Friends of the Week

March 29, 2010 at 9:00 pm (Uncategorized)

The best in links.

  1. A dark, modern take on Happily Ever After…
  2. SXSW on NPR —Local Natives Listen!
  3. The new Berlusconi
  4. Celebrity perfume reaches Twitter
  5. Iceland: The World’s Most Feminist Country?


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The N Word

March 29, 2010 at 4:10 am (Uncategorized)

For job seekers networking can be a dirty word.  It’s awkward and draining.  If you are Don Draper it can be fun, exciting, and you might end up getting laid, if not the job.  If you are more of a early Peggy Olson type, it is a tiring process with rules to learn.

When it comes to networking, I’m on my game when I want to be, but have days where I’m on the disabled list (D.L.). I’m like Jorge Posada that way–I was feeling strong and consistent pre-2008, but then things went off.

I recently got very close to a new position, but no cigar (or dangerously strong cocktail in Mad Men terms).  Learning how to stay upbeat–the show must go on– in the face of rejection is an art I don’t want to perfect any further.

I handled the news by networking.  A kind friend offered a tip for a new person to talk to even though she didn’t know her well.  As I started to learn a bit more about this new lead over the next couple of days, there was something vaguely familiar about her generic name.  I quickly put it together that a different, unrelated contact connected me with the same person last April.  Like Samantha on SATC when she realized that she had been in that bed before, I feared I had run out of contacts in the District.  However, this was pure coincidence and a result of the DC village as opposed to me getting around.

There is so much more networking I could do, but sometimes you feel blocked.  The show must go on, but I need a couple more days on the D.L. to heal.

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Only in DC: Peeps and Cherry Blossoms

March 26, 2010 at 6:59 pm (Uncategorized)

The Cherry Blossoms are coming! The Cherry Blossoms are coming!  It’s the best time of year in DC.  For two weeks DC is my favorite east coast city.

Spring also heralds the Peep Contest.  See last year’s winners here.  Apparently, this year the peeps depict only in DC scenes like the 17th Street Drag Race, The Dupont Circle Snow Ball fight, and the 14th and U Snow Ball fight (NO GUNS allowed!)

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The New SP?

March 23, 2010 at 7:50 pm (Uncategorized)

The 90s are back.  This isn’t always a good thing (remember frosted tips) but, it rocks for those of us who love alternative rock. 

For example, at this year’s SXSW festival Stone Temple Pilots and Hole (minus all the original members except Courtney Love) made their comebacks, Jakob Dylan of Wallflowers’ One Headlight fame performed, and two out of three of the original Dixie Chicks returned.

However, the most exciting and frustrating 90s-inspired reincarnation is Sivlersun Pickups.  

Silversun Pickups opens for Muse, the big-band-with-three-people, on their 2010 tour.  After the Madison Square Garden show, Jon Pareles, music critic for the New York Times, wrote:

Just as Muse couldn’t exist without Queen, its opening act, Silversun Pickups, owes a lot to ’90s grunge and to Smashing Pumpkins in particular, as its songs climb from the sullen to the monumental. The bandleader, Brian Aubert, squeezes his voice down to a rasp before working up to howls, and his guitar parts begin with clear riffs and expand into echoing, feedback-fringed maelstroms.

It’s not the first time Siversun Pickups, an LA-based rock band, has been compared to the venerable Smashing Pumpkins.

The first thing that struck me was the band’s involvement in 90s influences, from The Smashing Pumpkins to My Bloody Valentine, the layers of sounds that Silversun Pickups demonstrate is quite unique for a band who formed only a year ago. —Obscure Sound


Silversun Pickups generated more Smashing Pumpkins comparisons than any band this side of Zwan with their 2006 debut Carnavas, and whether or not it was justifiable, it was certainly understandable. But in the manner in which these things usually work out, such hyperbolic comparisons helped the Silver Lake band way more than it hurt them. —Pitch Fork

However, the band originally played down any Pumpkins influence.

The band’s sound, often encompassing multiple overdubs of distorted guitars, is frequently compared to that of The Smashing Pumpkins, while the band members have said they are heavily influenced by artists such as My Bloody Valentine, the Velvet Underground, Elliott Smith, Sonic Youth, Sweet, Modest Mouse, and Secret Machines as well as numerous other artists with lesser publicity.

If the influence is not direct, why do the band’s initials imitate the popular “SP” and the 3-man, 1-female bassist formula? 

