Monday, November 30, 2009

Boring, Bored, Bore

Boring: tr.v. To make weary by being dull, repetitive, or tedious.
Bored: adj. The state of being weary or uninterested due to repetition, tediousness, or dullness.   
Bore: n. One that is wearingly dull, repetitive, or tedious.
Though I am often weary of the repetitious nature of housework, I am rarely bored.
I am, however, increasingly concerned that I am becoming boring. Boring as dirt (in a non-Hodgins way). That’s why I was so interested in this article in today’s Boston Globe, as the author discovers much to his dismay, that he is becoming boring. 

After initial assessment of his own dullness, the author discusses how people are boring when they think they know it all (i.e. a bore) and how they are charming when they actually do know it all but hold it close to the vest. That’s more of a personality issue.  My concern with being boring is limited to my being boring to even myself.  Sadly, this sometimes happens.
But what struck me as most important in the article was the actual moment in which the author realized that he was boring.  It occured when, upon seeing a lady walk by with her dog, he stated to his wife, "You know, you hardly ever see an airedale anymore." His lack of explanation about why that is a notable experience for him makes the statement both boring and hilarious, as an apparent non sequitur, at the same time.

"Who cares?" seems to be his logical follow-up to his own random observation. 

Well – I do.
First, I’m interested in dogs bred for man’s use – tenacious terriers in particular – and Airedales are an old breed of terrier.  Secondly, I’m interested in fashion trends as indicators of cultural importance. A remark on the scarcity of a once popular breed of dog, therefore, indicates that one has noticed that a particular animal has fallen out of favor.  So the correct, non-boring follow-up question to his observation is "Why?" What can this tell us about our culture? 
Further, on the author’s statement itself, I am curious as to why a professional writer would not capitalize the proper noun ‘Airedale’. An Airedale is a specific type of terrier from a geographic region of the Aire river valley in England, and as such, it should be capitalized.
In short, for the three reasons I have indicated, I found the author’s statement not boring, but keenly interesting as I compared it with and integrated it into my own knowledge. 
Of course, it’s quite possible that I found his observation terribly exciting for the sole reason that just last week, I made that very same remark.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holiday Cocktails

With the onset of holiday head, I’ve been somewhat preoccupied with the idea of hosting a gathering to showcase a series of perfect holiday cocktails.  I don’t know exactly what it is that so attracts me toward the mixing and sipping of cocktails as a form of celebration, but I suspect it has far less to do with the actual drinking than with the beauty, flash, splash, and presentation of the kaleidoscope of colors the liquid libations offer in the vast variety of gorgeous glass cocktail containers.  Each cocktail is like a beautiful little feast for the eyes, a substantive (and sometimes challenging) presence in the hand, and a thrilling chill on the tongue.  During the winter holidays, cocktails seem to be accompanied by the smell of a warm fire and earthy evergreens as well as surrounded by the sounds of smooth jazz and happy chatter.  At least that’s the scene that causes the preoccupation in my mind.
In light of this, when I saw this book at the library yesterday, I scooped it up. 

From Publishers Weekly, here is part of its review on Amazon:
Meyer has long been a hero to New York City restaurant goers via his eclectic and acclaimed eateries—the upscale Gramercy Tavern, exotic Tabla and low-down Blue Smoke and Shake Shack. Now, perhaps in a nod to the economic climate, Meyer befriends the stay-at-home crowd with an excellent guide to the affordable luxury known as the artisanal cocktail.
I so enjoyed simply touching the lush pictures of the artisanal cocktails in the book that I concocted my imaginary party right away. 

In an effort to branch out from my vodka-as-the-only-tolerated-spirit rigidity, yet maintain the festivity of the sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch orgy that is the holiday cocktail, I decided to choose at least four of the following:
Venetian Spritz – Prosecco, Aperol (a bittersweet aperitif with rosy color), and a sugar cube to boost up the effervescence?  Festive? Hell ya!
Adonis – No questions, please. (Sherry, vermouth, bitters in a martini glass.)
Blue Smoke Martini – If I were of a mind to stuff my own olives with bleu cheese, this would be my signature drink: a vodka martini with a splash of Scotch for the smoke.  Well, half of one probably followed up by many glasses of water would be my drink.
Ginger Tonic – Ginger-lime infused gin. This one is touted as the “gin drink for the non-gin drinker.” It looks gorgeous and refreshing in its tulip-shaped glass and ginger smells like the holidays to me.
Pomegranate Gimlet – Gin drink garnished with lime and pomegranate seeds – how festive! I’m not usually a fan of the sweet drinks, but this one looks so pretty I may have to try it.

