Monday, November 30, 2009

How is it I Never Met This Guy Before?

This is a short, neighborly story. This weekend Kate and I spent a little time cleaning out the last bits of stuff from the Stevenson Ln. basement. The real estate agent suggested it would make the basement look bigger. By the end we had a completely full truck and a queen size mattress, box spring and an old dining room table to unload. We left it in the alley for bulk trash pick up, which it turns out isn't a service offered by Baltimore County.

I contacted both Salvation Army and Goodwill, the latter of which didn't accept mattresses. The former did, but made it difficult to manage. So I settled on taking everything to the dump. A shame, I know, but what are you gonna do?

The climax of the story, please. Yes, of course. So today I went over early in the morning to tie everything to the roof of the truck for transport. In the middle of hauling all four pieces over to the car a neighbor on the opposite side of the alley came out and offered to help. I was very happy to accept. After lifting the mattress onto the truck it became clear the tying everything down was going to be tricky. Doable, but time consuming. My neighbor...we'll call him Scott because apparently that's his name, then offered to haul everything to the dump himself in his pick up truck. He was heading that way anyway, he said. I tried to refuse, but he was insistent. So I took him up on the offer.

We chatted as we loaded his pick up. Turns out he moved into his house in '98, exactly the same year, and only a month or two earlier than my move in. And in all that time we never had the occasion to meet. Now, eleven years and change later we meet in the twilight of my residency, probably never to speak again, and the guy goes and does an incredibly neighborly thing.

I think people are inherently good. Or rather people, by nature, think of others at least as much as they think of themselves.

Thank Yous Part 2

I am thankful for my awesome cats, DB and Midnight.

I am thankful for my almost finished newly renovated home that Jason and I created together.

I am thankful for all my extended family, I hope all our paths meet again soon.

I am thankful for my grandmom, Jackie. She was recently put in a nursing home and I thank all the people who have been watching over her in these hard times - Dawn, Michelle, CJ, Georgia, Dave, my mom, my sister, and everyone else who has shown their unconditional support and love for granny. I know she is thankful for you all. I am thankful for the many happy times I've spent with her over the years. I know she is still with us, though her mind is slowly fading. Live the rest of your days in peace grandmom, we are all thankful for everything you have given us. God Bless you Grandma.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

No Arms and No Legs

There's this guy, Nick Vujicic. My boss sent me a link to a talk he gave some time ago. He apparently gives these talks to people around the world. He's Australian, and while their accents are hilarious, that's surprisingly not why people listen to him. It's because he has no arms and no legs.

Here's the link.

What's impressive about this guy is how positive he is about his existence. I can't fathom being born without any limbs, growing up and coming out the other end a positive, upbeat, genuinely funny, light-hearted person.

He makes a strong argument for making lemonade out of life's lemons.

Thanks to Leftovers

Thanksgiving leftovers are in my opinion better than the real thing, especially since I started getting two Thanksgiving dinners every year, Jason's dad's on Thursday and Jason's mom's on Saturday. Now I can eat the best of each meal for however long they last. I just have a love for comfort food and we don't mind leftovers at all. It's one of our best similarities, we are not picky eaters. It was Jason's birthday today and I did promise him pizza, but when we looked at all the leftovers we couldn't resist eating that for dinner tonight. I promise lovey, I will get you pizza as soon as the leftovers run out.

Happy Birthday Jason!! I love you!

Just Because I'm Now Officially Pushing 40 Birthdays Don't Have to Be a Downer, Right?

It's a valid question. Tomorrow, or right now, as of about two hours ago, I'm turning 36, which makes me officially closer to 40 than 30. It's sort of shocking to me. I don't feel nearly 40, and I don't feel like I've accomplished enough in life to be locked in the big 4 - 0 countdown. But the math doesn't lie. I'm pushing 40 now and I have to accept it.

Because otherwise it just sounds awful. 40 is only ten years from 50, which is, geologically speaking, just a heartbeat away from 60. How can I almost be almost be 60? It's absurd!

So I'm trying to find the positives. The obvious angle is that, regardless of the age I'm approaching, at least I'm still approaching and achieving it. The alternative is unsavory. I'd rather be turning 40 than not aging at all, if you catch my drift.

And, at least on my Dad's side I have good genes, genes with the longevity factor switched to "maximum". My grandfather is in his 90s and is still reasonably healthy. Anne Whitehead, a Great Aunt or some similar relation on that side broke 100, healthy till the day she passed. What's more, she hated life and prayed everyday that god would pluck her up. That doesn't speak to a strong survival instinct or will-to-live, and she still managed to be a centenarian. Either she had good genes or her constant complaining annoyed her god enough that he didn't want her around and hence ignored her prayers to be smote.

I'll go with good genes. And that means that 40 may not actually be halfway to dead. I may still be on the uphill portion of my life. If that's not positive than I'm not qualified to writing on this blog.

And finally, more important than anything else, I'm pushing 40 and I still have my hair.

My Thank Yous Part 1

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I'm thankful for my loving-caring in-laws. They've all warmly excepted me into their homes time and time again. I am also very thankful for the understanding and supportive love of my life, Jason. I am thankful for this blog, it's been quite an accomplishment.

I am thankful for my wonderful mom and dad. I know I don't call them quite enough, but when we do I love and appreciate our talks. They have both been very supportive and I'm thankful that I'll get to spend some quality time with them in a month. I am thankful for my dear sister, Kerri. She is my rock through good times and bad. I'm thankful that she has a wonderful man in her life and I couldn't of ask for a better brother-in-law. I am thankful for my two beautiful, healthy nephews, Kaiden and Blake.

I'm feeling kind of under the weather, so I'm going to end this now. To be Continued...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Live Treats

I love when you go see one of your favorite musicians live and their opening acts end up being just as brilliant. It's truly a win-win, you discover a new amazing musician and get to see them perform live, which is like nothing else. Yes, the albums we be just fine, but hearing a band live feels so raw and intimate. When I was seeing Ani Difranco for the 3rd back in 2000, a musician named Erin McKeown opened for her and to this day Erin's album Distillation will forever be on my ipod. She just stood on stage with her acoustic guitar and played and sang her heart out, I will never forget it.

At Ingrid Michaelson's concert we did not know any opening bands were scheduled to play. But she actually ended up having 2 opening acts both ironically named Greg. First was Greg Holden from England, ladies first I must mention he was a real cutie and with that accent, oh boy. He was also a wonderfully talented lyricist and singer. Second up was Grey Laswell, who was equally as talented if not more talented. He had a very sweet, shy demeanor and his words were jarring with emotion. He was a little more earthy in his look and sound. I don't know I really liked them both for their own reasons. It was such a treat to discover them live. I can't wait to listen to there full albums.

Thanksgiving Thanks Giving

I'm not one to get all gushy at Thanksgiving. I usually hate it when I'm asked to take part in the "go around the table and say what we're thankful for" exercise. But I guess this year of positives has had an effect on me, and this year I found myself contemplating the question.

What am I thankful for?

Well, right now I'm thankful that I have a job. A good one, and one that's not likely to go anywhere anytime soon. That's gold in today's USA. And I'm thankful to have love in my life, and someone to share that (and a blog) with. I'm thankful for my health and for the relative health and well-being of nearly everyone I care about.

I'm thankful for family. For my extended family which, warts and all gets along pretty swimmingly and has always been a huge part of my life. I'm thankful that, for the most part, we've all stayed local and get together nearly as regularly as we did when I was a kid. They're the group of people I can be the most myself with, so I'm thankful that I haven't lost any of them to illness, anger, or geographical distance.

I'm thankful that all of my problems, in the grand scheme, aren't all that bad. And I'm thankful that, for the most part genetics has equipped me to handle them, and what I can't handle alone, I have people close to me that can help. I'm thankful that I'm capable of asking for help. I don't suspect I'd be nearly as happy if I couldn't. Definitely not as prosperous (it's paper prosperity right now, but prosperity all the same.)

I'm sure there's more. These are just the highlights. I'm thankful that Kate and I set our own rules when it comes to this blog and we can decide for ourselves when each entry is finished.

And this entry is finished.*

*Except to say that I'm still not a fan of going around the table. Future Thanksgiving table-mates, please reference this entry in lieu of my turn at the mic.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Kate Said Jokingly, "Why Don't You Write About Farts?"

Okay, I will. After all, there is nothing funnier than ripping off a loud one, the smellier the better. It's the highest form of comedy. It's the only act that's funny whether you're actively doing it, talking about it later, thinking about potentially doing it at some point in the future, or enjoying the ripple effect an especially potent explosion can have on your environment.

The fart is humanity's built in practical joke, and picking the perfect time to roll one out is an art form. There's the dutch oven, the SBD surprise, the aerial assault, the sonic boom, the twenty one gun salute, the fart finger and the back pocket rocket just to name a few. Even the technical terms are funny. Flatulence. Hilarious. Flatus. Side splitting.

