Monday, June 27, 2005

Some pictures from this weekend...

Me and Maria in the living room.

After-dinner relaxation under the mimosa tree. In the picture are Maria, JoLauna (my sister-in-law), Geneva, Johnathan (Geneva's brother), my mom and dad, Leigha (Geneva's sister), our friends Carolyn and Chris, and my brother Joe.

Maria and Geneva playing with Geneva's cat, "Tangles." (Also available on

Geneva sampling the strawberry glaze (it got rave reviews).

Well, this weekend was most awesome. Maria came down on Friday night and spent the night at West Grace Street. Saturday morning we got coffee at the place on Cary Street and headed sixty miles west to Buckingham. We were "officially" celebrating our friend Chris Tabilloux's birthday. Since we usually have a summer party, this kind of took the place of it. Joe and JoLauna came with Leigha, Jonathan, and Geneva, who was naturally very happy to see Maria. In fact, Maria didn't get to talk much with Joe, JoLauna, Chris, or his wife Carolyn, because Geneva had a monopoly on her attentions. We had dinner outside underneath the mimosa tree and after everyone left Maria and I went on a little walk down the driveway and back.
On Sunday, we went to lunch at Yogaville. I don't remember if I've talked about Yogaville on here or not; it's kind of a Hindu-commune-meets-Las-Vegas, as my brother Joe has described it (they use lots of big neon lights in their main shrine). Basically, it's Hindu Lite; they use all the big Sanskrit names and prayers and stuff but most of the people there have no clue about Hindu theology or anything. They call their..."discipline" Hatha Yoga, but mainly it's sort of a hippy-dippy new age place for people who toked up a bit too much in their youth and need a place to stay safely secure against the modern world in their foolish youthful ideas.
However, they usually have really nice meals (vegetarian, of course, which is why I thought Maria would like it). She got to meet my old piano teacher, Mataji. Mataji is a practicing Catholic Nun who obtained special permission to live and teach and worship at Yogaville. She was ordained as a swami (Hindu priest) some time ago, so she is involved with two very different spiritual disciplines. She's a wonderful lady--very kind and gentle, and an excellent teacher. It's hard to believe she's in her late seventies sometimes. Anyways, we had a nice lunch and then went home for a walk in the woods behind my house.
Naturally it took Maria and me a long time to get ready to go, so we got to Richmond for dinner pretty late in the evening. It always makes me feel a little sad to watch her go, even though we manage to see each other just about every weekend.
[insert insipid rambling here]
At any rate, it was a wonderful time. I'm glad she got to meet everyone, and she's talking about how she'd like to come down again. She does have to meet my nephew at some point, anyway...

(There'll be pictures at some point, as soon as I transfer them to my laptop.)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Last night I watched The Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise (as himself--he doesn't know how to play anyone else). Technically, he plays a world-weary U.S. Army Captain who is hired to train Japanese army troops in putting down a samurai rebellion. Fate steps in, however, and he is capture by samurai warriors. Stockholm Syndrome sets in, Tommy Boy becomes enamored of his captors and their pure, warrior, naturalistic ideology (*cough*). Apart from a scene involving ninjas and the final battle near the end of the movie, though, it was a pretty dreary film. It was chock-full of the condemnations of 19th Century America that one can pretty much expect from Hollywood these days. For example:

Cute-looking Japanese Kid: Will you fight white men?
Tom Cruise: Yes.
Kid: Why?
Tom Cruise: Because they have come to destroy what I have come to love.

Ah, yes, those insiduous honkies. As soon as they find anything beautiful, it's Zippo time! Because God knows there's a Lt. Calley inside every white man just waiting to get out. Those sensitive and good-hearted Indians, on the other hand, only want your scalp as a token of your goodwill. And don't get me started on Japanese ritual suicide.

The villain in the movie, Cruise's former commander (who once massacared an Indian village--probably Cruise had come to love it as well), asks a very good question that gets lost in the pretentious and empty end of the film: "Just tell me one thing, what is it about your own people you hate so much?" The only white men we see Cruise have any affinity for are his Irish sergeant and a British photograper. (Granted, there are a dearth of white people in the film). Cruise, however, seems to be literally only play-acting the part of a Civil War-hero American Captain, and he doesn't do it especially well. Most American cavalrymen were probably not the diary-writing, introspective, sensitive, metrosexual type of enlightened trooper that Cruise is supposed to portray. And I seriously doubt that any of them would have ended up having philosophical discussions in a Buddhist temple with a samurai rebel.

The movie does a good job of describing the conflict between the old Japan, the Japan of warlords united under a divinely incarnated Emperor, and the new Japan, one of polished military might, guns and steel and--most important--the entreprenuerial spirit. What it does NOT accomplish is accurately portraying the average 1870's-era American's reaction to Japanese culture and political ideology. Hollywood has force-fed present-day political tolerance to an 1876 Army Captain who could not possibly have possessed such cultural sensitivity. The results are this finely done but ultimately flawed and eminently skippable film.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Nice night tonight. One of those balmy Virginia evenings that makes you glad to be a Southern boy. But then I have a lot of regional pride.

I wanted to get out of the house, so I talked to Wysong about picking me up for some chill time. He came over around 10 or so and we went down to Cary Street (where else?) to hang for a while. We were going to go to the Galaxy Diner, but for some strange reason the automatic door was closed. There were people inside but we couldn't get in. Oh well. So we just wandered around Carytown for a long time, talking about our wonderful girlfriends and college life. Finally stopped at a 7-11 where I fulfilled my need for copious amounts of sugar and Danny fulfilled his need for nicotine. We sat on the trunk of his car and talked about the past year, and how frikkin' weird it had been with all the stuff that had gone down: his being in Russia and breaking up with Liz, Hank and I having our fight and making up, Adam McCool dying, and suchlike. It was nice to be able to talk about it with someone who had gone through a lot of the same stuff with me and who sympathized, instead of writing off my reminiscing as needless nostalgia.

But yeah, it was a fun evening. I needed to get out and be with people, people I didn't work with for once. And Wysong's a great guy, possibly the best entertainer I know. If I ever had one of those days--the kind where your girl breaks up with you after your dog gets run over by the mail truck carrying your severance pay--I'd want him around to make fun of the situation.

And it's late and I need to be in bed. Being out really got me wired though, which is bad. This workweek's gonna be a real doozy. Two of our log-in people are MIA (read: on vacation) until next week and Jessica, one of the two secretaries at AWS, was on vacation yesterday and today. So Jen, the other secretary, and I have been handling most of the log-in and bottle set stuff ourselves. Ted (not sure what his position is; something like hardware manager) and Emile (general IT guy) have been handling log-in and answering the phones as well, but they're stretched as thin as we are. Since Jen is a secretary/project manager and I'm the "office bitch," as I proudly call myself, we're all trying to do at least three things at once.

And as you can guess, we're all about ready to kill each other. Wish me luck and good survival skills.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Well. This weekend was one of the best of my life, perhaps. Maria got here early Saturday afternoon, and after some slightly effusive greetings (c'mon, we hadn't seen each other in two weeks) we went out and got lunch and coffee on Cary Street, which is only about ten blocks away from West Grace. After lunch we came back here and lazed aroud until about 8 or 9. Then we tried to stop lazing around but failed. A couple hours after that, we made Thai curry--vegetarian, naturally--for dinner and watched Office Space, which she had never seen (a travesty that I felt necessary to correct). Surprisingly, we actually managed to get a fair amount of sleep--kind of odd, considering we both tend to talk each other's ears off and find it hard to stop chattering long enough to get any rest.

Anyways. Yeah. I told her that she might possibly be the love of my life, and she agreed that she felt the same way about me. Which, I know, is a bit dramatic of me. But hey, I finally found someone who gets me. So I feel inclined to take advantage of the situation.

Besides, who else would tolerate such lines from me? I have it made.

She's got hair like the straight sea grass
She's got eyes like silver glass
Watch the sunrise just to see it pass
You sundowner, you
Oh you sundowner, you...

Do I dare to say I love her so?
Do I dare because I might not know
I speak her language but I speak it slow
You sundowner, you
Oh you sundowner, you...

I may need you to carry me, yeah

All the answers, they're in a book
Someone told me but I didn't look
The sky was quiet, the beach it shook
For you, sundowner you
Oh you sundowner, you...

I may need you to carry me, yeah...

Friday, June 17, 2005

Ugh. God, I hate getting up early. And since I forgot to bring my alarm clock, I use my cell phone to wake me up. Embarassing.

So I've moved into the place on West Grace Street. It's really nice, and I have a pretty cool housemate. She made me go shopping with her the other day so I wouldn't starve, which I thought was a nice gesture. However, she does seem a bit anal-retentive in terms of messiness. She accused me of strewing the other day, and when I went downstairs to clean it up all I found was a coffee cup of mine on the table. Which turned out to be the extent of the "damage."

Not that dealing with anal-retentive is out of my league. The lovely ladies in the Metals Analysis room at work decided they'd had enough of my blundering about the lab and kicked me out of the Metals Lab. When I went to talk to my boss, she confirmed that this was the case--but hadn't wanted to tell me. Well, gee, thanks. Were you going to tell me at all? Or just wait until, y'know, they threw me out of the lab? However, it turned out fairly okay, considering. I'm now working with Jill at Log-In and with Rachel (the boss' daughter) in the warehouse. And it turns out I'm much happier this way, logging in samples and making up bottle sets for customers. Monkeying around in a lab will probably come with research, not before.

And Maria is coming down this weekend too. I can't wait...

Monday, June 06, 2005

"All this good luck is a sure sign of bad luck."

I must admit, last night's post was a bit of an aberration. If I talk about stuff that personal, I usually don't mention names; if I mention names, I'm usually not so unambiguous. But anyway, I promise, less emotionally charged stuff in today's issue.

Tomorrow I go to check out the apartment that I'll be renting for the summer. It'll cost me $450 a month, technically. However, I'm basically holding it for an old friend of mine who'll be living there next year when he transfers to VCU, and he'll be paying about 20% of the rent, which brings my monthly charges to around $360. Which is excellent given my dire situation.

The job is going a lot better now that I have some idea of what I'm doing. I learned last week that the best way to avoid making Christy and Denise annoyed is to keep as busy as possible. That way, I'm more likely to keep them happy, and even if I don't do exactly what I'm supposed to I can at least claim that I was working all the time.

Today was actually the first day I worked (pretty much) on my own. I spent the entire morning in the preparations lab (which is where I'm supposed to be all day, but it doesn't occupy all my time in real life) without any major help from Christy, Denise, or Monica from MicroBio. After lunch I sort of puttered around. There was only two new batches of samples waiting for me, one of which was a TCLP which we had to do some predeterminations on. This involved taking the pH and determining the percent solid of the substance (a really nasty, oily sludge) before we could rotate it. The neat thing about this process is that it replicates the leaching process of a landfill. The bad thing about it is that it takes 16-20 hours. After that time, we take the bottle off the rotator and drain the liquid from it. Since it's separated from the solid precipitate, the only metal ions left in solution are those that wouldn't be filtered via the landfill leaching process. Thus, we can tell the trash people how well the landfill is working based on the concentrations of various metals inside the filtered samples.

So yeah. This post has turned into a chemistry lesson. I guess I'll be doing a lot of those this summer.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

"You were only waiting for this moment to arrive..."

Maria came over again this weekend. She got here on Friday evening, much to Geneva's delight. We sat up watching movies until pretty late, and then went to bed. On Saturday, we ended up going to Carytown. It's the kind of thing I've imagined before, spending a lazy afternoon with someone that amazing and special.

Anyways, we ate at an Indian restaurant called Farouk's, and then went to this bead store that she used to go to a lot when she was younger. We got Geneva a little bracelet made of pink hearts, and Maria got some random things to make a necklace. After that, we went to Plan 9 and she fulfilled an apparently lifelong ambition of browsing the entire used CD collection. Surprisingly, she did it without me having to carry her out of the store, although she was pretty exhausted when we got dinner. (We decided to eat at the same place we ate with her folks the other night.) To put the finishing touches on our wonderfully stereotypical (and thoroughly enjoyable) evening, we came back to Joe and JoLauna's and watched The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, which I picked up in the used DVD section at Plan 9.

And later that evening, she said:

"I love you."

I The only other girl to tell me she loved me (in THAT way) was Sara, the girl I dated six years ago. And even then, she said it hesitantly, after I'd said it to her too many times with no response. This time, Maria said it to me, and said it first.

I don't know what to think--how to think. My mind's kind of foggy at the moment. All I know is that at the beginning I didn't expect a happy ending, or anything approaching one...and so far this has proved my gut feeling wrong. And for once, I'm glad my intuition is fallible. It needed to be, for once.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

And the days go by so fast...

More updates:

I've moved in with my brother and sister-in-law, who live in Richmond, until I can find an apartment in the downtown Richmond area. So far the AWS job has been going pretty well. Obviously, I'm not skilled labor, since I've never worked in a lab before. However, I do get to do some fairly high-level stuff as far as preperation is concerned. My duties mainly involve gettting samples of whatever we're looking at ready for analysis. This is either by ICP (I don't know what it stands for either) or GFAA (graphite furnace atomic absorption). So what usually happens is, we get X number of samples and I put them in the hot block with acid spikes to "digest" for about six hours. After they digest and cool, I hit them with DI (de-ionized) water and give them to Christy and Denise, the ladies next door, to put in the furnace or whatever. Of course, here are a lot more steps than that, and we have about 4,000 different procedures depending on whether we're working with soils, liquids, ground water, et cetera et cetera. Most of the time I'm just dumping old samples down the drain anyway.

Things with Maria are going really, really, well--for the most part. Obviously she's been through and is going through a really tough emotional time, but I'm certain we'll both come through it okay, regardless of where our paths take us. (I realize that sounds like kind of a vague philosophy, and usually I cringe at such stuff, but whatever. I might be in love.) She came down here last weekend and Geneva (my three-year-old niece) was very taken with her, to the point that she was crying when Maria left. Naturally she's very excited that Maria is coming back agin this weekend.

I guess that makes two of us.

So, yeah, that's about it. I guess that's enough, really. My summer is looking a whole hell of a lot busier than most of the preceding ones. And I really couldn't be happier.