Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy Holidays!

Miracle on 34th Street

Christmas lights in Baltimore.

This started with one house,

and then all the neighbors on the block joined in.

They have decorated with their own Baltimorian flare.

This is the hubcap tree,

and the beer ornaments.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Life of Pi

I was going to write a deep post about how sometimes people get overwhelmed with the problems in the world and don't do the little things because they can't do everything. But, I am on an unfamiliar computer and it took me forever to upload these pictures, so I'll just get to introducing the cuteness that started these thoughts.

This is Pi. I found this little kitten outside on my mom's picnic table a couple days ago. It is part of the posse of feral cats in the neighborhood, and we think it got abandoned because it was sick. My mom told me to get it out of the house immediately, but it had taken me 20 minutes to catch this wild cat and I wasn't going to just put it back out in the cold. (It was very cold.) I took slow motion hunter like steps towards it until I was close and enough to reach out and grab it. I think I only caught it because it was sick. I brought it inside, and it was flattened out to the floor and scared. As you can see, it warmed up to me pretty soon. Pi was falling asleep in this picture.

I think I was there for it's first human induced purr. I pet it's back a couple times and it was like it's motor started for the first time. It looked surprised. It started purring this loud purr that didn't quit the whole time we had it. Eventually, after I started crying, my mom came around and let me keep it in the house and helped me find some people to help it. (I am a stranger in a strange land on Christmas vacation.) I don't think this kitten had ever eaten food besides nursing so it took it awhile to eat the cat food and cream of wheat we gave it.

It was very happy to be held, and very sad if I ever left the bathroom where we kept it, (so it wouldn't pass along whatever sickness it had to our cats). Sandy, the cat healer and rescuer, took it and assured me she would heal it up and then find Pi a home. Most of the animals we've had have been rescued and were/are part of our family. I hope Pi has a nice life. Whoever gets this playful and loving kitten will be lucky. Oh yeah, and just because you cannot save all the stray cats in the world doesn't mean you shouldn't try and save one.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Following threads

I went to find out what was new with UU, and I found a beautiful post by Hafidha SofĂ­a which led me to a poem by William Stafford. This is the first time I heard of him, but I love the first poem I found.
Look: no one ever promised for sure
that we would sing. We have decided
to moan. In a strange dance that
we don't understand till we do it, we
have to carry on.

Just as in sleep you have to dream
the exact dream to round out your life,
so we have to live that dream into stories
and hold them close at you, close at the
edge we share, to be right.

We find it an awful thing to meet people,
serious or not, who have turned into vacant
effective people, so far lost that they
won't believe their own feelings
enough to follow them out.

The authentic is a line from one thing
along to the next; it interests us.
Strangely, it relates to what works,
but is not quite the same. It never
swerves for revenge,

Or profit, or fame: it holds
together something more than the world,
this line. And we are your wavery
efforts at following it. Are you coming?
Good: now it is time.
—William Stafford

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Veil of Anonymity

Emily Summerhays, one of the regular contributers to Feminist Mormon Housewives, introduces herself and writes a lovely article about being anonymous:
I am a proud member of my clan, and I have always wanted to do honor to my name. I would like to think that I have lived my life in a way that makes my family proud (or at least, not ashamed) to share my name. My father, in particular, always seemed so tickled when the accomplishments of his children would appear in some newspaper or another, and he never batted an eye when I did not change my name upon marriage. He raised his daughters (and his sons) to be strong, independent, thoughtful, and active—to do what we believe to be right, and do it with our heads held high. And so it was a great blow to me when my father said, upon my announcement that I would be participating permanently on FMH, “You won’t be using our name, will you?”

The 100 best novels by the Radcliffe Publishing Course

When it comes to fiction, many people are not to be trusted. (Check out this reader's list and you'll see what I mean!) I'm still searching for a good book to read. I've read the books in brown. (I may have read others in school, but I only counted the ones I could really remember.) I can already tell this list is not to be trusted, there is John Irving and no Amy Tan. Ok, what we really need, and it is probably out there, is a service which connects you with other people who have the same favorite books and then you can see what their other favorite books are, and thereby get useful reccomendations.

