Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas miracle!

Santa (in the guise of Air Canada) surprised me today by delivering my long-lost luggage, which I was sure was lying in a drainage ditch in Saskatchewan, lost to me forever. Honestly, having my luggage back was the best Christmas present a girl could hope for. Well, almost the best -- when I opened my bag, I realized that my camera was gone, and so was the one wrapped gift in my entire luggage, the Estée Lauder Beautiful lotion I had bought for my mom in Ottawa. Some Air Canada employee's wife is probably slathering that stolen lotion over her rough, wind-chapped skin as we speak. The nerve! But I do get great comfort out of the fact that my camera was broken AND without a battery, so joke's on whoever stole that, am I right?

Despite the missing goods, this Christmas day has been lovely. I slept in, ate, talked to Al, opened presents (a warm pair of gloves, a necklace, a spa gift certificate, and a new makeup bag), worked out, and then my parents and I went visiting (wassailing?). The highlight was probably the stop at my grandparents' house, where I ate a cold duck-goose-turkey sandwich on sourdough and more chocolate bark than anyone should be allowed to consume. Mmmmm, chocolate bark. Now I am at home, ensconced in front of a House marathon in my PJs. Oh, life is so good.

I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwaaanzaaaa/Handwashing Awareness Week/other winter celebration of your choice. Feliz natal!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Blame (French) Canada.

I promise not to write an angry screed against Air Canada or their employees. This isn't really the proper forum for angry screeds.*

I will only ask the following question: how does an airline go about losing the bag of a passenger who has never left the airport? It's a riddle!

No, but seriously, Air Canada? You canceled my flight, so I never left Montreal. So how the HELL did you manage to lose my bag? Do you need me to ask this in French?

Anyway, I am still in the Montreal Airport, which has become like a horrible, French Canadian home away from home for me, and I am supposed to be flying out in 20 minutes. If they cancel my flight today, I will kill someone. You'll see my name in the news (le Gazette!).

*Not that that's stopped me in the past.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Blame Canada.

Hi, I'm in Canada.



Well, I'm kinda in Canada -- I'm in Montreal.

Why am I in the land of poutine and maple syrup, you might ask? Well, I went up to Ottawa for a few days to spend time with Al and his mom, stepdad and brother before Christmas, and we got hit by what the Ottawa paper was calling "Snowmageddon 2008." You know if a Canadian paper is comparing a snowstorm to the apocalypse, it has to be a decent amount of snow... or else just a slow news day. Either one is plausible in Canada, I suppose.

Anyhoo, after reading about the impending End of (Snow) Days, I decided that it would be wise to change my bus ticket from Ottawa to Boston to come back on Sunday morning instead of Sunday night. I figured giving myself an extra thirteen hours to catch my flight to San Francisco on Monday afternoon would be more than enough time -- but the Greyhound people (damn their eyes!) had other ideas, and canceled all buses to Boston today. Nooo! (Nooon! <-- the Canadian government requires me to translate this.)

Suddenly, I found myself in the Montreal bus station, alone, surrounded by French Canadians, the undeniable smell of stale croissants hanging in the air. Noooo! (Noooon!). Of course, I instantly assumed I'd be spending the night on the floor of the bus station, subsisting on poutine cheese curd runoff and Coke Diete, but Al's mom saved the day and booked me a plane ticket out of Montreal into Boston this evening. So here I am, in the Montreal airport, hanging out until my flight leaves in a few hours. Keep your fingers crossed that they don't cancel this flight, because if they do, I might miss my flight to California tomorrow.

I hope none of you are reading this while stranded in a bus terminal or airport at the moment. Stay in and out of the snow/ice, or, if you're in San Francisco, make sure to put on a sweater before going out in the frigid 50 degree weather (hey Dad).

Bye!
Adieu!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Exámenes

Hola gente.

Sorry for not writing for a while; it's been exams season here at Harvard Law. Consequently, I've been dividing my time between studying diligently at the Hark, our law school commons, and trying to maintain a somewhat normal social life. So, in the past week, I've written a 25-page paper, taken an eight-hour exam and studied for another eight-hour exam (to be taken tomorrow), but I've also managed to go out drinking with a bunch of 1L's, go salsa dancing, and attend an office Christmas party (not my own)! Now that's what I call multitasking.

After recently spending an inordinate amount of time in the Hark, a place to which people come to both study and socialize, I have become acutely aware of my own particular issues with other people. The basic problem is the following: I hate being around other people who are studying because they either sit alone and make annoying noises, or else they sit with other people and make annoying noises, usually insisting on discussing their upcoming exam in excruciating detail. But I also hate being around people who are not studying, because they make even more annoying noises, and tend to have even louder, more distracting conversations about even stupider things. Yet, I can't be left alone in my own room to study, or I'll end up watching daytime TV and/or giving myself a pedicure, so I have to go somewhere public to get my study on. It's quite the dilemma.

I'm not being unreasonable here, I assure you. First of all, according to a Cosmo "couple's quiz" I recently forced my boyfriend to take with me, I am a person whose dominant sense is hearing (while he is more of a "seeing" person). This means, according to the researchers at Cosmopolitan University (School of Pseudo-Science), that I get easily annoyed/distracted by noises around me and enjoy long, cloying conversations with my significant other. True and true!

This sensitivity to noise causes me a lot of angst when I am studying in the Hark. While it is quiet there, it's not quiet enough for me, and even the lowest voices carry. I mean, I can deal with low-level conversations going on near me, but I definitely can't deal with listening to any of the following, all of which I've had to endure this week:

1. Intense study group conversation involving a guy casually throwing out the phrase "seemingly thin veneer," as if the term "veneer" doesn't already imply "thin," and as if that pretentious "seemingly" was necessary.

2. A guy loudly snorting, sniffling and making other gross mucus sounds, continually, for like three hours.

3. Shrill cell-phone conversations about the stress of exams.

4. Over-analysis of the idea of "content discrimination."

5. Slurping sounds. WHY did the Hark need to start serving Asian noodle bowls?

6. Girls lamely flirting with the guy who works at the café/making annoying food orders. "That's skim, right? And a large chocolate chip cookie, please."

7. The laughter of children coming from the HLS skating rink.

It's been a rough week for me. I've gotten through it by heavily relying on Diet Coke, my headphones, and Swedish Fish. Thank God I am done tomorrow, and then I can take off for Christmas break. Almost there...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

If I had a time machine...

... I would go back to high school in many different eras and take pictures of myself wearing each era's clothes and hairstyles. What? Isn't that what everyone would do with a time machine?

Anyway, turns out I don't need to bend the space-time continuum to make that dream come true, because I discovered the website http://yearbookyourself.com/. Here are the fabulous results. Prepare yourself.

First, some context. Steph in 2008:



Steph in 1960:




Steph in 1966 (blonde!):



Steph in 1968:



Steph in 1978 (Mexican-Irish-Italiafro):



Steph in 1990:



Conclusions: I should really look into getting a pair of cat-eye glasses, AND I look good with an afro. Am I right?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day-twah

As some of you may know, I grew up in Southeastern Michigan, about eight miles north of 8 Mile Road, which marks the infamous border between Detroit and its suburbs. I know you've all seen "8 Mile" and know what I'm talking about. Don't pretend otherwise.

I'll admit, the cute little city where I grew up, Birmingham, is a far cry from the mean streets of Detroit. We have an Anthropologie, for goodness' sake! But, still, there's no denying that even us Metro Detroiters who grew up in cushy suburbs have an undeniable link to that complicated metropolis that everyone loves to hate. Like it or not, the city of Detroit defines Southeastern Michigan, and I find that people who grew up in its surrounding suburbs simultaneously ridicule Detroit for being dirty, dangerous, and depressing, while also feeling some sentimental tie to it, in all its decaying glory.

