Saturday, September 1, 2012

2016....Obama's....Texas?

Last weekend, the fiance (that's right folks, I'm engaged... a post for another day!) and the brother (up and coming oil and gas tycoon in Houston) and I went to see 2016: Obama's America. (yeah yeah you liberal hippies reading this... shut yo face).

It's actually a good movie. Go see it and then we can talk.

Funniest thing, though - when the credits rolled at the end of the film, a man stood up and crowed, "y'all all better remember that s*** when it comes time to VOTE!" and the crowd roared and clapped.

At this point, Tim has fallen on the ground unable to breathe because he's laughing so hard. I - in my best southern drawl - say, "way-uhl-come tew Texis, sugah."

Good times.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Oh my goodness what just happened?

Hello new google blog format. Will we be friends?

Ahem. So today one of my greatest fears was realized and I LIVED TO TELL THE TALE. Let's cut right to the chase: A creepy blackbird/grackle pest swooped down on my head this morning and scratched my scalp.



I was jogging in front of the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at 38th and Lamar when I felt the strange sensation of skinny fingernails grabbing my hair. My first thought was that a friend was running, too, and grabbed my hair from behind. Then I realized I don't have any friends with fingernails that skinny... and there was such a small amount of pressure... it was....not...human.

Now there are a couple different angles from which to examine this horrendous deed:

  • My hair was pretty frizzy, and matched the color of my yellow shirt. Maybe it thought I was a big haystack.
  • I was jogging so very slowly that the bird mistook me for a stationary object, like say, a nest.
  • The dang thing was trying to steal my headband. Seriously pulled it but thank goodness it let go!
  • This  is karma because moments before I caught a glimpse of my reflection and thought, "hey, runner! you don't look so bad! You actually look AWESOME!" Hopefully it wasn't like this:


Thankfully I was highly aware that there were people all around (38th and Lamar is a busy intersection for you non-Austinites), so I oh-so-smoothly laughed it off, as in, "hee hee, silly Mary-Poppins-style-animated-bird trying to take my headband, fa la la happy world." It was about 30 seconds later that I realized I was about to hyperventilate I felt so violated. So I walked the rest of the way home. And shampooed several times, wishing they made an antibacterial shampoo.

The End. The massive bird fear continues, clearly. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Green things....brown things....

Exhibit 547(a): yet another failed attempt at domesticity:
It used to be a cute little box o' green succulents on my desk so brown.

Kinda like this:


Sarah in our office took one look at my sad flowerbed and said, "Don't get a pet anytime soon."

To which I retorted that pets and kids scream and make noise when they need attention. Hey there's an idea. Reminder beepy microchips in the soil to remind me to water, give sun, hell I'll TALK TO the dang plants if it means they'll live longer than a few weeks!

Green thumb have I not.

Happy Friday, world.

Monday, February 27, 2012

5 Productivity Myths That Need to Be Busted

This is an awesome take on some productivity myths that I confess I've held dear. Got this on dumblittleman.com. READ IT.


When there is so much advice and information on productivity floating around, it is obvious that not all of that is worth paying heed to. There are certain popular beliefs on productivity that some consider useful, which in reality do nothing but to hamper their efficiency.

This article talks about five productivity myths which the sooner you come to know about and understand, the better. I'm sure most these tips are something you could actually relate to. Check them out.

  • Multitasking Works:
  • Let me set the record straight before I begin - I am not against multitasking. Some people can actually juggle tasks and accomplish all of them efficiently. But the fact is there aren't many people who can do it, especially in this age of information overload. Uni-tasking is far more effective if you want to get things done without compromising on quality. We've already published how mono-tasking is better than multi-tasking, and why this might be the age of uni-tasking. If you care about focusing, and focusing well, try your hand on one thing at a time.
  • Procrastination is "Always" Bad: Procrastination is a basic human trait. Most of us are lazy by birth. We want to delay tasks and enjoy life, till they can be delayed. There are many negative effects of procrastination, no doubt. But, it isn't always bad to procrastinate. Sometimes, it's important to take a step back, relax and just ignore what you do every day. It helps you assess the importance of things you do, prioritize them, and also helps to de-stress yourself. So it's good to procrastinate once in a while in order to recharge yourself.
  • The More You Work, the Better: This might have been true in the industrial age, but not in this information age. Make no mistake, there's still no substitute for hard work; success doesn't come easy. But, it requires that you be productive and efficient. You need to decide what should be your focus and where you should channelize your energies. Sometimes, just 5 or 6 hours of work each day can get you results. But that has to be 5 or 6 hours of actual "work" and nothing else. And, you have to be consistent with that too; you gotta do it every day without fail.
  • The Same Productivity System Works for Everyone: This is something I myself understood quite late. I would read productivity advice and then try my best to implement it. When I was unable to follow it, I couldn't understand where I was going wrong. Finally, after trying out various systems, I found out what's best for me. Since no two people are same, the same productivity system might not work for them. One might prefer to work till late, the other might be an early riser. The bottom line is that you need to try different productivity systems to see which of them fits you well.
  • It's Always About the System: Finally, I think one of the biggest myths surrounding productivity is that one can always be productive by following certain steps, or by following a productive system. It's not always about the system. It's about you.

