Friday, November 30, 2007

Can you draw the pirate?

I would like to dedicate this to my mystery hater.

Draw the Pirate

Posted Oct 17, 2004

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Call me Dub

The last video game I remember liking was Mario Cart. Kart? I don’t remember if they got cute with that spelling or not. I think I was in high school.

When I was a lot younger I spent hours trying to clear Castlevania. Once I did, I lost interest in playing it again. I can still hear the music in my head. I also remember spending a lot of time with Super Mario Brothers, Dr. Mario, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Gauntlet, WORDTRIS and Clue.

Video games were never part of my college experience. None of the guys I knew had enough money to own (or time to play) any kind of gaming system. I remember watching someone play a game on PlayStation once. I think this was when the graphics started getting more sophisticated. Players weren’t just in the foreground anymore. They were on different planes and it kind of freaked me out. Too 3-D for me.

I like simpler games I guess. I can spend a long time playing Tetris and Pac-Man. I feel really fried after that though – especially Tetris. Even the next morning I have lingering hallucinations. I go outside and visions of deconstructed mountains slowly fall and fit together.

However, the other night I was at a friend’s house and somehow got sucked into the Xbox. I wasn’t all that into it at first. I was more interested in the more familiar Guitar Hero going on in the same room. There were a lot of people there, and everyone took turns with the games. I think what we were playing was called Fuzion Frenzy. People kept handing off their controllers to me. I didn’t try very hard to understand how to play the games, and so I didn’t do very well. And I was constantly asking the other players which color I was.

It wasn’t until there were only four of us left at the house that I ended up really getting into the games. The guy who owned the system explained each game like he was talking to a group of four year-olds, but that’s what I needed. I just had an IM conversation with my friend Rhett who told me Fuzion Frenzy exists so girls can have something to play while all the guys play Halo, which, I’m not ashamed to admit, does not offend me in the least. (Somehow, amidst all the madness, I have maintained a safe distance from Halo. I’m not against playing it, I’m just not intrigued by it.)

So anyway, I got the hang of it and I started winning a lot. I do best at Sumo, the one with the tanks, and then the one where you try not to run into each other’s laser tails and the one where you wrap your laser around the little people and the token thingies. (Before you laugh at my ignorance, please remember at no point have I ever claimed to know anything about video games and what is current). I didn’t think I would, but I eventually got the hang of “Twisted System” and started winning that one. The one where you’re racing tanks is probably the most frustrating one because while most of the other games move really fast, my blasted tank would only go so fast and although I know it wouldn’t make any difference, I would push harder on the little joystick (or whatever) thinking that would make it go faster. But it didn’t. And my thumb is still recovering.

There was this one game called Centrifugal Farce that I really wasn’t good at. But at one point in the night my friend Jane and I tried to break down the word “centrifugal” and figure out what it really means and what that has to do with the game. While we really thought we were getting down to something, our friend John silently mocked our intellectualizing.

Before I knew it, it was well past midnight and I couldn’t believe I had been playing video games that long.

The first time I ever met my friend Rhett was my first night at the Gateway. It was about 2:30 AM and there was a fire alarm (not uncommon at the Gateway). So everyone was evacuated outside. While most of the people looked semi-conscious and half dressed, Rhett (and was it Clint?) were still in their day clothes like they haven’t been asleep at all. And they hadn’t. They had been up playing Halo for hours. That blew my mind. And then I got to know them better and it stopped surprising me.

But now I totally understand how addicting those games can be. It’s easy to play them over and over again and not realize how long you’ve been doing it. I mean, when I watch movies or television that late at night, I can’t help but get sleepy, but it wasn’t until I consciously decided it was late and time for me to go to bed that I began to fade.

I’m not saying I’m going to go out and buy an Xbox. I’m just admitting, I never thought I would really enjoy it, but yes. It’s fun.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Last night I performed at a fundraising concert. Baldassin Pianos, which is just across the street from my office, hosted the concert. A few months ago a lady from the Historical Society asked if I would be willing to perform. I thought it might be fun to do a duet with my Grandpa Christensen. I asked Mom if she thought he'd be willing and she replied, "Oh, Grandpa would LOVE to do a duet with you."

