Saturday, December 23, 2006

Live Giant Squid Caught on Tape

And now it's dead. Reuters reported yesterday that Japanese scientists released a video showing a relatively small giant squid (3.5 meters or 11 feet 6 inches for those of metric-challenged) being reeled in. It's the largest ever captured on video and apparently, the largest caught alive.

The team leader of the scientific research team, Tsunemi Kubodera is quoted as saying, "Nobody has ever seen a live giant squid except fishermen."

Well guess what? No one else is going to see this giant squid alive because now it's dead in the name of research (but can you imagine the calamari?)

Do we really need to kill things in order to understand how they live? Wouldn't more value come from studying behaviour than dissection?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Top 10 Celebrity Babies of 2006

There were so many celebrity babies in 2006. Hollywood super couple and do-gooders Angelina and Brad introduced us to Shiloh while "TomKat" gave us Suri and even former Playboy Playmate now blond train wreck bore us a child who we're still trying to figure who's the father. I compiled a list of the top 10 celebrity babies of 2006, see who made it here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Things On My Mind

Yes, I know I need to write about my little adventures over the past year, but that's not the focus of this post.

But first, while I have your attention, I'd like to introduce you to "The Barefoot" and his blog. Once you read one of his posts, you'll be hooked! He has a sharp, witty (sometimes dark) sense of humor about every day life. Visit the Barefoot - you won't be disappointed!

Earlier this month on NPR, an Army soldier who served in Iraq was being interviewed about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and stated he was quite confident it didn't exist. He said those soldiers who complained of it were making it up and using it to avoid returning to the battle field.

My thoughts? First, if making up a disorder that the military recognizes and gets one outta Hell's path, then let these soldiers claim PTSD. Secondly, I suspect it is an authentic mental illness; something like a seed that's settled deep in those prone to depression. If that person happens to go to war, that seed of depression sprouts, or set off by some other trigger. Any other thoughts? Does PTSD exist?

Also on my mind, CNN ran a special over the weekend titled something like, "One Paycheck Away." Focusing how many Americans live paycheck to paycheck, then asked the question "why?" I didn't stay up late enough to see the reasons, but throwing in my precious two cents, we're a "need it now" and service-orientated society. We are bombarded with must-have things we can't live without.

We women need at least a dozen shoes to get through six months of a year, need a purse to coordinate with each pair of shoes and a six shades of lipstick to pull everything together. The message to "buy" is all around us. We don't buy what we need, we buy what we want.

Look at Christmas. We end up buying things and usually not spending money wisely, just to give "something." Remember in the "old days" when we actually waited for Christmas to receive that special something? These days, what we want, we gotta have it right away - and end up getting more at Christmas.

We also like to be pampered and will pay for the service of convenience- it's amazing what people will pay for these days. At lunch yesterday, a car wash service company was in the office parking lot washing someone's car. It's nice to have conveniences, but they come at a price.

I'm guilty, too. Getting my fix out of life through seeking out one-of-a-kind experiences. If I had enough limit on my credit cards, I'd plop a deposit down to be on Sir Richard Branson's first trip to space.

But why are we like this? Are our lives so empty we need to fill it with "stuff?"

Monday, December 18, 2006

Rachael Ray in Atlanta

The Queen of Quick made an appearance in Atlanta yesterday and I decided to make an overnight trip out of it. After all, I need to have that one special "wow" gift for Christmas. The little tale about my journey will be posted this week - maybe (I haven't been so good lately about documenting my trips). But read more about Rachael Ray's Atlanta appearance here.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Week in the Life of QK Girl

It's been a busy week, especially with an off-site work retreat for a couple of nights. Since so much is happening, I'll post a few photos of a visit to the Suwanee River, White Springs, Fla. and Flagler Beach. Well, you're not going to really recognize White Springs or Flagler Beach. We had some interesting meals in each of those cities.

We grazed the buffet of home-cooked meals at the Telford Hotel in White Springs. Chicken pot pie and red velvet cake, mmm, mmm! Definitely in the South.

In Flagler Beach, we pulled into a motel parking lot saying, "this can't be the Blue Topaz." We were told no jeans were allowed. But surprisingly, a delicious little upscale restaurant is in the center of a funky old hotel, decorated with antiques, treasures from the past and plain old junk. More on that another time.

In my writing world, I was surprised to see that my interview with the Queen of Sky is eligible for a nice prize from AC. I'm honored to be considered, but really don't think I have a chance at winning. But a gal can hope, right? Even though, it's very cool to be "nominated." Wonder what I need to wear on awards day???

And don't miss my latest interview, that with a young tennis pro named Jennifer Magley who turned a breakup into a cool Web site devoted to breaking up, making up and moving on. My favorite thing on her site? An upcoming auction to sell gifts given by old flames!

In my personal world, been thinking about my New Years Resolutions and compiling a "best QK Girl posts of 2006." We'll see how that will come along.

My sister sent this to me, cute. Insert your picture of that of a loved one for that customized scene.

In one week I'll be in Buffalo, brrr. Can't believe Christmas is here! OK, gotta run, going to see Rachael Ray tomorrow so need to get ready. Enjoy the images.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Glad I Don't Have Kids (or an Xbox)

Have you seen this??? The big-headed plastic freak (aka: Burger King) has teamed up with Microsoft to create three Xbox games for the holiday season, at $3.99 each. I found some commentary on the games, pretty funny. And glad I'm not alone in thinking the King is creepy. Apparently in one of the games, the King sneaks up on unsuspecting, hungry citizens. Sounds a bit stalkish to me. Read this review.

I do have to commend Microsoft and BK for cross-marketing, though. If the King wasn't such a freak, this would be a really groovy move.

Word to Scammers: I May Be Slow, But I Ain't Stupid

"Hi, my name is Bob and I live in apartment #319 in the building behind you. I need to talk to 100 people in my neighborhood to work on my social skills and earn points to go to college."

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck.

I had a visitor at lunchtime, a scammer trying to pull the magazine-point scam on me. Have you heard about it? Young adults pretending to be high school seniors are dropped off in neighborhoods and go door-to-door claiming they need to raise points through selling magazines through working on communication skills. People who have given their credit card numbers have had unauthorized charges. Anyway, I won't bore you with the details, but this is the only pic I snapped of "Bob" who lives in fictitious apartment #319.

Beta, Baby!

I've been waiting to upgrade this blog to beta and I finally got the go ahead today. Yippee!! So bare with me as I figure out what beta actually means, I know all the cool kids are talking about it :)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Achoo! A Cold is Lingering

My body is telling me to slow down because a nasty cold is lingering. Not sure if it has anything to do with the change in temperatures, but I am very happy that real we're experiencing a real, North Florida winter. Just a little bit of nip in the air and sunny, blue skies.

My comfort food when suffering through a cold? Sushi, miso soup and OJ. I know - a strange combo. TheraFlu and Airborn get me through it all, too. I just hope I can sleep tonight - the last couple of nights have been rough - not because of the oncoming illness, because I have neighbors who believe "dance party USA" should happen every weeknight at 11 p.m., complete with bass. Yeah, community living SUCKS!

What else have I been up to? Holiday shopping is about done. Monday I took the day off and was a woman of leisure. Well, not really. I pretended it was a day if I was a full-time freelance writer. Got up at the usually o'dark-thirty (6:30), ran errands, wrote while waiting for errands to get done, shopped, returned home for more writing then off on a super power walk then more writing. Tuesday was back to reality. *sigh*

I did have a nice surprise yesterday. The AC site I contribute to had my interview with the Queen of Sky as last month's popular content in its monthly email. Pretty cool! Be sure to check it out.

I'd also like to introduce you to fellow AC/MySpace pal Erica, here's a story she wrote called "Going Against the Tide," about grunyons. I have to admit, I've never met or seen a grunyon. My only exposure to them is Jack talking about them on the television show "Three's Company." But, check out Erica's writings.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Freaks in the Fast Food World

My stomach is turning while watching ABC's 20/20. How STUPID can people be? The short of it is (you can read the complete story), an assistant manager of a Mount Washington, Kentucky McDonald's received a phone call from a man stating to be a law enforcement official. The caller said an employee at the restaurant had stolen a purse and the employee needed to be contained in the office until the police arrived.

