Friday, August 31, 2007

life and times

We Cosbys are really cool. We're cultured and outdoorsy and up-to-date. You can tell by all the cool stuff we do. Take, for instance, our latest trip into Houston.

We went to Miller Outdoor Theater to see Madame Butterfly performed by the Houston Ebony Opera Guild. It was a free show (as a side note: I think it's funny that Sam and I only go to free symphonies and operas and museums where the material is arguably of much greater worth than say a movie, for which we pay $8.75, or dinner at Chilis which can get pricey). The night was beautiful, warm, breezy, not too humid, and Sam and I saw a couple shooting stars.

Sadly, Sam and I were not very impressed with the opera. I'm sure that's due to a number of factors. First, it was performed in English, which, as everyone knows, is not as beautiful as Italian. Second, I couldn't understand a lot of what was being said because the sound wasn't that great, and the words weren't said, they were sung. Third, the man playing Pinkerton must have been having trouble with his voice since he often sounded raspy. Finally, it did not meet my criteria for becoming an opera/musical that I love because it neither a) made me think "Wow! that was a really beautiful aria/duet/intricate octet, etc nor b) made me walk away humming one or two of its melodies in my head. I certainly recognized some themes in the music, but they didn't stick with me like two other operas I've loved: Carmen and Don Giovanni.

However, this particular performance, being done by an all black cast, did make me think of how it was a pretty relevant story for Houston. A black woman, who is assured of true love by a man, is left abandoned with a child. I know it's politically incorrect of me to have just made this connection since it was a black cast, and to have never realized it before, but well, that's what happened. Anyway, I wondered if anyone else made that connection and what they thought of it.

On another note, Sam and I just read Freakonomics which has a large section on the black-white income gap, black crack gangs in Chicago, and the difference between high-income and low-income names, along with sumo wrestlers, the KKK, real-estate agents, and abortion. The entire book is about as unified as that sentence I just wrote. It's basically a collection of Stephen Levitt's papers put into anecdotal form. I found it entertaining, though not very enlightening. I'm currently in the midst of The World is Flat and Sam just read Guns, Germs, and Steel and with all these books it's fun to see how authors are RIGHT. It makes sense. No one wants to read a book where the author is always doubting his own argument. Still, those kind of books read like an entertaining college lecture, but without highlighting inconsistencies and opposing arguments.

Aside from all that, life is fairly normal. We take walks, talk about our dissatisfaction with the two-party system and our ambivalence toward the war in Iraq, make dinner together, and discuss various life-plan options available to us. It's nice to be married and have someone to do all that with, especially someone as kind, funny, smart, and helpful as Sam.

Oh, and Sam found a man named Jose selling $25 TVs on craigslist, so we can watch movies on something other than the laptop again. Yay! I just found Sense and Sensibility at Target for $5, and Sam is such a nice husband that he says he's excited to watch a Jane Austen movie with me, even when he didn't like the book. What a guy!

PS-- The Chacos came! Hurray! They're soooooo comfy. They have better support than my running shoes!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

sam's first blog post EVER!

(I really wanted Sam to post on my blog, so we figured our anniversary would be a good jumping -off point. Any comments I add on this post will be in parentheses, like this one. Take it away, Sam.)

Well, I am supposed to chronicle the events of the Saturday of our first annual anniversary weekend celebration. It all started in the wee hours of the morning, when I decided that I would make Heather breakfast. Making breakfast for others has been a long-standing tradition in my own family, and I admit that I found it a little shocking when Heather first told me that she preferred cereal for breakfast over all other foods--including great breakfast food like pancakes, bacon, eggs, etc. At this point, you can imagine my dismay. Anyhow, I had heard her say that coffeecake would be a breakfast that she would enjoy, and I was overjoyed to hear something that I could make, rather than just pour in a bowl.

So, at 6:30 AM, I woke up and realized that I needed to go to the grocery store. In order to not make this blog longer than it needs to be, suffice it to say that I had been spending many stolen moments reading and re-reading Irma Rombauer's advice on how to make coffeecakes from her Joy of Cooking (which holds a place of honor on our countertop). Therefore, the preparation and cooking began, and it took longer than I had expected, but as I had hoped, Heather remained in a state of slumber until I turned on the food processor to chop chocolate chips--chopping chocolate chips may sound weird, but you will just have to take my word for it when I say it was an act of culinary genius (I wholeheartedly agree, and did not mind feigning slumber for the next 40 minutes to experience such a marvel). So, after eating coffeecake, I suppose that Heather was looking for an equally eventful morning as she had provided the previous day, but, I had planned nothing until the afternoon.

