Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Marley... and We

This morning seemed so dreary to me that I figured I had better get out of the house and do something today before I let it all slip by. I was feeling like seeing something funny and ended up walking downtown and finally trying a Starbucks Piadini (bland and passable) and seeing Marley and Me. Silly on me for thinking that a movie with Owen Wilson and Jennifer Anniston would be some vapid romantic comedy! I probably should have read about it first.

But it was still a decent movie. Almost everything I've read about it since I got home calls it a "tearjerker," which is a description I wholeheartedly agree with. I agreed most of all with the New York Times movie review on what was a little "off" about the movie. It was odd to watch Owen and Jennifer look exactly the same after spending probably about 15 years together as they did when they first got married, especially after seeing "Benjamin Button" on Monday in which watching the characters age is such an integral part of the movie.

I don't recommend seeing this movie in an attempt to cheer yourself up. And although it does lightly touch upon some more serious aspects of marriage and having children, I wouldn't look for any deep meaning here either. But it was sweet enough and kind of nice to be able to escape for two hours into a modernized version of the 1950s nuclear family ideal. I'm sure the book has a little more to offer.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Venti Vidi Vici

Its been a while.

Yesterday I hung out with my friend Andy and we saw "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." Definitely worth seeing. Even if the heartwarming story leaves you cold, the makeup and special effects in watching Brad Pitt go from an old man to a baby and Cate Blanchett from a young girl to an old woman are worthwhile.

We also went to Starbucks where I discovered that I was still able to order a "short" drink, even though they haven't been listed on the menu for years. You know, because "tall" is the new "small." We were also talking about "venti" and wondering what it really means. According to an online tranlsation site I found, in Italian it means "twenty" which probably refers to the size of the cup which holds twenty fluid ounces. Does anyone actually need twenty ounces of a Starbucks coffee beverage? I'm sure that, at the very least, sixteen of those ounces are steamed milk. But really, I'm a hypocrite. Starbucks pisses me off, and yet I still patronize them from time to time.

I'd hoped that something positive might happen after Howard Schultz's internal memo criticizing the company's massive expansion was leaked. (Daniel Gross wrote a really great article discussing the issue for the LA Times in 2007.) However, no such luck. The move to stop selling breakfast sandwiches was cancelled and now there is also oatmeal and piadinis to be had in addition to the other breakfast sandwiches. I don't know what the hell a "piadini" is, but I'm guessing it is some sort of Americanized pseudo-Italian made-up word. I could be wrong, but I'm too depressed by the fact that they are selling them to bother looking it up.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Meowy Christmas!

Cheesy title, I know. The cats were zonked out last night so there are some shots of them looking all passed out and puffy. And of course we are having a white Christmas this year, as evidenced by the photos taken this morning out the window.

The last one is a monster Bryn made by turning his stocking into a sock puppet and adding a spare googly-eye he had laying around along with a curly ribbon. Good times!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Origami Box Lights

These are my favorite Xmas decoration this year. We saw them at the Top Pot on Capitol Hill and Bryn recreated them for our windows at home with 100 LED lights and a package of origami paper. Actually, he's still folding as we speak. But at least he's over halfway through.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow Day Continued....

Taking pictures is easier than thinking of something to write.

1) The snow piled up on a bench outside on the public deck in our building. Space Needle is visible in the background.

2) Despite the cold weather and snow, there are still leaves clinging desperately to the trees at the picturesque apartment building across the street.

3 & 4) Since we live at the far end of the building I usually take the stairs (quicker) instead of the elevator. Someone was nice enough to shovel half of them this morning!

Friday, December 19, 2008


Glad I didn't need to go anywhere important today! The above crash took place not too far away from where I live. Bryn was thinking of heading out for some errands but decided--with no external prodding--that he would just go downstairs to QFC and make do with what he could get nearby. Photo is from the Seattle Times article.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Campbell Brown let me down.

Recently I had written about the custody case of Talon Larson. (Yesterday?) But I need to bring it up again for two reasons.

First was that I had run across a Newsweek article about Obama and the reaction to his multiracial background. It offered some good points about race and social identity.

