Sunday, April 29, 2007

Wild Animals at the Zoo

Viv wearing a hot leopard print shirtWe had some gorgeous weather this weekend and it brought out the wild side in a few of the Jitterbugs, specifically Vivian, who was looking more vivacious than ever in a leopard print shirt I picked out for her while shopping last week.

On Saturday, we took advantage of the nice weather and went down to the Henry-Doorly Zoo in Omaha to see some of the animals. We got to walk the full length of the park, from the small animals in the south west corner to the rhinos and elephants up in the north section, and I got loads of pictures all along the way. We even got to see a male peacock running loose and strutting its stuff, trying to impress a female nearby.

In front of the rhinos Viv with the peacock

Afterwards, we made some pizza for dinner and then went to see Amazing Grace at the 20 Grand. It was an excellent movie, and I really enjoyed it even though I often get bored with historical dramas.

On Sunday, Viv came down to Lincoln to attend church with me, and then we went to have Popeye's chicken for lunch up by Branched Oak Lake. I almost cut the day off short because I desperately needed to clean up my apartment and do some laundry, but Viv insisted on staying and helping me clean out the kitchen. She got that place cleaner that it had been in a long, long time. My mom is just going to love her. I wanted to make dinner for Viv before she headed back to Omaha, but she didn't want me messing up the kitchen again so soon, so I got us a pizza instead. Viv told me very sternly to keep it clean for her so I could cook for her next time she's by.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Three-month Anniversary

It's been three short months since the vivacious Vivian Taber and I have been a couple, and those of you who know her best understand just how lucky I am. She's a special lady, even without the sticker, and the short time we've spent together has produced enough memories to knock Grizzabella off the Heaviside Layer:

  • Red arrows that I ignored.
  • A quick change of clothes at a yield sign.
  • Cold bags of Panera bread
  • Hot mugs of Swiss Miss.
  • Taco parties and snowballs that stick to the wall.
  • A very handy umbrella at Hummel park.
  • Losing contacts on the carpet.
  • Balboa on an icy rooftop.
  • Lindy Hop in a cow pasture.
  • Swinging on a lamppost in Dundee. Dancing on a snowy street.
  • Piggyback rides.
  • Shrimp alfredo. Meatloaf. A giant chef salad.
  • Cooking together. Dining by candlelight.
  • Running to meet her at the airport.
  • Tea and crumpets and hotcross buns, HP sauce and digestive biscuits.
  • Making the stars come out while cuddling in an open field.
  • The blue book I keep by my bedside.
  • The wonderful smell of peony.
  • An angel's voice singing God's praises at Terra Nova.
  • How a certain theme song will never sound the same again.
And do you know what's amazing? The best is yet to come. Happy Anniversary, Viv!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Another busy weekend in Lincoln and Omaha

I've been having so much fun between Lincoln and Omaha these last couple of days that I must be wearing a permanent groove down a certain stretch of I-80. On Thursday, Eric and I had a guy's night out in Omaha and went to the Dave & Buster's in Omaha for dinner, and then enjoyed some embarrassing karaoke and arcade games. I had to take the opportunity to make a fool of myself singing Hungry like the Wolf. Eric sent Viv a snapshot of me via his cell phone, and she was able to guess instantly which song I was singing.

On Friday, Viv drove down to Lincoln to visit me at work, and then we hung out with my brother for the afternoon. We ate lunch together and watched The Incredibles, a movie Viv has surprisingly never seen before. Afterwards, she took some time to show Nathan how to swing dance. He was surprisingly very good at it from the start, much better than many of the other beginners I've observed at Jitterbugs' Night Out (myself included). Afterwards, we took a drive in the country and Nathan got some video of Viv and me doing the Lindy Hop in a cow pasture.

Afterwards, we went by Mike and Bekah's for a cookout on their driveway. We grilled up some hamburgers made with some fresh Nebraska beef and dressed with HP Sauce I brought back from England. I told them all about my trip to England and then showed them some of my pictures afterwards.

