28 January 2011

Quarter Century: Challenger

Twenty five years has passed since the Challenger exploded, yet I remember it so clearly.

Sitting at the reading table in Mrs. Richardson's class. The TV wasn't yet on...and Mrs. Jennings came running into our classroom, flapping that something terrible had happened and we needed to turn on the TV and watch this ASAP (they must have been airing it on the whatever cable the Catholic Schools used back then).

We all sat in stunned silence as they replayed the explosion. That there was a teacher on board made it all the more tragic to us -- what if it had been our beloved Mrs. R? How must Mrs. McAuliffe's students feel, losing her? Our minds weren't developed enough to think much past that, it struck us all.

I can't believe it has been 25 years. For most of my life, this was my generation's "Kennedy moment" (until it was replaced by 9/11, which almost all generations alive at that time will remember forever).

13 January 2011

School Daze

New year, new aspirations.

I feel like I should take some classes or something. Earn my certification in something. So far I've looked at Project Management certification, Social Media certification, Editing, Marketing, Non-Profit Leadership... none of them totally pique my interest (maybe the PM certificate...I feel like Social Media is something you learn on your own, but maybe it would help career-wise). And, even if they do sound good, the cost is a little prohibitive. All the certificate programs are a couple of thousand dollars...which I guess would be fine if work was paying for it, but I couldn't get that kind of funding, nor do I really want to.

But I do need to do something. Trying to find online courses so I can do them at my own pace.  But it's time. I wish I could do my MFA in Art History or Literature or something. But, that won't really get me anywhere, career-wise. It would sure be fun!

10 January 2011

Life's a Song...Sometimes

I've liked this song for a while, but just recently really started listening to the lyrics...and aside from the drug reference, it pretty much encapsulates what life is like for me sometimes.

I'll be honest, I'll be brave...and hopefully my ship will come in soon!

08 January 2011

Photobook Showdown: Picaboo vs. Blurb

A few years ago, upon my return from a trip to Italy, I found it difficult to find exactly the right book to store my photos. Worse, everything I kind of liked was expensive, and that didn't count the money I had already spent to print the pictures. I was at a standstill.

I had heard about photo books, and seen the ones from the likes of Ofoto and Shutterfly and didn't much care for them. But, soon I read about more sophisticated tools from various companies -- the one I liked the most was Blurb.

The layouts were very professional, and there is a ton of flexibility in how I can format, add text, fonts, and the like. The final product, consisting of my Spanish/Portugal pictures*, looks like something you could purchase in a store. Blurb also has the option of selling your books, so if that is something you fancy, a user can easily monetize their creation. I was hooked.

Recently, there was a Groupon promotion for a new company -- Picaboo. Knowing I had a backlog of photos just waiting for their moment to shine in print, this was an offer I could not pass up (and the price...it was a steal). I sat down to put together my book from my Northern European travels last year and was excited to show them off.

Unfortunately, I wasn't too thrilled with the program. The layout options were not as plentiful, nor were they very flexible. The text section was very limiting, and it was lacking -- from what I could tell -- some of the more professional options that Blurb has. There may be ways to do some of the things I wanted to do, but there wasn't an apparent/intuitive way to get that done. I am fairly tech-savvy, and still had a few issues with layouts and text. I couldn't write on the write on the spine, and I didn't see an option for a glossy wrap cover. In the end, I do like the book I made, at least the way it looks electronically; hopefully the print version won't disappoint.

For both companies, you need to download a software program that allows you to format the books.

As for pricing...For Blurb: For a standard size book (10x8) with custom wrap cover (dustcover is also an option), prices start at 31.95$ for up to 40 pages, and 37.95$ for up to 80 pages. For Picabo: A similar size book (8.5x11), prices start at 39.99$ for up to 20 pages, plus 1.99$ for each additional page. This pricing disparity is striking to me...I wonder if the paper for Picabo is better or something?

Verdict? I would go with Blurb. I'd be willing to try another site, as well, so please share any suggestions!

*No, I still have not made my Italian book. I'm saving up...the pictures from that trip are so lovely, I want to make sure I can do them justice!

05 January 2011

Reading is FUNdamental: Book Roll 2010

I read a fair amount of books this year...not as many as I would have liked, but still not too shabby!

So...I thought it would be good to share thoughts, recommendations, and what nots! I wrote previously about a few of these, so linked where that was appropriate.


