Monday, December 29, 2008

-- you voted: your favorite blogs

A while ago I polled my readers to find out what their favorite blogs were, in an attempt to populate my reader with good stuff. Here were their picks.

(Note: * = mentioned multiple times.)

Libby said...
i like hautepocket*, too, but she's already on your list.
kevin forgot said...
  • my own, obviously. i'm amazing and not cocky at all.
Michael Berman said...
hautepocket* said...
Kelly O said...

I love my friends' blogs best, I really do. It's a great way of keeping in touch with everyone. But other than that, here are a few favs:
Kimmers said...

Thanks for all the great material! Anyone else have a good blog to recommend?

ADDED 1/1/09: more blogs recommended by my readers (thanks, all!):

From Mindy of Mindy does Minneapolis:
  • Jack & Jill online
From Melissa of Melissa is Blogging:
Thanks for the great reading material, everyone. You're the best. :) --spleeness

Sunday, December 28, 2008

-- all aboard the FAIL train

Is this what it's like every day? I'll never complain about my commute again.
From the FAIL blog.

Friday, December 26, 2008

-- um, realtor needs a lesson in marketing.

Address and other details removed for their privacy... but really, couldn't you at least include the living quarters? You may as well drive down to Home Depot and take a picture of their door aisle for all this reveals.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

-- xmas

No Christmas tree because I'm Jewish, but here's a nice little pine.
My Dad & stepmom holding up their gifts: oatmeal and crackers! I know how to treat my peeps well.

-- all I got for Christmas...

Is a raging sore throat. Great. Happy Day, y'all.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

-- Lazy Sunday

There's a million things I should be doing, but darn if it isn't awesome to spend a few minutes lazing around with the dog...

-- the lie

Was not born around Christmas! All the other things are true.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

-- three truths and a lie. Guess which!

Yesterday we had our office holiday party and played a game: three truths and a lie. Here was my favorite, from a creative and funny coworker. We were supposed to guess which one was the lie:
  • Once fell down the stairs at the Kennedy Center
  • Once fell down the stairs at Lawnfield (home of President James A. Garfield)
  • Once fell down the stairs at the National Archives in DC
  • Once fell down the stairs at Monticello
Ha!! So creative. So which one did NOT happen to him? (Hint: second before last... :)

My 4 items were:
  • I was on an emergency squad in college
  • I was born around Christmas
  • I once took a bus trip up the Andes mountains in Ecuador at midnight
  • I used an Asbury Park Press newspaper van to move all my furniture once
So take a guess. Which one's the lie? (answer -->)

-- three new bloggers I wanted to share

So I'm reading some more. Here are three bloggers I found through Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist blog and their words on why they started blogging and how blogging benefited them. Their words really touched me, all these things are true for myself:
Nisha Chittal
"The difference between me pre-blog and me post-blog is simple: I went from an invisible, hiding lurker to a real person, and an outlier. Seems simple, but that transformation is empowering in a way you’d never expect. I went from letting others define me to defining myself."

Milena Thomas
"It would be a bit of an understatement to say that blogging has changed my life. It's been the most important element in leading an examined life, because of the conversations and reflections other bloggers and commenters provide."

On starting:

"So eventually I began, without a plan or direction, because that’s what she said to do. She said to post, post anything, post daily, post until you have something good to post, post because no one is reading anyways. I trusted that. And I posted. And when my world fell apart, I kept posting, because there were some things I couldn’t say out loud, and there were some feelings that felt more appropriate to send into what I thought was a void because, well, no one was reading.

"And I kept posting. And soon enough I got my first comment. It was from someone who had lost her mother to cancer and reached out and showed me anger and irreverence was an appropriate response to grief. You didn’t have to be a shrinking violet in the face of death. You could hate it, or laugh at it. You could cry until you felt sucked dry and then post your thoughts to purge your mind.

"Blogging about being stuck, angry, and fearful can get you a lot of attention, but that’s not who I am. It is what I’ve been moving through. And blogging has helped me move forward, take action, and change. Blogging doesn’t happen in a vacuum - though it seems to begin in one – and pretty soon it sucks in everything it comes in contact with, because ultimately there is no blog unless there is a conversation."