In the meantime, the caller instructed the assistant manager to make the young employee (18 years old; technically an adult but YOUNG!) remove all of her clothing. Fast forward - the caller instructed the assistant manager to bring in her boyfriend (some big, fat old guy) to watch the young employee. The sickos (the caller and the big, fat old boyfriend) have the employee do jumping jacks naked, spanks her for at least 10 minutes and has her perform oral sex. This poor girl was contained for two hours. If it weren't caught on the security camera, no one would probably believe the story.

Turns out, incidents like this happened throughout the country. Other fast food restaurants received calls and managers acted on the caller's instructions, which included strip searching employees and in one reported case, performing a cavity search on a patron! Gives a whole new meaning to, "You want fries with that?"

Once again I ask, what kind of freaks are out there who think this is acceptable behavior???? I'm not just referring to the caller, but the mindless fast food managers who only see black and white. The McDonald's Employee Manual has a page basically stating no employee will be strip searched by any McDonald's staff member or law enforcement official.

The whiner Mount Washington former-assistant manager says she didn't know that was in the manual. It's probably because she can't read. I just CANNOT believe she's on 20/20. If she thought she'd be defending herself, she's only making herself look more like an idiot than an innocent victim.

Having spent about five years working in fast food, I've worked with some pretty dim-lit managers, but none of them would have fallen for this sick hoax.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Before I Call It a Night

Before I cozy up on the sofa with my glass of wine to watch America's best train wreck television, "The Bachelor Rome," (because, don't these "girls" realize their hearts are going to be crushed into a million little pieces???) thought I'd share:

Yes, my writings WILL be included in this Asian-guidebook series, probably because I traveled to some pretty obscure places in Japan. But publication isn't until early fall 2007. So still, "bummer."

And, forgot to mention that I finally made AC's "editors pick" list over the weekend with my story about meeting Dubya. I'm not feeling too comfortable with that site these days. It's a bit controversial in the writing world whether it's a site for writing or not. I know the extra dough has been nice, but me thinks it's time to back away from the AC.

Not sure what to get me for Christmas this year? Well check out this site for some nifty and groovy ideas from Great American Days. My number one pick is the "Special Forces Training." All the training without enlisting.


Today was a pretty cool day - learning HTML. I love all this coding stuff - so far. Pretty soon, I'll be able to clean up this blog and start my web sites.

Then I read my email. Remember that Japanese anthology-guidebook I had contributed to almost two years ago? Well, the project has "changed" so I don't know if they'll still be using my stories. Which pisses me off a little bit, considering I could have contributed them elsewhere. So, I'm awaiting what, if any, of the stories they will be using. On an upside, the project has morphed to an eight-country guidebook series. Afghanistan falls into Asia but I'm waiting word back whether it's included in the series. Chances are slim to none, but I had to ask.

House/pet sitting this week - which means CABLE TV! Yes :)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

And So Begins Another Week

For the first time in many years, I set up and decorated a Christmas tree today. It's a pitiful, mini silver tree which needs a lot of love and can't fit all of my ornaments, but it makes me feel festive.

Tomorrow begins two days of HTML classes. Yup, on my way to geek-certification. Just imagine what I can get into then...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanksgiving: It's About the Bird & Stuff

Thanksgiving is about the journey. The photo below shows me and 31.7 million of my closest friends on the road Wednesday. Not everyone plays nice on the highway. Careless driving caused wrecks here and there, which caused rubber-necking and backed-up traffic. Ugh! I also realized that 18-wheeler trucks passing me while I'm pushing 80 mph scare me. The joy of travel over the holidays.

Thanksgiving is about family and friends. Spent Thanksgiving with friends but stopped at the local state park to see some relatives. Uncle smoked a turkey (didn't stick around long enough to taste it), kids ran around and I spotted alligators on the river bank. Uncle's in-laws were there; I left Sarasota 1.5 years ago and none of them knew! These are times when I feel invisible and awkward in the world. I did get to catch up with Kathy and Matt-A over the weekend, always nice to see them; Kathy's parents were there, too.

Thanksgiving is about the bird. Thursday afternoon, while walking the cat (around the backyard), Zelda Mae and I were outside when she spotted something blue under the bushes. A blue parakeet hopped and chirped. Not sure if it was a neighborhood pet or wild, but after a few screeches (from me, not the bird), we somehow managed to corral it into a cage. Not sure what to do with it next, I later went to feed it - by opening the door. The bird made the great escape, so I'm pretty sure the little thing is wild.

Thanksgiving is knowing you can always return home. Returning to Sarasota is always strange. Sometimes I feel as though I'm away at college (especially this go around when I brought a laundry basket full of dirty cloths). It's not my "true" home, but one where I have sprouted roots. While I've enjoyed many good times, I'm reminded of self-perceived, personal failures. I'm my toughest critic and when I figure out how to ease-up on myself, I will exceed my dreams. In the meantime, "my people" (in their own special ways) continue to inspire and remind me that know matter what one's faults, you can always go home.

Monday, November 20, 2006

When There's Too Much Time to Think

I went for a run tonight. Ok, that's mostly a lie, but not a total one. I recently dreamt about running to get back in shape. Does that count?

But today, I faced the reality that the dryer has NOT been shrinking my cloths and I've become the incredible expanding woman, I headed out on a 3.5 mile jog after work.

Well, I didn't get very far jogging, see, I'm very conscientious about people looking at me. And I don't like ducks looking at me either. The place I like to walk is a little place called Lake Ella and it is INFESTED with Muscovy ducks. You know, those ugly ducks that like to hiss. I didn't like the way they looked at me while jogging by, so I walked, quickly.

I walked and walked and walked. The air was nippy yet refreshing. I thought a lot, in between watching strange men tumble out of bushes in front of me. I wondered why when growing up, no one told me about aging and that single, wild, black hairs would pop up in odd places on my body. There's a lot more I wondered, but I'll save that for another day.

I am happy to tell everyone that my post, "Clowns or Kings? Hands Down, the Golden Arches Win," has been selected by CREAMaid. Yippee! Check them out, they're legit. Come play, too!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Clowns or Kings? Hands Down, the Golden Arches Win

Long-time readers of my blog are well aware of my fear of the freaky King and my subsequent boycott. So in the realm of fast food giants, I choose McDonald's. During spring break trips driving to Florida, we kids looked forward to Mom saying, "the Golden Arches are ahead." Eating at Mickey D's was a treat, not that we didn't like Bologna and ketchup sandwiches. But honestly, hot, crisp, salty fries beat out white bread any day.

And now that I'm grown up and have had cholesterol issues, I limit my visit to McDonald's. But on the those days when I know it's going to be a long one, I pull through the corner Mickey D's on Tallahassee's Monroe and Martin Luther King for good ole' comfort food: a #1 with a Coke - Egg McMuffin and hashbrown. I do this less and less, however, since the meal now costs about four bucks.

Today was a day to indulge, especially after reading a fellow ACer's blog, Paula Mooney, I learned of a promotion seeking authentic experiences and photos of McDonald's. So my lunch was a Fillet O'Fish. Had to wait a while for the crew to catch and prepare my meal, after all, I imagine fish is not in high demand. But waiting was ok, Southern hospitality is alive and well in Tallahassee, Florida and my cashier was pleasant and friendly. In the bottom photo, you can see the crew working away.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

How Bad is Bad?

Growing up in Buffalo, NY, we had what's called "snow days." Days when schools, and usually businesses, were closed due to massive snow fall. Sometimes, these snow storms hit early in the day, forcing schools to close early (they also seem to hit on Friday afternoons so everything was cleared away in time for school on Monday morning). Well today in Tallahassee, schools closed early and so did my office, due to bad weather moving in. This is Florida!!!! There are no hurricanes out there, how bad will the weather be tonight??? I did park far away from any trees though, just in case.

Anyway, have you been checking out my friend Cordelia's blog lately? She's winding down her multi-month trip to India. She recently posted photos of her journey. Stunning. Makes me want to travel to India, among other places. Pay her blog a visit, you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Clowning Around in Sarasota: Beware

I've heard the hype about the clowns coming to Sarasota, Fla. this year. While Boston had cows this summer, Cincinnati had pigs long ago, Sarasota opted for colorful clowns to decorate the downtown. Which makes sense, it's where circus magnate John Ringling wintered his circus.

TideWell Hospice is the benefactor of the proceeds generated by the clowns. Organizations in Sarasota sponsored artists to create beautiful masterpieces, or so I thought.

I had read about the clowns being destroyed. Appendages have been sawed off. Accessories have been stolen. Some people object to them because of a legitimate fear of clowns while others object because clowns aren't art. Prior to seeing the clowns, I was all for them, picturing an Emmett Kelly-type clown. After all, clowns are a part of Sarasota's circus heritage.

