Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Random Ten

I had a relationship in college that is a little difficult to characterize. I enjoyed his company, and he enjoyed mine, but we never dated. We went on a lot of "dates", however, including the TFIA concert and this week's concert featuring John Michael Montgomery in College Station. See, I was his back-up girl when he got stood up. I would say we were friends, but, um, we were more than that. Ahem. Towering over the dysnfunctional relationship we had, was this particular concert, though. JMM showed up drunk and performed much too long and poorly, as a result. I wasn't much of a fan beforehand, and that experience didn't really motivate a change there. I remember little of the actual concert except that as he finished the applause was half-hearted, and yet he came back and did a 20-minute instrumental encore that got even less applause, partly because people left during it. I also recall that he mentioned -- several times -- what a great place The Dixie Chicken was. Clearly, he had spent a lot of time there that day.

Anyway, here's what Pandora gave me for Mr. Drunk Performer.

"Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident)" by John Michael Montgomery* on The Very Best of John Michael Montgomery
"Neon Moon" by Brooks & Dunn on Brand New Man
"Friends In Low Places" by Garth Brooks on No Fences
"The Chair" by George Strait on Fifty Number Ones
"Cover You In Kisses" by John Michael Montgomery* on The Very Best of John Michael Montgomery
"Best of Intentions" by Travis Tritt on Down The Road I Go
"If You See Him/If You See Her (featuring Reba McEntire)" by Brooks & Dunn on The Greatest Hits Collection II
"Me Too" by Toby Keith on Greatest Hits Volume 1
"You Won't Ever Be Lonely" by Andy Griggs on You Won't Ever Be Lonely
"I Swear" by John Michael Montgomery* on Kickin' It Up

I have to say I was surprised at how many of these songs I knew. And if I didn't know the specific song seleted, I knew other songs by that artist. I have very little country music in my collection, I don't listen to it on the radio, and I don't have any friends that are country music fans. However, I've enjoyed dancing to country music ever since my time at Texas A&M. It's easy dancing at its, but can be flared up nicely, depending on the abilities of the dancers involved, especially the lead in my case, since I'm not a particularly good dancer. Now I'm itchin' to go dig out my Rockies and my Justins and two-step the evening away. As such, my video for this week is of the Aggie Wranglers, a performing group that makes jitterbug look like it should, and not like I'd do it (though I can do some of the simpler moves).

* Acts I've seen live

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tiptoe Through The Tulips: Bougainvillea

This is a bougainvillea that we have in the front yard.
I did a lot of digging to try to figure out what kind it is, but have run into a bunch of dead ends on that front. Let's look at the data we have on the three pure species that exist, and how my plant relates to them:

  • Leaves -- The leaves most resemble the peruviana species, with oblate, hairless, evergreen characteristics.

  • Brachts -- These are the colorful leaves that most people would assume are the flowers, but the flowers are actually at the center of these colorful paperlike brachts. The plant in our yard is closest to the spectablis species, with the bright magenta color and the triangular shape.

  • Thorns -- Yes, there are thorns, but they are deep inside the plant, and generally blunt, so I haven't maimed myself yet. Here, again, we match up to spectablis.

  • Flowers -- The little parts at the center of the bracht (at least before they fall off) are white, aligning best with glabra.

  • Habit -- This characteristic is primarily around what the plant likes to do and how it grows. Since this one blooms multiple times and grows very densely, we have another checkmark for spectablis.

  • So, what do we have here -- three nods to spectablis, with one each to peruviana and glabra. This would normally tip me to the leading species, except spectablis "is noted for its hairy leaves and stems" which my plant clearly does not have. As such, it is likely some sort of hybrid of these. Now there are 300 hybrids of this showy flowering plant, so my technical term for it is a big pink bougainvillea bush. How's that for fancy? Regardless, it's pretty hardy and just blooms whenever I water it as much as I can manage. Conveniently it's in an unshaded south-facing spot, which is good, since as a tropical plant, it prefers tons of sun, too. I like it when I find another plant I probably can't kill, but with a bit of care will bloom like it's 1999.

    Sunday, June 22, 2008

    Craving Gone Awry

    I've been wanting something sweet all week, which is odd in Heather-land, because I just don't have much of a sweet tooth. So, when I was at the grocery store today, I reached into the freezer and pulled out a carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream, my favorite. When I got home and got out a spoon to dive in, I noticed I'd actually gotten cookies and cream. Still sweet, but not what I wanted.

