Archive for December, 2008

31st December
2008
written by Steph
I hope all of you have been having a wonderful holiday season, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Christmukkah, or some variant thereof (Whatevermas, for example).  This year Tony and I decided to NOT separate over the holiday season – it seemed cruel to think that we were going to see loved ones, only to be apart from one another – and instead decided to problem solve and bring our loved ones to us collectively!  As much as we love it, our condo is way to small for us to have more than one overnight guest, never mind two families, so we opted to rent a cabin in Gatlinburg for several days.  This wasn’t your grandmother’s cabin though, as it was pimped out with a hot tub, pool table, and several flatscreen tvs.  I was a bit disappointed in the kitchen, which was far from fully equipped (there was only one pot that would have been large enough to boil anything!  And if you advertise that your cabin sleeps 8 people, maybe you should make sure that you have provided enough silverware for that many people at any given meal!  Foolish!), but we made do and made some lovely meals.  I was grateful that this year we got the light-end of the traveling, and it was fantastic that our families got along like a house on fire (including our brothers, who reinforced our motto of “Why have children when you can have dogs?” 😉 ).  We spent lazy days watching movies, playing the diabolical Scene It, and – once we had procured powercords for the respective systems – playing games on the PS3 and Wii.  When did Mario Kart become so evil?  Seriously, the computer is out for blood in the Wii version!  It was still fun though, and one of the highlights for me was watching our two fathers play Ghostsquad on the Wii and try to kill as many people as possible.  Tony and I had played earlier, and despite three tries, never managed to get a headshot on the final big boss.  Our fathers?  Got it on the first attempt.  Bah! All in all, it was so nice to have everyone all together at Christmas, and also to try something new this year.   Even the dogs got to be a part of the celebrations rather than being sent to the kennel (aka, “puppy jail”), and they were spoiled mightily by our parents, much to their great pleasure.  I do hope we’ll be able to make it up to Toronto in 2009, perhaps after it’s thawed up a bit!  For New Year’s Eve, we had several invites, but all involved flying, and we decided to keep up our streak and just bum around this year.  We look forward to playing more video games, eating delicious Indian take out, and watching movies (I intend to convince Tony that on NYE, it only makes sense to watch the 5 hour BBC version of Pride and Prejudice!  If that fails, then I hope to be allowed to watch When Harry Met Sally!).  It’s gonna be hassle-free, we’ll be together, and that’s what will make it great!  However you choose to usher in 2009, have fun and stay safe!  See you on the other side…
31st December
2008
written by Steph
Wheee!  I'm my own longitudinal study!

Wheee! I'm my own longitudinal study!

2008 was ostensibly my best reading year in a long while, and I’d say this was true not just in terms of quantity, but also quality!  I started to keep track in earnest of the books I was reading in 2007 (I began my listkeeping near the tail-end of 2006, but it was already too late by then to remember everything I had read that year).  I think this exercise has reinvigorated my interest in reading, and by tracking what I read, I’m finding out how to get the very most out of my reading experience.   This year, I read 44 books, which is just slightly more than double the books that I read in 2007 (20 books), and likely far more than I read in 2006 (13 books recorded).  I definitely feel as though this year a made a conscious decision to devote more of my personal time to reading, and that is certainly a decision I have not regretted.  Perhaps more significant is that I didn’t just read more books this year, but I appeared to read books that I enjoyed more overall (after all, what’s the point in reading more, if you’re enjoying the books less?).  My mean book rating this year was 3.69, which is an improvement over 2007’s mean rating (3.52), and an even greater increase when compared to 2006 (3.31).  See plot for geekish visual exploration of my reading trends.  Further in-depth evaluations of my reading habits of 2008, as well as the complete list of what I read, after the jump.  I promise there will be no more graphs.  Probably. (more…)
31st December
2008
written by Tony
Slightly better than a pencil in the eye.

Slightly better than a pencil in the eye.

