Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dining Out For Life

Tonight Christopher and I are getting together with my cousins Katie and Kris (you've heard of them--they're the two who are going to be doing the Breast Cancer 3-day this year -- read about them, here), and we're going to go out to dinner. Why is this newsworthy? Because tonight is "Dining Out For Life" in the Twin Cities.

If you haven't heard of it, Dining Out For Life is a fund-raiser for AIDS-related service organizations which is "celebrated" at different times across the country. (Locally, it's sponsored by The Aliveness Project.) On a given day in each of these metropolitan areas, restaurants offer to give a certain amount of their income for the night and donate it to local groups who provide services to those living with HIV and AIDS throughout the community. Even more than that, often the wait staffs will do the same -- donating their tips or even their total wages.

So, tonight, we're going to get together and do our part by simply eating. We're hoping to have dinner at a great little restaurant called Blackbird, which isn't too far from our place. I say that we're "hoping" because Blackbird is -- in point of fact -- a small restaurant which doesn't take reservations. This is not a big deal most Thursday nights, but they are donating at least 35% of tonight's income, so there's a very good chance that they're going to be swamped. We're coming up with contingency plans, but hopefully we'll be eating there.

No matter what, I gotta say... When you can make a donation to a great cause just by eating... Wow. Philanthropy has never tasted so good!

** Wondering if there are any Dining Out For Life opportunities coming up in your area? (Even though most of them happen on the same day, some cities are different.) Check out their nationwide website. **

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mid-week Mush-up

Wednesday night and I'm in a kind of strange place. Let's see...

1) My back is continuing to react after spending so much time on the ladder last week. Oddly enough, as my upper back relaxed and got back to normal, Monday morning my lower back decided to seize up. (My father laughed at me when I told him about my sore back. His response to my concerns as to why my back hurt was "You spent multiple days on a ladder. What do you expect?") So I was pleasantly sitting at my desk and when I tried to stand up out of my chair I almost couldn't straighten up. It's been getting better on a daily basis, but after spending a couple of hours standing in the kitchen baking this evening, sitting down was a very good idea.

2) I'm absolutely thrilled to say that we have a tulip which is about to open. We've also got a bunch of others which are showing buds. They're not the first ones in the neighborhood to bloom, but they're our first of the year and they make me happy. On the other hand, with the weekend's rain, all of the trees have started to leaf out. They're pretty, but they're causing my sinuses to start acting up. Tonight I finally gave up and took my allergy med's to try to get my eyes to stop itching. 

And we all know what 1 + 2 equals...

3) Putting those two things together, this afternoon while I was at work, sitting calmly at my desk, I sneezed. No big deal. It's not "THE" flu, it's just allergies. But a sneeze, when you have an aching back... well... let's just say that the first word that came to mind after "Excuse me" was something approximating a less polite version of "OUCH!" 

So, there you have it. The various portions of my world which collided today. And now I'm ready for Thursday and -- hopefully -- being one day further away from my achiness. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Not a Trivial Night

For the second week in a row, Christopher and I have joined a couple of other friends for "Trivia Hell" at a restaurant called "Hell's Kitchen" in downtown Minneapolis. Last week was actually the very first week that they held it, and the four of us came in third. We were incredibly proud of ourselves. 

And then last night happened. Somehow our stars aligned with the trivia topics and we rocked our way through topics like "70s Glam Rock," an entire category about Nazi-era inventions, a full section on The Periodic Table, and -- the standard topic -- Current Events (which I frequently bomb on). For me, though, I couldn't have been happier than I was when the very first topic was unveiled: TV Theme Songs. 

Any of you who know me know that I watched (and still watch) way too much TV. If it's something I saw before college, you can bet that the song is stuck in my head somewhere. I must admit that I missed one of the 8 questions in the category (although we got the bonus question right), but my triumph of the evening was being able to name "Mr. Belvedere" based on the first two lines of the song. Okay, so when the answers were being given out I was mocked for knowing that, but... well... that's the curse I have to bear.

So I didn't know that Werner Von Braun invented the V2 rocket. Or that Joan Jett was a member of The Runaways. Or that Bing Crosby was the first recording artist to use magnetic tape. But... Really... Can humming any of those topics fill your day with memories of "Laverne & Shirley" or "The Greatest American Hero"?

Of course, I wouldn't have come anywhere near 1st place without the rest of my team. I think getting to sit at a table with 3 great friends for a raucous evening of dinner and talk and trivia... Well... That's where the real winning comes in. 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Stew

It's been a really busy week, and -- as you may have noticed -- my blog has taken a back seat to much of what I've been doing. So today you're going to get a nice helping of "Sunday Stew" as I pour ideas into my keyboard.

