Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lowell Spinners vs Staten Island Yankees vs The Gator Pit

My 3rd annual company summer outing brought us to the Lowell Spinners game — in Lowell, of course! After a brief downpour en route to the stadium, we arrived with empty bellies to find the Gator Pit in full force. We loaded our plates high with grilled meats and picnic fare and pondered going up for seconds.

It was a wonderful last night out with my work pals — and the Spinners won! (More photos here!)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I Made This!

Following up on an earlier post about my first tomato plant, I am delighted to report that my first tomato was ready for picking today. AND, there are three more on the way!

The title of this post is just a nod to the new X-Files movie...which I plan to rent in a few months. I really take very little credit for the success of my plant.

Mom's First Game at Fenway!

It was my mom's birthday exactly 11 months ago yesterday. For that birthday, we presented her with a series of gift certificates — one to be enjoyed "sometime next week" (a restaurant gift certificate), one for "sometime next month" (a spa gift certificate), and the last one for "sometime next year" (a promise to get her to Fenway for a 2008 game). At last, she was able to cash in the "sometime next year" gift yesterday.

We were prepared, as much as I despise the entire concept, to buy tickets from a ticket broker. I lucked out, though, big time — after entering the MLB drawing for tickets to one of the Yankees series, I was able to get 4 tickets together for the sunny game yesterday...for face value...$12 per ticket.

It was pretty hot, but we were blessed with the occasional cloud and sea breeze. Mom got to see JD Drew's home run, did the (seated) wave, and participated happily in the 7th Inning Stretch. I took a bunch of photos, of course.

We left early in order to beat the crowds (the Sox were losing pretty badly, anyway), and headed to Kelly's Roast Beef at Revere Beach. Mom and Dad got to see the ocean, and get some awesome summertime sandwiches for dinner. It was a great day.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Bobbled: An Addendum

At last, I just received the (completely unwanted) bobblehead promised to me from a stock photo company that I have no interest in.

On June 12th, I posted a blog about this situation, which I see as junk mail of the highest, most bobbley form. Recall that prior to my post, the company spokesperson informed me that the package had already been sent to me, and there was nothing they could do to stop it.


Clearly, the issue was not that they had pre-printed address labels. (I'm feeling more like Perez Hilton every day. Not good.)

I don't mean to make a big deal about this bobble head, but I see it as representative of a greater issue. I have to reference my upcoming move again here, and the time I spent ridding our home of unnecessary items. I also spent an entire evening (hours!) shredding junk mail that had accumulated in the to-be-shred pile. Receiving these unwanted items is a waste of my time, a waste of our resources, and the mass printing of our contact and account information is just not safe. Junk mail, most of which is designed to look important, often leads to confusion when sorting to find the actual mail (bills, statements, etc) in the inbox.

So, how does this "Return to Sender" thing work, anyway?

ADDENDUM to the ADDENDUM, July 30th: An unnamed coworker of mine insisted upon opening the Bobblehead package. I agreed, but only on the condition that it would belong to her once it came out of the box. Worse than I ever even expected, here's what we found:

I think it speaks for itself.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Death of Nostalgia

John and I had the good fortune of finding a spacious apartment when we moved in together in 2006. We were never forced to evaluate our belongings or to decide which items we should keep and that which we should let go.

In addition to having experienced an anti-consumer awakening in my 30s, we are moving into a much smaller place next week. Now, we are evaluating our belongings. We've been selling and donating, tossing and sorting. It's been a lot of work, but it is very cleansing.

I found myself going through albums whose yellowed pages I feared were damaging my photos. I had two albums filled with photos and memorabilia from the semester I spent in London in 1995. This experience had represented such a significant part of my life at the time I assembled these albums, but now I pulled photos from each page, amazed at how much time I had spent carefully assembling the books in the first place. Since then, I had traveled farther, experienced more, and found many of the things I was searching for.

At the same time, I am amazed at my reliance on photos as supplemental memory. Photos and trinkets have long functioned, for me, like an external hard drive — without them, my internal memories tend to me a bit limited. We get so used to our own photo collections that we aren't allowed to forget experiences that perhaps we would otherwise. I particularly notice this when looking through a friend's photos of a shared experience — a totally different perspective, and sometimes, a completely different memory.

I caught something on TV within the past year that discussed the ubiquitous video camera (and digital photos unlimited in number) in households with young children. The interviewer chatted with a very young girl about her "memories" of her childhood. She could recall events from her time as a wee toddler (she was 5, or so, now)! It became clear that this "memory" was false when she was asked if she remembered her family's trip to Disneyworld the year before. "No," she said, "My mom didn't bring the video camera."