But, to my "surprise," the clowns I saw on the streets of Sarasota were pretty freaky. The female clowns are half leaning - pushing out their chests, sticking out their butts and look like they're hyped up on steroids. The men have innocent, wimpy looking faces with a hint of creepiness. Their guts are round, pot bellies. If you haven't been to Sarasota, let these images help you decided:

Grounds of the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art

Spent some much needed R&R in Sarasota this weekend. Sorry to those of you (which are most of you in Sarasota) whom I didn't get in touch with. Was in Naples for business, our largest signature event, and needed time to unwind and relax. Anyway, here are some images of the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art's grounds. The Dwarf Garden is fairly new, the dwarfs aren't new, but the garden is.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Fired for Blogging, Former Flight Attendant Publishes World's First

Two years ago, Ellen Simonetti, aka: Queen of Sky, was fired from Delta Air Lines for photos posted on her blog, Diary of a [Fired] Flight Attendant. Since then, she's filed a lawsuit against Delta and has been educating bloggers about employer backlash due to blogging.

She's also published the World's first novel in blog format called, Diary of a Dysfunctional Flight Attendant: The Queen of Sky Blog, which includes the first nine months of her blog, including her termination.

I recently interviewed Queen of Sky, and this is what she had to say about this blogging business. Read the interview here.

Monday, October 30, 2006

It's Confirmed, Hope Does Not Exist

I just saw a television commercial starring Carmen Electra. You know who she is - every man wants her and every woman wants to be her. I couldn't believe my ears. She's pimping the diet pill called NV. How did she get this gig? Did she tip the scales at 99 pounds? If she needs to take a diet pill, there is no hope for us true-sized women. None.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Falling In Love Again...

...with my bread machine :)

In my efforts to live on a tighter financial budget, I'm trying to make more of my meals than purchasing processed stuff. I've also discovered the cost-saving joy of shopping at Super Wal-Mart. Yes, I feel as though I've given into "the man" by frequently shopping there.

For the past two years, I've been controlling my cholesterol and blood pressure through practicing better nutrition and able to abandon medication. I can definitely feel the difference in how food makes me feel and when I put good things in, I'm at my best. Although bread isn't the best thing to control these things, I found some soy bread recipes. Pictured is today's white pizza. It ain't the prettiest thing, but tastes mighty damn good. Pretzels and maple-walnut bread were also made. I don't remember if Peter bought me the bread machine or if it was a gift from Furnace Creek, either way, it's one of the best gifts I've ever received.

Also this weekend, I stopped at the Tallahassee Greek Festival, which is held every two years. It was full of my kinda people - those who enjoy good food. Grabbed a gyro, did a quick walk around and returned home.

And contributing to my financial security, I wrote a complete trip report about Vancouver. View it here.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Addendum to the 300th Blog Post

I can't believe I left this out of my last post about my mundane week.

Wednesday after work, a couple of friends were invited to taste the yummy treats of the Culinary Institute at Keiser College. The invite stated something like, "taste," "learn," and "have fun." The event began at 6:30 p.m., so we didn't eat - we were heading to a culinary school for goodness sake.

Sadly, it was a bit of a let down. The entire hour we spent in front of a very talented baker (one of the instructors and occasional celebrity chef on the morning news) who decorated cakes and made a jelly roll for us. Now, two people were there when we arrived, then our posse of four and that's it. Not an easy thing to escape from. While sitting, Carolyn kept whispering, "I don't think this is it." I kept starring at the invite, trying to see if I missed something and replied, "yeah, I think it is."

I then tried to figure out an escape plan, do I get up like I'm going to the bathroom and not return? That wouldn't work, my car was parked out front, in plain view of the huge window of the classroom. Carolyn did the "bathroom" thing, but went to find someone from the college and returned with the bad news: yes, we were in the right place.

After one cake was completely decorated and a jelly roll was prepared, we were given a slice of the extremely sweet baked good. The cake sat uncut and that's the way we left it. After a day of swallowing about a dozen Pixi Sticks (there will be no elaboration as to why), sugar was the last thing I needed.

We were then led through the school's kitchens, where student bakers tempted us with a stack of Neiman Marcus cookies and soon-to-be chefs prepared protein-rich meats. Our tummies rumbled.

"I bet they have something set up for us at the end of the tour," Carolyn guessed.

"I don't think so." And I was right.

This evening was a push for enrollment in the Associates program - requiring a 40-hour per week commitment for a month, per class. Not ideal for the 9 - 5 (or 7:45 - 4:45) employee who travels. We are interested in something like a continuing ed class, which maybe meets once a week for a month or something on a Saturday (we were also looking for something satisfying to eat - even a cracker with a smear of Cheeze Wiz).

After leaving, we each drove like maniacs to find dinner: I chose Publix, others chose the fast food options.

Working in tourism, I should know by now to ALWAYS eat prior to attending a reception, etc., even if it is just a crack with a smear of Cheeze Wiz. On a positive note, we think we've found culinary classes to fit our schedules.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The 300th Post

Yup, kids, this is my 300th post on this blog. Yippee! Now, I have been blogging (albeit rarely) on my Tallahassee blog and my Afghanistan blog, but Quirky-Kitsch Girl's View has been my primary focus. I've been thinking of starting another blog, but haven't moved forward. Gotta keep up with what I have!

I realize I need to provide an update from the week, so here it goes:
Last Friday, the leopard ears, tail, vinyl, boots, et al were ready to party with the Pagans, but, I didn't go :( I know. The person I was to go with had a family emergency so I didn't make it. But, I did have a great time at another friend's 'Save the Breast' Birthday Bash.

Saturday was spent writing and deep cleaning. I was expecting company later in the week and thought it a good idea to clean. Well, fast forward to the week and no visitor, but at least I have a sparkling clean apartment for a while. And I've realized how more productive I can be in a clean, clutter-free place (regardless of what's hiding and stuffed in the closets and under the bed).

Saturday night was the ghost walking tour in Monticello, Florida - which is suppose to be the most haunted place in the Southern U.S. I guess it would have been a spooky tour if 75 other strangers didn't show up to take the tour. Worst of all, in my cleaning, I forgot to put my camera back in my purse!! So I didn't get any shots of orbs or other eerie things looming around (yes, some people did capture these on their cameras). Just means I'll have to make another trip back one night - any volunteers to join me?

The rest of the week was pretty boring, with the exception of the brisk cold front which lingered for a few days. These are the evenings when I LOVE snuggling into my feather-lush bedding and pulling out sweaters and knee-high boots in the morning. And being a second floor apartment, the first floor's heat seems to rise so I'm not running any heat or air, which means a drop in the electricity bill! Good times.

What did I write this week? Well, this piece about blogging. Guess it's no secret I enjoy blogging. It's free form writing. After more than a year of it (well, unless you count the site I used to have) and maybe a half-dozen loyal readers (I do have that many, right?), I enjoy sharing and expressing myself. Through the ups and downs of my life, it's been therapeutic. But, there are reasons not to blog, which is the focus of that before mentioned article.

I also conducted an interview with a relatively now-famous blogger who was fired for blogging. That article should be posted in a week or so. She worked in the travel business, too. Which made me even more interested in chatting with her.

In celebration of this milestone of the 300th post (there will be another celebration when I hit 1,000 MySpace profile visits, which I should reach next month), I'm going to crack open a bottle of bubbly I purchased in Paris on my way back from my Afghanistan trip. Cheers!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

For Your Viewing Enjoyment: Vancouver

My pix are up from the Vancouver trip. Wish I had more time. Man! I hate when work gets in the way :) Sorry, but you'll have to sign in to view them here. If you need to read about my trip again, follow the links to:

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Thursday Night Randomness

On one of the flights back yesterday (thankfully, I was upgraded to first-class for this 3.5 hour leg), I watched the movie "The Break-Up." You know, that movie with Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston. It's been advertised as a comedy, but I really didn't see much humor in it. In fact, the film left me feeling angry. The flick is filled with anger, yelling and tension while truly demonstrating how men and women communicate, or not communicate. That we women expect men to read our minds and when we say something, we really mean the opposite. And that men in their own way, really do appreciate their mate, but just can't convey that message properly. It didn't have the sugary sweet romantic ending, it had a realistic ending. Enough about that...

