Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my Mom's birthday! By being born on New Year's Eve, she's always guaranteed plenty of parties on every birthday which is kind of cool—all those people out and living it up in her honor (even if they think it's to ring in another year on the calendar)!

I just spent a few days with Mom and the rest of our family for Christmas, and I was reminded once again how lucky I am to have her for my mom. We are fortunate enough to actually like being together, we have the same senses of humor, and just generally have fun with each other. In the post-holiday detox, I've been talking to some other people about their personal familial dysfunction, and it makes me appreciate anew how great my mom is. She doesn't always like what I do (and boy do I hear about it!) but she does always support me. I know she's always there for me, and that's invaluable.

Since it's her birthday, I'm taking this opportunity to give her a public shout out. Thanks for being awesome, Mom! I love you!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Another Resolution

It's a cliche, but another of my new year's resolutions is to lose weight. I read some advice recently that I thought was pretty good—that all resolutions should be fun, that way they are easier to keep. I don't think that giving up mac and cheese will be fun on its own, so I've brainstormed a way to at least make it more interesting and prey upon my competitive spirit. To that end I propose the Cash Prizes and Smaller Sizes 2009 Weight Loss Challenge.

Take a look and let me know if you're interested. It will officially begin on Monday, January 5, and all takers should be signed up by that date.

Monday, December 29, 2008

First Resolution for 2009

I've made this resolution before, but hopefully the second time is the charm. I continue to have an enormous—and I mean enormous—pile of to-be-read books. Christmas and trip to my favorite used bookstore near mom's just increased the backlog. So, just as I swore last year, I'm swearing again that I will not buy a book for a solid 12 months.

I only made it until March before I broke down this year. I am hoping to do much, much better in 2009. Right now I have approximately twice as many books awaiting me as I can read in a year. If I can just avoid used bookstores (a real weakness) I will have no excuses for failure.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Home with Camilla

I'm back home and stretched out on my couch with Camilla. My place is a hot mess, and I still don't feel up to snuff. Still, it's pretty good to have Camilla snuggled up beside me. I'd probably have stayed at Mom's for another day of R&R if it weren't for her, so I'm glad she's happy to see me. I'm going to spend the rest of the afternoon reading The Tales of Beedle the Bard (a Christmas gift from Todd) and resting. I want to get over this sickness quickly!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Yuck

I'm sorry to say it, but I'm sick. I started feeling a tickle in my throat and a pressure in my sinuses late last night. I immediately sucked on a pretty gross-tasting zyrtec and took some vitamin C, but it didn't do anything noticeable. When I woke up this morning I felt a little worse, even. Since then I've napped twice and taken several doses of day-quil. I have another week of vacation to enjoy before going back to work, and I want to be well for it. I'm hoping that another day of laying low will nip it in the bud, but I'm disappointed that this cold sucked the fun out of my last day at home with my family. Tomorrow I'm on a bus back to NYC, where I'll continue to lay around.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Yearly Day After Christmas Outing

Every year we try hard not to duplicate gifts, but every year there are a couple of things that have to go back to the store. This year the only thing I had to exchange was a book that I put on my wish list, forgot I put on my wish list, and then bought for myself. Duh. Luckily the line at Borders was short and the employees were feeling nice and let me exchange it without a receipt. I'm hoping to put together a movie outing (on my list to see: Doubt, Revolutionary Road, Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, Frost/Nixon) but there is no evidence that we'll get our act together enough to actually make it happen tonight. Somewhat unbelievable to me, the rest of my family is lukewarm at best about all these amazing-sounding movies. I don't get it!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Feliz Navidad!

I hope you're all having a wonderful holiday!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Gang's All Here

Veronica and Mike arrived just in time for our traditional Christmas Eve pizza feast, so we've got a full house. Since Shannon, Mom, and I have been baking and cooking all day, we were pretty glad not to be cooking dinner tonight, too. I think we're at about 27 desserts and counting. We've sampled each kind of cookie heavily, so I'm quite stuffed.

The rest of the night will consist of Veronica making us all watch Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, me complaining about watching Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, and catching random scenes of A Christmas Story, my personal favorite.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Guiding Seamen to Port

Gummy penis, anyone?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Work-Free

I'm free! No more work until January 5. I made it through one final day at the office (with a side trip to get Thai for lunch with Shannon, Micah, and Kimberly) and am now hanging out, happy as a clam to be imagining all the ways I'm going to spend two whole weeks. All I know is that I'll be baking a chocolate pecan pie tomorrow. The rest remains a mystery.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Arrival

Shannon and Micah are here! The got into town earlier today, and we spent the afternoon in my apartment catching up and avoiding the arctic chill that has settled on New York. They’re finding ways to entertain themselves tomorrow (possibly with a trip to some museums) while I make it through my last day of work before the holidays. After that, anything goes. I’m finally finished shopping for and wrapping Christmas presents, so all that’s left on my holiday to-do list is baking a pie to bring to Mom’s. Otherwise it’s all fun and games until January 5th.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Day of Friends

Caryn, Larry, and Joey braved the slushy roads to visit me here in the city today. Really, it wasn’t about me at all, though. Caryn wanted Joey to see some of the city’s Christmas decorations and have a chance to take her picture in front of the Rockefeller Center tree. It was freezing but we toughed it out and got some good photos. And we were smart enough to approach the tree from the side, rather than head-on from 5th Ave. As crowded as it was where we were, it would have been much worse if we’d come at it from a different angle. I’m seeing Caryn, Larry, and Joey again on Christmas. Maybe Joey won’t double in size and pick up a whole new arsenal of toddler skills before I see her again this time!

After they left, I sped out to Queens for Kimberly’s birthday party, which was fabulous. I cannot praise enough the dinner that she put together. Every single thing we ate was homemade. That bread? She baked it. That pasta? Yeah, she made fresh pasta, rolled it out through one of those play-dough looking contraptions, folded them into pockets which were then filled them with homemade squash and parmesan filling. Seriously—I can’t do that. And then to top it off we had an amazing ricotta and pine nut torte for dessert. I did lend a spring form pan for the torte, though, so the night would probably have been a disaster without my help. :) Once we were all done oohing and ahhing over the food, we played surrealist games like Exquisite Corpse. Kimberly has promised to send out the products of our surrealist mind bending, and I’ll share some choice ones once I get my hands on them.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bioluminescent: Dinoflagellates in Laguna Grande

Todd and I also went kayaking in a bio-bay one night in Puerto Rico, and I think it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. This particular bay is filled with dinoglagellates, which are these teeny, tiny micro-organisms that glow when disturbed. Every dip of the paddle, movement of our kayak, or splash with our hand created a blue-green glow. I’ve never seen anything like it. We kayaked first through narrow and slightly windy water before reaching a fairly large estuary. Once we reached that, our tour guide (we were lucky enough to go with just him and one other couple, so it was pretty intimate) had us sit for a while to give us his spiel. The entire time he was talking I had my hand in the water watching the glow. It looked like a special effect you’d see in an X-Men movie or something. And for just a second after taking my hand out of the water you could still see the microorganisms glowing on my skin. So cool!

Todd asked our tour guide if we could go for a swim. Unfortunately, swimming is no longer allowed in this particular estuary. Our guide told us, though, with a wink, that sometimes people flip their kayaks and end up in the water. The other couple with us were not adventurous, but Todd and I took our cue and quickly “fell” into the water. It was so cool to see it all light up around us!

