Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Rock, Paper, Scissors

Raybon used to always beats me at Rock, Paper, Scissors. Always, always, always. I never, never, never used to beat him. I can't really explain it very well. He says he can see the wheels turning in my mind, and somehow predict what it is I'm going to do in the 3 seconds before I reveal my choice. I ask him "What do you mean? What is it that you see going on in my head?" He says "I don't know. I never know what you are going to do first. But after that, I can guess what you are going to do next."

I finally figured out how to beat him. I don't think about what it is I'm going to do before I do it. I just choose one on the count of 3. It works. Weird, huh?

I wonder if he can read my mind at other times. I asked him if he could, and he said he can't. He said there are too many different things I could be thinking about. With rock, paper, scissors, there are only 3.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Weirdness

I went out the Flip Flop Wharf to swim this afternoon on my own. It was so beautiful out. I figure there aren't too many more days for pleasant swims this year.

I got there, and there were 3 people out there in the water. Two guys, one of whom I knew, and a woman. The woman was very friendly, and invited me to swim with them. I was very pleased, always happy to make more swimming friends. We swam out to the end of the wharf together, and then swam back. Since I arrived on my own, my stuff was apart from theirs. They dried off near their stuff, and I dried off and changed near mine. One of them, the guy I didn't know, called and asked me if I'd like to get coffee. I thought he meant the the four of us together, so I said yes, because I thought it might be fun to get to know more swimming people. As it turns out, I was the only one who ended up getting coffee with him. Since I'd already agreed, I didn't back out, thinking we were just going to get coffee to go at the little coffee bar, which we could bring back to the beach and talk with the other people

The coffee bar was closed. He said the restaurant that the bar was attached to was too noisy, so he said we should go the restaurant at the hotel nearby. This was just getting weirder and weirder. Not only was I alone with a man I had just met, we were going to a hotel to hang out. We sat and talked, I mentioned again and again that I had a husband, and that I was religious. We talked about religion and philosophy. It was awkward. I was intentionally unenthusiastic. When we left, I shook his hand and smiled warmly to try to make up for the coldness throughout our conversation. I'll probably see him around the beach more often. I may swim with them again, but no more hanging out outside the water. The whole thing was weird from the beginning, now that I think about it. His friend, the guy that I knew, kept calling me sweetie, and me and the other girl "babes." Yuck.

Really, he was probably a very intelligent, interesting person. I couldn't act too enthusiastic about it though, because I didn't want to give him the wrong idea. I was awkward, serious, and boring, but for once in my life, this was probably a plus. It made me kind of depressed though. I wish I had more decent men in my life that I can trust. Maybe I should start going back to church.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

I had a really nice day today. Very calm and relaxing. Raybon has a cold, and I am just getting over one, so rather than going to his family's, we stayed home. I made my first Thanksgiving dinner, and we spent our first Thanksgiving in our own home together.

This is the first time in years that I've made an effort at making a really nice dinner for the two of us. I cleaned the house, as if company was going to come over, and even put on a dress. Making a Thanksgiving dinner was much easier than I thought. It takes a little planning, but really spending the day just cooking and cleaning and relaxing with my book was very pleasant. In a way, it was nice that Raybon was sick, because I cooked and cleaned without any expectation of help. Any help he did give was appreciated. It felt nice to get dressed up and cook just for the two us, like we are worth the effort. Most days when we spend the whole day alone at home, we spend it semi-dressed, unshowered, and with minimal effort in preparing food.

I finished reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I think it ended up being one of my favorite books. It really got under my skin at first, but in the end I found it comforting.

I watched Capote for the first time. It was really interesting. I think some of my thoughts from Unbearable influenced my take on it. They both made me think about how essentially alone we each are, but how we require other people to make us feel whole. We need their eyes on us to help us know that we exist. This blog is partially me trying to find myself through the eyes of others. It really takes something divine to escape the effort to be known and to attempt to know and love another. So often, even when I try to do this, all I am doing is looking for myself in another person, to gain an understanding of my own existence. The moments I've felt myself able to escape this are the ones I feel most whole and at peace.

