Thursday, August 31, 2006

Amazing Andre

Sorry, but I love tennis, so you'll just have to accept an occasional tennis post during the next two weeks. I confidently predicted that Agassi would lose his second-round match against Baghdatis, the No. 8 seed. I watched Baghdatis play in the Australian Open Final against Federer and the Wimbledon Semifinal against Nadal, and he was good, very good.

I'm obviously rooting for Agassi (up to a point - remember my crush on Nadal) but I like this player and expected an entertaining and competitive match. Baghdatis didn't start playing good, consistent tennis until the third set. Agassi won the first two sets, but Baghdatis came roaring back to win the third and fourth sets and force a decisive fifth set.

Baghdatis started cramping at 4-4 in the fifth set. You can't receive treatment mid-game, so he just had to limp it out. It kind of freaked Agassi out, so he almost won the game despite his lack of movement.

A few games later Agassi won in five sets (I was wrong.) Thrilling. I'm sad an injury had to play such a big part. But conditioning is part of sport. Can you believe the 36-year-old with a bad back outfitnessed the 21-year-old?

Staying up late to watch an intense, how-will-it-end sporting event definitely makes me happy. How can anyone not love sports? Especially in a match like this, when the standard of play is so high you find yourself rooting for both players and feeling like the match itself transcends the outcome.

In other news...
No. 2 Nadal won and advanced to the third round. He's never won a third round match at the Open, but I predict a victory Saturday. Rafael Nadal will see the fourth round in 2006. Vamos Rafa!

The most accurate kicker in NFL history missed TWO (2!) game-winning field goals in OT. He's missed as many field goals in this game as he missed the entire 2005 season! So the Cowboys went 3-0-1 in the preseaon.

Little Miss Sunshine

I wholeheartedly endorse this movie and suggest you see it today. I can't remember the last time I have laughed so hard in a movie theatre. I was laughing to hard I was crying. When the movie was over I realized I was sweating. Jaime and I sat and laughed during the credits. As we got up to left, we kept laughing. I kept myself up last night laughing as I remembered scenes from the movie.

If you plan on seeing it, don't read any reviews. The funniest moment is at the end, and if you know it's coming, it won't be as funny. The whole movie is enjoyable, populated with these brilliantly funny moments. There were times when the movie tried too hard, but I can overlook that. I'm going to see it again on Friday!

The movie is rated R, mainly for language and sexual content, but not sex scenes.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

World Cloud

I saw this on Summer's blog, and thought it was cool. The program searches your blog and compiles a list of the most commonly used words. The bigger the word, the more times it appears in your blog. Here's mine!

If you want to try it yourself, go to this site.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Emmy Awards

Best Emmy awards of the night:

Keifer Sutherland (24) for Best Actor in a Drama Series
The Office as Best Comedy Series
24 as Best Drama Series

I really thought Martin Sheen would win for Best Actor-Drama.
How is it that My Name is Early won for Best Directing and Writing-Comedy but wasn't nominated for Best Comedy Series?

I love the Daily Show, but the Colbert Report should have taken one of those awards home.

I loved the musical number by Conan at the beginning. Through the magic of TiVo, I'll probably watch it again.

I watched The Girl in the Cafe on DVD and had no idea it was an HBO movie. It's good, but not your standard Richard Curtis romantic comedy. It was very political.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Happiness is...


So after sleeping in last Saturday morning when I should have been running, I walked out of my door at 6:45 a.m. today. And I ran an hour! I haven't run consistency since May, and I was only running about 25 minutes then. I've run the last two weeks, but only for 30 minutes. It was overcast and windy when I started running, so I wasn't excited about the conditions. But then the sky cleared, and I had a colorful sunrise to run with. And I just kept running. Dawn is my favorite time of the day because everything is so still. I love being out and productive when the world is asleep.


My TiVo is hooked up! It's so cool to be able to pause live TV. Great for watching sports.


