July 31, 2007

July 30, 2007

July 30, 2007

I Will Blog About Anything

Due to conflicting storage strategies (my mom’s a hoarder, I’m more of a lean-inventory person), I recently found myself with a lot of bars of soap. And by “a lot,” I mean, like, thirteen. After my initial response (“Holy crap, mom! How dirty do you think we are?”), I set out to find a way to use these things up.

I must confess I’m a little confused on the whole “bar soap” concept. As I see it, the main advantage bar soap has over liquid soap is stackability. And if the pyramids taught us anything, it is that mankind through the ages has been fascinated with stackability. So I’ll give you that.

But in a world of the internet, nuclear technology, and space travel, I’m not seeing the appeal of bar soap. It’s slippery. It’s slow to lather. When it’s small, it gets really hard to use. Frankly, I don’t need that kind of stress.

So I say we allow bars of soap to slowly become extinct. Or possibly become relegated to tourist gifts no one knows what to do with, like shot glasses and those tiny, tiny spoons.

July 26, 2007

July 26, 2007

Water, Water, Everywhere

Please allow me to go all “health nut” for a minute.

I recently decided to try Crystal Light to Go packets. Factors involved in that decision were the suggestion of Mindy Kaling’s blog, a $2 per box sale at the grocery store, the fact that Sam’s Club sells them, and the delicious low-calorie-ness of the original version.

Anyway, have you had these things? They’re amazing. You get the enjoyment of ripping open the packet, pouring it into the water bottle (hint: make sure there’s some water in the bottom first to avoid a goo situation), adding water, and shaking the whole thing like there’s no tomorrow. It comes in lemon, which is my favorite flavor of anything. (I buy lemon juice in the big bottle.)

I don’t know about you, but I find that I drink more water when it’s tasty.

July 25, 2007

July 25, 2007

To the Pick ‘n Save Bagger Who Rocked My World

Dear Pick ‘n Save Bagger Who Rocked My World,

I must confess that until I met you last week, I had a general aversion to your ilk. I’m still reeling from the sudden departure of Jewel food stores from the Milwaukee area, and I have found Pick ‘n Save to be a poorly-lit, expired-dairy-proferring substitute. And since I never hesitate to blame shift, I attribute these failings to employees such as yourself. That most of you appear to have been born in the 1990s certainly doesn’t help. (Ageism lives!)

However, I now know how truly wrong I was, and it is all thanks to you, Pick ‘n Save Bagger Who Rocked My World.

You see, I am horribly absent-minded, a fact known not at all by most of my friends and acquaintances. I have misplaced objects large and small in several states, most notably an entire backpack of items at the Gurnee Mills mall in Illinois. And while I generally recover from these occasions with a minimum of distress, the loss from which you saved me would have been of much graver consequences. Because had I actually left my wallet at the register that evening last week, my credit and debit cards would no doubt have been used for nefarious purposes, such as the purchasing of drugs, weapons, and/or slaves.

So I thank you, Pick ‘n Save Bagger Who Rocked My World, and hasten to add that I would certainly have offered to take you out to dinner, did not your young age make it a felony in 47 states.


July 24, 2007

July 24, 2007

Festa Italiana

Some interest has been expressed in what I did at Festa, so allow me to give you a brief run-down.

I got there just in time to catch the Sbandieratori Casventum flag throwers. I think flag throwing is one of those things that is actually much more impressive than it sounds. (As opposed to something like a filibuster, which sounds much more impressive than it actually is.) When I arrived, all of the seats were taken, so I had to crouch behind some shrubbery and watch the show through a hole in the bushes. Yeah, that was a low point for me.

Other interesting things I saw include the Master Singers of Milwaukee at the opera tent (though I guess you could say that was an interesting thing I heard), a 34-foot-tall statue of Mary, some sweet Mini Coopers, and a cannoli eating contest.