A house in Birmingham


A house in Detroit


After all, Detroit has its own unique character and history, and is associated with some pretty significant industrial and cultural achievements for our country, despite the city's current bad rap. There are the obvious things that Detroit is famous for, of course, like Motown music and the now-struggling auto industry, but there are also the things that perhaps only Metro Detroiters can appreciate, like Red Wings hockey fever, incredibly delicious Middle Eastern cuisine, and the adrenaline-pumping experience of getting lost in the Cass Corridor when driving back from Canada. Only in Detroit!

What makes me really sad, though, is that despite the love I have for the fuzzy, romantic idea of Detroit, the actual city really is putrid, and has only gotten worse over the last decade. It's true that I haven't lived in Michigan for over six years; my parents moved to Nevada between my freshman and sophomore years of college, and since then I've only gone back to Detroit once, to visit my high school best friend during my senior year of college. But I follow Detroit's decline closely. The city's fall, sadly, is not that hard to keep track of. To put it extremely mildly, Detroit has been through a lot of crappola lately: the spectacular collapse of the auto industry, for example, as well as the humiliating and frustrating spectacle of Kwame Kilpatrick, the former mayor, being convicted of perjury, after dragging the city through several years of corruption, waste, and scandal. You might already know all of this; Detroit's sad state has been broadcast widely. Forbes named it the "most miserable city" in the United States (http://www.forbes.com/2008/01/29/detroit-stockton-flint-biz-cz_kb_0130miserable.html), and it is holding steady in the number three position for worst crime rate in the country (http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/11/24/crime.stats/).



The crime rates, the crappy economy, the abandoned houses and lack of infrastructure: this is all bad stuff. But I think one of the biggest slaps in the face that the city of Detroit has received in recent years came from its mayor, the aforementioned Kwame Kilpatrick. This man, who is widely regarded as the Worst Mayor Detroit has ever had (which is saying something), dragged Detroit through quite the sideshow of corruption scandals, and even threw a stripper-murder scandal in there for good measure. Sigh. He was charged in March of this year by the Wayne County prosecutor with misconduct in office, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice and perjury, and in August, two felony counts of assaulting or obstructing a police officer. Eventually, according to the New York Times, "He agreed to plead guilty to two felony counts of obstruction of justice and to plead no contest to a felony count of assault on a police officer; to pay restitution to the city of $1 million; to surrender his law license, forfeit his state pension to the city and be barred from elective office for five years; and to serve 120 days in the Wayne County jail, followed by five years’ probation. The other charges were dismissed." So yeah, he's in jail.

Kilpatrick and his chief of staff (with whom he had an affair) Christine Beatty


But here's the really baffling thing. Kwame Kilpatrick was an awful mayor; he used taxpayer money to give his friends jobs, buy himself cars, and get himself out of trouble. A lot of people in Detroit, who are mostly poor and largely disenfranchised, were understandably ticked off and called for his resignation early on. However, even as Kilpatrick was racking up the charges and facing jail time, people were writing supportive messages to him on the website http://kwamekilpatrick.com/. Here are some of the messages:

i,m sorry kwame kilpatrick that u in jail i wish u get out soon
this is latoya white. we miss u mayor. -latoya white

i feel like everybody cheat but you just got cought but they dont
have to take you to jail for that
-lawandabrunson

Kwame - Kwame i dont think u Should Resign you are a strong african american man
you have done so many thinhg for detroit. Everyone mess up in there life, you should
stay strong through this and and work through this with your wife your No.1 Fan Elijah M.
-Elijah

I'm sorry, but WHAT? Why in the world would anyone in Detroit support Kwame Kilpatrick after he wasted their money and made an embarrassment of the city? Based on the three messages above, I think there is some confusion about what Kilpatrick was actually going to jail for. Hint: it wasn't for cheating on his wife. It was for LYING UNDER OATH and PERJURING himself in court. But even assuming for the sake of (stupid) argument that it would be somehow possible in the United States of America to be sent to jail for adultery, why would people support him anyway? It blows my mind.

It can't just be because Kilpatrick is African-American and people view his jailing as racial targeting, because most of Detroit's population is African-American, and huge numbers of black Detroiters wanted the mayor locked up. Check out, for example, this very thorough blog advocating for Kwame to take a hike: http://goawaykwame.wordpress.com/, and this video showing ordinary Detroiters publicly calling for Kilpatrick's resignation:



And it can't just be the fact that he is a "strong African American man" that makes people want to support him, either, because both of the police officers who blew the whistle on him were also African-American, and I'd imagine you have to be a pretty strong individual to stand up to a corrupt public official who is in charge of your livelihood. Is it because Kilpatrick dresses well and wears a diamond stud earring? Because one would think that if you're an impoverished person in Detroit whose mayor is using your tax dollars to pad his own salary, you wouldn't want to write effusive messages to the mayor wishing him the best. Right? Or am I missing something?

The whole thing is sad and confusing, but at least Kilpatrick is in jail for a while and probably won't be holding public office again any time soon. Hopefully the voters of Detroit will learn something from this fiasco and elect mayors who won't drive the city even further into the ground. In the meantime, I'll continue to watch and hope for the best for the city from the removes of Boston. Come on, Detroit, bring back the glory!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Evilitamins

I feel it is my duty as a vigilant consumer to inform others about products out there that may make them barf. It's especially important to warn people off of "vitamins" that will make them barf, I think, because if you barf up your vitamin, then what's the point, really?

So, here's the deal: I bought these One-a-Day All Day Energy vitamins this summer in DC, kind of on a whim, partly because I was intrigued by the idea of a combination vitamin AND energy booster, and mostly because I still have the One-a-Day jingle from the '90s stuck in my head, and probably always will ("One-a-Day people, healthy people, for everybody there's a One-aaaa-Daaaay...").

Shortly after I bought the vitamins, I decided to take one before going to the gym one morning. Expecting a wonderful energy boost, I was somewhat dismayed when five minutes later, I was curled in a fetal position on my bed, dry-heaving. After a few minutes of intense, crippling nausea, the feeling passed, and I got up and went to the gym. Being Stephanie, I didn't think anything of it, and continued to take the vitamins a few more times that summer, despite the fact that they made me want to toss my cookies every time I took them.

I think because I took the vitamins so infrequently, I didn't connect the dots and realize that the gross vitamins were actually the ones responsible for the waves of nausea that overtook me every time I swallowed one. Yeah. The last straw came a month or so ago, when I took a One-a-Day and found myself, again, lying curled in my bed fighting off the impulse to hurl. Lying there, I suddenly realized, "Holy crap, these vitamins are EVIL." It took me a while, but I got there. This is sort of like the time it took me two years to figure out that I was giving myself stomach ulcers and slowing my heartbeat down with ibuprofen. These are all signs that I should probably not enter a career in the medical field (sorry, University of Phoenix).

Anyway, I was so weirded out by these vitamins that I went online to see what other people have said about them, and I found that they have made other people violently ill. Plus, they're LOADED with caffeine and guaraná, that crazy Amazon berry that os brasileiros are obsessed with. I read some of the comments online about the vitamins and here is a select sampling:

"Started having major sleep disturbances, waking up seeing things on the wall like images, not feeling right, breathing, very tired feeling, chest pains, up now at 4:30 a.m. because of this, and came to read the back of product and seen that one pill contains as much caffine as a cup of coffee, that's terrible. Guess it's my fault for not reading the label. I already have high blood pressure so this product is definetly not a good recommendation. Stopping usage of this product today!!"

"I am 25 and I took them. I had to stop when they kept making me vomit. A nutritionist suggested I try an organic vitamin instead because the iron in those cheap vitamins can be really hard to digest."

