Saturday, July 28, 2007

Rick Steves

I'm strangely mesmerized by travel shows. The perky lady on the Travel Channel is pretty cool, but I much prefer the cheesy PBS ones. Sunday mornings always have the silent fly-over-European-villages show, which is nice for awhile. There's the one that sucks about cheap travel or something like that, but then there's "Rick Steves' Europe."

God, he's a handsome devil. He may be the biggest dork on television, but Rick Steves makes a damn good TV show. It's Europe stripped without all the glitter and glamour of the Travel Channel's countdown shows, but still having a sense of awe about the place. Rick Steves is the best part of the show. He makes me want to go every time. He makes me want see all the little spots he visits. He makes me want to stop and talk to all the shopkeepers and store owners throughout Europe. He makes me want want to rent a a bicycle and peddle through the up country, where life is the same as it has been for generations. He makes me want to dance polka awkwardly with Bavarian strangers who are clearly thinking "who the hell is this loser." The guy is awesome. Yes, Rick Steves is a true American hero.

But seriously without him, I wouldn't know about a whole slew of cool stuff about Europe for when I win the lottery and get to go. Like Plitvice Lakes. Who's ever heard of this place? but it looks amazing.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Big Book with Big Words

I've been trying to learn new words. I don't actively seek out words. I just write down words that I'm not sure about as I come across them, especially if I like the way they sound. It may seem like a pretty darn good way to learn new words, expand my vocabulary, all that jazz, but while I can usually make sense of the word when I find it, by the time I look it up, even with the definition I have no way of knowing how to use it in a sentence. Words like bourse are particularly confusing.

With the new Harry Potter book, these words come fast, almost forced, and at times I felt I should of had a vocabulary list at the start of each chapter... "Here are the Words You'll Need to Know." Quiz will be on Friday... oh no, that's today!!

But these words, and probably all big words, you don't really need to know. And besides, I couldn't pull my eyes away long enough to write them down. The final Harry Potter may appear as a brick of a book, but as with all her books, the pages quickly melt away, taking you to a made-up world that, even at age 27, I desperately wish that I could join.

While by many standards it may not be a great piece of literature, the Deathly Hallows is still pretty amazing, especially considering that it's been 10 years in the making, probably the most highly anticipated book ever. It far and away surpasses any expectation set upon it.

I really liked it.

After I was done, I did look up one word to add to my list. While I've heard the word before and even used it once or twice - I probably could even BS you a decent definition - "hallow" is a verb that means to make or honor as holy. At first, it didn't seems to fit, given that it's a noun in the book, but then it fit perfectly and magically makes sense.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The End of the World

I finally found a book that reads like a James Bond movie, complete with a maniacal billionaire set on destroying the world. There's even an endless supply of henchmen wearing all black including little skull caps. See, by mastering nanotechnology, they can send a giant chunk of Antarctic ice into the ocean, creating a wobble in the earth's tilt, thus upsetting the whole plate tectonics thing and sending Antarctica 2000 miles north. In the end, the sea levels would rise some 400 feet, killing just about everyone, unless of course you were one of the chosen 250,000 who got to go on a giant boat.

The only problem I found with this scheme is that the major bad guys were all descended from sperm of Adolf Hitler that was smuggled out of Nazi Germany to Argentina.

While I know it's probably important to stop these people, as the hero did by running over the bad guys at thirty miles an hour, I couldn't help but think how cool it would be to be one of the 250,000 people. Ride out the storm on a big boat, and then start out exploring a whole new world, of sorts. I could be a pioneer. A founding father. I could be important.

I think I would be a rancher. Or a nanotechnician. Or a wizard. Next up is the Harry Potter finale. It's time I read a book where I know I'll root for the good guys, although I am nervous for the heroes. And while I'm usually against hype, I want to read it before I find out what happens. I hope it's not too late to get started.

