Thursday, December 29, 2011
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Saturday, November 26, 2011
|Sunrise on the river|
|There are birds in this picture. I promise.|
|Pepa the macaw.|
|Tree (in case you couldn't tell).|
|Crazy jungle vines and such.|
Monday, October 10, 2011
|Notice the guy with the cooler|
We’ve been warned about naked natives who live deep in the jungle and will shoot you with arrows for fear of disease if you get too close. That’s one thing Pepto Bismol won’t protect against, I guess.
|The entrance to the lodge and some boats|
|It's gonna eat me!|
Thursday, October 6, 2011
|The view from the restaurant|
|If you need a dining set taken someplace, call this guy|
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Here I've compiled a list of all the foods I have to eat in order to call my State Fair experience complete, aforementioned rides, livestock, and mythological creatures notwithstanding.
The Krispy Kreme Donut Burger
Weighing it at an incredible 1500 calories, this glazed-and-greasy monstrosity is not for the faint of heart, although it will probably give you heart trouble.
These are impossible to miss, perhaps because a thick cloud of smoke surrounds every stand that sells them. Or maybe it's the miles of people lined up waiting for a chance to bury their faces in poultry. Either way, you can smell them from anywhere. Just follow your nose!
Chocolate covered bacon. 'Nuff said.
Insert sugary goodness here. It doesn't matter what it is. From Twinkies to Snickers to Coca-Cola, find whatever they've figured out how to batter and fry this year and try it. I avoid the deep-fried butter, though. That crosses a line.
Iconic not for the way it tastes, but for the giant inflatable strawberry crowning the stand. You can also buy pig lickers here. Don't ask.
Ribeye Steak Sandwich
This is usually the first thing my family eats, due to its convenient location near the entrance. Best enjoyed with Texas Pete hot sauce.
From the local university. They milk the cows themselves, but the ice cream is made in a lab. Still, by the time you've waited in line for the stuff, the flavors you have to pick from are "What aren't you out of?" Mmmm, my favorite.
Corn on the Cob
The idea with this one is to cover it with so much unidentified seasoning that the food itself becomes unrecognizable as a vegetable. If watching them pull it out of the boiling vat of butter didn't do that already.
Polish and/or Italian Sausage
If you know what the difference is, congratulations! No one cares. They're both good, but you have to eat them before sausage juice dissolves the bun. One way to find these stands is to follow the trail of dropped onions and peppers that slide off the thing no matter how hard you try to hold onto them.
It's literally a brick of cheesecake on a stick. Preferably covered in chocolate. How can you say 'no' to that?
The way we do it, this one must be purchased on the last day, and enjoyed while watching the fireworks. So you can walk around all week and stare at the many varieties of pink and blue (and sometimes yellow) clouds of sugar, but I learned at a young age that it simply wasn't going to happen until the end of the fair.
Al's French Fries
Similar to the corn on the cob, the object here is to bury the actual fries underneath several geological layers of ketchup and vinegar. Then play, Try to Find a Way to Grab a Fry Without Getting Ketchup or Vinegar on Your Fingers. That's a long title; I'll work on it.
If at the end of the week your arteries are the size of Polish (Italian?) sausages and your heart is begging for mercy, you've done it correctly. Huzzah! Or as we like to say, 'Gitterdone!'
Friday, September 9, 2011
As a general rule, I don't have self-esteem issues. For instance, I think I'm a reasonably attractive person. Still, I think my best features are definitely my shoelaces. They're magical. They're like the traveling pants except the only traveling they do is when they're on my feet.
The first time I experienced the magic was the day after I purchased them. I was sitting in LaGuardia airport with my sister, waiting to catch a flight back home after an awesome weekend with our aunt and uncle in New York City. (I'd also like to mention that I rocked some striped knee socks the day before and earned the nickname "Pippi," which I took as a compliment. My uncle had, just a few moments before, been harassing me about my style choices when somebody walked by and said, "Hey I'm feelin' yo socks." I won that argument. Alas, the socks, while they are awesome, are not magical. But I digress.)
