Thursday, August 16, 2012

Top Gun

I have something to report: I have finally watched Top Gun for the first time in my entire life. I know, I know, it's shameful. Somehow, I missed a significant number of classic movies during my formative childhood years, including Jurassic Park, Sandlot, The Matrix, and Harry Potter. I watched Jurassic Park for the first time in the past year, but I have yet to see the others. *dodges rocks* Ahem - in any case...

To be perfectly honest, before last night I knew very little about the movie besides the fact that it involved Tom Cruise and really fast planes. I attended a movie star costume party while I was in England, and one man came dressed in the flight suit and aviators. I thought he was dressed as a janitor. I only figured out my mistake by seeing the same costume in a package labeled "Top Gun" somewhere else, and my response was, "oh, is THAT what that was?" *facepalm*

Moving on....
Top Gun was pretty awesome, I do have to say. Tom Cruise was amazingly attractive back then, and I'm still trying to figure out what happened between then and now. Was it his nose? His teeth? Did he get in a fist fight and just never recover? Help me out here...

Bottom line: I can see why it is a classic and why engineers love it. It earned a thumbs up from me as well!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Move In!

Today I move in to my new apartment!! I'm very excited to be starting this next phase in my life, with ONE roommate only. We grabbed our keys this morning and sauntered over to take a first peek. We had been warned that there was new carpet going in, but that the workers were probably finished. We arrived to find about seven men attacking our apartment with paintbrushes, new carpet, new blinds, and several other things I'm sure. I'm grateful to know that our carpet will be brand new, as well as our door trim, and that the apartment managers pay attention to detail. My last experience was dominated by a rather large lack of attention to detail, so the future is looking better. Onward and upward!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Austin Photo Shoot

Last weekend, one of my friends from church mentioned that he was looking for photography models later in the afternoon. He is apprenticing with a professional photographer, and he wanted a chance to practice his model-posing skills. If you know anything about my personality, you know that I rarely pass up a chance to be in front of a camera lens. So, we headed out to a scenic shopping venue place in Austin. He came armed with an internet site on his smartphone containing sketches of pretty female poses. We would consult the sketches, pick one to try, play around with the pose until we hit on something we liked, then move to the next one. In previous photoshoots with other photographers, I have not been able to see the pictures until there is a major break in the shooting. In this case, my friend would let me take a look every couple of pictures, so I was able to make improvements in my pose right away. What follows are my personal favorites from the shoot - thanks goes to my friend for the free photoshoot and the permission to post these!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


I have officially moved out of my house! I had to make a mad dash across town with refrigerator and freezer items to try to avoid a mushy pile of thawed fruit on the passenger seat of my car, but I successfully deposited all my cold items in another refrigerator.

I am staying with some friends of mine (a married couple) from my undergraduate days while I wait to move into my new apartment on August 15th. I greatly enjoy their company, but there is one thing in particular that I am extremely excited about.

Their guest bathroom.

Is purple!!

My favorite color happens to coincide with the wife's favorite color, and that would be...purple. Deep purple, in fact, but any shade of purple works. Thus, she has painted some of the guest bathroom walls a beautiful, dark, rich, shade of purple, and the shower curtain is an intricate, royal pattern of purple, white, and silver. Even the Kleenex box on the back of the toilet is lavender.

Aside from the bathroom, the guest BEDROOM is also decorated in purple. Lavender blankets, purple pillows...

I am in heaven.

Oh, and just to top it off, her duster for the house has purple and white feathers. Suffice it to say, we get along well.

Monday, July 30, 2012

1000 pieces? Feels more like 1 million pieces!

This past year has been a lesson in flexibility, adaptability, and logistical dexterity. A friend even made the comment that my challenges have rivaled wedding plans in complexity! I'm not sure I would go quite that far, but he had a good point... Having six different people pass through a house in one year makes for more drama than I anticipated. As much as I tried, I learned that I would eventually be caught up in their personal drama to some extent at some point. It is inevitable when you have roommates. Thus, roommates can be a blessing, but it is also a challenge to interact with them all without conflict. They each have their individual joys and quirks. Putting us all together created a kaleidescope of personalities that was beautiful at times, fractured at others, but always constantly changing. I am glad to have lived with them all. However, as much as I love puzzles, I will also be glad to have a little less complication in my life this next year!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Packing, packing...

Today, the agenda is to pack. I have until the end of the month to get my stuff out of the house that I currently renting, but my new apartment will not be ready to move into until August 15th. Fortunately, my roommate has rented a storage unit for all of our stuff, so I have been moving my things out in small bits and pieces. However, with only 1.5 weeks left, I really cannot use the excuse of "well, I'm still going to need these things" anymore. How many pieces of clothing does one really need for 10 days? Or pairs of shoes, for that matter... ("but the shoes make the outfit!" my conscience cries).

I have successfully packed up all of my kitchen items, and now I going to tackle the odds and ends I have left in my room. On my top shelf there is a bottle of rum sitting next to a large bottle of Rain-X for my car. I have run out of "like" items, so now I have no choice but to squelch the organizer bug in me and start tossing things in boxes. Wish me luck...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"Deep tissue" is putting it nicely

I recently bought a Groupon for two 30-minute massages at a local spa here in Austin. I used to get absolutely wonderful massages from a lady in Cambridge, England. She had a knack for getting the kinks of of my back after I had been sitting hunched over for long periods of time to either a) revise or b) write my Masters thesis. There are two types of massages that spas commonly offer: Swedish and Deep Tissue. I've had a Swedish massage before, which was nice but not quite as firm as I wanted. I'd always read that the deep tissue massage was supposed to really loosen muscles up, so I opted for that one.