"Into my second bottle, I noticed I was anxious...I was gritting my teeth and just couldn't relax. It was like I was holding my breath and I had to consciously attempt to relax. I attributed it to daily stress. After continued high blood pressure and chest pains, I went to the ER where they suggested I get a pacemaker!! Since I passed the treadmill stress test and Holter monitor, they decided against it. I stopped taking the vitamins and things are slowly getting back to normal."

So, just a few side effects, I guess: nausea, anxiety, nightmares, hallucinations, chest pain, vomiting, high blood pressure, bad spelling. I guess One-a-Day apparently subscribes to the belief that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. But these vitamins seem like they might actually kill you. I guess I probably won't take them anymore. Or I'll just keep taking them and have a defibrillator handy...either way.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Flashbeagle

This particular Charlie Brown TV special, the 1984 Flashbeagle, was recently trashed by a Slate article (which was singing the praises of earlier, more melancholy Peanuts specials), but I still love it. Please watch this and tell me that Snoopy flash-dancing isn't awesome.*



And can we please play tribute to the "Lucy is the Boss" song? I had this song stuck in my head for like 6 years when I was younger.* Might as well pass it on to you guys. Also, please note that at the beginning of this video, it shows Snoopy wearing a leather jacket, strutting down the street with a gang of little yellow birds.** Snoopy was such a bad-ass in the 80s!




*Ages 5-11.

**I'd like to comment here that a certain Canadian boyfriend, whose name will go unmentioned here, insists that Snoopy's bird friend (Woodstock) is actually named Peanut. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Loose change

You know, I very much agree with Carrie Underwood that celebrities really shouldn't make political statements. Ever. Think about it: most celebrities are both extremely uneducated AND wealthy, which means that not only will their political beliefs often be astoundingly ignorant, but they'll also be unrepresentative of most Americans' views. It doesn't matter what side of the political debate celebrities are coming from. I cringed just as much when Britney Spears voiced her support for W in 2003, as when Sean Penn wrote an open letter to him in 2002.* I guess what it all boils down to is the following: who gives a crap who Pete Wentz wants for President?

I may not be a celeb, but I also tend to abstain from making political comments, both in my blog and in most of my personal interactions, because I'm not a very politically active person, and because I despise political arguments. Political arguments are futile, frustrating, and boring. My preferences usually aren't strong enough to warrant making a comment anyway, so I leave that to the passionate politicos that walk among us. You know who you are.

However, I do feel compelled to make a teeny tiny comment about the fact that the United States of America just chose Barack Obama, our first African American President-elect, on Tuesday night, because I am pretty excited and happy about it. I'm not going to make some big political proclamation here or anything. I just feel optimistic and I would be remiss if I didn't comment at ALL about the momentous election season we just wrapped up.

To be honest, for me, the election couldn't have come soon enough. I was bored of the politics and posturing very early on (i.e., about two years ago) as is my custom in presidential elections. When Sarah Palin entered the scene, I officially checked out. Done. I voted early in San Francisco and left City Hall more interested in seeing how the California ballot initiatives would come out (not great, as it turns out -- Prop 8 is pretty disgraceful) than the outcome of the Presidential election. But on Tuesday night, watching the returns come in at an election party in Boston hosted by a Romanian couple, I felt excited and happy. Not Oprah-level excited and happy, but pretty jazzed. More than tapping into some previously undiscovered wellspring of support and love for Obama, I was just happy that our country (or, a majority of it, anyway) seemed energized and engaged, and still does.

It warmed my cold little heart to watch John McCain's extremely classy concession speech (and see his adorable, ancient mother on stage with him in Arizona) and to see the Obamas, with their two cute little girls, take the stage in Chicago. It was all very nice and warm and fuzzy. And perhaps the most touching moment of this whole past week was seeing Elisabeth Hasselbeck, a staunch supporter of McCain and the much embattled lone Republican on the View, speak warmly about Obama and national unity. I think she was slightly full of it, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.



Of course, I know that this warm fuzziness is not shared in all households in our country, and I realize that it will fade quickly into the day-to-day drudgery of life and politics, but it's nice for now. America, f*** yeah.



*I bet Bush was thrilled to get the Spears endorsement.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Slanketeer here

I am writing you from the comfort of my new Slanket. That's right, a Slanket -- a blanket with sleeves. I received said Slanket for my recent birthday (26, yo!) and it's all I could have ever hoped for. It's warm, snuggly, and sleeved, what more could a girl want?

Now, don't confuse the Slanket with its low-rent (and possibly inbred) cousin, the Snuggie. You may have seen the recent Snuggie TV ads, which show Snuggie wearers mirthlessly reading the news, talking on the phone, and completing other mundane tasks, apparently unaware they are wearing sleeved blankets. You'd never see an ad like that for a Slanket, because it's impossible to wear a Slanket and not smile.

By the way, I kinda hope the Slanket marketing people are reading this and writing me a check for boosting their sales among my readership.*

Anyway, please enjoy the series of gratuitous Slanket pics, below.









Go Slankets!

*Mostly 15-year old boys in Macedonia and Norway.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gwyneth Paltrow seems awful

I have always thought that Gwyneth Paltrow seemed like a vile human being,* just based on some deep, gut instinct. She just exudes ickiness. She is thin and pinched and pale and haughty and plays bitchy, aloof characters, and I have heard from someone whose cousin went to high school with her that she was an insufferable wretch. I mean, that's enough cold hard fact for me to go on in reaching my conclusion that she is probably a horrible person. I'd even be willing to bet that GP is even meaner than Madonna, and that is saying something. Madonna!

My instincts about Gwynnie were confirmed yesterday as I was watching Oprah (I can't help myself!) and GP was on the show with the famous New York chef Mario Batali. Apparently GP went on a "culinary road trip" with Batali across Spain, pretending to eat solid foods for a few weeks while constantly flinching at the sight of jamon serrano (she's macrobiotic, y'all!). She and Mario came on Oprah to hype their new PBS show and cook paella. At the end of the show, as Oprah was hawking their new book, which was most likely written 100% by Mario Batali or his ghostwriter, Oprah failed to mention GP as a co-author ("with Gwyneth Paltrow"). Noticing the omission, Batali added, "I wrote this with Gwyneth!" And Oprah, looking slightly flustered, said, "Oh, yes," and emphasized GP's role in the book. Gwyneth, who was smiling icily throughout the exchange, said, "Yeah, um, we did it together. But that's okay." In other words, GP had to make it clear, in the last three seconds of the show, that she was pissed, and that she deserved recognition for some stupid cookbook she probably had no hand in writing. Oprah looked like someone had pissed in her Cornflakes as her show ended and the local news at 5 started to roll... "But that's okay."

The whole thing is ridiculous. Really, is the knowledge that Gwyneth Paltrow was a co-author of a book involving FOOD going to make anyone want to buy it more? Maybe the twenty subscribers of "Cooking with Kelp Monthly" would be inspired to purchase the cookbook knowing that Paltrow had a bony hand in its creation, but for me, it's a turnoff. I actually think less of Mario Batali now, knowing that he's friends with Gwyneth. Sorry, Mario. Pick better celebrity friends and we'll talk.


*But, I will always love her classic performance as Margot Tenenbaum, I guess.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Trippin', part 2

This is a continuation of my last post about my recent Euro trip...

After Croatia, Al and I headed to Cologne, Germany for a day. We stayed in a lovely hotel right in front of the Dom Cathedral, this big Gothic church that towers over the city. The plaza in front of the Dom is mainly occupied by those creepy buskers who paint themselves gold and pretend to be statutes -- and you KNOW how I feel about those people -- and German skater teens. Here is one particularly creepy busker -- dead, German Thomas Jefferson or what?



We spent our time in Cologne wandering along the river, enjoying uber-cheesy oompah performers, tasting wine, munching on black licorice and other assorted gummies, and watching a fat Turkish man handily beat several skinny German dudes at martial arts with his eyes closed. We ate sausages and sauerkraut for dinner and drank big beers. Ah, Germany.

