Thursday, June 29, 2006

Independence

Here comes Independence Day - one of my favorite holidays (although all holidays are probably my favorite holidays). We are heading back to Iowa for the last time by car to take care of all the final details and try to acquire a dresser. With my mom moving and my brother leaving soon for college there's furniture flying around all over the place. Coincidentally, a few states away my dad is also moving and another brother is leaving for college - it's like looking across the state line into a mirror.

A recent article on CNN.com speaks of a poor Amish fella who got caught selling unpasteurized milk to an undercover cop... O what an abhorence! I plan to rant about this but must wait till I have more time. Meanwhile read the article itself by clicking here, and let's all think about whether that really sounds logical.

Chances are good I won't get to blog again until the holiday is over (I will miss you!) so I will wish you now, HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Yoga Instructor's Bag O Tricks

Went to hot (bikram) yoga again tonight, and got the instructor that knows exactly how to trick you into working super hard. As a fellow instructor, I was fascinated, but as a participant in the class, I was totally tortured (but oddly satisfied afterwards). Here are a few things she said:

"I see a lot of you aren't giving 100%. What's that all about?" (then once we gave 100%, she said, "Now give me a little more in the last 5 seconds...!!")

"It gets easier once you start working harder." (I found this to not be the case)

"Do you believe you can do this pose? You don't seem to believe you can do this pose. I believe you can do this pose! Now DO IT!" (This was said specifically to me, and I almost threw up on her in response)

"You guys are all screwing this up. Now watch Hilary in the front row and then I expect you to show me you learned something."

Pushing your participants is always a tricky thing to do but in a room that is 105F it's extremely tricky, and I was very impressed.

Last week, the teacher pushed us in a much gentler way. After the camel pose, which is a scary backbend pose, he said, "when you let the tension slide out of your muscles then you will drop another 1 or 2 inches into this pose as your muscles relax... I saw two of you do this today, the rest of you should try to do this next time." So I did! And it worked! He had an interesting approach too.

In case you're into observing some good teaching skillz or just getting an awesome workout, this all took place at the Minneapolis Bikram Yoga College of India

For a more detailed review and description of the hot yoga experience, click here.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Squirrel Songs

This morning as I was eating breakfast I heard an obnoxious but familiar flat R-A-A-A-A-A-A sound just outside the window. I looked out, thinking "what the...?" and saw a SQUIRREL sitting there in the tree. It looked pissed, too, although I don't think it was pissed at me. We have a second floor apartment up in the trees and there's a lot of squirrel action that goes on just out the window. One time, I actually saw a momma and her teenaged kid squirrel playing (or arguing, it's hard to tell). Then only a few days later I saw a WHITE squirrel. And in another apartment in another life where the window looked out over the parking lot near a dumpster we saw a huge fat squirrel hauling a steak across the road.

The picture was taken from a lovely midwest photographer's website I found.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Minneapolis Tamales

If you ever find yourself in Minneapolis dying for a good tamale, I know just the place. The Midtown Farmer's Market (across from the YWCA, at Lake St and Hwy 55). Not only do they have the best tamales in town, but they are also CHEAP ($2.50 per tamale), located near plenty of fresh veggies and fruit, cheese and cookies that you can have with it, and there's almost always live music playing in front of some tables and chairs. On a nice Saturday, you can have the best lunch of your life.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

More about my husband's balls

I was checking out my stats on my super-cool Site Meter, which tells me what searches people do to find my blog, and I found that someone had done a search for "My Husband's Ball's" and found MY BLOG. Perturbed by this, I went to the link and discovered that not very long ago I had actually titled a post with "My Husband's Balls" so I guess it makes sense that a search for such would get you to me. But who would search for such a thing? Not me.

Other strange searches I have seen are:

Bikini Mom (??)
Picture Packing Pistachio
Doctor Funk

And the searches I see over and over are:

Bikram Yoga (or just Yoga)
Jennifer Love Hewitt
Bradelina
Catfish Noodling

There have been loads more good ones but my Site Meter only keeps track of the last 100 and of course I can't remember any of the others.

