For the Technology Obsessed, Less is More

Although my slight addiction to technology might suggest otherwise, there were only ever two gadgets I really wanted in my life: my own typewriter and unlimited access to a card catalog. Not too much to ask for, right?

Why can’t I have my own?!

Pre-computers, I always envied my brother and his typewriter. He didn’t have to use the family typewriter for any of his typing needs (and boy do seven-year olds have a lot of typing needs) and could type in the comfort of his own room. I, on the other hand, had to go into the downstairs closet in my parents’ office, lug out the giant typewriter, and manage to carry it to a part of the house where I could type to my heart’s content without annoying the entire family, which was inevitable when typing on a typewriter.

I secretly wish libraries still used these.

Post-computers, I never thought I’d be able to raise the millions of dollars I believed it cost to acquire my own personal computer. When it became clear the Internet was here to stay, it also became clear that I could, in effect, have unlimited access to the card catalogs because libraries were putting all their systems online. Even better. Then, the advent of Google and Wikipedia made endless information available immediately if not sooner. Life goals achieved.

Ahead of its time. Moo.

However, I often ask myself, as I incessantly check Facebook, if technology really has made my life better. I might have a slight addiction to checking Facebook, similar to my

Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t know how to win this game.

past obsession with playing Minesweeper on my Gateway computer instead of doing my homework. I don’t even know why I’m do it, I just feel like clicking on things. Instead of accomplishing anything of worth, I just become irritated by all of the mines I’ve accidentally clicked on.

Of course technology has made life easier in many ways, but I’d argue it’s cheapened the quality of life in countless other ways. Nothing beats writing with a pen and paper and meeting someone face-to-face instead of texting with them.

What’s a ’90s playlist without some early Smashing Pumpkins?

I’ve always been infatuated with how the way things were (even as I write this I’m listening to a ‘90s playlist) so of course I’m a bit biased. I love being nostalgic and often take trips down memory lane. During my most recent trip down memory lane (today), I stumbled across a couple of old habits I had that made me think I should take a tip or two from my past self.

I challenge you to find me a diary without an inspirational quote.
I challenge you to find me a diary without an inspirational quote.

While paging through my old diaries to see what I was doing on this day in history (a pastime of mine), I stumbled upon an entry from October 17th, 2000. I had just achieved a lifetime best time in the 100-yard butterfly at a swim meet and wrote, “It’s such a great feeling to touch the wall and see a best time. It’s such a great feeling of accomplishment. I get to cross it off my goal sheet. Reaching a goal is one of the best feelings.”

I kept a goal sheet? And I actually crossed off goals when they were attained? I wrote about it like it was no big deal, but apparently it was because I certainly don’t keep a goal sheet anymore. I should probably start that up again.

Hand held notebooks are useful for scribbling down directions to parties.
Hand held notebooks are useful for scribbling down directions to parties.

The second thing I came across was a hand held notebook I kept in my early 20s when I lived in Boston. In this notebook, I’d write down random information like job postings, directions to parties, daily noticings, and series of questions based on observations I’d made. For example, while riding the T, and seeing a man sitting next to a pizza, I scrawled, “Who delivers a pizza via the T? Why does a pizza get a whole seat? Seriously?” The questions I often posed to my notebook were always very specific and based on whatever was happening in front of me at the time.

I'm not texting, I'm taking notes!
I’m not texting, I’m taking notes!

I still keep regular notes on my iPhone, but it’s not the same as my hand held notebook. For one, I can’t get down as much information when I write with my thumbs. Secondly, I hate how it looks like I’m always texting/being rude while someone is talking when really I’m capturing nuggets of wisdom and inspiration. The thought of looking rude hinders me from writing down my thoughts and I really hate to interrupt my creative flow especially when it involves pizza.

When it comes to technology, it’s all about finding the balance. I’ll always remain infatuated with my favorite technological oldies but goodies, but I’ll still keep updating my iPhone. I’m not going to quit the Internet cold turkey, but perhaps it’s time to return to some of my pre-technologically obsessed habits such as taking pen and paper notes and keeping a goal sheet.

