6/29/07 The Bad Apple

If you've seen my sister's confessions of a 4th grade sociopath, then you'll realize that it's true that she is the "bad" sister. I can honestly say that I've never deliberately snapped a pencil in half. In fact, there's only been a few times that I EVER got in trouble in school (because I am the good child, and have a healthy respect for the rules). The only big time I ended up on the wrong side of the law was in first grade. Ms. Davis had a poster that had a picture of an apple on it for every student in the class. Everyone's name was printed neatly on their picture of a shining red apply with obligatory smiley face on it. Every week, you started out with a clean shiny apple. If you were bad, then Ms. Davis would glue a Styrofoam "worm" (aka packing peanut) onto your apple. (I'm guessing the point was that you were now a "bad apple"). If you made it through the whole week without a worm, then you got to get a prize out of the "treasure chest" (which consisted almost entirely of shiny new pencils). I had quite the new pencil collection because I am, of course, the good child. (It's a good thing that Steph hadn't gone through her pencil snapping phase then, because heads would have rolled!). Anyway, one day Ms. Davis had to run up to the office, so she assigned a class monitor to take names. (Ohhhh, the power of a name taker! No talking or you got your name written up on the board! Repeat offenders got a check mark! A check mark! I am still convinced to this day that a check mark by your name on the board practically guarantees that you are going to grow up to be a criminal). I, of course, never got my name on the board. (And was smugly superior about it too).

Anyway, the problem started when Ms. Davis left the room and the name taker announced that he did not care if anyone talked, he was not going to put anyone's name on the board! Can you imagine! A complete disregard for the rules! Not taking names AND allowing talking! (That never would have happened if Ms. Davis had put me in charge). The class in general, however, thought that this was a wonderful idea, and the noise level immediately skyrocketed. I knew that when Ms. Davis came back, she would be mad. And I wanted to make it very clear when she did that I was not part of this rule-breaking foolishness! So I left the class, and waited for Ms. Davis outside the room. Unfortunately, Ms. Davis neglected to mention on her list of class rules that leaving the classroom and loitering outside was also not allowed. And she was not at all pleased to come back and find me waiting by the door. Not. At. All. And then...SHE GLUED A WORM TO MY APPLE! My apple! My beautiful, shiny, clean apple! Marred by a worm! Worse, I was now a bad kid! Destined for a life of crime! Never to amount to anything! Forever going through life with a scarlet worm sewn to my chest. Oh the humiliation!

I couldn't even bear to look at my beautiful apple anymore. I was sick to my stomach the whole week about that worm. The worst was on Friday, when it was time for the "good apples" to go up to the treasure box to get their pencils. No pencil for me though. I would just sit in my seat and quietly die of shame. There is a happy ending though. Amazingly, Ms. Davis called my name to go up to the treasure box! I couldn't believe it! I was frozen in my seat! The kid behind me quickly (and loudly) pointed out that I couldn't go up; I had a worm, but Ms. Davis answered that because I was being very good now, she would let me get a pencil. Cheating, I know, but I believe that it was Ms. Davis's way of admitting that she may have come down a little hard on me for breaking a rule that technically wasn't ever made clear to us. What she just didn't understand though was that it was never about the was about being proud of my apple, and that apple died a little bit the day I got the worm. Of course, as soon as I came in Monday morning, my apple was clean and fresh again along with everyone else's. But I never left my seat again without specifically being asked.

And to this day I still despise those little worm shaped packing peanuts.

You like me! You really like me!

207 visitors! 207 real live visitors have made it to Quirky is a Compliment already for the month of June! (And June isn't even over yet!) 94 new people and 113 returning people have very thoughtfully fulfilled my goal of reaching at least 201 hits this month! Bless you, Quirky visitors! Whether you came here on purpose or you're that person who did a google search for "eye twitch+nutrisystem" and ended up here instead, (and if you are, I'm sorry, because it sounds like you're really having some issues) I'm glad you could make it. Of course, we'll have to beat June's total during July, so you'll have to keep coming back (and bring a friend!) but I'm sure that you're up for the challenge. (And pay no attention to the fact that this sounds like a pyramid scheme...your friends will thank you for introducing them to Quirky). Now, if you could just work on visiting AND leaving a comment...

Additional note: The final count for the end of June 2007 was 246 hits! Rock on wit'cho bad selves!


There's an article in the New York Times (oooooh, be impressed that I'm so well read!) called The National Pastime by David Brooks. You can read the article here, but the gist is that people are now using sperm banks to shop for genetic superiority for their children. You can now custom build your offspring to be smart, beautiful, healthy, tall, and athletic. Does your family suffer from generations of pasty white skin? You can even shop profiles for "tannability", so your child will be able to bronze effortlessly. (I'm serious! Go read the article. Then read Huxley's Brave New World). Of course, with all this genetic shopping, you lose a lot of the diversity, like everyone under 5'9", or people with green eyes, or dark hair, or male pattern baldness. The good news is, your kid looks just like Brad Pitt. The bad news is, so does everybody else's. Sure, Brad looks good now, but he kinds loses his appeal when there's a million other Brads to choose from also. And according to these genetic ebays, there is quite the demand for blond haired, blue eyed, athletic people who are smart. (The Harvard newspaper runs ads for eggs from Harvard-attending females. The going sale price is $50,000). I have just one thing to say to that:

I've officially decided to put my sister up for sale.

Why settle for an egg when you could buy the entire sister? She's blond haired, blue eyed, athletic and at Harvard. (Of course, you'll also get her pasty white skin, and freakishly long toes, but buyer beware, ya know?) I'll even throw in her hubby, who also has blue eyes, is tall, and likes to cook. Both of them for one low price...that's a great package deal! Contact me with your bid price.

(I've gotta say though, as cool as The Stepher is, I wouldn't really want more than one of them around. Trust me on this one. I grew up with her once. Think twice before you want a house-full).