FYI - the post about my husband's balls was about two balls he was animating, in case you are the dirty-minded sort and were thinking of something else.

My Replacement

I went to the Y to teach my class yesterday and a girl came up to me and said "Hi! My name is Laura, I'm going to be your replacement."

How surreal!

I guess I'm moving soon.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Go Studly Hubby Go!

My Studly Hubby is working diligently on an animation "test" as part of a job application for a 3D animation job in Seattle. He's very excited about it and doing a good job but is at the tail end of a quarter from hell - we went out of town over and over, I graduated and there were several other distractions, and his assignments for class were bigger and badder than ever. Basically, he hasn't gotten enough sleep since the beginning of this quarter. As a result, he's getting pretty worn out. Tonight is his last night, and then he'll get a break this weekend. So let's all wish him luck getting it all done and getting an interview!

Good luck my Studly.

A mystery solved

When I was a kid I was in a day camp that took us swimming every day, then after we would hang around the park until our parents picked us up. After we swam, we could change from the swimsuits into our regular clothes and sometimes I did but other times I didn't, like on days when I totally forgot to bring any other clothes. What I noticed at this early age was that if I wore the swimsuit after swimming it would dry (rather quickly, like within an hour) but if I took it off it wouldn't dry (often it wouldn't even be dry by the next morning). So I started to wear the swimsuit after swimming if I knew I would need it again the next day to be sure it got dry (there's nothing worse than putting on a cold wet swimsuit in the morning) but on days when it didn't matter I would take it off. Sometimes I would even wear it around until it dried and then take it off.

Well, the other day I came up with a theory as to why the swimsuits dries better on you then off - because your body is WARM, and the heat of your body helps speed up the drying process (plus it's completely flattened out so it has lots of air). I'm a GENIUS (note: I had to check that I spelled genius correctly, so maybe I'm not such a genius. But in this matter, I am, there's no denying it).

But here's an unanswered question: why does a cube of ice melt faster in a cup of room temp water than sitting on your counter at room temp? That goes for a bag of ice also. If you don't believe me try it out!

A Sweaty return to Hot Yoga

I returned tonight to hot yoga, which I had to get tough on myself about (haven't been in almost a month due to my busy schedule). Once I got there everything went ok, it's amazing how I don't totally lose my flexibility even after that long... although I was a little stiff in certain muscles (quads esp) perhaps due to moving last weekend. The thing that blew me away though was how different it felt now that it's summer. In the winter the heat and humidity feel GREAT but now it feels FREAKING HOT in there, and dry (50% humidity feels dry in the middle of a midwest spring/summer)! I swear I was sweating even more than usual. I also have no really solid basis for comparison, but I'm starting to believe I sweat more than other folks in that class. I completely soak my towel, and my hair, I drip sweat off of me during most of the class, and I've been known to get sweat up my nose and in my eyes (see previous posts on this subject). There are a few others who look as sweaty or even sweatier than me, but many don't, like these two short (and thin, and beautiful, and very flexible) women on either side of me today that were hardly sweating it seemed. Maybe my high sweat volume production is what makes it hard for me to recover from those classes (I can't manage to go more than once a week or I simply can't keep up on the water intake).

Boy, the class felt good though! Except the part at the end when I thought I was going to throw up.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Thesis Book Review

A very fine book review has been posted about a little ole' book called my THESIS... the thesis is good stuff but the review is even better, go check it out!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Another trip

Back from another wild trip, this time to Iowa to move my mom out of her house. Tip: don't ever let a parent stay in the same place longer than 5 yrs, especially if they have lots of storage space. Along these lines, be wary of outdoor sheds, attics, basements, extra bedrooms, and especially farms with all of these. It took two huge U-Hauls to move my mom out, thank goodness she had hired help for one of those trips. In addition to moving chaos we had horse selling chaos, dog chaos, family chaos, and general chaos. And we lost everything we would need in the new house including towels, food, shampoo, soap, silverware, and sheets. My mom did manage to find a bottle of wine and a wine glass however.

