31 October 2012

Just for Fun

Awhile back I read this post from zenhabits. It offers a unique view on goal setting. Essentially Leo recommends letting go of the need to achieve goals and instead do things for the fun of it. How do you feel when you set some goal and  then you fail at it? pretty miserable right? Well, if instead of setting a goal to do that thing you decided to do it just for fun then if it didn't work out you don't feel so bad and you can look back at what you did do as being fun. I think this is a pretty good take on goals. 

So let me tell you about a couple of goals I have/had this year. You probably remember a few weeks ago where I managed to go nearly a whole week without using the internet at home right? I went in to that goal less determined that I would succeed, but more curious about whether I could do it or not and how it would really impact my life. And when I "failed" at it, I didn't feel too bad, because I learned something about the way that I use internet and I can look back and think that it was an interesting experiment, and one that I would like to do again someday.

The other "for fun" thing I'm doing this year, is just that--it's purely for fun. I haven't bought meat at the grocery store all year. Now let me clarify, what I really mean is that I haven't bought raw chicken or beef. When I first moved to Boston I couldn't really afford to buy meat, and then by the time that I was in a position where I could afford it I was out of the habit of buying it. Now, I have, on several occasions, bought deli ham and I still buy canned meats occasionally and I'll buy things like frozen meals with meat, but so far as I can remember I haven't bought raw chicken or beef from the butcher all year. At this point it's kind of a challenge to see if I can go the whole year without buying it. Lest you worry that I'm not getting enough protein, never free I almost always eat meat when I eat out. But you know, if tomorrow I just had to buy hamburger at the grocery store I would survive and think that it had been a fun 10 months of having not bought meat. And it's just been fun. I've been learning to cook with lots of other things (like tofu, gasp!) and it has been a great way to broaden my horizons. It rarely even occurs to me to buy meat anymore.

I feel like goal setting is all about the way in which you think about it. If you set a goal thinking that it'll be fun to see how it goes then no matter what happens it will be a success.

30 October 2012

A storm named Sandy

Just a quick update today. Yesterday saw me stuck most of the day at home watching the wind wail around the eaves on my house. We were very fortunate however not to lose power at all, nor to have any trees blow down around us. I'm very grateful. The library was closed to I got the day off, and Simmons closed (which would have been more exciting if I had classes on Mondays). All my roommates were off too, so we were all home all day--which never happens. It was pretty weird.my first "hurricane" was pretty exciting. Except I'm pretty sure it wasn't actually a hurricane in Boston, more like a tropical storm or something. I don't know. I'm sure the poor souls in Delaware thought it was a hurricane.

Being home had its advantages. I managed to get a pretty decent amount of stuff done. And today dawned something like sunny, though it was looking pretty ominous when I got to work (I forgot my umbrella on my floor) and now it is absolutely pouring buckets. I think I'll be wet when I get home tonight.

29 October 2012

Boston Book Fest

I had the opportunity on Saturday to attend the Boston Book Festival. It was pretty fantastic. I had class in the morning, but managed to get to Copley just in time for the lecture I wanted to attend: Great Brits and Books--a lecture about authors Austen, Dickens, and Barrie. It was a fantastic lecture. Because I arrived right as it was starting they wouldn't actually let me in (standing room only), but my patience won out and after not too many minutes of straining to hear a few people left freeing up some space for those of us just outside the door.

I learned many interesting things. One was that Victorians considered novels to be throw-aways. Most Victorians didn't keep a lot of novels around their homes and the ones they did keep typically were presentation copies with inscriptions. They didn't treat them like coffee-table books that cluttered up their homes. They thought of novels and circulating libraries in more of a netflix-like way. The panel also talked about how Dickens and Austen are very fairy-tale like, especially to modern-day readers. It was really a fascinating lecture. I'm so glad I could go.

The booths around the festival were pretty good too. I managed to score free tickets to the ABAA fair in November and the Book, Print, and Ephemera show (also in November). It was a pretty successful afternoon.

