Thursday, July 25, 2013

Summer Adventure? Splendid!

Back in January, I knew my life would be heading in a direction I like to call "shambly".  I knew that my interim position was ending and that there was a good chance I wouldn't be returning to my previous position.  Knowing my income status would likely change relatively quickly, I did what most slightly irresponsible 20-somethings would do: I made fun summer plans and bought concert tickets.

I've been a fan of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward's band She and Him for at least three years now.  They recently came out with their third album (aptly titled Volume 3) and launched a tour to promote it.  I got an email about a pre-sale at the end of January, contacted some friends, and purchased tickets immediately.  To say I had been looking forward to the concert was an understatement.

At the same time as I bought the tickets, I also started a quick descent into the Joss Whedon fandom.  For those of you who don't know, Joss Whedon is the mastermind behind shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse as well as Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog and The Avengers.  He also has some surprising writing credits including Toy Story and Roseanne.  He has a tendency to work with the same actors because he knows their strengths and their abilities.  In between principle photography and editing for The Avengers, he brought a bunch of actors to his gorgeous home and filmed an adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.

I had been looking forward to Much Ado's release for a months, and I got very excited when release dates were finally announced.  I was less than thrilled, however, that "wide release" only included 5 theaters in Illinois - all of them in the Chicagoland area.  Thankfully I found a theater screening the film as a matinee on the same day we would be attending the concert.

Stacey and I headed north to meet our friend, Jenny, who would serving as companion and tour guide for the day.  As we got to the city, we looked for parking near the concert venue.  In case you're wondering, yes I did take a picture of what must have been the She & Him tour bus in front of the ballroom.  

Because I'm a creeper.

By the time we got to the movie theater, previews were rolling, and I realized I wanted to see every single movie they advertised - even the one in Spanish.  Much Ado was everything I wanted it to be.  I loved seeing my favorite actors from the Whedonverse perform what is essentially the original romantic comedy.  I enjoyed Whedon's use of a backstory that I always thought was hinted at but never explored in the original play.  I'm happy the traditional song "Sigh No More" was incorporated in the masquerade scene.  Clark Gregg really impressed me as Leonato.  That character goes through probably the most drastic changes in demeanor throughout the play, and Gregg gave such a fantastic performance of the entire range of emotions.  Tom Lenk and Nathan Fillion's portrayals of Verges and Dogberry cracked me up, as they would for any Whedon fan.  And Alexis Denisof had me in stitches throughout the scene between Benedick and Beatrice just after he's heard Don Pedro, Leonato, and Claudio describing her alleged love for him.

I'm SO happy I got to see this in the theater.  Thankfully the Art Theater in Champaign was able to get it after all, so I took my boyfriend to see it last weekend.  It made me just as happy the second time around.

After the movie we found a pub with outdoor seating and enjoyed the unusually mild June day.  For dinner, we moseyed down the street to try the burgers at Kuma's Too. 

Waitin' for our food with JNance

While visiting the restroom at Kuma's Too, I noticed all the graffiti inside my stall.  My eye was drawn to the top of the door, though, where a quote from one of my favorite movies, Empire Records, was scrawled.

Shock me, shock me, shock me with that deviant behavior.
After dinner we headed back to the Aragon Ballroom for the evening's main event.  I hadn't been to the venue before, but I had read up on it (like I do for just about everything).  It was a general admission show, and we got there right as the opening act was finishing their set.  That timing worked out fairly well for us, because a lot of people were walking out to use the bathrooms and/or buy merchandise and alcohol.  Signs were posted asking fans not to take pictures and instead enjoy the moments live.  I do respect that sentiment, I promise, but there was just no way in hell I was going to be in the same room with Zooey Deschanel and not snap a few quick photos.

Knowing we had just built ukuleles, and that I was already fangirling very hard about this concert, our friend Caitlin asked how I would react when Zooey started playing ukulele.  I told her I would probably make a lot of what we call "baby pterodactyl noises".  Then I demonstrated the high pitched "EEEEEEEEEEEEE!" sound.  I think Caitlin was sorry she asked.  I also may have given her tinnitus.  