    Now it will probably just stay in the freezer until the GB with the massive sweet tooth comes home next week and finishes it off. What a shame.

    Friday, June 20, 2008

    Friday Random Ten

    My next entry in the "concert on memory lane" process is Michael W. Smith. I had gone to see Jars of Clay, but MWS was surprisingly impressive with his musicianship. It was sort of funny -- I asked my highschool DCE (Director of Christian Education) directions to the concert, and he told me not to worry -- there were two opening bands to MWS. I told him I was in town to see one of those "opening bands", and he was completely dumbfounded. I guess he didn't get that I was willing to pay MWS prices to see my little JoC folks play in a big venue. Even though I didn't go to the concert specifically to see him, I was impressed with his show. He's a great performer, and can play the piano beautifully, and all by ear -- did you know he can't even read music?

    While I was impressed with his piano-by-ear ability, his lyric writing always frustrated me. I always most disliked the songs he wrote on his own without any lyrical help. He is an amazing musician, but he is not a lyricist. As such, it was important to me to find a song to share that he played piano (not guitar) in, but not that he'd written the words for. In the end, I settled on this tune, with words written by Diane Warren. This was from a concert back in 1993, which is sort of when I stopped listening to him, and therefore his 1980s-ish-persona is preserved in my brain as who he is, even though he keeps making albums and putting on concerts. Meanwhile, I sort of laughed at the little part at the beginning talking about how he composes and plays his music, so I thought you might also enjoy that little laugh. And so, without further ado, I give you "Smitty".

    And now to see what Pandora gave me for my Michael W. Smith station.

    "Here I Am" by Michael W. Smith* on Healing Rain
    "Holy Is The Lord" by Chris Tomlin* on Arriving
    "Holy Holy Holy" by Stephen Curtis Chapman on Amazing Grace
    "You Are So Good To Me" by Third Day on Chronology Volume Two
    "Let It Rain" by Michael W. Smith* on Worship (Live)
    "My Redeemer Lives" by Reuben Morgan on World Through Your Eyes
    "Shout To The Lord" by Lincoln Brewster on Let The Praises Ring
    "Cannot Say Enough" by MercyMe on Almost There
    "You Are A Child Of Mine" by Mark Schultz on Stories & Songs
    "Freedom" by Michael W. Smith on The Second Decade (1993-2003)

    It's a pretty blah group of songs, but I didn't really expect anything different with the key I gave it. There are couple of good praise songs that I like to sing in church, and that I will consider a success for this round.

    * Acts I've seen live

    Wednesday, June 18, 2008

    Ode To the Eye

    The eye is a phenomenal organ. "Organ" doesn't even feel like a good enough word to describe all that the eye does. The stomach is an organ, churning our food and sending it on to the next part of the assembly line. But the eye does so much more than a single, optimized function.

    The eye protects itself in ways the other organs of the body never do. Sure, the stomach has part of a rib cage and abdominal muscles and skin keeping it from the nefarious outside world, but these hardly seem the work of the stomach, itself. The eyelids, however, are part of the eye -- its gatekeepers, if you will. The eyelids close on an instinct if any sand or dust or bright light attempts to damage the tender eye behind them. The open wider to allow more images and light in, and shrink to slits when the light is too much for the eye to handle. The eyelashes are there to help with anything the eyelids can't react to quickly enough. Primarily, though, they are there to filter out the particles in the air, so the eyelids can stay open longer to let the eye do more of its thing.

    Why all the protection for these amazing machines that make up such a tiny fraction of the mass of the human body? The eyes are important for many reasons, and this is seen in the ways our poets write about them. They are "windows to the soul." The eyes are where you see death overcome a person -- almost as if they are the defining part of life. They indicate if someone is telling the truth or embellishing, such as noting that a person who looks up and to the left while speaking is lying. The eyes can show a range of emotions from surprise to shame to fury to love, and a whole lot more. A simple change in the eyebrow shape can indicate someone in deep thought who would be best undisturbed or the thoughtful look of someone who is shocked at learning something new. Clearly, a major amount of communication occurs through these complex pieces of our face.