26 October 2012

Plastic-free eating!

I just wanted to check in and let you know how my lunchbot and my reusable produce bags are working out for me. Pretty much they are awesome!

I really like my lunchbot. I've found that the lid both is easy to take off and stays on securely. It certainly is far from air tight, so anything with just about any amount of liquid will leak if it gets turned on its side or anything. But that's only a minor inconvenience--something to take note of more than anything else. reusable things!! And I love the size. It is a good size for taking a sandwich (and I typically have somewhat oversized bread). And it's a good size for a meal, or even for two if you pack it good. And I like that it's metal and so I can't put it in the microwave which forces me to eat my food on real dishes and thus to feel like I'm eating real meals even when I'm just wolfing down leftovers on my break at work.

My reusable produce bags I have also been very happy with. I find that I don't use them as much as I thought I might, because I usually just end up putting more of my produce in my basket loose. Most vegetables don't really need to be put in a bag, and so I don't always. But I do use them for sort of corralling my veges in the fridge. I do love that I use less plastic.

25 October 2012

Lattice Crusts!

Remember a few weeks ago when I went apple picking? Well, I took some of those apples and turned them into a pie. Pie is the thing in my family, and so I've been making pies from a young age. Ironically though, I'd never actually made a lattice crust for a pie. Usually when I'm making pie I'm in just enough of a hurry that it's either a crumble topping (my favorite) or just a plain two crust pie. But when I made this pie I was determined that this time I'd try my hand at a lattice crust. I don't think it turned out half bad. And it tasted delicious (but then what's better than apple pie made with apples you harvested yourself?).

24 October 2012

Books vs. eBooks

Here's an interesting infographic I saw today about eBooks. The last statistic I think is quite telling.
The Rise of eReading: Are Books Going to Become an Endangered Species?
Courtesy of: Schools.com

23 October 2012

Crazy homework assignments

Have you ever wondered how librarians came to know so many random facts? Or how they came to be such a wealth of information (some of it seemingly useless)? Well, I'll tell you. They give us homework assignments in school to purposefully find out random information. I'm in the midst of working on my first set of "sample reference questions" that are designed to teach me more about searching for answers and the possibilities that different sources provide. This sounds like a fun assignment right? Well, it's difficulty is precluding it from being much fun. I've been working on it all day and I still have about 4 of 15 questions left. But I have learned all kinds of interesting stuff today:
  • Did you know that that holiday we celebrate in February isn't actually called President's Day? When Congress passed Uniform Monday Holiday Bill in 1968, they debated changing the name to President's Day from Washington's Birthday, but the proposal was rejected. Even though we popularly call it President's Day, its official name is still Washington's Birthday. Also, with the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill it was arranged so that this holiday will never actually fall on Washington's birthday, it is always the week before. (and yes, I'm sending you to Wikipedia for more info, but the Encyclopedia Brittanica, didn't have as good an article about the bill.)
  • Did you know that Labor day was the original Monday holiday?
  • Did you know that the first ice cream cones were served at the World's Fair in St. Louis in 1904?
  • Did you know that there is an association for people who collect political ephemera and memorabilia?

22 October 2012

Grown up things

Today I met a friend in town for lunch. We both brought our lunches and then sat out in the grass near her office and caught up while eating our sandwiches. It was pretty wonderful. And it was a gorgeous day today. For whatever reason, it makes me feel really grown up when I meet up with someone for lunch.

19 October 2012

The Symphony

I got my first use out of my BSO College Card today. I had a ticket for the matinee and it turned out to be a pretty decent seat. It was off on the side but in row F! The BSO played Debussy's Symphonic Fragments from "The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian", Martin's Concerto for Seven Wind Instruments, Timpani, Percussion, and String Orcestra, and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3, Opus 30. I really enjoyed the Debussy piece and I thought that it would be my favorite, but the Rachmaninoff blew me away. Nokolai Lugansky was the pianist for the piece and he ended up taking four curtain calls. He was amazing. He deserved every bit of his standing ovation (and I don't like to give standing ovations--I think that they are rarely deserved and too often given).

