Monday, January 28, 2008

Lost Speculation

Just in time for the start of Season 4 of Lost this week, I completed rewatching all of seasons 1, 2, and 3. I was looking for clues, and I think I found some interesting ones that have me onto a new theory. For example, the guy that child-Ben meets in the woods when he goes looking for his mother is Richard (the guy that gives Locke the file on Sawyer). I'm almost certain of it, though I can find no confirmation nor denial of that in the credits -- that character is entirely uncredited. Or maybe he's not, because he also appears elsewhere in that episode, so he's credited for that name. Also, I was reminded of the fact that Mikhail came back from fatal injuries twice (being pushed through the sonic wall and the speargun to the heart in the Looking Glass station).

This really got me thinking that there are people that must really be "special" people. These people are completely invincible on the island. This is why some of them actually want to stay. Richard is one of these people (no aging in the time from Ben's boyhood to adulthood -- 30ish years?), and Mikhail and Walt. John Locke is also, clearly, one of these people. Not only was he cured of his paralysis, he recovered from the shot Ben made to his chest. Those are pretty much the only ones I know for sure. Ben, however, is not special. He is aging, he got a spinal tumor, he didn't recover from that quickly, etc. He is a poser, and works very hard to keep up the facade, but he knows he isn't really one of the special people. He's even more afraid when he finds that Jacob talked to Locke -- more confirmation that Locke truly is special...and will figure out that Ben isn't, soon enough.

This also makes me think that John Locke is the man in the coffin during the flash-forward. Locke's specialness must have been revealed somewhere along the way, and Jack is now convinced that he was the only way back to the island. Of course, off the island, Locke would be without his invincibleness, and could die.

There are also a couple of unanswered questions that I have no idea how to fit into what we know. For example, in the season 3 finale with the flash-forward, Jack's dad is alive again. Does this mean time was really split before the crash event, and there's a timeline where Jack's dad didn't die in Sydney? That doesn't seem to jive with the idea that the island magnetic event caused the crash/split, which seems pretty crucial to be true. Why did the Others/Hostiles allow Ben to become their leader after the purge of the Dharma Initiative folks? Are there any of the rest of that group still around, or were they all imports that have since died? Also, it's clear that some people are "special" and some aren't. What this "special-ness" really entails is still a mystery. It's odd that Ben puts so much emphasis on having been born on the island, like that's what does it, but we can be pretty sure that 3 of the 4 "specials" weren't born on the island. Maybe the importable "specials" are very rare, and that's why they are working so hard to get on-island pregancy to work out. That's my best guess, at the moment. There are plenty more questions, but those are the big ones in my mind. What are your biggest questions? Your wackiest theories?

I'm so excited to see what transpires in the next couple of seasons. I don't have any TV reception (no antenna, no cable), so I'll be watching online the day after it airs. Please don't ruin any surprises for me, but I shouldn't be too far behind you. Happy puzzling!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Visiting Austin

Continuing with the catchup phase of my blog, we find ourselves in the middle of December, and in Austin. I keep finding an excuse to make a trip to Austin about once a quarter. This time it was to train a new person for my team. Conveniently, that coincided with the company holiday party, and my husband's food poisoning back home. I can handle most all kinds of injuries and illness, but puking puts me completely on edge, so I'm happy I missed that little adventure.

As far as the trip to Austin, I'm glad I went, and wish I hadn't, all in the same breath. I love seeing everyone, and I really feel I have to stay a while to catch as many people as I can, but it's also so tiring. Partly, I've become a wimp, but I just can't stay up until 11pm every night. I just wake up between 5 and 6 each morning, even on the weekends. So, after 10 days of 6 or 7 hours of sleep a night (and I'm strictly an 8-hour night girl!), I was really tired. Tired Heather leads to grumpy Heather and it's not pretty after that.

As much as I love working from home, I find myself needing to be in Austin periodically, just so the people I work with don't forget about me. And those are stressful visits, where I'm working, but not getting anything done for all the meetings and conversations I get pulled into. Not sure what to do with that, but it's been weighing on me. I think the unansweredness in my head is what made it hard to finish this short, little post.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Persistent or Stupid? You Decide

We have tickets to one of the local theatres here, but the night we had wasn't going to work out. So, I needed to exchange them for another night. I also really wanted to play with the handbell choir at my church here, because I just haven't played in a really long time. Neither of these errands was particularly close to the house, but my husband had to transport something large to work that day, so he had the car.

My choice was to bike to these two places, or not to go.

I hadn't been biking for a couple of weeks, so I knew it would be tough going. Also, the front derailleur on my bike was broken off in the move, and I haven't gotten around to replacing it. That reduces my 21-speed bike to a more sedate 7-speed. And you never really know what set of seven you'll get, because the chain is rather loose, so it skips around on the front set of gears. I had bought a new front derailleur, but hadn't gotten around to installing it, because the one I got wasn't fancy enough to be installed around the chain, and I didn't have a chain tool to take my chain off and then to get it back on.