Cranberry Daiquiri  - Drunken cranberries (recipe pg. 219 in the book) are an essential item in this visually stunning rum drink.

Winter Vacation – With sprigs of lavender, scotch, and lavender syrup, it sounds like vacation to me.

Honorable Mentions
The Guilty Kilt – Really? With a name like that, how can a Scotch drink go wrong?
Pink Lady – Gin, brandy, some pretty layering action, and we have egg whites! Plus I love Stockard Channing in Grease.

Pure to be Pink sound bite
23 Skidoo – Slang used during prohibition to get out quick probably derived from the area (23rd Street) of the Flatiron Building area of NYC. The perfect name for any drink including this gin, elderflower liqueur, and thyme treat.
Hang Thyme – Vodka drink. I just love thyme.
Winter Solstice –Pretty name for a brandy drink with Grand Marnier and a rosemary garnish. Mmmm...rosemary.

I would recommend this beautiful book for its stunning pictures alone, but the fun and informative commentary on the drink recipes makes it a real treat.  And it would make a great hostess gift!   If you know someone who might appreciate this book but the $30 cover price seems a bit too much, how about giving a $15 magazine with a similar intent? Or, if you plan to drink only seltzer water, why not bring your own pretty stemware and leave it behind so you too can contribute to the festive feel?
But most importantly, which of the drinks above (or share one of your own favorites) would you like to try if, say for instance, I invited you over for a holiday cocktail?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Snow Man.

I prefer this version of Jimmy Durante's snowman,

to this one.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ante Up

Do you make more than $30,000 a year? Okay, you don’t need to tell me, because I have ways of finding out anyway. But if you do, you really need to give me and my children some of that money.  Why? Because I make less than that. Think of my poor children. You have no right to make and use that much money just for things you want, when I, your friend and countryman, need so much and make so much less than you. Think of how much better my life would be if you would each just give me just a little bit of your money. It seems to me that $30,000 is plenty to live on, so anything beyond that should go back into the kitty to share with the rest of us less fortunate than you.  And what do you get out of the deal?  Well, you get to know that you helped this country become a better place for all of us to live.  Okay – the results are a gamble at best, but I think it’s a bet you should make. You owe it to me, and besides, you and I both know you'll have plenty of money left over.  

The ridiculousness of this claim is obvious. 
Why then, when the monetary threshold is raised, does this claim begin to appeal to people?  It does not become any less arbitrary or any more principled.  It is the exact same unjustifiable claim, only there are more of us who make less than the arbitrary threshold.
Is that all it takes for us to disregard principles?  Moving from the position of being unjustly taxed to the position of receiving unearned wealth?

Why does anyone but you get to decide what you do with your money?

Monday, November 23, 2009

What Not to Wear: The Early Years

Another great video from Glamourdaze.

While I have issues with the credit card size purse (could be that I'm too lazy to edit what I carry as essentials - like a book, or two), I think the after hat, gloves, and shoes are still fabulous.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Embrace the Geek

Every Sunday, Cake Wrecks, a site dedicated to professional cake decorating gone bad, posts some examples of cake decorating done beautifully.   I had to share one of today's examples.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

