Friday, February 26, 2010

Creating a Beautiful Day

One of the interesting (relatively speaking) features of my job is hearing all the different sorts of things people record for their outgoing message on their answering machine.  I've heard some interesting things, sometimes in content and sometimes in tone.  One thing many people say is, "Have a blessed day." Today, I left a message for a client whose recorded voice instructs the caller, "Create a beautiful day for yourself." When she returned my call, she was a pleasure to talk to and called me "Miss Michael" several times. I would venture that she's nice to talk to because she practices having a good attitude about things.

I'm a little ambivalent about the idea of thinking positively. On one hand, I complain a lot. My boyfriend thinks I'm happy when I complain and while I'm not sure that's true, I admit I complain frequently. I knew a girl that was planning to go for a month without complaining because she thought it would change her life.  That's just the sort of hokey crap that turns me off. (As a side note, I never got the follow-up story from her so I don't know if she succeeded).  This person also believed in the law of attraction, and I just can't believe in that sort of thing, personally.  I don't believe in the power of prayer or that the universe will grant a person what he or she wants just because of his or her thoughts. Actions matter. In my opinion, the concept is completely ludicrous and I'm always surprised when otherwise logical people live by it.  This is why I've been wanting to read Barbara Ehrenreich's Bright-Sided ever since I saw her promoting the book on The Daily Show. From what I've seen and read, in the book she points out that thinking positively can lead to delusion and examines its effects on an individual and national level.

While I don't live by the idea that thoughts have the power to change your life, I do believe in making the best of a situation.  Despite my complaining, I try to enjoy my life.  I think the advantage of thinking positively is much more direct than the "power of attraction" suggests. On a basic level, if one goes into a situation with a good attitude, the pleasantries of the situation will be more evident.  On the other hand, if one goes into a situation with a bad attitude, one will find things to be unhappy about. I know this from personal experience because I've definitely been guilty of it at various times in my life (I'm looking at you, teenage-Michael). A while back, I went through a period of depression, and it felt like even when I tried to be happy I couldn't.  A friend told me I needed to fix my attitude, and while part of me resented the idea, he had a point.  There's a Rilo Kiley song called "The Good That Won't Come Out" with the line, "You say I choose sadness/that it never once has chosen me/maybe you're right."  This song was particularly meaningful for me during that period.

I have experienced many life changes since that period in my life: I have a better job, a great boyfriend, and I live in a neighborhood more suited to my lifestyle.  I can largely thank these changes for the end of my depression.  However, I still try to remember that line, and to remind myself that there is an upside to thinking positively. I do think it's possible, in a limited sense, to "create a beautiful day."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lucky me!

Normally I carpool to and from work with the bf, who works just a few blocks away. But on Tuesdays he works from home, so I rode home with a friend. When I walked through the door, I was greeted with the aroma of sizzling bratwurst and simmering polenta. Dinner was served with red wine just moments after my arrival. And when my belly was full, I got a present:

Matt ordered four of these darling napkin rings from The Joy of Color on Etsy when I mentioned I wanted to start using cloth napkins. He's more on top of things than I am though, so now we have napkin holders but no napkins yet.

All in all, not a bad Tuesday once work was over.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Principles and Pocketbooks

A friend of mine recently posted a Facebook update that alerted me to an advertising boycott of Glenn Beck. Apparently, this is something that’s been going on since last summer, but I wasn’t aware of it until today.  I don't want to go into too much detail regarding my opinion of Beck because I think other people can do a better and funnier job of calling him an idiot. I do want to share my reaction to the boycott, because I really enjoyed reading about it today.

Last year, the grass-roots organization Color of Change launched a campaign urging sponsors to stop advertising on Beck’s show. The site is entirely devoted to this purpose. Their efforts over the past seven months have yielded impressive results. The site lists 116 companies that refuse to run ads during the program, and a recent update indicates that in the UK Beck’s show has aired for the past six days with no ads at all (commercial time is filled with spots for the network’s own programming).  For further detail, read the press release from here.

The list of companies who have agreed not to support his programming with their dollars is actually pretty remarkable. I find it amazing to see huge companies actually respond to this sort of feedback. On a personal level, I was pleased to see the underwriter of my employer on the list (not that I’ve ever seen them advertise at all, but still).

However, these companies (for the most part) still advertise on Fox News Network (please appreciate the constraint I exercised not putting quote marks around the word news). Hateful/full of hate as Glenn Beck is, if the network is better, it's fractionally so. It’s about as “Fair and Balanced” as a Michael Moore documentary. The difference is Michael Moore doesn’t pretend he’s not liberal whereas Fox News purports to be unbiased. (As an aside, people who call Moore’s films docuganda should probably take a close look at the history of documentaries and recognize that a documentary can be an essay that makes an argument, not simply a presentation of facts. But I digress.)

