Sunday, December 26, 2010

What happened to my finger and my upper arm

I am typing this with a sore finger and a sore upper arm because... order that some sense of mystery should still be preserved, no revelation will yet be made concerning how my upper arm was injured.

But I will immediately tell you how it all began.

It all began yesterday night, when my family members began checking today's weather forecasts in preparation for my incipient trip back to Maryland. There was much anxiety about the 100% chance of snow that was predicted for College Park. Although I played the stalwart traveler, I was a bit concerned myself, fearing burial under drifts of snow, or an accidental departure from the road, or - even worse - having to drive all the way to Maryland with a film of salt on my windshield!

Well, only the latter actually happened (What's with all the gas stations at the so-called "service" plazas not having any window cleaner fluid?) and I actually made it to College Park completely unscathed. The snowfall wasn't even close to significant until I hit the Beltway, and there was, miraculously, not a traffic jam the whole way down.

It was only once I got home that I became scathed. After unpacking all the stuff I'd brought back from Ohio and pleased that I'd made the entire trip in just 7.5 hours, I was in a productive mood. So I decided to clean up some of the stuff that had been sitting around since long before I went to Ohio. Among that collection of stuff was a jar candle with a label that had been half-ripped off. I set out to remove the label completely.

I should know by now that plying any kind of blade on a cylindrical object is not my strong point. I have a scar at the base of my thumb to prove it, and now I'll probably have a scar at the base of my pointer finger to bolster the argument. I don't think I will shoot for scars on all five fingers. And now, gore alert! If you are as squeamish as I apparently am, you may not want to continue reading. There will be blood.

As I diligently scraped away at the tenacious sticker, I slipped and sent my paint scraper (with a fortunately pretty dull blade) digging into the flesh of my finger. "Oh my God," I said, and promptly began bleeding all over the place.

The fortuitous part of this story is that I was wearing my favorite pair of pants--pink jeans that I got at a thrift store almost 6 years ago. I loved them because they were the perfect fit and super soft, which most jeans never become. However, they had gotten so soft that I'd already worn a hole in one knee and the second one was soon to follow. As I was driving home, I noticed that they looked a little dingy even though they had recently been washed, and I vowed that this would be the last time I wore them--even though I love them so much. Well. Now that they are blood-spattered, I don't think I'll be able to cheat and try to wear them ever again. That was good timing.

Anyway, after cutting the dickens out of my finger, I did the responsible thing and washed it with soap and water. Fortunately, I was so shocked that I didn't feel any pain. But I did get really dizzy and have to lie down for a minute.

Then I was well enough to drive myself to the ER, where I received two stitches and a tetanus shot. Watching the former caused me to get dizzy all over again (I always forget how awful it feels to be on the verge of passing out. I think I'll be quite happy if I never feel that way again!) and the latter was why my upper arm now hurts.

Friday, December 17, 2010


I apologize in advance; I don't think I'll be blogging much for a while. I got depressed again.

This happens fairly often for me, usually when unfortunate life events coincide with the onset of winter, but it's particularly bad this time around. I just wondered today, as I was sitting in my chair staring off into the future, how many of you know what it feels like to be really depressed. Maybe all of you do; an uncorroborated statistic in my head is that 2/3 of adults have experienced depression at some point during their life. But if you haven't, let me try to explain.

Normally, I fix problems. If I have a problem, I 'll keep working at it until it is fixed. If I can't fix it, I get terribly upset. And if the unfixable problem happens to relate to the single most important goal in my life, I get more than upset.

I can't stop thinking about it. I analyze every aspect of it. I consider and reconsider every course of action that I could possibly take and realize none of them are acceptable. Even when I stop thinking about it, it stays in the back of my mind. I'll be going about my daily business when all of a sudden I'll realize I am so sad. This goes on for days. I start to get irritable. The small problems that I used to fix now cause me to burst into tears.

When I am alone, I obsess about it until I cry. Loudly, ceaselessly, in the most horrifying manner I hope you never have to hear. Sometimes, I cry until every sinus in my skull is completely impacted, or I have pulled muscles in my throat and ribs. I rail at the Problem, but finding it undefeatable, I have no choice but to attack myself instead. When I realize that hysteria is getting me nowhere, I swing to the opposite extreme and shut down.

Because quickness turns sadness to anger, I go slow. I walk slow, I move slow, I talk slow. I don't think people notice because my normal speed is ultra-fast, and my super-slow speed is the normal person's normal. But if you're watching me, you'll see me stop periodically and space out. Everything is so hard to do. I draw on all my reserves to muster the willpower to do normal things like open a box or put on my coat. I don't really have the strength to stay awake and do all those normal tasks, so I indulge in extremely early bedtimes. When I'm sleeping is about the only time I'm not utterly miserable. When I wake up, there are a few moments of foggy-feeling normalcy, and then the blanket of sadness descends.

Sooner or later, the physical symptoms begin. I lose my appetite. When it gets to the point that I'm dizzy with hunger, I'll try to eat something, but afterwards, I always wish I hadn't. I feel heavy and nauseated. I would like to think that this would at least help me lose weight, but unfortunately I think my metabolism slows down so much that if anything, I get fatter. In the mornings before breakfast, everything feels unreal. Something indescribable happens to my vision: Everything looks the same, but it feels like it looks different, as though I'm seeing it through a window on another world.

On the days that I don't work, I can spend hours on end staring into space or crying. I never bother to change out of my pajamas. I alternately close off all communication channels and open them all in a flood, hoping someone has missed me. They usually haven't. Although I am desperate to feel some love, being around people induces anxiety. Being alone is the worst thing you can do for yourself when you are depressed, but having to feign happiness – or even a sort of stable melancholy – for others' benefit is so draining. While I am interacting with others, I can laugh at jokes and even enjoy myself for seconds on end, but the terrible thoughts will insert themselves ruthlessly into any situation. I want to take some sort of action on my oppressive emotions, but I have to put on a brave face for these people! The stress of it causes mild panic attacks. And as soon as I leave, I start crying again.

I know that this will end because it has every time since I first got depressed. But the thought of the weeks or months that I will have to endure this is enough to send me into another fit of hysteria (please, no). And when I recover, it will only be to a state of resigned sadness. If you try to console me, it won't help (though the effort will be appreciated), but if you think about it, pray for the solution to the underlying Problem. I'd like to, one day, get back to being the ray of sunshine that everyone thinks I am.

Friday, December 10, 2010

How to kill off your dating prospects: advice from the expert

Ladies and gentlemen, after 2 years going on dating sprees separated by lengthy periods of imagined contentment with quasi-relationships, I consider myself an authority on love. And rejoice—I am now going to share my wisdom with you! Today's topic is: How to kill off your dating prospects (figuratively!). Both men and women can benefit from my sage advice.

Gentlemen: Be That Guy.

As an online dater, you have the advantage of presenting yourself in any way that you wish. Addicted to meth? No one needs to know. Want your face on top of (insert hot celebrity name here)'s body? That's fine. And you get to choose any one of a multitude of plausible personas! My personal favorite for scaring off the chicks faster than a hawk's shadow? The One-Track Mind.

When chatting with a new woman online, pick a topic and stick to it. Fanatically. Remember, this is the Internet, and normal rules of courtesy need not apply, so you can and should pick every girl's favorite subject to discuss with strange men: sex. If she has a photo posted online, make sure your first words to her are, "u r hottt!" Truncating the "you" and employing multiple T's are crucial. You want her to know early on that your interest in getting her into your bed far exceeds your mastery of English. If you have not seen her picture yet, demand one, because there's no point getting to know a chick if she doesn't look like a supermodel. Once you have received the required photo, proceed to the previous step.

Following this, if you are confident that your attempts at flattery have set the lady's heart aflutter, you may then invite her to see your manhood. However, if you are like most men, you'll want to take things a little slower than that and begin your courtship with some casual conversation. Here are some good questions to use to break the ice:
"What's the wildest thing you've ever done with a guy?"
"What's your favorite place to be kissed?"
"What are you wearing?"
"What are you wearing underneath?"

A chastity belt. Go away.
Ding ding ding! Congratulations! Following these steps, you can be certain that The One Track you're on is the Fast Track to rejection! Never fear, however. Just because you've successfully scared off one female doesn't mean that there aren't many more out there, just waiting to be repulsed! In later posts, I'll be discussing the many more personas you can try on them, including The Speed Dater, The Bore, The Stalker in Training, and The Hopeless Romantic—Really Hopeless. If you get good, you can combine all these into one epochal interaction that will be sure to leave the girl's head spinning.

Ladies: Be That Girl

You know, that girl...the one he talks to all his friends about and shudders. You can do it. Just follow this simple guide.

So, you're not that enthusiastic about meeting him, but he hasn't been deterred by your lukewarm response when he talks to you. You've canceled one date already because you decided to take a spontaneous trip out of town. You've canceled another date, citing a "bad mood." You've expressed your trepidations about getting involved with someone who lives so far away from you. But he's persistent and hasn't broken any of the rules, so, lacking any better options, you allow him to meet you for a first date and then a second.

But on the middle of the second date, you're still dreaming of the love of your life who is someone else and wondering how you will escape this guy's determined grasp. You don't want to be that coldhearted ***** who ignores his phone calls, and you don't know how to express in words that it's not because he's ugly or gross or boring, but you just don't want to date him any more. What do you do? What do you do?

