Thursday, June 30, 2011

Taking back the night!

Something I've been thinking about a lot is circadian rhythms. Well, not really. After all, I quit being a biology major 6 years ago. But I have been thinking about my own personal sleep schedule. I've been thinking about how I hit my peak of energy at about 8 in the a.m. and slowly degenerate from there, and how it's unfortunate that society doesn't seem entirely friendly to people with my habits. I can't help being a morning person, and I've been thinking about how the world might be improved if schedules were tailored to Valerie Time. I also have been thinking that I've blogged about this topic before, but I can't help being forgetful either! I can't find any previous posts on the subject, so I might as well cover it again.

I've noticed, of late, and of earlier, how frequently I avoid activities that take place in the evenings. I commit myself to them with the best of intentions: choir rehearsals at 7pm, volunteer events at 6, social gatherings starting anywhere from 4 in the afternoon to 9 at night. I RSVP with abandon, and then as the evening arises, I suddenly fall victim to an array of psychiatric maladies and lose all my resolve.

I have a reputation among my social circle for bowing out of pre-planned activities. I have headed out for a game night and made it as far as somewhere on the subway before being overwhelmed with hypochondria and heading back for home. I have gone to parties and left as soon as I arrived in the parking lot, suddenly hysterical from social anxiety. I have canceled countless dates simply because I didn't feel up to it when date night rolled around. I skip choir, volunteer events, and outings with friends, because I'm feeling "icky." That's Valerie-speak for a combination of "nauseated" and "out-of-sorts."

Sure, part of this is cowardice. And part of it is conditioning, and part of it is an adventitious mélange of choice genetic tendencies. But part of it is timing!

I don't think this would happen so often if these events occurred in the mornings. In the mornings, I'm raring to go! I can take on the whole world! I could even, perchance, participate in something as terrifying as small talk! In fact, I think I could even stomach these events if they happened in the early afternoons. Directly after work, I have no problem with going out into the world. Heck, I'm out in it already—might as well stay there. But once I've had a chance to retreat to my home, I attach myself there with soft fuzzy emotional Velcro and lose all fortitude. Once I've had a chance to relax for the day, I cannot unrelax and steel myself to face the horror commonly known as "other people."

So, from now on, let's start arranging real-world events to occur in the mornings, and leave the nights open for the socially-challenged bloggers of the world to retreat to the safety of home, the Internet, and their beds.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Do you see anything that needs to be changed in this sentence?

I can't take it any more!

I've been keeping my mouth closed on this issue, but no more! Grammar Girl must speak out at last!

Why, for the love of everything true and beautiful, must recording artists insist on cannibalizing our venerable language by using Internet English in their song titles!? WHY?

In text messaging, this truncated form of English, where nearly every word is reduced to a letter and every phrase is reduced to its initials, is almost acceptable, because typing on a keyboard where every key is half the size of the fingertip trying to tap it can be too tedious to bother with protocol. In instant messaging, this is less forgivable, but still not unforgivable--at least for those who have not fully mastered the art of rapid touch typing.

But in publishing (music, written, or otherwise), we have people called editors. Every bit of media released into the wild is subjected to extensive review. If the songwriter is somehow incapable of using a keyboard (at least, the kind that says QWERTY instead of Casio), then someone else at the recording company should be able to pick up the slack and excise these deformed words from the album.

But for whatever reason, they don't do it! And we end up with mutant song titles like "We R Who We R" (Ke$ha), and "U+UR Hand" (Pink). Katy Perry is guilty in the first degree, churning out "Hot N Cold" and "Ur so Gay" one album, and taking spelling to a whole new low with "California Gurls" the next.

I would assume this was a recent trend, but for the existence of the linguistic atrocity "Nothing compares 2 U," which first came out in the mid-80's.

Somebody, explain to me what we gain by replacing real words with single letters. Does it really contribute some meaning to the song title? Do we do it because being a musician is not a creative enough job and we must compensate for it by creatively modifying our language? Or is it just for the sole purpose of annoying Valerie and grammarians like her? And am I just adding fuel to the fire when I give this rampant illiteracy coverage on my blog?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Liz Lovely Peanut Butter Classics

As promised, another review of giant cookies is headed your way! Today's subject: Liz Lovely Peanut Butter Classics.

Liz Lovely Peanut Butter Classics.
A favorite among housecats everywhere.
I first experienced these cookies when a case of them was accidentally shipped to my store. When the distributor had failed to collect them after several months, they went into the communal pot, and I grabbed a few packages. I was entranced - free giant cookies! What more could one want? - but I wasn't doing cookie reviews back then. Let's see how they hold up when actual standards are applied to them.

A bag of two, which I bought at MOM in Columbia for $3.59, contains 180 grams of cookie--a fair amount. Price-wise, I'd say these are on a par with your average giant cookie. If they are a bit more expensive, it's because they are vegan and mostly organic. But taste-wise--that's what we're really curious about.

