Wednesday, March 29, 2006

You learn something new everyday...

Imagine if you will:

You've wandered into a private tea party, the kind of which you have never experienced before. You figure you must be early, because most of the seats are empty. The only two guests currently there are rather eccentric, so you sit quietly and watch with growing curiosity and amusement as they sing and dance and enjoy their tea and bread and jam.

It isn't long before they notice you, and at first you are afraid they will hurt you for barging in on their private party. But you soon feel welcome, in fact, you feel more as if you had been expected to tell the truth... They sit you down between them and ask you the usual questions one is asked at a tea party. How do you take your tea? Milk? Sugar? They offer you bread with butter and jam. But, as you begin to settle into the party, ready to sip your tea and enjoy some interesting conversation from your new-found friends, you realize that this is no ordinary tea party. You are never actually able to get a sip of tea as they continue to move themselves (and you between them) down the table to different chairs. A half-glass of tea is served by cutting a tea cup in half vertically and tea poured into one half (how it doesn't fall out, you're not entirely sure...). And the conversation is on the most odd and random of topics, that you have a hard time keeping up!

As you muse distractedly on these observations, you are startled out of your thoughts by one of your "hosts" (for lack of a better term, being that you are not sure who the hosts of the party are, but no one else has yet shown up for this party) asking you a particularly random question.

"How is a raven like a writing desk?"

You decide this must be a riddle, and you absolutely adore riddles. So you repeat it to yourself a few times to let the question sink into your head. Meanwhile, you are vaguely aware of the fact that your "hosts" seem to have moved on to a completely different topic without waiting for you to give an answer or giving you the answer to the riddle. A little odd, a little annoying, but still, you are determined to find the answer to this riddle!

You repeat the question again, muttering it aloud to yourself in hopes of hearing it a bit differently if you voice the words. And suddenly, your "hosts" stop in mid-discussion and look at you as if they've seen a ghost. They start trembling and stuttering and screaming that you've gone mad. Then, they kick you out of the party! The nerve! They were the ones that originally asked you that question, so if anyone is mad, it is most certainly them, not you.

As you walk away, you hear them once again fall into their merry little song, drinking tea and switching chairs, apparently oblivious to the fact that they are the only people at a table set for a party of at least 20. And you realize that you never did find out the answer to that riddle, or question, or whatever it was.

[So, if you haven't yet figured out that I am describing a scene from Alice in Wonderland in second person, then you need to freshen up on your Disney movies.]

Why? Well, I came upon the answer to the riddle online today, and I was always one of those children who watched that movie and was left feeling just a bit empty because I wanted to know the answer to the riddle. It didn't stop me from enjoying the movie again and again, but it always made me mad that the riddle was left unsolved!

So, again, the question:

How is a raven like a writing desk?

And the answer?

Poe wrote on both.

It's just so satisfying. A childhood weight has suddenly been lifted. I feel so enlightened! Or simply just that much more in the know. [Which was probably the real issue. I have always hated not knowing something. The answer to a question or a problem. A secret known by others but not by me. Whatever it was, if I knew I was out of the know, I hated it. And so, I am now in the know for one more thing. Ah, the satisfaction of knowledge...however great or small it is!]

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The amazing finds on the iTunes Music Store...

Deep down in the bowels of the iTunes Music Store are some of the most hilarious songs ever created and put on CD...and they are yours for only $0.99 each!

What songs? What songs? you scream at me, so excited to know what craziness exists on iTunes you can hardly stand it.

Try a search for "Arnold Schwartzenegger."

Arnold Schwartzenegger!!! you scream at me again, in total disbelief. (And with every right, I wouldn't believe me either if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes/heard it with my own ears...) [Turns out there's another person I know who wouldn't believe me purely on principle, but that's a little jab I had to stick in there to poke fun at said person...sorry for the digression. Back to "Ah-nold".]

No. I'm not joking. Would I kid about something as hilarious as this? I think not. Seriously. There is an album entitled Arnold Schwartzenegger's Total Body Workout. The cover features the current Governor of California in a pink muscle-tank with high-rise pink shorts and a wicked 80's haircut, leaning on some free weights. So classic, I might just fall out of my chair. [And yes, for the record, I did in fact say "wicked." The Minnesotan in me is getting pushed aside by the new Bostonian emerging inside...craziness.]

The actual "music" on the album (oh yes, there's music) is from various artists singing our favorite 80's tunes, and dubbed over these tunes is Arnold's voice counting leg-lifts in a set or the amount of lunges you've done so far with him on his album!!! Can you even believe it??? You must check this out. It's the most hilarious thing I've heard in quite some time now!

