Thursday, September 30, 2004

With thanks and apologies to Dr Bronner...

The project I'm working on right now is a 2-day course on multiple imputation of missing data. Way-nerdy stuff, even if you're a statistician. I am trying to overcome a dilemma in how to write the lecture portion of the course material.

Well. We have standards. For instance, we're not supposed to use bold, italics, or underlining for emphasis. There are very specific circumstances where these tools are used, such as defining a new term for the first time, and that is all. Which means that if I want to draw attention to one or two points on a page that are particularly important, there's not a good way to do so.

So in the shower this morning, it occurred to me- I'm adding a new style standard, known henceforth as the Dr Bronner method.

For example, instead of:

Most data analysis situations involve the estimation of unknown parameters from a sample drawn from the population of interest, typically with some assumptions being made about that sampling process.

You'd see:

Assumptions are being made about that sampling process!! OK!

Observations provide information for estimating the parameters corresponding to the variables used in the analysis!!!!! OK!

And instead of:

Nonignorable missingness depends upon either of two conditions. The first condition states that if the mechanism that leads to the missing observations (PHI) is unrelated to the (unknown) parameters for the model, THETA, missingness is nonignorable.

The second condition is more likely: if missingness for a particular variable is related to the true value of that variable, then we say that missingness is not ignorable, and furthermore, that it is not random.

You'd see:

Understand nonignorable missingnes!! Two conditions!! Two! Two!! OK!

First Condition: Phi is unrelated to Theta!! Unrelated! Unrelated!!!

Second Condition: Missingness is not related to the True value of the variable! Not related! Not related! Not random!!!

And finally, instead of:

Sophisticated methods of handling unobserved data can perform reasonably well even with nonrandom missingness. Specifically, it may be possible to model the missing data mechanism before performing certain types of imputation. The more information you have about your observations, the more likely it is that you can adequately model the missing data mechanism PHI and make the missingness ignorable.

you'd see:

We can handle the nonignorable missingess!! AllOne!! AllOne!!

Model the missing mechanism before the analysis!! Before the analysis!! Before the analysis!!

Find the model for Phi!! OK!!

We must protect ourselves from nonrandom missingness to protect Spaceship Earth!! OK!

This approach, I think, would really reach students where they live. Way more effective than long, boring paragraphs. What do you think? Will it work?

I'm still feeling the BBQ from yesterday.

I met a deadline at work yesterday-- 3 days early, I might add-- which means I now have a little more time to work on the *other* project that has an unrealistic deadline. But now I have the "woo I finished that final exam and now it's SUMMERTIME" blues. I've got to find a way to get started on this even though I'd rather surf the web at work. Or write in my blog. hm.

A coworker had a neat idea for a diet- she said that she thought her metabolism was slowing down, so instead of eating 2 or 3 big meals a day, she's eating 7 or 8 tiny meals a day. I call it the Hobbit diet, but she didn't like that nickname too much. Anyway, I might try it too. I already eat like a hobbit, but most of my meals aren't tiny. So I'd only be changing one thing, right? Anyway, I've gotta try something different because I outgrew another pair of blue jeans this month. And until we sell the house I can't go shopping for more. Dabnabbit.

Modean has been especially affectionate lately. He usually gets that way after one or both of us has been on too many trips without him, or when it's cold. But he's just spontaneously become Mr oohdon'tleaveIneeeeeedyourloveNOOWWWW. And he's eating his food. Something's up with that dog.

I need to plan what to bring to Uvalde next week. It'll be warm, for sure. Shorts and t-shirts. I'll need the bridesmaid dress and shoes, of course. Something for the rehersal dinner? Will there be a rehersal dinner? Will it be the customary (for my family) eating wild pig and venison fajitas around a camp fire? Or will the groom's family plan something a little more civilized? Does he have any idea that, in marrying a Rhodes girl, he's actually marrying a Rhodes clan? That he'll never again have any secrets? Just who does this guy think he is, anyway, and can his mama cook a roux?

