Tuesday, March 31, 2009

OLEDs: You May Not Know What They Are, But You'll Want One

OLEDs are to video display technologies what the printing press was to written communication. They are game changers. Here's a pop culture reference to drive home the power of this technology. If you've seen the Harry Potter movies, you've seen the magical newspapers with moving video playing on them. OLEDs will give muggles a shot at them.

OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. We're all familiar with LEDs. They're the little colored indicator lights we see in electonics everywhere, among other things. They are solid-state electronic components that give off light when an electrical current flows through them. OLEDs are different. The light emitting component here is not a solid-state element. It's a thin film of organic compounds. So you can use them to make very thin screens. Absurdly thin screens. Televisions the depth of playing cards. Like this screen, which is made of plastic, and is flexible.

How #$%* cool is that!? Pair that with printable electronics; organic electrical components that can be printed on paper, plastic and other non-conventional materials, and you can see how Harry Potter's magic paper isn't so magic. And I was thinking of other, more interesting uses for flexible display screens.

Imagine if the body of your car were coated in OLED display plastic. You could change the color and pattern of your car instantly. Constantly if you wanted to. Displaying ads on business vehicles would be a breeze, complete with moving video. Ultimately clothing could also be imprinted with video capabilities. You could eventually "paint" a television right onto your wall. Truly anything could function as a video display mechanism.

And, since, at their heart OLEDs are just lights, you could design some pretty wild home lighting options. Imagine window drapes treated with OLEDs that would glow at night and illuminate your living room. Or pressure sensitive OLED coated carpets that illuminate just the part of the room you're standing in. Or, if you were inclined, benches fitted with cameras that display a glowing image on their surface of the last person that sat on them.

OLEDs will revolutionize just about everything.

The Joy of Kate's Nasty Quirks

Two habits I have that help me relieve stress are cracking my neck and picking the eye buggers out of our cat, DB's eyes. Yes, these are habits I'm not particularly proud of, but they are such stress relievers for me and ultimately I enjoy doing them. Cracking my neck most likely does not have the best long term effects, so I'd rather not look it up to find out. It's probably my favorite bad habit because it feels so good, especially when I manage to get two cracks out of the right and left sides. Jason and I both clean DB's eyes and yes, it's pretty gross, but it's such an addiction. DB is our baby and we really hate for him to have grossness in his eyes. He seems to like it when we do it, so it must be uncomfortable for him to have them. It's our maternal natures coming out, and we just can't help nurturing him the best way we know how. Well, there you go folks, if I think of any more nasty therapeutic quirks I'll be sure to share them. Night!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Brilliant Little Flash Games

Yet another reason to love the internet. Quick but interesting little one-off flash games. Really more diversions than games, these addictive little gems fill a void left open by giant uber platform games which require months of otherwise productive time to complete. Flash games give you a short but stimulating fix, without the withdrawal.

Albino Black Sheep (www.albinoblacksheep.com) is a great place to find flash games. Like anywhere, a lot are wastes of time, but some are truly inspired. Here are a couple all-time favorites.


Hapland is a brain boggler. By clicking around the environment and doing things in the right order at the right times you aim to light two torches and open a portal. Why a portal? Don't know. It's never really explained. But the fun is in getting there.

And these I love. All of them. Their creator calls them "Grow" games, and there's a bunch of them.


This is just a sampling. There are many others, but you have to be resourceful to find them all. It's hard to describe them if you haven't tried one. But in essence, each game starts with a selection of items. You select the order in which you add each item into the game, one at a time. As you add new items, earlier items begin to level up, or "grow". As they advance they begin interacting with each other. So the order you add items is very important. In fact, there is only one correct order. After you've added all the elements, the game will show you how far each item advanced. The goal is to get every item to max out its advancement. You can use this end screen, along with the way elements interact with each other as clues to the proper add order. All the "Grow" game use this same premise, but each twists in very inventive ways. Really the best way to learn about them is to try one.

You'll likely be up till three in the morning like I was when I first discovered them a couple years ago. It's worth it.

NOTE: Some of the grow games end up further down the page than you can see initially. You have to scroll down to find them.

The Unknown Journey

It's exciting not knowing what I'm going to be doing yet, where my next job venture will take me. It's cool to apply for a bunch of different positions and see where the bottle lands. The interview portion can be a bit nerve racking, but the searching through Craigslist ads can be interesting. So far I've applied for about a dozen jobs or so and have gone on two interviews. Not too shabby.

None that have responded to my application have really sparked my interest yet. I know the economy is not in good shape, but I still don't want to say yes to whatever accepts me without it being something I feel good about, not to say anyone has yet. Fingers crossed that my next career journey is a satisfying one. I would love it to be a position that helps others in some fashion and is environmentally friendly. I know I can't be too picky, but it's exciting to still dream and hope for the best. Thanks for listening.

Movies That Will Move You, Part 1: Gran Torino and Nick and Norah

I saw two movies this weekend that I would add to my top 50 list, Gran Torino and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. They were both stellar films for completely different reasons. Gran Torino featured Clint Eastwood in a brutally honest performance as the grumpy old widower with terrible bigotry issues, trying to claim his neighborhood back from an Asian takeover. His demeanor is slowly transformed as he starts befriending the neighborhood children. It's a deeply engrossing portrayal of friendship in its truest light. I recommend this film to anyone, just be ready with some tissues.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist on the other hand is delightful. Micheal Cera plays Nick (very similar to his Juno role) whose trying to get over his first love when he meets Norah, played by the alluring Kat Dennings. Like the film Go, this film takes place in one crazy night in NYC. All the many characters are believable and relateable. The soundtrack is incredible, or at least it was for me, since I listen to all the music that was played. It is a fun thrill ride, and not as predictable as all other romantic comedies.

My friend Kate Reckner asked if she could come over next Sunday to watch a film on our, as she puts it "Big Ass TV". The idea of having a movie night every Sunday came to mind. Let's get this started friends, let me know if you're interested in joining us!

Dinner and a Movie

It's the classic date. Great conversation over what hopefully turns out to be delicious food, followed by a chance to sit close in a dark room and enjoy a shared experience. What an excellent way to spend an evening. If you're suffering from a small case of the blues, nothing is a better tonic. Kate and I spend most date nights this way.

First we have dinner at Amer's Cafe, a great little Mediterranean spot right off of the Beltway on Belair Rd. They've got this Tandoori Chicken Pasta dish with walnuts that is perfection on a plate. Their stuffed grape leaves are excellent, too. Top it off with belly dancer performances and occasional comically poor service from old greek waitresses that forget you and the rest of the world exist, and we generally have a great experience.

From there it's on to the four dollar theater right next door. We'd reserved all day yesterday for family, but things ended sooner than we thought they might so we went and saw Gran Torino. I was a little leery at first, but it turned out to be a real moving film. I'm not sure why I'm never excited to see Clint Eastwood act. He always turns in a tremendous performance, and yet I never remember that when faced with the prospect of watching something new. But hopefully last night will cement in my leaking boat of a brain the fact that Clint is worth the time.

We change things up sometimes, heading to the Charles or White Marsh for a movie, but something about the Amer's / Beltway 6 combination pulls us back most times.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Stickler for Love

I'm going to stick to lighthearted subjects for now. I enjoy a good romantic comedy. Some good ones I've seen recently have been Maid of Honor with Patrick Dempsey, 27 Dresses with Katherine Heigl, and PS I Love You with Hilary Swank. Some of oldies but goodies are When Harry met Sally, French Kiss, Love Actually, As Good as it Gets, Pretty Woman, and Overboard.

Yes, I am also a film snob who likes to pick them apart and I can't stand most cheesy action flicks, but give me a relatively good love story and I'm hooked. I am a girlie girl in this way and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I get choked up and turned on by first kisses and embraces. Most of the time I like to watch these films alone or with girlfriends. Jason does get jealous sometimes if the movie has a hot chick in it, but he gets over it. I like to experience these kindhearted moments alone.