And because iTunes only gives you about 30 seconds of any given song, all you really hear is a bunch of stuff that Arnold says totally out of context, dubbed over a classic 80's pop song. It's actually pretty easy to let your mind wander into the good old gutter when listening to this stuff. And what makes it even funnier is the total lack of emotion or interest in Arnold's now-famous accented voice. Truly worth the last 15 minutes I've spent listening. [I did actually fall out of my chair the first time I heard Ah-nold saying "Don't use your legs" and "And go for that stretch" over the top of 867-5309/Jenny and when I heard "5 more...up, down, up, down, up, down...and one big one...yes" over top of Journey's Don't Stop Believing .]

This is too much! you say to me, between gasps for air as you laugh yourself almost to death at the mere thought of what I've just described to you.

And to you I say:
Access iTunes.
[If you don't have it, you know a friend who does, and they'll appreciate this as much as you do.]
Search Pop and Artists for "Arnold Schwartzenegger" [Make sure to spell it right!]
And listen and laugh to your heart's content.

You don't even have to pay the $0.99 per song for this's all there, free for your listening pleasure. [And, let's be serious, it wouldn't be as funny if you had the whole song to listen to...too much real context.]

Saturday, March 18, 2006


Why is it that the world looks so much brighter when you have a smile on your face? Especially a smile that won't leave even if you wanted it to? Seriously. I've been walking around today, worked my shift at the Dance Complex, went to the grocery store...and I can't stop smiling, and the world is so bright and happy looking.

A smile is truly an amazing thing. It puts a warm feeling all through my body. When passed along to others, it shares with them that warm feeling. And it makes me feel good to see that other people are smiling because I smiled at them. I think people can forget what a simple smile can do to lighten a mood, to brighten a stormy day, to warm up a cold day...

I know that there's some scientific reason why smiling brightens a mood...endorphins being released and such. But it goes beyond science... A smile is almost like its own entity. It travels on its own, beyond your conscious awareness of how your smile is affecting you and others. And it's always amazed me how much smiling at another person can affect him/her. I remember a time in high school when a classmate once told me that her day was always brightened by the smile I gave her when I walked into the classroom. It was toward the end of the year, and she and I were partners for an in-class project, and we were chatting about this and that, and she just slipped that comment into a lull in the conversation. I didn't realize I'd been doing it...I always smiled at people in high school...much more than I do now, actually. I loved walking through the halls with a smile on my face, and when the smile wasn't there, people noticed. This girl enjoyed this part of the day because she always saw my smile and it made her happy, she told me. And you notice that I still remember this, what 10, 11 years later. Smiles are powerful things. They don't take much to accomplish, and yet they do so much for so many people. This girl and I were both deeply affected by a smile I had on my face as I walked into the classroom. I've always thought that was so cool.

A thought just struck me... People go through life pursuing happiness, right? I mean, you hear the phrase "pursuit of happiness" over and over in our culture. We (the generic "we" is what I mean here) have hobbies that we do for enjoyment, we search for a job that makes us feel good, we search for people in our lives (friends, romantic partners, or whomever) that make us happy, we go to movies to laugh (well, the comedic movies, that is), we tell jokes and funny stories for amusement, we perhaps are thrill-seekers--using the risk-factor to give us a rush of happiness in the activity. We all are constantly chasing happiness (and experiencing it,'s not a fruitless chase). I wonder if, sub- or unconciously, we're all merely searching for the feeling that comes with a smile. Happiness and smiles go hand-in-hand, right? That's one sure indicator of happiness...a smile on your face. Smiles feel so good...I wonder if we seek happiness for the smile of it...?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Beware the Ides of March...

So goes the famous line from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar; a phrase that every American child grows up hearing and a phrase that makes March 15 a little dark around the edges in our minds. Am I right? You know I am. Even if we don't necessarily notice it's the Ides of March every March 15, or even remember that the Ides of March is March 15, the phrase always evokes a sense of foreboding in our minds.

My coworker and I were talking about this yesterday, trying to remember what day the Ides of March falls on (March 15th? 5th? 7th?). And so today I Googled "Ides of March" because, let's be serious, you can find anything you want to know on Google. And the first hit was a site that talks about the origins of the Ides of March, and what "Ides" really means. [Which, of course, made me read on...we all know that phrase, sure, but who really knows what "Ides" means?]

Apparently, "Ides" comes from a group of 3 words that labeled the time of month on the Roman calendar. Their calendar was organized in months around these three days: Kalends (the 1st day of the month), Nones (the 7th day in March, May, July, and October; the 5th in the other months), and Ides (the 15th day of March, May, July, and October; the 13th in the other months). Now, I realize this is very confusing, but don't worry, it gets even more confusing! The other days of the month were named according to their relation to these three days. They were counted backward from the Kalends, the Nones, or the Ides. Thus, today would be the Ides of March, but yesterday would be Pridie Ides (Pridie being Latin for "on the day before"). March 3 would be V Nones, that is, the 5th day before the Nones. [I realize, doing the math, that that seems weird...but the Nones was counted in those 5 days.]

