Monday, May 29, 2006

Holiday weekend: a recap

Things I did this long Memorial Day weekend
  • Listened to my dad tell the same [not funny] joke no less than five times.

  • Spent a full hour inside Storables, where my mother found herself as excited and enthusiastic about the unending storage solutions and household gadgets as the proverbial kid in a candy store.

  • Consumed approximately 23,742 calories.

  • And at least 17 alcoholic beverages.

  • Met a brooding, ponytailed man who keeps the ashes of both his mother and his cat in his living room (and apparently likes to touch and talk to both from time to time as well).

  • Drunk-emailed a fellow blogger at 3:20 a.m.

  • Huddled under a canopy during a mid-party downpour with an entertaining Irishman, a Pole, and a Kenyan Ugandan.*

  • Heard That's Amore** three times in the same evening (in two different establishments).

  • Mowed my near knee-high lawn (in 95-degree heat) before the neighbors got a chance to report me to the city.

  • Continued my battle against the massive ant underworld.

Things I did NOT do this Memorial Day weekend
  • Finished (or, let's face it, even started) the lovely landscaping project I have in mind.#

  • Cleaned my gutters, despite the fact that I recently noticed weeds sprouting out of one of them.

  • Answered any of the prospective-online-date-related correspondence that's lingering in my Inbox.

  • Joined my parents for a cousin's wedding (which was held in a middle school at 10:30 a.m. on a Sunday and which I therefore assume involved--ever so wrongly--no alcohol of any kind).

  • Perused or applied for anything on any job-related web sites.

  • Helped a good friend of mine paint her apartment, even though she asked very nicely.##

  • Incorporated all major food groups into any one meal.

  • Melted (thankfully, despite feeling like dissolving into a puddle was imminent).

  • Wrote a proper post for this neglected blog of mine.

* I'm actually taking some artistic license here because I'm really not sure from which country the third guy in our multi-national rain huddle originates, but I feel the need to clarify for the two people who were with me who might actually read this. Kenya, Uganda; hey, I was close...

** Is anyone else a little disturbed that this song comes up under the lyrics for the White Chicks soundtrack before (or instead of) under the lyrics for Dean Martin songs?

# I'm working on it, Poppy! I'll get to it one of these days...

## I'm sorry, Carrie; really I am. I'll be there for you next favor, OK?)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Under Siege

I have this post that's been swirling around in my head for several days now, but every time I sit down to work on it, I keep going in too many directions. I can't reel it in and focus. For now, then, I just have this to say. My yard is under attack. By ants. Thousands--nay, possibly millions--of them are currently rallying outside my home, presumably organizing their imminent coup. And I am not happy about it.

Every spring since I moved here, the ants have built not just a typical mound, but a veritable multiplex condominium compound on the hill in front of my property. I am not exaggerating when I say the series of mounds that make up this compound spans a two-foot-square area. Every year, I douse it with insect spray, and the tiny bastards stagger around and die, leaving behind a massive patch of dirt so obtrusive that the grass doesn't even grow through it anymore. But my efforts don't deter them. Last year, they built a compound on each side of the hill. How they came back in strong enough numbers as to double their population I have no idea, but I sprayed both patches with well beyond the recommended dosage in an attempt to nip the problem in the proverbial bud. Last month, when both ant metropolises (metropoli?) returned again, I ditched the sprayer and poured the liquid directly onto the mounds.

After that, I thought I'd seen the last of them for this season. Then I stepped out my front door tonight and saw what looked like a flat little ant hill bordering my front walk. I kicked it, thinking I'd scatter the dirt and thwart the squatters' building efforts, and I realized that there was no dirt at all. The entire brown pile I saw was nothing but hundreds of writhing ants. A few feet away, a similar swarm was working its way out of a sidewalk crack in front of my door. Beyond that, another army was gathering near the steps.

