Monday, March 31, 2008

Mistaken Identity

We've kicked the fundraising into high gear at the station. I was on air for five hours straight on Saturday. My voice is worn out. But I got a funny, bloggable story out of it, so that counts for something.

When I got off the air on Saturday afternoon, one of our long time volunteers, John, told me that a friend of mine called. John said this friend made a contribution and then asked him to "please tell Laurie I said hi." John said he couldn't remember who the caller was for sure, but he thought it was a guy named Tom.

Me: "Oh, TOM! Of course, he's a good friend of mine!"

John: "I'm not sure it was Tom, but I think that's right."

Me: "Ok, well thanks for telling me. That was really sweet of him to call."

So I went and asked the database administrator if he could check and find out if a friend of mine had called in. "Could you search in the comments for anyone who said 'hi to Laurie'?" I asked.

The search came back. Sure enough it was Tom who called.
Tom Foster.
I have no idea who that is.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

From our Moscow Bureau

Last Sunday I woke up bright and early and headed to the church that I've been visiting (hoping that they might have installed special chairs that can support the load of a man that eats a lot of pancakes).

On the way, I noticed hundreds of soldiers milling around and setting up metal detectors on the main street by the church. I figured it was another protest rally or something, but I really had no idea. I just strolled past with my head down like I had good sense.

When I got out of church, I couldn't believe my eyes. They were having a huge Saint Patrick's Day Parade. I stood and watched for a few minutes and then headed to meet some friends at the Electronics market (that experience was a whole other story within itself).

This week I had to make a trip to Siberia to visit with some customers. For those of you who aren't geographically gifted. Siberia is a LONG way away from Moscow (or anywhere for that matter). The travel agency that I used to book my trip got mixed up initially and tried to book my trip via train (it takes 48 hours by train). I ended up taking a three or four hour plane flight, and a six hour car ride to see the customer. To complicate matters, my phone broke on the flight to Siberia, so when I got off the plane I didn't know where to go, who to call, or what to do. I ended up just walking out of the airport, hoping that my driver would recognize me. He did, and he was holding a sign up that said Baker Hughes (Of course, he held the sign up from the warmth of his Land Rover, as he knew better than to get out in the cold). Did I mention that they had 4 foot of snow? CRAZY! We drove all day to the customer's field office.

When we arrived the safety girl gave me a brief run down (in broken English). I almost laughed out loud when she told me about their water system on site. She told me that the running water was not safe to drink, she then clarified that it was "only meant for human consumption". I was biting my lip not to laugh.

On the long ride back to the airport I begged my driver to stop at a convenience store so I could get something, anything, to eat (I hadn't eaten in 12 hours). He relented and pulled into what had to have been the worst truck stop/gas station that I've ever been to in my life. They had a café, but when I looked in the kitchen there was a cat laying on the kitchen counter next to where they put the food. I opted for potato chips instead of something fresh. I bought almost every bag of chips they had (bags of chips were all that they had to eat in the store). I would have killed someone for a Snicker bar (or anything Chocolate)!

When you can't read Russian you depend on pictures to help you thru. I had bought bags of chips with pictures of what appeared to be meat and seafood on the bags. I had never had Beef Stroganoff flavored chips before that day (I can now mark that off my list). I had also never had caviar flavored chips, nor will I ever again.

~The Moscow Correspondent

Friday, March 28, 2008

Telling Fortunes

Our station ordered Chinese food in for us today. All American-style Chinese food must come with a fortune cookie. Usually I am mildly amused by the "fortunes" they contain. Today, I'm a little apprehensive.

My fortune says:
"Today you should be a passenger. Stay close to a driver for a day."

Apparently this cookie company dabbles in scary fortunes. On the flip side (both literally and figuratively) the Chinese word I'm supposed to learn is "boyfriend."

Maybe that's my consolation prize for the foretold doom.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Support Something

I have a new mouse pad. It has a picture of Houston's skyline and says "Support Thought Radio." I have no idea what this means. It's not even good grammar. But apparently it's what the higher-ups have decided is a catchy phrase for our listeners. Personally, I think our listeners are smart enough to be unimpressed by meaningless jargon. But maybe that's why I'm not in management...I think too much like a normal person.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Q is for...

Every day a surprising number of people find my blog by searching a particular phrase. I am constantly amazed at how many people on the World Wide Internet are interested in 'words that start with Q.'

So many people stumble across the QQ by googling that phrase that I have now become the #9 Google hit when you search those terms.