Thailand is a place I'd like to visit someday. A few years ago I traveled to Cuba with a group called Cross Cultural Solutions and as any good company does, they keep me on their email distribution list. Today I received one about volunteering in Thailand for two weeks. I'd LOVE to go and spend two weeks immersed in the culture, but right now, I don't think it's possible. I'm suppose to make a trip to Italy (which, I'm still trying to get excited about). But it got me wondering, through fundraising, could I raise $3,000 for that trip the end of 2007? I'll have to mull this over.

Costume crisis solved for tomorrow night. Since it's the Pagan Society with the Humane Society, I'm going as a pagan leapordess; just need to figure out the whole tail thing ;)

Oh! And if you haven't read my recent writing, be sure to check it out here.

Kodak Moments in Vancouver

If you haven't seen the first three images, check them out here.

This sculpture is called, The Raven and the Beast, carved by artist Bill Reid. This is a signature piece at the Museum of Anthropology, located on the University of British Columbia's Campus. I had to taxi it, but it was well worth the visit.

A dude taking a walk along Sunset Beach Park, which is on the English Bay and eventually opens up to the Pacific Ocean. My souvenirs? A couple of stones from the beach.

Salmon was the life blood of the Native Peoples and is still an important part of Vancouver's identity. These cold fish are at the Granville Public Market.

Vancouver Images: Take 1

I will upload images to Ofoto over the weekend, but in the mean time, enjoy these images of Vancouver. The stone sculpture, called Inukshuk, is a symbol in Inuit culture as a navigation marker. This symbol is all around Vancouver; miniature sculptures and pins are sold throughout the city as souvenirs.

This is from within Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Garden, named after the founder of the first Chinese Republic and regular visitor to Vancouver. Calm serenity is found within the walls of the garden, yet, I find the building of the hectic 21st century around the garden ironic.

Hmm! Dried lizard. It's what's for dinner in Chinatown.

When You Gotta Go...

One of the most fascinating things about my 2004 stay in Japan were the toilets. I think it was the variety and how they changed from basic holes in the floor to high-tech machines with techniques to tickle almost all of the senses. It's taken me two years to do so, but I finally wrote a story about peeing in Japan.

My Sleepy Life

After 15 hours in airports, I made it home today. Which got me thinking, I don't enjoy "traveling," but enjoy "travel." Big difference. I now need to adjust back to Eastern Standard Time, which is the reason for this early morning post.

With Halloween around the corner, my sleepy little social calendar is very busy this weekend. I have a "save the breast" birthday party (to raise money for breast cancer awareness) then right afterwards, the local pagan society and local humane society have teamed up to host a costume ball. Yeah, I don't see the connection between the pagans and animals, but maybe that is the connection. I love Halloween, yet haven't figured out WHAT I'm going to wear. Was thinking of updating last year's Princess Pez (pictured below).

Saturday night is a ghost walk in Monticello, Fla., which is suppose to be the most spiritual/haunted place in Florida. More so than St. Augustine and Cassadaga, Fla.

What does everyone else have going on for Halloween?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Vancouver Journey Winding Down

Sadly, I head back home tomorrow. On a 6 a.m. flight - what was I thinking???

Vancouver is a fantastic city. It has west coast-attitude and is not overwhelming. I've been able to practice my minimal French and Japanese in this multi-cultural hub. Vancouver is the gateway to Asia and is a place to watch over the next few decades, as China opens up. Here are some more observations during my visit:
  • Despite cheap, good sushi restaurants being everywhere, most are not staffed by Japanese.
  • Like any major city, homeless are everywhere. Either begging on the street with their lazy dog or sleeping on the sidewalks.
  • History seems to be lost in downtown. Old, historic buildings with character don't seem to exist. Lots of glass and steel going up. The reason, I'm told, is because Vancouver is a very desirable place to live and it's running out of room to build, so it's building upwards.
  • The Canadians are more environmentally conscious. I had mentioned about the electrically charged taxis, but the trash cans on the streets have "holders" to place recyclables. The thought being, I think, is rather than toss the bottle/can in the bin, just place it in a holder wrapping the bin.
  • Temperatures are mild. I saw a banana tree, with little bananas growing on it, the other day. I'm pretty sure we couldn't grow bananas in Buffalo.
  • Well, I'm sure there are more, but I need to run.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

I Saw a Seal! And Other Cool Things in Vancouver

It took about 14 hours to reach Vancouver from Tallahassee; like my past two Boston trips, weird flights: Tallahassee to Atlanta to St. Louis to Salt Lake City to Vancouver. The customs line was about an hour - which is pretty standard and good. I was nervous they'd see my Afghanistan stamp and pull me aside for questioning, but luckily, that didn't happen.

I actually saw the Canadian customs people do something I've never seen the American customs people do, be nice. A family with two very tired children was pulled out of the long line and allowed to go to the front, because the line monitor noticed they were tired. I've only seen U.S. customs people send visitors to the back of the line. Anyway...

Canadians are nice, in general. Everyone has been friendly, except on the sidewalks, people don't really want to make eye contact, except those who are lost. I'll get to them in a minute. On the bus ride to the hotel, I spotted a sign which read something like, "Nuclear-Weapon Free Zone, Welcome to Vancouver." Um, ok. Are they posting this for the benefit of the Americans? So we don't go in and invade our northern neighbor in search of weapons of mass destruction?

Sorry I don't have any visuals, for some reason, my camera isn't "talking" to my Kodak software - so, images will have to be loaded when I'm back next week.

Friday night, I was extremely tired. I had been up since 3:30 a.m. Tally time and arrived at the hotel around 6 p.m. Vancouver time (three hour difference). Tempted for room service, I cleaned up a bit and wandered the streets for sushi. Since there's a huge Japanese population, there are TONS of great, cheap sushi places. I forgot to bring a map (to find my way back to the hotel), but I found a great little sushi place around the corner, so I didn't get lost.

Saturday, being on EST, I rose with the sun - beautiful pinkish-orange. Wandered down to catch a water taxi to Granville Island, but along the way, a man asked me to help him find some place. I assume he was Indian, had a turban and long, white beard tied up appropriately. He wore a security guard coat - he was late for his job.

Each time I'm stopped on the streets of some strange city and asked for directions, guess I should see it as a complement. Must mean I look like a local.

Well, after a couple of phone calls, I gave the security guard man an extra map I had and sent him on his way. Funny, because I'm so navigationally challenged.

At the dock, tall sail boats bobbed in the water. Black mussels lined the wood legs and out in the water, a black, shiny head poked up and swam for a bit. It was a SEAL!!! How cool! Yup, I feel like a tourist. I mean, in Florida, we have water, but we don't have seals.

For $2.50 CAD (which is about equal to $2.40 USD), it took about 7 minutes to reach Granville Island. It's known for a great market - seafood, baked goods, fresh fruits and veggies and just about anything else. Breakfast was a salmon roll. Mmmmm. In addition to sushi, I LOVE salmon - which I guess the salmon roll could be considered "cooked" sushi - it was salmon prepared with dill and lemon in a light, flaky pastry. Also picked up a couple of apples and some cooking spices. It was tempting to grab a couple of packs of no-refrigeration-needed-salmon, but wasn't sure how U.S. Agriculture would like it.

I wandered around the island, walking through a neighborhood and headed back to the mainland. I walked down to Sunset Beach Park which is on English Bay, opens up to the Pacific Ocean. Forgot to mention it was a beautiful day, little overcast and the temperature about 55 F. People were out running, biking and rollerblading. It was funny to see people wearing sweatshirt and shorts - not just those running, but people just ambling around. See, in Florida, we'd be bundled up with hats, scarves and gloves at 55 degrees.

Headed to Chinatown next, for lunch. Unlike NYC's Chinatown, where people whisper sweet nothings like, "Louis," "Kate" and "Gucci," in your ears, they aren't pushing ANYTHING here. It definitely has more of a community feel. After passing through the Vancouver Chinatown Millennium Gate on West Pender Street, the Chinese Cultural Center is about a block ahead on the right. Behind that is the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Wish I could upload photos, because in the relatively small area, there is so much happening. A beautiful coi-filled pond with lily pads, a weeping willow with yellowish leaves dripping over it. Rocks and bamboo fill in other parts of the garden, along with a little pagoda. Very soothing. Some people were taking advantage of the serenity while others, like me, whisked through.

The shops in Chinatown ranged from the ticky-tacky stuff to high-end teas and spices. Picked up some more green tea for my collection (the fresh stuff that Kathy brought back to me from Japan is just about gone) along with some plastic pouches - which are great for stuffing the brochures I collect on my journeys. The food markets sold all sort of dried seafood and other oddities, like dried lizard on a stick, dried sea cucumber (not on a stick), dried scallops, dried seahorses, well, you get the idea.

