Sunday, March 20, 2016


Today, I was perusing a list of words you're pronouncing wrong—I like to read things like this because they make me feel intellectually superior (though I did miss one word on this particular list: "mauve"), and I found the word "meme" on it.

I remember the first time I encountered the word "meme." It was probably around 2010. One of my friends kept saying it on Facebook, using it to refer to those once-ubiquitous surveys where you answer random questions about your yourself and post them on social media.

I puzzled over the meaning of the word but didn't look it up (because needing a dictionary is a sign of weakness!) and so came to the conclusion that "meme" was a survey one shares about oneself. And it was pronounced "Me me" because it was all about me!

Well, after some time passed, and I read of other things being referred to as memes (things that were far from personal surveys—LOLCats come to mind), I eventually had to admit my weakness and consult a dictionary. defines meme as 
  1. a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition and replication in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes.
  2. a cultural item in the form of an image, video, phrase, etc., that is spread via the Internet and often altered in a creative or humorous way.

Once I looked up the definition, it became clear that any resemblance it had to the word "me" and any narcissistic implications of such were completely coincidental. 

At this point, I also learned that the word is pronounced "Meem," and I never looked back.

Until I read that list today and was reminded of my past stupidity. My misunderstanding of the word meme is probably one of the more amusing linguistic mistakes I've made in my life, but I'm glad that chapter is over. Here's celebrating 6 years of knowing the meaning and pronunciation of meme!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Plan

Since yesterday's rant about my struggles with housing, I have had some time to settle my thoughts and come to some conclusions.

Fact 1: Much as I would like my boyfriend to contribute to the rent, I don't think it would be the best course of action for either of us. He does, after all, pay all the utilities (I asked him to take on that responsibility when we moved to the apartment, since he's so fond of running electronic devices 24/7), so it's not like he's just dead weight. He also finances most of our entertainment and food budget. I'm slightly peeved that he would rather spend his money improving a house he doesn't live in than on helping the two of us live more comfortably, but, I don't feel it's an important enough issue that I have to pick a fight about it. Our current situation is working for us, and we might as well keep it that way. 

Fact 2: I'm actually in a very good situation now, as far as it comes to being choosy. I have a place to live, a roommate to help with the rent, and, as of the end of this month, a month-to-month lease (that may come back to bite me as it did with my last place, should my landlord decides he wants his condo back...but probably won't because most landlords don't want to go through the bother of finding a new tenant when the current one pays their rent on time). So I can afford to bide my time.

Fact 3: I have been reluctant to commit to renting a new place, since my first priority is to buy one and be done with it. However, I've come to realize that just as bringing an umbrella ensures that it won't rain, committing to a year-long lease and going through the hassle of a move is probably the surest way to make buyable homes pop up like mushrooms. If I lose a month's rent because I have to break my lease, that would still be preferable to living forever in a place I hate.

These three facts have led me to a solution, an eminently promising one. Here's what I'm going to do about my miserable living situation.

Step 1: I will hold out for an affordable and convenient freestanding house, either to purchase or to rent, until the end of May/early June. At that time, college students will be moving out, and the options may be more plentiful. 

Step 2: If I haven't found the house of my dreams by the beginning of May, I will put in my application for Belcrest Plaza. This is an older apartment complex in Hyattsville, a far cry from the luxury apartments that are popping up all around the area. It is probably infested with roaches, but it has 3 things going for it: 1) It's within walking distance of a Metro station, 2) It has doors that open right out onto the sidewalk, making it easy to bring a bike in and out, and 3) It is cheap. I could get a 1-bedroom unit for under a thousand dollars, and a 2-bedroom for under 1400, which means I won't have any trouble affording a unit that's big enough for two humans and two dogs. 

And those two simple steps are the plan! I always feel better when I have a plan.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Houses and the lack thereof

In case you missed the memo, in the fall I was kicked out of my rental house and obliged to take up residence in a condo, which I hate. I keep shopping for alternative abodes, but it seems I either have to choose between living at an apartment complex and all the trials that come with that, or paying 1800+ a month for the privilege of living in a house. Since the majority of my readers live in Ohio, where rents this high are still inconceivable, let me assure you that this is standard for the DC suburbs, but still about 500-900 dollars a month more than living in a 1-bedroom apartment. Financially, the choice between the two is an obvious one, but I really, really, really can't stand the inconvenience of a communal laundry machine. I go back and forth with myself about the equally undesirable options pretty much yes, I'm a little bit irritable about my housing prospects.