    Speaking of the face, there are lots of beaty products for the eyes. There is eyeliner, mascara, eye shadow, and eyebrow pencils, but there are also eyelash curlers, and our eyebrows must be tweezed to keep them in shape. Uncared for, the eyes can make a person look old or dumb or indicate a social outcast.

    As a powerful part of a person's exchange with the world around it, it's tough to think about not having eyes. More than the eye itself, though, my fears revolve around the loss of vision. With one eye already gone and the other declining, it's a real possibility. All I can do is continue to look for good opthamologists and hope the technology beats me to blindness. In the meantime, I'll enjoy my eyes.

    Tuesday, June 17, 2008

    Tiptoe Through The Tulips: Aeonium haworthii

    I recently became a very lucky girl on my quest to understand my garden. The previous owner of the house, we'll call her Misty, had lived in this house a long time, and appears to know everyone in town. About 25 years ago, she commissioned the garden for this house from a local landscape artist she knew. Well, he still lives in SB, and came by last week to give us some pointers on the garden. He gave me all kinds of information about what some of these plants are, what I was doing wrong with some of them, and ideas about where to place some additional plants I'd really like to add to the yard. I now have a cornucopia of information, and weeks and weeks of details that I can use in this little feature on HIAHS.

    But enough about my dumb luck as I was approaching some lean identification weeks.
    This is Aeonium haworthii. It's a very small aeonium, with the succulent rosettes only measuring two to four inches across. While it appears to be rare hardy and nearly invasive, it grows easily in moderate conditions without much watering or other assistance. Here is a closeup of some of the smaller rosettes:
    While the leaves end up looking like a flower, there is actually a flower that can grow on this guy. I haven't seen that happen, and am not certain that my exact version will flower, so I'll just stick with the leaves-arranged-like-a-flower state that I have now.

    Friday, June 13, 2008

    Friday Random Ten

    I'm continuing my series on using the discovery of Pandora as a reason to go down memory lane on some concerts I've attended. Next up is Trout Fishing In America. They are an interesting pair of guys. First is the fact that they are odd to look at -- Keith is short and plays the bass while Ezra is very tall and plays guitar, so neither really looks like he fits his instrument. Then, they have very different musical backgrounds, with Keith studying music in college and starting out with jazz groups while Ezra's background is in basketball-turned-rock'n'roll. I would primarily classify them as folk, but it's their kid's music with smart enough lyrics for adults that really drew me to them. I have several of their "adult" albums, but the most fun are the crazy kid songs -- tongue twisters and odes to imaginary friends with inconvenient names and recipes for pico de gallo that are just downright catchy (you know Ohio rhymes really nicely with pico de gallo, don't you?).

    The time I saw them live was in College Station, and they had arrived in a summarily low key way in their old crimson truck, Robert RedFord. They proceeded to spend the next 2+ hours making me laugh until my sides hurt. Similarly to last week, as a relatively low-key band, there aren't a lot of videos that I had to pull from in the YouTube annals, I refer you to their MySpace page and demand you to listen to "Proper Cup of Coffee". You should also listen to "Baby's Got the Car Keys", but I won't demand that one. Meanwhile, I give you this energetic rendition of "Eleanor Rigby" with poor video quality, but that's not their fault. Enjoy!

    And now on to what happened when I typed "Trout Fishing In America" into the Pandora musical engine.

    "Something Sweet" by Trout Fishing In America* on inFINity
    "Orangedale Whistle" by The Rankins on Collection
    "Slip Away" by David Leask on Tightrope of Dreams
    "Common-Law Love" by Sonny Landreth on Outward Bound
    "Murrell's" by Trout Fishing In America* on Reel Life
    "Hard Luck Woman" by Kiss on Rock and Roll Over
    "California" by Creede Williams on Something Borrowed
    "Wishing Well" by Monte Montgomery on Live at the Caravan of Dreams
    "That's the Smoke They're Blowin'" by DAn Hicks & The Hot Licks on Selected Shorts
    "The Number of That Truck" by Trout Fishing in America* on Reel Life

    I hadn't heard of many of the other acts that Pandora dished me (wait -- who put Kiss in any sort of relation with TFIA?? Oh well, it worked...somehow), but they definitely focused on the folk side of things, and less on the fun-kid-song side, even with the songs they played from TFIA, directly. I'm still not sure how country ended up in the mix, but I guess other people have different ways of classifying TFIA's sound than I do. Regardless, it was a fun and relaxing little mix that I got served up, and I enjoyed most of it (Dan Hicks couldn't get off the Pandora stage fast enough for me). I can't wait for these guys to come to someplace near SB, so I can see them in person again.