Grandpa loves the piano. He's been teaching lessons pretty much his whole life, and he also taught choir at Highland High School for about 20 years. I can't go anywhere without Grandpa knowing somebody. Last night was no exception. One of the employees at State History was a student of his. He's also very devoted to his grandchildren. I am really lucky to have a 78 year-old Grandpa as lively as mine. He still teaches piano, he still plays tennis every week and he travels all over the place. He's the best. I can't tell you how many people from last night told me how lucky I am. I know it.

I kind of felt bad (or uncomfortable) because Grandpa had to suffer through the band before us. They were made up of a group of lawyers and anesthesiologists. They call themselves Malpractice. It would have been fine if they played three songs, but they played about six I think -- a bunch of covers. I have to say the little kid on the piano was pretty adorable. Anyone ever heard this song unplugged before?

I think it was during this song that my boss Lila had just about had it so she got up to peruse the pianos in the store.

So Grandpa and I played Carol of the Bells Fantasy. It was a hard piece for me to learn. Listen for the part where I miss a whole measure and then Grandpa skips a measure somewhere so I have to skip one to catch up. Most people would say, "Oh Laura, nobody noticed." Well. I noticed. And if you practice really hard on something and you mess up, it's a little disappointing. But I think we did fine.

I was just thrilled to be playing that $250,000 Fazioli piano. I also played another piece by myself called "A Rose Breaks Into Bloom." That one was really hard to learn because it's so chromatic. But I think I pulled it off pretty well. I'm good at faking my way through chords my little fingers can't extend to. Sorry. No video of that one. You'll have to take my word for it.

Check out this picture of me and my mom. A little spooky, I know. Lisa and I found this picture last week and then Lisa found this dress the other day. I had to try it on. When I showed this to Mom she said she liked my dress better than hers. But I think she looks much better in it than I do.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Hate Mail

There’s nothing like a good piece of hate mail to spice up your work day. This is one of my favorites so far. I love hate mail from artists because although they may not put a lot of thought into what they’re saying, they do put time and effort into the visuals.

For example, this particular piece has three colors. This artist went to the trouble of using not only a black sharpie, but a red ball point AND a yellow highlighter.

It’s too bad the person who sent this to me is a coward; otherwise I might give them a little more credit. Rule of thumb when complaining to the establishment: if you want to be taken seriously, sign your name. And maybe use your own stationary rather than recycling (and defacing) the postcard I sent you. And the fact that this person spelled “afraid” with two “f”s doesn’t help either. And I have never seen anyone abbreviate “you’re” as “yr” before. I suppose there was somewhat of an editing effort because as you can see on the back of the card (below) this person inserted a word they forgot in the red writing with black ink before submitting it to the post office.

I love how this person actually went to the trouble of scratching out their name and address before pasting mine over it (I blacked out my name, phone and email for internet privacy reasons). However, they didn’t do as thorough a job as they hoped. Fletcher and I were able to make out “Pierpont” in the address. Ah, an ArtSpace artist. You guys are going through a hard time aren’t you? You hate everyone right now, don’t you?

Fletcher is taking this postcard to an art opening tonight where all the ArtSpace artists filled out surveys. He’s going to do some handwriting analysis and perhaps come back with my mystery hater.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dear House Mouse,

So. You decided to stay. I don’t know if you know this but I saw you scurry from the back door, across the kitchen and underneath the dishwasher last Saturday. I let it go. Of course, I hid what little food I had.

I don’t know how you did it, but you survived for a week in our house. I saw you bolt from the kitchen across the living room and behind the television the other night. I didn’t scream that time, but I decided it was time to have a little talk. Obviously, you didn’t heed my advice because this morning, I saw you up in my bedroom.

