Monday, August 31, 2009

Busy Bee

Busy, I believe this week and next are going to be just that. I'm not too thrilled about the pressure being busy comes with, but it's good to be back in action. I'm hoping that writing about being busy in a positive blog will give me the momentum I need to get through this. It's a great thing to be busy. Let's all say it together "It's great to be Busy!"

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Simple Pleasures, Part 2 (or maybe 3)

Sometimes there's nothing nicer than an animal sitting in your lap. As I write this, sitting cross-legged on the bed in front of our laptop, DB, our Siamese cat is doing just that, quite contentedly. He's not asking for attention. He's not being obtrusive, trying to nose his way between me and my work. He's just lying here, eyes shut, presumably sleeping. He might be purring, but I can't tell. He's a happy guy.

He's using me. I'm sure of that. He wants a nice warm spot to sleep in, and he wants to be close to his human companions. This spot he's chosen to perch in is entirely about his own comfort and happiness. And I can accept that because I'm using him, too. His presence is relaxing for me. And whether or not he's actually capable of unconditional love, I feel it from him. It might be in my mind, but it's real enough, and I'm using him for that feeling. And I think it's true that if two creatures are mutually using each other toward their own selfish gains, they aren't using each other anymore. They're a team. They're working together to assure each other's mutual happiness. That's what friendship is all about. People getting together to help each other do what makes them happy.

And right now my non-English speaking friend of the feline persuasion is doing just that. And likewise.

Zombies Make Anything Better

I don't know what it is about zombies, but they can turn anything into gold. Greatest music video of all time? Thriller...zombies. Most of the great horror movies?...involve zombies. Most enduring video game franchise ever, besides Mario Brothers? Resident Evil...all about zombies.

I assert that you can take anything, insert zombies, and make it better. Most of the classic novel forms can accept zombies. Zombies in space is sci-fi brilliance. Throw zombies into the old west and you've got the recipe for a mean western. Romance novels can be insipid. But throw in a few zombies and you've got a winner. In fact writer Seth Grahame-Smith just published Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a zombie filled send up of Jane Austen's classic novel.

Movie's like Shaun of the Dead and Fido (where zombies are equipped with special control collars and kept as pets) show the versatility of the zombie genre. Zombies just evoke a reaction in us that almost no other character type does. They're us. But not us. Any of us could become one of them. The enemy then is potentially everyone.

I'm working on the zombification of a classic family card game. Early play testing shows it's got legs. Rotten maggot-filled legs, hefting a decrepifying, brain-hungry monster, but legs.

Doors Swung Open

I'm finally starting to get paid for my hard work, or at least the pay is coming shortly in some cases. I did an awesome photo shoot today with my beautiful pregnant friend, Libby. I just got done reviewing them and I'm really proud about how a few of them came out. And she ended up paying a little over what I had asked for for the work. She is such a doll and I really wish Roger and her the best.

She also set me up with a company she works for part-time called Our365 which takes photos of newborn babies when they first arrive into this world. I went for the interview and the girl loved me immediately and said that if my background check came back clean then the job is mine, which it did, and it is. It felt so good to be appreciated for just being me. It's only every other weekend, but it's something that will get me experience and get me out of the house.

I also might start selling Arbonne cosmetics. Jasmine's mom works for them and is moving to Atlanta soon with her family and offered to give me her local clients. How amazing, how everything starts coming in all at once. I feel good about everything, a little nervous, but who wouldn't be when I'm going to be entering a few different work environments all at the same time. I used to thrive off getting a bunch of gigs at a time when I was working on films in NYC, so this is no different. It should start coming naturally to me. And yes Steph, I'm scared and excited all at once! Take that.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Double Feature Mania!

Okay I'll not explain completely how double feature day at the theater works completely since both of us are so low in funds, I'll just say that it's one of Jason and I's favorite ways to spend an afternoon. Today we saw (500) Days of Summer, with two of my favorite actors Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. They had amazing acting chemistry with both performing beautifully. I got to say that Joseph surpassed Zooey's performance by just a tad, he just has this ability to really take hold of his characters. Two of the other films he was brilliant in were Brick and Mysterious Skin. Zooey will always be a gem to me, she's broke my heart in so many films especially in All the Real Girls, which is my absolute love.


We then saw Quenton Tarantino's new flick Inglorious Bastards. It was brutally outrageous depiction of the last days of War World II, of course is was almost completely fictitious, except for a few names used. There were great performances by Brad Pitt and a few unknown German actors. I know a few Oscar nods will come out of this film. Jason and I both agreed at the end that it would have been better if they had shaved at least 30 minutes off the film. There were a few really long scenes that I know Tarantino just couldn't let go, probably for the sake of his long winded nature.

Both films were pure brilliance, I would give 500 Days an A- and Bastards a B+. I do love Double Feature Days!!

Double Feature: The Secret Revealed!

I will go so far as to reveal the dirty little details of our double feature today, although I think only the thickest among you are still in the dark. We snuck into the second film.

Yeah, yeah. I know it's akin to theft, but no one really gets hurt. And with ticket prices at $10 a head and soda at $5 for just a medium, who's really getting robbed? We're just taking it back for the people.

No. We don't make it a habit. This is probably the first time in the last two years that we've theater hopped. But sometimes...well, it's just fun! It gets your adrenaline pumping a little bit, lets you feel like you're breaking the law when you really aren't doing much of anything, and makes going to the movies even more exciting. Plus you get your movies at half price.

Would we have stayed for the second film if we'd had to pay for it? Nope. So no real loss in revenue for the theater. The theater was maybe a quarter full, so we weren't taking seats paying patrons might have occupied.

Ah screw it. I don't need to make excuses. We hopped theaters, lived on the edge (of a very small hill) and had fun. And that's that. Any of you that have theater hopped before know exactly what I'm talking about.

The illicit double feature...a great way to spend a Saturday.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Snackoholic

I love snacking, I know it's not good for me, but that doesn't stop me from loving it. I usually wait an hour or so after I eat dinner to start snacking. These days I try not to over do it, it's not good for my stomach or for my acid reflux to eat late night snacks.

Usually around 8pm I'll have some desert, these days we've been addicted to ice cream, so I'll have a few scoops. Then around 9pm I have a salty snack like popcorn, veggie chips, or nuts. It just makes my night complete. I usually end up over doing it a bit and regretting in the morning. I think if I had a little bit more self control it wouldn't be so bad for me. I'll start working on it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Our First Tomatoes

It's not a large accomplishment, I know, but it feels good to say that we've successfully harvested our first tomatoes. The plants we put in pots on our second floor roof just outside of our third floor window have been bearing fruit for weeks now, and finally some of them are ripening and turning red. We plucked the first four a few days ago and a fifth tonight. Delicious! They taste exactly like every tomato I've ever had and at the same time they're just a little bit better.*

I'm jazzed. Next summer I want to go for the full monty and build a big wooden planter box on legs, set it out in full sunlight on the roof, and fill that bad boy up with tomatoes, cukes, peppers, green beans and who knows what else.

I think I'm starting to understand why my grandfather's been so devoted to gardening his entire adult life.


* Not true. They taste just the same as every tomato I've ever had. The romantic in me would like them to somehow taste sweeter, what with the personal working of the soil and the sweating from the brow and all**, but they don't. They do taste good, though.

** They're in pots. There was very little "working of the soil" involved in the process, and the only reason I sweat is because our attic has no air-conditioning. The romantic in me*** likes to imagine that I toiled and labored extensively to raise up our bumper crop of five tomatoes, but I didn't.

*** I don't think I'm as much the romantic as the romantic in me imagines I am or you wouldn't be suffering through all of these disclaimers. Instead of calling myself out on my silly flights of fancy, I'd simply be flying them.

