Monday, September 30, 2013

a tweet will take you pretty far

© photo credit us embassy denmark via this tweet.

probably the coolest thing that came out of my TEDx Copenhagen experience happened the day after.

but first, i have to back up a little bit. during the afternoon break at TED, i was standing in the long line for coffee. i tried to break into the conversation the two guys in front of me were having with some or other funny remark. i was rebuffed completely. so, feeling fed up with the way that danes often are unwilling to talk to people they didn't go to kindergarten with, i tweeted, Dear Danes, you suck at talking to people you don't know. #tedxcph. almost immediately, @TEDxCopenhagen tweeted back that i just needed to keep trying. i answered them that i had seriously only talked to fellow ex-pats that day and wrote in danish that i even spoke danish, so i didn't get it. i saw a few retweets and favorites of my tweet before my phone ran out of battery and gave up the ghost.

i didn't really think anymore of it until i got home that evening and plugged the phone in and got it charged up. there were a whole lot of retweets (more than the 4 that show when i click the tweet, which is weird) and a lot of answers to it. and people weren't mad at me either, they admitted it was true and that it was sad and that we should do something about it.

but it got even more exciting when i checked my mail, where i had an email from a radio journalist who wanted to interview me on the air on friday on a national talk radio station about the tweet. it also happened that the new us ambassador to denmark, rufus gifford, would be in the studio as well, so they thought it would be fun if i gave him advice about living in denmark, since i'd been living here for 15 years. i couldn't say no to that. so on friday afternoon, i found myself giving the following advice to obama's top fundraiser:

~ book a holiday somewhere warm and sunny in january, because it gets really dark here then.
~ buy a bike and ride it.
~ visit all of denmark, because there's a lot going on, even over here on the mainland. in fact, the top three richest people in the country all live in my geographical area.

it also didn't hurt that the ambassador was a bit of a hottie (as is the journalist for that matter).

and tho' i'd rather gone off twitter, it kinda restored my faith in it as a happening place. and it goes to show that just a little tweet will get you pretty far. so get out there and start tweeting!

glass distortion

although artist mette colberg was very nervous and it seemed like she cut her TED talk abruptly short (probably due to her nervousness), my interest in her work with glass, especially her filter project, was piqued. she works in glass and has made some blown-glass "lenses" to fit onto a camera, in order to explore the way which glass transforms the objects which we look at through it.

always keen to do something new with my daily photo project, i came home and started looking at the glass around the house in terms of how it might give me a new view on the everyday scenes around me. last night, at the dinner table, i noticed the orangey sunset light coming through the big jar of stones on the windowsill and decided to snap a few photos through the thick glass of the jar. the double layer of thick glass rendered the sunset scene almost watery and wavy, despite the clear skies. the tree branch sticking up outside the window ended up looking a bit like one of the big steampunk electrical pylons that are visible in the distance when you look at it through the much clearer lenses of your own eyes.

it's interesting how glass both clarifies and distorts. if i didn't have my glasses or contact lenses i'd practically need a dog to guide me around, so some glass makes things clearer. but other glass, even the glass on our windows, can distort the things we see, transforming them into something strange and unfamiliar.  to do this intentionally is an interesting notion.

this is the sort of thing i hoped TEDx Copenhagen would do for me - inspire me to look at the world around me in new ways. so, although i thought mette become overwhelmed onstage and exited much before she had intended to, she did inspire me to see the world just a bit differently.

more on TEDx Copenhagen as i continue to ponder the experience.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

reflections on TEDx Copenhagen, part one

talking on the phone, chewing gum and wearing these shoes on cobblestones don't mix. #justsayin

i've had a few days to let the experience of TEDx Copenhagen wash over me. on the day itself, i think i felt a little bit let down and disappointed, feeling that the talks didn't live up to the quality i had come to expect from TED. that feeling hasn't really changed after a few days of pondering it. to be fair, there were a couple of exceptions - young entrepreneur sara naseri, of persian descent, but raised in denmark, took us through her development of a molecule to protect from uv rays at the age of 17. she was utterly charming and wonderful, as well as having an inspiring story of having the courage to pursue your idea and to continue even in the face of roadblocks. i also thought mads lodahl's call to challenge the straight world order, questioning how our notions of normal came to be what they are and who benefits from them, was worth the trip (more about that in another post).

