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When I was about 2 years old, my best friend in the world was Christine.  She was about 6 weeks younger than me, and our mothers had been pregnant together.  They found a coupon in the paper giving them great discounts on J.C. Penney photo shoots for children, and bundled us off to get our pictures taken.  I was a very verbal child by then, and Christine had taken to referring to herself in 3rd person as Nini Ruf (Christine Ruth).  We were both VERY opinionated, as toddlers get.  The poor photographer had no idea what he was in for.  When Christine got all set up for her pictures, nothing in the world would induce her to smile.  She kept saying of the photographer “Nini Ruf no like dat man”  embarrassing her poor mother to no end.  There were no pictures of a happy Christine that day.  My mother was secretly hoping that her daughter would do better.  No such luck.

Photographer: Rebecca Sue, what’s this? (Ducks behind camera) “Baaaaa”

Me:  It’s a camera.

Photographer: Rebecca Sue, what’s this? (Ducks behind camera)  “MooooOOOOooooo”

Me: (a little huffy) It’s a camera.

Photographer: Rebecca Sue, what’s this? (Ducks behind camera) ” Ooooink Oooink!”

Me:  (Pointedly)  It’ a Camera!

Photographer: Rebecca Sue, what’s this? (Ducks behind camera, desperately) “Woof, Woof!”

Me (Exasperated)  I told you three times already.  IT’S. A. CAMERA!

 Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, my mother wished the floor would open up and swallow her and her know-it-all daughter.

I, on the other hand, side with Christine.  That was not a good photographer.

 

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My friend Janie, on the other hand, is a very good photographer. [1.] She has also been an amazing friend to me.  When I opened up my Etsy shop  I asked her for some photography tips.  She responded by a) photographing a bunch of my stuff and b) commissioning a couple of pieces c) using a lace overlay I found in my great aunt’s attic to great effect.  It just has blown me away.  You should check out my shop and see her handiwork.  She is amazing.  This is just a snippet of how amazing Janie is. She opened her home to me when I needed it, and has been the best friend through some of my worst moments.  I thank God for her all the time.  I was very lucky to come across her in my Vox days, and meet her (thank you Kelly and Lindsey).  I am very blessed to call her a friend.  She is in a high eschalon of those who are more like a sister to me than a friend.

If you are in the VA, MD, DC area, you should hire her.  She and her husband are excellent photographers. They do great things with kids, families, and weddings.  She cares about each of her clients personally.  You would be lucky to have Janie in your life.  Go check her work out. She will be much better with you than J.C. Penney guy was with me and Nini.

 

 

 

1. I actually have been very blessed to have a number of good photographers in my friends and family.  Moe and Kris, Dawn, my new sis-in-law Katie to name just a few.

Creative Streak

In undergrad I had to do a paper that followed one item from creation to use, and evaluated how it impacted the economy, environment, and social space in 8 different global levels, from classroom to the earth as a whole.  I chose to do a skein of bamboo/wool blend. I made the argument that it benefited my class because it enabled me to knit, and knitting has all kinds of advantages.  During my research I uncovered how it helps children with ADD and ADHD cut way down on medication. I found out how it has more mental health advantages than yoga. I also discovered that people who knit or crochet have lower instances of PTSD, and have much lower stress levels.

Lately I am beginning to wonder if any type of creativity has similar benefits.  My stress is on high alert due to lack of job and precarious financial situation.  Life is a hot mess, and what do I want to do all the time?  Create.  Create. Create.  Maybe it is just my desire to escape the inevitable, and keep my hands busy but even during finals I had to force myself to study and not create.

The moment that last paper was turned in?  BAM!

I worked up a wedding present for a friend, an amazing collage and triptych.

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Then I went on a tear, making magnets and hair pins.  Flowers Flowers everywhere.

A very delicious Tom Holt book was retired for these flowers.  Don’t worry, it was already in bad shape, and would not make it. (I see you shaking your finger in my general direction Margaret M.) Now it can be enjoyed for years to come.

I also experimented with a little lively collage, filled with a lot of pink (not a natural favorite of mine) and I quite love how it turned out.

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Finally I started playing around with making earrings. Since I love to knit, they are adorable reminders of my addiction to fiber and color.

So this is what I do when I am stressed.  I make things.

Probably good that I got my arm twisted into creating an Etsy store eh? I don’t have enough friends to gift these to.