Moore's Law, in Reverse

Wikipedia does a good job of stating Moore's Law, a trend first discovered by Gordon Moore, co-found of Intel, back in 1965.

Since the invention of the integrated circuit in 1958, the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit has increased exponentially, doubling approximately every two years.

This leads to roughly a doubling of processing power and performance every two years. But here's the part I love. The costs for the resulting technology doesn't rise to scale. It either stays the same or goes down. So you end up with a reverse of Moore's Law on the cost of electronics, which basically states that, relative to the gains in speed, power, storage space, megapixel count, etc. we see every two years, the cost of this technology is effectively cut in half in the same period. For example, you might pay $1,000 for a 1Ghz computer, and the same $1,000 for a 2Ghz computer two years later, effectively paying only $500 for the same 1Ghz processing power.

Another great example is computer hard drives. For my first Mac back in 1998 I bought a 120Mb (note megabyte, not gigabyte) for roughly $160.00. That translates to about $1.30 per megabyte of storage space. Just a few minutes ago I bought a 1Tb hard drive to back up all of our music and photos, etc. One terabyte is roughly 1,000 gigabytes, or 1,000,000 megabtyes. And I payed less than I did for my old 120 megabyte hard drive. At only $109, the cost per megabyte of storage was only .0001 cents. In eleven years the cost per megabyte of storage space went from 130 cents to one 10,000th of a cent.

Really that's a far faster decline than what would be Moore's Law would prediction of 40 years, halving the cost every two years. That's because we're seeing not only a doubling of performance every two years and the relative decline of price that results, but also a steady real world decline in material prices which amplifies the cost to performance gap.

Given all this, imagine where we'll be in another decade. It's staggering to think about.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Shows that make me go wah!

I love dramatic films or shows that bring tears to my eyes. If something is so powerful to make me cry than I know the movie or show achieved brilliance. Last night Jason and I watched the most recent Grey's Anatomy and we teared up about four times, starting only three minutes in. It was intense all the way through. It has really redeemed itself and has once again become the show that it once was. Some other notable tearjerkers are In America, Dead Poet's Society, The Shawshank Redemption, Titanic, Schindler's List, and Sophie's Choice. I love feeling the true deep emotions a good sad film delivers. Common themes are war, death, family reunions, and terrible hardships. These themes really put your own troubles into perspective, really telling us our lives could be much worse. Let's continue to be thankful for our love and joy filled lives.

The End of Plugs and Power Cords

I was shocked when I read about this. I had no idea we were as close as we are. There are already systems coming to market which provide wireless power. Wireless electricity. What?! I know! Really? Yes! We're not going to be replacing all of our power outlets quite yet, but we are rapidly moving in that direction.

The technology has been around for a surprisingly long time. Tesla, back in 1893, illuminated vacuum tubes remotely without wires. In the '60's scientists we already working out feasible systems for transmitting power wirelessly over long distances using microwaves. Most of the scientific principles needed for wireless power have been understood for a long time. Finally technology and efficiencies are beginning to catch up.

Most of the technology coming to market now works on a principle known as induction. Here, the power transmitter's circuit generates an electromagnetic field which induces current to flow in the receiver, thus powering the device or charging a battery. Companies like eCoupled, Powermat, and WiPower are all actively marketing devices based on the technology. In them, the transmitter is a flat mat on which you can place small devices like cell phones and laptops and get a wireless transfer of power.

The downside here is a very short range. You have to sit your devices right on the mat or the process doesn't work. Plus, until device manufacturers start inserting the receiving technology into their products, you have to buy adapters. But these shortcomings are being dealt with. Using resonant induction, which tunes the electromagnetic field to very specific wavelengths, transmitting ranges can be greatly enhanced, allowing receiving items to be powered even a few feet away. At that point you don't need mats. You could embed the transmitters in your walls every few feet, just like and replacing power outlets, and then power almost everything in your house wirelessly. The power "outlet" will be in the same place it was before, but you won't see it, and you won't be restricted to just two or four "plug-in" points.

That, to me, is incredibly exciting.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sports Figures...on Drugs. [BUM BUM BUMMMM]]

Steroids in baseball. Michael Phelps smoking grass. Assorted sports figures from multiple arenas brought up on charges for a host of felonies. What does it mean? Most sports people I know feel we are in dangerous times for professional athletics.

I, on the other hand, feel like all of this is a very positive thing for the American people. It's hopefully making people recognize that sports figures, even the most talented, are just people. They never asked to be role models. They just wanted to play baseball, or swim really $%#* fast. We made them into people to look up to. People our children should model themselves after. We decided to hold them up on a pedestal, from which anyone would eventually fall.

Why would we trust them like that? We don't know anything about them, as people. We've never met them. We don't know who they socialize with, what they believe in, or what they do after the cameras go dark. If we applied those same criteria to some random joe on the street, would you blindly trust your children to them then? Likely not.

But we don't have to make blanket statements here. It's not, as an absolute rule, bad to use sports figures as role models. But use them only for what you know about them. Let them demonstrate how determination, hard work, and sheer force of will can accomplish great things. Let them demonstrate how anyone can be successful, if they try hard enough. Just don't expect them to be morally upright (by your definition) members of society, ready for you to pin your hopes for your children on their actions.

They're just people. Great at some things. Bad at others.

It would be extremely positive if more parents were role models, instead of some random NFL running back.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Preview Joy

I love watching movie previews, it's the second best thing to watching the actual film. They really get me excited to see the flick. I like when they're done right, when they don't tell you too much, but they leave you wondering what the hell is going on and get you really interested in seeing the film. I hate when they give you too much information or when comedy previews show you all the best gags in the preview, leaving you with no surprises. I usually go to Apple Trailers or IMDB.com to watch what's coming out. Here are few really amazing previews I found on Youtube, enjoy!

WTMD, the best local radio station.

I can't believe today's entry didn't happen earlier, but good inspiring entries hopefully will continue to come to me throughout the rest of the year. Here's to hoping.

Yesterday I had my first individual photo shoot for a local up and coming R&B artist, SuNn. It was fun and I feel I accomplished what the artist was looking for. This shoot made me think about the support and dedication the Towson Radio station, 89.7 WTMD has for local artists in the community. I told SuNn about their mission of support so hopefully they contact them for air time.

I've been a fan and contributor to WTMD for the past 3 or 4 years. They are locally supported which is what keeps them in business. I do my best to give them $ when I have it, currently I'm not in the best state to do so, but hope to give to them again in the future. Jason and I both enjoy they music they play. Most of the bands we listen to today come to us through WTMD's influence. They care about the listener by always delivering unique and intriguing play lists. They have the best DJs too. They all sound like genuine music lovers and supporters of the local scene. They are what you look for in a radio station.

They are one of top reasons I stay in Baltimore and would hate to lose their connection. They introduced me to musicians like Brandi Carlisle, Feist, Vampire Weekend, Ray LaMontagne, and My Morning Jacket. I've seen 3 of these musicians live which just shows how much I enjoy WTMD's taste. They air great shows like Thursday Night Mixtape, Sounds Eclectic, and Baltimore Unsigned. I have so much respect and love for WTMD and really hope they stick around forever. Check them out by tuning in if your in the Baltimore or DC area. You can't you can also listen to them online by going to http://wtmd.org/index.html and clicking on "listen live".

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One Day I Want to Build an Earthship

I stumbled on these a few years ago, and I've been fascinated by them ever since. Earthships are intended to be self-sufficient, self-sustaining, off-the-grid homes. They require little to no heating or cooling technologies, relying instead on a thermal mass to regulate internal temperatures. Most commonly this thermal mass is the back and side walls of the structure, the load-bearing walls, which are constructed of stacked recycled tires, filled with hard-packed dirt, which is then covered by plaster for a finished wall.

In winter months the sun rides low in the sky, and the thermal mass is heated by sunlight streaming in from the all-glass front wall. The thermal mass then radiates the collected heat back into the home at night. During the summer, the more acute solar angle feeds less heat into the structure, and the hard-packed earth surrounding the structure creates a heat sink, effectively cooling the interior to comfortable levels.

