If you've been taking notes (and if I've actually stated things overtly), you'll have noticed that we'll be getting married by a Justice of the Peace a week from Saturday and then having a ceremony with family, friends, pomp, and circumstance a week later. Chatting with Jon last night about which day to celebrate as the anniversary, I hit upon an idea: Celebrate the whole week, like Advent, with little presents for seven days. He said it was a great idea and developed a gleam in his eye that made me very uncomfortable, wondering what Origami Boy would do with a whole week for our first anniversary, the paper anniversary. But Jon had one condition: I don't tell Hallmark about it and give them the chance to commercialize it. So, if you work for Hallmark, you are getting verrrry sleeeepy, your eyes are getting heeeeeaavy, you are forgetting everything you have read in this paragraph. You will awake, refreshed and aroused, when I snap my fingers.


and so everything worked out for the best, except we were never able to get the peanut butter out of his fur.

Oooooh, t'ai chi makes me so h'ap pi! My back feels great. My knees and ankles are very aware of themselves currently, but I think that just means they're getting stronger. I could eat a whole cow by myself right now, though.

Renewed our lease last night, at the last possible moment. That wasn't deliberate; it was just such an obvious thing for us, why go fill out paperwork? But our rent is staying at the same rate, though we're no longer getting the first-year, major-employer discount of $10/month, but instead they gave us an incentive of $250 off the first month's rate. So it works out to being $10 and change less, overall. Sweet!

So, yes, the housing market is finally calming down to sane levels. And with the new management at our complex, we've been getting better service. We got a new dishwasher a bit ago. I'm now ready to tackle the two leaking toilets (leaking into the bowl; they just run periodically. Wasteful, not wet.) and the drippy faucet. I bet once those three springs are tightened up, we'll see a dramatic reduction in water costs every month (and my conscience will breathe easier).

And Jon adjusted the location of his blog. But turn down the brightness on your monitor first... my eyes, my eyes...

Are you sick of wedding updates yet? Yeah, me, too.

Alright then, a proposal:

You may all start calling me "Tex" now.

Thank you.

My mother writes:

Dear Texas,

Yee Haw! Happy Wedding!

The magical, mystical shirt of non-staining.

Perhaps it is indicative of the kind of day I'm having, but I spilled both coffee and Coke on this shirt, and it hasn't stained a bit! I did get a wet paper towel and wipe up the coffee, but I didn't have a chance to attack the Coke before dashing off to an hour-long meeting. Not a mark. How extraordinary.

It's a mix of cotton and spandex (and I just got a phenominal headrush and weird eye-floaty things from craning my neck around to look. wooo.). Viva technology!

It's funny what it takes, isn't it? Now, finally now, I'm getting excited about this wedding. Why now? I just made an appointment with a Justice of the Peace for Saturday, August 11, at 5pm.

We also picked up my back-ordered ring a few days ago. And a box full of blow-outs with sparkly fringe arrived yesterday (the rice/birdseed/bubbles/bells replacement). We've ordered the stickers with our names and the date for sticking onto the blow-outs; those will be in in another week or so. Dance lessons continue. Dress is coming together; bride's maids seem to have their dresses under control; boys are being flakey and are late getting me their measurements, which is why I made their deadline a few days earlier than mine.

Mostly, I'm exhausted.

Jon got his learner's permit, we got our marriage license, I got the car inspected (waaaay overdue), and I got all the fluids and such flushed (also waaaay overdue). That was Friday. Then on Saturday, we went to the Arthur Storer Toastmasters meeting, where they had a guest speaker playing host for "Who Wants to be a Toastmaster?" I actually won and was the only one that day to do so. I got the 100,000 Grand... candybar. It was much less dorky than I had expected; it was a good time, and I was rewarded in chocolate. What more could you want? After that, we went to Ben and Tosha's for Dungeons&Dragons and dress fitting. I'm gonna look so pretty! Finally, on Sunday, we attended another private dance lesson. It's coming together, but the figures we're learning are harder and take a stronger lead (and better following). Then, on the way home, rather than running our errand to Wal-Mart for oven cleaner and a tape measure, Jon suggested we just go see a movie. Any movie. Who cares? So we went up to our favorite corporate theatre, perused a selection that was not as dismal as I'd expected, and selected The Score, with Robert deNiro, Ed Norton, Angela Bassett, and, last but not least, Marlon Brando, directed by Frank Oz, of all people. Jon wasn't so impressed, but I thought it was pretty cool. It ended up not being all that violent, which was a relief, but it certainly had a lot of tension. I like those intricate plots where you can't figure out where it's going or who's on whose side. The after-thought romantic conflict was completely useless, but the rest of it was very cool. I'm starting to become a real Ed Norton fan; he's just nuts. Robert deNiro is always in charge up on that screen, and I love watching him work. Marlon Brando was reprising his role, and that was fun to watch, but he seemed to be included more for nostalgia than anything else. After the film, we did go run our Wal-Mart errand, but they were out of tape measures. Sheesh.

