Erin Turns Thirty (305th new thing).

April 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

My friend Erin turned thirty in December, but because of crazy schedules and a hectic life, she neglected to go all out in celebration. Her husband Tyler made up for it on Day Three Hundred Five when he arranged a surprise post-birthday dinner for Erin at South City Kitchen. For the first time, I ate at the restaurant and yelled, “surprise!” with everyone else as Erin walked into our upstairs alcove.

I almost didn’t make the meal after suffering from a crippling stomach bug all day. But I didn’t want to miss out on one of my oldest and dearest friend’s 30th, so I downed some over the counter medicine and headed across town.

Tyler managed to put together one of the most organized surprise parties I have seen. With a fixed menu selection and open bar, he had catered to everyone’s dietary and alcoholic desires. Being one of the first to arrive, I grabbed a seat at the end of a table and looked over the food offerings for the fete. Fried Chicken, Shrimp and Grits, Filet Mignon…I cursed my weak stomach for not being able to labor through the pains of a virus.

The menu of the evening

After a short time, the two tables filled with Erin’s friends and coworkers, and eventually Erin and Tyler arrived. My eyes watered as we cheered her arrival. She looked so surprised, although she did in fact have an inkling, seeing one of her fellow Zoo employee’s car parked behind the building.

After Erin took her seat, the food began to arrive. I tried a touch of each appetizer, and vowed to return to taste the rich starters in full once I felt better. I finished a salad and ended up taking the Shrimp and Grits to go, which Tyler and Erin fully endorsed, although I thought myself a little tacky. But at least I could share the experience with Patrick the next day as he ate my leftovers, right?

I wistfully said my goodbyes, wishing I could have stayed for the duration of the party. Tyler did a great job at “elegant surprise thirtieth,” and Erin was a radiant recipient. I was glad I was able to share in the day, even if only for a little while.

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Softball Ringer (184th new thing).

October 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

I got an email from my friend Tyler saying his new softball team was short of ladies, and he wondered if I could fill in that evening. I didn’t have anything planned, especially not something new, so I responded with an enthusiastic, “Sure!” And then I remembered that I had acted as a fill-in lady once before, for Andre’s Starbucks’ softball team. But this time we played in Brookhaven, and I peed in the woods, so have your pick of Day One Hundred Eighty-Four’s new activity.

I walked. And scored. Winning.

I arrived with a full bladder and a pair of cleats. Erin’s coworker Danny (who saw HP6b with us) was in charge of the team and was busy with the line-up. He asked another lady fill in what she liked to play. “I can do second base or outfield, that’s what I usually play.” OMG. She stole my line! That was going to be my response. I was probably going to end up at catcher.

Then I remembered I did not pay to play on this team, I did not know most of these people, and like anyone we recruit as a fill-in, you play where you’re needed. Which just so happened to be at catcher.

I played my position well enough, stopping most of the balls and covering home a few times. I never realized how scary standing behind the plate can be. Not only is a ball being lobbed at you from twenty feet away an average of three times per hitter, but there’s also a bat being swung erratically, near enough to your nose to cause unconscious wincing. And the umpire is hiding right behind you, so no running away. Fortunately the pitches were pretty accurate, but I still found myself missing the large ball on its bounce over the plate. No one wants to step any closer to the batter and his giant metal club, even to stop a ball.

We won, and would have without me. I did learn an important lesson. Catching in softball isn’t nearly as easy as it may look. I have so much more respect for catchers. And for ringers.

Who do we look like? (154th new thing).

September 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

I was playing on my computer, going through the pictures on my iPhoto database for any blog-worthy images when I noticed the “Faces” folder in the top left-hand corner of the window. I had heard about this ability for the software to recognize people in your photographs by facial cues and decided to try it out as my new activity on Day One Hundred Fifty-Four.

My dossier of people

Basically, the process goes like this: you tag subjects’ faces in various selected photographs and then the program searches the library for features that match. High-end technology there. Except that sometimes it got it wrong.