(Finally realizing this, I took full advantage of primping time, and asked Sam numerous times what I should wear, and he remained unhelpfully mysterious. I'm still not satisfied with how I looked, which may be the reason why we have no other pictures besides the food)

I, Sam, remind you that the parenthetical comments belong to Heather, whereas my own parenthetical commentary will henceforth be offset by the -- (that is an m-dash). Thank you, Heather. After the morning passed, we drove off into the sun toward Bellaire Blvd., where I had previously arranged for an order of pupusas for lunch. They were authentic and delicious (the ants loved them. I set a bag of salsa [yes, a bag, it's authentic] on the ground and the ants swarmed it), and so we continued on our way toward our next destination: Galveston, Texas. A slight difficulty appeared in my plans in the form of bad traffic, but after driving for two hours, we arrived at our destination. I knew that I wanted us to see the Galveston Historic District, but I had not really come up with a site-by-site visiting plan, which was both good and bad. Good, because it kept us from spending money we would have otherwise felt bad about spending once we saw that some of the museums' publicity operations were of a much higher quality than their actual appeal. Bad, because we had to aimlessly wander around at times before finding the little gems that characterize the historic downtown--also known as The Strand. One of those little gems was an art museum, which we barreled past while walking down the street, but Heather noticed it, so we turned around and entered. It was a great little spot, with displays from local artists of various glassware exhibits. The donation that we put in the plastic donation box was the only money that we spent while on the Strand, and it was well spent.

(According to the guide that Sam printed off of the Internet about Galveston, the Strand area is filled with buildings from the mid-1800s, many of which survived a severe hurricane at the turn of the century. I especially enjoyed the intricate brickwork and a wicker-basket topped elevator.)

After enjoying the old-timey ambiance of the Strand, we headed off toward our final destination, which was the beach. Perhaps a little bit of background is in order for this segment of our travels. Texas beaches are much like the beaches of many lakes and reservoirs: they make you feel close to water, but are otherwise less impressive than say, the Bahamas. Or even the California coast at its worst. Nevertheless, it is the ocean, it is a beach, and swimming is enjoyable no matter where you go, which was the case when we arrived. At Stewart Beach State Park, we entered a parking lot full of cars, changed, and dove (waded) into the water with many close neighbors. The most unexpected and entertaining scenery turned out to be the leaping fish of the Gulf of Mexico. At least every couple of minutes, and at random locations both near and far, large fish would leap out of the water again and again like skipping rocks. Many times small schools of fish would participate in this activity, and they felt no shame about doing it right next to a human body. It was a lot of fun to watch, just slightly more fun than watching the pelicans trying to dive down and eat them. Anyhow, we basked in the relatively still ocean for a couple of hours, and just passed the time talking and enjoying the relaxing atmosphere. (I thought the beach was interesting because there were no waves, and the water just broke close to the beach like at Lake Erie, but while you were in the water you could feel a fairly strong current that could hold you up if you leaned against it, which entertained us for several minutes.)

At this point, I feel that I have lapsed a bit into stream of consciousness, so to wrap things up, we had a wonderful and eventful Saturday together. (We ate dinner at Chili's too.) This is the end of my first obligatory entry into the blog, and you can probably expect to hear from me again the next time Heather "strongly encourages" me to contribute.


i sell things

It's true. It's official. I sell things. I sold my old TI-89 calculator on Amazon. I've sold textbooks. And now, I sell my books. As in books that I have made.

I sold my very first book to my sister-in-law Anna. She bought it as a wedding gift for her brother, and its a journal with the bride and groom's names on it. It was so much fun having someone else make all the decisions about the book-- the size, the colors, the papers, the style. I hope she likes it! Here are some photos, though I think it looks much better in person. The flash emphasizes any little flaw! Though, as my teacher always said, "The flaws are what make it personal and home made!"

PS-- to see more books that I've made, click the link to the right to a web page of them

Saturday, August 18, 2007

happy feet

I'm having a girl moment. I need to brag about the GREAT sale I just got. Here's the story.

This is Tax-free weekend in Texas wherein sales tax is suspended for certain required items, namely apparel and back-to-school supplies. But retailers are allowed to suspend taxes on almost anything and many do, along with having great big sales.
So, to join in with the masses, Sam and I headed out to the outlet mall to buy him some brown dress shoes. He found some he liked in Famous Footwear which was having a buy one get one half off sale. Now, I've been looking for some good sandals that'll support my feet like shoes, but keep them cool. I found some good Columbia sandals already marked down so we got them for $15.

But that's not the sale. Just wait.