Found a place for lunch - it wasn't that great. I was so hungry at this point, I plopped down at the first spot - an American-Chinese cafe - think of it as a step above Mel's Diner (the TV show) and a Chinese Flow. It was reasonably-priced food.

Headed back to the hotel through the area called Gastown. Some guy nicknamed "Gassy" founded the area and remnants of the wild west still exist. Which reminds me to mention the buildings in Vancouver, everything seems so new. Not much character. While wandering around, I found what are probably the last two houses in the downtown area - everything around these wood houses were torn down and slick, glass buildings were being built.

Gastown was pretty cool, kinda on the verge of Goth, but not really. Browsed through a sustainable furniture shop (made by recycling all sorts of odd things) and a beautiful gallery with Inuit art, carved wooden masks, totem poles and paintings. Very tempting to buy something, but remembering that I have so much art I've collected over the years that hasn't been framed, I refrained. The highlight of Gastown is the steam-powered clock. At least, there was a bus-load of Japanese tourists taking photos around it, so it must be one of the highlights of the area.

Headed back to the hotel and saw a NYC & Company flag and yellow New York taxi cabs lined down a street. A cop had the street blocked off. Turns out that the sequel to the "Fantastic Four," (I think that's the name, I'm really not sure because I don't know of these "Fantastic Four" everyone speaks of) is being filmed in Vancouver. Just stunts were being filmed and got to watch a row of cars being crunched and flipped over. Pretty cool. But again, strange to see a NYC setting in Canada.

More sushi for dinner and good night! Not sure what I'll be doing today. The conference begins tonight so I have the afternoon. I'm considering taking the bus to the Museum of Anthropology - but with all my travels, I've never taken a public bus!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I Should Be...

...writing. Not blogging, but writing. I've found venues which actually PAY me to write now, but I find ways not to. I get too distracted, my head still feels "fuzzy" - that's a good excuse! But am I giving up? Do I purposely want to fail? Or, am I afraid of success and the good that may come?
Sometimes I feel I have to fight to write - that it's in there, and when I pull it out, it's mighty good. But too often, I let content take control of my writing and life. I don't fight for things very often, only when I know (think?) it's worthwhile, but there are some things I've recently given up fighting for. Yup, this makes me sad for now, but I know (think?) in the long run it all will be good. The Magic 8-Ball confirmed this. (I'm kidding! I haven't consulted the Magic 8-Ball in a long while.)

Oh, and if you're wondering about the 7-day eHarmony trial, I'm just not feeling the love. Two out of three friends polled think I should cancel the membership and what will be, will be. I've learned my friends are usually right; this time I'll listen.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

My Lucky World

Do you consider yourself to be a lucky or unlucky person? Although I don't think I've had a perfect life (does anyone, really?), I think I'm lucky. Ok, I KNOW I'm lucky. I'm not making this statement to be arrogant, it's just the way I see things and accept what happens to me. Despite my low points, I know I have what's important and will end up on my feet.

I also know that I haven't been handed "luck," it's a state of mind and attitude. It's realizing I make my own luck and depend on me rather than sitting around waiting for the world to hand over opportunities. The world has given me the keys and tools, but that's because I earned it and asked.

I used to be overly concerned with jobs I was given. Obsessed that I was given those jobs solely because of who I was engaged/married to. Maybe they were given to me for that reason, but I proved myself; not only to those who doubted me but to me.

It's time for me to think how I can step things up and create a challenge to take me to my next level. One of the challenges in my life was spending the month in Japan. Two years ago this week I began that life-altering journey. One of the cities we stayed in was Hamamatsu. Learn more about Japan's "City of Music," here.

I'd love to have the freedom to live abroad. Unfortunately, debt ties me to the U.S. Does anyone know what the lottery's up to tonight?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Travel Keeps Me Going...

I don't know when the travel bug bit me, but it's become part of who I am. My desire to travel probably evolved with my active childhood imagination and dreaming of exploring exotic, and not-so-exotic lands. Travel is my escapism. I know I'm fortunate to work in the tourism industry, which allows me to travel.

My next trip is to Vancouver, British Columbia, which will probably be the closest thing I'll get to international travel in a long while. I've scheduled a day off to explore this part of Canada. I'm not looking forward to the travel itself - about 12 hours to get from point A through B, C, D and E to get to point F, but it will be well worth it.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Pursuing a Dream is Not Far-Fetched

It's amazing how people surprise us with their hidden talents later in life. In high school, I admired friend Julie Pecenco for being incredibly intelligent and quick-witted. We played field hockey together and one of my favorite things she would say, when I would try to be positive was:"we are not cheerleaders!"

She went off to earn her master's degree in engineering and became a hobbyist photographer. I don't know her full story, but she's found her soul mate and photography is now her full-time profession. Her work is incredible. I had no idea she was interested in photography until much later in life. Guess it's ironic, I was the photo junkie in high school and thought that was going to be my profession.

Enjoy her talents and if you need a photographer in Oneonta or pretty much anywhere (I'm sure she'd travel for the right price), think of her.

It's All About Me! Boston's Still On My Mind

Enjoy more images from last month's trip to Boston. Eventually I'll write something up about it.

Since I wrote my article about International Talk Like a Pirate Day, I've had a bit of a salty obsession. Found this bloke in Salem, definitely the strong, silent type.

I'd like to introduce you to the next President of the United States...taken at the JFK Library. Wonderful exhibits - made me cry (but then again, everything seems to make me cry lately!).

And the spices? [Taken from the West India Goods Store in Salem.] Well, I'm just in a spicy, zesty mood :)

Friday, September 29, 2006

International Idol

My obsession today was trying to watch this video from AOL. Some folks think it's cute, others find it freaky. What do you think? It's from Bollywood and this dude is gettin' his groove on to a remake of Madonna's "Holiday."

Watching him reminded me of a man I met during my trip to Kabul this past March. Along with members of the Taliban, government cabinet members and NGO executives, we met a celebrity of an Afghanistan soap opera - at least that's what we understood from the translation. We didn't get his name but he was soooo adorable. He's pictured here with one of our drivers, Daud.

Good Hair Days Are Here Again!

I'll keep this brief. It's been a long, draining, strange week. 4:45 p.m. could not have come soon enough today. This week, I finally felt the stress of all the projects at work compounded by the "female monthly" emotions. These two things don't mix well and when they collide, I feel like everything in my life is out of control: I feel as though I'm going crazy, can't concentrate on anything, can't comprehend the simplest of tasks and just can't deal with anything (or anyone).

The saving grace of the week (besides today's 4:45) was that the humidity here in Florida finally broke. Which means, Yes! Tame locks resulting in a manageable mane. And we all know, life is good when it's a good hair day.

This also means, cooler temperatures are here for a while and I can get outside and moving again. Need to lose these extra pounds I've accumulated over the summer, especially before my trip to Texas in December. Need to look halfway decent in denim.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Oh! Memories of High School

I love interactive websites. This one reminded me of high school - hitting a fellow students car while trying to park the monster Suburban. I was so scared as to how much trouble I would be in. My Mom was in Florida, my Dad was coaching a football game and I was suppose to pick my brother up (I think it was homecoming weekend). I barely did damage to the "cruck," it was a Suburban, but really did a number on the Toyota Corolla.

But, I've come a long way, only having one accident since high school (alright, I realize NO accidents would be better). It took my four tries to get this one right, enjoy!

"You Should Visit..." Yes, More Shameless Self-Promotion

Switching gears from yesterday's post, I'm focusing on something I'm good at. Writing.

The recent AC promotion is to write travel articles about "Why You Should Visit..." Having until Saturday, I've only completed TWO pieces. Since I like money, I hope to crank out three more by the deadline.

In the meantime, if you're looking for places to visit in Florida, consider either Sarasota, for the bicycling Amish or Homestead, to slurp a tart key lime shake at Robert is Here. You'll have to read the stories for the other reasons to visit :)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Finding a Good Man

Earlier this summer on my modest Tallahassee blog, I had posted about the film production company called Double Vision and the film they were shooting in the area. Well, here you can see a trailer of the flick called "Finding a Good Man." My friend Brenda plays the mother, asking Tony if he's a gang-banger (towards the end).