    * Acts I've seen live

    Thursday, June 12, 2008

    Parading with the Big Dogs

    This weekend, we went to the Big Dog Parade. Odd phenomenon, that one. The concept is simple enough: dress up your dog and walk through the streets as part of the procession. However, that little synopsis hardly does this even justice, and that would be because there are some incredibly creative people in the world. Here is a sampling of some of my favorites.

    Here, a Spuds Mackensie lookalike rides a bike in a most uncomfortable-looking position. Regardless of how uncomfortable it looks, I can attest he hung out there for at least the five minutes we could see him.

    I loved the giant dog dressed up like a clydesdale, and accessorily, I loved the mini-kegs in the back of his wagon. Hee hee!

    The retired greyhound group was too cute dressed as busses and RVs. Winnegreygo is a surprisingly funny word to say out loud. Go ahead and try it.

    Apparently, if you don't want to dress up your dog, you can just paint him. It was a good paint job, too, since I had to do a double-take to be sure what I was seeing.

    Token hot dog costume. Someone had to do it, and I'm glad they did.

    One group emphasizing the need for environmental awareness wore shirts saying "Reduce your carbon paw print", and hooked up a passal of dogs to this makeshift car they named the Hounda (there were several other puns around this one, but now I don't remember them). I put more info here, because I know my picture didn't turn out that well.

    Anyway, the point was that it was fun. There were a lot of zany costumes, and some where the people looked funnier than the dogs, but most of them made me laugh in one way or the other. I don't think I would be one of those people that dresses up her pets, but for something like this I could make an exception. How about you -- would you dress up your dog or cat? Any fun ideas for funny pet costumes?

    Tuesday, June 10, 2008

    Tiptoe Through The Tulips: Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri (Easter Cactus)

    I decided I better figure out what this one was, because I appears to be trying to kill it, despite the massive numbers of blooms. Here you can see the base stems that look like they are all dying with green sections and tons of blooms at the end, despite it all.

    Meanwhile, to give you an idea of scale, here are the blooms in their detail on the edges of my fingertips -- about an inch across, but very bright and happy.

    While the common name of Easter Cactus is well agreed on by the various sites I looked at, no one can seem to decide which Cacti genus it belongs in. Some put it in Schlumbergera, some in the Epiphyllum group, like our orchid cactus friend, and it was previously referred to as a Zygocactus, but most seem to put it in the Rhipsalidopsis genus now, so that's where I decided to keep it. Even though they can't agree on a genus, they all have it in the species gaertneri -- backwards, I tell you! How am I supposed to figure out what they are if everyone else doesn't agree?

    Anyway, I was supposed to be watering this guy up until it bloomed, and then let it get dry between waterings. I kinda did that backwards, and is likely why this guy is in such a bad state at this point, even though it is healthy enough to flower. I'm trying to do better now that I know what it is. We'll see. Man, am I glad I lucked into an established garden that I can't probably damage too badly.

    Monday, June 09, 2008

    Celebrating 3653 Days

    Friday was the 3653rd day-iversary of our wedding (that's ten years for those of you that are math-limited, either by infant-induced lack of sleep, or more general math aversion). Our day was fubared because of flight delays the night before that meant we were in LA late Thursday night instead of SB, but we can make the most of messed up plans.

