August 28, 2013

August 25, 2013

August 25, 2013

Wisconsin State Fair 2013

Well, another year has come and gone, which means another visit to the State Fair has started with an empty stomach and ended with a few heart palpitations. In other words, it was a complete success.

Now that I’ve perfected my routine, I find that it falls into two major categories: displays and food. First, the displays. You’ve got your livestock, obviously. Wisconsin is a farming state (my little southeastern home corner notwithstanding), and our cows/sheep/pigs/etc. will knock your socks off.

Yes, that’s a sheep. Yes, it’s the size of a small horse.

You can look at the animals, pet them (be sure to wash your hands before AND after), and watch them being judged. Heck, if your pockets are deep enough, you can even buy them.

It’s not just animals that win ribbons at the fair, though. Vegetables, cheeses, and baked goods are among the many food products that people submit for judgment. My favorites are the cheeses and the decorative cakes.

If only I could pull a Harry Potter and make that glass disappear.

Frosting: Like oil paint, but tastier.

Various entertainment acts come and go. I’ve seen circuses and lumberjacks in years past. But I keep going back for the birds of prey.

Bald eagle. In yo face. Hide yo kids.

New this year, white tigers.


None of these, however, is where I start my day. I start in the exposition center, where hundreds of vendors hawk their wonder mops, their magic choppers, and the other products that will Save You Time and Money!

The key to avoiding assault by booth bunny: Do not make eye contact.

If you’re thinking all this is hunger- and thirst-inducing work, you’re right. Thankfully, the State Fair is quite possibly the greatest place on earth to satisfy your cravings. There is a waffle made of stuffing, topped with mashed potatoes.

You may now proceed to die happy. And/or of high cholesterol.

I tried to keep it modest this year, so I just had two flavored milks, a deep fried scotch egg on a stick, cream cheese on a stick, a chocolate-dipped cruller on a stick, and a deep fried Snickers on a stick.


Considered but passed on: deep fried mac and cheese on a stick, cookie dough on a stick, and that marvelous waffle mentioned earlier.

It’s good times, man. I dig. I dig so much that I endured twelve hours and three airlines to get there, NOT THAT I’M STILL BITTER ABOUT AIRTRAN CANCELING MY FLIGHT OR ANYTHING.

Until next year, Wisconsin State Fair. Stay classy.

August 19, 2013

August 19, 2013

Sorry I Missed It: The Cube

Speaking multiple languages is an admirable skill, and one Americans don’t seem to be all that excited about. Shame, because companies, non-profits, and even Cabinet-Department-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named are willing to pay big bucks to people who speak Mandarin, or Arabic, or Korean.

(So, no, that year of Spanish in high school may not get you as far as you’d hoped. Je suis desolée, vraiment.)

But you do have a passport, right? I was reminded yesterday that two thirds* of Americans do not have a passport. That is a solid majority of people who have refused to get the coolest form of ID available to those of us not in the Presidential line of succession. I mean, how many times have you seen James Bond whip out a driver’s license? Or Jason Bourne pull out a safety deposit box filled with baptismal certificates? I’m just saying.

Until you’ve mastered Turkish or Pashto, then, consider checking out one of my favorite game shows, “The Cube.” Contestants get nine lives to complete seven deceptively simple tasks. They might have to stack some blocks move balls from one bucket to another. The top prize in the UK version is £250,000—nothing to sneeze at. So why hasn’t this show churned out dozens of quarter-millionaires?

Because sometimes the easiest things to explain are the hardest to do.

The games test different types of skill. Some require dexterity. Others, fast reflexes. I myself would excel at the memory games but would completely suck at anything involving a ball flying at my head. A lifetime of wearing glasses has developed in me a crippling fear of objects flying anywhere near my facial area. You know those t-shirt cannons at baseball games? GAH.

YouTube has a few full episodes of the UK show, as well as the French and Russian editions. (And possibly more, but I’ve concentrated on those versions because I speak of bit of French and TheBoy knows his Russian.) Consider them immersion courses. Once you’re familiar with how the show works, you really don’t need to fully understand what’s being said.

* +1 if you can explain why I did not hyphenate that fraction.

August 13, 2013

August 13, 2013


Horrifying torture device or beauty aid?
One of the treat(ment)s I was subjected to during my Game! Show! Experience! was an eyelash curler. I’m sure it was all the female contestants, and not just me. Possibly the men as well; not sure what they got up to in hair and makeup.

But back to me.

The eyelash curler would seem to be a tool with marginal utility at best. Granted, my knowledge of eyelashes is limited to just the one pair (mine), but they seem like a go-with-what-you-got situation. Like finger length. Do I wish I had alien hands that would allow me to retrieve those things that fall behind the fridge? Sure. Am I going to have alien hands grafted onto my own so I can do so? If only it weren’t so cost-prohibitive. No. So poking myself in the eye with a metal prod in an attempt to curl a centimeter of coarse hair seems like MADNESS, MADNESS, I SAY.

(Not that that didn’t discourage the makeup from trying. I believe more time was spent on my appearance that day than in my entire lifetime up to that date.)

