May 2007 Archives


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I finally got out of the city for some sweet, pure relaxation. It's funny what a different person I become amongst trees. On Saturday I drove up to Eric's mom's house (where Eric is cat-sitting), and he and I grilled up some hot dogs and visited.

On Sunday we cleaned the pool (Eric terrified me with the biggest spider I've ever seen) and swam around under the trees - it was just wonderful. In the evening we went to a nearby restaurant and it was finally warm enough to eat outside in perfect comfort. I had red and black striped lobster and crab ravioli and quietly coveted Eric's burger.

Yesterday we went shopping in the morning, followed by a little more swimming (mostly me paddling around on the inflatable rafts we'd bought), then Eric's brother came down from Boston and our friend Richard came up from NY.

We had a nice barbecue, making insane quantities of steak, bacon and cheese stuffed burgers, cheddar wurst, and asparagus. As the boys played with lighter fluid, we also had strawberry cheesecake Klondike bars (wow).

This morning I drove all around Connecticut (a simple trip to the mall detoured by country roads and questionable decision-making), then Eric and I headed back to Brooklyn to take the cats to a vet appointment. They are both fit as fiddles, though Smokey thought he'd like to take up permanent residence in an overhead cabinet near the vet's computer.

When we got back to the apartment, Eric relaxed his recent no-air-con policy, deferring to the panting cats, and installed the beloved 10,000 BTU bestower of cool comfort. A chorus of angels sang out, and lo, I once again wear pants in the house. It is a miracle.

All in all, I'm a pretty happy camper. It was nice visiting with my sweetie, and it was a bit of heaven to spend so much time outdoors and in the shade of trees. We talked a bit about moving outside of the city, maybe as soon as this lease ends, and it's a little scary how exciting that prospect is to me right now, despite my intense love for this apartment.

All in time, I suppose.

Happy Blogiversary to Me!!!

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Yes that's right, this blog is one year old today.

(You reckon that's an ice cream cake? Man, that would be awesome.)

I'd like to thank you all for visiting and putting up with my fickle blogging tendencies.

I've been thinking lately about whether or not this content actually reflects my real character and interests, and well, there will be some more interesting things going on soon.

Stay tuned, and let's look forward to four more... err at least another year!

Enjoy your weekend!


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The part of my thesis statement with which I have struggled most is a section discussing Beauty as Subversion. It was introduced by a conversation where a student said "I don't want to make art that's all ugly and subversive," and the professor interrupted to say "Actually I believe true beauty can be incredibly subversive." (I cited it more accurately in my paper, but you get the idea).

I went on at great length addressing consciousness and the ways memories are formed. In particular, I was interested in the aspects of differentiation and categorization, which are the ways in which the mind makes sense of experiences. When the brain has made the association of a range of wavelengths of light with "red," then it becomes able to see similar colors in that range and understand them as shades of red. At a more complex level, emotional and intellectual processes happen in very much the same fashion: we differentiate sensations based on what we've experienced before and categorize them within the realm of that which we already understand.

When speaking of "expanding one's mind," I think a lot of people talk a mean game but don't really do it. This is to say, they may read more books or see more films or take in a lot of art, but if they continue to respond to it all in the same way, they're not really expanding their range of response, so much as reinforcing their current set beliefs and behaviors. Therefore, it is important to meet experiences on their own terms, to try to understand and relate to them by their inherent systems or inner character, just as we try to relate to people on the basis of their individual personalities. As with people, however, it becomes easy (and arguably essential) to typify, and again we come up with the categories, labels, and generalizations which guide us through the world.

Personally I've found myself often mentally mumbling "mmm process-oriented splashy abstraction, lyrical, color is a bit weak..." as I trudge past an enormous Clyfford Still painting that really deserves more consideration. It's easy and natural to do, and I think this is part of why art doesn't always dramatically impact everyone who sees it. The notion that training is required to appreciate art is probably, in fact, more than a little insulting to some people, and I can understand that too. I try not to take it personally when paintings don't affect me these days, but I used to get violently angry and immensely frustrated over it. Now, I think of it as a problem of my own limitations, and occasionally (rarely) I think it might still be the painting's fault.

