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Lots of cheers (ok, and a fair amount of tears, too) July 31, 2008

Posted by Emily in things that make me smile.
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The Olympics begin in one week, for anyone who has been living in a yurt somewhere in the tundra (in which case, this post will probably remain a mystery anyway). I am generally not known for my nationalism or for being especially patriotic. My friends in Spain were always surprised by my quickness to criticize America and my sundry iPod tunes bashing U.S. foreign policy in one form or another. But I am a total Olympic sucker.

It’s not even that I am obsessed with the U.S. winning. Sometimes it makes me happy and I get a touch of pride, other times I’d rather some dude who practiced running marathons barefoot win. When the talent-heavy, ego-burdened U.S. basketball team fell on its face four years ago, I felt no pity. Even those athletes who have the most money and the best coaches and the sports therapists and nutritionist-balanced diets and sleep regiments and high altitude training sometimes don’t win. There’s something really awesome about that.

Sure, there’s an ugly side to the Olympics. Doping comes to mind, as does Bela Karolyi telling his teeny-tiny prepubescent gymnasts to “eat air.” Actually, let’s put gymnastics in general under the “ugly” category. There’s something kind of scary about the length to which kids are pushed in the Chinese athlete schools, some of them starting at age 3. (Though there’s something really beautiful about the 900 portraits Gerard Rancinan shot at these same schools for his Faces of China project).

I know this is naive, but I like to think of the Olympics in exactly the way Bob Costas announces them–as one of the last bastions of international cooperation. I have been in love with the Olympics for as long as I can remember. When I was young enough to be a lot more motivated (and foolish) than I am now, I read the Sports Illustrated Olympics issue and decided to make brackets on butcher paper in the basement for every Olympic sport. Since my brother was younger and I liked bossing him around, he was handed the other ruler and we got to work. Needless to say, we didn’t finish the bracket (I didn’t even know what steeplechase was, and I’m not sure I do now) but we put in a couple of hours’ work. Meaning my brother whined for about twenty minutes and finally gave up, while I put in another hour and a half or so. I was determined and it made me feel connected in a way my athletic abilities, being what they are or better yet are not, never would. The abandoned bracket is somewhere in my parents’ basement, crumpled for sure but a sign of hopefulness.

The new Sports Illustrated Olympics edition fell into my hands this past week, still listing medal favorites for every event. I didn’t make a bracket. But yes, I spent a large portion of the afternoon poring over it, reading every little strange athlete tidbit. Montana is one of three states without an athlete representing us, I am disappointed to report. One of the members of the softball team is named Lovieanne, after two members of Gilligan’s Island. I will look forward to seeing Ben Askren, a wrestler who says about his long blond curls, “I actually don’t really like my hair that much, but I am a man of realism, and I realize people like gimmicks. [In Beijing] my hair’s going to be my gimmick. Hopefully, I’ll get a sponsorship or two, maybe some money out of having stupid, curly hair.” What’s not to love about Dara Torres still kicking ass?

I am curious, as many in the world are, to see whether China pulls this one off. I was sad when the torch run was clouded by protests, although the protesters are probably in the right. I am hoping that more airtime can be devoted to athletes and less to China’s “no spitting” social classes. How cool are the “Water Cube” and “Birds Nest” buildings? I am dying to walk through the Olympic Village, as my cousin will do when covering the games. Hopefully they will still be visible through the smog…

In the end, I don’t care about China and their political problems, at least not during these few days that only come every few years. China’s political problems are not new, just finally getting some long-delayed attention. The Olympics are supposed to be about the athletes and their ridiculous skills and sacrifices. Win or lose, I’ll be reaching for the Kleenex. Other peoples’ sadness makes me emotional. So does their happiness. So in case Bob Costas and crew’s athlete Hallmark stories weren’t jerking enough of my tears, I pretty much well up everytime someone wins. Or loses. Bonus points for being a cancer survivor, an orphan, poor, or for having overcome any sort of odds, even if the NBC network makes them up. Also when people sing along to their national anthems. And let’s not forget the Opening Ceremony’s national pride (especially for little tiny countries with one or two delegates–love them!) and the Closing Ceremony’s bittersweetness (over so soon?)

According to SI, this year, over 212 hours of coverage will be offered PER DAY. That’s 1,000 more total hours this year than in all past Olympics combined. My family recently got digital cable, and I just happen to not have a job, which means I am going to be able to skip past primetime coverage (aka mostly gymnastics) in favor of the offerings of Oxygen, CNBC, MSNBC, USA, and yes, even Telemundo en español. It’s a little overwhelming, but I think I’ll manage.

If you want to know what I’ll be doing starting August 8, check your TV guide. It’s going to be an intense couple of weeks.

(thanks to SI for doing a lot of the legwork on this one. Surprisingly, I didn’t get great athlete access for this post.)

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That weird in-between July 23, 2008

Posted by Emily in jobs schmobs, moving, Travel, working.
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Having scanned Craig’s List for all of twenty minutes this week, I can say with some confidence that the job search has begun. Emotionally, at least. Kind of.