I feel like there is a growing generation of people who "remember" things because they have been exposed to them repeatedly via some type of media. I have been a victim of this confusion, as well: I honestly don't know if I ever saw any of the "Schoolhouse Rocks" animated shorts when they were originally broadcast, or if my familiarity with them is the result of exposure to the infomercial via which the VHS collection was sold. Yet, I know the words to "I'm Just a Bill."

One of the reasons my husband and I connected so soon after we met is our over-knowledge of silly pop-culture stuff...bad actors, bad music lyrics, good cartoons. In fact, I formed an immediate bond with some of my closest friends over our shared knowledge of such things. John is 12 years older than I am, though, so we most certainly did not have the same type of exposure to these things. Where did I pick it up? Do I remember? Or do I "remember"?

It is possible to replay nearly any media event via YouTube. John has been able to bring some of his recollections to life for me via a quick internet search: Bobby Orr's Bruins, Go Go Gophers, Battle of the Network Stars. I have mostly found and replayed obscure Sesame Street clips that have long lurked in my mind: Be My Echo, Capital I, Lowercase N...and what I've found is that something is stolen from me as these fuzzy memories play so clearly on my screen. I want to keep the fuzziness, and I want to talk about the fuzziness with other people who have also retained the fond fuzziness of their life experiences. This fuzziness is nostalgia — warm, idealized, and unique — and I believe that we are being robbed of this human experience.

A similar blame can be assigned to social networking sites and maybe email, in general. I absolutely keep in touch with people that would have naturally distanced from my life long ago, if not for the ease and accessibility of email. I have found and subsequently gotten together with long-lost friends who I was never meant to see again. This is neither good nor bad, but it is undeniably unnatural.

I have a blog. I obviously find use in recording my experiences for all to see. I want to make clear, too, that there are many things that should be made increasingly accessible and clear, not left to distorted individual recollection and viewpoints (history, wars, etc). I am just proposing that we increase our sensitivity to the ramifications of over-accessibility — most significantly, the death of nostalgia.

Eddie Izzard, Stripped (Me of $120)

OK, that's not even true. In fact, Eddie tried to help. It was the ancient Orpheum Theatre in Boston that did this past April. Since leaving the theater angry that evening, I have had "Write Letter to Orpheum" on my to-do list. Of course, it has been pushed to the end of the list repeatedly by such things as "Pick Up and Move Across State."

I am not one to threaten the writing of a letter without seeing it through, so this has been weighing on me a great deal. I want to mention, as well (particularly because I have a reputation in my office for continually contacting the Starbucks Coprorate Office about the unfriendly employees downstairs — which I've only done once!), that I often take time to send complimentary letters. To give an online nod to these businesses, I have sent such letters to Boloco (an awesome, growing, green, local burrito place), Tully's Coffee (whose cheerful employees made my day one rainy Saturday in Seattle), the Pine Street Inn (whose work cleaning the area around the Holocaust Memorial I am very grateful for), and McDonald's (where I received unexpectedly friendly customer service). McDonald's replied via email to my recent comment:
Hello Erin:

Thank you for taking the time to share your complimentary comments with McDonald's. It's a rare person who takes the time to compliment. Thank you for being that person!

Every McDonald's restaurant employee is trained to provide our customers with the best-possible restaurant experience. This includes providing fast, accurate and friendly service, and serving outstanding food quality in a clean and pleasant restaurant environment.

Please be assured that your nice comments will be shared with the franchise owner and restaurant team of the McDonald's you mentioned. I know they'll appreciate the time you took to share your comments with us.

Again, Erin, we know you have many choices when making your dining-out decisions, and we truly appreciate your choosing McDonald's. We look forward to serving you again soon under the Golden Arches.

McDonald's Customer Response Center

So, you see, I try to keep these sort of things in balance.

It would be wrong if I didn't contact the Orpheum about my experience there. Below is the letter that I am dropping in the mail today:

Orpheum Theatre
1 Hamilton Place
Boston, MA 02109

July 24, 2008

Dear Theater Manager,

I am writing to inform you of my experience at the Orpheum Theatre on April 30th of this year. I purchased two balcony tickets to Eddie Izzard’s performance on that date via Ticketmaster for a total of $118.55. My order number for this purchase was XXXXXX. I found your contact information on the Better Business Bureau website.

