Thursday, December 30, 2010

PA: Part II

I'm in the home stretch of my home time. I'll be flying back to Boston on Tuesday night, and the climate in Boston is seeming pretty welcoming! With hope, these fifty-degree days will melt all the snow on the runways and let me land at Logan International. As promised in PA: Part I, here's an update on what I've been doing:
  • Writing in my blog a lot. It's kind of boring here, and yet I can't seem to stop writing about it. Apparently, none of my other blog-having friends have this problem (cough...Oxford Comma).
  • Continuing to have some interesting culinary adventures. My Pancetta-Chestnut Stuffing on Christmas was amazing. Who knew that something inspired by an episode of "Gilmore Girls" could be so tasty? I also tried to make Molasses Cookies, and am thinking that cookie-baking isn't my forte. Next week's Ricotta Cheesecake and Leftover Cranberry Sauce Muffins should be more promising.
  • Eating a lot. Like way too much. That's the downside to making tons of delicious food and having parents with significantly more money to purchase said food than I do. Not to worry; in a few days I'll be back to school where I'll be broke and busy and have neither money nor time to eat and I can hit the gym and get all skinny again.
  • Watching old movies. I got my sister this collection of American Movie Musicals on DVD for Christmas. After seeing all four of them, these are my conclusions: Gene Kelly is dreamy, but I would have picked the other guy; Judy Garland has the crazy eyes; and Fred Astaire is a little indulgent in his films.
  • Aging, apparently. I threw out my back on two separate occasions, and I found a gray hair. Thank goodness for Biofreeze and the ability to yank out said gray hair. I'm only twenty-five; I don't know what's going on.

So that's my second Pennsylvania update. I hope I can restrain myself from writing anything else very boring until after the new year, when you get my list of outlandish resolutions.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Common Cents, or My Personal Circle of Hell

I read Dante's Inferno several years ago, probably in high school. It wasn't assigned or anything, but I felt I needed to read it. I don't really remember it very well, though I do remember there was a map. It looked like this:
Anyhow, I put this diagram up because I'm trying to figure out where I'll be going for this "sin" I'm committing right now. So I get the mail today and there's one of those packages of address labels as a "free gift" with your donation to the Paralyzed Veterans of America or whatnot. I'm not going to use the address labels because they have my Pennsylvania address on them, and I never send mail from there, and I never title myself with "Miss." The rub, however, is that they also sent me a nickel to include with my donation, because, as they say on the return envelope, "every nickel counts." Do you know what else the return envelope says? "Place postage here." That's right. They expect me to use a 44-cent stamp to send back their nickel. However, the fact that I find that completely unreasonable means that I'm probably going to go to hell.


At least it's not thirty pieces of silver.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Favorite Christmas Movies

Merry Christmas to all! We all have our favorite Christmas traditions, traditions involving extended family, food, and silly pajamas. No matter how we like to spend our Christmas Eves and Days, it is a truth universally acknowledged that we like our holiday movies and TV specials. In no particular order (well, in some particular order) here are my favorite ways to spend my holiday TV time:

1) "The Shop Around the Corner" (1940). This is a Christmas staple for me. It's not the most famous Christmas movie starring Jimmy Stewart, but it's definitely the least depressing. It's the predecessor to "You've Got Mail," telling the tale of two enemies who are secret pen pals in Budapest, Hungary. It's a cinematically simple film with a great cast.


2) National Lampoon's "Christmas Vacation" (1989). Nobody embodies the true spirit of a family Christmas like Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), an overachiever with a big heart, bigger dreams, and the best intentions...until something goes wrong. The supporting characters are fantastic as well; my favorite is certainly Uncle Lewis (William Hickey) as the crotchety old toupee-wearing cigar-smoker who ignites (literally) one of the most hilarious moments in the movie (unless, of course, you're a cat person).

3) "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (1965). Does this even require an explanation? From Vince Guaraldi's unforgettable score, to the pathetic little tree ("all it needs is a little love!"), to Linus' recitation of Luke 2, this half-hour special is full of holiday goodness.



4) "A Muppet Family Christmas" (1987). This TV special is nearly impossible to find nowadays, but boy, am I glad our family taped it over 20 years ago. The story begins with Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, and their friends on a trek to visit Fozzie's mother for Christmas. Little do they know that Fozzie's mother has her own plans to leave her farmhouse and take a holiday in Malibu, leaving her house to a renter (Gerry Parkes). After the Sesame Street gang comes caroling, and Kermit and his nephew stumble upon some Fraggles, the entire Jim Henson franchise ends up celebrating an unexpectedly happy holiday together. For anybody who's ever had more overnight guests than sleeping space or a persistent icy patch on the front steps, this Christmas special is sure to hit home.

5) "Elf" (2003). I don't normally like Will Ferrell's movies, but this one is just adorable. Though I don't necessarily identify with Buddy the Elf, I'm glad there are some of him in the world.

6) "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946). Let's face it, this movie is really depressing, and if it were starring anyone other than Jimmy Stewart, I probably wouldn't watch it. But the parts that aren't depressing are pretty darn wonderful (for instance, the part that makes me hate the invention of the speakerphone). I've always wondered though, if Clarence really had been watching this whole series of events before showing up, shouldn't he probably have been aware of the fact that Mr. Potter had the $8000 the whole time? And how does Mr. Potter live as long as he did? Really.

7) "Scrooged" (1988). Of all of the modern-day adaptations of Christmas Carol, this is probably the best (especially since Tori Spelling is nowhere near it). Carol Kane is brilliant as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the closing number ("Put a Little Love in Your Heart") is spectacular.

8) "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947). When I was in high school, I went to an audition for a radio-show style production of this classic. My dad drove me. He got cast as Kris Kringle. His delivery was awful. I, who poured my heart and soul into the audition, got cast as Alfred, the fat kid who sweeps the locker room. Despite these negative associations, I can't deny that this is a great story. Although, that whole courtroom fiasco would never fly in the real world (unless it were the O.J. trial...what?).

