Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Oh, the First Days are the Hardest Days...

...when You're the Music Bitch. I can hear the Grateful Dead now. For months, the pace at the music office usually compromises only a few tasks.
-sort the mail
-schedule a room
-eat lunch outside for an hour
-answer the phone a couple times
-play on the internet for several hours
But now that it's the second day of classes, and I should be only working 2 hours a day and going to my one class a day, the start of school has looked more like this:
-come fill in extra hours even though I'm not supposed to work and I should be going grocery shopping
-train the new assistants
-give directions to 10 lost foreign students
-sweat through two shirts lugging paper cases up from the basement
-rearrange chairs and tables in a concert hall three times in one day for events
-handle room requests which should have been handled over the summer, but professors insist on not turning in a piece of paper to me until four months after the due date, and then get huffy that they can't have the schedule that they want
-update 75 faculty addresses and phone numbers
-get new people copy codes
-eat a PB&J at the desk while on the phone
I miss the quiet of summer, but I'm excited to be writing my orchestra piece, and glad to have familiar faces back in town.
Current music: the Petroushka cornet theme, 1,000 times in succession from auditions across the hall.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Sleepy at Work

It's really humid here and after not sleeping well for the past week, the air-conditioned music office closet seems like such a welcoming place for a nap. And then the phone rings and I have 65 placement exams to grade and actual office work to do! Drats.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I think I saved the day yesterday in the music office after getting a giant bee back outside from its angry home inside the building. I swear that this bee was the biggest bee I've ever seen, and I'm not joking, it was probably 2.5 inches. It looked a lot like this one above, drawn my my friend Amy.
But Amy thinks by my description it looked more like this:

I'd say it was three inches long but maybe that's a bit much. Either way, there were about five people in the office trying to come up with ways to kill it, including a broom with cardstock stuck in it. One of our conductors rigged up a beautiful 'cup on a stick of bamboo' mechanism to trap the little devil. The bee was almost too big to fit into the styrofoam cup! But then no one could figure out how to keep the bee in the cup as it slid over the mouldings of the windows. I suggested sliding some paper under the cup to trap the bee (thanks country living!). Well, obviously that made me the designated bee-trapper. But it was a success! And then there was clapping. And the hummingbee lived to buzz another day.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Reviews of Old Soaps

