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January 27, 2012

Los Angeles at night

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Posted by laurie at 1:15 PM

January 23, 2012

Raindrops keep falling on my head

I love rainy days in Los Angeles. The building next door has tin rain gutters and the sound is surprisingly comforting, like soft southern rain on a barn roof. The bathroom in the hallway has a skylight and the pattering rain there sounds nice, too, though fainter. I amuse myself on rainy days by going to the grocery store and watching people straggle in wearing their pajamas and Ugg boots. There hasn't been much of that lately, though. Since last June we've only had four inches of rain. Today was a nice change, maybe it will rain some more tonight.

Other things I like: working (and existing) databases, Noro with no knots, writing dialogue, talking to Corey, Meyer lemons, the new season of American Idol, Nailtique.

I would ask you what's on your list today but of course comments are still off during the software upgrade. So save up your list for next week! Or of course you can hit me on the tweetermachine in your pajamas, rain or shine.

Posted by laurie at 3:34 PM

January 20, 2012

And then there was the time I pressed that button.

While prepping my server for an upgrade this morning, guess what happened! I sort of deleted the entire database. Yes, that's right, I pressed a button and like magic all eight years of writing and cat pictures and navel-gazing and comma splices disappeared. Gone. Finished.

Luckily I have a remarkable server company (pair.com, if you need the best hosting on the planet) and John at the help desk was able to restore my database from a backup and he didn't even laugh at me (much) when I offered to come to his house in Pennsylvania and show him my thanks in person. By cleaning his house of course! Duh.

It sounds all funny and whoopsy and easypeasy now but readers, what I experienced this morning was a full thermonuclear meltdown. When I realized my error -- just after ruining years of work but just before finding solace in the soothing dulcet tones of Help Desk John -- I experienced a mix of physical and psychological insanity that I have only felt once before in my life.

When I was thirteen my mom left my adorable, perfect, blonde baby brother Eric in my care at the Acadiana Mall in Lafayette, Louisiana for one hour. It was hard being a mom to two awful teenagers and one crying (but adorable) baby, so I do not blame her for trusting her youngest and most adorable child to a permed, bracefaced kid with a deep obsession for Duran Duran keyboardist Nick Rhodes. While I was using my allowance to buy a pair of acid-washed denim jeans with zippers at the ankles, my little brother vanished in the middle of Express. He was only hiding under a rounder of long, flammable rayon dresses but those few minutes when he was missing and not answering my frantic calls were the worst moments of my life. My baby brother was missing and probably being sold on the black market and I was SO GROUNDED and would never be able to live with myself or wear my cute new jeans.

Then of course we found him and I made him promise to never tell what happened. As soon as our mom picked us up in the food court he told her exactly what happened and I was SO GROUNDED. But it didn't matter, really, because I had my little brother safe and sound and I had my acid-washed jeans with the tiny ankle zippers and all was well in the universe and one day Nick Rhodes would come to Bayou Nowhere, Louisiana and marry me.

My point here is that you should never push the delete button without first backing up the database. And even then, go shopping instead of deleting. Listen to some old Duran Duran songs. Call your mother. Do whatever it takes to keep from nuking your life's work. There is more to life than a tidy file structure, OK?

Posted by laurie at 2:28 PM

January 17, 2012

Rise of the machines

The DVR cerebellum is mighty.

Somewhere along the line my Tivo developed a brain of its own and grew wise and now outranks me in IQ. Proof? A few weeks ago it spontaneously decided on its own to stop recording The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. While I still plod along in my human toil, looking forward to my trashy hour of Kyle and Kim and Vanderliciousness, my Tivo grew a brain and decided to stop watching the show. Out of contempt for me, perhaps, the Tivo still has the show on its season pass list. Yet nary an episode has been recorded in two months. I have had to catch up on my trash the old-fashioned way, through copious Bravo reruns.

The indignity!

In other machine brain news...