Throw in solar panels for electricity,a rain collection system and a gray water system for treating and reusing wastewater, and you have a fully sustainable, energy independent structure.

I'd love to build one out in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in Arizona, and have it as a vacation home. With a satellite dish, of course. I want to live off-the-grid and away from civilization sometimes, but I don't want to be the unibomber. I'd go a little crazy if I couldn't stay connected with the rest of the world somehow. All I'd really need is an internet connection and I'd be happy.

Frank Zappa and His Musical Freak Out

I easily count Zappa in my top five artists of all time. If you're a fan, you know why. If not I strongly urge you to give him a listen. He may very well not be your cup of tea, but it's worth finding out. No one else can fuse virtuoso performances and world-class instrumentalism with biting lyrics and stupid bathroom humor the way Frank does. His music stands in a class completely apart from every other artist on the planet, that has ever existed...ever.

I recently "came into the possession of" FZ's entire discography. I've bought and listened to my fair share of his music over the years, but I knew I was only scratching the surface. He was an incredibly prolific composer with a huge body of work. He's most known for his rock albums, but he's also composed classical music and dabbled in other genres as well. I got into Frank back in college with "Apostrophe Overnight Sensation". It's a good album for the uninitiated to start with. Out there, for sure, but still somewhat reserved and approachable. After that it's a smorgasbord of musical influences and directions to enjoy. "Freak Out" and "We're Only in it For the Money" are two other very good albums to start with.

Unfortunately I never got to see Frank perform live. But I did see the next best thing. Kate, for a birthday present a couple years ago, bought us tickets to "Zappa Plays Zappa", a tour where Dweezil, Frank's son and a host of musicians, some part of Frank's original ensembles, played Frank's music. Dweezil in all respects is an equal, if not better guitar player than his father. Their faithful rendition of FZ's music was stunning. And on some songs, using a giant project monitor Dweezil and his father played together, seeming to riff off of each other even though only one of them was "live". It was one of the best concerts I've ever seen.

Give Frank a try. He may well change your view of music, likely for the better.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Baby animals are the cutest!

So I just went to Ellen's online site to find some inspiration for my entry tonight and I came across the cutest pictures ever of a baby monkey. It's an orangutan, which I think must translate to "insanely cute baby monkey". So here's to cute baby animal pictures, one of the many things in life you look at and immediately feel happy and good about things. Here are some to get your happiness flowing. Enjoy the cutie pies.

Craigslist: Everything You Could Want or Need in One Place, For Free

Kate needs an inexpensive used bike. We want new living room furniture, but don't want to buy new. Kate needs an inexpensive or free way to promote her photography business. I'm looking for other endangered reptile egg juggling enthusiasts, but don't know where to look.

All of these situations, and more, can be solved using Craigslist. I'm sure most of you have at least looked at Craigslist, so I'm not going to explain, except to say that it is the single greatest incarnation of the classified ad the world has ever seen. You can buy, sell, promote, and talk about pretty much anything, for free or very inexpensively. To be honest, I'm not even sure which sections charge. I sold an old weight bench without incurring a fee. I've advertised Sweet Home Renovations and it didn't cost me a cent. Kate's using it currently to get the word out about her photography for free. I bought our Wii off of an ad on Craigslist and paid cash to the seller. Craigslist didn't profit at all.

So I'm sure they're charging someone for something, but I don't know where. For most applications, it's free. And it's local, which other sites like Ebay aren't, so you can check out the merchandise before you buy it.

And there's also discussion boards on a huge array of topics, community resources, and personals, where you can find some of the funniest ads you will ever see. If there's something you could be into, there is likely someone looking for it on Craigslist.

Essentially Craigslist is a perfect microcosm of the planet earth, with all of it's eccentricities, personalities and commerce. Craig, you glorious bastard...thank you.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sexy Jew

I find Jewish Men to be very hot. This explains my absolute admiration for my beautiful man, Jason. And I really find the Hasidic look particularly nice. I've always loved the curly tendrils, and the clothes they have to wear can be very attractive, especially those tassel things they wear around their waist.

Not every Jewish man turns me the right way, but a lot do. I think the men in Fiddler on the Roof are so cute, and the singing gets to me, too. I could watch that movie over and over again. A lot of the guys in Yentl are gorgeous. I can't tell you why this is really, it's just a look I enjoy. Being the strong willed independent woman I am, I know I don't necessarily agree with all there teachings and beliefs, but that doesn't really matter. It's this strong fascination I have and I'm okay with it. My beautiful Jason is probably my fifth or so boyfriend who's had that same kind of look.

It's the look I go for and can't get away from. Some of my favorite hot Jewish actors are Zach Braff, Jason Schwartzman, Adrian Brody, John Stewart, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Jake Gyllenhaal, who's half Jewish. I also want to mention the hot Jewish women out there like Sarah Silverman, Jenny Lewis, Natalie Portman, and Jennifer Connelly to name a few. There are some seriously funny, intelligent, and sexy Jewish genes out in the world right now, and I'm happy to say that I have my very own sleeping beside me. I love you, Jason. You're one sexy Jew!

Simple Pleasures, Part 1

There is almost nothing more satisfying than taking off your shoes at the end of a long, hard day. Or a short, easy day. Or just a quick trip to the mall for bean dip and a new pair of sunglasses. When whatever it was that you were doing in the shoes you were wearing is finished, removing said shoes is bliss.

And interestingly, putting on those shoes again in the morning is its own positive experience. Donning shoes gives you power, allowing you to walk places a barefoot person would never dare. There's a certain confidence you gain wearing a smart pair of shoes, and a level of respect from onlookers that wrapping your feet in burlap doesn't garner.

Shoes are a double-edged sword, where both edges are soft and fluffy and prone to delivering happiness with each slice. Putting on your shoes makes you feel good, and so does taking them off. There aren't too many situations in life where the addition of something and then its subtraction yield the same results. "Here's a delicious piece of chocolate for you...which I just accidentally dropped down a well." "You're mother and I decided to buy you a new car...but you have no arms, so it's illegal for you to drive it." "Will you marry me?...does polygamy bother you?"

See? Shoes are their own lovely beast.

Shopping Online

I love online clothes and shoe shopping. I know doing that now is a mood point, but I do need shoes for the weddings and interviews. I have all the clothes I'll ever need this year, thanks to Jill. I've had some luck when it comes to online shopping, I've found some of my all time favorite pants this way. Sending stuff back can be a pain in the ass, but it's truly worth it. I've never been the girly mall shopper most women are, so when I have the $ and time to do some online shopping I go for it and I have the best time. Some of my favorite sites are Alloy, DSW, Urban Outfitters, Kohl's, and Forever 21.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Game Night

If you remember from my January 10th post, "Jason Geeks Out, Part 1: An Odyssey of Unrequited Love in Cardboard and Plastic", I love board games, but lament the fact that I can't find other people to play them with.

Well...(Survivors', "The Search is Over" swells and a montage of slow-motion smiles and laughter from last night's game night begins) I think I've finally found a good group of people. And Kate's totally into it, too, which makes it perfect.

Social games like Taboo and Apples to Apples are such a great way to grease the wheels of meeting new people. You can be as competitive as you like without having to keep score. If someone screws up a rule or takes an unfair advantage, who cares? Why stress about it. It's all about having fun, not winning.

It was a great time, one that you too can enjoy in the comfort of your own homes. In this economy, staying home and socializing makes much more sense that going out. So grab some snacks (I originally had "snakes" inadvertently, which would make for a very different kind of evening) some friends and a few board games and have a good time on the cheap.

Here's a great site to discover and purchase new games:


Wardrobe Power

New perspectives are hard to come by, so when they do come you must celebrate their arrival. Yesterday I visited by dear friend Jill, since she's moving to the big city next week. In the middle of my visit I mentioned the fact that I'll have to buy some my clothes to interview in and for my photography gigs. She asks me my size and we realize that all the bags of clothes that she was fully prepared to give away are all my size. Jill did not fit in any of them anymore. She starts pulling out all these pants, blouses, and the cutest shirts ever. I started trying things on and everything was fitting like a glove and looking amazing on me. Jill was so excited to give her clothes to me, so she could contribute to the Kate's unemployment cause.