9) "Christmas Eve on Sesame Street" (1978). "But how does Santa Claus fit down those tiny little chimneys?" That is the question plaguing Big Bird on Christmas Eve. He poses a series of experiments, takes public opinion polls, and even waits up all night to ask Santa. In the end, the only explanation is that it's "a true blue miracle." Meanwhile, Bert and Ernie exchange their most prized possessions for gifts for each other in a sub-plot that would make O. Henry shed a tear. With great songs (not among the least of which is Oscar the Grouch's rant "I Hate Christmas") and the fact that it pre-dates Elmo, this is another Christmas classic.



10) "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (1966). I'm not really married to this one, but I needed to round out a top ten, and I am quite partial to Boris Karloff, and compared to the Jim Carrey version, this is a holiday gem.

Honorable Mentions: "Home Alone" (1990), "John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together" (1979), "The Muppet Christmas Carol" (1992), and "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993).

Now, before you get all in a fuss about what was (or wasn't) on this list, remember, this is my blog, not yours, and I have my reasons. For one, stop-motion animation creeps me out (at least Tim Burton owns it). Maybe when I watch "White Christmas" all the way through, or have annoying little boys who desperately want toy guns, I'll change this list. Until then, have a wonderful rest of your holiday and a happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

PA: Part I

It's been nearly a week since I've come home for Christmas vacation. I'll be here in Western PA until January 4th, and I'm trying to stay distracted enough to forget about the fact that I'm not working on my thesis and really need to be working on my thesis. Here's what I've been doing in the meantime:
  • Lots of holiday baking and cooking. Here's some of the stuff that I've made so far: Cran-Apple Crisp, Cinnamon Pie, awesome Chicken and Dumplings, Asian Cabbage Salad, and a Butternut Squash soup that everyone hated for some reason (don't know why...it was delicious). It's not even time for the hardcore Christmas stuff yet. My Pancetta-Chestnut Stuffing should be out of this world.
  • Attending the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children's holiday program. My sister used to be a student there, so it was really fun for her to see all of her old teachers.
  • Christmas shopping! This includes buying clothes for me, and buying fancy purses for my mom in exchange for argyle sweaters she no longer wants to wear. I really want argyle to go out of style so I can wear it and feel like a nerd instead of an acapella groupie. Darn you, Rachel Berry.

Yeah...I said it.

  • Watching lots of mindless TV. That's the one thing I like about vacations from school. I can watch "Ugly Betty," "Gilmore Girls," and "The O.C." on the real channels our TV gets and not have to think about the fact that I should be doing homework instead.

I've probably been doing other things as well, but they're not really bullet-point worthy yet. As I said, this is only Part I of my Pennsylvania adventure. We'll see what happens with the rest of this break. Happy Last 5 Shopping Days before Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Spirit

It's the Christmas season, and for some reason, I'm feeling rather jolly. It's strange, because I'm never jolly, but this season, I'm ready to haul out the holly and fa-la-la-la-la my way to the North Pole.

I think it might have started with the decorations, or the music, or maybe the fact that I've been done with finals since this past Thursday. Finals went really well. The anthro one definitely required studying, but it was nothing too terrifying. Expert Witness took about five minutes...bless the professor's heart. The following weekend was filled with some pretty awesome parties. I attended a White Elephant (aka "Yankee Swap," "Nasty Christmas," or "Bring a Ridiculous Gift to be Placed in a Communal Pile and Selected at Random by Another Party Attendee") party and was blessed to not receive the live crustacean (that's right...someone brought a lobster). The following night was a ward Christmas activity that involved delicious food and skits. Anyway, I felt like I piled up some social points this weekend.

The musical aspects of Christmas were amazing. The ward choir Christmas program went off without a hitch (well...with one exception...); we even pulled off this amazingly difficult but awesome arrangement of "Of the Father's Love Begotten." That evening we had the Relief Society Christmas Concert, which also went really well.

As part of my Christmas Spirit having, I decided to make Figgy Pudding. It wasn't horrible, at least after all the rum extract cooked off. I'm excited to try some more holiday baking once I'm home and don't have to pay for ingredients. It should be awesome. I'll keep you updated. Until then...Happy Holidays (is what Terrorists Say!--Merry Christmas!)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wanted: One Boy-Friend

I've recently figured out what's wrong with my social life: this is the first time in my existence that I haven't had a really good male friend. In high school there were my chorus pals; in college I had Logan, Brad, and Colin; and then I moved to Pennsylvania wherein I had a hiatus from friends altogether; and then I moved to Boston where I have my select few female friends. Don't get me wrong--I love my select few female friends, but I miss having a male confidante.

The reason for my desire for a boy-friend (not "boyfriend") probably stems from the fact that, barring my select few female friends (and you know who you are), I really don't get along with other girls. I've tried to befriend the bubbly, giddy, Glinda-the-Good-Witch types at church in the hope that I could somehow socially "normalize" myself, but I just find it exhausting. And when I do try to associate with that type, I feel like a giant, throbbing, sore thumb. There's just a level of sparkliness that I can't achieve, and I don't really care to achieve it. I've come to accept the fact that I don't fit in with most girls that I know: I'd rather stick out than be interchangeable.

The problem in my quest for platonic male companionship is that most (note that I said "most" and not "all"--don't get all offended) of the men I've met are really into the sparkly, interchangeable type. Even the most fascinating story I can tell about dessicated human remains is no match for grabby hands attached to a dazzling smile shaded by bouncy blonde hair. And I'm not jealous, really, but is it so hard for a guy to say "hang on a second, Tina/Kellie/Mandy/Whatever, I'm almost done with my conversation with Alex"? As I mentioned before, the whole process is exhausting.