Anyway, my sister and I are sitting in the food court in the terminal, when this British guy with longish hair and a guitar swung casually over his shoulder waltzes over to me and says, "Excuse me, could I just have a look at your laces?" I think I said "yes," but it might have been "Yurrr." I also managed to form enough sentences to tell him I'd gotten them at the Converse store on Broadway.
I've worn them several times since then, with no spectacular results (because I don't count getting stares as I walk by, though I do enjoy them). I'd begun to doubt the magic of the shoelaces. But today it happened again. This guy wasn't British, unfortunately, but he was way cuter than the British guy and he was carrying a skateboard, which is like +3 cool points at least. I was masterfully multitasking: eating lunch, studying calculus, and listening to my iPod all at the same time. This guy walks straight up to me anyway and sits down at the table. My table.
"Hello, what's your name?"
I pull my earbuds out of my head. "Raz."
"Are you single?"
I pause to pick my jaw up off the table. "Uh, what? I... yes?"
"No I am. I just... why?"
"I was just wondering if you wanted to do lunch or something...I came over here because I wanted to tell you how much I love your shoelaces. I have a thing for cool shoelaces."
"Oh, thanks! Actually, I'm waiting for someone. You seem like a really nice guy, though."
It occurred to me that he might have been a total creep. But if he liked my shoelaces enough to ask me out, how bad could he be? At any rate, I respected his straightforwardness. I wanted to return the compliment; he had really gorgeous blue eyes. But responding to "I like your shoelaces" with "I like your eyes" seemed like crossing a line.
He finished with, "Maybe I'll see you around, Raz." Maybe you will, Tyler. And maybe I'll be wearing magic shoelaces.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
So we had it narrowed down to a 2010 Kia Rio and a 2010 Hyundai Accent. They're the same price, both in great condition, and they even have the same engine. They're basically the same car. The safety ratings, however, are less than stellar. So now we're looking at Toyotas, which is pretty ironic, if you ask me, seeing as how it was Toyota, and not Kia or Hyundai, that recalled thousands of cars because they were unsafe. I don't want a Toyota. I want the Kia Rio. It's cute. But that's about as far as my knowledge goes.
Pretty much every car I look at is an improvement from the 1996 Buick LaSabre I'm currently driving. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of that thing. I won my high school's yearbook award for "Gimpest Car" for driving it to school everyday. I referred to it after that as my "award-winning vehicle." And it's about as safe as a Sherman Tank, which is a plus. But it helps to keep a little perspective when you're comparing a Kia to a Hyundai to a Toyota and thinking it's all too much. After all, we're comparing them all to that Buick Houseboat.
My mom wanted me to get an Accord, because she's a Honda person. But the Accords are all very expensive, compared to the other two. I'm thinking, "MPG" pretty much nonstop because that's what's coming straight out of my wallet. And without a job, I'm looking for a car that gets about 150 Highway. Unfortunately, that doesn't exist yet within our budget.
I wanted to live on campus. That would have solved all car problems. But then I would have had to pay room and board, I guess. Six one way and all that. Feel free to weigh in on Hyundai, Kia, or Toyota if any of you faithful readers have any knowledge or opinions.
Monday, August 1, 2011
For starters, the concept of the movie was brilliant. I've seen a couple of terrible alien movies in the past month (don't waste your time watching Super 8 or Battle: Los Angeles), and one good western a while ago (True Grit, despite reviews from disappointed John Wayne fans, was excellent). But as soon as I saw the first trailer for Cowboys & Aliens, I was excited. Why do aliens only attack in present-day situations? Because we can send the Marines after them now? Because a covered wagon transforming into a giant robot seemed unlikely? Because a movie can only be one genre at a time? I say it's because it never occured to the writers to try anything different. If Transformers sells movie tickets, make a Transformers 2. It's easy. It's boring. (By the way, Transformers 3 wasn't a total disaster, but take a deck of cards or something--the final battle gets a little monotonous after 45 straight minutes of explosions and screaming.) But I digress.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
For a significant amount of time after I learned about these plans to beautify me, I was firmly resolved not to go. Every once in a while I get deluded into thinking I'm actually in charge of my own life. Then I tried bargaining. I said I would go without a fuss if I could get black nail polish. I'm not goth, but mourning the death of my free will would have called for such gloomy glamour. The answer was no. I therefore felt justified in protesting vociferously all the way there.