Ironically, this was sent to me after coming to terms that a good man is myth. As women, we're told not to lower our standards and the "one" is waiting. We believe that somewhere out there, someone will appreciate and love us for who we are. But I wonder, how long do we keep searching and waiting before giving up? We keep hoping, but at what stage do we see the reality and realize there isn't a Mr. Right for us? Or, not even a Mr. Wrong? Our society teaches us that love is a right. But maybe it's a privilege.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Images of Salem, Mass.

Enjoy these images of Salem, Mass. from my trip to Boston last week. That's me with a statue of Samantha from "Bewitched" (if you've been reading along, you know I've wanted to be a witch for a long time); the dude is my friend Rob. We used to travel together, a lot, in my other job. The stickers are self explanatory (aren't they?) then some treasures at a little antique shop.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Welcome to: Placid Pachyderm

Yesterday I talked about my friend Val. I'd like you to welcome her as she enters the blogging world with her blog called, "Placid Pachyderm" Check her out; read her, love her. Share the love!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Memories With Val

My college friend Val is asking friends to share their favorite/memorable moment with her. Well, here's mine:

We met freshmen year of college. She grew up in a town near mine, so one cold, snowy Friday, I caught a ride home with her. The road was dark, a little icy and somewhere in our hour trek with our dirty laundry in the back seat, an oncoming car wouldn't turn his brights off. So Val flicked hers, a little too hard, and she ended up handing me the "wand." (What is that thing called? That controls the lights?). Oops! The headlights were gone. It was dark. What are two college gals to do? Luckily, we were near a gas station and some nice man easily repaired the problem.

There are many, many, MANY other memories with Val. Like the time she, Gina and I had dreams of becoming famous performers; something like growing our armpit hair long enough to braid it to tie tiny bells, causing a "jingling" sound. OK, you had to be there.

Or, there's the time with Dan and Andy. Well, many times with Dan and Andy (aka: Dandy). My favorite was our trip to Canada: having them sit in the middle of the Niagara River on a picnic table posing for a photo; dancing in the clubs; and of course, can't forget the Beer Store.

Val sparked my political bone. Yes, we ran for dorm officer positions sophomore year. But, the smart gals (that would be us) lost to the pretty girls (the sluts). No bitterness. No. None at all.

But the memories didn't end after college. We went our separate ways, got married, moved to different states. But thankfully, what goes around, comes around. We're again sassy, single gals and have reconnected a lot over the past couple of years.

The above photo is Val in Boston. All I'll say is, some things just seem like a good idea at 1 a.m.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Avast, Mateys! Don't Let Me Down This Tuesday

Have you been good landlubbers and been brushing up on your pirate-speak? Remember, Tuesday, Sept. 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Arrr!!!

It's Already Tomorrow Across the Globe

I'd like to introduce you to Matt and his blog: Waiguoren Critic of South China. Now, this Matt is not to be confused with Matt-O, whom I went to Japan with, or Matt-A, the husband of Kathy, whom I also went to Japan with. No, this is a new Matt, someone who contributes to a site I do. He's in Japan teaching English, along with writing - not teaching writing, although if you're teaching English, you're probably teaching reading and writing. But writing for a living, too.

I'm looking forward to keeping up on his experiences in China, it's someplace I'd like to visit. Since it will be the next super power. I wonder if the Chinese culture is as confusing as the Japanese Culture.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Dancing Queens

I opened up my speech this week with, "whenever I have a microphone and audience, I have the urge to break out in song." Well, check out this video, courtesy of my friend Matt-O.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Making My Way Home

First, let me follow up to my speech earlier in the week. It went really well. Only about 500 people and spoke in the middle of the room, which felt really odd. But they laughed when they were suppose to, "awed" when I wanted them to and had Partners saying, "thank you," at the end.

Whenever I prepare speeches, I always remember my Dad preparing me for the fourth-grade speaking contest. Not everyone got to speak and I earned my spot. Our speeches were actually demonstrating how well we could rehearse a poem. While my friends presented poems by great authors like Emily Dickinson and Shel Silverstein, I found some random poem called, "Pigs." [Yes, my quirkiness began early.] He coached me in the living room, encouraging me to use drama by belting out the first word of the poem, "PIGS," then throw up my arms and lunge toward the audience. I don't remember much after that or if I even presented it that way. But yes, that memory still lingers. [And let's not talk about the 8th grade speaking contest].

Getting home last night is another story. When I left you last, I was sitting in the Atlanta airport, hoping to get on a flight. Well, I did get on a flight, at around 9:10, and we sat and sat and sat. I was in the very last row, thankful for a seat. Around 10 p.m., one of the pilots came on announcing he was trying to have 1,700 pounds of fuel removed from the plane because it was overweight. He proceeded to inform us that safety is Delta's main priority and he is fighting to have the fuel reduced vs. taking off passengers. He said the company didn't want him to remove the fuel because in Florida, they charge a high tax due to vacationers. Ok, too much information, I'm thinking.

He proceeded with, "I understand there is concern about our safety. We are both combat pilots and love our families." Saying something like, we will get you there safely. He ended with, "If you want to get off, you can." He then stood in the doorway and no one moved.

Ten minutes later, "We need 10 passengers to get off the plane. Not 8, not 9, but 10." Apparently, there were no trucks available to de-fuel the plane, there are only two trucks (mind you, Atlanta is a major hub for Delta and the busiest airport in the U.S.), one was full and the other broken. After the 10 volunteers scurried off, "We have enough fuel to fly to Tallahassee and back."

"But we only want to go once," was what a passenger said to me.

$200 Delta dollars were given to each passenger who got off for the next flight (which arrived 10 minutes after ours). To my clique in the back I asked, "so, they'll spend 200 in Delta dollars, which is $2,000, how much will they save in [fuel] taxes [by not refueling in Florida]? The wise-ass quickly quipped, "well, has anyone been able to actually use Delta dollars?" Good point.

We were given an 8 ounce bottle of water. Which means, give people water, they're gonna have to get up and pee. There was a very large woman on the flight, who drank her 8 oz. As soon as we were about to take off, she decided she had to go. The flight attendant told her to sit back down but she didn't listen and locked herself in the bathroom. The attendant alerted the pilot and so wheels didn't lift until the woman had peed. 10:55 p.m., my 7:41 p.m. flight was in the air for the 36-minute trip.

You know that "rule" that FAA has about traveling on the same flight as your luggage? It's just a rumor. Because one of my bags was on my flight and the other on the later flight. The great thing about the evening (and would have been more exciting if I wasn't on an expense report) is that the Tallahassee airport waived all parking fees for the evening.

Just another day in the life of a road warrior.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Bad Travel Ju-Ju

I boarded a plane at 10:30 this morning, expecting I'd be home in the late afternoon. It's 7:45 p.m., still not there. Apparently, a runway is closed for the next 60-days for resurfacing. The Delta gate agent in Cincinnati (don't ask why I was on a flight from Boston to Atlanta via Cincy), "avoid flying through Atlanta in the next couple of months. It's a mess." But you get anywhere from Tallahassee without going through Atlanta. At least I wrote about these handy tips to maximize my time in the airport.

In addition, I've spent a lot of time getting my CNN fix, I can always look and listen to Anderson Cooper. He's been in Afghanistan and reporting live throughout the week. Why couldn't my trip to Afghanistan coordinate with his?

What have I learned today? Well, from Delta's in-flight magazine Sky, that pets can transmit diseases to their human owners. In fact, there is a possibility that they can carry some sort of worm that when the pets lick their human, it can lodge in the human's brain or liver and eggs can be laid and tons of worms hatch in the human's body! Ewww!

That the American military has standards and a code of ethics (I'll have to do some more research about this). Apparently, a large gro up of Taliban militants (dozens) in Afghanistan could have been taken out by an unmanned spy plane, but we didn't do it. Nope. We follow the "rules of engagement" and we don't bomb cemeteries - the Taliban insurgents were apparently attending a funeral. I'm unfamiliar with the "rules of engagement," do these rules allow us to bomb civilian homes and rape and kill civilians?

It's just strange to me that war has rules. I mean, if we follow the rules, then why is there war? Rules just remind me of the British soldiers during the Revolutionary War, standing in perfect lines, waiting to be picked off. Perhaps, someone should review the rules for the 21st century.