I have attended many theatrical events in Boston and throughout the world. These seats at the Orpheum were the worst seats I have ever been sold. Because of the pitch of the seating in your theater, the view from these seats (Balcony, Row T) is 100% obstructed. There is no warning of this obstruction when purchasing tickets, and the lack of view of the stage is certainly not reflected in the price. I would never have purchased tickets for obstructed seats, and I remain embarrassed to have unknowingly subjected my friend to the aggravation of trying to see the stage from these balcony seats.

I could not remotely enjoy Eddie Izzard’s performance, despite being a long-time fan. He is a largely physical comedian, and the inability to see his performance made only for frustration. Throughout the show, I heard complaints from many other people in the balcony section. In fact, at the beginning of the performance, we were also unable to hear the performance. It took a frustrated person from the balcony section to stand up and shout to the performer, himself, that we could not hear. Thankfully for us (embarrassing for you), Mr. Izzard responded kindly to her yell and adjustments were made.

There does not seem to be the same retribution for the sale of bad experiences as there is for the sale of bad consumer items. Obviously, I can’t “return” my experience, despite holding the receipt. My bad experience at the Orpheum was completely the fault of the theater, and I feel I am writing this letter on behalf of a number of people who felt very taken advantage of following this performance.

Because of the 100% obstruction of the stage from my seats, 100% frustration for the duration of the show, and my 100% disappointment following a much-anticipated performance, I am requesting a 100% refund of the price I paid for these two tickets: $118.55

Thank you for taking the time to address this situation.

I will be sure to follow up on my blog if the Orpheum follows up with me. Please post a comment if you had a similar experience at the Orpheum.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What Mom Made Yesterday No. 3 & 4

OK, mom actually made this quilt last year for the arrival of our new little family member, Tyler. I think this might have been the first of many adventures in the world of Minky fabric for her. So soft!

(Looks kind of like it's levitating - that's a quickie Photoshop job for ya!)

Earlier this year, she made another Minky quilt for Baby Madison—she's been busy! Here's a close-up:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Our Save-the-Dates

The Save-the-Dates for our wedding doubled as our holiday cards in 2005, allowing guests to pencil in the date on their new 2006 calendars. I've been meaning to post these for quite a while!

I made a 4-panel accordion-folded card that featured the (altered) lyrics to the holiday song Winter Wonderland:
In the meadow we can build a snowman,
And pretend that he is Parson Brown...

The final panel announced our wedding date and location AND wished our guests happy holidays.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cod Proven├žal

I finally found a few minutes to cook dinner at about 7pm tonight. I was so caught up in household projects that I think I would have forgotten to eat had I not looked at a clock. Luckily, this dinner took no time at all to prep.

I happened to see this recipe today in a recent issue of Everyday Food. It's an Emeril Lagasse recipe, and the foil packets were supposed to go on the grill. It was extremely windy this evening, though, so they went into the oven (at twice the time, as it turned out). This is only the second time I have eaten cod, and I really like it. It was also nice to eat lightly tonight, since I have been hitting the pizza and burgers pretty hard lately!

My first foil packets o' food ever:

And the lovely, healthy result:

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Dipping in the Pocket of My Raincoat

Today is the official Craiglist and eBay day with respect to our move and the household downsizing and simplification we are striving for in our new home. We were so fortunate to move in together to a large space with a ton of storage — neither of us had to get rid of anything when we merged our stuff. Now, of course, we have to do the sorting and purging that we should have done in May 2006!

I was going through some clothes that have gone untouched for some time in a bin in our basement storage area. (Does anyone really wear turtlenecks anymore?) I found my old bright yellow LL Bean raincoat, and found seashells (from Nantucket?) and a pencil in its pocket.

I am assuming that the pencil came from a friend of mine who is a Duke alum. She is proud to be a Duke alum, and I'm confident that she believes Duke to be #1. However, the person who chose this design for the printing of Duke pencils lacked a bit of foresight. (Maybe these were distributed by UNC?)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Getting Ready (With Help From DCOM)

I offered my services last October to the Diabetes Coalition of Massachusetts (DCOM). DCOM's executive committee was looking for someone to design a logo for the newly formed alliance. They had no visual identity when I contacted them, and I am excited to say that they now have a logo — and brand colors!

