Saturday, January 27, 2007

laundry treasures

i noticed a few days ago that my driver's license wasn't in my purse. a day or two before that i had thought at one point that i had less cash in my purse than i remembered. today i put in three loads of laundry and headed to the bank for quarters so i could pay for the dryer. when i got to the bank, i realized that i still didn't have my driver's license...luckily i had my SAIC ID card. i cashed my erie insurance refund check ($72, score! it was my money to begin with, but found money feel good even if it was already yours...more on that momentarily) for $30 in quarters and some extra cash for tonight, and headed back to the apartment.

the money for tonight is for dinner and a movie: the JC-DC alumni group planned dinner at McGinty's and then discounted tickets to see pan's labyrinth at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, MD. only $7.50 for tickets! paul and i are trying to save money for car payments and weddings and other such important things, but i decided this was an allowable expense since it's one day after the sixth anniversary of our first official date, so we should celebrate.

so anyway, i get back from the bank and head straight to the laundry room (i like to be responsible, and also i was crossing my fingers that the large-capacity dryer would be empty - it was!), and begin unloading my two machined full of darks into the big dryer. i finished unloading the first machine (all paul's stuff) and started on the second, and sitting on top was a twenty dollar bill! that was exciting. i began to remember a walk paul and i had taken on tuesday, and that i may have put some money and my driver's licence in my pocket, so i crossed my fingers for the license to be here. i kept digging, and along with the license (*whew* i had been worried), i found another $31!! sheesh. i don't know why i put that much money in my pocket for a walk. but now with the refund check, money already in my wallet, and my newly laundered money, i will have plenty to use tonight at dinner without breaking out the credit card or disturbing my bank balance. i love found money!

speaking of tonight, time for a shower before the dryer is done!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

i did it!!

i did it. i drove the matrix to work today, and then home in stop-and-go traffic in the snow! i can drive stick shift!!!

actually, i didn't just drive home, i drove to the library...and then to the bank, quite a bit out of the way, to rescue paul who had locked himself out of the car while he was using the walk-up atm. oh, and the car was still running. he was probably only about 6 miles away, but it was rush hour, so he had to stand out in the cold for 25 minutes until i got there. on the coldest day of the winter so far, in the blowing snow. poor paul. good thing i learned how to drive stick shift!

by the way, at the library, i got:
cat's cradle by kurt vonnegut (for paul, he requested it)
cold mountain by Charles Frazier (so that i can finally watch the movie without feeling guilty that i didn't read the book first)
the book of laughter and forgetting by milan kundera (because i keep hearing about it randomly, and he's also written a book called the unforgettable lightness of being, and with titles like that it has to be good. originally written in czech, translated to french by the author, and later into english with the help of the author)
eat, pray, love by elizabeth gilbert (for nawakwa book group in february)

started on laughter and forgetting first because i'm curious. just finished finally reading one of my mom's favorites, fried green tomatoes by fannie flagg, and i thoroughly enjoyed it. waiting for the next church book group book to come from amazon, the denial of death by ernest becker, which sounds heavy but interesting - i could go for a good dose of philosophy.

so much reading, so little time!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Politico

As you may know, I listen to NPR all day while I'm at work. I need the background noise to fill up my lonely windowless office. Since I live near DC, I listen to WAMU, the NPR member station that broadcasts out of American University, and not surprisingly it has a lot of politically-oriented talk shows during the day.

I just listened to a discussion on the second half of To the Point about all the potential Democratic candidates in 2008, and I had some thoughts.

There are already a LOT of democrats who have officially declared their intent to run, formed committees to explore the possibility of running, or at least told reporters that they intend to throw their proverbial hats into the ring in the near future. I'm sure you've heard of Obama and Clinton, Kucinich is also running again, and another they discussed is Richards, the governor of New Mexico.

In the republican ring are McCain, Giuliani, and a few others...but the main candidate by far, and clearly the front-runner in the republican primary, according to the guests on To the Point, is McCain.

The Democrats, on the other hand, have a comparatively huge field of candidates with no clear front-runner. Obama and Clinton are the most talked-about names so far, and Obama has certainly created almost a mania among democrats...but there are other democrats who have very good potential to gain a lot of popularity between now and the primary elections:

Kucinich ran in 2004 and was not well-known only because the press inexplicably didn't talk much about him, according to On the Media, a WAMU show I heard on Saturday while practicing driving my new stick-shift Matrix. It's not that the press didn't like Kucinich; they simply didn't cover him much at all. If he can overcome that this time around, he could be a strong candidate.

