Tag Archives: Thursday nights

in which I am grateful

Today, I am grateful for….

Diet coke
An apartment with both a washing machine and a dishwasher
Children’s literature
Instant yeast
Jayne Cobb
My fox hat
Panera French onion soup
The Matilda the Musical soundtrack
The autosave function on Microsoft Word
Where the Wild Things Are
Good books
Benedict Cumberbatch
Fan art
Living three blocks from a library
My R2D2 iPhone case
Friends I adore, family I miss, and the chance to study and write things that I am passionate about 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. From my couch to yours.

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in which I live passionately

Last night on the train, I overheard a girl talking to her friend about a first date with a guy and the impossibility of a second one with him. I heard her say the following:

“He was really sweet and really cute, but he was just too into Star Wars.”

First of all…no. There’s no such thing as being “too into Star Wars.” Give me a guy who can identify a clone trooper based on the color of helmet any day2.

Second of all, I understand that there is a line where obsession stops being endearing and instead can be dangerous and consuming, but I want to know when we started making fun of people for being passionate about things. When did that become a deal breaker? I don’t think there’s anything more attractive than someone who is passionate about something—anything—even Star Wars—and then uses that obsession to elevate their own life and the lives of those around them. That’s something I love about the communities I am a part of, both the young adult community and the wider world of being a total nerd2. I love being part of communities who value passion and knowledge and excitement, and who let me be unironically giddy over the fact that I got an advanced copy of Robin LaFever’s new book, and that the set designer for Sherlock has been sending cryptic tweets about their season 3 shooting locations.

I am grateful to be part of groups that understand when I stay up all night writing this weird little steampunk novel that may never see the light of a bookstore but man, I am enjoying myself. Sometimes I get so caught up in the race to get published3 I forget that I am here in Boston at Simmons because I passionately love writing. It’s fun. And I am passionately enthusiastic about it.

To quote, as I so often do, John Green, “When people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness.”

So I would encourage you to go out into the world and strive to live passionately and work towards something that moves you. This world was not shaped by those who were kind of interested in things. Jump up and down on your chair and scream about how much you love whatever it is you love. People will listen.

  1. I was really close to leaning over to this girl who did not know how good she had it and asking, “Sorry, but if you’re not going to call this guy who is too into Star Wars, mind if I take a crack? He may have met his match.”
  2. Let’s call it nerdfighteria.
  3. Which sometimes feels second only to the Space Race in importance.
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in which I make Valentines

Happy Anna Howard Shaw Day everybody!

Also known as Valentine’s Day.

Also known as “Of course you’re still single, take a look at yourself” day.

Also known as Thursday.

If you’re still looking for that special card for that special someone, allow me to submit the following ideas, inspired by my favorite fictional couples, and designed by me. Feel free to print off and distribute at your leisure.

It should be noted, I have zero artistic or graphic design skills of any kind. Food for thought.

Imagevalentine againImage

valentine oh valentinews_StarWars_V-_Han_&_Leia_1152x864 (1)ImageImageImageImage

And then there’s sad Voldemort. Who has no Valentine. But not for lack of trying. Image

Happy V-day, all. Make it a good one.

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in which I give thanks

Happy day after Thanksgiving everyone!

I was going to write a post last night after my own Thanksgiving festivities, but I got home much later than intended from the most kick-ass Thanksgiving ever, so this is coming a day late. But let me tell you about how a girl far from home spent her Thanksgiving yesterday.

Let’s back up. First of all, Thanksgiving and I don’t have a great track record. My family’s never been super big on that whole traditional Thanksgiving. Usually the highlights of my day are either skiing or watching that National Dog Show, which is bigger than the Super Bowl in our house. But in general, Thanksgiving is not the mega holiday for us that it is all over the country.

So when I moved to England and had my first Thanksgiving away from home, I didn’t think it would be a big deal. And really, it wasn’t. But that was the only day of my entire time in the UK, or anywhere else for that matter, that I’ve ever been homesick. Granted, this homesickness lasted for about twenty-five minutes, and was probably a result of me being actually sick at the time. But overall, it was a weird and uncomfortable day.

