Friday, January 29, 2010

How To Report the News

Oh, how I love the Brits. Love, love, LOVE them.

One of my coworkers passed this around today. Newswipe is a mini-series on BBC4 that pokes fun at the inner workings of news media. Listen carefully to what Charlie is saying... hysterical!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of the Union

Okay, real quick. I just want to be pretentious for one hot second and share how amused I was that I had the same thoughts about Apple's new iPad as pretty much everyone else who read the announcement, AND I blogged about reaction to it a whole 27 1/2 hours before CNN had something live. HA!

Now on to the main event. I know I'm a full 24 hours late coming to the State of the Union commentating party, but better late than not to show up at all.

I thought last night kicked off nicely. I was on my way to my good friend Ruth's place for a SOTU viewing party when I had to pull over on Calvert St. to let the presidential motorcade through. Annoyed at first, that I was stuck at a green light, waiting for whatever was making the siren come around the corner, turned into almost-peed-my-pants excitement when a cop on a motorcycle turned into no less than 15 cops on motorcycles, countless black vans, an ambulance, numerous armored cars and the famed black limousine with the distinctive presidential seal on the side door flew past me on their way to Capitol Hill.

Of course I called my parents. Of course they told everyone in their office about it today.

Finally getting to Ruth's, a big group of us settled in with various beverages and cheese things, taking bets on what the theme would be (I promptly said that I read he was going to tell the country to calm the Eff down), armed with our SOTU BINGO cards and color commentary...

Obama: "I hated it. I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal."
Peanut Gallery at Ruth's: "Well, he just lost the dentist vote."

Obama: "This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do."
Peanut Gallery at Ruth's: "Ahhh Petraeus looks happy about that!"

Obama: "That's how budgeting works."
Me: "SCHOOLED!"

The speech left me with mixed feelings. On one hand, I appreciated that Obama was aware and made a poignant effort to note that the biggest chunk of his audience was not sitting in the House chamber. On the other, I felt that at times I was getting a pep talk from my high school soccer coach: "Don't walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people."

The exports statement -- "We will double our exports over the next five years" -- had the whole room up in arms. I thought it was an out-of-the-blue thing to include. What does America export that the world will want two fold in the next five years? Are we the leading global exports in anything right now?

I was on board with his comments about energy jobs and high-speed rail, no pun intended -- although I think the energy jobs should be government positions if you're going to make a 60-year-old formerly employed auto worker learn how to build wind turbines. However, I was surprised we didn't hear more about the environment or oil dependence -- wasn't Copenhagen just a month ago?

Several of the pundits have complained that this speech was too long. As you can tell from the long-winded way I blog, that definitely didn't faze me. Obama's plate is just as full as it was a year ago and he still has a lot to prove in a short 10-month period before the country speaks in November.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Apple, Tapping into Women?

Presenting, the iPad. Apple's latest tech creation. Doesn't this product seem so unnecessary? It doesn't solve any of my technology meshing problems.



It's a giant iPhone, right? To me it seems like a 15" laptop with the screen laid into the keyboard. Aren't you just begging to have the glass scratched and cracked, or covered in greasy fingerprints? I know I'm constantly wiping my touch screen phone on my sleeve or pants.

Plus, This is exactly what I thought of when I heard Apple's announcement of the iPad. Thank you, NPR for putting my thoughts together so eloquently for me.

Other names that were circling around -- iTablet, iSlate -- conjured up images of debating Roman senators and solid pieces of rock. Cool, yet indestructible and timeless.

iPad = brain reads as 'digital feminine product.' At the time of this post, 'iTampon' was already a trending topic on Twitter.

Prediction: It'll be a huge deal for about a month, then considered a failure.

Photo courtesy of Apple.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Word Junkie, NOT Math Junkie

Currently reading (with 20 pages to go):
Love in a Dry Season, by Shelby Foote. A story about a twisted love triangle between some very miserable Mississippi families set around the time of the Civil War. Thank you, Dad.

Just ordered:
The Frittata Affair: Adventures in Four-Star Dining at Home, by Judy Pochini, a food writer who married a four star hotel restaurant chef and spins tales of how they turned four star quality meals into easy, healthy dinners for friends at home. Thank you, Mom. This one is on it's way to you soon!

