family pictures that look like we live in the 70's

Brent and I hiking in Idaho.

Family pic of Montana, Erin, and Ada

The view out our apartment window...that I kind of photograph all the time.

So everyone knows I am in love with cameras right? Well, on some recent trips I took some of these crazy cameras with some crazy film. Then I sent the film away and this is what came back. (Click here to see more pics!)


gao report: 401(k) Leakage

For the last 9 months or so I have been working on a report about 401(k) leakage. The report was released on Friday and garnered a fair amount of press, which is very exciting. I will let the topic and report speak for the topic: 401(k) Plans: Policy Changes Could Reduce the Long-term Effects of Leakage on Workers' Retirement Savings. GAO-09-715, August 26. A one page of report highlights can be read by clicking htis sentence.

From MarketWatch:
"SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- A forthcoming federal report on retirement savings recommends easing a penalty for hardship withdrawals from 401(k) plans and that workers receive better education about the consequences of such decisions.

The Government Accountability Office report, slated for release Friday, suggests ways for Congress and federal agencies to reduce the long-term impact of early withdrawals, or "leakage," from retirement plans." (Click here to read more of the article.)

Needless to say I am pretty proud. Good job team leakage.


wedding fun

Kate and Tim

Ed and Peg

Just back from my aunt's wedding in Chicago. Tim and Kate are all married up. Took some great shots. Click this sentence to see more.


distorted reality


ode to christoph niemann: going to bed

Christoph does these about once a month. I LOVE them. I hope you enjoy my attempt at imitation. To see something similar, go to Christoph's site at the New York Times.


fuel economy

What I like about driving is the puzzle of it all. How can I get from point A to point B the fastest? Now I have a new goal: How can I get from point A to point B while keeping my miles per gallon above 25?

So you buy a new car and the fuel economy is on the window. There used to be two numbers, city and highway driving average miles per gallon. Now there is a range on the window. A range? Really? I can get more miles per gallon somehow?

Yes, you can.

For the last week, I have been experimenting with this. I knew if the tires were properly inflated, you get better fuel economy and maybe some other things. I understand physics: the less drag on a car, the better the gas mileage. But this couple, the Taylor’s, have lots of tips for increasing your fuel economy. (Click here to read all 30 tips.)

Since hearing about these people I have been trying to follow the tips. The Nissan Altma averages, since I have been driving it, 24 mpg. The car display will show me a running mpg. Right now it is at 26.1 mgp after I have been conscientiously driving the speed limit, slowly accelerating and decelerating, and avoiding excess idling.

The weirdest part about going the speed limit and paying attention to my gas mileage is how un-stressful driving is. No need to change lanes, no place to go. No need to race to the stop light, my fuel economy is more important.

Check out their tips. Who knew for instance that you should drive downhill in gear? “Driving down hill in neutral (free wheeling) you will use some fuel. When you drive down hill in gear (the safest gear under the circumstances) in a modern day car you will use NO fuel whatsoever.”


relationships: Truly, Madly, Deeply

Capitalizing on today's response to the parenting column, I am now hoping to get people's responses to this article, Truly, Madly, Guiltily, from the New York Times in 2005. The article was part of the Time's Modern Love column. The first time I read the article I actually gasped out loud. I could not believe what the woman wrote. And then I kept thinking about her kids reading the article when they were big enough to do so. I don't want to give it away, but I can't wait to see what everyone thinks!

This article has come up a few times in my writing classes and even in some other conversations. The author, Ayelet Waldman, is married to one of my favorite authors, Michael Chabon. (Who incidentally dated one of my former work colleagues when they were getting their MFA's together!)

Click this sentence to go to the article. Let me know what you think!



Did anyone read the story in the New York Times last week about parenting titled: "When a Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do as I Say’?" (Click this sentence to read it.) It was by a man named Alfie Kohn. Apparently he "is the author of 11 books about human behavior and education, including 'Unconditional Parenting' and 'Punished by Rewards.'"

The gist of the article is that if you discipline your kids you are harming them. Kids need to be unconditionally loved. And the spectrum of discipline, from spanking to time outs is less than unconditional love and will, therefore, irreparably harm your child.

Can get a read from you guys on this? I feel like parents run the spectrum. Some of our friends are very permissible; some are stricter. Brent and I expect that when we are parents we will be on the stricter side.

But this just seems crazy. No discipline?

Let me know what you think.


book review: Put Your Life on a Diet: Lessons Learned from Living in 140 Square Feet

By this point I have realized that I get very excited about something, and then begin to obsess about it. One way to deal with my obsessions is to buy some book about said topic. Therefore we have books such as Yemen (home to Socotra) or Put Your Life on a Diet: Lessons Learned from Living in 140 Square Feet by Gregory Johnson. This little green book arrived a few days after I fell in love with the Tiny Tumbleweed homes. Mr. Johnson lived in one of these homes since 2001. It does not have a bathroom or much of a kitchen from his description.

The book, a quick read, walks the reader through the positives and negatives of small living and at the end of each chapter you have a few exercises to do which help you refine what you are seeking.