I drove Viv back up to Omaha so we could dance for an hour or so at Jitterbugs Night Out, and then we crashed at a Village Inn with some friends, enjoying pie and late night breakfast while looking at some of Dan Wondra's hilarious caricatures.

The next day, Viv came down to spend the day in Lincoln. We had lunch together and then went by the mall for some clothes shopping. It was very cool to help each other pick out some new outfits to wear next week for Jitterbugs' Night Out, and I also had some unexpected opportunities to do some "boyfriend" things. Viv found one of those "crane games," where you pay 50 cents to try to grab a plush Care Bear or something from a large bin. I'd never had any luck with these things before, but when I took a shot at it, I was able to nab her a Wish Bear! We also came across a photo booth on our way out of the mall, so we absolutely had to stop by and get some pictures taken of the two of us in there. I'd always wanted to try out one of these things. We hurried on out of the mall afterwards so we could swing by an Arby's for a couple Jamocha shakes and then drive up to a spot I'd picked out a few weeks ago to watch the sunset.

Saturday sunset

I spread out a blanket and watched the sunset together as the stars came out. I'd found this spot taking a walk weeks ago and wanted to share it with Viv ever since. It was a very romantic ending to the day! Of course, I had to take Viv over to a Scooters to make sure she had some caffeine before her long drive home.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A weekend for two in Omaha

At the Joslyn Museum Getting some shade from an umbrella
Left: Viv and I stand in front of a Chihuly sculpture at the Joslyn art museum.
Right: Viv and I get some shade under an umbrella at Hummel Park.

Viv and I have had another fun couple of days together in Omaha this week. I actually drove up to have dinner with her and some co-workers on Wednesday, and then the two of us had an impromptu bible study at her place as we discussed what we'd been reading in Proverbs. On Thursday, Viv drove down to Lincoln to go to Bible Study with some friends of mine and show off some of our swing dancing on their wooden floor again. That's very tough to do with just your socks!

This weekend was especially eventful since it kicked off Viv's week-long vacation from work. Her saved-up vacation days are going to expire at the end of the month, so she had to use them or lose them. On Saturday, I took Viv down to the Joslyn art museum to look at some Impressionist paintings. It brought back memories of my art history classes, and it was honestly refreshing to look at some seriously well-done pieces of artwork after a rather dreary look around the Tate Modern a few weeks ago in London. Afterwards, we went out to Louie M's Burger Lust, a casual hamburger "joint" I'd been wanting to take her for a long time now, but it closes at 4 PM and I rarely get up to Omaha that early in the day. They have a huge selection of unique burgers and a great casual atmosphere with an old-time fifties era kind of feel. (If you read my comic, I use the restaurant as a backdrop quite frequently.) Viv and I both had guacamole bacon cheeseburgers and a big basket of onion rings, which was all quite heavenly.

After lunch, we browsed in an antique shop and then got a couple groceries to make some big chef salads for dinner while watching a couple DVDs. Viv and I both got to pick a movie to watch. She got Freaky Friday, a Jodie Foster parent/child body switching movie that I had enjoyed as a kid, and I got Lady in the Water, an M. Night Shyamalan film that I found awfully convoluted and hard to follow. Viv did a better job of following the plot than I did.

We didn't get done with the movies until well after midnight, so I unexpectedly spent the night on the couch and then got to go to church with Viv the next morning. I had been to her church once before on a weekday when it was empty, so it was very cool to come back on a Sunday morning when it was full. The weather in Nebraska was just perfect, so Viv and I took the opportunity after church to get a couple sandwiches from a No Frills deli and drive up to Hummel Park north of Omaha to have a picnic overlooking the bluffs across the Missouri river. It was the end of a truly wonderful weekend together.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Cell phone update: now it works!

With a little help from Onion Boy (who I managed to trick into being my guinea pig), I've been able get my new phone hooked up to my Mac, and I love it!