The piece is very long (which is part of what makes it so difficult), but if you watch even the first couple minutes you can get a taste for how awesome it is (it doesn't actually start till about a minute in). The concert notes talked about how some of the tunes in Rachmaninoff's piece have a very "familiar quality" to them. I definitely felt that. Actually, in some ways it reminded me of Ennio Morricone's score for The Legend of 1900. I'm curious now where Morricone got his inspiration for that film score--maybe it came from this piece?? And I really loved how Rachmaninoff's piece just feels like the early twentieth century. That's one of those sentences that doesn't really make sense, but it is exactly what I mean. I don't know how to explain it.

I was definitely among the youngest people there. It's funny how the matinee draws two distinctly different crowds: the college age kids, and the retirees. I don't think I saw any regular middle age people there, and really only a handful of college kids. But I suppose it does make sense for a Friday afternoon. I was very pleased that every single person in attendance had proper concert etiquette. And it was just fun to get all dressed up to go to the Symphony, it sounds like such a grown up thing to do. I am super excited to go to the Symphony again.

18 October 2012

Not using the internet at home is hard. very hard.

Well, I lasted nearly an entire week of not using the internet at home. I still really like the idea of not using it at home, but at this point in my life it is really helpful to not have to pack up everything and go somewhere else so that I can do a handful of things online. Today I have an early afternoon meeting at work, and I have plans to cook an actual meal for lunch and so it is just very hard to motivate myself to go to the library to work for an hour when I'll have to turn around and come back. And there are a lot of things I'd like to do online that are perfect to also get housework done (like watching the debates I've missed while folding laundry and cleaning my room). All that being said, I think I will stand by my no internet after work rule. That one seems reasonable, and doable--I should just be going to be after I get home from work anyways.

I'll try to remember to take pictures of the stir-fry I'm making for lunch today. I'm pretty excited for it.

16 October 2012

So many things, so little time

So I actually started writing this post yesterday, but didn't finish, and now I find that there are other things I want to talk about too. 

When I decided on Thursday that I wanted to be internet-free at home I figured that the first few days would be easy because I knew that I had a lot of plans already and that I wouldn't be home that much. But I did wonder about Sunday. I wasn't sure how it would go since I'm typically home for much of my Sundays.The first couple days went about like I'd planned--easy as pie. I've already done several things I wouldn't normally get around to doing (like reading books for pleasure). Sunday turned out to be surprisingly easy. I ended up with a mighty headache and so slept much of my afternoon away. whoops. Where I've hit snags have been the last couple days. My classes are all near the end of the week and so Mondays and Tuesdays are my days at home to do homework and other things. Yesterday I spent much of the day at the local library and today I spent most of the day running errands. But there are still many things I'd like to do online that I just can't squeeze in during the day. For example. Last week I missed the VP debate and tonight I'll miss the presidential debates. I did manage to watch part of last weeks debates today, but with limited internet access I just can't justify sitting down for an hour and a half to watch it when I have tons of homework that I need to do.

I keep wanting to make excuses and use my internet, but I'm trying to be strong. If nothing else, this is a lesson in my needing to plan better. And I imagine that this will get easier as the weeks go along. And if all else fails, we're halfway through October.

On a totally different note. Today I went and looked a neat encyclopedia of cookery at one of the Harvard libraries. The library the book is at isn't one of the libraries that are accessible to the general public and so I worried that I might not be able to get in. But luckily the girl at the door pretty much just waved me through. I was armed with an introduction letter, but she didn't seem to care too much about it (which is good, because now I can use the same letter to go back another time and peruse the book more). I was excited about how easy it was. I guess I must look like they expect researchers to look like (i.e. not a tourist). The encyclopedia was fantastic. It's this comprehensive eight volume set and has tons of stuff in it. Quite remarkable.