I Love Inexpressibly These Streets of Boston

Wendall Phillips monument

116th Boston Marathon Finish line “I’ve run the Boston Marathon 6 times before. I think the best aspects of the marathon are the beautiful changes of the scenery along the route and the warmth of the people’s support. I feel happier every time I enter this marathon.”-Haruki Murakami
MA State House“Boston State-house is the hub of the solar system. You couldn’t pry that out of a Boston man if you had the tire of all creation straightened out for a crow-bar.”-Oliver Wendell Holmes
Holocaust Memorial
 “Boston is a tough and resilient town. So are its people. I’m supremely confident that Bostonians will pull together, take care of each other, and move forward as one proud city. And as they do, the American people will be with them every single step of the way.” –President Barack ObamaBoston skyline

“The sea returning day by day/ Restores the world-wide mart;/ So let each dweller on the Bay/ Fold Boston in his heart,/ Till these echoes be choked with snows,/ Or over the town blue ocean flows.”-From “Boston” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Fenway Park

“When we lose at Fenway, we lose the sense that somebody sat here and watched Ted Williams hit.”- Bob Costas

Cambridge Harvard

“Harvard Square could feel like a party on a warm night, full of energy and privilege and promise.”-Geraldine Brooks in People of the Book

public gardenNorth End

“I love inexpressibly these streets of Boston over whose pavements my mother held up tenderly my baby feet.”-Wendall Phillips

Make Way For Ducklings

Food Obsessions

While reading about culinary quests in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine issue on food, I started thinking about my own personal food obsessions. As a food lover and cook, there are many dishes, condiments, and meals that I continually obsess over. I am known to frequent restaurants that are way out of my way just to get eggs done a special way or go to a tucked away specialty store to get my favorite variety of mustard. We all have foods that we can’t live without, and below are the items are my food obsessions:

ImageGigantic salads 
Among family and friends and anyone else for whom I’ve cooked, the gigantic, all-encompassing salad is known as my signature dish. I love when a salad is a full meal. My salads have staples: toasted nuts, grilled veggies, cherry tomatoes. I like to vary the seasonings and proteins I use. Sometimes I’ll throw in bacon, other times grilled salmon or another grilled fish. I like to add cheese shavings, particularly aged gouda. Homemade dressing always.

Pesto
Summer in the Whipp house meant an abundance of pesto on hand. My mom made pesto from the fresh basil in her garden and since I soon became addicted to this sauce, I made sure that I learned how to make the perfect batch of pesto. On many summer mornings, I went to the garden to pluck fresh basil for my pre-swim practice meal. To me, pesto goes with everything; on pasta, in sandwiches, and as dip for carrots. I’ve gone to great lengths to make pesto. Once, at a college dinner party, I resorted to using a mortar and pestle to make pesto because none of us could afford the luxury of a food processor.

ImagePizza
Pizza was always considered a treat when I was young and I still view it as such. When my parents left us with a babysitter, we were treated to pizza. When I dined over at my best friend’s house in elementary school, we were surprised with a pizza from the local pizza joint. I could probably eat pizza every day (in fact, I tried that once when visiting the south of France) and though I eat if often, it always feels like a delicacy. I’ve eaten a lot of pizza in my day, but I’m still convinced Zaffiro’s in Milwaukee is the best pizza I’ve ever had. (Joseph’s in Boston runs a close second.)

ImageBrunch
Who doesn’t like brunch?! I’ll eat it at any time of the day. I love inventive egg scrambles with interesting spices, breakfast burritos, huevos rancheros, savory breakfast meats, coffee, bloody marys dragged through the garden and topped with oysters, the list goes on. I enjoy going out for brunch as much as cooking it in the comfort of my own home. Since moving to New York, I know also enjoy ordering in brunch. A few months ago, my friend and I discovered a great little place in East Harlem that delivers brunch on the cheap and they deliver coffee! The best part is that the food travels incredibly well. I’ve become a big fan of cheap, instant brunch that I don’t have to cook and can enjoy in the comfort of my own home.

