Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Early Expectations

A few weeks ago, my little sister came to our house for her Spring Break. She is just sixteen, and a sophomore in highschool. My parents were sending her to us under the auspices that we would visit colleges and help her figure out where she wants to go to school when she graduates. Did anyone miss the part about her being a sophomore? In case you did, I'll put it in different terms: 10th grade.

So, in my talks with her leading up to the visit, I said we would just tell them we visited colleges, and they wouldn't be the wiser. My dad, particularly, continued to harp on the subject, so I finally acquiesced. We would visit some schools.

When she got here, though, I couldn't do it. Saturday came and went. Then Sunday and Monday. Tuesday morning I pulled together everything I could and we visited UT, Concordia, and Texas State, all in a span of about 2 and a half hours (an hour of that was the drive back and forth from TX St). By visited, I mean we drove through and talked about the relative merits and drawbacks of very small, medium-sized, and large schools. And then we were done. I promised no more lapses in our refusing to visit schools.

We did everything else, though, and by the end of the week I was completely worn out. Mostly I tried to get her to understand that her opinions and desires and strengths are valid, even if they don't match Dad's expectations of her. I don't think I succeeded, but I laid some groundwork for some further conversations. It's pretty difficult to undo in one week the damage my dad does all year.

I know he has the best intentions, he just doesn't always push his agenda in the best way possible. I know they are also older now than when I was in highschool -- more ready than ever to finally be empty-nesters. I try to remind them it's not her fault that she was born so much later in the family's life cycle, but I know she still gets that vibe. How could any kid not get that vibe.

Regardless, when I dropped her off at the airport to head back home, I called my dad. I told him we hadn't figured anything out during the week, and that I considered it a personal victory that she said she is now more confused than she was when she came to our house. I was a bit stern with him, reminding him that she has 18 months before she even has to apply to places, much less decide where to go or what to major in. (I left out the part where I told her it was okay if she didn't go to college, too. We have to work up to that possibility.) I told him to let her focus on trying to stay in that top 10 percent of her class, and not worry about selecting her career (and husband, and the date she'll have children, etc.) until much later.

Why would I ever need to have children of my own? I have my little sisters (the other one has her own set of dramatics). And more than that, I have my dad to keep me busy.

Monday, March 27, 2006

British Invasion

This weekend, my husband and I attending the wedding celebration of his sister and her new husband. He is British, but we did not go to London for these festivities. Instead, his relatives and friends came to Northern Georgia for the parties. After all the regular jokes about driving on the wrong side of the road, we settled in for a very fun set of days. I've almost stopped saying things like "lovely" and "dreadful," but I am still looking for a reason to use my new phrase, "khak my pants."

We went to five parties in four days, and apparently there were two others we weren't even invited to attend. It's a good thing, too, since I don't think I could have gone to one more party without exploding. I love my sister-in-law, and I really like this guy she married, but is it really necessary to jump up and down constantly for the whole weekend? Thankfully, my mother-in-law didn't spontaneously combust, though that was a distinct possibility.

One of my responsibilities at this wedding was to play the video toast that her other brother put together since he was unable to attend. This involved a projector, speakers, a mixer, and a laptop. With all the equipment I rented, I could have bought him a plane ticket, myself. The brother-in-law, with his theatrics, put together an animated film wherein Great Britain invaded Georgia for the booming poultry market. Negotiations between the bride and groom representing their respective countries (?) were tense:
  Bride: "I'm right!"
  Groom: "Oh dear."
  Et cetera ...

During the playing of this toast, I realized that I was the most likely person to be attacked by the bride in question, and I was only four feet away from her. Thankfully, she was able to laugh at herself (or she'd had too much wine by that point to be aware of what was going on), and I have survived to blog another day.

Regardless, all is right in the world again. Most of those UK-ers have returned home, or at least gone to places like New York and Vail where people expect to see foreigners. The sleepy little towns in northern Georgia have been allowed to return to their regular, non-constant-partying selves. And I go back to work tomorrow, trying to earn a living in the field I know best.

Love is beautiful, no?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Moving Out of the Depression

This will be my last post about basketball for a while, I promise. I don't know if any of you noticed, but my Aggies lost a 1-point heartbreaker to LSU to exit from the NCAA tournament. I was so excited about how well they've played this season, so that made this loss really hard. Oh and the part about not getting to go to the Sweet 16 game I'd imagined between A&M and Duke in Atlanta tonight. I was going to Atlanta anyway today, and I had delusions that I would be going to that game. But, it wasn't to be.

But now I'm coming out of my sadness about that loss. We had an awesome run, and a great season. Next year holds even greater promise as a result. I'm glad we got the opportunity to have a couple of wins in post-season play, both in the Big 12 Tournament and in the NCAA Tournament. That has to boost our recruiting abilities, and we have our best players back next year to go with that. All leads to a very promising future for the team.