1) Christopher and I went to a movie on Friday afternoon. You know how I've been saying that going to a movie with almost no expectations often results in greater enjoyment of the movie? Well... Even with low expectations, we left the theater thinking we had seen one of the worst movies ever. You may wonder why we went to see "Crank 2: High Voltage" in the first place, but the original "Crank" was actually fairly witty, at least. "Crank 2" was just bad. Overall: D-

2) On the other hand, last night we went to the final concert of the season for the Valley Chamber Chorale. Christopher's mom is their accompanist, and we've become season ticket holders. They're not a professional group, but they put on amazing concerts. Last night's was "De la Mort a la Vie" -- three 20th century French pieces going "from death to life." We were a little apprehensive about what we'd be hearing, but it was really rather amazing, overall. If you're in the area, I'd strongly suggest checking out the VCC in future. 

3) Amid all of this, we've finally been watching spring come to Minneapolis. The yard is greening up. The trees are beginning to leaf out. The tulips are up (and getting ready to bloom). And we're having a rainy -- not snowy -- day today. Amazing.

Alright, I know that a 3-ingredient stew is pretty skimpy, but I have to put my computer away (to watch The Amazing Race). See you again, soon!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lost In Google

This morning, while on my way to a 7 o'clock meeting (yes. in the morning), I made the mistake of attempting to follow some Google directions without printing out the map. The directions seemed simple enough, after all, only a few turns between here and there, with a total estimated time of about 25 minutes.

But then I came to the point where I had the options of either Old Highway 12 or New Highway 12. Without the map, I was left to simply guess at which one I needed. As I'm sure you've surmised by now, I chose the wrong one. Of course, I didn't figure that out for about 5 miles.

Luckily, New Highway 12 crosses back over Old Highway 12 once more, and I came to that crossing just about 10 seconds before I decided to turn around. Doubling back on Old Highway 12, I eventually came to the road I needed and made my turn, only to find that the next street I needed was... well... above me. 

Yep. The street which I was supposed to simply merge onto has, somewhere along the way, become part of an overpass. This one obviously would not even have been helped by the map, since the directions were completely wrong. 

Long story short (at least for me), I once again doubled back and this time found the correct road -- in spite of -- if not thanks to the nice cartographers at Google. And, yes, I got to my meeting, even though I was about 10 minutes late. 

Later this afternoon I had a conversation with someone who said she really hates relying on technology and much prefers face-to-face and hands-on transactions. Considering how my day started, I couldn't have agreed more.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ah, To Be Young Again... (?)

Have you ever had anyone ask you: "If you had the chance, would you go back to High School?" It's usually followed up by "What if you still knew everything you know now?" 

Whenever I'm asked that kind of thing I always have to add in a few more caveats. I always have to add in things like "Could I look different?" or "Would I have to go back to my own high school and my own class, or could this be any high school?"

I spent a couple of hours pondering that topic tonight, and I've decided that -- at least for now -- I would not do it. High school is -- for most people -- an incredibly difficult time. I know that there are people for whom it's a great time, and I'm very happy for them. But I know a lot more people who simply survived those years and couldn't wait to get on with their lives. 

Now, don't get me wrong. I do honestly remember some really good times in high school. And I'm very happy to say that I've reconnected with a few people from that period of my life and we've begun to develop new friendships. But... well... My life would never be a "High School Musical" or something out of "Fame" or -- to lead us to tonight's actual topic -- that of Matthew Perry's/Zac Efron's character in "17 Again."

If you haven't seen the trailers, here's the basic idea: Matthew Perry plays an almost-divorced father of two, who loses his job and wishes he could go back to the night when he chose to be a husband and father, instead of being a basketball star. Unfortunately, when his wish is granted, he doesn't go back in time but, instead, simply becomes a 17- year-old Zac Efron. He develops a new persona and starts attending school with his own kids, using his best friend as his (very well-moneyed) "dad" and having to deal with all sorts of emotions surrounding his almost-ex-wife. 

I went into the movie with pretty close to no expectations. I didn't expect it to be even remotely pithy or emotional. I didn't expect it to have fully rounded characters. And I definitely didn't expect that his dorky best friend would become *gasp* interesting at any point. 

Yet, somehow, as the movie went on, we got to see Zac Efron channel Matthew Perry as he gave a 37-year-old twist to high school platitudes. We got to feel the angst, but also the joy of the everyday. And, yes, we got to see the nerd get some level of revenge. 

Do I think "17 Again" will win any major awards? No. In fact, even though Efron shows up shirtless for a scene or two, there weren't even any screaming teen girls in the theater. Which means it may not even make it to the Teen Choice awards. But did I enjoy the trip? Yes. I really did.

Overall rating: A. It doesn't try to be anything that it's not. And, in so doing, it seems to have become a lot more. 