Our Sport

I know I've talked about our love for good reality TV before, but yesterday I came to the realization that reality TV is our replacement for sports. Like all those sport fans out there, Jason and I clap and yell as we root for our favorite contestant on our favorite reality shows. We are just like them, but instead of watching someone get a homer or a touchdown we prefer watching someone make the best lamb on Top Chef or witness someone sing extremely well on American Idol. The judges are always particular and really intense, keeping you on the edge of you seat as to what them final decision will be.

We couldn't fit sport's watching into our agenda even if we wanted to. We have enough on our plates watching Idol, SYTYCD, Top Chef, Survivor and Project Runway every year. Everyone has their preferences and our seems pretty cheesy to those who don't understand, but to us it's the best sports to watch on TV.

Self-Publishing

Web 2.0 has opened up a myriad of services to the common man that were unthinkable even ten years ago. One of those is the self-publishing of printed books. Services like Lulu.com and others bring limited run printing to the masses. Lulu in particular allows anyone to upload content, have it printed and bound and then sold in the Lulu marketplace. Even offline companies are now allowing much smaller runs of printed book material than ever before. For me though, the online realm is most exciting, as it doubles as a marketing and promotion tool.

A group of us are about to embark on a self-printing experiment. Each of the four group members will get 25 pages out of a 100 page book to use as they see fit. Fiction. Poetry. Biography. Anything goes. Each member will get to edit, comment on and rate all of the other members' work. In the end we'll self-publish the book by some mechanism or another and attempt to promote it.

It's exciting because before the self-publishing revolution what we're attempting to do was almost entirely outside the realm of possibility, without strong financial backing. Limited and one-off runs didn't happen, so a large upfront expenditure of capital was required. Now anyone can publish. That means a lot of garbage will wind up in the marketplace, I know. We might even be contributing to that...who knows. But some of this brave, new content will be very, very good, and will finally be able to get into the hands of readers.

It's funny to me that as people that herald this sort of thing are heralding the demise of the printed word, services like Lulu are popping up, allowing a more democratic, ubiquitous world of printed words.

Naysayers...you're wrong.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Creamy and Delicious


I'm not moving as fast as I need to be today, so I'm going to make this a short one. I really love creamy food, I made creamed spinach for dinner yesterday and it was so good. My creamy recipes all come from my mom. There's this chicken casserole I make of hers, which is out of this world good. I forgot that to make a good cream sauce you must have the burner on low the whole time, so yesterday I completely destroyed the first batch of cream sauce, curdling the milk. It was sick. But once I recalled the temperature mandate, I proceeded to make a better batch. It was really good in the end.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Afternoon Snooze (Not at Work) at Work


I don't get enough sleep. I've known this for years. Lately I've been getting up at 6:30 to either work out or write my daily entry, so I probably get five to six hours of sleep a night. For me that's enough to function fine, especially if I can make up for it on the weekends. But I always crash at some point in the afternoon, usually between 2:00 and 3:00. Given my normal-Joe work schedule, that crash always occurs at work.

It doesn't help that my edit suite is usually warmer than the rest of the office, or that my comfortable leather chair is set permanently to "recline", but neither of those are necessary conditions for my generally unavoidable daily desk pass-out. I'd probably still nod off for a few minutes in the afternoon if I was sitting on a bee's nest in the middle of a village of Arctic cannibals (to be fair though that might be because of the dart in my neck).

It just happens and I can't help it. It starts out with a general bleariness, a sort of haze that starts building up between my work and me. I find myself losing focus, unable to keep track of what I'm doing. Sometimes I'm not aware that it's happening. I just start fading in and out, redoing the same edit or re-watching the same footage over and over again. Eventually I realize that I'm fighting sleep, and that's when the fun begins. I love the changes in consciousness you go through will fighting sleep. The narrowing of your visual field. The phasing of awareness. The seeming leaps forward in time as awareness is briefly restored. The accompanying random thoughts, and the occasional mild auditory or visual hallucinations. The utter lack of control you have over your own faculties. It's all really fascinating stuff. And it culminates usually with a very brief, five minute snooze that resets my engine and reinvigorates me.

I'm usually good for the rest of the day afterwards. And I work enough overtime that I don't think anyone would begrudge me my ten minute psychedelic siesta. I don't always like being sleep-deprived, but I like what it does for my afternoons.

Teaching --Here I come!

I have recently pushed through the barrier that's been keeping me from pursuing the teaching profession. I don't know if it's my dream to be a teacher and I won't know until I give it a try. Until I'm in a physical classroom with a bunch of 7 year olds, I will have no idea if it's a good fit for me. I've had the benefits and disadvantages going through my head for weeks, none can even be confirmed until I get started and know the reality of the job. I need to stay focused, I've signed up to substitute teach in both the county and the city. I've decided to apply for the Baltimore City Residency Program, which is honestly the only way for me to afford schooling in becoming an Elementary Teacher. It will be a challenge I know this and I feel I am up for it, now all I have to do is convince the program folks that I am the gal they need. I've signed up to take the Praxis I the third week in September, giving me plenty of time to study. I've signed up to take a CPR class for young kids, which will benefit when I apply for Daycare and after school tutoring jobs in the fall, as I wait for my application to be processed. I can do this and feel confident as I pursue this new path.

This Blog Should Be Counted

I think it's safe at this point to make a comment about the progress off this small experiment, as we're nearly eight months in. And I definitely think it's fair to place this blog into itself as a uniquely positive experience.

Is it positive in the way we expected? I won't speak for Kate. For me, the jury's still out. I don't know that I'm generally more optimistic than I was before we began. I always imagined, when we started this, that we'd be searching for our topics each day, throughout the day, thereby creating a habit that would continue on after the year was complete. That doesn't happen. Generally Kate and I come up with our topics sitting in front of the computer. Not always, but most of the the time. And that is a practice that will end when the year is finished. So I'm not sure that the sort of lasting benefit we imagined at the start of this blog will be realized. At least not in the totality we were hoping for.

However, there are several other benefits that we didn't expect that we've reaped in spades. For me, the opportunity to write everyday has been enormously beneficial. I feel like I've grown a good deal (I hope) in my writing abilities, in my understanding of the process, and in my ability to share my thoughts. Never in my life have I had the opportunity to do so much writing on so many topics. Nor have I ever had the proper motivation to do that sort of work. Writing, in the past, say in school or at work, has often felt like a chore. And while I've always been good at business writing, I've only recently had the chance to develop a more conversational style. I'm really liking it, and I'd like to continue blogging in some form after this year is over.

Another benefit has been in our relationships with friends and family. I feel like we've gotten closer to a lot of people through this process, as we share pieces of ourselves. I can't tell you how often one of us has started a story with someone we know, only to realize that our friend's already heard about it because of the blog. It's really nice to know that people are reading it and that people are enjoying it. It would be much harder to do this everyday if we thought we were writing to a brick wall.

But probably more than all of these, writing the blog has helped clarify things in our own minds. It's been a good tool to shed light on ourselves for ourselves. I always laugh at the concept of "getting to know yourself". If there's anyone you should know everything about, it's you. But it's just not the case. Your brain has a way of obfuscating and muddling your own thoughts in such a way that sometimes you can't really be sure how you feel about things. But the truth is that you do know. You simply, for one reason or another choose to fool yourself. But getting things out on paper helps peel away the layers and get at the heart of things. Writing can be a great tool for self-discovery or, more precisely, calling yourself on your own shit. By writing daily on positive things, it's forced me to look at what I really love about life and what doesn't matter. That's probably the biggest benefit of all.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Shooting with Assistance



Yesterday I had a photo shoot with Jasmine, a young girl about 5 years old. Her parents want to get her into modeling and TV appearances. It was my first shoot with such a young person. Our first location did not work out. We pretty much got kicked off the Johns Hopkins Campus. Lovely experience. So we than drove over to Wyman Park, which turned out to be a great location, so I was relieved. Jasmine was hard to work with, just because she's so young and refused to smile most of the time. I still feel I pulled off some great shots though. Since I was a tad nervous, Jason agreed to come along for support and assistance. I have to say it was nice to have an assistant, since I was the one usually holding all the gear during my production assistant days. Keeping tabs on all your belongings can be difficult when your trying to catch all the perfect picture moments, especially when children are so unpredictable. It was a great learning experience and it was great having Jason there, Thanks again sweetie!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

It's Not Really a Pie


I suppose it's a pie because it's round, has "fillings" and a crust, but I don't really think of a pizza as a pie. The earth is round, has a crust, and is covered in toppings, but it's not a pizza.

