Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Composer

"People are always saying they're serious. 'I'm serious, I'm serious.' Well I don't care if you're serious or not, but you're boring as hell."
--- Dr. Maya Angelou

I had the distinct pleasure of listening to a lecture from Dr. Maya Angelou last night in the Stamp Student Union at the University of Maryland.

So elegant in a long black, silk gown, her Arkansas drawl told us of her travels, life growing up in the heat of segregation and the quirkiness of herself and others. Her storytelling melted through you, is the only was I could describe it.

Dr. Angelou spoke about being a "composer" of your own life, people to people connections and how she mistakenly walked into a vegetarian diner as a carnivore. Tad and I both agreed it was extremely refreshing to hear someone so refined and respected be so open, laid back and laughing.

"I stopped going to airports. After Air France and all, but also I stopped going to airports because people would grab me. In all other places, people will just point and whisper 'that looks like Maya Angelou' or come up to me and say 'I like your work,' but in airports, they lose all that. They tug at me and hand me their babies, 'excuse me, would you like to change them first?' So now I have a bus, and coming from Des Moines, I mean it when I say I'm very happy to be here."

The other thing that struck me was Dr. Angelou's discussion of the "N-word" and any other words used to degrade people of all color and type. She called those words "poison" and said she leaves the room if anyone, even her own kin, use those words because "then it goes into the carpets, the flooring, the walls, the drapes, then it's on my clothes, and on my skin, and into my body, and through my heart and it's poison."I completely agree with that.

It was obvious why this woman had won so many awards for her writing and I felt honored to have been able to hear her speak.

Image credit: Jaclyn Borowski/The Diamondback

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My coworkers hate playing the age game with me

Me: Hey! How was your vacation? You were in Yellowstone right?
Coworker: Yeah, it was great. Beautiful. Relaxing. Took tons of photos.
Me: Sounds awesome.
CNN on coworker's office TV pops up with a story: 'Yellowstone remains open despite wildfiles.'
Coworker: Wow, yeah, we just missed all of that! Hey, do you remember that devistating fire they had out there back in '89?
Me: Ummm... no.
Coworker: Really? It was all over the news?
Me: You don't want to know how old I was in '89.
Coworker: Oh, that's right, you were like 12 or something, right?
Me: I was 3.
Coworker: Get out of my office.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

New insights

What if you were to ask someone what they thought of you? What they thought about your personality, your quips, your pet peeves... and what sort of relationship would you have to have with this person in order to get an honest answer? Your mother? Best friend?

How about an ex.

For those of you who read my bagged salad post from last Monday, you know I have a subscription to Vogue (It's certainly not Tad's or Roberto's). I signed on to receiving this lofty magazine every month for two reasons: 1.) I like to see seasonal fashion trends, for an appearance sense, NOT a label sense, and 2.) I would have probably signed up for Cigar Connoisseur if it was offered to me at $18 for 40 issues. Now that I'm deep into said subscription and long ago realized the fashion had to be way over my head for me to "get it" and think anyone would buy that, I just read it for the articles now. Seriously.

From time to time the commentary and subject matter infuriate me. I'll never get over the issue from a few months back during the heat of the economic crisis that ran an op-ed from a woman, who would have just DIED if she wasn't wearing at least Chanel, Gucci and Oscar all at once, but was laid off. She continued to struggle for weeks without being able to buy that new Vera Wang shirt or Dior belt, but then landed an op-ed piece prospect from Vogue and and a few other free lance writing gigs and bought herself a $1,200 snake ring to celebrate. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Really, Vogue? That was the best insider's view to how the mighty have fallen you could find?

But in the recent October issue, there was an article I read all the way though. While researching for writing his memoir, this author called up a number of ex-girlfriends and took them out to lunch to get a clear, honest opinion of what kind of a man he was in different stages of his life in order to be true to the book.

Now, I've heard about honest self-reflection but... whoa.

We've all been on the other side -- hating and loving and reflecting on past relationships -- I've even blogged about ex-boyfriends before, but never did it occur to me to think about what they thought how I acted or what kind of person I might have been back when given boyfriend and I were dating. It really struck me as an unique exercise. Unique... and terrifying.

Would I ever do this? My answer is immediately absolutely not. I have no need to open those doors I slammed shut so long ago, also, I would be too scared, to be honest with you, but this article did make stop and think for a while how I have evolved, how past relationships may have shaped me. Can't be all bad.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

All sports, all the time...