In case you missed the other memo, for approximately the last year of my life, I've been trying and failing to buy a house. I started out around this time last year sort of casually poking around the housing market, thinking "well, I've been half-heartedly shopping for houses for the past 6 years; I can wait another 6 until I find the perfect place." And over the next 12 months, graduated from patient disinterest to extreme desperation. Now, when my bids get rejected or a house fails inspection, it means hours of crying and days of depression.

It doesn't help that somehow I have landed myself in a social circle where everyone already owns a home. Among the people I talk to most often, 3 out of 4 are homeowners. My boyfriend, who lives with me but owns the house his parents occupy, is obsessively formulating a plan for remodeling said house. On an eerily similar note, the 4th of the four aforementioned friends lives in an apartment but is inexplicably interested in demolishing his parents' home and rebuilding it.

It's nearly impossible for me to escape the talk of home maintenance and remodeling. And while I can't begrudge any of these people their interest in their homes, I simply can't understand it. Why would you want to remodel a house you don't even live in? Why not take all the money you're throwing away on fixing up someone else's home, and instead invest it in making your own living situation a little less crappy? Why are you making your girlfriend pay all the rent for the two of you and your two dogs (who incidentally make your housing options a lot fewer and more expensive) while you fritter away your own money on vaulted ceilings for your parents who clearly couldn't care less whether or not they have vaulted ceilings, or they would have added them themselves? Hmmm... perhaps my boyfriend and I need to have a conversation about our fiscal priorities, but in the meantime, back to the subject of home-talk.

Being the only person who doesn't have a house (whilst being a person who arguably needs to live in a house more than anyone else!) means you get stuck listening to a lot of conversations that make you jealous. (You also, somehow, got a free subscription to Traditional Home, which is like a kick in the butt every time you receive an issue.)

And so I've realized, after several years of finally not being single, that Love and the Lack Thereof has been supplanted as the single most distressing issue in my life. It's now housing (so much so that I'm creating a new tag for the blog)! I think Public Display of Homeownership (PDH) is my new Public Display of Happiness in a Relationship. It doesn't matter if you're boasting about your newest addition or complaining about your plumbing—you have what I've been struggling to attain, and that ticks me off.

This might sound like complaining. It is complaining. But in the midst of my frustration, jealousy, despair, self-loathing, anger, and the rest of the negatives, there is one thing that makes me smile.

I didn't really need to write this blog post, because blatant PDH is not something I often have to face.

Most of my friends got both of the aforementioned memos. Most of them now preface any kind of discussion about housing with an apology. They understand it's a sensitive issue for me and don't want to remind me. Unlike before, when it seemed like the whole world was trying to rub my relationship non-status in my face, I feel like my failings in this matter (admittedly trifling compared to world hunger and true homelessness, etc.) are being treated with compassion. So while I will never go so far as to say I've been lucky, I can at least say that I have some pretty cool friends.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday Night Fever

Last week, I was on a vacation to Mexico to visit the overwintering monarch butterflies. I'll be sure to tell you all about it, but you'll have to wait until I have recovered from my cold. 

I knew, even before I left, that I was destined to catch a cold on this trip, since I had miraculously escaped any type of respiratory infection all winter, and I tend to get sick disproportionately often when I'm traveling. Sure enough, on the flight back home on Friday night, I noticed a faint pain in my throat. I chalked it up to having choked on my spit earlier in the flight, but in retrospect, I probably choked because my throat was already irritated from being ill. 

Saturday morning, I woke up with a fever and a steadily increasing sore throat, and I knew it was for real. My healthy streak was at an end.

Colds are no uncommon occurrence for me—I usually get one every season, almost like clockwork, and my illness is usually relatively violent for what should be "just a little" cold, but this one might have been my worst cold yet.

From the moment I woke up on Saturday morning, I was in terrible pain. I don't know for a fact that I had a fever, since I don't have a thermometer, but I do know that I was racked by chills, and every joint and muscle from my lower abdomen to my calves ached mercilessly.

Normally I prefer to leave a fever alone, since the elevation in body temperature is supposed to help you fight the infection. But I was in so much pain, I seriously considered taking some anti-inflammatory drugs. I consulted Dr. Google about whether it really is harmful to do that, and naturally got mixed messages. But by the numbers, consensus seemed to be that people who did not treat their fevers recovered faster than those who did. I took this statistic into deep consideration and then chose to disregard it. I decided that a week or more of sniffing and coughing would be better than even a few more hours of this terrible torture chamber that my body had become. 

So I popped 2 ibuprofens and soon felt well enough to sit up and (with lots of breaks) unpack my luggage from Mexico.