In my thesis, I tried to outline the mechanism by which consciousness could be subverted, basically catching the mind at a point before it is able to recognize and call upon its verbal categories, thereby removing the ability to differentiate characteristically. Art which speaks to the part of the mind that responds impulsively, intuitively, and instinctively, would probably need to avoid immediate subject recognition, as well as cues that involve anything tangible. As many overly self-righteous abstract painters would probably agree, there is little more insulting than people treating abstraction as a Rorschach or naming the things they see in it, yet this is often the first response people have, as their minds try to force shapes into known forms. I do it too, all the time, and that's why I know how limiting it can be. I don't think art is meant to be entirely esoteric and remote... but as soon as we've given something a name or an adjective, we cease to get at its real character because we are limiting it with language.

For abstract art to really "work" in the method I tried to describe, it would communicate in elemental, philosophical terms. I said it would operate in the space where language failed yet consciousness persisted, presenting a unique vocabulary which explores the world outside of declaration. It would be a form of non- or pre-verbal consciousness that people could understand without being able to explain why.

In this way, it would provide a universal language, a means by which people could see into the subjectivities of others and communicate in heretofore undifferentiated systems of thought. The lack of categorization provides infinite possibility for that which can be known and understood, and by allowing for wholly novel experiences, could change the very ways in which we think and feel. Essentially, if it is possible to truly shift consciousness, to alter the very fabric of one's being with a dramatic and powerful aesthetic experience that calls into question all of one's previous moments of being, then art will have tapped into the most powerful form of subversion yet discovered.

Here I have to stop myself before I continue to spout off the entirety of the rest of that thesis (which I still have not completed to my satisfaction) because I keep coming up with a crucial kink in the chain.

I'll first explain it by way of quotation, from Waiting for Godot (p 39 in my edition*, toward the beginning of Act II):

Vladimir: Say you are, even if it's not true.
Estragon: What am I to say?
Vladimir: Say, I am happy.
Estragon: I am happy.
Vladimir: So am I.
Estragon: So am I.
Vladimir: We are happy.
Estragon: We are happy. (Silence.) What do we do now, now that we are happy?

So let's say this whole subversive aspect of abstract art actually works, and that art has the power to completely alter the ways we think and feel (which I believe it does). Given.

Now, what do we do with that... and why?

Here is where I'm stuck, as I'm not sure. Any attempt I make by way of explanation keeps coming out as moralizing, proselytizing, judging, rationalizing, or perhaps worst of all, merely entertaining. I don't have a platform of beliefs or a reason why someone should enjoy my paintings. If I'm being really fair to them, I wouldn't expect a lot of people to like them because it's meant to be a more personal response, something visceral and innate.

Not everyone digs that, and that's okay. Asking for a universal response to art is like asking for homogeneous sexual appetites... and how dull would that be? The variety of desire is what drives the eroticism of art and charges it with passion. To find that art which speaks directly to one's passions is an electric feeling incomparable to other daily experiences.

But I can't even identify a "type" or even a vague realm in which I'd like to categorize. I can't really say what my art is "about" or "deals with" or "speaks to" because I have been specifically avoiding concrete subjectivity. I know it is possible to write about the lack of something or the absence of an idea, but it is quite strange to produce a physical material object which denies both its materiality and its evocation.

It is in many ways like a beautiful woman saying "Don't look at my body, and don't listen to my words, just love me for who I am." If she's refusing to give you either formal or substantive elements to appreciate, you've got little to go on, unless you believe in auras that could simply be sensed in her presence (more on that another time).

I struggle so much with what I want my paintings to "say" because they're not supposed to be talking. They are supposed to exist, the way that trees and plants and water do, and in that existence, they provide visual experiences which (hopefully) are new or in some way interesting, in the process changing the vocabulary we use to address the world.

If it is simply a question of grammar and expanded vocabulary, well why change it at all? What is it subverting, beyond the introduction of a new term? And still, again, why?

All I've got right now is that it makes me and other people happy. We feel intense joy and pleasure through novel experiences, and art provides a great variety of unique feelings and sensations.

Right. So... what do we do now, now that we are happy?