So this is my cry to the universe: if one of you relatively normal men wants to be my designated male friend, let me know. The only condition is that you treat me like your bro, both in the sense that I come before "hoes" (is that how you spell it?), and in that you don't ever try to date me (unless we're old and desperate and mutually agree upon it). Or any one of my previous designated male friends can just move up here to Boston.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fridays with Fran

You've all read Tuesdays with Morrie. Actually, maybe you haven't. I haven't read it, because I have Fridays with Fran (and the occasional other day of the week). Who is Fran? Ah, Fran. Fran is the 82-year-old professor emerita for whom I work. My official title is "clutter clearer." I clear her clutter, and there's a lot of clutter. She's a bit of a hoarder. Not TLC's "Hoarders Gone Wild" level, but she's got a lot of clutter. Here are a couple of fun tidbits about stuff I've done since working for Fran.
  • Once, she brought me a casserole dish full of pennies. I thought she was going to have me roll them. That's normal, right? I was all ready to roll, and then she told me that I was to sort them by year. By year.
  • She has 500 baseball cards that I had to organize in an Excel spreadsheet. Like the pennies, none of them are worth much.
  • Occasionally I have "Fran Homework." This is stuff I do on my own time that involves using a computer. I've searched for private citizens' phone numbers, non-existent chair cushions, organizations that existed in the seventies (but not anymore), and retyped up old documents. Speaking of which...
  • There was a poem once that I had to type. It was a poem from Fran's days at sleepaway camp in the forties. "And campers die like flies in the night..." What the heck, Snooks? (P.S. Snooks is not a BumpIt consumer from New Jersey, Snooks was Fran's tween nickname.)
  • When almost winter happens, Fran turns the heat up. Today, it was about eighty degrees in her apartment. While I was dying in my normal November clothes, she was wearing shorts and a tee-shirt.
  • I sometimes have to organize Fran's financial affairs. I write out her checks, but she has no check registry, so there's no real way to keep track of the dozens of donations she makes to various political campaigns. However, she insists that we keep the receipts from the grape juice she bought at CVS in 2008. Go figure. Sometimes I throw away old receipts when she's not looking (Shh!).
  • Fran is an International Business Ethicist. She's going to write a book about Ethics and other things that start with the Letter "E" that are important for business to happen. She has lots of papers that she puts in piles for the research for this book. The pile is over a foot tall. If I were eighty-two and wanting to write a book, I'd get on that. She hasn't.
  • She's friends with Eliza Dushku's mom. This is why I need to keep this relationship going. I need to meet Eliza Dushku to get myself into Joss Whedon's posse.
  • She's going to buy a new apartment, which is why we're in full warp speed with clearing out the old one. I've seen the floor plan for this apartment. It has a spacious common room so that she can put in a piano...or a ping-pong table. She hasn't decided yet. I'm hoping for piano, otherwise she's going to make me play ping-pong with her.
  • Even though Fran is over three times my age, she's got more technological swag that I do. She has an iPhone...or had...she lost it. She has four laptops which she takes to the Geek Squad every other week. She has two mp3 players, and I had to explain to her what an mp3 was. She does still have analog radios and cassette tapes. She was really sad when I had to throw out her Les Miserables soundtrack, so I promised her I'd burn her a CD. She was pretty happy about that.

I probably have more Fran stories that I could write down, and I'll write them if they come up or anything else fantastic happens. As crazy as Fran is, I really like working for her. She's a sweet old bird. I'm not worried about her stumbling across this blog post and finding me out. She may have a lost iPhone and four Motorola phone chargers, but she's not licensed for the blogisphere.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving

You know all those holiday movies where every imaginable catastrophe and then some happens to the main character(s) and you think the entire holiday is ruined, but then at the very end something wonderful happens and we learn a great message about family and togetherness and perseverance and all that other sentimental garbage? Well, the last part is probably not going to happen, so I'm just going to write a Thanksgiving-related post now. This day is awful.

I used to love Thanksgiving. It was in my duo of favorite holidays along with Halloween. I hate Christmas, and any holiday that falls on a Sunday (i.e. Easter) was never my friend. But Thanksgiving was great. It was never riddled with rampant commercialism (leave that to the day after)--it was all about the food--and I love the food. Thanksgiving is the day for any non-professional gourmet to pull out all the stops and deliver a feast full of carbo-deliciousness. Along with Thanksgiving comes Thanksgiving break, traditionally a time when all the people with money or closeby relatives who care about them leave their student apartments and leave me to a long weekend of solitary, all-by-myself alone-time. Finally, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is always on NBC, hosted by Matt Lauer, Al Roker, and whichever female co-anchor they've got at the time. Giant balloons, lip-synched pop songs, Broadway performances, and commercials for Ocean Spray and the Touch, the Feel, of Cotton. It's been a tradition of mine to watch this parade while eating breakfast since I was about ten years old. So where did it all go wrong?

Let's start with the alone time. For the first time, since leaving for college, my apartment is filled with more people than who normally live here. This leaves me stuck in my bedroom most of the day and I can't even really leave to go to the bathroom because, call me shy, but I can't pee when I can hear my roommates' in-laws talking in the next room. Anyhow, an extended family has commandeered my holiday. At least I don't have to leave the house to be the outsider at someone else's family dinner, and plus, guess who won't be too busy having "family time" to do all of the cleanup?

That brings me to my next point. The cornucopia of guests has altered the sleeping arrangements, causing some people to sleep in the TV room until well past parade time. This is the first Macy's Parade I've missed in 15 years--and of course, I miss the one in which an old high-school acquaintance is performing as Cinderella on a Disney float and the Broadway cast of Elf (Yes, Elf is a musical now) is doing a number. Of course, the room is vacant by noon, but who wants to watch the stupid Eukanuba dog show? Maybe a bunch of people who treat their dogs like the children they'll never have because nobody wants to marry anyone who mouth-kisses their dogs, but not I.

Finally, there is the food. I made cranberry sauce from scratch, and a pretty awesome stuffing (apple-sausage, parsnips, apples, and fresh sage--take that!), so those parts are okay--except the stuffing burned a little because it had to go on the bottom rack of the oven. But guy who was supposed to bring the yams decided that the yams are not going to come. What is Thanksgiving without yams? It's almost as bad as a Thanksgiving without the Macy's Parade...oh wait. And it'll be a miracle if the Turkey doesn't kill us all before 7pm. I didn't even know people still followed the 200-degree guideline (which is nonsense, unless you like turkey jerky). However, the amount of bird to heat to 165-degrees exceeds the amount of time Newton has allowed us to perform such an act in a 200-degree oven. I point these things out and people look at me like I'm some silly amateur who couldn't possibly know how to prepare a turkey. (Yes, young single people know how to cook poultry, too!)

Anyway, it's nigh on time to eat, so if a Thanksgiving miracle happens and all of a sudden makes this the best day ever, I'll let you know. But don't hold your breath.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The "Bones" Effect

I love most things about being a forensic anthropologist, but there are a couple of things that I definitely do not love. The first is having to do recovery work when it's really cold or wet or hot or humid or mosquito-laden. The second thing is having to explain forensic anthropology.

