A Stop-Motion Video of a Thunderstorm Outside My Window

The music is: Philip Glass, Mishma.


store review: fibre space

As someone who would love to start a business at some point in the future, I almost hate to write this. But, really, the experience was just too much not to mention.

On Saturday my knitting group and I set out to Alexandria to go to the new store, Fibre Space (formerly Knit-a-gogo: http://www.fibrespace.com/blog/). It just opened and we wanted to show our support. We follow the owner’s blog and have even taken a class from her. (I learned to cable in one of these classes!)

Well, the store was super cute. And all four women working were very nice and helpful, UNTIL we paid. After that, nothing. No love. Sometimes when you buy yarn, it is not in a ball, it is in a twist. The yarn needs to be rolled into a ball. This can be time consuming and, well, boring. But it has to be done. At most yarn stores they will do this for you. But all four women continued to chat and order office supplies on the internet while we tried to turn our yarn into balls. You have to use a loom to do it. We were told that they do not ball yarn. Really? You spend $60 at the store that day, and then order more yarn worth at least another $100 and they can’t ball our yarn. Nice. Ok.

Needless to say, we are done with that store. It is not on the metro line, like our favorite, Knit+Stitch=Bliss, and the people were rude. At Knit+Stitch, they are wonderful. They ball your yarn, they help you do the math, and they make you feel good. And really that is all I want in a store where I am spending money.


book review: liars and saints

by Maile Meloy

So rushed out to our used bookstore to find the new book by Maile Meloy. Naturally they did not have the book, but they did have her first novel, Liars and Saints. The book is amazing. I read it in 24 hours, 8 of which I sleeping.

My latest favorite quote defining writing is “Writing is answering questions.” I think maybe Meloy is trying to answer the question: What trajectory would the life and family of a woman born in the thirties, married a wonderful, human, and jealous husband traverse? Everyone in the family ends up lying, to protect one another.
One of the last conversations in the book goes:

“Why did I never know this?” she said. “Why do I never know anything?”

“Because you believe what everyone tells you,” he said. “Nothing wrong with that. It’s what they want.”

What do you know about your family? Or what do you know about your mother? Since Linda is dead, I think about this a lot. How would I go about imagining her life? She was both a liar and a saint. She got married at 30 and completely changed her life. I discovered pictures of her from her time flying in her desk once. They were small, square, and in color. She was at some ocean, I now imagine to be the coast of France. Linda came upon me looking at and sorting the pictures, and confiscated them. Erica keeps saying she has them, but I have seen no evidence of their continued existence. Did the pictures even exist? Did my mom really exist before me? Do I really exist without her?

I think truth is something that becomes less important, while understanding increases in importance as time goes on. And this book does a great job at showing the reader why that is true. Each chapter is told from the point of view from another member of the family’s point of view. We can see where their feelings might change if they knew the truth, or because they know the truth of something.

Maybe some of you will remember me reviewing The Stone Diaries, a book that chronicled the life of one woman. I wonder if Meloy consciously tried to imitate that book, but Liars and Saints definitely reminded of the book, because the book’s arch takes the form of the life of the mom, Yvette, similarly to The Stone Diaries story arch.

The bottom line: go buy the book. Look, I will send my book to the first person who reads the blog and wants it. In continue to be insanely jealous of Meloy, and all the while hope we will someday cross paths. (p.s. She is from Helena. p.p.s. The title in the UK was Love and Liars and Saints. I wonder which she preferred. I like the UK title more.)


video from our honeymoon

I am working on figuring out how to add sound. Until then, I HATE IMOVIE. This was not the movie I wanted to make for today...but it will do.



Book Review: Email, A Write it Well Guide

I reviewed this book for work a few months ago, and thought I would share it with my readers. :)
How to Write and Manage E-mail in the Workplace

By Janis Fisher Chan

Who hasn’t "replied all" only to notice a millisecond after hitting send that your snarky response to dirty dishes in the coffee room went to the whole team? Oh wait, no really, you haven’t? Wow. Ok, well then you probably don’t need to read any further.

