Thursday, January 29, 2009

TJ's Week Four: The Daily Effing Show

This week's awesome thing was so freakin' awesome, I can hardly contain myself even 24 hours later.

Way back in 2008 (God, what a dump THAT place was), I managed to snag some of the free tickets to see a live taping of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. So I got to be in the audience for the January 28th show.

I got to see:

    Jon Stewart
    John Oliver
    Wyatt Cynac
    some astrophysicist who thinks Pluto ain't a planet

That's, right. ME. I got to see MY VERY FIRST taping of the Daily Show. Oh, and I guess Tony happened to be there too. Whatever.

Back to Jon.

Throughout the show, while Jon Stewart sat within what Tony called "flying tackle distance," I kept turning to m'colleague during breaks in filming and saying things like, "You know what this is like? It's like seeing Jesus after thinking for years he might not be real."

Ten minutes later: "You know what this is like? It's like finally seeing the Taj Mahal after only seeing it on postcards and TV for your whole life."

Two seconds later: "You know what this is like? It's like when I saw the Pope when I was a kid, and it took me awhile to realize he was actually there, and it hadn't been, like, a weird dream."

Moments later: "You know what this is--?"

"Yes, TJ. I do. It's like some sort of religious experience, apparently."

And it was. Except Jon Stewart wasn't quite as short as I was led to believe he would be. I was rather imagining a pocket-sized terrier-comedian. (They must prepare us for that so we're not disappointed in the reality, I guess?)

The show, too, was much smoother than I thought it would be. Besides a few expletives that would need to be bleeped for the broadcast that night, the entire show was run through and filmed in under half an hour: no screw-ups, no re-takes, nothing, absolutely nothing, that might need to be cut. It was like watching a live performance, because it was that cleanly done. I don't know why, but I thought it would be choppy and messy to make a show.

So everything exceeded my expectations. I've never laughed so hard in my life, both at the show itself and because of the good company of Tony and Will, who was nice enough to indulge us even though he's been to TDS tapings a zillion times. It was truly awesome.

Not that I'm judging Shayne or anything, but he said he couldn't make it to NYC in time to see the Daily Show with us. I guess some things are more important.

I will now doodle hearts on my letterhead and write over and over in cursive, TJ + Jon 4eva.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Shayne's Week Three: All By Myself

Note: TJ has openly expressed distaste for my "awesome" activity this week.
Another Note: I'm in class writing this so I apologize for any scattered thoughts.

So there's kind of a theme to this week's "Do Something Awesome" campaign. I decided I'm tired of doing the things I "should" do and not always the ones that make me happy. Now I'm not going to go crazy with this, but life has to be fun and exciting otherwise you've wasted your time.

For over a year now, I've known that my favorite singer, Ms. Celine Dion, was going on tour after ending her show in Vegas. Unfortunately I'm fairly committed to my schedule with school and work. The closest Celine was coming to Orlando was Tampa...on a night that I have class. Now I'm not a nerd but I really don't like to miss class unless it is dire. So I gave up the dream and decided not to go.

For months I agonized over the fact that I wasn't going to see her. Very few things in life make me truly excited and seeing Celine is one of the few. About two weeks ago I was talking with a friend about the concert and realized how much I really wanted to go. I looked at the tour schedule and saw that there was a concert in Miami on Friday night... so with four days notice (spur of the moment if you know me) I bought tickets. I didn't know who was going to go with me, where I would stay or if I could get off work. I didn't care. I was going.

So I did! Alan came with me and we got an amazing hotel in Ft. Lauderdale. The concert was phenomenal and kind of inspirational. She belted her heart out, pounded her chest and slid across the stage like a pro. It was amazing.

After the concert, Alan and I went out in Ft. Lauderdale and then strolled along the beach the next morning before heading home. It was a quick 24 hours that will stick with me and keep me motivated for a very long time.

