Tuesday, February 26, 2013

List: Endorsed, 2.26.13

San Angelo, art in the park

I did something to my back at the gym last week (let's keep the old comments to a minimum), so I spent large chunks of the weekend hanging out on my couch, catching up on my favorite shows and reading. I can't recommend the following pieces enough. Many of them are long, and most of them are certainly weighty, providing fuel for some of my better rants. All are certainly worth the investing the time in.

The Education of Michelle Rhee - She's definitely one of my heroes.

Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us - A really eye-opening piece that just might make you sick.

Flight of the Hipsters

Does Age Quash Our Spirit of Adventure

The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers: Mayim Bialik

Endorsed is inspired by the Slate Culture Gabfest (and the numerous other lists that circulate online).

Saturday, February 23, 2013

On why I'm excited for the Oscars...

I can't help but be a little excited for the Oscars tomorrow. I'm not sure how much I'll actually watch. However, I made a concerted effort to see several of the noms in January, and they each impacted me in such a positive way that I can't help but be excited for them.

Of the films that made the cut, I've seen Argo, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty. I really enjoyed Silver Linings and found Somebody That I Used to Know streaming in my subconscious as I watched Bradley Cooper portray someone with bipolar disorder. Still, it's been the other three movies that have stuck with me, leading to the most introspection.

I know others who have been bored by parts, but I sat riveted through each of these movies. I left with THOUGHTS and FEELINGS and plans to write nuanced pieces about each one. Well, life gets in the way, so I'm going to follow last week's rapid-fire book review format and tell you a bit about why I love each.

Argo - This movie really showcases Ben Affleck's talent in the director's chair. We all know how the story ends. They make it out, and yet, I was still a bundle of nerves waiting to see what could go wrong. He masters creating tension. Also notable are the outfits and two of my '90s obsessions, Victor Garber and Clea Duvall.

Zero Dark Thirty - I was skeptical of this movie going in. I was not someone who cheered in the streets when Osama was killed or yelled 'fuck yeah, America'. I understand why it had to happen, but I found/find the whole state of affairs we're in incredibly sad. This movie didn't change that. I don't even know where to begin. So much has been written about this movie, and I've tried to avoid most of it. Kathryn Bigelow does a phenomenal job at manipulating audience emotion and playing both arguments regarding torture against each other. I went through several stages of grief while I sat, glued to the chair. If this weren't a quickie review, I'd cram pages of thought in your face. In the end, I don't know if so many women or children were present when he died, but that also really got me. I couldn't help but leave thinking that the cycle will certainly continue.

Lincoln - This movie played to my love of history and rekindled some of my passion for politics (all three of these movies did). It's fun to watch political drama play out in hindsight rather than listen to the painful bloviations of today, wondering what dark road they'll take us down. Excellent acting, plenty of opportunities to laugh, and much respect for Lincoln's rhetoric.

Aren't you glad I didn't give you the long version? ;-)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A day at DC-area breweries

Scarlet's birthday, 02.16.13

We celebrated Scarlet's birthday this weekend, and for the first time in a long time, I remembered to make an effort to snap lots of photos of the people around me. We all used to take hundreds of photos of ourselves at every event and outing, and over time, these photos evolved into pictures of signs, table settings, and what we've eaten. I created photo grids for a few of these same people for Valentine's Day and was reminded of how precious all of those (some would say self-indulgent) photos were. I got a huge kick looking back at older photos and reminiscing about the amazing times and the good life that I have. All of this thinking spurred some rampant picture snapping this weekend.

Speaking of, we spent some time at two of the DC area's breweries, DC Brau and Lost Rhino Brewing Company. Two vastly different experiences that probably speak to their respective locations (DC proper and Ashburn, VA). DC Brau was a madhouse! It's a relatively small space tucked away in NE DC, and it was filled with young DC. If I were the type to use the word hipster, I'd throw it out here. Once we got our initial bearings (insert momentary panic attack here) and figured out what was where, it was all good. The people were friendly, and the drink tickets were aplenty (and free). Minus the crowds, I loved the look and feel of this place. If you like beer and are looking for something free to do in DC, go here.

Lost Rhino was very, umm, northern Virginia. The crowds were decidedly more suburban and included a fair share of families with kids. While you'll pay for your drinks here, there's a bit more variety, and you have the option of ordering smaller sample sizes. They also have food for sale, which is a nice plus. As far as taste, everyone* seemed to enjoy the beer at Lost Rhino a little more than DC Brau.

birthday collage

*With the exception of this non-beer drinker.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Roots, or proof that chronic bitchface is hereditary

McMillian clan circa 1864

I'm obsessed with this photo my mom picked up from my great aunt this weekend. It's my grandma's side of the family circa 1864. My mom's been researching the family history, and I'm not sure she's aware how into it I am.

