Saturday, December 31, 2011

National Parks: Part I

This last month I watched Ken Burn's The National Parks: America's Best Idea and loved it. I'd seen some of it a few years ago but this was the first time I've watched it beginning to end. It is a hearty 12 hour endeavor and I did over a few weeks, but it was worth it.

A few years ago I decided to make some lifetime goals. One of these goals was to visit every National Park (NP) in the US. I already had a good start, being from Utah and having a parents who must have loved NP --or were just cheap-- because it seemed we visited a NP every family vacation whether we wanted to or not.

Even though I may have complained on a few of those trips, I love National Parks, in idea and actuality. They may be the only form of federal government involvement some members of my family and I will ever agree on. It is easy to get caught up in owning very tangible and proximal items like electronics, cars, clothes and real estate, these things usually belong to one person or a family, we don't have many opportunities to experience what it is like to have ownership and responsibility for communal goods.

I recently visited two NP in Florida, the Everglades and Biscayne.  Each park has it's own beauty. The Everglades are like the where's Waldo of National parks, keeping one ever alert i hopes of glimpsing a Heron, Anhinga, Alligator or some other wildlife. Whereas the Western parks of my youth demanded great hikes and quiet contemplation as one looks upon God's natural temples.

National parks are filled with people from all over the US, the world and from every walk of life. I have met people both from the US and other countries with whom I have very little in common but can talk about the grandeur of delicate arch in Arches NP or the acrophobia inducing Angel's Landing of Zion NP. Talk to Europeans who once they know you are from Utah want to re-live their trips of Arches, Bryce Canyon and Zion's to you. A national park is a place where I and a Latina teenager from Florida can stand side by side and watch in wonder an alligator on a log staring at a turtle. It is a communitarian experience that people from the entire political spectrum can appreciate. 

Everglades: If you look real close you can see an alligator



Glacier: Brother Mike and I on a sibling bonding hike. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Without a car no more

I made it a whole week without a car. I've felt real blessed--I have to use that word is it such a Southern word, do you know how many times I've heard "bless her heart" and this time of the year "have a blessed Christmas," What wrong with the word merry people?-- to have so many great friends who were happy to give me rides. In all, I got 10 rides from 7 people in 5 days. When I finally picked up my car Friday afternoon I was glad to be back in the drivers seat.

I was surprised at how well I did without my car, a blog post by by Dan Ariely about Flying Frustrations reminded me of this. He shares a story about how a two-hour flight to Chicago ended up taking 6 hours due to weather. Knowing myself, I was surprised that I didn't have more frustrating moments like this. The only one I can recount was upon learning how much it would cost to fix dear Regina. So while I definitely had to adjust to others schedules and had some of the idle moments Ariely talks about, my trick was to always carry a book with me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A week without a three.

Think about what you do when you are in a car by yourself... do you listen to the radio, talk on the phone (I don't recommend this but understand if it happens), make mental lists? I mainly listen to NPR and if I'm driving during the classical music hours then I listen to my ipod. Not that I have anything against classical music but the voice of the DJ sounds like she also works for a 1-900 number--sometimes it makes me a little uncomfortable.

Well this week everywhere I went was with someone and usually when I in a car with someone we chat, and I had some great chats. I decided to count up how many different people have given me a ride this week, it adds up to 6 so far. That means at least 6 conversations. It's been nice to have a little more informal human contact in my life. I have enjoyed learning more about the people giving me a ride.

Here's a few things I've chatted with people about:

  • The absence of official dietary guidelines for children 0-2 years old.
  • Birth control.
  • Musical talents, or lack thereof. 
  • The fact that one of my coworkers husbands stayed home and cooked Thanksgiving for his neighbor who has cancer while his family went to New York.
  • More than I ever needed to know about Sons of Anarchy. 
  • Someone who got married on 11/11/11.
  • HBCUs

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A week without a two.

If you ever need a ride just ask me. It's only day two and feel like I owe the whole world a ride to somewhere. 

My perception of time has changed over the past 2 days. Having a car means I decide when I come and go. Even to the extent that I can get very stressed if I am not out the door or at the office at certain, almost arbitrary deadlines I set for myself. 