  • The Art of Dancing in the Rain, Garth Stein
    I thought I had written about this...but I guess not. This as a rather easy read, and one, like Marley & Me, that will manipulate you and make you shed a tear or two (well, if you're a pet person). Not the best novel, but a nice, light read for days you need that.
  • Trouble, Kate Christensen
    Sometimes, I regret that I ever started reading chick-lit, as my Amazon recommendations start filling up the minute I do. Trouble is typical fare...a story of sadness, romance, and ultimately some neat ending. Maybe a good beach read, if you can hang with it.

  • Juliet, Naked, Nick Hornby
    I love Nick Hornby, and this one didn't disappoint. A slightly twisted tale of coincidence, love, and friendship...there are several things going on at once, but it is written in a way that doesn't feel confusing. Hornby often writes from a men's point of view, but he gets the female viewpoint pretty well, too. If you like GenX-style, and Hornby, you'll like this one. 
  • Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson
    Inspirational. An absolute must.

  • Frankly, My Dear, Molly Haskell
    A behind-the-scenes look at Gone with the Wind. Only read if you like GwtW, and have a lot of time on your hands (like vacation, which is what I was on!).

  • Little Children, A Novel, Tom Perrotta
    Fairly convoluted and gripping tale...was also a movie with Kate Winslet (who is supposed to be on the fug side...which is impossible). I liked the book much better than the movie, because, like many books, it had the opportunity to build the characters and their motivations, which don't make sense on the screen. Quick, rather intense read.

  • Three Dollars, Elliot Perlman
    I really love Perlman's Seven Types of Ambiguity. I think I liked this book, but it's rather forgettable to me. 
  • Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri
    I have read several novels that recount the immigrant experience, and I find it interesting that those written by Indian authors sound so similar. Often set in the Boston area, they talk about the struggle to fit in versus that of not losing touch with their homeland. I don't think this is unique to the Indian population -- I would assume it is very common among all immigrant populations -- but to me the similarity of tone is striking. This book is no exception, and was a good reminder of how much we take for granted when we are born here.

  • The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, Allison Weir
    Only read if you are obsessed with the Tudors.

  • Naked, David Sedaris
    Not gonna lie...I tried to get into this one several times, and failed. Did not finish.
  • Open, Andre Agassi
    An absolutely fascinating look at the rise, fall, and rise again of Andre Agassi. He was such a huge figure when I was growing up; I so clearly remembered some of the events he described, it was fun to hear the back story. It's a little too self-indulgent, but still an entertaining read (and written in the exact style of my friend, so much so that I heard his voice while reading. Eerie). 
  • The Big Short, Michael Lewis
    The president of my company recommended that we all read this. All the reviews said to read this. And when I started it, I will say, it broke down the financial crisis in a way that really made sense (which was super helpful to me, who works in the industry and sometimes gets confused in the brain). But after two attempts, I still haven't made it all the way through, mainly because I keep having to re-read parts and then it is due back to the library. I do hope to accomplish this in 2011.

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Steig Larsson
    The first in the trilogy (which was published right around when the author passed away, but didn't get popular/made into a movie until after). There is a reason this series is popular; it's a total page turner. It is rather violent, so be warned.
  • Zeitoun, Dave Eggers
    Read this. Be prepared to get angry, but read it.

  • The Girl who Played with Fire, Steig Larsson
    The weakest of the trilogy, but still really enjoyed it.

  • The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Steig Larsson
    I read this in one night, that's how much I liked it. I think the first is the best, as it set the stage really well, but this third book really wrapped things up well.
  • Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen
    I finally made it through an Austen book. Whoo-hoo! I like the movies better. 
  • Little Bee, Chris Cleave
    On the first page of the book, the author expresses his wish that we not share the secret of the book, so I won't. But I will say, this book seemed to be part of a theme I had this year of reading books that opened my eyes up to different parts of the world, and how humanity has been lost (but can be found again). 
  • Talking to Girls about Duran Duran, Rob Sheffield
    A cute book about 80s music, and various anecdotes from Sheffield's life. Another book that made me wonder if my life would look more interesting if I wrote a memoir.

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
    A true story about the woman who is central to many of the medical advances made since the 50s, and how her family never knew (and can't even afford their own health care). And, at the center, an ethical question: should people have the rights over their own cells, or would that impede process? 

01 January 2011

El Año Prospero y Felicidad

It's 2011...it's time to turn the page on last year, and, I, for one, have been waiting all week for it to end. Though, upon further reflection...2010 will be the last year I have new memories of my dad. So I guess at some point I will look fondly upon it, at our super fun Father's Day at the North Beach festival, and our great last weekend at the River. But I am ready to say goodbye to this year, to all the sadness it brought to my family and to many I know and love.

So hello, 2011. May it be full of goodness and joy. I'm bringing you a new attitude...let's make it awesome.