Not every man in my photo library looks like the preacher who married Shelley and Kenley. Seriously, Patrick, my dad, my brother, and generally any other white guy…the minister’s photo came up each time I tried to find the men in pictures.

And as for my own face, while the program managed to get it right most of the time, any other white girl who I happened to have a picture of would also be questioned. My friend Erin (who people have said I look like), the random girl at her wedding, Shelley, and even…and this was kind of funny…my brother. Maybe the facial recognition works considering we are siblings!

It really is quite unique to be able to find people in my thousands of pictures. However, I did find one important flaw in the program: it doesn’t recognize animals. I know, why should it, but I thought it was pretty funny tagging Murphy in all the photos I have of the pup and then seeing if maybe the program would get the idea. It didn’t.

"No matches found."

Witches and Warlocks at Midnight (128th new thing).

August 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

The final installment of the Harry Potter movies arrived in movie theaters on Day One Twenty-Eight. Well, at midnight actually, but I arrived at the theater on the appropriate day (for strict rule-adherence).

I’d been to a couple midnight screenings before, but never Harry Potter. For awhile I was able to see the films before their release, through working for a movie publicity and promotions firm who boasted Warner Bros. as a client. But seeing the saga on the big screen with a full audience of super fans was a new exhilarating experience.

My friend Erin had an extra ticket, since her husband was eager enough to pass on the experience. And for that, thank you Tyler. We arrived at the movieplex two hours before the film began and were able to enter the theater immediately. I passed through several teenagers dressed as Hogwarts students and employees donning Harry Potter style glasses. There were countless cloaks and witch hats and even a few super fans who dressed as specific characters. Mad Eye Moody, Professor McGonagall, and the like. Several young girls boasted home made t-shirts with slogans like “Mrs. Malfoy” or “I’ve been with Harry since the beginning.” I felt under dressed in my jeans and sweater ensemble. before the movie even began a couple of boys took over the walkway between theater seat tiers and pretended to shoot spells at each other across the room. One dramatically collapsed at the avada kedavra killing curse to applause from the audience.

The movie began right on time, to a smattering of cheers and clapping. It took me a moment to get used to the 3-D glasses. I have to admit, I am not a fan of the 3-D movie going experience. I’ve only watched a few films in this fashion, but usually I end up with a slight headache caused by a small distracting glare reflected on the inside of the glasses. I think I still enjoy the 2-D experience, and kind of hope this whole phenomenon will silently go away.

The movie itself was the fantastic spectacle expected. Although I love the Harry Potter books more, the films do not disappoint. And since this isn’t really a review of the movie, I’ll leave it at that.

Of course there was applause at the finale as the credits rolled. I wiped the tears (yes, I cried) from my eyes and headed out with Erin and her friends. I was able to see even more fans on the way out, children and adults alike loitering in the theater lobby in their home made t-shirts excitedly recapping their midnight HP7.5 experience. Their enthusiasm was contagious, and I left the cinema with a silly grin on my face.

I’m sad that the Harry Potter movie era is over, but there’s so many more similar series to look forward to. Hello, Hunger Games?

What do Bush Dogs eat? (125th new thing)

August 9, 2011 § 2 Comments

Day One Hundred Twenty-Five found my brother, Brad, and his girlfriend, Rebecca, in town visiting. Last time they came down we had talked about going to Zoo Atlanta where one of my oldest and best friends Erin works. They ended up going to the Aquarium and World of Coca Cola instead, so we saved the zoo trip for this time. While I had been to Zoo Atlanta before, I had never had a personalized, behind-the-scenes tour. Most excitingly, I had never hand-fed a couple of bush dogs.

Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any photos of things that went on behind the scenes at the zoo. So no pictures of cute bush dog pups eating out of my hand. I did, however, manage to snap some images of the other wonderful animals living in Zoo Atlanta. I stupidly left the battery of my digital SLR charging in the kitchen, but fortunately I had my point-and-shoot camera as a back-up. Erin was so full of information and knowledge about both the types of animals we were observing as well as the personality characteristics of the individuals themselves that the trip was rich with information and full of excitement. I’ll share what I remember about a few of the animals we saw.

50+ years and doesn't look a day over 25.

There was once an Aldabra Tortoise at Zoo Atlanta that was born in 1895 named Big Al. He was only on loan, though, and has since moved back to his home in Tennessee.  All of the tortoises at Zoo Atlanta are at least fifty years old. This species of tortoises is the second largest in the world.

Cassowary: Strange Bird.

The Cassowary looks like a giant turkey crossed with a peacock. What looks like plumage on the top of the bird’s head is actually a hard brittle material called a casque, the French word for helmet.

Sake the Bali Mynah (a very endangered bird) has quite the personality. He can mimic the human voice and knows several words. While he did not speak when Erin said hello to him, he did do a bit of a dance and puffed up his feathers. Quite amusing.

Zazu and Gumby are Southern Ground Hornbills. They look like ugly vulturesque birds with big soulful eyes and long enviable eyelashes.  Like Sake, they have quite the personality. These birds recognize Zoo employees’ shirts as they walk by and the birds come to the glass looking for food. Once fed, they parade in front of their exhibit for visitors, showing off their wares.

Shirley with the little ones.

Vern and Shirley are the male and female (respectively) warthogs at Zoo Atlanta. They have a very productive romantic life, producing babies every year. Right now they have three offspring, all named after Dennis the Menace characters. While the young will be sent to other zoos and habitats around the country, Vern and Shirley are permanent Zoo Atlanta residents. Shirley is much more adventurous than her male partner, trying new toys and food before Vern will join in.

The family that swims together...

The Asian Small Claw Otters at the zoo are pretty entertaining to observe. They are a very close-knit family, traveling in a long succession of bodies across the habitat.

Tara and Kelly.

Tara and Kelly are the two African Elephants at Zoo Atlanta. Since they are used to sprawling lands to trek their huge bodies across, the elephant keepers are some of the most active. They have to run across the vast elephant habitat to encourage the giant mammals to exercise with them. And the elephants are intelligent, very quick to learn. As rewarding as daily interaction with the beasts would be, I still don’t think I could manage the mass amounts of speeding back and forth across the pen.

Eating

The Giant Pandas are one of the biggest draws at the zoo. In fact, some people are panda crazy, traveling from all over the world to come watch the Asian bears eat and sleep. And poop. While I admit that they are quite cute, in that “you look so cuddly but are more akin to deadly” kind of way, I wasn’t as enamored with the bubs? as much as the crowd around me. When we asked Erin what they did all day (like do they wrestle and play and such), she told us that mostly they sleep and eat. Albeit very cutely.

 

Sleeping

This is what a pregnant giraffe looks like.

Giraffes are kind of weird animals in my opinion. They are so tall and graceful, with those immensely powerful necks and blackish blue prehensile tongues. When we visited the zoo there was one male, two females (one preeggers), and a young giraffe. Since then, the pregnant female has given birth! The Zoo Atlanta website has an adorable video of the little pup.

I think this is Abu.

My favorite zoo animals are usually in the ape/monkey category. Perhaps because they are fun to watch, swinging from trees and interacting with each other in some sort of social activity. Maybe I have some sort of human vanity and prefer animals who act and look more similar to myself. Psychoanalyze that.Whatever my unconscious reason may be, I love the orangutans and gorillas.

I'll be happy if you use less palm oil!

While we were at the orangutan exhibit (Zoo Atlanta has both Bornean and Sumatran Orangutans) Erin told us how critically endangered the animals are, especially the Sumatran. The way the animals’ numbers are dwindling, in two generations orangutans will be but a myth, or only bred in captivity. Part of this is in part to the increased demand of palm oil, a substance found in many common household items. The rainforest habitat of the orangutans is being systematically destroyed in order to build palm oil plantations. It’s basically genocide of these animals who share 97% of their DNA with humans.