Since we knew we’d get wet, we didn’t take our cameras with us on the tour. I did find this youtube clip that is a pretty accurate representation of what we saw, though the color is a bit different. If you ever have the chance to do this, you should!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hiking in the rainforest

Todd and I went on two nature-oriented adventures in Puerto Rico, and the first was hiking in the El Yunque Rainforest. It was beautiful! We kept trying to describe it to each other, though we knew that none of the word we were using really captured it. Still, we kept repeating adjectives like “lush” and “verdant.”

The hike itself wasn’t that strenuous. We spent about two hours climbing up to the first peak, which is called the Cloud Forest. We didn’t have hiking boots and both wore our chucks for the hike, so the hardest thing was taking good care of our feet. The path was very rocky, and Converse really don’t provide a lot of support! The rocks also get pretty slippery, so I paid a lot of attention to not wiping out—I came close only a couple of times and managed to stay on my feet throughout.

Once we made it to the Cloud Forest, we took a few minutes to enjoy the spectacular view down the mountain. Looking straight out or up wasn’t much to marvel at—it’s not called a cloud forest for nothing! We were literally standing in a cloud, so when we looked straight out we saw nothing but a thick fog. We were awed by how we could watch the clouds actually move in on top of us and were loving it until we realized they were rolling in for a big ol’ rainfall! There we were, at the summit of a rainforest, standing in a cloud, suddenly getting wet. It started out as a cold but light mist, but within minutes it was a downpour. We hadn’t worn any rain gear, so it didn’t take long to get soaked through. We started quickly back down the trail, this time being extra careful for our footing. Things just got more slippery as they got wet and muddy.

We were cold and soaked by the end, but it somehow seemed perfect. First of all, it’s a rainforest. How disappointing to not experience the rain! Second, there was something pretty magical about watching the clouds come and feeling the rain right at its origin.

We took countless pictures over the course of the hike, but I’m playing blog catch up at work (shhhh...), so I don’t have any at hand. I’ll update this post tonight, though, with some images.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Scenes from our vacation

El Yunque Rainforest


Todd holding a coconut on the beach


More of the beach--stunning and without another soul in sight



Anticipating my mallorca at La Bombenero




Love in Old San Juan

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Things I'm loving about this vacation

  • No alarm clocks
  • Pina coladas, mojitos, and bloody marys
  • Sea food
  • So much time with Todd
  • How my hair is kind of curly here
  • Guilty pleasure books
  • Drawing
  • Incredible nature found no where else in the the country

Monday, December 15, 2008

Old San Juan

Old San Juan is a beautiful old city--the architecture is really colorful and sort of reminds me of New Orleans. The streets are small, windy, and cobble-stoned. Todd and I started the day with a delicious breakfast treat: mallorca. It's a sweet bread, buttered, pressed (sort of like a panini), and sprinkled with powdered sugar. After that we walked around, taking in the sites and scouting for gifts for friends and family (I haven't been this under prepared for Christmas in many years). I ended up finding no Christmas presents, but I did find a way to spend some money on myself. I bought about a year's supply (I'm really not joking) of locally made soap. It all smells great and is made from rainwater, which I think is fun.

Todd and I met another couple over drinks in the early evening, and they adopted us a bit. They gave us great tips about restaurants to visit and what to see in San Juan. They also enjoyed being amateur photographers and took about a thousand pictures of us, which I loved. Here's just one of them:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I like the beach

When Todd first started talking about a beach vacation, I warned him that I wasn't much good in tropical weather. As it turns out, under the protection of SPF 50 and a beach umbrella, I'm quite happy on the beach. Day one of our vacation was spent lounging around, reading, swimming and body surfing in the ocean, and little else. It was fantastic. It's a pretty rare treat these days to have so little scheduled, and it's been great. To stretch our legs we walked along the beach and watched para-surfers, kicking in the surf on the way down and back. That was the most exertion we put out all day.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Then We Came To The End

I’m so confused about whether I liked this book or not. I mean, I did, but there was something bizarre about it at the same time. The novel, the tale of one very bad period at an advertising firm in the early aughts, is effectively written from the first person plural perspective. The narrator speaks for an entire group of coworkers, recounting the group think, the petty frustrations, the affection, the crushes, the anxieties, the cliques within cliques. It’s funny and entertaining. It’s also disconcerting to leave an office where you live all these same minor dramas each day and then go home to read an only slightly heightened reality of the same thing.

Joshua Ferris has captured something not at all unique in a very unique way, and there was something hilarious/disappointing/affirming about confirming that our own workplace dysfunctions—which always feel so immediate and important—are played out in a million offices across thousands of cities the entire nationwide.

Ferris does try to get a little too clever for the book’s good in the conclusion, but it was satisfying nonetheless. This might be especially entertaining for those of you who are living the freelance or work-at-home life and miss some of the drama inherent in offices.

Here’s a short excerpt to give you a taste of the book:

We recalled looking at Frank and thinking he had six months, tops. Old Brizz, we called him. He smoked like a fiend. He stood outside the building in the most inclement weather, absorbing Old Golds in nothing but a sweater vest. Then and only then, he looked indomitable. When he returned inside, nicotine stink preceded him as he walked down the hall, where it lingered long after he entered his office. He began to cough, and from our own offices we heard the working-up of solidified lung sediment. Some people put him on their Celebrity Death Watch every year because of the coughing, even though he wasn’t an official celebrity. He knew it, too, he knew he was on death watch, and that certain wagering individuals would profit from his death. He knew it because he was one of us, and we knew everything.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Puerto Rico Bound

Todd and I fly to San Juan tonight! I’m at work for just a few hours today trying to wrap things up before forgetting about them completely for the next several days. I’ve packed bathing suits, flip flops, and one pretty dress in case we want to live it up one night. I’m bringing Fun Home (half way through it and loving it), Twilight (don’t judge me), and The Well of Lost Plots (I love that Thursday Next). I also packed Holidays on Ice so we can read Santaland Diaries and be extra appreciative that we’re on the beach instead of Christmas shopping amongst the hordes.

I’ll try to post a bit from the beach and am making use of blogger’s ability to auto-post something at a future date. I don’t want to get this close to Blog 365 and drop the ball! So, you won’t be totally without A Blog Of One’s Own for the next little while. Just in case any of you were worried. :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blue Christmas Tree

Very busy day today equals silly online quiz about the color of my ideal Christmas tree. I don't really get it, but I'm sharing it anyway.




You Should Have a Blue Christmas Tree



For you, the holidays represent a time of calm, understanding, and peace.

You avoid family fights, and you don't get too stressed out - even when things are crazy!



You like to make Christmas about making everyone's life a little bit better.

You don't get caught up in greed or commercialism. You're too sincere for that.



Your blue tree would look great with: Lots of silver tinsel



You should spend Christmas Eve watching: It's a Wonderful Life



What you should bake for Santa: Chocolate chip cookies

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

We're The Big Three. We Don't Need To Compete.

I am pretty unimpressed by the idea of an auto bailout. I know it's important because of the ripple effect a failure of the big three would cause, but at the same time, I think if they would have created a sustainable business model, invested in the right technologies, and generally pulled their heads out of their asses, the current situation wouldn't exist.
