I used an entire gallon of insect killer trying to do away with this latest development before they make their way to my house, but somehow I think I got not even a small fraction of them. I'm convinced, suddenly, that the surface dwellers are only the overflow (or, perhaps, the watchmen) of a massive ant underworld. I think if I were to dig just a few feet into the soil of my yard, I'd reach a point where the dirt makes way for a solid mass of squirming ants.

As you can imagine, this is somewhat unsettling to me. I've been jumpy and twitchy all night--constantly scratching and brushing away phantom ants every time I feel the slightest itch or tickle. Clearly this is no way to live, so I must defeat the underworld somehow. Dynamite is out, for presumably obvious reasons. I'm open to any other suggestions, however.

Incidentally, I do realize that these are just ants and some perspective is perhaps in order. Miss Peach, I'm not trading your mice for my ants, so don't even ask. Not even if you do throw in Darren as an on-call exterminator.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


I spent yesterday afternoon at the fancy new Central Minneapolis Library (you know--the one I mentioned here). It was the grand opening, and I signed up to volunteer during the day's activities. You could choose to be duly impressed by my sense of civic responsibility, but as I gave only four hours of my time, I don't think I'll be winning any awards from the Mayor anytime soon. As with so many things in my life, I'm taking baby steps on this. I have lofty intentions of perhaps giving of my time more regularly to worthy causes such as the library, but clearly fear of commitment isn't just for men--I want to connect with my community, but not, apparently, if it cuts into my sitting-around time or forces me to talk to strangers for any length of time.

Regardless, even with my only four-hour commitment, I have to admit to a few ulterior motives. I liked the idea of getting to see the library before it opened to the public; I so often feel like a disoriented fool in unfamiliar surroundings, so I thought it would be nice to get the tour and learn my way around before I attempt to find anything in that enormous building on my own. I'll also admit that since I'm single and am supposed to be in "always looking" mode, it occurred to me that a library volunteer shift might be a good place to meet a nice, interesting, bookish man. At the very least, I'd hoped for some good blog fodder from the day.

As it turns out, my pre-Opening Day tour wasn't as helpful as I'd hoped. During my shift, I was able to direct someone to the on-site Dunn Brothers coffee shop, but I failed to have a confident answer to the rather basic question of "Is there more than one staircase on this floor?"

It's probably also no surprise that the idea of meeting someone at the event didn't pan out for me, either. The young woman I was paired with during my shift was very nice, but she's obviously not a potential date for me. She did mention an affinity for a type she called "shy, bearded boy," so perhaps I should have considered her a prospect for a shy, bearded friend of mine*, but she also told me the dirtiest "I had the weirdest dream last night" story I've ever heard, so frankly, I'm not sure my friend is ready for her.

On the plus side, I did get a free t-shirt (which would be more exciting if I were more the t-shirt-wearing type), a coupon for a free coffee beverage on a future visit, a library coffee mug and book bag, and some tasty snacks and bottled water. I did not, unfortunately, get a lot of blog fodder. Judging from the stories I've heard from my librarian friend, I really thought I'd meet a few crazies and pervs who would prompt some interesting tales to tell. The best I've got, however, is the woman who was sincerely concerned about the newspapers and periodicals being placed on the third floor, rather than on the first floor, where they'd be more easily accessible to the homeless people. Mind you, she wasn't commending the library on their choice to move the newspapers and thereby discourage loitering vagrants; she was disappointed that the library had made it more cumbersome for vagrants to amble in and sit down for a read. I'm not by any means suggesting we turn our backs on the plight of the homeless, but that particular argument was one I really just couldn't wrap my head around.

