Thursday, October 8, 2015

Moving (again)

After 5 years (to the day) in my adorable rental house in College Park, I have finally moved on to other digs. I probably won't be posting an entire photo album of my new place on Facebook because, no, I didn't finally buy a house of my own, as I've been going on and on about for the past 6 months. I was forced to move out because of factors beyond my control, and I consider the current place to be but a waypoint on my journey.

Months before I moved, I pondered whether I could actually live in an apartment. Well, I am about to find out. As it happens, after jettisoning much of the excess baggage that I accumulated during those luxurious years of living in a house, my boyfriend and I fit quite comfortably in a 1-bedroom condo (it's actually 2 bedrooms, but we've reserved the extra bedroom for a future housemate).

Moving was nothing less than absolute torture (some highlights: being obliged to sell or give away about half of my possessions, backing a pickup truck into my housemates' car, spending an entire morning getting rained on while carrying furniture without assistance).

To help myself have a positive attitude about the whole thing, I'm focusing on the annoying things about the old house that I've escaped.

I won't miss being an Airbnb host. I do love the extra income, but having to be cheery and welcoming to a new batch of strangers every couple of days has taken its toll on my introverted self.

I won't miss yardwork. In however many months I'm paying the exorbitant rent on this apartment, I can console myself by thinking of how I'm not wrestling a lawnmower up a dew-slicked hill, raking leaves until my shoulders burn and my fingers blister, or dooming myself to an armful of itchy welts from all the plants I touch while weeding.

I won't miss the stupid toilet seat that's always coming loose, or the guest room door that's always falling off its hinges, or the idiotic drainage system that turns the driveway into a swamp in the summer and a treacherous ice slick in the winter. I won't miss the gate on the right side of the house with the latch that's too tight to close, or the gate on the left side of the house with the latch that's too loose to close, or the rock I have to kick aside every time I want to open that one.

I won't miss having to spend half my commute time at a certain traffic light on my trip home every day.

I won't miss my neighbors across the street who yell instead of speak, and I won't miss my neighbors on the left who gave me the evil eye every time I come home. My neighbors on the right were all right, but I won't miss the man's horrifying winter cough that should be coming back any week now.

I'm sure that as time goes by, I will grow to hate this place too, as is right and proper, but for now, I will enjoy the things I have gained. To wit, a bigger bed, a bigger kitchen, and walk-in closet!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Pet Names

I enjoy naming things.

I have a name for every houseplant that survives over a year. Despite having no intention of ever becoming a parent, I still keep a list of human names that I would enjoy naming a child (so, future parents out there, consult me first if you're struggling for a name for your little one). Sometimes I won't publish a blog post until I've cooked up just the right witty title (like this one—don't miss the double meaning that will become clear as you read on!) I once spent a week and a half mulling over what to call my rabbit

It had to be the perfect name, because after all, you only get to name your rabbit once, right? Wrong. The thing that occurred to me today is, I cannot seem to stop myself from serial nicknaming every animal that walks into my life. 

I name pets after their species – Hansel is, accordingly, "Rabbity Boy" – and their obvious attributes – "Fur Boy" – and then when I get bored with these elementary appellations, I start adding suffixes — like "Rabbitrocious."

I name pets after their names—Hansel is also "Handsome," Jack Jack is also "Jackelope." Junior became "Jujubee"; Pumpkin, "Sweet Punky Doodle"; Tierra, "Erra-erra-erra," and on it goes. 

I have a whole arsenal of nicknames based on traits that I find annoying. Hansel is also known as "Piglet," thanks to his enormous appetite. Jack Jack, who is a holy terror, gets the special title of "Little Stupid Stupid," inspired by a hilariously censored radio version of a Big Sean song (sadly, I could not find that version on the Internet).

I name pets after the sounds they make (Past ones were "Gromble", "Yomble", "Chuffles," and "Squee", for example) and then go on to develop variations (including "Grombeezler," "Yombat," "Chuffle-uffagus," and "Peebles & Squeeps").

