see.)



Crasey: AAAAAAHHHHH!!! What the f&ck?! That thing is huge! Get me out of here NOW!!
Me: Hehe. Ha.

So we left the ducks, and frolicked about the rest of the lake. We paddled around, went under bridges, splashed each other, laughed, talked, and laid down in the canoe, letting the current drift us along. I love Town Lake.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A Conversation with Crasey

Crasey: ... and not only is he gorgeous, but he's got a REALLY hot accent.

Me: Oh, yeah? Where's he from?

Crasey: Um, I'm not sure, but it's somewhere between England and Germany.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

This weekend was the first ever reunion for my family and some of our cousins. I'd like to tell you about it, but how could I effectively communicate the massive fun, the hectic craziness, the really awesome time we all had? I've been struggling with this one for a while now, and I think that the best way is to highlight one example that typified the spirit of the weekend. After much deliberation, I've decided that the event in question will be (drum roll, please)....

Spontaneous Bouncy Castle Rental and BeerFest!

Coming back from a spectacular hangover recovery brunch at Juan in a Million, we drove past all the piñata fiesta stores down on the east side. Crasey, not being the type to ever pass up an opportunity to have even MORE fun, made us stop to price check. Cost? $89. Divided by six. Duh. Result? More fun that I thought possible. We got it home, inflated it, called a bunch of friends, put out coolers of beer, lawn chairs, and a stereo, and rocked out. We jumped, we leapt, we learned to do front flips, and then one cousin mastered (I use the term loosely, understand) backflips. We crashed into each other, we laughed, we screamed, we sang old R&B at the top of our lungs, we drank beer, we partied until the damn thing literally collapsed on our heads. It was a superlatively wonderful afternoon, and that night after dinner and bars, we came home, pumped it back up, and did it all again. I love my family.

Here are some pics. I took about a million, but these are a few of my favorites.

I think this one of Crasey and cousin A-Rod needs a name, don't you?



Fairy King got some serious air.



Umulu and Lola laughed till they nearly wet themselves.



My hair had almost as much fun as I did. Notice the cell phone. I believe I took this picture in the middle of a nearly-incoherent phone call to Mutt and Nan to come over and play. They did.



A-Rod and his backflips. He almost stuck the landing. But not quite.



Mutt and Nan. God, I love them.



Now it's Monday, sigh, and the cousins and brother have gone back home. Thank God Crasey is still here, or I'd go into total withdrawal. Speaking of Crasey, here's one of my favorite shots of the weekend. As the Bouncy Castle collapsed and her brothers and cousins smother to death inside, many of us scurried about trying to save them from certain death. Crasey, however, struck a pose with Mr. Incredible. (Although, who am I to judge; it's not like I was all that helpful, either. Instead, I ran around taking 10 million pictures of the collapsing moonwalk. I'm not sure who actually saved the boys, now that I think of it.)



Good bye, cousins.



Goodbye, siblings.



See y'all soon.

(Little brother Bug and busy cousin Kate, see you next time, I hope.)