I got home and decided to do something else that I felt had been holding me back... I canceled my Myspace account. A minor act, but it cuts the clutter and lets me live my life. It was jut another thing holding me back. Who knew canceling an account could be liberating :)

So I got to see my idol, take a road trip with a friend, explore a part of Florida I hadn't seen, and generally be happy. How will I top it? I leave for NYC in the morning to do something awesome WITH Tony and TJ!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tony's Week Three: Purging

Three weeks of doing something awesome and still no Nobel Peace Prize. Sigh. Perhaps, this week's awesomeness will finally win me the gold! (I assume Nobel Prizes come with gold.) This week, ... I cleaned!

Really thoroughly!

Yeah, so it sounds less than awesome, but let me explain. In a short few months, I will be leaving behind my current life for one in the Big City. And as part of my ongoing preparation, both mentally and physically, for the life change, I decided it was time to part ways with worldly possessions that I'd been keeping around just for keeps sake. All in all, I donated a box of clothes to a Mission, sold 50 DVDs/CDs for some considerable spending money, trashed several odds and ends I'd been collecting from stocking stuffers over the years, and most importantly took stock of what I need and what I have for my move to the Big City.

I should also mention that, though on the outside this may have looked like a series of not-so-awesome chores, for me it was a nostalgic journey of past experiences and a sad parting with old mentalities. Also, I've got a totally empty shelf now!

I'd also accept a Pulitzer.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

TJ's Week Three: Baking


I shudder at the mere mention of the word. Baking is, to me, what the gestapo must have been like to the Fauvists. Exact measurements? Powders everywhere? KNEADING? This isn't cooking; this is torture.

I've been told by friends, Tony and Shayne among them, that I'm a passable cook. I can throw together a pasta sauce using a tomato and an old spice rack. But what I can never seem to do is sit down and follow a set of directions in such a way as to cause a fluffy, fresh-smelling loaf of deliciousness to come out of the oven.

Until now, I guess?

I set to work using my aunt's recipe for Irish brown bread. She assured me the recipe, reproduced here, was so simple a lobotomized monkey could do it.

Irish Brown Bread

1 C all-purpose flour
2 T sugar
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 T cold butter or margarine
2 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C regular or quick-cooking rolled oats
1 1/2 C plain nonfat yogurt

1. In a bowl, mix all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter until mixture forms fine crumbs. Stir in whole wheat flour and oats.

2. Add yogurt; stir gently. If mixture is too dry to hold together, stir in milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, just until dough holds together. It should not be sticky.

3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and knead gently 5 times to make a ball. Set on a lightly greased baking sheet. Pat into a 7-inch circle. With a floured knife, cut a large X on top of loaf.

Bake in a 375 degree oven until well browned, abut 40 minutes. Cool on a rack. Serve warm or cool.

Things weren't looking good for me from the outset. First off, did you know those little t's are different from the big T's? I had forgotten, and had to throw out the meager beginnings of my dough when I remembered.

Then came the "do not make dough sticky" clause. I was impatient, trying to get my dough to hold together after the addition of the yogurt, and, because I had no milk, I tried adding bits of hot water. A little too much hot water, I suppose.

Anyway, the whole thing came out heavier and cakier than I remember my aunt's version being. But at least I tried.

This loaf of fresh brown bread is only slightly less awesome than watching a presidential inauguration for the first time. I realize now I should have counted that as my DSA of the week and said eff it to the baking.

But as President Obama says, we must all try our best and do what needs to be done. And for me, I guess that means making dough.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Shayne's Week Two: Park Ranger Shayne

So when we set out on this "Do Something Awesome" adventure, I decided to make a list of some major activities I've always wanted to do. At the very top of my list was a visit to DeLeon Springs about an hour outside of Orlando. The Spring is famous for an old sugar mill that is now a restaurant where you griddle your own pancakes. And during the right time of year you can also see manatees there! I remember going there as a child but it has been well over 10 years.

So needless to say I took advantage of a free Sunday and went down to DeLeon Springs with some friends. Before going I saw that there was a hiking trail so I figured we would do that as well. Eat, walk, look at manatees...perfect.

Of course nothing is as easy as you plan. We get to DeLeon Springs and there is a Civil War reenactment going on. We put our name in for pancakes and decided to walk around. Well apparently not much has changed since the Civil War because within 5 minutes we heard one of the most offensive gay comments to date. Needless to say we went back to the restaurant and waited for our table. We got our pancakes and had an amazing breakfast!

