Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 comes to an end

I am SICK of all the eye-rolling about the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team surpassing the UCLA men's team record for consecutive wins. I am SICK of the dismissive comments that imply or say outright: it's only women's basketball, and there are only a few teams that play at the same level as UConn and, therefore, it's no big deal.

As my Mom used to say every time the Wooden record got brought up, "Who in the hell did UCLA play in the 1970s?!" How many college teams in the West Coast basketball league in the 1970s were any where near the level of play of UCLA? How many of those West Coast college teams, including UCLA, could have made it against the teams of the SEC or Big East?

UConn's accomplishment is EVERY BIT the accomplishment of UCLA in the 1970s, PERIOD.

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What were the highlights of my year? In no particular order:
The Top Words I used in Facebook status updates in 2010:
    1: Out - used 33 times
    2: -- - used 32 times
    3: One - used 32 times
    4: Up - used 32 times
    5: Want - used 29 times
    6: More - used 28 times
    7: Now - used 28 times
    8: Back - used 27 times
    9: Time - used 26 times
    10: Ill - used 26 times
Yes, my number one used word was a freakin' HYPHEN!

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Stefan is off to China for my birthday. Second year in a row he's missing my birthday. Were finances and timing different, of course I would go with him. 45 in Shanghai! But it is not to be - we don't have the money and I have two big work projects right now. I'm so glad he's doing so amazing in his job. And very proud. But, yes, I'm being a big baby at not having a birthday celebration for the second year in a row.

Last year's birthday was, you may remember, a disaster: Stefan was in Europe on business (and promised that would be the LAST time), I was alone in what felt like a foreign country, in a city and state where I know very few people and have no close friends, it was my birthday, and I thought my dog was dieing. What a miserable, lonely birthday that was... I spent most of it crying. Poor me. Poor Albi.

And it wasn't the first time Albi decided to have a life-threatening condition and surgery on my birthday; she had a large cancer and several breasts removed back in 2008 for my 42nd birthday. At least then we were all together!

Albi has promised to not have any medical emergencies for my birthday this year. I'll be going to a training for Girl Scouts in Portland that day and, if I can find it to rent, watching Seasons 2 and 3 of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica.

The good news is that it looks like I'll get to go to Budapest, Hungary at the end of January to lead a training. I've been to Hungary, but not to Budapest. Very excited -- I'm training for a group I really, really love.

I'm so hoping that 2011, at last, leads to a full-time job for me, preferably back East. We'll continue to make the most of Oregon and The West, but we're ready to be in friendlier surroundings (and a much shorter plane ride to Europe). And we're still trying to put a motorcycle trip together for 2011. Stay tuned.

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Our Christmas Eve meal was pot roast and veggies, cooked for five hours in my crock pot. It was gooooood. Our movie selection was Die Hard, which is always an excellent Christmas Eve choice (Ho Ho Ho!). My Christmas Day viewing was one of my favorite "family" movies, The Lion in Winter. Let's face it -- Lion in Winter puts the FUN in dysFUNctional. Then we watched the latest Wallace and Gromit adventure, A Matter of Loaf and Death (why, yes, we DO own all of their films now, thank you very much). A Matter of Loaf and Death is cute, but surprisingly cheese-less.

Thanks, Han Solo, for being there!

Watching a retrospective on some morning show of over-the-top reactions of kids opening presents on Christmas from year's past makes me really happy there is no video of me when I was six and realized Santa had brought me a Donny Osmond album. Which gets referenced in A Matter of Loaf and Death, much to my delight.

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My Afghan friend, Fariba, has written a new essay for the Afghan Women's Writing Project. It's very short, and really worth reading. And if you read it, please leave a comment on the page -- it means the world to her to get comments. Actually, comment on ANY of her six essays there, please?

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While watching The Wizard of Oz the other night, during the "Over the Rainbow" scene, Stefan didn't believe that was really Judy Garland's voice. Cause that voice is so BIG and she's so little.

Stefan had never heard of Judy Garland before he met me, but he did know who Liza Minnelli was already. Liza is known in Germany, but The Wizard of Oz is virtually unknown there. Germans know the Blues Brothers and they quote from it regularly (though they have no idea that The Blues Brothers really was a band before the movie) and they know Gone With the Wind, but not The Wizard of Oz.