Well, when he tries to kiss you, let him for just a second, then tell him to stop. When he asks you why, start crying. When he tries to comfort you, cry harder. Apologize profusely for putting him in this position and berate yourself with gusto in between sobs. You may cease this behavior after 5-10 minutes. Even if he toughs out the date to the bitter end, you can rest assured that this will be the last. Be proud that you will go down in history as one of his most memorable dates ever.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Branching out in the Blogosphere

Over the years, I have been consumed by passions for various creative activities. As much as one can be "consumed" by one thing while trying to simultaneously engage in three or four other hobbies at the same time. Call me a Jack of all trades. Jacqueline.

During my formative years, I was a prolific writer of stories and poems and drawer of pictures. I dabbled in aromatherapy, cartooning, and crafts of all sorts. In college, I channeled all my creative energy into academic and extracurricular projects. After graduation, I toyed briefly with making a business out of making wreaths, concurrently discovering the joys of glass etching. I became and remain infatuated with blogging. For a while I was so fixated on web design that I made it my career, and once that ceased to be a hobby and became the daily grind instead, I became fascinated with DIY fashion.

Buying clothes at the thrift store and altering them to make them look cute became my new favorite pastime. I discovered the aesthetic potential of knee socks. After a lifetime of either playing the fashion pariah or assiduously blending into the crowd, I discovered I really could have a unique look and not be spurned for it. Some people even tell me I look good once in a while!

This fashion fascination has lasted a year and a half and is still going strong, so I think it's time I make something of it. Rather than let my wardrobe experiments fade into history, I am going to memorialize them with pictures! Best of all, this means a new outlet for my blogging infatuation.

I have started a new blog. Unlike the mixed bag of random thoughts that is Val's Galorious Galaxy, this one will focus exclusively on fashion. Or rather, a deliberate lack thereof. In my new blog, I'll share the numerous ways a cheapskate with a unique sense of style can create a distinctive look.

Visit it today! Enjoy, comment, and tell a friend!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner, Valerie-Style

Thanksgiving is here, and now that I'm Suzie Homemaker herself, it means it's the first Thanksgiving ever that I get to host!

My mom and her boyfriend came bearing furniture this Thanksgiving, and in return, I fixed dinner for them to eat upon their arrival. Since my idea of dinner is usually a few cubes of cheese and a carrot, this means it's time for more of Valerie's Adventures in Cooking!

I acquired almost all the food I needed for free from the rejected produce at the store --mushrooms, green beans, potatoes, green onions, a pie pumpkin, and cornmeal (ground from whole corn by a resourceful coworker) all came my way just in time for Thanksgiving! About the only thing I needed to buy were the dairy items and ingredients for cranberry sauce.

I started my preparations early, since, with my predilection for dawdling, I knew I'd be rushing around trying to do too much at the last minute. So on Monday night, I cooked my pumpkin. The instructions I found online said I should cook it in a steamer basket. I don't have a steamer basket, so I just put it in the bottom of the pot and hoped for the best. Which probably was for the best, since our 2-quart saucepan (the biggest one we have) was just barely big enough to fit the pumpkin by itself. It turned out fine. I roasted the seeds and, because they seemed a little underdone, left them in the oven while it cooled down. I also left them in the oven overnight. And most of the next day. Oops.

Next on my agenda was pumpkin pie. I don't really like pumpkin pie, but since divine providence had dumped a pumpkin into my lap, I figured I should make good use of it. Since I was only planning to make a small pie, I had some leftover pumpkin which I used for pumpkin cookies. I made the dough on Tuesday night, and baked the pumpkin pie and the pumpkin cookies on Wednesday. Both seemed to come out splendidly, though I had to stab the pie a few times to make sure it was done. Smoothing the surface over again with a knife did not work as I had hoped.

Thursday - that's Thanksgiving, folks - was crunch day. Bright and early at 8:00, I powered into action, checking my Facebook, getting distracted by the attic that I can't get into, and shopping for ladders on Craigslist. A few hours later, I made the cranberry sauce. 2 cups of cranberries, 1 apple, most of one orange, and chop in the blender. A few bits of spoon for texture. Oops.

Following the cranberry sauce, I took a break, but soon was ready for the meal's crowning glory—cream of mushroom soup. Lacking light cream, however, I was obliged to make half & half of mushroom soup instead. It should taste the same, right? The recipe only said the mushrooms should be "thinly sliced." It didn't say "diced," but while they were cooking, it became obvious that the pieces were much too big to fit onto a spoon. At that point, I learned the fine art of cutting your mushrooms into smaller pieces with scissors while they're cooking!

Since my recipes are from a website, and I hadn't printed them, I had to bring my computer out into the food prep area, which meant I had the perfect opportunity to listen to Internet radio. I turned the dial to a dance station and had a grand old time spinning around in circles on the delightfully slippery living room floor and attempting to learn how to moonwalk. Oh, yeah, I also eventually got back to the cooking and had an equally grand time snapping green beans to a techno beat. This was after I extricated the beans from the cheesecloth I had washed them in. Well, most of them. Some were entangled beyond the point of rescue. Important Lesson: Using cheesecloth as a substitute for a colander isn't as brilliant an idea as you might imagine.

When Mom called saying she had arrived at her hotel, I went into overdrive, trying, as expected, to do too much at the last minute. I nixed my plans for oven-roasted potatoes, seeing as I don't like them, and Mom had been snacking in the car all day and wasn't very hungry. Anyone want 6 potatoes? In record time, I whipped up some cornbread batter. I rushed around the house, frantically clearing things off the dining room table. I changed into my cute autumn-themed skirt just in time to let my guests in the door. (The skirt stayed on for all of 5 minutes, since I put on jeans to lug the furniture into the house and didn't change out of them again afterward. But at least I made a good first impression.)

And, after a rousing game of Yahtzee, dinner was served. In spite of the lack of prep space and the minimal presence of suitably sized cookware, dinner went off without a hitch. Everyone loved everything! Seconds were had. Pie was consumed. Plates were cleared and the guests were shooed, and Thanksgiving came to its end. I feel almost let down that this was less a cooking "adventure" than a cooking success.

In case you are new to this blog and wondering why the big deal about Adventures in Cooking, complete with the wacky's a sort of theme I started and abandoned back in 2007. Here are links to a few more Adventures in Cooking posts:

Italian Mushrooms
Spinach Cheese Squares
Pasta Primavera

Monday, November 22, 2010

On Case

Everyone knows how to capitalize a sentence. You put the upper-case letters at the beginning of the sentence, and the lower-case letters after that. You capitalize first letters in proper nouns and acronyms, and if you're writing in a text-based conversation, you capitalize when you want to yell! Simple. (But should you really capitalize a sentence fragment? Hmmm....) However, the rules for capitalizing proper nouns are no longer as hard and fast as (I imagine, since I haven't done any research on this) they once were.
In recent years, I've noticed some unique capitalization schemes for company names. In terms of corporate identity, the way a business' name is capitalized says something about its values and intended image. While this is great for setting businesses apart and giving them that unique touch, it makes uptight rule-followers such as me a little uncomfortable.

So bear with me while I drag you into my internal debate about the rules of capitalization. After all, when I'm lying awake at night thinking about this matter, I want to make sure that I'm not alone.

First off, there's the issue of all-lower-case typesetting. You see this in electronic messages a lot, because, frankly, when typing fast, and especially when typing on a phone, making capital letters is a big hassle. I've seen it in poetry, because poetry is art, and in art, anything goes! I've seen it in graphic design, and I like it, because I think it helps balance out text which, when capitalized, would look a little heavy on the left. But is it really all right in a business name? Let's take a specific corporation as a case study (get it!?).

innocent drinks, a natural beverage company in the UK, has taken the lower case to a whole new level (get it!?). Not only is their name uncapitalized, but so is every heading on their website! Using all lower case makes them seem super cute and...well, innocent. I daresay that's the exact kind of image they were going for. But it also makes communicating about them quite difficult. For example, when I write, "innocent drinks," am I referring to innocent drinks, the company, or am I referring to guileless beverages in general? Oh, the confusion! And just look at the beginning of this paragraph! In order to conform to their strange capitalization preferences, I had to start a sentence without a capital letter! Horrors! Before I have a nervous breakdown, I'd better move on to another topic.

Such as the good old ISP, America Online. Oh, wait. They're not an ISP any more. In fact, they're not even America Online any more. In 2006, America Online officially changed its name to AOL—which is in itself a bold move that states, "We're so awesome, we don't even need words to support our acronym. Our acronym is big enough to stand on its own." A few years later (perhaps even this year?) they changed their logo in the craziest way, uncapitalizing the O and L and adding a period at the end. In my book, that means their name should now be pronounced "owl," but they still refer to themselves in text as AOL. So what are they? Owl(period) or AOL? Does capitalization affect meaning, or am I just trying too hard to create order out of chaos?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A journey of scientific and etymological discovery (with cookies!)

In my hometown of The Midwest, everyone refers to carbonated beverages as "pop." In my current town, The East Coast - and apparently most everywhere else in the country - they call them "soda." When I first came here and found my colloquial vocabulary such a source of endless amusement to the residents of my new home, I adapted to the common usage and never gave the issue much thought—except to occasionally revert to using the word "pop" during socially awkward moments in order to get a laugh and a conversation going.

