Thursday, April 30, 2009

April 2009 Round Up

Created using Big Huge Labs Mosaic Maker
Click mosaic to biggify, or see my April 2009 Project 365 Posts.

What books and/or magazines did I read this month?
I've picked up and put down several books. I keep trying to read, but nothing is "sticking." I have no idea what the problem is.

What movies and/or tv shows did I watch this month?
I realized that it might be more telling (interesting?) if I recorded all of the movies we watch in any given month, not just the new ones. We watch quite a few movies, even just parts of some (I have them on while I work sometimes). I won't necessarily talk about what we're watching on television every month, since that doesn't change much month over month, though we do have some shows that restarted this month.

So, movies this month - New movies: Shattered Glass (okay), Ice Age 2 (not good). Old favorites: Bolt, Chicken Little, Enchanted, The Incredibles, Bull Durham, The Birdcage, One Fine Day.

For television, we picked up Law & Order: Criminal Intent and In Plain Sight, which are both starting their new seasons on USA. Mythbusters also restarted. Most of the rest of our shows are either over already (Chuck, Heroes) or will be over in May (CBS and ABC shows). Guess we'll flex that Netflix membership this summer, since we haven't used it much for the last 6 months. Maybe we'll do a new series; that was fun when we did Heroes. I'm thinking I should get caught up on NCIS or Bones, but I'm open to suggestions as well.

What special days did I celebrate and how?
Lots of birthdays, including our niece and my two best friends, but everyone just got cards because I'm slack and sorry as a friend. :-(

What gifts did I give and/or receive?
None, I don't think, not even with the birthdays (see slackness). I have some ready to send out next month, though.

What illnesses or health concerns did I have?
I had a lot of little complaints that I finally mentioned to the doctor: an irritated back muscle, a recurring low fever, sudden sharp headaches that have dramatically increased in frequency (from 2-3 times a year to 2-3 times a month). I now have back exercises and a new blood pressure medication, and she's running blood work for the headache and fever. We'll see what that result is. In better health news, Luke saw the ENT and she doesn't think he will need another set of tubes, at least not right now. We go back in 6 months, but he is on no medicine or anything. Woo-hoo!

What fun things did I do with my friends and/or family?
We had lots of culture this month. We went to the King Tut exhibit (which was really more general Pharaoh stuff with some King Tut stuff) and the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit. I liked them, but Luke seemed very unimpressed. I keep reminding myself that he's only 4, but I still hoped he would like it more than he did. Mom and Dad paid for the tickets to both, and they helped us to a Luke hand-off so we all got to enjoy them at our own pace. That really counts as a gift. Thank you to the best parents in the world!

Also, as a special treat for Luke, we stayed overnight at Stone Mountain. Luke loves hotels for some reason, so that was fun. We took him to the laser show, and it was so much better to just walk across the street and go to bed instead of sitting in 2 hours worth of traffic. We decided to make a whole weekend out of it, so we took him on his first picnic, took him to the top of the mountain for the first time, and rode the Duck Boats the next morning. He totally loved that!

What new foods, recipes or restaurants did I try this month?
We ate at the Stone Mountain Inn for the first time, dinner and breakfast buffets. I have a pizza sauce recipe "melding" in the refrigerator that I made today (4/30), but it has to sit overnight, so it won't be ready to try until tomorrow (5/1). I'll try to remember to report the results next month.

What special or unusual purchases did I make?
Got tickets for something fun this coming Saturday (May 2), but the actual event isn't happening in April, so I won't tell you what they're for. You'll have to wait until next month. We also got Dance Dance Revolution Disney Grooves, which I haven't really gotten to play yet. We fiddled with it the first weekend we had it, then were out of town the next weekend, and we don't do much gaming during the week right now.

What were this month's disappointments?
Still not getting much work at work, which is a little distressing. No one is talking about layoffs or furloughs (yet) for the contractors, but I don't know how much longer they can financially justify keeping us all on staff when we're not even getting one new project a week. There's plenty of work, but there are other issues to be cleared before we can get them, and until that log-jam breaks, we're just sitting around (and when it does, it is going to flood us). I also didn't post to the blog very much this month either. Technically there were two more April blog posts than are shown here. I moved the two April Disney recap posts back to March so they would be more in order and appear all together in the archives. That still only makes for 10 posts this month, though. So sad.

