Monday, March 31, 2014

Unsliced

Thirty-one days of the Slice of Life Challenge have passed. At the beginning, I was gung-ho, excited to be able to share my thoughts and to have an excuse for blogging daily. But now that the month is over, I admit to being a bit worn out.

In 31 days, I never failed to post, though as I exhausted my stockpile of partially written posts and struggled to fit writing into my seemingly ever-busier schedule, my Slices published later and later, and the comments were fewer and fewer (could it be that other Slicers were getting tired just like me?). So yes, over this month, I have run out of time and energy.

But I have not run out of ideas! There were so many things I wanted to Slice about that I never quite got around to.

I wanted to discuss buying clothes online—specifically a cost-benefit analysis of the value of the clothes versus the likelihood of having to return them. Sounds thrilling, right? That entire topic fell by the wayside when I gave up self adornment for Lent.

I did think it might be interesting to share what I was doing instead of self adornment—things like learning Indonesian, putting together a Wordpress site, using my old nail polish collection to decorate a cookie tin....and of course, blogging—but there! I just told you in a sentence.

One day, I wanted to share the song I had stuck in my head. That cheesy country song about how life is like a game of poker. If I had to be listening to it in my mind, shouldn't everyone else as well? Oh, well, if you know it, you're probably hearing it right now. You're welcome!

This morning, I had a crown put on my tooth, and I really wanted to blog about that singular experience—but since I have a follow-up appointment in two weeks, I thought I might wait until then. And besides, I had an SOLSC recap to write!

I wanted to talk about web-development geekery: how much I love coding, and the pronunciation of "favicon" (that's also language geekery, by the way), but I decided given the audience of mostly non-developers, I could do more interesting things with my platform.

Speaking of my audience of non-developers, I was struck throughout this challenge by how many Slicers are teachers. I came dangerously close to a teaching career, so their stories were simultaneously impressive and terrifying to me. I wanted to say something about that, but I could never figure out exactly what.

Other half-formed topics are multitudinous: the similarity of the SOL logo to that of Slice soda, a the long-lost soft drink of my youth. The interesting phenomenon of my always-increasing need for sleep, and maybe my absolute awe of the people who can get up before sunrise and survive the day. The way gory movies are horrifying even when you can't see what's going on (like when someone in the room is always watching them on the iPad while you try to go about your day). My tentative attendance at AwesomeCon next month, and in a similar vein, a question: What is it that makes Game of Thrones mainstream while any other similar show would be considered geeky in the extreme? Speaking of shows, why are there no homely and/or anxiety-ridden TV heroines for me to relate to? Speaking of non sequiturs, is my ongoing consumption of dairy products contributing to animal suffering?

The questions go on and on. Serious and silly alike, every topic has a home in my blog. Stay tuned and you might see some of these aforementioned subjects dissected (or I might decide that my one-paragraph summaries here were good enough). The Slice of Life challenge may be over, but the Slices will forever keep coming—on a more sporadic schedule, thank you very much. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Prodigal Jacket

Last night, I arrived at the bar wearing a pretty snazzy jacket. Black pleather and fabric sleeves with an off-center zipper, it was getting compliments from everyone who saw it. But it was also getting hot. Pleather jackets are not ideal for dancing in. So I hung my jacket on the hook beside the booth, tucking it behind the trash can. Then I thought better of keeping it so close to a trash can amidst a crowd of people who are probably not at their most graceful. So I laid it down on the booth seat and got back to dancing.

I don't know how it happened, because I never traveled more than an arm's length from the table, but when I next looked at the seat, my jacket was gone.

Instantaneous panic!

I peered under the table; I checked the other seat; I ran my hands over the cushion, as if maybe my jacket had simply turned invisible. I checked the hook where I'd originally hung it. Nothing. Someone had stolen it!

I made my way out of the bar, followed by my friends. The night had been drawing to a close anyway, and my sartorial tragedy was just the last nail in the coffin. While my boyfriend went back inside to seek out what I knew was long gone, I stood on the curb weeping openly. At this point, I would like to acknowledge my opportunity to reference a song lyric by stating that the clothes I wasn't wearing (girl) were causing public scenes.

My boyfriend came out with another coat, which clearly wasn't mine, but he said he'd found it on the floor, and we were all too flustered to go back in and look for that jacket's owner, so I wore it to the car. My friends tried to comfort me by telling how great I looked in the new coat, but it was a poor second to my missing jacket, which I was elevating in my mind every moment to a right astronomic status. I had gotten it for only 10 dollars, and everyone loved it. Where would I ever find another jacket that cool for 10 dollars, not to mention it was my only black jacket and you can't just not have a black jacket! It was probably the greatest jacket the world had ever known, and now it would be mine no more.

But there was still hope. In all the hubbub, my boyfriend had forgotten to close his tab and had left his credit card there. So we had to go back today. Besides, I could not in good conscience keep the jacket he had stolen for me, so I wanted to return that to the lost and found. Maybe even, if miracles really do happen, I would find my own coat there.
The bartender directed us to a closet where all the lost coats were unceremoniously stored in a large garbage bin. We examined one jacket after another. Oddly, they were almost all black leather jackets, but they were all completely inferior to mine—which was not there. But the bartender had said one more thing before she left us. "There's another black leather jacket upstairs."

I made my way up there with a sense of resignation, and saw, across the room, a black shape draped over the back of a booth. I approached. I saw glossy black pleather and matte fabric. I picked it up. I squealed and jumped up and down. It was my jacket! My wonderful, beautiful, trendy, doozy-of-a-bargain jacket!

I still can't figure out how it made its way up to the second floor, though I wonder if some game of musical jackets was going on, and some other well meaning boyfriend had scooped it up for his lady love, only to be told that it was not the right one.

But then again, this jacket is not just any jacket. It's the greatest jacket the world has ever known. With credentials like that, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it had somehow managed to teleport upstairs all by itself.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

To sweep, perchance to clean

There comes a time in every blogger's life when she just has to put aside her lofty goals of introspection, erudition, and other big words, and simply talk about her day. This is mine.

It started out, at least, as that favorite term, a "lazy Saturday." I got up about 9 after having gone to bed about 11.

But there the laziness ended. Once out of bed, I sprang into action, starting off the morning with a half-hour of yoga.

I was planning to take a shower and then eat breakfast, but I decided that since I was rolling, I'd better stay that way (and since I was sweaty, I might as well do the other dirty work on my agenda as well).

So I outfitted the bathroom with a box of baking soda for future cleaning, carried the pile of dirty towels into the basement for future laundering, swept the living room, and tackled the small tan spot on the floor that might have been a previously unnoticed puddle from the bad dog.

Having conquered the living room in quite short order, I then triumphantly returned to the bedroom, brandishing my feather duster and preparing for battle.

What was that smell? I don't know, but I vanquished it with vanilla scented wax in a small lamp.

About this time, my boyfriend rolled out of bed and warmed my heart by – completely unasked – dragging the vacuum cleaner into the bedroom to purge the rug of dog hair.

After a quick break for breakfast, I marched onward to the bathroom, where my baking soda awaited me. Sprinkling it liberally around the tub and following that with a generous spritzing of vinegar, I scoured the shower with the foaming mixture and a scrub brush. I was delighted to see the grey spots that I thought were permanent decorations on the bottom of the tub begin to disappear. While my scrubbing skills are prodigious, my attention span is not, so I considered it a job well done when the spots were "less grey than before."

I left the bathroom feeling like a conquering hero. I might still have bills to pay before I can call the day complete, but even that can't stand between me and the satisfaction of having finally finished the cleaning.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Pet Pleasures: Another 10-List

As promised, today I take the optimistic side and talk about some of the things that make me happy.

