Friday, November 30, 2007

Scared by Santa

In the photo gallery of children with Santa, 50% of the kids look absolutely terrified. And those frightened little faces make me laugh and laugh. (apparently my heart is two sizes too small.)

Santa is a pretty freaky guy, though. I wouldn't want to sit on his lap, either.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A question for the ladies

(also applies to long-haired men who blow out their 'dos....I'm looking at you, Bronson Arroyo)

I need a new hairdryer. Mine sucks. It takes forever to dry my hair, which is why I always give up somewhere during the process and end up with damp hair that's destined to poof.

If you have fallen in love with a specific make or model of hairdryer, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

We now return to regularly scheduled programming.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Book Reviews

Well, I'm back from San Diego, and in addition to a lot of eating, drinking, and lounging, I also did a fair amount of reading.

1. Accordion Crimes, by E. Annie Proulx. Pulitzer-Prize winning author Proulx takes on the vast topic of immigration in America by tracing a little green accordion through a series of owners. In the 19th century, an Italian immigrant crafts the instrument and brings it with him to New Orleans, where he is soon murdered by an anti-Italian mob. Over time, the accordion changes hands, from Germans to Poles to Cajuns to Mexicans and even French-Canadians, travelling to Texas oilfields to Chicago to Maine, and each chapter tells the story of the current owners. The premise is simple and interesting enough, but the execution left much to be desired. This book was a bear to get through. Proulx's America is a harsh and brutal nation, rife with evil and devoid of beauty. Her writing is vivid and technically flawless, but I had trouble sticking with the book, and in the end, I wish I had abandoned it after the first chapter. It's page after page of cruelties, murder, violence, rape, incest, molestation, and tragic accidents. Do your psyche a favor and skip it.

2. Can I Keep My Jersey?, by Paul Shirley. After the Debbie Downer of the Accordion Crimes, I was in the mood for something lighter. Fellow basketball fan Jason lent me a book by Shirley, a former college star at Iowa State attempting to make it in the NBA. I had read a couple of articles by Shirley in the past (he has written for ESPN and Slate) but didn't know that much about him. Shirley has been descibred as a basketball journeyman, and the book reads like a journal, following him in and out of the NBA, American minor leagues, and European league teams in Spain, Greece, and Russia. To the reader, it's immediately obvious that Shirley is both extremely intelligent and, at times, fairly humorous. However, I didn't like the book that much. I was hoping for more juicy insider gossip, but the few specific anecdotes doled out are not at all surprising (Shaq is friendly, Kobe is an asshole...who would have guessed?). And, man, does he WHINE!!! His litany of complaints never ceases- the food is terrible, the hotel sucks, NBA players are hypocritical idiots, the league is biased against white players, etc...I understand that it must be frustrating to have little to no job security, but it's hard to muster up sympathy for someone who does turns down a $200,000 offer to play in Barcelona for a year. Hell, I'd gladly clean toilets in Barcelona for a sum like that. Parts of the book were entertaining, but overall, I was left wondering why he still plays basketball, if he seems to hate everything about it so much.

3. A Model World and Other Stories, by Michael Chabon. The last book I read was a collection of short stories by one of my favorite authors. The first half of the book contains numerous individual stories, and the second part all feature the same protagonist, a suburban boy whose parents are in the process of divorce. Due to the format, the stories are nothing like the sprawling and meandering novels for which he is known. However, it's a quick and enjoyable read, filled with unique and believable characters. I preferred the second section of the book, which reads more like a novella than the occasionally curt tales of the first half.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Weekend Report: San Diego edition