I wanted to develop a logo mark that represented the various groups of people coming together to form this coalition. I wanted it to feel positive, but to also be symbolic of the seriousness of the topic of diabetes. I had very specific direction to avoid pointy edges, which might be reminiscent of the needles used when treating the condition. Here was my solution:

I'm pleased to report that the committee is very happy with the result:
I just wanted to let you know that everyone on the Executive Committee loved the final version of your logo, and we’ve started to design the new web page around it. I’ll let you know when it’s live. I hope you are happy with your work. You did an amazing job, and we are all very grateful. Hopefully, the new image ushers in a new era of involvement and ups the excitement quota.

In addition to their kind commentary, they sent me a completely unexpected Amazon gift certificate yesterday, and I decided to buy a few of the items that have long lingered on my Amazon Wishlist. I think (hope?) that these three books will be representative of how I spend my time in my new cable TV-less country life. I'm very much looking forward to knitting, gardening, and baking bread in my spare time.

A Really Big Decision

After much thought and a lot of leg work, John and I have decided to move from the Boston area to the pastoral Berkshires. It was an easy decision, but it will be difficult to leave our friends and family (and favorite food places!) behind here.

I will be leaving the advertising world behind for a new frontier (double meaning here) — publishing...a hunting and fishing magazine! This seems like a good time to share a photo project on which I collaborated with my dad a number of years ago:

Anyway, we'll be doing a whole lot of packing, sorting, purging and moving over the next few weeks. There are some things I hope to "make" during that time, but there's a good chance that there won't be much blog posting until August!

Free Slurpee Day!

If you're reading this on Friday, July 11th, it's not too late! It's "Free Slurpee Day" at 7-11, where you can fill a 7.11 oz cup with the your favorite flavor(s).

I've always been more of a Slush Puppie person (which I often confused with Hush Puppies when I was a kid), but I wasn't about to let this opportunity slip away!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Yankee Doodle, Crucified

This year's annual Fourth of July Parade in Pittsfield started out just fine. I have received a few horrific sunburns at this parade during my lifetime, and so the brief rain on this parade was most welcome.

This year's theme, "A World of Music," seemed like it would allow for limitless ideas. Somehow, though, most floats turned to the song, "This Land Is Your Land" to fit the theme. I'm thinking that parades should be treated like potluck dinners—you can't have everyone bringing potato salad. Who monitors these things? Anyway, as I said, the parade started out just fine.

A nice traditional fife and drum corps, commemorating America's independence:

A surprise visit from our governor, Deval Patrick! Very nice!

Deval was followed, with a number of exceptions, by a significant number of floats carrying people that I swear I have seen on PCTV late at night when they show headshots of the sex offenders in town. In fact, we wondered if participating was part of their required community service. Harsh, I know, but I am proud of my hometown and am very concerned about the future of this parade. More than that, I am concerned for the children at this parade who have no idea that the Uncle-Sam-on-Stilts-Guy is seriously sketchy and undeniably stoned.

And then, to me, the parade took another disturbing turn. As I understand it, a number of area churches joined as one big group to walk, float, ride motorcycles...and reenact Jesus' crucifixion?!?

The procession came to a halt for a few minutes with this, the second of the Stations of the Cross, right in front of my spot on the curb. I was forced to take in the inappropriateness of this (lazy man's) reenactment of one of Christianity's holiest events. Worse still, he has strapped his fanny pack to the base of the wheely cross.

All of this begs the question, what is the purpose of a parade? And what should be included in (or excluded from) a Fourth of July parade? Separation of church and state, anyone? Should anyone who attended this year's parade arrive here after googling "pittsfield fourth of july crucifix," please leave a comment.

I feel silly imposing such criticism on a hometown parade. According to the Berkshire Eagle,
"Once billed as 'Your Hometown Parade,' the Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade dates back to 1824, when the procession consisted of Revolutionary War veterans and politicians riding in horse-drawn carriages. Today's modern parade has floats, balloons and marching bands, but still retains the small-town, patriotic flavor of its roots."

Floats, balloons and marching bands = good. Crucifixes = bad.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"Do Not Disturb" Signs

We have decided to give each employee at my workplace the opportunity to keep other office workers from pestering them. I was asked to create a few options for "Do Not Disturb" signs that can be hung on people's doors (or across the doorway of their cubicle). Here are the solutions I have offered to this seemingly boring design problem:

I do so love this font (Corinthia) and am determined to work it into a project here before I leave:

A very office-centric solution:

Someone recently brought a typewriter into the office to 'easily' type addresses on envelopes...only we can't find an ink cartridge for the darn thing. Still, I was inspired:

A solution with threatening overtones:

My favorite option:

We are voting on these options today.