And On Earth, Peace. Goodwill Toward Men

Posted by Lizzie on Monday, December 28, 2009
"St. Jude’s Ranch for Children serves all abused, abandoned and neglected children and families, creating new chances, new choices and new hope in a safe, homelike environment." (http://www.stjudesranch.org/about_overview.php)

Which is why my 2009 holiday mission is to get as many people as possible to donate their holiday cards to St. Jude's. All the info is here: http://www.stjudesranch.org/help_card.php

As they point out, donating your cards serves two primary purposes:
1) It helps the kids
2) It helps the earth

So, please consider participating this year or making it a new holiday tradition! If you don't want to take the time to gather them and send them you can:
1) Get your mom or dad or grandma or grandpa or crafty aunt or easily coerced sibling or anyone else to do it
2) Give them to me and I'll send them out with mine. In fact, the less materials we use by combining shipments the better

They sell cards for other occasions and thank you notes and that kind of thing also (check the site for specifics) so if you have any of those laying around, send them along as well.

The deadline is february 28, 2010.

Even if you don't personally want to do it, consider mentioning this to someone else in passing. :)


Watching Cops at 2AM: My First Experiences In Post-Grad Living

Posted by Lizzie on Monday, December 21, 2009
Bad boys, bad boys.
Whatcha gonna do?

I'm not handling the prospect of not working very well at all. It's an aspect of the Premature Quarter-Life Crisis that I haven't experienced until now. Which is why I've naively formed this defense mechanism mentality of "Yes, I'm going to get a job right away because I want it more than anyone else and I'm a hard-worker and powerful, independent woman who was born to have a successful career." The power of positive thinking? No, probably just filthy lies to myself which won't get me anywhere. I know how to do things. I don't know how to sit around.


I love that I don't know what's going to happen. I love that I have nothing holding me back. I love that I'm going to have a job which will allow me to save for traveling to all the places I've wanted to go. Maybe not all. I'm not being foolishly optimistic here. But if I can take my two weeks of vacation and head to Peru for awhile, I'm there. I might not see the whole world like I've always dreamed of, but hey, I might make it to Cambodia at some point. Do what you can. Don't let the fact that you can't do it all hold you back from doing what you can. This is my ultimate mental obstacle. If a task seems too huge to take on and complete to perfection, I'm resistant to doing it. Sometimes you just have to dig in and get out what you can. No waiting 'til you have a million dollars and three years to see the whole world. Three new countries with whatever limited vacation time I have is just fine with me. And if I somehow get to see more, we'll consider that bonus.

I love that I still think it's possible for me to do anything. I love that if I find out that I hate what I do, I can do something else. I love that I've learned invaluable lessons from the jobs that I've had even though my work experience looks kind of limited and crappy on paper. I love that I'm willing to do anything and see where I end up. Maybe there's something out there that I love more than how much I love the prospect of policy research. I can't think of one field that I haven't been interested at one point or another so we'll see how many of those areas I end up working in.

I love that I have time to power through books during this interim period. Sometimes I wish I could live forever just so I could read through the whole library. Skipping the romance section, of course. And probably most of the Sci-Fi section. I have my own real-life romance going on and my own real-life sci-fi imagination.

I love that we're all so young and it's tough sometimes because of that. Most of us are struggling to make a reliable living. Maybe the economy's getting better and maybe it isn't. But these are lessons we'll learn that will make us appreciate the times when we're living comfortably. And this will be the baseline for the rest of our lives. I love that even though we don't have money, we still find ways to have a good time and head out on Friday and Saturday night to wherever life may take us. I appreciate those times we have so much more because we work so hard to make sure they happen. Not having what you want and even not what ou need sometimes makes you even more grateful for the surprises. People help you out. We're all still alive (Well, most of us. I'll take those odds). I can think of 10 people right away who've overcome some incredible disadvantages and I can think of 10 people right away who are currently overcoming some incredible disadvantages.

Last Christmas, Nonnie asked us all to go around and say what the best Christmas gift we ever got was. None of us could come up with anything. We had always gotten more or less what we wanted. If we didn't get everything we wanted, it never really mattered for very long because we never really wanted it that badly. We'd all been relatively spoiled. Nonnie proceeded to tell us the story of her all-time favorite Christmas present. She was relatively little and it was during the Great Depression. Her family, just like all the other families, didn't have much money and it was kind of understood that there would be no presents that year. However, for some reason, her aunt (I think it was her aunt. This part of the story is kind of vague) was able to buy presents for Nonnie and the siblings. That Christmas, she got a Shirley Temple doll and a doll baby carriage. Shirley Temple was her favorite then and probably still is on some level. Hearing Nonnie talk about how she didn't expect to get anything and understanding that it just wasn't possible but then being surprised with her most favorite thing of all was absolutely flooring to me. I realized that never in my life had I appreciated anything like that. Everything was insignificant to me.

Ok, wow. Regroup. I have no idea how I ended up at that. This was a very unplanned ramble blog. Well, it's a good story anyway so I'll keep it. And only proceed to say that I'm in love with this not-knowing thing. We'll see if my failure to find a job beats me down to reality. But until then, cheers to full-time employment and being 22 years old and finally a real person. For the first time, I'm not aching to be 17 again. 17 was so insignificant. 22 is where it's at. When I'm too old to have the energy to work full-time and have fun full-time, then we'll reassess. But for now, let's live it up.

PS - Ryan and I live together now. I'll coerce him to blog by threatening to eat his food and things of that nature.

PPS - Upon rethinking this and trying to connect the dots, I guess the Nonnie story was supposed to illustrate that things in our lives will be significant and we'll have histories and memories and experiences because nothing means anything if you always have everything that you want. I can't explain it in words. I hope you get what I mean. Not just financially. It applies to all things. For example, even though it feels like people have dropped like flies in terms of dying and leaving and that sort of thing in the last five years, I've come to appreciate every single person and moment that I still have. And in the struggle of trying to push people out and away to avoid the hurt, I've learned how good people are and how deep you can go with them in the most unforeseen ways. You can either obsess over what you don't have or you can kick yourself out of the pity party and focus on what you do have. And that way, you'll be ready to appreciate the surprises and treasure them. It's hard. I know. I'm guilty of all the pity-parties we fall into. The more you force yourself to kick them, the easier it becomes. I promise. So that I don't sound condescending and like I have it all figured out, here's a disclaimer: I suck at life just as much as everyone else. I hope that somehow I'm getting better and less bitter. Thank you all for making me want to try harder to be better.

PPPS - I love that I've moved out of the 233 house and away from people who haven't learned how to be adults yet. I'm not talking about the termination of painting stupid pictures and frolicking in parks. That's stuff for all ages. Basically, 24 year olds just shouldn't have temper tantrums. I think that's something we can all get behind.

PPPPS - Happy Holidays. Coming soon: Recycling your holiday cards to help some kids and help the earth.

Good Lord, what just happened?


All The Words Are Gonna Bleed From Me And I Will Think No More

Posted by Lizzie on Tuesday, November 03, 2009
"Mishaps are like knives, that either serve us or cut us, as we grasp them by the blade or the handle." - James Russell Lowell

This is a positive little upper about blessings which rise from the ashes of what you had once fancied to be misfortunes.

Today I realized that there is absolutely no way I can get a 4.0 during this final semester of my life.

Back story: Why did I think I needed a 4.0?
- To prove to myself that I could work and get a 4.0 at the same time because apparently I'm not good enough for myself just the way I am
- To graduate with a 3.5 and be able to put Magna Cum Laude on my resume because I am absolutely TERRIFIED of not being able to find a job immediately after graduation

Back story: The rationality which I ignored.
- What a stupid low self-esteemed capricious goal which is susceptible to external factors of all sorts
- I'll get a job and Magna Cum Laude isn't that big of a deal. And even if I don't get a job and Magna Cum Laude actually is that big of a deal, I'm sure I can count that "misfortune" as a blessing also. Because then I'll grow some balls and leave the U.S. for a bit and flee to South America because there will have ceased to be anything "practical" to hold me back which I might have foolishly considered to be tempting.

Now I can't get a 4.0. So, I can stop killing myself for it. I can sleep, I can relax, I can half-ass everything and be content with Bs and maybe even a C or two.

I'm in love. I want to devote time to enjoying that.
I self-educate. I want to devote time to developing my understanding.
I have other things to deal with. I want to devote time to fixing them.

The blessing is that now I can do absolutely all of that.

Grades are just numbers. Paychecks are just numbers. It seems so simple to understand, but so difficult to accept.

And now that the unfortunate circumstances of having an awful professor has bestowed upon me this forced reality check, I can stop, reflect, appreciate, and move forward in the way that I should have been moving forward anyway.

Sometimes it's better when your tunnel caves in before you reach the light at the end of it because then you can dig yourself out of the rubble and stand on the top of that fucking tunnel rubble/rubbled tunnel and feel like you've conquered something more than just getting to the end.

What a stupid metaphor elaboration that was. I floor myself everyday.

