Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Confucius Say, "Global Warming? Solved."

I read an interesting article yesterday which buoyed my spirits somewhat about the global warming crisis. Apparently China has surpassed the United States as the largest producer of greenhouse gases, still depending heavily on old-tech coal-fired power plants for a large percentage of its energy needs. Thankfully they are actively seeking a solution, taking an approach I think we in the West ought to emulate.

China is attempting a cultural shift back to traditional Asian values and beliefs, in so far as they would contribute to supporting massive changes in technology and energy production and consumption. Much of China's intellectual community is calling for a return to old religious and philosophical views like Confucianism in an effort to create a mass-mind amenable to the goals of conservation. By working at the philosophical underpinnings of growth plans and future progress they're attempting to create a strong base from which the hard work of change can begin.

Confucianism represents the best in Asian philosophical thinking when it comes to creating policies with long-term implications. Two tenets in particular are are important here. One, Confucianism places a strong emphasis on the responsibilities each person bears toward his kin relationships, both his ancestors and progeny. Powerful filial bonds are formed at each point in a given family structure, and respect is expected both up and down the family tree. For a Confucian, doing something avoidable which bears terrible consequences for future generations is an unthinkable act.

Secondly, Confucianism considers education towards moral development very important. The goal is for morality to be fully internalized by the citizenry, allowing the State to govern naturally, without the need for coercive laws.

Fusing these two teachings creates a strong desire in the citizenry of a given country to do the right thing for the sake of future generations, not because the government instructs them to or makes it illegal to do otherwise, but because what is right is known and practiced naturally.

I think it would be an immensely positive thing if Western societies could adopt some of these and other non-religious elements from Asian philosophical systems. What we need in this country isn't more laws. We need a ground-swelling of desire for change and the resolve to accomplish it from each and every citizen, one that can only be accomplished by altering how we see the world. Because, to be perfectly honest, current Western religious thought doesn't lend itself to the ends I'm pushing for.

I would never call for a return to traditional Western religious views here in the United States as a fix for our energy problems because religious traditions rooted in the afterlife are ill-suited as a strong philosophical foundation for smart energy policies. Policies aimed at fixing the here-and-now in an effort to preserve the future can't be informed by thinking which sees the world as simply a fleeting testing ground for souls. As an example, I've read about fundamentalist Christians who espouse the view that fixing the myriad problems our nation faces in planning for the future, which includes global warming, is unnecessary because of Christ's imminent return. Once the faithful are called to heaven god will effectively clean up our mess for us. Sounds nice, but it's hardly a strong motivator for change. We Westerners need to stop thinking that our actions don't matter. They do. More than any of us can comprehend.

We need to follow China's example.

Tim's Glorious Creations


Tim Burton is the cinematic mastermind behind such films as Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Sweeney Todd, Sleepy Hollow, Ed Wood, Big Fish, and the newest installment Alice in Wonderland. He is such a creative genius. He always relies on the same cast to pull off the roles he's needing to fill. The brilliant Johnny Depp and Tim's wife Helena Bonham Carter are among his choices. He creates such amazing fantasy worlds. The stills from the newest piece, Alice in Wonderland, look so creepy and memorizing. It's going to be such an adventure to see on the big screen- I can't wait! It brings back the idea of creepy is good and scaring you children at a young age is harmless. It brings back memories of seeing Labyrinth for the first time and being scared out of my mind, but then immediately wanting to watch it again. Thanks Tim for bringing back the childlike fantasy adventures that make filmmaking so breathtaking and memorable. A trailer has not been released yet, but here are some of the stills that give you a good idea.



Monday, June 29, 2009

I Heart Alicia


Alicia Taft is a very dear friend of mine. She was the first person to befriend me when I first started at Renegade 5 years ago. She came over to hang out yesterday. We had some great girl talk and she strongly feels teaching would be a great career for me. When I started at Renegade she did not drive and I offered my services to take her home. She just happens to live right near my uncle Don in Parkville, she went to school with my cousins and we would have possibly known each other growing up if I would have stayed verses moving on SC in 89, since we would have gone to all the same schools. She would have been two grades under me though. It's such a small world when you really think about it.

She did used to drive me a bit crazy, but now I heart her very much. I can be very honest with her and her with me. We understand each other. Jason and her are very close friends too, so the common relationship is great amongst the three of us. I miss being with them during work hours, the chats we would have were so therapeutic. We both need to make a conscience effort to visit each other more. Alicia, thanks for being such a great friend. Now pick up your damn phone!

The Progression of Biology

I was just thinking about biologists. None specifically. Biologists as a career path. I was thinking about how their focus has slowly changed over the years. I love the fact that science is a living, evolving practice, shaped both by its own discoveries, and by the environment it functions inside of.

Here's my take on the shifting role of biologists. As a young science, biology was mainly concerned with discovery. Finding and identifying new species, learning about the basic functioning of elaborate ecosystems, and understanding how animals and plants adapt to their surroundings. Biology was all about filling in the holes in our basic understanding of our living world, a science devoted to learning about things because they were there.

Slowly though, as human activities began to adversely affect our planet, a large swath of biologists switched from pure understanding to conservation. How do we save the great biodiversity our planet spent millions of years cooking up? We now needed to understand exactly how our activities impacted our environment, and how we could mitigate some of the damage. Biology matured, and a purpose was tagged onto a search for understanding which was, up until that point, for it's own sake. And this aspect of the science of life has become even more desperate and personal as we've realized how much a part of our ecosystem we are, and how our impact on the planet is beginning to adversely affect us.

While this shift is going on, technology advances. Discoveries are made across many different disciplines which have lasting affects on the practice of science. Biologists, armed with the constantly improving tools genomics provides, are moving slowly from a passive stance, simply studying life as it is, to a much more active mentality, modifying live to certain ends, and eventually creating custom life. That, to me, is a very interesting paradigm shift, because it marks the moment we move from just studying life with technology to life becoming the technology.

That, I think, is where the science of biology is ultimately taking us. A fusion of life and technology. Life as technology and life merged with inorganic technology. The fusing of robotics and computer science with biology. Cyborgs, if you will. Biology enhanced by circuitry and physical technology. And biological computing, using cells and proteins to create computer systems able to grow and evolve. Artificial brains, in a sense. It's a merging of all available technologies to improve human existence.

And it's not selfish. The evolution of the study of biology is ultimately caused by our deep concern for life. At a basic level want to learn about it, know its inner-most functions intimately, and deeply understand processes once unfathomable. When these systems are threatened we move to protect them, also because of our innate concern for life. And the more deeply we understand life, the more we appreciate how important it is to protect it. And once safe, our concern drives us to improve life. To learn new ways to repair it and heal illness. To amplify its natural abilities for positive ends. To fuse all available technologies into its structures, all in an effort to make life on this planet more robust, healthier and more positive for ourselves and our co-inhabitants.

The study of life has become a study of the planet as a whole, our place in it, and how best to continue that existence, in both senses of the phrase.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tomato Plants: Short But Interesting


The title of this entry is terribly misleading. "Short" refers to the length of the entry, and "interesting" refers, hopefully, to the content, or rather the small exposition about the content, tomato plants. But neither word is intended to refer directly to the plants themselves, while, clearly tomato plants can be both short and interesting, to the botanically inclined.

