Point Me

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Aragog and Nagini

I spent last Saturday apple picking at Brookfield Orchard with Paul and two of my blogging buddies. It was really awesome! The orchard had all sorts of delicious apple treats and maple goodies, plus a neat antique section. I got an apple corer, a new hour glass for our boggle game, and about 10 pounds of apples. I'm going to have to start baking soon methinks.

There was also some really cool craft vendors. One was selling jewelry for crazy cheap. I got a necklace and earrings for $10!

As you may or may not know, I recently started re-reading the whole Harry Potter series. It's been really cool, I kind of forgot how fun and compelling these books are. It's also been nice to read them with a little more focus and care, as I usually tore through them all in one sitting, the night after buying them. There were lots of neat details that I had overlooked. I'm about 5/6 of the way through "Order of the Phoenix" and I'm enjoying it a lot.

I've also been seeing Harry Potter everywhere, including in the jewelry I bought at the Orchard. The earrings remind me of a spider's web, or perhaps an Acromantula's?

And I'd totally wear this every day if the Sorting Hat put me in Slytherin. I'd also be a big old Voldemort lovin' jerk.

I think I'd like to do a post when I finish reading them all about what I hope for from the last movie. From the look of things, I'll be finishing reading them all just in time for the premiere. Cool.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Caturday XXIII- Wave if the Future

So apparently, exercise wheels aren't just for hamsters and mice anymore. The Cat Wheel Company has made sure the futility of running in place very quickly can be appreciated by your kitty too!

Next step, harnessing the energy to power your house. I'm gonna buy 100 kitties and go off the grid!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More like, Big Sigh

Yesterday, when I was driving home, I swung by the nearest Big Y to buy groceries for the week. Working hither and thither and yon has given me the opportunity to go shopping in quite a few different local Big Y’s. This was the first time I had ever visited the one in Northampton, and it was quite the experience. I don’t think I’d ever been in Big Y so nice. The entryway had wood flooring, and instead of numbered lights on the checkout, they had decorative lanterns, each one boasting black construction paper silhouettes of pumpkins and ghouls for Halloween.

I couldn’t help notice the huge difference between this store, and the one I went to when I was working in Ware. It was almost like two totally different brands of store. While the Northampton Big Y has high ceilings and lots of bright, natural light, the Ware store has a feeling of dinginess you just can’t shake. The biggest and most noticeable difference though, is the way food is arranged and marketed in the store.

The Amherst store, which I go to most frequently, has twice the amount of fresh, local produce as the Ware store does. In the Ware store, canned vegetables make up one half of an aisle, and candy is on the other. Imagine trying to take a kid down that aisle to get corn and cauliflower, with all those sweets staring them in the face. It’s like a prescription for a temper tantrum. This basically sums up the situation, but the discrepancies are stark and many. Amherst has a takeout counter with brick oven pizza and rotisserie chicken. Ware has a grab and go section that is a cooler with some of the grossest looking sandwiches I’ve ever seen surrounded by displays of fun size chocolate bars. Northampton has a sizeable selection of fine wines and microbrew beers. Ware has more than one aisle for soda.

It kind of goes hand-in-hand with what I was talking about earlier this month. Healthy eating habits are learned, not instinctual. And it’s hard to imagine teaching yourself a new, healthy diet when the fruit snacks are in the same section of the store as the fresh fruit (yes, really). I’ll admit too, that I found myself coming home with more junk food than usual. Treats that I’d usually skip over dominated the end of aisle displays, and were strategically placed near healthier options. It was hard not to notice. So I guess the question is: why is a struggling community with so many people on government food assistance mitigated to such unhealthy options?

It’s sort of a chicken and egg situation. Are these aisles organized this way because of the shopping preferences of the community, or is the community buying these foods because of their strategic placement in the store. Either way, it’s clear that Big Y sees it’s stocking practices in terms of dollar signs, not diet.

PS: I'm supposed to add a disclaimer that these are my personal opinions, and do not reflect the opinions of the food bank of western MA.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Spirit Animal

We went up to Wells last weekend, the last beach trip of the summer. It was kind of sad. I'm kind of in disbelief that it's the 20th of September already. The month is slipping by like crazy!

This last trip up I made a trip to my favorite bookstore in the world: Harding's Books. This place is amazing, you can find all sorts of really cool stuff there. I found a book of national geographic photographs from the 1900's called "Scenes from Everyplace," and a LIFE magazine from the 50's with the dancers from "Oklahoma" on the cover. The real reason I love going here though is for the print room.

I like to get myself one nice print every time I come here. It's also where I purchased my bridesmaid gifts.

They had these really beautiful star charts that I wanted to get this time, but they were over $100 each.