The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me a channel of thy peace;
that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that where there is error, I may bring truth;
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;
to understand, than to be understood;
to love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.
Amen.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Lies

I neglected to blog about one funny thing about my trip, because I wasn't sure what the resolution would be until last night.

When I was in Guatemala 7 years ago, I bought some Cuban cigars for my dad. I am and was aware that there was and is an embargo against Cuba, but Raybon told me that it was OK to import a few Cuban items for your personal use. This isn't true, of course. When I went through Customs in Houston after getting back from Guatemala, I told them about my Cuban cigars, thinking I wasn't doing anything illegal. They took them away from me of course, and then cut them in pieces right in front of me. I was sooo disappointed.

It occurred to me that I could buy Cuban cigars in Prague, to make up for the ones I lost so long ago. This time I bought just 2 cigars, instead of a whole box, so I wouldn't be so sad if they got taken away. Raybon was nervous about it, and at first stood outside the shop while I went in to buy the cigars.

I had thought a bit about the importance of honesty when I was in Prague. There are a lot of scam artists there, and the shopkeepers blatantly lied to me about some things I knew to be untrue. It's a little scary being in a strange place and not knowing if you can trust anyone. I thought about how lying destroys trust, which makes honest communication almost meaningless. While I was on the plane, they handed out customs forms, and I thought about having to lie if they asked me about any alcohol or tobacco I might have to declare.

When we finally landed at SFO, we went through customs and then went to claim our bags. Raybon stood and waited at the carousel while I sat and read. I was at the part in "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" where Tomas is being interrogated by the Secret Police about the article he wrote about Oedipus and Communism. Milan Kundera says that in all of us there is the child who was told by his parents to always tell the truth. Kundera suggests that Tomas should have lied to the Secret Police, but there was part of him that struggled against him when he tried to lie. As much as I believed in the importance of honesty, I would have to agree that lying to a totalitarian regime may be a good thing, if you can pull if off. All around the carousels were televisions displaying messages from the U.S. Customs and Borders Service, with patriotic messages about protecting our borders and being honest in your declarations to customs.

With all these thoughts running in my head about honesty and Secret Police and patriotic things on the television, a voice comes over the loudspeakers telling Raybon and I to report to the Service desk in the baggage claim department. I think "Oh s--t. They've found my cigars and we're in big trouble." I wondered whether Raybon would stick up for me or not. We went over to the desk and they simply told us that our bags were stuck in London. We filled out some forms and headed home. When we left the baggage claim area, the man who was supposed to ask us the questions about our bags contents was confused that we just had backpacks. When we told them our bags were lost, he just let us go without asking us any questions. I didn't have to worry about whether I should lie or tell the truth.

I was still nervous about the cigars. I wondered if the delay in getting our bags was at all related to the Cuban cigars in my bags. I wondered if they'd search through them when they got to the U.S.

We got our bags back last night around 11:00 p.m. There was a sticker on Raybon's bag that a Security Search had been done on his bag. My bag, the one with the cigars, had no such stickers on it.

All in all, it was a pretty clean smuggle. I didn't have to lie to anyone at all. My cigars didn't get taken away. In a way, maybe we were lucky that our bags got lost, because we would have been interrogated, and I may have decided in that split second to tell the truth. I have a real problem with lying. I can't do it even if I intend to. Maybe this is a good thing. I kind of wonder if I would have crossed a line in my determination to lie about the cigars. Maybe it would snowball into a new trend for me, and I would no longer be as honest a person.

It's funny. It's kind of like God was sparing my soul from my own bad intentions. While you can't give me credit for not following through with my bad intentions, at least I was spared from whatever path it may have lead me down if I was able to do so. This isn't the first time in my life that this has happened. It's nice to think that God watches out for me in this way.

