Moving On

For those of you who haven’t already heard, Google Reader has been discontinued. If you haven’t heard of Google Reader, you can read a quick writeup I did from 2009. In short. Google Reader is an aggregator that keeps tabs on all the news sites, blogs, and web sites that I read regularly, and presents a concise list of new updates that appear on those sites. When I wrote that article in 2009, I had already been using it for years and years, so you can imagine how sad it is to lose something that’s become such a big part of how I use the Internet.

I don’t dispute Google’s right to shut down a project like Google Reader — especially in light of the fact that it’s a free service that I haven’t paid a penny for. But the loss of Google Reader has absolutely taught me a valuable lesson: Things worth having are worth paying for.

Continue reading Moving On

Summer Face

summer makeup

I don’t know about you, but when Ohio works its magic and the temps go from forty degrees to eighty-five (with a million percent humidity, naturally), my skin goes a little crazy if I’m not careful.  Let’s be honest, my skin is a little crazy without the help of Ohio’s bipolar weather tendencies so I’m always on the lookout for products that feel light but still do the trick.  These are a few of my summer makeup bag staples favorites.  

DAY

Trader Joes Jojoba Oil: The ultimate in natural products for pore-cleansing, makeup removal, and moisturizing.  My face is ultra sensative so I can’t use anything with fancy perfumes OR ELSE. This does the trick on it’s own without anything extra.  It’s awesome for traveling light too.  

Simple Revitalizing Eye Roll-On: I don’t like to wear concealer (at least during the day) in the summer.  It feels heavy and looks bad after a few hours so I am loving this sensative skin friendly eye revitalizing roll-on.  Fast, easy, effective.  Love it. Birchbox introduced me to this gem.

Supergoop CC Cream (SPF 35): Most days I’ll go naked faced during the day, but if I want or need a little extra coverage I love this stuff.  It’s lightweight, has better coverage than other BB creams/tinted moisturizers that’s I’ve tried and the color is self-adjusting. It also has a matte finish for shine control.  

Fresh Sugar Rose Tinted Lip Treatment (SPF 15): This stuff is looks amazing, feels amazing and smells amazing which I know is an odd thing to mention about lip balm, but it’s true so I’m telling you.

Benefit High Beam Luminizer: This stuff is great for adding a little highlight here and there.  It doesn’t leave your face feeling too sparkley or oily.  

Cover Girl Eyeshadow Shimmering Sands: A friend my freshman year of high school introduced me to this eye shadow and I have used it ever since. That means it’s been in my makeup bag for close to twenty years (oh dear, I’m old).  I am forever trying newer fancier shadows, but I always come back to good old Cover Girl.  This color pallate in particular is lovely and works on most if not all skin colors.  I spent the whole of my twenties as a professional bridesmaid and I can’t tell you how many friends wore this on their walk down the aisle. It’s lovely and natural looking.  

The Balm Hot Mama Blush/Shadow: This blush has a really nice golden pink color to it that adds a little pop to your cheeks without too much color.

Cover Girl Lash Blast Volume Mascara: I love this mascara for both how it looks and it’s price tag. It’s been my go-to ever since Cover Girl released it.

NIGHT

Urban Decay Naked Eyeshadow Pallette: I photograph weddings for a living and this has been a staple in nearly every makeup artist’s bag I have ever met.  It’s super versitile and you can acheive so many beautiful looks with all the different combinations. It’s also $50.  That’s the down side.  But if you want to stay with a natural palette, it’s awesome.  If I want a smokier eye for going out, this is my go to.  

Dior Maximizer Lash Primer/Plumping Serum: A professional drag queen in the NYC Sephora sold this to me for the first time and I wish I could go back and give him a hug.  It.  Is. AWESOME.  I have really light and thin eyelashes so mascara alone often doesn’t do the trick, but I am WAY too low maitence for any kind of regular false eyelash application.  It just isn’t going to happen.  This + a good mascara (like The’re Real below) is the closest you will get to false eyelashes without any glue.  Goes on white, extends lashes, promotes natural growth of lashes.  Try it.  You will love it.  