After we ate we set out to find manatees. I stopped and asked a park ranger who told us that there weren't any that day but the spring about 15 minutes away had 170. She also told us about a great hiking trail around a wildlife refuge (aka Swamp) down the road. So we left State Park #1 and drove to State Park Wildlife Refuge #2. We walked about four miles around with birds, turtles and alligators. Yes, alligators in the wild. I faced my fear and it was actually pretty cool.

Then on to state park #3 to see the manatees. There were tons! Not very exciting, but still cool to look at. On the way home we found a Big Boy restaurant. I only knew of the place from the Austin Powers movie but my friends flipped out when we saw the sign. We grabbed dinner and headed on home.

We ate our pancakes, went for our hike, saw manatees and contributed to corporate America. It was a complete day of awesomeness. And I even came within 15 feet of a gator in the wild! Who knew.

Tony's Week Two: Fraternizing With The Enemy

This week's Do Something Awesome (technically last week, as I am a little late in posting this) was part of what I expect to be an ongoing effort to enjoy what Tennessee has to offer before I leave for New York. This week's broadening of my horizons focused on Knoxville's night life scene. After having experienced a genuine cowboy bar last month (my last Do Something Awesome of 2008), I wanted to see what other places I have missed out on because of fear from straying too far from my comfort bars.

As it turns out I have been missing out on the most unique nightlife spot I have ever been to - Sassy Ann's. Located in an old residential neighborhood of downtown Knoxville, and built out of a three-story Victorian house, Sassy Ann's is a completely alternative bar with 80's night, hipster decor, and the most mixed crowd of age, style, and sexuality I've seen at one bar. There were even two separate bar fights! (for some reason having two people struggle their way onto your table over whether it was appropriate for the bar to be playing Scissor Sisters only added to the awesomeness of the occasion.) The whole club sang in unison on several occassions, no cover, cheap drinks, and every song played was one that I liked or grew to like.

Also, Sassy Ann's, as it turns out, is a popular location for the law school kids. I had apparently shown up on one of their rump court nights (their cute name for drinking together socially). As I had never participated in a rump court, I got to see the law school kids in a different setting, letting me bond stronger with several of my peers more effectively than over two years of classes with them. Also, it never gets old yelling "Objection" across the room at each other. How Awesome.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

TJ's Week Two: Learning 50 Languages

For my second week of doing something awesome, I decided to learn to say "hello" (or the closest equivalent thereof) in 50 different languages. I chose to do this because, like many people, I wish I knew more languages than I do, but I'm much too busy to think about learning one completely. So onto my half-assed attempt at international education.

Here is the full list of words I set out to memorize. Some of my favorites are:

Basque - kaixo (pronounced kai-show)

Cree - Tansi (pronounced Dawnsay)

Icelandic - góðan dag (formal; pronounced gothan dagg)

Zarma - fofo

Today, Tony called me up and quizzed me on all 50. I'm happy to say I passed with near perfection. Although I always hated memorizing things for school when I was a kid, I was always very good at it. And there's something very comforting about being able to absorb a large chunk of relatively useless information in a short span of time. After all, when am I going to ever run into someone who speaks Basque?

But the process of memorization, the way we can still teach our brains to hang on to this information, is what I enjoy. I think it's pretty awesome.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Shayne's Week One: The Open Road...and Meatloaf

I'm not going to lie, I was really nervous going in to this. I mean really, what can I do that is awesome? Apparently, a lot.

Over the holidays I spent a lot of time with my family...something I've been doing more of lately. I think as I get older I appreciate that time significantly more than before. My dad and I are planning on going to Spain when I finish my MBA and doing a couple hundred mile bike road across the northern part of the county. So last week I went out and bought a bike and went for my first real ride in years.

Dad met me at my house early Sunday morning and took to the roads of Downtown Orlando. For all of you that think Orlando is nothing more than theme parks, you're wrong. It was amazing. We biked through neighborhoods, around the lake, up and down city streets and even walked the farmers market. It was invigorating and nothing less than awesome.

