Monday, January 31, 2011

A Very Sweet Wish List

I thought I'd put together a quick wish list of good Valentine's Day gifts that don't include a pajamagram or a chocolate rose. Valentine's day has never been the most important holiday for me, but as a married gal, I do like a reason for a romantic evening out with the hubbs.

For the girls:

Essie Spring 2011 "French Affair" line. You can buy a cube of 6 full sized or 4 mini
(I got the fall minis from my sister for my b-day and it was an awesome gift. 
Photo cred via

For the boys:

And last but not least, don't forget to call in reservations for your favorite restaurant if you are heading out for dinner on that evening. Seats go fast! We'll be going to Coriander in Squirrel Hill, our most recent favorite restaurant and catching a movie afterward.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Knock your socks off

Valentine's day is neigh, and if you are looking for a gift, I've got something that is all-around awesome. This would also be great to take as a hostess gift or to give to any person who has a sweet tooth. They are fleur de sel chocolate caramels, which is a caramel dipped in chocolate and topped with (at least here) one of a variety of specialty salts. I first encountered them at my brother's house last year and I had to (very literally) stop myself from eating the entire box, which I desperately wanted to do.

green gifts

Wouldn't these be great for decorations and then guest gifts for a wedding, shower, or party? So cute and easy to take care of too. I wish I had these 3+ years ago!

I've been on a plant kick as of late, so no wonder I'm drawn to these. I--like my mum--have a bit of a black thumb unfortunately. However, I have my lovely paperwhites growing in the window with a handful of other plants. Hopefully I can go a month without killing them off.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

In Pursuit of Peace

As a result of the recent events in Arizona that have effected Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and other civilian victims, I feel the need to send out words of encouragement to the ether.

What has happened is a tragedy to the extreme. On a personal note, Rep. Giffords was elected during the first year I lived in Tucson and Pima County. I was present and a voter during that election. I saw her campaigns, I saw her stance on issues, and I repeatedly saw her concern and efforts to represent her constituents. Additionally, due to my work while in Tucson, I was also tasked with calling her office several times because of her involvement in solar energy research with the DOE.

At this juncture in history in this country, there are many things straining the individuals within, causing constant stress leading to (as Yoda would tell us) fear, anger, and hate. There are so many people who cry out, marginalized by their own pain and further twisted by their isolation.

In this new year, I urge you all to actively pursue peace in your everyday life. Recognize the options in your own home, with your family, with your friends, at your work, at church, at the store, everywhere you go, and--importantly--within yourself that will lead to peaceful hearts and to guard the dignity of those involved. Understand that a difference in opinion is how a group of intelligent people living in a democracy are able to come together and make the best choices for all involved. Fear, anger, and hate will twist the minds of those who are most at risk and divide us further. These feelings lead to dehumanization and those affected look at other people and forget that behind the opposing face is a person with their own mind and feelings. Similarly, the mentalities of those involved in the purges of WWII were ones of dehumanization, finger pointing, fear, anger, and hate. Imagine how many everyday people didn't do anything as they stood by and watched the more horrific events that affected individuals. In the beginning, there was something that could be done; as the machine gained strength the individual was not as capable as an individual unit under such oppression. As Pastor Niemöller stated many years ago:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent; I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent; I wasn't a Jew.
When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.
Perhaps this year choose to reject the consumption of news and entertainment that plays on those emotions. I don't want to watch anything regularly that leads me to think that all people in our country are stupid. That is what all of the reality trash-tv and major and national cable media is about, and in these days where we are consuming more entertainment and interacting directly with people less it is dangerous for us to use this as our proxy for human interaction. Guard your mind, guard what you are at heart, and don't be deceived or eroded by media that plays on the worst emotions just to make money and get better ratings. This is my challenge to you in this new year.

The potential to be a great generation is not lost. We have surrounded ourselves with the wrong things and now people are more and more becoming the fringe and bizarre things we see on television and internet. Make goals, determine who you want to be and practice at becoming it. "Be the change you want to see in the world," as Ghandi shared with us and we will be able to move into states of peace.

In peace and prayer,

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas in the Desert

Josh and I are headed to Tucson for Christmas this year and there is so much to catch up with in that faraway land, as it has been about a year and a half since we've been there. Sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago that we lived there. Here's what's on the must-do, -see, and -eat list:

  • New nephew and niece doting!!!
  • Lovin' Spoonfuls delicious breakfasts and lunches fom the best vegan restaurant in the world
  • La Parilla Suiza, with Mexico City fare, where the ladies are making the tortillas by hand in the kitchen always and the green corn tamales are off the hook
  • Picacho Peak...appears to be closed :( but there will be hiking of some sort still
  • Midnight candlelit church service on Christmas eve. There's no better way to quiet your spirit than this. The bonus is leaving in the crisp night air and the sky filled with stars.
  • 17th Street Market to have a romp around my favorite green grocer/international goods/music store in the world.
  • Family cooking, baking, and even a cupcake decorating class.