Depending on someone else for transportation has lessened this stress and anxiety. For example, today my ride was supposed to pick me up at 8 am. She called and said she had to talk to her son's teacher and get gas. So after 45 minutes of waiting and another 15-minute stop at Star Bucks we arrived at work. Usually this would be a very stressful experience, but I took it in stride and used the time to practice my banjo. 

Being so dependent also means I feel like a pre-driving teen, bumming rides all the time. This feeling was not lessened by the fact that had to ask no fewer than 5 people for a ride home. It wasn't that they couldn't give me a ride but that I wanted to find a someone leaving as close to my normally-scheduled-departure time as possible. As I trudged out to my rides car laden with books and work so I can telework the next few days and explained how to get to my house, I was glad my coworker didn't ask if I had any homework or my adolescent feelings would have been complete. 

Here is a random stats from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics:
  • From 2004 to 2008, the median age of automobiles in operation increased by 0.5 years and reached 9.4 years.
This stat only means something to me because after I found out about my car I had to decide whether I wanted to pay for repairs or get a new car. My car has relatively low mileage but is coming up on it's tenth birthday, putting us right at the median. I just hope Regina (that's my car's name) will make it through this to have a many more years and become an outlier. Here's picture of what she looks like in case you forgot (however, my car has a ski rack making it look all the cooler). 

Monday, December 5, 2011

A week without a one.

I was informed today that I blew a head gasket in my engine. I really have no idea what that means but it makes your car overheat, is expensive and takes a long time to fix. Hence this week I am without a car and this situation seems like a good writing gimmick. 

One thing I am already learning from this experience is people are great. Within a few hours of finding out I would be without a car for a week I had found rides for the next few days to and from work, to a party and my banjo lesson thanks to coworkers, a visiting teacher and friends. Oh, I almost forgot to mention my great home teacher who picked me up from the mechanic. It's not often that I have to ask people for help--I try to avoid it as I hate to bother people-- but it was really nice to have so many people come to my rescue. They are great examples to me. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I may be a psychopath

I came across this article this morning and it left me a little unsettled. Self diagnosis is a dangerous thing and I am very prone to it. I have already diagnosed myself with chronic congestion disorder, degenerative hip disease (which seems to be getting better so I guess I wasn't irreversible), bad knees and perhaps a slow growing brain tumor (I forget things all the time, simple things... like the word for the holiday where people dress up in costumes and then go ask for candy, oh yeah that's called Halloween). Now I may have to add to the list psychopath.

Most people would read an article entitled Can you tell a psychopath by the way they speak? and start to think of the people they know how might fit the profile. I on the other hand start to wonder if I might not be a psychopath because I say "so" a lot and am easily annoyed with people, especially Atlanta drivers, they're crazy. It's moments like this that I wonder why I even went to school as I conflate association and causation and violate a number of other rules of statistical application and just plain common sense. I also wonder if a psychopath ever thinks they are psychopaths. If this article is to be believed there are far more psychopaths than we think and I swear they are all giving public health webinar that I am forced to listen to, and grate my teeth with every "umm" and "uh" and other disfluences used. I'll let my reader(s) make their own judgements.

Here's my favorite comment on this article: "Uhh… Hmmmm… This post is so-so."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Goats and Mountains

I took a quick trip to North Carolina with K and E this weekend. We had a grand time staying at a co-workers cabin and making a quick trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was a pleasant trip and good times were had by all, though E may emphasis the low-temperatures a bit too much. The temp in Atlanta has dropped and in the mountains that means it was down right chilly. It got down into the high forties at the cabin and below freezing at the summit of Clingmans Dome, the highest point of the Smokys. It's really a beautiful park and free I will definitely be going back.

But we couldn't go all the way up to North Carolina without stopping in one of North Georgia's most famous, classy destinations: Goats on a Roof.

K&E with goats on roof.

You can feed them by putting food in a cup and then peddling it up to the goats.

Goats eagerly anticipating goat food.

Luckily for me and them, the goats can set food on solid ground if wanted.

An abandoned chimney on Kephart trail.

This is what it looked like at Clingman's Dome.