Another thing that bothers me about this whole genetic coding (other than it smacks of Hitler's whole "superior race" thing)? It totally takes the environment out of the equation. And personal drive and perseverance. There's nothing saying that your kid is going to Harvard if you went to Harvard. There's nothing saying that your kid will even want to finish the 4th grade. A whole lot of it is how you raise him, and the values that you as a parent instill in him, and his own personal dedication. And if those are the deciding factors to success, does it really matter what color his eyes are?

I say let nature make the choice. If you end up being, say, a blog writer with green eyes and dark hair and big feet, then so be it. Celebrate your quirkiness! Embrace it! It's important to be unique! That's why I've decided to take The Stepher officially off the market.

Baby Beavers!

Quirky here, coming to you once again with insider Knoxville Zoo information that you just won't find anywhere else!

At approximately 4pm on Saturday, Tony received a call that the new baby beavers in Kids Cove had been born! (Of course, he wasn't carrying his phone at the time, so he didn't actually listen to the message until Sunday morning, but as soon as we heard it we had to rush right over to see them).

Beatrice Beaver and Bevo Beaver are the proud new parents of 3 little baby beavers! The new additions effectively double the beaver population at the zoo. (You can snicker, but this is a family blog, so keep your beaver jokes to yourself please).

Anyway, the baby beavers are about the size of Beanie Babies, and kind of resemble small guinea pigs, except that their little fur sticks out all over, so think guinea pig with a 'fro. They are soooo cute! (As soon as I get pictures, I'll post them).

Currently, the entire Beaver family is locked in the den, which has been closed off to the public until the new arrivals have had a chance to settle in. (Zoo sources say that they expect the den door to be unlocked sometime this week to allow access to the water again. No word yet on when Beatrice Beaver will teach the new babies to swim).

Tony is very bummed now that he left the zoo. It's been a lifelong dream of his to perform a synchronized swimming beaver show. (Think of Shamu swimming in formation and leaping through exchange Shamu with a family of quit laughing at Tony's lifelong dreams). Alas, the zoo didn't find out that Bevo Beaver was really a boy beaver and that Beatrice really was a girl beaver until after Tony left the zoo, so the days of the Fantastic Tony's Traveling Beaver Show never materialized.

But you can still head by the zoo to see if you can spot the new babies learning to swim in a non-synchronized fashion.

Midnight Hole

With all the deck building and traveling to Atlanta and birthday parties lately, I haven't been able to join my hiking group in a while. There's nothing in the world, however, that would make me miss the trip to Midnight Hole.

The trail is officially called Mouse Creek Trail. It's an awesome little trail just on the North Carolina side of Cherokee National Park (about an hour's drive from downtown Knoxville via I40 East). It's an easy trail that is absolutely covered in butterflies. Like, enchanted forest kind of covered. Like, if you stand still AT ALL, the butterflies will land in your hand kind of covered. (It's also a horse trail, and apparently butterflies have a real thing for horse poo. Don't ask me why). If you like butterflies even a tiny bit, this is the trail for you. It was really awesome. That was cool thing number 1.

(Photo above left: A view of Mouse Creek Trail. Photo above right: 3 blue and black butterflies hover around some leaves. Don't worry, it's not horse poop).
Cool thing number 2 is the waterfall that is roughly 2 miles from the start of the trail. It's not the biggest waterfall around, but the conveniently placed large boulders easily allow for hopping from one to the other for total water fall close-ups. Here we have Amy, Hikemaster Greg and Rich leaping around in true mountain goat form, euphoric from all the negative ions.

Cool thing number 3 is that all the mountain rhododendrons are just beginning to bloom. In another few weeks, this entire trail will be under a canopy of flowers. I managed to get a picture of some of the early bloomers. They're a mixture of pink and white, and trust me, they are EVERYWHERE!
And now, saving the best for last: The Midnight Hole! (This is only about a mile and a half up the trail, so we bypassed it to hit the waterfall first and then hit it again on the way back down). Midnight Hole is a swimming hole with crystal clear water in the shallows with a gradient "2000 Flushes" blue color in the deeper parts. (Making it cool thing number 4). It is fed by a cute little waterfall which cascades between two large boulders of the perfect-for-jumping-off-of variety. (Photo right: Midnight Hole's waterfall and leaping boulders. Photo below: Looking in the opposite direction, down the creek. Notice how clear the water is? I'm taking this picture in over knee-deep water).
Here's Cool thing number 5: The trees along the bank grow right down into the water, so their roots are washed clean from the constant flow of the water. Pretty neat pictures, no?

It's all well and good to see Midnight Hole, but you can't very well visit without going for a swim. The water was a hypothermia-inducing refreshing 50ish degrees, but once you lost feeling in your legs, you didn't notice the cold at all. Of course, the fastest way to get used to the cold is just to jump right in...from the top of one of the boulders that God obviously put there for just that purpose. Rich, Hikermaster Greg and I decided to take up the challenge. (Amy and Andrea opted to forgo the swimming expedition, but were more than happy to video the rest of us idiots adventurers as we conquered the boulders.)

For your viewing pleasure, we have video evidence of the excursion as recorded by Andrea and digitally remastered by Greg before uploading the whole deal on youtube for the world to witness. (You can't really tell it, but I am wearing a top). And just so you know, those rocks are a lot taller than what they look. If you watch closely, you see me standing on the top, looking over the edge. That prayer, by the way, was "Dear Lord, please don't let this be one of those times where an otherwise intelligent person ends up on the six o'clock news for doing something stupid, like jumping off a boulder into freezing water and cracking her skull open on submerged rocks below". Luckily for me though, that water is way way deep, so no one can touch the bottom even if they tried. (Even so, you'll notice that I brilliantly let Greg and Rich go first). Please also ignore the general doofus-ness that is me climbing the rope up the rock, and pinwheeling my arms, and holding my nose. (You know how I am about water up my nose!) Once you do it once however, the adrenaline warms you right up, and you can't wait to jump off again and again and again.