I ate various fried Italian-esque foods (since no festival would be complete without some trans fats), a cannoli, and some tiramisu. I did not have any pizza, spaghetti, or calzones. In my opinion, if a food is sold in the form of Hot Pocket, or if the letter “O” is added and it’s put in a can, it doesn’t belong at Festa.

July 23, 2007

July 23, 2007


"...and the EAA is in Oshkosh through Sunday."

I heard this sentence, or something to its effect, on the radio this morning. And half-laughed, half-shuddered.

You see, the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) gets together annually for about a week in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. And I'm sure they have a lot of fun comparing propellors and stuff. But the thing they never seem to learn is that FLYING IS DANGEROUS.

Every single year, people die while going to or leaving the EAA convention. This is probably related to the fact that most homemade planes appear to consist of little more than an orange crate and some duct tape. In addition to the deaths, several people usually have to crash land on highways or in farm fields. Last night, an Ohio man and his son became (to my knowledge) the first crash landers of the year.

My interest and amusement in this seems weirdly morbid, I know. Actually, it probably is weirdly morbid. But if the definition of insanity is repeating an action and expecting a different result, than perhaps a little scrutiny of these people with their flying buckets of death is not unwarranted.

July 19, 2007

July 19, 2007

In My Opinion: Napoleon Dynamite

I went into Napoleon Dynamite with pretty low expectations. I was not disappointed. While there were a few cute moments, I didn't fall in love with the film like some people appear to have done.

Things I did like:
- The opening credits. To me, opening credits should be like an appetizer; you get a gist of what you're in for. The various foods, plated against some truly funkadelic carpeting, were a nice touch.
- The "adolescence of yore" shout-outs. A Trapper Keeper! Tater tots! Longhand bowling scoring! A-Team music! These are all things that used to bring me joy.
- Tina Majorino. While I loved her as Alice in this film, I thought she was also well-utilized here. She nailed the socially-awkward, vaguely-creative type.
- Kip and Lafawnduh. I found this relationship hilarious. And also a good exhibit in the argument against online dating.

So I guess while I didn't really get the vibe this movie was putting out, I was able to enjoy it at least on a superficial level. And that's probably good enough.

July 18, 2007

July 18, 2007

The Creative Process

How I Write: The Secret Lives of Authors is a collection essays by (mostly not-famous) writers in which they each discuss an object essential to their writing experience.

Okay, I hear you yawning. But give me a minute.

Because it's actually kinda interesting. The essays aren't that long, there are lots and LOTS of pictures, and you get to find out, for example, that Jonathan Franzen writes in a really old, really squeaky office chair. There's a great picture of it; it does look like it's been through the wringer.

My favorite was the author who uses a very specific graph paper. She knows approximately how many words she gets to a line and extrapolates words per page. That's the kind of thing I would do. I've always been a fan of writing things out longhand. In college, my best papers were the result of 4 hours, looseleaf paper, and several ballpoint pens. I liked being able to see all my little revision marks and scratching-out. Weird? Maybe.

But, as this book evidences, it's not just me.

July 16, 2007

July 16, 2007

In My Opinion: Harry Potter 5

I went to a Saturday afternoon screening of the newest Harry Potter movie expecting hordes of small children, likely sticky-fingered and dressed in wizarding gear. Imagine my surprise, then, when the audience turned out to be fewer than 100 people and almost overwhelmingly adult. Good deal.

At any rate, I arrived early enough to get my preferred seat (very back row, as far left as possible--try it sometime), settle in, and prepare myself. No food, though. I make enough of a mess in lighted rooms while actually paying attention to what I'm doing. I'd have no chance trying to eat in the dark during a movie.

Observations on "Order of the Phoenix" (spoilers ahead):

It's dark. I don't just mean metaphorically. Apparently, the new black is...black.

