Saturday, March 31, 2007
Friday, March 30, 2007
As you can probably imagine, social networking is more fun with friends!
I'm trying to figure out which booklist site to use. The contenders so far:
So far from my limited usage, I'm kind of a fan of Shelfari (Goodreads keeps giving me errors when I try to view friends' profiles; LibraryThing wants me to pay to use it, and I'm cheap).
Anyone use any of these? Post a comment if you have any suggestions.
Amazon.com has so far overlooked a real opportunity here, to provide Web 2.0 networking à la Netflix.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Lest any UFF readers think that given my recent travel mishaps I am entirely incompetent, I would like to also share my excellent handling of another minor life setback: The towing of my rental car (mini-van, actually) last weekend.
To transport a gaggle of co-workers to Jersey for the Sweet 16 party, and to make a subsequent trip to Ikea, I rented a mini-van. When I first moved to NYC, not having a car really stressed me out. When I complained about not having a car, experienced New Yorkers assured me that if I wanted to get away for a weekend, I could rent one. (Any car-owner knows that a rental is NOT the same as one's own car, however, I could get past that.)
I soon learned the flaws in the "Just rent one!" plan. For one, car rental places in NYC are almost universally, and inexplicably, closed on Sundays. And none of them have drop-boxes for the key, which means that you have to rent the car for at least 2 days (assuming you pick it up Saturday morning), and it also means that you have to drop it off before work on Monday. Also, car rental places need parking for all those vehicles, and NY real estate ain't cheap, so they're usually located on the outskirts of civilization, and usually there's a bit of a trek to the nearest subway station. The worst thing, however, about renting a car in NYC, is finding parking. I'm fine pulling out of the rental lot and driving around Jersey or Long Island or wherever, but as soon as I get close to my neighbourhood I can feel my breathing get shallower and my heart beat faster and I know my anxiety levels are way up because I'm going to have to find parking, ideally within a 20 block radius of my apartment.
I'm not exaggerating.
In Park Slope, there's usually ample parking on Saturday afternoon/evening, but if you're trying to find something Sunday night, forget it. Accept that you're going to shell out $30 for a garage ($40 if you are trying to park anything bigger than a sedan).
Unless, of course, you're me and DLang last Sunday night.
We drove around a bit, knowing from experience that our odds of finding something were slim to none. We finally drove up Union St. to a garage we've used before, resigned to paying to park the van for a mere 10 hours. Literally a few metres from the garage entrance, however, we spotted a spot! Hallelujah! I pulled in, and DLang got out to read the restricted parking sign: No Parking from 7am-10am.
Hm. We figured we could either spend the $40 for the garage, or risk getting what we estimated would be an $80 ticket.
Obviously we opted for the latter, or this wouldn't make it to the ol' blog (which I should probably just start referring to as The Confessional.)
Monday morning at 8, we schlepped through the residual snow and slush to Union St. to find not a single vehicle parked on the block.
We walked to the subway and devised a plan: I would email DLang the license plate number, and he'd call the fabulous 311 to find out where we could pick up the car. For you non-New Yorkers, 311 is the number you call in NY to answer any question about the city. I'm not kidding. I've called to report a car alarm outside my bedroom window, to find out when to dispose of a box spring (Saturday), and to find out what movie was being filmed in the park across the street. (If you have any ideas for questions to which 311 might not have answers, please leave them in the comments, as I might just propose "Stump 311" as a party game.)
Anyway, I got to work and Googled "car towed NYC" which got me straight to the NYPD's listing of tow pounds. Conveniently, the Brooklyn pound is 1/2 mile from my office. By the time DLang got to work, I'd already pretty much solved the case, and by 12:30pm I'd returned the car (without having to pay an extra day, even) and was back at work after only a 90 minute absence.
The Brooklyn Tow Pound
This little adventure came with a hefty price tag: I paid $185 to get the car out of the pound, and also have a $115 parking ticket with which to contend. In the future, I will try to earn my cred by less costly means.
What a week.
I'm back with Team in Training - this year as a mentor for the Nike Women's Marathon (yes, the very one that was my first marathon last year) and the NYC Marathon. Since they're only 3 weeks apart, I'll only be running the half in SF.
I can't wait.
The travel saga continued yesterday afternoon when I learned that I'd saved myself $6 when I bought my ticket by checking a box that prohibited me from making any changes or cancellations to the reservations. How frugal. Since buying a one-way ticket back to NY for Tuesday was going to run me around $500, I decided to chance getting my visa renewed with faxed documents. To improve my odds, I swung by the university this morning to get an official copy of my transcript. The woman at the registrar's office hooked me up in about 10 minutes, bless her. DLang faxed my diploma and employment letter to Sirrah!'s office, and I swung by and picked them up on my way out of town.