Friday- Ate several Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches (yum!), then went to see I'm Not There, the new Bob Dylan movie. If you were to divide the Earth's population into two groups, People Obsessed With Bob Dylan and People Not Obsessed With Bob Dylan, I would fall firmly into the first category. So, yes, I was looking forward to seeing this movie. In a more creative interpretation of a singer's life than normally presented in such biopics, Bob Dylan is portrayed as five fictional characters: A young, itinerant, black boy, a folk singer turned born again Christian, a romantic and womanizing popular actor, a drugged-out singer rebelling against the "voice of a generation" tag, and a recluse living in a trippy, old West town. I'll spare you a full review of my own and direct you to Kevin's insightful commentary. Overall, I really liked the film. I much preferred the middle three Dylans and could have done without the boy or the Richard Gere cowboy segment (except for the awesome cameo by My Morning Jacket). Cate Blanchett gave an amazing performance (I was worried that her part would be too gimmicky- a la A Woman Plays Bob!, but it wasn't at all.), and I enjoyed Christian Bale, especially when he becomes a preacher at a suburban church. Heath Ledger's romantic segment is one of the most captivating portions of the film- young actor falls in love with a beautiful French artist, they wed, procreate, then he ruins everything with his womanizing. The supporting cast is also excellent, especially David Cross as Allen Ginsberg. Yes, the movie is replete with Dylan in-jokes and can get tediously arty at times, but it's a fresh way to look at complicated man. And, of course, the music is stellar.

After the movie, we went out for sushi and then drinks.

Saturday- Mexico! Eri, Ryan, their friend Mandy and I piled in the car and headed south to Baja California. We drove down the beautiful coastline until we reached Ensenada and walked around for a while. On the drive back, we stopped at a little town and drank margaritas on a patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, all of our goodwill towards our southern neighbor evaporated after we got stuck at the border for FOUR HOURS. Note to self: never again attempt to enter the United States from Tijuana on a Saturday night. We managed to get some sort of entertainment by watching the vendors weave in and out of the stopped line of cars, showing off their rather unusual wares. Now I wish I had taken a series of photos to document the items for sale, but they ranged from bizarre to spectacular: glittery Virgin Marys, children's desks, enormous ceramic turtles, live puppies, and (our favorite) a giant blanket emblazoned with Al Pacino from Scarface. I made one purchase that will serve as my entry into my soccer team's Yankee Swap, but I prefer to keep it a surprise for the time being.

Nothing says Mexico like a man in mariachi pants eating a taco.

Sunday- I met up with Peace Corps friends Dana and Natan for breakfast, then went to a bar to watch the various NFL games with Eri and Ryan. San Diegans are very serious about their Chargers and own the jerseys to prove it. Non-Bostonians are always struck by the omnipresent Red Sox apparel worn by the city's natives, and I was impressed by the number of San Diego citizens wearing Chargers jerseys. Not just on game days, either. Later on, I went to visit my college friend Kelli, who is doing her residency and is the mother of twin one-and-a-half year old boys. And she's pregnant. And she and her husband are both in the Navy (gotta pay for dual medical school somehow) and he's getting deployed. So they have a pretty busy year coming up.

I love this video

an interpretation of daft punk

Friday, November 23, 2007

Me and John Traveler

Thanksgiving morning, I arose early for my cross-country flight. While waiting to board the plane, I noticed a monitor that said "If you are flying standby, your name will appear on this list: Traveler, J." and thought to myself "Heh, that's funny. That guy (for some reason, I decided that the J stood for John) is flying standby and his last name is Traveler. And he's traveling! Get it?"
I got on the plane, and slept most of the way on the first leg of my journey. When I awoke, I immediately felt some hunger pangs and rued my decision not to load my bag with snacks. I was scheduled for a long layover, and as soon as I landed in Los Angeles, I made a bee-line to the first food establishment in sight: Chili's. I pulled up a seat at the bar and scanned the menu. Quesadilla. I looked around at the other patrons and took a quick survey of their beverages. The woman next to me was drinking a margarita. It looked good. The man next to her ordered a Bailey's and coffee, and the bartender offered to make it a double for two dollars more. He took the deal. An elderly couple sipped glasses of merlot. I opted for a margarita, and the woman next to me told me that she liked hers and we began chatting. She was friendly, around 40 with streaky blonde hair and lots of eyeliner. She had moved to LA from Missouri sixteen years ago and was headed back to visit her family. She asked me what I did and I told her, and when I asked her she told me that she worked in the entertainment industry. (My first thought: OMG, porn!) A man sat down on my other side and joined the conversation. He was a political science professor from Green Bay. We watched some of the Lions - Packers game, and I learned that it was only 10:45AM. So here I sat in the Chili's at the LA airport, drinking a margarita and watching football with a possible pornographer and a professor, and it was not yet 11AM. Happy Thanksgiving, America!