I assume that many of you dear readers have collected different kinds of objects in your lives. Some people collect porcelain dolls, and some people collect real dolls. Some people collect trivets, while others collect license plates. I, too, have collected certain things over periods of time in my life. I have an old Lego collection, and a crystal and mineral collection, and a 'coins from other countries' collection. Nowadays I suppose I collect recordings and music scores, if anything. Oh, and who could forget my collection of properties in Dubai. But I think there are only a few people who have collected a huge bag of travel soaps and shampoos from various hotels spanning the last thirteen years. I went through this bag while on my 'vacation', and thought I would provide you with a design review of hotel soaps across North America. I will not be providing, however, a performance review of said soaps and shampoos. As cute as they are, hotel shampoo is still crap, and I've never stayed in the Four Seasons to use their luxe samples. My hair already gets enough mistreatment from my everyday 99-cent Big Value Shampooze.From left to right, these are highlights of the standard bottle.
1. 'Gentle Organic Shampoo', hotel unmarked. Classy, understated elegance. I feel like each drop is a chamomile-infused blessing from heaven. And by heaven, I mean somewhere in a factory in Tennessee. Overall, not too ostentatious design, but not too cheap. The lid could stand to be translucent. Midnight Shoveler grade: B+.
2. Canadian Conditioning Shampoo. Like Pert Plus, but orange, it strips your hair of its nutrients, and then puts the nutrients right back! How 'bout that! Design elements include the ever-present Canadian Maple leaf, and square shape. Reminds me too much of cologne containers, however, and Scotch bottles for cheap alcoholics. Grade: B-.
3. Where do I start, Howard. Howard Johnson, your cheap hotel rooms beguile me. If you only went for a Minimalist Mod look you could really pull off a $45 hotel room and this hideous mini-shampoo. Instead, your colors are throwupbeigeorange (yes, one word, it all runs together in one wretch), and grass-stains mixed with teal crayons. No, no, no. However, small changes can improve your shampoo drastically! Change the shape of the bottle to a concave neck, like vintage perfumes, which would be elegant in white. And make your logo and lettering even more blocky and '70's, and I'm there, sleeping at shabbychic HoJo. But for now: D+. At least your bottle is white. Unlike #4. I can't even read the label even if it wasn't a blurry photo. Your shampoo has separately violently which perfectly matches the faux-marble finish of your label, complete with faux-elegant gold lettering. Gold=dazzling, so why doesn't it work on soaps? I know, because your shampoo isn't suppose to look like it's imitating a piece of gold-striated marble dug out of a quarry. Do you think anyone is ever tricked into thinking your bottle top is an actual ball of gold? Then don't lie to me! D- for lying.
I've calmed down. Now we'll look at Eccentric shapes.
1. Marriott, as much as I don't like your salmon-and-grey, I think it works with the cylinder shape. I'm sort of indifferent to this one, but it also came with an identical container of baby powder which sprinkles out delightfully. B+.
2. Comfort Inn Conditioning Shampoo. As much as I bet this shampoo sucks, I like the bottle a lot. It's art-deco classy and I like the translucence. However, couldn't Comfort find a more exciting color for the label and top than dull gray? A-.
3. (Behind). Shirmack. I suppose I should think practically about this one, like, 'I could store 50 single-use shampoos all in one pocket! Yay!' and praise the lack of waste material: How much shampoo goes thrown out after one use in a hotel room, every day, in hotel rooms all across America? It pains me to think about. But then fashionable Midnight butts in and says, you're paying for this hotel room, and all you get is this free sample? What happened to 'lather rinse repeat?' Grade: On the Fence B.
4. This isn't even a shampoo. I think it's a candy. But it's from Mexico, and it's from 1993. This candy is from a hotel 14 years ago. Gross. It's hard to tell from this photo of a photo, though, that the design is actually quite nice, and simple yet attractive. So this candy gets an A. But fails to be a shampoo.
Less dazzling highlights. 1. Dockside Inn, Martha's Vineyard. This soap is clear, but very cherry red-colored, even after 8 years in a cupboard. This is the one shampoo I saved to use for real, because it holds its age well. It's like a good wine of the soap bar world. And quaintly designed, with a tie-in to the 'candy-colored Victorian B&B' in which I stayed. (Don't get all impressed, it wasn't quite that glam.) A.
2. 'Fleur de Lis Flex & Go'. Ugh. There's something ugly about the 'Flex and Go' font, and not very fleur-de-lis-ey in the overall aesthetic. The actual symbol of the fleur-de-lis reminds me of French Monarchies. Heralds. Brocade. Beautiful, tall, Wrought-iron fences. This Fleur-de-Flex -and-Go reminds me of IHOP and fluorescent lighting. What if you made the cap into the shape of the fleur-de-lis? Maybe I'd rethink my grade: C-.
3. Stage West. I'm only amused by the porn-chic font of this hotel, which if I recall, looks nothing like California in the 1970's. Nor reminded me of anything Western. It did live up to the hype of the rest of the bottle, though, which states "All-Suite Hotel & Theater Restaurant Body Lotion Lotion Creme". They liked the idea of lotion so much they said it twice. If you're going to go all out, why not say 'Hotel & Theater Restaurant with Bathrooms Food Fun & Sleeping Luxurious Hot Body Lotion Lotion Creamy Creme'? C+.
Bizarrely, the winner of the design contest of 13-year old soaps is from Disney World, and I usually can't stand a lot of Disney emblazoning. In fact, I'm probably breaking some copyright code now by even showing you a picture of "M**key M**se" without permission.
But yet, the design of this shampoo and soap is way cool, and it still looks fresh and hip even thirteen years later (I was eleven when I went to Disneyworld, though it seems like only yesterday that I was watching Michael Jackson at Epcot Center. Sigh.). I like the close cropping of the Mickey on the label, and the font is fun and geometric with its filled in A's and O's. The size is also substantial while still being 'travel'-sized; I could see myself reusing the container with more soap and being a good little recycler. I assume these soaps were on the fancier side of hotel rooms, but I never stayed in an official Disney hotel room...so I have no idea where these came from. It's a mystery, but they get an A anyway.
Before I leave you with an apology that this post was so long, there's one more soap which gets an A+. I think I also used it once as a pet, because it has a little leash on it. Leash or no leash, it's probably the best soap in the history of bar soaps.
But it wasn't a soap...It was a soap...lobster.