But pizza is a wonderful thing regardless of its pie status. It's one of those foods which, as a basic template, is simple in execution but allows for a myriad of design changes. There's a huge range of crust flavors and textures, sauces of differing complexity levels, and many different cheese options, not to mention a world of possible toppings. That's why no one pizza made by a particular chain or restaurant or person ever tastes quite the same as any other pizza recipe.

The angel is in the details, I guess. And I love almost every riff on the concept. Oddly enough, the best pizza I ever ate I found in a small cafe in France. I think it may have been recommended to me by someone I met in my hotel outside of Paris, but I can't quite remember. I may also have stumbled on it by accident. In either case, the pizza was impeccable. Perfect sauce, perfect crust, fresh toppings, including red onion and artichoke, and the coup de grâc; an egg broken onto the pizza as it came out of the oven. Sounds strange, I know. But it was so good. The white of the egg cooked from the heat of the pizza. The yolk cooked some, but stayed mostly liquid, like a good sunny side up egg should. It was an unexpected addition that really elevated the pizza beyond anything I'd ever had.

And it's funny. I've considered breaking an egg over a pizza since then, and I can't seem to bring myself to do it. I feel like that was a once in a lifetime experience. One that could only work in that cafe in France at that point in my life. Any attempt to recreate that moment would feel, at best a pretender to the throne, and at worst a very bad pizza. I mean, imagine breaking an egg over a pizza from Papa Johns. Yeech! Doesn't sound appealing in the least bit.

And it would ruin my memory of that perfect pizza. I'd rather have the memory.

Conquering my Fear

I've always been afraid to dive head first into a body of water. It has just always scared me. Well when we were at my Uncle Don's last pool party I decided it was time. I'd had a couple of beers so I was feeling pretty good. I got to the edge of the deep end and without thinking too hard about it, dove right in. Jason was so proud and shocked that I had finally done it. It was easy and not crazy scary. The idea of breaking my neck was always a fear I guess, for this reason a diving board might still be out of the question. To prove that I could finally do it off the side of the pool and went up and did it a second time. It was such a great feeling of relief that I'd finally conquered my fear. It was also so funny that I dove for the first time at the pool I learned to swim in as a child. Crazy how life brings you back to those familiar locations. Everything has come full circle.

Finally I have achieved diving, now onto jumping out of a plane. Go me!

Mille Bornes


Mille Bornes, the French auto race card game, created in 1954 is a classic, originally sold by Parker Brothers, now under license from Hasbro. The rules are very simple. Your goal is to be the first player to finish a 1,000 mile auto race. All the while other players are attempting to stop you with hazards like accidents, flat tires, speed limits, and more. There's very little strategy involved, which makes it a perfect game to play while watching TV, drinking, or just chatting with friends. The game takes very little concentration and is a lot of fun!

It's been a favorite of mine for years, though I hadn't played it in quite a while, until two night ago when I taught Kate. She took an instant shine to it, and now we've played at least one round every night since. It's the kind of game that works just as well for two people as it does for a group of people. The dynamic is different, but fun in both cases.

If you've never played, pick up a copy. It's inexpensive, easy to learn and a good way to keep yourself occupied. It's great for kids, too. It would make an excellent family game.

I'm a big fan of strategy games, but sometimes simpler is better. An easy game with simple rules involving a lot of luck and very little thought is sometimes just what you need to unwind. That and a Southside, or an Old Fashioned. Perfection.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My Midnight


Missy, Blackness, Lady of the Night, Queenie, Ladycakes,- these are only a few of the names we call my dear cat, Midnight. She is a doll these days. She can always get a little moody if you pet her the wrong way, but really she's just playing. She's started following me around the house during the day, sometimes because she's out of food, but most of the time she just wants to be near her mommy. When I work out downstairs, she sits on the couch or ground 3 ft away and just watches me. She is just the sweetest doll-baby or should I call her doll-lady, since she's almost 16 years old. I wish she could live forever, but I know she's on to her final lives. I love you sweet black lady of the night, My Midnight.

Gravity's Got it Wrong


This is a flight of fancy, but one that involves a real shift in consciousness. I used to do this more often, but, until this morning I can't remember the last time I entertained myself with it.

What is it, Jason? The anticipation is killing me!

Although I go to sleep on my stomach I almost always wake up on my back. And occasionally, as I lie there staring up at the ceiling I find myself imagining that gravity has gotten things wrong, and that the ceiling is actually the floor, and I and all of my belongings are stuck dangling precariously above it. I imagine that all it would take is a subtle shift in thinking and I could jump from my bed on to the "floor", and that somehow everything would be set right again. And it's interesting because, for short bursts, the illusion completes itself and for just a quick moment I feel like I really could hop down onto the ceiling.

And for that moment the whole world flips on its head and everything feels different. It almost feels like a temporary reprieve from reality. As if, by throwing off the shackles of normal gravitation, I would leave the real world behind completely. Like the rest of the world would stop, frozen in time, hanging above my head, and any explorations I made hopping and crawling around the ceiling would go unnoticed by the slumbering planet.

It's good fun. Try it sometime. You might surprise yourself.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Kix and Blueberries



My new favorite breakfast cereal is Kix with fresh blueberries. It finally has gotten me out of eating sugary cereals. They are simply delicious together. It makes me feel energized and satisfied. I got the idea when one of my friends on Facebook posted a status that just said "Kix and blueberries". I thought wow that sounds awesome and I've been eating it ever since. Blueberries are so good for you. I had to share one of my new joys in life. That's all folks!

Thursday Night Dinners at Don's

Most every Thursday night, at least during the summer, Kate's uncle Don hosts a big group dinner over at his house. The rules change from week to week. Sometimes everyone brings a dish. Sometimes Don just gets hot dogs and hamburgers. It's loose, which is great. We've attended three dinners this summer I think, and it's a tradition we're getting attached to.

It's just a good group of people. An amalgam of many different social circles, brought together with Don as the glue. Kate, and now I, have known some of the people for years, just from random gatherings at Don's. But some are new, and there's probably at least one new person each week. Thursday Night Dinners are a great opportunity to get out of the house, socialize, and take a well-deserved dip in the pool.

Thanks for having us, Don.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Great Outdoors with the Ladies




I went camping with Lauren for her birthday with a bunch of ladies, most I already knew. It was a great time, I really love camping, hiking, and now tubing. It was so peaceful and relaxing. I really felt one with nature and now I really want to be near nature a lot more often. All the ladies invited along were fun and enjoyable to be around.

I got to have more girl-therapy, which is always needed. I met Emily, Lauren's friend from NY, and she was very nice and just a great person to be around. It was wonderful hanging out with Lauren, today is her official Birthday. Happy Birthday Lolly!


I can't wait till I get to hang out with her again. We stayed in what the camp called tree houses which were just small cabins on stilts. I just loved every moment of it. We went tubing, which is just floating down a big river on a tube (we brought coolers of beer and you float them along with you). It was beautiful and very relaxing and fun. I really recommend doing it. We did the hour and a half float up the river twice. A wonderfully fulfilled experience. I love those ladies, we're thinking of getting together like this every year. I really hope we do.



Thanks again Lolly for planning this little adventure!

