Laura's Online Journal July 2003


July 30, 2003 Vaguely Dissatisfied Girlfriend, What's Up With That?
July 27, 2003 It happens to others
July 24, 2003 Lessons
July 23, 2003 A Birthday Party
July 19, 2003 Beach Blanket Bingo!
July 9, 2003 Chatter/Movie Reviews
July 7, 2003 4th of July and a recipe
July 4, 2003 My Trip to Charleston
June 30, 2003 Cuts and Bruises and Crabs and Pie

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July 30, 2003

Vaguely Dissatisfied Girlfriend, What's Up With That?
The link from my McDonald Family page to this page says My Life as the Vaguely Dissatisfied GirlFriend. Some people, including but not limited to Joe, think this needs an explanation. One of my traits is to be not sure I want to do something even though I am somewhat interested. It took me forever to see Pulp Fiction. I fret before every bike ride. Another trait is to want something, get something but then find little things wrong with it. For instance, I was happy to be moving out of my office at the lonely and desolate end of the universe to the trailer which seemed to be a hub of social activity. However, I soon found that the people closest to my office really got on my nerves and so I avoided them making my new office seem like the other lonely and desolate but loud end of the universe.

So anyway, Joe has on several occasions called me his Vaguely Dissatisfied Girlfriend because of these traits. The term comes from a cartoon by Matt Groening (creator of The Simpsons) about the 9 types of girlfriends. Recently, Joe came up with a new one. In a Chinese accent, he told me I was His Girlfriend of One Thousand Unspecified Complaints.

Some more movie reviews
Italian for Beginners: Good movie made in Denmark. It is a simple story. A group of people who have troubled lives all happen to take an Adult Education Italian class. There is love, a fair amount of death and a trip to Venice. The film was created under the Dogma rules, a movement in film direction created by the Danish director Lars von Trier. These rules make the films very uncomplicated - they are filmed on video, there is no soundtrack - any music included must be playing as it is filmed. Films succeed only if the acting, the characters and the story are good. And in this case it works. The movie is in Danish and I discovered that the Danish word for pretty is same as the Latvian word for pretty, a word my grandmother used a lot.

July 27, 2003

It happens to others
I have mentioned how strangers talk to me about my car. This morning Joe and I were riding bikes in Rock Creek Park. We were going my speed so people were passing us right and left. One guy passed by, slowed down and then turned around to look, sort of like when Lance Armstrong turned to look at Jan Ulrich in the Tour de France. He went on but a short time later he passed us going the other way and then turned around and caught up. He started asking Joe all sorts of questions about his bike. They talked for about 1/2 mile. Joe's bike is interesting because (That's the short version. I did not know all this until he explained it to me later)

Anyway Joe explained how he put the bike together, the guy took off and we continued to head towards the dreaded Tilden Avenue hill .

A couple of months ago, Joe rode his bike to a Virginia suburb to watch a race and a fellow spectator asked if he could take a picture of his bike.

Some more movie reviews
101 Ways (The Things a Girl Will Do to Keep Her Volvo): An OK comedy about a young woman who moves from NYC to Connecticut to get away from it all and write a book. She buys a Volvo but soon finds that she can't afford to keep up the payments. She struggles, grows strong and finds new meaning in life. This seemed like a film school project. However, we watched the original short film that was included on the DVD and now I know what a film school project really looks like. The final product was much improved.

Random Neighborhood Picture

Vostok 1
Embassy of the United Arab Emirates
(about 3 blocks away)

July 24, 2003

History Lesson
For my birthday Joe gave me, among other things, a Lego-like set with Yuri Gagarin, his spacecraft Vostok 1 and the space dog Laika. Laika orbited the earth in Sputnik 2 in November 1957. On April 12, 1961, Yury Gagarin was the first human to orbit the earth. He died at age 34 in 1968 in a plane crash that has been labeled suspicious. This all interests me because of a movie called "My Life As a Dog", a Thomas Dolby song and the monument to Yuri Gagarin that I could see from my room in the Hotel Cosmos in Moscow in March 1987.
Vostok 1 Yuri Yuri & Laika
Yuri Gagarin, Vostok 1 and Laika

Cosmos Hotel Monument
The monument and the Cosmos Hotel (I pulled these pics off the web)

Dancing Baloney
There are a lot of technical terms in the computer world some boring, some fun. One of my favorites is the term dancing baloney which is an animated image that someone might add to their web site to make it more interesting. Too much dancing baloney is irritating but a few well-placed ones can do the trick. As an example, the image at the bottom of this page is dancing baloney. I found one today that I thought was scary and fun at the same time.
dancing baloney

July 23, 2003

Birthday Party
This past weekend I went to a birthday party for Leah whom I have gotten to know along with the other party-goers through ballet class. The party was great - great food, great people! Take a look at the pictures. Among my friends and their boyfriends/husbands you will see a French woman, a Romanian woman, two guys from El Salvador, two American women, a Filipina woman, a Korean/Puerto Rican guy, a Japanese/American woman, a Taiwanese/American woman and a guy from Australia. A prize for anyone who can match up the faces with country of origin. There were actually more Americans there but I did not know them. I took pictures of the people I knew.

