Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Back in the USSA!

I'm ba-ack! =) Fresh off the plane from the South Pacific and ready to blog again! =) I'm currently staying with my mom and Kevin in Atlanta for the holidays and will return to Seattle in mid-January. It was not easy to leave gorgeous, sunny NZ or my adorable husband behind, but I get to see all of my peeps here for a while, so it's worth it! Besides, Gordon is meeting me in Seattle in January (just six short weeks from now), and summer will come to the northern hemisphere eventually, right? RIGHT?! (I say this as I listen to the rhythm of the pouring rain on this gross, grey winter day...) At the moment we're just getting ready for Christmas, which always means spending some quality time at Macy's and Target and enjoying the delicious buffet at Sweet Tomatoes. Life is good. Here are some pictures my mom took of my adorable baby cousin, Gianna, eating a cupcake. There's enough cuteness there for five blogs, so that should keep you all happy until Christmas, just in case I don't get around to writing again! ¡Feliz Navidad!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pengins! =)

Who doesn't love penguins?! I can't think of any major anti-penguin groups operating in the world at the moment, and people don't eat penguins, right? So I think it's safe to assume that writing about them here will not only serve to keep my legions of current readers happy, but perhaps to attract millions of new fans to my blog. ;) (By the way, a quick Google search for "anti-penguin" did yield this weirdness.)

I don't want to talk about emperors, those penguins who march across Antarctica (though you should probably watch the 30-second version of that movie re-enacted by bunnies here), and I don't have much to say about rockhoppers (the ones who apparently compete in surfing competitions). Instead, I would rather fill you in on the cutest and tiniest of the penguins- the little blue ones! =)

Little blue penguins are known as fairy penguins in Australia and as kororā to the Maori people of NZ. They belong to the genus Eudyptula (Greek for "good little diver"), and they only live down here in the southern hemisphere, so you'll have to come and visit us if you want to see some. =) I have met some of these little guys, and boy are they cute! =) At 16 inches, they are the teensiest of the 17-20 modern penguin species, while the emperor is the largest at about 3'7". (The largest extinct species of penguin we know of is called Nordenskjoeld's Giant Penguin, who lived roughly 40 million years ago and whose fossils have been found here in NZ. He was a big guy- taller than me (close to 6 feet tall!) and way fatter (200 lbs)!)

Little blue penguins usually live for about 7 years, but some individuals have been known to live for over 20! They spend their nights in cosy nests in sheltered rock crevices or dug-out burrows and spend their days out in the sea hunting for yummy food like squid, plankton, krill, and anchovies. (Mmm... krill...) At dusk they all come home with full bellies, usually in groups (called rafts) so they're better protected against predators like seals, killer whales, and large gulls. (Some penguins opt for more urban accommodation and build their nests under buildings and stacks of timber. Also, they have no problem accepting the artificial nest boxes that humans sometimes build for them. I'm totally going to put one in the backyard and see if any penguins come to live with us.)

Breeding begins around age 3. They're monogomous (like me!) and return to the same burrow every year to breed (not like me)! They lay 2 eggs at a time, which take about 5 weeks to hatch, and males and females take turns incubating the eggs and caring for the babies. (Very egalitarian. I like that.) They can lay up to 3 sets of eggs per season. After about 2 months of hanging out in the nest and being fed regurgitated food, the chicks have lost their down have grown waterproof feathers like their parents. They naturally know how to swim and are ready to fend for themselves, so their parents kick them out of the nest. They disappear from the colony for at least a year, but will return to the same site to breed, usually within a few metres of where they were raised.

Here in Christchurch you can see some of these guys at the Antarctic Centre, though I'm pretty sure they don't actually live in the Antarctic- it's too cold for tiny penguins down there! They have a small colony living in captivity at the Centre, most of whom wouldn't survive very well in the wild due to various conditions and injuries. Here's a picture of Elvis, who is blind and does a lot of singing. I'm not sure why she's standing on one foot. (All of the other penguin pix here are from the Centre, too.) They live all over the place around the South Island- apparently they're fairly easy to see in the wild, though I still haven't managed to spot any! (We did see a yellow-eyed penguin in the wild, though, and that's far more rare! There are only about 4,000 of those in the world compared to about a million little blue ones!)

So, in conclusion, little blue penguins are short, blue, and very cute. You should come to New Zealand some time so you can meet some. The end. =) (P.S. If you enjoyed reading about the penguins here, you might want to take a look at the similar work done by Julian and Charles from Anderson's Creek Primary school in Australia- they have excellent illustrations on their page.)

UPDATE: September 2010: Ancient giant penguin unearthed in Peru! And he wasn't black (or blue) and white! See story here.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mawwiage. Twoo Wuv.

Man! Two and a half years can fly by when you spend it living on three different continents with the man of your dreams! =) It doesn't seem all that long ago that I was driving back and forth to Canada (which is really big) on the weekends to spend what little time I could with Gordon before he was potentially whisked away back to a place where he could live legally, and now I get to keep him! =) Forever! =) How cool is THAT?! For those of you whose e-mail addresses I don't have for whatever reason, let me just clarify- WE'RE GETTING MARRIED! =) Hooray! =) I couldn't be more excited if a Dr. Pepper van pulled up in front of our apartment and started giving out free Big Gulps, a vegan Chinese restaurant opened in the empty lot up the street, and a new pair of shoes magically grew in my closet every morning to match my outfit! Seriously. I am ecstatic! =)