I've been compiling this list for almost 2 years, as evidenced by the date of my last post on the topic, yet yesterday it still had but 7 items. I tend to only add to this list when I'm so blown away by something that I stop whatever I'm doing and think, "Wow, I really like ____." Obviously that doesn't happen very often, but since I promised write this post, and since the Slice of Life challenge is almost over, I figured I had better get my appreciation engine in gear. I added three items to the list today, and now I'm ready to share my joy with the world!

The sound of music from far away

When I am in Dupont Circle in the summertime, I sometimes hear the mournful notes of a saxophone played a few blocks away, or the sound of a percussion group jamming to the rhythms of rhythm alone, somewhere off in the distance. This always reminds me of when I was in college, and I would come home after class to the sounds of the marching band practicing in the field behind my dorm. This in turn reminded me of the times when my family used to go to Civil War reenactments when I was a kid, and I could hear the fifes and drums across the field. Listening to music played nearby doesn't have the same impact. I love the muffled effect of sound filtered through large volumes of atmosphere. It gives the music the same hazy distance as the happy memories it brings back.

On similar musical note (haha, get it?)...

Arpeggios

It's not uncommon for me to wax ecstatic about music. Many of the songs that I've gone crazy over have made the list because they feature cool, weird electronic sounds. But another musical element that gets me going is the arpeggio. I gave this sound the credit it's due in my review of Muse's "Take a Bow," but other songs I love with arpeggios as a key (or more often, subtle background) feature include The Last Universe, Haleakala, Break Your Heart, Hung Up (especially my favorite remix by AY Riders), and an old favorite that somehow seems to have escaped mention on my blog: "Resurection" by PPK. During the melody, this features arepeggio-like sequences of notes in both the bass and the treble simultaneously! I think (OK, I knew it long ago) I'm in love!

Returning merchandise

If there's anything I like as much as shopping, it's returning what I've bought! Well, almost. I do enjoy the feeling of being liberated from the need for possessions. And once the return is completed,  I feel like I have just received some free money! Well, almost.

Driving an employer's car for work purposes

At the university, we have these things called "state cars," and when we need to drive somewhere far away for work, we are allowed to use them. I myself do not like driving, but when I'm driving a state car, it's positively enjoyable! First, I'm getting paid for my time whilst doing nothing but listening to music or stories or thinking my own thoughts, and it's like getting free miles! This time for real, not just almost!

Time Lapse Films

My first experience with time-lapse photography was a movie we saw in 7th grade science, of which my most vivid memory is the scene where the dead fox decomposed. I liked it anyway. There were also plants in the movie. I love watching plants in stop-motion, where they grow and follow the sun and every imperceptible motion is jerky and magical at once! I still want to make a time-lapse film of my own, but I don't think I have enough space to keep a setup in place for long enough.

Dill

If I had to pick a favorite herb, hands-down, it would be dill. Every time I eat something with dill in it, I feel like my day has been made! It may seem simple, but nothing's dull with dill!

Likewise in the food sphere, how could I neglect to mention...

Chocolate!

I'm always amazed when I'm feeling blah at work, and I gobble a couple of chocolates and all of a sudden I'm on cloud nine. This isn't just because I like chocolate and eating foods I like makes me happy, although that's true. Chocolate has more than that. It has magic powers, commonly known to the more scientific folk as serotonin, dopamine, and caffeine. But the real magic is that it tastes good, too! I think chocolate might be the only drug that's just as enjoyable to consume as its end effects are.

Window-prints on the wall

The sun is so talented! All it does is shine through a window, and suddenly an ordinary wall is a work of art!

Every time I see window-prints on the wall, I want to take a picture of it! The only thing that stops me, is it usually turns out something like the one on the left. Not nearly as awesome as it appeared in real life, I assure you.

Leaves blowing across the road

Fall used to be my favorite season. Once I started hating the cold, that quickly changed, but one thing didn't. No matter how cold it gets, I never get tired of seeing cavalcades of leaves tumbling across the road. A few days ago, I was driving behind a truck carrying a load of leaves (heaven only knows why at this time of year!) but they were spilling all over the road and giving me the biggest case of happiness! Even though it's several days into spring and it still felt like January.

At the risk of being totally cheesy, the final thing on the list of things I like is...

My Boyfriend

When I told him my blog post today was a list of things that make me happy, he asked me what was on the list. When I told him, "Well, for example, #10 is you," he said, "What!? I'm only number 10!?"

I said, "I saved the best for last."

He said, "What!? I'm last?"

After we had argued about that, he told me he didn't believe that he was really on the list at all. I showed him the note I'd been compiling the last couple years, and his next question was "What? I'm lower on the list than Dill? Who is Dill?"

When I showed him what I had written about this conversation, he said, "That's awesome." I agree. We have fun times together, especially when we're playing at being obnoxious and egotistical. He and I have been together for almost a year now, and I mean "together" literally. We live together, we work together, we spend our weekends and vacations together, and still, we haven't gotten tired of each other. Every time I see his face, I just want to grin like a doofus. Yes, it hasn't been that long in the greater scheme of relationships, but so far I'd say it's a resounding success.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

After the conference

Since Tuesday evening, I have been at a conference. It's been a busy couple of days, and I still have a lot to do before work tomorrow, so this will be just a quick post!

I did a short presentation at the conference along with a coworker. I have to admit that during all the week that we were planning this talk, I was not enthusiastic. I wasn't thrilled about the subject, and I felt like we didn't have anything worthwhile to say. But we made a couple of tweaks to the slideshow in the hour before our talk, and by the time it came to present, I was almost excited.

The talk went fine. A couple of times, I even made the crowd laugh — and not just by being clueless. Of course, if I hadn't been excited about presenting the talk, I sure was excited when it was over! After we were done, I was in a better mood than I've been in all week.

A couple of people came up to me later to say how much they'd appreciated our talk—one even said I – me, not the talk – was "motivating."

Wow, I was so happy to hear those words! They gave me a whole different perspective.

Usually when I attend a presentation, I slip out the door as soon as it's over, and that's it. No matter how much I might have learned, or how much I enjoyed the talk, it would never occur to me to go up to the speaker and tell them that! Why, that would be social interaction! Self-initiated social interaction, no less!

But being on the other end of the projector has made me realize how nice it is to get some positive feedback on your work. I think I will make a concerted effort in the future to personally thank the people who work hard to make things happen.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bad Dog

My boyfriend's dog  (we'll call him Jack, because that's most of his name) recently regressed in his toilet training knowledge and began making messes in his home. What do you do when your dog suddenly becomes unmanageably messy? Of course, you bring him to your almost-OCD girlfriend's house for retraining!

I'm not bitter; I like having a furry creature around—especially one who's a little more cuddly than my decidedly independent rabbit. But I'm less appreciative of my new role as dog janitor.

Now, Jack is well known to have a selective incontinence problem. At first, whenever I would see him after an absence of a day or more, he would get so excited, he would wet himself (and my shoes, as he was usually jumping all over me). My boyfriend says he only does this for "pretty girls," so I guess I should be honored. I feel like a veritable Cinderella, scrubbing his urine off the floor after every overenthusiastic greeting.

I quickly learned that if my first action upon arriving home was to cut short the formalities and quickly herd him to the back door, I could get him outside before disaster struck. But Jack's real problem is what he does when no one is around.

When he was spending the day in his tiny dog crate, he never had an accident. He knows better than to poop where he sleeps. But as soon as my boyfriend upgraded his lodgings, things got messy.

