Who needs to go out?
Most top ten lists about winter are full of stuff like skiing and ice skating and enjoying the snow.
Winter in Michigan is cold and gray and way too long. It’s front-loaded with all the good holidays, leaving a long slog from January to March. I love Michigan and I’ll always live here but everything I like about winter involves staying inside and staying warm. Which is actually pretty great, especially for an introvert. I mean, nobody can expect you to actually go out when the weather is like this, can they?
So here is my list of ten things to love about a Michigan winter.
10. Slippers. Cute, fuzzy, warm. The funny thing about slippers is that they don’t always match your outfit, but they always match your personality. Is it any wonder we northerners love our slippers? And they often go on sale in January, in case you didn’t get a new pair for Christmas.
9. The movies you missed last summer are all on DVD now. In the summer, we’re often too busy enjoying the actual sun to sit in a dark theater. But now, we can ignore all those serious Oscar-bait dramas, stock up on popcorn, and enjoy the blockbuster action flicks without leaving the house.
8. Electric Blankets. Is there anything more inviting than a pre-warmed bed waiting for you to crawl into it?
7. Darkness. Michigan has short winter days and loooong winter nights. For light sleepers who need darkness and quiet, winter is the time to get some rest. A late sunrise means no birds waking you up at five in the morning.
6. Soup. The ultimate comfort food. Chicken noodle, hot and sour, even that weird vegetable soup that’s supposed to help you shed the excess holiday pounds. I don’t know about you, but soup is what gets me through the month of February.
5. Fancy lattes. Nobody wants a hot, milky, sugar-laden coffee in August. Just sayin’.
4. Baking. Is your house too cold? Bake bread. Have you eaten all the Christmas cookies? Make more. Exhausted from having to put on six layers every time you leave the house? Bake a huge lasagna and you won’t have to cook for days.
3. Sweaters. Sweaters will both hide winter pounds and embrace you in cozy warmth. Never has there been a garment so wonderful. It’s like a blanket you can wear.
2. Feeling like a badass just for driving somewhere. “Yes, I know the drugstore is only half a mile away, but I could have died.”
1. Cuddling. Whether it’s cuddling people or pets, summertime cuddling just sucks. Ten seconds in and you start sweating all over each other and nobody can breathe. But wintertime? Let me grab my loved ones and not let go.
Hope everyone finds someone they love to cuddle today. Happy winter.
About the author: Alex Kourvo is secretly writing romance novels. She is currently cuddling a puppy.
[center photo: David Wong. Licensed under a Creative Commons attribution generic license]
The color pink makes me happy.
I have a pink toothbrush. I also have a pink kindle cover and a pink backpack and pink earbuds and scissors. My water bottle is pink. My stapler is pink. My calendar and all my notebooks are pink.
I don’t wear pink clothes or sit on a pink couch or live in a pink house or anything like that. I don’t live in a cartoon Hello Kitty paradise. But all the small, personal items I touch on a daily basis are some shade of pink, from rose gold right through bubblegum to screaming neon. Why? Because it makes me happy.
The color pink has a joyful vibe full of optimism. It’s a feminine color that always looks fresh. And studies have shown that a soft shade of pink can have a calming effect. To me, pink just looks right. Like, if it’s not pink, it’s the wrong color. I’m always shocked when I see someone walk up to a display of flowers and pick an orange and yellow bouquet to take home. Why would someone do that when there are pink bouquets right there? What is wrong with those people?
Which brings me to this lady.
I hate Dolores Umbridge for all the same reasons you do: her petty power plays, her casual cruelty, her bigotry. But it goes deeper with me. How could someone who loves pink as much as I do be so evil? Betrayal! After seeing Umbridge on the big screen, I stopped wearing pink so much. Now, most of my clothes are black or navy.
But even she couldn’t ruin pink completely. I still love pink for literally everything else. Once, I was talking to my friend Bronwyn about how delighted I was to find a snap-on shell that made my computer pink.
Bronwyn said she’d like to get one of those for her computer, but she didn’t know what color to get. I blinked at her in silence. Blinked again, waiting for my brain to catch up. I heard the words she was saying, but I couldn’t get them to make sense in my head. Because for me, there was never a choice of what color computer shell to get. I never make a choice about the color of anything I buy. If it comes in pink, that’s the one I want.
And if it doesn’t come in pink, it’s the wrong color.
Getting away with it in plain sight.
(There are mild spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk.)
I went to see Ocean’s 8 last weekend and it was a delight. It had everything I love in a movie: a tricky plot, fun dialogue, genuine female friendships, characters who are great at their jobs, and an underlying theme that makes you think.
And the men? Eh, they were there, and yeah, they added a thing or two, I guess. They were more plot devices than actual characters.
Oh, wait… Could that, maybe, have been the point?
The women of Ocean’s 8 aren’t love interests or motivating factors for men. They are the heroes. And they are so, so good at what they do. The heist at the center of the movie—set in the world of high fashion and a fancy ball—is specifically female coded. Men literally could not do it.