As one might imagine, this exchange of vows, being a Kiwi-American affair, may have its share of complications, but none of them are gonna rain on my parade! In the immortal words of Matthew Wilder, "Ain't nothing gonna break my stride!" The big kahuna is all of the crazy, complicated paperwork required to make it so Gordon can come back to Seattle with me! (There are soy lattes just waiting to be sipped at Vérité, and we can hear the call of Mighty O donuts all the way down here!) Who knew there were so many forms a person has to fill out in quadruplicate! Quadruplicate! I have to agree to be on the hook for all of Gordon's bills for ten years or so, just in case once he gets to the US he decides that sipping soy lattes all day is actually his new career path. Also, we'll have to go to one of those interviews like in Green Card where they ask me what colour his toothbrush is and how we met, and then he gets all confused about what kind of face cream I use... Yikes! (For the record, I don't use any- what is face cream? Is it that stuff girls in movies are always wearing with cucumbers over their eyes when their hunky love interests come over for a surprise visit? I think it is, but I can't be sure. I'm thinking it's in the same family as cold cream, another elusive beauty product for which I apparently have no use.) Bronte in Green Card uses Monticello, not Monte Carlo. And that "big, French oaf" can't get the answers right and the feds toss him out like last week's escargot! Oh la la! That's just the kind of thing that can tear a perfectly legitimate couple apart! :o Gordon, if you're reading this, my toothbrush is green and my favourite food is broccoli. =) Yum.

So, there's going to be a party in Hotlanta. We're thinking early 2009. It will be SO MUCH FUN to have some of our closest peeps together in the same place! =) I can't wait! =) I want to keep it pretty simple- I'm definitely not the Bridezilla type, but I could see how I could become one if I had to deal with the colour of chair sashes or cream v. buttercream tablecloths! I don't want to be all stressed out, throwing a tanty the night before the wedding because of some insignificant detail! I'm sure it's every bride's intention, but I want to keep the party pretty small, fairly simple, and more or less free of stress. We'll see. Of course, we can't set a date yet- no idea when G will be legal to attend. We'll just have to wait and see what the good folks at US Immigration have in store for us, and then I'll send out invites. =) Sweet. =) I'm totally getting a tiara. ;)

So, thank you to everyone who has replied via e-mail and snail mail to our announcement- you guys are the best! (Speaking of the best, check out this fantastic card Kass made us!!! =) I love it! =) Especially the sombrero and the cute little pedestal I have to stand on to be as tall as my squid husband. =) Spectacular. Thank you, Kass!) I'll respond to all of those awesome e-mails really soon, and I promise there will be penguins on this blog ASAP! Thanks for the well wishes! Talk to you all very soon! =)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Phone Book Day!

I went out to get the mail yesterday (my favourite time of the day- I love mail!), and there was a small pile of wet, plastic bags full of heavy, soggy phone books just waiting to be claimed by residents of our building, who would presumably give them good homes and lovingly blow-dry their sodden pages... The sight of all of those disintegrating phone books brought up a lot of thoughts and questions for me. I'd like to share some of those thoughts with you now and see what you think.

1) I'm sure there's a reason our phone books were delivered on a day when it was raining heavily, but could the people who deliver them perhaps have tried to find a more appropriate location to dump them other than in a heap on the ground beside the mailboxes (where they are not only not under any kind of rain shelter, but pretty close to sitting in puddles)?

2) Printing and delivering millions of phone books seems like a huge waste of paper, ink, plastic (for shoddily protecting them), and petrol (the gas that's used for the massive trucks needed to ship unnecessary quantities of enormous books all over the place). Shouldn't there be some kind of system whereby a person can opt out of (or, better yet, opt into) receiving phone books?

3) Do we need new phone books? We already have some, and we've never even used them. Not even once. I mean, aren't phone books a little bit antediluvian? Does anyone ever even use them anymore? Isn't the Internet easier/better?

4) Who's going to clean up the pile of plastic and pulp that's left by the fence over there in a week or two when the people who live here have all declined to take wet, (arguably useless) books into their homes?

I think that's enough questions. Now for my answers/opinions.

1) Yes. Leaving them in the rain was dumb/lazy. They could easily have been left by our front doors where they would have been more sheltered from the elements, and thus not rendered useless by water damage.

2) I think there should absolutely be a system whereby people who want phone books can tell the companies who print them that, yes, they would like phone books, please. (Or, at the very least, that no, they would not like phone books, please.) According to, the Yellow Pages industry dropped over 540 million phone books in North America in 2006- that's way more than one per person! (In the UK, according to the Yellow Pages website, it was 28.3 million copies in 2006. That's about one for every two people, which is still a lot!) Why so many?! Well, in the olden days when people still had landline telephones, they would automatically receive the Yellow Pages. Now that more people are switching to cell phones, there's no real list of recipients, so they use a system of "saturation distribution" to make sure everyone and his brother/sister/dog/goldfish can get his hands (paws/pectoral fins) on a copy. Also, there can be many different versions in a single market- some people could get as many as 10 different phone books! Also, if Yellow Pages wants to make money, they have to say things like "we have a distribution of 70 gajillion" so that advertisers will fork over the cash to get their ads in there. If people could easily say no to phone books, those numbers would go down; maybe it would be harder to convince advertisers to splash out on pricey half-page ads. Yellow Pages apparently makes 97% of it's revenue ($14 billion in the US in 2006) from printed directories, and only 3% from online ones. That's why there are so many phone books! Some people try to opt of of receiving them, but it's not easy. I read one account of a person who had called the distributor and requested not to be sent any more phone books, but who continued to receive them. When she called to find out what was going on, she was told that the delivery people are given a list of people who do not want to receive the books, but it's so few people (since it's practically impossible to figure out how to make the request in the first place) that it's easier just to deliver them to everyone than to have to check the list. It's really hard to not get phone books. But I say there's got to be a better way. Maybe it could even be a system where you put a card on your doorknob like the "Do Not Disturb" ones at hotels. Yeah, that's it! The week before phone books come out, they could send a postcard out to everyone letting them know when the books would be delivered. That postcard could have one side that says "NO PHONEBOOKS, PLEASE" that you could hang on your door on delivery day. That way nobody has to keep track of addresses, which seems pretty complicated. It would be simple and easy. I am a genius. (I know that sending out millions of postcards seems like a waste of paper, but it's not as bad as millions of giant books, and it's the best I could come up with.)

