Thursday, July 29, 2010

Oh Julian, I thought I told you this, but I guess I was wrong

It seems I completely forgot to share a song with you that I discovered last month. And by discovered, I mean was told about by Brotherface.

The band? Foxy Shazam, a name chosen by the lead singer, Eric Sean Nally, because it was a phrase used in his high school to say "cool shoes."


I'll also let him describe the band's sound for you:

"When I listen to a Foxy Shazam record I think of Evel Knievel, Bruce Springsteen, my childhood, Van Morrison, my old friends from high school I don't talk to anymore, Elton John, the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, and beyond, Iggy Pop and my first kiss. One of my favorite things to do when listening to my music is to close my eyes and picture a crowd of six million people all chanting "Foxy! Foxy! Foxy!" The lights go out and my band walks on stage. It gives me goose bumps. It all makes sense to me. When you listen to our record, think of your favorite things and it'll make sense to you as well. Foxy Shazam is not concerned with what category it falls into. We want to stand for our generation. We want to be the biggest band in the world. We are the Michael Jordan of Rock N' Roll."

Oddly enough, it does make sense.

I loved the song. I bought their albums immediately. And I fell more in love every time. The music videos just add a whole new dimension of awesome. Not only do I want to see this band live, I want to be IN the band. Or any band that has that much fun on stage.

The tragedy is that Foxy Shazam came to DC in July.

On a Sunday.

And I just couldn't justify going.

So, I listen to their albums. Watch the videos. And pray that they'll come back soon.

I will add a language warning for the first song. Just so you're aware. It's also cool, because Julian is actually his son, which makes the wins of bands who sing really good songs to the lead singer's son named Julian 2 for 2. The second song is clean, and still gives you a good idea of this band's talent.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Baby you can drive my car

Last week, it occurred to me that I had never taken myself for a long drive, just for the sake of a drive. Sure, my family drove the Alpine Loop just for the scenery together. Once. But I've never been on such a drive all by myself.

So, Saturday, I did just that.

I drove from my house to Waynesboro, VA, via I-66W and I-81S, picked up some lunch (and a cherry limeade) at Sonic, then entered the Shenandoah National Park Skyline Drive via Rockfish Gap and drove ALL 105 miles north through the park, driving home via 1-66E.

It took 9 hours.

But for scenery like this, a gorgeous sunset, the most perfect road trip playlist in the known universe (I didn't skip one song and I always end up skipping songs on playlists I think will be great), and the confidence that I can have such an adventure? I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Click here for a map of my drive.

Sunset in the west:
Moonrise in the east:
Vintage-esque photos taken using the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone. And don't worry, I took pictures from my driving POV with my shifting hand only when it was free and it has a giant yellow button that I could see out of the corner of my eye. I didn't actually compose the pictures, which is why they might be off-balance or extra fuzzy.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Well let the geek in the pink take a stab at it

There are some days I surprise even myself with my geekiness.

Going to Crystal City's outdoor showing of Star Trek by myself tonight isn't that big of a surprise. I've been going weekly with Captain Deviance, J Pearcy, and Apple, but they weren't available this evening. I had to pick up something from the organizers anyway, and I really like "First Contact".

But when I got home, my internet wasn't working. Tragedy! I ran the computer's troubleshooting and it said it was the modem. I unplugged. I reset. Nada.

So, I called Cox.

The friendly customer service rep checked his end and talked me through testing the cable directly into the modem, instead of going through the splitter, which worked. My internet was back. The rep said it was either the cable or the splitter, but could easily replace those and this solution would work fine for tonight. I finished the TiVo'd episode of "The Big Bang Theory" I was watching, then went to live TV.


Oh yeah, the splitter was also sending the cable to my TiVo box for TV, and I had bypassed the splitter. It was either TV or internet tonight, and not both. No matter that it was after 11:30 by this time and I probably should have just gone to bed.

I realized that I could test, all by myself, if it was either the cable or the splitter. If I switched the cable from the TiVo to the modem and it worked, it was the cable. If it didn't, it was the splitter. Well, the cable wasn't coming unscrewed from the TiVo, but I quickly realized another way. If I just plugged the cable back into the splitter and the TV came back on, it was the cable.