Meg writes about her granddad, which, as with many things, reminds me of Grandpa Joe. I wish I had gotten into astrophysics earlier; we could have had some great chats. I wrote a poem the morning I found out he died, and I might put it up in my poetry section, but it's about me, not him. I want to talk about him.

Yes, astrophysics. Like my other grandfather, Grandpa Cichelli, Grandpa Joe worked for Dupont. Grandma told me about a time he was listed in the town newsletter, under the prodigal son category, as studying Quantity Physics and Difficult Equations. (Maybe they knew more about it than they thought.) Of all the things he taught me, I wish he'd pointed me at the quantum physics, rather than letting me discover it, too late, during my junior year of college. But then, maybe he had; I haven't always been the best at listening to grownups.

If the pictures on the wall are to be believed, Grandpa Joe was an actor, back in the day. He taught me three things about acting:

  1. To walk like a lumbering monster (human or otherwise), move the arm that's on the same side as the foot you step with, instead of the opposite one.

  2. To act drunk, concentrate on acting very sober.

  3. And the most important thing in comedy. "What's the most impor--" Timing.

He also drove the four-hour round trip to attend most of my high school plays.

Grandpa Joe was a bit of a linguist and quite a character. He taught me to say "grandfather" in a bunch of languages. He thought it was terribly funny that "grandmother" in one of those languages sounded something like "haatsmama," finding it quite fitting that my grandma be called a hot mamma. I didn't get it at the time. I do now. He also rode his bicycle every morning into town to get the newspaper. Joe Downing on the Red Bike... I went with him one morning, on my pink Huffy. Those bikes are aptly named; I nearly died.

And the other thing I did with him, once, was the annual Walk Around the House. Well, yes, it is a big house, but that's not really what's salient here. On the first snowfall of the year, Grandpa Joe would walk all the way around the Big Gray House, once. Barefoot. And I joined him, once, barefoot. The last ten feet are over those coarse gray stones used for paving an area you don't want to pave, but by then, one's feet are far too numb to notice. I think the year I joined him was the last year he was up for making the Walk.

And, to make sure I was a lady of good breeding and grace, Grandpa Joe taught me to play pool. His primary guideline carries over well into many aspects of life:

Don't swear until all the balls stop moving.

Can you believe this: Another dance lesson tonight.

Gee, it's Tuesday already, isn't it. Hm. We had another private dance lesson on Sunday, and signed up for four more. It's really starting to come together. We also went to Warehouse Music to get one song and ended up buying six CDs. The kicker, though, is that the arrangement of Sing, Sing, Sing, the song we went there to get, is mad-fast. I couldn't imagine dancing that fast in formal wear, especially in that bustier. Sigh. I don't know what we'll do at the reception.

On Saturday, we went to a concert of music by P.D.Q. Bach, performed by the Austin Chamber Music C...oalition? whatever. It was quite a bit of fun, and we felt so refined. Afterwards, we went out for steak. Mmmmm, steak.

We skipped the group dance lesson last night. I felt like I had too much to do, and Jon felt under the weather, and the Monday group lesson is probably the least useful for us, since that has the highest attendance. I hope to go on Thursday, though.

Went to T'ai Chi class this morning, and my back feels much better than usual. I had been fighting the evening rush hour traffic and driving the half-hour+ up to the Dell Round Rock fitness center, but I skipped one class back during my furlough, and then I didn't feel up to it the next week, and then we started dancing on Thursdays, and... It wasn't the class that was the deterrent, but the traffic. Bumper-to-bumper on IH 35, that death trap. But now, thanks in part to my plantive pleas I think, the newly opened fitness center down here on my campus has started offering a T'ai Chi class from 7 to 8 on Tuesday mornings. Doug, the instructor, said they might add another on Thursday mornings. That would be great! I definitely feel better when I'm actively attending T'ai Chi classes.

One final note about interfaces and accessibility: When you visit my cube, don't comment on my keyboard.

Thank you.

