Preparing for Hurricane Ike

And so it begins.

Texans hate bad weather. And by hate, I really mean, love to talk non-stop about it and get fake pissed off when the worst-case scenario that ratings-driven weathermen have predicted inevitably end up being quite less than expected.

Case in point. Hurricane Rita, 2005. First off let me say this, I'm not making fun of the individuals effected by hurricanes along the coast -- my own family was personally effected by Katrina. I'm merely making fun of the people that live 300 miles inland who think the end of the world is headed their way.

After dire predictions of tornadoes, power outages and lack of gasoline and food, the day before Hurricane Rita made landfall (and about 36 hours before it was "scheduled" to be in Austin), I filled my tank with gas and stopped at Target to get necessities (wired phone, batteries, bread and beans). The place was a madhouse. People buying hundreds of dollars worth of batteries, the bread isle wiped out with the exception of overpriced Pepperidge Farm sourdough bread (which I took -- it was the end of the world, expensive bread will work too), and TV radios were sold out.

As many Austinities and ACL Fest attendees will then recall, the storm ended up going over East Texas, and we were stuck with Dustbowl 2005. And the return lines at Target were ridiculous.

But that isn't to say we shouldn't be prepared anyways. Take for example, the "Hurricane Preparedness Checklist" I received from my office's building management (changed names to protect the innocent):
As you are aware, Hurricane Ike is currently on a path through the Gulf of Mexico and rapidly approaching the Texas gulf coast. Austin and surrounding areas are likely to experience heavy rains and severe wind this weekend. Please take any necessary precautions to keep yourselves, your families and your employees safe during this time of severe weather. It is wise to stay tuned to news broadcasts and reports from federal, state and local governments to keep apprised of the directives issued to residents.

Regarding [my building] be assured [management company] is working to be as prepared as possible for potential damage.

Please be advised that it is your company’s responsibility to back up all information and safely shut down equipment. In the event of power outage or property damage, building access may be restricted; please plan accordingly.

[Management company] Staff are on call 24 hours per day to respond to issues that might arise at the property. Should you experience an after hours emergency, please contact the [building at a phone number].

Attached is a suggested Hurricane Checklist. These lists may be utilized for your office as well as personal use. Also, for your reference, the local Austin Office of Emergency Management (AOEM) phone number is (512) 974-0450.

We appreciate your cooperation in this matter. Should you have further questions, please contact the Property Management office at [phone number].

Emergency Hurricane Checklist

When preparing for hurricanes, a detailed checklist should be developed indicating the order in which processes are to be shut down and the facility secured. The length of time needed (expressed in hours or days) to accomplish these tasks should be determined in advance so that appropriate actions can be initiated at the proper time. Then, as each task is completed during either a hurricane watch or hurricane warning, check it off and move on to the next one.

Action Time Needed Done

1. Shut down processes safely.
2. Inspect roof edging strips, gutters, flashing, covering, and drains.
3. Inspect sign and stack supports, guy wires, and anchorages.
Check for weak door and window latches or hardware or for insecure panel fastenings. Expedite repairs.
4. Protect vulnerable windows from flying debris.
5. Brace unsupported structural members at construction sites.
6. Protect important records from wind, debris, and rain.
7. Update important back up records and move them to a location not vulnerable to the same incident.
8. Fill above ground tanks to capacity with product or water to minimize wind damage.
9. Anchor structures in the yard that can be moved by high winds, such as trailers, lumber, or any loose yard storage. Move stored materials inside.
10. Assemble the following supplies and equipment at a central, secure location:
____ Emergency lighting _____ Caulking compound
____ Lumber and nails _____ Tarpaulins
____ Tape for windows _____ Power and manual tools
____ Sandbags _____ Shovels and axes
____ Roofing paper _____ Chain saws

12. Ensure that individuals remaining on the premises have the following:

_____ Non-perishable food _____ Battery-operated radio and receivers
_____ First aid equipment _____ Stored drinking water
_____ Lighting _____ Cellular phone with charged battery

So be prepared -- just don't go overboard... and be silly. Like I probably will ;)


I'm ashamed...

I am a tad ashamed I haven't written on here in two months. My bad ;)

I'm more ashamed that the reason I'm blogging has something to do with the fact I need your money :)

Some of you might know that I'm planning to run my first half-marathon in December as part of the "Run the Rock" Marathon in Dallas. The run supports the Scottish Rite Hospital of Dallas, an organization that provides free medical treatment to children who cannot afford it.

If any of you have known me through the years (I'm talking about EARLY teens), you know that there are two things near and dear to my heart: children (particularly disabled children -- thanks Mrs. Bragg) and medical care (from my days at Zale Lipshy University Medical Center in Dallas).

Many of the children who I had the opportunity to work with over the course of five summers used the Scottish Rite's facilities because their parents could not afford the ridiculous medical expenses associated with multiple doctor visits, surgeries and treatments.

So I'm asking you – my fellow blog reader(s) – to donate what you can to an amazing cause. Even if it is just $5, I would greatly appreciate. I may even "attempt" to run faster because of it :) No guarantees though; just because I'm doing this thing doesn't mean I'm a terrific runner. I may be lucky to survive it!!

And actually – how about a little double or nothing proposition for you – I’m willing to double whatever I can raise (up to $1,000). So what you donate is more like twice the amount!! Now I’m not so ashamed to be asking people for money!

Here's the site you need to visit to donate, as it will help me figure out how much money I’ll need to give: https://www.active.com/donate/tsrh08/JBalthr

Anyways, thanks, and I may be pinging more people via MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc. just to spread the word.


My LOST "Mixed Tape"

As some of you may know, Justin and I are throwing a huge "LOST" season finale party tomorrow, which should be loads of fun.

