December 10, 2013

Google Today, SkyNet Tomorrow: My Birthday Edition

I was surprised to see this when I fired up the ol' Lappy 486 yesterday:

Yes, it's probably just based on a simple date in my Google+ profile (yes, I have one. no, I don't use it. yes, I'm still ashamed to have one), but it's nonetheless indicative of the coming SkyNet takeover.

And yet, I still like that it was a screen just for me.

So thanks, Google, for personalizing my internet experience yesterday.
And even more, thanks to all of you who made it a great day by wishing me a happy birthday through calls, texts, in-person greetings, and Facebook wall posts!

I'm who I am today because of all of you! Muchas gracias!

December 5, 2013

This Year's Pie Night and Thanksgiving

Another amazing week of Pie Night and Thanksgiving festivities. And too much to write, so I'll sum it up mainly with pictures.

For another great recap of these lovely holiday events, see my sister's blogpost about them.

Pie Night Prep

You can't have a good Pie Night if you don't prepare properly.
So Heidi and I made a few pies. She did chocolate pecan, and I did cranberry-ginger pear.
Rollin' with the homies...
She makes her crusts, I buy mine
No wonder her pies are so much better
Doesn't it look amazing?!

Pie Night

I think our chocolate pecan and cranberry-ginger pear made their first appearances at this year's Pie Night.
Both did well (meaning they got eaten quickly), but the chocolate pecan was the first gone, and I'm not surprised, because it was absolutely delicious.
Showing off our contributions
Smyth girls
Smyth boys (minus dad)
We even had gluten-free pie (thanks, Danny!)
The first round of options
The night "Cup o' Pie" was invented

With our pie lust satisfied (as much as is reasonably possible) the previous night, we were ready for turkey and all the rest of the Thanksgiving goods. And I definitely had plenty, though my favorite part was and is and likely always will be the spending time with family, immediate as well as extended.
Siblings gotta snuggle a lil bit, right?
These gals have style

After this point, all I could think of was eating and socializing, so the camera got put away.

Thanks for a great holiday, family and friends. Hope yours was just as wonderful!

November 25, 2013

Monday: Oh, Bother

Another Monday.

Sometimes, I just wish the weekend kept going a few extra days.

November 11, 2013

Thank You, Veterans

Thanks to the men and women of our U.S. military, past and present, for their sacrifices on our behalf.

May the families of those who have perished by blessed, and may our active duty all return home safely.

May we all strive for peace at home and abroad so fewer and maybe eventually none have to put their lives on the line.

Happy Veterans Day, all.

November 5, 2013

A "Once Upon a Dream" Halloween

There's a lot of build-up to Halloween night.

You know, haunted houses and pumpkin carving and such.

But the real Halloween holiday season payoff is the big night and getting to wear costumes.

Heidi and I wanted to do a couples costume.
We struggled to decide on what we'd be, until we landed on the idea of Prince Phillip and Briar Rose.

This is what we were shooting for:

With the help of some pieces from HCT rentals, and my amazing mother making my tunic and hat, I'd say Heidi and I rocked our costumes. And I gotta admit it feels cool carrying a sword around all night.
Conclusive proof that Heidi is a princess in disguise
My sister Megan joined us, appropriately/coincidentally dressed as a blue fairy, and we had a fun night visiting several friend parties.
Yes, that's a ghost horse photobomb
Heidi and her SLAC friends in great costumes
Hmm, what to be next year... It'll be hard to top this one.

What were you? Did you do a couples or group costume?

October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween from George and Lenny Pumpkin

Happy Halloween, friends!

Today is the big day for all the ghouls and goblins and witches and warlocks out there.
It's also showtime for all the jack o'lanterns so painstakingly carved in the last couple weeks.