Last night, I braved throngs of lycanthrope lovers, vampire maniacs, screaming teenagers, sensuality-starved adults, and squeamish tweens and went to see New Moon on opening night. Yes, I realize that puts me squarely in the sensuality-starved adults category, but I’m okay with that.  I’m not starved for sensuality in my everyday life – that’s something one needs to appreciate on her own – but I am a little starved for it in the entertainment world. 
Yeah. So. I’m still hungry.
Anyone who bothers to read this has read the book so there’ll be no surprises regarding the plot which bugged me.  That whole, “You’d be better off without me” thing.  Does that ever work?  Apparently, some people love it (see Casablanca). I’m not one of those people.   
If you’ve ever seen the “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob” t-shirts, but are uninterested in reading the four books, or ever seeing any of the movies (two out now) let me help you out.  Edward is a serious vampire who is intensely in love with a quirky klutz named Bella.  Jacob is a laid-back kind of American Indian boy next door who is also in love with Bella and happens, as he discovers in New Moon, to be a werewolf.  The vampires and the werewolves live side by side in a city called Forks and have a tentative truce not to kill each other. Got it?
Fans of the books and movies are apparently divided in allegiance between the two male leads.  Until last night, I was totally a Team Edward player. Now, I’m conflicted. Why?  In a word: pecs.
Seriously, if you plan to go see the movie, do it soon just to enjoy the full audience reaction to the scene where Jacob takes off his shirt to wipe the blood from Bella’s head (see – klutz) revealing his perfectly tanned and hairless sculpted pecs and washboard abs.  There was a low hum reverberating throughout the auditorium that started off as a sharp inhale and slowly released into a cross between the word ‘yum’ and a deep exhale.  I smiled.  Okay, maybe I even chuckled a little.
Then much later, when Edward thinks that Bella is dead, he decides to expose his sparkly skin in the middle of a busy street carnival as a sort of suicide by cop stunt.  In a terribly cruel contrast, Mr. Pasty-White is forced to disrobe (at this point, I can only imagine the actor had not yet seen the dailies on his cast mate’s disrobing) exposing not only his sparkly skin, but further his flaccid pecs and sort of messy, hairy flatness.  (Honorable mention on the iliac furrows, though I did wonder, “where the hell is the top of his pants” at that point.) I don’t know if it was a collective lack of memory or what, but the audience did not seem to react to what I thought was an unfavorable yet unavoidable comparison.  I winced.
[By far the most distracting feature of the movie was seeing Tony Blair as the head Volturi.  It wasn’t really Tony Blair, but the actor who played him, superbly, in The Queen. It was freaky.]
Overall, I rather enjoyed the entire movie-going experience: buying tickets early, anticipating the night, standing in line at ten o’clock at night with a ton of young people all of us wanting to get a glimpse of a serious hero or really some good chest muscles.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Government Sponge Bath

I have been relatively quiet about the gargantuan (over 2000 pages) heath care bill because, frankly, I’m not sure I have anything to contribute to the discussion except this reminder: the government’s only proper function is to protect individual rights.  Health care is NOT a right.  It is a personal value to be sought and obtained according to one’s own hierarchy of values.  Heath care insurance is not a right.  It is a service provided by businesses that operate based on their calculated risks against the purchaser’s calculated risk of his illness and should be purchased, or not, according to his values. 
There will always be people who, through no fault of their own, will be a bad risk to every insurance company.  For these existing, but relatively infrequent cases, there is charity.  For everyone else, we need the freedom to choose if we want a health plan, what we want covered, and who we’d like to have as our doctors.  We need to be able to weigh the costs and benefits of our health care decisions with the help of those health care professionals we choose.  Nothing short of our lives is at stake here.
Health care reform, which will provide the best incentives for the best diagnosis, treatment, and care options at the best prices, is needed; the health care industry needs be unleashed from the government and left to the free market. 
We must remember that the government produces nothing and has no wealth. The wealth of this country is based on its unique founding upon individual rights and the tremendous accomplishments of its people in exercising those rights. This health care bill is a 2000 page representation of the Marxist philosophy – from each according to his ability, to each according to his need – which is a violation of the very rights our government was established to protect.
Where do you draw the line on the violation of your rights?

Update: Lest the above head-exchange exudes partisanship, I herein acknowledge that the statists on the other side of the aisle just aren’t as photogenic.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Yup, it's up.

The Objectivist Round Up is being hosted at Titanic Deck Chairs this week.

Go there. It's easy. Just click. Either one. Only once.

Dorothy never had it so good.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Christmas Card Art

Last year I saw this Christmas card that almost made me cry.  I don’t know why it affected me so strongly – it’s a cartoon for god’s sake – but somehow it evokes an incredibly strong sense of beauty, peace, and quiet joy.  

The enchanting Central Park Holiday Card depicts a magical scene of a horse-drawn carriage ride in New York City’s snow-covered Central Park. The original gouache on paper was executed in 1968 by Eyvind Earl (sic) (American, 1916–2000), a Disney animator whose work is included in the Museum’s collection. Without greeting.

Produced in cooperation with American Artists Group. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The image was created by Eyvind Earle (1916-2000), a prolific graphic artist and painter who worked in all media, sculpted, and wrote poetry. Read his incredible Christmas Card Art story in his own words.  It did not surprise me that he worked for Disney sometime during his career.

