Friday, October 26, 2007

Jury Duty

I received a call a couple of weeks ago from a local research firm asking if I wanted to participate in a focus group. It'd be 90-minutes and I'd be paid $75. Sweet! "I'll be there," I said.

Arrived at the office, got into the room (with the one-way glass mirror) and was told a case pending in Florida would be presented then we (seven others and I) would be asked questions on how we'd decide.

Obviously, I can't disclose what exactly it was about (although, I didn't sign anything saying I couldn't or wouldn't and wasn't told I couldn't, but better judgment is telling me not to) but it was a very cool experience. Makes me wish I am called up for jury duty...

Monday, October 22, 2007

How Cool is This? Uptown Saturday Nights in St. Augustine

Hey Floridians! (Or, anyone who loves St. Augustine, art, antiques and having a good time) Check out these groovy St. Augustine events the last Saturday in October and November (October 27 and November 24 between 5 and 9 p.m.). It's called Uptown Saturday Nights and it's when the historic downtown comes alive with artists, writers and all sorts of other creative types.

Since St. Augustine is the Nation’s Oldest City, it only makes sense the city is full of unique antiques. During these fall months, Uptown Saturday Nights will emphasize on the city’s antique alley, San Marco Avenue.

While I'm fascinated with old treasures, I’m a writer and definitely a creative type. I love books and during the Uptown Saturday Nights, local writers will give readings followed by book signings. I love meeting writers and almost always buy their books when I attend an author event. Art galleries with special exhibits will be open, too. Being in October and November, it’d be a great time to get some holiday shopping done.

It's pretty cool St. Augustine is offering this opportunity to get up close and personal with authors along with other artists in a festive, fun setting. What can you expect? Music, refreshments (including wine), inspiration and good conversation. I know parking in St. Augustine is sometimes a challenge, but FREE (I love free) parking is available at Mission of Nombre de Dios.

Oh! I haven’t mentioned how I love St. Augustine. It’s been about a year since I’ve been, but if you’re going, be sure to take a ghost tour, either by foot or by train. And, go tour the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum and the Alligator Farm. The attached photo is from my visit last December, taken from a train tour, thus the blurriness, err, artistic look (aka: I meant to do that!)

Uptown Saturday Nights are between 5 and 9 p.m. October 27 and November 24, 2007. Check out St. Augustine events for additional information.



My Interviews with Big Brother's Zach Are Up!

I'm so excited! Both my interviews with Big Brother 8's Zach have been posted. Again, I can't say it enough but he seems like a genuinely nice guy, the kind you want and can take home to meet the family. He has a bright future ahead of him. Enjoy!

Interview with Tallahassee's Big Brother 8 Houseguest Zach: Part I


Big Brother 8's Zach Talks About Dolphin Crash

Feeling Flirty with Flirtbox.us

The dreaded holidays are around the corner and I’m already loathing spending them, once again, as a singleton. However, I've been introduced to a new online USA dating service which may offer me the chance at some sort of companionship – or at least a free dinner. (Hey! I’m a single gal watching the budget).

Flirtbox.us is free USA dating service, meaning it’s designed for U.S. residents. Looking it over, it doesn’t have the flash and style of the bigger dating sites, like eHarmony or Match, but has a down-to-earth, folksy feel. It’s easy to register, enter some basic data, throw up a photo then either wait or peruse to see who else is around. It’s a fairly new site so the database is building.

The look and feel of the site makes me think the people on there are a little more authentic and real. Since it’s a USA dating service, I also hope it means the Nigerian scammers and Russian wannbe brides/grooms will stay away. So tonight I’m feeling flirty…

This is a sponsored post.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Travel Writing Contest: Traveling Stories Magazine

Have a great travel story? Go ahead and submit it to Traveling Stories Magazine, they're awarding $125 to the best story. The contest runs until Nov. 15, 2007.

Amazingly, I got my butt in gear to submit something, Delivering a Message from Afghanistan's Taliban: Sincerity or Lip Service? Rate the story but also peruse the other entries, there are some excellent, fun stories posted there. I enjoy living vicariously through others and reading their travel tales.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Are You Left or Right Brained?

