12.28.2010

Elements of a Hudson/Carson/Drilling/Forrest/Clark Christmas

  • Board games
  • Card games
  • Football games (watching, not playing)
  • Boy-girl harmonica-kazoo battle
  • Gift exchange presents including "Anti Monkey Butt Powder" and "Omega-3 Krill Capsules"
  • Entire extended family forced to fend for selves when homeowners flee to Florida on the 27th
  • Entire extended family piling into homeowners' bed, then shower, to take pictures to send to traveling homeowners
  • The garage being turned into a makeshift refrigerator when turkey AND ham AND pot roast AND ribs AND all the sides for each become a little unwieldy
  • Bottles and bottles of wine
  • Glasses and glasses of beer
  • Jugs and jugs of OJ (for screwdrivers, natch)
  • Entire family begging anyone who leaves (like, say, a girl who's got to be at work the next day) to come back as soon as she possibly can

All in all, not a bad way to spend a weekend.

12.25.2010

Season's greetings


Again the Ghost sped on, above the black and heaving sea — on, on — until, being far away, as he told Scrooge, from any shore, they lighted on a ship. They stood beside the helmsman at the wheel, the look-out in the bow, the officers who had the watch; dark, ghostly figures in their several stations; but every man among them hummed a Christmas tune, or had a Christmas thought, or spoke below his breath to his companion of some bygone Christmas Day, with homeward hopes belonging to it. And every man on board, waking or sleeping, good or bad, had had a kinder word for another on that day than on any day in the year; and had shared to some extent in its festivities; and had remembered those he cared for at a distance, and had known that they delighted to remember him.

...

Much they saw, and far they went, and many homes they visited, but always with a happy end. The Spirit stood beside sick beds, and they were cheerful; on foreign lands, and they were close at home; by struggling men, and they were patient in their greater hope; by poverty, and it was rich. In almshouse, hospital, and jail, in misery’s every refuge, where vain man in his little brief authority had not made fast the door, and barred the Spirit out, he left his blessing, and taught Scrooge his precepts.

12.01.2010

Hee Haw and Merry Christmas

A couple weeks ago, the Al & Al show came to visit my parents' house to screen It's a Wonderful Life, No. 11 on the AFI's top 100 list. I happen to know a little about the movie, so I volunteered to host.

Cati came bearing cheese. Bob and Tracy arrived with cocktail knowledge. Alex and Allison brought some excellent speechifying on future cool Watch This events. And I provided the DVD and the liquor. (It's a Wonderful Life is a far drinkier movie than one might suspect.) Good times were had!

And now the Watch This post about the evening is out, so you should go read that. You should also try to attend one of their screenings before the year is up!

11.06.2010

We endorse, you decide

So, there are two stories this week that are kind of enthralling to me from a journalistic perspective.

This week, we learned that MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has been suspended for breaking his employer's ethics code.

The line for what constitutes unbiased journalism is hazy and always moving. Each news organization decides for itself where that line is - as Olbermann's colleague Rachel Maddow points out in this clip.



The other story is, of course, about Cook's Source, the cooking magazine whose entire business model appears to be based on the assumption that "the entire Web is public domain." This would be hilarious if it weren't so infuriating. NPR's Monkey See blog has a pretty good roundup of the situation.

People believe ridiculous things about content on the Internet - everything from "if I change some of the words, that makes it my own original work" to "if you didn't want it stolen, you shouldn't have put it somewhere where I could copy it and remove all the Creative Commons invisitext." (For an example, let's turn to Cleolinda, who writes funny things on the Internet and is sometimes paid to do so - and therefore runs up against this issue ALL THE BLOODY TIME.)

The truth is that "copyright flows from the pen," which means that your original content is yours from the moment you create it, whether it's on the Internet or not. Isn't that comforting? (And it's so much more cut-and-dried than whether journalists can contribute to political campaigns!)

10.09.2010

Peripatetic

per-i-pa-te-tic (adj) : of, relating to, or given to walking

So last weekend I did the Reggae Run, and having dealt with the crazy traffic surrounding that event, I decided to just walk to the starting line. Cati came with me.

We forgot that, while we live close to Ault Park, once you actually enter the park you have another mile or so to walk in order to reach the pavilion where the race festivities were taking place. Good thing Cati suggested getting an early start!