Oh. And in case you're wondering... My actual answer to the questions which started this post was: "Okay. I guess I'd go back if I could know what I know now AND I could look like Zac Efron. But, barring that, no way." 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Back to Reality

I came to the realization, earlier today, that one of the not-so-bad things about being mostly unemployed was not having to deal with the Sunday evening dread that so many people experience. Although I never completely lost the feel for the flow of the week (Saturdays consistently felt different than, say, Tuesdays), I definitely got out of the habit of worrying about the start of the work-week.

Of course, last week doesn't count. On Sunday of last weekend, I was all geared up for starting my new job, so I was excited and not dreading it. 

This week, although definitely not dreading going to work (I haven't been there long enough to dread it. In fact, I rather like it so far), I've got that "It's the end of the weekend" feeling going on. And I must admit that I'm not really enjoying it. 

At least it was a very good weekend -- and Christopher and I each did have 3 days of it to enjoy. Even so, I know that having the alarm go off in the morning is going to be weird. Not necessarily bad, mind you, just... well... weird. 

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of... Spring?

The clock just chimed Noon (or... rather... it chimed 12, signifying Noon), and I'm still in my pj's. Of course, this being Saturday, that's not all that unheard of. 

My goal for today is to go out and begin mucking about in the yard, which I should probably get to before I become one with the couch. Unfortunately, it's a kind of strangely hazy day out. You know, the kind that usually come in the heat of the summer. And, consequently, I'm just not feeling the love of the sunny spring day. 

Or maybe the haze isn't to blame. Maybe it's because, yesterday, Christopher and I spent the morning helping a friend of ours take the 1950s awnings off of her prairie 4-square house. Four of us did most of the work, climbing up and down ladders and taking out bolts and caulking up holes and all. Christopher and I were even daring enough to climb up onto the front portion of the roof to remove the awnings on the second story windows. (Yeah. I don't know that I'll ever be thrilled with the whole "getting back on the ladder off of the roof" bit...) Consequently, though, I'm all sorts of achy this morning.

Even so, today it's time for the more down-to-earth adventures of clearing the leaves out of the rock beds, cleaning out the flower beds, and raking up the yard before our first -- predicted -- rain of the season (which is supposed to be happening tomorrow and Monday). After all, dry leaves and dust are much easier to deal with than wet leaves and slugs.

So I've done an on-line search to find out what I should (and shouldn't) do in "early spring" ( *sigh* it's already mid/late-April, but around here it's only "early" spring ), and I believe I am fully prepared. Or at least mostly prepared, with just a little haze around some edges. 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Feel the Need... The Need for...

In all deference to the folks who made the 80s mega-hit "Top Gun", my preferred way to finish that sentence today would be... "LESS speed."

Today, while trying to be efficient at work, I processed some shipping, only to find out later that we were short by two copies of the book I now had labels for. Oops. But at least that was something easy to correct and only two of us (the person who gave me the task in the first place and I) will ever know it happened. (Well... the two of us and all of you...)

On the other hand, there were two pretty big events in the world this week which both -- at least in my opinion -- could have done with a little less speedy help, especially from the Internet. 

Big Event #1: Amazonfail

Some of you may have heard that there was a huge hew and cry that went out about last weekend. I've never really figured out exactly what went on, but here's what I saw happen: on Easter morning, I was copied on a message from a friend who was sending out a link protesting a change in Amazon's policy of listing books on their site. The change entailed listing everything they deemed to be gay-themed literature as "adult" and then taking it out of their ratings lists. This included memoirs, books generally regarded as being part of the literary canon, and young-adult books wherein the main characters simply talk about (without acting on) their sexuality. 

Basically, the upshot of this change meant that -- without very specific searches -- you wouldn't be able to find any of those books on Amazon. At the same time, though, anyone searching Amazon could still find erotica and pornography which was heterosexual in nature. So... A book that gave a detailed description of a heterosexual rape, incest, molestation, and/or torture would still be rated and could pop up in every schoolkid's search. But a book written to help a teenager deal with getting bullied in junior high because she was a lesbian would not. 

Because of the speed of the internet and blogging and Twitter and all that, this problem had circled the world several times before noon on Sunday. Heck. By the time I found out about it (probably 6 hours or so after everything really fired up), there were already people asking why the problem hadn't yet been addressed and/or fixed by Amazon! When it was cleared up on Monday (with Amazon saying it was a "glitch in the system and was being fixed"), there was little or no follow-up on the "Interwebs." 

Now... Do I really believe that this was an "unknown glitch" which higher-up people at Amazon didn't know about? Ummm... I'm gonna have to say no, since it meant that some programmer was paid for a whole lot of hours of creating the means by which to segment out those books. But, given that the complaints started in the wee small hours on Easter Sunday, I have to say that I'm not surprised it wasn't fixed in less than a day. I mean... come on... give Amazon 24 hours to address it and correct it, at least, right? Definitely a situation of "step back and take a breath before over-reacting," in my opinion.