In fact, the website lays out part of the month of March according to this system, and I did a bit more research on it to finish out the month, just so that the geeks in all of us that are now trying to figure this out won't get a headache from thinking too much:

March 1: Kalends
March 2: VI Nones
March 3: V Nones
March 4: IV Nones
March 5: III Nones
March 6: Pridie Nones
March 7: Nones
March 8: VIII Ides
March 9: VII Ides
March 10: VI Ides
March 11: V Ides
March 12: IV Ides
March 13: III Ides
March 14: Pridie Ides
March 15: Ides
March 16: XVII Kalends
March 17: XVI Kalends
March 18: XV Kalends
March 19: XIV Kalends
March 20: XIII Kalends
March 21: XII Kalends
March 22: XI Kalends
March 23: X Kalends
March 24: IX Kalends
March 25: VIII Kalends
March 26: VII Kalends
March 27: VI Kalends
March 28: V Kalends
March 29: IV Kalends
March 30: III Kalends
March 31: Pridie Kalends
[Now, the disclaimer to the information above: it may not be 100% accurate. I did a bit of research and tried to figure out what the days of March would have been, but if I got it wrong, sorry! From what I read, the months in which the Ides fell on the 15th (March, May, July, and October) all had 31 days.]

I found out a bunch of cool stuff, too, while researching info for naming the days in March! Apparently, March was the first month of the year, named for the god Mars. The Roman calendar (pre-Julius Caesar's reforms to make the calendar a bit easier to follow) was originally based upon the lunar phases (which is probably the reason it was so messed up to begin with since the moon's phases aren't uniform). The names of the days were also based on the lunar phases. Kalends signified the new moon and the Kalends period spanned the phases beginning with the day after the full moon until a new crescent was spotted after the new moon. Nones signified the day that the moon reached its first quarter and the period of Nones spanned from the first sighting of the new crescent moon (the day after Kalends) to the first quarter. Ides signified the full moon and the period of Ides spanned from the day after the first quarter moon to the full moon. [The obvious question is, of course, why they didn't have a specially named day for the third quarter moon, but instead had the period of Kalends last for two full phases of the moon, but hey, they're the Romans. We can't begin to try and understand their crazy ways...]

The calendar shifted away from the lunar phases sometime around the 5th century B.C., and the month lengths became fixed. That's when March got 31 days (according to the site I looked at) along with May, July, and October. And the Kalends, the Nones, and the Ides were given specific days in those months, instead of being based upon specific times in the moon's phase cycle. [Good job, Romans, way to make a bit more sense...]

So, now I've completely geeked out about the Ides of March. It ain't just the day Julius Caesar was warned about in Shakespeare's play. I think this is fascinating. Probably not enough to research any further, but a fun thing to do with my Wednesday evening post-dinner, to be sure. I hope you derive just as much enjoyment out of this as I did!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Suddenly thrown back in time from an old college shirt...

Today is a t-shirt and jeans sort of day. No need to look especially fashionable or cute today...just a throw-on-some-clothes-and-go sort of Sunday. And so, I pulled out a shirt that I haven't worn in a very long time...a shirt from my freshman year of college from my dorm's "URP," or "Union of Residential Planning." I lived in the dorm most coveted by the always filled up first during room draw, it was located on the East Side of our small campus, but closer to the center of campus than any of the other 8 dorms, and it had the sweetest rooms...big and roomy...lots of space...all that jazz. So, my "URP" decided to endorse our dorm as the best dorm on campus, ensuring it's everlasting superiority over other dorms at Carleton. We put together a big gala, and invited the "big-wigs" from the administration (the prez and vice-prez, the deans, etc.), as well as students from other dorms, professors, and any staff that worked in our dorm. And we created a document that we entitled The Endorsement of Nourse, that we planned to have read at the gala and then have all of the attendees sign (which they did, obviously, because everyone knows it's the best dorm).

So, back to this shirt. It's basically the yearly shirt that our "URP" (known as NURP for Nourse Union of Residential Planning) created. And on the back is the language from The Endorsement of Nourse. As I read it through again, after so many years after this event, I had a good long laugh at how silly we can be in college, and also how inventive and creative.

Now, I'm sure you're wondering what The Endorsement of Nourse says, right? Well, without further ado, here it is...may it be immortalized in the webpages of this blog...