Made final updates to Fantasy Football team
Went to the Maryland vs. Middle Tennessee home game
Watched Tad play Madden on xBox

Made final tweaks to Fantasy Football team
Went to the Orioles vs. Boston Red Sox home game
Stole glaces at the Redskins vs. Rams at the bar at Camden Yards
Watched Tad play Madden on xBox

That was this past weekend. It was almost identical to my previous weekend and this coming weekend will also be an exact repeat minus going to Baltimore for an O's game.

Fall is sports season, no escape. Even my 3p.m. on Sunday blog has been infiltrated (okay so not my most glorious picture, but there really isn't a lot you can take a picture of discreetly in a ball park that isn't the usual zoom of an outfielder or batter).

I even caved and joined my first fantasy football league. I have no idea what I'm doing but for now, the "What the Effs" are 1-1.

Don't get me wrong, who doesn't love a good tailgate to gear up before a collective chant of "Hey, You Suck!" or the child-like hopefulness of catching a foul ball -- we actually came pretty close, the woman two rows in front of us caught one -- I know I do. But my heart can't help but sink a little knowing that come this weekend, and every weekend for the next few months, when the prospect of going to Eastern Market, or kayaking, or touring the Capitol again, or going to a museum is dropped because "oh yeah, there's a game on."

Given this, starting this week, I've made an effort to try to go to a museum or something equally uplifting outside the usual happy hour during the week after work. The snag is it can be limiting given that I usually get off work between 5:30-6pm and live minimum 30 minutes from any of the D.C. museums, which almost all close at 5. I did make a note of three that stay open until 7 p.m. -- National Portrait Gallery, American Art Museum, Gallery at 1111 -- thank you, Washington Post Going Out Guide, but that's as far as I've gotten for now.

Calling all D.C. gurus, any other suggestions you might have for me are definitely appreciated, especially if you'd like to join me.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Even bagged salad has a case of the Mondays

Even at the end of a long, grumpy Monday, I couldn't help but laugh when my worst fear with handling bagged salad came true around dinnertime.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

You Are What You Eat

One of my friends and coworkers, Betty, sent me this hilarious photo blog about the insides of refrigerators of people from several different professions. My favorites are the all the take-out boxes in the bartender's fridge, college kids and retired train conductor. The one of the contractor really grosses me out.

See it in full here: Picture Show - You Are What You Eat.

Here's what the inside of my fridge looks like... and this was taken right after I had gone to the store.

So what does my fridge say about me?
Occupation: Associate News Producer, Digital Media, Discovery Channel.
City: Washington, DC
Household: 3-Person
I have an eclectic taste in alcohol as you can see from my one corona, one bottle of wine, one PBR. I like to cook because who else but a cooking machine would have both chicken and beef stock in their fridge at the same time (see white and blue boxes in the bottom left). The big blue bowl is full of freshly made gazpacho, by the way. And finally, everyone in my apartment is obviously big fans of condiments.

What does your fridge say about you?

In other photo news... Erin updated our 3 p.m. on Sunday photo blog earlier this week and I just kept forgetting to post it. Mine was taken when Tad was counting change to put into coin rolls. Her's was taken when her laundry was drying. Both of us, clearly, had exciting Sundays, but I do think it's one of our best Sunday tandem photo yet.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Who doesn't love "random" synchonized dancing?

I think this kicks the pants off the filipino prisoners coordinated "Thriller" dance.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Speaking of marriage... and Kanye...

This guy used Twitter to propose to his girlfriend HERE. This is getting out of hand. (Thanks Jess).

Also, who else was shocked into awkwardness after watching Jay Leno ask special guest Kanye West what his mother would say if she was alive to watch him steal the limelight from Taylor Swift at MTV's VMAs. Ouch.

That certainly wasn't expected. Also not expected, Obama calling Kanye a "jackass." supposedly. What issues doesn't our president speak out about?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Choose your words wisely

from Ben Johnson
to Lauren Effron
date Mon, Sep 14, 2009 at 4:16 PM
subject Re: Sushi night

Complete non sequitur: Has he proposed yet?