Whenever I meet new people, the question of what I'm doing with my life always comes up. I say "I'm studying forensic anthropology," and then whomever I'm talking with will get this little look on their face, like they're trying to figure it out on their own, and then they ask, "...so how do those two words fit together?"

So I say, "forensic anthropology is the analysis of human skeletal remains in a legal context."

And then they say, "so like Egyptian mummies and Neanderthals and stuff?"

And I say, "No...more modern, like in the last fifty years."

And then they say, "oh, so like 'CSI'?"

And then I say, "actually, more like 'Bones'."

And then they say, "I've never actually seen 'Bones'."

And then I say, "Don't. It's awful. The science is all fake." And at that point I'm trying to think of anyway I can get away from this conversation. So I ask, "what do you do?" because even pretending to listen to people's stories about the insurance business is more fun than trying to explain forensic anthropology to people who won't ever understand it.

This all came full blast last night, when I went to a ward "consoli-dating" activity, which is a mix of a progressive dinner and speed dating. It was decent, except I had to go through this forensic anthropology defining process five different times with nobody I was remotely interested in dating. At least it was a free meal. I'm just very surprised that people still don't understand what forensic anthropology is. You hear about "The CSI Effect," which is normal people thinking they know tons about forensic science because they've watched "CSI." Apparently nobody watches "Bones," but that's understandable. That show's awful.

Maybe I just need to make up a fake career for meeting new people. Or find people who already know what forensic anthropology is and aren't completely repelled by the fact that I deal with dead people all day.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bloodlust

For those of you who don't enjoy the Marvel Comic universe, this is Bloodlust (aka Beatta Dubiel), a supervillianess who has taken out both Spiderman and Wolverine at one point in time. But that's not what I'm going to talk about.

So last night at Family Home Evening we played "Slaughterball," which is like dodgeball only with more rules and fewer balls. I was getting pretty good at the actual dodging (all due to my crazy ninja reflexes, but more on that later), and I even hit Mike Pickett with the ball, which was strangely satisfying (of course, two seconds after that happened it declared that that round was only a "practice round" because he couldn't stand the fact that he got nailed with a ball by little old me). The amazing part was what happened next: during the next round, I got hit by my roommate. Normally I only have nice things to say about my roommate, but after she hit me, I was overcome with this overwhelming urge to hit her really hard in the face! I didn't, of course, because I have self-control, especially when it comes to touching people. But I did give a loud, audible "Grrr!" Needless to say, people were pretty scared of me and my angry face after that.

It was strange, though. I usually don't get angry, and if I do, I don't go running at people like a Spartan. Maybe it was building up after weeks of school stress, lack of downtime, and an excruciatingly long FHE lesson full of people talking about their feelings. But I never knew that I was capable of such blood-curdling rage. Who knows? Maybe I could channel that into something creatively awesome. Or just start being a supervillian (it would fulfill my dreams to get a giant dry-erase board). It would be pretty funny.

Because don't forget, you can't spell "slaughter" without "laughter."

Friday, November 5, 2010

"Strategy" or "Why Superhero Movies are Unrealistic"

Let me start out by saying that if I ever married a man whose last name was "Luthor," I'd totally start going by "Lexi" again. Why do I bring this up? Because I was Googling supervillians and happened upon the biography of Alexander Joseph Luthor. Why was I Googling supervillians? Because I wanted to prove the point that if superhero movies were at all realistic, the supervillians would win way more often than they actually do. Why? Because they have a plan. They have formulae, equations, and enormous dry-erase boards with their step-by-step strategies to take over Metropolis, Gotham, or, heck, the whole world. Superheroes, on the other hand, are just like, "Oh darn, world's in danger again, better go save it..." and then they fly off or run really fast counterclockwise around the world without a second thought. What message is this teaching our children? "Hey kids, don't think things through, just fly off the handle, or better yet, just fly." My kids are going to have dry-erase boards.

This week marked the beginning of November, and with the beginning of November brought the beginning of a series of quasi-top-secret projects, assignments, experiments, and schemes. I have never wanted a giant dry-erase board more in my life, because when it comes to formulae of the effects of heat subtraction and tryptophan on the human psyche, sketch paper isn't cutting it. Normally, I don't like these types of social experiments, but somehow, the scheming supervillianess approach makes it quite fun. I realize this doesn't bode well for the people of Boston when my timid, mild-mannered scientist self somehow falls into a vat of radioactive chemical waste. So watch it.

In other news, there is no slowing down until Christmas, but I guess that's a consequence of being both wicked and weary! Today was my "day off," in which I didn't actually go to school, but included a trip to the bank and the grocery store, completion of all my laundry, starting a case report and summary for my Applied Forensic Anthropology class, freaking out about the future and the fact that I somehow have to get myself into a PhD program next year, a Boston College hockey game (haven't actually gone to that yet, but I'll report back), and preparations for one Lindsay Sorensen's twenty-fifth birthday party (updates on that to come as well). One awesome thing about this week was a trip to the Boston Temple to do work for both of my Grandmothers. The peace and calm that comes from being in the temple is a welcome change from the business of the world, and it was very special to do work for people whom I actually know.

I'll try to keep updates for the world on how my strategizing is going without alerting the world to my top-secret plans for world domination (what? I didn't say world domination...you're hearing things). And I'll try to also stay away from giant vats of radioactive chemical waste, but if that does happen somehow, I'm going to need a dry-erase board.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween

I love Halloween. I used to love Halloween infinitely more than Christmas, but now that I'm getting "old" I feel that maybe I'm losing my enthusiasm. Or maybe it's just because Halloween is on a Sunday this year, and it also kind of sneaked up on me. So this year I'm going as...a fairy princess...only without the princess part. Actually I'm just wearing a dress I already own and adding butterfly wings I bought at a costume shop in Cambridge. Did I mention I'm losing my enthusiasm? I wanted to be Jean Grey from the X-Men (the comic book, not the movie), but it was pretty last minute and all the good green spandex was gone.

I have had some pretty epic Halloween costumes over the years. Now I'm going to try to see if I can remember them.