All in all, this hike is probably up in my top 3 favorite hikes. It's the perfect place to bring the whole family. Stop by the KFC at the exit before the one for Waterville Road (#451) and get a bucket of chicken to picnic with, bring your swimsuit and prepare to make a day of it. Mouse Creek Trail and Midnight Hole get two thumbs up in the Quirky Guide to Hiking.

More on Famous Dad...

Dad is in the news again! (I've written so many posts about his diving, I'm having to add a blog category to keep them all together).

Anyway, we found this in the local paper for last Sunday (he's the part after the soccer story):

News Sentinel Article

Yeah, that part that talks about an emailer calling him "a determined old geezer"? That's me. Am I the world's best publicity agent or what?

Over 30? For a fee, I am available to be your publicity agent too! Let the whole world know that you're a determined old geezer too!

Weedle Woes

I was eating a tube of raw cookie dough the other day (oh how I love you, cookie dough goodness!) when I remembered some old friends of my family that knew someone who died from Salmonella or Ebola or South African bird flu-itis from also eating some cookie dough raw. (You might think this might give me pause before eating more cookie dough, but you underestimate the power that the Pillsbury Dough Boy holds over me). Besides, you don't know the Weedles*.

The Weedles are a family that my family used to know before we moved here to good ol' K-town. I guess you could call them family friends. Anyway, no matter what you happened to be doing at any given time, the Weedles knew someone who suffered a tragic death from doing that very thing. Leaning back in your chair? The Weedles knew someone who did that and then fell over backwards, split their head open, and died! Petting a dog? The Weedles knew someone who leaned down to pet their dog and the dog bit them on the leg, and the leg got infected, and they died! Watching too much TV? The Weedles knew someone who was watching tv when their eyeballs melted right out of their sockets, and they died! And my personal favorite: Riding in the car with the window rolled down and your arm resting on the door? The Weedles knew someone whose arm got a little too far outside the door and when they ran a stop sign, their arm hit the sign and ripped right off! And then they bled to death, right there on the side of the road, and. They. Died! (I'm not sure if this was a warning against riding with your arm out of the open window, running a stop sign, or driving too close to the edge of the road, but the point is they died!) The Weedles knew people who died from everything from walking in a field (lightening strikes) to camping in the woods (bear attack) to chewing on ice (choked on it), to shopping in a grocery store (stock boy runs you over with line of shopping carts in the parking lot). Of course, the only thing that you can do while the Weedles are pronouncing your impending doom is to nod and say, "Yes, Ms. Weedle" and then look away while you roll your eyes (because the Weedles knew someone who died from rolling their eyes).

When you think about it though, the only deadly thing that all these people had in common was just being acquainted with the Weedles.

(*Name changed to protect me from the wrath of the Weedles, should they ever stumble across this blog).

Connection Detection

So I was sitting in class last night, practicing my telekinesis by mentally pushing the hour hand of the clock forward so that the professor would let us out of there early (the telekinesis still needs a little work, by the way), when I remembered that I needed to renew some of my library books. And because the school is blessedly wireless, I pulled out the ol' pda to quickly sign on to the library website and renew them. (Yes, yes, I know I was supposed to be paying attention to the professor, but I usually only remember to renew library books about 2 weeks after they're due and I already owe the library a bazillion-jillion dollars in late fees, so when that particular thought pops into my head, I've got to run with it right away or risk losing it forever). So anyway, I clicked on my little Internet Explorer and...nothing happened. I got a little message that said that I couldn't make the connection. Very strange. I try again. Same message. I know it's not a problem with the school's wireless because I've been watching the girl next to me play internet poker all through class (and you thought I was bad for just trying to renew some library books). Obviously it's a pda problem. That doesn't shock me because computers in any shape, form, or fashion hate me, and I've just been waiting for this one to turn on me too. You're shocked to discover this, of course, because my blog is so tech suave, but it's true. Computers hate me and they're always plotting and scheming, ready to ambush me and make me look bad at any moment. The IT department at work has a file on me that's about 10 inches thick, filled with all my "maladies". I've been through 5 work computers in less than 3 years (although the last one doesn't count because I had NOTHING to do with it catching on fire. It did that all by itself. I'm serious. I was just working away when suddenly the monitor started smoking. Tell me how computer spontaneous combustion is my fault?!? The IT people didn't listen though. It went into my permanent record anyway).

Anyway, back to the story. I got out my trusty PDA owner's manual to see what the problem was. I went through all the trouble-shooting instructions. I checked my wireless card, I checked my connection details, I checked my automatic wireless finder configuration thingie (and yes, that is the technical term). All fine. I click on Internet connection. It's really frustrating me. Library books are DUE darnit! I was just working myself into a nice fit of rage before calling the Dell customer service people in India to complain about their crap pda when something caught my eye. It's the little button on the side of my pda with a picture of a wireless tower on it. Oh sure, I know what that is. That's the button you push when you...want to turn the wireless function on. Seems that if you don't turn the wireless function ON, then you don't get a connection. See how tricky these computer thingies are? They want you to turn it on before it will work! I could feel proud of myself for figuring out the problem before involving the IT people and looking like a total idiot, but I figure that the tattle-tail pda has already emailed them a note about it and they're laughing at me anyway...right after they added it to my permanent record.

Blogging Carnival

So I was surfing around for some new blogs to follow since I'm addicted to pointless events in other people's lives the people I already read just can't write fast enough to satisfy my bloggy cravings, and I came across Don't Try This At Home, which I must say, is awesome. Anyway, she's doing stuff on her blog that I've never even heard of before, so I was all like, "Hey I gotta get me some of this!". She's got this Carnival blogging thing with auto-links and it was just like, "Whoa!" so I jumped onto the carnival bandwagon, even though I'm 2 weeks late. I'm number 171 in line, and I'm supposed to answer these questions about why I started blogging (like you're just addicted to the blog candy like me), but bear with me because I want to see if this carnival thing works.