I arrived to a reception area filled with peaceful, water-themed music. My first thought was, "how in the world does the receptionist stay awake??" And no trace of caffeine-laden drinks anywhere! Oh right - this is a healthy establishment. Excuse me while I go place my to-go tea container in the trash...

When my masseuse came to meet me, she politely inquired, "have you ever had a deep tissue massage before?" I was unsure, but I assured her that I had been to a massage therapist for loosening muscles before. She smiled and replied, "Ah, then you know it's pretty intense." Sure....?

 She wasn't kidding.

She found every single tight point on my back and pushed on it - hard. I had no idea that fingers and thumbs could produce that kind of pressure (and pain)! My father used to have a spring-loaded clamp at his desk that he would squeeze to strengthen his hands (usually while he was on the phone) - she probably had one of her own hiding in the back drawer. Several times I had to remind myself to breathe, and I thought for sure that my back was refusing to relax. I thought, "I'm going to go through all this and then have nothing to show for it!" However, by the end of the massage, I could tell that her strokes were beginning to be less painful. 

As she finished, she made the comment, "you took that like a trooper!" I felt rather pleased with myself, but then got taken down a few pegs when I almost couldn't open the door. My muscles are as sore as if I did a difficult back workout - if only that was the reason, right?
I feel slightly looser, but I have yet to see if the pain was worth it. I think the deep tissue massage would be most beneficial if done regularly, so that my back doesn't kink up past recognition between visits. I would recommend this type of massage if you have tight muscles, but be forewarned - the feel-good part only comes afterward, because the deep tissue massage means business!

Name that voice

I'm sitting behind someone in the coffee shop who sounds exactly like Joyce Meyer (well-known Christian speaker). I don't even know if it's a girl or a guy, because I'm too scared to turn 180 degrees around to look. Coffee shops are notorious for overhearing random things, and this one is no exception!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

International Saturday

I'm currently wearing a purple Jane Norman dress that I bought in England, drinking coffee (for the first time since MONDAY) out of my San Francisco coffee mug, and planning on going to a Texas state history museum later today. In addition, I just received an email from a Chinese friend here in Austin, inviting me to a Moon Festival in September. I feel like I'm touching several parts of the world at once!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Board Games

It's been altogether too long since I last posted. When your 16-year-old brother points that you've dropped the ball, you know you probably have...

As a quick update - I passed my qualifying exams for my PhD program the first time around, my research is rolling along, I play lots of board games with friends, and I managed to muddle through the longest dating relationship I have been in so far in my life: 2.5 months. Recently, we mutually decided that we weren't a great match for each other. I suspected that would be the case the moment I saw his three shelves of Star Wars books (I'm a mild to severe Trekkie), but I suspect he had other reasons as well.

Speaking of board games, I have identified what I think is a key factor in determining whether a certain board game will appeal to a given person: the balance of luck vs. skill.

All Luck:
War is a game completely based on luck. There is absolutely no way that you can change how your cards play out. Trouble is another game that depends solely on luck. 

All Skill:
On the other side of the spectrum, chess and checkers depend completely on skill. If you can be good enough at strategy and possibly anticipate the moves of your opponent, then you are guaranteed to win. I suppose you could make an argument that 52 Pickup also falls under this category, but I've never known anyone that has made it their life goal to be a 52 Pickup champion.

Mostly Luck, Small Amount of Skill:
This category would include games such as Life, Egyptian War (also known as Egyptian Ratscrew). Fun when you're young or when you need to teach a large group of people a new game quickly. Apples to Apples I think would probably go here, unless you're one of those who like to "read people" and "figure out their styles." I personally think that's expending too much effort, but then again engineers are not normally known for being interested in "reading people."

About an equal amount of luck and skill:
These are my favorite types of games. There is a significant amount of skill involved, but the skill comes in being able to play well with the random hand you were dealt. For example: Spades. Or, the domino equivalent of Spades called either Moon or 42, depending on whether you live in College Station or not. The friends that I play board games with most often have a game called Joker, which is a combination of Sorry and Trouble. The concept is to get the five colored marbles belonging to each member of a team out of the starting position, around the board, and into the home location before the opposing team does. There are two teams and either two or three players to a team. The number of spaces that you can move is dictated by the cards in your hand. Each player has five cards in their hand, so every turn he or she has five different moves to choose from. If you land on an opposing team member's marble, they return to the start. If you land on your OWN team member's marble, they go to right outside their home space. Once a player has all of their marbles in the home position, they are able to play on behalf of their other team members. I love this type of game because the cards are dealt from a communal pile, so the challenge is to subtly play those random cards in the most skillful way possible - not only for your own benefit, but also for the benefit of your entire team.

Also on this list can be trivia games that are not too difficult and include the ability to work the game in your favor - Bezzerwizzer is one I've recently been introduced to. Rummikub, Phase 10, Scrabble, and Monopoly could be included as well, but depending on how long you've played some of those they could shift into the next category.

Mostly skill with a small amount of luck:
Settlers of Catan. Enough said.

No, but really, Settlers is also a game that my friends LOVE to play. I'm not such a huge fan, simply because the only luck is in one roll of the dice per turn that dictates how many resources everyone receives. However, each player gets to strategically choose which resources they will receive before the game even starts! And to cap it all, the players can bargain with each other and trade cards after the dice roll. So, in my opinion, this game is almost entirely skill.
I think Trivial Pursuit would go here (at least for me). Finally, Axis and Allies (more complicated and much improved version of Risk) also requires IMMENSE skill. Dice rolls determine the fate of battles, but if you've planned well you can sometimes recover from a pummeling. Particularly if you've taken Russia down early (don't ask me how I know that).

What is your favorite type of board game? Do you agree/disagree with my categorizations?