Is this supposed to be surprising news?   Although this NY Times piece isn’t exactly groundbreaking journalism, it is nice to get acknowledgement from a major news source that my generation isn’t headed to hell in a handbasket, and it’s no surprise to me that younger Americans are more liberal than their older counterparts, that’s we’re more tolerant of differences in sexuality and race, and that we tend to be fairly optimistic about the future of our country.  Go us!

If you want to read some really thought-provoking comments on Gen Y (I sort of hate that term, but it’s so easily recognizable that I’ll use it anyways), check out this post by Kathleen Fasanella from the Fashion-Incubator (and if you’re involved in the apparel industry in any way, or if you want to see an example of an amazing business blog, you should check out her site).  Be sure to read all the (really excellent) comments, and I’ve reposted mine here too, because, well, I can.

“For better or worse, I’m a Gen Y-er, and although I’ve noticed many of the trends you speak of, I think that it’s really not as bad as previous generations think.

Reading – we still read, just in different ways. The internet is a huge factor here (cool book alert: check out Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times for a collection of essays on how the net has changed publishing). There’s definitely still a market for useful/interesting books though – both as a source of knowledge and as a tangible piece of literature.

Entitlement/Obnoxiousness – yes, it’s there, but I know tons of people around my age who’ve started nonprofits, are active in the political and volunteer communities, and really care about the world and how they can make a positive impact. We’re not all instant grafitication junkies, but everything does move at a much faster pace nowadays (mostly thanks to the net, I believe) and everyone needs to keep up.

Granted, I can’t speak for everyone, but parents could be to blame for the some of the sense of entitlement of my generation. Personally, I’ve had at least a part-time job since I was old enough to work and have managed to support myself since I’ve graduated from college (and as a writer, no less – clearly somebody’s reading something*). My parents taught me to work hard for what I want and I thank them for it.

I second all the people who commented about my generation’s lack of caring about ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. Yay for us.

Thanks for making such a thought provoking post, Kathleen!”

I’m not a particularly good cook.  Sure, I can follow a recipe’s directions provided there are no complicated techniques involved, but in general, my culinary skills leave much to be desired.  This is probably because I like to try and amend the recipe to make it tastier – blame it on being a creative type.  Sometimes this works wonderfully, sometimes I wonder what in the world I was thinking.

However, I am very good at making salads.  Growing up, this was always my job, probably because no one else wanted to do it and it’s a difficult thing to screw up.  However, now I actually kind of enjoy chopping things up (insert “crazy knife wielding bitch” joke here) and I love coming up with creative ingredient combinations.  Also, the likelihood of me setting something on fire while making a salad is very low, and they are generally a healthy meal if you don’t add tons of meat, bacon or creamy dressing.

My current favorite combination is so delicious that I feel the need to share it, so without further adieu:

Toss together spinach, romaine lettuce, sliced strawberries, kiwi, and mango, and add slivered almonds, monterey jack cheese, and grilled chicken (I just get the prepared strips from Trader Joe’s, but if you’re more competent with fire than I am, grilling your own is much better).  Drizzle champagne-pear vinaigrette (also from Trader Joe’s, but raspberry vinaigrette is also good) on top, and you have a refreshing and light summer meal. 

I recently read this article about Myspace vs. Facebook: Viewing American Classic Divisions through Facebook and Myspace.  Although I believe the author painted the whole thing with entirely too broad of strokes, I can speak to the fact that facebook = college and that part of the reason it was so cool was that it was exclusive to top tier universities.  A class division between Facebook and Myspace users?  No shit, Sherlock.

 In the earliest days of Facebook, users had to attend upper tier schools, so there were no immature high schoolers and no “real adults”.  It was all about being a member of an exclusive group and making connections with that group.  Yes, it was/is a bit elitest and the user demographics tend to skew towards the upper middle class.  At the risk of sounding elitist myself, my alma mater was one of the first schools to get Facebook access, and I recall just about everyone being addicted to it and checking it constantly. 

However, it’s been quite a while since I used Facebook for anything other than occasionally checking out what old friends are up to.  The live feed thing kind of irritates me and although the groups and writing on walls can be amusing, it seems to be more of a time-suck than anything else.  Of course college students love Facebook, it’s a wonderful procrastination tool, but does anyone use it for purposes other than seeing that your friends are doing? 

I’ve found that I get much more out of user-driven media sites like Digg and Del.icio.us and especially blogging platforms than Facebook.  After all, in the end, the blog – the act of recording your interests, thoughts, and actions on the web – is still at the heart of everything anyways.