What a Beautifully Complex World We Live in


It never ceases to amaze me just how complex our physical world is. As I learn about the chemistry of soap making, I'm reminded of that again. The basic elements of the physical universe are simple. Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen, etc. Basic atomic building blocks that make up everything we can see (and everything we can't.) Combine them in different ways, in differing amounts and you get vastly different chemicals with a nearly infinite range of properties. Two chemicals with nearly identical molecular makeups, with just one subtle shift, can behave vastly differently.

And what I find more beautiful and encouraging than the processes themselves is the fact that we humans, puny little denizens of a forgotten rock, orbiting one sun out a billion billion suns, understands them. We've managed, really only in the last 250 years or so, to work out the most hidden of physical processes. At least on a macro-level, our understanding of how the universe works is fairly complete. It's tested, verifiable and re-creatable. It's an amazing accomplishment, and its effects on modern life are readily apparent.

Take soap making for example. Soap was likely happened upon by accident thousands of years ago during temple sacrifices to one god or another. As rain washed the fats and ashes from the burnt offerings into rivers, the water, fats and alkaline from the ash (the constituent elements of soap making) reacted to create a soap film on the river which then washed down to where people were cleaning clothes. People noticed that when they cleaned clothes using water tainted with this film, clothes cleaned up better. Eventually they put two and two together and began making soap intentionally.

But it was hit or miss, and batches of soap could fail for a number of reasons. There was no way to know how strong the alkaline (lye) solution was for each batch. Nor could anyone tell reliably if there was any other chemicals entering the reaction that shouldn't be there. Thermometers for monitoring temperature are a modern invention. So most of the factors that dictate the quality of soap were totally unmeasurable. Soap, as a result, was often harsh and irritating, and sometimes dangerous.

Today we have such a deep understanding of the process that not a single chemical property goes unnoticed. We know the saturation levels of different fats. Their molecular weights, and how that affects the alkaline reaction. We can precisely measure the amount of the alkaline sodium hydroxide that goes into our lye solution. We know exactly, on a molecular level how much alkaline is necessary to fully saponify (convert fats to soap) a certain weight and density of fats and oils. There so much more I won't go into. It's exciting stuff, though, trust me.

How I didn't end up a chemistry major is beyond me. I think I just realized how important and interesting it is too late in life.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blossoming Photographer

As you already know my photography website has been launched and I'm getting great feedback from my friends and family. Jason did a wonderful job and I thank him for all his hard work.

We also worked together last night to get a new Ad posted on craigslist. It will hopefully get people checking out my website and new paid gigs will start flowing in. I'm excited to finally start getting paid for my craft, not to say that the unpaid gigs were not great learning experiences. I've gotten website comments like "looks very professional" and "your photos are amazing and different," which make me feel really good. Maybe I can do this, maybe I can be a professional photographer.

I would still like to enhance my skills in the childcare world, start getting my 90 hrs towards a certification.

I can only hope that my confidence continues to blossom and that people continue to dig my work.

Check me out at: luminuouseyephoto.com and my ad at http://baltimore.craigslist.org/evs/1330425475.html

"A Ha!" Moments


I love it when you suddenly gain clarity around something you've puzzled over for some time. "A Ha!" moments, when all the requisite bits of knowledge come together in a quick burst of insight, clearing the haze of uncertainty. They don't have to solve difficult problems. Or even important ones. Whether the questions are mundane and trivial or large and looming doesn't matter. They're a thorn in your brain. And they stick there for good, occasionally irritating you, calling attention to themselves. You might ponder them briefly. You might think a little deeper. But eventually you let them go again until they rise up to bother another time. The wonder returns. And then, often when you least expect it, a solution arrives. And man does it feel good. Even if the answer isn't all that enlightening, it just feels nice to scratch one problem out of the "unsolved" category.

Here's the question, and it's newly discovered answer that prompted this entry.

The Thorn: In color theory you additive colors and subtractive colors. The additive color model involves light emitted from a direct source. In this model, adding all colors together in equal portions creates white. White light. The subtractive model, the one that seems more intuitive to most of us, behaves in exactly the opposite way. This system involves pigments. In this case, adding all colors together in equal parts produces black. I've always assumed, even though the two systems behave in opposition to each other, they must be related. After all, they both involve light, just differently emitted. Additive light is direct, whereas subtractive light is reflected (off of the pigments).

The Tweezers: It finally dawned on me that absorption is the key. Shine a flashlight, a source of white light, containing all colors at your eye directly and you see white. Shine it at a piece of white paper, which has no pigments added, and you still see white. That's because the paper reflects all light frequencies equally. All the light leaving the flashlight, all the separate color frequencies, bounce of the paper and reach your eye together.

Now add a mark of one of the subtractive primary colors to that white paper; say blue. That mark only reflects the blue frequency, absorbing all others. So we still see white all around the mark, and blue in the center. That mark is preventing all the light frequencies that aren't blue from reaching our eyes. So you can see now that if you then add, in equal portions all other colors into the mark, the mark will then absorb all frequencies of light and reflect none, and you'll see black.

It all makes much more sense now. Shine a blue light directly at your eyes and you're only seeing that frequency. Now shine all colors at your eyes simultaneously. You're now seeing all color frequencies at once. Your eye no longer distinguishes any one color any more prominently than another, and you see white. No color.

Like I said. The insight doesn't have to be a major revelation. I'm sure what I just detailed is old hat to many people. But for me a small thorn in my mind was just removed, and it feels good.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Comedy and Friends in NYC Part 2



The next morning Brooke was very hung over so Al, Burn, and I decided to hang out together and go to the Guggenheim Museum. Ironically a movie or TV show was being shot around the corner from Lara's Apt. I told the ladies that I would like to walk by it just to see if I know any of the crew. I got some pictures of Burn and Al with the trucks and set, but I did not see anyone I knew. It's been 5 years since I was there working so plenty of new faces were involved now. Comes to find out they were shooting the TV show, Gossip Girl.
The Gug was just 10 blocks away so it was a perfect time to walk through the city. We stopped and ate lunch outside somewhere along the way. We all ordered the same salad- it was easy, cheap, and delicious. The Gug had a Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit that day and it was pretty cool to see all the existing blueprints of his creations. We also got to see some great Jackson Pollack's and Kandinsky's.

The best part about the Gug was the actual building's interior and exterior design. I got some amazing shots. We then decided it was time to get back to the Apt to see how Brooke was doing. It was already about 5pm.


When we got there Brooke was still resting. We got her butt up and decided to chill a little as we decided what we would do that evening. Brooke invited one of her comedy NY friends out with us. Her name was Alana and she was a wonderful down-to-earth lady with a fantastic energy about her. She fit right into our group and was a great addition. Brooke decided we should go to the Restaurant/Bar she used to work at, so we could see all her old co-workers. The place had a wonderful decor with great moody lighting. We sat at the bar and ordered a bunch of five dollar tapas and margaritas all around. It was Mexican cuisine. We chilled there for hours, it was great company, food, and drinks.

We left and went to the next chilled bar. It was gorgeous. Had a great outdoor ambiance, white wood benches and the lighting and energy was great. We all had champagne and listened to the crazy 90s jams coming from the bar. It was a very posh place with 90s music playing, very funny. I think I heard Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. We had some great laughs, it was wonderful not to have any worries and to just live. We traveled to a beautiful wine bar after that. We sat at the gorgeous outback deck. The owner yelled at me for taking photos of his establishment without permission. It was ridiculous. Burn and I decided to pretend we worked for Food and Wine Mag, her the journalist and me the photographer. He came over to apologize and we told him our story and he was our best friend after that and I took all the photos I wanted. We headed home after that. It was a perfect NY night.