Clearly, I’m not the only one who loves this image. When we went to NYC last year, I tried to find the card it on sale (being that it was so close to Christmas) but the salesperson told me, “No. We sold out of those right away.”  The Metropolitan Museum of Art online store is selling them again this year and I’m going to get a set.  But in the meantime, I tried my hand at recreating the scene in Photoshop for fun.

In trying to capture the essence of the inspirational piece, I clearly missed: there is nothing restful about this image.  Since I decided that an integral part of the beauty of the image is the backdrop of the city, I started there. But my buildings look war-torn.  The water is too frenetic, and the people, so artfully suggested in the original are front and center in my attempted recreation (well – it is my family Christmas card and that is my family –minus one son, whom I plan to Photoshop-in as the sleigh driver, later).  

I chose to go with a muted green tone instead of the muddy purples for Christmas, but it leaves me with a colder, disconnected sense rather than a peaceful one.  The trees, free stock images, don’t have that 1950s style and in combining photographs with graphic images, the entire image lacks that fabulous feel.   So I get happiness, but no beauty and peace.

Because I adore trying to isolate and recreate the essential elements that fed my emotional reaction to the original, I’ll keep working on it.

If you’re interested in the work of Eyvind Earle, go to Gallery 21 to view some of his excellent images of barns and trees in winter.  If you like that sort of thing, which I do, you won’t be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Driver's Ed

Since September 1, 2007, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires that anyone under the age of 18 who would like to have a license to drive in the state take professional driver’s education. This would include 30 hours of class time, 12 hours on the road, and 6 hours of observation time. 
My daughter, who got her permit on the day she became eligible, will soon finish her driver’s education training. What has been included in her mandatory 12 hours road time and 6 hours observation time?
·         A trip to the Burger King parking lot to wait for instructor to get onion rings.
·         Rap music blaring on the car radio.
·         Getting to view pictures of instructor on his iPhone.
·         Sitting in the parking lot of the driving school for 20 minutes waiting for another instructor so their customers can drive home.
·         An instructor who bobs her head, obstructing the driver’s view, but telling the teen driver when it’s safe to go.
The law written to promote safe teen driving not only justifies the existence of this business, but makes it mandatory if a teen wants to get her license before the age of 18.  It includes a provision for parents to take a 2 hour course.  I got to spend two hours of my life there tonight.
The parent class was basically a litany of updated fines for speeding, not wearing your seat belt, operating between the hours of 12:30 and 5:00, as well as chock-full of ways to get around permit test questions, which branch has the most lenient inspectors, and what to avoid.  In the same hour and fifteen minutes the owner of the auto driving school managed to enlighten us about the new rules, warn us how we can’t trust that our kids will do the right thing, and how best to work the system.
And why did it last only an hour and fifteen minutes?  Nobody really needs two hours of that crap.  The instructor ought to know – it’s his cash cow business thanks to support by the Massachusetts legislature.  At least I’m not too bitter about wasting those two hours of my life, not to mention the $750 for the privilege of fulfilling the asinine requirements of an overreaching law designed to further the adolescence of American teenagers while reaching into their parents’ pockets.  I’m just surprised that no one is touting the job creation benefits of it all.

After my daughter gets her license – after I decide she’s ready to get her license – I plan to write to the business owner about the intent of the law, the behavior of his employees, and the concentration of his talk.  He seemed to be a decent guy, but I despise the disparity between the serious nature of law and his company’s wink-and-nod approach. 