I just had a user-interface epiphany. I'm using Mousetool, which clicks my mouse whenever I pause with the pointer, and that makes navigation that you have to hover over to know where it's going really annoying. This is an important consideration in the drive for accessibility. Then, on a technical point, a lot of the technologies that drive tool-tip-style popups are unavailable to various segments of the web viewing public. The "title" attribute on anchor tags (links) only works in IE. Javascript popups don't work on text-only and non-javascript-enabled browsers (and, again regarding accessibility, not on speech readers for the blind, either). And, I don't care what anyone says, the dynamic CSS positioning of elements on a page (like, the aforementioned tool-tip popup) does not work as advertised, in either of The Big Two.

A call to action for web designers: Remember that the best art is most beautiful when it fits its function perfectly.

Oh, yeah! Hey, happy Freaky Friday. ^_^

I have been informed that I should report on last night's dance lesson, for the benefit of those evaluating the prospects at Go Dance. I dunno. The practice is good, dancing with a variety of partners keeps you from cementing bad habits, and it's a fun way to spend an evening, but they could have their act together a little better. So far, we've had three classes and three different instructors who, apparently, don't talk to each other. We've gone over the basic step in baby steps too many times. The instructor last night was so cute he could have been made out of marzapan, but he could have done with a little focusing, and his explanations weren't entirely transparent. Not until I danced with Jon did I realize that I was learning a move I already knew; instructions were a little obtuse.

The most frustrating thing is that these instructors explain technical points in a way that completely contradicts what our instructor in last week's private lesson said.

That said, we certainly are learning this dance. We practice in our living room, and Jon really has it together. He still looks white and, at times, like he's trying to pass a cue ball, but he's connecting the figures into sequences, and I think we'll look great at the wedding. Provided my bustier allows me to move.

Clue #34 that You Are Lacking Focus at Work: You consider setting your pager to "silent" mode and paging yourself.

Clue #35: Instead, you post a blog entry about doing it.

Actually, I've gotten good things done today. It's just been eight-and-a-half hours, so I'm starting to watch the clock. Also, in the past, I have made project timeline estimates without sufficient data, neither about the project nor about my own abilities. So, when writing a detailed project plan this time, I was determined to give conservative estimates on the amount of time needed for each task, to make sure I made my deadline without turning myself into a hollow-eyed nerve ending. The offshoot is that there is not enough pressure on me to get my brain into that caffiene-hum, supergeek, laser-focused, productivity burn. I know, with absolute certainty, that somewhere down the line, a major snafu will pull me off this project onto support, or that I'm completely wrong about how complex one of the tasks on this project actually is, or that my business partner will have a Change of Vision, provided he deigns to look at my prototype before the coding is completely done, and this unforseen (though I'm seeing it here, aren't I?) calamity will eat up all the extra time I built in. But this still doesn't get me sharpened and on task.

I need to set myself some tighter deadlines. Sigh.

It didn't last nearly long enough.

I reinstalled Mousetool, which sends a mouse-click event to your computer every time you move and then hover your pointer. It's a "donationware" (if you like it, give money to a charity of your choosing) repetitive-stress-injury preventer, saving you the strain of the constant clicking (and the gripping that accompanies the clicking (and, if you're me, the griping that accompanies the clicking. Somewhat. Mice are a stupid user-interface tool)). I had been using it for a while last year but, until now, hadn't reinstalled it after my machine got migrated to Windows2000. It's a friendly little tool, and it reminds me every hour to take a stretch break. How neighborly.

Another dance lesson tonight. This is another group lesson, and I expect it to build on last week's classes, giving them the benefit of the doubt on Monday just being a repeat of the previous Thursday.

Apropos of nothing, my friend Dave is trying his hand at ASP and hosting his own site and running his own server and all that, so here's a plug: Dave's photography portfolio and resources at FinestLight.com.

And I'm sucking on a Hershey bar. Because it needed to happen.

Holy cow. Hoe. Lee. Cow. Shpedoinkal, even.

I've seen this musical, and here it is, getting performed in New York. If I weren't half a country away, I'd get tickets. Go on my behalf, and then tell me about it, so I can relive it, vicariously.

What's weirder yet is how I found that. I was reading not.so.soft, and Meg informed us that my cat hates you, whose letters page directs us to a story about the angriest cat in Chinatown, the author of which was considering attending this theatrical gem back in June. Reading a bit more of the blog, I have to assume he didn't go. Having seen it, one just couldn't fail to comment.

