Friday, April 27, 2012

The Best Nest

Sometimes, I get discontent and start to passionately hate some aspect of my life. This happens about once every 6 months, and results in fanatical boyfriend searches, job searches, housing searches, and occasionally, drastic haircuts.

The most recent occurred about a month ago, when I suddenly realized I passionately hate sharing a bathroom and kitchen with a male, and decided I need to move out. (This was obviously much more sensible than either confronting him about his hair-shedding habit OR asking him to move out instead).

It was going to be easy. I have another, never-present, housemate who was willing to move anywhere with me, which is great because she helps me with my rent but never makes noise or a mess or even uses up my oxygen!

I had found this adorable old apartment in Old Town College Park with 4 bedrooms plus an attic plus a fireplace, yet it was so cheap that I could afford to rent it on my own with only a little help from my never-present roommate. And then, two weeks ago, disaster struck. My perfect roommate informed me that because of money troubles, she was going to officially move in with her boyfriend rent-free, and would no longer be able to rent with me.

Panic ensued as I frantically listed her room in the classifieds and started looking for one-bedroom locations and weighed the pros and cons of moving to that adorable apartment on my own and hoping to find a decent roommate. I was doing too much at once, and I was so stressed out that I couldn't eat (for like, a whole 6 hours at a time)!

But I am pleased to announce that, in case you were worried, which you were not, because I didn't tell anyone about what was going on, everything is settled and I will be staying where I am, which, I realize, is the best option for me anyway.

My current home is a great bargain. I pay 1700 a month for the whole house, which is about standard for 3 bedrooms, but my home has an added advantage in that one of the three bedrooms is actually a private suite in the basement complete with bathroom and kitchen, which means I can rent it out for a little under half of the total rent. When I first moved in, I was more concerned with getting my friend to move in with me, so I was willing to split the rent equally even though her room was "worth" more. So, thanks, friend—by abandoning me in my time of need, you're actually presenting me with the opportunity to save a few bucks!

Compared to the adorable apartment, my total storage area here is smaller, but I don't need that much space anyway, and I'd rather pay less. Ironically, I have lots of trees (and thus, firewood) in my yard here, but not a fireplace. In the adorable apartment, I would have had a fireplace but nothing to burn in it. In my current home, I'm farther away from work and a more difficult (though not longer) journey to Metro, but I have a sheltered place to store my bike, which the other place lacked. I also have a driveway to park my car and a hose to wash it, which is an almost-negligible consideration, but still a consideration.

Compared to other apartments / rooms in the area, my current situation is significantly better. Just try finding a place within walking distance of Metro and 4 bus lines, full of sun, without having to share with a whole host of other people!

Although I'm going from one housemate to three, the couple I got to rent the basement are people I consider friends. I worked with one of them when I was working at the store, so sharing a house with them will be a heck of a lot better than renting out my basement to a stranger.

But best of all, when the time is right and I feel financially secure, I will be able to afford to rent the entire upper floor on my own, meaning have my own private bathroom and mostly private kitchen, for 300 dollars a month less than I would have been able to do in the adorable apartment. Plus I would not be obligated to perform home improvements, which I offered to do in exchange for the great price I negotiated from the landlord at the apartment (I talked him down by 200 a month).

Of course, all this is contingent on my new housemates actually moving in, which they are supposed to do in June. I may be jinxing myself by posting this good news a little prematurely, so I close with a couple of knocks on wood and a pair of crossed fingers.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Conquering the Learning Curve

You know you've heard it—whenever you're asked to master a challenging new technology or technique, some Joe will blurt it out without restraint—"It has a learning curve," or, "Once you get past the learning curve, it's all gravy."

Let me not digress on how much distaste I feel for the use of the word "gravy" to denote a pleasant experience, since I can think of few things that could be less pleasant than a soup of liquefied lard mixed with meat juices. But I'm not going to digress about that.

In my four years as an education major, I never once was introduced to the phrase "learning curve," and since something about its usage struck me as dubious, I took it upon myself to find out what, exactly, it means.

I imagined, based on context, that the learning curve was some sort of hump one hapless learner would be obliged to scale in order to master a subject. Wikipedia set me straight—and I shall not digress on the ironies of using "set me straight" to describe my education on a matter inherently curved.

A learning curve is not, actually, a metaphor for the various difficulties one passes over whilst learning, but in fact, "a graphical representation of the changing rate of learning (in the average person) for a given activity or tool."

Rather than describing a mountainous shape, a learning curve more frequently follows the much less picturesque pattern of a mathematical function with a horizontal asymptote.

Observe. If you plot Time (or, to be more precise, Number of Attempts at Learning) on the X axis and Material Learned on the Y axis, you will frequently see an S-curve representing a slow start as the learner struggles to grasp completely foreign material, followed by a steeper upturn as they "get it" and begin absorbing knowledge like a sponge, and culminating in a slow tapering off of learning as the amount of learnable material available decreases.