When we got there, I decided if I couldn't have black, I would pick something blue. And it was going to be the absolute darkest shade of blue I could find. There was a large collection of nail polish on the wall near the entrance, containing approximately fifty thousand shades of red, twenty-five thousand shades of purple, and three and a half shades of blue, and a rather curious assortment of colors I don't even think I've ever seen before. I ran through several and actually briefly considered an electric green color that resembled toxic waste before settling for a very normal-looking navy.
I won't lie; the massage chair was nice. The feeling of luxury ended when my feet were removed from the agreeable little gurgling tub and sanded down violently until they were smooth. It was mildly concerning whenever the lady would disappear and then return with a misterious pink goo and rub it all over my legs and feet, which happened more than once. And as much as I enjoy having my feet tickled while listening to the plotting of my demise in a language I don't understand, I do actually use the bottoms of my feet occasionally and would have preferred to keep them.
I was also apparently not supposed to pick the same color for my fingers and toes, because the lady seemed really confused that she only had one bottle of polish to work with. While my toenails--or what was left of them--were drying, I was given a little dish to put my fingers in, and then it was fingernail time. She clipped them, along with most of the surrounding skin, and then painted them navy. Never have I felt like I have such inadequate extremities. My mother and sister certainly did not require the amount of work I did. And I guess I was in the massage chair for too long, because every ten minutes or so it would cut off. It wasn't hard to press the button to restart it while I was having feet pruned, but with a fresh coat of poison on my hands, it was a good bit more difficult.
When I was finally done, before I could be relocated to the drying station, my feet were slathered with something resembling vaseline and then shoved in my new flip flops. My new flip flops! I mean, I guess I waived rights to my feet but my shoes?! They didn't need to be moisturized!
I wound up having to leave before my nails were completely dry because the appointment had taken much longer than anticipated and I had graduation rehearsal to get to. I guess I was prettier, mostly I just felt like I had a lot less skin than I started with.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
I've been keeping a detailed travel journal, and I will upload parts of it later. Right now, though, I'm just going to upload a bunch of Machu Picchu photos, because this Peruvian keyboard is giving me a hard time.
Some things get lost in translation... A lot of the menus were very entertaining. "Breakface" was one of the more comical errors. Not sure I want to order anything off this section!
The Inca had this really cool system of fountains that still runs through Machu Picchu. I fell in love with it. The water trickling across the stone was simply beautiful. I took at least half a dozen pictures, but they all look pretty much like this one.
This is a flower that was growing on the side of one of the ruins at the top of Wayna Pichu. I had to lie down to get a picture over the edge so as not to freak out my ledge-wary mother. She kept fussing at me whenever I got too close to an edge. Most of them weren't even really ledges--they had terraces three feet below them, but she would never get close enough to find that out.
This picture took forever to get. The sun took its sweet time coming up over the peak of the mountain that was very inconveniently located. "Sunrise at Machu Picchu," an appealing enough idea, doesn't really happen. The whole place is surrounded by mountains, so it's daylight by the time the sun finally makes an appearance. No fancy colors, nothing. Lame. But this was cool, because it was only a couple of days after the solstice, when the sun shines through the trapezoidal window and makes a rectangle on this rock in the Temple of the Sun.
And finally... llamas! They were pretty much all over the place, hanging out in the shade (because it was hot!) and eating the grass that was the hardest to reach. Always greener, right? The funny thing was they pretty much used the tourist walkways to get wherever they were headed. They even climbed the stairs! That really impressed me. We tried to take pictures with them, but none of them were terribly photogenic, and all of them were more interested in lunch than posing for a picture. So the best you can do is kind of stand near them and hople they pull their heads out of the bush for long enough to take a picture or two.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
I feel like a ghost. Not in an ethereal, float-and-walk-through-walls way. It's more figurative than that. Yesterday I took my last exam of high school. Now I'm done. I am no longer a high school student. I have moved on.