Listen for yourself to Silversun Pickups’ single Lazy Eye  compared to the pre-bald Corgan led Pumpkins in Drown


In a 2007 interview, Silversun Pickups’ Brian Aubert acknowledged the SP chatter.

 “I think it’s a cool comparison. I think it’s really, I understand it completely. When we were kind of swimming in the indie-er markets, the pool of what people knew about with bands was much larger. They really pulled out amazing things that I was like, ‘Yes, that is a Built To Spill rip-off right there.’ But with the bigger markets, they’re like, ‘Built to what?’ So the Pumpkins, that was, like, where we landed. We’re the new Pumpkins. There’s a lot worse things to be, I think.”  —Rock Radio

I’m sorry, “a lot worse things to be, I think?”  You were just compared to the Pumpkins not the Jonas Brothers!  I like the Siliversun Pickups album–and maybe they don’t like that.  Maybe I’m not the audience they want–ageing Pumpkins fan who adored Adore.  But, you don’t hear Matthew Bellamy brushing off Muse’s Queen comparisons.  They acknowledge it and have gotten positive feedback from Queen’s surviving members.  I like the new SP, but the cold shoulder is not attractive. In fact, it’s very Corganesque.

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Chocolate Therapy

March 23, 2010 at 6:38 pm (Uncategorized)

I decided to cut back on my axis of evil: chocolate, pasta, and cheese.  I will do this after I finish my free cone from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream day.  

This flavor is divine.  And it’s a lot cheaper than therapy. 

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Bipartisan Curious*

March 19, 2010 at 8:14 pm (Uncategorized)

A few weeks ago, I took a field trip to Capitol Hill.  Like a school girl excited to have a day off from school, I got my permission slip signed by my boss and headed out to learn new things.  On this trip, I was lobbying for the for an increase in the U.S. Peace Corps  2011 budget in honor of the 50th anniversary of the agency next March.
I learned:
Hill staffers are really young.  Notoriously underpaid, working on the Hill is not the way to pay off college debt.  They are also very white.  I don’t think I saw any staffers of color in the many offices we walked into.
All the offices look the same.  Seriously, they all have the coffee table book of their home state in the waiting area, a tourism board photo on the wall, and candies or peanuts on the table.  I sat in many dark, leatheresq chairs.
The hallways really are marble and large.  Though a few lucky people actually have windows for real sunlight, the interior doors and ceilings are very high.
Despite six large buildings holding thousands of offices separated by the Capitol, you never have to go outside.  You can find dry cleaning, shoe shine, gift shops, travel agency, hair salon, and of course cafeterias.  All staff buildings are connected underground and to the Capitol.  Visitors are not allowed to use the Senate underground trolley.  I tried.
Hill staffers meet with a lot of constituents and lobbyists.  We saw a ton of veterans and doctors wondering the halls.  The doctors have a major stake in the health care bill as Congress inches toward a vote.  In the true spirit of American democracy, you can walk into these office buildings whenever–you might not get past the front desk of a particular office, but I found it interesting that no one will stop you from loitering in the halls after you get through basic security check.
In the end, most of the New York representative and senate staffers we met with were in favor of the Peace Corps turning this into a courtesy visit.  We got the brush off from all the Republican offices we visited though we did sit down with one Rep from Michigan.  Their office believes in these tough economic times, Peace Corps is not a priority.  Fair enough, but I responded that Peace Corps provides a two-year job for many young Americans feeling the crunch in this economy.  Plus, 50 years ago, then presidential candidate John Kennedy announced the mission of the Peace Corps at the University of Michigan.
You can view Kennedy’s challenge at the University of Michigan here.
(And listen for the slightly inappropriate “bed” joke.)
There are many who say that Peace Corps is a bloated government program that does more for the American than for the developing country.  The truth is no two Peace Corps stories are the same and for every money waster there is a resourceful volunteer that does a small part to promote peace through personal friendship and small project development.  Considering how much this country spends on the “military industrial complex” the $400 million plus budget of the Peace Corps is ecofriendly peanuts.
*Thanks to Jon Stewart for finding an appropriate way to integrate sexual orientation with Congressional politics.

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Happy New Year! Happy Spring!

March 19, 2010 at 2:56 pm (Uncategorized)

UN Officially Recognizes March 21 as International Nowruz Day

Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) — The United Nations General Assembly recognized March 21 as the International Day of Nowruz, a festival of Persian origin that marks the beginning of a new year for more than 300 million people. Nowruz, meaning new day in the Farsi language, has been celebrated on the vernal equinox for more than 3,000 years in regions including the Balkans, the Black Sea Basin, the Caucuses, Central Asia and the Middle East, the UN said yesterday in a statement on its Web site.