The Endorsement of Nourse

Wherefore, in the course of human events, there arrives a time when the Fates necessitate a pause from one's daily routines, to acknowledge the truths which bind our lives together. On this day, in the waning hours of the millennium, we unite with our fellow sisters and brothers to consecrate these premises in the name of all that is honored and sacred.

We, the people of the Nourse Union of Residential Planning, in the purposes of declaring our superiority over those residences whose grounds we share and to ensure that this preeminence never be infringed upon, do ordain this to be the Endorsement of Nourse.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Dormitories are not created equal. These exists, in the Eastern district of the campus of Carleton College, one building that far exceeds all others in beauty, refinement, dignity, class and luxury. This building, The Residence Hall of Nourse, we acknowledge to be that very structure.

And so, by my signature, I recognize the dominance of Nourse over all other edifices at Carleton College.

And, of course, here is where we had people sign our Endorsement. Hilarious, right? I read this thinking, man, were we arrogant! But at the same time, a survey of the school would show significantly more than half the student body (and quite possibly more than 75% of students) agree that Nourse is the best dorm on campus.

It's fun to go back and think about all of the fun I had at Nourse...I lived there 2 of my 4 years in college. But freshman year took the cake! We had a Gutter Sundae in the hallway of my floor--we bought a bunch of rain gutters from the hardware store (enough to span the length of our floor, we're talking a good 4-5 yards at least), filled them with scoops of all different flavors of ice cream (including sherbet for our lactose intolerant people), set toppings on the side of the gutters all the way up and down the hallway, and then ate ice cream with everyone in our dorm! It was awesome.

We also used to have regular Nerf gun wars in the first floor lounge, using the Nerf gun collection of one of the seniors on the first floor (he had to have like 9 or 10 of them...incredibly ridiculous! We also played "bumper chairs" with the first floor lounge chairs...they were soft and comfy chairs that you could curl up in, but they had wheels, and were the perfect size to get up speed going backward by kicking your feet off the ground. Way better than bumper cars! Way better!

That was the year that the senior that hung out in our lounge used to fold me up and drop me in a trash can every time he saw me. I apparently reminded him of a girl they used to do that to his freshman year...and since he was a whole foot taller than me, there wasn't much I could do about it. At least he always checked to make sure that the garbage can didn't have anything slimy or gross in it... haha!

That was also the year we haunted our dorm and made my floor (the 4th floor) the scary floor...including fake blood in the bathroom and someone jumping out of the shower, ghostly looking people walking up and down the hallway, and the "Sixth Sense" room...where a friend and I made my room completely dark, and very, very cold, and then, once everyone filed in to the center of the room, we slammed the door shut and crept around the shivering group of college kids whispering
"I see dead people..."
"They're everywhere."
--etc. until everyone was completely freaked out. Then, we paused and then my friend would flick on a flashlight under his face (painted hideously for better effect) and I'd grab someone's leg. Then, amid screams and squeals, I'd rush back to the door and open it, and everyone would run out. It was so cool. We scared huge macho sports players, and people who walked in with skepticism in their voices (i.e. "What's this all about...ooh,

Man, it's fun to reminisce about my time at Nourse. It was a very good year. And this shirt (getting back to the original often does that happen in my head???) reminds me of all of that. The crazy characters I lived with in the dorm, the friends I made, etc. I'm getting all sappy and nostalgic now. :) But really, it set the standard for my time at Carleton...and I think I enjoyed the next 3 years even more because of all of the crazy fun I had during my frosh year.

Good times, man. Good times...

Ode to my Electric Blanket

There are very few things better than a warm cozy bed to snuggle into every night. The covers are warm, the mattress is warmed up...the air outside of the bed may be icy, but that cold air can't penetrate the warmth provided by my electric blanket.

This feeling rivals the feeling of curling up next to a warm, toasty fire in the fireplace, or a nice hot mug of cocoa after a long walk out in the cold. No more shivering under the cold blankets until my body heat warms a spot in my bed for me to cuddle into. If anything, sometimes my problem now is that my bed might be too warm. Ha! Now I don't have to sleep with a sweatshirt and socks at night. Because my electric blanket ensures that I will slip into a world of warmth in which I can comfortably fall asleep.

I got my electric blanket for Christmas this year. Best gift ever! I just plug it in maybe a 1/2 hour to an hour before I go to bed, and when I'm ready to climb in, I turn off the heating unit and unplug it and I'm off to dreamworld in a cozy little warm cocoon made by my electric blanket.

As I type this, I'm sitting under my blankets, my electric blanket on low, keeping the chill from the air away from me. It's amazing how this simple of a thing (my electric blanket, that is) can do so much to make me happy! [Granted, with me it doesn't take much at all, being that I'm one of the most easily amused people I know...]

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