Monday, November 28, 2005

Crazy Cat & Christmas Cheese

Hello -- I'm killing a little bit of time between two classes. Normally, I do my Egyptian Arabic homework during this downtime on Monday mornings, but miraculously we were not assigned any today. I could be finishing my other paper, but I don't really have quite enough time to make good progress, and frankly, I'd rather f**k off right now.

I've been taking care of Shauna's cats over the weekend while she's home in Iowa. Yes, that's plural because Shauna got another cat named Finn. His official name is Finnegan, but for those of you who used to work with me at State Department, you are all familiar with Mr. Finnegan. And so I just have terrible connotations with that name. Of course, if you didn't work with me at State, you don't know John Finnegan, and you can just consider yourselves lucky.

Therefore, I can't bring myself to call this new cat Finnegan (as we always called the weirdo John), but Finn suits him nicely. So anyway, Finn is rather crazy. He is NUTS about cat treats. He actually came running so fast from the bathroom to the living room that he literally plowed over the other cat, Niamh, while trying to get to the treat jar. Today, I went to check on the cats, and this little guy had figured out a way to crawl up into Shauna's loft bed (with nothing to jump up onto it from), bury himself under her comforter, and then he actually crawled down the ladder. He had knocked over half the stuff in Shauna's apartment (perfume, CDs) and had pulled several items of clothing out of her closet, such as scarves and belts, that it looked like he was playing with. Anyway, in two words: high energy.

This contrasts nicely with me, as I am losing momentum fast. I have two of my three papers pretty much finished, and I'm trying to keep my interest in my classes piqued for the next 2.5 weeks, but I keep imagining Christmas -- with no homework, no papers, and no tests, and it's almost more than I can handle!

Speaking of Christmas, what's up with the Christmas music already playing on the radio and in public places? If I owned a radio station, I would mandate "no Christmas music until December 15." I also saw some people with a Christmas tree on top of their car last Saturday (which is a bizarre sight in cacti-centric Arizona). I guess some people get into the spirit before I do, but November seems a little premature to me...

Oh, and while we're on the topic of "in the spirit," I just HAD to include this corny photo of my ex-co-worker's husband and his infant daughter. No, she does not read my blog (nor know of its existence), but for the protection of all involved, I will not divulge the source of this picture (who I believe found it as hilarious as I). However, I just had to include it because it has to be the absolute ultimate in Christmas cheese...

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Lost in the Foothills

Tonight, I got seriously lost in a Tucson neighborhood. I never thought this possible, being that southern Tucson is extremely linear, but head north to the Foothills, and you might as well be in Seville, Spain. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of visiting Seville, let me tell you that it's very easy to get lost there. First of all, there are no street signs, so you have to navigate by landmarks. Secondly, for example, to go south, you first have to go east or west, then turn one direction or another, loop around, go west again, and cross the third street with the white house with the blue fence to find your way south. I've never been so frustrated with navigation in my life as I was in Seville.

And yet... oddly... Tucson appears to be more similar to Spain than first meets the eye! Take the neighborhood below (see attached map of the neighborhood I was jogging in tonight):

My car was parked where you see the red star. You will notice that unlike anywhere else in Tucson, there are no straight roads in the foothills. Many roads are dead-ends, and it's very hilly so you can't see what's coming next. I started out on Camino Arturo, hooked a right on Cotorra, another right on Culebra, a left on Isidoro, a right on Brinca, and a left on Miraval, and then ran into a major four lane road with no sidewalk (clearly it's still Tucson) so had to turn around. The problem was I couldn't remember the name of the street (Brinca) from which I had come. So I just kept going south on Miraval all the way to Calle La Cima before I realized I was seriously lost. And I kept looking for a right turn to get me back to my original parking location, but there is none! So I walked about a mile looking for a street to cut me back to the west, but the map will show that this doesn't exist. Now, in most neighborhoods, all the streets eventually intersect or circle around and get you back pretty easily to your starting spot. It's hard to get lost. But I swear that by the point I hit the southern part of Miraval, I wasn't even sure which way my car was anymore.