Kathleen Argonza
"I created my blog, Tough Girl 101, to rekindle whatever spine I had before the marriage drained it away. I remembered being a tough girl once, I figured that I could be again… Blogging was the first step in getting myself back on track."

So what inspires you to blog?

-- tools for keeping track of stuff (repost from Neatorama)

I'm home sick today and useless for anything but reading. So I'm catching up on my email. I found this on Neatorama and it looks pretty cool. Maybe I won't want to track quite THIS much stuff but still...

Over at Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf's Quantified Self blog ("Tools for knowing your own mind and body") guest blogger Alexandra Carmichael explains how she keeps a record of 40 different things in her life every day, and what she's learned about herself from studying the data.

I track these things about my health and personal patterns every day:

- sleep (bed time, wake time, sleep quality, naps)
- morning weight
- daily caloric intake (each meal, total calculated at end of day)
- mealtimes

- mood (average of 3 positive and 3 negative factors on 0-5 scale)
- day of menstrual cycle
- sex (quantity, quality)
- exercise (duration, type)

- supplements I take (time, dosage)
- treatments for vulvodynia (a chronic pain condition)
- pain of administering the vulvodynia treatment I take (0-5)
- vulvodynia-related pain (0-5)
- headache,nausea (0-5)

- time spent working, time with kids
- number of nursings and night wakings (I'm a mom)
- weather
- unusual events (text)

The mood factors I measure every day are:

1. Happiness
2. Irritability
3. Calmness
4. Sadness
5. Feeling beautiful / self-love
6. Feeling fat / ate too much

She's come to the realization that her mood is much better on days she exercises, and on days when her mood rating is low, she overeats.
I hadn't expected my tracking to unearth such deep, emotionally charged issues. I did expect the optimization which often accompanies tracking, but when striving for an optimized ideal, the question becomes how to decide what "ideal" means. I just don't have an intuitive sense of what the data "should" look like. Are such wild swings in caloric intake normal? What do other people's patterns of mood, sleep, and exercise look like? I'd love to see some kind of comparable, to get some sense of where my patterns fit on the distribution curve. Part of my motivation in sharing my data is to encourage others to do the same. Let's learn from each other!
It's fascinating stuff, and it will be even more fascinating when people start sharing this data and analyzing it in various ways. Quantifying Myself -->

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

-- what part of this picture ruins the sale?

Is it the artfully-shaped lumps of meat (that, no matter HOW thoughtfully-placed, still strike the visual cortex the same way) OR the bed of a vomit-like substance they're placed on? If this is the "culinary embodiment" of rural France, I'll stick to Paris.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

-- depressed today.

So without mentioning where I work, I will just say that I got a notice today that the person who heads my organization is resigning for health reasons. I am stricken. He doesn't know me personally but I greatly admire him. Reading all of his speeches and wise words, I feel like I've gotten a glimpse of a wonderful, wise, kind humanitarian and I know he's not done -- this is just too soon. If you've been following my blog, you know I've been thinking about people fighting illnesses lately. I can't just hear the news and move on, I need to digest it, sit with it in my gut and think about them, imagine what they're going through and try to visualize what I can do.

In his honor, I'm posting a link to learn more about Parkinson's.
Image from Psychology Today.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

-- hideous clothing, at a store near you

This year's clothes are absolutely hideous. Dan and I were browsing in a store when we came across some absolutely awful styles.

I tried two pieces on just for you, dear readers. I bring you:

The trash can cozy. Does anyone really think this is flattering in any way? It's maternity clothing! Like the old Barbizon modeling school ads that inquired "Do you want to be a model or just look like one?", THIS asks: "Do you want to BE pregnant or just look like it?" Last I checked, this false pretense wasn't something most women wanted to assume. Dave Barry once said that the only safe way to ask a woman if she is pregnant is if you actually see the baby emerging from her at that exact instant. Knowing this, why would anyone want to wear a shirt that makes people stop and stare, and wonder "when is she due?"