I ended up with about 8 or so shirts, about 5 pairs of dress pants, some perfect for my wedding photo gigs, a few dress blouses, and 2 women power suits. It was absolutely incredible. The clothes were all hip and sophisticated, from stores like Banana Republic and Old Navy. I always knew I'd need a business woman wardrobe one day and to have it handed to me by a dear friend was a dream come true. Dad, you are going to be so proud of your little girl now, she finally owns feminine business attire. My confidence has shot through the roof. I am a new woman now, a woman ready to face any obstacle. Thank you so much, Jill. I am going to miss you with all my heart. Alicia and I will be up soon for a girl's weekend! Best of luck with everything!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Beer, I luv

I enjoy beer, but I'm very particular about what kind I drink. I really enjoy wheats and whites or Hoegaardens. I enjoy a beer with hints of fruit like a cherry wheat or Leinenkugel's Berry Weiss. I am also a fan of darker beers on tap, but they can't have too many hops. I like New Castle on tap, but not in the bottle, yea I know I'm weird. I just like what I like I guess. I don't like Pale Ales at all, they are just way too hoppy for me.

Last night was my girlfriend Jill's going away party at Brewer's Art. They have a great beer selection, Jason asked what I'd like and I said get me a wheat or white beer. He came back with one of those and it was tremendous and the alcohol levels was pretty high. I love trying new beers and finding one I really enjoy. Remembering the name is key and usually when you intoxicated that's not happening. Beer is what's for dinner...not really.

Things Will Get Better

I read a great article a few months ago by one of this country's most respected financial advisers. I unfortunately lost the article and now can't remember who wrote it or what it was called. But it was a summation of everything he'd learned through his career. One of the most interesting entries had to do with recessions and depressions.

As we all know, the U.S. has seen our economy cycle many, many times. We've weathered through our share of economic downturns, some more severe than others. But for every one of them, taking the stock market as a barometer, not only has the market recovered to pre-crash levels it then went higher. No matter how low it sinks it eventually recovers and does better. Every time. Why should we imagine our current predicament would be any different?

I'm sure during each of our previous downturns there were plenty of doom-and-gloom prophets declaring their respective recessions the end of life as we'd previously known it. It's easy, in the moment, to be swept up in fear and panic, and imagine the world about to self-destruct. But even at it's lowest point in history, it didn't. It got better and then improved further.

I think part of the reason this downturn seems especially significant is that media coverage has never been so ubiquitous. We can't blink our eyes without seeing something on television, in print or online, and much of those messages are sensationalistic. So we, as a country, and possibly as a global community, are much more fearful than we've been in the past, eroding consumer confidence and potentially worsening the situation.

But it will get better. Put our current situation in it's rightful historical context, and you see that this is no more than a massive hiccup. This isn't the end of days. It's just a long string of bad ones. And the pendulum will eventually swing back.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Pet Names

I'm a stickler for pet names. I probably over use them at times, but really I don't care cause they make me feel closer to my friends. When the people I'm giving pet names too give me a pet name in response it feels even better and the closeness I feel towards them rises. My family is originally from Baltimore and people have always told my mom that she has a strong Dundalk accent, which is why I started using 'hon' a lot, even when I was living in the south. Now I use it since I've moved here and it sounds so common since everyone uses it. I then go to my favorite southern pet name 'darlin', which I really enjoy. I also use sweetie, honey, baby, and babe often. Poor Jason, he feels that since I use these pet names on everyone that there's no special one just for him. I really need to come up with one that I will only use for Jason. It has to be short and sweet.

What it comes down to is I like to be friendly and kind to people. It makes me feel good inside. I know this makes me somewhat naive, but this doesn't mean I'm going to trust all the strangers I meet, but I will treat them kindly until they give me a reason not to. Pet names are fun, I hope to come up with some new ones to replace the ones I use way too often. Bye ya'll.

Late Night at "The Bell"

Saw "Watchmen" tonight. Loved it. It was extremely faithful to the novel and did a wonderful job bringing it to life. If you've read the novel you have to see the movie. But that's preaching to the converted. For those of you who either haven't read the novel or didn't know it existed, see the movie. Don't listen to what other people are saying (if they don't agree with me.) See the movie and form your own opinion. But don't go in expecting "The Incredible Hulk" or "Spiderman." It isn't remotely your standard superhero movie. Bring popcorn, soda, and an open mind.

But "Watchmen" isn't the topic for tonight, though I was tempted. It seemed a little to "on the nose." I wanted to talk about something a little "meatier". Something you can really sink your teeth into. Something with salsa...at 2:30 in the morning.

I don't know why, but whenever I'm out late, especially if I haven't had dinner (tonight we dined on movie popcorn and Cherry Coke) I desperately crave Taco Bell. It's the Taco Bell Curve. The bottom left shows a low desire for crappy Mexican food early in the day. This sharply increases after 11 PM, reaching it's zenith at around 2 AM. It quickly drops off from there, usually because of unconsciousness.

The big question is, "Why is this a positive thing?" Taco Bell is hardly good for you, though better than say Mustard Gas. It's a fattening, nutritionally vacant, quick drying stomach concrete. It often leaves you feeling worse than before you ate it.

Why would you want to put that in your stomach? Because it's delicious, at 2 AM. Because, that late at night, you're already abusing your body. A little extra punishment is welcome, almost as a penance for your earlier irresponsibilities.

Whatever. It doesn't matter. I crave it.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rocking Chairs...Rock

Call me a 75 year old retired grandmother with a knitting fetish and a penchant for gossip, but I've always had a thing for rocking chairs. I just like the motion. I mean really, who doesn't? The back and forth, back and forth is very soothing. I'm sure it tingles the primitive part of our brain that was aware of motion while we were still in the womb. It's the same reason some people, faced with levels of stress their minds can't deal with, rock back and forth on the ground. Not me of course. Stress can't touch me.

Mainly because I've knitted myself a force field while rocking in my rocking chair.

Actually I haven't really enjoyed the pleasures of a rocking chair in a long time. We have one, but we don't have room for it so it never gets sat on. Plus it's all wood, and I really prefer the older chairs with the wicker seat and back. Much more comfortable.

One day I'd like to build one of those outdoor Adirondack glider chairs. I love gliders because their motion is even smoother than rockers, and they don't require a smooth surface to perform at their best. I would sit the gliders (one for Kate, too) out on our front porch and we would lounge in the spring air, sipping Southsides, chatting with neighbors, rocking our worries into submission.

And if we took Ecstasy we could rock and roll.

But we'll just rock.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My night security

I like cuddling up to inanimate objects when I'm sleeping. It started with my security blanket, known as 'my diapie' when I was very young. Don't worry. It was a relatively clean cloth diaper, and I would carry it around everywhere I went and would suck on it and sleep with it; hence why I've always had teeth issues. If anyone has seen "Mr. Mom," it was very similar to the youngest boy's blankie.

I had 'diapie' till I was 8 or so, way to old if you ask me. I don't recall if I had anything similar to that until I was 13 when my sister gave me a teddy bear and I would sleep with him in my arms every night. Don't worry. I didn't suck on it or carry it around with me. I just liked the comfort and protective feeling it gave me when I'd hold it while going to sleep.

In college I bought Miffy, a stuffed bunny with the cutest little blue dress on, perfect size for holding while sleeping. I still have Miffy, but now I sleep with either a small blue afghan my mom made or a pink cylinder bean pillow, again something my mom gave me. I guess these new ones fill a couple needs, the family I miss with all my heart and as my security blanket. It also really helps me sleep by relaxing me and making me feel less anxious. I am still a bit of a loner when I'm getting my daily rest, I need that time to decompress.