the overall theme was "mirror, mirror," a reference to snow white's step-mother's truthful mirror on the wall, unable to speak other than the truth, even if it was uncomfortable. the talks didn't all fit this theme, to be honest. and the quality was all over the place. low points were the oddly-dressed eva kruse, founder of copenhagen fashion week, who had a vague message about how the clothing industry needed to be more sustainable, but few notions of how that could happen aside from utilizing the cloth more efficiently. it was a shame her talk was so empty, as she had pretty much gotten top bill on the TEDx Copenhagen website. i spent most of her talk distracted by the odd outfit she was wearing, sort of 80s aerobics wear meets star trek with a peplum.

other low points were the emotional talk by comedian and cancer survivor geo, who did a short plea for people to not be afraid to talk to people with cancer. it was sweet and his tears seemed real, but i couldn't see how it fit with the program. there was a sales pitch by a blind man named hans jørgen wiberg, who had invented an app called be my eyes that could enable us all to be volunteers from the comfort of our own couches. again, he was sweet, but it didn't provoke me to think the way i had expected of TED.

i was suprised by how many of the online TED talks (five or six) they showed throughout the day. at one point, i tweeted that i could watch these at home, why were they using valuable time on them? especially as they had chosen hard-core science and math talks that, in my view, were mostly far from their theme. they then explained (far too late), that they were required by the licensing agreement to show a certain amount of TED talks from youtube. they really should have explained that up front.

the two organizers, lærke and ronni, behaved onstage like they had recently broken up and couldn't stand one another. happily, they only came onstage and subjected us to this at the beginning and the end. i think if they'd acted as hosts, it would have really ruined the day.

late in the day, i wrote in my notebook: this conference needs higher caliber presenters. a girl who helps homeless men play soccer gave a sweet, but ultimately pointless talk. an artist, working in glass, gave a strange, disjointed talk on the properties of transparency and then rushed offstage in a way that struck me as far before she originally planned to. a young brit, harry fear, who was a documentary filmmaker and a bit too in love with himself promoted his films about the gaza strip. he had a valid message about how we should seek news in alternative sources, rather than from the monolithic mainstream media (which he left undefined and unquestioned), but missed the chance to delve deeper into how the mainstream media has come to present the version(s) of events it presents. in my view, his gloss on it was just as shallow as theirs. i'll take bets that he'll be working for the BBC the next time we see him.

but it wasn't all disappointing, the opening talk, by head of the danish design center, nille juul-sørensen was interesting and started the day off well. he brought one of arne jakobsen's ant chairs onstage and issued a call to danish designers to stop thinking about designing iconic objects and instead design the future in a meaningful way. he cited two areas where he thought that the design of the future could make an impact - in the area of waste (thinking beyond recycling) and in the notion of a circular economy, where things get shared or reused or repurposed for another use when their original use is over. he said, "the coolest thing about the future is that we're going to live there." 

some of the unexpected highlights were the various performances that interspersed the talks and the videos. when all you've seen are online TED talks, you don't realize that as an event, there's a whole lot more going on at a TED conference. there was a very provocative burka-related dance/video/music/theatrical performance by EUrabia. improvisational music directed by sound painting (it sounded an awful lot like jazz) by a group called borderline. and my personal favorite, a phenomenal performance by one-man band kalle's world tour. there was even live entertainment in the bathroom by niels gröndahl.

there's even entertainment in the bathroom. #tedxcph #puttingtheeinted

i thought that TED stood for technology, education and design, but learned that it actually stands for technology, entertainment and design. entertained, i definitely was, but not always provoked to think at the level i had expected. sometimes tho', it can be good to check your expectations at the door and just let the experience wash over you.

i have more to tell about something unexpected that came out of the conference, but i'll leave that for the next post.