Richards is the governor of New Mexico, and according to the guests on To the Point, if you lined up the resumes of all the current democratic presidential hopefuls without names attached, Richards would win hands-down. I'm not sure what makes that true, but they said that he has a really stellar resume compared to Obama and even Clinton. In addition, Richards is half Mexican, and should therefore have the same kind of "first-time-in-history" minority support that Obama and Clinton (black and female, respectively) are already receiving...altho, from a marketing perspective, it's unfortunate for Richards that his father wasn't the Mexican half, because as a result he has an American last name.

To the Point didn't discuss whether the large number of democratic candidates was a good or bad thing, but it seems to me like it could be a bad thing if your ultimate hope is to elect a democrat to the White House. My ultimate hope is to elect a decent and honest person who is not prohibitively conservative to the White House, and to that end I wouldn't be unhappy with McCain (more on this below), but let's assume for now that we're looking for a democrat.

Based on the information above, I think the large number of democratic presidential hopefuls could be a bad thing for the eventual goal of electing a democrat to the White House. Consider the primary elections:

Republicans vote on a choice between McCain, Giuliani, and a few others; McCain, according to To the Point, is the clear front-runner and therefore wins the republican primary with a large majority. Because of this, when the presidential election rolls around, republicans are behind McCain basically 100% because few of them voted for anyone else in the primary, and of those who did, most are still almost equally happy with McCain as they would have been with another republican.

Democrats, on the other hand, have a deeply divided vote in the primaries. New Mexico goes to Richards, and so do a few surrounding states; Obama wins a large handful of states; so does Clinton; so does Kucinich; and a small but significant number of votes go to other candidates, even though none of them wins an entire state. Whoever comes out as the overall winner gets the democratic candidacy, but there are a large number of democrats who were very excited about a different democratic candidate. They probably don't dislike the winner, but they are nonetheless disappointed that their favorite democrat won't be in the running.

McCain for the republican race is a reasonably moderate candidate, so I think that if the scenario in the above two paragraphs were to play out approximately as discussed, McCain's chances at winning the presidential election would be MUCH much higher. In fact, I'd be almost surprised if he didn't win, because the republicans would be strongly behind McCain, but the democrats who weren't as strongly behind their nominee could be more likely to vote for McCain as a moderate candidate.

This isn't an angry rant, because I wouldn't be terribly upset if McCain were our next president, especially if the house and senate were both democratic...however, I would really like to see two democratic houses AND a democrat in the White House so that a bunch can get done right away in 2008...and I also want the democrats to have a real chance at proving they can run the country really well and with minimal corruption (unlike the republicans since 2000). As long as the house, senate, and White House aren't all the same party, it will keep corruption to a minimum, but it will also probably keep any really important legislation from passing (like energy issues, taxes, and hot-button issues such as abortion and gay marriage that could really have an impact on the daily life of the country). So, while I wouldn't be upset to see McCain in the White House, I would be very sad to see the republicans get a majority in either house, and I would really prefer to have straight democratic rule for a while.

::edit::
According to the NPR program on during my drive home (All Things Considered), Clinton is the current front-runner of the democrats, McCain is not quite as strong as To the Point believed, and Clinton is a polarazing force because of a pole that found many Americans wouldn't vote for her under any circumstances. They also mentioned Edwards, a democratic candidate I had forgotten about because they didn't mention him on To the Point. They re-emphasized the impressive resume of Richards, the governor of New Mexico.

What do you think? I welcome thoughts from republicans, democrats, and especially moderates! I would consider myself a moderate liberal...is that too contradictory?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Stickshift

i can do it! i can finally drive my new car!!

i took it out on my own on saturday...almost immediately it finally clicked and i can now start from a stop, even on a minor uphill, without stalling or jerking. i haven't taken it out on any major roads yet because i'm a bit nervous about, say, turning left into traffic, but soon i'll be wizzing around like a pro!

i feel like i've accomplished a major life skill i was previously lacking. yay!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

christmas present shout-outs ::edit::

since i shouted out paul's family and rachel for their christmas gifts in the last post, i thought i should make a more complete list of all my continuing enjoyment of christmas presents

i'm using my mini vera bradley wallet-on-a-string from mommy k as my main "purse" now, except when i need a real bag, at which point i throw it in the big floppy eddie bauer bag that ninny got me for (i think) christmas 2005.

