Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I am having an awesome day (updated).

Sometime last week I decided I needed a day off to take care of business, and by "business" I mean things like "go through files in the basement to see if you really need those photocopies from undergraduate classes." I'm talking about popping mysterious discs into the computer to find out why you're still carrying them around. I'm talking about organizing reusable mailing supplies. I had boxes to clean up and break down, closets and drawers to weed and prune, laundry to do, and more projects to discover along the way.

And you know what, I was so excited about this day. I envisioned blissful solitude and stupendous multi-tasking, fueled with most of a presspot of coffee and some biscuits and a rumpshaking new mix from kickpleat and an old one from Marigoldie, and that is exactly what has happened. It's been great (and it's not over yet!!). I feel like I could take three more days off and just get really fucking thorough, you know? Maybe the key to making these tasks enjoyable is just this: defining the times when such projects are do-able and can be excellent events, instead of keeping the projects on a permanent, guilt/anxiety-inducing to-do list. (Note to self: perhaps apply this logic to finishing your thesis, building your singing website, etc.)

Bonus: I found this, which I always unearth when I start cleaning out desk drawers:
I made this almost 20 years ago.
Note the date (almost TWENTY years ago). Note the counter data next to each title (nerd). It occurs to me now that I may have shared this tracklist with you in the past, but look! Here is the real thing! Sadly, the tape inside reveals that in order to compile this mix, I taped over Duran Duran's "Notorious" and (worse) Janet Jackson's "Control" (both of which, you'll note, were illegal dubs anyway, which my dad made for me, illegally). The mix has a little something for everyone, from The Roches to Terence Trent D'Arby (adjacent to one another, even!), but at this point I was just making tapes for myself, and it wasn't until high school that I got heavy into tape-swapping and homemade cover art collages compiled from Sassy clips.

In conclusion: taking a day off to get butt-crazy with chores=heartily recommended.

(Update at 12:20 AM: I am finally packing it in. My breakfast is in the crockpot and my lunch is all packed and I have a pile of things to go to work with me tomorrow for shredding. I have recycled quantities of paper. I have encountered some more shit that made me laugh, such as a piece of publicity from the conservatory I went to, circa 1994, featuring lots of people I am still friends with sporting bad 90s hair. I wish I could keep doing this tomorrow, I really do, but it's back to work I go.)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Mos Def, gentrification, awareness, etc.

Here, dear friends, for those of you who were wanting me to send you a link:
Stuff White People Like.

This kind of satire is like shooting fish in a barrel, but it's still pretty damn funny. Especially if you went to a liberal arts school (or loathe people who did).

Friday, February 22, 2008

A blogging problem.

I obviously have one.

It's not that I'm trying to spray the internet with my intellectual seed. I think I'm just going through some kind of categorization (or recategorization) phase. It's probably a result of working with spreadsheets on a daily basis. So I've started yet another blog. It's called witchyobrokeass and it's a place for me to round up my bargain-related posts. Y'all know I've been reading personal finance blogs and frugality blogs and such lately, and I've also been wondering exactly what kind of expertise I have to share with the futureweb. I like the fact that I have a little party going on over here and can post about any old thing, but I've also been thinking about how I can start building a website that might earn me some money. It's a long-term goal of mine to have a passive income stream, and that's likely going to be online, and it's hopefully going to be because I've figured out how to generate information that people want and need and seek.

Until that coalesces, however, I'm going to being giving you little posts about stuff I've tried, and mostly on the cheapy-cheap. I thought about calling the site "Stuff I've Tried," but that makes an ugly URL. Not that "witchyobrokeass" is much better, but it's definitely funnier. (Bonus points if you can tell me where the name came from, and nods to the gorgeous omnivorous food blog immaeatchu for the inspirational coinage.) The upshot is that I have a dilettantish knowledge about a variety of things, and most of them have to do with doin' it yourself and finding good deals. I plan to collect this knowledge for your broke ass's consideration, and I hope your broke ass finds it helpful.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Killing the Blues.