Some more movie reviews
Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter: Film budgets don't get much lower than this. This was a wild fun movie with lots of blood, bad acting, song and dance, and kung fu action. We joined NetFlix so we could see movies like this. This would never make it to the local video store. Intrigued? Check out this review or the trailer, modem (wait for download) or fast DSL or cable connection.

Kissing Jessica Stein: This is a movie about 2 young hip successful New York women who want to give lesbianism a try. One of them is just testing the waters and the other is just fed up with men. It is a cute romantic comedy with some depth. The only thing that bothered us was the Jessica character acting too much like Annie Hall.

July 19, 2003

Beach Blanket Bingo!
My trip to Ocean Isle, NC was quite nice. It took about 7 hours to get there Saturday. I took back roads for the last 1-1/2 hours through small towns and a large pine forest, very scenic. The first couple of days at the beach were cloudy and there was some rain but the temperature was always pleasant. We took some nature walks on the cloudy days. Tuesday was a great sunny beach day.

I have made a separate Ocean Isle Beach July 2003 page

My Car as a Converstion Piece
I have had many conversations about my car with people in parking lots, at gas stations and traffic lights. This trip gave me a favorite. On the way back on Wednesday I stopped at a rest area in NC to take a bathroom break. When I returned to my car there was a large family, I'd say 3 teenage to early 20s girls, an almost teenage boy, a mom and a dad, surrounding my car. Dad had his hands up to his face and was peering into the back window. The family was foreign, dark skinned and the girls were all beatiful with long black hair parted in the middle. I thought they were Indian or Pakistani but their accent was more hispanic. I should have asked where they were from. Anyway, as I approached they looked up at me with a sort of worried look on their face like I might not like so many people looking in my car. I said "Do you like my car?" and their worried faces all turned to smiles. Dad asked about the trunk, the price, the mileage. He said that his daughter wanted one and he gestured over to an area where they had all moved because I think they were embarrassed by their father. I looked over towards them and again they all smiled at me in unison. It was a great encounter.

Some more movie reviews
Amelie: Nice little French movie about a woman trying to get up the guts to find romance. Lots of quirky characters. The colors and cinematography were wonderful.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider : Raiders of the Lost Arc Lite. Pleasant enough, lots of action but little else.

CQ: We enjoyed this. It is about a young American film editor in Paris in the 1960s who has to take over direction of a cheesy sci-fi film. Nice story and it has a great 60s look to it (a subtle 60's look, not an over-the-top Austin Powers 60's look).

The Guru: Cute light romantic comedy about a young man who travels to New York from India to make his fame and fortune as an actor but accidentally becomes a sex guru to the rich. He gets the advice he dispenses from a porn star with whom who he has fallen in love. It is not nearly as X-rated as it sounds.

July 9, 2003

Chatter, but not the probably-more-interesting terrorist kind
No pictures today, just chit chat. I did not get to go to ballet tonight because of the storms and the traffic so I went to my favorite gourmet-without-the-gourmet-prices store. They happen to also sell lottery tickets and the jackpot has crossed the $200 million mark. Because it was raining outside the line snaked through the store. While I shopped the manager kept announcing in a heavy Hindi accent that I could buy 5 random numbers at the customer service counter for $5, no waiting, no hassle. I bought beer from Belgium and Brooklyn, cosmetics, jasmine rice, bath oils and 5 numbers. Tomorrow I may be richer than you.

In case you're interested and know what I am talking about here are my votes for some of the reality shows:

Last Comic Standing: the guy from Minnesota. He's kinda mean but I think he is naturally funny
Fame: Harlemm, the Asian guy. He is the only one who can dance AND sing.

Movie Reviews
We joined a DVD rental service so we have been catching up. Here are some reviews of movies we rented, bought or saw in the theater:

Freeway: dark comedy with Reese Witherspoon and Kiefer Sutherland. Reese Witherspoon is a very southern girl and has some great lines. Sutherland plays a serial killer. Creepy and funny.

Dogtown and Z Boys: excellent documentary about skateboarders in the 1970s. They all looked like guys we dated in high school. Without them there would be no X Games.

The Transporter: stars an actor from Snatch, one of my favorite films and was written by Luc Besson, director of The Fifth Element, one of my favorite films. The Transporter was a disappointment - lame plot, no character development but it did have some good martial arts fight scenes.

Brotherhood of the Wolf: French movie based on a supposedly true story of a horrible creature that terrorized a mountain region in France in the 1700s. The first half was great but as soon as the creature actually appeared it became way too long and contrived. One of the main characters, an American Indian, was excellent as a martial artist and a looker.

The Italian Job: I enjoyed this heist movie. It was lots of fun and features 3 Mini Coopers in a car chase. Marky Mark drove my car, the blue one! OK, there was not much character development but the dialogue was good and the plot was pretty thought out.

Finding Nemo: another excellent Pixar film. Great characters, sharks in a twelve step program, a fish with a short term memory problem, seagulls fashioned after the penguin in The Wrong Trousers.