The Reggae Run is a 5K that goes downhill for the first half and uphill for the second half. Another way of saying that is, "The Reggae Run is a 5K where I run for the first half and walk for the second half."


Everyone in this photo is like, "I hear that."




And everyone in this photo is all, "Exactly."

But the real reason you do the Reggae Run is for the after-party! Free food and copious drink tickets!


Notice the number of people with hoods up, huddling over their beers and grilled corn? That's because it was chilly and drizzling the entire evening. Too bad - usually the first weekend in October is still pretty warm before sunset.

At one point, my friend Danae came up holding a tiny cup of Yagoot. I concluded that she was crazy. She came to the same conclusion after about five minutes of clutching a freezing dessert in her bare hands.

At another point, Cati said, "You know, we could just go somewhere warm and I'll buy everyone drinks."

But hey - it was an adventure, right? And Cati and I even got Danae to drive us home!

Sunday dawned, which meant it was time for Cati's and my weekly walk to the farmer's market. But this week was special - it was the Hyde Park Art Show, which meant we also spent some time wandering the booths and browsing ceramics and photography.



It also meant that the square, and several roads around it, was closed to car traffic. So Cati and I got to see some crazed drivers acting in a way you just wouldn't think necessary for a Sunday morning. The chill in the air persisted, but we were pretty glad we chose to walk anyway, because it would not be fun to try to navigate that mess.


Crepes for breakfast! I love how they have a little squeegee for the batter.

I walked home with my haul of produce and a reminder that once I get my current poster stash properly framed, I should consider new artists.

That evening, I headed over to Chele and Stacie's place for their weekly walk around their neigborhood and through the park across the street.

(No pics of this, so instead please enjoy this photo of Stacie and Chele pretending to fall off a bridge in Canada.)



(Corrie came too, but I don't have any photos of her falling off a bridge in Canada.)

What a fab weekend of friends and walking!

9.25.2010

What Wyld Stallyns can teach us


This week I tweeted:

"I basically just want everything to be very awesome all the time. Who's with me?"

(Why, yes - I did steal that philosophy from a Television Without Pity recap of a Gossip Girl episode! What's it to you?)

And hey, it turns out that a lot of people want things to be very awesome! So ... how do we do that?

I have an idea.



Be excellent to each other.
Be kind. Be honest. Don't assume a hidden agenda, and don't adopt one. Help people - heck, not even people who need it, but just people who could use it.

Party on, dudes.
Be happy. Be grateful. Be joyful. Have fun. Don't be afraid.


If we all woke up each morning vowing to be just a little more excellent to each other than we were before, and to party on just a little more than the day before?

It would be most outstanding.

9.23.2010

Thursday

An oldie but a goodie - from the week I brought her home.

9.21.2010

Reversal of expectations

I expected Mr. W to love dinner and despise the show.

Dinner was at Maribelle's, where my friend Cati and I had previously had a fabulous, transcendent dinner. (You can read all about it here.)

The show was Janelle Monae. (A few weeks previously, he had heard some songs from her newest album and, upon hearing one of them segue into "Clair De Lune," remarked, "Finally - something I can enjoy.") She was the opening act for Of Montreal, so a crowd of hipsters was guaranteed. Mr. W does not suffer crowds or hipsters gladly.

But he had said he would go. So off we went.

And at Maribelle's, the service was slow and the sandwiches fell apart.

And after an hour of crazy-amazing Janelle Monae tunes, Mr. W pronounced the show awesome.

I guess you never know.

9.04.2010

Spotted around town

Good thing I take my camera everywhere, because I was able to catch this at a red light last week:


So, what local organization distributes this sticker? (Context.)

Spotted at the gas station

And here I was going to prepay afterward.

8.29.2010

Long weekend

My hypothesis is that the perceived length of a weekend is directly proportional to the number of activities accomplished during said weekend.

In English: Busy weekends feel longer.

So this weekend, I:
  • had a beer with co-workers
  • attended a bonfire with friends
  • watched TV with Mr. W
  • drove to Columbus
  • got a pedicure with my mother
  • ate lunch at a nice little pub
  • attended a wedding
  • drove to pick up my brother-in-law for the reception
  • shook what my mama gave me at said reception
  • ate a leisurely breakfast on our host's patio
  • drove my mother back to Cincinnati
  • met friends at Head First
  • adjourned to Dickmann's for wings and cornhole
  • drove to Eastgate for True Blood fun
Next weekend is three days (Labor Day, doncha know)! I hope it feels as long as this one did.

8.23.2010

Twitter, in slightly more than 140 characters

My sister posted to Twitter a while ago:



Six months later, she has more than 11 followers!

... She has 19 followers.

So I figured I'd post a few basic things I've learned about how to use Twitter effectively if you are a person and not a company or brand.

(Note that when I say "use Twitter effectively," I don't mean "get lots of followers." If you want followers, go on a reality TV show. These tips are for using Twitter to build relationships with your followers, no matter how small their numbers. The best tweeters I know think of Twitter as "that place where all my friends hang out," not "that place where I have 1,300 followers.")


- Have something to say. Twitter has a rep along the lines of, "Why would I want to know when someone I've barely met is eating a sandwich?" Well, yeah, you wouldn't - unless what that person has to say about the sandwich is really interesting. This "what I'm eating" tweet of mine got some responses (and Facebook likes), so it's probably a passable example:



That's a better spin than "ice cream for lunch ;-)" - right? Here are a few examples of Twitter superstars making everyday stuff interesting:





When you sign into Twitter, you're asked, "What's happening?" When you ask yourself this question, make sure you add: "... and why should anyone else care?" I love Twitter because it's forced me to distill and clarify my writing into a very small space, while still making it interesting. It's a fun challenge for a writer, but it's one that anyone can rise to.

- Start with people you know. Family, friends, your favorite co-workers: These are the people who will constitute your follower base. Follow them, and make a note of whom they seem to be tweeting with. If those people seem cool, follow them as well. Think of Twitter as a tool for expanding your circle of friends.

- Follow locals (or those who share your interests). I doubt Cincinnati is unique in this respect - we have a huge base of awesome, engaged Twitter users devoted to exploring and promoting the city. If you want to learn more about cool restaurants or fun things to do in your town, follow your local food bloggers (@winemedineme) or social butterflies (@mojojacob). If you're tweeting about your city as well, this group will embrace you. (If, like my sister, you live in Columbus, I recommend my friend @ShelleyMann, editor of the Columbus Alive arts weekly.)

You can do something similar with shared interests or hobbies - but please do not be one of those people who does a daily search for "Paramore" and starts following everyone who shows up. If you're involved in an online community or a fandom, by all means, reach out to its members on Twitter so you can connect in a new way.


And here is the big one, the real key to Twitter - I dropped out and nearly deleted my account before I figured this one out.

- Use the reply button. Without the engagement of replies, Twitter is just a bunch of narcissistic shouting into the ether. If someone's tweet makes you think, reply and tell them! (You can also retweet them, but use the retweet button sparingly lest your followers think you have nothing original to say.)

I told my sister this once, and she said she felt like it would be rude or stalker-ish to reply to someone she didn't know. Heck no! I judge my success with Twitter not by how many followers I have, but by how many replies and retweets I get each day. All the people I've mentioned in this post so far have Twitter feeds that are just crammed full of replies, and many power users (myself included) have an unofficial policy to only follow back people who reply to them.

Reply. Reply early and often. Replies beget other replies. Replies turn into conversation, which then turn into virtual and even in-person friendships.


That's me with Katy and Laura, two Twitter pals whom I now occasionally hang out with in real life. And I'm on the outskirts of local Twitter society; I know other people who get together with their tweeps just about every day.

Hope this helps you understand Twitter a little more! Oh, and one more tip:

- You can follow celebrities if you want, but don't expect them to reply to you. There are only a few celebs on Twitter who actually reply to their fans, and they tend to be of a cultish, geeky sort. We're talking, say, @ZacharyLevi or @wilw-level geeky, and they will @ or RT you only if you are intensely funny or pithy. If you sign up for Twitter because you want a direct line to @OGOchoCinco, you will be severely disappointed.

8.19.2010

Thursday

My kitty has never really photographed well. She always looks crabby.


