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Archive for October, 2009

Sometimes, generally around the holidays, my office likes to spice things up. Our Quality of Work Life Committee likes to organize little events to break up the work day. At Halloween, that translates into the Pumpkin Carving/Decorating Contest.

Our office is made up of seven different projects (departments) and (usually) each project submits a pumpkin. The judges are from other offices in the building, and are not announced until just minutes prior to the showing. That way there can be no bribes, you see. (Did I mention we’re competitive?)

Now, these pumpkins, they can get quite elaborate. Allow me to demonstrate from last year’s entries:

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The office was under construction last year

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A commentary on the stock market

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I didn't even know what Twitter was at this point

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Eh...something about the election

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Dia de los Muertos - points for the most elaborate

And out of all of these creative works, who won? Well, I’m glad you asked. We did. With this beauty:

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Not only a broken piggy bank...

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...but, yes, that's also lipstick on our pig

Our inspiration this year: Balloon Boy. What else?

We’re still working on it (seriously, I feel like I’ve been getting paid to spray paint), but I’ll be sure to post a photo when we’re done. I know you can’t wait.

Any last minute details you think we should add?

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I’ve mentioned before, mostly in conjunction with football, that I generally cannot stand sports commentators.

They love to state the obvious. They make glaring mistakes (such as last night’s “the Phillies are up 5-0 on the Angels” – I’m sorry, when did that happen?). They’re decidedly un-funny…particularly when they laugh too hard at their own jokes.

But every now and then, you learn a little tidbit about one of your players that makes it all worth it. And last night we learned that Jimmy Rollins – star Phillies shortstop, former NL MVP and Gold Glove winner – was once in an MC Hammer video.

“MC Hammer is from Oakland, and when I was about 13, he had an open casting call. My brother and I were picked to be in one of his videos. We were in a graveyard scene. But there was no dancing involved. You don’t want to dance next to Hammer. Then my sophomore year in high school I was in a Mavis Staples video called ‘The Voice.’ I played a little thug on the street corner selling drugs. Then I shot somebody and jumped a fence. It was fun. I wouldn’t say I’m retired, just that my acting career is temporarily suspended,” Rollins said to SI.

With MC Hammer (around 3:35):

And Mavis Staples (around 1:05):

To be honest, I think Rollins should have danced. Maybe not next to MC Hammer, but he’s got some pretty sweet moves on the field. I’m sure he could put them to music.

I wonder if he still has Hammer pants?

Thank you, commentators, for giving me something worthwhile this time.

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readingunderthecovers

I have always, always been an avid reader.

As a kid, I tore through series after series – Boxcar Children, The Babysitters Club, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley Twins (and eventually, Sweet Valley High, of course) – never wanting to put the books down. In fact, I used to stay up past my bedtime to read, by hiding under my covers and using a flashlight.

Cool kid. Right here.

I still love reading. There aren’t quite as many series out there for my age group (no, I haven’t read Twilight), but I’ve been open to recommendations from friends, as well as turning to the lists of classics that I should have read by now, but never got around to.

However, there are still some times that I want something that’s as quick and easy (and shallow) as a Sweet Valley read, but on a somewhat more adult level. (Kind of counterintuitive, I know.)

And that’s where my trashy romance novels come in.

I discovered them a few years ago – thanks to my mother. She’d been reading a series by Elizabeth Lowell; I was bored; I picked one up and started skimming. And then I was hooked.

Yes, the books are predictable. There’s always (at least in mine) a leading male who is either current or former military (think Marine, Navy SEAL, Black Ops agent, generic bodyguard, etc), and a leading lady who is smart, strong, independent and (according to Nora Roberts), never stick-thin.

They meet. There’s a mutual attraction (and a lot of sexual tension). There’s a misunderstanding that gets them into trouble. Then they make up and realize they’re in love.

And this is all over the course of a couple weeks or so. You know, the usual.

The thing is, as much as I know that these books are probably rotting my brain from the inside out (and giving me unrealistic expectations about whirlwind romances), I just can’t put them down. Which is probably why I spent all of last Saturday curled up in a chair, listening to the rain, and reading about Troubleshooters Inc. and their mission to protect a female politician while trying not to lose one of their own.

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I could try to fight it – replace the trash on my bedside table with a more intellectual read. But why?

My dreams are significantly more fun when I fall asleep after reading a romance novel.

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I don’t like leaving things to the last minute. I really don’t. But somehow, particularly around Halloween, it ends up happening.

When I was a kid, of course, our costumes were planned out weeks in advance. (Perhaps even a month or so. Whatever. I was neurotic.) In any case, the entire outfit, down to the last accessory, was carefully laid out and ready to go.

Halloween - 2nd Grade Class

Costumes were so much fun as a kid. Can you find me?