Thanks to Kimberly for this great image.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's all about the baking

Something about this time of year always makes me want to bake. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas there are just so many treats destined for my belly that I can't help but make some of them myself. Tonight I tried out an incredibly easy sugar cookie recipe that I found on the internet. After remembering that my oven is two distinctly different temperatures on the top and bottom racks and reverting to only using the top one, the cookies all came out quite well. Yum.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Book Club Drama

Did you guys see the NYT’s article about book club infighting? It was an interesting read, and I can see how a lot of what they reported may feel universal. I am counting myself lucky, though, as my book group has been spared most of this. Of course there tend to be people whose opinions or book selections more closely align with your own, or moments of exasperation when people veer off topic (since we have a lot of former coworkers in the group, I fear that this is actually more annoying for the few people who never worked at McGraw-Hill). All said, though, we’ve worked out a good system.

For each meeting, one member is the point person who organizes the date and time, spreads the word, and selects the book. Since we rotate, everyone gets the same opportunities to choose what we read, and we’re all equally exposed to everyone else’s whims. We’re lucky enough to all have similar inclinations in the types of books—we stick almost exclusively to fiction (Cold Blood was the only departure I can think of), and the books tend to be fairly literary. That said, I don’t think any of us complain when we’re entertained, too.

We certainly do disagree about books’ merits (I remain a loyal Sarah Waters fan, even though she took quite a drubbing when we read Night Watch), but we’re always respectful. I don’t think it hurts that we have a writers in our group, too, who offer a specific perspective and keep us all mindful of the work that goes into these books (even if we don’t like them).

The hardest thing about our book group seems to be getting people together. Schedules are always crazy, and it’s tough to find times when everyone can meet. Our group shrunk over the last few months as several people moved away, and I’m a little worried about how much I can attend once January arrives and I start grad school. This article reminds me to be happy for what we have, though.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Local Level

Tonight was the Three Parks Democrats holiday party. Most of their events have been very casual, so we were surprised to walk in and see that it was a much higher-end production. I only knew a handful of people there, but the were all the tried and true three park-ers who were present at all the trainings, events, and canvassing events I attended during the presidential election. I made a point of telling them that I'd like to stay involved even now that the national election is over. I think a a lot of important work is done at a local level, and I'd really like to start down that path. My fingers are crossed that this group will continue to be a good entry point.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Martians and Dora

This weekend was all about the kids. Friday was Todd and Dylan's shared birthday, which we spent at Mars 2112. It's not a place I'd rush back to (the food was gross!) but the kids had a lot of fun. There is definitely a theme park atmosphere there, and it was fun to see them so jazzed each time one of the alien characters made their way around the floor. Sofia was funny: she was completely shy the first time the pretty girl alien (cleverly named Q-T-Pi) came around, but by the time we left the restaurant, the two of them were BFFs.

Today Todd and I took Sofia to the Children's Museum, which isn't so much a museum as it is a fun place to wear kids out. Sofia loved that an entire floor was dedicated to Dora and Diego, and she really enjoyed the rest of the place, too. The funniest part was toward the end of the day when I noticed a dad sitting slumped against one of the walls, totally asleep. A few minutes later, Todd noticed another father doing the same thing on the other side of the room. The museum is apparently a great place to wear parents out, too!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy Birthday to Todd!

Today is Todd’s 40th birthday! Last night we meet up with a group of friends to celebrate his entrĂ©e into a new decade after eating a scrumptious Greek meal at Snack in Soho. Over dinner we talked about goals for his 40s, and one of the things Todd said he wanted to try is something I’ve always wanted to do, too: sky diving! I’m quite sure I’d be terrified, but I think it would also be an amazing rush. We’ll have to do it soon before his old bones get too brittle. :)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The season of lists is upon us

New York Times released their list of the best books of 2008 this week. In keeping with tradition, I read almost none of them. My boss lent me Netherland a few months ago, so I did manage to get to one of them, but that’s the sum total. And, to be honest, I didn’t really think Netherland lived up to all the hype. It was good but not the best I’ve ever read.

Have any of you read any/many of these? I took a look at a similarly-themed post on Anne’s Fiction Writers Review the other day and saw that many people included The Good Thief among their best of the year lists. I haven’t read that one, either, but momentum seems to be with it.

What would you consider your personal best of the year? These don’t have to be books that published this year, just ones that you read in 2008.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I, me, mine, and my

Gretchen Rubin writes a blog about happiness: how to achieve it and how to maintain it. Every Wednesday she offers tips—small tools to try to break readers out of their usual routines. This week she suggests twelve mental exercises to drive creativity and problem-solving. Her idea is that exploration, challenge, and novelty are all key elements of happiness, and number three on her list of exercises is to write a letter (or in this case, a blog post) without using the words in this post’s title.

This blog is a place for personal feelings and ramblings, so avoiding these words is a little tricky. Is it possible to write something with immediacy and urgency without utilizing the first person? Here’s what’s not going to happen: this isn’t going to become some Seinfeld-esque situation where Tori thinks this and Tori feels that (remember the Jimmy episode?).

Anyway, it’s felt good to read a blog that is devoted to trying to be a happier person. There is definitely something effective about choosing happiness versus taking a dark pleasure in bad moods. And hearing what has worked for other people, where people have struggled, and what makes others happy has made for some interesting personal reflection.

One of Gretchen’s best posts centered on determining what “fun” really meant for her. It seems like that should be easy—we each know what makes us happy, right? But do we do things because they’re really fun, or just because they’re there? Is watching 30-Minute Meals on the food channel really fun or just easy and routine? Being able to identify fun increases the likelihood of recognizing it in the moment, which can only be a good thing. It’s also interesting to realize that everyone has a different (and equally valid answer) to the question: what is fun?

Anyway, The Happiness Project has been very worthwhile reading. As New Year’s approaches, so do the dreaded but somehow inevitable New Year’s Resolutions. While eating better and exercising more are always great goals, it’s nice to ditch the standards, do some critical thinking about how to be happy, and work toward bringing small joys into every day.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Informal Poll

How many of you send out Christmas cards? I am sending them but wonder if I’m part of a dying breed. I’m not sure why, but I feel like they’re on their way out. I love sending them (it’s a nice way to reestablish contact with people I don’t talk to much throughout the year), and it’s always fun to get them. It’s a very organic part of my holiday decorating: it’s an odd mix of being familiar each year but always a little different.

Monday, December 1, 2008

American Gods

I finished Neil Gaiman’s American Gods over Thanksgiving. Shannon, Veronica, and Mike had told me both individually and in a literary gang-up that I should really read it. I hemmed and hawed, thinking that it sounded slightly more fantastical than my typical fare. I worked a compromise, telling them that if one of them got it for me as a gift I’d read it. And voila! A copy from Shannon arrived for my birthday in September.

The bar was set pretty high, since all three had raved about it, and I’m not sure that American Gods really lived up to the hype. That’s not to say that it wasn’t a very good read, though. The concept is extremely interesting, and Gaiman is certainly engaging. I won’t give it the absolute rave that Shannon, Veronica, and Mike did, but if you get it as a gift, it’s definitely worth a read.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

If Virginia is for Lovers...