Email: A Write it Well Guide
is a guide to the basics of emailing at work. There is nothing revolutionary in the book, but it does contain quite a few good tips, and not surprisingly, the tips apply to all types of writing, not just emails. Specifically, the author’s instructs the reader to:

• Think about why you are writing the email, to whom the email is going, what information does the receiver need, and should this information be conveyed in an email before you write.
• Make sure most important info is up front, because people do not read whole email messages all of the time. Put details towards the bottom.
• Use the 15 second rule: pretend you only have that much time to get your point across.
• When responding to an email, make sure that you read the email thoroughly and answer the question asked in the email. This will save you time and the recipient time.
• If you send the same emails often, consider making a template of these emails.

The author also goes on to remind the reader that email is a public medium, email is permanent, and your employer owns your email. Use email responsibly.

In today’s office climate managing your e-mail can be difficult. The author outlines several ways to focus on work rather than email:

• Do something immediately with every email: delete it, respond to it, forward it, or file it.
• If you are not going to respond to an email where the sender expects a response, let the sender know this and when you will respond by.
• Turn off your new email alert and practice hourly email checking rather than breaking your concentration every time a new email arrives.
• Never check your email in a meeting or while on the phone.

While these tips may be commonsensical, who has not been in a meeting where people are checking their blackberries? Reading the book reinforces the developing social etiquette surrounding email, which given the large role email pays in our daily lives, this is necessarily a good thing.


art: 20x200, art for the Masses

I am in love with this website, www.20x200.com. The idea for the website is to sell great art that everyone can buy. They sell limited editions of works: 200 pieces which are 8.5 x 11(the size of a piece of paper) signed by the artist for $20, 20 pieces which are 17 x 22 for $200, and then 2 pieces that are large, so 30 x 40, for $2000.We have bought maybe 6 pieces from them.

You can go to the site and sign up to get their weekly email. Some weeks I am not interested in the pictures at all, sometimes I love the stuff. The catch is that the pictures that are really great go really fast.

I love the picture above, Untitled (Let's make better mistakes tomorrow), by Mike Monteiro. It hangs in our hallway.

Let me know if you pick up any work from the site.


Book Review: The Watchmen

The book, recently made into a movie, is my first graphic novel. Well, I would say first graphic novel I have read as an adult. The cover of the book announces that it is one of Time’s 100 Best Books ever. (Do I care what Time thinks?) I am pretty sure I don’t agree. The book chronicles the trials and tribulations of a group of over-the-hill almost super heroes as they race to save themselves and the world from destruction. We learn the back stories of the characters, how they came to be who they are, and why they are the way they are.

The book is not compiled merely of pictures. There are excerpts from government files and memoirs of the super heroes throughout. The story is also part allegory, or maybe wholly allegory. What is an allegory anyway?

From Wiktionary:
allegory (plural allegories)
1. The representation of abstract principles by characters or figures.
2. A picture, book, or other form of communication using such representation.
3. A symbolic representation.

Hum, I guess it is wholly allegory.

The book is confusing though. There is a book inside the book telling the story of some pirates and a man who tries to save his family from the pirates only to realize he killed his wife. Strange. And there appears to be some extra stories in the story. One guy gets blown up and I have no clue who he was or why he mattered.

What frustrated me the most about the book was the lack of resolution at the end, or rather the confusing resolution at the end. What happened? Why? Who did what? Maybe I did not put enough time into the book. Maybe I needed to pay more attention as I read along. I did figure out pretty early one item, but other than that I really did not get the point of the book.

I will watch the movie next. Maybe seeing it will help me.


this just in: really really cool website

You have to click on the picture once you get there, but keep going. It is really neat!
Hat tip to Dave G. for finding this. :)

one more thing

The whiny post I put up on Friday about the woman in the New York Times: We would be friends with her, could be friends with her, like her for sure.

God does this to me, well maybe just the universe. Any person I immediately take a disliking to for purely superficial reasons, I end up being friends with. It is true.

She is the sister of the lead singer in our favorite band, the Decemberists: Collin Meloy. She is also from Montana. Montanans form an informal mafia so I bet when we move to Portland we will met her and like her. Maile Meloy if you read this post by chance, don't hate me please. I just ordered your book. I will post the review soon.


We have been making our bread every week for the past few months. We grew tired of reading the ingredients of the store bought bread that all inevitably said they had sugar in them. Bread is not made with sugar: flour, yeast, and water. That is it. Crazy. Three ingredients. We are using the New York Times' "No Knead Bread" recipe. We love it.