Big Event #2: Susan Boyle

I fully admit that I have watched the video of Susan Boyle singing "I Dreamed a Dream" more than a few times over the past couple of days. And I get tear-y each and every time. And I know that I posted the link to her performance on YouTube asking each of you to go watch it in Tuesday's posting. And, as of this afternoon, I think the various YouTube videos of her performance had gotten somewhere over 30 MILLION hits. (Probably not all from readers of my blog, sadly.) But...

Can you imagine how much pressure she is under, now? I mean... The show only aired in Britain last weekend, and I saw her interviewed via satellite on both ABC and CBS (where even Patti Lupone -- who first performed the song in the original cast of Les Mis in London -- was brought in by phone to chat with her) this morning. Boyle seems to be holding up well, but you could tell that she just wasn't ready for that much attention. 

Friends of mine are commenting that they're afraid she won't be able to live up to her own hype, and I'm starting to feel the same way. I'd be amazed if she doesn't collapse from stage fright the next time she goes out. Or -- worse yet -- sing a clunker and get boo-ed, simply because everyone has such high expectations. 

Whatever happened to people getting the chance to cut their chops little by little? Why does everything have to be on such a grand scale? Why does it all happen so fast?

So there you have it. My plea for people to slow down a little. 
Take a little time. 
Disconnect for a moment or two. 

I know I feel better. Don't you?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Simply Had To Share

There are times when you see or read or hear something which kind of makes you stop and think "Wow. Life's not so bad, after all." 

Along those lines, I know some people who watch shows like "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" simply so they can enjoy the happy endings. I know people who bury themselves in favorite old books or old movies to get out of their funks. And we all know people who dive into chocolate, ice cream, or any combination of the two. For me, I know that days when I'm really down in the dumps I tend to use music to get me back up and running. And... yes... a good Broadway musical is frequently where I go for that. 

Today, though, I got hit over the head by a performance of a song which has never really been an "upper" for me. It popped up on my screen in front of me in a message from a friend, and I was kind of unsure what to expect. After all, the song in question ("I Dreamed a Dream") is more about realizing that life has passed you by than it is about going out and grabbing it. 

But Susan Boyle -- a singer auditioning for this season of "Britain's Got Talent" -- well... as much as she might have thought the song was about her life passing her by, the performance just might be the thing that helps things to turn out at least a little differently. (We can hope. The show is kind of like "American Idol" in that there are audition weeks before the actual competition and eventual prize-awarding. I guess we'll have to keep checking for updates online for the answers.) 

I don't want to give any more away, so I'm going to stop talking about it, now, and simply send you over to watch the video. Grab a tissue, though, because by the time you're at the end of the seven-and-a-half-minute video, you may need it. 

I'd love to hear your comments when you're done. (Including how many people you've forwarded it on to. :-)

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Little This... A Little That...

Welcome to another of the slightly-manic postings which I like to refer to as mini-posting. Hold on to your hats, and hear we go...

1) On Friday I posted about a blog event wherein people were asked to share their grandmothers' recipes. The full post which resulted can be found in today's edition of The Spiced Life. It's a wonderfully mixed bag of recipes and remembrances. If you get the chance, definitely check it out. 

2) I had my first "day" at my new job today. It only lasted a few hours because the person who was supposed to be training me was sick and hadn't had a chance to put any training materials together. It seems like it will be a good fit, though - at least for a part-time job. I'll keep you "posted."

3) Our irises and tulips are both popping up through the dirt outside in the garden. In the two areas which bloom first, there are shoots which are at least 4 inches tall. In other, less-sheltered, areas there are signs of a few sprouts. Combined with the newly-germinating marigolds on the windowsill in the basement, I really am starting to think that spring is here.

4) Easter was nice. There was way too much chocolate (can there be way too much chocolate?). There were decorated eggs. There was ham. And there were things hidden around the house which had to be found. It was a good day. 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Starting Fresh

As those of you who have been reading "me" for a while already know, I was "reorganized" out of my job at The Minnesota Opera last summer. In most cases, losing a job would result in a fairly clean break from that old place. I mean, if you work in an office and you lose your job, you don't go back to hang out in your old cubicle. But when you've been working in a service industry, there is inevitable carry-over which can't be avoided. Of course, if you leave a job at the grocery store, you still need to go buy groceries, but you could go to a different store to get them. Well... If you lose your job at the only opera company in town -- one for which you already hold tickets for the following season -- you're kind of stuck crossing paths. 

My first real path-crossing came about last November, the same weekend as the time change, and was documented here. (I'll wait if you want to go read up on it...)

In the past 6 months, I've spent a whole lot of time job-searching, and soul-searching, and... finally... spring cleaning. And you've all been polite enough to ride along with me through all of it. What I haven't mentioned is that, along the way, I've actually applied for a couple of jobs back at my old stomping grounds. Applied for -- but not even made it to the interview process for -- a couple of jobs. 