Good night all, it's time for me to snuggle up to my blankie; I'm not ashamed to say that, quit laughing at me! Nighty Night!

My love for the theater...

I love the theater, seeing plays is such a different experience than watching a film. These actors have dedicated all their time and energy in performing a flawless performance in front of a live audience.

I started to get strongly into theater when I was dating a performer back when I was 17. He was in a lot of interesting plays like the "House of Yes". We would go see plays all the time, too. One that has been engraved in my memory was Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot". It was such a wonderful psychological journey. Yesterday we went to see the Russian play "The Cherry Orchid" for the 'pay what you can' day at the Everyman's Theatre. The play was pretty good, but mostly it brought back my love for theater. Jason and I are both going to try to see more plays around town now.

Live Theater

I like it when new technologies don't supplant older ones, but simply create a new category of experience, leaving the original just as valid, and even, by comparison, more interesting.

Last night Kate and I and friends went to the "Pay What You Can" performance of The Cherry Orchard at the Everyman Theater.  It had been a long time since either of us had attended a stage play.  I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed the experience.  There's a depth to a staged play that you lose in a movie.  Even though the sets are merely suggestive of actual rooms and places, as compared to the "reality" of film, they have a life film can't capture.  They are real, tangible things, interacted with by living characters, evolving in front of you.

Even though the play was a little stodgy in some respects for my taste, the involvement I felt by the end more than made up for my relative boredom.  And, in defense, the second half was far better than the first, completely redeeming the earlier act.

Good stuff.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

DVR- the new way to watch TV

I'm a bit depressed these days, coming up with a positive everyday will be difficult at times. I've been dealing with a bunch of systems that do not work or are just too complicated to comprehend. 

DVR and TiVo are great new inventions. On my breakfast and lunch breaks I've been watching all the Ellen episodes I've missed the past couple of weeks. It really helps narrow down what to watch. You are also given the ability to rewind and fast-forward. It's just fantastic and it's one of the things putting a smile on my face these days.

I don't think I could handle going back to regular TV watching, DVR is such an addiction. You can record up to 2 shows at a time, while you watch something else that was already recorded. Seriously everybody needs it to replace VHS, DVR is more efficient and they do have the capability to play in other rooms with the correct upgrades. Mom, the switch needs to happen one day, I know you can handle it.

The Change of Season

Change is good.  Is gives a break from monotony.  It gives you hope of something better.  Which is why I like living on the East Coast, where the change of season is dramatic.  I like the fact that you can look forward to the relief from Summer's heat that Fall and Winter bring.  And then again, when you begin to tire of Winter's icy teeth, you get to fantasize about Spring and Summer.  You get to look forward to having to wear a jacket and then a coat, and then getting to throw both off in favor of short sleeves.

By balancing two opposites against each other, you notice the positives in each.  And I guess I like the cyclical nature of the whole thing.  One vast wheel turning infinitely from one extreme to the other, completely ignorant of and indifferent to our little human dramas.

It's comforting to know that we're not that important.

Monday, March 16, 2009

French Vanilla and All of Its Delicious Brethren

Flavored artificial coffee creamers occupy a very warm place in my heart.  And my stomach.  They've become an integral part of my morning routine, and their absence is hard felt when I run out and forget to repurchase.

I like coffee on its own.  I do.  But only really good coffee has the legs, for me, to stand naked, but for a coat of half and half and a lump of sugar.  And no coffee ever goes completely buck naked down my gullet.  Black coffee, for me, is exactly like sucking on a bar of completely unsweetened chocolate.  No one does that except ascetic monks in Hershey, PA.

The coffee we have at work is great because it's free.  But that's its only redeeming quality.  It smells like burnt shell casings, and tastes as if it was brewed two decades ago using a hobo's tube sock for a filter.  Flavored coffee creamers are the only thing standing between me, that coffee, and gangrene of the throat.

Okay.  So that's a bit overly dramatic.  The coffee isn't remotely that bad.  But it isn't great. And since I enjoy a cup of coffee every morning, it presents a great opportunity to try the huge assortment of flavors available in today's coffee creamer arsenal.

If I had to pick a top five, it would be, in particular order, White Chocolate Coconut, Italian Sweet Creme, Mint Chocolate, Raspberry Something or Other (I can't exactly remember), and plain old French Vanilla.  But there are so many good choices.  You could have a different flavor everyday and not run out until you did.

I'm sure they're not good for me, though.  Artificial coagulants and sugar drenched chemical flavorings are probably just the beginning of what you shouldn't be putting in your body.  But I'm taking the risk because of the love content.  200% of your daily recommended value of warmth and goodness.  That's hard to beat.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Scheduling my Life

I guess this would be along the same lines as my organizational post, but this has to do with planning and scheduling my daily activities. Having goals on a daily basis as my unemployment days unfold is crucial for any life-changing agenda. I must continue to focus on the tasks at hand and try my best to stay on track. Tomorrow's schedule contains a lot of medical calls, some photo work, and of course morning yoga. If I get all my needed work accomplished, then Tuesday will start and end as a drunken St. Patty's celebration with Julianna, and anyone else who has nothing going on during the day. Maybe I'll throw some "Ellen Degeneres" in for some lighthearted fun.

Wii, a great sport alternative

Wii is such a great idea, since it makes you go through the physical motions of the actual sports like baseball, tennis, and golf. Jason and I stayed home yesterday evening to play a few games of tennis, and bowl a game. Yes, it might be better for your body to actually go out and really play these games, but the lazy man's alternative is Wii.

Now, you get to play these games in your living room without having to face the rainy and cold outdoors. I'm getting pretty good at the Wii games. Jason, of course, is starting to excel over me in most, but I believe I'll improve and be at his level soon enough. I really think people like my Dad and Mom, Jason's Dad, and my uncle, Don, would really enjoy Wii. They get to play the sports they used to love to play or still do play in their living room. It's not a regular video game and it's easy to learn. Wii is a fantastic way to spend a relaxing Sunday.

Crunching Peanut Shells

Lonestar Steak House, back in the day, probably 20 years ago, used to bring customers big bowls of peanuts, which you ate, and then threw the shells on the ground.  As a young teenager, the novelty of that alone won Lonestar a slot in my favorite restaurants list.  I was disappointed when, years later I went for dinner as an adult and found the practice abandoned.

But yesterday Kate and I hung out with her Uncle Don while he did a bar crawl through Parkville.  I was happy to discover that the third bar on the circuit, Racers, one of Kate's favorites, has peanut bowls.  But I found that the actual chucking of the shells wasn't the part I enjoyed anymore.  Of course the eating of was high on the list, but almost more than that was the visceral sensation of crushing the shells underfoot.

They make a very satisfying crunch when you step on them.  I can't explain it.  It's a combination of the tactile crunch feel and the pitch of the sound they make.  It goes right to the pleasure center of your brain and noodles it around nicely.

Of course I'm not advocating peanut shells all over our house.  The clean-up required would kill any buzz the crushing created.  But I'm more than happy to go to Racers with Kate every so often and let the friendly staff there handle the sweeping.

Now that smoking is illegal in bars and restaurants, maybe more establishments will bring back the practice of scattering potential kindling all over the floor.  Here's to hoping.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Meatloaf. The Food, Not the Singer.

I can guarantee you will never find a post on 70's overcooked pop singer Meatloaf on this blog. It's a guarantee and a promise. Why he felt the need to defile a culinary delight as fine as meatloaf by assigning that name to his bloated, over-dramatic arena rock cheese food performance slop is beyond me.

Maybe he just likes meatloaf as much as I do. I suppose I can't fault him for that. Meatloaf ranks number two in the "all-time greatest loafs" category, fifth in "foods you can mold into funny shapes" and somewhere in the top 50 "best foods on the planet."

Kate made a meatloaf last night that blew my shoes off. It had big chunks of onion and green pepper, was slathered in ketchup and leaking delicious juice from every crack and cranny. It just melted in your mouth, and made you wish you were a cow so you could bring it up later as a cud and digest it twice.