Instead I got this print of "Resplendent Trogon" from John George Woods "Animate Creation" (1898).

The Resplendent Trogon is better known as the Quetzal, a bird that was sacred to the Aztecs and the Mayans. It is a symbol of goodness, light and hope, and was associated heavily with the tribal fight for independence over colonial forces. There is even evidence that the Mayans designed their temples to echo the sound of the bird's distinctive chirping call.

The bird is typically 14 inches long, but a male has an additional 25 inches of tail plumage. Wow!

Friday, September 17, 2010

One of these days...

These are my new boots! They are easily the most grown up pair of shoes I've ever owned, and I love them. They make me feel like I should be in this music video always:

Thursday, September 16, 2010


So, I've been lucky enough to snag another job that involves getting out of the office and doing some hands on outreach work. My new temp position in the Brown Bag program at the Food Bank gets me driving all over the 3 counties of western MA. Yesterday I visited by far my favorite town yet: Shelburne Falls

The town has two claims to fame, outside of being wicked beautiful.

1. The Glacial Pothole rock formations

2. The Bridge of Flowers, which is a beautiful, free community garden that just happens to be suspended across the Deerfield River.

Betheny, the food bank intern and I got lunch at that little pub that you can see on the left of the picture, over looking the bridge. I got grilled cheese and spinach and mushroom soup. It was a delicious addition to the first day that really felt like fall. We walked over the bridge on the way back to the car and it was positively exploding with Dahlias of every color. You can really tell they take care to plant the flowers so there is something blooming from April to October.

The village is just nestled in this little mountain valley, and full of these neat metal suspension bridges. The town center is surprisingly active too, given how isolated Shelburne is. There were lots of neat little artsy shops and independent cafes. No wonder Bill Cosby lives here. I am hoping to get back again soon!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Heart Music

This is my new favorite song right now. It reminds me that fall is basically here and the so called "dog days of summer" are gone. Plus the video is the pinnacle of amazingness!

Florence and the Machine is awesome. My favorite tidbit from her (Florence Welch) wikipedia page is this:

"The debut single for the album was "Kiss with a Fist" and featured on the soundtrack for the film Wild Child , Jennifer's Body[25] and in the "Looks Like a Lesbian Attack to Me" episode of the television series of "Saving Grace." "


Incidentally, my co-worker in the Brown Bag program is named Florence. She's pushing 80, and I will be driving her with me to many of the distribution sites. She loves sweets. On the way to the drop site on friday, we stopped for donuts. On the way back we stopped for ice cream. Florence's favorite flavor is orange pineapple. She hasn't had black raspberry since she was a little girl. PS: She's diabetic, so she always goes for the plain cone.

Almost every time we've hung out together, she's told me about her favorite place to go when we go on distributions. There's a little creamery near Cummington where we'll stop and get scones.

"One time," Florence told me, "I had the scone and I was still hungry, so I went to the senior center cafeteria and had the most delicious breakfast sandwich. They'll make your eggs any way you want. They used to give out free homefries...but they don't do that anymore."

She looked pretty sad about that.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I was on facebook and I saw this status update from a girl I barely knew from high school. We used to be in girl scouts together, but I don't think I've said two words to her since 2nd grade.

"Still fuming about the lady at the grocery store in front of me who made me late to work because of her food stamps issues.... $200 in groceries (mostly snacks and junk food)..that the state of CT paid for..and she looked pretty damn capable of working. But anyways...back to busting my butt at work and helping sick people. Proud to say that I work hard and earn everything that I have!"

All her fuming has gotten me fuming. Her judgmental attitude and assumptions are really terrible, and I'm getting really sick of this tired argument that people on governmental assistance don't deserve kindness or understanding. I wanted to call her out on this, but the sheer abundance of supportive comments with obama blaming platitudes made me resigned to sighing and coming to write out my response here.

1. You're furious at this lady because she made you late, because she had problems with her food stamps. Do you think she was happy about that? Do you think she wasn't embarrassed by the hold up she was creating, that she wasn't ashamed that she couldn't buy her own food otherwise? If you were rolling your eyes and sighing do you think she didn't notice?

2. So she bought junk food. So what? Are people on SNAP not allowed to eat the same food as the rest of us humans? I think there are 3 reasons people on supplemental food programs buy processed foods.
*Because there isn't a lot of nutritional education in low-income areas, and many people are raised on packaged foods. Most people are not aware that you can use your food stamps to buy fresh produce at farmers markets, and many low income areas do not afford this opportunity.
*Packaged foods have a longer shelf life than fruits and vegetables, so there is a certain guarantee that their food will not be wasted.
*These junk food and snack have the highest calorie density to dollar ratio. Buying junk food simply allows people to get more food for their dollar, thus masking the most of the food stamp money they are allotted. This food isn't nutritionally good for them, but until locally made organic whole grain bread is cheaper than pop tarts, people are still going to make cost effective food choices over healthy ones.