I never realized just how much The Wizard of Oz permeates American culture until I lived in Europe. It's constantly referenced in our movies and TV shows, and I constantly reference it without even knowing it - so when we're watching something and there's a reference to The Wizard of Oz and I laugh and Stefan doesn't, I have to try to explain it... and it's impossible if you haven't seen the movie 50 times, really. When American movies and TV shows are dubbed into German, these references have to be completely altered. For instance, years ago, I was watching the X-Files movie dubbed in German, and at the end, instead of saying to the Lone Gunmen, "Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow...Toto?" Mulder says something like, "Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty..."

The Sound of Music is also unknown in Germany, and even in Austria, where it was filmed and where the story is set. There's a whole Sound of Music tourism industry in Austria that is centered around American and Asian tourists, but most Austrians outside the tourism industry don't know the movie at all. They've never heard the song Edelweiss and don't understand why Americans keep asking them about it.

Stefan's never seen The Wizard of Oz in its entirety, nor The Sound of Music (he doesn't do musicals). He knows the latter only because of a joke a German friend of ours made when his then girlfriend made him watch it: when did Austria ever have a Navy?!

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Will gay marriage ruin the sanctity of Hugh Hefner's latest marriage?

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Did you catch the Polar Bear - BBC camera smack down? Awesome!

What about The Hag's comments after the Kennedy Center Honors? Also awesome!

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I stumbled upon a documentary I've never heard of, Thread (2008), and as I watched, realized I know two of the people featured in it. Filmed in 2005, the film focuses on the lives and struggles of five Afghan women entrepreneurs. Each woman talks about the challenges of living under the warlords and then the Taliban, and their hopes for both themselves, their families and their countries. The film also shows their homes and their businesses in Afghanistan, and how these businesses were founded and operate (all of the businesses featured relate to clothing in some way). The documentary provides a glimpse of how these women are -- or are not -- supported by their families, including husbands, fathers and sons, in their businesses. The film shows how these women have been assisted by nonprofit organizations such as Bpeace (Business Council for Peace), and by women from the West. The highlight of the film focused on a visit these women make to New York City to collaborate with women-run businesses in the USA, to get advice they could use in Afghanistan. The film presents images of Afghan women that are in stark contrast to anything on news reports.

If it shows up on the Documentary Channel again, be sure to give it a watch!

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Just a small percentage of Appalachian mountain landscape leveled by mining has been transformed into new developments such as businesses, prisons, golf courses and subdivisions, as coal companies promised. Read for yourself. Outrageous!

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I need a Mr. Giles in my life.

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When I'm feeling down, I watch this video yet again.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I just found my theme song

I was a HUGE fan of H.R. Puffenstuff when I was, you know, 5 or so... and I remember this scene from oh-so-long ago, but I didn't remember the song, nor that it was sung by Her Majesty, Mama Cass. A friend posted it to his Facebook status today.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


December 8, 1980. I was 14. I was laying on the couch in our living room, alone, waiting for -- or watching -- a rerun of Johnny Carson (I can't remember which). I was thinking about how bored I was.

And an announcer broke into whatever was on to say that John Lennon had been shot and killed.

I lay there and cried and cried. There was no CNN, no 24 hour news and, for the general public, no Internet, so I had to just lay there and cry and wait for more news. My brother came in and I told him what happened. I don't remember him saying anything - just looking shocked and walking out of the room.

I was a HUGE Beatles fan -- still am. Geesh, how can you not be?! I couldn't afford to buy all their albums (I had just two), so I did my best to hit "record" on my cassette tape player whenever a Beatles song came on, and I can't believe I didn't wear those tapes out with playing them again and again. Their songs were the first I played on my guitar. I didn't just know their mainstream songs by heart; I knew the Beatles Christmas records for their fan club by heart. And I was big fan of all the post-Beatles music by the various members as well. More than that, there's no question that "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" and Imagine influenced the person I am now.

Over the next weeks, following his murder, I watched every John Lennon-related news story I could find on TV, listened to every John Lennon retrospective I could find on the radio, and read every news story I could find about what had happened. I probably spoke less words in that first week after his murder than I had since I first started blabbling as a baby. For the first time in my life, I didn't have anything to say. Everyone had been so abuzz about John Lennon releasing a new album at long, long last, and while reviews were mixed, everyone I heard on the radio had been excited about it -- and about what might come next. But now, nothing was going to come next.

My parents hated the Beatles, and my Mom had made disparaging comments here and there about them being communists, anti-American and drug users. She had never liked me sitting in my room for hours on end, listening to so much Beatles music (or my Star Wars story albums). Now I was spending even more time doing it. I wasn't close to my parents, and we never discussed anything personal. I don't know how many days it was after John Lennon had died, but my Mom came into my room, sat on my bed, and said, "When James Dean died, I felt like the world was ending. I felt like all us teenagers had lost our representative, our voice. It felt a lot like this." And the she got up and walked out of the room. She never made a disparaging remark about the Beatles in front of me ever again.