And how often does something which is so inherently funny also have to potential to make you feel so good? You know the drill. You've been sitting in your office all day, afraid or unwilling to chance a rogue wave, so you clench. And the pressure builds. Sometimes you're not even aware of the air pockets steadily building in your guts. But they're there, and they're angry at being caged up.

So you get in the car at the end of the day and destroy your automotive ecosystem. And you feel so much better. And your car is stinky now, which is funny, so you snicker to yourself. And you wish you could call someone over to your car window and surprise them with your creation, because that would be even funnier.

So yes, I know why the caged fart sings.

Keep the Energy Alive

Okay so I was a little tipsy when I thought of this blog subject today, so at the time it sounded brilliant. Well I'll just give it to you and you can come up with your own opinion:

You have to continue to 'keep the energy alive'. Staying young is about feeling young and the first way to feel young is by keeping active and motivated in your day to day life. It's so easy to become lazy and believe me you can tell by many of my blog entries that being lazy is one of my specialties. We just shouldn't be lazy all the time and the older you get the less and less lazy you should be. Continue to keep your body in shape and healthy by exercising, joining sport leagues, hiking, biking, volunteering, or just whatever interests you. It's also great to keep stimulating your mind throughout your life by things like reading, going to cultural shows, or by starting a new hobby like making crafts. I have decided that I feel strongly about this. People start feeling old and depressed when they decide to shut out the world more and more, thinking there's no more life to live when there's always something new to learn and experience.

These thoughts came to me today when we were at my uncle Don's for his annual 'Brunch before Thanksgiving party'. One of Don's co-workers, Timmy, at the station was talking about how Don runs circles around him when he's hard at work. Timmy is maybe 20 years younger than my uncle so it just amazes him how energized Don is on a daily basis. Don also reads a tremendous amount and just surrounds himself with stimulating conversation. It's just something to admire and strive to be when I am his age and older. I hope I can hold onto this new found attitude.

I'm about to go into a complete food coma. I need to seriously lay horizontal.

Good night and I hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving. And remember to KEEP THE ENERGY ALIVE.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

An "Era" of Distinction

So this isn't really positive or negative. It's just something I've always found interesting. Go online or to your nearest antiquated Better Homes and Gardens magazine and find a picture of a living room from the 1970s. Now find one from the mid 50s or the early '80s. You'll know them immediately, often without the need for captions to reveal the dates pictured.

That, to me, is so interesting. In a living room you have art, knick-knacks, furniture, electronics, textiles, carpets, paint and wallpapers, as well as the clothing and hairstyles worn by the room's occupants. All of these evolve separately, though clearly not in a vacuum, and each can and does influence each other. Regardless they all fuse together to create a very recognizable whole. And generally you can recognize that whole from just a small sampling of the pieces. Mid-century modern furniture is different from the loungy look of the '70s, or the angular, bloated look from the mid '80s. But these differences are often subtle. How is it that subtle differences in design across the spectrum of everyday objects creates easily recognizable palettes?

It's not like in any given era there is only a limited number of design choices. No matter the era eople create easily thousands of disparate designs. But something unifies them. Clearly at any given point in history there are overarching design narratives going on across the culture in question, whether people recognize it or not, that inform each individual item created during that period. They are subtle nuances, but they infect everything, and while they seem hidden to that eras' contemporaries, they leap out glaringly to the eyes of history.

I guess hindsight is 20/20 in more ways than one. Subtle patterns become increasingly more apparent as design becomes more dated. Or, maybe it's the other way around. Maybe it's the subtleties that delineate objects, and these subtleties melt away over time, rendering the similarities between objects more obvious.

Maybe it's a factor of closeness. Not in terms of proximity but in terms of familiarity. We look at other humans and we see millions of unique faces because we are very familiar with that design form. We live with it everyday. However, when we look at a pig (most of us at least) we see...a pig. We would be very hard pressed to pick one pig's face out from a group of just 50 other pigs. We are far less intimately familiar with the design form, "pig." We only see the obvious similarities.

So with everything in design. One of those people sitting in your picture of that 1970's rumpus room is very familiar with the design forms around them. They see the subtleties of that design and hence don't recognize the "now" as anything special. They certainly don't recognize their rumpus room as belonging to any specific "era" of design.

But now, 30-some years later, having long since discarded, along with history, that particular design aesthetic, that same person can look back with clear eyes. Being far less familiar, in terms of everyday experience, with the design vocabulary of the 1970s, our modern day viewers lose much of the subtlety of design, and the overriding similarities emerge. We see what makes that "era" what it was. Of course it was always there. We were just to close to in 1975 to see it.

It doesn't hurt that we have a frame of reference now, and the sense to know that giant lime green, mustard yellow and rust orange flowers on your walls with three-foot thick shag carpeting to match isn't acceptable, ever.

Mary and Max

Today I accidentally bought a movie from Comcast On Demand. I was checking out the movies they had available on the IFC in theaters section (this section contains independent films that just hit the theaters). Sometimes they include a trailer for you to see before you make a purchase. I went to a film I had never heard of called Mary and Max and somehow accidentally bought it, it cost $7.99 which is pretty pricey for us, but when your paying up to $11 per ticket in the theaters it's still an really good deal. I was in the process of calling Comcast and cancelling the order when I decided to look up the film online. It had great reviews and the trailer looked great. It was a clay animation with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toni Collette providing the voices. We decided to keep it and watched it tonight. It was really dark and beautifully animated. The story was very heartfelt. When it was over Jason and I looked at each other in amazement at how wonderful the film was. It could be too dark and sad for some folks, but if you can handle that genre it's worth a watch. Clay animation when done correctly is so visually simulating. Every detail was captured so beautifully. Mary and Max was certainly a happy accident.

Let me give you a short synopsis. Mary and Max is a story about an unlikely long distance friendship between Mary, an eight year old girl from Australia and a man named Max who's a 40 something New Yorker. They are both odd balls in their own worlds of imagination. They end of teaching each other a lot about life with their 20 + years of pen palling.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

When Immensely Difficult Tasks Appear Simple

I love it when one (or a group) of our kind manages to pull of something monumentally difficult and make it appear as if it should surprise us that we weren't able to do something so simple earlier.

Case in point. The Shazam app for the iPhone and Android. If you're familiar with it you'll know where I'm coming from. To fill in the uninitiated, Shazam uses the speakerphone mic on your cellphone to listen to and sample a small segment of a song, say playing on the radio. It then compares that sample to what must be a gigantic database of music and identifies the song, artist and album. The database is stored a some remote server, not on your phone. Shazam must upload the sample it records wirelessly to that server, which processes the match and then sends the result back to your phone.

It happens fast, usually in under 15 seconds. And most of that time is devoted to sampling the music. The actual matching time is a pittance. And for me at least it hasn't missed one yet. But here's the thing. Matching a full music track to a full music track wouldn't be that hard. All you have to do is compare the waveforms of each full track. If the shapes match, the songs match. But Shazam doesn't compare a full track. Generally you come into the song somewhere in the middle. And even then Shazam only samples a small portion of the song. So now you're asking the computer to compare a small portion of an unknown song, starting at an unknown point in that song, to a database of every song ever recorded (or thereabouts.) That's orders of magnitude more difficult than comparing full tracks, because now the computer has to compare its sample to part of a song, and it has absolutely no idea what part that is.

And that's what I mean. These programmers have managed to pull off what really constitutes computing magic. It's beautiful, and not just because it works, but because it does it so elegantly and so transparently that you completely forget the monumental piece of computing that's taking place under the hood. And apart from all of that, Shazam is a kick to use. It's essential for the music lover and radio listener.

If you get it, you'll love it and you'll use it constantly. Just try and get an appreciation for the fact that what your doing almost shouldn't be possible.*

*That's a bit of an overstatement maybe, but it sells newspapers.

Help Me! It's your Job!

I'll admit it, I did not read Jason's last entry, but he did tell me it was about good customer service and I know it's not original to write about the same subjects, but I really can't help it this time. Going into a store and getting rude, impatient employees attempting to service you is the worst. I worked in retail for many years and one of my favorite things about it was helping the customers. I never felt fake about it and it always felt good to find what they were looking for. And it was a relatively easy job to perform. So now when I get bad service in this terrible economy, where you should be happy to have a job at all, I get furious at them. Just put a smile on and help me, it would take ten seconds of your time. There are the rude customers you get every so often that helping them just feels dirty, but you suck it up and help them regardless.