But today, my curiosity came out of the woodwork while I was making peanut butter cookie dough—of course an activity having nothing to do with carbonated beverages. However, the connection was made because of a fortuitous cooking disaster. Ever since my cornbread failed to rise a few days ago because of being made with 6-years-expired baking powder, my mind has been attuned to leavening agents. So, naturally, I was prepared to pay a little more attention to my baking soda than usual. Baking soda. Sodium bicarbonate. Carbonate(d) soda?

Because I love to be distracted and work on anything but my actual work, I decided now was the time when I absolutely must learn how beverages actually become carbonated, and whether that has anything to do with why they are called "soda." I'd always kind of imagined the carbonation process was similar to how vegetable oils become hydrogenated—which, now that I think about it, is also a bit hazy to me! The Internet was not particularly helpful to me in my search—I know now that carbon is added to liquids under pressure, which enables it to dissolve. But I do not know how that feat is accomplished, nor do I have any idea what it has to do with soda.

Feeling unsatisfied, I have jumped to my own conclusion. Several histories of the soft drink industry indicated that the first carbonated beverage was "soda water," so I assume (without any factual data to back me up) that other carbonated beverages which came after were logically referred to as flavored soda water, or soda for short. But the question still remains: why is soda water called soda water? According to Wikipedia, soda water is thus named because sodium salts are added to it to make it taste more like naturally occurring mineral water. Webtender even goes so far as to say that the specific sodium salts added are sodium bicarbonate.

Ah, baking soda.

And I have come full circle, to peanut butter cookie dough. Which I totally deserve to eat after conducting all that grueling research.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Making my voice heard--by griping in an obscure blog in a shadowy corner of the internet.

I yielded to the pressure and did vote this election, but I'm not proud of myself for performing my civic duty. I don't feel like I've protected my rights by exercising them. In fact, I feel rather dirty about the whole matter.

I didn't have a good solid reason for voting as I did--I made sure I had a fundamental grasp of the issues on the ballot, but as for choosing between candidates...well, I basically did what the Washington Post and one school board advocate outside the polling place told me to do. I am ashamed that my mostly uninformed decision could have an impact on the way my country is run.

I've never been enthusiastic about voting. Politicians are nothing to get excited over when every elected official is basically just a middleman standing between me and the issues I really care about.

Sometimes I wonder what our founding fathers were smoking when they decided a representative democracy was the way to go. Maybe relying on politicians to make decisions for us was a sensible option when half the population hadn't gone to school and news took months to travel the country, but in an era when information is everywhere and communication is no object, why are we still letting an elite handful run the show? Why is the popular vote still looked on with such suspicion? Why, when we want anything accomplished governmentally, must we have to jostle for the attention of an overworked legislator--when his decisions are influenced less by our heartfelt pleas than by which corporation financed his campaign? Why are we still allowing progress to be stopped cold by something as silly as filibusters? And whose idea was this ridiculous 2-party system, where every few years, the newly arisen majority party makes it its mission to undo everything the former majority party did for the last few years?

I would ask another rhetorical question, but I think that tactic is growing old. Instead, let me resort to exclamation: Let's come to our senses and learn to embrace initiative and referendum! It's time to dispense with the red tape and start making things happen!

Or am I oversimplifying things? Undoubtedly.

But still, there must be a better way. I'd propose one, but it would never make it through Senate.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Of Backs and Baths

I think it's official: I inherited my dad's predisposition for back injuries.

I've noticed that, a lot of the time when I eat too much, my lower back gets stiff. I don't know if this is from holding myself in an odd posture to alleviate stomach discomfort, or if the excess food does something weird to my bones, but it happens. On Friday, I consumed an entire bag of Doritos in a day, and Sunday I noticed the familiar faint ache in my back. I thought little of it, and went about my day as usual, working and stopping for a gulp of water when I felt thirsty. Well, one of my gulps was poorly timed, and part of it ended up in my lungs. I coughed to clear it out, bent down to grab a box, coughed again, and suddenly there was searing pain in my lumbar region.

Fortunately, it subsided, but not completely. I toughed it out through work, which was probably a bad idea. By the time I left (after 6 more hours of standing at a food prep counter and carrying crates of snacks out to the shopping floor), I was in so much pain I kept getting dizzy, and could only hobble home (unfortunately carrying a rather heavy bag with me) like an old woman, stopping periodically to bend over and stretch my overloaded spinal column.

I pretty much spent today in bed. They say lying around is the worst thing you can do when you have a back injury, but obviously they have no idea what sitting or standing feels like. I figure as long as I change positions frequently and stretch whenever I think about it, I'm doing the best I can do.

And because I felt like a deserved a treat after all that suffering, I topped off the afternoon with a nice hot shower. They say (probably the same "they" that give such terrible back injury advice) that taking a shower uses more water than taking a bath, thus making eco-conscious folks like me feel guilty every single time we shower. Today, I tested the claim, plugging the tub while taking my shower. I took an extra long one, thoroughly washing my face with special exfoliating soap, conditioning my hair, and stopping periodically to enjoy the hot water. When I was done, the water in the tub barely covered my ankles. I don't know about you, but when I take a bath, I definitely fill the tub higher than ankle deep.

So, while my comfort meter is dragging in the dirt, I'm still happy to know that even my most self-indulgent showers are more eco-friendly than I was led to believe. I think the score is even.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Here comes the bitter old maid!

I survived another wedding last weekend. I put on a brave face for my friend on her big day, but the truth will out. And guess where it will out....

Hello, ever-listening Internet!

All these weddings are taking a toll on my sanity. I really do want my friends to be happy—it's just that watching them be so happy together while I'm so miserably alone is kind of like taking shrapnel in the vital organs. Every couple of months. All while never dropping the cheerful smile.

I think instead of getting little vials of bubbles and and a bag of snacks as a wedding favor, I should get a purple heart.

And with that said, I would like to lighten the mood with a little joke.

Have you ever noticed how single guys love to get all indignant about how other guys treat women? They "like" Facebook pages such as: "Real men don't hit their girlfriends," and go on and on about how they know how to treat a lady and what a shame it is that not everyone does. OK, maybe not all single guys do this, but one in particular got me thinking about it.

Not that I'm just here to disparage the single guys who think this way--I frequently find myself doing the female version of the same thing. For example, upon hearing about the ridiculous things some guys are forced to do to stay on their girls' good sides, I think, with a self-righteous sniff, "I would never act all jealous and controlling like that. I wouldn't get all huffy if my man forgot our anniversary. I wouldn't need some ostentatious and expensive diamond ring to show off my relationship status." Etc. Etc.

Yes, we low-maintenance ladies and self-anointed super-gentlemen are very confident in our relationship superiority. But ha ha, the joke's on us—we're the ones who are still single, while the wife-beaters and drama queens are happily taken. Maybe we should learn to be a little bit less considerate, and we'd find ourselves swarmed by potential mates!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

do u write like this plz tell me ok?

It's that time again, when I dredge up another blog entry of days gone by, edit it slightly (or heavily) and present it for your uninterested perusal. Today's haul is particularly uninteresting, being a pedantic diatribe about how the world is figuratively going all to hell, in the literal sense. But it is a logical precursor to a topic I want to discuss later.

September 27, 2007

I've been seeing it everywhere: the claim that our society is abandoning written communication in favor of pretty pictures and slick electronic interfaces. The introduction to chapter 7 of Seeing & Writing states, "Already book sales are decreasing, and students are demonstrating only marginal progress in reading and writing proficiency. Meanwhile we channel surf, rapidly scanning dozens of images in seconds, or we click from icon to icon."

Maybe this is just progress (as Scott McCloud implies in "Chapter 6," which is excerpted in Appendix A), our communication system coming full circle and dropping us off at a time "when to tell was to show--and to show was to tell", but still, it scares me.

I like words. I like communicating in complete sentences and spelling things correctly. I am one of that special breed of people who make a point of using our language in the way it was intended. My text messages could just as well be text books (albeit short ones), the syntax and spelling is so precise (although I have abandoned capitalization when texting). It disturbs me to think that we are approaching an age when we (meaning everyone except the die-hard dinosaurs like me) will all communicate like this:
i was at l.a (language arts) and i saw a peice of paper with this on it. well it also had a heart. "having a broken heart is nothing....compared to a cold heart." what do u think of it? is it good? what do u think its about? plz answer. i think its kinda about: if u broke an animals heart, because he believes in u, and u just let him down, at least u havnt abused him.: thats what i think. pllllllllllllllzzzzzzzzzzzz tell me what u think. if enough ppl answer, i may leak u a secret only on this post.
I picked this out of a blog on Quizilla, a site that's rampant with Internet grammar. Is our language going to be reduced to this? Not that the ideas expressed are particularly coherent to begin with, but in that terribly misspelled form, they lose any semblance of credibility. When your boss sends you an email asking "u" to do something, how seriously can you take it? Isn't presentation just as important as content? Don't we trivialize our thoughts when we present them in a form that trivializes our language?

It makes me wonder what the Olde English writers would have to say about the ways we speak and write now (even the grammatically correct ways). It makes me wonder what we can expect of English in the centuries to come.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I moved to a new house last week. And the week before that. And the week before that, and this week. It took a long time. In fact, as you can see in the photo of my living room, it is still going on.