And the answer is: for a vegan cookie, not bad. There are several varieties, but I chose peanut butter because it is one of my favorite flavors. I didn't really detect much peanut in this cookie, but that could be due to my chronic stuffy nose--a good reason why I am not a food reviewer for a living. But it was sweet and chocolatey, and tasty enough.

Texture is probably the most important factor to me in judging a cookie, and these are a bit too crumbly for my liking. The entire bottom surface is coated in chocolate, so I'd been keeping them in the fridge to keep them from melting. But even after thawing, they were more brittle than I like my cookies to be. The golden standard for cookie texture is as follows: If you can break off a piece with your hand, without much effort and without propelling cookie crumbs all about the room, then you have a perfect texture. But alas, after attempting to break off a piece of this cookie, I had cookie crumbs propelled all about the room.

The bottom line: While these cookies are an acceptable fix for one's giant cookie craving, I will not be making any special trips to Columbia to procure more of them.

Taste: 3 Stars
Price: 3 Stars

Liz Lovely does make a chocolate chip variety that boasts a soft texture that's just like eating cookie dough--why I didn't choose that flavor, I have no idea. But the next time I happen to be in a place that sells these cookies, I will give them a try.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

OMG (Stands for "Oooh! Musical Goodness!")

Today I posted the following as my Facebook status: "Sometimes I want to get up and do something else, but I can't because really catchy music is playing through my computer's headphones!"

That said, I think it's time for another discussion of really catchy music.... Although you and I probably have disparate opinions on what kinds of music are catchy.... And, in fact, I myself am somewhat mystified by my selections. 

Bonus tracks = just that!
Not too long ago, I downloaded a bunch of random music in the hopes that I would find something in it I liked. Surprise! I did! Even bigger surprise! The song that I liked the best was the rap track. My song of choice now is "Girls Fall Like Dominoes" by Nicki Minaj. The aspect that originally drew me was the epic dance stylings of the intro and chorus (not another surprise!), but after some consideration, I think (despite being unable to understand her half the time) that Nicki Minaj's voice is pretty cool too. What's coolest is this song is - according to Wikipedia anyway - an iTunes Store bonus track. Bonus tracks for the win! Many of my favorite songs are the ones that don't make it into the "official" portion of the album. Consider the organ-infused remix of Christian Brown's "I'm Stupid" that I'm still fond of, even though I'm not presently bitter about love like I was the last time I hyped this song

I'm bringing 2006 back
So, apparently, in 2006, Justin Timberlake's song, SexyBack, was all the rage. Apparently, it prompted the entire population of the country to start "bringing everything(/insert word of your choice) back." I missed out on this phenomenon, probably being too busy swooning over Madonna's 2005 hit, "Hung up." Being behind the musical times is my specialty, after all. When I finally did get around to hearing SexyBack, I don't recall being impressed. But fast forward to June of 2011, when I happened to hear it on a Pandora station I'd concocted. I still wasn't impressed.
Then the next morning, I woke up with bits of it clattering around in my head. It is probably the stupidest song ever made, but I couldn't stop thinking about it! The distorted vocals! The minimalistic electronic background music! The deliciously brainless repetitive lyrics! That crazy voice shouting, "Take em to the chorus!" What's not to love? 

Now that I have polluted your minds with two questionably tasteful pieces of pop music, I can safely say my work here is done. Stay tuned until next time. Or avoid staying tuned like the plague. That might be better for your health.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Well, I admit it. My plan to review the aesthetics of chocolate bars fell flat after just the first post. Who'd have imagined that, underneath the wrapper, most chocolate bars pretty much look the same?

But now, however, I have a food review idea that will actually work! Giant Cookies!

As a self-proclaimed Cookie Monster, I have an undiscriminating love for cookies of all types. Except the crispy ones--which eliminates about half the cookies ever made, so, never mind. It seems that in cookies, as in all other types of comestible, I am a picky eater. But I have a fairly strong love for cookies of most types. And, after years of cultivating my love for cookies, I can say this: Sure, you can eat 4 little cookies...but eating them in the form of one big cookie is a million times better! (Less crust, more soft chewy interior, for one thing).

Everywhere I go, I'm on the lookout for good cookies. Since I seem to be on a neverending mission to find the best giant cookie, I'm going to blog about it and make sure the readers of this blog find it too.

The rules to qualify a cookie as "giant" are simple: Any cookie with a diameter over 9 centimeters is fair game. That's all. I might revise these rules as the mission goes on, but for now, I'm sure that will keep me busy enough.

And now, I'll begin with an old standby:

The White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie by Così.