* Beckett, Samuel. Waiting for Godot. New York: Grove Press, 1954.

Perfect Hair Forever

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I absolutely love my new haircut.

Though it is very hard to take photos of oneself, especially when standing in a bright windowsill and not wearing any makeup.

I'm not thrilled with the spray wax my stylist used, however I think I can totally manage this style. I also think that once I get outside and my hair lightens up to a blonder color (and my skin no longer so closely matches my blouse), I will truly love it beyond words.


There's also a bunch of other nearly-identical shots in my Flickr.

As I become increasingly anxious about Venice, I have to remind myself of several things:

- I live in New York City. Many consider this city confusing, scary, and difficult to negotiate. I find it pretty easy. If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere, etc.

- Transportation systems are designed to be understood by anyone, including individuals who do not speak the language and/or are functionally illiterate. If I can make sense of the electrochemical workings of the human brain, I can trace a colored line on a map and match the word to the boat I need to get on.

- I'm taking Italian lessons, and I will pick it up. I have books to help myself. No one is going to throw garbage at me if I can't make fluent and fascinating conversation the instant I arrive, and if they do, they're probably not worth talking to anyway.

- If I can avoid getting mugged, raped, swindled, or taken advantage of in the sketchiest neighborhoods in Brooklyn, I can probably do the same in tourist-friendly Italy.

- If I forget to pack something really important, they have stores in Italy, too.

- If pigeons poop on me in Rome, it's just a sign that it was bound to happen sometime and years of living at the beach avoiding seagull poop are coming back to haunt me.

- I bought enough guidebooks and maps to make sense of the entire country, and if I sit down calmly and read them, I can figure out how to go where I want to. If I miss stuff, I can go back.

- I am only going for two months. My entire world here will not completely fall apart in that time, and if it does, I wouldn't have been able to cope any better with all that change here than abroad.

- Though I've never lived so far from my family and friends, I have lived on my own before. I have moved to strange cities and made it work. I have friends in the program and a really sweet roommate. No one is going to let me wind up lost and destitute.

- I can live without the internet immediately available at all times. I can live without a phone. I can wait to be in touch with Eric or my parents, just as I do now, when they are sleeping or not around.

- Traveling is not scary. It's an awesome, exciting adventure, and I just need to put one foot in front of the other and enjoy myself.

But if I sound a little breathless and panicky in the next few days, forgive me. This is a pretty big deal to me.

Must be all the cat photos

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My blog is worth$6,209.94.
How much is your blog worth?

(via Mandarin)

Eric put it most succinctly: "omg cash in now!"

Sweet Hair Alabama

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This weekend I caught Sweet Home Alabama on TV, and though it was a sweet little movie, the aspect that really stood out for me was Reese Witherspoon's hair.

I've been trying to find a new hairstyle for a while now, and I know that if I don't get it cut before going to Italy I will have great difficulty with it the whole time I'm there. So as I'm watching the movie, I keep thinking how versatile and flattering the style is, squinting and wondering... could this be the perfect cut for me too?

I'm going to make an appointment and bring these four photos to see what they can do. I may have to learn to use styling products and even like, styling tools, but I think it'd be worth it to finally have a hairstyle that I like.

Some cool ideas

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  • I just read about AddArt, a Firefox extension which replaces website advertising with curated contemporary art. How freaking cool is that?! I know a certain contemporary artist who is veryinterested in getting her paintings onto that site - I look forward to when it launches this summer. (via)
  • Yale Wolf, a student at Western Washington University, has a really cool industrial design project which was featured on Wooster Collective: making a 3-dimensional representation of graffiti. He has the STL file available for download (see here). I really love designers.
  • Voiceprints synthesize the sounds of a person's voice into a textile design. I love this idea and have already envisioned playful lines of fabric named for common phrases uttered. There are tons of possibilities with this, and I want to see how it develops. (via)
  • Lastly, this is very old news, but I've mentioned it to a lot of people who had never heard a word about it, so for simplicity's sake (and because I was reminded by that last link), check out DNA11 Genetic Portraits, art made from one's DNA. At first I thought it was kind of funny, but more and more I'm intrigued.