Every day, I discover new and interesting things about this house. Such as, water pools on the front steps when it rains. (Had to buy a squeegee and beg the landlord to do something about it. He says he will, but it hasn't been done yet.) Such as, the bathroom is the only room in the house without blinds on the window! (Had to buy a curtain rod and jury-rig a curtain out of some fabric I had lying around.) Such as, there are no electrical outlets on the outside of the house! (Had to pop out a screen and run my cord through the window in the laundry room.) Such as, none of the inside doors actually shuts all the way. (Can't buy anything to fix that...Will just have to keep yanking on them until the doorknobs fall off).

Despite all its obnoxious little quirks, I am quite fond of this house. See my public album on Facebook to learn just how cute it is. Despite my enthusiasm, however, renting an entire house has been a rather trying experience for me. Unlike when you rent a room in a shared residence, nothing comes ready to use (except the major appliances, thank goodness!). I had to call all the utility companies myself and get the service set up. Fortunately, I have amassed a decent collection of furniture (from being unable to resist discarded items found on the side of the road or abandoned by former housemates) and cookware (from being the only baker in my previous household and from being unable to resist discarded items donated by a moving-away neighbor), but every time I turn around, I realize there is something that I don't have but I need--a toilet plunger (haven't needed it yet, but it's a good thing to not wait around for), towels for the bathroom and kitchen, a towel rack for the kitchen, a broom, dishwasher soap (yes, for the first time in my independent life, I'm going to use a dishwasher instead of doing it by hand), a microwave, and on and on it goes.

This, while causing me to shell out money on an entirely too-regular basis, has also enabled me to exercise my bargain-shopping expertise. From Craigslist, I got a great deal on 2 sets of steel utility shelves for 10 dollars (OK, they're a little rusty), and from Freecycle, I got 2 kitchen chairs for 0 dollars (OK, the back is falling off one of them).

However, just as the merchants love their customers to do, I end up spending more money on things I don't need, simply because I'm out spending money on things I need. While I was at Target buying my first load of household necessities, I purchased a cute T-shirt that says, "I love my [Picture of bicycle]," and while I was at Target buying my third load of household necessities, I purchased an adorable red dress. To my credit, both of the apparel items were marked down (in the case of the dress, 50%) and I had been eying them patiently all summer, hoping the price would drop. While I was at Ikea buying my second load of household necessities, I also splurged on a mini ironing board, because after years of ironing my clothes on a bit of cardboard, I thought 6 dollars was a cheap step up.

Today, since I needed to go to the mega-thrift store anyway, I decided to take my sewing machine in to the sew-vac shop that's in the same complex. At the thrift store, I bought a knife block, a pot lid, towels and wash cloths, and (impulse buy alert!) a super-awesome like-new pair of high-heeled mid-calf brown boots, for a grand total of less than 10 dollars (there was a half-off Columbus day sale going on, and boy, did that make the parking lot crowded!), and then I spent 160 dollars to fix the sewing machine. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a microwave, which was the main reason I went there in the first place.

My shopping adventures will doubtlessly continue, as I still seek a microwave, furniture for the living room, and, well, who knows what I'll think of next? If I have learned anything from this venture, it's that (1) living all alone because your housemates haven't moved in yet starts off terrifying and ends up pretty fun, and (2) moving is synonymous with spending. In vast quantities. I hope I don't have to do this again for a good long time.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rules of a different sort

Whoa, I actually have some time to myself today -- that means, while I'm eating my breakfast, I'm going to blog instead of work, before getting back to the packing (for my move to a new house, which I'll tell you all about later). For now, since we're on the subject of rules, I thought I'd share with you my thoughts on the rules of grammar.

They are rather elusive little buggers, the guidelines that define the structure of an English sentence. They constantly change with time. While some grammarians cling to time-honored rules with rigid desperation, others happily toss away traditions with alacrity.

And the poor pitiful students of English are caught in the middle, commanded by one style guide to do one thing, and by another to do another. A language expert may advise them to follow this rule and this rule and this rule, but ignore that rule as complete bunk. This is confusing and annoying, and, to illustrate my distaste for the whole unsystematic system, I present to you a (slightly edited) blog from way back, when I was reading a book on prose styling for a class.

October 14, 2007
Beware the Grammar Guru: or, Rules are Made to be Broken

I've been reading through Sin and Syntax with a lurking sense of indignation. I'm not complaining...exactly...I have learned things. But the message of this book seems to be, "Follow the rules of the English language...except when I tell you you don't have to."
The author (Constance Hale) gives us leave to commit syntactical crimes that are probably punishable by death in some circles of zealots:

To proudly split infinitives is the prerogative of any writer, she claims. Even though pedagogues trying to apply Latin grammar to our Anglo-Saxon tongue insist the split infinitive is a no-no, they're dead wrong.

Later, she explains, Some traditionalists disparage the vogue for hopefully as a sentence adverb, calling it 'one of the ugliest changes in grammar in the twentieth century.'...Grammarians, get a grip. Hopefully as a sentence adverb is here to stay.
Valerie's note: If you do not follow the exciting world of language hockey, the use of "hopefully" to modify a whole sentence is a topic of intense debate. Technically, if you say, "Hopefully the grammar gods won't strike me down," you are actually saying, "The grammar gods won't strike me down (and they'll be full of hope while they're not doing it)," which is awkward for one thing and completely different from the typical intended meaning of "I hope the grammar gods won't strike me down." See this recent post from a language blog I read on occasion.
In a later chapter, she asserts: Make my day. Start a sentence with a conjunction.

Still later, she pleads, Can we bury the schoolmarm's rule, 'Never end a sentence with a preposition,' once and for all?

Speaking of schoolmarms, my sixth grade teacher told our class that one should never begin a story by introducing oneself; Hale buries that rule by describing Moby-Dick's introductory sentence, "Call me Ishmael," as one of the strongest opening lines in American literature.

With all these so-called "rules" that are now okay to break, what rules can we really trust? Who made Constance Hale the Queen of Communication? Why should you believe her more than any other grammarian, writing teacher, or poet on the street? Why should you believe her more than, say, me?

I've run across a lot of advice in Sin and Syntax. Some of it I like. Some of it I don't. The next time I feel like blogging, I intend to question some of this advice. There are at least two sides to every story, and I don't think we as writers should confine ourselves just to Constance Hale's point of view. As long as we're breaking rules, we might as well break them our way.

But that's for later.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rules of Attraction

Recently, I told a friend that I have given up on dating entirely. While this is not a new development, our conversation did remind me about why I've made this rather self-defeating decision.

After a couple years of Internet dating, and even meeting up with some of the guys who have flagged me down on the street, I have had next to no success. This has mostly been because I just wasn't interested—also pretty self-defeating on my part, but it's not something I can help! I've rejected guys for a number of reasons, but probably the most common one and the one that's most deadly to a future relationship is a lack of physical attraction. Though this is somewhat superficial, let's face it: If the thought of kissing someone makes you cringe, dating them will never work.

Sometimes, an unattractive face grows on you over time, but time is one thing that blind dating does not afford. Generally, you are expected to make a decision about the other person after a single meeting that may be as short as one hour!

So! I'm still single because all men are ugly. But what makes them ugly? Well, that's (after a rambling 3 paragraph intro as always) the topic of this post. [Edit, October 25: No, all men aren't really ugly! That was hyperbole for comedic effect. I don't want to be responsible for causing anyone to get an inferiority complex.]

I read recently that generally people are attracted to people who look different from them (an adaptive trait to avoid inbreeding). This seems to be confirmed in my tastes. In terms of coloration, I'm pretty much a genetically watered-down Heidi. So it's not surprising that I go for men who are dark haired, dark eyed, and dark skinned.
Ooh la la!
I have pretty close-set, deep-set eyes, and my tastes run to guys with big, widely spaced girly eyes (but is this a reflection of evolutionary tendencies, or just a reflection of how much I hate my kind of eyes?). Although as soon as I bring this up, someone will say, "You're not fat!" I do, undeniably, have chubbier than average cheeks, and I am attracted to faces that have the exact opposite. All in all, it seems my genetic makeup dictates that I go for a distinctly alien mien.

Except when it comes to mouths. Along with my chubby cheeks, I was graced with tiny rosebud lips (a terrible combination), meaning that I prefer people with a wide mouth and a forest of teeth. Aliens do not have mouths at all.

While all these first-glance preferences can be superseded by a general rapport brought about by someone who charms me by following all the rules to dating Valerie, there is one physical preference that I just can't seem to shake: I only like skinny men. It doesn't seem to matter how long I've known someone or how much fun we can have together. It doesn't matter if he's the world's greatest conversationalist and we have every common interest two humans can have—if he's not at least as thin as me (on a fat-to-height ratio), I just can't seem to get interested romantically. This makes me feel like a superficial jerk, but all the guilt in the world can't persuade me to change my tastes.

This poses two problems. Firstly, it contradicts the genetic theory of attraction. While I imagine myself to be a blubbery elephant of a person, I have it on good authority (namely, everyone who talks to me) that "You're not fat!" And while one can question the veracity of that statement (it seems to explode reflexively out of anyone's mouth as soon as I mention being chubby, which makes me think they might still be saying it if I weighed 300 pounds), I also have it on statistical authority that I'm not fat. So if I were supposed to be attracted to my opposite, I should be ga-ga about heavier men. Secondly, since I'm statistically not fat and the majority of the American population is, this severely limits the pool of dudes who meet my exacting specifications. Especially when you factor in all the hard-to-find personality traits (which could be the topic of several additional posts, so I'm not even going to start) that I also prefer.