And a good hostess always should have party favors on hand. Check out my "Mixed Tape" of songs from the series:

LOST “Mixed Tape”
(No, this isn’t the “Best of Phil Collins” tape that Sawyer gives Kate in Season 3, but better)

Season 1
1. "Are You Sure?" By Willie Nelson
· Featured in the episode titled "House of the Rising Sun"
· Song was in Hurley's CD player
2. "Redemption Song" By Bob Marley
· Featured in the episode titled "Exodus, Part 2"
· Song was sung by Sawyer

Season 2
3. "Make Your Own Kind of Music" By "Mama" Cass Elliot (first appeared in Season 2)
· Featured in the episodes titled "Man of Science, Man of Faith", "Adrift", "Live Together, Die Alone", "Flashes Before Your Eyes"
· Song was one of the records in the Swan Station, the Listening Station and featured in Desmond’s bar in “Flashes Before Your Eyes”
4. "Stay (Wasting Time)" By Dave Matthews Band
· Featured in the episode titled "Abandoned"
· Song was playing in the background at Shannon's apartment
5. "Walkin' After Midnight" By Patsy Cline (first appeared in Season 2)
· Featured in the episodes titled "What Kate Did", "Two for the Road", "Left Behind"
· Song was one of the records in the Swan record player, played in the background on the radio in Christian Shephard's car and in the tow truck that picks up Kate
6. "The Right Girl for Me" By Frank Sinatra
· Featured in the episode titled "S.O.S."
· Played on violins at the restaurant when Bernard proposed to Rose

Season 3
7. "Downtown" By Petula Clark
· Featured in the episodes titled "A Tale of Two Cities", "One of Us"
· Song was playing on Juliet's CD player when she's preparing for the book club and on the car radio when Juliet and Rachel drive up to the guardhouse
8. "Building a Mystery" By Sarah McLachlan
· Featured in the episode titled "Flashes Before Your Eyes"
· Played in the background in Desmond's bedroom
9. "Wonderwall" By Oasis
· Featured in the episodes titled "Flashes Before Your Eyes", “Greatest Hits”
· Sung by Charlie on the street
10. "Shambala" By Three Dog Night
· Featured in the episodes titled "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead", "The Man Behind the Curtain"
· Played on young Hurley's radio and also played on the DHARMA van's stereo
11. Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major, K. 331 - "Andante grazioso" By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
· Featured in the episode titled "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead"
· Played at Hurley's dinner
12. "Rump Shaker" By Wreckx-n-Effect
· Featured in the episode titled "Exposé"
· Nikki danced to this song
13. "Scentless Apprentice" By Nirvana
· Featured in the episode titled "Through the Looking Glass"
· Playing in Jack's car on his way to the memorial of someone close to him
14. "Good Vibrations" By The Beach Boys
· Featured in the episode "Through the Looking Glass"
· Charlie had to play "Good Vibrations" on the keypad inside The Looking Glass station to stop transmissions from being jammed

Season 4

15. "Prelude in C# Minor" By Sergei Rachmaninoff
· Featured in the episode titled "The Shape of Things to Come"
· Ben is playing this when Locke comes in to tell him that the phone rang


Walter -- Superstar

This morning around 6 a.m., the PupNut decided to wake me up to go potty. I wish he could hold it another hour, but he gets so excited when he starts to see sunlight.

Anywho, I open the door to let him go tinkle, and I hear this loud noise, like a really loud lawn mower or water running, something odd of the ordinary. I don’t pay much attention to it, because let’s be honest, I’m exhausted, and craw back into bed for another hour.

I get ready, still not thinking about the sound that I heard earlier, give my pup a pat, my husband a hug, and head out the door. I open up the garage and what do I see (besides a well-manicured, green lawn… about time!):

Yes, a school bus, film trucks, motorcycle cops, and the sound of a large generator. (The picture doesn't do the mound of vehicles on my street justice) I walk out a bit further and see a table set up on the sidewalk of my front yard. Since it’s in my front yard, I feel like I have the right to ask what the hey is going on. “We’re filming a movie.” No shit, Sherlock.

So the 411 – they’re filming a kiddie movie called “Shorts” in my ‘hood for the next month and rented out some of the “for sale” homes in the area to store equipment and use for the movie as sets. They also thought that the whole neighborhood knew and signed release forms. Errr, no. But I totally hope the Home Owner's Association haggled with them for a park/pool or something.

My plan was to originally figure out how to inject myself into the movie as an extra. But then I realized I have something so much more awesome to try and get in the movie – Walter. I have the most photogenic, adorable, well-behaved dog ever. So my goal is to somehow make my dog the star he is destined to be. I’ll let you know how it goes :) I’ve got a month.

UPDATE: A co-worker who lives in my neighborhood looked up the movie on IMDB (see:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1100119/) and guess who the director is?! Robert Rodriguez! WOOT WOOT! This is going to be a fun month :)


Thoughts on a Sunday Night

In the past when I’m bored, I tend to find an online survey someone has posted on MySpace, insert answers containing my information, repost on MySpace and fall to sleep. To be honest, it’s sort of fun, but all kinds of lame. No offense to the people I repost from, because obviously I enjoy doing it – but you have to admit, it's lame. Especially when I could be doing other, more practical things with my time – like writing, in my blog… ugh, I’m pretty sure this is still lame. Oh well, I’m bored, and procrastinating. I really should be doing my time entry for work. It’s like I’m in college again or something. But I’m rambling and completely missing the point of this blog entry.

I haven’t blogged in awhile, and a lot of things have been going on in my world, specifically regarding my home. In an effort to actually care about my homestead and increase its rapidly decreasing value due to the recession and flux of homes on the market, Justin and I have invested in several home improvements that will hopefully pay off when we sell the house in five to 10 years. (Or never, I really love this house).

Among the improvements:
Fixed the sprinkler system – It had been on the fritz for awhile, and it turns out the builder did a crappy job installing it – lesson learned, don’t ever have your builder install your sprinkler systems.
Hired a lawn service – The yard actually looks kept, and we got it because Justin wasn’t “cutting it” last summer… oh that was puntastic.
Donated my old furniture to The Salvation Army and bought new furniture at Ikea – I had this furniture suite since I was five, I’m 26 now… I’m not going to lie, I felt like I was giving away my teddy bear or something. It was hard.
Painted a bedroom and a bathroom by ourselves – It took almost four months. We are never doing that again. We both suck at painting and came a little too close to killing each other on a few occasions.
Got built-ins for the study and the living room – Dude, if you’ve been to my house before, it looks different. Amazing what wood and a ridiculous amount of money will get you.