Two hours and $50 later, I was through both customs and immigration. And tonight in Park Slope, DLang has received his token of gratitude (a snack pack of chocolate TimBits) and Memphis is curled up in my lap.
I'm glad to be back.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
I'm just a little sleep-deprived this week, and my 6:45 a.m. flight to Toronto this morning didn't help matters at all. I packed last night, woke up at 4:30 (thanks Memphis, I really didn't need that extra half-hour of sleep AT ALL), and checked in at the LaGuardia at 6. There was a bit of a line at security but no big deal. I got to the gate as my flight was boarding, found my seat, and promptly fell asleep.
After we landed, and as walked off the plane towards Canadian immigration, I had the following thoughts:
"I need to brush my teeth. Where's my toothbrush, again? Oh yeah, in my blue suitcase. Hm, where is that suitcase, again? I don't remember putting it in the overhead bin. Did I check it? No, I definitely didn't check it. Hm. What did I do with it?"
Then it hit me: I left my suitcase AT SECURITY AT LAGUARDIA.
Oh. My. God. It was quite possibly the stupidest thing I've ever done. I am usually pretty good at handling mild-crisis situations (I have yet to blog about last weekend's rental-car-towing experience, but I totally rocked that ordeal). This morning I managed to calmly get myself to the Air Canada bagage inquiry counter and relay my story to the kind (and rather good-looking) gentleman working there. He directed me to the GTAA lost and found. I kept it together as I left the bagage claim area, then I called DLang to report the news. As soon as he answered, I lost my composure and had a minor breakdown at Pearson International Airport.
Eventually I pulled myself together enough to go to lost and found, where a very sweet GTAA employee did everything she could to help me track down the bag. She was unsuccessful, but she gave me a bunch of numbers and I called them back to DLang.
Agent DLang accepted his mission with great gumption, and trekked to LaGuardia this afternoon, where, to my great relief, he successfully recovered my bag (which fortunately had his name and address on the luggage tag). Apparently this happens all the time, and airports have a whole system to handle this situation. (DLang did get the impression that it was good that the bag hadn't yet been moved to the "Operations Room," which I imagine is fully of drug-dogs and detonation devices and burly security agents rifling through peoples' unmentionables.)
I can only hope that my breakfast date will forgive me for standing her up this morning, and that DLang's patience stretches far enough to FedEx me the paperwork (that was in the suitcase - why couldn't it just have been underwear and a toothbrush?) that I'll need to get home next week.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Last night Brianna and I hopped the PATH train to Jersey City's Loew's Theatre to see The Decemberists in concert. [Note: I think that is the most linkalicious sentence EVER on UFF!] Anyway, before we did that, we stopped at the newly-opened Pinkberry, a heathy frozen-yogurt restaurant chain based in L.A. (Bri had the inside scoop - pun intended - on this treat. She LOVES ice cream, possibly more than I do.) Anyway, I diligently Googled the brand before hitting the store, and found lots of good press. And I love the name: "Pinkberry" is really fun to say. (The Nefarious Dr. Funstuff speculates that all words with a "k" are particularly fun to say, and he's a nefarious doctor, so who am I to argue?)
The store itself is sparse, and has a wall of bright and bubbly Japanese kitchen stuff reminiscent of my favourite desk accessory, the Sunshine Buddy. Pinkberry offers two flavours of yogurt: Original and Green Tea. They also have myriad toppings, including Fruity AND Cocoa Pebbles (in addition to the usual fruits and chocolate chips). They also offer carob chips which seems a bit odd to me, probably because my mom used to try to pawn off carob chips on us as being the same as chocolate chips, and, not so much.
Bri ordered Original yogurt with Fruity Pebbles and strawberries. I had Green Tea with raspberries and yogurt chips. The servings are generous, and 5 oz will cost you a mere 125 calories. The yogurt is *delicious* - it's slightly tart, and the green tea flavour was subtle and authentic. I'd probably go for a crunchier topping next time -- after all, it's kind of hard NOT to order Fruity Pebbles when that's an option.
A small cup with 2 toppings costs around $6, so Pinkberry certainly isn't cheap. It was worth the splurge, as I've never tasted anything like it. In fact, I'm inspired to try sour cream in my ice cream machine this summer to see if I can replicate Pinkberry's perfectly non-sweet taste.
Other notes from the evening:
- A Pinkberry employee chastised me for snapping this picture in the store:
(Interestingly, I was once chastised for taking a picture at Starbucks, because clearly the inside of Starbucks is top-secret and God only knows what classified information might get into the wrong hands.)