One day, he tried to confine the dog to the kitchen (blocking the doorway with a chair and his cage). In a very short time, Jack pushed the cage and chair aside and proceeded to root through the trashcan in my bedroom before depositing a turd in the middle of my floor.

Jack was downgraded to the bathroom, which has an actual door. I came home that day to find the garbage can upended, used dental floss and Kleenex all over the floor, and several yards of toilet paper unrolled into the midst of the chaos.

Yesterday morning, after Jack had spent several days in the bathroom with no further destruction, my boyfriend started setting up the food and water bowl in my bedroom. "Are you keeping him in the room today?" I asked. He confirmed he was. "Move the garbage can somewhere where he can't get to it," I suggested. I also warned him that if his dog messed up my room, he might not find a dog at all when he got home. I alluded to the burying of a body. And then I went to work.

When I returned that evening, I entered my room with dread, asking, "Jack, were you good today?" After several weeks of toilet training in my house, Jack knows the drill. He scrambled out immediately to grovel, quivering and shamefaced, in the living room, providing me a perfect view of the small puddle in the middle of the rug.

I did not kill him.

Instead, I decided to take a deep breath, get out the vinegar spray (again) and blog about it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

SOL and proud

Let me tell you about my coworker, a new and very earnest employee who wants to do his job perfectly. He's frequently stressed out, and can be heard at times dashing through the hallways muttering "I'm SOL."

Now is the time to point out that I have no idea what SOL means. But generally the things one says while scurrying around and awaiting one's doom are not chipper exclamations of joy. And I have indeed heard the term used in other contexts, mostly to refer to a person who is about to experience something unpleasant.

Now is also the time to point out, if you haven't already noticed, that "Slice of Life" could easily be abbreviated to "SOL." Many times during the March Slice of Life Story Challenge, I have been tempted to refer to it in just that way. However, considering how those letters are used by my coworker and friends, I've always decided to take the high road and not use them. I haven't bothered to try and find out what SOL means—It's a lot easier to just tack an "SC" onto the end of the acronym than to actually engage in research, so that's what I've been doing.

But since today begins the final week in the March SOLSC, I'm going to finally investigate its shorter cousin, the phrase "SOL."

The first Google result for "sol" — even before the Wikipedia entry about our sun! — is the Urban Dictionary definition, S.O.L. (seems like I've been getting a lot of my education on Urban Dictionary lately).

According to Urban Dictionary, I had been quite right in deducing that SOL was a phrase with negative connotations. And of course, as you might expect from anything you find in Urban Dictionary, it involves an expletive! What a relief I haven't been plastering such smut all over my blog!

For future reference, naïve Slicers such as myself, if you do choose to abbreviate the name of the challenge as SOL, people could interpret it to mean you're talking about being S*** out of Luck. So maybe you'll want to avoid that particular acronym. Or maybe you won't.

I, for one, am tired of having to avoid certain phrases just because they could be interpreted inappropriately! I think, just to be contrary, I'm going to use the short version of "Slice of Life" as often as I can!

I hope you enjoyed this SOL! Here's to one more week of SOL posts from the entire SOL community!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Pet Peeves: A 10 List

Since yesterday's post was an upbeat ode to the campus geese that bring joy into my heart, I feel justified in turning around and making today's post a quite curmudgeonly rant about all the things that ... don't.

The airing of my grievances is a fairly regular feature on my blog, so I think it's only fair that all the Slice of Lifers out there get a taste of it.

1. Distorted aspect ratios

When you upgrade from an ancient CRT monitor to a fancy-pants new widescreen LED, but do not upgrade your graphics card to handle the new display, you get a horrible-looking picture where everything is stretched out horizontally. I can't stand this, but what I really can't stand are the people who can.What do you mean, you don't notice that everybody's face looks like they've gained 10 pounds? How can you not see that the typography is all distorted? Argh! Why are you not bothered by this?

2. Spaced ellipses

Sometimes – apparently, often even – style guides will tell you that to create an ellipsis in your text, you should type 3 periods separated by spaces . . . like so. Do you know what happens when a line break falls right in the middle of your ellipsis? It gets broken up into three meaningless dots. Far better, in my opinion, to use the ellipsis character (which MS Word conveniently creates for you whenever you type three periods in a row) … like this. Not only do I prefer the compact look of the ellipsis character, but it completely avoids the problem of mid-ellipsis line breaks. Ah, if only every style guide would get with this program.

3. Pre-dressed salads

A salad is supposed to be healthy! Healthy, I say! How can I get my fiber and vitamins in a low-calorie format when it is slathered with a concoction of sugar and oil? It is not that hard to allow diners to choose how much dressing they want, if any, by serving it on the side. Oh, how I dream of the day when I don't have to always remember to order my salad without dressing.

4. Hiccups

Does anyone love these muscle spasms from hell? Sometimes when I have hiccups, I just want to break down and cry... but that would probably cause me to get hiccups.

5. Using periods mid-sentence for emphasis

Maybe this unconventional form of punctuation was cool in 1998, but now, I'm So. Over. It.

6. Facebook guilt trips

I'm not much into re-posting things I see on Facebook, or really, posting much of anything on Facebook at all, other than occasional one-liners, but when someone's post begins with the sanctimonious, "99% of you won't repost this, but..." that's pretty much a guarantee that I'll never want to repost it. Even if I think it's the coolest thing ever shared.

7. Auto-correct not reading my mind

Everyone hates auto-correct. Always taking your (correctly spelled) words and twisting them into something you didn't mean. But just as annoying is when it fails to auto-correct my legitimate mistakes. Just because I typed "bit" doesn't mean I actually wanted to say "bit!" I meant "but!" Come on! Read my mind, already (or at least read context clues. I know that's within your capacity, if someone would just program you right)!

8. Opening the windows in winter

I don't care how much you need the fresh air, or how bad the bathroom smells—no odor could be worse than suffering hypothermia every time I go to use the toilet. We live in the 21st century, and we did away with outhouses for a good reason. Just spritz some of that air freshener and let me keep my body heat.

9. Hashtags

I don't think I can escape them, but I don't have to like them. I can barely read my Twitter feed because the real content is buried under such a mess of hashtags. Do you think that counts as #firstworldproblems?

10. People who don't read

This has been a problem that has plagued me from the beginning of my working life. People call me asking stupid questions that they would have found the answer to if they'd spent 10 minutes searching the website. People contacting me with the very first question on the list of "Questions we can't answer" on our contact form. Potential Airbnb guests asking things like "Is the room private?" When "Private room" are literally the 2nd and 3rd words of the listing. I always think when I get a new job or start a new venture that maybe I won't have to deal with lazy idiots any more, but I always do.

There, now that I've got my grumpy on, I promise to follow up soon with a list of things that I do like!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The campus geese


The first two winters that I worked at the University of Maryland, it did not have any geese. This year has been entirely different. A flock of Canada geese took up residence on campus in late fall, and they have been there all through the winter.

Although some of my coworkers are not impressed by the little greenish brown gifts they leave all over the sidewalks, on the whole, the geese have been quite well behaved. Compared to the geese at Lake Artemesia, who will mob you and terrorize each other if you throw them a bit of cereal (I know, I've tried), these geese are positively angels.

They gather in front of the engineering and math buildings, foraging for food in the grass, occasionally ambling up the sidewalk as if it were their own designated thoroughfare. They honk amiably at each other (no hissing like the Lake Artemesia geese!) and regard you without hostility when you pass.