I could also tell you about the famous librarians throughout history that the library had on hand to wander the floors during the opening, but sadly, they didn't provide a lot of interesting anecdotes either. Batgirl and J. Edgar Hoover were in the break room together for an awfully long time, but despite rumors I've heard about Hoover, he didn't come out wearing Batgirl's leotard, so I don't have much else to say about him. Elvis made what was likely his first and last appearance in a Minneapolis public library, but he spent more time chatting with Marcel Duchamp than swiveling his pelvis, so I've got no stories there, either. Perhaps it was Lao Tzu who had the most interesting things going on, but he had such a thick accent that he may as well have been speaking Chinese. I smiled and nodded whenever he spoke to me, but the way he giggled in response made me wonder if, like Kenny on South Park, he was actually spewing obscenities and telling dirty jokes and getting away with it undetected. I just hope he wasn't working the children's floor.

* Yes, Greg, I'm talking about you.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I am the keeper of the semicolon

I promise I'll stop writing about punctuation after this. (Or, I'll stop for a while, anyway. I can't promise it will never come up again.) But I just had to show off my newest accessory, hand-crafted by a friend of a friend who makes fabulous things out of discarded other things. Like typewriter keys, for instance.

I think it's safe to say I am the first customer ever to request a semicolon, of all keys. Initials, yes; I'm sure he gets that all the time. Maybe even a Caps Lock or Shift request every now and then. But a colon and semicolon? Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's just me. If I hadn't already gotten the friend-of-a-friend discount, I think I should have gotten a reduced price just for taking one of these off his hands and out of his stash.

Yes, I do realize I'm a huge nerd. You needn't point it out. At least I haven't purchased this as my new work bag yet. Because I totally thought about it. Really.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Google me this

Friend: So, how many dates before I'm supposed to know the guy's last name?
Me: You don't know his last name yet?!?
Friend: No... Is that weird? Why does it matter at this point?
Me: How the heck are you going to Google him if you don't know his last name?


I've recently come to the conclusion that there are two types of people in this world: those who think nothing of Googling someone's name just out of harmless curiosity, and those who think doing so is tantamount to parking your car outside said person's house and keeping an eye on them through a pair of dark glasses and a set of binoculars.* I am, of course, in the former school of thought.

I know I'm not alone, because Nabbalicious has mentioned recreational Google-sleuthing more than once as well. But surely it can't be just us.

Don't get me wrong. This isn't something I spend hours a week doing (not even in particularly unmotivated and procrastination-prone weeks). Often the name I choose to Google is someone I haven't even thought about in years and have no intention of actually contacting, but typing in the name is just the electronic-age equivalent of wondering out loud, "I wonder whatever happened to..."

Rarely does the search even turn up anything helpful. Google knows, for example, that my old friend Craig's grandmother died, but it can't tell me anything about Craig himself. I already knew my first maybe-boyfriend was an EMT and volunteer firefighter; can't Google find me a picture as well? Oh. Skinny Joe has his own business now. Don't you have any more information on that, Big G?

I don't typically Google strangers, of course. Unless that stranger (or near stranger) is a prospective date. I'll admit it--since I started meeting people online, the first thing I do upon receiving an email that contains the guy's full real name is Google it to see what turns up.

I don't even know what I'm looking for, really. I could take the paranoid and pessimistic high-ground and say I'm weeding out thieves and rapists before they know where I live, but surely only the most well-documented criminals will ever turn up in such a search anyway. If I were trying to figure out the more realistic and relevant dirt (Does he have terrible taste in music and movies? An embarrassingly awful laugh? Does he yell at waitresses and store clerks?), I'm not going to find it on Google. If there were a national blacklist for ex-boyfriend data (now there's an idea I should pursue further at some point...), perhaps personality flaws and relationship sins would be documented by first and last name for prospective future girlfriends to research. Until that's developed, however, I have to find these things out the old-fashioned way: by actually getting to know the guy myself.

Pre-date Googling, then, isn't so much about finding anything useful, but just the fun and the challenge of finding anything at all. The Internet has become so far-reaching that even seemingly uncommon names can yield numerous red herring results. Is my date the "stable isotope laboratory" guy, or the one by the same name who shows up under "Shop for hardcore gay XXX movies"?** I was pretty certain it wasn't the latter (I'd seen the guy's picture, after all), but found it hilarious and shocking nonetheless.