Old Spice

Much to my surprise, I discovered that a couple of the spices in my parents' kitchen were dated from 1974. This is Nixon-era dill, we're talking here. And for some reason this wasn't really a problem. Personally, I love that special taste of 33-year-old oregano. What's that subtle flavor? Oh, I know. It's dead grass.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Back from Vacation with armfuls of Travel Soaps

Hi all,
My lack of posting last week was due to my vacation at home in Western New York with my family. It's amazing what just a week away from your usual surroundings will do to a person. I always enjoy returning to my 'home home' room, which is pretty much just the way I'd want it (and thankfully not converted to a sewing room). My apartment back in Pittsburgh now looks different, and is brighter (and tippier) than I remember it. I also opened the door to a bunch of boxes, which quickly reminded me that I'm moving to another apartment (just one building to the left of me) in just two days, and then flying to Boston, MA this next coming weekend! Next week also starts 'orientation' for new grad students, which is a sure reminder that my second year of grad school will start in just two weeks. What a busy August for Midnight.
But being home also reminded me of the joys of a swimming pool, hearing the crickets at night, laughing with my family, campfires, and barbecued chicken. It was certainly relaxing, to the point of boredom, but I don't think I'd want it any other way.
Be sure to stay tuned for stories of spices, sleeping without underwear, and amusing photos of a collection of travel soaps and shampoos that I had amassed over the last...ahem...13 years.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Heard in the Bushes

Twice now I've walked by a house on Negley Ave. and I have overheard a mom talking to her very young son, who sounds like he could be three years old. They play in the backyard, which must be tiny, but I can't see anything through the shrubbery. I do see a lot of broken bricks and mortar strewn along the ground, like a wall of a house was recently knocked down.
In any case, the first time I walked by I heard:

"You want to play with the bricks? Those bricks are heavy...Oh, don't put the bricks in the pool!"

But the next time I heard an even-better:

"Did you just pour bleach on these plants? No!!"

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Oh, the Arctic Places You'll Go

Facebook has been introducing all these applications which you can add to your profile, including the 'Anonymous Comments' feature ('Hey! Your face looks like a butt, buttface!' and you'll never know who sent it to you) and a slide show of your favorite works of Art. However, I find fascinating the 'Where I've Been' application, which includes a feature to let your friends know what countries and states you've traveled to, lived in, and where you'd like to go. I was amused for a good chunk of time clicking on the countries I wanted to visit, and the selecting the piddly number of U.S. states I've seen (I haven't traveled west of Cleveland, OH save for a vacation to Hawaii!) but pleased that I've visited the little country like Monaco. It looks just like this vintage poster here, with it's fancy speeding race cars and population: 5 gazillionaires, 5,000 perfect palm trees.
But I wanted more than just clicking on every single Scandinavian country and desiring to go there, and my wants were satiated when I discovered that you can click on remote and scantly-populated countries, and you can even zoom in on tiny islands! Here is a sampling of where I'd like to go, proving that I will one day become the 6th gazillionaire of Monaco and be able to get myself to these locations via sumptuous-yet- earth-friendly transportation. Any travel companions?

