back to our regularly scheduled program

So I am working on a big photo project which I wanted to have done, but it is not...so in its stead I post the funniest online video clips from 2008...



book review: Stet: An Editor's Life

Stuck at home again today. I finished reading Stet: An Editor's Life by Diana Athill almost two weeks ago but have yet to review it. The book was written in 2002 and is a memoir of Ms. Athill's life.

The book was like a rich chocolate cake: best when consumed in small pieces. Hence it took me sometime to get through the whole book, but it was delicious. The book chronicles her life as an editor in London, from WWII to the 80's. She knew so many interesting people and described so many wonderful sounding books by authors I had never heard of. I must have added 10 books to my Amazon Wishlist.

I often wonder what my mom's life was like before she had children. She did not get started until 29, and kept working until 34. She would have been my age when she "retired." I feel like Stet gave me a peek into Linda's life. People were real, they ate, they drank, they slept around, they lived. I have this vision of anyone born before me as being very prim and proper, and this is what I felt was expected of me. So I have been largely prim and proper. Boy was I fooled. Yes, naturally some people tread the thin and narrow line, but others are out there enjoying life. I think my mom, like Ms. Athill, loved and lived a pretty full life before me. (Oh how annoying to realize that the world did not begin with me.)

One particular quote from the book that I loved follows:

"The chief difference, it seems to me, between the person who is lucky enough to possess the ability to create - whether with words or sound or pigment or wood or whatever - and those who haven't got it, is that the former react to experience directly and each in his own way, while the latter are less ready to trust their own responses and often prefer to make use of those generally agreed to be acceptable by their friends and relations. And while the former certainly include by far the creative proportions of individuals who would be difficult to live with, they also include a similarly large proportion of individual who are exciting or disturbing or amusing or inspiring to know." (pg. 244)

One of my girl friends in college and I had planned to live together, and then the opportunity never really presented itself. Then one semester it did. I assumed I would move in my group of girl friends. I remember one of my (still) very close friends telling me that living with me would be too much.

Given my inability to remember what I did yesterday, or what transpired in my childhood, why do I remember this statement? I know she did not mean to hurt me. Yet, even writing this now, it stings a little.

The quote above helped me understand what my girl friend meant. Which I guess is the point of all great literature: to help us understand the human condition. Loving me was one thing and living with me was another.

After reading this and thinking about it, I thanked Brent for both living and loving me.


home sick and seeking nesting

I am home sick today with a head cold. Hoping to get rid of it before we head to St. Louis on Wednesday to see Grammy.

While laying in bed, dreams of houses danced through my head. (Is anyone else noticing the frequent use of the word head?)

Years ago, 1998 to be exact, I fell in love with my first home. The 1998 Life Magazine Dream Home caught my attention. The house is open in the middle, where the kitchen and living areas are. One wing has the bedrooms and the other wing the utility rooms. I loved this house so much I almost bought the plans then. I love the large fireplace. Click this paragraph to see a list of where some of these homes are located. Maybe a reader could do a drive by for me.

I started searching for the plans the other day and found that you can still buy the house plans for $600. How cool.


the economy

I was wondering what/if my loyal readers are doing anything differently in their lives because of the current economic problems? Thoughts?

Brent and I are cutting back on things, eating in more (which is better for our waistlines anyway), and we have been talking about money a lot more. My current job also concerns retirement savings, so I am both concerned that we are not saving enough and worried that putting more money in to retirement savings will be money wasted. We are both really focused on paying down debt.

We have also realized that we conceptualize money differently. He likes to know where he has spent money, and I want to know how much money is left over at the end of the month: what is the amount I have left after paying all of our set monthly costs.

Figuring out how to manage money jointly can be hard, but I think we are getting the hang of it. Each couple does things a little differently.

Grammy called a month ago in the middle of the night worried that the next depression was coming: "Nicole, I ate beans three times a day then, and I don't want to do that again." Wow, not a call you want to get.

In the spirit of the season, we have decided to give away our Christmas money. We were eying this cool desk at our favorite store, when we got an appeal from The House of Ruth, a non-profit in DC. They need money or are going to have close their doors. Click this paragraph to read more about their good works."House of Ruth's vision is to enable the largest number of people we serve to achieve trauma recovery, stable housing, mental health, addiction recovery, employment and abuse-free relationships."

We don't need a new desk.

Life is not a burden for us.



I need a to do list...we had a lovely weekend but I don't think I got nearly enough done! I wanted to get my desk all cleaned up so I could start Christmas cards and wedding thank you cards...instead we had a day of reading and relaxing and napping in the sun.

There is always tomorrow.



This weekend I was in Boise meeting Sean and Caitlin, my new nephew and niece! They are too cute. Click these sentences to go to more pictures at my smugmug site!

I feel kind of bad because I cannot really tell them apart...I think I have both kids here...in black and white it is hard to tell. Caitlin has really red hair and Sean's is more brown...and Sean is quite a bit smaller...but with out the frame of reference that is kind of hard too.

Stayed at a great converted Travel Lodge: The Modern Hotel. You can check it out by clicking this sentence.
What is not to like about fresh French pastries and coffee every morning?



I have a few random obsessions: Easter Island, Socotra (click for more info), Armenia, Lake Baikal (click for more info), and Siberia. Lake Baikal is in Siberia, so they are kind of similar.

What is about the pictures above that lets the viewer know immediately that you are looking at a place in Russia? The colors? The relief of Stalin? The sense of cold bleakness? I don't know.

The photographer, Donald Weber, took this series of photos called "White Nights: Russia after the Gulag." (Click the sentence to see the rest of the photos.

The series is compelling because of the story it tells: you see people in their everyday lives and all you can really think is that is looks awfully cold.

