Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Water Water Everywhere

Saturday morning I got out of bed extra early to drive to Berkeley Spring, West Virgina to participate in the 17th Annual International Water Tasting Festival. After a day of sipping municipal, purified, still, and sparkling, I'll never think of water the same way again!

Submissions from all over the world were divided into 4 categories: municipal (aka tap water), purified drinking, bottled non-carbonated, and carbonated. A panel of 12 journalist judges compared the water based on 4 areas: smell, mouth-feel, clarity, and taste. While the judges were doing their thing, everyone in the audience got to make judgments of their own.

This is the Municipal water table. Entries were submitted in everything from old hooch jugs to pickle jars. There were mostly American and Canadian waters. Some were great - clean, crisp, no aftertaste - some were not so great. The Canadian waters were all very tasty! Of course Colorado water was also delish! Outter Banks and Los Angeles water was a bit chewy. But no surprise there, eh! Municipals were good to start with because the differences between them were varied. It was easy to recognize the four judgment areas, and apply them later with the more subtly nuanced bottled water.

After the Municipals everyone ajourned for the dinner break and came back wearing evening wear. I felt significantly underdressed in a cashmere sweater and jeans. Arthur Von Weisenberger, master of waters, was decked out in a tuxedo. This was serious business! We tasted the still and sparkling waters and picked out our favorites. And then it was time for the awards. While we waited for the awards to be tallied and announced I strategized for the Water Rush. About 500 bottles of water were available for the taking, but with a limited number of my favorite bottles I had to create alliances.

The water was around two columns, as seen above, and I was sitting on the front row smack dab in the center. I enlisted my friend Mery to hit the smaller right column, while I pillaged the other. The left column was larger, and so I made a similar deal with my neighbor to the left. We'd swap booty afterwards and made sure that everyone got what they wanted. This was all out war, and pushing and shoving weren't below the belt. At the end of the day, I had a backpack and a box jam packed with 35 bottles of water. And practically every one has a story or something special about it that will make it hard to drink.

While a little odd, this was one of the funnest events I've ever attended. The people were a little quirky - but everyone was open and friendly. It was refreshing to meet so many unpretentious and down-to-earth people. This is the kind of festival where people come year after year - comparing photos of their kids along with memories of stand out waters from years past. First timers seemed a little unsure at first, but by the end were laughing and chatting with new friends and vowing to attend every year. The entire event was a hoot!

I plan on going back every year.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Incredible Shrinking Mormon World

When the know-it-all 60+ year old man in my Sunday School class started talking about how great the movie New York Doll was, I knew I had to get it in gear and see this movie. Can't have old man winter being more in touch with pop culture than I am.

So I rented the DVD this past weekend. I watched it once and enjoyed it. But only after I got over how completely bizarre Arthur "Killer" Kane was. For most of the movie all I could think was, oh boy, he's that guy. The guy that you talk to because you feel mean not talking to him, but you'd rather be doing something like, oh say, sewing your face to the floor. The take-away of the story is that despite Arthur's wackiness he gets his impossible prayer answered and is reunited with the New York Dolls once more. It's really quite inspirational.

Normally I don't watch the bonus material on DVDs - but since this film was so short and I was bored I started watching the directors interview. I sat there for a second. And then I rewound to the beginning to see that, yes, the director is the same Greg Whiteley I went to school with at BYU. We were in the same ward or some such nonsense. It was surreal watching a movie created by someone I actually knew. Should I let VH1 know that I'm available for interviews of an "I knew him when" ilk? Actually I doubt he'd remember me, since I kept a pretty low profile. But seeing him was a fun throw back to those days of Peter Breinholt and Mamma's Cafe. Ahh - The Good Ole Days.

Naturally, knowing the director made me much more interested in the film. So I watched it a second time. And must say, that even though one viewing is great, it improves upon repetition.

In essence the film did 4 things for me.
  1. It made me feel cool (albeit a bit nostalgic) that I knew someone that had made a movie. (a real movie - not one of those silly Mormon movies. I know lots of those guys. Lincoln Hoppe, you're still my secret crush!)
  2. It inspired me to Google a bunch of old school friends to see if they've done anything notable (thankfully, they're all slackers, just like me).
  3. It made me want to say my prayers, because if it can happen for that guy, it can happen for anyone.
  4. It made me want to buy some New York Dolls music. Those funky fem-bots rock!