Oops- tangent. And by the way, Tony may seem like a saint to have stayed married to a Rhodes girl for nearly 10 years now, but the truth is that Tony is actually being kept cryogenically frozen in an undisclosed location and he was replaced immediately after the wedding with a mandroid. Oh, crap, I wasn't supposed to tell you that.

(just kidding, Roy, we love you. Now be a good boy and follow Tita into that door marked "secret underground lair")

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Today was the department picnic-- BBQ, fried chicken, cole slaw, hush puppies, brunswick stew and lemonade. And hot apple and peach cobbler. No dinner for me tonight!

This was the first year we've had the picnic without any inflated pompous speeches, "welcome" recognition for people we've hired this year, and other formalities. I suspect that this was because practically all of upper management are recovering from knee reconstruction surgeries and didn't want to stand up from their tables. Whatever the reason, everyone ate happily in peace, sat with people we don't get to see every day because we all travel and some people work in a different wing of the building when they are in town, and discussed why the meal was just going to wreck our low carb/ low fat/ 6 meal a day/ 1 meal a day/ no wheat/ vegetarian diets. It was great! I hope next year's picnic is as much fun.

Next week I'll be heading to Uvalde, TX for Twinkie #2's wedding. I'll be bringing iPod with me, and so far I've loaded up through the Fs in my CD collection. Hopefully I'll get through the rest of the alphabet before Tuesday. Yesterday and this morning I jogged with iPod and it was SO MUCH better than jogging with a CD player. I have an arm-band thingie, which is a little wierd but I'll get used to it. In the dark, it has backlighting so I can see it to skip past crappy songs. :-D

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Well, my cousin PartnerInCrime should get kickbacks from Apple, because I got an iPod over the weekend. It's pretty nifty. I went for the 20GB version, a good compromise between the oh-so-stylish mini (4GB) and the just-a-little-too-heavy 40GB version. It's white with a shiny silver chrome back. I know why the people in their ads are all wearing gloves- they're trying to keep from getting fingerprints on the back of their iPod. I find myself compuslively rubbing the back of my iPod on the front of my shirt.

The documentation for this thing is really funny. As someone who does a lot of writing for software, I understand that there are corporate style and usage policies, and one of them at Apple is apparently to never refer to the unit as "an iPod," or "your iPod," or "the iPod." This is because, you see, iPod is a proper noun. It is "iPod." Period. Be sure iPod is fully charged before you sync it with your computer. When you plug in iPod, iTunes will automatically update your music. To turn on iPod, press any button. To turn off iPod, press and hold the Play/Pause button. Always keep iPod in a cool dry place. Be sure to feed iPod at least twice a day. Never, never, never shake iPod.

I had some trouble with iPod at first. I couldn't get the software to detect that iPod was plugged into my computer. I read on the discussion lists that iPod doesn't like USB all that much, and I was suspicious about my USB ports to begin with, so I called tech support (I know the super-secret-tech support numbr now). They talked to iPod, but iPod was being surly and just stared at the wall. Tech support sent me to the Apple store. I went. While iPod and I waited for a genius/iPod therapist, I emailed PartnerInCrime and asked if she knew how to alleviate iPod's woes. Turns out she did have the same problem, and had a solution that probably would have fixed it, but I didn't see her email reply until after I left the Apple store. armed with a new Firewire card. It worked! Now iPod is happy and well-adjusted.

On other news, we spent the entire weekend working on the old house again. We repainted the kitchen, dining room and utility room-- and now almost all the rooms are back to the ugly builder-beige that the house was paitend when we bought it. This was out new realtor's idea. Hey, if it sells the house, I'll paint it purple. We still haven't painted the front living room, but it's a very subtle blue-green (called Tea Time, as I recall) and is more of a relaxing aura than a color. We'll paint in there next weekend if we have time, but I think it was more important to get rid of the bolder colors in the house. We also cleaned up a lot, had the house, driveway and sidewalks power-washed, we changed a bunch of fixtures and switchplate covers, and did some more yardwork

And today another former hurricane is coming to town. That'll mean more yardwork next weekend.