A lovely May weekend

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I had such a lovely time in New Jersey this past (long) weekend. I got down Saturday night just in time to go out for dinner at Murphy Style Grill in Red Bank. Insanely delicious.

Afterwards we had ice cream, rum drinks, and lots of lovely conversation. I made my mom open her Mother's Day gifts early because I couldn't stand waiting anymore, and she seemed pretty happy. One of them was this book on art in Italy, and we talked about our trip.

On Sunday we went out shopping, and I picked up a bunch of travel books and maps for Venice. In the language section, we saw a series of "Teach Yourself" sets, with various designs for the different countries. Spain had Valencia oranges, Italy had a guy on a Vespa, Gaelic had some lovely colored boats, etc. Then we get to Modern Hebrew. Is it just me or is this... maybe kind of racist? (click to enlarge)

Maybe it's just me, but it seemed a strange comment.

We went to a few other places, including the garden center, where I got a bunch of herb plants to make these very cute window boxes to take home. The front box has parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme. The second box has tarragon, chives, dill, and oregano. Then there is a pot of lavender which smells absolutely heavenly, and an individual pot of watercress, which I hadn't initially realized was a shade plant. I'm looking forward to being able to cook with these, as well as make things like lavender sachets and tarragon marinades. Yep, I'll be that girl now, sending you mysterious bottles with herbs floating in them...

Seeing as it was Mother's Day, we got home with time to spoil my mom out in the sunshine. My father had learned to makeCaipirinhas in Brazil, and he was very cute muddling our drinks. My brother got home from work just as my father finished preparing a barbecue, and it was a real treat to have all four of us together for dinner.

On Monday both of my parents and brother had to work, so I slept late, then spent some time out in the garden. I concluded that I am fanatically in love with my new shoes.

They have super-cushy walking sole bottoms, so they will be one of the very few pairs I bring with me to Italy.

The flowers were spectacular as always, especially the new double knock-out rose bushes my parents planted around their bird feeder. Also, for however long I lived at their house, I'd never seen their purple irises bloom.

I almost missed them this time too. I have some more flower photos in a Flickr set from this weekend.

Last week (May 10th) my parents celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary, which truly blows my mind. After we went clothes shopping Monday night, I took my mom out to dinner (I'm not sure I've ever done that) and she told me all about her wedding again. I'll write more about that another time soon.

I enjoyed having so much time this weekend to visit with both of my parents. My dad helped me plant my herb garden, and he was also so kind as to wash my filthy car for me on Tuesday. What a guy.

On Tuesday afternoon I had a pile of silly errands to run (fascinating things like getting new windshield wipers and buying a travel iron), and while I was really worried leaving the kitties home alone in Brooklyn for so long, I decided they could wait a few more hours for me to have dinner with my family once again.

I cooked Ropa Vieja, which I thought was spectacular, but my mother and brother thought was atrociously too spicy. My dad sort of dug it, I think, but it's possible he was just being nice. Either way, it was great to see them all once again for dinner, and then my drive home was vastly easier, as in almost no traffic.

The kitties were very happy to see me, though a little hungry, and I made it up to them with an 18-pound bag of their favorite food. Eric got home this afternoon, and it was delightful to see him again - I missed my sweetie! He deserves some kind of Boyfriend Medal of Honor, as he helped me clean out my closet, giving honest but not hurtful opinions of items I was on the fence about.

We worked on cleaning the apartment some more, and it figures that right after I got the stove sparkling clean, I boiled over a pot of cream sauce which is currently congealing on one of the burners. Awesome.

My very dear friend Hope is coming to New York tomorrow, and we're stoked to see her! I gotta say, this whole no-school spring vacation thing is more than a bit wonderful.

I hope you all had nice weekends and were nice to your mothers.

Hehehe Caturday

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The poor kitties will have to enjoy our newly rearranged apartment themselves this weekend. Eric left in the morning for Florida, and this afternoon I'm heading down to visit my family in New Jersey.

"We're home alones? Oh noes!"

Iggs says he'll kind of miss tearing around on this rug, even though we're way more amused by him skidding on bare floors.

Smokey is rather blase about the whole thing, so long as we still have the windowsill.