Why hasn't anyone in my jurisdiction been talking about Raising Sand, the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss collabo? I'd been hearing tracks from it periodically on the radio and thinking "I gotta buy that," and I finally remembered to do so a few days ago. It is good stuff. It probably helps that I am a fan of both musicians, but not a particularly well-schooled one, so for me this record just is what it is, independent of legacy or genre: a slightly moody, haunting, mostly down-tempo collection of Americana featuring two splendid voices. I mean really, is there anyone who has a prettier voice than Alison Krauss? If so I would like to know who. And Plant, of course, can wail, though he barely wails on this. You should listen to "Nothin." And the rest of it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Walk on by (now with photos).

Want to hear something pathetic? I've been signing up for all of these workplace wellness initiatives because the institution I work for actually PAYS employees to do things like take an online health-assessment survey etc. One of the programs I signed up for challenges people to take 10,000 steps a day and gives you a free pedometer. The free pedometer was in fact why I signed up. It's an extremely entry-level pedometer, but it gets the job done. I didn't want lots of data, anyway--I was just kind of curious about how much I've actually been moving my ass on a typical day and I've been wondering this for awhile. So.

I think I've been wearing the pedometer about 10 days now, maybe more, and today is the first day I have even approached 10,000 steps. I'm at 9500 right now and I feel like marching in place to crack my goal. It was a fairly typical day. I did some household chores, went up and down the stairs a bunch of times, went to the gym. But see, that's the thing: I went to the gym, which is only part of a typical day 3 days out of the week. I walked longer than usual during my workout today, too, with the express goal of logging some steps. The thing about running is that you cover more distance with fewer steps, so my usual slow jog thing does little to advance the 10,000 step cause.

I don't know, maybe this is all very boring. I've just been appalled about the whole thing, the whole 6000 step average I seem to be hitting. I've started walking around the kitchen at work when my lunch is in the microwave. Stomping in the copy room. Basically, I need to add a vigorous walk every single day, including the days that I go to the gym. This will be easier, I keep telling myself, when it is not fiftyleven below zero, which is true enough, but the fact remains that it is winter and I am doomed to fall pathetically short for another 2 months.

I have a friend who is in fact a workplace wellness coordinator and I remember she chirpily told me that she logged 14,000 steps the first day she wore a pedometer at work. But then she gets paid to arrange fitness outings and go for runs on her lunch. You could hardly avoid being virtuous in that position.

Willa. Willa.

Just so I haven't killed you with this content, let me tell you a few kid stories. First, I had 4.5 hours with Willa all to myself today. She is cuter than everyone. Also, she is for sure going to be a singer. I decided to try out a little Rossini aria on her today and she LOVED it, smiling and singing along. I contemplated taking cell-phone video of the proceedings, but how big a jerk would I be, holding the baby in my lap, singing an aria which you could hear on the video, and capturing it all with a cell phone? I refrained. I can literally stare at her and say "goo" and other nonsense for a full hour, I mean theoretically I could do this if she could stand for it. It's just that at some point, the effort to coordinate her arms or to process all the information in the pattern on my shirt manifests as crabby exhaustion and she has to be rocked to sleep.

Shenanigans with dad.

Okay but here are some other things. Jude is very good at doing puzzles, which is a joy to behold because generally he's one of those kids who gets so full of his emotions that he needs to giddily punch people when he walks by them. But he can drop into intense concentration when it's time to assemble a jigsaw. At a family gathering last week, he was working on a puzzle and said under his breath, to no one in particular, "first I will finish this puzzle, and then I will wrestle with [the Brit]." I think this was actually the way things played out, too. Wrestling is a good way to get rid of the urge to punch, and my brother-in-law is good about wrestling his children. Later that same night, BIL had an overjoyed Jude pinned in his lap, holding Jude's legs between his knees and stretching Jude's arms up over his head, the better to tickle his exposed armpits. Then BIL scrunched Jude up into a ball and held him there, at which point Jude, in the spirit of retaliation, said "SMELL. MY. BREATH." It was the only weapon he had at that moment. Remember this. It may be useful to you in a fight.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Crazy in love.