How did you start blogging?
When Stepher (the sister) went off to law school in the Great White North (Boston), we would email back and forth every day. I would tell her little tidbits about my day, and she would share them with her law school buddies. It wasn't until then that I realized that people who are not directly related to me might still find my writing interesting (family is required to think you're interesting, but strangers? That means you have at least some talent). So the blog was born, and it just kind of grew from there.

Did you intend to be a blog w/a big following? If so, how did you go about it?
Hahahaha! Oh girlfriend, I'm not a big blog. I only reached 200 hits last month. I'm small potatoes compared to some of these blogs. But it did get bigger than what I ever thought it would, so I guess that's something. I was so excited when I got my first international hit that I almost wet myself.

What do you hope to achieve or accomplish with your blog? Have you been successful? If not, do you have a plan to achieve those goals?
Goals? We don't need no stinkin' goals! This is just my little personal blog. The goal was to give me a place to write and keep my buddies informed about my daily hijinks. (Double word score for using the word hijinks!) Although now that you mention it, I have decided that it would be nice if each month the hit count grew a little higher than the month before. So far, that's happened. This month's goal: 201 people! Some comments might be nice too.

Has the focus of your blog changed since you started blogging? How?
At first it was to keep my sister informed about what was going on. Then a childhood buddy and I traded blog addresses so that we could keep up with each other's lives. It was really just for a handful of people that I knew. Kinda like those family newsletters that people include with their Christmas cards...just my way of keeping in touch. Then, people I didn't know started showing up to read, and I changed the focus to include them also. I don't know who they are, but we're all one big happy Internet family now.

What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you started?
I probably would have left out identifying marks like Tony's name and where I work. I haven't been stalked by the crazies or anything, but you never know. I would have at least used aliases. Yeah, that's it...Tony's real name isn't Tony. It has been changed to protect the innocent.

Do you make money with your blog?
You can do that? Why would anybody pay for a blog that they could read for free? I don't understand that, but if ya'll are willing to pay for these witty witty installments, then sign me up!
Does your immediate or extended family know about your blog? If so, do they read it? If not, why?
Some of them do, some of them don't. I'm not really sure because I just recently found out that more family knew about it than I thought.
It started with my sister, who reads it every day. (Or is supposed to!)
Then I told Tony about it, who read a little bit of it, but then quit. (Everybody's a critic!) I don't think he follows it now.
Mom and Dad will pop on every few months or so and read all the posts at once until they are caught up.
Granny and Pap-paw don't get on the Internet, but Mom printed out all 188 posts so that they could read them in hard copy. (That's family devotion right there!)
I have various aunts and uncles and cousins who read, but I'm not sure how often. They'll just mention a post every now and then to let me know that they read it.
I don't think any of the in-laws know about it. I haven't told them in case I want to use them as comic fodder some day. (I'd use them as comic fodder even if they did know about it...just ask my mom).

What two pieces of advice would you give to a new blogger?
Write every day. If you can't write every day, write at least every 2 or 3 days. The more you write, the more people will come back to read. I check the blogs I read every single day, hoping something new has been posted. If you let the blog go a month or two between posts, people will lose interest. The other piece of advice is just to have fun with it. You can have any personality you want on a blog. I'm not nearly this brilliant (or modest!) in person. It's like having a secret identity.

Tennessee Living

Since my little visitor map indicated that I have several out of state visitors, and even some international visits (howdy international visitors!) I wanted to take a moment to welcome you all (even if only virtually) to the great state of Tennessee. I have compiled a quick guide to Tennesseans (and the south in general) based on commonly asked questions.

"Do you live on a farm?"
I do not live on a farm. Yes, there are farms in Tennessee, but not nearly as many as you would think. I live in a subdivision. I have neighbors on either side of me. Sometimes while driving, I will pass a field of cows, but I think they belong to the University of Tennessee Ag campus, so they do not count. (UT keeps all kinds of animals, most of them under the heading, "students").

"No farm? Where do you keep your sheep and goats then?"
I do not have stock animals. (See "I do not live on a farm" above). I do not own chickens, or cows, or goats, or horses. I get my eggs from Kroger's, and the only goat I've been close to was in a petting zoo (and he was leering at the hem of my shirt with malice in his eyes, so I didn't hang around long). Not really overly fond of things with hooves.

"What's with the 'Bless your heart' thing?"
I am a fan of bless (your/their/his/her/etc) heart. Contrary to what anyone above the Mason-Dixon line will tell you though, this is not meant as a slight. This is said to express sympathy, even if you're just expressing sympathy that the person you are blessing is an irreversible idiot. (The difference between the North and the South is that Yankees will just tell you that you're an idiot. Southerners will tell you that you're an idiot, but we'll also pity you for it). Need to express sympathy? Try bless your heart. "His dad is in the hospital again, bless his heart" works just as well as "She's got the brains of a turnip, bless her heart". In cases of extreme or heartfelt sympathy, use "Bless your pea-pickin' heart". Pea-picking hearts always convey more sympathy. Not sure why.

"Do you have an outhouse?"
Um, no. You have no doubt gotten this impression from that tv show, The Beverly Hillbillies". May I just say that that is a grossly exaggerated stereo-type. We've had indoor plumbing for some time now. At least 2 years.

"Why aren't you wearing overalls and running around barefoot?"
The Beverly Hillbillies obviously did a number on you, bless your heart. Look around you. Whatever the people passing you are wearing, chances are that someone in Tennessee is wearing the same thing. Shoes included. Unless of course, we're at home, or in the yard, or at the beach. Shoes are optional then.