Monday, November 20, 2006

My Trip, In Retrospect

Did I have fun? The answer would have to be no. I was tired and lonely my first two days, and I spent my time filling myself with activities that were very heavy. Raybon and I fought on our second night there, because I was mad at him for working, when I asked for a little bit of his time. Being alone in a foreign, crowded country, where everyone is expecting you to have the time of your life is very different than being alone elsewhere. My second two days were less lonely, and hence more enjoyable, but I had a cold, and it's hard for me to think of much else.

Such an Eeyore, I know. I almost feel like it is rude for me give honest answers like the one above. Almost like saying to someone "I'm fat and ugly" or "my life sucks" and expecting them to respond in some way I feel is appropriate. That's almost too much to ask of people. This is my blog, and you can read it or not, but maybe when people ask me, I should just lie and say I had a blast. My co-worker Miss H. asked me about my trip, and I told her the truth, and she basically told me to just get over it. That sounds harsh, but it didn't hurt my feelings really. It's her prerogative to deal with my negativity in any way she wants to I guess.

I don't regret going. They say travel is broadening. It was. I've never been anywhere with such a deep sense of history. I don't think I even began to soak it all in, but I did get a sense that there is a lot more to this world than the here and now in ways I never have before. The sites were very beautiful. Even if my poor health didn't allow me to enjoy it as much as I could, I do have the experience of seeing them, and pictures to look at to remind me of them. I think you also learn a little about yourself when you are put outside your normal routine. I really am a creature of habit, and maybe that is the way we were made to be, but new situations are interesting and challenging.

Sooo... If people ask me. I need to rehearse this.

Prague was very beautiful. The people were very kind. They have a rich and interesting history. The architecture was amazing. My one complaint was that the food left something to be desired.

I really need to learn to have a private self and a public self. Do I really? Yes, I do. I wonder to what extent I can learn to do this so late in life. Maybe I'm incapable. Even if I try to hide something, my true feelings come out in my eyes and voice. Maybe that's enough. People can wonder, but they won't know for sure, and if they don't want to deal with the truth, I can make it that much easier for them.

Prague, Days 2, 3, and 4

We got back from Prague last night. Phew! 20 hours of traveling. Thank God, my back feels fine.

I spent Thursday visiting New Town in Prague. Raybon was working. Prague's New Town isn't all that new. It was built in 1348. Most of the store fronts are modern, yuppy stores with expensive clothing. But if you raise your eyes, it really is a beautiful city. The architecture is amazing. I headed down to Wenceslas Square (yes, named after the king in the Christmas carol.) This is where the protests in the Velvet Revolution of 1989 took place, which hailed the fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia. It is called the Velvet Revolution, because it took place without bloodshed.

I went to visit the Museum of Communism there, which was upstairs from a McDonald's and next door to a casino. I sort of wonder if the owner of the building had a sense of humor.

The museum was very interesting. It had a sense of humor about it, but it's subject matter is obviously very serious. There was a video that showed the various brave attempts to defeat the Communist totalitarian regime. They showed heros like Jan Palach and Jan Zajíc, who commited suicide by self-immolation during the Prague Spring. Their actions didn't seem to have any immediate effect on anything, but they inspired many people to rise up against the Communist Regime during the Velvet Revolution.

I bought a book called "The Czech People in a Nutshell" at the museum. I learned that the Czech people hate Milan Kundera, the author of "The Unbearable Lightness of Being." He lives in Frances now, writes in French, and has done various things to distance himself from the Czech people. The first day there, I sat at an ice cream parlor for an hour and read "The Unbearable Lightness of Being."

I also learned from this book why the German people might have been amused by my trout and potato dumpling meal. According to the book, the main difference between Czech cuisine and German cuisine is that Czechs use mushrooms in their cooking, which Germans think are disgusting. My food was covered in a mushroom sauce.

Friday and Saturday, Raybon didn't have to work, so we went together doing sightseeing. It is much nicer to travel with another person in a lot of ways, although I'm glad I had time to do the things I did, since Raybon wasn't as interested. We went to Old Town and Wenceslas square on Friday. We also went on a tour of the Astronomical Observartion Tower at the Clementinum. I think my favorite moment in Prague was looking down at Prague through the top of the observation tower. The view was very beautiful. All you could see was the beautiful architecture, without being distracted by the modern shops.