They're both a little disoriented with things moving around, but Iggy is thrilled with all the boxes.

And now that the couch is closer to the window, he's also pretty happy to lay in the sun.

I'll take photos of the actual apartment once I finish putting everything away. In the meantime, go call your mothers!

I love package tracking

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According to UPS, today is going to be a very exciting day.

I should be receiving:

  • my new computer!!!
  • a really pretty green dress
  • a big box full of yarn and craft supplies

Aaaand I have a package waiting at the post office as well.

E-commerce is a wonderful thing.

This morning I am turning in a revised paper draft, completing the last of my required tasks for this semester. Also, a DVD I promised last November. Anyway.

That means I am DONE!!!

My literature exam and paper went exceptionally well yesterday. My conservation final on Wednesday felt really good. My painting and final thesis critiques were downright encouraging. And my thesis statement came together pretty nicely, with praise even.

I'd daresay I've bounced back from the slump I lapsed into last semester and maybe I'm even... proud of myself? I'd say I have to wait for grade reports to see about that, but actually, yeah I can say it. I'm proud of the work I did this semester, and I don't think it was all crap. In fact, some of it was quite good. Let's hope my professors agree.


Five Minute Vacation

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While I am well aware that cherry blossom photos in spring are about as "done" as fireworks at 4th of July, I hope you'll indulge me a few more.

On a whim I brought my camera with me to the library. I'm one of those people who always walks around looking up at the trees and skies, and today I nearly fell over with the staggering beauty of afternoon light filtering through spring green leaves, petals showering down on the sidewalks.

There is something incomparably wonderful about the feeling of a gentle breeze caressing one's calves with a linen skirt.

The thing I love about photography is the way it affords mini-vacations in the middle of the day, transportations to moments completely dissolved in pleasure and immediacy. Capturing the light and sensation of all these delicate forms removes everything extraneous in my life and concentrates all of my attention on a tiny pink petal seconds before it floats away.

I can feel the changes in my body and mind when I take a few minutes to enjoy something beautiful. I become a different person every time, and man, that's a really good feeling.

Couple this with a late night obsessing over music with a very dear friend-slash-jukebox (go listen to Gishfor a while again - you won't regret it), and I am one happy, happy girl right now.

Yep, this is just enough to get me through to the Sakura Matsuri, my end-of-semester treat.

Felíz cinco de mayo

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Since I am inundated with paper-writing and hardly well suited for tequila shooters or margaritas, my celebration of cinco de mayo was mostly culinary.

Last night, I was thinking about Hispanic foods and decided to make a chicken version of Ropa Vieja. Ropa Vieja literally means "old clothes," which describes the way the shredded meat and vegetables resemble torn rags. The combination of vegetables seems to vary in recipes, so I just went with some of my favorites.

My only working knowledge of how to cook this was from watching Jennifer Lopez make it several years ago on TV, but our improvised version came out more than a little spectacular, so I thought I'd share the recipe (which is, incidentally, very low-fat and low-carb).

Ropa Vieja de Vicki y Ericíssimo (con pollo)


  • 2 large whole boneless chicken breasts
  • one small onion
  • clove garlic
  • one red pepper
  • one green pepper
  • 4 oz sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • small can of Red Pack hot tomato sauce*
  • salt & pepper
  • red pepper, paprika, cumin & chili powder, to taste
  • a few dashes hot sauce (optional)


Cook chicken breasts with salt & pepper until tender. We used the George Foreman grill, but any way of cooking it is fine. You can even use leftover cooked chicken.

Meanwhile, cut onion into thin slices. Pop these apart into individual rings, and sautée with garlic in pan containing hot oil, until onions are translucent.

Rinse and core peppers. Slice into strips approximately 1/4″ thick or to your preferences. Add these and mushrooms to pan and sautee until peppers are tender. Add spices to vegetable mix.

When chicken is cooked through, move to a plate and shred with two forks. Combine with vegetable mix in pan, and toss to coat chicken with spices. Add the can of Red Pack, along with a can and a half full of water, and stir to mix thoroughly.

Cover pan, and let simmer at medium heat until liquid is reduced. In our case, it was about 8-10 minutes.