Tomorrow is my division's annual picnic- yay, 2 hour lunch! I hope the hurricane has moved on by then!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

We met our new realtor last night (YAY) and I have a lot of hope that we'll be able to sell the house with her. She had some revolutionary ideas, like putting pictures on REALTOR.COM, leaving MLS sheets/flyers out in front of the house, and actually sending us the email feedback she gets on the house from other realtors. Wow, it's all so innovative I just don't know what to do with myself (you may be rolling your eyes, but really, the other realtor? wouldn't do any of those things. Even when I asked her to).

And the weather is SO GREAT this week, I've decided to start jogging to work some of the time instead of riding. I have this great system planned: Bike to work the long way (through the state park, 4.3 miles), jog home the short way (through campus, 2.3 miles) and the next morning, jog to work the short way and bike home the long way. I did it yesterday and today, and it takes almost the same amount of time to jog the short way as to bike the long way: <30 vs 20 minutes. Only downside is I get a LOT more sweaty jogging than biking: there's a lot to be said for a 20 mph breeze. Once the weather cools down mre, I might start jogging the long way as well. That'd be probably 50 minutes each way.

Tomorrow night some friends are coming over to watch Bubba Ho Tep and eat burgers and crepes-- sort of a texafrance theme, I guess.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Well, we finally are doing it-- we're getting a NEW REALTOR. Woowoo! I hope this one is more successful at getting the house sold than the last, but we'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, she's given us a ton of homework to do:

Power wash decks, brick on the house, driveway and sidewalk

Re-paint the living room, bedroom, dining room, bathroom, dining room, utility room

Replace the (recently replaced) light fixtures again (rereplace?)

and a few piddly things I won't take the time to recall here.

Just last weekend we re-floored the utility room, and it took our whole Sunday. And it was a really pretty day.

So the next few weekends will be taken up with chores at the old house. And if you're wondering, yes, the new house is still exactly as we bought it- we've done no painting, no renovating, no fence has been built, no cabinet added in the kitchen, and it's not because nothing needs to be done, if you catch my drift.

At work I'm sitting in another 3-day class, this time it's a test teach for a course written by a Canadian colleague. Sadly, I will have to ignore most of his lecture because I've got some crazy deadlines approaching. But the bike ride to work through the park has been particulrly nice lately- it's been around 55-60 degrees and clear in the morning, so as I cross over the lake on the bike trail, there is mist rising from the water and the trees and cliffsides reflect on the water and it's really pretty. I don't know how I make it into work each day, honestly. One of these days I'll just sit on that bridge and stay there all day long.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Right now we are underneath Ivan, or what's left of him-- mostly just MUG-GY and windy, with occasional blasts of precipitation (I think I used to work with a guy like this). Some cool cloud formations-- dark dark grey clouds punctuated with little bits of clear blue sky. Of course I did ride my bike to work today, as I usually do on days that we have tornado watches. I am just glad that New Orleans gets to stay above ground for another year, or so it seems right now.

The 3-day Boot Camp class I attended is over, and I think I graduated- yay? What that means is that now I can once again teach classes with this software at customer sites (rather than be restricted to our own training centers). That's good and bad. Good: more opportunities to teach classes at some fun sites. Bad: if too few other people are certified, then I teach TOO MANY classes at customer sites, and have no time left for what I'm supposed to be writing right now when I'm at the home office. Good: I feel better prepared to handle unexpected configuration problems (as in, I'm a statistician, not an IT person, so your server's port # for the IOM bridge-- not my problem) Bad: more on-site opportunities for unexpected configuration problems. In all, the goods are weightier than the bads. I like this software and I kind of miss teaching it.