The view at a little lower elevation.

The three of us with Rip Van Winkle in the background, who apparently just woke up from his long slumber.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


I was watching Meet the Press this morning and got my first good look at Harold Ford Jr. (HFJ), former Democratic Congressman from Tennessee. Now, I know what I am about to say is going to make me seem like a 14 year old girl, especially considering my last post about an intellectual crush, but I find HFJ rather attractive. While scribbling down some notes and trying to understand why Peggy Noonan kept whisking back her hair like a 14-year-old girl or Ashley from the Bachelorette it hit me; I find him attractive because he is a hybrid of two individuals I love, President Obama and Rufus Sewell (please see equation below).
Despite the rough patches that President Obama's and my relationship have been through and the economy being in the crapper, I really like the guy; kind of want him as a neighbor. I'm what whispy-hair, talking-mouth Peggy Noonan calls the loyal 20%.

Rufus Sewell is an understated actor who I have loved since the first time I saw Cold Comfort Farm. His appearance in HBO's John Adams Series as the handsome economist and Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton only heightened my ardor. So HFJ, while you may not be making many inroads in the NY political scene you can sit and smolder on MTP anytime.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A New Crush

Many are aware that I have many intellectual crushes, mainly on older economists—these crushes are erroneously extrapolated by some friends to mean I dig old guys. Not true—well, I have a new crush that I would like to publicly announce on my blog, this means it’s serious. My crush is on Harvard University’s Justice with Michael Sandel. You may be thinking, she has a crush on Micheal Sandel. That’s not completely true. I'm more in love with the perfect combination of him, his class and the accessibility of it all than him as a person, but maybe that's because we haven't actually met.

I came across this class a few weeks ago when I was reading an article a friend sent me. The article referenced the class and I decided give it a try. Then I saw him on the Colbert Report and I knew it was meant to be.

Listening to the discussions makes me feel young and inspired again. But, I also appreciate that had I taken this class 10 years ago as a freshman I would have had a completely different experience, and that helps me appreciate it all the more. So here’s to life-long learning and coming to understand old ideas in new ways as one moves through life. One thing I know, I'm much more utilitarian than even I thought.

The clip below isn’t actually from the class but can be found on the class website.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Thrill of Victory

Last year on the 4th of July weekend being inspired by the competitive spirit of Wimbledon and the World Cup decided to have a badminton tournament inspired by two of the USA's least popular sports, tennis and soccer. My partner and I were runners-up last year but thanks to a stacked team and a no-show by the defending champs (Jeff and Jamie), my partner Shaun and I won the tournament (though, if you ask my room mate Carolyn she would say her team was robbed).

Here are some photos and a video from the event. It is only half way through that we realize we are being filmed. The amazingly patriotic victory cake was made by Carolyn. Warning the video below contains some graphic, fake kissing.

I added this one mainly for the people in the background trying to steal the show.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer Vacation

I recently went on vacation and hit 6 states and 2 countries in 9 days, not too shabby. I started out in Myrtle beach for two days and enjoyed a bit of a beach vacation. Then it was off to Utah where I had dinner with my brother, his fiance and son. Then to Idaho via Wyoming for a few days to see my grandparents and gather the troops who would be making the epic journey to Glacier National Park. We spent 4 days in Glacier, one on the Canadian side. It is truly an awe inspiring and beautiful place.

I've had numerous people ask me about the trip and while it was a little too rainy, windy and cool for my taste; any trip where no one shouts an expletive at someone during the trip is deemed a success in my mind.

Here we all are in the car ready to go:)

Mike and me on our brother-sister bonding hike. James is taking the picture

Me and a bear. This (me getting out of the car) made Chenoa very angry.

Cuddly bears from Dad and Chris. They bought bears for our nieces and nephew and I may have said something about how I never received cuddly animals as mementoes from trips, and voila we magically received bears.

Looking out on a glacial lake whose name I can't remember.

Some helpful literature that enabled me to identify animal scat we came across on the trail.

On the Trail of the Cedars.

Avalanche Lake I think?

On the trail to Avalanche Lake.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Seattle to Portland

Remember when I said I as going to be a better blogger...neither do I.