1) Ghost: This was the first Halloween I can remember. It was pretty standard--sheet with holes in it.
2) Witch: This one actually came with pictures (not digital ones), and it was pretty darn cute. I was wearing a purple polka-dot outfit with a little cape, witch hat, and drawn-on freckles with brown eyeliner. Every time I smell that brand of eyeliner it brings back memories. Pretty cool.
3) Yellow Crayon: My sister was a red crayon. We wore hats of posterboard.
4) Princess: Dress, tiara, is there any little girl who doesn't dress as a princess at any point?
5) Ed Grimley: It was in fourth grade when I first realized that sometimes, people weren't going to get me. There's no power on earth that will put a picture of me in fourth grade on the Internet,
but this is what I was going for:

People thought I was a member of the Lollipop Guild.

6) Xena: Warrior Princess: This was a homemade epic adventure, all except for the wig, because at that point in the fifth grade I had super-short hair. I took my wig off during the party and one of the PTA moms thought I was a boy. I could have kept the prize that I won in the boys vs. girls contest, but I thought I'd make the lady feel guilty by saying "um...I'm a girl." I knew how to work the system, even as a ten-year-old.
7) The Phantom of the Opera: The sixth grade, my second adventure in All Hallows Eve crossdressing.
8) Ensemble member from the musical "Cats": Also pretty epic. Gotta love the smell of the greasepaint and the snugness of the spandex.
9) Witch (again): Eighth grade...so less adorable, more social-outcasty.
10) High School English Teacher: Completely unintentional. Nobody told me that my first youth church dance was a costume dance, so I put on a cute little blouse and a cute little skirt (which my mom made and it still fits me over ten years later--booyah!) and one of the boys told me I looked like his English teacher, so I went with it.
11) Goth: In high school one needs to stop being cute scary and more disaffected youthy. Not quite the time to slut it up yet (not that I ever did--shh!), but I was pretty good at the black eyeliner and scary look that made one of the moms cross herself when we came trick-or-treating.
12) Ambiguously-dead Prom Queen: Senior year; the first time I ever went to a high school Halloween Dance. I borrowed a cute little fifties-esque dress from the theatre's costume closet, put on some antique-looking jewelry, and accentuated my dark circles. Pretty fun.
13) "Slutty" Men's Chorus Member: When one enters the college years, one must embrace the mantra that it's every woman's prerogative to get a little bit skanky on All Hallows Eve. This was also a completely last-minute moment of brilliance on my part, fueled by the fact that I was invited to a party with a bunch of BYU choir nerds. I borrowed the tie from a former Men's Chorus member, and printed off the insignia from the "The Men's Chorus Crest is a Chick Magnet" Facebook page. And being BYU, I wasn't actually slutty, but I was told that if the Women's Chorus dressed like that, they'd probably sell more tickets to their concerts.

14) Goth (again): I was at a loss. It was really last minute and there was absolutely no good inspiration. I did succeed in getting my skin tone to match the wall, and I got a fun picture with Oaksie.


This blog might reveal the fact that I secretly call him "Oaksie."

15) Greek Goddess: This was not only handmade, but handsewn. And they gave the "Best Handmade Costume" prize to stupid cardboard robots. Lame.

15) Abby Sciuto (from "NCIS"): Forensic science meets Goth, well, I'm sure they've already met, but I decided to embody her for my first Halloween in Boston, for which I almost attended a party and passed out candy to kids, one of whom knew who I was.

To conclude, Halloween will always have a special place in my heart, even when I'm not doing anything spectacularly creative. Perhaps my next post will have pictures of me as a fairy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Visit from Adrien Brody

My roommate Lindsay recently informed me that I hadn't written a new blog post in quite a while, and therefore I must try to appease her. I'm not super inspired right now, but here goes.

To make up for my very dull conscious life, my subconscious does some very entertaining things sometimes. I'm not the type to keep a "dream journal" because, you know, I'm not twelve, but thankfully I do remember things quite clearly in the morning and often amuse my roommates and friends. For instance, there was this one time with Laura and a cornfield...but that one's still a work in progress.

Sometimes I have celebrity guest stars in my dreams, and I get really excited until I realize that it's not real life and I can't have Matt Damon pick up my dry cleaning (mostly because I've never taken anything to the cleaners in my life). Maybe it's genetic--my mother has recurring dreams about Steven Tyler. A few nights ago, Adrien Brody (who won an Oscar for "The Pianist," made out with Halle Berry for a little bit, and then decided to make a bunch of really crappy movies thereafter) made an appearance in my dream, as a friend of a friend who was coming to visit Boston. I really don't remember what else was going on, but I do remember being ready to call people and tell them that I was hanging out with Adrien Brody. Nothing ever happens romantically with these unbelievably attractive famous men, though...even subconscious Alex can't get any action. I don't know if that's genetic; I don't allow my mother to divulge details about her Steven Tyler dreams.

I do like to play little games in the morning, to try to figure out which parts of my dreams came from which parts of my day (dreams are, as you know, the brains way of defragmenting itself). Last night, for example, was drawn from a "Harry Potter" trailer on TV and ideas for Laura's birthday party: I was hanging out with Harry and Hermione, but all of a sudden, we were on the island from "Lost," immediately after the plane crash. Boone was still alive, and Locke was being creepy. Hermione was quite troubled about the whole thing. Laura was troubled, too, but for different reasons. I tried to give her relationship advice. Harry agreed with me; Dave Alba didn't. However, nine out of ten times, Laura trusts wizards over whatever Dave does in matters of the heart. Then there were a bunch of vicious white puppies and a baby that lived in a shoebox. I really don't know where those came from. Well, the baby probably came from the fact that I'm twenty-five and the clocks they are a tickin', but that's also a work in progress...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Quarter Century Mark

I turned twenty-five today. I can't think of anything about this birthday that was mind-blowing or symbolic of a quarter-century's existence, but overall, it weighed in on the positive side of the scale.

