Friday, June 29, 2007

Cruisin' with the Crue

Today on Sirius, one of the DJs mentioned Vince Neil's Motley Cruise, a Carnival cruise featuring Motley Crue, Skid Row, and Slaughter. For some reason, I find this concept amusing. When I think of cruise ship entertainment, I think of lounge singers or whomever is guest-starring on The Love Boat (Charo, anyone?) entertaining middle-aged people in Bermuda shorts. But apparently cruising has caught up with my generation, maybe because now we're middle-aged and have disposable income (but hopefully not Bermuda shorts). I'd *love* to go on the cruise just to see what it'll be like, but since I don't have that much disposable income, I'll have to content myself with imagining it. Picture if you will...

1. Strip shuffleboard
2. Instead of Bermuda shorts, middle-aged people in leather with tattoos
3. Shore excursions featuring organized tours of the local strip clubs
4. Free condoms and clean needles from the ship's doctor
5. Ship-board beauty salon specializing in mullet-trimming and hair teasing, featuring at least 6 varieties of hairspray
6. Spandex... not just for swimsuits

Ya know, the event might make a great reality show for VH1.

Now before you 80s metal fans hunt mejavascript:void(0) down and forcibly chop my hair into a mullet... I'm just kidding! I'm a Crue fan myself, and I *love* 80s metal (as if all the Def Leppard references on my MySpace profile didn't clue you into that fact). But really... 80s glam as cruise ship entertainment? I feel old.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Names on a wall

I wrote the following piece in my notebook while seated on a bench near the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC. Rather than edit it, I post it here the way it first came out as I watched visitors at the Wall. If you go to the Wall, I recommend you don't just walk past it with the flow of tourists. The true power of the Wall is found not just the monument itself but in the way visitors interact with it. So, find a bench, plop yourself down, and watch. You might just find yourself moved to tears... or to write.

As you approach the Vietnam War Memorial, you see a dark, shiny wall through the trees.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
From a distance it looks almost like a retaining wall, albeit a fancy one.

Only when you get closer do you see the names--over 58,000 of them--etched into the wall. Then the enormity of the loss hits you. Each name is a life lost, a young person with hopes and dreams, cut down.

Roses at the foot of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

As I look at the sea of tourists walking past the wall, my attention is drawn to the middle-aged men. They walk a bit slowly, and they linger in front of the wall. The people memorialized there could have been--maybe some were--their comrades, contemporaries. Then I think of those 58,000+ people again and consider again the enormity of their loss. They would be those middle-aged men (and women), strolling through a tourist mecca on a lazy summer afternoon, their kids grown and gone. They would probably be considering retirement, maybe looking forward to a time when they could spend every day strolling leisurely through a park on a lazy summer afternoon. Instead they are gone, reduced to names on a granite wall.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Pics from DC

After spending many hours on planes and in airports, I'm too tired to write much tonight. So I'll just post a few pics from DC and call it good for now. I hope to write more about the trip once I regain consciousness.

The White House:
White House
I actually took this pic from quite a distance using my 12x zoom lens. You can't just walk up to the White House anymore, and I was too lazy to walk all the way to the closest point (which still wasn't that close).

One side of the National World War II Memorial:
National World War II Memorial

Washington Monument and reflecting pool, taken from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial:
Washington Monument and reflecting pool

The Capitol:
US Capitol

Library of Congress (a/k/a Mecca for librarians):
Library of Congress

Supreme Court:
US Supreme Court

And if you're really into pictures, you can see the rest of the pics from my trip on Flickr at

Thursday, June 21, 2007

coolest. flight attendant. ever

My flight today from Portland to Los Angeles (first leg of the trip to DC) didn't begin well. I left late for the airport, arrived stressed out, stood in a long security line, and had a seat at the back of a very crowded aircraft. But from the moment I reached my seat till the end of the flight, I was privileged to watch a consummate professional do his job with grace and humor.

The lead flight attendant, John, greeted everyone, made jokes, and got the flight started on a positive note. His announcements were hilarious, so people actually paid attention. People even reviewed the safety information card when he told them to, and that never happens (though it might have been because John told us the crew had taped a $100 bill to one of the cards). But he really demonstrated his skill when, shortly after takeoff, we had our first and only in-flight drama.

A little girl, about 9 or 10 years old, got stuck in the restroom when she couldn't figure out how to unlock the door. She was screaming and pounding on the door, while another passenger tried to explain how to operate the latch. Both the girl and the passenger were getting more hysterical by the minute, when John showed up and took control of the situation. He found a female flight attendant to get the girl out of the bathroom. But then, instead of just returning the still-hysterical child to her seat, John hired her as his assistant for the beverage service. He taught her how to greet each passenger, hand out the microscopic bags of pretzels, take drink orders, and serve drinks. She was hesitant and shy at first, but by the end of the beverage service, she was a confident pro. At the end of the flight, John thanked her over the PA, and we passengers gave her a big round of applause.