I didn't think so, but when I was at dinner with Weiss & Co. in Korea, she mentioned something about you going out shopping for wedding dresses. you want to be in charge of the wine? My fave Sauvignon blanc is from Monkey Bay. The year doesn't matter though...I'm not a big enough snob to actually pay attention to the vintage. Cheesecake is sort of hard to pair. I think I'll just make a raspberry sauce so it'll go with a Shiraz. So does bringing a bottle of Sauvingon blanc and one of Shiraz sound good?

from Lauren Effron
to Ben Johnson
date Mon, Sep 14, 2009 at 4:27 PM
subject Re: Sushi night

Re: Tad proposing -- Uhhhh.... what? Please explain that more. Definitely NOT shopping for a wedding dress and no idea how Weiss got that idea.

Re: Wine... sure that's fine. I know exactly what you're talking about.

from Ben Johnson
to Lauren Effron
date Mon, Sep 14, 2009 at 4:42 PM
subject Re: Sushi night

Yeah...I was a little confused.

It was at this group dinner; I had just met Erin for the first time and she mentioned that she majored in broadcast journalism. So I asked her if she knew you or Elise. Then Weiss cut in and said something like, "Ben?! Lauren and Erin are bffs! They go wedding dress shopping together."

Maybe she was talking about bridesmaids dresses or something? I'm a guy -- my Y chromosome genetically predisposes me to going comatose when girls talk about dresses and stuff.

from Lauren Effron
to Ben Johnson
date Mon, Sep 14, 2009 at 4:52 PM
subject Re: Sushi night

Jesus christ, Ben! She was playing around!!! Haha no one is getting married!!! She was just saying that Erin and I were so close we would go wedding dress shopping together *some day*. Christ, I actually got heart palpitations.

Also, I'm SO blogging about this :)

from Ben Johnson
to Lauren Effron
date Mon, Sep 14, 2009 at 5:02 PM
subject Re: Sushi night bad. Sorry for giving you heart trouble.

I really wasn't paying attention.

I did actually photograph a wedding in Washington State though a few months ago. It was at a lighthouse and reminded me of the verdant imagery in Snow Falling on Cedars.

And if you're blogging about it, here's a pretty picture I took of the bride's dress for the post!


from Lauren Effron
to Ben Johnson
date Mon, Sep 14, 2009 at 5:05 PM
subject Re: Sushi night

Done! and very pretty! Perhaps you can photograph my wedding WHICH IS NOT HAPPENING ANY TIME SOON

VMA = Very Messy Awards

Thank God for social networking sites to keep me in the loop of scandalous and just down right strange events that happen on trivial award shows that I have no interest in watching myself.

Both Twitter and Facebook blew up over Kanye West and Lady Gaga on MTV's Video Music Awards last night, so much so that MTV already had a video montage of the "VMA 2009: Most Talked About Moments" online by 11 p.m. (the show started at 9 p.m.).

Even though Lady Gaga fake bled to death in the middle of her performance of "Paparazzi", what's getting more hype is when as country star Taylor Swift was thanking everyone for her winning "Best Female Video" award, and Kanye West came out of nowhere, grabbed the mic away from her and said "Sorry Taylor, I'll let you finish in a minute but Beyonce should have won." The camera then cuts back and forth between a shocked Taylor and a shocked Beyonce.

Like I said, I could care less about awards show but who would do that? As someone who has been deemed a revolutionary in the rap world, Kanye comes off as such a child when he tries to make up for his small stature with these outbursts (I met him in person once and he came up to my chin. I'm 5'7".).

BTW -- Beyonce ended up winning "Best Video Overall" so again, get over yourself.

And who ever thought Lady Gaga could top her own weirdness. Shock and aw, but she's done it.

Watch both moments here:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Dear Mandatory Work Diversity Training,

Um, I went to Maryland and had to take a semester-long course on diversity, where in my particular class, the professor made participation 10 percent of the grade but didn't call on the white students so we could "know what it felt like to be oppressed"...

So... can I be excused?



p.s. It seems cruel and unusual to lock us up from 2pm-6pm on a FRIDAY.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Summer Reading -- all finished

It's so funny Erin would send me this article about a library getting rid of all 200,000+ of its books to go completely digital, because I've been planning this post about my summer reading since the weekend.

First, the mere thought of a library dumping (okay donating) all of its books off its shelves to replace them with screens makes me want to vomit. The fact that it's a reality makes me fear for the future of my paperbacks. My dad put it nicely, when I sent the article to him -- THAT IS ABSOLUTELY INSANE, SHORT SIGHTED AND JUST PLAIN STUPID! In short, F the Kindle. Nothing beats the texture of print in your fingers or the excitement of building upon your own personal library, something I did at the beginning of the summer.