Well, continuing to the end, I'm not going to tell you to always find the positive things when everything looks bleak and I'm not saying that this is going to be my mentality for everything from now on and maybe this entire appreciation is really just a defense mechanism for dealing with the fact that I have failed at my goal. However, if these kinds of feelings do happen upon you and all of a sudden you feel good instead of bad, embrace that. It doesn't matter why or for how long. The comprehensive point here is that there's absolutely nothing wrong with feeling awesome every once in awhile.


How To Become Number One In A Hot Party Show

Posted by Lizzie on Thursday, October 29, 2009
Ryan Repp is a good best friend to have because you can text him about pee and he doesn't mind.

For lack of time and topic, here's a quick little post about how we came up with our beloved URL.

Ryan and I were sitting around in the library trying to come up with something intriguing. Hipsters will talk all day about how they don't try. It's a lie. Everyone tries. Everyone tries very hard. Well, we tried for 10 minutes. But it was 10 minutes of very hard trying. (We're not hipsters by the way. I was just calling them out because they think they're the personification of awesome and that irritates me.)

"Push It" by Salt-n-Pepa is a motherfucking classic. Ed and Ashley disagree and considering that I respect their opinions way more than most people's, perhaps I should listen. I want to believe them, but I just can't. I love it way too much. But all tangents aside... on that day that Ryan and I were giving birth to this humble creative outlet, I just happened to be obsessed with it. And the lines

Yeah, you come here, gimme a kiss
Better make it fast or else I'm gonna get pissed

were ringing through my brain. "BetterMakeItFast" just seemed to fit with our vision (or at least that's how I fallaciously justified it because we don't really actually have a vision) and after testing several other options so as not to make a rash desision, we selected the best one. I told you, we really only tried for 10 minutes. It seemed unnecessary to waste more time than that on something as stupid as a URL.

We could have made it http://www.prematurequarterlifecrisis.blogspot.com but we didn't. I'm not sure why. We just didn't. Probably because it sounds lame as hell so I'm happy we didn't. I wish I could say that it was some planned and intentional thing, but it wasn't. What's more PQLC than not having a plan and coming up with something quick to fill the void?

I wish I could embed the video here but the people who run Universal Music Group are assholes and don't allow it. The only thing I can offer is the link: Push It (1988) - Salt-n-Pepa


Urban Farming

Posted by Billy on Monday, September 14, 2009 in , ,
Summer, throughout the history of civilization, has meant growth - at least, in the climates in which the word "Summer" can be said to apply at all. I'm not talking growth like the mantra of corporate culture - gross! I'm talking plants, yo.

Are you aware you can grow your own shit to eat? A shocking number of people aren't. It comes from the supermarket, and that's about as far as it goes. For how few nowadays eat meals for which they personally oversaw the cutting and cooking of the constituent fruits and vegetables, fewer still know what kind of a plant a pepper grows on, how to harvest a potato, or how to recognize delicious wild mint (I almost guarantee there's mint growing within a block of your house/apartment).

But how can we fix this, being the city slickers we are? Do we give up? People elsewhere in the world did not. Look at any high-rise in Spain, for instance. It's spotted with green fluff so perfectly, one almost wonders if it was designed that way. No, it's not part of the "green building" movement. Spaniards who had to make do with their limited space and take to vertical living simply refused to let that spoil their historical penchant for growing their own damn food. The lesson? Even if you live in an apartment, you can grow stuff to eat. Hell, even if you don't have a patio, there are still options (I hope you have a window).

The backyard of my beautiful Past-Boulevard home of 2 years is all brick. For this I hate the owner or whomever made that decision. The house down the street even has an all-concrete front yard, for "ease of maintainance" I'm sure. Eyesore yes, but also an egregious waste of land. So how did we get 15 pepper plants, a tomato, and 5 herbs growing outside? Built a planter out of wood. Found a discarded pot. Asked a bakery for its empty food-grade buckets. Saved and cut up our plastic liquor bottles. All you need is some containers. Got them? Good.
Next, get some holes in the bottom of that shit. If it's a pot, it should already have some. Home-build planters should be built with a little gap at the bottom. Otherwise, drill baby drill.

  • Put about an inch of gravel at the bottom. This helps it drain properly without clogging. You don't want a clogged planter.
  • Go to the nursery on Swineburne Street in South Oakland. Yes, we have a NURSERY (just like your parents used to drag you to) within walking distance. Fuck home depot. Get some potting soil, or find a recipe for it online and make your own using regular soil (which is cheaper or free). You'll also want compost, of which they have good stuff there. Bonus: I've started a worm composting bin in my basement recently, so I should have a ton of extra worm poop (the best fertilizer ever) by next season. Ask me!
  • Finally, you'll likely want some plants. I love doing peppers, but that's because I use an absurd amount of them in cooking. Them, tomatos, zucchini, broccoli, cucumbers, whatever. Don't get your hopes up about fruit, as most of it needs trees, but berries (though their bushes can take some time to cultivate) can be great in a small space - even indoors! Salads can be grown indoors, so save your outdoor space for the really outdoor plants like peps and maters.
  • Herbs are very forgiving. Grow them wherever the hell you want in whatever the hell you want.
  • Are you growing stuff indoors, or even out for that matter? Build a self-watering container. They're not hard, they're super healthy for the plant (draw its roots nice and deep), and you only have to put water in them like once a week. Just google it; there are recipes everywhere.

Do you actually have a yard, and are wondering why I'm spending all this time talking about container gardening? You lucky bastard. Mulch that shit and plant, plant, plant. You have no idea how much food you can squeeze out of a little space. Pick your favourite veggies and read up on them. Grow a bean teepee. Stick carrots and radishes in every little between-plants spot you can find. If it's a grassed lawn, tear it up. How often do you use that lawn, honestly? How often would you, instead, eat some food from it? If it's bad soil or filled with "weeds," just stamp them down and cover them with a hearty, overlapping layer of cardboard or cotton sheets or something that will decompose. If you're going to put in rabbit or worm poop, do it under this cardboard. Then, put regular mulchy stuff (shredded pine or whatever) overtop of that. You can plant in this by poking X-shapes with a trowel.

Other fun ways to better understand what you eat and drink:
  • Brewing your own beer (been doing this for years now and never had a bad batch, not even my first)
  • Incubating your own yogurt (a self-sustaining endeavour: milk + yogurt = more yogurt!)
  • Making your own jam and pickles, and other types of preserving
  • Baking your own (basic) bread - you may never buy bread again
  • Cheese!

Why should we want to do any of this stuff? All of this stuff is great practice for the apocalypse, when you'll have to do it for real. Why do you think I got so into it? Besides that, it really puts you in touch with nature, with your own body (through what you eat), and helps you to better understand the world around you.
In most cases, these things also save you money. Even if the potting soil seems really expensive at first, just stick with it (it should never need to be replaced - just put some worm or rabbit poop on it each season). Same goes for any other capital costs. Finally, you get to stick it to the sick, terrible American food industry by not buying their stuff. A great resource for why you should care about that bit is Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma. Highly recommend it.

Speaking of books, a great idea book for folks who want to do this kind of stuff in an urban environment is The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen. It's got some step-by-step guides, but it's strongest trait is its wealth of fantastic ideas - great for the urbanite who wants to grow her own food but doesn't think it's possible without two acres of land.

I hope that after reading this post, you feel you are out of excuses. I hope I have motivated you to at least give this a whack. I earnestly think that everyone, somewhere inside, has some urge to bring about their own food. This feeling is often, I feel, misinterpreted into the "bringing food to the table" idea. Though being able to earn money to feed yourself and your family is certainly not without merit, it's time to really bring some food to the table.


I Fucking Hate Summer

Posted by Lizzie on Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Steph's blog is up!

For some people, ok well most people, summer is all about the outdoors, sports and general recreation! Yeah cool! For you!
For other part albinos, like me, summer is literally hell. Heat waves, bikinis, and unfortunate sweat stains make it all but impossible for us to enjoy the summer! So here's what I do and what I'm telling my other summer-haters to do:
Step 1. Become a Vampire. I don't mean that literally, you twi-tards. What I mean is stay inside and sleep during the day. Unless you want to self-combust (or sparkle according to the literary genius of Stephanie Meyers) wait until the sun is setting to venture outside. That's when the summer heat is perfect, everything's cooling down and all the parties are about to start. Plus this means no weird tan lines or bubbling "The Fly"-like skin! Be warned, you do stick out at aforementioned parties more often than not since you basically become fluorescent in contrast with all the orange surrounding you.
Step 2. Get thee to an interneterry! I'm serious about this one (despite the Hamlet reference) because you can experience all the fun of summer virtually! Play "Lemonade Stand" online or watch viral videos of human walruses flopping around a Slip-n-Slide! Read about how many ways you can die from too much heat and rejoice in your reclusiveness! Better yet, Skype with your friends who are too far away to hang out! That way you have a semi-legit reason to hold off going out with your friends to that awesome outdoor concert at high noon, because you have some catching up to do with your buddy. (Really it's the a/c but they don't need to know that)
Step 3. Discover the joys of Comcast OnDemand. Listen. There is a reason you live in a city where almost all of your friends have OnDemand. It's because it's fucking sweet. All your favorite shows come on at night when you're out socializing but OnDemand is there for you making sure that while you hide in your 64 degree room to nurse your killer hangover you can get up to speed with some of the best summer shows, like "Rescue Me", "Psych", "Being Human" or my favorite, "Mad Men". This way you can stay up-to-date with your shows and have something to fill the void that is daytime.
So I guess what I'm trying to do here is say it's ok to hate the summer, it's ok to be a hermit crab because for some of us the summer just isn't our thing and honestly it's better if you don't try to drag us outside with you to, I don't know, live or something. People like me look, feel and act better in the fall where the weather is warm but because of the crisp, bitter wind it always feels like room temp. Autumn, where you can still wear summer dresses and get away with scarf accessories and not be considered a hipster!
(WARNING: TANGENT) Now, I know some of you summer-lovers are dreading September the way junkies dread detox but Steph Shamp is here to end this submission on a happy note. My happy note is this: Halloween. H-A-double L-O-W-double E-N spells Halloween bitches! This holiday, at least, should leave you appreciating the "great frosting" ("Thumbelina" reference, anyone?) as much as us summer haters do.