The other day, whilst driving past the gaggle of geese with a coworker, I exclaimed, "I want to hug all the geese!"

He thought that was inordinately funny. I just thought that the geese are the perfect size for hugging, and with their apparently laid-back natures, it just might be feasible!

I have not yet attempted to hug the geese, and I probably won't ever try, but at least I got some pictures of them before they make their journey back north for the summer!


Saturday, March 22, 2014

It's the little things

I think everyone likes to believe they are a little obsessive compulsive. It shows attention to detail and just a hint of charming quirkiness. Of course, when it veers into "disorder" territory, that's quite another matter, and that's when it ceases to be charmingly quirky.

I am not OCD, but I do believe I'm a little obsessive compulsive. Little imperfections in the environment around me drive me just a little nuts. I can't keep my eyes off the minor flaws that I really, really, really want to fix!

Here are a few. Maybe by sharing them, I will finally be released from my obsession with them. Or I'll at least have some company in staring at the things that aren't quite right.
 
In the not-too-distant past, I had the unfortunate experience of having to see this crooked exit sign every time I looked up from my computer. I thought I might die! Or at least have to start closing my door...but fortunately they fixed it. Also of note, the angled line at the bottom of the picture? The one that isn't quite perpendicular to the vertical lines around it? That's the top of my monitor. Can you imagine how much distress that caused me on a daily basis? Until I got the monitor replaced, anyway.

The tape in the dispenser in my office used to always become detached from the little cutting ledge, as shown above. Every time I saw it, I would patiently stick the tape back down where it belonged, neat and tidy. And then the next time I came by...surprise! Rogue tape making its escape! I finally solved this problem by getting a new tape dispenser...

But then my tape dispenser and my stapler didn't match any more! That was almost just as bad. Finally, I am pleased to say, I got black stapler to go with my black tape dispenser, and all is right with my world again.


Except when I have to look at these recycling bins in the Metro stations. What kind of nincompoop designed these things? Why did they pair the huge extra bold initial caps with the italicized normal text next to it? Why is that newspaper just kind of cut off at the bottom when all the other icons on the bin fit in their entirety into a small square space? These are the kind of things that especially bother people who have been to design school. Kind of like bad kerning and leading.

You can bet I'm not the one who drew that little clover on my whiteboard, because I never would have returned the red marker in such a haphazard manner! No way!

And last but not least, I bring you my ceiling fan! What's wrong with the fan? Well, it has 5 blades, but only 3 lights. Whenever I sit under it, I look up and wish that each of the lights would line up perfectly with one of the fan blades, or fit exactly into the gaps between them. Alas, this is a mathematical impossibility. This might be the worst of the bunch because I have to look at it every day, and unlike office equipment, I can't just swap it out for something less distressing.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Hello, Hello?

Regular readers of my blog are probably well aware that I hate talking on the phone.

Let me drop everything and work on your problem T-shirt
In the past, my phone phobia was mostly limited to calling other people on it, but lately, I have discovered reasons to dislike answering it as well. At work, phone interruptions annoy me because they are never conveniently timed, always interrupting me unnecessarily when I'm trying to concentrate on something. In my mind, work-related phone calls should be for emergencies only—everything else can wait for an email.



However, now I've found a way to find fault with personal phone calls as well. Specifically, the hellos.

When I pick up the phone, I answer "Hello?" Now that I think about it, now that caller ID is ubiquitous, why we are still answering our phones with a question? Why not something more like, "Hello, Bob!"? Now that I think about it, I might be the only one I know who does answer my phone with a question. My male friends seem to pick up with a "yo." But that is beside the point. The point is, that's how I answer my phone. "Hello?"

What drives me bonkers is when the voice on the other end then replies, "Hello?" And waits for me to talk.

What are you, an echo? Did you not hear me? Have you forgotten that you called me and should probably have something to say?

At this point, I can choose to either start the conversation, which is difficult because I don't know what the caller wanted to talk to me about, or to join them in their game—I just ask "Hello" again, which usually results in the other person asking "Hello" and me asking "Hello" and them asking "Hello," which gets very tedious after several rounds. I've done this with several people, and I'm always the one to get bored first and finally break the cycle with a different question (like a cheery "What's up?" while in my head, I'm snarling "What do you want?"). It annoys me that the caller has forced me into a position where I must make the first move.

Obviously, I can do little to change the rude behavior of my callers, although I could just ask point-blank, "Why are you asking me hello again?" Maybe there's something going on that I don't understand. But even if I get to the bottom of it with one caller, it won't prevent the same thing from happening with others.

Maybe the answer is to change the way I answer. "Yo" seems to work well for my friends. I never hear them getting into hello matches on the phone. But yo is not really my style. Maybe "Hello, Bob!" is the way to go. How do you answer your phone?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

That's what she wondered

In a recent post, I described my difficulties in comprehending adult jokes, which reminded me of the story of my introduction to the country's most popular adult joke, which completely eluded my comprehension for months.

It was about 4 years ago. I had heard the phrase "That's what she said" a few times by then, but I still hadn't picked up on its meaning. People always laughed when it was said, but I had no idea why. That fateful night, I was standing with a group of friends in a Metro station as we waited for our train to take us home when one of them broke out his "That's what she said" app on his phone. At that moment, after months of wondering, I finally had the meaning of "that's what she said" explained to me.

Well, the explanation didn't help much because it still didn't make sense to me, but I learned to accept it for what it is—something you say when you want to turn an innocuous comment into a sexual allusion. When I hear this phrase, (and I hear it often, because I am usually the one making the innocuous comment) I know it is once again eye-rolling time for me. It doesn't really matter what the allusion is supposed to be to, I just know that it's dirty and that's enough for me.

But, four years later, the linguist in me is still curious. I still can't figure out why everyone else but me seemed to innately understand what it meant. And if, maybe, at some point in its early usage, its meaning was somehow obvious. What was its early usage anyway? Anyone else out there as befuddled as I am? If so, check out this article on Know Your Meme. It's fairly comprehensive, and believable.

But it still doesn't explain how people who are not me always understood what "That's what she said" means. I guess some things are meant to remain a mystery.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Simpler Fingers

Well, it's been 2 weeks since the start of Lent, and as is usually the case, my Lenten resolution has not proved nearly as hard to keep as I thought it would be.

Certainly, I have those moments, where I think for no reason, "I wish I were shopping." And almost once every day, I still find myself trying to plan my outfit for tomorrow. But on the whole, I haven't felt deprived—and I've had a whole lot more time in my schedule for Slicing and for learning.

One definite upshot to giving up Personal Adornment as Hobby for Lent is that I have realized it won't be that painful to kick the nail polish habit.

Chips ahoy!
I love nail polish...in theory, at least. But the reality is that whenever I put it on, I waste 30 minutes trying not to touch anything for fear of smudging it, inevitably smudge it anyway, then lose the entire manicure to irredeemable chipping within 3 days. After that, my nails start flaking and breaking, and it's usually 2 weeks minimum before they are recovered enough to put on another coat of polish. Today it's been almost 6 weeks since I last wore nail polish, and my nails are still wrecked. I think it is safe to say nail polish is not the cosmetic for me.

So I think I will bid adieu to my nail polish collection. Maybe I'll keep the clear polish because it's good for so many things (fixing pantyhose of course!) but on the whole, I think my life will be happier without 35 bottles of destruction cluttering up my shelf.

I wonder if you can donate nail polish to charity. If so, I have a lot to share!



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I don't get the joke...I am the joke.