She and Him put on a great show.  In addition to being starstruck by Zooey and M., I was also impressed with the other members of the band.  Most She and Him songs are under 4 minutes, and the other band members covered all kinds of instruments.  That meant a couple of the guys basically ran from one side of the stage to the other every 4 minutes for the entire set.  There wasn't much banter in between songs, either, so there was no time to dawdle.

As expected, when the show ended after a high-energy cover of "Roll Over Beethoven", the audience kept applauding and cheering, hoping for an encore.  My friends and I all saw a roadie bring out a different guitar at the end of the set, so we knew it was coming.  That didn't make it any less awesome.

After the encore, people started shuffling toward the incredibly poorly designed exits, but I kept looking back toward the stage.  Why?  Because the house lights weren't up yet, and the show ain't over till the house lights come up!  When the band scampered (seriously, they scampered) back out on stage for a second encore, I took off back toward the front of the room.  (Before the show started, I made Stacey promise not to leave without me.  I had a feeling something like this would happen.)  I probably haven't moved that quickly in years.  The second encore was their pretty well-known cover of "I Put a Spell on You".  It was great.

Once we finally made it down the treacherous staircase of doom to the main lobby, I pulled the girls aside so we could document our evening together.  I figured I would just ask the nearest event staffer to do it.  Of course, I didn't realize the nearest employee was approximately 70 years old.  So I had to explain in great detail how to take a picture with an iPhone...  We ended up with a grainy backlit photo that looks like it was taken in a subway.  Still, it's a MEMORY!  I'm so glad I got to share that memory with these particular girls.  When Stacey asked me afterward if I had fun, I told her I wish everyone in that room had enjoyed the show as much as I did.

 We also knew that one of Stacey's former students would be at the show, because Stacey was the one who alerted her to the pre-sale after my email.  We didn't expect to see her but thought it would be funny if we happened to run into her.  Lo and behold, as we were making our way past the merchandise vendor, she and Stacey spotted each other.  Apparently they arrived super early and were in the front row.  She also took illegal photos, but I have to believe that the performers were not nearly as washed out and unfocused in her pictures as they were in mine.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Fake Resume? Splendid!

With all the emphasis and talk of finding a job that's been going on in my life recently, I've spent a lot of time thinking about my strengths and weakness.  I've spent a lot of time thinking about what would make me a good employee or at least a good fit for certain jobs.  I've spent countless hours working and re-working my resume and cover letters, tailoring every cover letter to be specific for each job.  I continue to list my previous job responsibilities, mention my strengths, and demonstrate my enthusiasm for a given job.  But mostly I feel like everyone's resume is essentially the same.

Just for fun, I put together a fake resume for myself.  Everything on the resume is true; it's just not information you would typically find on a resume or cover letter in any of the fields for which I am qualified.

What true information would you put on your fake resume?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

DIY Ukulele Kits? Splendid!

A couple weeks ago, Stacey and I were out doing some shopping, when she mentioned that she had found DIY ukulele kits on Amazon.  I've been not-so-secretly interested in learning ukulele for a couple months, but I didn't want to make the investment in a nice one if I was going to A) destroy it accidentally (a distinct possibility with my penchant for bumping into things) or B) get bored with it and ignore it while it gathers dust in our instrument petting zoo. These Grizzly DIY kits were, like, 1/5 as much money, and it meant we got to decorate them ourselves.  We got so pumped about them, that Stacey ordered them from her phone while we waited in line for the cashier.

