Monday, January 26, 2009

Year of the Ox

Happy Chinese New Year!

According to, here's what's in store for monkey's like me in the year ahead:

Monkey Overview
This year offers the Monkey some opportunities to go far with your talents. The Monkey's generous nature may leave you stretched in several different directions, so it is important to stay focused in order to achieve the goals you have set for yourself this year. You will be given the opportunity to impress the right people both in business, as well as in your personal life. Don't hold back this year, for this could be one that will leave an impression over the course of the next few years.
Monkey Rating
49% (4 favorable and 5 neutral and 3 unfavorable months)

Monkey Career
Great strides can be made in your career this year. Timing is everything and in your case, time is on your side. You will be in the right place at the right time to impress the decision makers in your career. The steady Ox rewards those with strong work ethics and the Monkey will surely reap the benefits of your labor. Don't hesitate to do anything that will aid your skills and benefit your position.

Monkey Relationships
This could be a busy year for you domestically. Look to your family for the encouragement and support you need. On the same token, it is important for you to listen and heed the advice of those who care. Your social life is active filled with plenty of opportunities to make new friends. Don't forget the ones that have been with you through the rough times, as it is just as important to offer your time with your existing relations.

Monkey Health
Take note that there are several high points to your year. With such a busy social year, you may stretch yourself thin with your health. Be aware of your energy levels throughout the year, as you may need some added rest to counter your affairs. It would be wise to take an active part in your health, taking up a new form of exercise that follows your interests: martial arts or dancing are two good possibilities.

Monkey Wealth
This could be a great year for the Monkey financially. You will possibly make great gains in this area throughout the year. Due to your generous nature, you may have a difficult time refraining from giving to others. Be mindful of this and make sure you give to yourself every once in a while because you deserve it.

Find your own:

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Best Part

... of having an iphone is that if your phone breaks or gets lost, you can replace it with a new phone and all the old information will load onto the new phone when you sync it to your computer. Last night I had to replace my phone, and it automatically uploaded my contacts, calendar, applications, everything! Even my ring tone and alarm settings.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fighting back SAD

Just a week and a half until February. The month is known to some for Valentines, Presidents Day, and Groundhog’s Day. But, for those of us with Seasonal Affective Disorder, it’s just the %$^#iest month of the year. It’s like the opposite of a holiday – a dark time of year that looms over the rest of the calendar. At any given time I can tell you how many months are left until February. To me, the only benefit of it being February is that that’s the farthest place on the calendar from next February.

According to the World Wide Web SAD usually doesn’t strike until “young-adult” age, but I’ve been suffering since I was 8 or 9. It was especially bad for me in those days because in addition to the general malaise and lack of energy, I used to have manic swings of energy and insomnia. Like most parts of my life, the winter blues have gotten easier as I’ve gotten older, but they’re still no picnic. I get the typical bout of listlessness, distractability, anxiety, and ennui starting in late January and my symptoms are usually worst by the end of February, lasting through March or April. It’s a low grade depression, I never feel suicidal or bad enough to go on medication, but I’ve been known to throw a few elbows on public transportation and my consumption of coffee goes way up. And God help the person who drips toothpaste in my sink.

The worst part of having SAD is that while I’m suffering I can’t remember life ever having been different. My brain finds excuses for being depressed and angry all the time, and it feels like I’ll never get over feeling bad. Even though I know certain SAD-related habits are bad for me, I find myself slipping into them – staying inside all day to escape the cold, subsisting on carbs and sugar for the momentary pick me up, skipping the gym, and sleeping in late. I’ve been known to spend an entire Saturday eating cheese and crackers in bed with a book. Not in a book-nerd’s holiday way, just in an immobilized with lack of energy way.

So far I haven't gotten to that point. I'm mostly my normal self, besides feeling distracted at work, and some recent weight gain due to too many sweet drinks (remember those protein shakes I was raving about? Oops) and not enough veggies. But, before the worst month strikes, I’m taking some pre-emptive action to fight off whatever SAD affects I can.

From now until the end of March I’ll be:
- waking up 30 minutes early to journal in front of a full spectrum light
- going to the gym 5 days a week
- avoiding carbs and eating plenty of proteins and vegetables
- making sure to take a break from work between 10 and 2 to get natural light
- taking a muli-vitamin every day
- getting full 7.5-8 hours sleep each night (but no more)
- making at least 2 plans each week to get together with friends
- taking a walk each weekend

Besides that I like to have things around me to mark the passing of time. We have an Amarylis on our table that's partially in bloom, and another few to plant once this one's done. The flowers grow slowly, but they're so spectacular to see in bloom that it makes it worth the wait. I like checking every day to see how it's growing.

