frogg files

"She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick." --Flannery O' Connor

Friday, March 30, 2007

It's Hot Today...

... and I am not talking about the weather!

Although, the weather is quite pleasantly warm.

No, I am talking about the fact that the Griffith Park/Hollywood hills less than five miles from my office are on fire. Like, HUGELY on fire.

I was out walking for lunch with a co-worker, when we noticed the smoke going up on the other side of the mountain. The smoke got worse, and soon I could see ash falling here and there, while the light took on a peculiar reddish cast as the smoke got in front of the sun. I'm back in the office now, and my hair still smells like smoke.

When we got back to work, everyone was in the corner office, which has a great view right over the Warner Bros. backlot... all the way to the hills, which, as I said, are on fire. Smoke is billowing in biblical proportions!

Here are some pics, courtesy of a co-worker. These were taken from the corner office about 45 minutes ago (it's still going pretty strong):








Also check out the LA Times website or NBC 4. Right now there is live video coverage.

Further bulletins as events warrant! So far, I'm safe... I think!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I Kill Me Sometimes

The haunting specter of my soon-to-be backpacking adventure has been looming over me, in a Casper-the-friendly-Ghost kind of way, gently reminding me that I really should start exercising now (as in, immediately), or I'll be sorry later (as in, next month when I am trudging and gasping my way along the trail in Kauai and kicking myself for not getting into shape when I had the chance).

Hmmm, maybe I should call him Casper the friendly Coach.

Anyway, I must have been under the spirit's influence this past weekend when I made the decision to walk not once, but TWICE around the Rose Bowl, because that was sheer insanity. A single lap around the Rose Bowl is three miles, so two laps are (hang on, let the English major get out her calculator)... SIX whole miles!

Naturally, things went wrong.

The first lap went fine, and that was actually the beginning of my trouble. See, if it had been miserable, I'd have quit before I started the second lap, and thus saved myself the suffering that awaited me. But no. I was lulled into a false sense of "Oh, this isn't so bad" by the fact that it wasn't so bad. And I embarked on round two.

I hadn't gone far when my left foot began to hurt.

Specifically, it felt as though I had a hangnail, or a sharp pebble, sticking into my toes. I'd stop every now and then to shake my foot and readjust my shoe, but the pain wouldn't go away. For those of you wondering why I didn't take off my shoe to better assess the situation, well, there's a perfectly good answer to your question, and it goes like this: I am lazy.

Are you satisfied? Then I'll continue.

So I was still a fair distance away from the car, when I had to stop again. This time, when I looked down at my feet, I noticed something weird about my right shoe. Keep in mind that my right foot was not the one in pain. I saw a red stain on the material close to the front of the shoe.

That's odd, I thought. I don't remember my shoe having red trim... wait a second.

Agh! It was BLOOD!!!

I straightened up and looked around. I was at least 3/4 of a mile from the car. Great, I thought. My foot is bleeding enough to actually soak through my sock all the way to my shoe, and I have to keep on walking. Perfect.

But what really annoyed me was the fact that my bleeding foot didn't even hurt. The other, completely NOT bleeding foot, however, was getting more painful by the second. Talk about typical.

Finally, I made it back to the car, where I took off my headphones in preparation for opening the car door, sitting down, and taking off my bloody shoe... at which point I discovered that my necklace, in utter defiance of every known law of physics, had succeeded in entangling itself with the wire of my headphones. I actually had to take the necklace off in order to get free of the headphones, and that's when I saw that the necklace had a knot in it.

How it got a knot in it when it was around my neck the entire time is beyond even my admittedly astounding mental powers, so you probably shouldn't even bother trying to figure it out.

Anyway, I spent the next few minutes muttering to myself and trying to sort out the necklace from the headphones, all the while wondering how horrible my foot would look when I took off my shoe. I was not pleased at having to delay my investigation due to my stupid necklace (or my talented necklace, depending on your point of view).

Finally, finally, I was ready to examine my foot. I pulled off the shoe and sock, and just as I had suspected—remember, formidable mental powers!—there was a lot of blood.