So I didn’t know what this Thanksgiving would bring. Perhaps it would be me, Charlie Brown-style, at a folding table with pretzels and popcorn. Maybe it would be spent in a McDonalds. Maybe I’d just take a heavy dose of Ambien and sleep through the whole thing.

But then a friend from my program invited me to what she lovingly termed a “homeless Thanksgiving” for students who didn’t have anywhere to go. With some trepidation, knowing that I am incredibly inept at situations that require interaction with people my own age, I accepted.

And it was freaking fantastic. One of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever had, if not the best.

We were thirteen people strong – five Americans from four different states, two Nigerians, four Singaporeans, one Indian, and a Canadian. For some people, it was the first Thanksgiving, and while we ate, we explained why we cook turkey, the origins of the holiday, and about how eggnog comes from the noxious nog mines of eastern Kentucky1.

We had traditional Thanksgiving food, and we had curry. We also had a black forest chocolate cake2. I stayed for a lot longer than I planned, mostly because I just felt really welcome there. Instead of doing what I generally do at parties, which is get social anxiety and sit in a corner with a diet coke all night, I actually found myself contributing to the conversation3. And enjoying it. I even made a few witty retorts, the sort that I usually keep sheathed when I’m around people I don’t know for fear of coming off as weird, because sometimes my sarcasm can be so advanced people think I’m actually stupid4. But that didn’t happen – my personality was well received! And my brand-new red t-strap high heels helped me rock a killer outfit.

The whole night made me think about this past week in my literary criticism class, where we had what I thought was a very frustrating discussion about race theory. By the end of it, the class, much to my dismay, basically came to the conclusion that white Americans are terrible, racist hooligans who had no respect for other races and cultures and that interracial communication is near impossible because we’re all racist. It pleased me greatly to watch every one of those ideas be proven wrong last night. This Thanksgiving wasn’t about where you were from; it was just a lot of people, really far from home, who were looking for somewhere to be a part of, and so became simultaneously the welcomers and the welcomed, givers and receivers. Those who made this community, and those who inhabited it. And that is, for me, what I’ve always thought Thanksgiving was about, that elusive thing that had always been missing in every celebration I had ever been a part of before. Last night, I think I finally figured out why everyone likes Thanksgiving so much.

It was a Thanksgiving I will never forget, and it made me thankful to be part of a global community of people who can sit down together on a Thursday night in a stranger’s apartment and enjoy a huge amount of food.

  1. Everything we told them might not have been true.
  2. Less relevant, I just really wanted to mention that.
  3. Especially when the conversation turned to Sherlock, as it so often does when I’m around.
  4. This definitely happened with NPR.
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in which Carl Kasell gives me one final hug


Today was the first in a series of goodbyes that are going to be playing out across my last weeks in Chicago.

Which reminds me – goodbyes SUCK!

Tonight was the last live show I will have with “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me.” Next week, the final week of my internship, the show is going on the road to Portland, Maine, and I am staying in Chicago so that I can do normal, ordinary, non-nerdy things1 in the last weekend before I leave Chicago.

So tonight I did a lot of lasts.

I took my last cab with Peter and Eva to the Chase Bank Auditorium. I ate my last delicious catered meal in the greenroom with the panelists2. I had my last diet coke and cupcake in the control room while waiting for the show to start. I spent my last “Who’s Carl This Time?” giggling while Mike and Ian made fun of everyone on stage3.

Last time hearing Peter make an Angry Birds joke when his iPad didn’t work.

Last time hearing “This. Is NPR.”

Last time sneaking out the back during the Q&A.

Last time leaving the Chase Bank auditorium through the terrifying revolving doors.

And yeah, I loved all those things, and I will miss all of those things. But there was one goodbye tonight that, above all, made me want to shrivel up and melt into a puddle of tears.

Tonight, I said goodbye to Carl.

