Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rain, Rain, Don't Come Back

It rained here for about 1 week straight. We finally got sunny, but cold weather. I don't care if it keeps raining. I kind of like the rain since it's usually warmer when it's rainy. Last night was cold. We keep the heater thermostat at 50 F so it won't turn on (since it's so inefficient), but it turned on a few times during the night. Major and Sluggo snuggled themselves between the husband and me, trying to leech our warmth.

Monday night we had our indoor semi-final game and we lost. We were sure we were going to win and advance to the championship game later that night so we scheduled a party between games. Instead of it being a between-game charge-up, it was an end-of-season party. We lost pretty badly too - 8-3 (or something like that). After ending the season undefeated, it was sad to loose so badly to a team we had beaten before. But at least I scored!

I had posted previously that I did not think glamorous celebrations were appropriate in sports, especially in pro-football. I don't necessarily think they should be illegal, but I do have more respect for a player that scores a touchdown and then just hands the ball back to the ref and jogs off the field like it was nothing. When I score in soccer, I tend to jog back to midfield for the kick-off. However, Monday night we were down 5-1 when I scored and threw my hands up in celebration and relief. When I got back to midfield and my teammates cheered me, I threw my hands up again. So when Wes Welker and Randy Moss score their touchdowns this coming weekend, I will celebrate with them.

So my ribs feel much better. I finally took Advil and they felt better almost instantly. Imagine that. Advil, the miracle drug.

Sometimes people do things that don't make sense to me. I made invitations for a family friend's daughter's Quinceñera. I told them I would mail them out for her if she would give me a list of addresses. But she said she would hand deliver them so that I wouldn't have to wast money on stamps. What?! What about the money wasted on gas to drive all over town and the time (time is money!) it will take to hand deliver 50 invites. For me time is the critical thing and I would rather spend 41 cents to send something off and forget about it. You can always get more money but time runs out.

We are in the middle of re-watching HBO's Rome, season 2. That's a great show. We were bummed that it got canceled after only 2 seasons. One of the viewing options it to turn on notes that pop-up during the episode and give trivia on Roman life and history. They are very good. For example, did you know that Romans could keep ice for a few days in holes in the ground? It was obviously only something that very rich people could have. Pee was also saved and sold which aided in the treatment of animal hydes (I think it was the ammonia or something like that in the pee). Anyway, so I was looking for the Caesar's eulogy given by Mark Antony (it is referenced in the show), but all I find are Shakespeare's versions. I don't know how accurate that is. You know that famous Shakespearean line from Caesar's murder: "Et tu, Brute"? Well, it turns out that historians don't agree on whether or not Caesar spoke as he lay dying on the senate floor. Maybe I'll look up some Caesarian historian and see if I can get the eulogy from them.

You know how the stereotypical wife is usually exasperating her husband by constantly going out shoe and purse shopping? Well, for me it's house stuff. I'm always looking for stuff that will make our place more organized, especially our kitchen. I don't usually go crazy but I will admit that we could do without most of the kitchen toys we have. So when I recently gently suggested to my husband that he should stop buying video games, he came back with the thought that maybe I should stop buying house AND craft stuff. Damn! I probably have enough craft stuff to keep me going for a while, but I'll have to only daydream about getting an ice cream machine and some more, pretty kitchen towels.

Well, I've been working on this post long enough so I better just stop here. But I have a lot more thoughts and now I just need to find the time to get them on the blogosphere.

Monday, January 28, 2008


There's a spy satellite that may contain hazardous materials that has fallen out of orbit and is heading towards impact with earth. They don't know where on the planet it might fall. Even with computers. What surprises me the most is that

"Numerous satellites over the years have come out of orbit and fallen harmlessly."