In no particular order:

Svalbard. Archipelago of islands North of Norway. 2004 population: 2,765.
I'd like to visit here for the incredible-looking Arctic flowers that bloom and to see the wild polar bears roam about (they have "Polarbear Crossing" signs on the trails). There's a couple small towns, and a 'capital city' but no roads connect them. I'm most fascinated by Svalbard, however, by the Norwegian government which is currently building a "doomsday" seed depository there...in other words, a huge cement vault which will store as many seeds of plants in the world as possible, to secure future crops from the dangers of global warming or, oops, nuclear war. The tunnel will be built 120 meters into the rock (permafrost, of course) and have security guards protecting the doors.

Okay. So perhaps I won't be able to be a tourist to the Doomsday Seed Depository Museum any time soon. But who wouldn't want to play with these happy little creatures that just hopped out of the Norwegian Sea? So chilly! They look hungry, I'll give them some fish to eat!...Why aren't you eating? Oh, you're blocks of ice.

Next stop: Easter Island. Kind of a given.
2002 Population: 3,791.
It's kind of cliché by now, but I still think it's cool.
This island, between Chile and Tahiti in the Pacific Ocean, has too many tourists as it is for the fragile state of the island, but I still want to see all these stone heads. Maybe they'll whisper to me secrets like, how can I stand still for long periods of time and not fidget? Or, how can I find a man with a good head on his shoulders, a good strong chin? I bet these guys would tell it like it is.
Easter Island also has an ancient script, a writing called 'Rongorongo', which could be a form of writing that has had no outside influence. That's pretty amazing. I think everything I do, say, act, dress, write, listen to is taken or adapted from somewhere else. I can't imaging coming up with my own written language. 'Course, nobody can agree on if it's even writing at all, as no scientist has been able to translate, so the point is probably moot. I can see those ancient stone people now, coming up with clever ways to amuse themselves by thinking, 'boy, people in the future are sure going to go nuts when they see this!' (scribble scribble).

A brief hop over to Yap.
2003 population: 6,300 (this is the most densely-inhabited place so far.)
Part of Micronesia, Yap uses stone money! Here's an 8-feet-tall stone 'coin' of great wealth. I'm not making this up. The smallest money items are three inches tall, and everything is disk-shaped. Lately, though the stone money is still viewed as real and valuable currency, the U.S. dollar is used for every-day purchases, and that really disappoints me.
Of course, as a picker-upper for having to deal with silly U.S. dollars, you can also frolic with giant swarms of manta rays that gather around Yap. But watch out or you might Irwin yourself.
(Aside: I'd really like this photo caption to read: 'Giant Crusty Donut Still Munched on By Local Wildlife'. But I can't compete with 8-foot tall stone money.)

I'll discuss briefly the Faroe Islands. With a population of over 48,000, this collection of islands delegated by Denmark is practically a megalopolis compared to Yap or Svalbard.
Highlights include a beautiful colorful capital city, Tórshavn (see left), and inter-island transportation, which used to be mainly by boat or helicopter, but now one can commute by fabulous underwater tunnels.
The music scene here also thrives, though many young people move to Denmark after high school. However, several indie bands, folk musicians, and composers have come from the Faroes! I have only been fortunate enough to come across Teitur, but that's at least one.
As far as delicacies go, I don't suggest you accompany me on this trip unless you like mutton and whale meat. I'm still on the fence about the whales.

Our last stop will be one that I haven't visited, but I've heard a lot about. It's pretty remote as far as I can tell. We're going to visit the mysterious island of Long. Now the 'Long Island' as it has been called by the Natives, is heavily populated with indigenous people who have created their own dialect, often untranslatable by people who live relatively close on the Isle of the Manhattan. Long Islanders often wear big dangly earrings and tacky accoutrements, and place values on family, hard work, and densely-populated dwellings. I don't know if I really want to visit this Island of Long, but seeing how we've been flying around the world, we might as well stop in for some of the local 'cwawfee', don'cha think?