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fox, not Faux

Is it the texture or the instant warmth?  Is it nostalgia over the white rabbit cape and matching muff of my youth?  Is it the instant luxe, or the top-of-the-world sensation I get when I’m wearing it? Whatever the reason, fur has been my latest fashion fascination. Real fur.
First, I have to say I’m not enamored of fur coats.  Before the age of ten, I used to play with two mouton coats. One was creamy white and the other was dyed very dark (apparently mouton is just a fancy way of treating a shearling so that it resembles beaver fur).  When we played house in the attic, donning one of the coats gave you an instance air of superiority (provided one was nine or younger, that is).  And they stunk. Really, really badly.  I don’t know if they weren’t properly cared for (a pretty good guess given that as a jam-handed child I had free access to them), or if treated lamb fur just stinks.   My parents bought them when they lived in Alaska in the late 50s and the coats were destroyed in a house fire in the 70s, so I’ll probably never know.
No matter where my disdain of fur coats came from, I still have it. Sure, they can be gorgeous; they're just not for me.  I find them too heavy, gaudy, reeking of status symbol importance, and I just don’t need that much warmth (although I would be happy to borrow one if only to reenact that great Amy Adams and the fur coat moment from Mrs. Pettigrew Lives for a Day).  When I think about wearing a full-length fur coat, all I can think of is how I can barely keep the removable plastic cup holders in my car free of moldy fuzz. How would I manage the special care and keeping requirements of a fur body-length garment? 
But – give me a silver fox collar, a vintage white rabbit hat, or a mink wrap and I’m happy. 
My appreciation of fur accessories started about 10 years ago on a trip to Quebec City.  I was curious about the stores that specialized in fur products.  I didn’t realize that furrier was still a viable profession. I fell in love with the hats and head bands (could be a Dr. Zhivago thing).  Then I inherited – and I use that term quite loosely, I can assure you – a rabbit cape and a wool coat with a thick faux fur collar from my grandmother’s collection. A few years ago, I bought a mink hat at a yard sale. It’s warm and silky soft.  But this fall, my romance with fur has turned into a passion over fox fur collars.

Tell me you don't want to touch Lara's hat.

[I will admit to sporting a teeny, tiny bit of saucy self-satisfaction along with the sassy fur accessories when I think that my choice of dress might offend some people. This is particularly so if those people are the same who would be the first to proclaim that we have no right to judge other’s actions or choices. This is why I use my smoking, drinking, dead-animal-with-head-still-attached-stole-wearing Mad Men icon when I infrequently comment on]
My love of animal print and my fascination with fur overlap in a very specific way: pony hair (calf hair) painted or dyed to match the luscious graphic appeal of some other highly patterned animals. Every time I go to IKEA I nearly convince myself that our house would be a better place with that cowhide rug in it.  
In short: I love animals. They provide us with good work, companionship, food, and fabulous clothing and accessories.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Better Late Than Never

Last week's Objectivist Round Up is hosted by last-minute hostess extraordinaire, Rational Jenn.

Go check it out.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

When To Find a New Writing Teacher

For whatever reason, my daughter needed to rewrite this story for her writing class (the link is not the actual version of the one she read, but similar). One of her final sentences read as follows,
“Rambling merrily, the farmer led the horse to his stable leaving the bemused lion by himself.”
Instead of saying that perhaps “bemused” wasn’t the best description of the lion, this is what her teacher said,
“Wait, that doesn’t make any sense because the lion wasn’t happy, was he?”

Friday, November 13, 2009

Brought to You by the Number 13

And because I love this guy (and his colleagues).

Really? It's spelled Aluminium?  I thought that was just a weird English pronunciation thing.

Apparently I'm not the only one surprised by Wikipedia's redirection.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

An Interesting Step – Backwards

In today’s Inside Higher Ed news there’s a post about a push in universities to accommodate non-theist students with a humanist chaplain. In attempting to justify morality without god, the proponents of the humanist chaplains are happy to mirror the structure of religion, but leave god out of it.  The purpose of a humanist chaplaincy is to “to serve as a resource for students who are interested in exploring how to live ‘ethical and meaningful lives’ without subscribing to any religion”.
Two of the three official humanist chaplains have this to say about the student service they provide:
“Right now, higher education is failing miserably to provide a place on campus where non-religious students can find purpose, compassion, and community,” [humanist chaplain #1 says].
“A lot of students come to campus knowing they’re not religious, but also not knowing what they do believe,” says. The opportunities for discussion, meditation, and service that grow out a chaplaincy “help them learn more about the positive aspects of their identity,” he says, “not just what they don’t believe in.”
Science and reason are important, [chaplain #2] said, “but when you want to address the whole human being, you also have to address imagination, creativity, the senses, [and] the memory.”
There probably isn’t a lot I can add to the backwards thinking displayed above except this:
“This is one of those things that there needs more top-down investment to bring out the grassroots support,”
Thanks for that clarification, chaplain #1.
Rather than helping these non-theists define their moral code as suggested, humanist chaplains seek only to further the individual’s submission to the collective. To claim to support non-theists while cloaked in the robe of a theological studies group ought to affront any rational thinker.
All university students could use some decent philosophy professors who can at least introduce them to Objectivism, so that they might be able to understand that morality is not based on mysticism or skepticism, but on the facts of reality, with man's life as the standard of value.
A moral code is a set of abstract principles; to practice it, an individual must translate it into the appropriate concretes—he must choose the particular goals and values which he is to pursue. This requires that he define his particular hierarchy of values, in the order of their importance, and that he act accordingly.
It is unlikely that a non-theist tribe will stumble upon that kind of soul food.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