Here are some selected happy thoughts from my list:
  • "Phantom of the Options" headline in the NYT
  • Dallas Morning News' sports blogs
  • the first day of classes
  • "Traveling for any reason at all: priceless" Mastercard commercial
  • Andy Roddick is back!
  • playing my iPod at work without needing the battery backup
  • "Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind." - Daphne du Maurier in the book Rebecca
  • Organic Frosted Mini Wheats
  • running down the middle of the street with your eyes closed
  • "Built Tough for Texas Weather" stickers on car batteries at Batteries, Etc.
Have a happy day!

Thursday, August 24, 2006


“It’s not just a daydream if you decide to make it your life.”

This is a lyric from the Train song “She’s on Fire.” I first heard this song when I was in London, and it fit my situation perfectly. I was living and working and buying groceries in a foreign country. I was living my daydream. And I didn’t even know that was my dream before I was there. I remembering sitting on a bench in Trafalgar Square one evening. I had gotten off work, and I was eating dinner and killing time before I went to see a play. I looked around me and realized that everyone was a tourist. But I wasn’t. To me, London was more than a tourist stop. It was a place where I gave directions to a cab driver. It was a place where I didn’t usually need a map to get around. It was my home. I relate to this quote from the last “Frugal Traveler” column in the NYT.

“All I know is this: that I’m physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. But I also don’t want this trip to end — ever. I’m no longer thinking of New York City [or Texas] as home; to me, it's just another layover.”

Those eleven months that I spent in Europe changed my attitude and outlook on life in a lot of ways, and probably in more ways than I’m even aware of. More than anything, it made me fall madly in love with travel. And as much as I complain about the side effects of my job, I am getting paid to travel. And that is something to be thankful for

Monday, August 21, 2006

Football Season

It's only the preseason, and I've only watched one half of a preseason game, but my 'Boys look good. It's nice to see the offense clicking.

Does it seem wrong to anyone else that Monday Night Football is now on ESPN instead of ABC? It seems like something as American as football should air on a network that everyone with a TV can watch instead of on a channel you have to pay a monthly fee to access. It's Monday Night Football, the highlight match of the week, and it's been taken away from the masses.

New Reading List

With the new semester beginning, I've decided to start reading books from high school and college English curriculums. I browsed the local bookstore to see what the reading list looks like in my area and got some good ideas. I don't remember entire sections of book stores dedicated to local reading needs when I was in high school, but it's a great idea. One-stop shopping.

So what were your favorite books in high school or college? Have you heard about any interesting additions to the reading lists in your area?

I read The Stranger yesterday. Apparently Bush just read it, which is interesting since it's about a man that kills an Arab and shows no remorse. Odd choice, Mr. President.

Give me book suggestions!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

My iPod Returns

My doorbell rang at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday and it was the DHL man with my iPod.

The odd thing about the return of my iPod is that it wasn't gone long enough for me to miss it. I've been listening to Virgin Radio at work, the station I listened to when I lived in London. It was a nice change because the playlist is different from radio stations in the States. And the British accents were nice.

If you haven't voted in my Opinion Poll from a few posts ago, please do. Only one person has. Thanks, Elisa!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Vamos Rafa

With the US Open almost upon us, I thought it would be fitting to post a tribute to my current favorite tennis player: Rafael Nadal. Pete Sampras will always be my all-time favorite tennis player, but Rafa, as he is affectionately known, tops the list right now.

Rafa bust into the tennis scene in 2005 by winning the French Open in his FO debut. He successfully defended his title this year, defeating Federer, the worlds No. 1 player, along the way. He's the only player that can successfully challenge Federer, and has the only winning record against him. Until yesterday, he was the only guy in 2006 to beat Federer, and he did it five times.

He's been considered a clay-court specialist until he broke through to the Wimbledon final this year, losing to Federer. He hopes to make a big impact at the US Open this year.