But graduation isn't until Saturday.
I don't believe in ghosts, but I feel like this is sort of the same idea. I am no longer among high school students, yet neither am I a high school graduate. I'm in this awkward inbetween place that will only last for a little while, but I still feel like I'm just sort of floating from high school to graduation without a floor beneath my feet. It's weird.
It's great to be out of high school, of course. And I am really looking forward to graduation (especially now that I've been informed that my family is going to drag me--against my will, mind you--to the nail salon on Friday to get "mani-pedi's." What a juvenile term. I told my mother I would go without a fight if she would let me get black fingernails. She said no. But I digress.)
So I'm floating along, enjoying being off school but not feeling like summer has started yet. My brother's not home because, although high schoolers have exam week off unless you're taking a test, for elementary school it's just a normal week. So my sister and I have the house to ourselves for most of the day. And I'll admit, it doesn't totally feel like summer without my brother making noise in one room or another. It's too...quiet.
So until the ceremony Saturday during which I will pass on from this life to the next (college omg), I will continue to feel like a ghost. The ghost of a high school student. I can't believe I'm not one anymore. That's all I've known for the past four years. Now it's ended, and no one asked me if I was ready. I was; but still, no one asked me.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Saturday, May 28, 2011
The plot is also thankfully not a tired repeat of the plot of the first movie. Now, they bear similarities, of course, but you don't have much of a story without a bad guy, character growth, and other various staples. While the first movie covers Po's journey from out-of-place noodle chef to legendary Dragon Warrior and learning that he had it in him the entire time, the second movie is more of a personal journey that comes from having everything he ever dreamed of but realizing he doesn't know who he is. It dives deeper, and with the key characters already sufficiently developed in the first movie, audiences are able to connect emotionally with Po without having to try to keep up with the other characters. And there are some pretty hardcore action scenes, too.
Here's where my critique comes, though. I'm a firm believer in the suspension of disbelief--it's a powerful thing, and movies would be majorly boring without it. But I also believe that you have to establish a set of rules and more or less abide by them throughout the story. So it was a little difficult to believe that a good punch was enough to knock someone out cold, while a cannon blast will only leave you with sooty fur and a headache. That's not a very fearsome weapon. I get that it's a kids' movie, so they don't show you blood, guts, death, or any of that nasty stuff, but it's still easy enough to imply when a character has met his end.
The flick draws its share of giggles, and I appreciated that the writers didn't feel the need to constantly remind the audience of how funny Po is. We got a good sense of that from the first movie, and in this one, his jokes are comfortable and well-suited to the situations, not forced, which allows him to take a somber journey into his past. In fact, the scene in which this really happens is composed extremely well, making effective use of the elegant juxtaposition of the two different animation styles, something we didn't get to see so much of in the first movie.
I'll try not to give away too much, because you should really go see this one, but I will applaud the number of questions that get answered in the film. In the first movie, Po got exposure; in this one, he finds closure. The end promises a third, and I am genuinely interested to see where Po, Shifu, and the "Furious Five" will be taken in the next installment.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
We have a mobile home at the beach, and that was always one of the places where he was the happiest, I think. He and I used to go clamming. We would pick our way through the marsh/wetland area behind the mobile home park to where we knew the clams were the easiest to find, hauling our bucket, one of those metal things for measuring the clams, a couple of rakes, and a pair of disgusting black gloves that were about ten sizes to big for me. I usually wore the nearest shoes on hand, whether they were my own water shoes or a pair of someone's old sneakers almost as gross as the gloves. I never cared what I looked like. Out in that marsh with my grandpa, I was--if you'll forgive me for this because I don't feel like I can miss this one--as happy as a clam.