The next morning we flew to Edinburgh, where we dropped our bags at Al's cousin Kathryn's friend Steve's house (whew) in Leith. Apparently, Leith used to be a fairly/very sketchy area (it's the setting for Trainspotters!) but now it's cute and clean and gay, with several "gubs" (gay pubs). We only stayed in Edinburgh for a few hours before taking off for St. Andrew's, where we visited Al's grandparents, who are very sweet and Scottish. We all watched the Olympics on TV, and Granny commented that Michael Phelps, the incredible American swimmer, could probably get a job out of this whole Olympics thing. "He could be a lifeguard," she suggested. Haha! After watching University Challenge and Coronation Street, we had some whiskey, beer and sweets with Granddad and he sung us some Scottish songs.

After St. Andrews, we went to Linlithgow for dinner with some more of Al's family, and then to Glasgow for a night, before heading to the Isle of Arran for a family party. The island was beautiful and green, with cute white houses sprinkled throughout. Quaintness overload! Before arriving on Arran, one of Al's cousins had said, "Ooh, Arran's lovely, it's like going back in time." I think he might have been confused about what going BACK in time entails, because the lodge/resort we stayed at was super modern. I mean, the gym had yoga mats and stability balls. Come on. Anyway, I had a blast on the island; we went biking, had a fancy wine-pairing dinner, and played loads of Scrabble.

Next stop after Arran was Glasgow, where we stayed at Kathryn's gorgeous flat for a night. We went out for delish Indian food and hit up a pub before coming back to the apartment and collectively stalking people on facebook. A good end to a good night! The next day, Al and I were off to Edinburgh again for the Fringe Festival, which is this huge arts festival that takes place every August in Edinburgh. We didn't know any of the acts ahead of time, so we semi-randomly chose a comedy show and bought tickets for it. We ended up seeing Luke Toulson. His show was called "There are so many things I can't do," and it was hilar!

This is a clip of him performing somewhere else last year:



The next morning, we went to London to catch our flight to Iceland. We had heard ahead of time that Iceland is crazily expensive and that we should bring our own food and even booze. With this in mind, we arrived at Heathrow fully stocked with crackers, bananas, vodka, cheese, peanut butter, and apples. However, our plan was abruptly foiled at the security checkpoint when they confiscated our peanut butter, which apparently counts as a liquid, gel, spray or cream. What?! It was CHUNKY. It ended up being fine, though, because the guesthouse we stayed at in Reykjavik included breakfast, which was basically an open fridge that we could graze from for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The vodka did come in handy, though -- I mean, who wants to pay 312984129 krona for a beer? Not me!

Reykjavik was a really weird, barren little city of pre-fab houses perched on top of mossy lava rocks. We stayed outside the city center in what appeared to be an industrial park, and the city center itself seemed abandoned and quiet. It wasn't unpleasant, just a bit strange. The highlight of the Iceland trip, though, was definitely the Blue Lagoon, a natural sulfur hot springs where Nordic-type people go to relax and be blond. At the entrance to the springs, you're given a plastic bracelet with a computer chip embedded in it that opens your locker and allows access to the springs. So high tech! We spent several hours swimming around in the warm, sulfuric water (Al said it was like swimming in a giant, warm egg) while it drizzled cold rain over our heads. It was excellent.

Two cheeseballs in the lagoon:



So, that was Iceland. We stayed two nights and then flew back to Boston. And here I am, back in Cambridge, gearing up to start my last year of law school. Woo hoo. More to come later...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

(Don't be) trippin', part 1

I haven't updated the old blog in a while because I was on vacation, and it was fantastic, and I want to tell you about it over several posts. This is pretty much the internet version of being forced to watch your aunt and uncle's boring slides from their latest trip to Maui when you go over for dinner. Dim the lights, please. Click!

The day after finishing work at the law firm in DC, I got on a plane to Boston, and that same day I took the red-eye to London. In London, I met up with my friend Ricardo, who used to go to law school with me but went back/escaped to England during our first year. When Ricky came and met me at the train station, he hadn't yet been to bed after partaking liberally of the London nightlife. We made quite a team for walking like zombies around the city, since I had been on a flight and in airports all night and also hadn't slept. We trudged around the city for a few hours and I chewed on a big baguette sandwich while taking in a bunch of the big sights -- Parliament, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, etc. London was pretty much exactly as I expected it to look -- totally charming and pretty with beautiful green gardens and red double-decker buses. Charm alert!

After saying goodbye to Ricky, I took the tube to London Dungeon and met up with Vicky, my old friend who I worked with in Brazil. I hadn't seen her in almost three years and it was so nice being reunited with her. We went to her adorable apartment in Greenwich, dropped off my stuff, and then went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant in town, then to the local pub. It was all very quaint.

I got about four hours of sleep before waking up at 2am to go to the airport for my first EasyJet experience, which is apparently a British rite of passage. I had to fly out of Gatwick Airport, which is sort of/really in the boonies. When I got there at 3:45, the airport was packed with English people with straw hats milling around as they waited to get checked in for their flights to Tenerife and Palma and Santorini. After a bit of pushing and shoving, I got checked in for my flight to Split, Croatia -- yay!

Arriving in Split was thrilling because I was about to see my boyfriend, the handsome Alastair, for the first time in over two months. He surprised me by meeting me at the airport, and we took a bus back to our beautiful hotel on the outskirts of Split. This was the view from our hotel window:



It was okay, I guess.

We spent a few days in Split, lying around on the rocky beaches, drinking beer, eating pizza, and relaxing at our fabulous hotel. Our next stop after Split was Hvar Island, which, Al and I both agreed, was a little TOO picturesque. Hvar has it all: crystal clear blue water, boats bobbing in the harbor, cobblestone streets, winding alleyways, and lively outdoor bars -- yeah, we GET it, Hvar, you're charming. Our time in Hvar was largely spent lying on the beach, swimming, drinking, eating, and marveling at the astonishing rudeness of the Croatian people. In terms of surliness, the Croatians give the Argentines a run for their money, which is no easy feat. For example, one day, Al and I went into the local supermarket to buy supplies for a picnic lunch. We needed some cheese so we were waiting at the deli counter as the two sullen female employees behind the counter flirted half-heartedly with some dude with an earring and bad hair. We waited patiently for them to finish their conversation and help us, but they glanced over at us and went on to ignore us for several long minutes. When their manager came over and told them to help us, they both turned, looked us up and down, and one of them said, "Da?" (yes?), as if our presence were a personal affront to her. I mean, we had interrupted her scintillating conversation with Earring McCreepy, so you can see how she'd be annoyed. How dare we demand a slice of cheese! Who the hell do we think we are?!

Anyway, we got the cheese in the end, but we left Hvar thinking that the Croatians are not the nicest peeps in the world. Al pointed out that their country is shaped like a boomerang -- an EVIL boomerang. But really, they don't need to be nice, if you think about it -- tourists are going to flock to the Dalmation Coast even if the natives greet them at the airport by spitting on their shoes. And, I must add that not all of the people there were rude. We encountered some very nice people, most of whom were old waiters. I love old waiters.

Our last stop in Croatia was Dubrovnik, which is one of the most beautiful capitals I've ever seen. The old town is walled in and looks like it's been preserved since Roman times. Here's a street where people actually live:



Our last night in Dubrovnik, we went to a pizza place called Mea Culpa and then wandered through the old city till we found this little outdoor bar looking over the water. The bar was special because it was perched on a cliff above the water and was lit by candlelight -- romantical!! -- and they were playing a tape of Kenny G covers. Until you've heard Kenny G cover "Kiss from a Rose," you really don't know what romance is.

So, that was Croatia... more to come soon.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Oh, to be young again...