Okay, back to John Traveler. I decided to try and hop an earlier flight to San Diego and went to check myself in as a standby passenger. The monitor said "If you are flying standby, your name will appear on this list: Traveler, J." Wow- John Traveler is on my flight again! What are the chances? That's hilarious! Suddenly, the monitor blinked and my name, along with the names of a couple other standby passengers, appeared on the screen. Turns out that J. Traveler is not a real person, just a name used as example. I'm blonde, by the way.

I made it to San Diego and enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and lots of pie. Mmm....

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

I leave tomorrow for San Diego, where I'll be spending Thanksgiving weekend. Enjoy your turkey, everybody!
And here's something for you bloggers out there:
Mine is College (Postgrad) cuz I'm like wicked eloquent and stuff. (via RT)
Windows Live Hotmail troubles account seems to be sending out multiple copies of emails. I sent one to myself on Sunday ("hi, self, how are you? I'm great, thanks!" No, really, I email myself boring data excel spreadsheets whenever I use other labs' computers.) and I've received multiple copies of it since then. Boooo. Hopefully I haven't been spamming anyone else.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Movie Review: No Country For Old Men

Last night, I went to see No Country for Old Men, the Coen brothers' adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name. I was looking forward to this movie for three reasons:

1. Cormac McCarthy is one of my favorite authors, and although NCfOM is not among my favorite of his works, it's still a great book and probably the one best suited to serve as a template for a screenplay.

2. Coen brothers. I enjoy their movies, especially Fargo, Raising Arizona, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? (yes, the exclusion of The Big Lebowski is just never did much for me.) I thought that they were an unusual choice to make this movie, seeing that they gravitate towards offbeat humor, and there's really nothing funny at all about the novel, so I was eager to see their take on it.
3. Javier Bardem. I first became a fan of his after seeing The Dancer Upstairs, and his incredible performance in The Sea Inside absolutely blew me away. Maybe incredible is the wrong adjective, I mean, it was incredible precisely because it was so credible. Okay, moving on, he's an amazing actor and I was excited to see him play the bad guy.

Overall, No Country For Old Men did not disappoint. The plot is simple: in rural Texas, Llewelyn Moss (played by Josh Brolin) is out hunting and stumbles upon the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong- a pile of dead bodies and a briefcase containing two million dollars. He takes the cash and runs. On his trail is Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a remorseless killer hired to retrieve the money. Tommy Lee Jones is the local sheriff who hopes to find the outmatched Llewelyn before Chigurh does.

The casting, scenery, and slow pace, fraught with constant tension, perfectly captured the sentiment of McCarthy's novel. And Javier Bardem is one scary MF, even with that ridiculous haircut. I think it helped that I had read the book, because I knew right away who was who, although there was one part of the plot that I couldn't figure out (I'll try not to spoil it....but who was the Mexican guy in the suit at the bus station?). The Texan accents are laid on pretty thick, and my friends (two Colombians and a French guy) who went to see the movie with me had trouble understanding some of the dialogue, so if that is a potential problem for you, I'd recommend renting it when it comes out on DVD and watching with subtitles.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Linky time

Here's a quiz- find out what type of humor you have here. (Note: you don't have to enter your email to see the results, just click and bypass that part.)

I'm CLEAN/COMPLEX/DARK. Hmmm....pretty accurate.

Via my sister Kerry...The 25 Most Baffling Toys From Around the World. Hilarious, and quite bizarre. My favorite is the stuffed toy virus.

