Friday, July 28, 2006

This made my brain go "boink!"

Instead of reading the words, say the FONT COLORS as you go through the list.

I found it on a science website (, and the caption with it said:

"Although we see both the color and the meaning of each word, experience has taught us to pay more attention to the meaning. James R. Stroop called this the “interference effect.” "

I don't know who James R. Stroop is, but I'd bet he was better at reading the font colors than I am.

Announcing the best yogurt ever invented:

It's almost as good as ice cream, and for me, that's saying quite a lot.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

You're either in, or you're out.

I always look forward to Wednesday evenings, because that's the night that I meet up with one of my best friends at the Barnes & Noble to drink chai and hang out and ogle all the shiny new books we wish we could buy. But now I have another reason to look forward to Wednesdays, because after I get home from "chai and chat," as MB likes to call it, I get to watch the night's episode of my new favorite obsession on my poor girl's Tivo (aka the tape from the VCR that I set to record before I left for work that morning).

Here's a clue (a big fat clue):

I don't know why I love this show so much. I think it's because it combines a reality formula that actually works for me (I also love to watch America's Next Top Model, even though Tyra Banks gets on my nerves.) with actually making something. It's sort of like HGTV mixed with just the right dose of drama, and then they throw in Heidi Klum and her damned adorable accent.

MB may think I'm nuts for watching this show, but I'm so not alone. Dude, even Jennifer Weiner likes Project Runway!

Playing: August and Everything After by Counting Crows and the soundtrack from the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie

Reading: Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late, a sequel to one of my favorite children's books of all time:

Both by Mo Willems. It's probably a bad thing that I now know I can purchase a pigeon poster or T-shirt. A very bad thing indeed.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Long-Promised Story of Getting My Ass Kicked on Land & Water, Courtesy of the State of North Carolina

In the middle of nowhere, a few miles from the Alabama-Tennessee border, there is a place that you almost have to see to believe, a place that combines explosives, alcohol, and culturally-inappropriate knickknacks under one roof.

Oh, and it looks like Vegas threw up:

Warning: Shoots Flaming Balls

Look! A cat head full of grenades!

Onward to North Carolina, where we camped out on property owned by a guy from the kayak group. He had a great place up in the mountains with a fabulous view and the biggest, ritziest garage ever. I saw these lizards there:

I went out to North Carolina planning to kayak the Nantahala, but ended up going down the (easier) Tuckasegee instead. It kicked my butt so bad. I flipped over twice and freaked the holy fuck out. It occurred to me later that the two experienced boaters / instructors I was with didn't know I was freaking out, because they couldn't see me. They just thought I was chilling underwater, happily holding my breath and waiting around. That sort of scared me even more...knowing that I was panicking and no one knew I was panicking. After the second time, I had such a strong fight-or-flight thing going that my muscles felt like wet concrete afterward. It SUCKED. But I made it down to the end, and I didn't cry or give that's good I guess. I also heard later that the boat I was using is a bit of a squirrely boat to start with, so that made me feel a lot better about my lack of skill. If the Kid Who's Good at Everything (Except Snakes) had trouble paddling that boat, I don't feel like such a lame-o for having issues of my own.

A few friends have asked me if I would recommend the sport. I would recommend it in a heartbeat IF you are comfortable in the water and IF you find a really good instructor. Take a class...don't just go out there with a friend who's done it a few times.

I SHOULD be fine. I should NOT have panicked on the Tuck when I flipped. I've been through the training. I've practiced rescues. I should be able to thump the sides of my boat, wait while calmly counting to 15, and then escape the boat and swim to safety if needed. Instead, I panic, forget what I'm supposed to do, and start desperately trying to get to the surface...without trying to get out of the boat first. It's stupid and dangerous and not right.

So, until I have better control over my boat and better control over myself, I'm probably not going out on whitewater again. No one from the whitewater group knows this, but it's a decision I feel I needed to make. I'm going to try to do some roll practices and stuff, and see how it goes.

Luckily, the only lasting damage from the kayak trip was this wonky sunburn:

If I had the capacity to tan, I would've ended up with the weirdest reverse ring tanline ever. But since I don't tan, no worries.

The next day--because apparently I needed to rectify the fact that only my feet and thighs didn't hurt--MB and I went on what was probably the longest and hardest hike of our lives. We hiked from the camp where we were staying to the top of Wesser Bald. It's important to note that Wesser Bald is about 4725 feet above sea level. The average elevation of our hometown is 387 feet. Yeah.