What were my accomplishments this month?
I did my first song on drums Medium level on Guitar Hero. It was an easy one, but still, I'm getting better. If you'd told me a month ago that I would be the designated GH drummer and I would *like* it, I'd have said you were crazy. I also kept up with my Project 365 progress, though I will admit that it is getting a little harder. And I did miss a day, darn it! Still, I've been at it 1/3 of a year already. And last but not least, I actually managed quite a few items on my 101 List this month!

38. Ride the Duck Boats at Stone Mountain.
That was so much fun! It's just really bizarre knowing that you are driving off the road and right into the lake. I'm doubly sorry we didn't do them in Boston back in 2003. Guess this gives us something to do on our next Boston trip.

46. See a special exhibition at the High Museum.
I will admit that I had the Terra Cotta Warriors in mind when I put that item on the list, but there were several other exhibits that came and went at the High in the last couple of years that I had *every* intention of seeing and didn't, so just because that was the one I had in mind didn't necessarily mean it would happen.

77. Clean the outside of the windows.
86. Have gutters cleaned.

We had the whole house pressure washed, which took care of the windows, and they did the gutters at the same time, which was really nice. When the guy said he would do the gutters, I knew that would take care of #86, but it wasn't until I as updating the list that I realized it covered #77 as well. Cool!

What were Luke's accomplishments this month?

I tried to pick some different photos that you maybe hadn't seen either here or on my Project 365 blog. Luke had a busy month! He went on his first ever picnic (and freaked out about every single bug; you know, *outside*), and he made his first trip to the top of Stone Mountain. He got a good report on his ears. And he has spent the entire month pushing his (our!) limits. He is about to drive us crazy! The lying, the attitude, the lack of response to questions or requests (demands). And he's back to sticking his tongue out at me when I fuss at him, which is completely unacceptable. Just driving us batty. Not sure if that is an accomplishment, but there it is. He did have another first, though. He spontaneously came up to me and said, "Mommy, I love you!" ::sniff, sniff:: It was so sweet.

Anything else noteworthy to record?
I feel like I'm forgetting something, but I have no idea what that might be.

Monthly Round Up courtesy of Katie the Scrapbook Lady.

Currently feeling: a busy month!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Important Wolverine Movie Info (no spoilers)

If I am still to be the Movie Muse, I guess I should provide the occasional movie news, yes? Here is some important (non-spoiler) Wolverine news, for anyone who might actually get to see it Friday (don't think I will be one of them, boo-hoo):

"Director Gavin Hood says the theatrical version of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," due out Friday, features two different "Easter egg" endings. The short bits of footage play after the credits and reveal important information about key characters. Hood says the two endings play on separate prints, so different theaters may show different footage." --quoted from this article (also no spoilers)

Just FYI!

Currently feeling: ready for summer movie season!

Friday, April 24, 2009

All Disney 2009 Photos Uploaded

Meant to post this earlier. In case you are really bored, I have uploaded all of the 2009 Disney photos to our Webshots account: All 1600+ of them! You've been warned.

Currently feeling: overwhelmed with photos

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On the Bubble for 2009-2010: Dollhouse, Castle, and Chuck

This is a post I've been meaning to write for a week or so, and based on the fact that I am currently averaging about 200 hits a day (instead of my usual 40-ish on days when I have a new post), maybe it's time. What is generating most of those hits? Search engine results for "Chuck Renewed." Apparently, there are lots of other Chuck fans out there trying to find out if NBC will bring it back for a 3rd season. I just tested it myself, and this post from Feb 2008 comes up as the second result on a Google search. Cool! But not really answering the question they are asking. (I also edited the post just now to include the year range 2008-2009 for the sake of clarity. Might cut down on some of the hits. Not that I mind, I just feel like they are "fake," ya know?)

So has Chuck been renewed for 2009-2010? No, but neither has it been officially cancelled. Yet. I've found a site I really like that analyzes the numbers. It is called TV By the Numbers (be aware that the have been having server issues the last few days, so try back if you get an error). They are really just "speculators," but I enjoy their take on things. According to them (and I agree), Chuck is just really iffy right now. Jay Leno being on 5 nights a week at 10 PM is really crunching their space for new shows. If they want to try and test out some new ones, some old ones will probably have to go, and Chuck is one of those on the bubble. Without Jay, it would probably be a lock to come back, but at the moment? Who knows. Reports are that the cast and crew have heard nothing either way, but that the sets are still intact. For now. Only time will tell.