Chihuly in London

One of the days I was in England for my brother’s wedding my sister and I took a day trip to London.  Actually, we got to take the train there and back with my father as he had his last day of counseling in the city [1]. That was kind of fun.  It’s not like we did anything exciting on the train, but quality time with my dad and sister is very lacking. I miss them tremendously.

Anyway, we went into town with a specific purpose, going to the Halcyon Gallery to see the Dale Chihuly exhibit.  It was amazing, first taking in the Sun sculpture in Barkley square, and then making our way past all the swank shops to the gallery on New Bond street.  I told my sister that most of the things in the stores would keep me for a year.  They were so pricey.  We did, however take go drool in an Anya Hindmarch store.  Mmmm.  Lovely.

The Chihuly gallery was amazing.  I’ve mostly only seen his outdoor sculptures.  The indoor work was just as breathtaking. I loved the way light through the pieces created art in its own right.  I kept asking myself “Why isn’t this in my house?” especially when I saw the ceiling.  Forgive my cell phone camera. It doesn’t do the works justice.

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After that we headed over to the Olympic park.  We lived, for a short time, on Romford Road, in the East London.  It was amazing stepping out of the train station into this intense high-class mall, and then, bam, out into sunlight and green that wasn’t there the last time I was over there. It was beautiful.  My sister and I enjoyed the beautiful day along the canals. Would have even gone up the sculpture, if it hadn’t been for the high cost. It was a lovely day out. I even got my sister to read The Pull of Gravity.

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A nice surprise was found in a bookstore in the mall, The checkout desk was made from a ton of books, and I salivated over it, much to the amusement of my sister and the clerk.  I even took pictures.  Kelly, Lindsey, Don’t you think your house needs something like this, as a bar perhaps, dining room table, or even a fireplace surround?  Seriously, how cool is that.

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All in all this was a lovely day, and I am glad of the chance to be in London.  Seriously. If it had been two trips to England without the city I would have been a hot mess.  A. Hot. Mess. [2]

 

  1. He was counseling at St James the Less church which always made me wonder, who was St James the More or St James the Ok? I mean, what kind of name is that for a church?
  2. Ask my sister, She was the only one who heard my involuntary utterance when I woke up in our van, on the way home from the wedding, and found we were on the north circular and looking directly at Wembley Stadium.  I believe the words I whispered were ‘Hello My lovely.”  My sister laughed very loudly, prompting the whole van to ask what was up.  Bethany’s response?  “Bekki misses her city.”  Truer words, sister.  Truer words have never been spoken.

Last time I was in England I went to see Frozen with my sister and a friend.  I hadn’t heard much about the movie, but was along for the ride.  We get going, and it’s alright. I’m enjoying myself.  then suddenly, out of nowhere, I hear Idina Menzel.  Man what a voice!  I have long since enjoyed the soundtrack to Wicked.  Her “Defy Gravity” is sublime.  My voice wants to be that when it grows up.   She starts singing this epic song that sends shivers down my spine.  Lyrics about breaking free from the past, and the images people have of you that bind you up.  Phrases that make you want to take a stand.  I even turned to my sister at one point and said “Fractal.  Did I just hear the word ‘fractal’ in a Disney song?”

The movie made me laugh, and seemed like such a good girl power movie. I even really enjoyed how the movie kind of made fun  of the “falling in love at first sight” theme that seems to permeate many Disney cartoons.

When I was on the way to my brother’s wedding I saw that it was one of the offerings was Frozen I thought it would be a good pick me up after my 4 am wake-up that am.  I watched the movie again, and instead of feeling all tingly and excited, I was kind of put out.  I was not near as impressed the second time around.

  1. When Elsa sings her big “Let it go” number suddenly she turns into this vamp.  I mean seriously, she transforms from this           to    complete with major hip sashay and boob flauntage.  Suddenly girl power became shaking what you’ve got and using your body.  That really bugged me.  I really understand and affirm the desire to break free, but why does it have to be so infused with sexuality?
  2. The movie is a hotbed of hypocrisy. So Everyone gets all upset that Anna gets engaged after just meeting the prince.  Even Kristof has a go at her.  Everyone has a problem with falling in love at first sight. Until it happens, and Anna and Kristof realize that after less than 24 hrs in each others company they are soul mates and have true love going on. They even use the phrase ‘true love’ to describe it.  I really hate that.