You Couldn't Give Me Enough Cash For This Clunker

Posted by Lizzie on Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mike's submission is series of photos he took of his Cadillac this summer! Absolutely beautiful.


Dear Hollywood: Please Stop Sucking

Posted by Lizzie on Saturday, August 22, 2009
Our next submission is from Aaron!

If you talk to me for more than 10 minutes (admittedly, this can sometimes be difficult, as I'm a bit of a weird duck), it becomes quite apparent that I am startlingly fond of movies. I would use the word love, but this word has also been applied to breakfast food and watching that barefoot homeless guy obstruct traffic and then flip off cars that honk at him, and thus it feels as though it cannot convey the full enjoyment I get from cinema. I'm far from an expert, the whole of my film education being a french film class in undergrad, in which I got a B- (though in fairness to me, I did have to write my papers in french), but I have viewed and enjoyed a great many movies in my 26 years. From Jackie Chan before he got U.S. fame, to La Marie Etait en Noir (for the language stickler, I know I'm missing the accents, I don't care), to any of a dozen awesome and insane explosion fests, to various and sundry horror films of varying quality (but not the Saw films, or Hostel, because if you want to scare someone, use some goddamn subtlety, instead of strapping someone to a precision engineered death machine, or cutting off toes), I have absorbed them in particularly sponge like fashion. So, I am usually looking forward to summer with a level of excitement that makes me squeal with noises most commonly associated with excited school children who have forgotten their ritalin. This summer, however, has felt more like Hollywood felt like I needed an extended 2 month disappointment-and-punch-in-the-dick-athon.

For several summers now, my face has been consistently rocked off so hard I've spent a week finding the damn thing. 2005 gave me Batman Begins, Madagascar, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, War of the Worlds (I consider it high praise for the movie that it made me forget how completely shit-flingingly out there Tom Cruise is at the time when he initially snapped and started peddling his crazy to anyone who would stand still), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (which I will say only that I greatly enjoyed it, as anyone who knows me knows I am overwhelmingly biased in favor of anything which Douglas Adams was in the least involved in), Madagascar, and even Fantastic Four (not brilliance, but it had fun moments).

2006 had Pirates of the Caribbean 2, Superman Returns (shut up, I liked it), Clerks II (which I found to be so good I almost completely forgot about nearly being run over on the southside by some jerk in an SUV, in a rare moment of me not jaywalking or otherwise daring the less than sane to run me down), Lady in the Water (again, I'm one of about 5 people who liked it, but it's my face being rocked off here) and myriad others which I've heard good things about, but haven't seen yet.

2007 had The Bourne Ultimatum (no other move has made as amazingly brutal use of Kali as a fighting art, and such utterly brilliant improvised weapons, and then there was actually a decent movie under all this Matt Damon death machine action), another Pirates of the Caribbean movie (not as good, but still awfully fun), and Harry Potter of the Order of the Phoenix.

Unfortunately, this was also a summer in which some atrocious piles came out. Spider-Man 3 landed during 2007, which I dearly hope Sam Raimi regrets, because there was a single redeeming moment in the entire film, Eddie Brock praying for God to kill Peter Parker. It was not enough to redeem the epic-fail otherwise contained in the film. Alvin and the Chipmunks and Transformers also came around at this time. This is to say nothing of whatever crap Uwe Boll may have been up to at this time (looking at his filmography, it doesn't seem anyone has trusted him with a summer release, in a glorious moment of uncharacteristic intelligence for Hollywood).

Summer 2008 landed. I had Iron Man to start it off, which immediately kicked my ass so hard it required medical intervention to remove the cheeks from around my ears. It had the Dark Knight, which proved that a comic book movie can succeed as an actual movie, not to mention gave everyone with a fear of clowns some of the most horrid nightmares imaginable. Wall-E was utterly fantastic, being cute, fun, and startlingly socially conscious, and poking some impressive fun at Bush the 2nd. Hancock came out of nowhere to surprise me, and be much better than I expected (I'm sorry, but the initial ad campaign felt like "we made a black superhero...and your very first image of him is in hobo clothes drinking liquor on a bench threatening children." Great work guys. But it did grow up as a film by the end, and I was quite happy with it. It had it's short comings, but all in all, I was blown away.

Summer 2009 came at last. Sadly, I can't count Watchmen in this, first for my overwhelming bias due to Alan Moore, and other obsessive reasons, but also that it wasn't in any way in the summer. That's really what screws it over. Because that alone could have made my summer. X-Men Origins: Wolverine had about 2 minutes total that made me not think of it as shiny crap, not to mention they took the cannon of Deadpool and completely trashed it. Star Trek was a notable exception, it was fucking brilliant, and JJ Abrams has once again made me the happiest girl in the world. I wasn't ever going within 50 feet of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. Poor Rhona Mitra, constantly getting attached to/stuck in shitty films with vampires (or just shitty films. I'm looking at you Doomsday). Terminator Salvation made me hate the series. So far, you have made an endless run of convergent and divergent paradoxes (some which cause each other) to the point that an attempt to make a timeline for the terminator series would require you to make several mobius strips have some sort of bizarre mutant mobius strip child which defies any and all forms of logic and reason, and would probably give most people tension headaches if they looked at it to intently. Angels and Demons...I can't throw it down the proverbial stairs, but neither was it as awesome as it should have been for the overwhelming pile of great actors they had. Up was almost the highlight of my summer (like I said, Star Trek), proving once again that Pixar can make anything awesome, fun, believable, just utterly wonderful. Then came Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I personally feel we should be allowed, as a people, a nation, a collective victim, if you will, to roll up newspapers and smack Michael Bay like a naughty puppy that just pissed on every single carpet we own. Did we learn nothing from Jar Jar Binks? Honestly, the highlight of the entire film was the college girl robot seduction machine that goes all scorpion attack on Shia LaBeouf. But this did not break my summer. Until GI Joe. Thank you, Stephen Sommers, for clubbing my youth to death with a rock. You took one of my favorite actors (Christopher Eccleston) and somehow on screen you brought him across in such a way that he seems like a complete tool. Not as a character, but as an actor and person. You paid so little attention to the actual production of the film you managed to have, in the middle of a chase scene involving soldiers in robotic ninja super suits chasing a humvee with a cowcatcher on the front throwing cars down the streets of paris, exchanging gun and missile fire, and all this is happening on the streets of paris, which have enough trouble accomodating a Renault, and there are people in the street waiting for a bus with completely no reaction. You made a super advanced jet fighter capable of running down missiles that go at mach 5, but to use the weapons, you basically had to yell "BANG BANG BANG" like a 7 year old playing army, and not only that, but you put it in a foreign language, just to make it sound even dumber.

So this is my open invitation to Hollywood to stop making substance-free "he blowed up real good!" summer films. Star Trek, Iron Man, Dark Knight. Lots of stuff blew up, and I still managed to care about the characters. We're paying you enough, get it right.


Forget Christmas in July, we want July at Christmas

Posted by Eli Horowitz on Friday, August 21, 2009
Let's start with the results of a totally unscientific poll that I conducted just now regarding the seasons:
  • "I am a summer person": 213,000
  • "I am a spring person": 10,900
  • "I am a winter person": 127,000
  • "I am a fall/autumn person": 23,660
(Source: Google)

Point being, if voluntary internet accounts are even close to representative, summer is a more popular season than every other season put together. So you have to ask: why? Well, in the words of our esteemed hostess, because "summer is crazy awesome in general." Insightful and succinct as always, but somewhat lacking in specifics, yes?

So, really: why? Allow me to present my theory: because summer, at least for those of us in the good ol' U.S. of A., is the season of independence and rebellion. Don't believe me? Ask Ashley, for whom "summer vacation first and foremost meant no school. What you did with your time instead of school, of course, was up to you." Even under the ostensibly watchful eye of camp counselors, babysitters, or other so-called authority figures, it was never hard to be, in the words of The National, a glowing young ruffian. But as high school and college and (guh) real life roll around, we start our long trudge up the corporate ladder, every rung removing us one step further from the adventurous and life-affirming freedom we feel is our summertime right. I guess for some people this journey isn't so bad: it's fulfilling enough to collect closets full of pastel-colored button-up dress shirts. But I suspect that that kind of person won't be reading this blog, so let me address the rest of you.