So what's an extremely selective girl to do? The answer is, stop going on blind dates. No point in spending your entire income meeting strangers for dinner, only to tell them, "Sorry, you're just too human for me." Therefore I will wait, averting my eyes from happy couples, glaring disdainfully at engagement ring advertisements, and choking back the tears at weddings, until that happy day when I can again fall in love with the wrong guy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Can't think... Wait! I can always think about chocolate!

My life is so stressful right now, I'm always worrying about something. My heart is always racing. The idea of sleeping is totally incomprehensible. Every time I eat, I wish I hadn't. I cry over everything. I feel like I'm watching The Blair Witch Project 24/7. Yes, I actually found that movie terrifying.

I keep looking at my blog and my List of Things to Blog About, but I can't seem to concentrate enough to make an interesting entry. And so, a few minutes ago, while bouncing in my chair and aimlessly opening and closing documents and websites, it occurred to me: Chocolate is always interesting!

Even if the chocolate writer is out of her head on adrenaline, and additionally hyped up with caffeine from the object of her writings, she will still be bound to write something good!


I'm thinking about writing reviews of chocolate bars. No, I'm not going to be one of those chocolate connoisseurs who looks down their nose and mutters things like, "a heady aroma, but a little timid on the finish." That would never work, considering my crippled sense of smell. But I can write about who has the prettiest chocolate bars!

Have you ever opened a chocolate bar and - before your raging appetite did its damage - been struck by the design on the bar? If you have expanded your horizons beyond Hershey's familiar artistry, you doubtlessly have. If you have not, never fear! I am going to bring the art of chocolate to the olfactory-deprived but aesthetically appreciative masses!

Perhaps, should I perform my work with appropriate sophistication, chocolate bar companies shall even begin beating down my door for the privilege of having me rhapsodize about their product!

Today, however, in the absence of doting candy companies lining up on my porch, I shall do a great favor to the brand of chocolate that is conveniently on sale at my store: Dagoba.

I shall explore every contour of its Beaucoup Berries bar and determine if it meets the exacting set of standards known as "my fickle approval."

Dagoba Beaucoup Berries chocolate bar, wrapped and uwrapped

Externally, the Dagoba packaging is pleasing in every way. A nice size, big enough to provide a satisfying sugar rush, but not so big that it inspires visions of yourself as the circus Fat Lady. Dagoba packages come in an appealing rainbow of shades to tempt every appetite. But on the inside...what a disappointment. A chocolate bar like the wall of a log cabin...log on boring log. Although I must give credit to the ease with which you can snap off an appealingly stick-shaped bit, the plain architectural vibe makes the bar as a whole pretty unexciting.

Wow, I can't believe how much time I spent on that futile activity. At least it gives me an excuse to eat lots of chocolate!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bye Bye Buy Buy

This is what my computer likes to tell me these days when it gets blue. It'll be merrily chugging on its way, running the screensaver more often than not, when all of a sudden it will get sad and decide it needs a break. Since my computer's desire for a break rarely coincides with mine, this is a problem. Not a terrible problem, since I have not yet lost any work because of its intransigence, but an annoying problem. Do you know how long it takes to restart my system after an unexpected shutdown!?

So, while I continue to do useless things to the video drivers and the BIOS, and will eventually reinstall Windows, in an attempt to fix this problem, I have little hope of success. I believe that all the problems with my computer stem from the graphics processor, which is unfortunately not a separate card, but a unit that, as far as I can tell, is built into the motherboard, which costs almost 300 dollars to replace. Might as well buy a new computer for that much. And, if perchance, the graphics processor alone is replaceable, the part is impossible to find for sale, and will require removing every other part of the computer to replace it.

So, I believe it is time to shop for a new system. It feels like only yesterday that I purchased this lovely green Dell laptop, but actually, it was 2 and a half years ago, and with planned obsolescence being what it is, that's about as long as anyone can expect a lovely green Dell laptop to work well. My Toshiba was 3 and a half years old and still kicking—minus 2 USB ports and the DVD drive—when I finally let it go. I would try to keep this one around a little longer—after all, the occasional Blue Screen of Death is nothing compared to spending your whole month's income on a computer—except that I'm afraid of the future. I need a backup system, so that I can continue to do my job in the inevitable event of catastrophic failure.

Thus, I shop. And I've discovered some interesting things about my computer-shopping habits. For instance, I've become obsessed with graphics cards. I feel it is absolutely necessary that my next computer should have a replaceable graphics card AND that its graphics card should not be some rinky-dink Intel Mobile Express Chipset, but should instead be a high-powered workhorse that will never fail me. Never.

This is silly because (1) the only reason to have a high-powered workhorse for a graphics card is if you play 3-D video games. Which I don't. Well, I might. But I'm afraid to try because I'm afraid to try. And (2) no matter how high-powered the graphics card is, it will still fail me if it is so inclined. But, if it's one of those big fancy schmancy ones, it is more likely that I'll be able to buy a new one online should it be the uncooperative sort.

My next matter of excessive preference is the hard drive. I don't really care about capacity. My current hard drive holds 140 GB and still has room, and all the new drives out there are significantly bigger. But ever since I was shopping for my last computer and was advised to get a computer with a fast hard drive, I've been unwilling to settle for anything less. 5400 RPM? Pshaw. Not good enough for me! Unfortunately, the computers with 7200 RPM hard disks are few and far between. I'm still not sure if a faster hard drive makes for significantly better performance, but I'm afraid to step down now.

And of course, to top it all off, I want the power without the weight and without the cost. My current system weighs something over 4 pounds. All the ones that I find online that meet my exacting specifications weigh 6 to 8 pounds! Unbelievable! AND, most of them cost over a thousand dollars! I refuse to spend over a thousand dollars for a computer, since I spent that much on this hunk of junk, thinking it would be my Old Faithful, and here I am replacing it before 3 years are up! What's the point of spending for quality if it's all going to fall apart anyway?

I'm making this very hard for myself. Now I'm wondering if I can get a desktop for home use. Desktops don't get battered around as much, so they last longer, and replacement parts are cheaper and easier to install. Then I'd have to keep all my files on an external hard drive, and bring it along with my demoted laptop any time I needed to work away from home. I'd also need to make sure all the software I use is installed on both systems. Naah. Too complicated. And besides, how would I fulfill my frequent need to do my work while lying on the floor? I think that, as a professional who works from home, I should just resign myself to the necessity of periodic replacement of the equipment. I can probably write it off on my taxes.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


There are so many things I just can't work up the energy to do right now, even though it would be a really good idea. Here they are:
  1. Designing nametags for Global Deposit Summit attendees
  2. Investigating restaurants for Global Deposit Summit dining options
  3. Replying to potential client about website SEO
  4. Posting content on current client website
  5. Listing things on eBay
  6. Working on that music video I've been making
  7. Playing that computer game I've been playing
  8. Decorating that T-shirt that needs resuscitation
  9. Submitting that T-shirt design to
  10. Paying the bills and organizing the receipts
Here's what I feel like doing:
  1. Carrying boxes up to the attic
  2. Delivering a letter to the mailbox down the street
  3. Reading
  4. Crosswords
  5. Making lists
My body has not been good to me of late. Here are some things that are wrong with it.
  1. Tonsillitis followed by a head cold last week
  2. Terrible stuffy nose, likely due to allergies, today
  3. Arthritic left hip, especially after a period of inactivity
  4. Strained left elbow from ??? finally getting better
  5. Dry lips cracking on the left corner
  6. Arthritic left wrist that gets contrary whenever I work it too hard
  7. Right big toe that erupts into pain if I stand on it wrong
  8. Bruised right knee from various encounters with milk crates
  9. Sprained back from lifting crate of cheese this morning. Ow, ow, ow.
Numbers 1 and 2 inspire me to create this more in-depth list about my chronic stuffy nose--a source of continual agony to me. I keep resorting to ever more novel remedies that mostly don't work. Here they are:
  1. Sudafed PE (ineffectual)
  2. Sudafed original (possibly works if I double the dose and don't have too stuffy of a nose to begin with)
  3. Claritin, Alavert (ineffectual)
  4. Oxymetazoline HCl (works like a charm, but can only be taken for 3 days and cannot be used "frequently")
  5. Benzedrex (works pretty well, but also can only be used for 3 days and not "frequently") 
  6. Vicks inhaler (ineffectual)
  7. NasalCrom (Does it work? Doesn't it? Not very well if it does, but I keep taking it anyway)
  8. Benadryl (Doesn't work, but helps me fall asleep when I can't breathe)
  9. Aspirin (ineffectual)
  10. Ibuprofen (ineffectual)
  11. Saline drops (Slightly helpful for 5 minutes)
  12. Blowing nose (helps for about 2 seconds)
  13. Plastic surgery (works until septum reverts to its pre-surgery crooked state and gets inflamed with ever-increasing frequency)
  14. Exercise (I can usually breathe as long as I am upright and moving about. This works until I get tired.)
  15. Steamy shower (ineffectual)
  16. Turmeric suspension in water (Tried this for the first time today. It might have helped. It might have just been a fluke)
Alternate routes to relief of stuffy nose for consideration
  1. Visit allergist and learn if there is an avoidable cause of congestion
  2. Visit ENT and learn if my deviated septum is more devious than originally thought and whether it's advisable to try and have it straightened again (not my idea of a fun time)
  3. Acquire prescription for decongestant that actually works
  4. Drill new hole in nose. At this point, this is sounding pretty appealing.
**Edit September 10: Add my left knee to the list of physical ailments! Must've strained it while walking funny yesterday to avoid hurting my back.**

    Saturday, September 4, 2010

    Short Shorts

    Today, I present to you a few random thoughts about various topics that just don't have the stamina for a full-fledged entry on their own.

