February 28, 2011

059: Lily

Lilies II
We've got a bunch of these stinking up the house from the bouquet my uncle sent my grandma for Valentine's Day.

February 27, 2011

058: The Kid is All Right

From across time, Teenage Me approves of these shoes.
While the red-carpet commentators are critiquing Natalie Portman's maternity dress and the livebloggers are stretching their fingers in preparation for a long evening, I'll be keeping an eye on that young lady over there, Hailee Steinfeld. She's been getting a lot of attention this awards season for her performance as Mattie Ross in True Grit, and she's handled it remarkably well for any actress, let alone a fourteen-year-old. Among all the dour looks on the red carpet, she's been cheerful and well-dressed, not to mention age-appropriate.  Just look at that picture (from the cover of this week's Parade) -- she's just delightful, and she looks her age, which is impressive in itself when you look at the likes of Miley Cyrus.

She's a long shot to win the supporting-actress Oscar tonight (Melissa Leo being the presumed winner for The Fighter), but I'll still be rooting for her, not just because I thought she was fantastic in True Grit, but because she seems to have her head on straight -- a rarity for teen stars -- and seems to be taking the whole celebrity experience one step at a time (the Parade feature is a good read, by the by). My opinion is this: if more of the famous young folks in Hollywood were this down-to-earth, we wouldn't have to put up with thing like Lindsay Lohan's continual legal drama.

(Also? I'm joining the internet chorus championing Steinfeld for Katniss Everdeen in the inevitable Hunger Games movie. Cast a teenager to play a teenager, Hollywood, please!)

February 26, 2011

057: Favorite Things VI

This week's favorites:

Adele's sophomore album has been on repeat for three days. It's the perfect blend of blues and pop, and I just love listening to her voice. Amongst the Ke$has and the Britneys on the radio, Adele is such a breath of fresh air. "Rolling in the Deep" was released as a single late last year, and the rest of the album is just as good, if not better.

Leaving the house
It's really not healthy to stay in all the time. I managed to get out into the world every day this week, and apart from the snowy grossness today, it was pretty nice.

The Academy Awards
I still haven't seen all the nominated movies -- and at this point, I'm not planning to -- but there's something fun about the glitz and glamour of Oscar weekend, even from halfway across the country. Who's going to wear what, how will Hathaway and Franco do as hosts, what kind of trainwreck will Helena Bonham Carter be on Sunday? It's a nice bit of escapism for those of us who don't have to get gussied up for the show. I, for one, will be watching in my pajamas and knitting.

via Vintage Photobooth
Vintage Photobooth
Another delightful tumblr blog that does what it says on the label. It's a shame photobooths have been updated -- the last one I saw had a screen on the outside to let passersby see what's going on inside the booth. Creepy. But we can enjoy the way things used to be via the internet. Thanks, Internet!

February 25, 2011

056: Blocked, or the Writer's Steady Breakdown

Faced with a blank page, utter terror comes first. The page must be filled, the word counts reached. Something, something, must be written.  The cursor blinks innocently, both beckoning and taunting, a reminder of all the fine phrases and sentences -- even whole paragraphs -- of the past. Once, there were stories. Now, there is anxiety and avoidance tactics.

Then, rationalization. It's not such a big deal, right? Deadlines? Who cares! I've got plenty of time! I'll work on it tomorrow. The ideas are there, which is important. Without ideas, there is no story, so half the battle is already won. The words can wait; the page can stay blank for another day, week, or month. There is no cause for concern.


Avoidance (and delusion). The past is past. Forget the old project. The old project isn't worth the computer document it's typed on. This idea, this new idea, is the idea. Shiny and new, full of promise, this is the story I was born to write! That other one is a path trodden by too many writers before me; why should I trample the same ground when I could forge my own trail...to glory.

A false sense of security. It's going so well! I'll be finished by the time the snow melts!

A blank page and utter terror. CURSE THIS NEVER-ENDING CYCLE.

February 24, 2011

055: Stargazers

Astronomers II
Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, 2010

February 23, 2011

054: Hermits United

My fellow homebody Lucia and I went for lunch today. (Her site always makes me hungry.) Twin Citians, if you ever go to the Modern Cafe in Northeast, I recommend the Macaroni and Cheese with broccolini and truffle oil.

This being the first time in a while that either of us has gotten out of the house, I couldn't help thinking of this Doctor Who moment from "Utopia":

February 22, 2011

053: Globetrekking

Based on the emails they send me, I think Delta is operating under the mistaken assumption that I'm some cosmopolitan jetsetter.