That night and morning were not very pleasant for me. I won't go into detail, I'll just say I got very, very sick. Burn and Al left around noon to head back to Jersey to visit with family. It was so great hanging out with them, I really feel a strong connection to that whole group. I hope I get to hang with them all again soon. Thanks for all the great talks ladies! Brooke stayed with me, we got to have some one on one time. She like us all is having big life decisions to make. We got to chat about our lives. I really love her and hope the best for her. I would love for her to make it as a comic, but first and foremost I want her to be happy. I caught my bus to Baltimore at 2:15 and said my goodbyes to Brooke, who was also heading back to Jersey.

Thanks Lara for letting us all crash at your pad, you are amazing and hope we all get to do it again soon.

All Things Must Pass

"What am I writing about today?" It's a question I've been asking myself everyday this year since January 1. Sometimes the answer comes easily and other times it's a struggle. But one way or another the answer does come and that day's entry gets completed. And then the next day's entry, and then the next, etc. Eventually the entire years worth of entries will be written and this blog experiment will be finished. Kate and I will move on to the next thing, whatever that is, and that will last as long as it does until it's finished.

We'll move from thing to thing, day to day, moment to moment, each element ending as surely as it began. Because that's the one constant in the universe. All things must pass. As undeniably as all things have a beginning, they will all one day have an end. Our days, our weeks, our years, our lives; all of them eventually tying up as neatly as they started.

Where are the Mayans today? How about the great Roman Republic, a civilization that dominated most of Europe for hundreds of years? Or the Greeks of antiquity? All have been wiped from the earth, except for their legacy and ruins. We're not any different. We like to think we are, of course, but it's quite clear from history and the nature of the universe that the current state of our planet is transient. One day the United States and all the other major powers will cease to exist, replaced by some other dominant power. Which itself will one day be replaced, until eventually humanity itself has run its course and comes to an end.

In millions of years our sun will supernova, and it, and the inner planets, including earth will be removed from the galaxy, to be recycled into some other system somewhere else.

Because all things must pass. Rather, all things will pass. There's not an overarching necessity. It's simply a fundamental feature of the structure of reality. Just as all things began simply because they did, all things will end because they will. Infinity is just a numerical construct. It doesn't exist in nature.

I'm sure I've riffed on this theme before. This is all a positive thing because nothing, including your problems and your issues are permanent. Everything is in flux at all times, and all of your issues will have resolution one day. They may be replaced with other problems, but rest assured that those will be resolved one day, too. Sadness is temporary. As is happiness. Suffering, like every other thing in the universe, is a transitory experience. So why focus on it? Let it go early, knowing that it will eventually go on its own. Don't latch on to your suffering and hold it like a security blanket. It doesn't serve you, and, just like any security blanket, it will eventually degrade, rot and fall away.

Your life is transitory. Enjoy it while you can, because eventually you will pass. Is there anything beyond that? You all know my position on that, but I can't possibly know for sure, as can anyone else. Don't stake your happiness in a life none of us can know for sure is there. Live in the now. Experience life while you're alive and let the afterlife take care of itself. If there is something after, than you've lost nothing. But if there isn't, and you spent your meager few decades of life pinning for death...well you won't be here to feel silly, but you probably would if you were.

And the concept of "silly" will eventually pass.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ramble on a Life Worth Living

It's hard getting back into the groove of things after a week of pure adventure with my lady friends. It was one hell of a week, a week I will never forget. Back to blog entries, making dinner, tending the garden, cleaning the house, and biggest of all figuring out what I'm going to do with the rest of my life, or least the next few years of my life. I'm not set on any of my plans yet, and I really need to do some more soul searching this week. I want to be happy, we all do, I want to wake up and be happy to get to work. I know I'm asking for a lot, but truly I want my work to make a difference, to want to work with people, make some money, and do all this in a environmentally friendly environment. I want my work to have substance, a worthwhile purpose. But I don't want it to be extremely stressful and give me an ulcer, which I've been close to getting with production work.

A lot to ask for I know! Why must most of us work in unhappy environments just to come home miserable and then proceed to crash on the couch with no energy to live outside of your day job?! I will never be satisfied with that sort of life style. I need time to figure myself out, I know I've already had five months, but all the alleys I've been down have not truly been satisfying. Give me a little more time to rationalize my thoughts and take in and research all the possible employment opportunities in the world.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Friends: A Garden Analogy

I'm sure I'm not the only person to have ever come up with this analogy, but I've been pondering an entry for tonight, and this is what came to me. I apologize for the repetition if someone else has already written something similar. If it's completely original, excellent. Please enjoy, and remember that it's copyright © 2009 Jason Bloom, all rights reserved.

And it's going to sound like a motivational poster, or one of those heart-warming chain emails. It can't be helped.

I was thinking that friendship is like a garden, and most of the friends you'll make in life are like the plants. There are the weeds, of course. Friends that you can't seem to get rid of. Friends that you know aren't good for you, but you can't leave behind. They may have even been wanted plants at one point, plants that have now grown out of control, to the detriment of the rest of your garden. Those "friends" need to be plucked out by the root and thrown away for good. But a well-tended garden should be mostly free of them.

Most of the plants in a well-kept garden are meant to be there. Some are the annuals, lasting for a short time and then going back out of your life. We all have had friends like that. Beautiful while they last, but destined to be temporary.

Others are like perennials, returning year after year, getting stronger and fuller with age. These are the friends you develop lasting relationships with. Friendships that change over time, gaining and losing prominence in your overall garden, but always returning. These friends stay with you through drought and flood, feast and famine. However...

Both the annuals and perennials require care. The plants require watering, feeding and tending to remain healthy. Same with the friendships. Ignore them, stop tending to them, or take them for granted, and they can die. They won't necessarily, of course, but you very much increase the risk.

But every garden contains some rocks, and these are your true friends. Friends that will be there no matter what. Allow every plant in your garden to whither and die, and the rocks will still be there. In fact the soil in your garden is just finely ground rock. So the rocks in your garden allow every other friendship to grow. They provide the foundation. A garden without rocks is a barren garden indeed.

Thankfully almost no one has a "rockless" garden.

Feel free to imagine whatever inspirational imagery you'd like to accompany the above analogy.

Sometimes Routine is Nice

When your day is wide open, and anything is possible, that's when sometimes you're the least productive. That's how it is for me, at least. With a week of vacation I've done nothing but enjoy myself. Which is great, don't get me wrong. I've had a nice break from the grind. But all my grand plans of getting the last bits of work done around the house...not realized. I did get the AC unit in, as you read yesterday. But that's it.

Which is why I say that sometimes the routine of "the grind" is a good thing. It gives your week a structure. A schedule you can operate inside of. It demarcates your productive times from your non-productive times, and offers relaxation time as a reward from your labors as opposed to a freely available, easily exploitable constant. It's sort of like putting a toddler in a play pen. The fenced in area defines his/her world for a time. It gives borders and limits choices. It lets them feel safe and encourages play.

It's something like that...loosely.

I'm not necessarily looking forward to going back to work, although I like my work, so it doesn't bother me. I'm looking forward to the routine, and having Kate around again. I'm looking forward to our little rituals and the things we normally do to spend time together. I can't wait for my play pen to have a bit of a fence again.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Air Conditioning, Part Two

This week I finally managed to get the security bars off of our front windows and installed the window support brace and our 10,000 BTU air conditioning unit for the first level. As a side note, the security bars were held on by security screws. Devious little bastards designed to easily screw in with a normal screwdriver, and then never come out again. Ever. I mean really. I fought with them, bought special screwdriver bits, tried stripped screw removal bits and ultimately tried drilling straight through the screw head to pop the top off. Nothing worked. The bits didn't make a dent. Eventually I broke down and called a locksmith. That worked. And getting the stupid screws out cost me more than our used, Craigslist AC unit.

But it's in now. And what a difference. Our second floor has been nice, with units in the bedroom and the computer room, and now ceiling fans thoughout. But the first floor, especially when the kitchen stove was running, or we had more than four people here, was not comfortable. The sweat ran like milk and honey during the day, and stale beer by the evening.

