Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rockin' Rodeo!

I won a karaoke contest! I'm so happy. It's a weekly contest, $100 to the top singer, split if there's a tie in the points. I sang Superstar by the Carpenters and Don't Know Why by Norah Jones. I had almost given up hope that I could win a contest with my voice. I don't have a typical I'm gonna kick your butt voice like say, Christina Aguilera's, I sound much more like Norah Jones, who, while popular, probably also won't be winning any karaoke contests.

Anyway, it was fantastic, and it was lovely to finally win before I finally leave Eugene and never come back.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Geek attack

I love the function on the profile screen where you can click on one of your interests and see other profiles with the same interest listed. I put down Star Trek: TNG as one of my interests (that is the best show ever, bar none, although the first few seasons had some incredibly stupid plot lines. It got better though...) and it was really interesting to see what else people who listed Star Trek: TNG were interested in. One person was a self titled Bible thumper. Another was interested in blood. Another was interested in cemeteries, death, and so on. Another was into all the various incarnations of Star Trek in addition to various RPG games. Good stuff - it's always nice to know that a show of such import is loved by such a broad spectrum of people in our society.

By the way, if you take online geek tests (I was stuck in a La Quinta for two days straight - I was bored!), liking Star Trek is apparently a big part of being a geek, as is being in marching band, being able to describe to someone else what e=mc2 means, and being able to name more than ten elements on the periodic table. I was 60% geek, or something like that, whatever that means. I still haven't been able to figure out the difference between nerd and geek - anyone care to enlighten me?

Only good things about shows after TNG - well, not much that I can think of. A female captain was cool. Scott Bakula is arguably the best looking captain, but I don't know if that counts as 'good' since he was in a better show before Enterprise. 7 of 9 is a plus if you're a guy, but I never did get the appeal, same basic reason Jolene Blaylock is on Enterprise.

Maybe it takes actually learning Klingon to reach into the realm of being a truly and completely hopeless geek. Personally, if I were going to learn a fake language, I would go with something from Lord of the Rings - Tolkien was totally brilliant.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Wyoming sucks - so does I-84

I just drove from Eugene up to Port Orchard, WA then to St. Louis, Missouri in a 48 hour period. Not fun. Not fun at all. But, I'm now prepared to go to bed at this nice La Quinta hotel with free wireless internet access. I have essentially nothing to do tomorrow except work on the Latin transcription I'm working on for my advisor. It should be a smashingly good time. :)

Wyoming sucks. A lot. We stopped in Rock Springs because David couldn't keep his eyes open anymore and attempted to get a place to stay for the night. The first three places just told us they were booked full. The fourth front desk person said that probably every hotel along highway 80 in the entire state of Wyoming was booked. That was a fun thought, considering we were a good four miles driving time from the border and it was already 2am. We persevered, and three more no vacancies nearly made us accept the possibility of sleeping in the terribly uncomfortable front seat of my brother's Toyota Tacoma. Then we stopped at the Economy Guest Village. As you might imagine from the name, it was not a promising place to stay for the night. We were told it was full as well, then the woman at the desk said that she did have one room left but the sofa bed was busted. When told that there was a queen size bed in the "suite" I said it didn't matter and we booked it for the night.

It was a trash-hole. To put it kindly. The maintenance man claimed it was only four years since renovation, but the oven had to be early 80's at the newest. The sofa bed was indeed busted, so I got the lumpy couch and my brother got the lumpy queen size bed. We were told not to worry about the noise around 3am because that's when all the strippers came back from work, and because the owner of the strip club was also the owner of the hotels, all the girls rented out rooms in the same building we now occupied. When I woke up, I found that I had acquired a number of bug bites. I don't even want to know how.

Now I'm in this nice La Quinta, happily typing away at my laptop using free wireless (for which I paid less than my brother paid for the sad little place in Nowhere, Wyoming), and I must say that I will be extremely surprised if I find any more bug bites tomorrow morning. Which is as it should be.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

'Tis such sweet sorrow, In the parting of our ways

It is very odd living in a somewhat empty apartment. All of my furniture - except for two chairs - is gone, so all that's left are books I didn't pack, recycling, CDs, and so on. Caesar's enjoying having the extra space to knock his lime green bouncy ball around.

I'm going to miss singing with the praise team at St. Mary's. Because we're such a small group, I get to do a lot of the solos, and they're just so much fun! I enjoy singing in church because there's so little pressure. I get to sing, which I love, without having the pressure of trying to "make" something of my voice. My old voice teacher said that I should have pursued singing, but then that would take the joy out of it. Then it would be a job.

About Snakes on a Plane, or SoaP as it is called on the "blogosphere" apparently: it was actually quite funny! I was expecting a stupid, but entertaining action flick and that's precisely what I got. Samuel L. Jackson was appropriately cool and kickbutt, and there was a good supporting cast. I was not pleased with how many icky snakes there were, but after all, I was warned by the most obvious title ever. I still don't get why there was an anaconda if the point was to wreak as much havoc as possible with poisonous snakes, but then I guess I was supposed to suspend disbelief. Anyway, it's a good popcorn movie, and the snakes are probably much better on the big screen than on a little one. Much scarier when they jump at you then. :)

But seriously - if you go see it, it's funny, but very, very stupid. As long as you expect that, then it's a great weekend movie.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Sushi and ice cream at Nina and Austin's

So tonight I tried out my ice cream maker for the second time since I got it. Things tasted alright, I think, but then add whip cream, milk, strawberries, sugar and a little vanilla together, freeze and I think it's going to taste fantastic no matter what you do. Nina and Austin provided absolutely fantabulous sushi, and I actually had some of the raw stuff. It wasn't so bad, but I dunno about eating it again. I preferred the yummy shrimp, the kappa maki and the inari. mmm... inari.

I don't really have much going on right now, and I'm too lazy to go scare up something fun or amusing, so I think all I'm going to say is this:

Go see Snakes on a Plane! Not only is that the stupidest title ever, it's probably the stupidest idea ever, and Samuel L. Jackson is starring! What better way to waste $8? definitely a better bet than a parking ticket, say.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Life in Eugene during the time of no work

Well, I don't actually have roommates anymore. Their lease didn't allow for pets, so I'm back to trolling classified ads and other sites for possibilities. I'm almost to the point of paying a real estate agent to find a place for me because it's so difficult to find a place of my own in Vienna. Very narrow housing market. Back to the grindstone...

I am up way too late again, as usual. I keep getting headaches about halfway through my day (around 6-9pm) and then I end up staying up until 3 and sleeping until eleven or later. It is a testament to my inability to go to sleep as early as I ought to that I am actually watching Jay Leno. I very much dislike his show, but he's got a pretty funny guest on tonight.

I took up a beading project tonight. I bought the materials more than a year ago intending to get started right away, similar to many projects I undertake in life. Anyway, I got started tonight, and finished four rows, which I am quite proud of. Of course, I don't think I'm actually following the pattern correctly, but I'm close enough that I think it will look alright. I do know one thing - no more beading projects. I am very bad at beading. And Caesar enjoys playing with beads a little too much.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Cartman - history prof?

Tonight's South Park episode is about when Cartman goes back to 1776 when the Founding Fathers were debating whether or not to declare independence from England. The show was pointing out how only 1/3 of colonists actually supported such a move, 1/3 were dead set against independence, and 1/3 were undecided, drawing a parallel to our modern situation.

Other than the fact that the show is about cartoons and way too fake-bloody, it's often quite relevant. Conclusion reached - the country can have its cake and eat it too by going to war but allowing its citizens to protest thereby leaving the government blameless.

Of course, that's not really how it ends up working, but South Park always manages to make some snarky - and usually spot-on - commentary on modern world events.

Pope John Paul II and the functionalist definition of religion

Yesterday after Mass I spent a while talking to the piano player. He just graduated from high school (Marist) and he's heading off to school this week at Wheaton College in Illinois. For anyone who doesn't know, that's a private Christian college, and he's majoring in Biblical and Theological studies.

One of the ongoing discussions we've had is about some statements made about Islam by the late Pope John Paul II. The Pope gave speeches that emphasized the similarities between Christianity and Islam, that Christians and Muslims alike worship the same God, the God of Abraham, and so on. Brantly's concern with this is that the Pope asserted that the plan of salvation includes those who worship the same God. Based purely on Christian theology, the only way to achieve salvation is through faith that Jesus Christ repaid the debt of sin through his death on the cross. This, of course, leaves anyone out who does not believe in Christ.

The discussion left me thinking about what choices we make in terms of what ethos to follow. Everyone chooses, regardless of whether you choose a particular religion, choose parts of religions and put them together for yourself, or choose not to follow a particular religion. What are the benefits? For someone who chooses religion, it's usually from a desire to be part of something more important than yourself, or perhaps it's based on the theorem from Descartes, I think it was, that if you don't believe and you're wrong, too bad for you, but if you do believe, then you're set either way. Of course, now you have to choose which religion is right, not merely whether to believe in a religion, and then you're faced with the daunting prospect of choosing which version of your chosen faith to which you desire to ascribe.

I don't remember who coined the term "functional definition of religion" but it was probably one of those behavioralist anthropologists. Religion performs many useful functions within society, from providing personal comfort and stability in one's own life, to inspiring people to do good works for other people, such as church-based or church-sponsored charity organizations. That's part of the reason I like the Catholic Church so much - there is a clear commitment to helping others, something I think is missing from many other parts of life based on selfish ambitions and desires.

Perhaps the most important issue is not that one believes one is right, because after all, if you're going to do something, it's generally because you think you're right to do so. Perhaps the more important thing is to follow in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II and emphasize those similarities and ties that we share. Perhaps then, with a lot of work to improve the infrastructure in poor Muslim countries, there will be fewer young people growing up with a virulent hatred of all things American, Christian, or Jewish.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Globetrekkers is such an awesome show. Tonight, Megan McCormick is in the Arab Gulf states of Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait. Some of the mosques and natural monuments are simply spectacular. I was interested in looking into Dubai before, but after seeing this show, I'm quite a bit more interested. The region is beautiful and quite modern, and I bet there's a lot of demand for English.

After teaching in Austria, I'll have enough experience to go somewhere else and teach. That would be a great way to travel while getting paid to do so, which is my goal in life. Essentially, if someone is willing to pay my expenses, I'm willing to go and check it out. In some cases, such as my experience with Myanmar, it is a mixed blessing. But I'm glad I went.

Side note - I just typed in Dubai job teaching into Google and there are quite a number of sites that popped up. Who knows? Maybe I'll go from Austria to Dubai. Maybe Takijistan after this. :)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

38 days and counting...

I have roommates! Whee! I've been searching for the past three months for places to live in Vienna or the surrounding area and having been batting zero. Today, that changed when someone from Georgetown read my craigslist ad for roommates wanted. The new apartment will be more than three times larger than my current apartment, and since the current apartment is approximately the size of a shoebox, that should be pretty awesome.

I'm finding that I'm enjoying this part of the packing process more than the past few weeks (yes, I'm packing very slowly, it's better than waiting until the last minute like I usually do). Right now, I'm in the pack big boxes full of stuff to take to donate to charity. It's quite nice to just watch all that stuff going away. Too much stuff turns you into one of the hoarding people who can't let go of the shirt they bought last year because they might get around to mending those busted off buttons. Well, I'm fully aware that I'm much too lazy to do something like that, so into the bin it goes! It's rather a gleeful process.

38 days until I leave. It's easier to count by months and weeks right now - it seems shorter. A month and a week until I board a plane to Austria! And to help pass the time: a cruise to Alaska with my mom during September. I'm so totally looking forward to this next year. It's going to be so awesome that nothing could possibly top it. And I think that I deserve it after this last year. Course, I also think I deserve a million bucks. :)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Evil cult girl meets the douchebag lotion bombers

So... anyone see anything on the news other than the terrorist threat today? The News Hour with Jim Lehrer spent an entire hour covering the event, it's repercussions, possible fallout, and any other possible angle from which to examine this newest attempt at mass murder in the name of religion.

Tonight on CSI's rerun, Grissom and the gang investigated the mass murder of a cult group who believed that they had to leave behind their physical shells to be united in utter peace and harmony with some aliens in the sky. I suppose things are screwed up enough for some people to want to buy into something like that, but I'm not that desperate yet.

Quote: Evil cult girl who watched the rest of the group die: "Don't you think there's someone out there?"
Grissom: "If there is someone, or something, out there, they probably have the sense to stay away from us."

You go, Grissom.

On a lighter note, I'm going to enjoy not being able to bring aboard anything at all except my ID, money, cards, and maybe a book if I'm lucky on my EXTREMELY long flight to Europe, which is currently at Code Red Alert. Or whatever they call it. Hopefully, no more douchebags with lotion bombs turn up in the near future, otherwise SeaTac will go from an absolutely detestable airport to one where the passengers end up killing each other out of frustration at the security measures and not due to any desire to rid the world of infidels.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Musings on Matrimony

Weddings are interesting. I say interesting in a sort of ambivalent way because I'm not entirely sure where I stand regarding weddings. On the one hand, they hold out the possibility of true love and happiness, endless promise for the future. On the other hand, with the divorce rate at about fifty percent (didn't someone once say that most statistics are made up on the spot? but I do think that it's somewhere around 50%) marriage seems to be a little antiquated at best, and a complete and total farce at worst.

When entering into holy matrimony, how does one set the tone for one's future life together? I see news reports or shows where couples are married sky diving, or perhaps snorkeling, or any number of activities that are fun and exciting. Or, a couple could choose to go to Vegas and be married by an Elvis impersonator or in the CSI mode, a fake alien. Some people go to great lengths to make their wedding absolutely perfect: perfect dress, perfect venue, perfect food, perfect music, perfect flowers - all at a price guaranteed to make the bride's parents weep. Yesterday I was informed by the person I went to this wedding with that her fiance's sister spent $20,000 on her wedding (and by spent money, I mean her parents) and then got divorced one year later.

The wedding I attended yesterday was short and sweet. The bride looked lovely, the groom looked very much in love with his wife, and there was no puking among the flower girls. All in all, the ceremony went off without a hitch. At the reception, there were two kegs, spiked punch and a hot buffet, which was incidentally quite tasty. The wedding was overall cute and sweet, but also a tad cheesy and tacky, which reflected the bride's interests and personality quite well. I know nothing of the groom except that he spent two terms in Iraq. 'Nuff said.

In an age of high divorce rates and a lack of respect for tradition of any kind, is marriage antiquated? What makes people so certain that getting married is the right thing for them to do? I read once that because marriage represents hope for the future and the permanent side of love, it's worth entering into. Still seems like a huge risk - and a HUGE expense - to me.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Sweet, blessed, gray drizzle....

I have been dreadfully remiss in keeping up on my blog, but it's not exactly my fault. The University of Oregon cuts off free internet sometime in mid-July for graduates, and thus I lost my portal to the outside world. Currently, I am stealing someone's wireless access. I'm not really sure whose, since it seems I am one of the few people still living in Westmoreland. The dumpster outside of my apartment is filled with drawers from the empty apartments. Looks like they're doing a complete rehab of the units here. It's about time...

Packing is ever and always a joy - the only benefit is that I can use this opportunity to get rid of stuff. Do you ever feel as though your possessions force you to take actions you'd otherwise never take? I've been agonizing over whether or not to sell my car because I would have to eat the loss of a couple hundred dollars. At this point, considering how much I owe the consolidation company that took over my student loans, a couple hundred dollars makes very little difference, so why am I stressing? I think I'm going to sell it, if only to save myself the frustration of attempting to make car payments and pay insurance from an Austrian bank.

Kudos to Chris and Becky for making it safely into California, especially for passing the smog emissions test! Personally, I can't wait to head north again. I helped my mom move from the armpit that is Hermiston back to where we grew up on the Kitsap Peninsula, and I almost choked up when I saw the gray clouds roll in and the rain started falling. God save me from climates where there's more than two months of sun in a year...

Austria is hot in the summer, but I won't be there. I'll be there for the temperate fall, the cold rainy winter, and I have no idea what spring is like, but I'm looking forward to finding out. :)