3) As for the usefulness of phone books, well, I had to give this one the most thought. My first reaction was that they should just stop printing the things, but having considered it a bit more, I'm not so sure that's the way to go. Though some people argue that phone books are antiquated and want to get rid of them (like the good folks over at Paperless Petition), some people still find phone books to be quite useful. You may be surprised to know that although I use the Internet all the time, I am actually one of those people. Okay, sure- it is completely ridiculous to print 540 million copies of something that's going to be outdated almost as soon as it hits the presses. One could argue that if the phone directory were online, it could be easily updated- no need to print another 540 million books in a year's time. Sounds good. But not everyone has access to the Internet. And not everyone wants to/can afford to pay to call for directory assistance when he/she needs to find a phone number. If I needed a plumber, the first place I would look would be in the book. I like the ease of being able to circle the numbers I have called and make notes next to different companies if I'm comparing price quotes. I find that difficult to do with online directories, and I'm a paper person by nature, so I find the phone book easier when I want to find certain things. That said, I would still opt out of receiving new phone books if I had the option. I can sacrifice a little convenience in the name of saving some trees. Besides, most of us have old phone books lying around the house; I'm happy just to use those for a while longer. Surely some of the businesses that existed in 2004 will still be around, right? It's not really life-threatening for me not to have all of the latest listings, is it? But it is life-threatening to a bunch of trees, so I still think I should be able to decide if I get phone books or not. (Please see my brilliant plan under number 2. It works well in this case, too. I don't have to opt out forever. If I feel like my 2004 book isn't cutting it anymore, I can get new ones. But I don't have to. Did I say "genius" already?)

4) Who's going to clean up the mess over there by the mailbox? Well, judging by past experiences with other people's unwanted mail, probably me. Humph. Stupid, useless, wet phonebooks! Grumble, grumble... Maybe after they dry out I can use the pages to make some kind of phone book crafts like the trees and angels people used to make with old Reader's Digests? Hmmm...

So what do you think? Phone books- only good for dinosaurs, or "keep 'em coming; I hate trees!" I'm interested to hear your thoughts!

P.S. There really are penguins coming your way in a post or two- I just really needed to talk about phone books! I'm done now. Thanks for your patience. =)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Canterbury Adventures

It's been a busy winter for us in cold, cold Christchurch! Our friend Jo from the UK (see her guest blog here) came to visit for about a month, rousing us from our state of apartment hibernation! It can be hard to make oneself want to leave the flat in the icy winter, but with the help of thermal underwear, Jo's new winter wardrobe from Glassons, and the promise of lots of coffee and cake at our city's fine cafés, we managed to get ourselves out and about quite a bit!
On Jo's birthday we went for a lovely walk (partly in the snow!) in the Port Hills, which separate Christchurch from Lyttelton Harbour. We walked from the Sign of the Takahe restaurant to the Sign of the Kiwi, a small café on Coronation Hill. From there we got a great view of the Cashmere Valley and of the harbour. All the way along our route there were stunning views of the snow-capped mountains in the distance and the chilly weather was actually perfect for a nice, long walk. Here is a picture of Jo and I at the Sign of the Kiwi.

Later that week we drove through NZ's longest road tunnel (yikes!) to get to Lyttelton, where we met up with our new friend Suzanne who lives there. We did a little shopping at the farmers' market, then Suzanne took us on a beautiful (and steep) walking tour through one of the cemeteries and back down into the town. It was lovely (and tiring). Luckily, I had consumed enough All Blacks Powerade to get me through the day. (I think the flavour is called Silver Charge, but it says All Blacks all over it, so I decided it tasted like All Blacks. They play rugby really well, but I have to warn you- they don't really taste all that great, especially when warm. I'm definitely more of a Gatorade girl.) Lyttelton, incidentally, is where Peter Jackson shot The Frighteners and where Joe Bennett, the guy who wrote this book I just read about underpants lives. (It was a really good book. You should read it.) Here's a picture of Lyttelton.
We (literally) took the scenic route home from Lyttelton, skipping the tunnel and instead heading over the hills to
Sumner, where we ate fish & chips on a bench on the beach promenade. (Jo had the fish; G and I had the chips. We found that the three of us are a lot like that nursery rhyme about Jack Sprat. We make a good team.) Jo had two thumbs up for the yummy snack, but Gordon was distracted by something to the right over there. Was it a bird? A plane? A guinea pig playing soccer? A seven-year-old gymnast doing five press handstands? We may never know...

We're really happy that Jo came to see us; we had a great time! There are more posts to come about our fascinating adventures, so stay tuned! There will be penguins! =)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Joss Made Me Do It

Voila! The teaser for Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, the new and exciting series from Joss Whedon, starring Doogie Howser MD and Captain Mal Reynolds from Firefly. Joss told me (and everyone else who can read) to spread the word about Dr. Horrible, so I am. When Joss says "jump," I say "to what planet?" And seeing as how he's a far better writer than myself, I'll let him explain the master plan, which I stole from the official Dr. Horrible website.


Dear Friends,

At last the time has come to reveal to you our Master Plan. BEWARE! Those with weak hearts should log off lest they be terrified by the twisted genius of our schemes! Also pregnant women and the elderly should consider reading only certain sentences. Do not mix with other blogs. Do not operate heavy machinery while reading this blog. You must be this tall to read. ‘Kay?

It is time for us to change the face of Show Business as we know it. You know the old adage, “It’s Show Business – not Show Friends”? Well now it’s Show Friends. We did that. To Show Business. To show Show Business we mean business. (Also, there are now other businesses like it.)


"Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog" will be streamed, LIVE (that part’s not true), FREE (sadly, that part is) right on, in mid-July. Specifically:

ACT ONE (Wheee!) will go up Tuesday July 15th.