Those days are behind us now. It's actually almost cold on the first floor, and I'm glad to say that one unit is managing to cool the foyer, living room, dining room, kitchen, and the back laundry and powder rooms. It's great. I'd prefer central air, of course. But this works fine for now.

Bachelor Chow


Hey Steph. This is food entry number 22.

I'm glad to say that I've put the bachelor chow diet behind me. Kate and I are both becoming decent cooks, Kate even more so than I, and we generally eat pretty well.

However...

While Kate is gone this weekend I'm enjoying a culinary cruise down memory lane, sampling bits of the bachelor chow lifestyle as I go. And leaving all the unwashed plates on the living room table when I'm done.

So far I've had pasta with a can of Chunky Chicken and Corn Chowder dumped on top, a pizza with an accompanying Chicken and Bacon Calzone (it was free from Papa Johns as part of some promotion...I'm not that much of a pig), leftover Chinese food, and bullseye eggs every morning for breakfast. That last one isn't truly bachelor chow, but it qualifies because I'm using the only breakfast-type foods we have in the house to create a meal, and any meal created to save a trip to the grocery store counts as bachelor chow on some level.

For lunch today I'll be dining on cold pizza, leftover from yesterday, and soda. That will likely be my dinner, too. And actually soda is the beverage accompaniment for all my bachelor chow meals, sometimes in a mug, but generally right from the two liter bottle (the most recent of which is empty now, sitting on the floor next to the living room table.)

Am I classy this weekend? Probably not. Do I care? Definitely not. Will this all be cleaned up before Kate gets home? Most assuredly yes. If it weren't for this written confession, Kate would have no idea what a classless barbarian her man becomes when she goes out of town.

But sometimes you just have to get back to the basics. And sometimes your macaroni and cheese, garbanzo beans and tuna fish are just screaming to be combined together. This weekend they get their chance.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

We All Eventually Become Adults

Kate and I just had dinner with my cousin Adam and his wife Bella. I'm the oldest cousin on my Dad's side, with Adam pulling in second, two and a half years my junior. All of the cousins on that side have always been close. The fact that my Dad, his two brothers, and my grand parents all ended up living within 30 or 40 miles of each other had a lot to do with that. Growing up we had frequent family gatherings, and all the cousins got to grow up together. Some of my fondest memories involve that whole group of people.

So it's really cool when those relationships make the jump from childhood to adulthood. Not that I'm a stranger to adulthood. I'm now closer to 40 than 30, which is a scary prospect. Even my youngest cousin is 18 or 19 or something like that (sorry Erik...I'm not good at keeping track of that sort of thing.) But I'm finding myself spending time with cousins on a more one-on-one basis lately, and as couples, which is really cool. That's what I'm trying to say. I'm getting to know my cousins more as people individually, and less as that nebulous group, "My Cousins."

Part of the reason I'm getting such a late start really getting to know Adam is distance. He and his wife have been gone from the East Coast for quite some time now, so we almost never get to see one another. And, at least in the past, when we did, it was at some large family gathering, where conversations tended to occur on a group level rather than individually. Which is why tonight was so great. Kate and I really got to know Adam and Bella individually, without the group dynamic interfering.

We've also been recently getting to know my cousin James and his wife Amy more. James is, I believe, the second youngest of the cousins, unless I'm forgetting someone. He was still just a tot when I was hitting early adulthood. I didn't really know him that well, beyond the fact that he apparently thought I and my fellow older cousins were freaking hilarious. We'd have James to the point of tears (of joy) sometimes. I got to know him more as he got older, of course, but only recently have we been able to really start a real friendship.

I think it's all great stuff. My cousins are some of my favorite people on the planet and I hope to never lose touch with them.

Comedy and Friends in NYC Part 1



Have you missed me?! So sorry to ruin an amazing stretch of continuous blog entries since the beginning of the year. I left for NYC with the thought that a computer would be around somewhere for me to do my entries on and I was quite wrong about that. We stayed at Lara's apt. in the Upper East Side and she kept her laptop at work and no one was high tech or rich enough to have a Blackberry or iPhone. Well, enough for all my excuses, I will do my best to make up for all my lost days. 3 or 4 if I include today's entry.

Let me start by saying this was my favorite NYC visit to date. It was just perfect - great conversation with amazing new and old friends with the beautiful city surrounding us. We stayed at Lara's great NYC one bedroom apartment. She is one of Brooke's lifelong childhood friends. Har place was beautifully decorated. I love when people use small spaces so wisely. I ended up staying there both nights with Alison aka Al, Tracy aka Burn, Brooke, and Lara of course.

The bus ride in was a completely painless and easy venture. To think I was so nervous, it's so ridiculous how worked up you can make yourself about the easiest duties. I guess it had just been a while since I explored my adventurous nature. Well, now that that's out of my system, going again we be no huge undertaking. On the trip I got into a new book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, and listened to my new iPod, it was very relaxing.


Got off the bus at the NYC Penn Station and had a call from Brooke letting me know the plans had changed. She wasn't going to meet me early in NY anymore, but that she woulf see me at the Comedy Club at 5pm. It was about two and I decided I'd grab something to eat and take photos while walking to Caroline's, the comedy venue Brooke was performing at, showtime at 7pm. It was a bit hot with two bags and my camera, but I managed, and it was great being in the center of the city again regardless of the conditions. I got some great shots and ate half a turkey and brie sandwich and a cup of corn chowder for lunch. It's easy to find good food in NY. The mission was to spend as little as possible on my trip.


When I got to the club, it was about 5 and I decided to chill there and wait. I had a reservation and asked if I could come in early. No luck. They couldn't allow anyone in until 5:45, so I waited in my sweaty bus clothes. I really wanted to get a chance to change, so I started scouting out for a bathroom. Found one in a lovely Starbucks. I didn't even get a beverage, they've taken enough of my money before and will continue too. I went back to find another girl my age just chilling in front of the club. I had a funny feeling that she was with our group. The deal was these were friends of Brooke's from all different parts of her life. Most were from New Jersey where she grow up and some were from when she lived in NYC for a few months a few months back. I had met Burn a couple times and Lara once before, but everyone else were new acquaintances.

I went in around six when a text from Brooke came in letting me know she was already in the club. Weird, she must have gone in when I was in Starbucks, I thought. Anyways I go to the bar and start talking to that girl from outside. Turns out we were both there for Brooke. She felt like we had met before and was sure I was "a Brooke supporter". Her name was Alison, but everyone calls her Al. She was just a joy to be around immediately. It was like we had known each other for years. We had a beverage. She said that she'd just driven in from DC, but would soon be moving to Arizona. Too bad since she right down the way from me. Anyways we waited as more folks came in, and we met up with Burn, Lara, Lara's brother, and a few other ladies from Brooke's life. They were all great, down-to-earth people and since they all knew each other it was easy to just jump right into conversation. We all sat together and anticipated Brooke's performance.

All the comedians were hilarious. Brooke came up about seventh, and she looked great in her jelly shoes, which became part of her act of course. Brooke just has an amazing comedic delivery. She is a funny lady even when you're having a normal conversation with her. I was so proud of her. I couldn't stop taking photos, which has its drawbacks when you want to pay all your attention to the performance, but I got a few great shots. She was so confident on stage. She did this impression of her uncle that was priceless. I love you darling, and I hope the absolute best in your endeavors, we are all rooting for you!

There were a couple guests comics, namely Darrel Hammond (from SNL) and Judah Friedlander. It was a great surprise. I've seen Judah on Comedy Central a few times. I walked in during his session and he started talking to me. He gave me a sexy nickname, it was awesome. He stopped me at the end of the show and asked me to send him the photos I took, how cool.


We all met up at an old hangout of Lara and Brooke's (conveniently, down the street for Lara's). I had been in contact with Jill, and she met us at the bar. It was great to see her and again all of Brooke's friends got along with her famously.