AOL has a cool article up today. It uses an optical illusion to determine whether you're left or right brain dominant. Give it a whirl here. According to this little test, I'm right brain dominant (creative).

I also found this quiz: Are You Left or Right Brained?, and I'm 55% right brained (creative) and 45% left brained (logical, analytical - well, that makes sense).

So, are you left or right?

Who Does He Think He His?

The trip to Italy is a month from now. I don't feel ready for the trip but usually don't for long hauls until I'm at the airport.

I had made arrangements for the Excavation Tour under St. Peter's Basilica with the Vatican in the morning of the only full day in Rome. Groovy, other than air, hotel and rail, this is the only thing confirmed for the trip, before today...

...received an email from the Vatican reading, " the Holy Father imposes the cap and the ring to the new Cardinal...For this motive, the visits of the necropolis are suspended."

WHAT??? NO!!! Who does the Pope think he his imposing on my plans? And how does one impose a cap and ring on a Cardinal? Maybe I'll be able to crash the festivities. Oh dear, what does one wear to crash such an event?

This just goes hand-in-hand with the type of week I've had. But, it's okay. They can fit us in on an afternoon tour. Just means the day will revolve around the Pope...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My Interview with Big Brother 8's Zach is Available

Go ahead, call me a geek but I'm a fan of the CBS reality TV show, Big Brother. I admit, in the beginning I was a fan of Evel Dick but as the show progressed, he just seemed mean. I became a Zach fan when he won his first Head of Household competition. It was almost a good versus evil-type moment. At the same time, he seemed so alone.

Fast forward to last week...Zach was in Tallahassee visiting family and friends. He was kind enough to speak with me about Big Brother 8 (I thought the part about Jen finding out about Eric being America's Player during the show was interesting) and Dolphin Crash, his new edgy surfwear clothing line. As I've said before, he's a genuine, motivated guy and it was refreshing speaking with him. Read my interview with Zach where he discusses Big Brother. Next week, our discussion about Dolphin Crash and his true passion, underwater photography, will be posted.

Enjoy!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Oh! The Places I Could Have Gone

I had big plans for this weekend. A Saturday morning oil change, gym visit, loads of Tallahassee festivals and events and getting caught up on blogs, emails and writing. Nope, didn't happen. Had an unexpected date with the porcelain god all day Saturday, not a pretty scene (thankfully, not quite as ugly as this time). Sunday I had planned on kayaking with my Green Guide class but realized Saturday night, although feeling better, would not have the energy needed to kayak.

Sunday afternoon I was restless and made three batches of jelly/jam. Two batches of hot pepper jelly and one batch of rhubarb jam. Getting a jump start on Christmas gifts!

Anyway, I have a favor. Can you check out my "work" blog, VFg3, (which I don't have time during the work day to post on) and complete the easy survey off on the right hand side? Much appreciated!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Just What I Needed...

The dog/house sitting gig ended last night and work has been tiresome. I really didn't think I'd get through today without crying from frustration over the details of what needed to get done. But I got by (without crying) and left around 5:30 p.m.

Although I was wiped out, I had contacted Big Brother 8 houseguest Zach Swerdzewski to request an interview and he suggested meeting up tonight at a local hangout. (He's lived in California for the past six years but Tallahassee is home). I really thought about skipping tonight to head to the gym (since I only ran 5 miles last week) but remembered my duty as a citizen journalist: keep the appointment.

So I did what I hate doing, went to a bar/restaurant by myself. Admittedly, enjoying a good margarita is what I needed. Thinking he wasn't going to show, there he was in a Dolphin Crash t-shirt, with his brother. Yeah, Zach! We had a nice conversation (which will be written up over the weekend) about life before, during and after Big Brother 8, Dolphin Crash (his edgy swimwear and surf gear) and his art.