ACT TWO (OMG!) will go up Thursday July 17th.

ACT THREE (Denouement!) will go up Saturday July 19th.

All acts will stay up until midnight Sunday July 20th. Then they will vanish into the night, like a phantom (but not THE Phantom – that’s still playing. Like, everywhere.)

And now to answers a few Frequently (soon to be) Asked Questions:

1) Why, Joss? Why? Why now, why free, why us?

Once upon a time, all the writers in the forest got very mad with the Forest Kings and declared a work-stoppage. The forest creatures were all sad; the mushrooms did not dance, the elderberries gave no juice for the festival wines, and the Teamsters were kinda pissed. (They were very polite about it, though.) During this work-stoppage, many writers tried to form partnerships for outside funding to create new work that circumvented the Forest King system.

Frustrated with the lack of movement on that front, I finally decided to do something very ambitious, very exciting, very mid-life-crisisy. Aided only by everyone I had worked with, was related to or had ever met, I single-handedly created this unique little epic. A supervillain musical, of which, as we all know, there are far too few.

The idea was to make it on the fly, on the cheap – but to make it. To turn out a really thrilling, professionalish piece of entertainment specifically for the internet. To show how much could be done with very little. To show the world there is another way. To give the public (and in particular you guys) something for all your support and patience. And to make a lot of silly jokes. Actually, that sentence probably should have come first.

2) What happens when it goes away? Does it go to a happy farm for always like Fluffy did when mommy was crying and the neighbor kept washing his fender?

No, Dr horrible will live on. We intend to make it available for download soon after it’s published. This would be for a nominal fee, which we’re hoping people will embrace instead of getting all piratey. We have big dreams, people, and one of them is paying our crew.

And somewhat later, we will put the complete short epic out on DVD – with the finest and bravest extras in all the land. We’ll go into greater detail about that at Comiccon, but we’re changing the face of Show Friendliness a second time with that crazy DVD.

3) Joss, you are so kind, and generous, and your forehead is like, huge, like SCARY, like I think I can see Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint hanging off it… what can WE do to help this musical extravanganza?

What you always do, peeps! What you’re already doing. Spread the word. Rock some banners, widgets, diggs… let people know who wouldn’t ordinarily know. It wouldn’t hurt if this really was an event. Good for the business, good for the community – communitIES: Hollywood, internet, artists around the world, comic-book fans, musical fans (and even the rather vocal community of people who hate both but will still dig on this). Proving we can turn Dr Horrible into a viable economic proposition as well as an awesome goof will only inspire more people to lay themselves out in the same way. It’s time for the dissemination of the artistic process. Create more for less. You are the ones that can make that happen.

Wow. I had no idea how important you guys were. I’m a little afraid of you.

4) Joss, do you ever answer a question simply or coherently?


There’ll be more questions, and more long, long answers, but for now I’m just excited that we’re actually making this happen. We (and a lot of other people -- gushing to commence soon) worked very hard on the show and we hope/think you guys will be pleased.

Until July 15th , I remain, yours truly, -j, of the firm j, j, m & z.

So there you have it! I hope everyone will join in and log on to enjoy the sing-along hilarity!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ridiculously Cute!

Kitties. Sooooo cute. I wish I could have one of my very own to squeeze, but that would involve living in a country for more than a year at a time. Hmph. I lieu of that, I present to you some of my favoourite "lolcats" from I Can Has Cheezburger- perhaps the most adorable site on the entire interwebz. (Kass turned me on to it- she has a nose for cuteness!) Here you goez!

And the cutest of them all...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Sometimes I Read

I used to read constantly as a kid. When I sat on Santa’s lap at the Ohio Valley Mall, every year I asked for the same thing for Christmas- books. (I’m sure there were additional items on my list, but none come to mind except for Fruity Pebbles cereal.) Now, I’m not saying I was demanding Dickens or anything- at age 10 it was mostly Sweet Valley Twins and The Babysitter’s Club for me; I absolutely adored them! I begged and pleaded with my poor mom to get the newest ones as they were released- she must have spent a fortune at B. Dalton, but I had to have them! I’m sure I read at least 30 or 40 of each series, and a lot of those were read and re-read. When I found these pictures of the original cover art on Amazon, I was blown away by the flood of memories they brought back! Not memories of me as a skinny, nerdy kid with no friends, but memories of Sweet Valley, where Jessica joined the Unicorn Club with Lila Fowler, and where Elizabeth redecorated her room in navy blue and beige, and of Stoneybrook, where the Babysitter’s Club met at Claudia’s house and talked about their “charges” and Kid-Kits and wrote a journal about their experiences… I got totally lost in those worlds, and I remember so many of the details! It’s amazing how things like that can still be lodged in my brain after 20 years! I can barely remember what I had for breakfast, but I can still conjure these vivid scenes of an imaginary middle school from the 80’s… I continued my love affair with literacy all through middle school, when I tried to go through the entire fiction section of the school library in alphabetical order. (I didn’t succeed, don’t worry. I’m not a total freak.) I especially loved Ellen Conford, Mabel Esther Allan, and Paul Zindel. Sadly, though, high school hit and books all but disappeared from my life. My reading habit has never fully recovered. As an adult I’ve gone through a few periods of heavy reading, but they’ve been pretty short-lived, and even then it’s been more non-fiction than anything else. In the last couple weeks I have read four fiction books (I’m pretty proud of myself) and I’m starting to realize how much I’ve really missed it! I miss fiction! I just finished The Jane Austen Book Club about an hour ago (it wasn't earth-shattering, but it held my interest), and I’m going to make an effort to keep this little bookworm ball rolling by diving right into something new tonight! I’ve got a few books on the shelf waiting to be read, but when those are done I’ll be looking for suggestions, so if you’ve just read something fantastic, please leave me a note in the comments! Gotta run! It’s time to go get cozy with a cup of tea and a new adventure! See you at the library! =)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Word of Mouth