What I failed to find was the gaping hole in my foot that would have accounted for the amount of blood.

Instead I found a small—one might even say, tiny—cut on the side of my second toe, a cut which was made by my third toe's nail. A cut that was barely visible once I'd wiped the blood away. Talk about adding insult to injury.

Or, talk about anti-climactic. Take your pick.

As I drove home, I thought that my Rose Bowl experience does not bode well for my backpacking adventure. However, it didn't exactly surprise me; after all, it was pretty much in line with my past backpacking experiences, which have been fraught with ill-fitting shoes, sore legs, horrendous blisters, bruised toenails (three) that eventually fell off, and tears.

*sigh*

All right, Casper, what can I say... Just bring it on.

Friday, March 23, 2007

News Flash! I Might Have Been Wrong

And believe me, you won't hear me say THAT very often.

Anyway, I was re-reading my Starbucks rant of a couple days ago, when I realized something... "alto" in Spanish actually does mean "tall." I had thought it meant "stop" because it shows up on stop signs. I mean, that seemed a logical assumption to make, considering. But I doublechecked with the oracle (i.e., my handy-dandy translation widget), and "stop" in Spanish is apparently "parada." Which I guess was too long to fit on a stop sign.

I am so confused right now.

If there are any Spanish speakers out there (and I don't mean people who took tres years in high school and then forgot everything they learned, like me), I hope you'll help me sort out this mystery. But if not, I don't really care. I still think Starbucks should use just one language for their cup sizes. It would make my life so much less perplexing, and the less perplexed I am, the better off we'll all be.

Also, I think Starbucks shouldn't waste time patting themselves on their supposedly environment-loving back for using recycled-content cups, and then not putting actual recycling cans (instead of just trash cans) in their stores.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Language Lessons

Today has been just absolutely fraught with gloom from start to finish. So much for California sunshine.

In other news, I am once again at one of the local Starbucks—there are, naturally, more than one—where tonight I am sipping on a small ('scuse me, I mean tall) cup of liquid dirt. Why do I come here? Why?

The mysteries of the universe never stop abounding.

Speaking of which, why is Starbucks' method of naming the sizes of their cups so weird? My "tall" cup is not tall. In fact, it looks pretty much the opposite of tall to me, which, translated, would be "short." And if they are going to label the other two sizes with frou-frou Italian names (what, is English not good enough for a company based in the last-I-checked-English-speaking Pacific Northwest?), why can't "tall" also be in Italian? Why did "tall" get the short end of the naming stick?

Let's investigate, shall we? After all, I have nothing else to do tonight. (In this context, "nothing to do" translates into "I have an enormous amount of homework hanging over my head about which I am in fervent denial.")

First things first: It seems to me we've got to figure out what the Italian word is for "tall." Does anyone know what "tall" in Italian is? Hang on a sec, I'll just consult my handy-dandy translation widget...

*hold music of your choice plays here*

The word in Italian for "tall" is "Alto." Well, that seems harmless enough. Not catchy, exactly. Still, it could be worse.

But now let's think about this. If memory serves me correctly, "alto" in Spanish means "stop." Probably more people in the States know Spanish than Italian—at least, I'm sure that's the case in my state. So that would be funny if they had a cup size that basically suggested to a fair amount of customers that maybe you should not be drinking whatever beverage you were planning to fill it with. I can see why Starbucks went with the plain old English "tall."

That still doesn't explain why they couldn't use the same language (i.e., English) for all of their cups.

I feel like asking one of the baristas (translation: "Starbucks workers"), but the line has gotten long and I doubt they would welcome my investigative probing. So I'll just mull the problem over in my mind as I sip conscientiously on my cup of coffee-that-wishes-it-were-a-rich-soil-compound (translation: Cafe Verona).

NB: In Italian, "Verona" means "Verona." In English, however, "Verona" means "the location of many tragic deaths according to a playwright who may or may not really have been named Shakespeare and who had a penchant for littering theatre stages with dead bodies at the end of most of his third acts." Just in case you were wondering.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Life... It Just Keeps Going, And Going...