I walked into Abercrombie & Fitch today and immediately regretted it. I was too self-conscious to turn around and walk out, because I felt like the smirking nineteen year old male model they hired to stand at the front door was judging me, so I did a quick lap through the dark and thumping recesses of A & F and departed, confirming for myself what I already knew.

1. I am too old to be stepping foot into Abercrombie & Fitch.

2. The music in that store is absurdly, stupidly loud.

It's a strange feeling to be twenty-five years old and feel ancient, but Abercrombie somehow manages to make me feel like Methuselah with its club-like, throbbing bass, fifteen-year old staff, and dark, cave-like lighting. The weird thing is, I used to shop there -- quite recently, in fact. Like, last year. Thank goodness they don't check ID's at the door because I'm pretty sure people over the age of twenty-two aren't really allowed in there unless they're shopping for ripped-up, $72 jean shorts for their fifteen-year old (slutty) sister.

Oh, but I remember the first time I shopped at an Abercrombie store. I was twelve, it was the summer between sixth and seventh grade, and I was in Baltimore. This was back in the day when the stores had plaid carpeting, bright lighting, and sold flannel shirts and tapered corduroys. I know this because I purchased several flannel shirts and a pair of tapered corduroys and was thrilled when a "cool" girl told me she liked my pants. Apparently I was not the only one in 1995 who thought ankle-pinching pants were awesome.

Then, sometime in high school, Abercrombie got wildly popular, and they started charging $15 for those big fat catalogs full of pictures of nearly naked white people. And with those ridiculously overpriced catalogs, the "Abercrombie model" look was born. According to these pictures, girls must be skinny with stringy hair and vacant eyes, with their shirts unbuttoned at all times. Also, girls usually only wear underpants, even outdoors. All guys must look like Olympic gymnasts in hemp necklaces. Guys are always wet and glistening -- maybe they just all went swimming? Again, at the time, this seemed cool.

When I was seventeen or so, I "dated" a guy who worked at Abercrombie and was in a frat at Michigan. Major cool points. He always wore a beaded necklace and dark-wash jeans, because apparently during that season at Abercrombie, light-wash jeans were verboten. I thought he was super cool, until he told me that he and all his co-workers used to steal bags of clothes after every inventory. But, to be fair, they did only give him a 20% discount. They were asking for it.

By the end of high school, though, I think it was widely understood that working at Abercrombie was actually not worth whatever limited social cachet you got for being attractive enough to get the job in the first place, because Abercrombie paid less than Burger King and forced you to wear their overpriced clothes from that season. And no light-wash jeans.

Anyway, the point is, I think I can't really allow myself to go in there anymore. I hate feeling old, and I also hate going deaf. It was nice while it lasted, Abercrombie.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Can you hear the drums, Fernando?

One of the best movies ever made, in my humble opinion, is the 1994 Australian film Muriel's Wedding. I saw this movie for the first time when I was in middle school. I remember renting the video and watching it in my basement, sitting in my pampasan chair, utterly moved. Here's what makes it awesome:

1. Almost the entire soundtrack is Abba (with the exception of Blondie's "The Tide is High").

2. Toni Collette is so believable as a mopey, dreamy outcast who attempts to reinvent her own life, and Rachel Griffiths speaks with her real Australian accent.

3. The names of the places are wonderful (Porpoise Spit, Hibiscus Island).

4. Muriel fake-marries a hot South African swimmer (see below).



But really, it's the Abba. The film uses Abba in such a heartfelt, wonderful way. And I'm not the only one who thinks so. The New York Times paid tribute to the film in a video: http://video.on.nytimes.com/?fr_story=02c6f1c18d62ae6bad3205ad1b5d674317d5a2d3

I had been exposed to Abba before Muriel's Wedding, of course. My mother and her sisters are fans, it turns out. When my cousins and I used to go up to our aunt and uncle's cottage in northern California, we'd put on Abba Gold and run around the house belting out the hits between going to the pool and watching "Blood In, Blood Out" repeatedly on the ancient VHS. Abba reminds me of lying in a bunk-bed in a wood-paneled room in the cottage, singing earnestly along with the sweet strains of "Fernando." The lyrics are so goofy, of course, but you can't totally ridicule that song, or any of Abba's tunes, because they're SO gosh darn catchy. You have to give those Swedes props.

Now with this whole Mamma Mia craze, I guess I'm feeling a bit bittersweet. Yes, Abba is experiencing a re-surge, but is it really Abba? I mean, Meryl Streep singing "Mamma Mia" isn't the same as Benny, Björn, Anni-Frid and Agnetha singing it. We all know that. And no Abba-based movie will ever compare to Muriel's Wedding. How could it?

I'll just leave you with this final quote from Muriel: "When I lived in Porpoise Spit, I used to sit in my room for hours and listen to ABBA songs. But since I've met you and moved to Sydney, I haven't listened to one Abba song. That's because my life is as good as an Abba song. It's as good as Dancing Queen."

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A tribute to TV

One of my favorite things to do is to go back through old emails I have written and received and look at my past through rose-colored glasses. "Those were the days!" I inevitably mutter, skipping over the parts of the emails where I bitch and moan about work, school, waiting in line, etc. I know it's a bit self-indulgent to re-read my own correspondence. Well aware.

Oh, are you expecting me to justify it somehow? Yeah, I've got nothing.

ANYWAY, I was going back through some emails from my time in Brazil and I came to the realization that, man, I talk about TV and movies a lot in my emails. Please observe the representative snippets below:

Date: July 27, 2005 2:23:07 PM EDT

So far no rat-tail sightings but I have been watching Brazilian TV and there are some weird hair trends nonetheless. Like the other day on Brazil MTV they had this kind of makeover show where this kid gets to get a new image, etc., but they cut his hair in this horrible bowl/mushroom/shag thing, and at first I thought it was a joke, like Punk'd, "just kidding, now it's time for your REAL haircut," but no. They were serious.

Date: September 28, 2005 2:44:46 PM EDT

And no, Flightplan hasn't come out here but wasn't there a movie exactly like that with Julianne Moore where she thinks she has a son and everyone tells her the son doesn't exist?? Is it just me or is Hollywood getting lazier!? The Julianne Moore one came out like last year.. are the Hollywood execs like, Eh, just get a new actress, make the son a daughter, and add in a plane, people won't notice it's the SAME MOVIE....

October 6, 2005 10:53:05 AM EDT

Last night I watched this really good documentary about "super gifted' children who were trying to get into a high school program called Transitions that lets them graduate h.s. when they are 14 and start college right afterwards. (i think it's insane, personally) Some of the kids chose to do it, and some didn't get in the program, and some chose to just go to regular high schools. Some of these kids just made me sad, bc the parents pushed them so hard and the children really were deprived of childhoods.. like this one Asian kid, his dad was totes living vicariously through him, and was coaching him before the interview for this transitions program.. and the dad said, "make sure you tell them that you are humorous. so if they ask you about yourself, what are you going to say?" and the kid said in this monotone, "i am humorous." SO SAD.

Date: January 20, 2006 7:12:05 AM EST

I had the WEIRDEST dream last night, where a bunch of people were sitting in a circle, including me and my mom, and Elton John and David Furnish.. Elton sat right in front of my mom, even though it was supposed to be a circle, and she was pissed. I think she said something sort of bitchy to him, and he replied bitchily, and I was like, Ma, you don't want to be on Elton John's black list, just let it go...*

February 7, 2006 10:58:35 AM EST

America's Next Top Model is over and I missed the last episode, but Dougal explained it to me in detail. I guess Naima deserved to win but I was rooting for Kahlen. Naima was sort of a bitch when it came down to it.. but then I guess it's not about personality, it's about being FIERCE... right now American Idol is on, plus the usual favorites.. oh and a new season of Supernanny, which I can't get enough of. Oh yeah and I just realized a few weeks ago that they play Arrested Development on Saturdays on Fox... i LOVE that show, I think it is one of the funniest shows ever, like the kind of thing that I almost wet myself watching, even when I am by myself. Have you seen it?