** Snarky Sidenote ** Not to belabor the point, but I even applied for a position which was at least 80% directly taken from my old job, and only 20% new. The first time around they hired someone they all liked, who might possibly have inflated his abilities just a tad. He only lasted about 4 months. They recently replaced him with someone else who is -- surprise -- a great friend of the department, but -- again -- may or may not have any relevant experience. Hmmm... On the plus side, it makes me happy when I look at the number of people they've hired since I left and realize that what I did all on my own now takes 2.5 people to do...  ** End Snarky Sidenote **

I've been doing my best to not take any of this too personally. To keep it all in perspective. To move on with my life. And then came time for our latest set of show tickets. 

Christopher and I went to see "The Barber of Seville" last night, meeting up with Libby (in town from San Francisco for the weekend) and her guy in the process. (We also, oddly enough, ran into my cousin Katie's dad and stepmom, who were seated directly in front of us.)  Libby and I were both a little apprehensive about going to an opera after being away. Libby was simply unsure about having to deal with everyone (even though she left on very good terms), and I was a little unsure about having to go in and explain my continuing saga of unemployment. 

Oddly enough, we didn't run into anyone before the show or at intermission. It wasn't until we went to the post-show party at Pop!! that we had to do the meet-n-greets. (And, yes, we knew that was going to happen.) It was interesting, to say the least. Libby was greeted by screaming people running across the room to talk to her. And I got slightly-less-enthusiastic "Gee. We haven't seen you in ages." reactions. Not to say that anyone was rude or anything, but the other three of us were simply Libby's entourage for the evening. (And I can hear Libby protesting that characterization of the situation already... Check back, I'm sure a comment or two will be posted about that once she's back in San Francisco and has a chance to read this.)

The food was so-so. The drinks were nigh impossible to get. The staff seemed like they couldn't be bothered with any of us. But, with none of those distractions to interrupt us, we carved out a nice enough hour or so sitting and talking. It was great getting caught up with Libby and finally getting to meet her guy. And it was good hearing what's been going on with a couple of the Opera folks who came and sat with us for a while. 

Even better, when I was asked what I was up to, I was able to say "I'm starting a new job on Monday, and I've got some freelancing in the works." I didn't even stretch the truth or fudge any of my answers. It was great. (In case you're worried that you missed it... No. I haven't talked about my new job in here, yet. I figure I'll start it, first, so that I don't jinx it!)

So now it's Easter morning, and Christopher and I have tucked into the chocolate-y goodness of our Easter baskets. We'll be heading for Stillwater this afternoon. And tomorrow I'll start fresh with my new gig, putting my old job one more step behind me as I start fresh. So far it sounds like spring might be starting out well.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sharing a "Grandma's Recipe" Blog Event

A woman named Laura, who writes a blog called The Spiced Life (which I am a regular reader of -- and whose comments you may have read, here), was reflecting on her Grandmother last month, and floated out the idea of a "Grandma's Recipe Blog Event" celebrating the recipes we all have gotten from our grandmothers. 

Although I talk a lot about food in this blog, I haven't ever written about recipes, but this seemed like a good reason to put the first one into my portion of the blogosphere. 

Both of my grandmothers were pretty major cooks. My father's mother was a German cook and the mother of eight kids. I remember the kitchen in her house as being mostly off-limits, though. She was a cook who didn't want to share her recipes for fleischkeukle or kuchen or bread-and-butter pickles, and took many of them with her when she died. But the flavors and the memories of them all have stayed with all of us for years.

On the other side of the family, my maternal grandmother was French-Canadian, and lived in Los Angeles when I was a kid. While she wasn't a gourmet chef, she did enjoy entertaining. When we would go to visit (from South Dakota), almost every evening meal was eaten out in the backyard beneath a gorgeous old tree. Frequently it was hot out, so chilled desserts were always enjoyed, including the "French Cream" which I've included, here. I made this for a buffet-style dinner a few years ago and layered it in a trifle dish, instead of doing individual servings. It was great. Even after all these years. 

(Sorry... No photos of it. And the photo I wanted to upload of my grandmother doesn't seem to want to go out on the 'net. Guess you'll have to take my word for it on these...)

Grandma Simpson's French Cream

1 pkg Crushed Vanilla Wafers
1 cup Powdered Sugar
1/2 cup Butter (softened)
2 Eggs
1 pint Whipping Cream (or 1 quart whipped or CoolWhip)
1 small bottle Maraschino Cherries cut into 1/4-inch chunks
3/4 cup chopped Walnuts or Pecans

1. Line the bottom of an 8x8 inch freezable pan with waxed paper.
2. Cover the paper with 3/4 of the Crushed Vanilla Wafers.
3. Cream together Powdered Sugar, Butter, and Eggs. 
4. Fold in Whipped Cream.
5. Fold in Maraschino Cherries and Walnuts.
6. Spread Cream mixture over Crushed Wafer layer.
7. Top with the remaining 1/4 of the Crushed Vanilla Wafers.
8. Place in freezer for at least 24 hours before cutting into squares and serving. 
*If doing this in a trifle bowl, simply layer once or twice, and use a spoon for serving.