All this is just to point out that my bike isn't in tip-top condition. But that's okay -- I was just heading to a couple of places, and I didn't need to go in any particular hurry, so I decided to go for it. The theatre was first on the list, just 2 miles away, and mostly downhill. The last block I turned up a hill, and


The pedals stopped turning, the bike stopped abruptly, and it was all I could do to get my shoes unclipped before I fell over. I got the bike over onto a sidewalk to assess the issue. I had, somehow, ripped my rear derailleur off the bike. Sheared the bolt that holds it onto the frame. Never knew I had that much strength. I imagine my chain-with-issues got locked into some weird position, and the torque was just right as I had just started into an uphill.

My bike was completely useless. I managed to find a way to arrange the chain and derailleur so that I could still roll the bike. It's a touring bike, so it's a steel frame, and it's heavy. I don't think I could have managed if I'd had to carry it. I completed my ticket trade at the box office, and then decided I could walk my bike back up the hill to the house and skip bell practice OR I could wander over to the nearest bike shop and see if they could help me out. Well, I'd come this far.

And could they. There was a guy there that went right to work on making my bike ridable again. Yep, I'd really done a number on poor Randy. (We name all our modes of transportation. The car is named Bruno, in case you were wondering. My last car was named Hans. I know. Weird.) The guy at the shop trued up the wheel (it had gotten bent), managed to work the sheared half of the bolt out, bent the frame back in place, and set me up with a new chain and a fancy new derailleur. Well, not new, exactly, but it's a top-of-the-line used-for-one-month racing one that they sold to me for about 40% of its new value. I now have the fanciest component a crappy bike like mine has never seen the likes of.

So, there I was, an hour later with a bike as good as new. Well, there's still no front derailleur, but at least I was better off than when I left the house. It was starting to get dark, and I knew I wasn't going to make it the 10 miles to my church before I would need the bike light that I don't have. But, I'd made it this far, so I decided to go ahead and do it. I got lost twice, stopped at a gas station for Gatorade once, almost got run times. It was a success, and I was ecstatic. It was fun to play handbells again, and then my husband picked me up for dinner and the ride home (since I really don't have a light on the bike).

That was the first week of December, and I haven't ridden my bike since. Even with the fancy new chain that doesn't need a tool to be disconnected, I haven't put the front derailleur on, either. Nor have I gotten a bike light....

Friday, January 11, 2008

November Food Experiment Results

I'm going to start to try to catch up on all the posting I should have been doing in the last month. Almost a month ago, one of the most amazing things to come my way actually happened. I became a published writer. Two weeks ago, I even got a check for that. Crazy, huh? I'm a physics degreed programmer with minimal creative leanings, and here I've actually gotten my words affixed to printed paper that I didn't send to my local printer. It's a little surreal, but I'd appreciate it if you click the link to see for yourself. Since I'm guessing the link will go away at some point, so, I'll reprint it below for your future review.

30 Meals, 1,000 Dishes
A Cooking Challenge of Unusual Proportion
Thursday, December 13, 2007
By Heather Tufts

Out of boredom and the desire to challenge myself with a simple cooking experiment came the idea to test my stubborn persistence: make a unique homemade dish every day for a month. To bring this one zany idea to fruition I needed:
• 28-31 days
• 18 trips to 5 markets
• 9 cuisines from around the world
• 6 new recipes
• 1 spectacular failure
• 2 cookbooks
• salt and pepper with friends to taste
Set aside a few selected meals intended for guests, so you don’t use the prime recipes before their time. Next, head to the store to pick up the necessary items for the next few days. Wash the dishes that are sitting, dirty, in the sink, but only those that you need to make the current meal. Prepare and serve, preferably to adventurous friends who gush over your talent in the kitchen. Stare at the dirty dishes. Vow to do them all tomorrow and get the kitchen all cleaned up. Go to bed, and repeat for one month.

Some of the more notable results followed:

Szechuan Fried Fish — We all must start somewhere, and my roots are in Hong Kong and China. So, in the beginning it was good.

Pork Tenderloin — Again, I showed my roots with a garlic, ginger, and soy marinade. The tenderloin was seared before roasting just to medium. Why do so many people overcook pork?

Taco Stew — This is one of those meals where the hardest part is operating the can opener. It’s really soup, but my husband, won’t eat soup. So, when he’s around, it’s "stew."

Parmesan-Crusted Snapper — This dish was most notable for the fact that it was the most hideously awful meal I made all month. It smelled like feet and I couldn’t stomach more than a couple bites. Of course, my husband ate it anyway, including the leftovers. I guess there’s really no accounting for taste.

Lentil Chili — Since I have relatives from Texas, I would appreciate it if no one told them that I made a meatless chili (with beans, even!), and especially not that I liked it.

Balsamic Vinegar and Oil with Pasta — Two weeks in and I was hitting the backsplash. My husband generously offered to make the meal I told him to make, but only because it has less than five ingredients.