30 million people went through the Russian gulags. 30 million people is equivalent to the population of both Los Angeles and New York combined.

Today Russia's population is only 142 million people today, and is expected to decrease to 100 million by 2050. I can't help but think that maybe they are thinking they should not have killed so many people in the 19th century. (Click sentence to read article from Economist.)



amazing photos

Wow...check out these leaves...no wait...bugs...no wait...leaves...click this sentence to see more...

more on the lottery

Can you believe this...the New Yorker posted an audio version of The Lottery, mentioned here a few months ago. Click this sentence to link to the New Yorker.

If you have itunes you can also add the New Yorker fiction podcast, where they pick a fiction story from the New Yorker archives to read each week. I like the New Yorker in theory...but in practice it comes too often for me...and boy is it a dense read.

address books: part deux

Ok, so I was a little over the top with the address book post. And I feel bad. Since I only have 9 regular readers, I should try to keep you guys...

I love mail, and will give out my address to anyone who asks...no address book lecture required.



We take the Guardian Weekly. I love saying "we take." It seems so quaint. But really, we started getting it about a year ago because it was free. After a month of reading it's VERY left leaning news we decided to keep taking it, mainly because they cover things that the US media does not cover.

World Aids Day...The only reason I knew it happened this week was because some facebook friends changed their profiles in support of the day.

I opened my Guardian Weekly today to find the most interesting picture of HIV, also known as the virus that causes AIDS.

I just keep staring at the beauty of this cell. It is round, yes, but some parts are five sided and some are six sided. Out of the middle of each little five or six sided part, springs something that looks like a flower. Inside these flowers there are little tentacle like short protrusions, also symmetrical. And there are intermittent almost polka dots sitting on top of the cell.

What I can't get over is how beautiful it is. It seems so proportioned, so organized, so planned.

Here is the link to the original article and photo. (Click this sentence.)


wow - who knew?

At first I thought this guy was a joke...wife beater and all, but he does an amazing job with Come Sail Away...really, check it out!


today's favorite quote

Deep within us-no matter who we are- there lives a feeling of wanting to be lovable, of wanting to be the kind of person that others like to be with. And the greatest thing we can do is to let people know that they are loved and capable of loving.

Mr. Rogers


cute place to stay in DC!

My friend Rachel rents out part of her house in Washington DC. I thought I would put a little promotion for her place here!

You can you check out her website with more pictures of the apartment by clicking this sentence.

As she says:
"Walking distance to Safeway, Wendy’s, Columbia Heights Coffee, Flip It Bakery, Temperance Hall restaurant/bar, Sweet Mango Café, etc.

Stop at the Safeway on your way to/from metro and prepare own meals in our full kitchen (stove, oven, pots, pans ... there is even a grill outside).

Just minutes to: Smithsonian, White House, U.S. Capital, National Cathedral, Convention Center, National Zoo, Rock Creek Park. Easy commute Howard University, Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Near to several wonderful DC neighborhoods: Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, Mount Pleasant, U Street, Chinatown."


happy turkey day world

We had a lovely day yesterday. Thanks Mark and Pam.


a real schreibtisch

How fun is this object!

schreibtisch aka writing table
"A mobile notepad/ piece-of-furniture made of paper. The die-cut paper-sheets (about 1000) are joined together with red colored bookbinder-glue. The handle is not glued so you can remove each sheet of paper as you you use it! The object works as communication tool, sketch-board, notepad, etc."

Made by...a German! Yep...(Click here to see more of the artist's work!)

cost of bailout

From BoingBoing.net:

Bailout costs more than Marshall Plan, Louisiana Purchase, moonshot, S&L bailout, Korean War, New Deal, Iraq war, Vietnam war, and NASA's lifetime budget -- *combined*!

"In doing the research for the "Bailout Nation" book, I needed a way to put the dollar amounts into proper historical perspective.

If we add in the Citi bailout, the total cost now exceeds $4.6165 trillion dollars.

People have a hard time conceptualizing very large numbers, so let’s give this some context. The current Credit Crisis bailout is now the largest outlay In American history.

Crunching the inflation adjusted numbers, we find the bailout has cost more than all of these big budget government expenditures – combined:

• Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion
• Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion
• Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion
• S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
• Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion
• The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)
• Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion
• Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion
• NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion

TOTAL: $3.92 trillion"


facebook dilemmas

We all know I have a lot of friends. I like people. When Brent and I started dating, I had to make him a friend chart for goodness sake...but who are these people friending me on facebook? WHO ARE YOU?

Would it be rude to ask people how they think they know me? In what capacity did we ever meet? Did I like you? Then why can't I remember you?

Brent’s policy is to accept any person who wants to friend him. I keep accepting people, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to be friends with most people with whom I have not stayed in contact. WE ARE NOT FRIENDS ANYMORE. Can I scream that? No, because I am a wimp. I don’t want people to feel bad because we are not friends. What if this person, who I don’t know, needs a friend? How would I feel if someone did not friend me?

Brent also talks about filing facebook bankruptcy all of the time. Just sending out a message that he is done. No more facebook for him. Given how much he hates email, I am surprised that he has lasted this long.

Anyway, if you are my friend and want to friend me, then go ahead and friend me. If you aren’t my friend, but need a friend, friend me. If you aren’t my friend, and have a happy life, don’t friend me. Please. If I can get everyone to follow this rule, I can figure out who the needy are.

But really, has this happened to other people? I suppose that the new Facebook etiquette and mores are being written now...


Book Review: Foreskin's Lament, A Memoir

Foreskin’s Lament, A Memoir
by Shalom Auslander, 2007

What attracted me to Foreskin’s Lament was that Auslander grew up in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family. I love these stories. Give me a misunderstood esoteric minority book and I will give you a few hours of my life.

