Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Happy birthday to me! What was the best birthday gift I received, you ask? Why, this little beauty waiting in my mailbox:

Last time I got jury duty I was psyched because A) my employer paid for jury duty service and B) I hated my job, so it was a great excuse to play hooky. Now that I love my job and don't get paid for jury duty, I am significantly less excited about the prospect of spending all day in the courthouse.

Also, I erased my contact info on the jury duty form so you can't read it in the picture, but this summons is actually addressed to Elizabeth LaBam. Yes, I commit voter fraud every single election, and no, the government doesn't care. I used to spend a lot of energy trying to get my name corrected, including sending in signed affidavits and copies of my ID. I finally talked to some clerk who assured me that it's fine that I'm voting under a different name. Swell! The system works!

And now for something completely different:

I really want them to change the text on the bottom to "Ho-Ho-Hope."

And finally: I don't have any firsthand information about starving orphans (sorry!) but we did see Slumdog Millionaire recently and LOVED it. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. Beautiful, thought-provoking, tragic, inspiring, magical...seriously. Go.

Postscript: Merry Christmas!


Thursday, December 11, 2008

A very Merry Christmas indeed

Lately, work and life craziness have squashed all non-essential blogging; however, the newest addition to the LaBau household has inspired me to put on my blogging pants once more.

For Christmas this year, Jason & I decided to get ourselves a new TV/entertainment system. If you have had the "pleasure" of watching TV at our house, you will know that this investment is SORELY needed. Allow me to introduce our old TV:

That's right. An analog TV. Straight antenna system, no cable to be had. A sad off-brand DVD/VCR player that barely plays VHS tapes and is currently holding a DVD hostage and won't open at all. (We have vowed to attack it with a screwdriver once we get the new system fully functioning.)

But now...drumroll please...

A shiny new plasma TV! Not pictured: the new DVD/VHS player, and the DirecTV DVR system we're getting set up early next week.

"Teacher, mother, secret lover..." -Homer Simpson

People, this is going to be good. If we drop off the face of the earth, rest assured that we are probably 72 hours into a week-long Law & Order marathon, our pajamas glued to the couch with a mixture of popcorn butter and drool, our bleary faces basking in the sweet glow of a fully-functioning television.

[P.S. Apologies for the blatant consumerist nonsense. I promise to blog about needy orphans for the rest of the month.]


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes, We Did (or, How I Spent My Election Weekend)

So by now the Obama victory is old news, and I'm sure most people are tired of hearing about it. However, I'm not tired of talking about it yet and I'm anxious to share our canvassing experience, so consider yourself forewarned. It's no secret that Jason & I have been big Obama supporters this year. Our car is be-stickered. Our wardrobe is Obama'd. We've donated to the campaign almost a half-dozen times, and we've telemarketed phonebanked for Obama this fall. So when we heard the campaign was asking for California volunteers to go to Nevada over election weekend, we knew we had to make the trek. This is our story. *Law and Order theme music*

First, a quick sidebar about the drive. I am very much a greenery lover, but there is something about the desert that fascinates me, especially the dying towns scattered by the highways. I am kind of obsessed. J suggested I go for my phD in sociology so I can visit these godforsaken towns and figure out who lives there and what life is like. I dismissed that as crazy graduate student talk, but a nice idea nonetheless. We stopped at this truck stop on the way. I was especially drawn to it because I originally misread the sign and thought they had a "brain burger." Mmm, tastes like smarts.

So we get to Vegas and have some time to check into our hotel and relax before the "short training meeting." We were a few minutes later and were nervous that it would be embarrassing to walk into the room tardy. Um, we needn't have worried:

Hundreds and HUNDREDS of people were there. It was a zoo! Here's the awesome thing: there was another training meeting in this same location a few hours later. So this is just the turnout from one meeting in one location in one city in Nevada. AND these were just the California volunteers who needed training, so I'd guess there must have been thousands more who had already been trained, or who were native Nevadans, or who were going to be at other meetings in the state. The scope of the volunteer outreach was really amazing.