I have been tagged! I think that makes me some kind of official member of the blogosphere. What are tags and how do they work? Well, I'm not entirely sure, but it seems to me that they are a way for your friends with blogs to make you write about whatever they want, presumably because they think you are a gifted writer and value your opinions on the topics they have selected. (But maybe it's really because they know you're too lazy to write your blog at all unless publicly asked to do so, and then linking to it, so you can't get out of it without everyone knowing! Tricky...) So, I am honoured, of course, to have been tagged on Kass's 3rd Word of Mouth post. This means that it's my turn to think of things I enjoy and recommend them to you, the public at large. =) So here goes! =)

A classic. I used to use this as a kid because my mom always had it around. It came in a big ol' plastic tub with a screw-off lid that I could almost stick my whole 8-year-old paw into if my mom wasn't around to see it. ;) My mom eventually moved on to (inferior) Neutrogena face products, and so did I. (While I don't like their soap, I have to say that T-Gel is my hero. I would have it on my cereal if it wouldn't make me throw up.) In my teens and twenties I branched out to all different face products, and even fell for the hype and ordered that (also inferior) Proactiv stuff that Jessica Simpson is always peddling on tv. But now I'm back where I started! I looove this stuff! It leaves my skin all soft and nice, doesn't make me break out, smells good, isn't too pricey, and isn't tested on any of our furry friends, so what's not to like? =)

Who woulda thunk it? I like modern fiction! Those of you who know my reading preferences would likely be surprised that I should deign to read anything not written before 1900... Really, anyone current enough to have had access to a typing device (aside from Barbara Kingsolver) is inconsequential as far as my literary habits are concerned. (I'm not saying it's right; I'm just stating the facts.) But Gordon left this one out on the table and I read it. I don't know why I never listen when he tells me there are good authors under 100 years old, but I should. (I hope he doesn't think I'm one of them- if he reads this I'll surely be eating my words!) Anyhow, this book was very good. =) It had interesting, believeable characters, the writing was really smart and very funny, and there were many mentions of office supplies. Definitely recommended.

Man! How is this show still so good? It's nothing short of brilliant! I remember watching it with my mom on tv the first time around and loving every episode, especially the ones with lots of Ed Chigliak. I love that guy! My adoration for the show (and Ed) was shared by my penpal Donna who even sent me a pocket-size Northern Exposure notebook, which I'm pretty sure I still have somewhere. Gordon and I have been watching the series again on DVD recently, and it hasn't lost anything over time. Okay, maybe the jeans are a little high-waisted, and the music on the DVD's is nowhere near as good as the original music, but it's still just great. First thing on my list when we return to Washington is a weekend trip to Roslyn, where it was filmed. I know we won't run into Ed, but we can still go to The Brick for a brewski!

Pigs. I'd like to recommend pigs. I'm not sure for what, but definitely not for eating. Pigs are friends, not food! Here is a picture of me with my friend Edgar from Best Friends Animal Society in Utah. He is very, very cute and does not enjoy romaine lettuce. I kinda feel like pigs don't get the respect they deserve. I mean, people are always on about how other animals (like dogs) are so great (and they are- look at cute Rockford), but if we're grading on intelligence and personality, pigs are actually smarter than dogs, and just as playful and loyal. (They're even smarter than 3-year-old humans.) They know what's going on. I know of at least one person who really appreciates pigs- Judy, the founder of Pigs Peace Sanctuary. Such a cool lady and an awesome organisation. Go check it out- hooray for pigs! =)

Lastly, I'd like to recommend Google Reader, my new best friend. There must be other programs like this out there, but I'm a big fan of Google because they make everything so easy for those of us who are maybe not-so-techy. So I subscribe to all of my favourite blogs, and then I never have to look for them again- I just sign in to Reader and it tells me if any of them have been updated and shows them to me right there on the same screen! It's like subscribing to the newspaper and only getting the sections you like to read! Brilliant! =) Try it- you'll like it! =)

I hope these suggestions have been useful! I'm tagging everyone!!! Every last one of you! Now, go forth and recommend stuff! =) (Okay, I kid. But you could always recommend your favourite things in the comments!)

Saturday, June 21, 2008


We went to see the rugby last night- my first rugby match ever! =) It was New Zealand playing England at AMI Stadium here in Christchurch. (For those of you who don't know, New Zealand's national team, the All Blacks, are arguably the best team in the world. I get the impression that all of the other teams are really scared of them. If you saw how big some of those dudes are, you'd probably be scared of them, too.) It was freezing, but I was wearing so many layers of fleece I couldn't bend my arms, so I was pretty comfy. Things started out a little weird- there was a marching band and fireworks and a couple of people in military uniforms riding around in a jeep and singing songs we couldn't really understand- it was strange. But then came the choir to sing the national anthems, which were great, and then the haka, the traditional Maori dance they perform at the beginning of each match. I love the haka! It's a ceremonial dance to mentally prepare the team for the match. The other team usually stands there and tries to look bored or unaffected even though they're more likely shaking in their rugby boots! It was really cool to see it live! (Leave it to me to be most impressed by the dancing portion of a sporting evening!) Anyhow, the game itself was excellent. =) New Zealand pretty much trounced England- the final score was 44-12, which didn't really surprise anyone. In fact, I don't think any of the English fans even noticed- they all continued to drunkenly sing really loud, out-of-tune songs (as they are wont to do) in the streets after the match was over. (They love to sing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. What's that all about anyway?) It was a little bit hard to tell what was happening in the match at times without the commentators (even when there are commentators I sometimes don't get it!) so Gordon had to explain a lot of what was going on. I also took a few cues from the French guy sitting right behind us- any time something went wrong for the All Blacks he would say "Oh la la!" really loud and Frenchily. There were a few more Frenchies around- I overheard at least a couple of others. They really love the ruggers in France, especially the All Blacks! I heard somewhere that they actually sell more All Blacks merchandise in France than anywhere else in the world. So, who are my favourites, you ask? Well, my long-time favourite is Rodney So'oialo (seen above with Joe Rokocoko in a picture I borrowed from apdz07 on flickr. He's the one with the dreads). He is a large, muscley Samoan guy who has great hair that flops around while he crushes his opponents. Then there's everyone's favourite, Dan Carter, who looks quite a bit like Superman and who models underwear in his spare time. Here he is on the right looking very superheroic. =) My new favourite, though, is cute Ma'a Nonu (below)- you've gotta admire his skills and his awesome neon dreads and tattoos! Here he is scoring a try in last night's match. (You can watch videos of Ma'a in action with fantastic soundtrack music by Lovage here and by Wax Tailor here.) At the end of the match we watched as all of the players shook hands and congratulated each other in a very sportsmanlike way. Then some of the All Blacks signed autographs for people and took pictures with kids in the crowd. =) They seem like very nice guys, despite looking like large, angry warriors! I was really impressed by their willingness to interact with the fans and media and to be so accommodating after 80 minutes of running and getting smashed around and all of that. =) It was a great kiwi experience! =) Now that I can officially call myself a fan, I can't wait to see the match against South Africa in a couple of weeks! =) Go AB's! =)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Read Me!