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham: a blockbuster Hindi (Bollywood) film. It oozed melodrama (i cried and cried) as is typical and had the required 5-6 dance numbers but it lacked something. But hey, Shah Rukh Kahn starred and that is good enough for me. I thought the songs and costumes in Devdas, the last Shah Rukh movie we saw, were much more memorable.

I am off to Ocean Isle, NC this weekend to meet up with my friends from Atlanta. So I'll be sure to have pictures next time so you won't have to read so much.

July 7, 2003

I had a very nice 4th of July weekend. Activities included swimming, ballet, cycling, getting a hair cut, talking to old friends from Alanta, trying some new recipes, watching movies and watching fireworks from the balcony. On our 10 mile bike trip I managed to climb the last 1/2 mile hill coming up from the park without using the last 2 lowest "granny gears". I was still huffing and puffing and cursing and scowling but this is a major accomplishment for me. Of course I feel really wimpy when I see Tour de France competitors ride up this type of incline ALL DAY LONG in the Alps.

Here is a picture of the fireworks rising above the treetops. The closest fireworks are probably about 25 miles away. The red lights to the far right are a set of communication towers. We think the little white light next to them is an alien space ship.


Here's a recipe we tried:

Spicy Corn with Sesame Seeds and Tomatoes
2 T peanut or canola oil 1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp whole brown or yellow mustard seeds 1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp whole cumin seeds 1/8 tsp ground turmeric
1 small can green chiles, diced 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1-1/2 T sesame seeds 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 small onion, finely chopped 1 tsp paprika
1/2 large green bell pepper, cut into 1/2" dice 1 large can whole tomatoes, chopped
1 (15-1/4 oz) can corn, drained or 16 oz frozen 2-3 T chopped cilantro or parsley
Put oil in a large nonstick frying pan set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in mustard and cumin seed. As quickly as possible add the chiles (the seeds pop!). Stir once and add the sesame seeds. Before they start popping add the onion and green pepper. Stir and fry for 5 minutes. Add the corn, salt and garam masala. Stir and cook for a minute. Add the turmeric, ground cumin, coriander, and paprika. Stir and cook for a minute. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cover, turn the heat to low, and simmer gently for 10 minutes Uncover, add the cilantro, and stir to mix. Serve hot with hot tortillas.

Note: be sure to chop the parsley or cilantro very fine otherwise Joe starts making sounds sounding similar to a cat with a small hairball.

July 4, 2003

My Trip to Charleston
Nothing much is happening of interest this week so let's talk about the recent past. My trip to Charleston at the end of last month was magical. The weather was great, I attended the performance of Meredith Monk's Quarry and Mom, Dad and I met her at a party afterwards. I have been a fan of her dance and film work for many years. Walking around Charleston is always great. Here are some pictures I took.
Back Lot Spikes Fire Escape
The backsides of some buildings It looks like these spikey bushes
could just up and walk away
A pretty corridor
A Study in Time Trash Cans Steeple
Something very old, something new Even the trash can areas look nice In front of the Dock Street Theater

Oh, and I bought a car!
Background: I had paid off all the money I owed Joe (he coughed up the down payment on our coop) and my Subaru was nearing 100,000 miles. I thought I would just get a new Subaru but Joe pointed out the new Mini Cooper and I was enticed. I started seeing them around town and when I started doing research I found that they were no more expensive than a new Subaru. The Mini dealership in DC is way out in the suburbs so when Lynda said there was a dealership near her in Charleston I said "We are there!". We went Saturday morning and took a test drive. We were both hooked. There were two blue ones on the lot and I decided to take the one without the little scratch. We drove it to Edisto and surprised Mom and Dad. My only regret is that I did not take a picture of it amongst Mom's beautiful hydrangeas and gardenias. Joe took these pictures when I got back to DC near some fancy embassies.
Mini Near Embassy Steps Zooming Mini

June 30, 2003

Cuts and Bruises
Last week was the first week of warm weather this summer. It was so nice. I rode my bike 2 nights, short rides up and down the hill coming up from Rock Creek. My thought is that it will get easier but I am starting to doubt this theory. I managed to make it to three ballet classes and swam 1/2 mile on Thursday and Sunday. This week started off well but tonight we went for a bike ride and I stopped to pick up my water bottle that somehow missed its holder and then fell over after putting one of my feet in my pedal cage. I fell onto Joe's bike and got all scratched up and bruised. I fell over in a similarly graceful manner in April and still have a scar on my knee.
scar on knee cuts on leg scratch on back

Crabs and Pie
Saturday the Washington crew went up to Zita's for crabs. It was a great time despite the underlying worry that one of Zita's kitties had disappeared. He turned up at 5:30am the next morning. Austin and Olga and Mara made wonderful desserts. William decorated the peach pie appropriately. Click to see detail.


Zita gave me a lovely flower arrangement that has joined Saraswati on the balcony just to her right.


On the technical front I managed to get my iTrip to work with my iPod. It is a simple elegant device that channels sound from my iPod to my car radio speakers. I have it tuned to 90.5 which is a very weak Christian radio station so every now and then when there is some sort of interference I get transmissions from a universe totally alien to me.


(Joe will scold me for using flash but I could not hold the camera steady enough.)

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