Okay, true, I did go on three trips in 2010: Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. But this is unusual. For most of my life, the only time I flew was to go to France about every four years (because I have a parent there, not because I'm one of those people). The Chicago trip was my Jeopardy! audition, and Los Angeles was when I was actually on the show; New York was to visit my college roommate. That's six flights on two airlines over four months. (I only really remember one, which is the flight from Minneapolis/St. Paul to LaGuardia, because the woman sitting next to me kept breastfeeding her toddler to keep him amused. Meanwhile, I was reading a Marie Claire that happened to have an editorial about sex aids, complete with photos. So it was an uncomfortable couple of hours for everyone.) After all that flying, I'm sick of air travel.

I'm going to Canada for the first time this year (hooray!) to visit another college roommate in Vancouver. Do you know how much it costs to fly from Minneapolis to Vancouver? Suffice to say the pricetag was enough to send me running to the Amtrak website. And since then, I've been thinking, hey, trains! How retro! It could be fun! Sure, it takes five times longer, someone might get murdered, and you might end up in a car with Dr. Sheldon Cooper, but you might also end up at Hogwarts.

But seriously: has anyone reading this ever taken a long train journey? Ever done a border crossing on a train? I've been on the TGV in France, but being a train à grande vitesse (loosely translated: Very Fast Train), it didn't take that long. Does the inconvenience outweigh the money saved? Please advise.

February 21, 2011

052: Hello, kitty.

Hello, Kitty.

Half-day at work due to the snow. Treacherous driving home. Not a fun day.

February 20, 2011

051: Typo

Nothing drives me nuts like typos. (I'm sure there will be at least one in this blog, now that I've said that.) It's baffling to me how often there are spelling errors in newspaper articles, news graphics, even books.  Yesterday, I saw a local TV show doing a "Trvia" (trivia) segment.  A while back, I tweeted at Sun Country Airlines about a typo in their banner ad (which they have since fixed):

Before: "Febuary," really, guys?
After: Much better.

Below is the worst newspaper typo I've ever seen, where the Star Tribune misspelled "President" two different ways in one very short story.  A whole raft of people complained almost immediately and they fixed it quickly, but not quickly enough.  (click to enlarge)

President is not spelled "Presidient" or "Presdient"

Typos do not make you look good, especially if you're running a newspaper.  It's not hard to hit "spellcheck" before you hit "submit," and both the pictured errors would be caught by the computer and most casual readers.  Please try harder, professional organizations.  Thank you.

February 19, 2011

050: Favorite Things V

This week, I'm into...

via We Heart It
We had a few precious warm(ish) days this week, up into the forty-degree range, before winter came back with a vengeance. But you were TOO LATE, Winter! I bought open-toed shoes yesterday. I'm starting to think about which bike trails I'm going to frequent this year. I'm on the lookout for cheap carwashes (which are pointless in winter, since the sand and road salt are just going to grime up the car by the time you get home) and taking the lawn mower in for a tune-up. It doesn't matter that we're getting another couple inches of snow this weekend -- Spring is on the way, and we all know it.

I love all things breakfast. Eggs, bacon, sausage links, hash browns, cheesy grits -- if it'll clog my arteries, I adore it. And breakfast has gotten even better since they started making strawberry cheesecake-flavored fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt.  Some combination of all the aforementioned and my cup of coffee? Bliss.

via We Heart It
Public libraries
It's horrifying that underfunded public libraries are having to shut down, both here and abroad. I practically grew up at the library; what's not to love? You can get all kinds of books, movies, music, and magazines for free at the library. They have all the encyclopedias and research books you would never want to buy, but occasionally need. What would we do if they went away?

Who Do You Think You Are?
I've only seen a couple episodes of the original British series, but NBC's version of Who Do You Think You Are is oddly entertaining. Celebrities researching their genealogy is mildly interesting, but the history lessons and the peeks into people's lives in the past is fascinating. There are some fun surprises, too, like Brooke Shields being related to French royalty and when Lisa Kudrow met some newly-discovered relatives who couldn't believe Phoebe from Friends was at their kitchen table. It's my family's go-to Friday night entertainment.

(Only four things instead of five this week...it's been that kind of slog.)

February 18, 2011

049: Lazy Friday photo

Too lazy to write, so have a Friday-appropriate photo.

Minneapolis, 2009.