Then Maryland is for people who are confused about sex. On the drive down to Shannon’s on Wednesday, Mom and I passed a billboard in Maryland that irritated us both. It pronounced (without evidence or a source clearly sited, because who can gather that type of detailed info at 65 MPH?) that: “Children of married parents do better in school.” Now, given that my parents are divorced and both my sisters and I held our own quite comfortably in school, we were put off by this obviously “traditional family” propaganda. But it was just one silly billboard and we forgot about it rather quickly.

Until, that is, our drive home. In a spirit of adventure, Mom’s GPS took us a completely different route on the trip home, so we were treated to a whole new set of right wing advertising. The first proclaimed “Abstinence always works.” This, despite years of failed abstinence-only education under the Bush administration proving pretty unequivocally that, no, abstinence doesn’t always work. You know what usually does work? Condoms. But whatever: Maryland’s not too worried about the stats, obviously.

Maryland’s love of not getting it on was evident another couple of miles down the road, when we saw the billboard stating: “Virgin: Teach your kids it's not a dirty word.” It’s definitely not a dirty word. But neither is sex or erection or jizz (well, maybe jizz).

We were still chuckling about that one when mom pointed out my favorite. Sporting a photo of a teenage girl with her arms crossed defiantly, this billboard read: “I'm not giving it up, and I'm not giving in.” You go girl. But if you change your mind, please visit Planned Parenthood to get some actual information and a condom.

You might now be thinking that Maryland doesn’t sound at all confused about sex: They don’t much like it and when they do have it, they want the lights turned off. And that might be true, except that we passed four adult video and book stores in the approximately ten mile stretch where we saw these billboards!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Drive Time

Starting another afternoon/evening in the car. Shannon, Micah, Mom, and I went out for vegan Chinese food for lunch this afternoon (Mom and I stuck to the vegetable dishes and Micah and Shannon went for the mock meats), and afterward we all walked around a fun pedestrian-friendly section of Richmond for a while (Carey Street?). Now we’re hitting the road again, though, and tomorrow morning I’ll take the bus back into the city.

Shannon and Micah were great hosts, and I can't wait to visit them again!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Rocks

Shannon and Micah took me rock climbing this morning in an effort to work off a little of the pie we all ate last night. I loved it! I haven't been climbing before (ice climbing in Alaska is the closest I've come) so I stuck to the easy routes, made it to the top of all the routes I tried, and felt like quite a success. I'd love to do more of this kind of thing if I could find other people who wanted to do it and a place to go.

Micah has heard of a farmer in Ohio who ices his silo from top to bottom and lets people ice climb it in the winter. Who's ready for a road trip?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

For me, Thanksgiving isn’t about turkey this year: I’m spending the holiday with vegetarians, so there will be nary a drumstick in sight. It should always be about more than the food, anyway, though, so in that spirit, I give my list of things I’m Thankful for this year.

As always, I’m extremely thankful for my family and friends. You guys make each day better, easier, and more fun.

Along the same lines, but deserving his own special shout-out: I’m very thankful for Todd. I love how he makes me laugh, lets me be myself while still calling me on my shit, cares about the same things I do but doesn’t mind disagreeing about the particulars, inspires me to be creative, takes me on adventures, and gives me something to look forward to everyday. I plan on being grateful for him for many years to come.

In a much less mushy way, I’m grateful for my job. The silver lining of having suffered for years in a job I intensely disliked is that it’s very easy to recognize how much better I have it now. A great boss, great coworkers, and work that I actually enjoy is definitely something to appreciate. And in this wintry economy, it’s worth recognizing how good it is to be gainfully employed.

I’m also thankful that I was accepted into a graduate program at Columbia. I start classes in January and in just a few short years will be the proud holder of a master’s degree. I’m really excited to be learning and setting myself up for future opportunities.

And finally, in case my non-stop political blogging hasn’t already suggested this, I’m thankful for Barack Obama and the possibility that this country may actually get better.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Car Games?

Mom and I are driving to Virginia today, and since it’s one of the biggest travel days of the year I’m sure the trip will take longer than the normal five hours. I have a couple of CDs, and mom and I will find lots to chat about. I’m curious if any of you have awesome two-person car games to recommend, though. What can we do to keep entertained?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Worth a shot or a waste of time and money?

I love having Camilla. I must admit, though, that litter boxes, by nature, are kind of gross. Who wants poo just hanging around? And despite much sweeping, I feel like there is always litter on the floor. I stumbled up on the Cat Seat website the other day, and I’m curious about whether it will work. On the one hand, Camilla isn’t that young, so she may be set in her ways and reject this all together. On the other hand, how great would it be to not have a litter box in my apartment?

What do you guys think?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Holidays are right around the corner

Did Thanksgiving creep up on everyone, or was it only me? I’m not sure why, but even though I’ve been aware that it was nearing, I still can’t believe that I have to pack tonight and head out of town tomorrow. I’m making it as far as Mt. Laurel, NJ tomorrow and then Mom and I are hitting the road on Wednesday morning to drive to Shannon’s new home in Richmond, Virginia. Hitting no traffic is probably too much to ask, but keep your fingers crossed that it’s smooth sailing at least most of the time.

And once Thanksgiving arrives, we know that the rest of the year will zoom by.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Boy George, Kidnapper?

Does Boy George’s life just get weirder and weirder? I mean, I thought he was kooky when he seemed to want to actually be Leigh Bowery during the Taboo days. And then he invented a burglary and got got all up in the media’s face (admittedly, the media usually has that coming) when they covered the story.

But now he’s accused of handcuffing male escorts to his wall? He needs to get his act together.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Holiday Season

I heard my first Christmas music of the season this morning buying bagels at Absolute Bagels. There's a part of me that feels like Christmas music shouldn't start until Thanksgiving, but I also love the holiday season and Christmas music, so I don't really mind. And this year's first real cold snap has just arrived, making it feel more wintry and like Christmas anyway.

Todd and I talked about our families' respective Christmas traditions last night over dinner. What do you guys do every year for the holidays?

Friday, November 21, 2008

When in doubt...

Steal from your friends. Laura and Rena each recently did a post remembering what they had written exactly a year ago. I'm still recovering from the election and trying to remember what I posted about before all I did was talk about politics. Since I'm still a little stumped, I'm following their lead and remembering this day a year ago.

November 21, 2007
I posted a mini review of Grub by Elise Blackwell and pointed people to Enfuse for my full review. I did a few reviews for Enfuse and have done one so far for Fiction Writer's Review. I like having another outlet for my writing and a greater audience on which to inflict my opinions. But I also find myself struggling to make a dent in my ever-growing to-be-read pile (my addiction to buying books means that the pile rarely shrinks and when it does it's temporary). Since I really do want to read all the books already in my pile, I sometimes find it hard to be pulled away from those for more formal assignments.

Anne and I have talked about me contributing something on a regular basis for FWR, but we haven't figure out just what it would be yet. Anyone have ideas of a regular book-related topic upon which I should regularly comment?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I hope this isn’t some kind of trick *

Word on the street is that my beloved Arrested Development may actually become a movie! There have long been rumors to this effect, but I never quite believed it. It’s now being reported, though, that Mitch Hurwitz will write and co-direct with Ron Howard, one of the world’s best narrators.