So what makes John's actions so special? He turned that little girl's experience around! Instead of associating the flight with a frightening experience (and maybe suffering from claustrophobia for awhile afterward), she will remember the morning she got to be an assistant flight attendant. It would have been easier for John to just do his job. The beverage service would have gone faster, and he wouldn't have had to spend extra time and energy teaching a young child how to serve drinks to airline passengers. But he chose to go above and beyond to make a little girl's day. Color me impressed.

Trip pictures part 4: the final chapter

I promise... this really is the last installment of Wallowa Lake pics.

The deer around Wallowa Lake are incredibly tame, as you can see from this pic:
Deer with no fear

This dude lounged around near the main park entrance, oblivious to cars, bikes, and foot traffic:

The chipmunks on Mt. Howard are even braver. If you sit still, they'll run up your back or into your lap!
Chipmunk on Mt. Howard

That's it for the pics. On my cab ride from Reagan National to my hotel in Arlington tonight, I saw the Washington Monument from a distance and drove about 2/3 of the way around the Pentagon. I hope to do a bunch of sightseeing tomorrow, since my meeting doesn't start till 5:30. So be prepared for more pics...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Trip pictures part 3: in 3D (well, B&W actually)

I discovered the black and white setting on my digital camera last weekend. Soon afterward I discovered that I am not Ansel Adams. Want proof? Here ya go:

View from atop Mt. Howard:

Creepy-looking stump thing:
Creepy stump thing

I forgot the name of this bird, but it's really loud:

Dead trees on the shore of Wallowa Lake:
Wallowa Lake snags

And finally, my camera also has a sepia setting. Here's Sepia Tony:
Sepia Tony

One more post of Wallowa Lake photos to go...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Trip pics part 2

The next set of pics are from Wallowa Lake in Northeastern Oregon's Blue Mountains. It's rugged, beautiful country, part of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Most of the area is very isolated, but the area around Wallowa Lake has some fun touristy things to do.

Here's a pic of Wallowa Lake, taken through the car window as we drove by (hence the blurry shrubbery in the foreground):
Wallowa Lake

The view from just behind our campsite:
View from behind our campsite
The rushing water was great for drowning out the noise from the party across the river. Too bad we weren't invited; it sounded like they were having a great time.

Wallowa Lake Tramway:
Wallowa Lake Tramway
The tram ride lasts 15 minutes and goes up about 3800 feet, to the top of Mt. Howard (which is about 8200 feet). The views on the way up and at the top are amazing.

View from atop Mt. Howard:

And finally... a funny interpretive sign on Mt. Howard:
Funny interpretive sign
Touristus variablus... too funny.

That's enough for now. You can look forward to at least two more installments of trip pics, which I'll probably post tomorrow. I'm off to Washington, DC, Thursday through Saturday. Then I'll have a bunch of monument pictures to inflict on you.

Funny spam subject line

You know how spammers use programs to generate random words in their e-mail subjects to defeat spam filters? Here's one I got today:
obsequious polar bear

Not sure what to say about it, but it made me laugh.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Pictures from the trip, part 1

I finally got my pictures off my SD card by having a photo CD made at Walgreen's. So now I can bore you, dear readers, with my vacation pictures. I'll post them in batches with a common theme. First up: pictures of Eastern Washington, primarily the country within about 50 miles of Pullman, WA:

Rolling hills on the way to Pullman:

Windmill and weathervane on the prairie--reminds me of Kansas:
Windmill in Eastern Washington Weathervane in Eastern Washington

Lonely barn--would make a good jigsaw puzzle:
Barn in Eastern Washington

I'll try to post some more pics tomorrow. If you really want to see all of them, you can hop over to Flickr, where you'll find them at

A Flickr wedding

I'm back from camping, and I'll post a bunch of pictures as soon as I can get them off my memory card. Word to the wise: some card readers can't handle cards with 2GB or more of storage.

In the meantime, I stumbled across something cool on Flickr: a couple who met on Flickr and are now married. Their story is pretty neat, especially since they really met by chance and are from different countries. Their story is a wonderful example of how web 2.0 technology is bringing people together in new ways. MySpace and Facebook are cool, but they are designed specifically to help people make connections. Sites like Flickr and YouTube are designed around pictures and video, but they include social networking components that allow people to "meet" based on the media they post. I've made a couple of friends on Flickr based on common interests reflected in our photos (I even found another librarian who's into Def Leppard!). I also met someone on YouTube, because I posted a 15-second cellphone video of Eric Martin. She's a big fan, so she emailed me, and we've corresponded off and on ever since.