I even nickname my friends' pets. My former housemate's cat, Nox, was, to me at least, all sorts of things including "Mr. Knick-Nox." And my current housemates' dog, Petey, is (only in my mind), Peetricia.

I just can't seem to stop. Whenever a word for my pets pops into my head, I feel compelled to adopt it into permanent usage. For every one of the innumerable pets I've had over the years, I probably have at least 3 alternate names. 

Weirdly, I never give nicknames to people—I rarely even use accepted shortened names. Even my boyfriend doesn't get anything except the most tame variations of common terms of endearment. You can't nickname a person without risking the possibility of causing offense, so I think the main reason I keep my indefatigable nickname engine restricted to animals only is that, unlike people, a pet won't object no matter what you call it. Remember "Booger Kitten," anyone?

Probably not. I don't think most people (except my family, who probably had a hand in creating many of the nicknames mentioned here) know of any of these, I wonder if this is really something everyone does—hoard a secret library of alternative names for their animals, that only get used behind the safety of closed doors?

What do you say, readers? Do your pets get new aliases every month like mine? And if so, what are they?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The writings on the wall

Every so often, they will appear, unannounced and unbidden, upon the stall doors in the bathroom at my office. They're not really passive-aggressive notes so much as patronizing messages, from the mysterious and unnamed mother-figure who apparently watches over our building.

Did you remember to wash your hands?

Ladies please remember to flush when you're done

All female hygiene products must be placed into the recepicle —Someone helpfully inserted a T into that particular misspelled word, but neglected to replace the errant I with an A. I shake my head. The responses to any syntactical error on our restroom PSA's are always merciless, and frequently entertaining.

Last year, the message was a long diatribe about bathroom courtesy and how we should pick up any paper that we happen to drop on the floor, culminating with a preachy "It was harder to get into UMD than that!" and though I unfortunately have forgotten the exact words of the replies, a long handwritten conversation followed, mainly regarding the author's failure to use proper English.

I don't know who comes into the bathroom armed with a pen (I guess a lot of people, if they happen to be students carrying backpacks), but I don't, and sometimes I feel the sorrow of missing out.

Today, when I was unable to dry my hands because of a lack of paper towels in the dispenser, I was tempted to add my own little question to the mix: Did you remember to wash your hands? Yes. Did you remember to stock the paper towels? I would etch it out using the residual wash water that still soaked my fingers--my own little way of writing in blood. But sadly, I didn't think my hand would stay wet long enough, nor would my message fit on the remaining open area of paper. Or last long enough to really be appreciated.

Alas, I am doomed to be ever the observer in the grammatical battleground that is the ladies' room, my smug redactions and wry observations never to see the light of day. Except here. Enjoy them.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Money on my mind

It is unusual, for a strict grammarian such as me, to willfully flout a syntactical rule, but I do, almost always, position the dollar sign after the numbers in my writing (e.g. 20$), rather than before it (e.g. $20), as we are technically supposed to do. I was scanning laboriously through my list of blog posts, looking for an explanation, but I couldn't find one. I can't believe I've never written on this matter before, but on the chance I really haven't, here's my reasoning.

When you read a price, the word "dollar" (or substitute any type of currency) comes after the amount. e.g. "This pineapple costs four dollars."

When writing a price symbolically, I say you should follow the same structure as when spoken. Thus, "This pineapple costs 4$."

The traditional way of writing said sentence would be, "This pineapple costs $4," which would logically be spoken, "This pineapple costs dollars-four," and we obviously don't speak like that!

There are lots of illogical things in the English language, and I'd be inclined to let this particular one slide, except that it introduces even more complications when working with big numbers. 

Consider the following sentence: "The construction is projected to cost six-hundred-million dollars."