The Art of Eating, by M.F.K. Fisher. A collection of five of her most popular essays. Erin wrote an incredible blog post about it today and now I'm completely intrigued -- hook, line and sinker. Thank you, Erin.

Game Change, by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. I know. I know. I should be so ashamed. But I have friends who are completely gushing over it and others who are wrapping their scarfs around the outside cover while they read it on the metro, as if it's actually something embarrassing like Murder in the Hamptons. My curiosity can't hold out any longer.

My dad also got me Anna Karenina for Christmas, but that almost 1,000 page Russian novel intimidates me.

Oh yes regarding the math... God, I hate math. I really do. I appreciate that it exists. I'm in awe of people who can convert Fahrenheit to Celsius in their heads for fun (anyone get the West Wing reference there?), but it's not for me. Don't ask me to calculate the tip at the end of dinner. I'll choose the New York Times Sunday edition crossword over Monday's Sudoku any day, and that's not even real math! Not really.

Turns out this is one of those instances when I can blame someone else for this anxiety, *cough* Ms. Doggett, you second grade witch, *cough*. I LOVED this article, it made me feel so much better.

Monday, January 25, 2010

North To The Future

Since my last post, there's been a lot of talk among my friends about the definition of living life, especially among the 'explorers.'

They say that it means that you wake up one day at 8 a.m., say "I think I'll go to Tibet today," and by 9 a.m. they have tickets waiting for them at the terminal.

Some say it's about always saying 'yes.' Want to try this weird squid dish? Sure. Feel like sky diving? Why not.

Others say it's about not knowing, just getting from the day to day with a wide open mind and see what comes down the road.

And of course there are those who believe in just working hard and sticking to a moral code.

I feel like I live by an uneven combination of all of them, with varying degrees. It's how I went from a target run, to having a nice dinner out at a Latin fusion restaurant by day, Latin rave club by night place, to seeing Kathy Griffin live to getting into the swanky rooftop club at the W hotel over looking the White House gardens on Saturday night.

But anyway, I bring this up because I read a story about the census today that struck a chord with me.

The U.S. Census Bureau has already begun the 2010 census in Alaska by going door-to-door, starting with the village of Noorvik in the frigid North, even though the rest of the nation will start off with getting census papers in the mail around March 15.

Why the special treatment? Two main reasons: one being the census officials are traveling by dog sled -- the easiest way to get around up there -- throughout the northern parts of the state and the ice will be too thawed to ride on by March. The other is many of the villagers are off on hunting and fishing trips during March and are gone for weeks at a time. They're not at home to fill out papers.

So the U.S. government is accommodating a few hundred people in the frozen tundra so these villagers can continue to live their lives the way they want to, to make a living and survive uninterrupted.

What an incredible way to live.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Where does your love map take you?

Mine said I was a Builder/Director.

One of my coworkers and good friends Kasey interviewed Dr. Helen Fisher, author of "Why Him, Why Her" and founder of Chemistry.com. Dr. Fisher developed a personality test that helps people align their traits with others that fit well with their characteristics. Sort of like the Myers-Briggs test drunk on love and dipped in relationship juice.

Kasey passed it around the office and after eight pages of questions, Dr. Fisher's test said I was trustworthy, loyal and challenging, as well as I'm the executive type, efficient, respectful of schedules and social.

Some of the questions weirded me out -- like "what color best explains your personality?: Royal Blue, Red, Forest Green, Yellow." I picked Royal Blue because that's my favorite color, but I wonder if it means I'm less fun or something. Either way, Kasey tells me that Builder/Director is the same personality type of powerful political women.

Done. I'm running for Congress.

And I'm supposed to be with someone who is "devoted to family, sensible with money, responsible with possessions, compassionate, and wants to have detailed and informed conversations." Sounds about right.

See where you match up. Take the test here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A tie would have killed you?

This is a snotty post about dress. I'm giving you fair warning in case you want to bail out now.

I had the pleasure of taking part in my family's "annual pilgrimage" to New York City over the weekend. We go at least once a year, usually for my mom's birthday.