Serve hot - it goes especially well with some pepper jack cheese mixed in, and I think it is traditionally served with rice and beans.

Red Pack hot tomato sauce is delicious and spicy and can be found with other canned tomato sauces. The can looks like this:

If you haven't had it before, you probably want to taste it before deciding on your quantities of spices. If Red Pack isn't available in your area (it seems to be limited to the northeast), you can jazz up some regular tomato sauce, but I think the Red Pack is pretty spectacular.

From Delight. I think I may have gotten the last one before they sold out. Freaking fabulous.


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My mom sent me an email titled "Wieners and Tails," which immediately made me laugh because I knew it would be to do with dachshunds.

The two links (heh) included this NY Times article on Dog's Tails and what they mean, which gets into an interesting discussion of brain asymmetry in animals.

And if that was too serious, check out the Wiener Dog Races, with one of my favorite videos I've ever seen. I like the ones who run sideways.

Ink painting

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Seeing as I've become obsessed with making ink paintings lately, I figured some gratuitous photos were in order.

This is a painting I just made this morning. It's 18″x24″, sumi ink on paper.

(Please excuse the tacks and bits of wall showing.)

Here are two detail views from it:

I'm madly in love with the way ink dispersions flow. Last night a friend of mine showed me his recently published paper (way exciting!) and I kept staring at the gel electrophoresis images, wondering why they seemed so familiar.

Then it hit me... ink dispersions. The striations and widths between them looked so much like the way ink spreads when dropped in water:

And also to an extent, how they look when dried:

Maybe only I see that, though.

At any rate, this is loads of fun, and I am ridiculously happy doing it. I got so wrapped up in making these and a half dozen other things that I nearly forgot all the other urgent things I'm supposed to get done today. But really, paper-writing just doesn't hold a candle to watching ink flow.

Fantastic nerdistry

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So guess who just bought a new computer. Heeeee.

I went with a Lenovo (formerly IBM) ThinkPad X60S Ultralight.

It has all kinds of sexy features which you can check out at that link. I may ask Eric to write a guest post extolling its virtues for those of you who are more technically inclined, but basically I upgraded to a 120 gig hard drive, got a free fingerprint scanner, and I got the 8 cell battery.

The computer I have now remains spectacular with two notable exceptions:
1) It can no longer hold a battery charge and will crap out in 5 minutes if it comes unplugged (probably fixable)
2) It weighs, no kidding, 15 pounds (not fixable)

See, I got an ultra-fabulous media edition widescreen desktop replacement back in 2004 when my college Gateway (affectionately named Gutterslut Whoremax) just couldn't sludge along any longer. I recently upgraded its RAM to 1 gig, and its processor still blazes away. It has gorgeous screen resolution and brightness, and as I was looking at new notebooks I realized that I still owned a higher quality machine than most available (which is probably why I am still paying for it). To that extent, I plan to keep using it for photo editing and artistic things... but more as if it were a desktop.

Because yknow, homegirl's a fatty. I feel like a jerk saying that, but seriously, it's brutal lugging this computer to and from campus or - God forbid - to the NYPL research library or similar. It's portable to the extent that small children are, which is to say, with difficulty and shoulder pain.

So, I've gotten a sleek new machine that weighs like 3 pounds and fulfills all of my portability needs. I plan to take it with me to Italy, and with 8 hours of battery life, I'll actually be able to work outdoors and enjoy using it. When I get back, it can come to and from my studio without becoming a chore, and generally, it will be awesome.

Also, it gives me the excuse to get a ridiculously cute laptop bag. Just saying.


Current front runner:

Might seriously have to go for that one.

Remind me in 5 years when I am broke and homeless how much I loved my ThinkPad and its adorable case.

Actually - and this is how you can tell that I am indeed influenced by Eric's supreme nerdistry - I kind of want to learn Linux and load it up on either this current machine or the new Lenovo to run a completely open source OS. He was showing me the things you can do with Ubuntu the other day, and I was way psyched. It would be easy enough to switch over this machine, since we partitioned the drive when installing Vista - I could just install Linux instead and gain several gigs of space in the process. Yay geekery.

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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