But a few weeks ago, I must have caught her in a good mood or some good light or something, because I got some total glamour shots. In celebration of this fact (and in recognition of how much I like 5chw4r7z's "Sid Saturdays"), I'm reinstating the Thursday Open Thread so I can show her off.

(Can you reinstate a feature that you've only posted one installment of? These are the questions that keep me up at night.)

8.14.2010

Ride with the Devil

The best part of going to see Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World last night actually occurred before the movie.

We were sitting in the darkened theater watching the previews, and a trailer came on for some sort of horror-y-suspense-ish-thriller-type flick. There were some people who got stuck in an elevator, and for some reason they couldn't get out and rescuers couldn't get in, and strange stuff was starting to happen to them and they didn't know who was behind it ...

And suddenly, I realized what movie trailer we were watching. And I knew exactly what was about to happen - not in the trailer, but out here in the theater.

Not a moment too soon. A split second later, the screen flashed the words: "From the mind of M. Night Shyamalan." And - exactly the way it's been happening in movie theaters all across the country - the entire audience groaned in unison, realized everyone else in the theater was groaning, and started laughing. At the end of the trailer, a few people even applauded (I like to think they were saluting the audience's good taste).

It was awesome. We as an audience would go on to watch Scott Pilgrim and formulate opinions of it ranging from "rocks" to "sucks," from "perfectly envisioned love letter to the source material" to "ugh, why did they change the final battle so much?"

But for 45 seconds or so, we were all on the same side. We were all fighting the Devil.

8.11.2010

BFF: a comedy in two acts


ACT I.

By the time Stacie, Chele and I pile into the car to hit Chipotle before True Blood comes on, I've made at least three cracks about Stacie and tried to put her in a headlock while she ran around the living room. ("Get off me!" she yelled. "It's like you're a weak midget trying to bring me down!")

As the car backs down the driveway, I say, "You know, I was thinking this week about how I try to be nice to everyone -"

"Whatever - you're not nice to me!" Stacie retorts.

"That's what I'm saying," I continue. "I try to be nice to everyone, but there are only a select few people I'm mean to. That's how you know I like you."

Amazingly, no one compares me to a 12-year-old boy.

----

ACT II.

True Blood has become a Sunday ritual at the McKissick home, and besides Chele, Stacie, and myself, three people show up this week for our regularly scheduled dose of camp and gore: Corrie, Alicia, and Cati. Cati brings with her a bag of produce she picked up for me at the farmer's market (including a cantaloupe that I've dubbed "the magic melon." It is seriously the listening-to-the-Shins-in-a-doctor's-office-waiting-room of fruit), and I exclaim over its delights before the show.

After the show and a few comments on how our old friends Anna Paquin's breasts are back after a short hiatus, we rise to leave. I ready my farmer's market bag for departure.

We're chatting just inside the door when Stacie looks at me and says, "Did you forget your farmer's market bag?"

I did! I race to the kitchen for it, and when I return, Corrie is exclaiming, "How did you know that, Stacie?"

"Corrie," she replies, "Kelly and I have been friends since junior high. I just know these things."

8.08.2010

Board breaking, addendum

After the board breaking was over, National Training wrapped and I reported back to the office to help with our big warehouse sale. My partner was a warehouse staffer named Dawn, and as we boxed up products and printed receipts, she told me about an idea she had.

It was brilliant! I ran back to Cubicle Alley to tell someone before the idea evaporated. 15 minutes later, I returned to tell Dawn I had checked with some people and everyone thought it was a great idea.

Dawn beamed. "No one's ever told me I had a good idea before!"

So much better than breaking a board.

8.07.2010

Sometimes, the board breaks you

(Alternate title: "How a Board Brought Me Down a Peg.")

-----



"I don't know what to write on my board!"

In half an hour, my first National Training would be over. Our annual three-day training event always closes out with "Breaking Through," a session where you actually break an inch-thick board as a metaphor for what's holding you back in life. On the side that's facing you, you write a fear, an obstacle, or something else negative that you want to get past. On the other side, you write your goal.

I knew it was coming, and all week the question "What should I write on my board?" had flitted through the back of my mind. Now it was time. I had listened to everything speaker Brian Biro* had said - but I still hadn't decided.