On a related note, this article from College Humor is hilarious.

On a different related note, here’s a global map of the Social Networks from Valleywag.  Personally, I love that a commentator pointed out that according to the rules of Risk, Blogger has won.

“I have a Secret…”

June 24, 2007

The prompt for this post is from Sunday Scribblings.  Read more secretive posts here.

My secret is not particularly juicy (hey, some of my clients read this blog, and so do a few family members), but it is something I rarely tell people. 

See, I am a synesthete.  What’s that, you may ask?  Technically, “Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which two or more senses are coupled (Although referred to as a “neurological condition”, synesthesia is not listed in either the DSM-IV or the ICD classifications, since synesthesia does not, in general, interfere with normal daily functioning. Indeed most synesthetes report that their experiences are neutral, or even pleasant. Rather, like color blindness or perfect pitch, synesthesia is a difference in perceptual experience and is referred to as a neurological condition to reflect the brain basis of this perceptual difference” (taken from Wikipedia).

In layman’s terms, in my mind, numbers, letters, and words have specific colors assigned to them.  I did not choose these colors, they do not change, and there doesn’t seem to be a particular rhyme or reason to the color scheme.  It’s just always been that way.  For example, eight is purple, L is fuschia, and the word “cat” is teal. 

I didn’t know that other people didn’t quite see things the way I did until I learned of the existence of synesthesia in a writing class during my junior year of college – it came up because Vladimir Nabokov was a synesthete, and wrote about it extensively in his autobiography/  Like me, he was a grapheme-color synesthete, which is the most common kind (“individual letters of the alphabet and numbers are shaded or tinged with color”).  In my mind, words have colors too – sometimes their colors are related to the letters within, sometimes it seems to be completely random.

Synesthesia is actually quite useful sometimes, especially when it comes to spelling words properly and other memory related things.  An incorrectly spelled word will look off – it’s the wrong shade – until I fix it and it becomes the right color.  Of course, if I’m typing or writing really quickly all bets are off.  Generally, I think it’s a kind of cool ability to have, and besides, I’m in good company – here’s a list of relatively well-known people with synesthesia.

How to be creative, courtesy of the Gaping Void (click the link for explanations of each point).  I highly recommend checking out the brilliant cartoons and writing on the Gaping Void in general, but this post is particularly awesome.

1. Ignore everybody.

2. The idea doesn’t have to be big. It just has to change the world.

3. Put the hours in.

4. If your biz plan depends on you suddenly being “discovered” by some big shot, your plan will probably fail.

5. You are responsible for your own experience.

6. Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten.

7. Keep your day job.

8. Companies that squelch creativity can no longer compete with companies that champion creativity.

9. Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.

10. The more talented somebody is, the less they need the props.

11. Don’t try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether.

12. If you accept the pain, it cannot hurt you.

13. Never compare your inside with somebody else’s outside.

14. Dying young is overrated.

15. The most important thing a creative person can learn professionally is where to draw the red line that separates what you are willing to do, and what you are not.

16. The world is changing.

17. Merit can be bought. Passion can’t.

18. Avoid the Watercooler Gang.

19. Sing in your own voice.

20. The choice of media is irrelevant.

21. Selling out is harder than it looks.

22. Nobody cares. Do it for yourself.

23. Worrying about “Commercial vs. Artistic” is a complete waste of time.

24. Don’t worry about finding inspiration. It comes eventually.

25. You have to find your own schtick.

26. Write from the heart.

27. The best way to get approval is not to need it.

28. Power is never given. Power is taken.

29. Whatever choice you make, The Devil gets his due eventually.

30. The hardest part of being creative is getting used to it.

31. Remain frugal.

Deja Vu and Duende

June 22, 2007

Inspired by this post on Lonely Planet’s Thorntree messageboards:

Have you ever arrived in a new place and felt that you’ve been there before?  I’ve been to lots of places that I thought were special, that were magical, that had a certain something that set them apart from the more prosaic cities that surrounded them.  After all, there’s a reason why places like Paris and Venice are such major tourist destinations.

However, I’m talking about something slightly different – a sense of deja vu, a feeling that you’re at completely at home in what should be a strange city, a feeling that you’ve spent time there before. 

I’ve had that feeling – in Seville, the city of gypsies, of flamenco, of so much history that it makes U.S. cities look like mere blips on time’s radar screen.  From the second I stepped off the train, I felt completely at ease.  First of all, I never once got lost in the winding maze of the medieval Old Town, even after enjoying a pitcher of sangria or tinto de verrano.