The server will be undergoing an upgrade in the coming month, so there will be changes here. I am telling you this now because out of a deep respect for your fear and loathing of change (as well as a healthy serving of tech avoidance on my part) I have averted major upgrades for some time, but that time has ended and I know we all need fair warning that change is on the horizon. This is your warning.

There might have been misplaced words in that paragraph.

Finally...
Does anyone have a good recipe for carne asada marinade?

Posted by laurie at 5:12 PM

January 12, 2012

Bold

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Oh Magique! Are you a stripper? A sparkling body spray? A purveyor of magic tricks? A master of disguise? So many questions! So little time at the red light.

Posted by laurie at 2:11 PM

January 11, 2012

I learned to Dougie, and other signs the world may indeed be ending.

Last night I went to a hip hop dance class at a local studio. This is part of my effort to get out of my house at night instead of staying home alone with my boyfriend, Tivo. He loves me ... but he will still be there later, waiting for me to un-pause him and love him back.

The hip hop class consisted of all good dancers and me. It was highlarious. Surprisingly it was one of the most intense aerobic experiences I have had in a long time, largely because I was trying to keep up with the class while also reigning in control of my flailing limbs which refused to move to the music. Plus I learned to Dougie*. (When I got home my phone was ringing, March of 2011 called and they want their moves back.)

I loved the class. Also, I believe the class loved me. Every class enjoys having one person who is so bad it makes them look like Beyonce. I know it. You know it. And now I am bringing that joy to so many new people.

This time last year I would have cut off my left ear all crazy painter style before venturing out alone on a school night to some hip hop bootyshaking class in the valley. So, yeah, I haven't exactly reached the pinnacle of enlightenment yet but I can now Dougie. Progress, people.

- - -

Seen on the boulevard:

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Pink hummer! Palm trees! Swimming pools and movie stars!

- - -

* and *
Teach yourself how to Dougie, or watch the Glee version.

Posted by laurie at 7:11 AM

January 9, 2012

Mayan Calendars, Mayan Onions

Did you make any New Year's resolutions?

I made a few small goals for 2012, assuming the planet stays intact. I love that NASA felt the need to issue a press release stating that the world will not actually end in 2012, it was comforting to those of us who enjoy a good press release with a glass of merlot. Those crazy Mayan onions and calendars! Predicting nothing but onion rings and apocalypse.

Since many people use the new year as a time to berate themselves for the onion rings of months past and start a new exercise regime, I thought this email from reader Kathryn was timely:

How do you separate the idea of exercise for weight loss from the idea of exercise just for the sake of it? Who exercises just for the sake of it?

You can almost hear the unspoken, "... you crazy weirdo!" at the end of the note. I can appreciate the strangeness of this idea, it's like getting a Brazilian bikini wax without getting any lovin' the next weekend. Who does that wacky nonsense?

Well, some folks.

Try to think back to a time before exercise was a mandatory condition for fitting into an arbitrary pair of jeans. What was it like to be a kid and want to go ride bikes? Or roller skate? Remember in the summer when all you wanted to do was stay in the pool just five more minutes? Please, mom? Just five more minutes!

When I was a teenager something fizzled and went wrong with the messages because exercise became about looks and sizes and weight. Untangling that took some time but was well worth it. (When I say it took some time, I mean "years.") I'm not sure the best way to untangle it for yourself. You may have to experiment with different activities and new motivations. What I can tell you for sure is that there are psychological benefits from exercise that you simply can't get from a diet. Bodies were meant to be moved around. I happened to find a simple, cheap thing I enjoy -- walking -- but it can be anything as long as it makes you feel good. Gardening is exercise. Cleaning house is an excellent workout (there's a little shout-out to my OCD homies! woot woot!) Yoga, swimming, softball, playing with the dog in the backyard, chasing a kid, these are all activities that can be as weight-neutral as nail polish.

Over the weekend I was walking in the Hollywood Hills and as I was midway up a particularly challenging slope, I heard the sound of bicycles wheezing up the hill.

