new listserv

I am trying to make the place I am
the place I want to be.

To that end, I just started a listserv called: WashingtonDCScholars.

When I lived in Germany, there was this great listserv, BerlinScholars, which people used and continue to use to sell stuff, find subletters, find apartments, exchange information. DC did not have a similar thing that I could find until I started this one yesterday.

Already there are 13 members! Maybe this will work.

If you would like to join, click here:

It would be fun if this works.

interesting video about waste

This guy Dan Phillips does a really interesting job analyzing why we seek perfection in our housing and how we can go about re-imagining what it is we are seeking in our shelter. I wish the talk had been longer.

Here is a link to more info about this guy in the New York Times.


funny joke, necessarily offensive

try not to take offense:

In Heaven, the French are the cooks, the Italians the lovers, the English the police, the Swiss are the managers, and the Germans are the engineers.

In Hell, the English are the cooks, the Swiss the lovers, the Italians the engineers, the Germans the police, and the French are the managers.



i love the post office

All we ever hear about the US Post Office is bad stuff: prices going up, stopping service on Saturdays...and of course people going postal.

But the postal workers of America rock. They do lots of good things...

Charlottesville, VA Branch 518 member Mary Good was making her deliveries when she came across a man lying in the center of the street, bleeding profusely from his head. Good quickly grabbed a phone to call 911 and protected the injured man from being struck by oncoming traffic. She remained with him until the rescue squad arrived. The man had been crossing the street when he apparently blacked out and suffered a concussion. Good then ran to the realty office the man owned to tell his son what had transpired.

NOTICING ACCUMULATING MAIL IN THE mailbox of an elderly customer, Audel Garcia grew concerned. Since the 89-year-old Mrs. Ho picked up her mail regularly and because there was no vacation hold order, Garcia went to knock on the door to check on the woman. When he heard her feeble call for help in response, he summoned police and emergency crews. Ho’s son wrote to the post office to commend the Santa Clara, CA Branch 1427 member for not only saving his mother’s life, but also for his professional and friendly service on a daily basis. This was not Garcia’s first heroic act. He was also spotlighted in the March 2009 Postal Record for performing CPR on a customer who had collapsed in his driveway.

And you can read more about these feats by clicking here...at the "Postal Record."


bodymedia part deux

So, I have been wearing my BodyMedia fit for a month now. And I have the data to prove it!

Here's a summary:

I am only sleeping on average 6 hours and 53 minutes a night. I thought I slept 8 hours a night. I am lying down for an average of 8 hours and 35 minutes.

I eat on average 1400 calories a day. This seems low to me. I bet I eat closer to 1600, but even still I have burned on average 2785 calories. How can this be? I eat on average 16% protein, 46% carbs, and 36% fat...oh and 3% alcohol.

I have only lost 2 pounds...maybe.

I average 9812 steps a day. Not bad.


This just reenforces my feeling that calories in do not equal calories out.

And I need to sleep more.


great idea

Marriage is about the ability to agree on a central narrative.

Idea from Elizabeth Gilbert.

I like this idea. I think couples should have to put together a statement of purpose or something before they get married. I think it would help people make sure they are on the same page....


one way to cheer up your grandmother

I just love the idea of dressing Grammy up like a superhero. I wonder if she would be game!?!

"A few years ago, French photographer Sacha Goldberger found his 91-year-old Hungarian grandmother Frederika feeling lonely and depressed. To cheer her up, he suggested that they shoot a series of outrageous photographs in unusual costumes, poses, and locations. Grandma reluctantly agreed, but once they got rolling, she couldn't stop smiling.

Frederika was born in Budapest 20 years before World War II. During the war, at the peril of her own life, she courageously saved the lives of ten people. When asked how, Goldberger told us "she hid the Jewish people she knew, moving them around to different places everyday." As a survivor of Nazism and Communism, she then immigrated away from Hungary to France, forced by the Communist regime to leave her homeland illegally or face death.

Aside from great strength, Frederika has an incredible sense of humor, one that defies time and misfortune. She is funny and cynical, always mocking the people that she loves.

With the unexpected success of this series, titled "Mamika," Goldberger created a MySpace page for his grandmother. She now has over 2,200 friends and receives messages like: "You're the grandmother that I have dreamed of, would you adopt me?" and " You made my day, I hope to be like you at your age."

Initially, she did not understand why all these people wrote to congratulate her. Then, little by little, she realized that her story conveyed a message of hope and joy. In all those pictures, she posed with the utmost enthusiasm. Now, after the set, Goldberger shares that his grandmother has never shown even a hint of depression. Perhaps it's because her story serves some sort of purpose. That through the warm words of newfound friends, she's reminded of just how lucky she is to be alive.

We got in touch with Sacha Goldberger, the grandson and talented photographer to ask him more about his background and creative process. He told us this: "I've been photographing for four years now and before that I worked as a creative director. My grandmother is very professional. I'd show her some poses, and she'd propose some of her own. I like to tell stories and I also work with some very creative friends.""