February 17, 2011

048: Truer words

The Jeopardy! IBM Challenge was highly entertaining, even if Team Humans didn't manage to pull out a win.  If nothing else, Watson's victory over J! superchamps Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter gave us this:
Between that and the many, many Skynet, HAL, and Deep Blue jokes on Twitter over the last few days, I'd say the IBM Challenge was a hit.  Thumbs up, Jeopardy! and IBM.

February 16, 2011

047: Automobility

Since my grandfather stopped driving last year, his silver 1993 Mercury Tracer station wagon has been mine, all mine.  No longer do I have to loiter at the park-and-ride, waiting for my mom to come pick me up while everyone else gets in their cars and stares as they drive by (have these people never seen someone waiting for a ride? I don't get it), nor make sure no one else needs the car before I go somewhere.  I spent the better part of two hours changing the windshield wipers today, due to an infuriating design element that requires one to more or less defy the laws of physics in order to remove and replace the wipers.  So the Tracer and I have filled our Quality Time quota for the week, I think.  If you've never had the opportunity to ride in one of these babies, let me tell you about some of the peculiarites of mine in particular.

This is the sexiest picture I have ever seen of this car.
There are automatic shoulder belts (because there are no airbags), manual window cranks (which baffle 80% of my passengers), the engine will die if you turn on the air conditioning under certain conditions, the rear windshield wiper clears an area of about four square inches, and there's no point listening to the radio (or the tape deck) when you're on the highway because the road noise drowns out everything else.  The hydraulics (or whatever) on the rear hatch fail in cold weather, so I've been hit over the head by my own car more often than I'd care to admit.  It's shorter and squatter than everything else on the road (except the Mini and the Smart car) and it goes from zero to sixty in about 120 seconds.  But it's my car, and it's served me faithfully for almost a decade now.  So it and I will just keep chugging (squeaking, rattling, and lurching) happily along.

And besides, I can't afford a Mazda 2 yet.

February 15, 2011

046: Best foot forward

Minneapolis, 2009.

February 14, 2011

045: Mixtape

In the grand tradition of Ben Chang and lovesick teenagers everywhere, I made you a mixtape. Spoiler alert: it ends with The Proclaimers' "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)," as I think all mixes ought to.  (The videos aren't really important, just the songs.)  Happy Valentine's Day, Internet!

Ain't Love Grand
Cake - "Love You Madly"
Erin McKeown - "Queen of Quiet"
The Smashing Pumpkins - "Ava Adore"
The White Stripes - "Fell In Love With A Girl"
Sondre Lerche - "My Hands Are Shaking"
V.V. Brown - "L.O.V.E"
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Maps"
Louise Attaque - "Amours"
Ingrid Michaelson - "Everybody"
The Proclaimers - "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)"

February 13, 2011

044: Mayhem

Given the groaning sound I heard from the roof earlier, this isn't as funny as it was last week.

Uncomfortably true, Mr. Mayhem.

February 12, 2011

043: Favorite things IV

I'm retiring the "My Favorite Things" lyrics-as-subject-line gimmick.  But here's this week's roundup:

Space (...the final frontier)
This week, I saw the Hubble IMAX movie at Omnifest and PBS aired the final part of the BBC series on NASA (The Space Age), all of which made me 1) wish I weren't so bored by math, so I could be an astrophysicist, and 2) want to play that old Magic School Bus in Space computer game.

While they don't smell as nice as real books, I've been reading ebooks since I was granted permission to use what was supposed to be my grandfather's Christmas gift, a Barnes & Noble Nook (he decided it was too techy and new-fangled).  My local library has a fairly good selection and B&N offers a free ebook every Friday, so between that and Google Books I'm amassing a fairly good collection -- and I haven't spent a single penny on 'em yet.  One of the best things about an e-reader?  You can read novels with straight up embarrassing covers without anyone seeing the awful cover art, so the people on the bus need never know that I'm reading Regency-era romance novels.  WIN.

I have a wide-brimmed fedora and a bowler that I am forever trying to work into outfits without looking like a total tool.  I have yet to succeed, but I admire people who do.  Also, I'm trying to talk myself out of thinking straw boaters are cute, because I don't want to end up buying one I'll never wear.
Tim Tam cookies
Pepperidge Farm brought Australia's Favorite Cookie to us a few years ago; naturally, it caught my eye in the Target cookie aisle because the cookie and I share a surname.  Only available from October-March each year, Tim Tams are essentially chocolate-covered sandwich cookies, but they must be made of the dreams of unicorns or something because they are ridiculously delicious.  At first I laughed at the people who would hoard them in March so as to have a supply that would last until October, but now I have become them.  There are seven packs in the drawer of the desk at which I am sitting at this very moment.  And I'm seriously considering taking a blogging break to eat one.  Or three.