Thank you for allowing me to talk about this run in this forum. I know you don't really have any say in what I write here, but I'm trying to be gracious.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

My Aggies Rock

Did you see that they won? Did you see that they won?? If not, I'll go ahead and spoil your TiVo watching for later. Texas A&M beat Syracuse in the first round of the tournament! It was exactly A&M's kind of game -- a defensive, low-scoring battle that is won by the three and running out the shot clock on every possession. The tempo was ours. Gerry McNamara was ours. He has been so hot lately, and his play in the last few games of the season and the Big East tournament are why Syracuse was listed as a 5 seed (does anyone remember how they were being talked about as a bubble team just before the Big East tournament?). However, A&M completely shut him down. No field goals. At all.

And that's why we won. Good defense and a lot of heart. I am so proud. And we'll be playing again on Saturday. LSU, you better get ready for us.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

SXSW Movie Review

I don't normally do this. Of course, I don't normally see anything until it goes mainstream and everyone and their dog has seen it, too. But this time was different. I know someone who knows someone who knows someone else...who knows the director of "The Oh in Ohio", and they got us tickets to go see it Monday night at the SXSW Film Festival here in Austin.

This film stars Parker Posey, Paul Rudd, Mischa Barton, and Danny Devito, and addresses the topic of female sexual dysfunction. The storyline was fun, and the characters were all believable and multi-layered. The audience was laughing and generally enjoying themselves. I was a little embarrassed when I remembered my 15-year-old sister was in the seat next to me, but she also enjoyed it.

It is being shown again this Friday night at the Paramount theater as part of the festival. In case it's already sold out, I wanted to let you all know that they are working on getting wider spread carrying of the film, so it might be coming to a theater near you. If it does, please be sure to go. But it will probably be rated R, so be careful about taking your 15-year-old sister.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Customer Bracket Bragging

Quite a few of my customers made it to the big dance this year. Last year, I only had 5 in the tournament. This year, it's 8 of my 62 customers. That's a pretty good percentage, considering how many of my customers aren't Division I schools or are all together in one of the wimpy conferences that only gets their automatic bid. Here's the breakdown, by seed, for my little list of customers that made it this year:

2 Ohio State
5 Syracuse
5 Pittsburgh
6 Michigan State
9 Bucknell
12 Texas A&M
12 Kent State
15 Pennsylvania

Unfortunately, I am guaranteed to lose two of my customers in the first round, since they are in head-to-head 5/12 matchups. And of course there's my 15-seed. But overall, it was a good showing. I know it seems strange to look at things like this, but last year, I bet against Bucknell, even though they were my customer. And you all know how that went down. Well maybe you don't, but they upset Kansas, and 14 seeds just don't do that very often.

Meanwhile, I am so pumped about my Aggies. The first trip to the big dance in nearly 20 years. It's certainly the first time since I've been paying attention. Do they have a tough road ahead of them? Sure. But you have to watch out for those 5/12 pairings. Every year one or two 5 seeds fall in the first round. I hope my "little team that could" can be one of those. And have I ever mentioned that I'm ecstatic that Josh Carter is just a freshman this year? And that Acie Law and Joe Jones are still juniors, and we'll get another year out of them? The prospects for next year are so good, I can hardly contain myself.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Austin is a Great Place to Live

When I first moved to Austin, I didn't really like it. Of course, that might have been the unemployment or the waiting tables or the apartment with the bars on the windows. Regardless, in time, Austin has really grown on me. Here are some of the best things about Austin.

This city is quite the outdoorsy locale. People hike and swim and run and cycle and generally participate in tons of stuff outside. There is a plethora of available races for all athletic levels, and participants in said races tend to be incredibly supportive of their fellow racers. It's just the kind of place that encourages activity. After my announcement that I wanted to do a marathon in another year, I've gotten so many training suggestions, books, offers to run together, etc. It's very encouraging and exciting.

Downtown is quite the bustling place, full of fun restaurants and hangouts, and generally nifty things to do. So many cultures are reflected in the food and the atmosphere of the places that are available.

And finally, but most importantly, one of the state mental hospitals is located here. This makes things easier when it's time to check in. Or easier to visit my husband when I have him checked in.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Civic Duty Completed

As it turned out, all those questions I answered in the online reporting tool got me selected for the jury. When I arrived at the door to the room in question, it took me right into the jury box in a courtroom. And there I sat with 10-12 other people.

There was no one else in the room. There was a desk for a court reporter, a table for the defendants and another for the prosecutor, a witness stand, and desk for the judge. I found myself thinking it was surprisingly plain and unassuming for the state capital of Texas, even for a municipal courtroom.

Everyone sat there quietly, not wanting to be the first person to try and make chit-chat attempts. The guy next to me was that person who is way too important for his own good. He sent and received probably 10 text messages during the 30 minutes I sat next to him.

We could hear voices in the next room. They got louder and softer as time progressed. Sometimes it sounded like a very unhappy person, and sometimes like a very angry person. Couldn't hear anything when the voices got quieter.

