Sword of Damocles

You know that feeling when there’s something hovering over your head ready to drop, something really bad? And you don’t want it to actually drop and hit you—you keep hoping that somehow things will get fixed and it will no longer be a worry—but at the same time, waiting for it to drop feels almost as bad as the actual impact?

It’s like that.

(I’m hoping history doesn’t repeat itself. I fear it’s about to.)

Five Things That Make Me Happy (part 20)

Kinfolk Magazine
Kinfolk_Vol7_CoverOne of the things I like to buy at the store down the street (Trohv) is Kinfolk magazine, a slick squarebound quarterly publication. It’s about entertaining, about art, about photography, about cooking… It’s not really quite like anything else out there. I love reading their essays, as much for things that inspire me as things that are completely outside of my own personal wheelhouse. Even if the subject isn’t grabbing me in one particular piece, there’s almost always a great photograph that goes alongside it that makes it all work quite nicely. The latest issue had an ice cream theme, and it was slightly mouth-watering at times. Not that I minded to much, because…

Cinnamon Vanilla Ice Cream
One of the pieces in the latest issue was an interview with two ice-cream makers. When asked for their favorite flavors, one that both of them mentioned was cinnamon vanilla ice cream. “Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “I bet I could make that.” And so, I did.

Cinnamon Vanilla Ice Cream

As it turns out, adding cinnamon to my vanilla ice cream recipe is a big hit. I love the vanilla ice cream recipe (thanks Alton Brown!) but the touch of cinnamon makes it that much more amazing. I’ll be trying some new flavors of ice cream this summer, but I think this is one I’ll be keeping in my back pocket in general. Homemade ice cream in general is such a pleasure; over the winter I barely made any (which my waistline thanks me for, at least) but I’m going to try and break out the ice cream maker a bit more this year.

Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is one of those board games that I’ve been seeing for years, now. I first encountered it at my friends Trevor and Matt’s house, when I saw some people playing it. It looks deceptively simple—collect colored trains to form connections between cities to earn points—but it’s the sort of game that clearly requires a lot of strategy and wits. I’ve held off on buying it (another huge box to store!) but I recently discovered that the game company also released a version for the iPad. Having now played it for a few days… it’s wonderfully addicting. Evilly so, in fact. And I haven’t even played it against other people (either online or locally), just against the computer. Absolutely loving it. Board or electronic game, this one is clearly a winner.

No More Amy Pond
Non-Doctor Who fans can just skip along to the next item. But I am genuinely happy that when Doctor Who returns in a couple of days, it will be without Karen Gillan, the actress who played the character of Amy Pond for the past two and a half years. I really didn’t like the character, but the bigger problem wasn’t the writing for Amy Pond but Gillan’s acting. She just wasn’t up to the level needed for such a major role, and she pulled down the show a great deal. So knowing that there are eight episodes ahead without Gillan? Well, I’m delighted. (Sadly her co-star Arthur Darvill is also gone, but it’s a fair trade.) Her replacement, played by Jenna-Louise Coleman, already feels like a real improvement.

A Great 40th Birthday
Cannoli CakeToday I finally hit the big 4-0, it’s true. And in celebrating it this year, the thing that’s struck me the most was that I’m really lucky to have so many great friends that it was actually difficult to make a guest list because I wanted to invite everyone I knew. I ended up having a medium-sized party over the weekend at the tavern on the ground floor of our building, and as much as I would’ve loved to double the guest list, my gut feeling on how many the facility could hold was more or less dead-on accurate. I had a great time talking with my friends, and the food and cake were both excellent, and at the very end the manager provided us with a nice champagne toast. Then today, two co-workers (and good friends) took me out to lunch and provided cake in the afternoon (with a cannoli on top!), followed by getting a massage in the evening.

Add in the over 200 birthday greetings on Facebook (no, seriously, we’ve crossed the 200 mark), and it’s been a very pleasant way to enter the new decade. Fortunately, I’m not one to get freaked out over those milestone ages, but still, a good way to do so. (Now ask me again when I turn 70 and that might be another story entirely…)

40th birthday toast

Where Is My Motivation?

No, really. Did I leave it at your house? Maybe under the seat of the Metro? Part of me is blaming it on the season and part of me thinks that it is something bigger.

Forget personal assistants, trainers, or life coaches, I think what I really need is someone to walk around when I get home and poke me in the back and say, “Get that done. Get that done. Get that done. Get that done.”

(I am also seeing a new career being born.)

Forgetful

I think I’ve mentioned here earlier that I am finding myself increasingly forgetful. I say “I think” because of course, I’m not sure if I have or not. I am afraid that I hit a new low today, though.

The worst part wasn’t forgetting to swap out the shorts in my gym back for pants, meaning after I went swimming this morning I spent the rest of the day a little cold because it was soooo not shorts weather. (I left for the gym in my swim trunks already.)

The worst part wasn’t discovering when I got into the car that I’d had a birthday card sitting on the front seat of my car since yesterday, when I went to a friend’s for dinner and forgot to give it to him. Whoops. (Fortunately, the wine and the bar of bacon-chocolate did make it inside.)