"Why do you talk so slowly"?
Yes, we probably talk a little slower than everybody else, but that doesn't mean that we think slowly too. We do this deliberately to make you drop your guard before we dazzle you with our brilliance and wit. We also tend to have what is often described as a drawl, and we also extend single word syllables into much longer words to express dismay. (My grandmother is the best at this. My grandfather's name is Ed, but when she says it, it comes out as "Ey-yy-yy-yy-d!" Never less than 5 syllables. The longer it is, the more shocked she is at whatever he did).

"What's with the word Howdy"?
It's just friendly. Think, did you ever see a movie where the bad guy jumped out and said "howdy" before blowing someone away? No they did not. (And if you know of a movie where they did, then just keep it to yourself because I'm trying to make a point here). Howdy is just a casual, friendly greeting. Howdy has no ulterior motives. Howdy is not snide or snooty. Howdy is genuine. Try it sometime. You'll make lots of friends.

"What is sweet tea?"
Oh. My. Goodness. Sweet tea is just the nectar of the gods! All you northerners don't know a thing about how tea is supposed to be. It's a drink and a dessert all in one. And it doesn't count if the tea is unsweet and you just dump some sugar packets into it. Nonononono. You have to add the sugar when the water is boiling so that it all dissolves. I find that a cup to a cup and a half of sugar per gallon of water works well. Then you add your tea bags and let it seep for a while. Then you pour the tea over ice cubes so that it's good and cold. (All tea is iced tea...if your tea is still hot, you haven't waited long enough before drinking it. The coldness really brings the sugar taste out). Tea is for hot summer days and parties and church socials and after mowing the lawn. You'd think you'd died and gone to heaven.

"What is UT?"
UT does NOT stand for Utah, or worse, the University of Texas (Even though they pretend to be us, right down to the orange). UT is the University of Tennessee. Period. The main campus is right here in Knoxville, but they've got other campuses like UT Chattanooga (UTC) or UT Martin (UTM) and a space institute somewhere, but first and foremost, UT means Knoxville. The colors are orange and white, and mascot is the Volunteer, and the favorite pastimes are football and women's basketball.

So there you go, a crash course in East Tennessean. For homework, repeat the following phrase:
Howdy! Would you like some sweet tea while we watch UT destroy Florida (bless their hearts)?

With enough practice, you'll be ready to visit the great state of Tennessee. And we'll welcome you, because we're decent folk, and you can't help the fact that you weren't born here in the first place. Bless your heart.

27 Years Today!

For all you extremely astute people out there, you probably already noticed that the little age-o-meter in the bio to the right has clicked over from 26 to 27. If you're not one of those astute people, then I'll just tell you: It's my birthday today! I'll give you a minute to run through the Happy Birthday song in my honor...

Still singing? Take your time.

Bring it home now! "...Hap-py Birthday tooooo (high note here) yooooooouuu!"

Thank you very much. You are a wonderful singer. I really appreciate it. No present? Don't worry about it. You just being here is enough. (Although if you insist, I take cash, check, or paypal). Oh, and did I mention it was Tony's birthday too? Yes, I know! Same day, same year. Amazing. Of course, he'll require his own birthday song. No worries, you can sing it for him later.

So now we can no longer really claim mid-20's anymore. We're sliding down that slippery slope to late 20's, and all too quickly headed for old age, also known as 30. (Shudder!) But I'll worry about that in a few years.

All in all though, this birthday rocked! Seriously, probably a top 5 birthday day. I had an awesome day at the lake with the fam, then an awesome cookout with the extended fam, then awesome birthday cake cooked by yours truly (although with a little help from the Pillsbury doughboy). And the loot! An incredible haul this year. Way more than I expected or deserve (thanks Mom and Dad and Steph!) It was really good to have everyone together to party like that. I must say that I'm particularly blessed to have been born into this most wonderful family 27 years ago today.