Carl Kasell, NPR legend, is easily one of the kindest and sweetest men I have ever met. He is everything you would hope he would be after listening to his stalwart, resonate tones on the radio for years. He has an air of perpetual sophisticationbut never fails to see the humor in every situation. From the first time I met him, when I was lost and alone and he greeted me with a kiss on the cheek like we were old friends, Carl has never been anything but kind to me. Through these ten weeks of script read thrus and post-show drinks and half-hour voice mail message recordings,  Carl and I bonded.


Today, Carl and I had our last studio session together. I donned the big headphones and Carl positioned himself smartly in front of the microphone. One. Last. Time.

Tonight after the show, we said a very tender goodbye that included a quick succession of big hugs, an invitation to come back and see him anytime, and a kiss from Carl.

Then, we took a picture.

Remember how the first time I met Carl, I shyly asked him for a picture together? It looked like this:


I’m not photogenic on the best of days, and this picture is that day in Bethesda captured in a frame. Kind of awkward, and my expression clearly conveys my thoughts, which went something like this: “I am a little girl in a big city with a bunch of people I don’t know trying to do a job I am totally not qualified to do and I am totally shell shocked and in three different time zones but this is oh my gosh this is Carl Kasell I AM TOUCHING CARL KASELL AND TRYING TO NOT LOOK AS FREAKING EXCITED ABOUT THAT AS I AM!!!”

Awkward, I think is the word.

Tonight, our picture together looked like this:


And that is the best part about my summer in a frame.

Carl – thank you. From the bottom of my heart. Thank you for living up to all my expectations of your awesome.

Until we meet again.

  1. In other words, I’m going to a Harry Potter convention.
  2. I also met Paula Pell, the second half of Scott Adsit on 30 Rock. It has been a very Hornberger summer for me.
  3. We’re equal opportunity mockers.
  4. And trust me, it’s hard to maintain this level of dignity while doing impressions of Kristen Stewart in limerick form.
  5. Still disoriented every time.
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in which i catch you up on my weekend

When I lived  in England, and blogged about it, I was quite good at writing about all the variety of activities I engaged in, ranging from the extraordinary to the mundane.

Sometimes in Chicago, I forget to do that. I get caught up in being a pretentious smart ass who takes existentially fraught free throws at a variety of subjects because, well, this I my blog, so I can.

But this week, I did do some awesome things, and then neglected to share them with my blog because they usually caused me to get home late or be tired afterwards.

So let’s do a quick roundup of things I’ve been doing this week. In pictures! Because that’s way too many words, and many of you, such as Nevada, have confessed that you really aren’t just good at reading. Besides, I would really like to finish my “Downton Abbey” episode and I can do that a lot easier if I’m not writing so much.

















1. Saw an amazing, amazing, amazing play called “Death and Harry Houdini,” in which a guy escaped from a tank of water after being locked in upside down. It was the most stressful three minutes of my life. But the play was brilliant. This is a picture of the lobby, which was almost as awesome as the show itself. Since pictures weren’t allowed during the show.

2. Three friends from the YSA came and saw our show taped! It was really awesome.

3. I went and saw “Frankenstein.” Again. Man, I love the Music Box.

4. Attended the Printer’s Row Ball, which is this sort of quasi literary festival held at an old print shop. It was basically a room full of hipster nerds giving out poetry magazines and books and playing music and I got to print my very own page of poetry.

5. Went to the Eastland memorial. Timely, after the show I saw about it.

6. Walked the Southport Street fair. Heard a great Mumford and Sons cover band, ate some good food, and watched some ridiculous antics that involved water balloons and slingshots.

7. Ate this sandwich. Bacon cheeseburger with grilled cheese sandwiches instead of bun. Promptly had a heart attack. But at least I died happy.

8. Oh yeah. And this happened.

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in which heroes rise

Note: I wrote this as a post for the NPR intern edition blog. They opted not to publish it, and suggested I write an article about modern nuns instead. But I am quite proud of it, so I thought I’d share it here anyway. No footnotes, because, as said, I didn’t write this for my blog. I wrote it for another, normal blog. And normal blogs don’t use footnotes. 