Uzbeki marching band outfit:
And this. (Shudder.) This hideous thing looks like something I'd wear while commanding an angry marching band at an Uzbeki country music riot.

That's all I tried on, but I have a few more pieces for you:
I don't care how great your legs are. It's still a dish towel and is not attractive.

Only a few people could get away with this look. Carol Burnett, the local librarian, the haiku-spouting momma rabbit in some children's tome (you know there is one somewhere), and anyone old enough to remember what life was like before TV.

As I said, polka dots are not easily pulled off.

But this! This looks like someone sewed up a Motel 6 curtain and wrapped it around their body. Wha--? Someone chose this? The chain link pattern only adds to the story, revealing mostly that it's from an older motel and smelling of cigarettes and broken dreams.

I overheard two women pawing over the clothes distastefully. One of them said, "Gosh, why are this year's fashions so loud and ugly?"

That's exactly what I've been trying to figure out!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

-- hmmm, what would YOU do?

So I had to take a special quiz at work that showed my understanding of people's privacy and how to protect their information. Here was one of the questions. If you get this wrong, you really should be demoted or fired:
In performing your work-related duties, you have discovered interesting personal information concerning a co-worker. You must:

A.) send an anonymous memo to other coworkers detailing the personal information

B.) call someone in personnel to verify that the information is true, then discuss it with others in the break room.

C.) protect the information with the same heightened awareness as you would other personally identifiable information.
DUH. Either this was a freebie or there really ARE people out there that'd get this wrong!

Friday, December 5, 2008

-- movie FAIL (but really, win)

Bolt consulting with pigeons.

So tonight we set out to go see "Four Christmases" since that's usually us at the holidays: trying to visit multiple households in one small 24-hour period. We raced home from work, got some Japanese takeout which I stuffed in my purse (trust me, not easy... but I DID fit everything but the miso soup which had to be smuggled in under my jacket), rushed into the building and bought tickets. I tried to act as normal as possible while speedwalking, like maybe I was pregnant and just awkward, not really holding a pint of steaming liquid spilling all over the inside of my clothes.

We got to the theatre only a few minutes late. But something was wrong. People were pouring out the doors. I thought "omg! The movie must be terrible! Look at all these people walking out!" But then I realized somehow we screwed up the dates. Tonight's real start time was an hour later and there we were, standing in the hallway with dinner and no place to eat it. People started to stare. I thought, "Ah whatever. Let's just duck into another theatre and chow down until our movie starts."

Only one other film was playing so we darted in. We slipped into the first row (not even knowing what it was) and got comfortable.

So what was playing? The movie Bolt. A 3D Disney flick. (I didn't even discover the name until about halfway through.) We sat through the entire showing sans special 3D glasses, squinting at the blurry screen and idly wondering why the theatre smelled like urine. At one point Dan leaned over. "Is someone ACTIVELY peeing right now? wtf?" There were only four people in the whole theatre all seated way up top so this mystery was never solved but we reported the stench afterwards and, in a startling display of responsive customer service, received two free tickets to return, the manager promising to have the area steam cleaned within days.

I kept cracking up -- the movie was good enough that the stench and blurriness (typically barriers to fun) did not chase us away. I'm not normally an animation or Disney kinda person but I enjoyed the flick. The pigeons sealed it. (If you see the movie, you'll know what I mean.)

Plus, Bolt looks like Tycho.
Tycho, Bolt's prototype maybe?
Four Christmases will wait for another day. Or maybe we'll hold out for the real-life version, showing in a few weeks.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

-- And today is Dan's birthday

Getting ready to celebrate.

-- pictures from Thanksgiving

My mom

My sis and niece displaying a cute letter my niece wrote to my mom (grandma) when she was a kid. My mom saves sweet notes like this, I love it!

At the Wawa, getting a snack on the drive up the night before Thanksgiving. I'm in between the two dipweeds parked in the "NO VAN OR TRUCK PARKING" spaces. Their tires straddled either white line but I was determined to park there anyway. (What better way to fulfill your annual car ding & scratch quota?)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

-- death to monster crickets

If you came over, chances are I'd tell you about the hell that this house was upon moving in. How it was saturated in cat piss, covered in mold, visited upon by slugs and infested with monster spider crickets. I'm still traumatized by the experience and unleash the horror on poor unsuspecting visitors who dare comment nicely on our abode.

