Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What makes you happy? #11

There comes a moment on most vacations.  There's a summer storm -- it's warm enough that, at most, you need your lightest jacket, so getting wet doesn't actually bother you that much. The lightning is beautiful, especially if there's a body of water nearby.

Ideally, there's a spot.  A porch, a patio, a gazebo, a stable tent. An underhang of a roof will do; I made that work a few times as a kid, when the wind blew in the right direction. An enclosed sunroom will work in a pinch. The point is to be outdoors but covered, or indoors but exposed. You get some of the wind, but very little of the rain.

Grab that lightweight jacket I mentioned, and the doorstop of a book you brought along, and, depending on your circumstances, a cup of tea or a glass of lemonade or a bottle of beer.

Now, sit in your dry spot.  Enjoy the cool wind after a hot, humid day. Be soothed by the patter of the rain. And, just when things get dull, be thrilled by the beauty and far-off danger of the lightning, especially if it's over the ocean you are absolutely not in.

It just doesn't get much better than that.
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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What makes you happy? #10

Books (Photo credit: henry…)
This should come as very little surprise to anyone who knows me, or really anyone who's just stumbled across this blog one day.

What makes me happy? A giant stack of books.

Rearranging my to-read shelf, or finally placing a book I've finished on the more "permanent" shelf, or sneaking an old favorite back onto the to-read shelf for another go-round.

Removing books from my wish list after Christmas or my birthday, and thinking dreamily about what I'm going to spend that Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card on.

Tucking into that book I've been looking forward to reading. If I love it, reviewing the works-cited if it's nonfiction, searching for a sequel if it's fiction.

Pasting a return-address label into the front cover and lending it out, because seriously, you have to read this.

Escaping.  Learning.  Relating. Knowing.

The potentiality of a thousand worlds.  The safety of staying in bed.

The glossy covers.  The crisp pages.

Don't get me wrong.  I love e-books, library books, used books. But a new book... that's a category unto itself.

I can't wait to read them all. It can't be done in a lifetime.  Watch me try anyway.
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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Forbes: 3 Simple Ways to Discover Your Passion

Forbes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In July of 2012, Erika Andersen at Forbes wrote about how you have to make sure you don't just assume every interest is a passion, and how you can narrow down exactly what the passions are.
Let’s say, for instance, that someone who’s looking to make a career change really loves children. He not only loves spending time with his own kids, but he really enjoys being the parent when a bunch of kids get together: helping them have a great time while still keeping them reasonably in line. (This is the ‘hobby’ route.)  So he starts wondering if maybe he could run an after school program.  Or let’s take an employee situation: someone who’s the head of marketing for a small furniture company who thinks she might want to be the GM when the current GM retires. (This is ‘obvious thing’ route.)
First she says, gather information about what it is you want to do -- but also consider how those action steps make you feel. Is this research a chore, or does it pique more curiosity?

If it's the latter, then find people already doing what you want to do, and talk to them about doing that thing. Again, note your reactions as these people tell you about their lives.

Finally, if you're still into it, try it out on a limited basis -- volunteer work, or a side hustle. If that's not enough, then clearly, that's your passion.

I like this test a lot, but it sort of implies you have a notion of what your passion might be, going in.  If you don't, well, that's where we need to start, I suppose.

What do you think?
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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Birthday cards

English: A card handwritten with a black pen w...
English: A card handwritten with a black pen wishing the receiver a happy birthday lying on a table. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Why do we send birthday cards?

Well, let's be honest -- most of us don't. For most of us, a "Happy Birthday" on Facebook does the job.

Which explains,  in a way I am sincerely satisfied with, why I got over 60 "Happy Birthdays" on my wall, many from people I haven't heard from since my last birthday... but no cards in my mailbox.

You probably find this completely unremarkable.  This is probably exactly what happened to you on your last birthday.

Well, I don't necessarily check Facebook every single day, and therefore I don't do "Happy Birthdays" -- because how much would it suck if you were the only person I didn't wish well to this week?  Especially if we're close, while I barely talk to the others I said it to?  Everyone or no one is my policy, and I just can't pull off everyone.

(Exceptions would of course be made for members of my immediate family... usually.  Even then I'm more likely to call or text.)

So why do I send birthday cards?