Last night, at 3:02 am, the screen went dark, the lights went up, and The Dark Knight Rises crowd in auditorium 19 at the AMC River North went berserk. People stood up, they cheered, the flung their bat-masks in the air. Then they swarmed towards the doors, leaving a trail of empty soda cups and half-eaten popcorn in their wake, and out into the night.

As I joined the mass exodus through the lobby, I listened to the many opinions about the film we had just watched flying around me. Most of them seemed to be along the same theme, namely:


Except it wasn’t.

It wasn’t a great movie. It was a good movie, sure. It was entertaining. It was engaging. It was exciting enough to keep me awake in spite of the fact that I was watching during that awkward time between late night and early morning after a twelve hour day at work.

But it wasn’t a great film. There were plot holes, unbalanced storylines, a villain with a speech impediment that gave him the diction of an intercom announcement on the subway. And let’s be honest – it’s a movie about a guy in a suit that looks impossible to put on, with a flying tank. Come on.

And yet there were twenty-two theatres with sold out shows in the AMC River North theater alone, and I felt myself to be the only person there who hadn’t really loved it.

We experienced the exact same phenomenon a month ago with Spiderman, and earlier this year with the Avengers, and we will again with Man of Steel next year. We are emptying our pockets to watch ridiculous movies with cheesy dialogue about people who wear spandex.

What is it about the superhero movies that draw crowds like that?

This morning, I read about the shooting at a Colorado movie theatre just like the one I had sat in, and a creeping nausea settled in my stomach. As I watched newsreel footage and grainy cell phone videos from the scene, I was sickened by how closely they resembled Gotham in chaos from The Dark Knight Rises. What I had just hours earlier watched with the thought, “Thank God I don’t live in that world,” was suddenly reality.We are Gotham, I thought. We are that population who turns against each other. Who murders.

So where was our Batman last night?

The shooting last night in Colorado, no matter how horrific, is an illustration of why we are obsessed with the idea of superheroes: it is because when things go south, we wish there was someone to drop out of the sky in his flying car and save us. We wish for our own superhero.

As a human race, we seek out saviors. We want people to look to, to rise to, to aspire to be like, but are secretly grateful that we never will have to be. We want permission to be cowardly because we know that there is someone else out there who will be brave. We don’t always want to be the heroes of our story, but we want there to be a hero none the less.

And, as unrealistic as superhero movies are, the largest and most appealing element of truth within them is that in times of tragedy, people will rise. They always do. Horror creates heroes, and ordinary people prove themselves to be extraordinary through their actions. Superheroes and the movies that feature them reflect the hope that lies within every heartbreak: the hope of transcendence. The hope that we can rebuild something better than we had before.

And I have no doubt in the days following the shooting in Colorado, heroes will emerge. They may not wear capes and spandex, but we will know them anyways.

Our heroes don’t choose us, we choose them. We decide who to worship, who to idolize. We choose the morals upon which we build our foundation, and we choose who we look to to protect that morality.

We keep going to see superhero films so that we remember that there will always be people around us who, like phoenixes from the ashes of a tragedy, will rise.

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in which i explore the turf of a masked vigilante

I’m pleased to report that tonight, I, along with thousands of other fans across the city, will be donning my cape and bullet proof armor and lining up to see the midnight premier of The Dark Knight Rises. Though I’m not really a Batman fangirl, per say, or a comic book fan at all, I am a Chris Nolan admirer, and I just have a general policy of supporting all the nerdcentric events that I can. It’s nice to be among your people.

I also feel an increased kinship to Batman because I recently learned that Nolan’s re-imagined trilogy was filmed right here in Chi-town. Seems appropriate, that the US city with the highest murder-per-capita rate should double for the crime-ridden stink hole that is Gotham.