Thanks, Laura, for instigating this event!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring Cleaning (of Sorts)

When I moved in with Christopher just over a year ago, most of my belongings went directly into the basement, which was finished, but not furnished. About 75% of that went into making the place look like lived in (and... well... kind of like my old apartment). The other 25% stayed in boxes stacked near the IKEA desk we bought and put together. 

This week I've been working on dealing with that other 25%. 

You see, unfortunately, I tend to be a keeper of things for no obvious reason. I fully admit that I've never really known how long to hold on to things that seem to be "official" documents (such as insurance paperwork or bank statements). And I know that I'm overly sentimental about other paper goods (Christmas cards and show programs and the like). And from my days teaching, I knew that I had a bunch of my old "texts" -- which include everything from comic strips to more traditional literary scraps. 

What I didn't realize was how much of any of that was in the boxes. Or, more importantly, how much of it wasn't in the boxes (resulting in a bunch of half-filled boxes taking up twice as much space as necessary). I emptied 5 or 6 large cardboard boxes today, filled 2 new "file boxes"  with the "keep" pile, and took out 2 huge trash bags to the garbage bin. Even so, I've cautioned Christopher that I'm not done, so he shouldn't expect to see a big change the next time he goes downstairs. 

Of course, there were surprises, too. I came across Christmas cards and photos and birthday cards. I found my old "emergency sewing kit" and my stapler and a couple of watches (which had been missing since the move). And in the middle of it all I unearthed newspaper clippings ranging from silly to sobering (and a blend of the two in one obituary -- which sounds kind of callous, but would make sense to anyone who knew the guy). 

I've been putting off this task for so long that I almost can't believe I got so much done, while still taking the time to ponder what I was pawing through. There's a ton of work yet to be done (like trying to put things into actual scrapbooks), but at least the initial sorting is over and I can breathe a little easier. 

And, about half-way through my day today, I think I may have realized -- as I do every year -- why spring cleaning feels so good: It's satisfying to know that the past is being put where it belongs, making room for the future. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Time Traveling

Today was an interesting travel day. A kind of time travel Tuesday, in fact.

My day started, in essence, by my going downtown in Minneapolis to meet up with Christopher at lunchtime so the two of us could check out the annual Flower Show at Macy's. The first one of these I went to was with Christopher a few years ago, back when it was in the 8th floor auditorium space. And although we went the past couple of years (and introduced Libby to it, as well), the past couple years it was spread around on the "shopping" floors. Happily, this year the show is back on the 8th floor and gorgeous. The theme is "Dream in Color" and after you pass the pink flamingo topiary, you wind through 7 distinct garden areas. My favorite? The Italian garden, which is in shades of yellows and golds. Much less fussy than the French garden, more friendly than the Japanese garden, more appealing than the Russian garden. I'd suspect everyone who goes will have an opinion on this, and I'm open to debates. (I'd post a link to it, but the Macy's website doesn't have photos... It runs for about 10 days, but I'd go soon so you get the best blooms.)

My next travel through time took me to the A-1 Lock and Key in St. Paul. Christopher and I have been looking for a key for our sideboard, and this place was recommended. While I was waiting for a new key to be cut (this was not a "drop it in and let the machine do it" deal like for car keys - they had to do it all by hand with a grinder. It took about 10 minutes to cut one key. wow), I stood and looked around at all of the paraphernalia on the walls. Apparently this store has been around for 30 years, and the walls are covered with locks and door strike plates and metal detectors. And, well, a whole lot of random signage - including banners crediting them for being a sponsor of the yearly Shrine Circus visit to St. Paul. I highly recommend the place for your lock and key needs - and for the trip back to a better time than the Home Depot key department can give you.

Finally, once I was home, I had the chance to sit down with a tape of last week's series finale of "ER." I fully admit that I haven't watched the show for a couple of seasons, but there was something about the fact that the show was ending that made me want to watch it. I'm glad I did. They did an amazing job of tying the past to the present, and reminding me why I enjoyed the show when I used to watch it. In fact, they played the final episode as if it were both an end and a new beginning. I fully admit that I teared up a couple of times mid-show, but as the credits rolled, I was okay with it. 

And, at the same time, I found myself okay with being in the present. 

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Tale of Two Hypes

I've seen a bunch of movies in the past week, having had a good run of Netflix to choose from. I also got to see one movie in the theater. Here's the thing: One of the movies I saw had a ton of hype, while one really didn't have that much (or at least not much that I knew of). And those hype levels definitely made a difference in the movies, for better or worse. 