I did. And it did.

It was the cable.

I was proud of this troubleshooting, but that still meant it was either TV or internet, but not both.

Then I thought: If I'm really a good geek, I'll have an extra coax cable in my cable stash.

I do.

I had a long one, a short one, and even an extra splitter.

The short one has replaced the bad one, and I have both TV AND the internet, and I don't have to go buy anymore cables.

Go me.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Arabian nights like Arabian days more often than not are hotter than hot in a lot of good ways

The problem with blogging about this Egypt trip is that I've journaled about it, tweeted about it, posted and captioned about a zillion pictures of it on Facebook, talked about it, and created a photobook of it, and I'm pretty sure I've annoyed everyone with my "I WAS JUST IN EGYPT!!!!" attitude.

That I still have.

Even in July.

Well, maybe it's not THAT bad, but still. After all that, I still have to blog?

Yes, yes I do.

So, here it is, the epic I Went To Egypt And It Was Awesome blog post to end all blog posts.

Thus far, we've had a general overview and getting there post, the story of Day 1 and almost getting squished post, and the pyramids rock post.

So, what else did I do?

I visited Islamic Cairo with Josie (Nancy's sister), Jaehee (a Cairo LDS branch friend), and Jaewon (her sister).

We entered through Bab al-Futuh - Gate of Conquests

Visited the mosque of Al-Hakim. The only time we had to cover our heads was inside mosques, which a built after the manner of the prophet Muhammed's home. We also had to remove our shoes, which made walking across the glistening white marble floor in 100+ degree heat a bit uncomfortable.

Explored the madrassa and mausoleums all over Islamic Cairo. There is no iconography in Islam, but the writing and symbols in the architecture and art decorating their buildings holds special meaning to those of that faith, and it's absolutely gorgeous.

We climbed a minaret at Bab Zuweila (the first picture below) and took in the view of the sprawling city. It's dirty and crowded and still just incredible. Minarets rising above apartments, satellite dishes on every building, and it all going in every direction for miles.

On another day, Andrew took Josie, Rachel, and me to explore Coptic Cairo, the Christian part of the city. There is iconography here, but in a different style than I'm accustomed to, and it was fascinating.

I was completely intrigued by this cemetery. It's a Christian cemetery, but with a mix of Greek, French, and Egyptian styles, among others.

Signs of a zombie apocalypse soon to come?

We also visited a well that Mary, the mother of the Savior, is said to have drank from when the Holy Family was in exile here. I learned that it was perfectly normal for them to retreat to Egypt, because even 2000 years ago, it was a vacation spot for people from Jerusalem and other places as the pyramids were old even then. I really didn't consider that ancient peoples even took vacations, but I guess they did!

We also saw the church built above a cave the Holy Family lived in for a time, though we couldn't see the actual spot (construction or something) and a nun tsked me for even having taken this picture of the way down to it.

An average street in residential Cairo:

We (even Rachel!) climbed all the way down the Nilometer, where they used to measure the depth of the great river that dictated every facet of the Egyptian way of life. We also toured a museum about Umm Kulthum, the greatest female singer in Arab music history and a revered emissary of Egyptian nationalism.

On our walk back from there, we spotted a group of boys jumping into the Nile from a bridge. Of course, this probably will wreak havoc on their insides, as Egyptian water is filthy. We didn't even drink tap water (a giant water bottle is 1.5LE or 30 cents), and Nile swimming strongly discouraged. Still, bladder replacement (with what? I don't know) surgeries are most prevalent in Cairo, and we have no idea what's going to happen to the kid who was jumping in with a bandage on his head. He's probably going to have brain worms or something. (+10 to anyone who knows the reference to brain worms)

Apparently, I don't get very excited even the coolest of book districts at the end of a long, hot day, but it was definitely neat.

The only thing I insisted we do during my trip (since it's not assumed we'd go, like to the pyramids) was a day trip to Alexandria, as it's the birthplace of libraries. It also gave me the chance to see a different side of Egypt, as it's a Mediterranean city that feels more European than Egyptian.

We saw:

The Egyptian delta

Pompey's Pillar, underneath which was secondary storage for the original library of Alexandria.