Heidi and I carved some pumpkins a few weeks ago, and we were happy with how they turned out.
Gotta start with good-shaped pumpkins.
As a (mostly) black cat, Amelie wanted in on the Halloween festivities.
Since mine turned out kinda goofy, and Heidi's was more serious/legit, we named them George and Lenny after the characters from Of Mice and Men

But instead of tending the rabbits, they want to suck their blood. Makes sense, right?
The finished product, our George and Lenny look-alikes.
The masterminds with our carved creations.
I've never looked better, I know.
Carving pumpkins was lots of fun, and then Heidi put the cherry on top of our Halloween-festivities sundae by cooking up the seeds and bringing them to work for my coworkers and me. Delicious!
I think this had brown sugar, chipotle chili powder, and cumin.
Note: sadly, our jack o'lanterns didn't last until Halloween. Although decomposing gore certainly fits the Halloween theme, I imagine the smell wasn't quite worth it. Next time we'll carve them closer to the big day!

If you're gonna carve jack o'lanterns still, please be careful and don't pull a Dr. Steve Brule:

Have a safe and happy Halloween, everybody!
Can't wait to see the costume pics on your Facebook and Instagram pages today and tomorrow!

October 28, 2013

Haunted Houses: For the Fun of Getting the Crap Scared Out of You

I don't like being scared. I don't like horror movies. I just don't like that stuff.
But at Halloween, I can like the right kind of scary, and haunted houses have a certain appeal.

Granted, I'm still freaked out the whole time, but at least I'm holding a really cute girl close to me the whole time while being terrorized. And it's only one month of the year, so I can man up.

Heidi and I went to the Nightmare on 13th haunted house earlier this month, and it was great.

Intense, clever, surprising, and just the right amount of scary.

There were three sections to the building, each with different scare tactics, designs, and creatures.

1) Dark Harvest: an evil farm where the plants have grown into monsters and kill all they can find. Better than I'd expected, with great sets and unexpected use of textures of things hanging and even the floors. 

2) 13 Levels of Fear: a walkthrough of 13 popular fears, from heights to clowns to hell to the number 13. Another that I underestimated. The heights room was especially cool; we want to know how they did it!

3) Mutant: a parasitic goop is loose, and it's mutating the people in a facility. The military is trying to contain it, but you've got to get through without getting infected or killed. Pretty good, but I liked the other two sections more.

I don't know if Heidi was protecting me more, or if I was protecting her. Probably a lot of both.

But it was a fun night at the haunted house, and I didn't have a heart attack, so I'm happy.
I'm obviously very good at protecting my date.
All smiles having survived the scares for this year.
If you're considering going to a haunted house in the last couple days of October, or even this weekend, Nightmare on 13th is a good one. And here's a coupon to save a few bucks.

What do you think of haunted houses? Are you a fan of them?

October 23, 2013

What Would Your Baseball Intro Song Be?

During the MLB playoffs, I started thinking about the players' "walk-up songs".
That's the song played by the ballpark while a player is walking to the plate or the pitcher's mound, and I believe each guy gets to pick their own tune.

Some current players have pretty awesome songs, as shown in this BleacherReport list.
Pretty cool that James Shields had Rammstein and then went to Kid Cudi, and Nyjer Morgan uses a Michael Jackson song, and Lance Berkman has Johnny Cash to get amped up.
Closers appear to have the best selections, including Mariano Rivera with Metallica's "Enter Sandman".

With the World Series starting tonight between the St Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox, we'll get to hear on the biggest stage which songs the players on this year's two best teams choose.

So I started wondering, which song would I select for myself?
And what song would my friends and family choose?

I had to go with "Fuel" by Metallica. Such a good pump-up song!

Here are some of the responses I got from friends when I asked on a Facebook post:

Led Zeppelin - Rock and Roll

Jimi Hendrix - All Along the Watchtower

The Foundations - Build Me Up Buttercup
Everybody sing along!

Chumbawumba - Tubthumping
Maybe Dan gets hit by a lot of pitches?