I'm always on the lookout for ways to brighten the darkest part of the winter, but even with all the precautions above I know I'll still be in a more introspective, quiet place than I am in other months. If I can cut out some of the worst affects of the dark months, maybe I can better enjoy the benefits of that quiet. So, in between the gym, vitamins and outings, I plan to do plenty of reading.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Read my book Buttface

Garrison Keillor's editorial in Salon today is about the state of fiction in America, and his examples are pretty funny. Check it out --


GG Bahstun Style

The one redeeming feature of Mondays is Monday night tv. But this Monday night Gossip Girl outdid itself. As if the ridiculously twisted and twisty storyline wasn’t enough -- with Serena trying to kiss and make up with Dan, who’s trying to pretend that he isn’t concealing from her that they share a sibling and thus are practically FAMILY, and that their on again off again parents Rufus and Lily are right this minute out looking for said sibling and probably hooking up in some posh hotel with Lily’s dead husband’s money, and then the show’s writers go and have the kid be from BOSTON and they use real shots of the skyline in the neighborhoods where Rufus and Lily might actually stay – namely the ultra expensive waterfront and there’s not a Citgo sign or Redline car to be seen and I am in heaven when all of a sudden for the cherry on top the new best character on the show, Jack Bass drops the crisp society dialect and says something like “Kid you wicked scroooed.” For a minute Greg and I stared at eachother like did you just hear that? And Greg says “He’s from Boston.” Although it’s not clear whether “he” is just the actor or the character too. Then, a few minutes later the JackbAss is up to trouble again and out comes the accent again! LOVE IT!
I’m looking forward to more Gossip Girl in coming weeks if this is what’s to come. It’ll definitely counteract some of my displeasure at the promised return of Georgina.
Sidenote – HIMYM also great this week. Thanks for not forgetting Stinbastky. Just 5 more days till more good tv…

Friday, January 9, 2009

Naked Smoothies

I've never been much of a juice drinker, even less so since I read The South Beach Diet books and realized just how much sugar is in a glass of juice, for not a lot of nutrients. But, this week I've had a cold that won't die and a giant bruise that I'm anxious to be rid of. The prevailing wisdom is that massive amounts of vitamins will cure both, so for the past couple of days I've been mainlining juices in the hopes of speeding my recovery. Shockingly -- it seems to be working! Today for the first day I was able to ride the subway cough-free without the aid of liquids or cough drops. And, my bruise is noticably better - a cheery yellow instead of blacky-purple.

I'll go out on a limb and attribute the cure to the Naked Protein smoothies I had yesterday and this morning. With 30 grams of protein and 300% of the rda for vitamin C, it seems like a good compromise between SBD and a juice-cure. And, it's really delicious. Sort of like a cross between an Orange Julius and Eggnog, but in a good way. It's creamy (it has a soy base, not milk, so no lactose), with a satisfying meal-supplement texture unlike the citric-acid-rotting-your-teeth-out-of-your-face mouth feel that orange juice has.

Anyway, after this week I'll go back to coffee, tea or water, because these smoothies do have a lot of sugar, but next time I'm sick I'll be sure to stock up. If you like juice, you should try one too. It could be a decent breakfast on the go or midday snack.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Shepard Fairey Inauguration Poster

Was anyone else excited by the Shepard Fairey “official inauguration poster” (and buttons, and stickers, and shirts, etc). If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out here.

I think it’s gorgeous, but wish it was a little cheaper. $100 is too much for me to spend on a poster. I may chip in for some stickers or a pin, though. I’m also looking forward to the Boston ICA’s exhibit of Fairey’s work, which opens February 6th.

Love them or hate them, you have to admit the Obamas have a great sense of style and this poster is pitch perfect. It’s respectful of history while being forward looking and smart. I love the combination of the ornate, official seal laid over the retro propaganda poster image of Obama. In a way, the poster reminds me of one of my favorite local artists, Chris Speakman, (who does the Boston Sports Propaganda pieces), but layout wise the Inaugaration poster is more complex. At first glance, my eye is drawn to Obama’s face, but the bottom half of the picture reveals the true focal point – the crowds of voters celebrating below. Fairey’s images of Obama have become so ubiquitous recently (most recently on the cover of Time’s Man of the Year issue) that his face in this poster is more a representation of his Obama the candidate (notice his expression and the colors are almost identical to the HOPE poster), than of Obama the president elect. It’s a celebration of Obama supporter and voters being the change they wished to see in the White House.