Really? Where was I? I don't remember hearing about these. I do remember when Cassini went into orbit in the late 90's and there was a big uproar because the satellite contained plutonium (for power). It had a 1 in a million chance of falling back to earth (the chance of plutonium being released during takeoff was much greater) and yet everyone was freaking out. And now we've had a bunch of satellites that have fallen back to earth, and I didn't hear anything about them. I must have missed something.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Soccer (and Wine) Weekend

This past weekend I was at the Paso Robles soccer tournament with the spring tournament girls team I help coach. Paso Robles is in the central California coast, prime wine country (remember Sideways??). I tried to convince the husband to go with me so that we could go wine tasting, but he stayed home to work on his book (which is almost done!!!).

The girls did a great job. They came out strong and aggressive. The central California area does not have club soccer, only AYSO or recreational soccer. Club soccer is a lot more competitive and you have to tryout for a team and commit. While AYSO lasts a couple of months in the fall and everyone plays ½ the game, club soccer is year round and you have to be good otherwise you sit on the bench. So, without this club presence in the central coast area, the AYSO teams are very good. And our girls came out and played their hearts out..they won the first game 2-1 and lost the second two games 0-1. This is by far the best a team has done in this tournament.

Between games I went wine tasting. There are probably 100’s of wineries in the area, but I only had time to go to two: Sylvester and Firestone. When I was looking up wineries, Sylvester sounded interesting. It turned out to be a small winery with some great wine for the money. They had the best Zinfandel I’ve ever tasted, and it was only $9/bottle. I also got a sparkling white wine and another red. Firestone was a name I recognized. I’m sure I’ve tried the wine or at least seen the bottles at Costco. The tasting room was much bigger as was their attitude. The tasting fee was $5 and it was not waved with a purchase because I got a big wine glass with the Firestone logo on it. And, I was limited to trying 6 wines. I guess $5 is cheap compared to Napa, but I don’t want to pay to taste your wine, especially if I’m going to buy, and I don’t want a glass with the Firestone logo on it. As I went through my tasting, following their tasting menu guide, I skipped over a red (because I was driving and had soccer to coach later) and discovered a $60 bottle on their list called The Ambassador. I asked if I could try that, and after they confirmed that I had only tried 5 wines (remember my 6 tastes limit), they poured a tiny amount of wine into my glass – it was less than a gulp of wine. How pathetic.

In other soccer news, our indoor team finished in first place and so playoffs start next week. I played a coed outdoor game last week and got injured. I was always nervous about playing coed because of the guys, but in this game, the women played dirty. They often went for a body shot instead of going to the ball. During an attack, as I was running down the middle of the field, looking for a cross, the defender just ran into me from behind and I fell and skidded on the Astroturf. It was painful. In another case, a defender just ran into me and I heard cracking in my ribs. I know I didn’t fracture a rib because it’s not super painful, but it’s still quite sore (a week later!) and it hurts to stretch out or breath deeply. I guess I’ll just wait it out a few more days and hope it gets better. I’ll start taking some Advil and see if that helps.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Albuquerque and Other Highlights

The AmeriSuites I always stay at was converted to The Hyatt Place. It's a lot nicer now. The beds are comfy with a down comforter and lots of down pillows. The little soaps and toiletries are a quality brand and smell nice. The body soap even has nubs on it for a massaging lather. Everything in the rooms is brand new and very modern looking. The best part is the 42" flat screen tv in every room. The downsides are that they removed the microwaves (which are useful during long stays) from the rooms and their internet was down in my room. When I complained they said their internet was down and there was no way to access the internet for a few days. I asked my colleague who was also staying at the hotel and she said she had internet access. I complained again ("I am on business travel, I need internet access.") and they changed me to another room that also didn't have internet access. I am pretty sure it wasn't my computer with the problem, but I decided I didn't want to be bothered with it so I roughed it for a couple of nights without internet access.

Albuquerque has a lot of good food. For being a small city in the middle of nowhere, it has a decent culinary selection. The best Italian meal I've had was at Scalo in Albuquerque. The restaurant is even listed as a top Italian restaurant in the US in Southwest's Spirit Magazine. There's a sushi bar across the street from the hotel I stay at and that is always good. But the best thing about the Albuquerque food scene is the roasted green chillies. They are in everything from sushi rolls to pasta and even in fast food like McDonald's and Pizza Hut. We love having them on burgers (either meat or veggie) with avocado slices, cheese, onion, and salsa (I like a tomato salsa and the husband likes Newman's Black Bean Salsa). I brought back three bags of frozen chillies so we are set for a few months.