My Study Hubby had to stay behind in Minneapolis to deal with post-Seattle catch-up on homework, made worse by a mid-week hard drive crash and ginormous job application "test" to do over the weekend - he had to animate a little '70s dude doing some sweet kicks and jumps. He's still at it now although he came home over lunch today to go to the grocery store and take out the garbage (divorce prevention strategy).

Special thanks goes out to those who helped with the big move this weekend, my step-dad K, grandma S, our friend E and her son M, and esp aunt L, uncle J and my bro A.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Moving on the Horizon

Only two days back from Seattle and already I'm forgetting what our new apartment looks like... does it have any closets? how big was the kitchen? did the front windows have blinds? what did the carpet look like? I wish I knew these things so I could picture our stuff in there and try to imagine how to arrange it. I guess this is what women like to do... it's a form of nesting. So I suppose in a way now I'm looking forward to moving so we can see the apartment again and I can properly nest. But at the same time I'm dreading leaving here more and more as the summer spreads out before us and the weather has been beautiful...

I'm off tomorrow to Iowa to help my mom move out of her big farm house. Now this is one big move. She has lived there 20 years and thus has 20 years of accumulated crap to haul out, sort, and take various places. Fortunately she has been working on dealing with it all for about a year (and more seriously in the past month) so it is already majorly improved. This weekend is the Big Doozy however as she has hired a moving van and a couple of muscley dudes to help her get it what's left to her new house. I need to go home of course to supervise (you never know what might happen when my mom invites some muscley dudes over) and also to oversee the transfer of my horse into new hands - we think we have picked an appropriate owner but I want to meet them and see their place just to be sure.

Running

Sometimes when I go out running I realize I'm laboriously sucking air in and exhaling loudly. One day as I was doing this, I thought, hey, maybe if I lift up my head a little it'll open up my throat and I can breathe better... and viola! suddenly I was breathing better, running faster and feeling great. Ever since then, I find myself doing that every once in a while and I'm not sure why. What would compel me to make it harder on myself to breathe?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Three Important Lessons

I learned three important lessons in Seattle. The first is that you can get used to anything if you just look at it long enough - although Minneapolis sure felt nice and familiar as soon as we got back here. The second and third lessons require a bit of a backstory.

We stayed with a friend of mine that has been in Seattle for two years. He is a bachelor, and is European, and also recently moved to a new apartment. As you can imagine, the whole time we were there he was devoted to the Soccer World Cup, which was no big surprise. What was a surprise, but shouldn't have been because I've seen it before (but not for a while), was the 'bachelor lifestyle' this guy led - he had only four bowls (he doesn't see a purpose for plates), no bed (sleeps on his couch), used dish towels for bath towels and a bath towel for a bath mat, never opened his blinds, never slept, never ate, had no sheets that we ever saw, nothing in his refrigerator except beer (and, oddly, a carton of soy milk), but had at least five guitars and a Sony Playstation 2.

Clearly, this is not the way I would choose to live. I told my Studly Hubby later that it was fine for a weekend but if I moved in permanently with this guy I would have to stand in the living room and scream for a while and then spend a week cleaning everything and 'womanizing' the apartment before I could live there. My Studly Hubby gently noted that every bachelor friend of his lives like that.

The lesson I learned is this: men live like this. They aren't malicious or unkind or even aware that women then have to clean the apartment and fill it with nice things and food etc. in order to tolerate it. Men just don't do that stuff on their own, ever. The second lesson I learned is that there is a wide range for how clean a house must be for guests. I think I was giving way too much importance to the appearance of my place for my guests - perhaps I was paying too much attention to these articles I read in 'O the Oprah Magazine' suggesting you leave a carafe of ice water and tumblers by your guest's bed and tuck a scented bag of potpourri under the sheets and provide slippers as a take-home gift etc. For the kinds of friends I have (or would like to have), this is totally unnecessary.

Now I'm going to go trash my house and drink some booze and go bed and not worry about it at all. Or maybe I'll skip going to bed and just head down the street to the bar to watch some soccer.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Seattle...!