There will be more, but that's a good start. I can't wait to be back in the desert. :) Did I mention the temperature during the week is high of 70F in the day and low of 40F at night? Well, now you know.

To you and yours, I wish you a very happy holiday season filled with joy, peace, and wonder!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Bittersweet Blip Fail

I've had this around for awhile but forgot to post it. Oh, blip, when will you learn?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Discussions on the Sociology of Science

Have you read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn? It's a good read and I would recommend it if you are interested in various fields of science and technology and the history of science. Not much in the way of prerequisite reading or knowledge is necessary, as it is not a very technical topic.

While I do think the book goes on to enforce the point at snooze-worthy length, there is a great lesson in the entire work--the body of science and "scientific" studies is as influenced by culture and society as anything else involving humans, despite the air of logic and validity in their communities. While the people who submit themselves to studying such issues during their life can indeed be experts on a subject, their follies appear with their inability to widen the scope of pertinent study. The already established paradigm is protected, and scientists go about research in a way to fine-tune that paradigm and learn more about it, researching largely to prove the paradigm is true. To discover aspects in and around what has already been established. Not all research supports the paradigm, and these studies are generally dismissed by the scientific community as invalid. This dismissal can be influenced by many things, including who completed the research, their reputation, who they work for or with, etc. Life goes on this way until research is completed that provides such new and conclusive proof that the paradigm is false that there is no other choice but to break the old paradigm and establish a new one. Revolution is natural, but that it required in this way is not natural. Science is creative, but it seems evident that these social norms in the scientific community inhibit the ability for natural growth in knowledge and direction.

On a personal note, I think that the characteristics of many scientists include the need for black-and-white answers to feel at ease. Unfortunately for them, their black-and-white answers continue to be scrutinized over the years as technology, knowledge, and understanding progress, making what they have assured the general public and their peers as being true later to be incorrect entirely. It certainly doesn't bolster confidence in feeling that I can fully accept their opinions when studying objects or phenomena that we can't place our hands on. I need look no further than the great T-Rex debate for a good example. Was the T-Rex the baddest dinosaur out there or a wimpy scavenger with inadequate arms? In life, sometimes we must admit that we are not sure but they don't like that in science. Working with scientists for 2 solid years, I found the same to be largely true as they go about everything else in their lives. They are a different breed, processing information and coming to different results.

So, where did this all begin. First, I'll admit to loving the studies of space. I am a child in so many ways, and I am still in awe of the celestial bodies out there. They are exotic and utterly terrifying all at once(kind of the same way I feel about deep-sea diving, and I have my SCUBA license!). But the discussions about life on different planets continue and I have been--since my high school years--perplexed by questions that are never asked or areas not discussed. As I read articles, including this one on io9, I get disappointed at the lack of scope. We study organic chemistry and the elements involved are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. We never seem to consider that organic elements can be relative to the conditions on a different planet. C-H-O-N are organic because of the makeup of our planet. Other worlds and atmospheres would be toxic to us because they are not in our makeup. But they never say that. Could the elements that create life not be totally different based on the atmosphere in which they develop? I happen to not see the prevalence of water on Earth and in our bodies as a coincidence. They instead want to provide a definitive answer about something that we know very little about. I'm no "little green men" kind of believer, but I like to think I am open minded enough to be consider that there are other options. Very few humans are gifted with minds that can process heavy amount of stimuli or truly think outside of the shackles of cultural reference. Why can't we recognize that as our weakness? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

And another thing

Day 19: Your favorite era: Rise of the Empire/The Clone Wars. Chock full of excitement and Sidious' delicate web of deception.
Day 20: Your favorite Star Wars spoof: Fanboys: Part spoof of the original trilogy of Star Wars, part spoof of the fanboy and fangirl life (even if we wish our stories were as epic).

Day 21: Most memorable John Williams music: Force Theme / Throne Room (think Luke on Tatooine looking at the setting suns and the medal ceremony in A New Hope).

Day 22: Your favorite droid: Ridiculously obvious. R2D2

Day 23: Your favorite Jedi: Qui Gon Jinn, representative of the living force.

Day 24: Your favorite force power: Force Push/Pull

Day 25: Your favorite cartoon adaptation: Star Wars: The Clone Wars. From the intimate look into the lives of the clones to in-depth G-canon plots that allow our beloved characters and new players to become richer entities true to the original saga, this show was an instant classic for me. Additionally, I am utterly fascinated by how it is filling in all of the detail between AotC and RotS.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Celebration V Notes

As avid Star Wars fans, we each have our own story of being a fanatic. What makes my own story richer is the inclusion of the Clone Wars series and Celebration. It's a bit hard to explain to someone who isn't a fan or even is just a generic fan, what it all means to you. Sure, it isn't everything that I live for, but it is something special. I love it for the lessons in ethics, the philosophy, the complexity in relationships and decisions, the basis in Jungian and classical archetypes, amongst many other things.

To better explain (and frankly remember, as it is quite a busy event) what is so special about Celebration, I tried to remember everything I did to give example of what it is all about.

Star Wars Celebration V Notes & Itinerary
715: PGH to CVG; CVG to MCO
1100: Taxi to the hotel, quick lunch at Denny's, and straight to the OCCC (just after going to the wrong side of the wrong OCCC hall). Met with Joe M. first thing. Celebration friends reunion!
1345: Tattoo Pavilion and live tattooing-Josh got a Boba Fett blaster designed off of the original release Boba Fett action figure. Joe & I walked around the floor to scope things out.
1415: Arrived a bit late, but caught Star Wars Crafting with Bonnie Burton. Thought I spotted MandyBu in front of me and I was right. Met Liz Lee and Josh got a photo with her.
1500: Headed over to the official Star Wars Merch area and picked up some postcards and the Boba Fett poster
1530: Attempted to go to the cancellation station with no avail; line over 100 deep and Force Cast show on the horizon.
1615: Force Cast show live! Appeared to be it's busiest showing at SWCV. Sat behind a man with a large behind that wouldn't sit down and had to crane to see Jason. Met Eric and got trading cards too. FC live show=Jamie in a tizzy.
1700: Left a bit early to grab a quick dinner of pizza and get ready for the TFN party.
1900: Raspberry 6 bus to arrive fashionably late to the TFN party. What a blast! Josh, Joe, and I are all losers in the raffles, loud mall punk Star Wars band, a lady with a jug of blue milk, and loads of laughter. Met Jason, Jimmy Mac, Kyle Newman, MandyBu & James Arnold Taylor. Dave Filoni mobbed, so didn't want to add to the crew, but hyperventilated when I was nearby anyway. Me to myself: "Deep breaths Jamie, you're always a spaz but you're really spazzing out now!"
2330: Taxi home with new friends, Joe L. and Amy, walk to Walgreens, and to bed after a little Golden Girls. "Thank you for bein' a friend."

800: Slept in, knowing that there would be no sleep the next night. Bagels and OJ for brekkie.
1030: Sounds of Star Wars with Ben Burtt. It is so cool to hear what he has to say about sound design and collection. Talked about creating sounds from John Wayne and Kirk Douglas discarded tapes at the production studio. Mr. Burtt was one of my panel favorites last time too.
1200: Force Cast Live show! Stayed for the first 15 minutes but had to run to catch a burrito for lunch with Joe M. Hello day 2 trading cards!
1300: The art of story boarding Clone Wars with Dave Filoni. Dave arrives just in time with Meagan Finnerty and claims that he hasn't really prepared. Still, what he shares is amazing. Talks about his history, education, employments, and what brought him to his directorial and artistic point of view. Proceeds to demonstrate how to draw out storyboards and how to use camera locations to tell the story. "Dave, will you be my life mentor??" Josh and I seriously spellbound.
1400: Celebration V Bounty Hunt with Josh and Joe M. on team Triple J Express. Answered questions then went out to seek the people who stamp our booklet when we get a clue right. Slow start as they characters weren't dressed as their clues (i.e. the clue was Chewie but the person was dressed as a scout trooper). Finished in time and handed it in at 1600. Decided not to go to the award ceremony because we all always lose but had fun in the process.
1600: Walked the exhibit hall with Joe M. to get photos with the scenes set up. Josh is transformed into Starkiller and carbonite Han for his Demille-esque close-up.
1800: Why we love the prequels with Kyle Newman, Eric, Tom Hodges, James Arnold Taylor, Dave Filoni, Jesse Hildreth. Preaching to the choir! Love to hear positive and constructive discussion about the prequels. Josh and I are waaay into it.
1900: To our Indian dinner adventure with Josh, Joe M., and Joe L. Pact made to make it into the live hall to see George Lucas together, no exceptions. If we don't make it into the live hall, we aren't going. It's a deal! :)
2100: Back to the hotel, but feeling suspicious that the GL queue is growing. Josh and I shower and head over to the line at 2200.
2200-1100: Queuing for ages. Outside on the concrete for most of the night with both Joes. Met Alan, Jay, Julian, and Chris in line; more Celebration friends to meet up with next time. Moved inside around 600. Very little sleep but for short naps. That will be me playing the role of zombie-wife to Josh.

700: Joe M. gets us all brekkie from McDs. He's the hero for the day!
730: Our little group meeting with Josh and the Joes to dish over GL, favorite jedi, and our pact.
1000: Me: "Hey! Is that jedishua!?" Indeed. Surprise myself and go over to chat regardless of being shy.
1030: Finally to the Chapman hall, sitting on the left in the lower section of the theater. Pact honored!!! Exhausted but so excited. Good DJ to get us pumped. Journey, "Don't stop believing!!"
1100: George interviewed by John Stewart. News flash: Obi from planet of Stewjohn. Special guests Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamil. George says the Clone Wars crew is working on season 5 already.
1230: Lunch at Denny's with Josh and the Joes then run back to hotel for quick refresh; Josh stands in line for the next panel.
1420: Run (literally) the whole way from the hotel to the OCCC and inside the OCCC to get to Josh and Joe L. just in time before queue goes into Valencia room.
1430: Clone Wars Season 3 Revealed with Dave Filoni. The scenes were amazing, the animation looked great. Cad Bane with a lightsaber!? Satine is back! Exploration of Dathomir and the sith witches, Grevious, Asoka visions, Darth Maul's brother. So glad that the premier is just around the corner so there is something SW related to look forward to when SWCV is over. Q&A put Dave in tight spots when multiple children asked difficult questions. A lot of hiding under the hat, red cheeks, and trying to start a sentence with "There...There.......There...." News: there will be some connections to the original trilogy [this season], George wants Asajj to have more of a story, Dave surprised about George's "season 5" comment, Dave says the series will go on as long as the fans support the show an like watching.
Note to Dave: please forgive the girl half way back on your right who kept nodding off. Exhausted from waiting for GL but I was totally listening!
1530-1730: Walked around with Josh and Joe L. to see the Ralph McQuarrie artwork and the TK stormtrooper helmet art project. Then down to the exhibit hall where we all split up. Desperately searching for a place with coffee that wasn't closed. Ran into Kyle Newman and met Jaime King; totally word vomiting because of exhaustion; please forgive me! (Couldn't even tell Jaime that I thought she was cool since the mid 1990's when I knew her as the model, James King. I thought her name was awesome and wanted to change my name because I'm named after my grandpa, James, who I adored. But instead, "Jaime, your work is amazing" is all I could inspire.) Grabbed the cards from the Force Cast show that I missed, saw Dave Filoni again, and met up with the Josh and Joe L. Quick pizza with Joshie while queuing for the next show.
1800: Clone Wars behind the microphone with a crew from the cast- James Arnold Taylor, Dee Bradley Baker, Jaime King, Catherine Taber, Ashley Eckstein, Matt Wood, Tom Cane. JAT did a spectacular voice melding presentation to show how voices are related and went from one to the next with 30+ examples. The group answered questions about how to get into voice acting, which was really cool. What a gracious bunch of people.
1900: ESB screening with Josh and Joe M. What a perfect way to end Celebration. Couldn't believe how good it looked on that screen! Awake now for about 40 hours.
2115: Walk back to hotel, pack, and sleep. CV is over for us. :(

Joe M., Josh, Jamie, Joe L.     (Photo by Alan L.)
1000 Saturday morning, waiting to shuffle into the Chapman Theater to see GL interview. 26 hours awake and counting. We already know we've honored our pact to get in to the live show. Celebration is all about making new, great friends.

345: Wake up to ready for drive to airport
430: Drive to airport
630: Flight to Atlanta
1000: Flight to Pittsburgh
1300: Delirious and home. How is it over already??
2000: Some unpacking. "What's that?" My sweetheart bought me the Star Wars themed word magnets. I love this man! :)

Oh my

Don't judge my absence--it's been a busy couple of weeks, especially for those of you who may have also attended Celebration (and for those of you who didn't attend and haven't realized yet, I happen to become exponentially nerdier by the moment. I do not apologize for the following outburst that will perfectly convey that.).

Without further ado, a meme catchup!

Day 9: Your favorite movie character: Obi Wan. Always and forever, young or old, Obi Wan.

Day 10: Your favorite EU character: The bad and the beautiful, Assaj Ventress

Day 11: Your favorite weapon: Thermal Detonator. A pocket-sized way to settle arguments. Alternatively, the Death Star 2

Day 12: Your favorite non-human species/race: Bothan

Day 13: The most memorable death: Anakin Skywalker, Revenge of the Sith

Day 14: Your favorite EU novel: Death Troopers, by Joel Schreiber

Day 15: Your favorite vehicle: AT-AT. Some would say arduous, but I would say it looks like a tin dog-turtle.

Day 16: Your favorite planet: Bespin

Day 17: Your favorite romance: Satine & Obi Wan. Can we call that a romance?

Day 18: Your favorite scene: Duel on Mustafar between Anakin & Obi Wan, Revenge of the Sith