I've read about people who suffer from disorders like ADHD and hence can't focus. But since they don't know about it, they cannot figure out why none of the productivity systems works for them. I've also read about people who don't like what they do, but still try out everything to focus and get things done, just to fail each time.

The point is, if you just can't get things done, and this has been going on for a long time, then it's time to self-introspect and find out what this is all about.

Cheers,

Abhijeet

Written on 10/04/2010 by Abhijeet Mukherjee. Abhijeet is a blogger and web publisher from India.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Lent and God's Drumbeat

So I've been thinking about what I should give up or take on for Lent, and came across this sermon by the Bishop of London (Anglican - love ya, miss ya). It's not that long, but in case you're pressed for time, here are a couple of excerpts that struck me:

You will know the pressure points in your own lives, but now is the time for deciding how to use Lent. Perhaps by not reading so many newspapers, hearing so much, watching so much, consuming so much, so that we can be liberated from the sick hurry which dulls our capacity to hear the still small voice.

Perhaps it is the time to live more simply in order to tighten up the drumskin, so that God's drumbeat can be heard more clearly in our lives.

Perhaps it is a time for carving out some solitude so that we can become aware of those senses which are deadened in daily life. The choice is yours. You have to decide what is most relevant.....

Just giving up chocolate, which can be resumed in a great binge on Easter Day, does little good and can easily fill us with an unhelpful sense of spiritual achievement. Lent is an opportunity for Springtime cleansing and we can encourage one another in observing it.

I'm still pondering if I'll befriend GUS (giving up something) or TOM (taking on more) this Lenten season, but in light of this year of intentionality, I'm thinking of getting rid of some of this clutter that leaves little room for God to work in my life.

What about you? What is God showing you in preparation for Lent?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Excruciation Exam 1/7/2012



My pal Patrick is all big into mountain bike racing (or as those in the biz refer to it: MTB racing). I was a temporary member of the cool kids club and was invited to a race in Warda, Texas (yeah, it's a place. They have a post office.) 2 weeks ago. The Excruciation Exam. I was supposed to be the Sporting Press and give tweet updates on the progress of Patrick vs. Devin. I was picked up at 5:00am on a Saturday (I know, right?), and we drove through the fog for approximately 7 hours (give or take 5-6 hours) then arrived in some pasture where apparently they often do this sort of thing.

Warning: this is a complete outsider's view of the world of MTB racing. I fall off my bike because I forget to kick my feet out of the clips. Seriously. And I didn't take a lot of pictures, and the ones I took aren't that great. The tweets weren't even clever. Just factual. You should probably stop reading now and save yourself.

No? Okay. Bear with me. The race was delayed because of the fog. I admit I didn't see why this was an issue. I mean, it's one thing if you're driving fast in a car, but a bike? Oh. But you see, these guys (and girls - I'll get to that in a minute) GO REALLY FAST. Like not at all leisurely.



The fog cleared, and everyone lined up. There was a stretch of 200 yards or so that they had to run (in their clippy shoes!! What the heck?!) to their bikes, THEN they could officially take off. The running part (if I would have been racing, I probably would have forfeited right there. Something dramatic like lying down in the middle of the path.) helped space them out, I'm told.



So there were some fast people at the front.... OH GOOD FOR YOU.






And some people who would have been my friends.



We (Derek and I) took their (Patrick, Devin, and some other dudes) bags to Rocky Hill, the next big time checkpoint (some 20ish miles from where they started).




The volunteers have this sort of thing down to a science. They made 57,000 sandwiches in 5 minutes. A guy brought all the bags and coolers and laid them out on big plywood boards (did I mention it was wet and foggy?). We took our crew's bags and kept them to the side. I'm picturing that everyone will arrive at the same time and a bunch of high maintenance guys in spandex would be all, "Where's my Evian water?"



They weren't at all high maintenance. They were actually incredibly chill. This guy wins best gear award. He used a cat carrier. Who does that?!



So then the clouds decided to open up and finally the sun came out!

Good thing. It was pretty gross. Kinda like my lame tweet updates. I blame it on the fact that I had no Press Pass badge. I would have felt a lot cooler (in a Liz Lemon sort of way). I digress.