No, the worst part was that yesterday I’d bought a huge rice krispy treat half dipped in chocolate, half dipped in the white icing that this bakery uses for its black and white cookies, saved said treat to be eaten at work today… and then I forgot to eat it. I realized five minutes after I left the office that it was still sitting, hidden, in my office. (I hid it yesterday so I would not be tempted to eat it.)

Argh. Oh well. I guess I know what half of lunch tomorrow is, right? Provided I remember.

25 Things About Greg

  1. I hate almost all memes, unless they require you to actually be creative. Quizzes explaining which member of the Monkees you are (or any sort of similar silliness) set my teeth on edge.
  2. I learned how to read when I was 2 1/2 years old, and that was the beginning of the end, so to speak. I used to take three books in the car with me when we would drive to church—all of one mile away.
  3. I have become fairly obsessed with Goodreads.com, which lets you log books you’ve read, are reading, or planning to read. I’ve decided to try and enter into my personal database all the books I own, which is a bit daunting (to put it mildly). So far I’ve almost finished two bookshelves. My “to-read” shelf is already depressingly large.
  4. I’ve actually forbidden myself from buying books that I can get from the library these days. This has cut back the influx greatly.
  5. As much as I dislike winter, I think I would miss the seasons were I to move somewhere sunny and warm year round.
  6. Last year I made a concerted effort to cut all high fructose corn syrup out of my house. It was surprisingly easy. That said, I forgot to check the last time I was at the grocery store and an impulse buy of some yogurt resulted in me purchasing some. Oops. I need to get better about checking for it.
  7. If you’d told me ten years ago that I would run even one marathon, I’d have laughed in your face.
  8. As much as I enjoy exercising, about a third of the time I actually find it very hard to get the motivation to actually do so. This is especially true in the winter months, which is partially why this is the first year I’ve ever trained for a spring marathon.
  9. I enjoy cooking but I go through phases where I will do very little cooking. I prefer to cook for more than just myself, which is part of the problem. Still, thanks to my plastic containers to save for later, that’s not as much as an issue as it could be.
  10. Half of the reason why I signed up for a Community-Supported Agriculture half-share this year is to force myself to actually cook on a daily basis, and to break out the cookbooks just waiting to be used.
  11. Part of me wants to get back into writing fiction, but I’m afraid of what I’d have to give up right now in order to have that extra time in my day. As it is right now there are many leisure activities which have already fallen by the wayside.
  12. I continually feel guilty about not spending enough time with my friends, many of whom I only see a few times a year. I also worry that my friends will leave me behind.
  13. Every time the idea of having children is brought up, my first thought is, “I can’t possibly be old enough to have children.” When it’s pointed out that at my age my mom had three kids and one of them was already a teenager, I am amazed. That then follows up by the thought that I don’t think I should be trusted with having a kid just yet.
  14. I used to have a really bad (almost obsessive-compulsive) completist streak. I like to think I’ve actually gotten a lot better about it. I suspect the reality is that I’ve just given it a much tighter focus instead of applying to so many different possessions.
  15. Doctor Who will probably always be my favorite television program of all time. I suspect my parents still slightly rue the day they bought me a Doctor Who book as a gift, which is what started me down this path.
  16. The images in my head and what my camera actually takes very rarely intersect. The few times they do, though, have brought me a supreme joy.
  17. I hang up all my t-shirts in my closet, sorted by color and arranged by the rainbow spectrum.
  18. I am horrible at movie quote quizzes. Even if I’ve seen the movie a dozen times, I will probably not remember the line until the source is pointed out to me.
  19. I cannot draw anything worthwhile to save my life. Even my stick figures are malformed.
  20. I get genuinely upset if a plant I am taking care of gets sick or dies. Which is probably why pets and/or children are just right out of the question for now. Just imagine if I had something to take care of that could actually make noise.
  21. It’s been four years since I dropped a lot of weight and my body has still not adjusted to the loss of all that internal insulation. I finally had to start wearing sweaters and undershirts again in the colder months to keep from freezing to death.
  22. If I had to start all over again with college and a career, I think I’d want to be a psychologist.
  23. I find it almost impossible to look at someone the entire time I am talking to them, or they’re talking to me. I will still be paying attention to them, but that amount of focus requires conscious and deliberate effort.
  24. I knew I had “become an adult” about two years ago when I bought a new vacuum cleaner and was genuinely excited about doing so.
  25. I can honestly say that I am right now at the happiest point of my life.

A Year of Self-Portraits

In November 2006, I tried a project where I took a picture every day for a year. It was a lot of fun, it made me get out there with my camera every day, and most importantly I think it helped me a lot with my photography. This year, starting in New Year’s Day, I’m working on a slightly similar project—only this time it’s a self-portrait a day.

I did this for two reasons. First, I like the idea of getting out there and taking photos every day, but making it a little different so I could keep my attention span up. But second, for someone who likes being behind the camera, I’m not so good about being in front of the camera. So, this will hopefully help me with that.