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses by James Joyce
7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
9. 1984 by George Orwell
10. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
11. Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov
12. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
13. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
15. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
16. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
17. Animal Farm by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
22. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
23. Their Eyes are Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
26. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
27. Native Son by Richard Wright
28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
29. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
30. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
31. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
32. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
33. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
34. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
35. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
36. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
37. The World According to Garp by John Irving
38. All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
39. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
40. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
41. Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally
42. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
43. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
44. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
45. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
46. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
47. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
48. Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
49. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
50. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
51. My Antonia by Willa Cather
52. Howards End by E.M. Forster
53. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
54. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
55. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
56. Jazz by Toni Morrison
57. Sophie's Choice by William Styron
58. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
59. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
60. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
61. A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor
62. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
63. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
64. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
65. Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe (This is one of the top 100?)
66. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
67. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
68. Light in August by William Faulkner
69. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
70. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
71. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
72. A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
73. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
74. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
75. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence
76. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
77. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
78. The Autobiography of Alice B. Tokias by Gertrude Stein
79. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
80. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
81. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
82. White Noise by Don DeLillo
83. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
84. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
85. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
86. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
87. The Bostonians by Henry James
88. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
89. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
90. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
91. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
92. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
93. The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
94. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
95. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
96. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
97. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
98. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster
99. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
100. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Simple pleasures: being read to

I love being read to! You can have one chapter from each of the seven Narnia books read to you at the Chronicles of Narnia online. I wonder if I will like the stories as much as I did as a kid, or if the allusions to Christianity will be too much for me?

Monday, December 19, 2005

NPR : The Best Music of 2005 Countdown

Top ten things I love about the end of the year? Well, one of them has to be all the "best of" music lists, where I discover a lot of good music. I love All songs Considered on NPR. You can listen online to theirNPR 2005 Countdown.
All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen counts down listener picks for the ten best CDs of 2005, with NPR music reviewers Will Hermes, Tom Moon and Meredith Ochs. They also share some of their own favorites from the year and take calls from listeners. This program originally webcast live on Dec. 16, 2005.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A Beautiful Woman in Disguise

Mmm... Once again, a fellow (sister?) blogger has sparked a blog post. This was part of my response to The Happy Feminst's post GULP: A VERY LONG AND PERSONAL POST "ON ONCE HAVING BEEN A CUTE GIRL."
...I too can relate. When I was 20 and 21, I was asked out and complimented constantly from boys 16 to men 80 plus and everyone in between. I hadn't been asked out in high school at all and it was overwhelming and flattering. It was also at times very aggressive and some men did expect that since they wanted me, it was an affront to their manhood if I did not want them. Men who I could tell were not sexually attracted to me also asked me out, I think just because, as a pretty woman, I was a status symbol...The very worst part though was women who were jealous of me. They could be fairly vicious. I wanted to tell them that, contrary to their view, I was not always popular, I was not rich, I was not a cheerleader in high school. Please just let me enjoy this time of popularity without malice. I found growing older and plainer an immense relief. I gained about 20 pounds and became pretty enough to get occasional attention and pretty enough that other women wouldn't ridicule me for being ugly, but plain enough not to provoke jealousy or turned heads in the grocery store. Looks are such a mixed bag. What I wish for now, is a world in which all kinds of beauty are valued and we are all free to shine to our fullest without negative repercussions.
I would sometimes like to reveal myself. I would sometimes like to just let myself be as beautiful as I can be, even decorated. I wish all the men in the world were wholesome enough for me to feel safe enough to shine. But I don't want to be the "new Venus," I want to be seen for who I am. So, I often enjoy going out without makeup and with very basic outfits, but still I am not really seen for all of who I am. There is a part of my identity that is "beautiful." It sometimes feels like a characteristic that is true no matter how I look. People who look at me and don't see that I'm beautiful just don't see very well, I think, they can't see my secret, that despite how plain I may look, I am still beautiful. When I was younger, I was exposed for all the world to see, but now I can go about secretly, a beautiful woman in disguise.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Mood Cure

The Mood Cure by Julia Ross really saved my bacon after I ran a marathon in 2004. I thought I just had the after-a-big-event-blues, but it turns out that it is not uncommon for people to feel down after a marathon because people use up their mood producing amino acids. (It's an even worse scene for ultra-marathoners.) That's right, sometimes you don't have to dig deep into your psyche to find out what is wrong with you, you just need to pop a supplement, and that's ok.

The Mood Cure explains how you can spot a "false mood" and what nutritional deficiency that might be caused by. There are people who have structural damage to their brains which can cause personality changes, but for most people false moods or moods of any kind are caused by chemicals in the brain. You can also affect your mood with your thoughts, and with your environment (like getting enough sun,) and your behavior (like getting enough sleep,) but they affect your mood via chemical changes in your brain and "surprisingly brainlike areas of your heart and gut." The idea in the Mood Cure is that if you are severely deficient in a nutrient, you cannot produce the necessary chemicals to keep your mood steady even if you are thinking good thoughts etc. Julia Ross recommends supplements. For people who are deficient in certain nutrients because of diet, they will only need to take supplements for awhile while they are getting their diet back on track. For some people who have trouble creating certain chemicals, they may need to keep taking certain supplements.