Ever before when I've had a fever, the discomfort has lasted for a few hours at most until I could succumb to an exhausted sleep, and then it would be gone. But not this time. This time, every time the ibuprofen wore off, I was back to writhing in pain and shivering with the chill of a lifetime. For three straight days this went on, with me trying varying doses of aspirin and ibuprofen, until finally I woke up on Tuesday morning not feeling like death. I took an aspirin anyway, just in case, and went to work, popping a single aspirin every 3-4 hours, because I felt a little sickly in between doses.

Unfortunately, I have also developed a stuffy nose, and I forgot to bring my Benzedrex inhaler, which is my nasal remedy of choice for daytime. I usually take a few hits before a meal and then suffer through the rest of the day with my congestion.

So at lunchtime, I had to decide whether to choke down my food without being able to taste it or breathe (when I say "choke," I mean that literally) or to walk to the shopping center just off campus and hope to find a suitable replacement drug. There was a risk that the latter might be a futile undertaking, but I opted to do it anyway.

In a frustrating catch-22, the walk there conveniently cleared up my nose, but also made my throat burn like fire.

CVS was out of Benzedrex, so I was left to choose between 12-hour oxymetazoline sprays (quite effective, but too powerful and risky to overuse) or the CVS brand inhaler with levmetamfetamine as the active ingredient. The word didn't sound familiar to me, so I wasn't sure if this was a generic version of the Vicks inhaler, which I had already established to be ineffective, or if it was some new product I had never tried. It was half the price of the out-of-stock Benzedrex, which wasn't a good sign, but lacking any better options, I decided to try it. Only after I had checked out, walked back to work (almost crying from my aggravated sore throat, I'll add), and taken several more sniffs of it than the recommended 2, to absolute zero effect, did I notice the words on the package: "Compare to the active ingredients in Vicks VapoInhaler." Sigh.

However, in the interest of always looking on the bright side, at least I learned something—two things actually. I can now say for sure that I'd rather endure a longer illness than a longer fever, and I can now add Levmetamfetamine to my list of worthless stuffy nose remedies.

And so the struggle continues. My sore throat is slowly, in its very leisurely way, getting better. The stuffy nose is probably at its worst today. I am already starting to feel the incessant tickle in my throat and uncontrollable coughing spasms that will probably last for a week. Then maybe, just maybe, I'll be free. After an ordeal like this, I feel like I should be exempt from any more respiratory infections for at least a year!

Friday, March 4, 2016

7-11 Chocolate candy cookie

What happens when your boyfriend suddenly develops a passion for buying lottery tickets?

You spend a lot of time staring down giant cookies at the gas station.

Frequently, you are tempted to buy them because you are just so bored! 

I got this two-pack of cookies for 99¢ at 7-11 during a lottery ticket run. Four ounces for under a dollar makes these cookies only 87 cents a gram! But of course, you get what you pay for, and these cheap cookies were possibly the worst I have ever consumed.

They were dry, so dry! Although I have heard people say food tastes like cardboard so often, it's basically a throw-away, this cardboard taste was literal. There was this horrible bitterness with every bite, which adhered to my mouth in a gummy, starchy coating that I couldn't scrape off my teeth even after I brushed them.

The texture was similarly disappointing. Crumbs scattered everywhere with every bite. There was no chewiness or variety or airiness — really any texture that anyone enjoys about food — to be found.

The cookie's one saving grace was the chocolate candies sprinkled liberally on top. Given the price of the cookie, I was rather astonished that they were real mini M&M's (not just a generic knockoff).
There were 2 good-sized cookies in this package, but after finishing one of them, I was sure I'd had enough, and I left the other one to languish. In the end, I scraped the M&M's off the top and ate them, leaving the rest of the cookie for the birds..

The Bottom Line 

While the price was pretty much the best I've ever encountered for a single pack of giant cookies, I had to reduce it to just 4 stars, because the value relative to the (disgusting) cookie was not worthy of 5 stars. Similarly, the two stars for taste are very reluctant and only because I enjoyed the M&M's.
Taste: 2 out of 5 stars
Texture: 1 out of 5 stars
Price: 4 out of 5 stars

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A noise Annoys: An interesting homophone that doesn't quite make sense in context.

In keeping with the spirit of my last post, I'm going to have a positive attitude and talk about something that could annoy me, but doesn't! 

It always kind of puzzles me when a coworker stomps up to my office, frown imprinted on their face, and grumbles, "Could that sound be any more annoying?" I'll be thrown for a fraction of a second, thinking, "What sound?"

Until I hear it. It's usually some repetitive pounding noise. They are doing a lot of construction outside our building, and the building itself is usually falling apart in some way or another, so industrial noises are a common occurrence around my office. And apparently I'm very good at tuning them out, because I never notice them until someone else complains!