It's truly a small world--and getting smaller all the time.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Bathroom wall wisdom

This morning I saw this poem hung on a bathroom wall at a mini-mart in Arlington, OR (population: not very many). Something to think about.

Poem on bathroom wall in Arlington OR

The trip is going well so far. We're in Pullman, WA, tonight. I have a meeting at Washington State University tomorrow, then we're off to Wallowa Lake State Park for a couple nights of camping (and no internet, so this will probably be my last blog post till I get home).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Friend or doormat? Where's the line?

As an only child, I treasured my friends from an early age, and over the years my closest friends have truly become like family. Needless to say, I consider my friends incredibly important in my life, and I believe in loving them unconditionally. In the last year or so, though, a couple of incidents have forced me to think long and hard about what friendship is--and isn't--and when it's time to end one.

Case #1: A friend from many years ago has been in and out of my life for the last two decades. She was never one of my closest friends, and I often felt like her idea of a friendship was having someone to listen to her problems rather than having a relationship based on mutual trust and support. As much as I value my friends, I began to feel like I wasn't valued or respected, so I pulled back from this relationship somewhat suddenly.

Case #2: Another friend has needed lots of help--financial and otherwise--a few times. But again, it started to feel like she only contacted me when she needed me for something, not when she just wanted to hang out. I let it go, figuring it was just because her life was in crisis. Finally, I needed a favor--not one that required a major sacrifice on her part but which was nevertheless really important to me--which she was in a position to grant. I asked, and she agreed. At the last minute, she bailed with a lame excuse. Time to end another friendship?

On the one hand, I don't believe the value of a friendship should be based on what you get out of it. That's too much like a business transaction. I also don't believe in ending friendships casually over some small slight. Instead, I believe that friends should be there for each other in bad times as well as good, listening to each other and supporting each other. Friends should forgive each other for small slights (and for big ones too). But when does "being supportive" become "being used?" It seems to me that true friends are there for each other, not because they feel obligated but because they want to help each other. They want to spend time together because it's fun, not because they need someone to dump on or someone to help them out of trouble. I contrast the two examples above with my two closest friends. Both of them have needed my help at one time or another, but both of them seek me out whether or not they need something. And they've both been there for me more times than I can count.

So am I kicking people out of my life because I don't get enough benefit from having them in my life? After much reflection, I don't think so. Instead, I think I'm learning to make better use of my limited emotional energy by not wasting it on people who care only about how they can benefit from having me in their lives. Yet sometimes I still wonder if I'm just being selfish.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Hubby's car-gasm

20-some years ago, my husband had a life-changing experience. He saw Mad Max. And fell in love with a car. Really. I understand wanting a cool muscle car. But he had to pick one that was made only in Australia and is therefore a bit hard to get here in the good ol' US of A. Nevertheless, Mr. "I-must-have-an-XB-Falcon-or-my-life-isn't-worth-living" would accept no substitutes. He downloads pictures of XB Falcons, drags us to car shows to look at XB Falcons (there are 2 here in Portland, believe it or not), and generally behaves like a groupie... but over a car. Finally, he has found a way to get one and is waiting to hear from an importer that they've found a car for him. So he checks his e-mail every 3.2 seconds "to see if Phil has sent a picture of his car". But at least he was motivated to clean the garage to make room for it.

Last Saturday, he heard that one of the local XBs was going to be at a Ford car show out in Hillsboro, so off we went. He spotted it from across the parking lot (no small feat since the show was at the fairgrounds, where the parking lot is approximately the size of a small Northeastern state) and began behaving a bit the way I do when near a member of Def Leppard. Jerry and I had to explain to him that cars can't sign autographs (though Jerry did suggest having the car run over a piece of paper to leave a tire track). But they can pose for pictures:


He must've spent half an hour drooling and caressing the thing. Every time I thought we could go look at something cool, like the old Mustang convertibles, he'd drag us back to the XB. We finally made our escape, and hubby is relegated to sighing wistfully while looking at pictures of the car. Oh, well... it's better than 'net porn, I suppose.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Hard workin' weekend

Not much time to blog this weekend, because I've been working my butt off! Since Saturday we have weeded our veggie garden and planted 22 tomato plants, along with cantaloupe, watermelon, and zucchini; cleaned the deck (which wasn't as bad as the garage but was still a mess), and prepped and painted a bathroom (one more coat to go and it'll be done). If we were this productive every weekend, the house and yard would look great!

That's about it for now. I need to rescue my baked bananas from the grill, then plant some peppers before it's time to put the second coat of paint on the bathroom.