You might be asking, why now? Or not. But I’m going to tell you anyways because like I said, it’s Sunday evening and I’m bored. When we bought the house, Justin and I had a vision – a vision that required money. After purchasing the house, we realized we had no money. Because we didn’t want to go into debt or be silly and frivolous just because we wanted stuff we didn’t really “need”, we devised a “Phased Home Improvement Plan” to slowly make our home perfect. Here are the phases and the current status of each:

Phase One – Furnish home with necessities, such as living, dining and master suite furniture, guest bed and blinds. Status: COMPLETE. For the sake of our neighbors, I’m very glad we got blinds right away. I wish our next door neighbor had the same courtesy when he moved in. YIKES!
Phase Two – Purchase outdoor furniture for our back patio. Status: COMPLETE.
Phase Three – Get curtains and matching bedspread for the master bedroom. Status: COMPLETE.
Phase Four – Acquire built-ins for living room and study. Status: COMPLETE. We’re still waiting for the paint to cure in the living room, but woot woot! It’s done!
Phase Five – Get new outdoor grill and outdoor television for back patio. Status: NOT COMPLETE. Estimated Completion Date: Summer 2009. Justin doesn’t like our current grill (probably because he takes absolute zero care of it) and when we built the house, we wired for cable on the patio. He gets to suck it up this year though. It’s his own dang fault. And hopefully the prices of outdoor televisions will fall. The outdoor TV I think I’m the most excited about because it’s my dream child. And people wonder why I love doing technology PR. Because I’m a dork, that’s why.
Phase Six – Middle bedroom decoration. Status: NOT COMPLETE. Estimated Completion Date: When I get knocked up. HA! What is the point of spending a couple G’s on a room for a bed and furniture when we plan to have a baby in a few years? No point. So it’s currently an homage to Dave Matthews Band (way too many posters), a blow-up bed and Justin’s entertainment center from high school. It’s functional, but ugly.
Phase Seven – Build pool. Status: NOT COMPLETE. Estimated Completion Date: When I can convince Justin we need one. Pale red head doesn’t want a pool. Easily tanable (and probably skin cancer-prone), burnette wife does.
Phase Eight – Hardwood floors. Status: NOT COMPLETE. Estimated Completion Date: Probably never. I want them, Justin doesn’t. Starting to see a pattern with these last few?
Phase Nine – Mini Cooper. Actually, that has nothing to do with the house, just a pipe dream of mine. That won’t happen either. Haha.

Anyways, here are a few pictures of the recent improvements. I’ll update with some more once we can put stuff on the living room built-ins, I install this shelf in the guest bathroom and the grass gets a little greener outside. Oh, and the following comment from Justin absolutely made my week regarding my decoration of the guest bedroom: “Shit, this looks like it’s something out of Pottery Barn.” Clearly, he doesn’t look at the Pottery Barn catalog that much, but the compliment was awesome, and more importantly, sincere.


Sneak Peak! Strategies for the College Graduate

Last week, I was surprisingly asked by the Women in Communication's Austin chapter to speak to their counterparts at the UT chapter on my long path to getting a job in public relations.

I won't bore you with the details surrounding my long and tortured (and quite humorous at times) path, but I will share with you what I plan to tell these to-be college graduates. Welcome any feedback/gripes ;)

Strategies for the Recent College Graduate

1. Pimp yourself. Develop a portfolio that includes your resume, references and writing/planning samples. Do the hard work for the employer by providing this information before they ask you to – and while you’re at it, showcase your presentation skills by putting it in something other than a plain white folder. It speaks volumes about your preparation skills – key to any communications job. If you can’t sell yourself, the company won’t think you’ll be able to sell them.

2. Consider the dreaded “unpaid position.” Are you passionate about non-profit work? If you are, and have the monetary situation that affords this, work as an unpaid professional with a non-profit organization that needs assistance with their communication plans. These positions are ripe with experience you most likely wouldn’t be able to get at other jobs. Other options include doing freelance work and interning at government agencies, who usually pay zero to minimum wage.

3. Never sacrifice your morals for a job. There are plenty of jobs out there that prey on recent graduates. They’ll advertise that you’ll move up quickly into management positions, have the potential to make $120K a year – only to find out that it is a pyramid scheme or something more unethical. The wise saying that if it’s too good to be true, it definitely is. If you find yourself in a job or interview that makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t worry about burning bridges – save yourself the headache and potential fallout from the shady behavior of others by walking away.

4. If possible, be willing to move. Austin is an awesome town and full of opportunity – along with a strong workforce coming out of the University of Texas and surrounding universities. Unfortunately, there are only around three Fortune 500 companies based in Austin, which means the majority of communications support for corporations and the agencies that support these companies staff relatively small offices or are based in other areas. If you are willing to be flexible with your geographic location, do it. And remember, you can always move back after you get some experience under your belt.

5. Intern is the new entry level position. Unfortunately, many agencies rely on their internship programs as a source of recruiting. If you are looking to work at an agency, and don’t have experience under your belt, you aren’t going to get hired as an account coordinator. Be willing to accept that intern position, even if you’ve already graduated, because in the long run, it is a foot in the door.

6. Look at agency headquarters. If you are willing to move, first start out by looking where the bigger agencies are based out of, and where they have the largest number of their employees. WaggEd has substantial offices in the Pacific Northwest, Fleishman-Hillard has its headquarters in St. Louis, and GCI has much of its staff out of Austin. If you are in advertising or marketing, look at places that have large offices, as they hire more often.