Benefit They’re Real! Mascara: This mascara has fantastic coverage, extends lashes, and goes on super smooth.  It only comes in black and I wear brown during the day, so I leave this for night or special occasions.  It’s all the rage with most beauty editors so I have no doubt you can find a million people to confirm the virtues of this mascara. 

Benefit Erase Paste + Ooh La Lift = bright eyes.  I’m sorry, it cannot help you with your bushy tail.  

Nars Semi-Matte Lipstick: This stuff is so great.  It goes on smooth (unlike A LOT of other matte lipsticks), and stays on for a long time.  Color Pictured = Red Lizard.  It’s a full on Betty Draper shade of red.  

Stila Liquid Eyeliner/Nars Pencil Liners are my favorites when I want to add a little edge to my night look, but most of the time I line my eyes with the lightest shadow from the CG Shimmering Sands shadow.  

Jouer Perfume Oil: This technically isn’t for your face, but I’m loving this little rollerball scent I got as a bonus with a full-sized product purchase from Birchbox.  I

So what’s in your bag?

 

Lucy: Month Twenty Four

Dear Lucy,

Last night was the first time you tried to run away from home. You were very upset with your mama and I because it was almost bed time, and we wouldn’t let you use your finger paints. You gave out a short little anguished cry — but only the length of a second or two. Then you marched with clear purpose to the front door and tried to push it open. I asked you where you were going and you replied with a succint-but-emphatic “out!” So I unlocked the door for you.

You made it about one step onto the porch when you turned back and said, very quietly to yourself, “But it’s cold,” and then “Papa, sweatshirt!” So I helped you put on your sweatshirt.

Once that second arm was through the final sleeve, your resolve returned and you strode back to the door. As your tiny hand pressed against it to start out on your own, I heard you mutter “Might get wet… better button up.” I helped you get the zipper on your sweatshirt pulled up so that, in the event your journeys took you to wetter climates, your Yo Gabba Gabba Foofa shirt would stay dry.

You returned to the front door one more time, noticably slower than the first two times, and turned to me to ask “Boots?” I pointed out that you already had sneakers on. You contemplated this for a good ten or fifteen seconds, looked at me, cocked your head slightly to the side and said “Color? Crayons?” That seemed like a reasonable compromise, so I helped you out of your sneakers and sweatshirt and took you to your drawing table.

I can’t believe how big you’ve gotten, especially compared to the last time I wrote one of these letters. A lot has happened in nine months. Nine months ago you were just beginning to master walking, now you’ve got a pretty good handle on running. “Hurry hurry hurry! Quick quick quick!” That’s what you yell as you’re running down the aisles of the grocery story with us at full-tilt.

As funny and energetic and outgoing as you can be, I still get really happy to see little bits and pieces of your introvert papa shining through in you. Every now and then you just get a little overwhelmed with it all. A few weeks ago, we were shopping and you had clearly had enough of us. You got up off of the bench that you and your mama were sharing, walked the ten feet to another bench, and just sat by yourself with your head hung down. Every now and then a stranger would come and sit by you, trying to make small talk, and you would high tail it back to your mama. But as soon as that bench was empty again, you went right back for it.

I really can’t believe how much fun you are these days. You’re just a little sponge, soaking up all the little things we do and things we say only to spring them back on us after a few days of thinking about them in that tiny little head of yours. Several times a day, one of us will catch you contemplating a drawing you’re working on saying something very adult like “Let’s see here,” or you’ll greet one of our friends who has come to visit by saying “Oh hi, I missed you!” It’s very sweet. And I know that someday you will learn to actually read, but I’m just enjoying the pretend “reading” you’re doing now. 