For the festivities (which occurred the night before my actual birthday, as partying can only be low-key on the Sabbath), a few of us went to a corn maze in Ipswich. Ipswich is a quaint little town, with a farmers' market, and obviously, lots of corn. Apart from the massive amounts of mud, it was very much fun. Laura, thankfully, had the brilliant idea of gleaning ears of corn from the ground and leaving kernels behind Hansel-and-Gretel-style to save us a lot of back-tracking. One of the most interesting parts of the trip was the trip itself. Route 1 in Massachusetts takes one through a part of the Commonwealth reminiscent of the Vegas strip (not that I've ever seen the Vegas strip, but there are lots of fluorescent lights and buildings of questionable activity).

Upon our return to Charlestown from Ipswich, we were joined by some more friends and acquaintances of the friendly sort for a more official birthday party (you know, the kind with cake!). My lovely roommates decked out the house in a pirate theme with hints of osteology. It's interesting that the proximal foot phalanx has become the model for cartoon drawings of bones, but I digress. Unfortunately, I missed the part of the birthday that involves blowing out candles. Nobody checked to make sure I wasn't in the bathroom before bringing out the cake, and other people had to blow out the candles before the pirate ship atop the whole thing caught fire--alas, no wishes and candles for me. After the "Happy Birthday" singing and shotgun mingling (an arduous task for the guest of honor), it was eventually midnight (my actual birthday) and about time to kick everyone out. Overall, not a bad party.

Of course, what is a birthday without presents? My dear friend Laura (the one with the corn trail) gave me The Jane Austen Cookbook. I'm really excited about that--some of the recipes involve pigeons (that'll teach the little buggers that swoop down on me in the middle of the Common). And my roommate Sheena brought me an ornamental pepper plant. The peppers are not for eating, but it's very pretty and now lives atop the kitchen radiator next to Lindsay's plant. And my mom sent me some lovely-smelling body wash that I'll use as soon as my other body wash runs out. So that was my birthday in a nutshell; the last exciting one for a while, at least until 30 happens.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cotillion

"To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love."
-Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice, Volume 1, Chapter 3)


Last night I was fully prepared to stay home in grubby clothes and veg out on the couch, however, my roommate Chris would have none of it and we attended the ward cotillion instead. These are a regular event in the Boston Singles Scene, organized by a "Random Activities Coordinator." At the cotillion we were taught 19th-century American, English, Irish, and Scottish country dances (not to be confused with the modern version of country dancing--that stuff is horrible). It was unbelievably fun (and I don't have fun normally) and I'm very glad I attended.

That said, I don't know how anyone got married in the nineteenth century as a result of these dances. The purpose of the cotillion is to get young unmarried men and young unmarried women acquainted with as many other young unmarried women and young unmarried men as possible. This may be very well for the first few new partners, but let us hope that the love of one's life is not the seventh partner down, who only becomes acquainted with a hyperventilating, sweaty mess. I was very grateful for my Degree Ultraclear for Women last night, though ladies in the days of old were not blessed with such luxuries as anti-perspirant (or daily showers!).

One benefit of the rapid partner changing is that a lady has every opportunity to survey which men have the best dancing skills. As sexist as it sounds, any lady can dance as long as she has a strong male lead, and therefore, I'm also happy that at least a few of the men out there actually know how to lead in a dance. My partner for the Virginia Reel was quite competent, especially during one set of steps I can only describe as the "flying basket toss." It involves spinning into a propeller made out of girls. There's probably a video out there somewhere. Leading went less well during the "round dances" (aka waltz and polka), but as good Mormon folks we're not supposed to do those anyway...

At any rate, the cotillion was amazing, and I'm quite looking forward to the winter one, in which dressing up will play a major part. Now I must spend the day nursing my tonsils (as Jane Austen also wrote, "My sore throats are always worse than anyone's").

Friday, October 1, 2010

Walk Like a Man (And Other Daily Topics)

Today is the first of the month, which means that it's rent check time! Our landlord's apartment is a five-minute walk from ours, so I took the rent checks to his place this evening. Lately, there've been lots of BU alerts (aka annoying text messages about every minor crime/potential hazard possibly related to campus) about "armed robberies." I use the quotation marks because "no weapon was shown" but somehow, there was one. This has made me a little extra cautious/paranoid about wandering around at night, and has therefore prompted this theory: muggers/rapists are like bears. How so, you ask? Well, they're not going to pick on you if they think that you can take them. Nature experts tell you that when faced with an angry bear, you're supposed to make yourself look bigger. I decided to make myself look like a man. I put on a gender-neutral jacket and covered my already-boy-short hair with a baseball cap. Knowing what I know about male skeletal anatomy and its implications on gait, I abandoned my quick and careful girly walk for the strut of one with an elongated sacrum and narrow pelvic brim. I tell you, being a man must be exhausting! A few blocks of that and my hips are sore. Frankly I don't know how these macho men do it. But I dropped off the rent checks without getting mugged, raped, or hollered at by any Friday night rowdies, so ultimately, success.

Other events of the day included a trip to the gym. I tried the elliptical in lieu of the treadmill; it's more difficult. I witnessed a lot of driver/pedestrian/bicyclist stupidity on Commonwealth Avenue. I slightly threw my back out doing some ridiculous tasks for Fran (stay tuned for a post about Fran one day). I got caught in the rain at Downtown Crossing and tried to wait it out by going shopping for boots--I can't pull off boots. We had a forensic anthropology pizza party, and I'm sorry, but I still don't know why so many people get all excited about Upper Crust. I've had better. Also, dear professors, I don't care how comfortable you are with your physiology or with your students, but nobody needs to hear about details of your digestive systems--especially when there's food being consumed! I went home and made apple turnovers with leftover puff pastry dough (delicious!) and watched "Bones" on Hulu. Not a single bit of legitimate science in the whole episode, but Clark Edison still stands as one of my favorite assistants.

My other big thing of the day was discovering new.familysearch.org. And by "discovering," I mean finally visiting the site after my visiting teaching companion told me about it a few months ago. It makes doing family history work so easy! After putting it off for too long, I'm finally going to take both of my grandmothers' names to the temple to start their work. Another cool thing I found out was that my great-grandparents on my mother's side had their sealing work done in the Provo Temple! I wasn't in Provo when it happened, but it was still very interesting, considering their baptisms and such happened in Washington DC. There's still so much to be done and figured out and so many dates and places to add, but it'll be nice to pick it up as an every-once-in-awhile hobby. There'll be a minor snafu on the maternal side with figuring out the whole biological father vs. step father thing and how to make that work on the family group record (any insight?), but maybe that's one of those things I'll set aside and let that come together in the eternities.