It's different from the book. This is the point at which I admit I'm one of the crazies who would watch an 18-hour page-to-screen direct adaptation. I know that things must be cut in order to translate book to film. And some of those cuts (quidditch, most Cho scenes) I'm fine with. Others (St. Mungo's, the Quibbler) I missed but understood.

But I also think some key stories were scrapped. Like 99% of the Kreacher plotline. The details involved with Dumbledore's departure. And most of the final showdown at the Ministry (we see the statue, but that's it).

To someone who's never read the books, I suppose the movie makes sense enough. But those of us who were looking for phrases like "secret keeper" went away a little confused.

It wasn't all bad, though. I learned the correct pronounciation of "Little Whinging." And for that, David Yates, I thank you.

July 13, 2007

July 12, 2007

July 12, 2007

To the Driver Who Ran the Light Yesterday

Dear Driver Who Ran the Light Yesterday,

Hello. At the intersection of 20th and Howard last night, you may remember encountering a traffic light that was reddish. No doubt out of a desire to be novel, you decided to commandeer your large SUV "full speed ahead," as it were.

While I appreciate the thrill involved in such reckless abandonment, I must admit some concern. You see, I was the young woman in the small gold sedan attempting to turn. You may remember the feeble sound of my horn as you zoomed across 20th Street. Perhaps you laughed at the sight of my tiny vehicle.

I know they say adrenaline is a powerful drug. Actually, I have only ever heard that on commercials for the now-canceled show Alias. At any rate, I can understand that a young man such as yourself would enjoy flouting authority. I myself occasionally jaywalk and find it to be quite a thrill.

But, sir, you could have killed me. And that is not cool.


July 11, 2007

July 11, 2007

Travelodge (Minnesota, Part 4 of 4)

While I had never heard of the Travelodge chain, its mascot is a big brown bear. How can you not love that? Also, it was amazingly cheap, at a little over $60 a night. Too good to be true, you ask?


Things I liked
- Complimentary Otis Spunkmeyer muffins at breakfast. Hello, chocolate in the A.M.
- The tiny soaps. With pictures of the bear mascot, no less. Tiny soaps intrigue me; they're like the tiger cubs of the toiletry world.
- There was a microwave AND a minifridge. Had I wanted to, you know, throw a rave or something, I could have served both warm and cool appetizers. (Do you serve appetizers at a rave?)

Things I didn't like
- The door opened directly onto the outside. That's basically the setup for every single horror flick set in a motel, isn't it?
- The tv wasn't at the foot of the bed; it was on the side. My love of Alton Brown should not mean risking neck cramps.
- The creepy abandoned shack down the street. I took a picture of this thing and hope to have that posted on Facebook soon.

Not exactly a Hilton, but at least there wasn't a number in the name. (That's right, Motel 6. You're still on the bad list.)

July 10, 2007

July 10, 2007

In My Opinion: A Mighty Wind

Mockumentaries appeal to me. I'm not sure if that's because I'm pretty snarky in general or speak mostly in deadpan or what. At any rate, no one does the mockumentary like Christopher Guest (fun fact: he's married to Jamie Lee Curtis). After recently catching A Mighty Wind, I've now seen all 5 of Guest's mockumentaries. My favorite of the bunch is Best in Show, about the weird and furry world of dog shows. However, all of the films have common elements. If you enjoy one, you'll probably enjoy the others.

A Mighty Wind details the preparations for a reunion concert to honor a recently-deceased folk music producer. It is a Guest film, so all the usual suspects are here, including Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Fred Willard, Parker Posey, Michael McKean, Jane Lynch, and others. The music's not terribly remarkable, though I did really like "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow," which was apparently nominated for an Oscar. Huh.

"This is not an occult science. This is not one of those crazy systems of divination and astrology. That stuff's hooey, and you've got to have a screw loose to go in for that sort of thing. Our beliefs are fairly commonplace and simple to understand. Humankind is simply materialized color operating on the 49th vibration. You would make that conclusion walking down the street or going to the store."