After much vigorous searching and aggressive lease-grabbing, we finally found an apartment in a part of Seattle called Wallingford, which is a cute, quiet, fun neighborhood very close to UW (U-Dub). It's about a ten minute walk on a pretty trail along the water-front, which sort of reminds me of my walk to the U of M on the Mississippi River - these are the things you have to really get lucky to have. Wallingford is an impossible neighborhood to get rentals in - it's mostly very expensive houses (reminds me of Prospect Park in Minneapolis), and only a few of the houses have been split into apartments. One house we went to during an 'open house' had about thirty young hopeful-looking people milling around (we didn't even bother filling out an application). The place we finally got is "Garden Level," meaning it is halfway underground, but this fault made it easier to get (although the guy had already had about four calls at the time of our viewing - which was less than 24 hrs after it was posted). Fortunately it has full-size windows on all four sides and it seemed to get plenty of light (although probably not as much as a 2nd level place). But, you gotta do what you gotta do to get into the good neighborhoods. The lease terms were also great, and the price and ammenities, and it's bigger than the place we have now which will be fun (it's a two-bdr, so feel free to come visit us, we have room for you!).

We also stopped by my 'Seattle' lab today and I got along with everybody really well which was a relief. I was too nervous during my interview to tell how well I got along with anybody, although I had met my boss at a meeting prior to the interview and got along fine with him then. Two of the guys in the lab live only a few blocks away from our new apt (in the 2nd floor of a house - maybe we can nab that place whenever they leave... or if they were to suddenly change their minds about where they wanted to live... hmmm....).

Due to my husband's rigorous school schedule we have opted to fly back to Mpls early (for only $140 - although we'll save about $100 on the rental car) and thus will be leaving early tomorrow morning instead of Wednesday evening. This will give me some extra time to set up utilities for our new apt, a daunting task. We also need to figure out how to move our stuff, and when, and then start scheduling that stuff.

And one other big thing on my plate right now... my mom is moving and we need to sell my horse. He's a beautiful, wonderful, polite, loving and loyal arabian gelding moving into his geriatric years (although not too geriatric) and has already attracted three prospective buyers just on his good looks alone. Since we can be picky about the buyers, we are... I have made them all send me pictures of where he will live and have emailed them about what kind of life he will have. They are all very good but also very different. It's going to be a hard decision. I wish I could ask my horse what he would want for himself. I think he's mad at me for selling him, so he may not give me a very good answer. He doesn't really like change. He's kind of like me that way. Or maybe that's just my interpretation.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Off to Seattle

Tomorrow we are off to Seattle to look for apartments. I've been shopping online but it's very disorienting when you are so far away - the neighborhoods don't mean too much to me and the street names mean even less, and we are hazy on what kind of price range to search in. We've decided to wait until we get there to make appointments (we are staying until Wednesday so should have enough time) so that we can drive around and get familiar with things. We are hoping to scout out some good Mexican and seafood too (maybe even some Mexican Seafood!). We have been wondering whether to buy something ever since we started thinking about moving and have changed our minds almost every week. For now, we must rent - we need to learn the city and my Studly Hubby is still finishing school and job-hunting in a new field - 3D animation. Meanwhile, we've learned that renting is a little more expensive than here (at least in the good neighborhoods) and buying is a lot more expensive than here (although possibly more profitable), and the weather seems much milder than here and a bit rainy.

If we have any extra time while we're there I may go shopping for a raincoat and umbrella. And maybe a new flannel shirt. I need to start molding myself into the new "Seattle J-Funk."

Hot Yoga (Bikram Yoga)


I would like to post here a description and review of Hot Yoga for those of you who may be looking for such.

Hot Yoga was started by a East Indian guy named something-Bikram (picture above, he trained with the brother of something-Yogananda, founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship) who thought it would be neat to do yoga in a super-hot room (105F) and figured out some specific poses that are done in a specific order which he claims is good for you in a variety of ways. You can find a basic description and links to lots of articles at their official website.

The class is 90 minutes, about half standing and half on the floor, and is 26 poses designed such that you stretch and strengthen pretty much every muscle and joint in your body. The heat allows much deeper stretching and also elevates your heart rate making this much more of an aerobic challenge than a regular yoga class.