3. Your snide comment about this woman's ability to work is stupid. How do you know she doesn't have a job? Being on food assistance doesn't mean you're unemployed. And PS, the unemployment rate is over 10 percent right now. This woman could want to work with all her heart, but can't find the opportunity, especially if she's a menial laborer.

4. Good for you that you work hard in the medical field, but not everybody can afford to pursue a college degree, for financial or personal reasons. One would think that a person who spends all their time caring for those in need would be a little more compassionate. Earning everything you have is a little bit easier when you start off with the advantage of wealthy parents and ethnic advantages.

I dunno. I understand that it can be frustrating to perceive somebody taking advantage of the system. I used to see it all the time at the CDC. But if this lady is getting $200 worth of food stamps ( the average monthly benefit in CT, where she lives, being $135), she probably has a good reason...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mm, Mm Good

Paul and I used our labor-less Labor Day to go check out Mikes Maze in Sunderland. This years cornfield was cut into a maze inspired by Andy Warhol.

It was really neat too, the whole thing was art themed. There were trivia questions about masterpieces spread around the field. There were also all these rubber stamp stations you had to find, which you could use to make 4-color prints of famous paintings. It was really cool.

Since there was only one point to enter and exit from in the maze, it made the whole adventure more akin to orienteering. Finding all the stamping stations was the goal, instead of finding the way out. It was a really awesome time. The farm also had a camera obscura, a petting zoo, and fresh veggies for sale. AWESOME!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

CaturdayXXII- Something Old Something New

"Three Orphan Kittens" is a 1935 Disney cartoon that won an Academy Award for short animated film. It stars three cute kittens and "Mammy Two Shoes". Ah yes, another Disney cartoon with weird racial overtones.

Instead of the original video, I thought I'd post this neat re cut example of synchronicity. Nothing goes together like cartoon cats and Animal Collective.

You cat really see some precursors to their later feature films here, like Pinocchio, The Aristocats (at 4:53) and Oliver and Company (at 4:24).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lama, to boot to boot.

My reading lately has been very, er, buddha-riffic. I started reading the Dalai Lama's book "Becoming Enlightened" about a month ago. It was a pretty good read. The Dalai Lama basically writes a treatises on the Buddhist belief system, highlighting the practices that are used in meditation and what it means to be enlightened. I thought that the light, conversational tone the Dalai Lama used made it a very approachable text on religion. I couldn't help but be disappointed though by the rationale behind the magical aspects of Buddhism. For example, the fact that small children tell fantastical stories is considered proof of past lives . I guess I was just a little hopeful that with Buddhism's reputation of being so compatible with science, they would be a little less reliant on magic in their canon.

I really did enjoy this book though. It has great meditative exercises in it that I've been utilizing.

Not too long after I finished that book, I started reading "7 Years in Tibet" by Heinrich Harrer, which turned out to be a really good companion novel. It's also one of my favorite books that I've read in awhile. It's a great combination of adventure, history, and cultural study (with an antiquated eye).

It's an autobiography in which the author escapes a British pow camp in India, and flees into the mountains of Tibet. There he sneaks into the forbidden city of Lhasa, where he assimilates with the local population. Eventually, Harrer gains enough social clout to become a tutor to the Dalai Lama, and teaches him western science and culture. And we're talking about a 14 year old version of our current Lama, the same one who wrote my book. It was really strange reading this portrait of him as a young teen. It's also weird to compare the portrait of him from the book at age 16 to pictures of him now. He kind of grew into his face.

It's cool though, because you could really see how his introduction to worldly understanding with Harrer influenced him, making him a very progressive and savvy spiritual leader today.

"7 Years in Tibet" was also interesting because it was set during WWII, but was written with a German perspective. It's kind of rare to get that other point of view. The writing style was also super German, in that it was very to the point and blunt. A scene that might have been written out in great detail would be confined to a sentence like "We hiked for 6 hours, then he died." I liked this, because it let you use your imagination.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"Ima hump you"

I'm in love with David Heatley's comics. His stories are autobiographical, and capture the most telling details of events. I'm a big fan of his series "Portrait of My Dad", in which he uses little vignettes of memories to create a rich character sketch.

My favorite part of this strip is "Hump" (on the right side). It really tickles me and I'm not sure why. I think it's because we've all had moments where we've said something impulsively and immediately regretted it.

I really love when Heatley draws his dreams too. He captures how seriously we take surreal stuff when our subconscious is in control.