Every time I go to libraries and look at their cookery books I just want to own them. I want to have them on my shelves to access whenever I want. I'm excited for the Boston Book Fair in November, maybe I'll find one of these books that I am desperate to own. Now if only I had better heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) to store my books in.

Also, I bought milk in a glass bottle today. Yeah. I'm pretty excited about it. Nearly plastic-free milk!

15 October 2012

Today's sage advice

Don't buy anything you wouldn't pay full price for.

Good advice. Just because it's on sale doesn't mean you need it or should buy it.

12 October 2012

Oh Google...

I opened up Google Docs today and was greeted by this message:

I'm not exactly sure what a "modern browser" is and how Chrome embodies a modern browser, but Firefox doesn't. Sometimes Google makes me chuckle.

11 October 2012

Internet in your home

Today I read this article about taking the internet out of your home. Reading the article today was not the first time that getting rid of my home internet connection has occurred to me, but I think it was the first time that it occurred to me that other people actually act when they think of things like that. And that there are people out there who choose to not have internet at home. 

I really like the idea of not using the internet at home. In some ways it harks back to my Facebook-free month, and also to the numerous days that I decide that I'm not going to open my computer when I get home from work (on these days I invariably get more sleep and often get to read for pleasure). During my Facebook-free month I felt so much more liberated and free. Facebook weighs me down and I don't like that feeling. And I sometimes feel the same tether from the Internet at large. Don't get me wrong, the internet certainly is useful, but I'm not sure that I really need it in my home, consuming my life. Of course, living with roommates as I do I find it highly unlikely that I'd be able to get them on board with getting rid of the internet all together, but I don't think that that needs to stop me from doing something to get the internet out of my home.

I think my goal for October (what's left of it) is to not use the internet at all after work (or after 9 on non-working days) and I also kind of want to go cold turkey and declare no internet at home at all, but I'm not sure that I'm strong enough to do that. But it would be a good exercise for me in planning. And I have plenty of libraries near me where I can get internet. And I think that will help my homework to be done more efficiently too. I think I'm going to try. It'll be hard, but if it's not hard then I won't grow or learn as much, right? And I'm going to try it through the end of the month, though if it's going well then I'll go all the way to the 11th of November. A nice full month.

Keep me honest. Ask me how it's going. Really. I think this goal is going to be more challenging than my other goals have been.

10 October 2012

On being grateful

Writing about waiting made me think about the wonderful things that I have in my life. Here are a few of the many things that I am grateful for (in no particular order):
  • my wonderful and supportive family
  • my awesome job
  • the fact that I have a roof over my head and food in my cupboard
  • the Gospel in my life
  • my three fantastic roommates
  • my friends spread throughout the world
  • the opportunities I've had to travel in my life
  • the opportunity to watch General Conference last weekend and listen to the words of living apostles and prophets.
  • the opportunity to be educated
  • my bike
  • and about a gazillion other things.
 What are you grateful for?

As an aside. I bought more Muller Yogurt today--that's another thing I'm thankful for. Delicious yogurt.

09 October 2012

Muller Yogurt

My very favorite kind of yogurt in the entire world is Muller yogurt. (imagine the umlauts above the u). And it  makes me so sad every time I go to buy yogurt that American yogurt is so not-delicious. In fact, Muller yogurt was one of the wonderful perks of going back to London in 2010. It's just so smooth and creamy. It doesn't have the nasty grainy texture that American yogurt has. And it's not so thick as Greek yogurt. It is such the best. 

A couple of weeks ago I was in Harvard Square and a woman approached me and offered me a pot of yogurt. I didn't even really look at her and said "no, thank you" out of hand. She took the rejection well and moved on to waiting to cross the street. Since she was still standing near me I took a moment to look at what her hat said. It said Muller yogurt! I just turned down the opportunity to eat free Muller Yogurt, in the United States. What was I thinking?! But by then it was a little late for me to be like "actually, I will take your free yogurt..." 