Allegedly the old Appalachian Trail signs claimed the trail to the summit was three miles long, but there are suspicions (mine foremost among them) that they were measuring three miles if you stretched a long ass ruler from the peak to the trailhead. Since the trail switchbacks constantly up the mountain, I'm sure we hiked at least twice that far. Unfortunately, we didn't score a gently used GPS until last weekend, two weeks too late to use it to find out how far we really walked.

To add a final layer to our cake of fun, we'd carpooled out to NC and didn't have a vehicle to use to get to the trailhead, so we had to start our hike by walking two and a half miles or so on hot blacktop before we even got to begin the real work. I probably still owe MB a few more apologies, because man was I whiny during this part. Kind of embarrassing in retrospect, actually. I was sweaty and grumpy by the time we got to the trailhead, and it was only going to get worse. Good thing I didn't really realize how much worse, or we probably would've turned around.

This is a giant washout scar that we passed near the start of the trail. I think the guy we stayed with said 12 or 13 inches of rain fell in an hour and washed out the side of the mountain. I wonder if he meant 12 or 13 inches in a day? Anyway, quite impressive. The dark-colored logpile in the center of the photo is taller than me, and I'm 5'5".

Not too far from the washout, the serious hiking started. It was hot and humid, I was sweating buckets, and we only had four Nalgene bottles of water between us (4 liters). By the time we got to the rock in the next picture, I was really worried that we weren't going to have enough water or daylight to get to the top and back.

While we were sitting on this rock pondering what the hell we'd gotten ourselves into, two fit-looking hiker chicks came down the trail from the top. We asked them how far it was to the top, and they said we were halfway there and had about another hour to go. They lied. It took us another two hours. But I'm glad we talked to them, because the guy who recommended the trail did not mention that we'd have to take a left on the Appalachian Trail to hit the firetower. Useful information, yeah?

At this point, I should insert a few comments I promised I'd make. (MB said to me on the way back from the summit, "I look forward to reading on your blog how I was the hero of this trip.") Truly, I never would've made it to the top without him. MB and I are great complements to each other in many aspects of our lives. The things that I'm high-strung about, he doesn't sweat; likewise, the things that make him twitchy are things about which I can be totally Zen. This worked in our favor on this hike. During the early parts of the hike, when I was whining and pitching small hissy fits over my glasses fogging up and how damn tired I was, MB encouraged me and insisted we could make it to the end. When we got further along and MB wanted to turn around, I insisted we'd gone too far to back out. He stuck it out with me, and when we got to the top of the mountain, the first thing he said was, "This was worth it all." And then he called his mom to say, "Guess where I am right now!"

At one point, he told me that if I wanted to turn back we could, and that I could tell everyone at camp that it had been his decision to do so. It's hard to express how sweet of an offer that really was. I think MB knew that probably half of why I wanted to press on was a blend of being too stubborn to let the mountain beat me and being too proud to go back and tell all the badass kayakers that not only was I not tough enough to hit the river twice, I was too wimpy to make it to the top of the mountain.

We kept walking, and walking, and walking, and walking, and...well, you get the idea. At times, the trail seemed positively neverending. At one point, I remember thinking to myself, "God or Gaia or whoever...please just let us make it to the top...SOON..." and then wishing there was a waterfall or something to stick my head under. And wouldn't you know it...not five minutes later, we rounded a curve and there was a waterfall. I stuck my head in it, and I cannot remember feeling anything that refreshing in my entire life. But maybe I'm being a little dramatic. I don't know if you can see it, but it's a gorgeous little waterfall with three tiers coming down off the rock.

We sat on this log to eat lunch. MB wanted to turn around, but I refused. I was pissed off! How dare the trail be this damn long? I insisted that we had to be getting close to the top. I was wrong, but luckily by the time I figured that out, we'd gone so far that I really didn't want to turn around.

This photo also shows how narrow the trail was in places. At some points, it was barely wide enough for one person to pass through without the vegetation brushing your shoulders and arms on either side. There were also steep dropoffs on a lot of the switchbacks. Treacherous, but beautiful!

I think this snail lapped us a few times.

By the time we got to the point where the trail made a T with the Appalachian Trail, we'd finished off half of our water. And lo, we saw a sign that said "water." MB practically RAN down the trail. We ended up at a little stone cistern thingie that had been built to catch spring water coming right out of the side of the mountain. We filled up our two empty bottles and I decided to adopt the theory that if the water wasn't safe to drink, surely some hiker would've left some kind of warning by now.