I don't exactly have an "adult" sense of humor. Whenever someone says something and everyone laughs except me, I immediately assume a dirty joke has been made, and I start casting around in my mind for its possible meaning. It usually takes me a minute, but with a little concentration, I can understand dirty jokes, even if I don't appreciate them. When I detect one of these jokes in my vicinity, I know it is my job to roll my eyes and act long-suffering. Because that's my function among my friends—to never laugh unless it involves cats.

On Sunday, my boyfriend and I went to a comedy show at Mad Momos in DC (shout out to the venue; we thought it was a cool restaurant with lots of fun entertainment scheduled!). Now, I enjoy comedy as much as anyone, but because of my more G-rated sense of humor, during some acts, I spend a lot of time smiling politely, with a hint of embarrassment, and hoping no one notices me.

Yesterday night, it was snowing and the forecast didn't look good, and most sensible folk were snugged away in their homes. Escaping notice is kind of difficult when you're sitting near the front of the room in a crowd of about seven. I was bound to get my moment in the spotlight before long.

The comedian was talking about the bottomless mimosas, one of which happened to be sitting right in front of me. Apparently my enthusiasm for mimosas wasn't obvious enough, because he asked me, "You don't like mimosas?"

All eyes were on me, and, though I'd rather just drink my mimosa than chat about it for a room full of people expecting humor, I rose to the occasion. "Sure I do, I've got one!" I replied confidently, lifting the glass into the air. I got this. I was going to prove I can be funny!

The comedian then said something about "turn up." In a sense that obviously meant something other than "to appear." A sense I had never heard used before. A sense I did not understand! And the entire audience was looking at me, waiting for my reply. Ever cool under pressure, I activated my best deer-in-the-headlights expression and asked, "How do you turn it up?" The room went wild. Yeah, that was all me, comedy goddess in the first row.

The comedian's explanation left something to be desired, but to defuse any hard feelings, he had me take a drink with him...pinkies out, of course. I guess every comedy show needs a society matron.

So yes, I admit it. I don't understand dirty jokes, and I don't understand slang. But on the plus side, it seems I really am funny. All I have to do is keep being my usual clueless self.

Epilogue: If you, like me, are just not 'hood enough (as my boyfriend put it) to understand what "turn up" means, I did find out on Urban Dictionary. It's something like "Get wild," especially in the context of booze and drugs. It can also be used as an interjection, like a less dorky version of "yippee!" So now I know. Next time someone uses that phrase on me, I'll be prepared. I'll be so cool, I'll grow icicles. Just you wait.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Second Life: Reusing the Plasticware

Every workplace has an Office Mom. At mine, I think I might be the "Office Earth Mother."

We have an official Green Office Coordinator, who is not me, but I'm the one always nagging my coworkers to be more green. I tut-tut at them when they use the handicapped button rather than just pushing the door open themselves. When we go shopping for refreshments for our monthly meeting, I refuse to let my coworker get plastic bags, even when I've forgotten the reusable bags. I carry everything out in a big awkward armful on those days. I'm the only one in the office who adamantly refuses to get double computer monitors—because double the monitors means double the power consumption!

But the Green Office habit I wanted to talk about today is reusing the plasticware.

When my coworkers and I go out to eat, one or the other of them will almost always grab a big handful of plastic forks to use later. Every time I see this, I have a silent conniption.

First of all, I think it's rude to take more than you need at that moment; if you need plasticware at the office that badly, then maybe you should buy some. But secondly, it's wasteful! I feel bad enough when I have to use a single disposable utensil at a restaurant. But it's one thing to use a plastic fork out of necessity because that's all the restaurant has and you need one to eat your meal. It is quite another to stockpile forks at your desk because you're too lazy to wash your own silverware.

But what can I do? It's hard to fault my coworkers for their habits when having your own silverware at our office is such a pain. We don't have a kitchen, so if you want to use reusable dining implements, you have to wash them in the bathroom sink—which is not conveniently located—with stupid foaming hand soap that doesn't clean anything.

Fortunately, I've found a solution! Whenever I go out to eat now, I wipe off my plasticware and take it home. I wash it in the dishwasher and bring it to the office.  Then the next time I need a utensil, I use one of the re-used ones! This really takes a weight off my conscience because I don't feel as wasteful using plasticware at restaurants. And I don't have to go through the hassle of washing my utensils in the restroom! After my meal, if the utensil is still reasonably clean and unbroken, I'll take it home for another wash and re-use.  If not, then I can throw it away with the reassurance that I at least got one more use out of it than I would have if I'd tossed it at the restaurant.

After several months of this, I've amassed such a collection of forks, knives, and spoons, that there is no excuse for anyone at the office to stockpile single-use utensils. So the next time I see them going for the forks at a restaurant, my conniption will not be silent! "Stop that!" I'll say! "I'll give you some of mine!"

Office Earth Mother allows no misbehavior.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Racing the Bus


Chase a bus and you might catch a car, says the public service poster near the ceiling of the bus. I have only once had the opportunity to chase the bus (and I say opportunity, because really it is a rare moment that you're late enough to miss the bus but still early enough that it's within chasing distance). I felt pretty awkward, making it stop in the middle of an intersection for me, so from then on, I've made a point of leaving a little bit early. Because I'm usually early for the bus, I have time to play a little game.

I don't chase the bus; I race the bus.

Whenever I get to my stop, I check NextBus to see when I can expect the bus to arrive. If it says more than 4 minutes, I usually just keep walking. The next bus stop is only .2 miles away (I mapped it) and I figure I can kill some time and get in a bit of exercise with that extra walk.

It's kind of fun, and a little suspenseful, to see whether I can get to the next stop before the bus does. Sometimes it's been very close; I've actually overtaken the bus as it waits at a traffic light.

Only once have I walked to the stop beyond the second one. It's .3 miles farther down the road—not a significant difference by most calculations, but it does take 150 times as long to walk, which can mean a lot when you're on foot and racing a motorized vehicle. The one time I did walk to the farther stop, I had a disturbing experience with a very sick drunk, which has made me kind of afraid to ever risk waiting at that stop again.

Scary people aside, racing the bus is a pleasant diversion compared to standing in the cold dying of boredom. I recommend it to anyone who commutes regularly by bus.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Clumsy walker

If you read my last post, you know I have a tendency, thanks to my fast-walking, heels-wearing ways, to startle people when I come up on them from behind.

Fortunately for those people, the tables are turned when I come up on them from the front.

In fact, if you have ever fallen prey to my attacks from behind and want revenge, there is a surefire retaliation strategy: The next time you see me approach you head-on, just give me a smile and a hello. The sudden call to social interaction is guaranteed to distract me enough that, just for a fraction of a second, I forget how to walk. Just enough to make me skitter sideways on a slippery heel, or allow my foot to pop out of the shoe and break my stride, or slam the tip of my platform sole into the floor and stumble.

It happens almost every time I try to smile at someone in the hallway, which is enough to almost make me want to never greet people again. But fair's fair, I guess.  Now we're even. Now I'm the victim, of my own fast-walking, heels-wearing ways.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Pursuer

He's strolling down the hallway on his way back to his office when he first notices the footsteps behind him. Click clack, click clack. He doesn't think much on them, in this safe and well traveled hallway, but they keep coming closer.  And so fast!  Click clack, click clack. His stride falters. Is he being followed? He angles to the right a little to let them pass. But they're not that close yet. Just getting closer. Click clack, click clack. He corrects back to the left, hunching his shoulders almost imperceptibly against an unlikely attack. Click clack, click clack. Why are the footsteps coming so quickly? He swings his head toward one shoulder, then the other, hoping to catch a glimpse of his pursuer out of the corners of his eyes, but without being too obvious about it. Click clack. The footsteps are almost right behind him now. Click clack. His body tenses. Suddenly he lurches to the right and stops dead in his tracks, turning, prepared to fight if he has to, or simply let the pursuer pass him if it turns out to be harmless, disguising his fear as politeness.