Imagine their disappointment when they get here and discover I don't actually blog about words that start with Q. Maybe I should start some sort of recurring feature about Q-words.

Of course, it amuses me that so many people would rely on Google for the answer to this question. Does no one use a dictionary any more?

But perhaps I shouldn't quip, quibble or quarrel with these querists in their quest for Q quarries.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

From our Moscow Bureau

Last week I went out to a bar on Thursday night called 'The Real McCoy' and it was awesome. They have live music 5 nights a week and I'd heard that the bands are great. The band I saw was fantastic (though I have no idea how to pronounce their name). They opened with a James Brown cover, and continued to play a variation of Russian and English cover songs. I heard Banana-rama, Pink Floyd, Stevie Ray Vaughan, but the one that brought the house down was 'Ghostbusters'. I've never heard it live. What a show! Who ya' gonna call?...

Also, this week was Pancake week here in Moscow. While the Russian pancake (called Blini) is nothing like what you'd find at IHOP, it's pretty dang good. It's sort of like a crepe. You can get them with honey, strawberry jam, or a variation of butters and creams. I think I had every variation that they could concoct at the Pancake Festival down by Red Square. The only pancake I didn't partake in was the one that had caviar and sour crème on top. DISGUSTING!

Also, Sunday I found a Church. It's called the International Christian Fellowship. It's located in a theater near the city center (Arbat). It's always a little awkward visiting a new church, but I think my experience this Sunday took the cake. I arrived a little late with one of my coworkers and his family. Most of the aisles were full, but we were able to find one that would accommodate all four of us, but several people had to stand up to let us by (since it's in a theater, everyone has their own seat). When I got to my seat in the middle of the aisle I sat down and the seat collapsed leaving me on the floor. I'd broken the seat and caused everyone in the vicinity of the accident to turn and laugh. No more flap jacks for me.

~The Moscow Correspondent

Monday, March 24, 2008


I'm considering an extension of my blog sabbatical. Tune in tomorrow to find out what decision I make.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

From our Moscow Bureau

A friend of mine recently moved to Russia. He'll be appearing on the QQ as a guest blogger from time to time. Here's his first update.

All is well here in Moscow. It's getting warmer every day. But with the warmer air, the snow is turning to rain. I've brought my dress shoes to work so that they won't be ruined. I wear my hiking boots to the office and then change when I get here. It all sounds good until you see me on the metro or walking down the street in a suit and hiking boots.

Also, I went and had Mexican food on Saturday. While it wasn't bad for Moscow, it was probably the worst Mexican food I've had in my life. They made me quesadillas with salami and cheese inside (pretty gross). They also made me a big bowl of guacamole. It smelled just like B.O. In fact, I thought it was me at first.

~The Moscow Correspondent

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sexy Lingerie and other unexpected outcomes

This week I needed to buy some lingerie. For a friend. I'm being serious. So on my way home from work, I drove to Rice Village to go to the VS store there. I circled the parking lot for about 15 minutes trying to find a spot. I finally found one all the way on the other side of the shopping center. So I parked and walked back to the store...only to discover a small sign posted on the window.
"Temporarily closed due to water damage."

Grrr. I walk back to my car, struggle through Rice traffic and head over to Highland Village to go to another VS store. I circle the parking lot for only about five minutes this time. Just as I'm walking up to the door I see the saleslady locking it and closing the shop. I missed getting in by one minute. Drat.

Now on to the movie review.

I rented Michael Clayton (not the man, the movie). If you're trying to remember which one that is...George Clooney was in it and nominated for best actor, the film was nominated for best picture and Tilda Swinton won best supporting actress. All of this means that the movie had to be either outstanding or truly terrible.

I was prepared for truly terrible. What I got was outstanding.

Now I have to throw in one caveat: there is a lot of foul language in this movie. And some of it is quite graphic. There's nothing else questionable besides the language, but it was strong enough to be offensive.

Nevertheless, the acting, writing and, above all, the plot were enough to set this movie apart as something truly worth seeing. I think what I liked most about this movie was how it never fell into predictable territory. I kept expecting it to turn into an Erin Brokovich type plot. You know the routine:

'One humble lawyer takes on Corporate America because of his love for the lowly and downtrodden.'