On the "oh I wish I was you" front, 3 of my coworkers are headed off to Europe in the next few weeks. Fuzzy scored a class in Germany that he'll be flying to next week- unfortunately he won't have a lot of time to visit. NewGuy will be teaching in Denmark (or is it Belgium? Danishes, Belgian waffles-- you can see why I'd confuse them) in October and RenaissanceWoman's fiancee was assigned to 6 weeks in Paris for business (Oh, how I wish I could get an asssignment like that) so she'll be going for 2 weeks in October to visit. She's boning up on a few French phrases and made her first phone call in french yesterday. You can read about it here. Aah, I remember my first french phone call:

Hotel: Bonjour, (name of funky french art hotel in Saumur), puis-je vous aider?

Me: uuuuuuuuuuuuuuh, oui, uuuuuuuuuuuh, je- voudrais- faire- une reservation- pour- votre- hotel, s'il vous plait?

H: Oui, Madame.

M: uuuuuuuuuh

H: Pour quelle date?

M: OH! Nous - arriverons - le (date of arrival) et - nous - partirons - le (date of departure)

H: Tres bien, madame. Zhe zhe zhe fru fru fru?

M: Uuuuuuh- pardon? Je - ne - comprends - pas...

H: zhe zhe combien personnes fru fru?

M: Ah! Oui! 2 chambres, pour 3 personnes. 2 - personnes - dans - un - chambre, 1 personne - dans - l'autre - chambre.

H: Alors. zhezhezhefrufrujuneee?

M: Dites encore? Je -- suis -- desolee, mais --- je -- ne -- parle -- pas -- tres -- bien...

H: Yu want ze brekfahst?

M: Oh! Non, merci, pas de petit dejuner pour nous.

H: Alors, a quelle heure..what tihme weeel yu be ahrivingg?

M: OH! uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh, uuuuuuuuuuuh, dans l'apres midi? Pres de 3 heures de l'apres midi?

H: Oui, madame. Tres bien, zhezhezhefrufrufru!!

M: D'accord...merci....


M:D'accord... merci...


M: merci, madame uhhhhhhhh

H: (paaaauuuuuse) au revoir, madame!! Bye-bye!

M: OH! au revoir.

Although I've come a long way since then, I still have not quite figured out how to end a phone conversation in french. In English:

1: well, OK, I better run...

2: Oh, yeah, me too...

1: OK, talk to you later.

2: OK- see you!

1: bye!

2: bye

It's like a little dance that we are so good at that we don't even realize we're doing it. Like the slow walk towards the door that gets everyone else up out of their seats and also headed towards the door, and then there is an appropriate "break point" where it is appropriate to ask, "Oh, are we going now?" and that is like the "spin" right before the "dip" at the end of the dance.

I hope everyone has a great time in Europe. As soon as we sell that stupid house, I'm buying a pair of plane tickets.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

I'm in a 3-day training class this week. It's a class taught by and for employees in my department, learning how to setup software for onsite training courses. We're having a fun time, but I have to wonder- if setting up this software is so complicated that we (the experts) have to take a 3-day training just to understand it, how can we expect customers to set it up properly?


In other news, Modean got a bath last night. The dogs were playing out in the rain while we caught up on season 5 of Sex and the City. Goofch was a little upset that we left them out in the rain but was sure that it must've been his fault. That dog carries the weight of the world on his lugubrious face. All the while Modean was digging his way to China. Perhaps he was seeking shelter from the storm? When we brought them in, he was filthy and laughing maniacally.

By the way, Modean and Goofch mentioned that they're pretty bored during the day and since Modean knows how to type (he's slow--hunt and peck), they wanted to start a blog. I let them tack onto my blogsite. Here's the address. Check it out, they'd appreciate it. They also have a couple of new (small) pictures on their picture-page

Monday, September 13, 2004

Cheeseburgers in Cheeseburgers in Cheesburgers (and Cookies) in Paradise

Where Cheeseburger is a proxy for burgers, hot dogs, chips, candy, chicken, pasta, garlic bread and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

LONG POST. Read it in bites?