See more pictures here: http://www.mymodernmet.com/


interesting video


really neat movie...seeking funding

A story about a man, his house, and his adopted Japanese son.


book review: the sound of a wild snail

by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

A woman in my last writing class did a book review of this book, and it was possibly the most eloquent book review I have ever read. Instead you are left with my more pedestrian review.

This book was WONDERFUL. Really wonderful. Bailey took a topic I thought I had figured out, namely snails, and complicated them. My previous understanding about snails: dumb, slimy, easy to kill with salt, some people eat them. Now I know a lot more.

Bailey was struck with some kind of illness that left her bedridden for years. A friend brought her a snail, and watching the snail, at the snail’s pace was the only activity Bailey was capable of for many months. She would lie on her side watching the snail. Day after day she and the snail co-existed. If you listen very closely, snails even make noise.

Of note:
“Some [snail species] (sic) are so minute that they would not hide the letter o in this print.” REALLY? That is small people.

Here you can see how snails have sex:

Bottom line: this is truly a book to read, regardless of whether you care about snails or not.


very cool video

Kim Rugg from Cool Hunting on Vimeo.


so f**king cool

Wow. So this photographer, Abelardo Morell, turns rooms in to cameras. The results are amazing. (I have inverted his pictures. See the original Summer version, by clicking Summer, and Fall, by clicking Fall.)

See more of his work here...

How it works...from his website:
Camera Obscura
I made my first picture using camera obscura techniques in my darkened living room in 1991. In setting up a room to make this kind of photograph, I cover all windows with black plastic in order to achieve total darkness. Then, I cut a small hole in the material I use to cover the windows. This allows an inverted image of the view outside to flood onto the walls of the room. I would focus my large-format camera on the incoming image on the wall and expose the film. In the beginning, exposures took five to ten hours.
Over time, this project has taken me from my living room to all sorts of interiors around the world. One of the satisfactions I get from making this imagery comes from my seeing the weird and yet natural marriage of the inside and outside.
A few years ago, in order to push the visual potential of this process, I began to use color film and positioned a lens over the hole in the window plastic in order to add to the overall sharpness and brightness of the incoming image. Now, I often use a prism to make the projection come in right side up. I have also been able to shorten my exposures considerably thanks to digital technology, which in turn makes it possible to capture more momentary light. I love the increased sense of reality that the outdoor has in these new works .The marriage of the outside and the inside is now made up of more equal partners.


book review: hector and the search for happiness

by Francois Lelord

On the fishing trip I got through two books. It was just glorious! One was this little book about Hector and his search for happiness. Hector is a French psychologist. He realizes that he is unhappy and decides to go on a trip to different places in the world in order to figure out rules to remember about happiness.

Hector has quite a few adventures and all the while he keeps a small notebook of the lessons he learns. I find the lessons to be incredibly accurate:

My favorite lessons from the book:

Happiness often comes when least expected.
Many people see happiness only in their future.
Happiness is being with people you love.
Happiness is a certain way of seeing things.

I am now reading a book about Stoicism and I really think this book and that other book compliment each other well. I will write about that book when I finish it. Until then, I would love to share these three excerpts from the Stoic book here.

Excerpt 1: http://www.boingboing.net/2010/10/27/twenty-first-century-2.html
Excerpt 2: http://www.boingboing.net/2010/10/29/twenty-first-century-3.html
Excerpt 3: http://boingboing.net/2010/11/01/twenty-first-century-4.html


book review: A Secret Gift

A few months ago Grammy called us late, really late, like 2 AM. It was before her heart surgery. She was all kinds of upset because of the economy. She had spoken to her son earlier that day and he had offhandedly said asked if she was ready for the second depression, since she had made it through the first.

Grammy's question to me and Brent really revolved around one major topic: food. During the depression she told us she had eaten beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She was not going to do it again.

Brent was able to talk her down. He explained that after the depression we, as a country, had enacted a series of programs to act as social safety-nets. Gram seemed to calm down.

I both believe and could not believe that she only had beans to eat. That is until I started reading A Secret Gift, How One Man's Kindness- and a Trove of Letters-Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression. When I think of the depression I think of it in aggregate: bad things happened all over the world. People were poor.

But tangibly that meant nothing. After reading this book, I have a much better sense of what happened.

For example, all of the banks failed. We have all seen It's a Wonderful Life but that does not really bring the failed banks idea home.

Since the recession started, 306 banks have failed, but no one has really felt it, because your savings are insured by the US government. What if they had not been? Can you imagine your life savings just going away? Not there anymore? Maybe Americans have such small savings accounts, that it would not be that big of a deal, but I can't really believe that.

I have numerous friends and family members who have lost their jobs, but because of unemployment insurance, their lives went on. They eventually found new jobs.

The book really brings home what life was like and could be like if we did not have the safety net in place we have to day. I wish more people who are so supportive of smaller government would read what the results of these types of policies can be in real life.

Oh and it is a super heartwarming tale that makes you want to give more away, because as we all know, the giver gets more than he gives.


the pantry

Brent and I have been getting the vegetable share for the four years since I returned from Berlin. It comes once a week from Washington’s Green Grocer. We get a weekly list of what is planned to arrive on Sunday.