After dad left I was refreshed and ready to go. I went about my Sunday business and decided that I would pull out my Crockpot for the second time in a year. I looked up a recipe and decided to make Meatloaf...well, Turkeyloaf. Who knew I could cook real food?

So needless to say week one was definitely awesome. I'm excited to see what the rest of the year holds. Get ready for some awesomeness.

Tony's Week One: Go Open Source.

I began Week One of the Do Something Awesome Project with something that I've wanted to implement for over a year now. With my current laptop on the precipice of failure, and no tangible monetary means of satisfying my technological needs, I've also had no further excuse to procrastinate. So, I requested my brother ship an old desktop of his to me in Tennessee. About 7 hours of set up after its arrival, and I have my very first fully open-source/recycled computer. I purchased none of the physical components of the computer; they were all rescued from collecting dust behind soccer cleats in the back of my brother's closet or found for free on Craig's List.

Windows Vista was wiped for my new, snazzy Ubuntu OS; my first foray with a Linux operating system. Furthermore, I've made a concerted effort to keep away from any non-open source programs. So, I listen with Foobar, browse with Firefox, word process with OpenOffice, and GTD with google. I'll never pay for my computing needs again .... that is, until I can afford a Mac.

Next week my awesome thing is to tape the bridge of my glasses back together. Cause, cause I'm a nerd. And it's AWESOME.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

TJ's Week One: write a letter to an old friend

This week, I started small but bravely by writing a letter to my childhood best friend whom I haven't spoken to in maybe 8 years. It wasn't like we had a big falling out or anything; we just lost touch like you do when you go off to different colleges and such. But thinking about our formative years and everything got me thinking, and since I'm already in such a nostalgic mood from having the big Two-Five birthday and all, the letter had much more impact on me than I expected.

I would be lying if I said I didn't cry like a blubbering baby while writing the damn thing.

Here's a little bit of the letter, leaving out the more soppy parts:

I know it's been a long time since we saw each other, but I've recently found myself thinking about a lot of people I haven't seen in a long time, and I thought it might be time to write to you. I'm sorry if this is way too long; please don't feel any pressure to read the whole thing if you're busy. I can just give you the Cliff's Notes version: I just wanted to say hi.

I spent a long bus ride from DC to New York composing most of this letter in my head, so I hope it comes out correctly, though I'm afraid it's going to sound either too weird or too formal and stilted or something. I hope that's not the case, but it's all my fault if it does.

Mom told me maybe a year or more ago that she ran into you at the Walgreens on the corner on Prima Vista and Bayshore, and that you were a manager there. At the time I wondered if I should call you up and say hello, but I thought so much time had passed that we'd have nothing to talk about, and maybe that's true, but maybe I was just being lazy. I am sorry about that.

I don't want to spend this whole letter talking about myself and what I've been doing since high school, but I'm also afraid of spending this whole letter on "remember when, remember when, remember when?" junk. I just turned 25 and I guess, as stupid as it is, I feel nostalgic about a lot of things now. You must be turning 25 soon, too. I don't remember what day your birthday is, but I remember you're an Aries, right? So it must be soon. Maybe you're feeling something similar.

One of the things I find myself thinking about a lot lately is how I never told you I was a lesbian. I don't think this is a big shock for you, or maybe it is. But you must have seen my Facebook page or run into someone we knew in school, so I guess you must know. I just want you to know, first thing, that the reason I never told you wasn't that I didn't trust you. I can't ever remember you saying anything that would lead me to believe you're uncomfortable with gay people, or maybe you are and I just never knew, and if that's the case I'm sorry I just brought it up. My point is, I never told you because I didn't want it to be this big thing (like I'm sort of making it now?), and because I thought that maybe it would go away eventually and I wouldn't have to worry about it. I thought if I told you, the one person who seemed to know all my awful, embarrassing secrets, that it would be something permanent and I'd never be able to get rid of it.

I'm really pleased with this first project. It felt very cleansing to do, a good way to start the year, and a great way to prove to myself that I'm brave enough to do all sorts of awesome things this year.