We went to see Finian's Rainbow on Broadway Saturday night. It's a revival of a 1940's satirical romance musical with everything from a sweet love story, to ballet, to harmonica solos, to leprechauns, to racial issues. Quite the clash of completely different arts and cultures.


Photo credit: Finian's Rainbow

Anyway, it was an evening performance on Broadway, so I wore a nice winter dress, with high heels and panty hose. My family followed suit with dresses and heels, coats and ties. But I was shocked, SHOCKED and appalled to be walking into the theater next to a kid in duct taped tennis shoes and a man in grey sweat pants and a Rangers jacket.

All around me, people sitting in the plush red velvet seats underneath multi-million dollar chandeliers and flashing lights were wearing jeans with holes in them, sweat shirts, hoodies, band t-shirts and baseball hats.

And we're not talking upper balcony, we're talking people sitting in the fourth, fifth, sixth row orchestra. Rangers jacket and son sat in the third row on the left hand side. Seats that cost $200-$300 a piece! I mean come on! A clean shirt and tie would have killed you?

I understand that the St. James Theatre is not the Russian Tea Room, but it's also not your middle school auditorium. I would have even been more understanding if this were a matinee performance and you managed to get tickets off the street at last minute. But this was an 8 o'clock evening show!

I can't explain why it bugged me so much, but I felt almost insulted. As if these people didn't think going to see a Broadway show was anything special to make an effort for. It sort of killed the ambiance of being transformed into a whole other world of exquisite mystery that theater can so easily do to a person. Also, it's just a matter of looking presentable in a nice place.

My dad will sometimes tell us stories about when he was a kid, you had to wear a coat and tie to travel on an airplane, or to go out to dinner, or go to the movies. The theater meant full, three-piece suits, or even tuxes, for the men, and fur shawls, diamond earrings and full-length evening gowns for the women. I'm not saying we have to completely go back to the fashion days of old, but I don't think having a mandatory dress code of nice shirts, pants, skirts and dresses for evening performances at Broadway theaters is too over the top.

Hell, even D.C.'s bowling alley has a mandatory dress code.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti

This disaster has consumed everyone around me since the quake hit last night, which is obviously understandable. Out of Haiti's population of around nine million, they're saying about 2-3 million people could die as a result of the aftermath, and this could be a greater horror than the Sumatra tsunami (where about 1.3 million people died).

Whenever something like this happens, I always feel a sense of sadness, helplessness and smallness. A need to help. A need to mobilize, organize, share. Questions about why is this so awful, why is Haiti such a mess took over almost our entire staff meeting today.

Clearly, my coworkers and I are not alone. Already almost all of the trending topics on Twitter have reverted to some form of #HelpHaiti. There were two groups and numerous fan pages about relief and donations on Facebook at the time of this post.

Even my mom emailed me to say she was cleaning out her closet tonight to dig out any extra clothes and bedding to donate. She encouraged me to do the same, which I did through Discovery's employee Haiti relief fund.

My team put together a package on the disaster. View it here.

According to several news sources, the most vital thing these people need is money. Here's part of a widget I built for our articles for some places where you can go to help:

The American Red Cross is accepting donations by phone. You can text "HAITI" to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross's efforts, or call 1-800-Redcross or 1-800-257-7575. Visit their Web site to find out more.

Interaction, the largest coalition of U.S.-based NGOs focused on the world’s poor, has set up a Haiti relief donation page, listing several participating organizations where you can donate.

UNICEF is also accepting donations for the relief efforts in Haiti and the Caribbean region. Visit their Web site or call 1-800-4UNICEF to donate.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bunch of randoms

"Lauren's FAMOUS(er)!" or so somebody tweeted.

I had my first blog post for Discovery News go up last night. I got to go to the Department of Justice to cover their panel discussion on Stalking Awareness Month (that's January) and stalking victimization in the United States.

It was pretty wild. Read it here.

I had done several interactives and videos for the team, but this was the first time I was allowed to report and write a full piece on my own. My big break!

In other news... you probably know at least one person who fits one of these descriptions. I know I do. Hilarious!: 18 People You're Scared of on Facebook.

And for those of you who missed it last night (like me, because I was sleeping), here's what Conan O'Brien had to say about the late-night shift switch.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Maybe I rang in the New Year too strong?