Because I know how valuable it is to know someone is thinking of you.  It's something that has baffled Chris on more than one occasion -- how is it that a) I am an introvert, and thus need time away from people to recharge, but b) extended isolation has severely negative effects on my general well-being.
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself, 
(I am large, I contain multitudes.) 
I need -- on a physical level, I am not even exaggerating here -- to know that people care.  And there's this rule that gets thrown around:
Do to others whatever you would have done to you.
So, needing to know someone cares, I would send cards. Not to many people -- a select few whom I would otherwise join for dinner or treat to a drink, should we not be so far from each other geographically. Folks who would do the same for me. And their partners (and I usually sign Chris's name, though that does vary).

And this year, my mailbox was empty.

Sending a card is a grander gesture than it looks like.  You spend time reading tens of cards, looking for just the right one.  You spend way too much on it. You write out what you hope is a sufficiently heartfelt message (but not too heartfelt -- that would be weird). You toss on a stamp (maybe even making sure you have really cool stamps), and you drop it in the mailbox.  And then you feel anxious and guilty, because what if it doesn't make it on time? And you feel stupid, because they're just gonna throw it out anyway.

So I'm wondering if I should bother, going forward.

But that seems petty.  I'm not doing it as a sort of barter -- I send you one now, you send me one later.

Rather, it seems there are two possibilities, and either or both might be at play here, depending on the person:

A) This isn't your emotional currency. It genuinely doesn't mean much to you. You don't do it, because it doesn't mean anything, and you're just as happy not having it done for you, because it doesn't mean anything. In which case, I really shouldn't bother, for your sake as much as mine.

B) You legitimately don't care about me, or at least not as much as I care about you. That happens.  People grow apart. It's called life.  It stings, and we move on. But in this case, I really shouldn't bother, mostly for my own sake.

So I think I'm done with birthday cards, at least for the foreseeable future.

Besides, I have letters to write. They're even more behind the times, but I know the people who get them appreciate them.

They say so in their letters back.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What make you happy? #9

tea tin
tea tin (Photo credit: Mags)

A cup of strong tea when I'm not quite awake in the morning.

A cup of chamomile before bed.

Something fruity in the afternoon. Something floral after a meal.

Mint and/or ginger for indigestion.

Pulling down my tins of loose tea and mixing my own, of-the-moment blend. I go by smell.  It usually works.

A pot at the bookstore.  A paper cup while walking on a windy winter day.

Iced, lemon, one sugar, with meals.

What are you drinking?
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Monday, April 15, 2013

Meta: A Little Too Quiet...

For reasons I will explain later (and which some of you already know... probably most, actually, since my readership is largely real-life acquaintances), I am going to be away from the keyboard for the next couple weeks.  I'm trying to pre-write as much as possible (Heck, I wrote what you're reading now back on the 3rd...) so you won't get complete silence, but if I skip a couple days, don't worry.  Assume everything is great until I tell you otherwise.
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Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Review #15

High Line (New York City)
High Line (New York City) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My birthday was lovely, thank you for the kind wishes.

Last Friday, Chris and I went to our favorite tapas restaurant, Tia Pol. We walked along the High Line  on our way to the subway, and then came home... and fell asleep.

We woke up around midnight, popped a bottle of bubbly, Chris gave me the "something small to actually open" portion of my birthday present, and then we went back to bed.

Saturday morning was the big part of my present -- Chris made me an appointment with a personal shopper at Macys.  It was a lot of fun, I picked out some clothes I never would have otherwise considered, and  I spent a bit more than I planned... although the difference was almost entirely due to the dress Chris liked best, so I guess he's benefiting, too?

Saturday evening, we met up with friends. We got a great dinner at El Ay Si, then played a few amazing rounds of laser tag before cooling off at one of our favorite local bars.  I want to thank everyone who came out -- it was a great time!

Sunday was pretty relaxing, mostly notable because we did a double workout to burn off all the food from the night before (Chili cheese tater tots! Deep fried Oreos!). I did get a chunk of Chris's scarf done, though there's still a ways to go.  Oh, and I got really angry with eBay and PayPal, because their customer service was severely lacking. They were literally arguing with each other over whose fault my problem was, with me on the phone, instead of, I don't know, trying to fix it!

EBay sent me a customer satisfaction survey.  I suspect they'll regret that.

You know how, when you're on different company's mailing lists, they sometimes send you deals for your birthday?  Well, Rita's Water Ice sent me one... but there's only one Rita's in Manhattan, so after work Monday I trekked around town, obtaining some ices and delivering Chris's to his office.