Così is a sandwich shop which I'm sure you've seen. And while they have a pretty good tomato-basil-and-mozzarella sandwich (known as the TBM), when at Così, I never fail to snag a pair of white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. A pair. Even though one of these cookies would be sufficient to feed an army of mice, I buy two, because they are just so fantastic!

There isn't a crispy surface on them. From the perfectly cooked (almost undercooked) exterior, to the delicious bits of white chocolate dispersed throughout, these cookies are pure chewy goodness. The bits of macadamia nut are admittedly a bit crunchy, but that adds just the right level of interest.

Così also sells brownies and blondies, which are good but kind of costly (not that the macadamia cookies are cheap--a set of two sets me back 4.50$ after tax), and some kind of round granola bar which I wouldn't touch with a 9-centimeter pole (that's right, they don't meet the size requirements anyway), and chocolate chip cookies, but why go with a classic when you can go with the tropical and exotic instead?

Maybe one day I'll review Così's chocolate chip cookies, but can they ever stand up to their blond cousins? Can any cookie? I might have started this review series with an impossible challenge.

But the show must go on! Should I add some star ratings? Sure, why not?

Taste: 5 whopping stars! (Out of 5)
Price: 3 stars.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I changed the font size... have the units in centimeters. I hope this will make it aproximately the same apparent size on every screen. I picked a size that looked legible on my screen. I hope it looks good on everyone else's, too.

If not, here's the place to complain about it! ▼

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I was getting some work done today while listening to some trance music podcasts, and I decided to take a quick blog break (A "quick" blog break in Val's Galorious Galaxy usually ends up being an hour at least!) I started outlining the post in Notepad but quickly discovered that I was writing like a kindergartener. My music was so loud, I couldn't concentrate! I always thought I could work while listening to music, as long as it didn't have words, but now I'm forced to re-evaluate. Now I've turned the music down (but still audible), and I rely on you to tell me whether my writing today is worse than usual. And possibly whether you can think and listen to instrumental music at the same time.

On a slightly related (musical) note, there's this song that I (and everyone in the country) has heard a million times. It goes, "Karma karma karma karma karma chameleon! You come and go, you come and go!" (Note to songwriting self: If lacking for lyrics, simply repeat same word/phrase a few more times.) Imagine my surprise, when, sometime last year, I learned for the first time that the singer was not actually repeating a string of commas! Imagine also my disappointment. Sure, "Comma comma comma comma comma chameleon" makes no more sense than "karma (x5) chameleon," but it's infinitely interesting. Imagine if the singer separated all the commas with commas, and then dictated the lyrics. It would go something like this: comma, comma, comma, comma, comma, comma, comma, comma, comma, comma chameleon. And then converting my typed commas would result in twice as many commas as in the phrase before that, and then dictating that phrase would result in twice as many as that and so on into infinity!
fractal spiral commas

Which makes me think of something only slightly related: Imagine a comma nesting inside the curve of another comma, and another, smaller, comma resting inside that comma, and another one inside that, spiraling smaller and smaller and smaller into – again – infinity! Much like the picture, which, due to a lack of similar pictures on the Internet, I had to make myself (no wonder my quick blog breaks take so long! Also, no wonder the picture isn't really finished). So, yeah, compared to the fractal wonderfulness of "comma chameleon," "karma chameleon" is just so blah.

Speaking of chameleons, I've been thinking a lot about color changes lately.
As you probably know, I go through phases where my favorite color changes. Back when I was a youngun, it was yellow. During most of my school days, I was in love with blue. In college it was lavender for a time, then pink (the pastel babydoll variety); following graduation, I had a green period, during which I also developed an affinity for brown; and now - with an inexplicable fascination with white (clothing especially) making an appearance every once in a while - I have veered back towards pink (but of the more fuschia variety).

Those of you who know me on Facebook probably couldn't miss the outrageously pink streaks I put in my hair a few weeks ago. They've faded by now to a faint discoloration, but you can bet I'll be trying that again! Plenty of dye left. Those of us who lead boring lives must settle for having interesting hair. (Of course, those of us who get excited about spirals of punctuation marks probably have boring lives for a pretty good reason.) I've modified my Val's Galore logo to incorporate the hue (and I hope to be able to show it to you soon). And today (actually, the event that prompted me to write this post) I noticed myself grinning idiotically simply because I was so delighted about the pink staple with which I bound a sheaf of papers.

Ah, the little things that make us happy. Although I enjoy feeling happy as much as anyone, sometimes I wish I weren't so prone to these spontaneous mood swings. If I can feel like I'm floating on a cloud simply because I unclogged a drain and followed it up with a pink staple job, I can just as easily sink into depression because I smacked my hand into a milk crate or left my backup sandals at home when I went out in un-sensible shoes. It's pretty draining, having a new mood every minute.

Anyway, though this post is totally lacking in denouement, that's all I had to talk about.