I learned that Batman Begins and The Dark Knight1 were filmed here probably the second day I was in Chicago2, but I assumed that I myself would never cross paths with the locations for the film. I assumed I would have to go looking for them, something that I didn’t really have time to do, even though few things give me greater pleasure than standing where movies were filmed. Then yesterday, after a long discussion at work about how to talk about Batman in the show, I decided to look up shooting locations for Dark Knight in Chicago. Turns out, they filmed most of the movie in places I walk by every single day. If I had been here just a few years earlier, I might have been plowed down by the Batmoblie as I crossed the street to work.

So, in honor of the opening of the Dark Knight Rises tonight3, let’s take a little tour of filming locations from its predecessor, The Dark Knight, around my apartment. Let me emphasize that all of these places are on my walk to work.

1. Lower Wacker Drive. Wacker is a street within a street, much like Taming of the Shrew is a play within a play. There is the above ground street, and then there is a lower level on which people can drive, but it is creepy and tunnel like, with lots of iron pillars holding up the top half of this street sandwich.

In normal life, as I pass by it along the river, it looks like this:

Though in the past, it looked like this:

Yes, this is the very street where semitruck riding Heath Ledger chases down half-eaten face man4  and then Bruce Wayne goes plowing through on the Batcycle5 in an attempt to save him.

2. The Chicago Theatre. Last week, it hosted Nikki Minaj6. A few years ago, it was supposed to host the royal Moscow Ballet, and Maggie Gyllenhaall was going to attend with creepy half-face man, but unfortunately, millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne decided to run off with the entire company. Man, he ruins everything!

3. Hotel 71. Normal hotel on the outside.

Inside, it was the shooting location for the Wayne penthouse. Ya know, for the view.


4. Navy Pier. Ah, my very stomping grounds! And here I thought it was nothing more than a tourist trap with the “Wait, Wait” office tucked in. This is my view from work:

This is also where ferries full of people were transported out of Gotham, then stranded in the middle of the harbor and told they had to blow each other up. Somehow they neglected to get the ferris wheel and children’s museum in the shot.

5. Monroe and LaSalle. I don’t usually go here, but funny, I was this morning on an errand.

This is the exact spot where this happens.

And then they fight!

LaSalle is also where the funeral procession for…er….someone happens. I wanted to say Gary Oldman, but he doesn’t die….he does get shot though. Spoiler alert!

There’s plenty of other places – the Chicago Post Office was the bank the Joker robs, and the hospital that gets blown up is here too – these are just the ones I pass on my way to work.

And, I would be remiss if I did not include Batman, perched on the Sears Tower, surveying his city. My city. Our city.

It’s okay, Batman. We can share.

“When Chicago is ashes….you have my permission to move to Boston.”

  1. And I’m assuming Dark Knight Rises as well.
  2. my friend Ms. Bennet shared with me the experience of working at a theatre in the city that doubled at the theatre where Bruce Wayne’s parents are killed in the first film. She said it was an interesting experience, working in a theatre whose facade was completely redesigned to read Gotham Playhouse and look all creepy.
  3. And then my subsequent battle to stay awake at work tomorrow after staying up all night watching it,
  4. I am obviously very familiar with the Batman canon.
  5. That’s a thing, right?
  6. Pardon me while I throw up in my mouth.
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in which two thousand Marylanders pay money for a free radio program

I make it my policy to be nervous for absolutely everything.

Our Bethesda trip was no exception.

First week on the job, I thought. What a terrible way to get acclimated to a new and unfamiliar environment where everyone but me knew what was going on. What a terrible idea this is, I thought.

On the contrary, when it hit about five-thirty today, I realized that this trip was probably the best thing that could have happened for the first week. Because I was not the only one who had no idea what the hell I was doing. Instead, no one knew. Nobody knew how to get to the theatre. No one knew where the green room was. No one knew what was being served for dinner. No one knew what was going on.

Which was great. Because it made me just one of the staff. Since this day has been long, yet abounding with stories to be shared, I thought I’d share my schedule for the day.

9:00 : I am scared awake by my phone alarm blaring on the end table next to me, namely much closer to my ear than where it usually is on the floor with me on the top bunk. I check my email and find that everyone went to breakfast at 9. Except me. Who just woke up.