She turns her head toward him as she breezes by, giving him an uncomfortable half-smile before click-clacking down the hall.

"She" is me. The click-clack is from my high-heeled shoes that make it impossible to travel surreptitiously, and "he" is practically everyone who ever steps into my office building. The reason this story keeps occurring is I happen to be a fast walker. No matter where I go, if there are other people walking in front of me, it is pretty much certain I will overtake them, apparently making them very nervous in the process.

It's embarrassing to know that I inspire so much anxiety in those unfortunate enough to go before me, but what am I going to do? Waste my time shambling slowly, whistle ice-cream-truck jingles to advertise my presence in a nonthreatening way? Probably I am just going to keep on keeping on, striking fear into the hearts of men with my stiff-soled shoes and purposeful stride.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Web Developer / Trainer

My job title is IT Coordinator: Web Developer / Trainer. It's long because that's how we do things at UMD. I usually just call myself either a "Web Developer" or a "Trainer" depending on the circumstances.

Today I was a Trainer. Once every quarter, I put together 2 hour-long presentations to teach staff members of my college how to contribute content to our websites.

The first training, which I present via webinar, always on a Tuesday, is for absolute beginners. It covers everything they need to know, from logging in, to all the many best practices that keep the websites from being complete chaos. It always spills over an hour. And that's usually with me forgetting to cover at least one topic.

I have done this training at least 8 times over the past year, and it never gets any easier. Two days before I present it, I always do a run-through in my office with the door closed. Every time, I make massive changes—cutting parts out, moving parts around, updating the parts about features that have changed since last time. And then, if I've changed it significantly enough, I do another run-through the next day. Every time, I imagine that this is the time I'm going to get it all in under an hour! Every time, I am wrong.

Next time, I am going to change the description of the Basics training to say it will take an hour and 15 minutes. I have finally resigned myself to the fact that you just can't teach people both how to do things, and how to do things right, in just an hour.

In fact, that's why I always follow the basic training with an advanced training two days later. The second training covers a different topic each time. This quarter, it was a closer look at the different types of content people can create on the sites. Last quarter, it was a deep-dive into the features of the text editor. With the advanced training, every presentation is a new beginning. I get to choose whatever I want to talk about, and there's no pressure to cover everything. Nor is there any pressure to make it better for the next time around (because there is no next time around, at least not for the foreseeable future). I just pick enough material to fill the hour. I always enjoy this training more than the Basics, because it is more relaxed.

Nonetheless, I spend the days and hours before both trainings feeling cranky and anxious. Today, I am happy that it's over. Let's just face it; I'm a hardcore introvert, and I'd rather be puttering around my computer than talking to other people about theirs. I finished my advanced training this morning, and now my time is mine again! This afternoon, I'm going back to being a Web Developer for a while.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I did web design

Lots of career advice seems to be along these lines: "Get a job doing something you love." I did. Web design was something I started as a hobby and enjoyed so much that I started doing it professionally. But for me, at least, as soon as I started doing it for a living, I lost all interest in doing it as a hobby any more.

Yesterday, I accomplished something website-related, without anyone having to pay me for it, for the first time in I don't even remember how long. This is not to say I never do anything website-related outside of work, but I rarely ever go beyond "tinkering" and "learning" (with the intention of having another marketable skill to add to my résumé) to actually "doing."

What I did was something simple: I developed a graphical 5-star rating system for my Giant Cookie Reviews.

This project was actually precipitated by a comment on my last macaroni review wherein the commenter expressed sympathy that it wasn't "as good as you'd like." But in my macaroni-reviewing world, 2 Happy Mood Noodles is actually a pretty high score. And so I realized I need to make it a little clearer what my ratings actually mean.

For example in a star system, 3 stars out of 4 would be a proportionately higher rating than 3 stars out of 5. But if I just conclude my reviews with "3 stars," no one really knows how good that really is. So I made graphics, showing 5 empty stars, and only filling in the number of stars that correspond to the rating.

I could have done this easily with static images, but I took this opportunity to learn how to code inline SVG. I spent a good 3 hours on it, copy-and-pasting code, deducing how SVG works, researching how SVG works, calculating coordinates, trial-and-erroring, and working in a bit of half-hearted graphic design.

In the end, I came up with some stars that I found acceptable (you can see them in yesterday's post)—but didn't really make me happy. The HTML source is atrocious, which is never going to fly with an anal-retentive web developer such as myself. And furthermore, in the midst of this project, I learned there is no easy way to provide alternate text for inline SVG graphics, meaning that my rating system is still not accessible to the visually impaired.

So back to the drawing board. I'll probably use static images next time, but at least I learned something.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Chocolate chip cookie from Crumbs


Last Saturday, my boyfriend and I arrived early for a  birthday party (actually we arrived a day early, but that is a whole different story). We had time to kill (more than we ever knew), so we wandered around the mall for a half-hour, and found Giant Cookies at Crumbs bakery, so of course I purchased one to review. I've reviewed a cookie from Crumbs before; that one was chocolate peanut butter. This time I went the safe and sane route and got chocolate chip.

I was going to give this one 3 stars for the texture, until I got to the middle—so deliciously rich and soft but not gooey, and crunchy just a tiny bit on the outside! So I bumped up the rating by a star. I think it would have been improved even more by the presence of larger chocolate chips—the mini ones just don't quite have enough oomph.

The taste was just average, and that's really all I have to say about that.

But the price—oh, the price was not something to rejoice about. At $3.45 for a 140g cookie, I paid 2.46¢ per gram, which earns this cookie a solid 2 star price rating.

The Bottom Line:

Taste: 3 stars
Texture: 4 stars
Price: 2 stars

Monday, March 10, 2014

Haircuts

Over the weekend, I had the honor of shaving my boyfriend's head. Apparently, he was fed up with the annoying rituals of hair maintenance and the seemingly futile daily application of Rogaine. He says he'd always vowed when he was younger, that if he lost his hair, he'd shave his head. We discussed the pros and cons of that, meaning he just asked me, "Should I shave my head?" over and over again until finally he answered himself: yes.

Up until this weekend, I'd always thought shaving a head was a simple process—You set your buzzer to the shortest setting, make a few quick passes, and you're done! Not so! I got hair tangled in the blades, missed spots, had to find novel ways of working around ears, went back to fix the spots I'd missed, fixed more spots I'd missed, fixed more spots I'd missed, and finally learned what a laborious process it is to shave a head. Oh, and yesterday I found there was still a spot I missed.

After all this, he asked me if I liked his new style. But here's the thing! I never like a haircut when it's new. I feel like it changes a person's appearance so drastically, they are an entirely different person. It takes me time to reconcile the personality that I know with the appearance that I don't. So I never make judgment on a haircut until at least a few days have gone by. When he asks me again tomorrow, I'll have an answer, but let's face it. There is really only one right answer to this question.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Crazy Antics of a Curious Bunny

Jackie asked how Hansel's doing, so here I am to let her and you know!

Hansel, in case you are not yet aware, is a fluffy, sweet-looking bunny with the singular talent of eating my house. A picture's worth a thousand words, so here are a few I took yesterday. (Of course, I probably won't be able to resist putting a few words in there).