This is one of my top 5 recommended books because it can take your experience of life from very miserable to just fine in as short a time as a week with some very simple changes in your diet and some fairly cheap supplements that you can find at any health store.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Walking home

Last night was my last class for my master's degree. Oh, I still have a final to turn in electronically, a paper, a portfolio, but I had my last class. First, I found a church where I can be myself, then I found a grad program that fit me so well. We were eating pizza last night and a classmate's reminiscence reminded me that every week during the first semester, with amazement, I would say to myself, "I made the right choice." "This is the place for me."

It makes me think that for some people, life is like getting dropped off in the middle of the woods, and then year by year, gradually walking home.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

We "save the world" types

My response to Laura's response to Steve's post about fixing the problems in the world.

Hmmm.. I agree with both of you. I think we should all be like medical doctors and first do no harm. After that, I think there is a lot of room for variation. I am one of those save the world types that I think Steve and Laura both are. However, the world would be very boring if there weren't the decorate and make things pretty types and the look at me aren't I beautiful types and the I'm so charming types. (I'm sure we all have a little of all of those, I know I do. Tounge in cheek aside: As Max in Sound of Music said, people aren't good or bad, they are charming or dull.)

That being said, I do think a call to action can sometimes be very healthy. Some people may need a call to action. It's all about balance. If you are a save the world type, I think it is wise to follow Laura and S. Covey's advice and focus your efforts on your area of influence rather than your area of concern and then your area of influence will grow. But first, do no harm and be kind. We save the world types can sometimes be pretty hard on other people and ourselves, at least I know I can.

"My bravest post yet," or "there are times when I wish this blog was totally anonymous"

Actually, I wrote this post awhile ago, and never published it, but since Jo brought it up again...

If you love me, but you think you might not love me if I annoyed you, stop reading now. If you don't love me, or your love could never fail, by all means continue!

Does anyone else have a huge fear of admitting you are gifted? Who do you tell that to? I have a mostly ANONYMOUS blog and I am even worried about putting it up. I have been alluding to it on my blog lately, but not coming right out and saying it. I told my mom and she sounded skeptical!! :) She did agree emphatically that I was an independent and divergent thinker though. (What she used to call "sassy.") And I did remind her that I had read every book in the house by the time I was 10, including her college textbooks.

I just don't want to put anyone else down by implying that I'm better than them. It's taken me so long and so much work to FIT IN, that I don't want to use some word and put myself in another category. On the other hand, I'm proud of my abilities and I think I try to subtly show off sometimes, which I'm sure is annoying. On the other hand, I really do think everyone is gifted in the sense that everyone has amazing gifts! I wish there was a more value neutral label for the cluster of traits we currently call "gifted." On the other hand, why is it ok and not alienating for people to be gifted at sports in our society? I am proud that I learn almost anything, including sports, quickly. I like to call myself "apt." That sounds less pretentious than "gifted" to me. I am really glad to have found some other gifted people (and thank you for commenting on my blog!) and I am so glad to have found out that traits I just thought of as weakness are in the same cluster as the traits I'm proud of, like my extra sensitivity. I wonder what exactly is going on in our brains, probably chemically, possibly structurally? to have such a broad effect? Hmmm...

There I've just outed myself in more ways than one. What do you think? (Do I have to say a bunch of smart stuff now?)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Have I mentioned that I love Christmas?

A quiz result, but hey, I haven't posted one in a while.

What Christmas Carol are You?

You are 'Silent Night'! You really enjoy Christmas, and you like your Christmases conventional. For you, Christmas is about family and traditions, and you rather enjoy the rituals of going to church at midnight and turning off the lights before flaming the plum pudding. Although you find Christmas shopping frustrating, you like the excitement of wrapping and hiding presents, and opening a single door on the Advent Calendar each day. You like the traditional carols, and probably teach the children to sing along to them. More than anyone else, you will probably actually have a merry Christmas.
Take this quiz!

Found via Ministrare who is getting in the spirit.

Google humor

From BiddiesInMyBrain:

1. Go to Google

2. Type in: French military victories

3. Click 'I'm feeling lucky'

Sunday, December 11, 2005

"So You'd Like to...go from poverty to prosperity."