Yes, we chose this dwelling. And no, we somehow did not realize the nightmare that lay before us as we innocently signed papers, took the keys and happily swung open the front door only to be greeted by mephitic stenches of hell, mixtures of cat piss and mold raping our nostrils, welcoming us home.

What happened next is a gray slog of torture and hard labor involving dismantling great portions of the home followed by epic Silkwood showers in a desperate attempt to become clean by removing as many millimeters of epidermis possible before bleeding. (I originally posted pictures for family of the cat piss removal event, but sadly ran out of steam and did not document the discovery of the cricket infestation that followed.)

Pity the poor soul who announces to me now that they've just bought a house: I am bursting with depressing unsolicited advice about how to detect the presence of these monster crickets. Now the house is finally, after 7 years, warm, comfortable, pleasant-smelling and bug-free. But we are still scarred.

I know this not only because of my constant ruminations, but I see that Dan has now posted an entry about the monster spider crickets and how they permeated his consciousness during a meeting at work. (Creepy picture alert... you have been warned!) Read on... -->

-- one year blog anniversary

Wow, happy blogging anniversary. Spleeness was born last year (although I backdated one old diary entry from July [where the masses come to graze]), I didn't officially start running it until November 2007. See? One year ago I'd not have thought of blogging while plunging off a bridge into icy waters. I'm a changed woman!

Monday, December 1, 2008

-- good reason to cut hair

IF your hair is healthy and you happen to have about 10 inches too much, you can donate it to Locks of Love, like my girlfriend above.

I would consider this but people who color their hair can't donate it. I mention this not to reveal all my embarrassing personal grooming secrets online -- I've already done that -- but because I knew of someone who chopped all their hair off only to learn it couldn't be used; the stylist never mentioned the criteria.

(And, um, isn't that kindof important? I walk in and say, "hello, I want to donate my hair," you say, "great, we need 10 inches," I say, "bummer, that's shorter than I wanted but ok if it means someone with none can have some" and then you shave my head bald, I'm going to be pretty upset if it ends up in the trash! So, as a fellow hair-owner with a biased interest in follicle preservation, I am considering it somewhat of a personal responsibility to spread this word.)

So this post is dedicated to my good friend and M, who lopped off 10 inches of her thick red hair so that someone else in need can enjoy her beautiful full locks.

-- NaBloPoMo is done

So my one month of posting regularly is up. I didn't sign up for December's daily posting but I'm going to try to do it anyway. Kinda interesting to see that my readership doubled when I put stuff up regularly.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

-- Dag, that's a lot of books!

I just checked out Dan's blog post about all the books he's reading (there are 22 on his list!) and exclaimed out loud "Damn, you're reading a lot!" He laughed. "That doesn't even include the magazines and audio books I'm working on!"

wow. My hero.

Here's what I'm currently reading:

The Hummingbird's Daughter, by Luis Alberto Urrea. Set in 1800s Mexico, a charming tale about how a young girl captivates the hearts and minds of the Mexican people. I wasn't turned on by the book jacket description:
"Miracles and passion abound in this mesmerizing novel -- everywhere hailed as a masterwork -- the story of a young woman whose gifts as a healer lend her the aura of a saint, and who must come to terms with a surprising destiny as all of Mexico rises in revolution, crying out her name."
Not only did it not turn me on, but it turned me off -- I'm not big into saints and this just makes the entire thing sound flaky. But I got the book anyway, because I love Urrea and I have not been disappointed. It's absolutely entrancing.

When you are engulfed in flames, David Sedaris

A wolf at the table, Augusten Burroughs -- I stopped reading this at some point though because it's so dark I just needed a break. It's a memoir about Augusten's dark childhood and damaging father. It's the only book of his I have not read though, and I mean to finish it.

Plato and a platypus walk into a bar: Understanding philosophy through jokes.