And now for something less funny: Kids these days don't read so good.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Weekend Report

Friday- Went to the Celtics vs. Heat game with AJ from Hoops Writers. He has great seats, and it was really fun to be so close to the action. I walked down to the edge of the court to snap some photos of the players warming up. Unfortunately, my camera has a fairly significant delay, so instead of capturing KG mid-shot, I ended up with a lot of photos of him turning away after releasing the ball. Seeing NBA players close up makes you appreciate how large they truly are- especially Shaq. He dwarfs everyone around him, including fellow NBA players. The Celtics won in an exciting finish- the Heat managed to whittle away at a Cetlics 15-point lead and went up by a point with less than a minute on the clock. Paul Pierce scored with 25 seconds remaining, and Dwayne Wade missed the final shot, resulting in a final score of 92-91 and the Celtics' eighth consecutive victory. One of the highlights of the game was watching KG post up on Shaq during the second half. In fact, there were several future hall-of-famers on the floor on Friday night: KG, Shaq, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and perhaps Alonzo Mourning. Oh, and Scalabrine, obviously.

Saturday- Maria and I attended an afternoon performance of the Moscow Cats Theater. Basically, it's a Russian circus act composed of several trained housecats, one dog, and a few clowns. And it was just as bizarre as it sounds. The cats performed tricks like walking across a tightrope, balancing on a rolling ball, or jumping from platform to platform. The felines were far more impressive than the Russian clowns, who did some juggling and dancing, all to a strange techno soundtrack. The show was definitely geared towards children, and the kids in the audience seemed to be having a great time. For me, it was rather entertaining but more odd than anything else, but unfortunately, flash photography was forbidden (it disrupts the cats' concentration), so you'll have to take my word for it. Saturday night, my roommate Ern and I met our friends Neal and Jess for dinner and drinks at Emmets. I had the shepherd's pie and it was warm and delightful.

Sunday- Woke up early and went for a run along the beach, and now I'm in the lab playing with radioactivity.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Complementary Pilaf

Test your vocabulary at - ten grains of rice are donated to U.N. food programs for every correct word.

So addictive.

Friday, November 16, 2007

List #36....Things You Should Point Out To Strangers

Inspired by Sarah's "It's OK To Tell" campaign, I decided to make a list of things you should tell someone, anyone, even a complete stranger, to save them the anguish of discovering something is amiss, and then wondering for how long and how many people noticed but didn't say anything.

You should politely point out:

1. Food stuck in teeth.

2. Toilet paper on the bottom of the shoe.

3. A terrible sunburn, when in progress. (My sister hates my compulsion to tell strangers at the beach that they are getting sunburnt. But they'll thank me later, when they don't have melanoma.)

4. Skirt tucked into pantyhose.

5. Shirt is inside out (although I might be the only person on Earth who frequently wears clothing inside out, entirely by accident. It happened again last week, and I didn't notice until late afternoon. Throw me a frickin' bone, people!)

6. Smeared makeup/ lipstick on teeth.

For the next two, you may be more selective of whom you tell.

7. Unzipped fly. No need to tell the creepy stranger of opposite sex on the bus, or your boss, because that's just awkward.

8. Booger in nose (or elsewhere). Reserved for good friends only.

Anything I'm forgetting?

Concert Review: Yo La Tengo

Last night, I saw Yo La Tengo perform at the Museum of Fine Arts. For those of you unfamiliar with them, do not be fooled by the Spanish name (which actually hails from a baseball anecdote- read the story here); they're an American trio who have been on the indie rock scene since 1984. On their current "Freewheelin" tour, they are playing interactive sets in small venues, taking questions and requests from the audience. The small auditorium at the MFA was the perfect spot for such and event- people were close enough to ask questions and be heard, and the sound is fantastic. I caught the second of two shows and was very impressed by the band- the have a unique, ethereal sound, and handled the spontaneity of the setting adeptly. Occasionally, someone would request a song they hadn't played in years, or a cover of another group's work, and after a brief consultation with each other ("hey, this one's in G, right? No, it goes like this, in C."), they would play it perfectly. Ira Kaplan fielded most of the questions, with humor and a natural rapport with the audience.