I have a few friends who think this Googling habit is some unforgivable invasion of privacy. This comes mostly from married friends who haven't had a need to research prospective dates since well before the turn of the century. Just to make sure I'm not alone, however, I've brought the topic up on a date more than once. So far I've yet to find anyone particularly thrown by the news that he's been Googled. When I told this guy that I'd found a picture of him with his high school soccer team, he just nodded, "Yes, yes; I Googled you, too of course." Another guy, when I told him I found very little in my search, sent me a tinyURL to all hits for his name. We're all equally curious and vain; we've all Googled our own names and know what turns up (or if we haven't, we certainly should... If I were the XXX movies guy, for instance, I'd probably want to know about that hit myself before a prospective girlfriend pointed it out).

Lucky for me, the only hits for my full name are entirely benign and uninteresting work-related items. If some guy should choose to conduct his search with slightly less specific information, however, I may have more cause for concern.

* Incidentally, you might also say that there are two types of people in this world: those who use the phrase "there are two types of people in this world" as a way to polarize everyone into black-and-white categories and those who don't. I really am usually in the latter group.

** I can't wait to see the Sitemeter referrals I get after boldly typing this right out with no masking or filtering whatsoever.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


I think the cold I've picked up recently (so much for the rock-solid immune system I bragged about in the last part of this post; I knew I was tempting fate by mentioning that) is attacking my brain cells in much the way alcohol is rumored to, but without the fun buzz before the damage. I've felt like a space cadet all day, but my big moment of genius was leaving my purse at my local craft shop after my knitting group tonight. Well done, Stef. Good job. Tomorrow I get to see just how long it takes to get to work when I abide by the speed limit the whole way, because I'm guessing that the day I'm without ID is precisely the day my luck will run out and a surly State Trooper will decide to make an example out of me for all the rush hour motorists.

So under the circumstances, in my scattered state, I can't possibly be expected to come up with anything resembling a thought-out and coherent post. Here in its place, then, are a few random bits that you may or may not find interesting. Do with them what you will.

  1. As I got out of my car this morning, I realized I'd left the CD case for the audio book I'm listening to sitting face-up on the passenger seat. As I was parked directly beside the guy who wouldn't let his wife sit by me at the company holiday party because he was worried I'd "fill her head with [my] liberal ideas," it actually occurred to me to unlock my door, get back in my car, and flip over the case. Then I glanced at my co-worker's passenger seat through his window and saw some drivel by Sean Right-Wing Asswipe Hannity, and I decided, No. In the amusing little world in my mind, Maureen Dowd and Sean Hannity enjoyed their time together in close proximity all day, glaring at each other through the glass and wishing we'd only left our windows open so they could engage themselves in a lively debate during my workday. My co-worker's car was gone by the time I left work, so I like to think Maureen won this round and Sean ran away pouting and sulking. I may, incidentally, have the head-cold to blame for this overactive imagination of mine as well.

  2. In case you're curious, the guy some of you so flatteringly referred to as "the sheep testicles guy" is officially out of the picture. (I know at least a few of you were curious about it, as I received a couple emails asking about him. Really I had no idea the follow-up was of much interest at all.) Sometime about midway through our second (and final) date, I had a visceral reaction to some lame and uncomfortable thing he said, and right then, the voice inside my head said, simply, "I really just don't like you." I am happy to report that the mental goalie who's so often out to lunch when I need him did successfully deflect that one. Whew.

  3. Lest you think I hate everyone I meet, I thought I might mention that I had another date the day before Date 2 with Sheep Testicles Guy. (Yes, another one. No, I'm not a whore. Thanks for asking.) Shockingly, this one didn't repulse me or skeeve me out in any way at all, but it's really entirely too soon to make any call or share any hasty details on that. Suffice it to say, though, that if this one by some remote chance happened to work out, it would be a true testament to the need for online dating, as this guy and I have apparently been within 50 feet of each other at various events around the Twin Cities innumerable times in the past who-knows-how-many years and yet we've never met. Of course, if it doesn't work out, I hope the fallout doesn't occur in some ugly or awkward way, because now that I do know him, I am undoubtedly bound to run into him every single place I go. Fun.