Now getting back to the positive, when I receive really nice overall treatment at a retail store I leave in a great mood. I remember the faces of those for helped me, hoping they will again help me when I return. I had that kind of friendly, helpful service at Wegmans today. It's the busiest time to go the grocery store, since Thanksgiving's in two days, so it was packed. But regardless the employees there helped me along the way. I'd never done a big grocery trip there before so I was a little hesitant going in knowing how insane it was going to be. The customers were a little pushy and rude (I call people rude when they aren't friendly, it's the southerner in me.). There was a Wegmans employee down almost every aisle who was happy to answer any of my questions. They were very approachable and funny. They really run a great customer service regiment there.

The best part happened when I was leaving, I did not have a member card yet, so I approached the self-checkout lady and asked her advise. She said "Why don't I swipe a member card for you at the self-checkout aisle here and start ringing and bagging you items while you go get a card at customer service. That was a tremendous gesture from her. When I came back with my card, she had already rung and bagged half my groceries. I didn't have to wait in any long lines, except when I hit traffic at the 5 o'clock rush time.

It doesn't take much to please me, just a friendly smile and a little assistance goes a long way.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Great Customer Service!

Great customer service will get any business farther than almost any other factor. Take two companies that manufacture the same items. All things being equal, the company that offers better customer service will always win out in the end. And, given the relative importance of customer service in an overall business experience, even if the company with better customer service manufactured a slightly inferior product, they'd still, in the end win more customers than the competition. Because people want to feel cared for. Important.

And for me, sometimes it's in the most unlikely places that good customer service makes the biggest difference. Take fast food restaurants. My favorite? Chik-Fil-A. Yes, their food is good, especially their waffle fries. But they also offer an unparalleled customer experience. All of their employees are friendly, attentive, fast and knowledgeable. They go out of their way to make sure you're enjoying your meal, which is what the food you're consuming ends up feeling like. Your fast food experience at Chik-Fil-A rivals some sit down establishments.

And they aren't just a little bit better than the competition. They are the hands-down, undisputed king of fast food customer service, passing all pretenders to the throne by miles. Most other restaurant chains pale by comparison. At best their customer service is spotty, varying greatly from location to location, and at worst, McDonalds for one, the customer service is generally poor. Think bored, grumpy teenagers that don't look at you when they take your order and don't spit in your food only because it would impose another step in an already arduous, annoying process.

I understand you're working a minimum wage job. You may not like your coworkers. You probably don't like your customers. But don't show it! One of my greatest pet peeves is people who take their job, whatever it is, for granted, especially in the service industries.

So when you find a company that gets it, you stick with them. I don't eat fast food breakfast often, but when I do, if I can, I go to Chik-Fil-A. I'd rather give my money to companies that appear to truly appreciate it, instead of just expecting it.

Just tonight I had another great customer service experience with the Verizon Wireless authorized reseller where I bought my new Droid phone. The guy spent almost an hour with me, fixing a few bugs in my initial contract, making sure that everything was set up properly, and making sure I knew exactly what I needed to take advantage of my rebate offers. All the while an older couple was waiting for help (the guy was the only one working) and he managed to keep them happy and patient while working on my account. By the end we were all chatting, laughing, and no one felt at all put upon or frustrated.

Good customer service. Friendly customer service. Honest customer service. Those are the cornerstones of success.*

*Unless the building is a pyramid a fourth cornerstone is necessary. We'll go with free food in the customer lobby.

Finding the Perfect Green

I've really enjoyed brainstorming what we're going to cook for our Thanksgiving dinners this year. I usually do the old family standby, broccoli casserole, which is always delicious, but I really wanted to do something different this year. I went through all the Thanksgiving recipes at and then I started going through the top 50 food blogs and really found some interesting things and some great sites.

We decided a few weeks ago that we would bring a green vegetable and we somehow were both thinking brussel sprouts. So that's been my focus for my search. I found a few winners today, but I'm going to keep my selection a secret, since I know Jason's family reads our blog.

And for those who don't know Jason has Thanksgiving with his dad's family on Thursday and with his mom's on Saturday. You won't see any complaints from me. I love Thanksgiving comfort food and can't wait for the festivities of stuffing our tummies begin.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Christmas Lights

I think one of my first entries into this blog had to do with Christmas music. Now, as the holiday season descends on us I find myself plumbing back into that topic for ideas. And again, being the good Jew that I am, I'm going to focus on Christmas.

It's only because Hanukkah has no flash. No glitz. No mascot. It's just not sexy. Christmas, on the other hand, screams "holiday season!" For me the holidays are not about any sort of religious significance. They're about family and friends and generosity of spirit. And anything that reminds me of that makes me smile. That's why I love Christmas lights. They're an ostentatious outward display of inner happiness. And that happiness is contagious.

Plus they can be really beautiful. I remember loving driving around neighborhoods as a kid with my family looking at the decorated houses. I was awe-struck. Back then I'm sure I was also suffering from religion-envy. The most light we had at our house was nine candles that burned for 45 minutes. Nice, but not the same. I used to wonder why we couldn't put up Hanukkah lights, sticking with white and blue for the season. Not a common practice, I guess.

I'm over that, of course. But I'd still drive out of my way to see a particularly beautiful house display. One day I'd like to decorate our house, I think. A nice pastafarian display to really light up the holidays!

Wonders, Questions, and Balance

When I was younger I used to wonder about the many different "whys" in life, I would have deep conversations with older people or just listen to their fascinating analytical thoughts about the world. I would be completely enthralled and write about my findings and dreams when I had alone time. I was such a deep thinker in high school and I would only surround myself with people similar to me.

I feel the older I get the less patience I have for listening to profound wonderings and the less I come up with my own. I guess once you become an adult you lose your focus on the true unknowns of the world and only allow yourself to focus on what tasks will get you through each day. I miss those times and the person I used to be. Jason is very much a thinker and thought provoker. This is one of the many reasons why I love him and it's also why he can drive me crazy at times. He tries to get me thinking all the time and I somehow very rarely latch on to his ideas or questions about the world. I really wish I could escape like he does. But it's hard when you feel we'll never get to where we are going or get the laundry finished if we keep escaping into our own heads. I wish for a balance, a way I could escape with him every so often and at the same time be responsible.

Really, a nice all-inclusive vacation is what we need. Jason, this does mean that you have full range to talk my ear off once we are on this vacation. You can moderately tell your wonders and I will be able to do the same. We will also have to add in some time for peace and quite, which is also one of my favorite things.


Yeah, unfortunately we did get some crappy news, today. Kate's last entry spelled it out, so I won't repeat it. And she did a good job of spinning it into something positive. In lieu of repeating her, I'm just going to write on an entirely unrelated topic, as if today didn't happen.

Color vision. To me it's astounding. You can explain the process of seeing in color scientifically, but that doesn't come close to encapsulating the experience of color. We all know that color is simply how our brain interprets light of varying wavelengths inside the visible spectrum (our visible spectrum, that is...many other animals can see beyond our range.) But that's just how our brain renders visual information. There's another component that comes from within and piggybacks on our visual experience. It's a strong emotional component that has very little to do with the science of color and everything to do with our humanity.

Your eyes orient themselves at the sky and capture light in wavelengths around 475 nanometers. That information is passed down the optic nerve to your brain's vision center where the data is crunched, filtered and then rendered as a sky colored blue. But then you experience the sky. Even though you've already gone through the entire process of rendering an image you don't experience that image until the end. And that experience is entirely separate from the creation process. It's sort of like watching a movie. A lot goes into creating a film from concept to projection, but none of that is evident or important when experiencing the movie. The viewing of the movie is distinct from the creation of the movie.

My point is that the magic of color doesn't lie in the process of capturing and rendering our internal world "movie". The magic is in how that movie affects us. From that perspective color is an entirely inexplicable experience. Without invoking the electromagnetic spectrum, wavelengths, or any other of colors technical aspects, try and explain what color is. You can't, can you? I can't either, I think because the experience of color defies description. Describe the difference between blue and yellow. Describe the deep, almost iridescent shade of green found in gardens across the planet. I mean, you can do it, but the attempt will almost surely involve self-referential vagaries and calls to objects that happen to give off the color in question. Describing color without directly referring to that color is very difficult. In other words, you could describe orange as, "yellow with a little red thrown in", which it is, but what does that tell you? Now you have to describe yellow and red. You could describe each of those by referring to canaries and cherries respectively, but if your listener has never seen those objects, you've again said nothing.

Try explaining the experience of color to a blind person.

That's what I love about color. It exists and it doesn't. The wavelengths of light we see exist apart from us, but the color the create in our brains do not. Our brains create blue, not the other way around. The science of color has nothing to do with the experience of color, and vice versa. Your experience of blue, while potentially vastly different than mine, can never change the wavelength of the light you're perceiving. Your and my perception of blue might be very different, but light vibrating at 475 nm will always exist as it does.