It's been a fascinating situation in Egypt for the last couple weeks, and the international response to Mubarak finally stepping down has been fantastic to watch.  My mother went to Egypt in the 1980s and I used to look at the photos when I was a kid and think it looked like the coolest place ever.  Hopefully, someday, I will be able to make the trip myself.  In the meantime, congratulations on the first step to a new age, Egypt.

February 11, 2011

042: Oversaturated II

Transamerica Pyramid. San Francisco, 2008.

February 10, 2011

041: Oversaturated

Look up
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, 2008.

February 9, 2011

040: Out on a limb

There are a lot of trees in my yard, but they've never been climbable, nor have I ever had a treehouse. I always envied whoever got to play in this one in Minneapolis:

Treehouse 01
Treehouse - 1
both photos via Flickr
I wonder if one ever gets too old for treehouses.  If I ever had a home with enough land and the proper arrangement of trees, I suspect I'd want to do something like this:
Man, all three of these photos are making me dream of days when there aren't 12-foot snowdrifts in every parking lot in the area.  It'll only be two or three more months, right?

February 8, 2011

039: Four-eyes

My vision is pretty terrible.

I don't wear Coke-bottle glasses or anything, but I have trouble seeing farther than six inches without correction.  I have contact lenses, but I'm more comfortable all around when I wear my glasses.

Also, I think I look better with them than without them.  I got my first pair of glasses in second grade (my mother was very disappointed that I inherited the myopic genes) and went through a series of owlish wire-rims for the rest of elementary school.  There was a pair of ill-advised schoolmarm-specs in late junior high and early high school before I converted to the now-ubiquitous Hipster Glasses.

Now, you have to understand: I don't think the word "hipster" was big when I got my first pair of dark, heavy plastic frames; I just thought they looked a heck of a lot better than the nineteenth-century accountant frames I had at the time.

They constantly slide down my nose (and yes, I push them up by the bridge, the universal signal for geek), and they can get annoying, but I wouldn't give 'em up.

There will be no Lasik for me, thanks.  I will stand proudly beside my bespectacled brethren.  Besides, there's always the slight possibility that, behind the specs, one of us is Superman.

February 7, 2011

038: Occupational hazards

While sorting through several reams of correspondence today, most of which was printed-out emails, it occurred to me that it's kind of strange to have a job where I have to go through other people's letters.  Not to mention the fact that I usually have to at least skim the contents to make sure everything's going in the right place.  90% of these letters and emails were written without any thought of the possibility that someone outside of the sender and recipient would ever read them.  Normally, the correspondence I see is fairly professional, but in the last five years, I've seen some very personal letters sent to poets, some very surprising emails criticizing the professional conduct of well-known colleagues, and some frankly hilarious notes-to-self in the mix.  There is an inherent voyeuristic element to reading what strangers write to each other with the expectation of confidentiality, and while I try not to be nosy (because there are ethical issues involved here, obviously), it is interesting to get a peek behind the curtain on occasion.  And now, when everyone is trying to go paperless, there may be fewer opportunities for scholars to get those glimpses behind the public figures with the ephemeral nature of electronic communication.  I can't tell you how many researchers have read the correspondence and notes of the writers and poets whose papers are housed at my alma mater's archives, and it's a little disturbing to think that future students, biographers, etc., won't have the same resources for their research.

Of course, there's also a strong argument for paper shredders when you consider the fact that I came across a famous Hollywood actress's Social Security number several times in multiple files.  Be smart, people.  Seriously.

February 6, 2011

037: Superb Owl Sunday

Wil Wheaton and friends noted on Twitter that today would be more interesting if, instead of the Superbowl, people were talking about a Superb Owl.  So, in honor of that premise, here's a photo of a really great owl:

You fall into a deeeep sleeeep
(via Flickr)
Go owls!