Date: February 16, 2006 11:32:27 AM EST

The documentary last night was so weird. it was about BBWs (big beautiful women) and FAs (Fat admirers) -- there is this group of men who honestly like women morbidly obese. this one british guy dated obese women in the US and Britain before he finally found a 566 lb girl in the US to propose to, and then he was upset when she started losing weight because she was so dangerously obese (like she had trouble breathing, walking, etc).. she was worried she was going to lose him because he really likes HUGE girls.. but he said, "don't worry, sweetie, you're never going to be REALLY skinny so it's okay.." it was like, topsy turvy world.

Date: February 25, 2006 7:17:10 PM EST

Salvador is okay... it is just a sea of humanity, like entire families come here for carnaval (mostly to sell stuff) and they sleep on the street, plus there are just drunk people running around 24 hours a day. but it is SO relaxed, even more-so than rio, like today a guy walked into the internet cafe wearing a speedo, no shoes, and carrying flippers, hahah...Tonight I am just staying in.. basically all I did today was eat a lot and sleep and watch bad Brazilian soaps.. we only get 4 channels on the tv in our room so we are stuck watching wheel of fortune (brazilian style) and floribella (bad novela!!)... but i am trying to keep a positive attitude.


I mean, I guess I already knew that I liked TV but when I re-read my Brazil emails I expected to find some more profound cultural observations than that South Americans have bad hair. We all know that, Steph. And why the heck was I watching Brazilian MTV? In some way, though, I think watching TV does provide some cultural insight, even if that insight is largely lost on me. At least I always have something to talk about, no matter what country I'm in.

Yeah, what was I saying? Whatever. Gotta go, TV's on.

* I realize this one isn't actually about TV. But I kind of had to share it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Growing up

Steph in 2005 was a bit different from Steph in 2008. Steph in 2005 lived in Brazil and went clubbing till 8 am three nights a week. Steph in 2008 lives in the US and recently attended a Renaissance fair. But one thing that hasn't changed in three years of quite varied experiences is Steph's willingness to cut and paste emails she's written as substitutions for real blogging. So that's what this post might turn into -- just a fair warning.

I was speaking to my parents on the phone earlier today (they always put me on speaker and both sort of yell across the room in the general direction of the phone as they do other, more pressing things) and she mentioned that she had recently read my boyfriend's blog and asked me why I hadn't updated mine in, well, a while. "Are you giving it up?" she asked. Me, give up blogging? Oh, HELL no. But she had a point. If Al, who is currently in the wilds of Central Asia, can update his blog (http://stantastico.blogspot.com/) while living in a yurt and eating horsemeat kebobs, certainly I can update mine from the comforts of our nation's lovely capital. Right? Of course right.

Anyway, here is an excerpt from an email I wrote recently about what I have done in the past few days:

"So, today is Elise's bday. We both got up pretty late and went to our respective gyms and then went to get pedicures at this place near Adams Morgan. This place was crazy! There was a long wait and like 10 pedicure chairs, and they were just hustling people in and out. I guess this is the "it" place to get your nails done because it is "cheap." Evz. Anyway now I am in the rare state of having both beautiful hands and feet.



Ummm what else. Oh, yeah, the firm retreat... it was fun! I did "yogalates," which turned out to be pilates with a couple of downward facing dogs thrown in. Thank goodness the lady who taught it made sure to tell us which poses were good for "sexual energy" and "releasing toxins." After that, I got a "spa manicure," and was received by the totally ridiculous guy who worked at the spa who was trying on a Madonna-esque fake British accent. It sort of came and went, so I wanted to keep him talking so I could hear it. He also did theatrical hand gestures. He was great, I wanted to just hang out with him all day and wait for him to break character.

Theeeen, I hung out by the pool, and finally, I did wine and herb tasting, which is exactly what it sounds like. Yeah. This really talkative (read: annoying) sommelier made us chew up weird herbs that she apparently had plucked from the golf course before tasting the wine. Yum. The good part was that she gave us full pours for the tasting, so I got a bit tipsy. Luckily I left before they brought out the reds, hehe."

There ya go. That's a quick update on my life lately. As I mentioned above, tonight is my roommate's twenty-fourth bday so we are going to go eat dinner in a few minutes at a fun Mexican place that features frozen margaritas at the bar and a long wait for a table, which means everyone is always a little drunkety-drunk when they sit down to eat. Therefore, it's a good bday place. Okay, off I go!! Later.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Green guilt

I've come to the conclusion that "being green" comes pretty naturally to: a) children of the depression, and b) people who tend to be anxious and guilt-ridden, especially those who were nervous kids. Not that I have anyone particular in mind.

I'M NOT TALKING ABOUT ME.

Okay, maybe I am talking about me.

No, I'm exaggerating. I wasn't actually a Nervous Nelly as a child, but I did have the tendency to fret sometimes. Like, in high school, when I got a 6 CD changer (the cutting edge-ness of this technology was almost unfathomable at the time), I used to get up in the middle of the night to make sure it was turned off, because there was something about that little red light being on, unblinking throughout the night, that made me think bad things would happen. What bad things? I don't know -- but think of all that wasted energy! Planes could crash! Worlds could collide! I had to turn it off!*

Now that the green movement is here, I have even more reasons to get up in the middle of the night. Now I have to unplug my desk fan if I'm not using it, my computer charger, my speakers, my cell phone. If you leave those things plugged in at night, you're singlehandedly contributing to the rapid destruction of the planet. If you don't unplug that lamp, the green people say, our beloved Mother Earth will silently scream in pain as you drain her life force, just because you're too f-ing lazy to pull the plug. I think now there might be a special circle of Hell reserved for those who fall asleep in front of the TV.

This is why I think that the green movement goes hand in hand with the American (upper) middle class's latent guilt and anxiety about being the American upper middle class. Now, this particular brand of guilt clearly does not affect everyone in that particular stratum of society (you know who you are, Lincoln Navigator owners). But there's a certain subset of people out there who feel crippling guilt about their own privilege, wealth, and success, and attempt to compensate for it through environmental self-flagellation.

There's a strong undercurrent of self-deprivation and punishment involved in "going green." Remember when Sheryl Crow said each person should only use one square of toilet paper when going to the bathroom? ONE SQUARE! That's just one example of the environmental asceticism that more and more wealthy people are embracing. Consciously going green, it seems to me, replicates a certain type of religious experience, one in which believers are expected to deny themselves earthly (i.e. non-green) pleasures. Green products, after all, are less pleasant and cushy than their polluting counterparts. Green toilet paper scratches your butt. Green toothpaste tastes weird and doesn't clean your teeth. Green clothing gives you rashes. Green food is expensive. The fading away of rigorous religious practice in this country has been replaced by an adherence to greenness and a concomitant heaping of guilt. On the other side of the coin, rigidly adhering to a green lifestyle allows one to feel superior to environmental sinners.

Now, maybe my perspective on the green movement is influenced by the fact that I was raised Catholic, and no matter how “relaxed” one's religious upbringing may be, a certain dose of daily guilt is inescapable for every Catholic. Now that I don’t go to church very often anymore, I find it comforting to at least partly replace the rigors of mass and penance with environmental conscientiousness. I am vigilant about unplugging things. I recycle every scrap of paper, every plastic bottle, every tin can. I switch off lights and appliances every chance I get. I re-use plastic baggies and rubber bands. I write on the backs of pieces of paper. I buy organic spinach. I use a Nalgene bottle so I won’t go through so many plastic water bottles. Oh, and did I mention I don’t have a car and walk everywhere?