Hansel gets fed two heaping handfuls of vegetables every day and unlimited quantities of  hay, but he'd still much rather bully a dog for some of his dry dog food.
When he's not ruining his diet with dog food, he's supplementing it with bits of my couch. I yell at him every time, but as soon as he gets the chance, guess where he is.
Here he is, looking about as chastened as a shameless rabbit can.

Here he is with a large piece of fabric he cleverly tore from the couch's dust ruffle.
And here he is with a different piece of the couch stuck to his whiskers.
For all his destructive ways, I have to forgive him, because he's just a curious bunny.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Weak stomach, strong friendship

Warning: Unpleasant bodily function story follows.

Thanks to a slight miscalculation of how much vodka I should drink in three hours, last night I found myself sitting on the floor of the ladies' room, resting my head on the toilet seat and puking out everything I had eaten the entire day. A friend of mine was a few stalls down doing much the same.

My boyfriend, before he set about the mundane tasks of rubbing my back and making me drink water, took a picture of me in my pitiful state, bless his heart, because he's snap-happy and without shame, and also, to him, drinking yourself sick is some kind of badge of honor (you should have heard how enthusiastically he was planning to get sick after his birthday party).

He was just pleased as punch (why did I say that word!?) by the events of last night. He told me this morning, being with people when they're at their worst makes for a great bonding experience. According to him, me and my friend a few stalls down have passed some milestone of friendship. He says moments like this are the fodder for great stories later down the line. And sure enough, she and I had a semi-pleasant chat this afternoon about our shared moment of misery.

My boyfriend also says you know who your true friends are by whether they stick with you when you're not exactly the best company. So he looks at the bad times as an opportunity to strengthen his relationships.

Well, if he wants to think of it that way, I'm sure not going to try and dissuade him. I'd rather he be pleased by my misfortune than consider me a disgusting barf-bag toting burden he has to drive home. But all the same, that's one bonding experience I would rather have not had.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A story about stories

Today was the first day since starting March SOLSC that I didn't already have a topic ready, waiting, and partially written. And naturally that obliged me to start thinking about what I should write about—and what I shouldn't.

Sometimes, I just want to share my opinion. Sometimes I want to get a little bit preachy. Sometimes I want to write sweeping statements about the world, humanity, morality, and big words. Yet I am writing for the Slice of Life Story  Challenge—not an "essay" challenge or a "missive" challenge or a "manifesto" challenge.

And that's fine. I'm not very good at writing essays or missives or manifestos. Occasionally I get grandiose ideas about these sorts of topics, and I start to lay them out in Springpad for future blogging. And then they languish. After a few sentences, what seemed like a brilliant idea has fallen flat. It's rare that I actually follow through with a philosophical topic.

In thinking about why these topics aren't quite right for Slice of Life, I realize why they don't work for me in general: it's because they aren't stories. My best (or at least, most readable) blog posts are stories. They're what I'm good at.* They have a beginning, a middle, a few silly digressions,** and an end. And at the end, that's where the moral lies, if there's one at all. I usually try to end my posts with some sort of conclusion, but I guess that's not necessary. Sometimes a story for the story's sake is good enough. As contrasted to a lesson for the lesson's sake, which is typically just boring.

Having thought the dickens out of all that, I suddenly realize I have a topic for my Day 7 Slice of Life! I will tell about how I came to learn that, when struggling to find the words to express how I feel about deep subjects like the distribution of wealth, maybe the best approach is to find a story and express it that way.

Not every story has a moral, but this one does: Some way, somehow, every moral has a story.

*Not to toot my own horn or anything.
**Like these ones.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lent 2014

Three of my first five Slices of Life were related to clothing, fashion, and beauty, giving you some sense of where my priorities lie. I am, in fact, kind of fashion obsessed.

I did the math yesterday. Over the past 3 months, I spent $523.77 (at least, but possibly more) on clothing, hairstyling products, and accessories, over a total of 49 separate transactions. Granted, I made $290.45 of that back in eBay sales, but that's still a lot of money.

It's also a lot of time. I'd guess (unscientifically) that I spend about an hour and a half each day planning my look, executing my look, and shopping for future looks.

Considering how much money and time I'm spending on making myself look good, it wasn't hard for me to figure out what to give up for Lent. On the other hand, figuring out what to say I was giving up was a little harder.

At first I thought I'd just give up "recreational shopping," but that didn't cover the many hours I waste standing in front of the closet trying to find The Great American Outfit.

So then I considered giving up "fashion," but I don't object to reading about fashion and finding out what people are wearing; I just wanted to limit how I apply it to myself. So that wasn't quite right.

I thought maybe I'd give up "vanity," but that seems a little too vague and could easily be misconstrued or redefined at my self-indulgent whim.

Finally after many hours of thought (I've been pondering this issue for the last several weeks), I decided to say that I'm giving up "self-adornment as hobby." Sure, that's going to require some explaining if people ask, but how many people ask? And if they do, I'll just point them to this blog, wherein the central tenets of my Lenten resolution are conveniently outlined below:
  • I will refrain from shopping for clothing "just for fun." I will still keep an eye out for the essentials that I've been needing, like the heavy-duty winter gloves that are more for function than style, but I will no longer pass the hours before bed and my lunch break trawling eBay. I will accompany friends to the store if they go, but I will not purchase anything!
  • I will no longer spend a good portion of my evenings trying to pick out an amazing outfit that's never been done before. I will select my clothes the same morning that I wear them, and I'll stick to staples that I know look OK.
  • If I go out, I will wear appropriately dressy attire, but I will not spend a half-hour on my makeup, and I will choose simple clothes.
  • I will also be putting my fashion blog on hiatus.
  • When I find clothing I no longer want in my closet, I will donate it instead of selling it as I usually do. That way, my previous consumerism can immediately benefit someone else!
I hope that this will open up more time for me to be a good person. Although sometimes the emphasis of the Lenten fast is on sacrifice, I prefer to think of it as an opportunity to do better. Or as I read in someone's Slice of Life yesterday (sorry, can't remember whose!) it's about making more room for God. That's what I'm trying to do by giving up all activities related to my personal style for 40 days. Imagine all the productive, generous things I can do with 60 extra hours and 104 dollars unspent!

P.S. If, after reading this, you can distill my Lenten resolution down to a concise couple of words, please let me know! I'm still not sure whether "Self-adornment as hobby" cuts it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A trip down the Wikipedia Whirlpool,
Or, What's a Creeper?

A few days ago, I learned something new. It just wasn't what I intended to learn. I was indulging in a guilty fashion pleasure by reading yet another personality-quiz-esque article on Who What Wear, when I decided I had to determine, once and for all, what are "creepers" in the sense of shoes.

I'd heard of them before, but unlike much other clothing terminology, which I slowly learned through repeated encounters, I  hadn't yet got a handle on what exactly they were.

So I turned to Google. Ignoring the ubiquitous shopping links, which would seem to indicate that creepers are some kind of oxfords with platform soles, I soon found myself on Wikipedia. Whereupon I learned that the full name of this already none-too-pleasantly named shoe is actually "brothel creeper." Makes me want to run out and buy a pair. But does not explain what makes a creeper a creeper.

So I read on. Wikipedia informed me, rather undescriptively if you want my opinion, that creepers are made with suede uppers and thick crepe soles.

Well, up to this point, when I heard "crepe sole" as I sometimes did, I'd always rather assumed it just meant a thin paper-like sole, taking my cue from "crepe paper." But those big honkers I'd ignored on the shopping sites had soles that were anything but thin. So naturally I had to look up what crepe meant. Turns out it's a kind of rubber that's rolled out in wrinkled sheets. I guess wrinkled is its commonality with crepe paper.