Tuesday, I hosted book club.  It was a good time, but if I had known the weather was going to be so incredibly nice, I would have arranged to have it somewhere outdoors.

Thursday we did my birthday with my in-laws. It was really nice, and I came home with a giant stack of books.

I finished China Mieville's The Scar, and started reading Reporting At Wit's End, a collection of New Yorker stories by St.Clair McKelway.

How was your week?  Do anything interesting?
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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Fast Company: Fast Exercises To Find Your Purpose And Passion For Work

Meditation (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)
In September of 2012, Kaihan Krippendorff emphasized the importance of knowing your passion:
Finding your passion is an essential ingredient of winning armies, companies, and individuals. It is not a soft nice-to-have, but a strategic requisite.
How to do that?  He breaks it into three parts: Want It, Find It, Choose It.

Want It

This section is full of quotes, but what it comes down to is that flow is more important than prestige. 

Find It

This section is more in-depth, with 14 exercises we can talk about:

1. Build your portfolio

Don't just choose one passion, but build up several.  Maybe they can work together.

Well, that's nice, but I've read novels about knitting, and you have to invent a lot of non-knitting drama to make that work.

2. Write three lists

Those being: what you're good at, what you enjoy doing, and what gives you a sense of purpose.

Yeah, we've all struggled with those questions before, haven't we?

3. Recall flow states.

 Pretty self-explanatory, if you understand flow.

4. Explore the “four aims of life” 

I should just quote this whole section:
A Buddhist framework suggest there are four aims to life: (1) physical health and pleasure, (2) wealth and things and family, (3) becoming a perfect person, and (4) finding your greater purpose. Think of and write down three potential passions for each of these aims.
See, I can think of goals for all those things, but passions?  I just don't know...

5. Ask yourself

Meditation.  Not something I'm good at.  Next?

6. Create space

For "think time."  Yeah... "think time" doesn't tend to end well for me. Ask my husband how many times I've ended up really angry about something completely random by the time I'm done washing the dishes -- and it never has anything to do with the dishes!

 ...This could explain why I suck at meditation.

7. Write until you cry

Wow... this is like the "Guide to finding your passion and/or triggering a depressive episode", isn't it?

 ...I'm actually only half joking.

8. Envision your funeral

You know what?  I'm stopping here.  I'm not even doing the exercises as I review this article, and it's getting to me. I encourage you to check out the article if it sounds like something that might be helpful to you, but if you find yourself agreeing more with my snark than their tips, I think the article will just be aggravating.

 They can't all be winners, right?

 So, let's discuss this!  What very much does not help you find your passion?
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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hanlon's Razor

I've always heard this saying. I've heard it in various forms, and its been attributed to various people. Wikipedia calls it Hanlon's Razor:
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
I was thinking about this saying recently, and it's tougher than it looks at first sight.

After all, if you follow the advice, you assume people are good at heart -- they're not trying to screw you.  And that's a good attitude to have,

But at the same time, isn't it kind of insulting to their abilities? After all, assuming malice assumes a basic level of competence.

And isn't assuming your fellow human beings are at least minimally competent also a good attitude to have?

Tough one.

I have days when my attitude isn't good, and I either assume everyone is malicious and stupid, or else I assume that everyone is good-hearted and capable, and the universe just happens to be out to get me.

Neither of those is true, obviously.

So what do you think?
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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What makes you happy? #8

Stained glass, if done right, is where human creativity and ingenuity intersects with nature and/or the divine.

Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass, Carnegie ...
Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tiffany Glass
Tiffany Glass (Photo credit: Harpersbizarre)

Then again, well-done abstract stained glass doesn't really need to be any of that, so maybe I'm full of it.

Stained glass
Stained glass (Photo credit: -eko-)
Landscape with Waterfall - Tiffany Studios, ea...
Landscape with Waterfall - Tiffany Studios, early 1920s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love Tiffany, but I'm not really that picky.

Stained glass wooden panels. Creator: Louis Co...
Stained glass wooden panels. Creator: Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) of Tiffany's Studios around 1908-1912 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Stained Glass
Stained Glass (Photo credit: freefotouk)

And instead of elaborating, let me just throw up some pictures.

