Monday, February 28, 2011
I don't even want to think about my success on my various 2011 goals this past (short) month. It did not go well. I freely admit to it. Especially for the last week or so, things just fell apart. Admittedly, willingly on my part. I just lost total motivation. In general it has been a bad month for all types of motivation - whether it be at work, or for housework, or good eating habits, or good spending habits, or projects, or creativity, or pretty much anything. This weekend was the epitome of it. I spent the vast majority of time this weekend sitting in front of a television or sleeping (with some exception of course). I just couldn't get up and moving .... until about 7pm Sunday night, then all of the sudden I was gung ho. How does that always happen? So - My weekend went something like this: Friday night went out to get Pizza w/DH, then watched TV. Saturday, watched TV ALL DAY, until 3:30pm. Then showered, got dressed up and went out for a nice dinner at Michael O'Tooles and to the Symphony. It was a great fun evening. Sunday, got up, watched TV until 2:30pm, then cleaned the upstairs bathroom (thoroughly), then went and grabbed dinner, then watched the Oscars, did some dishes, sorted some laundry. Read. Went to bed.
Originally when I started this post I intended to go through my goals anyways (despite the strong desire to totally ignore them at the moment). I actually even wrote this up. Then I realized that it was just another 3-4 paragraphs of whining that nobody wants to read, so I deleted it. Suffice it to say - goals not going well, motivation to correct this very low at the moment. Such is life.
I can post two more book reviews? Is that less whiny?
Already Dead - recommended by my sister's friend/my friend from high school. Fast paced delicious read, I couldn't put it down. I don't really feel the need to apply the "what can people get out of this?" review type mainly since I really did enjoy it. Admittedly, as "low" fantasy (or whatever the opposite of "high" fantasy is), it is not at all outside of my realm, but thank you Xero for turning me onto a new series. With so much urban fantasy out there it can be tough to decide what to read.
Better Off - This is a book about an academic who was doing work arguing that technology is overused/not as inherently good as society treats it. Someone along the way (an advisor I believe?) pointed out that he really had no evidence/was not speaking from personal expierence. To remedy this he decided to take his new wife off to "Amish" country and live for a year w/out modern conveniences. On my personal scale, I would give this book 2.5 of 5 stars (in "my" rating system, as borrowed from goodreads.com, 2 stars means "its OK" and 3 stars means "I like it"). It was fine and has some interesting ideas, but it had some major issues. Let me get all of my complaints out of the way so I can get to the interesting ideas. First, I am unsure when it was written, or more significantly, how long after the experience it was written. During the text he implies that he wrote it as he was having the experience (living with the "Amish"), but then there are certain comments and the conclusion that imply he is actually writing it at least 5+ years after the experience. That is a big difference in terms of accurately reporting what happened and how he felt about it. It is also clear that the author has an agenda, which is never a good starting point to win my good graces in a book like this. The agenda becomes obvious within the first few pages when he implies that he is inately smarter than everyone else because he claims to have doubted/disliked technology since he was a child. (As you may get from this, I also feel he comes off as arrogant). It is poorly organized and the arguments are poorly constructed. The author frequently drops philosophical or even supposedly academic conclusions in at random, he will be going along giving an account of an event or emotion and then out of no where start waxing poetic about some conclusion as if it is so obiovusly derived from what he was previously saying, which in most cases it is not. The author is neither superb at telling stories nor at constructing arguments. I know, this paints a pretty bleak pictures (who wants to read an arrogant book that has poor story telling and poor argument construction, and was likely written well after the personal experiences it alleges it describes??), but in all actuality there is tons to take from this book.
It raises several interesting questions and some potential interesting answers. The underlying question this book rests on is an incredibly important and entirely neglected one: why are changes in technology uniformally considered to be good? I mean, granted, we call them "advancements" in technology, thereby implying improvement. What makes new technology better? The standard answer would be "it makes life easier!" or "it makes things faster" or "its more convenient". This book is really attacking the very root of the modern idea of "progress." Is it better to have devices to do more and more work for us? What exactly do we gain from it and what do we lose? The author proposes the idea that we have become "slaves" to the machines that are designed for our convenience, and that by "saving us time" they are actually taking away our purpose. The author reports that he and his wife find new meaning and purpose in the simple life. I am not going to be moving to Amish country any time soon, and I don't even buy most of his argument, but I think he has some questions that are worth thinking about.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
There are a lot of changes happening at work. The one that is the most talked about at the moment is a new dress code. People are furious about it. Me, well, I am not excited about it, but its not a big surprise. How can it be a surprise that the new director does not like people running around in sweats and pajamas and various outfits more suitable for clubbing than for work? Granted, our work is incredibly solitary. If I chose, I could go almost all day w/out speaking to anyone at the office. I used to actually have days like that before I made friends - 8 hrs and not even a sentence exchanged with my coworkers. Anyways, people dress badly. I feel like other people abuse the lack of dress code, and I am sure there are people who feel like I abuse it, by for example wearing jeans that have worn or torn cuffs on the bottom.
