Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Kids!! I don't know what's wrong with these kids today!"

I was talking to two of my colleagues earlier today about random childhood incidents. And thinking about it some more after I got back to my desk, I realized, I definitely had a few moments ala Ramona the Pest.

There were several moments that were particularly memorable. These are my top five. I am sure there are more that my parents could suggest to add to the list, but these are the ones that stand out to me.

  • the time I put a significant amount of Johnson's Baby Oil in my hair. (Who doesn't want silky smooth hair? Just don't do it this way.) My mom was finally able to wash the last of it out with detergent a few days later.
  • the time I gave my little brother a bath in his little tub without taking off his clothes. (There are photos of this.) We both were soaked; we were both wearing wool.
  • the time I decided to give my eyebrows a "haircut". I was without eyebrows for several weeks. (There are no photos of me during this time period, thank God.)
  • the time that was playing Wonder Woman in my Wonder Woman Underoos and I was jumping off furniture in the basement when I fell, hit my face on the floor and chipped one of my brand new grown-up teeth. I was taken to my dad's dentist. Fortunately, it was on the bottom and isn't terribly noticeable now, but, at the time, it was a big deal. (Broken front teeth would become a running theme in my family.)
  • the time at the beach when I felt that no one was paying enough attention to me so I let go of the string on my brand new kite, which blew away across the beach. My aunt had to chase it down. She came back with it some time later; needless to say, I was in trouble.

  • As I said, I am sure that my parents would have a lot more to add to the list. As an adult, I can appreciate both the humor and the horror that those situations presented, and all I can say is, "Sorry, Mom and Dad." I have several friends with little kids, and I love to hear all the stories of THEIR antics and hijinks. Later this week, I will post some of the GOOD things that I did as a kid in the spirit of balanced reporting.

    Sunday, February 21, 2010

    Springtime, a ringy dingy ding... Wait, stop that, reverse it.

    For just a little while (ie. yesterday), those of us here in Boston, Massachusetts, had a little smattering of spring. I was running errands with the sun roof open, the radio blasting (Led Zeppelin always makes me think of summer), and wearing Chucks sans socks. It was great; it was one of those days that, as my friend RECK noted, back on Mt. St. James, the boys were surely outside in shorts playing Frisbee on Easy Street. Unfortunately, while today was as sunny as yesterday, it wasn't nearly as warm (as I learned the hard way when I went out for a walk - had to go back for a scarf.)

    But hopefully soon, the days will be warmer (they're already longer), and we will be seeing the first of the spring flowers. Until then, we can always look at some photos as we patiently wait.
    Crocus Daffodils

    (The title of today's post is a combination of two quotes from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I love that movie.)

    Thursday, February 18, 2010

    You're always a planet to me

    Those crazy MIT hackers were back up to their old tricks today as they celebrated the 80th anniversary of the discovery of the planet (or dwarf planet, depending on who you talk to), Pluto. As I headed home from work tonight, I noticed that the Milky Way was suspended from the little Dome, and I grabbed a couple of snaps.

    Pluto hack Pluto hack

    Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    Checking out the MFA

    I had yesterday off for the Presidents' Day holiday, and, because I had been home fighting a cold most of the weekend, I really needed to get out of the house, even if it was just for a few hours. I hadn't been to the Museum of Fine Arts in ages, and, as I can usually find something to appeal to me there, I drove down to the Fenway yesterday afternoon.

    Note to self: holiday+school vacation week=crowds at the MFA, which is excellent for them, but crappy for me. I checked out the Secrets of the Tomb exhibit, which I think I would have enjoyed more if there were fewer people and a mummy to see. I love mummies, and I didn't realize that there wasn't actually one in the exhibit so I am passing this information on so that others will not be disappointed. (Speaking of which, I read these articles that researchers now know how King Tut died. Seriously cool.) On the other hand, the stuff that was found in this tomb was amazingly restored by conservationists (after a fire by grave robbers in ancient times), and I enjoyed how they recreated how some of the items looked in situ by using photos from the dig.