What I love most about Ocean’s 8 was the way the gang uses society’s assumptions about women as one of their weapons. When one of them asks why there are no men involved, Sandra Bullock’s character says, “A him is noticed, a her is ignored.” Middle-aged women, especially women of color, are invisible, allowing the gang to pull off the heist in plain sight. Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, and Awkwafina play the janitor, the dishwasher and the waitress. Time after time, people look right through them. Sandra Bullock gets to play the entitled, middle-aged white woman—another easily-dismissed stereotype. Even in the film’s final act, they use old women as fences. And they get away with it, of course. If middle-aged women are invisible, then old ones might as well not exist.
The only women who are ever noticed—ever seen—are the young and pretty, so why not use that fact as well? Anne Hathaway’s character becomes a magnificent distraction. Every eye in the room is on her while the brown and black and over-the-hill women get on with the job at hand.
And what do these women buy with all their ill-gotten millions? Surprisingly modest things. A business, a production company, a solo motorcycle trip, an apartment. But they all represent the same thing—a woman who is the boss of herself, where she’s in charge.
And maybe, for once, even seen.
[Photo credits: Warner Brothers/Village Roadshow pictures]
“It’s like the Discovery Channel…with beer.”
Once a month, nerds gather at their favorite bars to see a trio of 20-minute talks about…well…everything. It’s called Nerd Nite and it happens in cities all across the country. Because I live in a college town, and our Nerd Nite is sponsored by our library, we get a wide range of topics. I’ve attended talks about the science of LED light bulbs, how to critique architecture, and why fruit flies love cake. You never know what you’re going to get at Nerd Nite. Sometimes it’s history, sometimes it’s physics, sometimes it’s…me.
In October, I was a featured speaker at Ann Arbor’s Nerd Nite talking about everyone’s favorite science fiction genre—cyberpunk!
Cyberpunk was everywhere in the 1980s. It started in science fiction, but it influenced fashion, movies, comics, games, advertising, and architecture. After a decade of high-tech, neon-colored, future-looking pop culture, cyberpunk just…went away. Or did it? Could cyberpunk stories still be with us, hiding in plain sight?
Our awesome Ann Arbor District Library taped the talk for their collection, and you can watch the video right on their site.
So if you want to see me nerd out about the genre I love best, here’s the video you never knew you needed.
[Photo: Lara Zielin]
Scientist, educator, philosopher, writer. Carl Sagan’s life and work continue to inspire us.
Having a hard day? Finding it difficult to get words on the page? Here are five quotes from Carl Sagan that will brighten any writer’s day.
Sitting in a room and making stuff up? It’s your job. Your imagination is taking you places!
…and the reality is, you’ve got to get some chapters written.
I love how Carl lapses into second-person here. As if maybe he, himself, isn’t quite human? But he’s captured the essential nature of humans: we need to live together, and we need the stories that teach us how.
You have an obligation to future generations. Start working that magic!
So let’s go discover it in a book.
Because I love this movie like Miracle Max loves a nice MLT.
The Princess Bride is a fairy tale that turns the cliches upside down and inside out, while at the same time, giving us every familiar theme we love. I’ve seen this movie an inconceivable number of times, but I’ll always happily watch it again. It’s a comfort movie, perfect to watch when I’ve been mostly dead all day.
The Princess Bride is both modern and timeless, with nifty life lessons in some of the most quotable dialog ever. So, what can we learn from a kid’s fairy tale—a (gasp) kissing book? Well, let’s just start with what we have. (It’s for posterity, so I’ll be honest.)
10. Kind of like when you mix up your and you’re on the internet.
9. …And if you haven’t got health insurance, you’ll soon have less than nothing.
8. There is such thing as a fatal amount of confidence.
7. Being right is no good if you’re also too late.
6. Every time you stand in line for something, you pay twice: once in money and once in time.
5. If Westley can survive the Pit of Despair, you can survive your Monday morning meeting.
4. You went to the grocery store on an empty stomach.
3. Those conspiracy theories your weird relatives spout off? Some of them are true.
2. Karma will always catch up to you in the end.
…and the best, most important thing to remember:
1. There is nothing better than sharing a book with someone you love.
[Photo credits: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / Act 111 Communications]
Don’t believe the coffee cups, t-shirts, and internet memes.
“I can’t adult today” is one of the internet’s favorite sayings.
And I honestly don’t get it.
I’ve wanted to be a grown-up since I was five years old. That’s when I realized adults don’t have a bedtime and can say “no thank you” to green beans. Now that I’m actually grown up, it’s even better than I thought it would be and I don’t understand why everyone else doesn’t love it, too.
Of course, I’m not talking about people who have depression or anxiety. Sometimes those issues can deplete someone’s daily store of energy before they even get out of bed. And I get that. I do. Self-care is important. In fact, self-care is part of being an adult. You get to do that now.
And you get to do so much more. Here are ten great reasons being all grown up is the best thing ever.
10. You’re in charge of you. You can choose your own bedtime, what to wear, how to color your hair, and your own music in the car. You can eat your dessert without finishing your vegetables and you will never, ever be grounded, no matter how sassy you are.