I'd like to take this opportunity to recommend a a New York Times article I came across today. (It was published in January- I'm a little bit slow!) It's about the factory farming of animals for food, and the effects it has on us and on the planet. I know it's not really a fun thing to think about, but it's a pretty short article and it's on a subject that's very important to me, personally. (I believe it's important to lots of people, whether they're aware of it or not.) I promise it's very interesting. So if you have five minutes, I would love it if you'd take the time to read the article. All comments welcome (as always). Click here. This cute cow and I thank you. =)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Best Package Ever! =)

Remember when I said there’s nothing quite so good as receiving a nice, handwritten letter in the mail? Well, I lied. There is something just as wonderful- receiving an awesome care package from your mom in the mail! I arrived home from work Friday in a crummy mood, because right at the very end of the day I'd managed to smash my hand in between my desk and the arm of my chair, and it was very, very ouchy. =/ But I arrived home to find a (curously heavy) parcel awaiting me, and as soon as I opened the box, all thoughts of my (permanently disfigured) hand flew right out the window! My mom really outdid herself this time! There were dozens of my favourite hair ties, awesome Uni-ball pens, homemade dishcloths (yes, she crocheted them! They’re too pretty to use!), among other delightful prizes! Most importantly, there were delicious American foodstuffs! She sent Twizzlers (still haven’t found an acceptable foreign substitute), grits (quick grits AND instant ones!), teas, coffees, and most surprisingly-DILL PICKLES! I looooove pickes. Just thinking about them now is literally making my mouth water! (That’s how you know if you have the mumps. You have to think about dill pickles, because it makes your mouth water. If it hurts or tingles funny, you’re in trouble. I learned that one from my granny.) I haven’t found good pickles (what they call “gherkins”) in New Zealand, and somehow my mom found little plastic snak-paks of them! And they’re my favourite brand! Amazing! I could hardly believe my eyes (or my salivary glands)! I know my mom will read this, so THANK YOU, mom! This is for sure the best package ever! Mmmm, pickles…