- The Decemberists' concert was excellent! Lovely music, and a very high-energy performance.
- Going to Jersey City really wasn't so bad.
Last Saturday afternoon, a group of my co-workers and I piled into a rented mini-van and drove to Plainsboro, New Jersey, for another co-worker's daughter's Sweet 16 birthday party.
I hope you followed all that.
I've heard stories about the extravagance of Sweet 16 parties, and while I've never watched the MTV series "My Super Sweet 16", I get the idea - these things are over the top! I'm pretty sure many of them cost more than DLang and my nups. My 16th birthday party (back in 1990) was basically the same as all of my other birthday parties in high school - a half-dozen girlfriends slept over, we made ice cream sundaes and watched cheesy horror movies ("Sleepaway Camp," anyone?). It probably cost my mom $100 and a decent night's sleep.
We were pretty excited about Aditi's party, because we work with her mom Nitika (and know that she's incredibly down-to-earth and wouldn't be buying her daughter a BMW or a diamond bracelet!), and also because we were going to get to chow on delish Indian food.
We arrived at the party before any of the other guests, and watched Aditi's family and friends trickle in. The Birthday Girl arrived fashionably late, looking stunning (and age-appropriate, I might add) in a sparkling turquoise lehenga and matching choli. Her family showed a video they'd made for her, and her friends danced for her. She lit sixteen candles in a Sweet 16 Candle Ceremony (who knew such a thing existed?). Not only did we have an amazing evening of dancing to Bhangra (screw in the lightbulb, pet the dog!), we experienced the Sweet 16 party at its finest. Sixteen is kind of a remarkable age of being on the verge, and the perfect time to receive public affirmation from the people who love you. Aditi was surrounded by her family and closest friends, and it was a good reminder to me that no matter what transition you might be undergoing in your life, (physically or virtually) being around people who love you is oh-so-important.
We got to eat some awesome Indian food, too.
Photos on Flickr
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
I was reviewed by Sexy Simone over at So Many Blogs, So Little Time and the review isn't - how shall I put this - good. Apparently my blog is too white and fluffy. Perhaps I should rename it Snowball! Or just call it Marshmallow Fluff. I love that stuff. It was also apparently a strike against me that I have so few comments - so, Dear Reader, comment now and often! In return, I will try to redesign the layout at some point. But you're stuck with the fluff.
Awesomely, when I put Jillian's song in iTunes and sorted by Artist to play it back, it was immediately followed by Joan Jett's rendition of the "Mary Tyler Moore Theme Song" (aka "Love is All Around") - in other words, my theme song! (I have this idea that, like sports figures, we should have theme songs that play when we come to work in the morning. Perhaps an mp3 player activated by picking up a Bluetooth signal from one's cell phone as she enters the building? A girl can dream.)
Also in the playlist right now: "We Used To Be Friends" by the Dandy Warhols (and the Veronica Mars theme song). *Love* that tune (especially when I get to listen to it for longer than 30 seconds)!
Monday, March 19, 2007
Yes, yesterday was Caturday and when Memphis was doing cute things in the morning I couldn't find my camera. Come on, it was worth the wait. Look at that giant paw, and that snarl as she destroys the camera strap.
And you thought she was sweet and innocent.
Friday, March 16, 2007
It's actually kind of interesting. Last week, a friend told me she'd written a song based on something I said to her last summer, which is that I fall in love 100 times a day. The song is called "Infatuated Girl." VisualDNA classifes me as a Love Bug:
Link via Little Lisa
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Apparently it's also National Potato Chip Day, and to celebrate I present yet another Canadianism: Ketchup Chips! We also have Dill Pickle Chips and Sour Cream and Bacon Chips (but saying "Crème sure et bacon croustilles" makes them sound a lot fancier).
Apparently it's also Steak and BJ Day. Who knew?
To celebrate Pi(e) Day, I baked a couple of pies.
The first was Pecan Pie with Kahlua and Chocolate Chips:
It won the coveted "Pie that Most Embodies the Spirit of Pi(e) Day" award, for its clever rendition of π in pie dough.
The second was Banana Cream Pie:
Making Banana Cream Pie is inherently funny, because you get to say things like, "I'm spreading the custard on my pie" and "Now I'm putting the banana in the custard on my pie." And those phrases make me laugh.
Another thing that made me laugh was email I received that read, "Luckily no one brought 'e' to the office on 2/7 at 18:28... Phew." Hee.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
About a month ago, I became the proud owner of a snazzy orange iPod Shuffle. It just looks tasty, doesn't it? At first it showed up in iTunes as its silver cousin, but last week a software upgrade magically changed its icon to orange:
I love me some good design. Thanks, Apple.