It's about as close to magic as you can get.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Holiday Hugs

Well it's official, Jason and I will have to take an easy on spending too much for the holidays. The biggest reason is that the rental offer we had on the house has been cancelled, we found out this afternoon, 30 minutes before Jason was suppose to meet the renters to sign the lease and get the first rental payment. It's really ridiculous how little notice they gave us. We will now have little to no extra $ till the house gets another offer. I know none of this is very positive, but what I'm getting at is even though gifts will be non-existent this season I still can't wait to spend quality time with Jason's family and my family this holiday season. The true meaning of the holidays is to be with the ones you love. The people that love you unconditionally no matter your financial situation. I really love you all and can't wait for the holidays to start. Jason and I have had pretty tough times this year with my unemployment and our many house issues, all I really want are hugs from the ones I love.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tonight the Role of Bed Will Be Played By Couch

There something great about falling asleep on the couch while watching TV. It's a practice round for the night's slumber ahead. Somehow it never lasts more than a half an hour, and when you wake up you wish you were already in bed. Instead you have to manage a half-conscious body drag through your evening rituals (like writing a blog entry, for example) with the deep taste of sleep on your tongue and a hunger to match. And a tendency toward unnecessary dramatic flair.

But it's sweet, that mild torture. It's like trying the cake batter. It's delicious and leaves you wanting, but it also promises cake.

And Daddy's hungry for some cake. The sweet, fluffy cake of unconsciousness.

But no icing. I don't like the icing.

Slippers as Work Shoes

Getting to wear slippers all day at my new job is the best. Yesterday I bought a sturdy pair at Target, so they stay on throughout the day. They are perfect. What I did find odd was coming home after an 8 hr day and putting on the same shoes I wore all day as I relax around the house. Either way it's great and I have nothing to complain about.

The Lord of Cats

I don't know why I used that title. I seemed funnier than "When Lesser Mammals Pay Homage to Their Genetic Superiors", I guess.

But neither title has much to do with what I'm writing about, mainly because I'm sure cat's do this entirely for self-serving purposes. Nevertheless, I love it when cats follow you around. It makes it seem at least like they genuinely crave your company. Plus it's just cute. Mine and Kate's are like 15 year old mute toddlers that pad around after you, following innocently from room to room, content just to be near you. Paying them attention is a bonus, of course, and DB particularly will sometimes force himself on you. But from a place of sort of quaint desperation which isn't the least bit annoying.

Dogs I'm sure behave the same way, probably to an even greater degree. But I'm not a dog person, so I can't really speak to it. I know my sister and John's dog Lucy likes the lap, but she may just be imitating the two cats in the house. But okay. Let's be inclusive and expand out to say how great it is when any animal follows you around the house. Especially fish. That's particularly endearing, and astounding.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Target -I love you!

Target is an amazing store. I just love the happy shopping mood that overpowers me when I walk in. They have almost everything and everything they do have is good quality. They have all the latest women fashions with a large sale selection. Wonderful selections in all there departments from health care to shoes to toys to home decor. I am just a huge supporter and fan.

I was invited to a work dinner tonight that started at 6:30 that was right near work, so instead of going home and coming back in an hour I instead went to Target and shopped my head off. I really don't have the money to be spending, but what's a girl to do with two and half hours to kill?! I bought holiday gifts for our three nephews which is now something off our plate. I only allowed myself to shop in the sale clothing section and bought five blouses that were all under $10. I treated myself to a new wallet and got a bunch of needed health care items including Zyrtec to relieve my allergy issues. Before I knew it I only had 15 minutes till the dinner began so I ran to check out. Yes, the bill was a little steep for my liking, but I really feel I got a lot of great things that were mostly needed. Target is a true love of mine.

There's Always Tomorrow Night

In homage to the fact that I'm not going to get a lot of sleep tonight let me say that there's always tomorrow night. Until you're dead, you can always catch up on sleep.

Miss two nights in a row? Not a big deal. You'll sleep well the third. Granted you'll have to get through the intervening days. To help, just keep your goal in mind, what you're pushing toward. That eventual moment when you fall asleep, stay and asleep and make up for all the deprivation you'd subjected yourself to prior.

It almost makes the make-up sleep all that much sweeter. It's like a well-earned reward instead of a humdrum regularity.

For me, tonight, my goal is Friday night. I'll be making up for most of this week. And it's going to be great.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Night Time Meds

Okay, since I'm having the worse sinus pains I've ever had this will be short one. Right now all I can think about is going to sleep so this entry goes out to all the nighttime pain meds that help you sleep and hopefully lend a hand in your recovery.

I will be taking some Benadryl Allergy meds tonight that will knock me out and clear away my sinus issues. Tylenol Cold and Sinus and NyQuil have also been lifesavers in the past. Alright give me my drugs and let me pass out now.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Brooke, my Motivational Speaker

I got to catch up with my friend, Brooke, today when I decided to give her a ring during the kid's nap time. It was great to finally talk to her. I knew that she was back in NY and really busy pursuing her dreams, but I didn't know all the details. So here you go: she's currently interning for Bust my favorite magazine, she is producing her own comedy shows around the city and in Jersey, she doing art shows presenting her handmade light boxes, and she's back bartending and waiting at a NYC night spot. I really admire her tenacity, she never gives up and will always be an amazingly talented, unique individual. She keeps herself super busy, which is very motivational.

Even with all the things she has going on she kept talking about what my next steps should be with my photography. I wasn't in a rut quite yet, but I could see myself getting there. But now after our talk I feel more self-confident and have new motivation to stay positive as I pursue my photography and my teaching aspirations. Brooke and I are very similar in our work ethic and dedication and I just have to remember that everyday. Miss and Love you Brooke, break a leg!


This is the 666th entry in this blog 'o positives, and I think it's a really positive to thing to point out that this number doesn't actually mean anything. It's just a number, like 13. It's one more the 665 and slightly less than 667. It means just as little (read not at all) as 444, 555, and 777. There are so many things we fear in life. Take this one off your shelf and discard it. It's not the sign of the beast. It's not anything.

Don't be afraid of a number.

And for that matter, don't be afraid of a "beast" either. He's imaginary, too. There's so much real world stuff to fear. Why load yourself up with imaginary fear? If god is love to you than worship love and throw the rest of the stupid negativity out the window. I don't believe in god, but I do believe this. If you think he's there and he inspires love in you, you're doing something right. But if you fear god, fear sin, and live with guilt and anxiety, you've got things horribly, horribly wrong.

Lighten up. 666. Say it with me.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Breathing a Sigh of Relief

It's official. I can breath again. I'm meeting this Saturday with the new tenants of Stevenson Ln. to sign the lease and finalize. Then I'm going to register with the county and the whole shebang will be legit, legal and puncture-proof. And it won't be a negative to my balance sheet, which is a strong positive to my life.

Here's to neat freak tenants who can't help themselves but treat your house with love and only call you when there's actually a problem, which almost never happens. Stack that one with the positives.

Shopping while Hungry

Going to the grocery store when you're starving is the worst thing for your budget, but it's the best thing when it comes to filling your hunger cravings. I bought everything my heart desired, which wasn't a whole lot, but still awesome. Some of my cravings were rare roast beef for lunch, sea salt and vinegar chips, granola strawberry yogurt sandwiches, egg nog, and white cheddar cheese popcorn. I just couldn't help myself. Now I'm so excited to dig in, but I'll do my best to hold off so I have room for dinner. I can't wait to have an after dinner snack.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The "App" Model

I'm sorry, everyone, but you're going to have to suffer through a string of cell phone based entries, as that's where my attention's focused right now. This one deals with the app model of cell phone functionality. Personally, I think it's brilliant, and a quantum leap forward in cell phone design.

The boon, as I see it, is that it extends the personal computer model to personal communication devices. Instead of trying to design the perfect phone that does everything that anyone could possibly want right out of the box, the app model allows designers to create platforms, phones that perform all the basic functions of a PDA/cell phone and allow third party designers to fill in the holes. That also means that you can customize your device to do exactly what, and only what you need it to do. And that avoids function bloat. Instead of dedicating memory and processor power to functions you never use, you can hone your device down to a streamlined, user-specific experience.

And you can do it without a large extra investment above the cost of the phone. Most apps are either free or very inexpensive, due in part to the narrow focus of their functionality. Each app adds only a small feature set and is therefore inexpensive. But again, that's ideal, because you're only paying for the functionality you need and nothing additional.

The iPhone started it (sort of...Palm really started it, but it was always really poorly implemented) and clearly it works, because every other company is now hopping on board.

The Act of Writing it Down

I love when I first crack open a new notebook. When it's a nice decorative one from Barnes and Noble even better, but really it doesn't matter what it looks like. Writing down thoughts, lists, ideas, whatever it may be keeps me focused. I go through notebooks so fast, which I know is wasteful. I would try to use every back and front page and try my hardest to write smaller, but it's hard for me. I write whatever way that comes naturally to me at the time. I'm about to run out of pages in my current notebook, so I will need to purchase a new one. They've been a real help when going through client photos these days.