Deluxe Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
I do not like plain old grilled cheese sandwiches. What I do like are grilled cheese sandwiches stuffed with meats, vegetables, maybe even a crabcake or two. It’s fun to experiment with making melts because the possibilities are endless. You can vary the bread you use, the kind of cheese, the sauce you put on the sandwich, the kind of bacon, etc. Never met a deluxe grilled cheese that I didn’t like. If you need inspiration, check out the Wisconsin Board of Cheese’s Grilled Cheese Academy for recipes (and food porn).

Mustard
My favorite condiment. I’m partial to Grey Poupon, especially of the Country Dijon variety. I put mustard on sandwiches, in dressing, and on crackers. I’ve been meaning to get to the National Mustard Museum in Wisconsin, but time has not permitted. Yet.

Bacon

ImageSimilar to brunch, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like bacon (except for my vegetarian friend). Like pizza, I could also eat bacon at every meal. I was delighted to find this “Bacon 25 Ways” article in Sunday’s Times magazine and have already vowed to make all of the dishes. Recently, I discovered the joys of bacon infused whiskey and yes, it is delicious.

What are your food obsessions? Anything you think I’ve missed? Anything I’ve mentioned that you can’t stand? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Wisconsin Ain’t No Flyover State

“Wisconsin. That’s in Michigan, right?”

Once, on my family’s annual family vacation to New Hampshire, a kid asked me where I was from. I of course responded with, Wisconsin. Without skipping a beat, he responded, that’s in Michigan, right? I never forgot the disgust I felt that someone my age (11) had no idea where Wisconsin was located. Didn’t they have social studies classes in New England? Aren’t you required to locate all the fifty states on a map at least once in your childhood? Have you not watched a single episode of Schoolhouse Rock?

They don't even serve this where you're from.

Fast forward 17 years and I’m sure that boy now has a clear idea of where Wisconsin is located. I doubt he’s ever visited, because after all, what coastie would be caught dead hanging out in a flyover state?

Consider this article, “Just Tossing Around the Old Bag of Corn” that appeared in the New York Times a few weeks ago. The article goes into detail about how New Yorkers are really getting into a game that we’ve been playing around these parts for decades. It’s how I imagine Columbus’s reports of the New World would have sounded to the people that he “discovered.” Dude, we’ve been saying the same thing for centuries. You didn’t discover cornhole, we did.

This is still "the beach."

My favorite is a recent post written by Wisconsin to New York transplant Megan L. Wood in The Awl called, “It’s Cute That New York is Catching Up to Wisconsin.” It expresses similar thoughts on how people in New York are now just discovering “new trends” that Wisconsinites have been setting for years.

It’s time to set the record straight. Wisconsin ain’t no flyover state, it is the real deal. You know you love us and secretly wish that you could be more like us. It’s time to put an end to that ridiculous nickname and realize that things that happen in Wisconsin are as relevant as things that happen on the coasts. Sometimes, even more so.

Since 1844!

If you still need convincing that Wisconsin ain’t all that, then I’d like to ask you a few questions. First of all, has your state been brewing Pabst Blue Ribbon since before it was an official state? Did Laura Ingalls Wilder grow up in a log cabin deep in the woods of your state which served as the inspiration for her Little House on the Prairie series which later became a hit television series starring Michael Landon? Were duck boat tours started in your state? Is America’s Largest Water Park in your neck of the woods? How many publicly owned sports teams does your state have? Can you buy alcohol on Sundays? Was America’s first kindergarten in your home state? Does your state deep fry everything and then serve it with a side of cheese? Can you host a tailgate party at all of your local sports venues? Does your state have this many breweries? When President Obama wishes us all a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays this year from the White House, will he do so against the backdrop of the White House Christmas tree, cut from the forests of your state?