9. Coffee. Wine. Sex. Swearing. Would you really want to trade in these adult pleasures for fewer responsibilities and a daily nap?
8. You can choose your own friends. Heck, you can choose your own family if you want.
7. No one asks you what you want to be when you grow up, because they can clearly see you already are. You get to have your own identity. You’re not just “so and so’s child,” you’re you.
6. Knowing how to do things feels really, really good. Grown-ups can drive a car, cook a meal, program the DVR, vote, and write in cursive. Or at least do some of these things. And these things are awesome.
5. Paychecks > allowance.
4. Your parents get smarter every year.
3. You can watch all the scary movies you want. And read books with sex scenes in them. And see TV shows with lots of blood and maybe naked butts.
2. You don’t have to sing with your classmates, exercise with a group, deal with mean girls, or fill out a bubble form with a #2 pencil ever again. If you want to learn something, you get a book and learn it at your own pace. :::Wipes away a tear of joy:::
1. You can have children if you wish, and spend time with them feeling like a kid all over again.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to spend the afternoon building a blanket fort and then I’m going to sit inside it eating graham crackers while reading books. Because I’m an adult, which means I get to spend my free time any way I want.
Coffee, you complete me.
Thank you for everything you do for me. Every morning, I wake to the smell of fresh-ground heaven, and you are the last thing I think about before I go to sleep at night. Before I drift off, I always ask myself, “Did I set up the coffee maker for tomorrow?” Because one of the great ironies of life is that you need coffee to wake up, but you need to be awake enough to make the coffee.
Coffee, dear coffee, you allow the doing of the things and the writing of the words. Without you, I would just drool in the corner until the kids came home from school.
The kids, by the way, love you too. I’m afraid that’s my fault. I let them have decaf vanilla lattes when they were in middle school, but you and I both know what a gateway drug those things are. Now, my teenagers drink black coffee with me every morning. I can’t exactly say I’m sorry about that.
You star in many of my Instagram posts. Did you know that, my darling?
This is a love affair I hope never ends. You complete me, coffee. When I’m out of f*cks to give, I still have coffee. Coffee doesn’t ask any questions. Coffee understands. I’m not saying I’d die without you, dear coffee, but other people might. And orange is soooo not my color.
I prefer black. Like you.
Your forever friend,
What if grown-ups got report cards, too? This is how I imagine mine.
Alex reads a variety of genres, not at all influenced by what the other students are reading. This year, she enjoyed many, many books including The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henriquez, Way Station by Clifford D. Simak, Immortal Clay by Michael W. Lucas, and Keller’s Fedora by Lawrence Block.
Social Studies: B
Alex is introverted, so this is her hardest subject, and yet, she succeeded in making new friends at Confusion and Penguicon. She hopes to spend more time with her close friends this summer, because barbecue season is short, and friendship is important.
Alex’s science experiments are all food-related, and while she attempted some new ones, she mostly kept repeating the same old experiments. The spaghetti experiment and the chicken soup experiment always have the same results. There is no need to prove them again.
Alex did not attempt any higher math this year. She did not use anything beyond addition and subtraction to balance her checkbook. And despite her insistence, I cannot give her a geometry credit for loading the dishwasher.
Creative Writing: A
Alex accomplished all her writing goals for the year. Her blogs are always updated on schedule and she published a new novel in March. Alex is working on two super-secret projects, and we’re all looking forward to seeing what those are.
Alex colors beautifully, but she only wants to color ornate swear words.
Alex prefers to read or do errands during naptime, even when she is cranky and snapping at people and walking into walls. Some better self-care routines would benefit her, and they would really benefit those around her.
Paying Attention: A+
Alex finds everything fascinating, especially her fellow students. She is curious about history, travel, gender studies, traditions, culture, unusual fashion, and how people express themselves in word and picture and song. She wants to know how people do things, why people do things, and what benefits they get from doing them. Alex watches, she listens, and she takes notes. Her fellow students should take care, because they might end up in her novels.
Life lessons are everywhere, even in the Wasteland.
Mad Max Fury Road cleaned up at the Oscars on Sunday, winning six Academy Awards. So, of course, I had to watch the movie again. This time through, I thought beyond the plot, beyond the subtext, into the deeper meaning behind those iconic lines.
Here are ten life lessons that I learned from Mad Max Fury Road, that we can all use to make every day more shiny and chrome.
10. Get your rest. If you go to bed at 2:00, you’ll be wrecked for work the next day.
9. Someone’s always wrong on the internet. Don’t waste your time.
8. Know your goals. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never arrive.
7. Don’t settle.
6. Don’t waste your effort. If someone didn’t listen to you the first time, he won’t listen to you the second or third time, either.
5. Tell your friends about your achievements. They want to be happy for you!
4. Standing your ground isn’t always the best course. Sometimes, you gotta get the hell out.
3. Never leave your friends behind.
2. Everyone you meet is a human being, and worthy of respect.
1. There’s always something to be thankful for, even when you’re driving into a fire tornado.
[Photo credits: Warner Brothers/Village Roadshow pictures]