"You can do it, Jonah!" said the dad. "Keep pedaling, buddy!"

It was a dad and two pre-teen-ish kids, a boy and a girl. The dad kept saying encouraging things to both kids to get them up the hill, and as they passed me I heard him say something that gave me a little stab.

"OK, Justine, we're almost to the top, make it this far and you've earned that ice cream!"

I cringed. I thought about how careless it was as a remark, certainly not intended to give a kid body issues for the next 30 years. But all the same it was the subtle beginning of associating a bike ride with work, earning, payoff. And associating food with work, burn, sweat it off. Can't a kid just go for a bike ride anymore? Do we really have to earn our ice cream? What the heck happened to us, people?

It used to be fun just to get on the bike and pedal hard up a hill. Remember? Before the Mayans had us on our last onion ring?

Posted by laurie at 2:38 PM

January 6, 2012

One foot in front of the other

This first week of the year is known in my neighborhood for the appearance of two things:

1) Mysteriously growing piles of poor, dried-out Christmas trees on the curb.

2) A flood of new exercisers on the sidewalks each morning who are hell-bent on fulfilling New Year's Resolutions but haven't yet figured out you must push the button for the crosswalk to give you a walk sign. PUSH THE BUTTON.

Yes, it is true, if you arrive at the crosswalk first it is your duty to push the button. If you do not push the button in Los Angeles, you do not get the crosswalk man. Without the crosswalk man, people in cars think it is OK to drive into you. New exercisers, take heed.

A few days ago I got this message from Karen on Twitter who nudged me to say,

@crazyauntpurl, I could sure use another inspiring post about walking.

I'm not sure if this will inspire you or entice you to send me heavy medication, but below is a little graph, courtesy of Nike.com, that shows how much pavement-pounding I did in 2011:

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(Oh, so many things I wish we could merely click to enlarge.)

According to my Nike+ chip, in 2011 I completed 246 workouts, walked for 331 hours and 47 minutes and burned 187,681 calories. The calorie count is not accurate at all but is still amusing.

What's crazypants is that I walked an astonishing 1, 172.93 miles, which is just about the distance from my home here in Los Angeles to Oklahoma City. That tally doesn't count all the shlepping I did in Washington, D.C. (I forgot my sportsband that weekend) and it is all the more impressive since apparently I didn't move from my sofa for the entire month of January. Take that, New Year's Resolutions!

This is the time of year when every magazine and TV news program and website and weight-loss business cashes in on our perennial self-loathing and peppermint bark regrets and showers us with information on diet and exercise. Every cover story mentions cutting calories, working out, celebrity diet secrets and "Half their size!" (I bought it, by the way. I always buy that issue of People magazine. I am not immune.)

Inevitably each success story includes gems about "portion control" and "strength training twice a week" and "I allow myself a small piece of chocolate, but don't overindulge." I am waiting for the article that talks about accidentally ordering a large pepperoni lover's pizza to celebrate the day so-and-so made it through her first spinning class. Oh wait! That was me!

I feel proud of my imbalanced and simultaneously impressive graph of footsteps. It reminds me that one does not have to be perfect or even completely consistent to be successful at something. (No matter how you stack it, walking over 1100 miles in one year is a success.) But look at January -- nothing. Nada. And there were some slow dips mid-year when it was eleventy-nine hundred degrees outside and I was less than motivated to move. Still, by year's end I was a little walking machine. Lacing up my shoes and getting on the road is my favorite part of the day.

Now it's 2012 and I have so many goals for this year, so many hopes and keep-my-fingers-crossed dreams and to-do lists and tasks and work, work, work. At the beginning of every year I feel optimistic and hopeful. Secretly I also feel scared and worried about momentum. What does the year ahead hold?