Stylin' babies in their makeshift turbans since their mom forget to pack a hat.

"The Med"

Terrible English translations (click to enlarge)

The fort at Qaitbay

Fascinating crypts we couldn't take pictures of

{use your imagination}


So, it's not the original. That was destroyed long ago, and they don't even know exactly where it was. But still! This modern one was built in it's honor, and it GORGEOUS.

The little ones couldn't enter, so Andrew and Nancy entertained them at a nearby play area, while Josie indulged me in exploring the library. They have a teen area, a children's area (which was kind of creepy because it's decorated for really little kids, but only those over 8 are allowed, and there were none inside that day), a museum we didn't explore, and beautiful stacks after stacks. They also had the nicest bathrooms I saw for my entire ten days.

I was in heaven, and not just because using a clean restroom is something I usually take for granted. I love libraries!

The train ride back was long, and Rachel sat on my lap the whole time. I now have a new collection of kids games on my iPhone (which in airplane mode is just an iTouch that doesn't rack up roaming charges) and she tested my storytelling skills by demanding story after story. As exhausted as I was, I happy to indulge her. She's too cute to resist.

Fortunately, the day after our Alexandria trip was the Sabbath, and a day of rest was just what we all needed. Having church on a Friday was a little strange, but let's be honest, I was totally confused by which day it was anyway. After church, we napped, ate, and hosted a game night for some of their branch friends.

Saturday, Nancy, Rachel, Miriam, and I ventured through Dar Es Salaam. Apparently it wasn't as busy as it usually is, but it was still plenty busy to me. We didn't buy much except fruit and drinks on our way home, but it was interesting. Wandering through the Khan el-Khalil in Islamic Cairo, which Nancy, Josie, and I visited again that same evening, is definitely more of an tourist bazaar, while Dar Es Salaam is for the locals. The set up is similar, but the goods and sales methods are slightly different. In Dar Es Salaam, a shop owner criticized Nancy's Arabic skills, in Arabic, to his companion, but Nancy certainly knew what he said and we left immediately. In the Khan, we were consistently shouted at to come visit shops, called "spicy girls" and "Barbie" and told that they had what we were looking for.

Amongst all the shops, we also found Midaq Alley, which is the location (and title) of a book I had read in preparation for my visit. It's small, but neat to see something I had read about in person.

We also wandered some of the same madrassa that Josie and I had visited the Sunday prior. Nancy hadn't been able to go inside one of the complexes before, and it was kind of neat to see her be enthralled with something new.

Our purpose that evening was to see the Sufi dancers and whirling dervishes. These dances were originally part of Islamic mysticism and worship, but have become more showy than religious. They were amazing! The first dervish whirled for over 23 minutes! You'd have to be in some sort of trance to not fall down.

Sunday, my last day, Josie and I joined Jill (another branch friend) and Jaehee in visiting a local orphanage. We were hoping to hold some babies, since they don't get the affection they need, but ended up playing with and holding some 3-4 year olds instead. Despite the language barrier, you could tell they were thrilled to have some playmates. Their caretakers were in the room, but watching who knows what on TV. They didn't even really blink to have four strange Americans enter and start playing with the kids. Of course, we wanted to take them all home, but at least we were able to give them an hour of our time.

That day was over 116 degrees in the city. We had planned for some afternoon adventures, but unanimously decided to just relax inside instead. This gave me the chance for some last playtime the little ones, and to visit with Bridget, whose family had come to stay with the Heisses temporarily the evening prior. We've been reading each other's blogs for awhile now, and it was great to meet her in person, halfway across the world! We (Nancy, Bridget, Josie, and I) did get out for one last night time souvenir shopping stroll in Road 9, as it cools down, a wee bit, after dark.

I said goodbye to the city early the next morning, had dinner with Michael in New Jersey, and went to bed in Virginia late that same night. The wonders of modern transportation.

There are more stories I could tell, and I probably will if you ask. I'm still in awe that I even got to go and visit amazing buildings and places, eat delicious Egyptian food, and spend time with wonderful friends.

Thank you to the Heisses for hosting me!

Thank you, Cairo, for treating me so well!