While I did not find the book super helpful, it was cute and informative. I would have liked to have read more about his day to day life living in the little house. What kind of funny things have happened over the years? I know from just wearing the funny shoes that people have no problem stopping you to ask you about strange things you have on your body, so I am sure if you house was on a trailer people would stop you all of the time. Who are these people he met throughout the years?

A few years ago I read 100 Ways to Simplify Your Life. Great book. The ideas in that book continue to inform my daily life. For example, on Sunday I went through the closet with the eye of Clinton and Stacy on What Not To Wear. If it was ugly, out. If I had never worn it, out. If it had any problem that I could not fix, out. I whittled down the closet quite a bit and feel great.


lazy Sunday

What a great day. I picked up my friend Pam around 11 and we drove out to a vineyard with a picnic. The wine was great, the weather was great, and the conversation easy. Back to the grind tomorrow, but today was perfect.


movie review: Disfigured

I just finished this movie, Disfigured. The story is about two women: one is severely overweight and the other woman is anorexic. They become friends over weight so to speak. The low budget movie deals heavily with how society perceives weight. And you really get an insight into how both women are treated by society. Everyone is so mean and judgmental. The women have frank talks which are sometimes so honest they are difficult to watch.

How is it that we all seem to hate our bodies? The skinny people and the fat people are all able to find ample problems with their bodies.

I just want to be happy with how I look and be able to enjoy activities that I love and wear cute knee high leather boots. Is that too much to ask?

I think about this sometimes when I look at other women's bodies. I think, wow, they could lose some weight, or look at her muffin top. And then I catch myself reminding me that there are always going to be people bigger than me and smaller than me and maybe I need to stop being so damn judgmental in my head and focus on my behavior. And then I think maybe muffin top girl just lost x number of pounds and is super happy with her body.

Bottom line: the movie does a great job dealing with a taboo topic in our culture: bodies.


Book Reviews: The Rain Before It Falls and Pieces of the Left Hand

The Rain Before It Falls, by Jonathan Coe and
Pieces for the Left Hand, by J. Robert Lennon

I read these two books last month and really enjoyed both of them. The first story, purchased on impulse at Target (I now know that Target was targeting just me with this book: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/22/books/22target.html), consisted of vignettes told to a tape recorder by Rosamond. Rosamond uses old pictures to tell the story, mostly chronologically, of her family and her life. There are shocking events that take place, and as you read along you really feel like you can see the pictures taking form in your mind; for example you feel what it was like to be sent away from your family to the English countryside during the Second war. I was surprised that a male wrote this book for some reason.

The book left me with a few questions because at least one story line is not concluded. I often wonder if this is just poor editing or whether it was intentional. (Mr. Coe what happened with the daughter’s boyfriend? Did it matter? Just wondering.)

The second book, Pieces for the Left Hand, comprises of loosely related vignettes (again) told about life in a small northeastern town (I see Williamstown, MA in my head when I read the book). The stories are told from a first person plural point of view most of the time. This is typically very difficult to pull off, because most of the time two people don’t see and feel the same things. You know the author is really a man, and he is often telling things from the point of view himself and his wife. (One very famous book for using the first person plural point of view is The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides.)

The books both tell about the ins and outs of families and life, both the mundane and the unintended, yet interesting events of everyday life that sometimes take your breath away. Some stories in Pieces of the Left Hand, forced me to read the stories out loud to Brent. And then once I read that some of the stories were true, I became even more interested in the stories. Crazy. None of the anecdotes is more than a few pages long, with most being under two pages.

One of the stories tells of a farmer who was tired of repairing his mail box after teenagers on Saturday nights used baseball bats to whack them off of their posts. This was a continual problem in Montana too. So the farmer fills the post with cement. Naturally, the star baseball player not only ends up breaking an arm, but his girlfriend in the back seat gets killed when the bat flies back and hits her in the back seat of the car. In another story, a man is a lucid dreamer, meaning he can control his dreams while he is dreaming. I won’t give it away, but needless to say, he ends up questioning his control.

Both books were excellent good reads. Check them out.


Ask Emily

Calling all questions. The blog is going to have a guest blogger…that’s right folks. How fun is this? The column is called “Ask Emily.” Emily is available to answer any type of question. Got life questions? Ask Emily. Got relationship questions? Ask Emily. Got a cat that keeps trying to hump your leg? Ask Emily I say. So readers, send me some questions in the comment box. Emily will get right back to you.

On a more serious note, Emily has really good ideas and solutions to your problems, and she is making her services available...take advantage.

ps: I am not Emily.


tiny houses

Nicole and I took a quick trip up to Connecticut to see a Tumbleweed Tiny House! It was so cute. But honestly I think we need to find a slightly bigger option, since we are two, Brent and I. Here are some pictures we took. To see more pictures click here.


favorite picture

I know, I know, you are all wondering where my posts are, right?

Went to New York for Nicole's bachelorette party this weekend. Had a great time with the girls.

I took this picture that I really like.

More soon.


videos: urban entreprenuer and foot massager

no comment...



So I officially sent out five submissions to publications this weekend! My writing career began...well is beginning...will begin...has begun? I am pretty excited. I don't expect anything to be accepted, though.