Posted by Gillian at 12:23 PM
Monday, March 12, 2007
1. One book that changed your life?
"Still Life With Woodpecker" by Tom Robbins. Candace gave me this book around the time we became friends. It isn't my favourite Tom Robbins book, but until I read it, I didn't even know that writing could be this delicious. (For the record, my fave TR book is definitely Jitterbug Perfume.)
2. One book you have read more than once?
"The Shining," because it reliably scares the bejeezus out of me, and it's a perfect, not-put-downable summer read. I reread "Pet Sematary" last year, and it also continues to freak me out.
3. One book you would want on a desert island?
MacBook? Heh, I guess that isn't really a valid response. Rats.
This is a tough one. On one hand, I'd have so much time, so I'd like to tackle some great work that I'd never otherwise have time for, like a volume containing Shakespeare's complete works. On the other hand, I'd have so much time, so I'd like some kind of pulp that I could read repeatedly and not get bored by.
I guess I'll go with the Shakespeare (or some other infinitely long classic work, like "War and Peace"), for now.
4. One book that made you laugh?
"I Want To Go Home" by Gordon Korman. I think it might be because I first read it when I was extra-young and impressionable - anyway, I thought it was completely hilarious, and every time I've read it since, it has cracked me up. It's about this kid, Rudy Miller, who's a superstar at everything (sports, academics, even crafts) but he's kind of anti-social, so his parents send him to camp, and he spends the entire summer trying to escape. Hijinks, of course, ensue. I read it again 2 years ago and subsequently forced it on DLang, who read it because we're married now and "humour each other's literary preferences" was part of our vows. When I (frequently, and possibly annoyingly) looked over his shoulder and exclaimed, "Oh! You're at that part! Isn't it hilare?" he smiled politely and said, "Yeah, it's cute." Anyway, I don't know if it was lost on him because he didn't read it when he was 10, or because he isn't Canadian, or because he has a crappy sense of humour (just kidding!). Anyway, it still cracks me up.
Props to DLang: His work with Scholastic has garnered us copies of Korman's newer works, which I liked but didn't love.
5. One book that made you cry?
"The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger. I finished this on President's Day morning and had to go get a box of Kleenex from the bathroom because I was crying so hard. It's a love story, and it's kind of science-fictiony, and the characters are very real and lovely.
6. One book you wish you had written?
"The Corrections" by Jonathan Franzen I like the structure of this book (sections of the story are told from different characters' points of view), the layers and depths of the relationships (especially within family), the humour, and the honesty. I can very vividly remember scenes from this book, which also says a lot for the writing.
Oh, and I ate dinner (vegetarian Chinese takeout) at Jonathan Franzen's apartment last summer. He wasn't there - a friend was subletting it. Nice place.
7. One book you wish had never been written?
Huh, really? I don't know that I can wish this on a book. Oh, I think a lot of people liked it, but one book I really wish I hadn't read (and I stupidly kept reading because I thought it might have some redeeming quality at some point, and it DID NOT, not even a little bit) was "Jemima J," a book about which Wendy at Pound spewed enough vitriol back in 2003 that I don't have to repeat it here. Just, ugh.
8. One book you are currently reading?
"The Art of Happiness" by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler. I happened across this book quite accidentally (my yoga instructor was giving away some of her collection, and I picked this up) and it's been so timely in my life that I feel like it was a gift. I'm particularly struck by making the distinction between pleasure and happiness. I recommend it.
9. One book you have been meaning to read?
"Special Topics in Calamity Physics" by Marisha Pessl. This book was lauded when it came out last year, and I picked it up immediately, and have been slowly reading it for about 6 months. It's not a hard read, and I enjoy it when I get into it, I just... take a long time in between readings, I guess. I'm not sure why.
10. Tag 5 people:
Candace, Chad, Rebecca, The Other Gillian, Bob
Posted by Gillian at 7:22 PM
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Friday, March 09, 2007
In my brain this week:
Mark Morford thinks innocence is overrated (and I have to agree):
Drama is what we are designed for. Emotional (and physical, and spiritual) scarring and discoloration is, in a way, what we do. Our spirits are, after all, here to experience and taste and immerse in it all.Mark Morford (yes, again) on change:
Here's the trick: Those things that you feel most terrified about releasing, that seem to contain your entire identity and without which you wouldn't fully recognize yourself, well, maybe they should be the first things to feel the razor: jobs, cars, hair, photographs, bedsheets, houses, ideologies, religions. To what do you cling? What holds all your fear of change?Also from the Left Coast, San Francisco considers banning plastic grocery bags, giving us all another reason to be hopeful in this crazy world. (link via Slashfood)
I love New York.