We hung out there all night, till the wee hours of the morning. New faces kept arriving and everyone was just splendid to be around. Burn, Al, and I are all unemployed waifs, so we had plenty of unemployment woes to share.

This is a first part of the weeks long venture. My adventure continues tomorrow when I pack up to go camping with another group of ladies. The trip is for Lauren's birthday, who is a dear friend of mine also from college. I know most of the girls, but some are from her new production life in NYC where she's been working on film and TV production for the past year or so. I really can't wait, we're staying in a tree house and going hiking and tubing. Love it! I will be indisposed at this time (no internet access in the woods), but come Monday I will be back to work on this positively terrific blog. Coming soon Part 2 of NYC.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Kate Comes Home

What can I say? I'm on vacation. These next few posts will probably be shorties. But this is a pretty great positive.

Kate gets home today! I was gone all weekend, and by the time I got home Monday afternoon Kate had already left for New York. But our five days apart ends in under an hour. I'll be picking her up from the bus station around 5:15. I missed you, Sweetie. Welcome home.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Life

Being on vacation, with nothing to do all day, but with dozens of potential things to fill the time is the life. I can, subject only to my whimsy, do something productive, something fun, or nothing at all. I can plan out my entire day and then, with no reason given or needed, tear it down and rebuild it differently.

Schedules are for suckers with jobs, which for this week, isn't me. I going to go install an in-ground pool in the backyard and relax by it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The One O'clock Hour

One o'clock in the afternoon is roughly when hangovers break. At least for me. This morning I was hungover and had to fly, which is never a good combination. Eight Old Fashioneds at the wedding last night promised me a good time at the reception, a horrible time at two in the morning, and a semi-crappy, hungover morning.

It's immeasurably positive with the hangover breaks.

It will be quite some time before I get that blotto again.

It was fun, though.

Bus Bound to NYC

Okay, so my NYC adventure starts today. I will be taking the city bus to the bus to NYC. It will be great not to have worry about a car, I'll get to listen to my iPod while I read my new book. It will hopefully be relaxing and comfortable. It should take about 3 hours to get there. Then I'll meet Brooke and her friend Tracy on the Upper East Side.

I've never taken a bus by myself for a long distance, but I'm sure it will stir up some good story or entry material. Let's get this journey started. New experiences and good friends await.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Good Times with Family Friends

Hanging out with old family friends can be so refreshing. They know your family and your background, so the conversation just flows. I've always liked how I can feel comfortable hanging out with any age group, I've never had a problem relating to any sort of person. Yesterday I went to Bill and Sue Parker's graduation party for Kathleen, she just graduated from MICA. It was I nice laid back environment with great food, yummy Summer drinks, and plenty of good conversation. Fred, another long time family friend, was there and was so hilarious and down-to-earth. I really enjoyed the company, thanks for a great party Sue and Punch and congratulations Kathleen!

This Has to Be the Nicest Hotel Room I've Ever Stayed in!

Seriously. This has to be the most modern, urban hipster friendly, kick-assinest hotel room I or Steph have ever had the pleasure to have a restless night's sleep in (that has nothing to do with the room, though, and more to do with yelling in the hall...kids.)

If I had my camera I'd take pictures and post them here, but I don't so a description will have to suffice. I'll preface by saying that it's not a large room. It's smaller than many rooms I've stayed in. But they've done a lot to maximize the space. All the furniture is solid wood, and very modern. The art on the walls is unlike anything I've ever seen in a hotel. One painting looks like dozens of Picachus (from Japanese anime) climbing a tree.

Steph and I were like kids in a candy store when we were first exploring the room. It has a 42 inch HDTV, one of those single serve container based coffee makers (we each had a cup immediately), and the Pièce de résistance, a clock radio with big speakers and an iPod dock. We figured out how to mount Steph's iPhone and had an instant, personalized stereo in the room.

The bathroom is beautiful. Greenish glass tile on most walls, with a free-standing round basin sink against long, rectangular brown floor tiles. The shower is enclosed in glass except for one open half wall. There is no door, which looks cool, but turns out not to be a case of form over function. With no door the cold air leaks in throughout your entire shower. Not ideal.

In any case, we're very much enjoying our stay here in Chicago. Now I have to post this before the 24 hours of internet access I purchased runs out.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Freedom Trip

I'm taking a trip next week that will inevitably be bringing back some fond memories of my old adventurous life. As you all know Jason is now away with his sis and I'm staying here and will get to experience a weekend without Jae (the first in many many moons). I don't necessarily know how fun the weekend will be, I'll probably do very little outside the home, but the idea that I'll be living the single life again is both exciting and scary. I'm going to a party for a very long time family (the Parker's) friend's daughter's college graduation. So crazy how time is flying so fast for us all, I remember when Kathleen just started college and now 4 years later and she's done. It should be fun hanging with old family friends. And if I get overwhelmed with too many unknown faces I can always walk to my Uncle Don's house, since I'll be around the corner. We'll see, either way I'm making my own decisions today.

What was the point of this entry? Oh yea, I'm going to drive to NJ to see my friend Brooke (who's in town from Utah), drop my car off at her parents house, hopefully get to visit with her family for a little bit and then go into NYC by train or Brooke's car. She is doing a comedy act at Caroline's in Times Square. She's been performing for a while, but I've never got to see her live. I'm very excited for her and to see the performance. We're then probably hangin out in the city, drinks, good times, etc. I'm staying with Jill Monday, so it will be great to see her as well. Then staying with Lauren (another great friend from college) both Tuesday and Wednesday night. All other plans are up in the air, hopefully I get to have quality city town with Brooke. Either way I'm doing my own thing with my girlfriends in the city I hold dear to my heart. It's been so long and I've missed the energy terribly. Even if Brooke's not around the whole time (BTW Jill and Lauren will have to work during the day hours, so I'll only be hanging with them in the evenings.) I'll have my camera and a beautiful city in my mist. I will hopefully find a lot of amazing inspiration. And don't worry I'm spending as little money as humanly possible. It will be difficult in such a expensive and tempting city.

I love you Jason, have a wonderful time with Steph. Get your drink on at the wedding and have fun. I can't wait to see you on Thursday!! Love you babe!

Chicago Bound

I'll be traveling this afternoon to Chicago for a friend's wedding. But accompanying me on the flight won't be Kate. We couldn't reasonably pay for two tickets. Instead my sister, known on this blog as Steph, Sae, and Bloom, will be joining me. She was invited to the wedding as well and was in a similar financial position. So we'll both be skipping out on our significant others and heading to Chicago together.

More than the wedding, this is what I'm most looking forward to. Getting a chance to hang out with Steph, just the two of us, and the 260 other people coming to the wedding. Steph said it best on the phone a few days ago. We get together occasionally, but with Jackson occupying a lot of her attention and other family members, the two of us don't get to talk much. I know Steph's heart is breaking, having to leave Jax for even a day, let alone two, but I know she's also looking forward to reconnecting this weekend.

It should be a good weekend, followed by a week off from work (I was taking Monday anyway, and decided to just take the week.) I'm so looking forward to this upcoming week and change taking as long as possible to pass.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Goodbye Mr. Hughes and Thank You!

We lost a brilliant writer and director yesterday, Mr. John Hughes. He created such wonderful 80s masterpieces from my childhood. My top John Hughes movies in this order are:

1) Ferris Bueller's Day Off
2) Sixteen Candles
3) Breakfast Club
4) Some Kind of Wonderful
5) Pretty in Pink
6) Mr. Mom
7) Uncle Buck
8) The Great Outdoors

I also love the Lampoon Vacation films, but didn't know where they fit on my best of list. I need to see Weird Science and Planes and Trains and Automobiles again. John wrote all of these classics, and directed a few of them. He really knew how to write dialogue for the angst teenager residing in us all. He was definitely one of a kind. I would love to have a John Hughes movie marathon. These films bring back such great childhood memories. I rarely remember movie dialogue, but when I watch a Hughes film I can quote them also all the way through. I felt a real connection to Molly Ringwald, growing up an awkward strawberry blond with the fairest skin. These films touched me and were so hilarious . They will forever be on my best of lists, thanks Mr. Hughes.