To get back to my point, I think Fox News has a negative impact on the world and thinking about its popularity is borderline depressing. Their programming is designed to instill fear and I would rather see people turn to horror movies for that. However, reading about the success of the boycott campaign does make me feel optimistic. It’s not often that I see organizations with power (money) making choices based on principle instead of their pocketbooks. I find it refreshing.

I also think it's great that this change has been created by a web campaign. Much as I love looking at lolcats and reading Wikipedia all day, I enjoy seeing the internet used to affect the world in a positive way.

Friday, February 12, 2010


My friend Rachel recently posted an entry including a link to a giveaway being offered by blogger Cherryblossom of The Madness of Mundanity.  Entering the giveaway includes a fun little exercise called "Always, Sometimes, Never."  So, here it is.

I always . . .

  • eat breakfast.
  • wear sunscreen.
  • spell out words and use punctuation in text messages.
I sometimes . . .
  • wear make-up.
  • complain too much.
  • drink soda.
I never . . .
  • leave home without lip balm.
  • like being without my computer.
  • eat raw onions.
And, because I'm in a silly mood, here are the answers given by my cat, Snoopy.

"I always like snuggles. Matt is my favorite snuggle buddy."

"I sometimes am a brave outside-kitty. Sometimes I go outside."

I never stop being adorable (I can't even help it).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lost and Found

So, I've had a brief hiatus from my computer. It was in bad shape, so I took it to a repair shop last week. It was ready by Friday, so I wanted to pick it up that night and have it for the weekend.

Well, Friday afternoon, Matt accidentally locked his keys in the trunk of his car. This is mostly irrelevant so I won't go into too much detail, but the result was that I walked to and from the computer repair shop (less than a mile from home). It was drizzly outside, not pouring but still mildly unpleasant. On the way, I found a passport on the sidewalk.

The passport belongs to a 17-year-old German boy named Erik. I didn't know what to do with it, but I knew the sidewalk in front of a car repair shop wasn't a good place for it. So I picked it up. While I walked, I tried to think of ways to make sure this kid could get his passport back. Should I try to contact the German Embassy? Should I turn it in to the police? Would I be able to find him on Facebook?

 The experience made me think of this Regina Spektor song:

Unfortunately, finding a passport is a little different from finding a wallet. Unlike an ID card, there is no address on a passport, and even if there were, mailing it to Germany wouldn't exactly help the kid. What would this poor kid do when he realized it was missing? How scary would that be? The passport had his visa in it as well.

I also wondered what the boy was doing here. Not just in this city, but in my neighborhood. Was he here with friends? With family? With school? Was he studying abroad? Where did he visit on this street? A restaurant, maybe? I imagined him here with family, staying in a rented condo or house.  In my mind, he was visiting Blind Lady Ale House (which admits minors) when his passport fell out of his pocket.

After picking up my computer, I stopped at a few local business, including Blind Lady, to look for him.  I asked employees if they remembered anyone with a German accent visiting. No luck.

I tried to do research when I returned home, however, after just a few moments of use, my computer experienced a major error. In the end, I called the local police department and they had an officer stop by my house to pick it up. I can only hope that Erik contacted them to report it missing. I feel like I should have done more but I wasn't sure what.

In other news, my computer continued to have problems, but it was covered under the repair shop's warranty so they continued to work on it and now it's behaving itself. I definitely missed it this past week.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cheese Flavored Ice Cream

This weekend I made ice cream from salted Oaxacan cream. To be completely honest, I'm not really sure what Oaxacan cream is. My boyfriend got it to use in another recipe. It's got a sour cream texture but a cheesy flavor. We had a bunch left over so I decided to make ice cream out of it.

I think I was partly inspired by our visit to Neveria Tocumbo. There, the bf tried an amazing corn ice cream and I got the fresa con queso (strawberries with cheese, by my questionable translation). I found it disappointingly heavy on the strawberry. The cheese flavor was pretty subtle.

For this ice cream, I adapted a creme fraiche ice cream recipe from The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments by David Lebovitz. It also suggested a variation with mascarpone.

The results were . . . cheesy. Personally, I liked it, but it is very different. Some friends of ours tested it with us on Saturday and the consensus was that it needed a fruit pairing. Strawberries would be good I'm sure (I think Neveria Tocumbo was on the right track) but blackberries were on sale so that's what I tried yesterday. The result: A touch of tartness balanced by a rich, cheesy flavor.