Thus, my memories of Seville, Spain and trying to find my hotel for about an hour, walking in a one-mile circumference to nowhere, came back to haunt me. The difference, of course, is that Seville is pretty compact, while Tucson neighborhoods are spread out and enormous (no city blocks here!). So even if you take the risk of turning right somewhere, there's no guarantee that street will link up with the one you want to find, and you will walk for a mile going no where. Not to mention all the Spanish street names in this neighborhood totally confused me, and I couldn't remember if I'd been on Culebra or Cotorra or Cabra... although I got some serious (more than one-hour) walking/running exercise trying to find my way out of Spanish street name hell.

I did view some interesting sites on my walk and learned that there are some really funky cacti to use in desert landscaping. My favorite is most definitely the lavender colored prickly pear cactus. There are also some bizarre birds in Arizona. The first one is this little grouse looking critter that I thought was carrying worms in its mouth until I realized that the little appendage dangling down was actually attached to its face. Here's a picture of the little guy that I pulled from some birdwatcher's website -- actually I've just learned that it's a Gambel's quail:

There are also these dove-looking birds that hang out in groups, and when you run past an area where they're perched, they freak out and start flying all over the place. That in turn, freaked ME out because the flap of their wings sounds EXACTLY like a horse letting air out of its mouth... that brrrrrrrhhhh sound they make. For a minute I actually stopped moving and looked around to see if someone had a horse nearby, but alas, there were none. There were lots of rabbits running around as well. Another oddity was that some woman was singing opera at the top of her lungs in her front garden, but I don't think she saw me. She was actually pretty good...

So all in all, it made an interesting desert sort of adventure. I was a bit panicked when I couldn't find my way out of the maze, and dusk was approaching (ah, no sidewalks OR street lights in Tucson either), but eventually I figured it out. Then I made my way back down to the world of southern Tucson's mini-malls and parking lots and felt a bit depressed again... such a shame that the Western US developed around the car... so many possibilities, such bad urban design. But I digress...

Monday, November 14, 2005

Another day, another paper...

Well, I just finished writing a 5-page response paper on two articles --- "Heterotopia and the Wine Poem in Early Islamic Culture" and "The Islamic Panegyric" --- for my required intro class for graduate students in Middle East Studies. Don't ask me what either of these things are... they aren't worth your time. Just some flippin' poetry crap from the year 800 that is totally and completely irrelevant to modern day society. Plus each of those damn articles was about 25 pages. And now I have to contend with reading another 50-page article on the development of Cairo so I can give a presentation to my Middle East Urbanism class on Wednesday night. The fun never ends! Oh, wait, do I have three 30-page papers due in 3 weeks? Oh my god, I do.

I better get to bed, where I won't be sleeping, I'll be reading about Cairo. Wish me luck...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Blog? What Blog?

Do I have a blog? Oh my god, I forgot about it! Hmm, seems I've been a little busy these days... maybe it's that 18-page paper on Algeria (in extreme rough draft, only partially complete format that I'd like to have finished this Thursday) that I've been swamped with in addition to about 50 other things, like craploads of Arabic homework. All I have to say is thank heaven for 3-day weekends! As a sidenote, however, the f***ing zipper bird woke me up at the crack of 6:30 in the #*(%&$* morning again today, for about the 20th day in a row. My eyes just popped right open when I heard his stupidly loud zipping whistle. I HATE THE ZIPPER BIRD!

So, in a nutshell, what have I been up to lately? Well, a whole lotta nada. This weekend was dedicated to my pursuit of my studies, and dedicated I was! With the exception of some errands I ran with Shauna on Friday morning (the usual: Target, Trader Joe's, Kinko's, and I discovered delicious sandwiches at a place here called Beyond Bread), I have been pretty well devoted to my Algeria paper. OK, I guess a repairman came by on Friday morning to replace my hideously 1980s vertical blinds and I got stuck chatting with him for about an hour, and then I did go out for a couple beers last night for Lindsey's 23rd birthday (with her and the Indian posse... and she's "dating" one of them now as well).