There are many reasons I’m looking forward to the Obama presidency, most of them economic and political. But I consider it a wonderful bonus that we’ve elected a man (a whole family really) who will move our country forward culturally as well. I can’t wait to see what new artists and designers will be unearthed in the next 4 years.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Should've used Zipcar

Here’s a piece of information for you bus riders to tuck away: the 350 bus has two routes it takes from Alewife to Burlington. One goes past the mall. One does not. It’s a good thing to know which route the bus you are on is scheduled to take, should you decide on a Tuesday night that, since the same bus that takes you home would also take you past the big Borders on Wayside and the Michaels if you stayed on it a little longer, and it’d be fun to just make a quick run to the bookstore since you did just finish the book you were reading and you could maybe finally get around to picking up some knitting stuff, and the busses run every 20 minutes this time of day so you wouldn’t have to spend time waiting around for the next one, why not just ride a little farther and have a weeknight adventure?

Me and my bright ideas. So there we are deciding whether to go to the bookstore or dinner first when the bus speeds right on passed our turn, on under the highway and out into the heart of suburbia. Greg is checking something on his iphone and so doesn’t see my jaw drop as I realize I’ve made a mistake and there is something very wrong here. I’m furiously checking my bus schedule print-outs whilst doing my best to look like a casual bus rider still waiting for her stop (I’m sure my shifty, nervous eyes made me look like that something unusual the T advises you to say something about). Out beyond the highway, strip malls, and a used book superstore (tempting). Out beyond lakes and barns and over-sized unusually shaped houses that look ready to jump up and defend the town at the first sign of a Decepticon. The bus just keeps going and even though we know the smart thing is to stay on the warm bus until it turns around and goes back to Alewife, I’m starting to worry it might never turn around. Instead, it might just keep on driving and driving, the driver merrily pushing a button on the dash and turning the bus into a 3500 or a 30 or whatever bus there is out in western mass and we’ll get off several hours from now needing to find another way home from Leominster or Fitchburg or --god help us -- Springfield.

As I’ve already mentioned, I’d finished my book before I even got on the bus, so when we finally did reach the blessed end of the ride into Burlington, I’d pretty much wrung the author bio and back cover dry too. Then it was 15 minutes before the bus turned around and started back. We finally reached the shopping plaza something like an hour later than we originally intended.
The worst part, after eating and hitting the bookstore and Michaels we got to the stop just in time to see the 8:40 bus home drive off. And the next bus due in another hour. This time Greg took over, finagling us a ride home with his mom.

The 350 to Burlington – it looks like a good idea, but somehow never is.

Monday, January 5, 2009

on my butt

Reading New Moon must be going to my head. I seem to have picked up Bella Swan's clumsiness as I made it a full 2 steps out of my building this morning before going ass over teakettle down the icy front steps. I laid in the yard for about 10 minutes in agony wishing some sympathetic vampire would wisk me away. To no avail. I had to make my way back up the same steps so I could clean myself off and assess the damage.

Various random places on my body are sore now (left knee, right thigh, right shoulder, neck) but the bruises are being very slow to form, not a good sign. If only I could have some of those werewolf healing powers. *sigh*

Sunday, January 4, 2009

2008 - Year of Chicago

Today I developed my pictures from Christmas time, including this striking one taken from the plane over Chicago. More than any of the other places I visited this year, 2008 was my year of Chicago. I visited 3 times – for a week in May to celebrate my sister’s birthday, overnight by necessity in September when I flew back to be with my Grandpa and couldn’t get a train ticket for the day I flew in, and again in December when my connecting flight was cancelled.

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with Chicago. I grew up in Kalamazoo, a mid-sized Michigan city just 2 hours away, but I never felt I had a personal connection to the city or even a particular interest in visiting. Apart from a trip to the Science Museum with my middle school, and a weekend visit to a high school boyfriend taking a summer class at Northwestern, I’d never even visited before this year. Even in my college search, it just never crossed my mind. It wasn’t until I moved to Boston that I realized how strange it was that I’d never considered looking at schools in that city closer to home.

Partly, my aversion was due to internalizing my mom’s fear of driving there. My mother, who can navigate the twisty 7-street intersections of Boston with patience and courage to spare, has a special hushed tone she reserves for only Terminal Illnesses and Chicago Traffic. For the most part, unless someone else is driving, my mom’s not going to Chicago.

A second reason I’ve never cared to explore Chicago is that I’ve always felt there’s something a little “me too” about Chicago culture. No one could deny the cultural importance of Los Angeles or New York, but Chicago … it’s the city with a so-so version of whatever the big two have got. A film industry that never quite took off, a skyscraper that used to be the world’s biggest, and even the crime stories are mostly nostalgia.

But, this year I gave Chicago a fair chance, and I’m glad I did. Even a new East Coaster like me has to admit that Chicago could teach Boston a thing or two about pizza. And the architectural tour from the river beat the pants off “duck boats”. And Millennium Park is where Chicago really distinguishes itself from other cities. Cloudsgate (aka The Bean) is an undeniable crowd pleaser – an interactive sculpture that’s beautiful from every angle. And, Boston one-up’s New York by bringing its art museum right out into the public park. I love the intermingling of the museum grounds with the park space. We weren’t able to spend much time in that area, but the time we did spend was wonderful and gave us a real sense of the city.

I’m sure I’m not alone in giving Chicago another look this year. With a new Chicagoan president-elect, and a possible future Olympics on Lake Michigan in the works, Chicago is just beginning its latest turn in the public eye. I’m looking forward to seeing what Chicago will offer up. Especially if it comes in a deep dish.

I am not getting sick I am not getting sick I am not...

This year there seem to be a few particularly bad strains of cold & flu making the rounds. I was knocked out of commission for an entire week last month, and Greg was sick for almost the entirety of his two week vacation around xmas/new years. Again, this morning, I woke up with the telltale sore throat and grumpy attitude that precedes illness.

I absolutely can't get sick again already. I refuse to! So today while my vacation pictures were printing at Walgreens, I stocked up on a few precautions for the coming days. I'm gonna knock this cold out before it can take hold. Also on my list -- lots of fluids, good fats & proteins, plenty of sleep, a minimal amount of sugar, and crossed fingers. Have I missed anything?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Resolutions 2009

This year I have a long list of Resolutions, but most only require a few hours' work, so I'm optimistic I'll complete most of them. A brief overview:

2009 Resolutions:
1. Change to a new doctor and dentist (I have new ones in mind, just need to do the work of switching)
2. Visit a new city (Washington, D.C. is what I have in mind, but as a backup I could count our May trip to Atlanta. Technically, I did visit when my Dad lived there, but we didn't go into the city or do anything more than hang out at their house so the city will still be new to me.)
3. Remember to send birthday cards for immediate family + aunts and uncles. (total of 17 to remember.)
4. Visit vocal therapist (hopefully I can get a referral)
5. Increase payments on student loans
6. Start regular contribution to new savings account for house/condo/whatever someday
7. Complete the final The Artists Way book
8. Learn to knit
9. Take beginning Greek 2 class
10. Finish draft of book (this one is the biggie)
11. Write and post 100 blogposts in 2009 (2 down, just 98 to go...)

New Year, New Netflix

I love New Years because it’s the ultimate Introspective Person’s Holiday. It’s the perfect time for exhaustive organizing projects – clean out the sock drawer, throw out the stale food in the back of the cupboard, donate the uncomfortable sweater buried in the back of the closet. Somehow, throwing out the old always has the effect of bringing buried treasures to the surface. I challenge you to clean out your closet without discovering at least one forgotten item that you’ll be excited about bringing back into rotation. And the mental comfort of a clean closet? Ahh.. nothing better.

This morning I’m taking a hatchet to my Netflix Queue. I know there’s some good stuff in there somewhere, but lately it just seems like bummer after bummer in a red envelope. Somehow my list of movies to rent has gone from a pleasure to a chore. I find myself watching the movies, in the rare event I can bring myself to, just to clear them out of my list and move on to one I’ll enjoy. There’s a marked disparity between the kinds of movies I want to watch –attractive actors and lots of comedy – versus the kind of movies I want to want to watch – drama, documentary, and “classics”. So, today I’m going to face facts and put the queue in line with my movie desires. Bye-bye Decalogue, any tv series that only lasted 1 season before being “tragically cancelled” in the early nineties, reality shows, and anything about Tom Selleck, Jimmy Stewart or surfers. Going into the list? Nothing but fun.