But if I do, I guess it's not like it's the end of the world or anything... maybe just a small wobble in it's tilt.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Home Sick

Eleven years ago, at the tender age of 16, I spent much of my summer vacation living on a mountain with strangers. It was my first time away from home. To illustrate how homesick I was, let me just say that I think I only sent one letter home, which if I'm not mistaken focused heavily on the greatness of Independence Day, the Will-Smith-battles-aliens movie that I saw the day before I climbed the mountain. As far as I was concerned, it was the greatest movie of all time, hands-down, bar-none. I mean, come on, they blow up the White House.

I can't tell you much more about the movie than that, because I don't remember... I've never seen it second time. Something tells me though that Independence Day is no longer the greatest movie of all time. Especially after seeing Transformers.

Now that's a movie! Take one of the lamer childhood toys from the '80's - a Muted Guerrilla survey ranks them a distant third behind GI Joe and He-Man, right alongside Micro Machines - and combine it with a wacky kid from the Disney Channel and you get, well... a movie destined to fail. Throw in special effects and a random hot screaming lady, and you have got yourself pure Hollywood gold. Gold, I tell you!

Eleven years the wiser and I'll refrain from declaring Transformers as the best movie ever, but even with it getting kinda corny towards the end, it's definitely the first movie I've seen in a long time worth the ticket price - matinee value of course.

I was thinking of swearing off movies, a big step for me as I love to see a movie, but $9.75 a ticket is crazy. It just makes me feel old. I remember a time when it was a third less than that. And that was when I graduated college. When I was in high school, the dollar theater was just that, a dollar theater. You could see good movies there too. And it was close, seems like it was just around the block. We could ride our bikes there, barefoot both ways, when me and the boys were playing hookie from school. We had to avoid mean old Mrs. Copperbottom though. Oh, those were the days... those were the days.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Squirrel Fraud

While I was housesitting last week, John called me and informed me that there was a squirrel on our balcony... our 4th floor balcony. We've lived here over 3 years and have never seen a squirrel higher than the second floor, so this was one adventurous squirrel. Anyway, when John first saw it, it was laying flat on it's belly with its head hanging over the edge, seemingly wondering how the hell it was going to get down.

It stayed like that for a day or so. The next time John checked the porch, it was gone, so we figured no problem.... When I got home from housesitting, I glanced out the window and saw the squirrel was back, this time making himself at home, chewing his way into my birdseed bucket and proceeding to sit inside of it and eat birdseed for over 2 hours. I'm not joking, I clocked him.

SO, being the animal lover that I am (and quite honestly those things are pretty scary face to face and there was no way either of us were going out there), we named him Dexter (get it.. deck-ster), and took pictures of him, thinking he would go away after finishing off the seedy goodness.

That night I checked on our balcony, in hopes of playing a mean game of competitive Scrabble with John outside without fear of a squirrel attack. BUT, Dexter had taken an old tee shirt that was out there and put it into one of our flower beds and made a comfy place to curl up and nap in... or sleep in all night, which is what happened. Now that was cute. This went on for a couple days. It really irritated my cat, but John and I both liked the new pet. We started to wonder if maybe Dexter had been banished from his squirrel friends and had nowhere else to go. We decided over time Dexter would get used to us, and eventually we'd gain some mutual respect and be able to share the balcony space and live in harmony with nature. Plus, he was way more fun to watch than the birds anyway.

This morning I woke up to check on Dexter to see if he slept there all night. I walked to the window and there he was. Covered in dirt. For those of you who don't know, John bonsais. He works hard at bonsai-ing. It's not easy to do and the plants are his babies. Maybe we should've told that to Dexter...but we didn't, and when I saw him, he was having a lot of squirrely fun rolling around in John's newly planted Japanese Maples. Dexter and I made eye contact and I realized, he was not an outcasted member of squirrel society. He was just a greedy, no-good, low-down rodent.

So, still in my pajamas, I armed myself with an extendable feather duster, and I put on a winter hat, leather gloves, and John's tennis shoes and fearlessly ventured onto the balcony. The western show-down music played in my head as I extended the duster and wacked at Dexter until he jumped. Those things are incredible jumpers.

I brought all of Dexter's things inside so if he returns, he'll know I mean business.

So, kids, don't let squirrels fool you, no matter how convincing they may be.