You want autonomy, the power to determine your own course (if not through life, at least through the day). That requires time. But you also have a strong sense of your own value, which means a life of easy freedoms will do more harm than good: it ain't hard to find the kind of part-time work that'll have you just scraping by, but who would want that life? So the kind of freedom you want requires both time and money, and quite possibly also a real job with real responsibility. But jobs, as we've learned from "Office Space" on, are the great freedom-slayers, malevolent, soul-crushing monstrosities that sustain our collective existence at the low, low cost of our individual lives. Which, then, do you give up? Do you sacrifice your potential to lead a life of relative liberty, or do you make the most of your adulthood and abandon your childhood?

The correct answer, obviously, is neither; the hard part is figuring out how. Here are some tricks that I've used to help allay the creeping unease that comes with a desk job in the suburbs, designed to work in all seasons*:
  • Ignore posted closing times. Parks, trails, buildings, swimming pools, concert venues, outdoor ice rinks - all of these and more are only really closed when somebody kicks you out. You never know just what you'll find when you aren't being shepherded around.
  • Make something. Whether it be practical or just cool, the experience of building something will leave you with (a) an item you didn't have before and (b) the knowledge of how to make an item that you didn't know how to make before. Who knows, you might even learn something.
  • Lie for fun. People, surprisingly, are really credulous. If you're clever enough, you can get them to believe almost anything. My personal favorite is to tell people that "vacuum" is spelled that way because, when they first made up the word, they thought it was an element - y'know, as in "vack-you-um." You'll need some imagination, a good poker face, and a flagrant disregard for basic ethics, but it's a hell of a lot of fun when it works.
  • Work on a non-work project at work. Learn magic tricks, write a novella, paint a mural on your sneakers, make a floor plan of your bedroom that's in accordance with feng shui principles - just do something not related to your job, with a defined endpoint, that you want to do but can never make yourself do in your free time. You're gonna waste the time anyway, you might as well put it to good use.
  • Take a nap.
  • Walk down the street and make eye contact with every single person you pass. Do your best not to be the one who looks away first - it takes some getting used to.
This list is only partial, of course, and you should feel free to use or tweak or add to or disregard any of the items thereon. But what you must remember is that the teenagers and twenty-somethings who couldn't fence you in as a kid are the same dull-eyed careerists who you think are in your way now. What's changed isn't anything fundamental to who you are - you're no less strong or creative or brave now than you were then, you're only taller and richer! The change is in how you've been taught to see the world: the teachers whose classes you dozed through are now the bosses in whose meetings you feel compelled to look attentive; your parents, whose rules you challenged at every step, have now been replaced by a million capital-lettered sans-serif signs that you obey without even thinking; and summer, rather than being the perfect opportunity to experiment, is a desperate rush to have all the fun you think you can't have in the other nine months.

Friends, I tell you that the solution is not to reclaim summer: one quarter of the year would be a paltry reward for any of us. The solution is to reclaim your life, all twelve months of it. Those bleak, imposing slabs you see all around you aren't walls, and they never were. They're dominoes, just waiting for the first push.

*Please note, though, that some or all of these may actually be illegal. In the case that any of these tricks might put you in legal jeopardy, I of course do not officially recommend it.


Something to Believe

Posted by Lizzie on Friday, August 21, 2009
Ashley contributed too! And the blogs just keep rolling in. :)

One of the unfortunate truths of reality is that, as long as we are alive, we are growing up. When you're young, this doesn't seem all that bad. Turning another year older means that perhaps you can ride your bike past the corner stop sign, you can spend your allowance on penny candy, and you can go to that pool party with that girl or boy you have a crush on. It could mean going out and getting a job and being able to pay for things without your parents input, getting your license and driving around just because it's something to do, going out and experiencing your first bit of real freedom. As you get older, though, growing up means more responsibilities, more bills, and more troubles of sizes you didn't imagine when you were five. Even worse, growing up means the end of something that you valued so dear, perhaps more than life itself: summer vacation.

As kids, summer vacation first and foremost meant no school. What you did with your time instead of school, of course, was up to you (and your parents, who were probably paying for it). Sleepaway camp, day camp, summer sports, summer school (blech), and visits to far away lands (such as the playground, the park, and maybe even the ice cream parlor) were all grand staples of life. For those of us with a great deal of both energy and imagination, running around outside could be just the ticket to boarding a train to the magical. Some of us were lucky enough to seek solace in the air conditioning; others braved the heat of a thousand suns. Whatever the case, everybody got the same thing: a break from the monotony.

People often lie about how great being in your 20s is, and one of the things they fail to tell you is how incredibly lousy summer can be. Rather than taking a break from the ordinary, you mow on with your daily business, trudging off to work, hoping you don't get stuck in the same traffic you're always stuck in, because your AC isn't working and you're going to sweat through your suit. You hop on a crowded bus in 100% humidity and make your way to every shop downtown, praying that someone will hire you. You tuck yourself behind your desk and calculate how many vacations days you have left and whether you can afford to go to the beach with your boyfriend or if you need to save them for your sister's birthday. And, if you do end up with the luxury of enjoying free time during the summer, it's probably because you're unemployed, and the rest of your friends are all too busy working to enjoy the days with you.

Knowing this, and realizing just what we've lost, why should we, the generation of the quarter life crisis, believe in the magic of summer?

Close your eyes. No really, once you finish reading this paragraph, close them. As they're closed, think about how many people you see in a day. Think about how well you know those people. Think about how many of those people are new to you, hold a new promise that you have yet to discover. Afterward, think about how many of those people you'll see six months from now. Think about how many people period you'll see six months from now. Finally, think about how many people you would've seen had you been ten years old. When you're done with that, continue reading.

I'm not a mind reader, but I'm going to guess that currently, you see a fair amount of people each day (assuming you leave the how) that you don't know, and, unless you're living with or near them, not as many people that you know. Six months from now, when it's cold and rainy/snowy/whatever Pittsburgh decides to be, those strangers that you saw will all but disappear. You may still see your friends, you may not; it depends on how busy they are and how able they are to get around in inclimate weather. As a child, however, you probably saw a lot of people. Every activity was a chance to meet new people. At the very least, you could hang out with a friend down the street and see them as much as you wanted to. Even if you were stuck alone, you had the promise of school to bring you back together. That promise doesn't exist anymore. This isn't grade school, we aren't all in the same home room, and I may never see you again.

At a time where confusion and uncertainly makes us lonely and scared, we have to remember the power that summer still has over us. The weather alone means exposure to the world and safety from a place that could literally kill us with an icicle. It means going out to bars after work and walking home because it's just that beautiful outside. It means playing football or kickball or baseball with friends because real life sucks and acting like you're a kid again keeps you connected to your youth. It's not the same as before, but it's the one time of year where you can remember where you came from and exploit it for all it's worth. The other three seasons just bring rain and seasonal depression.

Things may not be as awesome as they once were, but summer still happens, which means we still have a chance to do something about it. Take advantage of the extra long days. Walk through the woods on your day off. Throw your best friend into the pool. Dance to a bad pop song and make memories to it. Growing up sucks, but if you ain't dead yet, you still have a chance to make it glorious.


Messy Metaphors: From Space, Before Time, Epic Battles, The End

Posted by Lizzie on Friday, August 21, 2009
First in our series of summer related blogs from other people (because summer is nearly almost over and that's awful) is this contribution from Desiree! And it's WONDERFUL!

I watched The Universe on the History Channel (to referred to as H.C.) the other night. It was an episode concentrating first on time travel, and then redirecting the subject to anti-matter. I can't describe how it got from A to E, or the connection between the two made in the episode; i zoned out somewhere between B and D, thinking about how paradoxical time travel really is.

That, however, is not the point of this blog, the in-between. The subject I'm concerned with is anti-matter and its destructive relationship with its counterpart, matter.

Scientists, historians, pretentious genius' were called upon by the H.C. to explain this literally explosive, obliterating reaction. They postulate that, before Time began, before the Big Bang, anti-matter and particles of matter were all that made the universe. They were almost equal in proportion. Like an epic battle of yore (let's say, the Battle of 1066 when William the Conquerer defeated the saxons of england on Senlac Hill, six miles from Hastings. It was the definitive battle for the Norman's; it's also my favorite!), they met and, being complete opposites, negated each other. Matter won by a lone proton/electron/whatever (i'm no science major) and the stars (and later, we humans) were born! Huzzah!

SO: When anti-matter and matter come in contact with each other, they both are wiped from existence. Not even microscopic dust is left behind.

After exhaustively explaining the analogy/metaphor I am about to make, here it is:

This summer has been, to use a MUCH over-used phrase, a "rollercoaster." So much good and so much bad, all colliding inside of me. Like anti-matter and matter (remember, kids?), the awful, wrenching, heart-breaking feelings collided, explosively, with the wonderful, crazy, happiness of the last few months and left nothing behind. (I could also make a connection to The Neverending Story II, in which The Emptiness takes over Fantasia and makes things hollow, even stupid Bastien, but it wouldn't make as much sense). And that nothing, that apathy, was like self-actualization. I've reached self-actualization through an explosive collision of every emotion i can possibly, humanly expect to feel. And The Living Is Easy. Or as easy as one can expect for a sentient being....

