Thursday, March 30, 2017

State of Denton

Today the City hosted its first-ever State of the City event. It was held at the Civic Center with all departments having a table to showcase what they do. Having done a lot of events, this really wasn't a big deal to me. I gathered up all my regular event items - tablecloth, safety tips, bike lights, bike pins - and didn't get too concerned about it.

During the event, a video was shown that highlighted the five areas of the strategic plan. Between interviews with staff and council were snippets of people proclaiming why they loved Denton. My favorite: I love Denton because it's home."

I spent the evening chatting with co-workers and citizens. Afterward a co-worker invited several of us over to his home to have an after party, if you will. We chatted and laughed and I kept thinking about that man who said, "I love Denton because it's home."

I don't know how I ended up in Denton, with amazing friends and co-workers and people in my life, but I'm sure glad I did. I love Denton because it's home.

Fire Ants

I wouldn't wish fire ant bites on my worst enemy. But if I needed to torture someone, I would pour fire ants over their body and let those ants go to town.

Yesterday I went out to Eagle Drive to remove the bike counters. I wanted to get this done before it started raining, since I had come out the previous day to do it but had forgotten the attachment to my screw. I didn't bother to change out of my ballet flats since I thought it would be a quick job.

And it was. Didn't take long at all. However, one of the bike counters was sitting in the grassy parkstrip between the sidewalk and the curb. When I picked the counter up a flurry of fire ants moved from under it. And when I opened the counter, it was covered in wet dirt and fire ants.

These ants were then crawling all over the tops of my bare feet. I couldn't stop them. At least not before they bit the crap out of my feet. A fire ant bite starts itching immediately. And it never goes away. The next day they turned into whitehead-pimple-looking things that continued to itch like crazy.

I'm not sure I'll make it through the day with these bites.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Kickball Season 4

Tonight was the first game of the spring kickball season. Kickball is always fun, but this season will be extra fun because my friend Jessica finally got to join the team!

We played a good game tonight. My first at-kick we were at two outs and down one to zero. A teammate was on first. My first kick of the game and the season was a foul ball that I barely got my foot under. The second kick wasn't the best and I ran my hardest to get to first. I was sure I would be out, but surprisingly I was called safe! That started a bit of a run for us, as two teammates scored followed by me. I've played three seasons and only scored once.

So yeah, I think it's going to be a good season.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sirens Again

Just as I took my dinner off the stove and was getting ready to put it in a bowl the sirens went off.

I had been waiting for it to rain all day, having done my yard work in the morning in preparation for it. I like when Mother Nature waters my flowers and grass for me.

As a homeowner, the destruction and damage a tornado can cause terrifies me. I imagined my home getting tore up by strong winds and hail! Or a tree branch falling onto my roof. Or Biscuit getting lost in the melee.

Since my phone never went off with a warning, I turned on the news to see what the path of travel for the tornado was. It was southwest of Denton, and they were projecting it to move into Denton around 8. The sirens starting going off around 7:30. I put my bike helmet on contemplated going into my one closet, or outside and to the "basement" (the crawl space under my pier-and-beam home is big enough to stand up in since the backside of my home is on a slope).

I waited it out in my home as I watched the news. A tornado never touched down in Denton and all was fine (for me at least) when the tornado watch expired at 8:00. Biscuit and I were fine, and there was no hail damage or left over hail in my yard.

This is now three times in two years that the sirens have gone off in Denton.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Beauty and the Beast

I went with friends to tonight to see the "new" Beauty and the Beast, a nearly shot-for-shot remake of the 1991 Best Picture nominee Disney animated classic. I have to admit that this is not my favorite Disney animated musical, and I wasn't all too excited for this live action version.

Going in with low expectations helps. It also helps seeing a film with a group of friends. I think if I had seen it by myself I would have liked it less. But with a bunch of my friends I enjoyed myself, even if the film is less than perfect.

The story of a bookish girl with dreams outside of her small town who eventually falls in love with the beast who has forced her to stay with him works a lot better when the characters are animated. It helps me suspend disbelief. The CGI beast, even voiced by Dan Stevens, seemed slightly ridiculous. The animated film is wonderfully colorful. The live-action film is lacking in color, most notably in the "Be Our Guest" segment.

It was great hearing the familiar songs again, but I didn't like any of the new songs. Backstory for characters was pointless.

This all sounds very negative, but I did actually enjoy the movie. Surprisingly, I enjoyed Gaston the most. In the animated film he is clearly a jerk. He's still a jerk in the live-action version, but he seems less treacherous and more preening as played by Luke Evans.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Washington DC: Days Five and Six

Wednesday was Lobby Day! The last day of the Summit is always the day when attendees come together by state and meet with the Congress people (well, their staff members at least) to ask them to support multi-modal transportation. Texas is a large state, so in addition to the two Senators we had a lot of Reps to meet with!

It was a busy day going between the Senate and Representative buildings. They don't have offices in the actual Capitol Building anymore, as there's just too many of them now. North of the Capitol are the Senate offices, housed in two buildings - Hart Senate Office Building and Russell Senate Office Building. The Representatives are in three buildings to the south of the Capitol - Rayburn, Cannon and Longworth House Office Buildings. The Senate offices are nicer and bigger than those for the Reps. All of them had Dr. Pepper, Starbursts and Skittles in abundance (all are made in Texas).

Lobby Day was also International Women's Day. I wore my red shoes (by accident really), and it was awesome to see so many women sporting red on the Hill.

I closed out the night with a recently-made friend from Richardson. We had tacos at a local place before she left for the airport. It was a busy but fun day, filled with meetings. It felt like we were making a small difference though and that's nice. Lobby Day feels productive and I like that.