Dance, dance, dance, and boy, did we. Last night's class was a review of Thursday's, and because it started at 7 instead of 9, there were quite a few more people there. Jon and I were feeling like old pros (and I was wishing the classes would actually build on each other, as advertised). I expect next Thursday will teach new moves. We did learn the hammerlock turn last night, and I finally, by the end of the evening, got to a point where I looked sassy, rather than worried about my shoulders popping out of their sockets. Jon is looking just plain spiffy. He's really getting the hang of it. After the class, we pushed the furniture out of our living room, vacuumed, and then cut a rug to Glenn Miller. What a hoot!

So, to find your dream man, do not waste energy trying to get a dancer to be a reasonable human being. Instead, find an awesome guy, and teach him to dance.

I am being manipulated.

I was craving chocolate, so I trotted over to the vending machine. I selected a Snickers. Why? Because I love caramel? Because that creamy nougat (whatever that is) satisfies me? No. Because enough commercials have planted a seed in my head that Snickers bars are a little more nutritious, a little more like a meal than other candy bars. Phooey.

But I ate the Snickers bar. I am so ashamed.

Weekend of Accomplishments.

I read more than half of Robert's Rules in Plain English, prepping for my role as President of the Dell Toastmasters club. Jon and I had our private dance lesson and signed up for two more. And I made the cake topper for my wedding cake.

Our Toastmasters club hasn't been adhering to Parliamentary Procedure since I joined, ten months ago. One of the goals for this term is to get back into the habit, educating the officers and the club members in Robert's Rules of Order along the way. If everybody knows the rules perfectly, I can see how it would make meetings run smoothly. There will be bumps, however, the first time I have to tell people that they have to vote to amend the amendment, then vote to accept that amended amendment to the motion, and then vote on the motion. On the upside, it's like playing a game.

So far, Jon and I have attended one group lesson in swing dance and one private lesson, which mostly focused on swing, too. The private lesson was pretty cool, but 50 minutes is over in nuthin'. We had hoped to have our first dance at the wedding be a waltz to Sarah McLaughlin's "Ice Cream," but it's way too fast, and the waltz is way too hard. At least, the instructor was working on what I think is the Viennese waltz; I get the feeling there is a less formal, far easier version. But it looks like our first dance will be "Sing, Sing, Sing." I can live with that. Maybe we'll play Sarah as the recessional.

Ooooooh, the cake topper. Okay, so I had this vision, right? Sweet, accommodating boy; blustery, high intensity girl... Kermit and Miss Piggy. Right. Do you know how hard it is to find figurines of Kermit and Piggy? I wrote to Disney.com, who wrote back to say that maybe some of their stores would sell such a thing. Well, the girl at the Disney store in our mall didn't even know that the Evil Empire had bought Henson Studios. Flake. It became increasingly apparent that I was going to have to sculpt this myself. I went to Hobby Lobby on Tuesday and bought a mess of bakeable Sculpey clay, some seed beads, and eight cents' worth of lace. Last night, I built the darn things. I have to admit, I'm incredibly pleased. Unfortunately, during baking, Kermit fell over and then hardened up too much to straighten up properly, but I built up big shoes on him (spats, even) so now he stands on his own, though he looks like he's already dancing, with those bent knees. I dressed Piggy in a dress like mine and put Kermit in a tuxedo with tails. They're too much. My concerns now are transporting them safely and whether or not they are too tall and too heavy for the cake. If so, we'll stand them nearby. They're just freakin' awesome.

We did try to go to the "dive-in" movie at Deep Eddy Pool. The pool is spring fed and, I believe, not chlorinated. There was a lot of debris. But it's tucked away in the trees, just off of Lake Austin. We were confused, though, as more people seemed to be leaving at 8 than arriving. I finally asked a life guard. The movies are, um, on Saturday, not Friday. We enjoyed our splash in the pool, though. We also did not get to the midnight showing of the Muppet Movie; just too tired to go out. Instead, we ventured to I Love Video, which is one of those distinctly Austin establishments. At first, I didn't think there was any organization to the tapes. After some wandering, I began to see the patterns, some by category, some by decade (notably, the 80s), some by actor, some by director. We rented Head, by the Monkees, which Jon has been wanting to show me for a while, and Funny Face, with Audrey Hepburn (yay!) and Fred Astaire, who didn't dance nearly enough. Head was less coherent than a typical Monkees episode, but it was very Monkees. I haven't seen their show since high school, so that was some fun nostalgia. I did go to one of their concerts around that time (sans Mike Nesmith, since he was off being a Serious Musician, I think). They were, um, older, but at least they had the good sense, unlike Flock of Seagulls at the Retrofest last summer, to play the stuff people know them and love them for. Funny Face, complete with Gershwin tunes, comes from that comforting era of movies. I want more films like that, where the most distressing thing that happens warrants a pouty, "Oh, pooh!" But Fred definitely did not dance enough. What was up with that?