And in fact "short" as a valid descriptor for this entry is beginning to lose accuracy the more useless verbage I add in to pad out what may in fact be a less than "interesting" revelation about tomato plants. So it may not have been the greatest choice of titles, but, nearly three paragraphs in, it's too late to change it.

And so, here it is. The third paragraph, containing a short revelation about a sometime short plant in a continually lengthening entry with dubious interest for the readers: Tomato plants, even when very small, if rubbed or injured in some way, smell like fully developed tomatoes.

I think that's wild! It's the whole contained in the parts. It really caught me off guard the first time I noticed it. Apparently, even as small seedlings the plants already contain all the aromatic compounds that will eventually make their fruit perfect for salsas, sauces, and tomato mozzarella sandwiches.

Mother Nature is one groovy chick.

The Talented Kate Winslet


Kate Winslet is an extraordinary actress and has been a favorite of mine since 1994's Heavenly Creatures was released. Like many of her films this one's a dark twisted coming of age flick. I've always respected her with film choices from Titanic to Hideous Kinky. Her acting just draws you in, she has a way of seeming relatable in every role she's played. Her range is huge. She is also very beautiful and has a very sensuous nature. I think she's been nude in ten films or so, which also makes her fearless and able to truly embody her characters.

I had a chance to watch her work some while working on the set of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. No communication was exchanged, but I still love to say I saw her and maybe, just maybe I followed her into the bathroom and proceeded to do my business with no words exchanged. It was hard for me to approach talent while on the job, I thought it was unprofessional. I did finally open up a little to the director, Michel Gondrey, which then led to a backstage concert invite to the White Stripes contest. Taking more occasional risks could have led to more exciting ventures, but life goes on and I still have at least a few exciting stories.

Wow, I really just got off topic.

Last night I saw Kate in her most profound role to date, The Reader. It was an extremely moving and heartbreaking film. Kate truly deserves her best actress win. She explained in the "making of" that this was the most groundbreaking film she's ever been a part of. This was also the first time she had to endure a make-up transformation. She aged from 35 to 65 years old as the film went on and she loved this experience.

She is a profound actress with a real joyous personal sensibility. She has stretched the female roles beyond the norm. I can't wait to see what she does next. If you would like a little Kate 101, I would see Heavenly Creatures, Hideous Kinky, Quills, Eternal Sunshine, Finding Neverland, Little Children, and The Reader.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Farmers' Market Next Door


Jason likes his food.  Three chow-related entries in a row.  Well, what can I say?  There's nothing more positive than not being hungry.  And if you can eat well, and locally in the process, all the better.

We live roughly 300 feet from a year round farmers' market.  The Waverly Farmers' Market is open every Saturday from 7am until noon.  Its size ebbs and flows with the seasons, but it's always there, and of course the produce available changes over time.  Right now we're heading into the boom season, and Kate and I have vowed to start taking more advantage of it.  In fact we plan on walking over as soon as we both finish our entries (I wouldn't be at all surprised if Kate's entry is on this same topic.)

Living in the city, at least this part of the city, has its advantages.  We haven't been availing ourselves of all of them lately.  Starting with the farmers' market is a good way to get back into city life.  Fresh veggies and fruit for snacking and cooking.  Great scones and other breakfast items for a light morning meal.  Good times.

Now I'm hungry and this entry is finished.

Our Farmer's Market


Farmer's Markets are the best. We have one of the best ones in the area across the street from us every Saturday morning. I want to get there today before everything is cleared out, so I will have to keep this short. You can get personally grown fruit and vegetables, local coffee and pastries, homemade soaps, and so much more. A lot of local artisans will have stands too, selling their hand-made crafts and jewelry. It's a way to get to know the folks in the area and really feel like you're contributing to the community. It can be a bit crowded, lucky for us parking is never an issue. The Waverly Farmer's Market is a top five reason why I love our neighborhood, now I just have to come up with four others.

Friday, June 26, 2009

R.I.P MJ

In honor of the recent tragedy of Michael Jackson's sudden death, this entry will go out to all the innovative dancing and music he created throughout the past 40 years. His moves were like no other, watching him dance was so captivating. I was too young to watch him shine in The Jackson 5, but the songs from that era still live on. He was such a cute little kid and boy could he sing.

His solo albums of the 80s, such as Thriller and Bad were ground breaking. I just remember dancing to his music in my pajamas in the family living room, singing as loud as I could. He was an idol, he was "The King of Pop". I loved songs like Billy Jean, Wanna be Startin Somethin, Man in the Mirror, and Smooth Criminal. The Thriller video still gives chills to this day.

I liked his 90s albums too with songs like Black and White and Heal the World. Yes, they could be a bit cheesy sounding today, but I just ate them up as a little girl. And yes, he has gone down a few controversial roads, but this is about his music and the innovation he's brought to the music world. Michael you will be forever in our hearts, you were an amazing performer and writer. I will be forever spellbound by your music, thanks Michael.


Lunch Within Walking Distance


To clarify, lunch within walking distance refers to me walking to my food. Not the other way around. I know it's easy to make the mistake. But generally speaking you won't find lunch walking your way unless it's being carried by a delivery person. Granted at some point in your meal's evolution it may been self-motive, but generally having food deliver itself at that stage requires more of a time and a mess commitment before eating than most people are willing to make. Not to mention lunch still on four legs is probably less than enthusiastic about taking the leap onto your plate and would, given the chance, run the opposite direction instead of delivering itself into your waiting, hungry belly.

My office is tucked away in an industrial park, separated by at least a five minute drive from every eating establishment in the area. Until recently a quick lunch meant either bringing yourself, or not coming to work. Finally a little deli opened up just up the block from us, less than five minutes away by foot. It is so nice not always having to hop in the car, fight with traffic lights and lightrail trains (the path between Renegade and most restaurants is crossed three times by tracks) anytime you need food.

I don't go out to eat that much anymore, having Sandwich Club to care for most of my and my compatriot's lunch needs. But on our off weeks, which seem to come more frequently since Kate left the group, I like being able to walk to a quick lunch. Especially now that the weather's getting nice. Even if it's not that good, which it's not. Nothing special, at least. But it's early in their history. Hopefully the menu and the food will improve with time.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Meal to Die For

Jason's entry only focused on one aspect of Victoria's Gastro Pub of Columbia, while I can't help but add how every bit of the meal last night was extraordinary. They really out do themselves there, every aspect of the meal was eloquently plated with mouth watering uniqueness. We met Jason's childhood friend Eric there, and let's just say the meal was on him and no expenses were spared. Everyone needs this kind of meal at least once a year. We had four appetizers and yes the duck fat fries covered in gravy and cheese were the best! The mussels and asparagus fries were up there too.

We each had our own beer sampler, they have hundreds of beers on tap so the sampler was the way to go. Each of us got a different sampler which consisted of five small glasses. I got "The Lighter Side" selection and they were all amazing. Now next time I go there I'll know which beers I love.