If there’s one thing you really need to work on, little girl, it’s your negotiating skills. I’m not sure what your strategy is by asking me for “colate” (chocolate). “One colate, please? One?” You’ll insist. “One colate? Two?? Two colate please, thank you?” Sadly, though, this form of negotiation has proved effective more than once. So well done on that count.

Little Lu, I’m excited to see what this next year holds for you. I’m sure your vocabulary is going to continue to explode, you’ll continue to push your boundaries and our buttons, and I have every reason to believe there will be at least one more attempt to run away from home. Your mama and I will be there when it happens, ready to help you on with your sweatshirt and make sure you’ve got some string cheese in your pocket, and maybe try to convince you to just stay the night instead. You know, so you can get a fresh start in the morning. 

Or maybe just draw instead.

The Art of the Hand Typed Email

I don’t email as much as I used to. After college, email was a great, easy way to keep up with my closest friends, now scattered across the midwest. Sometimes it was a quick, one-off comment about whatever was going on, but at least once a week you could count on someone sending a moderately lengthly update about what was happening at their new job in their new city. With the rise of Twitter and Facebook, I think we’ve lost the art of the email.

I do, of course, recognize the irony of this. Ten years ago, when all this email writing was going on, the generation before us was decrying the loss of the art of the written letter. “Young people don’t know how to properly write a letter anymore,” we were told, as we rolled our collective eyes. A decade later, though, our decline in quality of communication has taken the next step.

There’s nothing wrong with social media; Facebook and Twitter are great ways of keeping updated on the daily goings on of friends we might otherwise lose complete touch with. But I think the fact that we see these daily updates gives us a false sense of closeness. That, because I saw what you ate for breakfast on Instagram, I have an undestanding of what’s going on in the lives of my friends who live several states away is a lie that prevents us from really keeping each other informed of what we’ve been up to. And so the months go by knowing more about our friends dietary and nail polish choices than how they’re feeling and what they’re really going through.

And so I’m trying to renew in myself the lost art of the written email that is longer than a sentence or two, and learn a bit more about what my friends are really up to in 2013. If you have any interest in knowing more about my life than what book I’m reading or what local restaurant I’ve dined at recently, I’d love an email to start the conversation. It doesn’t require a big time investment to write more than 140 characters, just 5 minutes and a little bit of thought.

Start Where You Are

startwhereyouare

I typically love the fresh start feeling that the new year brings with it. I love making lists and goals and planning for the future.  I have journal pages full of plans.  Some things I actually accomplish, some things  live continuously on my Big Picture List, some attempts are met with failure, and some things I have to let go.  

If I were to measure life by my lists, 2012 brought more in the failure and letting go department than accomplishment.

Letting go is hard. Even if the thing you are letting go of isn’t something you particularly love and isn’t treating you well, it’s still a struggle. The relinquishing of control and moving forward into the foggy unknown requires patience, hope and faith that everything will ultimately be ok. I am going to be honest, I’m scared and anxious and my head feels like its full of nothing but question marks. I am struggling to find the energy to put toward a new beginning. 

Over the last few weeks I’ve been writing my new journal entries, making my new plans, writing my new lists.  It’s been slow going and there have been a lot of moments I just want to go back to what I know and where I’m comfortable. I don’t want to be brave. I don’t want to embrace change. I don’t want to move on.

I ran across this quote somewhere on the internets and I scribbled it down on a piece of scrap paper that I find myself pulling out daily.  It brings me a lot of comfort and inspires me to put one foot in front of the other on the days when I can’t quite figure out where I’m going and I want to hide out on my couch and watch a never ending string of Gilmore Girls episodes.  

Here’s to a new year (a month and some change late) and starting where you are.

A Comeback Story?

2013 is poised to be a really interesting year for the mobile device space. I’m a long time Apple fan, having used every iteration of the iPhone since the 3GS came out in 2008, but I think things are due for a shakeup. And that very likely could start today.