I know most people have resorted to using computers or phones for keeping lists, but for me there's just something more helpful and concrete for me when I physically write it down. I would like to start keeping separate notebooks for all the things going on in my life such as one for daily reminders like groceries and then one for jotting down photo client details.

The more organized I am the better I feel, first I need a new notebook. Lately I've been finding cheap, cool ones in the bargain aisle at Barnes. I'll drop by there tomorrow.

The Droid Invasion is Going to Rock

You're all probably seen the commercials for Verizon's new Droid phone by now. They're running them constantly, and they're making a lot of promises. It's a huge buzz campaign, and it's a lot to live up to.

The Droid delivers.

You know I've been in the market for a new phone, and phones based on Google's open source Android operating system were high on my list. After a thorough study of the current and upcoming contenders, I settled on the Droid. I'm currently using it for a two week trial period. I can return it for a full refund if I'm not satisfied, but I don't suspect that will happen.

The phone and the operating system rock! I really do believe this phone could finally blossom Android into the iPhone killer it promised to be. And since I wanted an iPhone but couldn't live with switching back to AT&T, I'm pretty ecstatic about that. The phone is gorgeous, zippy and feature-packed, and while it lags far behind the iPhone in total number of Apps, it's does have a large collection, one that's quickly growing. The fact the Android is open source is a huge boon in that department, and will mean that, as more people adopt Android phones (and as more and more developers get sick of Apple's selection process), App development for Android will skyrocket.

The Droid is a slick phone easily worthy of consideration as an alternative to the iPhone for anyone sick of or unwilling to join up with AT&T. Granted the ultimate "iPhone on AT&T" killer would be the "iPhone on Verizon", or really any other network, but that won't happen until the middle of 2010, and not until 2011 if the exclusivity contract renewal rumors are true. I'm not willing (or able, my phone is falling apart) to wait that long. The Droid is as good as the iPhone in most respects and better in others (it has a virtual keyboard AND a physical keyboard, for one). Yeah, it doesn't have multi touch, which sucks. But the phone does support it. There are Apps available that operate just the iPhone in that capacity. The operating system itself supports it, too. It's just unimplemented. I think Google is afraid of legal repercussions. But, as I said, Android is open source, so it's only a matter of time before someone designs an App that unlocks multi touch system wide.

So yeah, I'm keeping the phone and switching to Verizon. Let the Droid invasion begin!

The Heaven of Food: Wegmans

Wegmans is the most amazing grocery store I've ever been to, it has everything you could possibly imagine. I don't go in there much knowing how much I could possibly end up spending. There's one right near my new and old work place. I went there after work the other day and only allowed myself to carry around a small basket. I seem to discover something new every time I go there. This time I discovered the organic and herbal aisle they have. They have an entire section of organic energy drinks. It's like everything they have at whole foods plus all the stuff they have at your general grocery store put under one roof. An awesome gift would be a gift certificate for Wegmans. Jason and I would have a ball.

They have so many different selections of fresh fish, cut meat, cheese galore, pre-made salads, and so much more. You can just go there for lunch, grab a tray and have your choice of homemade soups, fresh Chinese food, sushi, fried chicken, gourmet sandwiches, and fresh fruit for desert. Then you can sit in there large food court and enjoy an awesome lunch with your co-workers. The options are endless no matter what isle you are on. Wegmans definitely intimidates me and going in there is scary at times, but it is truly an absolutely glorious mecca for food lovers.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Improv Everywhere

I just discovered a group called Improv Everywhere, they are a musical theatre troupe that performs spontaneous musical performance acts in public places. They've done one in a food court and another one in a grocery store. The one in the grocery store is just awesome, I just love the idea of out-of-the-box art. And these guys are so musically talented and their choreography is spot on. You got to love the different reactions of all the bystanders witnessing their outburst in song and dance, it's priceless. Some people chose to just stand there in complete shock and amazement. While others start grasping the fact that it's just an act and standby enjoying the free performance. Then there are always a few that get mad at the dumb display for interrupting their busy schedules.

I personally really feel more acts like these should be put together and organized. If the act doesn't involve being as talented as these guys are than I would absolutely volunteer. Life is way to short to not allow yourself to stop and smell the flowers every so often, or in this case enjoy a spontaneous art performance.

Friday, November 13, 2009

String Cheese

When is cheese better than just cheese? When it's melted, or slathered in peanut butter, or when it comes in prepackaged cylinders just the right size to eat one after another until the cholesterol overwhelms your system rendering you unconscious.

Because cheese, like most good things on the planet, is meant to be enjoyed in excess, and anything that facilitates a rapid ingestion of goodness can't be bad. And anything that is good, facilitates goodness and is the mortal enemy of bad deserves a place in every American refrigerator.

So no. I don't eat cheese this way. I fantasize about it, though. String cheese is to dairy products as Pringles are to fried, mostly potato-based snack foods. Betcha can't eat just one.

Free Furniture Pick Up and Take Away

I don't think I've written about this yet. I searched through all the older posts and didn't find anything, but there are over 650 entries now, so I may have missed it. Let's assume, for the sake of sleep that I didn't.

Getting old furniture and other large household items hauled away can be a tricky and sometimes expensive proposition. But Kate and I never have that problem. We live on a major street in the city, so junk removal is easy. We leave it out on the sidewalk with a "take me" sign and within no time, it's gone.

It's uncanny sometimes how fast it happens. A few months ago I put an old end table out by the street. After carrying it out I went up into the attic to get something. While I was up there I heard what sounded like a pick-up truck life-gate dropping. I flew to the window just in time to see an older gentleman grab the table, load it into his truck and drive off. It was taken in under ten minutes.

And it doesn't seem to matter what it is, how big or bulky it is, or its state of repair. We've left out old, beat up couches, broken lounge chairs, tables, a ratty desk, our old desk chair (which the cat had puked on right before we put it out) and more I'm forgetting. All dealt with for us by the circling junk-mongers of Baltimore City.

But here's the really interesting, and somewhat surprising part. If we forget to put the "take me" sign on our item, it's left untouched. We had something, an old chair I think, sit out for 24 hours before we finally realized the sign was missing. We added it, and the chair was gone within the hour. That makes me feel good. These people aren't thieves casing the neighborhood looking for unmonitored stuff. These are people trying to eek out an honest living reselling the junk other people don't want. More power to them.

Keep up the good work.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Next Blog Already...

I'm excited to start a new personal blog after this initial one has ran it's course come January. Don't get me wrong I have really enjoyed writing this one with Jason, but I just feel it's time we went our own way and wrote our own personal blogs this next time around. Jason is an extraordinary writer who deserves his own spotlight and I am not the best writer and would be better at doing entries involving recipes, crafts, or introspective journal type prose. I would love to start writing poetry again and hope I'll feel the inspiration to do just that. I'm exciting to start this new journey, one that is all mine. I really don't care if people read it or not.

I feel this blog has been truly therapeutic and continuing this brain download with another one will only further benefit me mentally and physically.

Thanks, whoever you are, for continuing to listen to our rants.


Tonight has gotten away from me, and I still haven't produced an entry. So let's just leave this one short and sweet. Leprosy is something no one wants. Ever. Not once in the entirety of human history has anyone sane and not reading from a script ever uttered the phrase, "When can I get me some of that leprosy?!" It's a nasty, nasty disease with nasty consequences and an even nastier cleanup.*

So it's an extremely positive thing that very few people ever get it anymore (at least in industrialized nations) and thats it's treatable when an infection is discovered.

*I actually have no idea what really happens to patients as a result of infection. Everything I know about leprosy comes from movies, jokes I learned in elementary school, and the five minutes I just spent reading about it on Wikipedia. My first paragraph is probably way off base, but I'm going for funny, not accurate. Funny and fast.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Teaching the Kids

Everyday at the daycare I try to teach each kid something new. Most of them are so young that it takes them a lot of repetition to finally get them to start doing what you were trying to teach them.

Today I taught Nina to put her toys in the trunk of the little car she rides around. Yes, it sounds very small and pointless, but to me it's just her slowly learning to take instruction and it may finally lead to her listening to my direction when I ask her to clean up her toys.

I've written about the child's mind before, but once again I want to say how much it fascinates me. They are so clueless about the world, but everyday they learn something new that will help them adapt in the real world. I'm really enjoying my job and I hope I'll be around to see these kids grow-up to be big girls and boys.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Yummy Fall Flavors Surround Me

I love the flavors of the fall season, especially pumpkin and eggnog flavors. I believe Jason already wrote about the pumpkin we somehow grew at our Stevenson address, well yesterday we put all the pumpkin pulp into a food processor and today we made our first batch of pumpkin bread. It's not going to be ready to try until tomorrow morning, but I can just imagine now how wonderful it's going to taste. We froze five or so more cups of the pumpkin pulp so we can continue to make pumpkin bread or pie throughout the winter season.