We then ordered three entries. We eat and drank slowly as we had great conversations, so the ability to keep eating rolled along smoothly, which is strange for me since I usually get full pretty quickly. I got the grilled lamb with cilantro yogurt cous cous and the boys each got the flat iron steak with sausage glaze served with asparagus and mashed potatoes. Their meal was outstanding and my lamb was not too shabby.

We even got desert, I guess when the food is this good you can't help be devourer it. We shared a praline chocolate layered cake and a fancy bread pudding. Both were very good. The whole meal really ranks up there with one of my top meals ever, I highly recommend Victoria's Gastro Pub.

http://www.victoriagastropub.com/

Duck Fat Fries


Today's positive is short and sweet. Fresh cut french fries, fried in duck fat, dipped in duck gravy, and covered with melted Gruyere cheese. Oh good god yes.

Drop what you're doing, even if it's surgery, firefighting or search and rescue, head to Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia and order yourself a plate. Everyone will understand.

They are the culmination of millions of years of evolution; the final, transcendent stage for both the duck and the potato. The fittest has survived, and it's covered in cheese.

Yes. They're that good.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Redheads Rule


I've always been a huge fan of red hair. I always wished that my hair was more red than just strawberry blond, hence why I've been dying it redder since college. Jason's sis has gorgeous red hair and her new little man, Jackson, is a promising red head as well. I love boys with red hair, people tend to make fun of redhead boys and I don't get that since I've always found them to be the cutest. I like to stick up for all the redheads, being a half breed myself. I definitely posses the fair-skinned trait that comes with the shade. I don't mind that either, we should steer clear of being in the sun for too long, and if we keep this good habit up, our skin will be smoother, healthier, and younger looking as we get older and all the tanners out there will wish they'd done the same. Yes, being from a beach town I've been made fun of a lot, such as "wow, you are so white I need to put my sunglasses on", and other remarks like that. I rather be white than try to tan and destroy my skin. I've always liked my fair completion, another reason I moved north and the rest of my tanning family remained in the south. This goes out to all the red hot redheads out there, I'm happy to be part of your team if you'll have this half-breed.

Stereograms

Sort of random, I know, but I'm running out of time this morning, and entry ideas aren't flowing.

I remember when you couldn't walk into a bookstore or poster shop without seeing stereogram images everywhere. Magic Eye images. Those pictures full of seemingly random noise that, when viewed properly resolve into 3D images. I loved those! The fad ended years ago, I guess, but stereograms are still around.

I remember the first time I managed to see the hidden image. I'd been working at it for at least 15 minutes, trying desperately to resolve the advice I was getting from people who could see the image into a practical approach to seeing it myself. Finally, like a revelation moment, the image appeared. I have no memory of what the image was, but it was pretty shocking when it finally resolved.

Here's my approach to finding the hidden images. Let your eyes go double vision while staring at the picture. It will go blurry and doubled. Let the two separate images you're seeing start to move independently. Let them stray further and further from each other. The trick is to lock them back together into a 3D image while keeping them off-kilter. (This seems simple in my head, but describing it is really difficult. ) Really what you have to do is go double vision and then wait. Eventually your eyes will notice the 3D pattern and naturally lock in on it. Here's a link to an image you can practice on. It's a 3D butterfly. Very easily resolvable. If you can't see it right away, keep trying. It's worth it.

http://www.easystereogrambuilder.com/Browser.aspx?currentimageid=1104

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Goodmorning Sunshine!



Getting up early to accomplish your daily goals is the way to go. Of course I haven't achieved this goal yet this week or even last week. Starting tomorrow I am getting up at 8am, no questions asked. Jason, can you make sure this starts happening. I know it's not in your nature to enforce the laws, but I need you to start by helping me with this one request. If I'd just get up at 8am I could do my blog, eat breakfast, and start working out- all before 9am. If I get warn out sometime in the middle of the day, I won't feel bad about taking a short nap since I've already been so productive. I must start being more motivated, especially since I'm trying to be a independent contractor. Getting into a work grove would be great. Make it happen, Kate!!

Paying It Forward


I had no idea when I started to write this how deep the subject went. The concept (and movie) happened to pop into my head first thing this morning as I woke up. "Pay It Forward" the movie came out in 2000. That I knew. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to any of you, if for no other reason than it encapsulates an excellent philosophy. Instead of paying a favor back to the person who did you the kindness, the movie provokes you to instead "pay it forward" to someone else, requesting that they do the same, ad infinitum. On just a tit for tat level, the benefit is obvious. Instead of one good deed returning another, that one deed creates an unending chain of good deeds. If our society accepted paying it forward as a general behavior, the results would be pretty mind-blowing.

I simplified the concept a bit. The movie's philosophy actually calls for a geometric favor growth instead of a linear progression. When paying one favor forward, you are called to perform three favors for others as payment, requesting the same from each payee. In a very short time one favor would become a massive explosion of help for others. One becomes three, becomes nine, becomes 27, 81, 243, 729, 2187, etc... In this paradigm one favor payed forward creates a web big enough to benefit everyone on the planet.

Now here's what I didn't know. The movie was based on a book of the same name by Catherine Ryan Hyde. She's since created a charitable foundation called The Pay It Forward Foundation, which endeavors to instill in school children the desire to create positive change in the world by creating their own ways of paying it forward.

And the concept of "paying it forward" isn't new to Ms. Hyde. Benjamin Franklin first espoused the philosophy in a letter to Benjamin Webb. He said:

I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you [...] meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro' many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.
Other writers since, from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Heinlein, to Spider Robinson have propagated the philosophy. It's in fact a widely respected philanthropic concept, referred to most commonly as "generalized reciprocity."

Of course for paying it forward to have it's greatest impact, for favor chains to propagate infinitely, the practice needs to enjoy universal acceptance. In the meantime, "paying it forward" still confers a far larger benefit to society than "paying it back." And as more and more people begin accepting and internalizing the philosophy, the more it becomes a part of societal practice. Starting small is the only way to grow. So here's my version of "pay it forward", designed to grow acceptance of the philosophy in an environment lacking universal knowledge of the practice.

Whenever a favor is conferred on you, pay that favor back to its original "deeder", and also pay it forward to one other person, requesting that they do the same. This way, if the original deeder isn't familiar with the philosophy, or isn't accepting of its tenets, they don't feel slighted. At the same time a favor chain is created, which propagates not only the original deed, but also the philosophy itself.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Women in Business

The whole idea of women in business organizations really appeals to me. I was talking to Jason's aunt Carolee yesterday and she mentioned a group of business women that meet once a month in her area. I would like to find the same deal in the Baltimore City area. The group gets together for a lunch and talks about their entrepreneur goals and exchange their wisdom with one another. Networking is key to any strong small business venture. Through these type of organizations you gain knowledge and contacts galore. It's an amazing resource. You all have a common goal of making a living as an independent contractor, so the exchanging information comes easy to them. I hope to join an organization like this once I get my website up and running and my new ad in place. I'm excited about pursuing my new goals.