First, let's look at the movie with all of the hype: "Slumdog Millionaire." There is no way in the world that I would deny that this is a good movie. The visuals alone are stunning. I have to admit that there were moments where I had to kind of let my mind wander away and remove myself from it so that I didn't get depressed by what I was seeing. But the story is amazingly crafted as it jumps back and forth in time telling us the unbelievable story of our main character. There was never a moment where you lost the track of the story - which is something not every movie with this kind of set-up can say.

I started watching "Slumdog" with my laptop in front of me, but found myself putting it away so that I could better focus on the texture and style of the film. It's subtle at times, brazen at times, and full of flavor at every turn. Basically, this movie is the cinematic equivalent of a great curry. 

On the other hand, last Monday I went to see the animated feature "Monsters vs. Aliens" at the theater. Apparently, because it is available in three formats (3-D, 2-D and IMAX), it actually captured all three of the top spots for movies over its opening weekend. But I didn't know any more about it than the fact that Reese Witherspoon voiced the main character. 

Basically, the plot involves Susan (Witherspoon) being hit by a meteor on her wedding day and growing to 47 feet tall. She is taken into custody by the government and meets four other monsters (including Bob - basically a one-eyed mass of blue Jell-o - and Link - who looks a lot like the Creature from the Black Lagoon) who have been held since the 1950s. They are brought out of their "home" to battle an alien force which wants to take over the world after the President and his war cabinet can't stop the bad guys. Along the way "Monsters" treats us to pop culture references as wide ranging as "Dr. Strangelove," music from "Close Encounter of the Third Kind" and "Beverly Hills Cop," and even a two-word allusion to "MacGuyver" (which I think I may have been the only person in the theater to laugh at).

And now, as I come to the summary, let's also circle back to the intitial topic of this post: hype.

"Slumdog Millionaire" - Plus side: Great movie. Very moving. Very exciting (even though you sort of know the outcome by now). Minus side: I would have liked it better if I hadn't sat through all of the past months' worth of hype. I wanted it to be... well... more. So... Worth seeing (and the Oscar for best movie)? Sure. Worth all the hype (and the Oscar for best song)? Not so sure. Overall: B+

"Monsters vs. Aliens" - Plus side: Hilarious, if you're in the mood for it. Silly. A little touching, even. And does NOT fall into the "we're going to dumb this down for the kids with lots of bodily functions jokes" trap. Minus side: The animation of people (as opposed to Monsters or Aliens) is a little odd. So... Go see it - before you get bombarded by too much hype - so you can get a few cheap laughs? Yes (you'll never look at Jell-o the same way again). Overall (because I simply wasn't expecting it): A

Sunday, April 5, 2009

"Hello, Spring? Is That You?"

If someone had told me 11 hours ago that today it would, finally, begin to feel like spring, I might have had to deck them. 

I mean... This morning when I got up there were a couple of inches of snow on the ground, and it was still coming down. In fact, most of the morning it was cold and snowy and all-around early-wintry feeling. 

Then, sometime in the early afternoon while Christopher and I were huddled up on the couch with the curtains closed watching the end of season two of Torchwood on DVD, the sun came out. (Good thing, too, because having watched the final episode, we'll be in John Barrowman withdrawal for a while. I don't think I could deal with that AND the lack of sun both at the same time.)

About 4:30, I went outside and took a tour of the yard to see what little shoots are starting to come up, and I did it in a t-shirt without a coat on!

** Sidenote ** I'm happy to say that, as Christopher was leaving the house yesterday afternoon, he came back in to get me. I followed him outside as he was gesticulating in the direction of the small flower bed we have just between the back door and the garage. I couldn't see why he was so excited about the mulch and dirt until... there... among the woodchips... I saw the tips of tulips coming up through the dirt. Hurrah! ** End Sidenote **

As I'm writing this, it's sunny enough that I'm having trouble seeing my computer screen, but I refuse to move, because the warm sun on the back of my neck as I sit on the couch is lovely. So much better than this morning when the light coming in from outside was simply reflecting off of the new blanket of snow.

Yes. I know there's still snow in the forecast for tomorrow. And that Minnesota is known for the occasional snows all the way through the first week of ((shudder)) May. But today spring does seem to be here. And I'm going to bask in it for as long as I can.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Things This Week Was Not

Friday night is a great time to look back on the week that just was and reflect on all that it... well... was. But tonight I find I'm more interested in what this week was not.

1) To begin with, it was not warm and spring-y. But, then, if you've been paying attention, you already knew that. For truth in advertising, however, I must admit that two days this week I went outside in a blazer without a scarf. Pretty amazing, hunh?