But the main thing was what I'm seeing as a double-standard by CNN's Campbell Brown. The first thing I read about Talon Larson was a CNN commentary by Brown published on Tuesday. And then today I read another Brown commentary published on Wednesday that deals with a custody case where a Chinese girl was raised in the U.S. by an American couple for years before the final rulings sent her back to her biological parents in China. What struck me the most was that when discussing the difficult custody situation of the second story she wrote about how, "[Not] every story has a hero and a villain and that right and wrong are always easy to tell apart."

It is great that she realizes this, but I think she realized it a little too late. She seems more than willing to overlook some of the hurt caused to an American couple who raised the Chinese girl for over eight years due to what I assume are the more culturally legitimate seeming issues of non-mixed race, relations with a foreign country (on foreign soil), and the fact that the girl's biological mother is now raising her (as a single mother of three). Yet the day previously, she seemed to have no problem villainizing the Ojibwe Tribe for attempting to carry out its own cultural practices. The main difference? The Talon Larson case is more convoluted for reasons of race, the generally unrecognizable/unrecognized sovereign status of the Tribe, and the fact that the Tribe is acting in an effort to maintain its own cultural sustainability.

I still don't really know whether I would side with the Larsons or the Ojibwe Tribe as to who should have custody of Talon. But I do strongly disagree with the bias shown against the Tribe by Campbell Brown and others. They may not understand or agree with the Tribe's actions and reasoning, but they could certainly show a little more respect instead of implicitly stating that the best possible future for Talon Larson involves being raised in a white family. I'm a little saddened that the prospect of moving a six month-old infant into tribal foster care is such a monstrous prospect compared to the Chinese girl who found herself, at age eight, living with virtual strangers in a foreign country. Oh, and did I mention that she doesn't even speak Chinese?

(As a sidenote, I just read that the Larson's attorney was contacted by the tribe regarding an emergency hearing taking place tomorrow.)

Snow Day: Part Deux

Bryn and I ended up going on an amazing adventure to celebrate the snow. We wandered on a walk around Capitol Hill for a while and then ended up catching a bus downtown and rode the ferry to Bremerton (pics above). It snowed nonstop on the way over, but cleared up when we arrived. We had lunch and read magazines while we waited for the next ferry and then walked back home once the ferry arrived, which was smart after all since we passed the bus we had thought about catching on the way up the hill. It was stuck in the snow and ice.

Anniston Nation

In case you were one of the three people in the United States who hasn't heard yet, Jennifer Anniston posed nude (aside from a tie) for the cover of the January issue of GQ magazine (see above).

This in itself isn't really blog-worthy since it has already been covered quite extensively. But I found an article by Ken Levine discussing Jen's bona-fide movie star status in the wake of any actual box office hits interesting. Especially when one also looks at Bonnie Fuller's take that Jen's naked cover is the best way to put her divorce from Brad Pitt behind her (including an estimated $400,000 spent since they separated to achieve her amazing body).

What I like about Jennifer Anniston is that she has radiates some sort of down-to-earth quality. Even if it happens to be an illusion, there's something likeable about her. Levine touches on this when he recalls sitting behind her and Pitt in a theater years ago, Brad looking scruffy and Jen in need of a shampoo. Under all her goldenness and rockin' bodiness, she still manages to seem like the girl-next-door.

Hopefully someday she might be able to translate that into a successful mainstream movie.

Snow Day!

So much for my internship interview I was supposed to go on today. I'm assuming that we'll reschedule for next week. But I don't mind, I love the snow as long as I can hole up at home! After the whole city shut down yesterday in anticipation (schools were closed, etc) I never saw a single flake. But this morning I woke up before 6am when I heard a big rumble of thunder, and lo and behold! It was snowing!

I also got a text message at 6:15am telling me that the Cornish campus would be opening today at 10am, and then another one at 7:45 saying that they were going to be closed today completely. It was nice of them to tell me, but seeing as how the semester ended last week it wasn't really necessary.

(The photo was ganked from the Komo news website and was taken this morning by Ryan Goeden.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Ultimate in Underwire

I ran across the photo above in a BBC article about Syrian lingerie. One of the more imaginative bras I've seen, although I wonder how comfortable it would be.