The atmosphere in the room was electric, there was a huge buzz and excitement. Of course with this many people the "short meeting" turned into (barely) controlled chaos, as the campaign leader was late, the Q&A dragged on, and the passing out of assignments was a logistical nightmare. By the time we were finished we were both kind of tired and cranky, as it was most definitely past our dinner time and we're both such Type A personalities, being subjected to disorganization is painful.
[At the training meeting. We're fuzzy with excitement!]

We had originally been told that we would be poll-watching. The short explanation of that is, poll-watchers record who has voted, and relay this information to the campaign HQ so that they can target their people who haven't yet voted, and call or visit them and encourage them to vote. Due to logistical difficulties we decided to canvass instead, which is kind of like tracting. We were assigned a field station to work out of, which turned out to be someone's garage. We were provided a neighborhood map and a list of addresses and names, mostly those of low-turnout democrats (who might need a nudge to get out and vote) or Obama-leaning independents. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, was to visit these folks, see if they'd voted yet, and if not, see if they were going to vote, if they knew where to vote, and if they needed a ride to the polls. Let the games begin.

Fortunately I had a former missionary with me, so after he got over the weirdness of tracting-yet-not-tracting, he was a total champ. I was more of a wuss and got psyched out by the HUGE dogs that were behind every single fence! Seriously, Vegas must be the dog capital of the world, because they were everywhere. And it didn't help that our first neighborhood was pretty run-down and a little scary.

However, here's the awesome part. Everyone was so nice. A lot of people weren't home, but those that we were able to talk to were so pleasant. And really, they probably weren't too happy to see us, since the Obama campaign has been stalking Nevada voters for months. [Really: starting at 6am election day, everyone on our lists got doorhangers with their voting information. We started knocking doors at 9, made another sweep mid-day, and a third sweep around 5pm. That's 4 visits in one day, not including the weeks of phone calls prior to the election.] So these people had good reason to be VERY tired of the election, and the Obama campaign specifically. But everyone seemed really happy, and excited about the election, and they cheered us on. So that was extremely motivating.

Of course there were a few bumps in the road: confusing street signs and maps. Gated communities (but we are sneaky and got into most of them.) Several very suspicious old people. Having to listen to a few overly smug liberals congratulate themselves on their general liberalness and awesomeness. [Another sidebar: it is a very weird position, being a liberal member of a very conservative church. It's often uncomfortable and sometimes downright frustrating, feeling like there's nowhere I can just be myself without walking on eggshells. I know we're not the only ones, but it often feels that way.]

So Tuesday was a very full day of canvassing. We did a total of five maps, which I estimate to be about 250-300 houses. We switched field stations mid-day, and canvassed until 6:30, which was pushing it, since polls closed at 7. The atmosphere at the second field station was pretty festive, since we'd started receiving early results from back east and there was some good news (once Pennsylvania came in we started feeling optimistic...and it only got better from there). We had chili and watched the returns with our newfound friends for awhile, but since I had to work bright and early Wednesday morning, we had to leave and drive back to LA.

We listened to NPR for as long as we could receive it, and fortunately were able to hear that it was called for Obama before radio silence set it. Although the ride back was long, and we were beyond tired, it was a jubilant exhaustion, knowing that history was made. We were especially excited to hear that Nevada went for Obama (and Clark County was up for him by almost 20%) because we felt like we had a personal stake in that outcome. I'm glad the election is over, but more than that, I'm glad that we were able to play a small part in such a defining event for our generation.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Trunk or Treat

Halloween shenanigans at the ward Trunk or Treat party...

I went as a hippie, Jason went as a mime, together we were Peace & Quiet. Oh ho ho, it works on so many levels. Jason is a terrifying awesome mime, and people were really impressed. He also scared small children, including one who would run crying from him, shouting, "Witch! Witch!" Maybe now he'll listen when I say people don't like mimes...

We were supposed to decorate our car trunks. A last-minute trip to the 99 cent store netted a pretty sweet spiderweb, some spiders and rats, and a flashing skull. We only got one comment on how "scary" the Obama stickers were...we expected a few more!