Naturally, you don't want to have to write out all those words, so numerals and symbols come to the rescue! A newspaper might write out that sentence as "The construction is projected to cost $600 million." Now, because of the grouping of numbers and the separation of the word million, it is very easy to misread that sentence as " cost six-hundred dollars...million...Oh, I mean six-hundred-million-dollars." Having to reread a sentence is a minor inconvenience, but becomes more than an inconvenience when you're only skimming the sentence, just see the numbers (because they are logically grouped and also larger than your typical letters, they stand out) and get a completely inaccurate notion of the real price. All this trouble could be avoided entirely by reordering the words to "600 million $"—a bit odd-looking, but only because you're not used to that construction.

I've been annoyed by this backwards representation of numbers enough times that I vowed to do something about it. Granted, I have little clout in the evolution of language, but I will still try to make a contribution! You don't have to follow my system, but if it makes sense to you, maybe you should! It only takes a spark to get a fire going. Maybe, one day, everyone will follow this syntax...but until then, at least you know why I do.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Macaroni and cheese from Cafe Deluxe, and an announcement

I'll get right to the point: despite the name of the establishment, the macaroni certainly wasn't deluxe. As you can see from the picture, it lacked any of those little details – bread crumbs, cheese topping, interesting seasonings – that can really set a macaroni apart. This was just your run-of-the mill, regular-old, mac & cheese (although it does get a fraction of a point for using spiral noodles instead of regular ones). I have to say I preferred the sweet potato fries that came along with it.

So, I thusly rate this macaroni and cheese with just one happy noodle, because it tasted fine, not earth-shattering.

1 happy noodle

The Mood Noodle rating system is not based on a fixed scale, but is a much more subjective system based on what makes me happy and what makes me sad.
Any number of happy noodles and comparatively few sad noodles constitute a good rating. 

And now, the announcement

I have a confession to make: lately, I've become tired of reviewing macaroni and cheese. After you've tried 26, you've tried 'em all, it seems. I no longer get excited about trying new macaronis, and I have found that sometimes when I go to a new restaurant, I feel pressured to try the macaroni and cheese, even if I'm in the mood for something else, simply because I feel like I ought to review it. It kind of takes all the happy noodles out of eating one of my favorite dishes. But no one's paying me to review macaroni, so I think I'll just follow my own bliss and leave the food writing to the professionals.

So this will probably be my last MacaroniQuest post. But never fear: I'll probably still keep reviewing Giant Cookies, because Giant Cookie reviewing is a more leisurely activity, and there's more variety in cookies.

So until next bite...

Thursday, June 25, 2015

That thing I call labyrinthitis

It's been over a year since I wrote about labyrinthitis—the affliction that caused me to feel spacey, dizzy, and out-of-it for several weeks running last winter. I call it labyrinthitis, as a kind of working title, though really I'm still not sure that's what it is. What it is, is just an odd feeling of being  disconnected from reality. It's sort of like being mildly drunk, without the accompanying mood lift.

Though I haven't brought it up much here, it brings itself up often enough. In the past year, every time I've caught a cold, I've ended up with some degree of spaciness about a week later. I had a cold last week, and I'm experiencing it right now. I'm used to it now, so it's not as scary as it was the first time, but it is undeniably annoying. 

It takes away my appetite. It ruins my ability to concentrate. It makes me feel sleepy all the time, even when I'm not remotely tired. It is, in short, a minor annoyance that becomes a major distraction. But never fear—I think I know how to beat it!

I think it's triggered by dextromethorphan, the cough suppressant!

I'd never before felt like this after a cold, until that epic coughing cold last January. It's a good thing I like to blog about my sorrows, because reading my posts from that time is giving me all sorts of vital information about my actions and symptoms, which I can compare to what I'm going through right now.