Adoption and the ICWA

I just found out about the Talon Larson adoption controversy going on in Utah where a six month-old baby was ordered to be returned to tribal custody from the parents who had adopted him at birth. Most of the press coverage, both national and local, seems to favor the adoptive parents. Sounds like a difficult situation for all involved and I do feel badly for the adoptive parents. There is certainly a lot of anger right now towards the Ojibwe tribe because of their actions, but I don't share that view at all.

I'm 7/32 Native American and was adopted at birth 30 years ago by white parents. I've definitely had financial and social advantages compared to my half-siblings that were raised by my birth mother; but do they make up for the cultural loss? Hard to say. Although I've probably received a better education and more "stuff," I also dealt with a lot of emotional abuse/trauma from my adoptive parents (who I do consider to be my "real" parents since they raised me). This doesn't mean that all white adoptive parents are bad, or that mine were evil (everyone is human and I do love my parents). But it does mean that seemingly wholesome appearances can be deceiving and that there are also benefits for a child from being raised in his or her own culture. (Granted, Talon is half Mexican, 3/16 Ojibwe, and 5/16 white, which complicates matters further.)

I've been formally enrolled as a member of my tribe for ten years, but still feel separated by distance and mindset. I don't necessarily believe that my life would have been better overall had I been raised by my birth mother or my tribe, but I can say from experience that it has been a struggle to deal with my mixed-race ethnicity and mainstream American upbringing in figuring out my own identity. Even though I was raised knowing about my Karuk heritage, I still had no real connection to that culture. As a young adult it was confusing trying to reconcile the fact that I wasn't entirely white with societal implications that my caucasian background and upbringing were what made me socially acceptable and worthy of praise.

Even now, I face mixed responses from people regarding my legitimacy as a Native person; for instance I've had people tell me that I must "choose" between one or the other (white versus native). But the reality is much more complicated and I don't believe that any sort of "choice" is necessary. I'm not willing to act as a personal battlground in any sort of war between Euro-American and indigenous cultures.

For the Larsons, I feel sadness that their family has been broken. The legal implications of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in this case has created an unfortunate situation. But I don't believe that the Larson's emotional distress should overturn any of the legal protections that the ICWA affords.

I read the Larson's blog about the events and they were aware of the child's ethnicity before the birth. They also knew within a week (and before taking Talon home from the hospital) that the Ojibwe Tribe had requested they deliver the baby to them and intended to fight for custody. As heartbreaking as the situation is to have to give up a child after raising it from infancy for six months, they were aware that the situation might not turn out in their favor and still chose to take him home.

The Larson's and their attorneys raised some really good points about about the ICWA and the Ojibwe's claim to Talon based on his percentage of Indian blood. And yet, the Ojibwe Tribe is a sovereign nation and not always subject to the same laws, rules, and regulations as the rest of the United States. Whether one believes it is right or wrong, that is the legality of the situation.

Snow & Dynastic Politics

I got up early this morning in anticipation of the snow storm that was supposed to arrive. However, it seems that there is snow all over the Puget Sound except in Seattle. It has been cold though, we're not used to staying below freezing for so long (see picture above of a frozen waterfall at Tulalip Casino). Supposedly this afternoon we might see some snow here in the city though. My fingers are crossed.

Since I was up, I made a pot of coffee and read some news online. What particularly caught my eye this morning were some discussions on Slate's XX Factor blog about Caroline Kennedy's possible bid for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat, especially what Emily Yoffe had to say:
This country is ever more becoming a nation of haves and have-nots. By "haves" I don't just mean the rich. If you are lucky to have caring parents who are good role models and nurture good habits in you, you have an advantage in life—but you still have to work to make something of yourself. But there are many kids who have nothing—some of them go to the New York public schools Caroline Kennedy raised money for—who think there's no point making an effort because everything is already wired for the haves. They think that when the haves want something, all they have to do is pick up the phone and life's opportunities are handed to them. So Caroline Kennedy picks up the phone and announces that for her first full-time job, she'd like to be senator from New York, and thus is annointed. That's a bad message to send.