Apathy is looked down upon as a vile thing one doesn't ever want to achieve on a regular basis. I remember, a long time ago, Liz and I longed to be rid of our apathy and feel like other people felt. We made a pact, a countdown, to Valentine's Day, on which we would destroy, totally, our apathetic ways and become fully realized human beings. And then I became twenty years old and craved and cried and begged for apathy to come back to me. I would have bought it gifts! Gave money! Done anything to feel (or NOT feel) its cold, empty embrace. And when it finally skulked back to me at 5am one July morning while i was sitting on the stoop, dragging at a cigarette, staring at the lightening sky, I realized Myself.

I stood apart from myself and looked at everything i've done, and planned to do, and wished for, and loved....and found something that I still can't figure out... A weird new sense of self; a sense that where i go, and what i say, and what i do, is meant and I'm going the right way. Sort of. There is always a detour or two. And bad traffic. And messy metaphors to explain things i could never normally explain.

Maslow defined self-actualization, basically, as the realization of one's full potential. I've realized. And with realization comes a responsibility to get what i want.

World, watch out.... I am going to walk all over you.

(ps. self-actualization is exhausting)


Things That I'm Obsessed With: Non-Fiction Edition

Posted by Lizzie on Tuesday, August 18, 2009
One summer, during the disaffected teen era of my life, I felt an overwhelming desire to get out of my small hometown as soon as humanly possible and not come back until school resumed. However, being that I was a minor and consistently spent all my money on CDs, leaving wasn't an option.

Regardless of the fact that my wanderlust couldn't be satisfied, the urge remained.

So, I found a healthy outlet in reading as much of the local library's non-fiction section as I could.

It opened up realms of possibility for my bored and unsatisfied mind. And the unbearable need to leave became a little more bearable.

And the most apparent benefit was that AP Bio was so much easier than it should have been.

However, as the years have progressed, this healthy habit has turned the corner into unhealthy obsession. Now I'm the kid that wanders through the non-fiction stacks, finds a topic of interest, gets out four books on the subject, and reads them in a week.

Granted, during any given "normal" week, I'm usually healthily reading up on only one or two subjects from the non-fiction section and taking my time to complete them.

But every once in awhile, a day like today happens where I absolutely MUST leave whatever physical place I may be, but lack the means/time to do so. And so, instead of throwing away all my savings on a solitary Latin American vacation or moving to Oregon to live in the woods, I head straight for the library to make the feeling go away.

Why I need to leave may be attributed to any number of predicaments or sentiments, however, wanderlust is always the initiator. This time it was followed by life dissatisfaction/frustration (which is almost always somewhere in the mix), summer ending (this season is always involved in some capacity), jarring realizations (the kind you want to run away from because they lack solutions), and whores (that's a semi-new one).

As a result, I went directly to the library and up the two half-flights of stairs to the QB/QC section which is astronomy, astrophysics, quantum physics, and the like. I grabbed four books with compelling titles and will soon be underway.

Astronomy/Physics is my most commonly selected subject and so I know these aisles by heart. Stars do crazy things to my head. And the physics behind everything never ceases to BLOW MY MIND. So, during the worst of these crises, there's a 94% chance that these are the things I'm reading. And the awful thing is that I've read so much on the subject that usually only about half of what I'm reading is new material. However, it's so worth the time spent because that new material is ceaselessly extraordinary.

Aside from all that personal garbage which likely doesn't apply to you on any level, there are universal reasons why non-fiction may be beneficial to your life.

You learn something new and can share this knowledge with other people who may be interested. And subsequently, you become way more interesting to some people and broaden your group of friends. And non-fiction books come in every subject imaginable so whatever you want to read about, there is a book to satisfy your craving. It's not just dry science! Journals, biographies, historical accounts, travel-related things, some essays, memoirs, etc. are all considered non-fiction. Also, the more you know, the more you can get away with in the academic arena. Using outside knowledge can boost paper and exam scores like none other. I know from personal experience. Reading different types of things also gives you the ability to think in different kinds of ways, so grasping a difficult concept in a class or work environment can sometimes be much easier if you can compare it to something else or think differently about it. And if you need to bullshit your way through something, it's so much easier if you're in tip-top mental shape and can source all kinds of information to get your bullshitted point across in a way that makes it sound legitimate.

In short, there are no downsides to self-education. Minus the fact that sometimes non-fiction can be slower and more bland than fiction generally is. Let me emphasize the "generally" part (Can we toast to how awful anything written by Nathaniel Hawthorne is?). If you're worried about being bored to death, make sure you start out with something that interests you more than most things. If it's still bad, browse the aisle again until you find something on the subject that was intended for light reading until you get into the swing of things. Before you know it, you'll be on your way to becoming a treasure trove of useless information.

If reading just really isn't your thing, I recommend these television networks which can be obtained through most cable/satellite providers:
- Discovery... and all the affiliated Discovery channels (TLC, Animal Planet, The Science Channel, The Travel Channel, Discovery Health, etc.)
- National Geographic
- BBC affiliated channels
- The History Channel
- Biography

And if you only have a digital converter box, there's always PBS.

Speaking of educational television, it's relevant to point out that I'm also obsessed with Blue Planet, Planet Earth, and The Universe. And you can buy Blue Planet/Planet Earth TOGETHER (http://www.amazon.com/Planet-Earth-Blue-Special-Collectors/dp/B000TEUSQ8/ref=pd_cp_d_3). I would kill for that in HD.


Little Boxes, Little Boxes, Little Boxes Made Of Ticky Tacky

Posted by Lizzie on Saturday, August 15, 2009
That's how I feel whenever I fly into any city. No cities I've been to are nearly as bad in this capacity as Atlanta though. But this is a story for another time.

Moving on, life is entirely ironic most of the time.

As i strolled through the Philadelphia airport on my way to claim some baggage, I read an ad about how most people will read the entire ad in an airport instead of just briefly glancing at it and how you should advertise in the airport for this reason. It was advertising advertising, basically.

However, the irony is (I told you this was going to be ironic) is that it's probably the only airport ad I've ever read in its entirety for whatever reason. Maybe the people that are advertising for advertising are just so good at advertising that their ad is better than all the others.

Oh, yeah. And now they advertise on the baggage carousel apparently. And I have to admit that it's a damn good idea because it's wicked effective.

I know know more about Overstock.com than I ever cared to because I've seen the ad come around 20 or so times.


Like Faceless Shadows

Posted by Ryan R. on Sunday, August 02, 2009
I apologize for my absence lately, but Summer can become crazy sometimes. I've spent a lot of time on the road over the course of this weekend, which has allowed me to congregate with my thoughts. One thing that I spent considerable time thinking about were friends, acquaintances and people who have passed through my life over the years. Which brings me to today's topic.

Every year, but more like every semester has brought new people into my life. Some have stayed in my life longer than that one semester but many have fallen into my memories as shadows of my past. What determines who gets forgotten? It could be that unless we have really made a connection, that I won't be making the effort to keep you in my life. I am by no means lazy, its just I don't want to be that guy that texts everybody just to check in. The time we spent next to each other in that History class were great, but do you really want to hear from me months after school has ended? Here is what determines who stays in my life and who doesn't.

I encounter a lot of people during the semester, which is probably do to my friendly personality, others would say flirtatious. Most of these people become class friends which leads to nothing more than having some people to goof around with in class and share what has happened over the weekend. Which is fine with me. We may not be the most compatible friends to hang with beyond class, but while we're in our seats, we are the best of friends.

The people who stay with me are the ones who have done lunch with me. Who have partied with me more than once and who I have made a strong connection with. I'm hoping, with the new semester quickly approaching, that I will meet more people like this and expand my network of friends.

It's hard to keep every single person you have ever met in your life. You sometimes have to choose and let some people go on their way. Maybe down the road our paths will cross again and that is a day to look forward to. Until that day however, be happy with the friends you have and enjoy the time you share.

Some food for thought. Until next time...


Ending At Every Moment But Never Ending Its Ending

Posted by Lizzie on Saturday, July 18, 2009
So... since neither Ryan nor I have succeeded in updating in OVER A MONTH (God, summer is just too precious to waste on a computer), I've decided to take a few minutes of idle time and blog about safe places. I'm also signing us up for something extravagant in the near future, so we'll see if anything pans out regarding that. I feel like we have no readers at this point due to inconsistency and these words are just echoes in an empty space on the outskirts of the internet galaxy, but that's probably what all blogs are about. To be honest, I really don't give a crap about what most other people have to say. And really, I expect the feelings are returned.


There's something comforting about knowing that despite your major differences with your parents, they'll still drive 10 hours in the middle of the night/early morning to save you from an emergency and make sure you're ok like my dad did today. And buy you the ice cream cups that come with little wooden spoons to make you feel better after taking me to the ER like my mom did.

And even though I can't go out when the sun's in the sky because of the medication I'm rocking for the next week, it kind of doesn't matter. Because there's nothing more soothing than walking out on to your porch, which is half-eaten by your mom's hostas which are overgrown but in a neat way, when the sun is setting... to eat a little ice cream cup with your puppy who's lonely because both of her brothers died and she's the only dog in the house now. And then walk barefeet with your puppy around your huge front yard to the huge side yard to the huge backyard to the gravely driveway and back to the front. As the sun is setting over the WNY hills. And all you can hear are noises that come from the woods. And all you can see are the woods and the sky and the little apple tree. Minus a few little houses and a tarred and chipped back road. And I'm really bad at describing things, but trust me, it's bliss. And it's safe.

