Friday, May 28, 2010

Tacky roommates

I found this funny blog post asking folks about the strangest thing that a roommate had ever insisted on displaying in the home.

  • “For me, it was an eight-by-ten picture that hung in the kitchen. A baby picture of my roommate being breastfed.” 
  • “A ‘we miss you so much’ card from home with a clump of her dog’s nasty matted hair taped to the inside. She put this up on the wall of our dorm room and it was there allllllll semester.” 
  • “Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria wall decorations. They were about 2ft x 3ft 3 dimensional decorations that had the complete feel of 70’s home decor. Aged bronze for the ships and a deep red velvet background.” 
  • “My roommate (a 22 year old male) has an obscene amount of Beanie Babies. A few months ago, he talked about selling them and we cataloged them in the living room. They are still in the living room in their clear Tupperware container. Whenever someone comes over they ask who the collection belongs to. Embarrassing.”

These posts reminded me of my first college roommate. And I think it was because he was (1) cheap and (2) odd that he insisted on recycling his dental floss. After using a strand, he’d stretch it out on top of the radiator in our room, let it dry, and then re-use it. He also found it hilariously funny to lean out the third floor window of our laundry room and “quack” at people as they walked in the front entrance of our dorm. Yes, I moved out as soon as another room became available.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Would you live in the “Amityville Horror” house?

I must have read “The Amityville Horror” at least three times when it came out in 1977. I was fascinated and scared out of my skin by the “haunting” of 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, NY, on the south shore of Long Island. The home was site of a horrendous murder spree: Ronald DeFeo, Jr., had shot six members of his family to death. The book told the story of George and Kathleen Lutz, who, along with their three children and their dog, Harry, moved into the house 13 months after the murders.

But it wasn’t long before they started reporting that very strange and very scary things were going on: green goo flowing down the walls, giant swarms of black flies commandeering a room on the second floor, George waking up every morning at 3:15 (the estimated time of the murders), loud noises, glances of demonic creatures, and the discovery of a hidden room in the basement. When they tried an exorcism to rid the house of the “evil spirits”, George said he heard a chorus of voices demanding they to stop. Finally, after 28 nights in the house, the Lutz family fled and their story was taken up by writer Jay Anson. He went on to sell 10 million copies of his book about the family’s ordeal. Anson’s book, by the way, spawned nine (!) movies.

Anyway – I saw this week that the house at 112 Ocean Avenue is on the market for $1.15 million. So here’s my question: if you had the money and discovered that this was indeed your dream house, would the home’s “backstory” – the horrific murders, the supposed haunting, or the continuing media and tourist interest in this house – deter you from making the purchase?

That's ruff!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A sultry evening in Boston

It hit 87 degrees today in Boston, and turned into a perfect evening for a little tennis ball action in at the local park.

This is a nightmare

You’ve seen it from the air. Now you can see what the British Petroleum oil slick looks like from below the ocean surface. Good Morning America’s Sam Champion and Philippe Cousteau, grandson of famed sea researcher Jacques Cousteau, donned special diving suits, traveled 25 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico, then dove 25 feet into the murkiness

When you see the horrific underwater conditions, it will make you wonder how any form of sea life is able to survive. And there’s no end in sight. One conservative estimate is that over the past 36 days, some 6 million gallons have been sprayed into the Gulf of Mexico. With all efforts to cap the spurting oil having failed, these floating masses of oil are being driven deeper into the Gulf where they can be picked up by ocean currents.

Mike Tidwell, author of “Bayou Farewell” (a look at southern Louisiana’s long history of environmental issues), tells CNN that he’s never heard so much fear in people’s voices. "A hurricane is an event with a beginning, a middle and an end. This is more like a nuclear accident offshore and a radiation cloud is coming in. Nobody knows what the consequences will be. There's a sense of doom."

PS: Comic Andy Borowitz suggests stuffing the gushing oil well with BP executives.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Liza channels Beyonce

"All the shingle ladiesh, All the shingle ladiesh..."