I also discovered that our local brew-pub, the Tied House, is also listed as one of the top brew-pubs in the nation in the Spirit Magazine. That's definitely our favorite restaurant and we tend to go there once a week, even if it's only to refill our growler -- $6 for about 5 pints of fresh beer. Good deal!

I've been very busy with soccer lately, either playing or coaching. I am once again coaching a girls', under 14 team. It's the all-star or select tournament team from the group of girls that played last season. I am assistant coach and I wasn't sure how that would turn out. I am a bit of a control freak (I'm working on that) and I thought it would be hard to not be the one running practice. I was especially wary when the head coach asked for more assistant coach volunteers and a couple of dads signed up. But so far it's been awesome. The head coach is great about delegating and usually all the assistant coaches get a group of girls and we end up running our own mini-practice and the girls rotate through the different stations. At the last practice I worked with the goalies.

Our first tournament is this weekend in Paso Robles -- wine tasting, baby! We got a crappy schedule with middle of the day games so we won't get to do as much wine drinking as I would like. I hear there's an electric bull at the restaurant where we will have dinner on Saturday night. Maybe there will be pictures later.

I am still playing indoor coed soccer on Monday nights and we just finished an undefeated season. Playoffs start next week. Tonight I am going to go play outdoor coed with an indoor teammate. The game will be at a nice astroturf field under the lights. I am nervous, however, because I tore my ACL during the very first coed game I played. It wasn't an impact injury but I have still been hesitant to play coed. The guys can be rough. But since indoor coed is going well, I hope this will also be a friendly environment. So I have a lot of soccer going on and I love it!

We had our friend Sumana stay with us last night. It was great to see her again. She is the most cat allergic guest we've ever had and it didn't look like she was too miserable. The kitties were intrigued but they kept her distance (except for Major who scratched at her closed door at midnight). Sumana and my husband watched my indoor game last night (and he didn't bring a book) and then we went out for Thai. I think we've found another restaurant jewel within a 2 mile radius from our home. It was a small hole-in-the-wall place with great food and service. Granted, we got there about 20 minutes before they closed so we were the only patrons in the restaurant. Still they were all very nice and attentive to us and the chef even came out to talk to us about some of the dishes and sauces he made. When I think of a hole-in-the-wall, mom-and-pop place I think of an old establishment that hasn't been remodeled (and maybe cleaned) in years, but this place, while it was in a tiny strip mall, was brand new and very well done. And the food was amazing. The menu included Thai and Vietnamese but we all got Thai food. I like Thai more than Indian food now.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Viva Las Vegas

I have a plane change in Vegas. So I decided to gamble a bit. I committed $5 and played the 5 card draw machines. I tended to bet $0.50 at a time which I think worked pretty good since I kept getting 2 pairs. At one point in time I was up to $7 and rarely fell below $5. That is until I decided to stop playing as soon as I got back up over $6 -- I didn't win another hand. I though about closing out when I was down to $3 but ended up going for it. I got pretty bored at $1.50 and quickly lost the rest of my money. So $5 for 15 minutes of amusement? Not necessarily a good deal. $5 for 15 minutes of amusement at the Las Vegas airport? Good deal. It's cheaper than the oxygen tables.

The scenery flying from San Jose to Las Vega was beautiful. I really wish I had brought my camera with me. The Bay Area was super green from all the rain we've been getting (I love this time of year) and since the sun was barely coming up, there was beautiful light reflecting off the oranges and yellows of my Southwest plane. We flew over part of the Rockies (it was quite turbulent at this point) and the snow on the mountains looked fluffy and undisturbed -- kind of like freshly whipped cream.