There are other things that rubbed me the wrong way on the second viewing.  That snow man….really awkward..just showing up in the 3rd act. It was really annoying. Also I really hate how much this is the typical Disney movie and didn’t break the mold enough.  I wish I could have kept the high opinion I had about the movie.  I just had to go see it a second time. I hope the Lego movie doesn’t let me down like this.

Like Butta

So, my younger sister has the most tremendous voice.  One time she sang a solo with her choir, and adult, audition only, type chamber choir.  She sang this solo that rocked the rafters.  She hit this high A that was so pure, so strong, that it gave me chills and I could hear the harmonics.  It was perfect. I get to hear it a lot over the next few days.  She and I are performing at my brothers wedding Saturday.  We’re doing two mash-ups and she gets to hit some lovely high notes.

We recorded them tonight to try and let the wedding couple hear them prior to the rehearsal.  It is a rough recording, done on her ipad.  However, we had a very hard time getting them off the ipad and sent to anyone important, so we ended up playing them on her device and recording them with my phone.  EGADS.  What a palava.

I hope that they will be immortalized at the wedding, but just in case I am going to put the very poor recordings up for you to hear.

A couple notes.

  1. Come away with love is being transposed on sight by me, so pay no attention to the piano screw-ups.  They are the result of forgetting to change the key written to the key played.  They will not occur in the performance, because we will have proper music, and we will not decide to change the key of the song 5 min before recording.
  2. Norah Jones’ song made it into the mash-up because I remember sitting on a porch at midnight one summer in Finland, and my brother and I discussed how much the song reminded us of Song of Solomon.
  3. Bruno Mars’ song and the Do-Do-Do’s are a not to Pitch Perfect, a movie that my sister-in-law-to-be is very fond of
  4. The high notes are just to give my sister a chance to show off.

Enjoy Chucks.  This may be one of the few times in my life that I allow you to hear a bad recording of me singing.

Dave and Katie’s wedding music

I promise that this is not a post extolling the works of Mr. Dickens or the BBC renditions of the same.  Instead it is a rant about the blatant misuse of truth found in news stories.

Tonight I watched the news with the Housemate. On the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.  Now I have to admit, I am very fond of the person of Brian Williams.  His various appearances on the Daily Show have revealed what a lively, intelligent, snarky man he is.  I am not so enamored with the newsman Brian Williams.  He is a good anchor, with gravitas.  However, I do not enjoy the newscast.  I roll my eyes often. Tonight was no exception, only this time it made me annoyed enough to rant about it to my poor, long-suffering housemate.

It all started with this story:

NBC News Clip

Here’s the deal. The story isn’t honest.  Not really.  And it speaks to the way we report things.  We set them up to be seen as true. We do not tell lies, but what is inferred, what is not spoken leads to a conclusion that is untrue.

Let me break this down.  The story leads with the premise that weight loss surgery can help cure diabetes.  It uses a personal anecdote to validate the premise, quickly explains the study, then repeats the conclusion that bariatric surgery is a good way to cure type 2 diabetes.

Yet the story never asks the difficult questions. It doesn’t  measures the study against anything else.  It does not put it in context.

The study measures two different kinds of stomach limiting surgery and compares it against a group that just treated their diabetes with medication. This news report shows the study to have discovered that the groups that have surgery lose more weight, and have improvements on their health, especially controlling their diabetes.

There are problems with this.

  1. The report does not tell the study’s purview. Was the study about managing diabetes? Loosing weight? Health concerns?  Doesn’t show if there was anything else of value in the study.
  2. The report does not explain how the study was conducted. What was the size of the study? What was the age group of people studied.  How severe was the diabetes? Did the two groups have other factors the same, say diet?  What is the difference? Is it just a few percentage points, or is it significant
  3. The report does not put the study in context. So surgery shows promise over traditional medicine, but it doesn’t show it in comparison to say, a good regime of diet and exercise.  Thus the conclusion becomes that the best way to deal with diabetes is to get stomach reduction surgery.
  4. The report does not make clear if the diabetes reversed itself, or if was just managed without ever needing medication.

I take issue with this.  Here’s why.  I have a friend named Margaret.  She is an amazing woman in her 80′s. She was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in her 60′s and was very loathe to go on medication.  She spoke to her Dr. who, after asking her pointedly “Will you obey me?” told her that 80% of all people with Type 2 diabetes could control it with diet if they were consistent and disciplined.  He referred Margaret to a nutritionist who repeated the Dr.’s question, and then told her the very same figures. 80%.  For 20 + years Margaret has been in excellent health, and never once needed medication for her diabetes. (This is not about the anecdote, but rather the statistics from the anecdote).