7. Make yourself an expert. What are you passionate about? And can it correlate back to public relations – absolutely! Do you have a passion for medicine or healthcare, do you follow politics religiously, or are you constantly checking Engadget or Gizmodo for the latest technology news? Use your interests to position yourself as an expert with an agency.

8. Research! Look for companies and agencies that fit the direction you want to take in your career. If you are interested in technology PR – look at WaggEd or Porter Novelli. Are you fascinated by public affairs – there are multiple agencies with a presence in D.C. This will require some deep soul searching on your part, and some research on which companies bet fit your career goals.

9. Be an active participant in a professional organization. Many professional organizations, such as AWC, PRSA and AMA, offer reduced pricing for recent college grads. These professional organizations are a great way to meet people and network. But warning – don’t just show up with to a meeting expecting a job, you still have to earn it. (and many people avoid meetings just because they get bombarded with resumes) Take “card-carrying member” a step further by joining a committee within the organization where you have the ability to showcase your skills and talents. It gives people a reason to hire you and is a great resume builder.

10. Learn to accept failure. The hardest part about looking for a job, especially in economically uncertain times, is that you’re told “no” – a lot. And most likely, you’re not used to it. Have faith in yourself and your abilities and don’t give up, even when others (or parents) are telling you to. You may have to stray from your path to make ends meet at the beginning, but that perfect job will come soon enough.


Loving Elizabeth, Loathing Emma and Learning from Elinor

About a week and a half ago during a shopping excursion to the Tyler, Texas, Target (don’t ask me how I ended up in East Texas!!!), I stumbled across the best find of my Target shopping career (far surpassing the time I bought three pairs of shoes for under $12). In fact, I squealed so much with excitement that a few people stared, and then I had to call my BFF to relay the news – a woman in England managed to tap her inner Jane Austen and write, “Mr. Darcy’s Diary” – a day by day account of how and why Mr. Darcy fell in love with Elizabeth Bennett in the literary classic, Pride and Prejudice.

While I think the author was writing at a fourth grade reading level, I didn’t care. And while I believe that the author mixed up Mr. Philips and Mr. Gardiner’s professions (I think she had Mr. Gardiner as an attorney, not in the trade business), I didn’t care. That was the best airplane, poolside reading I’ve had in years. If you want to borrow it, let me know, but I must warn you, I’ve already got a waiting list!

The Friday after we returned from our vacation to Las Vegas, I stayed up until 2 a.m. re-reading Pride and Prejudice. And the next day, I watched the A&E five-hour version of the book. AND THEN I went to Target again to purchase Sense and Sensibility, along with the semi-biographical movie, Becoming Jane. Due to a promise to my BFF, I’m not to watch that movie without her. So on Sunday evening, I watched Sense and Sensibility and Emma. Apparently that night, a redo of Sense and Sensibility was also on Masterpiece Theatre, but it didn’t come on until 10 p.m. The review of that version in Friday’s USA Today was quite glowing and I can wait to watch it when they show a repeat!

As I’m typing this, I’m re-reading Sense and Sensibility on the airplane to Seattle (well, not typing and reading at the same time… I’m taking a break) and I’m coming to a conclusion, a mission of sorts. I’ve got to read all of Jane Austen’s novels and watch all of the movie adaptations before the end of April. Why? Well, why not! But seriously, there are a few reasons – well, not as much reasons as they are an explanation as to why I like Austen’s writing (I don’t have reasons for being obsessive compulsive):

- Austen’s novels are an acceptable form of reading romance novels, without the dirty, white trash looks from strangers on planes and/or husbands. It’s like a modern day romance story, just without the “his rough, muscular hand gently caressed her porcelain smooth, apple-shaped buttocks” bull crap that makes me either cringe or laugh out loud (assuming I read that filth… yes…)
- Her prose is simple and flowing, yet I usually have to read the paragraph a few times to get the full meaning of a character’s witty remarks. And even then it doesn’t hit me until a few pages later.
- I enjoy reading about 18th century society women being utterly consumed with the concept of money first, and love second. It’s treated as if marrying up wasn’t a vanity issue, but more of a quality of life (food, shelter, rich husband) frame of mind. Was the idea of marrying for love alone (even if he was a poor farmer) so abhorrent to all of these women? As much as I love Elizabeth Bennett (Elinor Dashwood a close second), even she was the first to admit she fell in love with Mr. Darcy the second she saw his property (or failed to recognize that her witty banter in previous meetings with Darcy was a sign of unconscious love not acknowledged by my heroine…). The whole concept makes me wonder if I had lived back then, what I would have done.
- To piss Justin off. Haha. I don’t think he understands my love for fiction literature. He constantly is amazed at my ability to quickly read and comprehend books (i.e. my Friday read of Pride and Prejudice). He just wishes I applied that ability to something that would make me knowledgeable and smarter (i.e. to be like him). While my part of the bookshelf in the study is filled with literary classics and contemporary fiction novels, his is filled with history- or economic-based non-fiction novels, with more than the occasional conspiracy theory and poker strategy book. I guess the difference between our reading styles is he chooses to read to make himself smarter, and I read as a form of entertainment, to escape from reality into the lives of richly developed characters.

So there you have it. At some point I want to take a class on Jane Austen, but for the time being, I’m content with my own exploration into her literary works.


Some time ago...

In April 2000, I sat at a table during prom with a red-headed skinny boy who took my friend Jill to the prom. About a month later, that same red-headed skinny boy picked me up to go to orchestra banquet and was subjected to an unfortunate discussion on golf with my father. I’m quite surprised he didn’t turn around and leave right then. But he didn’t…

In August 2000, I cried with this same red-head (though not skinny at this point… dating packs the pounds) as he left for the West Coast. I’m pretty sure we both knew at that point where this relationship was headed.

And that same red-head proposed to me in my college apartment living room in January of 2003, which was a blast, even though we had purchased the ring together a few weeks before… and I may have worn it once or twice before it was “officially” given to me.

On March 13, 2004, that same red-head married me in a church full of close friends and family, smiling and crying like the secret sap he that he is (though not as bad as that time back in August!).

