Sunday, July 29, 2012

July, of my eye

July has been full of work, work and more work. Still, I managed to squeeze in some fun between the marathon sessions in front of my computer, in meetings and on the river.

We celebrated this guy's birthday...


celebrating Steven's birthday

Bid Terra a fond farewell with a Pinterest-themed potluck...

Terra's going away - Pinterest Party

Terra's going away - Pinterest Party

And found time to laugh away the stress...


Sunday, July 22, 2012

List: Endorsed, Science Rocks Edition


- The Secret Life of Bees, Enthralling story in Smithsonian Magazine on bee behavior with descriptions of their enthusiastic dancing, aggressive head butting and overall decision-making.

- Dragonflies as a climate change indicator, I've recently been on the hunt for journal articles on dragonflies. Maybe it's just me, but dragonflies seem more prevalent in Northern Virginia this year. In addition to being more abundant, I've noticed greater diversity in pattern and color. I couldn't help but wonder if changes in the local dragonfly community could be linked to the incredibly hot summer we're having.

- Beautiful woodcut prints made from cross-sections of trees

- Sunscreen debate, I've seen so much conflicting information in the news lately about sunscreen and whether it's bad for you. Science can be so confusing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How Twitter can make you a better person

Twitter is slowly helping me become a better person. Who knew this tool could become a beacon, the lighthouse standing strong on the Internet's shores warning me what not to do?

Do you complain continually about your children and how horrible your life is, only to flip the switch and wax poetic about your consumerist pursuits? Thank you. You help me to cherish my life and how genuinely happy that I am. You also convince me to cut back on my online complaining. I'd hate for people to think that I'm as unhappy as you appear.

Is every tweet out of your mouth a humblebrag? Thank you. You keep me grounded and my ego in check. You remind me that the flip side of complaining is sometimes talking about how great you are.

Have you ever tweeted more than once about how much your feet smell? Thank you. I appreciate the reminder that sometimes there should be limits to what we share, particularly if it's done without humor.

Do you make me laugh, share uplifting quotes and pass along articles that fuel my passion? Thank you. You give me something to shoot for and make me want to be better.

So, Twitter, thank you for all you show me. I'm still making plenty of these same mistakes myself, but it's fun to learn not to ;-)

Monday, July 09, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter...convenient liberal fantasy or fun romp?


I really, really liked Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. So fun and everything a good liberal like me could ask for. Lincoln wielding an axe with more finesse than a member your band's color guard totally did it for me, and the nods to history (and revisionist history...hello? vampires?) culled from Lincoln biographies and other texts kept me sated.

Should I point out that I couldn't help but think of the disservice we do ourselves by conveniently creating monsters to blame for the brutalities of the south and the Civil War? Or discuss how vampires are indeed an affective allegory* for the south? What about how blatant the character of Will Johnson fulfilled the role of Spike Lee's 'magical negro'?

I'd be lying if I said that all of the above didn't cross my mind while watching the movie. Sometimes I don't want to analyze a movie though. I don't want to think critically, picking it apart and thinking about why it might not be a shining example of cinema or messaging. Often, I just want to enjoy it, and you know what? I did. All I needed was some good ass-kicking fun with the bad guy getting his comeuppance, and this movie delivered.

*Alright, grammarians, did I use this one correctly?

Friday, July 06, 2012

Do something. Do better.

Some of my favorites in my Twitter stream were abuzz this week tweeting and retweeting about the winner of this year's library interior design competition*, the main branch of the McAllen, Texas library. The buzz was about more than just a cool, modern library--setting aside shock at any community willing to put money into public libraries--and had more to do with the fact that this library moved into an abandoned Wal-Mart and exemplified solid adaptive reuse.

While I'm stoked to hear of any abandoned building gaining a new life and get a particular thrill to know someone is trying to make right of Wal-Mart's waste, I think we need to use this story to push for even more.

How so?

We need to continue to reward and tell the story of local governments like McAllen who make smart decisions to reuse space. However, they need to be pushed harder. Is anyone asking where Wal-Mart went? I can guarantee you that they didn't just close up shop. My guess is that they wanted to remodel and start afresh, leaving behind their huge, abandoned footprint and clearing and erecting a newer, bigger model in a nearby location.