I love the new coffee drinks that Starbucks come out with for the season such as the Pumpkin Spice, Gingerbread, and Eggnog Lattes.

I bought spiced pumpkin creamer at the store today and I can't wait to drink some delicious flavored coffee at work tomorrow- YUMMY!! As I sit writing this now I can smell the bread baking downstairs and it's amazing smells are consuming me.

A Million Seems Like a Lot, But It's Chump Change

I thought of another scale-related topic while writing my second to last entry. Why are these topics positive? I think because, as I've said before, looking at the world as it really is helps put your problems in perspective, and a little perspective is always a good thing.

What strikes me is how mind-bogglingly large numbers are the rule in the universe, not the exception. We think of a million or a billion as very large figures, but most things in the universe, both on the largest of scales and the smallest completely outpace those puny numbers.

Look at the number of cells in the human body. It's estimated to be 50 trillion, and that just counts the cells that are actually us. The flora that lives in and on us (bacterial cells are much smaller than human tissue cells) number four quadrillion! That's a four followed by 15 zeros. And, going smaller, we saw two entries ago that the number of atoms in the human body is roughly seven followed by 27 zeros. Seven octillion atoms, or, stated another way, seven billion billion billion. And that's just in one of us. Try and imagine the number of cells, or perish the calculation, the number of atoms contained in all 6.7 billion of us!

And we're just one species on the planet. How many cells exist in total across the entire planet, in both bacterial and other unicellular creatures and in all higher, multi-cellular plants and animals? I can't find definite numbers, but just in terms of bacterial life it's estimated that there is five nonillion (5 followed by 30 zeroes) individual bacterial cells across the planet and in the oceans. That's akin to taking five billion of anything, multiplying that by a billion, then multiplying the result by a trillion. That's just the bacterial life, most of which we can't even see.

Can your brain encompass a figure that massive? Mine can't. I doubt many people can truly grasp any figure on that grand a scale. And yet we have verifiable examples of numbers that large all around us.

Next time you're in your kitchen, dunk your finger in boiling water. Okay, don't actually do that. But imagine it. You know it's hot! We've all probably come into contact accidentally with small bits of boiling water or oil, and it's an uncomfortable experience.

Water boils at 212°F. A candle flame burns at 1,830°F. Lightning creates temperatures of 54,000°F on average. Even the lowest of these temperatures can kill most life on this planet. And they are insignificant on a cosmic scale. Our sun's core burns at roughly 28 million degrees Fahrenheit. The core temperature of a star as it collapses just before supernova is 180 million degrees Fahrenheit. And, as absurdly hot as that is, it's nothing compared to the theoretical hottest temperature possible. That, the Planck temperature, which is rare (it occurred only in the first few nearly unmeasurable instants after the Big Bang, and in the crushing final moments of a black hole) is computed to be about a quarter of a hundred nonillion degrees Fahrenheit (2.5 followed by 32 zeros.) That's a measure of heat completely incomprehensible to the human mind.

Coming back to our local corner of the universe, here's a small snippet from the Wikipedia entry on the Sun. This is a description of what goes on during the nuclear fusion reaction at the Sun's core.

The proton-proton chain [the fusion reaction] occurs around 9.2 × 1037 times each second in the core of the Sun. Since this reaction uses four protons, it converts about 3.7 × 1038 protons (hydrogen nuclei) to helium nuclei every second (out of a total of ~8.9 × 1056 free protons in the Sun), or about 6.2 × 1011 kg per second. Since fusing hydrogen into helium releases around 0.7% of the fused mass as energy, the Sun releases energy at the matter–energy conversion rate of 4.26 million metric tons per second, 383 yottawatts (3.83×1026 W), or 9.15 × 1010 megatons of TNT per second.

Those are ginormous numbers. And that happens every second!

The lesson here is the same lesson I've spun at least a dozen times on this blog, in different forms. Remember your place in the universe. Remember that you are beyond insignificant in the grand scheme of things. You tiny blip of existence, your, if you're lucky 80 to 90 years pales in comparison to the scale of just about everything else around you. So just accept it. You don't matter. None of us do. Therefore you're free. Free to make your life whatever you want it to be, because ultimately you and your small group of equally insignificant entities are the only bits of matter in the entire universe that care.

Keep yourself in perspective. It's not as bad as you think it is, and nowhere near as bad as it could be. Remember the supernova.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Anthropomorphism is Sixteen Letters of Positive

It's human nature to anthropomorphize. We do it with almost everything we come into contact with, often times without an awareness of the act. I'm sure it's an offshoot of our social natures. Seeing ourselves in others helps us relate to them. But anthropomorphism isn't just a social construct, or, at its worst the ultimate act of vanity. I think anthropomorphism is the root of empathy and compassion, and it's nature's ultimate evolutionary behavioral accomplishment.

It goes like this. We care for ourselves. We look after ourselves. Our survival instinct makes sure we protect ourselves from harm. We don't vary too much from every other species on the planet in this, especially our mammalian cousins. But what sets us apart is our ability, almost our compulsion to project onto other's our own traits, fears, desires and behaviors. Even, and especially non-human creatures and inanimate objects. And, as we protect ourselves from harm, we tend to protect those we consider similar to us. Kin and friends alike. If you are one of us you are part of the protected fold. Anthropomorphistic behaviors allow humans to extend their circle of protection beyond themselves and their close kin groups. They grant us the ability to feel empathy in general, and specifically toward creatures and objects completely unlike ourselves. We can even extend the empathy to concepts like justice and freedom. We see ourselves everywhere, and everywhere we see ourselves we have the innate desire to protect.

This gets short-circuited often, no doubt. But at its root, apart from other external factors, anthroporphism is the foundation of human ethics. Treat others as you would be treated. Look at ancient animistic religions. Their adherents saw spirits and gods in everything. In plants and animals. In the cycles of the seasons. In the sun, stars and moon. Why? Because they saw themselves in everything, and therefore everything became sacred to them as they were sacred to themselves. Everything around them was an extension of their culture, their circle of community. And they protected it as best they could.

Next time you find yourself imbuing something external to you with human attributes try and catch your motivation. Are you trying to understand it better? Are you trying to forge a connection? Attempting to get inside its mind (or imagine it has one)? Generally speaking I think you'll find that whatever your motivation is, it's a positive one. It's all about extending your sphere of connectivity within the world. Making positive attachments to meaningful things.

Anthropomorphism isn't a human failing, and it most certainly isn't a human vanity. It's the doorway to inclusiveness, kindness and acceptance of everything around you.

A Unique Piece

I've really decided to start limiting myself with what clothes and accessories I purchase these days. If their isn't something that truly makes the product sing I'm not buying it. I need the garment to speak to me, it's got to be original and something I would wear often. The only other reason to buy something new is if your out of the mandatory things, such as plain long sleeve tees, underwear, or jeans.

Today I went and browsed DSW for shoes and TJ Max for clothes and shoes. I did not buy anything at DSW even though new black sneakers is what I really need, but again nothing really stood out to me. I went into TJ Max with the only desire to review their shoe collection, after looking I found nothing. Of course I couldn't help looking a little in the blouse and sweater aisles. I avoided all others and managed to find two beautifully unique blouses. After trying them on and a pretty green floral tank, I decided to make the purchase. I knew I loved the pieces and would most likely never find these pieces anywhere else. They just spoke to me and they fit. What's a girl to do? There's no holding back when something's so perfect.

I remember I was traveling once, maybe it was NY or Boston, and I came across this striped sweater that I absolutely loved. I held back and did not purchase it and to this day I regret that decision. I don't want any amazing find to escape me again. Of course if the product is over my budget limit than I may reconsider knowing that material items are not what keeps us alive, food, shelter, and love are what truly matter.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

An Awesome Illustration of Empty Space

This is a long one, but worth the read. If you've been reading the blog for a while you already know about my fascination with scale, both macro and microscopic. In the second category, I found a website that does a great job at illustrating just how much empty space there is in a single atom. I'll give you the website and then my perspective.

The page doesn't seem to work correctly in every browser. I tried it in Firefox unsuccessfully, but had good results with Safari. I'm sure Internet Explorer with work fine, too. The short explanation of what you'll see is a scale model of the constituent elements of a hydrogen atom, the simplest of all elements, and the space between them. The smallest bit in an atom is the electron which, in this demonstration is rendered as one on-screen pixel. It's at the far right side of the page. The nucleus, which in the case of hydrogen is only a proton and no neutron, is 1,000 times larger than the electron circling it. It's understandably rendered in this illustration as a circle 1,000 pixels across.