And now it’s four years later and I’m married to the best red-headed skinny boy (marriage apparently makes you lose weight) I could have ever dreamed of.

Happy Anniversary, BLonB.


My Plateau

About year and a half ago I was fat. I’ll admit it. Between getting married, struggling to find a job, being in a stressful environment, I gained weight. I wasn’t happy with myself, and every time I would try and work out, it wouldn’t last for more than two months.

I don’t exactly know what the final motivator was (actually, now that I think about it, it was a former co-worker Lindsay – hi! – telling me that she didn’t think an account I was on was working out). I really liked that account, and knew that my shit-tay attitude was due, in part, to my low self-esteem and weight issue. So I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and make a change.

Several months, a job change (but not before getting to a good place at the old job), and 25 pounds later, I’m at a plateau. I’ve made amazing changes in my workout habitsand *attempted* to eat better. I say attempted, because I truly believe that this is why I can’t lose the rest of my weight. I love food. I love good food. And I really love fine cuisine (I don’t even pig out on fast food or quick snacks… just good food).

Anyways, a co-worker of mine told me about this Web site called SparkPeople – think of it like a mix between Weight Watchers (except they aren’t just monitoring your caloric and fat and protein intake… but carbs, fiber, etc. and provide you with daily food planners) and Facebook. A place where you can lose weight, blog about it (which I know you know I love…. Haha), and be in an environment of people working just as hard as you.

So, if you are currently thinking about losing weight, wanting to maintain, or just want to check out my progress, I really encourage you to check out http://www.sparkpeople.com/jennijewel. And if you decide to sign up (the Web site is FREE), make sure you add me as a friend!



Goodbye, dear Trinitron

Many of you know that I love me some consumer electronics. I don’t know why, I just know that a lot of you come to me for advice, which is awesome. My fondness for all things consumer electronics stems from my dad’s love of gadgets. Commodore 64 aside, one of my favorite memories is Dad teaching me to set up the VCR at the age of four so he didn’t have to. Of course I didn’t realize that my dad was lazy at that age, I just thought he thought I was really smart (which, of course, I am).

But see, this wasn’t just any VCR, this was a VCR/Camcorder combo VCR from Panasonic. Probably the coolest invention ever. Maybe. Probably not. And that bad boy lasted from when I was three until probably 16, which is quite impressive. The only thing that surpassed it was the TV it was attached to, a Sony Trinitron 27” with wood paneling. Oh yeah, wood paneling. It was heavy, ugly and oh so big (for a little kid). And that bad boy lasted from the early 80s until my freshman year in college. And my dad only got rid of it because my mom wouldn’t stop bitching about how long it would take to turn on (a long ass time is how long).

So nostalgia hit home during my daily read at Gizmodo today. I learned that Sony is finally killing the tube TV, lovingly known as the brand “Trinitron.” *Tear* Sigh, I feel like it was yesterday that I was watching my favorite Disney movies on my Trinitron… oh wait, I own one of the newer versions of the TV and have Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin on DVD so it probably was yesterday. (I’m not kidding – my sister and I watched Aladdin on Friday)

But seriously, it was like I was 10 again, watching my favorite Disney movies my dad illegally dubbed (haha, dubbed) on the family Sony Trinitron and Panasonic VCR. Wow, the VCR is dead too. Man, I guess this is when you realize how old you are. Now kids have pink flat screen TVs in their room with their little Macs and iPhones. God, I didn’t even get my own landline phone in my room until seventh grade.

This post went depressing real fast. But I just got real happy when I saw Walter in my living room picture! Hi Walter!!

Side bar exciting news – the TV in the living room picture will be headed to the bedroom and replaced with a new Sony Bravia 46” LCD XBR! Happy day! We’re getting built-ins to finally rid ourselves of that blank wall that’s been plaguing our living room for the last two years. Woot woot! Can you tell? Sony has instilled customer loyalty in me since the tender age of four. Advertisers, you can’t buy this kind of loyalty.


He's on!

And the stage colors were in purple... Swoon!!

Naturally 7

Dang... An opening act... But they are actually pretty good. It's seven guys - think Boyz II Men - but they don't use any instruments. Pretty amazing. I'm going to download them this weekend!!

Waiting for Michael Buble!!

We're pretty high up, but we have a good view!! Start crooning, Michael!!


Why you don't talk politics with family

I thought my mom was bad when I told her who I'd be voting for... good grief:

Meet Jose Antonio Ortiz. The Pennsylvania man allegedly stabbed his brother-in-law in the stomach after the pair quarreled about their respective support of Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. According to cops, Ortiz, 28, stabbed Sean Shurelds last Thursday night in the kitchen of an Upper Providence Township home. According to a criminal complaint, a copy of which you'll find here, the 41-year-old Shurelds, an Obama supporter, told Ortiz that the Illinois senator was "trashing" Clinton (apparently in regard to recent primary and caucus results). Ortiz, a Clinton supporter, replied that "Obama was not a realist." While not exactly fighting words, the verbal political tiff led to some mutual choking and punching. And, allegedly, a stabbing in the abdomen. Ortiz, pictured in the mug shot below, was charged with a felony aggravated assault count and two misdemeanors and jailed in lieu of $20,000 bail. Shurelds was flown to Hahnemann University Hospital, where he was admitted in critical condition.


My back hurts...Final thoughts on Barack Obama

After standing for a total of five and a half hours on Friday (the seat of my car never felt so wonderful), I was beat. And hungry. But also a little bit more excited about November 2008.

A little back story before I begin. My whole life I was raised as a conservative, a Republican. And I'm proud of that. I remember the signed autograph Gramps had in his office from Ronald Regan and thinking that was the coolest picture I've ever seen. I fondly remember being told by FBI agents in first grade that my dad needed to "move along now" after he discovered the somewhat secret motorcade route for Ronald Regan, as he was speaking at the Mesquite Rodeo in 1988. It was so cool that I got a wave back from Ronald Regan, even though he was probably wondering what these hillbillies were up to!!