    That's not a chicken, that's a ... chicken.

    In the store recently, I was privy to a conversation between a mother and her young son, which ended with the mother telling her little protégé, "That's not a chicken--that's a rooster!" Parents, why must you propagate this kind of misinformation to your offspring? Roosters and chickens are not mutually exclusive. Roosters are, in fact, a subcategory of chickens. The female counterpart of the rooster is known as the "hen." Do I need to draw you a Venn diagram?

    While we're talking about chickens

    Do you ever have days when one moment, you're in the depths of despair, and the next moment, you're whistling the Chicken Dance? I do. It's disconcerting.

    A brief history of technology

    In the Stone Age, they invented the wheel. In the Iron Age, they invented the ferrous wheel.
    Sorry if that one's already been done.

    Rhymes with English

    Here's a new word for all you whose love for language overshadows your love life: "singlish." Use it to describe your relationship status when you are in love with someone who doesn't love you back, are in the middle of a breakup, have a long-term friend with benefits, are hopelessly addicted to someone you've only met online, or are otherwise indisposed to starting a new relationship even though you're not technically in one. It turns out I didn't invent this word, but I only found it in use after I'd already thought it up on my own, so I consider it my own ingenious invention. And what a useful invention for me, since I'm about as lucky in love as a soldier ant. Now I'll have a single concise word to describe my numerous failures--much better than my usual "Uuuhhhh..."

    Yeah, I did have to draw you a Venn diagram.

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010

    Hair Today, Hair Tomorrow

    I'll have you know that this is my 111th post, which, if anything, is even cooler than my 100th!
    Well, my new haircut has met with mixed responses. The majority of them have been favorable (those who didn't approve have mostly either been good liars or had the good sense to keep quiet), but I got a few negative reactions too.
    There was my coworker who was so shocked, she just kept walking through the store exclaiming, "You didn't cut your hair! You did not cut your hair! What does your mama think?" to which I responded honestly, "I'm not sure if she knows yet." (Got to call my mother!) But really, don't you think the days when my mother could dictate my appearance are long past? My mom stopped telling me how to dress when I was in kindergarten. Actually, I wish she had encouraged me to dress in a more socially acceptable fashion... I wonder what kind of person I'd be today if I hadn't been so dowdy when I was a kid. But I digress.

    There was my Facebook friend who commented, "VALERIE YOU DIDNT!!!!! :(" Hey, now, friend-who-shall-remain-nameless, you weren't the one who had to brush out this overgrown mop every day! You weren't the one who was facing depression due to a lack of new styles to put your hair into (and a dwindling number of tried-and-true styles that were succumbing one by one the gravitational forces continuously growing stronger against your continuously growing mass of hair). Perhaps you appreciated my hair long, but I myself had had more than enough.

    Then there was the friend I told over the phone, whose response was an appalled, "Why did you do that?" I answered, "Because I got tired of it. None of the styles looked good any more." And he said, with murder in his voice, "Did someone tell you that?" No, I told him, and I thought to myself vindictively, "This wouldn't be such a shock if you had actually been paying attention when I told you I was planning to do it!"

    But regardless of my own personal opinions on these few negative replies in a sea of compliments, one thing remains a fact: It will grow back. And I will grow it back. Because that's what I always do. Just wait a couple years...and in the meantime, relax already! And enjoy all the fun short hair styles that I will discover and wear for your amusement.

    Friday, August 27, 2010

    Doing the do

    Vanity dictates that I share this story with you.

    It began in September of 2004, when I cut my hair short for the last time, and ends today in 2010, when I cut my hair short for the new last time. As you know if you read this blog regularly, I was in quite a quandary over whether I should go under the scissors, but by a week later, I was pretty sure I was going to do it, and the only question was when.

    After my mid-August trip to Ohio was the answer. That way all my family could see me with my familiar keratinous tentacles, and afterward, I could devote my attention to finding a salon without having vacation packing to distract me.

    I really did need to devote my attention to finding a salon, because, after going without a haircut for nearly 6 years, I wanted to make sure that when the big change happened, I would get it done right. Whenever I cruised the streets, I kept my eyes peeled for hair cutting establishments. One day when I was shopping, I stopped into two salons in the neighborhood. At the first, Shear Pleasure, the lady at the front desk was outrageously friendly, answered all my questions, and gave me a brochure. At the second, there was nobody at the front desk, all 5 people in the store looked at me when I walked in the door but no one said anything. I stood there for a few moments, awkwardly waiting for some acknowledgement, then I picked up a brochure and left. Turns out their prices were higher than the prices at the other place. And for what, I ask? Hostility and superior attitudes? The second place, by the way, was Viva Salon, so if you're ever planning to get your hair cut in College Park, I recommend you don't go there.

    I set up an appointment at Shear Pleasure a few days later. The night before my appointment, I braided my hair and chopped most of it off, partly to ensure that it was in good condition to donate, partly to save myself the trauma of losing 5 years of work in a public place, and partly to obviate any fees that the salon might charge for cutting longer hair. (I'm still not sure if they charge extra for cutting your hair completely off if it's long, or if they only charge extra if you have long hair and you're getting it trimmed.)

    I documented the process on this Facebook video, and I am pleased to say that the results make me happy. SO looking forward to not spending nearly an hour every day brushing out my tangles!

    Here's a clip from my video.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    Past takes on present in the tensest battle of the century!

    While writing my last post, I blundered right into the grammar conundrum to end all grammar conundrums--"can and have."

    It's a phraselet (←neologism by Valerie!) tossed around casually by English-speaking communicators everywhere—but when you stop to think about it, it makes no sense!

    In Monday's post, I was going to write, "...corporate entities can and have defended the exclusive rights to a color," when I realized that clause would be a grammatical impossibility. If you subject it to the acid test (the same one by which you determine whether you should say "you and I" or "you and me") by removing the "and" and all questionable words following it, you get a mixed-tense mishmash that would make any deceased English teacher turn over in her grave. To whit, "corporate entities can defended the exclusive rights..."

    In my search for a grammatically correct alternative, I produced the decidedly ungraceful (and dubiously grammatical) "corporate entities can (and have done so) defend the exclusive rights..." that appears in the published post.

    Surprisingly, the grammarians seem to have nothing to say on this subject. In fact, as my Google search for "'can and have' grammar" revealed, the phrase is used in many a grammar guide, but never discussed in one.

    My unique puzzlement over this phrase makes me feel as though (that's right, I said "as though" instead of "like" because the grammar guides do have plenty to say on that subject!) I am either:
    1. Very clever for noticing something no one else does,
    2. Obnoxiously pedantic and should stop obsessing over ungrammatical phrases if they don't obstruct meaning, and probably should stop obsessing over grammar in general, or
    3. Very stupid and missing something obvious.

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    That's my purple! You can't have it!

    "The color PINK is a registered trademark of Owens Corning."

    When I read this statement at the foot of the Owens Corning homepage, I was taken aback.

    What? Pink? How can you trademark a color? Especially something as generic as "pink!" I've heard of some rich people developing their own proprietary Pantone color, but trademarking "pink?" Just plain pink? Breast cancer support groups everywhere would be doomed. Newborn baby girls' wardrobes would be decimated. Maybe they only mean PINK with all capital letters. Trademarking "pink?" Is that even possible?

    I was so appalled by this concept, that I had to some research. It turns out that color trademarking is, in fact, an accepted practice, and (as are all legal matters) very complicated and subject to subtle rules and the interpretation of judges. Check out this page on color trademarks to learn just how corporate entities can (and have done so) defend the exclusive rights to a color.

    What I take away from my readings is that, if a color is very closely associated with a good or service a company provides, then they can legally prevent competitors from using that color. However, non-competitors—that is, people providing a distinctly different type of good or service—are free to use the color with abandon. So, breast cancer groups are probably safe from the wrath (and legal action) of Owens Corning, unless they decide to go into the insulation business.

    Friday, August 20, 2010

    To classify the unclassifiable song.... File that under "Musicals," by the way!

    Today a coworker said, "outside they're listening to hard rock, and in here it's techno." By techno, he meant the stuff I was listening to. I wanted to tell him: actually, this kind of music is called "Happy Hardcore." But he was already gone. And he probably wouldn't have cared anyway. I think music phylogeny is a topic of obsession only to me (and now, by dint of their role as a captive audience, my readers!). But I'm still just a learner in this vast library of nomenclature. I'm starting to get a handle on identifying the various electronic dance subgenres that I like to listen to, but other styles of music still mystify me.

    Like, what makes certain kinds of rock "alternative?" What's really the difference between hip-hop and rap? That stuff I hear on the radio – that I just lump into a big bundle I call "pop" – would some of it be better classified as "R&B?" Is "Indie" really a musical style, or is it more of a lifestyle? If "indie" artists sign on to a big label, then do they still get called "indie?"