I hope that any movie that ultimately gets made stays true to the fabulously eccentric, smart, and unique voice and style of the series.

Long live Arrested Development!


"'Illusion,' Michael. A trick is something a whore does for money.” —GOB Bluth

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

One of the Bummers of Winter

Ok, other office drones, I need to know: what do you do for lunch in the winter? During the spring, summer, and fall I love to take a few minutes to myself and grab a bench for 20 minutes or half an hour to read during the day. It gives me a break from staring at the computer and builds a little more reading time into my schedule (I’ll admit that I didn’t do this much this year, as I was compulsively reading The Huffington Post during every lunch).

Now that it’s finally cold, though, sitting outside is not an option. I find myself post election—right when I’m ready to hunker down with a book instead of reading the latest polls—with no where to take such a break. Am I doomed until spring thaw, or do some of you have suggestions?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Joe Lieberman can suck it

Remember that great SNL sketch (the first with the lovable Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, I believe) where Hillary was talking about the media growing a pair? Yeah, well she should maybe talk to her own party about that very same thing. Total suckers that they are, the democrats today decided by a secret vote (because they know that people will kick the asses of whichever pussies voted this way) to keep the loathe-worthy Joe Lieberman in his post as chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

In related news, today is Laugh at Joe Lieberman Day. As Jason Linkins points out, this is both pointless and dumb.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Matter of Loaf and Death

Wallace and Gromit are back! Nick Park has created a new thirty-minute W&G special that will air on BBC this Christmas. I doubt that we'll see it on the telly here in the US, but it'll be making an appearance on my Netflix queue as soon as Netflix figures out that it exists.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Brisket and Ribs and Pulled Pork, Oh My!

It was a barbeque-heavy weekend for me. I don't go out to BBQ often, but I somehow managed to eat it twice in just two days. Saturday night Todd and I braved the elements without umbrellas (thanks to my inability to properly read my iphone's weather app) and headed to the Waterfront Alehouse in Brooklyn to meet up with some BBQ-happy friends. Said friends took the initiative of ordering for the entire table so we could all taste a little bit of everything. I'm often not a fan of family style ordering, but I went with the flow and ended up liking the meal.

After some time at the museum today, Todd, the kids, and I took advantage of the early bird special at a local BBQ place. I wasn't hungry enough for all that meat again and got a spinach salad with some barbequed steak thrown on top. Saturday's meal was better, which just goes to show that when you're at a barbeque place, you shouldn't get the salad.

Then I listened to a podcast of The Splendid Table where they talked about acheiving barbeque with a crock pot and some liquid smoke.

This weekend was all barbeque, all the time.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

from 52 to 48 | 48 to 52 with love

Todd and I were out eating Ethiopian food one time when we disagreed about something fairly minor but which I blew out of proportion (as I will), stating that if we didn't agree on this one stupid thing, we were fundamentally different and probably doomed. A little further into dinner my mind flashed to James Carville and Mary Matlin, the political odd couple. He's a dem who loyally supports the Clintons. She's a republican and has worked in various ways with G.H.W. Bush and Dick Cheney. I figured, if they could make it work, this dumb thing I was freaking out about could probably be handled, too. Todd hasn't loved that I often call him Mary Matlin now when we disagree, but I digress.

Ze Frank has come up with a somewhat similar notion—that we can make it work without always agreeing—and posted this great collection of images submitted by his readers. What's a little weird is how much animosity this project apparently created. Even if you're unhappy about the results of the election, it's pretty counter-producitive to find fault with an attempt to bridge the red/blue divide.

Friday, November 14, 2008

TGIF

I'm extremely glad it's Friday. This week has been long and slow for some reason, and I've felt like it should be Friday since sometime on Tuesday. I'm heading home to veg for an hour or so and then out to drinks with friends after that. It's the perfect Friday night combination of personal relaxation and socialization.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Duh

So it’s going to rain in NYC today. I must have heard the little people who live inside my radio mention it six times while I was getting ready this morning. And rain means umbrellas, so I took one out of the closet and put it down...somewhere. And, naturally, I forgot to pick it up again when I was leaving the apartment.

Dumb.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Accepted!

I received word yesterday that I’m officially accepted into the Strategic Communications program at Columbia. Given the email exchange I had with the admissions counselor a couple of days ago, I thought I’d be waiting up until Thanksgiving to get the news, so it was a nice surprise to check my email last night and find out.

Classes start January 20th, and then for the next two years or so I’ll be a student again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A New Favorite

When I was visiting Jen in Massachusetts in September, I appropriated some of her Lollibomb Warm Vanilla Bean Vegan Whipped Body Frosting. Yes, it’s easier to say lotion, but it makes you sound more like a tasty treat if you put frosting on yourself after a shower instead of lotion.

Anyway, I was instantly hooked. I loved the scent and way it felt, and I wholly recommend it. I bought a couple of items once I got home and there are a lot of others I’d like to get, too. My one warning is that shipping took a little longer than this eager beaver was hoping. It’s worth the wait, though, and if you’re looking for a way to treat yourself, you should check out the site.

And, since all the products are vegan, all you animal lovers can feel really good about supporting Lollibomb.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Grad School Update

The big news on my quest to go back to school is...nothing. I have no big update. When I applied mid-September, I was under the illusion (due to the application website) that I'd have an answer in two to six weeks. I submitted my application well ahead of the deadline, so I had high hopes that the admissions counselors were sitting around looking for something to read and would turn their attention to my application right away. Even if they didn't, though, I thought I'd have an answer by the beginning of November.

I checked in with my contact in the admissions office today, though, and he told me to chill for another two weeks. I am eager for news just because I love nothing more than planning. In reality, though, my life will be roughly equivalent whether I'm admitted or not: if I don't get in, I'm planning to take a class through continuing ed and just start the program that way. Still, it would be very nice to know that I'm accepted and working toward a degree. Plus I'll feel like kind of a loser if I don't get in since I don't think it's all that competitive. Keep your fingers crossed for good news in the next two weeks.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Not for a first date


I remember watching We Don't Live Here Anymore on my own when I was living in Chicago. As the credits rolled, I actively appreciated that I was single. It was the kind of movie that just shows the absolute worst of being in a relationship.

Anne very generously took me to
Fifty Words this weekend as a belated birthday present. As Norbert Leo Butz and Elizabeth Marvel took their bows, Anne leaned over and said how glad she was that neither of us had seen this show on a first date. It, like We Don't live Here Any More, will make even the most relationship-oriented person think twice about marriage. Butz and Marvel play a couple whose life together is on the verge of collapse. Parenting, career, and financial stress collectively take their toll and bring out each of their worst qualities. Over the course of a night they go from giddiness over having the house to themselves while their nine-year old son enjoys his first sleep over to giddiness that they can finally be honest with each other: honest they way you are with someone you never have to see again, because their lives together are so irreparably damaged that they'll permanently go their separate ways in the morning.

The play feels very theatrical at times (and not in a good way), especially in the beginning. And while Butz and Marvel eventually find their footing, it's no surprise that the show was written by a man. Butz gives the better performance in this two-man show, but he's also given a deeper and more nuanced character to play.

Life with either of these two characters would be pretty miserable, so it's hard to fault either for their marital ambivalence. Life watching Norbert Leo Butz on stage is pretty good, though.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Misquoting Jesus

Just finished this very interesting read about the bible. I'm not religious, but I do find religion very interesting. Different religions, the holds they have on people, and the way they have evolved are all fascinating.