Over the past few Halloweens, I’ve become significantly more disorganized relaxed about the whole thing. This means that I generally reuse costumes (yay saving money!) and don’t buy any additional accessories…until the day before. But that’s not good for my OCD.

This year, I need one, teeny tiny little accessory, and I just don’t know where to go. If I’d planned in advance, I could have ordered it online. Perhaps even borrowed it from someone. (Though, I don’t know who would possibly have one just lying around the house.) But I didn’t, so I can’t.

So here’s my question for you: where can I go in DC (or, the metro accessible area), to find costume props?

I realize it might be difficult to give advice when you don’t know exactly what it is I’m looking for. But if I told you the prop, you’d know the whole costume. And that ruins the surprise.

Don’t you like surprises?

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Yesterday was the Marine Corps Marathon and 10k. I ran (the 10k, of course – no marathons until 2010), but there was a very different feeling at the end of this race – both in finishing the 10k and in watching the marathoners. What struck me most wasn’t my time or how I did. This race was about so much more than that.

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  • It was about the numerous Marines who were lined up at every water stop (and elsewhere on the course), handing you a cup and cheering you on.
  • It was about the vast number of runners and supporters who were there in memory of loved ones.
  • It was about the final stretch up the hill to the Iwo Jima memorial that forced you to push harder than you thought you could. A hill that was hard enough on runners, and absolutely brutal on the wheelchair racers.
  • It was about one of the wheelchair racers who had to pause in the middle of the hill – go back, go forward – but had a chorus of hoo-rahs! in his face, encouraging him. And about another who looked far too young to be in that position. Seeing him wasn’t the first time during the race that I got tears in my eyes.

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  • And it was about the Marine who was running near me, nearly the entire race, with one prosthetic leg. He was, honestly, an inspiration to keep running, even when my own legs felt like jelly. But I knew that if I did stop and walk, he’d run by and encourage me to keep going – tell me that I could keep going – because I saw him do it to so many other racers. He would jog with them a little bit, then move on to the next person who needed a little mid-race motivation.

I went into this race thinking that it would be like any other, but I was wrong. The atmosphere and the spirit of it were just different, and made me appreciate being able to be a part of it.

And now I really can’t wait for next year.

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Despite the fact that I’ve had an excellent week (sports and otherwise), I still hit a few patches of cranky, where cracking a smile just seemed like it was too much work and so not worth it.

Luckily, I have friends who know just what will make me smile. Even when I think I don’t want to.

Exhibit A:

And if that weren’t enough…

Exhibit B:Vodpod videos no longer available.

Absolutely phenomenal.

Happy Friday!

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I had planned to participate in TMI Thursday this week. There’s just something fun about trying to gross people out. But last night, this happened:

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That’s right. The Phillies beat the Dodgers in five games to advance to the World Series! (Funny – it almost feels like last fall again.) And my favorite Phillie, Mr. Jayson Werth (who, if you remember, I may have stalked when he came to play the Nats), had two home runs!

My mom texted me just as the game ended (right before midnight), and asked if I’d be wearing my Phillies t-shirt to work today. I wish, Mama, I wish.

Frankly, I don’t know how I’m supposed to work today – it’s hard to concentrate when you’re on cloud nine.

The World Series starts next Wednesday, and if you’re looking for someone to root for, may I suggest these National League Champs? ESPN can give you 15 reasons, but I think my favorite is number eight:

Reason No. 8 — This One’s For Harry
Beloved. Adored. Revered. Respected. Remembered. Every single day.

There’s a reason why the Phillies keep Harry Kalas’ sportcoat and a pair of his loafers in their dugout each game and wear a patch with his initials on their unis. The legendary play-by-play man, who died earlier this season, was, as our Jayson Stark so eloquently wrote at the time, “the soundtrack of Philadelphia Phillies baseball.”

If the Phillies beat the Yankees, Manuel ought to spray champagne on Harry’s jacket. For old time’s sake.

God, I love October. Go Phils!

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I think the best word to describe yesterday’s grad school fair is overwhelming.

I don’t particularly love cramped quarters with large crowds (high maintenance, I know). Nor am I a fan of the “Chatty Cathy” (for gender’s sake, we’ll call him Chatty Charlie) or the “We’re Better Than You, And We Know It” guy.

Let me ‘splain.

I had expected the crowds. Fine. And I suppose the tight space was inevitable once you factor in the representation from over 20 schools. But then there was Chatty Charlie.

I was waiting patiently in line to talk about a program, when he turned around and, out of nowhere, proceeded to pepper me with questions.

Did you already take your GREs?” “How did you do?” “When can I take them?” “Do you think it’s too late?” “Do I need to take a class?” “Are they hard?

And then, even when he started talking about his own plans (“I think I might wait a couple years; I only just graduated.“), he turned the conversation back on me.

When did you graduate?” “Where did you go to school?” “What have you been doing? No, like where?” “How long did it take you to find a job?” “It’s really competitive here!

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Yes, it’s competitive. All the GRE information is on the ETS website. And I wouldn’t normally mind answering your questions, but why don’t you ask some of the student representatives who are here? They clearly have a better idea of what works than I do – considering they’re already enrolled.

I managed to shake him briefly, but he tried to catch my eye at every subsequent table. And he finally caught up with me at the last one, where I met “We’re Better Than You, And We Know It” guy.

Now, I’m just looking for part-time programs right now, so I didn’t want to waste a representative’s time, or mine, discussing non-possibilities. So I asked WBTYAWKI right off the bat if part-time was offered. When he said no, I thanked him, and started to move on.

But,” he said, “I have a friend who started the program and he was offered a job this past January. He took it, and still manages to take classes.” I hesitated. “Then, of course, there’s another friend of mine who did the program, worked 30 hours a week, and she had kids at home, so you know it’s definitely possible.

http://www.csl.cornell.edu/~mwatkins/comics/ZitsOverAchiever.jpg

Thanks. Way to make me feel like an underachiever.

Could I go that route (minus the kids)? Sure! Why not? I didn’t need my sanity anyway. In fact, sometimes I feel like it’s already on its way out the door.

But before I could really contemplate the whole “having no life” thing, CC came up to the table, and I took that as my cue to leave.

My sanity’s already on its way out. Another question-fest might just do me in.

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I have to tell you guys, I’m getting a little nervous. About my future.

Wow, hold on, it sounds so dramatic when I put it like that. Let me be more specific: I’m getting nervous about my grad school applications.

I’ve known for a while that I wanted to go back to grad school. I took my GREs back in July (and you all were super supportive – thank you!), and have narrowed it down to three programs that I think would really fit my interests. Hell, I’ve even made a dent in my personal statement which, for me, may be one of the most difficult things to write.

(You know – I don’t want to be too informal, but I definitely don’t want to come off as pretentious. And I want to sell myself, without sounding like I’m trying to sell myself. Life’s tough.)

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In any case, like I said, I’ve narrowed it down. But that may be the problem. From the advice I’ve gotten, I should be keeping my options far more open than that. I should be applying to multiple programs, all across the country – anywhere from five to ten or more, not just the three that I love. Although, if I’m being honest, of those three programs there’s only one that I actually love. The other two I just like a whole lot.

And aside from that, I really don’t have  a Plan B.

I’ve been so focused on the requirements for Plan A (and A2 and A3), that it’s taken me a while to realize that this won’t be like undergrad college applications. Back then, I applied to one school – early decision. I only had two backup applications – neither of which were ever sent out.

I knew what I wanted; I went after it – blinders on; and, very very luckily, it all panned out. What are the odds of that happening again?

After work today, I’m headed off to a grad school open house, where several different schools will be represented – each having similar programs to my Plan A. If only to increase my chances of getting in to grad school, I’ll be trying my hardest to keep an open mind. But I can already feel the blinders setting in.

So maybe it’s time to start thinking about a Plan B – just in case I’m not so lucky this time.

That is, of course, if I can get these stupid blinders off. Uh…can I get an extra hand, here?

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This still isn’t a sports blog, but after watching a handful of football games yesterday (and one VERY important and amazing baseball game last night), I couldn’t resist.

Yeah, my Eagles lost, and that sucks. And they had a fair amount of injuries, which, knowing them, doesn’t bode well for next week’s game.

But then again, next week’s game is against the Redskins – who I’ve almost started to feel bad for. They can’t seem to catch any breaks – or, rather, to do anything right. Although, in professional sports, I’ve never been quite sure who the responsibility lies with, when the team is doing poorly.

  • Some blame the coach. He is, theoretically, the one in charge, who has a handle on the strengths and weaknesses. But what if the team doesn’t have talent in the first place? Or if, for whatever reason, they just don’t mesh? Sometimes the coach can only do so much.
  • Some blame the players, themselves. They clearly have (some of) the necessary skills, otherwise they wouldn’t even be on the professional level. And if the coaching is that bad, shouldn’t the team, in theory, be able to organize itself? Maybe take a stand against poor leadership? A novel idea, I know.
  • And then there are some who blame the owner. And, of the Redskins fans I know, several have taken this route. One, who, during games, has his children chanting, “Fire Snyder! *clap clap clapclapclap*,” even passed along this website, with the same sentiment. I don’t know if you can actually impeach an owner, but if there is a way, I’m sure Washington fans will find it.

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Quite honestly, I’m not so concerned with whose *fault* this poor performance is. Intrigued is a better word for what I am. And as much pity as I have for the them, I just hope that they don’t get their act together too much before next week’s Monday night game.

Because I’d really hate to lose to a team whose coach isn’t even allowed to call the shots anymore. That would just be embarrassing.

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