I smile when I think about the letter from George Bush Senior I got in the mail that had a P.S. at the end of a ridiculous form letter mentioning something about my dog, Fefe. I’m pretty sure my parents have it saved somewhere in the closet. Or stupidly threw it away when we moved in middle school.

Essentially, I was taught to follow politics from a young age and how important it is to make your voice heard. I'm so proud my parents instilled that in me.

And I still hold a few beliefs on the Republican front, such as idea of limited government and some of the more libertarian-based economic beliefs.

But my issue is this– the current administration isn't limiting government (see Patriot Act as a prime example) and given the current mortgage crisis and pending (or currently existing in my opinion) recession, the root of the current state of economy lies in flawed legislation and the hope that our corporations can take care of themselves. It seems they can, at the cost of decent people's jobs and homes.

And I'm sorry, but "helping" people by giving them a month waiver on their mortgage or a $600 tax break in June isn't going to solve anything (and it kinda pisses me off because I can still pay my mortgage), just appeases the situation for awhile and gives a monetary spark to our economy that will fade as soon as the current administration rides into the sunset. And I'm also going to throw out the blame on the Democrat side as well for that stupidity... seriously guys, is that all you can come up with?!

I do like the idalistic view of corporate and personal decision making economics – but clearly, it's flawed to an extent. Many are not capable of personal decision making (cough, the large amount of individuals who fell for the sub-prime mortgages; COUGH – if it is too good to be true, it is people) and corporations like Exxon Mobil who make hand over fist in serious cash while charging me a crap load at the pump. Screw supply and demand economics here to explain their profits – something just isn't right.

Then last year I took this Washington Post-sponsored quiz on Facebook (stop laughing, I'm going somewhere) and realized that all the things I believe in (environmental responsibility, financially helping the needy through more government programs, even if that means I, as a higher tax bracket, have to pay more) speak more to my moral compass and Christian-based beliefs (except abortion, which I still am very much against) than the current state of the Republican party.

And I'm lucky and blessed to have a beautiful home and a decent amount of money in the bank. But many families don't have the opportunities I had growing up and they should – and we CAN fix that.

I'll say this – no party is perfect, right or accurate all of the time. If they were, we'd all be living in picket-fenced houses eating the same food, driving the same cars and all have X dollars in the bank. And living in 1984.

But we don't. And I'm sick and tired of the same crap coming out of politicians’ mouths and hearing the same arguments over and over again. And for once, someone wants to change that. And I hope he can. And after listening to him speak for an hour, he knows that it won't be easy and it may not be successful. But he's going to try. And I'm glad. Because even if he doesn't get elected, hopefully his campaign strategies are sending the right message to Washington.

And sidebar, I'm married to a libertarian, so it is a fun time in our house right now :)

Feel free to disagree with me, or agree – unlike some of the idiots I was standing next to at yesterday's rally (Not you Kristine... I'm talking about the guy that wouldn't shut up about "gay republican jenga." What on earth was that all about?!) – I don't judge, I don't make fun or insult individuals who share a differing political opinion than I do. Because when you do that, you continue to polarize this country and no one wins.

Oh and also, I don’t claim to know every and all aspects of politics – I’m just an average 26 year-old woman trying to make it in the world ;)

So, enjoy the pictures on my Facebook account from the rally with my witty descriptors. They're linked here (and there is also a link to Kristine's pictures that she took):



Best line of the evening...

"I'm black guy named Barack Obama, don't think I'm not tough."

The fierce urgency of now

Obama finally hit the stage..adressing his reasons for his candidacy. Citing MLK..his message: we can not wait.

Fierce urgency of now

He's a really good speaker... And he loves Austin!

He's speaking!

This pic sux! But we're close!

Go vote!!!

After tossing around some "obama balls" some speakers are discussing how to vote!! And they'll be opening offices in East Austin and the UT campus!

The obama wave

45 more minutes..people are starting to entertain themselves. The fella next to me failed sneaking in his 6-pack,but sure was successful in generating an Obama wave from the crowded center. .talk about a throw back of a bad middle school pep rally

We're bored...

And we still have another hour.

The mariachi band

I'm not going to lie, the violinsts need to work on their pitch... And the horn players should too =) the singers were okay.

T-minus two hours...

We're hungry. And I just realized it's going to take forever to leave.

Some more funny comments from the peanut gallery:
"It would be cool if Obama zip lined from the Capitol."
"It's Lindsay Lohan!!"
"Why aren't more people dancing?"
"Hilary needs to get off the Prozac."

And I've heard the term "gay Republican Jenga" one too many times.

Gotta run - the high school mariachi band is about to start.

"Does anyone know how to caucus?"

-one of the many random things being said that could be taken the wrong way...

Is it bad that my feet are already hurting?

Get your Barack on..

Finally made it through the line and standing in a crowd of people...t-minus 2.5 hours. We're about 30ft from the stage. . .bracing myself for the surge of body heat and odor..

Live: @ the Obama rally

Standing in line next to jenni and eavesdropping on people's conversations. Not really about politics but entertaining all the same...someone buy me an obama shirt!

The line.

Right now, Kristine and I are standing near 10th and Congress in a line that wraps around some buildings I don't know the name of. There are Obama volunteers, a man selling shirts, and a bunch of people handing out random fliers for random politians. Stay tuned!

T-Minus Four Hours...

...Until the Rally for Change! Wee!

Both myself and Kristine in my office will be live-blogging from jennijewel.blogspot.com this evening. Should be fun. Gates open in an hour, so get ready for some blogging fun soon!



Live from Austin...

Today, I'm testing out Blogger's mobile features as I'll be live blogging from tomorrow's rally at the Capitol with Obama!! So stay posted!


Yay, Sarah!

My sister found out last week that she got accepted into UT’s graduate art school – and is the top choice for their printmaking program! Yay! She’s still waiting to hear back from other schools, but she finds this such a validation of her work – rightfully so.

