What are we talking about today?

Normal topics suspended for the A to Z Challenge. It's all books from April 1-30.

If you're here from the A to Z Challenge hoping I'll comment back if you comment first: Sorry to disappoint, but that probably won't happen. I work full-time and I grad school full-time, so I can't give the time to blog commenting that I would like. I'll visit after the end of the semester, I hope.

29 April 2006

... And the peasants rejoice.

I've chosen a university-- really good for someone who has been out of high school for a decade (almost!), right? Anyway, I'm currently in the application process for the University of Texas in Austin, to start in the spring of 2007. Pretty exciting stuff. Apparently Austin is an expensive place to live, which is a bummer, but I'm not too worried. And they also have a really good public transport system, so we can continue in our car-free lifestyle if we wish, with a lot fewer problems getting around.

Speaking of which, last weekend we celebrated (well, acknowledged is probably a better word) our first anniversary of being car-free!

26 April 2006

Duck!

Okay, by popular (if one request counts as popular) demand, here is more on the ongoing saga of the manic ducks in the park.

I saw them most days last week, and they were content to just come towards me a few steps (except for the aforementioned day when they ran alongside me for a little way). And on Monday somebody was feeding them, so they didn't even bother with me invading their space.

Tuesday, I was walking around the lake again, as I do. This park is south of where I work, and on Tuesday I started out walking southwards along the west side, and then circled around so that I was headed north on the eastern side of the lake--I'd come 3/4 of the way around, in other words. And I moved away from the edge of the lake once I got over to that side, because I've decided that these are birds that need their space. There are some baseball diamonds on the edge of the park, so I headed up towards them.

Not that it worked. These two ducks were swimming around in the water, saw me, started quacking madly, and then got out of the water. But instead of coming directly toward me, they started running forward at an angle, to cut me off from finishing my walk. Not kidding. These are ducks who paid attention in geometry. So, I changed course, to go around behind them (they were quite a way up the bank by now). But they weren't having that, and they swerved around to catch me no matter which direction I went. So I decided that I had upset them enough for one day, and turned around to go back the way I came (my plan being to go around behind the baseball diamonds). This, it turns out, was not my brightest move. I heard a strange rustling noise and looked around just in time to see one of the ducks, wings out, bearing down on the back of my knee. These things had apparently decided that if I didn't have a snack to offer them, they were getting a snack one way or another, and therefore sprinted after me. I jumped out of his way, but not quite far enough, and he grabbed the back of my trousers with his bill. So I now am standing in a public park, with a duck attached to my trousers, trying to get it off of me without hurting it (or me!). The other duck was flapping around right next to me; thank goodness it didn't go for my other leg.

So I swung around, as you do when a 10-pound bird has a death grip on an article of your clothing, and shook him loose. Both of them immediately came after me again, but our little manouevers had put them on the south side of me; they were no longer between me and the office. So I did what any rational adult does when being charged by creatures not one-fourth one's own size: I ran. I was a bit afraid, actually, that they would suddenly remember that they have wings and try to ram me in the back of the head or something like that (at which point I would no longer have been quite so concerned about them being injured, and probably would have started an all-out fight with the mad ducks), but they didn't. However, should I become an Olympic sprinter one day, I will have two really mental ducks to thank for it.

Today, needless to state, I went around behind the baseball diamonds to begin with, and the mad ducks never saw me.

And where will they live? That's what I often wonder.

At risk of turning my blog into my own personal extended edition, I'm going to finish my thoughts on watching LOTR start to finish (twice!):

In the intervals of gorging myself on these brilliant movies, I watched a lot of the extras; in particular the cast commentaries. Now I've never really been a fan of watching commentary instead of just watching the movie (although I understand that the commentary on The West Wing DVDs is worth a listen), but I gave it a try and was so glad I did. It's fun to listen what is essentially this group of actors getting together to reminisce about the making of these films. In particular I enjoy listening to Billy Boyd, which should come as a surprise to no one since he is from Glasgow! He and Dominic Monaghan had me laughing throughout every scene. Also bringing me delight was the others "translating" what Billy Boyd said for the benefit of audience members who do not speak Glaswegian-- and I admit I was quite chuffed with myself that I required no translation. Anyway, I'm not going to repeat all the funny moments here, but I will say that if you are a fan, the commentaries are well worth the time it takes to watch. (And I also admit that I skipped quite a bit.)