Saturday we went to see Charles Bridge and the Prague Castle. We got up around 6:00 to see Charles Bridge at dawn. I'm glad we did, because it is very beautiful, but very crowded during the day time. Prague Castle is the largest castle complex in Europe. I think my favorite part was seeing how excited Raybon was about seeing the castle. His favorite parts were the stony fortifications where people defended the castle. I smiled at him, and he thought I was laughing at him. I'm not sure whether I was or not. I thought he was being cute. He loves castles, armor, and weapons. Apart from that, I think my favorite part was St. Vitus's Cathedral.

Most of the pictures above are by me, but the links below are Raybon's. I really like his photos. They tell me something about the way he sees the world that I wouldn't get to see otherwise. I think my photos only say that I'm not very comfortable holding a camera.

Old Town and Wenceslas Square

Charles Bridge and the Castle Quarter

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Prague, Day 1

Today was my first full day in Prague. Last night we got in late, and just ordered room service. I took a shower and felt very resistant to putting on actual clothes, so I just got in my pajamas and crawled in bed with my book.

Raybon had to work today, so I wandered around Prague myself. I am loathe to write this, because I don't want Raybon to say "I told you so" about the "Lost in Translation" thing, but I was a little lonely. My main activity of the day wasn't something you'd necessarily want company for anyways. I visited the Jewish quarter. It was a very moving experience. I saw a synagogue where they had the names of the Jewish victims of the 80,000 Holocaust victims from Bohemia and Moravia. Upstairs they had artwork done by Jewish children while they waited execution in concentration camps. They were done in a school organized by the Jewish community within the concentration camps. The teachers thought it was important that even during those hopeless conditions, that the children have outlets for expression and enjoyment.

I had lunch in a Czech restaurant, where I sat at a table with a bunch of other people, including two young English speaking German tourists. They were mostly very nice, but in retrospect a little rude. They talked to me in English, but talked to each other in German, which made me think they were talking about me. I said some things that were worth chuckling about (like not understanding Celsius), but if they did it in English, it would have been different. They both ordered salads, and thought my trout and potato dumpling meal was amusing. Maybe they thought it was funny to see an American eating their traditional food, when they were too hip to eat it themselves.

The waiter at the Czech restaurant made fun of me a bit, too, although a little more meanly, rather than being just amused. I feel funny speaking English in a country where it isn't the native tongue. Raybon says it is rude to not try to speak the language at least. So I'm hesitant, but then I do eventually speak English after figuring out I don't know enough Czech to communicate, or I just point. The waiter asked me impatiently "Do you speak English? Deustch? Spanish? What?" I give up. I'm going to be a stupid, arrogant American who just speaks expects everyone to speak English.

I saw a string quarter concert in a room in what was formerly St. Michael's Church. It was actually advertised as "Greatest Hits" of classical music, and I was told that it would be exactly an hour long. The man handing out flyers was very persistent. He showed me pictures of the room it would be in, and when I walked by him a second time after night had fallen, he had me walk into a courtyard where I could see inside the room. It had religious paintings on the ceiling, a la the Sistine Chapel. I asked the man how old they were, and he said they were from the 19th century. I think he lied. They looked pretty new, and were sort of Flip Flop mural quality. I enjoyed the music, but I'm not a connoisseur by any means. When the time for the concert rolled around, and I had nothing better to do, and was in the area, I decided to go. I liked the songs they advertised (Pachelbel's Canon in D, Vivaldi's Four Seasons) and almost always enjoy live music. An hour of "greatest hits" classical music is about my speed and attention span anyway. I felt a bit like a rube, but the musicians seemed to enjoy playing, and I hope they are making a decent living off of it.

I just googled St. Michael's church, and apparently there was a protest against its recent sale. It hasn't been used as a church since the 1700's. Recent owners have even used it as a strip club. *Sigh.* Well, at least I supported a more pious use of it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Flight to London

I am now in London's Heathrow Airport. Again, my mind immediately flies to silly comedy's, this time "A Fish Called Wanda" Of course, it doesn't look anything like the movie. It doesn't look particularly London-y. It doesn't look particularly airport-y either. It basically looks like a big mall with places for airplanes to pick people up and drop people off. At least the voice overhead has a British accent. They don't even sell scones at the coffee shop. Maybe it would hurt their tourist business if people felt they could have a London experience in a layover in Heathrow.

Still, I'm excited to be in England. I went to a little airport shop and got myself some water from St. Anne's spring. We were looking for water, but I stopped and gazed at some English "biscuits." Raybon felt rushed, and impatiently pointed out that I wasn't looking at water. I explained "I'm looking at the English stuff." One thing that was different than America were the awesome stickers they had on their cigarette packs. They take up a third of the front of the package, and say things like "Smoking Kills" or "Smoking Causes Aging of the Skin" or "Smoking can damage the sperm and decreases fertility."

I wish I could see more of England. Raybon said he saw a lot of stuff as we flew over London. Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Covington Garden, but I didn't see anything because I didn't have a window seat. I really wanted an aisle seat because I wanted to be able to get up and stretch during the flight.

The flight basically sucked. Raybon's work paid for him to fly World Traveler Plus, but I was just in World Traveler Basic. Mostly that just meant a lot more room. I think that the biggest bummer about it was sitting alone for a long flight. I sat next to an older English couple, who I didn't talk much to. I saw David Sedaris on Halloween who talked about sitting next to a cashmere and tweed wearing couple who looked very proper but had filthy mouths. I hoped my fellow passengers would be equally entertaining, but mostly I couldn't hear them. I did hear the gentleman call the steward a "bloody bastard" for incorrectly describing the contents of the chicken option served at dinner. Tee hee.

I snuck up to Raybon's cabin during the flight. The seat next to him was empty, so I took it, and decided I'd stay until they asked me to leave. It took them about an hour to do so. The attendant addressed Raybon and sort of chewed him out. He asked him "What makes you think that the lady can sit up in these seats without paying when everyone else had to pay a great deal more than she did?" Raybon said "I don't think that." I said "I'll leave." He continued to sort of chew him out even after I said I'd leave. I'm not sure why he felt this was necessary given that I said I'd leave as soon as he asked me to. I felt a little upset by it, but it isn't like I figured it wouldn't happen, and at least it provided a little entertainment on the long flight.

My experience in the airport at Heathrow makes me happy about my decision to go to Prague. I suppose I could decide to make it an important priority to visit Prague sometime in my life, but maybe by the time I got around to it, it wouldn't be the place it is now. I think even very recently it has become more touristy and less distinctive in character.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

I did buy The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and am now reading it. I love it so far. It really speaks to where my heart has been lately.

I just got to this part in the book:

"It is wrong, then, to chide the novel for being fascinated by mysterious coincidences (like the meeting of Anna, Vronsky, the railway station, or the meeting of Beethoven, Tomas, Tereza, and the cognac), but it is right to chide man for being blind to such coincidences in his daily life. For he therby deprives his life of a dimension of beauty."

I've really tried hard lately to not think too much about fate and coincidence. I thought maybe it was an excuse to not be thoughtful and responsible in my choices. Perhaps that is true. My life has seemed a little emptier, but a lot more stable. Am I happier? In some ways. I'm less nervous. I feel more in control of my future, because I'm not consantly looking for signs that I should act differently than what I plan to do. Is my life less beautiful? Perhaps. I can't say I'm completely happy yet. I am less sad, though, if that makes any sense. I'm only 40 pages into it, but that relates to what seems to be the theme of the book, and its title. My life is lighter, but seems less meaningful, since I stopped looking for signs. I understand what the book title means, why the lightness of being can be unbearable.