February 5, 2011

036: Doorbells and sleigh bells

I'm eventually going to run out of lyrics for these Saturday posts, but for the time being, here are this week's favorites:

Downton Abbey
All the promos made Downton Abbey look desperately dull, but everyone who watched it said it was fantastic.  And they were completely right.  I'm only halfway through the second episode, but I'm already engrossed.  Even though it's essentially about inheritance, there's something about the upstairs/downstairs contrast and interplay that makes the program really entertaining.  Also, the costumes.  The costumes!  (Tom and Lorenzo blogged the pretty pretty costumes).  In any case, I should know better than to doubt Masterpiece programming.  I think PBS just needs some better promo-makers.  Perhaps they could poach some of the USA Network people, whose commercials make me want to watch shows that I know I don't like.

Platinum Preppy pens
My mother got me a pair of these pens for my birthday several years ago, and they're the best fountain pens I've come across yet.  The perpetual problem with fountain pens is proper ink flow, and I've hardly had any issues with these.  I'm shopping for refills for my black and red pens, and I'm in the market for a purple.

Finishing projects
I finally finished a sweater I've been knitting for ages (previously mentioned here) and it looks even better than I'd hoped.  I just have to block it, which will stop the slight curling edges along one shoulder, and it'll be all ready for...spring.  Oh, well.  At least it's a lightweight sweater.

Someday I'd like to own a lovely manual typewriter.  Until then, I'll enjoy window-shopping.

I love that this show can do a Dungeons & Dragons-themed episode and make it cool.  I love that they turned the most disastrous anti-drug presentation ever into the most successful anti-drug presentation ever.  The paintball episode from season one is quite possibly the best thing I've ever seen.  I would marry Troy Barnes, no matter how obtuse he may be.  The only problem with the show is that it's on at the same time as The Big Bang Theory.  Thank God for DVR.

February 4, 2011

035: Concessions

What I would be wearing if weather were not a factor (note the height of the snowdrift...):
Scarf, sweater, belt & tights: Target
Dress: vintage via Twitch Vintage
Shoes: vintage via Gypsy Warrior Vintage
Awkward hair: genetics
That is my "Wait, what poses do fashion bloggers do, Mom?" pose.  With concessions to the weather, this is what I actually wear out:

Extra-warm hat: Target
Crazy rainbow scarf: knit by me
Coat & gloves: Macy's
Boots worn literally every day in winter: DSW
"Why so cold?" expression: me

Today, though, I didn't need the polar-fleece-lined hat, since we've almost hit 30 degrees!  Exciting.

Also, the two-plus feet of snow on the roof (!) has been melting in the "warm" temps today, and so far no leaky windows, so the ice dam removal folks get the thumbs-up from me.  (Their pricing, however, leaves much to be desired.)

February 3, 2011

034: Gung hay fat choy

From my Chinese household to yours, be it Asian or not...

34/365 - Happy Chinese New Year

Happy Lunar New Year!

Gung Hay Fat Choy:The Year of the Rabbit

And welcome to the year of the rabbit.  May we all have the rabbit's good luck in the coming year.

February 2, 2011

033: Unrest

You may have heard that my favorite newsman, Anderson Cooper, had some trouble in Egypt today:

These were reportedly pro-Mubarak demonstrators that attacked journalists throughout the day.  Going into the midst of the protesters is either very brave or very stupid, but either way, having journalists on the scene to report events as they observe them -- rather than depending on state-run TV or unverified reports -- is important.  Regardless of how these events ultimately play out, the impact will be far-reaching, and for the sake of the Egyptian people and the reporters from around the world putting themselves in harm's way to show us what's going on, the very least we can do is pay attention.

February 1, 2011

032: Just the facts, ma'am

I love PBS.  We sat around for two hours after dinner, watching the two episodes of Pioneers of Television shown tonight, doing a rundown of early TV westerns and crime dramas.  Two weeks ago, they ran one about science fiction shows.  I think my frequent use of the television label speaks for how much I watch, and my go-to genre is the crime drama, so I was particularly interested to see the overview of the way it all started.

Some of these shows I've never seen and have barely heard of -- I'd never heard of Mannix at all -- but I find the behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the actors and writers fascinating.  You can see how some of the crime shows on the air today evolved; the humor on Castle owes quite a bit to The Rockford Files (and the latter's creator, the late Stephen J. Cannell, was a consultant for the former), and Law & Order's "these are their stories" tagline is akin to Dragnet's "the story you are about to see is true" introduction.  This is the kind of stuff I find interesting and entertaining.  No, I don't get out much, how could you tell?

Anyway, if I've learned only one thing from this series it's this: Martin Landau and Veronica Cartwright have been on every television show, ever.  Seriously, look it up -- those two are everywhere.