i use my aveeno chapstick daily (stocking stuffer from the 'rents)

paul and i had a delicious cassarole for dinner last week made of needed-to-be-used eggs, bread, milk, cheese, and onions and baked in my very first le cruset piece of kitchenware, a mini cassarole from aunt judy

i've cooked pasta three times so far in the pasta pot we exchanged for the waffle iron that ninny got for us (we already had a waffle iron, but we LOVE the pasta pot!)

of course the delicious pizza from the last entry, the pizza stone is the best part of that kit, it's nice and big and beautiful. we also used the alton brown DVDs megan got for paul to make an AMAZING batch of baked macaroni-and-cheese that was the perfect companion for the succulent pulled pork paul made last weekend.

of rachel's gift we've so far eaten the tortilla chips in the salsa verde and used the tapenade for the pizza sauce, which worked really perfectly.

i have a picture of greer above my tv in the cute little doggy picture holder han got me in france

i used my borders gift card from paul's family to get a much-needed dictionary to keep by my bed for nighttime reading when i don't feel like getting up to use the computer to look up words

i haven't yet used any old navy gift certificates...i'm waiting until there's an article of clothing that i really need, because i need to be spending as little money as possible for basically the rest of 2007, so hopefully the gift certificates will come in handy to satisfy a craving.

also haven't used the amazon gift certificates...tried to use mine to purchase a friend's long-overdue wedding gift from amazon.co.uk, but it wouldn't work, i assume because they're only good at amazon.com.

well that's all i can think of at the moment...let me know if i forgot anything. time for bed. past time for bed, in fact, but we had a late dinner after doing laundry and walking all the way to hollywood video, browsing the store for two movies (buy one get one free this week!), and walking home, then taking 90 minutes or so to cook beef and barley soup. ok so good night!


::edit::

paul just used our new full-sized food processor (also from his family) to make the best hummus he's ever made! he's only made hummus a couple other times, but this time is far superior...it is probably a combination of the experience and the food processor...the full-sized fp is definitely the reason it's much smoother and a better texture this time. Yay food processor!!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

amalgam

i LOVE Norah Jones...can't wait 'til her new album is out. birthday present, anyone?

woke up at 4:30 this morning to the lovely sound of paul snoring like a chainsaw. he was also doing that thing where he bends his leg with his knee in the air, and then it keeps trying to fall over and he keeps standing it back up, and it shakes the bed. that problem was easier to fix than the snoring, but i did eventually get him to roll over.

i have a rash on the back of my right hand...when i itch it, it grows; when i stop, it shrinks into one little red dot. right now it's medium-sized patchy field of tiny bumps. yesterday i thought it was a hive, but it's definitely a rash. luckily i have some cortizone.

paul and i rented last night: the illusionist which was entertaining but not especially great, the devil wears prada which i plan to watch this afternoon (see below), and an inconvenient truth which we will probably watch tonight. we'll have to rent at least two more movies this month, because our three rentals yesterday got us rent-one-get-one-free for the next two weeks.


last night was a very nice evening: i got home from work and made pizza dough, then while it was rising paul and i went to borders and hollywood video, when we got home he chopped veggies while i rolled out the dough (it fit perfectly onto the new pizza stone we got from paul's family for christmas! it was also the best pizza dough i've ever made, so try this recipe!), then while the veggies roasted in the oven we started the movie. after 30 minutes we got the veggies out (eggplant, green zuccini squash, yellow zuccini squash, plum tomatos, baby portabellas, red onion), popped the crust in for 5 minutes, added the sauce (i used the roasted red pepper and artichoke tapenade that rachel got me for christmas as sauce - delish!!), added the veggies, and feta and mozerella cheeses, and back in the oven for 15 minutes. we watched a bit more movie while the pizza baked, then finished the movie with yummy wonderful veggie pizza!
the movie ended around 10:45,and we went to bed...usually when we do that much stuff in one evening, we're up until at least midnight! it was a spontaneously wonderful evening.

i bought "the denial of death" by ernst becker on amazon yesterday, free because i bought it used so it fit on an old partially-used reward certificate from my amazon credit card...there was $9.06 left on the certificate, and now there is $0.24 left. it's the next book group book for church down here...i also need to get a hold of the trinity nawakwa book group book, but i don't want to buy it because it looks cute, but not like something i'll want to re-read.