I'm talking, of course, about the MS150 this past weekend in New Bern. We drove down on Friday evening along with most of the greater Triangle area. Not only were 1400 riders making their way to the coast for the ride, so was everyone else-- the weather was expected to be sunny and mild all weekend. Surfers, bikers, sunworshippers, triple-pontoon sailboaters, you name it-- all headed out on Hwy 70 for a weekend of great weather and beaches. I'm guessing that I-40 to Wilmington was at least as crowded.

Since SNG was the team captain (henceforth referred to as El Capitan), we had the duty of driving the SEI company pickup truck with a U-Haul trailer at the back full of the team's bikes. We were honored. There was fanfare every time we turned right- Bump! Bang! Ting! and applause every time we turned left (HEY! AAAAH! WHOA!). Although the outside spectator may have thought that these were the sounds of running over curbs and near-misses with oncoming traffic, we knew that we were hearing desperate cries of loyalty to El Capitan.

We had the dogs in the cab with us. They need breath fresheners. I'll say no more about that.

The dogs got to stay in El Cap's parents' garage for the weekend (they live in New Bern). I don't get this- everyone was saying, "Oh, the Poor Dogs! They'll have to spend most of the weekend in that dark, smelly garage!!" Now, really. There's a boat, some old carpet, tools, rags, a garbage can and some smelly overalls. Sometimes there's even a truck in there. It's dog heaven. What more could a dog want? A TV? Internet access, perhaps? Considering the fact that they sleep 16 hours a day, I'd think a dark smelly garage would be right up their alley. They got to take walks in the meadow several times a day, they were given lots of attention from the grandparents. There were no complaints in dog-land.

We had a nice birthday dinner and some blueberry pie with El C's parents and then headed back to our hotel for the night. Nice hotel- besides the stains on the walls and cigarette burns in the bedding, there was a diesel engine-powered window A/C unit that drowned out the siren noises outside.

Saturday we were reluctantly up by 6, down at breakfast by 7, and at the ride start by 8.

Oh, and it was raining.

8:30 rolled around. Some guy is talking about God knows what, then some lady, they're laughing and yelling into a PA system, playing snippets of the SAME THEME SONGS that we heard all weekend last year, and of course again this year, and surely again next year and oh God I hate these songs now "LALALATHEMYSTERYTOUR!!!! LALALTHEMYSTERYTOUR!!! MAGICCARPETRIDE!!! MAGICCARPETRIDE!!! LALALATHEMYSTERYTOUR!!!! LALALATHEMYSTERYTOUR!!!! MAGICCARPETRIDE!!! " Someone sang the national anthem badly (is there any other way to sing the national anthem?).


FINALLY they let the 1st group ride away from the horrible repetitive music. I want to be next year's top fundraiser so I can escape the horrible repetitive music faster. Because once the 1st group was released, the people started bantering again. And then the music started again. Then they released the Hammerhead riders (25+ MPH, mostly riding the century) who raced away as fast as they could singing Diana Ross tunes and Funkytown to try to clean the taste of the Beatles out of their minds.

Then some more banter. More LALALAMAGICCARPETRIDE and group 2 was released-- 20+ MPH. *sigh* why did we decide to go with the 15-20s? We could be gone by now!

Did I mention rain?

Group 3-- they cut our group into 2 pieces-- we were in the latter half. So half of the 15-20s were released. At last, (it's 8:50, BTW) we were released (I chose to cleanse my musical palette with I Feel Fine by the Sundays). Did I mention, 1400 riders? Another 20 minutes, we'd gone about 2 miles, and finally some open space. Um, hey folks, 15-20 MPH means your *average* speed, not "Once I coasted down a hill at almost 15MPH" The first 38 miles were spent passing riders who- knees akimbo, weaving in an out of pacelines, sprinting in aerobars, then slowing down- presented quite an obstacle course.

Rides like this present a difficult choice. To go faster with less effort, it is advantageous to "draft"- ride close to the person in front of you- to gain an aerodynamic advantage, going faster with less effort. Drafting is a key to surviving these long rides and still finishing fresh. On the other hand, in the rain, bike tires throw out a rosster tail of mud and road slime that is at its climax at a tangent to the wheel in the direction of the rider drafting behind.