In a complete coincidence, I found a company company online that takes meatloaf in a very different direction. The folks over at The Meatloaf Bakery in Chicago (www.themeatloafbakery.com) creates confections resembling their sweet shoppe equivalents, but are made entirely of meat. Try meatloaf cupcakes "iced" with mashed potatoes. Or an entire meatloaf "cake". They look delicious, and demonstrate why meatloaf has the fifth place ranking I mentioned earlier.

So what would I do for a delicious plate of meatloaf? Well, I would do almost anything...but I won't do that.

Films from my Youth

I love watching movies from my childhood. Films have always been a love of mine and tonight I watched a childhood fav "Stand By Me." Little River Phoenix can still make my heart race. He had this great magnetic demeanor about him when he appeared in films. Then you have Cory Feldman, Wil Wheaton, and the now skinny and famous, Jerry O'Connell. I remember watching that film so many times when I was young.

That and Goonies with little Sean Astin and once again Corey Feldman, Labyrinth with the beautiful Jennifer Connelly and the sexy Bowie, Can't Buy Me Love with the forever gorgeous Patrick Dempsey, and all of the John Hughes' 1980's classics. These films never seem to get old for me, they make me recall such great memories. There are so many other films from the 80s that I just adore. Sometimes I'm not in the mood to analyze a film's plot structure and it's cinematography. Instead I want to sit back and watch an old favorite for the fun of it or to make fun of it as I see fit.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Success of Others

I just got back in contact with Randy, an old friend from high school.  We had a great time back then, but unfortunately didn't keep in contact very well, especially after college.  Mostly my fault.  I've never been terribly good at keeping up with people.

Randy had a daughter a few years ago, Sophia.  I've never met her...another thing I regret.  But that's all in the past.  Randy's coming into town for a few days at some indeterminate time in the near future, and Sophia (and possibly his wife Nicole) may tag along.  I've resolved to sort out the lost time.

But the point of this post...

Randy's got a beautiful family in New Orleans, a city he loves, doing high-level design work at an architecture firm there.  It's a culmination of a life, up to this point, well lived.  And I couldn't be happier for him.  I don't know Randy like I used to, but he was always a stand-up guy, and I have no reason to think that's changed.  He deserves everything he's got.

That's the great thing about the success of others.  If you view it correctly, without jealousy, it can't help but have a positive effect on you.  Happiness is contagious, and your successful friends are excellent vectors.  Finding parallels between your successes and those of others helps cement friendships and leaves an indelible mark on your relationships. When others are successful, they become poster children for the fact that life, on the whole, has a way of working itself out.  Taking an honest look at their successes can help pave a path out of adversity, demonstrating that all things are transient; that poor circumstances will eventually give way to improvements.

Plus, everyone you know has, at least to some small degree, been shaped by their relationship with you.  You've stamped a bit of yourself into all of them, and the reverse.  So their successes are, to a degree, yours, and vice-versa.  We are all meandering through a sea of shared successes and failures, and we sink or swim together.

The Air I'm Breathing

I love this newly discovered air I'm feeling and breathing during my unemployment. I know this air I'm breathing comes with a few penalties, such as the lack of money. I just feel so much calmer and at ease. I'm taking hours out of every day to focus on my future, by job searching, updating my resume, and studying my camera and following up with my contacts. Being able to focus on my new life and work makes me feel so much more at ease than when I did everyday at my old job.

No more shaky breathing and no more anxious stomach aches. I know there's a possibility that stress will come with new responsibility. But in the meantime I'm going to enjoy doing yoga or going to the gym, cleaning house, cooking, working on my new life, and reading a good book with little to no stress involved. Let's get through this one day at a time. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, hold that position and relax.

The Eternal Peoplehood of the Meated Bread

This hallowed group, better known as "Sandwich Club" at work has been a huge boon to our effort to save money.

"What is Sandwich Club, Jason, and how can I join?  And isn't it a club sandwich?"

All very good questions.  Number three is a common mistake, made up reader who is actually me.  While club sandwiches my in fact be constructed by members of Sandwich Club, the group neither takes its name from the dish nor favors it over any other form of sandwich.  We are truly egalitarian in our sandwich construction.  If it can be spread, spackled and nestled between two pieces of bread, it probably has been.

Sandwich Club is a foursome of Renegade coworkers (which until yesterday included Kate...bastards!) who trade off in a four week cycle, bringing in sandwich elements for every member of the group.  On your week you bring in at least four pounds of good deli counter meats, mayo and mustard (if needed), three loaves of bread, lettuce, cheese, and some kind of snack food, like chips or crackers.  To keep it fair we say each person needs to spend about $50 on their assigned week.  And that's all you spend for the month on lunch, since you eat for free the other three weeks.  You get good deli style sandwiches made however you like them for only $2.27 a work day.  Not too shabby.

To answer your third question, with Kate's unfortunate departure we do have an opening, but we may already have a candidate to fill the position.  However, if you think you're qualified (work at Renegade) and have a passion for all things sandwich, let me know.  We may be able to find a place for you.

If you're interested in starting your own Sandwich Club, we have affordable franchise options to fit most every budget.

To long loaf, keen cheese, and moments of happiness, thinly-sliced,

The Eternal Peoplehood of the Meated Bread
Note: We don't actually call ourselves that, but I wish we did...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Theraputic Activity Part 1: Discovering new music

Today was my first full day of unemployment and I'm going to use this blog writing as an opportunity to create a list of fulfilling activities I can do to help keep myself sane. I did not do this today, but I really enjoy discovering new music. Pandora can be helpful in this arena. I also enjoy reading reviews in magazine's like Bust and finding ones that sound interesting and then looking them up on MySpace to take a listen. I think I'm going to do a little bit of this research now. And when life gets me down, I'll have this activity in mind as an escape. Let's keep our heads up, ladies, tomorrow is a new day, or that's what I keep telling myself.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Beginnings

A new chapter in my life began today. I was let go from my job. But I now get to pursue a new profound way of life...a new adventure is around the corner and I'm not going to let this happening bring me down. Unbeknown to many, I've happily been pursuing a new career as a freelance event photographer for a couple months now. I will not be paid for most of my first events, but once I've gained enough experience I will start feeling confident enough to ask for payment.

I feel okay about what occurred today. I have been given the freedom to explore my next chapter. I am the kind of person who wants to venture into different careers. I've been in the video/film industry for 7, almost 8 years now. Yes I would like to stay close to my roots, but I would like to explore my own artistic talents now and see if I can survive off them. Cheers to Julianna, Brett, Judy, Liz and Tykia, the other victims of today's cuts. I will be in touch! Judy please send me your info.

Stay strong, life has only begun.

Taking a Big One for the Team

You already know from Kate's entry what happened today.  This is her topic to talk about, I know.  I tried coming up with something else, but any other topic felt disingenuous considering the gravity of today's events.  So I'm taking things from a slightly different perspective.

It's never a great thing to lose your job.  Even knowing that, in the end, you'll probably be happier and better off, it's still a scary prospect.  But things could be worse, at least on the group level.  Any given company could, instead of letting a few employees go, try soldiering on with a full staff, and risk bleeding dry and having to shut down entirely.  Here, sacrifices made by the few, willing or not, save the rest of us.

No one wants to be the sacrificial lamb.  And those that still have jobs as a result should be thankful to their unwilling benefactors.  I know it's sort of morbid, but I'm indebted to the few who took a bullet to save the many.  Kate and I would be in a far worse situation if Renegade had to shutter its doors and we both lost our jobs.

So thank you Kate, Juli, Judy, Brett, Tykia and Liz for falling, or rather, being shoved onto the grenade to spare the rest of us.  If there's anything I can do to help any of you, please let me know.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Good Beer. Really Good Beer.

I like beer.  Beer with personality.  Beer that's not afraid to claim its heritage.  Give me something dark, rich and meaty over anything associated with football and being a real American any day.  I don't want bubbly water with real beer flavor added.  If I'm going to drink a beer I want those empty calories to be meaningful.  I'm not drinking it because I'm thirsty.  I want real flavor.  I want an experience.  I want the type of beer you drink, not because you're thirsty, but because you're hungry.

