Friday, August 30, 2013

Dear Project Runway Contestants,

First I want to give kudos to both Braden and Miranda because there is a thing that seems to happen at least once a season and people get all up in arms about it, and you both resisted.  You both picked out not only plaid, but a red plaid and paired it with a white top.  Neither of you acted like you had invented plaid.  Neither of you acted like both of you using plaid was an example of one designer stealing another designer's idea.  You both expressed some realistic concern that your ideas might seem too similar, but not in a way that suggested the other designer needed to change anything about what they were doing.  So, again, kudos.
Well, Alexandria, you are kind of growing on me.  Whereas Dom, that was an idea that with more time might have been really interesting but as it was I think you were just barely safe. 
And while I have wondered how the anonymous runway really works when you can see the designers giggling with glee or sometimes cringing when their stuff walks, I think this might be a case where it worked in the designer's favor.  Because Ken and Helen, those were nice outfits, but that's all they were.  But you surprised the judges, so you survive another "week". 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. I don't currently have a dishwasher (unless you mean me, which you don't) but I am fascinated by this idea of using the dishwasher to bake your fish
2. As cameras get better, and well windows too, I suppose, I imagine there will be more interesting discussions about privacy such as the one sparked by this art installation that features photos taken of neighbors in the apartment block across the street.
3. There's been some discussion of tipping lately, at least in my corner of the world, so this article about why some restaurants go for the flat tip was interesting.  (I know the headline implies they banned tipping, but that's not actually what they did, so, anyway, interesting read.)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dear Reader Kid

Dear Tyler,
Hi!  I heard you've won the library reader competition five years in a row.  Awesome! And I heard the librarian asked you to, well, stop winning like that.  So, welcome to the unfairness of the world.  As hopefully lots of people have told you, the librarian was wrong.  She may have meant well, but she was wrong. 
Please don't stop reading.  You may want to consider expanding to other libraries, but keep reading.  Don't let one adult talk you out of being a voracious reader.  I know she told you it's not fair, you're taking all the books and that's why the other kids can't read, but she's wrong.  I like to believe she meant well, that she was trying to give other people opportunities to excel like you and just not phrasing it correctly.  And I know they got burned by that kid who lied a while back. 
I hope you read anyway.  In spite of.  Regardless of reward.  I participated in a Read-a-thon back in the day and won tickets to a basketball game.  The next year I couldn't get my neighbors to sponsor me anymore because I had read more than they expected and they didn't want to owe me (and the charity really) lots of money.  So, I didn't do the read-a-thon anymore.  I found other ways to raise money for charity but I kept reading.  I haven't done 63 in about a month like you, but I still read lots.  You keep it up.  There are all sorts of studies and boring reasons that reading makes you a better, more empathetic, person with a greater understanding of the world, but the important part is that you know it's fun.  As you probably have learned, there's a lot of school reading where they make you examine themes and symbolism and write papers about books and sometimes that can make you forget how reading just for fun is enjoyable.  So, read on.  The more you keep reading on your own, the more likely you'll hang onto the reading long after folks make you read, and that will be the best part. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Dear Tim Gunn

First, I must confess, that I only caught the second half of the episode due to DVR issues. But, I was interested but potentially concerned about the Tim Gunn save.  And this is exactly why. "American Idol" had (maybe has, I confess, I do not watch) a judges save and here were the issues.  You never want to use it too early, because invariably as things get tighter, there will be a designer that had some challenges or even - as apparently happened last year when there was an unofficial save - there is a great outfit that maybe isn't quite appropriate for the specifics of the challenge but isn't bad.  But, of course, you don't want to be at the last episode before the finale with the save unused, so it tends to get used somewhere in the middle.
And this, well, you are a wise man who obviously spends more time with these designers than I do, but I must say, I like Justin, he seems lovely, but I have not yet seen an outfit that was interesting enough to, I think, deserve a save.  And later, if someone like Dom or Braden has a bad day, I will be shaking my fist at the TV wishing that save was there.  There is a huge difference between being a talented designer and being good at "Project Runway" and I'm not sure that Justin is the latter.  I certainly hope I'm wrong. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. My little corner of twitter had several folks asking why there wasn't more coverage of Antoinette Tuff the school administrator who stood, spoke, and negotiated with the armed gunmen who showed up at her school Tuesday. 
2. Most of us try really hard not to set off the metal detector as we journey through the airport.  But some girls, being taken by their parents to be forced into a marriage back in their parents homeland, have stuck spoons in their garments to create an opportunity to attempt escape.
3. And one man has been researching old Hawaiian menus to look at changes in the fish population. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Clean Slate of Sorts