And joking around with my brother is safe. And talking on the phone with my sister is safe. And hearing my mom tell stories about her kindergarteners at school is safe. And showing my dad the videos on YouTube that absolutely everybody has seen at this point except for him is safe. And my bedroom on the corner with the three windows that overlook the backyard/woods and the hill across the mini-valley is the safest place of all.

And the laundry chute in our house is literally right outside my bedroom door. And I used to HATE the fact that every time someone opened it, I would hear the creak, and then the slam as they closed it. But today, I walked past the laundry chute and thought to myself, "Oh, what a novelty a laundry chute is. I miss throwing my clothes in it. I almost forgot all about this." And so I opened it up and stuck my head down in the hole like we used to do when we were kids and the wood that it's made of smelled exactly like it always had. And sticking my head in the hole felt exactly like it always had. And then I stood in front of it and opened it and closed it and opened it and closed it for probably almost two minutes just so I could hear the sounds that I always used to hear. And I realized how much we really are fortunate if we're able to love the home and place that we grew up in and under circumstances similar to these, I'm really surprised that anyone would ever leave permanently. Especially when the safe place is a lush expanse of nothingness in the middle of July when the sun is setting. But damn, adventure calls sometimes. I'm a proponent of the "leave then come back then leave then come back" method.

Because in all honestly, could I move back in with my parents and be content for an extended period of time? No, definitely not. We all move on from some things. But if I had the money, I would buy this house in a heartbeat and raise my kids on these meager two acres in the hopes that they might have the chance to love the safe place as much as I do.

In the last couple years, I've been reading a lot of Latin American fiction in the "magical realism" genre. Right now, I'm powering through 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And there's a lot of pain in that book and a lot of life in that book and a lot of love in that book and a lot of magic in that book. And that's kind of the same feeling I get when I'm here, when the sun's setting, in the middle of July, with ice cream and my puppy. There are so many sad things associated with this place and my old life but it was real life, the kind where perfect situations are few and far between and things either work out or they don't. And despite the sad that I still carry around from those days regarding almost everything under the sun, it can never be said that there was ever a situation lacking in love. And the feeling of walking around on evenings like this is sheer magic. Like you actually could meet the dead people you love under a tree and talk with them or take off into the sky, flying in bedsheets, or have some crazy passionate unfettered love affair or love something/someone enough that in the end, whatever it is, actually does work out the way you want it to. Oh, and reach for the stars and partake in the things that are entirely asinine to everybody else. Like crazy aimless expeditions into the jungle and such. Metaphorically speaking. Or not. Depending on what your definition of absurd might be. Create your own safe place by wasting your time in the way that's most beautiful to you.

And while I sit here and foolishly ponder these things about life, which is something I indulge in more frequently than is probably psychologically healthy (but like I said, do what you want), my puppy, who's lonely and exceptionally clingy because her brothers have died, is on my floor, next to my bed, sleeping and snoring her little puppy snores and the light is dusky and it's perfect. And sad. And life. And love. And magic.

OMFG, I think I'm the sappiest kid alive right now. Blame the Prednisone. It seriously makes you weepy. I'm an emotional roller coaster of tears and hyperactivity. You have no idea how long I can go on about what my sister and I have deemed "the waiting place," i.e. the old family farm where we pseudo-grew up in the early early summers of our lives and where all the cousins seem to spend their post-adolescent/pre-"real life" time. I'd blog about that next, but the schmaltz would wear you out. You, dear reader, need a break. I know.

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."



Posted by Lizzie on Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Things I forgot to mention:

Sometimes you backslide.

Sometimes you feel great one day then really shitty the next.

Sometimes your feigned happiness can't override the process of sadness turning into anger.

But hang in there, because if you keep at it, you'll return to normalcy and eventually gain everything back x10. Or at least feel like it because you appreciate everything you have 10x more. And the lessons you learn are immeasurable in value.


One Test Is Worth A Thousand Expert Opinions

Posted by Lizzie on Wednesday, June 17, 2009
"I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection." - Thomas Paine

It's hard to lose almost absolutely everything at once and still have people who need you.

You have to deal with your own shit, make sure you're still functioning enough to take care of your primary obligations, and be happy enough to share the happy with the people who are unhappy.

Fake it 'til you make it.

That's some of the best advice I've ever gotten from anybody.

There's this kid I know. I don't see him much and when I do, it's always random. But he always leaves me with something that I end up carrying around with me for the rest of my life.

The previous advice is an example.

All tangents aside, my formula for situations such as these revolves around just that.

Psychologists call it repression, I call it forcing the happiness.

In my opinion, life is too short to dwell on the things that you cannot change or to focus on the fact that you've failed in some capacity or someone else has failed you.

I mean, obviously dwell on things enough to gather some kind of lesson from them, but don't let it beat you down.

And sometimes it's hard to be the brave little toaster that you want to be so you just gotta pretend that you are until you become what you want to be.

And ideally, you would have other people to help you out so you didn't have to try so hard to fake it, but sometimes you just don't. Sometimes you have no one else so you have to go it alone and that is a reality that everyone comes to terms with at one point or another.

And it's difficult. And we all fail at this. We all have to feel on some level. And feeling is not bad in and of itself. It's good to feel. You NEED to feel. But it's how much negativity you let yourself feel as a result of that initial (pure, if you will) feeling that's the problem.

On Thursday/Friday, my life fell to shit with all 4 present areas of sadness peaking in severity within those 24 hours.

And despite my best efforts, I absolutely could not force the happy. And I cried for three days straight. But I woke up today with the resolve that I'd done my crying, I'd dealt with all aspects of all the issues, and I'm ready to rise to the challenge of being brave and facing life and feigning happiness until I achieve it.

And so far, it hasn't been that bad.

Acceptance is sometimes the most comforting state you could ever hope to be in.

And there is no way to force the happy until you're able to appreciate the happiness that actually exists. Like football with friends and a late night roadtrip to Sonic with a car full of boys.

So, my basic comprehensive point is that you gotta pull yourself out of the teary phase and pick yourself up because once you acquire the resolve to do it, you'll have the opportunity to experience the happiness that still does exist and the act of being happy will be less demanding. You'll reach the happy state once again with ease.

The happiness you experience reinforces the happiness you're trying to fake until they're one in the same.

Appreciate each moment.

And sometimes the fact that other people need you to pull yourself out of it can be the most motivating reason of all.

Finally, (and you're probably sick of reading this kind of thing because I think I bring it up in almost all blogs at some point or another, BUT) if you see someone else who's failing and can't make it out of the teary phase, help them pick themselves up. Because sometimes things are so bad that you just absolutely can't do it alone no matter how badly you want to. Be there for each other. Think about how badly it sucks to feel like they do and go above and beyond to ensure that no one has to feel that way ever.


Yes, There's Love If You Want It

Posted by Lizzie on Saturday, June 13, 2009
When I was finished, she put a wrinkled ten-dollar bill on the counter by my plate.
It was the kind of "here" your mother or your big sister or your great-aunt or your grandmother would have said. It was the kind of "here" that let you know this was hard-earned money but, also, that you needed it more than she did, and the kind of "here" that said she wished you had it and didn't have to borrow it from her, but since you did not have it, and she did, then "here" it was, with a kind of love.

- A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest Gaines


The Ladder, The Abyss and Girls

Posted by Ryan R. on Thursday, June 11, 2009
I recently came across an interesting article on wikipedia, The Ladder Theory. This theory tries to explain how women perceive men based on first impressions. I am not going to evaluate the Wiki article anymore because it has been broken down pretty well already. This theory does not apply to all women, but the guys reading this right now can relate. Enjoy the interesting read and leave your comments if you want. If you don't want to read it, I can sum it for you.

Women are Crazy!

March on my toy soldiers! See ya next time!


Je T'Aimerais Toujours

Posted by Lizzie on Wednesday, June 10, 2009
There are next to no resources on the internet related to learning Khmer. WTF? The internet is supposed to have everything.

I guess I have to learn French instead.

It intrigues me more than it used to.

Always pursue the things that you're the worst at. They're more rewarding, I think.

Did you ever let your lover see
The stranger in yourself?


We're Talking One Hit. That Left No Mark.

Posted by Lizzie on Thursday, June 04, 2009
I've known way too many people who have been abused in the past. And you'd think that, based on statistical chance, I'd have met my quota for the amount of people I know who have suffered some kind of domestic abuse. But the cases just keep coming, so at this point, who knows.

Because of this exposure, my initial reaction is that hitting is never ok in any circumstance and should a person ever hit you, the best plan of action is to terminate that relationship at all costs. But my actions contradict my beliefs.