So look at this news report again.  It does a shoddy job of weighing the study.  For example, towards the end of the story Brian’s narrative mentions that the study conductors are not sure why surgery patients see such a good reduction in their diabetes. Really?  It seems to me, if the journalists were worth their salt they could have spoken to this, or at least have put this in context. Rather than crafting a story that seems to say “Get surgery to cure your diabetes”, they could have crafted a story about how this study shows that surgery is better than just life as normal on insulin and glucophage or metformin. Then they could have explored this in the greater context of what are risk factors for type 2 diabetes, such as obesity, and perhaps even talked about how the stomach reducing surgeries force people to be more careful with their diet and nutrition.  Perhaps they could have even suggested that the study was very incomplete.  Perhaps it should have included a group that had to do what the surgery patients did, watch portion size and quality of food eaten, and see if the diabetes could be controlled without having to have dangerous surgery.

Stories like this make me so frustrated.  It is shoddy journalism, and even more so, it shows how little we think. I am sad for all the people who will now want to have this surgery, based on evidence that really isn’t evidence. It is intimation. It drives me nuts. [1.]

How can we expect people to think or have informed opinions when the very sources of ‘news’ can’t even use basic rhetoric or logic to craft the stories we’re told.  Bah, Humbug!

Rant over.  I’m going to go think a while now, to make up for the great lack of it over at NBC News.

 

 

1. If you want to read an excellent treatise on other poor uses and interpretations of scientific studies might I suggest looking into Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science .

Dodger

I was slow to get on the smart phone bandwaggon.  Mostly because I really don’t like contracts, and couldn’t justify paying sooooo much for a phone.  That and I would often get my father’s hand-me-downs when he would upgrade his Blackberry.  I liked Blackberry.  It started long ago when I saw the U2 concert that they had funded.  Seriously.  the tesselated screen they developed was a marvel.  I almost bought a Blackberry on principle.  If it could wow me that much on stage, how about in my pocket?

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When my latest hand-me-down started dying, surprisingly like the company that made it, I decided it was time to get technically with it.  One of the major bonus’s of a smart phone with a touch screen is the ease at which one can take a picture and then post it to social media.  I thought to my self “Self, this might be the next best thing to having a husband beside you, whom you can hit, and read book quotes to when they strike you as interesting, or well written, or just plain funny. You can take a picture of the phrase, post it on facebook, and share the brilliance/humor/wit/biting sarcasm/poignancy/[this is good] with the world at large.” I decided that I was quite intelligent in this, and started this practice.  It has been a fun way to to document my reading, and my approbation of the books I read.  The system was working well.

That is, until Terry Pratchett.

Mr. Pratchett.  You, sir, are a genius, and I am unanimous in this.

I kept finding things to photograph, from the opening paragraph, to the book’s end, and I felt they were too much and too good to just randomly throw out on the interwebs without context.  Instead I thought they warranted a blog post, so that I could combine quote and review in one nice spot.

Dodger. The Goodreads summary can be found here.  You can read it if you like.

I will say this.  A) Terry Pratchett knows a lot of history. B) Terry Pratchett has a good of respect for Henry Mayhew, and we all should. C) Terry Pratchett cares about things like poverty, and injustice, and the fact that he can make a discussion about them funny and entertaining is just splendid. D) Any author who can reference “that nice young man, Karl, that I hid from the cossacks with once” and make it clear who he is referring too without being OBVIOUS should be my friend.

I liked the characters in this very much, especially since they have a place in my pop culture and literary reference library.  It isn’t a fantasy novel the way most of the other Discworld books are.  Instead Pratchett explores Victorian London from above and below, allowing the flights of fancy point to the things our society has been battling for a long time: Poverty, injustice, the difficulty of choosing the welfare of one vs the many.  I especially enjoyed Solomon who was unique, fascinating, full of surprises, scandalous stories and philosophical wisdom. Read the book, enjoy the sewers, meet Sweeney Todd, Charles Dickens, Benjamin Disraeli, and a very amused royal ‘We’.

So for you here, I present my many photographs.  I hope they prompt laughter, thought, and a little bit of snarkiness in you too.

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