3 Good Things (opportunity cost edition)

  1. The Cure for Cancer
  2. LoJack® for Books
  3. Smellivision
That’s the thing about opportunity costs: when the government forcibly extracts and redistributes money, the opportunity costs are unknowable.  The results, sadly, are historically predictable. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Selling Credit

An article in the New York Times yesterday starts with the sad tale of a 91 year-old woman whose credit card interest rate was raised to 29.99%.  This is an excessive rate in my mind, so I would dump the card – unless I decided to use it.  What the article seems to gloss over is that the woman, or indeed, anyone, does not have a right to the credit card services at any price.  The risk of loaning money and expecting it to get repaid has become much greater, in no small part due to government regulations and the ideas both espoused and dismissed in the bailouts.
So what is the result of the credit card companies’ adjusting to the reality of increased risk and the new credit card regulations which take effect in February?
The Senate Banking Committee chairman, Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, meanwhile, is pushing legislation that would freeze interest rates on existing credit card balances until the law takes effect.*
That’s right. The same folks who accused the greedy predatory practices of lending institutions but ignored the role of mandated easy-lending practices in the mortgage fiasco are insisting that the credit card companies not act in their own best interest, but keep the bad risks at a price the government deems acceptable while they wait to be further manacled by more regulation!  
Kenneth J. Clayton, senior vice president for card policy at the American Bankers Association importantly reminds the reader:  “We sell credit; we don’t sell sweaters.”  Think about that.  They are in the business of selling credit. 
Just because people have come to rely on the convenience of credit cards doesn’t mean that the companies are no longer businesses.  They sell the convenience of credit, not a right to their money. You don’t like their product? Return it, unused, for a full refund.  If you use it, you’re going to have to pay for it.  That’s how it works – or should.    
The premise that the new regulations are needed to prevent fraud is false. Fraud is already illegal and should be fully prosecuted.  More regulations decrease our choices, inspire more creative loopholes, and further remove the consumer from what he chooses to consume.
*Fun with Gravity posts on how his Senator seeks the same.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Early Influences

Sometimes I forget what a charmed life I led as a child. One of my greatest possessions was my very own Close-N-Play and the entire collection of Sesame Street 45s in their own snazzy carrying case. That’s right, people: The entire collection (circa 1970). I played those records over and over and over again. I forget about those early influences until I hear the lead-ins to any of the classic Sesame Street songs and all the words come rushing back.  In honor of Sesame Street’s 40th anniversary, I’d like to share some of my favorites.

The songs by Joe Raposo and Jeff Moss were engaging, but the Muppet creations by Jim Henson were inspiring.

Sure. You couldn’t pay me to watch it now, but I did love Sesame Street and some of those pre-Elmo characters, to wit I give you this little quiz so you can determine which Sesame Street character you are most like.   I was the Count which didn’t surprise me at all but did call the validity of the quiz into question for many of my friends who thought I should be Oscar.  Go figure.  (See? That’s why I’m the Count.)
In addition to the Street personalities, Jim Henson gave us great characters on the Muppet Show. Of course, I couldn’t have known then that one of my favorites would have a tagline I would use in everyday life as it so perfectly characterizes and stirs up  a certain person in my house when I sing it to him.

From MuppetWiki:
The last line of the song is always "Børk! Børk! Børk!" and is punctuated by the Chef throwing the utensils over his shoulder to crash into the crockery behind him. (Although the letter "ø" does not exist in Swedish — it is a Danish/Norwegian letter whose Swedish equivalent is "ö" – the Chef's trademark word is nearly universally spelled as "Børk."

Aaah.  Good times.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Environmentalist

Have you ever seen Al Gore’s TED Talks?