so, plan for the day is:
eat a slice of bread, go on a jog/walk, clean the kitchen & bathroom, then go thru all my france pictures while i watch the devil wears prada, which i finally rented in english so i can see what the heck was going on. i saw it in french while visiting han...we thought it was in english with subtitles, but it ended up being dubbed, so i have this weird memory of it, because i've seen it, and i know the general arc of the plot, but i can't remember any details because, oh yeah, it was all in french and i don't speak french. it's not like i remember them speaking french in the movie, either, because when you totally don't know something it doesn't stick in your head, so i kind of have a silent memory of the film with some associated feelings and emotions. it's actually very much like remembering a dream you've had but you can't make sense of it: it's just kind of a wash of impressions.

ok so i'm going to go start all that, and add to this post later to see what i've actually completed. oh, and maybe finally post some france pics. my main goal for the france pics, tho, is to print out some 8x10's and fill up all the cheap picture frames i bought at ac moore a few months ago. i have a bunch of big sheets of card stock left over from christmas presents, so i'm excited to use that as matting.

off for my snack and then my jog...

PS: you can click on the pics to see them full-sized...this is especially good with the delicious pizza pics!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

finally, as promised



here are pics of our new car!


this is from the parking lot near the Cactus Cantina in DC near the National Cathedral, where Paul and I met my parents and Han on Sunday for a late lunch. Mom and Han wanted to show me some potential bridesmaids dress material they bought, which I didn't like, but I did like their idea for a layer of toulle in contrast color over a lighter fabric.

They also bought a few dress patterns which were all great, and I'm even more excited about these dresses now because I see how lovely and simple they'll be, but there's still so many options to choose from, and my bridesmaids could even pick out the neckline that best suits them! It's going to be so cool.



Oh, and also notice that the cherry blossoms are out in DC in MID-JANUARY. That's Han in the turquoise coat you see through the branches. It's been ludicrously warm lately, but today it's supposed to be in the 20's, so bye-bye little cherry blossoms...this spring will probably not be the best time to visit the cherry blossom festival, as all the blossoms will have bloomed and died by the end of this week. whoops.



One more thing: I switched the visual format because the other one, although I liked it a lot, was too skinny - I wanted my blog to span the window, not be crammed into a center column. It felt very squishy if I added any pictures. I like this much better.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A Grammatical Rant

After reading the chapter "r/ Inse^t a Carrot e/" in Anne Fadiman's book Ex Libris about how she and her family are compulsive proof-readers; and the very next evening seeing this post on my cousin Katy's blog about her meticulously constructed, lovingly composed, mis-punctuated wedding invitations; I have been musing about my own aversion to grammatical and punctuation errors.

First, after reading Anne Fadiman but before hearing of Katy's dilemma, I arrived at a new theory explaining why I hate it so much when people misspell my name: In addition to just being annoying and insulting, it offends the same part of my self as do errors in books, on signs, in store windows, and in periodicals. I take time and go out of my way to make sure I spell people's names correctly, and even the myriad e-mails I write every day at work are re-read at least once so I send very few errors to my co-workers. Misspelling my name is like a regular error made personal, so no wonder it bothers me.

A short exposition about "Meredith" and its origins:

The most common misspelling of my name is "Merideth," which I am currently faced with every time my coworker RJ sends me an e-mail...I corrected him once, but since he immediately reverted to the same misspelling I haven't had the heart to correct him again because he's a good guy and I like him. I have also had people spell it "Meredeth," but the current winner for gross misspellings of my name goes to two relatives of Paul's family who each wrote on their Christmas cards this year "Paul & Merrideth"; I think they must have collaborated. However, I can't be too annoyed at this because my own parents addressed their Christmas card to Paul's parents "Edwin & Linda," and Paul's Dad's name is Ed, short for Edgar...this mistake was probably my fault, at least partly; although I have never thought his name was Edwin, so I'm not sure how the mistake got passed on to my parents.

Over 43,000 people work for SAIC, so I searched the name "Meredith" and found:

  • 4 people with the last name "Meredith"
  • 12 people with the first name "Meredith," including me
  • 2 people with the first name "Merideth"
  • 1 person with the first name "Meredeth"
  • 1 person with the first name "Meridith"
If you look in a baby names book the only spelling listed is "Meredith," so the four other Mer_d_th's above are victims of parental creative mis-name-spelling (a phrase I intend to patent as an often-abused practice and subsequently lead protest against).