Anyways, when you get a chance, check out her work: http://www.sarahmsage.com/. Her main theme surrounds the concept of suppressed women through the ages, just in case you’re wondering why it’s a tad dark.

But then again, if you know my sister, she’s not exactly bright and cheery 24/7!

Some of you may think that my own artistic ability must be similar to hers, and you are quite wrong. I can draw, paint or create anything that resembles artwork. It’s quite hilarious actually. Next time you see me, try and get me to draw a stick figure ;)

Anywho, I just wanted to toot my sister's horn on her behalf, since she won't do it herself!


Who are the Oceanic Six?

Spoiler Alert: If you haven't watched the season premiere of LOST yet, stop :) That's your only warning.

So, Justin and I watched the season premiere of LOST with a group of friends and we all gave each crazy looks everytime something insane happened. Which was a lot. Um, Jacob's House? Who on earth was the eye staring back at Hurley? Was it David -- his imaginary friend? Eh? I mean, obviously, the house is a figment of everyone's imagination -- which means Jacob isn't "real." Ohh - brain freeze. I'm thinking too hard.

I was going to write this huge long synopsis of the premiere and my take on it, but my laptop is a piece of poop, and wasn't working at the time the show started, so I didn't get to write :(

BUT, I did get to think long and hard about who the Oceanic Six are... and I think I know all of them! Maybe. Let's break it down:

Jack (Duh)
Hurley (Double Duh)
Claire (Desmond forsaw it, therefore it is)
Aaron (same as above)
Man in casket...

So let's think about the casket bit for a moment -- we know that the person was a loner, had no family or friends, and now we know that the person was on the airplane, ruling out my original theory of Ben. Which, in my opinion, leaves Locke. This is the man that didn't want to leave the island, that Jack obviously hated (and tried to kill -- except for the no bullet thing) but at the same time felt so horrible/guilty over his death that he tried to kill himself.

So next question -- who is the "he" that Kate refers to at the end of Season Three when talking to Jack -- the guy who will start wondering where she is? What's Kate's story? I mean, the girl was being saught after for murdering her stepdad... I don't think being marooned on an island exactly qualifies as a pardon for murder and running from the cops.

So is she one of the Oceanic Six? Or did someone/company who found the Losties/freighter people supply her with a new identity. Because, no offense to Kate (I love her character), her ass should be in jail. I just don't know if she is one of the six. Which means, there is possibly another slot out there I'm not thinking about.

And regardless, if she is or isn't one of the "Six" -- mathmatically speaking, the "he" wouldn't be part of the "Six" either. It just doesn't make sense with the storyline -- the "He" (which some believe to be Sawyer -- if it was, his ass would be in jail too) couldn't be with Kate if she wasn't one of the "Six" because people know she was on the plane (assuming he is the sixth person) -- that would total seven. And if he wasn't one of the Oceanic Six and Kate was, we wouldn't know him, which wouldn't make sense from a plot perspective... I think.

Dear God, my head hurts from thinking this hard. The end ;)


E-mail memories and Friday’s Blog

Over the last few days, I have had the opportunity to go through my old hotmail account (my main e-mail account from 2000-2001) and my current g-mail account (2006 to present) clearing out random e-mails from people, filing away important documents and general reminiscing.

I got about halfway through cleaning my g-mail account (1500 down to 750) and wondered if I should be clearing this stuff out. I guess because I stumbled across some adorable e-mails Justin sent me when we first started dating in the summer of 2000 (ah, the memories) and was so glad I kept them.

But do I really need google alerts, Pier 1 Imports sales fliers, random evites cluttering my inbox? Sigh – I just don’t know.

Luckily, the archive feature in g-mail gives me time to decide about some of them – and I’ve found a lot of good pics people sent me over the years I’ll be adding to Facebook, so look forward to those soon!

Oh – and I don’t know about you, but I’m about to pee my pants with anxious anticipation of Thursday night at 7 p.m. on ABC. I’ll be taking serious notes and recording the episode for a blow-by-blow blog breakdown of what happens in LOST, and some LOST theories Justin and I have been pondering for the last three years. Let’s just say, watching all of Season Three over the Christmas holidays will work in our favor. I’m sure of it!



Day Three, Part Two: I’ve forgotten most of my Paris trip already

Sad isn’t it? I was so busy (or lazy) in December and January that I’ve already forgotten most of the trip. Regardless, here’s my attempt (and thank God I took good pictures to help remind me of everything).

After hitting up the good tasting coffee/awful bathroom French café, we ventured back to the subway and made our way to one of the more popular shopping districts in Paris.

Note: originally, I had asked Brandi if the Louvre was an option for today’s trip and learned that the lines are ridiculously long to get in and I really only wanted to see the Mona Lisa and apparently the painting is disappointing. By the time we would have gone through that, I would have had to go back to the train station bound for London. So my choices were culture or shopping. To those who know me well, I think it’s obvious the decision I made given the situation.

Apparently Champs-Elysées is something I should have known about/read up on prior to the trip… like in a history class, or in prepatory trip reading. Well, maybe not the street itself, but at least one of the most well-known monuments overlooking the street, the Arc de Triomphe, as some wonderful “friends” astutely pointed out in the picture section of my Facebook (cough, Kelly, Amy).

Sigh – to be honest, I don’t ever remember learning about either one in any history class in high school or college, which is a glorious testament to an American education ;) Or rather, my lack of long-term memory. I’ll admit it, anything I learned during school was placed in my short-term memory to regurgitate during a test and then quickly forget. I’m afraid the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysées were two of these causalities.

My favorite parts of Champs-Elysées were as follows:
The Louis Vuitton store: I couldn’t afford crap there, to my dismay. I incorrectly assumed that due to import costs to the U.S., I could get an LV bag cheaper in France. I was quite wrong. In fact, someone could fly from France to the U.S., buy a buttload of dresses, couture, high-end purses and sell them in France for a huge profit. Stupid dollar.