Another great reason to miss the next "Sex and the City" movie.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What kind of online friend are you?

Ward Sutton is a New York artist and author of “Drawn to Read”, illustrated book reviews for In today’s Boston Sunday Globe, Mr. Sutton’s take on “social networking” was featured. He cleverly illustrated nine types of online friends. Do your recognize any of your “friends”?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A reminder to appreciate what we have

Caleb Potter is a young man living in Wellfleet, MA, on the outer stretches of Cape Cod. Three years ago, during a Fourth of July parade, the 25-year-old shellfisherman fell under the wheels of a truck he was skateboarding behind and suffered traumatic brain injuries. Doctors at first thought he had little chance of living. I remember during vacation in Provincetown that summer, there were signs and posters all over the Cape, asking for prayers and donations to help fund Caleb’s extensive medical care.

Caleb did survive and since his accident, has had numerous surgeries, as well as stints in various rehab units and centers that specialize in brain injured patients. He’s back living in Wellfleet, but the life he and his family once knew is gone.

Caleb’s mother Sharyn writes a blog to update her network on her son’s triumphs and set-backs. She bravely pours her heart out online, never shying away from how she’s feeling – inspired, angry, joyful, frustrated, or overwhelmed. I’ve visited her blog periodically since the accident, but her entry on May 8 broke my heart. It read, in part:

The truth remains that I am reminded on a second to second basis.. just how fragile life is.. how so many of us never felt anything could ever happen to our loved ones...and then a few of us get singled out..and life changes so radically from that point on. The truth is that in spite of moving on and getting hailed for doing "great things", I am still stuck in such an unbelievable sadness...I miss my old Caleb so very much. Caleb goes to town and everyone tells me how wonderfully he is doing..and yes, he is. But the behind the scenes goes something like this... I wake early to have just a moment of my time before the day begins with Caleb..but he is keen on my movements and my presence, and he wakes earlier than there goes that moment of peace. He needs to be reminded of the most simple things each day, like changing a shirt after a shower, the most basic things..and I feel like a bitch having to bark orders at him..a brain injured person; still it all gets so old after awhile.

I am trying, struggling to find peace with this.. I am worried sick about Caleb's future...nothing that I attempt seems to come to fruition because of one road block or is wearing at best.....Still I am reminded that just as you are at the lowest point, the answer comes waltzing around the I hold on, and hold on, and hold on in anticipation. These are my truths.. a mixed bag daily of small grins and big disappointments...of asking why over and over again. Now I feel more honest, and I thank you allowing it, encouraging it.

If nothing else, the story of Caleb and Sharyn and their individual and shared struggles to “find normal” serve as a reminder to me to appreciate what we have, and to savor the things that matter – our friends and family, our health, and our independence – because there’s no guarantee we’ll have them tomorrow.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Christina gets a makeover

I was browsing online and stumbled a site that featured this beautiful Andrew Wyeth piece called “Christina’s World” It’s probably one of the best-known American paintings of the last century. Even if you didn’t know the name of the artwork, there’s no doubt that you’ve seen it before.

According to the Museum of Modern Art, the woman in the painting is Christina Olson, a neighbor of Wyeth who was crippled by polio. It seems that in 1948, Wyeth was inspired to create the painting when, through a window from his house, he saw her crawling across a field.

Anyway, as it often does on the web, one click led to another, and I found several more interpretations of “Christina’s World”. Here are some of my favorites:

"Christina’s World Exit 6" by Andrew Leipzig

Photo by Rachel Hulin

Art by Sam Hiti

Of course, this is my favorite of all. I'm sure that if promised a biscuit, Otis, our Portuguese Water Dog would have gladly helped Christina get home. Well, maybe two biscuits.

Facebook with a side of spam

Has anyone else been hacked on Facebook? My fingers are crossed that changing my Facebook account password will stop some spammer from sending out e-mails under my name to my online friends.

When it first happened on Wednesday, it was strange. Several folks contacted me to ask about the “Free Droid Event” I had invited them to. I had no idea what they were talking about, but figured it was just a fluke.

When it happened again today, it was embarrassing. Here’s the message that got e-mailed to all of my Facebook contacts:

Mike invited you to " Make a Baby on Facebook " on Wednesday, May 19 at 9:00pm.

So I apologize to everyone who got these obnoxious e-mails and thank those who told me about it. Several people counseled that changing my Facebook password would end this invasion. I guess we’ll know for sure in a couple of hours.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Here's the latest scoop

I know, I know -- two posts in a row about dog poop. But this this article caught my eye this morning. Seems residents of a high-end condo building in Baltimore are having a problem with owners who don't clean up after their dogs. So there's a proposal before the condo's board of directors that would require owners to pay $50 to have their dog's DNA analyzed.

All of the DNA samples would be collected by an outside laboratory. Then, all future unscooped dog poop in the yard could be analyzed against the samples on file. Voila -- the guilty dog (or more specifically, the guilty dog owner) would be identified and be fined $500.

"I feel like I'm living in a 'Seinfeld' episode," says one dog owner.

So what do you think? Have the folks behind this proposal gone off the deep end? If you lived there, would you support or fight this plan?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pet peeves at the dog park

  1. If you have a dog that’s going to snap and bite my dog’s face, then please don’t extend his leash so he can say “hello” to my dog.
  2. If your dog “does his business” in the grass, please pick it up. (I was speaking with a dog owner at the park last winter, when he called to a woman who left her dog’s steaming pile on top of a snow bank. He yelled, “Hey, pick up after your dog.” She replied with a grin and a wave, “I’m going to let Mother Nature take care of it.”) Mother Nature does not want to “take care” of your dog’s business.
  3. If your dog is inclined to steal my dog’s tennis ball and run to the other side of the park with it, please pay attention, end your cell phone conversation, go get the tennis ball, and throw it back my way. (Yes, I’m talking to you, M Street Park clueless woman on her cell phone at 6:15 tonight.)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Remembering something I'd like to forget

I was inspired by this blog to think about times when I’ve felt like an idiot. I’ve done a lot of embarrassing things, but there's one event that stands out as my personal "Hall of Shame" moment.

When I was a college junior, my older sister asked me to play piano at her wedding. I had taken piano lessons for 10 years and performed at countless recitals in the safe environs of my teacher's living room. But this would be my first time playing at a wedding, and it would be in front of more than a hundred friends, family members, and other guests.

I suspected there might be a problem when I arrived at the church for the Friday night rehearsal: 
  1. the instrument I'd be playing was not a piano, but one of those huge church organs with several rows of keyboards, an array of colored buttons and knobs, giant foot pedals at the base of the console, and a volume pedal that was controlled by my right foot.
  2. instead of safely tucked away in the back of the church or high in the choir loft, the organ was up front, just to the right of the altar, and raised up on a four-foot platform.

So not only was I going to being playing an instrument I'd had never used before, I was going to do it literally "head and shoulders" above the crowd. There was nowhere to hide if things went wrong. (That’s called “foreshadowing”.)

The rehearsal actually went quite smoothly, after I figured out how to turn on the organ. The plan was for me to play for about 30 minutes as people were being seated, then accompany a friend who was singing "The Wedding Song" and "The Rose", and wrap up by playing Mendelssohn's traditional wedding march.

"When I finish my last prayer and say 'Amen', I want you to start the recessional," the pastor called to me at the end of the rehearsal. "We're celebrating a joyous event - your sister will be married - so play
it loud!"

So the next morning, I arrived at the church, dressed in my dark blue tuxedo and shiny rented shoes. As guests were being escorted to their pews, I started playing the list of hymns I had prepared. (No one even noticed that after about 20 minutes, I had run through my entire repertoire and began playing a random series of chords. But on those big church organs, everything kind of sounds like a hymn, so my secret was safe.)

As we approached the end of the ceremony, just like in rehearsal the night before, the pastor started reading his final prayer. My hands were poised over the keyboard and my foot was pressed all the way down on the volume pedal. When I heard the magic word "Amen", I pounced. Never before had the wedding march been played so loudly or rapturously.

About 15 seconds into my performance, I lifted my eyes from the sheet music. To my absolute horror, the pastor was still talking, both hands in the air, and my sister and new brother-in-law were turned toward me with puzzled looks on their faces. I turned my gaze to the pews. Half of the guests were leaning forward, trying desperately to hear what the pastor was saying; the others were just staring at me.

I broke into a full body sweat and my mind raced. “Why is he still talking? Didn’t he say ‘Amen’? Is it OK to stop a recessional? What should I do?”

I glanced back at the altar and the pastor was still talking (I couldn’t be sure because the music was so loud, but his lips were definitely moving.) I continued playing, but slowly eased my foot off the volume pedal. As I did, I heard several people in the church start to laugh.

As I lowered the volume to an almost imperceptible level, the pastor finished talking, looked over to me, and with an exaggerated nod of his head, said “Amen”. I started the wedding march from the top, but this time, with a little less vigor and enthusiasm.

When I finished, I stepped down from the organ platform and went to join the receiving line in the front of the church. As I sheepishly took my place, the pastor stepped out of line and grabbed my arm. “Sorry, I added an extra prayer at the end and forgot to tell you,” he said.

My dad said my blunder added a “human element” to the event and helped break the nervous tension that always surround weddings. I’ve played at other weddings since then, and I’m always certain to check and double-check my cues. And to this day, I can’t hear the wedding march without cringing and sweating just a little bit.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Is that gold in your pocket...?

A cold bottle of Coke. Some Hostess Ho-Hos. And if I need some salt, a bag of Ranch Doritos. These are the things that I'll sometimes grab from the vending machine in the lunchroom of my office building. But kicking it up a few notches is a hotel in Abu Dhabi, where guests can grab one-, five-, and ten-gram bars of gold from lobby vending machine. The hotel manager said they wanted the hotel to be the first in the world to offer guests this "golden service." Mission accomplished, I guess. But what exactly do you do with a bar of gold in your pocket?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Stop dragging your feet please. Pick up your pants.

This comes a little late for Mother's Day (and just for the record, my mom recieved a nice gift card for a manicure and pedicure at her favorite salon, where she loves getting ooooh'd and aaaaah'd over). But my friend Susan just fowarded me this video and it's too funny not to share. Happy belated Mother's Day!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Easier said than done

So I sent my folks an e-mail to tell them about my new blog, and so that they could see the photos I posted from our recent vacation to Spain.

For some reason, the e-mail I sent them displayed the URL to this blog, but it wasn’t hyperlinked, so they couldn’t click on it. “Easy,” I thought, calling them from my car on the way home from work, “I’ll just have them ‘copy and paste’ the URL into a Web browser.”

After 20 minutes (no kidding) of trying to explain to Dad how to highlight and copy the URL, open a browser, and to paste the link into the address window, I heard Mom cracking up in the background. Then I started laughing uncontrollably, half-expecting Alan Funt to pop his head up from the backseat and tell me that I was on Candid Camera. “I think it would be easier to send you both to Spain than to have you ever get to this blog,” I told them.

We all laughed, and before hanging up, I promised to send them another e-mail and make sure the URL was hyperlinked this time. About an hour ago, I sent them another e-mail and called home, this time getting Mom on the phone. It took her just a moment to open her e-mail, click on the link, and finally see this blog. “Mission accomplished,” I though. I then told her she could see the vacation photos by clicking on the “play button” on the slideshow. She was quiet for a minute and then said, “All I’m getting is a big white page that says ‘Google cannot find the definitions of the words you are looking for.’”

We both burst out laughing and then mutually agreed I’d make a trip home soon so I could show them the photos – in person.

Mom and Dad: I doubt that you’ll ever see this blog entry, but if you do, thanks for being such good sports and for making me laugh all the way home. 

Nothing to sneeze at

As the owner of a dog who flips out whenever anyone sneezes, I found this video hilarious. Poor mama panda!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Our trip to Spain

We recently returned from a wonderful vacation to Spain -- 11 nights in total. Our home base was Sitges, a beach resort about 20 miles south of Barcelona. The apartment is the the vacation residence of our friends Sito and Imanol, who spent a week in our South Boston apartment last summer while we were on Cape Cod. It was part of, a program we've been participating in for the last several years.

We spent several days touring Barcelona, relaxing in Sitges, and one weekend, traveled by train to visit Sito and Imanol at their primary residence in San Sebastian on the Atlantic coast. During the last three days of our trip, wonderful friends from Switzerland -- Irene, Henri, Karin, and Paul -- flew down to spend time with us. A memorable trip filled with laughter, great conversations, and lots of food and wine.

We took more than 400 photos, and below you'll find an edited version that includes some of the highlights of our trip.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Our trip to Spain
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox

The loud guy seated behind me

Last Tuesday night, we went to see Mark Knopfler at the Orpheum Theater in Boston. Best known as the founder and lead singer of Dire Straits, Peter and I are more appreciative of Knopfler’s lesser-known accomplishments, like his scoring of the films Local Hero and The Princess Bride.  We also love “All the Roadrunning”, an album he recorded in 2006 with Emmylou Harris, another favorite artist of ours. He’s a master of arranging, and coupled with his gravely yet soothing voice and his impeccable guitar stylings, he’s an artist everyone should see “live” at least once.

So anyway, we’re seated in the balcony of the Orpheum, and right before the concert starts, this 300-lb., bleach-blond guy, along with his leather halter top wearing wife, and two younger guys come climbing up the staircase, headed for the seats right behind us. The guy (I’ll call him “Dick”) and his wife are each carrying giant cans of beer, and Dick is soaked, bitching at the top of his lungs about “how hot it is in here”.

Peter and I glance at each other and silently hope they’ll settle into their seats quickly and quietly.  No such luck. For the entire length of Knopfler’s first song, Dick “explains” the action on stage to his son at full volume. “See how that guy’s playing the flute? He was just playing the accordian a few minutes ago. These guys are really good. Blah, blah, blah…”

When the song ends, I turn around to Dick. “Excuse me, but I’m wondering if you could please keep your voice down,” I say. He glares at me for a moment and then slowly leans down until his sweaty face is inches from my face. “I’m talking to my son,” he says defiantly, “so just turn around and mind your own business.”

Dick was quiet for the next few minutes, but as the applause died down after the second song, I felt a big, meaty paw on my shoulder. I turn and Dick says to me, “Listen, this is not your living room. This is a concert and I paid the same amount of money you did for these tickets. So don’t tell me to be quiet, you ignorant prick.”

Peter hopped up immediately to get the usher who was standing five rows below us. The usher sprang into action, knelt down next to Dick and told him he’d have to be quiet. Dick launched into another - albeit louder - tirade about this being a public concert hall and how much he paid for his tickets. He was then escorted out of the seating area, but returned five minutes later. Dick was quiet during the rest of the show, but I kept wondering if a beer was going to be “accidentally” spilled down my back or if I’d be paid back some other way.

So is it just me, or are folks becoming increasingly clueless about being loud or otherwise obnoxious in public settings – concerts, movie theaters, trains, etc. – or am I just overly sensitive?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Eat your heart out, Lady Gaga

Eduard Khil was a popular singer in the Soviet Union back in the '60s and '70s. So he's on some Russian variety show and is planning to sing a tune with lyrics about an American cowboy. But he knows the Soviet government will censor him, so he ditches the words and just sings the melody.

So what do I love about this video? Is it the awkward choreography, the anemic lip syncing, or just the way Eduard's goldenrod tie perfectly matches the backdrop? In any case, it makes me laugh out loud everytime I watch it.

But wait...there's more! Some clever person took Eduard's TV appearance and produced this hilarious edit. This makes me laugh TWICE as hard as the original.


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