As I’ve been uploading my photos, though, I’ve been putting more and more commentary with them. So, I think that I’m going to start cross-posting them here (provided there is some actual meat to them). Just little glimpses into what I’ve been up to.

Things I’m Excited About (Which Make Me Old)

Seriously, every time I turn around lately I am coming to the horrible conclusion that I am turning into someone old. As in, a friend’s parents from back when I was a kid. (My parents were always pretty young and fun even as adults.) Latest signs pointing towards this include getting excited about the following:

1. Filling Out a CSA Application
Seriously, when you are getting excited about having produce delivered to you every week from a local farm? You are old. But at the same time the idea of getting my half-share of produce? Pretty exciting! Supposedly I will hear back within 72 hours. I’m hoping this particular CSA is not full, especially since they actually will deliver the share to your office, and how fantastic is that? (It’s partially what stopped me from trying a CSA last year, because there were none with drop points near the office and scrambling to pick one up on the way home would be difficult at best.) All sorts of vegetables, here I come.

2. Recognizing Interstitial Songs On NPR
At first I was going to try and justify this one as not making me old. “It was ‘New York City Boy’ by the Pet Shop Boys!” the voice in my head said. “That doesn’t make you old!” Except first, I suspect it does. And second, and more importantly, I was listening to Marketplace on NPR. That makes me old. Very very old.

3. Warmth
Ok, that doesn’t sound unreasonable. But it’s very, very cold here in DC, and as you may have heard there’s a big Presidential Inauguration coming up shortly. And despite all the neat concerts and parades and events and everything else, all I can think of is things like, “How will I stay warm? Should I just stay inside and watch on tv? Perhaps I can cook a pot roast.” Oh dear. When did this happen? Right now the plan is to layer a great deal, but still. The thought of indoors is there.

4. Doing Nothing
I have absolutely nothing scheduled for the weekend of the 24th. I cannot wait. As great as it is to visit friends, or have them visit you, or have all sorts of exciting plans (and don’t get me wrong, I’ve really enjoyed the past few weekends) it will be fairly fantastic to have no one in town or any plans to do anything major league. I am hoping to sit down and read some books.

Oh look! I’m an old man. Sweet!

How My Head Works

While running at the gym today, my right foot started hurting, feeling like something was poking/pushing into the inside of it. I finally stopped, took off my shoe, and shook it out as well as ran my hand along the outside of my sock. Nothing.

So I ran my cool-down mile, and the whole while it is hurting more and more. Almost like a wire is jabbing into my foot at this point. I finish up, and head home. The whole way back home I am worrying a mile a minute. Have I hurt my foot again? Did something tear? Is it a sprain? Something entirely different? Maybe I should book an appointment with the podiatrist right away. Can he see me today? What about my 16-mile run on Saturday?

I (finally) got home, pulled off my shoe, and ran my fingers through it again. No sign of anything poking out that would be hurting my foot. So I pull off my sock…

…it’s a blister. Probably a little piece of grit was inside my sock and rubbing against the bottom of my foot. But that’s what all the pain was. And that, boys and girls, is how my head works at times. Why pause and think, “I’m sure nothing is wrong,” when you can freak out about it instead? *sigh*

What It Is

After a really wonderful morning (a running session, a walk over to the farmer’s market, a stroll home while eating a vegetable empanada, the breeze blowing and the sky almost entirely clear), I’ve found myself with a distinct lack of energy. I suspect the number of early mornings this week (including having to be up in Emmitsburg, MD by 8:30am yesterday, ugh) has finally caught up with me. (Which also kind of stinks because I have a birthday shindig on the calendar tonight and I don’t know if I have the energy to go.)

So I’ve been sitting home and reading Lynda Barry’s brand new book What It Is for the fourth or fifth time this week and it’s amazing how much this is resonating with me. I loved her book One Hundred Demons (it suddenly opened my eyes to what an amazing writer she is) but What It Is goes above and beyond that, talking so much about creativity and imagination and how we often self-censor ourselves. There’s a page in which she’s talking about how she started changing her behavior around other people, that really struck me.

By the 6th grade I stopped doing ordinary things in front of people. It had been ordinary to sing, kids are singing all the time when they are little, but then something happens. It’s not that we stop singing. I still sang. I just made sure I was alone when I did it, and I made sure I never did it accidentally. That thing we call “bursting into song.” I believe this happens to most of us. We are still singing, but secretly and all alone.

And that’s when it suddenly hit me that it’s one of the things I love so much about Charlie. I don’t think he ever censors himself that way. When he and Julie and I drove down to the Outer Banks Marathon, within about 30 seconds of us all being in my car he’d suddenly burst into song, and I remember Julie saying something along the lines of, “Oooh, this is going to be a fun ride.” And I always groan a lot when he does it, but you know what? I really rather envy his being able to do so, and most of the time it makes me smile.

Anyway, I’ll have a review of What It Is run later this week on Read About Comics, but I’m going to give everyone a sneak preview right here: BUY THIS BOOK. I suspect it’s going to be my favorite book (drawn or otherwise) of the entire year. It’s about creativity, and ourselves, and the world around us, and everything in-between, and it’s fantastic.