"There was abuse in my family, but it was mostly musical in nature."

"You could say [my mother] was overly protective - I just like to think she cared about me, which she did, a lot. And I was a member of the chess team and whenever we would have chess tournaments I had to wear a protective helmet, I had to wear a football helmet. Now who knows what she was thinking? Maybe she thought that we might have fallen maybe and impaled our heads on a pointy bishop or something, I don't know."

Fun with Anthroponyms

As pointed out by today's Dilbert blog, this study states that people whose last names begin with letters early in the alphabet tend to be most successful.

While this lends itself to all kinds of observations, here are the first three that popped into my head:

  • Since my last name starts with M, I should expect to be moderately successful. I am simultaneously comforted and saddened. Like when I watch repeats of the Friends finale.
  • Is the curse of the ethnic name finally over? Because I'll be way more successful than the hordes of Smiths out there. I will still, however, be unable to keep up with the Joneses.
  • Apparently I should be glad my initials don't spell anything, since the study notes that people whose initials spell things like "DIE" or "PIG" are more likely to die of "psychological causes." Eurgh.

  • Has anyone told Donald Trump about this?

    July 9, 2007

    July 9, 2007

    I came, I saw, Ikea (Minnesota, Part 3 of 4)

    As much as I enjoyed the Mall of America, I think I liked the Ikea store next door even better. We don’t have Ikea in Milwaukee. It’s as if the chain has deemed us unworthy. You are a cruel mistress, Ikea.

    Really, the only thing you need to know is that Ikea offers each shopper a free store map, paper yardstick, and golf pencil. I am immediately behind any venture that involves golf pencils. Like a regular pencil, but...so tiny!

    The store itself is laid out like an Alice in Wonderland-esque maze, with arrows on the floor pointing you in the right direction and “shortcuts” to different departments. Don’t want to walk through linens and desks? Cut through this aisle to get to housewares!

    Most (maybe all; my research in this area has been inconclusive) Ikea stores have restaurants in them that serve super cheap (mostly Swedish) food. I had to get some lingonberry mousse, because I used to be way into this show and it used them quite often.

    Ironically, the only things I bought at a store renowned for cheap furniture were food items. Lingonberry jam because, well, see above. And Ikea’s version of the Hershey’s bar, called (I kid you not) Mjölkchoklad. I don’t want to eat it, because just reading the name makes me laugh.

    Ah, the Swedes. So good at meatballs...so bad at names.

    July 7, 2007

    July 7, 2007

    To the Snippy Woman at the Library

    Dear Snippy Woman at the Library,

    Hi. You may not remember me; I was the girl with the laptop walking one way, you were the woman with a marginally-cute baby going the other. Your child made some unintelligible noises in my general direction. I continued walking. You, then, made the following comment "to your baby":

    "Are you talking to people? Yeah? Sometimes people don't want to talk back. For whatever reason."

    Madam, since I was the only other person in the vicinity, and since your child's developmental stage makes it unlikely she could comprehend your statements, I can only conclude the above was, in fact, directed at me.

    I feel this is unwarranted. Your words and tone both indicated that you could not fathom why any person with half a brain would not want to drop everything, crouch down, and have a "conversation" with your child, possibly involving hand gestures of some sort and much smiling.

    I, off the top of my head, would like to present several reaons why "people don't want to talk back":

    1. They are feeling slightly ill.
    2. They have been informed that the title role in the movie they auditioned for has, indeed, gone to someone else.
    3. They have to attend an execution that very evening.
    4. They haven't been able to get rid of the vampire bats living in the attic.
    5. They're reasonably certain they just accidentally paid for lunch with Canadian money.

    As you can see, there could be any number of reasons why I chose to keep walking, none of which indicate willful dislike of either you or your child on my part.

    Glad we cleared that up.