To draft, or not to draft?

If you can breathe mouth-closed, draft. If you need to open-mouth breathe, fall back. Take some wind. Spit.

Three of us from our team rode together and did pretty well balancing drafting and not drafting. We skipped the 1st and 2nd rest stops, and stopped for lunch at the third. Lunch 1: PBJ sandwich, Ham sandwich, 3 orange segments, 4 cookies, 1/2 moon pie.

After the lunch stop another team member rode with us and many riders were either still at stops 1 and 2, exausted from hammering all-out the first 38 miles, or way ahead of us finishing up the century. It was great. Skipped rest stop 4 and stopped at 5 to re-fuel. HOMEMADE COOKIES! 3 cookies, 1 brownie, and a toffee graham cracker bar.

Only 13 miles back to New Bern!

We were in by 1:15 or so and I made a bee-line to the massage table to work out a walnut that was forming underneath by left shoulderblade.

We learned that one of our teammates who started behind us had a crash in the 1st half of the ride and was taken to the hospital. She was drafting and while putting her water bottle back in the holder, the guy in front had slowed a bit, she hit his rear wheel and POW onto the pavement at about 20 mph. Some road rash, but most of the impact seems to have been on her head. Helmet was split, she had a goose egg on her head and was a bit disoriented. They released her from the hospital after some xrays determined nothing was broken, but of course, sat out the rest of the day's ride. We laughed about the story over dinner, but I kept thinking, without the helmet we'd be visiting her in the ICU. It was one of those accidents that could have happened to anyone. Friends, please wear helmets when you ride. Please? (end of psa)

The weather finally cleared up in the afternoon, so after some long showers and hosing down the bikes, we walked around NB with El C's mom and did a little shopping. Lunch 2: beef jerky, chips, 2 cookies.

Dinner was at the convention center. Garlic bread (5 pc), chicken (6-7 oz), salad (about 1 cubic foot), 2 cookies, 2 brownies, veggies with cheese sauce.

Sunday was sunny and warm.




*grumble&*%$&*grumble**why is there the sound of a toilet flushing in that song??*

We rolled out at 8:15, and by 9:15 we were in a double paceline with some seasoned riders and a lot of Indoor Cyclists. Indoor Cyclists: people who train for a big ride by doing spinning classes. They usually have lots of fitness and zero bike-handling skills or etiquette. They take the bike to the shop when the tires are low. They do not know to point out crap on the road, that you should signal your intentions to nearby riders, that you might not want to go chase down every single rider that passes the group, because you WILL be sucked back in again once you've busted your lungs, that in a double paceline you shouldn't cruise up.the.middle and stay there.

In classic style of SpiderStan's daughter, I finally decided that this was no place for tolerating fools lightly. "Hey! Hold your line. I need you to tell me if you're going to swerve around for no apparent reason," etc. Did I get a few ugly looks? Probably. We got rid of several offenders and a few others chose to ride a little more neighborly. And several people thanked me for my, um, frankness.

We actually finished day 2 slower than day 1 because it was WINDY WINDY WINDY. How can you ride a 76 mile loop and have a headwind or crosswind the entire way? I swear, we only had maybe 10 miles of tailwind total. We were exausted.

LUNCH 1: 3 PBJ sandwiches, 1 hummus pita, cookies, cookies, cookies, oranges, 1 ritz cracker.

Our teammate who wrecked on Saturday (and the other teammate who she wrecked into) rode Sunday in her brand new helmet. They decided to start out at the VERY BACK of the 1400 rider crowd and still blew us away by the finish. You might chalk it up to those fabulous tri-bikes they were riding, or maybe the fact that they were riding on fresher legs-- whatever it was, they made it look easy.

At the finish there was a big picnic lunch.

LUNCH 2: hamburger, 2 patties; chicken patty; hot dog no bun; pretzels; 4 cookies, salad.