Oh and did your state do this?

Wisconsin “Budget Repair Bill” Protest from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

Not Your Average To-Do List: 6 Great Lists I’ve Made

I’ve always been a list person, but not in the traditional sense. I’m not the type of person who makes extensive daily to-do lists (although I tried to be sophomore year of college).  When I think of something I want to remember, whether it is a task to complete or an interesting idea to write about, I like to scrawl down in list form.  Over the years, I’ve written down some pretty interesting lists and since I’ve always been a journal writer, I still have some of these lists. Since I’ve been sorting through my things lately to prepare for a move, I was easily sidetracked by a stack of journals and notebooks on my bookshelf.  Here’s a look at some of the better lists I’ve made thus far:

People/Things/Traits that I Hate or Piss Me Offcompiled 03/98 as a freshman in high school. I made this list with a friend and the entire thing was 16 pages long. We made it for entertainment purposes so that we’d have something to laugh about in Biology. Here are some highlights:

  1. homework
  2. health class
  3. people who try to be matchmakers
  4. video discs
  5. the feeling that there isn’t enough time in a day
  6. dead bird guts
  7. cleaning out the swim bus after a swim meet
  8. running out of cookies
  9. backstroke, it was my best stroke
  10. scantron

Secret Locations of Important Documentscompiled 06/99 while on a class trip to France for three weeks between 10th and 11th grade.

  1. Extra francs in red binder pocket.
  2. Used film in side pocket of swim bag.
  3. Travelers checks in journal from Adriane.
  4. American dollars in p. 63 of Summer by Edith Wharton.

Crazy Antics to Do compiled in the Fall of 2002, while a sophomore in college.

  1. Toilet paper [address of student house #1] and [address of student house #2]
  2. Have a kegger in our room.

Thoughts on a Day Off compiled 6/14/07 while living in Boston.

  1. Stop the drilling.
  2. It’s the time to get sappy over bad TV.
  3. Make a British mix CD.
  4. Have a dance party to drown out the drilling.
  5. Is it too early to have a beer?

List of Things to Do Today compiled 6/30/07 when some guests were visiting Boston, some for the first time. Wanted them to experience the full culture of Boston.

  1. Eat New England Clam Chowder.
  2. Wine in a box.
  3. Eat Mike’s Pastry.
  4. Chill in the North End.
  5. See a 3 cornered hat.
  6. Tag our names.
  7. Yell in Faneuil Hall.
  8.  Go to the graveyard and find our birthday buddies.

Facts About Pigs– compiled 10/11/07 after going to the Fryeburg Fair in Maine and seeing all the livestock.

  1.  4th smartest animals.
  2. Actually really clean; roll in mud because they don’t have sweat glands.
  3. Make good pets because they don’t shed.

If you’re not a list person, I suggest you start. Instead of recording things you have to do such as: 1) laundry 2) pay rent 3) buy groceries, jot down things you wish you could do: 1)sleep in until noon 2) buy a yacht 3) drink Mickey’s on yacht. The second kind of list, while not always the most practical, is much more fun to make.

Brett Favre Teaches Us to Quit While We’re Still Ahead

Me, in happier Brett Favre times.

As a lifelong Green Bay Packer fan, I was in love Brett Favre for a very, very long time.  When I moved to Boston in the winter of 2007, I brought my love for Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers along with me.  I made sure that everyone I met knew of my deep passion for all things Favre and Packers.  My roommate and I even threw a birthday party for Brett at our apartment on Comm. Ave. on October 10th (his actual birthday).  We decorated our apartment with

A poster from our Favre birthday party.

newspaper collages and Favre facts.  All of our friends wore green and gold, despite the fact that most of them were New England Patriots fans.  At other parties when the topic turned to football, I would spew out facts about Brett Favre followed by, “I bet your quarterback never did that!

My passion for Favre became so well-known among my circle of Bostonian friends, that when the Packers suffered a devastating loss during the NFC Championship game, I received sympathy texts and voicemail as if I had lost a relative or something.