    The Mall of America (Minnesota, Part 2 of 4)

    Ironically, I’m really not a big mall person. I’m more of a museums and historic buildings kind of girl. To me, shopping should be like surgery: you go in there, you get what you need, and you get out. However, the Mall of America is considered A Big Deal by some, so I bowed to peer pressure. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Anyway, though I was there for about 4 hours, I didn’t hit many of the stores at all. Again, it’s the whole “not a mall person thing.” Any store with “Minnesota” in the name was a must-stop, though. You can never really get your fill of items with “Uff-da” on them. I also had to stop in Williams-Sonoma, so I could actually hold an All-Clad piece in my hands (10-inch frying pan, $180). The clerk helpfully pointed out the lifetime warranty on All-Clad pieces. I didn’t bother to add that it would take me a lifetime to pay off an entire set.

    Speaking of things unsaid, I internally mocked the 22 people (as of 10 a.m.) waiting outside the Apple store for an iPhone. My initial confusion dissipated once I realized that most Minnesotans were probably still tending the livestock. Or threshing wheat or whatever.

    What I really enjoyed was the aquarium in the mall basement. Besides the whole “It’s right in the freakin’ mall” thing, there’s a great moving walkway that goes through an underwater tunnel. The fish literally swim around and above you. Very cool. Also, I had a coupon, and you know how I love a good deal. (If you don’t, well, I love a good deal.)

    I like that my favorite part of one of the world’s largest shopping malls had nothing to do with shopping. Perhaps next I should hit up France and eat only at McDonald’s. You know, get the Freedom Fries.

    July 6, 2007

    Hobbits and Boy Wizards

    Some of you may know that a few years ago, I made a little list of commonalities I found between the Harry Potter books and The Lord of the Rings. A work of inspiration or just a girl with way too much time on her hands? Who can tell? Sadly, with book 7 approaching (can it really be only 2 more weeks?), this era of genius and/or time-wasting draws to a close.

    Anyway, the site statistics for the list never fail to surprise me. Among the visitors today were people from Belgium and Bangladesh. I've noticed quite a few people from Scandinavia, also.

    I guess my point is that you never do know who's looking at what you put out there. A little internet can be a dangerous thing.

    (Matt Damon, if you're reading this, call me.)

    July 5, 2007

    July 5, 2007

    Advice for Megabus Passengers (Minnesota, Part 1 of 4)

    I’ve used Megabus for trips both short and long, so I think I’m somewhat qualified to make the following statements:

    1. You really don’t want to go more than four hours one way.
    2. You really don’t want to pack any luggage if you can help it.

    You should also expect a pretty motley crew. On the way to Minnesota, I had a team of high school volleyballers (“Like, totally! Wow! Text me! Shut up!”), bohemian collegians, and a few zonked-out kids in what appeared to be the aftermath of a sugar rush. On the way back, my fellow travelers included a chatty yoga instructor (on the other side of the aisle, thankfully) and a really tall guy I would not want to meet in a dark alley.

    Bring plenty of snacks and something to read. If you are unable to read, bring something to listen to. Or maybe a coloring book and some crayons. Because Megabus is based in the Midwest, and most of the scenery in going to involve barns and livestock. Trust me, the novelty wears off.

    If your trip is really long, you might get a rest stop in middle-of-nowhere. I got to visit Mauston, Wisconsin, which appeared to consist of a water tower, two gas stations, and a Taco Bell. Ironically, I got much better cell phone reception there than I do IN MY OWN HOUSE. Good old T-Mobile.

    If you have brought luggage, get to it as soon as possible once the luggage hatches have been opened. Otherwise, you may have to make the kind of statement I’m about to.

    To the chick who stepped on my suitcase in a mad dash to get to hers: Seriously, wtf?

    These inconveniences aside, you really can have a good trip. Just buy early enough, when the tickets are insanely cheap (round-trip to Minnesota for $10 bucks, baby) and you won’t care about the muddy shoeprint on your suitcase.

    (Now where’s my Tide pen?)