Yeah, many other trunks put ours to shame.

I liked Brett & KT's the best. Everything is better with corpses.

Their costumes were pretty sweet, too.

Heather & Tom in their " Jaws" car.

Chris went as Shrek...
...while Holly and Whitney were a rabbit and a chicken, aka "ogre food."

Tim & Leslie also got into the couples costume spirit. All That & A Bag of...Hips?


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Comic Wisdom

Every time I look at this I laugh. Without fail.

I also really like this one, which basically sums up my life philosophy...

Which in turn reminds me of a classic Calvin & Hobbes strip...

Which is notably mostly for having my most favoritest Calvinism ever. Is it so wrong to take life lessons from a fictional five-year old?


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Election Come Sooner

Even inanimate objects now share my Obama-love.

Vermont and Melbourne, Los Angeles

Hey Senator McCain, what do you think of the Obama poster I spotted?

Lest I appear to pick on the GOP too much, I must say that Sarah Palin took her punches with grace on SNL yesterday. I won't even comment on the fact that she's doing SNL but not Meet the Press. Nope, not a word. That cool with you, Governor? Wink once if you approve.


In the alley behind the bakery


Monday, October 13, 2008

Anatomy of My Trash Can

Sometimes I don't realize how ridiculous my life is until I'm confronted by photographic evidence. During my two days off work last week, I made 4 candies and 4 desserts for my various websites. We valiantly tried to shovel as much as we could into our gaping maws, but in the end, we're only two people, and some of the sweets were relegated to the trash can. As I was cleaning up I was struck by how this totally, completely represents my life:

Spiderwebs Candy
Witch Hats Candy
Pumpkin Marshmallows

Not pictured:
Pumpkin Bread Truffles
Pumpkin Muffins (TBP - To Be Posted)
Lemon-Violet Meringue Tarts (TBP)
Dark Chocolate-Chile Souffles with Cardamom Creme Anglaise (TBP)

On a VERY related note, I'm giving up sugar/processed carbs for two weeks to give my body a little break. It's not bad when I'm at home, but outrageously difficult when I'm at work, literally up to my elbows in doughs and frostings. Wish me luck!


Sunday, October 05, 2008

Half Dome!

A few weeks ago I hiked Half Dome in Yosemite with my brother Jeremy. We had an amazing time and enjoyed gorgeous weather, beautiful views, and a really fun day out on the trails. I have approximately a million pictures, so here are some of the most representative that help tell the story...but I'm sure I'll post more in the coming days, they're too pretty to languish unpublished on my computer.

We chose the perfect time to hike. We'd originally planned to go in July, but the combination of short notice, busy schedules, and high hotel prices convinced us to put it off. People, late September is THE time to go. It's not too hot, but likely not too stormy, and much less crowded. We decided to hike it on a Monday, which also decreased the weekend crowds. We did see people, but it wasn't overcrowded at all. Bliss.

So we stayed in Mariposa, which is about an hour outside of the park. We got up before dawn and left the hotel about 5:40. We parked a little before 7, and after a bathroom trip and a 10-minute walk, we reached the trailhead and started our journey around 7:20. It was just starting to get light, but it was still quite cool and the first two hours were almost entirely in the shade. Very nice!The route we took was 8.2 miles one way, so it was about 16.4 miles round trip. This is the most direct route, but it has some REALLY brutal climbs, so some people choose to go the less scenic, less steep route, that adds about 2 miles onto the trip. We chose the shorter option.
Remember what I said about brutal climbs? This was the first of many, many, MANY stone staircases. At first they weren't too bad, but pretty soon the steps got higher and higher, and climbing 18-inch steps for a mile gets old pretty quickly. We were lucky the weather was good. The steps run by several waterfalls, and apparently in bad weather they get very slippery from the water and are quite dangerous and have to be shut down.