When they issued the dress code it upset me because the way it was being handled. A week ago Friday (now 11 days ago), we were sat down and told that there was a dress code coming out for Monday. We were given nothing in writing and told it would start immediately. I was very annoyed that we had nothing in writing and that it was being treated so secretively, so top down. I was upset that the new director had not issued any sort of statements as to the goals he is pursuing for the agency or the purpose of the policy change. It came off as a power trip and very passive aggressive. But, the code itself really is not that big of deal for me. I have been pretty much wearing all business casual tops since I started here and its not hard to switch from jeans to khaki's/dress pants.
As it turns out, the messy implementation got better. Apparently not all units had been informed of the same rapidity of change and the dress code actually didn't start on Monday. Now we have a written code that is less severe than they originally projected and the new director has "conceded" casual Fridays. We also have a set implementation date and no more of this confusing crap. So, in my opinion, while it was handled very poorly over the last couple of weeks. it is now sorted out and my worries and complaints have been largely addressed.
This is not true of my coworkers. Their complaints seem to be of the "I hate change" and the "I want to wear anything I feel like!" variety. I had one coworker say "What I really hate about it is that it doesn't even give you an option of dressing down, like what if I am having a bad day or cramps and just want to wear sweats???". Um. This is the point of a dress code. To not give you the option of looking like sh*t. Today they were complaining about the rule that leggings are only appropriate if the sweater/shirt over them reaches w/in 4 inches of the knee. A girl was wearing a cute outfit w/leggings, boots, and a long sweater that will not fit the dress code and the three of my unit-mates were saying "that is totally work appropriate! Why shouldn't she wear it?" Granted, it was very cute, but I am not sure where they are getting their perception of work appropriate from. Would she wear that to a job interview? To an important meeting? Would she wear it if she were giving a presentation? I doubt it.
Anyways. The dress code officially begins on 3/28 now. They have pushed back the implementation and done away with the grace period, as it was obvious people were planning to ignore the code until the grace period was over anyways. There are also people at my office who think they are being all rebellious and genius by planning a "protest" in the form of wearing all black the first day of the dress code. First, why on earth would the new administration notice or care? Second, its incredibly juvenile, "Look at us! We are all sulky that you put a new dress code, but too afraid to break it!!". And there are people who are uber-naive and think that actions like this will "run the new director out real quick". Of course, this is the same person who told us in all seriousness that she does not support cancer research because cancer has actually been cured already and its just a big conspiracy so that drug companies can make money. Right.
So that's the dress code. I am pretty much planning to start following it now. I have been already for the last week. Starting now will give me a chance to fill in any problems with my wardrobe before it is actually implemented. I already figured out I needed new brown dress shows and new socks.
Other changes? They are studying the cost effectiveness of overtime, so I will be working a lot less of it in March and maybe April. This is sad because I was enjoying all the extra money, but its also nice because it means I will actually be working 7am-3:30pm starting next week, and I think I will feel like I have so much more free time to work towards some of my new years resolutions and get some projects done.
There are other little, internal type changes which would take way to much energy to explain. Suffice it to say people are bitching about those changes nonsensically as well, despite how minor they are.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Nice day off.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
My MP3 player has been down, so have not listened to much music. BUT I Think my mP3 player is coming back up today. I think it is possessed. I brought CDs to work on Friday and got a couple new groups/artists in: Van Halen (too 80s, but great guitar solos), Bruce Springteen (surprised how different his general body of work was from "Born in the USA", which probably constituted my entire pre-existing knowledge of him), and Wilco - light/alt rock that I very much enjoyed.
(the next day: )My Mp3 Player has resurrected itself. This thing is so weird. Basically, last week was the second time it just stopped working mid song and would not respond when I tried to plug it in. Last time, when I tried to plug it in at home that night it worked. This time I tried 4 different computers before declaring it really dead. Then I waited 3 days. Then I tried to plug it into my work computer, and it worked. I don't get it. Its totally crazy, but I am glad its back up and running.