    July 3, 2007

    July 3, 2007

    In My Opinion: Girl with a Pearl Earring

    Famous paintings tend to be impersonal. While most people could pick the Mona Lisa out of a lineup, do they really wonder that much about her? What her favorite color was? How many siblings she had? Not so much.

    Plot. The movie Girl with a Pearl Earring imagines the story behind one of Vermeer’s most famous works. I’m not sure how much is based on fact and how much is imagined. I’d assume quite a bit is the latter, since we’re talking events that occurred over 300 years ago. Tracy Chevalier, author of the book on which the movie is based, imagines the subject of the painting as a maid named Griet (rhymes with “meet”) who worked in Vermeer’s household.

    Cinematography. This movie had a richness evocative of a painting. Lush colors abounded, and I could envision paintings in many of the still shots.

    Cast. Scarlett Johannsen was the lead, and most of her oeuvre’s been pretty good. (Yeah, I was one of those people who actually liked The Island. So sue me.) Colin Firth played Vermeer. He was apparently hot at one time, so I’ll go with that.

    History and art are two of my passions; this movie brought them together. It got you to think a little bit about how each painting we criticize in a museum (“Boring!” “Ugly!”) has a story behind it. It was painted by someone, for someone.

    Yes, she’s a girl with a pearl earring. But she was so much more than that.

    July 2, 2007

    July 2, 2007

    To the Firefighters Whose Timecards I Edited Today


    Whilst checking over your timecards this morning, I noticed there seems to be some confusion as to the proper ways to record your hours worked. Since the timecard is a rather daunting document, what with its shading and columns and all, I would like to present this handy list of reminders:
    1. 2 + 2 does not equal 2. If you are confused as to how this can be, I suggest putting 2 apples in one hand, 2 apples in another, and figuring out how many apples you now have in total. Hint: The correct answer is not "applesauce."
    2. Please do not leave entire columns blank. I understand if you are called out on a run; I mean, that cat's not gonna leave the tree by itself, is it? However, I would appreciate a little explanatory note if you're unable to complete the care. "It's too hard," "ALS run," and even "Don't wanna" would all be acceptable. Because when you simply leave the cards blank, I have to assume you're just trying to screw with me, and that's not cool.
    3. There are exactly 24 hours in a day. Not 26. Not 22.

    In short, help me help you, and we'll all be happier. Also, if you ever need to respond to my house for some reason, I'll be the one who's reminding you to charge hours to the correct earnings code as my house goes up in flames.

    Heather in Administration

    Unconsciously Religious

    Note to readers: Please excuse this uncharacteristically serious post. My usual ramblings on television, movies, books, and things that annoy me shall return shortly.

    I was watching a PBS program on Tony Blair recently and heard Condoleezza Rice make an interesting observation. She was talking about how Tony Blair was a very religious person, but not ostentatious about it. Condi said something along the lines of, “When you’re deeply religious, it affects everything you do, to an extent you don’t even realize.”

    I find the idea of unconscious influences intriguing. When I tell people at work the things I do at my church, they’re surprised at how much it entails. I mean, I basically have to write off my entire Sunday for church stuff. But that’s pretty much how it’s always been for me; I don’t think twice about it.

    And it’s not just religion. I’ve heard that Europeans can pick out American tourists just by the way we walk. It’s a head-held-high, I’m-a-citizen-of-the-greatest-country-on-God’s-green-earth kind of thing. Not a swagger, but close. We don’t realize we’re doing it; it’s just how we walk.

    It’s not always a good thing, though. Some college friends and I were recently discussing how we still feel bad about doing things that would have been considered “breaking the rules” back in college. I guess maybe that was the whole point, to get us to think about what we’re doing. And it’s probably better to be too strict than not strict enough. But I still feel that my psyche has been unfairly affected.

    Some day I, too, shall be able to walk on the grass in public places.

    July 1, 2007