In June, I went on a mass book buying crusade and bought five very different books with the intent to finish all of them before Labor Day. I'm proud to say I finished my last one on Sunday. For some, the experience was over all too soon, and for others it was a tough relationship, but here's briefly what I thought of my five choices. In the order of which I read them...

LIFE OF PI, by Molitor Patel.
LOVED this book. Could not put it down. Very vivid details, colors and settings. I found the writing to be so tight that I almost believed it was a true story. Some moments were a little too much to handle -- especially after eating -- but I was pleased that it wasn't a story about a boy and his tiger friend, as I had suspected (enter Hangover). Instead it was a suspenseful tale about a boy who had to stay alive on a boat in the middle of the Pacific with a blood thirsty tiger on board. MUCH more interesting.

ATONEMENT, by Ian McEwan. Also thoroughly enjoyed this book (and the movie too, which I just watched last week. Earned every award it got). While certain pieces were slow at times -- the opening setting, Robbie off at war -- the overall twist and turns of the plot kept me intrigued the whole way through. I enjoyed how it was a novel about a novel wrapped up in a fictional autobiography, a beautiful presentation.

THE JOY LUCK CLUB, by Amy Tan. I found this book entertaining but also frustrating. Especially with the end because it was rushed. I was completely on board with each chapter coming from a different voice going back and forth between the Chinese-born mother and the Asian-American daughter living together in conflict over culture, style and traditions, fascinated with the different Chinese stories, customs and thought process. But there was so much despair, heartache and sadness that at times I had to put it down.

I was very into this book until about half way, then it became progressively more predictable and at times cheesy and just down right weird. The beginning is an emotionally intense story about a doctor who is forced to deliver his own twins and discovers one of the babies has Downs syndrome. He asks the nurse to take the baby away, and the nurse ends up running away to raise the child as her own. The book then follows the two broken families in their parallel lives through the original mother spiraling into despair and crazy and the other, thriving. There are affairs and this random other pregnant girl, teenage angst and photographs... it just becomes a mess. I was happy to be done with it.

IN COLD BLOOD, by Truman Capote. I picked up this book because I had heard such great things about the movie that I thought I should read the written word first (same with Atonement, actually). I'm not usually a murder mystery thriller-type person, but I enjoyed reading this book because it was based almost entirely on facts of a real murder case so the characters are real and the setting is real, with only some dialogue improvised. Some parts were slow -- could have been my anticipation over why the family was murdered -- but it kept my attention.

Next on the list: I'm already 20 or so pages into Catch-22, and so far it reads like a M*A*S*H script to me. Tad promises it won't continue like that, which saddens me because I'm a HUGE Alan Alda fan and I enjoyed the imagery.

Rena gave me What Is The What for my birthday and that's next in line. It was actually the "First Year Book" at Maryland this year so it should be a good, yet educational read. Rena promised it's life-changing.

From there, I'm considering re-reading Watership Down -- I read it in 7th grade and hated it, I think because I had to read for a summer reading project, so I'm determined to give it another chance soon. I was also intrigued by a review I read on Dreaming in Hindi, about a magazine editor who excepts a freelance gig in India. It sounds very powerful.

Got a great book suggestion? PLEASE share it with me! I'm lost without reading material.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Leaving my mark

I got word yesterday that my name was engraved on the Omicron Delta Kappa fountain after waiting for two years post-induction into the leadership honor society. The fountain sits on the center of campus as a striking, prominent feature on University of Maryland's mall.

I was pretty exciting to see my name etched in stone to (hopefully) leave my mark on campus forever. And ever.

Another way I've left my mark this week is that video I worked on about my dad's office that I described earlier finally went live. WATCH IT HERE. I thought it made electronic health records sound enthralling, but then again I may be a little biased :)

And finally, Erin updated our 3 p.m. on Sunday photo blog. We were both actually out and about this past weekend! Incredible!

Long weekend plans prove to be quiet once again. I'm trekking home to the Shore for the last weekend my parents' pool is open and maybe even head down to visit my sister at college (she's been calling me on a daily basis to see if I will come see her dorm room).