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why is a focused look at the evolution of the bible and, subsequently, Christianity. Ehrman traces the process by which texts came to be accepted as the new testament and notes that there were many, many other writings that didn't make the cut. He discusses the methods through which scribes copied early manuscripts, introducing errors as well as intentional changes.

Ehrman book-ends the book (what a very Austin Powers, allow-myself-to-introduce-myself moment here), with a personal message about his history with religion, how the bible came to be important to him, and how he started to recognize it as a very human work instead of divine. This personal addition is an excellent entry point for his readers and adds a level of poignancy that would be otherwise absent.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Election Withdrawal

Now that the election is over, I just don't know what to do with myself. As you can see from the fact that I'm three days behind in blogging, I'm finding myself at a loss for what to talk about, too.

Thank Kimberly and The Onion for the fact that this post exists at all.


Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Reflections on Elections

Thank goodness most of you share my feelings of relief, gratitude, and hope about Obama’s victory, because words could not do my feelings justice. I was on a high Tuesday night, and yesterday's post reflects that continued excitement. But while the presidential race went just the way we needed it to, we can’t call the night’s results a total success.

Some minor disappointments include not reaching a 60-count majority in the senate. I was particularly hopeful for an Al Franken win, and since there is a teeny, tiny margin between the votes for him vs. his rival Norm Coleman, a recount is in the offing. I was also hoping that despite having proven their judgment questionable (see: Governor Palin), Alaskans would give their old and convicted friend Ted Stevens the boot. No such luck, though. He won, but his fellow senators may not be so forgiving: there is talk of expelling him from the Senate.

I also have real frustration about how much money this marathon campaign cost us. I am so glad that people were motivated to give and engage, but just think what $1.5 BILLION dollars could do for us. How many hospitals does that build? How many after school programs does it fund? How many homeless shelters and food banks could be kept afloat? I have no expectation that campaign finance will change significantly any time soon—if anything, Obama’s record-breaking fundraising and rejection of public financing just means we’ll see more of this. And I contributed—and was glad to do so if it meant a President Obama. I’m just sad that the money isn’t going to something more worthy than finger-pointing ads.

The biggest disappointment at all—and disappointment is really too light a word for what I’m feeling—is that Proposition 8 passed in California. Prop 8 bans same-sex marriages, and is a giant step backward for a state that showed real leadership several months ago when its highest court ruled that same sex couples could marry. It was a fairly close race, with approximately 52% of voters supporting the ban. It's cold comfort that it was a tight race, but I’m frustrated and confused at how much people discriminate against gays and lesbians. I don’t understand why anyone gives a shit what we each do in the privacy of our own homes with other consenting adults. There is ambiguity about what this means for the thousands of same-sex couples who already wed.

Obama’s victory on Tuesday night was huge—it will go down in history, and I’m proud we were a part of it. Prop 8 reminds us that there is so much work left to be done, though.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Can

What to say? My euphoria when Obama was announced the winner last night will be a surprise to absolutely no one. It was a long time coming, both in terms of this marathon campaign and in terms of the eight long years that are finally coming to a close. I feel hopeful about what an Obama administration will mean for this country and am confident that merely electing him has raised our reputation around the world.

I parked my ass on a stool at La Negrita at 5:00 last night and sat there drinking beer for about 7 1/2 hours watching results come in. I’m so glad I was out with friends and other Obama supporters—watching alone would never have been as satisfying. We all cheered when states went to Obama, when (as another barfly put it) Elizabeth Dole had her ass handed to her, and when John Sununu lost. The place went wild at 11:00 when, immediately after California’s polls closed, Obama was declared the victor. We had all seen it coming, but I don’t think I was alone in feeling an enormous sense of relief when it was made official. The excitement was evident for the rest of the night with people out on the streets cheering, drivers honking their horns, and a couple of folks even banging pots and pans.

Many of us got choked up or cried during Obama’s acceptance speech. He’s a gifted orator, but in addition to having a brilliant delivery, his words really hit home. I love that his speech was not about him or his victory. It was about all of us and the need for all of us to continue working together to make change. Obama won because more people were engaged in an election than ever before. We came out in record numbers to volunteer, to donate money, and to vote. We as a group enacted this change, and we need to continue to give of ourselves in the same way if we want to continue seeing our country change. Obama’s speech recognized that. Here’s a truncated excerpt of some of my favorite parts, and you can read the whole thing by following the link.

I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead....I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand...This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you...And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President, too.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yes We Can!

Today is the day! Get out there and vote—lines may be long, so bring a book, your ipod, your iphone, a newspaper, etc. If you’re not sure where to go, you can find your polling station here. Make sure all your democratic neighbors and friends are voting and know where to go. Offer your old and feeble (democratic) neighbors a hand if they need it. Shannon and Kristinn—this goes double for you! Caryn, make sure your mom and Bonni are voting!

If you have some extra time today, make a couple of calls on Obama’s behalf. You can do it in your pajamas from home. Or you can pass the time in line by calling folks from your cell phone!

VOTE FOR OBAMA!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Whose Boss is Awesome?

Mine! She also just sent me this:

Lawn Signs We Can Believe In

This picture comes courtesy of my boss, who knows that I'm on tenterhooks until election results come in tomorrow night.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Trip to Red Hook

Todd and I went to Ikea today to pick up some stuff for our apartments. I wanted a vase and a cat bed for Camilla. I came away with both of those things (two vases, actually) as well as a whole mess of crap I never knew I wanted: napkins by the hundred, food and water dishes that match Camilla’s new bed (for her, of course), gigantic Christmas tree ornaments, and more. The most freakish thing, though, was how much time we spent there. How is it possible that hours and hours can go by without us even realizing? This trip to Red Hook seriously took the entire day!

After debarking the water taxi, we did explore Red Hook for a little while before starting to shop at least. We were surprised to find out that there’s something of an artists’ community burgeoning there. Our best discovery was the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition; it looks like a great group and interesting way to meet other creative people.

Our marathon shopping spree at Ikea meant that we didn’t have any time in the evening to do art projects ourselves, which had been the original plan. My painting from a few weeks ago is still unfinished, and I had expected to make progress on it tonight. Soon it will be finished, though, and I hope to like enough to post a picture here.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

NaBloPoMo

Today, being November 1st, is the beginning of another round of National Blog Posting Month (or NaBloPoMo for those of you in the know). As someone who has made it 5/6 of the way through Blog 365, let me say: it's actually not that tough to post every day. Anyone who has been reading knows that I occasionally revert to pictures of Camilla or post a youtube video with no commentary. Overall, though, it's really fun and pretty satisfying to be putting something out there every day.