Karaoke: Music from the Masses


How many pastimes can boast entertainment value without talent? Karaoke is unique, both as an activity and as a spectator event in that respect. You don't have to sing well to enjoy singing karaoke. You don't even have to speak the language (reading is required, however.) In fact, the worse you are, the more inebriated you are, or the more like a Japanese businessman you appear, the more entertaining you are for your audience. With karaoke, people want to see either great performances or colossal failures. Either extreme is equally entertaining for different reasons.

This is why bars are the perfect setting for karaoke. Alcohol provides the lubrication. It provides shy, talented singers with the courage to perform. It takes untalented hacks and turns them into sloppy messes of fun. It creates unique opportunities for artistic expression, and versions of songs never imagined or intended by the original artists. And it creates audiences receptive to nearly any level of performance.

I've always really like karaoke. For a while Kate and I were going with friends after work to a local bar for drinks and singing. Two of us entered a karaoke competition as a result. Unfortunately I had to drop out after missing two weeks because of a bad cold. One day I'd like to try it again. It's just fun. Whether you going for a serious or a goofy performance doesn't matter. You just have to get up and sing. And get most of the lyrics right.

Or not.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Free Food


Here's a shocker for anyone that knows me. I love free food. Picnics. Grocery store samples. Broken vending machines. Any sort of free food is fair game. It doesn't even have to taste good, as long as there's no attached cost. Flavor is more of a bonus than a requirement. As long as the comestible adds some sort of nutrition into my system and takes up room in my stomach, I'll take it.

I think part of the reason that flavor is unimportant is that free food always tastes better than its comparable "for fee" counterparts. Cost is a burden on flavor realization, apparently. Lift that restriction and a food's full flavor profile emerges.

Am I a bum? I don't think so. I'm perfectly willing to pay for my meals when necessary. And I generally do. But when food is shared with the group on a kitchen table at the office, or arrayed out at a picnic or barbecue, I'm reduced to jelly. Which I would eat if I were free.

Board Game Blast




I love playing board games, even more since Jason's entered my life. I've always loved the more party atmosphere games like Pictionary, Scattergories, Taboo, and my new fav Apples to Apples. I now also like the more thinking games with real strategy behind them, games like Tara and Carcassonne. Jason and I are now in the habit of buying a new strategy game every year we go to the Renaissance Fair at their game tent. It's fun cause you can try out all the games while there and the attendants will teach you the games. We've always hoped to find friends who also enjoy strategy games, so we can finally play with more than two players. Game night will happen or at least that's what we keep telling ourselves. I also love the games I grew up with, such as Clue and Life. Those were great and probably still are, that's the great thing about games- they stay fun throughout the ages.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Public Radio


I'm a huge fan of public radio.  I think it brings something really positive to a medium overrun by commercialism.  Most radio (music format, not talk) today is dominated by commerce.  If you aren't listening to commercials, you're listening to music chosen because of its commercial value.  It's radio for the masses.  For the lowest common denominator, trying to please as many people as possible.  In the process it gets stripped of any real character.  One rock station sounds identical to any other.  Commercial radio has become "Top 40 of your Chosen Genre."

Public radio is different.  These stations aren't beholden to advertisers or profits.  They answer directly to the people that fund them...the listeners.  The focus shifts completely away from converting airtime to dollars and creates a paradigm where airtime must convert to quality programming listeners want to hear.  Because if public radio stations don't create great content for their listeners, their funding dries up. 

This all allows radio to realize its potential.  On one channel you can get interview programs, talk format programs, comedy programs, in depth news coverage, and music that caters directly to the listeners, able to delve more deeply and more eclectically than a commercial station ever could.  My station of choice right now, WTMD, often plays deep cuts from albums far off the beaten path.  And new artists, people with loads of talent and no record contract or public awareness.  Many times I've heard artists played months before they attained commercial success.  I feel like WTMD gives me an inside track to up and coming music, before a commercial station would even be aware of them.

Okay, yes.  As a public radio listener I feel obligated, as I should, to help support the station.  I'm a member, as is Kate.  We've donated, over the years, different sums of money, depending on our means at the time.  It's a price I'm more than happy to pay for the value I get from the station.  I could listen to commercial radio for free.  And I do sometimes.  I'm not necessarily knocking commercial radio.  It's good for what it is.  But for real radio value, lasting value and content above and beyond the norm, public radio sits at a pinnacle.  

I could listen for free, sure.  But the system only works if the people who enjoy public radio support it.  If all of us decided to let someone else do it, public radio would disappear.  Radio for the public, beholden to the will of the public only flourishes with the support of the public.

Find a public radio station in your area and give them a listen.  If you've never tuned in, you'll be surprised what radio is capable of.

Up is 3D

I want to recommend Up in 3D. It was fantastic. It provided a great combination of suspense and humor. It was also a beautifully told story that gave a tremendous heart-felt lesson. The moral of the story was that life is about all the wonderful people that enter it, they are what teach about yourself and you should forever be grateful for all the friends and family you have in your life. It was so deep for an animation, it's up there with WALL-E. Seeing it in 3D is the way to go, it costs a little more in 3D, but it's worth it. 3D these days is so much more vibrant and in your face then back in the day. The technology is so much more advanced. I truly recommend Up, it is perfect for people of all ages. It does have some sad parts, so if your child is not ready for death I would wait a couple years.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Giving and Helping

This will have to be a short one, since my motivation this week to get actual work done has been scarce and I would really like to accomplish something today.

I really want to help people and give to people for a living. I don't want to continue working in an industry that creates commercials or documentaries that entertain, but don't really contribute to society. I know I once worked around movie stars and that was exciting, but I feel that chapter in my life is finished. I want to either pursue my photography career or go into the medical field. I'm really giving to people with my photography and it feels good. I'm capturing memories for these folks so they have their best moments with them forever. Give me luck as I pursue my next dream of giving and helping mankind.

My Grandfather


Certain people bear mentioning in this blog because of the huge contribution they've made to my life and the lives of many other people. My granddad easily sits with those at the top of the list. He's a giver. One of the most generous people I know. He's spent his life working hard for the sole benefit of other people. Many of you that read this know him (and are related to him) but here's a quick list of accomplishments for those that don't. I apologize if I get some of the minor details wrong. I've never had a strong memory for them.

Grandpa was in an orphanage in Long Island for a lot of his youth. At fourteen he ran away, eventually being unofficially adopted by the parents of a friend. He lived through the Great Depression, working on farms and other odd jobs as a young teenager to help the family. When World War II broke out Grandpa lied about his age (he was 16 or 17, I believe) and enlisted.

His tour was brutal. He fought, as I understand things, at the Battle of the Bulge. And he came through odds that were strongly stacked against him. I'm going to scramble the numbers and terms on this next statement probably, but it's worth mentioning anyway because it really shook me to the core. The numbers will be close enough for you to get the idea. He once told me that his Battalion (or Company) went in with 300 some men (around about there) and when it was over that number had been reduced to around 40. He told me about times when he and his group were attempting to advance the line. Between attempts he'd spend endless hours sitting in foxholes just deep enough to cover his head, in the rain, with German bullets literally wizzing past the top of his scalp. With no end in sight. Grandpa still gets choked up talking about the war. It's only in the last five or six years that he has been willing to talk about it at all. I just can't imagine how strong you had to be to endure that sort of torture and come back a sane man.