  4. How about a quick poll? Tell me, if you don't mind, how do you feel about all this pointless rambling on about dates since I started the Great Date Experiment of 2006?

    1. Enough already, woman. Can't you think of anything else to talk about? Sheesh; even stories about your workout wear are more interesting than this.

    2. Keep 'em coming. Your hopeless spinster life reminds me why I'm so very glad I'm already married to this wonderful man/woman who's stuck with me for life.

    3. Keep 'em coming. Your hopeless spinster life reminds me that I'm not the only one working towards the merit badge in uneventful dating.

    4. Eh. Do what you want. I'm only here because I clicked that "Next Blog" button at the top of the page.

I can't promise the results of this poll will significantly affect what I decide to write about, but I figure it's always good to know your audience.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

I can take a hint

Last week, my grandmother had cataract surgery. Trying to be a good and thoughtful granddaughter (read: make sure I get included in the will--just kidding), I sent her a "thinking of you" card. Yesterday, in my mailbox, I received the following:

The letter was just the typical Grandma letter--difficult to read not only because her handwriting is a bit tough to decipher, but because of the interesting stream-of-consciousness style of her prose. If my grandmother were a bit younger, I might attribute it to Adult A.D.D., but since she's 94 and not as nimble as she once was, I'm thinking maybe her hand simply can't keep up with her brain... By the time she gets to writing the end of the sentence she had in mind, her brain has already moved on to the next thought, so the pen picks up there instead. I've probably presented similarly challenging experiences to the friends who've had to listen to me criss-cross and tangent my way through the stories I tell, so I'll take these letters as a sort of cosmic payback. Really each letter is kind of a puzzle, and I should tackle it as such and enjoy the challenge.

What amused me, then, was not the letter, but the inserts that accompanied it. As I've yet to install any decent image editing software on my home computer to effectively add descriptive callouts and captions on the picture above, I'll just itemize for you what was included:

  1. A dollar bill. This is not new. The dollar-as-positive-reinforcement-for-writing is actually something my grandma's been doing for years. In college, friends used to joke that if I wrote her more often, I wouldn't need my part-time job.

  2. A sheet of stickers. Every letter and card I've ever received from my grandma (including this one) has at least one sticker on the envelope (usually featuring a puppy-dog or a smiley-face or a flower or some other happy girly thing). Presumably I'm to use the stickers she sent (which were actually, I'm pretty sure, a gift from my little sister last Christmas) on my own envelopes. You know... on all those letters I send. To her.

  3. And finally, my favorite: a row of self-adhesive address labels printed with my grandma's name and address. I'm no fool; I see her motive. Maybe I'd write to her more often if she just made it a little bit easier for me!

My mother may have mastered the art of Catholic guilt and manipulation, but clearly she had a mentor.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Because I just never get sick of talking about punctuation (and plagiary)

Here's what I love about the Internet. I write some silly little complaint that likely only proves I need to loosen up and focus on things that in some way actually matter. And instead of getting "Lighten up, word nerd," I receive all sorts of comments not only validating my annoyance, but sharing similarly trivial punctuation peeves as well. Kindred spirits, I thank you. If any of you are ever in the Twin Cities area and want to spout off about poor spelling and colons and LOLs and excessive emoticons, I would love to join you for a drink and a rant.

Meanwhile, Guinness Girl's comment on that post of mine reminded me of a story I wanted to tell for quite some time, but refrained from doing so out of respect for the individuals involved. I'm now fairly certain that one of those individuals is no longer visiting my blog, and the other one hopefully won't mind my doing this as long as I tell the abridged, Reader's Digest version and refrain from any identifying details. So here goes.