I have always found it most interesting that a large portion of those of us who would staunchly reject the God the Father on rational grounds would so readily adopt Earth the Mother with little else to go on than a growing consensus among federally-funded scientists and some anecdotal power point slides.  I will not debate the facts of global warming, as I would not debate the facts of global cooling or plate tectonics: earth systems are very large and still somewhat unpredictable.

My education and rational faculties, however, prevent me from a wholesale belief in anthropogenic global warming, and particularly in any governmental solutions to any such warming. What I do see and understand is that those who buy into man-made global warming are not content to change their own behaviors, but rather feel they must mandate the behavior of others.  Mr. Gore consistently applies his mantra: “Change the light bulbs – but change the laws” in this presentation.  He is asking his faithful to yoke all of our individual choices and tie them to governmental “solutions” of a global system.

It would seem the transparent desire of environmentalists is to worship the pure, natural Earth and punish dirty, industrial man.  This desire is evident in the cartoon winner (unsuspecting urbanites squashed by falling elephants representing CO2 emissions) and the slide series of the development of Bolivia (aerial shots of untamed green jungle giving way to brown geometric human habitat over 30 years).  We are told the answer is also in new designs (a hopeful moment) but not merely by encouraging those technologies by choosing them in the free market, but to nudge them through taxation penalties on those using old technology.

For me, the best part of the talk was the very last minute which showed some incredibly cool design ideas.  Of course, this was not part of the presentation, but rather put forth by Autodesk, a design software firm looking to make financial gains in this industrial world through the free market.

Instead of hopping on proposed preventative governmental interference which would no doubt lead to sacrifice, a lower standard of living, and a tremendous redistribution of our personal assets, why don’t we see what the great mind of man, the producer, can achieve and then choose for ourselves?

If a solution is needed, the free market would offer something better than any measures forced upon us by the government.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

3 Good Things (catalog edition)

Now is the time for all good mail-order companies to inundate you with catalogs. Far from being paid by these companies, I generally have to pay to get rid of the trash they generate! I do have a few favorites, though.
1)      Bas Bleu : a catalog about words, books, and books about words.  In addition to some terrifically unique books, there are some terrifically unique gift ideas, especially for Anglophile bibliophiles.
2)      Chinaberry: all book-loving parents ought to know about this wonderful book resource.  Like, Bas Bleu, it is chock full of great books and delightful little gift ideas.
3)      Femail Creations:  I have to say that I find a lot of the stuff in this catalog pretty funny.  It’s not all great, but some gift items may be just perfect for someone on your list.

Friday, November 6, 2009

November Night

by Adelaide Crapsey

LISTEN . . .
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Feed Your Head

Click over to NoodleFood for this week's Objectivist Round Up.

After that, you may want to click over to Rationally Selfish Life. Dr. Diana Hsieh has an interesting array of topics regarding a principled and practical approach to living well and I'm really enjoying listening to her Rationally Selfish Radio podcasts.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

3 Good Things (sounds edition)

1) The pop and scream of the brass in Blood, Sweat & Tears music.

2) The strain and whine of the garage door opening signaling that my husband is home.

3) The quiet and joyful humming of my daughter clearly delighted by her own ability to figure out basic algebra problems.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

You WILL be prettier. You WILL be more popular.

Enjoy this boost of self-esteem from the 40s.

More of this make-up tutorial, and other vintage hilarity can be found on Glamour Daze YouTube channel and blog.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things

This was a pretty cool sight on Halloween afternoon, so I thought I'd stitch together a little video. Here are some interesting tidbits:

1) A few of our 3 ring binders can be seen on lower shelves on the left of the library.

2) The TV was on downstairs so I had to turn down the audio, but tried to preserve some of the sound of the leaves hitting the windows.

3) The video goes well with Thanksgiving, a track from George Winston's December album, but it may violate copyright law (especially in Germany?) so I took it out.

4) The Japanese maple in the backyard (red tree) usually drops all of its leaves over one 24-36 hour period. It was mid-shed when I took this video. It's nekkid now.

5) The chickens were out during this wind because it was about 70 degrees out as well.

6) The artwork on the wall is a Stephen Bourque original (as are the bookcases themselves) and the fashion drawings are by a local artist. The Thinker is a tiny replica of Rodin's sculpture.