    Of course, none of this would be a problem except that I'm anal retentive and won't be satisfied until there's a place for everything and everything's in its place. Other people just throw all their digital music in a giant folder and call it a day. I have to rename the file according to artist and song name, and put it in a folder corresponding to genre. Then I have to make sure all the ID3 tags are complete with album name and release year duly noted, any alternate genres listed in the "notes" field, the composer and performer credited separately if they are both well known, and mood and tempo listed if I think about it. (Some day, I hope all these ridiculous practices will help me create auto-playlists that respond to my every whim. But first I have to wait until the auto-playlist-building technology improves to meet my exacting requirements.)

    The other source of my taxonomy problem is my pretty darn eclectic tastes. I don't think many people have media libraries filled with equal parts classical, dance, video game soundtrack, oldies, new age, and modern rock (Plus a smattering of country, various forms of electronic, synthpop, show tunes, rap, and—well, you get the picture). Actually, maybe they do, but all I know is, when coworkers wander in to the sound of my beloved recording of The Hampsterdance Song, and then later they pass by while I'm blasting Eminem (quietly—it's work you know!), they act mighty amused. I'm a nice girl by reputation, so one bats an eye when they learn I listen to Rogers and Hammerstein soundtracks...but they practically fall over in shock when I tell them I have stuff by Marilyn Manson too.

    I can't help it! I like what I like! If it makes me happy, I like it. If it sounds strange and interesting, I like it. If it mirrors my mood when my mood is grouchy or depressed, I like it. I am not bound by genre. I like my classical music as much as any snob, but I'm not so highfalutin' that I can't appreciate a good rap when I hear it (er, let's rephrase that to "a rap that I think is good" I don't claim to know the first thing about what constitutes quality in rap music). I like dance music because it's fun—but I like lots of dark electro/experimental stuff because it's ominous. Unlike many people I know, I refuse to hate country on the grounds that it's country. I have stuff that's new age. I have stuff that's old as the hills. I have stuff that I only like for the lyrics, and I have other stuff that I completely ignore the lyrics of and focus only on the sound.

    I may sound like I'm making myself out to be some kind of benevolent, egalitarian, music-loving angel, but the point I'm trying to make (in the most self-congratulatory way possible, of course!) is that my broad tastes sure make it difficult for me to indulge my obsessive-compulsive side. I imagine, with a certain amount of wistfulness, how easy my life would be if I only listened to, oh, hard rock. Just one genre. No infinite categories to break down and define.

    By the way, anyone know what genre to call Fish Heads, by Barnes and Barnes?

    Monday, August 16, 2010

    Writing on Seeing

    Well, it's been a while since I last wrote, and being unmotivated to come up with anything new, I'll just dredge up this old blog entry I wrote for my Words and Images class. Not that I remember what "chapter" I was talking about.

    September 19, 2007

    I really loved this chapter (1) in Seeing & Writing! It just reminded me - and I love being reminded of this - how everything in the world can be fascinating if you only take the time to pay attention to it. It's so gratifying to find yourself really appreciating such small, commonplace, oft-overlooked things--a band-aid (ahem, adhesive bandage) plastered to the road, blackened in the places where it's been ground into the asphalt by hundreds of passing oddly shaped droplet of water on your desk...a tube of toothpaste shaped like a whale...

    I'm including pictures, but probably they'll mean nothing to anybody but me (by now, they mean much less than they did, even to me. I think a good deal of the magic that comes from observing the ordinary simply exists in the first moment you see it), but here they are--two items that, for a moment at least, sent my mind soaring towards some sort of revelation (it still hasn't gotten all the way there).
    What a cool water droplet!a toothpaste whale!

    I could probably devote a lifetime to exploring the wonders of the commonplace, but I do have two other projects to be working on, so I'll end by sharing just one excerpt from the chapter, which was this quote from the essay, "Seeing": "Thoreau, in an expansive mood, exulted, 'What a rich book might be made about buds, including, perhaps, sprouts!'" I love how he tacks on the part about sprouts, as if it were an afterthought, and then adds an exclamation point, as if it were the most thrilling afterthought that ever occurred to him. Not many people could wax so ecstatic about a vegetable, but the mind attuned to buds and other growing things could no doubt devote a lifetime to exploring the wonders of sprouts!

    Of course, maybe I'm just in an expansive mood myself, but I'm pretty thrilled to be living in a world where every little thing can be the cause of endless fascination.

    Friday, August 6, 2010

    Fun with phrases that employ similar phonemes to humorous effect

    It's true that all last post, I glorified Melvil Dewey and his campaign to simplify the English language. But for all that I love order and tidiness and systems that make sense, I'm kind of glad he didn't succeed.

    If he had, I never would have had the opportunity to feel like a big shot for getting my photo in the paper prior to my appearance at the Toledo Blade Spelling Bee. Yeah! Spelling bees are fun! And if Melvil had succeeded, I also never would have experienced the crushing defeat that comes after forgetting to put the P in "neuropathy." ... Never mind. Spelling bees aren't that much fun after all.

    But if we reformed our language, we'd also lose the opportunity to ponder those funny inconsistencies that are so...ponderable. Like, why is it that a "prisoner" is someone in prison, but a "jailer" is someone who puts people in jail? See? Inconsistencies are fun! Oh—here's another one! Why is the suffix "ee" always used to convert a transitive verb into its object...except in the case of "attendee", in which "ee" is used to convert a transitive verb into its subject? Huh. That was a little complicated. Maybe inconsistencies aren't that much fun after all, either.

    But wait! I know one thing about the English language that will always be fun! Puns! If all words that sounded the same were spelled the same, not only would their meanings be pretty confusing, but lots of jokes would lose their effect. In honor of jokes, take a gander at these uproarious buckets of humor! (Yes, I made them up.)
    Q:What do you call the person who gives the central speech at a grain farmers' convention?
    A: The quinoa-oat speaker!
    Did you hear the one about the raisin who decided to write its life story?
    Yeah. It's called, "As I Lay Drying."

    How about the one about the compulsive crafter?
    The title is, "As I Lay DIYing."
    Cue the laugh track, and give thanks for English!

    Friday, July 30, 2010

    Melvil Dewey

    If my heroes were a brain, Emily Dickinson would be the artistic right hemisphere. Melvil Dewey would be the logic-loving left.

    Melvil Dewey is the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System for classifying books in a library, and anyone who makes classification systems is OK by me. He advocated for the use of the metric system, which is really the only logical way to measure things. But the real reason he ends up in my little collection of heroes is because of his penchant for spelling reform.

    Melvil Dewey looked at the ridiculously inconsistent ways in which English words are spelled, and he didn't just grumble about it like some of us. Nor did he take advantage of it and go on to win lots of spelling bees. No, he did something to change it.

    Melvil Dewey wrote like this: "Speling Skolars agree that we hav the most unsyentifik, unskolarli, illojikal & wasteful speling ani languaj ever ataind." And he wasn't always known as Melvil. He was originally named Melville, but only attained linguistic fame after he'd dropped all the superfluous L's and E's. He even tried to change his last name to Dui, but had less luck getting it accepted.

    Spelling reform! It's Occam's Razor meets the Queen's English! Melvil Dewey! He's the poster child for spelling reform!

    While I've heard that Mr. Dewey was kind of overbearing and hard to get along with, I think on the whole, he and his eccentric ways with language make him well worthy of a spot in my hero boat.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010

    An Ode to Emily

    The following is a piece I wrote on Emily Dickinson for a prototype magazine for people with depression. Consequently, the article focuses on depression and skims over the other thing about Emily that I love—our shared inability to form healthy relationships in the real world.  Because of this common trait, we'd probably never have been friends if we met, but separated by several hazy decades and united by stirring poetry, I get to feel like we're good friends! And now, on to the article.

    In the long history of mood disorder sufferers in the arts, one person in particular stands out to me as the ambassador of the depressed—Emily Dickinson. Reading her poetry might at one moment carry one straight into sadness’ firmest embrace, and at another moment, restore one to hope with the simplest imagery of joy. Though I’ve not made it all the way through her voluminous writings, the ones I have read mirror my heart in such a way that I consider Emily a friend of mine…a long-lost sister. It might be a tad presumptuous to speak so familiarly of this person I’ve never met—but what I do know, and what I’ve read of her work, have convinced me that that she is my literary alter ego. And I’ll warrant that a good many depression sufferers might agree.

    In Emily’s time – the mid 1800’s – depression was not a disease that doctors recognized or diagnosed. But Emily’s life certainly shows the signs. After the age of thirty, she hardly left her family’s property—sometimes never even left the house. She led the kind of solitary life that is both born of depression and fuels it.

    Her writings speak of a broken heart, of tragic loss, of the truth in agony, of a subtle yearning for death. Her words take all the thoughts in my tortured soul and distill them to perfect clarity—and make them beautiful. In Emily’s poetry, the broken heart is elevated to glory: Proud of my broken heart since thou didst break it / Proud of the pain I did not feel till thee... The tragic loss is an avenue to spirituality: At least to pray is left, is left / O Jesus! in the air… It is a true artist who can reveal the glimmer of loveliness in anguish, without letting the anguish lose its sting. But Emily’s poetry succeeds again and again.