    I love the "new" Fenway entrance to the MFA. The neoclassical facade is really impressive (reminds me of another impressive neoclassical building across the river), and the Fens from this vantage point is pretty too. (I am sure it will be beautiful come spring/summer.)

    MFA, Fenway entrance MFA, Fenway entrance
    MFA, Fenway entrance The Fens

    Five Cousins

    I find that if I go on the internet to look up ONE THING about the English monarchy, I end up spending hours clicking on links in Wikipedia trying to figure out how they are all interconnected and related to each other. It doesn't help that Victoria and Albert had nine children, everyone married a cousin of some sort, and they named all of their kids after each other, so that there are multiple "Vickys", "Louises", "Alberts", and "Georges" in a generation. (It is more difficult to keep everyone straight than in One Hundred Years of Solitude.) There is always something new to learn about VR's extended family. For example, last night, I learned that King George V of England and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia were first cousins, not just by marriage, but by blood through their mothers (who were sisters and princesses of Denmark), which explains why they look SO alike (although George has Queen Victoria's eyes, which you don't really see in England's royal family these days.)
    George Nicky
    That's George, on the left; Nicholas, on the right (from Wikipedia)

    But, at least now, I am now able to keep five of Queen Victoria's granddaughters straight. This leads me to the real purpose of this post, to recommend the book Born to Rule: Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria by Julia Gelardi, which I found to be a great read. Five of Queen Victoria's granddaughters married into other royal families and became queens themselves. One I had known about, Tsarina Alexandria of Russia, but I didn't know about her cousins, the queens of Spain, Norway, Romania, and Greece. Each of these (essentially English) princesses has a different story on their way to the throne, and they are fascinating people. The period of time in which their stories took place is fascinating too. Mix the girls in with a big dash of their boy cousins/brothers, Wilhelm of Germany and George of England, and World War I becomes one big bad dysfunctional family nightmare. (Of course, I am oversimplifying, but it did made for some nasty family politics.)

    If this was a book about just one of these ladies, I would say that would be pleasantly interesting, but the fact that Gelardi draws comparisons in the experiences of five women of this generation in the broader context of the Great War makes the book really appealing. But it isn't just the war that is interesting; the dramatic divergence in family life is compelling. (One of the biggest issues of interest to me was the disparity in the way that two of the royal families dealt with the hemophilia issue when it hit.)

    The book has a lot of family photos, which is always helpful when reading biography, but could have done better on maps. (I NEED my maps. It is one of the reasons that I so appreciate the New York Times.) I ended up printing out a map of pre-WWI Europe and gluing it into my copy for easy reference. (This is not unusual for me; my copy of The People of the Book has six maps glued into it.) I would definitely recommend this for book clubs as it is a relatively fast read for a biography, and it isn't too dry or detail heavy. I read this book on a beach vacation. (It was actually recommended to me by my aunt, who had read it for one of her book clubs. Yes, clubs; she is hard core!)

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    "I'm happy, hope you're happy too."

    Lisa from the blog Happily Ever After In Seattle nominated me for a happy award! Wasn't that nice of her? I think so. :) I have actually been making a concerted effort to post upbeat stuff (with the exceptions of that poor child with the unfortunate name, although that was still pretty funny, and my commentary on Her Fearful Symmetry, but that started out happy; it was only the DISAPPOINTMENT that spoiled that one.)

    ANYHOW, according to the official rules and regulations of the Happy Award, I now am to list ten things that make me happy. As there are a lot of things that make me happy and it is hard to pick just ten, I thought that I would like ten things that are currently making me happy. (This is going to be fun.)
    1. New readers. I am so happy that my blog it isn't sitting out there in cyberspace, with just me and my offline friends reading (because I asked them to and they are nice.) It is great to know that new friends are enjoying this.