Oh my god everybody, please go read Beyonceitis. Here is an example:
In case you missed it, on Sunday night, Beyonce (current Queen of R&B) said that Tina Turner (Queen of Rock and Roll) was "The Queen" at the Grammy Awards. This didn't sit well with Aretha Franklin (Queen of Soul, Ham Hocks, and Neckbones). Aretha released a statement calling it "a cheap shot". Beyonce's mother Tina Knowles (Queen of Polyester) has apparently packed her fighting wig and is on her way to have words with Ms. Franklin. Baby Daniel (King of Creole Soul) and Solange (Burger King Assistant Manager)are also upset.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Float her in love.

I really love Norman Rush's writing, all free indirect discourse-y deliciousness and relationships and politics and wit. Mating is one of my favorite books ever, and I'm rereading Mortals right now and it might make my list of favorites too, when I'm done. Here's a little passage I thought you might enjoy, part of the uxorious main character's stream of consciousness about his wife:
It came to him then that probably one of the best things, or at least one of the simplest good things, you could do with your mortal life would be to pick out one absolutely first-rate deserving person and do everything you could conceive of in the world to make her happy, as best you might, and never be an adversary on small things.... And the idea was to let this single flower bloom without notifying her of what was going on. Because it would be on the order of a present because it was only fair reciprocation for someone who enthralled you and who had incidentally saved you from your demons. Or the idea was to so charge her life with his appreciation that some morning she would sit up and say What the fuck is going on with us, I am so happy. The idea was to let this single flower bloom until it was something monstrous, like an item in a Max Ernst collage, something that fills the room and the occupant says Oh, this is you, this is you, my beloved friend, my love, now I see, something along those lines. He was going to float her in love and she would be like those paper flowers that open up. Water rising around her.... All this would probably never lead to a verbal event, where she says Good God, I seem to be floating in love. It would be enough if she just thought it, or something like it. No, he had been too average in his attitude and all that toward her in the past, and now he knew it and so would she, soon enough, although she would feel it before she truly knew it, but he was repeating himself. So this would be his new secret work. It would be like adding, say, potted blue hyacinths, one pot at a time, to a shelf or a ledge in the living room, one at a time, until the atmosphere was paradisiacal.

Marry the man today, and change his ways tomorrow.

Want to read something chilling for Valentine's Day? How about a case for settling for Mr. Good Enough? And here's an interview with the author, Lori Gottlieb, which is actually easier to stomach than the article.

There are a couple of good points that I won't bother to enumerate, but many things bug me about her article. For example: the awesome statement that if you've reached 30 and you're not married and "you say you’re not worried, either you’re in denial or you’re lying. In fact, take a good look in the mirror and try to convince yourself that you’re not worried, because you’ll see how silly your face looks when you’re being disingenuous." I'm sure Gottlieb's right--I mean she's obviously in a position to know what every woman in the Western world thinks and believes about life partners and more specifically about marriage. But what bothers me the most is that she never considers that there are other ways to construct a supportive and harmonious life besides settling for Mr. Good Enough.

In fact, the author dances close enough to this issue to raise it properly, but then doesn't. She says that her relationship role models are Will and Grace: "What I long for in a marriage is that sense of having a partner in crime. Someone who knows your day-to-day trivia. Someone who both calls you on your bullshit and puts up with your quirks. So what if Will and Grace weren’t having sex with each other?" Okay then if what you want is the "infrastructure in place to have a family"--in other words, a long-term child-rearing relationship--how about opening up your definition of family a bit? How about living with your best friend, or with a few like-minded people, and sharing household expenses and childcare, and having people to depend on and talk to at the end of the day and go to bat for you when you need it? Why wouldn't that be an awesome alternative to legally binding yourself to some dude who is kind to you but doesn't turn your crank intellectually, emotionally, physically? Or if you meet a dude who wants to be your babydaddy and share in childrearing and be a supportive friend, move into a duplex and pay the few hundred bucks or whatever it costs for both of you to have legal guardianship of the kid.

I remember years ago when I was doing research for something or other, I came across this article about a modern-day "Boston marriage," that Victorian term for two women who opted out of the usual kind of marriage in favor of living together independently and supporting each other's artistic or scholarly pursuits. "At least in theory," says the author, "the Boston marriage indicated a platonic, albeit nerdy relationship" (though the platonic thing certainly wasn't always the case). I was surprised, I guess, that I didn't know anyone who was doing this, or that I hadn't really considered it myself before. I'm talking about me at 26 or 27 with ALL kinds of education and liberal thought: it hadn't ever occurred to me that you could do something besides 1) get married, 2) cohabit romantically, 3) be single, or 4) have a roommate. But, you know, intentional non-romantic partnership is another option for homelife, just like an intentional community is.