(As a side note, "Meredith" is the only spelling listed on babynames.com, as a Welsh name for a boy or girl meaning "Lord"; however, I did find "Merideth" and "Meridith" on babynamesworld.com, which listed "Meredith" and "Meridith" as girls' names and "Merideth" as a boy's name, and all as English names meaning "Defender of the Sea," which is what I've always known it to mean...Wikipedia says "Meredith is an uncommon first name in the English language. It was originally a Welsh male name, (Meredydd; in its earliest recorded form, Morgetiud), in which final element, iud, means 'lord'; the meaning of the initial element(s) is unknown. It is often wrongly explained in name books as 'protector from the sea' due to confusion with the Latin mer and the Old English Edith. It can be used for either gender, but is more commonly a girl's name in English-speaking countries." A search of Wikipedia for Merideth reveals that it is a small town in Victoria, Australia; searches for Meridith and Meredeth yield nothing. I still consider the only official spelling to be "Meredith," but would like to do some more research on its origins.)
Last night after reading Katy's post and calling her to express my sympathies, I had some further thoughts about grammar and punctuation. I notice errors all the time in public places, and it always bothers me. If I'm with Paul, I can point them out to him, and while he won't particularly care, he won't be annoyed either (unless I'm correcting him, which I do, and he doesn't always like it). If I'm with most people, I don't feel comfortable pointing out these errors because they wouldn't share in my annoyance and amusement. If I'm going to notice these things, I would most like to be with my mom and sister, because they will both revel with me in the awfulness of such public mistakes.

Once soon after I moved, Mom, Dad, Han, and I were all in a restaurant near my VA apartment. This restaurant is still a favorite of Paul's and mine, and we've been there many times. It's decorated in a southwestern theme with big mirrors in hand-carved wooden frames that the restaurant commissioned from a local artist. Each mirror frame has some quote carved into it in giant letters; one is "If you don't know where you are, your riding down the wrong trail." Right there in the middle of a big, popular restaurant! In gigantic carved wooden letters! This is, to me, one of the worst public errors I've ever seen, I think because it feels so permanent and uncorrectable. When I walk past a sign in the mall that says "Come in for you're free gift," I know it could be corrected fairly easily, even if it never is; when I read an article in Time Magazine with the sentence structure of a 12-year-old, I know it will be tossed in every one's trashcans by the time next week's issue comes out; when I proofread a friend's paper, I can make corrections outright; but when an artist has been commissioned, paid, and carved huge letters into wood, there is no hope.

I anticipate that many readers of this post (excepting my mom, Han, and Katy) will not only agree with my decision to refrain from correcting public errors and not sharing my notice of them with friends and co-workers, and furthermore might even feel that I am being way too hard on them and should cut everyone some slack.

To you I say: you're right, BUT.

It is true that I can't expect most people to be as picky as I am. They weren't taught these rules well enough in school or were perhaps interested in other things too much to absorb it all, and now they are surrounded daily by common errors such as its/it's, your/you're, and there/their/they're going uncorrected and unacknowledged every day.

This, then, is my BUT: It is exactly because these errors have become so commonplace and are unopposed and unchallenged that everyone is caring less and less about them. If every printed sign, every book, every periodical were corrected each time an error was committed, soon those errors would start to be much less frequent in the first place because everyone would be unconsciously absorbing the RIGHT usages instead of the wrong ones. This is exactly why I had little sympathy for my education major friends who had to re-take the grammar test over and over before they could become teachers: if we have teachers who use incorrect grammar, we can't hope to have our children do any better!

It may be unfair to hold Joe Schmo accountable for his poor grammar, but only because we don't hold those in control of education and popular media accountable. These are not difficult concepts; they are just not in the public mind. If we mentioned these issues on a few popular news and talk shows, NPR, The Daily Show with John Stewart, etc. it would be ridiculously easy to make good grammar practices popular instead of taboo, and within months I think we could see a drastic reduction in the most common errors.

Maybe I'll start a facebook group.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Cleaning...lots and lots of cleaning.


Sorry for no pics yet, i will eventually i swear!!

Paul and I did LOTS of cleaning tonight, and our apartment is about back to normal, altho there's still more to be done...hopefully by Saturday evening it will be nice and shiny. All the new kitchen gifts still need to be washed, kitchen & bathroom both need some cleaning, and the whole place needs a good vacuum.

We are now waiting for a pizza from zpizza, topped with pesto, mozzarella, roasted eggplant, feta, and pine nuts; a reward for all our hard work cleaning.

In the mean time, here is the bag I croched, ripped off of Barb E...but as you can see, mine didn't shrink as much...and I washed it 4 times! I also made the earrings, which are attached to the bag because I'm going to give the whole thing to my boss Kelly as a thank-you/Christmas gift.

The bag is actually dark yellow and purple, but in the pics it looks more orange for some reason...
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