The only thing you need is a dutch oven. Last year Grammy helped us find one at the Crate and Barrel outlet. It was cheap: 30 bucks. The dutch ovens can be expensive, or you can get one at goodwill. The most important aspect of the oven is that it has to withstand very high temperatures: 450 degrees. Ours from Crate and Barrel has plastic handels that are clearly out gassing when we get the pot above 325. So last night we went to the Le Creuset Outlet and bought a new dutch oven (shown in the photo). Since we are making the bread all of the time we realized we needed it and therefore the purchase was justified.

Recipe: No-Knead Bread

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting (We only use wheat flour.)
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.


what do you see?

found at this random website: http://ffffound.com/.

jealousy and writing

I have started disliking people who I have never met for the most ridiculous reasons lately. I just started reading a book review in the New York Times and thought I might like the book. Until I saw the author’s picture. She looked so nice. Why would I dislike someone for looking nice? And then I read the review. The book of short stories sounds great. I think, “I will order it.” Some of the stories take place in Montana and are about lawyers. And then I become insanely jealous. Here is this other woman from Montana who just had a book published and then reviewed in the New York Times and I am sitting in my cube at my government job.

This is crazy. Facebook strangely affects me in a similar manner: all these people, always happy. Are they all really happy? I have one friend who consistently is unhappy. I make fun of her too. But really the book review and the facebook posts and all of it only show part of how a person is really feeling.

What does it mean to be happy? I am happy. I like my life.

I am seeking drama, maybe. Who knows.

On the bike ride home the other day I realized there is only one way to get out of this job: I have to go through with writing a book. Once the book is written, and sold, I can quit my job and call myself an author.

Stop complaining about that other author, and write something yourself.


brent's birthday: transformers, more than meets the eyes

Loved it. Great movie. Brent turned 35 today so I surprised him with the movie! We went to the Uptown theater which is an old theater with a huge screen. The movie was totally fun. I would highly recommend it. More soon.


not moving to richland

After I was vetted and told that I could in fact apply for said position in Richland, WA, we decided we are, most likely, city people and at the very least not giant superfund site people. So, we are not moving to Richland. Seattle and Portland remain at the top of our list.

Brent sent me a link to this video below...some good thoughts about how to move forward and get to your goals...by a guy who only works four hours a week.


exercise and weight loss

I asked my personal trainer to read the article entitled: "Does Exercise Really Make Us Thinner?" Looking back on this request, I realize asking him what he thought about the article was like asking my tax accountant what they think about the flat tax. What would they think since it would put them out of business?

The premise of the story is that exercise has never been linked to weight loss by researchers. In fact, most research has suggested that you "work up an appetite" by exercising and therefore take in more calories after exercising, thereby off setting any potential weight loss. The idea of "will power" being the reason for a lack of weight loss in some people has also been debunked. So where does this leave us? I am not sure. Sam, however, did not believe the article, even though the citations are there throughout the article. He still is completely on board with the calories in - calories burned = weight loss paradigm. I am not really sure where I stand.

Don't get me wrong, going to Sam has been great. I am in much better shape and can tell every time I do some other kind of exercise. For example, stopping next to the curb on my bike with my right leg resting on the curb without getting off my bike used to be impossible. I know now, intuitively, that I can do it. I don't even have to plan to do it. I still tell Sam every time we do something new, though, that it is impossible. This, too, shall pass. (Jumping between bosu balls almost kills me. (Click here to see a bosu (both sides up) ball.))

Anyway, read the article; tell me what you think. I buy it, hook, line, and sinker. (Click here to go to the article.)



Ok team, I am ready for a break, and to get back to writing. All of this traveling and visitors has me behind in my class work.

Kelly and Talmadge and the boys are leaving tomorrow...here is a cute picture of them in front of one of the characters from The Night At the Museum!


new pictures

This week has been a busy one here. Went to Seattle last Thursday, flew home Monday, met Marika at home, she just came in from Slovakia, hung out with her till Thursday, worked Thursday, got call from Reasoners that they were actually coming to DC this time, hung with them Friday. Oh and we had dinner with Dave and Jerome on the deck Thursday night. Wow. 4th of July party tomorrow.