Well, here you are... You have tried everything that you know to get ahead, thrive, and build a future and it isn't working. All you are now doing is surviving, check to check, moment by moment, emergency by emergency. It's just not the way you want to live your life. You're right, you can do better.
Thanks, Joel. You know why I like Amazon? All the reviews. That was a genius move on their part because that's the reason I go there. I got to Joel's list from the book How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously by Jerrold Mundis, which I am now going to go get at the library.

Update: I went and got the tape at the library and it is good so far, but he wants me to track all my spending. Damn! Why is awareness always the first step?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Got some bookreaders on that Christmas list?

Check out the list of critics picks at Reading matters.
It looks like Ian McEwan's Saturday and Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go topped the poll, with four votes apiece.
Personally, I have to thumb through a fiction book really carefully. I don't read much fiction any more and have the bar set really high for a world I am about to get absorbed in. I am willing to go to an alright movie, but it better be a 5 star book (fiction that is.)

Forget 2005, what is/are your favorite fiction book/s of all time? (Please! I need a good read for my long pre-Christmas travel day!)

It's taco salad all over again

I am an inventor. It's just that so far I haven't been a fast enough inventor. I invented taco salad as a young child. I vividly remember sitting in the cafeteria, my hard taco shell kept falling apart with lettuce and other taco innards falling. With a flash of insight, I put my taco on the plate and mashed it up. "Look!" I exclaimed, "I invented taco salad!" (You have to admit, that was a brilliant idea.) The girl accross from me said that she had eaten taco salad the week before. "That's impossible," I said with true incredulity, "I just invented it."

Well, tonight I invented another in my long string of already invented items: a tag based calendar, like unto I figured that someone else already thought of it, they did, and they already built it too. Check out Eventful. Oh and there are other tag based calendars on the way. I'm sad about losing the possible fame and fortune, but I'm glad my idea turned out so well. :)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

This was a homework day...

Instead I've been looking up organizing and personal knowledge management tools on the web left and right. I really really like Getting Things Done, but due to a glitch in my Outlook software, just as I was sailing along with my system, I can no longer use the GTD plug-in. Getting organized... here's how one naturally neat man does it. text

How fun is this:Check out this page which shows all the categories I have posted to in a graphical representation. Funness. (Who knew I posted so much about art?)

Overcoming procrastination

Wow, a simple idea I can use, from D. Keener
If procrastination keeps you form being as productive as you want or need to be, there are some tricks you can use to overcome procrastination. These tricks involve making the activities you procrastinate on

* More Simple
* More Pleasant
* More Interesting

Monday, December 05, 2005

You're killing me here

Lady, that is some good writing.
In the last few days, however, you’ve shown so much more interest in doing it yourself, and your father and I have screamed ourselves hoarse trying to encourage you. The other night you were walking back and forth between us when the dog came upstairs to see what all the unnecessary screaming was about, couldn’t we be quiet because he was downstairs in the dark putting on black mascara and dying his fur with Koolaid. When he saw you coming at him upright with your E.T. waddle he whipped his head around to give me a look that said, “You’re shitting me. When did this happen? And why are you letting her do that?”
There's more. And it gets better. "putting on black mascara and dying his fur with Koolaid"?! Yes, yes, exactly! Ok, she's brilliant.


Loneliness was the theme of Grey's Anatomy this week and the theme of the post over at Starling Fitness.
...don’t let Hollywood convince you that being fat means that you have to be lonely. Loneliness is caused by isolating yourself from people, not from your body shape. If you are lonely, it'’s not because you're fat. Promise yourself that you will do something today to alleviate your loneliness (join a club, call an old friend, volunteer your time). Then, when you get to goal weight, you won't have the shocking discovery that thin people get lonely too.
Like, Laura, my aunt R. often speaks truth to the lie of fat equaling loneliness. She tells me about friends she has that are lonely and think they need to lose weight to find love. The truth is, lots of people with fat on their bodies have love in their lives. Whatever your many flaws may be, and don't we all have a lot of them, don't wait. Don't wait to reach out to someone, don't wait to do something you really enjoy, don't wait to go swimming in the ocean or dancing. Ok?! Don't wait! Love yourself, and let someone else love you, now.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Free software for inner peace

Wow! Someone is already out there doing a version of what I want to do! Check out this free self help software for inner peace. Very cool idea. I've tried one so far and it was very simple, but did make me cry and that must mean something.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Very cute story, I wish they had video

Who knew French Toast Girl read Dooce? If you love Seseme Street and cute pictures, check out this story, destined to be a family classic.