Our reward for conquering the Staircase of Death for the first 3 miles was an easy, gradual climb in miles 3-6. It was a nice change of pace, but after awhile it was kind of dusty and boring, until we broke through the tree cover and got our nice view back. We first glimpsed Half Dome at 10:15, three hours after we started our climb:Before we could get to climb the rock itself, we had another half-hour of gnarly stone steps. In some cases they weren't even steps, just steep rock face we had to scramble over. I thought this was the most difficult section of the climb, because it was so steep and we didn't have hiking poles, so there was no way to distribute some of the stress to our upper body. The surface of Half Dome is so steep and slippery, there are cables strung up between metal poles drilled into the rock face. You climb up the final 400 feet by pulling yourself up these steel cables. Gloves with a grippy surface are a must, as the metal cables are very slick in and of themselves. This picture is of us right before we began the ascent. If you look very closely at the surface of the rock behind us, you can see the cables and see a few people climbing up.

A closer view of the cables. The pictures really don't do justice to how seriously steep it is. Looking up from the bottom, it seems ludicrously steep, and I couldn't imagine how they first got the cable system drilled into place. The pictures below give a pretty good sense of how it looked. In the top picture, I'm starting the climb. The bottom picture is the descent, which felt even steeper and more dangerous than the ascent, because it was so slick. It was basically controlled sliding (with a little bit of falling thrown in the mix.) This is when I was glad it was uncrowded, because up and down climbers share the same cables, and passing people was difficult and time-consuming.

We reached the top 3 hours and 40 minutes after we started. The view was spectacular, the rock was uncrowded, and we had a nice relaxing picnic lunch while overlooking the whole park valley, 8000 feet above sea level.

The lack of security was amazing (and refreshing) to me. It felt like standing on the edge of the world. Our lunch spot was a precarious perch over a big vertical drop. Fortunately we refrained from a shoving match right then.
I'm that tiny little speck on the outcropping! We enjoyed the view (and took lots of pictures) for about an hour, then headed down. We finished the climb in 3:20, for a total of 8 hours out, including the break at the top. It was a perfect day, and I wouldn't hesitate to schedule a Half Dome hike every year.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Trick or Treat

I can tell this is going to be the best Halloween ever! It's still September, and already the candy is coming to me. No more of this going door to door and begging nonsense.

I came home from work yesterday to find a huge box from the National Confectioner's Association. Inside was a big tote bag full of Halloween goodies (and some candy I recognize from the Expo, hmmm) to get me in the holiday spirit. I'm trying to refrain from munching, so that I can properly sort it and decide what I want to review for the website. (Here's a sneak peak for you: not a fan of sugar-free Peeps). Add this to the big bag of candy I still have from the Expo, and we have a serious Candy Situation in our apartment. Once I get on top of my work (ha!) and sort it all, we might have to have a big candy party.

Speaking of Halloween, someone should invite us to a far-out costume party this year, because I have been dying to make Sesame Street martian costumes for Jason and I. "Yep yep yep yep...brrrrrrring!"

Look, this girl did it and they turned out adorable. And Jason does a really good martian impression! Won't someone take pity on us and throw an awesome party so I can get crafty?


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Supersize Me II: Revenge of the Burger

If you saw Supersize Me on DVD, you might have caught the bonus footage on the DVD where he talks about a really old McDonald's burger he kept for months, and how it basically didn't change--it had so many chemicals it preserved itself.

I just came across this website about a 12-year old McDonald's hamburger. Ever wonder what a 12-year old hamburger looks like? (Hint: it looks like every other McD's burger). Definitely makes me glad I don't partake, as I'm sure my body wouldn't like trying to "digest" that.

Off my soapbox now. Happy eating, all!


Monday, September 08, 2008

Candid Camera

The last of the vacation photos for awhile...

"Give it to me baby, yeah! Growl like a grizzly baby, nicely done..."

Check out the bite marks on that toast. Who's the grizzly now?

Third in a series about big mouths.

Ian & Amy, keeping their mouths to themselves.

Granddad putting the evil eye on his beanbag opponents. Didn't work though, as team Spawn of Spears beat the grandparents in sudden death overtime. Dramatic!