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Best engagement photo shoot, ever.

8 Jul

The super cute blog cozyhunter.com (who also win for best wedding ever and best wedding video ever) spotlighted the best engagement shoot ever today, and I wanted to share it because it’s pure genius.

You Can't Be Serious engagement photos of Janet & Darrell

Images from You Can't Be Serious photography - Hailey and Andrew Bartholomew

I’ve always thought that engagement shoots were just an excuse for coupley glamour shots, but who can resist the infectious joy of giant bear heads? I’ve seen a few couples with giant blown up engagement or wedding pictures in their newlywed homes and it’s alway a bit…cheesy. But how amazing would the shopping cart or construction site look on a mantelpiece?

Go now to www.youcantbeserious.com.au and bask in their creativity.

LOVE!

BYOContainer

23 Jun

I’m at my parents’ house today, and one of the best things ever (besides delicious food that I don’t have to cook) is blogging with a friend:

Sushi the tabby cat

Sushicat!

In other news, over at Re-Nest.com today is a post about In.gredients, an Austin, TX based micro-grocery store that privileges sustainability and follows in the footsteps of UK’s Unpackaged by encouraging customers to bring in their own containers to hold groceries such as grain, beans, flour and eggs.

 

In.gredient’s system (which they refer to as ‘precycling’) has the customer bring in their own containers, weigh it for tare, fill it with their food of choice, weigh again and pay for the difference in weight of their filled container. Although the bulk bin section at conventional supermarkets (candy, usually, unless it’s Whole Foods or nutritional stores) is nothing new, customers at these ‘normal’ stores are discouraged from bringing in their own containers and must use disposable plastic bags and twist ties. Even though it may seem novel to a generation raised to abhor non-boxed food (did anyone ever eat bagged Malt-O-Meal cereal?), In.gredients points out that bringing one’s own containers to the store is nothing new. In the past, food bought in markets was commonly taken home in burlap sacks and baskets, a tradition that continues in some mostly third world and developing countries where waste is sacrilegious. It’s something that I can definitely get behind, as I really like the idea of bulk bins, but I’ll admit that there’s something disconcerting about the system as is. Perhaps it’s the idea that the food is sitting out in bins that aren’t air-tight or that people’s hands could possibly have wandered through my rice that gets to me. I also hate getting home and have to dump the contents of my saggy, unstructured plastic baggie into yet another container, only to trash the now dirty plastic bag. It’s great, though, to have the option of buying as much or as little as you want, which allows me to try small quantities of dry goods such as nutritional yeast or steel cut oats (which I still haven’t finished). And if I’m to be completely honest, buying from the bulk bins also includes the added benefit of allowing me to share self-important, do-gooder smiles with my fellow bin-ers.

The BYOContainer system is appealing for these reasons (although perhaps not the open air, handled part), and it’s a wonder that it hasn’t caught on as quickly as one would imagine, given Unpackaged’s success with the 20-30 yuppie green crowd in London and the lowered cost of not providing plastic bags. It does, however, seem more labor intensive as I’d imagine that all that weighing and bin filling must require more attention than individually packaged and barcoded items. Sanitary issues that arise from customers who bring in improperly cleaned containers may also factor in, and it would certainly turn me off my egg-buying if I glanced over and saw caked on cheese stains in my neighbor’s Weck jar.

But let’s address the issue that In.gredients is not completely packaging free. Even though the brand’s mission is to support local business and agriculture, these grains and eggs and beers do have to arrive to the store in some kind of packaging and it’s doubtful that their register paper or disinfectant will arrive unpackaged. I may be nitpicking, but to make a claim that one is zero-packaging is pretty loaded. Sure enough, the company acknowledges that, at the core, grocery stores are all about convenience, and it’s not always convenient to haul 30 jars to the store. To this end, they plan on providing compostable containers and point out that there are certain foods, such as meat, which must be packaged for food safety.