Book summary in two sentences: The memoir forms the basis for what will one day be the case God puts forth against Auslander’s entrance into heaven. God: “Even though you kind of kept the Sabbath and you walked to the Ranger’s game for the Stanley Cup from Westchester to NYC on the Sabbath over the GW bridge, all bets are off because you did not keep kosher.”

While the books takes the occasion of Auslander’s son’s birth and potential circumcision to talk about growing up Jewish and the effect his upbringing continues to have on him, the book is really about his relationship with God. He prays to God, or rather makes deals with him all the time. And his reading of the Old Testament (Torah) is even funny, in a somewhat disturbed manner.

"The people at Monsey [Auslander’s grade school] were terrified of God, and they taught me to be terrified of Him, too – they taught me about…a man named Moses, who escaped from Egypt, and who roamed through the desert for forty years in search of a Promised Land, and whom God killed just before he reached it – face-plant on the one-yard line, --because Moses had sinned, once forty years earlier. His crime? Hitting a rock."

I had never thought of the story that way. Brent says one of the things he likes about the Old Testament is how black and white everything is in it. Do this, suffer this fate.

But real life is grey. Auslander deals in the gray everyday. In one poignant section of the book, (which I will not reveal too much of because it kind of gives the book away) he has made peace with a decision and he thinks this will appease his parents. But no, even what he considers his grand compromise gesture is seen by his parents as the wrong decision.

The book offered an opportunity for Brent and I to discuss religion more deeply, which I enjoyed. I believe in God. But God backed me into a corner of believing. Since Linda is dead, I can’t imagine that she did not go someplace, so I am kind of stuck. But I don’t believe in what one might call a “personal God.” I don’t think God sweats the details. A few swear words, a little crazy dancing, maybe even a few drinks. He doesn’t care.

I think Auslander shares my feelings on this. At one point in the book he gets an email from his sister where she substitutes the forbidden words in her email with symbols for the vowels. Really? You don’t think God can tell?

“When [the devout] are not preaching what a ... Maniac the Lord is, they’re behaving like He’s a ... idiot.”

I read this sentence and said, “Exactly.” If God is watching and knows everything, then he knows everything.

So I am the kind of person who largely subscribes to the Golden Rule, by which I mean, be a good person, be kind to people, and do good things. Everything else will work out.

“I believe in God.
It has been a real problem for me.”

This might be what Auslander should give as his defense if he has any trouble getting in to heaven. The book is a great, quick, yet thoughtful read, so don’t let the title put you off.


a new GAO report of interest

Loyal readers may be interested to read this hot off the presses GAO report Department of Homeland Security: Billions Invested in Major Programs Lack Appropriate Oversight. (Click this sentence to read more.)

This USA Today article is about the report...

By Thomas Frank, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - The Homeland Security Department has done a poor job overseeing the purchase of billions of dollars of equipment and technology since the agency was created five years ago, according to a federal report scheduled for release today.

Senior department officials have "not provided the oversight needed" to ensure that purchases "with important national security objectives" function properly and stay on budget, according to Congress' Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The GAO report is the latest to raise questions about the Homeland Security Department, which Congress has criticized for gaps in aviation security, a faltering response to Hurricane Katrina and slow progress in securing land borders.

The new report levels criticism at a complex process Homeland Security has used to beef up the nation's defenses by purchasing security equipment, including machines that scan suitcases for bombs.

In many cases, programs were delayed or went over budget, including planned improvements in Coast Guard rescues, luggage screening and the capture and removal of illegal migrants.

Although previous audits have documented problems with individual programs, the GAO report is the first to review Homeland Security's overall system of buying and maintaining $60 billion of new equipment and technology.

The main problem is that the department did not follow its own procedures, set up to make sure taxpayer funds are "being spent wisely, efficiently and effectively," the GAO said.

Rep. David Price, D-N.C., head of the subcommittee that oversees Homeland Security spending, said the department's purchasing system needs an overhaul to protect billions in taxpayer funds.

Major purchases "should not move forward unless they have been thoroughly vetted," Price said in a statement.

The report found that 45 of 48 major acquisitions were not reviewed regularly by a Homeland Security oversight board created to do the reviews. Fourteen of those projects had cost overruns, delays and shortcomings in how they functioned.

Homeland Security spokesman Larry Orluskie referred a reporter to a statement attached to the GAO report written by department acquisitions chief John Hutton. The statement said many improvements have been made, including the creation of two oversight divisions. He added that other improvements will be made in the next two years.

The GAO blamed oversight problems on insufficient Homeland Security staff and limited attention paid by senior department officials.

Find this article at:


the new capitol visitor’s center

Our good friend Christen who still works on the Hill hooked us up with a tour of the new US Capitol Visitor’s center. Since both Brent and I previously gave the Capitol tours, we thought it would be fun to check it out. We were actually on a test tour, since the Visitor’s center does not open for two weeks.

The first thing that caused a bit of concern about the trip were the instructions on the ticket that said no cameras were allowed in. Humm. I noticed this in the cab on the way to the Capitol. Brent had his iphone and I had the flip video with me. What if they wanted to take them away from us? We went through security without incident.

The amazing and really big underground center awed us into submission at first. We could not fathom why it was so big, what where they thinking. And then we realized it was not really a place where people are encouraged to visit, it is more like a cattle yard. Herd people in, herd them out.

The first stop, a 12 minute video, is stirring but lacks a lot of definition. The red shirts then move you along to the tour. On the tour now, you only get to see two actual parts of the Capitol: the Rotunda, and the empty room where the US House of Representatives once met. No more former US Supreme Court chambers, no more former Senate chambers, no looking around. Herd in, herd out. Oh, and the no camera rule: not true. Lots of people had cameras. The poor people who followed the rules were disappointed.