Here’s my sniff test with beauty methods: Ask TheBoy. Or any man. If you get a look of confusion, abort. If you saw last week’s GroupSocial LivingOn dealio for a heated eyelash curler and were considering it, I repeat: Abort. For the words “heated,” “eyelash,” and “curler” should never be used in combination. Have we not done enough damage with curling and flat irons which are designed to be used only in proximity to the face and yet have burned innumerable cheeks and foreheads? C’mon, people. Our future Chinese robot overlords* aren’t fooling around with this stuff. They’re too busy teaching their preschoolers physics.

Mascara if you must, but save the firebrands for the livestock.

* I debated: “Chinese robot” or “Chinese and robot”? I then realized it probably will be the same thing in the end. Start those Mandarin lessons now, kids!

August 8, 2013

August 8, 2013

Things I’ve Read: The Jack Reacher Novels

I've mentioned just how much I enjoyed the film Jack Reacher. Though it generally got middling reviews, I thought it was a pretty tight thriller, with just the right amounts of action (lots), logical reasoning (lots) and romance (a teeny bit). Since it seems books are always better than movies, I decided to try a Jack Reacher novel.

Long story short, I ended up getting the Kindle version of the first SIX books. Oops. Always one to squeeze every bit of value out of a library loan, though, I resolved to read all six during the three-week loan period if it killed me. Thankfully, they’re fast reads. By which I mean not that they’re short, but that they’re so engrossing that you find yourself staying up every night until 2 a.m. because JUST ONE MORE CHAPTER, MOM.

The books are a bit formulaic, which is not at all a problem for this Nancy Drew fan. Jack Reacher, former sniper and MP*, has been roaming the US ever since his honorable discharge from the Army. He lives off the grid, getting cash via Western Union, riding buses, hitchhiking, and so on. In each book, he wanders into a town somehow gets mixed up with or accused of a recent or threatened crime, and has to figure out who actually did it. He’s often working against the official law enforcement Powers That Be but with a single cop/lawyer/FBI agent who realizes that Reacher is innocent. Said cop/lawyer/FBI agent is always a woman. Sometimes she ends up killed by the bad guys (spoiler) but not until after she and Reacher have had a special hug or two.

Jack Reacher himself is basically the mind of Sherlock Holmes in the body of Arnold Schwarzenegger. He makes the occasional mistake, but he is basically unequivocally good. And I like that in a literary hero every once in a while. You start these books knowing that by the end, Jack Reacher will: 1) still be alive, 2) have solved the crime, and 3) be leaving town (and one broken hearted gal) behind. On the way, you the reader will have learned a bit about guns, military tactics, the law, and whatever middle-of-nowhere town the book was set in. Examples I’ve read so far have included Montana, Georgia, and Texas. And the minutiae has been so interesting that I’m planning rail trips across the West to see it for myself.

It’s actually surprising that the author, Lee Child, gets the small town America thing down so well, considering that he’s British. Other than the occasional odd phrase (can’t imagine an American ever referring to “my elder brother” instead of “my older brother”, or a yogurt pot vs. a yogurt cup) or the fact that the characters call them mobile phones, it reads as if written by a Yank. Nice job, Child.

I had to give myself a cooldown period before getting book 7; I needed to catch up on my sleep.

* Was your first instinct “Member of Parliament”? Mine too. But it’s actually “military policeman.”

August 7, 2013

August 7, 2013

The Rest of the Game Show Story

By now, I hope those of you inclined to watch my episode of The Chase have done so. Regardless, this happened:

Props where props are due: My teammates Jonathan and Cory were excellent. They have mad TV game show experience between them, and I'll gladly be part of any team where I'm the dumb one.

(To be fair, I think I held my own. Remember, I'm a lady, so my brain is smaller.)

I daren't give you too many behind-the-scenes tips for fear of invoking the wrath of the Hollywood gods, but here are a few excerpts from the copious notes I'll someday turn into a chapter of my memoirs (working title: Pop-Tarts in the Dark):

- A lot got edited out. The taping took about three hours, and the final show is about 40 minutes. I'm no mathematician, but I think that means they had to cut a lot of chat, explanation, and jokes from us, Brooke, and Mark. On the plus side, I suck at extemporaneous interpersonal communication so I was pleased.

- It's disconcerting to be on a show when you're a huge fan of the show. I imagine I would have a similar reaction upon entering Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. "This is the place of which I have dreamed."

- I managed to eat an entire show-provided Chinese food lunch without spilling on myself. Did it require a metric ton of napkins? Yes. But did I appear on television stain-free? ALSO YES. HA.

- The cash builder was my finest hour. I was so in the zone, my soul briefly left my body. I have no recollection of half the questions, though the literal meaning of "dachshund" will never leave me.

It was an amazing experience, though part of me hopes it is also a stepping stone. I got all my TV jitters out of the way, so call me, Trebek.

August 6, 2013

August 6, 2013

Tonight. Game Show Network. Be There.

The Chase premieres at 9/8c on GSN. A second episode, which I strongly recommend you also watch, airs at 10/9c.

Don't recognize me in this Buzzerblog photo? Neither did I.

Game Show Network may be found here:

AT&T U-verse - channel 173
Charter - channel 080
Comcast - channel 055
Cox - channel 220
DirecTV - channel 071
DISH - channel 116
Time Warner Cable - channel 219
Verizon/FiOS - channel 184

Or wherever your local listings and your heart's desire lead you.

Let's get together again tomorrow to dish, okay?