Other — I may have missed a meal in here somewhere. Let’s try not to harp on that, shall we?

Bulgogi — This is an easy meal (literally “fire meat” in Korean) to make, and a terrible one to have to clean up.

Mardi Gras Pasta — All you fusion chefs out there, eat your heart out on my Cajun-Italian entry.

Szechuan Fried Chicken — I know this may look like my entry from day one, but I promise, they are nothing alike. And I cannot tell a lie.

French Toast — With my husband out of town for work, I decided I could break the rules and eat breakfast for dinner.

Hoi Sin Chilean Sea Bass — This must’ve turned out well. Two weeks later, my dad is still talking about how good it was. I was just happy that Mom helped me with the dishes.

Penne Arrabiata — I love the irony of serving “angry” pasta to my parents.

Thanksgiving — I made the full traditional spread, from turkey and dressing to homemade apple pie and ice cream. It’s my favorite meal of the year. No planning necessary.

Tortilla Soup — This is really nothing like the Taco Stew, which is mostly beans. It’s just a flavorful broth to spoon over avocados and chips and cheese.

Thai Basil Chicken — Delicious, but its only resemblance to the food of Thailand was the use of native basil.

Shrimp Curry — I made this meal with a can of Yeo’s Singapore Curry Gravy. Really good stuff when you’ve only got 45 minutes to make curry.

Lamb RagoĆ»t — A brilliant success, which will likely make it into the regular dinner rotation in the future.

Ham and Mushroom Waffles — Again, this isn’t a repeat of my French-Toast-for-dinner meal. When you put Swiss cheese and buttermilk with ham and mushrooms and pour it all over cornmeal waffles, it’s dinnertime somewhere.

Chicken Marsala — Twenty-nine days into the month and I was just cooking on autopilot. I’m pretty sure I ate it, but I can’t remember.

Green Chicken Enchiladas — I finished the month with a lovely stacked enchilada done in the Crockpot, which is my favorite kitchen appliance, so it seemed a fitting way to end the month’s effort.

A freezer full of leftovers

If I learned anything from this month of cooking, it’s that I hate to do dishes. We’ve got to get one of those fancy dishwasher things … and a garbage disposal … and maybe one of those water sprayers for the sink. That would be nice. I also learned that I really only use two cookbooks. I’m not sure why I have all the others on the shelf, but I constantly refer to Solomon’s The Complete Asian Cookbook and Hazan’s The Classic Pasta Cookbook. Everything else is either one of Mom’s recipes or an improvisational masterpiece (or a parmesan-crusted disaster). Finally, and most unexpectedly, I found that I don’t really like to eat my cooking. I lost three pounds this month cooking something new every day, and I didn’t have three pounds to lose. I think this has to do with the fact that after shopping and prepping and cooking and tasting, I just am not interested in the meal when it gets to the table. I would love to hear if other people take this challenge and come to a similar conclusion. It could be the next diet phenomenon to sweep the nation — “cook more, eat less.”

But next time, someone else can do the dishes.

Kinda surreal. But it was a lot of fun, and I'm glad I had the opportunity. It's always neat to see how these things sometimes happen. No worries, I haven't quit my day job, but it was a fun little diversion.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Where Is Heather?

I was reading Snick's latest post, and she summed up how I feel right now, perfectly.

I'm all out of practice. I think part of the problem is that I have so much to blog about right now that I don't know where to start.

And that's me, too. I'm just too overloaded with things to share that I hardly know where to start. But I will be working to get caught back up soon. Part of it seems that I only have a certain number of posts in me per year. And since I posted (nearly) every day in November, I'd used up my posting quota, and nothing more could be posted.

So, please don't abandon me, like I've abandoned you. I will have some posts about past events mixed in with current events, but I expect you will have no trouble keeping up with me. The issue is much more of an issue the other direction.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Brief Return to Posting

I know I've been out of commission for a while. Soon enough, I will be back in regular mode, and I will explain what I've been doing for the last month. However, I just wanted to check in and thank the Iowa voters for jumbling up this presidential election season. For those of you that haven't seen the results yet, here's how things shook out last night.

On the Democratic side, Barack Obama came in first, with John Edwards second, and Hillary Clinton in third place. This is a beautiful jumble. On the Republican side of things, Mike Huckabee got the top spot, Mitt Romney came in second, and Fred Thompson in third. That's a crazy pile. I have to say that I love the fact that the two declared frontrunners (Clinton and Romney) did not win their respective caucuses. That's probably because I tend to root for the underdog, but I'll take it, regardless.

I know Iowa doesn't determine the nation's pulse, and this one primary doesn't mean that Obama and Huckabee will be the candidates, but it just bodes for a competitive primary season, and that makes me a happy camper. Now we just have to wait and see what New Hampshire does with the next phase of the race. Clinton and Romney are still expected to win there, but we'll just have to see.