 A proposal for UN recognition of the date was presented to the General Assembly on Dec. 2 by Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan.  The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization added Nowruz to its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, noting the festival’s “affirmation of life in harmony with nature, the awareness of the inseparable link between constructive labor and natural cycles of renewal and the solicitous and respectful attitude towards natural sources of life,” according to the Web site.

Here’s to starting the year over!  Happiness to all of you in the new year. 


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Happiness on the Cheap

March 18, 2010 at 8:06 pm (Uncategorized)

Tara Parker-Pope, NY Times’ health blogger, had a few interesting bits recently.

On Deep Conversations and Happiness:

Substantive conversation seemed to hold the key to happiness for two main reasons: both because human beings are driven to find and create meaning in their lives, and because we are social animals who want and need to connect with other people.

“By engaging in meaningful conversations, we manage to impose meaning on an otherwise pretty chaotic world,” Dr. Mehl said. “And interpersonally, as you find this meaning, you bond with your interactive partner, and we know that interpersonal connection and integration is a core fundamental foundation of happiness.”

So small talk, networking, sports & weather– NOT the modus operandi according to this study.

On Vacations and Happiness:

“The practical lesson for an individual is that you derive most of your happiness from anticipating the holiday trip,” he said. “What you can do is try to increase that by taking more trips per year. If you have a two week holiday you can split it up and have two one week holidays. You could try to increase the anticipation effect by talking about it more and maybe discussing it online.”

So feel free to tell me all about your vacation plans–it seems happiness really is the journey and not the destination.  Never underestimate foreplay.

I guess the happiest times in my life were having deep conversations while on vacation.  (Maybe that is why people tend to think fondly of their University days?)   I find coasts are integral.  I have distinct happy memories vacationing and talking in Essaouira (Morocco), Rimini (Italy), Mallorca (Spain), and Howth (Ireland).  And it was only sunny in Italy. 

However, for all my “talking deeply” I don’t know if it has always led to optimal happiness.  Sometimes you might need to take the advice and shut up, have a drink, turn your brain down a notch and feel.  Check out Lisa Simpson’s take:

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Friends of the Week

March 17, 2010 at 8:43 pm (Uncategorized)

The best links of the week. 

1. This salty Christopher Hitchens video is a modern take on the 10 Commandments.

2. Hysterical spoof on Oscar-worthy movie trailers. 

3. TIME focuses on how far American women have come and how far they still have to go in this recent article.

Women are about 10% of civil engineers and a third of physicians and surgeons but 98% of kindergarten teachers and dental assistants, and they still earn 77 cents on the dollar compared with men. They are charged higher premiums for health insurance yet still have greater out-of-pocket expenses for things as basic as contraception and maternity care. At times it seems as if the only women effortlessly balancing their jobs, kids, husbands and homes are the ones on TV.

4. This list of best cuisines in the world is not quite right.  There is NO way Chinese is better than Indian and French is better than Italian?  (Them fighting words.) I recognize that both my cultures are carb-based societies, but this is hog wash.  Also, Lebanese/Middle Eastern is way too far back in the rankings. 

             As Linda Richman would say, talk amongst yourselves.

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Why Facebook Still Scares Me

March 17, 2010 at 3:04 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m often the butt of the joke when it comes to being the last living person not to join Facebook.  Even Aunts, Uncles, household pets are online gossiping away.  Friends have to explain what I’m missing.  But, a stream of articles like this one continue to haunt me.  

In social networks, people can increase their defenses against identification by adopting tight privacy controls on information in personal profiles. Yet an individual’s actions, researchers say, are rarely enough to protect privacy in the interconnected world of the Internet.

You may not disclose personal information, but your online friends and colleagues may do it for you, referring to your school or employer, gender, location and interests. Patterns of social communication, researchers say, are revealing.

“Personal privacy is no longer an individual thing,” said Harold Abelson, the computer science professor at M.I.T. “In today’s online world, what your mother told you is true, only more so: people really can judge you by your friends.”

Well, luckily, my friends are a pretty dynamic, smart, responsible, attractive bunch.  But, I’m still not ready to take the FB plunge.

There’s something uneasy–my old fashion self can’t be bothered with the “parade of failed relationships” and long-lost friendships that were probably not that strong to begin with. I know there are real benefits that I am missing out on, (photos, networking, invites, inside jokes) but I don’t know if the pros outweigh the cons just yet.  Plus, Linked In is already my boring form of being online.

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