I also went for a "jog" in the Catalina foothills last night. I had one of my "not so Tucson" days and just needed to get out of this dustbin for a while so I drove about 20 minutes north to this really gorgeous Tucson subdivision, where all the houses are stucco and tile roofed, and they have the most amazing desert landscaping. I went at dusk, which is the best time to walk in neighborhoods (just in case someone leaves on a light with the blinds open and you can subtly peer in at their home furnishings), and I have to say the air was really pure and fresh and cool and niiice! It's in the 70s here all the time now so I was really enjoying my little jaunt. Too bad the swimming pool has caused my leg muscles to semi-atrophe... god, I had to quit running after about 15 minutes because my feet hurt (of course, this might be because I don't even own running shoes anymore and was running around in cheesy cross trainers). Anyway, the walk was good for the psyche.

I'm also babysitting Shauna's incredibly cool cat, Niamh. If you can believe this, Shauna's parents flew her to the Bahamas for the weekend so they could all celebrate her mom's 60th b-day together. Wow, I wish my parents did things like that! (Mom, mom? Dad?) Of course, since my parents are divorced and don't really like each other very much anymore, that could be tricky... OK, never mind.

So back to the cool cat, Niamh, who is sort of my own this weekend. I brought her over on Friday night while I was reading about Algeria's incredibly exciting National Liberation Front, and she just jumped right up on my lap, curled up in a ball, and fell asleep. She's too cute. Of course, she does shed a lot, which is a bit of negative since I'm mega-allergic to cats. Therefore, anything I wear when I am near her, I have to throw immediately in my laundry bin. I'm definitely contributing the rising stocks of Tide and Wisk.

Anyway, before Shauna left for the Caribbean (grrr...), leaving me stuck alone in Scragsville Tucson, we bought Niamh an outfit from the pet section of Target. Shauna decided on a black cashmere cat sweater with a string of pearls. It's hilarious. Here are the official "glamour shots" we took of her... Shauna "le Artiste" got a little creative with the sepia tone and softening capabilities of her photoshop software. Check out the final products!!! Just like a photo studio:

Young Niamh teasingly poses for the camera

With her whimsy and charm, this little cat knows how to tease her suitors!

And on a separate photo section, I finally got the pictures of the wild-n-crazy Persian dinner dance that Shauna's professor hosted at his home here in Tucson. Just so you don't forget who I am, here's one of me enjoying drinks and definitively NOT Persian dancing. (Note my new hair color please!)

And here are two photos of "the force on the dancefloor", AKA Shauna, shaking her booty to Persian tunes. For the record, I am incapable of any sort of exotic hip movement. This is not true for Shakin' Shauna... check this picture out... she's dancing with the director of our grad department, Dr. B., who does like to wear vests, and this one just happens to be leather. I don't know any more than that. Except that I think he's very Jim Henson-like... in a living sort of way:

And last but not least, here we are posing for a photo op at the party...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Last weekend's fun -- World Fair and Annie

Well, I promised to post some photos of my recent life, and here they are... I spent part of my evenings a week ago designing the Graduate Student Association's booth for a local World Fair, which took place last weekend. Here, you can see the fruits of my handiwork... note the good looking, hand painted signs, created by yours truly. This is a photo of a girl named Alana (in my program) and I hanging up the cloths that covered our bazaar tent that we designed... I have to say, it turned out pretty well!