Don’t get me wrong, all of this is GOOD (maybe even great) AND it’s easy. It’s not like it’s a huge sacrifice to throw my Diet Coke bottle into the recycling bin instead of the trashcan, right? I just think it’s interesting to note the compulsive, quasi-religious rituals that accompany greenness. An awareness of the value that the green movement places on self-denial isn’t a reason to abandon environmentalism, however, any more than it’s a reason to abandon religion. After all, a little self-denial is good, especially in these times of overindulgence and hyper-consumption.

So, those are my thoughts -- thanks for listening. Oh, and please remember to unplug your computer when you’re done reading this, and to say 40 Hail Marys before bed. Have a lovely day.

*I realize that I'm making myself sound like a serious sufferer of obsessive compulsive disorder. Um, I guess I should probably say something to redeem myself now, but as the wise Popeye once said, I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Hungry walk

I just did the Walk for Hunger in Boston. Well, actually, to be completely honest, I did half of it, which means I still walked 10.5 miles. I just felt like that was enough, ya know? Plus, I was hungry. Which I guess was the point of a walk for hunger.

Despite the crappy, drizzly weather, the walk was pretty cool, and I got to see parts of Boston I'd never seen before, like Brookline and Newton. Here is the route:

http://www.projectbread.org/site/PageServer?pagename=walk_route_large&printer_friendly=1

My friend Rachel and I got to the halfway point (labeled on the route map with a number 5) and decided that we were done walking and ready for lunch, since we had been going for 3 hours and there were shuttle buses back to Boston Common just waiting for us -- beckoning us, you might say. Once back in Cambridge, we went for a big dim sum lunch at Changsho, mmm. Shrimp shu mai has never tasted so good.

I'm glad I got out and did something today, since today was shaping up to be another day spent entirely on my butt in front of the TV. Since finishing my final on Thursday, I have become a totally unmotivated lump. It's been sort of glorious. I mean, I watched Oprah the other day. OPRAH. To be fair, it was the Tom Cruise interview and there was no way I was missing Oprah grilling Tom about the 2005 couch jumping incident. I watched the interview sort of (i.e. REALLY) hoping that Tom would go off the rails again, but he maintained kind of a low-key nuttiness. There was no jumping. Don't get me wrong, he's still a nut -- but he got the mania under control, which is obviously disappointing. And Oprah didn't ask him about the Scientologist practice of Silent Birth, which I think we all wanted answers on.

Well, now that I have gone walking and eating, I guess I'd better try to finish up the few remaining tasks I have before my second year of law school is officially done. Off I go!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Babbling brook of consciousness

I signed on to my blog just now because I remembered how in my last post, I had apologized profusely for not writing and being inexcusably lazy, and had promised to remedy the situation, starting NOW. So, in an effort to make good on that promise, I figured I might as well just sign on to the old blog and see what I have to say, even if I can't think of anything interesting to share at the moment. It's like one of those creative writing exercises! "Fill up a blank page with whatever comes to mind, just keep that pencil moving!"

But actually, does anyone ever actually light upon a fantastic idea while scrawling self-indulgent drivel on a piece of paper? Stream of consciousness exercises are to writing what word association exercises are to therapy -- filler. Stream of consciousness exercises are what happens when your Learning Annex professor wants to go take a "cigarette" break and needs to keep the class busy for 11 minutes or so while he goes to his Volvo to get his rolling papers. Oh, and speaking of word association, one of my favorite scenes from the movie "What About Bob" is when an unwitting Bob is being driven by his therapist, Dr. Leo Marvin, to the mental institution where he will be committed for observation:

Bob: Where are we going?
Dr. Leo Marvin: Intensive psychotherapy.
Bob: Wahoo! Okay, some free associations from my infancy. A beach ball. A dog. A log. A poodle. A noodle. A doodle.

So, be warned -- this post may turn out to be of the poodle/doodle/noodle variety.

Here are some things I definitely won't be discussing in this blog post:

- the Pennsylvania primary
- abortion art at Yale
- Earth Day or anything involving being "green"
- the goings-on in Kenya
- Richie Sambora
- the Boston marathon

Things I am tempted to write about, but won't:

- this month's "Red-Hot Read" in Cosmo
- naan, and why it is so good
- my sore throat and runny nose
- the Real Housewives of New York City
- the weather

Okay, so here's what I am actually going to share with you today. I am shamelessly stealing this idea from Perez Hilton, but the video (and the accompanying New Yorker article) are fascinating, so everyone should take a look. This is a video of a man, Nicholas White, who was trapped in an elevator at his work for 41 hours. The video is from the security cameras and only takes a few minutes to watch -- really unsettling and interesting!

http://www.newyorker.com/online/video/2008/04/21/080421_elevators/?yrail

Anyway, that's all I've got for you today. Just be thankful I spared you some free associations from my own infancy.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Flog

The title of this post refers to the harsh flagellation I deserve for falling off the blogodar for so long.* There's really no good excuse for it, as usual. But I want to tell you some of the things I have done since last writing, just so you won't think I've been sitting on the couch reading Marie Claire and eating Ho Ho's.

I have:

- gone hang gliding in Rio. I gained a huge dose of confidence in my chances of not crashing to my death after seeing a pudgy, middle aged patron go ahead of me.

- drank *several* caipirinhas over the course of my 8 day vacation to Brazil, each of which could be (and probably was) described (by me) as "the best caipirinha I've ever had in my LIFE, you guys."

- smoked my first cigar. Clean living!

- negotiated the crap out of a fake divorce settlement in my Negotiation Workshop (super depressing, yet rewarding)

- finished a first draft of a long-ass research paper, which makes me feel like I don't actually have to do any more work this semester, despite having several final exams and papers to prepare for.

- watched a full season of 'Real Housewives of New York City' on Bravo. Typical dialogue from the show:
Alex: "My children, Francois and Johan, have a French au pair who ONLY speaks to them in French. They're fluent now. We are just so lucky to be raising our children to be bilingual."
*Jump to shot of French au pair and children eating breakfast.*
French au pair: (in English) Francois, can you say "cereal" in French?
Francois: *sullen silence.*
French au pair: Francois? How about "milk?" Remember how I taught you this word?
Francois: I HATE milk. I want sparkling white grape juice!

- narrowly avoided getting dengue fever in a creepy, dank, mosquito-infested hostel in Buzios

- hung out with elderly Azorean ladies at a local Portuguese community center.

- got my butt (and various other body parts) handed to me on a plate by a gym class called Body Bar. It has been almost three days since I did the class, and it still hurts to sit. And walk. And lift my arms. I am DEFINITELY doing it again next week.

- eaten almost half a pound of Twizzler's Pull & Peel with my boyfriend. That's half a pound EACH, incidentally.

- found an apartment in Washington, DC for this summer with my roommate, yay.

There's probably more stuff. But as you can see, I've been a busy girl. Twizzlers, Real Housewives, masochistic workout classes -- my plate is quite full right now. Speaking of masochistic workouts, I am going to scurry off to the gym now. Promise I'll be better at blogging once finals are over. PROMISE.

*We need WAY more words to describe the world of blogging, hence "blogodar." Patent pending.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

In pursuit of better blogging

Hey. I realized the other day that other people who have blogs actually write in them. Like, frequently. There's this girl I went to college with, for example, who writes in her blog every day, even if it's just to give an update of her morning commute ("More traffic, AGAIN!!! What a drag!!!"). But that's taking it too far, I think. Because really, who gives? I certainly don't. Yet, I still click on this girl's blog in some sort of slacker-blogger self-flagellation ritual. I dunno.

I try to blog when I have something to say, but sometimes, even when I do have something to say, I'm too lazy to actually sit down and type it out. All that finger work, so arduous. Plus, I have this sneaking sensation that most of the people who read my blog are teenage boys who are just scanning the page in desperate search of pictures of Brazilian waxes. Finding none, they then click on the "Next Blog" tab, which, 90% of the time, will bring them to some doofy family's photoblog of their wall-eyed baby ("Our Little Miracle!!!"). Seriously - try it. Sometimes you luck out with Next Blog, though, and get something like this: http://misssrilanka2008.blogspot.com/. So, you never know. Roll the dice!