We have often failed to eat all of the veggies, which really made me feel guilty. That said, we kept ordering, because I felt like we were learning as we went along.

Linda did not cook a lot. So my first exposure to really good food made a home was when I went to visit my aunt and uncle in western Massachusetts. They live so far from take out and the city, they had to become chefs in their own rights. One Thanksgiving I spent there we had southwestern Turkey, with all of these tastes which I had never been exposed to.

While it has taken me quite a few years, I am finally getting the handle of cooking. And really, it starts with the kitchen. A few years ago, we pared down our kitchen utensils. We used the list from Mark Bittman. (found by clicking here.) Then, a few weeks ago on a whim I purchased a book from Amazon called Urban Pantry. What a great little book. She explained the pantry to me. And boy was that a simple change that has made all the difference in how easy it is to cook at home. The secret: Line up your pantry like it would be in the grocery store with all like things together. Linda NEVER did this. I just don’t think she had the patience for cooking.

The final change that has lead to way more cooking at home is another Mark Bittman suggestion. We put the toaster over away and we put the food processor down on the counter. It is there always ready to go. I think we have used the processor at least 5 out of 7 days since we did this one small thing.

More on this topic as it evolves. But the bottom line is that it costs less and tastes better to cook at home.


do this

Go to http://maps.google.com/.

Type in: San Francisco, CA to China.

Scroll down to 15.



Bad Things That Could Happen from This Is It on Vimeo.


thoughts for thursday

“Each moment of our life, we either invoke or destroy our dreams. We call upon it to become a fact, or we cancel our previous instructions.”

Stuart Wilde (never heard of him... learn more about him here.)

Brent stumbled across this quote this evening. I like it. I like the idea that you are either working towards your dreams or not.

Reminds me of Unkle Ed's mantra:
Decide what you want to do and then
Decide what you are willing to do to make it happen.
Then all of your other decisions become binary.



Has anyone else ran across this idea? Instead of homeschooling, you unschool your kids? I would describe my understanding of it as a cross between Montessori- where kids learn at their own pace- and home schooling - they learn at home.

I think this is both cool and scary, this unschooling idea. What if your kids are lazy? In one book I recently read, one son spent a year playing video games. That's it. On the the couch playing...

So, I would love to hear what others think about this. I ran across a great blog about a woman who is unschooling her kids.

More information about unschooling:

From Wikipedia:
"Unschooling is a range of educational philosophies and practices centered on allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences, including child directed play, game play, household responsibilities, work experience, and social interaction, rather than through a more traditional school curriculum. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities led by the children themselves, facilitated by the adults. Unschooling differs from conventional schooling principally in the thesis that standard curricula and conventional grading methods, as well as other features of traditional schooling, are counterproductive to the goal of maximizing the education of each child.

The term "unschooling" was coined in the 1970s and used by educator John Holt, widely regarded as the "father" of unschooling. While often considered to be a subset of homeschooling, unschoolers may be as philosophically estranged from homeschoolers as they are from advocates of conventional schooling. While homeschooling has been subject to widespread public debate, little media attention has been given to unschooling in particular. Popular critics of unschooling tend to view it as an extreme educational philosophy, with concerns that unschooled children will lack the social skills, structure, and motivation of their peers, especially in the job market, while proponents of unschooling say exactly the opposite is true: self-directed education in a natural environment makes a child more equipped to handle the "real world.""


personal financial plan

This is a plug for our personal financial plan and the advisor who helped us put it together. Brent and I decided a few months ago that we needed a third party to look at our finances and help us figure out which debt to pay off first. Brent may have balked at the price at first, because if you use a third-party who is independent from a company, and thus not selling you anything, then you have to pay for this person's services and time. Being lawyers, this is kind of funny.

Anyway, we did our shopping. There is a website which has a long list of independent financial advisors. We went out and met with one guy. But Brent and I are tough clients: we are highly educated, not only generally, but also about financial issues. We also hold a number of unconventional ideas: we don't believe that buying a home is the only way to financial security and we believe in saving big for retirement. (There are more, but I will keep those to myself!)

So, the fates stepped in after the meeting with the financial advisor: we were out near our friend Mark and Pam's house. We called them up to get dinner. We told them about how the advisor thought we were crazy. We lamented finding anyone who understood us. We drove home and then it hit us: Mark should be our advisor. He fit all of the criteria.

We went out to see him to receive our financial analysis two weeks ago. We left with a great binder of information about all kinds of topics ranging from a health care analysis, to cash flow, to a recommended monthly savings goal, and finally insurance recommendations. We also have a long "to do" list of things Mark would like us to get in order. It was great. I felt like we had finally gotten our act together on this front. And Mark did a wonderful job explaining things with us and sparring with us. I really left with a positive feeling.

So, hire Mark. He rocks. Or find your own advisor. Either way, I would recommend using some one who is independent.

Mark Weber, Certified Financial Planner