Like a lot of people, I’ve generally laughed at the slow and steady decline of Research in Motion, makers of the once-popular BlackBerry devices, since the rise of the touchscreen phones last decade. They were arrogant and played it all wrong. “People want physical keyboards!” they cried. “If people want to write apps, go ahead, but we won’t help!” was the other major complaint. And so, with most of the tech / geek sector, I wrote them off.

Over the course of the past several months, as I’ve been curating smartphones and tablets for our local device lab, I’ve been fortunate enough to get a bit of a sneak peek into what RIM has been working on, and I was surprised at my response. A little backstory, first; In December, I approached RIM’s regional BlackBerry Evangelist about possible donations to our device lab. We had a candid phone conversation about where RIM’s at and what they’re doing to “right the ship.” He talked a bit about the operating system strategy and offered to send us out some Playbooks — RIM’s 7″ tablet — for our lab. 

They arrived a few days later, and I was curiously surprised at their quality. It’s not nearly as polished as the iPad experience, but it was far more user friendly than the Kindle Fire that we purchased late last year. The lone detractor from the experience was the apparent lack of third-party app support available. There is no Netflix app, no Hulu, and certainly no Instagram. I wasn’t even able to find an official Facebook or Twitter app. It doesn’t matter how great the hardware or operating system is, if there isn’t a large library of third-party apps available it’s not going to success.

I think RIM was thinking the same thing, because it was just a week or so later that I became aware of the last in a series of “Port-A-Thon” events they were sponsoring, trying to motivate iOS and Android developers to port their apps over to the new BlackBerry 10 system. Beyond just going out of their way to make it super easy to do this, they were also offering a monetery incentive: $100 per app ported over. As easy as it was, it seemed foolish not to do it. So a few of us met up that weekend to work on porting our apps over, and by the end of the day we had 13 apps in the review queue.

bb10portathon

Something funny happened over the course of those few weeks. I went from laughing at the idea of a RIM comeback to being a minor cheerleader for them. Today is their “big reveal” of the new BlackBerry 10 platform and phones, and I’m really hoping that they’re able to pull it off. I’m not completely sold that what they have is better than Apple, Android or Windows Phone, but I’m a little excited about another option being there to help push the other three. They have an uphill battle on their hands, for sure. They’re going to need a few key killer apps to convince those of us already using Apple and Android devices to give them another shot. But if they come out of the gates with some really good looking hardware, an official Instagram and Netflix app, and the support of the developer community behind them, I think they stand as good a chance as anyone does.

What about you? Have you completely written RIM off, or are you curious to see what they have up their sleeves. I know I’ll be watching their press event to see if this turns out to be their last stand or the beginning of their comeback story.

2012 Retrospective: Books

In 2011, I don’t believe I even read a total of 10 books, so I’m excited to even be able to talk about my 10 favorite books of 2012. Below is a quick look at all the books I was able to read last year, with my ten favorites at the top.

The Night Circus On the Beach 11/22/63 The Sense of an Ending Timequake Einstein's Dreams The Maze Runner On the Road First Meetings in Ender's Universe After Dark My Horizontal Life Lord of the Flies The Trial Freedom A Wild Sheep Chase Gentlemen Cloud Atlas Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep? Nigger Then Everything Changed In Cold Blood Me Talk Pretty One Day The Stranger The Lemur The Time Machine Overgrown: Tales of the Unexpected The Kill Order Ready Player One

2012 Retrospective: Music

Every year, I like to compile a playlist featuring music that has served as the soundtrack for the past year. They aren’t all necessarily songs that were released in the previous year, but are generally songs I’ve first been introduced to in the past year. 2012 started off slow; I don’t think I got to ten tracks until the Fall, but it built quickly from there to the point that I had to pare it down from nearly 30 tracks to it’s current set of 15 songs.

If you would like to listen to the Team Soell 2012 Retrospective on Rdio, you can listen below. If you’d like to take it with you “to go,” you can download it in MP3 format.

What about you? What are you best tracks of the year?