Some music reviews. I am getting confused about which reviews I actually posted and which I did not, so there may be repeats. In fact, there may be repeats that don't agree with each other since I tend to change my mind (minorly usually) about things.
Janet Jackson - the worst yet. I do NOT want to listen to this again. Everything else was at least sort of like "Eh, it OK". This is the first one that would get ranked 1 on a scale of 1-10. Synthesizer hell, horrible lyrics, total lack of musicality. Bleck!!
U2 - there is nothing wrong with their music, but I just am not excited by it, not moved, and I am listening to supposedly their best of the best, so if this is there best, how mediocre is their average?
System of a Down - highly amusing, not so musical per se, but very interested. It was actually hard to listen to this while I was working because I was trying to listen to their lyrics, which are very interesting, instead of concentrating on my work.
Barbara Streisand - she should stick to Christmas music and covers of classic songs. Her voice is fine, but her lyrics are SO CORNY.
Metallica - I think I may have already commented on them, but now, per some advice from friends, I got their black album. There is nothing wrong with it. I really like Enter Sandman and a couple of other songs. All of the songs would be fun to play on Rock Band, but as a whole the album is just repetitive. Every song has the same sound, and that sound is so heavy. I know. Its heavy metal. But it just gets really old really quickly.
Thrice - I am not even sure this band counts as famous. I have sure never heard of them and they are not on my "list" of bands I should know, but I was interested by their album cover, title, style, etc, so I picked it up. I think because I "picked it out", I really wanted to like it. I listened to it twice, and its not bad by any means, but its nothing special either.
Billy Joel - I listened to him last week and don't remember what I thought. I am trying to decide whether that means I should give him another change, or if he is just that forgettable.
Cher - I love the song "Walking in Memphis" (as featured on X-Files, lol), so I was looking forward to hearing more, but most of her songs are just OK. I prefer her work that really shows off her unique voice, but a lot of the songs on the album I had could have been sung by pretty much anyone.
Green Day - They are fun, I see why they are popular. Its definitely "teen" sounding music, but
Josh Ritter - some people who saw my list of "to hear" had no idea who Josh Ritter was, but I had heard the name before. Now I have heard him, and his music is really interesting, lots of variety from song to song.
Limp Bizkit - Some of their songs are really annoying, but on average they are fine. They have a unique sound and a lot of variety, but not exactly my cup of tea either.
New Kid on the Block - Ok. This may make some people angry. I hate them. Like, one step above Janet Jackson. Take all the stereotypes about 80s ridiculousness and they seem to have them. A new "wonderful" surprise at every turn. Did they really just end that song with "peace"??? Yes. They did. Wow. Now, I am sure there are some stupid things I like that I like just because they were from when I was younger and stupider, so I am not judging people who heard this when they are little and are still crazy about them... but I can't take it.
Other random music things: I have been picking up classical music as well, and I have been listening to classical music on the radio in the car a lot, and at night sometimes too. This is more a revitalization of knowledge than a discovery of knew things, since I had quite extensive knowledge of classical music in high school when I participated in the Minnesota State High School Music Listening Competition, sponsored by MPR (Minnesota Public Radio). This weeks selections: Strauss' Lieder, Salieri, Weber's Overtures. I have been trying to get one of Wagner's opera's on my MP3 player, but its having issues due to the way the CD company named the tracks. I need to go through and rename them, which may or may not happen.
To tie things together, I also just finished my first book for my New Years Resolution. I read "Nineteen Minutes" by Jodi Picoult, as recomended by my little sister. I have read Jodi Picoult and I have to admit I am not a big fan. I described the last book I read by her as "a bad lifetime movie". That description works for this book as well. However, that is really not the point of this resolution and I am likely going to be reading many books that I do not enjoy. Therefore, there are a few questions besides "Did I like it?" that I want to address. These include "What can a person, in general get out of this book?" "What did I get out of this book?" "Could I get more out of this book if I changed the way I was thinking about it?"
So, here it is. I think that books like Nineteen Minutes feeds into a human need for drama. Admit it, you love drama, in some for or another. Everyone likes a little drama in some form or another. Books, movies, message boards, gossip, celebrity gossip, sports... they are all drama. So that is the general purpose of books like this. This particular brand, a kin to the a bad Lifetime Channel movie, also serve as a sort of catharsis. They take scary or dramatic scenarios that can happen in real life - cancer, affairs, accidents, in the case of Nineteen Minutes - school shootings - and they play them out in great emotional detail. It gives you the impression are having all of these emotion expierences outside of your own reality, as if you get to experience what a tragedy is like without actually having your own - playing with fire w/out risking getting burnt. Its a human impulse, and thats what Nineteen Minutes is all about. That is what you can get from this book.
What did I get out of this book? Not the above. I have other sources of drama I enjoy more, and this particular brand is a bit time consuming. Secondly, know that knack I mentioned for picking out inconsistencies and details? Well, Jodi Piccoult is not exactly a careful writer and her book is full of them. I have difficulty looking past all of the inconsistencies and becoming emotionally involved, which is a necessity for this type of book. I also get a bit worried about what harm this book could cause. It is so chalked full of stereotypes I get worried that it will rub off on the wrong people, or subconsciously reinforce false ideas they have about how the world is or should be.
Could I have gotten more out of this book if I thought about it differently? Probably, yes. If I had been able to ignore the inconsistencies and the cliche's and focused on the more interesting points. Regardless of style, a book on this type of topic is capable of raising interesting questions. Perhaps if I focused on these - thing such as what role do parents have in the actions of their children? What is self defense? What roles do school's have in inteferring in the social interactions of their students? - I would have gotten more out of the book. Alas.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Internet is slow as molasses in winter today. Naturally this is true because I ended up at work 15 minutes early and just wanted to look at a few things. I have not managed to make it to a single website yet.
My MP3 player died again. I am getting frustrated. This is the second new one I got. Amazon already replaced it once for me. Guess I should stop promoting Sansa Clip. I think its too late to have it replaced by Amazon again and Sansa is not responsive. Time to go to Best Buy and get something cheap (even cheaper than Sansa). *sigh*. It does put a kink in my music listening. I was cruising along. I had just loaded my player with all sorts of new things like U2, Greenday, Janet Jackson, Wilco, Josh Ritter, and many more. I brought a stack of CDs in to listen to today (in the computer), but I know I don't like that nearly as much as having them on MP3 because I hate being attached to my computer by a cord. You all should be taking bets on how many times today I get up to run to the printer or bathroom and do some sort of comical jerk backwards when I reach the end of my headphones cord.
DH and I went to see Black Swan last night. If you do not want to know any more about it, then you should stop reading. It was a very interesting movie. I am glad I watched it, but I doubt I will ever watch it again. And Natalie Portman deserves the award for best actress, even without seeing any of the other nominees... although I have heard great things about Blue Valentine and I think its the next thing on my list to see. Anyways, Black Swan is about mental illness. I think a few things makes it really successful. First, the camera work really takes you into the movie. You are not an objective observer, you are caught up in the world of the character is caught up in. In many ways it captures the "unreliable narrator" concept often used in writing but hard to put into film, where normally the audience gets to see what actually happens instead of what the character perceives (a notable other movie that would capture the unreliable narrator is Fight Club, also ultimately about mental illness, though in a much more cartoon-esque way). The second thing that really makes Black Swan work is the sheer complexity. While the movie centers on the main character's descent into madness, there are so many other conflicts going on. Essentially, Black Swan could be a decent movie even without the mental illness, though much less interesting, less likely to be up for awards, and less likely to make anyone think about anything. But it would have a rising young ballerina, anxious about succeeding, dealing with the sexual advances of an experienced and powerful director, an overbearing mother, and a social structure of ballerinas where when one gets her dream the others lose theirs (and therefore they are incredibly competitive). Having all of these competing forms of drama all be trumped by the menal illness is quite interesting, and also with the unreliable narrator you are left asking what parts of these other dramas actually existed and what is only in the main characters head. It is clear that the relationship between Nina and her mother is not normal, but is it not normal because her mother is unnaturally overbearing, or because her mother has to take care of her because of her mental instability? It is clear that the other ballerinas are bitter about Nina's success and want some for themselves, but are they actually doing anything to suggest they wish her ill will? The movie was quite good, and the more I think about it, the more I think it was actually great. I expected it to give me weird/bad dreams (the mark of a good dark movie), but it did not. Maybe that would have been different if I had seen it right before bed instead of 5pm.
OK. Off to work. Bis spaeter!
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Last week in music, I inadvertantly had a sort of "singer" theme going. I listened to Elton John, Michael Buble, Neil Diamond, Nat King Cole, Fiona Apple, Carpenters, Jimmy Buffet... and probably some I am forgetting. A definite change from my previous Alice in Chains, Metallica, Soundgarden, Guns & Roses etc play list. I don't really have an opinion on most of these singers/artists. I don't like Fiona Apple. Jimmy Buffet's music was much different than I expected, probably in a good way. The CD I have of Michael Buble was a cover of a bunch of old classic songs, which I enjoyed very much but perhaps does not show me what he is all about. There were of course John Elton songs that I recognized, it was cool for example to hear the original "How wonderful life is, now that your in the world", (which I believe is actually called "your song"?) as I have been enjoying its incorporation into Moulin Rouge for the last several years. I also recognized a handful of songs from Carpenters, merely out of their quirkiness I think (interplanetary crafts). In general, all of these singer types are fine, and some of them have particular songs I really enjoy, but they are not something I need to seek out.
This weekend went by so quickly. It was enjoyable and productive and relaxing, but now its gone. Time is like that a lot of the time, eh? Friday night we just hung out. I played some Rock Band, watched some TV. Nothing in particular. Saturday morning I was supposed to meet some girls for a "walking group" at Highbanks Metropark. I was the only one that showed up, but that wasn't so bad because it was a nice walk and a good chance to clear my head. I just took some unscheduled me time for the rest of the morning. I went to the library and sat and read/wrote, I went to Panera's and had some coffee, sat by the fire. After that the road conditions/weather sent me home, where I played some Rock Band. Then, the weather improved again, I headed up to Polaris and looked for a terracloth bath robe. I have been looking for one forever, they are not exactly easy to find at the moment, as everything is polar fleece. I did eventually find one though and am very happy with it. I now have a full range of robes for all of my drying and cuddling needs. While I was at the mall I also stopped by Game Stop to see about trading in a game. I did not end up trading it in, but I did manage to talk myself into purchasing the Keyboard for Rock Band. Back home we ate dinner and watched Das Boot (DH had never seen it), and then I tried out the new Keyboard. It is fun, a nice addition to the game. The only problem is that I have 280 songs, and only 63 of them have keyboard parts (only those that came with Rockband 3). 63 is still a lot though, I guess, and if I get bored of them I can always download more. LOL. I am such a Rock Band addict at this point, its ridiculous.
Yesterday was the big game. I slept in until 9am and then spent most of the day cleaning/prepping. Our first floor is quite clean right now!! I always say "lets keep it that way" but that never works, although it has been better recently than previously I would say. The game was a lot of fun. We actually had two TVs set up, the main one in the family room as normal, and then the smaller TV from our bedroom was set up in the dining room for those people who really did not care about the game and were there to socialize. We had a ton of food, good drinks, the game was great and the team everyone was cheering for won (The Packers), so it was a big success I think. It was our fourth Super Bowl party, and perhaps our last, or at least our last of this nature. So many people are leaving this coming summer, scattering across the country as they find professorships or get near the end of graduate school. It makes it feel like we need to get moving too, off to Minnesota where we want to really settle in, but unfortunately the job market is not cooperating. Oh well. Patience.
Now its back to work, although I really want a nap.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
We got freezing rain overnight, a lot of it. It turned our yard and driveway into a skating rink. I don't mind, it was kind of fun. It took 10-15 minutes to dethaw my car this morning, but the drive was not bad once I got going. DH stayed home since he is allowed to work from home occasionally. Work place was half empty, that was kind of fun too. It is supposed to be even worse tomorrow - more freezing rain overnight and then snow in the morning on top of all that ice. I expect to be able to make it to work, but who knows who else will!!
It is now the second month of 2011. Time is really really flying, it is hard to believe how fast it has gone so far. In terms of resolutions, I am doing pretty well. Instead of listing all of my successes, which are many, I will discuss the handful of failures. First, exercise. I have just not managed to find the place for this in my routine. I might need to think of some alternate forms of exercise to make it more manageable. Second, pictures. I have taken <20 pics this month and not of anything at all useable/interested. Some ice shots over the last day or two, and a picture of the pets here and there, thats it. Third, I have yet to really start my reading resolution, just have not got around to it, but I am not worried. It is only 40 books. Last year I read 85, so even if theoretically I don't get cracking until July I should be OK. It would be good to start though.
Other things are going well - cooking, cleaning, new music, new (classic) movies, more varied diet, less fast food.
Thats all I got for now folks. My Rock Band that was downloading an update just loaded... got to go rock it out!!