Here's a newcomer's perspective: the heat is hard to take, but also kind of welcome to a stiff (or injured) body. You get a little used to it, but have to drink an enormous amount of water to make up for it - I can only take it once a week or less although a lot of people do it every day and must just drink loads of water. The teachers are extremely well-trained and walk around the room correcting people and making sure nobody is doing anything wrong, so it is actually pretty good for beginners. The poses also have several versions that go from easy to very hard so everyone can take it at their own pace - although the studio I go to (Bikram College of India Minneapolis) is very intense, and the teachers constantly encorage you to try harder so a beginner has to take care to not push too far.

I went in with a stiff and injured hip from teaching too many spin classes and came out feeling much better - the deep heated stretching was just what it needed. My flexibility also increased tremendously with only a few classes, and my strength and posture improved also. I love the intensity and longer class format but can see how it's not for everyone. Most studios allow you to pay for just one class so if you're curious I encourage you to try it - you can easily sit down and take a break if it gets to be too much for you (many people in the class sit out poses due to injuries or simply because they need a break). If you do start going regularly I have found that just one class per week (or less) makes a tremendous difference in my health so honestly it doesn't take much. And if you love it you can go every day and then I can call YOU crazy!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Mopinator

I have an Official Blog Fan, although I don't think I'm the only blog this person reads. I tracked them down using my super-sweet Site Meter, which tells me how people get onto my blog, and I noticed some people were getting onto my blog through a link on somebody else's blog - so naturally I went there to check out the situation. Usually when this happens it's my dad's blog or more rarely a friend of mine's blog but this time it was a TOTAL STRANGER (I think), which makes it very fun. I don't advertise my blog heavily so this is new territory for me - although don't get me wrong, I get lots of strangers visiting my blog, I've just never been linked by a total stranger (or at least, not that I know of). And my oh my, I am so flattered (blushes)!

Gotta Get Back To It

Post-graduation bliss is over and I'm back in the lab slaving away trying to get those last few experiments (and a whole bunch more) done before I leave in July. I have an entire undergrad assigned to me to help me get it done and he's hard-working, quiet and not easily distracted which makes him perfect for me, plus I already trained him in last year so he knows his stuff (or some of his stuff anyway). I abused him as much as I could this week so hopefully he comes back next week. The problem is, he requires a decent amount of supervision (due to the nature of his projects) which makes me constantly feel like I'm multi-tasking.

I also brought home an armload of boxes to start packing up our place, and they are sitting in the living room pleasantly waiting for my attention. With the boxes, we are finally starting to look like we might be moving.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Post Tornado Tour: Iowa City

I was given a guided tour of post-tornado Iowa City over Memorial Day weekend when I was there. It was a bit of a wreck, although I was told things are in a lot better shape now than right after. The spots of chaos were surprisingly narrow; the shingles of a house here, a missing Happy Joes over there, a ruined church a few blocks over... The really bad spot from what I could tell was down at the end of Iowa Avenue, near Woodlawn (the other end from the Old Capital), where there was about a four-block span of damaged houses... this is where the sorority was that got badly hit and quite a few old beautiful houses that were being rented out. Apparently they had a second tornado scare yesterday afternoon and the whole city went in their basements for a few hours... what would the chances be of them getting hit twice? One in a kajillion? Thankfully the one yesterday was a false alarm.

Ultra Speedy KT

My friend Speedy KT (now known as the Crazed Lunatic) ran an ultra marathon last weekend. This is a double marathon (52 miles) and takes about 12 hours for a well-trained athlete and several years if you're me. This particular one was at Lake Nokomis (which explains why she wasn't there when I accidentally drove to Lake Harriett to cheer her on - stupid 10,000 lakes in Minnesota, I can never figure out which one is where all the action is at). My friend whipped everyone and got SECOND PLACE of the women, then went out afterwards and robbed a Kentucky Fried Chicken and ate everything in their stockroom.