Mary J. Blige - Work That

Mary J. Blige - Grown Woman
Bringing her big-girl bat to the plate.
Note: I incorrectly had Beyonce's 'Grown Woman' here before. My bad.

AC/DC - Thunderstruck
Does this remind anyone else of the start of Jazz games?

The Killers - Move Away

Neil Diamond & Barbra Streisand - You Don't Bring Me Flowers
Troy specializes in power bunting.

Guns 'n' Roses - Welcome to the Jungle
Like a wild beast in the batter's box.

And last but certainly not least,

Lion King - Circle of Life
Pretty sure the crowd would always go wild for this one.

I think some of these suggestions were in jest, but I had to share them anyway since they're funny.

Most of them would certainly be good walk-up songs, and they'd get the batter pumped up.
And I love seeing the personality of the person reflected in what they chose.

What song would you pick?

So let's play ball! Batter up!

October 21, 2013

The First Time I Heard a Celia Cruz Song

If you haven't seen Google's homepage today, they did a tribute to Celia Cruz, because it would have been her 88th birthday today. She is regarded as the "Queen of Salsa".

Which is why this is a good time to share the story of the first time I heard one of her songs.
I was serving a mission for the LDS Church in Guatemala, and I'd been there for around a year.

On a Mormon mission, usually the leadership moves you to a new city with a new companion every 4-6 months. After two months in the Provo MTC, I'd been in the coastal city Escuintla to start (#1); then Boca del Monte, a suburb of the capital (#2); and now I was serving in a mountain city, Sololá (#3).

When we needed to travel farther than we could walk, we'd either hitchhike in the back of a pick-up truck for a small fee, or use the public transportation--otherwise known as the famed "chicken buses".

Beautiful, aren't they?

Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked laying out the background info.

It was a Monday (our one-day-per-week off from proselyting), and my companion and I were riding on a chicken bus down to Panajachel to hang out with the other missionaries and eat lunch together.

Usually the buses play the radio, which was heavily skewed to Los Tigres del Norte, Hermana Shaki (Shakira), and the Brothers Maná, but a song came on during this ride which I'd never heard before. It was upbeat, catchy, and fun, so I asked my companion if he knew the band or who the guy singing was.

Yep, I asked about "the guy" singing.

We got a good laugh when he didn't know but someone sitting nearby informed us that it was Celia Cruz, a woman famous in the Latin music scene for decades.

I heard that song a lot more during the rest of my time in Guatemala, and I always thought of the funny story of when I first heard it. In case you're wondering, this is the song:

Listening to it now, I can hear clearly that it's a lady, but I guess my ear wasn't tuned quite right that day.

Happy 88th birthday, Celia. RIP, and thanks for the memory!

October 17, 2013

TIL: Ponies are Not Baby Horses

TIL is internet short-hand for "Today I Learned".

Some things you think you know, and then you learn you've been wrong or just a little off-base for years.

My understanding of what a pony is fits into that category, and recently I was set straight when it came up in a group chat with my friends on Facebook.

So here's the surprise about ponies.

Ponies are not baby horses.

At least not anymore.
The original meaning was from the French word for foal (a baby horse), but that's no longer the case.
Maybe only a few of us had that idea wrong... but maybe a lot of us did.

So here's the clarification:
A pony is not based on its age (baby vs adult horse), but on its size at adulthood.

1- Baby horses, under 1 year old, are foals.
      Bonus knowledge: male foals are colts, female foals are fillies. Grown males are stallions, grown females are mares.

2- Ponies are small horses, measuring less than ~14 hands (just under 6 feet) tall at the withers (that's the top point where the neck meets the body).

Mind... blown.
Many comparative pics, like this one, emphasize the size difference

So next time you hear someone is "going to watch the ponies", you might wonder if they're really going to see small (yet grown-up) horses racing, or if they're using the term incorrectly.

At least, I know that's what I'll wonder.

Ride 'em, cowboys and cowgirls!