    Wherever I look amongst Emily’s poems, I find my timid lost self, speaking in her voice. But the thing that I find most remarkable is, even though Emily is so adept at expressing the pain that lies within every depressed heart, she is equally adept at dispelling it. One of my favorite poems in her repertoire goes thus:
    HOPE is the thing with feathers
    That perches in the soul,
    And sings the tune without the words,
    And never stops at all…
    Emily’s hope never stopped singing. It is her hope that reminds me there is a light at the end of every tunnel. Actually, not just a light—a cute fuzzy bird! What more could I hope for? Once in a poem, Emily wished, If I can ease one life the aching…I shall not live in vain. Emily, you have succeeded. Thank you for your wisdom and your hope.

    Readers, Emily Dickinson’s poetry is freely available for anyone who needs it. Visit her anthology, The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, at

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    My Hero!

    Numerous times as a youngster (and a high-school student, and a college applicant, and a job candidate...), I was asked to name "my hero." I always found this task highly distasteful, because I never had a good answer.

    In elementary school, my classmates seemed to usually pick their favorite athletes, musicians, or family members. I, too, eventually chose the family member route, not because I strongly idolized my relatives, but because I knew them well enough to give plausible reasons why any of them could be my hero—if I were to have one. I didn't, of course, since, as an extreme introvert from birth, I never spent much time thinking about other people.

    As we got older, my peers grew more high-minded, selecting their heroes from a pool of upstanding charitable, intellectual, and courageous figures from the present and the past. Following their lead, I dabbled a bit in citing Gandhi as my hero. He was supposed to be all about peace, right? I like peace. But really, I didn't know anything about him. I'm not sure if I spelled his name right. I'm not even sure if I'm talking about Mahatma or Mohandas Gandhi. And what he actually did to promote peace? Well, that's a little hazy. All this uncertainty was making me feel like a downright fraud, so I reverted back to familial heroes.

    I've realized since then, that while some people seem to easily become infatuated with public figures (Teens with their movie posters, anyone? Adults with their Obama shirts?), I rarely develop even a passing interest in people I haven't met. And thus my hero-deficiency may be neatly explained. However, it was only after I stopped being forced to write essays on this awkward subject that I realize what I would write – with confidence – should the need arise.

    My heroes are not the great instigators of social change that I always felt should be my heroes. They're not scientific geniuses or founders of great religions. They're not even my favorite athletes. They are, like me, simple people with a love for words. It seems obvious now, that as a bookworm with limited social graces, I would choose literary figures as my role models. I don't have to relate to the people—I just have to relate to what they do!

    Of course, now that I've realized where my true loyalties lie, I can't be content to select just one hero—and surely I'm entitled to a couple, after a lifetime of having none at all! Finally, after years of being obliged to half-heartedly endorse people who never really struck a gong in my heart, I can name my heroes with enthusiasm! So, over the next few days, I'll introduce you to a couple of the people I consider role models and kindred spirits.

    Friday, July 23, 2010

    An Eye-Opening Experience

    Originally, I was planning on writing a post on the way I (and people in general, I think) always find something to be discontent about. Whenever we get what we want, we find something else to want instead. I was going to discuss, as an example, how when I'm feeling fat, all I can think about is how fat I am. But when I get over that, then I find myriad other things to hate about myself—such as the breadth of my shoulders, the narrowness of my mouth, the knobbiness of my knuckles. It's always something. I was going to talk about that, but then I ran across a much more interesting topic.

    You see, the object of my self-loathing these days is my eyelids. Yes, my eyelids.  It seems to me that almost everyone else has fairly discreet eyelids. You see maybe a millimeter or two of the upper lids before they disappear under a fold of skin that I'd consider part of the eyebrow. If you happen to be East Asian, you probably don't have any visible eyelid at all!

    Eyelids done right

    Not so with me. I've got eyelids the size of Delaware. If I look straight at you, you can see the contour of almost my entire eyeball behind the upper lid! This, in my humble opinion, is not an attractive effect. It makes me look perpetually sad and sleepy. Possibly bug-eyed as well.

    And so, bemoaning my fate as the ugliest human being ever to walk this earth, I set out to determine why this is so. I considered briefly that my eyes were set too deep into my skull, but rejected that, as it would cause just the opposite of a bug-eyed look. Then I considered that they might be set too far forward in my skull, but experiments with pushing my eyeballs back farther into the sockets (not a behavior that I would recommend, but I did it for science!) just caused my upper lids to look droopy and the "crease" (as it is known to those familiar with makeup tips) separating my eyelid and eyebrow to disappear entirely. So I concluded that my eye sockets are simply too big! There is a space between them and the eyes themselves—creating a hollow into which my flesh sinks, rather than folding neatly on the surface like eyelids are supposed to do! This also provides a tidy explanation for the circles under my eyes that persist no matter how much I sleep.

    Following this epiphany, I set out on an image search for "eyes" to see just how uncommon my eyelid configuration is. The fruits of my search yielded the pictures of eyelids done right that you have been admiring above, but no pictures of eyelids that look like mine. They did, however, include a few results that led me to another epiphany. As I usually discover when I become excessively interested in a subject that I think is unclassifiable, there is a WORD for the object of my obsession—and that word is "heavy-lidded."

    Funny, I have seen that term in literature numerous times, yet I never gave thought to how it would actually look outside the pages of a novel. But there it is, staring me in my heavy-lidded face!

    The next phase in my journey of discovery occurred when I learned that a synonym for heavy-lidded eyes is "bedroom eyes." Now that was a shocker. See, I've always heard "bedroom eyes" used in a complimentary way. And since, in my mind, the defining characteristic of beautiful eyes is size (the bigger, the better—and if you look like an anime character, that's the best), I always assumed "bedroom eyes" meant "eyes the size of an entire bedroom." No, it turns out bedroom eyes are called so because they look sleepy, like the eyes of someone who's about to go to bed. Apparently, bedroom eyes are considered "sultry" and "seductive" because of other things people do in bed when they're not sleeping.

    Apparently as well, bedroom eyes are best exemplified by the late film star Bette Davis. Some people think Bette Davis' eyes are just the cat's pajamas. I personally was never impressed when I saw pictures of Bette Davis, but it's comforting to know that my funny-looking eyelids are in such well-respected company.

    ↑ Bette Davis' Eyes . . . My eyes ↑

    That's right, world! I've got Bette Davis eyes! (I even have her asymmetrical eyebrow elevation!) And, while "sultry" and "seductive' are not exactly the look I was aspiring to, I guess I'll take what I can get.

    The moral of this story is, (in rhyme, just as in the best Aesop's fables):
    Even if there's something about you that you hate,
    Someone else probably thinks it's great.

    Sunday, July 18, 2010

    This is my 100th post

    I was watching my list of blog posts, so I could make a big fanfare when I hit 100. Then I logged in today, and saw that I already had 100 posts! I was very sad that I had missed my 100th. But then I realized that I'd only reached 100 posts because one of them was a draft of this post. So this really is my 100th post! Isn't that cool?

    In honor of that coolness, I want to share with you just one thing that I think is cool. Just one. And, right here in this sentence, I will describe this one cool thing with words like "tight," and "sick," because I have this great love for new slang terms, but I lack the confidence to use them in everyday conversation.

    Let me introduce you to the greatest computer game ever invented. Forget about MMORPGs, abandon your first-person shooters and your high-falutin' graphics cards. Instead, play this super 2-D puzzle game that was originally written for DOS. Oilcap. Go on. Just download it. You won't regret it. It is particularly fitting, considering the big BP fiasco of recent months.

    Thursday, July 15, 2010

    Where I'm gonna go when I die

    Speaking of things being at the end of their life span...the trusty pocket calculator that I've had since 8th grade (that's 14 years, folks) is starting to randomly display blank diodes. Its time is near...And I'll miss it when it goes!
    Last time we talked, I was talking to you about what happens to consumer goods at the end of their life span.

    Today, I'd like to talk to you about what happens to consumers at the end of their life span.

    In America, a very popular way to dispose of bodies is to dress them up fancy, pump their now-defunct circulatory systems full of chemicals, seal them up in a fancy, expensive box, and then cover them up with a ton of dirt and a fancy, expensive rock. This rather ludicrous practice has its roots in the fear of decomposition (obviously something that we should all be worrying about once we're dead) and has no doubt been encouraged by the funerary industry, which stands to rake in a good bit of profit when corpses are provided with their own cosmeticians.

    There are other options. Many people choose cremation, which allows the remains of the dear departed to be scattered romantically across bodies of water or favorite haunts from the time before the dear departed were technically capable of haunting anything. In some cases, cremation also allows the dead body to be stored in a very compact manner so that it can be cherished forever by adoring family members. Cremation is significantly cheaper than its cousin, the extravagant burial, but just think of the carbon dioxide emissions!

    Actually, there is no other option that I can think of that's in common use. But obviously neither of those options are satisfactory to a tree-hugging hippie who would rather die than let any of those earth-scarring things be done to her dead body.


    Well, moving on! There are still other options--even if they're not as popular!

    I've heard, if you happen to live in the right third-world countries, you can have your body placed somewhere out in the open so carrion-eaters can have their way with you. Unfortunately, I do not live in one of those countries, and I don't think that practice is ever going to fly in the US.

    So, what's a good eco-conscious American citizen to do?

    The answer is, find yourself a good green cemetery and do your best to ensure that's where you end up!
    They are out there. I don't feel much like writing about it at the moment, because I think I've dripped sarcasm over just about every tradition related to respecting the dead, and if I don't want to join their (highly respectable) ranks, I'd better shut my figurative mouth now.

    But here, visit these links: