Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A picture is Worth 1000 Words

And it's a good thing too, because I don't really have many words today, so I'm just posting pictures.


Jason and I on the boat to Martha's Vineyard

Me and Jason on the bus into NYC, going to meet JK Rowling.

Do you see how fat this guy is?!  There are infants that weigh less than this cat!

Fluffy is a vicious vampire kitty!


Norbert will kill you for this.

Sam doesn't like the camera

Errol doesn't enjoy it when you wake him up.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Few Of My Favorite Things

I'm in a class about using technology in the classroom right now, and because of this class I have to use a bunch of technology that I already know how to use, but this class has given me the opportunity to play with different things.  Since becoming an exclusive Mac user a year or so ago, I've fallen in love with a lot of the programs that Apple includes in their standard iLife package, and then some internet programs too.


First up is iMovie, which lets you make photo slideshows that you can publish for web streaming, Quicktime download or burn to a DVD.  Windows has a similar program called Movie Maker, but it's not quite as user-friendly as iMovie.  With Movie Maker, you have to upload every photo and then individually set all of the titles and transitions.  iMovie gives you this really neat set of templates for you to use throughout the process of building your movie, and they're pretty top notch.  You can open your movie with a template that looks like scrolling through scrapbook pages, or several travel templates that show things like passport stamps on the background behind your photos, and you can set the whole thing to music, which is fabulous.  It's a snap to use and I love it.

Here's an example of the video I made with iMovie for our first anniversary.  (It might be slightly distorted since it had to be compressed for web streaming)
video


Next up is iPhoto, which ties directly to the iMovie and the next thing on my list of favorite things.  iPhoto lets you organize your photos in one convenient and easy to use location.  It offers very basic editing tools, but if you're really looking to edit you might want to download another program.  It's nice to be able to store and organize your photos in one spot and it's such a breeze to download your new photos because the program automatically detects your camera and starts the upload process on its own.  It's like a lazy person's dream!  Plus, any programs you use that may use photos (i.e. iMovie) read your iPhoto library and automatically make those images available.  In Windows, you usually have to upload each individual photo to the program you're using.  This is such a time saver.


And last on my current list of amazing programs is the internet based program called Blurb.  This program allows you to make beautiful hardcover bound books of photos.  Imagine a National Geographic style coffee table book full of your own pictures printed on high quality glossy paper.  That's what you get.  After using this, I will never scrapbook again.  These are so much more durable and turn out so nicely that there's no reason to deal with the hassle of time consuming scrapbooking, or investing in expensive scrapbooking materials.  I've made these books for my friend Kara's new baby, for the parents of my godchildren with photos of the girls growing up, and for my friend Sara's wedding.  You have free reign with the layout of the book, for the most part.  You have to work within their templates, but it's really easy to adjust.  You can add quotes, photos, stories or whatever you feel like adding to make the book personal to you.  I will caution that you get much better results when you use digital images as opposed to scanned ones, but aside from that, I swear by this program.  The books are so much cheaper than making them with Apple's software (Blurb charges by page groupings, so you'll pay about $40 for 40 to 80 pages, and you can cram as many photos into those pages as you want) and they're pretty good quality so they're something you could really be proud of.  Plus, if you use a Mac, the program automatically uploads your photos from iPhoto and marks which ones you've already used so you don't duplicate photos.  I can't say enough great stuff about this site.  If you're interested, check them out at www.blurb.com

Monday, July 21, 2008

Why So Serious?


After waiting all summer for the release of The Dark Knight, I was rewarded on Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. I got into a theater that held over 300 people, and there were only about 50 or 60 people total in the theater. That meant lots of empty space and no stupid people right next to me or in front of me to talk through the whole movie. Score! Unfortunately, this viewing marked the official retirement of my Christmas gift supply of gift cards. Those things went a long way though, so I can't complain.
So, did I love the movie? I think so. I want to say yes, but I don't think I can make a sound judgement based on just one viewing. There was just so much going on in the film that I think I'd be foolish to assume I absorbed everything. It did blow me away though, because the script was fairly tight and well written, the action sequences were shockingly real, the whole film was dark and gritty, and the villain was well...he was as unsettling and unhinged as anyone could hope for. The hype about Heath Ledger's performance was not unfounded, but I have to say that I can't call it Oscar-worthy. It was good, no doubt, but it wasn't the sort of performance people usually get Oscars for. I think that if he does get one, it'll only be because he's dead. If he were alive and kicking, he'd still be commended, but there would be no Oscar buzz. Let's face it, action movies NEVER get Oscar nominations, unless it's for technical categories like effects or make-up.
I have to say that I would have liked the movie a lot more if it were about 20 minutes shorter. This isn't because I have a problem with the length, but because the sub-plot with Harvey Dent should have ended long before it did. If they had cut it right after Commissioner Gordon visits him in the hospital (before they show his face) and left it hanging, they could have developed an entire movie with Two Face as a villain. I think I would have preferred that. They should have left well enough alone with the Joker being the only madman in the film. Plus, I think it's going to be hard to find a villain for another movie if they choose to do one. There aren't many Batman villains who can hold up enough evil to sustain an entire film. So, they may have backed themselves into a corner there.
So, I think I loved the movie, and I'll be sure about it once I go again. I'm going to see it in IMAX so I can be sure to get the sense that I'm immersed in the film, and then I'll be able to pick up on everything I didn't get the first time through. But, it was good. It was really good.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Body Snatchers



I've been ordering this book into our warehouses for a week or so now, and I happened to stumble across a free copy this morning. Now, when I order things, I just see the titles, not the covers, so I read "Napoleon's Privates" and thought it was in reference to military rank. Nope, as it turns out it's about his actual privates. His "baguette" as the liner note description puts it. Basically, we have a book about weird stuff from history that you may not know about. Most of this stuff is too strange to be true. For example, the title comes from the fact that the author heard that Napoleon's "little Napoleon" was removed by his disgruntled doctor after his death, so he went to New Jersey where a collector was keeping Napoleon's little friend in a suitcase under his bed because he'd bought it at auction some years prior to this encounter. HOLY COW. So there's a whole section of the book called "Where are they Now? Celebrity Body Parts" that talks about body parts that were taken from people and handed off to other people throughout history. A couple of examples:

Oliver Cromwell's head was passed along between collectors until 1960.

Galileo's finger was removed by an admirer in 1737 and then put on display in Florence.

Jesus's foreskin was supposedly given to John the Baptist, and was stolen from Rome in 1557 and put on display in Calcata, until it was stolen. Again.

Einstein's brain was removed and studied and now resides in the University Medical Center at Princeton.

King Charles I's vertebra was not returned to his coffin when he was exhumed in 1813, and was kept by Sir Henry Halford, who kept the item on his dinner table and used it as a salt holder. His heirs returned it to Edward VII who reunited it with the corpse.

Ok....so these are just a few, but HOLY CRAP! Who just says "Hey, let's take a body part from this person, no one will notice right?" This may be the weirdest and funniest book I've come across in a very long time. I want to do dramatic readings of this thing at social gatherings because the history in it is just so shocking. Most of the chapters deal with strange sexual facts, but then you have things like "What was J. Edgar Hoover's favorite party dress?" or "Are champagne glasses really modeled on Marie Antoinette's breasts?" which are just too funny.

So, this may be my favorite free book discovery so far this week. I might have to put down my novel to read through this thing, because everyone needs a good laugh every now and again right?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

T-Minus 5 Days and Counting

For those of you who are new to the insanity that is my life, there is something very specific that you need to know. I am addicted to movies. It's almost a sickness. I don't want to imply that I'm a movie critic, because I'm not, I just LOVE to watch movies. Good movies, bad movies, it doesn't matter. I would go to a different movie every day if I had the funds, and wouldn't run out of films to go see after a while. I asked for movie gift cards for Christmas, and almost nothing else. I ended up getting about $150 in gift cards and am still exhausting those because I'm amazingly clever and frugal with my gift card spending, which is fabulous. I literally use Entertainment Weekly like it's a freaking bible.

Thou shalt worship thy EW Magazine and pay tithings to the Entertainment Gods.

I sit down every year when the summer movie preview and the fall movie preview issues come out and plan out what movies I have to see, which I would like to see, which I can do without seeing etc. Pathetic? Absolutely, but my life borders on pathetic most of the time so I'm not concerned.

So, given my love of movies, one could probably understand why I'm counting down to this Friday when the newest installment in the Batman franchise will be released to eager fans across the country. The Dark Knight is sure to be the blockbuster film of the summer, and with the reviews it's been getting, it's unlikely to disappoint fans. I adored Christopher Nolan's first installment, Batman Begins, and I've been waiting for the latest installment since they first began filming it. The whole thing is going to have a note of sadness to it due to the death of Heath Ledger earlier this year, and I have to say that from watching the trailers, I've found myself regretting that Heath is no longer around because the performance looks amazing.

But, the release of this film is bittersweet for me, because it marks what is essentially the end of my Summer Movie Frenzie. There is almost nothing noteworthy coming out from now until November, which makes me really sad. But, there is Harry Potter to look forward to in November, which is exciting. Part of me is glad that nothing great is coming out until November because I'll be devoting so much time to school in the fall, but another part of me is sad that I don't have anything to look forward to as a break from the crappiness of studying. I'll probably be much happier and look forward to things more once I get a Harry Potter trailer, because that will give me something to be excited about. But, until then, I'll be salivating in anticipation of The Dark Knight, and I'll be at the theater on Friday the minute I get off work, so at 4:30 all of my anticipation will be rewarded. And I may squee myself.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What They Really Mean


I saw a trailer for the movie that was based on this book when I went to see Get Smart a couple of weeks ago. After that I watched a Gilmore Girls episode where Michel put copies of the book all over the Dragonfly Inn. Then my friend Emily mentioned it. A year or so ago I was ordering this book like mad. So, I started wondering what all of the hype was about. My friend Emily explained the basis of the book, which I haven't really read because I'm married and don't run into dating problems, which is what this book primarily addresses. After Em went over the premise, I kind of think I might need to read it. She was saying that some guy was tired of listening to all of his female friends wonder why guys weren't responsive when they first started dating, or why they wouldn't commit after dating for a long time etc. So finally, this guy (the author of the book) let them in on the secret that these guys just weren't that into them. Doesn't seem like it should be a huge revelation, but I guess it was.
But, it sounds like some of the advice in this book should be universally applicable to all relationships. Emily was talking about how one of the things this guy says is that "I'm busy" is never a good excuse. If someone is "into" you, then they make the time, or make the effort to get in touch. He said "It takes 5 minutes to write an e-mail, and a phone call just to say that you're busy but you're thinking about someone takes maybe 5 minutes too, so who is so busy that they can't spare 5 minutes?" Good point right? I was thinking about that when I started thinking about other kinds of relationships. Like a sister who may say they're too busy to call you, or even a friend who does that. I think that we, all too often, drop back on the "I'm so busy" excuse because it's easy, but I wonder if anyone ever thinks that the other person considers it a cop out. I think that this guy is right. If you want to keep up with someone, you do, because you make that time and effort. So, when that effort isn't made, or that connection isn't kept up, isn't it basically saying "I'm just not that into you"?
Like I said, I haven't read the book, but I might. I think that there's a lot of advice that is given to people in romantic relationships that could really help all of their relationships. Whenever you hear marriage counselors talk, they always say that "communication is key to keeping up a marriage". But, isn't communication also key to keeping up a friendship, or a family relationship? I really think it is. I don't think you can stay close to someone if you have no idea what's going on in their life, or if you don't maintain some sort of constant line of communication.
So, I don't think I have been guilty of this whole "I'm too busy" thing in the past, or at least I hope I haven't, but from now on I don't think I'm going to use "too busy" as an excuse for not keeping up with people. This guy is right, it does take 5 minutes to send an e-mail and that's not too much to ask of a friend. I might use the busy excuse for not getting back to someone right away, but not for just cutting everything off. Because when someone says they're too busy, what they're really saying is that they're not into you anymore.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

It's Reality In Your TV


Has anyone else seen the promos for this show?  I saw a commercial about it and thought it was a hilarious concept.  Basically, they take a ton of teenage couples, who all think they're ready for children, and then they actually give them children.  I know right?!  So they set these couples up in their own house where they have to pay all of their bills as well as cover expenses for caring for the child and themselves on one job that pays $100 per day.  Then they stick them with kids.  They go through stages where they get kids from different age groups.  They take care of infants, toddlers, pre-teens, teenagers and then the elderly.  Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen doesn't it?  That's because IT IS!!  Oh my gosh!  I was flipping channels last week and came across the first episode in the series, and I was hooked.  No joke.  I was eating this show up with a spoon.  They did two back to back episodes and I didn't move from my couch for two hours.

Ignoring that little confession on how truly lazy I am, I'm going to say that I have never been so into a reality show in my life.  I mean, I could have done better than these people when I was between 16 and 18.  Did none of them have younger siblings?  Did these girls never babysit?  You'd think a child was some sort of alien being beamed to the planet just recently.  Even just common sense things like putting a baby into pajamas if you want to put it to bed were beyond these teens.  Plus, who the heck lets some teenagers take care of their kid for 3 days?  What kind of crazy parent goes "Hey, these people want us to give up our infant to a couple of inexperienced teens for three days.  Let's do it!"?  Sure, they can monitor what's going on, but still.  If that teen leaves the room and your toddler pulls a dresser onto themselves, then no amount of monitoring from across the street is going to fix that.

So yes, I'm confessing my own guilty little pleasure here.  I don't usually watch a lot of reality TV but this show is gold!  I find it 100% hilarious, and I hope it gives these stupid teenage girls who think they're ready for kids a little bit of perspective.  The whole show is the greatest form of birth control ever.  Even I'm sitting here going "Wow....I don't even think I'm ready for this stuff".

And it's being recorded by my Tivo right now, so I'm going to go watch some teens have meltdowns that rival the toddlers they're taking care of.

P.S.
How beautiful is the weather in Michigan right now?  Today the high was about 85 degrees, but there's been this great breeze, the skies are blue and it's made me want to be outside all day.  I love it!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bookin' It

So, I love books.  It's one of those little addictions I have, like buying bed comforters and messenger bags.  But, no addiction tops the addiction to books.  To prove my point, here's my bookcase:


That's about half of what I own.  Maybe less than half.  Anyway, I have this thing for books.

So, I've been hearing a ton of buzz about this young adult series called Twilight that's selling like mad lately, and I got curious so I picked up the entire series before I went on vacation.




Now, don't get me wrong, I thought these books were fun beyond reason.  They were frivolous and didn't require a ton of thought or analysis for enjoyment.  That being said, I want to know why there aren't any strong willed women in young adult fiction.  Honestly.  The main character in these books is sort of whiny and uncannily weak willed.  She falls apart entirely at the first sign of heartbreak.  What?!  I mean, I understand that the book is about a vulnerable teenage girl, and that the weakness is probably supposed to be a device to make the male character seem even stronger and more dashing, but honestly?  The best teenage girls can hope to have as a literary role model is some vapid, whining girl who falls apart completely?  I get it, they were supposed to be madly in love, soul mates, whatever, but then shouldn't she have the strength to fight for this guy?  Shouldn't she stand up for herself and say "No, you don't get to just walk away"?  It just makes me crazy.  I'm sure the weakness really adds to the appeal of Edward, who is dashing and is the sort of fictitious character who sweeps girls off their feet.  It also kind of gives girls that impression that love is supposed to be undying devotion, flowery words and not much else.  That's kind of sad, since anyone who really experiences love knows that so much more than undying devotion or flowery words, and it rarely happens overnight.  I guess I just wish this girl in these books was a little more empowered and a little less damsel in distress.

Not that any of that is going to stop me from buying the last book in August.

And So It Begins...

I had to create a blogger account for this horrid online class I was taking during spring semester, and I absolutely HATED that I had to keep a blog about class related things prompted by ridiculous questions asked by the professor. So, since the semester ended, this has been kind of eating at me to know that this blog was still up, but that it was full of bad memories from my class. So, now we're going to shake things up. I'm going to make a valient effort to actually keep a blog. We'll see how this works. I don't usually blog much, primarily because no one reads and that's discouraging, but my prof for my summer class made this whole blogging thing sound like a lot of fun so we'll give it a shot and see how it goes. Of course, my biggest fear is that I'm just horribly uninteresting (I know, right?!) and will have nothing to talk about, but maybe this will prompt me to FIND something to talk about. We'll see.