So last night I went out to dinner with some of my girl friends, and we were talking about the website Yelp.com, and how we don't trust the reviews of bars. The yelpers tend to slam bars with "loud music" and "revelry" while praising establishments that allow for quiet solitude and unobtrusive service. Plus, if you're sitting down to write a lengthy and impassioned review of Tommy Doylez ("Irish kitsch abounds!"), you probably have a bit too much time on your hands. But, I pointed out to my friends that some topics on Yelp are more reliable (for example, reviews of salons), because if you had a really bad experience at a salon ("I'm bald now") or a really good one ("I look GOOD"), you want to share it with the world. That's kinda how I feel about blogging. I wouldn't sit down to write a review of a bar ("There were many types of alcohol there, and some sort of music playing in the background"), but I would certainly write a review of an aesthetician or hair salon.* Similarly, I wouldn't blog about my morning commute ("I passed that fire hydrant again") but I would write about, say, blogging.

Sorry for yet another meta-blogging post. I just want you all to know that if it seems that I am slacking, it's really just that I am saving you from less-than-stellar blog posts. You should thank me. Or at least don't click on Next Blog just yet.

*In fact, in college, I did write a review of a really good waxing place I went to in Palo Alto, but then took it down when I came to my senses. Some details don't need to be shared with the world, Stephanie.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I could really go for a pop.

Please note that I have taken two (2) "What American accent do you have" quizzes, and both have confirmed, to my chagrin, that I STILL have a Michigan accent, even after all my efforts to lose it in college. Sigh.

Take the quiz and see what you get.

What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)

Northern

You have a Northern accent. That could either be the Chicago/Detroit/Cleveland/Buffalo accent (easily recognizable) or the Western New England accent that news networks go for.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cuba, Cuba.

Since Fidel Castro announced this past week that he won't pursue the Cuban Presidency in the future, the New York Times has published a spate of articles discussing the situation on the island -- what may change (if anything), what Cubans are thinking and feeling, the US reaction, and so on. When I heard the news about Fidel's "resignation," I wasn't very surprised, nor did I see any major significance in the announcement. In some ways, it seems to me, Fidel "resigned" over a year ago, as his brother Raúl has taken over many of the important presidential functions already. In another sense, it seems like Fidel will never really leave, even after he's buried with his boots on. The DePalma article I've posted below compares Fidel to a giant plane that leaves such a strong wake after its takeoff that other planes have to wait for it to pass before they can leave the jet-way.

DePalma echoes my prediction that little (if any) radical change will happen for a long time in Cuba. His article also briefly touches on the deep sadness felt on both sides of the US-Cuba divide, and the overwhelming uncertainty about the future that everyone (but particularly those who live on the island) feels constantly.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/24/weekinreview/24depalma.html?ex=1361595600&en=81001b93410234f9&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

I also found this article, about the changing tenor of Cuban exiles' views about Fidel, to be quite interesting:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/20/us/20miami.html?ex=1361250000&en=5d85891c8dda8797&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

Oh, and just FYI, Raúl is officially the new president of Cuba:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080224/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/cuba_leadership

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I'M IN A BOAT IN HOLLAND!!!!

For those of you who don't know, which I'm assuming is most non-British people reading this, Trigger Happy TV was a British hidden camera show that ran from 2000-2002, started by this guy Dom Joly. According to Wikipedia, the show "did not revolve around trapping normal people into embarrassing and impossible situations. Instead, Joly often made fun of himself rather than others, and many scenes made people stop and either laugh or simply wonder what was going on; the passers-by are never made aware of the fact that they are on television, presumably until they sign a release form allowing the use of the footage shot."

This show used to be on Brazilian TV a lot and I'd watch it on weeknights before retiring into my bed at 9 pm. Below is a compilation of sketches involving Joly and a giant, novelty phone that he answers at inappropriate times, in quiet places. Believe me, it's definitely worth it to cut and paste this link into your browser and watch it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NciO7AEqKYE


"NAH, IT'S RUBBISH! JUST A LOT OF CHEESE AND STUFF."

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Socratic Method of Lunch

I'm in the bagel shop, trying to study. Below, word for word, is the conversation going on in the booth next to me. I want to commit hari kari with a cream cheese spreader to make it stop:

Old, Wise Philosopher: "They're called Isostics, and the "issics" term is derogatory. It's like wise-ass. But basically, Socrates was going around asking people, well, you can say something like this is just or that is just, but tell me what justice is in the general, you know, and he'd do that with various things, but in the end, he was like, I know that I don't know, and you guys suck. But I mean, you have to look at the political situation. This was towards the end of the 5th century, when the culmination would be the civil war with Sparta, and for someone to question what justice was, that was threatening. But Socrates didn't write anything. So."

Clueless Younger Guy: "Whoa. Wait. But. Okay. I'll be right back, I gotta get a bagel."

So now, blessedly, there is a break in the extremely loud philosophizing, and I can hear the AWESOME R.E.M song that has been playing in the bagel shop that these jackasses were drowning out before. WHO comes to Bruegger's to talk Socrates? That's all I want to know -- who are these people, where do they live, and would it be feasible to egg their house later?

Follow-up note: the young guy came back and now they're talking about their favorite harpsichordians. This promises to be a lively and edifying exchange!

Monday, February 04, 2008

My favorite Superbowl commercial....ever.

So, I just watched the Super Bowl, which was disappointing for two main reasons:

1. The Patriots lost (which I don't care about), but there were no riots to be seen (I was at someone's apartment near Fenway), despite the 50 million police officers with clubs and the 15 armored trucks right outside our door. I mean...if the Pats are gonna lose, the least Boston could do is start a few fires, right?

2. The commercials were not as good as last year. I was expecting great things, or at least something as funny as my favorite Super Bowl commercial ever, which I am posting here:

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The commercial above is amazing and will never be topped, because it involves Jim Gaffigan, Michael Ian Black (dreamy), short shorts and roller skates. This year's commercials, in contrast, were either racist cartoons, boring shots of cars driving in futuristic landscapes, talking animals (SO five years ago), or just plain nonsense (Naomi Campbell dancing with lizards). Come on, Super Bowl. Get it together.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

My baaaaad

The title of this post is a sheepish apology!

I am apologizing because I have been SO bad with the blogging as of late. I have a couple of reasonably good excuses -- I was taking a winter term class, I went to Paris, I had an exam, and I am a lazy son of a gun.

Probably the best excuse for my bad blogging was my Paris excursion, which was totally, like, life-changing. I learned SO much about Europe after living there for a full three and a half days. Like, people in Europe all drive small cars because they love the Earth more than Americans. Everyone bikes to work, and school, and to the patisserie and the boulangerie and the pizzerie. That's another thing -- if you want to buy a croissant, you have to buy it at the bakery, but if you want a wheel of fromage, you have to get it from the cheese shop, and you have to carry it home in a cloth bag in the front basket of your bike.

European children also only play with locally-made wooden toys, and they each speak four languages, but not because their neurotic, competition-driven parents over-schedule them, but because in Europe, you just organically learn languages without even trying. I think it's because they don't put fluoride in the water. Damn you, fluoride!

Another thing about Europe: people are SO much more fashion forward. They wear tailored trench coats and scarves tied around the throat, and hairy shoes (see picture below).



I don't expect you non-Europeans to understand this type of innate, superior fashion sense. Just trust me when I say that if you live in France as long as I have, you'll just get it. One day, it'll just make sense to you. That's when you know you've LIVED in Europe.

It was a big three days of self-discovery, I'll say that. Anyway, I am back now and ready to blog. Missed you guys.