Jesus. I like to think that I'm a pretty good boyfriend, but I had to throw in the towel about 45 minutes into this steaming turd of a movie. Fortunately, Steph being a normal person, the feeling was mutual. This movie is an embarrassment, for everyone, not just those who were tricked into watching it. I know for a fact that the only reason Steph got this movie was Colin Firth, which is fine. I've come to terms with the fact that she would leave me for him, cursing my lack of an English accent. Sweet, sweet Colin aside, this movie was terrible. Steph and I agreed that this is the work of alcohol. Let me explain. You see, Meryl Streep, Mrs. Weasley (that's who she is, and who she should stay) and Cybill Shepherd's friend all got together one night, drank a bunch of dirty martinis and sang along to ABBA. Then, in the midst of their middle-aged reverie, one of them (or possibly all three) decided to make a movie where they act like fools for two fucking hours.Which is fine, if you're a drunk 50 year old woman who wants to lose two hours of your life that you can never get back. Never. (more…)
30th December
2008
written by Steph
51y7e623iul__ss400_I received the beautiful special collector’s edition of J.K. Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard from Tony as a Christmas present.  This edition is comprised of a beautiful leather hollow book that contains an ornately silver buckled volume (the cover of which is adorned with a thick silver skull) of the book itself inside.  In addition, prints of the illustrations (all hand drawn by Jo Rowling, herself!)  from the book are tucked away inside the larger book.  As an aside, I’ll mention that due to some terrible bungling on Amazon’s part (I was at home the day this present arrived, and not only did they print “Muggles Beware!  Don’t ship or open until Dec 4!” on the outside of the shipping box, but also the actual title of the book (again, on the OUTSIDE of the box)!), I knew without a shadow of a doubt what one of my gifts would be.  I did not, however, know which version of the book I would get, so at least that mystery remained!  I must say that I am very pleased to add this gorgeous edition to my Harry Potter collection. (more…)
30th December
2008
written by Steph
WTF, Teri Hatcher?!?!

WTF, Teri Hatcher?!?!

I know that Hollywood can be rough for women of a certain age, but I cannot think that the work Teri Hatcher has had done is going to help her get roles.  I mean, sure she's stick thin (she could cut things with her collarbone) and her face is apparently incapable of wrinkling, but when one has so much botox injected into one's face that it is impossible to convey happiness, and one must instead grimace ghoulishly?  Come on.  That's ridiculous.  She looks like she's in pain, and her eyes have gone all wonky.  Do people in L.A. really think that this is a graceful way to age?  Or that women like this look good?  What's even worse is that Hatcher apparently denies that she has ever (never mind currently!) cosmetically altered her face.  Uh, sure, Teri.  She is not nearly so good an actress that anyone is buying that line (perhaps if she could actually, oh, I don't know, EMOTE with her face, that would help matters).  I have seen natural female faces; Hatcher ain't got one. In the end, I realize it's fully her decision to make, but it's really sad that she (and many other actresses) felt this step was necessary or somehow enhances/retains her beauty.  I particularly find it a distasteful move because I know Hatcher has a daughter on the cusp of puberty, and I only wonder what inadvertent pressure her daughter might feel given the unhealthy body image and standards promoted by her mother. She may not be a housewife, but she's got the desperate down pat.
29th December
2008
written by Steph
Pardonable Lies

I’ve mentioned before that one of my literary vices is mystery novels set in England, generally during the turn of the 20th century.  I’m by no means a know-it-all Agatha Christie fan, but I devoured a bunch of her books when I was a young teen, and have recently made it my mission to eventually read all of her books in chronological order (note: I have not yet decided whether I will pick a particular detective, and go through all of his/her adventures before picking a new one and starting afresh, or legitimately just reading them all in order, featured detective be damned!).  I never would have thought that murder could be so soothing, but for me, detective novels in the style of Agatha Christie are the ultimate comfort read.  I haven’t really delved too far into the mystery genre, as I tend to focus on reading “serious” literature, but one good contemporary author I’ve found is Jacqueline Winspear who has created the intrepid “Psychologist & Investigator”, Maisie Dobbs. (more…)
28th December
2008
written by Steph
The first ever (and likely last) Stylista.  Surprised?  No?  Ok, good.

The first ever (and likely last) Stylista. Surprised? No? Ok, good.

I admit, the title of this post might be overly optimistic – as of now, I am not aware of any talks of their being future seasons of this show, which is probably just as well given that it was not very good. Then again, my go-to guilty pleasure, America’s Next Top Model, has become nigh painful to watch (no longer campy fun, it’s just embarrassing) and it’s unclear when the next season of Project Runway will air, so Stylista was my fashion filler tv show. And so, as I predicted from about the second episode, Johanna wins the dubious title of Stylista. Is anyone surprised? I mean, she was going up against Dyshawn (sp? I don’t really care enough to look it up), who had already been taken to task at least three times for copy errors. And I don’t care what Anne Slowey & co. would have us believe, we all know a junior editor at Elle (or any fashion rag) ain’t gonna be designing the layout or styling the photo shoots, since those positions are held by people like “graphic designers” and “fashion stylists”. Junior editors are primarily going to be performing those menial administrative/secretarial tasks (i.e., getting coffee, picking up Anne’s secretary’s dry cleaning, making photocopies) and copy editing text. So if you’re not a good fact checker, don’t have an eye for details, and are a poor proofreader? You’re not going to be an effective junior editor. Ergo, Johanna had to take the competition, especially when it came down to her and Dyshawn. (more…)
25th December
2008
written by Steph
awesome!

Here's a name for this book: awesome!