And finally, in less than 30 seconds this video will make you laugh:
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Brianna blogged her answers to a set of interview questions written by a friend, and offered to write more questions for anyone who asks. I asked, she did, and here are my answers. And in the interest of passing it along, post a comment if you'd like a set of Gillian interview questions!
What’s your favorite quick and easy dinner recipe?
It's gotta be the Weight Watchers Balsamic-Mushroom Chicken recipe. I don't use WW anymore, so I don't have the exact recipe, but it just involves sautéing chicken breasts with mushrooms and balsamic vinegar, then reducing the vinegar to make a sauce. It's yummy.
(Please note that if the word "recipe" wasn't in that question, I'd probably have said Kraft Dinner.)
What pop culture guilty pleasure will replace "The O.C."?
Candace just gave me the first season of Veronica Mars on DVD, so I'm going to give that a shot. I can't even say that I'll miss "The O.C." much. You know how when a football team is out of the playoffs but still has a few games left in the season, and they let all the second- and third-string players get some time on the field because the stakes are so low? I'm guessing a few young Hollywood writers got to play at the end of that series, and it wasn't pretty.
What’s the best picture you’ve taken since getting your new camera? Is there a story behind it?
I take a lot of self-portraits (alone and with other people), and they frequently turn out well because I have long arms. A few weeks ago, I was at Fairway in Red Hook and I stepped outside the café to take a picture of the Statue of Liberty. While I was there, I also took a self-portrait, but forgot that I was zoomed in. Subject matter notwithstanding, I really like this picture:
Also in self-portraits, this one turned out well, too, but largely due to the excellent lighting that afternoon:
Then of course, there are the bazillion Memphis pictures, which, aw.
Who inspired you as a child? Do they still inspire you today?
My parents, a lot. They're both incredibly strong women. They do still inspire me. In fact, just thinking about all the ways in which they influence and support me inspires me to be a kinder and more compassionate to the people in my life.
You’re always trying new things – what’s on the horizon for Gillian’s next adventure?
Another summer of marathon training! I'm going to be a mentor for Team in Training's summer season, culminating in running the NYC Marathon on November 4!
Posted by Gillian at 1:30 AM
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Bringing lunch to work update: I'm 2 for 2. Today I had help from Bob, who in addition to being an excellent musician (I saw his band P.G. Six play Tonic on Sunday night and they were great!) can also cook, and brought extras of his delicious Shepherd's Pie to work today. As an added bonus, that means I can have my PB&J (on delicious no-knead bread, of course) for lunch tomorrow!
New Canadianism: Keener. Using intarweb 2.0, and specifically LinkedIn, I recently got in touch with my first-ever QA boss. (LinkedIn has a professional focus, but I've only really used it socially, kind of like my day job. Just kidding! Hi co-workers!) Anyway. We emailed back and forth a bit, and she said she thought I'd always been a keener. I said the word out loud a few times at work this afternoon, and garnered the same response as when I use the term "point form": blank stares. Again using the power of the internet, I learned that it is indeed a phrase of British origin:
• A competitive personality, especially with regards to academics and athletics.I also learned that Catherine Keener is 47 - man, she looks great!
• A first-year undergraduate who takes meticulous notes, often at the expense of understanding course material as it is presented
• A Bristolian saying for someone who works hard.
Monday, March 05, 2007
Candace visited this weekend, and in addition to traipsing around Park Slope, we (well, she) made the NYTimes no-knead bread (free registration required). It is unbelievably easy and delicious - I highly recommend it!
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Thursday, March 01, 2007
On the weekend, I had an interesting convo with my mom about goals. She said she hates goals. I was surprised, since I think setting goals is really effective. I mentioned Robyn's comment that "Planning is priceless. Plans are useless" and that I thought plans were different from goals - but I couldn't really articulate why.
Dictionary.com provides us the following definitions:
goal: the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.It would seem, then, that a plan could conceivably be a way of achieving a goal.
plan: a specific project or definite purpose: plans for the future.
Anyway. I've been intermittently updating my page on 43 Things and I'm trying to choose goals that I can actually achieve. As I write this, one of my goals is "Live with integrity" - which is incredibly important, but kind of hard to check off the list. It's still a good reminder for me to see it listed as something I want to do in my life.
Last month I flossed every day!
This month, in an effort to be healthier and also to save my hard-earned dollahs, I'm going to bring my lunch to work 3 times per week (M, T, Th). Updates to follow.