Not that I'm complaining about that, of course. I much prefer it to the alternative.

Anyway, the point being, lots going on in the frogg's life. First and most excitingly, it's official... I am going to Kauai next month! Woo-hoo!!

Today, in the spirit of getting into shape for the backpacking adventure that will be the primary feature of my Hawaiian vacation, I went for a walk in the hills behind my house. I did not carry a pack. Still, I was out of breath faster than you could say... well, anything really. (I personally wouldn't have bothered to try, because I needed all the oxygen I could get.)

Now, the trail I walked this morning is not terribly strenuous. The Na Pali Cliffs backpacking trail in Kauai, on the other hand, is rated something like a 9 on the Sierra Club's scale of difficulty. I'd like to think that the scale is between 1 and 1000, with 1000 being "pretty darn difficult" and 9 therefore being "less work than the hills behind my house!" but I have a feeling I'm not that lucky.

I am a little nervous now.

In other news, I am almost finished my first semester in the creative writing program. I'll have about a month off, and then it's back to the bluegrass state for 10 fun-filled days of writing, talking about writing, listening to other people talking about writing, listening to people read their writing, and amidst all that, trying to find time to sneak some piano practice on the incredibly out-of-tune piano I discovered in one of the campus buildings last time.

Oh, and speaking of piano, I am finally ready to start on the third movement of Beethoven's everlasting 6th sonata. I mean hey, it's only been what, almost a year that I've been working on it?! Sheesh. The first movement is nearly memorized, the second is not but I have it's four pages well in hand, no worries... and the third is going to be "so fun!" as my teacher said yesterday. "You'll love it!" I looked at the page rather grimly when she said that. It didn't look fun. It looked hard. And, on the recording that I have of Rudolf Serkin performing it, it sounds even harder.

Sigh... may as well start it today, I suppose.

Right after I recover from my walking exertions by sitting in the sun and doing nothing for awhile. Priorities, priorities...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Seek Justice

On Saturday night, I attended the International Justice Mission's Benefit Dinner in Los Angeles. I have not been able to stop thinking about it since. I am not the sort of person to jump without reservation on a "cause bandwagon" but I am going to unabashedly plug IJM today, because I absolutely believe in the importance—and necessity—of the work in which they are engaged.

To put it as simply as possible. IJM is an organization that fights to free people from slavery. (And for those of you who think slavery ended with the Civil War in the United States, I have some bad news: it didn't.) In the non-profit organization's own words, "International Justice Mission is a human rights agency that rescues victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery, and oppression."

I think we can all agree that's a good cause, right?

But IJM does not stop only at rescuing people. As I learned from the presentation on Saturday night, they also seek justice on behalf of victims. That means bringing charges against the victims' oppressors whenever possible, to hold them accountable for their crimes.

That determination to make sure perpetrators receive just punishment is one of the reasons I decided to support this group. Another reason is the fact that many of those who are rescued by IJM are young girls and women who have been sold or kidnapped into the worst kind of slavery imaginable: sexual slavery. I read an article not too long ago on CNN, about a 6-year-old girl named Srey sold by her family into a brothel. Look at this quote:

"Passed from man to man, often drugged to make her compliant, Srey was a commodity at the heart of a massive, multimillion-dollar sex industry in Phnom Penh, Cambodia."

Believe me when I say that Srey does not represent a horrible exception to the rule in places like Cambodia, Thailand, and many other countries. I saw first-hand on my travels in Thailand several years ago the prevalence of the sex trade. In Pattaya, for example, where I stayed for several days, there is no red-light "district"—unless by "district" you mean "pretty much the whole city."

Abuses like slavery and sexual exploitation of any kind should not be tolerated, but when helpless children are the victims... there is nothing more reprehensible. This has to stop. Period.