First, I was able to sync all of my contacts to the phone without much trouble with the Address Book app and iSync. I can't tell you how good it felt to have dozens of names and numbers at my fingertips without punching them in by hand. I was also able to grab the pictures I took with the built-in camera, and I can stick pictures of my own inside the phone to use as wallpaper or contact photos.

Next came my favorite part: transferring MP3s to the phone and setting them up as custom ringtones. I've never liked the idea of buying ringtones, and I've been satisfied with a generic chime for my phone in the past, but now I can take virtually any sound file from my computer and turn it into a ringer, which has gotten me digging through my collection of CDs to find fun, custom tunes I can use. Sprint didn't make it obvious that you can do this, but I found that if you put music into the directory on your phone shown here, the files will show up as available ringers.

So now, I am the happy owner of both a Mac and a red RAZR. Now, somebody give me a call. I want to hear Hungry like the Wolf again.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The neverending quest for a cell phone

Over the weekend, my trusty little LG VX3200 said goodbye to this world. It had been doused with water last week at one point and over the course of a few days the power supply burned out, so now it won't start up anymore. This was a serious bummer, because an entire collection of phone numbers from my friends and family was trapped inside, and I had no way of getting them out.

I have actually been looking at getting a new cell phone for some time, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to buy my dream phone. It didn't have to be the very best cell phone in the world. I didn't need to watch video on demand, take pictures, or even have a custom ringtone. All I wanted in a phone was the ability to sync names and numbers from my phone to my Mac so I wouldn't lose them again. According to Apple's web site, there were a number of phones that should be able to do this with iSync, so I printed out this page and took it with me down to the Alltel store during my lunchbreak.

If you've ever been to an Alltel store in Lincoln, you know from the moment you walk in that they don't need your business. The place was packed with other customers waiting patiently for someone to help them, and a polite lady at the front door took my name and told me someone would be with me "as soon as possible." She couldn't tell me if that meant someone would help me before I was supposed to be back at work, however. What always bothers me about the Alltel stores here is that there are always plenty of Alltel employees sitting behind the computers at their desks doing things other than helping customers, particularly someone like me who had his wallet out and was ready to spend money.

Normally, I sit patiently wait around until someone is ready to help me, but today I was in a hurry and quite eager to get a working phone once again, so I drove across the street to a Radio Shack and decided to become a Sprint customer instead. Both of my friends Eric and Vivian up in Omaha were with Sprint, so I thought that joining up with them made sense. I decided to get a red Motorola RAZR V3m, since it was the same exact phone that Eric had. He's also a Mac user, so I figured that if we both had the same phone, we'd be able to figure them out together.

Unfortunately, my phone didn't quite want to sync up with my Mac like I had hoped it would. I couldn't understand why--it was a V3m, and it was supposed to be compatible with iSync both via USB and Bluetooth according to Apple's web site. I went to the Apple discussion boards to see if I could get some help, and I got this reply. According to an Apple tech document posted last Thursday, "Due to firmware differences, some Sprint-based phones manufactured by Motorola may not be recognized by iSync 2.4."

That was annoying. I signed a two-year contract and was now stuck with a phone that apparently won't sync with my Mac, despite Apple's own web site stating that it would. I'm currently digging around for a workaround, but I remember the day when the Mac was all "plug and play," and you could connect a supported device and expect it to work. I've really been looking forward to the day when I can put a couple hundred names and numbers on my phone without tapping them all in by hand. I suppose in two more years, the Apple iPhone might actually have most of the bugs worked out. Of course, by then, I'll be over thirty, a number I really don't want to have to think about just yet.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Easter Sunday

I got to spend Easter Sunday in Omaha with Vivian, her dad, and her best friend Eric for dinner together. It was Viv's first time making a family holiday meal, but you never would have guessed it from the great food she brought out for us: potato salad, poppyseed rolls, sauteed asparagus, and a bunch of other things, including some delicious pistachio jello. Her dad brought a ham with an orange glaze (and I thought Eric and I were ham enough for anybody). Viv also gave us our own Easter baskets filled with, surprisingly enough, things like silly putty that gave us no end of amusement as the afternoon waned. It was so nice to spend Easter with members of my second family in Omaha!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Meet the Robinsons

I saw Meet the Robinsons with a bunch of friends from the Omaha Jitterbugs tonight. It was a very enjoyable movie, with a great story and some very creative characters. I actually got to meet someone who worked on the film at the Balboa fest last week, Stephen V. Hwan. He worked on the lighting effects for the film, and his name appears prominently in the ending credits. He's actually been attending events held by the Omaha Jitterbugs for years, and it was very cool to meet him and talk about his work with Disney while he was in town.