This morning I stopped at the grocery store at the end of my bike ride to pick up a couple things I need for some muffins I want to make this week. I was in the yogurt aisle looking for plain yogurt and guess what I found??

Yes! It is! It's Muller Yogurt! In the US! It's days like this that I especially love living on the East Coast. 

I got my yogurt home (one each of strawberry and choco balls) and it's just as good as I remember. Smooth and creamy and delicious. Now I just have to hope that they bring the toffee yogurt over soon too.

08 October 2012

On Waiting

Last week I read this excellent article about waiting. I find that I am one of those persons who spends too much time waiting for things to happen. I often feel like "I can't wait till I'm done with school" or "I can't wait till work is over" or "I can't wait to get home and make a good meal."

I challenge you to take a moment today or tomorrow and just stop and think about awesome life is. And seriously. Read the article. It's not that long.

06 October 2012

The Nation's Bookbinder

Here's an interesting article from October's Fine Books & Collections.

It's about the nation's bookbinder. I bet you didn't know we had one. I didn't either.

05 October 2012

Autumn Adventures

Saturday dawned drizzly and grey, perfect for apple picking. One of my good friends looked up a place and after I got out of class we headed up to Peabody, MA. We managed to have quite an adventure on our way. We missed one of the exits and didn't realize our mistake till we were nearly to New Hampshire. It always amazes me how quickly New Hampshire comes up. Eventually we got to the orchard. We each came home with a nice selection of apples and also some apple cider donuts. Mmm, donuts. I never used to like donuts till I moved to Boston. The donuts here are just so good--but I think that is a story for another day. I had planned ahead this year and decided that I wanted to make apple butter. Look forward to more about that soon... I wish I had a picture to show you of how lovely the trees are looking. The leaves are changing and it is just gorgeous. Fall may be my new favorite season.

04 October 2012

Presidential Debate

Because the internet in my apartment has something of a mind of its own I missed watching the presidential debate last night. Luckily, I had some extra time today and so I watched while I got ready for the day and while I folded laundry. I was pleased with the debate. I'll admit that I'm no closer to knowing who I'll vote for than I was before, but I was pleased with the way the candidates comported themselves, and most especially by the fact that they didn't really bicker or mud-sling. I wish more politicians behaved in a civilized manner. For anyone who missed the debate I would recommend it as a worthwhile hour and a half. I feel like I am a more informed citizen, though at the same time I feel even more uninformed than before--I have a lot of work to do before the election next month. I'm hoping that the internet in my apartment will cooperate so that I can watch the rest of the debates. They are fascinating.

03 October 2012

Convenient or Better?

After watching Digital Nation yesterday, I got to thinking about technology and how it "improves" our lives. I think we can all agree that technology (or at least most of it) makes our lives easier and more convenient. We often equate this convenience with better-ness. Thus, technology makes life better. I wonder if that's the case though. What exactly defines better?

Naturally, I turned to the OED. Better has many definitions and uses, some more archaic than others (surprisingly, the one that was marked obsolete is one that I occasionally use...) In essence better is:
  • comparative of good
  • of greater excellence; of superior quality
  • said of persons, in respect of physical, mental, or esp. moral qualities; also of social standing
  • said of things, in respect of their essential qualities
  • of persons and things: more profitable, useful, or suitable for a purpose; more eligible or desirable
  • of greater amount: more, larger, greater
  • and a couple other similar things.
Merriam-Webster adds
  • greater than half
  • improved in health or mental attitude
  • more attractive, favorable, or commendable
  • more advantageous or effective
  • improved in accuracy or performance
The OED gives many definitions of convenient, but only the 6th sense really concerns us here:
  • personally suitable or well-adapted to one's easy action or performance of functions, favorable to one's comfort, easy condition, or the saving of trouble; commodious.
 Again, Merriam-Webster adds
  • suited to personal comfort or easy performance
  • affording accommodation or advantage
  •  being near at hand: close
 Given these definitions I think there are definitely kinds of technology that is "better," things like medical technology or indoor plumbing water, but there are some kinds of technology that I'm just not sure about. What do you think? Does technology make life better or just more convenient? Is that same?
So, my question is does technology make life better? or just more convenient? 