People Watching

I'm sitting at one of the outdoor tables at Macleod's, a restaurant and bar at the corner of Market Square. They have great cheeseburgers and fries here, so I've come to sit in the sunshine and watch people while I eat my burger. The first thing I see is a mother, Gramps, and a small child. Mom has managed to collapse a very complex looking stroller, and she's fighting to get it into the trunk of the car. The small child is just tall enough to see over the lip of the trunk, so he's monitoring the stroller struggle very intently. Grandpa is holding a green pool noodle. He's using the end of it to hit Mom on the arm as she tries to push the stroller in. He has a twinkle in his eye. He's trying to see how long it will take her to react to the noodle's attacks. Finally, she snatches the noodle away and puts it in the trunk good-naturedly. Gramps turns his attention to the child, and scoops him up sideways in his arms. The boy squeals. Meanwhile, there's a well dressed woman waiting on the corner next to my table. She's looking for someone. She's wearing a pink cardigan and a nice skirt, and black sandals. She looks very put together, but she's annoyed because she doesn't see the person she's looking for. There's a gnat that keeps buzzing around my face, despite my attempts to wave him away. A Valley Produce truck stops across the street. The logo says that Great Potatoes are our Specialty! Two women walk by sharing a recipe. I hear one say, "...chopped tomatoes with a balsamic vinaigrette...". The guy at the table next to me has knocked his drink over. He's picking up the ice cubes with his hands and putting them back into his glass. I pretend that I don't notice. A woman walks by with a bag full of library books. (I walk that same route with my bag of library books a couple of times a week. I hope she picked some good ones). The gnat is back. Two very pregnant women are walking together. They get to the end of the sidewalk and step off the curb with some difficulty. A pickup truck waits for them to slowly cross the street. There's a couple two tables over from me. The woman has been running a monologue for about 15 minutes straight. The man hasn't said a word. (Sometimes I feel like that when I'm talking to Tony. I'll realize I've been talking endlessly just to try to hit on something that he'll comment on. I've gotten to where I'll just stop and say "This is the point in the conversation where you say something"). I can't tell if this woman wants the man to comment or if she just has a lot to say. A group of 4 or 5 lawyers/bankers walk by. They all have very nice shoes. I wonder if it is a job requirement for them to have such nice shiny shoes. They pass a family walking the other way. The Dad has a little girl riding on his shoulders. She has a bright red bow in her hair. My burger and fries come. Pink Cardigan Woman has finally found who she was looking for. He's a guy in jeans and an old t-shirt. I never would have put those two together. She's annoyed with him. A woman and a little girl walk by. They're both singing "Loo, loo, Skip to my loo! Skip to my loo my darlin'." (I wonder if this song is really about skipping to a bathroom). Non-Stop Talking Woman's food has arrived. She's telling the waiter that she ordered rice, not fries. He's taking her plate back. A guy is delivering a bunch of office water cooler bottles. He has 6 of them balanced on a dolly. He rolls them off the same curb that gave the pregnant women such trouble. He doesn't give the curb a second thought. I'm now humming the Skip to My Loo song. Non-Stop Talker's rice has arrived. That doesn't slow her down a bit. Still not a word from the man with her. A teenaged girl with dyed black hair, a black t-shirt, black capris, and black Coverse shoes walks by. I wonder if I could get away with wearing capris and my Chucks at the same time. Mine aren't black, but it still may be a little too "alternative" for me. Some bikes cops have stopped under the shade of the trees to talk to each other. A car drives by. It has "Lady Bandits are # 1!" written on the back windshield. Erica # 3 is on the side. I wonder who the Lady Bandits are and what they play. Two guys meet on the other side of the street. One is a young guy in jeans and a polo shirt. The other is older with a tie and Dockers. They shake hands and talk animatedly. Another unlikely pair. The gnat lands on the side of my sunglasses. I should just squish him and put him out of my misery. There is a person taking pictures with a small digital camera. I can't tell if it is a man or a woman. They are snapping shots of Krutch park by holding the camera out at arm's length for long periods of time. Non-stop talker and her silent companion leave. A woman comes out of Bliss. She is pushing a rolling cart with a large overstuffed beige chair on it. She pushes it to the road and waits. The sun has moved so that I'm no longer in the shade of the umbrella overhead. It's getting warm. I can hear the guy who regularly plays the guitar in Market Square. He's singing something, but I can't make out the words from here. A guy walks up and asks if he can sit at my table. He's got a book in his hand and headphones on, so he's not one to try to make small talk. I hate small talk. I gesture towards the chair opposite me. I've decided that the picture-taker is a woman. A woman with no curves but very muscular arms. A man in suspenders walks by. You don't see suspenders very often anymore. Woman with overstuffed chair has supervised its loading into the back of a truck. She's going back to the store to get a red sofa. My check has come. I nod to the guy sharing my table and leave the patio. On the way out I notice that non-stop talker didn't eat any of her rice. Probably too much talking. All these different people from all these different places are doing all these different things, yet the thing that they have in common is that they all came together during the same hour on a Friday afternoon in downtown Knoxville to entertain me during lunch.


Here's something cool that I came across today...Microsoft Surface.

The future of home computing is the coffee table.

Dad's Diving Desire

Dad was on the news! It was awesome. They did a really great job with the story. I cried. Check out the video below.

Some 30 Years Later Former Vol Diver Bob Chistiansen Continues on in the Sport Which Nearly Cost Him His Life!

Here's the link to the story if the video doesn't open for you, but I recommend the video first:

In Late Breaking News...

Be sure to watch Channel 8 Volunteer TV tonight Quirky Fans! The Quirky Dad's diving interview will be on! The teaser runs at 6pm, and the full news story is at 11pm. I'm told that there will be streaming video of it posted on the news website tomorrow, so I'll be sure to link over to it from here in case you miss it.

Be sure to watch! Record it even! Replay it at Christmas parties and Barmitzvahs!


With all the fried cheese goodness overwhelming my senses yesterday, I forgot to tell ya'll about my weekend trip to Atlanta! Tony's sister just moved down there a few months ago, and we decided that it'd be nice to visit her. (Actually, we decided that we'd go watch the Cubs play the Braves, and were like, "Who do we know down there where we can crash at their place for free? But we also got to see Mary, which was nice, because I don't think we've seen her since last Thanksgiving). Tony's parents also had the same idea, so Mary had a lot of visitors show up on her doorstep this weekend. Tony wanted to get an early start down there on Saturday morning, so he woke me up at 7am. 7am! As in, in the morning! On a Saturday! The sun was just barely up. The only reason he still breathes is because I knew I could go back to sleep in the car. Anyway, by 7:30 we had gathered up our overnight bags and Garmin, and were on the road. We got the Garmin for Christmas last year, and it's one of Tony's most beloved possessions. He loves that it tells him exactly where to go and when in its soothing Garmin voice (I did the same thing before Garmin with a map, but apparently it's not the same. Garmin does it better). I wasn't even allowed to hold Garmin until about a month ago. This is how cool Garmin is. Tony and Garmin are BFF. Unfortunately, Garmin neglected to tell Tony that he had forgotten the tickets to the game back at home, so an hour into the trip, we had to turn around and go back to get them. That delayed us a few hours, which Garmin very helpfully factored in to our arrival time. It was after 1pm when we got to Atlanta, so we had a quick bite to eat and then headed to the Atlanta Zoo. (Ever since his stint as a zookeeper, Tony has factored zoo trips in for each city we travel to. A lot of the zoos have partnerships where because we're members of the Knoxville Zoo, we can get in free or at a reduced costs to other zoos. We've seen the zoos in Chicago, Nashville, Nassau, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and now Atlanta). It's a nice zoo with lots of monkey exhibits and some really awesome baby otters (one of which only eats canned cat food because she doesn't like fish), but according to Tony the petting zoo isn't as neat as Knoxville's. Right across the street from the zoo parking lot is Hank's Ice Cream Shop, which seemed like the perfect treat after a day of zoo safari. I highly recommend it if you're ever in the area. They give you massive scoops of ice cream. Anyway, Turner Field was right down the street from the zoo and the ice cream shop, so we just headed on over. You may have heard that the Cubs lose because of the Curse of the Goat. In reality, it's the Curse of the Goose that makes them lose. I have never seen the Cubs win in person. Every year we get tickets and go to a few games, and every year, they lose all the games we've come to watch. It makes Tony crazy. Sometimes they'll lose just because I'm watching them on TV. (And you just thought it was due to their lousy bull pen). Saturday night was no different, and despite all our cheering, the Cubs blew a beautiful 4 run lead. That's okay though. I was fully expecting it. We ate $6 hot dogs and $5 slices of pizza and drank $5 cokes and generally had lots of fun anyway. It was a near record crowd for Turner Field...most were Braves fans, but a pretty good showing were Cubs fans too. The rest were girls who had no team affiliation at all, but seemed to think that baseball games were the new club scene, and were wearing as little as possible. On the way out, I was even verbally heckled by what I can only assume was a drunk prostitute. (I know she was falling down drunk...the clothes lead me to believe that she was a hooker. If she wasn't, she did an really good impression. Didn't her momma ever teach her how to dress herself better? And not get stupid drunk in crowds? And not yell out that Prior sucks while surrounded by Cubs fans?) I thought about tripping her just to watch her fall, but I'm a gracious loser, so I just ignored her. (A beacon of good sportsmanship, I am). All in all, we had a fabulous time. Special thanks to Mary for allowing us to crash on her airbed and eat all of her Sunchips while we were down there. You're welcome up to Knoxville to return the favor anytime. We'll go to the zoo and eat ice cream and see a Smokies game. If we're lucky, we might even heckle some intoxicated Braves fans.