I know this because they did the same thing in my hometown just a few short years ago. I grew up in a two-Wal-Mart town in West Texas. Go ahead, say it. Classy, right? Once the newer Super Wal-Mart went in across town, it was only a matter of time before they upgraded the "old" Wal-Mart. So, instead of just revamping what they already had, they left their mess and built an even bigger store on adjacent lot.


I was livid! It's been at least 3 or 4 years, and I'm still burned up about it.

Who is issuing these permits and letting them get away with this? San Angelo can never be accused of embracing smart growth, but people in these towns need to start thinking beyond short-term dollars and more about long-term sustainability.

So, bravo to McAllen for reusing the old Wal-Mart building, but I want our cities to stop allowing corporations like Wal-Mart to wield so much power over local government. Don't issue permits when they want to jump ship to a new location. Enforce strict zoning laws. Something.


San Angelo was lucky enough to have the county government step up and reuse the old Wal-Mart building for new county offices. It won't win any awards, but it was the right thing to do.

*Some wicked cool entries, btw. You should check them out!
**Pictures by my mom. :-)

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Remixing and reinventing

Now that we've been hitting the gym hard once again [have I not mentioned the 3-month slow down and 3-week sabbatical I took?] I find myself searching for ways to step it up. Don't get me wrong, I love all the reading I get done on the treadmill, but I can only go so fast while reading. Really, I blame this minor burst of motivation on a combination of the U.S. swimming trials playing on the gym TVs and a podcast episode on running mixes that I happened to catch yesterday.

The sad fact is that only 15% of the gym's music gets you hyped (and that's if you can even hear it). Enter my new workout playlist! No more will I rely on stale Lifetime videos and the rhythmic beat of people who actually manage to run in order to entertain myself.

1. Church by T-Pain
2. Wrestlers (sticky, dirty) by Hot Chip
3. Candy Shop by 50 Cent
4. Odyssey by Woolfy
5. Bounce by Timbaland Ft. Dr. Dre, Justin Timberlake and Missy Elliott
6. Drop It Like It's Hot by Snoop
7. The Garden by Mirah
8. Golddigger by Kanye West/Jamie Foxx
9. Tightrope by Janelle Monae
10. Dog Days are Over by Florence and the Machines

Do you know what I discovered? The damn playlist worked. It provided a near perfect narrative arc and (varied) tempo for the treadmill. T-Pain and the scenes from Step Up 2 running through my head immediately got me high. By the time I got to Bounce, I was disgustingly sweaty [which is the point, right?] and, indeed, bouncing. Have you ever listened to the lyrics to Bounce? I guess I hadn't. I've always been more of a beat girl myself and was a little surprised. Luckily, Missy enters near the end, schooling the boys with her filthy mouth and giving me a little boost.

Ending with Florence singing Dog Days was nothing short of inspired. I was winding down my time on that bloody machine, and I just wanted to clap and shout it out just like her. The dog days really were just about over. In fact, I really want someone to invent treadmill dancing classes (Ok Go was on to something). I wanted to bust some moves during my walk, and if I wasn't certain I would fall, I totally would have drop-drop-dropped it like it's hot with Snoop.

Karaoke treadmill dancing?! Brilliant!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Girl behind the mask

summer lovin'

I'm the kind of girl who...
  • becomes anxious at the sight of a bug and has to pull on her big girl pants to kill it
  • has to put on her magical blinders to ignore the aforementioned bugs when traipsing around outside for work
  • (oddly enough) considers skirts and flip flops appropriate field attire for said traipsing
  • can't seem to stop wearing clothes until they disintegrate
  • keeps a messy car but a clean house
  • doesn't think she'll ever truly love cooking because it just takes too much darned time
  • has developed a desire for workshop space and a saw over the past couple of months
  • decides she wants a new exotic pet every time she sees one in a movie
  • saw Magic Mike and now wants a tiny pet pig (after Juno it was a rabbit)
  • favorite song came out in 1993

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Goodbye, June!

I'm not looking to rush the year but, boy, am I glad June is over! I knew going in that it was going to be crazy busy at work...the kind of craziness that bleeds over into the weekend despite my best efforts.

Luckily, I got to give June the proper sendoff on Friday by gathering with a few of the folks who shared in my hectic schedule. When you hang out in Annapolis, the people feel compelled to give you seafood. This was my first seafood boil (and first time trying snow crab and mussels), so the evening was dubbed the education of Serena. We won't talk about the fact that a 5-year old was better at eating crab than I was ;-)

boiling point

The first seafood broil

My contribution