Honestly, it's hard not to admire talented musicians who have been at it for over 20 years, despite a relative lack of mainstream success. Especially when give their albums titles like I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


First, now Hotmail? What is up with the web redesigns?

I hate the new Hotmail! One of the reasons why I never switched to gmail is that I didn't want to have to get used to a new inbox set-up, and Hotmail is forcing me to do so, regardless.

Lazy people dislike change.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

'Tis the season....

...for dangerous toys!

Some people look forward to candy canes, snowfall, and Santa. I, on the other hand, eagerly await the announcement of the annual 10 Worst Toys list published by W.A.T.C.H. (World Against Toys Causing Harm, that's right!) When it comes to identifying potential hazards, their vigilance is unrelenting! For example, take a look at #4, a Dora the Explorer lamp.....cute, but comes with POTENTIAL FOR ELECTRIC SHOCK AND BURN INJURIES!

The Rubber Band Shooter (#10) looks pretty fun, but W.A.T.C.H. reminds us that "Rubber bands should never be sold as toys, and have the potential to cause serious eye injuries."

Weekend Report

So I'm a little delayed on the posting, but I spent the holiday weekend in Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania, with a group of my college friends. My friend Teri's family owns a vacation house there, and we went together for the first time in 1998, during our senior year in college. We went again in 2005 for Teri and Dan's joint bachelor/bachelorette party. On this visit, we talked about what had changed and what had remained the same since the our first trip there, nine years ago. Of the various facts, we were most impressed when we realized that all of our parents are still alive and still married to each other.

Friday- Drove in from Boston, arriving very late because of the snow (!) we encountered in upstate NY and PA.

Saturday- Slept in, walked around for a bit, then started in on the wine. We played Cranium, which is, first of all, not named Brainiac (which I kept calling it for some unknown reason). I had never played it before and it was a lot of fun- sort of a combination of Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, charades, and a crossword puzzle. I did learn that it is best to diversify the talent of your team; Teri's husband Dan and I were partners and were both good at the word games and trivia, but absolutely terrible at the "Star Performer" category. Well, part of it was bad luck, like my having to act out the word "magnetism" and Dan guessing "magnet." After the board games, we had pork loin for dinner and celebrated Mary Laf's birthday at midnight, with more wine and chocolate chip cookies.

This is what 31 looks like:

Sunday- Slept in again, went for a walk around the lake, and then took a trip to Nacho Island.

Maria had brought a sewing project for us and taught us all how to make lavender eye pillows. The photos show us hard at work, wearing our crafting hats, then relaxing with the finished project.

The evening events included chili and beer, timer photos, and another board game: Apples to Apples.

Monday- Said goodbye to Eagles Mere and each other and drove back to Boston. Overall, it was a great weekend.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

No, not on strike

I realize that the posting has been rather sparse around these parts, but I've had sort of a rough grad student week. I gave my annual departmental seminar on my research on Monday, and it went really well. So, I was completely unprepared for the massive intellectual beat-down my thesis committee gave me at our meeting on Tuesday. I won't bore you all with the details (and I try to avoid blogging about work), but I'm coming to terms with the fact that it looks like I have another full year to go.

Tomorrow, I'm headed to rural Pennsylvania to meet up with college friends for a relaxing weekend filled with food, wine, board games, and conversation. It couldn't have come at a better time.

Celtic Pride

Last night, I attended the Celtics thrashing of the Denver Nuggets. Pierce, KG, and Ray Allen looked fantastic, and it was an absolute domination- the score was 77-38 at halftime, and the bench guys saw a lot of action in the second half.

Some notes from the game:

The Garden was quieter than I expected. I think fans are still unused to watching a good team, so everyone is more awed than anything else.

When Carmelo decided to wear an arm sleeve and headband, do you think he ran it by AI first, like "Hey, Allen, is it cool if I get a matching arm sleeve?" or do you think he just showed up one day sporting matching accessories?
Kevin Youkilis and Mike Vrabel were both at the game. Neither one was wearing any Nuggets apparel (*cough* LeBron).