The McDonalds practically next door to Cartier: what is the fascination with a Royale with Cheese in this town? I’m proud to say in the last two years, the only McDonalds I’ve eaten at was in Paris. Brandi asked if I wanted to take a picture next to the fast-food chain, I didn’t but she did!

Zara: Technically, it’s a Spanish designer, but I loved the clothing and it is relatively affordable (stupid Euros to Dollars). I’m looking forward to visiting Houston in October for the sole purpose of going to the Zara there. (And I love the coat I got at the store there – my French Coat!)
Sephora: I have never seen such an amazing collection of perfumes in one location. My allergies were in overdrive!

Italian Food: Brandi and I had lunch at this amazing Italian restaurant. The service sucked (which apparently is the norm) but my four cheese pasta dish was incredible. Especially after eating an egg mcmuffin for breakfast! Who loves Gouda, feta, Brie and bleu – me! (I take after my grandfather)

After that, we went to another part of Paris where two popular department stores are located. Printemps was one and to be honest, I don’t remember the name of the other (maybe Galaries Lafayette – they were both on the same street, I think). I do remember that the food at these locations (particularly the pastries) looked delectable (and tasted delectable… I’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth), and I got pissed off at seeing this BCBG dress I had been eyeing a Nordstrom’s back in the states for twice the cost. STUPID. But what was really breathtaking at both locations were the window displays – so intricate and ornate! Gorgeous! And seeing all of the people, particularly little children, happily gazing on made me quite happy myself.

After that, we headed back to the train station (I don’t think I mentioned that the train station had several lingerie stores… it was like Frederick’s of Hollywood but worse), and then I made my way back to London.
Quick sidebar -- I did not know this, but when I arrived in Paris, I didn't have to go through Customs, or rather, I couldn't find customs. I didn't realize this until I tried leaving the country. I tried explaining my problem to a French officer that I did not get a French stamp in my passport. I was a tad concerned about not being able to get back into London. Finally I found someone who spoke decent English and they informed me that the European Union countries don't have little in-and-out stamps like London/America does. Who knew? That tidbit of information would have been nice prior to departure from London and prevented me from experiencing a mild heart attack.

Overall, even though I can’t speak French, I loved Paris and being immersed in a culture I knew nothing about (my own fault, mind you). It almost forces your senses to become a little more attuned to what’s going on around you. I guess that’s a good excuse!

So, this past weekend, I was watching this movie called, “A Good Year” with Russell Crowe. He plays this Englishman who inherits his uncle’s vineyard in France. I’m watching it, and like the sap that I am, I start crying. Not because the movie is sad (it isn’t and I’d probably give it a B-/C+), but because I realized how much I enjoyed (and missed) London and France. In a way, I’m glad I waited almost two months to flesh out my day in Paris because it was almost like I was back, and it’s a good feeling.

At some point, I’ll post on our final day in London. Highlights of that story include this guy singing and dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” in front of the National Gallery. You won’t want to miss it.


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

So it’s been awhile since I’ve last posted, and really, it’s because I’m lazy. Here’s the breakdown on what I haven’t accomplished since Jan. 1 due to this bout of laziness:
Laundry: I won’t tell you how long since I last did all my clothing instead of just one-offs of desperation
Indoor Christmas decorations: I did take down the outdoor lights and decorations on Jan. 2 – I don’t want to be THAT person in the neighborhood – cough – you know who you are on Othello Cove who not only has their lights up, but still has them on at night
Cleaning: I think those of you who know me well, know this is a constant battle for Justin and me.
Painting: I actually started painting our front bedroom and guest bathroom right after the New Year’s and quickly stopped after a regrettable incident that ended up with both Walter and me in the same bathtub rinsing blue paint off of ourselves. Neither of us was pleased. I also can’t figure out how to paint this corner of the bathroom without removing the toilet.
Working out: Actually, I remedied that on Sunday and have worked out every day since, so I think I’m un-lazy now in that category. And to make sure I stayed on track, I signed up for the Capitol 10K on March 30.

And then obviously blogging (Arnold, you probably think I’m dead and have stopped reading… *teardrop*).

So what better way to start back blogging then to discuss my joy and subsequent fear in attempting to killing a creature this morning.

The situation began last night. I had just gotten back from working out (i.e. ridding myself of the lazy bug I had been plagued with for the last three or four weeks), and I’m talking with Justin at the foot of the stairs inside the house. We heard this weird buzzing noise, but couldn’t find where it was coming from because it was dark, and well, we’re lazy so we didn’t try very hard.

Flash forward to this morning when I’m getting ready in my bathroom and Walter starts barking crazy-like. He’s not much of a barker, so I take his “I am dog and I will defend the JB-House honor” bark pretty seriously.

He’s over at the front door and so I check to see if anyone is at it – no one. In fact, not a single “person” was there.

What was there could only be described as the biggest flying roach I had ever seen perched on the window right above the front door.

After a slight shriek, I think quickly and grab the Raid under the sink, the three-step stair thingy from the bathroom where we are/were painting and make haste towards this evil flying demon of rodents.

I’ll admit it, I’m pretty sure Walter was weirded out by my odd laughter and profanity-filled threats towards this otherwise innocent rodent while I was spraying liquid death at it. But my laughter quickly ended and confusion and slight fear set in when I realized the thing wasn’t dying. Maybe it weakened him, but spraying a fourth can of the Raid didn’t kill him.

I didn’t know what to do. So I left the mess I had made (Raid dripping from the top window) and gathered my stuff to go to work. At one point, I went to check on it, thinking he had finally bit it. But as I approached it raised its head and looked right at me.

I quickly chalked it up to coincidence and continued gathering my stuff, but as I made my way to the coat closet that’s right next to the front door, the crazy roach lifted its head again from its deathbed and looked right at me. And then it telepathically informed me I’m next. (or at least, I fell like it was sending me some type of equally horrible death threat)

So I yelped and ran out of the house and haven’t gone back. I hope Walter is okay. If I don’t blog again, you’ll know why.