Go KT Go!!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Naked States Tour


We just watched an excellent documentary about Spencer Tunick, a photographer who made it big by photographing naked people in public places. Probably his most well-known work is a nice picture of about 50 people standing naked in Grand Central Station. In the documentary (made by HBO, click here for the official website and here for the unofficial website) he tours the US, taking naked pictures in all the states, at famous monuments or downtown in some large city (i.e. Boston) or not so large city (Iowa City! The picture was taken at the Handi-Mart on Market with the corn growing out front). He even got over a thousand people to get naked for him at a Phish concert, and an entire artist's colony to get naked for him out in the desert. The funny thing is that a lot of times where he has the person get naked is very public and therefore illegal, so they have to be fast - he gets it set up (often with people helping), then he yells, "GO!" and everyone strips, runs out onto the street and assumes their pose, he snaps the camera for a minute or two, then he yells, "DONE!" and they all run off to find their clothes. He has been arrested on numerous occasions (although only once was naked himself, when he took pictures at a nudist colony - they invited him).

The surprising thing was that many of the photographs were truly amazing. He finds beautiful composition and forms and even though many of the photos are shocking, or shockingly public, they are also breathtaking.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

A Scattergood Graduation

Although I couldn't make it to both my brother's graduations (I had my own graduation to get together and attend), I had the pleasure of going to one of them - my brother A's graduation, which was at a very unique place called Scattergood.

My brother A has gone to Scattergood for the last four years. This is a private boarding school (although my brother is a day student - meaning he's one of only a few people there who actually lives close enough to commute). It's located out on a farm near West Branch in Iowa, and is a Quaker school but is also a small hippie farm school. Coincidentally, my dad worked there a few years when I was a little tyke, so I have some childhood history with the place. Classes at Scattergood are extremely small and specialized and often unique (they can take classes like Farm Project, Banned Books, Fencing, and Bike Trip). The school itself only has about 50 students, most of whom live there, so they all become very close. In addition, because it's a Quaker school, they attend Quaker worship every week and learn to speak their minds in the manner of Quaker open worship (there is no one pastor, the people are the pastors).

In accordance with this Quaker affiliation, Scattergood's graduation ceremony has no "host" or speeches, but instead is an 'open worship' where the students, parents and teachers have an opportunity to stand up and say whatever they like to the everyone in attendance. After about ten minutes of total silence (seriously), people did just this. It started with a few of the Scattergood staff, who are probably better at this kind of thing than the rest of us, but then the parents joined in and even some of the high school students. My dad's wedding was done this same way, and the problem with this format is that as soon as someone says something emotional, everyone starts crying and then it snowballs into a big crying fest. It's probably a lot more meaningful than the traditional graduation (or wedding) ceremonies, and I certainly felt obliged to put in my two-cents worth and was happy to be able to do it. It was amazing to hear some of the parents stories, too, and made me feel much closer to this community that I wish I could have known better.

I've put in some pictures from the event:

Topmost picture:
My brother A just after graduation, demonstrating how he got through the last week of finals, constant social engagements including at least two overnights, a big family party and all the graduation events.

2nd down: Some members of my brother's class (they were lining up for pictures). They traditionally are each given a rose, and a very pretty diploma that is handwritten on parchment paper and signed by all the staff at Scattergood in the traditionally Quaker manner. They also did not wear caps or gowns, but instead simply dressed as they chose.

3rd down:
My brother giving his good friend and classmate a piggy-back ride. These two have been close since their freshman year, and my brother even had the opportunity to go to China for a summer to visit his friend's family and stay with them. There are quite a few international students at Scattergood which creates many opportunities for international travel in addition to the ones provided by the school.

Bottom picture:
My brother being carried off into the sunset by his good friend from the above picture.

What an event! I really wish I could have been to both of my brothers graduations, but at least I got to go to one. I was also very happy to finally experience the amazing Scattergood graduation ceremony and finally see what all the hubbub was about.

Pictures courtesy of my Studly Hubby, who is (thankfully) always handy with the camera, and very good at catching those special moments.

Congratulations!




Here's a big congratulations to a couple of happy graduates! My two brothers, A (above, holding his diploma and his high school's traditional 'graduation rose') and J (below - looking at the camera) both graduated from high school a few weeks ago and I am SO PROUD of both of them. J was valedictorian (oh my!) and gave a speech on how important parents are, and A demonstrated a high level of class and kinship within his tightly-knit school. They are both very handsome too! They make a sister proud.