After your tour, you can check out the supposedly interactive exhibits about the Capitol. Admittedly, they have six detailed models of Washington DC showing how the area around the Capitol has changed throughout the years. Other than that, however, there was not much to see.

They asked that we fill out a review of the tour before leaving, but we saw quite a few of these nicely filled out reviews strewn all over the information desks, in no particular order, and decided that they really were not interested in our review. And there was no official place to turn in the reviews.

Overall we give the tour, on a scale of one to five Capitols, two Capitols.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that the visitor's center was supposed to cost $300 million, and ended up costing double that: $621 million.


get an address book

I feel like ranting today…for no other reason than it is raining and gray outside and I would rather be at home in bed reading a book…any book.

Does anyone out there know what an address book is? It is a physical object which is used to keep track of the physical address of people you know and love. It can only be deleted if you lose it. You use a pen or pencil to write down the names of said people. When people move, you have to update the said address book. Then if you want to send said people an object through the mail, you use the book to find said physical addresses.

What is mail you might ask? It is a method by which people can send physical objects to one another, no matter where they live. You have to pay for it, in contrast to email. But receiving objects through the mail is quite fun.

I bring this up because in the last two days I have received five requests for my address and phone number. Come on people. Get an address book. I recently tried to stem the tide of incoming address requests by emailing a list of important addresses to my loved ones. That did not help. I need to include it in our Christmas card. Maybe that will help. Forget that, I am sending everyone an address book for Christmas. Filled out with the people I think you need to know.

Hope the rain passes soon. I would love some mail.


for my New York friends

I started getting this magazine, New York Magazine, a few months ago. They had an article that really spoke to Brent and I and well, I love a good magazine. The article was about grups. Click the sentence to read the article. Brent and I feel like we aspire to be grups.

Last week's issue was about saving being the new spending...who knew? Oh, we did. We have a budget now, and are taking our lunches everyday (thank you Brent).

The tips for my New Yorkers:

Go to Museums Only on Friday Nights because the museums are FREE!!!

MoMA: 4-8 pm
Bronx Museum of the Arts: FREE ALL DAY
Guggenheim: 5:45 to 7:45 pm
Morgan Library: 7-9 pm
American Folk Art Museum: 5:30 to 7:30 pm
New York Historical Society: 6-8 pm

You can click on the names of the museums to see what is on exhibit.


friend on ESPN

How fun! Our friend Rob, who is the head trainer at Oklahoma State, was interviewed about his player who broke his back but is playing ball again. WOW. What a story. (Our friend is Rob Hunt.)


the easy part was winning

I ran across this list today of problems we can expect to see in the economy.The author of this list advocated telling the people straight what the problems are and thereby reducing the expectations for what he can do about things and how quickly the things can get done. (Click this paragraph to read the original article.)

Obama sure has his work cut out for him.

* The deficit will be more than $1 trillion a year for several years
* The country needs a massive new fiscal stimulus
* The housing market will continue to decline through at least 2010
* Interest rates and taxes will eventually have to rise (after the economy stabilizes)
* Weak corporations have to be allowed to fail
* Millions of homeowners will lose their house
* Unemployment will probably rise to 10%
* The government simply cannot "bail the country out" -- not because it lacks the will, but because it lacks the power



I heard someplace, and cannot find the source, that the US is in the midst of a mini baby boom. So many of my friends are having babies, I had a dream last night that I was having a baby. Ok, well I started reading this book recommended by my good friend Krista, The Baby Whisperer, because I recommended it to John.

About John, well his little boy Sean is a mini-John. It is amazing. Can you see the resemblance?


what a difference an hour makes

I love falling back. What fun. I feel like it is so early in the day. We have so much time. In honor of all of that extra time, I am wasting it watching short movies put out on disk by Wholpin. Wholpin is an impression of McSweeney's, which is basically David Eggers's (author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) creative outlet. He also has a hand in my favorite literary magazine, The Believer.

As an aside, when I first heard about The Believer I raced out to get it, only to find that it was not yet in stores. I tried to find the magazine on the internet, only to learn that The Believer was named after a then-defunct Christian magazine. I emailed The Believer, once I found them, to tell them this. If you google The Believer you will now find my magazine, not the defunct one. It was nice to send an email out into the ether and to get a response.

Well, two movies of interest. Oh, we are back at the main topic now, the short films. The first movie that is great is about a 13 year old girl in Yemen who refuses to wear a veil and continues to go to school. You will fall in love with Najmia.

The second film is much shorter at a mere 3.48 minutes. Two guys played volleyball over the wall between the US and Mexico. Crazy.


Movie Review: Zack and Miri (Make a Porno)

The title here is very explicit. So go to the movie with the knowledge that a porno is going to be made. But what a cute movie. Don’t take the kids, but go anyway.

The movie was written by Kevin Smith aka Silent Bob. His movies started the more recent rash of what I am calling palpably authentic crack-me-up cinema. The movies are made with people who are not always attractive, and the stories reflect the more mundane aspects of life. Oh and the people are FUNNY, really funny in these movies.

Zack and Miri is a great example of these films. Both co-stars feel like people I could be friends with. Zack, played by Seth Rogan, is a cute, if a bit chubby, dude who works in a coffee shop in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. His roommate, Miri, played by Elizabeth Banks, needs a new dye job, but is also lovably adorable. The two friends have known each other for since first grade, and seem to be each other’s only friends.

What is great about the movie is that you see a little community of mis-fits come together to make something bigger than themselves individually...Ok so they are making a porno, but for valid reasons. (Did I just type that?)