But he did. He and my grandma (who passed away a few years ago) raised three sons. My Dad was oldest of the three. Grandpa at one time worked three jobs to support the family, allowing my grandmother to stay home with the kids. As a matter of course Grandpa would get up early, early in the morning, head from job to job throughout the day, and not return home until very late at night, when he'd immediately retire for the night and do it again the next day.

Eventually he and my grandmother purchased a ServiceMaster carpet and furniture cleaning franchise, ServiceMaster of Suburbia. That soon became his sole occupation, with Grandma running the office. And here's the kicker. He worked that franchise will into his 80s, still doing the heavy labor. Maybe five years ago he finally sold the business, although he continued to help out cleaning where necessary. I used to joke with friends that my 80 year old grandfather could probably wrestle me to the ground. And he probably could.

All his life Grandpa's been an avid gardener. His front and back yards are botanical masterpieces, bearing the mark of decades of love and attention. Even now, nearing 90, Grandpa can be found outside most days tending and prodding, trimming and planting. He's intensely proud of his work, and loves to give tours of the yards to friends and family. And there's so much to see, they never get old. I think Kate and I have gotten three or four tours now, and there's always something new you didn't notice before.

He's also been a stained glass enthusiast for decades. He has a whole section of the basement devoted to it. Over the years he's created an innumerable number of lampshades, windows, garden stones, and other decorative items that can be found all over his house and the houses of most of the family. For a while I was going to his house once a week, and he was teaching me the art. It was fascinating. But more than stained glass, that time taught me about who my grandfather was.

He is an amazing man. As a kid I always thought of him as goofy grandpa. Always cracking silly jokes to make us laugh. As I got older I was surprised that the jokes didn't stop. It wasn't until I really started to spend time with Grandpa as an adult that I realized what a deep, wise soul resided behind the jokes. I suspect grandpa's exterior is something of a protective shell. He's had so much in his life that should have destroyed him, that didn't. But once you sit down and really talk to the man behind the eyes, and he peels that exterior away, you are treated to a passionate man whose experiences have shaped a caring, strong and fiercely committed individual.

I can only hope to be able to live a life as fully participating as he has. His kids and grandkids, and now great grandkids, have the perfect role model in my grandfather. His work ethic, love of family, and concern for humanity make him one of the most important people in my life. His generosity is unmatched, his sense of humor is...unique, and his heart is as big as they come. I love you Grandpa. You're the greatest guy I know...for a young man.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Film Critiques

I like reliable film critiques, websites or magazines that you can rely on to tell their straight-up opinion. Sure sometimes you don't necessarily agree with them, but they give good smart points to back up their opinion. I once wanted to write film reviews, how awesome would that career be?!! I could watch and then write about films for a living. I never had great confidence in my writing abilities to follow that dream. This blog gives me a chance to express my opinions about great films, to bad a great film hasn't come around in a bit, but when it does you'll be the first to find out about it. Currently my favorite website for film critiques is rottentomatoes.com. It tells you flat out the percentage the film gets out of 100%, then if you scroll down the page it gives you the opinions of all the critics who chimed in to come to the decision. It's been pretty right on so far. Sometimes I go there before I rent a movie or watch one On Demand. I always read a good review and bad review from the critics, so I hear both sides of the story. Another site I enjoy is aintitcoolnews.com, the only downside to this site is you need to wait to watch the movie before reading the reviews, since most of them contain spoilers. It's a good read, so give it a chance. I also enjoy reading film synopsis's and reviews in magazines, like Entertainment and Bust. Since I may not be pursuing this line of work anymore, these are the kind of of film related hobbies I will continue to love an d crave. These easily will fill that void for me for a while, this and actually watching the films and film trailers will help too.

The Reset Button: Ultimate Relief


You're hurtling down some unknown highway at night. The headlights of oncoming traffic, mottled and blurred by the ferocious rain, streak past you with a callous indifference to your situation. You're being chased by something unidentified. You haven't seen it's face, but you know it's there, racing along behind you, ready to strike at any lapse in your concentration. You try desperately to focus on the road, to keep control of the vehicle that seems to get faster and more unwieldy every moment. The car slides on the slick pavement. You're terrified, surrounded in front and behind by certain death. You make one last vain attempt to keep the car on the road, crossing into oncoming traffic, and then beyond, jettisoning through the guardrail and out into space. A horrible menacing space you'd hoped you'd never have to face. You brace yourself for impact with the ground rushing up below.

And then you wake up.

This sort of massive relief is something we've all experienced many times in our lives. The scene above is straight from a dream I had a few years ago. The experience was so intense it stuck with me all this time. I can still see the headlights and feel the fear as if I'd just had the dream last night. But then you awaken from whatever misery or terror you're experiencing and the horror is replaced with relief. A palpable sort of relief, both in its stark contrast to your previous emotional state, and its familiarity from previous dream experiences.

Of course the feeling itself is positive. It's wonderful when you discover that a particular hell is just an illusion and that your world isn't actually crumbling around you. When that fear gives way to relief, the planet shifts for you, and you feel like you've been given a second chance. It can be a very potent experience.

But there's another positive tangled into all this. Thankfully most of the the really awful things that happen to us have a reset button, because nearly all of life's terrors occur in dreams. At least in the developed nations of the world. Nations not consumed by war, disease or civil unrest. We should remember that some people's waking lives are the nightmare. But for most of us living in peaceful societies, our night terrors are the worst things that happen to us. I've never had the experience of wishing I could awaken, in vain, from a real-life situation because nothing unpleasant enough has ever happened to me. I'd be willing to bet a lot of people would say the same thing. That's something to be thankful for. That every really awful thing that's ever happened to you has come with a reset button.

I hope that situation continues, for me and everyone I love. It'd be nice if everyone on the planet could share that experience, too.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Comedy Central

Good quality TV stations are hard to come by. Corporate America or bad management usually comes around and messes with the good creative minds of the stations somehow or another, turning the stations into worthless crap. I hope my feelings about Comedy Central are correct, I feel that they are above the norm and the intelligent minds of the station have prevailed. Yesterday Jason and I had nothing to watch, so we proceeded to flip through stations landing on the always reliable Comedy Central. We ended up watching all the shows that came on CC for hours. Starting with the witty and satiric news shows, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report, then we watched three South Park episodes in a row, somehow they all ended up being episodes we had never seen. We laughed for hours and I learned some knowledge about what's been going on in the world. Other fav shows that air on this marvelous station are Reno 911, Futurama, new shows like Tosh.O and Important Things with Demetri Martin and reruns of shows like Strangers with Candy and Scrubs. They will all have you crying with laughter. They also air good comedy movies like Supertroopers and Ghostbusters. It a very reliable station, that continues to air quality TV. Give it a shot if you enjoy a good laugh.

Falling (And Staying) Asleep Easily


It's an extremely positive thing to be able to fall asleep when you want to, and stay soundly asleep all night. I could do neither last night, so this will be a short entry. It was strange, because I fell solidly asleep on the couch only minutes before I retired for the night. Yet once in bed, my mind wouldn't still itself. Nor would it refrain from waking me up throughout the night with useless nonsense thoughts. Thankfully this is the exception for me, not the rule. Not the part about having useless nonsense thoughts. I get those all the time, but generally during the day.