Over the years, I found out John Lennon could be a huge wanker, a snarling, mean person that was not at all full of love and peace every moment. He could be downright cruel. It was good to learn. Between that and the not-so-great things I learned about another hero of mine, Martin Luther King, Jr., I learned never to think a man could be perfect, to never think of a man as God-like. There are no saints, not really. There are just men -- and women -- who have moments of being extraordinary.

26 years later, I was at campsite in Thurso, Scotland, on the Northern coast. I was in the camp kitchen washing our supper dishes. Another woman was there and we chatted, as one does when washing dishes in a camp site. We were talking about how I had ended up in Europe. I told her I had moved to Germany from Austin, Texas, the "live music capital of the world." And she said, "Oh, then I bet you like the Beatles. I went to art school with John Lennon." I felt like fainting. My knees were weak. I asked her what he was like. She said she was afraid of him, that she had gone to all-girl schools up until that point and that she had never been around the intensity of teenage boy angst and anger, qualities he was oh-so-full of. She said he had a very large chip on his shoulder. She said he also could have been a professional cartoonist, he was that talented. She added, "But, then we all were!"

It's my two-degrees of separation from John Lennon story.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Holidaze 2010

I have to admit to giggling over some of the documents written by US diplomats that were released by WikiLeaks, especially the dispatch A Wild Wedding in Dagestan, Russia (if it's not what comes up when you click on the link, look at the menu on the left). Because I've seen some of this in my work abroad. Ofcourse, send some foreigners to a wedding in Kentucky, and they could have equally crazy stories...

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There is a relationship between Dubai and Kabul -- and Dubai and Bagdad -- that my favorite blogger has defined perfectly in a recent missive. It's so true! Have a read, even if you don't ever plan to go to Dubai.

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Geesh, I hope with those first two items I'm not turning people off to traveling abroad. International travel doesn't have to be surreal. International travel can also be just as boring and predictable and comfortable and sterile as you might want, truly. I just happen to be one of those people that enjoys the surreal moments.

This broad loves to be abroad - and wishes more American broads would give it a try!

We are so hungry to travel. Stefan is as itchy as me. This is us. But the weather isn't cooperating. Nor are our schedules.

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We had a nice visit to the Clear Creek Distillery in Portland (thanks to the Flying Spaghetti Monster MeetUp folks for organizing the visit!). Here's my review on Yelp. I didn't say on Yelp which items I liked, because I find that incredibly subjective, but I'll say so here, in case you are curious:

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Thanksgiving 2010We also had a very nice Thanksgiving, just the two of us. We had tomato cream soup, made with tomatoes from my garden (thawed from my freezer), stuffing (out of the box, with fresh celery added), mashed potatoes (made by me mashing actual potatoes and cream), steamed green beans (flavored with onions), croissants, and pecan pie (store bought). All washed down with Korbel Brut. And all served in our gorgeous ceramic dishware from Stefan's home town of Hoehr-Grenzhausen -- except for the gravy in the Jerry Curry memorial gravy boat.

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So thrilled to find a diet at long last I can do!

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Our plans for Christmas? None. Stefan's boss is notorious for telling him to go somewhere far away the day before a trip (and his boss has usually known for days, even weeks in advance, but forgets to tell Stefan). I've told him that if its a trip to Europe, then I'll agree to it because I know Stefan would love to spend Christmas with his family and friends back home in Germany, and I would be fine here, as I'm not that big a fan of Christmas anyway. But any other trip at Christmas is absolutely unacceptable. In addition, his boss can expect a visit from me if he tries to send Stefan anywhere during my birthday in January -- for my last birthday, Stefan was abroad for business while I cried over Albi who, spent most of the month in a drug-induced stupor following emergency surgery. My 45th birthday needs to make up for that.

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Some TV talk:
  • Locked Up Abroad rarely talks about actually being locked up. It should be called what I did to be arrested abroad.

  • The Full Throttle Saloon should be shown in MBA classes - it has great lessons regarding customer service, human resources management, strategic planning and crisis management, sometimes showing best practices and sometimes showing absolutely what you should NOT do when running a business.

  • Really loving Conan, though I tend to turn it off as soon as its time for the first guest.

  • So looking forward to the return of Parks and Recreation on January 20. It's the first show that closely resembles many of my work places.
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Still so pscyhed about this.