Friday, September 28, 2012

A Break

There are several ways to know that you have been spending too much time on the internet:

You look at your children and notice they’ve grown. “Weren’t you just a baby yesterday?”

You’re surprised about changes in the weather. “September?! Wasn’t it June yesterday?!”

You start dreaming about bumping into internet personalities at frozen yogurt shops. “Oh, hello, Mr. Takei.” “Oh, hi, you’re Tricia, right? From facebook?”

Time for a self-imposed internet exile. Goodbye, cruel world wide web.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Three Ways to Stay Warm

It’s apparently not summer anymore, kids. Autumn weather (and that of winter, which cuts autumn’s rather short) is normally cooler than that of summer weather, and that means you may have to change some of your habits to stay comfortable. Since it’s been hot for quite a while, you may have forgotten what to do when it’s cold, so I give you:

Three Ways to Stay Warm (Now That it’s Apparently Freezing Out Every Night)

1. Close your windows.
It’s easy to see why this is a good idea. Just stand in front of an open window in the evening when the wind is blowing. Then, close the window. You will notice immediately that you are warmer. When your windows are open, cold air can get inside your house, and if you are also inside your house, the air will find you and make you cold, too. Close your windows, and you will be warm.

2. Utilize blankets.
You may be used to sleeping with just a sheet over you, or no covers at all. The reason we shun covers on our beds during the summer is because covers keep us warm. To stay even warmer when it’s cold, add more covers. Sleeping with several sheets probably won’t help, and this is why blankets were invented. There are lots of different kinds: fluffy ones, heavy ones, fuzzy ones, and thick ones. You may have to try each kind to determine which one is your favorite, but in the meantime you will be warm during the night.

3. Wear pants.
It’s a good idea to leave your skin exposed (as much as modesty dictates) during the summer, because clothes (for the same reason as covers) keep us warm. So a tank top and Daisy Dukes are a good idea in August, but in October they’re less advisable. Put on some pants. I don’t care how cute that halter dress is, if you go outside, you’re going to be cold. You’re not going to exercise, so don’t even think about those athletic shorts (unless you are going to exercise. Then go ahead. Exercising will make you warm, and probably sweaty, so make sure to take a shower afterward, and when you’re getting dressed again, put on some pants). The more clothing you wear, the warmer you will be.

Now that it’s apparently freezing out every night, you’ll need these tips to keep warm. Keep following this blog for many other helpful tips, including “How to Ignore That Weird Smell That Comes From the Furnace When You Turn on Your Heater for the First Time,” and “Snow is Basically Frozen Water So Be Sure Not to Make a Mess When You Come Back Inside After Playing in it.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Dangerously Delicious

Once upon a time, in The Past,1 I was in a hallway cleverly disguised as a kitchen doing heated battle with a vegetable.

The End.2

I was all ready for work, even though I didn’t have to go in for several hours, and was planning on having a late vegetarian lunch, as long as I could tame the aformentioned vegetable. My roommate was somewhere within shouting distance, which turned out to be a good thing.

“Bwahaha,” I may have said.3 Shortly, I called in for backup. “Lindyyy...” “What?” my roommate called back from the other room. “Can you come help me?” “What do you need help with?” she asked, leaving what she was doing to see what I was whining about. “I’m kind of... bleeding...” I confessed reluctantly. “What? How?!”

I haven’t ever tried turtle meat, but I’ll bet it’s delicious. People probably first tried it thinking it fell under the mollusk rule:4 “If it’s hard to open, it’s probably tasty enough to be worth the trouble.” The same is true for squash.

Even if there’s bloodshed involved.

It was only my thumb, but there was quite a gash. I don’t even know how it happened. One minute I was slicing along with the knife, and the next minute the kitchen floor was drenched in my lifeblood and the squash was sitting there, uninjured, and looking sinister.

Even though I never got my lunch5 and my boss was annoyed with me for being late (since I had to go to my mom’s house to get appropriate bandages), I still love squash. And now I have the edge on those wiley vegetables, since I know they’re actually out to get me and will defend themselves rigorously.

1 The Past is anything that happened from the dawn of creation all the way up until about two months ago. Any event that happened between two months ago and the present is referred to as happening “The Other Day.”
2 Not really.
3 It’s not like I wrote down the dialogue at the time. I wasn’t thinking, “Oh, in about seven years I’ll blog about this.”
4 which I just made up
5 I did eat the squash, just not that day. And my roommate had to do battle with it. She won, and didn’t lose any life or any limbs in the process.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Celebration of Light...Sabers

In The Past, I have written about the awesomeness that is The Princess Bride. Today is the 25th anniversary of its release, so naturally tonight I’ll be watching it to celebrate. I was alive when the movie came out, but I was three, so it doesn’t make me feel old to know that it’s 25 (like I did when I learned The Powerpuff Girls was nearing its tenth anniversary).