My Mom on the other hand hasn't slept soundly for years, apparently. She's always complained of never feeling rested after a nights sleep. Turns out she has sleep apnea. She just found out a week or two ago. She will likely start sleeping with a pump attached to her nose which pressurizes her throat and lungs, keeping the esophageal valve from closing and waking her up. She may finally get a good nights sleep for the first time in years.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hey Crock Pot, You're Awesome.

It's my turn for a crock pot entry. This morning I went to the grocery store to purchase the items I needed for my first pot roast. Got home, cut everything up, put all required ingredients into the pot, including I few of my own twists, and turned it on.

Since I've been out of work I've loved having the time to cook. This time I get to be a witness to this amazing crock pot devise. The smells haven't started yet, but soon they will fill the whole house. When Jason gets home, one of Kate's new creations will be ready for the tasting. It makes me only a little nervous when I muck around with recipes. I really haven't royally messed one up yet, so my confidence that it will turn out great is pretty high.

So little prep work is needed for most crock pot recipes, it is an amazing discovery. Thank you crock pot creator. You are the light of my day and hopefully of my evening as well. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Bureaucracy, Simplified


I love the fact that even local government is going "online". I recently paid my water bill online through a Baltimore City service, and it wasn't convoluted, overly complicated or half functional, It was easy and worked perfectly. How often do you find yourself uttering the words, "government", "easy" and "perfectly" all in a sentence that isn't, "It's so easy to get angry at a government that so perfectly screws things up."

I think it's time to alter our perception of local government. Kate's on unemployment currently, as many of you know. Baltimore (or Maryland, I'm not sure at what level of government she's operating) has made the process extremely easy. Kate filed online, submits her weekly "proof of job contact sheets" through the same site, and almost never needs to speak with anyone in person. Her payments, which normally get added to a government-supplied debit card, are now direct-deposit to her bank account, an option she signed up for online.

Where we live parking permits are required. It would be such a hassle if we were annually required to drive into the city, on a weekday, to renew our permits. No need. Baltimore City has another online service that lets you renew and pay for your permits, and then pick up the display stickers at local pick-up spots on specific days around the city. As long as you remember to take advantage of the service (which we didn't this year), you never have to set foot downtown.

Is government transforming itself? I've only supplied you with three examples of efficiency in cyber-space, and I'm sure if I tried I could come up with stories of government waste and bureaucracy. But it's heartening to see local government moving in the right direction, taking advantage of the tools at its disposal.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Spontaneity

I really believe life should include spontaneous moments. They keep your life adventurous and a little on the wild side. Most people's lives are pretty monotonous, this included my own until I became jobless, now everyday is different. You should take trips on the drop of a hat, experiment in the kitchen making a drink with off-the-wall ingredients, or start a craft project that no one ever thought of. These kind of moments are what keep us alive and happy. Yes, they can also be scary, but we can't let them stress us out. We should embrace these moments and live every bit to it's fullest. I was a bit crazy in my younger days and now that I'm happily settled I still crave a little adventure here and there. Peace out.

When You're Wrong About the Right Things

I'm wrong about things occasionally. Sometimes more than occasionally. I've had to eat my share of crow more times than I can count. So it's nice when I'm wrong about something, and the truth of things is a much better situation than what I guessed initially.

This entry is an update to my last post. Yesterday afternoon Kate and I ran into one of the guys from next door. He was concerned that the party had been too loud, and wanted to make sure we were okay with things. Apparently the roommates had knocked on our door before the party to give us a heads up, but we either weren't home or didn't hear the door. That was one of our gripes. We felt like, if you're going to throw a loud party, at least give your neighbors some warning. And it seems like they actually tried to.

Plus he confirmed our hope that this was just a housewarming party. A one-time blowout, not to be followed by more of the same on a constant basis. He seemed like a good kid who wanted to do the right thing. During the conversation, he returned the drill he'd borrowed, and let me know that while using it the roommates had stripped the bit, so they replaced it. Very cool.

Of course it remains to be seen whether Ming is a man of his word. But I'm pretty optimistic now, and very glad it appears I was wrong about them. If you have to be wrong, hopefully you can be wrong about the right things.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Having (and Being) Good Neighbors


It's a quid pro quo situation. Neighborly relations are developed over time by rational people interested in the welfare of others and community peace. You can't expect neighborly behavior from others if you aren't willing to be neighborly yourself. Not over the long term, at least. We had that type of relationship in spades with our neighbors back in Towson. We looked out for each other and tried, as best we could, to be considerate. Living in row homes, you need to be extra alert since you and your neighbors share walls.

There are a lot of rentals where we live now. In fact the two houses to our left and the one (at least) to our right are rentals, and the two left-hand properties tend to rent to college kids. Not good neighbors. Last night our directly adjacent, and newly moved-in neighbors threw a huge party with loud music, screaming, chanting, and probably fornicating with ancient evil entities from a reality parallel to, but not "of" our reality. Having just shed the previous tenants who were really big partiers, we were disappointed.

When this new batch of kids was moving in Kate had been neighborly to them, lending them hammers and screwdrivers and a drill. And with this party we were willing to give them slack. If it was just a house-warming party, not to be followed by others every other week, no sweat. We'll see. Once you don't have good neighbors, you really realize what a positive thing it is.

So try not to take good neighbors for granted, if you've got them. Be friendly and watch out for each other. An amiable, neighborly environment is more likely to keep the sorts of neighbors you want, so try and establish relationships with more distant neighbors you don't already know. For our part, we're going to start going to neighborhood association meetings. Try and get to know the good neighbors we have but haven't met yet. If we all work together we can hopefully "snuff up" the less "exemplary" members of our community. We like where we live...it just needs a few modifications.

Loving the Coffee

I know it's not the best thing for my tummy, but I really love the taste of coffee. I've started drinking it more often since I've been unemployed. The creamers they have these days make the coffee even tastier.

During the Summer months I make iced coffee. It really wakes me up in the morning. Being in the house most days it's sometimes hard to stay motivated, so the coffee gives me that extra burst of energy to get me working.

During my Senior year in high school I remember drinking coffee all the time. It was the perfect drink right before an exam. I was dating a guy that worked at Starbucks so that might have had a lot to do with it.

I also love coffee-favored ice cream and chocolate covered coffee beans. I am a fan of the taste and I can't help but indulge every once in a while.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Not Being Surrounded By Clutter


As an admitted pack rat and slob, this isn't a topic I'd normally be able to write on with any experience. My previous bachelor life was filled with rooms filled with stuff, mostly in no particular order. Kate has done a lot to push me in a positive direction, but with the new house constantly under construction, it was hard to put anything away and keep things orderly. That's a thing of the past. Now that the house is mostly finished, and all the boxes, tools, construction materials and junk are put away or sent to the landfill, I have to say that living without clutter is so nice!