Caroline Kennedy is certainly qualified according to the three rules laid out by the U.S. Constitution, and I don't doubt that she would do an adequate job. But I think Emily has a really good point when she brings up the message that Caroline's appointment would send. Is it enough of a reason to prevent her from being appointed? Not really. But it is definitely a subject worth talking about further.

(Note: I also should mention that I was rather disturbed by the "Live Developing Story" tagline on CNN's website this morning saying that Ben Affleck was addressing the United Nations. And then it was suddenly replaced by Robert Redford speaking out against Bush's plans for public lands. WHAT DID BEN AFFLECK TELL THE U.N.? DON'T TEASE ME AND THEN NOT TELL ME!!!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Alien Clouds!

I ran across the above picture on a local news station's website. Fascinating cloud formations! I've never seen those before, but I'll be sure to keep a closer eye on Mt. Ranier from now on. Follow this link for more cool photos of this unusual phenomenon.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I'm old.

I must be getting old. While gathering strength today to work on cleaning the apartment a little I was reading some 2008 review thing about celebrity quotes and ran across the picture above with the following quote:
"It's kind of hilarious! I've never fit into an E-cup before. I look at my husband and go, 'Guess what size this bra is?' And when I tell him, he's just amazed. We keep the tags that prove it, to look back for memory's sake!" — Christina Aguilera, on the benefits of her post-pregnancy body (Source: Us Weekly; image: Sara De Boer/Retna Ltd.)

I'm sure that when I was younger I would have thought something like, "Wow, she's so fabulous and cool!" But now, I just think she looks like she's trying way too hard. I mean, she's an amazingly talented singer. Why is it that she seems determined to continually look like a porn star?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Movie: Man on Wire

This morning sucked. I've been running low on sleep, fighting a cold and mental exhaustion, frantically trying to either get my final projects done or find justifications to procrastinate. Last night I was up til 3am finishing a presentation for today and it was really difficult to get out of bed this morning. I've been tired, cranky, and probably no fun to be around (sorry Bryn).

And yet.

My morning at school started out how I expected. Fighting to find a computer in the lab to use for printing out an assignment that was due ten minutes ago. Rushing up and down the stairs. But then in Construction Technology, instead of presenting our projects and running out of the room, the teacher had brought in a movie. Man on Wire is the name of the film. It was, as the cover promised, "exhilarating."

I'd seen the trailers and figured it would be a decent movie. But it also wasn't something I figured that I would watch anytime soon. Maybe in a few years if I happened upon in the library or something like that. I'm so glad I didn't wait. Phillippe Petit's passion and single-minded drive was inspiring and the whole movie was very well crafted with old footage, recreations, and contemporary interviews. No wonder it has been so well received and won so many awards. It was also nice to get a sense of the World Trade Center without dwelling on 9/11. In fact, 9/11 isn't mentioned at all in this movie, which is as it should be. The beauty of Petit's daring act is more than enough.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Oh Xmas Tree

I'm here at home studying before heading to school, listening to Christmas music and enjoying our tree. Did I mention we have a tree? We weren't planning on getting one this year, but then Bryn arrived at home on Sunday while I was slogging through homework with a tree and assorted trimmings. I'll admit that I was frightened by the selection of things he got. Mainly the lights. There are four different types of lights on this thing, white LEDs, colored LEDs, other colored LEDs that twinkle, and a strand of crazy starburst lotus light with glitter.

But we put it all together and it looks just fine. It may not be a designer tree, but it's the first time I've had a real tree in years and the house smells nice! Plus he bought some weird gadget for it so we have a Christmas tree with a remote control to turn the lights on and off. It looks like a keyless entry fob for a car. The only thing that would make it better is if it would "chirp" when I hit the button!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Snack Update: Belltown

Went out earlier tonight for a few drinks with a fellow interior design student (Jasmine). Even though we probably should have been studying for our History of Interior Design final tomorrow or frantically working on our final project presentations for our studio class on Wednesday, we were technically doing homework since our studio teacher had mentioned we should check out a couple of places in Belltown for our projects we are working on. Since it was the most snack-related thing I've done in a while, I figured I would report as follows:

1) Viceroy is gone. In its place is Rob Roy, which is exactly the same aside from the name. We stopped here first because Jasmine had never been and I hadn't been in years. I do adore that place. Where else can you find a padded black leather wall, velvet painting of a topless woman, and a lamp made out of some animal's hoof all in one bar? And you know what? Somehow it works. (Linda Derschang knows what she's doing.) We had a quick happy hour drink and avoided the goldfish crackers that were sitting on the coffee table nearby.