This topic is especially timely for me as I’ve been reading Michael Pollan’s impressive book An Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and finding myself questioning the way I’ve been eating. I’ve been thinking about the implications of what we eat and how we eat it, and packaging is an important part of the equation. While it’s hard to imagine that In.gredients will completely live up to its lofty goals of being a completely sustainable marketplace, it’s heartening to see that there are alternatives to the processed food-laden big boxes and corporate supermarkets and I believe that fundamentally, this shift in approach (embracing and accommodating customer-provided packaging vs. forbidding it) is a step forward, rather than sideways.

P.S. I can’t say enough good things about An Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. It’s imaginative and tackles many contemporary issues about food culture, from sustainable farming to foraging and the eternal vegetarian/carnivore debate. He makes intelligent points for both sides of each issue and I can’t help but admire someone willing to take on the ethical challenge of slaughtering one’s food and the awareness of species that it implies. It’s really a love-letter to the food chain that brings everything I learned in last year’s ecology  class to bear. Please, read it.

P.P.S. Here’s author Michael Pollan, talking about food chains:

Teeth and a sneak peek at scarves!

15 Jun

I had my wisdom teeth out last Monday and so currently am a housebound chipmunk on a liquid diet. It’s not been so bad as I’ve been having great friends and relatives to fuss over me and make me tomato soup, but I’m an incredible wimp when it comes to pain and it hurts so badly that I get headaches from it. How ridiculous that wisdom teeth give you headaches before and headaches even after surgery. Luckily, I only had three wisdom teeth and had a really great dental resident, so I’m doing much better than most. My sister, for example, had four wisdom teeth to get removed, wasn’t sedated and ended up losing sensitivity in half of her tongue due to complications from the surgery. She had hers done quite a while ago and perhaps technology is better these days, so maybe it’s a good thing that I waited so long to have mine removed. They hadn’t been giving me problems up until about a year ago and I’ve been having a hard time scheduling the surgery since school started.

I had also been having an internal debate about whether to have intravenous sedation or only local anesthesia, since IV sedation costs about $330, which can go far. I decided to bite the bullet and spring for sedation because it seemed like a good chance to experience it, having never been put under before, the recovery is painful enough as is, and it would allow the dental surgeon to be quicker and less delicate if they didn’t have to worry about an awake patient. I’m not sure if it was worth it yet since pain is easily forgotten and the whole process only took about 45 minutes, but the whole experience was very surreal. One minute they’re hooking me up to all sorts of monitors and wires (the scariest part, by far) and the next minute I’m awake and they’re wheeling me out. I’m pretty sure that I woke up at some point and made panicked sounds when I felt them stitching up my gums, but I fell back asleep soon after. I’d been watching those YouTube videos of kids post-extraction and was really excited to be this loopy, drooling crazy person on the ride home, but I must not have gotten the good stuff as I was completely lucid not 10 minutes after waking up. What a bummer.

In any case, if you’re in the Los Angeles area and need cheap dental services, I highly recommend the good folks at the University of Southern California’s Dental School. The students, residents and faculty there will take great care of you for a fraction of the price that a regular dentist will charge you. In my case, it cost me even less to seek treatment there than what I would’ve paid if I had gone through my insurance when I was still working. And for me, I like the idea that the money I’m spending on dental care funds the clinic, which (aside from being my alma mater) also serves the elderly and the uninsured.

On the store-front (pun intended), here’s a sneak peek at our new line of scarves, as modeled by a very Harry Potter-esque Michael:

New scarves at Orderly Civilians

Turquoise micro-corduroy scarflet

The scarves will be making their debut at Bloomfest LA, so if you’re in the area, be sure to stop by to check them out!

On Steve Jobs’s presentation to the Cupertino City Council

8 Jun

Steve Jobs’s recent presentation to the Cupertino City Council on the unveiling of a new, complementary Apple campus was really heartening to see. Not only because of Apple’s reputed choice of architect in Sir Norman Foster, but because it showed that with a lot of practice and memorization, anyone can be a great speaker.

In comparison with his widely broadcast, super slick keynote speeches touting the latest and greatest from Apple, Jobs’s presentation to the city was noticeably less polished and rehearsed. He glanced at his notes, he stammered. He paused to search for words. It was, in every sense, a very real and human presentation. Perhaps the WWDC keynote he delivered on Monday unveiling iCloud, etc. had taken all his energy and left him very little time to prepare for the council address and he was somewhat unfamiliar with the subject matter at hand (architecture and landscape). The slideshow that he presented didn’t seem to be done in-house and contained very little information beyond what the building looked like (a ring), how many trees there were (‘indigenous’) and how many people would be accommodated. While he artfully dodged silly questions and evaded harder ones like a champion, Jobs’s true standout moment was when he related the cutesy tale of his summer job at the Hewlett Packard campus. In that moment, it is clear that he is in his element. The most effective presentations are those that tell a story, and here, Jobs knows everything there is to know about his longstanding relationship with the site and it comes through. He becomes more articulate and more confident. His voice takes on a soothing quality and he doesn’t need to look at his notes. He’s a great communicator and is able to project so much likeability and humility that he can make you believe in him, his silly little ring, and that one day, Apple’s new infinite loop is going to be the Salk Institute of the Silicon Valley.

(I don’t really know if I believe that, but with Foster at helm, it’s certainly possible.)

Carmine Gallo’s slideshow on Jobs’s presentation secrets contends that Jobs is not a natural born speaker, which I agree with. What he is, however, is a manic pursuer of excellence. Gallo notes that the two days prior to each keynote are spent going over his presentation, practicing and practicing, committing every word to memory and finding exactly the right tone and balance. Inasmuch as Apple’s tech gadgets go through refinement and testing, so do his presentations.

It’s not a gift, and it’s not even a secret. I’ve been told that I’m a confident presenter and the last firm I worked with pursued me ferociously and gave me great opportunities because I was able to convince them of that during the interview process. But I’m actually not, never knowing what to say to people. I’m a nervous wreck before and during each presentation, and most of it is an act, for in my heart, I’m a shy little crab who would rather stay home and knit something. But I do think that what I do well is that I am able to convince myself that I DO like the attention and I DO know everything there is to know about ___, and perhaps that comes through to the audience. I try to explain my work in the same way that one would tell a story–with logic, clarity, and cohesiveness that flows easily from one thought to another. I try to lay out my presentation materials in the same manner, so that if I forget, they prompt me to remember the script. I don’t think I’m a great actor, but I suppose that great presenters are by necessity actors, especially if they weren’t fortunate enough to be born with the innate talent of speech. The keys to being a great presenter are then conviction, writing it down (verbatim), memorization, practice, and a little bit of friendly swagger.

Here’s Mr. Jobs’s council presentation and a clip from the WWDC keynote for comparison:

 

Coworking part 2: Living and working together

7 Jun

We haven’t lived together for very long at all, but Michael and I are constantly finding out that living with someone is both more and less challenging than we had thought. We both love that the other is creative, but creativity ends up taking A LOT of space, or at least, my version of creativity does. Michael’s apartment in Highland Park is pretty spacious, with a tiny upstairs bedroom, living room, and –luxuries of luxuries– a work room. During the school year, when I was in Cambridge and he lived alone, he was able to keep things pretty spartan and contained. But now, my apples and crafting supplies have taken over the entire place. I like to spread out and have everything I could need close at hand, which I imagine gets pretty annoying. I’m trying to contain it, but in spite of my best intentions, I end up buying EVEN MORE supplies and taking over EVEN MORE space.

Coworking for two

Our work room and my mess, wall images by Michael @ http://www.juicesandmilks.com

Apple rings, Orderly Civilians

Production line

Even the back yard is not immune from my space-hogging ways.

And there are soooo many dishes…

But it’s nice to have someone to work with and someone to come home to. Someone to go to Trader Joe’s with and go hiking with. Someone to curl up next to and be warmed by at night. Our living together has, besides my slovenly ways, been quite easy and civil. We agree on the more important decisions and it’s nice that our domestic bliss hasn’t erupted into a lava-spewing volcano of anger. It’s easy to forget that we are individuals and each need time to be alone, although I have the opportunity to be alone during most of the day (at least for the summer). I need to be more diligent about managing my sprawl and work harder at focusing on my own work. Poor Michael has been working on his personal website and is easily distracted and all I want to do is cuddle and do fun stuff and badger him to pay attention to me after a long day of solitude.

Badger. Badger.

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