Afterwards, we went by Moe's to get some big old burritos to eat. Eric also decided to take to the floor with some dancing, using the vivacious Vivian as a deadly weapon against an unsuspecting Steve. Then we crashed at Troy and Merinda's for an exciting round of Apples to Apples. One of these days we're going to get a bunch of blank cards for that game and write in our own custom answers.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Swinging at the Pla-Mor

Jenny in the birthday jam Venche helps out with the intro lesson

Left: Jenny dances during the birthday jam
Right: Venche helps out during the East Coast lesson

Here's a switch: swing dancing in Lincoln! Last night, some friends of mine came down from Omaha and we all went dancing at the Pla-Mor Ballroom, for their monthly swing night. It was a great time. We went out for dinner at King Kong before the dance and stuffed ourselves with hamburgers and gyros. Then we were able to take a couple lessons during the night at the Pla-Mor. During the first we went through the basics of east coast, which included some rather strange moves I hadn't learned at the Omaha Jitterbugs before, like the "grinder" and some side kicks. For the second lesson, we all did some line-dancing, which was especially fun when we did it in a group to some disco tunes. The whole evening was especially fun just to have a change of pace from our usual dance at the Eagles Lodge. The music they played was very different, most of it newer songs and neo-swing rather than the original swing-era songs we get in Omaha. The songs were much faster, too, which left some of us (namely me) sweaty and guzzling water all night long.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Midwestern Bal Swing Festival

Matt shows off his big feet IMG_1256.jpg

I have had a very busy weekend here in Omaha attending the Midwestern Bal Swing Festival held by the Omaha Jitterbugs. I can honestly say I've never done this much dancing in my entire life. The whole weekend consists of three days of classes, three nights of social dancing, and around four separate contents for such things as open swing, pure balboa, bal swing, and the big apple. On Saturday I came up to have dinner with Viv and our friends Ben and Sarah down at the Olive Garden before heading over to the Eagle's Lodge for a night of dancing. On the left I've comparing my big old feet to the shoes on sale with Viv, and on the right Sarah is about to crash underneath Ben's fedora.

Matt, Viv, and Daniel Eric and Robin

On Saturday I took a bunch of workshops, including classes on shag, collegiate fox trot, and then after lunch we did some basics in pure bal and a variant of bal swing before going upstairs for yet another workshop on a different kind of balboa that I didn't quite understand. After the classes, we went out to Old Chicago, where I got to meet one of Viv's longtime friends, Robin. She, Eric, and Viv are notorious among the jitterbugs as something of a Pirate Threesome, and this was the first time they'd been reunited at the Eagle's Lodge for a year or so. We also got to meet Robin's adorable little baby Daniel and her husband, Tim. Viv was responsible for bringing both of them together at a party some time ago, so it was very cool to see the fruits of her labors all cute and spitting up.

Saturday night was an especially big night for Viv as it was her first time competing in a dance. She and Mark took to the floor in the Bal Swing contest and did an amazing job cutting up the floor. They had some pretty stiff competition from some real pros from around the country with years of training, but they were able to hold their own, no doubt about it. You can see the video of their performance here.

Update: Home movies! Over the weekend, I took plenty of video using my little digital camera, and I was able to capture some highlights from the events that took place and put them up on YouTube for you all to enjoy.
  • Bal Fest Highlight Reel: See some clips from the contests we had and some bits of a bal swing workshop.
  • Baby Daniel: A bunch of us met at Old Chicago to see Robin's baby boy Daniel.