02 October 2012

Technology isn't good or bad. It's powerful.

Last week I showed up for my Wednesday class and the first thing the professor did was to have us divide up into groups to discuss the documentary Digital Nation that we were supposed to watch before class. So we divided up and it quickly became apparent that only about 5 people in the class had any idea what he was talking about... Anyways, he ended up showing us a trailer for it and we managed to still have our discussion. But it looked pretty good and so today I took part of my morning and sat down and watched it. It was thought-provoking. I feel like technology has so many sides to it that it's hard to tell what's good and what's bad and what just takes getting used to.

I've found that the more I think about technology and the issues that surround it the more I feel dissatisfied. I definitely can see the usefulness of technology, but I'm just not sure that the application is the best it could be. But hopefully with time we'll learn to balance it better and adapt. Anyhow, here are some of my take-aways from the film. It's definitely one I'd recommend. And you can watch it online.

Studies done at Standford show that people who multitask are actually really terrible at it and they are significantly slower than when they do one thing at a time.

South Korea is the first country to treat internet addiction as a psychiatric disorder.

“Over the past 20 years the internet has changed from a thing one does to a way one lives.”

“That was the first time it occurred to me that my children’s education might have a different purpose than mine did.”

“The world that we’re preparing them for isn’t going to require of them that they have to remember a bunch of information that someone tells them. The world is going to require them to do stuff, to build stuff, work on things, and that’s what we’re preparing them for.”

"I don’t know of any jobs in the world that require people to stay in their seats and keep quiet. But that’s what we require of them in schools…"

"To me there should never be a question as to whether or not students should have access to technology. Technology is like oxygen."

“It’s instant gratification education.” The short attention span makes people get bored faster.

Some surveys of college professors are showing that student’s basic skills (writing especially) are a lot worse now than they were 10 years ago.

People confuse the best ways of doing something once with the best ways of doing something forever.

Sure we’ve lost things. When we gained writing we lost memory. Now we lose attention and focus and become distracted. "That’s just the price of gain."

“Millions of people are inhabiting the Net as if it were a real place, satisfying the urge to connect to others in online games, virtual worlds.”

“The technology wasn’t isolating them; it was giving them a new way to be intimate.”

“What does the virtual world look like? It looks like the average of all the things we dream about.”

The part about military drones reminds me of Ender’s Game.

“A drone can’t dig through the rubble of that building and see what the results of that hellfire missile are.”

“That game world is equally rich to many novels, I would argue.”

“Technology challenges us to assert our human values. Which mean first we have to figure out what they are.”

“Technology isn’t good or bad. It’s powerful.”

“but most of all, I love being able to turn it off.”

Frontline’s DigitalNation

01 October 2012

Buying fresh flowers

A couple months ago I read a book called Apartment Therapy: The Eight-Step Home Cure by Maxwell Gilliam-Ryan. It was pretty good. Gilliam-Ryan provides lots of ideas of how to "fix" your home. They include things like deep cleaning, de-cluttering, learning more about your personal style, making sure you have good enough lighting in your home, etc. While there were a lot of useful ideas I found that a lot of them weren't really applicable to me because I don't have my own apartment where I have full control over how the rooms are painted, or furnished. But one idea that I did like and can use was to have fresh flowers in your home. They add a life and color to your home and are just nice. I was out shopping on Saturday and saw these flowers, so I thought that it was time for my apartment to have some fresh flowers in it. And you know what? Every time I walk past them I'm glad that I bought them.They cheer the place right up.