2) It was not the week in which I won the lottery. Of course, this was also not a week wherein I bought a lottery ticket, and I suspect that those two things may - in some way - be connected. 

3) This was not the week when I finally saw the movie "Slumdog Millionaire." It is, however, sitting on the shelf waiting for me, since for once my address was apparently at the top of the Netflix stack when they started sending out hot new movies. I hope to watch it this weekend. (Yes, of course I'll tell you what I think. As if you had to ask!)

4) This was not the week when I started a new springtime fitness routine. Although, with the longer and warmer days, it was the week when I started thinking about it. And that's a pretty major step for me.

5) In the past week I did not get to play in the garden. Trying to re-grade the slope of one of our downspouts does not count.

6) As we moved from March into April, I did not celebrate April Fool's Day by a massive prank of some kind or other. I think Mother Nature did well enough with that by making it snow like crazy as I was driving to a networking event at 6am. Yes. I left home to go to a meeting at 6 A. M. As in Ante-Meridian. As in "in the Morning." As in "I recognize this time of day, this is when Christopher goes off to work and I go back to sleep for an hour or two." And did I mention that it snowed that day? 

7) This was not the week when gay marriage became legal throughout the United States, but it did become legal in Iowa (of all places). There may, yet, be hope for the rest of the country. 

8) The orchid which bloomed oh-so-many blog posts ago did not drop its flowers this week, and it is still sitting in pride of place on the table. It really is beautiful, you know.

9) This was not the week when Christopher and I ran off to live in a penthouse apartment overlooking the Seine in Paris. Quite possibly that also has something to do with #2, above. 

10) Above all, I am quite happy to say that this week, overall, did not suck. And, you know, sometimes that's better than all the rest of it put together. 

I hope your week was mostly suck-free, too.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

What's "App," Doc?

I would hereby like to make a plug for "most over-used term of the year." I know that it's only the beginning of April, but I'm already tired of being pummeled by the... well... it's not actually a word... but we'll call it that so I can finish this sentence... the word "App."

It seems that every time I turn on the TV, there's a commercial for some tech gadget with new Apps available. And when I'm on my computer, I get pop-up ads suggesting that I might want to download new Apps. Honestly, the only App that these ads are going to get me to add into my daily life is apoplexy brought on by these ads.

Why is it so hard for people to use the entire word "Application"? After all, I have been led to believe that the term "App" is a shortened form of the real word "Application." I seriously doubt that it is in reference to any of the organizations which typing "app" into a Google search will pull up. 

** Sidenote, so you don't have to Google all by yourself ** 
Did you know that there is an Association of Professional Piercers? is owned by the Asbury Park Press. 
Typing "app" into the Google search bar will also bring up the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. 
Oh. And my favorite is something called "Atom Publishing Protocol" the first line of the description for them is, circularly: "Atom Publishing Protocol (APP) is an application level-protocol for..." Meaning that APP is app-level... Hmmm...
** End Sidenote**

Or, if saying the word Application takes too long because that's just way too many syllables, why not go for "Program"? That's only 2 syllables. Not only does it take almost no extra time to say in a commercial, but it would also mean that all of the above-18 and/or non-tech people would actually understand what these ads are talking about.

I know. I'm fighting a losing battle. I mean... Christopher is a moderate tech-geek, so I'm semi-surrounded by tech terms on a daily basis. Luckily, he knows enough to simply patiently try to explain things to me, and then just laugh politely when I still look totally befuddled. (Frequently this is followed by a pat on the head and being shooed out of the room so he can get back to work.)

On the other hand, if we all simply boycott the use of the word, we can at least not cause it to propagate more quickly than it already seems to be doing. Maybe if there's someone out there who is good at computers, we could have them create some process that will search the 'net and remove references to "App" and replace them with the full word "Application." What do you think? 

Or is there already an App for that? 

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool's It's Not, Unfortunately

A few things I would like to be able to say were April Fool's jokes this year:

1) We had snow today. Not a foot or more, like they had northwest of here, but snow, nonetheless. Yesterday we had rain and a short thunderstorm complete with hail. 

2) I got up at 5am and didn't go back to sleep all day. I do not know how Christopher does that on a daily basis.

3) After six months, Minnesota still doesn't have a second Senator, and it looks like a new court challenge could take at least a couple more months to decide.

4) The origin of April Fool's Day is pretty much unknown, but according to Wikipedia it could have 5 or more different starting points. Hmmm... Anyone else sense a prank?

5) The TV show "Bridget's Sexiest Beaches" starring Bridget Marquardt - one of the Playboy Playmates from VH1's "The Girls Next Door" - is actually a pretty good show. She's surprisingly funny and interesting, or at least has been on the couple of episodes I've seen. (Like I said, this is one of the things that I wish I could blame on this being April 1st.)

That's probably enough delving into my sleep-deprived psyche. No foolin'.