Friday, September 27, 2013

size matters

the world's largest container ship, the majestic maersk, is alongside langlinie in copenhagen these days. i don't think these pictures convey how truly enormous this ship is. 400 meters long and 59 meters wide and it can carry 18000 containers. it's good she's not closer to the little mermaid, because it would underline once and for all that the key word with her is indeed little. this is a whole new class of viking ship, don't you think?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

a laundry list of impressions from tedx copenhagen

I made it. #tedxcph

my head is spinning and i'm still processing the whole TEDx Copenhagen experience, so this is just a quick post to check in and make a little list of all the things i want to remember to tell you about. most important is that a tweet i tweeted during the event has quite likely landed me a radio spot tomorrow, giving advice about denmark to the new us ambassador. yup, it was that kind of day.

but don't let me forget to tell you about:

~ live musicians in the bathroom
~ the homeless guy who helped himself to some of our lunch
~ a lovely, charming young girl who invented a molecule at the age of 16
~ the crazy, bossy coffee lady
~ the lack of swag
~ how the two hosts had obviously recently broken up and couldn't stand one another
~ the human arabesque video
~ now, new, next
~ pretentious anti-everything poseurs
~ an annoying irish woman to whom i lost a competition i didn't know i had entered
~ be my eyes, an app that will let you volunteer from your couch
~ the really weird outfit the copenhagen fashion week woman was wearing
~ changing the straight world order
~ a pretentious young brit who was fighting a battle against the so-called mainstream media without knowing what their agenda was or who/what might be behind it
~ why they played 5 TED videos i could have watched at home
~ the filter project
~ why we are biologically inclined to avoid being reflective for too long
~ surprises and disappointments

but i need to process it all first, it's still tumbling around my head.

for now, i leave you with a youtube video i managed to find of kalle's world tour, a most amazing musician who may have been the highlight of TEDxCPH for me today. this will just give you a taste, but today, he combined death metal and children's music and it was awesome:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

taking lessons in creativity from my child

the child is in her second round of painting lessons. she's learning so much. she really knows how to mix colors. they have been working on repetition of shapes and on seeing the shapes of things in nature. she's not pleased with this painting, but i love it and have hung it in the hallway near my desk. i took it outside to photograph it because the light sucked where it's hanging. it's bright and alive and represents a step on her painting journey and i love having it hang nearby where i'm working.

in general, i am in awe of her creativity. she looks at pinterest or more likely instagram or her facebook feed and finds a youtube tutorial and moves quickly from inspiration to action. she dressed up her keyboard (and her light switch) with washi tape the other evening. you can still see which key is which through the tape and since it's washi, it won't get all sticky and be ruined if she decides to take it off again.

she painted up these vans to resemble a starry night sky. she's so pleased with the result that she doesn't wear them that much, since she doesn't want to ruin them, but that's another story. she also dolled up an old pair of converse as an homage to her favorite boy band 1D. some of her classmates are amazed that she's allowed to alter her shoes and clothing the way she is (she put a whole bunch of colorful studs on some shorts one afternoon when she was inspired). their parents would be angry with them for "ruining" their things. i want to jump for joy at her creativity and her desire for individuality!

i hope she retains that ability to just dive in immediately when she's inspired. there was a time when i did that, but these days, i spend entirely too much time thinking about creating things and far too little time actually creating them. i'm going to have to take a lesson from the child and remedy that.

magical teeny tiny mushrooms

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

lest you think i'm no longer capable of shallow consumerism

I probably won't be able to resist these

there's a kind of pop-up store in town. it's run by a couple of local bored housewives of wealthy husbands. they buy up a bunch of remainders and various things that apparently "fell off" a container somewhere and then open up for a week or so and sell it all out. i've actually not visited it previously, but i stopped by on a whim the other day. and amidst various nescafe coffee machines and lamps and some suspicious-looking computer equipment, they had these shoes by paris hilton. i would have bought them if i'd been able to squeeze my big fat cinderella's ugly stepsister foot into them, but alas they didn't have my size.

got these instead

instead i got these. they're not paris hilton. i see that as a good thing. and better yet, they fit and make me seem very tall.

and these.

and i also got these. and for both? a mere 200 kroner (that's $36 for the currency-challenged). they look black in this shot, but they're dark blue. and surprisingly comfortable too.

23/9.2013 - who knew #havianas made wellies?

i also got these, but i ordered them online, i didn't get them in the pop-up shop. i didn't know havianas made wellies, i thought they only did flipflops. aren't these the best color? they called it aubergine, but i think it's a bit more of a plum.

* * *

postmodernism is alive and kicking lady gaga.