He's incredibly passionate and enthusiastic about the road ahead of him. From our conversation, he's an approachable and sincere guy. And although he's single and would eventually like to settle down, he's focused on his launching his career. He heads back to California next week.

Here's my photo with Zach

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Something's in the Air

So, the destination where I was asked to jump through hoops for the most bizarre application process I've ever been through and heard of, ended up hiring their director. Let's just say it looks like the good ole' boy network is alive and kicking. Interestingly, he's had a tourism consulting business since the late 1980s yet I can't find anything on the Web about it and not much on him. I realize things from the 80s wouldn't show up but if he's some hot-shot, I'd think he'd done something recently. Hope they checked references. Whatever, I've moved on...

And I can sense something is changing in a good away. I just need to focus and let things happen versus forcing things to happen. I reminded myself today that there are those who talk about doing and then those who do. I want to be the doer in every aspect of my life.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Is American Influence in Afghanistan Good or Bad?

Just when I hear how Afghan women are moving forward with the Afghanistan version of "Top Model," I hear about the child stars of the upcoming "Kite Runner" movie being in danger. I think it's terrific Afghan women are finally shedding their burqas and other Afghan women are showing them it's okay to do so. Modeling may seem superficial in a war-torn country where car bombings seem to occur daily and electricity is a luxury, but it's a step forward in advancing the country. It helps empower women.

As for the boys in the movie, because they acted out a boy-on-boy rape scene, their families and community feel as though they've shamed them. The parents feel as though they were lied to and not told what was the scenes entailed. From the Washington Post article (Kite Runner: Danger On and Off the Screen) however, the scene was dramatically changed and relies on the power of suggestion and not showing the actually act.

As I learned from visiting Afghanistan last year, pride and honor is very important. A similar thing has happened with the women written about in Debbie Rodriguez's book, Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil. Many of the women written about in the book felt their lives were in danger after the release. Their families feel as though they shamed them by revealing too much and a handful of the women believed Debbie took advantage of them. She left Kabul for a book tour in the U.S. and the women didn't understand her leaving. Upon her return, she was quickly removed from the country, her husband feeling as though she left in shame (under Afghan law, she'd need his permission to leave the country).

In an NPR interview, Debbie said the girls didn't understand what she was doing and plans to follow through on her promises. Last I knew, she was trying to get visas for the women to come to the U.S. I requested an interview with Debbie (I had written this article previously) to get her side of the story and she directed me to her publicist. The publicist ignored my request.

As for my thoughts about the boys starring in the "Kite Runner," I don't know what their families were told about the film and I'm sure they feel their lives are in danger. It seems whenever we (Americans) get involved in things over there, we can't do it right. We go over with good intentions but fall short of expectations, causing animosity and putting others i danger. What's the answer?

[Top photo: Young Afghan men in Kabul; Bottom photo: an Afghan boy in Istalif; March, 2006]

Planning a Trip to Use Your Passport? Consider the UK

I learned from a former travel agent friend the best place an American should travel when wanting to visit Europe: the United Kingdom (UK). Why? Her logic makes sense: when traveling outside the U.S., it's a bit overwhelming the first time and in the UK, English is spoken.

Things are a little bit different over there (they drive on the opposite side of the road and London hotels,
Edinburgh hotels and Glasgow hotels may be a bit smaller for our super-sized American bodies) but not overwhelmingly different (just bring a face cloth, they seem to be absent in Europe).

Having traveled to the UK several times, I can attest it's a safe, excellent destination to visit. The people are extremely friendly. I remember going out to a London pub by myself for dinner. All the tables were full but a family visiting from somewhere else in the UK invited me to join them. UK pubs have a warm, cozy feeling, almost like Cheers except everyone doesn't know your name when you walk in but will know it when the pub closes. The staff in the London hotels are friendly, too, looking out for their American cousins.

And hitting the town, one never knows who'll they'll run into. On my last trip to London in Feb. 2005, my UK reps took me out for a chichi dinner at a place called Oxo where we saw the real Bridget Jones! Renee Zellweger was sitting at the next table over, very cool. Not sure which of the London hotels she was staying at but maybe she was renting a flat.