Unfortunately, that's it for the good news. Dollhouse and Castle? Not looking so good. The numbers are just not there, especially compared to the other shows on their respective networks (Fox and CBS). It's a shame, really. Dollhouse is finally starting to get Whedon-ish (a very good thing!), and it is incredibly interesting. I hear that the network really likes it (and let's face it, they owe Joss after the whole Firefly kerfuffle), but that would be the only thing saving it, the grace of the network, not the numbers. Castle, on the other hand, is just flat out fun, and we *love* Nathan Fillion. I am so sorry it hasn't found an audience, though I think it is a little "light" to survive at 10 PM, especially against CSI: Miami, unless they are making an attempt at counter programming (which clearly isn't working). I think a different time slot might help it, but who knows. It most likely won't get a chance, though. There will be much mourning in our house if/when that happens.

So there we go. That's my take on it. And just for the search engines: Will Chuck be renewed for 2009-2010? Will Dollhouse be renewed? Will Castle be renewed? We likely won't know for a few more weeks. I sure hope so, though, on all three. I hate trying to find new shows! They always get cancelled....

Currently feeling: trying to be hopeful

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Keep Juanita in your prayers

We have a family friend named Juanita. We definitely consider her a friend, as we have seen her almost weekly for over 2 years now. She is our "regular" evening waitress at Golden Corral. (Yes, we also have a regular afternoon waitress named Vicki.) She is always happy and smiling, she takes great care of us, and we tip her accordingly both because she's good at what she does and because we just flat-out like her. I hadn't seen her in about a month. I was hoping she had just changed shifts or maybe had gotten a new job. She was back today, and we waved at each other from across the restaurant.

She was stationed in a different section than where we usually sit, but she still dropped by our table. DH and Luke were in the restroom, so it was just the two of us. She asked me how we had been, and I said fine. I was tired and fighting a headache, but I was happy to make small talk. Not much going on, just work and such, blah blah. "How are you?" I asked. Okay, she replied. She just didn't seem like herself. She also looked quite a bit thinner than I remembered. "Have you lost weight?" She grimaced a little. Yeah, she said, I've lost quite a bit. I don't know if you noticed that I haven't been here (of course we noticed!). And then she spoke four words that made my heart break.

"I lost my son."

Juanita is the mother of 7, ranging in age from 20 to 8, including a set of twin "tween" girls.

"It was my oldest; he was 20."

I had no idea what to say to her. "I'm so very sorry" was all I could come up with, but that seemed so inadequate for the loss she was clearly still suffering.

"We're doing okay. It's hard. They're still investigating."

That stopped me. Obviously more to the story, but I didn't want to pry. There was no need. The rest just came tumbling out. He had just moved back home after being out on his own for a couple of years and really struggling. He was diagnosed HIV-positive at age 18, which only added to the stress on everyone, but he was finally on meds and starting to pull it together after moving back in. He decided to go away for the weekend with a friend and return the following Monday. He never came back. They found his body in a dumpster, and no sign of the "friend." The investigation is continuing, but she didn't sound very hopeful for a resolution.

And I thought I had no idea what to say earlier. I was totally speechless. I just told her how very sorry we were, and how I sincerely hoped she was doing as okay as she could be, and that I would be praying for her and her family. It was also another reminder to cherish the time you have with those you love, because you just never know when they will be gone. Tell them you love them. Tell them right now. Don't wait.

Currently feeling: so very sad for our friend

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Consecutive Cultural Weekends

I want to start by thanking my parents for helping us with the coordination of this effort and for buying the tickets for us. We don't do stuff like this very often, and it was really nice to be able to do it both with and without Luke with your help. Thank you! I would also like to thank the fabulous Heather for providing me with the "advance scouting" info I needed to make sure this particular strategy would work. It worked like a charm, Heather, thanks!

We had a very nice and relaxing weekend this weekend. We needed it to recover from our two previous weekends of cultural enrichment. My parents were kind enough to purchase combo tickets for the two top historical exhibits in Atlanta in April: King Tut and the Chinese Terra Cotta Army. The High museum was offering a discounted combo ticket, and my parents have an American Express, which netted an additional percent off. They bought tickets for themselves as well, and they agreed to help DH and me enjoy the exhibits on our own. I wanted to expose Luke to these things while they were here (and children under 5 are free, so why not?), too. But I really didn't want to try and see the exhibit myself with Luke in tow, knowing he probably wouldn't be all that interested.