The reason I like the guy so much is because of his attitude, passion and energy. As these pictures show, the guy is dialed in to his matches. The picture of him jumping up in the air was taken during his Wimbledon match where he was almost knocked out of the tournament. In men's tennis, you play a best-of-five-sets match. He was down two sets and had to play a tiebreaker in the third set to stay alive. No problem for Rafa; he won the last three sets. And check out his shoes: Vamos Rafa.

That is probably more tennis knowledge than you wanted to know, if you read it at all. But if you get a chance to watch a Nadal match during the US Open (Aug. 28-Sept. 10 on USA and CBS) you won't be disappointed. If you think tennis is boring, Nadal can probably make the match interesting for you, especially if he's showing emotion with his fist pumps and air jumping.

Vamos Rafa!

Opinion Poll

I need your opinion. If you received information in the mail about a trip to New York and London (or New York and Paris) what would your reaction be?

  1. How cool! I've never been to either city (or I love both) and seeing them together sounds totally awesome! Sign me up!
  2. Interesting. I never thought about partnering those cities, but it sounds like a good match. Send me more information.
  3. I would go on a trip to New York City, but when you add international airfare and the awful exchange rate between the Pound and the Dollar, I can't make it happen. Or take that much time off work.
  4. All I care about is Europe. Why bother with the States. Count me out.
Thanks for your input!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Too many blogs, not enough time

If you spend half your morning checking blogs for updates, check out Bloglines. You can subscribe to all the blogs you want, and go to one website to access them. You can even download a Notifier that alerts you when a blog has been updated so you don't spend all your time checking blogs for new posts. I've only been using it for a few days, but I love it. If you use Firefox, you can add an icon to your Bookmarks Toolbar that lets you subscribe to a new blog with one easy click. I'm sure you can do the same thing with Explorer, but I don't know how it works. Check it out!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Reality TV, here I come

I don't watch any reality TV, not any. But I just learned that my favorite Cowboy will be a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. So every Tuesday at 7 p.m. I will watch Emmitt Smith make a fool of himself. Really, does he think he's Jerry Rice? Or at least I'll TiVo it, assuming I ever get my TiVo set up. They really don't make those things for people that only have wireless internet.

Sara Evans will also be dancing, for you country-music lovers out there.

Hopefully Emmitt won't last long so I can once again say, "I don't watch Reality TV."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

iPod Therefore I Am

I'm pretty sure I stole that from somewhere, but I can't remember exactly where.

As many of you know, I'm addicted to my iPod. And tomorrow I put it in a box and ship it to Apple for repairs. I have no idea how long it will be gone. I'm not sure how to cope with this.

I have one of the older generation iPods with the notoriously bad battery. My iPod is lasting 2.5 hours, max, before the battery goes out. As a result, I'm included in some lawsuit requiring Apple to replace my battery. I will relish an iPod that doesn't shut off mid-song around 10:30 in the morning at work, but I'm not sure how I am going to make it through the day without it.

I listen to my iPod all day at work, with the help of a Battery Backup, just about every time I get in the car, and at home when I wash the dishes, clean house, cook and do just about anything that doesn't involve the TV. I don't even have a stereo, only my iPod.

So, please join me in prayer to the Apple gods and ask them to return my iPod as quickly as possible. And then one day, I will turn my iPod on at 8 a.m., and it will play continuously until 5 p.m. Nonstop music all day at work. What a day of rejoicing that will be.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Bones Church

The Chapel of All Saints become a skeletal repository in the 14th century after plague overburdened the cemetery. In 1870 a woodcarver arranged the bones into their current pattern, including a chandelier made of every bone in the human body. Once again you had to pay to take pictures, so I took pictures for the entire group and missed the information provided by our tour guide. So all I can tell you is what I pulled from a guidebook.

It was hard to get a good shot of the chandelier because there were windows on all sides of the ossuary allowing bright light through.

There was a lot of decoration above the chandelier as well.

There were four columns of skulls below the chandelier, each topped with an angel. Nice touch. The picture below is dark, but you can see the stacks of skulls topped with angles.