Star Wars celebrated its 35th anniversary this year in May, and a fan of both (as many people are) could not resist a mashup.

I think the thing I like most about this silly video is the fact that the sound of the sabers is quite realistic (as realistic as light sabers can get, that is). One thing I take exception to is that Inigo’s is red; he wasn’t evil exactly, just on the wrong side at the time of the battle. Although I suppose Vader’s was red as well, and he also had a change of heart at the end. Finally, something that could have made this awesomer would have been to have Inigo disappear at the end of the duel when he falls to his knees, and Westley step on his clothes, to mimic the end of the famous light saber duel in A New Hope.

Happy Anniversary, The Princess Bride. May everyone go on loving you for the next 25 years.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tastes Like Nostalgia

I have a warm slice of Hy Vee pepperoni pizza and a Mountain Dew. Now all I need is half of a Nutty Bar, and I’ll be back in high school again.

I didn’t go to public school. Well, I did for a while, but when we moved away from my hometown the summer after sixth grade, my mom got a job at a private school. Since she was going to be going there every day anyway, and they offered free tuition to the children of faculty, it seemed pretty silly for my brothers and I not to join her there.

I probably missed out on quite a bit by not simply walking down to the local public high school, but attending private school gave me a unique experience that I would not have had anywhere else.

First of all, there was the fundraising. The government doesn’t give any money to private schools, so if you want, say, desks, you have to ask other people for the money to buy them. If you want to go on a class trip, a club outing, or if you want to be able to buy decorations for the prom dance, you have to fleece your friends and family.  I have hawked enough candy bars, distributed enough flyers, and done inventory at enough grocery and retail stores to last me for the rest of my life. If my kids ever need to fund raise for anything, they’ll have to ask their father to help them, because the very idea makes me queasy.

The school was small enough that it wasn’t terribly cost effective to even offer a hot lunch program, so every day, every single student had to bring their own sack lunch. I ate a lot of hot pockets in high school. So naturally, the absence of a hot lunch program became one of the ways various clubs made money.

A couple of times a week, one of the clubs would sell lunch tickets before school. They usually went for around $2.50, and they’d buy you a main dish, a side dish, a dessert, and a drink.  Hardworking parents and teachers donating their time would help the kids put together things like sloppy joes, spaghetti, or something we called “walking tacos” which were taco fixin’s tossed into a personal bag of Fritos (and they were delicious). The school had a deal with the local Hy Vee, and was able to get large amounts of pizza for less than it would cost the average person wishing to purchase pizza in bulk, and so it was easier for the kids to raise money on lunches that way. Pizza was the easiest lunch to serve, too, since it consisted of slapping a slice on a plate and setting out the personal sized bags of chips, Little Debbie desserts, and drinks to let kids grab themselves.

The taste of Hy Vee pizza reminds me of hanging out with my friends during lunch. Watching Elizabeth eat her pizza layer by layer (toppings first, then sauce, then the soft part of the bread, then the hard crust), quickly finishing Math homework for later, and running back and forth across the gym with a dollar to buy an extra slice of pizza to share.

Hy Vee pizza isn’t the awesomest in the world, but it’s also not the worst. The best part about it, probably, is that it tastes like nostalgia. Just by having a meal, I can go back and remember the best parts of high school without actually having to be there.

Man, I’m really craving a Nutty Bar.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The First Day of... oh hey, look, a penny!

I’m always a little wary when the first day of a season comes around.

It’s the same way I feel about setting up an appointment to take family pictures. I feel like if I talk about it in the hearing of my children, they will wait until five minutes before departure and then bash some very visible part of their body (usually their face) into the nearest hard or pointy surface, thus creating the illusion, by having a terrible bruise or gaping wound captured in a rarely-taken family photo, that this is their normal state of being, and that I, as their parent, allow them to be constantly injured in this fashion. I don’t say things to them like, “We’re going to take pictures this weekend! Isn’t that exciting?!” Instead, I say things like, “Look at this pretty dress you get to wear! Isn’t that exciting?!”