So I concocted a plan. We got two pairs of tickets, with times staggered 1.5-2 hours apart. DH and I took the earlier time and toured the exhibit, keeping an eye on the time as we did so. Ten minutes prior to the entrance time for the next pair of tickets, we headed back up to the front of the exhibit to wait for my parents to enter with Luke. We would then go through the exhibit again with Luke, at whatever pace he wanted to look at things (or not), and leave my parents to tour at their leisure. I had been to similar exhibits at both venues before, so I knew that it should work. When I found out Heather was going to see both exhibits before I did, I asked her to check it out for me, and she confirmed that it should work. And it did! It worked beautifully.

Saturday, April 4, was our first exhibit: King Tut. All of the advertising says it is at the Civic Center, but it is really at the now defunct Sci-Trek museum that is no longer open (or only opens very occasionally for educational groups). That is the same venue where I saw the Titanic exhibit a year or two ago, so I knew it would be a very large exhibit, and it was. Not much actual King Tut involved, though. I know they keep his mummy and main masks and sarcophagi in Egypt, which is to be expected, but I really thought there would be more things from his tomb in an exhibit titled "Tutankhamun The Golden King and The Great Pharaohs." Granted, they had more stuff from his tomb in particular than they did from any other single pharaoh, but 80-90% of the exhibit was other people, not Tut himself, which I felt was a little misleading. Cool and fine, but misleading based on the title. (I would have preferred a little more Akhenaten and/or Hatshepsut as well, but I know those are just my personal tastes.) I did like the life-size photos they had on the walls of the jumbled tomb contents as they were found, where you could see some of the artifacts in the photo and then in the case nearby. That was cool.

Don't get me wrong, the whole exhibit was very nice and I enjoyed it. They had some amazing pieces, and I thought they were well displayed with a good flow. I just thought there would be more direct Tut stuff than there was. It took us about an hour and 40 minutes to get all the way through the exhibit. To give you an idea of how large it was, it took us almost 10 minutes just to flat walk from the end all the way back to the beginning, and that was not stopping to look at anything, just walking. It was massive! There just was not a lot in the way of sarcophagi or actual mummies. The exhibit I saw several years ago at the Carlos Museum at Emory had more of that type of thing. I guess I was just expecting a little more of that, and a little less statuary, though I should have known there would not be mummies of any of the "great pharaohs" (i.e. names you actually recognize when you hear them) on tour. Still, very nice, and I think anyone who likes Egypt would enjoy it, as long as you know what to expect. The child hand-off went very smoothly. Our tickets were for 1 PM. We were back to the front by 2:50. My parents' tickets were for 3 PM. It took Luke all of 25 minutes to do the exhibit (remember my note that it takes 10 minutes just to walk it without stopping to look at anything). I think he found some of it overwhelming and maybe a little frightening. He wanted to be picked up (which is very unusual for him) and he only wanted to look at the small statues, not any of the big ones. It was weird. Only a couple of things caught his attention, and he mainly just wanted out. I was disappointed. I know he's only 4, but I thought he might be a little more interested than that. Guess I'll have to wait a few more years and hope. No photos are allowed inside the exhibit, but I did take this one with DH's cell phone (better resolution than mine) just inside the doors to the venue:

April 4-5 was the first weekend of my father's spring break. My parents graciously agreed to bookend their Ashville vacation with stops in Atlanta for us to do the two exhibits. They spent Saturday night with us, then went on to Ashville for their week. They returned Friday night, April 10, so that DH and I could make our second outing the next morning.

Saturday, April 11, was time for the Chinese Terra Cotta Army. I don't remember when I first learned about the existence of the Terra Cotta Army (years and years ago), but I have been totally fascinated by them ever since. When I found out they were coming to Atlanta, I absolutely *had* to go. Given the choice, I probably would have picked seeing them over seeing the Tut exhibit. (Thanks to my parents, I didn't have to choose!) Seriously, even knowing that the Terra Cotta Army exhibit would be smaller since it was being housed at the High Museum of Art, I would have picked them, because they are just so unusual. There were lots of pharaohs, with lots of similar types of artifacts. I'm sure fans of ancient Egypt all have their favorites and are well versed in differentiating artifacts from the various dynasties from each other. But there is nothing else in the world, or even in China, like the Terra Cotta Army, certainly not on such a scale.

This exhibit featured several full figures, plus a few that are in many pieces and/or incomplete, and several more bits and pieces from the tomb area. They also had one of the horses (one of my favorite parts of the find), and a few replica things from the tomb complex. I liked how close you could get to the figures, which were not inside cases but out in the open for you to see (from behind a rail, of course). Still, I could have reached out and touched them (not that I would have, and there was *plenty* of security to keep you from even considering it), and you could definitely see all of the painstaking details in each figure. They were absolutely breathtaking!