As I mentioned in my recent entry regarding obsessive book buying, after our latest trip to McKay’s, we found ourselves in the position of owning three Saramago novels, even though neither of us has ever read any of his writing.  I’m sure I’m not alone in finding this a rather peculiar circumstance, since generally it intuitively makes sense to buy a single book by a given author and read that in order to decide if you want to read anything more by said author.  Clearly something beyond reason motivates me when I’m in bookstores. I decided to rectify this situation by vowing to read a Saramago novel after finishing Fieldwork.  Rather than hemming and hawing over which one to commit to, I selected All The Names off the shelf, using the fact that we’ve owned it the longest as justification.  That it was shorter than both Blindness and The Double was also likely a contributing factor, but let’s not focus on that niggling point. (more…)
23rd December
2008
written by Steph
This is what restraint looks like.  And true love!

This is what restraint looks like. And true love!

Books that is!  This latest haul is actually from last weekend, when Tony and I made a quick stop at McKay's (where else?).  This time the damage was relatively small, only setting us back $30, which really isn't too bad when you consider all of the loot we picked up (13 books total!)!  Of course I love the prices at McKay, but the other thing that I really appreciate about them is that they really have a wonderful and broad selection.  On the off chance they don't have a particular book I'm looking for on one trip, it's extremely unlikely they won't have it the next time round.  One reason why I think I would have a hard time transitioning to ebooks (even if the Kindle is indeed brilliant), is because I really am deeply attuned to the aesthetic qualities of each book I read - I do judge books by their covers, for one thing.  If I make it past that, and flip the book over and the back blurb intrigues, me, only then do I venture into the book proper.  And here it's critical that the paper be of relatively good stock, but even more important is that the fonts used are clean and not too heavy.  Have you ever picked up a book where the type is too thick and feels almost smudgy or blurred?  I hate that!  It generally makes for an unpleasant reading experience, and I wind up find poorly printed books more difficult to read, on both a perceptual and emotional level.  Really, reading is a very visceral experience for me!  Anyway, this tangent was merely to convey that at McKay's the constant influx of stock means that if I find a book I want but it's perhaps not an edition that is most desirable or evocative to me, then I generally don't feel bad about putting it back and waiting for another copy that does suit my fancy.  Their books are generally in like-new or lightly used condition, and they do seem to actually take into account the condition of the book when pricing it, which I appreciate.  I've actually begun to accrue a large collection of random book marks, from previous book owners who evidently didn't cashed in on a particular book that they left unfinished. In depth analysis and discussion of each column and individual books after the jump... (more…)
21st December
2008
written by Steph
I am a big Apple fan (some might even say pusher), but as with any genuine loving relationship based on trust and mutual respect, I do not view Apple products through rose-tinted lenses.  I have plenty of reasons for being a diehard Mac fan, but there are plenty of things that bear the Apple logo that I am more than happy to point out as being less than awesome (ahem, Macbook Air, I am looking at you).  For instance, one of the pieces of Apple software that I most routinely find underwhelming is iTunes. Now, some of the things that I find lackluster about iTunes, I fully chalk up to my own geekish proclivities and realize that while *I* might wish for the ability to display mean album ratings (because yes, I do obsessively rate my music collection) based on the individual ratings of the constituent songs, not everyone else even thinks about numbers nearly as much as I do or would care about applying them in this way even if they did.  Then again, that calculation is dead simple to do, and there’s no reason why Apple couldn’t do this given that they’re now really into their whole coverflow thing where you browse through your collection by individual album. But something so geeky is not really the focal complaint point of this post.  No, instead, I’m going to discuss something that could legitimately affect many people of various nerdish walks of life.  Recently I attempted to move my music library from an external hard drive back onto my laptop proper (the reasons for this are the subject of another post… ooh, suspense!), only to find myself thwarted.  Despite following all of the steps on various websites, I opened up my iTunes application today only to find myself staring at an empty library.  No amount of fiddling or tweaking or redirecting paths would help me and rectify the situation, and even redirecting the settings to my external hard drive and rebooting my computer failed to improve matters.  In the end, I just had to reimport all of my music all over again.  And look, that’s not hard at all.  The problem is that in so doing, I lost all of my original import dates along with my ratings playcounts and playlists.  And that my friends, truly sucks (see above re: obsessive music cataloguing ). Why all the automatically generated .xml files and .itl and various other database files iTunes?  And why when I follow your walkthrough and consolidate my library and do all that good stuff do you maybe work until I close iTunes tricking me into thinking that I am the winner only to then find myself with a big sucking void where my music should be?  I will point out that the last time I tried to export my music off of the laptop onto the external hard drive, the EXACT same thing happened, so I really shouldn’t be surprised, but come on!  It shouldn’t have to be this hard. Sigh.  I guess my only consolation is that I hadn’t really fully recovered from the last time iTunes failed to work in an intuitive and awesome way, so most of my music was frustratingly unrated and I had few new playlists to lose anyhow.  Still, as far as comfort goes, that’s all fairly empty.
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