This weekend my DVR experienced a tragic illness known as hard drive failure.  It was swift but final.  Now obviously I just reconnected the TV to the cable and we were back in business (well, once I sorted out the question of where the cable remote might be).  And the newfangled DVR's these days now require an extra piece of business from the cable company to go, so it will take a little longer until things DVR are up and running again. 
But in addition to the task of teaching the new DVR the things I wish it to record automatically for me, there were a bunch of things I was still behind on.  In these days of Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, and other TV streaming sources, little is truly lost forever, but I had episodes 3-10 of "Orphan Black" for example all queued up and ready to go, and well, now I don't.  I had a ridiculous number of season passes set up, although some of them were for shows that no longer produce new episodes, but I hadn't quite reached the point where I could delete that.  (Farewell, "Happy Endings".) 
But, I am trying to find the positive.  This was probably something I needed to do.  To wipe the slate clean, stop confusing the DVR that sometimes suggested things that were so spot on, and sometimes suggested I might like "Anger Management".  No, DVR, I would not.  I feel like you don't even know me at all! 
And now some of those shows I kept saying to myself I wanted to watch, even as they stacked up, well, it's probably time to evaluate how much I really want to hunt them down. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Dear Project Runway - Teams and Unconventional

Dear Sandro,
I don't know why you came back.  I mean, I guess because you realized storming off looked bad on camera, but the passive aggressive I was mean to you because I like you so much and I couldn't believe you thought something I did was out of line really didn't help. 
Dear Ken,
Oh Ken.  There's this thing that happens.  People learn language that can be employed to navigate difficult discussions.  But then they cast themselves as the victimized one, and don't realize or appreciate that the whole, well, I was talking so now it's my turn to talk but I just want to talk to tell you that you should probably just not talk to me, that's not better communication, that's bullying communication.  And I sort of see that in your head you were stuck with two teammates who didn't listen, but unless they magically edited out all the parts where you offered helpful suggestions instead of that's a terrible idea, I'm done talking to you, and...even if they did - you were part of the problem.  So, yes, you thought everyone else was the problem and not you which was why it surprised you that Alexandria actually found you problematic to work with.  So now you think she should have mentioned this sooner.  In one of the times you let her speak. 
Dear Sue and Alexandria,
This strategy of get through this challenge and make it to the next, um it rarely works.  It works less the farther you get along. 
Dear Sue,
I understand that it frustrated you that people were saying you couldn't sew when what they should have been saying was you cannot operate a sewing machine without serious handholding.  But, you got yourself into this by showing up here without that skill, and then using materials that even the most cursory glance through the "Project Runway" prior seasons would have shown you that using the unconventional materials does not equal curtains.  So you had to start again, by which point your team was already under the gun and less able to assist you. 
Dear Alexandria,
It's hard.  The thing that's hard for us on out couches to remember is that if the team doesn't gel right away, you don't have a day or two to sort that out, it's just bad.  And you were trying, but you were also trying to get along a lot, rather than trying to fix things. 
Dear Justin,
I'm worried about you. I think you kind of let your team carry you on this, and hope you have plans to do something really awesome very soon.
Dear Dom,
I am really liking you.  Keep that up. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. I devoured Orange is the New Black (the book) over the weekend.  (Show is on my list.) So, I enjoyed this interview with author Piper Kerman.  The interview to a certain extent and the book itself juggle a tricky balance in recognizing the fact that she had committed illegal acts that were deserving of punishment; that her circumstances and support system before, during, and after were not the norm; and that it was an interesting society. 
2. As I look around and discover I swear I had more August left a second ago, I found this post about glowsticks quite poignant. 
3. My lovely chapter mate Hope Ramsay is hosting a knit-along to collect hats for the Hatbox Foundation. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Who's That Girl?

I had read a few weeks back about stores implementing facial recognition technology so when a celebrity pops in, they could take note.  I had mixed feelings since, while I agree that to a certain extent celebrities are accepting a certain lack of privacy, I never thought that included their ability to buy lipstick in peace.  But, in light of recent Oprah sized events, I could see why stores might wish to do this.  Of course, ideally stores would simply treat all their customers with respect, celebrity or no.  NPR's Code Switch team made use of #myoprahmoment and the stories people shared were heartbreaking. 
I have been in high end stores as a teen where they assumed I had no money to buy their things (and, okay, they were right, I was usually with my sister who had high end tastes before she had such a budget) but the things is, I didn't buy anything that day, but I also didn't buy anything later when I had that money.  Now maybe I wouldn't have anyway, but the overwhelming theme of many of the #myoprahmoment stories was that they not only didn't get what they had hoped to purchase that day, they didn't shop at that store later, either ever or for decades.  And, in a perfect example of how many times people will relate a bad customer experience, they were naming names. 
I don't wish to suggest that these are only old stories, and bad retail isn't always about perceived race or socioeconomic status.  The Code Switch story about the Oprah incident has some of the tweets mentioned.  And we can pretend this only happened because it was Switzerland, but I think it's more likely that Swiss folk were just less likely to think it was Oprah, just some other well dressed black woman. 
Retail is often a thankless job. And I don't know how many people may have asked that salesperson to take down that bag only to gape at the price.  But in the end, that was still her job, to show customers the merchandise they wished to see. 