Here's the incredible bit. At the scale we're working with in this model, the distance between the electron orbiting the proton in the center of the atom and the proton itself is 50,000,000 pixels. At a screen resolution of 72 pixels per inch (a resolution all computer monitors share), this distance, illustrated on the website is eleven miles long.

Eleven miles. Try and take that in. The electron is a single pixel. The proton just about fills the screen, and the space between them is eleven miles of nothing. When you come to the page you'll see the proton. Then click and hold on the bottom scroll bar to start moving the page off to the right. You'll be moving in the direction of the electron, on the far right side of the page, but it will take you a long time to get there. You'll see the scroll bar moving, but just barely. If you had the patience and held the scroll bar you'd pan the full eleven miles to the electron on the right. It takes a lot of patience.

That's eleven miles of empty space. And remember, this page is illustrating the distance between the center of the atom and its outer edge, the electron. In other words, the radius. The full diameter of the atom in this demonstration is 22 miles. 22 miles of almost pure empty space.

What does that translate to in volume, looking at the atom as a full sphere? Framed at a scale we can envision, the one we've been using, in a hydrogen atom, a basic building block of matter, there is 4,188,790,206 pixels of actual mass (the proton and the electron) and...wait for it...523,598,775,598,333,300,000,000 pixels of nothing. 523 septilion pixels of empty space. Void. Complete and total nothingness.

Percentage wise, that puts actual stuff in the atom, the proton and electron at .0000000000000008 the total volume. Only eight ten quadrillionths of the total mass of the atom. Imagine you had a neighborhood with 10 quadrillion (10,000,000,000,000,000) houses in it (that's a separate house for every single person on the face of the earth more than 1,000,000 times over). In this example most of these houses stand vacant.In fact only eight actually have people living in them. The rest is nothing but empty space. There's virtually no actual stuff in an atom. Really. The math doesn't lie.

What does that mean on a macro scale? What does that mean for everything we touch? What does that mean for us? We're comprised of atoms, 99 percent of which are hydrogen, oxygen and carbon, all relatively simple atoms. The average human contains roughly 7*1027 atoms. That's a lot of atoms, but those atoms contain almost nothing in them. In fact, the number of atoms contained in our bodies doesn't really matter. Since we're made of atoms, and atoms are almost entirely empty space, regardless of the number of atoms we contain, we are still forced to accept the conclusion that we too are almost entirely empty space. In the same percentages as the atoms themselves.

For something that seems so solid, so real, it's hard to accept that we sort of barely exist. But it's true. Our bodies are only roughly .0000000000000008 percent stuff. The rest is empty space. Our solidity is owed completely to the strong nuclear force that holds the nucleus of our atoms together and the electric charge that binds the electrons inside. We're not solid because we're made of stuff. We're solid because of the energy that binds together what infinitely little stuff we actually are. So, in a very real sense we are simply empty space and energy with an infinitesimal spit of "stuff" thrown in.

See that? No matter which direction you go, to the tiniest of things, or to the universe at large you find mostly empty space and energy. I find that awe-inspiring.

Dinner, Annie, and Friends

We are invited to see Jan, Jason's mom, in a musical theatre performance every year. It's part of the Goddard Space Flight Center, which is where her boyfriend, David, works. This year they put on Annie and it was the best show we've ever seen the community theatre group do. I've always been a huge fan of the movie as a child and as an adult, so I was hoping to enjoy it. They always provide a nice dinner before the show and again the dinner was the best they've ever offered. We also got to hang out with Stephanie and John all evening, which we don't do enough. It was great to see them and check up. All together everything was great and very entertaining. I really liked all the kids who performed in the show. To have or to be a talented brave kid like these were must be a wonderful thing. I wish I had had such talent growing up. I of course was too shy to even read out loud in class. I hope if and when I become a teacher I will somehow show my students that being self-conscience your whole life is no way to live. Anyways the show and dinner tonight were splendid. Jan, thanks for the tickets. You put a fabulous performance on as one of the Boylan Sisters and as part of the ensemble.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Lay Your Head Down

Things don't always go your way. In fact, often times things can run in the complete opposite direction. But no matter how bad things get, as long as you have food, water and a safe place to lay your head down at the end of the day, you should grateful. Grateful to whatever it is you want to be grateful to. Consider that there are a great many unfortunates that don't have some number of those three. That's when life really gets miserable.

So if you have all three, which I do, consider yourself lucky and don't take them for granted. The fact that I can curl up next to Kate as soon as I'm done writing this, with a full belly, and pass out, knowing that I'll safely wake up in the same spot tomorrow morning is more than worth its weight (figuratively speaking) in gold.

Oscar Film Time

I love when the months of Oscar films start approaching and the buzz of this year's top films start appearing in articles and TV previews. I get really excited during these months and start reviewing all the top movies. I mentally start selecting which movies need to be seen in the big theatre and which ones can wait for rental. I am just a dork when it comes to this. The Entertainment Weekly Magazine this week contains write ups on all the films coming out the winter months ahead, it also contains a predetermined guess list of Oscar nods. I will end up going through the entire list by the weeks out, watching all the movies previews on the Apple Trailer's website.

Before I start going to these films I must catch up and see the few movies I missed from the past years Oscars nods, such as Milk, The Queen, Frost/Nixon, Frozen River, The Duchess, Wanted, Revolutionary Road, La Vie En Rose, Away From Her, American Gangster, In the Valley of Elah, Persepolis, and Diving Bell and the Butterfly. We have most of these movies in the house we just have to sit down and watch them. I'm so disappointed in myself now, I better catch up and catch up fast.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Momentous (But Ultimately Silly) Event is Coming

Next year is special. It's like hasn't been seen for 201 years, and we all, if our luck holds, will be here to witness it. What could be so special that the world so rarely get the occasion to enjoy it? In 2010, the first digits of the year are evenly divisible by the second two digits. Not since 1809 has the planet had the opportunity to celebrate this purely fictional but rare and interesting event.

Eh, I think it's cool. Is it important? No, but math geeks will surely be paying attention. It happens every 201 years and is neat purely from a rarity standpoint. Not to say that other mathematical gymnastics can't be found in other years. 2005, 1920, 1500, etc. Rarity is defined by the width of your net. But rarity makes like interesting.

And so does useless math.

I bow to the Amish

The Amish are amazing at making about any kind of food. I'm close to the Amish Market again now that I work in Hunt Valley. They were about to close yesterday so I went in and ordered everything for dinner from the first counter I came too. I got delicious precooked and well seasoned meatloaf, a big tub of brown sugar mashed potatoes and creamed spinach, and rice pudding for desert. Jason and I were in heaven last night. We just stuck everything in the microwave and enjoyed. I've also enjoyed their bison burgers, steak fries, chicken wings, and turkey sandwiches before. Really I don't remember getting anything there I didn't enjoy. They also produce there own candies, pies, snack foods, jams, furniture, and many many other things. They're really incredibly resourceful entrepreneurs. I would love to take a tour of there homeland in Pennsylvania one day, I bet it would be very fascinating.

Daylight Savings Time

I've always disliked how early it gets dark after Daylight Savings Time kicks in. Today it was completely black by 5:30. However...

Now that I'm getting up earlier than ever, especially on work out days when I'm up by 6:30, I like the fact that it's now getting to be light at that point. In fact, I think I dislike waking up to darkness more than I dislike leaving work to the same, so Daylight Savings Time has switched from a negative to a positive for me.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Employed Busy Bee

During unemployment I really learned how to use time wisely. I now really miss having time in the day to do housework, garden, , exercise, cook, work on photography, and the time to contemplate me next career move. Don't get me wrong I like my new job and feel it's a good fit for me, but I really want to keep my momentum up when I get home from work. I need to fit in exercise, cooking, house work and photography somehow. I really learned that making lists of daily goals really helped me, so I will continue to make those for when I get home. It's time to move on from unemployment and start my new life as an employed busy bee.

Sometimes the Best Aren't the Ones You Expect

Kate and I saw Ingrid Michaelson tonight at the Recher Theatre. The show was part of my birthday present to her this year, though I think we both like her equally well. And she didn't disappoint. It is easily in my top five all time favorite concerts.* She was quirky. She was fun. The band was a bunch of cut-ups and nut jobs. And the music was stellar. Her voice live is easily twice as good as it is on her recorded material, where's it's already five times better than most other female vocalists.

It was just a light-hearted show that didn't take itself remotely seriously. At one point, at the end of a song Ingrid yelled, "Remix!" and the entire band got up and switched instruments (she went to drums of all things) and replayed that last chorus, switching vocal parts as well to match their new positions. And yet, as funny as the show was, it managed to hit some real emotional moments as well.

It's just funny to me how often the experiences you expect will be great aren't always, and those that you don't really give a second thought to ahead of time end up surprising you more than you could have imagined. I guess that's why life isn't boring. Because nothing is ever what you expect it to be. Not completely, at least.