52 Books: Weeks 49 – 52

52books december

Here we are. 52 weeks after I set my goal of reading 52 books in 2012, and I made it! This past month was a bit of a challenge, as I had six books to read, but I made it a little easier on myself by only reading books that were 150 pages or less. With that as my criteria, I actually charged my way through the last six books in only two weeks. So if you’re looking for some good, short reads to help you get to your goal, or just get you back into the habit of reading, these are some really good choices.

The Old Man and the Sea

When I first started getting back into reading eight years ago or so, I specifically wanted to read a lot of the books that most people read in grade school that I either hadn’t gotten to, or had completely forgotten about. The Old Man and the Sea is definitely one of those quintessential books that most people read at some point before graduating high school, and at only 96 pages you can even get through it in one sitting. On the surface, it’s the story of an elderly Cuban fisherman catching an enormous marlin, but the themes of the book go much deeper. Beautiful book, if you haven’t read it yet, but it high on your list.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – 4 stars

 

Einstein’s Dreams

This was recommended by my best-friend-in-law Tasci, and I’m really glad she suggested it. I have a rule when rating books, that I won’t give out a 5-star rating unless I’ve read a book at least twice; I’m breaking my rule on this one, because I loved it so much. Each chapter in this book is a fictionalized examination of a universe in which time, or the way we are affected by time, is somewhat different than we know it. In one world, time is circuitous, so that all of life’s events repeat over and over. In another, time moves more slowly as your elevation increases. But while it sounds like a scientific thought exercize, it’s really more of a philosophical investigation. At 144 pages, it’s really the perfect book to spend a rainy, thoughtful weekend with.

Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman – 5 stars

 

The Stranger

I’m sure I’ve read this at least twice before, but all I really remembered was that it focused on a man who killed an Arab on the beach, and was standing trail for his crimes. I don’t think I’ve been in a place before where I could really appreciate the story for the themes the author was trying to explore until now, so I’m glad I gave it another read. Only 123 pages long, it’s not a huge commitment, and it’s really not as heavy as the philosophers among us would have us believe. Or at least it doesn’t have to be. At the very least, it can just be read as an interesting story of a troubled man’s life, and it’s perfectly enjoyable at that level. If you haven’t read this classic — or at least haven’t in the past five or ten years — maybe it’s time to give it another try.

The Stranger by Albert Camus – 4 stars

 

The Lemur

I found this book listed on the Lawrence Public Library’s blog post featuring 50 good books, 150 pages or less. It didn’t have great reviews, but the story sounded interesting, and I’m glad I gave it a shot. It’s not the best mystery I’ve ever read, but it was a short 132 pages and I was able to knock it out in just more than a day. It’s nothing memorable, but it was an enjoyable whodunit style novel.

The Lemur by Benjamin Black – 3 stars

 

The Time Machine

The classic story of time travel, Morlocks and Eloi. I was shocked at how quickly Wells jumped right into the story, without nearly the amount of setup that went into the movie version. While the result is a compact 104-page read, it was surprisingly difficult to get through. Something about the writing style of these older books makes it a little more sluggish to get through. Not to say it isn’t well written or enjoyable, but just noticably more concentration was required to get through it. If you’re into science fiction at all, though, you owe it to yourself to read this classic from one of the fathers of the genre.

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells – 4 stars

 

Overgrown: Tales of the Unexpected

For my last book, I decided to read this collection of short stories from a collective of Columbus-based authors. Some were very good, some were mercifully short, but overall it was a very easy 112 page read. I don’t completely understand how the seven stories were supposed to be connected thematically, but that may be nitpicking. At the crazy-low price of $4, I will definitely check out some of the other collections from the Columbus Creative Cooperative.

Overgrown: Tales of the Unexpected by Various, Columbus Creative Cooperative – 3 stars

 

That about does it! I’m planning on a wrap-up article early next month, featuring my top 10 books that I read in 2012, along with some details about my reading challenge for 2013, so be sure to check back.

How did you do on your reading challenge? Any goals you’re setting for yourself in 2013?