Whenever it nears one of those days in the year when the calendar begins to claim that the season is changing, I get a bit annoyed. The calendar can’t know when it’s autumn; it has no mechanism for looking outside and seeing that we haven’t had a hot day for weeks. It’s already autumn. It’s not like the trees are going to check the calendar and automatically drop all their leaves tomorrow, just because it says so.

The only thing I feel that putting the change of a season on a particular day does for us is give us unrealistic expectations. The only thing I predict will happen weather-wise tomorrow is that either it will be blazingly hot or it will dump a ton of snow, just to spite the calendar. Like, “It’s fall now, eh? Well, take this! That’ll teach you to tell me my business.”

It seems to me that the only thing that happens on the first day of winter is that it’s already been snowing for weeks, the only thing that the first day of spring brings is news that it’s still cold and wintry, and the only thing that happens on the first day of summer is that it’s either still cool from springtime weather or already above 100 degrees. The weather doesn’t happen on our timetable. Saying, “It’s definitely spring now!” as you stand in front of a window while the snow blusters down on the other side of it just makes you seem stupid to me.

When this time of year rolls around, I tend to avoid looking at calendars that announce the manmade decision for the season change. I stop talking about the weather and try to ignore whatever is going on in the sky. I don’t say things like, “Autumn is my favorite! I can’t wait for the leaves to start turning!” Instead I say things like, “I know we had the spaghetti sauce earlier this week but you didn’t make spaghetti, you made campanelle, so do you mind if we have spaghetti for dinner so we can finish off the sauce? It’s just going to go bad in the refrigerator if we don’t eat it. We’ll make garlic bread.”

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fun with Grammar & Spelling: Chili

Today I would like to discuss the differences between several different things that can create confusion in conversation. They consist of the following:


The first item on our list is a plant which originated in Mexico. The second is a Texan dish. The third is a South American country. The thing they all have in common is their name. It’s not spelled the same, but it sounds the same, and that’s sometimes pretty confusing.

A chili pepper is not actually a pepper. It is the fruit of a plant in the nightshade family, originally grown and used extensively in central America and the southern parts of North America. As with many other things, the name got screwed up by some confused Europeans whose heads hadn’t quite stopped ringing after they’d bumped into some continents.

I’m talking, of course, of Christopher Columbus, who was so excited about finding a westward route to India (and the pepper he would find there) that the first place he happened upon was of course his destination. It wasn’t his fault, really, though people of his occupation realized in those days that the earth was actually round, they didn’t know how round (or rather, how extensively round). The reason I find it so ridiculous is because it seems to me that he should have done a bit more research about the general vicinity before he started pointing at things and naming them like a fifteenth century Adam: “Look, Indians! Look, pepper!”

Chili “peppers” come in a range of spiciness known as the Scoville scale. The many different varieties are used in many different dishes, one of which is quite popular in Texas and has spread to the rest of the United States (and the world beyond).

Chile con carne takes its name from its ingredients: chili, with meat. If they’re going to be that specific about the ingredients in the name, I don’t know why they don’t add “y tomate y sal” to it, although maybe they thought it would be too long at that point, or maybe if they’d gone that far with the length and information that they would have felt obligated to include the instructions to make it in the name as well.

The dish isn’t complicated to make, but the problem is that opinion differs widely (and rather insistently) on which ingredients to use. There is a staunch camp which defends the use of beans, and another which just as staunchly insists on their being excluded. Its side dishes also create some controversy, and the argument over saltines, tortillas, and corn bread rages.

I make my chili by browning some ground beef, and adding a can of tomatoes, a can of kidney beans, a cup or so of cooked pinto beans, in addition to salt, cumin, and chili powder. I don’t have any strong feelings about the use or non-use of beans, I just know that I’ve had chili (con or sin carne) made by other people, and I have determined that the way I make it is the way I like it.

A map of South America is always fun to look at. Brazil, looming huge on the east coast, Chile, slipping down the west coast, and all the others huddled around, poking out the south eastern and northern edges. Chile is a beautiful country that is only a little more than 100 miles across and has many interesting tourist spots, including the famous Moai on Easter Island.

Its name could have come from any number of different places, but the outcome was of course decided by a European that shoved into the area. It had something to do with a valley, and something the Europeans heard the Incas calling it, “Tili,” after a native chief. Or maybe it was because the valley was similar to another one in Peru that had a town in it called “Chili,” or maybe it was the fact that the leader of the expedition, for whatever reason, decided to call the Mapocho River valley “Chile.” The word itself could have come from any number of different words, from the different groups of native people who lived there, and could mean either “the ends of the earth,” “the deepest point in the earth,” or maybe even “snow.” Or it could be none of those and instead be the onomatopoeia of the cry of a local bird.