Then I caught some silliness about the U.S. military not being able to test out some new weapons in Iraq until they are tested on U.S. civilians. What??? This weapon apparently stuns vs. kills and some guy name Wynne wants to make sure it works properly. Anyone willing to volunteer?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Bloated and Butterflies

I just returned from an incredible tour of the North End of Boston, Little Italy. It was with a tour guide, and we ate our way through America's oldest neighborhood, stopping at specialty shops. An Italian dinner topped off the evening. I'll write more another time, because I'm suppose to give a speech to 900 people tomorrow, and now I'm nervous. My speech was prepared, but then one of the tablemates at dinner tonight is a high-end, professional speech coach and gave me some pointers. For the last hour, I've reworked my little 2 minutes and trying to memorize the important points. Send me positive thoughts!

There Must Be a Reason

In just a few hours, it will officially be the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11. No year is needed, that date will forever be synonymous with 2001. Ironically, on September 11, 2001, I was in the Boston area. Today I am in Boston. Despite all the time which has past, I still get upset about this day, meaning, I'm filled with sadness and cry. I didn't lose anyone, but it was the first time I had actually felt alone in the world. Perhaps it's because I had a feeling of losing my security. Five years later, are we any safer? Do we feel more secure? I don't. In fact, I'm still nervous when I fly. But that's how terrorism works - keeping us on our edge with anticipation that something may happen. I had no idea how much that horrible day would not only impact me then (I needed to find a way to get home to Florida), or down the road, five years later. I've tried multiple times to cohesively write my thoughts and feelings of Sept. 11, but I can never get them to meld into something that makes sense. Maybe next year.

Today (yesterday), I met an incredible young man named Craig Kielburger, founder of Free the Children. He's 23 now, but at the age of 12, he was so moved by reading a story about a 12-year-old Pakistani killed for telling the world about child slavery, he convinced his parents to take 2 months of from school and backpack through Asia. He formed Free the Children to simply help other children in developing countries. This guy was amazing. For being 23, he's an incredibly dynamic speaker. He's traveled the globe, returning from Kenya last week. He's a three-time Nobel peace prize nominee and author of a few books. Why couldn't I have met him when I was 12? I was so touched by his presentation, feeling his passion, I had to speak with him. I thanked him and shared my Afghanistan experience. It gave me a little bit more justification about my trip.

Despite my frustrations and problems, I live really well. Each day, I think about the poor living conditions in Afghanistan - lack of electricity, drinkable water, clean clothing, food. All the children I met in orphanages who will probably never be adopted nor have family to share life accomplishments. But I remind myself of the hope over there. The people are free. Not a definition of free by U.S. standards, but they are free. And the people of Afghanistan can thank the U.S. government for their freedom. Without Sept. 11, the Taliban would still be in full control of the country. They remember it, we can't allow ourselves to forget.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Burger Freakin' King: Okay, MySpacers, Who's With Me?

That's it. The King has gone too far. Burger King, that is. If you've been reading my blog a while or know me, you're aware that the freaky, King of plastic just spooks me. Is he an example of botox gone bad? Read my December 2005 and February 2006 posts to get up to date.

MySpacers probably know the King has his own MySpace page and at last count, his royal scariness had more than 19,700 freaky subjects. Can this go on? See my blog post on MySpace and let me know if you're with me.

BTW - a fellow writer friend will be pimpin' my page to her readers soon. MySpacers, if you have time, drop by my little place on MySpace and drop me a line.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Some Uplifting News

I returned home today to an unexpected package from Italy: a beautiful black and white photo from Saverio, the only man on the trip to Kabul. The photo is beautiful and I'm touched. Be sure to visit his site and see his perceptions of the trip.

I also made my first post on the pay-to-blog site I had previously mentioned. The blog is Right now, the article (about Afghanistan - I know, you're all probably tired about my trip to Afghanistan!) is on the front page and I imagine it will be moved to the Afghanistan tab this week. So, stay tuned and I'll post updates (of course I will!) when I've contributed a new story.

Unlike the AC site I contribute to, my pay is known (which I like) and not based on page viewer history (Let me clarify, the wage I'm offered for a new article is based on how many page views I had on my LAST article and visitors to my home page. That's why I'm constantly emailing you all with my stories). A real positive is that I won't be writing with key word density for the blog- which I feel, makes me sound like an idiot. I'm a writer, a creative mind - I want a vast array of words vs. repeating the same word or phrase over and over again. But, I do still plan to contribute to AC, it's a decent site, but most of my travel (I hope) will end up on

As always, thanks for your support!

When's the Last Time You Really Said "Thank You?"

I posted last week about saying thanks to our troops. Today, I'm wondering how often we say "thank you" to those who come into our lives and stir something in us. Those people who inspire, frustrate, push us to our limits yet make us laugh and enjoy life. I know I don't say it enough and usually think of saying it when it's too late.

Today, I learned a friend lost his battle with cancer. Gary took me under his wing while in Death Valley and taught me the basics of corporate sales. I remember my first week working in the sales department and how everything seemed upside down. Shep and Nan, the two sales managers in the office, were also very helpful. But Gary was the "boss of us all," at least on the organizational chart :)

He taught me how to write kick-ass letters and I always loved how he signed his faxes, "enjoy your day." I hijacked that little phrase from him and have been using it in many of my emails since then. He taught me how to infuse laughter into the workplace - he had a wicked sense of humor. He always told me the Feds were after him and that's how he ended up in Death Valley. Well one day, the Feds DID show up. They were a little obvious, it was summer in Death Valley (dry heat or not, it's damn hot!) and they were dressed in dark suites and shades. But they weren't looking for him, they were after a dozen or so illegal immigrants working in housekeeping and the kitchen.

And, I want my current and previous employer to know that Gary is the one who taught me how to "organize" my work area. His office was ALWAYS stacked with piles of paper. It was rare to see the top of his desk. Each time I went into his office with more "papers," I would look around, unsure where to place them. He would see my anguish and looking around with me, he'd sigh. The sigh indicate, "yeah, I know. But what can I do?" In all my annalness, the desktop is where I relax and revel in clutter.

Gary, you're missed already. Your influence played a bit in forming the person I am today.

Monday, September 04, 2006

A Non-Post

So how am I spending this Labor Day? Before I get started, I really think there should be a movement to relocate Labor Day to the first Friday of September. My reason? Well, if this is a holiday for laborers, one cannot properly party on a Monday night and be expected to be productive in the office on a Tuesday morning. Having Friday off would make much more sense, the entire weekend would be there to recuperate.

Am I partying tonight? No. I'm writing, well, procrastinating is more like it. I've decided I'd rather see money come IN vs. going OUT.

Speaking of which, scored $2.49 gas today! Yippee! The last time I filled up, it was $2.99. That fifty-cents per gallon really makes a difference. If I could, I'd fill up containers and store them - like my hurricane water supply. I heard [crazy] talk that gas would be about $2 per gallon by November. Is that because it's close to election day?

I am sad about the untimely death of Steve Irwin. No, I never met him, but I know he did do some filming in the Everglades shortly after I left. Since I had once lived among crocodiles and alligators, I feel a bit of a connection.

Later will be work-work (ugh!) and maybe fixing a fine dinner. And how are you spending this day?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

When's the Last Time You Said, "Thanks"

Whether you're for the war [in Iraq] or not, our soldiers are serving our country. Thousands have sacrificed their lives to protect our freedoms, while those who have lived, and are living, are sacrificing time they will never get back.

On June 26, 2006, Xerox Corporation launched the website to allow the American community to send free postcards, with messages, to our troops serving overseas. The postcards are placed in care packages compiled by

I always wondered whether care packages and notes of encouragement were appreciated. I hope it does - it makes me feel like I've done something, because I don't know what else I can do to show support.

Monday, August 28, 2006

T'is the Season

Growing up, friends always teased me when my father was in the media - either in the newspaper or on the local TV news. Although, I have to admit it was pretty cool when the high school football team he coached was ranked #1 in New York State by USA Today in 1988 (was it 1988???). Anyway, even though he's retired, football still seems to run through his veins and he's coaching the game again. Enjoy this image from The Buffalo News.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Say Hello to a Couple of Near-Gypsies

Not only do my journeys give me great stories, but they provide me with terrific friendships. I'd like to introduce you to Paula and Keith (and their three-legged dog, Zoe) and their new blog, A “Can-Am” couple’s adventurous travel stories.

I met them in Key West about three (?) years ago. Paula and I attended a Frommer's travel writing workshop and Keith tagged along. I found it interesting that the couple had lived in Bishop, CA - which is just outside Death Valley, where I had once lived.