Monday, September 23, 2013

food dilemmas

our blog camp goes to MIT course continues, this week with further readings on food paradoxes. i allowed myself to be inordinately annoyed by one of the readings - cheap meat: flap food nations in the pacific islands by deborah gewertz and frederick errington. annoyed by the insecurity of the academics writing it, insecurity that led them to constantly justify and repeat themselves throughout in a most off-putting way. perhaps i am too far from academe now to appreciate the capricious ways of gaining tenure. it mainly just made me think they were really insecure, which weakened their thesis somewhat. and it's sad because their thesis is a good one - put simply, it's that there is power and economics behind what's available on the shelves of our grocery stores. and if you're poor and powerless and live on a remote pacific island, you just might find yourself eating the fatty belly (or flap) of a sheep.

i was so irritated by the book that despite the many readings ahead, i went off-syllabus and started reading margaret visser's the rituals of dinner. this was appropriate because this past weekend, we engaged in our own yearly dinner ritual - the annual gathering we have with the swedish side of the family, to eat crayfish, sing silly drinking songs in swedish and drink too much snaps and wine and beer and catch up with everyone.

i suppose at one time, these crayfish parties came about because crayfish were in season and could be caught in the waterways of sweden. now, we get them frozen in a dilly brine from china. all we do is thaw them out, arrange them nicely on a big serving dish, throw on some fresh dill and serve with homemade bread, aioli and an assortment of beautiful savory tarts.

we wash them down with plenty of seasonal beers and snaps and wine for those of us who prefer that. we sing swedish drinking songs and toast and we talk and laugh and see members of the family that we pretty much only see on those occasions. and it's a wonderful ritual and we wouldn't miss it for the world, even if the crayfish do come from china these days. we don't even talk about that, actually. even tho' we are otherwise people who buy organic and eat in season and go in for paleo new nordic hay-infused homemade yogurt, the fact that our crayfish aren't local is a topic of which we don't speak. tho' it should be a dilemma for us, it's not. because making it so might get in the way of our yearly gathering and we love that ritual. if we couldn't have the crayfish due to the food miles or the potential pollution to which they've been exposed in their chinese homeland, we might not get together at all. because although it's not all about the crayfish, somehow it's all about the crayfish.

i can't help but feel even more strongly what i thought in the very beginning of this course, that, especially in the so-called first world, we all engage in our own brand of logic when it comes to food and our food choices. we can justify it all, or we can just ignore and choose not to more closely examine the things that don't necessarily align with the way we see ourselves.

interestingly, on the subject of those fatty belly flaps from our reading, it seems that at least here in denmark, those on the cutting edge of the culinary world (e.g. noma and the new nordic food folks) are making those cheaper, fattier cuts of meat trendy - you can order pork belly in fine restaurants these days, so these things change just like spring and winter fashions. and once the flaps have gone upscale, what cut of meat will be left for the pacific islanders? and what about the chinese who would like to eat their own crayfish?

there are so many food-related dilemmas, it could almost put a girl off eating. naah...

* * *

if you'd like to check out what the others in our virtual course are thinking about these issues, go to the flipboard magazine i've created - it's called food & culture, i've flipped all of our blog posts into one iPad-friendly flippable magazine for your reading pleasure.

Friday, September 20, 2013

stormy moods make for stormy weather

it's been a changeable week weather-wise. one of those weeks where i feel like i'm causing the weather with my moods...sunny, bright and glorious one moment, blustery and spitting the next, pretty much precisely how i've felt. of course there is a chance it's the other way around and the weather contributes to my mood and not vice versa.

despite the wonderful news on monday evening and the soul-nourishing event tuesday night, the rest of the week has been a series of petty irritations. an unnecessarily snotty mother at the stable. the fiasco that sabin's trip to st. petersburg is shaping up to be. political agendas. a strange woman who asked me to move my car from "her" parking spot in a public parking lot, where spots don't belong to anyone in particular. a dull, all day headache that prevented meaningful work or thought.

small irritations, but irritating nonetheless, especially when all lumped together. especially because they chip away at the good energy that came with events of the early part of the week. each taking a little bit of it away, until it feels like there's not enough left and you need to find a way to tank up again, but you can't because of that infernal dull headache.

maybe it's all just PMS, or rather DMS, since i think it's actually worst during, not before. but i realize that's too much information. i only talk about it because it really is a factor. moods are not something static or even or stable. they go up and down and you're in high spirits one minute and down in the dumps the next. just like our changeable weather - sunny one minute and raining the next. the good bit is that's the only way to get rainbows.

but a walk in the garden, photographing the autumn fruits on a beautiful morning before the rain comes, really does help. especially if accompanied by gathering a big batch of fruit, throwing it in the steamer to make juice and having the smells of warm raspberries and warm elderberries fill the house. it may not make the headache go away, but it helps.

happy weekend, one and all.