More Than Just a Car Sale

This popped into my head randomly this morning and it seemed entry worthy.

Pay attention to the people who blip in and out of your life. Even the seemingly insignificant players will often have useful information and experiences if you take the time to talk with them.

The event that formed the memory that came to me earlier happened about five years ago. I was attempting to sell my Elantra at the time, and this day was showing it to a father and son pair. The son was probably in his mid 40s, with his father easily in his 70s. They test drove the car with me, deciding to buy. We chatted a bit that day and made plans for the father to come back to make payment and get ownership transferred. He and I spent an hour or so that next day getting things signed and notarized. On the way we also stopped so I could book a rental care for a few days until I could purchase my new Civic.

Clearly Mr. Car Buyer was a bit player on the grand stage of "Jason's Life." But he made a strong impact. Turns out the guy was something of a genius and an armchair economist. A retired engineer, he was very well read and very willing to look soberly at the world as it was, not as he'd like it to be. He was convinced we were in a housing bubble at the time, a runaway system that had to correct itself at some point. This went against everything I'd heard at the time. The prevailing wisdom from family and even real estate agent and investment professional friends was that, at worst prices would stabilize some day soon. That the housing market had found a new level, and that one day prices would simply stop rising so quickly.

Mr. Car Buyer wasn't convinced and made a strong case in opposition. Turns out he was right. I really wish I'd taken his advice to heart. I might have sold my house earlier and started renting for a while, which was his advice. Instead I went back to believing what I wanted to believe about the world. Which turned out to be inaccurate.

Whatever issues your having in your life, talk about them with people. Not to dump on them. Not because you enjoy yammering about yourself, but because people are interested in other people's lives, and they often have useful contributions to make. I was recently telling one of my coworkers about Kate's burgeoning photography business, and mentioned how we were trying to find a good, affordable site to act as a front end for selling prints to clients. Another coworker happened to walk in during our conversation and chimed in that her mother had a photography business she'd been running for years and used a great service she was really happy with. I got the information and passed it on to Kate. Had I kept to myself and assumed no one was interested in hearing about my and Kate's life I never would have found out about Katrina's mother.

So the moral here is just to talk to people. Even the people that might only appear in your life script for an hour or two. They're still people with their own life experiences, people that could make an impact on you if you let them.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Reality Checks

Words of encouragement are sometimes all you need to pick yourself up again. Since I'm in such a great transition in my life, my moods seem to always be in constant flux. I never seem to be able to straighten my thoughts out before the next predicament strikes me. I need my friends and family to help me pump myself up again. My mom has been that person for me lately, she has done a great job of keeping me on track and talking me back to reality. I start forgetting that my new career voyage needs elements of stability, I start wanting to be a professional free spirit again (whatever that means) and my mom makes me release that only a real career will put food on the table and give me the proper benefits I need to live.

Yesterday I talked to my career counselor from unemployment to catch her up on my new career decision to become a teacher. She of course told me I was crazy, but that if I liked kids then to go for it. We talked for a long time and she really gave me the confidence/self-esteem boost I needed. She told me to keep my eyes and ears open for any opportunities that peek my interest. We have only spoke to each other about four times, but she said that she could tell that I had a special something about me. Something that made me stand-out amongst the crowd. I of course asked her what she thought that something was, but she couldn't put it into words. She thought I was very personable and relatable. She made me feel good, regardless of how she felt about my teaching goal. I really want to be an Elementary Art Teacher, do they even have those anymore?

Great Balls of Meat!


I love meatballs. I mean I love meat in any form, but mash it into balls with onion and spices and you've got something really special. The Swedes may have perfected the meatball, but the italians laid the groundwork, and created the many forms we see today. Today they're found on pasta, in sandwiches, soups and stews, freezer cases at Ikea, and cheesy, late 70's career vehicles starring Bill Murray.

What's interesting to me is how the flavor and texture of a dish can be strongly influenced by the form of its meat product. A great example is pasta week at our house. It occurs randomly, and when it does it almost always consists of whole wheat pasta with some combination of sauces, sauteed or roasted vegetables and nuts, and ground meat. Always slightly different, always delicious. This week Kate got creative and made meatballs out of the ground meat. Everything other ingredient class was the same. The dish was vastly different than it had ever been. The meatballs, and I guess the fact that they were cooked outside the sauce first and the simmered in for 20 minutes made the sauce taste much different than it usually does. It was delicious, and probably the most classic tasting sauce we'd ever made. Now imagine if we made the sauce with chunks of steak. The form of the meat, even the same meat in all cases, makes a big difference in the final product.

And meatballs seem to be the pinnacle of meatdom.

But caution must be exercised. They are round, after all, and prone to rolling, which has proven unfortunate for many diners throughout history. We all remember what happened in the mid 1800's, nestled in the Smokey mountains, after a light dusting of cheese had blown through the region. As the story goes, some poor unfortunate lost their meatball after a diner at the same table (or a neighboring table, the details are unknown) sneezed. Apparently the sneeze wave pushed the meatball off the table, onto the floor, with enough force to then send it rolling straight out the door. When search parties found it, days later in the garden, under a bush, the rogue meatball was nothing but mush.

It's a horrible ending for a proud meatball. So take the tale for the warning it is. Don't eat your pasta around chronically sick individuals. Even if the sneeze hadn't managed to move the meatball from its pasta cradle it would have coated it in a thin glaze of sick sauce, rendering it inedible. Open windows, though not explicitly mentioned in our story, should also be avoided, as a strong gust could also send your meatballs hurtling doorward. I guess if you take away any lesson here it should be this. If you must eat meatballs in the vicinity of the ill, open windows, fans, heating vents, leaf blowers or compressed air tanks, for god's sake at least close the door first.

A good meatball is a terrible thing to waste.


*Another sad story: No one can attest to the magic of the meatball more than my sister Stephanie, a regular reader of this blog. She is a HUGE fan of all meat products, from veal to venison, meat balls to meat pies. Unfortunately, in her early teens she was diagnosed with a moderate case of vegetarianism. Her system can handle fish and seafood products, but is unable to digest any sort of land-based animal protein. As you can imagine it was a terrible blow to such a bona fide carnivore. She makes due as best she can. They can do wonderful things with prosthetics and texturized vegetable protein. Her Tofurkys look almost like the real thing, and TVP crumbles taste nearly fresh off the cows side. But they're just not the same. Please donate generously to the National Beef Council, the Poultry Farmers of America, and various other Chuck Norris fronted organizations so that one day a cure might be found and Steph can once more grind her vicious maw through a plate of assorted grilled meat products.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Beautiful Redemption

I love witnessing old friends with troubled pasts redeem themselves and become whole human beings with great purpose. My dear friend Matt from college, was once a bit of a recluse. He seemed to never be able to find his niche in the social world, so he tended to let alcohol do most of his talking for him. He was definitely brilliant at his craft, with sound engineering and film-making. But I was always worried about him and wanted him to be happy on all fronts. A few years back Jason and I visited my college home town (Columbia, SC) for my friend Nichole's wedding. I was happy to see Matt there and meet his new wife Ashley. He had found his soul mate and I was so happy for him. She has definitely turned his life around and they are so perfect for each other.

Yesterday Matt emailed his film-making team (Brooke, Nichole and me) to let us know that Ashley was 5 months pregnant and that he was going to be the father of a baby girl named Alice come early December. I told him how incredibly happy I was for him. Matt is proof that life may get you down for a while, but if you open your heart, true happiness can be just around the corner. I wish Matt and Ashley the best. Congrats you two!!