It was a good weekend. More dancing tonight...

Bend over, lemme see you shake your tailfeather.

We went swing dancing last night! (And I'm currently listening to Ray Charles from the Blues Brothers album.) We signed up for a month of classes at Go Dance. We can attend as many group classes as we can stand; there are four hour-long classes each day, all week, in varying styles and skill levels. Level 1 Swing meets twice a week. We had a terrific time, and Jon is already showing improvement. The thing I liked best is that the instructor spent time teaching how to lead.

Then, as new members, we get one free private lesson, which we'll have this Sunday. They're also having a special deal during July, where we can get two more private lessons for $50 total. We met our instructor last night and talked about the wedding and such. He said, if we wanted, he could choreograph a wedding dance. Could you imagine?! Ah, I'm so excited. (And, he is proficient in Italian, German, and Russian, having lived a few years in each. Not that world-travelled, suave, chiseled dance instructors would catch my eye, or anything. I'm just saying, is all.)

It was a fun date. And speaking of fun dates, we might go to a "dive in movie" tonight. One of the local swimming pools shows movies for $2 on a big screen, so you can float and watch the film. This evening, it's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Tomorrow night, the Alamo Drafthouse is showing The Muppet Movie at midnight; we're not sure we're really midnight-movie goers, anymore, but it sounds like fun. Then Sunday is our dance lesson! ^_^

Note to self: If you have magpie tendencies, do not paint your fingernails with chrome-colored, shiny... sparkly... Oooooohhhh

Sitting in a restaurant eating food I never would have touched two years ago, I am struck by how much I have adapted. Watching friends shoot off fireworks from a mortar in front of the house, next to my car, I am struck by how much I have not.

For me, fireworks displays mean sitting on a blanket in J. Birney Crumb stadium, listening to the Allentown Band play the 1812 Overture while the fire department provides the cannon. I was completely ill at ease last night, surrounded by neighbors with bottle rockets, watching my sometimes common-sense-free boyfriend hold a Roman candle. The afternoon started pleasantly enough, with ten of us gathered for a little cookout, but by 9pm, we were in the driveway with fireworks littered all over the bed of a pickup truck. (One spinner lept up into the air, flew over our heads, and bounced off the end of that pickup truck.) See, in Allentown, they outlawed sparklers. In Texas, outside of city limits, anything's game, and my friends live in a little chunk of No Man's Land between Austin and Cedar Park.

We escaped at quarter to 10. I suppose the evening ended without incident, but I had a vivid vision of Jon running to me with third-degree burns on his face and three fingers gone from his hand. This holiday makes me home sick.

Butterscotch lollipops can do a lot for one's mood.

I feel better today. All the invitations are out, except for five, for the people who have not answered me about their addresses. And the bridal registry is complete and up at Cichelli.net. I feel so sexy for programming it. We bought rings on Sunday; they're very pretty, and we can't wait to wear them. We signed up for dance lessons, group ones starting this week for the month and a private one on this coming Saturday. We bought Jon some proper dance shoes and ordered a pair of character shoes for me.

We also saw Moulin Rouge on Saturday, and it was impressively cool. Kind of La Boheme/Rent-ish, very rich in color and sound. Well-suited for the MTV Generation, raised on a density of input. I think it would overwhelm my grandparents and bore my parents. But we liked it a lot. It made me cry.

We found a new TexMex restaurant, across the street from the dance shoe store, tucked back in the trees. We had the funniest waiter, and the food was good. We both got fruit smoothies, too, which was just the thing in that afternoon heat.

Did I mention that the bridal registry is done? Whew!

I was looking through some old papers and found our initial Austin apartment search. There's a complex just a few miles from our current one (bikable distance) where we could get a lot more space for less money. They've got a 1200-square-foot three-bedroom/two-bath for $795/month. We're paying $839 (about to be $859, when we renew) for a 972-square-foot two-bedroom/two-bath. And three bedrooms means three closets! But it is in a scarier part of town, so the apartments might not be--as hard as this is to fathom--as nice. We are at the bottom of my tolerance for crappy service and rotten buildings. I hope this year has made me shrewder, so that I'll be able to accurately assess what this new place would be like. It's exciting to think of three bedrooms for less money. It's daunting to think of moving in the next four weeks. Maybe next year.