There really has to be more to life that gives it meaning than the beauty of coincidences. Isn't there? Shouldn't integrity give your life more meaning than coincidence? If you put too much meaning in coincidence, you would be pushed along in life like a tumbleweed blown by the wind, defining your life and your actions by mere coincidence. It is hard to have integrity with these kinds of definitions of meaning. But, I think the coincidences we see reveal what our heart truly desires. We can't take everything in our world into our perception, we choose the parts that signify to us what it is we want to believe. Tomas signifies to Tereza a resolution to deep, unmet needs, so she sees in all that surrounds him signs that she should be with him. Maybe if I desired good and God more than anything else in this world, there wouldn't be a conflict between having integrity and finding meaning in coincidence.

Deep Thoughts on the Czech Republic

It's kind of funny, but my main thoughts on going to Prague have to do with Bill Murray movies. My first thought (actually suggested by Raybon) is that I'll be like Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation, but without a Bill Murray. Raybon will be working most of the time that we are there, so I'll be left to entertain myself.

My deepest held impression of Czechoslovakia is based on the Bill Murray movie Stripes. Bill Murray and Harold Ramis borrow the EM-50, a military vehicle that looks like an RV, to take their Military Police girlfriends on a little mini break. Their platoon ends up looking for them and the EM-50 in Czechoslovakia and gets captured, and Bill Murray and Harold Ramis have to rescue them. I've seen and read some about the Czech Republic, and it is really beautiful, much more like visiting the Sound of Music than Stripes, where the military compound scenes were actually filmed in Kentucky. And from what I've read about the Czech people, they have are interesting, intelligent people with an ironic sense of humour, not at all like the lugs in Stripes. I think I'll go buy the Unbearable Lightness of Being today so that I can have more intelligent thoughts about Prague. Or maybe I'll just watch Groundhog Day again, because they're both are about Eternal Recurrence, right?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Word of the Day: Defenestration

Defenestration is the act of throwing someone or something out of a window. The word comes from the Latin de ("from; out of") and fenestra ("window").

I just think it is cool that there is actually a word for this. My office manager requested that I take a picture of the window involved in the Second Defenestration of Prague. I had to Wikipedia it, which is where I learned my new word.

I wonder how often people have shown up to defenestrate someone and found out he or she was on first floor. Is this anti-climactic, or do they just drag him or her up a few stories?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Spider

I'm going to Prague! Just for a week. Raybon and I bought the tickets yesterday. The question on everyone's mind is "Are you excited?" Ummm... No. Not yet. Sorry. I'll try harder. I don't get excited about stuff generally, as I've talked about previously (see Tahoe posts from July.) I'm trying not to be such an Eeyore, so I'll think I'll plan out things I'd like to do in Prague. Fodder for my next blog.

I had kind of a nice day. I'm tired. I didn't sleep well last night. I swam this morning (very stiffly) and ran this afternoon. The run was very nice. It wasn't too hot or too cold. I was stiff at first, but loosened up as I ran. When I got done, I walked around the parking lot at my work to cool down. I saw a huge web with a huge red spider in it. It made me grin from ear to ear, without really thinking about what I liked about it. I love running. If it put me in such a good mood that seeing a spider in its web makes me so happy, it is definitely a good thing.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I Feel Sooooo Loved

I worked from home today. I received 20 phones calls from my work so far. I know I said one of my favorite things is attention, but this is driving me crazy. AAAAHHHHH!!! I yelled the F-Word twice (not while I was on the phone, fortunately.) Wonder if the neighbors heard. Maybe the Sheriff's Department will come by and investigate a domestic disturbance. Naaahhh, this is the Flip Flop Mountains.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Buoy Widget 1.0

I finished Version 1.0 of my Buoy App. Click on the picture of it to the left in Safari to install it. It only works in MacOS 10.4 Tiger. It updates the Temp about once an hour, and only shows info for two buoys. If you click on the widget, it will take you to the website for the buoy the info is from. I'm tempted to make something fancier and more interactive, but I'm tired. I need a break, I think.