The Brett Favre award I received.

Even my middle school students knew of my love for Favre.  When my students were upset over an assignment I had given them they would mutter under their breath, “Brett Favre sucks” as if that was the all-time worst insult they could imagine.  When I competed in The Ultimate Grind, a grueling physical competition devised by my athletic trainer friends and carried out in a foot of snow, I was given “The Brett Favre Award” for my passion for competition.  In fact, my name pretty much became synonymous with Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers.

Needless to say, I was a freaking Brett Favre fan if there ever was one. So it might come as a shock that, today, I am still hoarse from booing Brett Favre at Lambeau Field during Sunday night’s Packers/Vikings game.  I booed for Brett Favre during his every play of the game, screamed for joy at his interceptions and even flashed a few thumbs down signs in his direction (Since I was sitting near children, I refrained from giving the finger.)

Amidst my public displays of Favre-hate, something dawned on me.  How could it be that the 71,000 other fans and I were shouting at the top of our longs for the demise of someone who we had drooled over only two short years ago?  How had it come to this? Favre played a terrible game while receiving boos for his every move.  On top of that, he is injury-laden, the punchline of dick jokes,  and his own wife didn’t even bother to attend Sunday’s game.  Brett Favre had taken his legend and dragged it through the mud.  It became crystal clear to me: Brett Favre should have quit when he was still ahead.

If he had quit after 16 seasons in Green Bay, Favre would’ve been remembered for his dedication, passion, and talent instead of as a spiteful, selfish prima donna with a sexting problem.  His jersey probably would have been retired by now and he could be spending his days filming Wranglers commercials in peace.  Let Brett Favre’s shenanigans be a lesson to all of us: quit while you’re still ahead.

I still have a framed poster of Favre in my bedroom from the Monday Night game he played after his father died unexpectedly. The poster now serves as a visual reminder to me to quit while I’m still ahead.  I’m not involved in anything that I want to quit, but when the moment arrives, I will be sure to make a timely exit.

No Valentine? No Problem!

As another Valentine’s Day rolls around, those without Valentines need not worry.  If you are flying solo on February 14th, there is no reason to panic or even give it a second thought.  While everyone else scrambles to order flowers, secure reservations for the local dark bistro, and set the mood lighting at their hotel room, you will have something even better planned: A Valentine’s Day pub crawl.

Last Valentine’s Day, I attended a Valentine’s Day Pub Crawl throughout the streets of downtown Boston.  Singletons and non-singletons alike packed these bars to the brim.  Most places even had lines of people waiting to enter.  This record-breaking turnout made me stop and wonder, are there really that many single people around? How refreshing!  My friend found this organized pub crawl through some social group, but if you’re too lazy to find a pre-organized crawl, you can make your own!

The homemade pub crawl never disappoints.  All you need is to pick a neighborhood of local bars, decide an order and a drink minimum per bar.  If you live on a line of public transportation, try to visit a bar at each stop.  For instance, my pal and I used to do what we called The Red Line Challenge in Boston/Cambridge, MA.  Starting at the Park Street stop off of Boston Common, we headed North towards the end of the line at Alewife, picking one bar per stop.   Usually by the Davis Square stop (just before the end of the line), we had to call it quits due to exhaustion. 

If your route permits, I suggest stopping by a hotel bar. The third stop on our Red Line Challenge was always the Kendall Square’s Marriott bar, Characters, a clean dive bar. With complimentary popcorn, pool tables, a permeating smell of the hotel pool, foreign bartenders, and intriguing hotel guests, our experience at Characters always provided a good story to tell the next day. 

Finally, making t-shirts for your pub crawl is key in building camaraderie amongst pub crawlers and helping you keep track of your route and friends, should you forget.  Even if you’re not single, you should have been expressing your undying devotion all along, not solely on Valentine’s Day.  You have 364 other days to express your love and affection, but the Valentine’s Day Pub Crawl comes but once a year!