Usually his stamina outlasted mine, and I was the one who was done while he kept saying, "One more; just one more." Eventually that changed, though, and I distinctly remember one instance when I was the one begging, "One more!" He wiped his brow and made that face he always made when he was flustered and I could tell he'd have stayed out there with me until the sun went down and came back up again in the morning. The tide was coming in, though, and if we wanted to actually eat the clams, we had to be back in time for dinner. I surrendered and back we went.
Back at the mobile home, we washed and--as was the custom, for he was a dutiful keeper of records--counted them. Thirty-nine. Thirty-nine. It was a very long time before he stopped hearing about that from me.
And now this post has run off with me much in the same manner as my poem did earlier today. So, without further ado, here is my little sentimental aberration (for this is truly a deviation from my cynicism I'm sure you've all come to know and love):
I remember the mud
That swallowed my shoe,
The bucket, the rake,
And I remember you.
The grass a brilliant green
And the water just as blue
Twenty times “Just one more!”
But that’s what we’d do.
The breeze lifts my wet hair
And it clings to my shoulder.
I try to pretend
That I’m not getting older.
The grass is still here
To dance with the breeze,
And a thousand fish dance
In a thousand blue seas.
But you aren’t here, Papa,
Not where you should be.
And now I’ve got no one
To dance here with me.
The sun on my skin,
And the water that rose
As the tide came back in
I know when I’m here,
I’m not truly alone,
But as the sun sets,
I walk back on my own.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
The first one I tried was excellent. It was yellow-orange, mango flavored, and had just enough of a kick to be interesting. Then, like a glutton for punishment, I decided to try the other one. As a general rule, I like hot food, and at first, it wasn't a problem; it was just very spicy. I even made it out of the store before I experienced anything I would describe as pain.
It was funny for a while. I was bent over, panting. My nose was beginning to run. My sister took my picture. My mom giggled. I joked about needing to go back in and warn people. Then my ears popped.
My entire mouth was screaming. I don't even remember any flavor in the sauce, only pain. Whatever chemicals the devil-sauce contained had been thoroughly absorbed into ever surface my mouth had to offer. My nose was running, but I couldn't form thoughts coherent enough to ask for a tissue to fix the situation. In fact, I think my brother offered me a napkin, and I remember telling him not to talk to me and flailing my arms, almost smacking a lady behind me. I felt bad, but seeing as how I was choking on fire and she wasn't, my focus shifted quickly.
I became quite certain that I was going to die. The entire lower half of my face, from my cheeks to my chin, was tingling, like your foot after it's fallen asleep and just begun to regain feeling. Finally I accepted a napkin and blew my nose, but it wasn't until about half an hour later that my cheeks stopped feeling weird, and even later that my tongue stopped stinging. It's still holding a grudge.
It was both the worst and best hot sauce experience I've ever had.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
I made them write news leads about this photo, which got a lot of laughs, and a pretty wide range of creative stories. They demonstrated the worst possible interview, then the best possible interview. I was nervous, because I know all to well what it's like to be on the wrong side of a boring presentation. I've sat for years among apathetic audiences and watched presenters flounder, desperate for some semblance of audience participation. But I hadn't given the sixth graders enough credit.
I guess they just aren't quite as jaded as high school students. In high school, it seems, the kids that are still genuinely excited about learning are few and far between. The middle school kids haven't hit that point yet, and so I had the ideal audience for my workshop. (My mother keeps calling it a "clinic," which makes me feel like I'm applying Neosporin to cuts while teaching journalism...yuck!)
I had a couple of minutes to just sort of converse with the kids as they entered a few at a time to the classroom with their lunches (they got to eat in the classroom, thanks to me, which I'm given to understand is usually against the rules). I admitted that I'd tried to dress like a teacher and asked them if I'd succeeded. One kid said he'd thought I was a substitute, which I took as a "yes."
At the end of the class, one kid asked me how many days I was going to be there. I supposed she may have wanted an estimate on when the torture would end, but based on her expression, I like to think she'd enjoyed the class and wanted to know if I'd be back. Plus, she didn't look totally annoyed when she found out that I would, in fact, be returning.
I left the room on cloud nine. I felt like I was radiating so much happiness that if you'd turned the lights out I would have been glowing. I can't wait for today.