    We spent the night in a hotel. Not a fancy one, but it was fun to be somewhere different in an unplanned trip. Friday morning, we got up and researched bike shops in the area, and went to look. Looking led to a really good deal we couldn't pass up, and now we are the proud owners of this little number:

    It's a fun way to ride, and it's a way for us both to work hard and end up at the same place at the same time. We'd tried one that some friends lent us in Austin, so we knew we can actually do the whole bicyle-built-for two without crashing and burning. The difficulty, then, was to find one that would be fit right for us and be sturdy enough for touring gear to be attached to it. We had talked about a custom tandem (mostly because GB really likes to think he is unique, even though I'm the oddly shaped one -- long legs, no torso), but those buggers are seriously expensive. We also had talked about one that could come apart for traveling tandem trips, but then we found that it's possible to retrofit that functionality into a bike, so that seemed less important to have in the initial purchase. Mostly, we have been trying to greenify our lives (the high-falutin' phrase is "reduce our carbon footprint", but there is no high-falutin' here at HIAHS). This bike is one way to do that. We have big plans for biking-to-camp trips and long bike trips together, both based from here and places that are plane rides away. I'm looking forward to that. Plus, it's a true togethering present to ourselves, and crossing into the double-digits is a big deal.

    Our next plan on the bike is to upgrade some of the components (derailleurs and shifters, primarily) and add carrying capacity. In the meantime, we'll be practicing our synchronous power output as captain (the one in the front who steers and shifts) and stoker (the one in the back who pedals her heart out). It's sort of an interesting metaphor for marriage, but I'm too tired from our ride yesterday to flesh it out.

    The rest of the celebratory day included chili fries at Tommy's for lunch, and a nice Italian dinner down on the waterfront at Emilio's. With all the first name possessive eateries out there, we were bound to hit two in one day. Overall, it was great to take the day off work and just enjoy the life of a couple who's only just now hitting our stride. And here's to many more of those!

    Friday, June 06, 2008

    Friday Random Ten

    I am continuing my proces of seeing what kinds of music Pandora might be able to introduce me to. As I mentioned last week, I am working through my list of concerts as a starting point. The headliners at my first Jars of Clay concert were a group called PFR. I had a crush on the drummer for nearly a year, but whatever. Great Lengths was their third album, and that was the tour I saw. They were not the best pick for the small venue where I saw them -- they were too loud and rocked too hard for that space, and I remember thinking they were going to blow speakers or something. They were fun, but were vastly overshadowed in my mind, at least, by the acoustic set of JoC, and while I bought PFR's next album, they were pretty well on their way out of the scene already then. It was sad, and I ecstatically bought their 2001 reunion album, only never to really be sucked into it. Great Lengths, however, was a phenomenal album, even though I'm sure you've never heard anything on it. Also, it's surprisingly difficult to find videos on YouTube from a defunct band that didn't have massively wide appeal. Go figure. So, while I had grand plans of spending time figuring out my favorite PFR song and posting the video, instead, you'll get the only one I found out there. It's a pretty good song off GL called "Wonder Why."

    "Trials Turned To Gold" by PFR* on Great Lengths
    "Wait For Love" by Not The Joneses on Not The Joneses
    "Waiting for the Summer" by Delirious? on Touch
    "I Will Boast" by Phillips, Craig & Dean on Top Of My Lungs
    "Spinnin' Round" by PFR* on The Late Great PFR
    "The Sweetest Sound" by Stereo Motion on Stereo Motion
    "Love's Cry" by Roads To Rome on Love Rain Down
    "Restrained" by Seven Day Jesus on The Hunger
    "Faithful" by Fee on We Shine
    "Pray For Rain" by PFR on The Late Great PFR

    So this was an interesting foray into Pandora-land. I actually hadn't even heard of a lot of these groups, but it was generally interesting listening. Some of it was campy, but most of it was pretty good. I haven't yet been motivated to go out and purchase anything as a result of this experiment, but I can see how that could happen.

    * Acts I've seen live

    Tuesday, June 03, 2008

    Tiptoe Through The Tulips: Jasminum Polyanthum (Pink Jasmine)

    This lovely vine doesn't technically grow in our yard. The root system is based in the neighbor's yard, but the vines come up over the fence and we get to enjoy them, so I figure they count as being plants I should know about.

    Based on the lovely light fragrance, I knew it was a jasmine. Armed with pictures, I found it is called a Pink Jasmine, because of the pink bloom clusters that turn into pristine white flowers. Apparently, in some climates it can be a deciduous vine, but here it stays green all year with the flowers starting now and covering the plant in June (if I remember correctly from last year -- it hasn't happened this year, yet).

    The big plus for this plant is that it's not mine to take care of. Periodically I rinse the dust and cobwebs off the leaves, but mostly it's the neighbor's plant. I like easy, and I like pretty, so this vine really does the trick.