I know the problem seems overwhelming. But Sharon Cohn, one of the speakers at the Benefit Dinner and Senior VP of Interventions for IJM, pointed out that even if we help just one person at a time, the cumulative effect can make for a lasting change. As more people are brought to justice for their crimes, as laws are upheld and applied more consistently, others will perhaps think twice before committing the same sins. And the bottom line is, if it's not profitable, people will stop doing it.

I hope you'll consider supporting the International Justice Mission. If you want to know more about what they do, go to their Web site and read some of their case stories. They also have a page where you can find links to articles written about them in the news media. To find out how they allocate funds, check out their standing as a charitable organization at give.org or review their financial information here.

Thanks for listening.

Note: Opinions, etc., expressed above are mine alone. International Justice Mission should not be held responsible for any of them. Also, they did not ask me to ask you for your support. That was my idea. If you don't give anything, it's not like I'll hate you or stop being your friend. Just think about it, OK? That's all I'm really asking.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Time for Some More Frogg Awards

Been awhile since I've handed any of these out, so with no ado whatsoever, here are three new awards for your enjoyment. Please hold your applause until the end!

Let's start with the Frogg Award for Worst Name For A Bus Tour:

Blood & Dumplings Crime Bus Tour

One word: Yuck.

I was alerted to the existence of this tour by a co-worker. She sent me the link via IM this morning, and when I asked her how she heard of it, she said she's on a new mailing list and that's what they sent out today. That begs a lot of questions, but I'm not sure I want to ask them.

So let's move on.

The Frogg Award for Best Headline of the Day goes to this story on Yahoo!. For those of you too lazy to click on the link, it reads:

"Hole in Pyjamas Reveals Internet Plagiarism"

Now tell me that's not an article you want to read.

Finally, last but most definitely far from least, let's have a big drum roll please for the Frogg's You've-Seriously-Got-To-Be-Kidding-Me Award, which goes to Newt Gingrich! During a radio interview with conservative Christian leader Dr. James Dobson, Gingrich admitted that while he was in the middle of the Clinton impeachment process, he himself was doing a little extramarital wandering of his own.

He pointed out that he wasn't proud of it, which makes me laugh. Who would be, honestly? How many people would raise their hands and say, "I am so proud of the fact that I cheated on my wife/husband while championing the cause of family values!"? Give me a break, Newt. Of course you're not proud of it. There's nothing to be proud of.

My favorite part of the article is where Gingrich talks about how he hasn't decided whether or not to run for president. I wonder if the Christian Right will like him more than Guiliani? After all, Gingrich also has a couple divorces, uh, under his belt. But maybe the fact that he has now confessed his sins to Dr. James Dobson will absolve him of the guilt.

Well, that wraps it up for this episode of the Frogg Awards. Thanks for tuning in! I'm sure there'll be a next time, and I hope you'll be there to see it. Until then, folks, be nice, play safe, and kiss a frog for me! (Oh, and If he turns out to be a prince, please send him my way!)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

And Now the News...

Sitting at the local Starbucks (shame on me!) trying to get motivated to write. It's a challenge at the best of times, but even more so when the stupid A/C vent right above my head is blasting air that seems to have been imported directly from the Arctic Circle.

And before you ask, "Why don't you just move to another table" and I give you my death-stare for the implication that I wouldn't already have thought of it, let me assure you that I have thought of it, but the ones in warm zones are taken. Big surprise.

Brrrrrr.

Well, if I don't succumb to hypothermia, I will hopefully finish one of my short stories tonight. Please oh please.

In other news, I'll be attending a benefit dinner on Saturday night for the International Justice Mission, an organization that fights against the sex-slave industry. Will let you know how it goes...

In still other news, also along the worthy-cause line, some of my creative writing appears in a booklet called 30 Days of Prayer for the Voiceless. The booklet is designed to raise awareness of gender-based injustice issues and get people praying about them, and hopefully taking steps to act for change. Hope you'll check out the link and then, if you have any questions about this project, please feel free to contact me.

And last but not least, remind me to never again order a cinnamon dolce latte with sugar-free syrup. Yuck. Sometimes flavor is worth the extra calories.