At one point, Ray Allen, Tony Allen, and Allen Iverson were all on the court at the same time.

We did stay for the Elliot Yamin concert held immediately after the game, and I was highly amused that the American Idol R and B star bears a striking resemblance to my friend JR. Seriously.

On our way out, we snuck in an Employees Only door and made our way towards the locker rooms (hey, if a priest can stalk Conan O'Brien, I can stalk Allen Iverson). A cop finally noticed us and directed us to the waiting area, where friends and family, as well as few fans, were congregated. We said hi to ML Carr and chatted for a bit the father of Glen Davis (aka Big Baby's Daddy). We saw all of the Celtics players come out but weren't feeling quite obnoxious enough to talk to them. Plus, my camera had run out of batteries. I did manage to get a photo of MJ, Nikki, and myself, though.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Book release

Last year, my photographer friend Jorg participated in an exhibit on American POWs in World War II entitled Journey Out of Darkness. (Here's a Boston Globe article about Jorg and the project). I went to the opening at the National Heritage Museum and was very moved by the pictures as well as the stories, and especially by the presence of several of the featured veterans who were also in attendance. Following the success of the exhibition, Jorg and writer Hal LaCroix were given a book deal, and their book Journey Out of Darkness: The Real Story of American Heroes in Hitler's POW Camps--An Oral History has just been published.

There are a couple of upcoming events for the book.

Tuesday, November 6th at the Harvard Coop in Harvard Square. 7PM.

Tuesday, November 13th at Newbury College in Brookline. 7PM.

Movie Review: Gone Baby Gone

Last night, I saw Gone Baby Gone, the new Boston crime drama directed by Ben Affleck. The plot, based upon the novel by Mystic River author Dennis Lehane, begins with the kidnapping of a little girl from a grimy Dorchester neighborhood. Although the police are working on the case, the aunt and uncle of the missing girl hire local private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro to "augment the investigation" using their neighborhood contacts. The story becomes more complicated when they learn that missing girl's mother, a low-life cokehead brilliantly portrayed by Amy Ryan, recently ripped off a Haitian gang leader. I don't want to give away more of the plot, but it does take Patrick and Angela on a ride through the seediest parts of Boston and culminates in an ethical dilemma that will leave you pondering.

Overall, it's a captivating and gritty film. Although Gone Baby Gone lacks the smoothness and flash of The Departed and Mystic River, it exceeds both of those films in subtlety and authenticity. Affleck knew what he was doing when he cast his younger brother Casey in the lead role and chose locals like Jill Quigg for smaller parts. Most of the movie was filmed locally, including a scene set around the corner from my apartment at Murphy's Law. You can even see my house in the background of a rooftop scene. Unfortunately for the film, it was released the same weekend in which the Red Sox were playing in the World Series, so the opening didn't generate much buzz locally. However, it did receive excellent reviews (Boston Globe review here) and may end up with a couple of Oscar nominations.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Opening Night!

Of the many sports and teams I follow and enjoy, I only have one true love:
The Boston Celtics.

KG has long been one of my favorite NBA players, and it really is a joyful sight to see him in the green.
The Celtics start tonight at home against the Wizards.

The only downside is that for the first time in years, I won't be attending the opening night game, because I wasn't able to get tickets. However, I will be at Game 2 (vs. Denver...and AI) next week.

This could be your lawyer

Congratulations to my roommate Ern (esq.), who passed the Massachusetts bar!

I've also hear a rumor that friend and DCoE reader Beth gave birth to a baby girl named Whitney, but am eagerly awaiting confirmation and photos.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A test of my skills

This morning, I received an email from someone, unknown to me, who had read my Good at, Bad at post where I bragged about my cryptoquote deciphering ability.

It was a plea for help with the following cryptoquote:


Of course, my first thought was "Oh my gosh....what if I can't solve it? Then I'll be a braggart and a liar! I haven't done one of these in a long time. What if my powers have faded?"

My fears were unwarranted. It took about ten minutes, but I cracked it.

In case anyone else wants to give it a go, I'll post the answer later today in the comments.