Photo of the Day: Close quarters


In the weeds

When I was younger I was the IT person in the family. If something ever went wrong with our PC (and when didn’t it?) I was the one that had to go on and figure out the problem. More often than not I just formatted the hard drive and started over. That only worked for a few months before something would bog down the whole thing all over again. For this reason I hate using Windows based products. They just annoy the crap out of me. When you’ve been burned a couple times by something you grow tired of dealing with it.

About six years ago I made the [very expensive] jump to Apple with the purchase of a shiny new 15″ Mac Book Pro. When I opened the box I was immediately smitten. It was so new and fancy and the most expensive single item I’d ever bought myself. Yes, I had never paid more at one time for any one item than this computer and that was only six years ago. What can I say?

I hadn’t used an Apple computer since middle school so it took some practice to get the key strokes down and to figure out where everything was hiding. In the six years I’ve had it I haven’t installed a whole lot, it’s used mostly for web stuff and photo editing, but it has gotten slower over time. The last operating system upgrade I did was Snow Leopard. When Lion came out I didn’t see any particular reason to jump on board because everything was working just fine. This past week when Mountain Lion was released I figured, what the hell, and paid my $20 to move to the latest OS. I can’t be 100% sure but I’m 99.99999% positive that was a big mistake. What was a relatively smooth running machine has turned into a slow, twitchy, sometimes completely frozen object of annoyance. The most noticeable change for the worse is the fact that I can’t get Wi-Fi connectivity, especially if the computer has gone to sleep for any period of time. Greg has no problem connecting to the network but no matter what settings he changes and no matter how many times I play with the, very minimal, settings on my end nothing happens. The other annoying thing that occurs when I do happen to get online, but also sometimes unrelated to the internet, is that the entire system freezes and the fun little spinning beach ball shows up. Sometimes it clears itself quickly and things are moving again but in the time since I’ve “upgraded” to Mountain Lion I’ve had to do a hard shut down seven times. Seven. Do you know how many hard shut downs I used to do before this upgrade? Maybe seven IN A YEAR. And it probably wasn’t even that much.

Unlike what Greg will tell you I am not a hard core Steve Jobs/Apple nut. I like Apple products because they’re easy to use and don’t piss me off like Windows (I truly hate Windows, I am not being facetious), and I’ll gladly recommend them to anyone who has tired of fighting with Windows, but I don’t think they’re without flaws or room for improvement.

While searching through the support site on I’ve come across others who are having the same problems as me and they have much newer computers, so I know it can’t be completely due to the age of my machine. There are a lot of suggestions of things to try that “really work!” and then a few minutes later a post saying “oops, nevermind, it’s still doing it.” which is disheartening. Reading through their suggestions I’m not even sure I understand what they’re talking about anyway. For once I’m at a complete loss as to what to do. I’m in the weeds and can’t find my way out. I’m sure Apple has their people on it, they’re looking for a fix for this bug, but what happens if they don’t? Sometimes I really dislike the fact that I’ve become so reliant on technology, I almost envy the Amish and their restrictions on its use. And then I look at my really nifty iPhone and my slightly outdated Mac Book Pro and can’t imagine my life without them.

Dress for success

For a very long time now I’ve said that if I had the money my wardrobe would consist mostly of clothing from Ann Taylor. I guess it’s always had that look of sophistication that I fancied I’d have one day. That day is unfortunately not today but that hasn’t stopped me from very, very slowly trying to build a wardrobe that looks more like that of a 30-something and less that of a teenager. I don’t plan on ever becoming mature in the sense of giving up all my dorky interests and endeavors, I’d just like to be able to look like a grown up should the need arise. As I’ve said before Italians just know how to dress themselves. They take fashion risks but it doesn’t look crazy, it somehow just works. I envy their ability to put together outfits that if I were to wear them would look ridiculous and yet they pull it off. My gut feeling is that says more about me and my lack of self-confidence when it comes to dressing myself than it does about their innate ability to pick incredible clothes.