It is so true what they say about daytime television -- it will make any sick person beat the illness out of them for fear of death by horrible writing and tacky people.

The slave master bronchitis whipped my ass good starting Monday morning and finally beat me down midday Thursday, when I asked to work the rest of the day from home, and ended up in the ER with shortness of breath, tightness in my chest and fear of pneumonia (it wasn't). I spent Friday at home. And Saturday. And today.

Oh my God, get me well.

Not leaving the apartment since Thursday evening -- except to sneak out on the balcony for a few minutes to get my daily dose of fresh air -- has made me stir crazy and susceptible to awful TV watching. The Magic Bullet demonstration marathon (they practically have their own channel), Joan Rivers selling necklaces on QVC, cartoons and worst of all -- Keeping Up with the Kardashians (why are they famous again?) only to name a few.

In my finer hours, I also managed to watch a three-hour special about how the dinosaurs actually died (it was a combination of the world ending and disease), The Weather Channel (did you know it was 17 degrees in Atlanta today?), all of the news channels (FOX can be pretty funny) and 28 episodes of West Wing on DVD -- why yes, that is one full season and almost half of another.

I can't tell if my eyes hurt from my body trying to cough my lungs into oblivion or from doing the only thing I felt I could do when I wasn't sleeping.

Thankfully, I'm feeling better and have never been more excited to return to work tomorrow, to feel like I can contribute to the world once more.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ringing it in strong

Despite absolute, beyond-belief, frigid temperatures outside, I did not spend my first weekend of 2010 hibernating between a fluffy comforter and a heated mattress pad as planned. No, I was out and about, sporting my Eskimo shoes even (these FANTASTIC faux fur waterproof thermal boots my dad got me for Christmas. Beyond amazing).

The night of New Years, Tad and I took our first trip to the AFI Theatre to see 'Up In The Air.' It's not that we have anything against the AFI, loved the atmosphere, but mostly they host indie or foreign films so it's rare that a movie would come along that we both would be interested in. Enter 'Up in the Air' starring George Clooney. Loved it. The cuts, the quips, the open ending. Brilliant.


I'll say this about foreign films. I wish I could enjoy them. I certainly admire people who do, but unless I know and understand the language the movie is in, then I can't stand them. It's the subtitles. I get so annoyed when I see a TV with closed captioning because I end up reading the words and not watching the picture -- same with foreign films. What's the point then? I'd rather just read a book.

I just lost at least a handful of college friends for saying that.

It's okay though, I'm about to make up for it in food, because with food I have no lack of adventure.

My entire Saturday afternoon was spent at Domku Cafe, a Scandinavian restaurant in the Petworth area of all places. This warm, cozy, charming little house (that's what 'domku' means) was across the street from a funeral home and a pawn shop, yet it looked like something right out of a European village. Or at least Brooklyn.

Upon recommendation from our waitress, Kasey, her friend Melissa and I gorged ourselves on the meatball dish and bread pudding, finishing it off with sips from licorice-sweet Absinthe (the legal kind that's pretty much a tangy liqueur) martinis -- a combination I only suggest if you're planning on sitting around for a couple of hours. Otherwise, inte god ('not good' in Swedish).

I met my good friend Erin for lunch and a visit to the National Portrait Gallery in Chinatown on Sunday. Erin is anyone's best museum buddy, and certainly mine. Not only is she an absolute nut for art and history, she's knowledgeable about specific artists and their work, and she doesn't mind if you comment on a painting or a sculpture because she's itching to have a discussion about it anyway. For someone like me who is almost entirely right-brained with left-brain urges to learn, it works out well.

Here are a few photos I took while we were there...



Ceiling in the great hall of champions



I think I stared at this painting for at least 15 minutes to convince myself it wasn't a photograph.

Comments people left in the guest book, mostly children.


This is one of my favorites. For reasons I cannot explain, I have a fascination with windows and how people turn them into beautiful works of art: mirrors, coat hangers, mosaics, shadow boxes. This piece was titled something like "A Touch of Winter" and it was two windows glued together and filled with dried grass, feathers, a hat, glove, keys and a few other knick knacks. It reminded me of those I Spy children's books.

So now that this has turned into an epic post, I'll sign off here and simply say that so far 2010 is moving forward well.