When a slump comes or a month brings a whole lot of nothing, I want to look back at my little 2011 walking chart and remind myself that as long as I don't give up I can actually walk all the way from Hollywood to Oklahoma City one step at a time. It is perhaps one of my cheesier metaphors, and I don't care, I am the one after all who celebrated spinning class with a pizza.

It is important to note that two years ago I could barely walk around the block without needing a sherpa. For a whole year I would get up on the first day of each month and challenge myself: this month, take a small walk each day. I consistently failed. I would miss a day here, a day there, I don't think I ever made it the full 30 days for a whole year! But I never gave up. I just kept going, and one day I stopped counting days because all days were walking days.

Like most people I used to mix up exercise and weight loss. I thought that I had to exercise so I could lose weight, and that just made me irritated and guilty. I'm not sure when exercise and weight loss started to become separate ideas, but that split has certainly changed my outlook on movement. I like being outside and seeing all the people with their dogs and looking at the yards and storefronts and flowering trees. I like going to yoga (even though I have the worst Downward Dog in the whole class) (who sucks at Downward Dog??) I like my weird dance classes and I like hula-hooping.

On New Year's Day, instead of getting up and resolving once again to start a desperately determined exercise program I just laced up my shoes and went for a walk.

No one has time to exercise, you make time. I made time. I moved my whole life around to make time. No one likes getting started and realizing they're out of shape. No one enjoys the first trip around the block. And no one ever becomes perfect. Some people still order pizza as a reward for pedaling a bike to nowhere.

The chart reminds me that perfection isn't the goal and that perfection will never happen. I finally get that you don't have to be perfect to accomplish something. I look at the chart and I realize I was flawed, I was erratic some days, I was not even on the pavement for a whole month -- and still I walked 1, 172.93 miles.

I just didn't give up. That's all I have to remember for 2012. Keep walking. Don't give up.

And push the button!

Posted by laurie at 10:54 AM

January 3, 2012

This day, this crazy summer (January) day.

It's just another Chamber of Commerce day here in Los Angeles, the sky is bright blue and the sun is shining and it's 82 degrees. Winter warmth is completely unlike summertime heat. In the middle of summer the heat is just aggressive and it seeps into the concrete but in the wintertime a warm day like today feels perfect. Also, I just wrote an entire blissful paragraph about the weather so I have officially turned into my parents. Later let's have a scotch and watch some Fox News.

Anyway, I can appreciate the weather today because I was finally well-rested. Last night we had a reprieve from the window-rattling sound of helicopters constantly flying overhead and I actually got some sleep. My building sits right in the middle of the disturbing fire path set by the arsonist and everyone was on edge in the neighborhood. The sound of sirens and helicopters all night long for four nights in a row didn't help. The fires were scary.

When the news showed footage of the mad arsonist being arrested in Hollywood you could see his face, at one point he turned and smiled for the cameras like he was on a particularly sick episode of TMZ. The first thing I thought when I saw that look on his face was, "I don't know what he's guilty of, but that dude is guilty of something."

My neighbors and I have never really talked much, when you live in a crowded city in a crowded building and you share walls and guest parking spots and laundry facilities, you tend to keep your fences high. But during the unsettling nights of the arson spree everyone kept looking out the windows into the parking area, waving at each other across the alley. The opera guy in the building next door gave me a thumbs up sign one night around 3 a.m., when sirens were streaming past the building and two helicopters were hovering overhead. It was oddly comforting to see opera man's little sign of solidarity.

So today was a really good day, beautiful and sunny and clear. On my walk this morning I passed a plainclothes policeman (just like on TV!) wearing jeans and a T-shirt with his badge on a chain around his neck. He was checking the garage of a building nearby. When he heard my footsteps he looked up quickly.

"Good morning," I said, gave a little wave as we passed.

"Good morning," he said.

Then I heard him say quietly, "It is a good morning."

Posted by laurie at 4:10 PM

January 1, 2012

Pictures of New Year's Day

What you see when you look up:

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What you see when you look down:

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Posted by laurie at 4:08 PM