The short list of favorite varieties would consist of Bocks, Doppelbocks, Stouts, Brown Ales, Porters, Dunkels, Pumpkin Ales, Winter Ales, Hefeweizens and other assorted wheat brews.  That's just what I can think of.  I'm sure there's more that I'm missing.  Give me a Newcastle, a Lancaster Milk Stout, or a Shiner Bock anytime and I'm happy.  I once brewed (the only beer I ever brewed) a Banana Brown Ale that was pretty delicious.  

I don't do this anymore because it became more of a torture than a pastime, but I used to love going through all the high-priced specialty beers you find shelves and shelves of at decent liquor stores.  I can't bring myself to pay $12 for a single beer except on very special occasions.  Which I have done, though rarely, and had some wonderful beers.  I had a beer in France made by the Amsterdam Brewery Company called the Maximator.  A bock with an alcohol content of 11.6%.  Wow!  Talk about a heady drink.

It warms my cockles to know there is so much beer out there I haven't tried yet.  It's like a liquid candy store for grownups, where all the sugar has fermented into cold (and warm) alcoholic bliss.

Organized Chaos

I have to be "somewhat" organized at all times to stay a sane human being. I am a Virgo and they are known as organized perfectionists.  Now I wouldn't say I was a perfectionist, but I do prefer things to go my way, the way that makes sense to me. I do like being organized both at work and at home. It is more like an organized chaos, for those overlooking my idea of clean. Don't get me wrong, I do clean house like no one's business, but I do tend to clean it in a fast, heavy-duty, no-nonsense manner. I like doing it right and doing it fast. I always have to have music playing to keep me pumped.

I usually keep all my bills near me, so I stay on top of my personals. At work all my emails are organized in great fashion. To keep things in order, I have to take a couple times throughout my day to organize my emails. There are often many jobs going on at one time, and I really think my good organizing habits keep me on top of all my work. I feel like I'm writing a cover letter...how boring. So my subject wasn't completely enthralling. Well, we can just hope that tomorrow's can only get better. Being organized helps me clear my head and relax, and it lessons the stress and pressure I feel around me.

You Had Me at "Lost"

I used to not watch any television. Now I watch far too much. But all of that mind-pulping, eye-glazing time is well spent because it brought me to "Lost."

What a brilliant show! Not since Twin Peaks has there been a more convoluted, non-linear story arc on television. The writing is impeccable. The characters are well-developed and engaging. The tension from episode to episode can be sleep-disturbing. And the story depth is unmatched. After the second season I was terrified that maybe the writers were just throwing in new story elements willy-nilly, with no thought to pay-off or narrative development. For the most part that's proven to be completely untrue. While there are a few details that seem to have been abandoned, most things have managed to tie into what is becoming a masterful twine ball of a story.

I'll sum up the story for those of you that haven't started watching without giving anything away. Something happens to a bunch of people, and after a time they think they have it worked out. They don't. A whole mess of crazy stuff happens to them. They process it and think they have it worked out. They don't. They break into smaller groups, hoping to mull over and work out their new circumstances. This fails miserably, leading them further down the rabbit hole, deeper into confusion and crazed in-fighting. Then, a Eureka moment! Something makes sense. A light in the darkness. They finally understand what's going on!

Except they don't.

That's the sort of ride you're in for once you plug your brain into the "Lost" universe. It's a frustrating, aggravating, and delightfully confusing experience interspersed with epiphanous periods of deep understanding. If you're a TV junkie, you need to add lost to your roster. If you don't watch television, make an exception for this show. If you don't own a television, break into your neighbors house while they're on vacation and watch the series on DVD. Do whatever you have to do...knock over a Best Buy if need be. Just watch the show.

It's the best 46 minutes (skipping commercials) on television.

Amazing Dream Homes

I love unique house structures, houses that have their own personalities. Yesterday we went to Mela and Rich's home in Columbia. We had the feeling that they were going to have a stupendous house, but we never figured that it was going to be the ultimate dream home. It was this beautiful maze with the most elaborate characteristics. There are not enough adjectives to describe their home.

They have a solar heated pool and a jacuzzi in the backyard, while their master bathroom has a walk in shower with water jets that hit you at all angles and a jacuzzi tub. The middle of their home consists of an open sunlight lit room with a bridge going across with a rainbow and clouds painted across the tall walls. All the colors throughout the house work so well. A lot of my favorite oranges, greens and reds were represented. They called the middle floor Purgatory, the tall floor heaven, and the finished basement with a bar and guest room, complete with a full area for Rock Band, Hell. Thank you Mela and Rich for welcoming us in your fantastic home.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

New Faces Everywhere

I like meeting new people, especially when I'm feeling confident to act myself around them. These past couple weeks I've met so many new faces and some I've kept in contact with and the others I would like to try to find on Facebook, if possible. They've all been genuinely nice, down-to-earth people.

The first were Mela and Rich, who are friends with my friend Kate R. What an outrageously fun couple they are, they have so many friends and to think they are reaching out to us for get together is so cool. I went to a dear friend from work, Maggie's birthday party this weekend and met some fantastic people while dancing. It was a bit loud, but I still felt a connection happening. Yesterday, I took photos at an engagement party for the experience and when I left some expressed how much they enjoyed my company. It feels great to be recognized as a outgoing fun-loving person. I hope I keep this confidence up because I really can't wait to meet more steller people who could possibly grow into true friendships.

Sustainable Building Materials

Kate and I have been dithering about our kitchen countertop for over a year now, never completely ready to pull the trigger.  We've narrowed it down to granite finally, and we'll probably still go with that even after this latest discovery, but it did give us pause.

I found a company (and they're not unique) called Alter Ego in Catonsville (www.alter-e.com) that sells and installs eco-friendly, sustainable building materials, including flooring, tiles, countertops and other odds and ends.  Some of their products are pretty ingenious.  They have two manufacturers, one which sell under the brand name Paperstone, that produce a compressed paper and resin countertop using 100% recycled paper.  It feels nearly as hard as stone, is water-proof, and has a very interesting texture. Another resin-based product, Alkemi, embeds shredded, recycled tin scraps for a really beautiful reflective textured effect.

The option I liked the most is concrete.  Simple concrete.  You wouldn't expect it, but when concrete is finished properly, with bits of reflective material added and dyed nicely, the effect is pretty stunning.  You can embed nearly anything you want to customize the design.  Colored glass pieces, tiles, ceramic...really anything.  And because concrete is moldable you don't have to settle for a flat countertop.  They can shape the concrete into integrated drain boards, custom sink basins and any other shape you can imagine.

There's bamboo butcher-block, recycled glass, recycled glass in resin, and compressed cork products.  The unfortunate thing is that all of these products, save the cork, are very expensive, starting at $100 a square foot installed.  That's nearly double what we're looking at for our final granite selection.  It's a shame, because if price wasn't a factor we'd love to support one of these important, sustainable products.

Fact is, there's only so much granite, quartz, and marble in the ground.  And the industrial processes used to produce laminate and other commercial building products are damaging environmentally.  Hopefully soon the price will drop on some of these eco-conscious alternatives so that they can make a real impact on the building materials market.  Or let's hope that one day I make enough money to afford them at their current prices.

Let's work on that regardless.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Station Creation

I am addicted to Pandora Radio. It's such a great invention. You create channels by entering any of your favorite musicians and then it plays music from that artist and other artists that have a similar sound. It's so easy...press play and you have music for hours. You discover new artists all the time. The only downfall is you can't go backwards and have a past selection play again, but that's fine. It does show the album cover and all the info on that song and you can click on any previous album and get more info on the band. Also Pandora is FREE, which is amazing. You have your own account and it saves all the channels you've ever created. Some of my favorites channels are Andrew Bird and Death Cab for Cutie. Of Montreal is a new fav and Vampire Weekend is great, too. Good stuff everybody, remember you can put in any artist and a station is created for you. There are endless possibilities. This is great for work to have in the background or even putting it on while cleaning the house. Try it out, I bet you'll far in love.