The dining room can be dined in. The guest room can accommodate guests. The computer room is now just a computer room, and not also a closet. There's room to walk...plenty of room. Instead of paths we have spaces. We've traded junk for decor. It's really interesting, because I haven't really felt this way about a place I've lived since I moved out on my own fifteen years ago. Even my college dorms before that, especially my single rooms, we cramped and bloated with crap.

I finally feel like I'm living in a home comparable to the one I grew up in, where everything (for the most part) has a place, and nothing just sits out taking up space. It really lightens you up mentally when you don't feel mildly claustrophobic in your own house.

So I've made a commitment to myself to help keep this place neat. I'm not going to let it get out of control again. And I'm going to spill that sentiment over into my professional life. My edit suite at work is a shamble of tapes, scripts, notes and useless clutter. Starting next week I'm straightening it up and keeping it that way. No more excuses. No more BS rationalizations like, "I need to keep everything out in front of me or I'll forget it." I need to figure out a new way of keeping tabs on things that doesn't involve table-papering my desk.

No more clutter. No more scatterbrained, slipshod organization. A frenzied environment equals a frenzied life. I'm ready for order.

GrandBob and Grandma




During my families visit I got to witness my parents play the grandparent roles. They were so affectionate with the kids, it was the most precious thing to witness.

Blake is drawn to his GrandBob, that's my dad's new nickname, and it's so cute. Mom becomes a kid again and plays with them both for hours. I really feel having these new additions to their life has brought out the absolute best in them both.

They are in the process of looking for a new house near Kerri and the kids. I'm so jealous that they will soon be able to see them grow up day by day. But, I'm also very happy for them. Kerri's going to have babysitters right near by which is fantastic. Too bad Jason and I aren't the biggest fans of Florida. We'll visit of course, but living there is out of the question. GrandBob and Grandma you are the most loving grandparents, Kaiden and Blake couldn't have ask for better.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Digital World




Yesterday I started working on SuNn's photos. Remember she's the up and coming female rap artist I took various city pictures of for her album, portfolio, website, etc. I asked her and her manager to pick their favorite pics and I would take those and Photoshop them. I'm really enjoying the process. In other words I'm enhancing them with a computer program called Adobe Photoshop. It's so funny since I came from a mindset of keeping film and photos organic. I used to hate the idea of digital video when film made the moving images raw and grainy, giving it texture and life. I loved going through the dark room process, developing your photos with a sense of artistry and wonder. It was hard work and involved a lot of strange chemical smells. I now really appreciate the digital world. Where mistakes can happen, since you have a memory cards fitting over 500 pictures on each one. You can take as many pictures as you want. Knowing that at least one out of every 30 or so will be stellar. Then you go home and load them into a computer. Going through and picking your favorites to manipulate creating unique masterpieces. Same with digital video, all the same steps apply and you don't have to send the film out to be processed. Time is not a factor anymore. It's amazing and I'm really enjoying learning all digital photography has to offer.

Getting the Credit You Deserve


Sometimes nothing feels better than getting recognition for a job well done, especially when that credit comes from people who understand just what it took to realize your accomplishment. My Mom got to have that experience last night, and I got to witness it.

After teaching in the Montgomery County Public School system for 13 years, and after a an exemplary professional career that started back in 1969 (I'm pretty sure that's what she said) my Mom is retiring. Last night the school system honored all of its 2009 retirees with a ceremony and reception. Luminaries and high-ranking officials from inside the organization, including the school superintendent and the county executive, showed up to honor the "graduates." Like any good commencement each retiree walked the stage as their name and position was announced, shook hands with the notables, and received a nice leaded glass trophy inscribed with the year of their retirement. Mom was very much touched by the whole occasion.

She's had a stellar career, with nothing but high marks and piles of praise from her colleagues, principals, parents and students. Until the last two years or so, she'd never gotten any sort of negative feedback about her teaching skills. Then a new, young principal, wet behind the ears and seemingly vacant in-between, started at her school. Ageist and determined to cut budget he began persecuting the older, more expensive teachers, trying to force early retirement. I'm not exaggerating at all when I say that he made my Mom's work life hell, with constant badgering, negative reviews, and horribly unrealistic expectations and demands. It was a war, and it strongly took its toll on Mom, mentally and physically.

Many times she considered taking early retirement just to put an end to the torturous days and undue insults her principal inflicted on her. A lesser person would have folded, and some of her colleagues did, unfortunately. But Mom was determined to follow her plan and retire when she wanted to, not when some pip-squeek megalomaniac with a Napoleon complex wanted. And, more than anything else, she wanted to make sure that his persecutions didn't affect her students' education. So she stuck it out, and as of this coming Wednesday, she'll be a retired teacher able to stand tall knowing she did her best her entire career. She weathered her adversities, kept her integrity and honor intact, and turned out thousands of students better prepared than they may have been otherwise for having had my Mom as a teacher.

Congratulations, Mom. I'm proud of you.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Party On!




You know you're at a great party when good conversations, fun activities, booze, and tons of food continue to flow throughout the event. Don threw a party Saturday in Joe and Kaitlyn's honor. All the locals were asked to bring a dish or a pop up tent. The food was literally different every time you went for seconds, since more and more folks kept showing up with dishes. There were four beers on tap and mini bottles of champagne that I could not resist. After living here for the past 5 years I now know most of Don and Joe's friends, so the hugs didn't stop for me. Not to mention the fact that my whole family was there including all my local cousin's and old friends of the family. It was such a wonderful gathering. There were probably around 150 people in and out of there. The only down side was the pool was too cold to get in to, but in a couple weeks in should be perfect. Great party, Don!! Remember me when the next one comes up.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thumbs Up to Thumb Drives...har har


I love these things.  Nothing makes moving large amounts of data around easier.  To think that only fourteen years ago I was saving files to 3 1/4 inch floppy discs with the waistband busting girth of...wait for it...  1.4 MEGABYTES!  And now I've got a USB thumb drive the size of my middle finger that holds more than 11,000 times that amount.  Sixteen gigabytes of data residing in around 1.5 square inches of space.

Boggles the mind.  My mind at least.  It's equally mind-boggling that there are people walking the planet whose minds are thoroughly unboggled by all of this.  Unboggled enough to work out how to build the magical memory stick sitting in front of me.  Trul the technology is straddling Merlin territory.  Thumb drives are solid state.  No moving parts.  They require no power source, getting all they need from the computer they interface with.  And yet they hold a static charge strong enough and stable enough to safely store up to tens of thousands of bytes of data without a single error.

And their capacity continues to grow.  The first thumb drive I owned, which I purchased four or five years ago held 256 megabytes.  Sizable compared to floppies, sure, but minuscule compared to my sixteen gig powerhouse, which really isn't that impressive considering there are already 64 gig drives available.  Let's say it took five years for these drives to mushroom from 256 megs to sixteen gigs.  That's an increase factor of 84.

Since my history is slightly suspect let's assume a growth rate factor of 50.  With that, using the the mid-range 32 gig drives as a jumping off point, we'll be enjoying drive capacities over one terabyte in less than five years.  That's over 1,000 gigabytes of data, not just in the palm of your hand, but in the crook of the palm of your hand.  If you hung eight to ten of those off your key chain you could carry the entire printed collection of the library of congress in your backpack (along with your Dungeon Masters Guide and your empty address book.)

I love this stuff.

Young cousins



I love seeing cousins playing together for the first time. You hope that they will continue to be good friends for life. Of course they do live far away from each other, but the hope and the connection is strong.

On Kerri's last day we went over our cousin Amanda's house to catch up and for the kids to meet and play together. They started off on a good start, but our boys were hungry and tired which never ends well. They wanted to keep all the fun toys, so it was a struggle getting them out. They at least played nicely with their cousins for a bit. They were so cute all together. Here's are some pics of their playtime.

Single-Stream Recycling Programs


I'm someone who came to recycling late in the curve, put off by the amount of work that used to be involved, sorting plastics, metals and paper and then remembering the various collection days.  But now I'm completely committed thanks to Baltimore City's single-stream recycling program.  All recyclable materials are picked up at the same time from one bin, the hope being that more people will participate in a program with such a low barrier to entry.  If I'm any indication, it works.

I've read some of the downsides to single-stream recycling.  There are up-front capital costs to municipalities interested in converting to the single-stream system.  Also there is a much larger chance for cross-contamination of products, which makes sense.  This can cause paper to be consistently "down-cycled" into lower value uses.  It also increases the likelihood of recyclables winding up in landfills because of contamination and a lack of marketability.

I wonder which option brings in the largest amount of successfully recycled material.  Is it better to get high-quality, contamination-free recyclables from fewer people, or to collect from a far larger segment of the population but run the risk that some percentage of that collection may be rendered non-recyclable or be prevented from recycling to its highest potential?
I have no idea how to find that answer.  In the meantime though I'm happy that single-stream recycling exists.  Otherwise I wouldn't do it, and I really do want to participate.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Walker's Visit



These past few days spent with my sister's family have been great. They are such amazing company. You got my crazy sister, Kerri, always keeping things in order with every one's best interests in mind. She's a lot of fun, I love her dearly. Then you got Allen, the chilled out guy with a great sense of humor. He believes in the mellow ways of life, which I really appreciate. The addition of the two boys has added a great deal of amusement. They are both complete joys to be around. The quiet, Kaiden has a loving demeanor and has a a lot of wisdom before those beautiful blue eyes. He's currently obsessed with bugs and I gave him a bug catcher belt with a magnifier, that he loves. I got really lucky, I had no idea he was so into bugs. Then outgoing Blake will get you laughing for hours with his funny sayings and crazy antics. He is definitely Kerri's double. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next. I hope I get to be around for as many funny moments as I possibly can.

I love you all very much, you are always welcome in our home. Can't wait till next time.

Deadlines, The Ultimate Motivator


I work so much better when I'm under a deadline. My focus is keener, I'm faster and more efficient, and, in many cases, I think I'm more creative. I need the hard end a deadline provides to spur me into action. Take the two weeks leading up to Kate's family's arrival, for example. Kate and I got more done in that short period of time than we'd gotten done in the previous six months. Knowing that we had to be finished to a certain point by a certain date, we buckled down and made it happen, and in the process ended up feeling so much better about ourselves and our house.

At work I operate under deadlines all the time. Often I'm creating 30 second commercial spots from scratch in two to three days. The project I'm working on now, a half-hour, multi-chapter training package, has a long deadline of two and a half weeks from now. But given the size of the project, I know that the time will pass quickly, so I find myself highly focused, but relaxed, everyday. The work days evaporate when I'm under deadline, which is great. There's nothing I hate more than slow work weeks, when the days crawl past. Being under deadline makes my job more exciting, and makes the time fly by.

If only I could work out a way to be under deadline with everything I need to do in my life. I know I'd procrastinate far less and I'd be much more efficient. Maybe if I hired goons to threaten me with physical harm if I don't accomplish "A" by a certain time. Or set automated emails of embarrassing stories to be sent to friends and family if not deactivated by a certain point by a password I can only access by completing specific tasks. Even if any of that wasn't ridiculous, I'd procrastinate setting it up, so it wouldn't likely help me. I'll just have to be content with the deadlines I do have naturally, and work to be as efficient when I'm not under the gun.

Okay, I have to finish this. I have an 8:00 deadline looming...I need to get ready for work. See. Deadlines work.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Child's Mind



I am so fascinated by the minds of children. The way they continue to develop and grow everyday by what stimulates them is amazing. New words and worlds come alive all the time. We need to try to keep them around positive and beautiful things throughout their first years of life. The world just gets harder and harder the more you grow up. I am so blessed to have grownup in a stable environment. My nephews are also in a great stable atmosphere with a wonderfully loving mother and father. Blake is talking up a storm. He repeats all the words you give him the best of his ability. Kaiden is shy and is not picking up the language as fast as Blake, but I know he's smart as a whip and will soon be talking in full complete sentences before no time. I love them dearly and have loved this visit with them. All kids develop differently, and the process is so interesting. I can't wait to see what my nephews start doing next. I will miss them all terribly when they leave to go home tomorrow.

Houseguests

Kerri and Allen's visit has been really great. It's nice having other people around the house to spend time with. Last night, on a whim, Allen and I went out and got two dozen crabs from a place literally right around the corner from us (we can walk there, which is excellent for us and dangerous for our wallets.) Plus Kerri got a Mojito recipe from the waitress at Miss Shirley's when we'd been there the day before for brunch. She whipped up a batch, we set up a table in the backyard, sipped our beverages and had a feast while the kids ran around in the neighbor's scrubby yard looking for worms and bugs. The weather was perfect, the company was top choice...it was a great evening.

The value* of having a place of your own can be measured by how much you can share it with other people. I think that's what makes a house a home. Having company and houseguests adds a layer of warmth and memories to a house that wouldn't otherwise exist. Stated more esoterically, reality is based on each person's perception of it. The more your home exists in the minds and memories of other people the stronger a claim on existence your home has. It's stake in the realm of human experience gets larger each time it's shared with other people, and that, in a weird way, validates its existence.

That's probably all mumbo jumbo. But one thing's certain. We had a great time with Kate's whole family this weekend, and we hope to see Kate's parents, Kerri, Allen and the kids again sooner rather than later.


*Emotional value...it would be great if Kerri, Allen and Kate's parent's time here added to our resale value, but unless it's Brad and Angelina that visits you, or a magical leprachaun, I think that's unlikely.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

How I would like my world

I love when people open their eyes to the many possibilities in life, when they decide not to be trapped in a box, where all they know is what is directly around them. Why wouldn't someone want to experience all life has to offer them?! It's those people that step out of their familiar shells that invent, discover, create, and experiment with all that the world throws at them. Continuously traveling, studying, and experiencing, is what I live for. Knowledge is so sacred. I believe there are plenty of things not yet discovered, I want to be around to see what the future has to offer, and I want to grow and learn through all new discoveries. Open your mind, accept the differences in human kind, learn and grow from those differences. We cannot live in a one-dimensional existence forever. We're all meant to live our own path, we should be able to live that life in the happiest way we know how and try to fulfill as many dreams as you can, as ourselves.