Rant warning: I do have to complain about the flow of the exhibit, or lack there of. The Tut exhibit flows very well. They know people are coming in with timed tickets, so there is a general path to follow if you want to see everything. There are not queue lines or anything that forces you to see this and/or that, or that makes you flow in a particular manner, but it is obvious how the flow should go with the layout and placement of the artifacts, and it works very very well (in both my personal and professional IE opinion). But the Terra Cotta Army exhibit did not flow at all. There was no logical way for people to get from one artifact to the next, and there were too many large interesting things grouped together, which caused a lot of bunching and clustering at more than one point in the exhibit. But my biggest complaint is the room with the group of figures. There are two rooms that branch off from this large viewing area, one about half-way down on the right, and the other all the way at the end on the left. But there was no indication of which was the way out! I suppose it is logical that the one at the end is the way out, but there was absolutely nothing to indicate that from inside the large room. The most logical flow of the large room is around the cluster of figures, then around the chariot replicas, then around the two figures at the end. Where do you go from there? Do you back up to the room on the right? (This causes more bottle-necking with people going against the flow, so to speak.) Or do you go on to the room on the left? Once you leave, you can't get back in, so I didn't want to accidentally leave. Just a poor design, IMO. DH pointed out that it was much more like a museum exhibit, where people just come and go at will. There is not necessarily a need for a "flow" in those types of exhibits, because people are not coming in clumps. But the Warriors *were* timed, and what's worse, patrons were brought on on elevators that hold 20-25 people each, arriving in batches instead of in a trickle. Clumps and bottlenecks were everywhere, and I think they had too many people in at any given time. I was very annoyed at how difficult it was to see everything, both due to the clumping and the sheer volume of people. It was not easy for this short little person to see some of the things. I finally learned to wait for the largest portion of each new elevator clump to pass, and I could get a better look at things. And there were plenty of benches for us to sit on and wait in the meantime, which was also nice.

Our tickets were for 10 AM, and my parents' were for 11:30. Again, they brought Luke with them, we met them as they stepped off the elevator, and we took Luke on through. Again, it took him only about 20 minutes, but that was actually a lot longer than it sounds. Tut took him 25 minutes compared to mine and DH's 100 minutes. The Terra Cotta Army took him 20 minutes compared to DH and my 55 minutes. He actually showed some interest in the palace replica, and he did think the figures were pretty neat. He was just in awe of the horse (that's my boy!). They also had a model of the assembly line used to make the figures that he thought was really really neat (I'm sensing the engineer in him! LOL). We did hit just the very first room of the Louvre exhibit on our way out. I figured we were there, why not? Luke had zero interest and was demanding to leave almost as soon as we walked in. I was very disappointed. I haven't gotten to see *any* of the special exhibits they've had over the past 3 years, and it is almost over. I'm going to try and get back there soon to see some of it myself. We'll see. Again, no photos allowed inside the exhibit (despite the woman taking them on her Blackberry and responding "yeah, I don't really care" when I reminded her of that, GGRRR!), but they had this cut-out figure out front.

It was past time for Luke to eat lunch anyway, so we headed on out. Mom and Dad had finished by then, so we met up at Zesto's. All in all, a very good two weekends. I do think Luke was happy to stay home this weekend, though. That may have been a little too much culture for him for now, LOL!

Currently feeling: cultured

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I'm sorry, I misspoke

Dear Universe,

I'm afraid there has been a misunderstanding. Yesterday evening, when asked about my day, I commented to my husband that Monday had been a little bit boring. I understand you were listening to that conversation (as you usually are), and I would like to apologize for that small misspeak. What I meant to say was that yesterday was a very calm and relaxing day. I appreciate that you took note of my words and that you made an effort to make my day today more interesting. I had a wide variety of problems issues challenges opportunities presented to me on several different projects during business hours. While I certainly appreciate the gesture, my day was a bit too interesting for my usual tastes. Perhaps there is a happy medium that could be reached? I promise to be more careful and precise with my use of language in the future, and I genuinely look forward to any future "calm days" you would like to send my way. Thank you again for your understanding and attention.

Erin, Project Manager

Currently feeling: be careful what you wish for!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Batman Logo Evolution

Sorry if everyone has seen this already, but I just saw it this weekend. (I know, I know, I am so behind with actual blogging. I'll get to it.) I thought it was really cool! Saw it on Get The Big Picture, a site I like a lot for movie news. Hope you enjoy.

Currently feeling: batty