The Arcade Fires Me Up

I listen to podcasts each day on my bus commute to and from work. Usually I'm trying to keep up with my NPR Story of the Day and Marketplace reports. Both of which are generally delightful and keep me chock full of useful information. But every couple of weeks or so a new edition of NPR All Songs Considered shows up on my ipod. I also consider ASC to be informational learning - to keep me up to date on the music scene - but February 21st's edition was nothing short of epic indulgence!

What started out as a mysterious intro turned into a live concert (in it's entirety) by Indie-Darlings The Arcade Fire. Lots of excellent tracks, but with a truly amazing version of "Wake Up" performed among the audience. Holy crap - it was so good. Pure giddy joy was virtually bubbling out of me. Since I was on the bus, I had to really monitor the spontaneous singing and dancing reflex - I don't want to be one of those crazy bus ladies. This was the perfect way to start a cold Friday morning, and get me in the mood for what is sure to be an awesome weekend.

The show featured many tracks from their new album - which is in stores soon, thank goodness! But lots of old favorites from Funeral. Plus, I'll probably never get to see them live, so this is a good alternative. One of my favorite things about this band is their clever lyrics and images. For example, love this image: "So the neighbors can dance in the police disco lights". I sing this line every time I see the cops.

Thank you All Songs Considered! This is now officially a Good Day.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I got braces put on my top teeth in October, and it wasn't bad. A little tenderness, a couple of canker sores, but really nothing serious. I thought that everyone who said that having braces hurt was just a wimp. I openly scoffed at them. But now, as in all things, I've been humbled and boy do I feel their pain.

On Valentine's Day I got my bottom braces on. Ouch. Ouchie-Ouch-Ouch! Apparently, my bottom teeth are much more sensitive that my top. I've been subsisting on soothing jello, ice cream and yogurt. I can't bite or tear anything. Not even cheesecake. Eating chicken nuggets was about the most painful thing I've ever encountered. I feel like I'm living through the middle ages when no one kept their teeth and had to eat really mushy food.

A misplaced bite sent one bracket spinning free on the wire. To get it stuck back on the orthodontist decided that he needed to sand the surrounding teeth down to make room for the tooth to come forward. Now if this sounds unpleasant, believe me, it is. (I'm such a wimp when it comes to pain!)

Tomorrow, I'm going to the dentist for a teeth cleaning. Turning my tender teeth over to those sadists should be a real treat!

The only good thing about this is the enforced diet. Oh, and the nice straight teeth I'll have. That's good too.

Friday, February 9, 2007

My Favorite Stories V. 2 : Erin

Hanging out with Erin is a good time! That Chuck sure is one lucky bastard. (I can call him that, because I believe that is what e called him right after they cut their wedding cake. Ahh, wedded bliss!) Here are some of my favorite stories with Erin from over the years (this is but a sample since there are WAY too many to ever write).

Driving in England, on the wrong side of the road, isn't too difficult. What you really need to worry about is getting the car into reverse. On a weekend trip, Erin and I (jetlagged and therefore not up to our usual cognitive brilliance) could not for the life of us figure out how to get our rental into reverse. We tugged, pushed, slammed, wedged, and begged but we still couldn't get that damn car into reverse. We drove over half of England looking for hills to park on so we could "roll backwards" or drive through parking spaces, there was even one foray through some Manor's circular driveway (and maybe a little bit of the lawn). You use reverse a lot more than you think you do. We were convinced that the car actually made it out of the factory without reverse having been installed. It was a pretty small car, it was entirely possible that reverse wouldn't have fit. But if that was the case, how did they get the car off of the truck? hmmm? A humble and defeated call to the rental agency for instructions finally fixed our problem, which off course, was only obvious after it was explained. If you ever get a car with an obscure plastic "ring" anywhere along the stick shift just try lifting it up when shifting into reverse and see where that gets you. Magnificent design, Peugeot.

On the same trip to England ...