As someone whose future degree lies (I hope) in linguistics, I also marvelled during the extras at how many accents Peter Jackson managed to assemble for the films, with actors from just about every commonwealth country (or so it seemed), plus a few more places thrown in for good measure. I would give quite a lot just to have been there and listen to all these different accents. And in addition to those of course is the linguistic treasure Tolkien himself created, with a different languages for several of the cultures he created-- some of which managed to get into the film, notable the Elvish. And some Dwarfish (?-- not sure that's what it's called, and I'm not looking it up at this moment). I lack the creativity to make up a language myself, I'm afraid, but I do have a love for languages on this earth. And once I get a reasonable handle on all the languages I want to learn, maybe I'll become fluent in Elvish. :)

21 April 2006

I heard a good deal about a ring, and a dark lord, and the end of the world...

Well, this has been quite a week. The stress level at work has been quite high, and being me, I absorb the stress of others and make it my own. So I've had to find an effective stress reliever.

And I found it! Chad borrowed the three extended edition Lord of the Rings movies from some friends of ours, and so the dream I have carried around in my heart for 4 1/2 long years now was realised last weekend: We watched all three movies in a 24-hour period. Actually my dream was to watch them all in one go, but I really wanted to start watching Friday night, after getting home from work. So we watched FOTR Friday night, and as strong as my love for the books and movies is, I didn't think I could stay awake long enough to finish the job. So we continued with TTT and ROTK on Saturday. It was brilliant-- to the point that I was almost completely useless at work on Monday and Tuesday. But since our stress showed no sign of relenting, I decided to do a modified marathon LOTR viewing, and watch it over a few evenings. On Tuesday I got home, turned it on, and watched until I fell asleep (sometime in the first half of TTT, right after Frodo and Sam reached the Black Gate). More of the same on Wednesday and Thursday, for a grand total of 12 very happy LOTR hours. And now we're going to have to give the movies back, before I start going around muttering about "my precious" and how it was a birthday present. There's a scene in TTT in which Frodo is sitting off in a corner, rocking back and forth, which apparently is cut short from a longer scene in which he essentially turns into Gollom, and Faramir sees what the ring would do to Frodo eventually... anyway, all that is in the movie is a glimpse or two of Frodo rocking back and forth while Sam has a brilliant scene with Faramir. The point is, I don't actually want that to happen to me.

In other news, I was chased by ducks this week. Not kidding. These ducks live in Maxey Park, and apparently harass everyone they can, looking for food. I never have food with me in Maxey Park, which I suppose is why they chase me; they are trying to get rid of me so better prospects can come along. Anyway, on Tuesday I really thought I was going to get bitten (or whatever you call it, since ducks don't have teeth). It would have been kind of embarassing to have to go back to work and request wound care after getting bitten by a duck. Or two. And if they had attacked me and I'd had to fight them off, no-one would have ever believed that the ducks started it. What is really amazing here is that their legs are not one-tenth the length of mine, and I'm not exactly a slow walker, and these ducks were keeping up with me. Scary, now that I think about it.

12 April 2006

I love children...

because I was walking through the park today, and a preschool boy saw me and shouted, "Look! A teenager!" I wanted to hug him. And normally I don't want to hug anyone. Not even cute children.

I love this verse: "May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge." (Ruth 2:12) That image is so reassuring to me- Ruth taking refuge under the wings of God. As do I. What a comforting verse that is.

11 April 2006

Cycling

I was reflecting to myself yesterday, as I rode to the grocery store, that it's a good thing I enjoy walking and cycling so much. I would really, really be hating this otherwise. But really, cycling is so liberating that I find myself wondering why everyone isn't doing it. It would also solve that nasty problem of so many Americans having obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease... and the list could go on. To say nothing of the fact that gas prices are expected to go up, again, for the summer "driving season" (is that like hunting season? basketball season?). And of course we can add the minor detail that if there is another round of hurricanes on the Gulf Coast like the last one, we may have no other choice but to cycle. And so I say, Join me in my cycling lifestyle! (While it's still your choice to make!)

Anyway, yesterday evening I was riding to the store and was pleasantly surprised at how light the traffic was. Apparently, the good citizenry of Lubbock stays home at 7ish on a Monday evening, which I appreciate. There were some boys practising baseball at the school just a couple of blocks from our house. As I rode by, one of them was running to third base and the coach was shouting "Hold it! Hold it!" to the boy with the ball. I appreciated that as well, because while I enjoy watching Little League baseball, and I get lots of mileage out of my I-got-hit-on-the-head-with-a-softball story, I had no desire to get hit by a flying baseball while cycling. Which is almost certainly what would have happened, because I was just beyond third base, and there didn't seem to be anyone there to catch the ball, had the boy thrown it for the out. (And while I don't think it's likely that a small boy would leave any permanent marks on me, I do still have a bump on my head from the last time, even though it's been 14 years.)