A number of well-intentioned friends and relatives have asked me questions about my future, and I’ve gotten the impression that few have been too impressed with my answers. “I’m thinking of finding a job somewhere in the U.S.” wouldn’t satisfy many, and understandably. At this point, it’s the big circle on my Venn Diagram. I have sort of scoped out a few cities, nothing for sure and changing all the time, but if someone asked me my criteria, I think I would be embarrassed to admit the influence of off-handed remarks from friends, movies, magazine articles, and proximity to major airports. I figure I can’t live anywhere known for a meteorological condition I don’t like, such as rain. As I told a friend, “Rain makes me want to curl up with a blanket, a book, a cup of tea and some Norah Jones.” Not too conducive to starting a new job. I even did some random Googling–and I refuse to share any of those keywords out of pure self-preservation.

So I haven’t really figured out where to begin, what I might want to do, where exactly I might want to do yet-to-be determined thing. I figure there’s lots of things I could enjoy. Plenty of other things I could semi-enjoy that would involve twice-monthly paychecks for a while. So it’s just a question of looking. Right?

I know everyone goes through this post-college transition period. Not really being an adult, not really being a kid. I just happened to postpone my time a year or so and wasn’t smart enough to move in/move on with college friends as some brighter friends have done. Then again, most of my college friends are in law school or married. Some of them have careers, which, I’ll be honest, don’t really appeal to me too much. Whether I plan to or not, I kind of follow the whole “I will go in this way/and I’ll find my own way out” bit anyway (thanks, Dave).

At this point, I’ve lived with 17 (!) different roommates over the past six years in eight different apartments/houses/dorm rooms in four cities, three countries. (And that’s not even counting the three summers I spent living in a cabin in northeastern Washington.) As a disclaimer to any future roommates I may have, most of them came into the relationship with a deadline already in mind–I only drove one away and that’s because I evicted him. Part of me is tired of going through the motions, the meet and greet and then getting accustomed to their strange cohabitation patterns, becoming close friends with some, only to do it all over again a few months later. Even as I am sick of it, just like I am getting pretty damn tired of moving this unbelievable amount of stuff I have accumulated, I know it’s a necessary evil. I like my stuff. And I’m not sure I can see moving to a new place where I know no one and living alone as the smartest option. Meeting people in the post-college world is awkward enough. You can’t knock on the door down the hall during the first week and ask if they want to hit the Food Zoo. There’s no orientation or small classes or student groups. I’ve been told I could join a gym–there’s just a couple problems with that idea. I hate gyms, and I’m not sure my red-faced sweaty self is the first impression I am looking to give to future friends. Book clubs, classes from cooking to car maintenance, knitting groups, all the other tenets of chick-lit friendship building I haven’t entirely ruled out. I don’t even know where I’m moving yet.

Despite all of the confusion and general angst, I’m excited. When the time comes, I am guessing I will feel ready to start something new. I am looking forward to getting to know a U.S. city outside of Montana, getting to know the U.S. in general. I’ve traveled so little here. It’s fun, though clearly overwhelming, to have some choice in where I’m headed–last year, I got a letter saying I was assigned to a city in southern Spain and off I headed, completely clueless. To some extent, I’ll be clueless whereever I go, but at least I have some say in the matter.

And hey, there’s always random Googling.

Font conference July 22, 2008

Posted by Emily in Uncategorized.
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I’ve been on vacation mode for some time now. So until I get around to writing and editing up a storm of posts sitting in my brain, I found this while searching through one of my favorite Flickr photostreams. It requires only a bit of graphic design/computer dorkiness, so it’s right up my alley and made me laugh. Comic Sans is the worst cutesy font ever.

Keep an eye out for the arrival of Wingdings.

Font Conference video on collegehumor.com

My alternate universe July 11, 2008

Posted by Emily in moving, Spain, working.
3 comments

I am not sure where I live.

Most of the emotions of leaving Spain and friends and a language I came to love and food and 110 degree heat (c’mon, you didn’t think it was all rosy, did you?) have been postponed somewhere in my mind. It hasn’t quite hit me. I haven’t seen many American friends since my return, for a number of reasons dealing with crossing paths and geography (some in Missoula, others in Japan) and also my lack of a cell phone, an answering machine, or frequent internet access.

People keep asking me if I am glad to be home, and for the most part, I think I am. It’s nice to see people who have known me forever, to express myself in a more exact fashion than even nine months in Spain afforded me. It’s nice to eat random foods I missed, to shop the sales, to think how cheap everything seems here when I am used to paying in euros. Well, except gas, but I didn’t ever buy that in Europe.

I have basically nothing to do, so I read a book, a really good one, in an afternoon this week and I have whipped through magazines from Harper’s to JPG to Better Homes and Gardens. I spend a lot of time petting my dog, who makes sure to get whatever clothes I’m wearing thoroughly dog hair covered. The front porch swing is surely getting more use than it has seen in some time. The weather here is perfect, in the 80s, although the air-conditioned house is too cold after sweating through most of June. I am rarely dressed before 11:15.

Of course, I have only been home about a week. The suitcases are opened but far from unpacked; my room looks more storage space than living space. Then again, the ceiling is also covered with glow in the dark stars and magazine clippings of Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio and all sorts of other late 90s celebs, so I suppose it’s only natural that I feel like I am just home for Christmas vacation or something, not really living here or anywhere.

Soon enough, I will have to start job searching. I will have to go through interviews and the process of moving all over again. Soon enough, I will be busy  and I will complain about having no time. So I am trying to bask in the time I have now, even if it seems I am living in an alternate universe, one where I have zero responsibilities, spend zero money, read a lot, eat well, go to bed early.

It may not seem like reality, but I guess sometimes reality is overrated.