On our way back to London from Bath, we noticed Sudley Castle not too far off the path. The sun was setting, and the gas tank was low but we decided to go check it out. Imagine our disappointment when we pulled up and the castle was closed. We took a little stroll down the English version of the AT, which ran along the side of the estate hoping to get a glimpse of the grounds. We noticed that the walls around this particular castle were quite low. Low enough to scale, as a matter of fact. We looked at each other with a look that clearly said "I will, if you will" and set about breaking and entering. Things were going well, until a man in a neon green windbreaker showed up. Now, in England neon green is the color of choice for policemen. I, for one, thought "oh shiiiiiiit." But, happily, he turned out to be just a guy who likes neon green and was also interested in breaking and entering. So we combined our forces and leaped over the wall. Still wary of being thrown in the slammer we walked on tiptoe, careful not to disturb the raked gravel, and spoke in whispers. It was all very thrilling! If you can manage it, I highly recommend seeing all of your historical landmarks illegally.

Sunday morning in Jamaica, Erin and I drove into Ocho Rios discussing all of the things we wanted to do that day. We'd neglected to look up the local chapel, and were probably feeling a little bit guilty about that. (Old habits die hard). As we parked the car one of us said, "Well, it's not like we could find the chapel even if we knew where to go." We looked up, and right in front of us was a sign that said The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. What are the odds, I ask you? We still didn't go to church.

On our famous "Gay Vacation" to Maine, we were looking for somewhere to eat.
Erin: "Hey, let's eat at this place. They've got a coke sign. In my experience restaurants with coke signs are really good."
Me: "Really? OK." long pause. "I don't think I've ever eaten at a restaurant with a coke sign." another long pause. "How many restaurants with coke signs have you actually eaten at?"
Erin: "Well none. But they seem like they would be good."
Can't believe she thought she could get away with that outlandish lie. But I think it did turn out to be a pretty good place to eat.

My Favorite Stories V. 1

I had so much fun putting together my list of things that make me who I am, I decided to start a series with a few of my favorite stories. Here's the first installment.

An Open Letter to the Stupid Hippies on the DC Beltway

Dear Stupid Hippies,
Don't you know that when you're trying to exit the beltway in your Stupid Hippie VW Van you should SLOW DOWN and let those that are trying to enter the beltway SPEED UP? Apparently not. Why wouldn't you slow down to exit behind me? I can't slow down to let you get in front of me - I had a speeding stream of cars to join, after all. Instead we stayed neck-n-neck until the very last second when finally you slammed on your brakes to duck behind me. I'm sorry you ended up screeching off the road, taking out the 15 x 20' sign for College Park on your way. But I want you to know that I laughed all the way home. Nice one, Hippies.
Not Ashamed for Driving Like a Badass

And we shall call it The Peevator
I've been in an elevator when someone has peed their pants. Twice. Same elevator. Different people.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

75 Things That Make Me Who I Am

Erin posted 75 things that make her her - and so here's my attempt at the same.