Here's Devin coming in to Rocky Hill...



And here's Patrick just before his Dublin Dr. Pepper fix. It's true: water and gatorade aren't all that can be poured into a water bottle. Sidenote: Patrick has since bought all remaining Dublin Dr. Peppers left in existence after the evil Dublin DP buyout.



And here's some random 7 year old that was kicking everyone's tail... I keed. He was 16. I met his mom. But still.




So yeah. We helped people with their energy bars and water bottles and what not. And when I say we it was really Derek. I just moved around trying to act busy with a dumb smile on my face as if that would encourage the people in the race. After all the hard work of not riding a bike and not really contributing anything useful other than saying helpful things like "enjoy the sunshine!" to downtrodden riders, I was hungry. Whew - good thing there was a food trailer on site! Check this monstrosity out.

All that for $6. All in a day's work, my friends. There may have been a can of Shiner Bock involved as well.

OMNOMNOM what? Oh yeah, the race. It was 85 miles long. Incredible. Devin beat Patrick by a few minutes, which apparently was all that really mattered in The Grand Scheme of Life. Here are the results. Here is the trail. 2,787 feet gained in elevation?! And they were all laughing it up and talking afterwards like it was nothing. Are you kidding me? Incredible.

After being so motivated, I drug Amy on a little 12.1 mile ride the following day and had a whopping 651 feet gained in elevation and we almost died (Houston, how I miss thee). So quick note on girls. Top 3 guys got a prize, as did the top 3 girls. Even though their times were a good 1.5 - 2 hours behind the guys' time. SO not fair, but such is life. I need to find a race (that's not 85 miles long. I want to win, I don't want to DIE) where there are very few girls competing (like no more than 3). Bucket list that one.

Go boys.

The end.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Europe Trip - Part 2: Scotland

Yeah, yeah, I'm busy, ok? Here's the next leg of the Europe excursion: Scotland. My favorite. Bear with me - this will be long.

This will not be in chronological order because apparently I can't remember how to add photos in sequence. Hopefully it won't make the story unbearable for you.

We arrived in Scotland and proceeded to rent a car (Enterprise!). It was in my name, why I don't really know, as Amy is a much better driver than I am... I think I was more confident about my untapped ability to drive on the right side of the car. Within 15 minutes of driving I had already smashed the left side rear view mirror to shattered uselessness.

Here's where the steering wheel was NOT:



Thankfully we had the good sense to rent a navigation system (goodness what in the WORLD would we have done without her?!). We named her Pippa because she had a classy British accent and, well, we are silly Americans. Roundabouts were EVERYWHERE, and Pippa clearly had little faith in my skills in successfully taking the right road while circling in a clockwise fashion. I swear she changed her tone when she urged: "Entah roundabout." The roads were more suited to a horse than a car. More on this later.

This is the Edinburgh Castle:



This is Amy at the door of our precious bed and breakfast. Brother/Sister duo Maria and Edward kept the house and cooked breakfast. They were so dear! Amy was convinced Maria looked like Julie Andrews as Maria in The Sound of Music, but there is no truth to that. They both had short blonde hair, but that was about it.



We happened to be in Edinburgh for their annual festival (perfect timing, totally planned it). We packed a picnic dinner - see photo below - a highlight of the trip was discovering flap jacks. They aren't pancakes, but are little squares... sort of like a soft granola bar but SO good. Plenty of red wine. Funny to observe the people sitting around us who were drinking MGD and Budweiser and Smirnoff (Amy: "like that's cool").



(coming up the stairs to watch fireworks after a day of driving drama and plenty of "entah roundabout" said in a treacherous tone)


Sitting on the hill, waiting for the fireworks to start....
  • Amy: "OMG..(thinking her wine spilled onto her camera bag... then discovering everything was okay)...PTL!"
  • Emily: "I'd like to have four kids. My great grandfather was one of 14 or something. I could do it.".......Amy: "You do have wide hips."
  • Amy: "oh Pippa. You know, there's probably going to be a great influx of girls named Pippa now." .....Emily: "Yeah, or William. And Kate." (cheesy William and Kate memorabilia was everywhere.)

Fireworks!! And they were super long and super great! They were shot from Edinburgh Castle, and below there was a full orchestra with - get this - coordinated music!! The folks on the hill with us were no dummies, and many brought portable radios with them so we could listen, because oh yes, it was being broadcast.



And now for my favorite part of my favorite country on the trip: the Braemar Highland Games. Think burly, strapping young (and old) men in kilts throwing capers (telephone poles) and massive weights and armed forces (!!!) gents in tug-of-war competitions and young lassies in highland dancing competitions.... all the while with bagpipes playing constantly. Heaven.