<-- Sometimes you get a graph shaped like this—more like that mountain you had in your head originally. This happens when a subject is simple and easy to learn.

So, when someone describes something as having a "steep learning curve," they may think they are saying that it's difficult to learn, but from a purist's standpoint, they are actually saying it's quite easy!

That's all Li'l Language Lady has to say for now. Hope you learned something today!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Not Ben & Jerry's Cookies

I'm on a cookie-review roll!

Today's confection comes to you straight from a Ben & Jerry's retail location, although the brand is not actually Ben & Jerry's. And I forget what the brand actually is. Silly me. This is going to be quite a worthless review.

But not a worthless cookie! I tried two cookies of this nameless brand, and they were not bad. A classic chocolate chip cookie was the first, and it satisfied my cookie craving quite adequately. While I don't remember much of the flavor (much as I don't remember much of anything), I found the texture satisfyingly chewy.

The real treat, however, came when I bit into the white chocolate macadamia nut cookie. It had just a hint of coconut in it for an little bit of crunch, and an even better flavor than white chocolate macadamia nut cookies are usually known for!

They came in this odd, flattened-at-the-side shape that I imagine makes them perfect for lining up in a neat row like a stack of compact discs. So buy a bunch! At 130 g and $1.64 each, they are a good price, and definitely worth what you pay for them!

The Bottom Line:
Taste: 4 stars
Texture: 4.5 stars
Price: 4 stars

Monday, April 9, 2012

Larry's White Chocolate Cookies

Sorry to spoil all the suspense, but I'm going to cut right to the chase on this one: I think I have found a new favorite cookie.

I never had heard of Larry's Cookies until I ran across one at the Old Post Office Pavilion in DC (which I also didn't know existed), but oh, I was missing out.

Larry's is a genuine local company, based just a hop, skip, and a jump away from me in Rockville, Maryland. Their website states, "IT IS our plan to expand quietly and to offer the best quality product anywhere and… at realistic prices." And, while I cannot speak to their plan of quiet world domination, I enthusiastically concur with their claim of realistic prices.

Although I was originally thrown off by the per-pound pricing (and the fact that one cookie ended up costing a little over 3 dollars!), a little number crunching (in between bites of cookie) reveals that Larry's Cookies are actually the best-priced giant cookie I've encountered yet! The cost of $8.99 per pound equates to 1.98¢ a gram, which is not the lowest price around, but definitely the most competitive price relative to the taste, which is phenomenal!

Let me say that again—phenomenal!

OK, maybe I was just hungry when I ate it, but the white chocolate cranberry cookie from Larry's Cookies was like cookie perfection. Soft yet substantial on the inside, with just the right amount of crunchy around the edges. It had a nice brown sugar taste for a white cookie, and the dried cranberries were not too tart and not too sweet!

I also ate a white chocolate macadamia cookie, because I  just can't resist me a macadamia cookie, but the cranberry one definitely overshadowed its nutty companion.

Still, even though I think I already know my new go-to cookie, I can't wait to try the other flavors.

If you'd like to try them too, you can order them on the Larry's Cookies website, and have them shipped to your home!

Happy Chomping!

*Author's note: I lost my receipt for these cookies, so I am now doubting whether the price was actually 8.99$ per pound, considering the cookies you can buy in bulk online are closer to 14$ a pound. If I made a memory error (which I do very often) the price rating will have to be reduced, but I can't verify that until the next time I go visit Larry's Cookies. Until then, enjoy this glowing review.

The Bottom Line:
Taste: 5 stars
Texture: 5 stars
Price: 4 stars

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Eau de Woe

"You don't wear perfume ever, do you?" my boyfriend asked me.

Well, no, I guessed I didn't, but that doesn't mean I couldn't try. Every lady has her signature scent—maybe it was time for me to find mine. As an experiment, I ordered 12 sample vials of perfume from eBay, and wore a different one every day for two weeks.

I thought I would note my opinions on them all, then read up on their characteristics and see if I could find any patterns that would help me select perfumes in the future. To keep track of what I thought of them, I kept notes, rating each one with "Good," "Bad," or "OK," and writing a short description. Since I am not known for my sophisticated sense of smell or my ability to detect different notes in a mélange (in fact I am frequently known for having no sense of smell at all), my descriptions were sort of simplistic, consisting mostly of associations with other smells.