The other exciting highlight of last weekend was the fact that I got to meet the cast of the national touring Broadway production of "Annie" that was here in Tucson. My friend Mack used to babysit this woman, Elizabeth (next to me in the photo), who is now the traveling tutor to the kids on the cast of "Annie" -- here we are posing with the orphans. Can you spot Annie? She looks just like the stereotypical Annie (she's on the left in pink & white). Elizabeth took me back to the hotel after we'd gone out to dinner, and the adult cast and crew had made this amazing haunted house in the conference area of their hotel here in Tucson. It was a GREAT haunted house, and it was actually somewhat scary, as they had completely blacked out the whole place (no light at all) so you had to feel your way through it. I did actually scream a couple of times. So this photo was taken outside the haunted house. The girls were cute but a bit precocious for their ages... they definitely grow up fast on the road. I have to say I would never let my kid travel the U.S. as a child actor. Elizabeth has confirmed that school is not exactly the kids or parents' priorities. Kind of sad. Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, the highlight of my night was meeting Mackenzie Philips, from "One Day at a Time" and "American Grafitti." She looked very weathered, and she definitely had a serious smoker's voice. I told Elizabeth that Mackenzie also seemed to have adult ADD as she was jumping around like a mad woman while playing with the kids. Very high energy.

This next photo was so weird, I had to include it... here is the girl that plays Annie lying on the floor pretending to be dead. Well, it was Halloween! But it was pretty realistic...

That's all for now... I'm going to a Persian dinner party with Shauna tonight. We had a good night out last night at this bar here in Tucson called "North" that is located in the La Encantada shopping center (hey, Tucson is really nothing but strip malls) --- and I was so psyched to see people over the age of 25. In fact, most people looked like 30-something professionals, which alleviates my suspicions that no one really lives here except college students and old people. We ended up giving these Canadian guys a ride back to their condo, which they rented for a weekend of golf, and they lived so freaking far away that we didn't get home till around 4am! Total insanity...

Stay tuned for tomorrow's new entry... I'm concocting a "Top 10" list for living in Tucson (although it might actually be a "Bottom 10" list). Haha.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Tennis Mishap

It's 1240am and I have a midterm tomorrow morning at 8am, but I am feeling so tremendously guilty about not writing in this lately, that I am forcing my eyes open with toothpicks just to feel better about myself. Oh, and also because I had to mention that I got pegged in the face tonight by a high velocity tennis ball while I was playing doubles in tennis class. I got paired up with my teacher, Toby, and we were playing against this Colombian guy named Jose and this older woman named Stephanie. Well, I got up to the net to volley after Toby served, and Stephanie was on the other side of the net, and she just pummeled the ball my way at a high rate of speed. Before I could even move, I felt the ball smash into my lower left jaw, and I felt my glasses fly off my face. My glasses landed about 4 feet away (unharmed, thankfully --- I highly recommend the non-breakable Swiss-flex glasses!!), and I stood clutching my jaw with my eyes watering. I was seriously worried that I had some loose molars. Toby assured me that it takes a much harder ball than a tennis ball (ie: golfball or baseball) to knock out teeth, which made me feel better. I was also relieved when I didn't feel any teeth wiggling around in my mouth. In fact, after about 10 minutes, it didn't even really hurt any more, and I can't see a bruise so I guess it will be OK. And Toby and I ended up winning the game so I suppose it all ended well.

More this weekend... I am starting to hit final semester crunch, but I WILL spare a minute to post the much-promised pictures. Oh, and also, I am going with Shauna to her Persian professor's house for dinner on Saturday so that should be interesting. More later... ciao!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I know I suck...

For any of you who actually read this anymore, I'm sorry that I haven't written anything in ages. It's just that after spending all day writing and reading and doing Arabic, I find it hard to have anything interesting to say in my blog (or e-mail responses, although many of you have sent me GREAT e-mails to which I PROMISE to respond in the coming days). I did have a curious weekend, with photos to prove it --- but I have to get my digital camera hooked up to my computer so I can download them, and hey, that takes some effort.

Overall, I am doing OK. Busy, tired, ready for Christmas, and wishing I was Samantha on Bewitched so I could just wiggle my nose and have my three final papers finished without really doing any work. Otherwise, things are the same... swimming, Arabic recitations and tests, and craploads of reading. I am a veritable hermit these days. I literally did not leave my little apartment on Sunday. Scary.

OK, I have to go to sleep now. It's nearly 12:30am, and I have an 8:15am class tomorrow. Bleccch...