* * *

my conscious ones (at the moment) are: topography, synesthetic, troglodyte, xenophobic.
i wish they were: transcendent, elated, vast, encompassing.
in reality they are: actually, supposedly, apparently.
what are yours?

* * *

and speaking of words:
creative swear words.
made up words.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

a flock of amateurs

we have signed the child up for a trip to st. petersburg with something called the ungdomsskole (youth school?), it's a public institution that's associated with the regular schools and they run a whole bunch of different after school activities and trips for kids from 7th to 9th grade. this is the first time they've planned a trip to st. petersburg and believe me, it shows. it seems that those organizing the trip haven't got the first clue about what it takes as far as visas and advising which clothes to take and how much money to take (they advised that the 12-13 year olds have a good selection of credit cards with them). and tho' i'm normally a very laid back traveler, this time it's driving me absolutely mad (both in the sense of crazy and of angry).

they even changed the dates of the trip slightly, but haven't published that anywhere - their website still has the old dates. they claimed to have sent the children who are signed up a text with the new dates, but both my child and her friend, who is also going, have received no such text. they guy in charge continues to insist they did. such a stupid lie is unnecessary. just admit you're a bit disorganized and didn't get it sent. don't keep lying about it when we can see the proof right there in two telephones. what's really stupid about it is that we need those correct dates for the visa application.

in order to get the visa, you have to have an invitation letter from someone in russia. in this case, the hotel where they will stay. only then can you fill out the application and apply for the visa. oh, and you must deliver the visa application to the embassy in person, you can't send it in. the embassy won't really say exactly how long the visa takes - if you pay extra, you can have it in 4 days, but it's likely to take anywhere from 7 - 14 days to get it if you don't pay extra. since they are set to leave october 15, time is ticking away. do you think we've seen the invitation letter from the hotel? no we have not.

do you think we've gotten a convoluted mail with some instructions about health insurance cut & pasted into it from the russian embassy website? yes, we have. is that the most important thing? no it is not. do you think this is causing me to pull out my hair? well, you would be right about that.

they held a meeting for the parents and the kids who are going on the trip on tuesday evening. i couldn't go, as i went to the salon allison park evening. but husband and sabin went. they met the three adults who are going on the trip - one is a bossy belorussian, one is a russian from st. petersburg who doesn't share a common language with the rest of the people going on the trip and one is a danish guy who was apparently heavily bullied by the belorussian throughout the course of the meeting. they showed some kind of only moderately informative power point with some pictures of what they would see and talked extensively about which credit cards the children should bring. they may have had some advice about what clothes to pack, but husband didn't write that down. he did, however, write down the following:
they will see:
* 4 shoe stores
* 6 candy stores
* 1 newspaper kiosk

they will spend 3 days in their hotel room.
nothing about culture was mentioned.

they are responsible for buying their own lunch, tho' breakfast and dinner are included.
this does not help me keep my hair. tho' i'm pretty sure most of it is a joke (except that thing about the lunch). he also drew a strange little picture of what appears to be a llama peeing. but i'm not sure what that has to do with the trip.

at this point, i actually have my doubts as to whether the trip is even going to happen. i want it to happen. i love the idea of my 12-year-old seeing the hermitage and the winter palace and the peter & paul fortress. i want her to walk the streets of st. petersburg and soak in the onion domes and see the canal where rasputin's body was found and feel the history that is lurking in every corner. all of this even tho' i am a moscow person. that flock of amateurs had just better get their act together and make this happen. a flock of amateurs, that's one of those danish phrases that maybe does translate.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

are you awake?

looks very interesting!

i went with a friend to an amazing event called salon allison park at the mungo park theatre in kolding. the fabulous young women who work at the theatre got together and decided that in their busy lives, they were missing conversations that weren't of a professional or practical nature. they were missing comparing notes with other women on things of everyday concern, so they decided to stage an event, largely for women (tho' men were welcome too), to talk about the everyday.  