But back to the article on creepers. I couldn't help but notice a little farther down that these were the shoes of choice among "Teddy Boys." What's that? Off to the article on Teddy Boys. They were—well, I'm not going to bother replicating the whole of Wikipedia on my blog when you could just read the article.

The point is, I can rarely go to Wikipedia and just read one article. I jump from link to link, sinking deeper and deeper until, all of a sudden, there's nothing more I want to read, and I look up with an image of my computer screen burned into my retinas.

But still no definitive image of a creeper. Not this time. Is it really just any shoe with a thick sole? I guess this time, I'll have to go somewhere other than Wikipedia for my answer.

FY (and my) I, an article from Wall Street Journal (non-subscribers, visit with care—they won't let you read it a second time!) pictures a number of shoes in all different styles, referring to all of them as creepers. And the main trait they have in common is an exaggerated thick sole. The video adds the distinction that they are typically a men's style, though some of the pictures are definitely feminine.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Loveboots

Last year at the thrift store, I bought some fake-fur-lined knee-high lace-up boots with 2.5-inch platform wedge soles that I thought were the cat's pajamas. Despite their impractical soles, I figured they would make great snow boots, and I loved them and wore them with pride.

One day, I even wore them in the snow. When I say snow, I mean yucky puddly melting slush, which is far more common here in Maryland than the pure white pillowy stuff that we all like to think snow is.

And after standing in the "snow" for about 10 minutes, my feet were soaking wet and very cold. Fur-lined they may have been, but my winter boots were anything but waterproof. So I set out to get some new ones.

I had high standards. One, I wasn't willing to pay more than about 50 dollars. Two, they had to be waterproof. Three, they had to be flat (fashionable as I looked teetering around in my last pair of boots, I realized that maneuverability is paramount for traveling in the snow). Four, they had to reach at least to my upper calf, and I'd prefer them to be knee high.

My boyfriend, who loves playing in the snow, was all too pleased to help me in my search, but even he grew discouraged after I rejected most of the selections he found on Amazon. I felt like Goldilocks: "That one's too short, that one's too expensive, that one's too ugly..." Eventually, I went it alone, saving an eBay search and analyzing the pickings every day.

It took only a week before I found these babies: brand new shoes from a sample sale last year!

Rubber Duck Big Foot Boots in Pink and Aqua

They were stupendous! Brightly colored, enormous boots that would be sure to capture eyeballs everywhere, if not sear them. They are clearly knockoffs of Moon Boots, which I've had a secret crush on since I discovered them earlier this winter. I didn't care that they were not quite as tall as I had hoped; it didn't matter that they were $3.50 over my price limit; I wasn't even discouraged by the fact that I couldn't find a single review of them anywhere online and had no idea if they were waterproof or not.

I had to have them! Nothing else mattered except the outsized pop of springtime color that would surely lighten my every step through the dreary snows of winter.

I placed a bid. I won. I wore them to work today.

I would probably provide a practical review of these big galumphing galoshes, so other future shoppers could buy with more confidence, but it doesn't look as though this particular style of boot is still being made. So we'll just leave it with this tale of love at first sight.

Valerie wearing her Big Foot Rubber Duck boots in a white coat in the snow.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Cleaning out my closet

I'm not cleaning out my closet so much as I am moving it all around the room, but that seemed as catchy a title as any Eminem song reference.

You see, last week, I got the notion that it was a bad idea to keep my makeup, hair products, and skin care items (all chemically sensitive to heat and such) right smack dab in front of the sunniest window in my house. Which is, of course, where they were. Next to a table crammed with pots of cacti all fighting for a taste of the narrow band of sunlight that managed to make it into my room at the awkward angle necessary to reach the spot next to the window.

A simple solution to this problem would have been to switch them up, so the cacti sat in front of the window and the cosmetics sat next to it....But then the cosmetics would no longer be within arm's reach of the mirror....And I never liked the location of that mirror anyway—forcing me to vie for space with my wardrobe in order to get a good full-length view—nor, while we were on the subject, did I like the location of my earring rack.

Before I could tell myself to stop, the various boxes and baskets of beauty products were arranged artfully all over the floor, the clothes formerly in the wardrobe were covering the bed, and I was shoving furniture around the room trying to find the perfect arrangement, which would allow for a) seeing my whole self in the mirror and having elbow room at the same time, b) my houseplants to actually sit in the sunlight, c) my cosmetics to not sit in the sunlight and be close the mirror and not piled too high.

This is the kind of work that's tedious and maddening and that I inexplicably love. I can try arrangement after arrangement, moving everything 100 times, looking for the one that's perfect. I have occasionally stayed up organizing my domicile until 1 in the morning without starting to feel sleepy—and anyone who knows my sleep fanaticism knows that's something. Thursday night, however, I gave up at 11, because I had to go to work in the morning.

I put everything haphazardly in some semblance of "away," and it's now been 3 full days that my room has sat in organizational limbo. In a marathon tidying session on Saturday, I found new or improved homes for everything except a decorative box full of hair dyeing paraphernalia, and my full-length mirror. I want to move my mirror to the wardrobe door, but the mirror's just a tad too wide. I might even have to buy a new mirror, which will truly be something, because the last time I paid real money for home furnishings or decor was over 2 years ago when I had to buy a new desk to replace the one that fell apart when I was moving to my current house.

But my mirror situation is dire. Having moved it farther from the closet, now I vie for space with my computer chair, just to see my distorted reflection through the mirror that's currently propped up against the wall, and I'd have to develop rubber limbs to be able to claim my beauty products are within an arm's reach of it. I even went so far as to go to IKEA yesterday evening. But their cheap full-length mirrors were out of stock, so I went away empty handed. Phew! My streak of furniture non-spending remains unbroken. At least for a few more days.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Macaroni and Cheese from Langermann's on Light



First off, before I forget, I want to give Langermann's on Light (on Light Street in Baltimore, in case you were wondering about the weird name) props for making their regular menu available in addition to their fixed-price Restaurant Week selection. Because there's no pleasure in being forced to pay more for food that you enjoy less, which is usually the case with a fixed menu.

Unsurprisingly, I did not select the Restaurant Week menu, but went instead for every vegetarian's meat-and-potatoes: the platter of side dishes. More props to Langermann's (can I just call them LOL?) for providing this option at a discount over the a la carte prices!

I ordered asparagus, cabbage, and – of course – macaroni and cheese.

The macaroni was nothing to jump up on the table and scream with joy about – which is probably a good thing – but it was nothing to complain about either. It had enough salt and enough cheese, and it was not overcooked. It was probably not worth paying as much as I did for it, but when I was finished, I felt quite satisfied.

All in all, I rate it two Happy Noodles: One for the macaroni itself, and one for the restaurant being such a pleasant surprise for a picky vegetarian.
1 happy noodle1 happy noodle

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Slice of Life


My dad's wife Jackie invited me to participate in a special blogging event through the month of March. Basically, you write a blog post every day, share it with other bloggers who are doing the same, and comment on a few of their blogs.

It's called the Slice of Life Story Challenge, but to me, it doesn't sound so much like a challenge as an excuse to use words! Thousands of words! Every day!

It's no secret—I love words. Finding something to write about daily won't be difficult; I've got Giant Cookie Reviews and MacaroniQuests and torrential thoughts about anything and everything aplenty. What will be a challenge is remembering to share my links with the Slice of Life community every day before midnight. Prattling incessantly is one of my strengths...participating in communities is less so.

But I will do it! I have done it, by writing this introduction! One day down, 30 to go!