The names of these three things sound exactly the same but are very different. Of course, in context, you wouldn’t necessarily get confused, but if you walked up to someone and asked them to give you the history of chili, they wouldn’t automatically know what you were talking about and could end up giving you details about botany, gastronomy, or politics.

But heaven forbid you attempt a conversation about adding a certain ingredient to your Texan stew when it’s slightly cool outdoors in a certain South American country. (“Don’t forget to put a chili in your chili when it’s chilly in Chile.”)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Silly Holiday: International Talk Like a Pirate Day


Today be International Talk Like a Pirate Day, me hearties.

But it’s not International Write Like a Pirate Day, so I won’t.

Several years ago I read about this silly idea in a column by Dave Barry, who is a comedic writer who can make me go from completely silent and unassuming to explosive laughter in about two words (maybe less, depending upon the words in question). Two men playing racquetball together decided to start talking like pirates after one of them got hurt and instead of saying “ow” said something like “arr” instead. Though the actual event that inspired the day itself occurred on the sixth of June, the founders decided to celebrate annually on September the 19th, because it would be easier for one of them to remember since it was already his ex-wife’s birthday.

Talk Like a Pirate Day isn’t about ex-wives, or birthdays (unless it happens to be your birthday, in which case, have a happy day), or about dressing or acting like a pirate. It’s simply about talking like one. Yo ho.

It’s a day to not take yourself or anything else too seriously. There’s no rule that you have to talk like a pirate all day, either. If there were some rigidly enforced guidelines to follow, it would defeat the purpose of the day, which is to have fun.

So whether you get dressed up and never let a word pass your lips that wasn’t used on a boat from 1650-1730 or you treat today like any other day in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, enjoy International Talk Like a Pirate Day. For it is proof that in this day and age, you and your friends can become famous by being silly one day while playing racquetball.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Vehicle-Related Mirth

A couple of weeks ago, I was going somewhere in the car with my mother when she randomly began giggling. I glanced sideways at her and raised my eyebrow, an expression which she correctly interpreted as my questioning what she was laughing at. “It’s so silly!” she answered, and pointed.

It was a Smart Car.

Living in the Denver Metro area and in Boulder, Colorado means that I have shared the road with motorists who enjoy having the latest thing in cars, so I’ve seen enough of them to refrain from immediately giggling whenever I see one. There aren’t as many in Lincoln, Nebraska, so my mother’s mirth was completely understandable.

I saw something recently on the internet, though, that no one would fail to laugh at.

It’s a not-quite-as-Smart Car.

Giggle all you want, Mom.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mountain Goat Massage

Every mother goes to her baby advice books, or to her mom, or to her friends for the answer to the question of how to get things done when she has a new baby. Everything is more difficult when you have an adorable snuggly creature that cries whenever you put it down. The books say, “put your baby on your chest while you do sit-ups! They will love it!” LIES. The truth is that no matter what you’re trying to do, if your baby is in a mood to be held, they will scream if you put them down to do something, no matter how important it is or how many dance routines you do or how many silly faces you make at them. A baby doesn’t listen to logic. It’s not like you can say, “Hang on a second, Darling, I have to put this grease fire out.” The only thing that’s important to them is being cuddled, and there are times when they won’t have anything else.

My seven month old doesn’t crawl yet, she just squiggles around on her elbows and hands when she wants to get somewhere. She gets up on her hands and knees, but slides back down onto her tummy when she wants to move to a different location. My mother lovingly calls her a “little mountain goat,” because when she is being held when in an energetic mood, she climbs up the person holding her until she can see what other mischief she could be getting into in the general vicinity.

This weekend, she started to apply these climbing skills to pulling herself up onto various things. My husband’s filing cabinet, the couch, and the railing of her crib got quite a bit more slobbery than they had been before. We tried to tell her that she was starting this activity too soon and that she should learn to crawl before beginning to learn to walk, but she disregarded our warnings in favor of having a good time.

I am now qualified to offer better advice than “I guess you’d better find yourself a babysitter” to a young mother who ask what she should do with her baby if she wants to get a massage. I would tell her to wait until her baby is old enough to crawl around, and then lay in the middle of the floor (or bed) and put her baby on her back. As long as you don’t mind some squawking in your ear, attempts to chew on your hair, or a demand to change a diaper afterward, you can get a pretty decent massage that way. And it’s much cheaper (and cuter!) than hiring a masseuse.

With a baby around, you may not be able to get things done such as the laundry or the dishes or preparing dinner, but at least you can get a Mountain Goat Massage.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Review: Henry 8.0

One thing history buffs like to do is imagine how certain figures from the past would behave in the modern day (once they get over the whole “amazed by technology”/“what devilry is this?!” phase, of course). Would Julius Caesar be addicted to MMORPGs? Would Benjamin Franklin be clamoring with the masses for the next iPhone? And just how many dating websites would Henry VIII be a member of? The BBC undertook to answer this last question in a series of short comedy sketches late in 2009 called Henry 8.0.

Brian Blessed is a British actor known for his booming voice and his distinctive red beard, who just has the look and bearing of a king about him. He has played numerous Shakespearean roles, and the kings he has portrayed include (but are not limited to) Augustus (I, Claudius), Richard VI (Blackadder), and King Lear. With these roles and more under his belt, he’s obvioulsy perfect for Henry.

Most of the sketches feature Blessed in full Tudor regalia in the foreground at his computer. This way we are able to catch all of his facial expressions and the occasional glimpse of the background, and his hardworking sixth wife Catherine busy in the kitchen. Henry has adventures online, occasional tiffs with his political rivals (the Pope blocks him on Twitter and the King of France taunts him on facebook), trouble with his computer, and shouting matches with poor I.T. professionals over the phone.

While all of this is very amusing and Henry’s behavior is spot on in every situation, the best parts are of course the historical bits, which come out when the king tries to persuade his wife to get him something good to eat. He tries several different things when she refuses: “You know, you really reminded me of Anne Boleyn just then. Spooky! Whatever happened to her? Oh yeah...” Another time he approaches from a different angle. “...technically, that’s treason,” he sings, to which she replies, “Not this again, Henry... Why do you always have to bring up treason?” The most hilarious exchange is one in which Catherine offers to make Henry his favorite lunch, and his excitement spouts this effusion of fondness: “I love you, Catherine. Of all my wives, you are, without a doubt, one of my favorites. Definitely top three... Jane Seymour, a very hard act to follow, admittedly, but you’re a serious contender for the number two slot.”

The only thing it could have used were a few more scenes like that. Perhaps one about him debating over whether to accept a friend request or an online invitation to a party thrown by his ex-wife Anne of Cleves, and Catherine commenting, “What’s the problem? Isn’t she just your dear sister?” Or maybe a remark to Catherine like, “Are you following Lizzie on twitter? It seems that your old friend the Lord Admiral is paying her some unwanted attention.”

Even without some extra historical scenes, Henry 8.0 is enjoyable and funny (as long as you don’t mind a bit of crass British swearing). The worst thing about it is that I didn’t discover it until now, when there will be no new episodes, and even the twitter account associated with the show has not been used since July. If you like history and silly British humor, you will love Henry 8.0.

And if I haven’t convinced you, maybe this will.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


When I got my new debit card in 2006, August 2012 seemed ages away. When I tried to use that same card to pay for a membership at the Children’s Museum on Labor Day, I was jarred by the fact that August 2012 had already come... and gone.

A paperwork snafu involving the United States Postal Service and our bank caused me to be cardless for an entire week. We moved in July, and my husband dutifully informed all of our important places of business of our address change. Except the bank wanted to be extra certain that my identity was secure, and so when he told them his address had changed, they assumed mine hadn’t, since I, myself, wasn’t letting them know that anything in my life had altered.

They dutifully sent me a new card in the mail sometime in the end of July. Instead of being rerouted to my new address, it went to the Utopia for Lost Correspondence, where embarrassingly lost invitations go to frolic. I never got it.

Standing with my mouth hanging open, staring at the Museum volunteer, I took a split second to reflect on how much my spending habits have changed in the last six years. I used to make fun of my husband for never having cash on hand. I always did, because I was a server at a restaurant. I could come home from work, dump a pile of cash on the floor, and roll around in it if I wanted to. The pile would probably have been made up of more ones than twenties, but the point was I always had a lot of cash; he never did, and it amused me that he couldn’t even get a soda out of a vending machine at school, whereas I could probably buy the machine with the pile of bills in my pocket.

The checkbook in my purse currently has one check left in it. There aren’t many things we need the checkbook for, not many things we can even use it for anymore anyway, but it seems like the things we do need it for can’t be paid for any other way.

I didn’t realize my life had changed so much that I am now contemptuous of establishments that only accept cash. I also missed the fact that my life has changed to the extent that I never carry any.