Happy October 1st, everyone! As this has been an overall very positive post, I must end with something snarky: Dear world, the left side of the escalator is for walking! So don't just stand there, unless you want people to mutter things about you behind your backs. The end.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Big Sky Country Wedding

This is another story about my roommates and their shenanigans. It all started with my dear roommate Lindsay and her "bit" with another dear friend: their short-term goal is to get me hitched to his dear friend. And then, of course, she will marry the first dear friend and the two of us will live down the road from each other. Finally, we will ship Chris up there and find another single man for her to marry and all will be well. And did I mention that the final destination of this story will be a geographic region to which people really only travel if they're in the Witness Protection Program or if they're teenage girls "living with their aunt for nine months or so..."? This region is what (apparently) is called "Big Sky Country" (aka Montana/Wyoming/South Dakota) and also, apparently, it's "heaven."

As Lindsay was defending her little plot, I replied, "very well, keep your 'bit,' but if I marry [this fellow], be warned that you will have the ugliest bridesmaid dress known to man." Seriously, the atrocities committed by this dress would go down in the annals of clothing history as one of the most hideous crimes against fashion ever committed. I told all this to Chris, and this is what she wrote to me:
"So, the bridesmaids will be wearing dresses made of bison hide. Something
similar to the dress on the right, obviously we'll make 'em knee length since
you'll be having a late fall wedding and it gets chilly in Montana. They'll all
be wearing matching elk horn bracelets and as a nod to you as the bride,
necklaces with a silver skull pendant. The eyes will be nice aquamarine
gemstones to match your cornflower blue motif.
"The groomsmen will have matching
skull cufflinks and be decked out in buckskin pants that they made themselves as
part of the pre-wedding festivities. Congratulations! Lindsay is going to be
such a gorgeous maid of honor."
And this was the picture she found for the bridesmaid's dresses:

If this wedding ever does happen, my mother might cry a little bit (after getting over the original shock that I've landed myself a feller, that is).

An additional part of the plan was that the menfolk would hunt for and kill their own bison/buffalo for their outfits. We may need two additional "alternate" groomsmen in the event that any of them get eaten by bears in this endeavor.

So anyway, ladies and gents, clear your calendars for every "late fall" for the next couple of years, because you're invited (all seven of you that read my blog). And golly, do I hope that none of these wildernessy men start reading my blog today.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Where Have All the Good Men Gone?

I don't know how many "hardcore" feminist friends I have, but I have a feeling they might be mad at me for this post. It's a post about chivalry.

I do think it's absolutely stupid for a man to ruin his coat to spare a woman from ruining her shoes. The fairer sex is not too delicate to step around a puddle. I do it all the time. However, I am a little sad that the days of honorable gentlemen are basically gone. And I'm a little sadder that we're getting used to it. Today, I was standing on the train, and a man asked me if I would like his seat. I was floored. In a year of Boston public transit, I've seen that happen fewer than five times. Seventy years ago, however, a man wouldn't think of sitting on the train while a woman was standing. I declined the seat, however, as I was getting off at the next station and soaking wet from walking a mile in the rain (seventy years ago, a man also might have shared his umbrella without fear of me thinking he was some type of offender).

Don't get me wrong, gender equality is a good thing: women should have the same opportunities in education, employment, and society as men; but what is so wrong with some good-old-fashioned chivalrous respect? I yearn for the days before men unapologetically swearing (and I'm well aware that many women have potty-mouths as well) and spitting (ick) when ladies were present.

I know all this is wishful thinking. I'd probably fall over and die if I ever saw men stand up when I walked into a room. If I could make one request to all the men in the world, I would really just request that they stop the spitting. Seriously, it's icky. As for the rest, I'll just have to live in my own fantasy world with the real man of my dreams:

Needless to say, if I were around, he would have removed his hat.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Life, Coached

I've had a new roommate since mid-July; her name is Chris and she's a delight to live with. I've never lived with anyone who was a bigger science nerd than me before, and it's fun to say things about molecular biology and have someone not look at you like you're speaking in tongues. But seriously, she's wonderful; after only knowing me for less than a month, she made me this cake when I finished my crazy-stressful competency exams for my program.


So yummy.

She has, however, taken it upon herself (okay, and I did kind of agree to it, so it's equally my fault) to become my "life coach" (you know, like on Oprah). A great multi-tasker, she life-coaches Lindsay as well. Every so often she gives me tasks, and I follow them because she has a PhD and as a graduate student, I am programmed to do whatever anyone with a PhD tells me. Most of her tasks and weekly "homework assignments" (strangely named, because most of the assignments can't be completed at home) involve talking to people (particularly those with Y-Chromosomes), and becoming a more cheery and upbeat person. Here are some of her assignments so far:
  1. Touch two elbows. For those who aren't familiar, elbow touching is a big part of the Western Mormon Young Single Adult mating ritual. We are a peculiar people.

  2. Break the personal space bubble. This could mean anything from "stand dangerously close to people when talking to them" to "stop backing away when people approach you."

  3. Write something flirty on a boy's facebook wall. Unfortunately my flirting is usually laced with advice to avoid falling prey to an ursine creature's carnivorous desires. Hey, it's a good sentiment.

  4. Stop saying negative things for a month. Chris, though astute in other areas of life, hasn't quite caught on to the fact that I am legitimately scary, inaccessible, strange, and off-putting. However, I guess I can stop pointing this out and using it as my explanation for why people don't come to ward choir.

  5. Sit in the kissing booth at the church fall carnival. As noble as whoring oneself out for charity is, I plan on developing some non-specific, yet very contagious, upper respiratory tract infection the day before that will magically clear itself up the day after. Barring that, I'll come up with some exorbitant fees in the canned goods:lip action exchange. Or maybe just turn it into an "Awkward Side Hug" booth.