Here's a bit of a travelogue of my trip to Seattle and Portland. It was a nice break from the warmth and sunshine of Atlanta. That may sound weird but it was nice be in a place where everything was lush and green not because of torrential rain, 100% humidity and 90 degree weather; but due to a crisp, lighter rain and weather that generally still requires you wear a jacket even on a summer's night.

I flew into Seattle and met up with my friend Amy, who you might recognize from some of my other travels. I love that she is still willing to entertain my travel whims. We stayed at a place in a central location. It was a little dingy but for $55 dollars a night I thought it was a steal. Plus it had a DVD player, which enabled the initiation of my latest addiction, watching Veronica Mars.

In Seattle we bought a City Pass. If you are into the touristy stuff I definitely recommend it. 59$ for a pass to see all the major sights. It got us into the Seattle Aquarium, Seattle Zoo, Experience Music Project, Space Needle and we took a ferry around the harbor. Another highlight was visiting the world headquarters of REI, I am proud to say I didn't buy anything, though was sorely tempted.

After two days in Seattle we headed for Portland. It was a beautiful drive. We stopped as a little mom and pop place for breakfast. We both ordered from section of the menu labeled lite breakfast choices. You know things like pancakes, bacon, sausage, eggs, biscuits... I imagine the reason it was peddled as lite was because it came with an orange slice and parsley as a garnish.

We tried to see Mt St. Helens on the way down but cloud cover and closed roads foiled our attempt so it was on to Portland.

Near Mt. St. Helens, you can see where the lava flowed through the valley.

Before we met up with our friend and tour guide Brian, who we know from Michigan, we stopped at a cemetery and Washington park. Upon arrival I was struck by the number of homeless people I saw in Portland-- I am told that Portland does actually have one of the highest numbers of homeless people in the US-- however I quickly realized that many of the people I pegged as homeless were indeed not, but instead just northwest hipsters. Most homeless people don't usually drive around in Outbacks or on $1000 bikes.

The night we arrived we went golfing at a temporary miniature golf fixture. I say fixture because the golf course was made by artists and despite their not being engineers worked quite well, if not a little dangerous. Sadly I didn't take any pictures.

Sunday was mother's day and we spent it with Brian's sister and family. We also took the chance to take a hike in a place where they filmed scenes from Twilight. I'm a bit embarrassed about this but in the spirit of full disclosure we reenacted one of the scenes as they had the screenplay info right there for us.

The three of us hiking around Twilight filming area.

Monday was another nature and hiking day. We hiked Multnomah Falls and Punchbowl Falls. Both were amazing hikes with great views of the water falls. We also took a tram ride, went to Powell's Book store (the biggest bookstore in the US), and Voodoo Doughnuts. Then it was off to the airport for me as I had redeye to Atlanta.
Multnomah Falls

Array of Voodoo Doughnuts

Overall I really enjoyed the northwest but fear the cloudiness might be too much. However, as I stepped out of the Hartfield Jackson Airport on to the MARTA platform after my redeye to 85 degrees and 95% humidity weather, I almost longed to be back under the cool, dreary, gray blanket of the northwest sky.

Other Pictures:
Pike's Place Market

Seattle Zoo

From the top of the Space Needle

At the Experience Music Project they had a special exhibit on the early 90s music scene and grunge (i.e. Nirvana). I took a picture of this as it incorporates two things that consume my life, music and breastfeeding.

Old Industrial complex that has been turned into a park.

Amy overcoming one of her greatest fears to pet an icky sea creature at the Aquarium.

We went to a cemetery (I love them) in both Seattle and Portland. I think this picture is from the Seattle Cemetery.
Famous park view looking over Seattle.

Me eating a Voodoo doughnut.

Did you know you can't pump your own gas in Oregon? It's against the law. Here's a picture of someone pumping our gas.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I'm Annoying!

I've always been somewhat easily annoyed by others (though in my defense I have relaxed a lot these last few years). Today I learned how annoying I am. I've always had a hunch that I am annoying but now there is a scale to measure it by. It is brought to you by none other than my favorite news source, NPR.