We cleaned up and picked up the dogs, drove home, eating lots of Truck Stop snacks along the way, and went to a salad place for dinner. Woke up 4 lbs heavier this morning than I was on Friday.

I burned an estimated 6000 calories on the bike, and I replaced it with about 5999. A girl could get used to this kind of dieting.

So how was your weekend?

Friday, September 10, 2004

Happy Birthday To Me!!!

This year's birthday (no need to ask-- I'm 31) is already way better than my 30th, but still not quite up to the standard set by my 29th. And 28th was just wierd (not in a good way, though).

But I LURVE birthdays-- mine or other people's. That's probably my mom's fault- she always makes a big deal of bdays. But the 29th bday set the standard: In Paris with Tony, had a fantastic time shopping and eating french pastries, riding around on the Metro and visiting the Louvre, having Canard aux Olives for dinner under the gold nighttime glow of the Eiffel Tower. Aaaaaaaaah, that's the way to do it. I think EVERY birthday should be spent that way.

Last year (30) was the antithesis of the Paris bday-- alone in Indianapolis eating an apple dumpling at the Cheesecake factory. I guess on average, 29 and 30 were still pretty good.

31 has been fun so far. Last night Tony invited a bunch of friends to go out for BBQ and bowling, and then we had ice cream afterwards. I love bowling. I'm so bad at it. It's so much fun. But I don't like "serious bowlers." Fortunately, none of my friends last night were serious bowlers. In fact, some were as bad at bowling as me! Or at least they pretended to be for my birthday.

This afternoon we drive down to New Bern to ride in the MS150-- it's a 2-day, 150-mile bike ride (75 miles each day) to raise money and awareness for MS research and patient support programs. We did it last year and it was hella-fun, and it looks like the weather should hold out for us. We're currently between-hurricanes.

I'll let you know how the ride goes next week-- hopefully no crashes!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Summer Movie Fest!

My summer movie watching list includes all sorts of greats from the MegaCorporateMovie rental place that I'd never *pay* to rent. Back in June we enrolled in the "rent all you want as long as you don't take more than 3 at a time" program at MCM rental place. This is intended to serve 2 purposes- to make up for having no cable TV at home and to have movies to watch on long boring plane trips.

After the initial gleam of All Those Movies We Missed In The Theatres, we quickly realized that there are a LOT of crap movies there on the shelves. We're working through them on at a time.

We saw "Once Upon A Time in Mexico." Oops, nope, make that "in The Midlands." "In Mexico" would have meant that we actually read the ENTIRE title on the box.

We watched it anyway.

We rented everything in French with English subtitles. I know why they like Jerry Lewis. The French have no Funny.

Tony rented all the Scary Movies. I rented anything with John Cusak in it. Oh yes, ANYTHING. Ever seen True Colors? No? Lucky, lucky you.

We rented long stuff, we rented short stuff. We rented the entire first season of Six Feet Under-- and then they hid the 2nd season from us. Now I have to wait to find out whether the mother picked Hiram the Corn Flake or Gorbachev the Florist or became a lesbian instead.

We rented anything with pretty food images. We rented stuff we've already seen. We've even rented stuff we already own.

So we don't sound quite so desperate, we rented stuff on DVD that we already had on VHS because the VHS has no extras. Gotta see the deleted scenes. OK, maybe that's still pretty sad.

Last night we watched Life Without Dick. There was a trailer for another Sarah Jessica Parker film called If Lucy Fell. That's next on the list. Yes, I am using previews from bad movies to decide which other bad movies I'm going to rent. But what I really want-- the Golden Butterfly of my DVD Dreams-- is the entire Airport series. These movies, made throughout the 70's, were about mid-air plane disasters that had famous big-deal actors in them, and apparently were successful at the time. They were so wonderful that Airplane, which parodied these films, was not quite as funny as the originals. I have only seen one of them-- airport '77-- and I want to see them all. I want to have a series of Airport watching parties at my house and invite people to come dressed as their favorite stars from the Airport films. Anyone wanna play Charleton Heston? Or maybe Dean Martin is more your type.