  1. No matter how tired I am, I always read before going to bed.
  2. One of my favorite guilty pleasures is reading all night, or at least until I fall asleep with the light on.
  3. I wish I was the kind of person that knew my mailman's name.
  4. At a new restaurant it takes me a long time to choose what I want, but every time after that I usually get the same thing.
  5. I'm creative, but not in the way I wanted to be. (Can one make a living by creating the Work Density Measure?)
  6. I have no "talent show" talents.
  7. I worry that I won't handle difficult challenges gracefully.
  8. I'm religious, but I don't like to talk about it.
  9. Missionary work is my least favorite topic.
  10. A cute outfit can make my whole day better.
  11. I love the word "persimmon".
  12. I'm a story-aholic. I'll pick up a new book immediately after finishing the first. I think of it as similar chain-smoking, lighting the next cigarette off of the last.
  13. In my dreams I remember other dreams I've had. It's almost like an alternate life. Sometimes I get these lives confused and think I've done things that I haven't.
  14. I watch TV with a blanket on me. Always. Even in the summer.
  15. I don't like watching TV when its sunny. It feels wasteful.
  16. I've been known to avoid people I know when I see them in public. It's an instinctive reaction and can be pretty dramatic. I'll turn around abruptly, or go into a building, or if I'm at home I'll hide under my covers.
  17. I agree to do things I have no intention of doing, with the assumption that the asker won't follow up. I almost never get burned on this.
  18. I like restaurants with short menus.
  19. Mexican food is my comfort food.
  20. I am not a collector. I don't like anything that much. (except maybe books, but I check them out).
  21. I will not shop at gift shops.
  22. I almost always wish I could share whatever I'm doing with someone, a friend or family member. But it depends on what I'm doing as to who I'd like to have with me.
  23. I'm very independent. I'm often alone, but not usually lonely.
  24. Charles, my stuffed penguin that I got when I was 12, is the only item I own that is truly irreplaceable. (except maybe my grandmother's china)
  25. I am a chameleon. I take on the traits of others when I am with them.
  26. I am a night owl.
  27. I rely on my smile for a large part of my confidence.
  28. I am good at talking to people, but as a formerly shy kid, I'm still scared. Even, sometimes, talking to good friends.
  29. I enjoy public speaking.
  30. Money has always been a motivator for me. Must not be a very good one though, since I'm pretty lazy.
  31. My sense of humor and wit are my favorite things about myself.
  32. There will always be something physical I don't like about myself. But I usually get over it and move onto something else to not like after a while.
  33. I don't like doors slamming.
  34. I have a math phobia.
  35. I like children, but commercials where they make messes drive me crazy.
  36. I'm a bad driver.
  37. Like Erin, I believe in stereotypes.
  38. I'm incongruently frugal. I'll happily plunk down $40 on a dinner out, but then dither over whether I should get the $1.50 or the $1.79 can of beans.
  39. I greet my car and my house every time I see them. eg. "Hola Casa mia!" (my house speaks Spanish).
  40. I am a HUGE self talker. HUGE. I actually have to tell myself (outloud) to stop talking to myself.
  41. I hum when I'm eating food I really enjoy. Sometimes I'll dance in my chair and wave my fork around too.
  42. I like to floss.
  43. I like to dance.
  44. I think I'd be less interested in alcohol if it didn't come with such fun bar ware.
  45. I'm the 5th of 7 kids, and as the oldest of the second batch of kids I think I've got the best spot in the family.
  46. I don't like to play team sports. Especially volleyball.
  47. I love to ice skate.
  48. I love to watch movies and don't feel weird going to them alone.
  49. My favorite movie snack is chocolate covered peanuts. (dark chocolate if you've got it).
  50. I love dark chocolate, and think white chocolate is an abomination.
  51. I love strawberry ice cream.
  52. I like pink, orange, and yellow best, but I like all of the colors.
  53. Definitely Diet Coke over Diet Pepsi.
  54. Chicken Lollipops and Lemon-scented Crepes are my signature dishes.
  55. I cry very easily. Don't be distressed if you see me crying, it's probably nothing.
  56. I hate snakes. I watch snake shows on Discovery Channel to try to cure my phobia. It's not going very well.
  57. I like maps. I need to know where I am on a map to feel like I'm really there.
  58. I like history and architecture.
  59. Rather than going to the standard tourist spots, I like to walk around neighborhoods when I visit new cities.
  60. I absolutely love having my own apartment.
  61. I love listening to the evening edition of Marketplace. I especially like the theme music.
  62. I will never get a tattoo. Not because I think they are bad, but because I could never pick anything I'd like enough to have on my body for forever. I'm way too fickle.
  63. I have tiny ankles and wrists. I'm very proud of them.
  64. As a former mountain girl I'm surprised at how much I love the ocean. In the spirit of #39I speak French to the sea, but since I don't know too much French it's a short conversation.
  65. I don't like pets. I'm considering faking an allergy so I don't ever have to have one.
  66. I love beautiful fruit and vegetables. The kind you get at a good farmers market - not at Safeway.
  67. I hate knick-knacks.
  68. I love when my house is clean, but I don't like to clean it.
  69. I love technology and the Internet. Can't wait to see where it goes next.
  70. 32 is the age I've always wanted to be.
  71. I prefer British phrases to American ones. (eg. "take away" vs. "carry out")
  72. I judge people on their English and grammar.
  73. The longer I'm out of school the dumber I feel.
  74. The worst job I could have would be being a door-to-door salesman. I would HATE that.
  75. I have a high level of tolerance. But when I'm done, I'm done.