10:00 : Work from hotel begins. I spend a while unsuccessfully calling MTV asking for comment on a story. I end up talking to an amusing journalist and a reality TV blogger instead.

12:00 : One of the producers tells me I can expense room service. I immediately begin plotting how to exploit this.

1:00 : After staring at the menu for a while, I realize I am too frightened to actually use the room service. I walk to Arby’s instead.

2:45 : We meet in the lobby. Unplanned, all the women are wearing black dresses. We get in a cab driven by the world’s shortest cab driver, wearing the kind of glasses you are given by the eye doctor after he dilates your eyes. I am not entirely sure that he can see over the dashboard.

3:00 : The staff arrives on stage for a read through. Carl Kasell is waiting for us there, and he greets everyone with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Including me. I faint.

3:15 : Read through begins on stage. I sit with large headphones, feel official, and listen quietly until I am called upon to share my knowledge about the week’s Not My Job guest. I discover that one joke I made over the course of the week has ended up in the script. I glow with pride.

3:30 : A series of inappropriate jokes are made about the Muppets and Middle Eastern stereotypes. They are incredibly offensive and utterly hilarious. All of them end up in the script.

5:30 : Read through ends. I am sent up two flights of stairs to the box office. Four times. In heels.

5:45 : I wander into the greenroom to find this buffet of awesomeness laid out. As an intern on a limited budget, this might be the best meal I eat all summer.

6:00 : Carl wanders into the greenroom. I shyly request a picture with him. He obliges. Carl and I start chatting.

6:15 : Carl and I are still chatting. I am melting inside with happiness.

6:30 : PJ O’Rourke meanders in and reads us his bluff the listener story, which the producers do not approve. He wanders out for another cigarette to think about it.

6:45 : Sam Kass, the Not My Job guest arrives. Everyone is suddenly apologetic for the buffet, since he is a White House chef and it suddenly seems pathetic.

7:00 : Mo Rocca is writing his prediction for the end of the show. He is pacing. Actually, power walking might be a better way to describe it. Every time he comes back to the green room, he sits down next to me and starts thinking out loud to me. I suppose this is because I am the only one not talking to anyone, and it is less weird if he pretends to talk to me than if he talks to himself.

7:15 : Producers are still working on the script in a dressing room. Show starts in fifteen minutes.

7:30 : I sit down on the stage with several of the producers. The audience starts whispering and pointing to us, because we are a sign the show is about to start. Some people even take pictures of us. I try to look calm and poised and like I know what I am supposed to be doing.

7:37 : The rest arrive and pass out scripts. Which are definitely still warm from the printer.

7:40 : I put on my big headphones and feel awesome. Though there are only two sets of headphones at my station, there are five bottles of water. The theatre wants us to be well hydrated.

8:00 : The series of three racist Muppet jokes are made. The first is booed. The second gets an even louder boo. Peter looks over at the producers, who all simultaneously make a gesture at him that clearly says, “Move on, move on!”

8:15 : Mo over shares about the Queen. PJ over shares about his drug history.

9:30 : The show ends. Peter reads the credits. Which include my name. All the producers turn to look at me and grin. I cannot help but grin back, knowing that my name will be heard by 3.5 million people.

10:00 : I hover for a while on stage, then follow several of the producers out of the theatre to the VIP cocktail longue where the local NPR station is holding a cocktail party for donors. The VIP cocktail party is the closest I have ever felt to being in an episode of Chuck. There were tuxedoed waiters roving with champagne, low lighting, jazz music, and Carl Kassel. I kept waiting for a Ring attack.

10:45 : I have proved that I am the best minor ever, as I was unquestioningly allowed into a party with alcohol, and have spent the past forty-five minutes in a room full of people offering me champagne and not ingested a drop of it.

11:00 : We take a cab back to the hotel. The driver is definitely Transylvanian. PJ meets us in the lobby and tries to coerce us into going for a drink.

11:15 : I arrive in my hotel room, and think to myself, “What a good day.”

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