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Sorry about the long intermission. I was in Irvine, CA last week, and the students were pretty demanding, so I never had the time to stop and blog.

The trip to Irvine was nice. A friend from work (fuzzy) was on the flight from RDU to DFW, so I had company. Then I caught an earier than planned flight from DFW to Orange county, which was cool. Even cooler, I had a row of 3 seats to myself. The only bauble was that my luggage didn't catch the earlier flight. So I had to pick it up later. No problem, John Wayne Ariport is small and my hotel was nearby.

Irvine/Orange county is really pretty, what I could see of it. I should clarify. More accurately, OC needs clarifying. The air is, well, brown. No other way to put it. It's not hazy, or foggy, or misty, it's just brown. Now and then, if the wind was blowing, you could see that there were mountains nearby. But if the air was still, you could only see the tops of those mountains. There is also a beach. The air seems to get cleaner as you near the beach, but Go-LLY there are a lot of people there. Just too many. If half of them up and left, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. There'd still be too many people. But they sure are polite. I complain about bad customer service (because I hate that) and the east coast seems to have some very serious customer service problems. But in OC, every service worker smiled, looked me in the eye, and said "hello" or some other appropriate greeting. Sometimes it was even a little alarming-- 6am, I'm coming into the hotel from jogging, and I'm tired, sweaty, smelly, and trying to slink up to my room to shower. The hotel person behind the desk Stood Up to say hello to me. At 6am. In Atlanta, I could walk right up to the desk holding Chocolate Bars and $20 Bills I'd still never get a straight-on look in the face, much less a Hello, from the person behind the desk at the hotel. In DC, I'd have to be holding a gun to be noticed, and in Manhattan, a gun would just annoy the desk clerk.

So needless to say, I reveled in this friendly customer service a little. Being a southern girl, it doesn't matter whether the politeness is genuine or not-- that isn't the point. The point is that it's cheap and easy to be polite to people, and it makes everyone just a little bit happier. OK, sure some people don't care about politeness. But they're in the minority I'm sure, and besides they probably aren't very polite themselves, so why waste time worrying about what kind of customer service they prefer?

After the Irvine trip I flew home (first class all the way back!) and we rode our bikes a lot over the weekend. A mere 10 miles on Friday night (renegade nighttime mountain biking!), about 50 miles on Saturday in the hills, about 60 miles Sunday (Tony got extra miles because my chain broke and he had to ride off for help) and a 25 mile recovery ride in the hills on Monday. We were trying to get in some last-minute long miles before the MS150 this weekend. And my birthday is this weekend too! I'll get to eat LOTS of cake because 1. birthday cake on your birthday has no calories and 2. we're riding 150 miles in 2 days, so the calories will burn off before lunch on the first day.

In other news, I'm still reading Les Miserables, The Unabridged Edition. About 1/4 of the way through it. For the most part I really like it, but I just spent 2 evenings reading about the battle at Waterloo. I'm not really sure why, but Monsieur Hugo thought that we should know. A semester-long survey course entitled "all the piddly details of Napoleon's last stand at Waterloo" wouldn't say as much as Victor wanted us to know. Only my mother could have given as lengthy a treatise on the battle, punctuated with descriptions such as "oh, the soldier, I can't remember his name, but he also fought at Austerlitz, he was posted next to the guy who grew up next door to the old woman whose son was a weaver? Remember? He used to weave the most beautiful fabrics, and his mother once made a flag from this fabric which was carried into battle in 1817, and they found it hundreds of years later, your father and I saw it at the Musee D'Armee in Paris. Anyway, that soldier, who was next to this man's grandmother's neighbor..." Last night we finally finished talking about Waterloo, so the story will go back to being lots of misery-filled fun.

(With apologies to my mother. You know I love you mom, but I've learned not to ask what a movie was about if I'm paying the long distance bill. ;-) I wouldn't want you to be any other way)

I hope everyone had a good labor day weekend!