It's hump day! Only a couple more days till the weekend!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Travel Notes

Our holiday trip to Boston was a lot of fun and I am glad we went. The travel sucked, but it usually does (the only exception was flying first class to Mexico this summer; the first class trip home wasn't as good). When we go on long trips, we usually take our horseshoe pillows which actually work pretty good at enabling sleep. We got these on our way home from Costa Rica last year and they were cheap construction but pricey and worth it. When we retire these, I'll invest in a good quality pillow. I recommend them for long travel when you want to nap.

Before the trip I also loaded up my iPod with a bunch of NPR podcasts (mostly Fresh Air). That, along with Crichton's State of Fear (a very timely Christmas gift from my dad), made the flights so much more tolerable.

This winter we've been using our slippers a lot more than usual (it's cold in CA). So I decided to pack them for our trip. I am soooo glad I did because that's all I wore at my in-laws' house. They were great. When we went to a friend's house for a New Year's Eve party, I took my slippers with me and changed out of my uncomfortable boots as soon as I walked in the door. It was great. If I lived in New England, I would take my slippers everywhere with me.

One culinary note: New England knows how to cook burgers. Most of the burgers we had on our trip were cooked correctly when we specified medium or medium-rare. Plus, New England likes to use grass-fed, free range meat, so they made some tasty burgers. Kudos.

Everything here is back to normal. I had an indoor game last night (at 10 pm!) and it went well. I was extremely tired from the late start time and lack of fitness (that's what happens when I travel), but I still managed to play a good game. I played forward and one of the players on the other team kept yelling at his defender to mark me tight: "Wherever she goes, you go. I want you less than 5 feet away from her." I love it when that happens.

Our grad school friend keeps a good journal of all the places he travels. And he's been everywhere: Greece, India, China. Check out his latest Thailand trip journal and pics.

I'm off to New Mexico tomorrow on business travel. Happy Tuesday!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Ode to Brady

In general I don't care about football. I think it's a very dangerous sport and I hate how it takes money and attention from sports I think are more elegant and satisfying--mainly soccer. But this NFL season I have been a big fan of the New England Patriots. My husband is from the Boston area and he grew up watching the Patriots play, back when they really sucked. The past few years the Patriots have been really good, but my husband was still not really interested (he would catch a game every once in a while and we would watch the super bowl, but that's it).

This year, however, he went crazy about the Patriots. I think the turning point was when they signed Randy Moss. I remember him telling me the news, but I didn't think too much about it. When the season began and my husband was truly interested, I was surprised, but also excited. So I put aside my intolerance for football. Watching the games every weekend gave us something to do together. Plus, I am very competitive so it was fun to partake in a sport event with him, even if it meant that as the 12th and 13th players of the Patriots we would merely scream at the tv and drink lots of beer.

As the season progressed, I began to enjoy the games even more. I was impressed with the skill, hard work, and elegance in the Patriots' game. I still think football is a very dangerous sport, but I respect the mental discipline and physical capacity required to play the game. I am surprised there aren't many fist fights in a game. The players go from pushing, shoving, and tackling, pumped with adrenaline, to stopped play and helping each other up at the sound of a whistle.

I found an article at SI today written by Ross Tucker, a former Patriot. Tucker's article describes what he thinks are the 5 keys to the Patriots' success. Among them are Tom Brady.

"'During my time in New England I worked as a backup lineman and often had to snap to Brady while playing center. In spite of all of the other chaos that he had to sort through, he always found the time to look me squarely in the eye and say, "C'mon Ross, me and you, let's get a great snap first.'

I never wanted to snap a ball so well in my life.

Sure, you can't really have one thing make or break a team. It's important to have good coaching, good recruiting, good players in all the positions. But in football, more than any other team sport I can think of right now, the quarterback is the single most important player on the team and everything else that needs to be right culminates in that position and player. Most plays start with the quarterback. It doesn't matter that you have someone calling the right plays or that your offensive line gives you all the time in the world or that you have 3 people open and waiting for the ball, if you can't stand up to the pressure and be creative and make the right plays, everything else doesn't matter. So I definitely have a lot of respect for Tom Brady as a quarterback, athlete, and team leader.