but let me back up a second. the theatre where the event took place (tho' it wasn't a play) is named for mungo park, who was a scottish explorer of the african continent. allison was his wife, so the girls found it appropriate to name the salon after her. 

i'll admit i had visions of a salon in the french sense - a setting for highly intellectual and philosophical discussions. when we first started, i was feeling a little resentful that because we were a large group of women (and just a handful of brave men), we were reduced to speaking of everyday topics rather than philosophy. my misgivings fell quickly away as we began.

the evening was well-planned. when you came in, you were given a sticker on which to write your name and the answer to a question that was on the back. you weren't allowed to tell anyone what your question was at that point. my question was "what are you good at today?" and i answered "laughing." the question proved to be the method by which we found the first table we should join. we had to go around, reading everyone else's name tags and trying to find those who likely had the same question as ourselves. we were pretty spot on at our table.

then, once we settled in and a bit of bubbly was poured, one of the young women who arranged the evening told a poignant little story of her everyday. she's a freelance theatre director and a graduate student. she lives a chaotic life, without much of a regular schedule. she works long hours and has trouble, like many of us, knowing the difference between work time and time off. with all of our devices and connectivity, we are on all the time. she was expecting her first child and was longing for a life like the one of her childhood, where they lived the same place, picked apples from the same trees and had a regular schedule. she had baked several hundred lovely little homemade tarts with apple and seasonal berries for the evening, as well as tiny delicious meringue kisses and little surprise "lunch packages." it was a beautiful way to share her dream of an everyday.

then it was our turn. there was a little stack of cards on the table, with question prompts about our everyday lives to get us talking. at our table, we were a little hesitant at first, but were soon talking about ex-husbands and lives turned upside down and meaningful jobs and time with children and grandchildren and sick husbands and choices made along the way. we were disappointed when the signal came for the next phase to begin.

the next phase was a quick round, where we were in pairs and each of us had a stack of questions, where we had to answer whether we engaged in an activity out of desire or duty. they were questions like do you say i love you? do you pay taxes? do you celebrate birthdays? do you make dinner? do you laugh at jokes? do you work?

then came the third round, where we came together in a new group, based on a little symbol up in the corner of our name tags. the broad theme of this final round was dreams. there was a stack of ten questions. the first one was are you awake? the second: do you dream? and we started talking about our dreams and our nightmares. and around the time we got to the fifth or sixth question, do you live someone else's dream?, we realized we were discussing the wrong kind of dreams. it was dreams of the hopes and variety. but honestly, i loved the first part of the conversation best, where we talked about the dreams we dream when we're asleep.

there was a great energy in the room. a happy, lively hum of voices. people laughed and were open and seemed delighted to share with strangers. it was decidedly undanish. but it proved that even danes crave interaction with new people and want to share their stories and hear other people's stories. it was very danish that it was all very formalized and it required a whole lot of question prompts to get people started. but once they started, whoa! it really was like a floodgate of bottled up sharing was opened. 

if we could get everyone talking about everyday things in line at the grocery store or on the train as well, denmark would be transformed and we might even start to be able to see on people's faces why they come out on top of those happy lists year after year. 

* * *

the most beautiful thing you'll see all day. and maybe even all week. possibly even all year.
it's that beautiful.

tin can camera

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

things are coming up raspberries

i know it's supposed to be roses, but i don't have any roses, so you get raspberries. you know i'm rather unconventional. why be like everyone else? but i digress.

remember that meeting i was looking forward to? because i was armed (or dressed, as they would say in danish - klædt på) with the real story behind the behavior of my buddy the troglodyte? well, it had an outcome that i wouldn't have imagined or dared to wish for in my wildest dreams. after two hours of heavy discussion, tho' not heated, oddly enough, he announced at the end of the meeting that he was resigning from the board. he had a prepared, typed speech, so it wasn't a decision he arrived at during the meeting. he cited a bunch of reasons - work, other boards he was involved with, projects, and his health (all likely valid). funnily enough he didn't mention his conflict of interest in the case. but i will be mentioning it in my novel. when i depict him as a cross-dressing geisha with a monkey. you know what they say, be nice to the writer or end up a character in her novel.

sorry. i'm gleeful, but apparently not yet ready to be charitable after all he put me through. i was very glad husband was beside me during the meeting and not across from me, where i could catch his eye. as it was, i'm sure i couldn't conceal my happiness. and i didn't even really try. tho' i did manage to restrain from actually getting up and doing a spontaneous happy dance.

but i'll tell you that if i'd had a bottle of bubbly in the fridge, we'd have cracked it open when we got home. even tho' it's a monday night.