Thursday was my last day in DC. Em was gone, so I just hung around. I had breakfast at Ted's Bulletin and took a walk around the area. I made my way to Union Station and then spent a decent amount of time at the National Postal Museum. I adore letters and postcards and this was such a cool museum to check out.

I did some walking around the Mall before deciding to check out the E Street Cinema again to see Kedi, a documentary about cats in Istanbul. It was adorable. The words of advice dropped by those caring for the cats was beautiful. I had some pizza then made my way to the airport to come home to Texas.

Washington DC: Days Three and Four

For me, Monday was the start of the National Bike Summit. While I spent my morning taking a quick bike ride to National Geographic Society to check out their bike facilities for employees, Em did some roaming by herself along the Mall. Since I had a break between noon and 2:30, I reserved Capitol Building Tour tickets for us at 12:30.

That morning I read the back of the ticket, where it noted that ticket-holders should arrive thirty to forty-five minutes early to get through security. My ride was supposed to return to our hotel at noon. I gave Em the tickets and told her to meet met at the Capitol Visitor Center and I'd do my best to get there on time.

The ride got back to the hotel earlier than planned! So I dropped off my bike and made off like a bandit headed for the Capitol (about a mile and a half away). I did a mixture of running, jogging and walking fast to get there in time to pass security and make our tour time. It's downhill and flat...until I arrived at the Capitol. At that point, it's an uphill climb to get to the Visitor Center. I finally made it and met up with Em at the entrance, where we made it through security in about two minutes. We were actually there in enough time to make the noon tour group!

We went straight from the Capitol to the Library of Congress through the underground tunnel (to avoid going through security again!). The Library of Congress is the most beautiful building I have every seen! I could not stop marveling at the ornate beauty of the main hall and the adjoining rooms.

I made my way back to our hotel for Summit stuff while Em did stuff on her own. We spent our night resting from all the walking by watching The Voice in our hotel room.

Day two started, for me, with a bike ride to National Public Radio. This was the coolest thing ever. NPR is practically all I listen to and I get most of my news from them. We were shown the indoor bike parking and the showers for employees. We then got to tour the newsroom! Sigh. It was awesome.

Em was off doing her own thing. She possibly saw the President drive by. She checked out a couple of the Smithsonian Museums. I didn't see Em again until about five, when we met up to meet our cousin after work. Scott works in DC and lives in Virginia. We stayed with them when I left NYC in 2009 and Em was out to help me move back to SLC. We met up with Scott at his usual bus stop near his work and rode the bus with him back to Virginia. We had dinner with him and his family and it was great to hang out with them! They live far away from most family (I might be the closest in Texas; most everyone is in Idaho), but Em and I are their second-most frequent visitors!

Scott and Nanette dropped us off at the train station (yay for public transit!) and we made our back to our hotel in DC.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Washington DC: Days One and Two

When I moved back to SLC from NYC, my sister came out to help me drive the truck. We left NYC and headed for our cousin who works in DC and lives in Virginia with his family. We reached DC around rush hour and, obviously, didn't really have the time (or a place to park the rental truck) to stop and see the sights. Em has been kinda bummed about this ever since. 

So when I knew I was going to DC for work I invited Em to come out with me. We each arrived on Saturday to have a couple days to hang out and sight-see. I arrived a few hours before Em and hit up the National Portrait Gallery (yes, they still have the portrait of LL Cool J). I then met Em at the Metro stop. After dropping off luggage at the hotel we headed to the Hard Rock Cafe, a tradition, for some much-needed food in our bellies. 

Before heading out for sight-seeing, we hit up the gift shop across the street form the Hard Rock so Em could buy some gloves. It was quit cold, but we didn't want to lose a day of seeing sites. We walked down to the White House to see it at night, followed by the Washington Monument. The wind was blowing and we were freezing, so we made our way back to our hotel room. 

Day two we had tickets to tour Ford's Theater, but first we had a delicious breakfast at Lincoln's Waffle Shop. The place was small and packed. Our food was delicious! 

After Ford's Theater we headed to the National Archives to see the Magna Carta, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence. There are a lot of other things to see, as well, and I think it is my favorite gallery. We then made our way from one end of the Mall to the other, making our way to the MLK Memorial and the Jefferson Monument. 

By this point our feet were super sore and we were cold. Everything closes at 5:30 anyway, so we headed to a movie theater we had passed the night before to rest our feet and get warm (we saw La La Land Em fell asleep). We then went to our hotel to rest and prep for the next day. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Cable Benefits

I cut the cable cord about a month ago. Prior to moving to Denton, I had just used an antenna and it was all I needed. I could still watch all the main broadcast channels plus PBS. But my apartment in Denton couldn't get a signal (I lived at the bottom of a "hill" with a tall building blocking it). I couldn't cut the cord entirely so I broke down and got cable.

At my home I discovered that I was in a better position for cable-reception and ended my cable contract. However, I couldn't get ABC to come in. I was able to get thirty or so other channels, but no matter where I put the antenna I could not get ABC. I did some research (ABC was also the channel that gave me the most issues in Topeka) and discovered that everyone in DFW had trouble getting ABC with their antennas. Turns out ABC is the only network that broadcasts on VHF; everyone else broadcasts on UHF. And there was a lot of frustration with people in the DFW area about this.

ABC also chooses to do live-streaming different than other networks. Even if you have a cable subscription, one can't watch live online unless living in one of eight markets. DFW is not one of those markets. Even through SlingTV or DirectTV or anything else, one has to be in one of the eight markets.

Know what is broadcast on ABC? The Oscars. So I reinstalled cable just to watch the Oscars.

Not only do I the ability to watch ABC clearly, but I also now have the Hallmark Channel. Hallmark movies are my weakness. And tonight, while randomly searching, I came across my favorite Hallmark movie ever, Loving Leah. And that makes the foray back into cable worth it.

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