Considering how widespread the use of palm oil is, it would be difficult to completely boycott the product. However, there are small steps everyone can take.

 

Kuchi and the babe.

Another member of the primate family that I personally grew up associating with Zoo Atlanta is the Gorilla. Willie B was a pivotal figure in encouraging people to attend and support the zoo (much like the Giant Pandas these days). And I could probably sit for an entire afternoon watching Taz, Kuchi, and the adorable little baby gorilla acting like, well, a child.

 

Nasty looking things, but oddly cute.

Another favorite of mine for no particular reason other than the absurdity of its figure is the Naked Mole Rat. These ugly little blind creatures fascinate me in much the same way the primates do. They are just fun to watch, burrowing in their underground lair. They are like a combination rat and mole ant and hamster in their behavior and organization. But oh so ugly!

Sleepy Kangaroo. I cropped the poop out.

When I had asked Erin if there was any possibility of feeding one of the zoo animals, she was given the choice of a kangaroo or bush dogs. Since the bush dogs are relatively new creatures at Zoo Atlanta, Erin opted for them. I had no problem with that at all (not knowing what a bush dog was).  We did get to see the kangaroos lazing about in the heat and humidity. Apparently, like the warthogs, the kangaroos also have a healthy reproductive life, carrying many joeys in their pouches over the years. They populate like…rabbits kangaroos!

 

*Courtesy Zoo Atlanta website. My photos were all bush dog butt.

The Bush Dogs were one of the highlights of our Zoo Atlanta trip, mostly because we were able to come face to face, hand to mouth with them. They look like mini bear cubs, kind of crossed with a dog. I would love to have one sit on my lap like Murphy, but up close you really see their big claws and sharp teeth. We fed them through the bars of their indoor cage, little pieces of meat drawn from our gloved fingers into those sharp teeth. It was actually pretty amazing. And you may be wondering what they eat…

 

Sheena, their zookeeper being all excited about their dinner.

The answer is meatballs and dead mice, cut up into bite-sized morsels. And some horse knee cap for dessert and to use as a giant chew toy.

While you may not be able to share the bush dog feeding experience with me, I would certainly encourage all Georgia residents (and those from out of state) to attend the zoo at least once this year. And enroll your children in the Nightcrawlers program, where you spend the night at the zoo and get your own private group tour. Erin runs it and it is an awesome experience.

Day Nine. Green Beer.

March 22, 2011 § 4 Comments

Day Nine was St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve never been a big celebrator of this holiday, so figured I could make my task St. Paddy related. I would drink green beer.

The only problem with this was finding a bar that actually served green beer. I knew I could go to one of the few Irish pubs around, but being smushed in with a bunch of Guinness-swilling drunks didn’t sound very appealing. I had planned to meet my friends Erin (who has a very Irish name) and Tyler for a drink. We decided on the Midway in East Atlanta. Not knowing if they would have food coloring for their booze, I brought my own. Better safe than sorry?

Turns out, they did not dye their beer. As the waitress explained, the Midway is a very organic eco-conscious bar, and the organic green food coloring is very expensive. Whatever; that’s why I brought my own. I didn’t know how many drops of the coloring to add to the Ommegang Hennepin (chosen for its lighter color so we could see the green). I’m pretty sure I overestimated because not only was the liquid a very dark forest green, but it also tasted a little chemically. Oh, if only my food dye was organic!

Green Tongue

So yes, the beer did stain my tongue. And after drinking about 3/4 of it I changed my order to a Guinness. It was much more fitting to the holiday, and better tasting. I also brought my tea cozy/hat from day five in case Erin and Tyler opted out of the green attire. I even got Patrick to pose for a picture. Sort of.

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