This is the McMillian clan, and evidently, they were proficient at childbearing (wasn't everybody?). The great grandma I knew briefly growing up is on the front row, second from the left. I spent quite a bit of time looking at all of the ladies and trying to see if I could find any of myself in them. Know what is apparent? The lineage for my chronic bitchface goes way back. ;-)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Be disruptive!


What do the Harvard Business Review, Gilmore Girls, and Seth Godin have in common? They all allude to the fact that, in order to soar, shine, OWN in the workplace, you need to be disruptive.

You see, sometimes I do a little business lady reading. It can be a challenge navigating the professional world, and working for a nonprofit can be even more challenging. Yes, we have it a little more laid back, and I thrive on that. However, try finding a way to strike the right balance between professional and laid back in a more casual setting. It's difficult! So, every now and then when I stumble across something that seems to cut through the bullshit, I like to share.

Last week I stumbled upon (thanks to Caiti) a post from the Harvard Business Review entitled Woman Need to Realize Work Isn't School by Whitney Johnson and Tara Mohr. I'll admit that the title gave me pause. I was sure I was in for a condescending piece about women in the workplace but was very pleased to be wrong. Instead, it turned into one of those pieces that I felt compelled to read through twice and then share with my team (99% female) at work. The part that really resonated with me was the first piece of advice: figure out how to challenge and influence authority.

"In school, in order to get the grade, you learned to provide the authority figure — the teacher — what he or she wanted...This approach may get you some initial gold stars, but it won't get you what you really want, which is to be an indispensable player, not just to your boss, but in your industry."

Suddenly, shadowed corners of my brain lit up as I remembered a post on Seth Godin's blog in which he talks about the opportunity cost of not taking the initiative. You know it wasn't long before I flipped through my pop culture mental archives and pulled out the appropriate Gilmore Girls reference (because, hello, the Gilmores are full of life lessons).

Remember the episode in season six (or was it five) where Mitchum Huntzberger tells Rory she doesn't have it, that she isn't cut out to be a reporter? He goes on to tell her how she's fine at doing what's asked but doesn't take the initiative or speak up during a staff meeting. Let me tell you, I hated him for doing that and took great pleasure when Richard Gilmore tells him off later that season. Looking back, though, I get that this is exactly what Johnson, Mohr and Godin are talking about.

I think it's an important business lady lesson regardless of what your "business" is. The basic premise makes as much sense for nonprofit life as it does for someone in a more traditional business.

Bottom line? Go forth and be disruptive!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Rapid-fire book reviews (aka January's book gluttony)

Remember that time I got all preachy on how I loved to read slow? Well, I have a confession to make. The universe (err...my brother and his girlfriend) conspired against me (um...got me a really nice BN gift card for Christmas) and somehow (well...I never said I couldn't read fast) I read six (and a half) books in January. Considering I read roughly twelve books last year, gluttonous is the only way to describe my January reading habits.

Do not fool yourself into thinking that I am backing away from my premise that the nature of slowly devouring a book can be sublime. I still plan to embrace this and, in fact, have already slowed my pace for February. Still, a combination of Homeland (season 1), Zero Dark Thirty, and this article by Michael Bourne (appearing on The Millions) had me wondering if I was missing something by not giving myself over to the other side (you know who you are, you goal-setting Goodreaderites). Curious as to how these three things could lead me to decide to pick up my reading pace for 2013? To truly get it, you'd have to be comfortable crawling around inside my head. Let's just say that I'm jealous of an intelligence officer's ability to devour thousands of documents and pieces of information, find connections that aren't readily apparent, and come up with brilliant deductions.

So, I decided to see what I can cram in this year while also trying not to impede my attempts to create more than I consume.

What did I read last month?

Two Graves by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child: Why? Because I love this series.

In this long-awaited (well...long for a fan) follow up to Cold Vengeance, we finally learn what happened to Helen, Special Agent Pendergast's lost love, and her backstory. This one gets dark pretty quick, and for about half the book, I found myself wondering if we'd finally see the end of Pendergast and the series.

Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth: Why? Because Scarlet and Reishia raved about them.