Needless to say, I quite enjoy having my life coach for a roommate. Don't worry, other roommates, I'll do blog posts devoted to you soon enough. And as for the rest of you...see you at the kissing booth...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Patterns and the Art of Roughing It

I will be the first to admit that I am a creature of habit. I like my routines and my patterns. Not in a serial killer kind of way, and not in the sort of way that I'm unable to function if one little thing is wrong, but I like things done the way that I always do them. Sometimes I wonder if we, as creatures of habit, get trapped in our patterns. The strange thing is, however, that our patterns don't trap us--we trap ourselves in them! We are perfectly capable of breaking our patterns, but we feel like we can't. There are, of course, addictions and other habits that are a little more difficult, but I'm not talking about those. I'm talking about the little things, and it's been sort of an epiphany for me. Just because I always sit on the left side of the orange couch doesn't mean I'm not allowed to sit in the blue chair (it's also less awkward than kicking Lindsay out of the left side of the orange couch). My post-gym blueberry bagel with reduced-fat honey walnut cream cheese doesn't taste any better at the corner table by the lamp than it would in a booth by the wall. (It doesn't even have to be a blueberry bagel! I was feeling devil-may-care today and ordered french toast with reduced-fat plain today...of course the girl over-toasted it and put it in a bag when I clearly asked for a tray, but whatever...) That's one of my new goals: to break free of my unnecessary patterns, and start working on ones that will actually make me a better person.

One pattern that I recently broke was my pattern of never sleeping outside ever. I went to our church's campout this past weekend, and actually didn't have a terrible time. I actually would not have gone or even thought about going, had I not heard from Colleen, a friend in the ward, that there was a performance, and that that performance was a competition. I was then inspired to put on my musical-theatre game face (which involves a splendidly whorish amount of stage makeup, I might add), and brave the cold and the spiders and go camp. It was not as horribly wilderness-trek-like as I'm making it out to be; the campsite was like a resort to the people who are actually fond of the outdoors.

I survived the campout. I did not get eaten by bears, and I was not consciously aware of any spiders crawling on my face. The bonfire smell is still not my friend, and I'm still not completely in love with organized group fun, but overall, the pros outweighed the cons. Our performance won "best of show," which I still have trouble believing, but I guess I can take a page from cheesy 80's and 90's sitcoms (which was part of the theme of our show, by the way) and say that the fact that everyone had fun and worked together made us winners already. I just gagged a little bit typing that, but it's more positive than anything else I could honestly say.

Highlights of the rest of the campout: my caramel apple cheese tartlets were robbed at the dessert cook-off, there was a footbridge, several moves were busted during an impromptu dance party, not everyone is what they seem...but more on that later.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hats

I hate shopping with other people. I tend to wander off by myself, much to the dismay of the person with whom I'm shopping. This happened this summer when I was shopping with my mom. I got distracted by this hat.


It was actually a grey hat, but it was the same cloche style. It was a little too big for my head (which is odd, considering I have a pretty big head), so I didn't buy it. The point of this story is that I like hats. And it turns out, I wear them all the time, even when I'm not wearing them.

I first figured this out yesterday. I'm co-directing a variety show for the talent competition portion of my church's annual campout. (It turns out that my love of the performing arts causes me to do really stupid things, like sleep entirely too close to spiders.) At yesterday's big rehearsal, I had to give directions to a very large group of people, half of whom have probably never heard me talk, either because they've never met me or because at any point when I was talking they were standing more than three feet away. However, when I stood to give directions, I noticed something very strange: I was speaking at a discernible volume! I could only reconcile this anomaly with my hat theory. Normally, I'm wearing my "Alex" hat. The "Alex" hat is really comfortable, but it's very slight and unassuming. When I put on a different hat, my "Person In Charge" hat in this instance, I became a completely different character--someone who is loud and assertive and actually capable of making people listen to her. I do have to be careful, because the "Person In Charge" hat looks very similar to the "High-strung Performance Nazi" hat, which fits a little too tightly around the part of my brain that makes me act like an actual human being (thankfully, I have people that keep me in the right hats, for the most part).

People say that this loud and assertive thing is good for me; that if I altered my "Person In Charge" hat to fit everyday situations, I'd be better off. Or maybe I can just give up on cranial couture altogether. I'm not entirely convinced I want to hang up the "Alex" hat just yet, though. At least not until my hair grows out a little more.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Obligatory Introductory Post

This is my second attempt at a blog. My first attempt was a food blog, which didn't go so well. Not because I don't cook (I love to cook), but because I don't use recipes. I'm very much a fan of the "art" of cooking, and not so much the "science," and therefore it irks me to have to go back and retroactively quantify what I'd done for the benefit of my two internet followers. Additionally, food blogs often require photos, and my food gets eaten far too quickly to bother with perfect angles and appetizing lighting.

This blog is going to be much more general, full of thoughts, rants, musings, and the like. So here goes my attempt at an introduction. This blog is entitled "Skeleton, You Are My Friend," and the web address is "but you are made of bones." For those who aren't cultured enough to know, this is the first line of "Skeleton Song" by a lovely British artist named Kate Nash. Consequently, this is also the theme song to my life. I'm a forensic anthropologist (in training) living in Boston. I am healthily obsessed with the skeletal system. I have no skeletons in my closet, but I have been known to keep skulls under my bed (solely for study purposes, I am not a sociopath). I'm working on my Masters Degree in Forensic Anthropology at the BU Medical Campus, and my thesis is titled "Age-at-Death Estimation of Three-Dimensional Reconstructions of Computed Tomography (CT) Scans of the Adult Pelvis" (or something along those lines with fewer prepositional phrases. A lot of people think what I do is strange, or creepy, or an "odd choice of profession for someone so tiny and cute," but I love it.

In terms of the other, non-academic portions of my life, what can I say? I'm a morning person, almost to a fault. I can accomplish an entire day's chores before noon, however that leaves me with ten hours with nothing to do. I love music. I used to be a much better singer than I am now, but I try to practice whenever I'm near a piano or in my empty apartment. I like doing creative things, whether it's cooking or making scarves or writing musical parodies of horrible books about vampires. I'm occasionally quite misanthropic, but I often enjoy people in small doses. I'm in constant debate as to whether I'm a cat person or a dog person. I hate open ended questions.

If I continued, I could probably come up with more introductory things. But I'm sure I'll reveal them as I attempt to keep a blog alive and interesting. So please read...or not...whichever.