Last year sometime, a friend of mine set me up with a very nice, very smart, fairly cultured and interesting man who, despite all his good qualities, I just couldn't get excited about. There's no explaining chemistry, and for whatever reason, it just wasn't there. I called it all off after five or six dates. I've actually had very little experience giving the "I'm just not that into you speech," so it was an embarrassing, bumbling mess of gushing compliments and "I really do like you as a person"s and all sorts of bits of awkwardness. When I finally quit my babbling, he said he understood and it was really no problem, and yes, yes, it was all just fine. I instantly felt foolish for making such a big deal out of it, and I didn't expect to hear from him again.

To my surprise, that was not the end of it, however. The next day, I got a somewhat strange email from the guy, suggesting I maybe just hadn't given him enough of a chance, and that he wasn't going to give up on me that easily, etc., etc., etc. (I am irresistible and charming; clearly. And I didn't even stick my finger in my drink or mention sheep testicles on these dates.)

Undeterred, I sent a reply, explaining that I was sorry, but I just didn't feel a connection, didn't sense a spark, didn't think it was going to happen. He accepted it and, presumably, moved on.

Fast forward a few months. The friend who originally set me up with this guy found herself newly single and admitted that, despite offering him up as a potential boyfriend for me, she actually had a bit of a crush on the five-date guy herself. She'd been in occasional email contact with him all along anyway, so she decided to invite him out for coffee. The coffee date led to a few other maybe-dates, but although things seemed to be going well, she couldn't figure out how he felt. She confronted him about it. He backpedaled and squirmed a bit. She pressed on for more answers. He ran away shaking his head and wagging his fingers beside his ears like a child.

OK, so that last part didn't happen. What did happen was he sent my friend an email--an email that she, of course, then forwarded to me (because we are girls, and we have no respect for the privacy or feelings of men when our own feelings are in the forefront). And, upon reading the forwarded email, the first thing I thought was, "Huh. That sounds familiar."

I told my friend that the email to her sounded remarkably similar to the one I'd sent him several months back. I had, of course, forwarded that message to her as well (again, because--hello, we're girls; we do that), and, through the wonder of Gmail and its near-unlimited storage space and search/retrieval capabilities, she quickly pulled up from her saved mail both my message and his. How did she do it? She searched for one word: "spark." Our two messages were the only results.

My friend forwarded both messages back to me for the fun of comparison. Side by side, they were even more similar than I remembered. In his second paragraph, all but approximately eight words were identical to the corresponding paragraph in my message. The man had completely plagiarized my "Dear John" letter. I know imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I can think of really no excuse for such lameness and jackassery.

Given where I started this post, you may be wondering what any of this has to do with punctuation. I know I'm no stranger to tangents, but I assure you I have a point. My very favorite part of this story? The sort-of punchline, if you will? Is this. Once the burn of the whole experience had worn off a bit, my friend and I found ourselves tag-team telling the story to a few other friends one night. We traded off relaying various details right up until the end, at which point, my friend added this choice bit of insight: "You know, Stef" she said, "The dead giveaway was that he used semicolons. Only you use semicolons, Stefanie! Only you!"

I suppose I can think of worse trademarks to have assigned.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Things I did on my date last night that prove I'm really no good at this

  1. Stuck my finger in my chai and tried to stir out the weird sediment at the top. (I did not, at least, stick my finger in his chai.)
  2. Said, "Thanks, sugar daddy," when he paid for said chai.
  3. Referenced my ex-boyfriend no less than four times.
  4. Spent more time and words explaining my sister's current place in life than my own.
  5. Followed his sheep castration story with an equally inappropriate story about human testicles.

Oddly, the lucky guy on the receiving end of all this wildly inappropriate first-date behavior actually followed the evening with a "Thank you" email and a request for a second date. Clearly this means one of two things: 1. I've found the loneliest, most desperate man in the city, or 2. My backwards self (where I do the exact opposite of whatever is the most socially acceptable or expected thing in any situation) is entirely more charming and captivating than I ever realized.