Really, it is not a movie about making a porno, it is a love story about two people struggling to make it in the world and realizing that they can really get through anything (even making a porno) if they have each other.


loyal readers...

you might think I should change the name of the blog to something like:
hochzeitdc (wedding DC) or
fotodc (photo DC)
But soon dear readers, say sometime next week, there will once again be writing
at schreibtischdc (desk DC).

Until then...more wedding pictures. Our great photographer, Jamie, just sent us the first batch. You can see more of her work by clicking this sentence.

Here are three of my favorites!

If you are dying to see more...which I doubt at this point...you can click this sentence.


this is why

I have become a one issue voter: my issue is health care for America.


see a wee

wow...the weather was really crappy in Philadelphia.
but we saw the weeHouse!!!

It was really wee.



Does anyone remember our wee obsession? Right...well if you don't you can learn more at our old blog: www.wewantawee.blogspot.com. Good Times.

Well, we are going tonight to Philly to see our first real live weeHouse! Yes, we are! Fire up! This may reignight our former obsession. You can read more about the prefab show here: http://www.acleanbreak.org.

We will be sure to post pictures and a read out when we get back to DC.



So BoingBoing had this picture posted today...How crazy is this?

The blog, Photoshop Disasters compared the faces of the people in the photo with their reflections in the glass table.

Click here for the original posting!





ok just this last one video

Our good friends the Rutters made us this really cute wedding video set to our first dance song! :) So fun. They played it at our post-wedding wedding shower on Saturday night.


the whole wedding dress with feather

Well here is my whole wedding outfit as a video and a video of Brent and I walking over to the street car...:)


the man who planted trees

Brent and I ran across this very tiny little book today at our book store. It is not that long. Here is the beginning. The link to the rest of the story is at the bottom of the page. Enjoy.

By Jean Giono (1954)

In order for the character of a human being to reveal truly exceptional qualities, we must have the good fortune to observe its action over a long period of years. If this action is devoid of all selfishness, if the idea that directs it is one of unqualified generosity, if it is absolutely certain that it has not sought recompense anywhere, and if moreover it has left visible marks on the world, then we are unquestionably dealing with an unforgettable character.

About forty years ago I went on a long hike, through hills absolutely unknown to tourists, in that very old region where the Alps penetrate into Provence.

This region is bounded to the south-east and south by the middle course of the Durance, between Sisteron and Mirabeau; to the north by the upper course of the Drôme, from its source down to Die; to the west by the plains of Comtat Venaissin and the outskirts of Mont Ventoux. It includes all the northern part of the Département of Basses-Alpes, the south of Drôme and a little enclave of Vaucluse.

At the time I undertook my long walk through this deserted region, it consisted of barren and monotonous lands, at about 1200 to 1300 meters above sea level. Nothing grew there except wild lavender.

I was crossing this country at its widest part, and after walking for three days, I found myself in the most complete desolation. I was camped next to the skeleton of an abandoned village. I had used the last of my water the day before and I needed to find more. Even though they were in ruins, these houses all huddled together and looking like an old wasps' nest made me think that there must at one time have been a spring or a well there. There was indeed a spring, but it was dry. The five or six roofless houses, ravaged by sun and wind, and the small chapel with its tumble-down belfry, were arrayed like the houses and chapels of living villages, but all life had disappeared.


this. is. really. really. funny.

3 Minute Therapy with Lisa Kudro.

Click the sentence...it is worth 3 minutes.


ah the bride on the elevator

In honor of the liar video from a few weeks ago...

my current thought loop

1. We want to move to Portland, but jobs are hard to find there.

2. Finding jobs is not a problem for me...but now figuring out what I
want to do is hard.

3. I want to be a writer. I should focus on finding jobs with a writing bent.

4. What is Brent going to do there? Work for a firm. Hum..that will mean we will see each other less...I don't like that idea one bit...80 hour work weeks are no good.

5. We want to move to be closer to family.

6. The economy is tanking. We have good jobs making good money and our jobs are secure.

7. Which brings me back to the beginning...maybe now is not the time to move.

8. And then I get stressed because I want to move sooner rather than later to be close to our families.

9. Which brings me to frustration that we have so much debt.

10. Then I think, well we should stay here for a year, move to a studio and save money like there is no tomorrow...

11. So off to craigslist I go to find a new apartment, and I. hate. them. all.

12. And then I think moving is not an option, so we need to eat in EVERY day.

13. Then I get sweaty palms and am not really sure what to do, but I am sure I should do some work, so I don't lose this job.


all wedding all the time

no really, I am going to get over this soon...until then, here is a REALLY funny video from the wedding...I will feature some more over the coming days. Enjoy...and comment liberally....


powerful language: But If Not

I never really put MLK Jr. into the "dead people I would like to meet" category, but after reading this, I will add him. Amazing use of language. And the meter of the speech is amazing as well, it almost propels you along.

"I say to you, this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live.

You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be, and one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid.

You refuse to do it because you want to live longer. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab or shoot or bomb your house. So you refuse to take a stand.

Well, you may go on and live until you are ninety, but you are just as dead at 38 as you would be at ninety.

And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.

You died when you refused to stand up for right.

You died when you refused to stand up for truth.

You died when you refused to stand up for justice.”

To listen to the recording, click this sentence.



now that we have bailed out wall street, who is going to bail out america? I am just asking.

please vote...to the right...


take the poll

well, i was wondering how many of my friends use those paper seat covers when they go to the bathroom in public....so let me know on the right: ⇒

it is anonymous.


new blog header

So I am in love with etsy. What's etsy you ask? Well it is this "marketplace" for homemade items.


You can find lots of things for sale there, and the prices are great. I got the wedding place cards there and my new blog header! I love it. Alyson at Seventy and Sunny designed it for me. (Click this sentence for her shop.)

Can't wait to hear what everyone thinks!