The two most significant times I've been hit by someone else (which is absolutely nothing compared to a lot of people, so don't think that I'm playing pity party here by using these as examples. That's not my intention. They're merely a way to initiate gray area thinking and serve as reference points for my conclusion):
- My mom smacked me pretty hard in the face when we were fighting about something when I was around 15 or so. My face wasn't visibly damaged aside from redness. And she said she'd never do it again. My mom's not that great of a person, but she held true to her promise.
- My friend, who was nasty fucked up on drugs at the time, slammed me against a chair and bruised my back enough that I had to fake sick and miss four days of school. We were talking about his drug problem. I was 16, he was 17. He felt horrible and never did it again. I survived, he left a few months later for other reasons. His dad was not a good guy and his mom was killed by a drunk driver a year or two earlier. So he had a history of being abused and his mom was dead. And that's why he did drugs. And nobody really cared enough to help him not do drugs. And the few of us who did were powerless to do anything.

In short, I forgave both of them.

Sometimes situations arise that fall into gray areas and I don't know what's ok and what's not ok.

So, here is the question that I presented to a group of people with diverse backgrounds and life perspectives, the common factor being that I greatly respect each of their opinions. Some have been abused, some probably don't even explicitly know of anyone that's been abused. But most have probably been hit by a person at one time or another. I imagine that we've all been hit by a person at one time or another.


Do you think it's possible for a person to hit a spouse/significant other/son/daughter and not really mean it and never do it again?


"No. No one should be hitting anyone. Ever. Maybe a spank for a child but that's it."

"No way. It would definitely happen again. It would be in the person's nature."

"Yes, if they are remoreseful enough."

"My dad never went all the way to beat the shit out of my mom or anything but every time he hit her, he always said he'd never do it again. So, no."

"Once isn't really a telling precedent for possible future hits. But twice is."

"Most often when someone hits another person they mean it at some level. People hit others out of anger or frustration, it is typically a physical expression of an intensely emotional response. They may not "mean" to do it in that is was spontaneous rather than premeditated. Like many other responses, hitting is often a learned response (from a behavioral perspective) in that there is usually a negative reinforcement paradigm attached (e.g. I hit you, you get out of my face, and my frustration temporarily goes away). Sometimes, there can also be a positive reinforcement paradigm attached as well (e.g. bullying you increases my sense of power).

On the other hand, people can learn more constructive, less violent, responses to frustration and anger. A good beginning is to learn behavior replacement strategies where a person learns to respond to anger and frustration by replacing hitting with behaviors that are non-violent and "incompatible" with hitting (e.g. you can't hit and walk away at the same time).

In addition, this behavior replacement strategy can be aided by cognitive reframing, where a person learns to "rethink" the cause of their anger and frustration, and thus reduces the emotional intensity of their emotional response, which in turn acts as a mediating variable that enhances the probability that the replacement behavior will be chosen rather than the "hitting" behavior.

Cognitive reframing may provide a neurological advantage as well. The initial sympathetic nervous system response to frustration and anger is quick but less intense that the "full" emotional response that occurs with the hormone release (e.g. adrenaline) that supports the intensity of the "fight or flight" response. There is a brief delay between the sympathetic and hormonal responses. Cognitive reframing (e.g. the type used in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)) may assist in reducing (or perhaps even eliminating) the hormonal support of the emotional response which in turn reduces the prolonged (and sometimes increased) intensity of the behavioral reaction."

(My dad's a school psych professor. Always so scientific. You can imagine why I felt like I had to go it alone when it came to figuring things out as as kid. As informative as that was, it's almost 100% useless to me in my quest. But I proceeded to ask more questions to try and get an answer that fit my needs. The following conversation is the continuation.)

Liz: So, I don't get what that means in terms of whether they're likely to hit a person again. Without the whole cognitive reframing business. Like if they just did it as a quick response to something that wasn't really entirely emotion and it's not something they're prone to doing. Is it likely that they'd start hitting the person regularly?
Dad: If it was an uncharacteristic hitting response, it is less likely that it will occur again. In this situation the "habit strength" of the response is weak and as such it is more likely that the person will not hit in a similar situation. However, I would be curious to know what the elements were in the situation that led to hitting, and to help that person understand what led to this uncharacteristic response. This would help make sure that person can recognize a situation where they might be vulnerable to hitting, and take steps to avoid the potential to hit.
Liz: Well, I'm not sure what the exact details were, but is it possible for a situation to exist when someone hits you and and you don't cut them out of your life? Like is hitting always that big of a deal? I mean, it's a pretty big deal even if it was only one hit, but is it possible for the person to actually not hit again if they say they won't? Or should you always distrust them because they said they didn't think they'd ever hit someone in the first place but they ended up hitting you anyway? I mean, Mom definitely smacked me hard in the face once and we still associate with one another. Like I'm still her kid and she's still my mom and for the most part, I forget about it to the point that it's a non-issue. So maybe that's an example of when hitting isn't bad, but I'm not sure if there are others or where you draw the line. So I pretty much have no idea what to say to anyone that this happens to.
Dad: A single hit is generally not the end of the world; is often impulsive; and doesn't mean a relationship has to end. In my clinic days I worked with women and children who were physically abused. Abuse is a serious thing, however, a hit is not abuse. The problem arises when the hits occur frequently and with serious violence.

An emotional response is more black and white because it's that person reacting inappropriately for the purpose of expressing what they're feeling. And since this is how they've chosen to express emotion, it's more likely that they'll use this method to express emotion in the future. What I'm trying to say is that it's less likely to be a one-time deal because they're not entirely removed from the decision-making in choosing to hit someone.

But my personal history of being hit involves two cases which were emotional responses, and I forgave both of the people involved with no long-term psychological damage and no future physical damage.

So, if it's possible to forgive a person's emotional response and suffer no future consequences, then in an entirely non-emotional response situation, is one hit ok to ignore?

I wish I had a better answer for anyone who's ever been hit by someone else. But I have nothing. Only more questions. More hypotheticals. The gray area exists ceaselessly.


Academia, We Hardly Knew Ye

Posted by Ryan R. on Friday, May 22, 2009
Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm back! Enter stage right.

This has been on my mind for roughly a week. At what point does College, the greatest time of you life [citation needed], become dull and drag? Well folks, I can tell you the answer to that question, it's when you go out and look at nice things you can't afford without a 75k+ job.

I'm going to be flying solo before the start of the fall semester and have been recently looking for places to live. The first place I looked at was a $1350 2br/2baths Industrial Loft. Not everyone is into these converted warehouse spaces, but I fell in love with this place. I cannot accurately describe it in words, you would have had to witness it first hand, but it was ME! Almost as soon as I left, I knew that there would be no way I could afford it and this got me thinking about my life...again.

Just wanting one thing, made me want to leave College right that moment and begin my life as a career man. Putting my hours in between 9-5 and coming home hating my boss. I want that! I want to be able to afford nice things and make them all mine.

College has its moments and it has been a fun ride, but I'm ready to get off Conductor. Let me loose to find my own way in the world. Through stumbles and struggles, I know my Industrial Loft and 5 speed Boat are out there waiting for me! Kidding about the boat part, who the hell wants a boat?!


I will, I won't. I do, I don't.

Posted by Lizzie on Tuesday, May 19, 2009
This morning I was looking into purchasing dinosaur sheets for my bed.

And then I went to look at a loft apartment with Ryan and I felt the desires to have a real job and be married to someone in 3 to 7 years explode inside of me.

I'm turning 22 in a month and two weeks or something like that.

This is the first birthday I'm actually really really ok with since I turned 17. The nostalgia of leaving 20, 19, 18, and 17 was especially traumatic. But I actually can't wait to be 22. I have no regrets about leaving 21. Not that it was bad, because I loved it. It's just that I'm ok with being 22. 22 is a nice number.

But when I turn 23, I know I'll just die. For no rational reason. I just don't want to be 23.

Conor knows: "So, I go back and forth forever. All my thoughts, they come in pairs."

Dinosaurs and settling down... How can I have both?

Why do I even want the settling down part? And so soon? THAT'S NOT EVEN ME.

Sometimes I hate this age.

Also, I wish I could talk about all the things of substance that actually matter in this blog. I'm exploding with actual real problems too. Mostly just caring about the real problems of other people. Why does it seem like everyone's going through complete shit right now? I love you guys.


Things That I'm Obsessed With: Machu Picchu Edition

Posted by Lizzie on Monday, May 04, 2009
Ardent curiosity and uncontrollable fondness for life experience are two of my defining characteristics. As such, I'm obsessed with a lot of things. There exists an infinitely long list of things I just can't get enough of. Sometimes it wears me out because there's not enough time to pursue everything, do everything, learn everything, etc. The only solution is immortality and that's actually kind of unappealing in my opinion. So the best I can do is indulge in little bits of surface preoccupation, try to keep my thoughts calm and my head from spinning, and subsequently pick up an eclectic mess of interests.

As some kind of twisted life validation, I would like to self-indulgently share my obsessions with anyone who happens upon this blog from time to time. Because absolutely NOTHING is more self-indulgent than a blog and thus it's the perfect outlet for said endeavor.

First up, Machu Picchu.

It nicely unites both my obsession with South America and my obsession with non-fiction. (It's in Peru and I got a book out of the library about it once)

Machu Picchu has it all. Prime real estate with an old skool flair. Established in the 1400s, it has Amazon rain forest proximity and sits on the eastern side of the Andes. Have you ever been to the Andes? MINDBLOWING. Really, I almost cry every time I think about them. (See also, http://sundrenchedelsewhere.blogspot.com/2008/06/death-in-andes.html) The Incas freakin knew what they were doing.