2) I really need to go back to Spur Gastropub. I had a "Gentleman's Lemonade" (Gentleman's Jack, lemons, honey) and Jasmine had a draft beer. We split the pork belly sliders. They were AMAZING. There is a really cool thing on the wall with a giant black and white picture that keeps changing images. It was upscale and casual at the same time. It was also not cheap, but they do have a promising happy hour Sunday-Thursday from 5-7 that I will have to investigate further.

3) Now I can cross Black Bottle off of the list of places I need to go. I guess it is a "gastro-tavern" which sounds awkward. Whatever. I'd noticed this place a few years ago when I lived a few blocks away and never made it in. Then I forgot about it. Tonight we finished our evening with some sort of raspberry champagne cocktails and split the most amazing lemon dessert. It was a soft and fluffy cheesecakey type of affair covered with lemon curd and sitting atop a lavender crust. Perfection!

Friday, December 05, 2008

My Very First Movie

Warning: It may take a few minutes for the video to load completely.

I've been working on it ALLLL day. In fact, class ends at 4pm and here I am still sitting in class alone at 6:30! It is for my final in Environmental Design where we have to create a "digital landscape." My very first attempt at using Flash and also Windows Movie Maker. Bryn will be very proud of me for turning to a Microsoft product in my time of need.

The quality of the images isn't the best, but I was going more for mood with the combination of imagery and sound anyhow. Took the shapes from the prints I've made this past year. I'll be projecting it on a wall or fabric or something next Friday when we all present our projects. And then I will be free, free, FREE from classes for a whole month!!! I'm so ready.

McCafe Taste Test

After writing about the coffee wars the other day, I couldn't get McCafe out of my head. Is it really a better, cheaper version of Starbucks? I had to know.

On my way down to class yesterday (we were meeting at the art museum downtown), I stopped at McDonald's for dinner. I confess that the McRib is sleazy and disgusting, but I still love it. I also grabbed a "medium mocha" since that is one of my usual coffee drinks. The verdict? Well the price was better, $2.79 compared to $3.40 at a Starbucks a block away. It also didn't have that burnt taste that Starbucks coffee drinks frequently have. But it was cloyingly sweet and tasted like it was made from corn syrup. Which it probably was.

I still don't mind their regular coffee, but perhaps next time I should just try a $1.99 latte. On the mocha front, I'd have to say they failed.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Xmas Shopping Made Easier

Are you finding it difficult to find the "perfect" gift for that "hard-to-shop-for" friend or family member? Here are a few suggestions:

If they live in Indiana you can always get them a nice gift voucher for Planned Parenthood. Now you can rest easy, knowing that their insolvency won't keep them from having access to sound family planning care.

Not living in Indiana? Well how about a lovely fetus cookie cutter? Don't worry about touching off political arguments, because it can be used for pro-life OR pro-choice purposes and is sure to provide hours of delight and indignance!

For the person who has everything, there's always a fully-loaded Four Seasons gift card? They'll have $100,000 to use toward luxury hotel stays, and you can have the satisfaction of knowing that you've probably given them the their most expensive gifts ever.

Do you know somebody who desperately needs a daily coffee fix? How about buying them a Starbucks Gold membership? (Note: this gift is perfect for "people who really love Starbucks.") It'll save them 10% off most of their drink purchases, includes a free birthday drink, and 2 hours of WiFi a day in selected locations. So it is your standard exclusive-seeming membership rewards program. No curbside valet parking. But you get the cache of carrying another "gold" card in your wallet. And if $25 is still too high for your budget, consider a grocery store rewards card as the gift that keeps on giving.