So we already know that 30 Rock is the funniest show on TV, and then here comes Tina Fey making Saturday Night Live relevant again.

This clip killed me. It is only 4 minutes...so take a look...

Best Line: "Ask this one about dinosaurs!"


out of the environment


biking long distances

So our friend Pete is riding his bike from New York to DC to support climate change outreach and edcuation programs. He needs to raise at least $2,250 in donations!

Can anyone remember when I did the Aids Ride 8 years ago? Raising the money was hard work...so if you can spare a few bucks, I am sure Pete would appreciate it.

Follow this link to visit his personal web page and help him in his efforts to support Clean Air - Cool Planet. (The sentence is a link.)


fight the aids

So my friend, Patrick, designed these totally cool t-shirts for the aids walk this year.

Maybe you could buy one?

Click here to see the other versions.


microwave popcorn without buying it

Did you know you can make microwave popcorn at home? You don't have to buy the pre-packaged microwave popcorn bags at the store.

All you need is a paper bag, popcorn, and some olive oil. Then you pop it for two minutes or until the popcorn stops popping.

Just perfect for a topical storm filled day in the nation's capital.

If you want more directions click this sentence.

(Oh and leave a note if you try this at home.)


that time of year again: apply for a Bosch Fellowship

I think I have two friends who are going to do it...but if anyone else is interested, please let me know! The Bosch Foundation is accepting applications until October 15th. (Click previous sentence for a link to more information.)

Basic run down of the program: Spend a year in Germany, first learning German and then working in two different “Stages” or work placements in your field of expertise. You have to be between 24 and 34 years young at the application date and most applicants have a graduate degree, but this is not required. Spouses and children are welcomed. You receive a monthly stipend which should more than cover your expenses and health insurance is paid for by the foundation. During the year the whole Bosch group makes three longer seminar trips around Europe meeting with leaders. I can’t say enough good things about the program.

Please let anyone you know who might be interested.


sean and catlin

My brother and his wife just delivered two very small pre-mature twin babies: Sean and Catlin. If you have a minute, you can learn more about them here, just click this sentence. What a scary thing this having babies can be. The babies were 26 weeks and two days along and were 890 and 870 grams respectively. Please keep them in your thoughts the next few days.


the moma


follow-up to The Lottery

So, Brent read the story and he did not get it. It did not really move him. And he wanted to know what I found so compelling in The Lottery.

I had difficulty articulating what I find fascinating in the story. I guess it reminds me of an article from the Wall Street Journal about Japanese cancer refugees. A cancer refugee is someone who has been denied health care because it costs the Japanese government too much money to treat that person. Japan has basic universal health care for all citizens. (As an aside, 45 million Americans live without health insurance.)

The Japanese government has decided that the policy of universal health care for many is more important than the increased cost of lengthening the lives of some Japanese.

(Also as an aside, until recently, doctors would not tell patients their diagnosis. Patients would just do whatever the doctor ordered.)

I suppose The Lottery epitomizes the tyranny of choosing the many over the individual. It is not stated in the story, but I felt like the town (or towns) was doing this to keep the populations low.

I went on to read, at Wikipedia, that when the story was first published in The New Yorker it caused quite a stir. Jackson received hundreds of pieces of hate mail about the story.

This viceral response to the story is also intriguing. Why did these readers respond so negatively? I was definitely upset by the story. Brent felt that the story got the descriptions and suspense down, but lacked further import.

One critique of the story I found by Peter Kosenko (from the New Orleans Review, Spring 1985) is also quite interesting:
Though it is arguable that the "primary themes are scapegoating, man's inherent evil, and the destructive nature of observing ancient, outdated rituals" this is a common misconception. The actual theme of the short story is that man creates philosophical existences that he is unable to fulfill. This is shown through Tessie Hutchinson. Throughout the story she is joking around about the lottery and carrying on like all the other townspeople, but as soon as her family name is chosen from the black box her perspective takes quite the turn. Suddenly this "isn't fair" when in all reality a lottery is by definition the most fair method of chance.
What is fair? Is life fair? My father often remarked that life is not fair and that is something that I needed to understand.

So is the story just about the lottery of life? Most people will do ok but some will end up with horrible lives (or deaths as it were.) Is it more fair that all people in Japan have basic health care or that in the United States we all have the potential to be saved as Lance Armstrong was by an individually created drug?

For me I think the reality I want to live with is a society where everyone is taken care of to the utmost of our ability. I want life to be valued highly, perhaps even above all else.


extreme ironing - ever heard of it?

Extreme Ironing. It sounds like something my grandmother would love! I have never met someone who takes ironing as seriously as Gram. Well, that is until I ran across a link to information about extreme ironing at www.boingboing.net the other day. (Click here for more pictures.)

The wikipedia site defines extreme ironing as such:
Extreme Ironing (or EI) is an extreme sport and a performance art in which people take an ironing board to a remote location and iron a few items of clothing.

EI. Cute.

The only problem I have with this sport, is that they don't actually iron...what? I think they should be required to bring a car battery and figure out how to plug that thing in. Do some real iorning people.

However, this did remind me of my Aunt's wonderful performance piece, where she had my other Aunt walk around Chicago doing mundane things in a wedding dress.

Here is a link to the article she wrote about it in the Journal of Mundane Behavior.

In Peg's piece she was documenting how people respond to seeing other people dressed strangely. I guess people would react the same way if they were say climbing a mountain and came upon a guy faux-ironing.



kids and free time

Since Brent and I are getting married one of the topics we have been discussing is children...some readers will be very excited by this development! Tee hee.

Anyway, an article was posted to my favorite blog, http://www.boingboing.net/, from the LA Times, about children being allowed to have free play time.

I think this is imperative to a child's growth...but I don't have any kids. What do you guys think about the article?