I took the shot above in the rain with Marika at the National Arboretum. Love that place. (See more pictures by clicking here.)

movie review: cherry blossoms

We just watched this German movie, Cherry Blossoms, about a husband and wife. The wife finds out at the beginning of the movie that her husband has a terminal illness and not much time to live. They give her the option of telling him. She has always wanted to visit Japan, and to be a Japanese dancer. And then she just dies. The husband, seeking to find his wife, travels to Japan, without knowing that he was sick. His quest to find his wife is the story.

The kids are so self involved. But now reflecting on the movie, all of the family was too self involved, even the dad/husband. No one seems to know anyone, appreciate them, or understand them. I suppose this is why the film is so sad to me.

On Thursday we went to see A Year of Magical Thinking. This play is based on the book by Joan Didion. She lost her husband and daughter in the space of less than a year and a half. The play starts out with her telling the audience, this will happen to you, even if you don't think it will. And I suppose she is right. A few times in the play she asks herself/the audience if she even knew her husband and daughter? "Were we always so afraid of one another?"

I like to really know people. I don't want the how are you, I am fine response. Marika told me when she was here the other day, that in Slovak there is no phrase to ask, "How's it going?" as a greeting. If you say this to someone, they think you really want to know, so they tell you. When did we start asking people how they are and stop caring about what they said? And when did we all decide to lie about how we are really doing?


who knew?

Ok, so this is just a blatent re-post...but it is so interesting! These come from a new book about medical myths, "Don't Swallow Your Gum." Click here to see the original article.

"1. Cold weather makes you sick. In studies of cold transmission, people who are chilled are no more likely to get sick than those who were not. It may be that cold weather keeps people indoors, where germs are more likely to catch up with you.

2. Green mucus indicates a sinus infection. The importance of mucus color is a medical myth even doctors believe, the authors say. “There is no evidence…that antibiotics shorten the duration of an illness when green snot is a symptom,” they write.

3. You lose most of your body heat through your head. There is nothing special about the head and heat loss. You will lose heat through any uncovered body part.

4. Milk makes you phlegmy. In a study of 330 patients, nearly two out of three believed milk increases phlegm production. But it’s not true. In one experiment, volunteers were infected with the cold virus, and some of them drank a lot of milk as well. The weight of the nasal secretions did not increase in those who drank more milk, nor was it associated with cough or congestion.

5. Cracking your knuckles will cause arthritis. Knuckle-crackers are no more likely to have arthritis than those who don’t make annoying popping sounds with their fingers.

6. Birth control pills don’t work as well with antibiotics. A review of the literature concluded that common antibiotics don’t affect birth control pills. “It is much more important to take your birth control pill every day at the same time than to spend time worrying about your antibiotics,” the authors write.

7. Singles have better sex lives than married people. You may think your bachelor friends are having all the fun, but single people also go through a lot of dry spells when they aren’t dating anyone. The result — married people typically have more sex in a given year than single people. In one survey, 43 percent of married men reported having sex two to three times per week, compared to only 26 percent of single men. The numbers were slightly lower but similar for women. Married people are also more likely to have orgasms and give and receive oral sex.

8. Sugar makes kids hyper. Numerous studies show sugar doesn’t affect behavior, but most parents don’t believe this. In one study, parents were told their kids had sugar and they were more likely to report problem behavior — but in reality, the kids had consumed a sugar-free drink.

9. You should poop at least once a day. A half-truth, say the authors. Regular bowel movements prevent discomfort and constipation, but a perfectly healthy person may not move their bowels every day. Constipation is defined as having fewer than three stools per week.

10. It’s okay to double dip in the chip dip. In one study, scientists took a bite of cracker and then dipped it into salsa, cheese dip, chocolate syrup and water. They did the same test with a fresh, unbitten cracker. Then they measured bacteria in the dips and the volunteers’ mouths. On average, three to six double dips transferred about 10,000 bacteria from the eater’s mouth to the dip. And each cracker picked up between one and two grams of dip. Salsa picked up the most germs from double dipping.

11. Food quickly picked up from the floor is safe to eat. Scientists have put the commonly-cited five-second rule to the test. They found that food that comes into contact with a tile or wood floor does pick up large amounts of bacteria. Food doesn’t pick up many germs when it hits carpet, but it does pick up carpet fuzz."

john's blog

So, another member of the family has started blogging: John. I am not sure what the theme of it will be...perhaps just rants about this and that. His second post hit home: insurance is one big ponzi scheme. Click here to read more!