Friday, August 09, 2013

Dear Project Runway - Week the Insane

Dear Project Runway Producers,
One of my biggest pet peeves is the storytelling device where you start with something heated or emotional or what have you, then cut it off and back up 36 hours.  I hate it when TV shows do it (even the ones that had that as it's standard framing device, I often fast forwarded to the real start).  I hate it when books do it.  I'm not saying it's never been done well (please see "Out of Sight") but it is done badly very, very often and this was no exception.  There was nothing here that happened that wasn't just as interesting if you had followed your normal chronological* format. 
Dear Miranda,
I imagine that sound you heard was a giant "Ha!" from an eliminated designer when the judges said, well, you made us another pencil skirt.  So maybe work on that.  Also, I get that gender bending is a big inspiration for you, but when you are presenting a pencil skirt with a jacket and crop top, it's not a piece of background that makes sense. 
Dear Helen,
Oh, I had hopes for you.  But if you are unable to proceed with designing after receiving criticism, what ever made you think this was the show for you? 
Dear Jeremy,
Your family tree is not necessarily my business, but um, color me intrigued.  As it stands, you have my sympathies, because while from a design perspective it was not the best choice to go vintage, I can't imagine being away from your family when you and they get unexpected news like that. 
Dear People Who's Names I Still Can't Remember,
Some of you I'm already planning to forget because what little I remember of you is not good.  Others I have hopes. 

*Look, we all know chronological is a bit of a myth even in competitive reality. 

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. I find swans elegant looking, and I could see how you might think, I want one.  However, I have seen what swans who feel threatened do (by seen, we understand that I mean, on TV, I try to leave swans I find in the wild alone) so I have to find the idea of attempting to stuff one in a duffel bag an interesting choice.  Hopefully the swans are fine.
2. Did you know that elephants can play instruments?  In fact, some of them are in an orchestra
3. And to finish out the animal theme, here is a story of a woman who has turned her home into an animal shelter, where she has, among other animals, a few hundred cats

Monday, August 05, 2013

Dear Project Runway - Week 3

Dear Project Runway Contestants,
The team challenges I think are the hardest to prepare for.  And now, you guys have probably been there about a week or so, so the weird schedule, the constant together time, the realization that you aren't going to see your own bed and your own loved ones through anything other than a computer screen for three more weeks, is really setting in. 
And from your couch at home, you can see that people just need to take a step back and be reasonable. 
But.  One of you did that thing that of course meant the powers that be were going to intervene, you mentioned that you would hate to work with this one contestant.  And...guess what happened.  Color me shocked.
So, Miranda and Timothy, the bigger issue was that Timothy thought you were great friends and so hearing you trash his process behind his back was shocking and he had to have this realization in front of everyone (to say nothing of the cameras) and so, it was hard.  And yes, after you had some sleep you realized that you had handled things wrong (giving you the benefit of the doubt here that that's what you realized and not that you realized you might get the mean designer edit) and apologized.  And then both of you had problems with that.  The thing with apologies is they don't have to fix everything right away.  You spent the time figuring out how to address the problem and Timothy spent the time realizing there was a personal problem, so it's not surprising that he wasn't quite ready for acceptance.  But Timothy, actions speak louder than words is not only a cliched response to a genuine sounding apology, it's not a stance a guy who took the unicorn (not a euphemism) and stormed out of the workroom. 
And, you have absolutely no leg to stand on, when you're the one who told the judges that she was trashing you.  You could have said that there were issues (they usually seem to magically know when there are, so no point in trying to hide that) but you chose to air it all out.  I have heard it pointed at that by the time you get to the judging, usually, only one of them is going home, so there's little value in maintaining team unity.  And sure, that's one approach. I would argue that as a person who expects to work with some of these people on the stage or in the judges chairs, or, heck, even with the viewers at home, attempting to demonstrate some professionalism might be the way to go. And look, you certainly didn't say anything that didn't happen, so there's that.  But expecting an answer that's not, well, working together is part of the challenge, is silly. 
And Sandro.  Sandro, Sandro, Sandro.  I know, Sue still isn't quite speedy with a sewing machine.  But man, she was a fan of yours until this challenge and then you treated her like crap the whole time.  You both refused to help and then told her she was doing it wrong.  Finally, recognizing that at this point surviving the challenge was her best hope, she said, fine, you do it your way, tell me what you want to do.  What you didn't realize was she was not doing this because she recognized your superior talent, she was doing this because you were being a jerk, and she figured finishing was better than not finishing in time.  So, as you made the statement to the camera that when a woman agrees to just listen and do what a man says, it is beautiful, I started to ponder if possibly you were just being specific about this situation and not recognizing the broader implications, but I got over that in about three seconds.  I feel certain the internet has alerted you to the issue.  And if the upcoming previews are any indication, you have other things to worry about.
Oh, and Timothy - you're wrong about unicorns.  I'm just saying. 

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. I found this transcription about the arts in schools interesting in part due to it's mention of a creativity test.  I applied to a few private schools in as an incoming third and seventh grader, and recall that quite a few of them had me do exercises in creativity in addition to the standardized testing. 
2. Apparently female cane toads, have a way of discouraging unwanted mates
3. My chapter mate, Allison Leotta has some tips for staying safe out there.