Ode to the Fried Cheese

So today was lunch at Arby's day because it's just too hard to think about feeding yourself when you're trying to get out of the house on a Monday morning. (To be fair, I did at least look in the fridge to see if anything jumped out at me, but since it didn't, I'm good with Arby's). They're currently doing a pick 5 things for $5 deal. You can choose from about 8 or so different things, including a beef and cheddar, ham and cheddar, curly fries, apple turnover, milkshake, medium drink, mozzarella sticks, and some other things that don't matter because I already mentioned the mozzarella sticks. I have renamed it the school day deal, because on days that I have school, I go over and get two beef and cheddars, 2 orders of mozzarella, and an apple turnover. One mozzarella and sandwich is for lunch, one mozzarella and sandwich is for dinner at school, and the apple turnover usually ends up being 3:30pm snack. I like it oh so much. (Although sometimes the apple turnover is substituted for, oh I don't know, a third order of mozzarella). Can you tell that I'm a fan of the mozzarella goodness? Actually, if you want the best mozzarella sticks anywhere, you have to go to Sonic. Trust me on this one...I've been taste-testing mozzarella sticks all over the country for years. Anyway, Sonic cheese sticks take 1st place for best all around yumminess. They're cheesy, they're greasy (in a tasty way, not in a stomach turning way), and they're less than $3. It's fried cheese heaven baby! Seriously, they're better than the ones in restaurants, which are usually going for $6. I would say that second place goes to Applebee's, because the outsides are consistently crunchy and the insides are consistently melty. Then Arby's is 3rd, but I eat them the most because they're within walking distance of work. (If you own a restaurant that offers fried mozzarella sticks, and would like my professional review, please send several samples to me and I will be happy to post my opinion on them. The more you send, the higher your score. Free lifetime supply offers automatically win).
And yes, as it happens, fried cheese is coursing through my blood stream as we speak. And I'm okay with that.

The Purse Meme

I've seen this purse meme going around and thought I'd try it. (I know, I know, its a cop-out instead of writing real stuff. I'll shoot for witty and charming tomorrow). Anyway, the idea is to allow virtual purse snooping. This would be better if I was someone exciting like an international spy (video camera pin, exploding breath mint, poison arrow darts pretending to be eyeliner), or if I was Jane Goodall (gorilla pictures, gorilla poop, baby gorilla), or even a kleptomaniac (stolen pack of gum, stolen sirloin, stolen Hope diamond) but the best you get is quirky, and pretty normal quirky at that (if there is such a thing). You can tell a lot about a person from their purse though, so free to leave your purse-based analysis of my personality on the comment section.

I only carry one purse. I'm not one of those people who "accessorizes" purses to shoes or whatever. (Forget matching. I'm lucky to get out the door with a purse and shoes period. You'll never accuse me of being a slave to fashion). For me, the purse is just the vehicle to transport my necessary junk. It's black, and I carry it even if I'm wearing brown and even though it's summer. (I hear you all tut-tutting out there). I bought it at this classy high-end boutique called "Walmart" for $10. I'll carry it until it literally falls apart and the zipper jams and the purse strap breaks (6 months max), and then I'll go buy another $10 purse from walmart. Rinse and repeat.

This particular purse is in the styling of two zippered compartments with outside pockets. On the front, we have the cell phone carrying pocket and the PDA carrying pocket. Extremely handy, as I use these two things the most. Right now they both fit perfectly (which was the reason I bought the purse in the first place). Question for ya'll out there: My cell phone contract runs out at the end of this month, so I'll get a new phone then. I like the smaller flip phones, but then it wouldn't fit so perfectly in my little phone holder spot, so I'm not sure what I'm going to do. (This is what the MIS book refers to as an "Ethical Dilemma"). Small phone vs fits perfectly in designated pocket. What's a girl to do? Discuss amongst yourselves and let me know what you decide.