That's a tip, kids. Write it down.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Letter To The Christian Right

Dear Christian Right,

How are you today? I thought I'd drop you a line, seeing as how I heard that one of your peeps brought up Guiliani's divorces as a potential problem in the presidential race of 2008. You know, being an issue of character and all. While I agree that divorce is a painful travesty, I was kind of wondering what you might think about someone who lies? A lot? Or obstructs justice? Or institutes an illegal wire-tapping program? Or enacts laws that unapologetically chip away at civil liberties? Or starts a pre-emptive war? Or whose administration seems continually plagued by scandal and incompetency in a rather alarming degree?

Just curious.

Sincerely,

grackyfrogg

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

In Case You Were Wondering

I suppose, as a Christian, I should make some mention of the controversy surrounding the recently re-discovered alleged Lost Tomb of Jesus and discuss What It Means To Me and My Faith.

Luckily for all of you, I can make this really short: so far, NOTHING.

Whew, glad I got that out of the way.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

To Hike, or Not to Hike?

A friend invited me to join her and another girl on a backpacking trip in Kauai in April... I must say I'm very tempted.

Not that my experience in backpacking is anything to speak of, at least not without hysterical laughter. I always seem to do or wear all the wrong things when camping. In new zealand, for example, I went backpacking for the first time in my life... I had ill-fitting shoes, the wrong kind of pack, I was out of shape. I remember being on part of the Abel Tasman track (the part that hardly anyone ever does, as it turns out, because it's straight UP and you practically need a machete to hack your way through the bush), and I nearly burst into tears as I tried to put on my hiking shoes one morning, because of all the blisters i had on my feet (thanks to the fact that the shoes were too new, and too tight).

Then there was my second try on the Abel Tasman about a year later, this time on the popular coastal section. Once again I got blisters from my shoes (trail runners this time), so I wore flip-flops instead (jandals, as they are mysteriously called by kiwis). In case anyone has doubts about whether or not flip-flops are ideal for hiking while wearing a heavy pack on your back, let me assure you that they are not. Also, it rained while we were on the trail. Ask me if I had any waterproof clothes.

You can probably guess the answer.

Then of course, there was the tent that we had borrowed but hadn't tested before hitting the trail. The first night we set it up, we realized it must have been bundled away still wet about, oh, a hundred years ago. It reeked of mold, to the point where we wondered if sleeping outside would really be all that bad—even though the nights were more than a little cold.

All this to say, I am not sure if I am really cut out for backpacking on Kauai. On the other hand, I bet it would make for yet another good what-not-to-do-while-hiking story to add to my ever-growing list...

Friday, March 02, 2007

Huh?

So let me get this straight.

The Associated Press recently decided internally to call a ban on publishing any news about Paris Hilton for one whole week. Nothing much happens during that week, which makes it easy not to publish anything about her. Then, when the ban is over, they write an article explaining their nefarious scheme (oh those rebels at the AP!), patting themselves on the back for an experiment that had no repercussions whatsoever, and proved aboslutely nothing about anything.

In doing so, of course, they brought even more attention to Ms Hilton by the fact that they felt the need to explain (in kind of a lot of words) why they didn't want to bring attention to her.

Wow.

Favorite quote:

There was some internal hand-wringing. Some felt we were tinkering dangerously with the news.

I would laugh about it, if I weren't just a little depressed.

What Am I, Crazy??

The other day, I called up the cowgirl.

"Hey," I said. "Want to do a half-marathon with me?"

"Sure," she said.

So we are doing the Nike Women's Half-Marathon in October. Yee-ha!

This is the same half-marathon I did a couple years ago in San Francisco, but I am hoping that I will not take the same approach to training as I did back then: an approach which consisted entirely of telling myself over and over that I really needed to start training soon—right up until the day of the event.

That didn't work so well. I ran the half-marathon in close to the same amount of time that one of my co-workers ran the Chicago full marathon. Granted, he is an experienced runner, and weighs about half of what I do. But still.

So, this year, I would like to improve my finishing time. At least a little bit.

But more than that, I just hope I don't end up eating the cowgirl's dust.