They arrived about a week later, and we set a roommate date to start working on them.  In the meantime, we gathered most of the materials we needed: wood glue, sandpaper, a drill and appropriate bit, clamps, and various tie-down straps.  (Shout outs to Dad and Boyfriend for providing some of the necessary tools and Mom for delivering some of the supplies!)  Much in the same way that I cannot follow a recipe exactly, I decided we were not going to follow the directions exactly either.  Mostly, this just meant instead of buying 6 different grains of sand paper, ranging from 120 to 800 (or something equally ridiculous), we would buy two - fine and extra fine.
We began by sanding down the body and neck of the ukuleles.  
Action shot!
After that, we glued the neck to the body and used the tie-down straps to keep them pressed together.
We were supposed to wait to perform the next steps for something crazy, like 24 hours, but ain't nobody got time for that!  We were able to rig the ukes so we could keep the necks drying against the bodies while also gluing the fretboards down to the necks.  Before we could glue the fretboards on, though, we drilled the holes for the tiny mother of pearl dots.  This was terrifying for me, because I was convinced I was going to mess it up.  Also, Scott's drill weighs like 75 pounds.  Note the terror on my face.
Slightly terrified I was going to ruin something or hurt myself
We also taped off where the bridge would be placed after decorating, and left everything to dry for a day or so.
Now, let's be honest, most of the reason I wanted to make the ukulele myself was because I wanted to decorate it.  We took a trip to Michael's to gather supplies.  Stacey's inspiration was the striped side of a gift bag we have in the house.  I decided I wanted purple paint, purple glitter, and orange flowers on mine.  Because clearly I revel in simplicity.  I've already received multiple comments on how people are surprised I didn't use orange glitter paint on the body.  To be honest, I just didn't like the Krylon Glitter Blast shade of Orange Burst as much as the Grape Glitz.

A few days later, we spread out our decorating tools before us, taped off the neck of each uke, and got to work.  Since I was using spray paint, I took mine outside, where I promptly gave the bushes in front of the porch a little more pizzazz.
Do YOUR shrubs sparkle?
Stacey carefully taped off the body of her instrument using painters tape and different widths of washi tape we found at Michael's.  I thought it was brilliant of her to label which color each strip of tape would be painted.  It definitely kept things more organized as she continued to add color.
The flower stencils I bought were actually designed to be used on glass or plastic, so they were extra flexible and had a bit of adhesive on the back.  I found this very useful.  I cut up my stencils to use the flowers in a design that looked best on the body of my ukulele.
After letting them dry, we still had to attach the bridge, attach the tuning machines, and string the instruments.  I found attaching the tuning machines with a tiny screwdriver to be incredibly difficult and frustrating.  I thought this was supposed to be fun!  I apologize to anyone I spoke with on the phone that night.  I was Miss Super Cranky Pants.  I was so frustrated by this process that I asked our guitar technician at work if he would finish attaching them and put on the strings for me.  He obliged, and the angels sang from the heavens.  My poor bruised palm rejoiced.  Well as much as a hand can rejoice, I guess.

I brought my uke home after he finished it and promptly tried tuning it to learn some songs.  The problem is that strings need time to stretch out after they're put on, and I wasn't being patient enough.  I would tune the strings and start learning a song, and by the end of the song, the strings were out of tune again.  I didn't really care because I was just excited to be learning new chords.  After a few days, things leveled out quite a bit, and they sound pretty good now.

Stacey was at a workshop during the time I was finishing my instrument, so she finished it a few days later.  So, without further ado, i would like to introduce you to the newest members of our instrument family:
Luke the Uke and UkuLeia
(Get it?  Luke and Leia!  Because they're ukuleles AND twins!)
Luke is on the left, Leia on the right.
I'm so happy with the way they turned out!  I have to admit that I was hoping for more instant gratification when putting the kits together.  I wouldn't recommend building this particular kit with a classroom of kids, because it does take awhile, and there are some tricky parts that require dexterity and/or strength.  I think there are some other kits out there that might be a little bit easier in that regard.  But it was fun to build them and paint them, and now we're having fun learning how to play.

Monday, July 1, 2013

New job? Splendid!