I had to go into a local branch of my bank to fix the mistake. I had to prove who I was and that my address had changed, and the banker ordered me a new card. For a week, I didn’t buy anything. No groceries, no books, no fun things for my kids. I laid my hands on a new debit card on Monday, and immediately celebrated by buying a present for my nephew. September 2015 doesn’t seem like that far away, but I’m determined to keep a closer eye on the expiration date of my card this time.

Because I never want to be cardless again.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What Will You Forget?

Everybody and their dog planned a 9/11 post for yesterday, but I forgot. Not that I forgot forgot, but it just slipped my mind. Then I felt terrible, because I couldn’t believe I forgot. Then I remembered this comic from Randall Munroe’s xkcd.

One of the reasons xkcd is so great is that Munroe is so good at getting the perfect mix of amusement and the things that make you think. It’s comforting that someday we’ll forget about silly things like New Coke or VH1’s I Love the 80s. It will be a sad day when other things on the list are forgotten, like like the fall of the Berlin Wall or the Columbine shootings. Then there are the things on the list that we shouldn’t forget, like Chernobyl or Hurricane Katrina.

There are things there that we won’t forget. Sure, the kids may be too young to remember them, but we’ll share the biggest events of our lives with our children. I was in the English classroom in 6th grade with as many other people that could fit in the room to watch the verdict of the O.J. Simpson trial. That’s not something that matters, so if I don’t ever get around to telling my children that story, I won’t feel bad about it. When I was a kid, I learned that there were 9 planets in our solar system. Since my daughters will be learning something different, I’ll probably share that story with them.

One thing I will not neglect to tell my daughters about is what happened on September 11th, 2001. From the first report my mother and I heard on the radio on our way to school to the final peaceful hour of the day that I had during Calculus class to wandering the hallways later in in the day, fear and helplessness washing over me. And they can tell their children, even if it’s nothing more than “Grandma was a little girl when that happened.”

There will be things that we’ll never forget. And thankfully, there are lots more things that we will forget, like the final and most comforting thing on Munroe’s list: “2047: Anything Embarrassing You Do Today.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Social Stickers

Boulder, Colorado is the Bumper Sticker Capitol of Western North America (Excepting Berkley, California and Perhaps Select Areas of Canada).1 It wasn’t unusual to see five or six bumper stickers on the average car there, and some had way more than that (it was assumed that any car without a bumper sticker was someone visiting from out of town but planning to buy a bumper sticker before they left). There was even one guy whose truck topper was covered in them, back, sides, and top.

It wasn’t until today, in Lincoln, Nebraska, the Capitol of Nebraska but Not Associated with Any Bumper Sticker Records That I’m Aware,2 that I first began to think of the back of someone’s car the same way I do about a profile page on a social media website. A bumper sticker contains a finite number of characters and can sometimes be terribly vague, just like a tweet or a facebook status.

I was waiting at the intersection at Cotner and Vine (I dare you to hit a green light there ever. I think I’ve only ever not had to stop there once in my life. It is on my list of Least Favorite Intersections Ever3), reading the back of someone’s car like it was a biography of their life. From the four bumper stickers spread an appropriate distance from one another (space that I’m sure she’ll fill in with more informative stickers about her life in the future), I wrote a little blurb that I’m sure she’d be proud to post on whatever social media site the kids are crazy about at the moment:
Recently I decided to get a pet. After reading about it on the internet, I decided that the best thing for me to do would be to adopt one from the pound. The greatest thing is that they don’t call it “adopting” anymore, now it’s called “rescuing.” So I could have a pet and feel good about myself! It’s like having your cake and eating it, too! Except I won’t eat my dog lol. Anyway I saw the cutest little pug and took him home and I love him so much!!! On the way out I paid too much for some bumper stickers shaped like my doggie’s footprint to put on my SUV. That way everyone will know what an awesome person I am (one says “Rescue Mom”) and how awesome my dog is (“Who Rescued Who?”)!!!

Whenever I see a bumper sticker I really wonder what the thought process is behind putting one on your car. I can assume it’s similar to the phases someone goes through when considering a tattoo: where should I put it, what should it say, how much should I pay for it? You must have to be really dedicated to something to get it permanently etched on your body, and even though a bumper sticker isn’t as lasting as a tattoo, they’re pretty hard to get off of your car. Although now they do make magnets, so if you decided that you wanted to share your love of the Philadelphia Eagles with the world (or whoever happened to be behind you at a red light), you could slap a magnet on the back of your car, and then just take it off when you change your mind and decide that now you’re a Redskins fan.