Early last week, when I was still in the feverish stages of my cold, I was trying to avoid getting one of my Stuffy Noses from Hell, so I took a 12-hour decongestant pill in the evening, then before bed, I took a 12-hour cough suppressant pill. Then I tossed and turned all night, unable to sleep even a wink! And lo, about a week into my infamous cold of last year, I had a similar experience of sleeplessness after consuming cough syrup and decongestants.

The plot thickens! The next day (last year) I was in what I called "zombie mode." I attributed it then to lack of sleep, but later I realized it might have been the first onset of my own special brand of "labyrinthitis." Similarly, a few days ago, the day after the night I couldn't sleep, I also spent the day fully awake but spacey and like a zombie. I attributed that feeling to lack of sleep too, but I marveled to myself how similar sleep deprivation feels to my labyrinthitis. Is it really a coincidence? Or was that spacey feeling actually a side effect of the dextromethorphan? Recreational users refer to this drug as DXM, and for the sake of brevity, so will I.

This week and last, I've only taken a cough suppressant twice—the night that I couldn't sleep, and last night. And both times, I've spent the next day in a stupor, regardless of how much sleep I'd gotten. Last night, I slept just fine. I think maybe it's the combination of DXM and pseudoephedrine that keeps me up all night, but the DXM alone makes me spacey. Last year was the first time I ever took cough suppressants, and I really went on a spree—I believe I referred to myself around that time as "swilling" cough syrup. So if indeed the DXM was in some way responsible for my spaciness, it's no surprise that it took me weeks to get over its effects.

If I can avoid labyrinthitis (or whatever that weird feeling is) just by avoiding cough suppressants, I'm all for it. I hear honey is just as effective. But I'll have to wait until the next time I get a cold to find out...and if I never get another cold again, I won't mind missing out on that learning experience.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Compare and despair

Since I've been shopping for houses, I've never been more aware of how little your money can buy around the DC area. Thinking back on the house that I spent my childhood in, I realize now that it was a mansion. It had 3 regular bedrooms, plus a master bedroom with 2 closets and 2 sinks, 2 additional bathrooms, a "mud room", a huge kitchen with room for an island counter AND a kitchen table, a family room, a parlor, a foyer, a dining room, and a library! Don't even get me started on the 2-car garage, the semi-finished storage space above that, and the attic and basement we never bothered to do anything with because the rest of the house was plenty big enough, thank you very much! Oh, and it was brand new when we moved in. In my old home, I never would have had to worry about spilling out of my space.

I bet my parents spent less on that house than I am likely to spend on 2 or 3 dinky bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a cramped kitchen without even enough space for a table, a living room, and, if I'm lucky, a basement which has been clumsily converted into a living space, all in about a third the square footage. The houses that I'm looking at, the ones I'm preparing to blow my entire life savings on, are decrepit old things, built 60 - 70 years ago and sized for, uh, coziness?

What I can find in my price range is invariably run-down or sloppily repaired. Part of me likes the idea of buying a fixer-upper, because it means I can put my own stamp on it, but part of me cringes at the thought of dropping a fortune on a house and then continuing to drop small fortunes over the course of years, to make it into a home.

So that you can see what I'm working with, consider the last house I looked at. This house has been the best prospect in a long string of houses I've visited. Yet, before I would consider it up to snuff, I'd have to:
  • Renovate a bathroom
  • Add a driveway
  • Fix a leak in the basement
  • Add attic flooring (this could be as simple as a few sheets of plywood, but currently it lacks even that) 
  • Enlarge two windows
  • Rearrange some walls
  • Add flooring and kitchen appliances in the basement
The last three in that list are just to make a livable space in the basement, which is a necessity in order for me to have renters, which are a necessity in order for me to be able to afford the house in the first place.

And then, within a few years, I'd have to:
  • Replace the carpets
  • Refinish the deck
  • Replace the air conditioner
  • Replace or repair half the windows
And this, let me remind you, was the only house I considered good enough to even consider twice. Sometimes I wonder whether home ownership is a reasonable goal. Sometimes I'm just too morose to even feel like finishing