I wore the sandals around a bit and decided they didn't fit just right and would chafe if I wore them too long or got wet or dirty in them. I told Sam I had this problem with lots of sandals and had a suspicion that Chacos wouldn't give me that trouble. Only problem is, they're usually $95.
Well, we decided to maybe buy them anyway and searched for a local distributer. We found one, back at the mall and saw they had Chacos on sale for $71 on-line with free shipping. Not bad! So we went back to the mall and tried on Chacos to find the right size. Within 5 minutes, I was hooked. My feet have never felt so aired yet so comfortable. And Sam is now yearning for some Chacos flip-flops.
So, back home we came and popped online. We used froogle and the Chaco website to find anyone selling Chacos, and the original $71 seemed like the best. But, I decided, why not check Amazon? And there they were: Chaco Zx2 Headwaters in Bluebell for only $54 and FREE shipping! Hooray! And happy early birthday to me.
It's amazing how much a great sale can make your day.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


I liked that "cynical" quiz so much, I took several more. They're really quick. Here are my results:

Your Superpower Should Be Manipulating Electricity

You're highly reactive, energetic, and super charged.
If the occasion calls for it, you can go from 0 to 60 in a split second.
But you don't harness your energy unless you truly need to.
And because of this, people are often surprised by what you are capable of.

Why you would be a good superhero: You have the stamina to fight enemies for days

Your biggest problem as a superhero: As with your normal life, people would continue to underestimate you

Your Theme Song is Beautiful Day by U2

"Sky falls, you feel like
It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away"

You see the beauty in life, especially in ordinary everyday moments.
And if you're feeling down, even that seems a little beautiful too.

I was shocked by this one...

You Are Austin

A little bit country, a little bit rock and roll.

You're totally weird and very proud of it.

Artistic and freaky, you still seem to fit in... in your own strange way.

Famous Austin residents: Lance Armstrong, Sandra Bullock, Andy Roddick

Also surprising, and both disappointing and satisfying

Your Geek Profile:

Academic Geekiness: Low
Fashion Geekiness: Low
Gamer Geekiness: Low
Geekiness in Love: Low
General Geekiness: Low
Internet Geekiness: Low
Movie Geekiness: Low
Music Geekiness: Low
SciFi Geekiness: Low

You Are Socks!

Cozy and warm... but easily lost.
You make a good puppet.

You Belong in Dublin

Friendly and down to earth, you want to enjoy Europe without snobbery or pretensions.
You're the perfect person to go wild on a pub crawl... or enjoy a quiet bike ride through the old part of town.

looking for the best in life

I don't think I'm cynical, and I know people who think I'm unrealistic in my expectations for my life (that life really can be pretty darn good most of the time and I can help to make it that way). However, I have friends who are so optimistic and smiley and love everybody and I sometimes feel like a little dark cloud around them when I make the slightest negative comment about a situation. All that is to say, I was a little surprised by the results of this blog quiz, but not too much.

You Are 20% Cynical

Cynical? Not even close! If anything, you're a bit naive.
Overall, you enjoy life and try not to be paranoid. Even if you've been burned before.

PS-- Sam and I probably won't get to writing about the rest of our anniversary till this weekend. So check back around then.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

happy anniversary

Our first anniversary is today. Hooray for us! One year and going strong. We have had a lovely weekend.

Friday was my day to plan. We had a leisurely morning and then went to see The Bourne Ultimatum. I had intended to let Sam choose whichever manly movie he wanted to see (Transformers, Live Free or Die Hard, or Bourne) but Transformers' first showing was too late in the day to get the $4 weekend morning show ticket price, and Die Hard wasn't there any more, so Bourne it was. I was happy because I really wanted to see it and Sam assured me that's what he would have chosen anyway. Overall, we liked it. There were some awesome chase scenes on both foot and car/motorcycle but there was also some violence that I closed my eyes for. Sam and I both wished we could have gone with Grandpa Roly, who LOVES the Bourne movies.

After the movie we ate some homemade pizza on our way to the Forbidden Gardens which has a small model of the Forbidden City and a replica of the tomb of emperor Qin, discovered in 1979 and filled with an entire army of terra cotta soldiers. Here is a short history of the Gardens from "Forbidden Gardens was built in 1997 at the pleasure of Ira P. H. Poon, AKA "Mr. Poon," a Hong Kong real estate mogul who wanted people of Asian descent (including his teenage children) to know something of Asian culture besides firecrackers and kung-fu. Mr. Poon lives in Seattle, but preferred constructing the sprawling exhibit somewhere outdoors, open year-round, on flat, cheap land, where there was a large Asian population. Houston, 25 miles east of Forbidden Gardens, has the third highest in the nation."
It was incredible to see the models. They had about 20 full size replicas (the close up) and three spreads of half size replicas, including some of the cavalry and the room that had been singed by fire from tomb robbers. (It's a funny story-- they came in and robbed the tomb and then tried to set it on fire to destroy any evidence they'd been there, but when they left the tomb, they shut the door, closing off the oxygen supply, so everything is in tact, just blackened a bit.)