All this is to say that I encourage all of you to give NaBloPoMo a go!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

  • Orange and black are Halloween colors because orange is associated with the Fall harvest and black is associated with darkness and death.
  • Jack o’ lanterns originated in Ireland where people placed candles in hollowed-out turnips to keep away spirits and ghosts on the Samhain holiday.
  • Halloween was brought to North America by immigrants from Europe who would celebrate the harvest around a bonfire, share ghost stories, sing, dance and tell fortunes.
  • The ancient Celts thought that spirits and ghosts roamed the countryside on Halloween night. They began wearing masks and costumes to avoid being recognized as human.
  • Bobbing for apples is thought to have originated from the roman harvest festival that honors Pamona, the goddess of fruit trees.
  • Black cats were once believed to be witch's familiars who protected their powers.
  • October 31st, the last day of the Celtic calendar, was originally a pagan holiday, honoring the dead. Halloween was referred to as All Hallows Eve and dates back to over 2000 years ago.
PS: I haven't fact checked any of the above, so Shannon will have to correct me if any of this is wrong.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Another Remake

Hot on the heels of my discover that Footloose is going to be remade comes this tidbit: The CW is considering remaking Melrose Place now, too.

To echo Rena: Does no one have an original idea anymore?

Or to echo Veronica: Can't somebody have an original idea in Hollywood?

Apparently the rebooted 90210 was such a roaring success that we're all going to be forced to relive the 90s all over again. Next up: the return of flannel!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Six degrees of Zac Efron

It just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

The powers that be are cashing in on Efron’s High School Musical success with a remake of Footloose. I don’t know about you, but I’m just not into it. I love the original one, and even if most of that affection is based on nostalgia, I just don’t need to see it remade. I also don’t really get the adoration Efron is receiving. I thought he was fine in Hairspray (I haven’t seen HSM or any of its sequels) but nothing amazing. And he kind of looks like he’s 12 years old to me. Whatever it is that people find so appealing, I’m just not seeing it. And I’ll tell you this: he’s no Kevin Bacon.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Case Histories

Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories made a respectable, if not winning, showing in this summer’s reading list poll, and it climbed closer to the top of my post-summer pile. After reading the intertwining stories of loss, deception, and—sometimes—hope, I put several of Atkinson’s other books on my wish list. The stories within Case Histories had just enough, and just the right, details to pull me in and keep me enthralled. And Atkinson has a sixth sense for how much to give away to keep both interest and suspense at their peaks.

Definitely recommended.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Speed-The-Plow

Michelle treated me to the opening night performance of Speed-The-Plow last Thursday. I was excited to go for many reasons—it was a great chance to catch up with Michelle, I was hot off my Man for All Seasons viewing and excited to take in two shows in a week, and it stars my one-time stage BFF (admittedly, a one sided friendship as he didn't remember who I was from one of our many meetings to the next), Raul Esparza.

Unfortunately, the show just never really came together for me. The script was dated, and I had forgotten just how homophobic and misogynistic Mamet can be. Jeremy Piven basically played his Entourage character, Ari Gold, only this time his name was Bobby Gould. Elisabeth Moss, from Mad Men, was also reminiscent of her TV character. Esparza did well playing the sycophant, but it wasn't enough to save the show for me. I admit to even dozing off a tiny bit during the second act.

It was fun to attend an opening, and we even got a glimpse of Liev Schrieber and a very pregnant Naomi Watts when we left. That was kind of the highlight, though.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Todd, his kids, and I spent the afternoon carving Jack-O-Lanterns to get into the Halloween spirit. We picked up the pumpkins in Central Park yesterday at an autumn festival that included not only a pumpkin patch with 6,000 pumpkins but also a haunted house, a scarecrow decorating contest, a twenty foot pumpkin tower, and live music.

Today, after scoping out a street festival in our 'hood, we got started on the pumpkins.




Todd helped Sofia work on her pumpkin while Dylan tackled his alone


Finished with Sofia's, Todd started on his own creation


All the Jacks lit up. From left to right: Todd's, Sofia's, Dylan's, and mine. I was going for a Joker kind of face, but he ended up just looking like a really happy pumpkin.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Voting Republican

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ron Howard says: Vote for change

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Theater for all seasons

When I first moved to New York after college, I saw more theater than I’d ever imagined possible. I was devoted. I arrived at the Ford Center at 7:00 a.m. countless times to get tickets to Jesus Christ Superstar (a guilty pleasure; I know Andrew Lloyd Webber has his faults, and lines like “God, thy will is hard. But you hold ever card” are laughably bad. But somehow I love it); I became obsessed with an off Broadway show called Tick, Tick...Boom and started volunteer ushering at the Jane Street Theater so I could see it twice a week. I had a membership to Play by Play and, since their tickets costly only $3 a piece, I saw just about anything they were offering.

Since then I’ve gotten old. It’s been only nine years and somehow I’ve become an old lady. Sit on the sidewalk for three or four hours before the box office opens? No thanks. Watch something that’s frankly kind of bad just because it was cheap and I felt like seeing a show? Pass.

Couple my new high standards with my recent old lady-ness, plus the move of my bestest theater going friend, and it’s resulted in a shortage of plays in my life lately. Somehow, I ended up on Roundabouts mailing list, though, and when they offered me a really good price on a subscription for the season, I decided to do it. I spent a chunk of money on it, but now I know that I’ll see at least five Broadway shows this season. It reminds me of my Chicago days when I got subscriptions to the Goodman and Steppenwolf. Without someone to do things with, I can easily submit to a hermit’s life, so sometimes I just need to make the big commitment upfront.

Last night I saw A Man For All Seasons, starring Frank Langella. It was good but not a total success in my opinion. The play, which dramatizes Sir Thomas More’s rise under King Henry VIII and then his subsequent fall, is very timely. Thomas Cromwell is played as some sort of Karl Rove/Dick Cheney hybrid, which is to say that he’s manipulating, full of machinations, and all about gathering more and more executive power for the man in charge with very little regard for how legal, ethical, or warranted it is. Viewing it with the Bush administration so tantalizingly close to being over provides a very interesting context, but the show still never soared. Langella was very good, mining small moments of comedy while still presenting More as something of a saint (the show neglects to mention the people More had burned at the stake for heresy). But clocking in at just under three hours, the show did drag in parts. I was especially impatient during More’s trial and sentencing. I’m sure it was meant to be climactic, but we were well past the second hour and I knew what the outcome was going to be. There was no suspense there at all. And the finale sort of hits you over the head.

Even with all those nitpicky complaints, though, it was a good production with a good leading man. And it was great to be at a the theater again.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The benefits of Rena moving to MA...

is hand-picked apples!

Rena is back in town just for a couple of days following the big Open Studios event. Somehow, in the midst of all the excitement she found time to visit an orchard and pick 40 pounds of apples! Lucky me, I came home with a big bag last night.

I also came home with a stomach that was way too full. Who knew that Popovers had a s'mores sundae? It was too good!

Sadly, Rena's trip was a short one. I guess I'll have to make my way up to North Adams again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Matt Groening, Seer?

How many of you already saw this clip of Homer Simpson trying to vote for Obama? Pretty funny when the machine switches his vote from Obama to McCain, right?

Yeah, I'm not laughing any more now that this basic scenario (minus the diebold-inflicted beating) is actually being reported in West Virginia. And I'm also not surprised that it's happening in a state McCain is terrified of losing.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A portrait in stereotypes

Saturday's volunteer trainer told my fellow New Yorkers and I that we'd likely be spotted as out-of-towners. Todd and I sat down to our picnic lunch half way through Saturday's canvassing, took a look at our spread, and realized it was true: we were giving ourselves away. Not only were we clearly not from the neighborhood, we were practically screaming that we were Upper West Siders who came in from Manhattan. We had:

couscous with spinach and feta

organic carrot sticks

tofu salad

a WNYC/NPR eco-friendly tote bag

and we were wearing
"Hillary Sent Me" stickers

We were a Manhattan stereotype personified.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Painting and Drawing

I'm very happy to have spent part of today painting. I'd like to do more art, and I love that Todd cares as much (or more) about it than I do. It prompts me to try new things and think about new ways to be creative.