My cousin Bobert (aka Bobby, aka Robert) is marrying a most lovely girl, Amy, in September and I am at a loss as to what to wear. I would like to buy a new dress, to go outside of my comfort zone a little bit and try something I wouldn’t normally try while using as an excuse the fact that I live in Italy. By claiming that I’ve been influenced by European fashion I’m hoping that I’ll get over worrying about what the US trends are and just enjoy clothes for what they are – an expression of one’s personality. You gotta fake it til you make it, right?

I’ve been browsing numerous websites looking for inspiration and ideas and came across this dress yesterday:

I like the classic look of it. I can imagine Audrey Hepburn wearing something similar but I worry it’s too safe, too much like all the other stuff I’m already drawn to. Wouldn’t it be better to do something a little crazier? I don’t know. This is where I get stuck. I over think it and then can’t make up my mind. With a dress like this I could get some bright red shoes or maybe some yellow ones, and give it a little pop. But then I think maybe I should do something totally different, something more like this:

Or this:

Both of these are a little out of my price range, and the second one may be a little short for my liking but you see where I’m going with this, right? I plan on going shopping up the hill at some point in order to see what kind of things I can find here. The price point will probably be not so great but it will hopefully give me a better idea of what looks good on me.

Do any of you have any favorite websites or stores where you’ve had luck finding awesome but not incredibly expensive dresses?

Summer reading list

It’s quite possible that I have read more books so far in 2012 than I have read in any one year ever before. I blame my Kindle. It just makes it too damn easy to read. A lot of people read many, MANY more books than me (*cough*Greg*cough*) and of that I am envious. I’m working on upping my game. I’ve half-joked that we’ll need to buy a house with a library to store all the books he owns. On occasion I’ve suggested that he donate some books to the library on base but I inwardly shrink at the idea as I’ve always had a secret dream of owning a personal library where I can go and browse through the many works that have accumulated over the years. Of course my library would include mostly hardcover books because they’ve always suggested a sophistication and elegance that I don’t possess as of yet. Greg, on the other hand, greatly dislikes hardcovers, preferring instead the flexible portability of the paperback. But lest you think he just tosses them about like they’re worth no more than the paper they’re printed on be forewarned that if he catches you breaking or bending the binding in any way he will immediately cringe and think less of you. As a former spine breaker I have come to see the light and agree that this is a most horrible way to treat a book. Greg will tell you about my maimed copy of Pride and Prejudice and how I had no regard for my favorite book but I must say that, while the book is not so pretty to look at, it wears those cracks and creases like badges of honor, proof that it has been read and reread so many times by one who loves its story more than any other.

My collection of books is infinitely smaller than Greg’s and now, it seems, is becoming almost entirely digital. When I received my Kindle for Christmas I did not realize how much of my reading would be done on it. I figured I would maybe read one or two books but would never be able to give up that tactile feel of the paper and the smell of freshly printed ink. Those are still two things I love but the ease with which I am able to read a book on the device seems to overcome the lack of the physical experience. I can turn the pages with just a touch of my thumb, I can carry ten books or two books and not feel even an ounce of difference, I can dog ear a page without causing permanent damage. When I have finished with a book I only need go to the Kindle Store, browse through the selections, make my purchase, and I will be reading a new book in minutes all without leaving the couch, or the train, or the park bench.

There are downsides to reading electronically including relying on a battery and thus needing to charge it periodically, worrying about temperature changes (you can’t leave it in a hot car for fear of device failure), and the fact that you don’t actually own any of the books you purchase. I sometimes think that I would like to buy physical copies of all the electronic books I read so I have visual and tangible proof that I have actually read them. Part of me also wonders if somehow the physical book may have more of the story in it, or a slightly different version that will just as enjoyable to read. I’m almost 100% sure that’s not the case but it’s still something I think about.