Diary of an emotional idiot, Maggie Estep. I've abandoned all else to read this nonstop the last few days. I picked it up Thanksgiving day and could not put it down. Set in diary form detailing one woman's fast-paced life filled with dysfunctional lovers and ribald exploits. Hilarious and thought-provoking at the same time.

There's also a few pubs: UC Berkeley California's Wellness Letter, Bottom Line Health, The Funny Times, The Week, Oprah (YES I like Oprah, don't make me defend it), Pesticides & You, and our local town paper, the Bowie Blade News. And online: Google news, the stuff in my reader, and the Washington Post (but not everyday, though that's a goal -- that or the NY Times).

Have I mentioned I like to read?

-- more domesticity

You'd think after all I ate on Thanksgiving that I'd put myself on a strict diet of lettuce and lemon rinds for the rest of the year. But nooo. This morning I was in the mood for a feast and made french toast from fresh-baked challah bread (using almond milk instead of regular milk -- it was good!), scrambled eggs and turkey bacon. Mmm! Now I am cleaning the house top to bottom, getting ready for the coming week.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

-- home

Lobotomized by mind-numbing traffic, but I am home. Been writing from my phone the past few days and now too, as I don't feel like setting foot near a computer. Hope your Thanksgiving was rich with good food and good times.

Friday, November 28, 2008

-- appropriate after thanksgiving

When the heart is full, the eyes overflow... (In Yiddish: As dos hartz iz ful, gai'en di oigen iber.)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

-- not related to thanksgiving, but

Hope you had a happy one anyway. Now I bring you more utter ridiculousness from the supermarket... to which I say *who cares*!

-- home in nj

Traffic was nonexistent. First thanksgiving ever like this.

Monday, November 24, 2008

-- biggest purse you ever saw?

So on movie night, I picked up some takeout and brought it over my friend's house in this special insulated picnic bag. When I walked in with it bulging (here it's empty) he told me later he thought, "Man, that is the biggest purse I have ever seen!"

So maybe I'll start using it. Freak people out. Anyone need a small pony smuggled anywhere?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

-- How sad is that?

I must have been feeling pretty bad about yesterday's lame entry, sent from my phone shortly before midnight in a desperate attempt to meet the day's obligatory NaBloPoMo posting. Because I dreamt last night that I was driving over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, hit an ice patch and went careening off the edge. As I plummeted towards the water, I thought, "omg! I have to blog about this!"

How sad is that??

Friday, November 21, 2008

-- lowen and navarro concert tonight

I'm at a Lowen and Navarro concert now with Dan Navarro (left) and David Glaser (right). If you haven't heard of L&N, they wrote the lyrics to the song "We Belong Together" that Pat Benatar is famous for. I only recently discovered them through a friend and am really enjoying their tunes. I needed so badly to be transported by music tonight and was really grateful for the trip up to Baltimore to hear them sing. I also met them afterwards, they were both so warm and engaging. Time stopped for a little while...

Sample tune: Cold Outside (from Amazon's clips page)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

-- my coming home present

Is a busted internet connection. I'm sending this from my phone. More tomorrow, I need some shuteye.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

-- a day in Deception Pass, WA (pix)

Today we went to Deception Pass to gaze at the waters and walk around. Here are some pix. I'm packing to come home tomorrow so I don't have much time to write, but hopefully pictures will tell the story.

Lake near Deception Pass, Washington state

On the beach

The sun sets over the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Dan gets ready to take more pix

Pebbles on the beach

Me taking pix with my new point-n-shoot!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

-- awards! For me and you.

Wow! What could be more awesome than kicking back on vacation with my email & readings only to see I was nominated for two bloggy awards?

One from Haute Pocket, whose blog name I can never write without also saying it out loud just because it's so much fun, passed on the Super Scribbler Award after winning it herself. Thanks, HP, you are the best! And NO I am not on drugs. You ARE witty and brilliant. I await eagerly for your book. (C'mon now, time's a wasting! Well I'll give you some leeway. You can start on it after the big move.) Readers, if you need a laugh, check out miss HP and you'll be giggling in nine seconds, guaranteed. I love her passionate and hilarious rants, like this list, love at first (nipple) sight, and, a post I've read multiple times when I needed a laugh, sometimes a girl just needs some cock.