After a little while, a man came in to take roll. Two people were missing. When he left, we resumed our quiet ignoring of each other. I returned to my puzzle, and a guy across from me looked for a new magazine to thumb through. Ten minutes more, and the roll-caller came back to announce that the judge would be in momentarily to talk with us. We were told to rise, the judge came in, and we all sat back down.

He thanked us for coming and fulfilling our obligation. He thanked us for our patience. And then he said they were able to settle all the cases on the docket for the day without having to bring them befor us, so we were free to go. He even said any parking tickets we may have gotten would be paid for by the city.

As we left, I overheard one of my fellow jurors say, "That's my favorite judge ever."

It was a bit anti-climactic. I was sorry not to have gotten to experience the full fun of a trial. It probably would have been a speeding ticket or parking ticket, and not nearly that exciting, but I was intrigued to see the process in action. Only without the cameras and TV writers scripting it out.

My Civic Responsibility

Today I am off to be selected, or not selected, into a jury. I've never actually served on a jury, so this is certainly going to be interesting. Even if just in the experiencing of the process.

It's interesting to me that anyone I've told that I have jury duty has tried to give me advice on what to do to get out of being selected. First off, I am incapable of lying, so telling me to make up anything is just not going to happen. But secondly, if everyone is trying to get out of jury duty, then won't it be hard to assemble a jury of peers? Of course it's an inconvenient time to be out of work, and certainly I don't want to be sequestered for the next six months of my life, but it seems that it's important for someone to be willing to serve.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Family Differences

This weekend there was a day where I straightened my hair. Now my hair isn't excessively curly, but it is wavy, and sometimes a bit unruly. It really threw my husband off for me to have straight hair. At one point he came up behind me and said, "You look like someone in my family with your hair like that."

I reminded him that I am a member of his family.

This has been an ongoing struggle for us. His family sees blood as the only definer of family, and mine sees it as the people you choose to spend time with. At our wedding reception, one of the other people that had married into my husband's family came up to me and welcomed me to "The Outlaws (because we'll never be in-laws, you see)." And that's pretty much how it's been. I wasn't allowed to go to the grandfather's funeral, because those kinds of things are "just for family." And on, and on.

This causes us both a lot of issues. I constantly feel like an outsider in what should be my family. He feels like he is treated too familiarly, but can't tell my parents that he already has a Mom and Dad and doesn't need any more sets.

So, I'm curious and I want to ask you, kind readers, whether you have seen similar differences in the way family is perceived, and whether you've found creative solutions to the outsider/insider dilemma.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

I'm Ba-ack!

I have finally recovered from not enough sleep and way too much alcohol. The conference went very well, and even my biggest stickler of a client laughed with me and got a picture of my team. They even joked about the project that we've been working on (and missing deadlines on) for the last 6 months.

The food was all really good throughout the days. I think I could have eaten 6 pounds of that spinach/avocado/tomato salad. Mmmmmm!! It was also nice to hear the customers talk about the good food after last year's complaints about the chicken on the first night.

On Monday night, we took them to see an IMAX film at the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum. We saw "Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D". The last time I went to a 3D movie, I had just finished high school. It turns out, being able to see out of both of your eyes is rather important to being able to resolve 3D images. In the previous experience, I became nauseated and had to step out. Seeing 2-3 copies of every image is very disconcerting. Well, I'm happy to report that the technology in the glasses has improved quite a bit. This time, the glasses filtered out most of the other images, and while I didn't see anything in 3D, I generally only saw one instance of the picture. Regardless, with Tom Hanks and Morgan Freeman narrating, I fell asleep about 10 minutes in, and woke up just before the closing credits. Was I drunk? No. Tipsy, but not drunk enough to pass out. Just tired from smiling and talking to everyone and trying to remember all the names and all of that.

My presentation during the second day of conference proceedings went okay, but I was reminded of what a boring presenter I really am. I got lots of comments about how informative my session was, which is code for "it had information, but not much else." I tried to be lively, but I really felt like I was assigned a boring topic. And when you feel that way deep down, you're pretty doomed to fulfill your prophecy. I think I've got a (mostly) foolproof way to avoid having a presentation to do next year.

We ended the conference on Fat Tuesday on 6th street, so that was a little crazy. After the planned festivities, a group of us ended up at the Rainbow Cattle Company for some dancing. I have to say, my first experience at a gay club went well. However, I did find myself wondering why I've never seen an unattractive gay man.

The Wednesday after the conference found me drinking as much water as I could possibly fit into my stomach. I spent the rest of the day (that I wasn't in the restroom from the excessive water consumption) trying to relearn how to type and fix things for customers, etc. I'm pretty well back to normal now, and getting all the things done that I promised to them during the conference. I really enjoy this conference every year, even though it generates a ton of work for us all after we get done with it. We call it our "Job Security Conference."