For those of you who don't know, I recently started a position at music store.  It's a pretty good job, and the people have been fantastic so far.  I have only two real issues with the position: 1) I'm on my feet all day, and 2) it's approximately an hour away from where I live.  Other than that, it's an okay gig.  I compiled a list of thoughts and feelings on the situation over the course of my first two weeks.

1. Being on my feet all day sucks.  It sucks especially hard since I'd pretty much been sitting on my butt all day in the interim between jobs.  The first week was predictably difficult.  I work with four guys at the store, all of whom have been exceptionally helpful.  What they didn't do during my first 4 days though, was sit down.  There are a couple of stools behind the counter, but they just never sat down! Thankfully by my 5th day, I saw at least two of them relax a bit.  The other nice thing is that we're allowed to wear athletic shoes.  I haven't yet, because mine are, unsurprisingly, orange, and it's hard to look cute in a skirt and blouse when you're rocking orange Asics.  For now, my black Mary Jane Danskos are working very well.

2. The drive kind of sucks, but luckily in the long and boring way and not the heavy traffic kind of way.  After I accepted the position, I immediately downloaded a bunch of podcasts to listen to on the drive.  My commute is approximately 58 minutes, which is means hour-long podcasts are perfect.  I've been going through a backlog of the Nerdist podcast, and that's keeping me very entertained on the drive.  I also started listening to audio books recently using Audible.  This week I'm listening to the audio book version of Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson.  I've already read the book, and I'm obsessed with her blog, but I'm really enjoying listening to her narrate her own life story.  Seriously, if you haven't read anything she's written, get thee a copy.  Get thee a copy.  (Obscure Much Ado About Nothing reference alert!)

The mouse's name is Hamlet von Schnitzel
3. The day before I started working, I was out buying more than I originally intended at Target, like you do, when I found Sally Hansen Salon Effects Nail Strips with music notes on them.  I mean, really, how perfect would it be to show up to my first day of work at a music store with music notes on my nails?  The answer is super perfect.

I mean, really.  Super perfect.

As I mentioned before, I mostly work with a bunch of dudes at the front desk, and they were completely oblivious to my fabulous nail art.  However, I did have two separate customers compliment me on them, so I will mark that in the Win column.

4. Quite a bit of my work the first week was learning how to fill out the contracts for instrument rentals.  The contracts are not overly difficult, but they're intricate.  I watched a few before I tried one on my own, but I felt confident by day 3 that I could do one solo.  That was doubly good because no one else was available to help my first rental customer.  After explaining the rent-to-own process we use for most of our band instruments and having the customers fill out their portion of the rental agreement, I headed to the register to enter in the down payment.  Luckily one of my coworkers was available then to check my work.  Because I had done all of the math wrong.  All of it.  I basically had to redo my portion of the contract, but we thankfully took care of it before I overcharged the customers.

The next day I completed three more contracts, and I felt like each subsequent contract was a VICTORY!  That is, until the end of last week, when the woman who enters all the contracts to our system emerged from her office.  Apparently I had been regularly forgetting one piece of information.  She told me that she had noticed it the first week but had hoped I would just figure out that I was doing it wrong.  Also, instead of coming directly to me at any point, she brought it up with one of the guys.  I'm not gonna lie, I was really irritated by how passive aggressive she was about it.  I mean, I'm new.  If you don't want me forming bad habits, correct me ASAP instead of wishing the problem away.  Argh.  Anyway, I have finally mastered the rental contracts!

5. With it being summer in Illinois, I tend to wear my hear up more to combat the heat and humidity.  The first time I wore my hair down, one of my coworkers commented, "Wearing your hair down today, I see.  Loose and free like a hippie!"  Um, no.  I use far nicer and far more hair product than a hippie.  Also, I'm not terribly Bohemian.  Also, just no.

6. Two of my favorite quotes from my first two weeks on the job:
"Mustang Sally is the Jessie's Girl of blues." - coworker
"I just think the bassoon is my spirit instrument." - local high school drum major