Here is a sampling:
  • Kelly Caleche - Reminds me of B.O.
  • Helmut Lang -  I keep smelling mold. Reminds me of perfume.
  • Balenciaga - Reminds me of perfume.
  • Galanos - Perfumey smell.
  • Pure - Reminds me of perfume.
  • Kenzo Amour - Reminds me of Car Fresheners.
  • Halston Couture - Reminds me of my grandparents' bathroom.
I think it's becoming pretty clear why I don't wear perfume ever. Of the entire lot of 12, I only rated two of the samples "good"—Paris Hilton Passport Paris (which I might have been predisposed to like because of the cartoon illustration on the card, and which was the only one that didn't come in a resealable vial—figures!), and Valentino Valentina, which I probably only liked because it's almost my name.

It looks like being a perfume wearer isn't in my future.
Guess from now on, if I want to smell good, I'm going to stick with my cheap, short-lasting, food-scented body sprays, and the mixes I make myself from essential oils. I've kind of shied away from that lately after my atomizer failed to atomize and instead shot a neverending stream of scented water at my head right before I had to leave for work. I spent the rest of the day smelling like a large, obtrusive fruit salad.

Maybe if I'm brave, I'll continue the search for my signature scent. When convenient, I'll steal little spritzes from department store cosmetics counters...and just cross my fingers that they don't remind me of bathrooms.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Goodbye ________, I hardly knew ya!

The topic of today's post is "farewells." And I will work in every topic remotely related to this subject as well as I can, to cut down on my list of Things to Blog About.

First off, do you remember a time in the distant past when I utterly failed to compile a list of songs with the sound of seagulls in them? Well, I finally found one to bring the list up to a robust two: It's called "Farewell," by Lemongrass.

Second, I shall say "Farewwwell," to the website naming convention that was served us wwwell (or not) over the past few decades. In case you somehow missed the gist of my belabored literary stylings, I am referring to the "WWW" that we commonly placed in front of our website names in the past. When public websites were still a new concept, I remember being appalled at the amount of oral gymnastics required to say those letters out loud. I toyed with trying to bring "tri-double-U" to the main stream, thus shaving 5 syllables off the phrase, but had to abandon the project because of my limited influence in the media. However, today, many newer websites are abandoning this tongue-twisting convention in favor of brevity (e.g. would become simply The left-brained part of me says, "Yes!" to this sensible practice (after all, if your entire website faces the World Wide Web, there's no need for an extra subdomain). I have already given up typing the three W's when I type a domain name (my browser, or perhaps the website itself, usually fills it in anyway if needed), but I'm still not sure if I'm ready to give it up on my own website. You see, the right-brained part of me keels over at the loss of harmony when a balanced series of letters and dots suddenly loses its left wing. Howwwever, wwwhether you're an advocate of simplicity or symmetry, all factions agree that you do the Web a favor when you choose one or the other.

Lastly, tonight I bid adieu to my long-lived and much-loved headphones. I had been noticing, lately, the sound coming out of my laptop was absolutely atrocious—all tinny and muddled. I chalked that up to the laptop having a terrible sound card, since I'd had problems with sound quality since I received the machine. But today, I finally embarked on an experiment with multiple sets of headphones and learned that it was indeed my battered old favorite pair that was the culprit. So I will be tossing them in an electronics recycling bin near me soon, and beginning the arduous search for a new pair I actually like. I already have 3—a clip-on pair that's much too quiet and threatens to fall off every time I move my head, a folding travel set that sounds great but pinches my head after too long listening, and the decent pair I've dedicated for work (which is also too tight, but I managed to stretch it out some, and more stretching is in progress). There is also my phone headset, but that's also otherwise occupied, and besides, I'd rather not wear earbuds when I have the space for real 'phones. I have a feeling that finding an acceptable new pair is going to be a painful challenge.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Two mystery cookies from the Denver Convention Center

Having eaten many pleasant giant chocolate chip cookies, I found this mysterious cookie from an unknown caterer to be an utter disappointment.

While the outside edges bore a crumbly softness that spoke of a chewy delicious center to come, the middle of this cookie was, in fact, pretty much a Keebler cookie on steroids—huge, but crunchy and dry. The predominant flavor in this cookie was sugar, which, while a delight to my tastebuds, left my olfactory receptors somewhat unfulfilled. Since the cookie came as part of my conference admission, I can't really speak to its cost-to-yumminess ratio, but I'm just glad I never tried to rely on it as my end-of-the-day treat.

Taste: 3 stars
Texture: 1 star

Its companion cookie, which was acquired at the same venue on a separate day, did not perform much better. While it had the potential to be a massive fudgy delight, it also seemed too dry for my liking. It passed the crumble test* (although with a little more effort than may be desired), which the chocolate chip cookie failed, but its chewiness came on the dry side - almost tough - and eating it was a mouth exercise I'd just as soon not repeat.

Taste: 3 stars
Texture: 3 stars

*The crumble test was introduced as "the golden standard" in my second Giant Cookie Review 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."