Moving on. In the middle section, we have the sunglasses case, the Mearle Norman pressed powder foundation in Ultra Golden, a round brush with emergency pony tail holder, a rubber band reinforced pill box containing ibuprofen and Allegra (because once all the Allegra escaped and I had to dig them out of the bottom of my purse where all the dust and loose strands of hair live, so now it's rubber banded as an added security measure), a tape measure, key ring with keys and a plastic clear pig that Tony got when he worked at Smithfield Foods, and some OPI limited holiday edition glitter moisturizer called Candy Cane Juicie, (which was the free gift in December from Salon Barnes and Barnes where I got my eyebrows waxed a couple of times). Lastly we have mascara, lipstick, liquid concealer, eye shadow stick and eyeliner, also all rubber banded together (I'm all about the rubber bands) for ease in locating during makeup emergencies. All these things have to be settled in just so, interlocking like puzzle pieces, otherwise it doesn't fit. This purse is smaller than my previous purses, so it's at 100% capacity already. As a matter of fact, I had to really downsize the purse contents just to get this stuff in here. That's why you don't see the Uzi, emergency 3 day stash of food, full ratchet set, and magic 8 ball on the list.

In the last compartment we have a pen and post-its (for list making on the go), a small mirror, a tub of Mearle Norman power eye shadow in Locha Mocha (your free gift with purchase of Ultra Golden power foundation!), tweezers, really dull nail clippers, Blistex lip balm, powered blush in Brick Rose, $27 and random change (mostly pennies), and the following cards: credit card, driver's license (with an actual half decent picture, but the wrong address), check card, Food City card, library card (a must!), health care card, Kroger card, dental coverage card, 3 Red Cross certification cards (expired in March) and the list of CPR steps, voting card, gift card to a local restaurant (no longer in business), and the business card of a girl who cut my hair once when my regular girl was out. Sometimes there's a pack of gum in there, but I happen to be out at the moment. Better luck next time.

So there you go. The exciting world of my portable junk daily possessions. Everything I need to get me smoothly through the day. Well, except maybe for the Hope diamond. Having that would definitely help my day go smoother. Except that I'd have to get a bigger purse...

Dr. Honeydew

I've started a new class for summer session. This one is on Management Information Services. The class could be interesting...but its not. There's a whole lot of "The definition of an ethical dilemma is on page 43 of your book" instead of "Discuss the ramifications of data mining vs a right to privacy. Is this an ethical dilemma?". The second would require me to think. The first bores me to tears. Therefore, I spent most of the class having an internal debate on exactly who the professor sounds like, because I know I've heard that voice before. Then it hit me! He's Dr. Bunsen Honeydew from the Muppets! Remember the professor that invented crazy stuff in Muppet Labs, usually to the detriment of his assistant, Beaker? That's my professor! Not only does he sound exactly like him, but he looks a lot like him too. The squinty (or in Honeydew's case, nonexistent) eyes, the glasses, the baldness. (My professor isn't green, but the rest is dead-on). I've attached a youtube clip below so that you can reacquaint yourself with the glory that is Dr. Honeydew (and Beaker). Just imagine this guy for 4 hours, twice a week. It's enough to make you want to impale yourself on a sharpened banana.

Hurricane Season

Today is the first day of hurricane season, and the Weather Channel people are just giddy about it. Oh, they're trying to look somber and professional, but you can see the gleam in their eyes. (The first thing I do every day when the alarm goes off is to turn on the weather channel. I pretend like I need to know how hot its going to be in order to pick out what I'm going to wear. This is pointless because it's always 72 degrees inside my office no matter what it's like outside. I really just like to snooze until the Local on the 8's comes on). But today is not just any day! It's Hurricane Season! Ratings will skyrocket! They already have people posted at strategic places along the coast, just waiting for it to get nasty.

Official weather channel guy, decked out in full rain gear on a crowded beach: "I'm reporting live here from the some random beach where we're waiting for the hurricane season to begin. Right now the wind is calm and the sun is out...Look at that! That wave looked a little bigger than the last one! Can you zoom in on that? There! See those waves? They must be cresting at about 6 inches! That toddler can barely stand up in them! We'll be here with full coverage as the storm unfolds. Back to you Jim".
Jim (looking serious): "Thanks Mike. You be careful out there".

I guess if your goal is to make weather exciting, you can't really get better than a hurricane. Especially after Katrina. Even two years later, you just say the word hurricane and the whole country perks up. (And rightly so, because as the official Weather Channel video New Orleans Battles to Make a Comeback showed us this morning, the whole area was destroyed). Living in a landlocked state, I don't really worry about hurricanes so much, but I still get drawn in by all the excitement. The weather people do this on purpose. They have a formula for creating edge-of-your-seat weather. First, the anchorwoman will point out a large undefined mass on the screen (this is really a picture of her neighbor's last ultrasound, but Freddie Jr looks so much like a hurricane that no one can tell the difference). Anchorwoman: "See this thing that looks suspiciously like the eye of a baby in the third trimester? It's really the eye...of a storm!" Then they'll rename regular things with catchy titles. A weather report is called, "INTO THE EYE OF THE STORM", and the news studio is referred to as "HURRICANE CENTRAL". They have special code words too. That way the anchorman can lean towards the camera and say, "The rain bands from the eyewall are approaching landfall at 0400, causing the surge to increase as the hurricane upgrades to a category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson scale!" (Doesn't that sound more exciting than "A storm is coming. It's going to rain and the waves are big"?) Finally, they name the storms, to better sound like a serial killer is loose on the streets and bearing down on the unsuspecting public instead of just a bad thunderstorm. "Board up your windows! Flee the area! Charles is coming! Run for your lives!"

What I really love is the sweepstakes that they have going on the website. If you create an official Weather Ready Family Preparedness Plan, you could win a cruise! (Because nothing says weather safety like sailing out in the middle of the ocean during hurricane season!)

So stock up on plywood and bottled water, and stay glued to your TV, because it's HURRICANE SEASON 2007 and the meteorologists can't wait to share it with you!!! In a completely somber and emotionally detached way, of course.