Lastly, are you tired of the big red bow that Lexus slaps on all of its cars in commercials every holiday season? Do you prefer German engineering to Japanese precision? Then consider giving a BMW this year instead. The Neiman Marcus Christmas Book has the perfect option on page 81, a NM Limited-Edition 2009 BMW Individual 7 Series Sedan. Only $160,000! And that price includes a trip to the BMW plant in Germany to "meet your new BMW and the engineers and designers who helped create it." In fact, I think that one of the fully-loaded Four Seasons gift cards would be a perfect stocking stuffer accent to go along with this gift!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Unsnobby Coffee?

So I got home and had to run to the library across the street to do some stuff online really quick. Hence, another post!

On the way home I noticed a billboard for McCafe stating: "Large is the new grande." I was unaware that this billboard was actually part of the McDonald's/Starbucks coffee wars that apparently took place this past spring until I went online to look for an image of it. This search led me to many things, among them the McDonald's site for Unsnobby Coffee that, although amusing, is highly unlikely to convert diehard Starbucks fans. Among its features is a MadLibs-style letter that you can send to friends (see picture above) to help convince them to kick their snooty coffee addictions in favor of a less-expensive coffee addiction.

Whether or not the billboard I saw was a new attack or a remnant, I thought it seemed timely considering the current economic climate. For instance, right before I came to the library, Bryn asked me if I would go pick him up a coffee (quad-vanilla-latte). I declined, citing the state of both of our bank accounts and the availability of decent coffee beans and a french press in our kitchen. If we're on a tighter budget this December, spending almost five bucks--after tax and tip--for a latte doesn't seem like the best idea. And this applies to Vivace (our personal favorite where espresso is a hand-crafted culinary art) as well as Starbucks (consistent but mediocre espresso made by automated machines).

I don't know that I'll ever find myself seeking out a McDonald's for an espresso fix, but I must admit that in my few experiences their regular coffee is inexpensive and of decent quality. (And it came out on top in Consumer Reports taste tests.) If there was a convenient McDonald's and I was a daily latte junkie, I would probably consider switching.

The Wisdom of Issy Sharp

My internet connection at home has been (I assume temporarily) interrupted, meaning that I am suffering from chronic internet withdrawal syndrome. Bryn has fixed it enough that his computer is connected, but so far the network remains down and he is crafty enough that he types on a Dvorak keyboard so I can't even use his computer either.

While I am posting at school though, I thought I would put up a quote that I heard in a video at a training I attended this week. I should also mention that this saying wasn't just from some blandly corporate training video, but from an award-acceptance speech given by the founder and CEO of a highly-respected international corporation.
Trust is the emotional capital of a company.

I found this significant because I can apply it to places of work I've been in previously, to situations I find myself in currently, and to where I see myself in the future professionally. It speaks to a disparity I see in many current business models where there is a lack of follow-through between what is presented to its target audience (public consumers) and what is actually carried out behind closed doors.

What I liked about it most was that it focuses the attention on what is really important. The people. A business generally has both employees and clients; both of these groups are integral to its success. And this idea of trust as emotional capital extends beyond the client/business relationship to the employer/employee relationship as well. In a corporation, having trust flow from the top down seems like a natural way to encourage a healthy and enjoyable work environment, which results in higher profits and the flow of trust back up the corporate ladder. It creates a stronger company that can more easily work in unison toward a common goal.

When it comes down to it, a business is really about transactions between people. The transaction can be for goods or for services, it can be based in the physical world or in the realm of abstract ideas, but it still is carried out through human interactions. I repeat, human interactions. Not money. And not things.

I don't believe there is any business out there that is perfect all of the time. But I do believe that there are businesses that strive for higher levels of integrity than most. This is what Isadore Sharp was talking about with trust as a business's "emotional capital," and also when he deflects comments about him being a "self-made" man as not telling the whole story. This is the direction I want to head in professionally. Knowing that I'm not willing to compromise my integrity or the quality of work I produce just to save a buck or close a sale.

(And for the record, since my blog may still be under some sort of surveillance, I'm also going to state that this post is not any sort of thinly-veiled attack on Julep Nail Parlor. While what I'm talking about here can certainly be applied to my experiences there--and my experiences there certainly have influenced the way I see and interpret issues like this--I'm more interested in looking at what business ethics mean on a much larger scale. And then to use these types of ideological explorations to formulate my own set of business principles.)