Listen. I am a kind-to-creatures person and I would rather not take the measures that most people would. So this is what we’re going to do: Tonight, I am going to leave the back door open for 20 seconds. This is your chance to escape. I know it’s a scary world out there; there are dogs and cats, but I’ve seen you run, and you are way faster than they are. There are lots of fun places to go outside. There are trees and shrubs, and believe it or not, there’s more stuff to eat out there. We haven’t been shopping for weeks. You did look a little thin this morning, if I may say so. I know you’re struggling.

So I ask you, house mouse, to take this opportunity to dwell elsewhere. You have 24 hours. If you have already decided to decline my offer, I ask you this: Would you rather be poisoned or trapped?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Quarter Day, part 2

Look who came to buy some quarters from me! My very own Uncle Tony. He was just as surprised to see me as I was to see him. After dozens and dozens of sales to crazy coin collectors who came from all over, it was nice to see a familiar face. Thanks for the picture Tony. I'm glad you had your camera phone.

Apparently, he's a numismatist. Look it up.

So we sold about $15,000 worth of these collector coin sets. People were handing me 20s and 50s and 100s like they didn't even care. And they were weird about their commemorative quarter sets. If the pointless red stamp on the back was smeared just a smidge, they felt gypped.

Zions Bank gave away quarters and little green piggy banks to all the schoolchildren. They were also selling rolls of quarters outside. Apparently one lady came in with a roll of Utah Quarters (worth $10 I believe) and wanted to buy a collector coin set. Seriously, she already had 40 Utah quarters right there. I know I'm not a coin collector, but trading 40 quarters for 2 quarters doesn't seem like good business sense to me.

It was a lot of fun though. The governor spoke outside at the ceremony and he was really cute with all the grade school kids. Speaking of cute grade school kids, check this out. I dedicate this youtube video to Maria. I must confess, it made me a little teary just because they were so dang cute.

So cute. The event would not have been the same without all the kids. They were so excited to be there. Here are some pictures from the event:

Friday, November 09, 2007

Quarter Day

It's 7:22 AM and I've already been at work for an hour. The Rio Grande Depot is going to be more like Grand Central Station today -- for today, is the official launch of the Utah Quarter.

Coin collectors from across the country are setting up shop upstairs. We're going to have the Pony Express, horses and buggies, fancy automobiles and futuristic trains up and down Broadway today.

I am in charge of 2,000 fourth graders who will be performing "Iron Wheels a Rollin" at the ceremony which starts in two and a half hours.

I would be outside helping, but I already taped up all the reserved parking signs for the Governor's Office and Zions Bank people. Now we're just waiting for tables and chairs to be delivered and the quarters to be delivered. Zions Bank has to deliver the quarters in locked up cases.

This is serious stuff.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Just another visit...

I typically come away from a visit to Grandma Durham’s with a few things: a piece of jewelry she didn’t want, a spritz of perfume she thinks is nice, a Cummings chocolate she swears is new but I believe has been in the fridge for months, and other random things she doesn’t want to keep anymore. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I leave $50 richer.

My sister and I went to see Grandma Durham on Saturday. It’s usually a good idea to bring someone along so she doesn’t focus all her attention on you.

I remember one time, I brought my friend Josh Peters to see Grandma. She was so excited to see me with a boy that she focused all her energy on him which was great. From that visit came one of my favorite Grandma Durham moments ever.

“What is your name?”
“Josh what?”
“Josh Peters.”
“Oh! Do you know Josh England?”

Yeah Grandma, all the Joshes know each other.

Anyway, the purpose of this last visit was for me to practice her piano. I brought my sister Lisa who brought her 2 year-old, Jack. Before I went into the other room, Grandma asked me if I had eaten lunch. I said no, and she excitedly walked to her fridge to get me a Dannon Activia. She told me it would help me with my digestion. There are two things I love about this: a) I expressed no concern for my digestion, and b) a 4 oz yogurt was her solution to my not having anything for lunch.