Here is a link (Click this line.)

Remember 'go outside and play?'

Overbearing parents have taken the fun out of childhood and turned it into a grind.
Rosa Brooks, LAtimes
May 15, 2008

Can you forgive her?In March, Lenore Skenazy, a New York City mother, gave her 9-year-old son, Izzy, a MetroCard, a subway map, a $20 bill and some quarters for pay phones. Then she let him make his own way home from Bloomingdale's department store -- by subway and bus.

Izzy survived unscathed. He wasn't abducted by a perverted stranger or pushed under an oncoming train by a homicidal maniac. He didn't even get lost. According to Skenazy, who wrote about it in a New York Sun column, he arrived home "ecstatic with independence."

His mother wasn't so lucky. Her column generated as much outrage as if she'd suggested that mothers make extra cash by hiring their kids out as child prostitutes.

But it also reinvigorated an important debate about children, safety and independence.

Reader, if you're much over 30, you probably remember what it used to be like for the typical American kid. Remember how there used to be this thing called "going out to play"?

For younger readers, I'll explain this archaic concept. It worked like this: The child or children in the house -- as long as they were over age 4 or so -- went to the door, opened it, and ... went outside. They braved the neighborhood pedophile just waiting to pounce, the rusty nails just waiting to be stepped on, the trees just waiting to be fallen out of, and they "played."

"Play," incidentally, is a mysterious activity children engage in when not compelled to spend every hour under adult supervision, taking soccer or piano lessons or practicing vocabulary words with computerized flashcards.

....(more at the link)....


"the lottery" by shirley jackson

Has everyone read this haunting short story? What a great piece of work. If you have not read it, I invite you do so now. Click on these sentences to go to the story.

Oh and I recently realized that commenting was more difficult than it should be...now, anyone can comment without signing in...just leave your name so I know who says what! :)

(Image taken in the GAO.)


how do you size people up?

"I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights." (Maya Angelou)

I have a good friend who will only date men who handle crisis well. Sometimes I drive Brent crazy because I will start shouting swear words...because I dropped an ice cube, or forgot to pick up the dry cleaning. I have explained over and over that if there is a real crisis, I am very calm. He did not believe me, until we had a real crisis.

I think Maya's three things are pretty good indicators as well. I might say "I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by how they handle their kids having a melt down, how many credit cards they have in their wallet, and their shoes."

What do you use to size people up?


etsy shop

Hi everyone. I just set up my new Etsy shop. I am officially starting a business. I have to get out of this 9to 5 gig...:)

Etsy is a website marketplace for selling personally made goods. I am going to start selling the putting together of Blurb wedding books. I just did my first one for my girl friend Maureen.

For a link to the book, click here.

For a link to my new Etsy store, click here.

I would love to make some books for my readers. I will even do it for free...to get some more sample books.

As always, comments and questions are requested.

(And in case you were wondering, no I did not take that awesome picture on the cover of their book! Maureen's fabulous photographer too it. Find her at www.bluebirdphotography.com.)

what the Cold War meant.

A good friend of mine just posted her personal experiences with the Cold War in this audio (and print) story. The title is "During Cold War, even a Ribbon was Dangerous." Please take a moment to listen to it. I think it really puts things with Georgia and Russia into perspective, even if you don't care about politics. You can click these sentences to go to the story.


vladmaster fun

So our latest party favor is the Vladmaster Viewmaster story. I ran across this guy's stuff a few weeks ago and ordered a set of viewmasters with a mini-cd. As luck would have it, I recently bought a Viewmaster of my own...before running across this guy's work. A description of the story we purchased is below. Now, when friends come over, we have them play with our Viewmaster! I just ordered four more stories.

Use the link above to get your own...and if you need your own viewmaster, they only cost $5.00. Nice, cheep, safe fun for the whole family. (www.vladmaster.com)

"On March 19th 1992 a recreational airplane flying low over the Cascade foothills noticed an unusual number of orange forms dotting the forest floor. Further investigation revealed 86 earthmoving vehicles, idle and overgrown with weeds, spread over five acres of forest. The Public Life of Jeremiah Barnes is a Vladmaster investigation of this occurance and the man who may or may not have been responsible for it. The story is told in dioramas built from tiny model railroad men and 55-cent plastic bulldozers. Almost none of the objects are larger than one inch in any dimension. Narration is included on a mini-cd accompanying the reels. It features sound effects, music, and a wonderful ding noise to cue the change from image to image.

This set consists of four handmade Vladmaster reels, the box to keep them in, and the mini-cd soundtrack. The story was written and photographed by Vladimir. The reels and box were designed by Vladimir. Toussaint Perrault narrates the story and also wrote and recorded the accompanying music."


Why are the Olympics in China?

The Chinese are putting on a respectable Olympics, by all appearances. But I am beginning to question the appearance more and more.

First, the gymnasts. The girls don’t look 16 to me at all. They just don’t pass the laugh test.

Then, the opening ceremonies. I feel like I was had. The fireworks weren’t real (because of safety reasons they tell us, after the fact.) And the cute little girl singing was not the girl who really sang the song. A voice over at the Olympics? And the little girl singing did not know herself, because they wanted her to be pure of spirit?

And why aren’t the seats full? Where are all of the people? What is going on? And then they try to fill the seats with people all dress alike, telling the press that they are real spectators. Come on, this does not pass the laugh test either. Naturally, they admitted later that these were all cheerleaders. But they promise all of the 6.8 million tickets to the events are sold out.

Finally, I have a strong inkling that the reports in the media that “China is doing better, this is a really big country, and they are starting to respect personal rights, give them some time” is pure propaganda, or mis-information being spread by the Chinese government.

What else is going to turn out to be fake at these Olympics?