    2. Starbucks Skinny Cinnamon Dulce lattes. "Mmm, delicious, thank you", as Sister K would say.

    3. My Canon Rebel DSLR camera. My photography has improved dramatically, and a huge part of that is having a really great camera to work with. I can't wait to take it to Ireland this fall.

    4. Learning to play Carcassone, a fun board game that my friend MEM introduced me to. I bought my own copy so that I could play it with my family on vacation. Board games rule!

    5. Croque-monsieurs cooked on my Breville panini press. (And you thought I would never use it, Sister K. HA!)

    6. TV. (Perhaps TV makes me a little too happy, especially now that I have DVR, but I don't care. I love you, TV, especially, "Masterpiece", "Doctor Who", "Lost", "Glee", and "Fringe". Miss you, "Torchwood" and "Ashes to Ashes", come back soon!)

    7. Twitter. Despite my concerns, it is actually kind of fun!

    8. St. Anthony, who finds all my missing stuff. For example, my missing Charlie card. It was lost for a month, but I found it in the pocket of the suit jacket I wore on Monday just in time for Snowmageddon! (Even though I didn't need it in the end.)

    9. "This American Life" podcasts. Perfect while driving, cooking, folding laundry... the list goes on.

    10. Missing Snowmageddon!!! I am so happy that Boston didn't get hit with all that snow.

    I pass this award to all my readers (especially Ellen, Diana, and J, my offline friends who blog) inviting them to make their own lists and nominations. If you do this, be sure to let me know about it in the comments so that I can check out your happy list.

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    Travel Buddy

    Seven years ago this weekend, despite the fact that there was a terrorist threat in England (complete with tanks on the runway at Heathrow) and the fact that I had arranged to meet up with some people that I had met on the internet!!, my very brave friend JR got on a plane with me to go to London. It definitely was an Adventure. We had a lot of fun, met some very nice ladies, and got to see some really cool sights, including my first trip to the Tate Modern (my first Matisse and Pollack in real life), an evening walk along the southern Embankment (with this huge full moon), and visiting Carnaby Street. But there definitely were some challenges. I got stuck in the big anti-war protest in Picadilly Circus, which was disturbing. And then our return flight got canceled because of a big snow storm on the East Coast of the US, and we were left stranded in England for an additional unexpected day, which initially was terrifying (we thought it was an attack) and then frustrating (I really needed to be back for a work event.) But after I made a number of persistent (but pleasant) phone calls to Virgin Atlantic, not only did we get on the first flight back to the US (Boston), but we got bumped up to business class! It was really a great time, and I am really lucky to have a friend like JR who is up for adventure!

    Now that's just mean

    I heard the weirdest kid name ever yesterday. A friend of mine has a sister who is a social worker for children; this woman has a child client named "Je nais se quoi" (I kid you not), except it is spelled phonetically, so it must look something like "Jennaysayqua".

    Fo reelz, peeps. (And I thought that I had a hard time on the school playground.)

    When the social worker sister asked the child's mother how to pronounce her daughter's name, the mom looked at her like she was nuts and told her, saying "it's French." Honestly, I give SisterSocialWorker props for taking this is stride because at that point I would have LOST it.

    I wonder if later on in life this child is going to change her name to "Mary". (Even "Jenny" would be an improvement.)

    Friday, February 5, 2010

    "It was only the wind, my dear."

    Prompted by reading a review of Boston Lyric Opera's production of Britten's Turn of the Screw, I thought I would post a little something about how much I seriously love one particular film adaptation of this Henry James' story.

    The Innocents, starring Deborah Kerr, from a screenplay by John Mortimer, was one of those movies that I knew I probably shouldn't have been watching when I was a kid, but I did so anyway. (Kind of like with The Birds, but The Innocents certainly hasn't scarred/scared me like The Birds has. Because birds ARE coming to peck my eyes out, but that is a story for another day.) The film was on one of those channels that ran old movies on Saturday afternoons (either channel 38 or 20), and, quite shortly after it started, I was completely hooked by this spooky black and white film set in Victorian England.

