Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why I'm not washing my right hand anymore or, Chris Thile touched me

It's true, folks. The day finally came. Some of you may remember my quest to interview Chris Thile a couple months ago. While that venture proved unsuccessful, (through a combination of factors, really) the dream in part became a reality anyway. Last night, Jason and I attended part of his Christmas present, a Punch Brothers concert here in Chattanooga at the UTC Fine Arts Center. Although it's a very nice concert hall, it's a relatively small venue, so we knew walking in that the evening was off to a great start.

As we took our seats (artfully selected via the hall's seating chart and memories of ballet recitals in said hall by yours truly) we discerned that our near eye level seating arrangement would be ideal. Then the house lights dimmed and the guys took the stage and everyone (self and Jason included) nearly had a stroke upon seeing Chris himself live and in the flesh - and like ten feet away from us. I am certain there was definitely some eye contact. The audience was so enthusiastic after each piece that the band kept laughing and remarking on what 'sweet people' Chattanooga has (what can I say? I've been trying to persuade ya'll that this place is awesome for years - maybe you'll listen to Chris.) At one point Chris remarked on what a good time he was having, and everyone clapped and hollered again, eliciting his comment that it was such a good audience that we'd "even clap for his having a good time!"

But the best part came at the end. The band played their last encore, (a rendition of 'Heart in a Cage' that nearly brought the house down) then Chris announced that they would be autographing things and meeting audience members in the lobby after the show. It's true. We met them all. The bass player, Paul, said he liked my red shoes, and we had a discussion about his own red shoes. Chris asked if my name ended with a y or an ie, and said "don't sound so downcast!" when I told him "just a -y." And we shook all of their hands. Chris even offered a bit of a bow. I may have been shaking a little. We considered sticking around til they left to stalk them a little more, but decided against it as Jason had to go to work at the crack of dawn.

People, let me tell you that if you live in a city where the Punch Brothers will be playing, you need to buy a ticket. These guys are incredibly talented musicians. They're also v. amusing and the show is so much fun. Jason proclaimed it the "best Christmas present EVER."

And now, back to work.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pimp this bum

So I was visiting the cnn website today, and came across an article about a website called pimpthisbum.com. Initially I was like "what is this? Is someone doing something really shady to homeless people?" but I quickly found that couldn't be further from the truth.

These two guys in Houston, Texas, Kevin and Sean Dolan (a father and son) started an online marketing business. In order to create a model to use as proof that their strategies could work, they decided to try and help someone out. So they came up with the site "Pimp this bum," and set out to find a homeless man, which they quickly did - a guy named Tim Edwards, an alcoholic living beneath an underpass in Houston. They gave him a sign to hold with the site address on it, and $100 a day to hold it. According to his testimony, he was pretty stoked about the $100, but it turned out to mean so much more for him.

On the site, people could donate anything to help Tim out - a cup of coffee, a sandwich, crossword puzzle books, or $20. So many people were surprised by his sign, visited the site, and wanted to help that the site ended up raising $50,000 for Tim. An alcohol rehab facility in Seattle donated a five-week program to him, and Southwest airlines gave Tim and Sean Dolan tickets to fly there. Now, thanks to all the donations, Tim is really getting his life together, and has a brand new start that he calls simply "a blessing." The site follows his story, and is now also helping some of his friends.

In these days of constant bad news, it's pretty nice to read a story about people coming together to support a stranger who's had a rough go of it. Thanks for some good news, cnn! (I assume Ali of course had something to do with this excellent decision making.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lunch break, or, how I almost got hit by a city bus

Some days you just want a smoothie. Particularly, the Cherry Picker, from that denizen of smoothie greatness, Smoothie King. Today was one of those days, so I headed down to the S.K. on Market Street, next to the SportsBarn. I drove down Broad, hoping to find a parking place, then turned on Third Street, where after driving one block I prepared to turn right onto Market. The light was green, the sky was blue, a couple guys in suits crossed the street a little quicker so I could turn, and then I saw her.

Barreling down the steep opposite hill of Third Street was a huge city bus driven by a [proportionally speaking] equally huge woman with a 'don't even think about it' look on her face. I was almost mid-turn - turning right, mind you, on green - but stopped because I could tell that although she was surely trained in some sort of professional bus-driving traffic school, this woman clearly had little regard for the rules of traffic. She was well on her way to cutting me off in her giant bus and turning - LEFT - in front of me (see Figure A.) Fortunately, the two guys in the suits had hurried across the street for me, because otherwise they'd be toast right now. Fortunately also, I was paying attention, and stopped mid-turn, otherwise both myself and the guys in the suits would be toast right now.