With that said, I would definitely list Bill Belichick as essential to the Patriots' success. A good coach will do his homework and mold a team's talent. I am impressed with Belichick's love of football and winning. He doesn't mess around. But I wonder how much of his success is due to the fact that he is divorced? I don't know much about Belichick's personal life, but I assume it's close to nothing. I don't think you can be so successful at anything unless you give a lot more time than required to do the job well. This is true in general. I was not a successful researcher because I did not want to spend 80 hours a week in my lab. I always had something else I preferred to do with my time. I am not trying to little Belichick's work or success, but I was honestly wondering how important it is for Belichick to dedicate so much time to coaching or if he is a true genius.

Another thing I was wondering about football was whether or not football players needed help to get dressed before games. I posed the question to my husband and he looked at me like I had grown a second head. I think it's a valid question. It looks like all the padding and equipment needs to fit together properly and I can't imagine it being one piece that can just be slipped over the head. In the least, they must have a very specific order for putting stuff on, like socks and shoes before upper body armor.

One final football note...I am not a big fan of the post-touchdown celebrations. I kind of enjoy soccer celebrations but I find spiking a football pretty stupid. I think it's much classier to toss the football to the ref and walk off the field like it was nothing. But that's just me.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

It's Raining Cats and Dogs

The trip home from the Northeast was mostly uneventful, apart from Southwest leaving one of our bags somewhere along the way (I'm thinking Phoenix). So after we waited about 30 minutes at baggage claim for our third bag, we complained at the baggage claim office. They were fairly responsive and our bag was delivered the next afternoon to my work. One thing I noticed about lost baggage delivery is that the two times that one of my bags has been lost, when it gets delivered, it's always been a woman carrying my big, heavy bag to my door.

All the kitties were very happy to have us home. Sluggo, the white one, has been very lovey and he's been following me around all over the house. Noodles, the three-legged pirate, was very wary of me the first day, but as soon as we started using our electric blanket, he warmed up to us. Monkey was out the door even before we were able to get our suitcases in the house. And I think Major is upset we are home since we removed the constant-food feeder and replaced it with three feedings a day. We started the diet about 1.5 months ago, and I really thought Major was looking thinner. However, after three days of having food constantly available, I think he put the pounds (and maybe even more) back on.

We arrived to torrential downpour and wind. It's been nonstop for over a day now. This afternoon it finally stopped and we got some sunshine for a couple of hours. Monkey was very upset with the rain. I am sure she thinks we are to blame.

I feel much better. I don't have strep throat. The first thing I noticed when I got off the plane was the humidity in the air. The cold, dry New England air really aggravated my throat.

It will be a quiet weekend without a football game to watch. The Patriots have a bye this weekend since they are so awesome.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Year's Resolution, Day 2

Day 2! I am still feeling crappy. I think I have strep throat. I have a doctor's appointment on Fri. morning, so I'll find out then. Between now and then I have a 13 hour trip home, door-to-door. Ugh!

I just saw an ad on tv for airbrush makeup. That's probably the same thing that morticians use to prepare a body for viewing.

Here are some great pictures my brother-in-law took of my husband and I playing in the snow. Here I am taking aim:

I nail the husband right where it hurts:

I dodge a snowball, The Matrix style:

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's Resolution, Day 1

I am very proud of myself for keeping my New Year's Resolution this long. How many people do you think made it past the first few hours of the new year?

I am still feeling a little ill. I am stuffy and my throat is extremely sore - it hurts to swallow. Yuck! I want to get better ASAP because we have a 9+ hour trip home. Damn Southwest and their hubs.

It snowed most of the afternoon today. It was quite a pretty sight. When I get m pictures uploaded, I will try to post an image. When the temperature is not too cold, snow flakes tend to clump and they appear bigger, than when it is colder.

I just took some NyQuil and Benadryl, so I am off to bed.