I also saw the "Jerry Springer Opera" while in London. No, Springer didn't star in it but the play was based on his show. I love London's sassy edge.

While the people and activities are fabulous in London, Scotland is wonderful, too. You've already heard my evening with the porcelain god in one of the Edinburgh hotels (for those unfamiliar, I had food poisoning from a Thai restaurant) but I don't let that mar the pleasant experience I had in Scotland's capital city. From the folks at the visitor information center (which has Internet kiosks) to the folks at the hotel trying to make me feel better, I was surrounded by warm hospitality.

Unfortunately, my travels haven't taken me to Glasgow yet and I think I'd fall in love with the city, too. After all, "Glasgow" means "dear green city." Thanks to my friends over at CheaperThanHotels.com, I've learned Glasgow is Scotland's style capital for it's buzz, edge and creative class. I imagine something like Seattle or Portland with all types of art everywhere and hip sounds floating from pubs. Glasgow hotels range in all types and although I'm usually brand-loyal, I'd stay in one of the trendy, boutique types.

Are you ready to visit the UK? Dust off the passport and head over to CheaperThanHotels.com to find deals for London hotels, Edinburgh hotels and Glasgow hotels.

[Top photo: Look kids! Big Ben!; photo to the right: Not sure what I was doing but I liked the sculpture; bottom photo: roller skaters down a London street]

Mmm, Moth! It's What's For Lunch!

Ever hear of Marty Stouffer? When he was a teenager he explored and survived in the wilderness, documenting his journey. He's the creator of Wild America and is probably the most famous wildlife documentary filmmaker. Well, I know I'm not going to be the next great American wildlife photographer, but I caught this today. It's a bit hard to see since the lizard's green but pay attention and enjoy!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Loads of Sparkly Necklace Bling on Shopping.com

I'm a simple gal when it comes to dressing but wearing jewelry is a whole different ball of wax. I like something eye-catching, stunning and sometimes a little bling, especially my necklaces. From classic to funky, I'll wear it. I've discovered an excellent source for fabulous necklaces at Shopping.com

Let's start with price. My friends over at Shopping.com offer necklaces to fit every budget and have an easy to find price range list to narrow the search when looking for the perfect neck jewelry.

Now the fun stuff, the variety of necklaces. There's the bling Swarovski Crystal necklaces to classic elegance of perfect pearls (men, here's a hint: every woman needs a string of pearls) and Celtic designs to personalized name pendants in sterling silver, 14K gold or 14K gold plated ("Sex in the City's" Carrie Bradshaw would be in Heaven with this site). I think you get the idea.

Shopping.com makes shopping for necklaces extremely easy. It's like a clearing house for other sites, bringing together the best and prettiest necklaces on the Web making it easy to browse most everything that's out there in one convenient place. Pendant settings and necklace styles fit everyone's tastes and needs and best of all, budgets.

It's Friday Already?

Last week flew by and so did this week, where on earth does time go? Internet access has been limited this week, been house sitting (check out my Tally blog for more about that) and the client is in the process of moving so although there's a bed, giant television, chair and computer, there isn't a place to sit and use the computer and after a long day (which I've been on the go since last Saturday), I'm too tired to stand and write. *sigh*

I'm excited to hear from my friend barb (yes, the "b" is lower case). She's still working in Petrified National Forest, talking about retiring (already???) to relocating next spring. Very exciting for her. I need to fill her in (and maybe I'm ready to make an announcement) about my plans. I'm excited for her but disappointed I haven't visited her in Arizona yet.

Last week I also received an email from a young man who was going to Afghanistan as a contractor for the summer. I've been wondering how he was doing and was happy to receive a note from him and about his experience. I owe him an email along with a new friend in Pakistan (BTW, although I'm working on ITB, I won't be attending and won't be able to meet. Only my tourism friends will understand that bit).

Anyway, I'm hoping for a Saturday of sleeping in and writing. Sunday is field trip day - yippee!