Funny, Random and Unlikely

You're visiting Europe, almost a third of the way around the globe from your home, and you run into someone who lives just down the street from you.

That happened to me, and I know all of you have had similarly eerie coincidental experiences.  In the same vein, Kate and I were visiting her sister in Florida, and in a boat shop we randomly started chatting with a women who turned out to have grown up in the same neighborhood  I did.  I could come up with any number of experiences like that.  Moments where, seemingly, the laws of probability are suspended and you feel as if you should run out and buy a lottery ticket.  I love these freak occurrences because they show you just how chaotic and unpredictable our universe is.

If  you really think about it you realize that the odds against something like the above happening aren't nearly as high as they'd seem.  At least from a particular perspective.  The chances of some specific coincidence happening are low, but the chances of any coincidence happening at some unnamed point are pretty good.  The odds against running into your high school sweetheart while vacationing in Guam are staggeringly high.  You probably have a better chance of hitting the Mega Millions jackpot.  But the chances that some strange coincidence happens to you in Guam are better.  Better still if you take out the Guam restriction.

It's macro versus micro.  In our lives we go lots of place and do lots of things, and so does everyone else.  Lots of other things are happening at the same time.  There are a lot of paths crossing constantly.  The odds of something weird and spooky happening around one of these intersections are very good.  You just can't remotely predict what it might be.  A similar odds scenario goes like this.  The chances of somebody winning the Maryland Lottery are very good.  People do it all the time.  But the chances that you will be that someone...not nearly so good.

The random bubbles of meaning we encounter everyday are special because they aren't predictable.  But it is predictable that something special will happen to us, and that's something worth looking forward to.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Beautiful Concept

I want to share a thought I like to come back to occasionally and see what it kicks loose.

Ultimately, we are made of stardust. If you trace the history of the universe backwards to its inception at the big bang and then watch it unfold in fast forward, you'll witness the most dramatic story ever told.

The singularity, the universe before it was anything, was a near infinitely small but infinitely dense point, smaller than an atom, containing all the matter that would ultimately make up the mind-bogglingly vast cosmos we see today. How long did it exist in that state? Impossible to know. Time and space were wrapped up together inside that tiny point. But at some pivotal moment (language really doesn't have a good way to deal with time out of time) the singularity exploded.

The bang went out in all directions, filling the void with a perfectly homogeneous blanket of energy. Or nearly perfect. Slight inconsistencies in the early universe caused energy to coalesce more in certain areas than others, and as the universe cooled and matter was born from this energy, these pockets of matter/energy grew, becoming galaxies and stars and planets, and eventually...us.

Now view the evolution and growth of the cosmos as a life cycle. Infancy and childhood, followed by tumultuous changes, growing ever more complex and subdivided. Simple life on various planets comes into existence as young adulthood flowers, clearing the path for exponential spikes in diversity and complexity as the cosmos reaches adulthood. Then; a quantum leap forward. We (or other intelligent life elsewhere in the universe) emerge with a singular consciousness. A mind capable of self-awareness, capable of knowing that it, as an entity, exists. Capable of questioning itself and the universe. A mind constantly searching for answers.

Here's my favorite part. If we are made from stardust, born billions of years ago in distant, long-dead suns, our matter and minds forged by the long process of cosmic expansion, then our search for answers is actually the universe finally capable of and attempting to understand itself. We are all equal and natural extensions of the universe's long evolution. It was only a matter of time before something as vast and inexplicable as the cosmos developed a capability for self-examination.

"What a beautiful thought I just thought," thinks the universe.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The angry pathetic nut case can re-cog-nize!

I'm feeling particularly edgy today. I don't know what's in the air. I like that I can finally recognize when I'm hitting the top level of my stress and anxiety. Yes, the meds are working or maybe I am finally having a realization. I've always taken things too seriously and have always allowed stress to rip me to sheds both emotionally and physically. I am so relieved that I now able to control that to a degree.  I'm not entirely healed, that may never happen. I know being this way is part of who I am and I bet some of my achievements could have faultered if I hadn't beat myself up on the way there. I know that this entry is a bit personal, but whoever's reading this still must truely respect and enjoy what we are doing. I am so proud to have the abilty to take control of my feelings and actions, staying confident and sure of myself in the process. There are times like today where I see myself building into that angry pathetic nut case again, and I now just yell and scream in my head some and of course make a couple small wrong turns, but this time I ended on a positive note. Cheers to the start of a new me.

Holograms: Proof Lasers Can Do More Than Kill Aliens

Thanks again, Mela.  You've now given me ideas for two entries.  We still don't know each other that well and you're already an official sponsor of "A Year of Positives", with all the rights and privileges afforded that title (which consist of being mentioned in this sentence and the keywords at the bottom.)

Holograms are fascinating bits of artistry.  I'm no physicist, so I won't even attempt to explain how they work (mainly because I don't know.)  There are plenty of sites out there to confuse you thoroughly on the subject.  I'll just point out the obvious.  Holograms are 3D images captured on a 2D display medium using lasers and interference patterns.  Stare very carefully at the text in this entry.  Notice how it appears in full, unremarkable 2D?  That's because it isn't a hologram.

Now here's the part that will really bake your noodle.  If you take a true hologram (the image on your credit card won't work) and cut the image in half, you're left with two full copies of the entire image.  Cut both of those halves in half and you're left with four copies of the full image.  It doesn't matter how small you cut the pieces.  Regardless of the size or where the pieces are cut from they will always contain all the information from the original image.  Somehow the whole is contained in each piece.  How?  Black magic, clearly.

Now imagine this.  Any information can be captured holographically.  Instead of capturing a photo we could just as easily capture data.  Digital data,  like the information we currently save on computer hard drives.  Saving data holographically would revolutionize digital storage, completely precluding the need for back ups.  If a segment of your holodisk gets damaged, no big deal.  The remaining piece still contains all the information from the original.  Need to give someone a copy?  Just break off a chunk and hand it to them.  That tiny piece still somehow manages to contain everything the larger parent disk held.

It's mind-boggling, I know, but it's absolutely true.  Holograms are another example of just how astounding the physical universe is.

As an aside, I hope I never have to see that clown hologram close up.  CREEPY!

I Wear my Sunglasses

My eyes are sensitive to the light, so I have to wear sunglasses a lot. Having that extra protection on your eyes is a great thing. Of course, whatever sunglasses I wear have to be fashionable. I just broke down and bought the ever so popular Jackie O glasses. My friend, Alicia, said they weren't too large. I think they look great and it's the first pair I've owned in a while that aren't too tight on my head. Sunglasses are a necessity if my life, they've prevented many headaches and always look awesome.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Three Dollar Theaters

You remember them.  They used to be called dollar theaters.  Cheap, slightly substandard movie venues with second and third run copies of films about to leave theaters completely.  With movie prices what they are these days, if you can find a good three dollar theater, patronize it and keep it in business.

We have a great spot near us.  The Beltway Six theater always has decent flicks, with at least one that we wanted to see on the big screen but missed.  The seats aren't stadium and they aren't quite as comfortable.  The floors are slightly stickier than usual and the likelihood that some schmuck tries to talk through the film is higher.  But not proportionally higher when compared with the ticket price savings.  We went and saw Coraline in 3D at a regular theater this weekend.  Twelve bucks each!  There's a live concert coming up at a good venue that's only a dollar more.  So a few concessions are worth paying a quarter the normal ticket price.

The money aside, there's something quaint about seeing a movie second run.  It's like seeing an old vaudeville entertainer live.  One who's time has passed but is enjoying a brief revival.  You sort of feel like you're short-circuiting the system, milking enjoyment out of a pump assumed dry.  Grabbing one last shot of autumnal beauty before winter goes and blows it for you.

But mostly I  just like saving the cash.