Yep, that's a coat of arms made out of bones. And behind it is a huge stack of bones. There were six such stacks of bones in the church.

Here is a picture inside a stack of bones. A little bit creepy.

And finally, the autograph of the designer. Year of design, name of designer and hometown. Signed in bones of course.
It sure looks like a normal church from the outside, doesn't it? It really was fascinating walking inside the church.

Which one is it?

Can someone explain the reason for different spellings for the Lebanon terrorist organization in American papers? In Newsweek it's Hizbullah. In the New York Times it's Hezbollah. I could understand different spellings between American media and international press, but this I just don't get. Anyone have an answer for me? The BBC and Al Jazeera use Hezbollah. But the Guardian in London uses Hizbullah. You would think the BBC and Guardian would be on the same page, and the Washington Post and NYT would be as well.

Airlines terror plot disrupted

From the BBC.

Police at Glasgow Airport

"A plot to blow up planes in flight from the UK to the US and commit "mass murder on an unimaginable scale" has been disrupted, Scotland Yard has said.

"It is thought the plan was to detonate explosive devices smuggled in hand luggage on to as many as 10 aircraft. ..Three US airlines are believed to have been targeted."

You never want something like this to happen, but because I was responsible for 10 people flying from Europe to the US last week, I'm glad we didn't have to deal with it.

From the DMN: " Hannah Pillinger, 24, seemed less concerned by the announcement. "Eight hours without an iPod, that's the most inconvenient thing," she said, waiting at the Manchester airport."

Airlines started enforcing new carry-on rules. All electronics and liquids were banned. Mothers with formula had to taste it in front of security. Everything had to be carried in a plastic bag handed out at the airport.

Enlarge this Image

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

More Praha

Prague at night. So gorgeous. I was only out at night to see everything illuminated our last night in Prague. I couldn't get enough of it. I wasn't the only one; the path along the river was lined with photographers and couples.

An interesting note about the flooding of 2002. The water was almost as high as the bridge. There were just a few inches between the top of the arch and the water levels. The city was able to set up mobile walls on the near side, Old Town, but not on the far side, resulting in the flooding.
So, adventure in Prague. We start out our day by visiting a monastery with gorgeous libraries. Like many places in Europe, you can't take pictures inside. We are on the the same side of the city as the Cathedral. We wander back in that general director to visit the National Gallery. We arrive and it is closed. Our guide is very upset because he called the travel agency he works with to confirm our day before it started. They told him everything was good to go. Museums in Prague are closed on Mondays, so he was a little upset. We decide to move up our day and visit Petrin Hill early.

Petrin Hill is topped with a 5:1 scale model of the Eiffel Tower and provides great views of the city. I assumed we would take funicular up the hill, but I was mistaken. We walked up the hill. It was pretty steep most of the way, and my poor father was having a difficult time. To give you some idea of the distance. The real Eiffel Tower could fit in the space between top of the replica Eiffel Tower and the bottom of the hill by the river. We were already partly up the hill when we started, but it still a lot of distance to cover.

We come to an intersection of paths. We can continue our own path, which appears not as steep, or take a hard right and start walking up steps. Jan (pronounced yawn), our guide, decides to take us off both paths, through the woods. A supposed shortcut. We're walking on a worn path, but it is still in the woods. And then we get to this part of the path:

We are seriously walking on the narrow path between the wall and the Downward Slope of Death. And this was a pretty stable portion of the path. Jan is way in front, and I'm near the back making sure my parents and other participants don't fall to their death. I'm wondering what Jan is thinking, but I'm too far back to do anything about it. Jan finally decides that we need to turn around after talking to some local. So we have to go back the way we came, which is as dangerous if not more. Everyone rests and gives Jan a hard time. The good news is that everyone except my parents loved the detour. One guy even said it was worth the cost of admission all by itself. How many people can say they climbed a mountain in the Czech Republic?