*Top Five Favorite Live Concerts

5. Billy Bragg and Robyn Hitchcock at the 9:30 Club
4. Ingrid Michaelson at the Recher Theatre
3. Matisyahu at the 9:30 Club
2. My Morning Jacket at the 9:30 Club
1. Zappa Plays Zappa at Constitution Hall: Dweezil Zappa and an immensely talented band of musicians, some of whom played with his father played Frank's music, and did it more than justice. At one point, through the magic of large screen plasma displays and digital playback Dweezil and a posthumous Frank soloed off of on another. Best show ever.

Top Show I Purchased Tickets For and Forgot About

1. Trey Anastasio and the BSO Play the Music of Phish

It killed me. I heard a review of the concert three days afterward, triggering the memory that I'd forgotten to attend.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Adoring the Babies

I love the babies I get to take care of at my new job. I've worked 8am to 4pm the past two days taking care of 2 to 5 kids at a time, 15 months to 3 years in age. There two others childcare assistants there helping including my boss, Jenn. The kids are all so cute and big eyed. All very curious about the world and doing their best to learn words. I am really enjoying my new job and hope it continues to be a love of mine.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Gift of Giving

Finding the perfect gift for someone can be so challenging, but once you figure it out it's so rewarding for you and the receiver. It feels good to know someone so well that knowing what will make them happy and pleased is very satisfying. I'm not really referring to anything particular, really it's just the idea of finding the perfect present and the feeling you get after you give that present out. Bringing great joy to someone special on a birthday, anniversary, holiday, or just because feels amazing. The light in their eyes, the smile on their face is breathtaking.

The holidays are shortly approaching and I've already given myself the best gift ever- Plane tickets for Jason and I to spend the Christmas holidays for my mom, dad, sister, Allen, and my two beautiful nephews, Kaiden and Blake. I can't wait to see you all, Love you with all my heart!

A Break in the Clouds

There's a light breaking through what's been an overcast month. We have someone interested in renting the Stevenson Ln. house. Very interested, in fact. He loves the house, knows his wife will love it, and is very eager to end a grueling work commute, from Dover Delaware to Towson every day, four hours round trip.

I wanted to sell, but this is simply not a good market, and I can't afford to have the house sit. This opportunity seems too good to pass up. I've decided to offer him the house, assuming he passes a credit check, and assuming he's amenable to an 18 month lease. While a little unusual, I realized that 18 month lease terms would give the tenants the year they want, plus allow me, when the lease runs out to put the house on the market in May, a much more favorable time than November. That's the situation I'm in now, and the same situation I'd be in a year from now if a offer a standard year lease.

We'll see. I sent an email a few minutes ago. If he goes for the 18 months, based on my experience of him so far, I suspect we'll have a renter by Dec. 1. Hallelujah! Praise Chalmana!*

*You'll get that if you've been paying attention.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A new adventure begins

I'm excited to enter my new workplace tomorrow. Meeting new people is just the medicine the doctor ordered. I hope I make more good impressions. I hope my personality continues to shine in a good way. I'm not going to over think it, just go with a positive attitude. I hope I handle my new work schedule alright. It's better than teaching school, I work from 8 to 4 Tuesday through Friday. I will start going to bed at 11pm and getting up at 6am, not too bad. I will then workout till 6:30 then shower and get ready till 7pm. Proceed to Eat breakfast, watch some Ellen, and pack a lunch till 7:30. It will only take 15 to 30 minutes to get there, it's literally across street from Renegade. It's weird that I'll be in the same exact area as before. I don't know yet how they handle lunch breaks there, so I'm going to pack my lunch for now and then see if down the road I can have lunch dates with Renegade friends and with Jason of course. I hope I'm as good with kids as I think I am. It will be wonderful, I just know it, positivity is key.

The Holiday Season Begins

I'd never really thought of Halloween as the beginning of the holiday season, but I think that may be because, as an adult I'd never really taken in part in any of the traditions, apart from dressing up. This year was different.

Clearly I'm food motivated, because as soon as food rituals are wrapped into a holiday it comes alive for me. This year Kate and I prepared a pumpkin for the first time. Long story, but sufficed to say we had a mid-size specimen growing in the front yard of the Stevenson Ln. house. The weeds had gotten a bit out of control. I brought it home, unsure it would come to any use, but hopeful. Last night I gutted it, baked it, and stripped the flesh from the skin in preparation for home-made pumpkin bread. I also prepped and baked the seeds, boiling them first with salt and Herbs du Provence and then baking them with more salt, cinnamon, curry and a little onion powder. Delicious.

So now Halloween is much more firmly tied to the other Autumn celebrations for me, and feels like a friendly distant cousin to Thanksgiving. Given that it seems to tie up summer nicely and drop us with fresh eyes into fall, I think Halloween isn't a stand-alone holiday, but the start of the season. The first stop on a procession of holidays, each with its own charms, tying out the year with New Years.

Who knew I was such a sucker for pumpkin?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Writing I'm Proud Of

I wrote this short scene for a writing contest a few months ago. It didn't win and never got published on the site, but I'm pretty proud of it regardless. It's my first real foray into fiction writing. I decided to publish it here, in celebration of the effort. It's a little dark, almost too dark for a blog devoted to the positive, but understand that the content is unimportant. It's the accomplishment that's being given a nod. My accomplishment, writing a meaningful bit of fiction for the first time. Maybe one day I'll be able to write something a tad longer.

The assignment was to write about a mirror, in 300 words or less. The mirror should be integral to the development of a character in some way. Beyond that the space was wide open. This was my entry.

His Dark Reflection

Donald’s unblinking gaze fixed itself firmly on the shabby reflection staring back from the truckstop restroom mirror. This one was behaving exactly like the last, which is to say, not properly. The inky black pupils stationed inside the smeary glass held his own in a dark conversation he could not withdraw from. Instead of reflecting his outward appearance, this mirror, like the terrifying portal in his hall closet, was reflecting his inner life. A grey-scale representation of everything he wished he wasn’t, illuminated in the flickering fluorescence of rest stop squalor. Had he not felt so insignificant next to the presence he felt through the glass he may have known that it was he alone controlling the situation.

But then Donald often forgot which side of the mirror he was on when he didn’t take his medication.

He regretted the backslide, but the emotion was lost amidst the torrent of self-loathing bursting violently from his glassy oppressor. Donald clawed at his eyes, dry discs baked by the unrepentant glare from the mirror. He pulled at the lids, struggling to shut out the gaze that reduced him to a silly lampoon of himself. The depth of his depravity, so coldly laid bare for he and all the patrons of Sonny's Truckstop Emporium stood in judgment, inches from his face and light years beyond any sense of reason.

He screamed, but more from compulsion than terror, as if the outburst were written into some tragic script he never had the benefit of reading. Whatever remaining sense of will Donald retained was slowly seeping over the threshold before him. He no longer cared about his predicament. He was simply a puppet. He peered at himself with curious detachment from inside the mirror. Why did he look so perplexed?

Yummy Family Traditions

I'm making one of my families Polish recipes tonight, Golabkis. This is one of the recipes that was passed down from my dad's dad's family that came over from Poland. I remember loving Golabkis when I was a child and I hope to make them just as good. For anyone who doesn't know, Golabkis are ground meat, onion, rice, and tomato sauce combined and rolled up in cabbage leaves.

I love making food from my heritage. My grandfather, when he was still around, would also make homemade Polish sausage (kielbasa). My uncle Don and Allen, my brother-in-law, have both started making homemade kielbasa from the original recipe. Jason and I would love to start making it ourselves. We would need to purchase a sausage maker, but one day we'll make the investment. It's so good in the morning with beets, eggs, and home fries.

Digging Down the Creative Strata

Digital artwork affords a perspective previously difficult in the creative arts. The ability to go "backward in time" through the stages of a finished piece, from its finished state back through to its earliest drafts. It's a really interesting process, even if you only just recently finished work.

For me it works like this. Each time we make revisions to a commercial, video, graphic design, etc. for a client we upload it to our servers. Each further revision is posted under the same name with the version number updated by one. Therefore, at any point after the project is complete you can go back and watch each previous version in reverse order, back to the earliest posting. It's a great way to get perspective on the finished video as you see it deconstruct itself one revision round at a time.

What strikes you often is just how different the final is from the initial conception. Changes are gradual, and often made by committee. So you have multiple viewpoints changing a single vision in a stutter-step fashion over time. Sometimes the only way you can truly appreciate the genesis of the final project is to watch it's creation in reverse. Many times it helps you recognize why the changes needed to be made, but just as often you find yourself lamenting excellence lost in the edit.

I'm glad I work in a medium that allows historical viewings. I like having that record of where a project came from. Sometimes I appreciate the final outcome all the more because of the path followed to get there.