The other, the Kreative Blogger Award, from Kimmers for Life, another one of my favorite bloggers and budding authors. I first found Kimmers shortly after she got allergy testing. Her account at the doctor's had me laughing out loud and I was hooked. Sometime after that came her hilarious post on the suckiness of renovation but my alltime favorite, however, is this: kimmer's account of a day at work (short but sweet!). I emailed it to 16 of my friends minutes after she put it up.

So now I am passing these on. (Note, if someone else has already nominated you, I'm trying not to repeat it even if I wanted to anyway...). However, if you have won ONE of these awards and not the other (like Kimmers) then I am nominating you for the other one. Otherwise, I pass on both!
kellygo - she describes even pieces of ordinary life with clarity, feeling and humor. Not to mention she makes the world's most delectable monster cupcakes. I know because I've eaten them. But even if I didn't know her personally, she would still be on my fave list.

isweatbutter - One of the first bloggers I started loyally following, I love this guy. His posts either make me laugh and feel warm inside or make me dive deeper into myself but yet somehow feel less alone. He his deep and funny and because of this, I will forgive him for telling me about head cheese.

kimmers for life - Kimmer's posts read like a best friend's letter -- honest and open and funny. Reading her blog is like taking a short vacation from everyday life into someone else's sharp and unpretentious mind. She is going to be a bestselling author someday but y'all have proof right here: I knew her first!

A day in the life - I stalk his blog for hilarious posts about his unmarried redneck neighbor, food, and himself. I have to keep kleenex handy to wipe my screen (or at least be smart enough not to drink) when reading his wry updates.

Jeepgirl - not only a good blogger but a really interesting person. I called hubby over recently. "Look at her account of her past 10 years, doesn't she sound so cool?" Her writing is honest and fun and she seems like a blast to hang out with, especially on Halloween.

Niffer all grown up - I kick myself for all the times hubby said "you know, I have this really cool coworker we should hang out with" but somehow life got too busy. Except for the one time we did meet up, just before she moved across the country. Her funny and thoughtful posts about raising a family go right to my core.

Another excuse to procrastinate
- Another blogger that makes me feel like I'm hanging out with an old friend. I read her recent post about doing yoga on wii fit and, though I'd never heard of it before, now have to check this out! Libby is sweet and funny and I love reading about her death marches hikes!

The QC report - this blogger is actually writing a book and when it's ready, I am buying it. Several copies. I discovered her blog right after I adopted a kitten and a friend emailed me her kitten post (scroll to "Guest Quarters" or read the whole funny archive). I usually end up emailing snippets to friends with one hand over my mouth stifling my laughter.
Thanks, y'all, for being you. You know I love you all!

Monday, November 17, 2008

-- whale watching in the Pacific Northwest

So yesterday we went whale-watching.
A Dall's porpoise swims gracefully off towards the horizon.

Me on the ferry.

It takes about an hour to go from Whidbey Island to San Juan Island on the ferry (Anacortes to Friday Harbor). The ferry has cozy areas to sit and liquify while gazing out the window. Would be a most awesome commute though it's expensive -- $45 for a roundtrip ferry pass!

Taking pictures on the topside ferry deck.

Dan about to get into the boat. We chose Maya's Whale Watching because we like the more personalized experience of a smaller boat and also because of the great feeling I got when talking to the captain, Jim Maya. He was excellent, could spot eagles and wildlife from afar and was a very warm and interesting person.
Views of the Puget Sound

The water was silky smooth and the temperature a gentle (for this time of year) 50 degrees, a beautiful day to look for cetaceans.

We spotted a minke whale (which looked like a distant blip on my tiny point-n-shoot so I didn't bother) but also ran across a pod of Dall's porpoises.
Dall's porpoises

A Dall's porpoise arcs gracefully out of the water.

Inside the boat, a fellow traveler eyes a whale ID sheet while captain Jim Maya keeps an eagle eye out on ripples and other signs of underwater activity.
Dan could never tire of this.

Video! (20 seconds)

And another (1 minute):

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