When we are walking up the hill using stairs, Jan points out a gate in the wall. There used to be one on the other side of the stairs, where we were walking. FYI: it's not there anymore.

We finally arrive at the top, where Jan informs us that we are at the top of the hill, but the lift is out in the Eiffel Tower, and you have to climb all 300 steps to the top. I'm not sure why he didn't mention this before the climbing began, but oh well. My parents sat in the shade and ate ice cream. Me and the rest of the group climbed the tower.

It's not identical, but it's a nice replica. It was built in 1891 for the Prague Exposition. Here are some of the views from the top of tower.

This is a view of the river without Charles Bridge. This was from the first patio, and you couldn't even see Charles Bridge.

This is the view with Charles Bridge. What a gorgeous city!

The old city wall or Hunger Wall.
All these pictures make you wonder why people like Prague so much. :-)

Central Dallas Ministries

Central Dallas Ministries is described as a human and community development corporation with a focus on economic and social justice at work in inner city Dallas, Texas. The CEO Larry James spoke at my university about the work his organization is doing, and they are really trying to make our community better by providing low-income housing and food for the poor, among other things.

His organization needs $100,000 by October 31, 2006 in order to pay the required acceptance fee to the State of Texas to receive a low-income, housing tax credit award, to keep their architects working on the City Walk @ Akard project and to pay down their food supply account at the North Texas Food Bank.

Check out his blog for more information.

I thought I'd take a break from talking about Europe and use this blog to express my opinion that Christians should be the first in line make the world a better place. Central Dallas Ministries is just one way you can do that. If you are like me, you don't have the money to make donations to all the great organizations out there. Some of us have money, some of us have time. One of the reasons I got involved with the United Way this year is because I don't have the expendable income to make a contribution to their organization. Instead, I'm going to fundraise on their behalf, and give the people that have extra money an opportunity to do something positive with it for our community.


I want you to see the contrast between the crowds at dusk and during the afternoon. It was so worth getting up at 4:15 a.m. to see Charles Bridge and Old Town Square without all the tourists. So peaceful and lovely.

Old Town Square was the same way. It rained the morning I was there, so I sat under an awning, and waited for the rain to pass. An Irish bum in dreadlocks invited me to walk to Ireland with him. I passed. Another bum said he recognized me from the market. Sure, whatever you say.

This angle of the Square doesn't look as crowded as it actually is. At all corners of the Square there is outdoor seating for restaurants. And people are constantly walking around, taking pictures, being tourists.

But isn't it gorgeous?

More pictures to come with stories. We had quite an adventure one day in Praha.

And seriously, why doesn't the actual post reflect the formatting when I write the post? Very annoying.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I've added pictures to some of my previous posts, so go check them out. I'll write more about Prague later.

Is there an easier and more efficient way to post pictures, blogger world? It always inserts them at the top of the page, and doesn't naturally include an extra line for text. I couldn't insert a caption after each picture because when I tried, it would sometimes delete a picture or do nothing.

Book Review

I read the Christopher Moore book on the flight from Paris to Houston. It was enjoyable, but not near as good as Lamb. The main character was from Texas, and he was employed by Mary Jean, or Mary Kay as we like to call her in Texas. I also listed to Ya-Yas in Bloom on the road. I think the previous Wells' novels were better. There were sections when I realized I had drifted off (from listening not driving) and wanted her to get back to the story and let go of the character. I guess character develpment isn't interesting when you are driving. And I've read the previous two books, so I was well versed on who was who in the Ya-Ya-verse.

I didn't read at all on the flight from Houston to Paris. Night flights to Europe are definitely the way to go. Especially if they are nowhere close to capacity like ours. I got a middle section of three seats all to myself. Perfect for laying down and sleeping. The flight back was crowded and daylight the entire flight. I watched two movies (Inside Man and V for Vendetta) and read the Moore book.