And gingers. Redheads were everywhere. Here's a photo of the cutest little redhead I saw on the trip. He was terrorizing his older sister a few rows in front of us.




OH AND GET THIS. The Queen of England was there!!! And she totally looked at me and waved. Click on the picture and zoom in - I'm serious.



Tug-of-war.... and number one looking out for his team:




Glenfidditch single malt scotch whisky was the main sponsor of all the heavy lifting sports. Oh! and the announcers were elderly gents who said things like, "Oh! Off you go then" when the runners started, and so-and-so won by a "wee bit." Sports announcers in the US could take a lesson or two from the Braemar announcers :)


See what I mean?! All the guys were huge! I felt so small and dainty! Heaven.




I.love.bagpipes.



After a full day at Braemar (2-3 hours north of Edinburgh), we thought it would be a good idea to drive two more hours north to LOCH NESS (a not-so-small obsession o' mine).

Lovely views on the way... I have a ton of photos of this part of the trip. There was a lot of road construction ("road works") and detours and delays. The signs at the end of the construction said "sorry for the delay." Likewise, signs in the US could take a lesson from the kind words in the UK. BUT their graphics were really amusing - "warning: elderly" was the same as "warning: disabled" - both featured two people hunched over with canes.



"Oh my soul, thou art capable of enjoying God, woe to thee if thou are contented with anything less than God." ~Francis de Sales



Emily: "I'm Scotland. I have narrow roads."
Amy: "We just got passed."


And then we arrived. Magical. Breathtaking. All I was hoping for. It was eerily quiet and roaringly majestic at the same time, if that's possible.



So the Loch Ness monster (Nessie) was in the middle vertically and far left horizontally of the photo below... can you see her?!


And I was going to insert a picture of Nessie to make it look like I was petting her, but I'm too lazy.


Lovely, lovely day. Smaller than all small worlds, at Braemar I ran into a girl I shared a bunk bed with at Impact Camp waaaay back in the fall of 2002 before my freshman year at A&M! She is now married and has a little girl and lives in St. Andrews, Scotland! We made plans to meet in St. Andrews a few days later (and sadly Kendall and I didn't get a picture together).

Taxi driver who took us from the train station into town:
Driver: "Why would you ever leave the US?! There is plenty to do there. Why did you come all the way here?"
....um... because we wanted to travel to the Motherland??...

I have a ton of photos of old churches and cemeteries in St. Andrews... here's only a few: this one is an old Episcopal church that has the stations of the cross on the ceiling:





Walking through the ruins and imagining how regal these structures were 500 years ago



St. Andrews campus, and no I didn't spot Prince William or Prince Harry. Incredible campus! So old! They're celebrating their 600th anniversary!!



St. Andrews golf course. Fabulous, and I don't even know how to play golf. We walked across the 17th hole fairway... one of the fairways it's best not to walk across, but thankfully weren't hit in the head with golf balls. We had "high tea" (read: loads of empty sugary calories in the form of mini sandwiches and scones and tarts. I felt like a pasty white Brit for sure).

It was an absolutely gorgeous day!



This has significance if you are a golfer. The old hotel? Toughest hole? Something like that.

I really want to go back. Now. The price was pretty steep, but the people were wonderful, the scenery superb, the history just fascinating. I will definitely come back!!

View from the train as we crossed a little river on the way to the port for Ireland.... I will detail the ferry ride in the next post. Farewell, Scotland!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Austin Police Department

We just got back from a neighborhood watch meeting. There have been three homicides in our small neighborhood in the past few months. The apparent goal of the meeting as advertised was to meet the neighbors and form some sort of "street captain" to serve as the point of contact for nearby neighbors.

The meeting turned into an inquisition of the Austin Police Department. There were a bunch of men and women in uniform there, and Police Chief Art Acevedo came and spoke, too. (Amy: "I can see why you like men in uniform so much" as she stepped in between me and a particularly amazingly attractive policeman who pretty much is my soul mate. I'll be running a lot of red lights in hopes of finding him again. You're welcome, City of Austin residents. I might singlehandedly pay for all sidewalk improvements.) I digress.

So after sitting through an eternity of questions like, "Why didn't the police officer get out of his car?" "Have you revised all your policies after the New Years Day murder?" "What's the percentage increase for crime in my neighborhood over the last 6 months and have you increased your forces by the same percentage?" and "Why don't y'all use bloodhounds?"

....I decided I really didn't want to have to meet all these loons. Granted, I will definitely take Chief Acevedo's advice and be a good neighbor and a nosy neighbor, but COME ON.

Thus, Angry Elf Emily dragged Amy out of the auditorium as Emily gazed into aforementioned policeman's eyes and meaningfully said, "Thank you for your service."

Someday....I will find you....