But the movie never went there. Instead, it showed the ugliness and decay of the industry, but without turning into a conspiracy theory. I believed the movie. I felt like the things that happened could really happen, do really happen. And then the full power of the film comes in at the end. It's almost a fist-to-the-stomach moment when everything comes together and it dawns on you what has happened and what it all means.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Facebook Friends and other inaccuracies

I have 169 friends on Facebook. This is terribly misleading. Quite a large number of my Facebook friends aren't actually friends at all, but rather acquaintances or people I have met here and there. And there's quite a large number of close friends of mine who aren't on Facebook at all. That said, one actual for-real friend pointed out to me the other day that he and I have 104 Facebook friends in common. Pretty impressive.

I promised to deliver on some movie reviews. (Note to self:
return movies tonight.)
I watched Becoming Jane on Monday. I had every expectation of loving it.
I hated it.

That has to be one of the worst movies I've seen in a long time. As a historical film, it got about 2% of the facts right. They spelled Austen's name correctly...that's about it. I was very frustrated. So I decided to stop thinking of it in terms of Austen's life and start thinking of it as simply a period romance.
I still hated it.

Several girls told me how good this movie was. That it was "sweet," "cute," "romantic" etc...
I wish women would start thinking critically about the movies they watch. Think about what the movie is really portraying. It's more than just a romance between a sexy actor and a beautiful actress. Who are these characters? Why are they doing what they do? Are they teaching you anything about human character?

In Becoming Jane the answers to those questions are disappointing at best and destructive at worst. We see a willful girl who recklessly throws away her good reputation, breaks trust with her family, betrays her engagement to another man and consents to run away with her lover. We see her lover who is a known scoundrel with a history of drinking, gambling and whoring, who jilts her because she doesn't have any money and then later convinces her to take him back so they can run away together.

And somehow this is supposed to be romantic, touching and noble.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Return to the Land of the Living

It's good to be back. I've been laid out sick for the past three days and it wasn't pretty. Friday and Saturday were a blur of activities interspersed with my groaning and complaining about not feeling well. Sunday was an absolute delight of a day filled with a ruptured eardrum, killer sore throat, less than four hours of sleep and aches and chills. Monday and Tuesday involved lying in a stupor on the couch. I was so sick that I even forgot to have morning coffee. Yeah. That's sick.

But I did learn a few things in the course of my illness. I learned there's an irony in modern life wherein I traded staring at my computer screen at work all day for staring at my TV screen at home all day.

I also learned that JG Wentworth can help you get the cash you need from your structured settlement or annuity. It's your money. Use it when you need it.

I also rented a couple movies to help me weather the upper respiratory storm. I'll be posting reviews later this week.

Friday, March 07, 2008


I don't see my pet ladybug today. I can't tell if she's just hiding under a leaf or if she has permanently relocated.

The Houston Chronicle linked to my blog this week. Apparently someone on their editorial page liked my story about helping Chief Bradford get out of the parking lot. My blog hits have already gone up.

I'm going to the rodeo tonight. Four white girls are going to see John Legend on Black Heritage Day. Got a problem with that? Incidentally, although I was born and raised in Texas, I do not own cowboy boots or a hat.

ER was so much better than Grey's Anatomy could ever hope to be.

Dancing with the Stars starts in just over a week! This is my one 'reality tv' indulgence. I don't even watch AI.

Wedding season is still in full swing. The end is nowhere near in sight. Pray hard.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Last night wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. The particular race I was covering was fairly straightforward. The returns came in early enough that I was able to be back at home shortly before 1am.

My favorite moment from last night was when I showed up at the Democratic Election party to interview one of the candidates. I pulled into the parking lot and noticed a very large truck maneuvering to get out of the parking lot. The driver kept backing up and pulling forward in an attempt to squeeze between the cars around him. I started to motion to him that I would help him back out of the space. That's when I noticed who the driver was. It was former Chief of Police and Candidate for District Attorney C.O. Bradford. That's right. I found myself directing traffic for the former police chief.

Laurie Johnson. News Reporter/Traffic Cop.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Blah blah blah

Election days are actually really boring. I'm at work with absolutely nothing to do until about 9pm tonight. I'm already getting sleepy.

A Long Day's Journey Into Night

It's Primary day in Texas and that means one thing: I'll be at work until about 2am.
Wish me luck.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Coping with Loss

I lost a dear friend over the weekend. It was very unexpected and there was nothing anyone could have done to stop it. This was a relationship I had developed over the past two or three years and it was very important to me. When the accident happened, my first reaction was disbelief. Then as the reality of the situation sunk in, I began to question God on why He would allow this to happen. He didn't answer. But I know we live in a fallen world and that means decay and destruction are part of the process.

But it doesn't make the death of my Chi hair straightener any easier to bear. It was a rough weekend.