The end point is that any news or information coming out of China should be taken with a large grain of salt at this point, even when it relates to happy things, like little girls singing.


my book blurb

We had to come up with our book blurb this week. Please post comments or shoot me an email letting me know what you think...would you buy it?

Take two parts humor, one part sadness, three parts love, and then mix together with friends, laughter, and travel: together these ingredients form the recipe for my life. Added to the mix are stories of the strong women in my family who have eloped with a motorcycle riding carnival worker, ridden a beverage cart down the center aisle of a 747 wearing Mickey Mouse Ears, and dug up the last $1000 hidden in the rose bushes in the garden to clothe her children. Zany and caring stories from a life well lived will keep you, and maybe your partner, up at night as you laugh, cry, and share in the entrée that is my life.


a worthy cause

I just donated $40 to these people and it would be great if you could do the same. I also helped them build a few outhouses this year!


From their email:
"Pardada Pardadi is located in an area of Uttar Pradesh so poor that many women can't afford pads during their period. So they typically use rags torn off old saris to staunch their flow -- a practice that risks terrible infection every period from puberty to menopause.

We are raising $5000 to help Pardada Pardadi buy a machine that makes sanitary pads and support two of the school's graduates as they start a pad-making business. The goal is to create a self-sustaining business that sells pads at around 25 rupees for packs of ten -- simultaneously bringing an affordable and sanitary option to women on their periods while creating economic opportunities for women in an area that has next to none.

If 125 people donate $40 each (about what an American woman will spend on pads every year), we can make this happen. Once we reach $5,000, we'll stop collecting money -- this isn't a charity, this is a donation of seed capital.

Thanks for your help! Learn more and donate at RagsToPads.com."


Vituary: Nicole S.

Because of my selective memory, I often remember things more by the way they made me feel than exactly what happened. I remember feeling apprehensive about having quit my job and the move to New York. I realized immediately that I could not live without both friends and a TV. And since I had no friends yet, I went to the Kmart in White Plains, New York to get an electronic friend of sorts, a TV. Luckily, the TV was not my only friend for long. In the first week of law school I met my friend Nicole.

We have the same name. Her mom thought our voice mail for our house line should have said, “If you want to speak to Nicole, press one. If you want to speak to Nicole, press 2.” We were so poor when we lived together, we did not have a house line, so this was a moot point.

Our first road trip together could have ruined our friendship. I made her ride with me in my little Jetta to my storage unit in Maryland. We got caught in traffic on the New Jersey turnpike. You discover quickly how you really feel about someone stuck in traffic. I liked her a lot. She must have liked me too, because I think my car was so full of my possessions (read: crap), she had stuff at her feet and could barely move.

I have never seen her use her black belt in tai kwon doe, but I know she could kick my ass. But you can’t really tell that at first glance. Behind her glowing smile and vaguely Texan accent, lies a person of great depth with a unique way of seeing the world and processing it. I think this is one of the things that drew me to her, because I, too, often lack the ability to see the world like everyone else does.

The day I drove off in my car, planning to leave New York for a year, Nicole started crying. Sometimes I don’t realize, or try not to think about leaving the people I love. Nicole knew I would be gone for a year, and I appreciated her expression of this. I, too, would miss her, and our bantering, and her continued efforts to get me to eat better, and my continued efforts to get her to eat crap.

Last weekend she threw the perfect wedding shower for me. My close friends from law school came together for an afternoon of un-rushed enjoyment of each others company. No one had any place to be and we could talk and lounge around the pool to our heart’s content.

These are a few of the events we have shared. I know there were many more, even if the only real memory I have of them is of the feeling of comfort. That comfortable feeling that comes with friends who are more like family, who you don’t mind seeing you without your bra on, who you know will keep loving you wherever you are. This is the feeling I associate with Nicole: comfort.

I am lucky to have such a good friend to share my life with. Thank you Nicole. Love, Nicole

Movie Review: Mama Mia

Starring: Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, Collin Firth

I get why Meryl Streep did the movie Mama Mia: she gets to make out with Pierce Brosnan, and it all takes place on a beautiful island in Greece. What I don’t get is why it sucks. The idea was cute, but the movie lacked that zing, that thing that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Maybe it was because the people playing the parts were too old. I know they are acting, but that only gets you so far sometimes. And boy can Meryl move. She does not look like she is 59. She looks great. But she is supposed to be playing the mom of a twenty-year-old. Mind you the movie never mentions how old she was when she had her daughter, but because her mom would not let her come home after she got pregnant, I would guess she was around 20. That makes Meryl, even in great shape about twenty years too old for the part.

I think the other thing missing from the movie was a little more back-story about the daughter. Ostensibly, all of her mom’s ex-lovers are in town because of the daughter’s wedding. (Neither the viewer nor the daughter know which one is her dad.) Then we learn she is only 20. Oh and her best friends have British accents while the daughter sounds like an American. And what about college? I guess I don’t know where the daughter is coming from or where she is going or why she is getting married.

And just one more horrible thing: the singing. Meryl can. Pierce can’t. And the painful thing is that they have Pierce keep going and going. The man has a terrible voice and even with support from Meryl, it is a flop. Oh and he starts singing at the end of the movie. Everything is resolved and everyone is having a nice dinner. This song should have been left on the cutting floor, which I gather from the Wikipedia site about the movie is where a lot of the other ABBA songs in the movie ended up.

The best part of the film comes when the credits are rolling: Meryl, Pierce, and Collin, with the other three adult characters, all sing ABBA songs on a stage wearing typical ABBA outfits. They all look great. In fact, Collin Firth turned out to be the one with the biggest gut, and he is the youngest!

I would only recommend the movie if you are going with a group of good friends and are interested in a good laugh, at the movie.