Oh, yeah. And holy isolation. I imagine if it wasn't swarming with tourists all the time, being there would make you feel like you were absolutely alone in the world. It's in a naturally ideal defensive location. Like crazy ideal. When you're on the top of a mountain, surrounded by treacherous Andes terrain, with two steep valleys on either side and a water source that's really really hard to cut off, consider yourself safe from almost all threats. And I'm telling you, the Incas are tricky and had their shit together. Not only were the terraces designed for growing food, but they make the slopes even MORE impassable to menaces of all kinds! I hope some day I can be a global dictator and make Machu Picchu my primary living venue for 6 months out of the year, a.k.a. my personal residence of natural peace. No one else can come. Well, it kind of belongs to the Peruvians so they can do what they want with it. I'll just chill out there and go about my business as unnoticed as possible. Just Peruvians and myself living in blissful tranquility. In the freakin sunshine. This is what I mean:

Click the picture to see it in a bigger size or Google "Machu Picchu panorama" for a worthwhile experience. You might die on the inside... in a good way. Look at the mountains in the background then look at Machu Picchu (the small bit on the rightish side of the photo), then be overwhelmed with the comprehension of how big and incredible those mountains are. You can't describe that in words.

I need to make a brief aside here and point out that the other half of the year I will be sharing Machu Picchu with the rest of the world. So obsessors like me can get their fix. You gotta give back to the community.

Ok, back to the content. I don't even know what to say about the stone structures that the Incas built there. Other than the fact that pictures of them make me stop breathing because they're so aesthetically alluring. Oh, speaking of breathing. Downside: altitude. If I live there, I might get the dizzies.

And if you haven't been convinced of its appeal yet, go read the theories about what purpose it actually served. It is likely too long of a discussion to get into here, but if you're interested, run to Wikipedia or some expert resource and investigate. The mystery of it is half the intrigue.

Long story short, Machu Picchu is quality. You know it's serious business when it's on the new official list of Seven Wonders of the World. (That means it's pretty wonderful)

Photo Sources:http://www.cry.org.uk/img/main/Machu_Picchu_Panorama.jpg, http://photoblog.pixinn.net/index.php?showimage=31

Speaking of the Incas and Cuzco (I think I forgot to mention that Machu Picchu is close to Cuzco), I'm also conveniently obsessed with The Emperor's New Groove. It may disguise itself as a stupid kid movie lacking in any reasonable value. Oh, no... no, no. It's so much more. You need to Netflix that shit ASAP.


Lost and Found

Posted by Lizzie on Thursday, April 30, 2009
People of the world, our guest blogger for April is Dan. Enjoy!

A lot of people say that “what goes around comes around”—that there is balance in this universe. I like to think that there’s some truth to this mentality. I’m not saying that turning the other cheek when somebody punches you in the face is always in your best interests [they might punch that one, too], but that there’s certainly something to be said for not “burning your bridges.” I would like to reflect upon this phenomenon in the material sense [Karma meets Capitalism. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Buddha].

Everyone can remember things of theirs which have been lost or stolen, of high or low (sentimental) value, but before you cry about it think of all the sweet things that you’ve found or been given! So you’ve just lost a few million in a Ponzi [Pansie] scheme, depending upon your current relation to the retribution/reward policy of the cosmos…tomorrow UPS could be delivering you a freakin’ talking unicorn that lays golden eggs, packaged in a crate made out of cheesecake [Wikipedia cheese polymers and matrices]. So how do we know where we stand in this cost/compensation equilibrium? Something you might want to know when crossing the street or picking out a hooker.
Don’t worry, I’ve devised a system:

Accessories and articles of clothing: ± 2

Food/drink: ± 1

Vehicles: ± 7

Money: ± 1 (.20 * $ amount)

Furniture, fixtures, equipment: ± 3

Miscellaneous: ± 1

Irreplaceable items: ± 5

Now let’s put it to the test…with my life. For simplicity, I’ll list anything applicable in the order of the above categories.

Accessories and articles of clothing
-2 = +2 -2 -2 Umbrellas
+2 = Green, Fidel Castro-esque hat
+2 = Black, Fender zipper hoodie (a zippie, a zoodie?)
+2 = White headband
-2 = SpongeBob t-shirt
-8 = -2(4) Luggage at Geauga Lake
+10 = +2(5) underestimate of the freebies you can get in Oakland

•Umbrellas pass like they’re batons in a relay race.
•Found the hat in Eddie’s, before it was consumed by the monster that is Market Central.
•I got out of my car. I came back to my car. There was a white headband on the passenger seat???
•Krista Novak stole my shirt.
•A thief stole my swimsuit at Geauga Lake when I was 8. He/she should have spit in my ice cream while he was at it.
•They might as well be shooting t-shirts out of cannons.

-9 = -1(9) people not having money when going out to dinner/use of meals to repay personal debt.
-9 = +1(3) -1 (12) bottles of liquor given to me versus bottles I have given
+30 = +1 (30) gross underestimate of the freebies you can get in Oakland

• “Oh thank you so much for helping me move out—I owe you dinner!”
•OK, so I’ve boozed a lot of people out, BUT somebody recently stole me a bottle of Bombay Sapphire and somebody else gave me a bottle of Absinthe!
•You don’t have to be an active participant in anything to receive cookies, pop, or pizza.

-7 = my orange bike
0 = -7 + 7 Buick Roadmaster

•Somebody stole my bike off my front porch when I was 10. Little did I know much I’d miss that thing when in college.
•My dad needed the car one day while I was swimming at the local pool. So without telling me, he walked there and drove off with it, leaving me with nothing but a towel and sandals.

-4.87 = -1(.20 *$24.37) my last paycheck at Café Sam, because I never wanted to walk in there again
0 = -1(.20 * $268) +1(.20 * $268) my wallet
+4 = +1(.20 * $20)

•I proceeded to work there the following summer.
•My dad thought it’d be funny to break into my car while playing basketball and steal my wallet.
•…and then I found twenty dollars.

Furniture, fixtures, equipment
+12=+3(4) # of rooms I’ve been able to furnish from old people dying
+3 = shower rack that I took from my last apartment which was already there when I arrived
-3 = Lobos Mgmt. disposing the grill on our back porch.

•They’ve gone to a better place (my apartment).
•After it was condemned, I actually went into the empty building to grab it. Then I compared it with other apartment’s racks and took the best one.
•Lobos management stole our grill because it was chained to the wrong side of our porch.

-1 = original Charizard Pokémon card, the one that did 100dmg
-1 = a basketball

•Stolen from my locker in the 5th grade. Enjoy it, you little bastard.
•Writing your name on it doesn’t always work.

Irreplaceable items
-5 = my Diablo II account
+10 = -5 +5 +5 virginity

•For real? Just for a Stone ring of Jordan? Some people have no common decency.
•You’ve only got one, but you can take as many as you please.

OK, so let’s tally up the scores. +4 +12 -7 -0.87 +12 -2 +5 = +23.13
Uh oh, I might be in trouble. Either I have a tendency to dwell on the positive aspects of my life, or my day of reckoning is soon to come. Whatever the case, you can bet that I’ll be living it up in the face of danger, jaywalking, and choosing Candy over Sandy.


4/21 Update

Posted by Lizzie on Monday, April 27, 2009

In case you're a loser like me and care about shit like how Polaroids work:

Instant film may seem like a simple product in the package, but it is actually carefully composed of layers of dyes, emulsions, and developers—everything needed to capture the image, develop the film, stop the developing process, and neutralize any unused chemicals.

It uses the same general principles as the roll of color negatives you put in a regular point-and-shoot camera. A standard color negative has three layers of silver bromide crystals, each sensitive to a particular color (blue, green, or red). When film is exposed, a latent image is formed in each silver bromide layer as light reduces Ag+ ions to Ag.

Instant film contains those same three light-sensitized layers, but below each layer is an oppositely colored hydroquinone-decorated dye. For example, below the blue-sensitive silver bromide layer sits yellow dye, where yellow is the opposite or the "negative" color to blue on the color wheel. Analogously, below the green-sensitive crystals lies magenta dye, and below the red crystals lies cyan dye.

The image is formed through a complex, inverse filtering process: The dyes from unexposed layers are allowed to pass up through to the image layer and combine at the surface. For example, if a blue area is exposed, then no yellow dye can pass through but magenta and cyan can, and the mixing of these two colors forms blue.

After exposure, the film is ejected from the camera, passing through a set of rollers that spread developing chemicals across its surface. One of these developing chemicals is potassium hydroxide, which diffuses downward and reacts with all the hydroquinone-decorated dyes. The resulting dye molecules can then diffuse up through the light-sensitive layers wherever their corresponding silver bromide molecules have not been exposed.

The process ends when the potassium hydroxide reaches the timing layer, in which any leftover base is neutralized. Unexposed silver bromide is then dissolved by other components in the developing solution, including potassium thiosulfate and uracil.

The whole ordeal is finished in a minute or so and—voilà—a photograph is born.

Source: http://pubs.acs.org/cen/science/87/8712sci2.html


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