What follows is a list of all the books I have read so far this year. Those marked with * are e-books:

  1. Maisie Dobbs* by Jacqueline Winspear
  2. Birds of a Feather* by Jacqueline Winspear
  3. Pardonable Lies* by Jacqueline Winspear
  4. Messenger of Truth* by Jacqueline Winspear
  5. An Incomplete Revenge* by Jacqueline Winspear
  6. Among the Mad* by Jacqueline Winspear
  7. The Mapping of Love and Death* by Jacqueline Winspear
  8. A Lesson in Secrets* by Jacqueline Winspear
  9. Elegy for Eddie* by Jacqueline Winspear
  10. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  11. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  12. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  13. The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin* by Erik Larson
  14. That Boy* by Jillian Dodd
  15. That Wedding* by Jillian Dodd
  16. Bossypants by Tina Fey
  17. George Washington’s Mount Vernon: At Home in Revolutionary America* by Robert F. and Lee Baldwin Dalzell
  18. Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring* by Alexander Rose
  19. Player One by Douglas Coupland

Books I’m currently reading:

  1. The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America* by Erik Larson
  2. FDR by Jean Edward Smith

Books to be read:

  1. Why Geography Matters: Three Challenges that Face America: Climate Change, the Rise of China, and Global Terrorism* by Harm de Blij
  2. The Lost Cyclist by David V. Herlihy
  3. Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin
  4. This is How by Augusten Burroughs 

If you watch Downton Abbey I highly recommend the Maisie Dobbs series because it’s set in the same time frame and she actually worked as a maid for a wealthy British family. There are some books in the series that I like better than others but they’re all worth reading. Two books that are great beach reads, and I believe are e-books only, are That Boy and That Wedding by Jillian Dodd. They’re fun and easy to read, they don’t require a lot of thought, but will suck you into the story. Some of the situations might be a little ridiculous but I actually really liked that. Sometimes you don’t want reality. I’ve enjoyed all of these books with the exception of Washington’s Spies which I found tedious and often very confusing. It jumps around too much from the past to present and introduces individuals briefly and with little to no explanation of how they relate to anything. It was being offered for $3.99 which is why I bought it, I wouldn’t waste your money otherwise.

There are some people who create a goal for the number of books they’d like to read, I prefer to read and see how many I end up with. If you have any book recommendations please let me know in the comments.

My fear of boredom

I’ve probably said this before but my biggest fear is boredom (my second biggest fear is falling but there’s not much I can do about that one). I hate being bored, I’d much rather do something that stimulates my brain than sit around doing nothing. Don’t get me wrong I love doing nothing, I probably do it better than anyone else, but it’s not my first choice of activities.

As of right now I am unemployed and it’s starting to bug me.

I left behind a job that allowed me to spend hours hanging out with some super cool, super fun to be around people and while I now get to actually be with my husband all the time instead of once every three months I still miss that comradery (or comaraderie, however you want to spell it). When told of my distaste for being bored many people have offered the “But you’ll be in Italy! You can travel around! You can see the sights!” line of attempted helpfulness. Those are true statements, I am in Italy, I can travel, and I can very well see the sights but 1. I don’t have the money to be running off to a new country every five minutes and 2. I’ve wandered all over Naples quite a few times and with how quickly stuff [doesn’t] change here it’s easy to run out of things to see. Even wandering around town can get boring, especially when you do it all the time. Unless I have a specific need for something going out to the stores just seems like a pointless venture. I’ve never been one to just randomly go shopping, I usually have something in particular I need to buy. I guess I just really want a job, a place to go everyday where I can use my brain and talk to people.

The main thing that happens when I get bored is I lose motivation. Instead of wanting to get out of the house and do stuff I get more and more into the rut of sitting around doing nothing. Of course then I get more anxious about the fact that I’m doing nothing and thus fall further into it. It’s a really stupid line of reasoning but sometimes I think my brain is kinda stupid. Giving myself the task of writing a blog post every day is proving equally difficult as I don’t really have a constant source of ideas to draw from. Or maybe I’m just really boring.

I am rather looking forward to heading to the Outer Banks of NC next Friday. It’ll be nice to go to the beach and see my family. I’m not super excited about the long plane rides but there’s nothing to be done about that.

Today’s activities so far have included doing laundry, washing dishes, watching Part 3 of Ken Burns’ Civil War, trying to teach myself to french braid my hair (if you have any tips please let me know) and that’s. about. it. I really, really want to attempt to get good at baking but with it just being Greg and I the resulting glut of calories would be a horrible idea.

Sorry to be such a Debbie Downer but I’m hoping by getting it all out I’ll be able to move past it. Fingers crossed!