But now that we have social media, we can share our vague angsty thoughts, relationship frustrations, or annoying political views with anyone at any time. You don’t have to be driving your car to let everyone know that you think that Calvin should urinate on whatever you dislike. In fact, you probably shouldn’t. Using your phone to browse the internet or text while you drive is very dangerous. Maybe that’s why we still have bumper stickers: they’re a semi-permanent facebook status to keep us from tweeting and driving.

Or maybe we have things like social media because of the need to share our thoughts and beliefs with the world. From primitive societies drawing on the walls of caves, to graffiti on the walls of buildings, to bumper stickers, to social media. What’s next?

Maybe someday there will be a pet groomer willing to shave your personal creed into the fur of your cat (and then you can take a picture of it and post it on your facebook page)!

1 This statistic is 100% totally made up. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true. Or at least pretty close to true.
2 This statistic is 100% totally true. Lincoln is the capitol of Nebraska the last time I checked, and I don’t know that the city holds any bumper sticker records.
3 Sharing company with 32nd & Cornhusker/Adams/whatever, 27th & Capitol Parkway, and several others I don’t even want to think about right now.

Monday, September 10, 2012


I like ribs. I love wings. But I don’t like barbecue sauce.

I once went with my friends to Famous Dave’s, looked the server straight in the eye, and said, “Do you have anything that doesn’t have barbecue sauce?” I ended up eating a bowl of cinnamon apples.

I don’t have any excuses. I just don’t like it. This isn’t a plea for help or a request for a recipe that will change my mind. I don’t like it, and it’s more than likely going to stay that way.

I’d much rather do something interesting with ribs (like make them awesome in the crock pot) or make up my own way of preparing wings (a bunch of parmesan cheese out of the shaker, some garlic salt from the grinder, toss together with chicken and bake = better than BW3).

Aside from the fact that I don’t like the taste, barbecue sauce just seems lazy to me. I know you can make it from scratch, but most people buy it from the bottle because it’s easier. I’d rather experiment with an interesting marinade, whether I follow a recipe or play the “what could we toss in a bag with this chicken” game.

Another thing that annoys me is the spelling. Is it “barbeCue,” or “barbeQue?" is unhelpful, each word references the other and they have the same definition. The only clue it gives is in the origin, where it tells that “barbecue” is from the Spanish “barbacoa,” which is a word they stole from a group native to Haiti, who used a similar word to describe a raised wooden contraption that could either be slept on or utilized to cure meat. (Kind of like the way we use “bed” to mean either something you sleep on or a place where your flowers grow.)

I will conclude from this evidence that the correct spelling is “barbecue,” because the Spanish word uses a “c” and not a “q.” I can assume the confusion comes from the fact that “cue” sounds like the letter “q.” This word is truly an American word, from an American people, borrowed into one language and then borrowed into another, which most likely is the reason we can’t spell it.

I just don’t like barbecue. I won’t hold it against you if you do, though. I won’t even hold it against you if you misspell it.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Life gives us many things to complain about. Bills (medical & otherwise), debt (student loans or credit cards), and everyday frustrations (stupid interoffice politics or the fact that your children won’t stop screaming). But every once in a while, we need to stop and forget about the bad things so that we can focus on the awesome things in life.

Like walking down the street with a baby on your back, acknowledging everything that your excited two year old is pointing at while the baby coos happily in your ear.

Like snuggling with a husband who works hard all day and then comes home and does everything he can to help you out with dinner and putting the kids to bed.

Like having a wonderful family who is there for you whenever you need them: a mother you can share things with like a sister, a father who is always there to support and guide you, brothers you can laugh with in any situation, wonderful in-laws you can chat with for hours, sisters-in-law that couldn’t be more awesome to hang out with than if you’d picked them out yourself, friends who listen to your complaints and make you giggle, and cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents who are always there with encouragement and advice, love and comfort.

So bring it on, life.

I’ve got backup.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Today in 1522...

Today is the four hundred ninetieth anniversary of the first successful circumnavigation of the world. That first time, it took three years, but today we can circumnavigate the world in many different ways, and when we’re not taking time to explore, the journey goes much faster. The current record is just over six weeks.

The name “Magellan” is now synonymous with exploration and discovery. Those of us in America know more about Columbus, but really, neither of them made it to their eventual destination. Columbus bumped into some continents and decided to stay when he saw profit there, and Magellan was killed when he became involved in some local conflicts in the Philippines.