Dudes could most certainly do it too--like hetero life-mates Jay and Silent Bob.

I like seeing people I love partnered up and I love my Brit and I have certainly been privy to many more good marriages than bad ones, but I have zero patience with the wedding industry, the relationship self-help books that instruct women on how to get someone to propose to them, and magazine articles that say "tick tock, ladies, maybe it's time to shed your idealism." I don't know about you, but I would much rather spend my days happily crafting in a shed and socializing with my friends and family than know that I have settled for someone and/or that he has settled for me. Your marriage is going to be at the center of your life and it's going to define you forever and you're going to have to work at it, so you'd better be sure it's a good choice and not just the lesser of two evils.

(If you'd like some more things to think about before you "settle," maybe check out this post and thread from last summer. You won't like all of it. I didn't. But there certainly is a lot of food for thought.)

My boyf is going to read too much into this, but he shouldn't and I am going to post it anyway. Kisses, all of you.

Choo-choo-choose me.

We waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead of creating the perfect love.
--Tom Robbins

Monday, February 11, 2008

I'm the same boy I used to be.

I'm having that day at work where I'm primarily putting together mailings, and it is very soothing activity after a big weekend. Plus it has the possibility to make me inordinately happy, for I am using interdepartmental mail envelopes and I just came across one that's been circulating this institution for FOURTEEN YEARS. Once all the address lines were full, someone just printed out a sheet of them and glued it on. I believe that people are committed to this envelope, and that's enough to cheer me up even when I don't need cheering.

Another thing that cheered me was hearing that song "Valerie" in the car on the way to work today. Not the Steve Winwood one, though that probably would have been good for a laugh--I'm talking about Amy Winehouse's crazy ass. The girl has indisputably got pipes.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Foody and other.

There's been sort of a dearth of posting over here, hasn't there? I blame it on February, and having too much to do, and feeling enough eyestrain that I need to curtail my computer action a bit. Nonetheless, I am so enjoying this flickr set by memepunk. If you like ogling other people's breakfasts, you will enjoy it too.

I need to offer up my personal thanks to the genius who spray-painted "You look nice today" on a sheet and pinned it up on a pedestrian overpass over 35W for all the commuters to see. Whoever you are, you made my day, and I am 100% behind your project.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

What a way to make a living.

From an email from my sister Em, who is generating training for a healthcare facility:
remind me to tell you something REALLY gross about bed sores.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Stick around for joy.

This weekend, I had an awesome rehearsal, slept 20 hours, ran five miles, made a lasagna, and failed to find anything to wear for the recital I'm doing next week.

I also memorized a bunch of Norwegian. I do a lot of mental practicing, which is something I cannot advocate enough for musicians and anyone else who's preparing for something. There's an article about this very thing over here--about measurable physiological and psychological responses that happen when athletes or musicians imagine a task, and the different ways in which imagery and mental practice can help performance. This is particularly important for singers, who cannot physically practice for several hours a day--we can still put in plenty of time doing other things, and mentally putting ourselves through the paces of a performance goes a long way toward ensuring that we'll be able to perform the way we want to in high-stress situations.

I love this kind of stuff because it goes right along with my prevailing interest in creating and sustaining a good mindset, of framing reality the way I want to. I would like it even if it were just froufy new age bullshit, but I like it even more because it's based on actual science--on the brain's proven ability to pattern moods and processes.

Today's Unitarian special idea was Intentional Joy. You see how this all fits together?

Welcome Morning
There is joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
each morning,
in the spoon and the chair
that cry 'hello there, Anne'

each morning,
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning.

All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean, though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
to a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So, while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter in the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

The joy that isn't shared, I've heard,
dies young.
--Anne Sexton

PS: Hillary Clinton's voice is so thrashed, I just want to sit her down and give her some voice therapy.