Speaking of small children and baseball, all the diamonds in Maxey Park (near my work, where I go for my lunchtime walk) are all spruced up for the summer. Fresh lines are drawn in the dirt, all the rubbish has been cleaned up-- they really do look nice. Plus, the new adverts are up all around the fences. They are all set to go for another season of children learning such values as teamwork, doing one's best, and corporate sponsorship. While I do realise that organisations such as Little League could not exist without such corporate sponsors, it still makes me laugh. A lot.

We just bought our plane tickets to go to California and see Chad's family! When I say "just bought", I mean, 15 minutes ago. I had an IE window open for every travel website there is, I think, only to finally hand over our money to Priceline. We named our own price, and it worked! For the second time in my life!

09 April 2006

Palm Sunday

Hmmm... this seems to have become an "every Sunday" kind of pastime for me. And I wish it were because I've spent less time on the computer lately, but really, it's because I spend all my time at the computer playing goofy games. Seriously, these games are so addictive. And all that is going on in our life lately is Bible Bowl, anyway, so I have nothing interesting to write about, even when I am online.

So we had our second road trip with the kids yesterday, this time to Denver City, which is only 1 1/2 hours away. Thank goodness. We're supposed to review on the bus on the way there, which generally turns out to be a good thing. I tried running the review on our bus yesterday and was answered mostly with silence from the children. One of them complained to me that "this is supposed to be fun." I'm afraid I'm a bit at a loss for words for children who look at the Bible as something even more boring than school. So I assured him that there was plenty of fun to be had if he would only participate. Chad then got into the act to counteract the boredom by singing Judges chapter 3. That amused and re-energised them for a little while, and when interest started to wane again, I started calling on people instead of waiting for them to answer. Which worked. So now I know what to do next time. We have one more road trip, this time to Monahans, which is a tiny town on the other side of the moon. The drive there is only about 3 hours long, but it seems twice that distance since there is nothing at all to look at between here and there. That is, unless you like dirt.

So we're half-way through our Bible Bowl season now (or the "circuit", as one of the children expressed it last week). The competition in Denver City yesterday was different than any we've had before; there were four rounds of 25 questions (instead of the usual five rounds of 20), and children answered on a Scantron. And that being the case, the correct answers weren't read out right away, which made for shorter rounds. (Hallelujah!) We had a lot of broken pencils, but no other problems, and the South Plains group took home first, third, and sixth place team awards. The only individual awards given out were for perfect rounds, and one of our kids had the only perfect round the entire day. So we did well, again.

Apparently some of the kids thought it was boring, but I'm afraid I've grown so accustomed to them being bored that I don't even care. I'm guessing this is the result of children having every gadget known to man, as well as having activities every spare second of their day. And I wish I had a great plan for counteracting our culture's need to be in overdrive for our own children (should we ever have any), but there again, I'm at a loss. However, I do still have some time to work on that. :)

I read an amusing article earlier about ways people waste money, and one of the things mentioned was gym memberships. Apparently, purchasing a gym membership is the best way to ensure that you will never work out again. I believe this to be true, since I owned my current membership for about four months without using it once. And I've not used it a lot while it's been cold, because I still have to get there, and however good a workout may be, battling freezing wind before and after is no fun. But I mention this to say that I've actually had a really good week in terms of working out. Since we have no car, I have no excuse for not having a high fitness level anyway, so I can't explain why I'm not in fantastic shape. However, we're working on that. :)

I had more things in mind to write about, but since this is getting ridiculously long, I'll put them on hold for now.

02 April 2006

Oh, these children

Well, we're back home again and it's Sunday morning, and I feel sufficiently recovered from having spent many hours on a bus with 15 little boys. (Which, by the way, is a considerable improvement from last year. This year the decision was made to split the boys and girls on two separate buses. Last year I was on the bus with all of the sixth grade boys and girls, and was thus ready to tear out my hair long, long before we arrived home.) We had a fun trip to Abilene, and a good start to our Bible Bowl season.

I don't have actual numbers, but 20+ children went with us, and quite a lot of adults as well. Five of us spent Saturday at Abilene Christian University competing in the National Bible Bowl, while the rest of the gang was at Junior Bible Bowl, just up the street from us at the Hillcrest Church of Christ. I don't remember all of the results, but at the junior level we took the first place team and I think the fourth place, and several of our kids placed individually as well. Our senior level "team" consisted of two adults and one junior high student. Our student was on the seventh place team and took the eighth place individual, while on the adult side I placed sixth individually (no teams at the adult level). So we were all pleased with the results of our day and also of the behaviour of the children. We've rarely had cause to complain there, and we did have a "pep talk" about the need to be humble in our successes before departing. And we pointed out that they are representing Jesus, to say nothing of their families and congregation, which they really took to heart.

So that's why I haven't posted in a week; I've been frantically studying in preparation for yesterday's competition. The children have three more events, but I'm done, so now I can focus on helping them. Oh, and as soon as I get some pics, I'll be posting them.

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