Monday, September 16, 2013

the old man and the sea

i took these photos several years ago and stumbled onto them when i was perusing an old iPhoto library the other day. i don't think i ever used them in a blog post, or at least i didn't have any recollection of doing so. i can't decide which of them i like best.  i hadn't had my camera for very long back then and i'm sure i was using automatic settings, so i can't really explain the difference between the photos, other than that i must have moved a little bit and the camera decided on a different shutter speed in between the two shots. i can't decide whether i like the slightly overexposed one best or the darker one.

i can tell you, tho', that my photography has improved dramatically since then. it seems that practice does make perfect and taking a photo every day for nigh on five years means that you inevitably get better. in fact, i was looking through those photos from the early days and cringing a little bit. but we all have to start somewhere and we have to learn and perfect our techniques and slowly improve. all those photos i've taken have been steps on a journey and represent one of the longest sustained efforts i've ever put into anything (other than gathering academic degrees). i've come a long way, baby. and it will be interesting to see what kind of photos i'm making in another five years.

which of these photos do you like best? and why?

* * *

speaking of photos:
really interesting article and series of photos of male affection

* * *

speaking of the sea, the operation to right the costa concordia began today (live stream here).
here's a great piece on how they're going to do it.
they say due to hull damage/weakness, they've only got one shot at it.

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 interesting review of 1000 years of european history via an animated map.
it would appear it hasn't been easy to be poland.

lego minifigure obsession: the latest additions

i accidentally typed the latest addictions above in the title, instead of additions. i don't think it's a coincidence. i am thoroughly addicted to the clever little collectible lego minifigures. i'm a sucker for cute. for cleverness. for good design. for a sense of humor. for affordability. for the mystery of the little package - like with baseball cards, you don't know what you're getting. and a kind of mania comes over me and i have to have more. it happened years ago with beanie babies as well.

and they honestly give me a childlike sense of delight. when i send sabin and her friend into legoland (the only place we've been able to find series 11) to get them, i'm so excited when they come out with the bag. they sit in the back seat, opening while i'm driving and i almost can't stand it, since it's not me who gets to peek into each package first.

with the simplest of details, so much is expressed. the shape of a hat, a little baton, a badge, a moustache.

a gap-toothed smile, little elf ears that are attached to the hat to accomodate the design of the head. a teddy bear for a friend.

a boy robot (my only series 6 purchase) and a girl robot to hold hands. they have an adorable wind-up key in their backs, once again proving that lego really gets the details right.

and this little tiki man. he has a bone in his funny bowl-cut hair. and while it's probably a bit of stereotyping, it seems to be done in good humor and admiration, not mockery. i've let him stand next to the hula girl from series 3 on the shelf. maybe they'll make some cute little south pacific babies.

and how blues brothers is this little saxophone man, with his ill-fitting wrinkled jacket and shades? seriously, how could i resist? and why should i when they make me smile the way they do.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

sunday morning reflections

sunday morning finds me leisurely looking through pinterest, facebook, my flipboard blog feed and the new york times on my li'l iPad. husband always gets up and makes tea and delivers a cup, milky and sweetened with honey, so i don't have to leave the warmth of the quilts. the cats curl up next to me, purring and jockeying for position and it's pretty much my favorite hour or so of the week.

if i view the world through the lens of my various feeds, i have learned that vladimir putin has some canny editorial writers, we can no longer use the words lame, crazy or insane, disney has been infiltrated by the illuminati, the reason that time magazine didn't put putin on the cover in the US this week (he was on the cover everywhere else) was because the media is controlled by 6 corporations, sweden is awesome, there are a lot of injured, homeless animals in need of homes, iowa beat iowa state (i surmised this more from the silence of certain iowa state folks in my feed), people think it's homemade if you combine 4-5 premade ingredients (cake mixes, oreos, cool whip, jello and tortilla chips), eating the resulting sweet dessert will likely bring you closer to jesus, there is major flooding in colorado, berlin is where all the cool stuff takes place, triangles are the new circle, autumn is upon us, the latest trend in photographing food is to place it against a dark background, which serves to make it more moody and poetic and according to my myers-briggs profile (ENTP), i am sirius black from harry potter. 