This is odd, because other kinds of noises can easily drive me bonkers. Any amount of speech, even low or foreign enough that I can't make out the words, distracts me to no end. I can't sleep when the TV is on, no matter how tired I am, and there have been entire mornings I've been unable to work because of a conversation going on in a nearby office. But as long as the sound is not too deafening and relatively meaningless, it doesn't bother me at all.

I don't really have any more to say on this subject. I'm not trying to boast, and I certainly don't have any advice for those who do find these sounds annoying. (Maybe this is why I rarely write about positive topics: they just kind of peter out anticlimactically.) I guess it's just nice to realize that (since I sometimes worry that my innate irritability is downright pathological), there are still a few things about which I can be easygoing!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Little Miss Sunshine peeks out

Sometimes, when reading over my blog, I get the feeling that a better name for it would be "Valerie Complains About Things." 

While I admit it's easier for me to see the cloud than the silver lining (besides – duh! – If clouds actually had silver linings, people would have ravaged the sky long ago to mine them!), I'm really not on a grinch-like mission to spread pessimism and bad cheer throughout the world!

It's just that I think writing is more interesting when it has a bit of bite. No one really wants to hear about how I followed a recipe to the letter and it turned out fine. There's no reason to write about a decision I didn't have any trouble making. Nobody is entertained by the tale of a good date that turned into a long-term relationship. At least I don't think so. Those aren't the things I like to read, so I don't bother to write about them.

But in case there are people out there who have been disheartened by the sheer number of gripey posts in my blog as of late, let me remind you that I'm not all bad moods and sarcastic observations. [Disclaimer: This post was started several weeks ago, so the good things mentioned in it are old news by now] I have, in fact, recently cooked something (not to a recipe, just with the dump-it-and-tweak-it method) that came out edible and almost delicious! Yesterday, I spontaneously chose to pick up and throw out this plastic bag that had been sitting on the lawn outside my apartment complex for days on end. That decision only took me a second, and it felt pretty good! I am, in fact, rounding out Year 3 of my relationship with my boyfriend (my longest streak ever!), which just goes to show (in spite of his taste in dogs), we are a happy couple.

Speaking of dogs and good things, last weekend, I organized all of the dog supplies into a new drawer unit that I got for free out of the garbage, which felt immensely satisfying. I had a really great yoga session. The Slime company sent me a new inner tube for free to replace one I'd gotten that was defective! I'm working my way up to 30 push-ups at a time (this time I'm doing it for real, all the way from the floor and back) and I'm in the home stretch! There is this melted candle in my craft supplies that smells so good, I can't help but smile every time I open the drawer! My boyfriend's mom says I take good care of him.* My landlord wrote me an email to tell me thanks for being a good tenant!

There are plenty of things to be happy about; I just don't necessarily think they are fascinating things to read about. But I wrote about them anyway. So there. I hope that makes you happy.

*My boyfriend, on the other hand, was offended that she thinks he can't take care of himself.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

My least favorite way to dry my hands

It is time for an important discussion. A discussion about a matter that affects us all—the hand driers in public restrooms.

As you all know, there are certain kinds of faucets that are surely the devil's own invention (also, the ones that are so short that your hands bump the back of the sink when using them—ugh!) But not much discussion has been given to the topic of hand dryers.

The environmental community is pretty much of a consensus that electrical hand dryers are more eco-friendly than paper towels, (although I will remind you that it's more eco-friendly to use neither, if you can stand to go around with wet, frozen hands for a few minutes after washing, which I personally, environmental advocate though I am, cannot), so when I'm at a public restroom that gives me a choice, I always go for the electric dryer. Even when it's a ... [insert ominous music here] ... Dip-style dryer! (I was going to use a specific brand name here, but I decided since this is a highly critical post, other brands are also producing the same style of dryers, and the brand in question has since come out with other styles of dryers, I would cut them a break.)

There are many kinds of electric dryers out there, from the ancient wheezers that aren't worth the bother, to the supersonic wind tunnels. But the dippers take the cake. The brand I'm not naming calls its product the "fastest, most hygienic" hand dryer. What it doesn't mention is it's also the most uncomfortable. It's the only electric hand dryer I've found so difficult to use that I've actually stopped to note their name.

In case you're not familiar with these torture devices, they look like this:
You're supposed to turn your hands parallel to the wall, then dip them down into the dryer and back up until they are dry. Has the designer actually ever tried this motion? It is awkward and clumsy, and since there's very little clearance between the front and back of the cavity, you're almost guaranteed to bump your still-wet hand into it—somewhat belying the "most hygienic" claim. 

Ah, well, what is a poor public-restroom-user to do? Start using paper towels? Perish the thought! Or maybe just complain about it in her blog, and hope that hand dryer manufacturers read it and learn of their folly.... Now there's an idea!