Figure A)

Disregarding self and guys in suits, what if the light had changed as she barrelled down the hill? She would have plowed on through, possibly causing a large and fatal traffic accident. What on Earth was she doing in such a hurry? There are plenty of other buses for Chattanoogans to ride, and everyone who's ever ridden a Tiger Transit knows buses are never on time, so it's not like she was trying to meet a schedule. She was either a) just stupid, or b) both stupid and, as Christina says in You've got Mail, "like one of those people who brag because they're tall," hurtling her giant bus through traffic because she was bigger and therefore could.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to note her bus number as she was flying by me like a speeding locomotive, but I am currently googling the number to call about these busses in attempt to report her. Get this maniac off the streets and give some down-on-their-luck, recently laid-off person the job.

In other news, have recent (read: 2008-2009) economic events have left your head spinning, wondering "what on Earth is a credit default swap?" or "will I personally be negatively effected by the London Interbank Offered Rate, or LIBOR?"

If these questions sound familiar to you, Ali, our resident political expert - and resident of what might become the 51st state (nope, not Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands, think the other random contestant in Miss America) - has something to share. CNNMoney has conveniently created a glossary of tricky terms to help everyday Americans understand what the h. is going on. I have found it very useful mere hours after it was passed on to me, in reading the Vanity Fair article about the collapse of Iceland's economy, which I will now quote from to close:

"You have a dog, and I have a cat. We agree that they are each worth a billion dollars. You sell me the dog for $1 billion, and I sell you the cat for $1 billion. Now we are no longer pet owners, but Icelandic banks with a billion dollars in new assets."

If only all economic crises could be explained in such plain (and humorous) terms.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Morning Post special section

I forgot today was the official First Day of Spring!!! Huzzah!!! And right on cue, it is absolutely gorgeous outside, blue skies, sunny sunshine, grass turning green on the hill at UTC, and sixty four degrees. Ideal! Hooray for spring.

That is not Chattanooga, but rather somewhere in England I think (someone on the internet took it) but it is lovely and springy, so hurrah!

Also, Charlie K. is right on the money today - 'Bonfire of the Trivialities' is also a fab. title for a column. Almost as fab as George's 'Wild Wild West' yesterday...too bad that one made zero sense. I'm thinking he accidentally posted a really rough draft.

The Friday Morning Post

Success!! This is not the only post of the week! V. proud of me, if I do say so myself. Let's see, what's the news today...

I finally caved and bought some new tennis shoes. That way, I cannot use "my shoes don't fit right and will give me more blisters" as an excuse for not exercising. I even went to the fancy [and most likely overpriced] running shoe store where they watch your foot when you walk and analyze all your weird bones and stuff and then select a few shoes for you to try. So, an absurd amount of money later, I am the proud owner of these:

Sadder news, the UTC Mocs were unsuccessful in fulfilling their destiny in the Big Dance. While I suppose it was a long shot that the number 16 seed would defeat UConn, a number 1 seed, I think thanks to Jimmy Fallon the whole country was hoping for it (including Mr. Belding.) Maybe next year, Scrappy and Mocs, maybe next year.

Yesterday I dined with Katie and Lacey at the Market Street Tavern on the ol' lunch hour. The service was slow-to-quite-slow, but the black bean burger with cilantro cream and fries were v. tasty/delicious. Lunch menu prices were pretty good too, as downtown restaurants go. My efforts to compel them to dine from the little cart on the sidewalk by Miller Park went unheeded, but since as far as I know the emergence of so called "street food" in Chattanooga is kind of a new deal, I want to try it out.

Also, some collegiate joy bubbled up inside of me when I saw that they are installing a Jimmy Johns in the bottom of the Electric Power Board building. While their commercials are often just downright creepy, their sandwiches are delightful, and it will take me like 2 minutes to get there from the TFP via car (longer on foot, which I generally don't have time for, but it would be nice) AND it's way easier to park there than at Figgy's Sandwiches, where it is a small miracle to find a space. (Although Figgy's tuna salad is top notch, and where else can you get a sandwich and chips for $4.50?)

Tonight, I have a date with Katie, and she is going to make us dinner and we are going to watch lots and lots of 'Friends.' Lacey made fun of us for our plans, but there are few things I enjoy more than dinner and tv/a movie, so I am quite pleased with them!

And now I must close with a few good quotes...

Monica: Can you help me fold these napkins?
Phoebe: Sure.
Monica: I'm gonna go across the hall and check on the yams.
[Notices the way Pheobe is folding the napkins]
Monica: No... no honey... Not like that, we're not a barn dance. You wanna fold them like swans like I showed you at Christmas, remember?
Phoebe: Yeah. It all came screaming back to me.

Chandler: I can handle this. "Handle" is my middle name. Actually, "handle" is the middle of my first name.

Chandler: And this from the cry-for-help department: Are you wearing makeup?
Joey: Yes, I am. As of today, I am officially Joey Tribbiani, actor slash model.
Chandler: That's funny, 'cause I was thinking you look more like Joey Tribbiani, man slash woman.

Rachel: How about for a girl, Rain?
Ross: Rain? "Hi, my name is Rain. I have my own kiln and my dress is made out of wheat."
Phoebe: I know her!

Happy Friday!

Monday, March 16, 2009

On the Town

As the weather gets warmer and the flowers continue to bloom and trees return to their perky green, I'm sure you will get ample chance to witness opining about my pretty city. All last week, the weather was blah. Cold, grey, rainy, foggy, zero fun. Yesterday after I got home from church and had lunch, I laid down for a long winters nap with my trusty feline, who of course was exhausted after a week of being truly obnoxious at all hours of the night/early morning.

(Sidenote: Francis does not like it when I have guests. Particularly Jason. He is a very jealous cat and does not appreciate it if he feels that someone is an interloper on any attention that might normally be directed at his furry self. He takes his anger out by utilizing his full arsenal of tactics in waking people up at annoying times, including but not limited to: slamming his face into your ears/eye sockets/nose/general face area, walking all over you, standing with his foot on your throat so it is difficult to breathe, laying directly across your face so it is difficult to breathe, howling at the top of his lungs, scratching at the blinds, attacking your feet under the covers with his claws/teeth. Jason said that he woke up at one point and Francis was standing over him maliciously pressing his paw over Jason's nose. This makes it very difficult to sleep when he is angry. It also makes you kind of hate him for a while.)

Anywho, Francis and I slept for a solid three hours or so, and when we awoke, found that it was sunny outside! That meant that it was time for me to begin my new determination to exercise (I've used up all my pilates classes and grown lazier immediately.) So I find my tennis shoes in the trunk of my car (where they've been for...a really long time...), fire up the ipod, and head down the street. By the time I reached Frazier Avenue, it is apparent that everyone else in Chattanooga was equally thrilled/inspired by the pretty weather. The people in this town come out in droves when the weather is even remotely nice and this was certainly true yesterday. There were people everywhere. Some out for exercise, some out for a casual stroll, all along the bridges and riverbanks. Aside from learning that my tennis shoes definitely don't fit properly, it was a lovely day to go outside, and I look forward to many more. But then, when your city looks like this (courtesy of treehugger.com - ha), how could you not take it in?

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Friday Afternoon Post

Woah, I honestly hadn't fully processed that it was Friday til a little while ago. This day has been somewhat busy. I am attempting to write an article about Alzheimer's for the next issue, and as I am not a scientist or a neurologist, this has required quite a bit of research. I just solicited all of my scientific friends to see who had access to a particular journal, as I needed an article from it and do not own a subscription, nor do I want to pay $32 for one article (really?? scientists are sure proud of their research...) It is so handy to have friends in various fields. I would say that one advantage to growing up is that our friends become increasingly professional and expert, which can be quite helpful! Anyhow, thanks to Lee I will now be able to spend many delightful hours trying to decipher sentences like "Cellular prion protein mediates impairment of synaptic plasticity by amyloid-beta oligomers" (and that's just the title...expect me to be smarter by Monday.)

I have talked to a lot of pretty important Chattanoogans today - a prominent neurologist and Alzheimer's expert, a potential U.S. Attorney appointee, the head of the Chattanooga Visitors Bureau, the editor of the paper. It made me realize how unique my job is, in that I have access to and communication with a lot of interesting people that most folks don't have, and I should really be grateful for that! I always like my job, but sometimes I forget how blessed I am to have ended up here! I talk to so many different people in the course of the day, from neurologists to the grandmother of a kid whose picture ended up in the magazine, and it's really a fun place to be.

It's almost time for me to leave, so this is going to be a brief and random post, but let me mention something else that those close to me have not heard the end of for the last few days. I just bought an album called "War Child - Heroes." First, it is just a straight up cool album. Artists like David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, and The Ramones picked one of their own songs, and a current group or artist to cover it. So groups/artists like Duffy, Franz Ferdinand, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and The Hold Steady have done all these really awesome covers of classic songs. My current obsession is The Hold Steady's cover of Springsteen's "Atlantic City;" it is AMAZING. So that's cool, but the even cooler thing about this album is that it's a non-profit, and all proceeds from the album and related merchandise go towards the organization, War Child, which takes education and relief programs to wartorn countries like the Congo and Afghanistan to help children get back to normal life - even going as far as to reconnect former child soldiers with their families. I think that is so cool, so everyone should go buy this really fab album and know that your $10 is going to a really neat cause.

Alright, happy weekend everyone!