While the screen shot below says I scored a 2.8 I actually got a 2.99 on my first try, which is .10 more annoying than the average person. Unfortunately I don't know if that is significant difference from the mean but I always knew I was above average. According to this scale my even saying that makes me more annoying. This scales is fun so here's the link. Enjoy and let me know if you beat my score, whatever that means:)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Slogging no more...maybe

Last weekend I went on vacation to Seattle with my friend Amy and then we met up with our friend Brian in Portland. The subject of blogging came up more than once and they are such good bloggers that it has inspired me to be a better blogger myself. We'll see how long this resolution lasts. I justspent so much time revamping my blog and trying to get my header just right--it is not cooperating-- that I already feel the slogging coming on. Nonetheless I at least have some pictures from my latest adventure to post... which I am sure I will get up shortly:)

Amy, Brian and I at Multinomah Falls.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Another Year, Another Garden

It's that time of year again and what better day to blog about my garden than on Easter Sunday; as Easter always reminds me of spring and new life. Even though I moved and no longer actually live where I gardened last year, the home owner has allowed fellow gardener, Kirsten, and I to till the land once more. Since it's close to work and where Kirsten lives it works out well. I can't remember everything we planted but here are a few I do:

Mr. Stripey Tomatoes
Black Cherry Tomatoes
Roma tomatoes
Two kinds of Lettuce: Purple and Green
Spaghetti Squash
Egg Plant

Don't Be fooled into thinking the mint in the middle is due our gardening efforts. It's invasive, annoying, impossible to get rid of and not part of our garden.

Kirsten: fellow gardener, coworker, office mate and friend.

Your's truly tenderly tilling God's green, umm..... brown earth.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wee Goaty

I like goats. I think my adoration for them stems from a culmination of reasons including: my friend Emily's love for goats rubbed off on me; I thoroughly enjoyed an outing to Grumpy's Goat Shack in Victor Idaho where I had a delicious hot dog awhile back; they make the cutest noises; I love goat cheese; my general championing for under-appreciated things. Any way, this last weekend I took part in a service project at Camp Twin Lakes in Winder Georgia-it is a summer camp for children with special needs. I laid sod all day Saturday but I took a journey to a small, wonderful corner of the camp where I met my new best friend. I named him Wee Goaty, because he is so cute and small. He even seemed to have a slight cold and we bonded over the fact that we were both congested. However, mine is a chronic disease, I hope that Wee Goaty just has a cold because I would never wish on him the debilitating condition from which I suffer from daily and that brings upon me ridicule and despair from unfeeling people.

However, this is not just a post to introduce you to my friend but he needs my help. He is stuck in pen with a huge rooster, and when I say huge I am not exaggerating. Plus the rooster seems like a bully. He bullies Wee Goaty, the bunnies in the pen and the other chickens. I am trying to get Wee Goaty a companion/lifepartner. He needs a fellow goat to help him work out his differences with the rooster. I am having a friend talk to the camp about it and hopefully they agree. I'll try and keep you all updated about very important cause.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snowed In: Day 2

For those who do not watch the news or follow weather, Atlanta had a snow storm Sunday night followed by a lovely frosting of rain. While this combination made for fun tromping noises as I emerged from my cozy house on Day 2 of no work, it also resulted in dire driving conditions. A word to the wise, if you need a pick-me -up do not tune into local Atlanta News after a storm, or any event really, as they have a knack for turning inconvenient occurrences into apocalyptic events.

Today I made the 1/2 mile trek to the main road to see if it had been cleared. Unfortunately, it had not but was in better condition than my road which ends in a culdesac. The only non-TV, non-Netflix entertainment we've had in the last two days is observing the ingenuity of our neighbors to either deal with or enjoy the snow. My neighbors are using a big plank board to shovel their driveway; I'm pretty sure the kids next door were sledding on cookie sheets; and I passed a boy sledding on what I think was a garbage can lid.

Snow days can be fun for a day but I am ready for my routine to start again. I can only watch so many episodes of Psych and answer work emails before I start to feel really lazy and a little guilty. Sadly I just heard school is closed again tomorrow and perhaps the rest of the week. Help!