(*Small tangent: Can I just say how impressive a speaker Biro is? Every now and then, you'll see a speaker who starts out the session by having everyone stand up, stretch, and shake themselves out a little, "so you're not falling asleep when I give you the speech." Biro, on the other hand, has constructed an entire presentation around physical exercises to build the energy in the room - his thesis is basically that energy breeds success, in business and in life, and it's one I completely subscribe to. At one point, he asked people to think of someone they know who always seems filled with energy; I hoped a few of my friends at work were thinking of me.)

What could I write on that board? Kari, who had broken a one last year and was taking us through the session, grabbed a small plank off a chair and wrote "FAILURE" on it in big letters. "This is what I wrote last year," she said.

I wasn't at all afraid of failure. In my core, I knew I could do anything I set my mind to. I ran a half marathon, dammit! Still, it was something to write, at least. I grabbed a promising-looking board and wrote "FAILURE" on one side.

The other side, where you write your goals, was easier. I wrote "LEADERSHIP" on that side, and when Biro asked us to make a dedication, I added "for Mr. W,"* because he's always encouraged me to recognize that I have what it takes in that arena.

(*Almost immediately, I decided that the phrasing of my board was awkward and that I should think of some other way of writing it, prompting Ellen to remark that maybe I should put "second-guessing myself" as an obstacle. That's not second-guessing - that's editing!)

So, I was all ready to break my board - but the presentation kept going. I started to get anxious. Earlier, I had told Bob I would work the room with him for video of the presentation - him with the camera, me with the microphone. How could I be standing here, ready to selfishly break a board for no reason other than I thought it would be cool, when I had made a promise to help someone else out?

... I picked up my board again, crossed out "FAILURE," and wrote, "DISAPPOINTING OTHERS." Now that's a fear I can relate to.

Finally, it was time to start breaking. I posed in the stance I had learned, with my dominant hand back in my armpit and my other hand in front of me in a "stop" position. Sweet! I was going to be a ninja! I had no fear of failure. I knew I was going to break that board!

Until I thrust my hand forward - and felt it meet solid, unyielding wood.

Shit. All of a sudden, I had plenty of fear of failure.

I dropped my arms and looked at Kari, who was holding my board. "It didn't break," I said. "It was supposed to break for me on the first try."

Kari said, "That's OK! Let's try again!"

No, you don't understand, I wanted to say. It was supposed to break for me. I succeed at everything I put my mind to. Everything. And that means breaking this board on the first try.

But I didn't. Instead, I reset my position and tried again.

And again I failed.

My hand was stinging. I knew that participants who failed five times were sent up to the stage to have Biro help them break their boards personally, and now I was 40 percent of the way there. "Don't make me go up on stage!" I begged Kari.

"You don't have to go on stage," she assured me. I readied myself for the third try. Nearby, Jessica and Ellen chanted, "Kel-ly! Kel-ly! Kel-ly!" I was grateful, but would have preferred a quiet room where I could have attacked the board on my own.

Possibly with a chainsaw. You know, if one happened to be available.

I failed a third time. "Maybe we need to take a break," Kari said. I was trembling. By now, I was supposed to be halfway across the room, interviewing women who had just broken through their fears and felt the exhilaration of sudden, extraordinary success. Instead, here I was, failing over and over in a way I didn't consider possible before this. (And it was taking way too long - I had a job to do, dammit!)

On the fourth try - finally, miraculously - the board gave way. Relief and gratitude flooded through me, and I grabbed Kari and hugged her for dear life. Then I cheered on Jessica and Ellen as they broke their boards (no, neither of them on the first try, either), picked up my microphone, and went - still shaking slightly - to do my job.



As far as I could tell, my fourth hit wasn't much different from my previous three. I have no idea why it should have caused the board to break that time and not the others. I can only assume that Kari picked up a tip last year - something about how to hold the board or maybe a way to push it towards me at the last second so that our combined force causes it to break - that made my attempt a teensy bit more effective. I don't know what she did, but I thanked her for being there for me about 12 times throughout the evening.

I don't think anyone else in the room reacted the way I did to the board breaking. For all the other women, the crucial moment was that of finally breaking the board, of suddenly knowing they could do it. I remembered only the three failures that came beforehand. I remembered the certainty trickling out of me and being replaced by cold dread. I even wondered if there was something wrong with my hardwiring - was I supposed to doubt myself at first and then triumph? (Thankfully, Mr. W told me he would have felt the same way. He theorized that it comes of being editors: "We expect perfection." If that's weird, at least he and I are weird together.)

But while board breaking was not at all the experience for me that it is for most people, it was still valuable. I learned that sometimes, I will not live up to my own expectations. When that happens, it's good to remember that I have friends who will be on my side - who might even help me out during uncertain times in ways I don't always notice. I want to be more constantly grateful for those people in my life.

Not exactly a breakthrough, but it's something.

7.21.2010

Based on my previous post ...


I write like
Cory Doctorow

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!





But based on this post ...


I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!




And for this post ...


I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!




Got it.

7.08.2010

Black Wednesday: One year later


A year ago today, my co-workers and I were told to gather in our old offices on the 14th floor. We had been moved to the 19th floor to be with the rest of the newsroom, but no one else had moved into that space, so the floor was still littered with copies of old newspapers and office supplies deemed not important enough to come with us to our new digs. In the darkened office, we sat on the abandoned desks and learned that in an hour, we would be called to a boardroom where we would be officially laid off.

That was a weird day. Everyone had known that mass layoffs were coming, and it was likely that CiN Weekly would be a target. Between our content partnership with national events website Metromix and the Enquirer's new focus on moms and baby boomers, having a dedicated local staff to cover events of interest to young professionals just wasn't cost-effective for the Enquirer. In our weekly staff meeting, we had exchanged contact info, "just in case." I parked my car in the building garage instead of in my normal lot that day, "just in case." We had been told to start making copies of any important files, "just in case."

All "just in case" aside, I really had only the faintest thought of losing my job that day. Just two months before, I had won an award for outstanding service in the line of duty - the Enquirer copy desk's version of the Medal of Honor. I figured there would be a place for me.

(Mr. W told me later that companies don't work that way; that when there's a reduction in force, they have to eliminate positions, not people.)

Losing your job, especially losing your job in 2009, is a scary, scary thing. But there's a kind of exhilaration that comes with the news: Hey, four-day weekend!

So we cleaned out our desks (I still kick myself for not saving all my email; some of my first conversations with Mr. W were in there), and we made plans to meet at Arthur's once we'd dropped off our pencil cups and novelty mouse pads at home. And, since we were all young, hip, and social-media-savvy (which is why we'd all been hired in the first place), we started updating our Twitter and Facebook friends on what was happening, using the hashtag #BlackWednesday (shoutout to Jeff!). "Stop by and buy us a drink!" I tweeted.

And you know what? People came to Arthur's! Old co-workers came! Twitter friends came! Fox 19 even came and interviewed a few of us. (Now I'm kicking myself for not writing down what someone on the crew said when I told him the other big layoff news - Peter Bronson was gone. I recall it being pithy.)

And those who couldn't come sent drinks - via PayPal and over the phone. At one point, our old boss called the bar from Reno to see how we were getting along. I think we mostly shouted about how amazing everyone was being. Eventually, Arthur's manager even sent out a free round.

All night, those of us with smartphones read Facebook updates and #BlackWednesday tweets to the group, adoring the firestorm over our departure. I had 50 new Twitter followers when I got home that night. By the time layoffs concluded the following day, Gannett employees all over the country were using #BlackWednesday and #BlackThursday.

So that was pretty cool.

Now it's a year later, and I have a shiny new job at a company that's doing well, even in a still-struggling economy. My ex-co-workers and I met at Arthur's again, and they're all doing well too. But we had a fantastic time reliving a day that should have been terrible, but - thanks to social media - turned into something wonderful.

6.05.2010

Economic stimulus, final: Local giving

When we last left this project, I had $86 left to spend locally. I had supported neighborhood shops, bought a lovely art print, and joined a CSA - and there kind of wasn't anything more I really wanted to do with this money. Plus I was starting to feel like maybe I should be doing more with this money than just buying stuff for myself.

So I rounded the remainder up to $100 and gave $50 each to two local nonprofits that employ people I know. I figure that way, I'm directly helping my friends stay in a job. The nonprofits are:

The United Way of Greater Cincinnati: Perhaps you've heard of them. And if you're a Cincinnati blogger or tweeter, I know you've heard of Kate the Great, who works for UWGC.

The Patty Brisben Foundation for Women's Sexual Health: This one is probably a lot less familiar to most people. A few years ago, my employer's founder started a foundation to fund research into things like how women's sexuality changes as they go through menopause, how cancer treatment affects intimacy, ways of treating vulvo-vaginal pain disorders, etc. It's an area of health research that doesn't get a ton of attention - to the point where even doctors frequently don't know much about how to talk to their patients about such things. I was happy to make this donation and help out my friend Jessica, who directs the foundation.

And that's all she wrote, kids! Here's hoping next year's tax return is even bigger, so I can do it all again!

5.23.2010

Intermission



Let's take a quick break from the "Stuff I Bought with my Tax Refund" series and go see a movie!

Alex and Allison
are watching all of the AFI's top 100 films over the course of a year, and tomorrow (May 24) is No. 60, Raiders of the Lost Ark. They've arranged to screen this film in the lovely 20th Century Theatre(er)* - and you're all invited! Yes, you. Even you in the back.

(*Dear 20th Century ... auditorium: Your URL is "theatre," but your website header is "Theater." Please make up your mind.)

Details are here, but the basics are: 7 p.m. Free screening. Food and drink (including cash bar) available for purchase.

Can't you hear that theme song already? Dah dah-DAH-dah, Indiana Jones!

5.01.2010

Economic stimulus, week three: Local food

This series is fast becoming a cataloging not just of $500 spent close to home, but of purchases I've wanted to make - have fully intended to make but haven't had the funds to justify making - for some time. I've wanted to visit Oakley Wines since it opened. I've wanted a Charley Harper print since the first time I saw one.

So it shouldn't surprise you to read that for the last three years, I've thought about trying a CSA. I love the idea of having a variety of fresh, in-season veggies all selected for me each week, of being delivered new produce and having to figure out what to do with it.

But I wanted to dip my toe in. I needed a half share, I needed a nearby pickup point, and I needed it to be not terribly expensive. So I was pretty happy to find (via LocalHarvest) Bergefurd's Farm Market in Wilmington. They deliver their CSA shares all over Southwest Ohio, including to the nearby Hyde Park Farmer's Market. They offer half shares. And they allow you to subscribe for just 10 weeks instead of 20. (From the photos on Bergefurd's Facebook fan page, which include a 20-week half-share subscriber's haul last year, it looks like the bag doesn't start to really fill up until the second half of the season - but at this point, I'm not sure how well I'll be able to use up just the 10-week share.)

That's what the share looks like by week 10.

A 10-week half share at Bergefurd is $150; after making sure there were still shares available, I sent in my check and added $12.50 for a half-dozen egg share. (Why do I have a feeling that I'm going to be SO SICK of frittatas by August?)


Summary:

Bergefurd Farms: $162.50

Total for weeks 1-3: $413.37. Just $86 to go!

4.21.2010

Economic stimulus, week two: Local art

For years, I've wanted a print by Charley Harper.

I mean, come on!

Beautiful!



Gorgeous!


Wish you were here!

Harper's a very cool part of Cincinnati's culture. So my sudden tax windfall gave me the perfect excuse to pick up a print by him.

All these images are from Fabulous Frames & Art, by the way - a local custom framing shop that specializes in all sorts of Harper material: prints, posters, and licensed stuff like notecards. They can do amazing things with mats; when I visited, the displays were, like, a print of a bird eating some seeds, but more seeds were printed on the mat, so it looked like the print extended beyond its borders.

But I'm a simple girl with simple tastes, so a simple custom-framed double-mat lithograph with nonglare museum glass was good enough for me.

It's called "A Good World," and it now hangs proudly above my DVDs.


(BONUS BLOG EASTER EGG! How many of my DVD box sets can you recognize?)

This is what's called an unlimited-series lithograph, meaning they still have the plates (etchings? Blocks? What's the right word for lithography?) used to print it, so it can be reprinted at any time. Limited-edition stuff is rarer and more expensive; the pieces I saw at Fab Frames were $500-$900, which is a little beyond my budget at this time. Maybe I'll invest in one of those someday. But this print and my Harry and the Potters glow-in-the-dark gig poster are a pretty good start to my fine art collection.

(You think I'm joking, but I love that poster.)


(I tried to take a picture of it hanging on my wall, but there was way too much glare. Maybe I should have it custom-framed with museum glass ...)

Summary:

Fabulous Frames & Art: $173.60

Total for Weeks 1-2: $250.87

4.15.2010

Economic stimulus, week one: Local shops

The week after the IRS accepted my tax return, I had a four-day weekend, which I spent wandering around my neighborhood to see what I could see.

(One of the things I saw was a singing fish based on this commercial, but I refrained from buying it. Worst decision ever? Only time will tell.)

I was excited to be able to stop at Oakley Wines, which is a fairly recent addition to the Oakley shopping scene (and one whose limited hours make it tough for me to stop by after work). The shop is owned by Joe and Lois Santangelo, who were setting up for their usual Friday tasting when I dropped in. (It's 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and I believe $5 gets you six tastes, but I could be wrong about that.) They were both super-nice, very excited to talk about wine, and happy to inform me that their shop is now open on Saturdays from 1 to 5.

From now on, if you invite me to a party and I bring a bottle of wine, it will probably be from this shop. Oakley Wines specializes in wines you might not have heard of, and they make a point of selling no bottle over $20. I picked up a Malbec, a Pinot Grigio, and a Sauvignon Blanc for just over $40.

Oakley Wines on Twitpic

The next day, I headed over to Hyde Park Square on a more specific mission: to purchase many fancy cheeses from Hyde Park Gourmet Food & Wine. This shop sells crazy crackers, fun little jams and jellies, tiny desserts - basically everything you think of when you think "gourmet." (They also sell sandwiches, which I didn't realize before I stopped in.) Naturally, they have an extensive cheese case, and with the help of a nice saleslady, I selected four: a Camembert, a brie made with goat cheese, something sharp that involved white wine, and five types of Cheddar compressed into a single stripey block. Yum!


Summary:

Oakley Wines: $40.44

Hyde Park Gourmet: $36.83

Total for Week 1: $77.27

In which I take seriously my charge to stimulate the local economy

Happy tax day, my fellow Americans! My tax refund was much bigger than normal this year - I would say by about $500! Boo-yah!

As a patriotic American with no real debt other than my car payment, I've decided to take this extra $500* and use it the American way: to participate in the age-old tradition of conspicuous consumption!

*The amount of my normal refund will go into savings; I'm not completely reckless.

But here's the deal: All $500 is going to be spent in local businesses. No video games from Amazon; no new TV from Wal-Mart, no pretty, pretty dresses from Target (hmm, maybe I should rethink this). I want to feel like my money is packing as big a punch as possible, and I think the best way to do that is to go local.

Let's see how far this $500 goes.

UPDATE. Here's my completed series.

2.20.2010

All the drama, none of the commercials


It must be fate that I set up my new TiVo the same week as the start of the 2010 Winter Olympics. The Olympics seem tailor-made to put the TiVo through its paces: I set a Season Pass for it and can now pause before the big figure-skating final, fast-forward through the compulsory ice-dancing routine, and watch Stephen Colbert be interviewed in full Mountie regalia without having to stay up until 1 a.m.

Because I can control what parts of the coverage I'm watching, I find myself absolutely riveted by the Olympics this year. I get all teary-eyed at the footage of the men's super G winner's dad cheering and jumping up and down. I adore how finishers in cross-country skiing events cross the finish line and then just fall over. I'm enthralled by how Evan Lysacek somehow avoids getting tangled up in his own limbs, each of which are approximately 17 feet long. I thrill to biathlon.

(By the by: Biathlon? Is going to be the next "curling" in the sense of a wacky, off-the-beaten-path sport that everyone loves to talk about. I know it. NPR knows it. Captain Awesome knows it. So study up.)


Watch out, Bob Costas - there's a new Olympic expert in town. (Just don't ask me to watch the entire second heat of men's skeleton in real time. I'll fast-forward to the medal round, thanks.)

[Images come from the Olympics' gallery.]

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