This quarter I am taking a class entitled, Writing the Creative Nonfiction Book: Getting a Full Draft. The professor, Rachel Howard, is a published author. I have her book on my Amazon wishlist. It is a family memoir which also covers the murder of her father! The book is called, The Lost Night: A Daughter's Search for the Truth of Her Father's Murder.

I have a draft of my book and in the intervening weeks I am thinking I should re-write it. From scratch. What it is missing is a theme, somewhat important.

Wish me luck.


does thinking about something make it more likely to happen?

I am thinking about:
1. Getting swine flu...my chest has felt tight all day and I am achy.
2. Buying a mini-house to live in.


my newest obsession: tumbleweed tiny houses

Yep, the small house idea is back. This is the one I want now. They are just so cute. I would love for us to live in one for a year and write a book about it. We will see. The pictured house is for sale for $50k and is 130 square feet. Click here to see other tiny homes by Tumbleweed.

In other news, quite a storm is brewing about my review of Fibre Space. Click here to go back to it and read the comments. I love having readers!


movie review: the walker

I just finished watching The Walker. It was a movie about a man, Carter, who escorts socialites in Washington to events. He is gay and has a boy friend, so the walker, played by Woody Harrelson, is more of a muse, acting a lot like a Japanese Geisha.

The star studded cast included:
* Woody Harrelson as Carter Page III
* Kristin Scott Thomas as Lynn Lockner
* Lauren Bacall as Natalie Van Miter
* Ned Beatty as Jack Delorean
* Moritz Bleibtreu as Emek Yoglu
* Mary Beth Hurt as Chrissie Morgan
* Lily Tomlin as Abigail Delorean
* Willem Dafoe as Senator Larry Lockner

Carter covers for one of his supposed friends when her boy friend is found dead in his apartment. Carter is implicated and has to decide whether to chose to continue to lie about what happened or to come clean.

The movie was not good.

The most interesting thing about the movie was how it felt like I was watching a movie from the 80's. The music screamed 80's, the videography, even the clothes...but they clearly meant that the viewer would think the movie was current. So strange.


plant, depressed


book review: tunneling to the center of the earth and like you would understand, anyway

by Kevin Wilson and Jim Shepard

Both Tunneling to the Center of the Earth and Like you Would Understand, Anyway, read quickly. When books are that good it kind of makes you sad. I read Wilson’s book on the plane to Idaho and savored Shepard’s book for months, having a short story here and there as I felt the need.

One problem I have with short stories is that they are usually sad. Nothing ever really ends well in a short story, so when I find authors who are able to get past the sad short story, I rejoice. Shepard, a professor at Williams College with my Aunt and Uncle, takes major historical events and asks, “What was it like to be the person who was there?” For example, what would it have been like to be the guy whose actions caused the Chernobyl accident? Who was that guy? What was his life like, before and after? I just loved learning about the history of these events more intimately. I want to write out a few of Shepard’s stories long hand to see how he does what he does.

Wilson’s book came highly recommended by our local bookstore, Politics and Prose. (In an effort to keep it from closing, we try to buy a few books there every month.) Similarly, in Shepard’s book, we learn what it is like to be the class geeks, who have no other friends, taking those first tentative steps to explore their sexuality and then losing your best friend because of these steps. The title story is about avoiding growing up. The characters in the story studied underwater basket weaving, and after college, don’t have jobs. So they start digging under their town.

The comparison of the two authors leads to a discussion of how much research a writer needs to do before writing a story. Shepard does a lot. Wilson does almost none. The problem with doing no research, is that some subset of readers will notice what you don’t know. For example, in the Tunneling story, Wilson says that the diggers have to put on warm clothes in the tunnels when winter comes above. Nope. The earth, a mere four feet below ground is a constant temperature, between 50 and 55 degrees. Ever been in your basement? How about a root cellar? They should have needed warm clothes all of the time.

I started collecting notes on fun historical events to write about years ago, but what Shepard shows me is how to use these bits of paper and fragments of ideas.

i was going to post a book review

But instead I will post a sad story. A friend of mine's friend Gina just died today. This is what happened:

"Gina just had a baby 2 1/2 weeks ago, it was her 3rd child. She was in her mid 30's. They are saying that she had some sort of postpartum inter-cranial bleeding possibly having to do with her pituitary gland, but have ruled out an anneurism (sp) and an embolism (blood clot).

She actually had had a headache for a couple of days and could not get rid of it, even went to the doctor who gave her an anti inflammatory shot yesterday. She came home and within a few minutes had begun going into seizures, thank GOD her husband was home with her during her maternity leave!!! He was able to call 911 and they rushed her to the hospital. During her trip there, she stopped breathing and her heart also stopped for about 20 minutes. They are calling in specialists, and the one that flew here from back east, who has had the opportunity to examine her this morning says he has only seen 2 other cases like hers, its very rare. We are hoping and praying for a miracle for her. Her husband is in shock and trying to care for a 13 year old a 5 year old and a newborn! We don't know what to think at this point, but we have not given up hope."

I needed to stop complaining, and be thankful for my health and the health of everyone around me. Life is too short.