Secondly, I managed to find all sorts of hidden treasures during my wanderings, like little hole-in-the-wall cafes where guitarists still play traditional Andalucian music (and don’t give a damn about catering to tourists) small weekly markets where farmers still come in from the countryside to sell their delicious tomatoes, olives, oranges, and jamon, and little shops that sell colorful fabrics and outrageous trims meant for flamenco costumes.  Of course, I’m always trying to seek out places off the beaten path, but I was particularly successful in Seville. 

Everything I did wasn’t cultural in the traditional sense, however; I had a hell of a time a Real Betis game with some newly made Sevillano friends.  The Spanish have the Americans beat at one thing – they really know how to celebrate when their team wins (or maybe it’s just been so long since Notre Dame won a really big game I’ve forgotten how it feels)

Granted, none of these things add up to a particularly unique experience on the surface, but it’s difficult to explain the deja vu – it’s the kind of thing that when you feel it, you just know.  Perhaps I’m a little bit crazy, or maybe I lived in Seville in a past life – it would certainly explain my predeliction for oversize earrings, intricate embroideries, and dramatic ensembles fit for a modern day urban gypsy.

Perhaps I’ve been working on too many Web 2.0 type projects lately, but the conversational style and 108 short sections of Elizabeth Gilbert‘s memoir Eat, Pray, Love reminded me of nothing more so than a blog.  I mean that as a compliment – if this book had been a blog, it certainly would have been a popular one and probably one of my favorites. 

The story of Elizabeth’s journey towards spiritual healing (I’ll admit I sort of hate that phrase, but it fits) after a bitter divorce could have been cliched, but her friendly, relatable voice makes this book like you’re having drinks and catching up with an old friend.  I’ll admit that it’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but considering the number of copies this book has sold, somebody besides me has to like it. 

From the New Yorker:

“At the age of thirty-one, Gilbert moved with her husband to the suburbs of New York and began trying to get pregnant, only to realize that she wanted neither a child nor a husband. Three years later, after a protracted divorce, she embarked on a yearlong trip of recovery, with three main stops: Rome, for pleasure (mostly gustatory, with a special emphasis on gelato); an ashram outside of Mumbai, for spiritual searching; and Bali, for “balancing.” These destinations are all on the beaten track, but Gilbert’s exuberance and her self-deprecating humor enliven the proceedings: recalling the first time she attempted to speak directly to God, she says, “It was all I could do to stop myself from saying, ‘I’ve always been a big fan of your work.'”

Although the title suggests that this book is a travelogue, Elizabeth’s actual travelling takes a backseat to her personal discoveries – hers is an inward voyage, and I give her props for being courageous enough to take her readers along on the journey.

Writing the Father’s Day post reminded me of another trait my dad and I share – a love of good beer.  Thanks to my father’s appreciation for a delicious microbrew and the fact that my first beer drinking experiences occurred during a high school trip to Germany (I was a senior so it was legal), I became an unabashed beer snob before I was even 21.  Spending time in Amsterdam and taking a side trip Belgium the summer after I finished college only increased my beer snobbery.

Now that I’m 23, I shun American macro-brews in favor of imports and craft beers.  One of my favorite places in Chicago is the Maproom, which has over 200 unique beers from all over the world with a menu that changes constantly.  They take their beer seriously!  I’m also a fan of Goose Island and Bell’s Brewery.

Without further adieu, here are my top five beers:

1.  Beamish and Beamish Red.  I know that these are two separate beers, but they are from the same brewery and Beamish Red is only available in Europe.  The original Beamish is a classic creamy stout with hints of chocolate, and Beamish Red is a smooth Irish Red with a hint of bitterness.

2.  Augustiner Weissbier.  I’m really a fan of most of the Augustiner Brauhaus’s products, but I find the weissbier especially refreshing.  Crisp and wheaty with a hint of citrus, this is the perfect beer for a summer day.

3.  Duvel.  The name means “devil”, but this tasty Flemish beer combines the complexity of ale with the lightness of a pilsner for a heavenly result.

4.  Leffe Blonde.  A smooth Belgian blonde beer with a hint of sweetness that’s perfect with a meal (spicy food in particular) or on its own.

5.  Sam Adams Oktoberfest.  Yes, it’s a mass produced American beer, but I wanted to include one that was readily available in the U.S. and this one is delicious.  Hoppy and spicy, this beer tastes like fall.

What are some of your favorite beers?  Let me know in the comments!