i do wonder what effect this melange of input has on me? does it connect new synapses in my brain or reinforce the old ones? are my horizons expanded or narrowed? do i end up feeling helpless about my ability to do anything about the state of the world? do I even have the first clue about what state the world is in? does it take away my desire to argue against the madness before i even begin? am I even allowed to call it madness (that illuminati thing is pretty out there)? is it all a load of bullshit?

i listened to a pretentious panel of "experts" yesterday on P1 (our NPR equivalent, only even better) debate the ability of individuals to live more sustainably in practice. they justified their purchases of non-organic food, designer bags, frequent airplane travels, long showers and wasting of energy with homes filled with electronics they never turn off and ended up concluding that we as individuals cannot do anything about living more sustainably. we might as well load our grocery cart with cheap chicken and sit in front of our enormous flat screen televisions, clad in prada, planning our next holiday in bali. they decided that we should wait for governments to wake up and regulate us, since we were too lazy to take steps ourselves.

and while that's a pretty dire and cynical conclusion, and it rather pissed me off when i heard it (as i was driving instead of biking, no less) upon reflection, i don't think it's that illogical in light of the input we feed in to our brains. a lot of what we read and expose ourselves to points to individuals not being able to make one iota of difference (after all, the illuminati and those 6 corporations are controlling everything). and i'd like to say that it's lame and crazy of us, but apparently that avenue is now closed as well.

also in my various feeds, i came across a guardian piece by jonathan franzen about our frustrating way of conducting ourselves in the modern world. he harkens back to an austrian intellectual, karl kraus, who was  blogging in a journal called the torch, before blogging was invented. maybe we need to do as kraus did, and spend a lot of time reading stuff we hate, so as to be able to hate it with authority. i'll admit i'm not good at that, as i blogged the other day, i've been turning off those who post the most objectionable stuff on my facebook feed, because i don't want their vitriol polluting my mind or messing up the steady stream of photos of kittens and lego minifigures. 

i think i've said it before, but we have to start fighting back. we've been slacktivists long enough. it's time to start arguing against the madness. because not doing so clearly isn't working.

Friday, September 13, 2013

knowing the story is the key

i read in the atlantic that storytelling may be the key to our evolution. whether that's true (or provable) or not, i know that it's the key to my ability to negotiate my way through the world. from the stories i tell myself in my head about various situations to the ones i relate out loud to generate a laugh to the ones i write for my clients, stories are pretty much the central feature of my existence.

this week, a very interesting story has unfolded that has made me so much more able to handle the situation with my nemesis the troglodyte. probably the biggest problem i've had with him has been that i could find no logic in his behavior or even for his involvement in the group, let alone his desire to so firmly grip the reins of control that everyone else's thoughts and contributions are obliterated. but thanks to a story, that all makes so much more sense. because it can all be explained by plain old boring selfish economic interest. it turns out that the troglodyte owns several properties which are adjacent to one of the potential locations for our project. his desire to place a new building on a square near his properties and his stubborn and oftentimes nasty refusal to consider the possibility of remodeling the existing building that's being used a "culture house" today make so much sense in light of his selfish interest in his own bottom line. i also learned that he's in the process of trying to sell the properties to a developer, one to whom he has undoubtedly promised that the new culture house will be built nearby and bring traffic to a new square right in front of the properties. hmm, i wonder if such petty little town kings (which are surely not rare) reflect in those world corruption list standings?

funnily enough, as the various options progress with our architect, it turns out that reusing just part of the old building will result in 1500 square meters of usable space for the money that's been budgeted, whereas a new building on the tiny lot on the square will result in 410 square meters of usable space. it seems there isn't much choice there. and it will be very interesting on monday evening to see what story he tells to he continue to justify his desire for the project on the square, adjacent to his own properties.

i have the most evil delicious sense of delight in the fact that he doesn't know that anyone knows that he's the owner. he doesn't realize how easy it is to google your way to answers. he's also been very dismissive of our group's online presence and the internet in general. it seems that one doesn't do well to underestimate the power of a girl and her computer. i can't wait for this story to unfold.