After lunch, I went into the other room to practice and let Lisa and Jack entertain Grandma. But Grandma, giving equal attention to all, came in and told me how she LOVES that piece I was playing and explained to me how she doesn’t play the piano anymore since Grandpa died because they used to play duets.

When I was done practicing, we all sat down and Grandma accused Lisa of putting highlights in Jack’s hair. Lisa attempted to explain the effects of sun rays on blond hair. Grandma didn’t buy it.

Grandma showed us a scarf she was knitting. She was dissatisfied with it – probably because it was the most abrasive yarn ever. We told her she was not going to like that scarf and she should make dishrags instead. She dismissed the idea and insisted Lisa take the yarn. Lisa refused. I told her I use yarn I don’t like to wrap gifts, so she told me to take it.

Then she told me to stretch my back on her yoga ball.

Now it was time for the educational portion of the visit. Grandma asked Lisa (who wasn’t in the room at the time) if she read the article in Newsweek about women. Lisa yelled “No!” from the kitchen as she tore Jack away from the Mount Olympus water dispenser. Grandma then proceeded to read from the current article. Apparently a gynecologist wrote about how the media is telling women how we should be. We humored Grandma as she read us a passage. Lisa had to leave the room again and so Grandma asked me, “Laura, are you happy with the way you are?” I’m used to these little Oprah-esque sessions with Grandma, so the question didn’t annoy me too much. “What do you mean, with the way I look? The way I act?” I asked as I wound the ugly yarn back into a ball.

“All of it.” She said.

“Well, maybe we should never be fully satisfied with the way we act. We should be seeking to improve ourselves.”

“Do you know what that makes you?” she asked. I waited, knowing she wanted to answer for herself, “A good Mormon.”

Of course there was a hint of sarcasm in her voice, but of course she’s right.

Grandma also showed us a cashmere beret from a shop in York that she bought from a catalog. Grandma loves to buy things via catalog and QVC. Does she keep the things she buys? Rarely. She gives them away because she ends up not liking them. She also gives away the things you give her because she figures they will make a nice and convenient gift for someone else.

We were there for a good 40 minutes when Lisa picked up Jack, a signal that let me know she was ready to go, which meant (to me, at least) it would be a good idea for me to go as well.

Grandma followed us through the kitchen to the back door. There was a bowl of watermelon on the table. She asked if Jack wanted some. Lisa said no (Jack actually licked a piece earlier and put it back).

I don’t remember why, but I think we all sang “You’re a Grand Old Flag” in the kitchen before we left. Oddly enough, Grandma and I sang that when I visited her in the summer. Only we were laying on her bed (you had to be there). That was when she explained the rules of football to me just in case I married someone who liked football.

Lisa and I took notice of the candy bowl on her kitchen table. I wonder where I can get this pill/candy mix:

We gave Grandma a kiss and walked to our car. She yelled, “Come visit me in the summer!” Lisa and I exchanged a confused expression and waved back.

I used to visit Grandma more often when I lived in Sandy because Holladay was on the way home from work. I didn’t really call before hand. I would just happen to be in the area and call from my car to ask if I could come. She rarely answered, so I would leave a voice mail and then she would call me right back.

Sometimes she wouldn’t call back, but I’d stop by anyway. Her car would be in the driveway, her lights would be on, I could hear Seinfeld on the television, but she wouldn’t answer her door. I would call her again from my cell phone and she would answer and I would say I’m outside her door and she should let me in.

So now, whenever I call she asks, “Hello my Laura, are you outside my door?”

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Halloween 2007

I don't have much to say about Halloween this year. I dressed up as Mrs. White from Clue. I tried to recruit more cast members, but it didn't really work out. After three or four visits to Decades I finally had a finished costume. Thank you to Trisha from State Archives who showed me how to tie a noose. Well, she didn't really show me how. I had her hold my rope at the work party and I turned around for three seconds and she retied it for me. Some costumes are all about the props.

Here are some pictures from Halloween night. I can't look at the picture of me and Dallas for very long. He looks like he's going to devour me.