I have Heavenly Creatures (directed by Peter Jackson and Kate Winslet's film debut), The Killing Fields and No Man's Land at home to watch. Anyone have any comments about these movies?


How can you not like Neuschwanstein Castle?! The castle is at the top of a mountain, which you have to walk up to tour the castle. You can also walk uphill even more, and stand on a bridge for this view of the castle. It was a hot day, the wind was blowing, and I didn't want to leave. I could have stared at this castle for hours.

This is Linderhof Castle, another castle built for King Ludwig of Bavaria. He wanted it to look like Versailles, so it may look familiar to some of you. You had to pay to take pictures inside the castle, so I only have exterior shots.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Final Destination

Note: Long post with pictures.

I am home now. It's so nice to be back. James Blake is playing tennis on TV and pizza is on the way. Once I get home after a long drive, I never want to get out again. My drive home was interesting. I noticed that my car was slightly vibrating, but it stopped if I dropped below 65, so I lowered my speed and didn't worry about it much. It wasn't shaking badly like during my last Tour O' Texas when my tire almost exploded. But I drove in 114, where you have to slow down to at least 45 mph in all the towns along the way. When my speed dropped to about 55, my car started seriously shaking. So I stopped at a service shop. The guy felt my tires, and told me the tread was separated, and I was lucky it hadn't come apart while I was driving. He didn't have the tire, but he made a call to find a tire for me, then drove his motorcycle home to get his truck so he could pick up the tire and put it on my car. Gotta love the customer service in small Texas towns. So I'm off, driving about 74 in 70, when I pass a state tropper going the opposite direction, and he starts flashing his lights and pulls me over. Lifetime Police Pullovers: Four; Lifetime Tickets Issued: Zero. I was going to be pretty pissed if I got a ticket for going four miles over the speed limit.

So, back to Europe.

We had to catch a 6:45 a.m. train from Munich to Prague. It was one of those trains that splits somewhere along the way, with the front half going to one destination, and the second half going to Prague. We got on the right half. We arrived in Prague in the early afternoon, so we toured the Prague Castle.

This is the Cathedral, the highlight of the Castle. I didn't get to climb the tower because we had a few more sights to see before closing time. The pictures I took of the cathedral the day we visited did not turn out well because it was a rainy and overcast day. It started to rain while we were exploring the castle, so we had dinner early. It was delicious. Not very Czech - just chicken and rice - but it was delicious. The next day we toured the Jewish area, Josefov. We visited three or four synagogues and the Jewish Cementary. Most of the synagogues were musuems, but one had the names of all the Czech Jews that died during the genocide. One of the ladies in our group found the name of a man that was related to personal friends of her family. Our guide convinced the lady supervising tourists to let her take a picture of the name to take back to her friends. The same synagogue had a marker indicating the water level during the 2002 flood, the reason I wasn't able to visit Prague during my backpacking trip of 2002.

Graves were dug above graves to make room for all the bodies in the Jewish Cemetary. There were some American Jews praying over one of the graves. There were rocking and reading from their books. It was an interesting sight.

According to my pedometer, I walked 17.65 miles this day, the most miles I walked in a day for the entire trip.

I got up the next morning at 4:15 to watch the sunrise from Charles Bridge. It was just under a mile from our hotel to the bridge, so I ran to the bridge when it was still dark. I realized during my run that it was very cloudy, and there was no sign of a sunrise. I got some good pictures while it was still dark. Completely empty. It was great!

I'm done posting for the day, even though I have more to tell. I'm getting very annoyed that every time I insert a picture, it inserts it at the top of the blog and I have to gradually move it down the page to get the formatting I want. The last two pictures I inserted without formatting, thinking maybe that would be easier, but it wasn't. I'll try something different tomorrow. Blogging is still new to me.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Back in the States

I'm back. I'll post more later when I am back in West Texas and can post pictures. Prague was great. The "Bones Church" in Khutna Hora was fascinating. I have lots of pictures. Our hotel had air conditioning. More details to come.