English: The Holy City, by Louis Comfort Tiffa...
English: The Holy City, by Louis Comfort Tiffany Stained glass window at Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, Maryland. The window honors 19 th century clergyman and writer Maltbie Davenport Babcock, pastor of Brown Memorial 1887–1900. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
stained glass window
stained glass window (Photo credit: Tomasz Tuszko)
Austrian stained glass
Austrian stained glass (Photo credit: ILOVENJ)
Detail of a Tiffany Window Willard Chapel
Detail of a Tiffany Window Willard Chapel (Photo credit: Katy Silberger)

Tiffany Glass Ceiling - P6120052.JPG
Tiffany Glass Ceiling - P6120052.JPG (Photo credit: Flickred!)

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Meta: Who the heck is Chris?

You know, I'm starting to get sick of writing "my husband" every time I refer to my husband -- especially since, as of this writing, most of you reading this have met, broken bread, drank whiskey, and/or traded jokes with him.

Chris and I started dating in January of 2003, and got married in September of 2009.

 If you haven't, for whatever reason, trust me -- he's awesome. So if you see me mention some guy named Chris, probably linking back to this page, now you know.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday Review #14

Metropolitan Museum of Art entrance, New York ...
Metropolitan Museum of Art entrance, New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It's my  birthday today.

I'm 30.

I'm not really sure what to do with that. I don't feel different -- half the time I don't really feel like an adult, to be honest.   I sort of fell like I should be doing something huge, and I suspect it's that sense of "should" that's causing my birthday-related anxiety, more than any actual feelings about aging.

I mean, seriously. Getting older sure beats the alternative, doesn't it?

And anyway, my husband made some great plans I'll tell you about next week, after they've actually happened.

But you don't care about that! You're here to read about my week, which you also don't care about!

Last Friday was nice. I got out of work early, and decided to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art one more time before my membership expired. That was fun; I saw an exhibit I'd been looking forward to, plus a few more I wasn't familiar with but that were really neat. Then I got some pasta in the cafeteria, though I wish in retrospect I had thought ahead and made reservations for one of the wine bars.  Oh well.

Afterwards, I went to a game night hosted by one of the guys in my writing workshop.  My husband joined me there, which was cool because this was the first time he'd really met any of those people.

Saturday was pretty chill.  We got kebabs for lunch, ran errands, went to the gym, and then got Australian food for dinner.  I had a kangaroo steak.  It was awesome, but not even the best thing on the menu.  We then went home and attempted to make fancy cocktails... which ended up just being weird, tasty cocktails, but that's what matters!

Sunday I bought doughnuts for breakfast, to celebrate that Lent is over and we can eat fried food again. I messed up the logistics, so we ended up with Entenmenn's, which was a bit of a letdown, but still good.  Church was... meh. The joyous songs of alleluia were all sung like funeral dirges, the sermon was incomprehensible (but, as far as I could tell, inoffensive, so that's progress), and the collection was far more organized than the communion, which tells me something about parish priorities.

Then it was over to my in-laws' for lunch/dinner/all-afternoon binge, where I ate too much. Typical family holiday :)

Monday my husband took a half-day in honor of Opening Day, so I met him afterwards and we got some amazing nachos. I really missed fried food.

Wednesday, we saw the tax guy. So exciting. More importantly, something I'd been stressing about at work resolved itself.  Now, it turns out the phrase "When God closes a door, He opens a window," applies to stress just as much as opportunity, because something else came up, but it's something that, at least for the short term, is much easier to handle.

Then Thursday, a friend won a happy hour, so we did that.  It was fun, but pretty low-key.

I burned through Throne of the Crescent Moon by  Saladin Ahmed  this week for book club.  It was really good. Now I'm working on The Scar by China Mieville. Not much knitting going on, and most of my writing has been based on gettng a buffer up here.
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Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Gin Is In: Jelly Shot Series

"Bees Knees" sheet music cover, with...
"Bees Knees" sheet music cover, with photo of bandleader Ted Lewis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Back in October of 2012, Aaron of The Gin Is In (and also of my book club and trivia league, and my husband's running buddy) held a Gin-toberfest party. I have a history of wowing parties with recipes I pull from Jelly Shot Test Kitchen, so he asked me to make a few batches of gin-based gelatin treats.  I also took some pictures with commentary, and he has posted them onto his blog.

So, behold! The Tom Collins, Bees Knees, and Negroni jelly shots. Delicious, fun, and not at all what you might remember from your frat-party days.

In other news, Aaron's cocktail recipe is taking part in Slate's Martini Madness, so go cheer him on!

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