7) Send any and all comments about the clocks being incorrect to:

8) Making little movies is fun!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Vision Boards

This past August I attended a Women’s Adventure Weekend in the White Mountains. My attraction to this event was the opportunity to diffuse the disdain I had developed for hiking based on one ill-fated hiking trip there over twenty years ago. As I happily reported here, I completely exorcised those demons, had a great time with my friends, and met some other good people.

Part of the weekend was devoted to self-improvement through workshops focusing on sharing self-exploration. I opted out of most of those, but one which followed immediately after a yoga class was about creating a Vision Board. As someone who loves to flip through glossy magazines, appreciates attractive layout, and has developed a pretty strong “cut and paste” skill set over the years, I was interested and stayed for this workshop.

A vision board, as the workshop leader explained, is a 2-D collection of magazine cut-outs, photographs, drawings, and other ephemera that represent your goals and desires. The function of the board is to make those things “come into your life” through some sort of magical mechanism. At first, I was taken aback by the leader’s enthusiasm over the mystical qualities she credited her own vision boards to possess. As she spoke, I realized that what she had ascribed to unexplainable forces was an actual focusing on her goals that was realized by the construction of and reinforced by the frequent viewing of the boards. These visions may have come true based on the fact that she acted to make them happen, or merely that she was completely aware of her desire to have them happen, so she attributed minor occurrences into categories she had included on her board.

Knowing this, and later attempting to explain it, I cut out my pictures and brought my materials home. I needed my copies of DWELL magazine to successfully complete any vision I had of my future. Sadly, since I returned from the weekend, my vision board materials remain folded, spindled, and mutilated in a paper bag in my closet.

Until now.

A few days ago, as part of her “Thinking Directions Occasional Update #34”, Jean Moroney sent out this terrific article, “Four Reasons Why Reviewing Written Goals Helps You Achieve Them”. And while constructing the vision board is not as exacting an exercise as writing down and refining your goals, it is similar in that it can help you focus on, and be a constant reminder of those goals. These two actions can help make opportunities to act toward achieving those goals foremost in your mind. Please enjoy her article, reprinted here with permission.

Four Reasons Why Reviewing Written Goals Helps You Achieve Them
by Jean Moroney

Here's a piece of advice you may know: Write down your top goals and re-read them every day. Simply implementing this daily review can make a significant difference in whether you achieve the goals.

If this sounds like some kind of magical thinking, it's not. Re-reading your goals helps you achieve them through an entirely understandable process:

1) When you write out the goal on paper and re-read it every day, you give yourself a chance to test it and refine it. All goal statements are not created equal. If you formulate your goal in a vague or unrealistic way, you can't achieve it. Just the act of writing the goal down helps you notice and correct these problems.

But even if you don't catch a problem immediately, every time you re-read the goal, you have a chance to spot an issue and refine the goal accordingly.

2) Every time you re-read your goal, you reinforce your desire for it. That motivates you to take action. You can see how this works when you plan a vacation. Every time you think about what you'd like to do, you get a little more excited about the vacation, and eager to plan the details to make that happen.

3) When you re-read your goal every day, you keep the idea activated. It is easily triggered by outside circumstances, so you think of it at helpful times. For example, suppose your goal is to carve out time for exercise. If an appointment is canceled, you would like to realize "I could use this time for exercise." If you reviewed your goal this morning, you are quite likely to make the connection. On the other hand, if you last thought about exercise a week ago, it's off your radar, and probably won't occur to you.

4) When you re-read your goal every day, you automatically notice your progress (or lack thereof). Tracking progress is crucial to achieving goals, because it gives you the information you need to correct your course as you go. They say Apollo 11 was off course more than 90% of the trip to the moon--but they still got there, because they constantly corrected the course. So, just by re-reading the goal every day, you support making the changes you need to actually achieve it.

As you see, there are good reasons why writing down your top goals and re-reading them every day helps you to achieve them.

But it's not magic. If you aren't committed to the goal, then clarifying it, reminding yourself about it, and noticing your progress won't help a bit. Ultimately, you will only achieve your goal if you choose to act toward it. Writing down the goal and reviewing it every day simply helps you see the opportunities to act. [emphasis added]

Jean Moroney, President of Thinking Directions, teaches managers, business owners, and other professionals how to tap their own knowledge banks to solve problems faster, make better decisions, and communicate more effectively. Corporations hire her to train their managers in "Thinking Tactics" to help them get more done with fewer resources. For more information, visit: