A Song in My Head

Weekend Assignment #226: Is there a song that you're particularly enjoying at the moment, that's on heavy rotation on your iPod, the CD player in your car, or just in your head? If so, what is it? If not, what was the last song you were really into?

Extra Credit: What song, if any, has been playing in your head today, and you really wish it would stop now?

Ha. Do I ever not have a song in my head? My friend told me once that he'd run across some article about earworms and three sectors of the population that were particularly susceptible to them: women, musicians, and people who worry. For me, that's a triple whammy. I am also frequently singing or humming whatever's in my head, hopefully not too annoyingly.

I'm not playing anything in heavy rotation at the moment. There's been lots of things in my head, but since The Police concert I saw on July 14, the Grammy for "Most Incessant" has been going to "King of Pain." I have stood here before inside the pouring rain, with the world turning circles running 'round my brain (and you see, I keep giving it to other people!) Actually I think I'd just about exorcised it by today but then I heard it on the radio at Erik's Deli at lunch time.

Just to go off on a little tangent, I want to say I managed an entire weekend at Disneyland with hearing "It's A Small World (After All)" even once. But when I returned to work on Tuesday, guess how one of my co-workers greeted me (loudly)?

I did hear a lot of other songs at Disneyland, quite a few of them repeatedly, and several of them did get stuck in my head. The most bizarre was the theme-parky version of "California Girls" (and by the way, no, the girls do not ALL look so tan).

Finally, I'd like to share that one of my favorite karaoke (or strumming on the guitar) songs is "Breathe (2 am)" by Anna Nalick, whose Wreck of the Day album is mostly wonderful. Unfortunately about half the karaoke songbooks I encounter don't have it (but at least half of them do!) Singsnap.com does have it, though, so I can share it with you.
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    weird singy

Silly me

Weekend Assignment #224: What's the worst idea you ever had? Amuse us with a story of a cunning plan that produced less than stellar results. (If your worst idea was positively traumatic, you can tell of your unamusing disaster, or downgrade to a more benign bad idea you had.)

Extra Credit: Have you a mad scheme that's still in the planning stages?

I have had some spectacularly bad ideas in my time, but they aren't amusing, and they're outside the realm of what I write about in this blog. I believe my very first post on this blog stated I wasn't going to air my dirty laundry here. I'll just say my worst ideas have had to do with wasting too much effort on certain members of the opposite sex, and leave it at that.

So, here's the story I'll use instead, which I was reminded of by Karen's retelling of spraypainting the interior of her car:

When I was a kid, maybe about 10 or 11, I decided I was going to paint my bedroom dresser white . . . with whiteout. To this day that dresser still sports some white squiggles on the top drawer, evidence of the process I undertook before I gave up. Now, I didn't ruin the dresser, or affect its longevity in any way, so I suppose it wasn't really that much of a bad idea. It was definitely a weird idea, though.

As far as the extra credit goes, Karen mentions that she's flying to California at the end of the month to meet up with two friends from her online life. One of them she's met for two hours once, and the other she hasn't met at all. I'm the one she's met for two hours before, two years ago when I was in Arizona for my sister's wedding. So I'm doing the same thing as Karen is. Except I'm not flying to California, because I'm already there, but I will be driving down to the southern part of it. And I'll be meeting Sara for the first time too. I will be bringing one highly enthusiastic and one semi-reluctant parent with me, as the highly enthusiastic one has been itching to go back to Disneyland for quite some time. So, I have no doubt it will be an interesting time.
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    crazy loopy

Phones . . . meh

Weekend Assignment #222: What do you use a phone for? Do you strictly use it to make calls and pick up messages, or do you take advantage of other technology bundled with phones these days? Which features do you use all the time, which others would you use if they were available and cheap, and which would you not bother with even it they were free?

Extra Credit: Do you still use your land line to make and receive calls from friends or family?

I didn't have a cell phone at all until about a year ago. Yes, I am a member of Generation X. Yes, from 2000 - 2002 I worked for a company that dealt solely in mobile phone applications. I do not like phones. But I finally decided I disliked certain situations, like trying to track down a pay phone when my tire blew out on the way to rehearsal, even more. So I broke down and got a simple pay-as-you-go phone. It doesn't make sense to me to pay a monthly bill for something I use so seldomly (I don't have cable television, either, and I'm not planning on doing anything about it when the digital switchover thingy happens. I won't much miss my TV). So . . . my phone has some silly games on it, and rudimentary Web access that would eat away at my minutes like sulfuric access, if it worked, which I suspect it doesn't. I think I've texted from my phone about five times.

Extra Credit:

Yes! I use the land line far more frequently than my cell phone. Not that I use it all that much either. I prefer conversations to be face-to-face, and if that's not possible, I'm far more likely to communicate by e-mail or IM. It just seems more efficient to me (of course, I type unusually fast!). Also, I think another reason that I like e-mail and IM over the phone is that the person you're talking to via e-mail or IM can't interrupt you. :) You can get your complete thought out.

I'm also on the phone a great deal at work, too, and that's certainly a contributing factor to it being one of the last things I want to do when I get to be not-at-work.

Drink, Drink, This Town is So Great

Readers with a more than passing familiarity with They Might Be Giants will now have a relentless catchy tune in their heads. Sorry.

Weekend Assignment #221: What do you like to drink? Do you prefer Coke, or Pepsi, or neither? Do you start your days at Starbucks, or end your days with a nice cup of herbal tea? Are you a connoisseur of beer, or do you like to keep a pitcher of lemonade on hand? Do you carry a bottle of water around, and refill it as you go? Tell us about your favorites!

Extra Credit: Have you ever invented your own drink sensation?

I am lagging a bit on weekend assignments. I'm doing this one at the last minute, and I still need to make up last week's at some point. But summer session in graduate school is tough, so I'm going to cut myself just the teensiest little bit of slack. I do hope to start getting more on top of these assignments again, though.

So, drinks. As far as alcoholic ones, I like fruity adult beverages with vodka in them, like cosmopolitans and fruit martinis (I just learned from Wikipedia that martini purists insist that martinis must have gin in them, not vodka, but whatever. I like vodka). I also like an occasional glass of wine, not that I know all sorts of things about it like, say, Frasier and Niles. I started out preferring red but at some point, for some reason, I started to favor chardonnay. I also like the "hard" versions of cider and lemonade.

I'm not much into beer at all, and to me Bud and Miller are synonyms for "grody." If I ever drink beer at a pub, it's usually a stout, and I'm usually only drinking it to feel like I'm drinking beer in a pub. It's very rare that I want to feel that way, but it happens.

On to non-alcoholic:

With meals, I mostly just have water, and sometimes tea (especially if the meal is Chinese). At work, I drink water and/or tea throughout the day. I used to never drink coffee, but being a working grad student has changed that slightly.

I've always only drunk soda somewhat rarely, but ever since my mom subscribed me to the magazine Prevention that's changed to next to never. I will still, once in very blue moon, treat myself to a Cherry Coke . . . it just tastes so good.

When I was a kid, I drank tons and tons of milk. Now I'm an adult vegetarian with some leanings toward veganism, so I almost never have milk anymore. Quite a change in habit! I do usually have soymilk on hand to put on my cereal, and enjoy the soy version of chocolate milk from time to time.

Extra Credit:

It's odd what can prompt minor memories from years ago. Thinking about this extra credit led me to recall an incident from 15 years ago or more, when I was in high school. I put horseradish in my root beer to prove to someone I wasn't a hypocrite. How that was supposed to prove anything, let alone my non-hypocrisy, is not a part of the memory I seem to have retained.
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Not cars. Trains, please!

Weekend Assignment #219: What is your favorite form of transportation, and why? You can choose any means of traveling by land, sea or air, with just one catch: it has to currently exist in the real world, or have existed in the past. No TARDIS, no Star Trek transporter, no flying DeLoreans, all right?

Extra Credit: What's the most unusual form of transportation you've ever taken?

Judging by the replies to this assignment I've read so far, my opinion is not a majority one. My answer to this question is really very much, extremely, way totally not a car. I hate the confined space, the way a car gets so hot if it's left in the sun too long and touching the steering wheel is painful, the high gas prices, the eating, guilty feeling I have every time I drive my car that I'm not helping the environment any, and well, the very real possibility of crashing into other cars. Also, I can't read and drive at the same very effectively, nor do I think it would be wise of me to try to work on that skill.

The concept of "cool cars" leaves me cold. Unless its coolness factor has to do with being fuel-efficient or safe, I just don't care.

Now, trains, I think, are marvelous. When I traveled by train to Vancouver last fall, I think the train journey was the best part of the trip. The Pacific Northwest out a train's window is truly one of the wonders of the world: thank the Good Lord for trees and bodies of water! On a train you don't have to worry about keeping your eyes on the road - you really can just focus on drinking in the beauty.

I also got in quite a bit of New Yorker reading on the train journey, along with more creative writing than I'd managed to do in a long time. I'm tempted to jump on a train again to get myself writing!

It's also fun to go to the dining car at meal time and meet your fellow travelers, although admittedly the extra cost of this is sometimes prohibitive. To me, the social factor makes it worth it. I thoroughly enjoy meeting others "on the road."

The most fun I've ever had on trains were on sleeper cars. How often can you spend the night on a real bed while still moving toward your destination? Back in college, on a study abroard program in London, a girlfriend and I took a weekend trip to Scotland on a sleeper car on the train, after stocking up on Hooch's hard lemonade, junk food, and British women's magazines. We had fun trying to translate the magazines into American (did you know that the English call runs in nylons "ladders"?). Now, I normally try to avoid junk food, as well as magazines of the quality we read on that trip, but that was a very special occasion.

I also rode in a sleeper car from Quebec to New Brunswick, from there to catch a bus to Prince Edward Island, and from Shanghai to the northern city of Tianjin during my tour of China with a Chinese theater group. Our performing troupe included a professional violinist. Waking up on that train in the early morning to the sound of her music accompanying the sunrise is one of my very favorite memories.

Extra credit:

My answer to this was going to be cable cars in San Francisco, but then I remembered I'd hopped on one of those bicycle rickshaw things the last time I was in New York City. Bicycle rickshaws are probably more common around the world than cable cars are, but for a Bay Area native, the bicycle rickshaw wins.

Sarah Just Wants to Have Fun

Weekend Assignment #218: What do you do to have fun? Since you're reading this blog, let's assume that one of your leisure activities is blogging and reading blogs; we don't need to rehash that one, nor the subject of books, which we covered just recently. What else do you do for fun? Are you a runner, a hiker, a birdwatcher, a surfer? Or do you prefer to lie on a beach? Is cooking a joy rather than a chore? What do you enjoy doing, when you're not doing the usual stuff?

Extra Credit: What fun thing (no restrictions) do you plan to do next?

OK, for me, acting's joining reading and writing on the "no need to rehash" list. Besides, I don't do those three things for fun (although they are), I do them so as not to be a complete wreck.

Since I am, fortunately, not a complete wreck, I am pretty freakin' good at having fun in all sorts of ways. I like to try anything that might be fun and if it is, I'll probably do it again. Lots more times.

Here's some of the fun things I've done in the past month or so:

1. Went to see The Cure in concert (three hours and 37 songs of fun, although it would have been slightly more fun for me if they'd listened to my telepathic message and played "The Lovecats.")
2. Went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Extra-short spoiler-free review: it was definitely enjoyable. Don't even try to compare it with its predecessors.
3. Did a crossword puzzle.
4. Saw an awesome live production of Man of La Mancha, and by no means was it my first one! ;)
5. Played my guitar.
6. Went out to karaoke bars with friends and sung my little heart out.
7. Walked in the park.
8. Met friends for dinner.
9. Danced (and watched dancing).
10. Went for a bike ride.

What fun thing do I plan to do next? I think maybe I'll go for a swim tomorrow. I'm going to Disneyland in July. I'm hoping to go to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in October (obviously I think travel is fun). Maybe I'll go to California Extreme again in next month (a local annual convention where scores of classic video games are display and on "endless" free play). Maybe I'll even try to paint my cat! The possibilities are endless. . .
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    happy fun-loving

Career? What's that?

Weekend Assignment #217: What's the best piece of career advice you were ever given?

Extra Credit: What's the worst piece of career advice you were ever given?

Hmmmm. I'm having a hard time coming up with an answer for this one. Maybe because I'm hoping my best piece of career advice is yet to come.

But I've actually been looking at a particular on-the-job fault of mine through a microscope this week, and have maybe realized something, but it's not the result of anyone's advice. I find I can get myself, and others, and projects, in trouble by not admitting that I think I have too much work to do. I think I have a bit of a "superwoman complex," or whatever you would want to call it . . . not that I think I'm Superwoman, but I think I should constantly try to be. When I'm asked for help by co-workers, even if I have a zillion demands on me already, it's often impossible for me to say no, and I think the main reason is that I don't want to be seen as someone who isn't a team player. In six years I have gleaned quite a bit of knowledge about how the organization I work for operates in many different capacities, and excepting our IT administrator, I have the most advanced computer skills on the staff. I get asked a lot of questions. I pitch in so much that I fear I'll be resented any time I don't. And I don't want to be seen as a complainer. But I think I should be aware by now that it's the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.

So, I think my advice to myself this week was, "You need to make it clear when you're being asked to do too much." That's probably not the best career advice I've ever been given, but I think it was a personal breakthrough for me. Because toward the end of the week I actually did start to tell people when they were adding too much to my load, and we collaboratively found ways to reduce that load, so that I could get more of my work done. I think this revelation is not only good for my sanity but my productivity as well.

The extra credit is going to be easier. I once mentioned to someone that I loved to travel, and then he said I'd be perfect for the military in that regard. Now, granted, I've never put it to the test, but I'm fairly certain I would be both miserable and useless in the military. If they would even take me.

A career assessment test I took as a sophomore in high school opined that going into military was the single worst career decision I could possibly make. That same test told me the best-suited career choice for me would be librarianship. Seventeen years later, I'm thinking that was a pretty smart test. I just wish I'd listened to it sooner.
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    contemplative contemplative

Fire Fire Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

Tell us a story or anecdote that involves fire in some way. It can be a forest fire, a house fire, a campfire, logs in the fireplace, or even a lit match, a tale of comfort or destruction. Whatever comes to mind, if it's interesting and fire plays a role, we want to read about it!

Extra Credit: Is the area where you live subject to dangerous wildfires?

I don't know that I have all that much interesting to say about my experience with fire. I think I'll knock on wood on that count, too. A strand of my hair caught on fire for one second at a beach fire when I was in college, but someone next to me quickly put it out. So that's the whole story there.

The one time I remember firefighters coming to the scene of the fire was circa 1984, and for me, the third grade. A laundry hamper a little too close to the furnace had caught on fire - my mother smelled burning plastic coming from the master bedroom as she watched a performance of King Lear on public television in the living room. It's funny, the details you remember. I think she put out the fire herself, but had my older sister call 911 anyway, and I remember standing out in the front yard with my mom and sister and her parakeet and our dog (I don't know where my dad was, but he wasn't home that night) while the firefighters went in to investigate. I also remember our dog Sesame going back into the house, making me worry, and then watching a fireman carry her back out of the house again.

Years later in the mid-90's, I was home from college and Northern California was experiencing record wind speeds. Never in my life had it been that windy as it was that winter, and it hasn't been that windy since. Anyway, one stormy night, I thought it made for the perfect atmosphere to curl up in bed and read King Lear. That night, one of the big, sturdy pine trees, one that had stood tall and thick in the front yard for longer than I'd been alive, fell through the living room roof. No one was hurt. Our living room just suddenly looked like a forest.

Because of these two incidents, I have often wondered whether it is actually King Lear, and not, in fact, the Scottish play that is cursed. Of course, I realize that if one decides to read anything in record winds, all bets are probably off.

Extra Credit: Yep, "California wildfire" is by no means an unheard-of phrase. I have never been close enough to a wildfire for it to pose any risk to my personal safety, but I have worried about wildfires close enough to almost reach loved ones, most memorably the Oakland Hills firestorm of 1991.

I dare you to watch this movie and not smile

Weekend Assignment #215: Review a film. Any film. Got something interesting to say about Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery (1903)? I'd love to read it. Metropolis (1927)? Why not? A Night in Casablanca (1946)? Fine. The Seventh Seal (1957)? Er, okay! Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)? You'll get away with it. Speed Racer (2008)? Go for it. From Hollywood to Ballywood to Hong Kong, from Kubrick to Kurasawa, it's all on the W.A. marquee. But there's one catch: the film should not be on your personal list of favorites; nor should it be a film you despise.

Extra Credit: Is there a film due out this summer that you plan to go see? If so, what is it?

Yesterday was Mother's Day, and I got together with my mom, dad, and grandma for brunch and a movie. The movie my mom chose was Young@Heart. She thought it was something all four of us would enjoy, and she was right. I'm a bit hesitant to write much about it because I don't want to inadvertently give away anything that should be a surprise, but my desire to get more people to see it overrules my hesitation on that count.

The movie is a documentary about a Massachusetts-based chorus called Young@Heart. The average age in this chorus is 80. Their 58-year old choir director Bob has them learn, rehearse, and perform songs by James Brown, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Talking Heads, Coldplay, The Clash, The Ramones, Sinead O' Connor, Sonic Youth, and more. The film's director, Stephen Walker, caught them while they were on a tour of Europe and liked them so much he decided to travel to America so he could follow them around with a camera.

Some comments:
* My grandma said this was the best movie she's seen in "years and years."
* There was more than one moment watching this movie when I found myself beaming
and crying at exactly the same time.
* What a wonderful, wonderful thing it is that people can sing.
* Some of the best moments in this movie are shots of audience reactions at
Young@Heart's live performances.
* Something I find greatly unfortunate in this world is that there are so many people
who think they have to spend hundreds of dollars on tickets to see a
production starring celebrities earning millions of dollars in theaters with thousands
of seats to see a great performance. Here's Exhibit A in the case against
that terrible myth. Someday soon maybe I'll share Exhibits B-Z here too. . . a list
I could compile in my sleep. But I digress. Well, no, I don't really digress -
what I mean to say is: if Young@Heart ever comes to your city, go. Go to community
and college theater. Go to open mic nights. You'll gather some of the most
enduring memories of your life.
* I have nothing bad to say about this movie.

I think I've reached the point where I'm going to stop talking about this movie. I know this is a pretty vague movie review, but that's honestly because I don't want to spoil it.

Extra credit: I already have tickets for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I feel a bit odd about being an adult at the same time an Indiana Jones movie is opening. That's just never happened before. I already saw Iron Man and thought it was OK. If not for Robert Downey Jr., I would have found it really, really boring.

I'm sure I'll see more movies this summer, too. I like movies.
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    impressed impressed

Catching Up

Weekend Assignment #214: Sooner or later, pretty much everyone makes one or more major changes in their lives, sometimes several at once. We leave home, go off to college, get married, get divorced, change jobs, change careers, have kids, move to another house or another state, etc., etc. These things can be very stressful, but we do them in the hope of being better off in some way. Tell us of one change you voluntarily made in your life at some point, that worked out really well.

Extra Credit: Tell us of a little tiny change that also went well!

This is actually last weekend's weekend assignment, but I gave myself a bit of an extension, without asking Karen's permission first. Since the most recent life change I initiated was becoming a graduate student, I've been a little bit busy. My first semester is wrapping up in the coming week, and the reason I didn't get to this assignment before last Thursday is because I was hard at work on a 17-page research paper for my "Information and Society" class that was due on midnight on Wednesday. I slept much less than usual last week! I held my breath when I turned in my paper on the American Library Association's response to the USA Patriot Act, because who ever knows how the professor is going to react to your paper? I was thrilled to find out on Friday that my paper earned all points possible for the assignment. I'm winding down the semester with a 97% in one class and a 99% in the other. It's working out well so far. I find the work and the reading interesting, I enjoy the virtual interaction with classmates dispersed across the country, I feel like my brain is engaged with something I care about . . . in a nutshell, I couldn't be happier that I made this decision.

Now I still have a long way to go before I can declare the whole thing "worked out really well." I still have to complete 36 more units, which is probably going to take me the next two years. And the ultimate goal is a career that brings personal fulfillment to me . . . that seems kind of far out there in the future too. But for now, I'm enjoying myself (although if I went back in time and said that to my Tuesday night self, who was producing much mental sweat in the process of trying to get her paper organized, she might shoot me).

As for a little tiny change that worked out well (and I'm defining "change" as "new discovery" and "worked out well" as "is making me happy"), I recently discovered http://www.singsnap.com, with which I can indulge my penchant for karaoke during study breaks. I certainly don't have the most robust voice in the world, but no one could ever accuse me of not having fun with it. Wanna listen to me sing along with myself?

Tomorrow, I plan to respond to this weekend's assignment by reviewing a movie all about singing!
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    happy happy