When the (quite aptly named) Victoria limped into the harbor 490 years ago, the only one to return of the five ships that set out, it contained a mere thirteen percent of those who had originally set sail on board. The voyage was a success, if only because a westward route to India had been found, and because the ship’s hold was full of spices.

The most interesting thing that was discovered because of this voyage was not just the size of the earth but the need for an international date line. The ship’s date book had been very meticulously kept, and the fact that they were a day behind when they returned was astonishing.

“The Age of Discovery” is a very interesting time in world history to study. The thing we have to remember, though, is that we’re still in an age of discovery; we’re just exploring and learning different things.

I wonder how they’ll look back on this day in history 490 years from now.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Review: Girl Genius: Agatha H. and the Airship City

Everyone has a story in them, whether they’re a writer or not. How they choose to draw that story out of them and share it can take many different forms. The husband and wife team, Kaja and Phil Foglio, share their story not by simply writing it down, but by combining Kaja’s ideas and Phil’s gorgeous art together to create something wonderful.

I’m always very wary of recommending certain things to friends. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a TV show or a brand of potato chips. What I’m afraid of is that if they try it and hate it, they will blame me. “Why would you think I would enjoy this?” is what I’m terrified of hearing. I have friends that are much braver than me who tell me I need to watch this or read that and are either very sure that whatever they’re recommending is awesome, don’t care whether I like it, or are content with the knowledge that they like it and that’s all that matters.

One thing that I will never be afraid of recommending to anyone is the Foglios’ amazingly gorgeous, well written piece of joy called Girl Genius. It’s the usual story of “put down but hardworking girl discovers that she’s actually a princess,” told using the beloved visual medium of comics. It’s an action/adventure/fantasy/romance/science fiction/comedy/drama. It’s got everything!

I have recommended it to, well, everyone, and I’ve never heard anyone say they didn’t love it. (Except my silly husband, who always says, “meh,” and sticks to his story until I find him reading whatever I have recommended on his own, loving it and hoping I don’t see and call him out to retract his first impression.)

It’s the kind of story you can read over and over again (and I often do). A new page is up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and I go through phases of reading the new content as soon as I can get my eyes on it, or leaving it for months only to come back to a wealth of new story. I’m always sad when I catch up, whether I’ve read two pages or fifty, and I always want more.

I was pretty excited when saw that in addition to the comic, a novel called Agatha H. and the Airship City was available on their website. I thought it must be about an adventure that the main character went on after the events of the comic. This wasn’t a strange idea, they shared another story of this kind in the comic, called Revenge of the Weasel Queen. I downloaded a free sample on my kindle, eager to see what kind of adventure it would be.

This was when I experienced my first disappointment ever with anything related to Girl Genius. It turned out that the novel was not a new or different story, but the same one as the main comic. I was determined not to be sad. I thought that I could read the story aloud to my daughters, or maybe my brothers, or anyone who didn’t necessarily have the time to enjoy the comic itself; at least they could still enjoy the story. I bought and downloaded the entire novel.

The best part about the novel is that it expands and adds to several different conversations and scenes. Things that wouldn’t have worked or would have thrown off the pacing in the comic were easily included in the novel. I got to read wonderful details about Agatha’s bedroom in Beetleburg, Gil’s breakthrough, and Zulenna’s secret love.

The most disappointing part about the novel is that it’s... well, it’s not very good. The thing it could have used the most is an editor. There are words in it that are used incorrectly (“then” instead of “than,” which drives me nuts), sentences that are weird (“Up until now, that had seemed like a perk, but now he realized...”), and changes that don’t seem like they are for the better (like leaving out all mention of Sleipnir’s intended, which will make it less surprising when she shows up in Mechanicsburg with Theo).

The thing I was most surprised about was the fact that I was disappointed. The experiences I had had with the Foglios’ work and the quality of their storytelling had me expecting something much better. I read the whole thing, even though it wasn’t as good as I thought it should have been, and waited for it to get better. It didn’t, but at least it had the foundation of the story I already loved to keep me from putting it down.

Prose isn’t the Foglios’ area. I am so glad they chose to tell their story through comics, because they are much better at it. I’m not going to let the novel effect my love for the comic. I will continue to read it, and probably, despite my disappointment, I will read any subsequent novels as well.

If you’ve got a story in you, the first thing you should do is find the right way to present it to the world. The second? Don’t mess with a good thing. Find what you’re good at and stick to it... at least until your fans love you and your work enough not to mind if you sort of bungle your next project.