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bad Handwriting Kills

That’s right- I said it. Bad handwriting actually kills people. Thousands of people die in the US every year because of doctors’ notoriously bad handwriting. Medical charts are misread. Pharmacists can’t decipher the prescriptions doctors write. In a landmark 1999 case, a cardiologist was fined $225,000 when his illegible handwriting caused a patient to be given the wrong drug- the patient had a heart attack and died as a result. Some states have now passed “safe script” legislation- pharmacists are encouraged to turn in doctors whose prescriptions they deem unreadable, and the doctors are issued fines. And the FDA now makes drug companies test new drug names by simulating the process of writing prescriptions by hand to lessen any confusion that might be caused. (Interesting article here.) But forget the doctors for a minute- how about this case in the UK? A guy was picked up for hunting for game on someone else's land, but the police report was illegible, so his lawyer was not able to prepare a defense. The lawyer said that it was a breach of human rights laws not to be able to read the case against the client and the magistrates agreed. The case was thrown out of court. All this is to say that handwriting is important. I’m really not trying to be some sort of penmanship elitist. Admittedly I’m no slouch when it comes to putting pen to parchment- my handwriting is pretty good by conventional standards. I even won the penmanship award in second grade. But I promise I won’t think any less of you if your grocery list doesn’t look like an engraved invitation. (“To: Mr. Whole Grain Bread and Guest. You are hereby invited into my trolly…”) As long as you can read it, who cares? But I think a person should be able to print or write legibly in any situation where someone else might ever have to read it. Simple as that. Am I asking too much? Do I sound slightly miffed? As if I have perhaps recently been on the receiving end of a chirographic catastrophe? Indeed, this rekindled interest in penmanship does come on the heels of an incredibly frustrating couple of days at work... I was asked to type a list of names, employers, addresses, and e-mail addresses from a training seminar- they’d passed around a sheet and everyone had signed up to receive their certification card for having been there. There were maybe 100 people on the list. No problem- should take less than an hour, right? Hah! I spent over 4 hours trying to decipher these people’s information! I’m not from Christchurch, so I am not familiar with the street names; I had to look a lot of them up on the internet to make sure I was reading them correctly. I had the phone book out, too, just in case by some miracle I could actually read a person’s full name, then I could look up the address in the book for clarity. I spent additional time calling the recipients’ workplaces to ask them for correct spellings… I would not have gone to all of this trouble if it were not for work- these people pay me, so I do what they say. But as far as I’m concerned, if you can’t even write your own name properly (let alone your address or email), then you simply do not deserve to receive whatever it is you’ve signed up to receive. (Oh, you didn’t get the e-mail/letter telling you that the out-of-town meeting was postponed and you need to change your flight and hotel arrangements? Too bad! We couldn’t read your writing- it’s your own fault you’re stuck at an empty HoJo’s in Tulsa! Hahaha!) I mean, four hours of my life were wasted trying to find patterns in one-line samples of people’s writing- that must be an “o” because that one over there is an “o,” but it looks like a “w”… Hmmm… For four hours I did this- these are your tax dollars at work, New Zealand! And I’m sure it happens all over the world- administrators of all sorts wasting countless hours, wanting to tear their hair out, trying to decode people’s insanely bad penmanship… Seriously, how hard can it be to write your own name? (Grrr… ) So, we know that people get dead, cases get thrown out of court, and office workers (myself a shining example) come dangerously close to going completely off the rails- all because of bad handwriting. But what would happen if we just typed everything or spoke into some kind of voice recognition device, as some people suggest? Could that be the solution to all of our problems? (Read an article about computers for doctors here.) Would we be missing out on anything by just not learning to write at all and letting technology take care of things? Not surprisingly, yes. According to a recent study, learning to write is actually an important part of the educational process. Kids do better with spelling and math when they don’t have to worry about not being able to write the letters and numbers correctly- when it’s more automatic. (Read more about it in this Newsweek article.) As crazy as it sounds, I have read arguments for dropping handwriting from the school curriculum entirely and “progessing” toward the use computers instead of teaching kids to write properly (see one article here, and be sure to read the comments). Basically, the author says that she never uses writing in her own life except for signing credit card receipts, and her kid is having trouble learning it in school, so they shouldn't teach it anymore because it's archaic anyway. There’s no way I could adequately respond to the absurdity of this article in this very small space, but let me just say that maybe this author lives a privileged life where she can do absolutely everything electronically, and maybe she doesn't care if her kid can ever sign his name without the use of a computer, but that’s just not the reality for most of us. We fill out insurance forms at the hospital; we take phone messages for co-workers. I just don’t think computers can be used for 100% of our written communication. To list a tiny few of the most obvious problems, what if the electricity is out? What if there’s an emergency and you need to leave a note for someone? What if you can’t afford a computer or voice recognition software? It’s absurd to think that there won't ever come a time in a person’s life when it's important to be able to write legibly. More and more things are able to be accomplished with the use of computers, but decent handwriting is still of vital importance, as far as I’m concerned. (And with that I bite my thumb at all of those guys whose offices I called to get the spelling of their names right. Punks.) Sooo… your handwriting is terrible- what can you do? Well, ideally you could seek out a handwriting improvement course like the ones being taken by some doctors. Or try these exercises from wikihow and ehow- it might even change your personality, as suggested in this (quasi-scientific) article. If anyone does any of these, I’d be interested to see how it goes! I think good writing will be with us for a long, long time. It may change form- italics is the new cursive (what does the future hold for cursive?) just like the Uni-ball is the new quill- but writing is always present in our lives. There’s still nothing quite so nice as receiving a handwritten letter from someone far away… And if you made it this far and have enjoyed this post, please let me know. I may just express my gratitude for your positive feedback with a handwritten thank-you note. =)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Cricket is cool!

It’s cricket time in the northern hemisphere and the kiwi team is currently doing a tour of England, which I figure makes this a perfect time to tell you about my first cricket experience! Back in (hot, hot) February I went to my first live match, and it was awesome! =) We saw the Black Caps (NZ) versus England in a one-day international match in Napier. I shall hazard a guess that most people reading this know little about the game of cricket, and I can’t say that I know all that much more than you do, but I’ll try to shed a little light on the subject. =) First of all, matches range in length from five-day test matches right down to the newer 20-20’s which only last a couple of hours. The one we went to was somewhere in the middle of those two- it was a one-dayer, so we were there for about eight hours. =) Also, cricket is a little bit like baseball, but only a little bit. =) There are pitchers (bowlers) and batters (batsmen) and catchers (wicket keepers), but their roles are really not all that similar to baseball players’… Ah, methinks it far beyond my expertise to explain it well, so I refer you to Cricket Explained for Novices. That should clear everything up. =) One wacky thing about cricket is that they don’t alternate batting like in baseball. In our match, England batted for a few hours and then after lunch (yes, lunch!) NZ had to “chase” the number of runs England had racked up. (In this case, England got a whopping 340 runs! That’s a big number to chase!!) It was weird to just sit and watch England bat for 3 or 4 hours before NZ even got a turn! Another thing that’s odd is that tons of the players are bowlers. In baseball, pitching is really specialized, and half the time those guys never even have to bat! But here, each guy can only bowl ten overs (1 over = 6 balls bowled), so you need at least five guys who can bowl on your team, and nobody ever bowls more than one over consecutively, so they’re always moving around into different fielding positions and switching bowlers and that kind of thing. Also, this was only a one-day match, so the teams wear whatever colours they want, but in a 5-day match everyone on both teams has to wear white! It’s surprisingly not all that confusing and it looks quite nice on the pitch! My favourites from this match are Daniel Vettori (NZ’s captain and awesome bowler), Jesse Ryder (always seems to being doing something cool like getting people out), and Jamie How, who scored 139 runs all by his lonesome! On the English side I like Stuart Broad, but only really because he looks just like Malfoy from Harry Potter and he’s tall and skinny. (That's him with hirsute Ryan Sidebottom to the right there.) He also gave away a ton of runs this match, which worked out well for NZ. =) So, what happened, you might ask?!?! After eight hours of hard work, it really came down to the very last ball- as far as I can tell, NZ should have come back to win it, but some mishaps right in the end made it less and less likely until they scored one last run on the last ball that tied the match. I would have been really disappointed if we’d lost, but a tie is okay. Probably fair, really. Glad cricket doesn’t go into extra innings; we would’ve need our sleeping bags! :o

Friday, June 6, 2008


Old Man Winter has officially arrived! As I sit here in our warm and cosy lounge (in my pink fluffy bathrobe) I can see big, chunky snowflakes falling outside the window... Oh, it's just lovely- see? =) I love it when it snows! =) In honour of the first snow of the season, I think we should talk about all things snowy! =) First of all, what is snow? Whence does it come? How do I get rid of it? Could I see some pictures? Look no further than All About Snow! And about the structure- could it really be true that no two snowflakes are alike? Find out more about snowflake physics here. Oh- and all of those animals who live in the snow- they're so cute and fluffy! =) There's the adorable arctic hare; there are arctic foxes and white ermines (see photo) and unimaginably cute harp seals, and polar bears, of course! And who could forget the snowy owl? It even has snow in its name! =) Speaking of things with snow in the name, there's that guy from Canada called Snow who had a big hit in 1993 with the (bordering on ridiculous) song "Informer"- you can see the video here. And there's the band Snow Patrol (I guess somebody has to keep an eye on that Canadian guy if he's gonna go around informing on people all the time), who are from Ireland and do a lot of good stuff, including the hit "Chasing Cars." Even though they're Red Hot, the Chili Peppers also got in on the snow action in 2006 with their song "Snow (Hey Oh)." I really like that one, though I have no idea what he's on about... Wikipedia offers some insight here. If all of of this doesn't satisfy your snow curiosity, you could go to Snow College! I don't know what they really teach there, but surely there's something about snow in the curiculum? Ahhh, snow! =) I hope it's a little bit warmer where you are, but I'm perfectly happy to hang out here and watch the snow. =)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Hello, Winter? Is That You?

It’s almost winter here in the southern hemisphere. The leaves have changed colour and, alas, so have I- my marvelous tan from a summer spent (strategically) lazing around on New Zealand’s sandy beaches has faded away to almost the same pale, pasty grey as the sky was when I was walking home from work today. The days are getting colder and shorter and so am I (well, my hair got shorter last week), but through the cold and gloom I often catch myself smiling thinking about all of the exciting things that I associate with the colder seasons. And there I was this morning donning my scarf and gloves for the frigid three-minute commute to the office, grinning away for no outwardly apparent reason, when it suddenly dawned on me- this is not the winter that I know and love! :o I mean, it’s the end of fall (autumn for you non-Americans), so didn’t we miss my birthday? And what about Thanksgiving?! By my confused brain’s calculations Thanksgiving should have been last Thursday! Where’s my green bean casserole?! It feels like winter, but it’s all backwards! :o The thing is, I really love this time of year! I love the crispness of a clear fall day when all the leaves have just changed colour- the streets are beautiful, like rusted rainbows, with all of the reds and yellows and browns… Fall gives me such a cuddly feeling! I love the smell of the fallen leaves- it makes me feel all autumnal… Christchurch has been beautiful the last few weeks! But then comes winter which usually means sleigh bells and icicles and snow and Christmas with my family and hot chocolate… Now, don’t get me wrong- I don’t want to disparage a kiwi winter- I haven’t even experienced one yet! But I’ve started to wonder just what there is to look forward to in winter in New Zealand! =/ Once I got my head on a straight enough to realize that it’s actually May and that there’s no pumpkin pie or Silent Night looming close on the horizon, I started to wonder how all of these kiwis make it through such a dreary time of year without all of the good stuff! In our immediate family the birthdays start with my mom’s in late August and roll steadily by until November, so every month there’s something to celebrate. Then comes Thanksgiving- my favourite holiday (not so much for the massacring of native peoples as for the broccoli and mashed potatoes). And then it’s time to get in the holiday spirit, which means an endless rotation of my 100+ CD’s of Christmas music for a month! Everywhere you go there are decorations and twinkling lights, and there’s that special wintery Christmas tingle in the air… But not in New Zealand! Christmas is in the summer and they don't have Thanksgiving at all! I have conducted a little research, and though skiing and the Queen's birthday were mentioned, it seems like the main attraction here in winter is rugby. They're rugby mad down here! So, though I’m not entirely convinced it will be as magical as Christmas lights and candy canes, I’m going to the rugby next month- the All Blacks against England here in Christchurch. I’m sure it will be wonderful, and I may even love it more than I expect to, but I have to say- it’s just not pumpkin pie, is it?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


It’s cold in here! There must be some Toros in the atmosphere! (It’s okay if you have no idea what that means. If you knew instantly what I was talking about, it’s okay if you pretend you didn’t. Personally, I love Bring It On! I am not ashamed. I’ve got spirit- yes I do.) Anywho, it is chilly in Christchurch! Winter is upon us! (I don’t care about equinoxes and dates! If it’s this cold, it must be winter!) I suppose it’s not really any colder than other places I’ve lived, it just feels like it. There are two main reasons for this. First, a lot of the buildings here just aren’t as well sealed or insulated as they could be. (We live in an older building and I swear there are Antarctic winds coming from the edges of the bathroom window. The floor in there feels like a polar ice sheet. Penguins help me get dressed in the morning.) Secondly, there’s a definite lack of central heating. Some fancy folks have heat pumps, but a lot of people just use oil heaters (like the one next to which I’m huddling in the photo) and little fan heaters. (A rare photo, by the way, as shortly after it was taken I invested a giant, pink terrycloth bathrobe- like this- which I only take off when I’m in the shower or at work. It makes me look about 100 lbs. heavier than I actually am, and I bear a very close resemblance to that fuzzy guy from the Pink Batts insulation commercials. Surely Gordon has never found me so attractive. Whatever- I’m warm!) So I hope you northern hemispherians are enjoying the warmth of summer! And if it gets too hot, remember you can always come visit us (and the bathroom penguins) in icy Christchurch! (FYI: BYO bathrobe.)