We also loved the names of the palaces in the Forbidden City, things like, The Hall of Supreme Harmony, The Hall of Imperial Supremacy, The Hall of Earthly Tranquility, The Palace of Heavenly Purity. Each roof had its own color and those had different meanings. Most were yellow, the color of the Emperor. The library's roof was black, the symbol for water, to protect the books from fire. Others were green symbolizing growth and fertility, like the building where women came to have their babies. We loved hearing about the symbolism because it's so different from what we see in palaces in the west. Symbols of nature and color really faded away when Christianity pushed out the worship of nature.
My favorite part was hearing about the construction of the city. The story was told to us like this: All the best architects in China were brought together, but couldn't think of how to build the palaces. After much mental anguish, the dragon god came down and presented them with a cricket cage. Crickets not only symbolize luck, but they also were used as a security device since they stop chirping if someone comes near them, and you'll know someone's outside snooping around if your cricket goes quiet. The emperor loved it. It was a beautiful design and could say to his enemies, "If you try to come near, we're always watching." The building relied on the weight of slanted wood slats leaning on one another to hold itself up, so no nails or cement were used in construction, just a little tree sap. Incredible! And, the whole city went up in only 14 years because the emperor enlisted one million architects and laborers to come get the job done.

After the gardens, we bought some Blue Bell ice cream, a Texas original since 1911, and the third-best-selling ice cream brand in the nation. (It's been eaten on the space shuttle and at Camp David!) The Strawberries with Homemade Vanilla is amazing. Then Sam read a little while I went and bought food for dinner. We had steak topped with garlic butter, shrimp cocktails (though they too ended up being dipped in the left-over garlic butter), and Caesar salad. I also lit a candle and made a short playlist on Windows Media Player of love songs to satisfy my own romantic desires.

After dinner, we were going to go to the batting cages, but that didn't quite work out so we went and walked around the very ritzy, very pretty Galleria mall (according to their website, they're the fourth-largest mall in America) which is built under a long glass atrium. While there we peered at designer brand clothes and jewelry and played in the more accessible, middle-class-friendly Disney store and Apple store where we got our fill of playing with the new iPhone.

What a great day! Sam planned Saturday, and I (we?) will write about that soon. It's bedtime now.

a bow in the cloud

Genesis 9
13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.
14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:
15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

how much is it worth?

A rather convoluted train of internet surfing brought me to the homepage of Allure magazine. There, it's daily poll asked "How much would someone have to pay you to shave your head?" Their options were 1)Nothing, I'd do it for free 2)$1,000 3)$10,000 4)$1 million. Amazingly enough, I really had to sit and think about this question. For sure, I would never drop below $10,000, but I wasn't quite sure that was enough.

In my mental calculations of how fast my hair grows, I would have about 2-3 months of having hair short enough to get me stared at in public. How embarrassing would that be? How ashamed would I feel? How debilitating would it be to feel unattractive, and to have my husband find me unattractive? Could I live with those levels for 2-3 months? Would I gain confidence, or some other virtue, by withstanding stares and questions? Would I feel justified when I told people why I shaved my head?

What would $10,000 do? It might be the down payment on a house. It would buy most of car. It would buy us good furniture. It would give our 401K a jumpstart. It would cover lots of expenses while Sam went back to school. But those things don't feel too far out of reach, or very necessary at the moment.

On the other hand, at my current wage level and number of hours, it would take me 7 months to make $10,000. Would I trade 7 months of working for 2-3 months of some shame?

I talked to Sam about all this and we agreed that most definitely we'd agree for me to do it for $50,000 and I suspect we'd be convinced for $30,000, so I don't really see why the writer(s?) of this very scientific survey jumped straight from $10,000 to $1 million. I think many others felt this way too, since at the time I answered the survey, 64.5% of respondents said $1million would be their limit and I suspect that many would go for less.

So, I pose the question to you. How much would someone have to pay you to shave your head (for the women) or to grow your hair long (for the men)?

In the mean time, here are some other potentially embarrassing odd beauty routines someone would have to pay me to do and how much my going rates are. This doesn't make much sense, but I think these are such simple pleasures, someone would really have to shell out the dough to make it worth it, even though most of these happen pretty frequently:

Assume these last between 6 months and 1 year
Not shave my legs or armpits: $50,000
Wear mismatching clothes:$75,000
Not wear makeup ever: $7500
Not pluck my eyebrows: $5000
Never use a blow dryer or hot hair tool: $7500
Never paint my toenails: $1,000

Any other suggestions? I'll tell you how much it's worth to me.