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Basic journalism applied

One of the most basic things one learns in j-school is when asking questions find out the answers to the 5 W's and a H: Who, What, Where, When, Why and How?

Here's what Google told me were the top results for when people use these words in search and some of the answers are pretty weird...

Who wants to be a millionaire
Who is
Who wants to be a millionaire online game
Who wants to be a millionaire game
Who is mysterion
Who moved my cheese
Who is my congressman
Who killed the electric car
Who invented the internet
Who got voted off American Idol


What is twitter
What is my ip
What not to wear
What does my name mean
What is my ip address
What time is it
What time is the inauguration
What i like about you
What is love
What is a good credit score


Where the wild things are
Where is my refund
Where the wild things are trailer
Where the wild things are movie
Where i stood lyrics
Where are they now
Where does the vice president live
Where is the love lyrics
Where the hell is matt
Where the red fern grows


When is easter 2009
When i grow up lyrcis
When is easter
When does twilight come out on dvd
When is the superbowl
When will i die
When is the superbowl in 2009
When i grow up
When is st. patrick's day 2009
When will the world end


Why is the sky blue
Why do men have nipples
Why did the chicken cross the road
Why do cats purr
Why men cheat
Why did chris brown with rihanna
Why did chris brown feat rihanna
Why do dogs eat poop
Why did i get married


How to tie a tie
How i met your mother
How to kiss
How to get pregnant
How stuff works
How to
How to lose weight
How to make a website
How to write a resume
How do you sleep lyrics

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Music From a Tree

This guy is ridiculous and the beats aren't half bad! I really which there was some sort of science angle to this so we could interview him for Discovery. I wonder how he discovered he could make music from banging different parts of this random tree in his backyard.

Diego Stocco - Music From A Tree from Diego Stocco on Vimeo.

EPIC Fox News Package WIN

The reenactments are by far the best (get to at least 38 seconds), but definitely not one for the demo tape. Oh, and where can I get a lifelike bear cut out?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


This year has truly been a year like no other as I went into day 5 -- or was it 6 -- of birthday celebration. From having birthday brunch and cake with my family last weekend, to bringing in said cake leftovers to work, to a Saturday night bash at a bar in Adam's Morgan this past weekend, to brunch with Tad's family on Sunday, to my actual birthday when I was lucky enough to visit my parents for a few hours, to today where my office presented me a cake all ablaze, to still more friends promising birthday drinks still needing to be purchased. Phew!

One co-worker and my mom joke I need to pace myself before I slip into a diabetic coma.

It's been wonderful -- and I'm grateful -- for these small pockets of celebrations with friends and family who nowadays are scattered all over the place. The cake at work especially blew me away. So did many of the gifts I received -- all so personal and thoughtful, either tied to an inside joke or something special. Not to mention the 100+ Facebook messages, phone calls and text messages wishing me to have a great day.

It's hard not to reflect on the kindness of all these people who thought to take a few minutes to a whole evening to say, "Hey, you're awesome, we love you, happy birthday." It's been one of the most meaningful turning a year older events for me ever and I've been so touched.

It has been a whirlwind these past few days. On Saturday, Tad, a few work friends and I trekked out to Great Falls, Virginia for a few hours of hiking. It was humid, but absolutely beautiful. Mostly it was nice just to have a day trip out of the city and out of the apartment.

Sunday was more relaxed. Tad and I had brunch with his family, then I went into D.C. to get my hair cut and recolored (I swear the blonde streak started to grow back in grey), and we finished the weekend off with dinner on the roof, watching the sunset.

Monday, my actual birthday, I had the unique pleasure of not only going out on a video shoot -- something I hadn't done since Thanksgiving time -- but also going to a video shoot on the shore to interview my parents about electronic medical records for our technology site (my dad's office is in the process of switching over). So I was out of the office mostly, got to see my parents on my actual birthday and was handed a huge pan of mom-made smores brownies upon leaving. +3! Rolling back into Silver Spring, Tad picked me up after his night class and we headed out to Cheesecake Factory for some late dessert.

Today, a beautiful sheet cake with candles lit and "Happy Birthday, Lauren" icing rolled into our afternoon meeting, followed by a happy hour with good friends.

Future plans include more dinners, drinks, a rescheduled tubing trip, possibly kayaking and Tad has promised a bike tour of Gettysburg. All in all, it's going to be a hard birthday to top.