Given the chance, I'd do the whole thing over again, but I won't lie and say that there weren't parts that totally, completely sucked. The last probably quarter mile, from the T to the top, seemed to last forever. I stopped about 15 times and just stood there thinking, "I cannot fucking do this," and then I'd just start walking again (because, really, what choice did I have?). This is going to sound dramatic and princessy, but toward the end, I seriously felt like a horse that was about to founder and go down...I had just been plodding on and on and on, like a grouchy little mule, for what felt like forever. I knew we were close to the top, but I just wished the whole thing was done.

Once we got to the top of the tower at the top of the mountain, we decided it was worth it after all...and it was really rewarding to know that we pushed through all that self-defeating bullshit and just forced ourselves to accomplish what we set out to do. From the tower, the view alone was worth every step we'd taken to get there. In the foreground, there were mountains covered with thick green forests. We could see two or three lakes, far off, half-hidden in the haze. And in the background, marching off until they faded from sight, we saw row after row after row of mountains. It made me feel small and infinite in the same breath.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a weekend. MB and I agree that we'd do it again, with a few changes. We'd definitely pack more water, avoid wearing jeans, and make sure MB had better shoes. And I'd wear my contacts so as to prevent foggy-glasses-induced whining.

A week from tomorrow, MB and I are going to try to hike a 12-mile loop in the middle of the nastiest, most humid and sticky heat wave in years, along with MB's brother and a friend of MB's from work and his wife. Let the record show that this hike is NOT my idea, and that I'm hoping the lack of altitude saves us from experiencing another Wesser Bald ass-kicking. In fact, I'd have to say Wesser Bald sets the bar for level 10 on my personal scale of Ass-Kicking-Ness. I'm hoping this ill-advised lake hike only merits a 6 or 7 in comparison. I'll let you know how it goes.

To distract myself from the dread, I'm thinking instead about how MB's brother and I are going to spend the hike looking for geocaches along the trail. There are supposed to be twelve of them along the route we're taking, and I think BoMB (brother of MB...I think he'd appreciate the abbreviation) already has the coordinates loaded into his brand new spiff dandy GPS unit (one guess as to who we bought our slightly used, slightly less spiffy GPS from).

Reading: Mommy Wars, which I'm really enjoying, and Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

Playing: my country and rock playlists on the computer, which include songs like these. And like these.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Lame Excuses at 2 AM

I know I promised that I'd write about North Carolina. I actually have wanted to write about it for over a week, but life has conspired against me. Cue lame excuses:

1. MB and I have spent all of our free evenings watching House on DVD (Dude...Dr. House...¡Te amo!). We finally watched the last episode at 11 PM tonight, so I can finally take the set back to the library tomorrow, 12 days after it was due. There was no freaking way I was returning it until we'd seen every episode.

2. From sometime on Saturday until Tuesday afternoon, our shower didn't shower so much as dribble in a slightly embarrassed way, so I had to go over to my parents' house whenever I felt the need to practice personal hygiene. My usual M.O. is to shower in the late evening, throw on my pjs, and plop down in front of Blogger a few moments later. Instead, I would drive over to my parents' house (about 3 minutes away), chat with whoever happened to be home at the time, shower, chat with whoever was home / had turned up since I got there, and drive home about an hour and a half after I arrived. The shower is fixed now, though there are still a few eccentricities. The new showerhead is a little bit strange (and probably a lot bit cheap), and somehow whenever I adjust it to pour directly down on top of my head for maximum hair rinseage, it manages to send a trickle of water directly up my left nostril and into my sinus cavity. Cheap and gravity-defying!

3. I have been thinking Deep Thoughts lately, which made it hard to sit down and write what I planned to be a lighthearted, amusing tale of our adventures. Stupid Deep Thoughts! Jeez.

4. When I finally did get in the right frame of mind and have the time to sit down, Blogger started getting lippy about uploading photos. It took 2 1/2 sessions to get all the photos I wanted uploaded, and by the time I got the last one added last night, I was too tired to add text.

5. I've somehow managed to have quite a few nights of actual plans involving other people--sometimes involving other people, out in public!--over the last two weeks, so that's assisted Dr. House in keeping me away from the keyboard.

6. Um...that's all I've got, other than: I am lame.

Hopefully, the trip recap and the Deep Thoughts posts will follow shortly.

Reading: Mommy Wars, edited by Leslie Morgan Steiner (yes, still...see above excuses for explanation of crappy reading progression of late), Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

Playing: Delta Momma Blues by Townes Van Zandt (This version. It seems there might be two albums with the same name but totally different track listings.)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Coming soon: Our North Carolina Weekend

Or, How I Got My Ass Kicked on Land & Water

Reading: Mommy Wars, edited by Leslie Morgan Steiner

Just Finished: Twelve Sharp, by Janet Evanovich

Playing: some good bluegrass up in the mountains of North Carolina