I've been a fan of the dystopian, post-apocalyptic since way back in the day (yeah, I said it), so it's no surprise I enjoyed this peek into a future world where class systems have been shaken up and redefined by virtues/character traits. Things, of course, begin to fall apart as the ugly side of human nature emerges and begins to reveal cracks in the facade. There's also a love story, but would you expect any less from a young adult thriller? By the way, I totally refused to read the last chapter of Insurgent for about a week because I knew I'd be left hanging until the third book comes out.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson: Why? Because I read her rooster post once, saw Ashley mention the book was funny, and Ravena told me it was on sale for $1.99.

Other than the post I mentioned above, I've never really read the Bloggess (am I supposed to capitalize 'the'?). It wasn't that I was avoiding her. It's more that she never really made it on my radar screen. Had I been a regular reader, I might have realized long ago that she grew up in a tiny place in West Texas just outside of where I grew up and attended the same college I did. It should be no surprise that I found myself snorting with laughter while reading this and wanting to copy passages to email my mom. While we definitely had different experiences growing up, there was still plenty in this book to identify with. Read this if you like shooting snot out of your nose from laughing so hard.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: Why? Because of this review and the BN overview.

I feel like this is a book aimed at book lovers and technophiles alike. Bookstores filled with volume after volume of arcane titles that threaten to collapse in on you, lovable, yet eccentric characters, and some Google bait. It's a fun read.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: Why? Because Scarlet named it as her favorite book of 2012.

This book was pretty damn magical and perhaps my favorite of my January reads. I approached this book with a bit of skepticism because, to be honest, I was expecting the now common slate of vampires, wolves, etc. It was so refreshing to be proven wrong and read something that focuses on a family of seers. I'm also a sucker for mystical places created in Virginia and created folklore around real historical figures. I'm seriously downplaying the premise of this book; however, this is supposed to be a rapid-fire review. Also, I've got something special I want to do for this particular title.

I also started Midnight Rising by Tony Horwitz last month, if you're wondering where my 1/2 book came from. I'm still pouring through that one but hope to finish soon!

By the way, did you hear that DC was voted most literate city for the third year in a row?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope

artistic obsession
My friend, Duncan, drawing comics at the Barnes & Noble cafe.

I'm attracted to passionate people. I've said it before, but it bears repeating. These are the type of people I like to fill with my life with. If you get bored often or don't dream*, I'm going to struggle with how to fit you into my life.

Comic-Con Episode IV is FILLED with people with a dream. This documentary follows the lives of six uber-fans as they prepare for their big moment at San Diego Comic-Con.
  • Holly is the mega-talented costume designer who can recreate video game and comic worlds from scratch. She's preparing to compete in the Masquerade costume contest. 
  • Chuck is a dealer who owns Mile High Comics in Denver and is struggling to keep his business afloat in the face of a changing comics market and Comic-Con's growing focus on the broader entertainment market. 
  • James and Se Young are young fans who met and found love at Comic-Con. 
  • Skip and Eric are aspiring illustrators that hail from different parts of the country and have radically different origin stories. Both make their way to Comic-Con to show off their drawings and hope to be discovered.
Interspersed with each fan's journey are clips of fanboy (and girl) heroes like Stan Lee, Kevin Smith, Josh Whedon, and Harry Knowles talking to the camera about the comic book scene, evolution of Comic-Con, and pretty much whatever floats their boat. Kevin Smith, always funny as hell, was a particular favorite.

I really dug this documentary. I found it equally endearing, inspiring, and at times, laugh out loud funny. It's a largely hopeful look at normal people trying to live the dream and little bit of an oral history of San Diego Comic-Con rolled into one. While scenes of the massive crowds and multi-day lines did nothing to quell the notion that this crowd-fearing introvert would wind up huddled in a corner, it did make me want to pick those Avengers comics back up and continue the comic book project I started last year.

*I'm not picky. Your dream could be to find the best tater tots in the state of Illinois or your passion could be memorizing your favorite lines from BSG. 

Sunday, February 03, 2013

First February

February 2, 2013

What my weekend looks like when I plan to be productive but just can't be bothered...

1. Coffee meet-ups and the matinee of Warm Bodies.
2. Being glad that they didn't show all the funny parts with the best friend in the trailers and that I only paid $5 for the show.
3. Death is a motherfucker.
4. Starting season two of The Walking Dead.
5. Snow flurries after dark, heated seats, and an awesome pal by my side.
6. Legitimate Irish pubs with friends I haven't seen for a while.
7. Exchanging pleasantries with Ripken the cat.
8. Sleeping in, a tiny bit of work, and chats with a friend.
9. Watching the rest of the second season of The Walking Dead.
10. Last half of the Super Bowl and feeling anxious about not working more.