    If you haven't seen the film or know the plot of the James' novella, I will give you the briefest of summations, as I am infamous for being a plot spoiler. It is the story of a governess of a young girl and boy in a secluded country home, who begins to suspect that something is "wrong" with the house and, quite possibly, her charges. Whether it is the children, the imagination of the governess, or something more sinister, this psychological thriller will keep you guessing up until the last frame. And, even then, not every viewer agrees on what they've seen.

    If you feel like you have seen this film before, perhaps as The Others, I would tell you that, while the two films are similar in a number of ways, The Innocents is very much its own film , and I feel in a number of ways superior to The Others. (Although both are really good, and I feel I should disclose that I do own both films on dvd. And that I think that Christopher Eccelston should be in more movies.) A number of adaptations have been made of The Turn of the Screw for both film and television, including a new version for the BBC this past Christmas. The Innocents is the best of the bunch.

    So if you are looking for a suspenseful, spine tingler for a Saturday afternoon (or a dark and stormy night MWAHAHAHAHA), I would highly recommend bumping up The Innocents to the top of your Netflix queue. It really is quite fun to watch! (Just be sure you have locked your front door and closed the door to your closet first! You also might want to have your candle at the ready.)

    Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    Taxi! Ettiquette

    The other night, I was taking a cab home from Logan Airport, and, just as the cab exited I-93 onto Storrow Drive, the driver's cell phone rang. He proceeded to answer it, while merging into traffic on Storrow, and have an animated six minute personal phone conversation in a language I didn't know. He finally ended the call as we were driving out of Kenmore on Comm Ave.

    Sitting in the back seat, I was convinced that we were going to get into an accident, and I was going to die. Storrow was pretty busy, and my driver wasn't paying complete attention to the road. Driving on Storrow can be challenging in the best conditions, and, that night, it was dark, it was busy, and he was on his cell phone.

    Now, I don't take cabs in town very often. A friend asked me this fall how much a cab from my house to Back Bay cost, and I was at a loss. I either drive myself or take the T. So I am not up to speed on the current dos and don'ts of cabbing around Boston. I know there isn't a law preventing drivers from talking on their phones(yet), but, in case this happens again, I would love to be prepared with a polite way of telling the driver that I am uncomfortable with him driving me while on the phone and would like him to stop. One person suggested asking the driver if he would please pull over until he ended the call (with the meter off, naturally.) Someone else suggested telling the driver to pull over and getting out of the cab. Neither of these would have really worked for me on Storrow because there is no where really to pull over, get out, and get another taxi.

    In the end, I gave the driver a crappy tip and got out of the car without giving him my reasoning for the crappy tip because I didn't want to get into an unprepared confrontation about it. I was tired from traveling all day, and I just didn't know how to address it. As a service provider, I should have made him aware that, by being on his phone, he was providing less than perfect customer service. I would love any suggestions for a professional, firm, but polite way of saying that I expect someone I am paying to drive me around town to be doing so with his/her undivided attention.

    Otherwise, I think that I am going to look into hiring a car to take me to and from the airport. Paying the extra money for that is worth it when you and the drivers are mutually agreed on the what the outcome of the trip should be.

    (Best cab ride ever: London. Not that anyone reading here would be surprised. Although the drivers don't seem to want to help with luggage; is that against the rules?)

    Monday, February 1, 2010

    Sunset and evening star

    I was down in Florida this past weekend with Sister K visiting our parents. We only had one real day of nice weather (the day we arrived), and, fortunately, I had brought my camera down to the beach with me. I was able to get some good shots that day.

    Sunset over the Gulf Sea gulls

    Sea urchins Full moon

    Pelicans Sunset over the Gulf


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