Along with a couple of other writing participants, I kept in touch with Paula and followed her and Keith on their trips, some taking them around the world. At one point, they had "settled down" (maybe for 6 months) and adopted some of Key West's gypsy chickens! But alas, the wandering lifestyle called them back and they are now in the Las Vegas area. (I have been assured that they did not eat the chickens but gave them to another family).

Hope you enjoy the tales of this Can-Am couple.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

What Do I Actually Do?

Wonder what I actually do when I attend a conference? A trade show? Wonder what the tourism industry is like? Well, this article I wrote probably won't unlock all the secrets of my career, but will give you a little bit. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Boston - I Really Love This City

I'm so glad I'll be back in Boston very soon. I LOVE this city! It's so easy to get around (granted, I didn't drive this time - I figured out the subway and train). Although it's the cradle of our liberty, it's youthful and vibrant. Historical nuggets are preserved throughout Beantown, in tourist attractions and in everyday life.

I was lucky, Mother Nature was on my side and the only rain was during the conference and late one night. Took in the many tastes of the city: finding an intimate sushi bar; lured by the aroma of garlic in Little Italy; blended with the locals at Dunkin' Donuts and savored fresh seafood. Yes, I live in Florida with access to fish, but in Boston I had cold-water fish like haddock and cod. Yummo!

An organic food market was right across my hotel the first night. I browsed the tent-covered stalls of fresh, vibrant veggies, teas, baked goods, crisp fruits and stunning wild flowers. Of course, a visit to Boston is incomplete without a visit to the original Cheers Bar, formerly the Bull and Finch Pub.

Enjoy these images of Boston!

She Pees Standing Up!

Fans of classic 80's movies certainly know the title of this post is a line from the Tom Hanks movie, Bachelor Party. My college pal Val joined me in Boston over the weekend and one late night was spent at Jacque's Cabaret, the best place in Boston to hold a bachelorette party. Jacque's is a transgender bar featuring performances by mostly talented drag queens.

Performances were primarily PG-rated, the four "girls" danced and lip-synch for a 90-minute show. Visiting during the week, the bar is sprinkled with pool-playing locals. But on Friday and Saturday nights, the place is packed with bridal parties.

It was hard to believe that a couple of the performers were actually men. Why the title of the post? I noticed the "girls" patronized the women's restroom - and the seats were wet. Which leads me to believe...

This is a shot of Destiny.

Arrr, Sept 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Ahoy, me hearties! People who take initiative inspire me. Take John Baur and Mark Summers from Oregon. Back in 1995, they were goofing around on the racquet ball court of the local YMCA, shouting out encouragements in pirate talk. As a result, they decided EVERYONE should have one day a year when they should talk like a pirate. Read the (my) complete story here.

Why did I write a story about International Talk Like a Pirate Day? I was doing research for an office project, looking for a few pirate terms, and was pleasantly surprised to see there was an entire day dedicated to this salty art-form.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Day Full of Oddities

Some days are stranger than others. Today leaned closer towards the side of strange:

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is: "thank-you-ma'am." Noun. Noun?!?!? Definition: "a bump or depression in a road; especially : a ridge or hollow made across a road on a hillside to cause water to run off." Oddly, the word's country of origin was not included; you know, words are commonly derived from Latin, French or German words. I imagine this one originated somewhere in the backwoods of the Southern United States. And how do I use this is a sentence? "Watch out for the thank-you-ma'am in the road up ahead." Will this word be popping up in the next spelling bee? How come we don't see yellow and black highway signs stating, "Thank-you-ma'am Ahead" when we have signs for "Bump Ahead?" Anyone interested in petitioning their local department of transportation on this one?

Running errands at lunch, I left a store and thought things looked a little hazy. It was because a truck was on fire. And rather than cars moving along and getting out of the way, they sat there watching the truck burn, until the police and fire department appeared. For the first time since I've had my camera, the battery was dead! So I can honestly say I was not one of the rubber-neckers holding up traffic.

A dog fell from the sky onto the company's warehouse. I didn't get to see this, but our mail person told us about it. He showed up at the warehouse this morning finding the police and fire department around the building. Apparently, someone saw this small, black dog jump out of the back of a pick-up truck, off the overpass bridge and land on the roof of the warehouse. The pup was alright, apparently being cushioned by the new roof recently put in place. He didn't have any ID on him and he was taken to the pound.

I love the lead in this story: "...adolescent male bottlenose dolphin is back to living nude...after making a potentially fatal wardrobe choice early this summer." Taken from a story written by William Mullen in today's Chicago Tribune, this tale tells how a dolphin in Sarasota Bay somehow got entangled and lived for about a month with a black Speedo brief. Let's face it, Speedo briefs don't belong on ANY mammal.

Early this summer, I heard about the cult-movie hit, Snakes on a Plane. Ironically, the movie doesn't play in theatres until tomorrow, yet, it's popularity has been growing. In fact, once word got out about it, Samuel L. Jackson went back to re-shoot some scenes. But a movie called Snakes on a Plane??? Yeah, with a hokey name like that, I'm real curious about it. Aren't you? In today's edition of, they feature an interview with a spokesperson with Frontier Airlines on what to do if you encounter snakes on your next flight.

I fly tomorrow. Let's hope it's a "normal" day.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Staying the Course

I was one of those kids who loved to write. I loved writing thank you notes and wrote thank you notes in response to thank you notes. I loved having pen pals. I dreamt of writing the 20th century version of the "Little House on the Prairie" series. All through childhood, writing was one of my escapisms. Writing letters, short stories, song lyrics and even mock news stories.

I recall a writing task in elementary school. Can't remember the exact assignment, but I ended up writing about the green, rubber hotdogs served in the school cafeteria and how they bounced when they rolled off the cafeteria tray. My teacher liked the story and posted it outside the classroom. It became quite the discussion with the cafeteria ladies which led to my fear of them! Luckily, my Mom was a brown-bag type of mom so I didn't have to face them often.

In 8th grade, my English teacher was so tickled by one of my stories, she read it to the class. While flattered, I was embarrassed. It was something about how I wanted to be Samantha from Bewitched when I was growing up (admitantly, I would still like to be a witch...). I wasn't embarrassed about the content but that something so personal was being exposed to the entire class.

Writing is still my escapism but it's also my way of communicating, of expressing myself when I can't any other way. Because of this, it's very personal and to this day, I'm still leary about sharing my craft. I know (do I really?) I'm a strong writer and want to do more. I want writing to be my life - professional and personal.

Ironically, a big part of being a successful writer is being a successful marketer. Proof is in what's out there these days. Three years ago I decided to pursue travel writing because of some of the crap out there. In my job, I would assist travel writers who would then send me the final product and I was embarrassed by what they wrote. "They actually got paid for this?" I questioned.

Amazingly, some writers don't know the difference between "weather" or "whether" or "there" and "their." I decided I needed a five-year plan to become a full-time writer. Three down, two to go.

I entered college as a communications major. I wanted to be a journalist, but was lured away by the adventure of geology, biology and saving the world. But the world (or God) works in obvious ways. When we deviate off our chosen path, somehow, we end up back on it and continue to move forward. It may take a while to get there, but we eventually make it. If I had stayed the course, who knows where I'd be today.

Opportunities lurk for me to deviate off the path, again. Faced with taking two steps back, I know I should stay the course.

I'm in the profession of marketing. And to be a successful marketer, one has to believe in the product. I need to work on believing in myself so others will buy my product, too.

Which leads me to this week. It began as one of those weeks where the whole world was against me: dealing with annoying twits; having a Cheerios explosion in the kitchen; and a blind date with the next man of my dreams canceling (at least for an evening and he had teeth!), nothing seemed to go right.

Until I received notice that I've been accepted to write (for dineros!) for a Food/Culinary blog and Travel blog. Yippee!! No, it's not the blog I "auditioned" for and told a few of you about (Actually, I haven't heard from them and I'd appreciate a nice "sorry, but no thanks." After all, the interview consumed cell phone minutes, I submitted a story I have rights to and the co-owner is, coincidently, someone who I crossed paths with in my previous life.). But things are good.

As soon as I start posting, the links will be posted here so you can read more of my travels and eats. I'm heading to Boston this weekend, which I'm sure will lead to tales. Not only is it Boston's Restaurant Week (YUMMY!), but I'll get to see my friend Val from college, have tickets to the Mariah Carey concert and will have the opportunity to fly under the new TSA security measures. (And for those of you in the office reading this, yes, I will be working hard, too). And guess what? Sept. 7 I return to Boston for another conference. Can't wait!