Todd did some drawing today, and I busted out the painting materials I bought on Friday. I'm exploring making silhouettes by marking out my subject in masking tape and then painting over the whole canvass, pulling off the tape, and voila! If today's project comes out well I'll post a picture.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cavnassing Again

Todd and I hit the road today and visited Pennsylvania for more canvassing. I'm impressed with the organization of Obama campaign and the local headquarters who put these trips together. I'm also impressed that the NY group we went with recognized, after my stellar bus riding last weekend, that I was bus captain material. That's right, I was promoted to Bus Captain after just one trip! All it really means is that I had to make sure everyone made it back on the bus before we left for the evening. Someone got left behind last week, so the pressure was on. Luckily we all made it!

The canvassing itself was a success but slightly less wonderful than last weekend. Last weekend I was right in Bristol, and most of the folks I met were happy to talk. Today, though, we were in Falls Township, and the people we were visiting had clearly been contacted again, and again, and again. We went to multiple doors where flyers for the local congressman were still under the mat.

Though most people (though not all) were friendly enough, they just weren't as open to talking to us. And there were a couple of people who were rude and one who struck both Todd and me as racist. It was something intangible about his response to us, but we both felt it.

Overall it was a positive day, though, and we got some face time (sort of) with Barack and Hillary back at HQ.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Obama’s Wit

Obama and McCain both made appearances this week at the Al Smith dinner, a fundraiser that is a standard stop along the presidential campaign trail. There is typically an element of comedy to the event, and I liked some of Obama’s lines:

  • “Many of you know that I got my name from my father. "Barack" is Swahili for "That one." I got my middle name from somebody who obviously didn't realize I would run for president."
  • "My greatest strength would be my humility. My greatest weakness is that it's possible I am too awesome."
  • On his “celebrity” status: “[I] punched a paparazzi on my way out of Spago's. I even spilled my soy chai latte.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Not much of a poker face

The follow-up to last night's debate seems to be not so much about what the senators said, but how they looked. Obama's latest ad is all about McCain's eye rolling and other facial tics, and the Huffington Post published an entire slideshow of McCain's expressions.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Poverty

October 15th is Blog Action Day, when bloggers are encouraged to post about a single topic to raise awareness. This year's topic was poverty, and I was going to write an in-detail explanation of Obama's plan to reduce it.

Unfortunately, I flaked out yesterday, so I'm backdating this post and doing a sort of half-assed version of it. Instead of analyzing, I'm giving you all a link to his plan and this article about its innovation.

I'll also say, that it's been sad how little this topic has been discussed during the presidential campaign. Too bad John Edwards got caught stepping out and lost his position as an anti-poverty advocate. Without him, the conversation shifted to helping the middle class, which was at least still important and relevant to many Americans. Then, during the third debate, the whole conversation shifted in a totally absurd way to Joe the Plumber who makes more than a quarter million dollars a year. I'd point out that the middle class is made up mostly of people who make no where near $250,000, but since McCain suggested that it takes an annual income of $5 million to be considered rich, I think his out-of-touch-ness is pretty well established already.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Palin makes even the GOP nauseous

My feelings about Sarah Palin are no secret, and I find the reactions McCain supporters and republicans have about her very interesting. Certainly plenty of people are jazzed by her, as her rally attendance and enthusiasm (technically, screaming "kill him!" is enthusiastic) attest.

But there have also been a lot of conservatives voicing concern. I stumbled across a fantastic quote about her this afternoon from Matthew Dowd, political consultant and strategist for GWB's reelection campaign. In talking about the way she's energized the GOP base, he said:

"To me it is like Halloween. You get energized by eating all that candy at night but then you feel sick the next day."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Elements of Style

A break from the political postings that have dominated lately, and a return to my first true love: books! Who wouldn’t want to read a novel whose title pays homage to the great Strunk and White? I’d never read anything by Wendy Wasserstein before but, of course, loved this title. And I’d heard great things about some of her plays.

The book is a lot fluffier than I had imagined it would be, but Wasserstein injects a serious shot of satire to the froth, which made it much more enjoyable for me. She gives us the very grounded Francesca Weissman to relate to, and through Frankie’s eyes we watch the fascinating yet ridiculous lives of Manhattan’s most successful and ambitious socialites. They worry about the resilience of their underarm fat despite daily 5:00 a.m. Pilates classes. They pity each other for imperfectly decorated dinner parties. They imagine the horrors of (gasp!) flying commercial.

There were very few characters I’d actually want to know in real life (luckily, most of the characters would never stoop to knowing me, either) but they made for some fun reading.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My experience canvassing

Saturday was a great experience. Once our busload of Upper West Siders arrived at the Bristol, PA field office, most people went off in pairs with local volunteers who had cars to nearby towns and developments. I paired up with a Columbia grad student, and we were one of the few groups who spent the whole day on foot. All told, we knocked on about 80 doors in Bristol.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day, which made it extremely pleasant to walk around. It also meant that most people weren’t home (I’m presuming that they were out barbecuing, having a picnic, or otherwise enjoying what may well be the last sunny and warm weekend for a while). Of the 80 doors we knocked on, we talked to about 20 people. The majority of folks we met were already strong Obama supporters, and we were even able to sign up three volunteers. I had mixed feelings about meeting so many people already firmly in Obama’s camp. On the one hand, it was really encouraging and made me hopeful for November 4th. On the other, I wondered if we shouldn’t have been deployed somewhere else.

Bristol, from what I saw, looked mostly white and working class. It made sense, then, that we met a handful of very ardent Hillary suporters (some of whom were now going to vote for Obama enthusiastically, some grudgingly, and one who opted out of the election all together, feeling that neither McCain nor Obama is as good as HRC). We also met veterans who represented every part of the spectrum. One was an active democrat who owns a restaurant and had already held fundraisers for the local democratic congressional candidate and would happily host an Obama event. Another—and possibly our most interesting conversation of the day—had a McCain sign on his lawn. We approached anyway and learned that this guy’s wife was the strong republican in the family. He started out saying he was definitely going to vote McCain because he believed that only someone with military experience could get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. The more he talked, though, the more you could see that he wasn’t totally happy with that choice. I got the distinct impression that if he wasn’t married to an ardent McCain supporter he would have either been 100% undecided or leaning Obama. Hopefully the Obama campaign can pull him over to our side.

We heard a lot about rising healthcare costs over the day and spoke to one woman who worried about Obama’s experience and association with Jeremiah Wright. No matter how the conversation was going, though, we found that there was always an easy in: when asked, every person without exception said that the last eight years had been bad for them. McCain’s party affiliation and Bush-aligned voting record definitely working against him.

It was a long day but a good one. I wish I’d talked to more people, but every piece of info we gathered for the campaign (including who had move and even one person who had died (awkward!)) is helpful. Todd and I head back out to PA on Saturday for more pavement pounding.